Tag Archives: Reviews

Midori Notebook Accessory Review – #008 Zipper Case

My four Midori Traveler’s Notebook refill reviews so far are:

With these refills, as my fauxdori has no pockets anywhere, I also ordered a zipper case, available from Goulet Pens and JetPens. From the JetPens description: “One side is a pouch with a slide zipper, while the other side has two large flat pockets, one inside and one outside for you to store small items, such as tickets and cards for easy organization and access.”

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Unwrapped!

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Fully open – it is designed to wrap around an existing notebook.

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That’s it! Pretty self-explanatory – I don’t even have much to put in it yet, I think it will just hold stamps so far. But I’m sure it will come in handy as I customize my fauxdori further.

Midori Notebook Refill Review – #012 Sketchbook Paper

When I received my new fauxdori from Jot, I immediately ordered four Midori Traveler’s Notebook refills from Amazon to fully test it out. My series of reviews consists of:

The last refill I’m reviewing in the #012 drawing or sketchbook paper refill, available from Goulet Pens and JetPens. I’d heard rumors it behaved reasonably well with watercolors too, so I decided to give it a go.

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First impressions, it’s thick, heavy paper. Neither Goulet nor JetPens lists the paper weight. From JetPens, “The pages are a smooth, heavyweight drawing paper, perfect for sketching, drawing, and watercolors.”

The stapled notebook itself is noticeably fatter but only contains 24 sheets (48 pages). In this pic from top to bottom: #019 Weekly Planner, #002 Grid Paper, #013 Lightweight Paper, and #012 Drawing Paper.

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The paper has a heavy cardstock feel, with a slight tooth – definitely not as silky smooth as my beloved Stillman and Birn Zeta Series sketchbooks, but not as textured as Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbooks. I tested with pencil first, using my favored clutch lead holder with 3.2mm 6B lead from Kaweco. The soft lead blends really well with just a finger, and just feels good with the pencil.

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Next up, how do fountain pens write on this paper! Tests using my usual currently inked pens. Immediate first impressions – no pretty red sheen OR glitter effects with Emerald of Chivor. It just looks dark green, which BOOO. And you can see some slight feathering in close-up too depending on the ink.

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Continued close-ups.

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Full page, with waterbrush tests at the bottom of the page.

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Close-up of waterbrush and FP ink tests.

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Did I mention all the pages in this notebook are PERFORATED!? How cool is that? The paper handled the waterbrush well enough – it didn’t start to disintegrate or pill like I’ve had other papers do, but it also wasn’t perfect either – it made the page get all ripply.

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The waterbrush also caused some bleedthrough – and you can really see the ripples it caused in this pic.

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Next up, testing some Peerless Watercolors.

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Close up on the paint tests I did on the same backside of the fountain pen samples page.

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The paints don’t bleed through or show anything on the other side of the page, but they did make it all rippled, as described earlier.

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Conclusions. I like it a lot, I think with markers and light washes it will probably be fantastic. It definitely loves pencil sketches too. More comprehensive watercolor sketches might benefit from a heavier weight paper – this feels almost like a 180gsm paper or so, definitely not as heavy as the 270 gsm Stillman and Birn Zeta. But overall I like it – I’m sure I can find a use for it in the future.

Midori Notebook Refill Review – #013 Lightweight Paper

Continuing my series of reviews of my Midori Traveler’s Notebook Refills that started with:

Tonight I’m reviewing the #013 Lightweight Paper Refill, available from Goulet Pens and JetPens. I’d heard rumors it was a close comparison to the legendary Tomoe River Paper, so of course I HAD to test it out.

I’m feeling lazy tonight so here are the vital stats directly from the Goulet website: “This refill for the regular size Midori Traveler’s Notebook measures 11cm x 21cm (approximately 4.33in x 8.25in), and contains 64 sheets (128 pages) of white blank paper. Refill made of light, thin paper. Contains twice the pages of regular refills (128 pages), this is recommended for users who do a lot of writing.

