cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



January 2015



indesign for beginners | an online class reviewed



My husband and I recently watched an old episode of Friends, one where Monica passes around recent pictures she’s taken, nervously saying, “don’t touch the photos! It will leave fingerprints.” My husband looked at me and said, “it’s such a different world now.” And it’s true. Like so many of you, I rarely have images to pass around to my children or friends. Instead, I simple pull out my phone to pass around or email images from my computer. A few months ago, I wrote a bit about the art of memory keeping and my goals to combine my writing and images about our life into a printed journal. This is something I’m aiming to change in 2015.

Sometime early last year, I discovered life:captured inc., a modern school for memory keeping run by two very talented women in Australia, Trish and Ronnie.  Through workshops and, more recently, online classes, they teach everything from storytelling with your images to organizing your files and printing life books or story books. They were creating exactly what I had always envisioned and offering me tools to learn the same! indesign_class-14

In November, they offered their first round of online classes–a more realistic option for me, seeing that their workshops are hosted in Australia. I chose the six-week course, “InDesign for Beginners,” with Ronnie because I had no experience with this Adobe graphic design software and I wanted to learn how to create templates for my own family storybooks. It was incredible! Each week, Ronnie would release a new lesson including video guidance, notes (the transcript of the videos), and lesson assignments to practice for the week.  Enrollment to the class also included a private class forum to dialogue with Ronnie and other students about things that were challenging or not working well. Most lessons could be completed in 30 minutes, a reasonable time commitment, I think. And you could review previous lessons at any time. I had to do this after the holidays, since I had missed a couple with all the family happenings.   I ended up watching each lesson twice over the course and used the printed notes to underline shortcuts or parts I kept forgetting for quick reference.

I certainly recommend having an iPad or tablet to watch the videos. It’s not impossible without, but you’ll end up watching, pausing, and flipping to your own InDesign screen back and forth often, which could easily become frustrating and cumbersome. I did this the first lesson. With the iPad (or some other device), I could play the videos beside me and follow along simultaneously on my own screen. Here’s a couple of screenshots from one of the projects I developed while in the class. I chose writing, quotes, and DSLR images from our afternoon at the beach last summer.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.30.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.30.49 AM

One of my personal goals this year is to print more photos and family journals this year. (It was last year, too, but I feel more equipped this time.–wink.) One of the most helpful parts of the class was hearing and seeing how Ronnie organizes all of her online files throughout the year. Some images she prints weekly, others seasonally, and others annually. Isn’t she incredible? I am so inspired to keep these files in order and print them this year!

Maybe you’re like me and have a goal to print more photos or photo books of your children, or maybe you’re just learning how to use a camera and want to learn take better pictures and tell stories through them. Either way, I highly recommend any of life:captured’s online classes. I should also note, the deadline for their next group of classes is this Saturday, January 31–so jump in quickly!


This post is in partnership with life:captured inc., a small business devoted to helping others with modern memory keeping. As always, all thoughts and opinions I write are my own. 




January 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



olive // You counted down the days to your first dance class this week. Although we originally planned to enroll you in the fall, I noticed how you watch the class next door to your sister’s through the glass. You’d turn and tell me, “I can totally do this! There are kids in this class who are only four and I’m five!” You wore your ballet clothes all afternoon on your first day, and kept chiming in your giddy voice, “I’m going to be so good at this, mom. I just know it!”

blythe // Although you are so chatty and love playing with others, you also love and need quiet space, a place to be alone and draw or read or write. This has cause one of the larger bits of friction in sharing a room, since your roommate loves togetherness, busyness, and you. I’m grateful to see you learning to receive and work through differences at such a young age.

burke // When dad opens the door to wake you guys up each morning, you often stumble to your feet half-awake, just to beat your brother. Although it cad be hard being the younger brother, it’s so fun to watch you together, quoting parts of your favorite films, building Legos together, or mastering new tricks on your skateboards.

liam // You’re growing out your hair again, most days covering it with your favorite hat. On the day the sun reappeared this week, you immediately put on your shoes and went out the door.




January 2015



a brief homeschooling survey

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL


When I first began this home-education journey with our children seven years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t homeschooled myself, and I wasn’t even sure it was the right thing for our family. Homeschooling with little ones was hard, and I constantly wrestled with this looming thought, “am I going to screw up my kids?” For several different reasons, we kept moving forward, a few peers in tow, paving the way for our children to learn right alongside us.

As I’ve written here, on Instagram, or for other publications, I’ve realized more and more how large and diverse the national and international homeschooling community is. I’m looking to find out as a group, who are we? What are the needs and goals within this community? Would you mind helping me out by filling out this brief anonymous survey? It’s actually quite brief (2 minutes, maybe) and multiple choice for ease and speed.  And it truly is anonymous, no personal info necessary. Thank you!



January 2015



light for the dark season

Written by , Posted in SOUL


the _dark_season-2the _dark_season-3

The world is dark, and light is precious.
Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

For all of us, there are life seasons that feel bright and effortless. We move through our days with sun-kissed hearts, alive and alert to life and to God’s goodness. Other seasons, plagued by pain and loss and doubt, feel darker. These seasons require us to fight the urge to hide under the covers of our circumstances and to instead rearrange the furniture of our hearts and shove it toward the light. We are compelled to unravel God’s goodness and promise, like strands of twinkle lights, and drop them into the dark rooms of our soul. It is there, clouded by the world’s darkness, we remember the gift of light is most precious and, above all, good.


