cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



November 2014



haven magazine

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION

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My family and I are leaving today for an extended Thanksgiving holiday and 35 hours of driving. I know this thought stresses most parents out, but we love long roadtrips with our family–journeying somewhere together a little slower, listening to audiobooks or music, following changing landscapes out the window, stopping in random fields or spots to play and eat. This trip, we’ll be driving to Cincinnati to visit with long-time friends and also meet-up with some long-time online friends, including the founder of Haven Magazine, a new publication about journeying and finding home.

I received an early copy of Haven’s first issue last week, and it is beautiful. The photography. The storytelling. The vision. But I especially love that all of the profits for the first issue are going directly to Freeset, a fair-trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. Today, I’ll be taking over Haven Magazine’s Instagram feed, sharing images and talking about home. Feel free to follow along or enjoy the video below to learn more about the publication itself. Enjoy!



November 2014



the art of modern memory keeping

Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE


life: captured

If you’ve followed along here for any length of time, you know I have always used this space as a sort of visual and written journal, sharing a bit of everything from soulful lessons and family milestones to favorite foods and finds. I’ve used Instagram in a similar way, a micro visual journal cataloguing smaller, quicker pieces and thoughts. Over the years, I’ve written millions of words and taken thousands of images, but almost all of them still live online or on my hard drive. Some are edited and neatly filed, waiting to be printed, others simply exist there. Depressing, I know.

As my children are growing, they love coming here and reading funny quotes or things they did when they were little. They love scrolling through my Instagram feed and seeing how much they’ve grown and changed and remembering fun adventures or simple daily moments. Since I first discovered Artifact Uprising a couple of years ago, I have brainstormed large family journals that would collaborate the two places and provide them something tangible to flip through and enjoy. It sounds noble, yes? I’ve done a few small things, photo books and prints, but nothing that incorporated my writing, their silly words, and the images in one place. Then I found Ronnie, an Australian graphic designer, mother, writer, and the beautiful memory keeper behind The Shoemakers Daughter (formerly Pink Ronnie), also the co-founder of life:captured inc. Ronnie’s aesthetic is simple and alluring, and somehow she manages to seamlessly transform her beautiful online content into even lovelier family books. She isn’t just wanting to do it like me–she is actually doing it–creating beautiful keepsakes in the midst of marriage and work and mothering four young boys. I wanted to–needed to–learn from her.

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Fortunately, Ronnie and her co-founder, Trish, began offering online courses via life:captured, sharing some of their skill sets in modern memory keeping (for those of us who may have a difficult time making it to Australia for one of their local workshops). Each of these classes offers something a little different that compliments the next, but most importantly, they help equip anyone interested in translating digital memory keeping into something we can touch and hold and pass on to someone else.

Since I am the most excited about creating family books, this month, I began taking life:captured’s Intro to Adobe InDesign, a course teaching the basics of a new-to-me graphic design software. I know our family life is busier than ever. I know I have a million other things to do (including sleeping more). But I also know some element of that busyness won’t give way for several years. I also know technology can be temperamental. Hard drives crash, programs glitch, accounts get deleted, and back-up hard drives sit in the closet loaded with unused/un-enjoyed files. Life is happening, but I want to create in the midst of it. I want for my children to enjoy our memories now, not only in ten years. While I know my limitations and that I won’t be able to accomplish everything I want, I am loving this class and feeling empowered to move in the right direction.

The InDesign course includes several brief, easy to follow videos, complimenting printable notes, and a class forum for questions and sharing among other “classmates.” Plus, I can work on each lesson as I can and in the time-frame that works for me–something I love. I’ll be sure to share my progress and of course our first family book when I complete it.

All images by the life:captured inc. 



November 2014



giveaway | blue jane clothing co.

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


One of the lovelier parts of the internet for me is all of the incredible people I’ve connected with here, each creating in such unique ways and from such diverse places in life. Isn’t it inspiring? Well, today, I’m quite pleased to introduce to you, Danielle Colby, a devoted mother to four children and also the designer and creator behind Blue Jane Clothing Co. When I first visited Blue Jane’s shop, I was immediately drawn to the simplicity of her designs and the playful mixture of style and pattern in each piece. This week, Danielle is giving away one free piece from her shop to a Cloistered Away reader, as well as 20% off any order made before November 30. The discount code and ways to enter the giveaway are below, along with an interview with Danielle–a woman just as playful and surprising as her designs. Happy Monday!



