These Are My People! The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat

In the post about my trip to Chicago, I mentioned a journal that I did not buy. Remember this?

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Even though I DO NOT NEED IT, I began to regret passing it up. It’s just so perfect.

Soon after I published that post, reader “Lipgloss & Wellies” commented with a link to The Mincing Mockingbird , the creator of this exact journal. So I had to explore.

Yup, there it was, and at a better price than in the Art Institute’s gift shop. So I ordered two (“Two is one and one is none.”), another cleverly titled journal, and some ridiculously wonderful pencils.

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Truth be told, I could’ve spent my entire paycheck on their site.

Matt Adrian and Kim Bagwell are the married artists behind The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat. As the “About” page on their site states, they’ve been “full-time purveyors of ridiculous, humorous and beautiful provisions since 2008.” Matt is the mockingbird and Kim is the meerkat.

These are my people. Or maybe I should say, these are my animals.

Anyone who comes up with the likes of the “Jittery Scribblings…” journal finds an instant place in my heart.

I also picked this up, to stash away for a gift…

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There are a slew of other oh-so perfect journal options on their site, along with cards, postcards, calendars, coasters, notepads, and mugs. Yeah, I kind of want it all.

Did you catch the imprints on the Troubled Birds pencils?

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“I’d sell you to Satan for one corn chip.” “I’m three ounces of whoop-ass.” Snarky. Hilarious. Smart. Had to have these.

Even the back of the box made me laugh out loud.

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Those uses? THE BEST. “Writing?” HAH!

There was a slight glitch with my order. One of my Jittery Scribblings journals arrived a little banged up from its travels.

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It wasn’t horrible, but I thought it best to let them know. So I dashed off an email with this picture and had a response within twenty minutes with an offer to replace the damaged journal. The replacement arrived a few days later in perfect condition. That’s exemplary customer service.

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Both journals I purchased come with dot-grid paper, but there are other styles available as lined or blank journals (e.g., “Mostly Just Whining” and “Creative Ramblings of a Restless Mind”). Each 5″x7″ journal contains 120 pages of 120 gsm paper that reportedly “takes ink beautifully.” So how does the paper perform? Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t used mine yet. I also don’t care.

These are just too clever and funny to pass up. Well, too clever to pass up a second time.

I’m actually glad that I didn’t buy the journal in Chicago because then I wouldn’t have received that helpful comment from “Lipgloss & Wellies” leading me to The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat website and their full array of products.

I’ve been poking around some more and and now I want this notepad and these postcards.

The world could surely use some humor and cleverness, and this site has giant helpings of both.

How could I not share?

Love,
Mary, your jittery introvert

You can see more of Matt’s artwork at www.mattadrian.com and view Kim’s paintings at www.kimbagwill.com.

Everything mentioned in this post was purchased with my own funds (with the exception of the replacement journal). I was not compensated for this review. Heck, they don’t even know about it. At the time of writing, I’m unable to locate a link for the “Jittery Scribblings…” journal on their site. Hopefully they’re just temporarily out of stock. I should’ve purchased ten. Or more.

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The Raspberry Honey Limited Edition Confidant by Baron Fig

What do you get when you combine this…

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with this…

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and this?

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The answer is THIS!

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Baron Fig’s latest Limited Edition Confidant, Raspberry Honey, is one sweet package. Packed inside a whimsically illustrated box (they had me right there), you’ll find the raspberry burgundy hued Confidant, along with an inspiring story that’s part fable, part fairy tale, written and illustrated by artist Geoff Gouveia.

I was immediately enchanted by the color, the artwork, and the tale of hope, friendship, and perseverance.

Oh, and the debossed cover.

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Yes, those are bees, which you may have guessed, figure heavily into this Confidant’s origin story.

What a cool detail.

Here’s where I make a confession. Well, two confessions, actually.

Confession #1: I own a few limited edition Confidants (Three-Legged Juggler, Work-Play, etc.) but have never written in one. They’re in my journal backlog, awaiting just the right purpose.

Confession #2: I couldn’t bring myself to write in this Raspberry Honey edition without having a plan. It’s too special to start marking up willy-nilly. (I’m aware that I have issues in this regard. Working on it.)

What to do, what to do?!

Then it dawned on me to do some writing samples in my standard edition Confidant (also unused) since the paper is the same as in this limited edition version.

So I tamped down my perfectionism and started trying out pencils…

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and liquid inks…

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and fountain pens…

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and a few gel inks and ballpoints.

