cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



April 2014





April 2014



words with you

Written by , Posted in SOUL


These words seem so simple that at first glance, I simply nod and move on, almost missing their significance. Most days, I skim through other people’s lives and spaces online, admiring their glimmers of perfection, while I tread the dirty floors and debris of my own life. Or so it feels anyway. My self and space and work are anything but perfect. I can be so critical of myself. Often, I return to my own work, perhaps written on paper in ink, and draw that ubiquitous line straight through their middle, through their gut–revising the faults, omitting the flaws–all with idea of perfection. Although I try not to, I often do the same online where it feels less violent, where the delete button quietly erases what might possibly be rejected or somehow not as good as someone else’s _______. Frankly, it’s always tempting to revise my life to be what other people want, to be what might possibly be more popular. What I often forget is that sometimes in the self-criticism and process of omission, I am also somehow deleting myself, my own thought and voice–the very things that make me me (and not anyone else).

Typically, I might delete these soul-spilling words (or keep them to myself) in fear of being too serious or whiny or self-focused. Not today, friends. This time, I’m sharing my ridiculous, honest heart here with you, hoping to encourage you with these four little words: Be who you are. Your life and voice are significant. 

print by Kal Barteski 


Also, congratulations to Lauren for winning the Shea Paper Co. giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!





April 2014



nate + lucy aspray | we resolve photography

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


Today, I’m introducing the sweetest British couple, Nate and Lucy Aspray of We Resolve Photography. Through their blog, Nate and Lucy regularly share the loveliest images of their work and life in the UK–they even sell a few of their favorite prints in their Etsy shop. Of course, I always love their dreamy travel pictures, but I also always appreciate how open they are with their hearts, about their struggles, victories, and various resolutions to live in simplicity and community. Nate and Lucy, please tell us more about yourself. 

Tell us about We Resolve. How did it all begin? We Resolve is a little photography company based out of Sheffield, UK. We started blogging about fulfilling our new year’s resolutions in 2012. Through the blog, people started asking us to come and capture their wedding day, family gatherings and other things, which was so exciting for us! Lucy had always had dreams of being a photographer but didn’t have professional level kit or the money to buy it. After a few sarcastic prayers along the lines of ‘so, are you going to give me a camera then God?’ she was challenged  one day to pray properly, and the day she did she received a cheque for £2,000 through the post! We took this as confirmation that setting up a business was the right thing to do, and we went for it. It is now Lucy’s full time job, and Nate helps a lot when he is not busy with med school. A year on and we’re about to head into our second summer of weddings (with a massive two month break where we’ve traveling to Ecuador and the east coast of USA… eeek!). 

Who/ What most inspires you? God- we want to be more like him; patient, kind and loving. Our parents are amazing too, and we are learning to be more faithful and thankful from their example.

How do we balance work and home life? We are still working on balancing work/ rest for sure! We try to keep a healthy home life by eating together every day without distractions, by keeping Sundays completely work-free (this one is so hard) and by welcoming people into our home whenever possible.

When you’re not working what might you be doing? Lucy loves cooking and baking and spends many hours in the kitchen. Nate enjoys reading and listening to music on the big old record player we’ve just inherited. We are big football fans, bibliophiles and foodies. We also love our church so much and get stuck in with what’s going on there- currently we’re working with the homeless in our city which is super challenging.




March 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



“a weekly portrait of my children in 2014″

liam // 10 is such a strange age, straddling two different worlds at the same time.

burke // You love babies and are always so willing to play with and lead them in the right direction.

blythe // You’re the most focused and hard-working little girl I know.

olive // You’re always so determined to do what others think you cannot. This week it was monkey bars.



March 2014



5 solutions for unruly hair

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


no.01       |       no. 02       |       no.03       |       no.04       |       no. 05

It’s been six months since my last hair cut, and with Spring and Summer’s humidity looming, I’m preparing for the coming months of unruly hair. The easy solution would be to get a hair cut, but in the meantime, I’ve been looking for a few easy ways to tie up my hair and divert from the typical side braid. Here’s a few simple ideas and tutorials I hope to try over the next few weeks. How about you? Do you have any tricks for taming unruly hair you want to share? I’d love to hear.



