christmas giving

give the "love of learning" for christmas


Give the Love of Learning With our approach to homeschooling, creating a naturally-inspiring environment to learn is key.  Having supplies, books, and necessary tools that lead a child's curiosity to engaged, child-led learning is the goal in our house.

With that being said, Christmas time is so exciting for me as the mother and mentor to my children in finding them gifts that will inspire and further encourage their love of learning.  (It's amazing to see how different each of my children's interests, skills, and passions for life are compared to each other.  It makes the "gifting" process so personalized and special!)

Here are 3 ideas to help you kick-start gift buying/making to INSPIRE the real "love of learning" for your child now and for the upcoming year...


  1. Pay attention to what your child is truly passionate about right now. It may be the sciences, art history, engineering, animals, architecture, gardening, magic, rocks, poetry, etc.  Take an extra 10 minutes per child to dig deeper in researching gift ideas for your child in facilitating their "love of learning" through books, toys, tools, or supplies online or elsewhere.

I love For Small Hands online shop for Montessori style tools and supplies from woodworking supplies to beginner science tools for kids.  I also like MindWare and Nova Naturals.

I also like regularly adding to Amazon wishlists I have for each of my kids: if I find a great book, toy, or supply of interest to them throughout the year I simply add it to their ongoing list.  It makes it handy when its time to order gifts for birthdays and Christmas.

    2. Start the tradition of giving an in-depth book/encyclopedia/guide book based on your child's current passion/interest each Christmas.  Do a little research and I promise you can find a book/guide based on their interest.  Do they love the engineering behind building with Legos?  This is an amazing book called [amazon_link id="0763669903" target="_blank" ]The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond[/amazon_link] that would be perfect for the Lego-engineering child for example.

[amazon_image id="0763669903" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond[/amazon_image]

I'm thrilled about this year's book selections for each of my girls.  [amazon_link id="1579128955" target="_blank" ]The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe[/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1579128955" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe[/amazon_image] For my 6 year old who asks daily what everything around her is made of and is beginning to take interest in the periodic table.

[amazon_link id="0756667526" target="_blank" ]Natural History[/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="0756667526" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Natural History (Smithsonian)[/amazon_image] For my other 6 year old who collects and examines mushrooms, wildflowers, bark, and bugs.

[amazon_link id="1465414177" target="_blank" ]Knowledge Encyclopedia[/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1465414177" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Knowledge Encyclopedia[/amazon_image] For my 10 year old who, like her Daddy, loves facts and equally has the memory to remember them all.

[amazon_link id="1465419683" target="_blank" ]Ocean[/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1465419683" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Ocean[/amazon_image] For my 8 year old oceanographer who can't wait to be in a shark cage some day and scuba dive.

3. Think outside of the box and make a meaningful, personal, "love of learning" gift based on your child's current interests.

Some of my favorite simple "love of learning" gifts for my children have been:


Find one or two gifts that will ignite the already existing passion your child has towards a specific topic.  And watch how much more your gift will give throughout the year in inspiring their incredible, innate desire to learn more. 


Go out + live boldly.


the sleepy time gal


nurse (nancy) johanna



It all started with this book.  A book I grew up on, the same physical book that my mother grew up on.  I hadn't seen the original copy for many years.  I stumbled upon a fresh new copy of it last summer and, like a child, turned each page with delight as the pictures brought childhood back to me.  Soon after, we surprised my mom and handed her the book to read to her granddaughters.  With tears, she experienced the same reunion with the simple tale of a little girl, her bandages, and apron.

I've watched Johanna for months turn each page carefully, studying each picture, as I once did, dreaming of being that little nurse.   For some time I had been devising a plan to make her dreams come true for Christmas with a fresh box of bandages and such.

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An old cigar box with a hot glued elastic strap to keep it closed. Nothing fancy for a nurse's kit.

A few special things: band aids, lavender water (which "fixes everything"), candy pills, terry cloth, cotton balls, Ace bandage, and popsicle sticks.


 An old (and meaningful) leather briefcase that came into my life at the perfect time.  A white sticker on her briefcase and Johanna is official.

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It was an old briefcase that needed a little TLC.  I was happy to replace the worn, musty cardboard base insert with something a bit more fresh and wipeable.


