Drehgriffel Nr. 1: A Review of the Leuchtturm1917 Gel Ink Pen

London Graphic Centre is one of my favourite stores in London. It’s tucked away in the corner of a street off of Neal street in Covent Garden, and it’s a real haven for artists, designers, architects and anyone who loves stationery and art supplies. I visit it several times whenever I’m in London, and I never fail to find something new and interesting there to try out. This time was no different, and one of the first things that caught my eye while I was there was this:

Rectangular box, Leuchtturm1917 logo, aquamarine colour, unusual pen design – of course I had to check it out.

It was just above the Leuchtturm1917 notebook display, and there were just three or four colours available, but it was obvious that this pen was designed to match the colours on offer in the Leuchtturm notebook lineup. I assumed at first that it was a ballpoint, in which case I wasn’t really interested in it, until I saw that it was prominently labeled as a gel ink pen. Now that was intriguing.

Rectangular cardboard box, with Nr. 1 and “Gel” clearly marked on it, plus the aquamarine colour.

The box was a bit confusingly marked as both “Gel” and “Gel ballpoint”. Checking out the Leuchtturm site clarified that this pen (we’ll get to the name in a minute) is indeed a gel ink pen, with a Japanese refill and a “Ceramic Ball” tip. The refill itself looks very much like the Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel ink refill. My guess would be that this is the same refill, but more on that later.

Several things of interest here: the “Designed in Germany, Made in Taiwan” that is reminiscent of Apple’s packaging. The prominent “Gel” marking and then the confusing “Gel ballpoint” designation. And the “Ceramic Ball” notation.

Somebody really took the time to design this box, but really didn’t consider how illegible the pen’s name is:

I was sure that the pen was called orehgriffel or ovehgriffel.

The pen is called Drehgriffel Nr. 1, a bit of a mouthful. Apparently Drehgriffel means “rotary stylus”, which probably refers to the pen’s twist mechanism.

The pen has an aluminum body, a white twist nob at the end and brass pen tip. It’s well balanced, heavier than a plastic pen but lighter than a Retro 51 or a machined pen. It’s slightly heavier than a metal bodied Caran d’Ache 849, but if they were put in a boxing ring they’d both be in the same weight category.

The Drehgriffel has a very 60’s look, which I happen to like, but other people may find to be dated. Also, the Nr. 1 is a weird designation when you don’t have any other pen on offer. Will there be a Nr. 2? A Nr. 3?

Here’s the pen’s refill and parts. It’s weighted slightly towards the tip because the tip is brass (and, of course, the pen tip will tarnish with time).

The Drehgriffel taken apart.

Here’s the Drehgriffel refill side by side with a Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel refill, and they are exactly the same. Good to know if you’re looking to replace refills, although I suspect that it will take a while to write this pen dry.

Monteverde refill on the top, Leuchtturm refill on the bottom.

The Drehgriffel is similar in size and weight (and price) to the Caran d’Ache 849 metal barrelled pens. It’s a smidge wider and heavier than the 849, but they are very much in the same ballpark. Here they are side by side:

Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel on the left, Caran d’Ache 849 on the right.

Here’s a writing sample of the Drehgriffel against a few other gel refills. It’s noticeably wider than Japanese 0.5 gel in pens, and is closer to 0.7 gel ink refills. I tested it on a Moleskine squared notebook (and further down you can see it on a Leuchtturm1917 notebook).

Writing samples.

Here’s the reverse side of the Moleskine page. The Drehgriffel bled a bit more than its counterparts:

The reverse of the page.

Here’s a writing test on a Leuchtturm1917 80gsm blank notebook:

Leuchtturm1917 writing sample.

Here too there was visible show through an some bleed through, although there was less bleed through than the Moleskine.

The reverse side of the Leuchtturm1917 page.

The Drehgriffel writes smoothly, but there’s nothing in the pen’s smoothness that justifies the advertising. It’s a nice pen, that comes in a variety of colours and that has an interesting design and good refill. In my opinion it would have been more popular if it came with a click mechanism and was a little cheaper, but I still appreciate the fact that Leuchtturm chose to come out with a gel ink pen first and not the more obvious choice of a ballpoint. I like the look and feel of my Drehgriffel, although I would have liked it better if it would have been a little bit wider. As it is if I use it for more than a page or so without pause it causes my hand to ache and cramp up.

Now I’m wondering if there’s going to be a Drehgriffel Nr.2 with a click mechanism perhaps?

Weekly Update: PET CT, Pens and Mischief Movie Night In

I haven’t written an update in a long time, because my neuropathy has gotten much worse since I finished my treatments. It’s painful to type, to write or draw, and it gets worse in the cold. Of course we’ve been having a series of cold days here, which has meant that typing a blog post has been a considerable challenge.

Two Egyptian Geese are having a dip in a roadside “pond”.

