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 DX 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.

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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.

 

A Couple of Nock Co. Goodies: The DotDash Pocket Notebook and Notecards

Reviewing the Nock Co. goods

Who doesn’t love comfort food— those homey, no-frills dishes that can lift you up after a crummy day. Fork-tender pot roast, piping hot macaroni and cheese, a steaming bowl of chili— these dishes conjure up grandma’s kitchen, where everything was made with care, from the best ingredients.

Nock Co. goods

Seems to me, my Nock Co. favorites are the pen world’s equivalent of comfort food. Made by people who care, Nock Co. designs and products are classic— made to stand the test of time. Without a hint of pretentiousness, these are goods that can handle what life throws at you, and bring a little joy to even your most frustrating day.

Nock Co. Pocket Notebook

Blog post outline

The DotDash Pocket Notebook is top-stapled, measures 3.5″ x 5.5″, and can be used in portrait or landscape mode. I’ve recently started using mine to sketch out quick blog post outlines. Since it’s hard to know when an idea may strike, I carry mine tucked inside a Nock Co. Hightower case, along with a healthy selection of pens. I’m fully prepared for when the blog muse strikes.

Ink tests in the Nock Co. Pocket Notebook

A bit of bleed-through

The Nock Co. Pocket Notebook contains forty-eight 50 lb. pages, printed front and back with a Cool Gray DotDash pattern that just so happens to be my preferred format. The DotDash “grid” is dark enough to provide guidance for your writing, without being too dark and getting in the way. Gel inks fare very well on the page, while fountain pen inks show a bit of feathering, and do result in a little bit of bleed-through. I prefer using my Retro 51s, Karas Kustoms pens, and Ti2 Techliner in this notebook as these inks remain sharp and dry quickly.

Inside the front cover

Fill out the information inside the front cover of your notebook just in case you misplace it. Not that I’d do such a thing (says the woman who keeps LEAVING HER PURSE at Dunkin Donuts—GAH!).

Fodderstack with DotDash Notecards

The Nock Co. DotDash Notecards have been a staple in my analog tools daily carry since their release. Tucked inside a Fodderstack, along with the special-edition Nock Co./Karas Kustoms Render K, this is a combination that goes with me EVERYWHERE. I jot down directions, make weekly grocery lists, plan menus, and capture to-do list items. I’m never without my Nock Co. Fodderstack, Render K, and notecards.

DotDash Notecards

Made from 80 lb. smooth cover stock, the notecards handle even fountain pen ink quite well, though, again, I’m generally using some sort of 0.5 mm gel pen refill. The DotDash pattern on the notecards comes in Orange or Dusty Blue— colors that don’t look too busy or bright.

Ink samples on Nock Co. DotDash Notecards

Nock Co. cases, Pocket Notebooks, and Notecards are well-made goods that come without fuss or hassle. They work. They last. They’re 100% reliable.

Nock Co. Fodderstack and Hightower

And like grandma’s warm apple pie, they keep you coming back for more.

——————-
The Nock Co. Pocket Notebooks were sent to me for review purposes. All other products were purchased by me, either during the Nock Co. Kickstarter campaign, or from the Nock Co. online store. There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not monetarily compensated for this review.

Four Pens I Can’t Put Down

Four favorites

I have a pretty short attention span when it comes to pens— using a favorite for awhile, then moving on to something different/newer/shinier. Later on, I re-discover the old favorite and bring it back into the pen fold. So there’s always been a pretty decent turnover rate in my day-to-day pen usage.

Four pens

Until now.

I just can’t get enough of these four favorites.

Throughout the course of a week (or day…or hour), I find opportunities to use all of these exceptionally well-made machined pens. I cart them to and from work, journal with them, fill out my datebook(s), and make grocery lists.

They’re just so good.

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

The Ti2 Techliner Shorty (Gonzodized finish) by Ti2 Design is the newest of the bunch and features neodymium magnets, as well as an unconventional nosecone, that make this pen extra fascinating. With an Uni-ball Signo UMR-85N 0.5 mm black refill installed, this has become my go-to Field Notes pen for tracking work and home to-dos.

