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

A Fair Shake: The Field Notes Bic Clic

A little shorter review this week because there’s a new member of the household who demands our full attention! Meet FLAPJACK! He’s our 9-week old Silky Terrier whose middle name should be Houdini. He scaled his playpen on day two, and is keeping us on our toes. We love him to bits.

Flapjack (9 weeks)

NOW, for the review…

Field Notes branded Bic Clic

My latest package from Field Notes included one of the Field Notes branded Bic Clic pens. As I was about to reflexively toss it into a mug of pens, it dawned on me that I’ve never spent much time writing with one. I give them away, I have them lying around, I stuff them into pen cups, but I don’t write with them. It was about time to give this retractable blast from the past a fair shake.

Bic Clic (Made in Mexico)

I spent a day using this pen only— an unheard of feat! (Sometimes I change pens in the middle of a sentence. No lie.)

It turns out, there are a lot of things I like about this pen. It feels comfortable in hand— nice taper, easy to grip. I’m smitten by the retro look and simple Field Notes branding. The clip, with its embossed Bic branding, is perfectly adequate. The knock functions reliably and with a solid sounding “click” (thus the name). The refill FEELS smooth and is not draggy. It’s easy to carry and inexpensive, which means it’s a good candidate for a “take it everywhere” pen. Lose one? Not a big deal.

Bic Clic knock

There is, though, one flaw. And for me, it’s the fatal flaw.

Bic Clic refill

The refill is merely adequate— just as it’s always been. There’s a lot of white space in the line, and the “black” ink is a blah gray. The line is not rich or solid— two things that I demand from my ballpoints. Since discovering the uni-ball Jetstream and the like, that’s pretty much the standard by which I gauge all other ballpoints. The Bic Clic, despite the attributes of its simple and iconic pen body, just doesn’t deliver a memorable writing experience.

Ink comparison
Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 refill vs. Bic Clic’s refill

Oh, how I’d love an ink upgrade in these pens!

Errand pen
A good errand pen

I posted a comment on the Field Nuts Facebook page asking if folks regularly use these pens and the answers were plentiful and varied. Some people love them, others don’t. Some use them for work all day long, while others leave them in their car or purse as an “emergency” pen.

Because I do love the Field Notes branding and the pen’s easy-to-throw-in-pocket form factor, I’m going to make a point of using these pens a little more, if only when I’m running errands and might have to jot something down. And maybe I’ll set a few free in the world— in a bookstore or coffee shop. I think that’s what these pens are best at— spreading a little Field Notes love.

Do YOU love and use the Field Notes Bic Clic, or, like me, do they cause you to reach for something better? Do you know of a refill hack that elevates this pen’s writing performance?

Be sure to let me know.

Fall: The Monteverde Prima (Brown Swirl) & Field Notes Traveling Salesman Limited Edition

Whoooeee…that’s a mouthful. But off we go…

Monteverde Prima, Brown Swirl, F nib

In order to get my day off to a peaceful/calm start, I’ve recently started an early morning ritual. Right after breakfast, I pick up one of our Silky Terriers (usually 10-year old Boo) and together we take look out into the woods behind our house. Sometimes we see birds and bunnies, maybe even a deer. But what struck me this morning were the colors. And how much those November colors remind me of the colors in the Monteverde Prima. (This sounds contrived…I know it does…but I honestly DO think like this.)

Here we are in late fall. The leaves are mostly gone, but there are still glimpses of gold and a little green and a lot of brown, in all kinds of muted shades and tones. With the sun low in the sky, the woods shimmered with the early light. Exactly like the Monteverde Prima.

Swirly goodness

With its chocolatey browns and shimmery golds, the Brown Swirl Prima is a perfect companion to the Fall Field Notes Limited Edition offering…the Traveling Salesman notebooks.

Made for each other

I’m a BIG list maker. Big. Really big. And my action/waiting/maybe lists for work and home used to be physically big…like 8.5″ x 11″ big. And at that size they freaked me out a bit. Everything just looked so LARGE and overwhelming. Around the time that I noticed a direct correlation between the size of my working lists and my level of anxiety, I fortuitously subscribed to the Field Notes Color series. Then I moved my lists from big sheets of paper into Field Notes notebooks. And I calmed down. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Fountain pen friendly ledger paper

Since subscribing, I maintain master lists in Evernote (so they’re synced and always with me), but my daily working lists are religiously hand-written in Field Notes notebooks…one for home and one for work. The Traveling Salesman Limited Edition notebooks are this year’s fall offering, and they’re perfect for the season. The cover is a rich “Hot Fudge” brown with “Fool’s Gold” metallic embossing, while the ledger style pages are a soft green…all colors that I see in both my woods and this pen.

Like the fall forest

The nib is fine and smooth…a little finer than some of the other fine nibbed pens that I own. It’s a touch on the drier side, but that may be the ink. Once this cartridge is gone, I’ll pop in the converter (which threads into the pen…nice!), and load it with a Montblanc black or brown. The Prima hasn’t given me a speck of trouble…no hard starts and no skipping. I’m once again impressed by Monteverde.

Well-behaved nib

I see autumn and my woods in this pen and this notebook. And when I’m in the thick of a crazy work day, that’s exactly what I need.


For more details on the Monteverde Prima line, check out Brian Goulet’s excellent video review at Ink Nouveau.