The kids and I have recently finished reading The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis, and The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo. The simplicity and poignancy of both stories concerning themes of light and dark, grief and hope, courage and goodness are remarkable. They have been a source of encouragement to me in a new way this season as I work out a deeper level of belief in my own heart, but they have also been a sweet and concrete way to discuss the more difficult matters of the heart with our children. I highly recommend both, and I especially recommend listening to Desperaux on audiobook. The reader is phenomenal. Also, you should be able to find all of these at your local library.



January 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



olive // The last of your front baby teeth dangled strangely in your mouth for days because you didn’t want to pull it. This week, it finally popped out completely, leaving an even wider hole in your smile.

blythe // When we go to the library, your bag is packed and your card neatly hidden in the right pocket for you to hand the librarian at the end of our visit. This is your favorite part, I think–showing you are responsible and trustworthy.

burke // The sun popped out of the clouds briefly during our school morning last week. While you sat on your bedroom floor thinking of math solutions, the dust and light danced around you like magic. It made me wonder how often in life I try to solve equations when I should be enamored with the mystery.

liam // The last year or so you’ve been smitten with flat-billed hats, and although I might choose to style you differently, I want you to freely explore and find your own style niche. However when your adult-self wants to know why this particular one was in every single portrait in 2015, you will need to thank your aunt and uncle who generously gave it to you for Christmas.




January 2015



2015 / choosing now

Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE, SOUL


These last several weeks have been quiet here, I know. The grey days have kept us tucked inside more than usual, where we’ve enjoyed one another in very simple ways again, often near a wood-burning fire, underneath soft throw blankets. Honestly, I’ve relished the slowness after the fast-paced, almost dizzying 2014, and have felt unhurried to resume typical routines. Instead, I’ve been patiently reflecting on the last year, its beauty and difficulty, triumphs and defeats. 2014 was a sweet year in so many ways. Personally, I stretched into new writing ventures; met and worked with several incredible people; joined my talented sister and brother-in-law in their photography studio; connected with the beautiful Wild+Free homeschool community and even shared a bit of our journey at the conference in the Fall. I have nothing but gratitude for all of it.

While lovely in so many ways, this year was also a hard, defining lesson in personal capacity–a year of treading physical, creative, and relational limits. It taught me to dig deep both spiritually and soulfully and to be brave with my heart, but I’ve realized too much of myself was expended in producing. By the end of the year, I felt threadbare and soul-thin, hungry for more of the nothings that mean everything–la joie de vivre–the time spent with my husband and our children, time with our families and community, and time with Jesus.

When I first began this small space, it was a journal. A place where, as I wrote in my first post, I sucked out the marrow of life. Or tried anyway. I wanted to see the poetry of motherhood–the light and the dark, because there’s always a mixture–and to continue practicing the art of words. I hoped other parents might be encouraged to see their own lives in a new way, not to be like ours necessarily, but to discover the unique and beautiful nature within their own. I hope this year to return to that place, a collection of vignettes and dialogues, poetic ramblings and simple photographs as I continue journeying through motherhood, marriage, and home-education. I realize these changes may not be the best career move and that I may not ever become someone important by the world’s standards, but I will never regret choosing them, choosing my children and husband, choosing now.

On that note, a few goals I scribbled down for the new year:

// pay attention. //

// guard my time //

// nurture our home life + relationships //

// infuse the arts more into our home life and homeschool //

// regular time with Jesus //

// live “less is more” //

I’m so grateful for all of the people who have supported this space through sponsorship this last year, but for purposes of time and simplicity, I’ve decided to let go of that aspect of cloistered away. I will continue working with small businesses and creatives who I love and feel that in some way you might, too, and as always will make a note in the post when that occurs. I’m so grateful for the sweetness of this readership. Thank you for loving me and my family here. With all of me, thank you. Cheers to each of you, to the journey, and of course, a new year.

bethany xo



January 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



 ”a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015″

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m slowly easing into this new year. I’ll write a bit about that later this week, but for now I’m beginning the new year of portraits–no specific angles or plans, only life with my children, broken down week by week. This part of this project has been my favorite, actually. Each year on their birthday, I write my children a letter. Often I have shared them here, but these letters can be overwhelming, paralyzing even. Children change so much over the coarse of the year, it’s hard to write it out all at once in a way with detail. This project has helped me to collect the little bits along the way, and I know they’ll enjoy looking through and reading about it years from now, as will I.


olive // You prefer to drink out of a mug, opposed to a glass and insist on dragging warm, fluffy blankets around the house with you in lieu of wearing warmer clothes. This first week of the year has been cold, and I’ve found you here at the hearth most of it.

blythe // On this cold morning, you ate warm oatmeal, your oversized blanket wrapped around your head like an eskimo, next to the drafty window and grey skies.

burke // You have been reading the youth edition of Unbroken this week, snuggled in this chair between the cloudy window light and the warm fire.

liam // I asked you to turn on the kettle so I could make a cup of coffee. When I went to the kitchen several minutes later, I noticed a hot cup of coffee on the counter with a smily face taped to the side. Beneath that taped paper is a quote by Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared with what lies within us.” I think you’ve just made his point.