Chicago Souvenirs

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A couple of weeks ago, Fred and I took the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train to Chicago for a few days of vacation. The train ride is a long one—about 13 hours going and 16 hours (because of delays) coming home. But it’s doable, and much cheaper than flying, so off we went.

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Once we got settled in at the Palmer House (excellent hotel!!), we walked to the Willis Tower and purchased City Pass booklets which save you money on a number of attractions and give you access to the “fast lane” for getting into the more crowded venues. In just three days, we stepped out into the dizzying Sky Deck at the Willis Tower…

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I’m not afraid of heights, but this was still a very weird sensation.

visited the Shedd Aquarium…

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spent hours in the Art Institute of Chicago…

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TILTED out over the city at the top of the John Hancock tower…

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and went to a White Sox vs. NY Yankees game.

Our hotel was close to Millennium Park so we spent time there taking in the gardens and the public art, like Cloud Gate (“the Bean”) and this “Faces of Chicago” water fountain installation.

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Water squirts out of this guy’s mouth every now and then. Mesmerizing.

We jammed a lot of stuff into three days and walked our heads off—about 10 miles per day. I actually lost weight on this vacation from all of the walking.

When I’m on vacation, I’m always on the lookout for souvenirs, but over the years that’s come to mean different things. With two dresser drawers stuffed with t-shirts, I really don’t need anymore, though it’s always tempting to add to that stash.

It will come as no surprise that I keep my eyes open for fun or interesting stationery-related items. Even though I have a whopping supply of pens, pencils, journals, ink, and paper at home, picking up a few new items while I’m in a different place feels okay. Why? Because these are things that you use and use up. So I did a little shopping.

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Decent souvenir pencils were surprisingly hard to come by, but I finally found these in the gift shop at the top of the John Hancock Tower. They feature the name of the city, a Chicago-style hotdog, a tour boat ride, skyscrapers and Michigan Avenue in fun graphics and eye-catching colors. I picked up four for $2.00. (Otherwise, they were $0.99 each.)

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Dick Blick was just a stone’s throw from our hotel so I had to explore ALL OF THE ART SUPPLIES there, even though I’m nothing more than a wannabe artist. Though I was tempted by so much—Rhodia and Leuchtturm notebooks, gel pens galore, colored pencils, notecards, and novelties, I purchased just a few simple items. These Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite pencils were a “must buy.” I resisted the urge to buy the full-range of lead grades and picked up the two that I’m most likely to use for plain old writing and maybe a little sketching (still trying to get over my art fear). They feel really cool in hand and write beautifully. I also picked up an M+R brass bullet pencil sharpener, perfect for pocket carry. For under ten bucks, I came away with some interesting goodies that I’ll definitely use.

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I’ve visited the Mont Blanc Boutique on Michigan Avenue in the past—to gawk at and handle the Limited Edition Jonathan Swift and Alfred Hitchcock fountain pens. This time I was on an ink quest. We walked block after city block to the Michigan Avenue location (with Fred mincing along in pain as his plantar fasciitis decided to flare up). I always feel like a sweaty under-dressed mess when I walk into the store, but despite this, have always been treated graciously by the salespeople. I took a quick glance at a few pens, but left with only the ink that I came for—Montblanc UNICEF 2017 Turquoise ink (50 mL, $39).

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Are there are other turquoise inks that cost less? Of course. But it’s a color I enjoy and since I rarely get the chance to visit a Montblanc boutique, I decided to splurge a little.

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Is this not perfect? (Art Institute of Chicago gift shop)

And then there’s the souvenir that I did not buy, though it tugged at my heart ever so strongly. God, I was tempted. It’s SO ME. But it was about $20 and I DO NOT NEED another journal (Fred kept reminding me of this) so I walked away. That was tough, and I may still try to track it down online. I probably should’ve just bought it. Ah, regrets.

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So this is my little haul of Chicago souvenirs. All usable. All carefully selected. All easy to pack and transport.

And of course I kept the Palmer House disposable pen from our room.

You’d do the same, right?!

 

 

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Moods & Options: Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus

Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus
Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (or Ti, for short)

I regularly prowl Kickstarter for interesting pen projects, and try to get in as early as possible to get an Early Backer Reward. When I saw the write-up and introductory video for the Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (clunky name, sweet pen) by Chadwick Parker & Joe Huang, a couple of details grabbed me right away. (I just accidentally typed “write away,” which, maybe, is what I SHOULD say.)

#1: Titanium. Titanium through and through- from tip to tail (as long as you don’t count the tip of the refill and the stylus end). I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about titanium when I backed this project, but I knew that this pen would be strong and a bit hefty. Which it is. It sure is.

