Tag Archives: featured

Review: Levenger Circa Smooth Sliver Notebook with Pockets

Awhile ago I posted about the Junior-Size Levenger Circa Smooth Sliver notebook I bought from eBay and how much I enjoyed it. I liked it so much in fact, when Levenger had a sale recently I had to grab a letter-size notebook for my work planner. The letter-size version of the Levenger Circa Sliver Cover with Pockets is just as great as its smaller version, and now I have a matching pair! Here are the unboxing pics!
First of all, I was surprised to see that Levenger wasn’t shipping the notebook in their usual boxes with cloth covers anymore. All the other notebooks I’ve bought from them have come packaged that way, but instead, it was shipped in a plastic shrinkwrapped bag. Once unwrapped, I was able to see this luscious Cocoa colored notebook.

The Levenger Circa Sliver Notebook with Pockets in Cocoa
The back cover:

The Levenger Circa Sliver Notebook with Pockets in Cocoa
The most important benefit this notebook cover offers is how incredibly thin and light it is! It takes up virtually no room on the discs compared to other covers..

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I was also really impressed to see a new informational sheet on the inside of the notebook – titled “Levenger Tips for Effective Note-taking”. Yes, it’s a lot of tips I’ve heard before, but I still thought it was kind of cool to see the handwriting and tips.

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Levenger also includes tip sheets on how to remove covers and pages safely too. The company does a great job at educating its customers on the Circa system and how to use it effectively.

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The notebook came with Levenger’s standard annotation ruled refills. While in the past I’ve not been overly impressed with the paper quality of their standard refills, there is no feathering or bleedthrough on these pages that I’ve seen.

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The back of my sample page:

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All in all, I strongly believe the notebook would be improved with a pen loop, and in a perfect world, an elastic strap closure. But its the closest cover I’ve found yet to the clear plastic covers I love. I can easily fold it over on itself (my major requirement), it doesn’t take any room whatsoever on the discs (my second requirement) and it comes in more than boring black! I was actually really torn between getting the letter size in Cocoa to match the Junior, or the Navy Blue. I literally put each in and out of my shopping cart several times before finally deciding on the Cocoa. It seemed the most business-friendly, would go with most of my aluminum disc colors, and is a nice rich brown. I definitely recommend

Shown here in Letter-size with my “plum” aluminum discs, and in Junior-size with “caribbean” aluminum discs. And my Rebecca Moss fountain pen.

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The Levenger Circa Sliver Notebook with Pockets (in Cocoa)

*Edited to add: I do not work for Levenger, just like their products. I do not get items free to review. Everything on my blog I’ve purchased myself, much to my wallet’s despair.*

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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!

Introducing … The Pretty Pretty 2015 Planner

As I become more involved in online planner groups on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve also become more inspired to try and find the perfect weekly planner layout. I was drawn to the whole planner ecosystems around the Erin Condren and Plum Paper planners. I like the weekly layouts, divided into day segments and with otherwise open boxes for people to write their own appts, reminders, etc. And who knew there are whole planner stickers and accessories designed to fit the boxes in these planners? Crazy, right?! But as I browsed through the planner sections of Etsy, I so wanted to try them! But … I like my discbound notebooks – the planners I linked to above are an unconventional size: too big for the traditional ‘Junior’ or 8.5 x 5.5″ sizes, and too small for Letter-sized notebooks. And they are THICK spiral-bound planners! While I’d seen pics from those who have cut off the spiral binding and punched them with Levenger punches, they’d still require some pretty big discs to carry the whole thing, which I don’t like to use as a general rule, 1″ is as big as I will go (and that took awhile!). But after browsing Etsy and comparing alternatives, there didn’t seem to be any substitute planner printables that I could find that had a similar feel.

So I made one.
I call it the Pretty Pretty 2015 Planner. Because it is pretty. Best of all, it’s free for download!
Just go here.

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Pretty Pretty Planner 2015

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Pretty Pretty Planner 2015

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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Test Tube Racks = Ink Sample Storage

I’ve been looking for new ideas on how to store the fountain pen ink samples I order from Goulet Pens or Isellpens.com, as mine were currently all jumbled in a Really Useful Box plastic bin from Office Depot. Goulet started offering a Ink Sample Vial Holder for $15, and I was mighty tempted – here’s a pic from their website:

But I saw mention on fountain pen forums that there was a similar product offered via Amazon for much cheaper. So off I went, and soon found the Karter Scientific 15/17mm Plastic Test Tube Rack. There were several reviews from customers stating they used these racks exactly for fountain pen ink samples, and that they worked great. And they hold 50 vials vs the 40 Goulet’s holds. Best of all, they were CHEAP at $5.99. Reviews also indicated that it might be a cheaper quality and falls apart easily, but for the price I decided to risk it and see for myself. So I ordered two! (Thank you Amazon Prime!!)

Here’s how the rack looked unassembled:

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Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack – Unassembled

There were no installation instructions included, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. Except one of the rows has smaller openings (for tapered test tubes) and I didn’t put them in the right order the first go around:

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Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack – Upside Down

Here it is in the correct order:

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Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack – Correctly Assembled This Time!

<<TEMPORARY DETOUR>>

So, one of the things I’d read somewhere said that the rack also functioned as a pen stand of sorts. So of course, I had to test it out.

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Fountain Pens in the Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

The fattest pens I have are the Lamy Safaris, and it actually worked well as a holder as long as the test tube rack wasn’t moved around – once it was jostled, the Lamys tended to move around and change position (but they never fell out). So as long as it was on a desk or stable surface it would work fine actually.

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Fountain Pens in Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

<<TEMPORARY DETOUR OVER>>

OK, back to the ink sample vials. I took a pack of regular standard-size office mailing labels, and cut out a grid to make color labels for each vial – dabbing a splotch of color on each vial and taping the sticker to the top.

