Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ryman soft cover notebook: review


This was a total impulse buy! I was in Rymans the other day and about to pay for my goods when I saw that they were doing Buy One Get One Free on their notebooks. I've just started doing another couple of Future Learn courses and one of them ("Identifying the Dead" ... hey, I write crime novels!) runs for six weeks, with four hours of work per week (though it always takes me a lot longer than that because I make a lot of notes as I go along).

So, what other reason did I need for trying out a couple of new notebooks? I need one for the course and the other came free.

I got two of the medium sized, soft cover notebooks; one in pink and one in navy.

Details:
192 pages
cream paper
70 gsm
210mm x 130mm
top margin:13mm
bottom margin: 12mm
side margins:10mm
line spacing: 7mm
matching pen loop in back cover
vertical elastic closure
expandable pocket in the back cover
ribbon marker
£6.99 (for 2 at the moment)

Walk through:
There is a lining page which (naturally) has the first lined page stuck to it. It's actually stuck to it really badly about 2cm in from the central binding, making that first lined page totally unusable. The back page wasn't stuck anything like as badly to the next page!
There is no page numbering. The pages are sewn and glued and lie pretty flat, with a bit of help. The end of the ribbon is heat-sealed (I think). The pen loop, elastic closure and ribbon are all a good match (these things bug me when they're not).

horrendously glued first page
The cover itself has an odd texture. I don't like it all that much. It's quite 'grabby' although smooth (you know, I've just realised what it makes me think of - slightly damp cat paws, albeit warmer!).
The pen loop is a good size - most of my standard sized (9-10mm diameter) pens fitted in well.  My chunky fountain pens don't fit (but then, they don't fit anything!). Slim pens (e.g. Parker Sonnet ballpoint - 7mm diameter) were held well too.

Pen Tests:

I had no great hopes over the paper at all. I only had three fountain pens inked up (I know... amazing!) and although writing was pretty smooth on the paper, and there wasn't too much feathering, there was some show-through to the other side. Depending on the colour of ink used though, probably manageable. I could probably use both sides if the ink was fairly light and the nib not too wet.
[update: I've been using it with a variety of inks now and I've been able to use both sides of the page okay with all of them] 

Reverse

The Pilot V5 hi-tecpoint 0.5 were a different matter!
The black had about as much show-through as the fountain pens. The other colours all feathered more and bled through to the other side. I wouldn't be able to use both sides of the paper with any of the coloured Pilot V5 pens, which is a shame as I had hoped to be able to colour-code my notes if needed.

Overall:
For an impulse buy, pretty cheap notebook, this was a lot better than I expected! I've been using it for a couple of weeks now with no problems. There is some show-through to the other side, but it's all bearable. I've only used fountain pens in it so far, with a variety of inks and none of them has ghosted through so much that the reverse side has been unusable. If they're still on offer when I go into town this weekend, I may grab a couple of the A4 versions.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Leuchtturm Bullet Journal - update

About 6 weeks ago, I got a Leuchtturm Bullet Journal from Bureau Direct (I blogged about it here). At the end, I said I'd give you an update "in about a week"... well, it's been a bit more than a week, but here's the update!

I'd love to say that I've embraced the bullet journal but I'm really struggling to fit it in with the rest of my system (which is not broken and therefore doesn't need fixing!). My current system uses a combination of three things:
  • a week + notes diary (where the diary side holds the few appointments I have and notes page is used for the next actions I'm aiming to complete in the week, split into life areas)
  • a note book for jotting stuff down while out and about
  • an A6 squared notebook (by Clairefontaine) that is used for day planning. This has a page per day, and is the place where I time-box my day, list day tasks, plus it has space for jotting small things down
The first 2 of those are held in my Meadowgate Leather TN which is also my wallet (see here for details); the A6 sits open on my desk.

So, how am I using the A5 Leuchtturm bullet journal?

I was never going to use the first few pages as a 'future log' as all future log stuff can go straight into the correct date in the diary, so I used correction tape over the labels on those pages. So far I haven't used correction tape over the pre-filled entry in the index, and if I do use the index (which, technically, is a table of contents...) I will do.

