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When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Mary Oliver, When I Am Among the Trees

Summer is always hot and sticky in the South, and this one is proving the same. My bedroom windows face the rising sun, and on my favorite mornings I am in bed long enough to wake to it. Even then it is hot outside, but I try to make my way out of the door anyway while the light is still sleepy. We do not live among the mountains or near a cold river or the sea. But we have the morning and the evening and of course also the green trees. And that is enough to fill me with hints of gladness, and to teach me how to walk slowly and bow often, as Oliver writes. And so I take a brief walk twice a day, once to begin and the other to close it.

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Yesterday morning, while the boys finished their breakfasts and morning readings, the girls and I visited our local garden shop. We are planting new ivy for our backyard wall and also a late-season garden. Although it feels odd to be planting in the peak heat, sometimes sewing new life into the hardest circumstances sews life into the soul as well. So we walked about the shop’s property yesterday, noticing the sun-loving blooms and vines. We took refuge in the potting shed, grateful for the mid-morning shade. When we grew tired, we paused near the pond and enjoyed the sound of water running over the fountains. Beauty truly can be found in the smallest places.

As I consider the remaining summer days (and months!), I’m learning how to find joy in these types of simple moments and outings. As it turns, my children are learning the same. Of course, our favorite summer activities this time of year revolve around water, but without a backyard pool or pond or ocean, water activities need to be planned in advance for travel or with friends. The garden shop can be a place to play outdoors, to experience a variety of plant life at once, and to inspire a personal garden space. For me, it was a place to visit and be filled.

This post is in partnership with MUNY, a Brooklyn clothier creating handwoven, hand-printed clothing for women and children. Cloistered Away readers can save 25% off of anything in the 2016 line before July 15 using the code summer25. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep this space afloat. 


Deciding what is essential to pack for each family trip can feel like simplifying a complex math equation, one that includes a limited travel budget, growing children, and shifting weather. Roughly nine years ago, when I had three babies under four and all the baby things to transport [and all of the eye rolls from Mark while packing them], I began honing my packing lists––really considering what we need to travel as a family. About five years ago, I began keeping an online file of my packing lists, titled with the date and location of our travels. I’m realizing, as I type these words, this might be a little neurotic, but having a record has helped me pack well for new trips and even share the lists with others at times. They also function as a journal of sorts, revealing odd family quirks and things like diapers and blankies as they disappear from the list altogether.  

Although having a list doesn’t mean everything occurs as planned or that I never forget something, it does save money in our budget and space in the car. Travel is a beautiful gift and an additional expense to our typical budget, so when it comes to preparing for it, I want to purchase only what is necessary and use the rest of our budget on good food and special experiences together. Below are some tips for how I efficiently shop and plan vacation essentials for our longer family trips away from home.

make a list two weeks before travel /  When it’s time to plan for packing––typically a week or two before travel–– I open a new document on my computer, titled with the location and date, for example, “Colorado, June 2016.” To save time and thinking power, I often copy/paste from a previous travel list and then revise the details using these minimal packing tips. I categorize each list so it’s easy to see what the kids or I might be missing. On a side note, printing a list for everyone in the family to hold, make notes on, and cross off might be very helpful. Consider dictating a list (or printing one) for older children to pack themselves, too. My children enjoy the independence of having their own part to manage.

borrow or shop secondhand  / With growing children, it seems there are always holes in the wardrobe to fill: outgrown, stained, or seasonal clothing and shoes. I note the things we need on the same packing list in a category “THINGS TO PURCHASE OR BORROW.” This list helps me stick to what we need and not be distracted by everything else. When possible, I borrow items from friends that my kids might not use again after our trip, especially seasonal items that might not be sold right now. I also often shop secondhand to stretch our budget, although in the last year or two I’ve had less time to run out and browse our local shops for what my kids need and more often shop online, looking for the best sales. I recently learned about thredUP, an online store that sells like-new items secondhand, and was able to find almost everything we needed there for our trip and summer closet. High. Five. I found a like-new REI fleece and pair of shorts for the boys, a couple of Crewcuts sundresses for the girls (one even still had the tags on it), and a light-weight denim J.Crew top for myself. The best part? I paid a fraction of the original cost, saving $362 which was enough to purchase groceries for the week, plus send the boys down the zipline and the girls bungee jumping at the Durango Mountain Resort. My children each had a missing piece or two of their wardrobe filled, and Mark and I still had enough money set aside for the experiences we really care about.

