Caleb Adventures in the Hall

Caleb Adventures in the Hall

In the late spring, and even up to now, we've seemed to have had a lot of cool and rainy days. We've been wandering through the halls again, sometimes on foot, sometimes on wheels - despite all my concerns about the lack of normal-house-ness for Caleb, I suppose in some ways we're pretty lucky that this place is filled with exciting elevator adventures, new and interesting people, construction, workshops, motorcycles parked in the halls, loose dogs, dumpsters, bicycle repair shops, gym rats exercising. These photos are actually from sometime in May, I think when we had the freak snow come down, but I couldn't resist sharing them, mainly because I'm trying to hold onto what few dredges of toddlerhood I have left of Caleb's youth. While not quite here yet, the day is rapidly approaching when the wonder of a Vespa followed by a snack break in the hall grows old.   Everyone's favourite local cafe/lunch spot, where occasionally Caleb and I are sent to pick up lunch. You can tell we're both really critical to the general operations of the whole show. Shirley's is in the building, beside Dwell Gym, and Jon is really into their Taco Thursday, which I think also sometimes falls on a Taco Tuesday, and also sometimes on a Taco Wednesday, depending on the wind. I personally like their pirogis, which they don't have often enough to be their own day of the week.
July 05, 2017 — wonderpens
What's in My Backpack: My Everyday Carry

What's in My Backpack: My Everyday Carry

We consider ourselves very fortunate to live behind the shop - as small business owners but mostly as parents, it's been logistically possible to balance eating dinner together every night with being able to take a few steps into "work" after Caleb's bedtime, answering emails that need an inventory check in the warehouse, setting up displays in the shopfront, packing a few urgent orders, or unpacking and organizing inventory from new shipments after a busy day. This has also meant, both good and sometimes bad, a very short commute to work. Notwithstanding the idea of a work/life balance, and the occasional need to step away from it all, the good is abundant: saving hours and hours each week in commuting, saving money in either transit or parking, being able to have Caleb around, and for him to be able to nap easily or follow his own routines. But I do sometimes miss the rituals of sorting things into my bag, and picking up a coffee or flowers on the way to work, sitting on a streetcar with the window open (potentially what I really miss is the independence afforded me before I had Caleb - hah!). Despite occasionally waxing nostalgic about my first year of teaching where I commuted for hours a day listening to audio books in the car, though, I certainly don't have any delusions about hours-long commutes fighting traffic and construction and snow, and so I suppose I'll have to save my rose-tinted glasses for another time, and especially considering my overall and general wussiness when it comes to cold weather. At the end of the day, I strongly believe in a more sustainable live + work philosophy of living close to where you work, for environmental reasons, but especially for contributing to and supporting the community you live in - the libraries and community centres, the cafes and small shops. I loved living close enough to walk to the school I was teaching at. You fully appreciate the changing seasons and getting to know the small businesses you pick up your coffee or lunch from, and you're outside! Breathing air and feeling the sun on your face! You're not a vampire! We're not vampires here. But recently I've had a few more appointments around the city, downtown in particular, and I've had reason to manage a bit of an everyday carry, beyond just my wallet and a book when I go out to run a specific errand. Not leaving the house to go to work everyday means I haven't quite honed this system down, and I'm tweaking it as I go, but here's what I'm carrying out with me these days when I know I'm going to be out for the day. The first step is finding the right bag, and I found that the best way to do this was to look at reviews focusing on the best rucksack for work, that way you know you're going to find something with plenty of room, and most importantly something that is durable enough for regular use. The last thing you want is to be running late for an appointment then have to deal with a broken bag that has spilled all its contents out onto the floor! I got my backpack from Roots - I can't quite find my exact model on their website so perhaps it is discontinued, but the one I have is a smaller size than their standard backpack, which is great for me as I'm a small human. This one does not fit a standard Mac 13" laptop, which initially I thought was a bit sad, but it turns out that I don't need all of my electronics strapped to my back whenever I step out into the world.
  • Wallet - made by Superior Labor
  • Sunglasses
  • Coffee mug* (either with coffee or water, and I can pick up something on the road)
  • Book
  • Cloth napkin - this one is from Classiky
  • Mini Rhodia pad, in my front pocket
  • Spare preppies for fellow travelers I meet on the TTC (or wherever)
  • Rollerball/gel pen (for when I need to pull out a writing instrument, and it doesn't seem like a good opportunity to whip out something crazy)
  • Phone
  • A5 Portfolio with all of my paper and pen things
I also have coins and lip balm and hair elastics and if I'm lucky a TTC token floating around loose in my front pocket. I also generally have a snack for Caleb, and sometimes a toy car, but Caleb now has his own backpack which he enjoys carrying out, and I usually enjoy the surprises he has in there. *My coffee mug is really super, and as someone who has used probably ten or more coffee mugs that have all ended up in the trash, I can tell you I got two of them, plus one for Jon. I initially got a small lime green one for me, but Caleb has since inherited it, so I got another one which is slightly larger. In addition to keeping hot drinks hot, it keeps cold drinks, like milk, cold for hours on end, so we can bring it on long car rides or out for the day. It is also dishwasher safe and leak-proof (or at the very least, has never leaked on me, even rolling around in car trunks, at the bottom of bags, buried in sand at the park, etc.). Superior Labor Wonder Pens A5 Portfolio Inside my A5 Portfolio
  • Olive Traveler's Notebook (or whatever other notebook I need)
  • appointment papers, etc. for the day
  • index cards or note cards
  • stamps
  • TWSBI 580 Turquoise
  • Lamy 4-color/colour ballpoint
  • in this case, a few letters I want to send out - although mostly I put my own personal letters in with the lettermail packages that are being sent from the shop
  • a few letters to respond to, and some extra stationery
Occasionally I will squeeze in a few extra pens on the inside as well, in a pen case if I'm worried about scratches, although that's not typically something I worry about. I also have some random papers/receipts and things that I clean out every once in a while. I love having the portfolio to keep everything papery and small organized, which has also meant that the inside of my bag is more organized, and papers are less often crumpled. I can also grab it and take out at a cafe and have everything I need close at hand. I've been using my Traveler's Notebook for journaling and writing, and it's a truly nice moment if I get to occupy Caleb with a snack at a cafe for a break while I dip into writing. This, of course, does not happen often, but perhaps it is more precious when it does. My work notebook is a B5, which is a little large for carrying around unless I know I'm specifically going to be spending time on it. I will often use either a spare page or an index card if I'm taking other sorts of notes, with ideas for a blog post, or trying to scribble down some ideas for a shop project. Superior Labor A5 Portfolio Wonder Pens Superior Labor Portfolio Leather I'm sorry to say that our A5 sized portfolio is sold out, but we should be getting more in around two months. We're also getting a few new colours as well. If you sign up for the e-mail notification, it'll notify you when we get our shipment in, and then you can also take a look at the other colours available. If I know I'm going out and there will be time in a cafe or at a park picnic for writing, I might add in a few extras, usually in a pouch like my Superior Labor, with my watercolour tin and a paintbrush, some washi tape, a small pair of scissors. At a certain point it moves from an "everyday carry" to "Liz's traveling stationery supply show," but I'm working on bringing and using supplies that I cherish and use meaningfully.  
June 20, 2017 — wonderpens
Chicken in the Shop

