Famous Men of Rome. Rilla’s first time. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they know these stories well and enjoy them, and it’s amusing to them to watch Rilla encounter them for the first time. She’s doing a lot of narration afterward, mostly at dinner in the guise of “tell Daddy all about Romulus and Remus.” Sometimes during or after a chapter, I use the whiteboard to help her remember names.
Whiteboards in general. You guys, I use them for EVERYTHING. A million years ago I made the brilliant move of buying a whole bunch of scratch-and-dent markerboards for a song. The larger size are perfect as painting boards, underneath our paper—they wipe up easily and can be moved elsewhere while the masterpieces dry. We also use the big ones for things we’re trying to learn by heart. Presidents and their terms, British monarch family trees, and so forth. The smaller ones fit handily beside my chair and are great for our Latin lessons. I’ll write out a sentence and let them parse it. Meanwhile, Huck is keeping himself busy nearby with another markerboard and my best dry-erase pens.
Creativebug. The other day I happened upon this rather amazing site. It offers video tutorials in a zillion artsy and crafty pursuits, everything from embroidery to cake decorating. I signed up for a free two-week trial subscription, and if you’re my friend on Facebook you know I’ve been having a whale of a time. Rilla and I have already devoured illustrator Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing course, and we’re three-quarters of the way through Dawn Devries Sokol’s Art Journaling class. We have Art on our schedule twice a week after lunch, but that’s not been nearly enough to accommodate the creative outpourings inspired by our Creativebug explorations. I’m finding the Lisa Congdon class has been particularly inspirational and instructive, spurring me to do a bit of sketching when I hit a snag in writing. Sometimes my other jobs—raising kids, educating them, managing a household, editing—plant me pretty solidly in my left brain and I need a right-brain pursuit like drawing (even though I’m no visual artist, as the whiteboard above attests*) to exercise my creative muscles. I’m enjoying, too, painting backgrounds in the art journal and returning to them later to practice line drawing. Rose plans to watch all the cake decorating videos. Beanie’s interested in the embroidery. Right now Creativebug is offering a whole MONTH of free trial (use promo code “CRAFT,” good through Sept. 14, and thanks Kortney for the heads up on that!), so if your interest is piqued, now’s the time to give it a try. After the trial, a subscription is $9.95/month for unlimited courses, or $9.95 to buy individual courses that you can access forever.
*In my defense, I did draw a lot of it upside down.
20 Ways to Draw a Tulip. Lisa Congdon mentioned this book of hers during her line drawing tutorial. I’m in love with it. It’s tulips and 44 other flowers. Twenty ways to draw each of them, from simple-and-sweet to highly detailed to stylized and folk-arty. Wonderful, wonderful, out of all hooping.
And guess what’s back. ModPo!!! The best Coursera class I’ve taken, and I’ve taken some darn good ones. Modern and Contemporary Poetry with Al Filreis and his MFA students at University of Pennsylvania. Last year I watched about 75% of the videos. This year I’m hoping to tune into the entire course, but listen, even if you only manage a single video all semester, you’ve gained something. The discussions are engaging, thoughtful, and lively. My highest recommendation.
Best of all: Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley Austin’s lovely membership site, has reopened its doors. There’s nothing else like it on the web. Lesley’s posts and pictures are nourishment for the soul, and I always come away with something to ponder, something to act on, something to cherish—just like in the Charlotte Mason motto about how a child should always have Something to Love, Something to Think About, and Something to Do.
At Wisteria & Sunshine, Lesley is preparing to lead us through preparations for An Unhurried Christmas…her gentle pace, beautiful images, nourishing words, and refreshing common sense are inspiring, as always. Perhaps you could splurge on an early gift for yourself and try a subscription?
And I just saw that Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy World is encouraging folks to sign up for her mailing list because she has a sale coming up. I love Wendi’s work. Her mailing list includes free sewing or embroidery lessons.
Concrete is the most widely used structural material on the planet, but it has a niggling habit of breaking down over time, giving rise to cracks, pits and holes that require expensive repairs or replacement. But what if concrete could mend itself? It turns out such a material already exists — and it could be used in a building near you in as little as 2—3 years.
In February of 2005, when Bonny Glen was just a few weeks old, I wrote:
When I was setting up this blog, I created a category called “Things that Inspire Me” with Small Meadow Press in mind…
…and Lesley Austin’s peaceful presence and lovely way of looking at home life have been inspiring me daily since then. There are Small Meadow touches all over my house: the “Peace Be on This House” garland hanging between living room and kitchen; the little stash of stationery (now almost gone, alas) in my correspondence basket; the small, handmade notebooks tucked into every bag I own; the calm brown binders I use for organizing paperwork; the quotation prints here and there about the house, framed or hung up with a ribbon.
I was sad when Lesley closed Small Meadow, though I well understand the necessary changes that come with new seasons of life. But with the closing of that door, Lesley opened a new one—a vine-covered door like the one into The Laurels or the Secret Garden, with a sundrenched radiance inside. Since its beginning, I’ve been a member at Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley’s subscription-based blog and forum for exploring “wild simplicity and deep domesticity,” and in these swift months it has become not only one of my favorite corners of the internet, but practically a way of life.
Each day at W&S, there is a new post from Lesley, sometimes two, discussing—in her exquisite prose, so lyrical it’s almost poetry—topics related to home and hearth, simplifying, decluttering, making one’s home-spaces lovely with simple, graceful touches. Some days she writes about a beloved author (it’s Lesley whom I have to thank for inspiring me to read The Scent of Water) or a book we’re enjoying together—right now it’s Wise Child. Some days she shares a thought-provoking quote, inviting discussion. What she has created at W&S is rather remarkable: a close-knit community of women working together to cultivate an atmosphere of peace, joy, and order in our homes. Each month Lesley chooses a focus: a particular corner of the house (she did wonders for my bathrooms and even my closets!) or a particular corner of the soul, you might say. During the wild rush of my spring—nose-deep in my novel, busybusybusy with the blur of six growing children—I found I was approaching my housework with genuine calm and more joy than I’ve ever taken in it. And the changes have stuck. I actually enjoy cleaning my bathroom.
The name, of course, comes from Enchanted April, one of my favorite movies of all time. For those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine, reads the ad that captures Lottie’s imagination and sets off that whole wonderful series of transformations. And just as the wisteria-and-sunshine garden of that Italian villa infuses its visitors with light and renewal and contentment that they carry back into the outside world, so too does the W&S forum. Can you tell I love it? I truly love it.
The monthly subscription fee is modest, and Lesley more than earns it with the hard work she puts into making the site nourishing, useful, welcoming, and beautiful; and I’ve also come to feel like the small commitment leads to a camaraderie and…hm, I started to say seriousness, but I don’t mean in any way grave or somber, I mean nontrivial, mindful, engaged…among the members. I have so enjoyed getting to know the other forum members, and having a closer connection with the handful of friends I’d already known.
Lesley, ever generous, has graciously offered a free three-month gift subscription to a Bonny Glen reader. Now, I have to tell you this delights me on multiple levels: one, because I want to see W&S grow and thrive, and I think you really have to experience it to grasp what riches it offers; and two, because I love my Bonny Glen readers and this means at least one of you will get to join us in the garden. (I would be thrilled if more of you decide to give it a try, even if you don’t win the giveaway.)
To enter, leave a comment on this post before 11pm Pacific time on Wednesday, July 4th. I’ll use a random-number generator to draw a name on Thursday morning. Spread the word!