Tag: misc

Looking Back and Moving Forward

I say this every year but I love the start of the New Year. Its a chance for new beginnings, opening that brand-new planner, journal or notebook and starting on a new path, or course-correcting the one you set last year. I hope that 2016 will be a year of great adventures and great joys for everyone, myself included. I know a lot of us had rocky moments in 2015 but I know there were also some great triumphs as well.

(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)
(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)

For me 2015 was filled with wonderful ups and some hard downs as well. The Atlanta Pen Show was the absolute pinnacle for me and was my saving grace in what turned out to be a rather tumultuous year that followed with work- and health-related stresses. Brad and Myke and all the pen community welcomed me so warmly and openly in Atlanta and the whole world over that I felt like I had the whole world at my back this year and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

As I move forward into 2016, I want to stay committed and actively involved with the pen-and-paper community and be a resource and asset to the wonderful people that are a part of it. Expect to see more ink, paper, pen, and pencil reviews here as always. Holler, if there’s something particular you’d like to see more.

This summer, I started taking drawing and painting classes to try to be more creative and its something that I’d like to continue to do in 2016. I hope that in spending more time making art, I’ll also add more art material reviews to the site as well with the occasional watercolor, colored pencils, and other art material reviews for people who may want to try their hand at more sketching, drawing or mixing of media in their notebooks. By no means, will I be changing the focus of the site but I want to help people feel comfortable using pens with other materials. To be brave and to experiment! Even the most expensive piece of paper is still cheaper than a pizza from the take-out joint down the street, right?


One of the most meaningful pieces I wrote all year, for me anyway, was the post Why Does All This Matter? which came hot on the heels of devouring half of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic book (I promise there will be a review of the whole book in a week or so!) and it still resonates in my mind. All these pens, pencils, notebooks and accouterments are all a means for us to be thoughtful, creative, to remember, to relive and to explore our ideas. However those tools help you do that is good but we have to remember not to let them impede the acts themselves.

This is something I plan on tackling quite a bit this year. The nature of doing product reviews is that I acquire a lot of samples. Its not that I have anything that is not good quality, its just that I am buried under a lot of it and it often leads to indecision and fretting over which ink to use, which pen to pick up or which notebook to write in next. One of my goals for 2016 is to pare down the stash dramatically. If anyone has a good idea about redistributing the wealth without breaking the bank, please let me know.

So, my goals for 2016:

  • Make more art
  • Daily journaling in my Hobonichi Techo A6
  • De-stash the pen/paper/ink/supply clutter
  • Take some personal time for little luxuries (30 minute coffee shop stop, a quiet walk, read for pleasure, etc)
  • Don’t work so late at the jobby-job

My keep-on-keeping’ on:

  • Reviews and more on the blog
  • Atlanta Pen Show 2016, look out!
  • Put all those planners to good use
  • Keep knitting (maybe finish some of those half-baked projects?)
  • Keep biking, and maybe more regularly than I have the last few months

Do you take the end of the year to re-evaluate and make plans? I never think of this end-of-year planning as “resolutions” but as a chance to re-tool, re-focus and start fresh. What do you want to accomplish in 2016? Let’s do this together!

Local Pride: 10 Things to Love about Kansas City

(3-color, 18″ x 24″ screenprintposter of Kansas City. Print is signed and number in an edition of 100. 2nd edition. $25 via Tad Carpenter)

I’m feeling a little sentimental today about my adopted home, Kansas City. We’ll be spending the holidays here this year and we have a friend coming into town so I’ve been mentally preparing a list of things to show him, places to take him and food to feed him. I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe it’ll inspire you to stop in Kansas City some day. Be sure to let me know if you’re in town and I’d be happy to buy you a coffee or a beer and talk pens with you. So here goes, ten things to love about Kansas City:

This list is in no particular order, especially since anyone who knows me will know that I am actually a Chicago Fire MLS fan. However, the enthusiasm that Kansas City has put behind its professional sports teams this year, including its soccer team and, in return, the awesome support the teams give to their supporters make KC a great place to be a sports fan. The post-World Series parade and celebration for the Royals was EPIC. This town knows how to throw a party.

