Tag Archives: Everyday Notebooks

Review: Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebooks with “CrossDots” Paper

I am a huge fan of Levenger’s Circa notebooks, but not necessarily their refill paper. The standard annotation ruled refills are not known for being fountain pen friendly, and in the past have often had significant feathering and showthrough. It got to the point where I started making my own refills, not only because of the price savings but also because I could ensure the paper quality was better. I’ve heard its changed for the better since then, but I’m still working on some old refills so haven’t tried anything newer yet.

Levenger did come out with some Rhodia paper (in both Circa notebooks and refill sets), which made fountain pen users super happy, as Rhodia has been the gold-standard in quality paper. It’s amazingly smooth paper, silky soft and perfect for all inks. My own issue was that the ruled lines were a dark purple, which I personally find distracting, so I gave away the rest of my refills.

Recently though I’ve been hearing good things about the Circa Vivacious “CrossDots” notebooks and refill paper, how it was an amazing cross-dot pattern and super fountain pen friendly at 100 gsm. Sadly I think it’s been discontinued, as its been listed in the Levenger Outlet page for awhile now and supplies seem to be dwindling. It’s also available on Amazon, in Letter and Junior size notebooks.

So after getting a 20% off and free shipping coupon for Levenger recently, the price of the CrossDots notebooks was too good to pass up, I had to check them out. I ordered a couple of Junior size notebooks. First impressions: what fun colors these notebooks come in!! There are ruled (orange cover), grid/ruled combo (blue cover), and crossdots (green cover) versions.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebook

What isn’t immediately obvious is that the covers of the notebook are clear plastic, with lime green coversheets in a thick cardstock behind them.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebook

The inside of the green coversheets are a brilliant orange.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebook

The back cover has a built-in pocket. It’s a nice feature, but a little too loose for the little things I threw in it as a test – they fell out pretty easily.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebook

And the paper! No bleeding, feathering, showthrough, anything. It’s perfect with every pen i threw at it. I was also worried that the green crossdots pattern would be distracting, ala the Rhodia refill. But it is actually a refreshing pop of color – I’m really surprised how much I like it.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebook

And the green crossdots match my Pretty Pretty Planner pages perfectly!! It was meant to be.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious CrossDots Paper and Pretty Pretty Planner

I then realized as soon as I got the Junior size notebooks what a good thing I’d found, and immediately ordered another couple in Letter size while the getting was still good. That way I can enjoy the paper in both my Junior planner and Letter size work notebooks.

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebooks

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebooks

And these colors remind me of summer!! I’m so ready to leave winter behind!

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Levenger Circa Vivacious Notebooks and Lamy Safari Fountain Pens

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The Well-Appointed Desk – 13 Things to Do With All Those Blank Notebooks

Check out this great blog post from The Well-Appointed Desk about how to put to good use all those extra notebooks you have just waiting to be used.

Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Field Notes notebooks for a long time now. Field Notes are those infamous 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket-sized notebooks in fun editions and colors. But … Field Notes paper is NOTORIOUSLY crappy for fountain pens.

So I’ve been searching for a fountain pen friendly version of Field Notes, the same size, but with paper that doesn’t make me want to throw the notebook across the room. So in my research had heard about the legendary Tomoe River Paper, and wondered if they came in notebooks this size. Somehow I stumbled upon this fantastic review from Modern Stationer, and learned all about Curnow Bookbinding’s ‘Backpocket Journals’. They make “Tomoe River Paper Editions” with the much-acclaimed fountain-pen friendly paper.

To order, you FB message or email them, and then pay via PayPal. My order just arrived tonight, WOOHOO! The package was a simple plastic envelope with the little notebooks, a handwritten note, and a carbon copy of an invoice (the accountant in me had to go OMG HOW CUTE IS THAT!), just a bit.


First Impressions:

I was surprised to see they were a cream color. It didn’t even occur to me that they’d come in a cream, I just assumed white, so I didn’t think to ask. Given the choice, I would have picked white of course. But oh well, I didn’t specify! Lesson learned for my next order. I Facebook messaged Curnow Bookbinding, who were wonderfully nice and helpful. They said they had some white paper to experiment with, and in the future if I wanted to place a custom order with white paper to just let them know ahead of time (to make sure the white paper is in stock) and that’d be easy to switch out the paper at no extra charge. So yay, white paper next time!

