Guest Spotlight — AC’s Medici Lion Journal

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This gorgeous tooled-leather journal belongs to Adriana Cashwell, a former Michigan resident who now lives in Richmond, VA, where she studied psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received this notebook from a family member when she was a student at Lake Orion High School, but has not begun using it until now. Why? She explains that, “I’ve always found it too beautiful to write in if I wasn’t going to be serious about it.” I can relate, as I have received several journals over the years that seemed too ornamental for regular use.

Fortunately, Adriana has started journaling again, citing the fact that she has “always considered writing as a part of [her] soul.” And she maintains “hopes of getting her thoughts out of [her] head and onto paper, where they feel a little less threatening and make more sense.” Again, I can fully understand; writing helps me to re-consider the perplexing thoughts — and difficult decisions — that I ruminate about.

To make the transfer process as smooth as possible, Adriana relies on Pilot’s G2 Gel Ink pens. Most often she uses the fine-point variety, but recently she has been reaching for an extra-fine pen that has found its way into her arsenal. The G2, which is available in a striking range of colors, is a favorite of mine. I explain why on ink + sky‘s Materials page.

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Adriana’s journal was imported to the U.S. by Fiorentina, a distributor of stationery and gifts from across the Atlantic. One of its primary sources of leather goods is Italy, but it also gathers high-quality writing-related products from artisans in many European countries. If you are looking for its products locally, one of the best bets is Barnes & Noble. And online, check out BarnesAndNoble.com. Please be aware that Fiorentina’s website loads very slowly.

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Although the 9″ x 7″ Medici Lions Italian Leather Journal seems expensive at $39.95, it features refillable pages; therefore, you can use it for years because its recycled leather exterior is rugged and wear-resistant. Simply insert a new pad of paper when you finish the current one!

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Here is an image displaying the perimeter’s woven binding as well as the tooled leather interior of the front cover. Notice how the first page of the inner paper tablet inserts into the inside cover’s vertical leather “pocket,” which holds it securely.

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The lion is a common symbol of nobility in heraldry, a word that refers to the art and science of armorial bearings (or the armory). The most well-known segment of heraldry encompasses the coat of arms. For hundreds of years, lions have been used in countless coats of arms of different families, countries, and nations. The lions featured in coats of arms — as well as on actual armor and weaponry — are presented in different positions or attitudes. The Wikipedia.org page for “Lion (heraldry)” features a fascinating chart that outlines the most common lion attitudes.

The attitude of the lion on Adriana’s journal is known as rampant. Why? The Lion is standing erect, and its forepaws are raised. It is ready for battle.

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As a companion image, consider this photograph of an amazing 800-year-old shield that belonged to Konrad von Thüringen (ca. 1201-1240). Its lion also stands in the rampant attitude (but faces the opposite direction):

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Finally, what does the word Medici mean?

Medici is the name of a family from Italy that was very influential in the financial sector. The Medici Bank was founded in Florence in 1397, but the family did not achieve its greatest social, political, artistic, and economic power until the early 15th century. An incredible resource for learning more about this legendary family — and its many noteworthy members — is The Medici Archive Project.

In 2016, Netflix released an original 8-part series entitled Medici: Masters of Florence. It carries an IMDB rating of 7.9/10. Actor Richard Madden (seen below) plays the role of Cosimo de Medici, the young heir to his murdered father’s banking fortune. A second season of the historical drama ran in the fall of 2018.

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Note — The image of the Fiorentina logo was obtained from Fiorentinaltd.com. The image of the Medici Lion journal found beneath the logo was located on BarnesAndNoble.com. The close-up shots of the notebook were taken by the author of this blog post. The image of the Pilot Pens was borrowed from Walmart.com. The publicity image of Netflix’s Medici series was located on IMDB.com.

Guest Spotlight — BW’s Eco Cork Journal

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Boasting an exterior made of natural materials, this 5″ X 8″ journal belongs to Brian Willer, the President and Director of Fun at StudySkills.com. Featuring 180 pages, the Lemome Eco Cork Journal is an Amazon top-seller with over 460 reviews. It retails for $22.99, but if you are a Prime member it will be shipped to you in a couple of days for $15.99.

As a National Board Certified teacher and a successful entrepreneur, Brian has much that he can write about. So there’s no better individual to articulate why he chose this particular journal than the Lake Orion resident himself. His explanation follows…

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After a careful search, I chose this one because it had many features that I value:

1. I love the look and feel of the cork exterior. I find it very inviting.

2. The attached bookmark makes it easy to mark/find the next available page for an entry.

3.  The pages are lined and are composed of off-white paper. I find the lines convenient for writing and I really enjoy the off-white color; it is easier on my eyes.

