Category Archives: Review

State of the Art: Print Making

One of my art loves is print making, it combines well with bookbinding and allows the artist to make many copies of the art work. What isn’t to love?

A few years back my friend Jane and I spent a weekend setting up and making gelatin plates, and shortly after I read Linda Germain’s post about plasticizing the gelatin for longer lasting plates. Her blog has stayed on my Old Reader and Feedly feeds since then.

Recently she wrote about pressing flowers in a little die cutter and embosser tool. She linked to an old post where she wrote about using it as an etching, litho, and all around mini press.

I immediately took to the inter-tubes to see if I could find one of my own. The brand she suggested is hard to find and very expensive now. Instead I found a similar model by a different brand on clearance. It should arrive this week and I hope to play with it a bit when i finish getting my garden ready.

Most of the brands seem to have a press bed of 6 inches by 12 inches. Perfect for half of a standard American letter sized sheet of paper. This is a good size for my use- I like to work small anyway, and the small portable size means I can stash it just about anywhere.

If you decide to make a purchase of one of these presses for yourself look for a die cutter/embosser with adjustable pressure. Either on the top or the side opposite the crank handle there will be a knob. Most companies will have this emblazoned on their boxes. You can use one that is not adjustable, but you’ll have to adjust pressure with addition blankets and shims, which is annoying.

Anyway, check out Germain’s blog, it’s excellent.

No links to the ‘zon on this one.

If you enjoy my posts, hit the ko-fi button on the sidebar and buy me a coffee, it helps to get stuff in for review and fuels my art habits. 🙂

Review: Muryō Bullet Journal Indexing System

Muryō is a very personalized and interesting bullet journal indexing system. Muryō is the brainchild of Jessie Friedman and reflects his bullet journaling methods. Consider Muryō to be an add on for your bullet journal.

In the Three Month Pack of Muryō you get 3 folded cards. They designed these to fit well in a regular A5 Leuchturm1917. They fit in my regular A5 sized ScribblSheets okay, but the fit wasn’t perfect. We’ll get to why that was important. It was a bit short all around.Muryō bullet journal indexing system
One side of Muryō has some mood and habit tracking icons and lines for creating an index with scribbled on “tabs” for finding the items in your notebook. There’s also a set of lines for a dated to do list. The opposite side has habit tracking, goals, and what Jessie called “Legend.” This is another name for an affirmation.*
I like affirmations; I think I have to because I’m a therapist. They are extremely useful tools for motivation, goal setting and fighting that pesky self doubt, so whatever you need to call it, use it. I prefer to write affirmations more frequently than once per month. This could be a suitable space to write an overarching objective for the month. The goals section was easier to apply, as I have projects that made the goals easy to write. As for the habit tracking, I dutifully filled that in. Though I realized that without dates labeled, it was hard for me to keep track of where I was, if I wasn’t filling them in daily.
For my use, this is where the system falls apart, if you aren’t using it daily, it’s really easy to lose track of where you are on the habits, and some habits that might require a daily tick mark are easier to monitor digitally. My step count is monitored by my fitbit, water intake is easier to monitor through the fitbit app and so on. Other tasks adapted well to this system, but again, if I didn’t pull out that sheet daily and tick them off, I lost my place.
Eventually, I just wrote the dates for the month along the bottom row of the chart.
The flip side with the index lives. This is where things get really useful. I found that because the Muryō sheet didn’t fit my journal as well as an L1917, that lining up the mood and habit tracker was less helpful. So it ended up being wasted space that I’d much rather have used for additional index spaces. I didn’t have a single habit that I wanted to track on its own bumped out space in my journal that wasn’t already being addressed by the habit tracker on the other side of the Muryō. That felt like over kill.
The dated task list area ended up unused because of the way I have my bullet journal set up. My dated tasks end up on their own task list for a specific set of dates.
This brings me to the index system, which is the part of Muryō that I found the most useful. The scribbled index markers on the edge of the page helped me to find areas and ideas in my journal very quickly. All i needed to do was find the correct edge scribble and flip to that area. Fast. Easy.
My over all thoughts about the Muryō is that it’s a nice system if you aren’t already using a system. Putting my habit tracking into the back pages of my journal seems to work better for me than having it on a card that I pull in and out of the notebook. I dislike the idea of gluing it into the journal after I’m done with it and instead stashed it into the back pocket of my journal. I really wanted to keep using the index after the month. It is really tempting to tear the habit tracker off and continue to use the index. I think if you are looking for ideas on how to track habits or a fast indexing system it’s worth testing it out for a month. If you are like me and already using a habit tracking system, or use a digital method** for some of your tasks, this might not be the system for you.
I like Muryō but it feels very personalized and doesn’t quite link up with my Every Thing Every Where journaling style.

