The Fox’s Finery: Travel Accessories

September 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Travel can be an equally exciting and disquieting prospect. Once your travel plans are in place, you make your packing list and then you check it twice. As you depart you worry whether your suit will need pressing, whether your laptop will be safely stow-able, if your drawing supplies will remain organized and if you forgot your ticket or passport – or both. Many of the most common travel concerns can be addressed with the right amount of organization. Whether journeying overseas, across state lines or locally – The Fox has found several fine items that are utterly indispensable in the quest for perfect travel orchestration.

The Carry All Organizer

When pondering what to pack it is very easy to forget a pair of socks, a tube of toothpaste, a comb and even your passport. The advent of e-tickets and self-help kiosks at the airport have eliminated some ticket concerns, but what about that football match you plan to see, the off-Broadway play, the super cheap theme park tickets you scored? If you have ever shown up at the airport confident that you have every paste, fluid and cream you could ever need – then come to find out you’ve forgotten the one thing you can’t buy at the corner drugstore – you’ll know why The Fox has listed a fine carry all as essential.

There are many passport covers, ugly plastic accordion-style office thingies and flesh colored cash carriers out there. However, The Fox is predisposed to accessories with a little more style and panache then hoisting your shirt up in the middle of a security line to grab your identification. That being said, The Fox has searched high and low for a travel organizer that is stylish, discrete and unique. The search yielded few results. So The Fox took to crafting his own utilizing an old book, some adhesive-backed felt, craft paper and magnetic snaps. The result, as shown below, happily holds passports, international driver’s permits, tickets, cash and more. All while discretely fitting inside your carry-on next to the latest paperback you can’t leave home without. Fort Knox it is not – but this little organizer adds some elegance to your travel management needs.

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The Messenger

He’s a business man, not a businessman. The Fox is a huge fan of grabbing the laptop or the tablet, the sketchpad and pencils and heading to a favorite coffee stop for some brainstorming. He is also fond of knowing that everything he needs for longer travel is safely right at his fingertips, can be secured cross-body-style and easily stowed for take off. Whether checking in for a red-eye or throwing your bag haphazardly into the car for a quick meeting at the office, the right messenger bag, briefcase, attaché or laptop bag can make all the difference in protecting your finest gear.

The Fox recently purchased the Herschel Supply Company’s Clark messenger in the Sunday print, and couldn’t be happier. It is a sturdy, well-built bag with enough room to house a 15″ laptop, some drawing gear, your fountain pen & notebook, that ever-important organizer and headphones. With a removable shoulder strap, a padded laptop sleeve, interior pockets to keep things in their place and heavy metal hardware – The Fox is convinced the Clark messenger is the perfect bag for all of your travel needs.

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The Weekender Bag

The suitcase – dun dun duuunnn – can offer much vexation whilst packing. A big open space (with way too much room for shorter trips) can be daunting. And The Fox finds he is just encouraged to over pack when presented with so much space anyway – so why not cut the size of the bag? Aha! The weekender. The perfect sized bag for trips lasting up to a week. And the key to packing for longer trips is to roll your unmentionables, casual pants and tees. For fewer wrinkles try the ever-excellent Japanese folding method – it works wonders.

The Fox is currently using the cheap and easy American Apparel Nylon Pack Cloth Duffle. It holds a huge amount of clothes, a dopp kit et al – and stores flat when not in use. If you are looking for something with a little more structure, try the Tin Cloth Duffle by Filson, or the Artigan vegan leather bag by Matt & Nat. All of these excellent choices are sure to make your packing simpler, and your travel a little more refined.

33above: American Apparel Nylon Cloth Pack Duffle

333above: Filson Tin Cloth Duffle

333333above: Matt&Nat Artigan

The Fox hopes you have enjoyed his focus on the finer things this month. Happy Fall and stay tuned for more from The Fox.

 

All of The Fox’s Thoughts, designs, blogs, posts, tweets, pix and pins can be found here…

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The Finer Things: Last Day of Summer

September 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

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As The Fox awoke on this crisp and beautiful morning – he was gently reminded that today is the last full day of summer. With this in mind, The Fox is taking a small break from his regularly scheduled newsletter to enjoy a few of his favorite summer finery. We hope you get a chance to enjoy some of your own favorites; whether it’s a glass of your rosé of choice, one last cook out or a warm afternoon walk – cheers to summer.

