cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



February 2014



kristen douglass // fidelis studio

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


Today I’m excited to (more formally) introduce my creative sister, Kristen of Fidelis Studio. You’ve seen Kristen’s work featured in my recent style posts and can find a broader scope of her work over on her blog, where she shares weekly gluten-free recipes and images for the 52 project. Kristen, tell us more about yourself.

Tell us more about Fidelis Studio. How and when did you begin? My father gave me my first real camera, a Pentax ME Super film camera, when I graduated early from high school. It was his own camera, and a great start for my own creative journey. I was just shooting on the Pentax and sending my film away, feeling pretty great about the images that were coming out of that little camera. I began taking film classes at the community college near my home, and to be honest, I was terribly frustrated developing my own film. I thought that I might give up all together after my first semester of Black+White. I could take a good photo, but processing it was another thing altogether. After much encouragement from family and friends, a few years of maturing, and getting hitched, I opened up my own business, kmdfoto. A year into my business, in 2008, my husband joined me full-time, and we changed the business name to Fidelis Studio. We are a husband and wife studio, specializing in weddings and lifestyle portraiture. I do tend to update our blog with many other photo projects as well, like food inspiration/photography, and other personal photo projects.

Who or what most inspires your work?  Nature: trees, wide open fields, color, big Texas skies, interesting plants, sun, light, without a doubt nature.

How do you balance home and work life? Do you have a tip to share? I dont’t! Seriously, this is an area that I have always struggled finding balance. One thing that I have noticed that helps me is to leave my phone away from hang out time with my kids. If I’m outside playing, leave it inside where I don’t see or hear every little notification which sends me into working mode.

When you’re not working, what might you be doing? I would most likely be creating something tasty in the kitchen.

Kristen’s favorites: grey v-neck tee / gluten + grain-free chicken nuggets / The Hunger GamesFrance / D700



February 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT


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Quality is not an act, it is a habit. – Aristotle

liam // still struggles to enjoy math but completes it first thing each weekday regardless–a definite mark of maturity.

burke // is always a serious student of his environment, even during games of tag on the playground. I love this about him.

blythe // has decided she wants to be a maker when she grows up because she’s really good at making things.

olive // always has blankie–which happened to lose another piece this week–with her. It’s dwindling before our eyes.



February 2014



linger : buy : read : try

Written by , Posted in COLLECTIONS


Hallelujah, it’s Friday! This week, in addition to all our typical work, we’ve been busy plugging away on our new space and are planning to spend the weekend painting the indoors and cleaning out more overgrowth in the yard. The weather here has been warm and humid, inviting new grasses and bugs. For us, it means we’ve been outdoors more. Do you have anything specific planned this weekend or will you just decide when you get there?

linger // This week Design Sponge featured DRIFT, a new place in San Jose del Cabo in Mexico. Considering itself a hybrid between a boutique hotel and a hostel, DRIFT was minimally designed to keep the expense down for travelers to this Mexican city.  The most incredible part? The rooms rent for $75/night. Doesn’t that sound dreamy right at the end of February?

buy // In spite of my often black thumb, I’m smitten with potted plants. Right now, I’m really wanting to buy citrus trees to plant at our new place. In this article, Gardenista gave a few tips for growing citrus indoors–a helpful read before I purchase one.

read // Preparing to move, I’ve already been thinking of all of the [clothing, linens, toys, books, shoes, school and art supplies] I want to clean out. So I really appreciated when Jodi gave several wonderful thoughts and useful tips for simplifying your home earlier this week.

try // Although this project was originally created for Christmastime, I love these DIY himelli ornaments enough to hang them year round. I’m hoping to make them soon–after the move of course.



