From the Mailbag

Catching up on my correspondence again!
Allegra Newman writes to tell us about her book, 365 Things to Write About:

“[The book] offers exactly 365 people, places, object, and ideas on blank, lined pages where people can write their responses. My writing partner and I created it as a different way to jumpstart our brains every day before we start work (or begin a new creative side project). We recommend spending 10-15 minutes a day writing whatever comes to your mind about one of the prompts. It could be a poem, a short story, a list, description, or silly rant. Regardless of what is written, it helps people in various walks of life to boost their brain power, generate new ideas, and connect with their inner creativity for a few minutes each day.”

Sounds like a great creativity booster! It’s available on Amazon.


Melissa needs help finding her perfect notebook:

I was hoping you might be able to help me find the right notebook for me. I’m trying to find a hard bound notebook or journal with white (not off-white like moleskin) blank pages that is in portrait format and bigger than 11×14. If you could even suggest a brand to try that would be very helpful.

The tricky thing here is finding something larger than 11×14″. The Cachet Classic Black Cover Sketchbook would be just right, but 11 x 14″ is the largest size. The Moleskine A3 sketchbbok is slightly larger at about 11 3/4 x 16″, but the paper won’t be the bright white she’s looking for.

Dick Blick Art Materials has a good selection of other sketchbooks, but the only ones I saw that were larger than 11 x 14″ were wire-bound.  The other solution might be to buy some extra-large paper and bind your own book! Does anyone else have any ideas?


Sandra found a cool notebook and wants your help in finding more:

A couple of days ago, I found this sketchbook at Marshall’s Department store for $4.95.  It’s approximately 9 in x 13 in, a thin ivory cardstock with red trim and a beautifully marbled cover.  It has a staple binding, but it’s very sturdy.  The wording ‘Valentina, Made in Italy’ is printed on the inside back cover.   I love the quality of the paper, but find the size a bit difficult to manage and would love to find out if the sketchbook can be found in any other size.  I searched Google and Bing but was unable to find any information.  The Marshalls’ website failed to offer any listing. Would you know of any other store that might carry this sketchbook?  Or shall I just starting haunting any Marshall’s I can find, in the hopes of discovering more of these gems?


Nestor asks “Do you know of any small safe that can be used to store your journal/diary so that no one else reads it?”
I have never stored my notebooks in anything more secure than a shoe box, but I do have one of these:

I use it for storing my passport, social security card, and important financial papers, but it could easily be used for notebooks as well. However, it’s very heavy and not that roomy inside because of the thick, fireproof walls. You could also use a more basic fireproof box like this:

These options might not be very sophisticated in terms of the lock mechanism, as they seem more designed for fire survival than theft prevention, but there are lots of other options for safes and security boxes here.


I’ll catch up with some more questions and submissions from readers soon. Thanks for all your emails!

22 thoughts on “From the Mailbag”

  1. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce my notebook available from lulu

    It relates to a similar idea as Allegra’s book, though not quite so disciplined – it contains articles, quotes, sketches – – in effect, a collection of my own thoughts, designed to give some ‘inspiration/ideas’ to its user.

    I’m also producing a similar idea with a heavier paper more suited to other media – watercolour, rather than pen/pencil. I can also produce a Moleskine or similar type notebook customised to the user’s tastes- visual cues for a visual artist; verbal cues for a writer or a mix of both whatever you prefer….

  2. Sandra, I did a little searching online. There is a handbag company that uses the line “Valentina Made in Italy”, and funnily enough I found a purse blog where people were discussing them and everyone had bought theirs at Marshall’s! (The posts were from 2007-2008, but still… a connection?) I’m wondering if the notebook could have been a spin-off product, like the American Eagle Outfitters notebooks in another of Nifty’s posts. Don’t know if this helps…

  3. Yes! The “Valentina, Made In Italy” pad! I got one for Christmas, but I have absolutely no idea where it came from, which makes it even more haunting. I’ve been searching for more as well, as a book of such quality, unmarked by brands or dates would surely be nice to have. But I can’t find it anywhere(huhuhu (TT^TT))…

  4. I have a Valentina, Made in Italy book that I found at Marshalls and I’m still debating if it’s a sketchbook or something more. It’s leatherbound, about 9″ x 14″ and absolutely stunning. On the inside there are two types of blank pages, one that seems to be tracing paper and a rougher,larger one behind it that seems to be sketching paper. The quality is beyond remarkable, but I cannot find ANY other information on where to get more. HELP!!! please 😀

  5. Re; Valentina Notebook

    I came across this post while doing my own valentine notebook research ( and have no idea of its time frame). This probably won’t help much as you’re probably in USA and I’m in the UK, but I bought a Valentina notebook from a shop called TKMaxx a few months ago. Mine has a genuine leather cover and the works, it’s gorgeous (and not cheap!) I definitely agree about the quality of the books, but as to where to find one, I can only suggest keeping an eye out in odd end shops like TKMaxx etc.
    There are others out there, so keep looking!
    ~Russia xxxxx

  6. Re; Valentina Notebook

    I came across this post while doing my own Valentina notebook research ( and have no idea of its time frame). This probably won’t help much as you’re probably in USA and I’m in the UK, but I bought a Valentina notebook from a shop called TKMaxx a few months ago. Mine has a genuine leather cover and the works, it’s gorgeous (and not cheap!) I definitely agree about the quality of the books, but as to where to find one, I can only suggest keeping an eye out in odd end shops like TKMaxx etc.
    There are others out there, so keep looking!
    ~Russia xxxxx

  7. Yes! I came across THIS while doing my own ‘valentina made in Italy’ searches, arent they beautiful! I too got mine from tkmaxx, in fact there were a huge selection, which I think are there because of tiny imperfections (tk maxi sell a lot of flawed goods cheap). They’re just beautiful but I can’t find anything about them. I’m glad other people have heard of them, I will definitely be searching tkmaxx more often for notebooks.