We will join you again next week for another installment of the The Fox’s Finery.

What good is the warmth of summer,
without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
– John Steinbeck

 

 

 

All of The Fox’s Thoughts, designs, blogs, posts, tweets, pix and pins can be found here…

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The Fox’s Finery: Coffee & Croissants

September 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

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This week in The Fox’s Finery – we delve a little deeper into the morning ritual of brewing a nice cup of coffee and enjoying a delectable treat. The Fox is no stranger to coffee. Decoction, immersion, gravitational or pressurized – he embraces all brewing methods. As a coffee geek The Fox has immensely enjoyed the recent upsurge in local coffee roasters, independent cafes and the general re-embracing of taking time to enjoy a few sips of a decent cup of joe. When out, The Fox looks for a decent cup practically everywhere he goes. He’ll take drip brewed or pour-over, espresso or Turkish, perked or siphoned. At home, when at his leisure, The Fox loves a good French Press.

Italian designer Attilio Calimani patented the coffee press in 1929. Since his initial designs, the press has undergone some modifications to not only the beaker, but the plunger and materials used as well. Today’s press comprises a narrow beaker, typically glass, a metal or plastic lid and pouring frame and a plunger that fits tightly in the beaker and has a fine metal or nylon mesh. It is a simple mechanism that produces fantastic immersion coffee.

Immersion brewing is literally brewing coffee by fully immersing the grounds in water just 30 seconds or so off boiling, for a period of minutes before the pour. Immersion brewing allows you to carefully control so many variables of the brewing process that it is becoming an increasingly popular method for home and cafe brewing alike. You can change the quality, depth and richness of flavor you brew by adjusting the bean grind size, adjusting the water temperature, steeping for variable amounts of time, stirring or not stirring, filtering with cloth, metal or paper – all options which change the way the beans open, the oils are released and filtered. The coffee press is one of several immersion brewing methods you can consider. The mad scientist in The Fox loves the siphon and cannot wait to get his paws on one. Siphon brewers, such as the Hario TCA-5, utilizes fire, physics and theatricality to brew what some say is the best possible cup of coffee as it allows for fantastic temperature control, perfect immersion or brewing time and the best of cloth filtering. The siphon produces an extraordinarily flavorful and dynamic cup of coffee that is complex and smooth without all the murky sediment. There is also the Clever Dripper, which is a modified pour over method that uses a unique stopper and release mechanism to keep the coffee and water together until ready to be poured. The Aeropress and Eva Solo methods are also growing in popularity but tend to have some of the highest price points – taking these out of The Fox’s sights for now.

Ok, so now you’re a bit more familiar with immersion brewing. The coffee press, or as The Fox prefers the French Press, is a favorite method for its relative ease of use, its ability to extract fuller, richer cups of coffee from a coarser grind, and the press’ ability to better brew the darker roasts of Mexico, Sumatra or Brazil than any other immersion method. Now for the drawbacks. One; there can be a minor amount of sediment in a press-brewed coffee. This can be minimized by perfecting your grind size (coarser is better), or investing in a press, such as the Espro, with a barrel-shaped mesh filter that cuts back on sediment. Drawback number two; temperature control. Once the near boiling water is added to your grinds in the beaker – many presses will lose temperature more rapidly than other brewing methods. You can work towards solving this problem with your existing press by pre-heating the glass beaker with very hot water – allowing the water to sit and then dumping it right before you are ready to add the grinds and brew – which aids in cutting temperature loss. Another option is to invest in a double-walled glass beaker press, such as the Hario Double-Walled, to increase heat retention and consistency during the brewing process.

Phew. Now you know a little more about the coffee press and some of the ways you can influence your perfect cup. How do you brew that perfect cup? Well dear reader, ask and you shall receive.

The Perfect French Press Cup
Equipment Necessary:
Coffee beans
Coffee grinder
A coffee press
Kettle
Kitchen timer
Stir stick
Favorite coffee mug

Step One: Grind your coffee beans to the size of breadcrumbs.

Step Two: Add your coffee grinds to a squeaky clean French Press beaker.

Step Three: Pour hot water that is approximately 205°F, or 30 seconds off the boil, into the press; making sure to fully saturate your grinds and pouring to just cover the grinds. Start a four-minute timer.

Step Four: About one minute in, stir the “bloom”, or top layer, and pour the rest of the water evenly to the top line of the beaker and affix the top. Press the plunger so it just touches the water & grinds – making sure all the grinds are fully immersed.