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I was expecting some feathering or bleed-through with some of the wetter inks, but the performance of the paper thrilled me, and made me realize that I’ve got to start working through my Baron Fig stash. Perfectionism be damned.

The Raspberry Honey Confidant is the perfect place to record my own inspirational stories. A vow. I will do that.

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Ink testing in the original Confidant. Because I have issues.

I love the dot-grid pages and the lack of feathering with my widest (1.1 mm stub) nibs. I was even able to see a bit of sheen with the Robert Oster Fire & Ice ink in my Edison Pearlette. There was no show-through at all with the inks and nibs I used for testing.

This Raspberry Honey limited edition comes with the same set of features you’ve come to expect from other Baron Fig Confidants.

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Love the paper.

Love the cover.

Love the story.

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I’m completely and utterly charmed.

This Raspberry Honey Limited Edition Confidant is available directly from Baron Fig ($20.00 for one; You save a few bucks by buying two or three). The notebook reviewed here was sent to me, by Baron Fig, for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated and there are no affiliate links in this post. This post reflects my personal experiences with this latest Baron Fig offering.

Chicago Souvenirs

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A couple of weeks ago, Fred and I took the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train to Chicago for a few days of vacation. The train ride is a long one—about 13 hours going and 16 hours (because of delays) coming home. But it’s doable, and much cheaper than flying, so off we went.

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Once we got settled in at the Palmer House (excellent hotel!!), we walked to the Willis Tower and purchased City Pass booklets which save you money on a number of attractions and give you access to the “fast lane” for getting into the more crowded venues. In just three days, we stepped out into the dizzying Sky Deck at the Willis Tower…

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I’m not afraid of heights, but this was still a very weird sensation.

visited the Shedd Aquarium…

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spent hours in the Art Institute of Chicago…

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TILTED out over the city at the top of the John Hancock tower…

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and went to a White Sox vs. NY Yankees game.

Our hotel was close to Millennium Park so we spent time there taking in the gardens and the public art, like Cloud Gate (“the Bean”) and this “Faces of Chicago” water fountain installation.

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Water squirts out of this guy’s mouth every now and then. Mesmerizing.

We jammed a lot of stuff into three days and walked our heads off—about 10 miles per day. I actually lost weight on this vacation from all of the walking.

When I’m on vacation, I’m always on the lookout for souvenirs, but over the years that’s come to mean different things. With two dresser drawers stuffed with t-shirts, I really don’t need anymore, though it’s always tempting to add to that stash.

It will come as no surprise that I keep my eyes open for fun or interesting stationery-related items. Even though I have a whopping supply of pens, pencils, journals, ink, and paper at home, picking up a few new items while I’m in a different place feels okay. Why? Because these are things that you use and use up. So I did a little shopping.

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Decent souvenir pencils were surprisingly hard to come by, but I finally found these in the gift shop at the top of the John Hancock Tower. They feature the name of the city, a Chicago-style hotdog, a tour boat ride, skyscrapers and Michigan Avenue in fun graphics and eye-catching colors. I picked up four for $2.00. (Otherwise, they were $0.99 each.)

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Dick Blick was just a stone’s throw from our hotel so I had to explore ALL OF THE ART SUPPLIES there, even though I’m nothing more than a wannabe artist. Though I was tempted by so much—Rhodia and Leuchtturm notebooks, gel pens galore, colored pencils, notecards, and novelties, I purchased just a few simple items. These Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite pencils were a “must buy.” I resisted the urge to buy the full-range of lead grades and picked up the two that I’m most likely to use for plain old writing and maybe a little sketching (still trying to get over my art fear). They feel really cool in hand and write beautifully. I also picked up an M+R brass bullet pencil sharpener, perfect for pocket carry. For under ten bucks, I came away with some interesting goodies that I’ll definitely use.

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I’ve visited the Mont Blanc Boutique on Michigan Avenue in the past—to gawk at and handle the Limited Edition Jonathan Swift and Alfred Hitchcock fountain pens. This time I was on an ink quest. We walked block after city block to the Michigan Avenue location (with Fred mincing along in pain as his plantar fasciitis decided to flare up). I always feel like a sweaty under-dressed mess when I walk into the store, but despite this, have always been treated graciously by the salespeople. I took a quick glance at a few pens, but left with only the ink that I came for—Montblanc UNICEF 2017 Turquoise ink (50 mL, $39).

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Are there are other turquoise inks that cost less? Of course. But it’s a color I enjoy and since I rarely get the chance to visit a Montblanc boutique, I decided to splurge a little.

