I have a little routine for loading up my car before heading to work—travel mugs of iced coffee and HINT water go into the front and center cupholders (trip #1), then my USPS backpack goes behind the driver’s seat (trip #2). Once at work, since the parking lot I use is a bit of a hike from my office, I drop off my backpack and drinks at the back door to my building, then head off to park. Day after day after day.

My backpack is something of a clown car, packed to the gills with necessities (work keys, wallet, OTC meds, spare earrings, a mini-umbrella, and maybe a lunch) as well as a mini (mid-sized?) stationery store.

Required notebooks:
1) Levenger Junior Circa for master action, waiting, and someday/maybe lists for both work and home
2) Hobonichi Techo—my calendar “bible”
3) Pocket notebooks—one each for work and personal to-do lists

Weighing in at just over two pounds, this doesn’t seem too outrageous.

The pens, though, are kind of out of hand. No—not “kind of.” VERY out of hand.

What happens is that I spy a pen I haven’t used in awhile then toss the whole case into the depths of my backpack. Repeat that a few times and eventually I find myself lugging around a very hefty load. (Why ever could my shoulders be aching?!)

In my defense, I have a writing implement to suit every mood. A ballpoint mood! A gel pen mood! A vintage mechanical pencil mood! I’m ready for any pen whim, and honestly, find comfort in having so many of my favorite things with me, even if they do weigh as much as a small farm animal. Ah, pens—my personal security blanket.

So imagine my horror when I threw open my car’s back door yesterday morning and realized that I HAD NOT loaded my backpack into the car!! ACK!! Talk about feeling unmoored (and a little bit woozy and disoriented). No notebooks! No pens! No security blanket! However would I face the day?!

I briefly considered driving home (about 20 minutes each way), but then took a deep breath and decided to embrace the challenge. Could I get through the day without all of my stuff? Could I go all “stationery minimalist” for an entire work day? Do I really need to lug around 85 pounds of paper and pens to do my work?

Turns out, I do not.

Coincidentally enough, I’d tucked an unused Levenger Circa Jotlet into my jacket pocket before leaving for work. (Premonition, maybe?) Why not give the Jotlet a whirl, along with the Ti2 Techliner that’s always in my pants pocket.

One pen. One notebook. A mere four ounces.

Oh, plus a dual-ended red/graphite Caran d’Ache pencil. Maybe 5 grams?

This super-minimal stationery kit got me through the work day without a hiccup. A stationery triumph and lesson learned. Travel lightly. Or at least lighter.

I’m not losing the notebooks, but I can surely carry FAR fewer pens. I realize that now.

In the course of the morning, I went from unmoored to unburdened.

Did you hear that? That sound in the distance? That’s my shoulders sighing in relief.

An Earthy Pen & Ink Pairing

The Week # 10 ink bundle included eight Franklin-Christoph colors: Midnight Emerald, Terra Firma, Red 187, Tenebris Purpuratum, Black Cherry, Brown 732, Dark Chocolate, Noir et Bleu—a few browns, a purple, two reds, and a couple of blues. The real fun of this ink adventure, after the bi-weekly reveal, is coming up with new pen and ink pairings. I’m (just barely) resisting the urge to load up multiple pens with ALL OF THE INKS, though that’s certainly a legitimate strategy, and one I have not completely ruled out. But for now, I’m showing some restraint and taking my time.

In anticipation of mud season—when you suddenly realize how much you’ve missed the smell of dirt and the promise of spring—I inked up one of my Karas Kustoms Vertex pens (the now sold-out Washington DC Fountain Pen Supershow version) with Franklin-Christoph’s Terra Firma ink.

This particular Vertex features fine gold mica dust in a subtly swirled yellow/gold/brown/black acrylic that pairs wonderfully with the earthy ink. There is some matchiness between the pen and ink but they are not dead-ringers for one another. Nicely complementary, I think. The Vertex’s medium steel nib lays down a smooth, wet line that makes this caramel-colored ink pop.

Pen and ink pairings often take a bit of trial and error to hit just the right combination, but this brown(ish) pen + brown ink immediately hit a sweet spot for me. There is a complexity of color in both the pen and the ink that makes for a terrific pairing, more interesting than you might think at first glance.

Here’s to the coming thaw, to (slightly) warmer and sunnier days, to fresh air and long walks on muddy trails. To Terra Firma. Solid ground. Solid ink.

Note: I wrote this post and then found that Terra Firma no longer appears to be available from Franklin-Christoph. Well, shoot. So now it’s a candidate for some ink sample giveaways in the future. Stay tuned.

