cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



November 2013



happy thanksgiving

Written by , Posted in writing in the margins






Sometimes it is easy to look at other people’s pictures or lives and feel that I am somehow missing out. That I don’t have enough. Sometimes things don’t go as I plan, even when I plan well. Sometimes I have to choose to give thanks when I least expect it–even  possibly on the day we commemorate it. For instance, I may have actually taken more time to get dressed for dinner this evening, paying attention to details in a way I wouldn’t typically, only to find myself later wearing a child’s vomit. I arranged candles across the table, preparing the space where the meal my parents lovingly labored over would sit, only to realize that special meals are still meals to children–consumed quickly enough to have dessert with little care for mealtime conversation or decor. Yet still–although perhaps more humbly–I am to give thanks. Not only when everything is perfect or goes as planned, but also when it doesn’t. Maybe in the latter, on these sort of days, the giving of thanks actually feels like a gift. A precious gift. Something hidden within me that I have to retrieve. This evening, I spent a little time this evening remembering, retrieving.  I remembered how thanksgiving restores us, rather than depleting us, how the recounting of gratitude changes our heart. A noble reminder for the day, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving.





November 2013



giveaway | ipad mini

Written by , Posted in currently making


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (in the US), and as a way to say thank you for all of your support and readership, I’ve teamed together with several other bloggers (listed below) to giveaway an iPad mini. Crazy, right? I promise, it’s legit. You don’t have to buy anything or enter any personal info (except for email). You simply CLICK HERE to enter through Rafflecopter and fill in as many or as few criteria as you prefer. The more criteria means the more entries means a greater chance for you to win. If you have any trouble, you can click any of the links below and enter through their page; it’s all the same giveaway. This giveaway will run until December 9. Good luck!

A special thank you to Corina who initiated this giveaway and made the graphic above!

giveaway sponsors:

My Life Box | Tara Victoria | Always with Yoo | Fashion Fab | Noor AlQahtani | Owl and Anchor Studios | Clear the Way | Cloistered Away | Pink and Lola | Pen and Peplum | Live Colorful | Rolala Loves | Team Wiking | Of Trees and Hues | My Paradissi | Sincerely Sara | Creative Index | Pink Ronnie | Oh So Pretty | A Pair of Pears | Jazz Lips and Tulips | Coco and Mingo | ExVitae | JavaAficionado | Buckets and Spades | Holly MarieDesigns | Yours Truly | Yeobo | Studio 404 | Cambria Grace | Lucky Number Seven | Milk and Crown | Yellow Beard Yellow Bird | Squirrelly Minds | Fox and Mint | Earth to Jade | Style of Sam



November 2013



a rainy weekend: winter’s prelude

Written by , Posted in life lately










It has rained for days now. A cold, relentless rain. I look toward our cactus still propped on our outdoor table, now hunched over like an old man, withering. Cold has a way of making us all feel old. From the other side of the pane, we warm ourselves with cups of hot cocoa and coffee amidst artificial light and flames, and for this I am thankful. Warmth is also a gift.

Mark and I had planned this past weekend differently. Kristen and Tim and their kids were out of town, and we had intended to enjoy family time outside working in the yard and riding bikes–except for the cold rain. Our plans were revised. In lieu of bike rides, Mark wrestled with the kids and played hide-and-seek. We watched movies and played board games and even leisurely visited with friends who stopped over.  There were no warm shadows cast across the countertops as we prepared our soup dinners or even to greet us as we poured our morning coffees. The shorter, grey daylight reminded us to rest and enjoy the quietness with one another. Winter, the season for rest, is coming. It is the portion of our year that forces simpler routines and togetherness. Admittedly worn thin with our current pace, I welcome it.




November 2013



inspiration no.4

Written by , Posted in inspiration



cozy dinner | clustered taper candles | blanket throws | utensils in glass jars | printable thankful tags | simple table setting | a pretty blouse | collected plant life

I love minimalist decor at gatherings. It seems to draw attention to the things that are most important, namely the food and people. I have a few staple go-to’s for any event–mason jars, candles, and string lights–to automatically add presence and importance but not distract. For previous T-day meals, we’ve added plant life right from our yard or nearby woods. We’ve hung branches from the ceiling, collected plants or wildflowers to put in glass jars, or moved the table to the backyard altogether.

