Planner and paper tasting kick-off for 2021

Midori MD planner and NTU notebook

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I talked about this in passing in my analogue daily journal post, but I added a few more things to round out the system, after using the other journal/planner combo for a few months.

Planner: Midori MD Notebook Light, A5, grid ruling

Midori MD Notebook light (grid) serves as the planner for the year, with monthly view spreads. I've put it inside an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket. There's 1 spread for the year, then 13 spreads for each month (Jan-Dec 2021 + Jan 2022). I drew a different little plant icon on the corner of every monthly spread.

Photo collage of 2 notebooks on a grey desk. The left-hand notebook is a Midori MD Light Note book in A5 size with grid ruling. It is slipped into an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket that has an integrated zipper pocket. The jacket is light tealed in colour, with dark brown cartoon animals printed on the front. Collage mainly shows the hand-drawn yearly and monthly calendar interiors of the Midori MD notebook, which I'm using as a planner. The right-hand notebook is a brown kraft covered one from NTU.

I added a few pages for projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

Photo collage showing the interior spreads of the Midori MD Notebook planner with grid ruling Spreads shown include- projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

I'm doing fountain pen "paper tasting" for 2021, meaning I'm going to journal in separate and different lower-page count notebooks, every 2 months or so. The first one to go is...

Journal: NTU Press Bookstore 臺大出版中心校史館書店 notebook, A5, no ruling

The National Taiwanese University Press Bookstore (Pinkoi storefront) has branded stationery, including fountain pens, notebooks, and more. This also includes the Taiwanese-designed Take a Note planner that uses Tomoe River 68gsm paper that I've only seen places like Shigure Inks stock in North America. The planner design won a Good Design award in 2017.

I got some of their basic sewn brown kraft notebooks that were marketed as being suitable for fountain pens.

Photo of 2 brown kraft paper notebooks with NTU (National Taiwan University) branding on the front cover. Covers are plain and minimal, other than the University's name printed in small font on the covers.

Pages are blank/unruled, 米道林(楓林紙) 100gsm paper, 64 pages total. The paper isn't white, more like a cream stock (comparable to the colour of midori MD, perhaps a tad lighter).

Photo collage of fountain pen ink tests on an interior page of the NTU cover. The left-image shows consecutive rows of handwriting, done in different coloured inks. The right-image shows the back-side of the page that was written to, to show that there is minmal ink bleedthrough (only when there was flex nib used, or certain inks used)

Most of my inks did fine on the paper. The ones that feathered and bled were Sailor Kobe Kounan Maroon, Platinum Carbon Black, and J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor. FPR Royal Flush Blue was also a bit more prone to feathering, but not in a significant way (to me).

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting, using flex nib/applying pressure on the nib.

Pushing down on the nib with "flex" also caused the ink to selectively feather and bleed through on some other inks.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Compared to Midori MD and Tomoe River, shading on this paper feels slightly flatter for some inks. There is practically no pink sheen in FPR Royal Flush Blue here, and Lamy Turmaline shows very minor pink/purple sheen. Overall I find that inks appear brighter/lighter in appearance, much like they would on regular printer paper.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Overall, I think it's a solid performer! Dry time seems good too, at least good enough that I don't even think about it.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

I bought some cute illustrated and perforated calendar sheets that I can paste into my journal. I might try to experiment with a bit more collage for this journal. Sometimes when the paper is expensive and optimized for FP ink I feel like I have to maximize all surface area for the ink, and not paste anything into it.

Photo collage of a dark brown leather traveler's style notebook in A5 size, which serves to hold the 2 notebooks mentioned in this post, together. The photo also shows a few fountain pens, a roll of dot-washi-tape stickers, and perforated date rectangles.

I also have this daily chinese calendar for FUN. I'm into this aesthetic sometimes; I was close to getting a chinese almanac, Tung Shing/通勝 for the year too. I wouldn't say that I'm particular about fengshui, astrology, or auspicious dates, but I wish I knew how to read the bottom part.

Photo of a traditional looking one-page-a-day chinese calendar, bound at the top with screws.

Today's music post: A compilation of Jane Zhang's (张靓颖) cover/rearrangement performances from the TV show Sound of my Dream (梦想的声音).

Oliver Exam fountain pen

Free fountain pen that works very well!

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A while back I got an Oliver Exam fountain pen (pistol ink mechanism) for free with my Rangapens order. After letting it air out for a few months, it's still a bit smelly (it doesn't sit with my other pens because of its smelliness), but tolerable, so I loaded it up with J. Herbin's Emeraude De Chivor sample that I had lying around.

