Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Comparative Review

Last year I wrote about my Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 and followed it up with an update. It’s one of my favorite pens, so when the Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Magma was announced, I snapped one up.

Now that my Magma is back in action, I’m writing a comparative review of the two. I couldn’t find anything about the Rainbow when it first came out, and there doesn’t seem to be anything about the Magma, so hopefully, this will help anyone considering purchasing either of them.

Backstories

If you know the history behind these two pens in my collection, feel free to skip down to the main review.

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Regalia Writing Labs Sequel Nib Review

Collage of close ups of the Sequel nib

I’ve wanted one of Regalia Writing Labs‘ Sequel Nibs ever since Ralph shared the first photo of one. Part of my interest was based on the uniqueness of the nib, and part was a desire to support Ralph in his continued nib tinkering and modification. I’m very interested to see where his efforts take him.

Unfortunately, he teased us all for a while before making the nibs available, and then, only at shows. They’re still (to the best of my knowledge) only available at shows or via Instagram flash sales.

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Franklin-Christoph Firma Flex Notebook

I’ve been searching for my “perfect notebook” almost since I started using fountain pens. Every notebook I tried had at least one problem (in my opinion, I’m sure people would disagree with me). I’d just about given up hope of finding my “perfect notebook” when I stumbled across the Franklin-Christoph Firma-Flex Journal Notebooks.

The Search

When I started using fountain pens, I realized I could no longer just pick up any notebook I wanted to. So began my notebook search. And, of course, the elements that make up my “perfect notebook” have changed over the course of my search.

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The Montegrappa Fortuna Saga

With one exception, my experiences with fountain pens have been fantastic. Today I’m going to tell you about that exception. Before I do, however, I want you to keep something in mind. I vacillated for weeks between sharing this story and keeping it to myself. I don’t want it to read as a smear on Motegrappa. What I want you to take away from this story is the amazing customer service offered by Cary Yeager of Kenro Industries.

Montegrappa Fortuna Heartwood Pear

I bought my Montegrappa Fortuna Heartwood Pear (FHP) on November 11 at Bertram’s Inkwell‘s yearly trunk show. I’d been eyeing the pen for a while. It’s beautiful. Cary had one at his table with the nib size I wanted, so I bought it. And so began the FHP saga.

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Regalia Writing Labs Semiflex Nib Review

If you’ve been reading my Fountain Pen 101 series, you’ve seen a couple of shout-outs to Regalia Writing Labs. Beyond being a genius with nibs, Ralph Reyes, the creator, is a really nice guy.

He offered a limited run of “Full-Flex” nibs a few months ago, and Jim was lucky enough to snag one. It was absolutely amazing. Check out this fabulous flexibility. I wasn’t even putting much pressure on it.

Full Flex Writing Sample

So when Ralph announced a Semiflex nib was coming, I turned on post and story notifications for his Instagram account and eagerly awaited the start of the sale. I was lucky. I got my hands on a nib, as did Jim. It took a while, but our nibs finally arrived on Monday.

Semi-Flex Nib Packaging

Ralph did an amazing job with the packaging. I felt like I was getting a piece of jewelry. And I loved the custom seal.

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Harry Potter Hogwarts Cash Grab

Like Potterheads the world over, I rejoiced when Portkey Games officially announced two Harry Potter apps last year. Harry Potter Wizards Unite (the Pokemon Go style app) sounded more intriguing, but I was interested in Hogwarts Mystery as well.

I promptly followed the HPHogwartsMystery Instagram account and pre-registered for the app as soon as I could in order to stay up to date on all the news. I feel no shame in admitting I, quite literally, squeed in joy when I received the email alert that the game was available. At my desk. At work. #potterlife

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Lola’s Blog Tours

January 24th was my cover reveal. Congratulations to the winners of the accompanying giveaway!

I did some research while preparing it, and decided to go with Lola’s Blog Tours for the simple fact that, at the time, her cover reveals were free. I figured it was a good way to evaluate her services, and if it was a flop, I hadn’t really lost anything. Thankfully, it was a decent success.

