Mini Review: Notebooks from Italy

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing long blog posts for notebooks. So here’s the first of my mini reviews, for products that warrant testing but don’t need a full review.

I got these two notebooks on my trip to Rome last week. The yellow notebook was from the Massimo Palazzo alle Terme store and the black one was from the Ostia Antica gift shop.

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Let’s start with the yellow journal! It’s slightly shorter and wider than a B5 notebook, making it compact and easy to carry. It has 60 blank creamy pages. It’s nice to run my hand over the paper. The sunny yellow cover is a bit thin but held up well in my suitcase. There’s a beautiful design on the front that use the letters mnr. It stands for the Museo Nazionale Romano, the name of the larger museum complex the Palazzo belongs to. This name is repeated on the back in bold black letters. The word Electa is on the bottom right, possibly the maker of the notebook? I couldn’t find any more information online.

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The paper is thick and a smooth ivory color. When I did my pen test, pencil did wonderfully on this paper. There wasn’t much show through with gel and fountain pens. The paper was fountain pen friendly. Slight pink sheen from Sailor Sky High showed up in my test. There was no bleed through except with a sharpie. The only downside is that there were glue bubbles on the first page. Overall, this notebook exceeded my expectations and will be put to use as a sketchbook.

The black Ostia Antica notebook was not as great. When I bought it, it was in a display saying it was made by Paperblanks. I’ve heard of the company before and expected good paper. It has a nice cover, with the words Ostia Antica and below it, an illustration of one of the mosaics at the site. It’s A6 size and has 96 pages. It also has a black bookmark and elastic band.

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Unfortunately, the paper was scratchy and thin as tissue. Pencil was okay, but every other pen showed or bled through to the other side. Fountain pen ink looked dull, with no sheen or shading. At least I bought it with blank paper so I can use it for quick pencil sketches.

Hope you enjoyed this quick review! I’m busy working at an archaelogical dig but I hope to post more soon.

I’m Back From Rome!

Hey, I just returned from my study abroad trip to Rome! It was such an amazing experience. I geeked out over all the Roman ruins and museums I saw. My favorite places included Ostia Antica, an ancient port town outside of Rome, the Forum, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Capitoline Museum. There was also a set of tenement apartments from the 100-400s C.E. that had cool fresco paintings and was underneath a medieval church. As an anthropology and art history double major, I was so happy to see the objects I studied in class. Stationery-wise, I didn’t see many high-quality notebooks. I found two nice ones in gift shops but I forgot to take pictures of them. I’ll try to upload them this weekend and do a quick review.

I saw some notebooks in the local pharmacy but I didn’t buy them. The paper seemed thin and floppy.

Here are some of my favorite pictures I took in Rome!

What Notebooks I’m Bringing on My International Trip

I’m going on a study abroad trip to Rome! Of course, my favorite part of packing is deciding what notebooks I will bring with me! Since this is a short overseas trip I don’t want to risk flying with fountain pens. So here’s my list:

  • Rhodia webbie notebook for journaling about my trip
  • Baron Fig vanguard just in case I have any time to write stories
  • Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Journal for writing down lists and random story ideas
  • Papermate ink joy pens
  • Roll of washi tape to paste in memorabilia
  • Regular spiral bound notebook for schoolwork

And that’s it! I’m not staying for too long otherwise I would bring more. I’ll try to look out for any cool notebooks in Italy!

In other news, I’m going to be super busy after this trip. After my return flight, I’m working on an archaeological dig for six weeks. I probably won’t be posting that much. I hope my few readers understand this hiatus! I should be back to more regular posting by July 10. Have a great summer!

Write Notepads Sakura Review

This post is a little late, but I’d like to review the newest limited edition from Write Notepads: the Sakura edition!

Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 4mm grid
  • stapled!
  • 3 pack for $12.99

This is my first time trying Write Notepads. They make very nice pocket notebooks among other offerings. However, their editions usually have perfect binding, which is a type of binding that makes the notebook harder to keep open and lay flat. They also don’t have the best paper for fountain pens. But I saw the new Sakura edition and fell in love! I live near a place with many cherry blossom trees and I love seeing them bloom in the spring. They also are staple bound which is more my style.

