Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this. ― Dave Eggers

Let me first begin by noting, that for all of the images I share (a lot!), I’m terrible about printing. I have crested 3000 images shared on IG just this last week, and easily have a thousand more here. Readers have on occasion asked how I print or keep the images (aside from my back-up hard drive), and the quick answer is I don’t. I have a few individually printed, but having 3000 individual prints around the house can feel equally as cumbersome. Still, I’ve realized in recent years as my children scroll through our computer’s photo library or my camera roll or IG feed, I need to print more. In our digital age, there’s something remarkable, almost sacred, about holding something concrete. In teaching my children to handwrite letters, I’ve learned that a different function occurs in the brain when you write a word in pencil on paper than when you type that same word on a screen. It wedges itself just a little deeper into your memory faculty. I’d like to think a printed image, or even a book of them can do the same.

It is common for young parents to hear how quickly the years go by and how we’ll miss them when they do. “Soak up the days,” older parents admonish. Although I have done my best to do exactly that, it wasn’t until the end of 2013 that I actually felt the slipperiness of time. Our youngest, Olive, would turn five a few months into 2014, and suddenly I felt the weight of a changing season for our home. No more nursing or potty-training. No more nap-time or strollers. No more jibber-ish talk or sink baths. 2014 would be an official sign-off to the baby/toddler/early-preschool years, and I wanted to document it, to store up what little bits I could. A form of closure? Possibly. Inspired by my online friend Jodi, I began a personal 52 Project in our home in 2014 and 2015. It was far more challenging than I expected, but it caused me to see our days in a new way, to see my children in a new way. I’m so grateful for these small recorded bits of their childhood. And although there are umpteen other images and stories to print, I wanted to make sure these were hardbound in a book.

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There are of course a variety of ways to design and print this sort of project. Price and time is always a factor, and perhaps the trickiest part of this one is incorporating text with the images. Earlier this year, Ronnie of life: captured and I worked together to create a template for my 52 project book, and I’m so excited to share the template will be available for you through their site in early October! You can follow them here to find out when it releases. I printed the book through Artifact Uprising, which I highly recommend for high-quality printing. I simply waited for one of their sales (typically around a seasonal holiday) for a discount. They also have page templates that are easy to click-and-drag, but the text may take a bit to type out and organize if you go that route.


If you have not signed up with Chatbooks, do it now. While the printing is not the best on the market, it is wonderful for the $8 price-point. I subscribed early last year, which simply means every time I post an image to IG, it automatically fills another page in my Chatbooks. When I have reached 60 pages, it gives me three days to preview and make any changes and then auto-ships directly to my house. Eight dollars. It’s a way to simplify one part of my life, and the kids adore them. I’m considering ordering a back up of each one to keep away in a safe place. If you’re interested in trying one for free, use the code CLOIS678. But I promise, if you consistently share images on either Instagram or Facebook, you’ll love them.


I’m quite interested in transforming the archives of this space into book/booklets for our home (and possibly others someday). Over the last two years, I’ve taken two courses with life:captured and I cannot recommend either enough. The Photo Organization class was life-changing for my work flow and photo storage, and the InDesign for Beginners class gave me so much vision and help to design my own storybooks and other personal project books (you can read more of my thoughts on the class here). Although I am still quite slow with the layout, I appreciate the skills I’m learning and now sharing with my children, too. I’m mentioning both classes today––even though they’re indirectly related to printing––because the fall sessions for these courses are beginning again next week, and registration ends on Monday (Sept. 26). To all of you who have oodles of images clouding your virtual space, or who are interested and yet unfamiliar with layout design, or who want to learn more about how to capture a story with your camera (phone or otherwise), give yourself an early Christmas gift. Wink. Wink.

And if you’re interested (and still reading) in reading more of how I keep memories, you can also find my “Storytellers” interview from the summer here. Happy new week to you all. Keep a bit of time to hold your story, whether by your heart or a book.



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Although I have spent much time during the last 18 months discovering ways to simplify, de-clutter, and organize our daily living and home, I admit I am a complete mess in terms of digital photo archives. The hard drive on my computer is currently full, as is the memory on my phone. I know. Don’t judge me. Although everything is already backed up, I have yet to empty my hard drive for fear of losing something, and that mostly because my files are chaos. My hard drive is much like staring at a closet heaped with disorder–a large shoe pile, clothes on hangers, clothes not on hangers, shoeboxes, piles, and so on. I know I need things in the closet, now or at some point in the future, but the disorder keeps me from using it properly or at all. A back-up drive gives me the luxury of copying it, so technically I know every file is there. Only now I have TWO messy closets–and, honestly, am I likely to go fishing through the back-up drive for those files either? Honesty is the most important part in de-cluttering any aspect of our lives, and truthfully I am a digital hoarder. 

