cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



October 2014



with my eyes open

Written by , Posted in SOUL



Belief isn’t always easy.
But this much I have learned,
if not enough else—
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.

Mary Oliver, “In the Storm”

Belief isn’t always easy. Our minds and bodies carry so much memory–joy, pleasure, and hope mixed with offense, pain, and loss. Sometimes the hurt we have seen and experienced in our bodies overwhelms us. It clouds our sight and crowds God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. Still, he is good. He is faithful. And he is always finding such personal ways to remind us.






October 2014



42/52 + 43/52

Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



 ”a portrait of each of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014″

liam // We’ve talked often this week about privilege and responsibility. It makes me feel so old and parental, but I suppose that’s partly what I am.

burke // This week you told me that dad and I expect too much of you guys. Although I disagree, I am taking it to heart, re-evaluating our days and work. It’s hard to impart perspective to you all, to prepare you for the adult years looming while still allowing you to be children. We all need so much grace in growing as a family.

blythe // At a ranch we visited, you and I ran around in a circle, pushing these bags like a merry-go-round, while Oli rode and enjoyed it. We also hopped on to enjoy the momentum for as long as possible.

olive // You did the Home Alone face all on your own. It seems appropriate.



liam // You picked out your favorite pumpkin this week and have been deciding whether to carve it or paint it.

burke // You are the silliest, Burke, yet also so serious. You always appear as though you are thinking the world all over again.

blythe // You loved the tall, white horse and took your care of him very seriously.

olive // Catching free rides from me and Blythe. You have such a strong, determined spirit.



October 2014



for the soul

Written by , Posted in SOUL

for the soul | cloistered away

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? {Matthew 16}

Some days my soul feels stretched like dough, enlarged and translucent, waiting to tear. On occasion it does. This last week, I’ve been a little quieter here, practicing stillness and patience again, gathering my spread-too-thin soul back into a lump. The Autumn season is always busy for us, and I’ve learned it’s important to take periods of rest in the midst of it. I’ve thought about these particular words in Matthew and the ones that precede them much lately: the paradox of releasing life in order to gain it, the idea that our souls are our most valuable asset, not to be expended flippantly. I’m grateful to read them again, to remember what and whom my soul really needs.




October 2014



uncommon goods for new parents

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


I have several friends who are currently pregnant, including three new nieces/nephews coming early next year! Eep! Many times, expectant parents already have in mind a few things they might need or want for their new little’s arrival–especially if it’s their first–accoutrements such as clothing, feeding supplies, bedding, baby wraps, and car seats. While these important gifts anticipate the baby’s practical needs, during my own years of motherhood, I’ve learned sometimes parents need a little something less practical and unexpected.


With several upcoming births and Christmas around the corner, I thought I would share a few unique gifts ideas from Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based business that supports artists and designers with environmentally-conscious, mostly handmade goods. Here’s a few favorite gift ideas :

for the wall // When possible I love gifting new parents with something that will outlast the baby years, something fun for the nursery wall such as an animal head made from recycled cardboard like these here, a piece of art, or a world map. For a family who loves to travel, they might enjoy scratching off  their latest family adventures with this one here.

for beyond the baby years // Since we’ve always lived in a home with hard wood flooring, I also love a good (larger) baby blanket. With my own kids, I tried to choose blankets that would transition with them into childhood. The girls still use their crib blanket now when playing on the floor or as a throw over their bed. These oversized kantha blankets handmade in India from upcycled sari swatches are on my current wishlist and would make the perfect blanket to transition from the baby years into the adult years, really. Plus they come in a variety of unique colors and patterns.

for the older sibling // I have always appreciated when friends/family have gifted my older child(ren) after a birth. Depending on the age of your older child, it can be a difficult transition. I love the idea of a personalized book like this one or this one for an older sibling to understand their new important and exciting role in the family. For more ideas of personalized gifts, such as a hand-stitched pillow or frame, take a look here.

for mom + dad // Parenthood is difficult, and those first few sleepless months can be even more so. I love gifting new parents with a little something just for themselves in this transition, to remind them how important self-care is during the years of care-taking. I always enjoy finding something beautiful for the home that requires little maintenance like these here, a new candle that also doubles as solid perfume or body butter like this one (what?! so amazing), and of course something rad like this to aid in keeping us awake.