I bought two packs, each set being $12.99 . I ordered the bundle which came with a special surprise. 🙂 The Sakura is a little shorter than Field Notes, another popular notebook brand.

The covers are absolutely gorgeous. They’re a speckled cream color with cherry tree branches letter pressed onto the surface. Even the band holding the notebooks together is beautiful. It’s black with silver blossoms decorating it. So pretty!

The paper inside is very nice. It’s not as smooth as the Field Notes or Story Supply paper but it’s not rough like Baron Fig. It has a minuscule 4mm grid printed in light green. I definitely can’t fit my writing in the squares, so I just use it as a guide for my writing. Here is the grid in comparison to the one in my field notes:

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The paper is great! It has enough tooth for pencil but feels great with gel, felt and even fountain pens. I was expecting a lot of show through or bleed through but didn’t have any! Only a tiny bit of show through and bleeding. I wonder if they changed the paper or I happened to choose well-behaved ink for my pen test. In reviews of previous editions, bloggers have found the paper to not be fountain pen friendly. So this is a pleasant surprise!

And the add on was a letter pressed packet of cherry blossom seeds. It was a very thoughtful extra and I’ll have to find a place to plant them. These notebooks were also a good match with the pink Blackwing Volume 54 pencils. I love this limited edition and I am excited to see more from this company!

 

 

Hippo Noto Review

Specs:

  • 68 gsm ivory Tomoe River paper
  • pocket A5 size, 5.2 x 8.2
  • $40, $33 when I got it
  • 500 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • back pocket
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

Intro:

My Hippo Noto arrived a few weeks ago, but I finally have the time to review it! The Hippo Noto notebook was part of a kickstarter from last year, created by a fellow blogger, Krystle from Squishy Ink. I just want to say, I appreciate all of Krystle’s effort! First kickstarters rarely go smoothly, but she kept the backers updated when there were problems with the ivory paper and when the notebooks were stuck in customs. So good job on your kickstarter and I can’t wait to see what you will make next!

Hippo Noto promised 500 luscious pages of 68gsm Tomoe River paper. For those of you who don’t know, Tomoe River is the best paper I’ve found for fountain pen inks. It shows off tons of shading, sheen and shimmer better than other favorites of mine like Baron Fig and Clairefontaine. There are two types of this paper, 52gsm and 68gsm (means how thick the paper is). It comes in two colors, cream and ivory. The more common version, 52 gsm is as thin and delicate as tissue paper. Some people don’t like it because the ink shows through severely on the back, though it doesn’t bleed. It’s also easily crinkled. 68gsm is slightly thicker with reduced showthrough, while still being amazing for fountain pens.

So I was sold on this notebook and ordered one in December, with an early 2018 delivery date. I finally received it on April 28, almost five months later. According to the kickstarter, some people still haven’t received theirs yet. The cream paper version was delivered much earlier because there was a defect with the ivory paper. However, this is often what happens in kickstarters.

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Appearance:

I was thrilled by the appearance of the notebook. It came packaged in a cute box with a hippo logo. The fake leathery cover is soft and in my favorite color, teal! It leans more green than blue. There are two long ribbon bookmarks to keep your place. Much better than the stubby ones in Baron Fig Confidants!

 

But there was a large brown stain on the elastic band that held the notebook closed. It’s a small thing but it’s gross and I see it each time I open the notebook. 😦 The edges of the leather cover weren’t completely neat, giving it an uneven appearance. I know that notebooks can’t be perfect, but it was disappointing after I waited so long. Hippo Noto, with a little hippo, is printed in silver on the cover. Very cute!

 

The leather cover also serves as the spine, glued to the massive slab of paper. A gap has emerged between the leather and paper, making me wonder if it will fall apart. This is more worrying than any of the small defects. The glue may not be strong enough to attach the leather and paper together.

