Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Moving On!


OK, I swear, last time I'm gonna do this!

For awhile there, I had a blog in my own name on a Big Scary Real Domain Name. I also thought I could keep this blog going, and keep thoughts separate. What I actually achieved: intimidated and overwhelmed myself into blog silence.

So...I'm going back to blogging about anything and everything in one big messy blog: a new one that is *not* on the Big Scary Real Domain Name. I've combined old posts from everywhere but Little Flower Petals there. So...if you're still interested in the on-going and up-to-date daily doings of moi, my paper/pen/pencil obsession, and my felines, foibles and phobias, come on over to the new, final, for-real-this-time Blog o' Me at Enough Ice Cream.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's Overcast, and I'm Bakin'

About 80% of the time these days, I try to eat what I guess in current terms could be called Paleo-ish, but with some legumes and rice: lots of vegetables, berries, nuts, eggs, meat and poultry and fish. Dark chocolate. Not much in the way of bread, pasta, or sweets.

But I make an exception for the occasional homemade sourdough.

Crusty, chewy, tangy--I love a good sourdough bread. Dunk it in your soup, dip it in quality olive oil, slather it with butter, toast it, or just eat it, as we said as kids, "raw." There's nothing else like it, and it's all good.

My current sourdough starter came from King Arthur Flour getting on toward a decade ago. According to their sales blurb, "it’s descended from a starter that’s been lovingly nurtured for over a century. When you feed it, it quickly becomes your own, adapting itself to your own region and climate. Generations of bakers before you have made wonderful bread with a bit of this same bubbling brew."

A bit of romanticism to be sure, but it is still pretty cool to imagine all the many familial loaves that this starter has spawned through the decades. I am linked to bakers of long ago, and bakers all over the planet today. I love that.

And it's hardy stuff, this starter. Sometimes I bake with it frequently, but it also spends a good amount of time in cold storage. I spoon a bit of fed starter into a container and tuck away in the back of the freezer. Sometimes it's a little groggy when I first pull it out and revive it, but a few batches of flapjacks or crumpets and a few good feedings bring it roaring back to life again.

Even without the cryo-sleep factored in, sourdough takes a bit of forethought--it isn't a "hey, I think tonight I'll make..." kind of a food. It needs time to grow. It's a food for a gentler lifestyle, one with a bit of meditation built in.

There are all sorts of fancy ways to make sourdough bread, with all sorts of ingredients. The vast majority of the time, however, I opt for the very simplest of "recipes:" A day or two before I plan to bake bread, I get my starter out of the fridge, add about a cup and a half of water and enough flour to make a ball of wet goo, let it sit overnight until bubbly, spoon a little of it back into a container and add flour (this being the starter I keep), and add a spoonful of salt and enough flour to make dough to the rest. I knead it awhile on a floured surface, divide into two round loaves, and let rise on a cookie sheet, sometimes all day. Then I slash the tops and bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes.

It comes out chewy, crusty, a little salty, a little sour. Worth the wait. Yum!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Color Overload: Selecting a Fountain Pen Ink

Inkswarm. Yes, that says "Ink!" My handwriting is funky.

So, you have a fountain pen or two, and now you're ready to stock up on ink. But which?

Some of you will just buy boxes of black or blue cartridges or a bottle of black Parker Quink at the local office supply store and be good to go. You're sane. Carry on.

But some of you are like me. Ever since the days when I first saved up my allowance for bigger and better boxes of crayons, I've been on a quest for MOAR COLOR. Colors--so many colors and so many nuances!--were part of what drew me to fountain pens to begin with.

On top of color, there are other little attributes that may matter to you: do you need water resistance? Does it matter if the ink fades over time or under certain conditions? Does it bother you if an ink takes a little time to dry? What kind of paper do you write on most?

These days, the options are mind boggling, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can easily get your hands on just about any ink on Earth. But how on Earth do you decide what to choose?

1. Google them. (Or Bing them, or whatever floats your boat!)

There are many wonderful people out there with great cameras and scanners and a much better eye than yours truly who put in the time and effort and skill to come up with beautiful and exhaustive reviews. If you search for, say, "Iroshizuku Kon-Peki review," you'll be presented with all sorts of reports, some including comparisons with similar inks, some showing how a given ink behaves in different pens and on different paper, some testing water resistance, etc., etc.