But according to JetPens, it actually HAS Tomoe River Paper inside it: “This is a notebook refill for the regular size Midori Traveler’s Notebook leather cover. It contains white Tomoe River (Tomoegawa) paper, which is renowned for its smooth texture that is perfect for fountain pens and various other writing tools. At 52 gsm, the thin and delicate pages are designed to reduce bulk. Despite its thinness, the paper is incredibly reliable. The sheets are resistant to bleedthrough and feathering, and can handle a variety of inks. Tomoe River paper is ideal for those who love to write and are seeking to streamline their notebooks and binders, or for those who just love the feel of fine, subtle paper. The notebook is compact, with 128 pages packed into its slim profile.”

So, first impressions. The notebook is packaged the same as other Midori refills.

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But what we all want to know is how it takes fountain pens!! So here’s my swatches from currently inked pens. All the colors really pop against the white paper! Can you see how the Emerald of Chivor already seems really red when written with my Noodlers Ahab?

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No feathering, no bleeding – beautiful paper. And of course, I had to test a waterbrush on it.

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Do you SEE the gorgeous red sheen on this paper!? Oh. My. Goodness. LOOOOOOK!

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The back side of the same page. The paper when run over with a waterbrush gets really ripply at first, but then smooths out a little as it dries, and you barely notice it. As seen in the pic below, definite ghosting as is typical of Tomoe River Paper, but no bleedthrough, except for a tiny part I ran over with the waterbrush too many times.

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The obvious ghosting can be distracting to newcomers to this lightweight style of paper. A common suggestion is to put a heavier piece of paper behind it when writing, and then you don’t notice the ghosting as much. For comparison purposes, here is a bright pink piece of paper behind the page. The ghosting is minimized somewhat, but you can still see it.

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This time, black paper is used behind the page to really minimize the ghosting effect. This makes the text on the other side much less distracting.

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Conclusions? I’m really excited to have a notebook full of Tomoe River Paper (whether real or very very similar!) and my initial pen tests show some amazing sheen and color quality. And it’s double the page count of a normal notebook, so it seems like win win. I definitely recommend trying this notebook out.

Midori Notebook Refill Review – #019 Weekly Planner

I’ve been reviewing the Midori refills I’ve ordered for my new Jot Fauxdori as they arrive. Last time was the #002 Grid Paper refill. I decided I needed a weekly agenda or planner refill too, to really evaluate the full Midori system, and settled on #019, Weekly Planner + Grid (see at Goulet and JetPens).

This notebook is regular/standard Midori size (about 8.25″ x 4.33″), and is 32 sheets (64 pages) of ivory paper with a stitched binding.

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First thoughts – the quirky end page. Is it meant to really be used? Or just a fun ‘hey-let’s-go-travel-wooo’ kind of thing?

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Second reaction? Ooh, I like the layout even more in person! From the description on the JetPens website: “The blank weekly planner pages give you the freedom to fill in your desired dates so you can start your planner at any time of the year! The notebook contains 6 months’ worth of pages. The days of the week are on the left side while gridded sheets for writing memos and diagrams are on the right.”

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The notebook also has a section with blank vertical columns for 12 months.

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I really like that the weekly planner notebook has a monthly column section. I always fill out the holidays I get the day off for first!

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BUT …. really missed having the day of the week at a glance with my monthly dates. So wrote them in with a lighter gray Staedtler Triplus Fineliner. I started to highlight my holidays too, and then decided against it when it smeared my FP ink. Thank goodness for Frixion highlighters!

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The next big thing to test was the paper quality when using fountain pens. Here’s my ink test from my currently inked pens. And finally a test with a waterbrush (had to use my stapler to hold the notebook down haha).

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The paper takes fountain pens surprisingly well. No feathering observed, and some nice red sheen evident with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor. The paper got a little ripply with the waterbrush, but otherwise behaved better than I expected.

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The back of the same page. LOOK! While there is ghosting of the writing on the other page, there is no bleedthrough, even on the heavy flex nibbed Ahab! The waterbrush barely made an impact on the backside.