Karas Kustoms Retrakt

This stunning and classic looking two-tone Retrakt, by Karas Kustoms, arrived in November, and I immediately outfitted it with a Pilot Juice 0.38 mm blue-black refill. The line is super sharp— perfect for jotting down appointments and making entries in my One Line A Day journal. Killer looks, killer performance. Plus knurling. Cannot resist the knurling.

Mover & Shaker

I’ve been using my TactileTurn Mover and Shaker pens since they arrived following Will Hodges’ successful Kickstarter campaign. I should’ve reviewed these long ago, but they’re so good and trouble-free that I almost take them for granted. I’m currently using a Pilot G2 0.38 mm black refill in the Mover (top/red), and a 0.5 mm black Moleskine refill in the Shaker (bottom/raw aluminum). When I’m in the mood for a ballpoint, I swap a Parker-style Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 into the Shaker. They’re rock solid, with a finely grooved grip section for interest and texture.

Four favorites

Each of these pens deserves its own review, and I promise to do so in the near future. But for now, I just wanted to heap some praise where praise is due— on Mike Bond of Ti2 Design, Dan Bishop of Karas Kustoms, and Will Hodges of TactileTurn.

They’ve all run successful and well-managed Kickstarter projects and continue to turn out pens that exemplify attention to detail and good old quality workmanship.

And they’re all really nice guys.

Four favorites

Four favorites. Four pens I just can’t put down.

********

I purchased all of four pens with my very own allowance.

There are no affiliate links in this post, just happy pen smiles.

Resolved: Living Well One Line A Day

One Line A Day Journal

After vowing to NOT BUY ANYMORE NOTEBOOKS, I, of course, went out and bought another notebook. But I have an excuse. This one is DIFFERENT. It’s blank, but structured, and just the thing I’ve been looking for. So I invoked the “notebook purchasing exception clause” (which I just made up) and bought this five-year reflection book at my local Barnes & Noble. It’s a late Christmas present or early birthday present. Whatever. NOW the vow is back on. (Until it’s not.)

One Line A Day Journal

I was ready to buy the original One Line A Day blue version when my eyes fell on this taxi yellow Living Well version. I had to have the yellow because a) the weather has been SO bleak and gray and the yellow reminds me of the sun and warmth and hope; b) the orange ribbon is…well…orange. Bright and cheery. If I can’t have the sun, a yellow notebook with a vibrant orange ribbon will have to do. Every little bit of brightness helps when you’re trudging around in snow and wind and bitter cold.

Line A Day Journal

The non-color reason I wanted this is that it’s a five-year journal, meaning that there’s one page for each day of the year, with space for entries over the course of five years. So, for example, I’ll write an entry for January 1, 2015 through 2019, all on one page. Whether it’s the weather or my mood or what I had for dinner, ultimately, I’ll be able to read about a specific day over the span of five years. I’ll be able to see where I made progress and where I didn’t, where I was grateful and where I was whining, where I succeeded and where I stumbled. It should make for interesting reading five years down the road.

Line A Day Journal

Because my journaling (brief and repeated attempts) always seems to devolve into a basic “we did this” and “we did that” monotony, I was particularly pleased to see a page and half of writing prompts at the front of this book. I want this to be more than just a daily record of chores, errands, and day-to-day minutiae. I’d like to dig a little deeper. But how? What do I write about? Well, the book suggests a number of things, from “What excites you?” to “What are you afraid of?” to “How will you reward yourself tomorrow?” You can track exercise, sleep, glasses of water— any kind of habit. The prompts are nice because they give you a gentle nudge when you’re stuck. When I’M stuck.

Preferred pens

The journal is small— just 6″ x 4.5″ inches so you have to be brief and/or write quite small. I tried this before with a larger format journal and petered out after a year or two as the missed days started piling up. I think the fact this book is smaller, and thus more portable, will make it easier for me to keep up with my entries. At over an inch thick, it’s not pocketable, but fits fine in my Levenger messenger bag so taking it along is not a problem. Plus, I REALLY want to keep this one going. Five days in and all is well. Just a line or two and I’m done.