What it's ended up being is a "book of stuff I've jotted down". I started out with a page for email reminders, then a page for blog post ideas, one for random jottings (lyrics from a song I heard so I could find it online), some marketing notes, notes about how a Facebook ad had done, a list of book finds (for my author blog - I do a book finds post once a month), notes for social media scheduling, and notes about book promotion sites.

It's just over six weeks since I started using it, and I've used 12 pages. One of those is a failed attempt at doing a weekly overview layout (to see if it would work better than my diary. It didn't.). I genuinely don't know what to use it for other than a day book. I started doing marketing notes in it but then decided that actually, I'd prefer to keep all the marketing notes together rather than them ending up distributed throughout the book, so I re-wrote all of them in a different notebook. The rest of my notes are what I would think of as 'day book' notes - and maybe that's where its use lies - somewhere to jot down stuff.

The kind of thing I would usually use
for a scrappy notebook!
I know that other people use them in the way bullet journals are intended to be used - to clear everything out of your head and put it all in one place. However, I don't think my brain works like that at all. I like diary stuff in a diary; I like to journal in my journal; I like to keep scrappy notes (that can be tossed after they've outlived their use) in a scrappy book; I like to keep project notes all together in a notebook dedicated to that project ... you see my problem. I really don't like things all jumbled up together. So, short of using it as a project notebook (which I don't want to do now that it's got all this other stuff in the front), the only thing left is to use it as a scrappy notebook for jotting throwaway things in.

My problem then, is that it's an expensive book for using as a scrappy notebook! I have a zillion other books that I could use for jotting things down that don't need keeping. Anything that does need keeping should have a proper 'home'. But because it's such a nice book (the paper is surprisingly fountain pen friendly - some show through, no feathering, no bleed through) I feel like I'm not doing it justice merely using it for a "book of stuff I've jotted down". It's falling between two camps for me. I will keep using it as a high-class day book but it does feel a bit too nice for that.

I received the notebook from Bureau Direct, but the opinions are entirely my own and unsolicited.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

I want this TN!

It's another Traveller's Notebook cover by Mike at Meadowgate Leather. The one I want is an Oakleaf Traveller's Journal (click here to see it on Etsy), which has no interior pockets or anything, but is made of two layers of leather: the exterior is the same thick leather that's used on the other Traveller's Notebooks in their range; the lining is a soft pig-skin and the two are hand-stitched with saddle-stitch around the outside.

Exterior of the Oakleaf TN
Image from Meadowgate Leather, with permission

Interior of the Oakleaf TN
Image from Meadowgate Leather, with permission

As with all the other TNs by Meadowgate Leather, there are lots of options to choose from. I'm fairly sure I will be ordering an A5 in undyed leather, with a pen-loop (facing inwards), elastic colour in navy, ultra-max overhang, no name-tag, with the maker's stamp on the reverse, and the stitching in either beige or a light brown.

Hang on, some of you might be thinking, "Haven't you got a few TNs already?? Why do you need another?"

Well, any of you thinking that, can go away!

I just want one. That's more than enough of a reason isn't it??

Why in undyed? There are fabulous colours available on the listing. In all honesty, I could happily have several, across the colour range, but I'm especially wanting undyed. One of my good friends, Stuart (see his website here) got a TN from Meadowgate Leather in undyed and the colour change in it has been fantastic. He's promised me pictures to share with you to show the change of colour over time. At the moment is is a similar colour to golden syrup! The other example of how undyed leather changes with time is on Janet Carr's excellent blog where she showed how the leather changed over time in a Filofax-style binder (see here for one of the posts on how the leather changed). I'm wanting to have this TN as a writing notebook (hence the A5 size) and I want to see how the colour will change over the years.

I suspect I will be ordering it soon! Keep you all posted!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Leuchtturm Bullet Journal from Bureau Direct

I was delighted when Mishka from Bureau Direct emailed me to say that they had the Leuchtturm Bullet Journals back in stock and would I like to try one. Oh, and how was I for washi tape? I said I would be more than happy with anything she sent.
Well, this morning, a parcel arrived for me. I managed to restrain myself enough to take some pictures before ripping the bubble wrap off!