4.  The pages have a slight perforation so that they can be torn out. I like this because occasionally I want to jot a note or use my journal for something other than journaling. Being able to remove the pages allows me to “edit” my notebook by withdrawing sheets that are not truly related to journaling — but were needed in a pinch for another task.

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5. There is a pocket in the rear for small slips of paper. This is nice for placing notes or reminders for future journal entry ideas.

6.  The journal has an elastic band that wraps around the front to hold it securely closed. While this isn’t necessary, there’s something ceremonial about “unlatching” it as you prepare to write, and then “latching” it at the conclusion of journaling.

7. I like the pen/pencil holder that is sewn into the side. It is very convenient and makes the notebook feel like its own complete journaling kit.

8. Just when I thought my journal couldn’t possibly have any more features, I discovered this sheet of stickers; they are used to create tabs for marking different sections.img_4546

Who would have imagined that there could be so many features related to a journal? I never would have thought that such a number existed until I came across this notebook and started paying closer attention to all that it has to offer. And, now that I’m becoming accustomed to these features, I think I’ll be looking for future journals to require the same.

Finally, I have to laugh at myself. Picking out a journal that has so many features is completely in line with how I shop for virtually everything else. Whether it’s a TV, a car, a cell phone, or a refrigerator, I’m all about “what are the best features that I can find in a unit?” So, why would it be any different when selecting a journal?! 😂

Happy writing!!!

-Brian Willer

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Why cork?

A material found in the bark of the cork oak trees, which are most plentiful in Portugal and Spain, cork offers a number of valuable qualities:

  • As opposed to plastics and vinyl, which can emit chemical odors, cork is non-toxic.
  • Cork is flexible, fire-resistant, and naturally impermeable to water.
  • Because harvesting cork from the cork oak trees does not permanently harm them, it is generally considered to be a sustainable material.

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Do you want to participate?

Are you working on a journal that you would like to see featured as part of ink + sky’s series of Guest Spotlight posts? If yes, reach out for details. It’s a free, fun, and functional way to publicly validate your writing habits and showcase your unique notebook. Let the world know that pens, pencils, and paper still matter — especially in the digital age. Please contact me here if you are interested.

To see the first journal in this series, click on Guest Spotlight — KP’s Lemon Journal.

To read about the journal (pictured below) that is taking me into 2019, please see my post entitled New Year’s Adventure Journal. There I document how I created the notebook’s cover, and I provide a photograph of its first hand-written entry — which describes an early Sunday morning at Starbucks.

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Note — The image of the perforated paper was obtained from Amazon.com’s page for the Lemome Eco Cork Journal. The photograph of the cork board and yellow sticky note was taken by AbsolutVision, and the image of the cork coaster and mug was captured by Ben Kolde; they were both found on Unsplash.com. The photograph of the cork oak tree was obtained from the Rainforest Alliance’s website.

Guest Spotlight — KP’s Lemon Journal

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This eye-catching journal belongs to Kristin Penrose — a sophomore at Oakland University in Rochester, MI — who is studying Public Relations and Strategic Communication. Why did she choose this particular notebook? The lemons remind her of a citrus tree that she had while growing up in Tampa, FL.

Kristin has been journaling since she was 10 years old. In her words, she feels most “put together” when she is placing her thoughts on the page. Depending on the kind of material she is composing, Kristin uses different writing tools. A black or blue pen allows her to “get something out” — an act that lends itself to ink, whose permanence mirrors the irreversible process of pulling powerful material from the heart or mind. In contrast, she reaches for a pencil when she is planning, sketching, or organizing.

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your journal. May it continue to provide you with the space and perspective that you seek as the New Year unfolds.

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If lemons appeal to you, many manufacturers offer notebooks featuring the bright yellow fruit. A quick search on Amazon.com reveals numerous options, including this college-ruled 120-page composition book, which measures 8″ X 10″ and retails for $5.99:

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Fun fact about lemons:

Like oranges, limes, and grapefruit — which all grow on trees — lemons are categorized as hesperidia. A hesperidium is a kind of berry (oh!) with a traditionally inedible exterior. One exception is the kumquat, which features a sweet, delicious skin:

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Do you want to participate?

Are you working on a journal that you would like to see featured as part of ink + sky’s series of Guest Spotlight posts? If yes, reach out for details. It’s a free, fun, and functional way to publicly validate your writing habits and showcase your unique notebook. Let the world know that pens, pencils, and paper still matter — especially in the digital age. Please contact me here if you are interested.

