My Favorite Back to School Supplies

As a student, the stationery I use is essential to me! I like incorporating my favorite hobby into school while having pretty lecture notes. Although some students at my university use laptops, plenty of us still use paper and pens. Actually, writing notes by hand helps students to retain information better. So I wrote up a list of my favorite notebooks, pens, and pencils, among other items, that I use in my daily life.

Some factors that influenced my choices were price and accessibility. A student’s budget is much different than an adult’s when it comes to stationery. You can find notebooks for cheap, but they may not have the best paper. But other fountain pen friendly notebooks, like Tomoe River, are unsuited for taking quick notes. I like to splurge on stationery so my recommendations may be more money than some people are willing to pay for. For current students, check out your college bookstore. They stock Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks at mine! Here’s my daily carries:

Quo Vadis Scholar Weekly Planner, $16

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I found this planner at my college bookstore. They have a huge collection of Quo Vadis planners, from A6 size to 6 x 9 inches and with pretty covers. This is my third one, after using one each year! The Scholar has thick, bright white Clairefontaine 90g paper. It comes in a weekly format with plenty of space for each page, which is much more useful to me as a student than a page-a-day planner. Monthly spreads are helpful for writing down exam dates and paper due dates. A review of the Scholar is coming soon!

Kokuyo B5 Soft Ring, $11.75 at JetPens

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I love these notebooks because they have soft plastic rings that don’t bite into my hand as I write (yes I’m a leftie). They have silky, thick ivory paper with light 7mm lines, perfect for fountain pens. The paper doesn’t take too long to dry either. Mine have 80 sheets/160 pages, enough for my copious note taking.

Clairefontaine A4 Spiral Bound, $7 at Goulet Pens

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For Latin class, I need a giant notebook for me to stuff all my notes and tears into. The Clairefontaine A4 does the job. It has enough space for writing down all the declensions and conjugations my heart desires. It’s also super sturdy and lasts the entire semester in my bag. It has 50 sheets/100 pages.

Pilot Metropolitan and Kakuno, Lamy Safari

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The Pilot Metropolitan and Kakuno are often considered the best beginner fountain pens. They’ve been part of my collection since the beginning. I don’t feel too bad about losing them so they are carried around the most. I love their smooth M nibs that show off shading and sheen. The Lamy Safari is light but balanced in my hand. I love its slightly pebbly texture. It has a juicy M nib.

Blackwing pencils

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This is certainly the more expensive choice of pencils, but I have no self control when it comes to limited editions. I love how smooth these pencils are. They put down lovely dark lines. The limited edition pencils are gorgeous. My favorite is the Blackwing 54, which I reviewed here. It has a Surrealism art theme. I use them for Latin and math classes, where I can erase my mistakes easily.

Papermate Flair

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If I don’t use a fountain pen, I use a Papermate Flair. They’re cheap, come in numerous colors, and take only a few seconds to dry. I like color coding notes in Latin with them, or with their cousin, the Papermate Inkjoys.

Nock Co. Holdout, $25 

IMG_0646The Holdout is a sturdy case that can hold three fountain pens. I don’t need to carry my entire collection around (but sometimes I still do lol). I love Nock Co. cases because they are made of flexible canvas instead of leather. I don’t worry about tossing it into my backpack.

Other Supplies:

  • Mini stapler
  • earbuds
  • sticky notes/tabs
  • Blank index cards for Latin and Art History
  • Anker battery charger

Self explanatory. My mini stapler has saved me when a paper is due but there’s no stapler in the vicinity! Earbuds are essential on campus when you’re studying in the library, walking to class, sitting on the grass chilling out, etc. I also carry around flashcards in a plastic case because Latin and Art History classes use up SO MANY of them. Another essential is a battery charger. My phone loses battery so quickly that I carry one around in case. I bought an Anker one on Amazon for around $25.

I hope you enjoyed my daily carry post! It was fun to write.

Ink Inventory 2019!

I did some late summer cleaning of my room last week, which involved clearing off my entire desk of all fountain pens, inks and notebooks. :O I took the chance to count up all my inks I’ve bought over the last three years of my obsession/hobby.

