Monday, 28 December 2009

Field Notes Giveaway.

Well I've decided to try doing my first giveaway.  I guess that there is a high chance of winning seeing as not many folk will read this but that is a positive for you guys!  The giveaway is the Field Notes notebook in the picture (pen not included-I love that too much!).  I purchased the Below Zero winter colors pack of the Field Notes notebooks and have decided that having all three is just greed.  As you can see I have also modified it slightly with a lovely silver snowflake which I thought matched the below zero theme, the wintery weather we are having and the silver writing on the outside and inside of the cover.  So that makes it unique!  What I'd like you to do for this gorgeous little notebook is leave a comment that includes a quote that I can put on the first page of my Quo Vadis Habana notebook (kindlt sent to me by Karen from Exaclair.  As this notebook is so lovely I'm having trouble starting to write in it so this will help me.  The person who provides the quote that I choose to put in my first page will get the notebook.  I'll post it to anywhere but the quote rally needs to be in English.  I shall decide which quote I choose from those submitted by midnight GMT on 9th January.  Hopefully someone will respond or I'll have to make up some quotes myself!!!!  I'll post the winner on the 10th and they will then have to contact me by the 12th to claim their prize otherwise it will pass to someone else.

Good luck.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 Now that I have time for breath I'd just like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and all the best for the coming year.  In terms of my blog work really did get in the way and I became a virtual internet recluse between April and September.  I've now found some equilibrium again and hope to do more again next year.  If I can manage to be a bit more creative also I shall share that rather than putting on some rushed thoughts on my latest notebook.  Not that I'll stop talking about notebooks.  I received some lovely items from Santa that I'm bound to talk about.
I have included a couple of photos of my Christmas decorations.  Our back garden is actually set up as a beach but looks great as a Winter Wonderland.  Looking out on that on a dark morning always makes me smile.

Looking forward to 2010

Good wishes to everyone


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Field Notes Winter Colours

Here is the neat little package I received through the door from Field Notes the other week there. I had thought I'd been a bit rash ordering the Winter colours. After all I'd ordered them direct from Field notes and paid international postage to get them here even though the excellent The Paperie had them soon after. However what you dont get is the selection of extras if you order from elsewhere. And while it wouldn't be a reason for ordering from the US all the time i did enjoy getting those extras through the door.
There was a Field Notes button badge which is now proudly being worn by Puxsatawny Phil who sits on my desk, this rather strange rubber band that could hold your Field Notes notebook together but in truth I'm not sure what I would use it for. I had a look on Flickr but noone there has been particulalry novel in their use of the rubber band. Also in the pack was a Field Notes pencil which is fine and a Field Notes pen.
Now the pen is the big surprise in the envelope. I picked it up, thinking what a rubbish pen and immediately felt some sort of shift to my youth when all pens were rubbish. I was really surprised by this but also by the fact that it writes really well. No ink blobs that I seem to remember being the problem with Bic ballpoints. So it hasn't actually been out of my hands since. I've written all my Christmas card addresses with it and have popped it in my bag to take with me.
I suppose I should mention the notebooks seeing as I actually paid for them! They were the gridded version in three shades of blue/grey and have a blue ink grid and silver printing on the front and inside covers. The usual quality paper to write on and they do indeed have a winter feel to them. I've had an idea to customise one and might even do my first giveaway with this idea!!! Stay tuned because I imagine I have so few readers the chances of winning the giveaway would be very high!
Of course as usual I'm not quite sure what I'll use them for but they will get used eventually.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Oxford Pocket Notebook

I picked these pocket notebooks in Tesco the other day. They were in a pack of two for £1.20. They are branded as Popnotes and are 90mmx170mm in size and made by Oxford. Basically pocket notebooks of the cahier variety with a range of different covers obviously some aimed at women (i.e. they are pink zzzz) and some aimed at men (i.e. dark colours zzzz).

I chose these pinstripe ones as I quite liked the office style of them. They are part of the Oxford office range I think and contain their 90g white lined Optik paper (48 pages) which they say can be written on both sides without show through. It certainly isn't too bad for that. I wonder if someone can tell me however, why Oxford branded products have such a poor web presence? There is a link on the back of the notebooks which takes you to a portal of European sites. The only UK one is for the Black and Red brand. I finally found these particular products on the German site which is way better. I guess it's the result of lots of brands owned by one unmbrella company but their products are good and marketing is so poor.

