cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



November 2014



simplifying home | reflecting the seasons

Written by , Posted in OUR HOME


gathering_autumn-7gathering_autumn-1gathering_autumn-2gathering_autumn-6gathering_autumn-8Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.  –Charles Dickens

While the last few years have been difficult (mentioned in the last post), they have also been a sweet journey in simplicity. My husband and I have always appreciated simple aesthetics and well-made things. Even so, these years have caused us to reevaluate most every aspect of our life, and in the process we are discovering and enjoying the new ways to live with less, to prioritize what we really need and want, and how to recreate/use all we already have. For parents, simplicity only becomes more challenging, and increasingly so as children grow (having their own opinions and styles). I’ve wanted to share bits of our own journey here and somehow mark a few lessons we’re learning along the way for all of you interested or inspired by simple living.

During these transitional years, nature has been a source of comfort and restoration for me. Observing the cyclical seasons and recognizing the constants within them has helped me to appreciate the metaphorical seasons in my own life. Over the years, we have learned ways to gather, display, and enjoy the natural season within and around our home, like the images above of our home in Autumn season. Although specific aesthetics will vary home to home, the first part of simplicity is evaluating your stage/season of life so that your home can reflect and complement it.

  • Who do you live with?
  • What type of home or locale do you live in?
  • What are the goals for your home? In other words, how do you want to use it?
  • How well does your home currently reflect the way you use it?
  • Do you have un/under-used space in your home?
  • How do you reflect the natural world in your home? Do you? Would you like to?
  • Are there things in your home working against your home life or family goals? List them.
  • Are there things taking up space (physically or emotionally) that you no longer need in this season?

I encourage you to write down your answers and discuss them with whomever lives in your home. Happy weekend!



November 2014



on releasing stress and anxiety

Written by , Posted in SOUL


Although you might not always see or read about it here, our family has endured quite a few hardships the last few years, the sort that have worn down our bodies and drawn out our depths. I know we’re not the only ones to encounter difficulty and loss, to have to work through challenging decisions and constraints. Isn’t it encouraging to have that thought, to know we’re not alone? I’ve noticed a few more wrinkles in my skin and gray strands on my head since then, something I may have cringed about a decade ago, but I see them differently now–markings of perseverance, of bravery, of hope. It’s funny how perspectives change.

Whether we recognize it or not, stress and anxiety touch all of us at different points in life, and while the topic itself is much larger and more layered than I could possibly give attention to, I thought it might be helpful to hear some of the skills/tools I’ve learned in the process.

meditate on truth // As stated in my bio, I believe in Jesus. I believe he was God’s only son, and that he came to earth, died, and rose from the dead so that we could be free–the type of free that releases us from stress and anxiety. Over and over, Jesus beckons the weary, the sick, the broken, and enslaved, “come to me, and I will give you rest for your souls.” Still, we are human. Our scope and vision are always limited, and in our nature, we’re prone to worry. Take time to let go of this worry and stress and meditate on true, life-giving words. (If you need a few to get you started, please email me.)

give thanks // It can feel over-said and cliche, but recording or speaking gratitude always realigns my heart in a good way. It forces me to see beyond what I am experiencing, feeling, or thinking in the moment. During these times of thanksgiving, I have often found God’s goodness and faithfulness in the most unexpected ways.

stretch // One of the ways I’ve learned to notice stress in my body is soreness in my shoulders. When I feel stress, I shirk my shoulders up toward my head without even knowing it. Over time, my shoulders and neck become knotted and tense. This happens in less obvious ways over the rest of my body. Taking 10-15 minutes each day to stretch different parts of my body helps release tension and helps me recognize how I may be feeling at the moment.

get outside // Sometimes our souls need physical space to breathe. We need fresh air, exercise, and to be surrounded by things that are greater than us. Go for a walk or try to work outdoors when possible.

eat + drink well // When I feel anxious, I tend to gravitate toward coffee, wine, delicious cheeses and baked goods. Although these things aren’t terrible for me in moderation, I can lean on them more heavily to relax or comfort myself when I feel both stress and anxiety. Our bodies need water, fruit, and vegetables. (This note is for me, as I’m currently finishing my second cup of coffee.)

write // When I feel overly stressed and anxious, it almost always interrupts my sleep. I’ll wake up too early or in the middle of the night, thinking. Writing helps me process and release those thoughts and emotions. While I don’t journal daily, I always prioritize journalling in more difficult seasons. Sometimes I even write it here. (Wink.)