Chicken in the Shop

One year later, I suppose it's time for an update on our little poultry-flavoured beast, Chicken, as he is officially around one year old! (Birthday details are vague, so we're just estimating here.) He's in and out of the shop, mainly because he either gets kicked out for "play-biting" customers, or because he prefers to nap on the couch with Super. However, if you do see him, don't hesitate to let him come over for a sniff - he loves a good rub around his ears. Pros: - He's a pretty good looking cat - He's mostly stopped biting customers - He purrs very loudly Cons: - He occasionally bites customers (out of love, but it's hard to tell mid-bite) - He is incredibly standoffish - He knows/obeys zero commands - I suspect he refuses to acknowledge his own name, even though, in fact, Super will come when I call Chicken as Super is operating on the very slim hope I'm going to accidentally drop some cat food on the floor - He doesn't come when he's called - He runs outside at the cottage all the time, and I both worry he's going to be eaten by a bear, and wish he would encounter a bear so he could learn his lesson and stop running out so much - He drinks from any water source except his own bowl, including the toilet and Super's bowl, which, trust me, is not cleaner than his bowl - He climbs on the back counter in the warehouse to drink from the sink, knocking our flushed and drying pens and nibs willy-nilly. I really ought to get him one of those cat trees I've seen on Knead Cat to keep him occupied and away from clambering all over the counter and furniture. - He occasionally wakes Caleb up from his naps by attacking his feet - He sharpens his claws on the carpet - His original purpose was to catch bugs and possible rodents, of which he has caught none, including literally a crippled fly, buzzing around at his feet (I had to kill it and flush it down the toilet myself) Chicken spends some of his time in the shop, but I think he prefers to be in the warehouse, where he can watch the people he's familiar with running around. It turns out he's not really a great shop cat, as he only really willingly goes into the shop on his own in the evening or early morning. Sometimes he disappears for hours, and we wonder if he's run out into the courtyard or laneway when no one was watching, as he's developed this habit of slipping outside up at the cottage, but he's always turned up sleeping somewhere. On the other hand, Chicken is actually sort of a pack animal, and when we come into the apartment after the team is gone, he comes with us, and in the evening if we all venture into the shop, he comes along too. Basically he does whatever he wants, but it's nice when he comes with us. Chicken extremely catty. I realize this sounds a bit silly, but being a dog person, I don't think I quite cottoned on to how catty cats are. He is incentivized by nothing, except possibly filling up his food bowl and only if it's been empty for a while, and knows no commands . Super, who we always thought of as "smart for a dog" but sort of on the lower end of smart for a dog, is possibly a genius next to him. At times, though, there is something about his very cattiness that is alluring. Chicken can be incredibly loving, in a way that Super has never been able to achieve, possibly because Chicken withholds affection so often and capriciously. Super is reliably loud and smelly and bounds onto you with love, but Chicken purrs and slowly rubs against you and nestles into your chest, and you feel just so very special. I have to admit, I feel slightly more special as a human being because Chicken and I have bonded, and he bites Jon more often. When he comes crawling into my lap, purring as he climbs my chest, I will literally stop everything I'm doing to give him a rub. Yes, I realize how ridiculous it is that I'm allowing a cat to control me in this way, and yet it is just so delightful when he comes.  
April 25, 2017 — wonderpens
Behind the Scenes of a Blog Post

