Notebook Addict of the Week: Nancy Hanst

This week’s addict came to me via a tip from a reader (Thanks Raymond!), and I was delighted to see this story:
Nancy Hanst has kept a food diary since 1962. I love Nancy’s stacks of little spiral-bound notebooks, and her consistency in keeping them for over 50 years!


From Nancy’s article:

So, here I am in the early days of 2015, riffling the pages in a little spiral-bound notebook marked “2014 MENU & BUDGET,” the second most recent in a series of 53 such notebooks.

You see, I keep a foodie diary of what Jim and I eat, usually for supper, and have been doing it since 1962, a few months after we married. There’s a drawerful of colorful pads, missing only 2002, one of the winters we spent away from home (if found, please return), each starting (usually with sauerkraut) on Jan. 1 and ending (with something festive) on Dec. 31, with guests named and exceptional dishes starred and double-starred. In the back of every tablet is perhaps the most interesting data — the food budget for the year. When I remember to do so, there also are mentions of unusual snowfalls, rainfalls, rainbows, wildflowers spotted, temperatures, the arrival of phoebes, the departure of juncos etc. etc.; also canning dates and how many jars of what are put up; the record of trips and vacations; then major events such as hospital stays and the night the wild cherry tree fell and took the balcony with it.

When this lifelong project started, I’d never cooked day-by-day and had tried my hand at only a few party dishes. I’d lived at home, my mother was a fine cook and I had other things to do. On the other hand, Jim Hanst, whom I had just married, was a pretty darn good cook. So, from the start, there was both a mentor and a competitor in the kitchen.

I got interested in cooking right away and liked jotting down what I was learning. I also thought a diary would be a help in remembering what to eat at the same time next year. I didn’t know yet that I’d never be interested in repeating, that I’d always want to be trying something else. Different methods, strange dishes, new ingredients. Then there was the matter of cooking for guests. I wouldn’t want to repeat myself, would I? So, they got included in the report. And as long as I had a little, spiral-bound pad handy, it was a good place to make occasional notes about the weather or our travels or health. Keeping a food budget in back was a logical final step.

My dear, departed friend, Marilyn McDevitt Rubin, liked to look through and comment on these little books. Then, she’d say, “Nancy, when you offer your Christmas ornaments to the Smithsonian, you have to give them these notebooks, too.”

Read more (including some of her recipes) at Nancy Hanst has kept a food diary since 1962 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There are more notebook photos too!

Tips for Keeping a Sketchbook

Here’s a post with some great tips and inspiration for keeping a sketchbook, from illustrator Chad Townsend:
How to Keep a Sketchbook.

From the article:

What to carry:

Nothing fancy! It doesn’t have to be a high dollar sketchbook. Remember, you’re going to wreck it anyway. What you DO need is something small and portable – you are going to carry it everywhere you go and it will need to fit in a bag or be easy to grab and go.

You only need: 1 pencil, 1 pen, a small sharpener and an eraser (I prefer a kneaded eraser for many reasons notably so it can mold into my pencil box).

Pencil Box: I spent years hunting for the perfect one that was metal and could easily slip into my front pocket (see photo). Fortunately, I managed to get a few of these as gifts from a company that no longer exists. Unfortunately, I have never seen any like them since. Note: If anyone knows where to get them, please hook me up! I would like to buy some to give as gifts.

Cover: In case you are wondering, this leather sketchbook cover is made by a company called Oberon. It’s a cover for those cheap hardback sketchbooks you find at Hobby Lobby, Michaels or Barnes & Noble like these Pro Art Sketch Book 5.5″ X 8″, 220 Pages, Hardbound, as it is sturdy and I can switch out sketchbooks when I’m finished with them. And they look cool on your bookshelf. I date and number mine. I bought this one about 15 years ago and it has traveled with me everywhere. My wife refers to it as my security blanket! This option helps overcome the mental hang-ups brought on by the investment in the book itself. If you are going to commit yourself to sketching, I highly recommend these Oberon guys – expensive but a good option. Note: I rub baseball glove oil on it to keep it in in shape.

