Pens In Real Life: The Jar of Awesome

I’m doing the Whole Life Challenge for the sixth time, and, as promised, it continues to change my whole life. While diet and exercise (and sleep and water consumption) are a big part of the challenge, each week we’re also given a lifestyle challenge—things like meditation, leaving our digital devices behind, or de-cluttering. This week’s challenge, the Jar of Awesome, is brand new and has me really fired up. Why? Because it combines, pens, paper, and gratitude in a very simple and meaningful way.

Jar of Awesome supplies

To assemble a Jar of Awesome, all you need is some sort of jar. I happened to have this “Limited Edition” (???) Ball jar on hand, but you could easily use a washed out mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. Any jar will work. The jar itself need not be awesome.

To put the “awesome” in the jar, cut up some paper and grab a pen or pencil. Any paper. Any pen. Any pencil. I’m using Tomoe River paper and a couple of fountain pens today, but I plan to mix things up as time goes on. The tools don’t matter.

Jar of Awesome

Every day, write down at least one thing that’s made your day awesome. Simple, funny, heartfelt…whatever it is…write it down. I plan to use the Nock Co. 3×5 DotDash cards I always have with me to jot down things on the fly as carrying a mason jar seems like it could be a little…ummm…cumbersome. Then, later, I’ll transfer the awesomeness to my little pieces of paper.

Jar of Awesome

Toss the slips of paper into the jar. I’ve chosen to fold my paper so that I can catch glimpses of what I’ve written, rather than folding the paper so that the words are hidden. How cool and uplifting and inspiring it’s going to be to watch the paper slips, and awesome things, pile up inside the jar. It’s like a time capsule of all the good things that come into our lives—many of which we barely notice. The Jar of Awesome aims to correct that by showing us how much awesomeness surrounds us every single day.

Jar of Awesome

This simple project has also made me ask myself, “What can I do to be included in someone else’s Jar of Awesome?”

God, I love this.

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.




A Micro Review: On The Fly with a Fisher Space Pen

Commencement Notes

At Hamilton College’s Commencement ceremony yesterday, the student speeches were clever, funny, and meaningful enough that I found myself wanting to take notes. I ushered at the event so I had virtually no belongings with me, except this Fisher Space pen and the Commencement program and my lap. Problem solved.

My handwriting is rushed, the paper was a stiff program cover, and the ink was just a simple medium point Fisher Space pen refill, but it all got the job done.

One student spoke about pineapples, and how we are like them. Prickly and weird on the outside, we need to find the right tools to get to the sweet delicious fruit inside. Hamilton College, he said, provided those tools. I loved the fact that he propped an actual pineapple on the podium as he spoke.

Another student said, in effect, that our lives are like Tetris and we should stop playing them like chess. Whereas chess is all about protecting and saving yourself, Tetris is about taking the random experiences that fall into our lives and looking at them from all different angles. We should be rotating those experiences, thinking about them, making them fit.

So my handwriting is sloppy, and the Fisher Space refill, though quite good, is not my favorite. But I had this pen in my pocket and, with it, I was able to capture these thoughts from a couple of creative and thoughtful young minds.

I made it work. Like Tetris.

Rainbow Fisher Space Pen

This particular Fisher Space pen was fully reviewed HERE.

Time is hard to find lately, so I’m planning to post more of these micro reviews—quick posts about pens in use in real life. You like?

The Write Tools

Write Notepad Pocket Notebooks

Back in November I sang the praises of the newly released pocket notebooks from Write Notepads & Co. I’ve been a fan of their products and aesthetic from the company’s infancy, when I first met Chris and Mark Rothe, and saw their spiral notebooks, at the 2013 DC Pen Show. The pocket notebooks are so good (durable binding, fountain pen friendly paper) that I’ve decided to let my Field Notes subscription lapse, in favor of a Write Notepads pocket notebook subscription. Field Notes are fun and cool, but I have plenty on hand (HUGE understatement) and feel like spreading my notebook wings. (Okay, there isn’t any such thing as “notebook wings,” but still.)

Lenore notebooks and pencils

Their first quarterly offering—  the Lenore pocket notebooks and pencils you see above— blew me away. As subscriber #16, I look forward to seeing what Chris dreams up for the next release. The bar has been set very high right out of the gate.