Obviously, Uncommon Goods has gifts for more than young parents. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift or stocking stuffer, take a peak at some of these ideas here or here. You might even find something to add to your own wishlist (ahem). Either way, I wish you all the best weekend and a happy Friday!


This post is in partnership with Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based business committed to supporting artists and designers by featuring mostly handmade and environmentally-conscious goods. All thoughts are my own. 





October 2014




Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE



We pierced your ears last weekend, a gift and milestone for your eighth year. You sat straight and still, without so much as a flinch, a picture of your unwavering personality.  Blythe, you have an affinity for beauty and detail in everything, whether the clothes you select or the way you arrange the things and people around you. Although you are playful and giggly, you have a seriousness about your goals, about accomplishment. I so much enjoy seeing the person you are becoming, hearing the dreams and beauty in your perspective. May you always be brave with the things in your heart, sweet girl. We love you so. Happy birthday.



October 2014



a red velvet birthday cake

Written by , Posted in EAT + DRINK + GATHER

Last Friday morning, the day we planned to celebrate Blythe’s birthday, I sat with her, flipping through cookbooks and online images while she chose the type of birthday cake she wanted–something with layers and topped with wildflowers. We talked about vanilla bean and Boston Cream and or maybe a spicy carrot cake. She definitely did not want chocolate, a place where our palettes diverge. Finally, Blythe selected Red Velvet, a cake I enjoy but had never made from scratch. I always wondered which ingredients composed this magical flavor, and of course what made it red? On Friday, the girls put on their aprons and helped me create this delicate and simple cake, and by the end of the weekend, every bit of it was gone–minus a few crumbs on the platter. It was delicious and light, something we would have enjoyed as much (or more) with a dusting of powdered sugar. Next time.



2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened, cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup mild cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
.25 oz red food coloring, depends how deep you want the color
1 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar
½ cup of prepared plain hot coffee (NOT optional)

Preheat the oven to 325. 

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt together in a medium sized bowl, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and oil. Then mix in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and red food coloring until fully combined. Stir in the coffee and white vinegar. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, just until combined. Don’t over-stir.

Generously grease two 9-inch pans with butter (or cooking spray or shortening) and flour. Pour the batter evenly into each pan. Bake in the middle rack for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Check the cakes sooner than the end time to make sure they don’t over-bake. The cake will continue to cook as it cools and you want it to remain moist.

Let the pans cool on a cooling rack until they are warm to the touch. Slide a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to loosen the cake from the pan. Remove the cakes from the pan and let them cool. Frost the cake with the buttercream frosting or simply dust with powdered sugar when the cakes have cooled completely. If you desire to ice them sooner, put the cakes in the fridge. It help firm the cake, but it won’t lose its moistness.


3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons whipping cream

Using a medium sized bowl or a free-standing mixer, mix the sugar and butter together on low speed until well-blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and whipping cream to the bowl and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 more minute. Add more whipping cream if needed for spreading consistency.

recipe sources: cake | icing




October 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT




“a portrait of each of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014″

liam // I found an adapted copy of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in the dollar section this summer. You read it quickly then and loved every bit of it. This weekend, you picked it up to read again–a perfect story for our dreary weather. Maybe you’re tired of seeing images of yourself with books by now, but I promise you’re almost always with one in reach. They impact the way you tell and write your own stories, too. You are and will always be a storyteller at heart.

burke // If I could only tell you how often I catch you in thought, staring into space, rehearsing your favorite movie scenes, stories, and jokes. You’re so comfortable in that manner of contemplation. I so appreciate this about you.

blythe // After waiting for over a year, your father and I finally decided you were responsible enough to have your ears pierced. It was our birthday gift to you, and you couldn’t stop touching and twisting them the entire weekend.

olive // This week, you put on your apron and pretended to be a doctor. I was your patient. You listened to my heart (we’ve been studying the circulatory system) and then touched my legs, reporting, “You will need to run each morning and evening for one week.” “But what about my children?” I replied. “Oh, leave your children with your husband. He can watch them, but you need to run,” she retorted. “You also need to eat vegetables: broccoli, spinach, carrots. Then you’ll feel better. Come see me again next week.” I laughed at your wise council, and think it might be exactly what I needed to hear right now. (Wink.)