Category Archives: Personal

Smelly Notebooks

Is smell ever a factor in your notebook usage? I’ve tested a few notebooks over the years that had distinctive odors, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. When I reviewed the Rendr Sketchbook, one of the first things I noticed about it was a strong chemical smell, although it faded after unwrapping. One Moleskine I bought on eBay had a wonderful smell, as though it had been stored in a drawer with cedar or some sort of scented candles or potpourri (I’m not necessarily fond of scented candles or potpourri, but it was a nice woodsy, herbal smell, not super perfume-y).

Usually Moleskines just have a sort of inky smell, not at all unpleasant, but the one I just started using, another eBay purchase of older stock, has a gross odor, kind of barfy-smelling. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced this, and I’ve used dozens of Moleskines over 15+ years. It’s still noticeable several days after unwrapping the notebook and using it, so I tried swabbing some eucalyptus oil on the inside front and back covers– that helped somewhat, but the yucky smell is still there. I also pulled a couple of leaves off my patchouli plant and stuck them in the back pocket, that that’s not solving the problem either. It reminds me of an old TV commercial from the 1980s, for some sort of room deodorizer spray. The ad criticized the competition for merely adding perfume rather than neutralizing odors: a little girl whines “Ewww, now it smells like fish and roses!” Well, now my notebook smells like eucalyptus and patchouli and vomit.

I keep riffling through the pages in hopes that it will air out and today, I put it in a bag with some candles to see if the smell will improve but what if it doesn’t? Can I bear to get rid of it?? Or will I just be wrinkling my nose for the next few months while trying to finish this notebook as quickly as possible? Oh, the drama… what would you do??

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Moleskine Monday: My Collection

I haven’t done many Moleskine Monday posts lately… and it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on my stash of spare Moleskines. For those who haven’t read other posts where I’ve talked about how I feel about the Moleskine brand, here’s an abbreviated version:

Late 1990s/early 2000’s— not too long after Modo e Modo introduces them, I start seeing Moleskines in stores, and receive a pocket Sketchbook as a gift. It re-awakens my slightly dormant notebook fetish and I start using them for occasional notes and drawings. But I’m not totally obsessed because I’m still really into Palm Pilots. During this period I think I once bought 2 sketchbooks while on a 3-week business trip, and it made me feel like a crazy hoarder.

Mid-late 2000’s— the softcover Moleskines are introduced and for some reason, I fall head over heels in love with the pocket size squared softcover. It’s the first notebook I’ve truly filled from cover to cover. I start this blog and allow myself to wallow in full-on notebook adoration. (Palm Pilots are over, the iPhone isn’t as exciting, and I turn back to notebooks to satisfy my life-long need to fondle something small and rectangular.) My love affair with the softcover fades, but I am using and buying lots of hardcover Moleskines and other similar notebooks such as Piccadilly, HandBook Artist Journal, and the many others I’ve written about here. The Moleskine brand has exploded. They’re everywhere. They’ve become a bit of a cliché, perhaps, but I still love them. I settle into a habit of simultaneously using a pocket squared or plain notebook for daily list-making and journaling, and a pocket sketchbook for drawing and watercolors. (My other routine notebook is a small Moleskine cahier or Field Notes that I use for my French class.) At some point during this period, they stop putting the Modo e Modo name on them, and start using only “Moleskine” in all their branding. They also change their US distributor from Kikkerland, who used to be mentioned on the packaging, to Chronicle, who is not. At this time, I maybe stockpile half a dozen Moleskines, a few Piccadillies, and a couple of HandBook Artist Journals.

Early 2010’s— Moleskine’s rapid growth seems to have led to declines in quality and changes in how they’re made. They are introducing new products at a dizzying pace and focusing more on bags and wallets than notebooks. There’s too much cover overhang, they’re less refined, the paper is thinner– they’re just not as nice. But there still isn’t any other brand that quite meets all my preferences for daily notebooks. When I buy Moleskines in a store, it’s only after inspecting them very carefully to see if they are good ones. Sometimes I find older stock from batches that were better made. I would guess that at this point, I might have hit about 20 unused Moleskines stashed for future use.

Mid- 2010’s— I can’t find good Moleskines in stores anymore.  I have to send in quality complaints about a couple of notebooks ordered online– the company sends replacements, but they aren’t much better. I’ve had it. In February 2014, I post Moleskine Monday: I May Never Buy a New Moleskine Again. But I also turn to the internet and start searching for older stock that still has the Modo e Modo name on it, and once in a while, I hit the jackpot, especially on eBay. I quickly realize that I can only buy Moleskines if I see a photo of the actual notebook, not a standard product shot which may be out of date. Whenever I see the older-looking belly-bands (someday I’ll do a post on how their design has evolved over the years), I snap them up if I can get them for a less-than-outrageous price. I start building up my stash of spares, which by August 2014 includes 37 assorted Moleskines that I would potentially use as everyday notebooks/sketchbooks. After a while, it’s grown quite large and I start trying to track my inventory in a spreadsheet, but I don’t do a great job keeping it up to date. Last time I updated the spreadsheet, the total count was 132. I decide to cut back a bit on my eBay browsing, as I’m running out of room to store all my notebooks!