Still in bubble wrap!
And then took a couple of pictures before unwrapping it all completely...

Front cover plus washi
Back cover plus washi
Here's the washi in more detail:

Top to bottom: baby blue, pink, tape measure washi
Okay, but the main part of the parcel was the bullet journal. I was interested to see what was different from a standard Leuchtturm dotted A5 notebook that turned it into a specific Bullet Journal notebook.

On the inside cover is a key for symbols used in Bullet Journalling, including space to note your own versions:

Key on the inside cover

Following that, there is the usual Name and Contact page. As with all Leuchtturm notebooks, the pages are numbered and there is an index at the front. The index in the Bullet Journal notebook is a page longer (total of 4 pages) than in the standard version and has 26 lines per page (as does the standard version). There are 240 pages of dot grid (5mm spacing) c.f. 249 pages to write on in the standard version. In the Bullet Journal notebook, those other pages are taken up with notes on how to use a Bullet Journal which come after the dot grid pages. Whereas a standard Leuchtturm notebook has 2 ribbon markers, the Bullet Journal has 3. In a standard Leuchtturm notebook, the top of every page has space for the date; in the Bullet Journal the pages are unlabelled.

3 ribbon markers
Also note that the page has no pre-printed label to add the date

The index is pre-filled with two things: Future Log and the Instructions. The first 4 pages of the dot grid section are labelled at the top with 'Future Log'. I found this surprising as I thought the point of bullet-journalling was that you did what suited you, not necessarily what someone else did.

Index - pre-filled with 2 items
First 4 pages are pre-labelled Future Log

I'm not convinced that I will use the first 4 pages as a Future Log so this was a bit annoying (for me).

There are several pages of instructions/tips at the back. I won't show you all of them, but here are the first few (there are 8 in total):

Introduction
Rapid logging
More on rapid logging
Tips
Obviously, as it has only just arrived, I've not used it properly yet. I'll post again in a week or so to let you know how I'm getting on with it.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Review: Traveller's Journal from Meadowgate Leather

New Traveller's Journal. I love it!!

[Longish post. Go get a cuppa and come back!]

I've been in my red Traveller's Journal from The Stamford Notebook Company for well over a year now! Those of you who've followed the blog for longer than that (bless you - don't you have a life?) will know that for me, that's pretty amazing! I blogged about my current set-up in it, here.

I've always preferred to have both my diary/planner and my money/cards all in one place. It's easier for me to grab just the one thing as I head out the door and it's easier for my husband to know everything is in the one place. Apart from just wanting to buy new stationery (tum te tum te tum), I had been looking for a new TJ with card slots in the cover rather than having them in the plastic insert (which has always held the cards really loosely). I found a fabulous seller on Etsy - Mike Baldock who runs Meadowgate Leather - who sells the most gorgeous leather goods. His website is at www.meadowgateleather.com and his Etsy shop is at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/meadowgateleather.

There are several versions of Traveller's Journals on the site, with different features.
OAK: This is closest to a Midori TN - essentially the leather cover. No slip pockets; no card slots. The default is to have 4 elastics and a spine-mounted elastic closure and no pen loop though there are a variety of options and add-ons available. An example of the Oak version can be found here.

ACORN: This is a cover which has a slip pocket at the back but otherwise is the same as the Oak range and again, has many add-ons and options to choose from. An example of the Acorn range can be seen here.

SNOWBELL. This is the one I have! The standard version has card slots in the front cover and a slip-pocket behind. The back cover has a vertical slip pocket. An example of the Snowbell range can be seen here.

Mike told me that he is about to bring out another TJ called WILLOW which will be similar to the Oak range but made out of slightly suppler leather. It may have the option of stitching around the edge as everyone seems to ask for that. It's not up on the site yet so I don't have a link to share.