In addition to blogs, more and more fountain pen vendors are getting tech savvy, and have swabs and comparisons up for viewing. Goulet has some of the best in the biz, including their nifty Swab Shop, which has a tool to allow you to compare similar inks. (Disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation with Goulet except as a satisfied customer who thinks they do a grand job).

This may be enough to help you decide. It's how I chose my first bottled inks. However, be aware that scanners, cameras and monitors can all vary dramatically. What you see may not be what you get. It will get you in the ballpark, but isn't quite the same as seeing the ink in person.

2. Find penpals with ink!

Most ink crazy people are only too happy to spread the madness. If you have friends who have inks you're interested in, have them write you a letter using those inks. You'll give them an excuse to play with their pens and ink, AND you'll get to see the ink in person. Win win!

3. Cartridges

This isn't always an option--not all inks are available in cartridge form, and some companies' cartridges are proprietary, but in some cases, you may be able to buy ink in cartridges before committing to a full bottle. This is how I first discovered what is now Waterman Inspired Blue, for example. Be careful that the ink you are buying works with your pen. Here's a good table on the subject.

Most vendors will be happy to answer your questions on this before you buy!

4. Samples

Some companies will sell you a few milliliters of ink in a small vial, so you can try before you buy. Goulet Pens is the one I'm most familiar with: I'm still working through the boatload of samples I bought a few years ago. You will need a way to get the ink into your pen, which can be a little harder than with a full bottle. What I generally do is to use pens with converters for this testing, and fill the converter via a blunted-needled syringe, a la this older blog post o' mine.

This method gives you the ability to test ink on your terms: in your pens, with your style of writing, on your paper.

You may also be able to trade ink samples with friends. I've sent samples out in the past!

So there you go. Hopefully this makes the whole ink shopping thing feel a little less intimidating. And, going back to you black Quink folk...don't be afraid of a little insanity now and again!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three More Inks: Waterman Tender Purple, Noodler's Purple Heart, Noodler's Lexington Gray

More mini-reviews as I continue to try out a backlog of samples from Goulet Pens. I don't have my old camera up and running and my phone is being kind of stupid when it comes to focusing, but the colors are more important than my scribbling anyway...

1. Waterman Tender Purple

Continuing the theme of liking inks I shouldn't and disliking those I should, I (a firm believer in permanent and water resistant inks) love with this ink. It is silky smooth, has a perfect amount of blue to the color (I prefer violet leaning purples) and is so vibrant I could kiss it.

It also becomes illegible if you so much as drip condensation on it from a frosty beverage.

I'm not sure if I could live with this ink, but I like it an awful lot. My perfect purple would be this color, but with at least enough water resistance to leave me something to trace. I ended up ordering Noodler's North African Violet to fill that role. It's not a perfect match and it doesn't have the silky smooth nib feel of the Waterman, but it is a vibrant purple with strong water resistance.

Noodler's North African Violet

2. Noodler's Purple Heart

This is a Goulet Pens exclusive. I admire the sentiment behind the ink, and (like other Eel inks I've tried) I like the writing quality, though (as with the Cactus Fruit I mentioned previously) it can disagree a bit with poorer quality paper. However, the color...isn't what I expected. Much more toward the red side of purple, and just generally...missing something. It's all right, but I don't need any more.

3. Noodler's Lexington Gray

How exciting can grey be, right? It's basically just black with some light shed on it. But I like this ink. I find it soothing. It is a rather true grey--DIY chromatography (dripping ink on wet paper towel) doesn't reveal much if any other color in the mix. Really, it looks a bit like pencil might if pencil was liquid with shading. And maybe that's why I like it--that and the fact that it's one of Noodler's "Bulletproof" colors, waterproof and fade resistant, and very well behaved even on pretty crummy paper.

Being as how I have so many other business-like inks already, it doesn't quite make the current wish list, but I don't rule it out forever, either.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Blah-Blah Regarding My Chromebook (Not Quite a Review)

I love my Chromebook. I am irked by my Chromebook.

But overall, I think I'll keep 'im.

First a paragraph of random trivia: I ended up with an Acer R11 Chromebook rather than an Asus Flip. Costco had a really good sale going on the Acer just before Christmas. Like the Asus Flip, the R11 is a convertible: the screen folds back for use as a sort of tablet, which appealed to me for sheet music and PDFs and movies.

It's a little tall and skinny for displaying chord sheets and sheet music, but works pretty well!