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Wasn't sure what to expect (will it clog?! will this pen even write??), but it turns out that this is a great writer! It wrote wet right out of the gate; it's an ink guzzler! The nib (steel) feels softer than most steel nibs that I've used. Pretty shocking for a freebie pen! I think the nib says "Oliver 100 Steel B-CO", but I have no idea what that means. Might just be an Indian manufactured nib.

I saw these really cute chipmunk socks and bib and toy set by POMPKINS (ポプキンズ) and had to draw it as a memory...since I will not be able to wear these things. I've never been able to capture sheen and sparkle properly on photo (this is Midori MD cream paper) but it's way more prominent in real life.

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After using it for a while, I have noticed that the ink is drying and evaporating out (?) while just sitting on my desk, capped. The ink in the piston-well gets lower and lower everyday even though it isn't being used everyday. Too bad since I really do like the nib! Still a viable pen for a some shorter term-intense glitter writing session, but it doesn't seem like it will be reliable to hold ink in the long run. Too bad since I enjoy the nib and would've loved to have it in my regular rotation!

Today's music post: Care by beabadoobee from the Fake It Flowers album. I get 90s girl indie pop rock vibes from her music. I have limited music knowledge, but kind of like Natalie Imbruglia, Sheryl Crow in back in the 90s/early 2000s, but her voice sounds sweeter and youthful!

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After my previous fail at exposed spine binding a notebook I decided to try again.

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I watched SeaLemon's tutorial on kettlestitch binding more closely this time. I still messed up the tautness of some of the thread/stitches, but it's OK for now. I regretted not waxing my thread because it was knot-central.

The paper was given to me by a friend, salvaged from a mostly unused pack. Since it was for calligraphy I expected it to hold up pretty well to fountain pen, but I found it to feather and bleed a bit. Might not work as well for double-sided work.

Also tore up some old extra risograph comic pages from Martial Spirit and gluestick-ed them onto the extra HWA comic covers for the cover, haha...

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What will this notebook be used for? I have no idea...

Today's music post: BabopbyeYa by Janelle Monáe. The song gives me Bond-esque vibes and showcases her vocal range wonderfully.

Snail mail and letterwriting

Ways to get back into slowed down communication.

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All the stationery love and pandemic downtimes has led me to turn back to letter and postcard writing. Here's a few that I've been part of!

Prisoner Correspondence Project

The Prisoner Correspondence Project is a solidarity project for gay, lesbian, transsexual, transgender, gendervariant, two-spirit, intersex, bisexual and queer prisoners in Canada and the United States, linking them with people a part of these same communities outside of prison. The Prisoner Correspondence Project is a proud working group of QPIRG Concordia and QPIRG McGill.

The FAQ that the project set up was fantastic and preemptively brought up questions and concerns that never crossed my mind. I signed-up with confidence because of their FAQ. I have a penpal with a person in USA who likes to play RPGs and read. She has been transitioning for a few years while in prison and has told me a lot of unfortunate (but expected) stories about the police and incarceration system. Every time I write I wonder if my letter will actually get to her; when I do get a reply, it is an event!


The goal of this project is to allow anyone to send and receive postcards from all over the world! The idea is simple: for each postcard you send, you will receive one back from a random postcrosser from somewhere in the world.

This is a random postcard swap club that seems to have been around for a while. It is quite user-friendly and organized! Postcards are "tracked" with ID numbers that you write onto the postcard itself, and when the recipient gets it, they "register" the card online. I assume this helps to make sure that cards are actually being sent out, so that there's a fair ratio of sending/receiving! I like the casual nature of these exchanges; just a short note where you don't have to worry about continuity.

Pen pal match-up 2020 via Wonder Pens

To enter our pen pal match up, please send us a letter in the mail to our Studio Shop. We are going to read through your descriptions and match you up. We will send you in the mail the original description we received from your pen pal match.

I don't know if Wonder Pens (stationery shop in Toronto) does this every year, but it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up! I sent in a letter with stationery that made it pretty clear that I love bendy animals and am weird (haha). The match-ups closed at the end of September 2020. I was matched up with someone in the US with beautiful cursive handwriting ~November. Liz from Wonder Pens sent me my new penpal's details in a wax sealed envelope. What a treat!


SLOWLY lets you meet pen pals from your smartphone! Match with someone that shares your passion, write a letter and collect stamps from around the world. Speak your mind – one letter at a time!

I have a few very casual/sporadic interactions with people on SLOWLY. The idea is that you send letters to each other online, but the time it takes to get to the person depends on how far away they are from you. I think it's a great option for people who can't afford to send snail mail around (sending a postcard internationally is $2.71 CAD each, which adds up quickly). I had an exchange with someone from Africa who was questioning her orientation/identity and we had a great chat about labels. I also exchanged letters with a 14 year old from Brazil and she shared her spotify playlist called "oldies" with me after I told her how old I was (haha). I also realized I had no good media recs that were age-appropriate for a teenager. After a little bit of back and forth, she ended up deleting the app. Although many of my interactions are fleeting at best (I've been on the site for a few months now), I have fond memories.

