Thursday, July 28, 2011

Arrival of Zebra Pen Pal Freebie!

Guess what came in the mail for meeeeeee??? This is like the first piece of mail actually addressed to me I've gotten since we moved to Austin. Zebra had a giveaway on their Facebook page for a Pen Pals kit ($40 value). The giveaway went pretty fast and from the e-mail they sent, they blew through their supplies before they closed the giveaway. I'm not sure if everyone who signed up got one but Kevin and I did!... And then I took his. So now I have two, which satisfies the hoarder in me. For now.

The pen pal kit is a pretty awesome set. It came with (from left to right):

Cadoozles Mechanical Pencils 0.7 mm lead - 6 different graphic themes
Z-Grip Daisies Ballpoint Pen 1.0 mm - 5 different colors (fuschia, violet, teal, light green, orange)
Z-Grip Animals Ballpoint Pen Medium Point - 3 different designs (black ink)
Sarasa SE Gel Retractable 0.7 mm - 3 different colors (black, blue, red)
Z-HL Highlighter - 6 different colors (blue, yellow, green, pink, orange, yellow)
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It also came with postcards and US stamps! I guess I should actually use it for sending mail to friends...

Thank you Zebra for such an awesome giveaway! I just wish they didn't do it through Facebook... I hate Facebook...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Rhodia Reverse Book Black

This is a review of the Rhodia Reverse Book in black.
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Features:

210 X 210 ( 8 ¼ x 8 ¼ " )
80 sheets
Perforated sheets

Styles: Orange and Black

This is the first Rhodia product I ever bought and tried. Drove all the way to Target in Grand Forks, North Dakota, just to find some RhodiaMy impressions?

Pros:


-160 pages of writing surface (80 sheets) - just enough to stay exciting but not so many that you’re hauling around a giant textbook.
- The rulings on the paper are violet grids, not boring blue like most grids are! I find with really dark grids, it’s frustrating to write on because it’s hard to read writing over the grid. The violet grid lines of the Reverse Book makes it easy to read any writing, even yellow!
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Microperforations & violet grid
- The 80 g paper is velvety soft and smooth. As with all Rhodia notebooks, it’s an absolute pleasure to write on.
- Definitely fountain pen-friendly - no bleeding through pages or ink feathering.
- Brings out the colors of fountain pen ink and gel inks; inks look more intense and bold.
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- Very micro tip friendly - the paper is so smooth that any nib glides on it. Ink flows smoothly with micro tips and there’s no scratching on the paper or catching of the nib, or fibers collecting from scratching the paper.
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- You can write vertically or horizontally! Very left-handed friendly because of this, you can write with the coils at the top and not have to bother with the coils getting in the way!
- Ink drying time is fairly quick for most pens. For wet ink/medium and broad nib fountain pens, you are looking at 5 seconds or so drying time, which is not long for a great writing experience!
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Cons/Other Observations:

- Usually I don’t like coiled notebooks much but the coils on the reverse book are snug and firm. I hate cheap coils. It ruins the page-turning experience.
- Soft cover - doesn’t give much support for writing on but this is a minor concern compared to the quality of the paper and the writing experience.
- Because the cover is soft, it tends to scratch, scuff and mark. It has a slightly glossy finish so it doesn’t really show much and it takes a pretty good gouge to get through the finish.
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Back cover scuffs
Price:

Target - $10.00
Amazon - $10.00
Writers Bloc - Metallic Reverse Book $11.40
Fahrney’s Pens - Metallic Reverse Book $12.00

Overall:

Like all Rhodia products, I love the Reverse Book. I wish the cover was a little more firm so I could write on it without needing another surface but otherwise, I love it! No surprise that this is a great notebook for fountain pen usage, or any other pen choice, of course! I can hardly recommend one Rhodia product over another. I say, just get 'em all!!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Notebook in Lavender

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This is a review of the Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Coloured Notebook in Lavender, measuring 145 x 210 mm.

