cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



July 2014



our kitchen inspiration

Written by , Posted in COLLECTIONS, OUR HOME

kitchen_inspirationMark and I dry-fit our kitchen cabinets today, and I’ll admit it was wonderful seeing some more of our vision for this space come together. I’ll share more pictures of the progress soon, but for now I thought it might be fun to share some of the inspiration for our new/old kitchen. Although we are adding so much newness to this room, we wanted to pay tribute to our home’s 1920 origin. We’re trying to keep an early 20th century feel by mixing a few industrial elements with the warmth of aged wood and marble. Although I originally dreamed of white subway-tiled walls, Mark nixed the idea due to shifting foundations and fear of cracking grout. Overall, I imagine the space to feel warm and minimal, full of clean lines and workspace for our family life. As I painted cabinets for hours today, I couldn’t help but swell with gratitude. Stay tuned.

all images sourced on my kitchen Pinterest board



June 2014



kitchen phase 02 | tear it out

Written by , Posted in OUR HOME



When we first bought the house, the kitchen was dark and ugly. The faucet leaked incessantly so that the sealant around the sink wouldn’t hold. Although the space was decently sized, there was barely any counter space, half of which we allotted to a dish rack (no dishwasher). It was dark, which we helped immensely with white paint, and divided into two parts by a partial wall/shelf, limiting the flow light of the space. Since the kitchen was built in the 1920s, it’s doubtful they ever considered a place for a large fridge. As a result, the fridge sat on a wall too short in depth, making it feel like it was floating out of  place in the middle of the kitchen. Ironically, my favorite part of the kitchen was the vintage oven/stove. The stove heated instantly (once I turned the gas knob on the wall and lit a match), but the oven would never reach above 200 degrees. After a handful of service visits, our home insurance decided we needed a new one–a huge gift for us although we were sad to see the old one go. We did hold onto the old one as a future project or in case any of you know how to fix it. (Wink.) Regardless of all of the ugly work this space needed, Mark and I fell in love with the place, determined we could love it back to life and planned a full kitchen renovation in 2015. I was convinced we could make it work a year while we adjusted to our new home and saved money for a larger renovation, but after a few months of cooking and preparing food with the kids, I felt more and more defeated by the dirtiness and lack of counter space. Mark and I decided we needed to move this project up on the priority list.


During the girls’ weekend earlier this month, Mark sent me a picture of the kids tearing out the kitchen laminate. He was dying to discover the condition of the wood beneath FIVE LAYERS of laminate flooring. If any of you have renovated an old home, you know it’s a surprise each time you tear something out. The wood was a pleasant surprise–it needed scraping and sanding but otherwise was in good shape. He then tore out the partial wall–we had already removed the shelf above it–and discovered this wall was not load-bearing, another win! Originally, we planned to leave the top cabinets, but now we could remove that entire wall and lengthen the shelf and counter space! At that point, everything came out.


We moved the fridge to the boys’ room, stacked all of our dishes temporarily on the dining room wall, and began clearing out everything including the leaky, dingy kitchen sink, the tile board wrapping the bottom half of the kitchen, and the cool but not practical ironing board cabinet on the kitchen wall.


The guys re-wired the kitchen installing a new larger ceiling fan, grounded outlets, and spots for new light fixtures in the next phase. Mark tore out the rest of the overhangs, opening the ceiling and walls, making the space feel more cohesive. Although we would have loved opening and moving the wall with the oven, the gas line is on that wall and the water heater is behind it in the pantry. We knew that small wall would drastically increase our rather small kitchen budget, so we left that entire corner alone structurally. We plan to cut into the existing cabinet to add space for a fridge, but that will happen in one of the next phases. Now, it’s time to begin the rebuild.





June 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



 liam  // you wanted to build something this week–possibly inspired by all of the handmade work your father’s been doing–so you built a lemonade stand for your sisters and cousin to use.

burke // you love helping in the kitchen. You also think Kristen is the best cook, and dote on her after most snacks or meals. I’m not offended because it’s true. I’m glad you have access to her kitchen so often.

blythe // you were in charge of the signage for the lemonade stand and originally wanted to charge $1/cup. We decided $.50 was probably better.

olive // You wore braided hair to bed last night and enjoy frizzy waves all day long.



