Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Miscellany: I'm Back With Links

After all the silence here over the past couple of months, you were probably starting to think that I'd given up on blogging.  I don't have a good excuse for my absence, so I'm not going to try to give you one.  Right now, I just want to focus on getting things back on track, as I've been neglecting a lot of things in my life lately, not just this blog.

Many of these links have a productivity focus, as I hope to encourage myself to start making some changes.
  • I love this idea of a projects notebook (I also love how clean and simple all of the pages in it look).  I've started a projects notebook for this year, and if I ever get around to actually working on my projects, I'll share it with you.
  • This post on scheduling your time (including, most importantly, scheduling time to plan and update your schedule) is worth a read.  As a chronic procrastinator, I've found that having lots of structure and plans in place is most helpful for me in getting things done.
  • Here's a pair of reviews of the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball, from Gourmet Pens and From the Pen Cup.  I've long had my eye on this pen but the reviews have always been so mixed that I've been unsure whether I should try it or not.  These reviews make me think that I should!
  • Ana shows off her personal-sized Filofax planner.  I love looking inside people's planners, especially since I still haven't been using one since my planner fail last year.  And hers is such a lovely colour as well.
  • Here's a post on why you should carry a pocket notebook.  I've never had much use for pocket notebooks myself, but this post may help to change my mind.  I particularly like the idea of the micro journal, since I mostly gave up my regular written journal last year.
  • Laurie has some suggestions on how to use planners for non-planning purposes.  I hope to get back to keeping some sort of planner and/or journal one day, so I'm going to keep these ideas in mind.  I particularly like the idea of using my planner to track changes in the natural world (phenology).
  • Jinnie writes about how her journaling habit has changed, and how she uses Hobonichi and Field Notes as part of it.  I love this post (and Jinnie's blog as a whole is one of my new favourites), and it's giving me more ideas for my future journal...
  • I love Daisy Yellow's post on how she organizes her paper stash.  I love paper scraps and ephemera, even though I have hoarded way too many of them!
  • The Pen Addict writes about he changed the way he wrote his number 4.  I like this post, because once, many years ago, I changed the way I wrote my 2, and it's nice to hear that other people do things like that as well.
  • Finally, Todd writes an ode to the mechanical pencil.  I was very happy to see this, because I love mechanical pencils and have used them for longer than I have used any other writing tool.  (And I've also had similar experiences with the science and math classes, except for me it would have been physics rather than chemistry...).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pen Review: Uni Laknock Ballpoint

I've been reviewing pens long enough that it's relatively uncommon for me to come across a pen in my daily life that I haven't heard of before, even if I haven't used it before.  So I was intrigued and mildly shocked when I encountered the Uni Laknock ballpoint the other day.  A pen I'd never heard of before?  Even though it was only a ballpoint, I was eager to try it out.

The Laknock is a fairly decent ballpoint pen.  Although it has a standard and unremarkable body and appearance, its grip is one of the better ones I've come across - long enough for both my fingers and thumb to be able to grip it and just the right combination of softness and firmness.

And while the Laknock doesn't offer the most amazing writing experience I've ever had, it writes relatively smoothly for a ballpoint and - best of all - doesn't leave globs of ink on the page.  I hate ink globs, and a lack of them is probably the most important thing that I look for in ballpoints.  The Laknock also seems to me to write with slightly blacker ink that that of other ballpoints I've used.  No ballpoint ink is going to be as black as that of a gel pen or liquid ink pen, but this one is not bad.

Overall, I'd say the Uni Laknock is a good solid ballpoint.  It feels trustworthy and dependable.  Definitely not an amazing pen, but one that I feel quite pleased with nonetheless.  If you need a decent basic pen for the school or office, this is one to consider.  Also, it gets bonus points from me for having a weird name and being a pen I'd never heard of before.

Other review: Pocket Blonde (0.7mm version).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Weekly Creative Projects: 2014 Collages & 2015 Mandalas

Last year (2014) I set myself the task of completing one collage for every week of the year.  I wanted both to explore the medium of collage more deeply and also to see if I could actually complete the project.

A handful of my weekly collages from 2014.

Well, I was successful.  While I did fall far behind in October and November, in the last few weeks of the year I was able to get caught up fairly easily with only a few collage-creating sessions.  And now that my year of collage is a couple of months behind me, I'm very happy with the collages that I created.  I feel that I have established my own style of collage, rather than simply copying what I have seen others do.  Although a while back I thought I was done with collage, last year reminded me that selecting, cutting, and gluing papers are activities that I will probably always love.