The final count: 64 bottles! I’ve made a list of all the brands I have, sorted by amount.

  • Robert Oster: 8 bottles
  • Monteverde: 7 bottles
  • Pilot Iroshizuko: 6 bottles
  • Sailor: 6 bottles
  • J. Herbin: 5 bottles
  • Kobe: 3 bottles
  • Kingdom Note: 3 bottles
  • Kyo No Oto: 3 bottles
  • PenBBS: 3 bottles
  • Lamy: 3 bottles
  • Diamine: 3 bottles
  • Taccia: 2 bottles
  • Bungubox: 2 bottles
  • Krishna Inks: 2 bottles
  • Callifolio: 1 bottle
  • Papier Plume: 1 bottle
  • Organics Studio: 1 bottle
  • Colorverse: 1 bottle
  • Noodler’s: 1 bottle
  • Nemosine: 1 bottle
  • Akkerman: 1 bottle
  • Vinta: 1 bottle

Robert Oster and Monteverde top the list in terms of amount of bottles. Not only are they wet, shading inks but they also are much cheaper than Japanese inks. I buy them because they’re inexpensive and come in many colors. J.  Herbin is also nice and only felt watery in Perle Noire, which I promptly gave away. Iroshizuko and Sailor are my absolute favorite brands but because of cost I don’t have as many. They exhibit the best shading and sheen!

My favorite inks overall are Iroshizuko Ku Jaku, Iroshizuko Yamabudo, Sailor Sky High, Sailor Apricot, Monteverde Ocean Noir, Lamy Dark Lilac, Kobe #48, Robert Oster Cherry Blossom, Bungubox June Bride, J. Herbin Rouge Grenat, all my Kingdom Note inks, and Taccia Uguisu. I love teal, blue and red inks most of all. I’m most proud of getting a bottle of Lamy Dark Lilac and several boxes of cartridges! It was a lucky find at the D.C. Pen Show in 2016. I missed all the hype about it before because I was just getting into the hobby then.

Here are some individual pictures of my collection. I put them in a slide show so you can see them.

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Most of the inks I disliked I got rid of, but there are still some in my collection I’m meh about. I enjoyed Robert Oster Frankley Blue until dried ink crystals from the bottle cap exploded all over my desk. Nemosine Coalsack Nebula is a beautiful shimmer ink but clogs so much. J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor was the most hyped ink of 2016 but didn’t live up to my expectations.

My emptiest bottle is Ku Jaku, because it’s a beautiful teal but mostly because its cap is cracked and there was a leak at some point. I only have 1/3 left. Yamabudo is close, with 2/3 left. Robert Oster Frankley Blue and Sailor Okuyama also have a good amount used up, also because of leaks. The rest aren’t even close! The problem with having so many inks is that I use different colors each time I write. It never gets boring but I also go through inks slowly.

I hope you enjoyed looking at my ink collection!

Notebook Shopping at CVS

I continued my quest for back to school composition books, but I didn’t see much at my local CVS. There was one CVS brand set of notebooks out. Here’s a quick review:

CVS Brand Composition Book

  • 100 sheets
  • A few dollars?

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The cover is made of a thick cardstock with a purple cosmic pattern. The twee words, “Make Today Magical”, are printed in silver letters. I like the white tape that binds the notebook. The design is pretty terrible. It feels like it was trying to be hip like the Target designs but also as low-budget as possible.

The paper itself is slightly rough. It has light blue lines for once! Ink performs okay. There is no feathering but no shading or sheen either. Ink went down smooth and dried very quickly.

Looking at the back, there is moderate show through but no bleeding. It doesn’t look as bad as the picture!

 

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend. The design is really ugly compared to some of the lovely Target designs and the paper isn’t that good. I want to hit Staples soon and also review some notebooks from my school bookstore! Also look out for an overview of all my fountain pen inks.