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Post

When the shop first opened back in 2013, I started writing the blog mainly as a way to keep people updated on shop news and new products, and also because when the shop first opened, there were some pretty quiet days, and it seemed like better than doing nothing in terms of keeping the business moving. I remember sitting there during those rainy days, sipping a cup of coffee and listening to music and just tapping away on the computer. Over time, maybe as a result of quiet days, and too much time on my hands coming from being a teacher when every minute is booked and crazy, I started writing more and more about the family and growing a business and writing and also about Caleb. In many ways, these things are all tied together and have grown together and shaped each other. Normally I try to take pictures when he's napping, since I need some natural light and can't do it after he's gone to bed at night, but every once in a while he pops in, and he just beelines for the action. You may remember the scene from some of these photos from the blog post on the new Platinum inks, and here are the behind the scenes. Caleb often watches to see what you're doing, and if he sees you swabbing inks, he likes to grab the next bottle and a q-tip, or if he sees you lining up the bottles in a row, he likes to help push them all into line with you. It gets a bit nuts when he starts predicting what's next, getting paper for you or moving the bottles around for you. He's mostly learned the concept of staying out of the photo or blocking the light, but he loves being as close as possible. Sometimes I feel a bit bad because I have to ask Caleb to leave, and he inches away, and I have to say a bit farther, and a bit farther, and a bit farther. And then when I turn my back to get something, he's right back front and centre. Sometimes he does this thing where he literally waits until I'm just about to take a photo, and then he sticks his hand or foot in really quickly. I don't think he thinks of it like he's "ruining" a photo, but more like he needs to be involved in some way. It makes me laugh now, but it's a game of chicken during the photo shoot, where I'm trying to time it so he doesn't know when I'm about to take a photo, and he's trying to time it so I don't know what he's about to do, until I run out of patience and make him wait six feet away from me. He's a pretty quiet kid, but he's always watching - sometimes I don't notice him watching and then one day he's participating, helping in everything, following all of the steps you take to set up a photo, placing the things just so. It's crazy how quickly they learn. As Caleb has grown - he's now two and a half - he has become both increasingly more helpful, and increasingly more unwieldy. I love the idea of him being a part of it all, but of course he's mostly just in the way. But really, having him around underfoot all the time - it's the best part of this whole adventure.  
March 28, 2017 — wonderpens
Tags: Caleb
Where I Write: Hailed Coffee in Riverdale

Where I Write: Hailed Coffee in Riverdale

We're starting a new series here on the blog - one where, if you're game, we'd love to welcome you to share in as well. We're hoping to share photos of where we write, because sometimes the spaces around us can give us inspiration to get us dreaming and writing - what we love about that spot, or what is happening in our lives, why it's just the place for us. If you have a beautiful desk or a back porch or a local cafe or hidden nook somewhere in the city or rock out on a trail that you have a few great pictures of, please send them in - wonderliz@wonderpens.ca - along with a few words about how you discovered it or what makes it special for you. We would love to share a few on the blog.

