2014 Wrap-Up: The Feelings

Simple tree
Simple tree

I had planned to get a post up last week, but then I caught a cold (unexpected) and Christmas arrived (expected). One thing was fun, the other not so much. Slowly coming out of my sinus miseries and low-key Christmas celebrations to think about getting things back to normal. Well, normalish.

Baking cookies
Baking molasses cookies. Or as I call them, mole asses cookies.

I’m off from work for most of the week— just have to pop in on Friday for a little while— so every day feels like Saturday lately. Which is what I imagine heaven feels like.

Christmas colored Retro 51s
My festive Retro 51s

A couple of feelings routinely kick in this time of year, as one year ends and the other begins. The first is gratitude. Thanks for all of the good stuff and good people that I’ve encountered in the last year, much of it related to pens (and paper and ink and pencils) and the pen/pencil communities. These are the places where I feel most comfortable, where my introverted tendencies vanish, where I have a blast.

The Retrakt
Karas Kustoms Retrakt

Though not a complete list by any means, these are just some of the people and places who made 2014 a memorable year:

The Pen Addict with Brad and Myke (responsible for oh so many pen purchases and for an always entertaining commute)
The Erasable Podcast with Andy, Johnny, and Tim (Who would’ve thought I’d listen to a show about pencils? I do, and I love it.)
Anderson Pens (Oh, that chat! It’s like meeting with friends every time I tune in.)
SBREBrown & Gourmet Pens & the “I won’t be ignored” kitty (Great information with great humor. You guys rock.)

Pen, pencil, ink, notebook, and storage vendors
Anderson Pens
Dudek Modern Goods
Edison Pen Co.
Field Notes
The Goulet Pen Co.
Karas Kustoms
Nock Co.
Pen Chalet
The Pen Company
Retro 1951
Write Notepads & Co.

Thanks to some for supplying review items, to others for great customer service, and to all for great products and that extra-special personal touch.

My nib guy
Dan Smith @fpgeeks

Thanks for making less than stellar pens remarkable, quickly and affordably. Great work!

Tracy Lee

Thank you for understanding when I TAKE SO LONG TO REPLY. Your letters and cool envelopes are a source of delight in my mailbox. So glad we’re getting to know each other better while using our pens and inks.

Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers
I won’t name names because I’ll leave someone out then feel bad, but you all entertain and educate me, amuse and enlighten. This is the BEST community.

Best hotel
The Sheraton at Tysons Corner for returning my “left behind” Akkerman ink after the DC Pen Show. Amazing customer service. So grateful.

Pencils at the ready
Pencil line-up

The other feeling that kicks in this time of year is “fresh start.” Old year out, new year in. Time to purge, reorganize, and start with a blank(ish) slate. Fred and I regularly purge and straighten out our pantry during our break between Christmas and New Year’s. Annual ritual. Afterwards, we vow to use what we have on hand before adding more stuff to the cupboards.

Conklin Stylograph
Conklin Stylograph (to be reviewed)

In that same vein, I plan to make 2015 a year where I buckle down and USE my pens, pencils, papers, and inks— switching my focus from acquisition to using. When you have a Staples Printer Paper box full of empty notebooks, it might be time to stop buying notebooks and start writing in them. Like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I use my stuff but I need to REALLY use my stuff. There’s plenty here to be written in and written with, plenty to be reviewed, plenty to have fun with. Plenty.

Machined goodness
Machined favorites

So I’m closing out 2014 and starting 2015 feeling grateful and blessed. And you— all of you— are the reason.

Peace and good health to you all.

Write Notepads & Co.
Write Notepads & Co. loot

Shopping Local and Serendipity

I’m a big list-maker. A HUGE list-maker, especially at this time of year when there are cards to mail, letters to write, gifts to buy, extra errands to run, and all kinds of Christmas-related tasks to accomplish. There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off a box on one of the many to-do lists I cart around. (Well, MAYBE there are one or two other things—wink, wink, nudge, nudge!) I rarely venture out without a goal, a mission, a purpose.

But sometimes all of those checkboxes start bugging me and I just want to wander aimlessly. Like without a hundred things to do/see/accomplish. Like how I imagine other people live—with days full of whimsy and unplanned adventures.

What I realize when I finally get myself to do this— when I leave the list tucked away— is that cool things pop up. Cool pencil and pen-related things, it turns out. (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely turn off my “writing instrument radar.”) We hit a number of local craft shows throughout the year and have a great time wandering around and chatting with people making really interesting things— alpaca socks (the best!), soap, mustard, bowls, and brooms. You name it, someone’s making it.

Here are few of my serendipitous finds that are just too cool to not share.

Index card holder

Notecard holder

This little block of wood with an embedded magnet and ball bearing is the perfect thing to hold up an index card (for, you know, more lists). Intended to be a recipe card holder, I almost walked away from the booth because I never use recipe cards anymore. Then the light dawned (I was having a slow day, I guess) and I plopped down $5.00 for this wonderfully simple way to prop up any old index card.

Index card holder

It’s turned out to be really handy, and for five bucks, you can’t go wrong.

