Harry Marks on the Dime Novel Field Notes edition

I don’t often have guest reviews on this blog, but when Harry C. Marks comes at me, I know it’s gonna be good. Harry’s an internet-friend who I’ve made sure to hang out with in real life several times, a long-hand novelist, and, like me, a stationery lover. He recently reviewed the latest Field Notes release, Dime Novel.


Field Notes Dime Novel. Photo by Harry C. Marks.

I’ve appreciated Field Notes notebooks for some time. I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” in the truest sense as I tend to skip most releases. Nor am I an obsessive collector, so when an edition comes out that captures my attention, it’s something special.

The first Field Notes I ever bought were the Drink Local editions. The perfect notebooks for Fall in hues of brown and orange, fallen leaves scattered on the table. Even the covers crunched when I cracked their spines.

Then came the Workshop Companion edition—six notebooks meant for six different kinds of projects, from woodworking to car repair. I’m not much of a handyman, but the package was too beautiful not to have on my shelf.

Finally, there was Byline. This was it: the perfect Field Notes for me. A departure from their usual staple-bound pocket fare, the Byline was an extra-long, spiral-bound reporter’s notebook clad in a utilitarian gray and filled with some of the smoothest, creamiest paper I’d ever used. Its brutalist aesthetic concealed an inner beauty, 70 pages of gold between two layers of rock—and I craved more. I traded with friends, some sent me spare books in care packages, and I hoarded them among my growing collection.

I thought I’d never find another book as perfect as the Byline. Then I opened my email last Monday afternoon.

Field Notes Dime Novel. Photo by Harry C. Marks.

The Field Notes Dime Novel Edition is the company’s Fall 2017 release and the 36th limited edition in the lineup.

And it. Is. Gorgeous.

Field Notes Dime Novel. Photo by Harry C. Marks.Reminiscent of old dime novels of the 19th century, the notebooks stand at 4-1/4″ by 6-1/2”, roughly the same dimensions as their namesake. Three separate notebooks comprise the 72 pages within and are Smyth-sewn inside a thick, brown-orange cover.

Field Notes is no stranger to experimenting with its covers. The blinding, aggressive Unexposed editions were better left that way. The cherry veneer of the Shelterwood put a tiny tree in everyone’s pockets. The Snowblind edition forced writers and note-takers out of the house as its stark white cover shifted to blue when exposed to sunlight. These gimmicks all had the same purpose: differentiation. No other pocket notebook had a wooden cover, nor one that changed colors in sunlight, and no company was blind-mailing subscribers random notebooks without first knowing the contents of each envelope.

This is what makes the Dime Novel edition so interesting. The form factor is different from the usual lineup, but not so drastic as a Byline. The cover doesn’t have a pop-out ruler or foil coating. It’s just brown paper debossed with black ink. While more elaborate than, say, the America the Beautiful edition, it lacks the pop of some of the more intense covers mentioned above.

Field Notes Dime Novel. Photo by Harry C. Marks.

That said, the Dime Novel cover isn’t simple. Within its black borders are lines of text meant to sell the notebook and illustrate its purpose. “Practical Beauty and Value,” “Adventures in Creativity,” “A Pocket Companion” all adorn the front, arranged to fill the space and yet be easily glossed over. The two things that stand out are the words “FIELD NOTES” at the top and “‘Dime Novel’ Edition” toward the bottom. Everything else is white noise. The surrounding text provides dimension, but can be easily ignored.

The original Beadle dime novel covers were not meant to be ogled. They were there to keep the pages from falling out. I see Field Notes’ homage in much the same light; the deceptively simple cover is there to protect your words and sketches, then get out of the way. What’s surprising about this edition is just how inspirational and aspirational it seems. This is a book begging to be written in and yet holding it, it feels too beautiful to sully with one’s own musings. How funny is that? A notebook modeled on cheap, mass market “literature” isn’t cheap looking enough for the average to-do list.

The 72 numbered pages inside are a hearty 70# stock seemingly made for pencil. I tested the paper with a Blackwing 602 (firm core) and a Blackwing 24 (extra-firm core), as those are the two pencils I use most. The paper has a very slight tooth to it that grips the point tightly, but doesn’t erode it to a nub after a few strokes. Artists and sketchers will probably like this paper a lot, but I defer to them for final verdicts, as I do fountain pen users. As a pencil user, I’m pleased.