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Review: Markings Bulleting Log Notebook

Y’all know I love an inexpensive notebook, and the Markings Bulleting Log Notebook fit’s the bill. This one qualifies because it was in the clearance bin which brought it down to well below $10. It’s usual price is around $15.
Markings Bulleting Log Notebooks with an orange cover

Markings Bulleting Log Notebooks with an orange cover

Imagine my surprise when I was in Walgreens* to get my kombucha** and I saw they were carrying the formerly Staples exclusive brand Markings by C.R. Gibson. If you don’t make a run through the stationery section of the drug store are you even a stationery fan?
Anyway, Walgreens has been carrying the Markings journals for a while now. The prices are on par with other journals in the mass market range- anywhere from $10 to $20, but hovering right around $15 for most of the offerings. The Markings journals have a range of features- from dot grid pages to multiple ribbon place markers, to plastic rulers, to calendars across the top.

My first interaction with Markings journals was that the covers were sturdy black or dark brown vinyl with stitching around the edges. Classy and ready for the boardroom. The covers in Walgreens range from plain vinyl to mine- bright orange with a printed slogan, mine says, “Go get ’em!” Luckily I have a bunch of stickers to slap over that. It still has that classic edge stitching. The cover is sturdy with a hint of flex. It works well enough for writing in hand and opens flat for writing on a desk.

Mine sports 3 differently colored ribbon place markers, that were well heat sealed upon purchase but I hit them with a lighter to get the seal stronger. At the back there is a pocket and an elastic to hold the whole thing shut.

Inside are off white creamy colored pages with pale grey printing. You know how I love grey ruling, well this one isn’t super pale but stands out a bit. Better for low-level light writing than a few of my old journals.

Across the top is a large area to write in a topic label and a date bar. You circle the proper month, then the day. It’s not a bad system and one I’ve seen a few rubber stamps for on etsy. At the very bottom corner of the page is a grey circle, for numbering your pages.

I have to admit that in all the years I saw Markings at Staples I never purchased one. The paper always felt okay, but back when they would have appealed to me, I was firmly entrenched in Moleskine sketchbooks, with their thicker paper for my journaling. The Markings seemed too… parental and stuffy to me. Not this one, with it’s bright orange cover and cheesetastic slogan.

So how is the paper? Good. It’s smooth with a bit of tooth. Pencil is great on this paper and looks good on it’s warm creamy surface. Gel ink sings across the page. Highlighters don’t soak through, even with multiple passes across the same area! And fountain pen? Well, fountain pens perform really well. The page isn’t thin, but you can see darker colors in wide nibs through the page, but it doesn’t interfere with use of the reverse of the page. At 240 pages this is a chonky journal.

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by the Markings Bulleting Log Notebook. If you are running out of pages in your current journal and happen upon Markings by C.R. Gibson for a good price, it’s worth the cash, this is a great Every Thing Every Where Journal.

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Review: Updates to NovelPad

NovelPad recently made some big updates which addressed a few of the things I wanted to see from them. I’ve cut and pasted this directly from their email, as I couldn’t find a good link to it online.
The last time I sent one of these was over two months ago, but for good reason. On Monday, we released the biggest update to NovelPad ever:
  • ProWritingAid Grammar and Spellcheck is now included with your NovelPad subscription (and automatically enabled)
  • Offline Mode
  • Import from Word, ODT, or a Markdown file
  • Typewriter Mode
  • Improved Copy – Paste from Google Docs, Word, and elsewhere
  • Customizable Default Text Justification
  • Customizable Page Width
  • Enhanced Dark Mode updates (now you won’t have as many blindingly white buttons in Dark Mode)
But that’s old news at this point because we’re getting back into our weekly update schedule, and to kick it off here’s what got better in NovelPad this week:

1. Collapsable Chapter Headers

Now you can increase your writing zen when drafting in the Manuscript View by collapsing chapters that you’re not focused on:

2. Manuscript View Remembers Scroll Position

Now every time you navigate within NovelPad or elsewhere, when you return to the Manuscript View, you’ll pick up right where you left off!

3. Word Import Fixes

A couple of minor fixes:
  1. Import from Word no longer underlines italicized text.
  2. Import from Word now properly underlines underlined text.
  3. Import from Word no longer adds a scene separator when any consistently formatted piece of text contains only symbols. (It now requires that the entire paragraph be only symbols, and contain the same formatting throughout.)
  4. Import from Word now sets the default novel width to 6.5in.

