Ms. Fountain Pen Manners: How to Respond to Someone’s Vile New Pen You Absolutely Hate, And More

It being Black Friday weekend, and the kickoff of the holiday buying season, there are a lot of new pens floating around social media. Pen makers and dealers are posting them, your friends are posting them, and every Instagram account or fountain pen forum has people posting them.

As this time is upon us, I shall now put on my “Ms. Fountain Pen Manners” hat. This is how a person with good manners responds to someone’s vile new pen they absolutely hate, or someone’s attractive new pen that comes in a box they don’t like, or whatever tricky situation arises.

1. A new pen arrives in dealers’ hands and hits Instagram. The color repels you; the material is garish. It’s awful. But your friends go gaga for it.

You want to say, “What’s wrong with you?! Are you high? That is molten aqua/orange/violet nightmare-fuel.”

Readers, that’s probably a tad harsh. Instead, try to dial it back, with the non-committal “Wow.” Or, the honest “Colorful!” Or, the trying-to-be-positive “I love the rhodium trim.” Or, if you think you can get away with it, “Bless its heart.” The latter is a favorite of Ms. Fountain Pen Manners, because Ms Fountain Pen Manners delights in throwing shade.

2. A company issues a pink pen, in a tacky box, targeted at women. You, being a person who hates pink, is of obviously superior intelligence and thus has appointed herself the Queen of What Every Other Person Should Like, object to the pink pen’s existence.

You feel you have to say, “This pen demeans and insults women. Why do companies think women like pink? It’s an outrage.”

Readers, this situation is one step more difficult. Because, first, you have to get your head out of your ass. Only then can you trot out the “Wow.” Or, “Colorful!” Or even, “Bless its heart.” Or, if you absolutely must register your objection to a pen that is pink, try something honest but respectful, like, “I’m not a fan of pink, myself, but it’s nice to see something different.”

See how easy that is.

3. Someone you know, perhaps Ms. Fountain Pen Manners herself, has bought two gorgeous pens, but both are white.

You want to say, “What’s wrong with you? You know they make pens in colors now, right? Why two white pens? Do you have two favorite white inks?”

Readers, this appears challenging, but it’s actually pretty easy. No, you can’t go with “wow” or “colorful” here. But try, “How refreshing.” Or, “You don’t see that every day.” Or, “So useful: that would work with any ink color.” Turn a negative into a positive; that’s the essence of good fountain pen manners.

4. Everyone you know hates the Lamy Safari, and loves saying so, over and over. Online, in blog comments, in personal emails, in texts, and right to your face in personal conversations.

You just want to say, “Oh shove it up your patootey.”

Well, readers, I’ve considered that fully, over the course of many long years. And I have finally reached a ruling. It is okay, in this one situation. Alternatively, you could go with, “You are wrong, and your taste is bad.” Either would be perfectly appropriate.

A Thanksgiving Story

Gather round, folks, for a Thanksgiving story. It does not involve Pilgrims, or Native Americans or Abraham Lincoln. Nor does it directly involve fountain pens. But it relates to the latter, in a roundabout way. Also, it’s vegetarian, which is unusual for Thanksgiving.

I warn you, however: this is a dull story. But there is a wedding, some pie, and a happy ending. So I’d only need to tweak a few things to have a great screenplay. And if you soldier on to the end, I will play a completely unrelated song I like.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I’ve been planning and cooking much of the week, because there’s a lot of food to make, and it’s more enjoyable this way.  Also necessary. For instance, I happen to have a pie crust recipe that is fantastic but which takes two days to reach perfect flakiness. (While I am instantly flaky. Puzzling that a pie crust is more work than a person.)

As I was doing Thanksgiving things, I was reminded of last Thanksgiving. When a little plastic piece popped off my Cuisinart food processor, right in the midst of apple-slicing or cranberry chopping or some other crucial task. This was a little plastic tab that held the cover on the bowl of the Cuisinart. Without it, the Cuisinart would not work. So this was a dramatic development.

Daughter of pioneers that I am, I duct-taped that sucker together and sped onward to culinary triumph and gustatory delight. But after Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what to do.