Read more at How to Keep a Sketchbook.

Helen Ström’s Moleskine

Helen Ström is an artist who was born in Sweden, grew up in Spain, and now lives in Paris. I don’t remember how I discovered  her blog but I love her beautiful sketches:
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See more at Helen Ström: Moleskine. Her watercolors are wonderful too!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Zachary

This week’s addict won one of my giveaways (the Halaby Aero notebooks), and just happened to mention that he already had quite a collection. Of course I asked for photos!


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Zachary says:

“I’m an architecture student so I’ve gone through four years of trying find the perfect sketchbook/notebook and another four years of still not using the one I deemed perfect because there’s a whole world of notebooks to try. Pictured are 52 books I use for drawing and journaling. Most are completely filled up and I’m starting to run out of space. I scanned one of my sketchbooks and is available on my website here:

I’ve been using sketchbooks since I was little and one of my fondest memories as a child was waking up and finding a new sketch pad at the breakfast table that was a present from my mother. These days, I tend to be very picky about what sort of books I buy and I usually go by paper quality and since I use fountain pens often now, I stopped using Moleskines altogether. I’m still waiting for Rhodia to come out with a decent sized sketchbook without dots or a grid. But these pictures give you an idea of the variety of tasks my notebooks pull. They can be artbooks, nature collectors, note keepers, technical specification references.

But at the moment, I’m carrying a Canson sketchbook which I bought two of at the time since they were priced at five dollars apiece. The paper is great and the books are made in France.”

I loved getting to see Zachary’s collection, and the pages on his website are really cool! Thanks for sharing your addiction, Zachary!

Jim Morrison’s Notebook

This classic composition notebook belonged to Jim Morrison of the Doors:

“On December 18, 2013, auction house Profiles In History sold an original Jim Morrison poetry notebook for its opening estimate of $200,000. It was a lengthy example, containing over 100 pages of handwritten material, and came from the collection of singer-songwriter Graham Nash.”

Read more at  Jim Morrison’s Notebook | Research | The Doors Guide.

A Kids Book Illustrated Entirely in Ballpoint Pens

Not 100% notebook related, but pretty cool!

Lowriders in Space was recently named a best children’s book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. The illustrator, Raul Gonzalez, did all the artwork in Bic pens, and says “The reason I did this is that I wanted the book to have a very accessible book to youngsters out there that might be interested in becoming artists but not might have access to fancy art materials,” said Gonzalez.

I’d love to see his sketchbooks too!

Read more at NewsChannel 9: Former El Paso man illustrates best selling book entirely with pens.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Kim

This week’s addict sent me an email about her notebook addiction:

“The name is Kim and I have been an notebook addict unofficially since 1996 but officially since 2001. When I discovered this website it made me realize I am not alone out there and people understand the obsession these magical books posses! One of the Journals within my collection is actually one I won in a giveaway from you! The Yellow VS. Journal by Knock Knock. I have written a post on my blog about this obsession and I hope you enjoy some of the pictures.  The rest can be viewed on my blog

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A very colorful collection! Make sure to click through to her blog to see the rest– lots of composition books and spiral notebooks. Thanks for sharing your addiction, Kim!

Romaine Brooks’ Notebook

This is a notebook belonging to Romaine Brooks, whose papers are kept in the Archives of American Art and were digitized in 2012. The notebook contained is from the 1950s and “contains lists and Romaine’s thoughts.”

I’ve always loved her paintings for their stark look and interesting female subjects, such as this one:

See more at Summary of the Romaine Brooks papers, 1910-1973 – Digitized Collection | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Photographers’ Sketchbooks

Here’s another book I’ve been thinking about adding to my collection: Photographers’ Sketchbooks.

Since it’s photography, not all of the “sketchbooks” are traditional paper ones, though a couple are shown below.