I’m a little embarrassed by this, but I was inspired to start sewing from Project Runway! I was breastfeeding my daughter constantly which often led me to watching TV while I nursed her. I became addicted to Project Runway and kept thinking, “I could do that!” but the only sewing I had ever done was in my 6th grade Home Ec class. Not long after, I saw a sewing machine for sale and hinted to my hubby that it would be a great gift.  Once I received it, I just dived right in! I’ve always been like that in my creative pursuits. I’m very hands on and learn best by just doing. It leads to a lot of trial and error, so I have learned to be patient with myself!




My #1 tip to anyone trying to learn would be to use a quality sewing machine. I’m not saying you need to spend a lot of money on a machine, but if you try to learn on a machine that constantly jams or loses tension, it will just lead to frustration. Another tip is to start with an easy pattern that has good instructions. Many patterns will teach you techniques as you sew. Indie patterns are my favorite. Unlike when I started, the internet is such a great resource to help teach yourself to sew. There are so many great sewing bloggers with tutorials on their sites that can help get you started.



It was only recently that I felt confident enough to take my sewing to the next level. For years, people have told me I should sell my clothes, but I am terribly self-critical and didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. With a little push from my husband and friends, I decided that I needed to make the leap and just go for it. I’m so glad I did! I’ve met some wonderful people so far and I’m loving the process. I opened BlueJane Clothing Co. in August of this year. It’s a lot of work, but I feel good!



I’ve always loved the style found in vintage children’s books. I like to linger over the illustrations, and the clothes represented in the pictures completely inspire me. A.A. Milne has always been a favorite of mine. I love classic style, clean lines, good tailoring, and quality details. I use modern fabrics and patterns to keep the clothes feeling fresh.



I’m still working on that! I think we, as mothers, always hold ourselves to such high standards. Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are just unrealistic. I try to remind myself to take a step back and look at the big picture: Did I accomplish something on my to-do list today? Did I spend some quality time with my littlest one? Did I practice reading with my son? Did I laugh with my family and share how our days went? If I go to bed feeling like I accomplished something that day, then I’m ahead of the game. If I don’t? Well, there is always tomorrow!



Yes, absolutely! As much as I may love something, if my children cannot play freely in it or if the material isn’t comfortable, then it’s not going to pass. Children are so fun to style, but reality is they get messy, they roughhouse, they climb jungle gyms. I try to make clothes that my children can live in everyday.



Enjoy 20% off any BlueJane Clothing Co. order now through November 30. Enter CLOISTER20 at checkout. Giveaway open to US residents only.

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This post is in partnership with Blue Jane Clothing Co. Olive is wearing Blue Jane’s Aztec skirt from the Wanderfull line. She adores its soft texture and twirling abilities, and I love the warm colors and unique pattern (and maybe the fact that it’s not pink or sequined–wink). All opinions are my own. 



November 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



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

liam // We cut your hair this weekend, making you look older and so much like your uncle Dave. I often notice how you bite your lip like this when you’re nervous or extremely focused. In this instance, we were both standing outdoors barefoot, thinking we were stronger than the cold, misty afternoon. We were wrong and quickly tucked back into our cozy home.

burke // We bought another hat for you to rotate wearing this winter because you love soft, warm things so much. Your father says you remind him of Holden Caulfield in it. I think you’ll like that character one day.

blythe // This weekend we went to see the Nutcracker ballet, and as I watched you lean forward and focus on the story and movements, I knew one day we’ll be watching you, too. I love seeing that sliver of your heart that comes alive with music and dance.

olive // This week you made me coffee, adding cream and sugar to your own liking. After you gave it to me, you hugged me tightly and said, “I missed you so much last night.” I had to remind you we were only sleeping–though I imagine your night dreaming to be just as busy as your activity in the day, my very busy bee.  I’m sure it felt like ages to you.