And something I wasn't planning on making happened to enter my mind right when I thought the nurse's kit and briefcase was complete.  Alas, it wasn't complete without the apron.

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Doctor Dan, a companion to Nurse Nancy, fits quite nicely inside the nurse's briefcase.  And so she keeps busy unwrapping band aids and wrapping bandages and spraying "magic" water.

We're all feeling quite better, thank you, nurse.

the sleepy time gal

homemade giving: a journal kit


Caroline is ready for her first journal.  This is quite an exciting milestone since her mother filled easily 15 journals in her lifetime.  I can't wait for her to discover the fulfillment of writing and then reading and seeing who she's become over time.

Journaling will also be an incredible writing exercise for my little 6-year-old. I thought a little encouraging would help introduce her to the world of journaling.  Thus the journal kit.


The Journal Kit:

The journal--

The most exciting part of this kit should be the journal itself.  This is what will hold secrets and wishes and discoveries and a living history.  It will entice the child to opens its pages and write.  I wanted a real, no-nonsense journal for Caroline.  I chose the large ruled softcover Moleskine journal.  It is slender and has an elastic to keep it all together.  Great for growing hands.


The Journal Jar-

Decorate or keep simple a jar.  I hot glued some ribbon and added a strip of chalkboard paint.  I also spray painted to lid.  I wanted the jar to not resemble a typical canning jar in terms of function, so added a velvet handle on the top.  ( I simply hot glued it inside the lid.)  Now the jar can be hung on a hook, or a doorknob, or hopefully on her bedpost to remind her to write at night.

Come up with a list of questions to inspire writing for your child.  Here are some of Caroline's questions in her jar:


If there was one thing you would love to do all day, what would it be?

 What do you want to be when you grown up?

 What is your favorite thing to bake?  How do you make it?

 If you met someone who was really lonely and poor, what would you do?

 What do you love about your sister Johanna?  How is she like you?  How is she different?

 What do you get excited about when you think of Spring?  What do you like to do in Spring?

 If you owned your own bakery, what would be on the menu?  What would your bakery look like inside?

 If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you choose?

 If you lived in another country, what country would it be?  And why?

 If you were Felicity, what would you love about living in colonial times?

 When you are a mommy, what do you want to teach your children? 

 If you were a winter fairy, would you live in the woods or under the

ground?  What would you look like?

Have you ever done something really hard and been really proud of yourself?  What did you do?

 What is your favorite season and why?

 If you were a famous singer, how would you share your singing with others? 

 If you were a queen of a castle, what would your castle look like?  Who would be the king?  

 If you were on a ship looking for treasure and you found treasure, what would you do with it?  Save some?  Spend it?  Share it?



She can choose a question each day, perhaps, to answer in her journal.  As the jar runs dry, more questions can be added.  I'm hoping the jar will be passed down to each daughter as their writing skills increase; a new journal with new questions specific to that daughter for some years to come.


Do you have a little writer or little friend that would love a journal kit??

homemade giving: a sewing kit


As you saw yesterday, I'm a little obsessed with jars for gift giving.  Hopefully you don't mind, there are more jarred gifts to come.  Today--a simple sewing kit in a jar for my up and coming seamstress, Caroline.



It all started because of this book, Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make.  It is one of those creative, confidence-boosting how-to books.  All stuff kids can make without sitting down at the sewing machine and waiting for mom's help.  I have realized over the years how much sewing relaxes me and keeps my brain churning as I think through and solve my creative endeavors.

 I thank my mom probably yearly for teaching me how to sew on a button, thread a needle, thread a sewing machine, follow a pattern, press seams open, and open my mind to the incredible world of sewing.


As you'll see tomorrow, there's been a kit/jar theme this year for my kids presents.  I couldn't give the sewing book to Caroline without anything to attract her and encourage her creative juices.  Thus, the dainty little sewing kit.

The sewing kit provides her pin cushion on top and essentials inside.

Make your own sewing kit:

  • spray paint the jar's rim your desired color
  • cut out a circle larger than the mouth of the jar and lay some batting on top
  • cut out a piece of cardboard the size the lid
  • push the rim over the fabric wrapped batting and then put the cardboard under it all
  • hot glue fabric to cardboard at the bottom of the lid
(*I adapted my jar top from this sewing kit--I did my backing differently, but these visuals might help.)