All of the TJs he makes can be made in a range of nine (yes... nine) sizes and a wide selection of colours of leather, thread, elastics etc. To be honest, if you don't see a size you want, contact him and ask. He is more than happy to take custom orders (and he is a lovely chap to deal with!).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I contacted him and asked him if he could make a TJ for me where both the front and back covers had the card slot layouts. If so, how much extra would it be? He got back to me almost immediately and said there would be no problem doing that and that for the size I wanted (cahier - just shy of A5), it would be just under a fiver extra.

There are lots of options you can choose for the TJ: leather colour, stitching colour, elastics colour, pen-loop in the back or not, logo in the back cover or not, a leather name tag on the closing elastic, whether you want the card slots horizontal or vertical... I ordered the cahier size with extra over-hang, in Java brown with dark brown stitching and brown elastics. I had the pen-loop and the logo included but didn't want a name tag. I was away on holiday and not able to sign for delivery until I got back so I asked Mike to hang on to it until I was back, which he very kindly did.

So, what's it like???

GORGEOUS! Absolutely wonderful!

It arrived well packed and wrapped in tissue paper, with Mike's business card:

I managed to hold off unwrapping it, long enough to take a picture!

The smell of the leather was divine! Even before I tore the paper off. All of his leathers are vegetable tanned and all of the stitching is done by hand. There are some lovely pictures and more information about the process on his website: www.meadowgateleather.com (opens in a new window, so you won't lose me).

Inside was the Traveller's Journal. The colour was lighter than I expected but I'm sure it will darken down. If I was trying to match to the colour chart on the Etsy page, I would have thought it was saddle tan rather than Java. (Mike has since said to me that he thinks he should have a 'summer' and 'winter' set of colour charts as the dyes colour the leather differently in the different conditions!)

Front cover
Back cover

Inside, the reverse of the cover is undyed and a delicate cream/buff colour. The card slots are dyed to match the cover and the pen-loop is the same as the cover colour:

Interior
The covers come with four internal elastics as standard and Mike included some spare elastic with the cover. Both the booklet elastics and the closing elastic are 2mm. I might trim off some of the excess around the closing elastic but it's not in the way at the moment. He deliberately leaves it longer in case the new owner needs to loosen the elastic off.

Close-up of the left cover
Close-up of the right cover
Close-up of the logo (taken with flash so colour not quite accurate)

Apologies for the colour in the photographs - it wasn't the best light in Scotland for taking pictures!

Anyway, I moved in almost immediately! The set-up is exactly the same as in my post here, but here are some pictures of it all in situ.

Loaded up but not too fat!
Bank cards on left; money in pockets insert on first elastic
2nd elastic with diary (in hateful Moleskine)
Another hateful Moleskine as a notes section
One spare elastic; other cards in the back cover
Pen is a Signo erasable rollerball

So that's it. I can honestly say that the Traveller's Journal has the finest workmanship and is absolutely wonderful. Mike was a pleasure to deal with - very quick and helpful responses to all my queries - and the price was excellent (under £60, including p+p with 1st class recorded delivery). If you're after a new Traveller's Journal (or, just want to buy another one...) go and check him out.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Current set-up in my Traveller's Journal

Traveller's Journal from
The Stamford Notebook Company

I've not really given you all an update about how the diary/bullet journalling system is going. Largely because I've not really made many tweaks and it's all still working well! In essence, there are three parts to the system: (1) a notebook with long-term planning and Goals to Next Actions; (2) a Traveller's Journal as my carry around with money, diary and space for notes; (3) an A6 notebook for daily planning/bullet journalling.

The Goals to Next Actions are still in the Leuchtturm 1917 and are the same as they were in this post so I'll not say any more. It lives at home all the time as I have no need for it other than during my Sunday planning sessions.

The Traveller's Journal:
The only thing I've changed significantly in this is the diary. I've struggled with the week plus notes diary that I got from The Stamford Notebook Company since I got it to be honest. There's just something about the layout that isn't working for me. Their layout is the days horizontally on the left and lined paper on the right, with fairly wide ruling. It was a combination of the wide ruling and the horizontal days that didn't work for me and so once I got to the end of the first booklet (January to end of June), I swapped out.