This year, we’ll be heading to my parents’ and will be eating in their garage. It sounds funny, but there are too many of us to fit at their dining table. So we’ll recreate the space by hanging cloth over any unsightly shelves and of course adding some candles, string lights, and plant life. Here’s a few things inspiring our simple, casual gathering.



November 2013



the gift of wilderness

Written by , Posted in wanderings, writing in the margins

20131118-221931.jpgfrio river camping-28

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“I love cooking in nature,” Liam tells me. He tosses the scrambled eggs around the pan gently with a fork. He’s carefully improvising the spatula I have forgotten. Nearby, two trees cradle Olive and her blankie. She has climbed into the high hammock by herself and smiles at us as if to say, Look at me! Look what I can do. And the trees echo her as they release a torrent of color into the air, swirling deliberately, gathering at our feet. The fire pops another acorn where Burke and Blythe sit flipping cards and planning our day: a long hike? explore a cave? play in the river? S’mores? Yes. All of it. Knowingly, Mark hands me a cup of hot coffee as he does most mornings, only today he doesn’t need to rush off to work. This morning he stands with me between the fire and the fog lying over the hills.


We camped on the Frio River last weekend–a little belated celebration for my birthday. There were no candles or wrapping paper. Still, it was the best of gifts.



November 2013



lately {phone edition}

Written by , Posted in life lately


When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. — Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been thinking on these words since a friend on Instagram shared them a few days ago. As you can imagine, life has not slowed down for us–and with ten people under one roof, it’s not all that hard to imagine really. It can be noisy and messy and — did I say noisy? It’s easier to see and focus on those things now because they demand my immediate attention and they are antithetical to adulthood and maturity. However, in the midst of the clutter and various routines and chatter is life–childhood and parenthood and this relatively brief interval of time when they overlap. That’s the perspective I want everyday, the lesson I’ve been learning lately (and possibly always): today is a gift. Life (breath, thought, love, laughter, sharing, etc.) is a gift.

I’m currently slowing down the days by giving thanks (as mentioned in the previous post), finding the everyday somethings, the everyday “privileges,” no matter how small. I’ve hardly been able to pick up my real camera, but here’s a few snippets of our happenings lately: the gifts of life. (Find more of our daily happenings by following me on Instagram @cloisteredaway) Happy Friday everyone.




November 2013



collecting thanksgiving

Written by , Posted in inspiration


painted leaves | chalkboard | twine | journal

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Have I told you that yet? While of course I love the entire holiday season (Christmas and New Year’s included), I especially love that Thanksgiving causes me–all of us– to stop and reflect. For one day, instead of looking to our wants and needs and TO DOs, we dwell on what we have, on the relationships we’ve been given, and say “thank you.” I’ve had to refocus my own heart in this way regularly the last two years. As life has seemed to size us down (you can read more about that here), it feels easier to focus on the loss, the lack, the want. Finding ways to say “thank you” in those moments seems harder, like trying to lift your arms on a spinning roller coaster with gravity willing against you. No, giving thanks does not always happen naturally. However, when we intentionally seek ways to be thankful regardless of the circumstances, our hearts always grow. That’s the real gift.

The kids and I began collecting thanks a couple of years ago in a journal. Each day we would pass the book around and write something/someone we were thankful for, things like family members and pillow pets and a new bug we discovered and sunlight and fireworks and ideas such as wisdom. I’m writing in past tense because somewhere in the chaos of the last six months, we stopped. We now do it orally each morning with our read-a-loud time, but I miss having the written record. So in light of the season and trying again to be more intentionally grateful, I have been finding easy ways to begin collecting our thanksgiving again. Here’s a few of my favorites. What about you? How do you cultivate thanksgiving during this season? I would love to hear.