How to Keep a Diary In These Fraught Times

Lately, the world is feeling more crazy than usual. I doubt I’m the only one that feels this way. But one of the best ways to unwind is to keep a diary!

I have to admit, this is a recent habit of mine. I only started writing in a diary consistently three years ago. There are some failed attempts shoved in the back of my closet, but we don’t talk about those wretched journals. 😉 Here are the supplies you need:

  1. One object in which you can write upon (ex: notebook, stack of printer paper stapled together, the pristine walls of your house)
  2. An instrument to write with (ex: pen, pencil, quill, stick?)

And that’s it! The next step is to write consistently. Your entries don’t have to be daily, but try to set aside a few minutes every week to sit down and write. Use those extra minutes spent browsing on your phone to do something productive instead.

Your diary doesn’t have to be an exact recording of everything you did that day. Unless you really want to???? Instead, here are some other ideas. What’s on your mind today? What are you grateful for? What do you hate? What’s your best vacation memory? Do you have an unpopular opinion? Are there any changes you want to make in your life? I have a great list of writing prompts in this post, if you need more ideas.

A diary is simply a place for you to put down your thoughts, in however form they take shape. I’ve doodled, collaged and pasted newspaper clippings in my diaries. It’s also not a contest of how pretty your pages are. Nobody is going to see it except for you. If you enjoy drawing then go for it! If not, don’t worry.

Diaries are also great therapists. Write something that infuriates or saddens you! Then you have a few options:

  1.  Keep it as is
  2. Tear out the pages, dispose of them however you wish (shred em!!!)
  3. Cover up the pages with pieces of paper and tape
  4. Make the offending pages into art. I remember seeing somewhere on reddit that someone collaged and watercolored over an entry in their diary. Turn a painful memory into something beautiful. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this guide. Happy diary writing!

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Some of my amazing notebooks I use in college

Mini Review: Oasis Notebook

Sorry about not updating! I’ve been busy settling into school and getting used to my course work. Here are my thoughts about a new notebook I found: The Oasis Notebook.

I first discovered the Oasis Notebook when I received it as a gift at the July D.C. Pen Meetup. It was elegant, sturdy and lay flat too! I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it again. Luckily for me, they were available at the D.C. Pen Show, right next to the Sailor table.

Profolio is a new brand from Japan, made by the famous Itoya stationery company. All of their products feature a hybrid graph ruling, using both grids and lines. They can be used for taking notes, making diagrams or tables, or writing lists. There’s a space at the top to write a date. I bought the regular A5 Oasis in a “stealthy” black and a limited edition A5 with white paper.

The Oasis lays perfectly flat, perfect for long term writing. The paper is a nice cream color. There’s shading but no sheen unfortunately. I didn’t see feathering or bleed through but there is some show through because of the thin paper. It’s very smooth and pleasant to write with. The limited edition is the same except it uses bright white paper. It’s staple bound, so doesn’t lay flat. The cover springs up once I opened it up. I prefer the bright white paper but the ruling does look harsher on it. The lighting is kind of off but I tried my best to show the contrast in paper color.

I enjoy these notebooks and can’t wait to see more from Profolio! They are available online at Amazon and Anderson Pens. The Oasis comes in black, green and red covers. I haven’t seen the limited edition for sale online.

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Elemental Notebooks Review

For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.

Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.

Specs:

  • 100 gsm cream dot grid paper
  • A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
  • $20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
  • 192 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

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Appearance:

I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.

The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.

Paper:

But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.

Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.

Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.

Comparison to Baron Fig:

The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.

The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.

The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.

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Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook

The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.

Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Stationery Shopping: Traveler’s Factory, Muji, and Other Stores

Note: This is part of a series. Read my other posts here, here, and here. 🙂

I’m sad to say that I’m back home now. Japan was a wonderful experience and two weeks  didn’t feel like enough time. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Osaka so I didn’t see Nagasawa. 😦 I did check out the Traveler’s Factory and Muji in Narita airport though.