Handmade Pens 

Bob's pens

I run into Bob and Virginia Lenhart a couple times a year, and almost always find something on their table of colorful and well-crafted kit pens to bring home.  At the last show, I picked up The Spartan, the top pen in the photo, and swapped out the ballpoint refill for a Moleskine gel refill. Accented with #10 o-rings and gunmetal accents, the design is unique and fun to hold. The bottom pen, with its magnetic cap, is one that I use all the time, certainly as much as some brand name pens. The prices are right and it’s just fun using pens that are made by such nice local folk.

Old Pencils

Old pencils

On Saturday evening, we stopped at the open house of a local antique shop for punch and cookies and a look around. Amongst the costume jewelry, beer steins, china, coins, and Bullwinkle glasses (tempting!), I stumbled onto a few shoeboxes stuffed with loads of old pencils. PENCILS. Man, oh, man, did I start pawing through those. An older couple look on and chuckled and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want old pencils, but when I showed them the cool designs, the old time phone numbers (4-4475), and the awesome colors, they started coming around, and the woman admitted, “I DO like writing with pencils!”

Old pencils

I wound up picking out a couple of handfuls, despite dried up erasers and that basement smell. I couldn’t have been happier.

Old pencils

Who knew that all of these treasures lurked in the little shop I drive by all the time?

Old pencils

So though I am list-bound most of the time, these unexpected finds remind me that it’s fun to get out and see what the world tosses my way. Who knows what treasures lurk right in your town, your village, your neighborhood. Shop local and keep your eyes open for surprises. It’s as much fun as checking a box.

WINNER: The Divide

The names of all eligible commentors were entered into a spreadsheet, assigned a number, then a Random Number Generator was used to select the winner of Mike Dudek’s The Divide.

Drumroll, please….

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.23.59 PM

Lucky #63 is Ian T

Ian T says:

All the pen and pencil blogs I read feed my lust for writing instruments and accessories! I would love to have a Dudek Divide to bring some order to my desk.

Ian, your wish for greater order has been granted! I’ll be in touch via email to get your address so that I can pass it along to Mike.

Thanks for all who read and left comments. This was, by far, my most popular giveaway. You guys recognize great work when you see it!

United We Stand: The Divide by Dudek Modern Goods (A Giveaway!)

The Divide

We humans are always finding ways to divide ourselves into “us” and “them.” Coke vs. Pepsi, introverts vs. extroverts, cats vs. dogs, early risers vs. night owls. We like what we like and burn through energy trying to convince others why we’re right and they’re wrong. What a strange bunch we are!

The Divide with pencils

I’ve found an exception to that rule in the pen, pencil, and paper communities. Instead of bickering about what we personally like or dislike, I’ve found the “writing implement” community to be fun, supportive, encouraging, down-to-earth, and exceptionally friendly. These are my people. We may have different tastes, budgets, and obsession levels, but we’re always there to help each other with advice, kind words, recommendations, and solutions.

The Divide

The Divide, by Mike Dudek of Dudek Modern Goods, represents that “let’s all get along” spirit by providing a place for your pens, pencils, AND pocket notebooks to live in harmony. Starting out as a special request by Tim Wasem of the Erasable Podcast, The Divide is now a regular in Mike’s line-up of handmade goods. Mine arrived last week and I already find myself longing for a second one— one for work and one for home. This thing looks and feels great, SMELLS divine (that wonderful “woodshop” smell), and is absolutely perfect for corralling six of your pens, six of your pencils, and three of your pocket notebooks. No more flotsam and jetsam scattered all over your desk.

Felt pads & branding

Made of solid walnut by Mike himself, The Divide measures 2.5″H x 5.5″W x 3″D. It has a “just the right size” footprint that doesn’t consume too much desk space. Using my handy dandy (and cheap) Harbor Freight digital caliper, I found that the pencils holes measure 0.4″, while the pen holes measure 0.5″ and 0.6″ (give or take a few hundredths of an inch). Hand-rubbed with a stain poly finish, The Divide feels like a small piece of fine furniture. The underside features felt pads to prevent the surface of your desk (or the bottom of The Divide) from getting scratched, as well as a smart looking Dudek Modern Goods “brand.” It’s simple but solid. Divided but harmonized. It’s a really, really nice piece of handcrafted goodness.

The Divide

I picked mine up from Mike’s shop, but thanks to Mike’s generosity, you can enter to win your very own Divide. Just post a comment on this blog— maybe pass along a few words about how the pen/pencil/paper community has helped, encouraged, or entertained you. I’ll assign each comment a sequential number, then will use a random number generator to select a winner. Post your comment (one per person, please) by Sunday December 7th, 11:59 pm Eastern Time (USA). I’ll select a winner on Monday December 8th, and will post their name right here on the blog. You’ll have a week to get in touch with me with your address so that I can pass it along to Mike. (The Divide will ship directly from Mike to the lucky winner.) The contest is open to US and international readers. [Pens, pencils, and Ambition Field Notes not included in the giveaway.]

The Divide

The world can be a prickly place, but our love of pens, paper, pencils, and notebooks keeps us together— just like The Divide.

The Divide

Check out The Divide, as well as Mike’s other products HERE.

(There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not compensated for this review. I’m just a big fan of Mike’s work. Thanks to Mike for making this prize available for giveaway.)