Hateful Moleskine with some washi tape

I've gone back to the format I had at the end of last year - eight boxes on the LHS and eight boxes on the RHS for a week. The eight on the left are Mon-Sun plus a space for tracking (though I'm not really using it all that much). The eight boxes on the RHS are for noting tasks relating to my Life Areas, plus a space for what's coming up next week (because I'm too daft to be able to turn the page over). Weekly tasks get noted in the appropriate Life Area boxes. I usually only label up most of the Life Areas during my weekly planning session as sometimes some areas need less than a block and two areas can share and others need more and spill over!

Deliberately dull week! Save me needing to redact things.

I've yet to find anywhere that makes a layout like this, so I've drawn it out for myself. Yes, that's tedious, but at least I have what I want and it probably only took the same time as setting up a mail-merge thing, printing it, cutting it and binding it. I've used a squared Moleskine cahier. I loathe, hate and abhor Moleskine cahiers but I have some and I'm going to use them up. I have some small day of the week stamps which I've used to label up the weeks. Otherwise, dates are written in by hand.

Close-up of LHS
Close-up of RHS

In the TJ, the contents are the same as they have been for ages: money in a zipper pocket/slip pocket insert (Midori 008 insert); cards in a Midori 007 insert and then the diary. Behind the diary is another hateful Moleskine cahier (I've almost finished using them up!) for jotting notes down while out and about.
So, that's my carry-around. I have my money, cards, diary and space for notes, all in something only slightly bigger than a personal size Filofax and smaller than an A5 Filofax. However, the day spaces in the diary aren't big enough for day to day planning/working and so I also have an A6 bullet-journal.

A6 bullet-journal:

Home-made cover

Each Sunday, I plan out when I will try and do tasks from my Life Areas lists and add them (in colour-coded pen) to the days in my A6 bullet journal. However, my days frequently end up with other small things needing noting that aren't part of my Life Areas but which need to be remembered, at least for a while. These are also noted in the A6. I don't really do bullet-journalling the way the original system does with one giant list of stuff. I'm far too over-organised for my brain to deal with that! No, I have my week plus notes in my TJ (and if anything arises that is week specific, it gets added to the appropriate week immediately) and I have day to day lists in my A6 notebook. This is a slight jumble of specific tasks, other tasks that cropped up that day and random things to note/remember. The A6 is small enough that it's always on me but has enough space to be able to note everything. Frequently, both the TJ and the bullet-journal are on my desk next to me. At the end of the week, I go through the A6 book and move any information that needs keeping to its final home, tick off things that got done (these frequently are ticked as they're done), think about the stuff that's not been done and either add it to the next week's list or discard it. Neither the diary nor the A6 notebooks get kept.

Cover open

The A6 notebook that I use is a squared Clairefontaine. I had been using two pages per day, but was barely needing that amount of space so have moved to a day per page.

Um... quiet day!

There is another elastic, so that when I'm running out of notebook, I can put another one in behind. I have a zillion of these books and will probably just keep going with them, but a significant part of my brain also thinks I could just use the notebook in the Traveller's Journal! I think what has stopped me from doing so thus far is the fact I've been using up the Moleskine cahiers in there and hate writing in them! I'll get the A5 version of the Clairefontaine squared notebooks and cut them to size and use them as soon as the Moleskine is used up!

Well, that's my system. It hasn't really changed much and has been working really well for me. What do people think?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Guest post from Stuart Lennon

Today's post is by my good friend and writing buddy Stuart Lennon, who blogs over at http://stuartlennon.com/

Since we met, I've been dragging him over to the dark side of stationery, Filofaxes and fountain pens and he has kindly agreed to do a guest post about how he uses his Filofax for keeping his life in order. Over to you, Stuart!
[click on any picture to enlarge]


Stuart's trusty Malden A5

Late in 2014, I sold my business and set up a website, www.stuartlennon.com boldly declaring myself a writer.

