Author Archives: Ovis Obscura

Every Day Carry (EDC)

In Which Our Heroine Ponders What Burdens Are Necessary

I have a very bad habit of carrying far too much (mainly literally, but sometimes figuratively) on my person every day. I like to travel light, but I also like to be prepared for any contingency. I also detest not being able to find things – everything I carry must have its designated place in my Daily Kit.

Every so often, I purge my handbag of All That Is Unnecessary and try again, but there are certain Things Without Which I feel Distinctly Uncomfortable. I continually struggle to find the balance between Bare Minimum and Distinctly Overloaded. Add to this my constant Hunt For The Perfect Handbag (which means changing bags fairly often and sometimes forgetting to move some Essential from one bag to another), not to mention the back problems that occur when I overload myself, and you see part of my need to simplify and streamline my EDC.

I imagine that I am not the only one who struggles with this dilemma.

So, how does one decide what is necessary?

For some people, there are auxiliaries that will vary from day to day and situation to situation. Is today a work day? A vacation day? Will I be near home, or will I be far away for the day? Will I have a lot of down time, or is every moment booked solid?

While these are all important things to take into account, most people carry a “core” with them every day. For some, it’s as simple as KWP: Keys, Wallet, Phone. As long as one is carrying those three things, one can contact others and be contacted, one can get into one’s home/car, and one can identify one’s self and make purchases.

For many people, however, there are other daily tasks and activities that require equipment. I gave myself this guideline: If you truly use this every day, then carry it. Otherwise, leave it at home.

In the interests of keeping myself accountable (and possibly inspiring others to take a good, hard look at what they carry every day), here is my current EDC:

(Not pictured: my phone, as that’s what I always use to take photos. Pray ignore the cat hair. Hiro firmly believes that I stuff bags full of yarn especially so that he can cuddle with them.)

My wallet is a Pocket Deluxe Chic Sparrow Elysium. It holds all the usual things (cash, cards, ID), as well as the notebooks in which I keep my Bullet Journal and a fountain pen. (My current favorite is a Pilot Namiki Decimo with a Fine nib, though I have also been known to carry my ever-reliable Kaweco Sport.)

My other supplies are split into Tom Bihn Organizer Pouches by category. Because I have at least one fountain pen with me at all times (as this is definitely my favorite kind of pen), I also carry ink cartridges. In the same pouch, I have a letter opener, a pencil sharpener, and three tiny stamps that I use to track weather in my planner. I usually carry a knitting project, so a second pouch holds essential knitting notions. A third pouch contains a very minimal First Aid Kit with Advil, adhesive bandages (Star Wars and Wonder Woman, because life is too short for boring bandages), and lip balm.

To be honest, I probably still carry more pens than I strictly need, but I use them every day. I also always carry at least one ordinary rollerball in case my husband needs one and forgets his.

The various pouches help me to make sure that I can find everything, even in the most capacious, non-pocketed handbag. They also make it easy to remember to transfer everything from bag to bag.

I use everything on this list almost every day. Those things that I carry “just in case” are purely medical at this point (other than Alex’s pen). There are things I have left behind in the past (like my knitting), but I have consistently regretted it.

What do you carry with you every day? What are your reasons and requirements? Let me know in the comments or, if you’ve done your own blog entry on this subject, please leave me a link!

Categories: Pondering, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

The Bullet Journal

In Which Our Heroine Attempts To Bring Order Out Of Chaos

As readers of this blog know, I am not the most organized person. My methods, particularly in the creative areas of my life, tend to be slapdash and haphazard. This leads to long breaks in productivity, a tendency to forget things (such as the fact that blogs need to be updated in order to remain relevant), and the necessity for scrappy “catching up” entries like this one.

Fortunately, I have been working on improving my organizational/planning skills over the past year, so I am hoping that I can go less than a year between blog entries. Apparently, creating an actual schedule helps. Who knew?

The most important organizational improvement I have made is using the Bullet Journal system by Ryder Carroll. I’ve been using the system for over a year now, in conjunction with a couple of mobile apps, and it’s working very well. I work better with pen and paper generally whether I’m planning or writing fiction, and the Bullet Journal has been great for that. I remember things better if I write them down by hand. Just the Index and Page Numbers have made a huge difference.

It all started with my notebook collection. I mentioned in an earlier entry how much I love notebooks, as well as my bad habit of purchasing notebooks and storing them in a drawer rather than using them. A little over two years ago, I decided that it was time to find a way to use those notebooks. I came across a tweet from Maureen Johnson about how she had nearly lost her Bullet Journal in a taxi. “What’s a Bullet Journal?” I (and several other people) asked. She sent us all to

I knew this was the perfect way to usefully consume at least some of the notebooks in my collection. I always try to carry a notebook on my person in any case. The idea of being able to put everything – plans, tasks, story ideas, sketches – in one, everyday notebook, and then to be able to reference and find everything when I needed it was an epiphany. It was simplicity itself, yet endlessly adaptable.