#2: Bead-blasted finishes. I love a matte finish on a pen, so seeing this pen offered in bead-blasted matte black and matte silver, as well as highly polished chrome (potentially too fingerprinty for me), drew me in a little deeper.

#3: “Most refill friendly pen ever!” Once I read that, I knew I was a goner. The number of refills that fit into this pen is as long as your arm (so to speak), and that was truly intriguing to me. I’m a bit of a fickle pen person, and my pen mood swings wildly from day to day, and sometimes, even within a day (or an hour). Knowing that I could swap in a bunch of my favorite refills (from Pilot’s Frixion, G2, and Hi-Tec-C Cavalier gel refills, to the hybrid ink Jetstream, and even a Montblanc Fineliner) meant that one pen body would last through my many pen mood swings.

#4: Bonus–> Stylus! I’m on some sort of iDevice a million times a day and having a great stylus sounded awesome, if only as a way to cut down on smudgy, fingerprinty screens. And if I could use it to draw and jot “handwritten” digital notes on my iPhone and iPad, all the better.

So I backed the project, and waited a few months while Chadwick & Joe updated us throughout the entire pen manufacturing process. Their dedication and unwillingness to settle for anything but a superior product became evident as they documented their progress and even fessed up to the occasional hiccup. The project was delayed a bit when they noticed that caps and bodies bead-blasted in different machines were not perfectly color-matched, which caused them to refine the process to correct the problem. “Good enough” is not good enough for this team.

So the pen arrived a little bit late, but who cares? The Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus delivers, which is all that matters.

The pen came loaded with a Pilot G2 0.5 mm refill, but I swapped in a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier 0.4 mm refill and wrote away. Then I decided I wanted to try a Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill, and that fits perfectly and writes great, too.

Ti G2 0.38 mm refill writing sample
Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill in use

The clip is sturdy (titanium, too!) and just flexible enough to clip the pen to your pocket. I’ve been doing this for weeks without an issue. The branding is super-subtle- just a a small, boxed Ti on the clip.

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Ti clip and branding

Here’s a peak at the stylus, which, by the way, is the best stylus that I’ve used to date. Not too squooshy, not too stiff, and very responsive. I love the pen almost as much for the stylus end as I do for the pen end. Should you not WANT a stylus, the stylus can be replaced with a flat end cap, but really, why would you want to do that?!

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Just right

Here are a couple of shots of the pen posted and unposted…

Posted pen

Unposted

With the cap posted, the pen is WAY too long for me, so I always use it unposted. Not an issue for me, but something to keep in mind.

The “grip” area features three grooves, but quite honestly, I can’t really feel them when I hold the barrel. Personally, I don’t find the barrel to be slippery, but, again, something to consider.

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Ti’s grip

It’s getting late so let’s sum up…

Pros:
Titanium
Hefty! (38 g, when loaded with refill)
Excellent stylus
Choice of finishes…matte AND polished
Wide, wide range of compatible refills
Sturdy clip

Cons:
Very long when posted
Ummm…nothing else, in my opinion.

Want one? Even though the Kickstarter campaign is over, they’re now available at bigidesign (as are the aluminum and pint-sized counterparts). This is not a sponsored post. Chadwick and Joe only know me as Backer # whatever. I’m just really impressed with this pen.

Finally a pen that has as many refill options as I have pen moods. And THAT’S saying something.

To Have and To Hold: The Montblanc Meisterstuck (Fineliner)

Nineteen years (+1 day) ago, I ended the day with a new husband and a new pen. I still have, and ENJOY, both. Truth be told, I sort of twisted Fred’s arm. For the pen, not the marriage. At around $100 it seemed outrageously expensive (and WAS, interesting enough, about double the cost of my wedding band). But I wanted it, mentioned it, and Fred took my strong, strong hints. It’s a rollerball Meisterstuck, and for a number of years, I was a little (a lot) scared to use it. What if I lost or damaged it? Why take the chance when I had a bunch of disposable “who cares” pens? I created a little pen shrine. I worshipped/protected the pen, but rarely used it.

Eventually it dawned on me that a dusty pen is as bad as dusty marriage, so I took the pen out of its case, purchased a few refills (the rollerball and Fineliner refills both fit in this particular model), and started using my gift. I’ve been using it for journal and calendar entries, as well as grocery and to-do lists. As with anything of value, I’m careful with it, but I’m having fun with it, too. The pen AND the marriage.

Made of polished black resin, my pen features gold accents, and the signature Montblanc “snow cap.” I never knew, until I was reading the included Montblanc booklet tonight, that each pen has its own number engraved on the ring of the clip. Cool detail. I’m particularly enjoying the Fineliner refill, which I would classify as a porous point. It’s firm and smooth. Really nice.

Here’s to having and holding and loving. The pen AND the marriage.