Notebook Shopping at Target

I loved back to school shopping as a child! It was the one time where I was allowed to pick out a giant stack of notebooks, pens, pencils and other stationery. I stalked the aisles, grabbing enough supplies to last the whole year and then some. Some of my favorite notebooks had floral designs, T.V. show characters, or glittery covers. There were fun trends too, like the year everyone bought Japanese erasers and bendy rulers! As much as I love fountain pen friendly stationery, the designs are often muted and boring in comparison. So I decided to look for that childhood wonder at my local Target. The mission was to find cute, but fountain pen friendly composition notebooks. Yes, I was inspired by Les from Comfortable Shoes Studio and her reviews of back to school notebooks. 🙂 I tested paper using an EF Blackwing, Sharpie Pen, Papermate Flair and Papermate Inkjoy, along with my currently inked pens.

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My go to used to be Studio C, which always had pretty covers but also had paper that showed off shading and sheen! Unfortunately, they went out of business and don’t show up on shelves anymore. 😦 My stockpile won’t last me forever, so I was looking for a replacement. Here are the specs for one of mine:

Studio C College Ruled Composition Book

  • 100 sheets
  • $3.49

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The one I tested was from the Silver Linings collection. I love the silver tape and motivational quote, “Live Your Dreams” on the front cover. The inside is just as lovely as the inside. The lines are college ruled and a pale blue. The paper skews cooler than the other notebooks I tested. It is wonderful for fountain pens, showing shading and sheen! The notebook is durable. The cover is made of thick cardstock that doesn’t bend easily.

Mead College Ruled Comp Book

  • 70 sheets
  • 99 cents

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The hot pink cover and tape lured me in, despite the ugly page of coupons attached. The plastic cover is sturdy enough despite not being cardstock. It also has a plastic page sandwiched in between the cover and pages which is nice. However, the paper inside was disappointing. It was rough under my pen. In my drying test, the ink was absorbed in under three seconds. The lines are a dark blue and don’t blend in. Nibs were a size larger on this paper. There was no shading, only a flat color. I saw feathering too. There was show through and bleeding too. I don’t recommend this paper! Even my Blackwing felt unpleasant.

Mead Five Star College Ruled Composition Book

  • 100 sheets
  • $2.49

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I was really hoping this could live up to the Studio C, but sadly it doesn’t. It has has 100 sheets but is a lower price. The cover has white tape and a pretty image of swirling paint.  The plastic cover sticks to the front and back pages so I have to pull them apart every time I open the notebook. My writing size stayed close to normal instead of increasing in width. There was also shading. But there was feathering in my larger nibs. My blue inks, like PenBBS #44 and Bungubox June Bride seemed to bleed through to the back more than Kobe Arima Amber. I could still use this with smaller nibs and red colors apparently. Show through is okay except for blue and green inks which bled more!

More than Magic Wide Ruled Composition Book

  • 80 sheets
  • $1.99

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This was the best notebook of all! I only wish it came in college ruled and had more pages. More Than Magic is a Target brand that sells sparkly, holographic, cosmic- themed school supplies. I was attracted to their “stand” instantly, guess I’m still a child at heart. 😀 The notebook has holographic tape and writing that says “Find your light” behind a purple space background. Inside is another quote, “You are amazing”. The lines are wide ruled and not too dark for me. This was the best paper yet! All my pens behaved well, with shading and a bit of sheen. No feathering either. It took longer to dry fully, 15 seconds, but that means ink had time to pool and create shading. There was a negligible amount of show through on the back.

West Emory Composition Book

  • 50 sheets
  • Forgot the price

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I know this wasn’t a real composition book despite being labeled one. But I couldn’t resist the holographic cover. This notebook had light gray lines and space at the top for headings. Sadly, the paper also was absorbant, so ink took only five seconds to dry. My lines increased in width. There was splotching where ink usually pools. Show through wasn’t bad except for the PenBBS #44, which is a very pigmented ink.

Overall, if you’re looking for cute, colorful composition books I’d check out More than Magic, Mead Five Star if you experiment with inks that work, or Studio C if you find any remaining stock!