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Ink Samples in the Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

This turned out to be a time-consuming process!

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Ink Samples in Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

OF COURSE I would have one extra vial more than the first rack holds. That’s why I bought two! More room for more ink samples, BWAHAHAHA.

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Ink Samples in Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

A top-down view, just because!

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Ink Samples in Karter Scientific 15/17mm Test Tube Rack

Then I figured, well since I have it all out, why not add ink splotch labels to my full bottles of ink too? So ended up with my entire collection having labels on them now.

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Ah, the inky goodness.

All the regular ink bottles just get stored in you’ve got it, another plastic bin.

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They really ARE ‘Really Useful Boxes’.

And that concludes this week’s ink sample adventures.

So You Think You Want A Fountain Pen …

And why not? Fountain pens are Teh Awesome. You go through life thinking these are okay writing utensils:

Skilcraft. BLEGH.

Skilcraft. BLEGH.

And really think you’re moving up in pen circles when you start using only Pilot G2s – which, admittedly, are the superior pen of choice for most offices.

Pilot G2. Periwinkle is the best color.

Pilot G2. Periwinkle is the best color.

And life with your pens is pretty good. But then, you hear about fountain pens. You start reading about them, and if you’re lucky, get to see them in action, even WRITE with them. And if fountain pens were chocolate, suddenly you are strolling with Willy Wonka through a magical world of pens and ink samples and converters, and

But …. first you have to figure out how to get started. That is the question I get asked most often, what are some good beginner fountain pens that won’t break the bank? So without further ado, here are some entry-level finds to enable your new chocolate tasting.

Disposable/Uber Cheap Beginner’s Pens (less than $10 each):

Disposable pens are a super easy way to start writing with fountain pens. You don’t have to mess with the sometimes complicated or messy ink bottles or cartridges. On the downside, it’s often hard to find disposable fountain pens in stores. Either way, once you fall in love with how fountain pens write, you won’t be content with disposable for long – not with all the fantastic ink colors out there!

1. Pilot Varsity Disposable Pen

The most popular disposable brand. You can’t refill them, but they will give you an idea of how fountain pens write and at least have a few fun colors.

Source: JetPens - Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens

Source: JetPens – Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens

Another great source for fountain pens is Goulet Pens, check out their Varsitys here.

2. Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

Can buy refill cartridges, still pretty cheap at less than $4 per pen.

Source: JetPens. Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

Source: JetPens. Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

Also at Goulet Pens.

3. Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pens

The Pilot Petit fountain pens are super adorable and mini-sized, perfect for bags and pockets. They’re also great writers and only $4, so don’t break the bank while you get used to them. And don’t they remind you of the old Apple Imacs when they first came out??

Source: JetPens. Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pens

Source: JetPens. Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pens

Super Affordable Entry-Level Fountain Pens

4. Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens

Next up are the Pilot Kakunos – unlike the Varsity or Petit pens, you can use either ink cartridges or converters to use all the gorgeous bottled inks out there. Not bad for less than $20 each. AND, the Kakunos (which come in lots of fun colors, btw), have SMILEY FACES on the nibs. Like, how can you go wrong? They also write really well.

Source: JetPens. Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens

Source: JetPens. Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pens

5. Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pens

The super affordable yet more professional looking Pilot Metropolitan is seriously a dark horse beginner fountain pen – it writes sooooo much better and is a higher quality than any $15 fountain pen has any right to be. Most of the colors are boring black, silver, gold bla bla bla – but I have this one, the White Tiger, and its awesome. There’s also a dark purple I have my eye on.

Source: JetPens. Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen.

Source: JetPens. Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen.

Available at Goulet Pens too! Click here.

Slightly Less Affordable But Still Entry Level Fountain Pens

6. The Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

Now, on to the grand-daddy of beginner fountain pens – the Lamy Safari. This was my first fountain pen ever, and I’ve been in love ever since. It’s relatively affordable, super-durable plastic, has interchangeable nibs (if you don’t like a medium, for example, it’s super easy to swap to a fine or a calligraphy nib or whatever). It has a triangular grip, which is nice for FP newbies to learn how to hold it. And it comes in really fantastic colors – every year is a new Limited Edition color – this year’s was my new all-time favorite, the Neon Coral. I’ve been using and collecting Lamy’s for 6 years now, and seriously can’t praise them enough, and if you click through the tags on this blog you’ll see they make up like 80% of the pen pics I post. They are German-born pens though, so differ from the Pilots above in that they naturally have a wider line – the Lamy F is more like a Pilot M, for example.

Source: JetPens. Lamy Safari Neon Coral Fountain Pen

Source: JetPens. Lamy Safari Neon Coral Fountain Pen

Don’t forget to check out Goulet Pens either, they have a great selection of Lamys.

7. Lamy Al-Star

The Al-Star line is about $10 more than the Lamy Safari, and has a slightly more sophisticated shiny, lightweight aluminum finish. Just as nice as the Safari, but slightly more prone to scratching.

Source: JetPens. Lamy Al-Star BlueGreen Fountain Pen

Source: JetPens. Lamy Al-Star BlueGreen Fountain Pen

8. Monteverde Artista Crystal Demonstrator Fountain Pen

I’ve just recently branched out into this pen line, and am really enjoying it. It writes well, has a slightly more traditional look than the Lamy line, for about the same price as the Al-Stars.

Source: JetPens. Monteverde Artista Crystal Demonstrator Fountain Pen

Source: JetPens. Monteverde Artista Crystal Demonstrator Fountain Pen

Also at Goulet Pens here.

So there you go! There are probably other pen brands out there, but I haven’t tried them myself yet. I’d love to hear if you have any favorite entry-level pens too!