Sunday, February 22, 2015

Renaissance Art Leather Passport Sized Journal (and Scout Books!)

I'm a big fan of Renaissance Art's work. I have two of their composition book covers, one purchased back when it was a custom item (see my review here), and another purchased later, when they started making them as a regular item.

They are both beautiful, and have held up well. They're not for those who like their leather goods to look machine stamped, but for those who like a rustic, hard-working sort of cowboy/ancient times hybrid look, these are great.

A few weeks ago, Renaissance Art did an amazing thing. They basically *gave* away examples of their "passport" sized notebooks, for about the price of shipping, to get examples of their work out to anyone who was curious. They didn't request that we write reviews, though they always welcome feedback (and act on it, which is pretty awesome). I'm just excited enough to throw one out there of my own accord.

Turquoise--so pretty!

It is, like my big notebooks, beautiful, thick leather. It holds two passport sized notebooks (more on that in a moment), or a passport and a notebook, for the true travelers out there, or two passports, for the Jason Bournes out there (though if you're going to carry several at once, you may want to be careful where you leave 'em). The way it works: there's a doubled cord that runs through the middle and pulls through the decorative woven tube thingie on the side. You pull the cord back enough to loosen it, open one of your notebooks to the halfway section, and slip it under the cord. Then you pull the cord back through to tighten.


There's a video at the bottom of the product page on RA's site, if any of that didn't make sense. It works remarkably well, considering how simple it is. I'm guessing the white cord may get a little grubby with time, and over a whole LOT of time, it could wear out, but I'm guessing that won't happen anytime soon. It's sturdy stuff.

There are stitched pockets inside the front and back covers, big enough for folded receipts or business cards or other odds and ends.


It comes with one of Renaissance Art's blank notebook refills: heavy, hand torn paper with a simple linen cover. These are pretty rough around the edges because of the hand tearing, and don't have punched corners. They're also nicer (in my opinion) for writing or sketching with pencil rather than writing with fountain pen, as the standard paper (you *can* request other stuff) is pretty toothy.


I like it and will use it, but I will probably replace with my own refills after. Which brings me to a cool discovery.

When I was originally waiting for this to arrive, I had it in my head that it would be big enough to hold Field Notes and Moleskine cahiers. For some reason, that's about how big I thought "passport" meant. If I'd actually looked at my passport for two seconds, I'd have seen I was wrong, but I didn't.
When I first took this out of the envelope, I was disappointed. It's considerably shorter than a Field Notes notebook, so I figured I'd either have to order refills only from Renaissance Art, or learn to make my own refills--something I do want to do, at some point.

But then last night, it hit me: Scout Books are 3.5"x5 size! I thought just maybe that would work, and boom, yeah, they're perfect for one another! Which is awesome, really, because I really like Scout Books, and there aren't many covers out there that fit them well.


There isn't a huge amount of overhang on the cover's part, which is fine by me, but I figured I should point it out. It's just about flush.


So yeah, I got me a really beautiful little cover for carrying around a couple of Scout Books. And it's the same great leather I'd already loved, in a more fondle-able size. I may be buying more of these as gifts for other notebook lovers in my life.



A Relaunch of Sorts

The past year has had a certain number of fits and starts for me, blog-wise. Little Flower Petals has always had rather a lot of split personalities, enough to make me uncomfortable with it a lot of the time. My first attempt to fix that was to spin at least some of those personalities to a second Blogger blog, Thorns and Blossoms. Unfortunately, I don't think it truly got off the ground.

Then I complicated matters by kind of sort of accidentally signing up for a full web service. As in a domain and site. With MY NAME on it. It's a long story, and I'm still a little weirded out over having a site with my name on it, but I own it, and I'm agonna use it.

My first posts there have been a little flailing, a little trying-to-figure-out-what-to-put-there. In the end, though, I believe I'll make it something of a catch-all for think-y posts and day-to-day activities, and keep LFP as, in a way, my "hardware" blog: a place to talk about pens and pencils and ink and notebooks and all that. That's been perhaps its strongest personality, in any case. I'll hopefully be doing some polishing and revamping here over the next little bit. I know there are older posts which have lost their images due to the evil treachery of Flickr, for example, and I need to either remove or patch them.

