London Haul: Carrying Cases and Standard Pens

I’m working on my backlog of posts after about a month of hiatus (work and health related) so here’s a look into more of my haul from my latest London trip.

Muji happened to have a sale on its standard pen sets, so I bought a pouch of these 0.38 gel pens (I think that Zebra makes their refills but I’m not sure) to have around. There are 10 pens in the set, and my plan is to bring them into the office to have them around as occasional highlighters, pens to doodle with or pens to loan with no expectations of seeing them again.

The red Olfa Touch Knife was an impulse buy and is the thing I use most from this bunch. I used it while gift wrapping books, I used it to open packages, and I’m using it now to open Lego bags for my current build (the large Disney Castle). This is a nifty and handy little tool and I’ll probably buy another one at some point as a backup.
The bronze paper clip is just a nicer version of the clip that I use to keep my pocket Stillman and Birn Alphas shut, as they don’t come with any kind of elastic closure.

The gold bics are from Present and Correct and they made me laugh. I plan on giving one away to a designed friend, in the hopes that it will make her laugh too. I used to use them so much when I was a teenager (before gel ink pens became widely available) and I hated them so much that having a gold one is just beyond perfect.

The black and yellow pen is the Bauhaus edition of the Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel Nr. 1 ballpoint. It’s a twist mechanism aluminium and brass hexagonal ballpoint pen that comes with a blue refill. I reviewed the gel ink version (identical apart from the refill) here. I purchased this pen in London Graphic Centre near Seven Dials/Covent Garden, and it was completely an impulse buy. Should you buy one yourself? If you’re in need of a pocketable ballpoint that doesn’t use a click mechanism, then maybe. Ergonomically it’s not the best for long writing sessions, and the twist mechanism doesn’t make it great for quick deployment, so there are better options in the market. The design is very fetching, and if you like it you might be willing to overlook the pen’s shortcomings. The Bauhaus edition was created as a companion to Leuchtturm’s Bauhaus notebooks.

Drehgriffel Nr. 1 Bauhaus ballpoint.

I bought the Drehgriffel ballpoint to accompany the Drehgriffel mechanical pencil that I bought at the same time. The pencil is fire engine red and grey with silver trim, and the pen is black and yellow with brass trim, and the pencil is slightly heavier than the pen, though they’re both the same size.

Pen on top, pencil on the bottom.

I also got two carrying cases, one a blue Cordura pen case from Midori. The case is called the two way pouch, and it appears very well made.

Midori two way pouch.

The pouch is divided into two identical compartments (hence the name) each with a small divider/pocket inside. It also has a prominent and robustly built handle. I am considering using this pen case for my Caran d’Ache neocolors, but we’ll see.

The second case is a heavily discounted net pouch from Muji. This is going into my travel backpack as a way to keep easily lost bits and bobs together and easily found.

The net side of the Muji case

The net is just on one side of the case, which is perfect, as it allows you to see what’s inside the pouch and also have this little bag have some sort of body and structure to it due to the solid side.

The solid side of the Muji case next to the Drehgriffel pencil and pen.

I also bought a solid plastic box for the my neocolors at Muji, but I decided not to use if for them in the end. It was too small for them and they rattled around in it and made a racket every time I walked, and I didn’t like that.

All in all this was probably my most “impulse buy” bit of the trip, and I’m OK with that. Compared to previous years I’ve really toned down my “must try all the pens in the world to find just the perfect one!” tendencies. If you’re reading this I assume that you can relate.
Now to just use it all…

London Haul: Pencils

While I was in London I went to Present and Correct and purchased mostly woodcase pencils (and some paraphernalia). Here’s a breakdown of what I got there and why:

