holiday decorating

traditions: the christmas book basket


IMG_8823 Do you have a favorite Christmas book from your childhood?  A special book you love reading to your child every Christmas season?  


I love unpacking our Christmas books at Christmas time.  Before the books make it into the special basket on the hearth (this year I added some of our tree trimmings to the basket), the kids flip through the pages of every Christmas book we own.  It seems to serve as a visual reminder of Christmases past and all of the magic to come in the wintry season.

We own some of our favorite books and others we look forward to checking out at the library each December.  This past week was our Christmas book day at the library.  We returned home with a hearty stack of classic favorites and new books to fill our Christmas book basket.  Having one basket right next to the fireplace in the living room is the coziest spot for our magical Christmas/winter books.  The season-specific basket really is so inviting for kids and parents alike to grab a stack and cuddle together on the couch together before bedtime. Definitely the sure fire way to begin those vision of sugarplums at bedtime.


These are our most favorite Christmas/winter books:

[amazon_image id="0307024857" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]animals of christmas[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0824918452" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]story of christmas[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0688082947" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]White bright[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0147509521" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]joy to the world[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0863159095" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Story of Snow Children[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0399234446" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0140501827" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Snowy Day[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0824956168" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Humphrey's FIrst Christmas[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0316070181" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="160340192X" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0394800796" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ] grinch[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0698116615" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0688082947" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ] book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0689717571" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0152020950" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Snowballs[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="015253184X" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0399256490" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0394839730" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ] book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0545037735" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0670830453" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ] book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0399231013" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0735812594" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]A christmas carol[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="0399231099" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book[/amazon_image]  [amazon_image id="B0091NGPSI" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]after tree[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0688082947" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]

 *If you have too many books for the basket, put some out one week and change it up the next.  It really keeps things exciting.  

Putting together a Christmas book basket is just a simple way to make the season a bit more magical.  Returning to the basket throughout the season is like opening a new present everyday: you never know what adventure awaits.


the sleepy time gal


hand-painted gift wrap







We are officially in full swing of Nutcracker rehearsals and now, performances for my two little angels.  Thankfully the fun of it all is so contagious it helps one forget the constant traveling back and forth, angel curls, late nights, and mother's nerves watching her two girls over and over on stage (with crossed fingers).  It is so magical for my girls to be involved in something so big, so memorable, and exciting.

With what time we do have at home lately, my girls either can be found dancing to the Nutcracker music (which they still never tire of, even after rehearsals) or quietly making something for Christmas.

Since we use fabric bags for wrapping Christmas presents within our family, wrapping presents for extended family and others means getting a little creative.  With extra large sheets of paper (of which we always have on hand for all of their projects and art), each of my girls got red and green paint and chose a paintbrush.  And away they went, painting patterns ( I reminded them that a pattern might look better than one big picture since you wouldn't know what size the gift was that the paper might be wrapping).  I loved the outcome!  Beautiful patterns of candy canes (Johanna), gifts (Caroline), big green blobs (Ainsleigh), and Christmas tree people (Annabelle) covered their papers.

After letting the papers dry, I cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces based on what we'd be wrapping.  Now we have a stack of hand painted gift wrap all ready to be taped up.  I'm a traditionalist with the green and red, but you could certainly add more colors to the palette.  I think rainbow colors for year-round birthday gift wrap would be awesome with stripes or polka dots.

And with that, I'm off.  More lunches to pack, shuttling of kids, and a bag of yarn to turn into pom poms as I watch and wait today's performance.

 I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

the sleepy time gal



sewn paper house packaging


Welcome to our little neighborhood of paper houses!

Here's a really fun way to package little things.  Come see...

With all of these covered button goodies to package for nieces and nephews and little friends, I wanted something to still show off all of the colors on the fabrics and watercolored jewelry cards.

I came up with sewn paper house packaging. 

If you use parchment paper than you can 1) easily sew on it with your machine and 2) sew through it!

Simply put you little items to be packaged inside a fold of parchment paper.  With your sewing machine, sew around two of the three sides needed to make the base of a house (remember one side will be the fold).  Now create the pitched roof of the house in two stitches as seen above.  That's it.

To save on time and paper, create your sewn houses close to each other in one sitting before cutting them out.

