A ghost whale goes minimalist with a truck: 3 Tom Bihn products reviewed

My Tom Bihn collection grew in June. I know that my review posts are popular and I wanted to be able to provide helpful feedback. Also, while it’s one thing to foster kittens, we’d forgotten how much energy a forever kitten possesses. Here are three short reviews of the products that have become an every day part of my life. No, I have no idea about the blog post title either. It’s been a long day!

The Truck

This 25L capacity bag is an evolution of the Moveable Feast grocery tote. Earlier this year, Darcy sent me one to help me with transporting food for the foster kittens … the pair of kittens before Dot adopted us. Its role has changed while Dot settles into her life as a resident cat and we take a brief hiatus from fostering.

This is a versatile bag. It is comfortable to carry, and I find the sections of the main part of the bag helpful. This bag stands up and stays open. While I love my Swift, this has made the Truck super useful around my house. The shoulder straps fit easily over my shoulder and as both the kitten room and my studio are in the basement, this is a feature I appreciate.

Since Dot’s joined us, its primary role has been as a project bag transporter and a way to hide yarn from her. I should take it to the library — but try to limit myself to 3-5 books at a time (though I may have 15 checked out total). Local laws banning plastic bags are beginning to go into effect, so I should make it available for errands — I know it will transport rice as well as cat food!

My goal was to stuff it full of hand made cat toys to bring to the Humane Society for Shadow’s 10th adoptiversary back in early November. I’m still working on that and want to make it happen! I expect we’ll be settled and open to fostering again soon. This week Dot’s taken to snuggling us in the morning, and sharing the couch with Shadow in the evening.

Until recently, The Truck was the only size available for this style. It is now joined by the 11L Pick-up Truck and the 38L Monster Truck. I’m thinking that the Monster Truck would be useful for laundry! Our current laundry basket is tall and I find it difficult to navigate the stairs. The Pick-Up Truck would definitely be helpful when I go to the library!


While I know where to turn for my bags, until June, I’ve struggled to find a wallet.

About fifteen years ago I bought my husband a new leather wallet. He’s used it ever since and still looks pretty good. While I know manufacturing processes can change over time, I confidently bought a different style in the same brand two years ago after another “good” wallet had lasted a brief six months. Mine new leather one didn’t hold up at all and it didn’t even suffer abuse from my pocket, it was cozy in the front zip pouch of my little swift or the internal pocket of my side kick.

So began a debate of what did I need to carry in my wallet every day? How did I need to carry it? How much cash did I need to manage?

In late early June after going through three wallets in two years, I purchased the #5 version of Nik’s Minimalist Wallet in Black 400 Halcyon. It’s nice to have a way to quickly “show my ID” … I haven’t needed to do so in over a decade. Why get the clear urethane if I didn’t need it? It has two interior pockets — one side holds the personal stuff: license, bank card, and main health insurance card and the other side keeps my credit cards in check. At least that’s the theory. In reality things move around and every so often I have to rebalance it. The outside pocket? There you find the two cards I use the most — my library cards!
I keep shopping membership and the auxiliary health insurance cards in a separate pouch. They’re rarely used so it’s not a challenge at all to keep them elsewhere.

If I want to grab my wallet and put it in my front pocket and go — I can … and I do.

So … what about cash? If I know I’m going to use cash frequently for a set period of time, I’ll add a bobby pin at the fold and make a quick money clip. I rarely do more than routine shopping and only need cash for a few select stores so I can plan ahead and for that trip manage the bills as needed. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I next travel to Europe — I have a change purse somewhere. (Though I really should work to get pins for my cards).

I took the photos of the wallet tonight while I was drafting this post. I’ve used it every day since it arrived in June. It’s been in various bags, jacket pockets, and my jeans.

Super Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch

This is a silent ghost in my bag. It holds the things I don’t use (hope I don’t need) often … but life is easier if I have them. Band-aids, pain remedies and antihistamines, and cough suppressants. There’s also an eraser, a blunt tapestry needle, a few stamps, and a paper tape measure.

I love this pouch! When I purchased it, I thought I’d put a mini tin of watercolours inside, but then realized how nice it was to finally keep these items tidy. Mine is in Dawn 210 Ballistic. I love that this is made with scrap fabric. What’s quite wonderful is they realized they had lots of scrap black — so the Color Zipper Ghost Whale Organizers were developed.

