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Briar Rose Strawberry Lulu Tops

briar rose lulu top - heartmade life

You might remember in the spring when I tested the Lulu Dress and Top by Jessica of Craftiness Is Not Optional.  (If not, here’s the post on it.)  Megan loved hers and had been asking me to make her and her sister, Allison, matching shirts and even went rummaging through my fabric closet “shopping” for just the right fabric.  When she pulled out my Briar Rose Strawberry Knit by Heather Ross, I knew I couldn’t deny her.

Full disclosure – I started these tops before we moved in May, and they were the first thing project to be finished in my new sewing room just a week later.  So yes, it’s taken me MONTHS to get them photographed and on the blog.  Oops.

briar rose lulu top - heartmade life

Megan has gotten so good at modeling for me.  She has the “smile slightly and look away wistfully” pose down pat.

briar rose lulu top - heartmade life

For both tops, I went with cap sleeves and faux button plackets and they look so sweet.  I let both girls pick out their buttons, and while one chose flowers and the other chose hearts, I think it’s sweet that they chose together and went with the same color.  And they decided to match their pants all on their own.  These two are peas in a pod.

I paired the Briar Rose knit with Essex Yarn Dyed Linen in Chambray and I love how light and polished they came out.  You really cannot go wrong with this pattern!  You can find it HERE.

briar rose lulu top - heartmade life

Shameless plug alert!  See that little wooden toy camera?  My husband Mike and I are taking the next step in our interests in woodworking and creative toys for kids, and we’ve opened up shop – Little Oxley!  If you visit us on etsy, you can read more about our story and check out our listings.  And if you check us out on instagram, (@littleoxley), there might be a discount code for you.  ;)


Jess - Well it was worth the wait! What GORGEOUS tops…LOVE them! I also adore those cameras you are making. Soo cute!

Our Weekend In Photos: Old Barn Exploration

Of course.  On the one Sunday when Mike is working that I managed to get all three kids into the minivan at a respectable time in order to make it to church – they changed the service time and we miss it.  We pulled into the near empty church lot absolutely bewildered.  Did we miss daylight savings time?  Are all the clocks in my vicinity unexplainably wrong?  I send one of the minions inside to find out and he comes back half skipping, half sprinting with a big grin on his face – it’s church picnic day and can we please, please go?  Oh right – they moved the service time so that the entire congregation of three churches can get together for the annual church picnic and baptisms.  As we pull out of the parking lot, I tell the kids no, we have too much to get done today and a picnic wasn’t a good idea.  But then the little one pipes in with “please Mommy, we have a picnic?”.  Bamboozled again.  I look in the rear view mirror at my kids with their hopeful eyes and I felt my resolve soften.  After all, weren’t we going to go worship and praise God in the first place?  And wouldn’t all the chores and to-dos still be there tomorrow?  So we go home, pack a picnic lunch and the sunscreen, change into casual clothes, and load back into the van.  And as we drive out of the city and into the fields, I get a bit excited.  And then I see this and I’m even more excited.

heartmade life


It was beautiful.  The picnic was at Willow Springs Garden, this big garden among corn fields and country hills – complete with bouncy houses, a baby farm animal petting zoo, bubble stations, and a dunk tank for our pastors.  After watching the baptisms, we enjoyed our lunch under a huge tent with an endless dessert buffet.  We made friends and shared coffee with the lovely elderly couple we sat with.  I watched my children run around the gardens with new playmates.  But our personal favorite was exploring a 111 year old round barn that was moved to the site and is currently being restored.  It was so amazing to wander around and take it all in, with the kids excitedly wondering about the history of all the things we saw and how they came to be there.

heartmade life

heartmade life


I’ve really loved exploring photography as a hobby over the last few years, since discovering the magic of shooting in manual (thanks in part to my friend Dani Stephenson, an amazing wedding photographer who hosted a DSLR class at her home a few years ago – I’m still using those lessons Dani!).  I’m no professional, but it’s been awesome to be able to keep learning and growing, and to have some of my own photos hanging on our walls.  This barn and all it’s hidden corners was so much fun to photograph and I absolutely love the way all came out.  I can’t believe that I almost said no to going to this picnic and having this adventure with my kids.

