Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Messenger Bag (Bonus: Bag Dump)

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Last week was my birthday and my darling husband found the perfect gift for me: the limited edition Chicago version of the Timbuk2 messenger bag. This was a version limited to just ten bags for the grand opening of Timbuk2’s Chicago store. It would never have occurred to me to call the store and see if there were any left following the grand opening at the end of May. I would have just assumed that they sold out of these gems in a day or so. I also had no idea just how limited they were. Only TEN were made and when he called last week, they still had two left. Can you believe it?

So, the staff at the Chicago store kindly sent him one. And voila! The ex-pat Chicagoan can proudly carry a Timbuk2 bag inspired by the flag of her hometown — a city so grand its flag is emblazoned on shirts and bodies and just about anything else you can think of.

What makes this design unique from the build-a-bag option on the Timbuk2 website? First, the sky blue cordura nylon is not a color currently offered through Timbuk2. This might not be an issue for anyone else since Timbuk2’s build-a-bag offers dozens of solid cordura fabrics as well as prints, waxed canvas and more but for they put the idea of a Chicago flag themed bag in my head and nothing less would do for me.

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

I haven’t bought a new Timbuk2 bag in a long time and there are some new features and some things have been upgraded, moved or modified. A lot of the changes seemed like really smart improvements too while keeping the elements that make a Timbuk2 bag so durable.

The new things include:

  • A padded grab handle to make it easier to pick up the bag like a briefcase
  • Clips to close the bag are now under the flap to create a more streamlined front panel
  • Clips are connected to straps under the bag that can be used to hold a jacket, an umbrella, a poster tube or yoga mat or used as compression straps to keep contents from flopping around
  • The pocket under the panel now has a side zip pocket for wallet, phone or other items that need to be handy but kept secure
  • The key leash is now attached inside the front pocket (it used to be inside the inner pocket)
  • A stiff piece of plastic has been added to the top edge of the large inside slashpocket to keep it from being flimsy. Earlier versions had a slash pocket plus a pocket with velcro which never got opened because the velcro was too sticky
  • Speaking of velcro, previous versions of the messenger bag had two vertical slashes of velcro on the inside flap. Now there is a horizontal swath of velcro on the inside flap guaranteeing that the bag will stay closed no matter how the flap is aligned and without the added security of the clips. The velcro is super sticky too.
  • There are also water bottle sleeves inside on both the right and left sides, one is mesh and the other is solid (this is an upgrade feature on the build-a-bag)
  • The shoulder strap is softer, more flexible webbing material which is less likely to rub skin raw or gouge a groove in your shoulder. However, I still recommend investing in the velcro strap pad cover. I’ve been using the same one for over 15 years — I just switch it from bag to bag as needed. Best $15 I ever spent.
  • There are reflector tabs at the end of the compression straps for late night biking and the small horizontal loop on the center strip is designed to hold a blinky bike light.


Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Stuff that stayed the same:

  • The red key leash is still there and one of my favorite features even though the placement changed its still super useful. I added an extra leash to the leash so I can clip my keys and then throw the whole thing into the depths of the bag rather than trying to squeeze my giant car key/alarm doodad into the small front pocket.
  • The lining is still waterproof and now there is an extra bit of fabric at the flap fold to eliminate potential water from getting in on the sides. Did I ever tell you about the soaking one of my Timbuk2 bags got a few years ago? I got caught on my scooter in a torrential downpour with no place to pull over and get shelter. When I got home, I was drenched from head to toe — so much so that I took my shoes off and literally poured water out of them like a cartoon. The whole time, all I could think was that everything I owned of value was in the TImbuk2 bag on my back and the exterior Cordura was drenched. I worried that my phone, camera, and all the other paper goods in my bag would be drenched. When I opened the bag though, the only thing that was even damp was the corner of a magazine that had been sticking out of the exposed corner of the bag. So, no more exposed corners with the new design so get out there and ride without fear of anything being damaged in a monsoon.
  • There is still an inside pocket with slashes on the outside of it that hold pens, business cards and other sundries. The pocket itself is a bit smaller than previous models but perfect to stash earbuds and the like.
  • A crossbody strap is included for additional support when carrying the bag on a bike
  • The build quality is still excellent. Ends are nicely folded and finished. Everything feels well constructed and durable.