As some of you remember, I took an inspiring online class last year with life:captured–a school for modern memory keeping which I entirely adore. Through that class, I previewed a bit of Ronnie’s very organized files and was utterly inspired by her. If my online files are like a hoarder’s closet, hers are like a dream with clothing and accessories neatly aligned by color, style, and season. It is the sort of closet I enjoy in reality, where I knows exactly what I need, when I need it, and also when it’s time to get rid of it. Sigh. In terms of finding and creating files on a computer, doesn’t that sound peaceful? While I’ve made several adjustments to my file labels since that class last year, I am really needing a larger tutorial on file organization. In short, it is time for me to learn how NOT to be a digital hoarder.

unravel your photos: lesson one

When Ronnie asked me to join a group of bloggers working with life:captured and artifact uprising for the project “Unravel Your Photos”, how could I refuse? These are the exact lessons I need–and an opportunity to put this more abstract part of my life in order, too! Over the weekend, I completed my first lesson, “No File Left Behind,” an overview of the benefits and basic principles of file organization in Lightroom (my favorite photo editing software–bonus). Again, Ronnie has such a gentle manner of organizing her class materials that makes large, intimidating endeavors feel manageable. Still this could get messy, folks, and you know I’m going to take you along for the ride. Wink.

Since I have a full hard drive, I needed to clear space to work. Now thanks to my sexy date night purchase, I have two fresh external hard drives and am currently emptying my cluttered hard drive onto the first. At my brother-in-law’s encouragement, I’ll tuck that aside in a safe place for the peace of knowing I DO actually have all of my files. This week, I will be clearing my computer hard-drive and starting fresh. In short, I am emptying contents, so that I can clean and create fresh order. As I learn to organize my files in a new way, I won’t feel distracted by what already exists, by the filing mistakes I’ve made in the past. The second hard-drive will be used to back-up files from this point on and as I have time or need to retrieve old, disorganized files, I will catalogue them according to the new system. I’m expecting I’ll learn some tricks over the following weeks concerning that, too. As Ronnie encouraged us in the lesson this week, “start with your current photos.” The best way NOT to become a digital hoarder begins with what I do right now. I like that.




For the last year, I’ve intended to feature a little Instagram series here. I’m quite flattered when I receive questions on IG and in my inbox on how I use the app, especially when there are so many incredible people taking and sharing beautiful images out there. Naturally, there are several ways to take an image or edit and use it, but I thought it might be nice to finally contribute a little something of my own to the conversation. I began taking photos with my phone a few years ago after my first DSLR died. I found iPhone-ography simple and accessible. The finger tapping and swiping felt intuitive, making it easier for me to experiment with the art of photography, taking images and editing them (more on that later). Instagram’s simple platform made sharing these images equally easy, and over time, it has become somewhat of a microblog for me, for our family. Most questions I receive are about editing, but honestly, editing is easy and quick if you begin with a great image. So we’ll begin there. Here’s a few tips and tricks I use when framing or composing an image with my phone camera. I hope they inspire or help you in some way. (wink.)

use a camera app | I take most of my Instagram images using my iPhone 5 (over two years old), and have used either the Camera Sharp app or Camera+ app. Both apps give you far more control and creates sharper images overall than the iPhone camera, in my experience. Camera+ even has a macro lens option and manual control of exposure. After selecting and editing my image, I upload to Instagram. I’ll talk more about this process in a later post. 

choose a clear subject | There’s always a reason you’re drawn to pull out your phone in a moment–a specific activity or interaction, a slice of nature, a beautiful meal, a proud moment of accomplishment. Draw your image to that subject. Sometimes that might mean a close detail shot, a tight image of your  project or meal or child’s hands. Other times, it might mean pulling back, surveying a scene, the coastline, a silhouette in gorgeous light,  people interacting. Direct your image to what subject you want to convey. When possible (or just to play around), take 2-3 perspectives of the moment: one more detailed and close; another more removed, surveying the scene; and possibly a third from a different angle entirely, like low to the ground or birds-eye. Which expresses the subject more clearly to you?

use natural light + exposure | The quality of all images begins with light. Take your phone images during the day. If you’re indoors, stay close to windows. Sometimes I scoot a table closer to the window or wait for one of my kids to move their activity to a well-lit area. In the morning, light is usually soft and muted. In the late afternoon, light is usually golden and full of contrasting shadow. Use exposure buttons on your camera app–usually by tapping the screen with two fingers at once. Move the ‘E’ circle or square around your screen to see how the shadows and highlights change on your screen. Light itself can sometimes become the subject. In those instances, I might expose to the light of a window, even though it darkens my children’s faces or what they’re doing to focus on the mood of the moment.