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set a bag limit for each family member / When anyone travels by plane, the airline sets a bag limit (and size) both for fuel efficiency and the capacity of the plane. Somehow that doesn’t always transfer to car travel, and early on in our family years, I lived by the unspoken mantra, “when in doubt, throw it in the car.” But this is cumbersome and exhausting for everyone involved. It impeded travel space and sometimes also safety, when it blocked our mirrors. Our family now has an inferred bag limit for travel. Each member gets one duffel or backpack for clothing/toiletries and one small book bag to keep at their seat. This naturally forces us to pack efficiently and positively turns our attention to the experience itself, instead of feeling as though we’re preparing for a family move. Here’s some quick ways we keep packing light:

pack clothing within a similar palette / In general, I prefer to purchase clothing in similar palettes for myself and my children. That way, we can more easily mix and match pieces again and again to recreate what we wear. I stand by the same philosophy when packing for a trip. And I loved that thredUP not only allowed me to limit searches by size but also by color. I quickly browsed sundresses in the blues and purples and found one for each of my girls that worked, and also a black fleece for Burke (the color he requested).

choose clothing for more than one purpose / Packing minimally requires each piece to work harder. My rule is every piece must be able to work for more than one purpose. Pack a sundress that is loose enough for playing and hiking, but nice enough to wear to a museum or to dinner. Pack shoes or sandals you can wear anywhere, and also get wet in a river or by a pool (Saltwater sandals and Keens are family favorites, and here’s a pair on thredUP!)

be realistic about the activity bag / I notoriously overpack on books, often because I’m wanting to make too much of the time. I’m learning to really consider how I’ll spend the time away, and now encourage my children to do the same. This trip, they each packed a couple of books, a sketch pad, colored pencils, pencil, and headphones for audiobooks and music.

This post is sponsored by thredUP. Cloistered Away readers can save 40%OFF on your first order by using the code CLO40 before July 31. Thank you for supporting businesses that keep this space alive.

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Once upon a moon, I shared simple basics from my closet here. It was a way I celebrated what I already owned and some of the ways I reinvented these essentials with a new piece or two each season. (And yes, these are inadvertently the same jeans from this post almost two years ago–still an essential in my closet, although I admit a little bit tighter.) But somewhere through life, this part fell through the cracks here. I am not a fashion blogger or a trendy shopper, so I wasn’t sure how my clothing actually fit in this space. Unashamedly, I do love quality design and even shopping, yet just as with other areas of our life, I’ve been learning the joy of living with less, of living within our budget (even when it’s quite small), and of course learning how to choose pieces I love not just for this season but also for the next and next. I am a maturing essentialist in every aspect of home life, work, and style, and that does fit here. All to say, I’m bringing my closet back into this space again. Wink.

I recently cleaned out my closet again, preparing it for the colder season by tucking away summer dresses and tops and pulling out warmer sweaters and knits. Seeing my favorite pieces from previous seasons feels a bit like Christmas. I again took notice of the colors, textures, and fits I’m drawn to year after year, shedding pieces from the summer that I didn’t wear and asking myself the hard questions about why that is. These little inventories help me understand my personal style and also to better recognize the types of pieces that compliment them. I tend to stick with soft textures in neutral tones, and although I wear do enjoy wearing dresses, I tend to be a daily jeans and t-shirt/sweater type of person. I’m okay with that.