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Our first one is a cafe in Riverdale, Hailed Coffee, which has been around for a year or two - so it's sort of new, but sort of quietly well-established in the neighbourhood as well. It's on Gerrard, just east of Old Chinatown, and actually very close to the place we originally wanted to open the Wonder Pens shop - if you know the area it's the corner shop across from the Beer Store on Logan and Gerrard, which was abandoned at the time we started the business. We liked the location both because it was close to old Chinatown, which was and is a rapidly changing strip of Gerrard (and one we'd fit right in to! sort of...), and Riverdale itself is a really great neighbourhood. With hindsight, our place on the west end, 906 Dundas West was just the perfect place for us, in some ways our first home, but it's always fun to imagine how things would've turned out for us here. Maybe we'd be getting coffee from Hailed everyday instead of Ella's! We've been in the east end now for almost two years, but it seems like with Caleb's short legs we stick pretty close to home, and with the shop, we don't get out much anyways. I discovered this place on the way to Caleb's weekly gymnastics class. Occasionally on the long walk home, particularly on cold winter days and after an exhausting class for both tot and parent, we stop by for a pick-me-up. There are two really great things about this place: one is that they're very friendly, also very kid-friendly, which I've discovered is (understandably) two separate things when it comes to cafes, and two their chocolate hazelnut croissants. They heat the croissants for you, and they're really, really good. Caleb has been getting better and better at sitting still and waiting, particularly when there's a croissant and a cup of milk and a view of the streetcar zooming past - and I've been getting better and better at taking in sips of writing time in between life zooming past.
January 24, 2017 — wonderpens
Reflections on Another Year as a Pen Clerk - 2016

Reflections on Another Year as a Pen Clerk - 2016

I remember in our first year of business I was interviewed by CTV about fountain pens and writing and the state of handwriting, and I was asked by the interviewer about whether or not I was worried for the future of Wonder Pens, given that technology is becoming more and more pervasive (and this was now three years ago). I said something about how every business owner is worried about their business, but we're pretty happy with how things have started off (oh, the joys of knowing nothing about business!), and it was rephrased by the interviewer in a some throaty voice-over into "Liz Chan says she's worried about the future of her business." I remember being vaguely shocked and indignant at this attempt at sensationalizing what I suppose was an otherwise unsensational piece of news. But I guess that is true, that I, Liz Chan, am indeed worried about the future of our business (and you should see how worried Jon Chan is). We've been beyond fortunate to have come to where we are with our shop, to have been blessed with growth and encouragement and the right timing on a lot of fronts, but nothing's a given with a small business. And, especially in our anachronistic market, where we've seen well-established brick & mortar pen shops go under, and in our own neighbourhoods, seen independent businesses closing up shop, there's always concern for the future. But here we are, three years later, another year under our belts. Against all odds - for independent shops, for analogue tools, for paper and pen - this has been a crazy year for us. Not necessarily in terms of growth (although there's that), but certainly in adventure. Every once in a while someone will make an offhand comment along the lines of it's been so great to follow along with your journey, and I love it because it's a moment for me to stop and ponder all the craziness that has taken over my life and what this journey has been. I wrote a blog post yesterday on some of my favourite things that came into the shop this past year, but really, when it comes down to it, those are just things. This year has been so much more than that for us and our shop: we've grown and stretched in ways I never could've imagined when we first started out. Christmas, with its nostalgia and celebration and joy, is a wonderful and busy time of year for us in retail, but it's also one of a lot of preparation and worry as we try to make sure we have enough inventory (and the right inventory) and enough hands to get everything out the door. Our first year the shop was open, it was just me in the shop; the second year, Jon and Caleb were here; the third we hired our first employee. This past Christmas was our fourth in business, and we now have five wonderful, cheesy, thoughtful, funny, enthusiastic souls who come in through our back doors and put up with Super stealing their food