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!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of A Penchant for Paper 2014

Here my top 10 blog posts of the year, the posts that I think express the best of A Penchant for Paper and what this blog is about.  While this wasn't my best year of blogging, I celebrated the 5-year anniversary of this blog this year and published several posts that I think I will be proud of for years to come.

  1. 10 Ways to Use Your Pens and Write by Hand More Often - This was a post that I was thinking about writing for literally years.  I was excited and proud of myself for finally getting it done and published!
  2. Minimalist Travel Kit - The basic supplies that I bring with me while travelling.
  3. Favourite Supplies for Writing - Just what the title says.  It's a short list, though, as I believe the emphasis should be on the act of writing rather than on the tools I use.
  4. Update: My 2014 DIY Planner / Bullet Journal - This got me excited about planning and productivity through the first half of the year, although I'm no longer using this system now.
  5. A Collage a Week in 2014 - This was my main creative project this year.  I've enjoyed it, even though I've been very behind with it in the last few months.  And, for those of you who've asked to see more of my collages, I will be doing a follow-up post on this in January.
  6. Recent Acquisitions: A Bit of Vintage - This post might represent the beginning of a new facet of this blog, as I would like to collect more vintage office supplies and related items (and blog about them).  We'll just have to see what happens in 2015...
  7. Rhodia Ice - I always enjoy reviewing Rhodia products, because their paper is always so enjoyable to use.  However, the white colour of this pad made it difficult to photograph!
  8. Pencil Review: Tombow MONO Drawing Pencil Set - This was a fun review as I got to fill a page spread in my sketchbook with sketches using the different pencils (the most sketching I did all year).
  9. My Favourite Fountain Pen Inks - I enjoyed trying different fountain pen ink samples in 2013 and 2014 and this post sums up my favourites.  I need to try out more inks...
  10. Shades of Tan - I loved the colours of this post, and I always enjoy compiling my "shades of" posts.

And the most popular posts of the year were:
  1. 10 Ways to Use Your Pens and Write By Hand More Often
  2. My Greatest Productivity Challenge
  3. Update: My 2014 DIY Planner / Bullet Journal
  4. My Favourite Fountain Pen Inks
  5. Favourite Supplies for Writing
  6. Minimalist Travel Kit
  7. How Do You Clip Your Pens?
  8. January 2014 Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper
  9. Shades of Aqua
  10. Pencil Review: Faber-Castell PITT Charcoal Pencil

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 of 2014

2014 is almost over and that means it's time for my yearly top ten list - the list of the items that I used and enjoyed the most throughout the year.  I can hardly believe that this is the fifth year I've compiled this list!  It feels like such a short time ago that I thought of it for the first time.  (Click on the links to go back to the original reviews.)

