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.




Just Right: The Karas Kustoms EDK

Right here on my desk, there’s a sizable (and ever-growing) collection of Karas Kustoms pens within arm’s reach. Render Ks, Fountain Ks, Bolts, Retrakts, INKs—all at the ready. All well-loved. I simply can’t resist their hearty, machined goodness. But lately, the Karas Kustoms offering I reach for most often is the EDK.

Karas Kustoms EDK

Why is that?

Let’s take a look.

Size comparison

At just over 5″ (12.9 cm), the EDK is the shortest of the Karas Kustoms pen models, and, man, does it feel perfect in my hand. The EDK is stubby and thick, in all the right ways. My anodized black aluminum pen is substantial and well-balanced. At 28 grams, it’s not too heavy, not too light. Every time I pick up it up, the pen pleasure center in my brain lights up.

Size comparison vs. pencils

Much like a wood case pencil that’s been used down to just the right size, or the thick and perfectly weighted Lamy Scribble (love this mechanical pencil), the EDK is a pen that’s instantly comfortable—like a pair of well-worn jeans or broken-in sandals.

Knock and knurling

The retractable mechanism—or “knock”—is the same one found on the Retrakt. It’s nearly silent, smooth, and reliable. The Karas Kustoms website warns that compulsive clicking can damage the inner mechanism, but because there’s no audible “click” with which to annoy your friends and loved ones, the urge to engage in this type of behavior is reduced (for the most part).

The machined knurling at this end of the pen is a subtle and classic detail. I’m always a little happier when a pen includes some knurling.

Grooved barrel

The anodizing on my all-black pen is super smooth and flawless. I’ve been carrying and using the pen a lot and have yet to mar the finish. The grooved barrel provides visual interest, but doesn’t seem to influence the grip one way or another. That said, I don’t find the EDK to be a particularly slippery pen, despite its satiny smooth finish.


The clip is pure Karas Kustoms. Formed from stainless steel and attached to the pen body with two hex screws, this clip is very snug, very sturdy. It’s certainly not going anywhere, but still exhibits just enough “give” to allow the pen to be clipped into a pocket or case.


But none of these details matter if the pen body doesn’t house a quality refill. Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy! (Oh, wait…that’s a completely different story.) But there is joy, as the guys at Karas Kustoms wisely decided to build the EDK around the Schmidt P8126, a liquid ink refill that glides over paper like an…ummm…exceptionally glidey thing. I’m usually writing on Rhodia paper or my stash of (discontinued) Levenger Vivacious freeleaf note pads and the experience is sublime—rich, dark, and smooth.


This Karas Kustoms EDK is a comfortable pen with classic good looks and an excellent refill. Not to go all Goldilocks on you, but this is a pen that’s “just right.”


I purchased the EDK reviewed here with my own funds. There was no cajoling or haranguing or arm-twisting by anyone at Karas Kustoms to provide a review. I’m just a total Karas Kustoms fan girl…and proud of it. 

You  can check out all of the Karas Kustoms machined pens at

“It’s Quality Bro!”

Everywhere Carry: Nock Co. Sinclair and Karas Kustoms Bolts

Vespa Scooters

On a recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast, Ana Reinert (of The Well-Appointed Desk) mentioned how she picked up a Karas Kustoms Bolt in olive green, because it matches her vintage Vespa scooter. That kind of logic works for me! I have a brown Vespa so of course I must have a Bolt in the new brown color. (It’s like these people hypnotize me.) Fred got into the act and prodded me to order the olive green version as well. Well, twist my arm.

I did as commanded and placed my order for an olive green standard Bolt and a brown Pilot G2 Bolt.

In the meantime, the guys at Nock Co. finally released their long-anticipated zippered Sinclair pen case. I saw Brad’s multi-colored prototype at the DC Pen Show, and knew it’d be a no-brainer purchase. Despite owning one or more of every Nock Co. pen case, this one looked extra-special. On launch day, I ordered the Forest/Sunshine and Camo/Raven versions since the Barn Red/Midnight colorway wasn’t available. I’m no camo fan, but I wanted two different colors, so camo it was.

In a cool bit of shipping coincidence, both orders arrived on the same day, and THAT’S when the lightbulb switched on! (I’m kind of spent lately so my brain is not firing on all cylinders.) The lovely muted olive green and brown Bolts are a perfect match for the camo colored Sinclair. Duh.

Sinclair and Bolts

I quickly loaded the Sinclair with the Bolts and have been carrying the case everywhere. Everywhere. Except to bed. And the shower. But other than that, it all goes where I go. So much for being ambivalent to camouflage.

Sinclair contents

The Sinclair is handier than handy. I’ve loaded it up with the pens, a Rotring pencil, Nock Co. DotDash 3×5 cards, a Field Notes notebook, the Write Notepads & Co. Linear Measuring Device, and my folded up Christmas shopping spreadsheet. When I’m out shopping, I store the gift cards I’ve purchased in the Sinclair to keep them secure. I can carry all of this in the case with room for more.

Sinclair zipper

This is the first zippered case by Nock Co. which is what makes it so handy. No worries about anything accidentally slipping out in your travels. The zipper is sturdy and substantial. It’s as top-notch as the workmanship on the case.

Karas Kustoms Bolts

I obviously love the case, but what about the pens?

The standard Bolt takes any Parker-style refill while the Pilot G2 version takes the, you guessed it, Pilot G2 refill. I’ve been interested in the Pilot G2 Bolt since it was released, but held off until now as I was concerned that, at 6.125″, it might be a little too long. (The regular Bolt measures a very comfortable 5.625″.) There definitely is a different feel between the two pens, but I’m very happy with both. The longer G2 Bolt is a bit more top-heavy because of the added length, but is not at all unwieldy, probably because aluminum is pretty lightweight. In a heavier material, the added length might become an issue.

Karas Kustoms Bolt

I love the design of the bolt mechanism on these Karas Kustoms pens because it’s flush with the pen body, rather than protruding like on most bolt-action pens. The mechanism works very smoothly so I’m able to deploy and retract the refill with one hand. It’s both cool and easy to use.

Karas Kustoms now ships their pens with refills so you’re able to put pen to paper immediately. This wasn’t always the case. The lack of a refill wasn’t an issue for someone like me who has a shoebox stuffed with all kinds of refills, but for most people it may have been a bit of a stumbling block. My standard Bolt arrived with a black Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 refill installed, while the Pilot G2 Bolt came equipped with a 0.5 mm Pilot G2 gel refill, also in black. I’m a fan of both refills so I’ve had no reason to swap them for anything else. But if you’re so inclined, the standard Bolt takes any Parker-style refill, while there are other options and tip sizes available for the G2 Bolt (Pilot Juice refills, etc.).


I couldn’t be happier with this set-up. Both the Nock Co. Sinclair case and the  Karas Kustoms Bolts pens go with me everywhere. They’re not just my Everyday Carry, they’re my Everywhere Carry.

Use the code HAPPYHOLIDAYS to get 15% off of your Karas Kustoms order. (That’s what I did!)

I purchased everything shown and discussed in this review with my own funds. There are no affiliate links and I’ve received no compensation for this post. 

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.

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.