Help me give my friend a fountain pen!

Posted April 17, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 7 comments »

Given the crowd, this seems like the perfect question to crowdsource: if you were buying a gift for someone you knew liked fountain pens, what pen would you get? Or would you skip the pen as too personal, and just get an assortment of paper and ink?

I would love to find a pen that’s not too expensive, but not entry-level, either; a little unique, a little gifty, and less likely to already be owned (or can you not own too many Lamy Safaris?). I don’t have a firm budget, but something around $50-ish dollars, plus or minus, would be great.

Suggestions warmly appreciated!

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Writing Wednesdays: Fan fic

Posted April 16, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 1 comment »


After noticing the titles on my Kindle the other day, I remembered that I’ve been meaning to blog about Sherlock Holmes — not the books and stories, per se (after all, I’ve already voiced my admiration), but the fanfic.

I first read about this a few months ago, in Emily Nussbaum’s piece on the television show in The New Yorker. It sent me down a happy rabbit hole of Googling, where I discovered site upon site of new stories. Which makes sense — imitation is a time-tested way to learn a craft, and what better way to get over the lack of new material than to create some yourself? I remember enjoying “rewriting” the ending to Ethan Frome in 10th grade, and while I can’t say it’s something I can see myself making time for now, I can believe I’d have fun if I did.

Do you write or read fanfic?

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Planner Spotlight: Hebdo #56

Posted April 15, 2014 by
in Editorial, Product Reviews | 2 comments »


Hebdo means “Weekly” in French, so the name “Hebdo Planning” really means “Weekly Planning.”  The French-English of the name is a nod to our French heritage.  It is an easier name to understand for French Canadians than English-speakers–I didn’t have a clue as to what it signified. It is another quirky Quo Vadis name, like Sapa X, IB Traveler, ABP 1, and Habana. The significance of the number by the name is another mystery, which I hope to crack soon.

It was introduced in the summer of 2012 for use in the 2013 calendar year.  Hebdo is the newest Quo Vadis format, and the only one with monthly planning pages. The introduction of the Hebdo was spurred by the popularity of the Scholar, the same open format only in Academic year (August-July).

The Hebdo offers the freedom to write notes and memos important to each day. This format is perfect for people who write daily notes, but need to see their entire week laid out.

The Hebdo offers one week on two pages.  Each day has a small blank box to note a daily priority.  The left side of the planner has three days, 11 lines in each day for writing; ruled notes space at the bottom of the page. On the right side are four days; Sunday has five lines instead of 11. The week is represented Monday-Sunday, European style.

Hebdo also includes these additional planning features:  Days Passed/Days to Go by each day; Number of the month (1-12), Number of the week (1-52); Colored tab indicating the week (1-52); Monthly planning pages (12); Anno-Planning (year’s planning) two-page spread in the back of the book; Yearly calendars for 2013-2014-2015; and the standard Quo Vadis tear-off corner to get to the week-in-progress fast.

The paper is 90g ultra white, super smooth Clairefontaine paper, so if you like to write with a fountain pen you can do so without bleed thru. If you like to write with a pencil, the paper doesn’t smudge and holds up well to a lot of erasing.  The book lays flat when open, which makes it great for writing.

Hebdo is a compact desk size 6 1/4 x 9 3/8″ or 16 x 24 cm. It is the same size as the Scholar, Minister and Academic Minister, so if you want to make a change to any of these formats you can use the same cover.

Some extras in the Hebdo include – Address book insert; World maps; USA, UK & Australian national and popular holidays; chart of international holidays; 16-page insert of blank notes (can be purchased separately); and 32-page insert “Favorites/Notes” with space for addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, passwords, etc. (purchased separately).

If you would like to “test drive” a 2014 Hebdo, please click here and sign up on this Google spread sheet.  All information is private, and we only keep it until four winners are randomly picked. If you would prefer, you can enter by writing to me at, and putting “Hebdo Test Drive” in the subject line.  The raffle is open until Sunday, April 27.  Good luck!

I welcome comments and feedback by current Hebdo users.  I will links from any blog reviews, or please comment on this post.

Thank you!





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Time Management Mondays: Email in the evening

Posted April 14, 2014 by
in Editorial, Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | 2 comments »

The news has admittedly been overstated, but even if it doesn’t affect all of the country’s workers, I — like much of the Internet — was still interested to read that French employers’ federations and unions recently signed an agreement that obliges staff to “‘disconnect’ from work calls and emails after working hours,” per the Guardian.

I’m lucky enough to be in a profession without round-the-clock connectivity expectations, but I am not immune to the creeping digital brain-drain during times when I’m supposed to be off. Still, with a young child, it’s hard for me not to disconnect while I’m with him. So I carry a smart phone and read email, but generally don’t respond, unless something’s urgent, until normal working hours (or, in limited doses, after he goes to bed). So it’s an intrusion, but a limited one.

Do you feel pressure to answer email in the evenings?