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So far, my notebook has held up. On the kickstarter page, two people have complained of pages becoming unglued or the spine not being stable. I’m not sure if this is a widespread issue or just me. I feel like the first few sections in my notebook are coming loose. I think it’s such a large slab of paper that it’s becoming unglued from the spine. Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 11.33.08 PM

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Looking inside, you see bright blue endpaper. There’s a giant pocket in the back and info about Hippo Noto on the bottom left corner. I love how subtle the branding is on the notebook. There is no table of contents or numbered pages. It’s okay because I can make my own. The first and last pages were attached to the endsheets and were too difficult to use. It lays relatively flat, mostly in the center. The first few and last pages have a large “hump”, so you may have to adjust your writing position. My notebook also came with blotting paper for preventing ink smudges, an adhesive pen loop and a writing mat to put under your current page.

 

Paper:

This paper is amazing! It’s even better than the 52 gsm Nanami Seven Seas notebook I’ve tried. It’s much less translucent and delicate. It’s a bright white color, but not as blinding as Clairefontaine. The paper is silky smooth and I could spend minutes stroking it. (yes I’m weird) I love the smell of Tomoe River. It’s hard to describe but isn’t distracting. Pencil and gel ink works fine on the paper, but felt tips like the Papermate Flair looked washed out. Fountain pen ink is vibrant and pops on the page. My pen test didn’t use super sheening inks but it was still visible. Lamy Dark Lilac (sold out, sorry) is amazing on this paper. I can see golden sheen with my bare eye. There is a pretty halo of pink sheen in Sailor Sky High.

 

I prefer the 68 gsm much more than the 52 gsm because of the reduced showthrough. With the thinner 52 gsm, I could see every word on the back side. Writing on the back made it less distracting but the visual “noise” of the showthrough still bothered me. 68 gsm still has some ghosting on the back, but it’s not nearly as annoying. Only the extra fine Sharpie bled through, but it does that on every paper. I know, in the picture it seems like a lot of ghosting. But it’s much better than 52 gsm. I chose lined paper, not dot grid like many others did. I ordered it before I fell in love with dot grid! The lines are 6mm apart and made of faint gray dashes. They don’t distract from my writing at all. There’s a giant margin at the top. I like having that space to write a title and date, but that space could be cut down to add a few more lines. Looking at the Well Appointed Desk review, the dot grid has a margin but it’s not nearly as large as mine.

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Dry times are long depending on the ink. My pen test used Kobe #44 Marchais Blue, which dries relatively fast. After ten seconds it was dry. As a leftie, it was hard to stop my hand from smearing the fresh ink! I was careful here, but in my Nanami notebooks there are smudges. I recommend using Tomoe River paper for journaling, writing stories and poems and other longform writing. It doesn’t dry fast enough to take school or work notes with it. Plus, why would you sully its beautiful pages like that? This notebook demands time to pause while the ink dries, thinking about what to write next.

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Conclusion:

Overall, the Hippo Noto has great paper and is made of nice materials. However, I’m a bit disappointed by the long waiting time, spine problems and stain on the elastic band. The Hippo Noto needs to be revised a bit. Hopefully the next batch irons out these kinks and makes a good notebook even better. Because it’s not in a regular production, only lined and blank ivory notebooks are left on the site. Hopefully more are made soon. It’s also expensive. $40 with $10 shipping, though I got it as a Late Pledge for $33. If you want something similar to hold you over, you can get a Taroko Enigma  with 68 gsm for $30 and $10 shipping. The Enigma also has better quality control and doesn’t take too long to arrive. However, you’ll be missing out on the pocket, elastic band, cute colors and lined options that come with the Hippo Noto.

I had high expectations for the Hippo Noto after waiting for months, more than I would than if it came in a week. Although there were some flaws, it is overall very nice. If you want a notebook with fabulous paper, cute colors and short form factor, then you should buy the Hippo Noto. As for me, it will still be my next story notebook, but I won’t buy another until quality control is better. I can’t wait to see more from Hippo Noto.

I bought this notebook with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

What Type of Page Ruling Should You Use?