  • Blackwing Eras – I also purchased the previous Eras pencils from Present and Correct. These are very expensive (and overpriced) but after hemming and hawing I decided to splurge. These have the extra firm Blackwing core, which I enjoy writing and sketching with, with a little bit of zing with the nostalgic arrow punch design. I have a project in mind for them, and will feature them in a separate post them.
  • Eberhard Faber pencils. These are vintage, and I’ll post a review of them separately, but they are gorgeous and I love vintage pencils, so these were the first thing that I got once I saw them.
  • Musgrave Tennessee Red – I have several boxes of these, and yet I got another one. These pencils are gorgeous, and they’re great for both writing and sketching. Some people find their corners too sharp and prefer the rounds, but I’ve yet to obtain the round Tennessee Reds, so I can’t compare between them. I wrote a review of them here.
  • Mitsu-Bishi 9850 and 9852 – Japanese pencils. The 9850 is for “office use” and the 9852 is a “master writing” pencil. I have only one or two 9850s and I wanted a pack because they are excellent pencils. I haven’t tried the 9852s I think, and anything with that wild green and pink package with “master writing” on it is a must.
  • Loose USSR vintage pencils and graphite stick – I got these as a gift for my purchase at Present and Correct, together with the…
  • Faber Castell Goliath – a wide barrelled vintage, USA bonded pencil that was meant for school children just learning to write.
Woodcased pencil haul (and one graphite stick – the one to the immediate left of the Goliath)

I also got a set of salmon coloured Japanese pencil sharpeners there – I have another two sets that I bought there and enjoyed – one that I’ve gifted and one that I regularly use. There are surprisingly few pencil sharpeners of this kind that are actually good, and these are very convenient for my sketching kits as they are small and light.

I also got two mechanical pencils, one from London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden, and one from Gibert Joseph in Paris:

Sharpener set and two mechanical pencils

The top pencil is the Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel Nr. 2 mechanical pencil (purchased at London Graphic Centre). I will be writing a review of it once I get to use it a bit more, but for now I’ll just say that it’s an attractive desk object.

The bottom pencil is the rotring 600 in camouflage green. It’s the rotring 600 – one of the best drafting pencils out there – and the colour is a dark racing green that makes it look black upon casual glance. I bought this pen at Gibert Joseph in Paris and was about to go for the red rotring 600 when I realized that what I had thought was a standard black rotring 600 was indeed the green one. The colour is difficult to reproduce, but I find it fetching and intriguing, so I’m glad that I went for it instead of its red or blue counterparts.

Drehgriffel above and rotring 600 below

Overall I’m happy with my purchases, and can’t wait to start using them.

Moleskine Bullet Notebook Review

Moleskine came out with a “Bullet Notebook” obviously geared for Bullet Journalling (BuJo) relatively recently. The BuJo started out on a squared large Moleksine notebook (surprise, surprise), and only later Ryder Carroll moved to Leuchtturm as his notebook supplier of choice. What surprised me was that Moleskine actually cared enough about BuJo to come out with a new offering, when they aren’t known for rushing out with new notebook formats very often.

The coral pink cover.

The bullet notebook is part of Moleskine’s is part of their Art lineup, which usually has better paper than their usual lineup, as it’s used for sketching or watercolours. The choice is a bit peculiar, but it speaks to where Moleskine appears to think that BuJo fits: not in their business lineup, but within the artists’ and creatives’ one.

It comes in three cover options: black, coral pink, and aquamarine. That is also a peculiar choice for them, as normally products in the Art lineup come in any colour you want so long as it’s black. The bullet notebook comes with 120 gsm ivory coloured paper and is supposedly fountain pen friendly. Note the supposedly in that sentence, we’ll get to that later on. It is noticeably thicker and heavier than their standard large hardcover notebooks, and it comes with two bookmarks in different colours – in the case of the coral pink one is pink and one is grey. Fetching.

Now we come to where this notebook really becomes interesting, the interior. The first page of “Personal Data” is taken directly out of Moleskine’s planners. There’s a bit of fluff at the end that I don’t think comes standard with their planners, but I still recommend not filling this page, ever. Especially not the passport details, driver’s license and any other thing that can be used to ID you should you lose or misplace this notebook.