The crap that went into the Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Pictured above  is all the stuff I dumped out of my previous bag and need to fit into the medium Timbuk2 messenger:

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

It all packed into the Timbuk2 neatly with plenty of room to spare for other things that pop up like a book to return to the library, my mail reply kit, a sack lunch, etc. There’s also more than enough room to use this bag to carry my 13″ laptop should the need arise. The top photo is actually the bag fully packed.

Timbuk2 messenger bags start at $109. If you have an old bag you’d like to replace, Timbuk2 does offer an option to recycle an older bag called LifeCycle. You can recycle an old bag by sending it to Timbuk2. If you recycle a bag, you’ll receive a 20% off coupon for your next bag purchase. If you love your Timbuk2 bag but its seen its better days, Timbuk2 can help you get it repaired.

Have you ever used a Timbuk2 bag? Do you like it?

A Digital Solution to an Analog Problem


I love books. Like a sickness. Sometimes I read good literature and sometimes I devour trashy, pulp novels. I can’t pass up a good coffee table book of art, illustration or design. My house is overrun with books. My teeny, tiny house is stacked two deep in some place with books. My favorite weekend activity is to scour the shelves at the secondhand book shop for a gem. The first step is to admit I have a problem. “My name is Ana and I’m a bookaholic.”

I’ve tried to embrace using the iPad or Kindle or what-have-you to buy books from Amazon et al, but even digital books get pricey.

And then, Scribd stepped into my email this weekend with an offer I could not refuse. Scribd is a digital subscription service like Netflix, but for ebooks. For $8.99 per month, I can read as many of the over 400,000 books in its library on any Apple or Android device or on a Kindle Fire. I did some cursory checks for my favorite authors. Some were listed, some were not. In some cases, a few of an author’s books were available but not the most recent. But there were lots of options, available for immediate download. Unlike my local library where the ebooks are slurped up at alarming rates and I’m left #322 on the next-to-read list so that I can read a particular book about 6 years from now.

I was offered a free month’s trial to use Scribd. Books are read in the Scribd app but the app can also be use to browse and download other books. The “books similar to” options provided decent direction to discover new books as well.

Oyster Books

I also decided to do some research to see if other services were offering a book subscription service and found Oyster. Currently Oyster books are only available on the iOS platform and the monthly subscription fee is $9.99 but their library seems a little larger.

I went ahead and started a free subscription with Oyster as well to compare the two services. The interface for browsing and book discovery on Oyster is a little more aesthetically pleasing than Scribd but both are similar with a search option or a browse by category. Oyster offers more esoteric sub-categories like, within Science Fiction, they’ve divided books into categories like “Utopian Dreams” or “Genetic Engineering”.

Both services have recently received access to the Simon & Schuster catalog which added 10,000 titles and lots of reading options. Both services have business and economic books, young adult fiction, a large cache of mysteries and popular fiction, classics and more. Either option will have something in their collection you want to read.

I did a search for a few specific authors: Stephen King (equally represented by both services, David Sedaris (only one book available at both services “Children Playing..”), Seth Godin (more books available through Oyster), George R. R. Martin (only one short story in an anthology, available from both) and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a knitting humorist and Oyster had all her books but Scribd only had two available). As you can see, lots of breadth in both services.

I really wanted to compare the actual reading experience, which is a make-or-break for me. In general, both experiences sync across devices — from iPhone to iPad pretty smoothly. The only notable difference is that the Oyster reading environment requires users to swipe up to move through pages, more like a PDF or Word document rather than across like the iBooks or Kindle does. Neither has the faux page-turning animation, ability to adjust line spacing or margins that the Kindle and iBooks app allow. Both services feature sans serif or serif font choices and reading white-on-black, black-on-white or a sepia look. Both have highlighting and annotation options. Except for the swiping being a little counter-intuitive on Oyster, they are both perfectly adequate.

Both services offer the option to link with friends via Facebook and other services though, for me, I prefer to just read and not network. Since both services are fairly new, it might not be a big deal to anyone else either. Its really all about the books.

That said, I think both services are neck-in-neck to win my subscription fee loyalty. Both seem like great ways to feed my voracious book appetite without cluttering up my house any further.

If you have an Android device or Kindle tablet, I recommend that you start with Scribd as Oyster does not yet have support for the Android platform. If you decide to try Oyster, please use this link and I’ll get a credit for recommending it.

Have you considered or do you read ebooks? I like having a book with me at all times on my phone for those waiting-in-line moments. Do you?

Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Bag Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Messenger

Ever wanted a bag made form old USPS mail bags? Well, now’s your chance. Timbuk2 has introduced the Terracycle messenger bag made from old canvas mail bags. Each bag is unique and this option will only be available for a limited time. They are available in small ($99) or the medium ($109) and in original white canvas or in an overdyed brown (seems more UPS than USPS, but who am I to judge?).


Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Messenger in brown

More Than Just Pens

Washi Tape from JetPens

Sometimes I forget there’s more to JetPens than just pens. I recently went on a hunt for some cool non-pen goodies on Jet Pens. First, Jet Pens is now stocking an assortment of washi tape. I got a roll of MT red cross tape  ($4) and a roll of Pine Book Nami Nami deco tape which has keys and locks printed on it and a wavy edge ($3.65).

MT is THE original brand of washi tape and the best quality by far. The printing on the tape is always very good and its stickier than some of the other brands. I do hope that Jet Pens continues to stock the MT tapes and offers a wider selection of prints and sizes in the future. Those $3 and $4 rolls are a great way to bump up to that free shipping and great for adding a little color to your workspace, notebooks and letters.

Kurochiku Japanese Pattern Eco-Bags Sugar Candy

I also decided to try out the Kurochiku Japanese Pattern Eco-Bag ($10). There were about a dozen different patterns to choose from but I chose the simplest which was navy blue with colored dots on it. The pattern is Konpeitou which translated to “Sugar Candy”. I guess the dots do look like little candies.

This is one of those reusable shopping bags that fold up into a small carrying case. The carrying case was pretty heavy duty with the same fabric as the bag with a padded lining. The actual bag is shaped like a traditional tote bag (a big rectangle) with straight straps and a wide gusseted bottom which will allow it to hold lots of books, groceries or other shopping goodies. The material is considerably heavier duty nylon than other reuasble bags I’ve had and the seams are all nicely finished. I can definitely see using this for a long time. It seems durable enough to stand up to a trip through the washing machine if it gets dirty.

I might have a little trouble refolding it properly to fit back into the carrying case but I’ll cram it back in for awhile. All in all, I’m quite impressed with the bag and can see why its $10 and not $1.99. It is made to look good and last.

Kurochiku Japanese Pattern Eco-Bags Sugar Candy

So, there’s more to Jet Pens than just pens. Happy shopping (and don’t forget to bring your own bag)!

Review: Nock Co Lookout 3-Pen Holster

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

I’ve always been a bit hesitant to invest in a holster-style pen case. Most of my pens retail for less than $50 so it seemed like overkill to invest in an expensive carrying case for my hacked Metropolitan or my TWSBI Mini. But thankfully, the Nock Co Kickstarter campaign put the Lookout Pen Holster in just the right price point for my assortment of loved-but-reasonably-priced pens. I selected the navy blue case with gray lining. Most of my pens are clear, silver, grey or black so the simple, classic color scheme seemed like the right choice. Besides, the initial offering from Nock Co did not include ANY green cases (hint, hint, Mr. Dowdy!).

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

The case feels slightly padded which makes me feel like my pens are getting even more protection and the flap tucks easily under the strap. There’s no snap or velcro to make opening and closing the case distracting in a classroom or meeting which is a big plus for me. Even with the padded feel and the three divided slots, this is still a svelte, compact case. Just enough room for your three “daily carry” pens/pencils — nothing more, nothing less.

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

My longest pen is the Lamy Studio but I think the clip placement has more to do with how high it sits in the case than the actual pen length. I think the green Karas Kustoms Render K looks especially nice against the grey and blue. I even tested the ginormous INK! fountain pen in the case and there’s plenty of room to spare both in height and in the width of the stitched pockets. The only pens that don’t fit quite so well are my tiny pocket pens like the Kaweco Sports and Monteverde Poquito. Maybe there will be a Little Lookout in the future?

I’m not sure what the pricing will be on the Lookout when the Nock Co store opens but I’d venture to say that $20 seems like a reasonable price for a well-made, made-in-USA pen holster case.

Review: Beans Cut Mini Scissors

Raymay beanscut

While in San Francisco, I picked up the Raymay BeansCut mini scissors. It is a teeny tiny pair of snippers and a side slit for opening envelopes. Its extreme portability and fine jelly green color made it something I really wanted to try. At $6.50, it seemed like a reasonable investment, one way or another.