It isn't as sleek as the Asus Flip. It doesn't scream "classy." It looks like...a clunky white plastic slab. However, it's a little larger than the Asus (11.6" screen) and has a normal sized, very comfortable keyboard. And I liked the peace of mind of having a Costco guarantee, since the whole Chromebook concept is a new one to me. It also has a little more local storage (32GB) and an Intel processor, should I decide I want to play with Linux at a later date.

There are definite pluses to Chrome OS. For one thing, I already have an Android phone and use the Chrome browser on other computers, and as soon as I logged in, I instantly had all my bookmarks and browser extensions and access to all my Google Drive documents. I did a power wash (basically a factory reset) at one point in the last week, and pretty much lost nothing. Usually switching from one computer to another takes me weeks of tweaking, but there are very few local settings on a Chromebook, so the experience remains just about the same no matter what once you log in. You can upgrade to a new Chromebook, wipe a current one, or just use Chrome elsewhere, and changes sync (mostly) seamlessly.

However, I'm running into a few frustrating issues. Not all can be blamed on the Chromebook itself, but they're there nonetheless.

First of all, one of the primary reasons I bought it was so I'd have an inexpensive, durable, long-batteried laptop to lug to the coffee shop I frequently go to in the mornings. However, as I discovered the very first time I brought it along, Chromebooks can be a little picky about wi-fi. When I tried to connect, I got an error that said "network out of range." This despite the fact that other devices (my phone or my other laptop) connected without issue.

I did a bunch of online research. It appears this is not an entirely uncommon problem. Unfortunately, the advice mostly amounted to making changes to the router--not an option for me.

I've connected once over the last few weeks (presumably the router was reset and worked for awhile), but the rest of the time, the error comes up every time I'm there.

Second issue: Google Docs should work more or less the same off-line as off, though of course won't sync changes until next time you connect. And I have been able to edit existing documents without much trouble.

Creating documents off-line, however, gets a little weird.

For example, the other day at the coffee shop, I couldn't get the connection to work again. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just write offline and sync when I get to work."

So I did. I wrote and edited a short blog article (about 500 words). The top of the screen in Docs said "All changes saved offline." Feeling accomplished, I closed it out, closed up the Chromebook, and headed to work.

At work, I opened up the Chromebook and found...nothing. According to it, I hadn't touched any documents since yesterday. RAGE...RISING.

I thought maybe this was a fluke, that maybe I'd imagined the message saying everything was saved, or that I'd done something wrong. So I tried creating additional documents offline. Same deal. Docs would say it saved my changes. The document would (apparently) vanish into the ether as soon as the document was closed. Sadness would descend.

What I ultimately discovered was that my documents were there (PHEW!), but (aggravatingly) invisible until I'd been connected to a wireless source for an undetermined interval, whereupon they'd magically appear. Perplexing.

For the time being, I created some blank documents named Offline 1-3 to use when I'm just creating blocks of text to be applied elsewhere, since existing documents sync instantly. This also allows me to reopen documents offline. But I don't like this. Hopefully it's something that will be improved upon in the future.

I haven't really, deeply put the little guy through its paces in other realms, but I have used it for displaying recipes while standing tent-fashion on the kitchen counter (soooo much better than trying to read stuff off my phone), and for watching TV while on the exercise bike.

Musician fancy gym bike...

For those purposes, it works like a champ.

I'm not necessarily getting the 10 hrs of battery life billed in the specs, but I didn't really expect that. I can use it at the coffee shop, watch a few YouTube videos during lunch, spend some time surfing when I get home and watch a show while on the exercise bike and still have plenty of battery to spare, and that's good enough for me. My unscientific estimate would be something near 8 hrs.


  • Relatively lightweight
  • Rugged
  • Cheap, at least compared to a "real" laptop, or a tablet and keyboard combo (about $250)
  • Works adequately as a tablet for recipes, PDFs, movies while exercising, sheet music. It doesn't have a fancy retina screen, but the screen is a decently bright IPS panel. It will do.
  • Easy access to Google documents, which is about all I need for creating first drafts
  • Great keyboard, springy and nicely spaced


  • Not as lightweight as the models I'd originally looked at, making it awkward to use as a handheld tablet on the couch or in bed
  • Pretty ugly compared to the competition (though it's almost so ugly it's endearing)
  • Screen is just OK
  • ANNOYING wi-fi issues
  • ANNOYING off-line document creation weirdness

Despite the cons, I think it's a keeper. I shall plaster stickers on it soon. Bwahahah.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Welp, I Ordered Me a Chromebook

A surprisingly hard act to follow!

