Pens In Real Life: Taking the Gross Out Of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is a necessary evil. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. We go once a week, usually on Friday evening, to avoid the dawdling hordes that descend on Saturday. We like to get in and out as efficiently and quickly as possible. But then, who doesn’t?

DotDash grocery list

Oops…I wrote cherries twice. I must really want them.

I use a program called MacGourmet to digitally organize recipes on my desktop iMac. What’s really great is that I can export the recipes from MacGourmet to DropBox as .txt files so that they’re easily accessible via my phone. So even if we’re eating out, as we often are on a Friday evening, I can quickly pull together a grocery list for the coming week. As we brainstorm our needs and wants, I record the list on a Nock Co. DotDash 3×5 card, while also sketching out a tentative menu plan on the back of the same card. We do this every single week. And if we can’t, because of a Friday night event, we feel off-kilter. Creatures of habit, is what we are.

A packed Nock Co. Sinclair

The pen I use to write out the list, and to make my OCD checkboxes, varies from week to week, but it’s often selected from the stash of pens I have stored in my goes-everywhere-with-me Nock Co. Sinclair. I have a lot of stuff packed in there because I like to cover a lot of pen bases for whatever pen need or mood comes my way. Gel ink, liquid ink, fountain pen, and ballpoint options are all represented. It’s a clown car of a pen case. The Nock Co. DotDash card easily handles whatever type of ink I throw at it. Plus the grid is the perfect guide for drawing the checkboxes. I find them comforting. (Is that weird?)

Grocery list and Karas Kustom's INK rollerball

The pen I chose to write out my list this Friday was the INK rollerball by Karas Kustoms. (Huh. I’m not seeing the rollerball version on their site at the moment.) The Schmidt P8126 liquid ink refill is bold and smooth. The INK rollerball is a great writer that’s as fun to look at as it is to hold and use. All of this pen goodness distracts you from the fact that you’re preparing for a chore. The INK glides. Your mind goes to a happy place. I’m pretty sure endorphins are released. This is a good thing.

Uni-Style Fit Multipen

The list is made. We head to the store. Time to get down to business.

As we pick up each item on the list, I color in the little checkbox with red or orange ink. Yes, I could just check the box. I suppose. But the completely filled in boxes appeal to me, AND I get to use yet another pen. This week it was my Uni Style Fit 3 Color Multi Pen outfitted with brown, green, and red 0.38mm gel refills…a super sweet and customizable pen that I’ll write about in more detail before too long. (Thomas Hall got me hooked on these. Thomas, Master Enabler.) The Uni Style Fit refill colors are strong, and the ultra-fine point is wickedly smooth. The colored boxes make it abundantly clear what we’ve loaded into our cart and what we’re still trying to track down. Plus it’s fun to color, even if it is just a little box.

If we have to hit more than one store, as we almost always have to do, I jot the alternative store name next to the item. You know, for fun.

Grocery shopping gear

Despite this post’s name, I don’t really find grocery shopping all that gross. Unless it’s on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. Then, ick. But it is a chore that will always be there, week after week. The trick is to make it as palatable and efficient as possible. Using my pens and favorite 3×5 cards, I’ve nailed down a system that works for me, while injecting some fun into the process.

Grocery shopping tools

Now to find those elusive cherries.

 

 

 

My Security Blanket: Traveling With Too Many Pens

I love the thought of going away. Seeing friends, having new experiences, taking in fresh scenery, enjoying a break from home and work routines. Finally a chance to exhale.

But travel itself, especially when flying, is fun and draining at the same time. The packing. The security rigamorole. Timing airplane bathroom breaks appropriately. Not losing any of your stuff. There’s always some point along the way where I kind of wish I was home. Just an inkling of homesickness creeps in along the way.

I miss my things–my husband (if he’s not with me, as on this current trip), our crazy pups, my own just-so pillows, a well-stocked refrigerator, ice on demand.

I swear, I have an easier time deciding what clothes to pack than picking out which pens to bring. I always miss the ones that aren’t with me. I stock my Nock Co. Brasstown with more pens than a sane person needs, then typically swap things in and out until zero hour. There’s so much mental chatter in my head about my pen selections that it makes me feel like I must be going off the deep end. But what a deep end it is!

Part of me wishes that I could embrace minimalism–pick ONE pen and use ONLY it for the entire trip. Maybe someday. Right now that thought gives me what is technically called the heebie jeebies.


So here I am in California, oh so far from home, with new and old pen favorites. For this trip (a conference), I brought along:


Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger fountain pen. Nice fine point for note taking. Replaceable should the unthinkable occur.


Karas Kustoms Two-Tone Retrakt outfitted with Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill. Great pen in my favorite color.