Waking up without a business to run was liberating. My time was my own. Soon, I discovered that without focus, my time was simply evaporating.

In an online writer’s community, I met a certain Amanda and somehow or other, we got to talking about fountain pens and paper.

Within days, I was an inveterate stationery addict and began considering whether Amanda’s excellent ‘Planning System’ (which you can read about here) might help me get a grip on my productivity.

Size / System

I had used DayTimer in the past, and researched other US systems, such as Franklin Covey. I saw no compelling reason to go for US binding over UK/EU. On size, I knew that A5 was my favourite. If I need to have a planner with me – then it is not too cumbersome, but it is big enough to be easy to write in at my desk; where it spends most of its time. I carry an A6 notebook as my ‘portable’.

My wife has pointed out to me that I am therefore not able to commit to further appointments if I don’t have my diary with me. She is right (always!), but I see this as a benefit. It allows me to return home and reflect on whether I need or want to attend another meeting rather than be pressganged into an unnecessary one.

Planner Layout

I have traditionally used two page per day, with every moment of every day accounted for (and often billed for). I no longer need this. Amanda put forward a persuasive argument about the benefit of seeing an entire week at one glance. My intention was to use the planner pages for fixed appointments and time blocking. Notes and task lists were going to be somewhere else. Week to view looked good.

Week to view diary (by Smythson)

Planner Paper

I now use and enjoy a fountain pen. Modern Filofax paper is not well thought of by fountain pen users. Despite this, there seems to be very little provision in the market place for ‘ink friendly’ Filofax inserts. One possible solution is to print my own. Some clever and generous people at www.philofaxy.com and www.mylifeallinoneplace.com have designed bespoke layouts, which can be downloaded and printed at home. A less labour-intensive, but costlier solution is to buy Smythson refills. Being clumsy and incompetent at most craft activities, I went for Smythson.

Binders

I researched at www.philofaxy.com, another excellent recommendation from Amanda. Committed as I was to Smythson diary refills, one of their binders seemed a good idea. The price gave me pause. I settled on a Filofax Malden in Ochre. I prefer a little flexibility and soft feel over rigidity. There are two pen loops. I am able to fit my fountain pen in either. Inside front cover of the binder has a variety of slip pockets and a full height zipper pocket. The Malden goes for £112 on the Filofax website, but I found it at £77 at WH Smith online.

A5 Malden Filofax
Inside cover


Setup

Inserts: Week to view diary, section dividers, address pages and lined note paper – all from Smythson. Another section divider, address index, more note paper, neon Post-it selection and plastic wallet are from Filofax. Information pages are from both suppliers.

There is something reassuringly snobby about the Smythson information pages. A chap needs to have a wine vintage chart, the telephone numbers of the principal London Clubs and of course the the British Field Sport Season dates to hand at all times. Obviously.

Next come my Key Result Areas, and adaptation of Amanda’s planning system. These nestle behind the numbered cream dividers supplied by Filofax.

Key Results Area cover
Key Results Area sheets

Then come the gilded royal blue diary pages from Smythson and the addresses section. I keep postal addresses here – for people with whom I correspond in the old-fashioned way. Electronic data and telephone numbers live with their devices. Finally comes a notes section and the utilities, such as the Post-Its.


My intention is to carry Rhodia shopping lists in the pocket on the inside of the rear cover of the Malden. These will serve as my task lists. Keeping them as pads will allow me to use them independently of the binder – perhaps open beside me as I tear through my admin chores for the day (Please God!)

Two Rhodia shopping list pads in the back notebook slot

Review

So far, I have found it useful to place the paper where I intend to write the most in the middle of the binder. This ensures a flatter surface than when writing on pages at the front or the back. The look, feel and smell of the Malden is gorgeous. I’m convinced that my vowels are more rounded, simply by carrying it. The Smythson paper is fantastic to write on. It is indulgent, but, for me at least, worth it. The Filofax inserts in cotton cream were not as poor to write on as I had expected, but do suffer in comparison to the higher quality paper.

Many thanks to Stuart for letting us peek into his Filofax!