Now— below are some photos of my stash, which is stored in shoe boxes, some under-bed plastic boxes, and in piles on shelves. Whenever I look at some of the really nice old ones with their perfect corners, I get all pissed off all over again, knowing that somebody once figured out how to make the perfect notebook and then they turned it into crap!

 

I also had a whole drawer-full in my office, until I started working from home. I’m counting just my actual Moleskine branded notebooks for the purposes of today’s post, though I also have a bunch of similar non-Moleskine notebooks earmarked for potential daily usage someday (as opposed to things that are fun to have in my collection, but not planned to be used). Here’s the count:

56 pocket sketchbooks. (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

55 pocket squared (I go through about 3-4 a year.)

12 pocket plain

30 pocket ruled (I normally don’t like ruled notebooks but on a couple of occasions I bought large lots of mixed paper styles. Since they are old ones with good paper and good overall quality, I’m willing to use one occasionally just to stretch out the lifespan of my inventory.)

Other pocket size: 1 storyboard, 1 music, 1 info book, 1 plain softcover, 1 address, 2 Japanese album, 2 ruled reporter, 1 squared reporter

Large size: 1 Voyageur, 1 large sketchbook, 1 large squared

I have not counted any “cahier” or Volant thin notebooks, as I have a few of those mixed in with various Field Notes and other similar stapled or stitched-spine notebooks. But the quantity is very small, just a few I’ve been given.

A few of the sketchbook, squared and plain ones are more recent models that I will use as a last resort. The info book is all crooked and defective, and I’m not quite sure why I’m even keeping it. But the count ends up at over 166 Moleskines, over 150 of which I am likely to potentially use on a day to day basis. (I haven’t counted the sketchbook and squared notebooks I am using now, or any of the dozens I’ve already filled.)

So… I know I’m a little crazy. My partner, who has to live with notebooks constantly arriving in the mail and taking up way too much of our limited space, definitely thinks I’m a little crazy (but also knows there are far worse vices). But the question remains, is it enough? 56 sketchbooks divided by 3 a year is a little less than 19 years, and I’ll only be about 67 years old at that point. The squared ones, if extended with the plain and ruled notebooks, will last up to 32 years, when I’ll be 81. I can probably ease off buying any more of those (unless I spot any really good cheap ones!) but I think I’m allowed to buy some more sketchbooks. Yay!

 

Long Time No Blog!

Life has gotten a little crazy lately and I haven’t had much time to spend on this website. But I have been trying to spend a few minutes each day filling a page of a sketchbook, at least. I can also report that I broke from my recent habit of only keeping one daily notebook and one sketchbook, and started a new single-subject notebook with a pretty big theme: life changes! I am about to change jobs and move, and after the dust settles, I’m hoping to have more time for more writing about other notebooks.

So far the life change notebook has a lot of to-do lists about purging belongings, moving furniture, possible renovations, sketches of floorplans and assorted other envisionings of a different lifestyle. We’ll see if they all pan out! As for the purging of belongings, I’ll be needing to thin out my collection of notebooks, so stay tuned for some random giveaways!

What I Am Using Now

A commenter on a recent post asked what notebooks I was using for my business and personal notes. The notebook I was referring to in that post was a pocket-sized squared Moleskine, one of my hoard of old ones from before their quality declined so much. That is my daily catch-all notebook for journal entries, lists and assorted jottings. I don’t always put a lot of work-related notes there– usually just the kinds of long term, big picture things that are causing me enough anxiety that I am thinking about them outside the office!

For my day-to-day work notes, I keep a larger size notebook on my office desk. I write to-do items on the front of the page, and meeting notes on the back of the page, mostly. This has been a pretty good system in terms of being able to find notes by the date when I wrote them. I supplement my list-keeping with an app (on my phone and web-based on my desktop) called TickTick, where I store longer-term notes and to-do items. The work notebooks tend to last me a while so over the last couple of years, I have only gone through 3: a Doane Paper notebook, a Grandluxe A4 size Earth Care Note Folder, and currently, I am using the Appointed notebook I reviewed here.

what I am using - 2 (1)