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All in all, I’m really impressed with the paper and layout of this weekly agenda and am excited to use it more.

Midori Notebook Refill Review – #002 Grid Paper

Well, I have a pretty pretty new fauxdori to play with and need inserts! I ordered four different refills, and as they come in will post reviews and impressions. Here’s the first of four. But first, a pic of my new cover from Jot. Featuring Unikitty!

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But back to the review. Grid paper is ALWAYS a good idea, so I started with the regular size Midori #002 refill. Regular size is about 4.3″ x 8.25″. This notebook is stapled and contains 32 sheets or 64 pages. You can get it from lots of different sources, but my two favorites are Goulet Pens or JetPens.

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The grid lines are a nice unobtrusive gray, and the paper surprisingly fountain pen friendly. Here is a sample of what I had currently inked. No feathering or bleeding!!

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A closer shot.

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The backside of the fountain pen scribbles.

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I decided to go a step further and test out some other pens I had at my desk, including Sharpies and a waterbrush. Paper behaves well with the waterbrush – not fantastic, but it doesn’t start to deteriorate as soon as it gets wet either, like in my Rhodia.

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The fat nibbed Sharpie definitely bled through to the backside.

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…. and onto the other page behind it.

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So then, the ultimate test now for me – how does J.Herbin Emerald of Chivor look on it!? You don’t get the red sheen that leaps off the page when on Tomoe River Paper, but you do get a great gold glittery effect.

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Ooooh the sparklies from this Noodlers Ahab….

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And the backside – still no bleedthrough!! Even with a wet wet ink in a flex nib! What great paper!!

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Conclusions: a great grid paper notebook! As a Midori newbie, I’m pleasantly surprised by the fountain pen friendliness of the paper here. Can’t wait to see how the other refills I have coming rank.

Experimenting with Fauxdori Notebooks (thanks Jot!)

What are fauxdoris you ask? Fauxdori notebooks are alternatives to Midori Traveler’s Notebooks – those collections of notebooks held together in a leather cover and closed with elastic string.

Read more about Midori notebooks from Ian Hedley’s blog called Pens! Paper! Pencils!:

Creative people making their own leather midori covers on Etsy is really taking off – hence the name “fauxdori”. So when my friend Cori started her own business not too long ago making her own fauxdori covers and planner accessories, I was (and still am) really excited for her. Her shop is called Jot, at www.livelaughjot.com. She makes covers in both the standard Midori sized, called ClassicJot, and a smaller purse-friendly size (think Moleskine or Field Notes notebook sized) called the PocketJot and then something else called the MiniJot (the traditional Midori “passport” size). Her covers come in some really fabulous colors! Check out a sample below from her Instagram feed (under the name @livelaughjot):

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The concept is better explained by Jot: “Simply stated, it is a refillable journal cover. Inside the cover are multiple strands of elastic to hold the notebooks in place. The notebook is held closed with an elastic loop. It enables you to carry multiple notebooks within a single cover and when you fill one up, you can swap it out for a fresh one and keep the same cover.”

Jot is really getting some steam going now, and Cori asked if I’d be willing to review a Jot notebook to help spread the word about them. I was honest with her in that I’d tried the fauxdori concept back in January with a Field Notes-sized notebook, and at the time couldn’t fall in love with it. I’d found a small cover on Ebay, and supplied the refill notebooks myself – fountain pen friendly of course, the Tomoe River Paper filled Curnow Bookbinding notebooks.

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But while I loved the color of my cover, it was a stiff fairly rigid piece of leather, and was “strung” to hold only one notebook. So I had to follow the Midori trick to get it to hold extra notebooks. And between the stiff cover and three notebooks, it was difficult to get the notebooks to lay smoothly enough to write on, which really bugged me. So I decided maybe it wasn’t for me and sold it.