Everlane, a company I’ve long admired for their simple basics and transparency, recently sent this V-neck cashmere sweater from their new collection to me, and I can tell already it will be a long-time favorite for its softness, versatility, and [let’s face it] color. Although I do have one sweater from a few seasons ago in a warm chartreuse and another in a deep plum, most of my knits are in various shades of grey and brown. Some might call it boring. I call it versatile. Wink. More than one of my children have even commented on this sweater’s softness when they’ve given me a hug or are snuggled up during a read-a-loud, rubbing their cheek on my shoulder a bit longer. It feels like a thin, luxe blanket, something I can get excited about having in my own closet for many years.

On a different note, Everlane also launched its first kid’s line this week, including a piece similar to this one if you’re looking to add a super soft basic to your wee one’s closet. My girls and I have a few matching pieces in other brands, and I’m always heart-warmed by how much they love dressing like me. Unfortunately, they’re already too big for this line, as they would certainly love it.

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Living on a small budget, I really appreciate quality clothing and accessories that outlast trends and time. For those of you who know me, I tend to stick with fairly simple basics in neutral palettes that I can easily shift across seasons or occasions. Recently fresh tangerine, a boutique jewelry shop based in Seattle, WA, interviewed me about personal style, daily life, and how I wear their stacking rings over on their blog. As a mother who is often at home, I especially love how their rings make the simplest days of jeans and a t-shirt feel put together and intentional. If you’re interested, you can read the full interview over here and even find a discount code if you want to try your own.


I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be hosting an event at Madewell in Dallas, Texas, next Saturday evening to celebrate the beginning of summer.  I’ve always appreciated the brand’s minimalist design and simple palettes–something that resonates with all aspects of our home and lifestyle–and this is such a wonderful way to meet some of you! Come join me for delicious cocktails and nibbles while we mingle and meet one another (or even hug the neck of long-time friends!), and of course for a little discount to enjoy in the shop, too. I will be hand-picking a few of my favorite summer pieces to share–which as you might know by now will include summer whites. (Wink.) I hope to see you there!


saturday, may 30 / 5-7pm

madewell northpark / 8687 north central expressway / dallas, texas 75225

rsvp / [email protected]

shop this look / sunbask tank top  / high riser skinny skinny jeans / straw mesa hat



In so many sweet ways, motherhood has been a journey in simple living for me, one I’ve always craved and not always known quite how to live. It may seem insignificant to some, but learning to pack a minimal, efficient weekend bag is one of the more concrete lessons I’ve learned in simplifying over the years. Haunted by those words just in case, I often carried too much, having a bag filled with the repertoire of Mary Poppins, and finding I didn’t need most of it–I’m sure there’s a good metaphor in there somewhere. But that’s another conversation.

This weekend, our family is leaving for a long Spring Break weekend, and as we prepare, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the lists I make and questions I ask myself in order to pack well (and minimally) for a long weekend away.  For parents, I often use the same questions to guide my children in their packing, but on their lists, instead of a purse, they pack an activity bag, something similar to what I wrote about in this post here. For future reference, I store each of my lists labeled with the trip name in a “packing list” folder on my Google Drive, so that I can easily check off or refer back to previous travels. This might seem neurotic, but it is extremely helpful, particularly as a mother packing for/with young children.

I hope the tips and questions below will help to simplify your and your family’s travel plans in someway this spring. If you’re looking for a fantastic weekender bag, I’m loving the Kith&Kin weekender, and right now, you can pop over to their shop and receive 20% OFF any bag using the code CLOISTER20.



Take a moment to think about your weekend.  Who will you be with? What sort of activities are you planning? Is there an event? Will you need to wear something specific or special at any point? Will you be staying in one locale the entire weekend or traveling around? Where will you be? What will the weather be like? Are there unknown plans/details you need to know for packing purposes?


Make a list with the following categories: clothing, shoes, underwear, accessories, toiletries, purse. 


List each day you will be away, leaving space to write next to them. Write down what will you need or want to wear next to each listed day. If you don’t know specifically, use general terms until you fill in the specifics, such as casual dress, dressy top, or comfy shorts.