Personal data. I’ve used this notebook for over two months, and this page remains purposefully pristine.

The next spread is the very cool Moleskine world map, the same one that you can find in many of their planners and other travel related products.

I love maps, and I love this map.

The next set of pages is where the bullet notebook starts to get interesting. It’s an index, with the first entry already printed inside: Pen Test on page 149. This is classic BuJo, and Moleskine delivers. There are five index pages, which should be enough for practically anyone’s needs.

The index

Inside there are 148 pages of ivory coloured 120 gsm dot grid paper. That’s less than there is in a regular Moleskine, but the paper is significantly thicker, and already the notebook is thicker and heavier than their standard notebook. They put the maximum number of sheets they could without making the notebook too bulky. The pages lay flat, and Moleksine’s binding and covers are built for endurance. The pages are numbered, which is also something that Moleskine doesn’t normally do, but fits well with the Bullet Journalling Method.

The paper inside.

There is space in the back for pen tests, so I immediately used it to test a slew of fountain pens. Moleskine claims that the bullet notebook is fountain pen friendly. It is not. There’s spread, there’s bleed-through, show through and sometimes spidering. This isn’t a fountain pen friendly paper on any count.

Pen test page.

The back pocket has something new and interesting going on. Moleskine stuck folded piece of paper on the back pocket and on the outside it looks like regular dot grid paper:

Back pocket and closed fold-out.

But when you fold it out there’s a key page inside. Very elegant and clever.

My key page.

I like that Moleskine are experimenting with new formats. I don’t like that they advertise this paper as fountain pen friendly when it clearly isn’t. The bullet notebook comes with a sheet of stickers that I didn’t bother photographing because it just looks like a sheet of solid pink, but it’s actually made of small stickers in various geometric shapes.

If you are looking to get into BuJo but enjoy working with mixed media or fountain pens, then look elsewhere. In terms of cost the Moleskine Bullet Notebook is about the same price as the official Leuchtturm one, and you get a better deal buying that if only for the official booklet. If you are looking for a more minimalist setup that what the official Bullet Journal offers and you aren’t planning on using fountain pens, than this is a decent offering, especially as it comes with more cheerful cover options. It is un-opinionated enough to be useful even to those who have never heard of BuJo in their lives. Do I see myself buying another one of these in the future? No. I am struggling to finish using the one that I have now (because I’m not a fan of dot grid). But I am glad that Moleskine is willing to give new notebook formats and paper types a try. If this notebook had this exact paper but in plain white or squared white, I would have bought a stack of them.

Cortex Brand Sidekick Review

The Cortex Brand Sidekick is a notepad that is designed to sit between you and your keyboard. The Sidekick’s layout is a bit unusual: it’s mostly a dot grid pad, but there’s a checklist on the right-hand side of the page, and there’s a titlebar above both the dot grid side of the page, and above the to do list side of the page.

Page layout: dot grid on three quarters of the page on the left, checklist on a quarter of the page on the right.

The Sidekick is bigger than I expected. The full specs aren’t stated on the page (or on the notepad), which is disappointing, but it’s about 18cm tall by 30cm wide, has 60 perforated sheets printed one sided in dark grey and 100gsm Munken Lynx paper (that is stated on the back of the Sidekick). The paper is smooth (but not Rhodia coated smooth), white and fountain pen friendly.

Front cover with Rhodia pad like folding crease lines and prominent Cortex logo embossed.

The cover material is made from recycled coffee cups, which is very cool conceptually. Coffee cups aren’t otherwise recyclable because of their coating, and this is a way to make good use of them. The front cover is rather thin cardboard, but the back is substantial. As the front cover is designed to fold over and leave the pad itself open for writing, it doesn’t close very elegantly when not in use. It’s not a major issue, but you do have to be careful when slipping it into your bag to make sure that it is covering the pad, and I flip the Sidekick on its back when not in use to help the front cover retain its shape. This issue occurs with Rhodia pads as well, and is inherent to the fold back design.