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

The notebooks are hand-sewn and not stapled like Field Notes. Look at the cute thread colors!

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

The stitching is glued down in the middle of the notebooks.

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Backpocket Journals


Size Comparisons with Field Notes:

The Backpocket Journals at 3.5 x 5.25″ are the same width as the Field Notes notebooks, but about a 1/4″ shorter. Field Notes are 3.5 x 5.5″. It’s not a huge difference, but they do look a little smaller when next to each other.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding vs Field Notes

The view from the top.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding vs Field Notes

The Backpocket Journals look a little skinnier in profile too – but remember how crazy thin Tomoe River Paper is – it’s practically like tracing paper! So it would take up less bulk in a notebook.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding vs Field Notes

The shorter, slender Field Notes alternative my fountain pens LOVE. It definitely feels and looks like a different kind of notebook.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding vs Field Notes

Paper Quality:

The pages only come blank so far, which is perfect for me as I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with them yet. And included is a handy ruled guide that shows up easily when placed underneath the pages to help with the whole ‘writing in a straight line’ thing (which I cannot seem to do to save my life. Seriously). So yay for that! I ordered two 3-packs, and only received the one ruled guide – I’m not sure if its one per order or just an oversight. Another question for later!

I immediately got out my pens and wrote on the first page with the vintage Conway Stewart flex inked with J. Herbin Stormy Grey ink. I definitely had to wait a few seconds to let it dry – the flex nib is so wet, it sat there on the surface for a good minute before drying (in my non-timed estimation, it seemed like a while anyways). So warning! Smearing might be an issue with you lefties or impatient folks. And this flex nib lays down a very wet line too – it dried a lot quicker with my Lamy Fines and Pilot Mediums. But the BEST PART – as with my one other experience with Tomoe River Paper – there is no bleeding, feathering, major showthrough – it handles the ink wonderfully. just what I wanted.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

Now to add some extra ink tests!

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

And HOLY CANNOLI it shows the gold flakes and sheen AMAZINGLY well. I can’t stop tilting the notebook under the crappy yellow lighting in my kitchen hahaha.

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Backpocket Journals from Curnow Bookbinding

All in all, I’m really excited to try these out. I’m not 100% thrilled they’re cream, but I can live with it and it’s certainly no deal-breaker. I highly recommend these notebooks. My next step is to figure out how to insert them into my new Midori-style cover!

Updating the Quotes Notebook

Was updating my Quo Vadis Habana turquoise notebook that I use to jot favorite quotes and stuff like that in, and decided it was a good photo opp. Love this Visconti Van Gogh Portrait in Blue fountain pen.

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Field Notes ‘Ambition’ Edition

I HAZ THEM!! The new Field Notes ‘Ambition’ Edition has arrived, and it is drop-dead GORGEOUS.

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The gloriously gold-gilded pages are a little stiff when first opened, but soon gain their flexibility back. They can scratch easily, as I made a mark in mine trying to get the darn shrink-wrap off.

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The red has grid paper, the brown undated weekly agenda pages, and the green ledger paper.

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I am an on-again, off-again Field Notes user, as the paper is terrible with fountain pens but the size and style is delectable. The paper in this edition is horrendous as usual, but oh so pretty! I have been drawing my own weekly agenda boxes in my other Field Notes, so love that they finally created a notebook just for that! And that it’s undated!

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Love how light the lines are! There’s nothing more annoying than a grid paper with distractingly dark lines. And gold staples!

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The ledger paper is so unique! Not gonna lie, the accountant in me is going SQUUEEEE! Now I want to ledger something….

And finally, some fountain pen love, just because the gold nib of my Lamy Studio matches the gold details of these notebooks so well.

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Pretty in Pink!

Loved how these looked on my desk this morning so had to share. Such pretty pale pinks!

From top to bottom:
1. Staples Arc Mini (Compact), with Levenger Circa silver aluminum discs and a cover cut down from a Staples Martha Stewart notebook.

2. Junior size notebook with Office Depot Revolution cover and Levenger Circa platinum aluminum discs.

3. Levenger Circa letter size notebook with scrapbook paper cover and emerald green aluminum discs.

It’s just all so pretty!!

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“Move Over 3-Ring Binder!” – review of the discbound system

“Move Over 3-Ring Binder! Here’s A Better Binder System” by Lauren Halagarda on Homeology.