Anyway I thought they seemed great value for a good quality product so had to pop them in my trolley. They seem much better than Moleskine cahiers though not everyone likes good quality white paper... Compared with Field Notes and Doane Paper notebooks they perhaps lack the 'cool' but in terms of use I think they will hold up well.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Quo Vadis Notebook-first impressions

I came home this evening to find a parcel all the way from the USA in my post box. How exciting! In it was a Quo Vadis Habana Notebook from Karen Doherty at Exaclair. This company is the US distributor of Clairefontaine, Rhodia and Quo Vadis. European brands of course which makes it slightly bemusing that I was sent one from the US. It's also not that easy to get access to these brands in the UK, certainly not the whole range pf products which is even more bemusing.
Karen sent me a black, 6"x9" lined Habana notebook that contains 80 pages of 90g Clairefontaine paper. I loved my visit to Cuba so I like the name already, and surprised that it's allowed in the US with a name like that! I guess it's the Hemingway connection to notebooks being used again. Incidentally i didn't bother going into Hemingway's cocktail haunt in Habana (La Floridita) but had plenty of mojitos and Cuba Libras on my travels.

So I must admit I am writing this while the initial excitement is still with me. Once I start using it I shall review properly and this is where I come to my first problem. I already feel this is too good to use! I've raised this problem before. I have no hesitation in getting stuck in to an inexpensive notebook but often have more luxurious notebooks lying unused. So it has a luxurious feel about it. The cover is leather-like and is flexible. I like this. It is perhaps in between a hard cover and soft cover Moleskine in it's flexibility. It has an elastic closure and pocket on the back inside cover. All familiar stuff. The size makes it about 3.5cm longer and 1.5cm wider than my usual A5 sized notebook and it does feel oddly long in my hands so it remains to be seen if the size will suit me.

However it is what's inside that counts (as your mother will tell you) and I have to admit up front that I love Clairefontaine paper. What's interesting is that this journal contains extra white paper and it looks to me as if the ones I can buy here in the UK contain ivory paper. Many folk prefer ivory I know but this 90g extra white paper is a favourite of mine and is contained in Clairefontaine's stapled exercise books which I use. At £1.99 for a 48 page exercise book you can see why I might use more of them than a £16 Habana journal ($20 in the USA). However this is a notebook that I wouldn't use to scrawl down my meeting notes, more likely I will use it for journal style writing. I don't keep a regular journal as such but do write down thoughts, interesting news stories, poems etc. I can imagine myself carrying it about in my Timbuk2 messenger bag (yes I still love it) and sitting in a cafe having coffee and bringing it out to write amazing pieces of prose. I've seen another blog where the white paper was described as office type paper but I don't feel that way about it.

I was also interested to see it is made in the USA but obviously uses French paper. I thought it would have been imported.

So while I haven't yet used it I already know that the paper is a joy to write on in pencil, felt tip, fountain pen and liquid ink pens because I'm familiar with the paper. Now the only thing I need to do is work up to writing something in it...after I've picked it up and looked at it and put it down and picked it up another few dozen times.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Field Notes

I've started writing in my Field Notes notebook. I succumbed after a particularly bad journey home frm work. One of those pitch black, raining can't see a thing nights. I just clicked the Buy button at Paperie. They had the colors items in stock. I had to choose between the Green Letterpress edition and the Autumn colors. I liked them both and it was hard to choose but I couldn't justify buying them both. I plumped for the green as you can see. I liked the idea of the green colour ink for the grid. UK postage is free on this item and when it arrived I saw it cost 72p. So it was okay for £8.25 for a special edition (the standard Field Notes is £7.95 with free delivery). The service was great from the Paperie and the notebooks arrived in 2 days.

I felt that these should be used for data though I may change my mind for the other ones. So it seemed right that when as part of my mid life crisis I bought a step machine that I would use it to record my progress. I also decided to lose a bit of weight too so I am also recording my food intake. I have done Scottish Slimmers in the past and use their 25kcal=1 check counting method. So I'm recording weight, exercise and diet plus any wee snippets of inspiration. I've gone for colour with my pens too and have been using Stabilo Pen 88 minis with it. They go well on the paper with not much show throw on the other side of the page. The paper is much better than the terrible paper in Moleskine cahiers and maybe a bit smoother than Doane paper utility books but same amount of show through I'd say.

I like the way it will fit in any pocket and it's image of utility forms part of my perception of it so I'm happy to pop it in my pocket or throw it in my bag. It's not precious I guess is what I'm trying to say. I do like it a lot. So much in fact that I ordered a pack of the Winter Colors direct from Field Notes Brand in the USA. A total extravagance with $11 postage but I figure it works out about £12 rather than £8. Christmas to myself? I'm hoping that the fact that I like recording stuff in it will keep me going with the fitness regime. I have a habit of losing a bit of weight then stopping recording what I eat when I'm happy with the weight I reached and it's better to keep a food diary all the time, then it's obvious if you're eating to much too often. That sounds like I'm obsessive about my weight but I'm not. Just know it's easy to ea too much in this world.

So I think they are a winner with me. Using my Doane Paper Utility notebook too so may contrast and compare sometime soon

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I was walking past the bookcase today when my beloved Filofax caught my eye. I've had it for a long time now. It's personal sized leather with a clasp and pen loop. It's maybe 10-15 years old I'm not entirely sure. I used it faithfully for work until 2005 then as my appointments seemed to become more complex I had turned first to a Palm and then back to analogue but not to my Filofax. I seem to remember it being reduced in WhSmith or somewhere like that.

