cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



March 2015



giveaway| ecru collection + blueberry scones

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION, EAT + DRINK + GATHER


Although I enjoy a good scone most anytime, there is something almost magical about eating them straight from the oven when the edges are still crispy and the blueberries are still warm and soft at the center. They are one of the more subtle morning pastries, ones I tend to prefer most in their simplest form without the jam-filled centers or decadent icing tops. When we planned Olive’s small morning party, I knew lemon-blueberry scones would be an easy pairing with her tea, and serving them with sliced strawberries smothered in a little maple-cinnamon whipped cream would substitute the traditional birthday cake perfectly–without becoming too labor-intensive for me. (Wink.) But more about that later. To make Olive’s scone a little more special, I pinned two scones together using six ecru party picks–six tiny balloons just for the birthday girl–with a layer of whipped cream in the middle, something special, without being over-the-top.

When Kara, from ecru collection, first introduced me to her shop, I immediately fell in love with the minimal design and muted tones of her aesthetic. Her handmade pieces, whether for the home or body, are playfully simple and transitional–and I always enjoy things that can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion.  I asked Kara to share a bit below about her inspiration as well as a few tips for mothers of crafty children and young women starting a new business. You’ll find her responses below along with my newly favorite blueberry scone recipe and a chance to win $100 to Kara’s shop, ecru collection.


Tell us a bit about yourself, Kara. Though I currently live in LA, I’m an East Coast girl. I grew up in DC in a house full of lawyers, and never really considered I could make things for a living. I spent a year studying painting, and art history in Florence, Italy during college, and was lucky to land an internship in Emilio Pucci’s palazzo, working with his vintage textiles. It was a pretty great education in color and pattern. And if that wasn’t enough, I met my hunk of a husband, Giampiero, while I was there. Talk about the trip of a lifetime.

How did you begin making jewelry and home wares? What inspired you to more specifically begin Ecru? I have always been a maker. After graduating college, I started working the safe 9-5 but needed a creative outlet. As much as I love the world of fine art, I wanted to make something more accessible so I started making simple statement necklaces. People really responded to their minimalist, almost sculptural quality and I started selling them off my neck. It kind of just snowballed from there. Now I’m interested in the intersection between home decor and fashion; how something functions in both realms. I decorate the same way I get dressed so it feels like the natural next step.

I was immediately drawn to your choice of materials and muted color palette. How did you select them? Palette mixing was always my favorite part of painting and often I liked the look of my palette more than the painting itself. I could experiment with the way colors balance or fight each other all day, every day, but I wanted to incorporate geometric form so I began making my own beads. The clay gave me both the tactile process and color mixing. Life in Los Angeles has really influenced my sense of color and my use of natural materials. A lot of color combinations are born from walks with my dog, pausing to check out a succulent garden. I know the people on the East Coast are hating me right now.

You often reference another piece of art in your product descriptions. Do you have an artist who has inspired your work more than others? I love the art world but it can feel stiff or exclusive so I wanted to incorporate the artists and processes I love, with a wink. Right now, I am really into Alex Katz’s paintings. His colors feel like shapes outside of their subjects. I’m also drawn to Cy Twombly’s fantastic squiggles. There is so much artistry to his work, but that appearance of effortlessness is really the mark of a genius. Helen Frankenthaler, Amy Sillman, and Esther Stewart’s works are also a great inspiration.

Do you have any advice for mothers who have young daughters interested in jewelry making? Use what you have! I have seen some pretty chic pasta necklaces. Truly! I rarely go into bead stores, finding much more inspiration at the hardware store, the sports store, and supermarket. I go just to check out materials and consider shapes. Materials don’t have to be expensive if they’re well considered. Just don’t tell your brother or dad I told you to steal their tools!

