The Perfect Pencil Preserved

The Secret Life Of The Pencil… With an interest in words, I was intrigued…
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(Source: The Secret Life Of The Pencil)

As an advocate of written correspondence and finding the appropriate words for all occasions, I was drawn to The Secret Life of The Pencil project. Seeking to honor the “humble pencil… where most of mankind’s greatest achievements begin”, this is a collection of photographs of this most basic of writing instruments. An exhibit has just opened, hosted by Paul Smith at No. 9 Albemarle Street in London, where you can view the stunning and varied studies. And if you have a hankering for an image of the stylus used by Sir James Dyson or Mike Leigh, you can make a purchase via an online auction benefiting Children in Crisis.

This enterprise sets the pencil up in a modern day challenge of manual versus technology. I find this ongoing dialogue fascinating; of course electronic communications facilitate many aspects of everyday life and productivity, however the oldest methods of communication are still effective and valid. I hope we never lose touch with the roots of creativity through writing and drawing by hand.

Bag Lady

I’ve always been rather obsessed with purses, and now that I have two small children that obsession has carried over into diaper bags. Under the guise of searching for the perfect one I’ve purchased a couple. (I use the word ‘couple’ in it’s more general definition, not meaning just two!) With this experience I feel qualified in making some recommendations in this area. Diaper bags make perfect gifts, being among the most appreciated baby shower items. They are, after all, virtually the only thing that is not solely for the baby, and if chosen correctly can make a mom-to-be feel attractive and stylish. Here are some of my favorites:

Skip Hop Versa:

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(Source: Skip Hop)

The Versa functions like a diaper bag (insulated pockets, changing pad, etc.), but looks like a regular purse. I like it’s compact appearance and the way it sits close to the body. This is a great hands-free option for when I’m toting a toddler with no stroller to lighten the load.

Skip Hop Dash:

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(Source: Target)

For going on the stroller I like the Dash. Skip Hop make some of the best diaper bags out there. Their bags come with stroller clips for easy attachment, and have all the practical features you could want. The Dash works well because it’s rigid shape means that nothing gets lost in the bottom.

Storksak + Bugaboo Leather Bag:

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(Source: Storksak)

If the Mom-to-be is getting a Bugaboo stroller then the Storksak + Bugaboo Leather Bag would be a luxurious upgrade for her. Being leather it’s very practical, and in this dark color Dad would not object to carrying it either. This would be a generous gift to purchase in a group.

Marc Jacobs Elizababy:

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(Source: Zappos)

The Elizababy is my absolute favorite from a style perspective. With a combination of short handles and crossbody strap it has good versatility. But what I particularly love is the fabulous print (Jerrie Rose) – both bold and feminine – which goes with a surprising amount of things.

Orla Kiely For Target:

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(Source: Target)

Another designer I’ve always admired is Orla Kiely. Her recent designs for Target have made these distinctive pieces much more affordable. The diaper bags are worth checking out, with a recognizable stem design in attractive red or navy.

Giggle Pronto! Mini Changer:

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(Source: Giggle)

Finally, for popping out of the house on quick errands, or for adding the essentials to a regular purse, a clutch version works perfectly. I use the Giggle Pronto! Mini Changer, which includes the essential mat while also holding just enough for a short outing.

I’m always on the look out for the perfect diaper bag – either for myself or as a gift – so I’d be interested to hear other people’s favorites.

Our Kind of Nurse

2015-05 Nurses Week 3

Today is Florence Nightingale’s birthday and the last day of Nurses Week (May 6 – 12). Held each year, this is a time devoted to celebrating these hardworking heroes of the hospital. LIFE magazine dedicated column inches to the week with a cover story on Nursing in the 1930s. The profession has changed over the years, but a commitment to serve and a caring disposition have remained constant.

This year we wanted to do something to recognize our nurses so I put together a basket of healthy Kind treats. There is no way we can repay the work they do but we can at least offer some sustenance for their KIND-ness.