Field Notes Dime Novel. Photo by Harry C. Marks.

This edition feels like a paperback in the hand. Given a few weeks in a back pocket, it’ll probably start to look more like an original dime novel than the crisp notebook in these pictures, with the cover crushed and faded like your granddad’s old hat. My only complaint concerns the blank pages. I’d hoped a notebook centered around literature would’ve provide writers with the lines necessary to write their own, but blank is more versatile. Fair enough. It’s probably my bias talking anyway—I almost never buy blank notebooks and I have no use for grids.

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and I’ve been outlining my first attempt in a Byline. I’d originally planned to knock out my daily 2,000 words in Scrivener on my laptop, but the arrival of these Dime Novel notebooks have presented a new challenge. With a guide slipped behind each page, might I tackle the Kerouac-ian effort of writing 50,000 words in one month by hand instead? The thought of seeing what could become a published novel get its start in a such a format is enticing. Even more so when I imagine the mason jar on my desk stuffed with Blackwing 24 stubs by the end of November.

Whether I decide to tackle NaNoWriMo digitally or otherwise is yet to be decided. What’s certain is my lust for this latest Field Notes edition. These books will be used and for something greater than to-do lists. They deserve it. Sometimes, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to capture the attention of a jaded group of collectors. Sometimes, you just need to make a simple, beautiful notebook—a work of art meant to inspire other works of art, and these notebooks have inspired me.


Many thanks to Harry C. Marks for his review of this beautiful notebook! You can find Harry online at HCMarks.com or listen to his podcast, Covered, about writers and their books. In his current season,  he’s talking exclusively to women authors about their books, and recently chatted with pencil friend Caroline Weaver about her book, “The Pencil Perfect.” It’s so good, and very pencilly, so you should have a listen. —Andy

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Paper Tasting: Packs of unique Japanese paper celebrating color and texture

A few weeks ago, I went to the San Francisco International Pen Show. Graphite representation was pretty low, but I was excited to hang out with some stationery blogger friends, like Ana Reinert from the Well Appointed Desk, and Brad Dowdy from The Pen Addict. In fact, I worked a shift at his Nock Co. booth, peddling fine nylon pen and notebook holders.

I also met a really interesting guy — Taizo Yamamoto. He was visiting the US, and is sort of a Japanese counterpart to me and other US stationery bloggers — he has a podcast about stationery (called Hoji-raji, literally translating into to dig up, as in digging up interesting and backgrounds of stationery industry people), focussed on paper. (It’s all in Japanese, so I’m sad I can’t listen to it). Our mutual friend, Bruce Eimon from Think on Paper Co., introduced us (you may remember Bruce from my post about the Mitsubishi Uni Palette).

Taizo and Bruce collaborate on a really cool product called Paper Tasting, which is really what I’m here to talk about.

Taiko Yamamoto's Paper Tasting packs

What is Paper Tasting?

paper-tasting-3

Paper Tasting pack “Yellow, vol. 1”

Well, it’s a sampler of different kinds of papers, organized in an expertly and tightly curated selection. It includes three samples of paper arranged in a theme — generally by color.

There seem to be, generally, three kinds of paper included in these packs:

  • A small pad of thick, plush, extravagant paper
  • A medium-sized pad of a more conventional, but still gorgeous, paper
  • A larger pad of a thinner, vellum paper

But what is Paper Tasting, really?

To me, each pack seems like a celebration of the visual and tactile capabilities of paper. Bruce and I have a sort of ongoing conversation about the Japanese philosophy around paper — they place a much higher regard on texture and thickness than US companies often do, which focuses more on ruling and economy.

In fact, check out this brilliant taxonomy of paper that’s included in each Paper Tasting pack — they have 64 varieties of paper organized neatly for easy reference:

Paper Tasting's Taxonomy and Classification of Japanese Paper

Paper Tasting’s Taxonomy and Classification of Japanese Paper

It took me some time to feel comfortable writing on this paper, because it looked and felt so precious — and because it feels like a limited resource. (Some of this paper just isn’t made anymore. The speckled “Paradise” paper from the “Blue, vol. 1” pack, for example, was discontinued earlier this year, which is a tragedy.)