February 2014



style essentials // no. 03

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS

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I bought this asymmetrical top last Fall when Phillip Lim designed a small line for Target. Can we just stop for a moment and talk about how wonderful it is when high-fashion and interior designers create products for the everyman (or woman)? Honestly, as much as I might want to, I could never purchase one of the tops from his original line, usually priced somewhere between $250-$400, but the $25 one at Target? Absolutely. I love the asymmetrical nature of this top, the way it draws different lines across my body other than the typical horizontal one, separating top from bottom. In fact, in the warmer months, I wear this top so often, I kind of wish I had bought a second. It works with shorts and flat, strappy sandals just as easily as a pair of jeans and heels. So when our weather began warming up again this last week, of course, I pulled this favorite out again, an essential for every closet, in my opinion.

All images by Fidelis Studio for Cloistered Away. 

cloistered-away-style03SHOP THIS LOOK

Hearts leather fold-over clutch // Helmut tank top or Free People tank // J Brand flare jeans // Steve Madden Val wedges // Another Feather arc bangle




February 2014



kaylan buteyn // simple tips for photographing children

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


I’d like to introduce another gifted sponsor, Kaylan Buteyn, the writer and photographer behind  The Emerald Homestead and Kaylan Buteyn Photography. Today, she’s sharing a few tips for photographing children with us. Welcome, Kaylan, and thank you so much for sharing!


Hello friends and readers of Cloistered Away! I’m so excited to share a post on some simple photography tips with you–specifically tips focused around photographing your kids! I’m a photographer for a living but when it comes to photographing my family, I realize it’s not the easiest task. In this day and age when everyone has nice cameras and phones to capture their family, it can be easy to snap away mindlessly…taking photographs of everything! While this isn’t necessarily bad, I think the main thing I need to focus on at times is stepping back or removing myself from the situation (even if it’s mentally), and truly contemplating what I want to capture, why that specific moment is special to me, and how to frame the shot well.

Here’s three simple tips I try to use when photographing our family: 

1. Capture the entire story
Portraits of our kids are the basic thing most of us take, right? Their cute faces are what we want to capture. But I think photographs are so powerful for the story they tell, and sometimes it takes a different kind of shot to do that. When I’m loving a moment, or truly want to capture something, sometimes the best way to do that is widen my range of photos I’d normally take. While on a pizza picnic at the creek, why not get a wider landscape shot to include the scenery? And make sure you capture interesting behaviors, not only the ‘picture perfect’ moments. I love thinking of photographs as part of a collection, rather than trying to fit every detail you love about the memory into one great shot.
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2. Don’t be afraid to photograph the every day
Your house isn’t perfect? Mine never is. Your kid has a scrape on his nose? Happens to everyone. Your toddler crying and not willing to get in your photo? It’s ok. Really. I think there’s something powerful in capturing moments that aren’t the spectacular, typically photographed ones. Maybe your child does, but my kid certainly doesn’t smile all the time. But his sweet toddler crying face and crocodile tears with his marker mouth? Gosh, that image tugs at my heart and I want to remember it. On our day at the zoo, my son was really skeptical of those monkeys. I’m so glad I caught that look. Don’t be afraid to step in and photograph the real, the raw, the every day. They might be images you truly look back on and enjoy- giving you a well rounded look at your past.

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3. Include yourself!
I never used to be really passionate about taking photos of myself with my kid. Let’s be honest, most of us have some kind of reactionary cringe when we think about photos of ourselves, right? Or is it just me? Either way, I know that the photos I treasure most from my childhood are the ones that include my parents. My Dad and I snuggled up in our favorite recliner while we both read the paper? Yeah, that one. Or my Mom with her awesome 80′s hairstyle holding me tight? I love that one too. So even though it’s a chore and I don’t love photos of myself. You’d better believe I’m going to get in some for my kids sake. I even decided to use the 52 project for just that cause this year.