November 2014



simplifying home | how to prepare your closets for a new season

Written by , Posted in OUR HOME


In the South, we really have two seasons: hot and cold. Since our family has always lived in an older home with small (and shared) closet space, typically, we only have enough room for what we can wear right now. This means every fall and spring season, we clean out each of our closets (the kids, with my help) and transition them for the new season. We also use this time, to actually clean our closets and dressers, to inventory what we have outgrown or outworn, and to list what we need for the upcoming season. Over the years, I have found this process to be almost therapeutic. It helps us to discover what we really love, our style, our needs. For the kids, it gives them opportunity to remember their favorite shirt or dress and to choose a friend/family member who  might enjoy it as much. When I had babies, it also served as a time of closure for me, a time to tuck away what has passed and prepare for where and who they are now. Cleaning out our closets is another tangible way we prepare for the changing seasons and simplify our home.

Since cleaning out closets can be dreadful for so many, I thought I might share a few ways we move through this bi-annual process in our own home.


  1. Set aside an entire afternoon per closet and only move through one bedroom at a time. If your children share a closet, allow for more time. You will want to work through each room until completion.
  3. Observe the way you currently use and organize your closet and dresser. Is it ordered well for how you use it? Do you feel overwhelmed looking at it or have trouble finding what you need or want? Are some drawers bulging or over-stuffed? Do you have heaps of shoes on the floor? Are your hanging clothes lying around? What about bags, ties, hats, scarves? Make organizational notes. What do you need to allot more space? Do you need something to contain smaller items like socks or undergarments?
  4. Empty each drawer and section of your closet, one at a time, placing each garment/shoe in one of the four piles. Be ruthless. Did you wear it this season? Does it fit you well or work well with your style (what you’re comfortable or enjoy wearing)? Do your children’s clothes have holes or unremovable stains on them?
  5. Vacuum and wipe down each drawer and closet shelf. Throw away or recycle broken hangers, empty shoeboxes, and clothing tags/paper you’re not using. Add a fresh lavender sachet to each drawer.
  6. Neatly fold and organize the garments or shoes you’re “KEEPING” and place them in the drawer or shelf.
  7. Place the “GIVE AWAY” pile in a bag and place them in your car. If you are giving select pieces to certain people, place them in separate bags now also, and move the bags near the front door or into your car. This part is important to do quickly with children, since they are likely to begin pulling pieces back out of bags.
  8. Move the garments needing “REPAIR/ALTERATIONS” to the room where you might do it. If you send them away, place this pile in a marked bag and place in the front seat of your car. This way you’ll remember to take them next time you’re running errands or heading to work. Make a note in your planner or agenda to set time aside to do it this week.
  9. Temporarily set aside the “STORE FOR NEXT SEASON” pile in a clear corner or shelf in your room. You will put them away in a bit.


  1. Pull out your stored seasonal clothing. We keep ours in long flat containers under our bed.
  2. Inspect your clothing for holes and stains to make sure they stored well.
  3. Wash all stored seasonal clothing before putting them away. This will freshen any of the musty odors or dust that has collected while they were stored.
  4. Vacuum and wipe down storage containers.
  5. Place your “STORE FOR NEXT SEASON” pile neatly in the storage containers. Add a lavender sachet to help keep moths away and put the containers away. Since I store the clothes Blythe has outgrown for Olive, I label the clothing size and season on the outside of the container (i.e. WINTER 4T). This helps me easily know what container I need in future closet transitions. This was particularly helpful when all of my children were babies/toddlers and regularly changing sizes.
  6. Once your clothes are finished washing, fold or hang them neatly in your closet/drawers. 
  7. Create a list of what you need and want this season. Do you need to replace a well-worn basic? Is there a piece you want to tie together or mix up a few things you already own? Do your children have all they need for the upcoming season? Write it down or add it to your holiday gift list.

I hope this helps. Enjoy your freshly cleaned and organized closet!