Paper Tasting pack

Paper Tasting pack “Blue, vol. 1”

What do I do with these Paper Tasting packs?

If you’re like me, they’re perfect for just looking at and playing with. There are so many more unique colors and textures in these packs than I’m used to seeing in one place.

And if you want to tear them off, fold them up and try out different pencils, pens, markets and other utensils on them — go for it!

Yellow Kaguya paper, embossed to look like the surface of the moon. From the Paper Tasting pack “Yellow, vol. 1”

I was lucky enough to get to try these packs out before their launch — according to the website, they’ll available for sale starting October 1. I’m not sure of the price, or how often they’ll be releasing new packs, but be sure to follow them closely.

And if you can get your hands on the Blue, vol. 1 and the Yellow, vol. 1 packs — do.

Find more information about Paper Tasting packs here, and check back in October for information on how to buy them. And thank you, Bruce and Taizo, for the preview!

“How I wish I may do it as gallantly as you:” A letter written in pencil to Dorothea Lange by John Steinbeck

Just across the bay from San Francisco is Oakland, a city that often lives in the shadow of SF, but has so many cool attributes in its own right.

On Sunday, I went to one of Oakland’s gems, the Oakland Museum of California. In addition to some amazing permanent installations, we saw a temporary exhibit featuring the photography of Dorothea Lange, a prolific documentary photographer from the early- to mid-1900s.

She’s perhaps best known for her series on the displaced farm families as they migrated from Oklahoma to California in the 1930s, and on the forced internment of Japanese-Americans by the US government during World War II.

(And among a certainly online community, she’s also known for having a Blackwing Volumes edition tribute — the red-ferruled Volume 344.)

The photography was powerful, the narrative was fascinating and there were really great interactive elements of the exhibit, featuring creative photo cropping, grouping photos to tell a story, and other immersive lessons.

A display featuring a letter written to photographer Dorothea Lange by author John Steinbeck in 1965. Displayed in the Oakland Museum of California.

But the piece that really held my attention was a letter written to her by John Steinbeck just a few months before her death in 1965. He thanked her for the use of her photographs for a collection of articles he wrote in a pamphlet called Their Blood is Strong, about the Great Depression and American migrant workers.

(If you don’t know who John Steinbeck is, I can’t help you. But let’s say for the sake of this article that he’s a guy who wrote books and is perhaps the most famous modern pencil user. He also has a Blackwing Volumes tributed to him — the all-black Volume 24.)

When I got up close to the display, I noticed that the letter was written in pencil! Its a bit hard to tell from this photo, but the marking is extremely dark. If Steinbeck was writing with one of his favorite three (the Eberhard Faber Mongol, the Blaisdell Calculator 600, and the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602), I’d guess that it’d be the Blackwing.

(An Erasable group member put together a project called The Steinbeck World Tour, a collection of those three pencils that was mailed to participants, so they could experience them. I got to try them out in Spring 2016, and can speak from experiecne that the Blackwing is indeed the darkest and smoothest. Although the Blaisdell is pretty close.)

The Steinbeck Trio: three pencils lauded by Steinbeck.

The Steinbeck Trio: three pencils lauded by Steinbeck, accompanied by a baseball card and an Field Notes pocket notebook with an Erasable sticker.

I love this quote from Steinbeck’s letter to Lange:

We have lived in the greatest of all periods. If the question were asked, if you could choose out of all time, when would you elect to have lived, I would surely say — the present. Of course we don’t now how it comes out. No one ever does. The story ends only in fiction and I have made sure it never ends in my fiction.

A transcript of Steinbeck's letter to Lange.

Notice how great Steinbeck’s handwriting was. It’s hard to believe, since he wrote so much by hand, that his pencilmanship didn’t degrade over time. But I guess when you’re writing a letter to one of “the giants” like Dorothea Lange, you slow down and take your time so your writing is legible. Even if you’re John Steinbeck.

Thank you to the Oakland Museum of California for the exhibit, and for giving me the opportunity to see this artifact of an  interaction between these two giants.

Plumbago Magazine, Issue 2 is for sale as a pre-order!

I’m really excited for the second issue of Plumbago, my zine project. If you’ll remember, the first issue came out late last year. It was a bit rushed, since I was trying to produce an issue in time for a Zine Fest at the Facebook Analog Lab.

