simple valentine play dough: to enjoy or gift



It's almost February which means a few things: we're still in the dead of winter and enjoying much indoor play and Valentine's Day is approaching.

If you haven't guessed, little Rowan's most requested activity at the counter while I'm in the kitchen is most definitely "pway-dough".

While my older girls were at their new jewelry making/metalwork class (more on that amazing chapter in our lives right now for later) the twins, Rowan, and I embarked on something fun and festive for our upcoming February play: simple valentine play dough.  

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Two tips:

  1. Valentine play dough is definitely not just for girls.  Boys have fun with cookie cutters, beads, beans, embellishments, and designing as much as girls.
  2. This play dough is perfect for giving to little valentine friends, and, specifically, to your own little valentines.  More on that below.


Let's get started!



It is so fun watching your kids create with this play dough: hearts, conversation hearts, cupcakes, valentine creatures, etc.

Ideas for embellishments/playing with valentine play dough:

  • sequins
  • pipe cleaners
  • white beans
  • letter stamps
  • buttons
  • rolling pin
  • heart cookie cutters


Even boys love pink and hearts and cuddles.



Try using mini heart molds, too.  They create mini hearts that can be topped onto large play dough hearts or play dough cupcakes.

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Silicone cupcake liners are excellent for play dough cupcakes as well.


If you're giving valentine play dough as a gift*:

  • Double the recipe and divide both the pink and red play dough equally into round balls, possibly giving two inch round balls of each color to each valentine.
  • Package the pink and red balls of dough in clear cellophane bags.  You can drop a few embellishments, white beans, or colored pipe cleaners into the bag.
  • Tie the bag off with red ribbon and, if you want, add a simple heart cookie cutter tied on.


*Creating smaller valentine play dough bagged sets would be a fun valentine gift for each of your kids!  You could have a bagged valentine play dough set on your child's morning breakfast plate when they wake up Valentine's Day.  They could play with it at the breakfast table or play with their special valentine gift that day.



And if you're making valentine play dough for your family, store the two colored play dough balls in a gallon ziplock bag.  Store the bag, heart cookie cutters, embellishments, pipe cleaners, cupcake liners, etc., all within a low tray or box.

Now you have a valentine play dough station!  Keep it on the counter or dining room table for your kids or pull it out for special February play time.

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I hope this activity inspires some new, memorable February indoor play.  Or inspires you in some new, creative valentine giving.


the sleepy time gal

create your own perpetual calendar


perpetual After being away from my kids for a few days I was so excited to spend the whole Monday doing anything we wanted to do.  I did a lot of baking for this week (amazing bread, my heavenly chocolate gelato with the leftover yolks from the bread, double batch of chocolate chip coconut bars and biscuits), cleaned my kitchen, read lots of books to the kids, enjoyed many show-and-tell moments from my weekend's absence, and enjoyed them going in and out to play in the snow.

One thing that has happened quite naturally is watching my youngest three thrive on more structure with me while my older two are drawn to more freedom to fulfill their needs.  I love it when, like yesterday, my older two are completely focused on a project (for hours!) and I notice the twins ready for something "structured".  That is the time when I pull out my list of their ideas and my ideas and the three of us (thank you Rowan for that wonderful nap) can work together at the table.

Creating a Perpetual Calendar was an absolutely perfect project for my almost six year old girls and, in general, would be ideal for children ages 4-8 years old. 

Come see why circular perpetual calendars are so important for young children...


Perpetual calendars create a visual for time that a standard 12 month calendar does not.  For the young child, they can see that geometry, symmetry, and order of time as 12 months are divided into 4 seasons.


Perpetual calendars are a physical way children can see the progression and changing of time.  By turning their illustrated wheel, they can match the month with the season, and what visually that season looks like to them.

The child's understanding of larger spans of time are better understood by regularly using their own perpetual calendar.  And the fact that it is a circular calendar, they can understand that "time" is an ongoing cycle, easily comprehended on their wheel year after year.