I’m so drawn to their notebooks and pencils when I’m browsing on their site, that I didn’t immediately notice the perfect little accessories that they offer alongside their notebooks. But once I saw the “made in the USA” Pocket Linear Measuring Device ($7.99) and Folding Pocket Scissors ($9.99), I had to order both.

Pocket Scissors and Measuring Device

The Pocket Linear Measuring Device is made about 40 miles from my house, in East Syracuse, NY, by Gaebel. It’s stainless steel, features a sliding pocket clip, and includes four units of measure—pica, inches, points, and metric. I’m a compulsive underliner (yet another quirk), and I like my underlines to be straight, so I use this tool every single day in my daily personal and work pocket notebooks, and even on the index cards where I compose my grocery lists. I keep this perfectly sized ruler in my Nock Co. Sinclair, so it’s always at hand.

Folding Pocket Scissors

Tucked inside a 3-3/4″ vinyl carrying case, the Pocket Folding Scissors measure just 3-1/4″ when completely folded. To deploy the surgical stainless steel blades, just pull the handles apart…

Folding Pocket Scissors

then press the handles down until they meet. Voila— sturdy and adorable scissors are at the ready.

Folding Pocket Scissors

Made and hand-assembled in Sweet Home, Oregon, these small but mighty scissors have become a favorite pocket carry. Once you start carrying scissors, you realize how often they come in handy. I receive and open a LOT of packages in my job, and while I use a box cutter to do the heavy cutting, these are the perfect tool to cut into the inner packaging. I’ve use them to clip coupons, to cut sign up forms out of the church bulletin, and to trim a pulled thread. They even made an appearance at a recent baby shower, where I lent them to the mother-to-be to snip a particularly stubborn ribbon on a gift. Carry scissors and save the day! Amaze people with your preparedness! Who wants to walk all over the house or office looking for the full-size (and often misplaced) scissors when you can have this cute little pair tucked away in your pocket?!

Write Notepads Accessories

The Pocket Linear Measuring Device and Folding Pocket Scissors, available from Write Notepads & Co., are quality, USA-made, everyday carry accessories. They are the Write tools.

All Write Notepad & Co. products shown and discussed in this review were purchased with my own funds. Chris did not twist my arm to write a review, and I haven’t been compensated in any way. I just love his products and can’t wait for the next pocket notebook subscription installment.


Namiki What?

Namiki Pencil Boxes

When you start venturing into the world of fountain pens, you don’t have to stroll too far to run into all kinds of Pilot-Namiki pens. From the disposable Varsity to the very affordable MR (Metropolitan) all the way up to high-end Maki-e works of art, there’s a Pilot-Namiki pen for every taste and budget. I own several Vanishing Points, a couple of Preras, a handful of Metropolitans, and a Custom 74 and have yet to be disappointed by any of them, no matter the price. Pilot-Namiki is a brand that I trust implicitly.

Namiki Grance

A week or so ago, an email arrived from Anderson Pens featuring an intriguing photo and a link to some Namiki mechanical pencils. Namiki what?? Pencils?? Yes, pencils. I clicked the link, and tumbled down THAT rabbit hole headfirst.

Namiki Impressions and Grance

Isn’t that how it goes? One minute you don’t even know a thing exists, then the next minute you HAVE TO have it. Especially if it’s gorgeous. And New Old Stock. And Namiki. And sold by the Andersons.


The Namiki Grance mechanical pencil (0.5 mm) features burgundy marbled lacquer over brass, so it’s nicely hefty (28 g), despite its slender body (9.4 mm, 0.4 in).The lead is advanced by pressing down on the upper half of the pencil. The action works smoothly and easily.


The Andersons describe the Sapphire Impressions (27 g) as having “gorgeous colors set in clear cellulose resin,” and they’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. This thing is a stunner, which is something we’re used to in the fountain pen world, but not so much in mechanical pencil offerings. I fell hard for the depth of color in the resin.


I’d never really seen mechanical pencils that excited me as much as some of my fountain pens. Maybe I don’t get out enough—maybe these are all over the place—but they’re certainly new to me. I have enough wood cased pencils to choke a small horse (as my mother would say), and plenty of mechanical pencils that are perfectly fine, but none of that was going to stop me from picking up both a Namiki Grance ($25) and Impressions ($85). These look and feel like heirloom quality pencils, and came with price tags that seemed more than fair.


Branding is wonderfully subtle which is very much the Namiki way.


