cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



September 2014



fall fashion giveaway | win a $450 gift card

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


I can hardly believe it’s September already, the beginning of my favorite season. Soon enough, we’ll be bundling up in blankets and using our outdoor fire-pit again. The leaves will change color and everywhere people will be talking about pumpkins and turkeys and gatherings.  Since everyone can use a little something–or a few little somethings–to spruce up their fall wardrobe, I am joining the fall fashion giveaway Janee organized with several other bloggers. This year I hope to add a new clutch, fall hat, and oversized cardigan to my own closet–you know how I love those oversized sweaters. (Wink.)

By entering below, you can win a $450 gift card to the shop of your preference. Fun, yes? The giveaway will run today through September 15 and is open to all international readers. Best of luck to you all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to all who made this happen.

image by prima pouch



August 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT


week35-2week35-3week35-4 I popped out of town this last week for an impromptu get-a-way to visit my parents and catch-up with my sister-in-laws and a few long-time friends from college (the reason for the lag in posts here). Regardless of organizing our school materials and space, I was having a somewhat difficult time transitioning to the fall semester, feeling denial that summer is really coming to a close. Even though it will be a while before our weather cools to fall temperatures, our routine is shifting toward academics again. Mark has returned to his classes and we are slowly creeping into our own. This little trip was just the thing I needed to reset my spirit and preparation for a new year.


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

liam // I bought you all running shoes this week so we could run together. Each morning after breakfast you remind me, “let’s stretch. It’s time to run.” You hate tying your shoes though. Here you grimace trying to slip on your already-tied shoes, a trick to save time. I’m unsure if it does.

burke // We bought you a guinea pig when you turned seven. You  have loved Squeak and taken good care of her. In the last several months, your interest in her has waned and I regularly have to remind you to take care of her. This week you wrote me a letter explaining that Squeak deserved better treatment than you could give her right now. It was the sweetest, most thoughtful note. You also wore this foam dinosaur visor the entire time at the science and history museum. I love your honest nature and hope you will cherish it always.

blythe // You began a new level in ballet this week and are thrilled to be learning new and more complex movements. Although you are whimsical and imaginative,  you are focused in all you do, whether learning ballet or playing a new instrument on the playground.

olive // You skipped through the water carefully holding your dress to protect it from the water. You kept it dry so that you could ride in Nina’s car afterward–a thoughtful plan.



August 2014



on planners and plans

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL, SOUL


So many friends’ children begin school this week, and as we fumble our way into our own year, I admit I’m a little sad to say good-bye to this care-free season of flushed cheeks and bare feet. I bought a new planner this weekend, a favorite I use each year and replace each August. When I first began using a planner for our family many years ago, I thought of it merely in terms of order and tasks, a tool of organization. I realize now, my planners are more a sort of journal, a story stringing together randomly scribbled thoughts and tasks. They tell a different side of our family narrative. Looking back, I can see anything from the food we prepared to the books and favorite quotes we read or even a new friend’s number or email. I often have pictures my children have drawn or tracings of their handprints and can identify patterns, such as periods when planning and organization become more difficult (i.e. emptier pages). I have a hard time replacing them each summer. But it’s time–time to fill blank pages again with lists of tasks and ideas and food and books and gatherings and ordinary.

I’ve re-read this Mary Oliver poem recently and am reminded of the beauty each season offers us. Some parts of the year grant us large fields to wander and explore while others hold us more tightly indoors or with routine and tasks. Each teach us something new and help us to appreciate the other, and together they amount to something we term life. To all of you packing backpacks and lunches or preparing spaces and routine at home, best to you this week.

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?



August 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



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

liam // You discovered a new favorite skate park and beg to go everyday. You also passed my shoe size. As another of your birthdays looms around the corner, I prepare myself for the soon-arriving days when your childhood is the things of words and photographs.

burke // You’re very emotionally sensitive, and although it can make for difficult moments and communication right now, I know this will be one of your greatest gifts as an adult.

blythe // You have so much volume. Sometimes I have to remind you, “I’m right here. You don’t have to yell.” I know it’s partly your place in birth order and for some part wanting to make sure you’re heard, but  I love the strength and confidence your voice holds, the sounds of leadership, of direction.

olive // I’m convinced you are a gift to keep me from laziness as a parent. Although in many ways I have relaxed as a parent, your curious and driven temperament demands my attention. Always. Thank you.