The ruling of notebooks is a serious choice for any stationery addict. And by ruling, I mean the printed guides on paper that keep your handwriting straight. For some people, if a notebook doesn’t come with their favorite ruling, they won’t buy it! I used to be a “lines only” person, after using it my whole life. I didn’t know there were other rulings out there! Now I use a mixture of lined, dot grid and blank paper. Though I still like lined paper for long note-taking, I used a dot grid Baron Fig notebook for my last story journal. And I always carry a grid Field Notes in my backpack!

Lined

This is the classic ruling, the one you use in school and work and likely everywhere. It comes in many sizes, from 5mm to 8mm. It’s the most common type of ruling. It can be boring or constricting to some, but for me, I appreciate its structure. It keeps my handwriting from tilting and looking sloppy. However, some brands have too-dark lines or have too wide or too narrow ruling. Lines are harder to ignore and if they are dark they can distract from your words. If you like structure, tradition or easy accessibility, you should use lined paper.

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Nanami Seven Seas Writer

Examples: Lined ruling can be found in almost any notebook. I enjoy paper with light, easily ignored lines, like Clairefontaine My Essentials and the Nanami Seven Seas Writer (currently out of stock)

Dot Grid

Many stationery users love dot grid. It has become massively popular because of bullet journaling . It consists of small dots, usually spaced 5mm from each other. Dot grid is flexible and is easy to make diagrams or doodles with. The dots are usually light and inconspicuous, letting the words stand out. They stop new writers from fearing the blank page or feel smothered by lines.  If you like doodling, are interested in bullet-journaling, or appreciate a minimal aesthetic, dot grid is fun to try out.

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Leuchtturm1917 Dot Grid

Examples: Since dot grid is becoming so popular, it’s becoming easier to find it. The Baron Fig Confidant, Rhodia Webbie and Leuchtturm1917 have dotted paper.

Graph/Grid

I used to use graph/grid paper only for math homework, but then found out they were perfect for making lists and charts. I carry around a Field Notes in my backpack to jot down notes, ideas, to-do lists, songs I heard, etc. They are too busy-looking for me to use in my larger notebooks, but other people appreciate this ruling in A5. It’s usually in 5mm, but Write Notepads used 4mm in its latest limited edition, Sakura. If you like precise lines, order, and making lists and diagrams then you should try out grid.

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Field Notes Campfire

Examples: Most of my Field Notes are gridded and are good for jotting down to-do lists. I don’t use them in larger notebooks. The paper here is from the Field Notes Campfire, not available anymore. But the Original Kraft Field Notes come in grid and many of the limited editions have grids too.

Reticle

This is an unusual ruling, one I haven’t seen very often. It is more substantial than dot grid, with tiny crosses each spaced at 5mm. It’s basically the same as dot grid, to be honest. I like it for the aesthetics, mostly. 😉

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Nanami Seven Seas Crossfield

Examples: The paper shown here is from the Nanami Seven Seas Crossfield notebook (just went out of stock, sadly). I haven’t seen many reticle grid paper besides that, except for Field Notes Lunacy and the recent Coastal edition. I hope creators make more notebooks with reticle grid!

Blank

Blank paper is a canvas for you to put anything onto, whether its writing or doodles or full illustrations. It is fun to use but can be intimidating if your handwriting tilts down like mine. I use blank only in my sketchbooks because I like having a line of some sort. However, Ana at the Well-Appointed desk, made wonderful templates for any ruling you could imagine. Just print out the template size you want and slip the paper behind your page to give it the allusion of lines.

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Baron Fig Vanguard

Examples: Baron Fig Vanguard has creamy thick paper perfect for both fountain pens and pencils. I like sketching with it because the Vanguard is light and portable. Story Supply Co. also has fountain pen friendly paper with less tooth than BF. Or any old sketchbook will do!

Conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to try a different type of ruling! I never thought I’d like dot grid until I tried a Baron Fig notebook. What is your favorite paper ruling? Are there any you like that I haven’t posted here?