I am not a therapist or medical professional. If you’re anxiety or stress feel too overwhelming to do any of the above or if it is not improving, please seek professional help.  



November 2014



week 44 | the Halloween edition

Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT




Each Halloween, the kids rummage through their closets and dress-up to prepare their costumes. I always wish I could sew at this time of year, but I really do love giving them ownership of their creations, especially as they grow older. For many years, the kids have re-created their dress-up (like Olive did this week). However, this year, I noticed the older three plan out their costumes and search the household for pieces that might work toward their vision: a black cardigan, skateboard pads, cardboard, paper, spray paint. The plans changed a few times as they each encountered problems, but each time they re-created their idea or learned to improvise. It was such a beautiful process for me to watch in them.


liam // You originally planned a Green Goblin costume and even made origami claws, but eventually you decided no one would recognize you and opted for Batman with his clear symbol instead. You made a mask from a paper plate, notebook paper, and tape. Dad helped you spray paint it when you were finished. You made and taped your Batman emblem and six-pack to your shirt, too. I laughed really hard at the six-pack.

burke // You used a Sharpie to sketch in facial hair and grabbed your flannel and favorite hat to become a lumberjack. During dinner, you tweaked your costume to become a hobo by creating your own cardboard sign, “Will work for candy. God bless.” I loved how you used your power of observation to transform your costume, and while it stirred up a few controversial comments online, I know you and am quite proud of your generous, kind heart.

blythe // You joined your brother’s bat-theme and created a batgirl version, also using paper and tape to create a mask and emblem. You and Liam really enjoyed working on this project together.

olive // Until the evening of Halloween, I had no idea what costume you would choose. You had tossed out everything from a cowgirl cook to a ballerina to a runner to an artist. You finally opted for your favorite dress-up and went as a little princess–a simple, sweet choice.



October 2014



here + there

Written by , Posted in LATELY


Is anyone else sighing with relief that it’s Friday? I am, certainly. Today the kids and I will be spending the day playing/lunching with friends in the country, something all five of us desperately need, followed by an early dinner and a quick trip around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating. The kids have been feverishly creating their own costumes this week. Of course, I always love seeing their inventiveness with what they already own or can scrounge up from around our home. Tomorrow, Kristen and I will also have another full day photographing. I’m really loving my new work with her and our clients this season.





October 2014



homeschooling | little zooey magazine

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL



The other day, I spoke with a friend who recently pulled her children out of public school to homeschool. Only a few months into the semester she was now upset and questioning her decision, “I think I’ve made a mistake. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I pulled her in for a hug, assuring her she wasn’t alone, and then I let her in on a little secret–none of us does. At some level, as parents and educators, we all feel inadequate to the task., and while there are several books and blogs and curriculums offering us the right or best ways to parent or educate, homeschooling is an organic process, something that requires us to adapt guidelines and ideas to our own children, our own family and style. I hope all that I write and share here is always in that context: ideas and concepts that can be tweaked and adapted into your own.

On a similar note, I recently wrote a bit about our homeschool for Little Zooey magazine.



October 2014



with my eyes open

Written by , Posted in SOUL



Belief isn’t always easy.
But this much I have learned,
if not enough else—
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.

Mary Oliver, “In the Storm”

Belief isn’t always easy. Our minds and bodies carry so much memory–joy, pleasure, and hope mixed with offense, pain, and loss. Sometimes the hurt we have seen and experienced in our bodies overwhelms us. It clouds our sight and crowds God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. Still, he is good. He is faithful. And he is always finding such personal ways to remind us.






October 2014



42/52 + 43/52

Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



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

liam // We’ve talked often this week about privilege and responsibility. It makes me feel so old and parental, but I suppose that’s partly what I am.

burke // This week you told me that dad and I expect too much of you guys. Although I disagree, I am taking it to heart, re-evaluating our days and work. It’s hard to impart perspective to you all, to prepare you for the adult years looming while still allowing you to be children. We all need so much grace in growing as a family.

blythe // At a ranch we visited, you and I ran around in a circle, pushing these bags like a merry-go-round, while Oli rode and enjoyed it. We also hopped on to enjoy the momentum for as long as possible.

olive // You did the Home Alone face all on your own. It seems appropriate.



liam // You picked out your favorite pumpkin this week and have been deciding whether to carve it or paint it.

burke // You are the silliest, Burke, yet also so serious. You always appear as though you are thinking the world all over again.

blythe // You loved the tall, white horse and took your care of him very seriously.

olive // Catching free rides from me and Blythe. You have such a strong, determined spirit.