So let's make one!

create your own perpetual calendar

You'll need:

  • white sturdy construction paper or cardstock
  • colored pencils (watercolors or crayons work as well)
  • scissors
  • colored cardstock
  • gluestick
  • metal split pin
  • pencil and fine tipped marker
  1. Cut three small, medium, and large circles from the white cardstock.  They should fit inside each other with enough room for your child's illustrations and text.*
  2. Cut an extra large circle from colored cardstock that is slightly larger than your largest white circle.  Glue the large white circle to the colored cardstock circle.  This gives your calendar more support.
  3. Center the now three circles and stick your split pin through the three layers and let your child secure the back.
  4. With a pencil, divide the largest circle's perimeter into 12 spaces for the months and quarter the medium and small circles with your pencil.
  5. Write in the months and seasons for your child or let them write in each space around the calendar.
  6. Direct your child to illustrate one circle at a time, perhaps starting with the months.  If they need help, encourage them to think about the colors they imagine during specific months (Is it hot or cold?), what scenes they think of for each season, and so forth. (I did trace a basic tree shape four times for them to color in and add to for each quarter of their smallest circle.  Your assistance with the tree shape for the younger child will help them keep that circle consistent for identifying later.)

*You can also add another circle for the days of the week, rotation of the earth, etc., to your calendar.  


When your child has finished illustrating their calendar, you will not only be amazed by how beautiful it is but by how useful it is!  Watch your child line up the month, season, and what happens (visually) to trees in that season.  The concept of a circular calendar will help your child put time into perspective in a more tangible way.

You can hang your new perpetual calendar with a sturdy push pin for your child to rotate monthly (or daily depending on your circles) or keep the calendar out on a work surface your child returns to regularly.

IMG_0051 I can't begin to tell you how much my children loved making these.  More importantly, our discussion through the process of making them and then watching how the abstract concept of months and seasons clicked in their minds after playing with their calendars was amazing.  They really do invite discussion beyond the initial construction of them.

I'd love to hear if you and your child make a perpetual calendar together.  This is the best time of year to introduce the concept of the annual rotation of the calendar, the earth, and time.

Have fun + bond together! 

the sleepy time gal

watercoloring in november


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 “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.” 

―Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 It was brisk but invigorating.  Gloriously bright and inspiring.  And everyone was soaking up these bearable November days outdoors.


Have a bright + inspiring Monday yourself.


the sleepy time gal

our fall harvest party....


IMG_3297 Good morning.

I hope you all had a fun + festive weekend with your families and friends.

I'm happy to report that my injury is getting better every day.  And that our Fall Harvest Party was so enjoyable.  Ironically, our party always starts right before it is totally dark outside.  With more tiki lights and the addition of one string of white lights on the food table, kids played, adults talked, and we were able to keep the romantic appeal of a night under the stars.

Come see our Fall Harvest Party (and some of the background stories that go along with every gathering)...



{I wanted a little more sophisticated tabletop from last year with white (painted pumpkins), gold (glittered pumpkin + jar), marigolds, and natural fibers (burlap + our log rounds I love to entertain with).  

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 {Our centerpiece pumpkin.  It's first life was as a lollipop holder (decorated by my friend!) for our church Fall Carnival.  Then she donated it to our Fall Harvest Party.  A little white paint, glitter, and those garden marigolds...}


{What would I do without mindful friends?  My friend thankfully texted me the morning of the party to check in to see if I needed anything.  Oh how I needed some help from being less mobile and not driving!  She picked up fruit and turned it into the cutest addition to my log round tiers.} 


{Grandma Shiffler organized a project with my girls to make these beautiful fall leaf candle jars.  Of course they would take center stage for the party!}



 {And simple little favors for families with kids: currently our favorite fall activity shaped as pumpkins.}



{The kids helped come up with games.  There was Caroline and Johanna's Bean Bag Toss + Bobbing for Apples down at the bottom of our yard. } 

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{And a little fall craft station of our tried and true paper pumpkins.  Kids taped and gabbed here throughout the night...}

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 {And last but not least... our fall photo corner.  Annabelle did the scarecrow and Ainsleigh did the pumpkins.  And I sat on ice and added details as we made this the morning of the party. :)  It's been hanging in our living room since then because I love it so much. }

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The night was crisp and exciting, kids running around while adults talked and warmed by the fire.


IMG_3485 Costumes stayed intact for the first hour until most of my kids asked to take them off.  Apparently "getting in the way" of play.  Fine by me.

So many adorable costumes , lively games, soaken wet kids from "bobbing", and so many memories made that night...