Step Five: After the four minute timer dings, plunge the filter and serve immediately. Pouring all of the coffee is best (even if it means you will have to reheat your second cup in your not-so-favorite-mug later), as this prevents the coffee from further extraction and a stronger and sludgy second serving.

 

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Now that you’ve brewed your perfect cup of French Press coffee; you need the perfect French pastry to accompany it.  The Fox recently decided to undertake the making of croissants from scratch. Having little experience with yeast, a bit of a baking reputation (that could easily crumble) and no experience with laminated pastries ever – it was a terrifying prospect. Undertaking the task of preparing the pastry most often associated with France (but with floury roots originating in Austria in the early 1200s) began with reading up on this most fluffy, buttery, crispy, golden, delectable of pastries. After researching recipes, laminating techniques and possible vegan variations (not to mention a whole awful lot of drooling all over the keyboard whilst staring at photos of croissants that were sure to be more amazing than any The Fox could himself prepare) – The Fox felt ready to take on this basic and relatively easy recipe from an extremely reliable blog, the Vegan Dad. After letting the prepared dough rest in the fridge for about 36 hours, The Fox cleaned and floured the counter for the ensuing mayhem.

Three hours of rolling, folding, rising and baking later, The Fox was able to enjoy an extremely satisfying breath of relief as he enjoyed his very first homemade croissants and pain au chocolats. Paired with that perfect cup of coffee and The Fox was most certainly enjoying the finer things.

What The Fox Uses:

The Fox loved his Bodum Chambord press, until he broke the beaker. Alas, his wallet could not stomach another Bodum, or even the replacement beaker, but was happily surprised at the bargain priced Ikea Upphetta press he recently purchased. Once again, the Swedes prove that greater expense does not always mean greater quality.

 

 

All of The Fox’s Thoughts, designs, blogs, posts, tweets, pix and pins can be found here…

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The Fox’s Finery: Pen & Paper

September 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

poe blog

We live in an age of ever evolving technologies. A slightly different push-button age then foretold in the sci-fi movies of old. Our fridges can teach us how to cook, our bathroom mirrors forecast the weather and all around us people stare at the latest hi-def, touch-screen, led & lcd & retina blah blah blahs all day long. The Fox is certainly guilty of checking his phone one too many times a day, through one too many meals, but he would like to take a few steps back – to an era of pen & paper.

As wonderful as laptops, tablets and smart phones are for productivity, connectivity and creativity – The Fox has begun to feel a little less creative, a little less in-touch and certainly a little lazy. It’s become too easy to search and buy and ship – instead of building or making, too easy to “like” a photo – instead of calling or seeing someone and hearing the story behind a vacation photo, too easy to look up a recipe – instead of creating one from scratch. Bearing in mind The Fox appreciates that he could not so easily draft, publish and distribute a paper newsletter on a weekly basis – he would like to (electronically) state his case that a fine pen and a great piece of paper still have a place in this world.

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The pen. Simply defined it is an instrument designed to apply ink to a surface. Pretty basic and there have been so few advances since the first reed pens were dipped in ink roughly 5,000 years ago. People have been writing with nib-tipped reed, quill and dip pens for thousands of years. The earliest record of a reservoir pen dates to the 10th century, with pens slowly evolving from similar plans over the ensuing five centuries. Thanks to the industrial revolution, fountain pen nibs became incredibly cheap to produce; allowing people who could not previously afford to write – the opportunity to do so – and at the same time encouraging the development of education and literacy. The ballpoint pen first arrived in 1888, and its popularity soared in the 1940s. Since 1963 the rollerball, or gel, pen has also stolen the hearts of many a writer.

With all of this said, The Fox is most concerned with bringing the fountain pen back into your life. Sure, it’s tough to beat the ease and price of a humble BIC Soft Feel at 53¢ a pop. But there is something to be said for writing with an implement whose technology has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.

The world of fountain pens is a rabbit hole to be sure. A strange and wondrous learning curve awaits as you begin to explore the many makers, the disposable vs the luxurious, the types of nibs and why writing with gold is something to behold. And the inks, my god the inks. There is a certain thrill as you draw the first pull of ink into your pen, as you marvel at how the nib is fed the ink, as you put nib to paper and feel how easily it flows, how the ink wants you to write your next great work.

Or your next great shopping list.