2019 D.C. Pen Show!

Long time, no see! It’s been several months, but I’m finally back from the dead to blog once more. I always feel sad when I see people’s abandoned blogs floating in the vast internet but now that’s me! It takes SO MUCH work and dedication to keep a blog going, especially when social media is easier and gives instant validation. But blogs and reviews in particular are great for giving more information before purchasing expensive stationery. So, I’m back to my blog to give you quality reviews! Also I finally linked my own domain to the site, so links should redirect to notebookjoy.com instead of notebookjoy.wordpress.com hopefully!

If anybody is interested, the reason I’ve been away is that spring semester of college was really stressful. O_O Turns out I shouldn’t have had a campus job while taking five classes and trying to socialize and find internships. This summer I’m working more than I would prefer but at a much cooler job — at a used bookstore! I feel like I’m in an indie romcom movie sometimes, but with more annoying customers. I’m also learning to drive by myself without being terrified and cooking simple meals in preparation for my apartment next semester. So this summer has been productive even if I haven’t read or written too much. I also went to Portugal and found nice stationery there. Maybe I’ll post a quick review.

I also went to the D.C. Pen show, for my fourth year! Sadly I only went a few hours on Saturday but it was so much fun. I also RSVPed to join my local pen group for dinner! I focused on purchasing “unusual” inks, since I have most colors at this point. Interesting notebooks and leather products were also on my list. But I didn’t expect to come away with a Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 pen with a gorgeous lava resin! Walking by the F-C table, this pen instantly grabbed me. Normally, I ordered expensive pens online after much research, but I gave in and bought it for $180 with a speciality SIG medium nib. It felt good having a job to give me extra money. 🙂

The pictures don’t do it justice! The Pocket 66 glows iridescent under a light source, lit up with swirls of yellow and orange and red. It is the perfect size posted for my small hands. I got it as an eyedropper, my first one. I’ll be very careful with it, so no bringing it to class in case it explodes.

 

I also bought several notebooks, Life Stationery Spiral, Life Stationery Vermillion, Life Stationery Recent Memo, and Kyopodo Notebook, all from Vanness Pens. The Vanness table is always so friendly and has a great selection. I liked the lady at the Sailor USA table too, she helped me pick out a Bungubox to buy, Clown Tears. Sadly, Brad from the Pen Addict wasn’t at the show this year so I didn’t get to say hi. Neither was Anderson Pens. As for inks, I bought Robert Oster Rose Gilt Tint, Bungubox Clown Tears, Kobe Arima Amber, Akkerman Sapgroen, Pilot Iroshizuko Tsutsuji, Krishna Brown Pink, PenBBS 137 Wisteria, Vinta Sirena and Sailor Yodakai. I also got a beautiful three pen leather case from Galen Leather! I love the smell and how supple the brown leather is! I wanted to buy the Galen Writing Box so badly but resisted the temptation.

 

Even better than the show was going out to dinner with the D.C. Metro Pen Crew, my local pen group. We all compared purchases and tried out each others pens. I’ve never felt so included in a hobby before. Everyone understands what I’m talking about for once! Even though I was the youngest there, I had an easy time making friends and talking about our shared passions. My advice for any convention goers is to meet up with people after the con, whether it’s online friends or a local group or people you meet in the hotel bar! Even better than buying stationery are the friends you make along the way.

For my few readers, thanks for still being there! I appreciate it.

Baron Fig Wander Dream Journal Review

Specs:

  • thick fountain pen friendly paper
  • 5.4″ x 7.7 inches, slightly smaller than A5
  • 192 pages
  • $24
  • numbered pages!
  • long ribbon bookmark!!
  • elastic band!!!

I finally got around to buying Baron Fig’s dream journal at the Baltimore Pen Show! You can tell how much I love BF in this post but this is my first review of their products. There’s just something about the clothbound cover, thick paper, and creativity that goes into each edition that draws me in. Baron Fig is best known for creating the Confidant notebook, but over time they have expanded to softcover Vanguards, pens, pencils and other stationery supplies.

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The Wander Dream Journal is a guided edition, meaning that it has templates printed on the page. BF doesn’t just want you to write your dreams down haphazardly but organize and analyze them. That sets it apart from other journals I’ve seen before.