And there will be new content. First up, hopefully: I have a new little Renaissance Art leather notebook cover I'm excited about, and I'm going to work on getting a mini review up for that.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Arrogant, Elegant, Smart?

I've been trying to get a Throwback Thursday post up most weeks, but this week, I'm too preoccupied about the future to successfully contemplate the past.

This coming Saturday, I'm signed up for a real, honest-to-goodness writer's conference. It's a fairly small one in a fairly small town, and is more lecture than critique. Still, I'm nervous. I feel like an impostor. I feel like if I'm not careful, someone will ask me a question a Real Writer would know the answer to, and I'll be exposed as a fraud. A shocked silence will fall, and I'll be cast into the outer darkness to wail and gnash my teeth.

Something like that.

Or at the very least, I'm not sure how to introduce myself if--God forbid--anyone asks me to do so.

• Do I admit to writing all my life, to many years of short stories and essays and even completed novel-length works, and say I'm there to learn more about editing and marketing? Or is that arrogant?

• Do I act aloof and blase: say I've always been kind of curious about having a go at writing and that I'm just there out of curiosity?

• Or do I resort to my common role in music circles: playing the total beginner, so I have excuses for any shortcomings, but limiting myself because I'm basically saying "Don't take me seriously"?

As I once again pondered these questions this morning, this song (performed by Danny Kaye in The Inspector General) popped into my head. Doesn't really address my conundrum, but it makes me smile.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Goodwill Score Teaser: Berol Mirado pencils

Went to Goodwill today and was pawing through the baskets of office supplies like I always do, when *this* turned up:


That's three boxes of pencils, a full dozen in each. And a pencil I've wanted to try for a long time. And for less than a dollar a dozen. I bought these so fast...



The erasers are pretty well cooked, of course, and not much good. The pencils themselves are perfect. And beautiful things they are, IMO.


I particularly like the shiny brass and red ferrules. (Yes, there's a little corrosion, but not too bad.) The ferrules on the newer Papermate Mirados (shown here on a Black Warrior) are much subdued in comparison.

Really looking forward to trying these, once I get up the nerve to actually sharpen one. And I'll hopefully do a little review of sorts once I do.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Update Just to Update, 1st Week of Sept 2014 Edition

1. I'm about a third of the way into Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. How I missed this one until now, I have no idea. It's a peculiar book: takes place in the early 1800s in an alternate England where magic still exists, though only two "practical" magicians remain, other magicians being merely "theoretical," reading up on the history and theory without actually doing any magic. At the beginning of the book, actually performing magic is considered a bit improper, though thrilling.
Anyway, I'm very much enjoying it so far. If you know the end, don't tell me!

2. Today I'm listening to Hank Williams over and over. A friend made mention of the song "I Saw the Light," and his version is the one that plays in my head as soon as I see those words. Listening to him is bittersweet now: this is music I listened to as a kid until every word is part of me...but now that I'm more familiar with the hard, short life he led, I can't help hearing double-meanings in so many of these songs, and it tears at my heart. Love his voice, though.

3. Tomorrow I'm going to do something that scares me, rather. I've been a regular blood donor for several years now, but yesterday I got a call/plea from the Puget Sound Blood Center asking me to consider donating platelets. This requires being hooked to a machine for several hours: blood goes to a cell separating machine that collects platelets, and then red blood cells are returned. This is WAY, WAY creepier than merely bleeding into a bag. I'm a pro at bleeding into a bag at this point. I have a 2 gallon pin to prove it. But a) the nice blood center lady said they're at "emergency" levels, and b) I accidentally totally missed my last appointment to donate, so I have guilt. So...off we go. Maybe I can include it in a story someday.

Added bonus: totally legit excuse to sit on my rear reading a book for several hours on Saturday.