The best thing about the Bullet Journal system is that it has worked. I have filled notebooks. I have become more productive creatively. I have managed not to forget as many things or let them slip through the cracks. I still have a long way to go as far as forming productive habits, but I have consistently written in my journal every day (except perhaps one or two) for over two years now. I’ve modified the system to fit what works for me after extensive experimentation with different modules. I’ve also moved from the recommended A5 Leuchtturm1917 notebook to a B6 Slim “Fauxdori” Chic Sparrow notebook, as I’ve found it useful to split my Collections off from my Monthlies and Dailies. I still use digital apps like Google Calendar and Habitica, but I’ve integrated them into my Bullet Journal system.

One trap to avoid: There’s always that idea that, if we just buy the right pen/notebook/dividers/stickers/sticky notes/fill-in-your-favorite-stationery-supplies-here, we will instantly be effortlessly organized. If you want to take up this system, my best advice is to avoid the words “Bullet Journal” on Pinterest and Instagram for at least a month. The artistry that some people devote to their journals turns said journals into beautiful jewels – but that’s not where the focus needs to be. That’s additional stuff, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but a Bullet Journal should be functional first. Figure out what modules work for you, and go from there.The wonderful thing about the Bullet Journal system is that one uses whatever notebook one has on hand and whatever pen gives one delight.

This is not to say that I do not have an impressive collection of sticky notes and pens and glittery ink and suchlike. My powers to resist Shiny Things are not strong. But I am using these things, and I suppose that’s what counts.

Next on the list, of course, needs to be an Inventory and Organization of my Organizational Supplies. That always feels just a trifle recursive.

Have you tried the Bullet Journal system? Did it work for you? Do you want to, and just haven’t dipped your toe in yet? What’s stopping you? Let me know in the comments, and I will respond with encouragement!

Categories: Pondering | Tags: , , | 2 Comments


In Which Our Heroine Remembers That She Has A Blog

I am absolutely certain that everyone else’s year thus far has been just as busy as mine has. Between fire and flood (well, the opposite of flood in my case) and other joys of being a homeowner, plus a few exciting travel adventures, it’s been a rather eventful and interesting time.

I read somewhere that “Adventure is just the result of bad planning.” I think, however, that there are certain adventures that you simply cannot plan for. For instance, you cannot plan for the previous owner of your house to leave no clear indication of where your well might be so that you can find it when the 20-year-old pump craps out on you and leaves you without water for five months while you desperately search for the well, only to find that it is cunningly concealed under a concrete pad in front of the garage. You cannot plan for your middle-aged cat to suddenly become deathly ill so that you must give him subcutaneous fluids daily. (For the worried: He’s made a miraculous recovery. He only needs his fluids about once a week now and is perky and happy in a way he has not been since youth. Everything is wonderful, and the vet is “happily amazed.”) You cannot plan for the company that is pressure-washing your house to have their trailer spontaneously catch fire and burn down your trailer that is sitting right next to it. (Again, for the worried: Everything is fine. Insurance is a fantastic thing, no one was hurt, and the fire was out in a matter of about 5 minutes once the firefighters got there. Also, there was nothing in the trailer except for the race ramps used to get very low cars in there. It might have been much worse. There might have been a car in the trailer.)

Needless to say, this year has been a bit more adventurous than we had hoped. (Or, obviously, planned for.) Things are beginning to calm down a bit, and we have had some (planned) travel adventures, as well!

Alex and I have been doing a good deal more with our local car clubs lately. We’ve been unable to go out of the country (see above), but we have been able to take trips on our own continent. Recently, we went on a trip to the California Redwoods and the Oregon Caves with the Classic Car Club of America. Alex and I had never been to the Oregon Caves, and neither of us had been to the Avenue of the Giants, either. The trip was fantastic, and our car proceeded beautifully, rain or shine.

This is our 1938 Bentley. I love this car. Love, love, LOVE. It’s right-hand drive, brought to the United States from England in the 1950s. Alex drives it. There is no power steering (obviously), so it takes far more upper body strength than I have to wrestle it around at low speeds. Alex and I do agree that, given the option, we might have brought something else for a long road trip, but the experience was wonderful. It’s amazing how well a car of this era can move along modern roads (though you wouldn’t want to take it down the freeway for any length of time).

Here is a redwood tree! (Me included for scale.)