Aranzi Aronzo Post Card Club (APC)

ARANZI POST CLUB will provide you with the member-exclusive postcards by airmail. The cards inform you about our new products and current events in Japan. The other side of every issue is specially designed for A.P.C. only. Sorry but all information is written in Japanese only.

This is a club where you RECEIVE postcards only. I think I've been a part of the APC for over 5 years now. Once subscribed you get a random postcard every month (for 12 months straight)! I already love Aranzi Aronzo character goods, so it's truly a delight to get the postcard (and an email, sometimes with fun photo attachments, behind the scenes, etc.) every month. Sometimes they have special envelopes and extras (stickers, postcards) too. Love the stamps that I get with APC too.

Create your own snailmail club

I also started a snail mail postcard club with a handful of people I knew. It has been fun to dig through stamps and cards to see what I can send out! I made the marbled ones for this club. Though it is one-way (as in, I send things out, but don't necessarily get things back), I am enjoying it.

The truth is that penpaling is a time consuming hobby. I can easily spend 5h+ writing and responding to folks, because I'm hoping to be thoughtful and truthful. It's a nice excuse to pull out my fav writing materials and be (mostly) away from screens in a focused manner!


I've accumulated a lot of postcards, letter paper/packs, stickers, and whatnot over time. Right now I'm using

  • Life Via Airmail paper pad, which is super thin and lightweight, perfect for multi-paged and long letters.
  • Sakae technical paper A4 Tomoe River paper 52gsm (blank), good to show off fountain pen ink characteristics (like shading, sheening, etc.) and also lightweight.
  • Platinum carbon black ink for writing addresses (waterproof) or ballpoint pens/sharpies
  • I just use whatever envelopes (likely from the dollar store), even if my fountain pens will bleed on them. More recently I've been making my own envelopes out of the scrap/packing paper that I've accumulated from online shopping.


I've gotten into a habit of taking photos of letters/postcards before sending them out, in case I need a reminder of what I've already discussed. To be honest, I don't usually look back at these, but I enjoy the safety net.

Receiving postcards!

I pondered this question as I thought about my privacy. The choice that usually comes to mind is to rent a PO box from your post office. I heard that a limitation with renting a PO box from the post office is that they'll ONLY accept mail sent by their postal system. Some PO Box locations can only be accessed during hours that the post office/building is opened (some are 24h access).

You can also rent PO boxes from other couriers, like UPS, etc. They boast that their addresses are nicer/professional (haha) and they'll accept any courier's packages/letters. AFAIK these function like PO boxes overall, in that you get a key to a place and you can grab your own mail/packages.

An option that wasn't on my radar, was to rent a virtual mailbox. These are services that are sometimes used by frequent travellers who aren't always physically available to handle their mail/bills. In some of these cases you might not get a physical key or mailbox that you can visit yourself; instead the provider will offer to open mail, scan the envelope and/or contents, forward the mail via post, etc. I'm currently trying out Anytime Mailbox and have to say that their support is very good, they have global presence, and it's more affordable than renting a physical mailbox. I knew I wouldn't be receiving time-sensitive mail to this address, so I don't mind it being farther away from my home than a PO Box. Every time I get mail, the provider scans the envelope cover and I get an email about it. Then the provider stores the mail for 30 days before I have to take any action via their online dashboard (e.g., schedule a pick-up, have it shredded, scanned, forwarded etc.). Works well for me so far!

Today's music post: Masaya Matsuura's beyooond!!! album. He is the founder of Nanaon-sha, a multimedia studio, known for developing some of the first modern rhythm games (PaRappa the Rapper). I know their work from Tamagotchi Corner Shop games on DS, though I also suspect that they probably helped with the music in the flash/web browser Tamagotchi connection music too...

Nakabayashi Logical Air Swing Notebook

It is fountain pen-friendly

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Nakabayashi's Logical Air Swing notebook is fountain pen-friendly! Well, my bar for what is "fountain pen-friendly" is pretty low compared to other people. I'm willing to use any paper that at least has Level 0 properties (my made up, personal criteria):

Level 0

  • Ink doesn't feather outrageously
  • Ink doesn't bleed through the paper (can use both sides)

Level 1

  • Ink shows some sheen
  • Ink shows some shading

There is no Level 2. This is getting into my " I will weigh the tradeoffs" for different contexts/purposes.

  • Ghosting/show-through
  • Paper weight
  • Ink dry time
  • Paper colour
  • Notebook design (page count, numbering, ruling, binding, etc.)