Health

I went through a PET-CT, my third and hopefully my last, last Sunday. It’s a long and not very pleasant experience, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. This week I’ll get the results and discuss with my doctor what to expect over the coming months. Meanwhile, neuropathy is kicking my ass, so posts will be sporadic until things get a little better.

This contraption injected me with radioactive sugar before my PET-CT.

I also got my fourth Covid vaccine, in the hopes of staving off the dreaded Omicron variant. I’ve been constantly masked and hiding as much as possible at home, but I’ve got a series of hospital visits coming up, so I’m hoping that the vaccine (and mask) will help me avoid infection and stay safe.

Reading

I started a new reading challenge, but I’m taking my time with it. I just finished the fabulous “The Trees” by Percival Everett, and the pretty terrible “All’s Well” by Mona Awad (lots of good intentions, terrible delivery). If you enjoyed “My Sister, Serial Killer,” you’ll love “The Trees”. It is a darkly funny, fast and very clever detective/revenge story that is just a joy to read, despite the very difficult topic.

I’m not sure what’s next on my reading list, but it may just be a non-fiction book before I delve into the next Tournament of Books pairing.

Writing

My hands are making writing problematic, but I did manage to write a pretty long post on the blog this week. It’s a taste of a project that I’ve been wanting to work on even since I got sick, and I look forward to be able to actually sit down and type for longer periods of time to get it done.

Currently Inked

I finished my Diamine Inkvent 2021 reviews with 32 pens inked, and I promised myself that I will write them all dry. That’s the most pens I’ve ever had inked at one time, and it’s turning out to be quite a challenge, but a fun and interesting one. This week I’ve written four pens dry (a Lamy Safari, two Monteverde Giant Sequoias and a Sailor Pro Gear Graphite Lighthouse), bringing the count of inked pens down to 22. It’s slow going because I have trouble using my pens, but I am making an effort to journal each day with them, so I do hope to write them all dry by the end of next month. I’ve been using them in my Moleskine, because I love their format the best, and just writing on one side of the page since I have enough notebooks to afford to do that. That way I can use the pens I like in the notebook I like and not worry about avoiding bleedthrough.

Other Things

I got back to running, which is major. I’ve been a runner since November 2011, until the 7 month break in running that I was forced to take last year due to my cancer and treatments. It was very hard for me to stop running, and it is difficult to get back into it now for various reasons, but I’m lacing up and getting out there and that’s what matters at this point. The most important thing I’m having to learn is to be kind and patient with my body after all it’s been through.

I’ve also watched the charity broadcast of the Mischief Theatre group (of “The Play that Goes Wrong” fame), “Mischief Movie Night In: The Wizard of Paddington Station” . You have until the 31st of January to purchase a ticket to see the broadcast and all the profit goes to charity. It’s a fun, family friendly way to pass an evening and do some good at the same time.

2021: Looking Back at a “Heavy” Year

My hands have been killing me with the worst neuropathy since my treatments began, so I’ve been trying to limit my typing to what I need to do for work. That is why this post took so long to write, and why my posting schedule may be a little off until things improve with my neuropathy.

2021 was a hell of a year for me. It started with me doing Liz Steel‘s excellent Sketchbook Design course. I also took some fantastic and very illuminating tea seminars with Juyan Webster from the Chinese Tea Company. If you have any interest in tea and you get a chance to have a tea seminar with her, I highly recommend it.

Early on in the year is also when a close family member got diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and that’s also when my journalling went on the fritz. This was the notebook I was using at the time, a Moleskine Pokemon Charmander limited edition and I abandoned it 2/3rds of the way through.

Abandoned Moleskine.

Covid was raging, I was working from home, at a new job, and I spent the first quarter of the year trying to fit my drawing and running into the new quarantine rules that kept getting both stricter and more confusing with each iteration. I happily got vaccinated as soon as I could, and I’m still very grateful to the amazing scientists and doctors who came up with vaccines in such a short time frame.
I managed to participate in the OneWeek100People challenge, which is very demanding but also a lot of fun. If you can spare the time I recommend giving it a try.

In the beginning of April I started having shortness of breath (dyspnea) while running. It got worse with time and soon I couldn’t run at all, and then I couldn’t walk very fast or far, climb stairs, etc. After a long and laborious road to get a diagnosis, in the beginning of June I learned that I had cancer, and in the beginning of July I got a diagnosis and started ABVD chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
A few things helped me get through that incredibly difficult time. First and foremost, my phenomenal family (mother, father and brother) that rallied around me and took care of me from the moment of the first diagnosis and to this day. I can’t imagine going through this process without them. Almost as important were my friends, who visited me in the hospital and cheered me up, and kept in touch and cheered me on during the treatments. Finally it was journaling and reading. I started this Moleskine “I am New York” on the day I was first admitted to hospital, and writing in it gave me perspective and kept me sane.

Journal of a bad year.