We hope to take more road trips this autumn and next year.  As I become a More Confident Driver Of Classics (not the Bentley, thank you), I will be able to help with the driving on some of these trips.  I also really enjoy the idea of being able to just throw some things in the trunk of a car and go Adventuring.  (A little planning is good, but Spontaneous Adventure is so much fun.)

Perhaps Adventure is less a lack of planning and more just enough planning to be safe, but not so much as to remove the Element of Surprise from one’s travels.

Do you, Dear Reader, have any adventures planned this autumn?

P.S. Here is a photo of Loki, showing off how pleased he is to be feeling better.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

That Wistful Feeling

In Which Our Heroine Does Some Navel-Gazing About Travel

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. One of my Autumn Resolutions is to be more regular about posting, and it’s never too early (or late!) to start.

Today’s post is about travel, and how the best-laid plans “gang aft agley,” as Robbie Burns so aptly puts it.

Alex and I had plans for this month. We were going to England, where we would spend time together in various places. (We went to the UK almost exactly two years ago, but that was with my parents. While it was a very pleasant trip, there is a big difference between travelling with four people and travelling with two.) First, we planned to go to London, to see off the competitors in the London to Brighton Run, visit the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London, and see what a real Bonfire Night in London looks like. Then, we planned a leisurely journey, stopping at enticing places along the way in a romantic, carefree manner, until we reached Birmingham and the giant, all-indoor NEC Classic Motor Show.

However, for a variety of reasons (not least of which is the fact that Life has been insane, and we didn’t want to add the stress of planning an international trip to said insanity), we decided to put off the England trip. (I’m hoping we can try for sometime in March — no motor show, but the Sherlock Holmes exhibit ends April 12.)

Before we called off the trip, I had already started plugging dates into my Google Calendar — Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, the NEC Motor Show, and so on. I never got around to taking those dates, or the automatic reminders for those dates, off the calendar.

Thus, every so often, an alert pops up on my computer or phone to remind me of what I’m missing. I don’t cry about it or anything, but I do feel a bit wistful when my calendar reminds me that I’m celebrating at home, rather than in England. (Glenna C’s recent jaunt to England, complete with photos, definitely boosted my wistfulness. Just saying.)

While I know we made the right choice in not going to England this year, I still miss being there. I’ve been three (four?) times in my lifetime, and I feel homesick every time I leave. I will say that the weather here has been conspiring to be as English as possible for this time of year (cold, damp, foggy), and I’m grateful. I’ve pulled out my woolies and tucked my T-shirts away for the winter. I’ve also pulled some bangers out of the freezer and pulled up my favorite recipe for onion gravy, so good old bangers and mash are definitely in my future. I’m looking forward to cooking at home more, getting the house really clean and organized, and continuing my eternal game of catch-up with my blogs and other writing.

At the same time, I’m already starting to plan the next trip, and the next…

I’ll keep you posted.

Categories: Pondering, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Rome, Sweet Rome

Greetings from Rome, Italy!

Why, yes, it has been a long time. Blogging has certainly gotten away from me this year. I’ve done some writing (both letters and work on the novel), but most of my brain has been occupied with travel over the past few months. Alex and I will be in Italy for the next 19 days, and I wanted to share our trip with you, as well as some Travel Tips for seeing the places we visit. (Plus, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here, and I’m getting some good photos.)

We arrived yesterday after an extremely long set of flights. The timing was great, though, since by the time we got our luggage and everything, we were just in time to catch the Leonardo Express train to the center of Rome, catch a taxi from there, and check into our hotel. (We’re staying at the Grand Hotel Plaza, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s not cheap, but the location is worth every penny.) We had a nice, relaxed afternoon, went out for a small dinner, drank a bottle of wine between the two of us, and slept pretty well. (I woke up at around 4:30 and dozed until we finally got up around 7:00.)

Everything is beautiful here. Even the desserts are beautiful.

Today, we went to the Forum and the Coliseum. Here’s your first Travel Tip: Go to the Forum first, as early as you can. Your ticket will also get you into the Coliseum. Going to the Forum early means you beat all the tour groups and get a nice, quiet walk around the site. Get lunch when you’re done (the Forum is seriously huge, so take your time seeing it all), then take your ticket to the Coliseum and enter the express line. You already have your ticket, so you don’t need to stand in the Extremely Long Ticket Queue.

Here are a few photos from the Forum. Note the Forum Cats.

The Coliseum was definitely worth the trip, as well.