Appearance:

The journal is a beautiful night sky blue, embossed with silver stars and a crescent moon. I love running my hand across the cloth cover. It is textured and sturdy but prone to staining if you’re not careful. Even better are two important additions: a longer bookmark and an elastic band! These satisfy the few quibbles I had with Baron Fig notebooks in the past.  The bookmark is a sky blue color while the elastic is a gray. I wish this notebook was available as a normal lined or dotted edition. I’d buy a stack of them!

The box itself is amazing too, decorated with beautiful surreal art that mimics a dream scape. BF definitely knows how to design a beautiful package.

 

Paper:

Inside, there is lovely, psychedelic endpaper with a space to put your name. The pages are numbered, which is helpful for reference. There are enough pages to write down 92 dreams! The first spread introduces the various symbols you can check mark to further categorize your dream.

 

  • Emotion: your mood during the dream
  • Sleep Quality: did you sleep well or not?
  • Time: Did the dream take place in past, present or future?
  • Color: Did you dream in color or monochrome?
  • Viewpoint: 1st or 3rd person perspective
  • Type: Is this dream Recurring, Lucid, Mundane, Fantasy or Nightmare?

These symbols made me think more about the significance of my dream and how it happened. This is important when you wake up and rapidly start forgetting a dream! BF did a great job designing these categories.

On the pages themselves are spaces for recalling, drawing and interpreting the dreams. At the top is a space to write the date and day of week. Recalling the dream took up the whole left page, while the right page was split between room for drawing and interpreting. The ruling was lined. I wish that there was more room for interpretations because I’m not a great artist and didn’t use up much of that space.

 

The paper is good for fountain pens and any other writing instruments. However, the paper feels lighter weight and the pages almost curl up on their own. Usually, they are very thick and lay flat. Maybe BF changed their supplier? I will do more research and buy a regular Confidant to test at some point. I used a Pelikan F nib with Bungubox June Bride ink to write down my dream. There was shading, but it does look a bit flat compared to Tomoe River, my paper of choice. To be honest, everything looks dull compared to TR! There was no feathering nor bleed through. There was some show through. Ink dries very fast on the uncoated paper. I didn’t smear any of my text with my left hand, as I usually do.

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Back of paper with some show through

Here’s my dream, if you have the patience to read it! And the showthrough is in the third picture.

 

I’m quite stressed out with midterms so this was probably a nightmare looking back on it. I used to have dreams about zombies breaking into a house I was hiding in (I watched too much Walking Dead as a 12 year old) but now most dreams have me wandering in a labyrinth where I can’t escape, whether it’s in an airport, school, or mall setting??? What do you dream about?

Conclusion:

This is an incredibly cool journal! I keep it by my bedside so I wake up and start writing in it immediately. Baron Fig is coming up with such innovative ideas lately. They also sell a recipe and guided planner book if you’re interested. The Wander Dream Journal is a good motivator to write down your dreams, before they disappear forever.

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

Baltimore Pen Show!

One reason I love living near DC is the surprising abundance of stationery. Not only can I visit great stores like Jenni Bick and Fahrney’s Pens and go to local meetups like the DC Metro Pen Crew, but there are two major pen shows nearby! Those two are the DC Pen Show and the smaller Baltimore Washington Pen Show. I went to BWPS last year and was delighted by the small, cozy atmosphere. This year I went with my parents and college friend Klaudia!

There isn’t the largest selection of inks, pens and notebooks, but it’s much easier to talk to store owners and pen sellers! And that’s why smaller conventions are my favorite. It’s not just about buying every pen in sight, but talking to people from all over the world. The DC Pen Show is great but can be overwhelming. Baltimore doesn’t have the huge crowds and narrow aisles you have to squeeze through.

