New Tricks: Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Notebooks

The pen, pencil, and paper world seems to be awash in pocket notebooks. Very nice pocket notebooks made by very nice people and interesting companies. Cool notebooks. Coveted notebooks. You know the players—Field Notes, Doane Paper, Story, Baron Fig, Word notebooks—all with their own personal style. I’m a daily user of Field Notes and dabbler in some of the other ones. I enjoy a pocket notebook because it doesn’t seem as precious as larger journals. I can hit the page running without that stupid worry of my words and ideas being unworthy. I can fill them up and file them away. I can pull them out later to find a scribbled down quote, the details of a doctor’s appointment, some notes from a meeting at work, the particulars of a day’s to-do list. They get filled up and worn out. They’re both insignificant and significant at the same time.

So many notebooks. So many players. You might think that there’s not any room for anything new. You might think that, but you’d be mistaken.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks

Chris and Mark Rothe, of Write Notepads & Co., recently released their own version of the pocket notebook. Being a fan of both Mark and Chris, and their aesthetic, I knew I had to pick up a couple of boxes. And what cool boxes they are. Rather than being wrapped in plastic like most other brands, the Write Notepad & Co. pocket notebooks come, three to a pack, in the box pictured above. With the silver foil stamping, it’s got that Write Notepads vibe—vintage, but still very fresh.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks

The old-school look continues on the notebooks themselves. Simple. Unadorned. In classic colors. They’re refreshing in their lack of gimmicks. The covers are letter pressed with “Property Of” and a line for your name, paying homage to the notebooks of my early school days. Nostalgic. But still cool.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks

Rather than being assembled with staples, the Write Notepads notebooks are bound with glue. I know what you’re thinking. The glue will give way and the pages will fall out. But again, you’d be mistaken. If you follow Write Notepads & Co. on Instagram (@writepads), you may have seen a video post where Chris is bending the heck out of the red pocket notebook, bending it back and forth in sort of an “S” formation that is undoubtedly more extreme than any sort of daily wear and tear. The spine shows some wear, but when he opens the notebook, the pages are perfectly secure. I haven’t put my notebooks to that kind of stress test, but I have cracked one wide open, and have found the same—the pages remain intact. So the absence of staples is not a cause for concern.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks

Each boxed set of the 3-3/4″ x 5-1/2″ notebooks comes with one blank, one lined, and one graph version.  I’m a bigger fan of graph paper than I am the other two, but can certainly find uses for all three versions. At some point, though, it might be nice to be able to buy a set with just one style of paper. I’d go all in on the graph version, for sure. The notebook covers are made from 100-pound stock, while the inner pages are made from 70-pound paper stock—really great stuff.  Each notebook contains 64 pages, rather than the typical 48.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks writing sample

I used a variety of inks (gel, fountain pen, ballpoint), along with one pencil, to test out the performance of the paper, and came away very impressed. My Visconti Opera Elements is definitely a wet medium, and I was hard pressed to see any feathering with that pen and the SBREBrown ink it’s filled with. Even up close, the lines look quite clear and crisp.

Close-up writing test

A look at the other side shows how well this paper handles my ink test samples. There’s very little show-through, and no bleed-through.

Back side of ink test page

100% American Made in Baltimore, MD, these pocket notebooks can handle your day and your ink, but they also perform community service. Or rather, YOU perform community service when you buy them. For each pack purchased, the guys at Write Notepads donate a student notebook to one of Baltimore’s inner city schools. Each pack come with a 5-digit code that allows you, the purchaser, to log onto the Write Notepads & Co. site to see which specific school your purchase has benefited. I think this is the coolest thing ever, and says a lot about this company and the guys behind it.

School Code

When I entered my code, I see that Write Notepads will donate a student notebook to Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary thanks to my purchase and the guys’ generosity. Chris remarked, during my 2014 visit to their company, that he wasn’t sure what to expect from the students in this age of digital everything. Would a notebook get a reaction from a school child? Chris reports that, yes, the students get visibly excited when they receive their own notebooks and pencils. These seemingly simple gifts are very much appreciated and well-used.

Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks

The back of the package details the main features of the notebooks:

  • 3 pocket notebooks
  • 1-Plain, 1-Lined, 1-Graph
  • 64 pages
  • 70-pound white offset
  • 3-3/4 inches by 5-3/4 inches
  • 100% American Made

You’ll find the word “Write” on the packaging in several places, obviously a reference to the full company name, but also an important reminder that notebooks are meant to be written in. Not collected. Not stashed away for “someday.” “Write,” the box says. Mark them up. Fill them up. Make them yours.

WriteNotepads Pocket Notebooks

With their superb paper, a glued binding, and stylish packaging, this Write Notepads & Co. offering brings a number of new tricks to the world of pocket notebooks. But maybe the best trick is the one that makes it possible for Baltimore city school students to have their own notebooks.