I love the mini size, but am thinking of how I could use the others variants. This is a versatile little pouch! I also think it’s a great way to try different TB fabrics and colours. There’s also a new 50% Recycled Nylon (!!) and some of its scraps can be found in a pouch.

Hopefully this post helps you learn about Tom Bihn products I use and love. I have a few more reviews (and followups) to write and will try to get to them soon.

Again, thank you Darcy, Tom, and the entire Tom Bihn crew for supporting my foster kitten efforts and sending us a Truck (and letting me use two of the product photos)! While they sent me the Truck, I purchased the Ghost Whale Pouch and Wallet on my own. They don’t ask me to write any review posts. I know I find others’ reviews helpful so I try to pay it forward to share my experiences with the products. ♥

My Tom Bihn posts, by product reviewed

new ink…

Not that kind!

While at the National Stationary Show (helping MakeRuckus Press) two weeks ago, I had a chance to stop by the Exaclair booth. Among other things, one of the new(ish) Herbin fountain pen inks came home with me.

Meet Vert de Gris.

image showing example of herbin vert de gris fountain pen with watercolor pan

You can learn more about this beautiful colour, in a review by Wondernaut. It’s a marvelous colour and I’m finding myself trying to write every pen dry so I can fill all of them with it.

I painted the bottle with my new mini travel palette which includes my first hand-mulled paint, a pan of silver graphite by Wanderlust Watercolors. Yes, I could’ve been more clever and used the ink to paint the bottle, but I’m quite pleased by the colour I mixed!

I’m really happy to be excited to use my fountain pens, sketching, and painting again. While I’ve not sketched with watercolours every day, I’m doodling more. It feels good and helps loosen my creativity and relax my mind.

image of desk tableau: tea cup on coaster, handknit sock in progress, planner, and sketchbook with watercolors and painted image of teacup.

a few thoughts about the Life Noted planner

Life noted PlannerAt the end of July I began to put the the Life Noted planner through its paces. Today I have many more thoughts and opinions than I did three months ago! I like it and am pleased to see companies innovating and adapting to changing needs. I found that this format fixes some things that haven’t worked for me with the Principal.

It’s not perfect, but neither am I.

This post will explain things I love, things I wish to change, and how I use it throughout the week.

3 things I love about the Life Noted planner

example month of Life Noted PlannerMonth View: I really love having a month view as an integrated part of the book. It’s simple and there’s space to write other things I want to record. I appreciate the consistent Monday start on both month & week pages and that key holidays are included and unobtrusive.

Quo Vadis Life Noted, weekly pageEqual size day boxes: Let me repeat that: every day has the same size box. This means that the the “flow” of the week is Monday – Thursday on one page and Friday – Sunday on the other. This fits with how I work and the rhythm of my week. For contrast, the Principal splits it Monday – Wednesday, Thursday – Saturday, and a tiny Sunday.

Todo list boxes for time blocks: This was a surprise for me. I have repurposed the four check boxes as key focus for my work-day time blocks (two hour slots 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, and 3-5.). I like to see how well I do on keeping to that part of my week’s plan.

3 things I want to change about the Life Noted planner

The Coil: This is something I could change today if I felt a strong desire to do so, but I’m determined to try and work with it. I detest the coil binding. Yes, this means it lays flat. However, it adds a slight bulk that is results in my leaving the planner on my desk and I only use it there. If you don’t like it either, coil-less options are available at Barnes & Noble! I found one in a store and determined I like it better, but not enough to buy another one.

Find the month: I find it challenging to find the month pages amid the week pages. I’m not sure if there is feasible way to address this, however it’s not a big issue — I found a solution that solves it for me. I added flags to each month page, they stick out a little bit from the edge so I know where to turn. I also placed a brass page marker on the current month.

Time schedule: I miss having the time block schedule that is in the Principal. I often fill it up with postit notes as I map out the time arc of my week.

The first few weeks

In the beginning I tried to mimic the same way I used the Principal. That didn’t feel right to me.
example week of Life Noted Planner

My next attempt was very detailed with my icon task entry. I wrote too much and duplicated too much of my electronic task system.
example week of Life Noted Planner

A week with my Life Noted week planner

It begins with a cup of tea.

I add in the things I know about — recycling schedule, appointments, blog post topics.

Then I add in other important things that need extra reminders (such as medicating foster kittens).