Tucked under the “cap” of each pencil is a tiny but usable eraser, still in fine shape despite the fact that the pencils are circa 2000.


When the current leads are used up, I may swap in something just a touch softer—maybe a 2B or 3B. Or maybe I’ll leave a harder lead in one and a softer one in the other. The 0.5 mm line is crisp and fine—perfect for use in my Hobonichi or just for jotting down notes. This size lead is a little more prone to breakage, but I still prefer it over the thicker 0.7 mm option, at least in these pencils.


I’m still trying to rein in purchases, and am, for the most part succeeding. (I even gave up my place in the waitlist for a Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 in Antique Glass as I just don’t need—well, want— another pen right now.) BUT, I caved on these mechanical pencils. Namiki’s stellar reputation for quality writing instruments coupled with my trust in the Andersons, and the fact that these New Old Stock beauties aren’t readily available made this purchase an easy one to talk myself into.

Namiki mechanical pencils?!

Yes, pencils. Now you know.

At the time of this review, Anderson Pens has some Namiki Impressions in stock in Amber (0.5 and 0.7 mm) and Sapphire (0.5 mm) finishes. The Grance pencils appear to be sold out.

Both Namiki mechanical pencils reviewed here were purchased with my own funds. There are no affiliate links in this review. 





Yet Another Architect Grind

Levenger Element Guilloche

It’s déjà vu all over again. Yup–it’s another Architect Grind by Dan Smith (@nibsmith). When I sent him my Edison Glenmont (broad) for this grind, I also sent along this Levenger Element Guilloche (medium) for the same treatment. The original nib was perfectly acceptable—smooth and wet—but needed a little more pizzazz.

Levenger Element

Dan’s mad nib skillz took this nib from acceptable to WOW!

Levenger Element

Loaded from my new bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Aquamarine—Edelstein’s 2016 Ink of the Year—this great looking pen, beautiful ink, and jazzed up nib make a great team. The ink behaves well and shades nicely—at least on the narrow range of papers I’ve used it on (Tomoe River, Life Bank Paper, this Levenger Vivacious Circa refill).

Architect Grind

Like the modified nib on my Edison Glenmont, this custom-ground Levenger nib can be easily swapped into my other Levenger True Writers, like the pretty, pretty Kyoto.


(Mmmmm…Guilloche. Sweet stuff.)

So now I have both a medium and a broad Architect grind, and feel sure that I’ll have the same done to a fine nib in the not-too-distant future. Dan does great work, at a fair price, with good turnaround times.

Hobonichi with Architect Grind

Architect again. Happy again.

All of Dan’s nib services can be found HERE. There’s no charge for the added happiness. That’s included with each and every modified and expertly tuned nib.


Life just keeps happening. My dad had some unexpected surgery yesterday and is currently recovering. At 87, surgery and hospital stays are no joke, but he seems to be doing okay. First my mom, now him. I haven’t been able to write here as much as I want to lately, but I’ll be here when I can. Lots of cool things in the queue!

On a better note, I had an excellent appointment with my MS doctor last week, and he’s very pleased with how I’m doing. The appointment was a great incentive to keep at it in the gym with weights, cardio, and tai chi. Onward!


All pens, ink, and nib services mentioned here were purchased with my own funds. There are no affiliate links in this post.

A Hobonichi Techo Update: March 2016

Hobonichi Techo

The only thing consistent about my previous attempts to maintain a journal is that I’ve failed. Every. Single. Time.

Which is why I was reluctant to pick up a Hobonichi Techo. Who needs another failed attempt added to that pile?!

Hobonichi Techo

BUT——after all those years of half-filled or barely touched journals, we finally have a winner. The Hobonichi Techo and I have bonded and I don’t see us ever breaking up.

I’m journaling every day. NO misses. I’m using the Techo pretty much as I described in my original post—for appointments, for recording good things, for jotting down quotes, for keeping track of our dinners.

The Hobonichi’s Tomoe River paper handles fountain pen ink, gel ink, and pencil without issue, which adds to the ease—and joy—of use.

Exercise log

I’m still logging my exercise, steps, and mileage, which keeps me motivated and interested in doing better each day and each month.

The Hobonichi Techo has become my bible. It holds my laughs and tears, triumphs and struggles, encouraging words, lots of Anne Lamott quotes, and all of those little joys that used to simply evaporate.

This Hobonichi Techo holds my life.