cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



November 2013



in praise of fall

Written by , Posted in life lately

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We spent the day at a local event celebrating fall recently. While the event was primarily to help raise money for a local nature conservation project, the kids enjoyed stomping through muddy fields and hills, fishing for catfish (to toss back), riding horses, and of course, using an over-sized sling shot to launch pumpkins into the pond. This is what I call a win-win scenario: quality family time + outdoors + pumpkin carving (something I rarely make time to do at home). It felt like a true tribute to my favorite season.



November 2013



when love makes you vulnerable

Written by , Posted in writing in the margins


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Millions of poems and songs and stories and books have been written on love. If we’ve existed for any length of time at all, we’ve already gained some experience, some insight into what love is or isn’t. Although I could fill an entire blog with new things to say on the subject, today, I only wanted to talk about one aspect: the vulnerability love requires, specifically as a parent. Before I became a parent, abstractly, I knew we would encounter difficulties. I knew motherhood would challenge me, even change me.  Some of this knowledge I had gathered listening to and watching other parents (including my own), while some know-how seemed like common sense. Childbirth, for example, I knew would cause me pain. I am familiar with my anatomy enough to know that violent things would have to occur in and to my body for a human to grow inside of me and to ultimately exist apart from me. I knew babies didn’t sleep well or arrive with complete sentences articulating their needs or wants. I knew my children would be different from me, which meant sometimes we would disagree. And I theoretically knew life as Mark and I had known in it in our two brief years together would not be the same. Still, we–the same as millions of other people–chose to have and love children. Almost instinctively, we knew (however theoretically) that what we would give and receive in loving was far greater than what it would cost us. Ten years later, I still agree.

But love does require of us. And it does requires vulnerability. It requires us to give from our depths, to allow someone else into our dreams/plans, to say giving is better than receiving. Love requires vulnerability when we don’t have the answer, when we can’t resolve a situation, to say, “I don’t know.” Each time we say the words, “I love you,” some measure of our heart is exposed, available for rejection, for ridicule. Vulnerable connotes weakness in our culture, that somehow our exposure and availability to scrutiny, to hurt, to loss makes us less.  Yet, as Lewis points out, the alternative to this sort of love is self-preservation, the love of self. This isn’t meaning taking care of yourself or having self-respect or even loving who you are is not important. They are extremely important, but it can’t be the end. Love is many things but insular is not one of them. Love requires an exchange, a transfer, the ability to say in all things, in all attitudes, “I am for you” even if I don’t always have the right words or the immediate solution to your needs.

I’ve had to practice these things (with various success) over the last ten years as a parent, but it’s still difficult. It can hurt me when my child is throwing a tantrum or spews hurtful words or refuses my help. It can be difficult when in their immaturity, they choose to intentionally disobey me. It can be hurtful (and exhausting) when I have spent most of the day addressing heart attitudes. On these days, I might find myself raising my voice or folding my arms across my chest or worse being careless with my words–this is what self-preservation looks like on me. It feels easier in the moment to dwell on the hard, on my own hurt, on what I need. Sometime I have the wisdom in the moment to take a break, to step outside (or inside), to hear the Lord say to me, “I am for you. I see you. I know you. And I am for you.” On those days, when I take that time, suddenly my arms relax and my heart is able to see again, to open. I confess this to my kids  and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t handle you well when I _____.”  I wish these occurrences didn’t exist that I could say I always respond to my children from a whole heart and with perspective. But I too am human and  it’s good for my kids to understand and know this, to see I am not always right, I don’t always have the right answers or responses, and that as an adult, I’m still learning how to love and be loved. This too is vulnerability, the place where all of our hearts grow.

Blessings to you all this Monday. May you have the courage and grace to walk humbly and love with vulnerability today.