4. I appear to have been conclusively adopted by a desk, whether I like it or not. It's a sturdy but unattractive thing that used to be a nurse's station at a gynecology/urology practice, just to add to its charm. (Everybody, CRINGE!) I got it for free when I helped some of the folks there move to a new building.

In a lot of ways, it's an ideal desk for me: it has a file drawer plus another drawer for junk, a pull out work-surface for times when I need more paper space, a big built-in space for organizing documents, plenty of book space up above. However, the lamp on the underside broke, so it's dark. Also it's ugly. And did I mention ugly? I thought to maybe sell it and eventually replace with something slightly more of my own choice, but no bites. Beyond conning friends into helping me haul it to Goodwill, I seem to be stuck with it. And I'm beginning to think I'm not meant to get rid of it. It seems to be My Destiny.

So I guess I'm going to try to find a new LED light to mount on the underside of the hutch bit. And maybe I can pretty it up. Somehow. Maybe I can cover it in decorative duct tape. That would go along with my milk crate and garage sale rejects motif.

5. I've been posting a bit more poetry and such over on my reflections-and-thoughts blog, Thorns and Blossoms. Some of it's a repeat of what I've posted here, but not all, so check it out if you've a mind to.






Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Hardy Boys and the Search for the Squeaky Baritone

Cheating today: this post originally went a few Augusts ago, but I'm stealing it because I don't have time to write a new one this week.
The Davies Memorial Library in the town where I grew up was and remains a sort of time capsule. It resides in the space above the town offices and post office, the top floor in a smallish old building with creaky wood floors. Most of the time the big green wooden front door that brings you directly into the library is locked, so instead you go in by way of the more or less modernized offices downstairs, past the sounds of printers and phones and people talking, and then up, up into a hushed and dusty space where the years have stopped in their tracks. It smells like fragrant old wood, like an old violin case, and the mustiness of old books. Huge old paneled windows let in slanted sunlight, the disturbed dust floating in the light, making the rays seem like a physical thing. In the main room, there is a fireplace and off-limits horsehair stuffed furniture, and a glass case filled with antiquities. An iron spiral staircase disappears into what I now guess is an attic; when I was little, I used to have nightmares about what was at the top of those stairs, behind the closed door.

Most of the children's section resides in a few built-in wooden bookcases against one wall, with stairs built beneath so even the shortest patrons can reach. There are some new books by now, I suppose, but at least when I was little, they mostly dated back years. Decades. While other kids were reading The Babysitters Club and Judy Blume and whatever else was popular in the late eighties and early nineties, we read boys' adventure stories from early in the century, and the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, L. Frank Baum, Thornton Burgess, Tom Swift, and the original Hardy Boys books: brown bound volumes with crackly yellowed pages. We'd collect a stack of books, and then Mom or I would write the titles and authors down carefully in the notebook on the desk. There were no punch cards or a full-time librarian or anything like that: the library works on an honor system, and you just write down a list of what you've got, and bring 'em back when you're done.

Although most of us were (and are!) voracious readers in our own right, Mom read many of these books aloud to us. She was a master of reading aloud: all the characters had unique voices, mannerisms; some had quirky accents. Her voice would rise in excitement at some points, or drop to a secretive near-whisper. She made those books come alive. We liked the slang in the Hardy Boys books, and repeated it ourselves. "Good night!" we'd exclaim. "Aww, nuts..." "Gee, that's swell!"

When we later came across the remade versions from the sixties and later, we were appalled and disgusted. In many cases, they shared nothing with the original books but the titles. They were tamer; more PC, I suppose, but not nearly as much fun.

After all these years, I've forgotten almost all details of the books. But there was one in particular I'd been wanting to find again at some point. I had the vague impression that there was diving involved in some way, but that's all. And one of the characters was a fellow named Mr. Perry. Mom gave him a high-pitched, rather querulous voice that stood out from all the others. And then...about halfway through the book, she read something he said, and then stopped short. She blinked, and then read slowly (I paraphrase, and probably confabulate), "he boomed in his hearty baritone voice." And then she cracked up. And we cracked up. Even the younger kids who may not have understood the discrepancy couldn't have helped laughing once Mom started. Her laughter was contagious: she'd laugh until she was breathless, and tears streamed down her cheeks.