Raymay BeansCut

I wanted to compare it to my usual letter opener and you can clearly see that the BeansCut is considerably more portable. The flipside is that the scissors are so tiny  (compared to a dirty pair of 4″ scissors I keep on my desk) that they are only usable for snipping threads, trimming washi tape and possibly opening taped packages. Alternately, as a knitter, its a perfect tool to snip yarn and its small size made it easy to fit in my knitting kit.

When I tested the slicer on the side for opening envelopes, it worked well on plain paper envelopes like bills and air mail envelopes, but if the envelope was even slightly heavier like a wedding invitation it really didn’t work very well. I ended up using the scissors to open heavier paper envelopes and the slicer for lightweight papers.

The Raymay BeansCut is available in four colors from JetPens for $6.50. I bought mine at the Maido shop in SF in Union Square.

Bag Lust: Po Campo’s Midway Weekend

Po Campo Midway Weekender


Po Campo is a bag company out of Chicago specializing in stylish bags for the active urban dweller and bike-centric woman. Their latest creation is the Midway Weekender. It’s designed to comfortably hold a change of clothes and miscellaneous personal  items. On the bottom portion is a zipper compartment for shoes or sweaty gym clothes. The straps on the side will accommodate a towel or rolled yoga mat. Can be carried by the handles or by the shoulder strap included.

I think its a great looking bag, good looking but truly functional. The bag starts shipping February 17th. A bit late for my travel needs but I’ll definitely be considering one of these in the future.

The bag measures 16″ wide x  13″ tall x  7.5″ deep. Large enough to tote a laptop as well as all those items needed on a trip or just going back and forth to the office. It’s available in black, brown and a blue-and-white stripe. Vegan materials. $99.

(via Po Campo)

Winter Session + Doane Paper = Lustworthy

WS + DP pouch

Doane Paper has once again created a limited edition team-up product, this time with Winter Session out of Denver. The team created a heavyweight waxed canvas pouch to fit into a 3-ring binder to go along with Doane’s 3-ring loose leaf paper. The pouch measures 11×7.5 and include an industrial zipper, heavy-duty grommets and an unstated leather tag. It’s simple, modern and enviably covetable. $45

WS + DP pouch

Make a Mark Stationery Box

Little Low Laser Etched Wood Pencil Box $48 (via Etsy)

Little Low Laser Etched Wood Pencil Box $48 (via Etsy)

Each beautifully laser-etched stationery box ($48) from Little Low on Etsy comes filled with a Marvy Le Pen (assorted colors), a wood-barreled calligraphy pen with nib, a Zebra #2 mechanical pencil and a roll of washi tape. The lid slides and inside is two compartments — one for writing tools and one for smaller bits. Be sure to check out their other products too. Hint, hint there are some great Valentine’s ideas in here.

Get Organized: Todoist Next

Todoist Next screenshots

Today, Todoist upgraded its platform with web-, mobile-, browser- and desktop-based versions of the app and an all-new, streamlined look. They are definitely setting themselves to compete with Wunderlist. The new version offers free collaboration and what appears to be extensive functionality, especially with the collaboration tools and could give Basecamp a run for its money for small teams.

The regular apps and web interface are free. The premium account ($29/yr) offers additional features including adding notes and file attachments, task search, color-coded labels, email or text task reminders, automatic backup and synchronization with iCal. I think the premium version will be the way to go since being able to add text, images and URLs to a task would make things so much simpler. The price per year is less than Wunderlist which is $49/yr for collaboration but Wunderlist allows notes and images in the free version but there’s no indication in a list or sub-list that a photo or note is associated with the item. So it works… sort of. I certainly don’t think I’ll miss the wood grain if I switch.

I waffle between loving the cross-platform convenience of digital to-do lists and missing its paper counterparts and physically crossing things off, adding details and saving the completed lists. Being able to add a task on my phone, then review it or deal with it when I’m parked in front of my computer has a lot of appeal though paper could do the same thing.

This app seems like its is the best of all possible to-do list apps, sleek, streamlined and upgradeable for a small fee. Would you or have you tried any of these digital to-do lists?

Review: Staedtler Triplus Mobile Office Set

Staedtler Triplus Blackbox Set

I must confess I am a sucker for a good packaged set so when I spied the limited edition Staedtler Triplus Mobile Office Set ($11.50 per set), I clicked “buy it now” before I knew what happened. I also love triangular shaped tools like the Faber-Castell Grip 2001 so again, “buy. it. now.”