Do you have any tips for young women wanting to start a new business? I’m still figuring it out myself. I’ve worked for small businesses for years and you think you know what it takes until you start your own. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I work harder now than I ever did for anyone else but I love it! I will say though, balance is a struggle. My husband is constantly reminding me to step away from the computer to enjoy a meal together. You have to remember that though it is your business, you have other things going on. Don’t stay in your PJs all day! Sometimes going out with friends or getting dressed up for a date night puts everything in perspective. But the rejection can be tough. It’s hard not to take it personally because it can feel like they’re rejecting you. You need a thick skin for sure. I can’t tell you how many emails I send out everyday and it feels like they just go out into the ether, never to be heard from again. So when I get a rejection I actually plot to turn it around because at least they took the time to respond. Ha! But that’s what makes finding good collaborators and people who are stoked about your business so awesome!

ecru_blueberry_scone-5blueberry-scones ecru_blueberry_scone-2

Enter the giveaway below and all Cloistered Away readers can enjoy 10% OFF  ecru collection during the month of March with the code CLAWAY10. Happy weekend! xo

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This post is in partnership with ecru collection, a lighthearted collection of accessories for self and space handmade by Kara Templeton. All opinions are always my own. 



March 2015



a little tea party

Written by , Posted in EAT + DRINK + GATHER


olives_tea_party01olives_tea_party-28olives_tea_party-18olives_tea_partyolives_tea_party-8olives_tea_party-12olives_tea_party02olives_tea_party-3olives_tea_party-1-2olives_tea_party-19olives_tea_party-11olives_tea_party-26olives_tea_party03olives_tea_party-25olives_tea_party-7olives_tea_party-23olives_tea_party-15Olive turned six on Wednesday, and I still can hardly believe it. To celebrate in a small and simple way, we invited a few of her friends over for a small garden party with hot tea, fresh blueberry scones (a recipe coming tomorrow), and birdhouse painting. Although I had originally imagined an outdoor table with spring flowers, we improvised when winter weather re-appeared and gathered some green life to the table instead.

The morning began with the loud clatter of pretend play together. Every once in a while, my sister and I would hear a few of them jet-setting to Asia or another discussing working at an orphanage or baking a cake for her friend–all in a dramatic plot of course–and we would laugh. Passion and imagination are such a gift in children, always reminding us anything is possible.

Later in the morning, as the girls gathered around the table, their interactions evolved into a surprisingly soft conversation and laughter over tea and eventually into the quieter focus of painting. Liam and Burke volunteered to help, originally offering to be the court jesters; instead they dressed in their bowties and Sharpie mustaches and settled to help by serving tea, food, and towels. Their generous spirit blessed me and their littlest sister alike, and by the time everyone left, our full hearts and stomachs needed naps.



March 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



09 | If you could be any character in a book, who would you be? Why?

olive | WonderWoman in the comic books because she’s so strong and has an invisible jet.  |  When a cold front came through this week, I found you layered with 4 shirts and 3 pairs of leggings, just to avoid wearing a coat. In the end, you needed it anyway and flashed me a smile showing your mostly toothless smile.

blythe | Susan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because she gets to visit Narnia, and she’s the oldest. |  On a rare day when the sun was warm and delicious and you found a spot under it to write in your journal.

burke | Pa in Little House in the Big Woods because he’s determined, light-hearted, and gets things done. |  Sometimes you lounge around the house like a cat, moving your limbs in the slowest of motions, but you love a good game outdoors, especially when it’s something you and Liam make up together.

liam | Either Legolas–in the Lord of the Rings, not The Hobbit–or Harry Potter. Why not The Hobbit? In the LOTR, Legolas is free and powerful. He dangles from ropes, walks on snow, and shoots his bow and arrow using his mouth.  In the Hobbit, he seems more lifeless, like he’s in a trance. Plus, his father is a dream-killer. And Harry Potter? It would be so fun to ride a Firebolt and play Quidditch.  |  You’re getting older. I know it’s a simple thought, but sometimes when I sit and we discuss big books or you ask to watch an episode of Seinfeld, I remember: you’re growing so quickly.