Preferred pens

In order to keep my writing small and precise, I’ve selected three favorite machined pens to use in this book— the TactileTurn Shaker with a black 0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill, the Ti2 Techliner, by Ti2 Design, with a 0.5 mm Signo UMR-85N black refill, and the Karas Kustoms Retrakt outfitted with a 0.38 mm Pilot Juice blue-black refill. All lay down neat, clean, and crisp lines, and are a joy to hold and use (reviews forthcoming). That’s key— journaling with a pen you enjoy.

Living Well One Line A Day

I’m not really one to make resolutions (we can see how well the “don’t buy any new notebooks” one went), but I HAVE resolved to stick with this journal. FOR FIVE YEARS. Hold me to that, okay?!

Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. I just wanted to point you in the direction of some favorite goods.

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

The CUBE by KarasKustoms + Dudek Modern Goods

The CUBE (CU13E), a collaboration by KarasKustoms and Dudek Modern Goods, was sent to me for review purposes. I have not been, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experiences and impressions.

The CUBE

This thing is HOT. And heavy. Like a good romance. Which is apt, because I frickin’ love it.

Loose pens
My KarasKustoms INKs and a Lamy AL-Star

I love it because it solves a daily problem. I typically start the day with a pretty clear desk, then as the morning progresses, more and more pens find their way out of their cases and onto my desk. By late afternoon, pen clutter abounds. They’re banging into each other, hiding under papers, and sometimes (eek!), falling on the floor. Shudder.

The CUBE

The solid aluminum CUBE solves that pen clutter problem, and does so with impeccable design, stunning good looks, and quality workmanship. A collaboration between KarasKustoms and Dudek Modern Goods, The CUBE arose from the chance friendship and complementary talents of Dan Bishop and Mike Dudek.

The CUBE

Their Kickstarter video does a good job of showing how the idea for The CUBE was born. Donuts, it seems, played a big role in getting this collaboration off the ground. As I thought about this project, and Mike and Dan, another video idea popped into my head.

The CUBE

Remember those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ads? The ones where two people are walking towards each other— one eating a chocolate bar and the other eating from a jar of peanut butter? They clumsily bump into each other and one says, “Hey- you got chocolate on my peanut butter!!” while the other one says, “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!!” Then they both take a taste of their accidental creation and smile big smiles as a wonderful new thing is discovered.

The CUBE

In MY version of the video, Dan, carrying aluminum stock from the KarasKustoms machine shop, bumps into Mike, who’s carrying his walnut CUBE. Dan says, “Hey, you got your CUBE on my aluminum!!” while Mike says, “You got your aluminum on my CUBE!!” Then, BINGO, the aluminum CUBE is born. (Okay, okay…I’ll leave the video-making to the experts.)

The CUBE

Some stats— The CUBE is solid aluminum and weighs in at nearly two pounds (1 lb, 14.4 oz). The nine holes, lined with pen-protecting Delrin, measure 0.563″ x 2″ deep. The CUBE itself measures 3.125″ x 3.125″ and is 2.750″ high (not including the height of the rubber feet). The rubber feet, a critical detail, protect your furniture and make The CUBE look like it’s levitating off of your desk. Available in silver (anodized aluminum), black, orange, blue, and red, The CUBE is a colorful and classy way to store your pens.

The CUBE
I, apparently, have a thing for orange.

Using Mike Dudek’s design and the mad machine skillz of KarasKustoms, this project is a testament to the talents of both parties. The CUBE is functional AND sculptural. It’s well-designed and well-executed.

The CUBE

IT. IS. HOT.

As I write this post, there are 15 days left in The CUBE’s Kickstarter campaign. The project was funded with super-sonic speed, a testament to the reputation of the two parties involved. Though I received this CUBE for review, I’ve also backed the project. That black CUBE is calling my name.