These are both in the same area, and they were a fairly easy walk from our hotel. I have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow, but it’s going to be fun!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

An Octopus And A Gentleman

In Which Our Heroine Discovers That Things Do Not Always Go As Planned

Sometimes, I like to provide art to my pen pals when I write to them. (Sometimes, I like to provide brightly-colored hamster stickers. But I digress.) For my most recent letter, I decided that I would do a sketch of myself reading a letter and then write the actual letter in a giant speech bubble so it would look as though I was reading the letter to my pen pal. (I may still do this someday. I may also develop a line of stationery of random things reading letters to people. It would be fun.)

I started drawing. My drawing of humans is a bit rusty, so my first sketch didn’t turn out too well. (I did discover, however, that Clairefontaine Triomphe paper is delightful to draw on.) I tried a different pose, and that was worse. After a good deal of erasing and sketching and erasing and sketching and erasing and generally being dissatisfied, I gave up and drew this:

Yes. I drew an octopus in a top hat and a monocle. Sometimes, that just happens.

I am totally going to clean him up and put him on my calling cards. Can you imagine anything more elegant?

(My pen pal letter wound up being decorated with the hamster stickers. What can I say? Art next time.)

Categories: Confessions, Mailings | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

This Is Important.

In Which Our Heroine Continues To Ponder The Importance Of Writing Things Down

I am a Writer. I have never been published, partially because I am Very Bad at Finishing Stories. (It turns out you have to Finish Stories in order to Get Stories Published. Fancy that.) However, I am Excellent at Writing Down Ideas.

Today, I read something Very Important over at Strange Ink, which is Kat Howard’s blog. She says, “The words on the page are the only ones people can read.”

I just want to repeat that for emphasis:

The words on the page are the only ones people can read.

It seems so simple, but it’s so profound. I think this is also something that Aspiring Writers (whether writing a letter or a story) forget. If we don’t record our thoughts, our characters, our ideas, then no one will ever be able to read them. Those things will be lost forever. These ephemerae will only be preserved by being nailed securely to a page, whether that page is in a notebook or on a computer.

Are you a Writer? Write. Write early, write often. Write and write and write. Nail those ideas down, keep them, don’t let them escape.

The words on the page are the only ones people can read.

Categories: Confessions, Pondering | Tags: , | Leave a comment

On Memory

In Which Our Heroine Ponders The Importance of Writing Things Down

My mind is a bit of a whirl today because I have several different things I wanted to write about, and it’s hard to focus. My mind is not the most well-organized in the world, to put it mildly, and that is one of the reasons why I write things down. The very act of writing something by hand helps stick it in my memory in a way that typing it into my handy-dandy phone reminder system does not.

We all have different ways of augmenting our memories. We keep calendars and to-do lists. We remind ourselves by setting reminders on our smartphones, repeating things to ourselves, even tying strings around our fingers. (A useless exercise, I always think, because tying a string around my finger does nothing but worry me about why I have a string tied around my finger. If one tied a note to the string reminding one about how one should go buy milk because one does not drink tea without milk and one has no milk at home and one would like to drink tea in the afternoon, that would be more practical.) Our human brains can only hold so much at a time, and our lives are generally filled with shiny, shiny distractions.

In my case, I am generally a scatterbrain, so I write things down and keep my lists with me. I often keep lists in several places so that I will be sure to remember. If I don’t write things down, however, those things are sure to be lost and forgotten. I know this about myself, so I Write Things Down.

“What,” you may be asking, Dear Reader, “is the point of this? So you have a bad memory! You write things down! While this seems an obviously practical solution, why are you harping on it?” Well, Dear Reader, this is a blog about writing and its uses, particularly letters.

My Point Today Is This: Letters Are Written Memories.

Isn’t that wonderful? Letters are conversations that can be read over and over again, treasured, and never, ever forgotten. This is particularly significant to me because of my dear maternal grandmother. She and my mother used to write to one another when my mother was in college. I asked my mother the other day whether Grandma would like a letter from me.

“She would treasure it,” my mother told me. “She would read it over and over again. She likes letters better than phone calls, because she can review letters, but she forgets phone conversations.”

“But,” my mother warned me, “don’t expect her to write you back. She hasn’t written me a letter in some time.”

I wrote to Grandma. I haven’t gotten a letter back, but that’s fine. I didn’t expect one. The thing is, Grandma’s memory is not as sharp as it once was. She has to write things down far more than she used to. She may not remember to write me a letter, or she may have given up writing letters. That’s OK. Every time I write to her, I will be writing her a memory to keep. Every letter is a gift, and I don’t know how much longer I will have her to write to. I hope to write to her at least once every fortnight. (I wrote to her today.)