Turns out, I made far too few copies, and because it was assembled entirely using the photocopier, several features in it were pretty heavily distorted.

This time around, I wanted to produce a higher-quality issue, to see how that felt.

Well, it feels pretty great! Weighing in at 36 pages full of photos, comics, illustrations, and written features, I present Issue #2!

19961218_10101209738831052_8562597763869366426_n.jpg

This isn’t a real image of the magazine, so the cover could look totally different than this. Just saying.

This time, I need to spend a bit more money on producing the issue, so I opened it up for pre-orders to fund the initial print run. Please help out by placing a pre-order!

Just a few features you’ll find in this issue:

  • “What I’ve Learned from Field Notes”: A piece by urban sketcher Tina Koyama
  • “Rabbinic Musings in Graphite”: about how pencils aid in the intense study environs of rabbi school by Mordechai Lightstone
  • “How to Keep Score at a Baseball Game Using a Pencil”: A piece by Gregory Dresser
  • “Are You Too Obsessed with Stationery?:” A quiz to help you measure your sickness
  • A comic by the Mad Penciler
  • An editorial by Dr. J. Frank, encouraging you to lovingly destroy your pencils
  • And lots, lots more.

This issue will be $10 each, but during the pre-order period, it’s $8. Head over to the Plumbago page on Erasable.us to order a copy now!

Neat & Super Dark: An overview of the colorful uniqueness of Indian pencils

One of the great ironies of wooden pencil merchandising is that for a product that’s a symbol — perhaps the symbol — of globalized industry, we see so few of the on the shelves in the United States. There are Ticonderoga pencils, of course, and Write Dudes. If it’s a fancy store, there are some Japanese and German brands, and of course there are bottom-shelf no-branded pencils. I barely even notice those anymore.

But what about Indian pencils?

This post is not a review of any specific pencil made in India. For that, you should check out in-depth reviews by my friends Mike at Lead Fast and Dee at The Weekly Pencil. You could even listen to the a recent episode of The Erasable Podcast where Mike talks about them.

What I do want to do here is celebrate Indian pencils, and give you a few resources if you want to explore them on your own.

What’s so great about Indian pencils?

As Mike said on Episode 75 when asked this same question, they’re one of the best quality pencils for the price. And the way they use color and typography make it, aesthetically, much more interesting than the vast majority of the pencils you can buy around here. As iconic and trusted as the yellow pencil is in the US, it gets a little boring after a while.

And for less than two dollars for a 10-pack, most pencil models are super cheap. Even if you spend that same amount shipping it over here.

In a nutshell, they’re a breath of fresh air in a market where attractive pencils are usually extremely expensive (Blackwing and Tombow, for example) and inexpensive pencils are terrible performers and, well, just boring.

CW Pencils

My very favorite pencil shop in the world  is Caroline Weaver’s shop, CW Pencil Enterprise. She has one of the best selections of wooden pencils in the US, with exclusive stocks of Viking pencils, Hindustan, and a few other brands. It was from her I learned about the Nataraj Pop, which I’ve written about here before, and a few others like the Apsara Joi.

She introduced me, and a lot of my pencil-centric friends, to Indian brands like Nataraj and Apsara, both made by Hindustan Pencils, and the standard of what I think associate with Indian pencils.

The Curios

A few months ago, I got a message on Facebook from Suraj Singh, a pencil fan from Faridabad, India. He runs a small online stationery business, The Curios. Suraj is a member of our Erasable Pencil Community Facebook group, and wanted to know if the group would have any interest in buying Indian-brand pencils from him. Of course we would!

He sent me a price sheet, and I realized there were brands I never heard of! Pencils with names like “Camlin Flora Chhota Bheem,” “Navneet Stallion Full Black” and “Rorito Trizy” stuck out to me. I wanted one of everything.

Luckily, Suraj has a plan for that. He offers a sampler pack of either one or two pencils of every variety he offers, and for really cheap. I bought the 2-pack sampler which includes 110 or more pencils, for only $14.50!

My sampler pack from The Curios came like a brick wrapped up in a manila envelope, and didn't look anything at all like drugs.

(Shipping was almost twice that amount, though, but still a good deal considering it came more than 7500 miles to get to me.)