I always like to use something with a wire-o binding, so I can fold the cover to the back neatly. And it is ideally letter-sized, so I can tuck other papers into it. The Appointed one is a bit small for that, but I like the paper and am enjoying using it. The smaller grid pattern makes me tend to write very small, as I also did in the Doane Paper notebook. I love the way this ends up looking– the pages are densely covered with print and doodles, so there’s a lot of texture in a way that I find satisfying. The Grandluxe notebook was lined in a wider rule, so it didn’t encourage the same kind of density.

what I am using - 1 (1)

My other frequently used notebooks right now are a Moleskine sketchbook (again an old Modo e Modo one) for daily drawings, a pocket-sized landscape format watercolor notebook from Pentalic for occasional painting, and a Field Notes for jotting down words and assignments in my French class. I also have a HandBook Journal in progress with occasional sketches but I haven’t been using it very often. Here’s a few random recent pages from my Moleskine sketchbook and squared notebooks:

what I am using - 2what I am using - 1what I am using - 3what I am using - 4
I am about to finish my squared Moleskine, so I have to think about what to use next– I have a few other options that I have in a pile as possible daily drivers. Many are softcover and I am not sure if they’ll hold up as well. I do still love my old Moleskines, but I try to force myself to rotate in other brands, if only to extend the lifespan of my stash!

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Notebooks Full of Busy

I haven’t managed to write any posts for a couple of weeks because I’ve been caught up in lots of things going on in the rest of my life. It’s interesting to see how all this played out in the pages of my daily notebook:

  • Several pages of journal entries agonizing about whether or not to pursue a promotion at work
  • Calculations of salary and bonus for new job
  • Notes about how to succeed in new job
  • Sketches of how to rearrange furniture in new office
  • Notes for questions to ask in interviewing new employees
  • List of things I need to learn more about for new job
  • Daily schedule plans for how to get to work earlier every morning and still fit in gym, cooking dinner, and assorted other life activities
  • More lists of ideas for things to accomplish in new job
  • Notes jotted down during various lunches with colleagues and clients
  • Notes jotted down during long weekend road trips to visit family
  • Notes about people I’ve interviewed and more ideas for questions to ask them
  • List of things to do on first weekend in a month where I’ll actually have some free time, such as blog posts!

Strangely, all this was crammed into only about 20 pages, along with some of the other usual things like grocery lists and doodling. Anyway, I’m hoping things settle down soon so I can get back to more regular blogging!

Happy New Year!

New year, new notebook? New planner? New diary? Or just resolutions about how you’ll use your notebook,  journal, or sketchbook in the new year? Tell us your 2016 plans in the comments!

Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy New Year!

Finishing a Couple of Sketchbooks

I’ve had a few sketchbooks in various stages of completion for a couple of years, and I just put two of them to bed. One was a Moleskine sketchbook that I used almost entirely for lunchtime sketches while sitting in parks in NYC– mostly quick pencil sketches, with watercolors added to a few later. After a few months, I ended up taking the sketchbook with me on trips to Arizona and the beach in Delaware. Here’s a few favorite pages:

my sketchbooks3my sketchbooks5my sketchbooks4my sketchbooks6my sketchbooks7my sketchbooks8my sketchbooks9

This other sketchbook, a HandBook Artist Journal, was started on my first trip to Paris. I think I was a bit intimidated by the artistic heritage of Paris, or perhaps by feeling it was a bit of a cliche to sit around sketching in a small notebook in Paris! (At least it wasn’t a Moleskine.) I only used a few pages in Paris,  after which it just became a receptacle for weekend doodles, sketches and collages, most of them pretty lame… it was good to just play around and see what I come up with, but I’m much better at just drawing things that are in front of me.

my sketchbooks12my sketchbooks1my sketchbooks2my sketchbooks11

 

After finishing these, I’ll be on to more of the same! A fresh Moleskine sketchbook, and another half-started HandBook that I first used for a few not very good drawings on trips to Istanbul and Lisbon, and then in Corsica, where all I drew was a few ridiculous caricatures of the people I was traveling with. Now it will be my new weekend doodle and collage book. I’m always trying to force myself to keep drawing and doodling and creating something– anything– even if I’m not always pleased with the results.

Re-Starting a Fizzled-Out Notebook?

A commenter named Thao had this question in response to my post about hoarding notebooks for the future:

“My question for you is how do you repurpose a notebook after its initial use fizzles out? Like projects that never finish or die out and you’ve already devoted 10% of the pages to it. Do you tear those pages out? Do you cover them over? Or can you calmly ignore those pages and continue using the rest of the notebook for a new purpose?”

Great question! I’ve had many notebooks over the years which started out being dedicated to some specific project but then quickly fizzled out. I have sometimes torn out the pages. I have sometimes taped them together so it was easy to flip past and ignore them. If I had written a subject on the front, I just stuck a sticker or label over it. When I was a kid I also repurposed some spiral notebooks by twisting the wires out and then combining some of the pages together and twisting the spiral back in, sometimes even reusing the extra covers to make section dividers.

spring notebooks4

But in other cases, the notebook was just abandoned and sits in one of my many boxes in a still uncompleted state…

How about you, readers?