It’s always amazing talking to my favorite creators, bloggers, sellers and artists! Shout out to Brad Dowdy, who is legit the nicest person ever. His blog, Pen Addict, is the first fountain pen blog I ever read. I also love the Vanness Pens table, Drama Mama Bookshop (the creator, Alisa, is so talented and nice! Check out her laser cut notebooks), Bertram’s Inkwell, DC Metro Pen Crew and the Yafa table. Thank you Niv for being so kind and helping my mom pick out a rollerball pen! 🙂

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I didn’t buy a lot this year which was a good thing! The Taccia inks drew my eye so I bought Momo, a beautiful eye-searing pink, and Ugisu, an olive green. I was so tempted to get the Taccia pen show special but decided against it… As for notebooks, I got the Baron Fig dream journal, a Drama Mama laser-cut journal and a Curnow Bookbinding Tomoe River paper notebook.  Some other items include the Nock Co. Sinclair Case, Pen Addict Fire on Fire ink (Thank you Brad), Monteverde Coral (Also thank you Niv), Monteverde Rose Noir, J. Herbin Rouge Grenat, J. Herbin Corail des Tropiques, some assorted stickers and a pen and ink samples for my friend I’m trying to convert to fountain pens. 🙂

I had a great time today. The fountain pen community is such an amazing community! I love seeing people of all ages and backgrounds united by their love of pens.

Stalogy365 A6 Notebook

Nothing quite compares to Tomoe River paper. It is as smooth and thin as tracing paper yet sturdy and bleed-resistant. It exhibits more shading and sheen than any other paper I’ve tried. The ghosting takes time to get used to but becomes less of a problem as the pages fill up. I’d still rate TR as the best paper for fountain pen lovers. However, some other contenders come close in quality. Today I’ll be reviewing one of them, Stalogy. Many people use the A6 as a cheaper Hobonichi alternative. It sells for $17.50 rather than the $35 + that a Hobonichi demands.

Specs:

  • A6 (4.1 in. x 5.8 in.), also comes in A5, B5 and B6
  • 368 pages
  • 5mm light gray grid paper
  • pre-printed months and days on top of page
  • numbers indicating timeline on left side of page
  • A6 for $17.50 at Amazon

Design:

The Stalogy has a slightly-textured black cover with some golden stamps on the front. I was instantly impressed by its minimalist yet sleek exterior. The logos are off to the left side so they don’t get in the way. Stalogy’s motto, “What Should Have Been, Is” is printed in tiny letters. Unfortunately the cover is rather flimsy for me. If I used this as a planner, I would put on a protective case. From what I’ve heard, Stalogy notebooks fit inside of Hobonichi covers. It doesn’t lay flat easily. I needed to break in its spine so it wouldn’t spring up. Notebooks like the Nanami Seven Seas lay flat with ease.

Paper:

There are 368 pages packed into this small notebook! They are thin and crinkle easily. Inside is light gray 5mm grid that doesn’t reach the borders of the pages. It also has two unique features that are more useful for planners. Tiny months and days are printed where the header usually is. Numbers representing times line the left border. Unfortunately, these numbers are tiny and such a light gray I couldn’t see them well.

I’d like to see more features that distinguish it from an average planner. Hobonichi Techos have yearly/monthly pages and timetables. However, if you’re more of a bullet journal person and don’t mind making your own layouts, the Stalogy offers similar paper and portability, while being twenty dollars cheaper. For me, I prefer structure so I like the Hobonichi style more. (My current planner is a cheap Exacompta student one I got at my university bookstore lol.)

The paper is very thin and light, reminding me of tracing paper. But despite looking delicate, it handles ink well. There was heavy show through, but only my globby Pilot Precise V5 RT bled in places. The ghosting is distracting, but if you’ve used 52gsm Tomoe River paper, it is also known for that. I didn’t have any heavy sheen inks on hand, but all my inks showed shading. There was no feathering or spreading of ink. I did see a hint of sheen in my Iroshizuko Momiji sample. It takes over ten seconds to dry, around the same as Tomoe River or Apica paper. Be careful not to brush your hand against the drying inks, especially if you are a lefty. I’m left handed but I’ve grown used to writing in a way that my hand doesn’t touch the paper lol.