October 2013



on the table | a coconut butter medley

Written by , Posted in on the table

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Kristen and I finished another Whole30 in mid-September, which means for 30 days we strictly ate fruit, veggies, meat, nuts, and seeds. For various reasons, we both decided we needed a cleanse of sorts from grains, alcohol, and of course–sugar! It’s amazing how creative you can get when trying to find ways to combine these groups of food. This coconut butter medley was and still is one of my favorite snacks. It’s dairy-free, grain-free, and free of added sugars. The best part? It only takes about 10-15 minutes from chopping to mouth. You can make these with any concoction of dried fruits or nuts, only try to stick with the unsweetened ones. Enjoy!

servings: approximately 20 quarter-size balls                         time: 10-15 minutes


  1. unsweetened cacao nibs  (1/4 c.)
  2. dried goji berries (1/2 c.)
  3. coconut butter (1 c.)
  4. dried apricots  (1/2 c.)
  5. dried figs (1/2 c.)
  6. unsweetened vanilla extract (1 Tbsp. — optional, but nice)


  1. Chop the figs and apricots.
  2. Combine all of the fruit and cacao together in a bowl.
  3. Add the coconut butter.
  4. Mix together.
  5. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Spoon quarter size balls onto a baking sheet.
  7. Place in the refrigerator to harden (at least 5 minutes).
  8. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.




October 2013




Written by , Posted in wanderings, writing in the margins

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Rest and be thankful.
― William Wordsworth

Sometimes I think about the early days of our family, when we’d harness babies to our bodies and walk without aim, just to be together. To be. Sometimes we used words and held hands. Sometimes we walked in silence, our footsteps in sync.

Although our walks have since become louder, I love them just the same. Walking aimlessly, together.

fall berries / Saturday morning crafts / studying leaves / shadow play / afternoon light / reading / a football and a walking stick / Sunday morning bike ride / something new / weekend walking / outdoor dinner with friends / a hot chocolate picnic



October 2013



inspiration no. 3

Written by , Posted in inspiration


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The cooler weather is finally lingering here, luring me again to warmer tones and clothing. I’m pulling out dusty jackets and remembering sweaters and scarves and boots I haven’t seen in quite a while–I just love this season. Fall beckons me to simplify, to quiet myself, whether in a cozy corner with a book and coffee or outside under a canopy of trees.  I am also finding new ways to experiment with my existing wardrobe, creating new arrangements of layers with what I already own. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. Oh well. Here’s a few things inspiring me this season. You can find more images inspiring me on Pinterest and Tumblr. What’s inspiring you this Fall?



October 2013



watercolor invitations

Written by , Posted in currently making

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In the world of digital everything, receiving real mail (even when hand-delivered) can feel like a gift. E-mail is convenient and free, and with so many digital invitation options (Evite, Paperless post, etc.), it’s often difficult to justify the time and expense for paper. I get it. Believe me, I get it. Time is valuable, which is exactly why a handmade, snail-mailed invitation can be just the right treat for your guests, no matter their age. Of course, an invite tucked in with confetti and wrapped in twine will feel like a mini-party in itself.

I love the variation and imperfection of watercolors for this project. Although similar, each invitation had a slightly different hue and rhythm, but most of all, Blythe made each one. I helped her mix the paints (crimson, with a little white and yellow) and write, but she chose the colors and painted them herself (sadly, I only had my iphone available for that part).  It was such a fun collaboration and a way for Blythe to feel a little ownership in her event. We used them for her birthday, but you could easily adapt this idea for any event or to create a stationery gift. Below, I included the materials and steps for you to do it yourself at home. Enjoy!

{what you need}

  • watercolor paper (postcard size or cut larger sheets)
  • watercolors
  • paint brush/es
  • pen/marker
  • envelopes
  • confetti
  • twine


  1. Decide the color/s you want to use and mix your paints. Don’t worry about it being perfect, as I said, the imperfection is part of the beauty.
  2. Fill a glass of water and begin making strokes along your paper. You may choose to cover the entire paper, creating an ombré effect (dark to light) or leave unfinished edges (as Blythe did).
  3. Let them fully dry (at least 24 hours).
  4. Use a fine-tipped marker or pen to write your invitation.
  5. Place completed invites in an envelope with a small bit of confetti.
  6. Seal the envelopes and wrap with twine. (You may skip the twine altogether if you’re sending them in the mail.)