IMG_2536 So what is packed inside there for the little sewer??


Inside the sewing kit:

  • a few spools of thread on-hand (actually many of my Granny's I inherited)
  • embroidery floss
  • fun trim, like ric rac
  • travel scissors (she's been dying to have these from my early sewing days)
  • a few buttons, including some painted wooden buttons I've been holding onto
  • one large safety pin


Along with the long pins on top is one large needle.  Essential.

We're giving this book to some of the older cousins for Christmas with lots of enthusiasm that the magic of sewing will spread through this younger generation and someday, all of these nieces will gather together and create together.  Zany pillows maybe, scarves, wallets, their own handmade gifts... I can't wait for that day.


Tomorrow: one more kit in a jar.  Exciting!

the sleepy time gal

homemade giving: the homemaker's set


I'm sitting here looking out at the frost outside my window, wondering how much sleep I really got last night.  With one child in our bed back and forth through the night, the other waking with bad dreams, and yet, another, totally awake and ready for the day at 5:30am, I'm guessing not much.  She (Ainsleigh) and I have been together this morning, me reminding her every 10 seconds to whisper.  She still hasn't grasped that skill.

And with that, good morning!  Do you remember our Homemaking for the Modern Mama week?  Well it has been my inspiration for our annual assembly-line gift to some friends and family this Christmas.


It is another perfectly priced homemade gift.  This homemaker's set includes:

You could add or subtract anything you'd like.  (The wool dryer balls are in the "to-be-made" list still.)  The cleaning station cloths and some homemade cleaner would be a great addition as well as some homemade air fresheners.   The price of the homemaker's set all depends on your having or buying jars or bottles and a few inexpensive ingredients.


I went a little further with the hair detangler and pre-ordered some custom labels from Bohtieque.  I ordered more of this great size spray bottle since I was running low as well.  You could easily reuse a spray bottle you have on hand and make your own sticker label.


Whatever you like and use in your home could be packaged pretty and given.  You could include directions and ingredients for the recipients to then make their own.

I know you have some incredible recipes and homemaker-delights that could make a set to give... what do you have to share?  Any ideas?  And please share a link.

the sleepy time gal

homemade giving: artsy felt sketchbook


After last week which was filled with wonderful visitors (friends from college and their little toddlers), this weekend came and granted me some time away at the sewing machine.  Saturday morning, Johanna warded off Caroline from the basement so we could get moving on her present from her sister.  A little something that we knew she would love (a sketchbook) with a little something personal (an original drawing from Johanna of Caroline, stitched onto the cover.)

Johanna and I found the idea when we were skimming through my Bend the Rules with Fabric book by Amy Karol. A pack of Moleskine sketchbooks have been waiting in a covered up box (with other Christmas supplies that have now arrived and are waiting) in the corner of the kitchen.  It is a simple yet fulfilling project.  Check it out...


Artsy Felt Sketchbook Cover

You'll need:

a piece of wool felt


sewing machine and contrasting thread



Measure how much felt you'll need by placing the sketchbook in the middle of your felt.  Use your chalk to trace around the book, giving your book front and back 2-3 inches extra on each side.  Also trace a line above and below the book, giving yourself about 1/4 inch extra on each side.


Trace your child's art onto felt where the cover is marked with chalk.  I found a random foot for my sewing machine to give me more of the ability to free motion stitch.  If you have a free motion foot or darning foot, those work best.  I can't even tell you what foot I used (tell me if you know from the photo!), but I experimented with a few feet and this one let me move around a bit more.

Grad your child on your lap and have them help you feed the fabric through the machine.  Stitch along the chalk lines and then repeat, over all of the lines again for greater contrast.


Now line your sketchbook up to the piece of felt and pin where the cover flaps should be.  Sew along the top and bottom to create the cover.


And there you have it!


Make sure your little artist-creator of the cover stitched their name on the cover.  (Or most of it, in our case.)


I found some great rustic colored pencils to go along with this sketchbook gift for Johanna to give to Caroline.

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So it is now out that in making this for her sister, Johanna wants one in pink for herself.  I think I'll happily pass the information onto Caroline...


the sleepy time gal