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Is this not perfect? (Art Institute of Chicago gift shop)

And then there’s the souvenir that I did not buy, though it tugged at my heart ever so strongly. God, I was tempted. It’s SO ME. But it was about $20 and I DO NOT NEED another journal (Fred kept reminding me of this) so I walked away. That was tough, and I may still try to track it down online. I probably should’ve just bought it. Ah, regrets.

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So this is my little haul of Chicago souvenirs. All usable. All carefully selected. All easy to pack and transport.

And of course I kept the Palmer House disposable pen from our room.

You’d do the same, right?!

 

 

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Prismatic Limited Edition Archer Pencils by Baron Fig

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Deep thinking. Big ideas. Changing the world. Like Baron Fig, I’m for all of that. But some days (most days, honestly) I don’t have the time or energy to think big thoughts. You’ll usually find me stuck in the weeds, hunkered down, getting my work done. Am I making progress? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. If I’m changing the world, it’s inch by inch.

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But still, I like good stuff.

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And these are good stuff. I’m no pencil connoisseur. I can’t take a deep dive  into the details of the wood and the lead-grade and the clues the experts obtain by sniffing a pencil. Honestly, when I take a whiff of a pencil, I only smell elementary school. BUT, I know when a pencil makes me happy, and these do that.

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Baron Fig’s packaging is, as always, eye-catching and functional, compact and colorful. The twelve pencils nest together perfectly, with virtually no wiggle room. It’s like a little pencil puzzle. The cardboard tube holds four pencils in each of the three colors—light blue, red, and yellow—all with a deep purple end dip.

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What appeals to me is the simplicity of the Prismatics—the primary colors and printed prism graphics that remind me of the doodles I used to draw in school. Pyramid, cylindrical, and square prisms are featured on one side of each hex-shaped pencil. On the opposite side, you’ll find Baron Fig’s name printed in the same understated white. It’s all pretty subtle. And subtle feels just right.

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I only sharpened one of the dozen—in my Classroom Friendly sharpener—and had no issues. The pencil sharpened cleanly, the core was centered, and the point sharp. As I said, I’m 98% pencil user and only 2% expert so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I’d judge the graphite to be a solid HB. On a scale from creamy to scratchy, I’d put this lead right in the middle. Pleasant, but not particularly memorable. It writes as a decent pencil should, with good line darkness, a little feedback, and impressive point retention. This is a well-balanced pencil in look, quality, and feel.

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Life feels like it’s getting more and more complicated and hurried, so when a simple tool comes along that makes you slow down and smile, you take notice. The Baron Fig Prismatics may not transform me into a deep thinker, but they make me happy.

Happy is good.

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The Limited Edition Prismatic Pencils are available directly from Baron Fig for $15/dozen.

The Prismatic pencils shown here were graciously sent to me by Baron Fig to facilitate this review. I was not otherwise compensated, and there are no affiliate links in this post. As always, this review represents my honest thoughts about, and experiences with, the provided product.

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Ubiquitous Capture Device: The Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebook

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.” -Shunryu Suzuki

I first came upon David Allen’s Getting Things Done in March 2007. It was not a particularly good year. I was feeling overwhelmed at work, home, church—well, everywhere, really. I felt like I was going under for the third, fourth, and fifth time; drowning in a sea of to-dos and meetings and obligations. I’ve always considered myself pretty organized, but even so, I was struggling.

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I also started to physically fall apart (related?), and wound up in the hospital having major (and surprise) surgery. This was not my finest hour. Somehow, during my extended recovery, I latched onto a copy of Getting Things Done and devoured it. I felt hope. I felt relief. Most importantly, I felt understood in my struggle.

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” -Horace

I implemented David’s system and saw immediate results. I could finally breathe. I was still dealing with the same obligations, but now I was getting things down on paper and into my “trusted system.” My life and circumstances were the same but I was engaging with all of the inputs in a more systematic fashion. My head no longer felt like it was going to burst into flames from grinding on everything it was trying to remember. There was a very physical kind of relief, along with a lovely mental weightlessness.

Since then, over these ten years, my system has evolved. I’ll always be tweaking things, looking for ways to implement the system more efficiently or more completely. I work largely with analog tools because I enjoy them (understatement of the year) and they are usually RIGHT THERE. I also use Trello to manage all of my various lists digitally. I’m happy with my current set-up, for the most part.

