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:

Podcasts/Videocasts
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
Fontoplumo
The Goulet Pen Co.
JetPens
Karas Kustoms
Levenger
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!

Penpals
Tracy Lee
Michelle

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

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And now for something completely different…

Sandy & Mary
My sister and I. Have you ever seen such happy-go-lucky kids?!

I was always a skinny kid— could eat anything and everything and barely gained an ounce. In college, I tried to donate blood but didn’t weigh enough. The lower limit was 110 pounds. I sort of figured I’d always be this way.

I sort of figured wrong.

As the decades passed, my weight crept upwards, mostly due to eating for comfort rather than for fuel. Stressed? Let’s eat. Tired? Let’s eat. Happy? Worried? Sad? Let’s eat. Ice cream filled me up, and ultimately, filled me out. Bad morning at work? Let’s spend the lunch hour reading in my car at McDonald’s. Afterwards, I felt both better and worse. Mostly worse.

In my head, I thought I exercised because I do a lot of running around at work and I walk the dogs every night. Truth is, our two oldest dogs meander more than they walk, so an evening stroll involves a lot of standing still with some bursts of strolling. Let’s just say that my heart isn’t exactly pounding when we get back to the house. But in my head, I thought I exercised.

Iced coffee

I knew this path was not a good one— that I didn’t like how I looked and felt— so I’d pledge to do something about it….tomorrow. Except tomorrow kept getting pushed off and the changes never happened. How could I resist the allure of an iced coffee (cream AND sugar) or a glazed donut? I felt powerless. I felt bad. But not bad ENOUGH, apparently, to change.

Why, you may ask, am I posting this on my pen blog? Well…it’s the only active blog I have, AND there is a pen & ink connection to this story.

Back in September 2013, I watched Brian Goulet’s “30 by 30 by 30” video on Ink Nouveau where he discussed the mental and physical transformation that resulted in him dropping 30 pounds well BEFORE his 30th birthday. Everything he said in that video hit home— how he hated how he looked and felt, how he got sick of his own excuses, how he vowed to make a change. His words hit home, but still, I stalled and let the same old excuses loop through my brain.

I didn’t act in September or October or November or December, but Brian’s words lit a tiny flame— a flame that smoldered through the first four months of 2014. (Wouldn’t want to do anything rash, now would we?!)

In April, a small panel of co-workers spoke about their experiences after participating in the Whole Life Challenge. Their honest stories of how the 8-week challenge helped them break bad habits, exercise more, and lose some weight ignited the spark that Brian’s words lit so many months before. I was, finally and officially, sick of myself and my tired excuses. During their talk, I decided to go ALL IN— from spark to inferno in the course of an hour.

Starting on May 3rd, I did just that. I joined a team of 40+ co-workers who are participating in the latest edition of the Whole Life Challenge, which runs until June 28th. We JUST passed the half-way mark and I can’t believe how dramatically things have changed in just four weeks.

  • I’m down about 10 pounds and couple of belt notches.
  • I’ve lost my desire for foods that were mainstay treats (ice cream! fries! soda!).
  • Our shopping cart is 180 degrees different than it used to be. Just veg and meat and fruit and fresh goodness. NO sugar!
  • Our dinners are tastier and more varied. We’ve climbed out of a heckuva food rut that relied heavily on pasta, white potatoes, and white rice. I made applesauce (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg) in my crockpot on Saturday and it’s the best treat ever.
  • I’m exercising at least 10 minutes a day (the minimum to earn my daily points)…usually much more…either in the fitness center at work or riding my previously moth-balled bike.
  • I HAVE WILLPOWER! (Who knew?)

After just a month, I feel physically (and mentally) lighter. I have more energy. My acid reflux is gone. My headaches are less frequent and less severe. It’s only been four weeks, but I’m 100% sure that that changes I’m making are forever. This feels like a little miracle. Or maybe a big miracle.

Life is funny— you never know where a particular interest will take you. My love of pens and paper and ink has brought so many cool and wonderful people into my life— people I consider friends whether we’ve met in real life or not. We write letters, share pictures and stories, and bits of our lives. We entertain and inspire. We comfort and kid. We offer sympathy and understanding and advice. We can also, I’m finding out, change each other’s lives.

I’m writing here to offer Brian Goulet my gratitude for putting his story of struggle, denial, and ultimately, success out there. Even though it took MONTHS for me to take action, his video planted a seed that showed me what’s possible when you commit yourself to making a change, when you flip off the switch of denial and flip ON the switch of accountability and action.

I also thank the other members of my team for sharing their triumphs and struggles as we move through these eight weeks together, as well as the founders of the Whole Life Challenge, Andy and Michael, for giving me the rules, tools, competitive fun, and team support to help me FINALLY help myself.

I feel repaired, restored, and very, very grateful.

—————-
Edited to add: The next Whole Life Challenge starts September 13th. I’d be happy to form a team with anyone who’s interested. We COULD call ourselves “Ink Well.” (haha!)

The “Anti-Stealth” Edison Nouveau Premiere 2014 Spring Edition (Cherry Blossom)

A couple of weeks ago, I was blabbing about my love for all things stealth, like pens with black matte bodies and all-black nibs. I DO love those. I really do.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

But then I saw THIS pen on the Goulet Pens site and it’s obviously as “anti-stealth” as a pen can get. It’s pink and swirly and alive with depth and sheen. And it spoke to me. LOUDLY. Quite frankly, it would not shut up.

Pink & swirly!

Let’s set the groundwork— I’m not a pink person (she says, as she sits here wearing a pink shirt). Well, I did request a pink room when I was eight, but I chalk that up to falling for the “girl’s room = pink” stereotype of my youth. I’m much more drawn to earthy colors, and taupe. Lots of taupe. So me wanting this pink pen sort of came out of left field.

