cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



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.



February 2014



hannah singer // wifey singer

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


Today I’m introducing another sponsor, Hannah Singer, the creator behind Wifey Singer and writer at Happy Days. You may remember Hannah’s necklace and earrings from last week’s style post (also pictured below). I really love her vintage-inspired pieces and the way she infuses color into all of her work (and life, I imagine). Hannah, please tell us more about yourself.



Tell us more about Wifey Singer. How did you begin your shop? My little adventure in jewelry happened almost accidentally! My shop opened in an effort to help pay for airfare. In the spring of 2012, some girlfriends and I plotted a trip to Lake Placid. I was determined to find a way to make it there! It wasn’t in our family budget at all. With encouragement from friends and a desire to just figure it out, i made a few pairs of earrings. Before then, I’d never made jewelry in my life, and certainly have much yet to learn. I prayed that I could sell every pair that I had made that month of May, just over twenty pair, I think. Well, God really rocked my socks and I sold everything, and ordered more supplies! Over 1,500 Etsy sales and dozens of special orders later, here i am. In awe of how my little goal of covering part of a plane ticket has turned into extra provision for my family, increased missions support, and more girlfriend trips! truly a testament to ephesians 3, exceedingly, abundantly above my imagination!

Who/what most inspires your work? I’m most inspired by simplicity and color. As far as accessories go, minimal is my favorite. I love creating with interesting color palettes that offer a punch of happy when paired with my everyday jeans and plain tops :)


How do you balance work and home life? My business sort of crept up on me, and sometimes I felt anxiety about my shop. Early on I decided to let it go and give it to the Lord. My family and home come first. Sometimes that means extending my shipping schedule; sometimes it means having less in-stock items. We have a tiny downtown apartment, and I have no workspace or even a desk. When I work, I unpack all my supplies and settle in on a side table or countertop. This can be frustrating since I have to pack everything up again until another free hour presents itself. To avoid frustration or stress, I pray a lot about my little shop and family, and make sure to get out of the house even one hour a week–no agenda, nothing but really being free from “all the things” for a bit. This helps me stay grounded :)

Do you have a tip to share? A few tips from what works for me:

  • I only list for sale what I have already made.

  • I try to remember that I am not a huge company or discount store. I am one person–a wife and mama first–and I plan/make/stock/list/package/care for my customers/market/everything on my own.

  • I try to value my timed while still making my items affordable for my amazing customers!

When you’re not working, what might you be doing? When I’m not working on my shop, I’m probably squishing Playdoh or reading with my five year old, laughing at a text from my sister or girlfriend, snuggled up with my man and Netflix, or pretending to clean.


Hannah’s favorite things:

coffee (+ reading the Psalms) // Gap Curvy jeans  // Asheville, NC (also Chicago, Disneyland, Williamsburg, +Florida beaches) // gluten-free chicken + dumplings // The Giver, Lois Lowry (and All Things Good, Thomas Watson)

Right now, you can receive 10% off of Hannah’s entire shop by entering BLOG10 at checkout. Thank you so much for sharing, Hannah!

Images by Cloistered Away.  Earrings and necklace c/o Wifey Singer. 




February 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



Home is the nicest word there is.
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

liam // opening the windows in his new bedroom

burke // sweeping up the mess after we tore out the old, dingy carpet

blythe // taking in the view from the front porch

olive // exploring the yard