cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



February 2014



handmade with love

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL



I’m not sure why, but Valentine’s Day often sneaks up on me. Mark and I usually plan something small for ourselves, but I often forget about the exchange of sentimental goods kids share, too. I used to love it as a child. We’d decorate boxes and share cards and candy with one another. When my own kids were young, they didn’t really know (or care) or understand about Valentine’s Day, and I never pushed them into it–a heart-shaped cake or cookie usually did the trick. I still remember the year that changed. Since then, I make an effort to remember: they want to share on that day, too.

As I scoured the internet, laden with adorable Valentine DIYs, for ideas this year, I realized I would be doing a large amount of the work (which for me, defeats the purpose). I decided instead to just let the kids make their own. They love creating their own masterpieces to share with others and I’m always amazed at what their minds and hands can do together. I brought out the felt heart-shaped stickers and different washi tapes I found last weekend in the Target dollar section, along with several other art supplies we had on hand at home. After spreading them out across the table and introducing the materials (especially the ones in limited quanitity), I let them loose to create. They cheered, literally. Meanwhile, I sat down with them, helping them spell names and creating on my own paper. The projects belonged to each of them: specific gifts handmade with love.

{materials we used–this can vary}

  • heart-shaped cookie cutters (for tracing)
  • washi tape
  • oil pastels
  • construction paper
  • red + white twine
  • felt heart stickers
  • glue sticks
  • scissors






February 2014



words with you

Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE, SOUL


I am a fairly risk-adverse person. I tend more often to stick with what I know and with whom and where I am comfortable. When it comes to decision-making, I’m fairly analytical and calculated, although I often admire adults who can just do something without over-thinking–I tend to discourage it in my children. (Wink.) I won’t begin to speculate about whether my decision-making style is good or bad–it just is, and I’ve learned to accept this about myself.

Earlier last week, I read these words and immediately thought,  yes! Be brave, Bethany. Naturally, I  pinned  it to my Pinterest board, and moved on with my day. Still hours later, these delicate letters lingered with me, begging the question: am I brave? I often equate bravery with daring, high-risk adventures like bungee-jumping or cliff diving or with political activists willing for justice against the tyrannical majority. While I esteem their courage for varied reasons (and support several in the latter), that’s not where I am in my life right now. My life is quite ordinary and small, which, if i’m not careful, can easily translate in my heart to unimportant and lacking courage.

Motherhood can be a terribly romantic notion from afar, but in the day-to-day, it can feel anything but brave. I have at times been covered in poop and vomit (although fortunately not in a while) and for years didn’t sleep through the night (happily now). My days are filled with teaching simple rituals with dishwater and clothing and food next to phonics and algorithms and natural order. In all moments, whether I like it or not, I am teaching my children something about the world, about God. And when I fail–because I often do–I teach them about mercy, forgiveness, and grace. We all need to hear that lesson more often. I think of all the mothers I know, ones who have given up the rights to their bodies to give life to someone else and others who have given up the rights to their hearts to become a mother to the motherless.  I think of mothers who have moved their children to foreign lands or returned to college or worked hard hours in and out of the home all to offer their children something better. We always want something better for the ones who come after us. I decide mothers are some of the bravest people I know.

But is the point of bravery to become a mother? Of course not. We all have a place, a gift, a role that belongs uniquely to us. Today, I want to simply remind you to have courage with your gift, in your work. Regardless of how small you perceive it to be, be brave with your life, friends.

*image source



January 2014



giveaway // $400 gift card

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


Alright everyone, I’m thrilled to announce I’m participating in another BIG giveaway. Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard is turning three and my friend, Janee, asked me and several other bloggers to help her celebrate by giving away a $400 gift card. The best part? The winner chooses where. (!)  To enter the giveaway, follow the prompts on the Rafflecopter at the end of the page. The giveaway will run until February 21 and the winner will be notified by Janee via email. If you’d like to meet the sponsors of the giveaway, you can find their images and links below. (What a great way to end the week, right?) Best of luck and a happy Friday to you!