Before this I'd used a pocket Filofax. A simple black leather one that I carried everywhere in work for notes. My diary wasn't very complex back then but I needed to be able to keep my notes safe yet discard them later.

Well imagine my surprise today when I picked it out and it wasn't a Filofax at all it was a Microfile! All this time I'd thought I as a Filofax owner and in act I've been a (I assume) cheaper imitation. I cant think when I saw a Microfile brand so I guess Filofax maintained their existence better than Microfile did. Some of the inserts inside were original microfile but most were Filofax.

Then I came across a plastic Filofax style binder with Savory and Moore priced on the front. I guess lots of companies were keen on providing filofax style binders in the late 80s and early 90s and encouraging time management activities. Sadly Savory and Moore a small pharmacy chain didnt stand the test of time either and were taken over by another company. I shall try and post photos of these items soon.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

You are not alone...

I know blogs are meant to be written on the go, sitting in airports and cafes with your laptop. Well I didn't have my laptop with me yesterday and instead I wrote this in my notebook at the time...
I'm sitting having a coffee in Borders in Glasgow. I know it's Starbucks and I would usually go to an independent coffee house but it's a monsoon outside. Torrential rain but warm and this is the closest option to spend time before my meeting. The cool thing about this is that the coffee shop bit is on a balcony and I'm overlooking the books and Paperchase. A scone, a coffee and a view of Paperchase. Not a bad way to kill half an hour. Now some folk are in for a gift or a card. something specific. Several of those walking around are clearly 'one of us'. Picking up notebooks. Opening them up, touching the paper lightly and almost tenderly. They don't need another notebook. Not really. They put it back, then pick up anther notebook the don't need, going through the same looking, opening, touching, putting back routine. It's quite quiet and a couple of staff members are tidying up the shelves, getting in the way, blocking the route to another notebook. Then I notice to my right there is a stationery section separate to Paperchase. More general supplies. I'm nearly finished my coffee and I know don't need another notebook. know it. I still have time to kill though and I'm thinking
'Have I got all the right pens. Perhaps I need some different colours..'

This is what I ended up buying....

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Doane Paper Utility Notebook

At the suggestion of Nifty from Notebook Stories we exchanged notebooks across the Atlantic. A great, fun idea so thanks Nifty. Nifty wanted the Blackwell Pocket notebook and one thing that I wanted to try but can't easily get hold of is the Doane Paper Utility Notebook so that's what I asked for. Nifty sent two, and because Doane seem to include extras in the order I also got a 5x8 writing pad.
I haven't used it much yet.I've mainly jotted notes in it in pencil. One thing I miss in the utility notebook is the red margin. Don't ask me why I just like it and I understand that it wouldn't be practical to put it on 3.5x5.5 pages, but still I miss it. So I've just started jotting things down in red pen and it looks great. I haven't been too traumatised by the red pen from school days! I shall no doubt come back to talk about the notebook again. The paper is better than it looked initially but my red liquid ink does come through the other side, however I have a red felt tip that may be better.

Inspired by the new traffic light covers I decided to brighten up the cover of one of the notebooks with some Moo stickers. I love them! Imagine taking your own photographs, making them into stickers and combine them with notebooks. Perfect. Moo have a European and a USA store so everyone can try them.

I based my choice on the traffic light colours and it does brighten up the notebook. What do you think?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Notebook Have a Look-Be Bear Notebook

Most of my articles about notebooks are for ones that are fairly easily obtainable. No matter if we think some of them are luxury items you can still buy some of them at the train station along with your Irn Bru and enormous bag of crisps. This small notebook is one I picked up but cant quite remember where. It could have been in Hawkins Bazaar type shop in Glasgow or it could have been in one of the trendy shops with stationery items from Asia in Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. It's tiny really, about the length of a credit card but a but broader and it has thick cardboard covers and an ungainly white plastic spiral binding. The covers are probably thicker than the paper contents of the notebook and it all ends up a bit out of proportion. The paper in it isn't great but fine for brief notes and that is how I use it. It sits beside my computer and is where I write down all the reference numbers for online orders or telephone numbers I need that I've sourced on the net. It is useful and functional and I'm never tempted to pop it in my bag and take it away from it's home. I used to write these sorts of things down on post its but invariably someone would come along after you and remove your bit of info so that they can write something else down or take the post it off somewhere else. The thing that I really like about this wee cute notebook is the cover and the Be Bear character. I have seen a few Be Bear branded items about that are too cute for office use for me anyway) but good for use in the home. The paper quality is never great but that's not what it's about. It's about cute characters.....and it only cost about £1 so you can't go wrong.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Things to come.........