Front cover popping up.

Although the Sidekick seems to want you to use a page a day, that is too wasteful and expensive for me (more on the price later). I’ve been using this page from the 27th of February and I’ll be finishing with it sometime in the coming week – so that’s almost a month of use. I keep a Field Notes “Heavy Duty” nearby for jotting down and doodling things, and I use my Sidekick to help me manage my current project. I’ve found the checklist on the side to be a bit baffling. It’s too narrow for me, and I have small handwriting, and there aren’t enough checklist items to actually cover a day if I was using the page as a daily page. The checklist could perhaps work in a meeting setup, but unlike what Myke and Grey (the makers of the Sidekick) I think that the Sidekick is not a good meeting notepad.

The Sidekick in use. These are my actual notes, censored. As you can see I used multiple kinds of fountain pens and inks with great success.

So why do I think the Sidekick isn’t a good meeting notepad? Its size. It is way too big and it really would call attention to itself in a “LOOK AT ME, I AM TAKING NOTES IN THIS MEETING” kind of way. There is no discreet way to carry it or use it, and you will be taking a lot of real-estate on any meeting table. What is does do well is sit between yourself and your keyboard (provided you have room for it) and allow you to take notes that way. If you plan on using it for Zoom meetings it may work, but personally my meeting notes tend to be messy, so I wouldn’t want to waste a Sidekick page on them.

The back of the Sidekick comes with a page that has a Daylight Savings Time table for various places and product info. I have no idea why it’s there, but I assume that there’s a design decision behind it. I would have preferred to just have another standard page, and have the product info printed on the back cover or available on their site.

DST page.
Product info with Made in Britain proudly displayed.

I bought the Cortex Brand Sidekick the moment that it became available for purchase (I also added my first Theme System Journal to the order, but I’ll discuss that in a different post). I like good stationery and I know Myke Hurley does as well. I had no doubt that this would be a well-made product, fountain pen friendly, and that Myke would agonize on every aspect of this notepad’s design. He did. The Sidekick is a high quality, premium notepad. It is hand assembled in Britain. It uses cool and sustainable materials.

It’s very expensive.

Now, I understand the price and I had no problem paying for it (and I bought this before the YouTube product video came out or the podcast episodes discussing the design and manufacturing process were published). This isn’t a mass market product, it uses high quality and expensive materials, and it is hand assembled in a small shop. These things make the price add up. The Sidekick is $32 dollars, to which you add shipping. That makes it a $40-50 notepad. If I were to use a page for every workday, I would be looking at around $200 a year on Sidekicks and shipping.

This is what makes the Sidekick a niche product, in my opinion. Myke said that there’s no other product like it, and that is partially true. If you like the page layout and the size, there is no other notepad but the Sidekick for you. However, I have been using a notebook that goes between me and my keyboard for quite a while before the Sidekick came out. It is small enough to fit on the most narrowest of desks, it has a plastic double cover and a chipboard backing that make it very portable, it is much smaller than the Sidekick, and you can take it to meetings without drawing attention to yourself (I have done so many times). It is also much, much cheaper than the Sidekick (coming in at less than $12 at time of writing, it is less than half what a Sidekick costs, not including shipping), and alas, as Amazon ships it, it is likely to be available with free shipping.

It’s the Maruman Mnemosyne horizontal A5 notebook and it is one of my favourite notebooks out there.

The Mneomosyne on top of the Sidekick, just so you’ll see the size difference.

