Monday, January 30, 2012

A Month of Letters?

Like many of my penpals, I spend entirely too much time reading about mail and fountain pens and letter writing and calligraphy on THE INTERNET! However, occasionally, you find a nugget among the tailings (not that I am comparing any of the blogs I follow as mine tailings!) as you dig around the morass that is the web.

This morning I happened upon a thread at the Fountain Pen Network that linked to a challenge to send 1 letter each day that the mail runs in your town. Here is that thread. This is the link to the challenge.

I decided to take up this challenge. I 'think' I send an average of 1 letter per day, but I'm not sure about that. If I were organized, like Missive Maven, I would know for certain, but I'm not. I do have a little notebook that I am using to keep track so far this year and find that I have sent 15 letters out in January.

If you are one of my pen friends, I will be writing you soon. If you want to receive a letter from me, send me an email at my email address and include your mailing address. I will send you a letter. I know that I have 7 letters to respond to in my inbox - if you have written to me in the past week and don't have a response, it will be in the mail soon.

What about you? Are you willing to commit to a 29 day challenge to actually write 24 letters - 4 Sundays and 1 holiday in February -?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Peek-A-Boo Penpal

I am not a very good blogger. I receive anywhere from 4 to 12 pieces of mail each week. Each is unique and interesting. I am remiss about posting my incoming mail. Today I received an interesting envelope with a great letter from Becky.

I saw her mention it on her blog here and was pleasantly surprised that I received this cool envelope. I will tell you that I don't have the patience to try this. Those that receive my letters know that I rarely even put a fun sticker on the envelope.

So, take heart my MailArt friends. I enjoy all that you send me, even if I don't take pictures and get all bloggery about them. My new friend Tami has great stationery and always does something interesting to the envelope. Elle always does a fantastic creative job of making cool mail art.

What I find most interesting, however, are the words that my friends write to me. They let me see into their lives.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why do I penpal?

Sorry, no pictures today.

I have been blessed with a few new penpals in the past month or so. Sometimes, it almost feels like I have too many. But I spent a little time today thinking about the number of penpals I have. I realized I don't have too many.

I live in a little farming town in northeastern Colorado. I am a broke school teacher. I will likely never travel this country, let alone the world. However, because of my penpals I can travel. I can travel through their words.

I've never been to Pennsylvania but I know what that state is like because of Becky and Rachel. They let me in their lives so I know what cold, damp snow looks and feels like. I know what it takes to be a veterinarian and to be a student in college is like. Thank you!

Ilona keeps me apprised as to what is happening in the Northeast, albeit only a couple of times per year, but stories of chasing possums are eternal. Bev is my favorite Californian. She is a theater critic and has reviewed some interesting things! My friend Roger is due back from Florida, tanned, rested and happy. Rob is my fine friend from Italy. Lucas is a kindred soul who has passions for music and fountain pens. Elle and I have invented history together. My new friend Jim and I are sharing a trans-Atlantic spiritual quest to read the entire Bible during 2012.

I have other pen pals that don't have internet personas. Steven and I have have been corresponding for almost 2 years. Bill has become a trusted spiritual mentor (not bad having God and a lawyer on your side). Jane and I share a love of fountain pens and the early American West. Shona is my favorite Scot. Sarah is my sister from another mother (jeez, that doesn't sound as cool as brutha frum anutha mutha) from Great Britain.

I know I have missed some in this tribute. Sorry, I am not the most organized when it come to keeping track of who, what, when, etc. Some of my new acquaintances have been 1 and done, some have been 2 and done, we don't always connect. But each letter is kept safe and occasionally brought out and reviewed.

My life is so much richer because I decided to start using a fountain pen and tried to improve my handwriting.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my main dealers, Goulet Pens and European Paper gladly fuel my obsession. Check them out.

Thank you all for that you have shared with me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rhodia Pencils

I normally write with fountain pens, but today I am using a Rhodia Pencil.

I received 2 Rhodia pencils in a package I purchased last year. Being a conscientious teacher, I took them to school. I can honestly say that writing implements tend to walk away from my classroom. However, my 2 Rhodia pencils made it through last year and started this year in my desk drawer. They both survived most of the first semester until 1 disappeared! But my lovely Carla told me that it appeared in her classroom and that her students wait in line to use it!

So I decided to remedy the shortage of Rhodia pencils in my classroom. I ordered a box of 25 from the European Paper Company. EPC has turned into one of my favorite places to shop for the tools of my writing habit. They have fantastic service and always seem to ship what I order within 1 business day. A real bonus in my mind is that they are a Colorado company. It is nice to keep my business in my home state.

Now, regarding the pencils. I am not a pencil snob but I will admit that I enjoy writing with a good wooden pencil. The Rhodia pencils come individually wrapped in a cellophane sleeve within an orange and black box.

When I pulled one out of the box, I was struck by the rather distinctive orange and black colors.

Following further ogling of this pencil, I decided to focus on the triangular shape.

I'm no handwriting expert, but it seems to me that this triangular grip just calls for the writer to use a classic tripod grip when holding the pencil. If I had only had one of these bad boys in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade I likely would not have had the back of my hand smacked by Mrs. Kopine or Mrs. Magnino, the two meanest Italian school teachers in the history of La Veta elementary school. It was no secret that they were Catholics and I believe the nuns from the neighboring Catholic schools came to them to learn how to inflict bloodless damage with a ruler on the back of unsuspecting 6, 7 and 8 year old hands. But I digress...