The full selection of what came in my package from The Curios India. All this for only $14.50! I ordered the 10-pack of Apsara Pop pencils separately.

The full selection of what came in my package from The Curios India. All this for only $14.50! I ordered the 10-pack of Apsara Pop pencils separately.

As soon as I opened the box, I was in love. Aesthetically, they came in varied, bright colors with contrasting end caps. Bold, foil-pressed typography with fun descriptive words (like “Learn with fun” on the Eco-buddy and “Neat & Dark” on the Rorito Quicky). There was a high percentage of triangular pencils, which Ive always been into. It’s just an explosion of color and fun, which I don’t see a lot of around.

The colors, the designs, the typography, and the words on these assorted Indian pencils are unique and just so delightful to me.

The colors, the designs, the typography, and the words on these assorted Indian pencils are unique and just so delightful to me.

Sure, the high-end pencils that go around our community are beautiful — the newest Blackwing Volumes edition celebrating Lake Tahoe is an example of the aesthetic beauty that special, high-end pencils can bring — but these Indian pencils are something else. They’re maybe not as polished and “special” in their design. Their bright colors are commonplace, which really appeals to me.

How do they write?

Generally, they write well. As I mentioned, I don’t want this to be a review post. Some are dark and buttery, like the aforementioned Rorito Quicky or the Flair Dotcom D100 (which looks a lot like the Faber Castell Grip 2001), and some are light and scratchy like Victory HB (Not to be confused with the Victory HD, with “unbreakable graphite.”)

Without stereotyping too much, I would say Indian pencil that advertise as being “extra dark” write a bit lighter than Japanese pencils of the same. They aren’t quite as exacting in their core grading (one pencil has “HB+” written on the barrel — what does that even mean?), but at a fraction of the price, I don’t expect them to be.

How do I get some of these pencils?

If you want a box of assorted Indian pencils, reach out to Suraj. The easiest way is probably through his Facebook Page, though if you dont use that platform, you can email him, too, at thecuriosindia@gmail.com. If you’re in the US, just remember that shipping will likely cost more than the product itself, and still take a couple of weeks to arrive. That’s pretty standard and expected.

He also sells those pencils by boxes of 10, if you know what make and model you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for one or two pencils of more limited availability, perhaps to add to a larger order of other pencil ephemera, head over to CW Pencils. They have a smaller selection, but some of the best, like the fabulously hand-marbled Nataraj Marble Pencil or the Apsara Absolute Extra Strong.

There are lots of assorted sellers on Amazon, but at this point, I don’t know enough about them to recommend them. They seem to offer pretty good prices, often with shipping built into the cost, but often, they seem to be much slower in shipping than the two sellers I mention above. Buy from there at your own risk.

And meanwhile, check out a few of these reviews of Indian pencils on other fine pencil blogs:

Two more Blackwing notebooks to complement the Slate

It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything about Palomino Blackwing/Pencils.com/CalCedar. But it’s not for want of any new products from them. They’ve been busy!

Their latest release is a great follow-up to my post in Summer 2014 about the Blackwing Slate, a Blackwing-branded A5-sized journal. Since that release, they haven’t said much about their line of paper products, though I’ve seen the Slate in most stores that carry their pencils. I figured they’ve been concentrating on their (very ambitious) quarterly Volumes releases.

But it was in the last Volumes release that they gave us a taste of what’s to come. The Volume 205 edition (the “jade” edition) included an extra. A small, single, pocket-sized notebook with the same leather-ish polyurethane black cover as the Slate.

blackwing-notebooks-1Later on, they announced it was called the Blackwing Clutch. And they followed that up with the Summit, a larger, 8.5 x 10” edition.

blackwing-notebooks-2Like the Slate, the Clutch and the Summit are plain black with a creamy, thick paper. Unlike the Slate, they are perfect-bound with a contiguous cover from front to back, similar to a Write Notepad notebook. And they have a soft cover; similar to a Moleskine, though with a better, thicker cover.

One thing about both of these new notebooks was bugging me — the name. The “Slate” makes sense — it’s another name for a handheld writing surface. But what about the “Clutch” and the “Summit”?

Finally, I emailed Alexander, Blackwing’s brand manager and asked. He said:

“The ‘Clutch,’ because it will (hopefully) come in clutch when you have a great idea on the go, and because it opens like a clutch bag. The ‘Summit,’ because we envision this being more of a meeting/desktop/workplace notebook, and because it’s our largest notebook offering.”