On the other hand, I have received several written gifts over the past few weeks! My relationship with my LWA Pen Pals is going strong, and I also received a card from my Aunt! It is amazing how writing letters can renew relationships as well as start new ones. It also surprises me somewhat how delighted I am every time I receive a letter in the mail!

All four of my Mailings have made it safely and received the following responses:

Mailing #1: A phone call from my friend telling me how much the little elf brightened her day.

Mailing #2: I recently visited the recipient, and “This Is Your Chicken” is proudly displayed on her refrigerator.

Mailing #3: Tweeted to the world at large by a very happy recipient.

Mailing #4: A Facebook message immediately upon receipt, telling me how much she loved the kitten and how she’d displayed it on her sideboard.

Every single Mailing was appreciated, and I am lucky enough to know how much. This, of course, encourages me to do even more.

What memories do you write down? How do you remind yourself to do things? What memories will you share this week through the mail?

Categories: Mailings, Pondering | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Virtual Letter-Writing Social!

In Which Our Heroine Participates!

Greetings, Everyone!

The Letter Writers Alliance and Hippie Artsy Pen Pal (Tea and Letters) are hosting a Virtual Letter-Writing Social tomorrow, June 9! Write letters, take photos of them, and post them to Twitter/FB/Your Blog! Please note: Both of those links lead to the respective blogs’ entries on the Virtual Letter Writers Social. The Twitter Hashtag is #showandmail.

See you tomorrow!

Categories: Mailings | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Notes on Notebooks (and Notepaper)

In Which Our Heroine Confesses To An Addiction Or Two

I love notebooks. Each bundle of paper is a work of art, brimming with beautiful potential, waiting to be filled with thoughts. Some of those thoughts may develop into stories, finished drawings, or letters. Others may be complete in themselves, inky records of a passing inspiration or reminder.

Imagine, if you will, a mind like mine, confronted with a display of notebooks. These notebooks may be physically in front of me, or they may be attractively ranged across my computer screen. My mind is already planning what I would write in each one, whether it would reside on my desk or be carried in my purse, how just owning this notebook would encourage me to write, make my writing better, make my life more organized.

Before I know it, I’ve fallen for one (or more) of the beautiful covers and promises of perfect paper, traipsed over to the checkout counter (or clicked my way to my Virtual Shopping Cart), and voila! I am the proud owner of yet another attractively-bound package of paper potential.

This is why I have a closet drawer full of notebooks, lined and blank, large and small. Some of them have one page filled with a sketch or a few notes, which is a pity. If they were still completely blank, I could give them away to friends who would use them.

The trouble is that tastes change with the times. I used to carry a backpack practically everywhere, so carrying a large notebook or sketchbook with me at all times seemed more reasonable. (I was a student, so carrying a lot of heavy books was less of an issue back then.) Nowadays, my pack is much smaller, both for space and health reasons. It turns out that carrying a large backpack with everything in it you might need if you had the attention span of a concussed goldfish about with you at all times is not precisely good for your back, your knees, your ankles, or any of your other joints. Thus, the notebook I carry with me everywhere (more on this in a future blog entry) is considerably smaller and more of a combination notebook and sketchbook. Not only that, but I have become quite fond of writing with fountain pens, which means I have been forced to become much, much pickier about paper and ink.

Thus, many of my older notebooks have been deemed “unsuitable” for daily carry and left in the drawer. (I really should pull them out for drawing at home. I hate waste.)

In any case, on to the True Confession: Not only did I purchase two notebooks during my recent trip to New York, but I have also ordered ink and stationery. Remember how I said that part of the reason for me to start this whole letter-and-art-sending habit was to try to use up my stationery supplies? Well…that’s been rather a failure so far. On the bright side, it means that I can soon do some reviews of the new paper and inks, once I’ve started using them.

To be fair, I sent my first LWA Pen Pal Letter on paper that I already had in my drawer. I was very proud of myself–old paper, written nicely, with hand-drawn art (snails) on both letter and envelope. However, did I remember to scan, or even photograph, my work before I sent it off? I did not. I may have gotten a little overexcited. Still, we shall see what comes of it. I hope she writes back soon.

I also received my first letter from my second LWA Pen Pal! I wrote back to her the same day (no photos of that, either–I am sorry), and that went in the mail yesterday. I’m very excited about her–we have so many interests in common! I hope she writes back soon.

Today’s mail included a small note to an Aunt with whom I had lost touch. We used to send mail art to one another long, long ago, and I am hoping to rekindle that tradition with her.

At this point, all of my stationery has arrived, and also more ink from J. Herbin. I just can’t resist those little canisters!

What have you been writing lately? Have you bought anything fun? Have you written to a friend? Have you made a new one?

Categories: Confessions, Mailings | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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