2015-05 Nurses Week 1

The Road To Character

The Road To Character. This was the title of David Brooks’s talk when he addressed The Chicago Council on Global Affairs yesterday evening. The New York Times writer and author was explaining the concepts in his new book of the same name; the importance of moral substance as opposed to more superficial pursuits. I was intrigued…

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(Source: Amazon)

The premise for this discussion was the fact that society positively recognizes us through our standing at work, etc., while encouraging an acquisitive nature. However, what really matters is what’s inside us, what makes up our character. Watching along on YouTube I was once again reminded that giving selflessly is important for us to find a sense of self that grounds us and gives us direction. By determining our personal building blocks of character we become the truly great people that we have the potential to be.

Today I’ve been mulling over the points he made. It was certainly thought provoking, which is always good, and it has inspired a renewed commitment to giving.

A Princess Called Charlotte

In honor of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, whose name was announced today, I’ve put together some namesake gift ideas. Charlotte is a beautiful, traditional name, one that is definitely worthy of highlighting.

Charlotte has great literary connections, with probably the most eminent Charlotte being the English author Charlotte Bronte. While many avid readers already have classics like Jane Eyre on their book shelves, this attractive cloth bound version would make a more unique gift:

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(Source: Waterstones)

For many the name Charlotte also brings to mind another book, the childhood classic Charlotte’s Web. This quirky brooch is composed of text from this story, fashioned into a pig design in recognition of the book’s subject:

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(Source: Etsy)

Charlotte is a popular name in literature, being both elegant and sweet, proper and playful. It’s endurance (consistently finding a home in the top baby name lists) has lead to its popularity on the page. I would suggest the children’s book Brave Charlotte as a lovely gift for a new baby:

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(Source: Amazon)

The parents of a Charlotte might appreciate a drink with which to toast their new arrival. I found this single malt Scotch Whisky, Port Charlotte, that would seem appropriate for raising a glass to a life of health and happiness:

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(Source: Binnys Beverage Depot)

For the grown-up Charlotte, the Annick Goutal perfume Eau de Charlotte would seem like a fitting, signature scent:

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(Source: Saks Fifth Avenue)

Finally, for the money-is-no-object gift, a Charlotte Olympia Perfume Clutch, with ‘Charlotte’ emblazoned across it, would make a fun statement.

image(Source: Charlotte Olympia)

As a name fit for a princess, Charlotte is indeed worth recognizing.

Get Writing

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Get Britain Writing!

I was delighted to discover that this past week was National Stationery Week in the U.K. Aimed at encouraging children to learn to handwrite and adults to continue this traditional method of communication, this campaign brings attention to a dwindling art through the focus on writing materials.

I’m an advocate of using paper correspondence as a way of maintaining social links. I believe there’s something that a tangible note affords that cannot be replicated by email or other electronic communication. This brings to mind a Wall Street Journal article from a few years back which details other benefits to writing than just purely social. This piece outlines how learming penmanship helps children make connections and develop ideas. Learning solely through technology does not reap the same benefits. There’s something about handling and manipulating a pen that profits the developing brain.

Each time I pick up a pen I’m reminded about how few times I do so. These days I form shopping lists on my phone, monitor to dos on an app, and often draft writing ideas on my iPad. Consequently my handwriting has suffered, and it always feels a little awkward wielding a writing instrument. However, once I get going I really enjoy the experience. There’s something very satisfying about seeing ink script on a page. And the Wall Street Journal is correct, using a pen helps creativity. I love the feel of a pen in my hand and the freedom to add doodles to the notes that fill my design notebook. However I try to store my ideas electronically, I find there’s no substitute for hard records. When one book is full I relish selecting another. My current book is a classic, unlined Moleskin version in a vibrant red. Picking it up just makes me begin to feel inspired and happy. The pages are of a good weight and the color is perfect. Using a rollerball or sketching pen on these is extremely satisfying, encouraging lengthy entries. This leads not just to the notation of ideas, but to the development of these. When studying design you’re taught over and over to keep working and refining your ideas under the mantra “your first idea is never your best”. Of course I’m not the first person to find that utilizing a design notebook is productive. Some years ago London’s Victoria and Albert Museum highlighted how sketchbooks were an important part of the creative process. Sketchbooks are not just about drawing, but are part of the connection between the brain and hand.

I hope that Stationery Week can help remind us of penmanship and the value it can bring to our personal development and in connecting with others. After all, receiving a letter or card always makes us feel more special than receiving a text or email. There is still a place for stationery.