and keep the place running. And now that we've survived the mayhem, and in this quiet time of reflection as we slowly move forward to the new year, it's time to take a look back. This year we got our Wonder Pens Chicken. He has turned out to be unruly and rambunctious and a complete sweetheart. His sometimes "too playful" attitude has involved occasionally startling customers with his leaping and bounding and attempting to treat their shoelaces or fingers like prey, but we're working on that. Our current strategy is casually unhooking his claws from customer's knit sweaters and then shuffling him to the back. I'm told that I'm a bit biased towards his admittedly sometimes catty behaviour as I am "his person" and cats sometimes only have one person. I googled it and found an article that says cats bond with your psychic aura, and we all know everything we read on the internet is true. Especially things that tell you your psychic aura is good. Chicken hasn't caught any mice yet (his original purpose), but he purrs in your arms while you stroke his head, so I guess that's all a cat needs to do. At the very least, he has Jon admitting that Super is "not bad" by comparison. It's been a year of writing stories on the blog and taking pictures and trying to share with you all what's going on here. We've had a year's worth of Letter Writing Clubs, crazy events like our Warehouse Sale and we even made it to Scriptus as exhibitors. We got Wonder Pens t-shirts and buttons, and a sign on the side of the building to help people find us. We've added new pieces of furniture to the shop, moved it around more times than I can count (although I guess Jon could, since he's doing most of the moving), and spent a few hairy nights assembling shelving for the warehouse. Chalkboard walls and calligraphy classes, Caleb and Chicken and Super running around like savages after the shop is closed for the evening. It's been a year. I was writing in a letter the other day about how when we first opened the shop, I would have these rainy afternoons sitting behind the counter, just watching the rain come down, alone in an empty shop. It was delightful, in a fatalistic sort of way. Music would be playing, and I would be enjoying my cup of coffee, wondering if anyone would come in for the rest of the day and thinking how nice it was that the school board was still holding my job for me in case this thing didn't pan out. And now here we are, three years later. We're truly beyond grateful for every new customer, and every new line we can bring into the shop. It's been a dream to have as my employment rifle through Japanese stationery catalogues and open up boxes fresh from countries around the world and to write about my favourite pens and ink for a living. To have our days with Caleb and to have incredible people on our team. And to have funny and interesting and wise and silly people coming through our doors, telling us stories that make us laugh out loud. Looking ahead, I'm not too sure what 2017 has in store for us. As always, we have our eye out for new brands and new lines and new products from lines we already carry. There are sure to be some great new inks and special edition pens coming out, and I can't wait to see them. But over the last few months we've also sort of found a sort of balance. With all of the growth and stress and excitement of our business over its treacherous infant years, we're finally settling into a place where, alongside worries over taxes and construction in our building and ink freezing in transit, we can enjoy all of the beautiful things that come through our door and, especially, all of the wonderful people we've been able to meet - customers, vendors, manufacturers, people all over the world who love pens and stationery as much as we do. Starting a small business is one of those things where I jumped in with both feet, not knowing what it would take. Had I known, I'm not sure I would've taken that leap. It's been a lot of highs and a lot of lows, too many long nights in a row to count, juggling numbers and boxes and not being sure if things are going to work out. Maybe not even really being sure what "working out" means. But it's also been such a gratifying and deeply fulfilling experience, to come out now and reach a stage where we recognize the names in our order queue and the faces popping up at our door. The stage where we can take the weekend off, take time to write in my journal or to take the dog and Caleb out for a walk, or to gaze out across a lake. We're not slowing down so much as we are savouring everything the shop and this life has brought for us. So in 2017, there's a lot to come - but what we're looking forward most of all is seeing familiar faces and new ones come through our doors, connecting with people online and off, and continuing to dwell in our communities as fully and as well as we can.    
December 31, 2016 — wonderpens
Tags: Reflections
My 2017 Analogue System