June 2014



weekend snippets

Written by , Posted in LATELY, OUR HOME


weekend_01weekend_03The last few months have consisited of moving, living with one bathroom, unpacking, living without a stove, homeschooling, fixing the fridge, unpacking some more, fixing the second bathroom, being without electricity, getting a new stove, building bookshelves, going to soccer games, fixing the fridge again, tearing down walls, going to dance recitals, building out our closet–and as a result, I’ve been struggling to find some work flow here (or anywhere for that matter). Each time I have a few simple days strung together it seems the rug–and all of the construction dust on it–is swept out from under me/us again. Life is dirty and unpredictable right now, and I’m doing my best to go with it.

Last weekend, our good friends (Danny and Buck) helped Mark replace and bring up to code all of the electrical wire in our home. I can’t say enough how impressed I am with them. Over those three days they worked almost 40 hours, finishing after midnight on Sunday night–which meant aside from meal drop-offs, we didn’t see Mark for three days. We also temporarily moved back into Kristen and Tim’s house, which honestly felt a bit like coming home from university. The house was clean, the kitchen in tact, and at the end of the day, we could plop on the couch to watch a movie. Simple pleasures, really. On Saturday, I worked my first wedding with Fidelis (eep!), preparing for an exciting transition with them soon. Kristen and Tim left town for the beach early Sunday morning, and HGTV showed up at their house to film House Hunters with our friends Tiffany and Corey who are moving to town. Yes, that’s right. We spent Sunday filming with them, trying to go about “normal life” with boom mikes and large cameras in our face. Given the circumstances of our real life, I found the whole situation horribly ironic. The kids loved it though. The camera crew generously shared  information about their equipment and jobs with them and helped make the experience memorable.

At some point between the cameras and running food/drinks to Mark and the other guys,  I noticed a tiny, collarless puppy wandering our driveway. The kids jumped out of the car, scooped her up, and pleaded to keep her. We took care of her that day and night, but ultimately I had to make the cold-hearted decision–no. Sadly, we couldn’t possibly take care of a puppy right now (refer to the first paragraph). The girls sulked a bit until I explained all the care and attention little puppies require. Content with the answer, they ran off to play in the other room, while I  greeted Monday, a welcome rest.





June 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



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

liam // you built a flying ship (complete with propelled wings) for a local Lego exhibition and called it the Flying Fish.

burke // watching you submerge in a friend’s pool this week, I was reminded of Psalm 139, “If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there your hand will lead me.”

blythe // perched from the second floor, you quietly observe the people come and go on the level below.

olive // you and Blythe volunteered to read with a therapy dog, Duchess, this week. You were afraid of not knowing all the words, but Duchess didn’t mind. Kristen bought you and Blythe matching dresses this week. You both squealed in approval. I can’t get over how much you look alike.



June 2014




Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE



I remember the night you called me, your voice awkward and intentional, “I need to see you. We need to talk.” I assumed it was the end of us, what little of us existed after a date and a smattering of lengthy conversations. I couldn’t imagine otherwise what could be so pressing. I sat at the kitchen table in my PJs, making notes on Waiting for Godot or some other drama, distracted by the waiting, pretending to ignore the looming let down. When you arrived, you sat by my side and asked to walk with me in the night, a privacy I didn’t feel necessary for a “let’s just be friends” conversation. I was annoyed but obliged anyway. I did love your friendship and wanted to pretend that was enough. We strolled the vacant street together slipping in and out of shadows for a mile before you stopped by a pond and asked me to marry you. Thousands of words spilled into that night, but thirteen years later all I can seem to remember is “yes.”


The terrain of marriage rises and falls like those golden Californian hills. Yet somewhere on that misty, unknown horizon, oak trees grow. Their misshapen and varied limbs raise to the sky, rooted and strong.



June 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



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

liam // you couldn’t believe how close the seagulls flew to you, wanting to snatch you lunch. A few times they succeeded.

burke //exhausted from wave jumping, you covered yourself in the dry, warm sand, like a blanket.

blythe // you were so happy to be with your cousins, building sand castles and jumping in the fierce waves together.

olive // wind blown, you jumped fearlessly in the ocean, retreating to shallower waters when you met the water’s strength.