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February 2014



homeschool favorites // the story of the world

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL

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The history curriculum, The Story of the World, is certainly one of my favorite resources we use at home. Although my husband has a graduate degree in History, I have always felt fairly weak in this area, knowing a smattering of events here and there without really understanding their connection. I remember when Liam was 6 or 7, he asked how old I was when I first learned about a certain event in Ancient history. “Right now!” I responded. And it’s the truth. Through reading this 4-part series, I am beginning to grasp a more comprehensive view of history, but the best part–I’m learning many things for the first time right alongside my children. I should note, they love this time of our day as much as I do, often pleading for me to continue.

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The Story of the World is exactly what it says–a story attempting to weave together the histories of various regions, cultures, and religions into a four volume narrative. Right now, we’re in the middle of volume 2, the Middle Ages. I love Bauer’s attempt to bring together the story of history from around the world, so we’re not merely learning about Western Civilization and religion but also about events occurring simultaneously in Eastern civilization. The materials are easy to adapt and use however you wish. I know some families who simply listen to the audiobooks while others create elaborate projects (from the Activity Book). You can adjust it to how your family wants to use it. I should also note, you can still use this even if you don’t homeschool. It would be easy to read-a-loud at home or have your children (reading level grade 3 +) read-a-loud to you. You can purchase each of the volumes separately, too. This is how we mostly use it.

Untitled-1{learning}  Medieval history + practicing the early stages of writing through listening, coloring (or another project), discussing, summarizing, and writing,

{time}   approx. 30 minutes, 2-3 days/week



  • book (we’re using volume 2 right now)
  • activity book    (includes questions and sample narrations for parents and activity ideas for each chapter)
  • student spirals (I printed and spiral-bound the student pages PDF for each of my children. These pages are also found at the back of the activity book, but are painstaking to copy. Trust me, this is easier.)
  • notebook paper   (I included a piece of notebook paper for each chapter in my older kids’ spirals. I inserted them before binding.)



When I announce it’s time for history, the kids grab their history spirals from their cubbies and sit at the table. They really do love this part of our day. I bring various coloring supplies to spread out for them. I let them situate and find their pages in the activity book as I announce what chapter we’re reading that day. I remind the littles not to talk while I’m reading so everyone can hear. This time we’re reading a part of a chapter on the Crusades. I prompt them with a few broad review/background questions to help connect what we’ve already read leading up to this point. This is helpful for all of us in building the connections.

Although sometimes I’ll have the boys rotate reading aloud, they really enjoy listening and working on the activities, so I mostly do the reading. (You could also play the audio for this part if you tire of reading aloud.) As I read the chapter, the kids are coloring a page on the Crusades, listening. When I finish, I grab the Activity book and read the review questions from that section. We briefly discuss the key characters mentioned and events that happened. After reviewing with questions, I’ll ask the older kids to tell me what we read in 2-3 sentences (practicing summarizing). My oldest writes his narration down on the notebook paper in his spiral. I usually write the other kids narrations for them, and they read them back to me. We don’t always do the last part. Sometimes we simply listen and color, but I try to include writing when I can.





February 2014



our new home: the desecrated becoming sacred

Written by , Posted in SOUL



Wendell Berry once wrote, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” I couldn’t help mulling these words as we walked through our new property this weekend, laden with disrepair and neglect. Every corner of this space needs attention, from the dead, entangled tree limbs to the dark, ugly kitchen. And we plan to attend to them. Most of the large work will happen slowly, but we have vision for this broken place–vision of mended cracks and clean surfaces and un-boarded windows, of gatherings with friends and family, of the everyday nothings mixed with the more intentional somethings.

This weekend, the kids ran circles through the empty space, full of light and shadow, laughing. They cleared bags of cigarette butts from the yard and nails from the wood. As we pulled up dingy carpet and scraped discolored wallpaper, I realized how allegorical this work, this restoration, is to the ongoing work occurring in our hearts. All of our physical digging and cutting away and building and mending and painting in this home is a picture of another unseen work, the restoration of another kind of brokenness–my own. Across the room, the boys tell jokes to one another, sweeping piles of dirt from the floors. I smile at these tiny nothings happening in our new home, recognizing the desecrated becoming sacred.