And books? Books have always been my comfort and escape. I saw a few things on Disney+ while I was hospitalized, but books helped distract me from a lot the most unpleasant and painful parts of this journey.
I was happy to discover that one of my favourite Moleskine limited edition series, the denim ones, was back in stock, and so once I finished the “I am New York” journal I moved into this Moleskine “Skinny. Flared. Bookcut.” one. It’s such a well conceptualized and executed design, it was a joy to use. This was when I decided to regularly use fountain pens to journal with, and just use only one side of the page. I have more than enough notebooks to support that decision.

This notebook took me through the second part of chemo to the end of it.

And now, and the beginning of 2022 I started a new journal, a Moleskine Peanuts Sakura. Pretty, right? Let’s hope I get to fill it with good news and positive thoughts.

A new Moleskine for a new and better year.

Some favourites from the past year:

My favourite pen was the Esterbrook Estie Sea Glass. Quite a surprise for me, but it hasn’t been out of rotation since I got it.

Esterbrook Estie Sea Glass – fantastic and beautiful pen.

Another pen purchase that came in at a close second was the Diplomat Elox Rings and the Diplomat Aero (basically the same pen with a slightly different body design). These are wonderful workhorses, and a joy to use.

Diplomat Elox Rings on the left and Diplomat Aero in Champagne on the right.

I didn’t read as much this year as last year, but I did read a few really great books. Here’s a list of a few standouts among them:

  • The Good War, by Studs Terkel. WWII as I’ve never experienced it before – as seen and told by the “regular people” who lived through it.
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Not an easy read by far, but a breathtaking work of fiction nonetheless. Worth the effort.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. A surprisingly moving tale of a character that you won’t expect to fall in love with, and yet you will.
  • Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, by Hillary Mantel. Why should I care about Thomas Cromwell? How can you not care about Thomas Cromwell after reading these books? An era and place come to life, in a world filled with complex and compelling characters.
  • Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder. Watch the movie AND read the book. Both are excellent, and both offer a chance to look into a part of modern living that we were hitherto oblivious of.
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir. Just a fun and interesting sci-fi novel. If you enjoyed the Martian, you’ll enjoy this.
  • Underland, by Robert Macfarlane. What happens in the deep dark places beneath our feet? A lyrical work of non-fiction.
  • The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. The love story between Achilles and Patroclus told with great gentleness and heart.
  • Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. An understated and masterful work of science fiction that explores themes of humanity, identity, friendship and love, among other things.
  • Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead. How can you write a heist novel that isn’t a heist novel but rather a story of a person, a time and place? Whitehead’s writing is exceptional, and Harlem Shuffle is just another proof of that.
  • The Expanse books 1-4, James S.A. Corey. I haven’t read book 5 and onwards yet, but I did read the first four books of The Expanse this year. They aren’t perfect (Holden is a bit much), but they are very good at world-building, with interesting and unique plots and complex and believable characters (apart from Holden, who is a bit much). The books are each written in a different style, and they improve with time.

In terms of art supplies, 2021 was the year of the super-granulating watercolours from Schmincke, and also when I added Daniel Smith watercolours to my palette. Schmincke just announced that the super-granulating colours will be permanently added to their offerings, and that they are issuing three more permanent sets into this series (Desert, Shire and Vulcano), and another limited edition set, Haze.

I’ll be talking about planning for 2022 on one of my next posts. In the meanwhile, have a great new year, and don’t forget to take time and breath.

Uni Jetstream Edge Review

I’m not a fan of ballpoint pens. Their refills tend to streak and glob, the ink they use isn’t ass dark or vibrant as their gel ink and rollerball counterparts, and something about them (probably the lightness and inconsistency of the refill) makes me grip them with “the grip of death,” which inevitably brings on hand cramps and pain. They are, however, useful at times, so I am constantly on the lookout for new and better ballpoint pens and ballpoint refills.

Enter the Uni Jetstream Edge, a ballpoint pen with a strikingly modern design and the world’s first 0.28mm ballpoint refill (there’s also a 0.38mm refill option but I won’t review it here).

Uni Jetstream Edge white and red body with 0.28 mm refill on a Moleskine Denim.

I love the design of this pen. The body is plastic, but the grip area is metal and relatively wide, which makes for a very well balanced pen. The bent wire shape of the clip adds to its modern and clean aesthetic, and I like that chose to make it red and not black or silver in the white edition of this pen. The clip looks like it would be a fun and springy fidget tool, but it’s quite inflexible and immobile. That’s great if you plan on using it to clip it to a shirt pocket, but the unusual clip shape means that clipping it to paper will likely crumple and even tear the paper. I don’t normally clip my pens to things, so that’s not going to be an issue for me, but YMMV.

The clip, and the subtle Uni Jetstream branding.

The Jetstream Edge grip section is metal and round, unlike the plastic, faceted pen body. There are grooves carved into it that make it comfortable to hold, and the refill sits very snugly in the pen sleeve. This is a pen that’s not going to rattle while you write.

