Bits and Pieces and Lamys and Pilots

So how are we all doing? All good? I hope so. I’m good, too, just super busy doing other things. As a result, I feel like I’ve been more inattentive than usual to my fountain pen blogger responsibilities.

Except, of course, the whole reason I took the job of fountain pen blogger in the first place is that it comes with absolutely no responsibilities. Excellent!

Except the pay? Same.

Still, I do like to check in with everyone, at least every once in a while, if for no other reason than to signal that I’m not dead or anything. So here’s what’s going on here, in pens and other follies.

1. Pilot Kakuno.

Last Sunday someone showed me a Pilot Kakuno in clear plastic. I was taken by it. It seems like a nice starter pen: it’s small but not tiny, with a comfortable grip. And I love a clear pen. Yes, it’s for children. But I don’t hold that against pens. I’m a Safari fan (like all right-thinking people).

2. Almost mine.

I liked the Kakuno in clear plastic so much that I actually put one, with a converter, into my Jetpens cart. Come for washi tape, leave with a pen. It’s that $25-free-shipping offer. It gets me every time.

In the end, though, I didn’t get it. As nice as the Kakuno is, I realized I wouldn’t use it beyond the first “Isn’t this fun!” stage.

3. Great news, Lamy.

You may remember that at the Ohio Pen Show someone took off with my beloved Lamy Pico in Laser Orange. That was a bummer. But this week Fontoplumo announced that Lamy is adding the Laser Orange as a regular Pico color.

The Laser Orange Pico was possibly my favorite pen purchase of 2016, and I’ll buy another for sure.

(There are some other new Lamy colors, too, including a very nice purple Lamy Nexx, for purple fans.)

4. Lamy, Lamy, Lamy.

Speaking of new Lamy colors, it hasn’t been officially announced, but it has been reliably rumored that the new 2018 Safari is going to be a textured black color.

Honestly, my first thought was “blah.” A textured black would be the third not-fun Safari in a row. Is this one necessary? There are three Safari or Al-Star pens in black or charcoal in the regular line already. In fact, a Charcoal Safari is the one pen I always keep inked.

But the idea has grown on me. It may be Stockholm Syndrome, but if the not-fun Safari is going to remain Lamy’s thing, they could do worse than textured black. I like black; probably everyone likes black.

Plus, well, I don’t know how to say this, but … I’d never really looked closely at the Charcoal, despite using it daily. And, now that I have, I think Lamy may have a point. The Charcoal is kind of an odd shade of gray. A textured black Safari might be more appealing.

So I’m mildly looking forward to this new not-fun Safari. Add that to the Laser Orange Pico and the 2018 Vibrant Pink Al-Star. That’s three Lamy purchases on the horizon for me, and I’m feeling positive about all three. Good vibes, Lamy.

5. The Best Lamy.

My favorite Lamy is on its way back to me as we speak — the Dialog 3. Thanks to the intervention of a good pen dealer (the Nibsmith), my pen is in the mail, with its clip apparently all fixed.

And just in the nick of time, too. I missed that pen so much I was debating between nailing Christmas lights to the wall to try to communicate with it, or firing up the shrine to Jobu and sacrificing a Platinum Preppy.

I think the lesson here is that having a good pen dealer is important.

6. Better than Lamy.

Virginia Woolf’s birthday was this past week. We are not worthy. Looking for a reading suggestion? Pick up Mrs Dalloway, or To The Lighthouse, available at fine bookstores and libraries everywhere. I’m going to pick up my copy of The Waves again, and this time, I swear, I’ll finish.

7. Actually.

Actually I have a Virginia Woolf pen. It’s beautiful.

I mean, it’s not Virginia Woolf’s pen. Of course. Fun fact: fountain pens were a new-fangled invention to her. I seem to remember a passage in her letters or diary where she totally dragged this buggy new technology. Yet to us, fountain pens are old-fashioned. I find that delightful. Also a little trippy.