From the lower level of the barn:

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While we walked around, there was this beautiful piano music coming from somewhere, like it was streaming down from the tower.  It created the most amazing mood as we wandered around this dusty place with its streams of light and old treasures.  It was downright magical.  I kept looking for the automatic organ or radio somewhere, but couldn’t find one.  When we walked to the upper level of the barn we found this girl from our congregation sitting at the piano, playing and singing softly.  I have no idea who she is, but it was just too lovely not to take a photo of her.

heartmade life

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As we were leaving the barn, Matthew held my hand and just said “that was awesome”.  And it was.  I’m so glad I let myself be talked into it.

heartmade life

discovering megan; a post about mommy mistakes

Today is about dropping the ball – hard.  About feeling like you’ve flung it so far off the cliff that you might never get it back.  And then, picking it back up.  And it’s also the first time I’ll talk a bit about God.  I don’t normally share really personal things about my family, and I certainly don’t go around talking about my Faith in God (though I probably should).  I’m generally a private person.  But I feel like I need to share this, knowing that someone out there is going through something similar and needs a sliver of borrowed hope.  I’m terrified to post this and have it be out there, but right now the urge to lift someone up is stronger than the fear.  Today is for you.

Everyone who has ever known our daughter Megan, talks about how sweet she is; how open, friendly, and likable she is.  Everyone who meets her can’t help but smile, because she just has a way about her.  She’s my innocent, sunny, soft hearted girl.  The next thing they say, with a good natured chuckle, is how curious she is.  And I don’t mean a “wondering about the world” kind of curious.  I mean weird-curious.  Recently my dad asked her what the capital of Texas is, and without a moment’s hesitation she said “T!”.  And then he looked at me like, “homeschool huh?”.  All I could do was shake my head and laugh.

Just like I did every time I watched her clumsily try sports, like a drunk guy in a dizzy bat race.  When she insisted repeatedly through devestated tears that the wild rabbit who had died from the cold in our backyard needed a funeral.  Every time her public school teachers described her as a “daydreamer” and said she would noticeably zone out during class.  When she insists that she remembers short visits with old friends when she was just 2 years old, but can’t remember what she ate for lunch yesterday.  When she constantly mixes up her words like Doc from Snow White, and when she has to stop mid sentence to figure out what she’s trying to say.  Or my favorite – when she was spelling out a word for me and couldn’t recall the word for the letter K and called it “kaitch”; and then looked at me incredulously when I told her there is no such thing as “kaitch”.  All the while I’ve been just shaking my head and laughing – just silly Megan again.

But there have been times when these absent minded quirks have really tested my patience.  I can think of one time in particular that hit a nerve with me.  I was in the middle of wrapping a gift and asked Megan to go into my sewing room and get the roll of tape that I had left on my ironing board, underneath a stack of fabric.  I could see down the hall into the room and I watched her go in and stand in the middle of the room, blankly looking around.  I waited, and then waited some more.  Annoyed at how long this simple task was taking, I got up and went to get the tape myself.  When I got to the sewing room, I demanded to know what she was doing.  She stammered and said she was trying to figure out what I meant.  This was the four-thousandth time something like this had happened, where she had been utterly confused by directions that I thought were perfectly clear.  And I was mad.  “Did you even TRY?!”, I asked her in a raised, icy voice.  She stammered again, tears in her eyes.  “Why don’t you ever just try?”, I said again as I huffed out of the room.  That night I was only half joking when I told Mike I was certain she intentionally acts oblivious so that I won’t ask for her help anymore.