But I told Cori I’d be happy to give it another try. It’s been awhile and I really do admire all the pretty planner covers every time I see them on Instagram. I ask myself, am I missing something?? So I choose a ClassicJot (“regular” or standard Midori size) this time, to see if that maybe changes my mind. Dimensions of these sizes are:

Dimensions (closed)
MiniJot 4.5 x 5 inches.
PocketJot 4.5 x 6 inches.
ClassicJot 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

I went with a gorgeous Peacock blue I’ve seen in her pics, one of which was included above.

All of her store items get packaged in her signature turquoise and red shop logo, as was the package I received this weekend.

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Upon opening the envelope, you immediately smell it – the glorious smell of LEATHER. OMG it smells so good!! Like I was wrapped up in a new leather jacket, or wearing new leather boots, or BOTH. I realize not everybody likes leather products, but for me …. dang it smells wonderful.

Inside the envelope is the notebook cover in its own special protective cloth bag, with the Jot logo.

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With great excitement, I pulled out the leather cover to reveal the ClassicJot in all of its Peacock glory. It really is a beautiful turquoisey blue color! Jot offers this color in both black and white elastic string options as of the time I was choosing them, and I went with white as I like how it looks against the blue.

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It’s a soft, flexible piece of textured leather, with rounded corners.

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The inside is the same color in unfinished leather.

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Close up of the inside of the cover.

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Jot notebooks come with one starter refill. Cori was generous and threw in a laminated planner “dashboard” and a pink planner charm.

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The refill notebook she sends with the Jots are surprisingly fountain pen friendly! Made in house with 24lb paper, there is some feathering. Here is a sample.

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And the back of that same page. Some ghosting but very little bleedthrough to the other side – the Micron Pigma Brush being the culprit.

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Impressions so far? I am liking this bigger size much much better!! I need to get a couple of additional inserts to really try it out as it was intended – and once I discovered that Midori makes refill notebooks with Tomoe River like paper (No. 013) and watercolor/sketchbook paper (No. 012), I had to order some ASAP to test them out. They should arrive later this week, so stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, the Peacock color and pink planner charm matches my ‘Unicorn Barf’ pen REALLY well.

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Wanna try one for yourself? Jot ships worldwide now, and offers cute accessories as well as the notebooks themselves. Cori has very generously offered my readers a 15% discount code too – just type in CALVINWASRIGHT when checking out to take advantage of this reduced rate!

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Review: Levenger Circa Sliver Inside Out Notebook

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love the thin and light style of the Levenger Circa Sliver notebooks. They provide a sleek professional look to your Circa that doesn’t take up valuable disc space or add precious weight and bulk to your notebook. But while I love my Cocoa-colored Sliver cover with pockets, I was jonesing for some brighter colors. So when Levenger came out with the new Sliver Inside Out covers, I had to try one!! I was so impatient I even bought it from Amazon so I could have it in two days (thank you Amazon Prime!!!).

I also needed some new Circa zippered pouches, so jumped on a pack of those too. They arrived without the usual fancy Levenger packaging, just in a sealed plastic envelopes.

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First impression? This blue is WAY prettier than I thought it would be in person!

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The back cover.

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The Inside Out Sliver Notebook is called such because it is intended to be reversible – you can use either the colored side, or the black textured side. As a result, there is no Levenger embossing or other marks that would ordinarily denote one side over the other.

The blue side has a faint texture and pretty robin’s egg blue color – not just blue, a little greenish/turquoise tint to it.

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The black side has a more obvious texture pattern – I personally don’t like it as much as the colored side, so won’t be reversing it very often I don’t think.

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The Circa Sliver Inside Out Notebook comes with standard black plastic 3/4″ discs and Levenger’s Annotated Ruled refills. Although it doesn’t have pockets, or an elastic band closure, or a pen loop, it does have the same slim and trim style I love. Here it is compared to the Sliver Cover with Pockets version with 1/2″ discs.

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Showing that both Sliver covers have the same thickness.

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I like this blue color so much now, I might need to snag a purple when it gets discontinued. I really think these new slimline covers are a unique and highly desirable line of notebooks – I really hope they come out in some fun BRIGHT colors (WITH POCKETS and elastic loop Levenger, PLEASE!??) – like orange, or fuschia, or lime green. Something bright and fun to go with the Vivacious tab dividers and file folders. What do you say Levenger?