This isn’t a Mnemosyne review, but I will point out that this notebook has 70 sheets of 80gsm 5mm grid paper that is fountain pen friendly. The Mnemosyne also has perforated sheets, plus space to write a title in. It is ring bound, which is normally not my favourite, but works well with the horizontal format (the rings don’t get into the way of your writing hand). It carries well both in the bag and around to meetings – I am never without one in my bag. While like the Sidekick the grid is printed only on one side of the page, because it is ring bound you can use both sides of the page if you so choose. To do so with the Sidekick necessitates tearing the page out first.

Maruman Mnemosyne

The Sidekick is larger, which gives you more room to think. It also has thicker paper, and better perforation. The Mnemosyne doesn’t have rounded corners, and so the corners do sometimes get dinged. I’ve used them both over the past month, and while I treat using the Sidekick as a luxurious treat, the Mnemosyne is my workhorse. I don’t coddle it or think twice about scribbling something illegibly on it.

Do I recommend buying the Sidekick? Yes, if you can afford it. It is a premium product for a premium price. There is a place for those kinds of products in the market, and perhaps there is a place for them in your life. I see myself buying one Sidekick a year, two tops. That makes it a product that I use with consideration, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to be considerate of what you use and why. The Sidekick is a beautifully made and thoroughly considered desk companion, and I suggest that you give it a try to see if it fits in your life.

Retro 51 Winnie-the-Pooh Set Review

There’s a renewed interest in Winnie-the-Pooh lately, as it has come into the public domain (the copyright has expired). Retro 51 issued a pen and pencil set recently, which reminded me that I haven’t reviewed this Winnie-the-Pooh Retro 51 collection set, which came out last summer.The set included a box that looked like the original hardcover book, with three Retro 51 tornado rollerball pens and one mechanical pencil inside.

The box.

I’m usually not someone who cares very much for packaging, but in this case the cardboard box was too nice to toss out. It’s not just the outer cover that is thoughtfully designed, but there’s the famous map of 100 acre wood inside, and it is a delightful touch. Inside the box you get the three pens, the pencil, pencil leads and a tube of pencil erasers. Everything is held snugly inside, and the box has magnetic closure.

The full set inside the box.

The pens and pencil feature E.H. Shepard’s charming original illustrations, as well as various sections of the book. The blue pen features the scene where Pooh tries to fool a nest of bees into believing that he’s a cloud (from the chapter “Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees”). The purple pen features the first appearance of Eyeore in the book, and is a mashup of two Eyeore chapters (from “Eyeore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One” and “Eyeore has a Birthday”). The yellow pen features the final chapter in the book, a delightful conversation between Pooh and Piglet (from “Christopher Robin Gives Pooh a Party and We Say Goodbye”) and the green pencil features an excerpt from the scene where Winnie-the-Pooh gets a pencil case with pencils in them that say B for Bear, BB for Brave Bear and HB for Helping Bear. This is of course a clever reference to HB, B and 2B pencil grades, and Retro 51 decided to not only use this excerpt very appropriately on a pencil, but also…

Three pens and a pencil.

To put B, HB, and BB on the pens’ finials. That’s the kind of thoughtful design touch that I appreciate. The pens have stonewashed pewter accents on their hardware, and the pastel bodies are lacquered, like most Retro 51 pens. The set was limited to 926 sets worldwide (the original book was published in 1926, which is the reason for this peculiar number), and as it was very popular, I doubt that you’ll manage to get your hands on one unless they pop up on the secondary market.

Clever finials.

So why review a pen set that’s out of stock? Because less than a year later Retro 51 issued a Winnie-the-Pooh pen and pencil set that are equally charming, but lower priced (as it’s just one pen and one pencil). The stationery scene is full of limited edition pens, pencils and notebooks and it’s very easy to get carried away on the FOMO train. This is a gentle reminder that after every limited edition pen or ink, there’s another one not very different from it, if you chanced to miss out. Don’t pay crazy prices on the secondary market or beat yourself up for missing out on something without taking a pause and remembering that there are very few stationery items that are ever truly limited and irreplaceable.