August 2014



our school room

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL, OUR HOME



The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences. — Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

I’ve always appreciated how our environments affect and impact us. As parents, our ideologies about childhood and family inform how we create our home–the toys and furniture we buy (or don’t buy) and the way we arrange them, the color palettes for the walls and, of course, how we un/organize different spaces. If we were to browse the world, we might notice the margins for “healthy” homes are broad and diverse. The same is true in home-education. Some families prefer individual desks and formal school rooms while other families leave “school” less defined, a mixture of the home and outdoors at large. Like our style, our own “school” area has varied over the years, evolving with different family needs and spaces within our home. We have used everything from our dining room table to an entire bedroom complete with open shelves, a child-sized table with chairs, and an indoor swing. Both worked well in different seasons.

Our new home is quaint and simple in layout, a rectangle divided into 6 sections: living room, dining room, kitchen, and 3 bedrooms (2 bathrooms in the mix). We love its simplicity and size, something that has required us to be intentional about every corner and wall in order to accommodate all six of us. Since we needed to use all three of our bedrooms for sleeping, we gave our boys the large master and then artificially divided the room with open bookshelves: one (larger) part for the boys’ room and one part shared learning space–cleverly right where the kitchen and two kids’ rooms meet–a natural hub for everyone.

Like the rest of our home, this space is organized with natural materials and colors (minus a few plastics from our math curriculum) and open shelving. The bedroom also has two closets, so we were able to build out one for the kids’ books, puzzles, and games, while the low-dividing bookshelves house the kids’ individual cubbies, art supplies, paper, teacher manuals, baskets of math manipulatives, and beginning readers. We painted the large (and only) wall in the space in chalkboard paint, where we write/draw everything and anything. Although the space is large enough for a kids’ table, my kids often prefer working and playing on the floor, so a nice rug, floor pillows, and a couple of lap desks work perfectly and easily tuck away when they’re finished. Generally, we have math and other group writing activities at the dining table. For independent reading or work, they go where ever–to their beds, the couch, or even the outdoors when the weather is nice. Inspired by Montessori, I try to leave as much as possible within their reach. This way they learn to initiate their own art projects or writing or play. If you have younger toddlers or infants, you’ll want to keep certain activities out of reach for safety purposes, but make sure to keep baskets of special toys/age-appropriate activities available for them, too. Like many other parts of our home, this area is still in process. I hope to add some lights along the ceiling since the windows are on the boys’ side of the room and intend to hang a few things on the wall eventually, but for now, this works. I hope it inspires your own!



August 2014



a new partnership

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION, LATELY


I’m thrilled to finally announce here that I will be officially joining my sister, Kristen, working as a photographer at Fidelis Studio. For years, I’ve listened to Kristen and Tim share their ideas and vision and their love for their clients and artistic craft. As Tim moves on to different ventures, I’m grateful to now be working alongside Kristen, sharing in visual storytelling and blending our unique styles and perspectives. (Kristen and Tim, thank you so much for bringing me into to something so precious to you both. I’m flattered and thankful.) To read more, Kristen wrote a bit about their business transition yesterday, and if you’re interested in hiring me and Kristen for an event or portrait session, you can now contact us here.


As for this space, I will continue to write, photograph, and collaborate with other businesses and artists here. At times, I may share work or important announcements about the studio, but for the most part, this will remain a personal space dedicated to my journey through motherhood and marriage, home-education, design, relationship with Jesus, and the various and artful ways they all intersect. Thank you all for the heaps of courage-building words you share with me here or via email. I’m always so grateful for your support.






August 2014



style essential no. 05 | white denim

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


white_on_white-3white_on_white-1Earlier in the year, I began a style series exploring pieces from my closet I considered essential–clothing or accessories I go to regularly and tend to build around throughout the year. The goal, I hoped, would help cultivate gratitude for what I already have and a clearer vision for how to use my [quite tiny] personal clothing budget. This is the fifth in this style essential series.

As we move into the second part of August, I realize most of the Northern hemisphere is beginning to think toward the fall, the onset of cooler weather and warmer clothes and colors. However, in the South, summer stretches through most of September, and sometimes even into October, meaning stylistic rules about color and season, don’t always apply here. Although I spend many summer days in dresses, I love white denim. White skinnies. White flared. White wide-legged. It doesn’t matter. For most of my early years of motherhood, I shied away from white because of potential messiness. But I quickly realized, throwing on a pair of white denim always felt fresh, regardless of what I was doing, and pairing it with a white top instantly felt chic, which any mother knows is a big deal. White denim quickly became a staple in my closet. I’ve never looked back. When going out for the evening or to work during the day, I might throw on heals or wedges (like here), but many days I throw them on with a pair of flat sandals and a summer hat. The best part? Since it’s August, most stores are beginning to clear out their white denim–and just in case you’re on the lookout, Madewell’s offering an extra 40% off their sale through midnight today and Gap’s offering 40% off until noon. (I’m wearing Gap’s long and lean above.)  What about you? How do you wear your white denim?

top (similar) | jeans | tote | hat

Images by Kristen Douglass