Two of my 2014 weekly collages, "Lost" and "Deepen World", created with old maps, scrapbooking paper, magazine cut-outs, stickers, and even an old collage that I incorporated into the new one.

Since I was successful with my collage challenge in 2014, I decided to adopt a new challenge for 2015 - I will draw a mandala on an index card for every week of the year.  I used to draw mandalas fairly often, but I've neglected them in recent years, so I think it's time to get back to them.  Why index cards?  Well, mostly because they're a convenient small size and I have stacks of them that I wasn't using otherwise.  I hope that this project will also help me to use up some of my old pens (though my collage project was not very helpful in using up my stacks of paper scraps!).

A few of my first weekly collages from 2015.

So far, I've loved drawing mandalas again, and I think that it may be an easier project to stay caught up with than the collages.  The most time-consuming part of creating the collages was sorting through my paper scraps to find ones that I wanted to use, which I won't need to do anymore.  I've placed all the pens that I plan to use (including Gelly Rolls, Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, Sharpies, and many more) in one box so it's very simple for me to sit down and start creating a mandala right away.

Collage in progress.

I've been staying about a week ahead with my mandalas, which is good, as I'm sure I'll fall behind as the year goes by.

Have you ever done or considered a weekly or daily project like this?  If so, what was it?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Notebook Review: Decomposition Book

Using products made from recycled materials (when possible) is important to me, so when I was given this Decomposition Book notebook for Christmas, I was excited to try it out.  The Decomposition Book is made in the USA of 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper and is printed with soy ink.  The name is obviously based on the fact that it's a composition-style notebook made out of recycled paper.

Different cover designs are available, and the Decomposition Book is also available in spiral-bound and pocket-sized versions (see them all here).  Most are lined (as is mine), but there does appear to be a few blank and grid options as well.  My Decomposition Book is the "Spirit Animal" design, which features a woodland scene and various animals printed in green ink.  The front cover also has a space for you to write the subject of the notebook.

The covers are simply made of cardboard with rounded corners, making the notebook flexible but relatively sturdy.  The front cover is noticeably curved upward in the middle; I hope that it will flatten out over time, but for now it's rather annoying.  Also, because of how the book is bound, there is an obvious gap in the middle of the pages (if you know of the technical term for this kind of binding, please let me know).

My favourite part of the Decomposition Book is the inside covers, as they are covered with a number of interesting and rather random illustrations, including facts about the Great Sphinx, the planets of the solar system represented as islands, and a map of the Mississippi River, among others.  There's also some information about the benefits of recycled paper and a space for you to write your name and contact information..  Don't be fooled by the apparent rulers on the inside covers; they do seem to match up with centimetres and inches, respectively, but the numbers don't mean anything!  ("The numbers on this ruler have me baffled," reads the artist's message.)

The Decomposition Book contains 160 pages (80 sheets) of college-ruled paper (blank and grid versions are also available).  The paper is ruled with blue lines and red line for the left-hand margin.  No weight is given for the paper but it feels relatively thin and light.  Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the pen test was disappointing, as many of the pens I tested bled through the paper.  The worst offenders were the fountain pens and inks, which bled and feathered like crazy, and generally looked like an inky mess.  This paper is obviously not fountain-pen-friendly, and I'd also suggest steering clear of any liquid ink pens (most of these bled through a bit) and using caution with felt-tip pens (some bled, some didn't).  You should be safe with gel pens and ballpoints.  And pencils, of course.

Front and back of the pen test page.  Click to view larger.

Overall, I love that the Decomposition Book is made of 100% recycled paper and I enjoy its quirky design and illustrations.  I know that many people have issues with recycled paper, so I wasn't expecting it to be amazing, but I was hoping that the paper would have performed better than it did.  I'm not a big fan of composition-style notebooks in general, so I'm not sure what I'll end up using this notebook for, especially since I won't be able to use all of my favourite pens in it.  I probably wouldn't recommend this notebook in most situations, but if you use mainly gel pens, ballpoints, and pencils, and you love composition notebooks and recycled materials, then you may want to consider giving the Decomposition Book a try.

Other review: OfficeSupplyGeek.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December Miscellany: Erasers, Notepads, Setting Goals

Welcome to the last miscellany post of 2014!  For me, the end of the year is a quiet time to reflect on the year that has passed and make plans for the year to come, so I'm keeping this miscellany fairly short and including a couple of links at the end to help you plan for 2015.

Thanks so much for reading my blog this year, and I'll see you in 2015!  Happy new year to you!
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