Sheen and depth and swirls!

It’s like how I LOVE the movie “The September Issue” despite being one of the least fashionable, comfort-trumps-all people I know. That movie, about the making of the September issue of Vogue magazine, is packed with moments of beauty, creative genius, and hard work. This pen, it seems to me, is packed with those as well.

Stabby ends

The Edison Nouveau Premiere model features a pointed body and cap, which makes it look a little “stabby.” That slightly tactical look, coupled with the luscious pink swirls, makes the pen that much more appealing to me. It’s like it’s tough and soft at the same time, which is a cool mix.

Translucent cap

One of my favorite things about the look of this pen is the translucency— how you can catch a glimpse of the nib and converter inside the pen. Coupled with the sheen and the swirls, this is, to me, the perfect look— full of interest and surprises.

Uncapped Cherry Blossom

The pen is a light one— 17g overall (10g body, 7g cap). This coupled with the nicely tapered grip makes it a great candidate for long writing sessions. The cap doesn’t post, but the uncapped body measures 5-1/8″ making it perfectly usable for just about everybody.

Edison nib

I ordered the pen with a medium steel nib, and after a bit of debate, filled the included converter with my beloved Levenger Shiraz ink. This is a “we were meant to be together” pairing, and writing letters and notes with this pen/ink is a true pleasure. The nib writes wonderfully. It’s juicy, with just a touch of feedback. No hard starts, no skipping. The ink always flows even if I’ve left the pen sitting for a couple of days.

Cherry Blossom

What’s really nice is that the #6 nibs are easily swappable. Just screw out one nib unit and screw in another. Because of this, I ordered a couple of spare nibs with my pen— a fine as well as a 1.1mm stub. It’s like having three pens in one for just a little more money.

Edison branding

As noted on the Goulet Pens website, “Edison Nouveau is a joint collaboration between Brian Gray of the Edison Pen Company, and Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company. This is an exclusive line of Edison fountain pens available only through the Goulet Pen Company.” Branding is super subtle, and notes that this is the 2014 Spring Edition of the Edison Nouveau Premiere, meaning this version will only be available until mid/late June. It’s not a limited edition pen (i.e., there aren’t a limited number available), rather it’s available during a limited timeframe. I’m already anxious to see the 2014 Summer and Fall versions.

Oh, those swirls!

But for now, I love my pink Edison Nouveau Premiere, despite my professed love of black stealthy pens. (It’s our inconsistencies that make us interesting, right?) This pen positively POPS and sparkles and shines. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s fresh and swirly.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

It is the Cherry Blossom.

Fun Find #2: Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawk Ballpoint

Monteverde Nighthawks
A pair of Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawks: Ballpoint [top] and Fountain Pen [bottom]

I picked up the Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawk fountain pen (a collaboration between Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens and Monteverde) as soon as it was released, just about a year ago. In my review of that pen, I noted how it pushed a number of my “this will make me buy a pen” buttons, like:

  • Stealthy looks
  • Matte finish
  • Carbon fiber

Unfortunately, the Nighthawk line has been discontinued by Monteverde because of some production difficulties (i.e., In some pens, tiny bubbles trapped in the carbon fiber were visible under the matte coating). My fountain pen appears to be free of this problem, and I’m particularly happy to own one since production has ceased. (There are some available from Goulet Pens and Anderson Pens, but these are the end of the line.)

Monteverde Nighthawks

So what does this have to do with a BALLPOINT Nighthawk? Well, I was poking around on the Anderson Pens site one evening and noticed that not only do they have some of the remaining fountain pens, but they also offer a Nighthawk ballpoint. Because I already own the fountain pen, it just made sense to pick up one of the ballpoints, because that pen, too, is wonderfully stealthy, and I assume, in limited supply.

Disassembled Nighthawk

The Nighthawk ballpoint takes my favorite Parker-style refill— the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000— which lays down a lusciously rich jet black line that’s smooth and thick. The blue refill is just as nice as the black one, assuming that you’re okay with lines that are on the broad side.

Nighthawk innards
All-metal innards

The ballpoint weighs 44 grams, so it’s no lightweight. I use it throughout my work day jotting my to-do lists in a Field Notes notebook so I don’t experience hand fatigue from writing with such a heavy pen. Longer writing sessions could, I suppose, get a little tiring, given the heft of the Nighthawk. The pens “innards” are sturdy metal (brass?) which explains why the pen feels so solid and substantial.

Monteverde Nighthawk ballpoint

The refill is deployed by twisting the upper or lower half of the pen’s carbon fiber body. This mechanism works silently and smoothly.

A subtle difference
VERY subtle Monteverde logo on the ballpoint end cap vs.  the plain fountain pen cap

In looks, the ballpoint is a “fraternal twin” to my fountain pen version, which means that there are a few differences aside from the fact that one’s a fountain pen and the other is a ballpoint. There were two slightly different versions of the Nighthawk fountain pen. I have the original version with a bigger carbon fiber weave and very minimal branding. The ballpoint more closely resembles version 2.0 of the fountain pen with a tighter carbon fiber weave, and just a touch more branding. My ballpoint features a very subtle rendering of the Monteverde logo on the clip end of the pen. This small detail was not included on the original version of the fountain pen to keep the pen super-stealthy.

Fraternal twins

A little bit of research revealed that there is an actual bird called the Nighthawk. It’s not black, but is well-camouflaged and stealthy. It’s considered a common bird but is declining in numbers.

The Nighthawk— the bird AND the pens— once they’re gone, they’re gone.

That seems like a real shame.