The point is, the feel of writing with a fountain pen, is just that – it is a feeling. It takes a little getting used to. You don’t have to force the ink with the pressure necessary when using a ballpoint or even a rollerball. You may end up with some ink on your fingers if you’re not careful. You may realize that you have to adjust how you hold your pen and you may get some strange looks; but writing with a fountain pen makes writing more enjoyable. Now, you may ask, how do you get that feeling?

There are many makers, many different looks, price levels and nibs to consider. There are a dizzying variety of inks. The Fox recommends starting with a pen that looks great – one that makes you excited to carry it with you always. If you find a pen you love to look at, you will want to write more.
Check out the links below for some great fountain pen learning and shopping resources.

paper blog

So now you have the pen you love to carry, you just need something to write on. As a bit of a tree-hugger, The Fox is hard-pressed to admit that he loves very much to buy a new notebook. Bear in mind that your new fountain pen will write very differently on copy paper than it will on a super-smooth 100 lb art paper. Most popular notebooks have smooth to super-smooth paper that is not too porous, and will take your ink well with little feathering or bleed through. The Moleskine notebook is famous the world round for simply being everywhere. Leuchtturm1917 is a German maker of fine notebooks, founded in, you guessed it 1917. Field Notes is a company producing made in America notebooks that are durable and feature weather resistant paper. Rhodia is a French company producing notebooks since 1934, and is a favorite of many writers and designers. Clairefontaine notebooks (owned by Rhodia) are produced in a French mill that has been producing paper since 1858.

There are so many notebooks and paper makers to choose from; but once again The Fox recommends getting a notebook you will love to carry. If you are buying a high quality paper, like any of the above mentioned, you will be happy with the results when putting your pen to paper.

All else aside, The Fox doesn’t want you to forget that the important thing when buying a pen is to put it to good use (even if it’s that cheap BIC Soft Feel you’ve always loved). Put that pen to paper and be creative, develop ideas, check things off your to do list and take some time for yourself. The important thing when choosing paper is to understand that it’s ok to grab a piece of scrap paper or a napkin when you’re in the cafe next time and desperately need to get an idea down. The very most important thing is that you take time for yourself to enjoy the finer things, to enjoy your work, to enjoy the creative process and just to enjoy life.

Cheers.

The Fox’s Finery…

The Fox loves his Lamy fountain pen. He currently owns two models, the Al Star and the Safari. It is a well-balanced pen, the cap sits firmly in place, the nib is replaceable, and the cartridges are relatively inexpensive. The Lamy also has a cheap, easy to refill cartridge converter that allows him to change the ink to any color he would like within minutes. The Fox prefers the Fine nib for more precise writing with little to no feathering and very little bleed through. His current ink of choice is J. Herbin’s Poussière de Lune.

As far as notebooks are concerned, The Fox is very fond of several different brands. His pocket sized Rhodia dotPad fits nicely into any pant or shirt pocket and the dots disappear when copied. The paper is super smooth and holds up to most any ink. When looking for a convenient, slightly larger paper to sketch on, he reaches for his Clairefontaine Crok’Book landscape. For longer trips, more involved planning and intense brainstorming sessions The Fox prefers the classic lined, large Leuchtturm1917 Soft Cover notebook. It has numbered pages with a table of contents, a small storage pocket, a page marker, an elastic band fastener and ink proof paper. It is a thing of beauty.

Helpful Resources

The Goulet Pen Company has a vast selection of pens, inks and papers; and an awesome cache of product and how to videos.

Pen Chalet offers some great discounts on their wide range.

Ink Nouveau is an excellent source for in depth reviews.

And last but not least, Pen Addict is a great blog to check out.

All of The Fox’s Thoughts, designs, blogs, posts, tweets, pix and pins can be found here…

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The Fox Recommends: The Finer Things

September 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

top blog

 

With the arrival of September, The Fox – like so many of us – has begun to think of fall and autumnal tidings. The crisp mornings, the chunky sweaters, the smell of cider and burning leaves. September also conjures memories of that excited back-to-school feeling of new beginnings, hunkering down for some hard work and preparing for the winter ahead. With this in mind, The Fox’s Thoughts will focus on a few of the finer things that make his work more enjoyable, relaxing a little easier and life a little more exceptional. We hope you enjoy.

 

All of The Fox’s Thoughts, designs, blogs, posts, tweets, pix and pins can be found here…

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