The set came in a black plastic carrying case and the pen (and pencil) clip clasp into the case. The cover clicks into place and can be folded back and clicked to itself to make the tools easy accessible. Inside, there are six tools: a ballpoint pen, a rollerball pen and a Fineliner all in black ink plus a blue Fineliner, a 0.5mm mechanical pencil and a fluorescent highlight in yellow.

Overall, the tools are quite long giving them the weight and balance of an art tool rather than a pocket pen. Capped, the pens are a little over 6.25″ long. Campared that to a Sakura Pigma Micron which is a mere 5.25″ long or a Marvy Le Pen which is 5.625″.

The blue and black Fineliners are 0.3mm felt tip and comparable to the feel of a Sakura Pigma Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liners, Sharpie Pens or Marvy LePens. I like the feeling of the tips. They seem more durable than a Sharpie Pen of a LePen which start to feel dull pretty quickly. I’m curious to try a few of the other colors available now. The only downside of the Fineliners is that they are not waterproof. They are a slightly water resistant though.


Because all the tools are comparable in diameter to the average pencil, I was curious how the highlighter would work. Its a brush shaped tip to allow underlining with the tip and highlighting by angling the pen sideways. It works okay but not as easy to highlight as the chisel tipped versions of the classic Textsurfer. The color is fabulously highlighter yellow though.

The mechanical pencil was an odd delight. Overall, its a similar metallic asphalt gray as the Fineliners but with fine silver stripes running horizontally down the barrel. The tip area is a metal silver adding a little bit of weight to the “business end”. To keep its profile consistent with the other tools (and to keep the eraser clean) it retracts into the body. When fully twisted out, there is 0.75″ of easer which is considerably more than most mechanical pencils. The eraser is white so I’m going to assume that Staedtler had the forethought to use their legendary Mars Plastic eraser as it seems to erase quite well. The point end can also be retracted by pressing the advance halfway to make it easier to travel. The lead holds firmly so there’s no feedback or wiggle. When clicking to advance the leads, there’s is a little black bellows below the eraser cap that compresses. Its an oddly steampunk detail. The pencil separates at the bellows to add additional leads.



Now, I have to talk about the tool I was less pleased by: the ballpoint and the rollerball.  The ballpoint preformed well. Its a medium point, black ink and had a soft-touch rubber finish which feels good in the hand. The tip and the end are both chrome metal and the cap is clear plastic so its a very nice looking pen. The bummer was that the cap was hard to replace on the ballpoint which is odd. I had my husband try out the ballpoint as he favors ballpoints and rollerballs. He found that he had to bear down on the ballpoint to get it to write which caused his fingers to slide up the barrel.

And last, the rollerball would not play nicely with my wonky left-handedness. It gapped, didn’t put down a consistent line and generally annoyed me. I’ve had such luck with rollerballs lately I forgot how infuriating rollerballs can be for me. In the hands of my right-handed spouse, it worked, but he found it gloppy and imprecise.

Overall, I loved the portability of the set and several of the tools are good quality. The triangular shape is comfortable and aesthetically appealing. I suspect that the case can be refilled with other tools in the Triplus line so it will not be left with an empty slot when I banish the rollerball and ballpoint.



A smaller classic Tripus Mobile Office set with just four tools (ballpoint, pencil, highlighter and finerliner)  and a clear plastic carrying case is just $8.90.

(via Jet Pens)

Review: The Hightower from Nock Co.


I was lucky enough to receive an early prototype sample of the Nock Co. Hightower case in the awesome Kickstarter edition peacock. The Hightower is one of the six products in the initial product assortment from Nock Co. which is currently available through their Kickstarter page only.


There is no branding on the outside. Its a blank slate for you to add patches or keep it plain. I love that the Nock Co. branding is subtle inside and not emblazoned on the front.


The Hightower is designed to hold three pens on the left hand side and a small notebook (might I recommend a Field Notes?) on the right. Though the right hand could also be used as a freestyle pen pocket. The interior of the teal case is navy blue and the trim is black. The flap keeps pens protected and keeps them from falling out.

I have never really used a slotted pen case before being more of a “throw every tool into a zipper bag” girl so it actually took me emailing Brad to figure out I needed to slide the clips over the slot to keep them in place. I kept losing my itty bitty Kawecos into the slot abyss. (Shakes head at self and says exasperatedly, “Idiot.”) Once that issue was addressed, I started playing with which notebooks I could fit into the pocket.