March 2015



how to find community in motherhood



Finding friendship as a mother can be challenging.  Our time is so often filled with taking care of our homes and children and work that we can simply forget to reach out to our existing friends, let alone form new ones. Some friendships are for specific seasons, connections to help us through a specific time or transition. Others, often the most surprising ones, linger longer and move with us through all stages of life. During my decade of motherhood, I’m so grateful for all of the women who have trickled in and out of my life, knowing even the briefest connections have left lasting impressions and impact.

This weekend, I spent time with a few friends who I began homeschooling alongside so many years ago. Due to our growing families and life circumstances, our paths do not always cross in the same consistent ways they once did, but the sporadic meet-ups where we hear and share the hard and sweet spots of our journey with one another are still so sweet for my soul. As I shared an image and thought of these women through social medias last night, I realized these sentiments might be hurtful for women who aren’t experiencing connection, women who long for at least one friend with whom to share the journey.  I am a fairly introverted person who also homeschools and works mostly from home, too, so I know this season can feel isolating. It is easy to see images on the internet and hear stories from other people and feel like we’re missing out, that somehow we are the only ones who are lonely or are caught up in the rote path of motherhood or home-education. It is simply not true.

Occasionally in life, we are fortunate enough to stumble into an already existing community of friendship, and other times, we have to go out and discover it ourselves. Either way, friendship and community always require work and initiative, but as most anyone will tell you, the reward is worth the effort. For any of you feeling isolated or struggling to find relationships, here’s a few different ways I’ve made friends over the years. They are simple thoughts, but I hope at least one will resonate with you and encourage you to keep searching for community.


take a look around, right where you are / Is there someone casually in your life who you want to spend more time with? Have you noticed a mother at your library, park, gym, or church who you naturally gravitate toward? If your children are in school or take dance, music, or art lessons, play on a sport team or participate in a nature club–look around at the other mothers. Are there any you might connect with? Who do your children naturally gravitate toward? Be bold: ask for a play date or meet-up.

initiate the invite / Don’t wait for someone else to invite you. For various reasons ranging from moving to a new town or country to the fact that we are deeply introverted, it can be difficult for anyone to work up the courage to initiate friendship. Be courageous.  If you’re wanting friendship or needing community, reach out to another mom, even if it’s just one and invite her over for coffee and/or for her kids to play. If you live in a small home or apartment, find a public place to meet: park, local children’s museum, or local eatery with a play space for kids.

search for local play groups / Sometimes larger homeschool or play groups post meeting times and places on websites and blogs. A simple online search with keywords, such as play group, homeschool group, nature club, with your city and state, can turn up several options for you to try. Like anything, if you’re wanting to connect with smaller, more specific niches, use more specific key words, such as waldorf, unschool, montessori, classical, charlotte mason, instead of simply searching homeschool group. Although these groups don’t necessarily mean you’ll find your best friend, you just might, and at the very least, you’ve begun your journey for community.

find online community / Sometimes our life circumstances or locale make it more difficult to connect with mothers in person. Everyday beautiful online communities of women are forming and growing. Instagram has been one of my favorite (and easiest) places to connect or be inspired by other mothers regularly. If you’re needing a place to start, Wild+ Free and Childhood Unplugged are my favorite collaborative accounts for encouragement, inspiration, and laughter as a mother and home-educator.  They always tag the mothers who capture the moments, so don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails or send an email or direct message to one of the mothers who resonates with you.