To read about the journal (pictured below) that is taking me into 2019, please see my post entitled New Year’s Adventure Journal. There I document how I created the notebook’s cover, and I provide a photograph of its first hand-written entry — which describes an early Sunday morning at Starbucks.

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Note — The image of a lemon tree in this post was taken by photographer Dan Gold, and it was obtained from Unsplash.com.

New Year’s Adventure Journal

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On December 15, I finished the last page of my Viking Bear Journal. But several days prior to that I had selected a yellow composition book and an image — a greeting card from Trader Joe’s — to serve as my new journal, one that would take me into the New Year. Knowing that I would have to customize the journal by cutting up the card and affixing parts of it to the notebook’s front and back cover, I figured that I would make a post that includes before and after photos.

The above image features the tools that I used: an inexpensive composition book from Meijer, a metal ruler, an X-ACTO knife, 2″-wide STAPLES-brand packing tape, and a Creative Memories cutting board that I found next to a neighbor’s garbage can several years ago. (Why do people throw away functional objects?) The focus of this journal is the artwork featured on a Happy Birthday greeting card designed by Rae Ritchie. I found the card at TJ’s, so it only set me back one dollar. A buck!

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Who is Rae Ritchie? She’s a Minneapolis-based illustrator who has created work for a range of clients, from the Los Angeles Times to American Greetings to the Manhattan Toy Company. Purchase her prints and original artwork at her Etsy shop. Learn more about this talented designer at rae-ritchie.com, which is where I obtained this photograph:

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After spending ten minutes with the X-ACTO knife, ruler, and packing tape, here is the finished product:

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One aspect that I really like about this particular card is that it features artwork and text on the inside in addition to the expected “Happy Birthday” message.  The presence of the bonus language and illustration allowed me to adorn the composition book’s back cover with a small insignia:

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Wondering what that small red object is in the center? It’s a lantern. What better way to symbolize the concept of starting a New Year — and embarking on a new adventure! — than an old-fashioned lantern?

Here’s a photo of my first entry (penned several weeks ago) followed by a transcription:

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12-16-18  7:37AM — Starbucks, M-24

Yesterday I finished the last page of my Viking Bear journal, so today I begin a new one. This composition book lacks at [sic]* a cover, but I have selected the greeting card that will adorn the front (and back!) side. It’s a Trader Joe’s birthday card, and it will work perfectly because of its “new year” greeting and a scene of forest animals who are hiking into a “new adventure.” I’ll be proud to carry this notebook to the end of December, and then onto the first frosty days of the New Year.

Starbucks is quiet at this hour — only one other customer, a gentleman in shorts ( ! ) who is wearing an Oxford Wildcats t-shirt. There’s a few [sic] crew of baristas, probably six, talking cordially behind the counter. Even the drive-thru is slow. No music yet, which is nice. The silence is accompanied by pops, clicks, whooshes, and the low grumble of the garbage disposal: the sounds of preparing coffee and salvation for sleepy-eyed visitors. Before long the volume of the bean-machine will increase, and the silence of a Sunday morning will vanish beneath the clamor of orders and blenders and children’s voices.


My Challenge to You, Dear Reader…

Start your own journal in 2019, and begin a new adventure of writing, reflection, and renewal. If you choose to make this simple yet powerful investment in your health and well-being, please send me a photo of your notebook. I’d love to feature it on ink + sky as a separate blog post created exclusively for you. Think of the post as an affirmation of your bravery, initiative, and resolve.

Contact me here.

If you’d like some tips about the journaling process, please see my Getting Started page.

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* – [sic] is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase sic erat scriptum, which means “thus was it written” or “intentionally so written.” By including [sic] in my typed transcription I am alerting readers to the fact that an error — two, actually — was made in my hand-written journal entry, but that I am recording that error exactly as it was written.

Lucie Rice’s sports-themed cards

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Bowl game season is here, and if you have recently cheered on your favorite college football team at a friend’s party then you have several options for a proper thank-you: (1) send a thoughtful text, (2) place a phone call, or (3) mail a card like the one featured above by Nashville-based designer Lucie Rice. (By the way, doing nothing is not an option; hosts deserve gratitude.)

Curious about the cool purple dragon stamp? Learn more about the artist who designed it — as well as see the three other boldly-colored serpents in the series — in my post entitled Dragons are descending!

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Who is Lucie Rice? She is an artist and illustrator who, in her words, creates “whimsical and sometimes ridiculous imagery” for children and adults. Her work adorns book covers, posters, and corporate publications. In more than a few of her creations you can find references to animals, one of her passions. She and her husband live with two dogs, Lola and Hank. Learn more about this talented graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design at LucieRice.com.