Our Cuisinart was a classic. Literally: the Cuisinart Classic. It was a much-appreciated wedding present, and has proved itself a stalwart machine and faithful kitchen helper. We’d named it (“the Cuisi”). And it never cut off anyone’s fingers. Last Thanksgiving was the first problem we’d had with it in more than 23 years.

My attachment to the Cuisi is, therefore, equal parts practical and sentimental. It didn’t cut off my fingers, and it had been a wedding present. We’d used it a lot. We’d moved with it into three homes. It was older than our kids. We’d grown accustomed to its face.

Also, I have the typical old person’s conviction that anything from my time is just better than anything available today. (Rationally, this is irrational. But it’s something everyone comes to believe.) “Sure this PS4 is snazzy, but back when I was a kid, we had Pong and then Atari, and those were really something. We didn’t need fancy graphics. We used our imaginations.”

Still, even putting delusions of the good old days aside, this was an objectively excellent food processor, and I did not want to replace it. So I looked at the Cuisinart website for a replacement bowl. I wasn’t sure what would fit. I wasn’t sure if I could get by with just the bowl or needed to spring for the whole bowl-cover-sleeve setup, at which point, maybe it would be cheaper to just buy a new Cuisinart. So I called Cuisinart to ask.

And first, how great for a company, in this day and age, to have a customer service number you can call, with people on staff to answer questions?

I talked to a very nice person who understood exactly what had happened to the little tab. She told me they did have a new bowl that would fit, but she added, “But your current cover and pusher sleeve won’t fit on that, because we’ve redesigned the whole thing for safety.”

Ugh. I began to silently rue my fate: safety always means expense. But I didn’t even have time to venture anything like, “I can make do. I’m not that attached to my hands.” No, she continued, it was okay. They would send me the new cover and pusher sleeve for free. It was Cuisinart that had redesigned these parts, so that was their policy.

And how great is that?

She took my order for the bowl, added the cover and pusher sleeve, and had it mailed to me immediately. At which point I had a mostly new Cuisi for Christmas cooking and all the days of our lives, once again. Which I remember happily every time I use the Cuisi. Including right now, as I cook Thanksgiving and carefully watch my fingers — which I don’t even need to worry about any more, probably, because of the enhanced safety of that excellent new bowl.

And ever since, when I have had to buy a new small appliance, I buy a Cuisinart. New coffee maker. New hand blender slash new-finger-chopper. All Cuisinart. And I will continue. Not just because they make very good machines. But because you can call a person, get help, and buy replacement parts — even for a machine that’s more than two decades old. Because they provide excellent customer service. Because they build things to last.

And that’s where fountain pens come in, in a roundabout way.

We are all different, with different budgets and needs, and we all occasionally succumb to impulse purchases. But I’ll tell you an adage we old people have learned the hard way: buy quality, buy once; buy cheap, buy twice. In the long run, that’s good for your budget and probably for the planet.

So along those lines, here is my personal opinions of four pen brands that in my experience have excellent quality, but also have provided me with the very best service and response if there’s ever been an issue with a pen. Edison, Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan.

Now, thank you for listening to my Thanksgiving story, and for reading this entire year. Happy Thanksgiving, America. Here is something good:

Department of “No, Just No”

“Inktober.”

Gah. (Not the project, which I’m sure is fun. Just the abysmal name. The hackery, the butchery. The base assault on the language of Shakespeare, Milton and Austen, of Dylan and Ishiguro, too. Of far humbler wordsmiths who still take the time to write and rewrite, to find the perfect word, to hew the soundest sentence.)

Sure, at first I just ignored it. As one does. As when your brother-in-law talks politics at Christmas. But after only a few days, it’s un-ignorable. The merchants have seen this opportunity, and cannily jumped in. Instagram has been infected at levels last seen in the movie Contagion. And October is 31 days long.

So sure it’s going to be hell, but at least it’s an extra long month. Gah.

What I’m Doing on my Summer Vacation

I’ve been taking some time away from the blog. Because it’s summer.  Here are some things I’ve been doing instead.

1. Anything but pens. I haven’t picked up a fountain pen for more than a scribble in weeks. I’m just not feeling it. No inspiration to write. No real interest in pens, either. I’m recharging. I might start a different writing project.