Like many other journals, the Leuchtturm 1917 medium notebook has a hard cover, an expandable pocket on the back cover, a page marker (in this case, a pretty color matched one), an elastic band and is a handy portable size. This notebook distinguishes itself in a few ways that I like a lot:

- Numbered pages in tiny, adorable writing
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- Dots are AWESOME for keeping your writing straight but still allowing you to look like you can awesomely write straight without obvious lines for guidance. Although you can get dot grids with Rhodia Webbies and dot pads.
- Table of contents at the beginning is handy for organization
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- Eight perforated pages at the back
- Sticky notes for labeling title and spine (mine never had any when I bought it. I guess someone in store took them, or they fell out.)
- Ivory paper has a consistent, smooth color. It’s very classy looking.
- Thread-bound notebook lays flat
- Bound pages don’t fall out after opening and closing many times (like a Moleskine I’ve used)
- In this case, the purple pastel Lavender is a great color. Like a happy grape!...Or a field of lavender.
- Works well with Fine nib fountain pens. Virtually undetectable feathering and no bleed through.
- With 249 pages - more than most comparable sized notebooks, the Leuchtturm 1917 medium is a little thicker and therefore, feels more solid.
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Leuchtturm 1917 medium thickness compared to Quo Vadis Habana

Other Paper Observations:

When comparing papers for fountain pen usage, the standard I compare against is the Quo Vadis Habana, which feature beautiful 85 g Clairefontaine paper. It used to be bright white 90 g and they recently switched to ivory 85 g. Fortunately, 85 g paper is still heavy enough to withstand heavy inking from medium and broad nib fountain pens. When held up to the standard of Clairefontaine paper, I have to say the Leuchtturm 1917 has thin paper and doesn't hold up the same. If you are unfamiliar with the Quo Vadis Habana, please see my review of the 90 g Clairefontaine paper Habana here.

The Leuchtturm 1917 notebook paper is said to be ink-proof at 80 g/sq m, but I found the paper was not medium or broad nib fountain pen friendly. With these nibs, the ink flow is generally quite heavy and the paper also gave way to feathering and bleeding. Furthermore, bleed through also happened with really inky gel pens.
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First page of fountain pen tests - various nib sizes IMG_5436
Back side of first page - ink bleed through
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Page two
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Back of page two
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Page three IMG_5441
Back side of page three
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Gel ink pens
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Gel ink & ballpoint & felt pens
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Gel ink pens
A weird thing I noticed was the dots appear to be waterproof or something. They show through ink and writing. Fortunately, they are very tiny and a nice light silver color so it didn’t bother me.
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Dots showing through ink
Price:

Amazon - $10.12
Lovenotebooks.com - $8.75 - $13.75 (pocket to large)
Journaling Arts - $8.99 - $13.99

Overall:

Aside from being picky about fountain pen paper - I own a lot of medium nibs that are quite inky - I really liked this notebook. I am a HUGE fan of the dots!! Why have I not discovered dots sooner? I love the dots.

If you're looking for a notebook for fountain pen use, I wouldn't recommend this one, unless you only use fine nibs and have a light hand. Or don't mind writing on only one side of the paper. Despite not really being fountain pen-friendly, I'm still a big fan of this notebook!

Available in Pastel Colours: Turquoise, cornflower, pink, lime, and lavender.
Available in Earth Colours: Caramel, tobacco, taupe, white, and black.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Three Kittens = Tyco?

I was actually really worried that there would be problems... We weren't planning on having four cats (not that I think there's anything wrong with it once they're all well taken care of and healthy, etc). We adopted the two bengals (a male and female) and shortly after, our breeder whom we got Jake from (who passed on with FIP) contacted us to let us know she had a little girl she was holding. She wanted to wait until she was spayed and certain she was completely healthy before telling us - she wanted to replace Jake for us. She really has been wonderful to us and her cats are so well socialized and we had loved Jake's personality/temperament so much that we knew one day, we wanted to get another Havana Brown. We just didn't realize it would be so soon! But anyway, since the bengals were coming in as young kittens and the new HB (female) would be a young kitten, it seemed the safest time to introduce them all, in hopes that they would bond.
Sure enough, after less than a day of hissing and eyeballing each other, they have all bonded and absolutely adore one another!! They groom each other, sleep in warm, fuzzy little piles and play all the time. We've had no problems with the litter boxes or marking or anyone being afraid of the other. It's a relief. I was worried we had taken too big a risk. A breeder who socializes their kittens well makes a huge difference in their temperaments! They have an awesome dynamic.
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Proof of Love.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Uni-Ball Signo DX (UM-151) 0.38 mm Gel Ink Pen

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I acquired these beauties from JetPens - where I get most of my pens and other stationery goods. They have a wide range of colors available and nib sizes for pickings!
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The Body