Oh, and how are the actual pens and pencil? The same as all the non-limited Retro 51 pens and pencils: I dislike the Schmidt refill they use for the pens and almost always replace it with something else, and the pencil is ok – it features a 1.15mm lead that most people will find way too wide, and it’s hard to find replacement leads for it.

Moleskine Blue Note Limited Edition

This post has been languishing in my drafts since mid September 2022. The photos were taken using my old iPhone 11, and the lighting came out very yellow and vintage-y. I was considering photographing everything again, but then I decided that this somehow works with this Moleskine’s theme.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Moleskine, but I’ve decided to get back to regular Moleskine reviews since I’ve got so many of them, and I still think that they are masters of design, and make the best quality covers and bindings than anything else in the notebook market. And 90% of Moleskine’s limited editions are their covers.

Back in the heady days of 2015, Moleskine came out with one of their best collaborative limited editions: The Moleskine Blue Note notebooks.

Front Cover

Blue Note are a jazz icon, a record label established in 1939 and instrumental in the development of modern jazz and in album cover graphic design. This collaboration could not be more tailor made for a brand that emphasized graphic design as much as Moleksine do.
The front cover looks like a Blue Note album cover, because it is a Blue Note album cover: midnight blue by Kenny Burrell. It’s a classic Blue Note album with a classic Blue Note design, and it’s no wonder that this is one of the albums that was chosen for this collaboration. The other albums in this series (Art Blakey’s “A Night in Tunisia”, Freddie Hubbard’s “Hub Tones”, Dexter Gordon’s “Go!” and Thelonius Monk’s “Genius of Modern Music Volume 2”) are equally iconic in both sound and album design, although “Midnight Blue” is the most muted of the bunch. As usual in Moleskine limited editions, there were two large notebooks and two pocket notebook designs in this series. I can’t help wishing for more of these, because I think that it’s such a perfect fit between the brands, and because Blue Note album covers are so fantastically well designed.

The inside cover design is the same for all the notebooks in this edition (again, this is something that Moleskine does for all its limited editions), and they feature photos of many of the legendary artists that recorded Blue Note albums (how many do you recognize?). There’s also a note about the album and the famous Blue Note logo on the bottom right side of the page, and Moleskine’s on the left. I’ll note here that Moleskine gave Blue Note’s logo far more prominence on the cover than what it gives its own logo (which is simply debossed on the back).

On the back endpapers there’s a history of the Blue Note label, the famous back pocket, and again Moleksine’s phenomenal printing and assembling capabilities that make the pocket printing completely aligned with the endpaper printing. Pattern matching is hard, and it always surprises me that they get theirs perfect every time.

The sleeves on this edition are excellent. Moleskine in Jazz indeed:

There are four stickers that come with each of the notebooks in this edition, one for each one of the albums in it, and they are perfect. The look exactly like a Blue Note disc, and the details on them are magnificent. Someone really enjoyed their job here, and it tells.

Almost all of Moleskine’s limited editions feature lined paper, but the Blue Note edition was a welcome change: this notebook has blank paper! I’ve been using it, in combination with another notebook, for journalling, and it’s great! As is the case with Moleskine paper, it’s largely for gel ink, ballpoint, pencil and fineliner use, although some combinations of fine nibbed fountain pens and inks work on this paper, and blank paper tends to be the most fountain pen friendly of the bunch.

Doodle that I made in this notebook in September, when I was still struggling to get rid of steroid side effects.

If I could have any say in the matter, I would have loved to see more Moleskine and Blue Note collaborations, and I would have loved to see more blank paper limited edition notebooks. Most Moleskine users still prefer lined paper, which is why almost all of their limited editions have lined paper. But as Moleskine limited editions lately seem to skew to either book themed (Petit Price, Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland), pop-culture themed (Star Wars, various Manga and video game editions, Coke-Cola, Smiley) or designer based, I doubt that we’ll get to see more of these kinds of collaborations.

