Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stained Fingers on Thursday - A Review of Platinum Green Ink

This is only the ink, which came from the green cartridge of a Platinum Preppy. Perhaps the bottled Platinum Green looks different? Sorry for the minimal notes on this ink!

This scan was done on an HP Deskjet F4280 at 600dpi.
Note: Because these scans are done with a light emitting printer, actual colors will, more likely than not, be slightly darker than they may appear, here. The colors shown, here, are probably a bit more reminiscent of what the ink would be like under a bright light or if it were held up and viewed with a light behind it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Tea Forte's Raspberry Nectar

Preparing to try out this herbal blend, the first thing that I notice in the smell of the dry leaves is "Hmmm, hibiscus." After boiling some water, I steep one pyramid infuser in a cup of water for five minutes to prepare to taste the "nectar"! The steeping brew still smells a lot like hibiscus, but the raspberry and orange peel smells are noticeable as well.

The first sip of this herbal tisane is a massively juicy explosion of flavor. Tea Forte's website had listed the ingredients as "rosehip, hibiscus, apple pieces, blackberry leaves, raspberries, orange peels, flavoring" and there is so much going on in the taste that I believe it has all those things and more. Thankfully, since this blend is called "Raspberry Nectar," raspberry is one of the dominant flavors. The sweetness of the apple does come out quite nicely, albeit subtly. This would be a decent desert drink, especially if one is looking for something low in caffeine. On my personal enjoyment scale, I rate it a 72/100.

This herbal blend may be purchased from Tea Forte's website, here.
Photo credit to Tea Forte.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.

Monday, April 14, 2014

And the Winner Is... Giveaway Announcement and Furrow Books Kickstarter Update

Thanks to all of you, who entered the giveaway for the Levenger True Writer! The winner of this beautiful fountain pen was entry #14, Roger Calhoon. Roger, I will be contacting you, soon!

Even though the giveaway has ended, you can still read the review of the True Writer, here. Levenger was very generous in sponsoring this giveaway, and I encourage you all to take a look at their website. the True Writer in foliage is available, here.

In other news, Aaron Zeller, of the Zeller Writing Company and Furrow Books, has announced that the project has been 100% funded! It is now more than $1,000 over its goal. Even more exciting is the revelation of stretch goals for the Furrow Books Kickstarter campaign. Furrow Books is moving in wonderful directions, and I cannot wait to see just how far their campaign goes. Visit them and back the project on Kickstarter, here!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stained Fingers on Thursday - A Review of Diamine Steel Blue

It looks very teal, but Diamine Steel Blue is a solid color for a variety of uses.

This scan was done on an HP Deskjet F4280 at 600dpi.
Note: Because these scans are done with a light emitting printer, actual colors will, more likely than not, be slightly darker than they may appear, here. The colors shown, here, are probably a bit more reminiscent of what the ink would be like under a bright light or if it were held up and viewed with a light behind it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reminder! Levenger True Writer Fountain Pen Giveaway - Ending on April 13!

Hi all, I just wanted to remind you that the giveaway for the Levenger True Writer fountain pen is ending soon. If you have not read the review and entered with your comment, you can do so here at this post! Remember: your comment must share what your current, favorite pen is in order for it to be a valid entry! A winner will be chosen after 12:00am PST on April 13, 2014. I will announce and notify the winner within forty-eight hours of the close of the giveaway.

Thanks again to Levenger for the opportunity to review this pen.


Update, April 14, 2014: The giveaway has ended, and the winner has been announced, here

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of The NecessiTeas Vanilla Cola

Wow...the smell of this tea is great! It truly does smell exactly like vanilla cola. Yet this is the part where my mind catches up with my nose and hits me over the head, telling me to stop and think for a moment: Vanilla cola tea? As in...a hot liquid that tastes like vanilla cola? (I must be careful here to not call rooibos "tea," for the sake of the tea-political correct.) While my mind is still trying to make a judgement call about whether or not it likes the idea of hot vanilla cola, my body forges ahead into the unknown to investigate and make some of this interesting mix.

It truly is a mix, according to the label. Rooibos, vanilla chips, and "natural flavors" come together in some magical manner to emulate the smell of this carbonated drink...minus the carbonation! Steeping is incredibly straightforward. 1 teaspoon per eight ounces of boiling water. I double this for my two-cup teapot and steep the blend for the recommended five minutes.

I had mentioned that the loose blend smells entirely of vanilla cola. Upon removing the infuser from my teapot, I catch my first whiff of the prepared drink...and now I get more variety to the aroma. The rooibos smell is much more prominent, the cola scent itself is there, and the vanilla laces the whole of the aromatic profile. Still charging onward with this endeavor, I pour my first cup and sit back to sip.

The taste of the brew is not as strange as I had anticipated. The rooibos comes through heavily in the flavor, causing this tea to be better described as "vanilla-flavored rooibos with light hints of cola." The first thought that comes to my mind is "Well, this is fun." The spiciness (meant, theoretically, to emulate the cola) adds a nice touch. Having experienced great vanilla rooibos in the past, this twist was novel and tasty.

Overall, this rooibos definitely made for an enjoyable and fun experience to try. If you like vanilla rooibos, or even rooibos in general, I highly recommend checking out The NecessiTeas Vanilla Cola. I would give it an 83/100 on my personal enjoyment scale.

