cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



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. 



March 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT




“a portrait of my children once a week in 2014″

 // week 11 //

Last week, you all visited Nina and Papa for Spring Break while Dad and I moved our family from one home to another. They took you bike riding and roller-skating (although Liam you preferred roller-blading) and invited your cousins over for sleepovers, too. You stayed up late and slept in and watched movies, and while the girls took a trip with Nina and Aunt Bethany to the American Girl store to celebrate your cousin’s birthday, Papa taught the boys how  to shoot a rifle (double gulp). Although I don’t have any portraits of you all from that week, I know you each hold more images than I could capture in your own heart.

// week 12 //

liam // “Mom, this guy replaced his missing thumb and finger with his big toe!”  Your mind is ripe with all varieties of information.

burke // Several times this week I’ve looked for you, finding you sitting on this old, rickety bench in our backyard. Thinking.

blythe // Your Aunt Diana and Uncle Scott generously sent you an American Girl doll last month, something you’ve always wanted. “Her name is Isabelle and she dances just like me!” You squealed. Last week, Nina let you pierce Isabelle’s ears. I laughed at the ridiculousness, but it meant the world to you. I’m so grateful for all of the generous people in our life.

olive // Although you love shoes, you detest wearing them. Dirty feet mark your free-spirited childhood.



March 2014



linger / buy / read / try

Written by , Posted in COLLECTIONS



I can’t believe we’re already entering our last full week of March next week, but I’m grateful Spring has arrived again. The sun has been warmer and already I’m dreaming of day trips to the beach like last summer. This week, I stumbled across this dreamy image of Ocean Beach in San Fransisco, a place I’d love to linger at some point. Then again, that Californian coastline always has a place close to my heart.


I unpacked the kitchen this last week but find myself daily revising and tweaking everything to make it more a more comfortable and pleasant space for us. It’s still the corner of our home that needs the most attention and we’ll attend to them as we can, financially or otherwise. Although our pantry is relatively large, the storage is disproportionate. I’ve been eyeing little things for this space that are both practical and beautiful. I absolutely adore these wood and glass limpid jars from merchant no. 04–a modern twist on a classic design.


Earlier this week, Joanna Goddard of a Cup of Jo featured Courtney Adamo on her blog. For a while, I’ve followed Courtney and her beautiful family through their London home and travels via Instagram, but I really loved hearing her perspective on beauty in this interview, especially in relating with her daughters (something that’s been on my mind much lately).


Isn’t it beautiful to see the resurgence of handmade goods again? I’m regularly astonished at the variety of beauty made by people’s hands–such a gift to the world. I have never learned to sew or knit or crochet or anything in that vein but am hoping to learn alongside my children soon. I loved this weaving tutorial and am hoping to try this project with the kids at some point this summer–after we finish unpacking of course. I hope you all have a wonderful first weekend of Spring–enjoy some sunshine for us while we continue moving in to our new home. (Wink.)



March 2014




Written by , Posted in COLLECTIONS


1  |  2  |  3  |  4

Our new home was built in 1921 and moved to its current location in the late 1940s. The wood floors are covered with splattered paint and uneven wear, a tribute to those who have been here before us and a beautiful contrast to our clean white walls. Right now, Mark and I are missing a bedroom door, and I’m looking to fill it with something that also has age and story. I absolutely love the look of glass industrial doors used in interior spaces and am hoping to find one to use in our oversized doorframe. As for now, it remains on my wishlist.



March 2014



moving forward

Written by , Posted in SOUL


frio river camping-16

The deep parts of my life pour onward, as if the river shores were opening out. - Rainer Maria Rilke

Everyday we move, shifting our things from box to home. Like new lovers, we fumble around this space, pretending to know what we’re doing, that we’ve always belonged. But life these last few days has been anything but natural. While our bodies and most of our objects are here, we are currently living without an operating oven or stove, without a microwave or dishwasher, without one of our two bathrooms, without the internet (until today). This translates to living with a refrigerator, one bathroom, running water, walls, beds, and all of our accoutrements. Don’t worry: it won’t be this way for long (insert: crossed-fingers and a nervous laugh).

Today, as I unpacked boxes of books, I paused to flip through a few favorites and read these words in Rilke’s Selected Poems–a timely reminder of the deeper movement occurring in us right now. Even in the mess and chaos and series of withouts, the deep parts of us pour onward.




March 2014



bits of home

Written by , Posted in SOUL


Between the time change last weekend, our absent children, and this move, the last week has been disorienting and awkward, especially online. We’ve been restoring and repairing our home as we’ve been moving in, and at times, I’ve felt overwhelmed by how much we have left to do. In better moments, I’ve had great perspective, enjoying our progress and the excitement of our new space. While I’ll be showing more details as more things come together, I wanted to show a few bits of this week and our new home.

As you see, we painted every bit of our new home in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. Mark literally sprayed the place, even the dirty, tiled kitchen counters–a temporary solution, we know. But worth it. I hand-painted the trim and woodwork and doors (as mentioned previously), using an oil-based paint in the same color. We transformed a closet into a built-in bookshelf (with my father’s help), removed floor vents and replaced flooring (with Tim’s help), moved in our large furniture (with the help of friends), built a closet in our bedroom (with our friend Buck’s help), scrubbed and sealed our wood floors, ripped off unwanted cabinet doors and shelves in the kitchen, loaded and unloaded several boxes, and still ate delicious meals (thanks to my sister Kristen). While there is still much to be finished, we accomplished so much this week mostly because parents graciously kept the kids for us to work freely until our bodies ached and our clear-minded-ness transformed into delirium. Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same could be said about moving. I’m so grateful for friends and family who give so generously to us. And thank you all for your patience here during this transition.