This week, David Allen appeared on the Whole Life Challenge podcast—in an episode that I just finished listening to this morning. I’m doing the WLC for the ninth time, and it’s going very well. I feel great. This week’s lifestyle challenge is called “Brain Toss.” In order to score your lifestyle points for the day, you have a generate a list of the things that are on your mind—things that you can’t deal with right now. No sweat for me. I’m up to my eyeballs in lists.

“There is no reason to have the same thought twice, unless you like having that thought.” -David Allen

But as I listened to that episode, I realized that while I have my daily work and personal to-do lists, I’m not capturing my thoughts as completely as I should be. Over the years, I’ve slipped in that key area. I write a lot of stuff down, but not everything. I’m still trying to keep track of things with my brain, which means that I’m not doing GTD as well as I should or could be. I need to, I realized, capture everything— the mundane, the important, the incidental, the large and small ideas, the smart stuff as well as the dumb stuff.

But what should I use? Normally I’ll grind on this decision much longer than I care to admit, but this time, the answer came easily.

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I have a healthy stash of pocket notebooks. That’s putting it mildly. I use Field Notes or Story Supply Co. or Write Notepads pocket notebooks on a daily basis, but I still have boxes full of unused editions. For this task, though, there’s one clear choice—Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebooks.

These memo pad style notebooks are 3.5″ x 5.5″—small enough to be carried everywhere— and feature a top staple binding. The fact that they’re top-bound makes them ideal, in my eyes, for use as a ubiquitous capture tool.

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I labeled the front cover for personal capture, and the back cover for work capture. Because the covers are very understated, customizing them to fit your own needs is simple. For my personal to-dos, thoughts, and random ideas, I’ll write in the notebook from front to back, then simply flip the notebook over and write from back to front for my work life. That way, both aspects of my life are captured in one notebook, but are still kept nicely separated. I love this setup.

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Throughout the day I’ve been jotting down thoughts and tasks and ideas in this notebook. From here, they’ll go into Trello for safekeeping and review, and then onto handwritten daily to-do lists when the time is right.

“Anything that does not belong where it is, the way it is, is an open loop pulling on your attention.” –David Allen

Once again, I’m capturing everything.

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Ready and waiting for the work deluge

Ten years in, I’m still practicing and honing my GTD methods and skills. Spurred by this week’s Whole Life Challenge lifestyle practice and podcast, I’ve decided to read the 2nd edition of Getting Things Done to see if, or how, I can move my understanding and practices to an even higher level. Starting today, I’m taking things up yet another notch by carrying the simple and perfectly formatted Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebook with me literally everywhere.

I really do hope to one day achieve “mind like water,” where I’m neither underreacting nor overreacting. Life goals.

The notebooks featured in this post were purchased with my own funds. There are no affiliate links in this post. All quotes credited to the first edition of Getting Things Done.

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Baron Fig Squire: The Limited Edition Experiment No. 108

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A week ago I went shopping for jeans, by myself. Hoo boy, was THAT an ordeal. Lots of dressing and undressing, lots of sweat, lots of trial and error. Too tight. Too loose. Too short. GAH!! I burned up my patience and a workout’s worth of calories trekking back and forth to the dressing room, tugging pair after pair on and off. Then—finally—the angels sang. The perfect fit. Boy, you sure do know it when you feel it.

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That’s exactly how I feel about Baron Fig’s Squire Experiment No. 108 rollerball pen. It is—simply put—the perfect fit. Like the jeans I finally found, or perfectly broken in sandals, the shape of the Squire feels “just right” in your hand. This pen is 100% comfortable.

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Though it might be hard to tell from this photo, the pen widens just slightly in the grip area, which is why it’s so pleasant to hold. The design is simple and stream-lined, but I bet that arriving at the Squire’s shape was anything but simple. There was probably as much sweat expended during the design phase of the Squire project as there was in my shopping excursion. Probably less grunting and swearing, though. Maybe.

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The color of the Experiment No. 108 Squire is gorgeous—bright and rich—really fresh. Described as “Chemical Green on the distinctive packaging and “Nuclear Green” on the website, this is a nicer green than I’ve seen in any lab. Most solutions in actual labs are <drumroll, please!> clear. How boring. I’m pleased that the team at Baron Fig took a bit of artistic laboratory license to create a pen in this striking color. “Clear” simply would not do, so “Chemical Green” it is.

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As someone’s who’s worked in and around labs for 40 years, I absolutely love the theme and branding on this pen. The bubbling round-bottom flask is a precious detail. As always, the folks at Baron Fig keep things simple, but interesting, and have another hit on their hands with Experiment No. 108.