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Notebooks from bottom to top: Nanami Seven Seas Writer, Nanami Seven Seas Crossfield, Leuchtturm1917 Dot Grid, Baron Fig Vanguard, Field Notes

Surrealism is Awesome: Palomino Blackwing 54 Review

I first tried the esteemed Blackwing 602 pencil ($22 for a box of twelve, yes they’re pricy) at the CW Pencil Shop last year. It’s much talked about in the pencil fandom (you thought I only liked fountain pens???) so I was excited. It met my expectations, and so much more. The “firm” lead is smooth and creamy on paper. I was turned off from pencils after years of using ones that were scratchy and had broken lead.  I stopped using pencils during middle school, and never went back. Until now.

For the spring semester, I found a use for my new pencils. I used my Baron Archer #2’s for math problems and my Blackwing 602 for creative writing class, where I had to erase often. I’ve even used my pencil for sketching! So I was excited to see the new Blackwing Volumes release. Okay, at first I was disappointed by the color. But the pictures online don’t show how it actually looks. It’s gorgeous!

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This picture shows the color off best.

The theme is inspired by Surrealism, one of my favorite art movements. Surrealism is when artists take inspiration from their unconscious and dreams to create a bizarre, off-putting work. It followed the work of Freud, often showing what lurked in the hidden parts of your mind. Though most think of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, there were many women and people of color working in that style. Surrealism was a diverse movement that gained popularity in the Caribbean and Latin America. I’m happy that Blackwing mentioned artists on the box that weren’t just white men. (Nothing wrong with that demographic but it’s nice to see underrepresented artists.) Some other female surrealists include Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Remedios Varos. Wilfredo Lam, mentioned on the box, was a famous Chinese-Cuban artist, who drew inspiration from his Afro-Cuban heritage for his paintings.

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They’re beautiful!

The shiny lacquer is a strange color, shifting like the color palette of Surrealists. It looked bubblegum pink in some pictures, magenta in others. Seeing it in person, the color is orchid, with just a hint of purple. The teal imprint and blue eraser add to the oddity of this pencil. It’s unusual, which I like.

I had a weird scratch on one of the ferrules, which annoyed me. I’m paying $25 for a box of 12 pencils, it better be perfect!

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Weird scratch on ferrule

The “extra firm” lead wasn’t as mind-blowing as the 602’s was. But it has better point retention and is slightly harder, making it better for precise writing. Some bloggers theorized that the “extra firm” was the same as the Palomino HB. I tested that out, along with my other Blackwing pencils I have.

“Extra firm” is definitely a different lead. Palomino is even darker than the EF. Its line isn’t as dark as the 54’s. It has even better point retention and just had an overall different feel on the paper. I’d suggest both as good pencils, but they aren’t replicas. I also compared my “soft” and “firm” leads. The “soft” was the darkest, but smudged the most and lost its point quickly.

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Pencil test done on Baron Fig paper

I really enjoyed the 54 and its cool theme! They’re out of stock in many places, but there’s still some floating around if you look. Below are some of the works of the Surrealists mentioned on the box!

Also I found a list of awesome female Surrealists!

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Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain (1940-42)
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Meret Oppenheimer, Object (1936)
self-portrait-along-the-boarder-line-between-mexico-and-the-united-states
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States (1932)
lam the jungle
Wilfredo Lam, The Jungle (1943)

Sources:

Video: George Saunders – On Story

“The better state in my experience is to have some idea of what the story is and sometimes it’s just the tiniest kernel of something you enjoyed writing. Then once you put it down on the page and write it and rewrite it, it’s actually your own discontent with [your writing] that in some slow mysterious way urges it to that higher ground. Often it will do so in ways that surprise you. ”

-George Saunders

I watched this video in my creative writing class. I enjoyed hearing about George Saunders and his revision process. It is very similar to mine! You never know how your characters or plot will change over the course of a story. You shouldn’t be afraid to improvise and listen to your characters! If you haven’t read his books Lincoln in the Bardo or The Tenth of December, you really should. His stories are eclectic yet interesting.

Journaling Prompts

So I love journaling but I have trouble coming up with what to write sometimes. It gets boring writing the day-to-day minutiae of my life. Diaries and journals don’t have to record every second of your life but are good for reflections, rants, stories about your life, etc. So here are some links to journaling prompts that have helped me out!

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This diary title made me laugh!