I can't actually recall if she changed his voice or just left it--with the mismatched adjectives creeping in here and there, to our amusement. But it inadvertently turned a minor character and a not particularly spectacular book into a memorable one. When my little brother got an orange kitten at around that time, he instantly named it--Mr. Perry.

(As a side note, when Mr. Perry was a few months old, he went after a toad. Toads secrete a poison--it's about their only defense--and it made him foam at the mouth and otherwise sick. He was rushed to the vet, and in the process of examination he was discovered to be a she. Ben renamed her Peri Ozma, Ozma being of course after the princess in L. Frank Baum's Oz books. Meanwhile, many of the little kids got the impression that licking a toad could cause one to change sex. Oh dear....)

I know the Mr. Perry book was nothing special, but I've still been wanting to track it down. Every few years I'd wander around the internet hoping someone had a detailed enough synopsis that I'd be able to figure out it. And it has finally happened. Thanks to various wikis, I've identified it as The Secret Warning. Not only that, but there's a company reprinting the original series, so I can get a new copy. It's on my list. I don't expect much of it, reading it as an adult and without the circumstances surrounding the first reading. But at least I'll have the satisfaction of having solved a long-standing mystery.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Learning to Draw

Well, I did it: I ordered a book (some seem to believe it to be *the* book) on learning to draw: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.

Years ago, Mom went through the early portion of this book with us kids, but I don't think I was more than ten or so at the time. It's been awhile. About all I remember is drawing birds, and even then, my younger brother (now a graphic design professional and an artist in fact) was so obviously so much better than me I hard a hard time even trying.

I don't really fancy myself an artist, but there are times when I wish I had the ability to sketch ideas visually as well as verbally. I'm also just curious to see what it does to the way I perceive the world around me, what details I notice and retain. Seeing more clearly is as much a benefit for writing as it is for drawing and painting.

I'm looking forward to this little adventure!

What about you? Do you ever draw or paint? What do you feel you get out of it? What do you like best? What do you find challenging or frustrating?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Desiccated

Here's how stupid-smart I was as a kid: at about the age of five, I remember finding a little package of silica gel beads.

I figured out how to get it open. Those little beads looked like candy, so I ate them, though they really didn't have any taste, which was disappointing.

I then paused to read the label, and noted the DO NOT EAT. (Pretty sure the package I found as a kid didn't have the confusing quotation marks.) I could read well enough to understand. So I took the package to Mom and explained what I'd just done.

I don't remember what she ended up doing. Just made me drink some extra fluids for the next little bit, I think. And probably laughed at me after I'd gone to bed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bounty

Slightly over-sunny shot of some of the things coming out of my garden these days: Anaheim peppers, yellow squash, alien spaceship squash (AKA patty pan), bell peppers, lemon cucumbers, and assorted tomatoes. Not pictured: about a zillion other tomatoes, eggplant.

I'm finally getting to the point where I need to start freezing or canning some of the tomatoes. It took a bit, because OH MAN I love tomatoes! I've been cooking a few to go with eggs in the morning, making tomato salads with nothing but tomato, a little sweet onion, salt and olive oil (LOTS of tomato salads), eating them plain, adding to sautéed vegetables at dinner. It's nice to finally have leftovers.

Tomato varieties definitely invited back to the party next year:

  • Sungold cherry tomatoes (in fact, I might need two, because I never seem to have enough--these are incredibly sweet and firm and flavorful!)
  • Cascade tomatoes, because they ripened before all else, have a nice compact bush, and have been crazy productive. Great salad tomatoes, these.