Ti2 Techliner Red Alert and Orange Crush. The Red Alert is outfitted with a uni-ball Jetstream  0.7 mm black ballpoint refill while the Orange Crush holds a uni-ball Signo 207 0.7 mm gel refill…both excellent options.


Amy Grigg’s Apex Kickstarter pen with a Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Great on the Levenger Circa Vivacious paper in my notebook. Smooth. Dark. Gorgeous wood.

 
Bigidesign’s Ti Post Raw Pen + Stylus
, also with the Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Do I need to carry two pens with the same refill? Nope. I never said any of this was reasonable.

Retro 1951 Lift-Off with a Schimdt P8126 refill. It’s my newest Retro so why shouldn’t it travel with me to California?

I also have my Lamy Scribble tucked into the Hightower, should I need to do pencily things. I have not tired of this mechanical pencil. It’s a gem.

There’s no need to carry this many pens across the country. Technically I could survive with a few of the Bic Stic Queen Mary pens the hotel provides. But these pens and pencil (and pen case) make me feel secure. They’re unique, well-made, and reliable–comfortable to hold and top-notch performers. They remind me of the connections I have with the folks who make and sell them. We’ve exchanged everything from brief messages to emails to long letters. Pens aren’t just pens. They’re the people behind the pens.

And that feels like home.

—–

This post was composed and photographed entirely with my iPhone, so excuse the lack of links (too cumbersome) and any formatting and lighting oddities. Fun fact– the photos were taken on the desk President Eisenhower used while aboard the Queen Mary. I’m sharing his suite with a friend. Pretty cool.


Letter Writing: Stuff That Helps

I used to write a ton of letters, usually on my typewriter. (Imagine that.) When I landed my first job, I bought an electronic one that had a one-line LED read-out that seemed like an amazing upgrade from the clunky manual version I used all through college. Eventually I sprung for a Magnavox Word Processor (bliss!), and then, finally, for my first Mac. With the computer, came the internet and email and my letter-writing trailed off. Then came messages and texts, and sometimes, just emoji (as if actual words are too hard). Communicating with friends and family has gotten easier and quicker, but has it gotten better?

Silky with letter

Isn’t receiving actual mail the best thing?! Receiving a letter—with stories and humor and common interests laid on paper by someone’s hand—can make a blah day zippier. I find myself making a little ritual out of reading a letter—comfy chair, ample time, a cup of tea. A letter is a dessert of words that you really want to savor.

"Thanks for the letter!"

I have a couple of faithful pen pals (hi, Michelle and Tracy!) and InCoWriMo has given me some new friends. I’m not the fastest responder, but I find it so relaxing to sit down with pen, paper, and ink then letting the words fly. As I thought about my letter-writing process, I realized that there are some tools and products that might be fun to share.

PAPER

Tomoe River Paper

I pretty much stick to Tomoe River paper for all of my letters, except for cards and quick notes. It’s shockingly thin, yet delivers an incredible writing experience— without any feathering or bleed through, even with wet and wide fountain pen nibs and inks. There’s a touch of show-through, but nothing that keeps me from using both sides of the page.

Tomoe River Paper

I buy packs of 100 sheets (A4 size) from JetPens, then fold the sheets in half to make little booklets for four-page letters. For shorter two-page letters, I just tear the sheets in half. The dimensions are as follows:

  • Tomoe River A4 Full Size: 8.3″ x 11.7″ (210 mm x 297 mm)
  • Tomoe River A4 Half Size: 8.3″ x 5.85″ (210 mm x 148.5 mm)

This is gorgeously smooth paper— feather-light but able to handle even the wettest inks. I can’t recommend it enough.

ENVELOPES

Envelope template

Inspired by my pen pals, I’ve started making my own envelopes from the stacks of 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking papers that I have on hand. (My scrapbooking phase sputtered and burned before it could get off the ground.) I use the Handmade Envelope Template—Western Version—available from JetPens.

Tracing the envelope shape

The process is super simple. Just trace around the guide on the back of your decorative paper, cut out the traced design, score, fold, and glue.

Cut out envelope designs

Scored and folded envelope

I always make the largest size available on this template as it’s perfect for holding a quarter-fold sheet of the A4 paper (i.e., the letter “booklet” folded in half), but depending on which guide you trace, you can make four sizes of envelopes with this one template.

  • 2.6″ x 4.1″ (65 mm x 105 mm)
  • 3.9″ x 5.8″ (98 mm x 148 mm)
  • 4.5″ x 6.4″ (114 mm x 162 mm)
  • 4.7″ x 6.7″ (120 mm x 170 mm) —> My favorite!