Choose one bulky item. If you need a winter coat, boots, or a bulky sweater, wear it in the car or on the plane to save space. Some people like to bring a favorite bathrobe or pillow.  Choose only one to pack, ideally one you could wear more than once, if necessary.

Choose interchangeable pieces. Pack jeans, sweaters, or skirts that you might be able to wear more than once and would style in a new way.

Choose a specific color palette. Everyone has traveled somewhere and wanted to improvise their clothing options in the moment. If you stick with a similar palette you leave yourself more flexibility to change your mind in the moment without taking up too much extra space in your bag.

Pack an unplanned piece. I like limiting the bulky clothing, so that I have room to add an unplanned top, skirt, or thin sweater. I may not use it, but it helps give more spontaneity for changing throughout the weekend.


Choose 2 pairs of shoes, a third if it’s a thin sandal or flip-flop. If you’re needing a shoe that will only work with one outfit, reconsider it, and if necessary, the outfit.


Make sure you have enough and the right sort for your weekend activity.  Self-explanatory, I think. Wink.


Don’t forget the small extras. I always pack a small clutch and a thin scarf that might double as a wrap, and I generally travel in whatever jewelry I’ll wear during the weekend. If you need anything dressier, write it down here.


Consider your typical style routine. Will it be necessary for the weekend? If it’s involved, are there ways to improvise or shorten it?

List everything you will need to get ready over the weekend. 

Pick one hair styling tool, if you need it. Hotels and rentals generally have hair dryers to use, but call ahead to find out.  If you’re staying with good friends, check to see if they would share their tools with you.

Use small bottles. This is a must if you’re flying, but even when driving somewhere, I like having all of my personal toiletries neatly in one dopp kit. 


Pack any devices or chargers you’ll need for your weekend.

List the tiny necessities. I always pack a small snack, bottle of water, cash, chapstick, hand lotion, peppermint essential oil, and headphones for our trip.

Bring something to read. Choose one book or magazine to travel with you.


This post is in partnership with Kith&Kin, a small family business of handmade goods crafted by a family of makers. All thoughts, opinions, and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this place afloat. 

Final image taken by Tim Douglass of Fidelis Studio for Cloistered Away.


One of the lovelier parts of the internet for me is all of the incredible people I’ve connected with here, each creating in such unique ways and from such diverse places in life. Isn’t it inspiring? Well, today, I’m quite pleased to introduce to you, Danielle Colby, a devoted mother to four children and also the designer and creator behind Blue Jane Clothing Co. When I first visited Blue Jane’s shop, I was immediately drawn to the simplicity of her designs and the playful mixture of style and pattern in each piece. This week, Danielle is giving away one free piece from her shop to a Cloistered Away reader, as well as 20% off any order made before November 30. The discount code and ways to enter the giveaway are below, along with an interview with Danielle–a woman just as playful and surprising as her designs. Happy Monday!



I’m a little embarrassed by this, but I was inspired to start sewing from Project Runway! I was breastfeeding my daughter constantly which often led me to watching TV while I nursed her. I became addicted to Project Runway and kept thinking, “I could do that!” but the only sewing I had ever done was in my 6th grade Home Ec class. Not long after, I saw a sewing machine for sale and hinted to my hubby that it would be a great gift.  Once I received it, I just dived right in! I’ve always been like that in my creative pursuits. I’m very hands on and learn best by just doing. It leads to a lot of trial and error, so I have learned to be patient with myself!




My #1 tip to anyone trying to learn would be to use a quality sewing machine. I’m not saying you need to spend a lot of money on a machine, but if you try to learn on a machine that constantly jams or loses tension, it will just lead to frustration. Another tip is to start with an easy pattern that has good instructions. Many patterns will teach you techniques as you sew. Indie patterns are my favorite. Unlike when I started, the internet is such a great resource to help teach yourself to sew. There are so many great sewing bloggers with tutorials on their sites that can help get you started.



It was only recently that I felt confident enough to take my sewing to the next level. For years, people have told me I should sell my clothes, but I am terribly self-critical and didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. With a little push from my husband and friends, I decided that I needed to make the leap and just go for it. I’m so glad I did! I’ve met some wonderful people so far and I’m loving the process. I opened BlueJane Clothing Co. in August of this year. It’s a lot of work, but I feel good!