Jetstream Edge grip and business end.

The 0.28 mm Jetstream ballpoint refill has been designed so that the tip won’t suffer the usual “bent out of shape the moment you breath too hard on it” fate of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C refills. Its sturdy but still keeps a tapered, fine tip, which means that you can use it with rulers and templates if you so desire.

Jetstream Edge on the left, Hi-Tec-C on the right. Note the difference in the tip and nose cone design between the two, and that the Edge grip is wider.

The refill the Jetstream Edge uses is the SXR 203-28 for the 0.28 mm or the SXR 203-38 for the 0.38mm tips size, although it appears that can also accept the Uni SXR-80 line of refills used for Uni-ball’s multi-pens. If so, that could open a wider range of refill colours and tip sizes.
The original, SXR 203, refill is very slim, which would have been problematic if it was a gel ink refill (you’d have written it dry in a day), but shouldn’t be a problem with a ballpoint refill. That being said, I doubt that this refill will last as long as a standard Parker one, not to mention the Caran d’Ache Goliath.

The Jetstream Edge dismantled with the refill on the side.

While Uni-ball brags that the Edge uses the first 0.28mm ballpoint refill in the world, there are other brands that use ultra fine ballpoint refills not far from it in size. My Midori (now Traveler’s Company) Brass Ballpoint pen has a refill that is around that size, so I thought I’d compare the two.

Jetstream Edge on the top left, the Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint is on the bottom right.

Here are the pen tips side by side. The barrels, grips and cones are very different but the refill tups are very much alike.

Jetstream Edge on the top, the Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint is on the bottom.

Below you’ll find a writing sample of the Jetstream Edge, and one of the Midori/Traveler’s Company Brass Ballpoint for comparison. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being a Jetstream refill, the Edge’s refill is better than the Midori’s even though it is slightly thinner. It lays down a more consistent and slightly darker line (although nowhere near as dark as a gel ink pen’s line).

I wrote seven full A5 pages with the Jetstream Edge, to see how consistent the line is over time, and to see if it would cause hand cramps after prolonged use. While I was writing I made a concentrated effort to keep a light grip on the pen. The barrel design helped with this, and the pen’s light weight and front heavy balance made it nice to hold and write with. But the Jetstream Edge is a pen with a sweet spot, not unlike certain fountain pens. Angle it too much and the refill starts to skip, so you need to write with the pen as vertically as possible. That slightly awkward writing angle may have been the cause of my hand cramps, but whatever the cause may be, this is not a pen that will work for long writing sessions for me.

So, do I recommend the Uni Jetstream Edge? If you’re a ballpoint fan and an ultra micro tip fan, then yes. Otherwise, there are cheaper and better ballpoint pens out there, even within the excellent Uni-ball Jetstream line.
Will I be using the Jetstream Edge? Yes, although not for long writing sessions. I love the line it lays down, and I like the aesthetic of this pen. Then again, I’m a fan of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C

Moleskine Studio Notebook (or Cult Pens Paper Box Part 1)

Cult Pens offered a paper box about a month ago. For £25 you got 3 notebooks, 2 sketchbooks, 1 fineliner, 1 marker, 4 pencils, 4 pens and a handful of Smile Clips. I don’t usually buy boxes of stationery (I especially avoid mystery boxes), but as I was interested in trying out the Moleskine Studio that was already part of the box, and as I was interested in most of the rest of the box’s contents, I decided to give it a try.

The box is no longer being offered, but if it was I’d suggest that Cult Pens would do better to pack the notebooks in an actual well-fitted box and not in a zip-lock bag that bumps around in a large box. The result is that the corner of the Moleskine Studio box was crushed, and one of the pads that came in the box was also damaged.

Now for the Moleskine Studio: this is a new offering from Moleskine, made in collaboration with six artists. Each artist’s artwork is featured on the front cover, on the end papers, on a sheet of themed stickers, and on the box the notebook comes in. The box serves as a frame for the artwork, allowing you to hang it if you wish. The notebooks are available in Plain or Ruled layouts, and, here’s the really interesting bit, contain 100 gsm ivory coloured paper.

Here’s the box as I received it:

Crushed corner, weird cling film wrapping – there’s a lot going on here

So the notebook’s box/frame came with a crushed top right corner, which is unfortunate. The notebook itself was covered with cling film, a form of packaging I’ve never seen come from Moleskine before, and a plastic cover that was attached to the box/frame. While the frame is designed to be reusable, I’ve purchased another Moleskine Studio that came completely without it, and I have a feeling that there’s very little chance for the frame to survive shipping without being mangled. As it is, I feel that there’s way too much packaging here.

Box frame, notebook, and plastic cover.