Who knows where that simple gift may lead.

The notebooks reviewed here were purchased with my own funds. I was not asked for a review, nor was I compensated in any way. Available for $9.99 per 3-pack, these are pocket notebooks that you can feel good about buying and using. And using. And using.

Perfect: SBRE Brown Ink

In college, I was bumped from a regular English class to one more focused on writing. A small group of us met a couple times a week to write, read, share, and discuss. I have little memory of what I wrote, but I remember this class as a bright spot in a schedule packed with challenging science and math courses that tested the limits of my 19 year old brain. I held my breath in those classes- petrified of getting called on to answer a question on material that was in grave danger of slipping right out of my head and onto the floor. In this writing class, I could exhale, play with words, and feel 65% less nervous.

The other thing I remember about this class was a girl named Victoria. While I had chipmunk cheeks and looked like I was fresh out of junior high, Victoria had dark eyes and perfect hair. She gave off a Kate Middleton kind of vibe- confident in the way that someone who’s stunningly good looking is confident. Perfect, while the only thing I’d perfected was my awkwardness.

I found her fascinating. My poetry was better than hers, but still.

But it wasn’t just her looks and confidence that fascinated me- it was the fact that she always wrote with brown ink. With a fountain pen and brown ink! I scribbled in notebooks with a lousy ballpoint from Woolworth’s, laying down erratic handwriting that tilted to the right for awhile then suddenly leaned back to the left. My script was as random as my outfits, while Victoria’s was as perfect as hers.

Maybe that class and that girl is why I tend to fall hard for brown ink. I associate it with something that seemed impossibly exotic to little ol’ ordinary me. Victoria and I existed in different orbits, as did our pens and inks. God, I wanted that brown ink. AND that handwriting.

Which brings me to this brown ink- SBRE Brown’s brown ink. I came dangerously close to missing out on this, as I stupidly dragged my feet, casually thinking that it’d be around forever. The day that I finally got around to placing my order was also the day that it went out of stock for good. That was a little too close for comfort.

Because- ohmigod- do I love this ink. Yes, I seem pre-disposed to fall for brown inks, but this one pushes all of my brown ink buttons like no other. It’s caramelly and rich, with great shading and flow- truly delicious in this Visconti Opera Elements Air, with its medium nib, on Tomoe River paper. I’m plowing through it by the converterful, and fretting about my supply like Scrooge worried over his gold coins.

This is the brown ink I’ve been looking for my whole life. Well…since 1978, anyway. My looks are still “eh,” and I still exhibit more than the recommended daily allowance of awkwardness, but who cares. My handwriting eventually came around and I have my brown ink. I have THE PERFECT brown ink.

Though his ink is no longer available, you can always keep tabs on what Stephen is up to at

The Verdict: TWSBI ECO with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor

TWSBI ECO with Emerald of Chivor ink

The pre-release photos of J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor ink were so dramatic that I was drooling over the stuff well before it was available for purchase. The reviewers often used folded nibs which brought out the shine and sheen in very dramatic fashion. I don’t own a folded nib so I knew that my results would be more subdued, but I still pounced on the ink as soon as it was available. I picked up two bottles as fast as my “BUY NOW” finger could hit “Enter.”


There was a lot of chatter about the suspended gold particles in the ink, and speculation as to whether or not the particles could/would clog a pen’s feed. So I after I ordered the ink I spent some time thinking about the pen that I’d use it in. I decided to steer away from pens that were pricey or very dear to me, and knew I’d want to go with something replaceable, should there be catastrophic cloggage. One of my many Lamy Safaris would’ve been a perfectly fine candidate, as they aren’t costly, and nibs, or even whole pens, are easily replaceable without breaking the bank.


But instead of going the Lamy route, I caved and purchased a couple of TWSBI ECOs— a white one with a bold nib and a black one with a medium nib. I initially decided to forgo the ECO as I wasn’t sure I liked the look, and was content with my 540s, 580s, Vac 700, Micarta, and Minis. That seemed like plenty o’ TWSBIs for one person. But then I got it in my head that an ECO paired with the Emerald of Chivor ink would be the perfect match, and my “no more TWSBIs” resolution evaporated, as many of my pen-themed resolutions seem to do.


So…was that a good move?

TWSBI ECO filled with Emerald of Chivor ink

Hell Heck, yeah!


The TWSBI ECO is a very reasonably priced ($28.99) piston-filler fountain pen available with EF, F, M, B, or 1.1 Stub mm nibs. I find the 1.1 mm to be a little too wide for my handwriting, but wanted a good amount of ink on the page so I opted for both the bold and medium versions. At the time of this review, I’ve only inked the pen with the bold nib and am very happy with the nib’s smoothness and wetness. My small handwriting is still legible and some of the dramatic characteristics of the Emerald of Chivor ink pop on the page, though maybe not as much as would be seen with a wider stub. It’s a good compromise for me—a good amount of ink, some shine, some sheen, and legible writing.


