Let me tell you about this really cool concept I've just become aware of. It's called LOST CRATES. The idea is brilliant - once a month, a package arrives in the mail - a lost crate, as it were - with goodies inside. Conjures up a simpler time, when people traveled with steamer trunks on grand adventures into the wilds - Africa, Egypt, Turkey. Honeymoons could take up to a year of travel around the globe - and of course, those hearty travelers came home with treasures. So when I heard about Lost Crates I was over the moon. Combine the lost art of traveling the world for priceless artifacts with office supplies, and voila! you have a winning concept.

I filled out the personality quiz and waited breathlessly for my crate to arrive. Yesterday, at long last, it appeared on my doorstep.

Clever packaging helps personalize the box. Inside was a list of the contents - personally, I would have liked to be surprised by unwrapping the goodies and finding the contents card on the bottom, but that's just me.

Love the crackly tissue paper - really gave a nice touch.

The contents of my crate are as follows:

1 Lamy logo mechanical pencil  retail $18.00

1 Quo Vadis Habana Notebook (4x6 pocket) retail $14.25

1 package of Bob's Your Uncle Sticky Page Markers retail $10

Retail total $42.25

The reason I'm including prices is for market comparison: LOST CRATES is a monthly subscription service. The cost is simply $38 a month. That may seem steep on the page, but as you can see, it's less than what you'd pay for these items individually, plus you don't pay shipping.

I love the Lamy pencil. I'm a big fan of all things Lamy, and it happens I use mechanical pencils, so a score there. I'm also a huge Habana fan, and who doesn't need fun sticky notes?

So is it worth it?

Absolutely. This is a brilliant gift for the stationary and pen connoisseur in your life. I think it would also be a fun way friends could trade items they might not be as fond of for more glamorously perceived pieces. And if you don't like an item - well, I can guarantee you that a little gift to your favorite person wouldn't go amiss.

One litte con that I can see off the top.

I must admit, I had been hoping for something a tad more exotic than what my crate contained. I completely bought into the mythology of the Lost Crate concept. It's a huge selling point, one I imagine might be difficult to always fulfill. But if 6 of 10 crates have something truly unique and special in them, the service fufills the promise. And from what I can see from the teaser email, there were some really special items in this month's crates. Which tells me I screwed up the personality test. : ) (Yo, left brain - take a hike!)

As you can tell, this is a tiny issue. Overall, this is a hugely fantastic idea. Lost Crates is a wonderful way to capture fun and innocence, plus, you get to try some of the coolests products on the market today. I really appreciate Sarah Ostman from LOST CRATES giving me the chance to see what the service is all about. I'm hooked, and I hope you will be too. This is an elegant, unique and sexy concept that will appeal to all of the penmonkeys out there.

Now. Can I retake that test???

Sign up for LOST CRATES here!

A Review of the Levenger Soul Skin for Moleskine

Anyone who knows me knows my love of office products. I truly picked the best of all possible careers, because instead of worrying about shoes and clothes and makeup, I get to read the Levenger catalogue, read the Quo Vadis blog, surf The Daily Planner, collect pens, finger the finest Clairefontaine notebooks, and channel my inner Hemingway in my Moleskine. I read blogs about products and pens, have an insatiable curiosity about what other authors use… I’m hopelessly addicted.

Right now, I’m using a Clairefontaine notebook as my workbook for the novel I’m working on. That’s it right there.  

To my right is my brand new Soul Skin for Moleskine, from Levenger. (A little worse for wear - you'll see why below)

Last but not least, by brand new Lamy fountain pen.

Excellent products, all.

But this post is a shoutout to Levenger. I am a firm believer in writers having the best tools at their disposal. If you’re a gamer, you’re going to want the top of the line, right? That’s how we are with office products. They must be utilitarian and beautiful, and Levenger fits the bill on all counts.

Last week, I ordered a monogrammed Soul Skin. I didn't like the True Writer ballpoint that came with it - it was too short for my hand, so I sent it back and got a Lamy Safari fountain pen. All arrived in record time, as always, looking pristine and perfect in their gift boxes. I didn’t waste any time breaking them in.

I am in love with this cover. So much so that I bought a second one for my husband. The Ravello leather of the Soul Skin is ridiculously soft – I’ve actually caught myself petting it absently while reading. The pen loop lock works great, and it just plain looks sophisticated and elegant. The Lamy fountain pen is perfect for me-lightweight, good grip, nice ink laydown. I’m definitely a fan.

So this morning, my husband and I decided to run out for breakfast before settling in to work. I grabbed my Moleskine, now housed in its week old Soul Skin. I had an idea I wanted to explore, not a huge stretch, considering. But as we walked to the car, a fawn came crashing into the neighbors yard. I’m talking brand new, brightly spotted, no more than a week old. It was about the size of my neighbor’s miniature collie. I set my notebook on the top of the car and grabbed my iPhone to take pictures. Hilarity ensued, and fear, as Bambi scampered around, lost and scared. We finally got her cornered—we were trying to make sure she didn’t set out for the road—and she bounded off into the woods. What a blessing!

Randy and I got back in the car and drove off.

You know where this is going, right? Two miles later I realized I didn’t have my notebook. Oh………. Bad words. Very bad words. Not only was the Moleskine in the brand new case, which housed my brand new pen, but the notes themselves represent two years of ideas. Not something I want to lose.

We at least knew it had to be somewhere on the way out. We retraced our steps and found it a mile in, scattered across the road like rubbish. The Moleskine had come out of the cover, the pen had come out of the loops. All three were about three feet apart. I grabbed them all and got back in the car to examine everything.

A car had driven over the Soul Skin. But it was totally intact, only minimally scratched, on the back corner and the bottom binding, and has a warp in the top left corner in the exact shape of a radial. I think if I put it under something heavy, that might eventually smooth out. The scratches are barely noticeable.

The Moleskine itself was fine, it had fallen open to the first blank page as if desperate for a story.

The pen took the brunt of it, though. The top and bottom are scratched a bit, and the cap along the clip is scratched. It went from brand-new to well-loved in a heartbeat. It still writes like a dream, though the ink blotted on the first go round.

But if you consider, all of these things survived relatively unscathed after being flung from the top of a car at 45 miles an hour? I can’t give a better endorsement.

Thanks, Levenger!