The frame with the artwork inside:

Yukai Du’s “I Dreamed In A Dream”

The flip side of the frame. You can see that there are holes for hanging the frame, as well as information about the paper in the notebook (gasp!). I wish Moleskine would print this info on every notebook they sell.

The back of the frame box.

Here’s the notebook, and here’s where I start having more serious reservations about Moleskine’s manufacturing choices regarding this lineup. The artwork isn’t printed on the notebook cover, it’s glued onto it. I have a feeling that the glue isn’t going to last long, and in general it just cheapens an otherwise premium notebook experience.

Front cover (with paper wrap still on)

The back cover is a bit weird in that the paper wrap doesn’t reach all the way around and is just stuck to the cover with two stickers. The stickers are easy to remove and don’t leave any residue, but it’s the only Moleskine I’ve seen with this setup and I can’t help but wonder why.

Back cover.

Here’s a closeup to the glued artwork on the cover. I’m also a little disappointed that the artwork hasn’t been signed by the artist, Yukai Du.

Closeup on the glued corner of the artwork.

Inside the front covers is more of Yukai Du’s work, and it’s wonderful. This is where Moleskine shines, and I wish these artists could have had their work properly printed or even embossed on the covers of a Moleskine. They deserve it.

Inside the front cover, with “In case of loss”.

The paper is very good (not your standard Moleskine affair, which has its particularities). Ivory coloured, 100 gsm, not glass smooth but not textured, and it lays flat. There’s some writing samples ahead, but spoiler alert, yes it’s fountain pen friendly. There’s also the famous ribbon bookmark, which I wish was pink but in this case is black.

Paper and bookmark.

The back cover end papers feature more of Yukai Du’s artwork, perfectly aligned on the back pocket.

Inside the back cover.

On the last page in the notebook, usually left blank, Moleskine has featured more information about the Moleskine Studio edition. In their marketing they’re calling this a new platform for collaboration with artists, and this page makes me think that this is going to be an ongoing project for them. I hope that they do continue with these, as the overall result is very good.

The last page.

Here’s the sticker page that comes with this edition. Again, very well made:

Sticker page.

Finally, the paper. I was hoping that this is going to be a fountain pen friendly Moleskine and it is. There’s no feathering, no spreading, no bleed through and very little show through with this paper (there’s more show through with the rollerballs than with the fountain pens). Your milage may vary, but I am very happy with this paper, and a Moleskine Studio is going to be my next journalling notebook.

Ink test.

The reverse side of the page:

The reverse side of the page.

Overall, the Moleskine Studio is a strong new offering from Moleskine, one that really plays to their design strengths. It’s not perfect, but I hope to see them iterate and improve on it with time, and I hope that many artists get to have their artwork featured on an iconic notebook.

How I Use My Notebooks: Daily Planner Update

I last posted about my planner and to do list setup here. To recap, my planning system includes two large Moleskine hard cover squared notebooks, one in which I plan my week, and one in which I use as a daily to do planner. I started using this setup once Covid hit and I started working from home. It worked very well for a year and a half.

Then I got cancer.

I was hospitalized for a month, in which I discovered that I have zero control over my time or how my day will shape out. When I got out I was already on a Chemo regiment. I had to make adjustments to my life, this time because of my personal health, not a global pandemic.

Score (another) one for self-made planners.

My old system was generic enough that it fit into my new lifestyle with very little adjustment. The weekly notebook stayed mostly the same, as you can see below. The main difference is that I manage less stuff there and more using reminders in Fantastical. It’s not that I don’t like paper planners any more, it’s just that Chemo Brain is a possible side effect of my treatment and I don’t want to risk not getting something important done because I forgot to check my weekly planner at the right moment, or I saw something there but didn’t remember it after I’ve seen it.

So why keep the weekly planner at all? Because it helps me see how the week is shaping up, and because it allows me to do a little long term planning, despite everything. All my plans at the moment are in two week batches (dictated by my chemo regiment), and this layout allows me to manage them.

Another addition to this notebook is a few tracker pages, marked by tabs. Some track purchases that I’m waiting for, some track bureaucracies that I need to take care of, others list things that I want to get done eventually but I haven’t decided yet when or how.

As for my daily planner notebook, I just finished one and started another. Here’s the finished notebook:

Moleskine Large Hardcover squared with a Star Wars The Last Jedi decal on the cover.

Here’s the new notebook. I love using these decals to make these notebooks my own:

Moleskine Large Hardcover squared with a Star Wars Chewbacca decal on the cover.

I used to manage every day on a full spread, with personal to dos on one side of the page and professional ones on a another. Since my life is less busy now than it used to be, I’ve downsized my to do to one page per day, with personal and professional mixed in (I work from home). This is a sample of my least busiest day: it’s a chemo day and I wasn’t planning on working after this treatment since it was a long one. Door to door I was in the hospital from 6:40 to 14:00, and completely wiped out after it. I don’t usually list my meals or naps in my notebook, but chemo days are so crazy (in terms of what my brain does on steroids) that I have to write everything down. Things that I didn’t do get a strike in them and are moved forward to another day.