Review: Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to review the Levenger True Writer Select fountain pen, which I really enjoyed. Levenger was also generous enough to send me the SmartPlanner agenda system to review as well. So I started testing out the Levenger SmartPlanner letter-size agenda as my work planner, and thought I’d see if it could woo me away from my own Pretty Pretty Planner printables. After a few weeks in steady rotation, here are my impressions.

First of all, I really like the color and design of the SmartPlanner. If you’ve followed Levenger’s products for awhile, you know that before the SmartPlanner came out, their planners and refills were all monochromatic and boring. Case in point – this one. And this one. Annnnnd this one. Also, did I mention, this one? Levenger desperately needed to add some color and style to their planners.

So when I saw the SmartPlanner, I instantly liked the color scheme – soft, muted pastels that meshed perfectly with dividing tabs (also these) and pocket folders that are already staples in the Circa Accessories line.

First impressions, the planner is hefty! I expected that given it is letter-sized, but with the larger 1″ discs and all the weekly refills it’s definitely not purse-sized. But it’s a great size for a planner that stays on the desk all day. You can get a SmartPlanner assembled with discs and cover, or just the refills separately. I was sent the assembled SmartPlanner.

The front and back views are shown here:

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Front Cover

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Back Cover

The monthly tabs are a nice copper orange-brown with a scripted white font for the month names.

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Side View

The normal inside coversheet has space for contact information.

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The first couple of pages provide space for personal/reference information, and an introduction to the SmartPlanner system, as well as yearly calendars.

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The Monthly Pages

Each monthly tab page has a light orange shaded sheet on the reverse side.

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The month-on-two-pages layout is roomy and spacious, with orange shading on the bottom half of each daily box. The 100 gsm paper is a hefty weight, and feels thick and substantial to the touch. Of course I tested it out with all my inked fountain pens and even some Sharpies and brush pens. Because of the shading on the back of these tabs there is minimal showthrough. Only with the heavy broad/thick nibbed pens and Sharpies could you see any signs of what was written on the other side.

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Monthly View

The Weekly Pages

The weekly pages followed each monthly tab set. The left side page has boxes for the days of the week, and the right side page has sections for weekly goals, daily todo’s, and notes. I like the layout in general, although from a data flow perspective would rather have the pages reversed – plan out the weekly goals and todo’s on the first page, and then from there have the daily boxes on the next page. Also, how awesome does my lime green Lamy Safari look with these copper orange colors??

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Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – Weekly View

The paper quality, as with the monthly tabs, is actually pretty decent. I went at it with fountain pens, markers, Sharpies, even a WATERBRUSH (the palm tree sketch). The waterbrush caused some bleedthrough as was expected – the paper wasn’t quite THAT hardy. But the rest of the fountain pen writing didn’t have much showthrough. Here is the reverse side of the left side of the weekly layout above.

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And the reverse side of the right side of the weekly layout above. The markers have some spots of bleedthrough, with the worst offender being the Bic Permanent Marker.

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The SmartPlanner “App” System

So, here’s the metaphorical fly in the ointment for me. When I introduce the system to others. I can praise the monthly and weekly layout, the colors, the style – but then I always get asked, “But, what are these APP things?” So I have to awkwardly explain that the “Apps” are complementary add-on activity sheets you can get to supplement the SmartPlanner, such as to-do lists, meeting notes, etc.

But honestly, when I first saw the SmartPlanner was released, I was really excited – until I saw the “Apps” – then my reaction was pretty much like this:

Just … REALLY? I’m sorry – I love you guys, but you just can’t name add-ons “apps” – it’s a PAPER PLANNER, that’s not how this works!

That all being said, I got over my issue with the name quickly enough, mostly because the SmartPlanner Apps are just as nicely designed and colorful and coordinated as the main SmartPlanner. Along with the SmartPlanner Levenger also sent me the LTG 7-App Sampler Pack. Each “app” pad has 25 sheets and is made with 100gsm paper.

