cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



March 2015



on packing a minimal weekend bag




In so many sweet ways, motherhood has been a journey in simple living for me, one I’ve always craved and not always known quite how to live. It may seem insignificant to some, but learning to pack a minimal, efficient weekend bag is one of the more concrete lessons I’ve learned in simplifying over the years. Haunted by those words just in case, I often carried too much, having a bag filled with the repertoire of Mary Poppins, and finding I didn’t need most of it–I’m sure there’s a good metaphor in there somewhere. But that’s another conversation.

This weekend, our family is leaving for a long Spring Break weekend, and as we prepare, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the lists I make and questions I ask myself in order to pack well (and minimally) for a long weekend away.  For parents, I often use the same questions to guide my children in their packing, but on their lists, instead of a purse, they pack an activity bag, something similar to what I wrote about in this post here. For future reference, I store each of my lists labeled with the trip name in a “packing list” folder on my Google Drive, so that I can easily check off or refer back to previous travels. This might seem neurotic, but it is extremely helpful, particularly as a mother packing for/with young children.

I hope the tips and questions below will help to simplify your and your family’s travel plans in someway this spring. If you’re looking for a fantastic weekender bag, I’m loving the Kith&Kin weekender gifted to me, and right now, you can pop over to their shop and receive 20% OFF any bag using the code CLOISTER20.



Take a moment to think about your weekend.  Who will you be with? What sort of activities are you planning? Is there an event? Will you need to wear something specific or special at any point? Will you be staying in one locale the entire weekend or traveling around? Where will you be? What will the weather be like? Are there unknown plans/details you need to know for packing purposes?


Make a list with the following categories: clothing, shoes, underwear, accessories, toiletries, purse. 


List each day you will be away, leaving space to write next to them. Write down what will you need or want to wear next to each listed day. If you don’t know specifically, use general terms until you fill in the specifics, such as casual dress, dressy top, or comfy shorts.

Choose one bulky item. If you need a winter coat, boots, or a bulky sweater, wear it in the car or on the plane to save space. Some people like to bring a favorite bathrobe or pillow.  Choose only one to pack, ideally one you could wear more than once, if necessary.

Choose interchangeable pieces. Pack jeans, sweaters, or skirts that you might be able to wear more than once and would style in a new way.

Choose a specific color palette. Everyone has traveled somewhere and wanted to improvise their clothing options in the moment. If you stick with a similar palette you leave yourself more flexibility to change your mind in the moment without taking up too much extra space in your bag.

Pack an unplanned piece. I like limiting the bulky clothing, so that I have room to add an unplanned top, skirt, or thin sweater. I may not use it, but it helps give more spontaneity for changing throughout the weekend.


Choose 2 pairs of shoes, a third if it’s a thin sandal or flip-flop. If you’re needing a shoe that will only work with one outfit, reconsider it, and if necessary, the outfit.


Make sure you have enough and the right sort for your weekend activity.  Self-explanatory, I think. Wink.


Don’t forget the small extras. I always pack a small clutch and a thin scarf that might double as a wrap, and I generally travel in whatever jewelry I’ll wear during the weekend. If you need anything dressier, write it down here.


Consider your typical style routine. Will it be necessary for the weekend? If it’s involved, are there ways to improvise or shorten it?

List everything you will need to get ready over the weekend. 

Pick one hair styling tool, if you need it. Hotels and rentals generally have hair dryers to use, but call ahead to find out.  If you’re staying with good friends, check to see if they would share their tools with you.

Use small bottles. This is a must if you’re flying, but even when driving somewhere, I like having all of my personal toiletries neatly in one dopp kit. 


Pack any devices or chargers you’ll need for your weekend.

List the tiny necessities. I always pack a small snack, bottle of water, cash, chapstick, hand lotion, peppermint essential oil, and headphones for our trip.

Bring something to read. Choose one book or magazine to travel with you.


This post is in partnership with Kith&Kin, a small family business of handmade goods crafted by a family of makers. All thoughts, opinions, and images are my own. Final image taken by Tim Douglass of Fidelis Studio.



March 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



10 | What is your favorite part about Spring? 

olive | I love that we can play outside again without blankets or coats! | I cried on the day you were born, partly out of physical relief, partly knowing you’d be my last birth. Even as an infant, you were busy and independent, reaching each movement milestone early and with pride.  When we caught you scaling furniture or flipping over the side of your crib or doing pull-ups from the countertop overhangs as a toddler, we called it “training” although we had no idea for what. Today, now age six, you rarely keep still (except to sleep) and are always busy making, building, singing, or creating. Last week, on your birthday, I watched you serve pretend tea and toast to your sister and cousins still in your PJs, and I realize perhaps this will be the best combination of all–a wild heart, busy body, and a willingness to serve and love others. I can’t wait to see who you grow up to be. I love you, wild one, and all the many ways you stretch me.