November 2014



homeschool favorites | all about reading + the moveable alphabet

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL



Reading was (and still is) one of the more intimidating parts for me of teaching my children at home.  On one hand, like so many other parents, I want my children to LOVE reading, not just know how to do it. I want them to enjoy the large varieties of stories and characters and ideas within books and, of course, to glimpse the freedom and gift of the written word. As a home-educator (especially if you are new), it doesn’t help the intimidation factor that reading often feels like the litmus test for outsiders looking in, “so  is (____) reading yet?” And of course, we all know or have met the children who are reading Don Quixote or something like it at age three (insert shock and awe). While I’m always impressed by these prodigious children, I have never experienced it. In their four and five year-old years, my own children always seem to be the ones running away from lessons. They say things such as, “do we have to practice reading today?” To those of you facing similar questions, keep at it a little each day. They’ll get there.


Although there are several wonderful reading programs out there (and if you’re using one that’s working, stick with it!), All About Reading  is one of my favorite resources for so many reasons, including its multi-sensory approach, organized materials, manageable lessons, beginning readers, and pre-made consumable activities. I began using AAR with my oldest daughter, Blythe, when I realized how much she wanted more hands-on activities during her lessons. I ordered level 1 and we both immediately loved it! She loved the paper-cutting, coloring, and gluing mixed in with the more formal reading and decoding–and of course, the sticker chart too!  I, on the other hand, loved how that these activities were already organized and ready to use, that the lessons were manageable in length and easy to follow, and that there were leveled readers which naturally integrated with the lessons.


Still, perhaps my favorite parts is the word/phonogram card organization, which easily sorts between what has been mastered, what needs review, and what is for future lessons. In other reading programs, I always felt confused about that line separating mastery and review. In this program, we review the same cards each lesson until they can say the word or phonogram without hesitation. Plus, I’m learning the rules and phonograms right alongside my children. I guess, in short, I love that All About Reading has everything I would have wanted to create on my own but don’t always take the time to do. Instead, I follow the simple 20-30 minute lessons! My one criticism is that the program can get pricey, as you have to purchase a new level each year (on average). As with any curriculum there are creative ways to offset these expenses or re-sell when you’re family is finished with it.


Since moving last spring, I haven’t found a place in our school room for my magnet board–something we’ve always used for our spelling and reading phonogram magnets. Fortunately, I have a moveable alphabet on hand that I have used during the pre-K years with all of my children. The kids have always enjoyed building words and playing with the letters. Right now, we’re using it for our reading and spelling lessons. We use all of the concepts from All About Reading with these wooden letters. The only difference is my girls have to recognize the letter teams on their own, instead of seeing them together on a single magnet. This hasn’t caused any trouble thus far, instead it forces them to recognize associations through repetition, much like words on a book page.


:: learning :: phonetic, multi-sensory approach to reading

:: time :: 20-30 min, 4 days/week

:: matierials :: AAR materials, magnetic board or moveable alphabet

:: lesson :: I meet one-on-one with each of my children for their reading lessons (one of the reasons I can at times be inconsistent).  Where we meet depends on what we’re doing that day. Both of the girls enjoy snuggling and often want to meet on one of our beds. We just bring the moveable alphabet with us (as shown). I follow through the directions written in the manual, usually beginning with reviewing old phonograms and words and then reviewing a previous concept. Then I introduce the new material. Sometimes we finish the step within the 20-30 minute window, if not, we return to the same spot the following day. I find shorter lessons are better for everyone involved. ;)



November 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT




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

liam // You decided to make my favorite dark chocolate cake for my birthday this weekend and insisted that I shouldn’t help. Although I did help pour the batter, you all did the rest, only forgetting the baking soda in process–a minor detail. (Wink.) You also gifted me with a poem you wrote. I always enjoying the playful ways you use words.  Thank you, sweet boy.

burke // Your gift will always be your deep bear hugs and your quiet heart. I so appreciate these things in you–and also your love for Mad Libs and a good joke.

blythe // You made a tiny bracelet and very artistic birthday card with plenty of swirling letters and sweet, poetic words beginning with “you are like” for me on my birthday this week. I love seeing your careful tenderness in all you create–certainly, a gift to my own soul. I hope this gift always grows and strengthens within you.

olive // Making magic from sand–just your style. You’re making me coffee right now, and I have no idea what it will taste like, but I appreciate that under all of your craziness and intense emotion is a very generous heart. I love you, sweet girl.