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.