Then one night when Matthew was away for the night and Allison was sleeping, Mike and I sat down to play a game of Life with her.  She was having trouble with her money and doing the math when it came time to pay in for something, so I gave her a piece of paper and a pencil and reminded her how to figure it out.  I gave her a math problem to solve, which she did, and then excused herself to the bathroom.  While she was gone, Mike and I had a quick conversation that I’ll never forget.

Mike: She got the answer right didn’t she?

Me: Yeah, she did.

Mike: You didn’t seem happy with it.  Your eyebrows crinkled.

Me: She wrote her 5 backward.

Mike: She’s still doing that?

Me: Still.

A pause as we heard our daughter coming back to the table.

Me: Mike, I think Megan might be dyslexic.

It suddenly just hit me like a roaring wave.  I had wondered about dyslexia before, but I was always quick to dismiss it.  Megan is an excellent reader, devouring 6th grade level novels for fun.  And her teachers always said that she’d outgrow the backwards writing eventually.  And beyond that, I really had no clue if there even were other symptoms of dyslexia or what it meant, so I had no real way of knowing.  But I had said it out loud, and in a flash all these bells in my head started ringing, and I knew I couldn’t ignore it.

That night I looked up the symptoms of dyslexia and as I went down the list I felt like I was reading about my child.  On a page of about 35 symptoms, Megan fits more than 2 dozen.  Hot tears fell down my cheeks.  Not because of the possibility of dyslexia, but because I had missed it.  I had missed it and all these years, I thought my daughter just wasn’t trying hard enough.  In my frustration, I had made her feel small – and it hurts this momma heart so, so much.  When she told me she sometimes feels like the lines in her books go all wavy, I shrugged it off and said “well, they’re not”.  When her handwriting was constantly illegible and all over the place, I scolded her to put in some effort.  When she mixed up her left and her right again, I jokingly told her there was something wrong with her.  When we’d tease her about being so weird, and she’d say she wasn’t, until one of us would retort with “kaitch”.  The way I told all my friends and family all the funny stories of mixed up Megan and they would all shake their heads and laugh along with me.   The idea that she was struggling and I was shaking my head and dismissing it all, hurts.  Overwhelmingly so.

Since that night, I’ve been pouring over the internet, wanting to get as educated as I can.  While dyslexia is considered a learning disability (and the most common one at that), I realized that it’s not an unsurmountable obstacle.  We can do this.  But could I forgive myself enough for messing this up?  One night, through tears, I told Mike that I felt like I had failed our girl because I didn’t see it sooner, and he held me and calmly said, “but you know now and now we can do something – that’s not failure“.  It was what I needed to hear, but there was still this ache in me.  The guilt felt like a giant weight in my chest.

A beautiful friend of mine once told me, “the good news is that you don’t need to do or decide anything right now except pray; even if you don’t know what to ask, He knows what you need”.  There are have been so many times when I haven’t really known how to pray or even what to pray for.  The words aren’t there – I just know I’m in pain.  But the good news is that God knows our hearts and hears our cries.  Even when we don’t have the words and can’t get off our knees.  When we’re barely hanging on and the dishes are piling up, and we have food on our shirts and are in desperate need of a shower.  He’s there in it all, assuring us we’ll be alright.  And in those moments when we’ve fallen, He washes it away, even when we can’t forgive ourselves.  And there is peace in knowing that “God accepts us on the basis of what He did, not on the basis of what we try to do”.  In my tears, I’ve been praying without knowing it.  And without any urging on my part, He has been there, pulling me together.

As parents, we screw up.  We burn the toast, we forget to make sure everyone has clean undies, and we lose our cool and turn into the Mom Who Yells.  And sometimes we miss the signs.  Sometimes we’re just flailing.  But it’s all going to be okay.  The guilt and the uncertainty and the doubt will fade and it won’t always be this hard.  Every day God gives us a new day, free from yesterday’s mistakes and full of hope.  A breath of fresh air.  And we can breathe it deeply and know – we’re all going to be okay.