4. Total Word Count

This one definitely isn’t ground-breaking, but it was certainly overdue! Now you can see the total word count of your novel on the Analytics Page:

5. Selected Word Counts

When selecting text, the formatting dialog will now show you the Scene word count and the Selected word count:

6. Text Justification

Speaking of the formatting dialog, now we also allow for all four standard text justification methods: Left, Center, Right, and Justified (unsupported in Firefox):

7. Typewriter Mode Scroll Fix

Fixed a bug where replacing text with ProWritingAid in Typewriter Mode would occasionally cause the Manuscript View to scroll to an incorrect position.

8. Unindented First Paragraph

We’ve added a setting that allows you to disable indentation of the first paragraph in each scene. This should make the novel look a bit more “standard” while writing:

Maker: Zine Friends Edition

I’m sitting here toasty warm after a weekend long warm snap wherein I began building raised beds that will take up the entire back half of my city sized backyard. The rough part of this is that I am now in allergy hell. Leaking nose, watery eyes, and sinuses so stuffed I’m surprised my nose can leak. I finally had a chance to sit  down with a few zine friends that I’ve been meaning to dig into.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m pretty lucky to have my zine friends, not only do they make some killer content online but their creativity is stellar.

404 (Dunno where my picture for this went) Is Andy’s little ditty to error codes and poetry and UX writing. KIller. I can’t wait to get the next issue.

Pencil of the Week– This last issue was awesome. The folded library card like envelope was awesome, not to mention the collab with Ernest Theodore. Included in the package is a color post card by Ali Serra aka Ernest Theodore. I love it when zinesters go artsy, and this was great.

Just when I thought Pencil Revolution couldn’t  get cooler, Johnny moved up to a half sized zine* and moved production to once a month. This means we get a thicker, longer themed issues. And the last 3 in this series are all great. I particularly enjoy this last issue that explores walking with writing. I’ve got to agree with Johnny that nothing gets those grey cells pumping out journal pages better than a good walk.

Johnny also does a series of zines about mental health issues. They are really wonderful snapshots of life with mental health issues.

Plumbago is coming back and they are looking for contributors.

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Review: Apsara Matte Magic 2.0 Pencil

The Apsara Matte Magic 2.0 pencil is pure fun. It hits all the buttons for me for an enjoyable pencil experience.  First, the pencil is painted black. Black pencils are my jam and I always want more of them. The imprint is silver foil on black- classic and awesome. The end dips are colorful and have meaning to the inside of the pencil.

Inside the wood of the pencil, it sharpens like bass wood, is dyed a variety of colors. Some pencils have one color of wood inside, others have two colors. The end dips correlate to the colors inside! The mechanical coordination this must’ve taken in a factory pumping out millions of pencils is kind of mind blowing.

The core is labeled as extra dark, which in Apsara terms means nicely dark with a firm core. The extra dark core is one of my favorites for writing for long periods of time. It glides smoothly over a page and leaves a deep dark line. Killer.

I sharpened mine up in my hacked Apsara Long Point housed in a RandomThinks 3D printed holder (a killer tool check out his insta to see if you can get one) and it sharpens up to a lovely point.

The 10 pencils arrive bundled with a long point sharpener ripe for hacking and a little plastic eraser. I’ve immediately started to use the tiny eraser. It’s perfect for pocket carry and mimics the pencils- the inside of mine is yellow and the outside is black. Cool.

I picked these up on the ‘zon for $6.99. At 58 cents a pencil this doesn’t reach into most folx premium range, and it’s about 20 cents cheaper than last week’s review. These are nice pencils that have a core that works really well for all my writing needs, especially long form writing. They glide on all my paper and I love them. They are fun and bring me joy.

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Maker: The Maker in Me Appreciates the Maker in You

I have to admit that other than collating, stapling, folding, and cutting aka MAKING Useful Journaling 1.3 I haven’t done as much making lately. I have been engaged in starting seeds and getting my hands into small amounts of potting soil.

But I appreciate other makers. As I put together my posts for the Doms Fusion I used the Apsara Long Point Sharpener holder that RandomThinks (Keith) makes and was struck by the utter simplicity and utility of the device. He also makes more complicated 3d printed designs like a diner mug ink vial holder.

The pencil sharpener case holds a tone of shavings too. I sharpened down almost an entire Pen + Gear pencil and probably could have sharpened more. The snug fit means that shavings and graphite dust don’t leak out, except from the pencil entry point. A plug carved from an eraser or cork would stop any graphite leak.

I’ll write more about my diner mug ink vial holder soon. Overall I love the stuff he makes and you should too.