Recently, after a while in notebook wilderness I have a couple of new notebooks to put up on the blog. Firstly I received two doane paper utility notebooks from Nifty at Notebook Stories as a swap for a Blackwell pocket notebook. It was a really fun thing to do, swapping notebooks that neither of us could have easily got hold of otherwise. Thanks Nifty for suggesting it.

Secondly I received a 3 pack of the green Field Notes notebooks from the Paperie. I'd had a bad day and clicked the buy button in a weak moment. They also have the lovely autumn colours but I cant justify another £9 right at the moment.
There is something better about getting a notebook that's not easily available. Much of the interest around these notebooks is company marketed but I'm a consumer and happy to fall into that trap.

However I'm writing in my doane paper notebook already and enjoying it. I do like the grid+lines concept. I have printed off their design which is available on their website and popped it into a circa notepad. I love that you can print their design off even though they are selling the products. Of course it is an idea that works as I've ended up using their utility notepad even though I could print the paper off.

So if I can take some photos of each and how I've used them I shall put them on Trains, pens and planners soon.

Moleskine Cahier Cover Design

There are quite a lot of lovely design cahier notebook covers on Etsy. This is one I did myself so not good enough to sell to anyone else but I'm happy enough with it. I used stamps and embossing powder for the bear on the front and paw on the back and just a silver pen to pick out the Moleskine. This particular cahier I use for doodling but I once again need to say how dissapointing the paper is. You can really only use one side of it. I got a nicer cahier with better paper and a lovely Paisley pattern desin on the cover in The Art Store in Glasgow. Might put that on the blog at a later date. The clip that holds it closed is from Asda. Cheap and cheerful stationery from there.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Oxford Stapled Notebook from France

I picked this notebook up in a supermarket in France in June. I could have gone a bit mad buying notebooks in Europe but the credit crunch had just bitten and I was being very cautious. So in the end it was the only one I bought! It's a simple stapled exercise book with glossy card cover. It's the lines that are interesting. I believe that the rench demand very precise writing practice from school kids and this I think is the traditional practice paper. The paper itself is high quality and good to write on. The lines are a bit like Doane paper but not quite. It doesn't have the small grid lines but has larger cm size boxes.
As usual I haven't decided what i'll use it for but I'm looking forward to writing in it

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Blackwell Notebook Pictures

Here are some pictures of the Blackwell Pocket size notebook I've mentioned in a previous post. I've compared it to a Moleskine and you can see the paper isn't quite as precisely sewn in. In it's defence I have given this Blackwell notebook a fair bi of abuse in it's short life. I like to personalise my black notebooks so that I know what's in them all and I have fun using stickers. You can upload your own photos and make a book of up to 90 different square stickers. Available both sides of the pond.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Fisher Space Pen

I found my Fisher Space pen again! I lose it with regular monotony which is a pain but then there is the joy of finding it again (usually but not always). I lose it because of it's smooth small bullet shape of course. It's easy to throw in your pocket or bag but then hard to find. The feel of the bullet shape the size, the clever way the lid extends the length of the pen for writing are all part of what I like about it. It is by far one of the coolest pens I've come across. It is, alongside Teflon one of the greatest achievements of the space program. And while it would seem that a pencil would have worked brilliantly without all this effort in developing gloopy ink in a pressurised cartridge, you've got to admire their invention. Not as big an invention as the story that man got to the moon, however I digress...
The thing about a Fisher Space pen is that while I always, always want to own one they dont actually write that well. My opportunities to write under water, even in Glasgow weather or upside down are minimal so I'm talking about regular on the go note taking. The ink never quite flows smoothly. there can be blobs of ink like a rubbish NHS issue biro or skips on the page and when the pen feels so right in my hands it writes so wrong...

Recently I picked up a Chartwell waterproof notebook in WHSmith for £2.49 (they have a few left now for a £1 but how many waterproof notebooks do you really need?) and I thought this would be the perfect combination for the Space pen. After all it writes under water. I tried it out and although the paper in he pad is indeed smooth and magical in the wet the space pen still performed in it's usual haphazard gloopy way.

So with this criticism of its function what would I still want one. A pen is a functional item after all. Well it really does come down to how cool it is to look at, how nice it feels and how it slips in the pocket of my trousers easily. It is a go anywhere, look good pen. And while mine is black (Henry T Ford again) the coloured ones look fabulous too. I think you can also get coloured inks so perhaps I shall splash out on them one day and give them a go.

Now where on earth did I put my Space pen............?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Is it cheaper to buy notebooks than write in them?