Everybody has different needs from their planner, and those needs oftentimes change unexpectedly, and out of sync with “planner season”. It’s one of the reasons why I find making your own planner, working just a few days or a week or two ahead is the best and most consistent way for me to manage my time. There are some great planning systems out there, but if you’ve struggled with using them, or if your circumstances make you need a very flexible system, I highly recommend picking up a squared or lined notebook and creating your own.

Moleskine Winter 2021 Catalog: A Tale of Discontinued Notebooks

A few days ago I found Moleskine’s Winter 2021 Catalog, and was dismayed to discover that many of my favourite notebooks are discontinued (“while supplies last”). So this is going to be mostly a “stock up on these if you like them” review of the catalog, not so much a “look at these cool new things from Moleskine,” mainly because most of the cool new things were published earlier in the year.

So here are the main discontinued notebooks, in order of their (dis)appearance in the catalog:

  • The Classic Reporter notebook, already available only in Pocket is now going to be available only in the Ruled option, both in hard cover and soft cover options. The Squared ruling is long gone and now the Plain option is disappearing from most dealers. This is your last chance to get it if you use it. As I used to use a Plain Pocket Reporter as a PigPog PDA and every few years I return to it, I’ve stocked up on a few for future use. I really wish that they wouldn’t have discontinued these, as they were some of my favourite notebooks from their lineup.
  • Dotted and Squared rulings are being discontinued in the Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue Pocket and X-Large notebooks in both hard cover and soft cover. For some reason they’ll still be available in Myrtle Green in these sizes. Earth Brown and Reef Blue look like they are also being gradually phased out, likely to make room for next year’s spring colours. If you like these colours, especially in Plain ruling and in Pocket or X-Large sizes, now is the time to get them. I’ll wager that these colours are going to be completely phased out by the Spring 2022 catalog.
  • Moleskine Two-Go notebooks, which were my favourite new addition to their lineup are being completely phased out by the look of things. I’ve stocked up on as many as I can justify, as I use them as my reading journals. The size, the paper and the blank/lined ruling were perfect for this use, and I am going to sorely miss them. Moleskine seem to be replacing them with the Classic Notebooks Double Layout (more on that below), but the paper is 70gsm and not the 100gsm of the Two-Go notebooks.
  • Most of the Moleskine Blend notebook collection is being gutted, which is also a sore loss. Nobody makes fabric covers as well as Moleskine does (sorry Baron Fig), and some of my favourites were in this collection. The Denim collection, especially those with the writing on the covers (Hand Wash, This is Yours, etc) were fabulous, and in general this collection was well designed and executed. Only the new black and white checked and patterned 2021 notebooks that are new to the catalog remain. I guess that at leas we have hope that not all the Blend line is being discontinued.
  • Cahier notebooks are also seeing less options in the Squared and Dotted rulings. I have no idea why they seem to be less popular than other ruling options. Tender Yellow seems to be making its way out of the lineup, so if that’s a colour that you like you probably need to stock up.
  • Pearl Grey is being discontinued from the Pro Notebook lineup, and if you like the XXL notebooks not in Black now is the time to stock up on the Forest Green.
  • The Address Book is no longer going to be offered in X-Large. I can understand why – my guess is that the Pocket and the Large ones sell much better.
  • The Sketchbook in A3 is going to be offered only in Black from now on. Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue are being discontinued in that size.
  • The Sketch Album in XXL is being discontinued.
  • As usual, I’m not going to delve into the wild and woolly world of Moleskine Smart and Moleskine accessories. It’s just too much, even for me.

Here are the new additions to the lineup, in order of their appearance in the catalog:

  • Moleskine Studio notebooks, which feature both 100gsm paper and an interesting design concept are my favourite new additions to the lineup. I already purchased one, which for some reason arrived sans box and and artwork, but oh well.
  • Classic Notebook Double Layout seem to there to in part replace the Two-Go, although they are offered in 70gsm paper and with regular and not fabric lined covers. Time will tell how popular they will be.
  • Moleskine Blend gets two additions to the lineup (everything else is being discontinued). They are both black and white patterns, which is classic but also a little boring. I wish they’d kept more innovation going in this part of their lineup.
  • Planners – everything is new here so I won’t go over them. There’s probably a planner option for everyone in this lineup, if planners are your thing.
  • Limited Editions – everything here is marked new, but apart from the Sakura everything has appeared in a previous catalog (if memory serves). The Sakura is gorgeous as usual, the rest of the lineup (Le Petit Prince and Hello Kitty in particular) are going to be very popular (the Pinnochio ones being the exception).
  • Logbooks are getting two new colour options – Coral Pink and Lavender Violet. You’ll often find them sold as “Bullet Journals” and the new colours appear to be flying off the shelves.
  • Moleskine National Geographic Taveller’s Notebook isn’t marked as new but I don’t recall seeing it before. It’s intriguing enough for me to purchase one, even though I wish they would have put thicker paper and less pages in this notebook. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to travelling after my treatment and put this notebook into good use.