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It was a magical, fall night indeed.  Thanks to good food (thanks to all of the delicious food everyone brought!), folk music in the background, kids being kids, and wonderful friends and family coming together for these last moments of autumnal bliss.  


the sleepy time gal




right now...







Right now I'm...

sitting on a bag of ice, for the third time today

feeling sorry for myself that I have a strained piriformis

feeling grateful that it isn't worse

looking forward to being with friends tonight in the backyard (our second annual  Fall Harvest Party is tonight!) ...and sitting

glad we started some preparations for our party before the injury

loving my kids' leaf prints and other creations they've made for the party tonight

enjoying the last remaining dark mornings before day light savings while my kids sleep in

trying to be reasonable with myself with what I can and can't do on the road to recovery.  Sigh...

super excited to post a second time today for something very special happening this Saturday you all can be a part of...


Stay tuned!  And enjoy those two working legs of yours today.  :)


the sleepy time gal

apple printing kit


apple Although I love food, treats from time to time, and sharing those experiences with my kids, culturally I think our giving of little gifts, favors, and rewards tend to be in the unhealthy, overly-sweet-treat category.  Just think about it-- what comes to your mind first when I say the words "party favors" or "prize" or "reward"?   I think of a cute wrapped extra large sugar cookie or bag of candy or coupon for an oversized bakery cupcake.

These things can have their place in our sugar-coated society from time to time. But I'm all about starting a revolution to turn those expressions of love/thanks/pride ("little gifts") into more useful, meaningful gifts.  Gifts that last longer and teach our children and those around us that we can think beyond the sugar bowl.


This apple printing kit came about when my committee from church (that is over the young children) were planning our Fall Carnival for the kids.  Families were to bring treats/snacks to share and so we wanted our prizes for best costume + best decorated pumpkins to be something else.   Something not fleeting but memorable and fun.

This kit was my answer...


Here's our apple printing kit.  I was pretty surprised and excited to bring one of these kits back home from our Fall Carnival since Rowan won best costume.  Way to go Swedish Chef!


Make and give this kit for:

  • a fall party favor
  • as a prize for a party game
  • a new neighbor that just moved in with kids
  • a teacher's gift
  • a child who just became a big brother/sister



What you'll need to make an Apple Printing Kit:

  • one beautiful apple
  • one small basket (I picked mine up for $1.50 each on clearance at JoAnns)
  • shredded paper
  • 1-2 foam brushes (you can find them in a pack of four)
  • 1-2 colors of acrylic paint
  • one mini art pad (I found mine in the $2 bin at JoAnns)


Assemble the shredded paper in the basket.  Add all of the supplies so they are all visible in the basket.  Make a simple how-to label.




Add the simple label and a bit of ribbon or strip of fabric to the basket and you're done!  You've got yourself a beautiful, creative gift that every child would love to receive.

I made two whole sets for exactly $10.  I think sets/kits like these are so fun to give because they encourage creativity, bonding (with the helping adult), and learning new skills.


Now go out and slice an apple to ink up!



 the sleepy time gal

the weekend... as Muppets


Page 1 If you had been a fly on the wall in our house over the past few months you'd be quite familiar with our obsession with the movie Muppets Most Wanted.  We watched it for the first time this summer at our neighbor's outdoor viewing, Caroline then bought the movie with her own money, and since then we've become smitten with it ever since.

My sister-in-law inspired me this summer to try to put together family costumes and I knew immediately who we would be.  It was all a grand idea until this past Friday arrived and I realized how large of an endeavor this would be...

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With a few new yards of fabric (bold green and Sam eagle blue), some boas and styrofoam balls, I sewed, glued, totally gave up Friday night, and rose early Saturday morning with new energy to pull something together for that day's church Fall Carnival I was in charge of.  Talk about pressure!

Miraculously, it came together and I found solutions last minute to make every character distinguishable.  Phew!



So... if you've seen the movie, you may know precisely who we are.   We were pretty proud of ourselves--living the Muppet dream we've talked about for weeks.


Page 2There's Nadya, the Russian prison guard...


Miss Piggy...


Sweet Kermit and evil Constantine (with the identifying mole)...