There's a bit of a credit crunch on at the moment. I don't know if you've noticed?
So as a result I've been trying to cut back on my spending. There are several things that I spend money on that I don't really need to. I've found lunchtime when I actually get away from my desk the time tht can cost the most unnecessary expenditure.
Making sure I take my lunch items with me each day is really helping but one of my occasional lunchtime pleasures is going out to look at notebooks. As you can see I sometimes buy one. Now I have to admit I've been too busy for this pursuit lately and so that has kept me from wandering and spending but I was thinking perhaps this is cheaper than if I actually wrote in the notebooks.
Well If I wrote in the notebooks I'd have to go out at lunchtime and find a spot to sit and write. Now if you're from Scotland you'll understand, it is invariably windy, wet, cold, baltic, snowing, basically inclement. So sitting on a park bench is a once a year summer treat. The rest of the year I'd have to go into a coffee shop to write in my notebook. Average cup of coffee in local cafes is £2.50 I'd say. And I'd have to buy that everytime I went in. It's not the same as going looking at notebooks and sometimes buying one. Okay a notebook purcase could be equivalent to two or three coffee shop visits but I still think if I got into the habit of a lunchtime coffee while I filled up all my existing notebooks then that would spend more money.

So the result of this is that while I bring my lunch in with me as part of my money saving campaign i can also go and browse through the stationary departments and maybe even buy a notebook every now and then...... Result

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Moleskine Colour a Month Diary

I was having a lunchtime stroll in Blackwells in Edinburgh when I came across the new book per month Moleskine diary. I'd seen it online but this was he first in the flesh sighting. It has 12 pocket size books, one for every month and all in different colours. Th twelve books are held in a black hard cover, like a Moleskine with an elastic strap holding all the books together. So it resembles a very thick Moleskine but more colourful because of the spines of the monthly diaries.
So if you've had a pocket Moleskine diary you'll know what the inside looks like. There's a bt for a name and other details, map with time zones. A 6 months to two pages planner and a day to a page diary. There are times down the left hand side of the page. So what you have is a very small good looking diary but with plenty of space to write appointments and the ability to include future months appointments in the planner. Although the extra effort in transcribing even a couple of months ahead in the planner and then into the next months book may get tedious.

It really is quite a cool idea, appealing to the weaknesses of Moleskine lovers: numerous Moleskines at the one time, lovely bright colours but inside a black cover, more diary space than usual. But here's the killer, it costs £31.50! That's £2.60 a month which sounds much better. Equivalent to an overpriced coffee from a world dominating chain, if you were daft enough to buy one there. But most of us pay £5-£10 for a diary and that's the really extravagant notebook addicted amongst us. So I love it but I'm cutting back on my addiction so this is one product unlikely to make it into my pocket. This year anyway...

However if you fancy splashing out try MojoLondon

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Blackwell Black Cover Pocket Notebook

This is a Moleskinealike notebook. It costs half the price however and is available from Blackwells Book shop for £5. It is the same size as a pocket Moleskine but slightly thicker. I think the reason for this is that the stitch binding isn't done quite as well leading to uneven paper edges in the notebook when you look at it closed. Not that this affects the ability to write on it or close it or anything functional. The paper also feels slightly thicker than Moleskine paper. It has the customary pocket at the back, again a bit thicker because of the card used and the manufacture. It as Blackwell branded on the pocket which wont be to everyone's taste and Blackwell embossed on the back cover.
I've been using it for recording notes for a work project since April so it is full of untidy handwriting, phone numbers, action lists. I've never really kept a one topic notebook before as my work usually involves several topics all ongoing at the one time but this particular project has taken over everything else over the Summer (hence the lack of posts).
I use lots of different pens and pencils to write with, whatever is to hand. I've written in a variety of different types of ink in this notebook; rollerballs,fountain pens, felt tip, ballpoint, liquid ink (see the post on top ten pens for the most likely candidates). They all write really well on the paper. It feels like quality paper and the ink doesn't bleed. However it does seem to show through very badly on the other side of the paper. The interesting thing is that this isn't apparent immediately. I seems to occur after a few days so initially you can read everything fine and then it turns into a bit of a mess. Of course this is worse with some pens than others. Probably the fountain pen and felt tip are worst which isn't entirely surprising.
Being someone who has never been very impressed with Moleskine paper I was hoping for a cheap and yet better equivalent. This unfortunately isn't it. That said I have been very happy writing in it and it has kept a lot of quickly changing information at my fingertips.
It has also been a notebook that I've had no impulse to 'keep good'. I have had Moleskines in the past that I've struggled to write in because I felt I should be writing something of substance in them and unfortunately I have little of substance to say!
So what notebook next for me? This one is nearly finished. What I would really like is a pocket size black book with gorgeous white Clairefontaine paper but I haven't quite seen anything like that and the thickness of their paper might be problematic. The Rhodia equivalent may be worth a try but I haven't seen one in the flesh but have read that the paper s not their usual smooth white paper. If I ever get to see one I might try it. Waiting in the wings is a slightly larger Asda Executive notebook! It cost £3, has gridded paper and 3 concertina pockets at the back.