October 2013



a {little} spa party

Written by , Posted in currently making, inspiration

spa birthday party-60spa birthday party-12spa birthday party-14spa birthday party-8spa birthday party-63spa birthday party-22spa birthday party-1spa birthday party-19spa  birthday party-61spa birthday party-25spa birthday party-9spa birthday party-34spa birthday party-31spa birthday party-38spa birthday party-45spa birthday party-15spa birthday party-43spa birthday party-20spa birthday party-17spa birthday party-28(photo credit: Kristen | Fidelis Studio)

Every other year after age 5, we give each of our kiddos the option of a birthday gift or party. Blythe, who turned seven this weekend, had the choice this year. And until recently, she had wanted to repeat last year’s trip with just our family only to decide two weeks ago she wanted to celebrate her special day with her friends instead — spa style. So with two weeks to plan and a small-ish budget (under $100), we began to collect ideas. Her only requests? Nail polish and cucumber slices for their eyes. So with the help of Pinterest, my sister, and the dollar store, we changed our dining area into a {little} spa complete with manis/pedis and facials for nine little girls. Kristen and a few of my friends volunteered to help me as the spa technicians, and we all dressed in black accordingly. (Wink.) I bought the flip flops, pedicure sets, wash cloths, sequin head wraps, and plastic party buckets (“foot tub”) at the dollar store to use at the party and then send home with each of the girls. I also bought fake rose petals, lavender epson salt, crepe paper, and nail polish there as well. In the event you’re hosting a similar party for your little or wanting to adapt it for women, here’s the details. Have fun–these girls sure did!



+ yogurt bar  {yogurt, berries, granola, marshmallows, mini-chocolate chips, & sliced almonds}

+ powdered donut cake

+ infused water {filtered water with muddled blackberries, strawberries, peeled oranges, and mint}

{supplies} –all purchased at dollar stores or borrowed from our home

per person:

+ plastic party bowl (“foot tub”)

+ pedicure set

+ 2 washcloths (1 dry for feet /1 warm, damp cloth to clean their faces)

+ 1 rolled towel or pillow

+ head wrap

for group use:

+ 1 package of lavender epsom salt

+ 1 bag of fake rose petals

+ nail polish

+ candles

+ music (found an existing playlist)

{facial mask}

1 part parsley, 1 part cucumber, 1 part plain yogurt

Puree the parsley and cucumber together. Mix in the yogurt. You’ll need approximately 2 Tbsp per face.


When the girls arrived, we “checked them into the spa” near the front door where they exchanged their shoes for their flip flops. We wrote their names on a list that we used later for gifts. The girls also wrote their names on little white tags that they carried with them to their seat inside the “spa room.” I really wanted to create the feeling they were entering a space, so we had twisted various shades of crepe paper to look like large beads and hung it from a string pinned between two walls. (I modified this tutorial to get the technique.) Each of the girls chose a seat and began soaking their feet in the lavender water until a helper came to gently scrub, dry,  and lotion their feet and then paint their toenails. After their pedicures, the helpers placed their name tags into their pedicure bags so we could make sure the right supplies went to the right homes.  We then gathered around the table just outside the “spa room” and sang Happy Birthday. The girls created their own yogurts using mini-jelly jars, ate mini-donuts on cocktail napkins, and drank the fruit-infused water. During this time, the helpers and I emptied water buckets, cleared the chairs, and prepared the same “spa room” space for facials. We pulled out rolled towels, placing head wraps for each girl on top (so their facial mask wouldn’t get in their hair). When the girls finished eating, they put on a headband and laid their heads on the towel rolls. The helpers and I went around brushing their facial masks on–complete with cucumbers over the eyes–and painting their finger nails. After sitting for a few minutes (some of them would have fallen asleep), we used warm, clean washcloths to wipe their skin. When the girls were clean again, Blythe opened her gifts and the two-hour party ended.  (And all the adults needed naps–wink.)