Ghosts of Planners Past: Daily Planners

It was obvious that I’d discuss daily planners after I addressed weekly planners, right?

This format, in combination with some of the planning tactics that I’ll talk about in later posts, has been the one that I used the most over the years. Daily planners usually have a page per day, oftentimes with hourly notations on the side. Less commonly they have a page for planning and across from it a page for notes. Sometimes the page is divided into sections for various meeting notes, todos, etc. Daily planners tend to be the thickest of planners, unless they split the year somehow, or only cover part of it (academic year planners, for example).

This is a very old Filofax daily planner example that I had laying around. I’ll be posting separately about the Filofax system

I’ve used the daily format the most because it allows for the most room to think and plan in, and the main reason I plan on paper is for the space it allows me to sit with a pen in hand and a blank (lined/squared) page and plan the direction, location and movement of my tasks like a general ordering troops around in the army. Push this one until tomorrow or early next week, this one gets a little marker for lower priority, and this one for higher, etc. The marking methods that I use have changed a bit over the years, but the format that I prefer largely hasn’t. I can oftentimes plan two days on a page, but it makes things feel cramped. I’m giving that format a try now (two days per page), and I’m likely going to revert back to my beloved page per day format soon. Ideas need space to breath, and when tasks get cramped I tend to miss a few of them. They just run on into each other in a condensed wall of text.

Like with weekly planners, daily planners have obvious inherent downsides. They’re thick and heavy. Unless you’re making them yourself (which is what I’ve been doing for years), you’ll be made to feel bad with every day you skip in them. They also don’t allow to easily see the bigger picture: having all the space that the weekly planners lack, they pay for that with the inability of letting you get a feel for your week in a glance. You remain mired in the day to day, and need to purposefully remember to look ahead to see what’s coming tomorrow, the day after, next week.

This is the reason that for years I’ve kept two notebooks that I turned into planners, a daily one (which was much more heavily used) and a weekly one (which I referenced once or twice a week). This combination worked the best for me until I got sick and it crumbled. Perhaps it will work for me again.

Ghosts of Planners Past: Weekly Planners

As part of my struggles with planning, I’ve been reviewing the various planning systems I’ve used over the years and how they have changed. One of the most persistent of these has been the Weekly Planner.

Weekly planners generally take the form of a week on two pages, with the left page used for the actual weekly planner part and the right page used for notes. I’ve used Moleskine pocket weekly planners, I’ve used tiny weekly planners from Word Notebooks for two years (2016 and 2017), and I’ve used a large squared Moleskine notebook that I turned into a weekly planner myself. The format appeals to me, which is why I’ve had some form of a weekly planner with me for well over a decade.

The classic Moleskine weekly spread.

The pluses of the weekly format seem obvious: you can get an overview of your week at a glance without too much clutter. You can easily tell when you can block out time for things, and what is your general availability for the week. You can tell if it’s a “heavy” week or a “light” one and plan your projects accordingly, and you can schedule pre-work and prep for upcoming events. It’s the ultimate planner’s planning format.

The minuses are that you don’t have enough space to plan out the individual days, which usually necessitates a secondary planning system, and that if you live in a country that starts the week on Sunday and not on Monday (like I happen to), your choices in this category are few and hard to come by.

Yet if this format is so compelling, why did I stop keeping a dedicated weekly planner late last year?

The answer is that I wasn’t referencing it enough to justify lugging another notebook around. It was great to get a sense of the week to come as I was planning for it on Friday or Saturday, but once I finished the planning, I would reference it again maybe once or twice a week. That was just not good enough.