I had a  Field Notes, a Miro Utility notebook and a Cambria Cove (discontinued Hallmark subsidiary catalog company) notebook in it over the course of the week. Then I stuck them all in. It was a little bulky but it worked. There’s not quote enough room for a pocket-sized hardcover notebook — it fits but its a little difficult to slide in and out and close with pens in it as well. This didn’t stop me from carrying it around most of the week with ONE pocket notebook and my iPhone stuck in the pocket though. That worked pretty well.

The bottom line is that this notebook/pen case is flexible, very well-constructed and easy to use. I kind of fell in love with it this week, not that I should be the least bit surprised with all the thought and care Brad and Jeffrey put into creating these products.

Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the line. There’s three weeks left in the Kickstarter and then they’ll start production with plans to deliver by January 2014.

(more details are available in my previous post, Nock Co. or their Kickstarter page. And their are some other reviews of the Nock Co. products listed on Link Love this week.)

Ladies’ EDC: The Gold Edition


I know you boys out there talk about your EDC all the time. Well, I’m here to give the girls their five minutes. I mentioned a few months ago my desperate search for an easy EDC for the necessities of a modern girl’s life: phone, a couple credit cards, ID, some cash, pen, notebook and maybe, if I’m lucky, a tube of lip balm. I purchased the lovely Coach clutch I featured in that post but its a tad on the pricey side. When I saw this golden zip clutch from Fossil ($55), I knew I had to share it.

fossil-side view

There’s room for cards and cash and a mobile phone. I bet you could even squeeze a mini notepad (a Rhodia No.10 would fit)  and a compact pen in one of these as well. The lip balm might be tricky. But it sure is spangly! Its also available in black, brown, camel and teal (the orange, yellow and magenta versions are already sold out on the Fossil site).

(via Fossil)

Nock Nock? Who’s There? Pen Cases, That’s Who!


The Hightower: a 3+1 case

I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the Nock Co. product launch, a collection of pen and writing tool cases created by my pal Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict and Jeffrey Bruckwicki from Old Fourth Tailoring. Well, today’s the big day!

The Chimneytop: A pop-up zip-top case
The Nock Co. just launched their Kickstarter campaign to launch their first collection of pen rolls, cases and sleeves. Its a 30-day Kickstarter but things are already selling fast and the site has only been live for an hour.
The Brasstown: Zippered roll case

There are seven products in the initial Nock Co. line. Here’s a quick highlight: the Hightower which is designed to hold three pens and a pocket-sized notebook like Field Notes; the Brasstown zippered roll case which is a 6-pen roll that fits into a zip pouch; the Lookout which is a 3-pen holster case, and the Chimneytop which is a single piece zipper pouch that will hold six or seven writing tools or other daily carry items. There’s also the Maryapple and the Sassafras which are variations on the pen + notebook concept (either two slots for notebooks or slots on both the left and right for pens).

The color options for all the products are navy exterior with a gray interior, orange-on-orange (Brad’s favorite colors!) and gray with a sky blue lining. Sadly, there are no green options…yet. All the products are made from heavy-duty 1000 denier nylon exterior coated with a water-resistant DWR and lined with pack cloth.

There is also a special Kickstarter edition of the Hightower in peacock blue.

The most appealing Kickstarter option is the $75 option which will get you one of each of the initial seven products offered. That’s essentially $10.75 per case which is ridiculously cheap. Most of the pen cases sold on the market start at $15 and go up from there.

The Lookout: 3-pen holster

Nock Co.’s Kickstarter products are expected to start shipping in January of 2014. And of course, all the products are made in the USA.

DIY Notebook Tote

DIY notebook tote

With a simple canvas tote and a some thread, you can easily make a notebook-style tote bag. Stitch the blue lines with a sewing machine, a little wonky gives it character and then use embroidery thread to create the vertical red margin line using a simple embroidery stitch like backstitch, running stitch or stem stitch. How charming!