So I have used the Blackwell notebook well and while I seldom finish a notebook I will finish this one. And there lies the problem while being critical of the paper it has been the only notebook I've fully used. Perhaps I should pay attention to that and realise that more expensive, while making me feel warm and fuzzy inside, isn't what I need! These notebooks also come in dark blue and bright pink which may appeal to some who want something more than black.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Moleskine Monthly Pocket Diary 2009-Update

I've come back to this product to update you on my use of it. Last year I started using this to record the meeting dates for 2009 that were appearing before my A5 2009 diary was being used. I didnt want to carry around two heavy diaries. I said at the time that I would probably stop using it when I switched to a new A5 diary but I haven't. I still use it. I can see a whole month at a time which I've now realised is very important to me. I work in different places on different days and this lets me see at glance where I am and allows me to plan things a bit more sensibly. I colour code location which is such a naff thing to do but helps me immensely. After each moth is a couple of pages for notes and I use these for a to do list for the month. Not everything goes into that but the bits and pieces that I'm liable to forget I write there. There is then a further notebook after the diary section that I just use for general notes and plans. It's not my main notebook but can be very handy particularly as the softcover pocket size is so small and light I do carry it everywhere.The downside to this is I often dont have enough space to put in meeting location and that has occasionally been troublesome. However I think if I had accepted that this would be my main diary initially I would have tried harder with locations. The other option is to buy a large one next year. It would still be light but I worry that I may not carry it everywhere in quite the same way. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well this has worked out. I still need to find consistent way of keeping my notes though!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Top Ten Pens

I've numbered my top ten but they are not really in any particular order........

1. Cross.
I love the way Cross ballpoints write. I have 3 (dont know their model names) but I dont carry them about too often as I'm scared I lose them! Get a life I hear you say.
2. Uni Jetstream from the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.
My current favourite. Quick dry gel pen. Such a smooth writer.
3. Pilot V
A liquid ink pen. Great in black or red. Smooth and cool for notes.
4. Pentel Superb
A cheap but 'pleasure to write with' ballpoint.
5. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen.
Costs about £13 and is a good fountain pen to start with. It looks chunky but doesn't feel chunky to write with.
6. Stabilo Pen 68
We'd have called this a felt pen when we were young. Never had a felt tip as good as this though. Great colours
7. Fisher Space Pen
It has to be the bullet pen. I've never had to write under water or upside down and the bullet shape is so small and aerodynamic I keep losing them but the coolest pen ever.
8. Berol Notewriter.
Blue barrel. Kind of felt tip pen. I have a set of Underground pens where each colour pen is an underground line and these seem simlar to the notewriter. Lasts fo what feels like forever.
9. Stabilo Point 88 mini
A great fineliner but smaller.
10. Berol Rollerwriter.
Yellow barrel. The first pen I truly loved having. My brother bought me it. I was at school and he was at University so of course it was cool. Used them for years. Think they might not be made anymore. I haven't seen them for ages.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Travel Journal-Paperchase Wire bound

This travel journal comes from Paperchase. It's spiral bound with several sections, some lined paper, some plain paper. It also has some see through pockets and paper pockets for putting in mementos. It's quite bulky because although it's A5 size the wire binding is quite large. Still it was thrown into my rucksack and happily carted round Cuba on buses and taxis.
The paper copes best with a ballpoint (Pentel Superb my favourite) and a fibre tip type pen like a Berol Notewriter.
What I like about it is that it isn't too perfect. It's not one of those very special notebooks that I'm frightened to write in. I was happy to write about our experiences (and in Cuba everything is an experience!) draw pictures in it and it was good to have places to slip in cards from the casas we stayed in and other pieces of memorabilia. I have used a smaller A6 version for a trip to Austin, Texas to record some highlights. Because of its size highlights, addresses, quick reviews, travel details are what it's good for.
Now Cuba? That's a whole blog to itself......... Fantastic lace, fantastic people. Book a flight now. Go now. Enjoy before it changes into a horrible American theme park in a few years...

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Timbuk 2 Messenger Bag Review

Okay just to make it clear right up front. I love this bag! I am a bit of an obsessive rucksack/bag buyer (not handbags though!). I look at rucksacks wherever I see them. Examine the outside, does it look cool? What outside pockets are there. Where will I put my pens, my notebooks, my purse, keys. How will my papers fit into it? I have several that I use depending on the purpose. I have a couple of leather bags also. One trendy brown Italian messenger bag which I also like a lot and a small Italian handmade brief case. North Face, Jansport, Ducati rucksacks are regular bags that I use. So I do like good gear.

I had come across these bags on the internet about a year ago but they were not readily available in the UK, though I notice there are more on the internet in the UK now. Timbuk2 hail from San Francisco and they allow you to design your bag. The three panel front seems to be their trademark. This was certainly not designed by me, but 'off the peg'. I bought it in REI in Austin during their June sale. I had one on my list of 2 dollar to the pound bargains I wanted to take advantage of. How far away $2 to £1 seems now yet it was only 7 months ago. I was originally interested in an extra small black messenger bag. I'm with Henry Ford. Why have a bag with 3 coloured panels when you could have em all black! Anyway had that in my hand when I saw the one pictured. It was the small but reduced to $35. When I looked at the extra small at $60 and the small at $35 I really had no decision to make....Perhaps the pink and purple doesn't suit the macho bikers. I'm not a pink kind of girl but the purple adds a feeling that's not too girly for me.