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As a new homeschooling mom just beginning to navigate the world of dyslexia, I’ll be sharing our journey as much as I can, in the hope that it helps even one parent.  I’m no expert and I’m bound to drop the ball again somewhere down the line.  But as long as I keep picking it back up – there is hope.  There is always hope. ♥

Ginger Gwartney - This is an absolutely beautiful story. You have a new beginning place. You have the Lord , God Almighty guiding you and showing you each new place to step. He will direct you into paths that are exactly right for you, your family and most es-
pecially your precious daughter. He loves her more than you do.

It sounds like she has held her own, without you and others realizing her need. That, in and of itself, indicates flexible intelligence. She will begin to thrive and strive even more to learn about the many concepts and ideas that interest her.

Leaarning disabilities are difficult. Many people, withe learning differences, go through their lives not know there was something”wrong”. It is odd. I don’t think of dyslexia, dysrhymia and disgraphia as “something that is wrong”. The brain processes information in a very different way than for the majority of people. It is very benefical to her and you and others working with her to know the diagnosisl That is because, hopefully, those whom will be working with her will understand her.

I don’t know what else to tell you. My father was a “reading specialist” many years before there were labeled disorders. He simply knew that most kids could learn to read and will, if given appropriate environments and encouragement. When my son, was 12 years old, I wanted to take him to a highly recommended tutor (who live 200 miles away), but my husband said “no” He thought that was a bit out of the norm for a kid who was doing OK. Now, at 27- years-of age, Ty reads more prolifically and the levels of the difficulty are quite high, and I think, I must have felt very desperate during that summer in his life between sixth and seventh grade, to have wanted to travel 400 miles each week for a tutor’s help. I wonder, what he might have actually accomplished had we been allowed that opportutnity

These things ate not important now, when your daughter’s abilities are in-need of loving attentionl God bless you. I love to read about your family and the adventures and dilemmas you face and overcome. You are doing a marvelous work with your children. Enjoy, work hard and pray! I know you already do. But I think Prayer is the most important “thing” we can do for our children. God Bless you, again and may His comfort guide and direct your decisions and actions

Love in Christ,
Ginger Gwartney (ginnysnappers)

free recipe binder printables!

The start of our first full homeschool year is less than 2 weeks away, so I’m hustling to get organized – and not just in our school room.  I’ve learned a ton since we started our homeschool adventure (and I’m still learning), and one of the biggest lessons was that I’m not as organized as I thought.  Of course we need to sort our supplies and plan our curriculum and schedule our school hours – but what about the rest of it?  You know – the laundry we keep ignoring, the family we’re supposed to feed, and the house that won’t clean itself no matter how many times we command that broom to start carrying those water buckets.  (Fantasia anyone?)

I like to think I thrive under pressure, but managing it all was hard.  So now I’m getting prepared, starting with our dinner plan.  We usually stick to a weekly dinner plan and shop for that week’s groceries the weekend before – only buying what we need for our planned meals.  It’s been a great time and money saver for us, but I needed to up my game.  I usually just scratch out our menu and grocery list on a scratch piece of paper, choosing our meals by randomly picking my memory, but that wasn’t going to cut it come school time.  Enter our Recipe Binder.

There are tons of really great menu planning printables out there, for free and for purchase.  But since I wanted something to suit my own personal style, I opted to make my own and thought it’d be fun to share them with you!  You’ll find my Binder Cover page, a weekly “Eat Sheet”, and recipes pages to jot down your family favorites – in 4 colors, plus a grey for B&W printing.  (Links at end of post.)  Here’s a peek inside our Recipe Binder!

Inside the first pocket, I keep our weekly Eat Sheets and a Master Grocery List.  Each week that Eat Sheet will go up on the fridge, so that no one will ever need to ask me what’s for dinner for the bajillionth time ever again.  (Okay, they’ll probably still ask, but a girl can dream.)  That Master Grocery List is AWESOME.  It’s a free download from The Elli Blog - which is just an insanely gorgeous blog.  Check our her amazing paper flower printables and thank me later.  In this post by Elli, you’ll find a fully editable grocery list, which is so, so great because you can change the menu items to include the things that your family normally shops for.  There’s also a tutorial on how to turn the file into a padded list – which I may do down the line.  I plan to put the list up on the fridge too, so that throughout the week we can easily keep track of what we run out of, and I can just quickly run down the checklist on planning/shopping day.  It’s ridiculous how excited I am about this!