Assembled envelope and Glue Pen

I use the Kuretake Craft Glue Pen to assemble the envelopes. Like I said—it’s all very easy, and kind of relaxing. I address the envelopes by using 1″ x 2-5/8″ address labels, so that the recipient’s address and my return address are legible against the graphic print of the envelope.

LETTER CONTENT

Ledger of ideas

As I get older, my brain seems to be “spongier” than it used to be. Ideas flit through and drip out, so it takes a little more work to make them stick. I’ve discovered that I need a system to keep track of 1) the topics I want to cover; and 2) the unplanned topics I end up writing about. Funny story— I started a letter to a friend one day, then wrapped it up on the following day. When I read the pages over before sending it off, I was horrified to find that I’d written about the same topic in both halves of the letter. Egad.

Ledger full of ideas

SO–to combat the encroaching memory issues, I use one of the Field Notes Ambition ledger books to jot down things I want to write about. I then check off the topic when it’s covered, and also add the date of the letter where the subject was discussed. I also make note of things that weren’t on my original list in order to capture each letter’s details on the fly. With this simple system, I repeat myself less often, much to the delight of my oh-so patient pen pals.

STAMPS

Limited Edition Forever stamps

There’s no need to use the same old same old, run-of-the-mill Forever stamps. The post office carries a bunch of limited edition Forever stamps that add just one more cool touch to your letters. My current favorites—shown above—are Batman, Farmers Market, and Celebrity Chefs.  I now stalk my local post office looking for fun new designs.

Letter-writing is a great way to slow down and reconnect with friends and family in a deeper way than any emoji can accomplish. Use those pens. Write a letter.

"Bye for now!"

Credits: The adorable drawings were part of a recent letter from my new InCoWriMo pen pal, Thèrése. (I can’t draw to save my life, but her cute figures and scenes make me want to take a stab at it.) The Tomoe River Paper, Kuretake Envelope Template and Glue Pen were originally purchased using some sponsorship money from JetPens. I can assure you, though, that I continue to replenish my supply of these items with my own money. There are no affiliate links in this post.

 

A Cabin Fever Giveaway, Courtesy of JetPens

Regal Fountain Pen

Hoo boy, am I ever sick of winter! The local news recently reported that this was, in fact, the coldest February on record in central NY, with an average temperature of 7.2ºF. This breaks the old record of 9.2ºF set WAY back in 1857. So, yeah, we’re freezing, and a lot of us (me!) have a severe case of cabin fever. It’s been so cold that outdoor sports are downright painful. We ventured out on snowshoes on a particularly bitter and blustery day, and within minutes my fingers started to burn from the cold, despite heavy-duty mittens, so back inside we went. Thank god for hot tea, fleece, and flannel sheets.

Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen

Are YOU sick of winter and looking for a little pick-me-up? Thanks to some sponsorship money from JetPens, I have just the thing— a giveaway sure to warm your heart and your head. I wrote the rough draft of this review with a Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen, with a medium nib. This pen popped up in a recent JetPens newsletter and I thought it’d be fun to try out, then give away.

Regal 503 Hadrian Fountain pen

The pen’s copper body sports a gunmetal finish, and an etched line pattern, giving it that executive look without the executive price. The pen’s accents are chrome-plated and there’s a Swarovski crystal on the clip for a touch of elegance. (To be honest, the crystal isn’t really my thing, but it’s pretty understated and not too blingy.) The pen has nice heft and balance, weighing 30.3g capped (16.4g body, 13.9g cap). The snap cap posts securely and is in no danger of wiggling off.

Regal Hadrian 503 Fountain Pen

The pen takes short international cartridges, and one is included with the pen. (A converter is not included.) The nib lays down a nice medium line, and is fairly smooth. I haven’t experienced any hard starts or skips. (I used a spare cartridge I had on hand to write the review. The original cartridge will ship with the pen.)

JetPens Jet-Do Beanie
Photo courtesy of JetPens

Did you know that JetPens sells hats? No? Well, now you do! And because we’re talking about winter and cold weather, I’m going to toss in a couple of these super-cute Jet-Do Mascot Beanies as giveaway prizes. Made of  milk cotton, the hats are wonderfully soft, while also being machine washable. Size XL fits most women, while size XXL fits most men (the difference in size looks to be quite minimal). There’s also a medium size, suitable for kids. Sure to scare away the March chill with their whimsical good looks, the hats are a great way to show your love for all things JetPens.

P1060361

Winner #1 will get BOTH the Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen, AND one of the hats (choice of XL or XXL).

Jet-Do Beanie Hat

Winner #2 will win the second hat.