show scale | Everyone has had that moment of trying to explain how big the mountain actually was compared or how small your tiny your infant was at birth. I love scale for this purpose, especially with children. They’re little for such a short period of time, so make sure to show it. This might mean taking an image of tiny children in a tree or having your toddler standing between your legs or a close-up of them on your hip.  The idea is to have some marker in your image to give scale to how large or small someone or something is.

find lines |  Lines exist everywhere, in furniture, buildings, along our bodies and nature. Use these natural lines to align your subject. For instance, using the grid lines on your camera app or in Instagram, make sure your existing background lines–perhaps the horizon or the window frame or building edge or tree trunk–are parallel or perpendicular to your subject. How do they work together? You’ll notice it’s easier to keep your lines straight if you phone is parallel to the subject, instead of tilted. For example, a phone that is directly parallel over the table for your food or drink shot, opposed to tilted from above. Or an eye-level photo, rather than simply tilting the phone down at your child from your standing position.


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I think all mothers sense the fleeting nature of childhood at some point. We grow a longing to pause life just long enough to breathe it a little deeper, laugh a little longer, and enjoy right where we are with our children in that moment. Some mothers might feel that way in the first days and months following birth–the quiet moments nursing, the series of firsts as they unfurl from womb to infant. Other mothers enjoy the early childhood years more, when their babies can move freely and express and interact–or even later, as their children bridge into adult years, straddling two worlds at once. Regardless, a mother’s heart always rubs up against time.

We all respond a little differently to time’s slipperiness. I met an older woman last week who saved all of her daughter’s hair clippings. “I literally have bags of it,” she told me. I honestly couldn’t imagine bags of anyone’s hair around my home, but I am forever trying to store time with words and photos. This in itself can sometimes feel like catching the tide. For many of us, parenting can feel overwhelming mundane and rote. Childhood is a collection of routine nothings that we know we’ll one day miss (at least some of them). Today we went to the park. Today you played in bubbles. Today you swam underwater. Today you carried your bag to school. How do we find the moments that matter to us, the ones we’ll really want to savor in future years? I’m not always sure myself, but I keep trying through this space, Instagram, and my own portrait project. As my children grow older, and we’ve closed the door on early years, I want to see and enjoy them more in our daily living together and somehow bottle up a bit of time in the process.


Ginger Unzueta, a homeschooling mother and professional photographer, helps parents discover the lovely bits of their days–and makes us crave summertime, too. In her online workshop, Everyday Beauty, via the Bloom Forum, she leads parents to find the beauty in our routines, in the nothings. She helps her online students understand how light and composition and detail come together to create your story, but she also covers practical topics like taking photos in public or even getting in the photo yourself. (Shock.) Her next three-week online workshop in May is currently sold out, but she is offering one lucky Cloistered Away reader a spot in the class. You can read more about her workshop here, and enter to win a spot below. Make sure to check back, since some of the options are available for daily entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was sponsored by Ginger Unzueta, a homeschooling mother and business owner who loves helping other parents find the beauty in their messy days. All images are courtesy of Ginger Unzueta. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space alive. All thoughts are my own. 


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.

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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. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space alive. 



Kristen and I announced our holiday card mini-session dates and details today. These 15 minute sessions are designed for clients who want a few fresh images without the cost of a full session. You’ll find a few important details of what’s included below and can contact us here with any additional questions. If you’re in the Central Texas area and are interested, here are the dates of where you’ll find us:


Dallas, TX :: October 18

Fort Worth, TX :: October 19

 Bryan/College Station, TX :: November 01

Bryan/College Station, TX :: November 08

Waco, TX :: November 15



15 minute session

$50 sitting fee to reserve

5-8 edited  images to select from the same day

holiday card, digital, + print collections beginning at $220

Please check out the original post for more details, and of course, feel free to contact either Kristen or me with any additional questions. And now for the cooler weather. (Wink.)

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.






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week 08/52


Quality is not an act, it is a habit. – Aristotle

liam // still struggles to enjoy math but completes it first thing each weekday regardless–a definite mark of maturity.

burke // is always a serious student of his environment, even during games of tag on the playground. I love this about him.

blythe // has decided she wants to be a maker when she grows up because she’s really good at making things.

olive // always has blankie–which happened to lose another piece this week–with her. It’s dwindling before our eyes.