  1. Pentel EnerGel Euro 0.35mm Black - I've used this pen for a while but I was reminded this year of how much I love it.  I think this may even be my Favourite Pen Ever, since it writes so smoothly with such a fine, crisp, dark line; it's pretty much perfection.
  2. Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser - Surprised to see an eraser so high on the list?  I didn't do as much writing by hand this year as I have in other years, but I have been doing a lot of kakuro and logic puzzles lately, so this eraser has come in handy.  It's just a great, dependable eraser.  And kakuro puzzles are the best, by the way; they're much more fun than sudoku.
  3. Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.5mm mechanical pencil - This goes along with the eraser as I always use a mechanical pencil to solve puzzles.  I still have some mixed feelings about this pencil (as I described in my review), but it always feels good in my hand and I feel happy using it.
  4. My DIY planner/bullet journal in my Rhodia Webnotebook - This was my main planning tool for over half the year.  As I've described before, my system did fall apart during the summer, but I loved using it before that happened and I found it to be to be a simple and satisfying way to keep a planner and journal.  As for the Rhodia Webnotebook, I still think it's the best notebook ever and it's appeared on all of my top 10 lists so far.
  5. Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrün fountain pen ink - Currently my favourite ink.  I have no problems with how this ink writes and the colour is perfect for me, although I still don't own a full bottle...
  6. Tombow MONO drawing pencils - I love these pencils.  The HB and B grades have my perfect combination of relatively hard yet dark lead.  And they're great for practicing my much-neglected drawing skills.
  7. UHU Stic glue stick - This may seem like an odd addition to my top ten list, but as I've mentioned before, my main creative project this year has been creating a collage for every week, so I've been using these glue sticks a lot.  UHU has been my favourite brand of glue stick since just about forever.
  8. Pentel Fluorescent Marker - I also used highlighters more often this year, as this was the year when I discovered just how useful they can be.  The Pentel Fluorescent Marker is my current favourite; I love its slim body and the fine, crisp, bright line of ink it lays down.  Unfortunately, these highlighters do not seem to be very widely available, so I might have to start looking for a replacement.
  9. Rhodia Ice - I've long loved Rhodia pads, and I was very happy with this year's offering of the Rhodia Ice.  I still think that I prefer the orange covers, but I can't resist the Ice's cool beauty, and I do prefer its grey grid lines rather than the violet lines of the standard editions.
  10. Sharpie Metallic Permanent Marker (review upcoming) - Another odd addition to this list, the metallic Sharpie marker (in silver) was another item I used a lot in my weekly collages.  Also, I feel like I've been searching for the perfect metallic pen or marker for most of my life, and this may finally be it.

That's all for this year!  What were your favourite products of 2014?  Did any of your favourites appear on my list?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Recent Acquisitions: A Bit of Vintage

I don't consider myself a collector of vintage or antique items, but I love looking at older items and wondering about where they have been and who has used them over the years.  To me, older items usually seem to have more personality than newer items.  And occasionally, a few of these items do end up in my possession, and here are a few that I have acquired recently.

Address book ("with the compliments of R.O. Roberts & Sons, Holland Arms Garage, Anglesey, Tel. Gaerwen 240"), and staple-bound notepad from Swift's Premium.

Address book - I usually don't find address books very interesting, but this one is intriguing because it comes from Anglesey, which is in Wales, and therefore has travelled quite a way to arrive here in western Canada.  There is only one address written in the book, that of a hotel in London, and a loose address in Calgary, Canada slipped inside the front cover.  I'm guessing that this book was probably picked up by someone from Canada travelling in England and Wales.

Staple-bound notepad - This notepad is from Swift's Premium ("...the two most trusted words in meat"), and I was rather startled and amused when I opened it to discover my own name.  "Heather," someone had written on the first page, "is wearing a white rayon/polyester blouse and blue denim skirt made of 100% cotton for the casual hot afternoon shopping trip."  The next page contains a brief recipe for rhubarb jam (dated May 22, 1974), and then several pages of notes that appear to be related to printing.

Two children's get well cards: "A Spinning Satellite to Speed Your Recovery" and "A Pet Show to help you get Well."

Greeting cards - These are both get well cards for children.  They're interesting because they're not just cards, but each include a small activity or game as well.  One includes a "spinning satellite", a small plastic disk that can be removed from the card and attached to a piece of string for spinning ("Launching Instructions" are on the back).  The other card includes a pet show with illustrations of several different pets, a space for the child to insert a photo or sketch of his or her own pet, and 1st and 2nd prize paper ribbons that can be punched out of the card and inserted in the desired slot.  Neither card has been used.

Tin from Imperial Mfg. Co., with General's Kimberly pencil for scale.

Tin - This tin is from the Imperial Mfg. Co. ("makers of typewriter ribbons and carbon papers for railroad and commercial use"), from Newark, N.J., U.S.A.  The other side of the tin (too dark to see in the above photo) informs me that the "ribbons and carbon papers are not affected by the atmosphere."  This tin is probably my favourite of all the items in this post (it's even my favourite colour) and I would love to learn more about it.

As I said, I don't really consider myself a collector yet (except of pencils), but I love all of these items and wouldn't mind acquiring a few more similar things if the opportunity arises.  Do you collect any vintage or antique items?
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