An Indispensable Trio: The Nock Co. Fodderstack, DotDash Cards, and Exclusive Karas Kustoms Render K

I picked up this trio of Nock Co. offerings a number of weeks ago, and though I knew they’d be something I’d enjoy, I had no idea how much I come to RELY on them. All day, every day. On vacation, at a conference, at work, in the car, and just knocking (haha…pun alert) around the house, I’m constantly grabbing for this ultra-portable set of tools.

Fodderstack, Render K, and DotDash cards

The Fodderstack is constructed of 1000D Nylon with DWR coating. That is, it’s tough. I chose the Steel color because it looks good with just about any pen. The interior is lined with nylon pack cloth— Blue Jay, in my case. I like the pop of bright blue peeking out of the top of the case, AND it looks great with my Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive Render K with its gorgeous blue cap.

DotDash cards, Render K, aand Fodderstack

The Fodderstack measures 5.125″ x 3.25″ which means that it’s designed to hold a stack of Nock Co’s DotDash 3×5 cards. A separate, slim outer pocket holds a pen or two, while the inner pocket holds about 20 of the sturdy, gridded note cards. I use them for EVERYTHING— grocery lists, to-do lists, my DC Pen Show “quest” list, phone numbers, directions, airline flight and gate numbers, blog post outlines, meeting notes, you name it. If you’re walking around and doing things, you need these cards.

DotDash cards

Made of 80 lb. cover stock, and featuring an orange DotDash pattern, the 4.25mm grid is absolutely perfect for documenting all the stuff that flies at me during my day. They’re printed on both sides so I can fit A LOT of information on one card, thanks to my fairly precise handwriting. While I’m usually using my Nock Co. Render K with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, the cards are fountain pen friendly, especially with extra-fine and fine nibs. There’s a bit of feathering with medium and broad nibs, but even that is better than anything I’ve seen when using fountain pens on index cards. Impressive.

DotDash cards

The pen that knocks this trio out of the park is the Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms G2 model Render K. Even though I already have a fistful of Render Ks— plain aluminum, orange, Delrin, and raw— I couldn’t pass up the chance to own one of these exclusive (but not limited) joint Nock Co./Karas Kustoms offerings. You’ll only find this color combination— aluminum body, blue cap, red tip— through Nock Co. The rich colors really pop in contrast to the shiny aluminum body.

Nock Co. X Karas Kustoms Render K

Render K clip

The Render K is made of 6061-T6 aluminum (good stuff), and weighs 1.1 ounces. The screw cap, which features a sturdy clip and accent knurling (mmmmmm…knurling), doesn’t post. Measuring 5.125″ capped and 4.92″ uncapped, the pen feels great in hand. The pen DOES NOT ship with a refill so you’ll have to provide your own. I’ve installed a Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill, though others swear by the 0.38 mm tip size.

Knurling

The whole Fodderstack combo— case, cards, and pen— is just slightly larger then my iPhone 5 so it’s an easy item to carry in hand, or in my purse or messenger bag, which is why it is ALWAYS with me. On the rare instance that I’ve left it behind, I feel undressed, like when I forget my earrings. Ugh. The Fodderstack has become as important to me as my phone. It’s well-designed, well-made, and fun to use, just like my phone.

Fodderstack, Render K, and DotDash cards

Nock Co.’s Fodderstack, DotDash cards, and exclusive Karas Kustoms Render K have become must-have tools for navigating my day. At work and at home, in the car and in the office, they’re perfect for capturing notes and lists, numbers and names, directions, and requests. Or doodling. Even doodling is fun.

DotDash cards and Render K

How did I live without my Nock Co. Fodderstack, DotDash cards, and Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Render K?! Darned if I know.

Nock Co. Trio of Tools

You can check out EVERYTHING Nock Co. has to offer HERE. Color options for the various cases can be found HERE.

[This post was not sponsored and doesn’t contain any affiliate links. All items were purchased by yours truly. I simply love this stuff.]