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Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

There is a lot to like about the Doms Fusion pencil. It’s a rounded triangular pencil with black paint and metallic accents. You all know I’m a sucker for black pencils. This pencil is matte black with a rubberized grippy finish. It feels really great in my hand. I’ve spent a lot of time with it shoved over my ear and under my hat. It stays put.

The sides of the pencil feature metallic red, blue, green and silver printing. The point end of the pencil has either red, blue or green stars printed on each side. They aren’t especially tactile but they look great. Further up the imprint and bar code are printed in silver. The end dip on this pencil looks like a cap and it’s very smooth and well done. The pencils have a red, blue or green around their dip. The dip is super shiny.

The designation for this pencil is X-TRA SUPER DARK PENCIL. I’m hear for it. I love an extra tag line, this one is on par with “Manufactured by elaborate process.” I like it.

Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

Review: Doms Fusion Pencil

All of the exterior stuff is printed onto a pencil body that smells like it it made of bass wood. Which is wrapped around the Doms dark smooth core. I really like the Doms X-TRA super dark cores. I find that while they are very dark and smooth they hold a point for writing reasonably well, they are a dream on smooth papers that don’t have a ton of tooth.

It sharpened well too. I popped mine into a hacked Apsara Long Point and the point is excellent. I’ve written a few pages in my current bullet journal with this pencil and it’s great. I’ve wrote the writing sample in a Baronfig Confidant.

This pencil arrived bundled with a short point sharpener and eraser combo plus a 15cm ruler. The Sharpener it arrived with is a short point and not very useful, though the eraser is pretty good. The ruler is made of clear plastic and does it’s job.

I paid $9.50 for these via Amazon and at roughly 80 cents per piece (eraser sharpener combo and ruler included) feels a bit spendy. The Doms Zoom has the same core and can be found in triangular format, though with metallic pastel paint. The Zoom can be purchased for $5 or so for a 10 pack. I really like the Fusion but I’d wait until it comes down in price to buy another pack.

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NovelPad Opening Screen

Review: NovelPad Cloud-Based Writing Part 2

For part 2 of this review I want to look at some of the parts of NovelPad that I don’t use as much. NovelPad is a cloud-based writing app, that lets you draft your novel using any browser.

Plot is a tool to assist you in plotting out your novel. Here you can add scenes and chapters to the main plot or side plots. You can search through the novel and organize your search based off color coding, scenes and chapters. It’s an interesting tool, and one I’ve yet to use to it’s full potential as it seems to become of full use in the later finishing and first edit stages of the novel.

Characters keeps track of all your characters and where you mention them in the novel. I have found this far more useful than I ever expected. To use it you enter in a character name and all their nicknames. NovelPad then logs each chapter and scene where that name is used in a column for you. This is great if you want to check and make sure that you have written about a particular character in a particular scene, it’s easy and fast to check it. Open the character page, scroll to that character, and check for that scene and click.

Locations is similar to the character page. You can map out all the locations in a novel in advance and NovelPad will find all instances of that location in the novel. I found this useful in my Nano novel as I plugged in each location I realized I changed the name of a bar mid novel and was able to quickly go back and change it to the new name, which was so much better. In the new novel I’ve been outlining it has helped me thing about settings and locations in advance, which has helped my writing of scenes in those locations. Knowing that a desk faces the door, and that there are two chairs or a bench in front of it is immensely helpful at writing scenes fast and consistently.

Goals is the page I use far more often than the others in this section of the review. It let’s me set word count and time goals. Then based on my actual numbers of works per day it gives me a finish date, and nifty little charts to show progress, or stagnation. This combined with reminder notes, really helps keep me on track.goals

Insights allows you to look at all the parts of your novel in comparison to all the other parts. That’s not very clear but it’s the best way I have to describe that page. I have found it helpful to find the various sections I’ve color coded for more writing and work. It’s useful and I think an interesting way to quickly explore the piece while comparing it within itself.

These tools are largely what I would use when I’m doing my first round of edits rather than as I write. For my use I need the chapter, place, character tab, and the goals tab while I’m drafting. I can plan out most of my novel using these tabs. For my use, everything else is for the first round of edits.

Overall these tools combine to make NovelPad a really powerful tool for writing and editing your novel. The big downside that I see here is that there is no ability to have an editor edit within the app itself. I can’t share my NovelPad with an editor or beta reader. I’d have to download in whatever format I use, and send it out. That means I’d have to cut and paste any edit into the app if I want to keep using it. So for now NovelPad is an excellent drafting tool, but as the team adds in more usability, NovelPad could become a viable contender when writers are debating what tool to use for writing and editing. Frankly I really like NovelPad.