blythe | I like how pretty Spring looks with all of the sunshine and flowers. | You always find ways to add color and beauty to life around you, whether by drawing or singing or painting. As a toddler, you had such vibrant and ordered art work, each line and color specific to just the right place and mixture. Years later, I see that same vibrance and order in everything you do, from the artful checklists you create to the way you work around our home or play with friends. I love that you see beauty everywhere.

burke | I love that we can lay on blankets in the warm sunlight. | Ten years ago you came into the world in a quiet and peaceful labor. You were small and wide-eyed, silently taking us in. A decade later, you still study the world with patient tenderness, noticing details more of us dismiss or pass by in our haste. I have learned so much about the gift of slower living from you and am so grateful we are in family together–so grateful you are my son. I love you and all the lessons you’re teaching me so dearly.

liam | I love playing, riding bikes, and planting our garden–anything outside! | From your earliest years, you loved being in trees and climbing to their highest parts. Maybe it’s your visionary spirit or your love for adventure, but it seems right when I see your standing on limbs far above me, looking out on the world–as if it’s exactly where you are meant to be.  



March 2015



giveaway| ecru collection + blueberry scones

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION, EAT + DRINK + GATHER


Although I enjoy a good scone most anytime, there is something almost magical about eating them straight from the oven when the edges are still crispy and the blueberries are still warm and soft at the center. They are one of the more subtle morning pastries, ones I tend to prefer most in their simplest form without the jam-filled centers or decadent icing tops. When we planned Olive’s small morning party, I knew lemon-blueberry scones would be an easy pairing with her tea, and serving them with sliced strawberries smothered in a little maple-cinnamon whipped cream would substitute the traditional birthday cake perfectly–without becoming too labor-intensive for me. (Wink.) But more about that later. To make Olive’s scone a little more special, I pinned two scones together using six ecru party picks–six tiny balloons just for the birthday girl–with a layer of whipped cream in the middle, something special, without being over-the-top.

When Kara, from ecru collection, first introduced me to her shop, I immediately fell in love with the minimal design and muted tones of her aesthetic. Her handmade pieces, whether for the home or body, are playfully simple and transitional–and I always enjoy things that can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion.  I asked Kara to share a bit below about her inspiration as well as a few tips for mothers of crafty children and young women starting a new business. You’ll find her responses below along with my newly favorite blueberry scone recipe and a chance to win $100 to Kara’s shop, ecru collection.


Tell us a bit about yourself, Kara. Though I currently live in LA, I’m an East Coast girl. I grew up in DC in a house full of lawyers, and never really considered I could make things for a living. I spent a year studying painting, and art history in Florence, Italy during college, and was lucky to land an internship in Emilio Pucci’s palazzo, working with his vintage textiles. It was a pretty great education in color and pattern. And if that wasn’t enough, I met my hunk of a husband, Giampiero, while I was there. Talk about the trip of a lifetime.

How did you begin making jewelry and home wares? What inspired you to more specifically begin Ecru? I have always been a maker. After graduating college, I started working the safe 9-5 but needed a creative outlet. As much as I love the world of fine art, I wanted to make something more accessible so I started making simple statement necklaces. People really responded to their minimalist, almost sculptural quality and I started selling them off my neck. It kind of just snowballed from there. Now I’m interested in the intersection between home decor and fashion; how something functions in both realms. I decorate the same way I get dressed so it feels like the natural next step.

I was immediately drawn to your choice of materials and muted color palette. How did you select them? Palette mixing was always my favorite part of painting and often I liked the look of my palette more than the painting itself. I could experiment with the way colors balance or fight each other all day, every day, but I wanted to incorporate geometric form so I began making my own beads. The clay gave me both the tactile process and color mixing. Life in Los Angeles has really influenced my sense of color and my use of natural materials. A lot of color combinations are born from walks with my dog, pausing to check out a succulent garden. I know the people on the East Coast are hating me right now.

You often reference another piece of art in your product descriptions. Do you have an artist who has inspired your work more than others? I love the art world but it can feel stiff or exclusive so I wanted to incorporate the artists and processes I love, with a wink. Right now, I am really into Alex Katz’s paintings. His colors feel like shapes outside of their subjects. I’m also drawn to Cy Twombly’s fantastic squiggles. There is so much artistry to his work, but that appearance of effortlessness is really the mark of a genius. Helen Frankenthaler, Amy Sillman, and Esther Stewart’s works are also a great inspiration.

Do you have any advice for mothers who have young daughters interested in jewelry making? Use what you have! I have seen some pretty chic pasta necklaces. Truly! I rarely go into bead stores, finding much more inspiration at the hardware store, the sports store, and supermarket. I go just to check out materials and consider shapes. Materials don’t have to be expensive if they’re well considered. Just don’t tell your brother or dad I told you to steal their tools!