(PS: You can spot my pal Madeline and her black Scottie in the video if you don’t blink!)

Christopher Elbow. This man makes chocolates that make you cry because they are both delicious and beautiful but he also created an ice cream shop called Glacé that elevated ice cream and sorbets to new gourmet heights with a rotating assortment of flavors. I just noticed the seasonal ice cream flavors like Peppermint Flake and Jude’s Rum Cake. I might have to pop over over a taste this week. Yum!

Boulevard Beer. Rieger’s Whiskey. Dark Horse Distillery. Why stop at chocolate and ice cream? Kansas City has a great assortment of booze locally made. Boulevard is our flagship brewery offering an array of seasonal and limited edition brews. Rieger is a small batch distillery recreating pre-Prohibition whiskey, gin and vodka. Their whiskey has been a staple at The Desk but I’ve yet to try their gin and I’m itching to. And Dark Horse is another local liquor staple in KC best known for their white whiskey though they also produce a rye whiskey and a bourbon whiskey.

Joe’s BBQ. Joe’s KC, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s and still referred to by locals as Okie Joe’s is a KC classic. Its a BBQ joint started in a gas station that still has a line out the door on most nights. Their BBQ (in all its forms) in to die for and even ended up on some pretty fancy foodie bucket lists. Even my vegetarian friends go, if only for the “crack fries”.

(Country Club Plaza Lights Mini Hanging Banner $16 via Tammy Smith)

The Plaza. There is a more official name for The Plaza, its The Country Club Plaza or something like that but locals just call it The Plaza and everyone knows what you mean. Its an outdoor shopping area designed to look a bit like a Spanish courtyard with fancy clock towers and fountains galore. On Thanksgiving night, there is a holiday lighting event where the whole place is lit up and it looks beautiful. There are lots of fancy, upscale shops like Tiffany, Kate Spade, Sephora, Apple and more and lots of restaurants and bars. There’s also a creek that runs down one end that people run and walk along. Its just a nice place to watch people, window shop and eat a nice meal.

The Pen Place. Yes, Kansas City really does have its own pen shop. Its not very big and its tucked back into a dark corner of the very touristy Crown Center Mall but we have a pen shop. The staff is very pleasant and they stock a wide variety of brands of pens and inks that they are happy to let you hold and will even swatch out inks on paper for you to see before you buy. They also have a wide variety of pen refills and have patiently helped me with my refill guide on occasion. So if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely pop in and say hello.

The World War I Museum. Kansas City is lucky enough to have the only and official World War I museum in the United States and it is a moving and memorable experience to visit this museum and surrounding grounds. I work in a building across the street and often walk the grounds on bright days at lunch admiring the amazing views from atop the hill. As a history buff and knitter I have also enjoyed attending the regular lecture series Mrs. Wilson’s Knitting Circle which will enter its second year in 2016. It’s an extraordinary place and an amazing opportunity to learn more about a singular event that changed the course of history. There are also many other amazing museums in Kansas City like the Negro League Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, the Truman Presidential Library, and the Toy & Miniature Museum just to name a few.

The local art scene. Not only does Kansas City have an amazing art museum in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, but there is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and several areas that feature a thriving local art galleries like the Crossroads, the West Bottoms and Brookside. There are many art festivals, craft shows and first Fridays (third Thursdays and other open studio events and the like) all over town, plus there is the Kansas City Art Institute training new artistic talent as well as other local colleges and universities that are helping to develop new creative talent. Add in the music and performing arts in Kansas City from the new Kauffman Center for Performing Arts shell featuring the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony to the local bars and clubs hosting bands and open mike nights. When I moved here, I didn’t think Kansas City was a cowtown per se but I had no idea how amazingly talented it was.