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The Speed of Writing

Posted April 13, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People, Writing as Meditation | 4 comments »


I write faster on a computer keyboard.  I also do a lot more editing. When I use a pencil or fountain pen I write a lot more slowly.  I also do much less editing.

I’ve concluded my writing is more considered and less impulsive when I write by hand vs. the keyword.

What is your experience?



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RIP Rizzoli

Posted April 10, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Pens, Paper & People, Where to Go? | Add your comment »


In this case, it sounds like the 57th Street outpost of art book haven Rizzoli is resting, not actually dead; it’s looking for a new space. And though it’s the sort of bookstore I visit more for gifts and browsing than serious library stocking (expensive art books are an aspirational, not an everyday, purchase for me), I’m still sad to see it go. The space is beautiful, and what better use of a beautiful space than a bookstore with beautiful books? Plus, it sounds like the 109-year-old building is going to be demolished and rebuilt, which is a lesson I guess Americans can’t learn too many times. Another steel and glass tower, anyone?

Aside from that, it’s always sad to see a cultural institution fall prey to rising rents and — I don’t know, do people buy expensive art books online? That seems like the most important type of book to flip through before you buy. But I guess people said the same thing about clothes and shoes, and we all know how that turned out.

The silver lining, if you happen to be near, is that Rizzoli is selling its current stock at 40% off through Friday.

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Writing Wednesdays: Thank-you notes

Posted April 9, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People, Writing as Meditation | 3 comments »

Apparently, thank-you notes are back in fashion, at least according to this piece in New York Times.

For many purposes, like wedding gifts and baby showers, I’d be surprised if they ever weren’t in style; has anyone seriously tried to do that via text message, except perhaps to their dearest friends? I’ll confess that I’ve never been able to manage post-dinner-party thank-you notes, however, in spite of the fact that I’ve received and been grateful for a number of them. One of my friends sends a note after nearly every social engagement, and when it’s my turn to get one, it feels like an extension of the evening.

Do you write thank-you notes?

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Time management Mondays: Just fifteen minutes

Posted April 7, 2014 by
in Editorial, Planning Tips | 2 comments »

In my profession, the productive ideal is to schedule things in meaty blocks of a few hours — enough time to get engrossed in a particular piece of work and have the time to explore it fully.

However, there are days when reality intrudes and meetings and conference calls interrupt those perfect chunks of time. Obviously, I do all I can to fit them into my own schedule (towards the end of a day, say, or just after lunch, before I’ve started my afternoon tasks). Suffice to say that doesn’t always work, and I’ve been thinking recently about what I can do to handle my scheduling nemesis: the thirty minute gap between two meetings, which is often only around 15-20 minutes, if the first meeting runs late.

Back-to-back meetings are their own special challenge, but at least they are an efficient use of time, if not attention span/energy. What I find insidious about the otherwise courteous tactic of leaving a bit of breathing room between meetings is that it’s tough to make truly productive use of the time.

What can you do in fifteen minutes? Read and answer emails is an obvious one, and it’s what I tend to fall back on. Cleaning off my desk is another option, though fifteen minutes is rarely enough to make a dent. Ideally, I would find some way to move forward with the projects that will otherwise require a bit of time — sketching out the contours of a blog post rather than writing it in full, say, or sketching out a few potential solutions to a problem I’ve been working on rather than truly exploring them. But the temptations are obvious: check email, read an article, then procrastinate online until — oh, look, it’s time to dial in again.

How do you deal with fifteen-minute blocks of time?

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Friday review roundup/linkshare

Posted April 4, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | Add your comment »


The bulbs have come up in my garden, so in spite of the gray day, I’m feeling optimistic.

  • “The color is rich. It’s smooth and lasting.” Rhonda reviews J. Herbin’s Lie de thé (and, earlier, the J. Herbin refillable rollerball that she used it in).
  • If you live in or travel to Manhattan, you’ll appreciate this New York Times review of Siobhan Wall’s guide to Quiet New York.
  • Also in New York are Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen; to commemorate the end of their run in No Man’s Land and Waiting For Godot, they donned bowler hats and posed as tourists.
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Custom maps

Posted April 3, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People, Where to Go? | Add your comment »


This falls into the category of things that are way beyond the boundaries of affordability for me, but that, like expensive pieces of art, I can still admire from afar… custom maps.

I found out about Connie Brown of Redstone Studios in one of the New York Times City Room’s “New York Today” updates; she was giving a talk at the NY Public Library, and while I knew I couldn’t attend, I clicked through to her website because, hey, I like maps.

Turns out, she’s been profiled before, both in the Times and the Wall Street Journal, and her maps are indeed amazing. Per the latter:

For one couple, Ms. Brown tracked their journey through China to pick up their adoptive child; for another family, she charted out a relative’s entire life in the style of his favorite antique mapmaker. Ms. Brown also offers customized globes to her clients; one showed the world as it appeared to Europeans in the mid-17th century.

The maps start at around $5,000, which is not exactly at the level of a casual expenditure for most of us, but if I strike it rich one day, I’ll be calling…

You can explore Connie’s maps at her website.

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