My 2017 Analogue System

I've been thinking quite a bit about my analogue system for next year - it's always nice to be able to start a year fresh with clean white pages and, in my case, hope for the best. It's very similar to my system from this past year (here's my blog post at the end of last year looking forward), with just some minor tweaking. Analogue Sytem planners for 2017 To keep me organized and next year, I will be using:
  1. A new Camel Midori Traveler's Notebook, regular size for my agenda + planning.
  2. Stalogy A5 Notebook for my personal journal, inside an A5 Midori MD Leather Notebook.
  3. Life Noble Note B5 work notebook for notes and keeping track of projects.
  4. Hobonichi Techo for daily gratitude writing, inside an A6 Midori MD Leather Cover.
  5. Stalogy B6 as a pocket book, for daily notes and random scribbles.
Regular Size Midori Traveler's Notebook, Camel, with a 2017 Dated Monthly Insert, and a 2017 Dated Weekly Vertical Insert Midori Traveler's Notebook Regular Size Monthly Dated Insert Weekly Vertical Dated Insert Midori Traveler's Notebook regular size, in Camel, with the 2017 weekly vertical insert (1/2), and the 2017 monthly insert. I haven't quite retired my Pan Am Blue Traveler's Notebook, but it currently has my notebook from our train trip and days in Vancouver, which I keep meaning to finally get to finishing up. It felt like a good time for a change. I chose the camel colour because it's my favourite, and because I'm going to be retiring my camel passport for this upcoming year. As life has gotten busier, and we're also starting to balance more appointments and classes and workshops and trips to the cottage, I think it's finally time for me to formally organize my life into an agenda format. Midori Traveler's Notebook Pan Am Blue Camel 10th Anniversary Midori Traveler's Notebook Pan Am Blue left, Camel middle, and passport Camel right. Midori Traveler's Notebook Weekly Vertical Dated Insert 2017 Toronto Canada Midori Traveler's Notebook Dated Weekly Vertical insert on left, Hobonichi on right, with Lamy Safari + Logo I have historically not been terrific at keeping up with agenda in this format - life has sometimes gotten in the way, and I sometimes end up relying on scraps of paper, or trying to remember where I wrote that appointment time, and so I think it's about time I really commit to this. I've also been reading here and there about how people enjoy this sort of time, both to plan ahead and to fill up the pages with what's happened as a keepsake or journal on its own. I'm not sure how I'll manage with that, but I can imagine it to be a very relaxing and reflective time of day. I've considering also using this for meal planning, as I've found that it's really, really, really helpful to plan your meals. I always thought it was a sort of myth, but it turns out that life is a million times easier during the week if you take care of all your decision fatigue in one really painful half hour of planning. Stalogy A5 365 Days Notebook, with MD A5 Leather Cover Midori MD Notebook Leather Cover A5 Stalogy in the Midori MD Leather Notebook Cover on left, Hobonichi inside Midori MD A6 Leather Notebook Cover on right, with Pelikan M400 Brown Tortoiseshell I started using this for journaling about halfway through the year - I thought I liked the larger size and I had been using a larger, almost B5 size for a while, but it was a bit too cumbersome for taking out to cafe's, especially with my bag now often full with other books and things for errands. I was excited to start using the Stalogy notebook even before we finally got it in, because I had heard such good things about the paper - thin and fountain pen friendly - and I have loved writing it over the last few months. I think I will continue using it for the foreseeable future. The leather cover came into my personal use after a short but meaningful existence as our display model. It has an unfortunate encounter with someone's coffee, but Jon was kind enough to scrub it off with some dish soap and water before giving it to me. Now that the entire cover has darkened a bit, you can't even tell its sordid history. Often times people are a bit worried about how it will darken over time, as it starts out as a lighter pink. You can darken it with oils or by leaving it out in the sun, but both of these MD leather covers were darkened simply with use and from my hands - I've had the A6 for one year (with the Hobonichi), and the A5 for around half a year, although it spent another half a year out in the shop). They still have a hint of their original pinkish colour, but I'm loving the warmer brown hue they've taken - especially compared to how they look brand new covers, like in the product shots here. In fact, a blog reader once commented on how light my Hobonichi cover looked after being in use, as though it never sees the sun! And to be honest, they actually rarely do see the sun - they're mostly indoor creatures. Life Noble Note B5 grid with Life Leatherette Cover Life Noble Notebook Toronto Canada The B5 may have been too big for me as a personal journal, but it turns out to be the perfect amount of space for me to do brainstorming and check lists and notes for projects. If you've been following along with this blog for a while, you'll probably recognize it as the notebook for ink swabs and writing samples. Christmas Fountain Pen Inks Wonder Pens Blog Hobonichi Techo in a Midori MD A6 Leather Cover: I'm continuing on with my daily gratitude writing, three thoughts a day. I've been a bit scattered over the last few weeks, as I've been sharing my Hobonichi with our daily ink swabs, but 2017 I hope to get back on track. The leather cover is also wearing in nicely. Hobonichi Techo Leather Cover And lastly, my Stalogy B6 notebook: I use this for random notes, including some that happen to be work related, although usually that's because I always have this notebook with me. It's mostly for throw-away notes and ideas, something I might write down because it's important and I need to do something about it. Grocery lists or reminders, lists of Christmas gifts I've purchased online and am expecting to come, or appointment dates are just trash after the fact, but sometimes if I'm out and I have an idea for the blog or come across an interesting quotation, I'll write it down in here, and hopefully I manage to transfer it accordingly whenever I get back home. Jon and I seem to do a lot of brainstorming in the car, and this is usually the notebook I have on hand to pull out. So this notebook sometimes does end up holding notes related to work, but it's more just a catch-all for everything. I also use this a lot for random doodling. I'm absolutely not precious about it - I have scribbles and test writing of pens, although I try to reign it in a bit when it starts to get really out of hand. It's great because then I can just write whatever comes to mind. Every once in a while my doodling come in handy, like when I'm trying to remember exactly what ink I put in which pen, but 99% of my scribbles are just embarrassing. Superior Labor Japanese Stationery Toronto Canada Other small notebooks that I'm using, mostly ones that have been carrying over for a while, include:
  1. A B6 Life Vermilion to keep track of my correspondence. I think I may fill it up this year!
  2.  A4 Midori MD notebook, which I'm still using to document Caleb's funny moments, although I haven't been as faithful as I wish I could be.
  3. A notebook with a dog on it I've had for the last decade, in which I keep track of the books I've read.
  4. Another B6 Stalogy notebook for ink swabs and keeping track of what's in my pens. I just started this notebook in November 2016, so it's only got a few pages filled, but I'm loving how crinkly it's getting already. I tell it apart from my pocket notebook because it has a burn mark on its front cover from when I was doing wax seals and things got a little out of hand.