February 2015




Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL, THE 52 PROJECT


2015_week08-22015_week08-32015_week08-4week 08 | what do you love most about homeschooling? more specifically?

olive | I love reading activities and playing dress-up. (That part about the reading isn’t always true.)  Most days you flit around our home in dress-up and play, and I’m learning again to move with you as I did with Liam, skip counting while you bounce around the room and incorporating stories anywhere possible. On the best of days, you really want to practice reading, although where this happens always differs–on your bed, on my bed, in the kitchen, on the floor, even sitting on the table.

blythe| I love getting to learn at home and that you’re my teacher. Science and history are my favorite times, especially when we get to make things.  This week you received an invitation to test for the next level in ballet. You squealed with excitement, “a test?! I love tests!” You really do, and I love this about you. I love your relentless focus and joyful work ethic, Blythe, and as you continue to thrive in your work–academic, ballet, or otherwise–I hope you will also grow with the knowledge and wisdom that life is more than a test. So much more.

burke | I love that I’m not sitting in a classroom all day and that I get to learn with you. I love when we study important people in history and then draw and write about them.  Learning to read at age four, you were certainly our earliest reader. It came naturally for you. Even now,  I always enjoy hearing you read aloud, listening to the inflection and life you give to your words. Although you love quiet spaces and places to work, you enjoy the silliest play and wildest imagination–a fun mixture in a person, I think. Careful and silly. Quiet and gregarious. Methodical and dramatic. Years into our homeschool life together, I know there are so many things I may have misunderstood (or missed altogether) about you. I love experiencing the daily ways you live out of your quiet heart.

liam | I love that I get to learn with my friends and family. Science, history, and language are my favorite things to learn about–I really liked studying the heart and circulatory system, reading, writing, and drawing about Medieval knights, and diagramming sentences.  I took this image a couple of weeks ago when we were studying the human brain. This is the dimension I love about learning together at home–the crafting and creating happening right alongside the reading and writing and rote practice. Learning about anything is an experience with you, Liam, one that has challenged me to see all of life in entirely new ways.




February 2015




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



07 | What do you hope to be when you grow up?  

olive, 5 | I either want to be an artist, a dancer, or a pizza girl. | This week I found you playing outside hosting a tea party with tasty treats and drinks made from mud. When I asked you if you were using my dishes, you simply looked away and sulked. The answer was obvious, yes.

blythe, 8 | I want to be a doctor or a veterinarian and definitely a coffee girl! | You’ve been doing grammar lessons together with Burke, and two of you learn together in such a specific way. You try so hard to keep up, aiming to blurt answers before he does–such a competitive little sister.

burke, 9 | That’s such a hard decision–probably a paleontologist. | We worked in the yard all day on Saturday, preparing the yard for Spring gardens and grass. Each time I looked over at you, you had a creature in your hands, sometimes a snake, sometimes and toad.

liam, 11 | I either want to be photographer or an architect–any job that doesn’t require me to work in a cubicle or wear a tuxedo. | This week you told me you wanted to go to school at Oxford. I can hardly think about how close those years and decisions are.


Since the kids are getting older, I have tried to think of ways to incorporate more of their voice into this portrait project. I’ve opted to add a new dynamic by asking each of my children one new question each week.  I’ll continue adding my little anecdotes afterward, but I think this will be such a great addition to our annual portrait album. I’ve asked them six other questions that I plan to back post in weeks 1-6, some of the answers have honestly surprised me, in a good way though.



February 2015



learning patience

Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE, SOUL


There’s a large hole in the window screen just over our kitchen sink. Inside it, two tiny wrens are building their nest, their secret. All day, they pop in and out of that hole, one pinching a twig in its beak, another grasping an old leaf. Sometimes they pause on the branches of the nearby tree and sing a song. Other times they simply gather new pieces and begin the process over again.

Patience can be such a funny lesson.

As children, we learn to practice patience externally. Wait for dessert. Wait until I’m finished talking. Wait until we get there. As an adult, patience becomes a matter of the heart. Wait for that opportunity. Wait for that person. Wait for that dream. Wait for God. Like the birds in my window, our hands and bodies remain busy with rote while internally we continue waiting for what’s yet to come. As the circumstances change, so does the waiting. Somewhere in this process, I am learning to be patient.