And I'm happy with the size. It is large enough to hold A4 papers and notebooks. My average load might be some A4 papers, an A5 notebook, my Asus eee pc, my wallet, keys, iPod, too many pens and pencils, maybe a couple of Moleskine size notebook too. A few pieces of fruit add to the weight but as I eat them during the day the weight reduces.

It seems to have just the right combination of pockets and zips for me, allowing me to keep some order in my bag but 'm also able to just chuck things in too. It has both velcro and clips to hold the front flap down which seems like overkill for my purposes but not if you used it as messenger bag on the back of a bicycle. It comes with an optional stra to go round your body for steadying the bag if cycling but I've never used that. The material is very hard wearing and waterproof. I've never found any dampness inside and it rains a fair bit here.

I think I would buy an extra small too next time I'm visiting th US for when I'm just popping about town with my Asus or a book but I am happy with this bag for that too. I have used it almost constantly since June which is unusual for me as a bag addict.

So any negatives? None that I can think of. It's a messenger bag so sits on one shoulder but you can pop it over your head and across your chest which evens the weight up but I tend to try not to carry too much.

Finally, in case I didn't make it clear. I love this bag!

Timbuk2 do a whole range of other styles of bag so even if you don't fancy a messenger bag you may find something else you like.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Crane & Co Jotter

I thought I'd share with you one of my Christmas presents. It is a Jotter Card Holder from Crane and Co. A beautiful aqua blue leather jotter that holds 3"x5" cards. So you can use standard index cards with it but some plain white one's come with it in the lovely box. The front holds one card for you to jot your notes on and at the back is a pocket to store spare and used cards. I think I would only carry a few cards in there at a time though. Now it as an extravagance as using a leather holder for jotting down quick notes on index cards isn't really necessary but it is a pleasure to do. And it was a present....

Crane & Co are a US based company and you lucky folk in the states can jump online and order some of their lovely stationery. The jotter pad on their site retails at $29 so it's not completely ridiculous in terms of price. Aspinal of London do a 4x6 version for £35 but Smythson of Bond Street do a 3x5 one for £95! Now that is extravagant.

So where did my Crane & Co jotter ad come from if it's US based? Well even though it was a present I now it came from Magenta Ink which is a small, specialist stationery shop in Edinburgh. It does wedding stationery but also has an interesting collection of specialist and imported items including some Kate Spade products. If you like quality stationery and good service and happen to be in Edinburgh you should pop in.

How exactly I shall use the jotter I'm not sure. I am the sort of person who always remembers things I need to do at the very time I can't do them. I then promptly forget all about them until the next time I can't do them. I'm hoping that if I carry this with me I shall be more likely to jot things down as a later reminder so that I will do all those little things I regularly forget.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Notebook Have a Look - Castelli Diary

I suppose it's not strictly a notebook but still worth a look. My diary for this year is a Castelli A5 page a day diary. It has a material clasp that keeps it closed, a pen holder in which a cool Castelli pencil is included, a ribbon marker and perforated page corners. It is one of those diary inserts that fits inside a cover. Mine is red. The paper is of good quality, smooth and white. I do generally use a pencil in my diary seeing as arrangements change but I'm sure it would suit gel pen, ballpoint or fountain pen. The pages have plenty of space for writing, a decent top line margin which I like to use which also has a cute little bit for recording temperature and weather conditions. It has appointment times that run from 8 till 8, and at the bottom of each page an interesting date related fact. For example did you know that King Robert II Stuart of Scotland was crowned on 22nd January 1371? And who could forget the cancellation of the Grand National after two false starts on April 3rd 1993.

I also add a line down the centre of each weekday page so that I can add in any date related to do items or reminders of things I did do.

I have seen companies use this brand for promotional items. This one is no exception, I was given it rather than purchased it. It retails at £15.50 which is quite pricey for a diary I guess. A Collins would be much cheaper but not as stylish. I guess however that it's not that different to the price of a Moleskine diary of similar size and it does have much nicer paper than a Moleskie in my opinion.

The company website is at and it wasn't until I looked there that I realised I already had one of their products, the Travel Journal (World Design) . It is a classy journal and I may look it out for the blog. It cost £10 though and in some ways that has stopped me writing too much in it. In a way it's too nice whereas I will scribble all sorts of nonsense in a Paperchase journal which isnt cheap either but doesn't feel as precious. Perhaps that's a bit daft but I think other notebook fetishists will understand. I also noticed that they had a Football Manager notebook for recording match reports and collecting autographs too. What a neat idea though again it seems quite classy for that type of activity. I wonder if anyone has ever used it? I'm the sort of person that forgets a game as soon as I've seen it so i wouldn't be much good to me but there are plenty of folk who can remember not only the score but the goal scorers, the players that took part in the move, the substitutions, I could go on....