Compared to my Nanami Cafe Note B6, the grid on the Stalogy is much lighter. I’m usually a fan of lighter grid but in this case it looks fuzzy and hard to see. The TR paper is equally as thin. There are small boxes at the top and bottom of the Cafe Note, spaces for dates or page numbers I guess. The Cafe Note A6 is only a dollar more than the Stalogy and has 480 pages! I personally think the Cafe Note is a better deal but shipping can raise the price. Stalogy is available with Amazon Prime.

I liked the Stalogy at first, but I’m not a fan of making my own planner. It’s nice but not as mind-blowing as Tomoe River offerings. I’m thinking of using this as a diary because it is undated. I would recommend it for people who want more freedom in their planner or those who appreciate quality paper.

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

Elemental Notebooks Review

For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.

Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.

Specs:

  • 100 gsm cream dot grid paper
  • A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
  • $20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
  • 192 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

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Appearance:

I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.

The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.

Paper:

But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.

Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.

Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.

Comparison to Baron Fig:

The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.

The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.

The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.

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Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook

The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.

Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.

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

Stationery Shopping: Itoya, Tag, Loft

Note: Read my other posts about stationery shops here and here.

So I went to Itoya Ginza and its related shop, K. Itoya, during my last day in Tokyo. Itoya is in the center of the Ginza shopping district, surrounded by luxury stores. Just look for the giant red paper clip jutting out from the building!

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Itoya presented the stationery beautifully. It must have taken a long time to arrange all the stationery so perfectly. There were endless rows of letter paper, washi tape and pens. There were 12 floors, so a lot to choose from! Not all the floors catered to stationery lovers. I spotted travel and home good sections. There’s also a nice restaurant!

But most of it didn’t really speak to me. The items was either too expensive or not my style. The service was also quite slow. Compared to Sekeido, Itoya was too upscale and curated for me. The notebook selection was lackluster in the main store. There wasn’t enough variety and everything was full price. I liked the K. Itoya better. It was less sterile, and had a good notebook section. There were also cute school supplies. My favorite part was the table devoted to astronomy-themed stationery!

I did buy a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 in Yama Budo color, a pen I’ve coveted since the beginning of my pen obsession. And I grabbed Pilot Iroshizuko Momiji for 1500 yen!

I had a much better time when I went to Kyoto. There I visited Loft and Tag Stationery. They were two very different stores. Loft was a Target-style store, with many different floors devoted to fashion, travel, home goods, gifts, etc. Tag Stationery was a smaller, specialized shop.

Loft was in a busy part of Kyoto, near my hotel. It had several floors, but it wasn’t all devoted to stationery. The third floor had all the journals, pens, art supplies and planners. There was a rainbow of notebooks in even more colors and types then I’d seen before! This had the best notebook section out of all the stores I visited so far. The Copic marker aisle was small and not as good as Tools. The fountain pen and ink counter was also small. But there were Loft exclusive Pilot Kakunos with magenta, pink or purple pen bodies. I got the purple pen. 🙂 There was even  a cute Traveler’s Notebook set up. I even convinced my mom and sister to visit Loft. They both enjoyed it! My sister even bought a Traveler’s Notebook in passport size and some inserts to go with it. So proud of her. 😀

In comparison, Tag Stationery was a small niche store. Apparently that’s where the Tag inks came from. It was in a bustling shopping area. A small temple was next to it. I loved that about Kyoto, finding little shrines and temples everywhere!

I already had Kyo-no-oto Adzuki-iro but I bought Kyo-iro No. 2 Ohara’s Morning Snow and Kyo-no-oto Hisoku. Besides, the store-made inks, I also purchased a pinkish red Sailor demonstrator. There was an exclusive pink Pilot Prera but I didn’t get it. Tag also had a wonderful collection of letter writing paper and envelopes. I bought a nice set with flower patterns printed into the surface. I was surprised by the array of notebooks for young children. It seemed like the type of notebooks you’d buy for kindergarten. It had an unusual ruling, a large grid made up of four squares. They had pop culture references on the cover like Disney and Peanuts and Moomin. I always like finding new rulings!

Although, I didn’t enjoy Itoya as much, the other two stores more than made up for it! Next, I’ll post about the Traveler’s Factory store in Narita airport and other assorted places where I got my stationery.