With decorative scissors, cut out the house leaving a nice 1/2 of paper from the seam.  Decorate the house!  I used a gold pen/marker so it added detail but wouldn't take from seeing some of the goodies inside.  Add windows, a door, and a name.

The funnest part will be the child opening the package since they get to tear open the house to get its contents.

Any ideas you have for wrapping little gifts?  I'd love to hear.

Happy wrapping/packaging!

the sleepy time gal

a new bag


Johanna has all of a sudden shifted from little four year old to responsible, nurturing and engaged five year old.  With a little help, she has begun the Shiffler tradition of Christmas-making this year with her first round of rocky road fudge.  Mixing, pouring, cleaning up, and packaging all a part of the experience.  Five little wrapped stacks of her fudge line the fridge for her sisters and Daddy and, herself of course.  (The best photo of her first fudge was captured on instagram--@nshiffler.)

And then I found her yesterday morning with Rowan.  I hadn't left her with Rowan but alas, she ended up with Rowan.  I came upstairs from sewing wondering why I hadn't heard him cry and this is what I found--Johanna with Rowan fast asleep on her.  She had kept him asleep for me, off and on, for roughly an hour. Was it really for me or for her?

My growing Johanna deserves a growing-daughter sort of gift this Christmas.  And I'm happy that she's getting it in the new, special Christmas bag this year.  (I add new Christmas bags--tutorial here--each year with new festive fabrics.  This year it is Mr. Claus Dark Eggnog.)

She's so proud that her gift is packaged in one of the new bags under the tree.  Unbeknownst to her it has something to do with her recent interest in creating.


Ah, my calm Johanna.  She has a way of casting a spell of peacefulness upon our entire household, for which I am most grateful.

the sleepy time gal

glitter-snow pinecones


We gathered pinecones while we explored a while back...

we glued...

...and glittered.

We glued and glittered until our basket was full with snowy pinecones.

And then decorated the tree with out little decorations nature gave us.

 To make the glue, use 2 parts glue to one part water and mix.  I poured the watered down glue into small mason jars for each of the girls to use.  This is a wonderful project for kids 3 and up.  They caught on pretty fast to hold the pinecone upside down and brush the glue down.  Kids can sprinkle on glitter or roll the pinecone in glitter on a plate.

The pinecones look quite stunning against the green tree, surrounded by white lights.  We sure enjoyed ourselves.  And somehow Rowan (who slept through it all) ended up with glue in his hair.  Go figure.

the sleepy time gal

gingerbread snowflake ornaments

5246517990_65d4b567e6_b Two years ago we made our first gingerbread snowflake ornaments.  It was quite a project, but the results were incredible.  The smell of the gingerbread spices in our home is one of my favorite results.

This year it was the exact ornament our tree needed.  The large ornaments didn't survive from two years ago so the process was started again, this time, with more hands to help.

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If you make any shaped gingerbread ornament, don't forget to poke a hole in the cookie before you bake it to later thread ribbon through to hang.



Here is the gingerbread recipe we always use.  You could also make them to give away individually as little Christmas gifts.


What is on your Christmas tree?

a christmas to-do chalkboard

5227401741_26b8249a84_b I've heard that many of you have made the chalkboard menu platter and the board book message board recently!  Well, here is a little tip for whatever you've painted with chalkboard paint that is out on display in your home.


Instead of using our chalkboard menu platter for our daily and weekly menu, it has actually become more functional as our special projects list.

In November it read:


make turkey cookies

make pilgrim bonnets

make Indian clothes


And now for this first week of December, Caroline helped write:

Christmas Fun

make snowflake ornaments

plan a party

The whole idea is that those special things you want to do or plan to do are not on some slip of paper only you see.  But your children read it, pass by it frequently, get involved, get excited about, and initiate activities.  Because our chalkboard platter is in our dining room, many morning breakfasts include discussing one of the projects as a family.  It is a great conversation piece.

Your chalkboard platter can be written upon seasonally, monthly, weekly, or daily with the projects you hope to do.  Every time I pass our project list it keeps me accountable to what the girls and I have discussed doing.

So now I'd love to hear.  What is on your project list this coming week?