(“Clutch,” for those of you who don’t know, is slang for “performs under pressure.”)

Aesthetics

blackwing-notebooks-iphone

I’m a fan of the matte black covers — they match my iPhone really well, so when my notebook and phone are laying on a desk next to each other, it looks like I planned it that way.

That said, I’m generally drawn to stationery items with a bit of color. The Baron Fig Three-Legged Juggler and the Write Notepads Kindred Spirit are two notebooks that come to mind.

But these are subtle and classic, and complement their pencils really nicely. Blackwing pencils are themselves not subtle (though I do think most of them are pretty classic), so unlike a bright pocket notebook (Say, the Field Notes Unexposed edition), these notebooks won’t draw attention away from them.

The Form Factor

One of the big advantages to the Clutch, Blackwing says, is to use it sideways, in “clamshell mode,” as it were. Two things about this:

  • That’s not a particularly unique value proposition — you can do that with any saddle-stitched or perfect-bound pocket notebook. And really, anything that’s graph or dot-grid ruled.
  • Also, the notebook isn’t particular good at being used sideways like that — the binding is very tight and it’s hard to break the spine on some pages.

Like other perfect-bound pocket notebooks, the Clutch is bound in such a way that in order to let it lie open, one must “crack” the spine —

bendy-blackwing-notebookThe Summit makes no such claims. The binding is a bit different — it’s more of a traditional journal, with the cover material tucked underneath the end sheet.

The Paper

Like the Slate, these two has a thick 100gsm ivory paper. It’s luxurious and smooth, but kinda smeary. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it in the Slate, but looking back, the Slate’s paper seems toothier. Check out the smear from this Blackwing Pearl:

smear-testAnd that’s not even the softest Blackwing out there.

Despite the smeariness, I like it a lot. It feels like paper befitting a luxury brand.

I am, however, not a huge fan of the dot grid here. It’s well-spaced — just about the same as the Baron Fig Confidant. But the dots themselves are big and bold, which makes them feel a bit intrusive. I would much prefer them to be smaller and lighter.

blackwing-notebook-7

The darker but smaller dot grid of a Blackwing Summit notebook next to the grayer but bigger dot grid of a Baron Fig Confidant

Both the Clutch and the Summit come in dot grid, lined and blank (the latter two I haven’t tried).

The Price

This is where you really see what “luxury brand” means. Like their pencil counterparts, this is not cheap. A three-pack of the Clutch notebooks are $14.95. The Summit is just a dollar cheaper than the Slate, at $21.95.

Is it worth it?

This is something you’ll have to determine for yourself. For me? It’s worth the quality they put into the notebook. They seem way more sturdy than the $12-per-pack Field Notes (only time will tell, though).

However great the quality is, I still would prefer a bit of color in my notebook. The Baron Fig Confidant and Vanguard limited editions are great for me in that regard, as are Write Notepads’ pocket notebooks. The Blackwing notebooks don’t appeal to me, aesthetically, as much as they do. If you like a subtle, classic black, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

I will certainly keep coming back to Blackwing for pencils, though. My Volumes subscription renews in a week, and that’ll be the start of my third year as a subscriber.

Check out the Blackwing Clutch at Blackwing602.com. And the Blackwing Summit. And if you haven’t seen it before, the Blackwing Slate is the hardcover journal sized right in the middle.

And thanks to Blackwing for providing me a pack of the Clutches and Summits at no charge for review purposes.

The Waverley Tartan Cloth Commonplace Notebook: Beautiful, but oddly ruled

I love plaid.

I don’t know if it’s because of my ten years of Catholic school — or perhaps in spite of it — but the colorful, patterned cloth has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. Perhaps none have been present in my wardrobe more than Black Watch plaid — a simple, understated green and blue plaid with roots in Scottish military garb born out of the unsuccessful Jacobite rebellion in the early eighteenth century.

I had a Pendleton wool scarf, which I cherished, and, in my late teens and early 20s, even a wool sweater vest!

Ladies.

Thats why, when I first became aware of Waverley’s tartan cloth-bound collection of journals from my friend Gary Varner’s blog, I was instantly lovestruck.

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