The “LTG 7-App Pack” is named so because it contains three LIST “apps” (To-Do, Take-With Lists, and Keep & Share Notes), one TASK “app” (Meeting Notes), and three GO “apps” (Travel Tamer, Ideation Station, and Doodler). I myself didn’t have an immediate work use for all of these apps right now, but took lots of pics to show them in their full-size glory.
1. To Do app
From the Levenger website: “Five color blocks give you more manageability—make one long list or five different ones, for daily or recurring tasks. Each color block can be for a different kind of To Do—work, home, fitness, and so on. Or assign different colors to various family or team members. With a column for prioritizing, plus a date and check-off box for marking progress.”

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2. Take-With Lists app (perforated)
From the Levenger website: “Vertically perforated sheets mean you can keep separate lists for work and home, or for different projects. Keep these multiple lists in your Master Agenda till you’re ready to perf and take with.”

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3. Keep & Share Notes app (semi-perforated)
From the Levenger website: “A delegator’s dream: give the perf’d side of the color block (5 per sheet) to the doer, and keep a record of your directions on the other. Or make it the traffic manager for items you lend, with a note to whom and when on the Keep side and a gentle reminder about returning on the Share side. You can also use the two sides independently, jotting flashes of inspiration on the Keep sheets and making notes to yourself on the Share sheets. (Place them where they’re most likely to jog your memory.) Let this app do the work for your memory, which you can put to better use.

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4. Meeting Notes app
From the Levenger website: “This app helps you turn notes into useful references and action points. On the front, use separate sections for concepts, key points and action steps.  On the back, use the ruled white sheet for taking longer notes. A pagination line keeps track of multiple pages on the same topic.”

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5. Travel Tamer app
From the Levenger website: “Consolidate info for each trip onto one simple sheet—flights on front; hotels, cars and sights on back. Use completed sheets as reference for repeat trips. They’re also a helpful record for expense

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6. Ideation Station app
From the Levenger website: “Find a creative solution to a problem using different words to connect concepts. The Ideation Station app adapts the effective method that Todd Henry, the author of The Accidental Creative, has designed for starting with a challenge and ending up with possible—and often surprising—solutions. You can do all this on one sheet of paper (take some with you on the plane).

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7. Doodler app
From the Levenger website: “Soft colors and different shapes (vertical blocks on back) just may help you doodle your way to ingenious new thoughts. Not a doodler? Use as a sketch pad or to jot notes.”

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Conclusions

I really enjoyed testing out the Levenger SmartPlanner Agenda – many thanks to Levenger for the opportunity to see if it’d work for my work Circa. I became a fan of the overall look and style of the SmartPlanner – the soft colors, the tabs, everything looks fantastic! And overall the agenda, like everything Levenger, screams high quality. That all being said, since I was testing this planner out for my work Circa, the horizontal weekly layout just wasn’t fitting my needs. In my job, I do a lot of database testing, and keep track of my time on various projects by the hour. So while I don’t have many pre-scheduled appointments, a vertical weekly planner layout serves my needs much better than the horizontal daily boxes of the SmartPlanner. So I’ve passed it on to my husband who is really excited to give it a shot for his work planning needs. I really hope that in the future, Levenger expands its layout to incorporate other formats – I’d love to see a vertical layout in the same SmartPlanner style.

Review: Levenger True Writer Select Fountain Pen

As many of my repeat visitors know, I post about my Levenger stuffs often. Like A LOT a lot. I’ve been a diehard user of the Circa notebook system for 7 years now, so am always trying out new pages and covers and discs. But surprisingly, while I’ve read a bunch about their fountain pens, my only exposure to their pens has been the Levenger L-Tech I bought for my husband a couple of years ago. So when Levenger contacted me and asked if I wanted to review a fountain pen here on my blog, this was pretty much my exact reaction:

Yeah, I was THAT excited.