The clear barrel allows for an unobstructed view of the gold sparkles in the ink. I may be easily fascinated, but I have to admit that this sight continues to dazzle me. A quick shake of the pen and the gold particles are resuspended so that they flow onto the page.

On Rhodia paper

On Rhodia paper, I see a good amount of sparkle, but not much of the red sheen. Still, the color is killer and there’s enough pizazz here to make letter writing or journaling, or even to-do lists, fun.

On Tomoe River paper

On Tomoe River paper is where this ink really shines and sheens. It’s hard to capture with my so-so camera and lighting, but there’s a lot going on on this page—red and gold and teal and blue. It’s pretty marvelous.

Tomoe River paper

I have two bottles and expect that this pen will be continuously inked until I run out. I can’t speak to how hard or easy it is to clean a pen inked with Emerald of Chivor as I haven’t done that yet, and it may be awhile before I do so.


Maybe this Emerald of Chivor seemed too good to be true, or over-hyped, but I’m in love with it. It mesmerizes me in the pen and on the page. Especially as the days turn darker and grayer, the surprising pops of color and shine in the words I write make me swoon in an inky kind of way. And for me, the TWSBI ECO is the perfect vehicle—sturdy, transparent, easy to fill (and probably to clean), with an easy-to-swallow price tag—to lay down a smooth rich line.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Goodbye Serious: Uni-ball Signo DX Hello Kitty Gel Pens

Hello Kitty Uniball Signo DXs

Life has been a little too serious for a little too long. Though I try my best to have some fun and to look for the bright spots in every day (and really, there are A LOT), sometimes I let myself get sucked into a negative mood vortex. When that happens, it can be hard to claw my way out. Episodes of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” help. So do pens. Especially Hello Kitty pens.

Uni-ball Signo DXs

These inexpensive ($3.00 a pop) Uni-ball Signo DX Hello Kitty gel pens have a lot going for them, which makes them the perfect antidote for a case of the serious.

Uni-ball Signo DX Hello Kitty gel pens

Considerably less finicky than the Pilot Hi-Tec-C, the cone-shaped 0.38 mm tip delivers a consistently crisp, precise, and reliable line. I’ve never had to do a bunch of scribbling to get the ink flowing as I so often have to do with the needle-tip Hi-Tec-Cs. Even if I haven’t used a particular Uni-Ball Signo DX for awhile, there’s never an issue getting it to lay down ink on paper. Uncap it. Use it. Simple.

Uni-ball Signo DX Hello Kitty gel pens

The gel ink never bleeds or feathers, and feels impressively smooth, even in this micro tip size. I think it’s fantastic. Available in seven colors (I’m not seeing black listed anymore…hmmm), and only in the 0.38 mm tip size, these are great pens to use in your planner or pocket notebook. I carry mine tucked into a Nock Co. Fodderstack and routinely jot down notes and grocery lists on my DotDash 3×5 Notecards. They’re also refillable, with Uni-ball UMR-1 refills, so there’s no need to throw away the pen body when the ink runs out.

Hello Kitty gel pens

The textured grip makes for a comfortable and slip-free writing experience. The cap snaps onto both ends of the pen with a reassuring CLICK. Neither your fingers, nor the cap, are going anywhere.

PLUS- Hello Kitty graphics! I assure you, I’m no die-hard Hello Kitty fan, and don’t own any other Hello Kitty products, but these pens are seriously cute. Adorned with Hello Kitty bows in the same color as the ink, and tiny kitty faces, these particular Uni-ball Signo DXs are the ones I reach for most often. They’re kind of adorable, right?

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty gel pens

I own a lot of pens—a lot of pricier and more complicated pens. But sometimes you just want…or need…a simple, reliable, and CUTE pen. Something you can quickly uncap and use. Something that will always write, and do so smoothly and with precision. Something that makes you smile.

Uni-ball Signo DX Hello Kitty gel pens

Hello Kitty. Goodbye serious.

All pens and products mentioned here were purchased with my own funds, and there are no affiliate links in this review. 


Tessellations Coloring Book

So…life keeps happening. My mom was recently diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and will need surgery in the (hopefully) near future. My sister and I are taking turns getting our parents groceries, driving them to doctor’s appointments and tests, and trying to keep the mood light. Tricky stuff.

We’re all feeling the stress and strain of the unknown. We’re all stretched a little too thin. We all need a little relief.

This coloring book, Tessellations by Creative Haven, picked up on sale at Barnes & Noble, is the perfect thing for a little mental respite. It’s full of geometric drawings that are detailed enough to be fun, but not SO detailed that coloring becomes stressful. Settling down with a page and my colored pencils keeps my mental gears from grinding on unpleasant thoughts. The toughest decision is which shade of blue to use. The other day, coloring even took my headache away.

