Write Notepads “The Lawn” Review

I live in a suburbia of rolling green lawns, as far as the eye can see. Even in the summer, the grass is trimmed to perfection. Well-kept lawns are always in my summertime memories. I remember getting green stains on my knees, running through sprinklers and tall grass, swimming and roasting smores on a campfire. Maybe that’s why Write Notepads’ “The Lawn” edition touched me so much. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

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Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 6.35 mm lines
  • three gold staples
  • 3 pack for $12.99

I reviewed the “Sakura” pocket notebook edition in a previous review. I enjoy this edition even more! However, I’m a bit late to the show. Johnny from Pencil Revolution also reviewed it here. Once again, Write Notepads came up with a simple yet creative theme. The notebook is slightly wider than the usual Field Notes 3.5 x 5.5 size. It gives me more space to write and it’s not like I actually put my pocket notebook in my pocket. 😛 The notebook is a deep green, more olive than emerald. Tiny blades of grass are letterpressed on the cover. They seem slightly raised, giving it a texture when I run a hand over it. The Lawn is staple bound, with three sturdy golden staples. My three-pack was held together with a checkered red and white belly band, like a picnic blanket! My pack also came with a sheet of STICKERS!!! I love the whimsical art of garden gnomes, lawn chairs and flamingoes. They blend into the grassy cover perfectly. I hid the beer cans sticker on the back. 😉 I forgot to take a pic before I used them, sorry about that!

Inside is a luscious white paper perfect for fountain pens. It has 6.35 mm green lines that fit my writing perfectly. Write Notepads must have changed their paper formula because this and the Sakura is much better than the old stock. The paper is smooth but not slippery like Field Notes. It has enough tooth for pencil and feels great with my felt and gel pens. It handles literally every fountain pen I throw at it, even my juicy Pelikan and Faber-Castell nibs. There is only some feathering with my F-C nib. There is no bleed through and barely any show through. The only other paper I’ve found like this was Baron Fig and Rhodia/Clairefontaine. My nib doesn’t catch on the paper fibers nor does it feel scratchy.

For research, I bought a pack of “Samuel Morse” notebooks, a previous Write Notepads limited edition. Though they share the same attention to detail, the “Morse” notebooks are perfect bound, meaning the spine is glued. This makes it much harder for pages to lay flat. The paper is also not good for fountain pens. It feathers and bleeds to the other side. Ink colors look flat and lifeless. In comparison, “The Lawn” has crisp lines and shows shading, though not sheen.

In the past, I didn’t buy Write Notepads limited editions because of the perfect binding and paper. But staple-bound, fountain pen friendly notebooks are always welcome in my horde. I hope Write Notepads makes more editions like “The Lawn” and “Sakura”. Hopefully they have a table at the D.C. Pen Show so I can come and visit!

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

Return from hiatus and pen meet ups!

Sorry for the hiatus! I was super busy this summer. Now, I finally have time to spend on my blog. Here’s what I hope to blog/review in the next weeks:

Currently, I’m using a Hippo Noto, a Rhodia Webbie and a Write Notepads Lawn pocket notebook, as my daily carries.

Onto the topic of meet ups. I first heard of a pen meet up in the D.C. area when I was browsing Facebook. At first, I was nervous to go. Pen shows had been my only outlet for my hobby but I was more interested in purchasing than talking to others. But when I went to the May meeting, everyone was so welcoming!

It’s so strange talking to people that understand your obsession of pens and paper! They know all about the latest inks and trends. I don’t have many people to talk to about my hobby, though I found one fellow fountain pen addict at my college.

Everyone brought inks to sample and let me handle their expensive pens. It was a great way to try out pens in person and see if I liked them. I dodged a bullet with some, now I know the Pilot Vanishing Point and Pelikan M805 Ocean Swirl isn’t for me! Ages ranged from mid 20’s onwards. I was the only college-aged student so I felt awkward at first, but it quickly faded away.

I finally was able to go to a second meeting, this time at Fahrney’s Pens in D.C. This is a great store for buying high-end pens and some stationery. They were kind enough to host  our group and even offered Montblanc and Sailor nibs to test. We got little gift bags too! I definitely will visit Fahrney’s more often. There was a table for ink testing and I tried some fun new colors.

Everyone should go to a pen meet up if they can! I had so much fun talking to fellow fans. The fountain pen “fandom” is the nicest community I’ve been in and I can’t wait to meet more people at the D.C. Pen Show.

 

 

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

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.