Thursday, May 28, 2015

Finding Journal Inspiration

Once upon a time, I wrote in my journal everyday.  But over time, I started to write in it less often.  I started keeping a bullet journal last year in hopes that this would help me to write more, but when this system broke down, I stopped keeping both a planner and a journal.

Since then, I've realized that the journals I used to keep no longer interest me.  In my old journals, I wrote about things that were happening in my daily life and angst-filled reflections on my life in general.  All of this is boring and rather depressing to re-read, and I do not want to keep journals like this anymore.

I missed keeping a regular journal, though, and over the last several months, I've been trying to think of a way I could keep a journal that would be fun to work in, not make me feel guilty if I didn't write in it for a day or a week, and would be interesting to look back on in future years.  I've always loved the idea of keeping a nature journal, but I've never been able to figure out just how I wanted to keep one.

Then, I came across a certain book at a local used book sale.  The book was Edith Holden's Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, and soon after I started reading it I realized that this was exactly the kind of journal that I wanted to keep.

Edith Holden created her Country Diary in 1906 in Olton, Warwickshire.  The Diary is a record of her nature observations throughout the year.  As I see it, it consists of three main parts, which I'm going to discuss in some detail:

  • Dated journal entries - Edith wrote the name of the month at the top of the page and the dates down the left-hand side.  She did not write every day; sometimes as much as a week or more would go by between her entries.  Sometimes she only wrote one sentence; other times, half a page.  Her written entries were mainly brief descriptions of the things that she observed in nature and contained few personal references.
  • Illustrations - Facing the written entries and throughout the Diary were Edith's beautiful illustrations of wildflowers, birds, and insects.  These were undated, but could often be matched to references in her written entries and were nearly always identified with names of the species.
  • Copied poems and quotes - Edith also coped out poems, quotes, and seasonal proverbs into her journal.

This is a typical page spread from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.  Dated journal entries are on the left, with illustrations on the right.  Other page spreads contain illustrations only, or illustrations combined with poems and quotes.

All of these aspects of Edith Holden's Country Diary are exactly what I want to include in my own nature journal:

  • Written journal entries - Write just as much or as little as is appropriate, and don't force myself to stick to a strict schedule.  Minimize the kind of personal details that filled my old journals, and focus on recording interesting observations and events.
  • Drawings and sketches - I am not even close to being the kind of artist that Edith Holden was, but I do want to practice sketching in nature more often.  Doing so will help me to improve my observation skills, and the finished journal will be more interesting to look at than one that contains only text.
  • Poems and quotes - I have long collected these in my commonplace books (which I will write about in a future post), but I like the idea of including my favourites in my journal as well.  It will be a good option for those days when I don't have anything to write about, and it may also provide a good opportunity to practice calligraphy - something I have long wanted to do.

Thanks to Edith Holden and her diary from over a hundred years ago, I feel excited about keeping a journal again and I hope that one day I'll be able to share some pages from my nature journal with you.  (If you're interested, you can also read my review of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.)

Have you ever been inspired by someone else's journal?  And do you keep a nature journal?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eraser Review: Staedtler Rasoplast Combi

Staedtler makes one of my favourite erasers, the Mars Plastic, but they also make the Rasoplast.  The Rasoplast, like the Mars Plastic, comes in both a standard version and a "Combi" version, which is an eraser that includes a white end for erasing pencil and a blue end for erasing ink.

The white end has the familiar soft, flexible feel of most erasers, while the blue end is harder and has a rougher texture.  The eraser is imprinted over its entire length with the Staedtler logo; this is a touch I love on Staedtler erasers.  With the sleeve off, you can see that the white part of the eraser is larger than the blue part.

I was curious to see how the pencil eraser end of the Rasoplast would compare to the Mars Plastic, Staedtler's "premium quality" eraser.  To begin with, the Rasoplast feels firmer than the Mars Plastic, but its texture is just as soft.  When I compared erasing ability side by side with 2H, HB, 2B, and 6B Tombow Mono pencils, the Mars Plastic erased noticeably better than the Rasoplast for all the pencil grades.  (The Mars Plastic appears to have smeared more, but that might just be because my Mars Plastic has worn down more and has no fine corners left to erase with as my Rasoplast does.)  For ordinary writing purposes, the Rasoplast would probably be okay, but I don't know why anyone would choose it over the Mars Plastic, especially since the prices seem to be comparable.

What about the ink eraser end of the Rasoplast Combi?  Here, things get a bit more confusing.  I've owned a few combination-type erasers in the past, and I've always assumed that the blue part was for erasing pen on paper (even though they never seemed to work very well for that).  The Staedtler website even confirms this, with the page for the Rasoplast Combi stating that the "blue part of [the] eraser [is] for ink on paper."  However, a quick test with different types of pens on ordinary copy paper shows that this simply does not work.  The eraser made the gel pen ink look a bit fainter, but otherwise it had absolutely no effect.

This is not what the blue end of the eraser is for!

