A5 Ciak Mate dot grid soft cover notebook review + GIVEAWAY

I know the posts have been few and far between on my blog lately because, well, life happens, and most of the time that’s a lot more fulfilling than the internet. Sorry, internet, but these last few months have been about reconnecting to life and things that make me happy. That being said, I spent a good month on hiatus from planning related things and basically did everything on the fly. I noticed that when I have a lot on my plate, I tend to toss the analogue planning and go purely digital. It’s a lot easier to stay on track with plans and tasks with my husband being synced to the same apps that I’m using, and I can better delegate tasks because I can visually clear it off my list, instead of just crossing it off or ticking it off my list – this creates a lot less visual traffic, and I can clearly see what tasks still need to be done.

When I did return to planning, I decided on two things:

1. My bullet journal is for me, not anyone else, so my spreads and everything else, functioned for me, and I wasn’t going to do things to make it pleasing to social media streams.

2. I would use only one book and one pen. To date, I have been doing this since July, and apart from losing my trusty pen in September, I’ve since gone back to the one pen for October.

So prior to this, I was contemplating on what notebook to use. I have been a religious user of the Uni Jetstream 101 ballpoint pens, and I’m pretty sure I bought all the remaining stock at every Daiso shop in Brisbane *smirk* I’d used the Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, Moleskine, Rhodia, etc., and to be honest, I was concerned that the monetary outlay for these books was going to throw my budget out of whack. Having a young family to support doesn’t afford you with many luxuries, and to be honest, when I used the more expensive, boutique-y style notebooks, I was reluctant to take it around with me for fear of it being battered around in my bag, or having Squish accidentally splatter food on it. I used an A6 pocket sized notebook prior to my planning hiatus, and as much as I loved the small format, I needed space, and I’ve always loved soft cover notebooks. My two requirements was that the notebook had to be an A5 size and didn’t weigh my bag down like a tonne of bricks.

Along came the A5 Ciak Mate dot grid soft cover notebooks via the lovely people at LarryPOST. Back in May, I had the fab experience of meeting Erin and Jen during my stay down in Sydney, and they gifted me with a wonderful B6 Ciak Dotted notebook with my name debossed on it. I loved the paper btut wanted something a big bigger in size. The A5 Ciak Mate dot grid soft cover notebook ticked all the right boxes for me at a fraction of the price. Each notebook retails at $AUD20, which compared to the other brands is anywhere from $AUD10-15 cheaper.

DISCLAIMER: The Ciak Mate notebooks were gifted to me by LarryPOST. All opinions of the product in this post are my own, and I did not receive any money for this review.

A little bit about the Ciak brand…

Ciak (pronounced CHAK) have been producing handmade notebooks in Florence for nearly 40 years! The covers are made from bonded leather, which is a reconstituted leather to give it the look and feel of leather without the natural variations of genuine leather. The paper is 85gsm ivory coloured premium recycled paper, acid free, pH neutral, chlorine free, fountain pen friendly, and most importantly, FSC certified (which means they respect the environment, so top marks from me for that!).

The Ciak Mate notebook itself measures 14.5 x 21cm (approximately an A5 size notebook). It has 128 pages, and comes in blank, ruled and dot grid rulings, whatever takes your fancy. The ruled pages have lines that are 7.5mm, with 25 lines per page. The dot grid has 5mm spacing with 27 grids across and 41 grids down, which extend to the edges of the pages. All pages are unnumbered. There is no ribbon bookmark, or elastic strap, or back pockets. It’s the bare minimum when you compare it to premium notebooks, but if you’re a bullet journal newbie (or a seasoned one, who is after no frills) who wants to experience luxurious paper without the million dollar price tag, you definitely can’t go past this notebook. The bookmark, elastic straps, and back pockets are simple hacks that you can easily add to your notebook – just have a look on Pinterest!

A comparison of the Ciak Mate (brown cover, unnumbered pages) with a soft cover Leuchtturm1917 (black cover, numbered pages):

Notebook specs aside, here’s a sneak peak at how I used it as a bullet journal.

You’ll notice that a lot of my bullet journal pages will be very minimalistic, and that’s how I’ve always preferred my bullet journal. I’m more of a function over form planner, but I still very much appreciate the planners who have lovely decorated pages.

A simple monthly log for July, with events, appointments, meetings, birthdays, etc. on the left side, and tasks on the right side. The boxes running along the edge of the right page is where I would mark off as each day was completed; it’s something to keep me on track of what day I was up to. Hah, yes, it got to that point!

Another simple monthly log for August. I needed a grid visual, as opposed to a linear visual, to get an idea of where my time was going. I tried my best to not have to use lines, because I just don’t have the time or patience to do elaborate layouts. I haven’t returned to this for September or October, but something to consider.

The next few pictures are examples of  my dailies. One thing that I absolutely love about the Ciak Mate notebook is that the dots extend to the edges fo the pages, which gives me the freedom to use that extra space for more writing or sometimes as a reference title for my collections.

This is a two column daily page, which just followed on from one day to another. I didn’t pre-plan the spacing for each day, it was basically rapid logging for each day every week.