Of course, the question is, how do you measure success? I’m not naive, I didn’t expect my book cover to be plastered across the internet on every single page, especially not as part of a free service, but I’m pretty happy with the 16 people who signed up.

Between the participating bloggers, the social media reach was pretty impressive (to me). It’s impossible, of course, for me to calculate the total reach. But based off of a simple follower count of accounts that posted, tweeted, retweeted, etc., the social media reach of my cover reveal was approximately:

  • 8,000 accounts on Facebook
  • 36,700 accounts on Twitter
  • 428 accounts on Instagram.

This does not account for overlapping followers, nor does it consider blog subscribers, so the reach could be considerably higher.

I also ended up with 29 giveaway entries, which isn’t bad considering the prize was one ebook.

I felt the results were good enough to book additional services with Lola’s Blog Tours. I’ve scheduled a blog tour for March 5-18. If you’re interested in participating, check out the sign up post. I’ve also scheduled a review opportunity that will start around the same time as the blog tour. Subscribe to my blog to get notified when it starts.

I’ve really enjoyed working with Lola. She’s professional and efficient, qualities I greatly appreciate. If you’re in the market for any of her services, I heartily recommend Lola’s Blog Tours.

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The Joy of Coco

There will be spoilers towards the end of this post, but I’ll warn you first.

I saw Coco for the second time on Saturday. And while it didn’t hit me quite as hard in the feels this time, it was still an amazing movie.

The first time I saw Coco (on Thanksgiving), I was blown away, absolutely enchanted, and amazed to see my heritage, Mexican heritage, portrayed on the big screen in such a beautiful way. As Chantel mentions in this Pero Like video, it was amazing to see a story that happens to be set in Mexico, rather than a story about being Mexican.

The Rivera family from Coco

At its heart, Coco is about family. That family just so happens to be Mexican, and living Mexican lives. Therefore you have a rich tapestry of Mexican culture woven into the story. But the central theme of family can be (and has been) played out in any other setting (think Brave, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Inside Out, etc.). I think this is part of what makes Coco so special to me. The Mexican culture isn’t highlighted, isn’t glorified, it’s just there. But you can’t help but appreciate the beauty and richness of it.

Granted, in Coco, the focus is on one particular facet, Dia de los Muertos. But you get to see other bits as well. With Ernesto de la Cruz, you get a glance at old films. With the music competitions, you get a look at mariachi music. There are also alebrijes, lucha libre, ballet folklórico, chanclas, and on and on, but you get the idea.

Growing up multicultural, I never really paid much attention to people saying that it means a lot to see yourself represented in movies, TV, etc. That was a failing on my part, I know. But Coco opened my eyes to just how much it can mean. There were multiple times I found myself tearing up in sheer joy at seeing Mexican culture portrayed correctly. I can only imagine how great it was for all of the abuelitos going to the movies for the first time and seeing the magnificence that is Coco.  

So if you haven’t seen Coco yet, stop reading here (there are spoilers coming), and go see it while it’s still in theaters. Really, it’s worth it. If you have seen Coco, then let me share with you a little something I noticed when I watched it the second time.

 

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

It didn’t take me long on the first go around to figure out that Ernesto wasn’t Miguel’s great-great-grandfather. And it didn’t take much longer to determine that Hector must, therefore, be Miguel’s great-great-grandfather. What I didn’t pick up on, and really should have, is that because Ernesto stole Hector’s guitar, there was likely something nefarious going on.

And speaking of the guitar, did you notice that it’s the first hint the viewers get about who Miguel is actually related to?

The guitar has a gold tooth.

Head of the Guitar from Coco

Hector has a gold tooth.

Hector from Coco

Ernesto does not.

Ernesto de la Cruz from Coco

It’s even on the movie poster. Talk about fabulous foreshadowing. Did you catch that hint? Let me know in the comments.