I was excited to see this Muji-to-go after seeing all the great stationery stocked in convinence stores. But the selection was small and not very exciting.

However, The Traveler’s Factory sold Traveler’s Notebooks and its accessories. For those who don’t know, TN’s are leather covers that can hold small notebooks, or “inserts”. This allows you to carry around several notebooks in a portable package. I bought inserts with special covers exclusive to this store. I also bought vintage-style Pan Am stickers. My dad bought a brass bullet pencil and ballpoint. He was actually interested by the shop! My plan to convert my family is working. 😉

I also bought some stationery from convenience stores. The most common ones were Family Mart and 7/11. Yes, the latter is apparently very popular in Japan. These small stores actually have good selections of name-brand stationery like Kokuyo and Muji. Some 7/11’s had their own branded notebooks too! The items here were cheap yet high-quality.

I’m still surprised that such nice stationery is widely available and cheap. I’m used to the terrible paper sold in U.S. stores. I spotted nice pens used for signing stuff a few times. I guess Tombow pencils and Uni Sign pens are the equivalents of Ticonderoga’s and Sharpies in Japan!

I hope you enjoyed my blog series! I’ll try to post more reviews but college is starting up for me and I need time to settle in. For those who are interested, here are some non-stationery related pictures of my vacation:

What Type of Page Ruling Should You Use?

The ruling of notebooks is a serious consideration for any stationery addict. Gone are the days of college or wide ruled. Now there are so many choices! For some people, the ruling can make or break a purchase. But for others, they are more flexible or have specific uses for unusual rulings. I used to be a rigid, “lined only”, person. Maybe it was conditioned into me after years of using only lined notebooks, for schoolwork and creative writing. I remember scoffing at dot grid thinking it was silly. Now I use a mixture of lined, dot grid and blank paper, depending on my usage. Though I still like lined paper for long note-taking, I used a dot grid Baron Fig notebook for my last story journal. And I always carry a grid Field Notes in my backpack!

Lined

This is the classic ruling, the one you used in school and work and likely everywhere. It comes in many sizes, from 5mm to 8mm. It can be boring or constricting to some, but for me I appreciate its structure. It keeps my handwriting from tilting downwards and looking sloppy. However, some brands have too-dark lines or have too wide or too narrow ruling. Lines are harder to ignore and if they are dark they can distract from your words. If you like structure, tradition or easy accessibility, you should use lined.

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Ex: Lined can be found with almost every notebook, but I enjoy paper with light, easily ignored lines, like Clairefontaine My Essentials and the Nanami Seven Seas Writer (currently out of stock)

Dot Grid

Many stationery users love dot grid. It has become massively popular because of bullet journaling for its flexible structure and ability to fade behind words. Dots are usually light and inconspicuous. They stop new writers from fearing the blank page or feel smothered by lines. It almost always is in 5mm spacing but I have seen templates online that are 7mm. If you like doodling, are interested in bullet-journaling, and want to have even words without bold lines, dot grid is good to try out.

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Ex: Since dot grid is becoming so popular, it’s becoming easier to find it. The Baron Fig Confidant, Rhodia Webbie and Leuchtturm1917 have dotted paper.

Grid

I used to use grid only for math homework, but then found out they were perfect for making lists and charts. I carry around a Field Notes in my backpack to jot down notes, ideas, to-do lists, songs I heard, etc. They are too busy looking for me to use in my larger notebooks, but many people appreciate this ruling in A5. It’s usually in 5mm, but Write Notepads used 4mm in its latest limited edition, Sakura. If you like precise lines, order, making lists and diagrams then you should try out square grid.

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Ex: Most of my Field Notes are gridded and are good for jotting down to-do lists. I don’t use them in larger notebooks. The paper here is from the Field Notes Campfire, not available anymore. But the Original Kraft Field Notes come in grid and many of the limited editions have grids too.