This rooibos blend may be purchased from The NecessiTeas website, here.
Photo credit to The NecessiTeas.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Review of the Levenger True Writer Fountain Pen and a Giveaway!

First Impressions (9)
My first impressions of the True Writer are regarding its looks. The pen looks great in person. In fact, the colors are more vibrant than pictures reveal. The trim and the body match quite well. Having looked at the other True Writer colors, online, it would appear that Levenger puts a great deal of time into the color design of their pens.

Uncapping the pen, I immediately think that the gold grip section looks gaudy. It also looks quite short, and I wonder how that will affect performance.

Appearance (9)
Personally, I prefer silver/rhodium/platinum/chrome trims over gold/bronze/copper, etc. However, the gold on the True Writer looks wonderful with the colors. The name of this model is “Foliage,” and the body reminds me of autumn leaves. Yellows, browns, and greens blend with splashes of orange. A few of the color patches also seem to be metallic, making them stand out against the matte patches.

By crafting the cap from the same material as the body, Levenger has minimized the amount of gold on the outside of the pen - a move that I thoroughly support. From the tapered clip (reminiscent of the vintage Esterbrook clips) to the engraved band on the cap, finishing with the band at the end of the barrel, the gold on the outside is just big enough to be noticeable without being too much.

Removing the cap, the notable features are the gold grip and the two-tone nib. As previously mentioned, the gold grip is a bit much in my opinion. A section ring would have been sufficient. I found the use of a two-tone nib to be a bit strange - it is the only non-gold metal on the whole pen. Personal bias about gold aside, this pen is incredibly beautiful.

Design/Size/Weight (8)
My first impression of the design tends toward art deco a bit with the gold trim, colors, and especially the clip design. Size-wise, I find the grip a bit small, yet the overall pen length works well in my large hands and would probably be without issue in smaller hands. Uncapped, the pen is of a very moderate length, almost exactly the same length as the TWSBI 530/540/580, comfortable enough to easily use unposted. Oddly, the grip section is fairly short, cause me to partially grip over the threads, yet doing so is not uncomfortable.

It is the weight on this pen, which is most intriguing. By itself, the cap is remarkably end-heavy, so much so that I feel it bears mentioning. The pen, oddly enough, mirrors this weight distribution, as the nib-end of the pen, uncapped, carries significantly more weight than the rear end. The metal section is certainly to blame for this...but it works! With the weight around the nib and not at the other end, the pen feels much more “under control,” while writing, as though it becomes easier to guide the nib across the paper. Overall, I find it to be a nicely-designed pen.

The biggest issue that I see with the design is in the cap threading. Until the cap is completely screwed down, it wiggles quite a bit and turns rather loosely. I could imagine that if the cap were to come unscrewed just a bit, it could easily continue coming unintentionally unscrewed with ease.

Nib (8)
Medium nibs like this one tend to be relatively easy for nib manufacturers to make smooth, and I imagine that Levenger has pretty good quality control on their nibs. This nib is no exception, and I find that it puts down a solid and consistent western medium line, while allowing for some slight line variation, when the pen is lifted just a bit (e.g. when one lessens the pressure of writing). It is a moderately soft nib, not as firm as a TWSBI (JoWo) nib, but also not approaching flex. A good amount of feedback (though not scratchy) connects the writer to the paper. The size of the nib also complements the size of the pen, quite well, both in length and width of the nib body, itself.

Filling System (8)
Appealing to the masses, Levenger has designed the True Writer as a cartridge converter, using standard international cartridges. There is room for a spare cartridge in the barrel, if short standard international cartridges are being used, and I would imagine that a long standard international cartridge could be used. A single, short standard international cartridge is included with the pen. However, in a move that more pen manufacturers should emulate, Levenger has chosen to include a converter with their fountain pen. As a user of primarily bottled ink, the attraction of an included converter is a definite plus. Additionally, the piston unit in the converter moves smoothly and seems of good quality.

Cost and Value (9)
A solid body, a beautiful design, gold plating, a good nib, and a convenient filling system combine with a sub-100 USD price tag for a fountain pen at a great value. While certainly not entry-level, the Levenger True Writer sits at a price point that makes for a great gift or quality, possibly first, foray into midlevel fountain pens. The looks alone are certain to impress.

Conclusion (8.5)
In conclusion, I am very impressed by my first experience with a Levenger fountain pen. Levenger appears to have spent a great deal of time and effort on their designs, crafting pens that are visually appeal and write quite well. The Levenger True Writer is an impressive pen and a great value with a large number of color combinations to suit a variety of tastes.

Levenger was kind enough to provide this pen for my review, and a big "thank you" goes out to them for making this review possible. Please pay their site a visit, here. The Levenger True Writer in Foliage can be purchased from their shop, here. I want to share their generosity with the readers of this blog! Enter the contest, below, and you could win this very Levenger True Writer. All you have to do is enter the giveaway through the form and leave a comment on this post, sharing what your current, favorite pen is. (You must use a valid email address.) Additionally entries may be earned by tweeting about the giveaway or following the Built from Ink and Tea Twitter feed, @SpencerCreates. Just use the form, below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to domestic and international readers of this blog. (Note that entries for the giveaway close at 12:00 am, PST, on April 13, 2014.)

Update, April 14, 2014: The giveaway has ended, and the winner has been announced, here!