To ENTER: Just post a comment on this blog— maybe tell me about your favorite JetPens product or products. I’ll assign each comment a sequential number, then will use a random number generator to select TWO winners. Post your comment (one per person, please) by Monday March 9th, 11:59 pm Eastern Time (USA). I’ll select the winners on Tuesday March 10th, and will post their names on the blog. You’ll have a week to get in touch with me with your address so that I can ship your prize to you. The contest is open to US and international readers.

Thank you to JetPens for making this giveaway possible, and for bringing us such a wide variety of interesting and useful products. Yes, even hats.

A Rollercoaster Ride: The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball

Sincere thanks to my friends at JetPens for making the purchase of the J. Herbin pen and ink reviewed here possible. There are no affiliate links, and I was not, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experiences and observations with the J. Herbin products pictured here.

J. Herbin Rollerball
J. Herbin Rollerball and Larmes de Cassis ink cartridges. LOVE the little tin.

I’ve read a number of reviews on the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball and they run the gamut from “The ink flows very well…” to “The nib is very scratchy and thin.” Five star reviews versus one star reviews. Hmmmmm. Time to check it out for myself, I thought, so I added one to a recent JetPens order.

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball takes short international ink cartridges rather then traditional rollerball refills, which makes the pen a bit of a novelty. This appeals to me as I’ve accumulated a decent-sized stash of cartridges (okay, a lot), as I usually fill my fountain pens with bottled ink. Having a non-fountain pen to use them in seemed like a cool alternative.

J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis cartridge
Initial writing sample with J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis ink

I popped in one of the J. Herbin Larmes de Cassis (Tears of Black Current Purple) cartridges and started writing on my Levenger Vivacious Circa paper. The ink flowed without much delay, but the color just didn’t do it for me— much too light and washed out looking— significantly paler than the label on the sweet little cartridge tin led me to believe. But was this because of the pen or the ink?

J. Herbin rollerball
Disassembled, with a Levenger Cobalt Blue cartridge installed

After installing a Levenger Cobalt Blue cartridge and scribbling a bit, I was in business. The ink flowed easily, the rollerball felt smooth, and the color was rich and readable. Really nice.

Levenger Cobalt Blue writing sample

On the very smooth Vivacious paper, I’d estimate that the line runs about 0.6 mm, very close to that put down by a Schmidt P8126 refill— my choice for my ever-expanding collection of Retro 51 Tornados. It felt as smooth and free-flowing as the Schmidt refill, as well. Five stars!

Unposted vs. Retro 51 Tornado
Unposted vs. Retro 51 Tornado

Unposted, this pen is small, just 3.8 inches (98 mm). You really do need to post the cap to use the pen comfortably. The cap posts quite securely so this isn’t really an issue. Once posted, the pen measures 5.5″ inches (139 mm). It’s compact, for sure, but not too small. You can see that the posted length is a little bit longer than a Retro 51 Tornado.

Posted vs. Retro 51 Tornado
Posted vs. Retro 51 Tornado

The downhill slope of rollercoaster ride occurred on Day 2 of use, when I grabbed the pen to jot down some notes and had trouble getting the flow going. Aargh. I scribbled on a sheet of the Vivacious paper, but the results were not great. Sometimes the flow was fine, other times it seemed to dry up. Hmmmm…one star.

Scribbling to prime the pen
Scribbling to prime the pen

I then discovered that scribbling on more common (printer) paper did the trick and good flow was ultimately achieved on all types of paper. Really smooth with “just right” wetness. Five stars.

So, you can see, there is some touchiness with this pen. Thus the mixed reviews.

Day 2 writing sample
Day 2 writing sample, after priming

My experiences confirmed that there are a few caveats to successfully using the J. Herbin Rollerball— little tricks to get five star, rather than one star, performance:

  • Use richly colored inks for best readability. Because of the relatively fine line, pale ink looks weak on the page. (Duh.)
  • Realize that there may be some differences in performance based on the paper  you’re using. Flow appears to be most consistent on “cheaper” (less coated) papers, but is a-ok on good paper once flow is established.
  • Storing the pen with the tip down alleviated the need to scribble on paper to prime the pen after a period of non-use. After doing so, the pen wrote very well on even my best paper, even after sitting unused for a time.

J. Herbin Rollerball

I will admit that the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball took me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride, with both high and low points in performance. But ultimately, by following a few easy tips, I’ve been enjoying this pen and look forward to plowing through that healthy stash of small international cartridges. I’ve declared 2015 to be the year that I “use things up,” and this pen is a small step in the right direction.

J. Herbin Rollerball

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball is available at JetPens for $8.75, with J. Herbin cartridges priced at $5.50. While not ideal for use in this pen (in my opinion), I plan to use the Larmes de Cassis cartridges in some of my fountain pens to see how it looks with different pens/nibs. Stay tuned for an update on the outcome of that experiment.

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