Coffee. This town loves its coffee. We have local coffee shops and local roasters and all sorts of combinations of the two. Some of my favorites are The Filling Station, Benettis, Messenger Coffee, Kaldi’s Coffee and the king of the coffee bean hill The Roasterie. If you’re a tea drinker, I recommend Kaldi’s Double Vanilla Tea Latte or the London Fog from either the Roasterie or Kaldi’s. Delish!

Hallmark Cards. I feel silly plugging the firm but if it wasn’t for Hallmark, I never would have come to Kansas City and discovered what a cool place it is. I would not have met some of the most amazing, talented and special people I’ve ever known and I might never have started this blog which gave me the chance to meet all of you.  I once read an interview with a Hallmark employee (colloquially called a “Hallmarker”) who described working at Hallmark as grad school and it really is. So many of us refine and hone our skills surrounded by people who are so incredibly talented in everything they do. And everyone is willing to share their knowledge and encourage other people’s success which is unlike any place I’ve ever worked. So, thank you, Hallmark for all the opportunities.

Midori Mini Cleaner

My dear friend picked up one of the original Midori Mini Cleaners on her last trip to Japan and I’ve been dying to have one ever since. So much so, that I emailed Jet Pens and begged for them to restock these. Then, last week, I got a tweet to let me know that the Midori Mini Cleaners II were back in stock.

Mine is in the mail and I will be picking up little gritty bits of eraser dust with glee from the moment it arrives.

Start As You Mean To Go On.

start as you mean to go on

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Pen Habit post. I never intended to scare anyone into thinking I might cease publication or anything. I just wanted to think out loud about the blog. I love doing this and I think I’ve been putting invisible pressure on myself to do more, more often and bigger. In reality, I think I have been my own worst enemy.

All the comments and messages on Twitter have been hugely uplifting and I am so grateful to have such kind loyal readers. I’ll say it over and over again, pen (and pencil) people are the best people in the world.

When I started the blog over four years ago on Tumblr I posted twice a day, five days a week. The content was less involved then than it is now but I have never really tried to taper the pace even though most posts take a lot longer to produce today. The Monologue Journals is a great example (a huge pile of notebooks in different paper weights, sizes and configurations required lots of photos, testing and a lot of specifics transposed into the post) compared with a “look at this beautiful office” post of four years ago.

As it stands right now, there are no plans to change the blog. There will continue to be Link Love posts almost-weekly*, Fashionable Friday, and From The Archives. I will continue to write ink, pen, pencil and notebook reviews as well as publish news, Kickstarter announcements and the occasional Art of The Day post or work space photos. There just might not be two posts everyday. Maybe just one. If I don’t post for a day or so, don’t worry. Sometimes, it gets a bit busy and sometimes or its just a slow news day (whether I’m responsible for the slowness or there just doesn’t seem to be much going on).

I’m always looking for new products, something different, something well-loved or just something beautiful. I hope I can keep bringing these finds to you in a thoughtful and timely manner.

If there’s anything you’d like to see more (or less), please leave a comment.

*It’s hard for me to keep Link Love on a specific day but I get one out every week or so, usually on Wednesday but I’m off this week. AGAIN.

Thinking About The Pen Habit


For those of you who follow The Pen Habit, you may have already heard about his announcement to cease recording his pen review videos and the subsequent follow-up about amending his format and explain in more detail his reasoning. Matt’s comments rang loudly for me about the amount of time he spends preparing and recording his reviews, not to mention the amount of money he has spent on pens.

Matt’s decision came on the heels on  Brad’s recent announcement to cease publishing his weekly Ink Links.

All of this led me to think about what I do and why I do it. How much time (and money) is too much to spend on a hobby? Its made me wonder if I should reconsider how much time I spend doing this blog versus actually living and reading and writing?

I have not made any decisions one way or the other because I like what I do. However, every week I do struggle to stay on top of all my reviews as well as working my full-time job and all those daily tasks that often get overlooked to squeeze in one more blog post, photo shoot, photo editing session or some other blog-related project.

I love this community. I love pens and inks and paper and all the other things to make a beautiful place to work. So bear with me while I get over my own growing pains.

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