Page 1Investigators Sam Eagle and his parter, Jean-Pierre Napoleon (Bobby even spoke all day with a french accent)...


... and last but not least, the Swedish chef who not only flirted with all of the girls/ladies at the activity but took home first prize for the best male costume!  (Ironically, the prize I was in charge of making for the activity!)


I hope seeing me in an eagle costume first thing Monday morning helps get your week off to a rather humorous, fantastic week. :)


the sleepy time gal

fall time with kids: preserving leaves

Clen Fall time in Pennsylvania is one of the most rewarding reasons to live here.

We go on many leaf collecting walks to find the prettiest leaves to use for a myriad of projects back at home.   And as it always turns out, our most beautiful, colorful leaves are found to be crisp and brown within a few days.  Such is the nature of these beautiful specimens.


But what if you could preserve their supple and vibrant nature?  

Have you ever tried preserving leaves??  The process is so very simple and so rewarding to do.  It requires only two basic ingredients and once preserved, the sky is the limit as to how you use/decorate with your leaves throughout the fall season.  You could even use your leaves for your Thanksgiving table!!

And your kids, young and old, will love the process.  Come check it out...

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1. Go leaf collecting.

We left our neighborhood and headed straight for the most beautiful maples in town.  Have your kids find the boldest colored leaves.  Hint: yellow leaves and red leaves work best.  Their color will be preserved the closest to their orginial color.  Leaves with hints of brown will become a deeper brown.



A full basket of leaves is the perfect amount.

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2.  Preserve your leaves.

You'll need:

  • a flat bucket
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1.5 cups glycerine (I use this or pick it up at a craft store)

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Simply mix the water and glycerine together in the bucket. Have your kids add their leaves to the water mixture.  Push down gently on the wet pile of leaves so all of the leaves are submerged.

Take the bucket of leaves to a dark, dry place (our basement storage room was our spot) and leave the leaves for 3-4 days. IMG_2924


After the "preserving days" are complete, dump your water out and gently pull out your leaves, patting them dry.

You will find them to be beautifully supple with a slight sheen to them.  And that is it!  You've preserved the most beautiful part of fall!


 Choose your most favorite leaves to: 

  • hang on bare branches to create a fall tree indoors
  • tie onto yarn for a beautiful natural fall garland
  • paint numbers or letters with white paint on them for spelling or counting (love this idea)
  • use for the Thanksgiving dinner table as personalized place cards




{Our simple but beautifully natural fall mantel garland.}


 How would you use your preserved leaves? 



Continue the fun of Fall Time with Kids:


the sleepy time gal

the weekend...



 {leaf walks and leaf art}



 {Mary Poppins and nursing the sick to health}


{individual plans and interpretations for our fall harvest party in oil pastel}

Page 2{birthday gift sewing for a Wizard of Oz party: vinyl covered art apron/art set--Johanna went + poor fevered Caroline missed out.}


{a lazy Sunday afternoon snack that was healthy and incredibly delicious: peanut butter +chocolate zucchini brownie tart.  recipe coming tomorrow.}

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 {reading.  reading, reading, reading.   [amazon_link id="0743297385" target="_blank" ]my book[/amazon_link] and library books to the kids.  [amazon_link id="061871720X" target="_blank" ]this new book[/amazon_link] makes me cry.}

And your weekend??  New adventures or old favorite pastimes enjoyed?

the sleepy time gal

apple picking, apple printing



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I love the tradition of picking apples with friends to bring in fall.  Rowan was big enough this year to twist his own empire apples off the tree and carry the bag.  Rather, he wouldn't let anyone touch his bag of apples.  

Apples, a wagon tour through the orchard, samples of apple cider, and the tradition of buying the market's apple cider donuts: such a special day spent with my kids that we so look forward to.

Our apples didn't make it nearly as far this year: lots of snack apples + peanut butter and cream cheese dip, an apple crisp, and apple printing.  


Our apple printing project is almost finished.  (You'll see soon!)  With each child on my lap one at a time yesterday, we sewed at the table together.  Even Rowan is super proud of his apple project (although he'd rather spend his time playing with the On/Off switch on my machine while I'm trying to sew.)

And while we're finishing one project, a few baking plans are being laid out for Rowan's second birthday tomorrow.  Such a wonderful time of year...



the sleepy time gal