  8. Hey; Ive been collecting those sketchbooks too; im failing to find any as of recently so have been internet research to try and find more ;(

    this is my collection as of yet; all of which ive gotten from the British store Tk Maxx and their furniture store Home sense.

    However ~ today i found a note book with the same inscription on the back of it Valentina, made in itally, from home sense, i came online and googled the line thats scrawled across the front.

    It did lead me to an amazon page which sold notebooks alike, but no sketchbooks, and google searcchs with the company name didnt give much back either; these notebooks are nice, but are lined, and not very sketchbooky, but none the less are cute.

    this is as far as my search has got me 🙁 i hope this helps, some how ? 🙂

    – danielle.

  9. I bought two of these skethbooks yesterday from tkmaxx they are amazing! I want to find more!

  10. Hi! What a fabulous blog topic!
    I too have bought a couple of beautiful notebooks for my new course, they are Valentina Made in Italy. I found them in TK Maxx a couple of days ago, and bought them in pink and blue. I think I will be rushing back there tomorrow to buy the other two they had in orange and black. The front (I wish I could send a picture!) is so pretty and the paper quality is really beautiful – no bleed using my Cross fountain pen. Wish we could find out more about them!

  11. just found this website, after doing an internet search for my valentina sketch book i bought yesterday, like everyone else i bought it in tkmaxx. i came on here to see if i could find any information on it, or were to buy them. but im going to keep going to tkmaxx and keep hoping they get more.

  12. Just bought one (blue, plush cover) at tkmaxx here in Poland and the search for more info led me here 🙂

  13. Better late than never! I saw Apica CD15 notebooks on As I am in UK I checked and they are eye-wateringly expensive [we are talking paper covered, lined, notebooks here]
    However, just before Christmas 2013 I found some in TKMaxx at £2.30 each. They are slightly smaller than A4 … maybe US Quarto?
    Strangely, they are not Apica made in Japan, they are Valentina made in Italy. Who is copying whom?

  14. I too am here as I bought a really pretty pink notebook yesterday in TK Maxx in the Uk,it was only £2.99, they had dozens of different designs and sizes and wish I had bought more.I think they are from a small artisan paper shop in Florence and doubt they have any web presence. x

  15. Hi, I’ve just bought a beautiful valentina notebook, which I am still deciding what to write in it. I searched it, wanting to know where it came from and found nothing although was happy to find this blog and learn that many like the books and they were a great choice. Thank you.

  16. Hey everyone, i bought Valentina journals at TkMaxx Germany. And i am searching like hell to find more of them. Now i wrote an email to TkMaxx to get more information. I will let you know!

  17. I bought 4 of these in Virginia (USA) at TJ Maxx (which is the sme company as Marshalls and HomeGoods in the US.) I believe I bought them about 3-4 years ago. I paid $4.99 and the price tag says:
    compare at $10.00

    I have been to Florence, Italy and recognize the 3 patterns I purchased as specifically Florentine.

    I checked out Amazon, and there are 2 bound smaller sized/more-pages journal type items listed from VALENTINA Made in Italy. I highly doubt it’s the purse company, I’m thinking these are hand-produced because the staples are not consistently oriented – meaning not a machine. I’m thinking VALENTINA is a small paper company in Florence that bundled their products with a larger Italian journal company to secure the TJMaxx deal.

    If I ever see these at TJ Maxx again, I’m buying all of them – this was a SUPER deal.

  18. Okay I’m an art student from Manchester and these are the only books I like using! me and two other of my friends have about 14 between us, after traveling to around 7 different TK MAXX we brought everyone we could find. you need to grab them while there in, its something that you just got to buy when its there! there an amazing price, I have everyone I know trying to find me a stockist to buy them from, no luck so far!
    I wish they did a big one to I could use as a drawing book with blank pages have yet to find the perfect one there.
    but I am sorted for my next year at uni but there filling up fast!

  19. Hello,
    I don’t know if this comes too late but I know Valentina herself. She runs with her father a small leather factory in Florence (Italy) called Florence VIP. They produce those beautiful sketchbook you find at Marshall’s, Winners and Home Sense(Canadian names for the same chain of discounted goods stores where you can use your TJ MAXX card. I was in Italy and I met both of them. Afterwards, I asked them to prepare a special graduation book for my school bound in blue leather and handmade paper. I haven’t contacted them in a couple of years but I hope they are still producing beautiful things

  20. I bought these Valentina notebooks at TJ Maxx ($4.99 each) a few years ago. They are beautiful and after that 6-12 months of seeing them at TJ MAxx, I’ve never been able to find again. On one of them, the tag is still affixed. Here’s the info:

    TJ Maxx
    81-8830-318453-000499 [19] -8

    Compare at $10.00



    I’ve only seen them in this size. The paper quality is excellent and many of the covers are specific Florentine designs.

    In the back cover, it simply says “Valentina Made in Florence”

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