After that, I work on the day’s time blocks, sometimes I split them into one hour slots. They are filled in during my morning planning.
example week of Life Noted Planner, starting to fill out

I use whatever pen comes to hand. Standardizing on black makes that easy.

example week of Life Noted Planner, as of Thursday morning

Events I don’t attend or tasks I no longer need to do are struck out. On occasion I use correction tape, if I made an error not that something was cancelled.

For the curious, a dot ( · ) is a task, a circle ( ○ ) is an event (à la bullet journal), and X or ( ● ) means it’s completed. My system differs from there — I use a / as I begin work on a task and > if I purposely reschedule it. The dots ( · ) and ( / ) that are left at the end of a day mean I didn’t work on them or they weren’t completed.. This helps me during my Friday review so I can evaluate the why things didn’t happen. Sometimes I’ll sketch in tasks for the next week during this review session.

Final thoughts

First, I’m sure you may be wondering where is my beloved Principal? As I expected maintaining two planners in parallel was a pain. It comes out each Friday during weekly review and I use it more as a journal of that week. It also gives me a space to doodle, I miss doing it every day, so we’ll see how that practice evolves.

I was surprised how much I like using this format to plan the arc of my week. It took some trial and error to figure out how I wanted to add things to the page, but now I like it. Why? I’m no longer trying to do a zillion things on Monday (er most Mondays) but instead using the entire week. It’s become an integrated part of my work. It now has my highest honor — I don’t think about it anymore, I trust it enough that I can use it.

Many thanks to Exaclair for providing a review copy of the Life Noted planner (the FTC wants you to know).

planner status, July 2018 edition

QV planner, penat.work planning grid, tablet, rhodia goal book, composition book, and Life Noted plannerIt’s been a while since my last planner status post. Why? I’m still using the same system! (and to my surprise, the same goalbook). This week started a new volume of the Principal so I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts.

I often believe that the best compliment I can give my tools is when I unintentionally ignore them. It’s not I don’t use them, it’s when I don’t have to stress about if they’ll work. They are a part of my systems and I can focus on my work. After the past year, it’s wonderful to have something that isn’t stressful in my life. With recent shifts in what I do, it’s even more imperative that my planning management system work without my actively thinking about it. (Why do I have a strong desire to reread The Phantom Tollbooth right now? ;) )

However (isn’t that always the way?) Quo Vadis has a new planner out this year, the Life Noted. When they asked if I’d give one a spin, I said yes. Why? It has some features that are missing from the Principal that I think would help me out. The most significant of those is monthly planning pages. I’ve been using my planning grid and it’s great (I’m biased) but I’d like something that’s part of the planner without needing a glue stick.

How will I give this new planner a chance and also not cause my systems to train wreck in the process? I’m nervous but have a plan. (Does that surprise anyone?) I will do my morning/evening quick review sessions with both planners, at least for August and September. Then the Life Noted will be my schlep around planner and the Principal will live at home, open on my desk. I’m eager to see how this goes and will report back in October.

While I’m including some photos of the new planner below, if you want to learn more about the Life Noted planners now and see some early reviews, please visit the quovadis blog. And if you’re curious how I set up a new planner, I wrote about it at pen at work.

Many thanks to Exaclair for providing a review copy of the Life Noted planner (the FTC wants you to know).

pi projects and plans

This afternoon I went to the store to pick up a wireless repeater so I can work outside on the deck this summer. I made an impulse purchase and came home with an AIY Voice Kit (v1). Oops. We’ve talked about adding voice recognition for a while, and as it was five dollars, I couldn’t resist. It joins our growing cluster of raspberry pis, a beaglebone, and multiple devices controlled by z-wave technology.

All of this is exciting — twenty years ago (gasp) I studied artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and linguistics. While my life has moved far from academia and cutting edge computer science, I love how approachable and accessible this field has become. There are frequent discussions over dinner about how our lives may have been different had we had easy and affordable access to all of this new technology.

What do our mini devices do?

Our Raspberry Pi Control centerOne device tracks humidity levels and temperature at multiple sensors points in the house. Another controls the security cameras. In the dining room we created a control center that displays weather and visuals from the camera in addition to a few other things including controlling the lights in the display cabinet.

Is there more?

What about the micro:bit I picked up last December? I use it as a timer while I’m sitting at the couch knitting or crocheting. The image changes when it’s time to take a break. I shake it to reset.

Other Plans

Tonight we started planning how to control the garden sprinklers so they don’t turn on if a storm is approaching with specific probability.

Are you interested in the geeky details of our projects? If so, please let me know and I’ll write them up.