The one thing about having a page per day A5 diary that can be problematic is carrying it around. My bag is often heavy and I look for ways of minimising the weight. However it's mid January and I'm still coping with it's size. I just cant really deal with a diary that's much smaller for keeping track of appointments, meeting venues and to do items.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Leaves on the line.........

In a random fit of enthusiasm, that and I'm waiting on the hairdresser to open, I've decided to carry on with the train theme. As I said previously, I imagine most of my blog entries on trains to be rants about lateness. Is it particularly British to talk about the punctuality of trains? It can be an obsession for weary commuters who tut at a 3 minute late arrival. I find that when commuting often if you don't relax about the timekeeping you may well go mad. I try not to run from platform to platform when the trains are having problems. You're on the train then they tell you it's cancelled and to go to another train on another platform. Though if there is nothing wrong with the actual train you're on why move all the passengers? I try not to crush into a 3 carriage train if there is another one due in 15 minutes.
The obsession with trains runs to hanging about at the end of station platforms noting down the engine model and name of every train that comes and goes. Surely a throwback to the days of steam when trains looked different and were different. Surely dying out?

But it is perhaps our obsession as a nation with punctuality that drives our interest in trains timetables and the reasons for late running. Combining this with our other obsession, talking about the weather, is just heaven to many!

  • Frozen points or signals
Rarely are temperatures below freezing a shock up here and yet on a frosty morning this reason for lateness is sadly predictable. Can they not just tuck them in under a duvet at night?

  • Leaves on the line.
Everyone's favourite. I think it affects the train's braking system because the tracks are slippy. Sounds odd but being unable to break cant be a good thing.

  • The wrong type of snow
I personally have never heard this excuse but it does get trotted out as another favourite.

  • Landslide on the line
Too much rain, not enough trees. Can we blame the rail company for that?
  • Flooding
Act of God? Tran lines have been in place for years and years. I imagine that flooding in a particular place would have been noticed by now. In Scotland we had a Summer of tropical like downpours most days (without any other tropical benefits) and flooding on the train lies seemed more common. Particularly bad on the way in and out of the main stations of Glasgow and Edinburgh. I guess the water just heads to the lowest bit of ground it can find. There was a mad day where the water in Princes Street Gardens was above the wheels of the train. You could feel the wheels slipping and several pumps were in place. Most folk were 3 hours late that morning and late going home again too. In some ways everyone loved it. The chat on the train was full of humour (let's face it commuters dont speak to each other too often) and everyone had a great story to tell.

My favourite reason by far is not weather related and perhaps I made it up but saying the train was late because of cows on the line at Polmont and they were all wearing blue eyeshadow just makes me laugh (sorry ladies of Polmont...)

To be fair bad train days aren't that common but they seem to come in clusters and happen with regular monotony when I've left work early to go a place. Such is life. Perhaps there are some much more exciting reasons for trains being late but not round these parts.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Trains? Where are the trains?

I was recently asked by one of my fellow diyplanner forum buddies where the trains were on my blog. It is in the title of the blog after all. To be honest I just anticipated writing the blog while on the train in my commuter world. i din't particularly anticipate writing about trains. However, seeing as I was asked I thought I might do a few train related bits n bobs. You would need a large planner to get all the train times in for a start! So I thought I'd pop some pictures on from the National Railway Museum in York. It's open all year round except for the 24-26th December and entry is free! Dont you just love some British museums. I've visited several times but I find it less exciting now than i did that first time. I do love steam trains and that is part of the fascination.
The age of steam.... I'm too young to remember when steam trains in Britain pulled carriages of commuter trains but I have been on a few tourist ones and they truly are wonderful pieces of engineering. The Mallard that sits in the Railway Museum is a design icon. It still looks modern today and above is a picture of the plaque commemorating it breaking the world speed record for steam traction. It's perhaps no surprise that the Japanese Bullet train also pictured looks not disimilar in terms of aerodynamic design. This is the only Bullet train you can see outside of Japan and it is a bit cramped. I can't imagine the same number of people crished into it as get squashed into our rolling stock every day.
One of my favourite parts of the museum was finding the cafe on the platform called the Brief Encounter cafe. Of course like many British museum cafes the food isnt great. I could have disrailed a train with my fruit scone the last time I was there, but it's all part of the experience. Brief Encounter is a classic British film with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard where two strangers meet in a railway station and continue to meet. Tempted almost into an affair. Of course the emotional affair is very powerful as it is a 1945 film. There is no jumping into bed. Not sure I even remember a kiss. Yet it is a classic of it's time.
So if you are passing near York, it is a very pleasant town pop into the National Railway Museum. It's well worth a free visit.