From the review linked below:

“This book is comprised of over 500 illustrated pages featuring the tangible objects that help these photographers realize their visions. From the traditional Polaroid, to the more common iPhone test shots, the book showcases more than just on-site documentation. In addition to the visuals, each chapter begins with text about and from the photographer represented. Mechanics aside, Photographers’ Sketchbooks shows the diverse range of visual material photographers keep on hand to observe, record, and inspire. Found photos, collages of various imagery, contact sheets, and diaries all funnel into some stage of the creative process from concept to execution, presentation, and editing. Many of the series shown are works in progress, a fitting theme for book on process.”

Read more at  A Look Inside ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks’ – Feature Shoot.

Review: Object Series Notebook

I love stories about notebook fans who turn to producing their own dream notebooks when they can’t find them anywhere else! Justin Woo wrote to me with his own tale of how the Object Series notebook was born:

“I had never come across a notebook I was actively searching for: black, flexible leather cover with gilded edges and minimal branding in the $10-20 price range.

So instead, I went ahead and had them manufactured under the Object Series brand name, and I have just launched the retail site to sell them. As the name suggests, this notebook is the first in, I hope, a series of many notebooks to come.”

Here it is:

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It looks very swanky with the elegant soft leather cover and the gilded edges. It’s a nice size, just a bit larger than a pocket Moleskine (shown below for comparison).

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The design is very minimal and chic with the dark grey endpapers and no branding except for the small gold letters on the inside back cover. (There is a removable sheet tucked inside with more info about the brand.) There is a ribbon marker with an angled tip (which is nicely finished off so it won’t fray), but no elastic closure or back pocket.

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When you first open the notebook, the gilded edges may stick together a bit– I rather like this, as it feels so crisp and new! The notebook doesn’t quite open flat– the signatures are sewn, but I think there’s a bit too much glue stiffening the spine.

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The paper inside is creamy and smooth– very pleasant to write on. Unfortunately I found that there was a bit more show-through and bleed-through than average, including a little bleed with fountain pens. Fine point gel ink pens worked the best.

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I have two issues with the notebook, the first of which is just my personal preference– I don’t care for the sharp squared corners of the cover and how far they stick out beyond the edges of the paper. I worry that the corners will get very battered with regular use. On the notebook I received, the cover was not attached to the book block squarely– you can see that the corners and edges are a bit off-kilter.

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This happens a lot with various notebook brands, and I try to have reasonable expectations about the level of precision you can get in notebook manufacturing, but I think here it bothered me a bit more given the overall context of quality materials. Then again, the price for this notebook is only $16, including shipping to the US, so I suppose you can’t have everything!

My other issue was with how my sample arrived packaged– it was well-protected between 2 pieces of cardboard, but the notebook was secured in place with a piece of double-sided tape, right on the leather! It left a nasty, sticky residue which I haven’t been able to totally remove– I know there are products like Goo Gone that remove sticky residue, but they usually say not to use them on leather. I hope this is not how other customers will receive their notebooks– it made me so sad to have this nice, fancy-looking notebook marred by yucky glue! [Update 1/27/15: Justin responded to the glue issue after reading this review: “I have found box packaging specifically for books, so all notebooks now arrive safely.”]

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Here’s all the official specs from the Object Series website:

Dimensions: 4×5¾”
Thickness: ½”

Finely-grained recycled black leather
Flexible and resistant to bending “memory”
Square corners
1/8” overhang (approx.)

224 smooth, unlined ivory pages with gilted edges
80 g/m²
Acid-, OBA-, and chlorine-free

End leaves:
Smooth, dark gray paper
150 g/m²
Acid-, OBA-, and chlorine-free
“Object Series OS1” embossed in gold on inside back cover.

Black and yellow head bands
Thread-stitched book block in 16-page signatures
¼” grosgrain bookmark

Made in China


Aside from the few concerns noted above, I really do like the Object Series notebook and it would make a nice gift. It’s definitely a cut above most other made-in-China notebooks in its price range in terms of its look and feel. And that Justin was able to get these manufactured at a reasonable price is quite inspiring for those of us who might also want to go after making their dream notebook come true someday!