Moleskine: I am New York Limited Edition Notebook

I haven’t posted a Moleskine limited edition review in a while, mostly because I stopped journaling when my mother was diagnosed with a new kind of cancer in the beginning of the year. Once I realized that I had cancer I chose the nicest Moleskine limited edition that I could see, grabbed a Kara’s Kustoms Render K and started writing.

This is the notebook I chose:

Photo of the cover of the "I am New York" limited edition Moleskine notebook.
Moleskine I am New York

The Moleskine “I am New York” is the second of the “I am” series that I’ve tried out (the first being “I am London” which I bought in the Moleskine Covent Garden store). There’s another notebook which I haven’t been able to purchase, the “I am Milan” one. In any case the cover design on these notebooks is stunning, with a vibrant illustration of an iconic architectural aspect of the city they represent. In the case of New York, it’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge illustration on the front cover of the notebook, with yellow band on.
Front Cover Illustration.

The covers are made of fabric, which Moleskine has excelled at in recent years. This one is no different – the cover is very well made.

The spine. Can you guess where these photos were taken?

Here’s a look at the cloth covers without the yellow paper band. You can see how well the elastic band’s colour and the ribbon bookmark fit with the design even though lavender may not have been the most obvious choice.

Moleskine I am New York front cover without the yellow band. Colours are mostly grey and orange.
Front cover.

Here’s the back cover and ribbon:

Moleskine I am New York back cover without the yellow bookmark, and with the lavender ribbon bookmark showing.
Back cover with ribbon bookmark.

Here’s the front endpaper. It features the New York Times, a take away coffee and a bagel on a brown paper bag. Remember the bagel, we’ll be returning to that later on.

Front endpaper which features the New York Times, a take away coffee and a bagel on a brown paper bag. Remember the bagel, we'll be returning to that later on.
Front endpaper.

The back endpaper features a very imaginative summer scene in a city park, with various denizens of the city enjoying a lounge on the park lawn.

The back endpaper features a very imaginative summer scene in a city park, with various denizens of the city enjoying a lounge on the park lawn.
Back endpaper.

The Moleskine “I am New York” comes with a lovely postcard in the notebook’s back pocket, with a drawing by Carlo Stanga(who also illustrated the front cover) titled: “Where Fifth Ave Starts”.

Postcard with a watercolour drawing of Fifth Avenue.
Where Fifth Ave Starts postcard.

It’s a functional postcard, but I’d just hang it as a small work of art in my cubicle or on my fridge.

Back of postcard.
Functional postcard if you need it.

The B-side of the paper band has a bagels recipe (remember the bagel from the front endpaper?). I haven’t tried it but it’s well drawn and a cute addition to this already great notebook.

I’m going to be using the Moleskine “I am New York” as my daily journal through these next few tough months, and I can’t think of a better notebook for the job. It’s a beautiful notebook that makes me smile whenever I pick it up.

I Have a Tumour

I debated whether to write this post or not, and whether to write it now or wait for later, when I know which tumour I have. In the end I decided to start a post and write what comes out, and not try to overthink it.

I have a tumour in my chest cavity (mediastinal). Back in February this year I was forced to stop running for about two months due to a rather serious bout of Plantar Fasciitis. Due to Covid restrictions I had delayed replacing my insoles, and this was the price pay. After two months of rest, stretching and a course of anti-inflammatory pills I felt better and in the beginning of April I started running again.

Or at least I tried.

I had shortness of breath once I started, to the point where I had to stop running a few times during my run. I thought that it was due to me not running for almost two months. But the runs after that first one didn’t get better and after a few more I went to the doctor.

My GP said that my lungs were clear and he couldn’t hear anything. I told him that I was wheezing at night (at this point I was), and that I found running impossible and walking increasingly difficult. He said that it was a virus that was going around, and prescribed something to help with congestion. It was a 10 day course of tablets, and it did nothing to help with my shortness of breath or my wheezing and coughs.

I knew that something was seriously wrong, and thought that at the age of 39 I may have developed asthma. At this point it was time to fly to London, so I took my mother’s inhaler and went on the trip. I have no idea how I made it through 13-15,000 steps per day for 12 days there, but I did.

Once I returned I went to see my GP again, this time demanding a referral to a spirometry test and and to a lung specialist. Last Thursday I took the spirometry test and the results were abysmal. I had 35% lung capacity, and I scared the technician enough that she tried to do everything possible to get me to see a lung specialist that day. She didn’t succeed but my family managed to book me a to a lung doctor that day. He said that it wasn’t asthma, but he had no idea what it was. I needed to get a CT done.