Behind the Design | Blythe Ponytail Parades | Buckets & Spades | Chestnut Mocha | Clear the Way
Cloistered Away | Yeobo | Enjoying the Journey | Ex Vitae | Fashiony Fab
Horses of Ares | Jazz Lips & Tulips | Coco Mingo | Kneadle & Bread | Live Colorful
Lucky Number Seven | My Lifebox | Anna Delores | My Paradissi | Of Trees and Hues
Oh So Pretty | Pharr Away | Postcards from Rachel | Rolala Loves | Scavengenius
Sea, Field & Tribe | Sincerely Sara | Squirrelly Minds | Tara Victoria | Undecided Mamas
Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard | Cocorrina


a Rafflecopter giveaway



January 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



It snowed this week–merely a light dusting of ice, but the kids didn’t care. They put on their warmest garb–which wasn’t quite warm or waterproofed enough for the duration–and with sock-covered hands, they packed snowballs and miniature snowmen until their fingers were numb.

For most of the country frozen now for months, snow has lost its magic. For us, this rare occurrence is a gift.


“a weekly portrait of each of my children in 2014″

liam: packing snowballs, his hands covered with socks

burke: happy and layered in everything he could find; he always chooses comfort over style

blythe: the first to wake up, running into our room to announce “it snowed! Can we go outside now?”  She was the first to do that, too.

olive: prepared for the snow with three layers of leggings and a long sleeve tee. I convinced her to put on a coat and hat.



January 2014





January 2014



{preschool} at home

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL


pre-K-at-home-weather-5pre-K-at-home-weather-10pre-K-at-home-weather-2pre-K-at-home-weather-13pre-K-at-home-weather-8pre-K-at-home-weather-4pre-K-at-home-weather-6pre-K-at-home-weather-11pre-K-at-home-weather-7pre-K-at-home-weather-14When I first began homeschooling, all of my children were young pre-readers, but of course, if I began working with one child, the others often insisted they have “work” to do as well. This perhaps was the hardest transition for me since obviously I couldn’t help each of them at once, and none of them were old enough to work independently yet. This part has shifted and evolved each year for our family, but one thing I have really loved through the years are folder games. A dear friend was teaching 1st grade at the time and introduced the idea to me. So I began hunting for activities that would be easy to appease my independent pre-readers that could easily be put away when they were finished. I have several of them that I have assembled and keep in a folder box in a cubby. (I printed and laminated my games because I knew so many children would use them. It’s not necessary though.) When they want, the kids pull the box out and begin the game. Here’s one of the days I used Olive’s initiation of a weather matching folder game for an impromptu lesson on weather.



introduction to different types of weather and vocabulary about weather (15-20 minutes)


{materials used}

+ weather matching folder game (or these weather nomenclature cards for older kids)

+ What Will the Weather Be



Olive pulls out the folder game box while I’m working with the older kids. She selects the weather matching activity and begins to pull out the pieces. Intuitively, she begins spreading out the pieces (something all pre-schoolers enjoy!) and realizes they have matches. While she is doing this I quickly grab one of the books we own on weather–I adore this entire science series, by the way. I finish helping the older kids and tell them I’ll be working with Olive for a bit. They’re welcome to join in when the finish. Blythe does. We go through and discuss the weather labels on the cards. Olive then sits in my lap and we read What the Weather Will Be. Some of the information is too specific for Olive, but Blythe enjoys it. We discuss some of the new words together and Olive picks up her cards and puts the folders away.




January 2014



style essentials // no. 01

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


in-my-closet-7in-my-closet-3in-my-closet-4 cardigan (similar 12) / Old Navy skinny jeans / striped long sleeve shirt (similar) / boots (similar) / Warby Parker glasses

Every woman at some point stands in front of her closet and wonders what to wear or walks through a shop and wonders if they really need this shirt or dress or whatever. I do this. You too? As we’ve down-sized our home (and closets) and budget this last year, it’s forced me to take a closer look at the pieces in my closet and to consider what I really love and why. Since I have a very tiny personal budget each month, this closet assessing helps me to find new pieces that work well with what I already own and to recognize what’s worth saving for. During this series, I’ll be sharing those pieces from my own closet. Sometimes they will be older, things I’ve owned for a while or thrifted, while other times, I’ll share a more recent essential. In both cases, they are things I love and wear often enough to share. Today, it’s my black oversized cardigan, a piece I’ve dressed up for a wedding and nights out with friends, and something I can just as easily throw over jeans and a t-shirt on a chilly day. Do you wear oversized cardigans? How do you like to wear it? I’d love to hear.

photos by Fidelis Studio