Reticle

This is an unusual ruling, one I haven’t seen very often. It is more substantial than dot grid, with tiny crosses each spaced at 5mm. It’s basically the same as dot grid, to be honest. I like it for the aesthetics, mostly. 😉

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Ex: The paper shown here is from the Nanami Seven Seas Crossfield notebook (just went out of stock). I haven’t seen many reticle grid paper besides that, except for Field Notes Lunacy and the recent Coastal edition. I hope creators make more notebooks with reticle grid!

Blank

Blank paper is a canvas for you to put anything onto, whether its writing or doodles or full illustrations. It is fun to use but can be intimidating if your handwriting tilts downwards like mine. I use blank only in my sketchbooks because I like having a line of some sort. However, Ana at the Well-Appointed desk, made wonderful templates for any ruling you could imagine. Just print out the template size you want and slip the paper behind your page to give it the allusion of lines so your writing is neater.

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Ex: Baron Fig Vanguard has creamy thick paper perfect for both fountain pens and pencils. I like sketching with it because the Vanguard is light and portable. Story Supply Co. also has fountain pen friendly paper with less tooth than BF.

Conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to try a different type of ruling. You may become more productive with a grid, or the order of lines. What is your favorite paper ruling? Are there any you like that I haven’t posted here?

Write Notepads “The Lawn” Review

I live in a suburbia of rolling green lawns, as far as the eye can see. Even in the summer, the grass is trimmed to perfection. Well-kept lawns are always in my summertime memories. I remember getting green stains on my knees, running through sprinklers and tall grass, swimming and roasting smores on a campfire. Maybe that’s why Write Notepads’ “The Lawn” edition touched me so much. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

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Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 6.35 mm lines
  • three gold staples
  • 3 pack for $12.99

I reviewed the “Sakura” pocket notebook edition in a previous review. I enjoy this edition even more! However, I’m a bit late to the show. Johnny from Pencil Revolution also reviewed it here. Once again, Write Notepads came up with a simple yet creative theme. The notebook is slightly wider than the usual Field Notes 3.5 x 5.5 size. It gives me more space to write and it’s not like I actually put my pocket notebook in my pocket. 😛 The notebook is a deep green, more olive than emerald. Tiny blades of grass are letterpressed on the cover. They seem slightly raised, giving it a texture when I run a hand over it. The Lawn is staple bound, with three sturdy golden staples. My three-pack was held together with a checkered red and white belly band, like a picnic blanket! My pack also came with a sheet of STICKERS!!! I love the whimsical art of garden gnomes, lawn chairs and flamingoes. They blend into the grassy cover perfectly. I hid the beer cans sticker on the back. 😉 I forgot to take a pic before I used them, sorry about that!

Inside is a luscious white paper perfect for fountain pens. It has 6.35 mm green lines that fit my writing perfectly. Write Notepads must have changed their paper formula because this and the Sakura is much better than the old stock. The paper is smooth but not slippery like Field Notes. It has enough tooth for pencil and feels great with my felt and gel pens. It handles literally every fountain pen I throw at it, even my juicy Pelikan and Faber-Castell nibs. There is only some feathering with my F-C nib. There is no bleed through and barely any show through. The only other paper I’ve found like this was Baron Fig and Rhodia/Clairefontaine. My nib doesn’t catch on the paper fibers nor does it feel scratchy.

For research, I bought a pack of “Samuel Morse” notebooks, a previous Write Notepads limited edition. Though they share the same attention to detail, the “Morse” notebooks are perfect bound, meaning the spine is glued. This makes it much harder for pages to lay flat. The paper is also not good for fountain pens. It feathers and bleeds to the other side. Ink colors look flat and lifeless. In comparison, “The Lawn” has crisp lines and shows shading, though not sheen.

In the past, I didn’t buy Write Notepads limited editions because of the perfect binding and paper. But staple-bound, fountain pen friendly notebooks are always welcome in my horde. I hope Write Notepads makes more editions like “The Lawn” and “Sakura”. Hopefully they have a table at the D.C. Pen Show so I can come and visit!