This was a pre-planned spread, which I liked for a little while, but then it got very cumbersome for me because I had to plan for time to actually set it up! Plus, there was a lot of space sometimes where I didn’t have much to write about, and I don’t like wasting space. It looks very pretty though hehe

This idea actually came from Jen at LarryPOST, when we were discussing how we used our bullet journals. She currently uses the Ciak Smartbook notebook, and she would list her tasks, appointments, meetings, etc. on the left page, and any notes on the right page. I did something similar, except my left page is divided into two columns – one for tasks, appointments, meetings, birthdays, etc., and the other for tasks for the day. I loved the fact that I can see distinct separations for my day, because there are some days where everything is a jumble, and when I’m trying to look for one tiny note I made on a particular day, it takes me ages to find! So having that tasks section to one page has been really helpful. You’ll also notice that I’ve written the pages in pencil. I lost my a pencil case somewhere along my travels, and I ended up just continuing with pencil for the rest of the month. Why I didn’t just crack open a new Uni Jetstream pen, I have no idea. Maybe I was living in hope that the one I lost would eventually show up. Kind of like that time I found my Ciak Mate notebook in the oven after Squish had put it in there while I wasn’t looking… or was it me who absentmindedly put it there in my working parent haze…

And lastly, this is my handlettered memories calendar for July. It was just a small daily creative outlet for me, daily being the operative word *cough* This was handlettered using UniPin fineliners, and I loved that there was very, very minimal ghosting (see through) on the next page.

Oh and for the pen enthusiasts out there, this is a pen swatch of the pens that I had on hand. Just a quick note about fountain pen users, there is a bit of a wait time for some inks to dry. You can see th Lamy Safari inks smudged and that was after 30 seconds of writing it.

The Ciak Mate notebooks are definitely a great alternative to some of the luxury brands out there, and to be honest, their paper quality is better than some out there (at least, in my opinion). If you’re looking to start a bullet journal or even something to supplement your current planning needs, let this review be an example that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to make a notebook (ANY notebook!) functional for your productivity.

Now for the giveaway part!

The good folks at LarryPOST kindly gifted me a few Ciak Mate notebooks, and I thought it would be a fantastic idea to share the love of my love for these notebooks to my readers/followers. I wanted this to also be a thank you for sharing my journey through the last four years of bullet journalling and everything else in between. Your conversations (via email or private messages) have been nothing short of enthralling, and your friendships have been second to none!

There are THREE (3) A5 Ciak Mate dot grid soft cover notebooks up for grabs to three different readers/followers. I’m keeping it simple with how to enter:

1. Simply “like” the giveaway promo pic on either Instagram or Facebook, or leave a comment in this blog post.

2. For an extra entry, head on over to LarryPOST and use the hashtag #decade30ciak in a comment on one of their pics. Bonus entries if you also follow them :)

3. One winner will be randomly chosen from each platform – that is, one winner from my Instagram feed, one winner from my Facebook page, and one winner from my blog.

4. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Instagram or Facebook.

5. This giveaway is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY, and will close on 10 October 2017 at midnight AEST (that’s in Australia, so check your date/times). Winners will be contacted via private message.

Thanks for reading all the way through this mega post, but I hope I’ve given you a bit of an idea of how you can use this understated, yet versatile and functional notebook to meet your planning needs. Good luck with your entries, everyone, and thanks again for being fab x


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28 thoughts on “A5 Ciak Mate dot grid soft cover notebook review + GIVEAWAY

  1. Love hearing how you get back into bullet Journaling and making it so simple!
    Sometimes you cant beat a soft cover notebook.

  2. Thanks for a great review and for a fun giveaway. I am new to bullet journaling and really enjoy your posts, especially as you try to find the balance between function and aesthetics. It remains a challenge for me. I have so many pens, stickers and washi tape to play with that I often have to stop and think…am I using this book to manage my time/projects or is this book a time drain? Still, it is an enjoyable journey as I seek the answer!

  3. I love the look of your left page vs right page dailies. I won’t lie, i’ve been really enjoying that 2 page option in my Midori too. I’m glad your hiatus was productive, but we definitely missed you!

  4. I would love to win the 5 Ciak Mate journal. My husband has been having some health issues and he’s on a strict diet. I think this journal would be a big help in keeping me organized, e.g., daily tasks/appointments, menus, shopping list, tracking sodium/exercise.

  5. This is good – I’m looking for other notebooks to try. I’m currently using up a Leuchtturm pocket-size but I’m also thinking I need an A5 next to fit everything better. Thank you for the post and giveaway!

  6. “one book and one pen” is definitely my style too. These books look lovely, without being too heavy to carry around!

  7. Thank you for the review! These look like a great alternative :) I love seeing your minimalist examples – totally inspiring :)

  8. I love that you prioritise function (and low price) over form! A pretty page can look satisfying, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time to decorate and still get things done.

    Thank you for sharing your planning journey. I was worried about taking care of a baby and handling my own work schedule at the same time, but your posts have reassured me that it is possible to do both.

    Have a wonderful October!

  9. I have gone back to minimalist with one book and one pen. Easy on the eyes and easier to get stuff done! Would love to win your giveaway!

  10. i would have not known about this brand unless i wouldn’t have visited your post. Really love this cute notebook.

  11. This seems to be a lovely notebook! As a stationery lover in a budget, I would love to receive it! Thank you for this opportunity!

  12. I love your minimalistic approach to bullet journaling. I have recently started to be more minimal with mine, and any artsy stuff goes into my sketchbook or art journal. Thank you for this generous giveaway!

  13. Love a simple #bujo. I’m a creative person, but love my journals to be clear and concise! I’ve just grabbed a couple of the Clairefontaine My.Essentials dot grid notebooks. They are the same pricepoint as the Ciak Mate, so I’d be keen to see how they compare!

  14. I love how the Ciak’s are all individually handmade in Florence, too– they’ve got a tiny carbon footprint for having all the manufacturing and production steps in the same place, and that’s good for the Florentine local economy as well!

  15. Hi! I’m in my first BuJo, and you have been a source of inspiration. I am a bit of a perfectionist, but I’m trying to work on it with my self imposed rule of “one book and one pen” on my everyday life. An ocasional splurge of colour appears on my monthly spread or in headers, but even there I don’t use a ruler. A dotted notebook would be great in this journey, since I’m using a blank notebook for starters! :)

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