The page above is a work in progress.

Just like life.

The Rainbow Titanium Nitride Fisher Space Pen Bullet Ballpoint. Wow, that’s a mouthful!

Rainbow Nitride Titanium Fisher Space Pen

I recently wrote a review of this magically colored Fisher Space Pen for The Pen Company.

Pocket pens

It certainly stands out in a crowd of pocket pens.

The Rainbow Fisher Space Pen

I’m a fan. I mean, look at this thing! You can read my review HERE.

Rainbow Fisher Space Pen

Thanks to The Pen Company for providing the pen, and for the chance to write for them.

(I was not monetarily compensated, and there are no affiliate links in this post.)

KABOOM! The Montegrappa DC Comics™ Penguin Fountain Pen

Sincere thanks to Kenro Industries for loaning me the DC Comics™ pen reviewed here. The pen will be returned to them while I’ll be keeping the open bottle of ink as well as a pad of Montegrappa paper. I was not monetarily compensated, and there are no affiliate links. I’ve had a blast using Montegrappa’s DC Comics™ Penguin fountain pen and am happy to share my thoughts and experiences with you.

Montegrappa DC Comics Penguin Pen

The year is 1966. I’m seven years old and sitting in our basement playroom on a perfectly sunny day. Despite parental pleading (i.e., YELLING) to go outside and play, I sit glued to the TV, worried, yet again, about the fate of my beloved Batman.  He’s in another cliff-hanger situation, knocked unconscious by a cloud of poison emitted from the tip of the Penguin’s umbrella. I fear that he may never wake up. (I’m a second-grader, and don’t yet understand the manipulative ways of TV.) So I fret, until the next episode, where Batman springs back to life, once again ready to defend Gotham City.

Ah, memories.

Montegrappa Penguin Fountain Pen

Montegrappa brings back all of those childhood memories with its DC Comics™ Penguin Fountain Pen. One of the series of four villains (Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Cat Woman) and Heroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern), the Penguin fountain pen is full of evocative details. The pen is solid brass and sports a thick, pin-striped lacquer finish that perfectly captures the Penguin’s iconic trousers.

Umbrella logo

The Penguin’s umbrella served him well as he waged war on Batman and Gotham City. In addition to spewing out knockout gas, the umbrella was used as a parachute, and to inflict pain with its razor sharp tip. You’ll find the Penguin’s notorious accessory on the end of the pen’s cap, and twice on the pen’s flat, broad clip—once in the right hand of our villain and again at the bottom of the clip.

Clip on the Penguin Fountain Pen

The substantial, spring-loaded clip matches the heft of the pen, and features a relief of a celebratory Penguin. Capped, the Penguin pen weighs in at a beefy 57 grams. Even uncapped, this is a weighty pen (31 g), and to be honest, I thought the heaviness would put me off. Surprisingly, though, I found that the heftiness of the pen was actually an advantage as I barely had to press the nib to paper when writing. The weight of the pen did the work for me. Balance is very good so I experienced no hand fatigue while writing with the pen (and I’m no weight-lifter!). Posting the snap cap (26 g), on the other hand, makes the pen far too top heavy, so using the pen unposted really is a must.

The Penguin fountain pen

Lest you think that this is a gimmicky pen without writing chops, think again. While all of the villainous details make this a fun pen, it really is a serious writer. I filled the included converter with Montegrappa Blue and the pen wrote immediately and very smoothly. I’ve experienced nothing but great performance from the steel, medium nib. No hard starts, no skipping, no stutters. (It should be noted that the pen is only available with a medium nib. Not a problem for me as “medium” is my sweet-spot of late, but this limitation may not suit everyone’s taste.)

The Penguin's steel, medium nib

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I feel like the well-tuned nib coupled with the pen’s weight make my handwriting better than usual. I really was surprised at how comfortable and effortless this pen feels in hand.

The Penguin fountain pen

This is the first Montegrappa pen I’ve used and it’s been a great experience. While I thought this Penguin pen would be fun but not for me, I quickly changed my mind when the nib hit the page. This is a heavyweight writer that can handle serious work with a light-hearted touch.

Penguin fountain pen

Life can be rough, but after a few strokes of the pen—KABOOM!—my stress disappeared for awhile. Montegrappa’s DC Comics™ Penguin fountain pen reminds me of those simpler childhood days, where my only worry was Batman’s ability to save himself from the poisonous attacks of the Penguin.

That’s a feat more impressive than any of the Penguin’s diabolical umbrella tricks.

You can explore the full line of Montegrappa’s DC Comics™ fountain pens, ballpoints, and rollerballs at Fountain Pen Hospital.