Some personal history: although I've traditionally written a goodly portion of first drafts by hand (speaking primarily of fiction here), once I get the ball rolling it's nice to have the speed of a keyboard--not to mention it's nice not to have to do quite as much double work, reentering all the text.

On the other hand, I have the attention span of a gnat, and a fully capable large screened computer offers many distractions. Also, having my text all spread out on a big screen a) makes it feel like I'm filling a water tower one drop at a time and b) makes me inclined to endless editing, since I can scan back through bunches of text at once and find fault with it. I compose most of my blog posts in a small Notepad window on my big screen, but that's not really practical for longer work.

Several years back, I discovered and fell in love with Renaissance Learning's Alphasmart word processors, specifically the Neo. They were rugged, their battery life could be measured in months or even years, they displayed just a few lines of text at a time, and they had a great keyboard. Basically, they were a miniature portable typewriter that saved to memory instead of paper. They only did one thing, but they did it well. I've loved mine. However, there are a few caveats: first of all, getting text from the device to the computer can be fairly time consuming and requires cables. I loathe cables. I lose cables. Secondly, the thing looks like a business class Speak and Spell. I never got truly comfortable with using it out in the public eye.

For some time, I've been longing for an Alphasmart successor: a simple, highly portable, unpretentious device which would allow me to create documents and sync them wirelessly.

I briefly owned a lipstick pink Samsung netbook and still remember it with fondness--I wrote a ridiculous number of short stories on that thing--but it was so slow, especially when booting up, and backing up my documents or syncing the between computers took a bit of thought. It was close, but no cigar.

A few years ago, Chromebooks began to pop up. I was mildly intrigued. Google has been a friend of mine since the days of invite-only G-mail and I already had quite a few documents in the Google eco-system. However, at the time, Chromebooks didn't really have any off-line capability (though I'm usually connected, I'd like that now and again), and were almost a public beta. I liked the concept, but didn't feel like they were ready for prime time.

The current crop feels a lot more polished to me, and I've decided to take the leap. I ordered an Asus Flip C100. This device is part tablet as well as part mini-laptop. The keyboard is small, but actually a bit bigger than the netbook of old, so I'm not too worried. It only has a 10.1 inch screen (tablet sized), but it's a nice bright IPS panel, and although 1200x800 is low for a tablet, it's better than the old netbook. I think it'll be very comfortable.

On top of all that, it has a touch screen, and if you flip the keyboard back, you can use it as a tablet. Granted, Chrome OS isn't really optimized for touch right now, and the screen is no iPad Retina thing, but my primary use case would be browsing or looking at PDFs, and I think it will be just fine for that.

You can also stand it up tent style, or flip the keyboard back far enough to use as a stand for watching movies (Netflix and Amazon Prime should both work) or displaying recipes. That covers just about everything I'd like to be able to do with a small portable device. Document editing comes above all, but I've never owned a tablet and, while I'm not expecting anything like iPad performance, I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

It should be here sometime in the next week. More thoughts once I've had a chance to incorporate it into my workflow. It could be the perfect first draft machine--if I can avoid the siren call of other Chrome tabs. The little guy only weighs about two pounds and will fit easily in my writing bag for coffee shop trips and lunch breaks. Best of all, whatever I type will instantly be available from my other computers.

A bonus: this is childish, but I've always kind of wanted to put stickers all over a computer, but have never had one I felt I could decorate like that. I am *so* gonna sticker this little thing once the brand new wears off.

Anyway, I'm tentatively excited.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Tracking Inks and Pen Rotation

Quick and dirty blog post based on a momentary Twitter discussion re: keeping track of fountain pens. If you're a nice logical person who keeps one or two pens inked with the same inks all the time, this does not apply. If, like me, you occasionally find yourself with six or seven, you may need a memory jogger for what's in what, especially if you bought samples of eleventy billion dark blues that are all very subtly different.

So this is my method. It's not fancy. If I get fancy, I fall behind, so I save notes on what I like or dislike about inks for my journals or blog posts.

As you can see, I'm rather fond of that Orange Safari. And even in a lousy nighttime photo, isn't the Cactus Fruit cool?

Anyone else log what inks they're using? How do you go about it?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Three Inks: Terre de Feu, Cactus Fruit, Scabiosa

As I'm going through these Goulet Pens ink samples, I thought I'd toss out a few little mini-reviews! So here you go. My opinions only, and your mileage may vary.