2. Pen Show. Actually, I have been doing pen things, just that they all relate to the Chicago Pen Show. That’s of course the 2018 show, which sadly isn’t until next May. We’ve got some fun things in the works, though. Everyone should come.

3. Gardening. I’ve been gardening a lot. But not genteel or picturesque gardening. Rambo gardening. While redoing one of the borders, I scratched up both arms muscling a Zebra Grass on a day that was so hot I couldn’t wear long sleeves. Teaching me that there is no day in the garden so hot that I shouldn’t wear long sleeves. But that wasn’t the best part of the Zebra Grass Battle. The best part was when I realized one large clump of Zebra Grass was actually too firmly rooted for me to divide it with a spade. Even standing on the top of the blade didn’t provide enough oomph. It was so hot, too. I considered just lying down on the lawn and expiring from weakness, right there. The dogs would have found my remains. And everyone would have felt badly. “Why didn’t we think to bring her an iced tea? Or help out? We’re monsters!” That would have been good.

4. Bunnies. Nothing makes you realize, “I’ve lost the innocent bloom of youth,” like coming to see Mr. McGregor in a completely different way, not as the villain of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but as the everyman hero. Because no matter how cute bunnies seem when you’re little, when you grow up and begin to till your own small square of earth, you realize rabbits are voracious eaters and rapid breeders, and the enemy of all plant life. If not all life on earth. So every summer, I battle to humanely protect the plants they target. And every summer, I lose. Plus, our younger dog, Gus, is an avid hunter, and not humane, so every year I’m also battling to keep him away from the baby bunnies. This year has been especially grisly on the Gus front. But there’s a little baby bunny out there now, who’s somehow survived. He’s an adorable little sprite who just hopped out and obliviously began munching on our back lawn the other day. Right in front of our french doors. While on the inside, my dogs howl at the tiny, blithe provocateur and hurl themselves murderously against the glass. I know, one way or another, this is going to end badly.

5. Movies. We’ve been watching a lot of movies. There is no hockey in the summer. This is the only bad thing about summer.

6. Books. I’ve been reading actual books. All the way through. Yeah. Next step, world domination.

7. Cursing Photobucket. Without warning, or even after-the-fact notice, @$&*%$# Photobucket cut off all photo-links, unless you want to pay some blackmailishly high annual fee. As a result, many photos on this blog were disappeared, and I have to try to figure out which ones, then try to find them on my computer, then put them back. Great use of anyone’s spare time. Photobucket can be rhymed with some pretty bad words, let me tell you.

Icco Nico Washi Tapes: Calendar and To-Do

Icco Nico washi tape

Icco Nico Washi Tape. These just arrived from Japan: washi tapes for calendar and to-do lists made by icco nico, a small online stationery and accessory company in Nara-shi, Japan.

Icco nico is run by Mari Sakamoto. I found out about her and icco nico when I stumbled across a tweet a few months ago of washi tape she’d designed to make any notebook into a calendar. I use a bullet journal, and Field Notes memo books, so I loved this idea.

Icco nico’s initial calendar tapes were in Japanese only, so I waited for an English version. And here it is, from the icconico etsy shop. Happy Saturday to me.

I bought the vertical calendar set in English, which are the two washi tapes on the left and middle, and the roll of to-do tape on the right.

Icco Nico washi tape calendar and to-do

The to-do tape comes in two colorways, pencil and crayon. Pencil seems to have only one size: 3mm. Crayon has three sizes (3, 3.7 and 5mm), which weren’t all in stock when I ordered. Choosing between the smallest and largest sizes, I went for the largest: crayon in 5mm. This is the 5mm to-do tape in a Field Notes memo book.

Icco Nico washi tape to-do

The larger size to-do list lets you write longer items and add information like phone numbers or addresses, which I find helpful. It also would work well if you’re writing your list with a broad point. But the 3mm or 3.7mm would have let me cram more “to-do’s” per page.

On the other hand, I don’t really want long to-do lists. I kind of feel oppressed by to-do lists already. (Because my to-do lists only contain unpleasant things that I actually don’t want to do. Duh. That’s why I wrote them down instead of just doing them.)