One of my all time favorite places for recipes is Budget Bytes.  We’ve tried dozens of these recipes and have never been disappointed; and I love that Beth breaks down everything by cost to make things even easier.  Our family favorites are the Pesto Stuffed Shells and Broccoli Shells N’ Cheese and wee’ve been known to have one (or both) at least once a week.  I keep my printed recipes in Sheet Protectors (I got 50 for $4.97 at Walmart) and sort them with page dividers by meal type - Breakfast, Side Dishes, Soups, Meat, Pasta, and Baked Goods.  I also make a note on recipes that are great for slow cookers or freezing, for when our schedules are extra hectic!

We all have recipes stored in our heads, like our basic spaghetti or our beloved chicken pot pie.  Instead of relying on my memory, I wanted to include pages for those recipes in my binder, so that I can physically see all my options when it’s menu planning time.  And for favorite recipes in my cookbook stash, I’ll write down the name of the recipe and the ingredients, and then note the book and page number in the Directions space.  That way I can still see all our choices and I don’t have to tear out or copy pages from my cookbooks.

I hope this inspires you to revamp your menu planning in a way that works for you!  As promised, here are your FREE printables!  Enjoy.  :)

recipe binder cover

the eat sheet weekly planner

aqua recipe page

pink recipe page

green recipe page

yellow recipe page

grey recipe page

Printables for Your Home - […] Recipe Binder: This printable is perfect for organizing the recipes you’ve collected over the years. […]

a changing philosophy (and site update!)

fabric pinwheel - heartmade life

Welcome back!  I’m so excited to be back up and running!

Lately my thoughts have been all about creating a home and life that is truly, truly Us.  Maybe it was something about moving to a new place.  About unpacking boxes and relishing in all the blank walls I get to decorate.  Maybe it’s the beginning of the crisis of self that happens in your 30s, when you start the metamorphosis into your Second Act.  Or maybe it’s just that my sleep cycle is off and I’ve been known to get weird in the early morning hours.  Either way, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about being true to the spirit of our family – doing and being what ever makes us happy, instead of following conventional rules or going along with whatever is trendy and Pinterest worthy at the moment.  It can be overwhelming and exhausting to really sit down and discover how much of who we are and what we do is built around what other people will think of us.  And as creative as I try to be, there are times when I am just as guilty of it.  I’m a people pleaser.  Fo sho.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve changed the look of my site.  Landing on whatever was “in”, or being a little too inspired by popular blogs or what I thought my readers would really like.  I am so happy with the new design – because it feels ME.  I know others out there will have similar tastes as mine, or even a completely opposite style – and I’m cool with that.  I’m going for genuine to me, not new and unseen.  And it feels so good.

All these empty walls and empty rooms need some personality too.  We have nearly 3x the amount of space in the new house, and not nearly enough to fill it all, so it’s been really exciting to plan and dream and make it what we want it to be.  With any luck, this WILL be our Forever House (more on that later) and I want our kids to look back and feel all warm and squishy when they think about our family home.  I don’t want to worry about if it’ll all be worth it for the resale value, or if our company is going to think we’re weird.  So we’re going for it.  We’re going to live like this is our last house, and slowly but surely, we’ll create more than just a shelter – we’ll create a haven that feels like it was made for no one but us.  And I cannot wait to share it all with you!  It’s going to be amazing.

And so I’m channeling Elsa up on the North Mountain, who never knew what she was capable of until she let it all go. And yes, we’re all still obsessed with Frozen.  My husband has just learned to deal with it.

t h e   t w i n e r y