Tomato varieties which *may* come back:

  • Heinz paste tomatoes. They've been really productive, and the tomatoes are nicely meaty (not very seeded or juicy), which should work well for sauce...but I haven't tried yet.
  • Black Prince. These are cool looking, and really tasty...but they've also been very prone to cracking, which makes me sad.

Tomato variety to which I'll bid adieu:

  • Yellow pear. I really wanted to love these, but compared to the Sungolds, they're mushy and bland. The Sungolds are kind of mind-blowing, so it's not really a fair competition, but so it goes.

I need to decide what to do with all those peppers, too! It might be a good time to buy a bunch of tomatillos (or use up some greenish tomatoes) and make me a big pot o' something resembling chili verde.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shiny New Word Machine


There's no way to show you how pretty this screen is, so instead of even trying, here's a lousy flash-ridden camera phone shot...

This week, after a research and shopping frenzy which rivaled that of my hypothetical toaster shopper, I purchased a new MacBook Pro Retina 13". Honestly, there's nothing wrong with the "old" mid-2010 MacBook Pro it replaces, but I've been trying to do more writing directly on the computer (traitorous, I know, but it's a skill I need to develop), and frequently this writing takes place away from home, so the light weight and superb battery life of the new models appealed. Also, my sister wants to buy my older one, so I had additional incentive to upgrade. Also, Apple just updated the MacBook Pro line with a minor processor spec bump and Best Buy had the previous generation discounted, plus I had a 10% off coupon, plus a friend had a student coupon she wasn't using.

So I jumped.

I went into all this more or less planning to buy a MacBook Air. The 11.6" model in particular is so, so very portable: not much bigger than an iPad + bluetooth keyboard (neither of which I have), easy to slip into a purse. But then I saw that high-density Retina screen--something no Air has as of this date. Most of the advertising rhetoric surrounding Retina seems to be aimed at photographers and other visual artists, but let me tell you, it makes text a thing of beauty: smooth, solid black. Considering I'm prone to headaches after long days of screen staring, Retina was love at first sight.

There's supposed to be a MacBook Air on the horizon with a Retina screen, and I debated waiting to see how that panned out, but three things (on top of a good price) changed my mind:

  • I use dual monitors at work, and LOVE this setup: it lets me easily compare similar documents, or put reference material up on one while writing/working in another, etc., etc., etc. For editing, I'd like to have this option eventually. There are some kludgy ways to attach multiple screens to the Air, but it's not really advised. The Pro, on the other hand, has plenty of ports for making this happen, including full-sized HDMI out, plus two Thunderbolt 2 ports.
  • There's no telling how much the Retina Air will cost, and it's a totally new model for Apple and may have some kinks to work out.
  • My sister's elderly netbook is on its last legs, and she is pretty eager to get my old one NOW.

So I went to Best Buy, dithered around for about thirty minutes before getting up the nerve to ask one of the sales associates to get the box from the back, and committed.

Thanks to Apple's Migration Assistant, pretty much all I had to do to set up the new system was to press a few buttons, watch a couple more episodes of "The Closer" while the two computers did a mind meld thingie, and boom: it was as if my old computer's brain had been transplanted into a new, sleek body: a body with a GORGEOUS screen and NINE FLIPPIN' HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE.

Granted, I haven't tested that battery life to the extreme, but based on usage so far, I have no reason to doubt it.

I've spent a good amount of time in Scrivener these last few days, and I'm really pleased that I don't have to zoom in nearly as much as usual: fonts are clearer even at small sizes, so I can work with more text on the screen at a time. I can also switch to scaled resolutions (1440x900 or 1680x1050) to fit even more. These resolutions aren't *quite* as perfect as the "Best for Retina" looks-like-1280x800, but still clearer than the old screen.

It's also a good pound lighter than the old system, which matters. Much slimmer as well, making it easy to slip into a bag. No built-in optical drive, but I don't use one all that often.

And have I mentioned the screen?

So yeah, so far, I'm quite happy with it. I shall call it Donald, because Donald is a good name for a Mac, and we shall write many, many stories together.


Old and new...