(via Say Yes To Hoboken. For stitching tips, check out Sublime Stitching)

Link Love: The Gossip Edition

The Gossip:

  • There’s been some big news around The Pen Addict and a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter project under the name Nock Co.
  • There’s rumors that following the success of the RETRAKT, Karas Kustoms might be making something fountain pennish. You didn’t hear it from me.
  • Field Notes 18-month wall calendar is available and it won’t be long before the #20 in the Colors Editions will be announced. Find out more about Field Notes and its co-creator Jim Coudal on this week’s CMD+Space podcast.
My darling friend Sandi did this fabulous sketch and kindly included the pens she used -- the ever handy Sakura Pigma Microns

My darling friend Sandi did this fabulous sketch and kindly included the pens she used — the ever-handy Sakura Pigma Microns. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled program:

My Daily Carry for the Week of Aug 18

Daily Carry for the week of Aug 18

I haven’t done a daily carry post for awhile so I thought I’d give you all a peek into my bag, its a Letter Writers Alliance member pencil case, in case you were curious. I have a few of my favorite pins stuck to it as well. Paper geek pride!

I’ll go from left to right:

The various and sundry bits at the bottom from the left:

  • Vintage letter opener
  • Lefty Pencil Sharpener
  • Pocket Swiss Army Knife
  • Wireless USB controller for my Wacom tablet
  • a couple spare SD cards
  • a USB flash drive (8GB)
  • my name chop I got in Stanley Market in Hong Kong

Its probably way more than I need but I like to be prepared and have options. I don’t have my own office at work so I tote a lot more with me each day than most people. How many tools do you carry with you each day?

Vintage Book Tablet Covers

Screen shot 2013-08-09 at 9.59.36 AM

I mentioned earlier how my dearest friend, Rebecca AKA Squirrel Junkie had created fabulous tablet covers using vintage books. Well, she is now selling her creations so if you’re not inclined to make your own, you can purchase one directly from her. Each tablet cover includes a vertical elastic closure and soft felt lining and sells for $26.50 plus shipping.


These are designed to hold a Kindle Fire, BlackBerry Playbook, iPad Mini, Nook HD, Samsung Galaxy 2 & 3 and other tablets of similar size. Tablet stays in place with velcro dots  provided.


Clearly, this Spanish edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone is a favorite.

(via Squirrel Junkie)

Fossil Goes Back-to-School

Ipad case Fossil

Autumn and the back-to-school season is my favorite time of year. I love tweed and sweaters and crisp autumn afternoons. I love the sense of starting anew like the start of the new school term. So, I get excited when I start to see all the fall collections of upcoming goods, fashions and accessories.

Books iPad Mini Case

Fossil has released their Autumn 2013 collection and there are a few items in it that are perfect for the office, pen, pencil or paper fan.

There are iPad and iPad Mini covers that feature great illustrations of typewriters and stacks of books for $50 and $45, respectively. They are made of coated canvas on the exterior and a faux suede interior. The leather slot on the back allows the cover to fold at an angle for typing or stand it for video viewing.

pencil shaving iphone case

There are also some lovely new iPhone 5 covers that feature pencils including the pencil shaving design I mentioned earlier for $25 each. These are soft polyurethane material so they should be more grippy than slippy. It’s making my itchy to upgrade my phone just to have the pencil shaving case. Love it!

Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 2.03.35 PM

A Ladies EDC

Fossil Pencil Shavings Wristlet

Fossil Key-Per Wristlet $35

Men have the advantage of having pockets in just about every garment they wear. Their trousers have pockets; be they jeans, chinos or cargo shorts (extra capacity!). Their shirts have pockets, and sometimes even their t-shirts have pockets. But we ladies face the challenge of where to put our phone, cash, cards and keys. Most women’s clothing do not have pockets and, even the items that should like jeans have these ridiculously small pockets that are almost there solely for looks. “Fashion industry, I’m talking to you! Its time to put pockets and useful additions into women’s clothes while still making them stylish!”

So sure, we can lug handbags, totes bags and briefcases with us everywhere we go, but sometimes, the need arises for a slimmed down solution.

Enter the wristlet. It is a small “portable pocket” large enough to hold those items you need for a jaunt to the grocery store, a trip to Chipotle or just around your enormous (corporate) campus. The solution for a lady’s everyday carry (EDC).

I found the Fossil Key-Per wristlet with pencil shavings pattern on Zappos for $35. It is large enough to hold the average smartphone, has pockets inside to keep ID and credit cards and a gusset on the side to keep coins and loose items from falling out. A short pen like a Fisher Space Pen or Kaweco Sport would also fit. There are other wristlets available on the Fossil site and of course other brand make other options. My co-workers carry a Kate Spade, Coach and BlueQ zippered pouch which range in price from around $10 to well over $100 at retail so there are lots of options to suit your tastes and your budget.