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Mini Review: Notebooks from Italy

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing long blog posts for notebooks. So here’s the first of my mini reviews, for products that warrant testing but don’t need a full review.

I got these two notebooks on my trip to Rome last week. The yellow notebook was from the Massimo Palazzo alle Terme store and the black one was from the Ostia Antica gift shop.

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Let’s start with the yellow journal! It’s slightly shorter and wider than a B5 notebook, making it compact and easy to carry. It has 60 blank creamy pages. It’s nice to run my hand over the paper. The sunny yellow cover is a bit thin but held up well in my suitcase. There’s a beautiful design on the front that use the letters mnr. It stands for the Museo Nazionale Romano, the name of the larger museum complex the Palazzo belongs to. This name is repeated on the back in bold black letters. The word Electa is on the bottom right, possibly the maker of the notebook? I couldn’t find any more information online.

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The paper is thick and a smooth ivory color. When I did my pen test, pencil did wonderfully on this paper. There wasn’t much show through with gel and fountain pens. The paper was fountain pen friendly. Slight pink sheen from Sailor Sky High showed up in my test. There was no bleed through except with a sharpie. The only downside is that there were glue bubbles on the first page. Overall, this notebook exceeded my expectations and will be put to use as a sketchbook.

The black Ostia Antica notebook was not as great. When I bought it, it was in a display saying it was made by Paperblanks. I’ve heard of the company before and expected good paper. It has a nice cover, with the words Ostia Antica and below it, an illustration of one of the mosaics at the site. It’s A6 size and has 96 pages. It also has a black bookmark and elastic band.

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Unfortunately, the paper was scratchy and thin as tissue. Pencil was okay, but every other pen showed or bled through to the other side. Fountain pen ink looked dull, with no sheen or shading. At least I bought it with blank paper so I can use it for quick pencil sketches.

Hope you enjoyed this quick review! I’m busy working at an archaelogical dig but I hope to post more soon.

Write Notepads Sakura Review

This post is a little late, but I’d like to review the newest limited edition from Write Notepads: the Sakura edition!

Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 4mm grid
  • stapled!
  • 3 pack for $12.99

This is my first time trying Write Notepads. They make very nice pocket notebooks among other offerings. However, their editions usually have perfect binding, which is a type of binding that makes the notebook harder to keep open and lay flat. They also don’t have the best paper for fountain pens. But I saw the new Sakura edition and fell in love! I live near a place with many cherry blossom trees and I love seeing them bloom in the spring. They also are staple bound which is more my style.

I bought two packs, each set being $12.99 . I ordered the bundle which came with a special surprise. 🙂 The Sakura is a little shorter than Field Notes, another popular notebook brand.

The covers are absolutely gorgeous. They’re a speckled cream color with cherry tree branches letter pressed onto the surface. Even the band holding the notebooks together is beautiful. It’s black with silver blossoms decorating it. So pretty!

The paper inside is very nice. It’s not as smooth as the Field Notes or Story Supply paper but it’s not rough like Baron Fig. It has a minuscule 4mm grid printed in light green. I definitely can’t fit my writing in the squares, so I just use it as a guide for my writing. Here is the grid in comparison to the one in my field notes:

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The paper is great! It has enough tooth for pencil but feels great with gel, felt and even fountain pens. I was expecting a lot of show through or bleed through but didn’t have any! Only a tiny bit of show through and bleeding. I wonder if they changed the paper or I happened to choose well-behaved ink for my pen test. In reviews of previous editions, bloggers have found the paper to not be fountain pen friendly. So this is a pleasant surprise!

And the add on was a letter pressed packet of cherry blossom seeds. It was a very thoughtful extra and I’ll have to find a place to plant them. These notebooks were also a good match with the pink Blackwing Volume 54 pencils. I love this limited edition and I am excited to see more from this company!