Note: All images found through Google.

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Good Times at Bertram’s Inkwell

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like “pimping” companies that I’ve had good experiences with. So far, I’ve discussed Edison Pen Company, Goulet Pens, and Surreal Makeup. This time I’ll be telling you about Bertram’s Inkwell.

Bertram's Inkwell

Shopping Experiences

Photo of a Red Nibbed Platinum Preppy 05Bertram’s holds a special place in my heart as the store where I bought my first fountain pen. It was a red-nibbed Platinum Preppy 05. I don’t have a picture of mine, as it sadly disappeared in my recent move, but I did find this photo from WonderPens. It was my gateway pen, and the experience of purchasing it was so pleasant that Bertram’s was forever fixed in my mind as a top-notch store.

Photo of Lamy Safari Dark LilacThe next time I visited, I picked up a Lamy Safari Dark Lilac, completely oblivious to the fact that I was buying a special edition. I just knew I liked the color and feel of it. I also picked up bottles of Diamine Meadow and Diamine Aqua Lagoon because they were beautiful, bright colors. I’ve since learned that just because a color is pretty doesn’t mean it will make a good writing ink. Meadow hasn’t gotten much use because a full-page of it can be hard on the eyes.

While we were there, Jim bought a Namiki Falcon as a birthday present to himself. I can’t recall if it was Bert or Adam (or both) who helped us out that day — I was too focused on buying my first “nice” pen — but whoever it was was incredibly patient with me as I went through all of the Lamy colors, and let me dip test a few different nib sizes. Jim was also treated very well as he tried to decide if he was actually willing to buy such an expensive pen (oh, how our views have changed).

And now the really fun part. I get to tell you about some of my customer service experiences that I feel went above and beyond what your typical store offers.

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The Awesomeness that is Surreal Makeup

I’ll be the first to say that I am not a “girly girl”. Makeup happens maybe once a week. I’m really happy if my nails are all the same length. When I wear dresses, it’s because it’s only one piece to pull out of my closet, rather than two. I’m not necessarily the tomboy that I was as a kid, but I’m still definitely not girly.

I tell you this to give you a bit of context for the rest of this post. So that you understand how impressive it is that I’ve bought so much from Surreal Makeup. And when I say “so much” here is my current collection, and I have four more eyeshadow colors on the way.

Current Surreal Collection

 

Backing up a bit, I discovered Surreal at AwesomeCon 2016. Amanda Baker, the founder, was manning a table alone when I went by. She was so bubbly and colorful that I stopped to check out her stuff. She explained how Surreal is “hypoallergenic, naturally water resistant and cruelty-free mineral” makeup, and was very quick to swatch a few colors on the back of my hand. I was stunned. Finally, I’d come across the super pigmented, vibrant eyeshadows I’d always wanted. And, in some ways even better, they clean up with basic baby wipes; you don’t need makeup remover! They certainly live up to their name. But, my funds at the time were rather limited, so I bought my favorite colors (G. I. Jane, Gorgeous, and Royal) and snagged a card so I could buy more later.

Surreal First Purchase

Let me remind you, makeup rarely happens for me. I just don’t get up early enough to do much, if anything, during the week, and on weekends, I often don’t feel like putting in the effort. But I still bought three jars on the spot. Because these eyeshadows, well, a picture’s worth a thousand words, so, look at them. Just, wow!!! Swatches on the left are on bare skin, swatches on the right are over Surreal primer.

Surreal Swatches

I’d like to point out that a full 5g jar of this stuff will last you forever. Well, ok, it depends on how often you wear makeup. But I usually just put a single color on my lids and call my look done. So for that, I generally up-end the jar and tap it 4-5 times into a palette. Not a whole lot comes out with that, but you certainly get enough to do a full look. So these will last a very long time. And being loose powder, you won’t be introducing bacteria, so no grossness!