So of course I said YES! They sent me a True Writer Select fountain pen with a Fine nib, and TWO bottles of ink in Cobalt and Shiraz!!! This was a most-welcome surprise, as I’ve never tried any Levenger ink either. Reviews of the ink colors will come later, but for now, let’s take a look at this gorgeous new pen I have to play with.

The True Writer Select comes in Mediterranean (ocean blue), Stormy Weather (light grey), and Macchiato (coffee brownish). If you want to read some reviews of the Mediterranean colored pen, check out  Pen Habit and Pen Addict for some fabulous close-up pics.

Anyhoo, I was given the choice of colors to review. I normally don’t do brown pens at all, as I’m very much into bright colors. Which is a big reason I haven’t tried True Writers up until now, the colors tend to be very conservative and traditional. But since I am 100% in love with all things coffee (except chocolate covered espresso beans, because GROSS), Macchiato seemed like a slam dunk. How can a pen that looks like this go wrong??

When he saw the pen Levenger was sending me, the husband was all, “Oooh, if you don’t like it I’ll totally take it off your hands” – psh, fat chance of that Mister!

The Packaging:

I was already impressed with the packaging on the L-Tech, but hoooo boy! The True Writer Select has some pretty epic nesting-box awesomeness going on. I felt like I was cracking into a sarcophagus just trying to get to the pen.

First was a white cardboard sleeve:

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Next up, a grey box with Levenger printed in silver on the top:

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The lid to this box came off to reveal a canvas mesh wrapped second box:

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Once you unwrapped the canvas-like material from the inner box, you saw that it is a nice felt-bottomed wooden display box – it has some impressive heft to it. When opened, the rim of the box is trimmed in a light wood that unfortunately didn’t capture well no matter how I tried with my lighting and camera. But let’s be honest – I only had eyes for the pen anyways! It also came with a standard twist-style converter and one standard international-sized (1/5″) ink cartridge.

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Which leads us into …..

The Color:

At first glance, I was all, what the heck? This isn’t coffee colored!? But as I turned it around under various lights, I came to realize the Macchiato color is actually very chameleon-like. In some lighting the swirls appear almost yellow-green or grey-brownish. My first thought was it was almost more of a mink/fur-coat color.

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

Levenger True Writer Select in Machiatto

Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

In other lights, it appears brown.

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

As you can see, the swirls are a very elusive color and difficult to photograph. If you ever had Tiger’s Eye polished rocks as a kid …

The pen is somewhat like those rocks in person, in that you can’t keep from turning it around in your hand to watch the resin swirls change. But it’s definitely not exactly the coffee/caramel brown I was expecting.

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

Looks really brown in this pic!

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

The Size:

At first glance, this pen is HUGE. Both in length and width. But it is surprisingly lightweight, especially in comparison to the hefty L-Tech. Here are some (not-so-super-scientific) measurements and weights:

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Fountain Pen Size Comparisons

Pen  –  Length  –  Weight:
Lamy Studio (Royal Red)  –  13.7 cm  –  33g
Monteverde Invincia (Stealth)  – 13.9 cm  – 41g
Levenger L-Tech (Stealth)  – 13.6 cm  – 49g
Rebecca Moss Mystery Pen  – 14 cm  – 47g
Lamy Al-Star (2015 LE Copper Orange)  – 13.7 cm  – 21g
Levenger True Writer Select (Machiatto)  –  15 cm  – 37g
Monteverde Artista (Purple)  – 12.7 cm  – 25g

As mentioned above, the True Writer Select is surprisingly comfortable to hold for such a huge pen. When posted it feels a little unbalanced, too heavy towards the bottom. Here it is shown next to the L-Tech, both pens posted.

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato and Levenger L-Tech

The End Thingies:

I can’t tell if the end thingies (yep, that’s my technical term) are black or just dark brown. But the top one is pointed ever so slightly. The clip is unobtrusive and I haven’t had any issues with it. And that’s about all I have to say about any of them.

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The Cap Trim:

The pen has a screw-on cap. One side says ‘LEVENGER’ and the other ‘Select’. I like the script font that is used for the Select side, it adds an elegant touch to the pen.