The Uni-ball Signo DX (UM-151) line have a good-sized barrel for those who don’t like thin barrels that often accompany micro tips. It’s very comfortable to hold and didn’t strain my hand after extensive writing.
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I was a little bit disappointed that the grip was so small though. It is barely thicker than the barrel itself and stops short of the metal tip, leaving a little piece of plastic barrel between the two. Which, incidentally, is where my fingertips actually grip when I’m writing. However, it has more grip than other micro tip pens (such as the Pilot Hi-Tec C line) which have no rubberized grip at all.
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Note the plastic space between metal tip and rubber grip
The Nib

Despite being a fairly thin tip at 0.38 mm, comparable to the 0.3mm Pilot Hi-Tec C, I didn’t have a problem with the writing. Ink flow was very smooth and, perhaps because I’m used to writing with fine nibs, I did not feel the nib was scratchy. I have a friend who tried it, and she commented it was a bit scratchy for her - but then she usually writes with 0.7 mm nibs and larger.

The nib is also well built. As usual, I performed my highly advanced scientific test of nib strength by violently tapping the nib on my notebook (in this case, I have stuck with my trusty Quo Vadis Habana). The nib held up well to my abuse and again, I suggest you don’t try my HASTONS (highly advanced scientific test of nib strength) at home. Unless you’re prepared to lose a pen or two. Even with heavy writing, the nib held up well. I did not have any problems with ink blobbing on the ends, which results in ink blobs - often a problem with cheaper pens. Personally, though I love the Pilot Hi-Tec C line, I think the 0.38 mm nib feels sturdier than Pilot’s 0.3 mm, or even the 0.4 mm nib.
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Nib comparison

From left to right: Pentel Slicci 0.7 mm in pink, Pilot Hi-Tec C 0.5 mm in pink, Pilot Hi-Tec C 0.4 mm in pink, Pilot Hi-Tec C 0.3 mm in pink, Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38 mm in blue.

The Ink

It’s hard to drool over thick, bold lines of ink when your nib is only 0.38 mm. But from the color of the ink through the barrel, it’s pretty nice. And the tiny little 0.38 mm lines left by the pen are pretty solid. The blue, blue-black, and bordeaux-black that I tried out are all very sharp but obviously are not brilliant, happy colors. They are quite professional looking, if you are seeking a gel ink pen for work. Or for signing important documents.

The ink dried pretty quickly in my test. I made a scribble and with no time to dry, I smeared my finger across it (another highly advanced scientific test). Clairefontaine paper is very smooth and usually, all inks take a few seconds longer to dry.
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Highly scientific ink drying test

So far, the ink is lasting me quite awhile. The ink cartridge is quite wide and because the nib is so thin, it doesn’t use up ink very quickly. This is great for those of us who want a pen that lasts a long time. Not so great for those who have OCD and obsessively monitor their ink levels as they write with excitement so they can proudly use a pen from start to finish without their ADD taking over (not me).

Eco-Conscious?

Fortunately, these pens are refillable. However, like most refillable gel ink pens, the refills only come in select colors. Unless you’re really into black, blue, blue-black, and red, you’re out of luck. Hopefully Uni-ball will add some more colors to their available refills.

Price

JetPens - $2.25 each
Jetpens Refills - $1.20 each

Overall

I really like the Uni-ball Signo DX line. It’s a great pen for anyone who is curious about the micro tip pen world but are hesitant to try a softer nib in fears of breaking it. The pen is really nice looking and can easily pass for an elegant work pen. Not bad for $2.25, but even better that it's refillable!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Portrait of the Cats

Taken this evening with my suave Canon S95. This was orchestrated and carried out using temptations of a soggy wormy feather-like toy. I am looking into a DSLR to capture these little buggers. I am excited at the prospect of getting some better shots! I won't knock the S95 though. Best low-light point and shoot I've ever met! A great camera for someone who doesn't want to lug around a DSLR but wants a P&S to capture their pets.
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Muttluk BioCuddler Bed

Cats love sleeping in things - bowls, drawers, piles of blanket, baskets of clean laundry, etc. It is therefore no surprise a lot of beds designed for felines is the “cuddle cup” style - with the high sides. I’ve seen many of this type of bed but some are very cheap looking or poor quality. I stumbled across the Muttluks Biocuddler beds just by chance -- I found one in a Pet Valu in Winnipeg and it was so cute that I had to get it. Angel loved it instantly.