1. J. Herbin Terre de Feu

I really, really wanted to like this ink. In a very wet writer, I think it'd be quite nice, and it does have interesting shading. However, like many J. Herbin inks, I find it too dry for my tastes, and not saturated enough. In a less than fire-hose-ish pen, it comes out a pale pinkish brownish orange, which just doesn't appeal to me.

Ruled out.

2. Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel

This is an ink I like more than I should probably admit. I mean, it is BRIGHT. Obnoxiously bright. It is not really a "grown up" color. But ooh, so cheery! It isn't a super duper match for more absorbent papers (the "eel" lubrication factor, which is supposed to make pistons work a bit better, seems to make ink spread and feather a bit more than standard), but it is a pleasure to write with.

This one goes on my wish list.

3. Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa

Scabiosa sounds gross, no? But it actually just means honeysuckle. What a difference a language makes. This is another ink I wanted to like: it has an iron gall component, which makes it somewhat water and fade resistant, and in the right pen, it might be kind of nice. However, in my fairly dry-writing modern converter pens, it writing with a toothpick. *shudder* And the color ends up being a pale imitation of itself. I think. Reviews of this ink vary so much, I'm not completely sure what color it actually is--I expected a dusty purple, but it looks more...pinkish grey.

Ruled out.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ink fest!

There's one benefit to at least starting NaNoWriMo this year: it got me back to writing by hand, which a) I enjoy and which b) seems to jog my creativity a little, or at least gives me a longing for creativity, which is sometimes the key to finding it again.

This is maybe a third to a half of the full stash...

I still have more fountain pens than any one person needs. At least they're small! At the moment, I've been leaning toward the cartridge converters, partly because they're often simpler to maintain, and partly because...well. Let me tell you.

Back when I first discovered Goulet Pens and their ink samples, I ordered about a billion* ink samples. Because, hey, I could! And look at all the pretty colors! And then life got in the way and I used pencils a lot for awhile there and I pretty much forgot about the ink samples until I moved, and then realized I still had about a billion* minus four.

So this has been a month of playing with inks again, primarily in my Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safaris, since they're cheerful and easy to clean out. I've only actually emptied a few vials, but it's a start.


Of course, now I want a bottle of Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel (it's so bright and happy!) and a bottle of Waterman Tender Purple and a bottle of...

But not until I've used up at least half a billion more vials, I think.

*slight exaggeration

Edited to add: here's a post with a bit of info about how I get ink into my pens! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NaNoWriMo Halt.

Aaaand, I'm out. I might make 25k this year. Or I might just set it all aside.

I knew it wasn't going to be an easy year. I'm still getting settled in the new house, work is kicking my behind and brain, and I had no time to think ahead during September and October. I'm a pantser as a general rule, but that doesn't mean I don't daydream a bit before beginning. I have some feel for my characters, and how they'll act/react. I've wandered my settings a little bit. I kind of know where I'm starting and finishing. This year, I didn't really get to that point.

And I'll be honest: for the last three or four months, I've been in a phase where it feels like either I've already done all the good writing I'll ever do, or else that any good writing I've ever done was a fluke, a freak, a chance happenstance, and I'm not capable of true creativity. Also struggling because let's face it, I've done very few Big Exciting Things in life, and if we're only allowed to write what we know, who will ever want to read what I write?

Pretty sure we've all been there. Probably more than once. Doesn't make it feel any less real.

I had hopes this year's NaNoWriMo would pluck me out of that slump. I hoped magical things would happen. Instead, I felt like all my words were childish and cardboard-y, and started to dread writing sessions.

So I stepped back for awhile. I haven't really added to my count for about a week.

The other night I dreamed about my Alphasmart Neo--a device I admit I've not used much for several years, and which I've been considering replacing with a tablet or Chromebook. In the dream, I was at some sort of bluegrass festival by the edge of a salt water bay, and some of us did some hiking and canoeing in between talking and making music.

Over the course of the dream, I dropped my Alphasmart in the water three times. Three times I watched it begin to sink. Three times, I shrieked and dived in after it, pulling it out just in time.

Which, maybe, means I still want to write, somewhere deep inside?

Or maybe I'm just feeling guilty about dumping it. Don't really know.

In any case, this year is a miss. I still have ten completed NaNoWriMos under my belt, so I can't beat myself up *too* much. But I'm disappointed all the same.