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As we wrap up the year and the holiday season comes to an end, I have a whole host of blog posts in mind for that quiet time between Christmas and the first day of 2017: maybe more updated photos on how the Midori MD leather cover wears in and warms up over time, reflections on another year in business, my pen artillery for 2016 and which ones I tended to use the most, a very vague and faint hope of a few photos of a completed travel journal from our train trip this summer. With only a few days left until the new year, time is ticking, but I think it feels more like that as these final hectic shopping days clamber on in the shop. 9I always really look forward to the time right after Christmas, when there's time to take a breath and clean up the boxes, and maybe to enjoy a few new Christmas toys with some hot chocolate. Hobonichi Techo Canada  
December 22, 2016 — wonderpens
Family Adventures: Pumpkin Picking

Family Adventures: Pumpkin Picking

There's a chill in the air and grey skies and hot tea and and pumpkins everywhere, and Hallowe'en is almost upon us. We're sometimes a bit behind or ahead of the curve when it comes to seasonal traditions, but maybe because of Caleb's already unconventional-enough upbringing, we're trying our best to stay with the crowd. And so off we went to a pumpkin patch to get our own. We went to Reesor's Farm out in Markham, and it was great! They were super friendly and it was simple and easy to find our pumpkins and they have a farmer's market to buy fresh produce and baked goods as well. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see a pumpkin patch for the first time - it looked a bit like an overgrown and possibly abandoned field, and not quite like the pumpkin patches in the children's Hallowe'en books I've seen at the library. However, in hindsight, it was probably more to do with the fact that we're getting our pumpkins pretty late in October, and these fields have probably been picked over pretty well. We came on a weekday, so we had the entire patch basically to ourselves - we got to roam far and wide, rolling pumpkins over to examine their backsides. I think Caleb had a blast because he's sort of a little muscle man - he's such a physical kid, and he loved carrying pumpkins from here to there and tipping them over into the wagon. And I think it was also partially because the act of "helping" is something he's really latched onto - he loves this idea that he's a critical park of the whole operation, bringing our selections from their beginnings to our wagon. It's so funny to watch him as a little guy walking around, looking up at me and pointing to this pumpkin? Nope, too flat. This pumpkin? Nope, too big. This pumpkin? Perfect! - and then watching him heave it up and bring it back. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Of course the best part was the wagon. It was a bit crazy going over the bumps, but Caleb's pretty sturdy at holding on the sides. We stopped by the market to pick some some vegetables and pay for our pumpkins. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And we stopped for some noodles on the long trip home. It's been a long, long road, but I think we've finally reached the stage where we can take Caleb out for meals in restaurants without needing to micromanage every motion, or feeling a burning need to hide under our table. He spilled some water (on me, of course) and also contaminated around 6 extra chopsticks, but all in all, noodles continue to be a favourite meal for everyone. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We came home with a pumpkin for everyone on the team to carve their own, and Caleb helped for around 45 seconds until he got bored, mainly because cutting a pumpkin is pretty hard for a two year, and pulling out seeds is only fun for so long. file_000-33 We don't have all of our staff pumpkins done yet, but I thought I would share a photo of them so far. It's mostly my imagination, but it does seem a bit spooky and exciting to have the pumpkins lit in a dark and empty shop in the night. It's like I'm 8 years old again.

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We've been busy here, with fall and new products and orders coming in and Scriptus coming up soon, or maybe the fall weather has also stirred up something in all of us to get going on all of our projects and freshening up everything in the shop. We'll have another blog post in the next week with some of the fun we have planned for the show, but of course you can always come by our table. We've got a few treats and surprises planned, and one pretty exciting one in particular that I'm sure is going to basically fly off the table. Stay tuned! I'm loving these fall days, especially with Caleb getting bundled up. He loves stepping out into the cool air, and often starts running just to have the thrill of a cold wind against his face. These days are probably coming, too soon, to a close, where Caleb, already a bit of a self-conscious kid, can just be gleeful at...the air. Even Super has a bit more friskiness, despite all the grey coming in around his snout and paws - in the heat of the summer, with all of his fur, he moves a bit slower, but as the air cools down, it's like he's a puppy again. These are some of my favourite days. ©
October 20, 2016 — wonderpens
Inks for the Autumn