I took a spirometry test at 13:40. I saw a lung doctor at 16:30. At 18:30 I had a CT angio done (my first CT ever). At 19:10 I had the results in my inbox.

A large mediastinal tumour. Possibly lymphoma.

Me, a healthy, non-smoking, non-drinking, physically active 39 year old.

I was admitted to hospital on Friday, and had a series of tests done, including a super painful, super traumatic biopsy on Sunday. I was released home for a few days of rest on Tuesday, and now, Saturday night, I’m back in hospital waiting for my very first PET CT on Sunday morning.

The hospital

I have no idea how I’m coping. For now I’m in a cloud of uncertainly and with zero control over my life as a phalanx of very good doctors try to figure out exactly what we’re dealing with here. It’s a tumor for sure, the question is which kind exactly. I’m moving around in my life as if it is someone else’s.

I’m back to journalling, after a break due to my mom’s health problems, Covid and several other personal issues. Recording everything as it happens has helped me deal with things. Analogue tools are still best for processing, and even though I would have loved to luxuriate with a Parker 51 on some Tomoe River Paper, I know the practicalities of hospitals enough to use a Karas Kustoms Render K with my favourite refill (Uni-ball UMR-85) and a Moleskine instead.

Analogue Planning and Task Management in Covid Times

When Covid-19 hit last year and I started working from home my old task management system completely disintegrated. It was a combination of trying to find a new work/life/health balance, coupled with starting a new job that really made me aware that my old running daily work checklist and home checklist were no longer going to work. I was also keenly aware that I could no longer do any long term planning, and yet that I had to find a way to plan ahead somehow, or I’d accomplish none of my long term goals. After trying several systems with little to no success, it took until January 2021 for me to find a system that worked for me. In the hopes that this may help someone build out their own system, here is a glimpse into mine.

The system is built into two separate Moleskine Large Hardcover Squared notebooks. This was my notebook of choice for my previous system, and it has served me well. I don’t use fountain pens for my planning, just fine gel pens, and I don’t mind the ghosting, as I find that it’s more pronounced in photos than it is when I actually use the page. One notebook is my weekly planner, and I reference it about once or twice a day. The other notebook is my daily task list, and I reference and update it all the time. Why two notebooks and not one notebook with both a weekly plan and daily pages? I tried that and the need to constantly flip between pages with no ability to see my weekly plan before me as I create my daily task lists was too much for me to deal with. I don’t have a dearth of notebooks and I do have dearth of time and attention, so two notebooks it is.

Here’s a weekly notebook spread:

Weekly notebook spread, before filling.

Each spread in my weekly notebook is divided between my weekly schedule/plan on the the left hand side of the spread, and a weekly goal list on the right hand side. This is a sample of the following week’s spread before I start really filling it. On the left hand side I fill in the days of the week and the dates. I put in appointments and things that I need to take into account while doing my planning, but this page isn’t a replacement for my Fantastical calendar. I still want and heavily use a digital calendar with reminders, but this notebook page is crucial for my ability to see and plan ahead. I plan and think better on paper, and so if I have a D&D game on a certain day, I know that I need to schedule time to prep for it. This is also where I plan my weekly training: when I run, when I go to the gym and when I rest. I also use it to plan ahead things that I need to be aware of for my mother’s various doctor’s appointments, from reminders, to various forms that need to be filled, blood tests scheduled etc.

The right side of the page is the most important part of each spread, as it is where I plan out what I want to get done each week. My yearly goals are broken down and mapped out week by week here. I break the goals down by title, and then write down 2-3 related goals under each one (except the fitness goal which gets more). Some goal groups are consistent – fitness, reading, writing, blog, cleaning. Other goal groups change depending on the week and my focus. The “Also” goal group is for miscellany, such as watching a weekly episode of a show that I don’t want spoiled, or renewing/cancelling subscriptions.

The daily notebook is much simpler, and is merely an evolution of my old task system, adapted to working from home:

Daily task list, in the afternoon of the day it was created.

On the left side of every work day there is a professional task list, with work related things that I want to do that day. On the right side of the page is the personal task list, with stuff that I want to do before and after work. On weekends the two sides of the page simply both list out personal tasks. This system is clear, simple to use, flexible and doesn’t require a lot of “meta” effort to set up or maintain.

If you’re struggling with time management lately, take some time to create a system that works for you and doesn’t overwhelm you. I highly recommend not using a planner but rather creating your own schedule, since it saves you from the disappointment and stress of empty planner pages. It also allows you to add specific pages to your setup as the need arises. For instance, as global shipping and our local post office have gone haywire since Covid, I dedicated a spread in my weekly notebook to tracking various shipments. When I need to go to the post office to collect a package I note it down in my schedule, and so it was easy for me to use a different page on the same notebook to track the status of each package.

Let me know if this was helpful, and if you’ve also been forced to revamp your planning over the past year.