I’ve always loved the style found in vintage children’s books. I like to linger over the illustrations, and the clothes represented in the pictures completely inspire me. A.A. Milne has always been a favorite of mine. I love classic style, clean lines, good tailoring, and quality details. I use modern fabrics and patterns to keep the clothes feeling fresh.



I’m still working on that! I think we, as mothers, always hold ourselves to such high standards. Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are just unrealistic. I try to remind myself to take a step back and look at the big picture: Did I accomplish something on my to-do list today? Did I spend some quality time with my littlest one? Did I practice reading with my son? Did I laugh with my family and share how our days went? If I go to bed feeling like I accomplished something that day, then I’m ahead of the game. If I don’t? Well, there is always tomorrow!



Yes, absolutely! As much as I may love something, if my children cannot play freely in it or if the material isn’t comfortable, then it’s not going to pass. Children are so fun to style, but reality is they get messy, they roughhouse, they climb jungle gyms. I try to make clothes that my children can live in everyday.



Enjoy 20% off any BlueJane Clothing Co. order now through November 30. Enter CLOISTER20 at checkout. Giveaway open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is in partnership with Blue Jane Clothing Co. Olive is wearing Blue Jane’s Aztec skirt from the Wanderfull line. She adores its soft texture and twirling abilities, and I love the warm colors and unique pattern (and maybe the fact that it’s not pink or sequined–wink). All opinions are my own. 


Since our Fall weather can range in temperature from the 50s to the 90s, I am always hunting for easy and flexible transitional pieces for my closet. One of my favorite pieces right now is the blazer. I particularly love seeing how other women have taken a piece originally designed for men and business attire and transformed it into something casual and feminine by pairing it with a dress, worn denim, or even shorts.

But how do you know if you can pull it off? Try one. Take into consideration your height and build. Curvier women or shorter women might feel more comfortable with a hip-length blazer or at least one more tailored at the waist, like this one. If you have broader shoulders, you may want to try something thinner and without shoulder pads like this one or this one. For taller women, you might enjoy the longer, non-traditional length or style like this onethis one, or this one. I love the menswear-inspired blazer paired with shorts above, too, and found a similar one here and here. I also really love the growing number of businesses providing earth-friendly, socially responsible options (with good design) like this one.

I hope this inspires you, too, this morning! Happy Friday, everyone. 

All images sourced via Pinterest.



Last week, I sprained my ankle while running with the kids. It was silly really–a moment of looking back to check on the younger girls while my feet still carried me forward right into one of my sons. I ended up rolling over my foot and planting onto the road–not one of my better moments.  Over the last several days, we’ve improvised much around here, and I’ve realized I take for granted how much my body intuits the needs around our home, my hands and feet working in different ways to accomplish similar tasks.


Honestly, it’s been a little frustrating breaking that coordinated activity this week, moving at half pace. In slowing down, I have had to work more intentionally or, even at times, not to work at all. As a result, the house has been messier and meals have taken longer. I have needed to direct each of my children more often, teaching them how to complete my usual tasks–I can see their accomplishment when they do so.

Olive begged me to take her hiking this weekend. I sadly reminded her of my injury, pointing to my wrapped foot and crutches. Instead, we opted to play and explore our backyard, a more manageable space for me to navigate. We both dressed, brushed our teeth (water spots are still on her shirt), and headed out into the cool morning for a little alone time together.


I hobbled behind her, as we observed the different plant life and patterns. I watched as she studied this space in a new way, seeking new hiding spots, swinging from and old grapevine in the trees. As an adult, I often forget how simple outdoor play can be, how much wonder still exists right in our backyard. As my body heals and I can do more again, I know I’ll be grateful for this simple reminder to slow down, for this small, simple adventure just out our door.

This post is sponsored by Alpine Baby Co., handmade organic clothing for little adventurers. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat.