Tag: mobile office

Laptop Bag Round-up: 15″ Edition

After multiple weeks of going into work on Saturdays and/or Sundays in an effort to catch-up on work, I finally broke down and requested a laptop for work. I’m giving up my trusty, giantess iMac 27″ that I’ve been using. I’ll miss the luxury of acres of screen real estate, but I’m hoping to reclaim a little bit more time at home.

Having a work laptop means seeking out a new carry-all bag that could fit a large 15″ MacBook Pro when needed. Thanks to the a shoutout on Twitter last week, I got lots of recommendations. If you’ve ever in the market for a laptop bag, I thought I’d share some of the recommendations I received. Many were recommended more than once, often with caveats of having withstood years of use and abuse and traveled hundred or thousands of miles. I was so glad to see that folks were so satisfied with their bags —  from so many different bags.


In no particular order:

  1. Cocoon SLIM Backpack with GRid IT Organization System $89.99 (via Cocoon)
  2. The Maker’s Bag which holds a 13″ laptop $130 (via Tom Bihn)
  3. Cote & Ciel Seine Bowler also only holds a 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  4. Waterfield Vitesse Messenger bag from $159 (via sfbags.com)
  5. The Cadet $160 (via Tom Bihn)
  6. Inateck Carrying Case $19.99 (via Amazon)
  7. Cote & Ciel Moselle Backpack only holds 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  8. Uptown Laptop TSA-Friendly Backpack 2015 $119 (via Timbuk2)

I absolutely loved how unique and interesting the Cote & Ciel bags looked but the ones I liked the best were too small for the behemoth laptop sadly. And many of the bags large enough to truly hold a 15″ laptop for me were just too big (I’m only 5’4″) or too business-y looking for days when I might not need to schlep the laptop around. In the end, I had a nice chat with the folks at Tom Bihn who assured me that I could squash a 15″ laptop into The Maker’s Bag though it is not recommended. I just need to get it from the office to my car to my house and back — and usually just on the weekends so I’m willing to take my chances. (Just don’t tell my IT dept I said that!). So I placed my order this morning, before I hopped on a plane for SF. I also ordered their tool/pen wrap which can double as a DPN keeper (the knitters will know what that is!). How cool is that? So I think I’ll have a great EDC and can cram the behemoth laptop in when I need to.

Should I need to transport my laptop for a business trip I have an enormous Timbuk2 backpack that I bought for a trip to China a few years back that’s so big I could use it as a sleeping bag in a pinch.

Big shout out to everyone on Twitter who helped me on my hunt: Arman, Lee, Tindra, Ray, Calligraphy Nut, A Better Desk, Carmina, Dave, Jojo, Sandra, Ken, Brad and Daniel and even the folks at Tom Bihn!

Digital Life: Evernote Alternatives

Evernote Plans

There have been lots of articles floating around the internet this week following the announcement that Evernote was changing its policies regarding how it was handling its accounts. Now, if you want to use the service on more than two devices, you must pay for their premium service to the tune of $34.99/year for their Plus account or $69.99/year for their Premium account though their are offering the Premium account for a year at half price to entice folk over to the paid service.

I’m not exactly a “power-user” of Evernote but I like being able to access notes across multiple devices (iOS, web and home computer) so I think I’ll try to find a different solution sadly. Or maybe a couple different solutions. Sadly, my work computer does not allow me to install any applications so whatever options I choose need to have a web interface.

I have collected some recipes in Evernote over the years but mostly I have various snippets, half-baked ideas, some lists and idea starters and an assortment of links stored in Evernote. I don’t usually use it like a paper notebook, it tends to be things that are copied and pasted from a digital source to a digital source, like URLs or in preparation to be digital content.

Google Keep

I had several folks recommend Google Keep as an option which offers a web based interface as well as an iOS (and Android of course). It has a very “sticky note” aesthetic and allows for checkbox lists, image embeds and categorization labeling. It ends up looking like a tidy wall of sticky notes and has tagging. There is a plug-in for Chrome to automatically add content to Keep from a web site and options to move content from Keep to Google Docs so if you are already entrenched in the Google camp, this might be a good candidate for you.


Microsoft OneNote is another candidate though I cringe at the idea of utilizing another Microsoft product. I’ve already adopted Outlook on my iPhone as a legitimate alternative to Apple’s kludgey Mail app which neither filters junk mail nor handles Gmail with any sort of efficiency so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Microsoft is quietly creeping in with alternatives that might actually be useful. It works across just about every possible platform and looks to be designed to integrate seamlessly with Office products, though for me that’s not as big a selling feature.

Another solution might be to use Apple’s Notes app which is available across the iPhone, iPad and the desktop. Of course, this only works if you’re fully invested in the Apple ecosystem. I am fully invested in the Apple ecosystem but I’m not sure I can take advantage of it at work because I cannot connect the work station to my Apple ID so I can only access it via the iCloud interface via a web browser which does not allow the addition of images as anything other than links. There is minimal formatting options on the web version.


The last option I’m considering is Simple Note. I’ve already been using it to a certain extent in combination with an older version of Notational Velocity (NVAlt) which will sync to Simple Note on my iPhone and the web. Notational Velocity hasn’t been upgraded in years and NVAlt has also been left to languish for some time so the default Simple Note apps and web interface are your safest bet. The biggest downside for Simple Note is the absence of any support for images. SimpleNote does support Markdown and tagging which is nice. But its still a pretty stripped down option in comparison to all the bells-and-whistles with Evernote.

With all of this research, I’ve determined that the bottom line is that I no longer want to have multiple places where my data detritus is saved. Evernote’s ultimatum is forcing me to set aside some time to merge and purge data and files and get them all in one place and then choose one system to use to its fullest extent.

Are you an Evernote user presently? Are you sticking with the service or jumping ship? If you’re leaving Evernote have you chosen a new service yet?

Endless Bag Quest

current bags

Its not just me, right? Besides perpetually questing for the perfect pen, ink, notebook, planner, pencil, ad nauseum, you also are on the perpetual hunt for the perfect bag too?

I have several bags that are pretty close but not perfect. There are occasions where I need something slightly smaller, slightly larger, slightly more rugged or slightly more dressy, etc. Gentlemen in the audience who have fewer requirements, I suspect, and more pockets (“I am only slightly jealous of the amount of pockets sewn into men’s clothing,” she’s says ironically) but I also hear men raise similar ranges of needs so I’m trying not to pigeonhole anyone. Is there a “perfect” bag or can we ever get to one or two perfect bags? One for work, one for travel and maybe one for weekend jaunts?

The bags I currently have in circulation are:

I work a corporate, 9-to-5 job and I feel I’ve reached a point where most backpacks look too academic to carry to work. However, I do carry a good deal of stuff with me so I need a decent-sized bag. I like being able to switch between some sort of handle for getting in and out of a car and then use a shoulder strap/cross body strap for the 0.25 mile walk from the parking lot to my desk. Really. It’s a big campus.

Stuff in my bag

Usual contents of daily bag are:

  • pen case (pictured is my favorite LWA member-only pen case)
  • notebook (not pictured, currently XL Moleskine soft cover book)
  • planner (pictured Filofax Personal Original in dark aqua)
  • travel mug/water bottle
  • knitting project (not shown: can be small sock project or whole dang sweater)
  • small cosmetics bag (vintage Girl Scout fabric purchased at Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago)
  • phone
  • ear buds
  • sunglasses
  • business cards (Pantone case)
  • wallet (Coach wristlet)

Moleskine MyCloud bags

I’ve considered one of the Moleskine MyCloud bags ( I know, its crazy talk but I like the subtle exterior and the bright interior colors). They look well-constructed as well. There are an assortment of internal pockets for devices, pens and accesories but I cant’ find many review online so I am having to scrounge information. I have space credits (AKA money in my PayPal account) right now so I’m considering the reporter ($139.95) or the tote ($159.95). I do agree that our bags are our mobile offices and our desks-on-the-go especially when travelling.

Do you have a favorite bag? Or are you, like me, still hunting for the perfect combination of good looks and functionality?

Review: Kipling 100 Pen Case

kipling 100 pen case

I was serious last week when I said I bought the Kipling 100 Pens Case. I found it on sale at the Kipling USA website in the dragonfly pattern but they offer new patterns every season as well as an assortment of solids. The 100 Pens Case retail for about $49 but can be found on sale for as low as $25 or as high as $80 for past season popular colors or patterns. The fern colorway is currently available for $34 plus the additional 40% off “BIGSCOOP” discount code making it about $21 which is quite a deal.

kipling 100 pen case

The case reminds me of a soft-sided cigar box. The case measures approximately 8.75″ x 6.5″ x 3.25″ with a big sutrdy plastic zipper. The zipper only has one pull. I’d prefer if it had two so it could be zipped closed on the long side rather than along the spine.

I’ve decided to use this case as my traveling sketchbook/art-making tool kit and its PERFECT for this task.

kipling 100 pen case

Inside is a stiff divider panel with elastic loops to hold pens or pencils as well as matching loops on the inside of the cover.  The loops are perfect for colored pencils or slender pens like Marvy LePens but they would not work for beefier tools like fountain pens or pens with big clips or silicone grips. There are 26 loops which is just about enough for a travel assortment of colored pencils. I’ve used the case for over a week and its easy to slide pencils under the loops, point first from the bottom. I just love looking at my array of colors!

kipling 100 pen case

When the pencil flap is folded back, a large open compartment is exposed that can be filled with additional tools and supplies. As you can see, mine is packed solid.

There is a hack on YouTube for adding a few elastic straps on the blank flap to hold loose papers like cards, stickers or notes.

kipling 100 pen case

These are all the tools, pens, pencils and brushes stored in the open compartment. The tin holds a small traveling supply of watercolor pans.

kipling 100 pen case

And here’s everything in the case. Did I get 100 pens into it? Not quite. I was able to fit 77 pen-like objects including an assortment of water brushes, wide drawing markers, Tombow brush markers, and felt tip pens as well as three pencil sharpeners, tape, glue stick, ruler, letter opener, ink cartridges, bone folder and my “tool” keychain. At present, it zips closed but just barely. I’m hoping to determine if there are a few tools I don’t use regularly and pull those out.

This case is going everywhere with me these days. Its perfect for storing art supplies on-the-go since it makes everything easy to see and access as opposed to more common zip pouches.

kipling 100 pen case

How could I pass up a chance to take a picture of the lime green gorilla key fob that was included with the case? It is easily removable if toys on your pen case are not your speed.

Review: Nock Co. Brasstown Zip Roll Pen Case

Nock Co Brasstown

After being relentlessly teased in Atlanta for carrying my pens in a rolled-up shop towel, I finally purchased a Nock Co. Brasstown zip roll pen case ($35). I purchased the now-discontinued Mandarin/Mango colorway. Both shades of orange are still available but combined with more subdued colors. The Mandarin/Mango combination is pretty vivid in a don’t-lose-this-in-your-bag sort of way.

Nock Co. Brasstown

What is so appealing about the Brasstown is that the case has a divided roll that holds six pens inside a zippered case. In the photo above I included an assortment of different fountain pens to show that, with a clip slipped over the edge, a wide variety of pens comfortably fit into the dividers. Some of my pens are particularly small, like my Esterbrook on the far left and my TWSBI Mini on the far right, but since they both have clips, they don’t slide to the bottom. Even clipless pens are easy to remove from the case, even if they slide down, by pinching the bottom like a Flav-For-Ice Pop. Now that I think of it, the Mandarin/Mango colorway reminds me of an orange Fla-Vor-Ice!

Nock Co. Brasstown

Once the roll is filled, there is still room in the case to put additional tools and accessories. I like to put my “good” fountain pens in the roll section and then stick other pens in the case loose. Unfortunately, the Brasstown is not long enough for a freshly sharpened Palomino Blackwing 602 or similarly long pencils so this is definitely a PEN case. A well-loved pencil or mechanical pencil will fit however.

Nock Co. Brasstown

One of the best, most thoughtful features of the Brasstown is the double-ended zipper closure. Whether you are left- or right-handed, opening the case is a breeze. The zippers can meet at any point on the case so if you like the zippers on one end or the other or meeting in the middle, that’s flexibility exists.

Overall, I think this is one of the most useful and clever pen cases. It’s particularly useful if your pen collection is starting to include pricier, vintage or rare pens that you don’t want tossed hurdy-gurdy in a zip pouch or in the bottom of your bag. The Brasstown is priced right and made in the US by people who genuinely care about making good products.

And finally….

Giant plush smore

PS: Today’s model stand is my new giant plush S’more from My Paper Crane via Land of Nod. See her S’more on Instagram.

Target Threshold Zip Pouch


This zippered pen and pencil case is another find from Target. It’s from their Threshold line and I found in with the office supplies and binders. The case is made from a heavy-duty canvas with a deep indigo color and casual dot pattern. It has one large zipper pocket for storing tools and then a smaller pocket on the front of the case for smaller trinkets.The inside is lined with a dark navy nylon and despite the rustic look, the zipper is nicely finished on the end. Its a really nice case for not much money.

The case measure about 6×9″ which makes it suitable for an A5 sized notebook or larger. It would probably fit most snugly over a letter-sized binder or notebook but the biggest notebook I could find was my Quo Vadis Habana and its covered the cover almost completely and the elastic was tight enough to be functional. This would be the perfect case for a conference or a day of meetings. It provides plenty of space to carry tools but stays secure to your notebook.


On the back of the case is a matching elastic running across the length of the case. I immediately realized that the case could be looped over the cover of a notebook.


The case comfortably held a dozen or more tools. It’s defintiely long enough to hold a freshly sharpened pencil (even a Blackwing with giant eraser ferrule!) as well as most other writing tools. I tucked an eraser and a small hand sharpener in the front pocket. I was hoping the front pocket would be long enough to store an iPhone but it was a bit too short. It would hold small cards like an ID or business cards though. I was able to stick my phone in the larger pocket with my pens though with no problem.

The case cost  $7.99 and is available for purchase on the Target web site.

Upcycled Soda Box Pencil Boxes

(via Creative Itch Boutique)
(via Creative Itch Boutique)

If you’re like me, sometimes you like to send pencils to pals. This tutorial and template to make a pencil box out of an old soda can box (or probably any large paperboard box like cereal, beer case, etc) will help keep those pencils safe in transit and look fab when they arrive.

Slight modifications to the PDF template could be made to accommodate pens, markers or other writing tools. Might even work as a storage box for double pointed knitting needles. So many options!

(via Creative Itch Boutique)