March 2014



for the moment

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL, SOUL



If I’m honest, there are days I wish I weren’t homeschooling. I imagine someone else taking responsibility for my children’s education, relieving me to my own work. I would be able to workout regularly and spontaneously meet friends for morning coffee or Mark for lunch. I could finish my graduate degree or commission more work (and receive a paycheck, too). For hours each day, the house would be clean and quiet. I could do simple tasks like grocery shopping or finishing a home project alone. I could visit my kids at school or hear about their days over an afternoon snack. I could help them with homework, commiserating with them about its tedium and the un/kindness of classmates. Wouldn’t we all enjoy the space from one another and likewise enjoy our time together more?

On these sort of days, I might begin looking at schools again, searching for the perfect alternative, but honestly, we have few. For various reasons that I won’t flesh out right here, my husband and I still don’t feel that public school is the right choice for our kids, for their minds or their persons. Not right now anyway. I’m not offended by public schools or by parents who choose this option. We all are trying to do what’s best for our families, and I always hope we are all willing to give one another grace in this process of child-rearing. On the other hand, Mark and I cannot afford private schooling, even the part-time hybrid programs gaining more popularity. So at the very least, our choice to homeschool has become the default. That’s one perspective anyway, and if I choose to meditate and perceive my life from that place, the thinking that our life is the result of a default, I will grow resentful of this choice. Of my life. Of my family. And if I’m not aware, there are days like earlier this week that these feelings creep in to settle over me like a fog.

Lately, I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son–a timely and rich read, in which he writes, ”Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.” Bam. These words disperse the resentful fog like sunlight. My life. My children. These messy, loud, sometimes unproductive days are a gift. The issue is not whether to homeschool or not, the issue is the entitlement in my own heart, the lie living beneath my daydreams that better is somewhere else. In the face of hard days, I want to see this particular choice and all of the limitations/costs with it as a gift, and that only comes through thanksgiving.

I notice the kids piled together on a couch, observing and playing with a bug on the window. The house is a mess. Their feet are bare. Olive is in pajamas. We have a million other things to accomplish in the day, but I put them aside for the moment to breathe, to give thanks for each of them and for the freedom of choice.




March 2014



crystal hethcote | shea paper co. giveaway

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


I’m thrilled to introduce Crystal Hethcote, the talented illustrator and owner of Shea Paper Co., and today, we’re partnering to give away one print or set of cards to a lucky reader. I really love the intention and richness of Crystal’s work, ranging from the simplest greeting cards to the prints she made for her children’s bedroom to the larger 8×10 illustrations. When I first visited her shop, I immediately connected with this piece, “Let Your Heart Be Heard.” It takes courage to create or speak from your heart and share it with the world, and I appreciate the boost of bravery this print gives everyone in our home–be heard.

You can enter the giveaway below, and generously, Crystal is also offering 20% OFF her entire store to all readers. Simply enter cloisteredaway at checkout. Crystal, please tell us some more about yourself.


How and when did Shea Paper Co. first begin?  I launched my shop a couple of years ago, mostly to be the outlet for my need to make things and to create. I have dreamed of having a greeting card line since I was young; I just launched that this year, so I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Who/what most inspires your work? I’m inspired by love, things of meaning, and whimsy or quirk. A lot of my prints are inspired by Jesus, and my cards are inspired by images and colors that make me happy- something I’d like to receive.


How do you balance home life? Do you have a tip to share? One thing I love about my shop is that I can make and create on my own time. Being a mom of an almost 2, 3 and 4 year old and watching my sweet 3 year old niece during the day can make it difficult for me to be tied to anything that needs a lot of commitment to quick deadlines. My best tip is to take advantage of nap time ;).

When you’re not working what might you be doing? I love taking the kids to the state park that is not too far from our house, or if we’re not out, we tend to build some mighty impressive Duplo towers–all with coffee in hand, of course.

shea paper co favorites

Crystal’s favorite things // denim/chambray shirts I’d wear them every day if it would be socially acceptable. // My husband, kids and I lived in Haiti for a short time. I miss it there sometimes, and we hope to revisit soon. // fish tacos with all the fixin’s. The warm weather makes me crave them, and they’re simple which is definitely a bonus! // Lately when I’m reading it’s usually a children’s book (which I love and am also inspired by the illustrations!) But, the last book I read for myself was Love Does and it was wonderful. // Can’t live without? fine tip pens or my iphone. It’s a toss up.

Thank you for sharing, Crystal. Good luck with the giveaway, everyone! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All images by Cloistered Away. Print c/o Shea Paper Co.