After AwesomeCon, I only ended up ordering a couple of the sample pod packs over the course of the year. The sample pods are amazing. You get 1 gram of 5 different products. And you can choose any product they have in stock. ANY product! It’s fabulous! You can try before you commit to a whole jar. They are also REALLY good for travel. So much so that I have some sample sizes of colors I own whole jars of, just so I can travel better. I’ve also noticed that you get an extra goodie or two with the samples you order, which is how I discovered Juicy is an amazing color for work.

In January this year, as I was working on my cosplay for AwesomeCon, I dropped Surreal a line on their Facebook page asking if they’d be back again. I got a quick reply in the affirmative. Happy day! I planned to get the makeup for my cosplay at the show. I also threw away what non-Surreal eyeshadows I had (most of them were very old, as in, I couldn’t remember when I bought them) with every intention of buying Surreal equivalents at the show.

AwesomeCon 2017 rolled around and I made sure to find Surreal’s table on Friday. There were more colors, and more types of products (including black light reactive eyeshadows!!!), but Amanda was still just as lovely and bubbly and colorful.

I’m going to pause a minute to say that it occurred to me the other day that Amanda’s like Luna Lovegood all grown up. A very kind soul, and 100% herself (or at least, that’s how she presents herself to the world, and she’s never seemed anything but completely genuine). And honestly, for me, there’s no better compliment. I’m in awe of people who can be themselves completely. It’s amazing. I hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing her photo.

But back to AwesomeCon…Amanda helped me pick out the right eyeshadows for my punk Tinkerbell costume, and swatched many more colors on the back of my hands. I had to wipe both hands off! Twice! I ended up putting together a nine-shadow palette, plus getting a lip gloss (because it was just so pretty). I really only stopped with those because I was determined to stick to my Con budget. And despite asking to see/swatch a million different colors, Amanda was continuously helpful and enthusiastic, so I didn’t feel like I was being a pain. Instead, I felt like we were bonding over her fabulous products. I even made sure to bring one of my close friends to her booth the next day, because I wanted her to experience how awesome Amanda and Surreal are.

It was shortly after AwesomeCon that I started following Surreal on Instagram, and I was, and still am, amazed at how positive all of the posts are. Every photo that Surreal shares has something good in the comments. When the account shares customer photos, they always include some kind of uplifting compliment. It’s generally a “feel good” feed.

A few weeks ago, Surreal started teasing their new Dragon Scales collection, and I knew I had to have them. I drooled over their fabulous swatches and mixing videos, and even set a reminder for launch day so I couldn’t possibly forget to buy them. I was so eager, that I purchased them before the official announcement, and my post BECAME the announcement on Instagram. *grin*

As an example of how FABULOUS their customer service is, I received an email a couple nights ago from Amanda herself, apologizing that they’ve run out of Hydra Dragon because she’s been unable to return home due to the Hurricane. I’m just happy she’s safe. But I was offered a different eyeshadow in exchange, with Hydra being shipped when she gets back home in October. How totally awesome is that! We then proceeded to have a short email exchange, ending with her suggestion of Cosmic or Hypnotize in response to my question about an intense silver shadow.

Now, just so people don’t say I’m being too positive, I will admit to some difficulties with their primer, although I’m pretty certain it’s user error. It’s a gel-like primer, and I’ve yet to figure out just how much to use so that it holds the shadow without being overly greasy or creasing really bad. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out, or, if I’m smart, I’ll ask Amanda at next year’s AwesomeCon (assuming that she goes again).

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say here, is that if you love bright, highly pigmented eyeshadow, Surreal is, in my opinion, the best choice. For what you’re getting, and how long they last, they are certainly among the least expensive, and you’re buying from an AMAZING person. Just try the sample pods once they’re back in stock. You won’t regret it, really. Even Yaya Han is wearing their stuff. My entire eyeshadow collection is from Surreal, and I have no regrets. Ms. Baker, if you ever happen to read this, know that I love your cosmetics, and you have a customer for life. Keep up the amazing work, it’s very much appreciated. 🙂

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