My solution for now is to use one of the “Stay on Target” notepads from The Well Appointed Desk‘s Etsy store to create a small weekly plan on one piece of paper that I can see at all times (I keep the pad propped up at my desk). It just has one or two major events for each day tops, and it helps me keep track of my long term goals on a weekly basis (running, blogging, sketching, reading, gym and NTC sessions, meditation sessions, vitamins and fountain pens written dry). Here’s a censored example of next week’s plan:

Like the rest of my planning, it’s messy, not Instagram ready and not festooned with calligraphy, but it’s mine and it’s useful. My handwriting these cold days is beyond appalling, but as I can barely feel my hands even as I laboriously type this out, it’s the best that I can do under the circumstances, and I understand what I’m writing so that’s good enough.

And that is the main takeaway from this entire series (there are a few more posts to come): find what works for you, and don’t create a system that makes you work for it.

Diamine Inkvent 2022 Day 25: Best Wishes and Closing Thoughts

It’s the final day of Inkvent, and so it’s time to both review the final, 30ml bottle of the set, and review the calendar in its entirety.

Door 25

Day 25’s ink is a larger, 30ml bottle. It’s called Best Wishes, and it’s a very dark and saturated green with green shimmer and a lot of red sheen.

Best Wishes 30ml bottle

It’s quite a dramatic combination, the dark green base being almost black, the red sheen being very prominent and the green shimmer on top. More Halloween appropriate perhaps than Christmassy.

Col-o-Ring swab

My camera had a rough time photographing this ink. It’s the combination of the shimmer and the dark ink maybe that made it a bit blurry. In any case, the base ink is so dark that you can hardly tell that it’s a green at times.

52 gsm Tomoe River paper sketch

Here it is from another angle:

52gsm Tomoe River paper sketch.

This ink takes ages to dry, because it’s so saturated. I smudged the sketch above and this writing sample took a good long time to properly dry. If you’re left handed, I’d steer well away from Diamine Best Wishes. If you like the drama, then maybe it’s the ink for you. Personally I would have preferred a lighter or more interesting green with a chameleon effect and no sheen.

Writing sample on 68gsm Tomoe River paper

It’s summary time! Looking at this year’s Inkvent, I’m very pleased with the selection of inks, the spread of ink properties amongst them, and the overall value of this experience. I like that we got new chameleon inks, and I appreciated that there were less red inks in this year’s edition, and quite a good number of uniquely coloured inks. Reviewing the whole 25 inks involved, I think that Dusted Truffle, Memory Lane, Solar Storm, Ghost, Olive Swirl, Arctic Blast, Deck the Halls, and One More Sleep are the stand outs for me. Olive Swirl, Memory Lane, Dusted Truffle and Deck the Halls are inks that I plan on buying full bottles of once the green edition bottles come out. Ghost and Arctic Blast might join them too. If you like red inks, the Spiced Apple is fantastic. There are other great inks to have here, depending on your personal taste.

It was quite an endeavour, to fill fountain pens 25 times with ink and write, sketch and post a review of an ink a day. I don’t know if Diamine will create a 2023 Inkvent calendar, or if I will be able to write another set of reviews like this, but it was a wild and fun ride creating these reviews for the blog this year.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. I hope you got some cool pens and ink under the tree.

Diamine Inkvent 2022 Day 24: One More Sleep

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! It’s day 24 of Diamine Inkvent.

Door 24

Day 24’s ink is Diamine One More Sleep, a standard grey blue ink.

One More Sleep bottle

Diamine One More Sleep is a lovely grey blue with a lot a shading and a hint of lavender in the background.

Col-o-Ring swab

I love this shade of ink as it works well for sketching and for writing. It’s also a calm and relaxing colour, very appropriately named.

Sketch on 52gsm Tomoe River paper

Today’s writing sample is a little melancholy, as I reflect on the wave of well established pen shops that are closing down by the end of the year. This ink colour seems to encourage reflection, something I find myself doing more often since I received my cancer diagnosis a year and a half ago. If you don’t have an ink in this bluish grey light purple shade I recommend getting one, whether it’s Diamine One More Sleep or something similar by a Japanese or Korean maker.

Writing sample on 68gsm Tomoe River paper