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The writing tip deploys with just a twist of the end of the pen barrel, and here’s where I have one small complaint. It’s not with the mechanism, which works easily and smoothly. It’s that gap. As Brad mentioned on “The Pen Addict” podcast #257, the gap between the twist mechanism and the pen body is slightly wider on this pen than on my original Squire—enough so that it looks like something is just a bit off, like the tolerances weren’t as tight on this pen as they were on that original Kickstarter Squire.

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This difference really is in “The Princess and the Pea” territory—very minor—and probably only a niggling bother to OCD folks like Brad and myself. As I said, the twist mechanism works perfectly, with the tip deployed quickly and consistently every single time.

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The Experiment No. 108 Squire comes with a green Baron Fig branded Schmidt P8126 (o.6 mm) refill that writes solidly and smoothly. The ink is a bright and legible green that complements the pen’s anodized body perfectly. It’s cool to have a refill that’s not just standard black or blue. I have very few pens with green refills that write well. Rest assured, this green refill is flawless.

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This particular limited edition Squire has been universally embraced—universally loved—thus the bad news. The Experiment No. 108 Squire sold out very quickly, and is no longer available. That’s too bad. BUT—I think we can be sure that the folks at Baron Fig have plenty of other Squire surprises up their collective sleeves. There’s even a Squire subscription option to ensure that you don’t miss out on future limited edition offerings.  The current Baron Fig Kickstarter project wraps up in just a few days—on June 6th—and includes the option to add a Charcoal or Fig Wine Special Edition Lightbulb Squire to your pledge. (I’ve backed the “Starter Bundle: The Backpack” that includes notebooks and the pen. I’m all about the Fig Wine color.) The original Squires—in silver or charcoal—are always available and have everything going for them that the Experiment No. 108 pen does, with the exception of the special color/theme.

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The Baron Fig Squire is a well-designed pen that fits my hand perfectly. The theme of the Experiment No. 108 Squire fits my professional laboratory-based career just as perfectly.

What will they think of next?! I can’t wait to find out.

Thanks to Andi at Baron Fig for sending the Experiment No. 108 Squire my way. I was not compensated for this review which describes my honest thoughts and experiences with the pen. 

Who knew there was so much crap in my head?

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I started my Morning Pages practice in this Seven Seas Writer on June 25, 2016 with the words, “The first day of what I hope becomes a life-long habit*—to get up and write in this book—or any book—before doing anything else.” [*Well, life-long from here on out. I’m a notoriously late-bloomer.]

I’d already filled a few pages with infrequent entries that spanned about 13 months. That’s the story of my journaling life. Months between entries. Fit and starts. Abandoned journals. So many abandoned journals.

But something clicked on that June day, and I made a vow to write every morning and to FINALLY fill an entire journal. How many vows I’ve made in my life. A vow to keep the kitchen counter clear. Fail. A vow to put away my clothes rather than stacking them on the trunk at the foot of my bed. Fail. Vows and I have a checkered history.

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But this one—this vow to religiously write my morning pages—took root. On April 24, 2017, I wrote the final sentence in this particular journal—”The mad rush of the week begins soon. For now I’m just enjoying filling these pages, then meditating. A little more time for peace and quiet. A blessing.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t write every day. Weekend mornings can be tricky because our sleep schedule and responsibilities vary, but during the work week, I’m up at 5:30 am to put pen to paper. Without hesitation. This feels like a miracle to me, as I am distinctly NOT a morning person. Yet I always look forward to sitting at my desk, even though I’m bleary eyed and a little disoriented with sleep and the haze of frantic dreams. It’s a miracle that this practice has stuck. That there is always something to say. To be grateful for. To work through. To ponder. To explore. Feelings, thoughts, difficulties, and joys—all there to be examined and recorded. This makes me feel a little brave.

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480 pages filled one letter, word, sentence, page at a time. Colorful inks flow from cherished pens onto the luscious Tomoe River paper. It’s like eating dessert before the day begins—a treat, a privilege, a joy. This writing fills me up and calms me down. The effect is almost medicinal.

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With the Writer finished, I immediately started journaling in a Seven Seas Crossfield that I’ve had waiting in the wings. The cross grid is tighter in this book than the lines were in the Writer—5 mm vs. 7 mm—so the pages take me a little longer to write and look more dense when they’re filled. But this is not a race. This is a practice—a practice that is now as important to me as breathing.

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One letter. One line. One page.

Forever.