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The Nib:

As I mentioned earlier, my only experience with Levenger nibs has been with Medium and Fine nibs on the L-Tech. The Medium nib I thought was butter-smooth but way too wide for my tastes. My husband ended up ordering a Fine nib separately because it was too wide for his tiny writing style as well – SIDEBAR: can I just say I LOVE pens that let you order the nibs separately!? It’s so convenient to have that option, rather than buying a whole new pen.  When he got the new F nib I was impressed with how it wrote, but was still a little put off by the weight of the pen – especially after my lightweight Lamys) –  so didn’t really play with it much. But I’ve also been conflicted about my everyday pen carries lately, as I like fine nibs for writing, but want the broader nibs that really let the ink color shine more too.

In this case, practicality won out and I went with a Fine nib. Levenger sent this pen along with a note stating that they were interested to hear what I thought of the F nib, as it was somewhat different from their other nibs. In appearances it does look pretty different. The True Writer nib is larger, with different pattern etched into the steel, and a round hole missing from the L-Tech nibs.

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Levenger L-Tech M, True Writer Select F, and L-Tech F nibs.

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Levenger L-Tech M, True Writer Select F, and L-Tech F nibs.

More importantly, I inked it up right away with some of the new Levenger Shiraz ink, and it wrote perfectly right out of the box! Smooth, always starts up, a fine but not needle-fine line. No squeakiness, scratchiness, or other complaints. Here is a comparison to some Lamy pens (which tend to write wider lines than most):

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I think the Levenger F nib actually writes a finer line than the Lamy F. The F nib on the True Writer Select also looks a teensy bit finer than the L-Tech, but that could just be a factor of the inks as well.

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I REALLY enjoy writing with this nib. It’s just ridiculously smooth.

Conclusions:

I’ve been using the Levenger True Writer Select for a few days now and really like this pen. My fingers tend to slide down the grip a little, but I think that’s the nature of the polished metal grip section more than anything – I’ve been using Lamys so long I need to get used to metal again! It is larger than most pens, and this might be slightly off-putting to those with smaller hands, but I’ve surprised with how well I adapted to it. I think I’d have preferred to see a magnetic cap too, but that’s a minor critique.

One complaint I’ve read in other reviews and noticed when using this pen as well: the pen barrel does tend to unscrew itself ever so slightly from the feed with frequent use. I’ll go to uncap the pen, and have to give the barrel a few twists to get it back to where it should be. It’s not a deal-breaker, but something to be aware of. The husband says his L-Tech does that to him fairly often too.

Price wise, with a retail value of $169 this pen is definitely not an entry-level fountain pen – although the accountant in me has to wonder how much of that cost goes into the elaborate packaging. Fancy packaging to me is somewhat of a waste – I can’t bring myself to get rid of it, so put the boxes away in a closet and never use or display them again. But again, that’s the practical side of me coming out. Levenger is playing up the gift-giving side of pens, promoting that the box the pen comes in can be engraved. And as any customer of Levenger knows, their items are priced at a premium and people have come to expect fancy packaging that the company is known for. And this pen is definitely marketed towards someone who already knows fountain pens and perhaps wants to upgrade to a nicer pen or expand their collection. Or who just wants to treat themselves.

(Just add FOUNTAIN PENS to the above meme haha. Also, I may have been binge-watching Parks and Rec this weekend.)

And besides, Levenger regularly has sales and coupons where the pen is available for a good $35 less or more, often with free shipping. And its about on target market-wise with its competitors. I recently got a Visconti Van Gogh Portrait in Blue, and it was of similar construction, materials, and price point. The Levenger steel F nib actually writes better than the steel Visconti F nib, which I thought was very nail like and almost too fine, whereas the Levenger F nib I took immediately to and can’t recommend highly enough.

All in all the True Writer Select is a solid, attractive fountain pen, and I seriously don’t know why I waited so long to get one! Many many thanks to Levenger who provided me this pen to review. My husband SO isn’t getting this pen, that’s for sure!

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Levenger True Writer Select in Macchiato

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