The Logical Air Swing Notebook satisfies Level 0 and Level 1 in my personal assessment. I'm not going to get into great detail since there are others who have done paper comparison with a greater degree of control measures.

As a paper/notebook x fountain pen lover, I've referred to John Bosley's fountain pen friendly paper rating list as reference for what fun new things to try out. He also has a good list of fountain pen, ink, and paper basics.

A while back, John reviewed Nakabayashi's Logical Prime Notebook and I ended up looking into their broader Logical notebook brand. They had a notebook called Logical Air Swing Notebook as well. The promo for the Logical Air notebook says that it's especially good for students to be carrying lighter weight paper in their bags.

Somewhat confusing Swing Logical notebook nomenclature:

  • Swing Logical Air is 56gsm
  • Swing Logical is 70gsm
  • Logical Prime is "7% thicker and firmer than standard version" (advertised to be fountain pen-friendly)
  • There's also a whole bunch of other names in the notebook line, like Logical Think, Logical Brain, Logical Sport, etc..

Based on the logic (!) above, one might assume that Logical Air may NOT be fountain pen-friendly. It's interestingly close to the weight of many people's fountain pen grail paper Tomoe River/TR (52gsm). I see the value of TR but the dry time is a big trade-off for me.

Since I was making the best of my proxy shopping/shipping from Japan (Buyee), I threw in a A5 Logical Airs 5mm grid ruling into my order (from Fueru's Rakuten) and hoped for the best (they're ~180yen). Months later, they arrived!

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I have the green cover A5 5mm square grid notebook with 30 sheets. The cover is a lightweight and flexible cover stock with a bit of a gloss coating.

It's one fat signature, sewn-bound down the middle.

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The interior paper has a dotted line square grid, probably on ivory stock.

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It seems slightly more yellow than standard staples printer paper, but MUCH less yellow than Midori MD cream paper.

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Writing on the page...well, how do I describe it. The paper feels uncoated. It is textured. It felt like I was writing on regular printer paper, but without the ink bleeding/feathering. As soon as my nib hit the page it felt like it would feather and bleed, but it didn't.

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I don't think there was much (or any?) feathering, nor bleed-through. Whereas Rhodia paper hates me whenever I use flex nibs, this paper impressively handled it like a champion.

Backside of the page has ghosting, but feels less than 52gsm Tomoe River. It's still usable to me.

Overall I felt that my pen/inks probably wrote a bit dryer on this paper. I touched some of the Logical Prime paper in my order, and that stuff definitely feels smoother and coated to the finger, compared to Logical Air.

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The paper does show shading and sheen, but probably less than Tomoe River. I think the dry time is faster though! As mentioned previously, it felt like my inks wrote overall drier because of lack of coating/absorption, and that could lead to less sheen too. I'm not good at photographing sheen, but I do see a bit of it in the Lamy Turmaline and FPR Royal Flush Blue.

Today's music post: Brown Loop by Duval Timothy.

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Fountain pen day happens every first Friday of November.

[...] Fountain Pen Day is celebrated by enthusiasts worldwide as a time to embrace, promote, and share the use of fountain pens.

I didn't know it existed until this year. A few weeks ago I put up a currently using page that lists some of the materials I've been using, including fountain pens.

Why I appreciate fountain pens

  • don't have to press down for ink to come out (unless you need line variation)
  • can refill with new ink (plus so many colours and fancy properties like shading/sheening!)
  • steel or gold nibs feel stronger, feel longer lasting, and stay sharper, than pigment/fineliners with extended use
  • I enjoy the variety in writing experience (with different pen/ink/paper combinations)

I used my Platinum Carbon Black Desk Pen everyday in October to draw my tamagotchi aka #tamagoctober (cause it's water-resistant). I also used several pens (EF-M size) to do Alphonso Dunn pen & ink workbook exercises aka #dunn31. I completed 34+ exercises...but there are still many left.

Here are some pics of my pens and their respective #dunn31 exercises!

Pelikan 400NN (M) with Diamine Wagner

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Pilot Metropolitan (M) with Waterman Absolute Brown

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Ranga Sugarcane (Kanwrite flex) with Diamine Meadow

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FPR Himalaya GT v2 (ultraflex EF) with Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake

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Pilot Elite 95s Japan (EF) with Sailor Kobe Kounan Maroon

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Pilot Kakuno (M) with Pilot Namiki Black (stock cartridge ink)

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Opus 88 Omar (M) with Lamy Turmaline

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Lamy Safari (F) with Sailor Kobe Taisanji Yellow

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Paper used is Borden and Riley #37 boris bright white translucent visual bond LAYOUT. My pad is probably a decade old, so the name doesn't fully match their newer branding/edition.

Happy writing/drawing!

Today's music post: Give It Up 2 Me by Ojerime.