Happy Holidays


I’m not sure how to start this. Purple ribbons are up in our yard, all around my neighborhood and down the main street of my town. We went to a funeral yesterday for a 16-year-old friend of my children who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The purple ribbons are a symbol of how she touched our lives, and a way to show her family that the community shares their loss. Purple was her favorite color, and purple is the color of Advent.

Any time a life is cut short at such a young age, it’s heartbreaking. At this time of year, it’s especially difficult. But this young person meant so much to so many. She was the most cheerful person, full of laughter, always smiling. She made an impression on everyone who met her. She radiated joy and passed it along. She had special needs, and the real challenges that come with that, and her life, short as it was, was one of the most affirming and positive I’ve ever seen. She was a far better person than most. She was a gift.

She wasn’t mean, she wasn’t greedy, she wasn’t selfish, she wasn’t rude, she didn’t sow discord or division, she didn’t exclude others, she didn’t hurt others, she didn’t take from others so she could have more. She saw good in everything and welcomed everyone as a friend. She beamed with joy. She was alight with it. She was full of affection. Her character, her demeanor, her smile — all were gifts.

In some ways, this is the season of gifts. But I’m reminded that the real gifts have been given to all of us already, and we can share those freely every day. That is something to celebrate. I wish everyone a healthy holiday season, filled with love, peace, warmth, light, and comfort and joy.

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.

The Naughty List, In Song

Well, I love a good Christmas song as much as anyone, probably more than most people, but I guess good songs must cost more, because my shopping trips this year have been the stuff of musical nightmares. What is going on in American malls this year?

I actually walked around Barnes & Noble with my hands over my ears for ten minutes. (Then I stood in front of the science books and loudly exclaimed, “Boy these look nerdy,” before realizing (a) I was actually there to buy a science book as a gift, and (b) the guys browsing these books would hear me. And edge away, crushed.) I am quite certain I’m on Barnes & Noble’s naughty list.

But because I practically needed to bleach out my poor brain after these trips, I’ve put together a playlist for people like me. Those who need a little un-Christmas, right this very minute. A list for my fellow naughty-listers, if you will.

Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart: Just the greatest song ever recorded. That’s all.


Car Seat Headrest, Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales: A little mopey at first, but it’s got a beat that builds in a killer way. This is my second favorite song of 2016. Your mother will be disappointed in some of the lyrics. Which are helpfully printed right there.


Flaming Lips, Yoshimi: A fairly gross video to play for your young nephews, to enliven your holiday gathering. I neither admit nor deny having done this myself.


The B-52s, Roam: Pure fun from the 80s. But also words to live by. Your mother should like this one.


The Weather Girls, It’s Raining Men: Pure fun from the 80s, part two. Put some camp in your Christmas or Hanukkah. Just made for moms.


A Tribe Called Quest, Bonita Applebum: We are rolling forward into 1990, when A Tribe Called Quest ambled onto the scene. If she listens to the lyrics, your mother will definitely not like this song. Unless your mother is me, which I’m afraid only works for three of you. Play this for your young nephews, however, and you’ll never have to attend another family dinner. Because you will never again be invited.


Lauryn Hill, Doo-Wop (That Thing): Very occasionally, someone makes something, and it’s perfect. Here you go.


A Tribe Called Quest, We the People: Extreme bad-language alert. Plus, this expresses a point of view that isn’t popular with everyone. So if you don’t already know this group, don’t click. But it’s my favorite song of 2016. So it’s gonna make my list. Also, RIP Phife.

Seriously, What Do We Do With Rubber Bands?

rubber bands

Life’s deepest questions, pondered right here.

I tend to end up with a fair number of rubber bands. As I think we all do. I got that nice black one from Field Notes as a gift with purchase. The red and white ones must have come with broccoli.

These thick ones seem excellent for serious banding needs. It’s just that I don’t have much call for rubber bands. (I already have a jar opener, and I don’t want to give away his job.)

Basically, there are only a few things I use rubber bands for:

1. Tying up unused extension cords. That adds up to two.

2. Flicking at people.

3. Threatening to flick at people. (More fun, actually.)

4. Pulling nervously during baseball playoff games. Useful, lately.

But … I’ve got nothing else.