Labor Day: Notebooks at Work

In honor of Labor Day, let’s talk about notebooks used at work, whether it be in an office, or on a construction site, or in a laboratory, or in a classroom, or wherever and however workers use notebooks.

I had food service jobs in college and didn’t really use notebooks for that, other than to keep track of the shifts I was supposed to work. After graduating, I worked in a bookstore and kept a notebook full of to-do lists and notes about scheduling and procedures. Now, I work for a publishing company, where I use a large notebook constantly to keep track of my to-do list and notes from the many meetings I have to attend. I also use a looseleaf binder to store information I need to refer to regularly–  things like schedules, key contacts, lists of passwords, and lists of account numbers, each of which is protected in a plastic sleeve.

I also keep a lot of spare notebooks at my office– mainly because I am running out of room at home! I have about a dozen Moleskines stashed in a desk drawer, and I also have a large box full of samples at any given time, waiting to be sent out to giveaway winners.

 

How about you? How do you use notebooks at work, and what sorts of notebooks do you keep in your workplace?

My Inventory of Spare Notebooks

As you might imagine, I have a lot of notebooks stashed in various places. I have boxes of them under beds and in cabinets and in drawers. They are at home and at the office. They are pretty much everywhere! Lots of them are old ones that I have used. Lots of them are new ones that I have not used. Because of this blog, I have a number of notebooks that I never intend to use, though I do try to give a lot of those away. But what about the ones that I do intend to use? I had kind of lost track of how many I had squirreled away, so I decided to get a handle on it. Hint: there are a lot!

I am rather anxious about running out of notebooks that meet my criteria for regular daily use. What if they just stop making ones I like? It could happen. And what about Moleskine’s decline in quality? I’ve been so dismayed at the way they make their notebooks now that I’ve been buying up older ones whenever I spot good ones. For a notebook to make the cut as a daily companion, it has to be approximately 3.5 x 5.5″ or smaller, with plain, dot grid or squared paper. It has to feel good to write in, and feel good to hold. I prefer that the cover be plain, but I’m open to variations as long as the overall aesthetics are pleasing. In addition to the “daily use” notebooks, I am also including the kinds of sketchbooks that I tend to use regularly for assorted drawing and painting, which have to be the same size, with sturdy plain paper. (I am not counting larger sketchbooks, which I do sometimes use, but much more rarely, so I don’t stock up on them much.) After going through my various piles, here’s my current inventory of notebooks with potential for daily use and regular sketching:

  • 20 squared hardcover Moleskines
  • 2 plain hardcover Moleskines
  • 15 Moleskine sketchbooks
  • 2 HandBook Artist Journals
  • 36 assorted other hardcover or softcover notebooks from other brands, including Piccadilly, Pen & Ink and others
  • 37 assorted staple-bound or stitched-spine cahier-style notebooks, from brands such as Moleskine, Field Notes, Doane Paper, Calepino, etc.

I was surprised that I only had 2 unused HandBooks left, as I had quite a few of those at one point. But the main thing that struck me after compiling this list is that I need to start using those cahiers more! I tried to use one for household notes like room measurements and furniture measurements at one point, thinking it would be helpful when shopping for some new furniture, but that project sort of fizzled out. I toy with the idea of using these small notebooks for single subjects or projects, or for drawing and doodling. They are lightweight and easy to carry, so I keep thinking I should be using them for listmaking, or for sketching when I don’t want to carry a daily notes notebook plus another hardcover sketchbook. I could even try carrying a few at a time bundled into a Traveler’s Notebook-style cover. I could be stretching out the lifespan of my nice old Moleskines if I used more of these cahiers.

Since I tend to use about 4-6 notebooks a year on average, including sketchbooks, the 75 non-cahier spares I currently have may only last about 12 years, or until I am about 57 years old. God forbid that I run out of good notebooks just a few years before I’m ready to retire!!! And I am very healthy (knock on wood) and have a family history of longevity, so I may need notebooks until I’m in my early to mid 90s. I can’t just say “oh, I’m sure I’ll have enough.” Proper planning is key. If my usage shifted to 2-3 full-size notebooks and 1 cahier a year, I’d be all set for about 30 years, til I’ll be 75. Assuming I keep blogging and paying attention to new notebooks that hit the market, I am likely to add some other acceptable notebooks to my collection during that time, so I may not have a shortfall until I’m even older. It still makes me a little nervous to imagine living out the final years of my life with only inferior notebooks to scribble in… and you always hear horror stories about people’s stuff being stolen when they’re in nursing homes… so I guess I will just have to keep collecting more spare notebooks to get me through!