Inks for the Autumn

It's definitely fall now - the last few weekends we've been driving around outside of Toronto, and it seems like the leaves are on fire. It sounds a bit morbid, but it must be such a slow and glorious death, to blossom into reds and oranges and yellows before falling to the ground. Fall fountain pen inks wonder pens toronto Fall is one of the only times of year for me where I almost always match my inks and pens to the colours of the season. I sometimes try to around Christmas, but often I get distracted by the busy-ness of the holidays, or spring, but I'm not a huge fan of the lighter or brighter pinks and purples and fresh greens that sometimes come with new growth. Fall, though, is when all of my favourite earthy pens and warm coloured inks come to shine. This season I have: Noodler's Rome BurningTWSBI 580 AL-Orange Fine Noodler's Army Green - Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Fine J. Herbin Lie de the - Kaweco Sport Brown Medium Sailor Jentle Apricot (now discontinued!) - Platinum 3776 Celluloid Tortoiseshell Broad KWZ Maple Red (Scriptus 2015 Edition, also discontinued) - Pelikan M400 Brown Tortoiseshell Fall fountain pen inks stationery Wonder Pens Toronto Rome Burning Writing Sample Noodler's Rome Burning is a bit of a secret favourite ink of mine, although it's not terribly well-behaved in terms of feathering on cheaper papers, and I tend to write on a lot of copy paper for notes and invoices and things. I need all my pens to be multi-taskers, so it's not too often that I put this ink in a pen. When I do though, I remember how much I like it. It's a more yellow and lighter than Golden Brown, which has more of a warm and orange tone, but it fits fall leaves perfectly. Interestingly, it's also the ink that turns into a permanent purple if you spill water on it - I don't use this ink because of that trait, but it's something fun. Army Green is another old favourite of mine - in these pictures it has a bit of a dark green with a hint of almost teal to it, especially in the swab, which I didn't do a very good job of spreading around, but it's a true army green colour. Platinum 3776 Brown Tortoiseshell Celluloid Writing Sample Sailor Jentle Apricot is a vibrant and bright ink from the old line of Sailor inks - along with Sky High and Grenade and Epinard and Ultramarine. Sailor has re-released a line of inks that is coming to us soon, including a new bright orange ink that I can't wait to see - I've been trying to be a bit less precious about discontinued ink (the point is to use them, after all!), but I'm always glad for another opportunity for hoarding. There's a turquoise colour that I'm also especially looking forward to - I think these inks should be arriving in the next few weeks, but we don't have a confirmed timeline yet. Sailor Jentle Apricot KWZ Maple Red Writing Sample KWZ Maple Red is last year's Scriptus Toronto Pen Show ink, and with the pen show come up on October 30th, the timing is great. I always forget how much I like this ink because I'm not usually a red ink person - this is a dark and rich red. Scriptus announced the 2016 Pen Show Ink, Northern Twilight, which is a sort of dark blue teal kind of ink. Philip, one of the show's organizers, occasionally pops into the shop on pen show business, and it's all I can do to stop myself from shamelessly pleading with him for an early bottle. I basically hold no sway anywhere in life, and it's always depressing to realize that once again.

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In case you missed it, our previously monthly newsletter is now being sent out weekly. We say hello and send out what's new and what's happening in the shop. You can read last week's here, or you can sign up here if you're not already signed up.

We've been embracing the fall weather by updating Caleb's wardrobe. He's been in his spring + summer clothes for what seems like forever, especially since some of his pant legs now ride up to his knees as he's crawling up the jungle gym.

Caleb always seems warmer than everyone else - I can feel a cloud of warmth radiating from him in his crib at night - but I think we're starting to reach the days where everyone needs a jacket or a vest.

This is his second and maybe his last summer of going anywhere with just a diaper on - it's this season of change and fresh starts and cool breezes and it's giving me the heebie jeebies to see Caleb growing up into a little boy.

October 13, 2016 — wonderpens
Caleb Adventures in the Halls (On Wheels)

Caleb Adventures in the Halls (On Wheels)

Caleb continues his adventures around town on his little bicycles, and I continue to follow along. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At the front of our building is a "regular" elevator, but throughout the rest of the building are these old industrial freight elevators, with gated doors that you have to manually pull down or pull up to close before you can press and hold a button to move the elevator. Fun fact: inside our packing area are the up + down buttons to operate a freight elevator that is located outside our unit. The buttons and the elevator doors are separated by a wall, and so people who want to use the elevator have to use the buttons inside the elevator itself. Crazy stuff. It was a bit scary going in the first few times, especially since the elevators shudder a bit as they start up and come to a stop, and even more so because you actually have to line up the floor of the elevator to the floors yourself. Inside the elevator feels a bit like we're going underground. I've had many, many images of Caleb and I stranded inside like an episode of Criminal Minds. Or Indiana Jones, where someone discovers fossilized skeleton bones. And yet, we adventure on. A million years ago, I shared a few pictures from Caleb wandering in the hall - he seemed like such a little guy, just trucking through the halls and peeking into doors and around corners. I can hardly remember him so small and balding and stout. These days he's grown into such a little boy, I can hardly believe it. Maybe it's this fall weather and the extra sweaters and the excitement that comes with this season, but it seems like every time I blink he's become a new creature. I sometimes wish I could stop time and keep him tight, but everything about this wild and growing and curious boy is a miracle that I'm just here to watch.
September 29, 2016 — wonderpens