What in the world do we do with these things?


Music Break

Due to unforeseen circumstances, my surely engrossing, or at least on-topic, fountain pen posts are going to be postponed. I hope not for too long.

But what do we do when the going gets tough? Turn on the radio. Or the turntable. Or Spotify.

Given the month, what could be more appropriate than the song up there, September Gurls by Big Star? This one is from way, way back in the 1900s — 1974. It’s from an album called Radio City, which was the second album from Big Star, and truly it’s a lovely song. Since September Gurls has been covered by other groups, you may have heard it.

So, okay, some trivia. Big Star was a little group and never became big stars. But one of its members, and the principal songwriter, was the late, great Alex Chilton. You may have heard of his earlier group The Box Tops. And Chilton happened to be friends with a guy named William Eggleston. Now, just a few years later, Eggleston would start being recognized as one of the greatest photographers ever. But back then Eggleston wasn’t particularly well-known, and he gave his friend a recent photo for the cover. That photo, The Red Ceiling, is surely the most famous thing about the record today.

But the 1970s ended, and we came to the 1980s. In 1987, the band The Replacements put out a tribute to Alex Chilton, called, appropriately enough, Alex Chilton.

The Replacements were the greatest American band of the 1980s. (I think that’s been scientifically proven). Also, totally wrecked. Fun fact: the band broke up for good during a concert, on stage, in Chicago.

I don’t like old music, but The Replacements are the bomb, even today. Scrolling through their YouTube videos, I’m in heaven. Merry Go Round. Kiss Me on the Bus. Unsatisfied. I’ll Be You. The whole of Let It Be. It does seem that they were never all sober at the same time, so if “on-key” or “well played” are important aspects to music, don’t even click.

But then the next decade came, the 1990s, and everything changed. Again. There was this little band, that became huge, called Nirvana. Back in the 1900s. And it’s very hard to believe this, but tomorrow will be the 25th anniversary of the release of their second album, a little thing called Nevermind.

Actually, if you watch the video, it does seem like 25 years ago. Because that is the most dated video ever. Check out the the hair flips. We could do a drinking game to the hair flips: “He/she flipped his/her hair; drink!” Except we’d all be passed out drunk within the first minute and a half.

So I’m not ruling it out or anything.

More Inexpensive Fountain Pen-Friendly Paper: Wheat Straw Printer Paper

Step Forward Wheat Straw paper

Okay, I am not someone who delves deeply into the paper end of the fountain pen hobby, admittedly, but I was surprised by this one. Wheat straw paper?

Yes: wheat straw has been turned into paper.  Initially, this was puzzling. But my dad used to eat shredded wheat cereal for breakfast. That stuff definitely tasted like paper.

Thus, wheat straw paper. It works nicely with fountain pen inks, appears to be better for the environment than regular paper, and it’s inexpensive. So I’m going to give this a try.

(click Page 2 below to continue)

Independence Day

When I was young and foolish, I wasn’t much different than I am now. But I did go to a lot more concerts. Back then, I really liked Bruce Springsteen. I used to like this song in concert, and I still think of it when July Fourth rolls around.  This time, I’ll press play.

I always feel lucky to have been born an American, never more so than on the Fourth. And it’s always a fun day in our house, because we host a Fourth of July barbecue featuring my husband’s smoked ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, and another friend’s homemade pies (usually red, white and/or blue). Then everyone packs up the coolers and troops over to our town’s fireworks at the beach. We look forward to this all year.

If you’re in the US, I hope you’re going to have a happy Fourth, and if you’re elsewhere, I hope you’re having a happy Monday.

Wednesday Realization: Milestones

I’ve liked almost everything about being a parent. Except when they got in trouble. Or got croup in the middle of the night. Or that time one of them gave us all stomach flu. Or when they broke a bone. Or broke our cars. Or their own hearts.

Okay, so I didn’t love everything. Most things, though, were pretty great.

But the best part of being a parent has been watching them grow into their own personalities and their own lives. Yesterday my son finished his freshman year of college. That feels like adulthood.  That’s neat.