Small But Mighty Pick-Me-Ups

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” —Lord Byron

The last few weeks have been dotted with garden variety frustrations, anxieties, and headaches. But even when my day goes completely haywire, receiving a handwritten note or letter never fails to turn my mood around. POOF goes that swirl of grumbly thoughts and grievances only to be replaced by a warm effervescence. The hard edges of the day soften, and I immediately regain my sense of humor about the ridiculousness of letting stupid stuff get to me.

With friends who share their own joys and challenges tucked inside an envelope, how can I not be grateful?

Notes/notecards from two friends—a gorgeous laser-cut design from one, and original artwork from another.

Greetings from Portugal via a lovely travelogue letter

complete with sea shells from the beach in Albufeira.

I love writing letters as much as I do reading them. I dive in headfirst— sharing stories that I hope are (somewhat?) entertaining. How the neighbors’ bunnies escaped and the hot pursuit that followed, about the drives my mom and I take every Sunday afternoon, movies seen, books read, walks taken. I just keep writing until I feel written out. Doing so feels so therapeutic and meditative. More meditative than meditation for me, actually.

Good wishes, shared experiences, crazy/funny stories sent back and forth. This is where my heart feels at home. This is my sanctuary—a refuge from a world that often feels very out of whack.

Here’s to friends and laughs and inky hands. Let’s keep each other afloat.

Letter writing is an excellent way of slowing down this lunatic helter skelter universe long enough to gather one’s thoughts.” —Nick Bantock

The Day the Stationery Store Came to Me

Last Saturday afternoon, after spending a couple of hours writing a letter at our local bookstore, I came home to find a large and heavy box on our front porch. The thought bubble over my head read “?????” I’m successfully sticking to my “No Buy” pledge so I knew it wasn’t anything I’d ordered. Upon closer inspection, I noted that the return address belonged to one of my pen friends, but this piece of information just added to the mystery. What the heck could it be???

I didn’t even take off my coat before slashing open the carton. Sweet anticipation. Flipping open the carton’s cardboard flaps revealed a sight to behold. A treasure trove. The mother lode. Inkapalooza 2023!!

The carton revealed 25 carefully wrapped and labeled bundles, the meaning of which was revealed in the enclosed note:

“I read about your self-imposed stationery purchasing ban. I thought I could ease your pain a little with the contents of this box. There is no week 52 since I expect you will be placing an Anderson Pens order that week. All the best, Paul.

Now the thought bubble over my head was filled with “!!!!!!!” as puzzlement shifted to joy. Pure ink joy.

Paul, once an avid ink reviewer, has trimmed his personal collection down to twelve favorite inks, and is now pursuing other interests that benefit both himself and his young family, like cooking and furniture-making. Thus his divestment of this abundance of inky riches.

After a flash of desire to unwrap everything right then and there, my first-born rule-follower tendencies kicked in and I knew I’d get the most fun from following the directions of Paul’s letter to a tee. Since the shipment arrived on February 25th, I HAD TO unwrap the first few bundles to play catch up. <twist my arm> Here’s what Santa Paul sent my way for weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8:

Week #2Lamy Tipo (Coffee) and a Noodler’s Dixie #10 in Methuselah Ebonite

Week #4—Pelikan Brilliant Brown, Parker Quink (blue), and Waterman Serenity Blue

Week #6—Cult Pen’s Diamine “Deep Dark” Brown, Orange, Red, Blue, Green, and Purple

Week #8—J. Herbin’s Lie De Thé, Ambre De Birmanie, and Poussiére De Lune

Amazingly, these are all “new to me” pens and inks—there’s not a repeat of anything in my own collection so far. I’ve been using the Lamy Tipo all week, and am journaling with Waterman Serenity Blue, Pelikan Brilliant Brown, and Diamine Deep Dark Blue and Brown. So many more to try.

Today’s morning pages were written with Diamine Deep Dark Brown

Obviously there’s A LOT of ink here, so as the time progresses I’ll come up with some ways to share this windfall, to spread the joy around. Being on the receiving end of such generosity has also inspired me to look at my own stationery stashes with a critical eye and to brainstorm ways to share some accumulated treasures. What a fun little project to contemplate.

But for now, I’m having a blast unwrapping, savoring, using, and anticipating using, this unexpected gold mine of ink. (Ink mine?!) Even though the March weather plods on in in its grey and gloomy mood, my pens and journals are alive with color and cheerfulness.

Thank you, Paul, for this stationery store in a box. I promise to pay your kindness forward.

With gratitude,