Features
  • Featuring new locally sourced Canadian “Bio-foam” technology which incorporates bio-degradable plant based resources
  • 4 lively collections: Earth, Essence, Energy, Era
  • Assorted premium fabrics of chanilles, faux furs, micro suedes, and more
  • Elasticized removable machine washable covers
  • Comfy 1 ¼” thick foam
  • Available in sizes 18", 23", 27" and 36"
The Company

Muttluks is a Canadian company that was founded in 1994, and is now located in Toronto, Ontario. The company tries to be as eco-friendly as possible (a huge plus in my eyes), in terms of manufacturing processes, and using locally sourced materials and production. Furthermore, they are generous, compassionate people. From their website:

“Muttluks has long been known for its altruistic actions and integrity. In 2002, Marianne Bertrand, the founder of Muttluks, was awarded the “Be kind to Animals” Award by the Toronto Humane Society for Muttluks’ donation of over 850 sets of boots to the 300 Search and Rescue dogs at Ground Zero on 9/11. The Muttluks shipment to Ground Zero made history as it was the only item to cross the Canadian/US border on a day the border between the two countries was closed. Today, Muttluks dog boots are worn by working dogs around the world.”

The Muttluks Passion Statement: “We are passionate about our planet. We foster Zenformation and Zenlightenment with Zenergy and Zenthusiasm.”

Muttluks are known for their, well, boots for dogs! But they also make coats, pet beds, mats, and paw balms. See all their products here.

These beds are truly awesome. I love supporting a company that is so eco-aware and helps where they can. The cats absolutely love these beds, in all sizes, and the covers come in four different collections (Earth, Essence, Energy, Era) to match any decor!

Our Experience

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When we were adopting Tyco, we thought it would be nice for him to have his own bed like Angel’s so off we went to pick up another one. We brought it home, still wrapped in its plastic, and left it on the floor. That same day, Angel claimed it as hers. And then it occurred to us, Tyco wouldn’t fit in her itty bitty little bed anyway! We got the next size up...Which she also took. Angel loved these beds. I think they made her feel safe. We could do anything to her if she was in one; carry her around and we even took her to the vet in it!

But eventually, Tyco discovered it and filled the whole bed when he was in it! He loves it.
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Tyco sleeps in very characteristic “ragdoll positions” when he’s in it.
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He also loves the itty bitty beds, and would squish himself into it, and then Cheebs would crawl under him to cuddle. And they’d both be cuddling in the tiny bed, while the bigger bed sat empty.
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Other uses: Angel used her bed as a base for hamster hunting. (Please note: hamsters were never harmed during her hunts).
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These beds are great not only because of the eco-attitude of the company, but because of the removable washable cover. What a relief. I didn’t know anything about the company but I did notice the cover of the foam bed was removable and washable, which convinced me to buy one right then and there! And that actually turned out to be very handy... when Angel ever so kindly ran into her bed and barfed in it (and into my open hands).

We had to part with the first bed we bought Angel because, in a very, very sick state, peed in it and we just couldn’t clean it. It was really sad. The foam apparently can’t be salvaged from cat pee, but most things can’t be saved from that smell.

Cheebs loved to use these beds as a base for his games/butt wiggling/leaping - “hunting”. The kittens love to wrestle as well. And often hunt the bed itself. No idea why. Kitten brains are confusing.
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Cuddles and naps
Price:

Muttluks - ranges from $39,90 - $72.99 for 18” - 36”
Pet Valu - $15.99 for 15”

Overall

Very aesthetically pleasing beds - simple and functional. Difficult to clean the foam if it does get soiled, but because it is separate from the cover, it is much less likely to get that way unlike a lot of beds on the market that are all one piece. The cover is a little challenging to put back on the foam once removed but with a bit of persistence and wiggling, it adjusts well. I'm sure there's an art to it but I have yet to figure it out.

These beds are on the higher end of the price range for cat beds (compared to an example from PetSmart) but they are much nicer, in our humble opinion, and look more expensive. And you're supporting a great company instead of a giant chain.

We would love to try out the Bio-Mats next so I will have to hunt around to find a retailer with these in Austin.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Obviously Have an Illness.

HAHA I saw this great image posted by NoPenIntended's Twitter... I feel the same way. I have, in fact, used purses as pencil cases in the recent past.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Not Excited for Wet Food

I don't know why Tyco has no desire to eat wet food. I'm trying to move him off a strictly dry food diet but he's putting up a fight. He just sniffs the wet food and walks away! I've tried several different kinds but continue to fail! Why doesn't he listen to me when I tell him I know what's good for him??
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"You want me to eat WHAT?"

Chicken and liver, Tyco. It's good for you.

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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