I like a good wooden pencil. I like the smell of wood, the gray of the graphite, the sound it makes as you write out your thoughts. I like the opportunity to erase - not that I make any mistakes, ever, when I write ;) - and the ritual of sharpening the pencil. I must admit that I only use a knife to sharpen these pencils. The cost for each is nearly $2.00 each, so I only sharpen as much as I need. No rotating blades of wasteful sawdust for me. I also have taught my students to use a small strip of sandpaper to bring the lead to a sharp point without chewing away the entire pencil while grinding away and waggling their butts (yes, I have manual pencil sharpeners in my classroom)

If I could change one thing about these pencils, for my own use, I would give them just a touch harder grade of lead. The HB grade is only slightly harder than a #2 lead. If I were the emperor of the land of Rhodia, I would use a 2H lead or maybe a 4H lead for even longer life. But I'm not complaining. The ones I purchased last year are still over 4 inches long, yet sporting replacement eraser caps.

Are they worth it? I think so and so do my students. I highly recommend visiting European Paper Company and picking up a box today. (Full disclosure, I BOUGHT these pencils with my own money. I am not affiliated with EPC in any way other than as a satisfied customer)

Final note, that is not a dead fly in the pictures of the pencils. That is a leaf from the happy succulent that loves being in the kitchen during the winter.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rhodia Unlimited pocket notebook

One of the challenges of using a daytimer for personal organization is that the desk size is not always convenient to have with me at all times. But since I am an old guy that always wears shirts with pockets or pants with pockets, I thought it would be important for me to have something that I would be able to carry with me all the time.

I am going to review a couple of pocket notebooks I purchased from Goulet Pens. As always, Goulet's service is impeccable, even e-mailing me to confirm the details of my order. In a few short days, my package of notebooks and paper arrived in the secure Goulet packaging. After 35 minutes of slicing, dicing and pulling, I was able to free my merchandise from the bubbled and shrink-wrapped cocoon.

I purchased the Rhodia Unlimited notebook for $7 and two sets of the Clairefontaine Life Unplugged duo packs for $7 each. Today's review will focus on the Rhodia Unlimited.
Here it is with a Lamy Safari to give you a bit of perspective on the size.

First impression - who doesn't love the bright orange Rhodia cover? But this has a secret inside!
Opening the book reveals the unique "soft-touch" cover is black on the inside. I don't know if I can adequately describe what the soft touch cover feels like. Its smooth, yet has an almost tacky feel that has been dusted with powder - soft and smooth.

Rhodia paper is simply among some of the best for writing using fountain pens.

One final touch with this little book is that the pages are perforated for easy removal of the sheets.
This wouldn't be a good thing if I was planning on using this book as an archive, but since it is only going to be used for on the go notes, I think this is a good thing. It appears that the perforations will help the notebook open up a little flatter, which is always a good thing.

I'll conclude with a couple of photos of the Rhodia Unlimited notebook along with the CF Life Unplugged (what's a blog without lots of gratuitous pictures?)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Getting Organized in 2012!

I expect that everyone (well many people) start off the new year with a vow to do something different or better or what not. I'll admit that I am like the above mentioned "resolutionists". You know the drill, you vow to be taller or better looking or smarter or skinnier and within 2 weeks or less, you fall back into your old habits and well, things don't change that much.

I have a wonderful life. I wouldn't change much about it. I mean, I'm married to a beautiful lady, have 3 handsome sons, a good job, a decent house and lots of friends from around the world. But...I could do some things better. I'm 48 years old and haven't accomplished all I thought I would when I was a wide-eyed 18 year old. So, over the past weeks I've embarked on a soul-searching journey to see what I could do that would help me get back to realizing more of my dreams.

I need to be really honest about this. What triggered this examination of my priorities was the simple give-away Moleskine weekly planner I received from the European Paper Company . I mentioned in a post about that little planner that I am really sort of a planner geek. It all started in 1982 when I was a Colorado FFA Officer and we had a training session with a consultant from the Daytimer company. Later, when I started working for the Farm Bureau in 1988 and had more responsibilities, I needed to fall back on the concepts of planning I learned right out of high school.

I came upon this book in 1988:
Dr. Hobbs lays out a system of planning that takes into account the highest priorities in your life and weaves long term and immediate goals into your day. I did this religiously for quite a few years (not religiously like only on Easter and Christmas, but practically every day). Over time, I migrated away from using a paper planner and got captured by the electronica of Palm and Blackberry and discovered that I haven't always been working on my highest priorities.

So, I'm going a little old school and brushing off some of my old tools in order to keep my focus on the most important things in life. Here is a snap of the tools I am using:

Let me give you a little detail of how these work for me. The top book in the photo is the Bible. I am a Christian, so everything I do is influenced by my relationship with the Lord. I've joined with a pen-pal in Great Britain to read through the Bible in 2012. Here is the plan we are using.

The second tool is the Time Power book. This thing is full of tips and methods for gaining control of the events in my life. It points to the use of a datebook planner as a key. So I searched around and found an older binder and purchased a refill for the new year.

This planner paper is not fountain pen friendly, so I will be using a trusty mechanical pencil to record events and activities as well as planning for my priorities.

The final piece of my strategy is to spend time each day reflecting on what has happened with me and mine. Of course, this will have to be recorded with a fountain pen. I just happen to have a Quo Vadis Habana from Exaclair. It is a lovely notebook:

I write quite a bit in it. This is a snap of what I have written so far today.

I would love feedback from my legion of reader as to what you are doing in 2012 to accomplish your dreams!