Out of curiosity, I turned to Staedtler's page for the Mars Plastic Combi eraser.  Here, we get a different story: the "blue part of [the] eraser [is] for India ink on transparent paper (vellum) and matt drafting film."  This was starting to sound a bit out of my league, but Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens are supposed to contain India ink, and I do own a few pieces of vellum-type paper that were part of a package of scrapbooking paper I bought many years ago.  So I decided to test the Rasoplast with this combination.

Success!  Sort of.  It didn't erase perfectly, but I'm not sure if that's because it's just not a great eraser, or because my supplies were still not quite the ones it was meant to be used with.  I did notice that erasing the ink took a bit more effort and time than erasing pencil on paper.  Also, the eraser left a slight whitish mark on the vellum paper.

Overall, the Staedtler Rasoplast is an okay eraser, but Staedtler Mars Plastic is a better one.  And do not be fooled by the Combi versions of either eraser (no matter what Staedtler tries to tell you); you will be very disappointed if you try to erase normal pens with them.  I don't think that many people would need to erase India ink on vellum or drafting film, but if you're one of those people, I would love to hear from you about how you use erasers that way, and if the Rasoplast is actually any good for this or not.

Reviews elsewhere: Dave's Mechanical Pencils (pencil eraser only).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Follow-up: Binder Clips and Loose-leaf Rings

I received some questions on my last post, so I thought a follow-up post was needed so I could illustrate some of the things I mentioned only briefly last time.
First, binder clips as stands...

I'm sure there are many ways you could do this.  It's not something I do very often, but when I do, I use what seems to me to be the simplest method: two binder clips of equal size clipped as shown in the above photo.  This is probably best for lightweight objects, such as cards (as is shown in the photo), or maybe a pocket notebook (it works for my Field Notes, for example).  Search on Google and you'll find many examples of how to create binder clip stands for smart phones, tablets, etc. (here's one).  Just experiment with different combinations of binder clips and you'll probably come up with something that works for you.

And if you need further proof that binder clips are awesome, here's a post that lists 54 uses for them (some more serious than others!).

Finally, loose leaf rings - these may not be as familiar as binder clips, so I thought it might be useful to show a photo of what they look like in action.  Simply thread them through the holes of your papers and you have a very simple form of binding.  To hold together 8½ x 11-inch papers, you really only need two rings - one for the top hole and one for the bottom - but I usually use three anyway, just because I can.  To hold together index cards, you only need one ring, and holes punched in the top corners of the cards.

Do you use binder clips or loose-leaf rings?  How do you use them?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My Favourite Office Supplies

I have previously written posts on my favourite supplies for writing and for art journaling, and now I would like to use this post to highlight some of my other favourite supplies that are not pens, pencils, or paper.  Some of these are familiar office supplies that most of you probably own, while others are a bit more obscure.

  • Hole punch - In high school I owned a cheap hole punch that attached to the rings of my binder and only punched 2 sheets of paper at a time.  It was painful to use it if I had a large amount of papers to punch, so in university I bought myself a real hole punch (mine's from Swingline) and I am honestly not kidding when I say that it was one of the best purchases I made in my university years.  This hole punch made my life better by saving me time and relieving a lot of unnecessary stress on my hand (from punching holes with my cheap hole punch).  And I always found it fun to use as well.  I don't need to punch holes in too many papers these days, but my Swingline hole punch is still one of my essential supplies.
  • Stapler - This was another essential from high school and university, as almost every assignment I completed needed to be printed out and stapled together.  The stapler I used in those years was my pocket-sized Swingline stapler.  This stapler is comfortable to use, small enough to fit in most pencil cases, capable of stapling almost anything that a large stapler can, and it incorporates both a staple remover and a space to store extra staples.
  • Loose-leaf rings - No one ever mentions these, but I have used them for years and I love them.  I mainly use them as a form of simple, temporary binding to hold together 8½ x 11-inch pieces of scrap paper for writing rough drafts and lists.  I've also used them to hold together stacks of flash cards.
  • Binder clips - I only discovered binder clips in the last few years, but I love them as well.  They're much better than traditional paper clips as they can clip together much thicker stacks of paper.  I mainly use them to hold together small pieces of scrap paper to form rough notepads, but I've also used them to hold notebook pages open, as clamps to hold together things that are being glued, or as simple stands.  If you're bored, you can also make sculptures out of them (see below).
  • Graphing calculator - This was a requirement for my high school math class many years ago, but I still use it several times a week today.  While I usually don't need to draw graphs (although, being the geek that I am, sometimes I make graphs just for fun) or use the advanced functions anymore, it's still my favourite calculator to use.  It has a large screen that shows every number and operation you enter, so you can easily see exactly what you're calculating.  (If you're curious, my graphing calculator is a Texas Instruments TI-83+; it's quite old so I assume that much newer versions are now available.)

What are your favourite office supplies?  Do they include any less conventional items?  And does anyone other than me still use a calculator regularly?

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...).
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