Coach Heritage Wristlet in Sky leather $108

Coach Heritage Wristlet in Sky leather $108

Oh, Wunderful Wunderlist!


I was slow to launch with the digital to-do list. As fellow pen and paper lovers, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation.However, I am working on a large project at work and my team decided to try out Basecamp for group organization and I fell in love. Basecamp is a great place for task and project management for a group or team. It can store text documents, files, to-do lists and even a calendar. We are all madly in love with its capabilities. It made me realize how much a task manager might help me in my personal life, for blog planning, shopping lists, and all those little life to-dos that get jotted on this sheet of paper or in that notebook and then I can never find the right list at the right time. I didn’t want to invest in Basecamp for my personal management ($20/month to start) so I set off in search of a more budget-minded alternative for the miscellany floating around in my head and on various scraps of paper.

My requirements:

  • mobile app
  • desktop app
  • web interface
  • multiple to-do lists: work, home, blog, etc.
  • notifications via text message or notifications
  • nice to look at

And then in walks Wunderlist and went, “Check, check, check… CHECK!” Seriously. Its available for iOS or Android, works on my iPhone or iPad, there’s a desktop app (Mac and Windows) for my home computer and a web interface for accessing while at work, making it easy to input text on a full-sized keyboard as well as making updates or checking things off on the fly. Its nice to look at with a choice of pleasing backgrounds and a clean, clear user interface. Lists can be organized into projects and individual to-dos can include sub-tasks, notes, reminders and due dates. Each to-do can be viewed in the original project list or in the day, week or all views. I feel almost organized!

If you discover that Wunderlist is your new lifesaver too, you can upgrade to the pro version and get a lot of the features that make Basecamp so nifty like team to-dos, delegating tasks, file uploads and more starting at $4.99/mo. Check and check!

Ask The Desk: Cambridge Satchel

Ask The Desk Header

Mary Ann asked:

How has the Cambridge leather satchel been working for you?
I am interested in getting one but would like to know more about it from a user.

my Cambridge satchel. tres bletchley circle!

I’ve had my Cambridge satchel for well over a year now. It is a classic English school satchel in medium brown and measures 15″x10″x4″. Its large enough to tote my 13″ MacBook Pro but on most days I don’t carry it with me since I have a workstation at work.

Cambridge Satchel

It is made from very stiff, thick leather. It needed to be treated with mink oil to help soften and loosen up the leather. Once I did that, it became a very comfortable bag to carry. Because of its generally rigid shape though, it is difficult to overstuff it like you might with a nylon bag or backpack.

Cambridge Satchel side view

The strap is adjustable by way of a buckle and is surprisingly comfortable without any extra padding. There’s a lot to be said for leather. I do wish I had purchased the model with the handle on top which would make it easier to pick up and pull in and out of the car. If you walk or take public transportation regularly, you might not need a handle but if you’re pulling the bag in and out of a car, the handle would definitely be advantageous.

It does limit how much I can carry since I can’t overstuff it which has actually been a good thing.

Cambridge Satchel inside view

I thought I’d share a peek inside the bag to give an idea of how much it will hold and still close easily.

Cambridge Satchel contents

Inside is an A5 and A6 hardcover notebook (Piccadilly and Leuchtturm 1917 respectively), my Lihit Teffa Bag-in-a-bag (holds my letter writing supplies), iPad Mini in a Macally cover, my LWA members pen case filled with lots of writing tools, a reusable shopping bag, a granola bar, hankie, Pantone business card case, keys, sunglasses, Swiss Army Secretary pocket knife, and a few loose pens.

The Cambridge Satchels are available in several other sizes and a huge array of colors. For the higher price and super durability of this bag, I chose a classic color (vintage brown) which would not feel dated or too trendy. The 15″ size like mine is $172 from the Cambridge Satchel Company. The Batchel (the same bag with a handle) is $187. And the Backpack model which is the same bag as the Batchel with straps to carry as a backpack is $195.

Bletchley Circle

If you’re looking for a classic bag made of durable materials and simple good looks, the Cambridge satchels are a good investment. I was tickled to see that a bag similar to the Cambridge satchel was carried by Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), the main character in Bletchley Circle set in London in the 1950s. I told you its a classic.