Do you have any tips for young women wanting to start a new business? I’m still figuring it out myself. I’ve worked for small businesses for years and you think you know what it takes until you start your own. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I work harder now than I ever did for anyone else but I love it! I will say though, balance is a struggle. My husband is constantly reminding me to step away from the computer to enjoy a meal together. You have to remember that though it is your business, you have other things going on. Don’t stay in your PJs all day! Sometimes going out with friends or getting dressed up for a date night puts everything in perspective. But the rejection can be tough. It’s hard not to take it personally because it can feel like they’re rejecting you. You need a thick skin for sure. I can’t tell you how many emails I send out everyday and it feels like they just go out into the ether, never to be heard from again. So when I get a rejection I actually plot to turn it around because at least they took the time to respond. Ha! But that’s what makes finding good collaborators and people who are stoked about your business so awesome!

ecru_blueberry_scone-5blueberry-scones ecru_blueberry_scone-2

Enter the giveaway below and all Cloistered Away readers can enjoy 10% OFF  ecru collection during the month of March with the code CLAWAY10. Happy weekend! xo

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This post is in partnership with ecru collection, a lighthearted collection of accessories for self and space handmade by Kara Templeton. All opinions are always my own. 



March 2015



a little tea party

Written by , Posted in EAT + DRINK + GATHER


olives_tea_party01olives_tea_party-28olives_tea_party-18olives_tea_partyolives_tea_party-8olives_tea_party-12olives_tea_party02olives_tea_party-3olives_tea_party-1-2olives_tea_party-19olives_tea_party-11olives_tea_party-26olives_tea_party03olives_tea_party-25olives_tea_party-7olives_tea_party-23olives_tea_party-15Olive turned six on Wednesday, and I still can hardly believe it. To celebrate in a small and simple way, we invited a few of her friends over for a small garden party with hot tea, fresh blueberry scones (a recipe coming tomorrow), and birdhouse painting. Although I had originally imagined an outdoor table with spring flowers, we improvised when winter weather re-appeared and gathered some green life to the table instead.

The morning began with the loud clatter of pretend play together. Every once in a while, my sister and I would hear a few of them jet-setting to Asia or another discussing working at an orphanage or baking a cake for her friend–all in a dramatic plot of course–and we would laugh. Passion and imagination are such a gift in children, always reminding us anything is possible.

Later in the morning, as the girls gathered around the table, their interactions evolved into a surprisingly soft conversation and laughter over tea and eventually into the quieter focus of painting. Liam and Burke volunteered to help, originally offering to be the court jesters; instead they dressed in their bowties and Sharpie mustaches and settled to help by serving tea, food, and towels. Their generous spirit blessed me and their littlest sister alike, and by the time everyone left, our full hearts and stomachs needed naps.



March 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



09 | If you could be any character in a book, who would you be? Why?

olive | WonderWoman in the comic books because she’s so strong and has an invisible jet.  |  When a cold front came through this week, I found you layered with 4 shirts and 3 pairs of leggings, just to avoid wearing a coat. In the end, you needed it anyway and flashed me a smile showing your mostly toothless smile.

blythe | Susan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because she gets to visit Narnia, and she’s the oldest. |  On a rare day when the sun was warm and delicious and you found a spot under it to write in your journal.

burke | Pa in Little House in the Big Woods because he’s determined, light-hearted, and gets things done. |  Sometimes you lounge around the house like a cat, moving your limbs in the slowest of motions, but you love a good game outdoors, especially when it’s something you and Liam make up together.

liam | Either Legolas–in the Lord of the Rings, not The Hobbit–or Harry Potter. Why not The Hobbit? In the LOTR, Legolas is free and powerful. He dangles from ropes, walks on snow, and shoots his bow and arrow using his mouth.  In the Hobbit, he seems more lifeless, like he’s in a trance. Plus, his father is a dream-killer. And Harry Potter? It would be so fun to ride a Firebolt and play Quidditch.  |  You’re getting older. I know it’s a simple thought, but sometimes when I sit and we discuss big books or you ask to watch an episode of Seinfeld, I remember: you’re growing so quickly.



March 2015



how to find community in motherhood



Finding friendship as a mother can be challenging.  Our time is so often filled with taking care of our homes and children and work that we can simply forget to reach out to our existing friends, let alone form new ones. Some friendships are for specific seasons, connections to help us through a specific time or transition. Others, often the most surprising ones, linger longer and move with us through all stages of life. During my decade of motherhood, I’m so grateful for all of the women who have trickled in and out of my life, knowing even the briefest connections have left lasting impressions and impact.