Hey! Instead of listing things like “dentist appointment,” what if I sprinkle in some items that say, “you are awesome”? Or, “stop working, call a friend for coffee.” Then I’d love to-do lists. Genius. Until then, however, I’ll let these pretty crayon colors carry me through.

Icco Nico washi tape calendar and to-do

That’s a quick shot of the two sets in the Field Notes memo book, each page of which is only 5 ½ by 3 ½ inches.The pen is a Lamy Safari, for additional size reference. I’m actually going to use the two calendar tapes in my bullet journal, which is larger. One full month of the vertical calendar runs just over 7 inches, so it fits nicely on a single page of an A5 notebook or journal.

The calendar tapes have Saturday in blue and Sunday in red, a great touch. The tapes adhere well, with just the right amount of adhesive to let you stick and unstick a few times till you find the best spot.

Icco Nico washi tape calendar and to-do

I like both sets. Icco nico also makes some other organizational washi tapes, and I’m really glad I found it.

 

This Cracked Me Up

Sometimes you’re reading a book, and a sentence strikes you.

I was reading a mystery the other day by Josephine Tey called A Shilling for Candles. At one point, the head detective travels by boat to interview a witness. During the crossing, he’s reading hostile news stories and thinking about the complexities of the case. At journey’s end, preparing to disembark, he watches a sailor working.

Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer quote

Ha!

The ink is Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer. Maybe I could make the wax seals on their ink bottles for a day or two, as a little break.

Papier Plume Ivy 108 and Lake Michigan Summer: Ink Giveaway Winners

Congratulations! Gerry G was selected as the winner of Papier Plume Ivy 108 and claudia barcellos was selected as the winner of Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer. Please contact me through the link on the blog with your name and address by April 25 to claim the prize. (Or let me know if you’re coming to the Chicago Pen Show, and can pick it up there. I will add some extra swag.)

Thanks to everyone who participated. The remaining bottles will be for sale at the Chicago Pen Show, May 4-7. Most importantly, Go Cubs.

Here’s the Ivy 108 list.

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And here is the Lake Michigan Summer list.

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KWZ Rotten Green: Ink Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, mjelson, because you were selected as the winner of KWZ Rotten Green. Yay! Please contact me through the link on the blog with your name and address by April 22 to claim the prize.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you get to try Rotten Green at the pen show or otherwise.

Here’s the list below. If a name appears twice it’s because that person entered both on the blog and on Instagram.

 

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A Very Serious, Not At All Tongue-in-Cheek, Fountain Pen Dictionary

Penjoyment. The state of good cheer that arises when pen and ink make writing fun.

Pendless. Your wishlist.

Penabler. All your pen friends. Or you drop them.

Penergized. That hopeful, exhuberant feeling that arises when you walk into a pen store or pen show or start browsing online — or even when you think, “Today’s the day I’ll clean out some pens.”

Penthusiast. How you describe yourself to your spouse, just before you start having merchants ship to your office.

Penthrallment. The knowledge that you must have a certain pen or ink, and it will be the last one you ever buy.

Penuui. Boredom with writing instruments, either the last one you bought, or all of them.

Penvy.

1. The unexpressed, uncomfortable feeling that, while you really couldn’t be happier that your friend got this sought-after fountain pen or ink, now that she has it, you feel left out, and your pens and inks seem second-rate in comparison.

2. If the possessor isn’t your friend, the feeling needn’t be kept secret, and can be expressed with a witty dig at the object or the possessor, or both.

Penpal.

1. A person with whom you send letters back and forth.

2. A person you have owed a letter to for three months. See, Penemy.

Penemy. A person who used to be your penpal, until your replies became so slow.

Penitent. A person who replied too slowly to her penpals.

Penvelope. A real word, for an attractive but expensive leather pen case that you consider buying when you have bought too many pens to contain any other way. If you have at least two Penvelopes, see, Pensanity.

Pensanity. Peak pen purchasing madness.

Penlightenment. The state of feeling satisfied with the pens you already have, which must last longer than three months or until you save up for the next one.

Pend. The end of this blog post.