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Through her affiliation with the Jen Vaughn Artist Agency, Ms. Rice has produced a series of blank cards (i.e. ones that feature no internal greeting) for grocer Trader Joe’s. That is where I purchased the football and basketball cards pictured in this post. And because they were obtained from TJ’s, the price for each one was a mind-blowing $1.00. That’s more insane than a 60-yard field goal or a buzzer-beating jump shot launched from a yard behind the three-point line. One dollar!

When March Madness rolls around in three months, you can use this card to send a few words of thanks to whichever friend or family member invites you into his/her family room — and grants you access to hoop hysterics on a 77″ OLED 4K television.

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Ms. Rice has also designed a baseball-themed card, whose image I found on the Jennifer Vaughn Artist Agency website. As of now, TJ’s is not carrying it. Maybe in the spring?

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If you are curious about the writing supplies available at Trader Joe’s, please click on this link to reach my post entitled Trader Joe’s knows cards.

If you are interested in learning about how Trader Joe’s has risen to become the top-grossing grocer in America (based on sales per square foot), click on this link to reach my post entitled Succeed by defying conventions.

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Note — The image featured above was obtained from jenvaughnart.com.

Decomposition Books

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Are you searching for a unique, environmentally-friendly notebook to use as your next journal, to-do list location, or place for planning? Look no further than the Decomposition Book, the stand-out product from a company called Michael Roger, Inc.

Why choose Decomposition Books?

  • Their cover art is creative yet tasteful.
  • They feature dozens of unique designs and color schemes.
  • They come in a range of sizes.
  • They are constructed of 100% recycled post-consumer materials.
  • They are made with soy-based inks.
  • They are moderately priced. The models shown here are $8.00 or less.
  • They are manufactured with solid construction (i.e. they’re rugged).
  • They offer several models with spiral binding (see an example, below).
  • They are made in the USA.
  • They are shipped FREE for orders over $50.

Decomposition Books are available from retailers like Target, which is where I obtained the examples featured in this post, Amazon.com, and Decomposition’s beautifully-designed and easy-to-navigate website, decomposition.com:

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Rather than offer the standard conversion charts and/or “Class Schedule” organizers found inside traditional composition books, the Decomposition Books offer a much more creative and fun approach for their inner covers:

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I love the expressive designs, which rely on only one color of ink:

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For individuals seeking spiral binding, that format is available too:

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If ink + sky ever opens a brick-and-mortar retail location — wouldn’t that be great?! — I would immediately approach Michael Roger, Inc. to be one of my key suppliers. The company’s notebooks, greeting cards, gift wrap, and canvas totes feature the kind of unique aesthetic and quality construction that I could heartily endorse.

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I am totally going to make a blog post about this retail concept! After constructing the image featured above, I realize that my head is swimming with ideas. Stay tuned.

Dragons are descending!

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These stunning stamps, which feature digitally-produced artwork, are available at post offices and USPS.com. A sheet of sixteen stamps — four each of four different designs — will set you back $8.00. Ordering from USPS.com adds a modest $1.25 shipping charge.

These remarkable dragons were created by Don Clark who, along with his brother Ryan, established Invisible Creature studio in Maple Valley, Washington in 2006. Here is an image of the siblings at the entrance to their two-story barn/workspace. The photo was obtained from the duo’s extraordinary website. Ryan is on the left; Don is on the right.

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The Clarks, who are talented designers and accomplished musicians, benefit from a strong family influence of creativity. Their grandfather was an illustrator who worked at NASA for 28 years. Their father tinkered passionately in his home, where he produced furniture and toys made of wood. The upper level of the Clarks’ barn studio houses a workspace that their formative forebears would be proud of:

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The online store at the Invisible Creature website features a range of products created by the über-talented brothers. Books, t-shirts, toys, prints, posters, and super-cool wool felt pennants are all available. If you are searching for a special present for December’s celebrations, check out the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. There you will find, among other dazzlingly-designed goods, a Little Golden Book version of the Disney PIXAR film The Incredibles. Its illustrations were created by Don Clark. Here is an example of its retro-styled artwork:

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Do you have holiday cards to mail? Stop at your local post office or visit USPS.com for a sheet of Dragon stamps, which feature the Forever USA guarantee. You will always be able to use them to send first-class letters.

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Note — Except for the photograph at the top of this post, all of the images of Don and Ryan Clark and their products and artwork were obtained from the Invisible Creature website.