This weekend, I spent time with a few friends who I began homeschooling alongside so many years ago. Due to our growing families and life circumstances, our paths do not always cross in the same consistent ways they once did, but the sporadic meet-ups where we hear and share the hard and sweet spots of our journey with one another are still so sweet for my soul. As I shared an image and thought of these women through social medias last night, I realized these sentiments might be hurtful for women who aren’t experiencing connection, women who long for at least one friend with whom to share the journey.  I am a fairly introverted person who also homeschools and works mostly from home, too, so I know this season can feel isolating. It is easy to see images on the internet and hear stories from other people and feel like we’re missing out, that somehow we are the only ones who are lonely or are caught up in the rote path of motherhood or home-education. It is simply not true.

Occasionally in life, we are fortunate enough to stumble into an already existing community of friendship, and other times, we have to go out and discover it ourselves. Either way, friendship and community always require work and initiative, but as most anyone will tell you, the reward is worth the effort. For any of you feeling isolated or struggling to find relationships, here’s a few different ways I’ve made friends over the years. They are simple thoughts, but I hope at least one will resonate with you and encourage you to keep searching for community.


take a look around, right where you are / Is there someone casually in your life who you want to spend more time with? Have you noticed a mother at your library, park, gym, or church who you naturally gravitate toward? If your children are in school or take dance, music, or art lessons, play on a sport team or participate in a nature club–look around at the other mothers. Are there any you might connect with? Who do your children naturally gravitate toward? Be bold: ask for a play date or meet-up.

initiate the invite / Don’t wait for someone else to invite you. For various reasons ranging from moving to a new town or country to the fact that we are deeply introverted, it can be difficult for anyone to work up the courage to initiate friendship. Be courageous.  If you’re wanting friendship or needing community, reach out to another mom, even if it’s just one and invite her over for coffee and/or for her kids to play. If you live in a small home or apartment, find a public place to meet: park, local children’s museum, or local eatery with a play space for kids.

search for local play groups / Sometimes larger homeschool or play groups post meeting times and places on websites and blogs. A simple online search with keywords, such as play group, homeschool group, nature club, with your city and state, can turn up several options for you to try. Like anything, if you’re wanting to connect with smaller, more specific niches, use more specific key words, such as waldorf, unschool, montessori, classical, charlotte mason, instead of simply searching homeschool group. Although these groups don’t necessarily mean you’ll find your best friend, you just might, and at the very least, you’ve begun your journey for community.

find online community / Sometimes our life circumstances or locale make it more difficult to connect with mothers in person. Everyday beautiful online communities of women are forming and growing. Instagram has been one of my favorite (and easiest) places to connect or be inspired by other mothers regularly. If you’re needing a place to start, Wild+ Free and Childhood Unplugged are my favorite collaborative accounts for encouragement, inspiration, and laughter as a mother and home-educator.  They always tag the mothers who capture the moments, so don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails or send an email or direct message to one of the mothers who resonates with you.



February 2015




Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL, THE 52 PROJECT


2015_week08-22015_week08-32015_week08-4week 08 | what do you love most about homeschooling? more specifically?

olive | I love reading activities and playing dress-up. (That part about the reading isn’t always true.)  Most days you flit around our home in dress-up and play, and I’m learning again to move with you as I did with Liam, skip counting while you bounce around the room and incorporating stories anywhere possible. On the best of days, you really want to practice reading, although where this happens always differs–on your bed, on my bed, in the kitchen, on the floor, even sitting on the table.

blythe| I love getting to learn at home and that you’re my teacher. Science and history are my favorite times, especially when we get to make things.  This week you received an invitation to test for the next level in ballet. You squealed with excitement, “a test?! I love tests!” You really do, and I love this about you. I love your relentless focus and joyful work ethic, Blythe, and as you continue to thrive in your work–academic, ballet, or otherwise–I hope you will also grow with the knowledge and wisdom that life is more than a test. So much more.

burke | I love that I’m not sitting in a classroom all day and that I get to learn with you. I love when we study important people in history and then draw and write about them.  Learning to read at age four, you were certainly our earliest reader. It came naturally for you. Even now,  I always enjoy hearing you read aloud, listening to the inflection and life you give to your words. Although you love quiet spaces and places to work, you enjoy the silliest play and wildest imagination–a fun mixture in a person, I think. Careful and silly. Quiet and gregarious. Methodical and dramatic. Years into our homeschool life together, I know there are so many things I may have misunderstood (or missed altogether) about you. I love experiencing the daily ways you live out of your quiet heart.

liam | I love that I get to learn with my friends and family. Science, history, and language are my favorite things to learn about–I really liked studying the heart and circulatory system, reading, writing, and drawing about Medieval knights, and diagramming sentences.  I took this image a couple of weeks ago when we were studying the human brain. This is the dimension I love about learning together at home–the crafting and creating happening right alongside the reading and writing and rote practice. Learning about anything is an experience with you, Liam, one that has challenged me to see all of life in entirely new ways.