Year End Wrap-up

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I did it, I managed to reach my goal to post a blog every week in 2017. I have a much greater appreciation of those bloggers who can do it daily.

It has been interesting to learn more about blogging and I appreciate my supportive friends and family. I am also intrigued by those managed to stumble across my obscure blog. I now have two dozen followers and have had over 200 visitors to my site from countries around the world including:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Venezuela

A real inspiration for me was reading James Ward’s book, The Perfection of the Paperclip, (margretputspentopaper.wordpress.com/blog/page/5/) with his focus on the history of stationery items. I liked doing that kind of background research more than just doing product reviews. There are others who do reviews much better than I do. I also liked getting suggestions from readers on products and topics to write about. I haven’t followed up on all of them yet but it is flattering people want to hear my perspective.

Photography was a challenge for me as I found stationery supplies don’t lend themselves well to getting interesting shots. I big mistake I made was when I deleted my photos from WordPress and the had to upload them all again.

I don’t know if I will keep up the weekly posts, especially if I am away on holidays or injured as I have been for the last few weeks, but I do want to continue with the blog and hopefully improve my skills. I still have lots to learn about blogging and have topics I want to explore.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and I hope you continue to check in with Margret Puts Pen to Paper. Have a wonderful 2018!

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Christmas Cards

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What with today being Christmas Eve, I felt I had to do a Christmas related blog. The first thing that came to mind was Christmas cards. When I was a child, my parents received so many that we decorated the living room with garlands of them while I only get a few each year and send out less than ten. Still, it is not a tradition that has died out entirely and while most people (myself included) send commercially made cards, I have been known to make my own. My results with this are generally pretty amateurish (see snowman card below) but last year I signed up for a workshop called Stamp-a-Stack with a former colleague, Rhonda Vague, who is a Stampin’ Up representative in her spare time.

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Rhonda is very talented and comes up with all of her own designs. She does a lot of the prep work for the cards ahead of time. At the session you are given a package with all the paper you need and then you use her stamps, embossers, and punches to assemble the cards according to her instructions. It is all quite ingeniously planned so that you feel like you have made them yourself even though the creativity is all hers. I am not an experienced paper crafter so I only barely had time to complete the basics during the workshop and then had to do a lot of the assembly at home. These are by far the most beautiful cards I have ever sent out.

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Because of my skill level it is possible to tell they are hand made but they have none of the originality or charm of either my sister’s homemade cards have or my daughter Alison’s. Below are some that Alison made this year.

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I don’t think Christmas cards are people. Rather they are jolly elves that remind you about those you care about, both when you are sending and receiving. Have a very merry Christmas everyone!

Quo Vadis Hebdo Planner

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Back in October, I won a Quo Vadis Rose Grenadine planner from the people at Exaclair. They have a quite a good corporate blog (quovadisblog.com/) that often features giveaways. This particular giveaway was in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month. This was especially meaningful to me as I have a good friend who has been battling this terrible disease this year.

The planner I got was the Quo Vadis Hebdo 12 – Month Weekly Planner (Jan 2018 – Dec 2018). Hebdo means weekly in French, which confused me at first as “week” is “la semaine” but an English speaker can hardly criticize another language for being inconsistent. It made me realize Charlie Hebdo, the Paris satirical newspaper attacked by terrorists in January 2015, was called Hebdo because it came out weekly.

Back to this particular planner. It is 16 cm (6 ¼“) wide by 24 cm (9 ⅜”) high with a lovely pink cover they call rose. The cover is removable so only the calendar needs to be replaced each year and there are a lot of calendars in this planner.

It starts with a two-page spread that shows all of 2018 at a glance. There is another calendar with the same style of layout for 2019 in the back.

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Next it has single pages with the months at a glance before getting to the main part of the planner which shows a week over two pages. This format is very similar to a style I used to have at work before we were encouraged to just use Outlook. While I have gotten used to it over the past ten years, there are definitely drawbacks to this. First of all, as I don’t have access to my work email outside of work, I have to write myself lots of little notes to keep track of things that overlap between my personal and work life. I have a wall calendar in the kitchen but that doesn’t leave much space for writing details. I am looking forward to giving this type of planner a try.

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Like all Quo Vadis products, the paper is excellent quality made from sustainably managed forests. It is very smooth with nice green numbers and font with subtle grey lines. While the smoothness of the paper makes it lovely to write on, it does mean there is some smudging with fountain pen use. Each week is marked both at top right and with a little arrow that travels down the page so you can slightly see it in green along the edge when it is closed. The bottom corners tear off as you go so it will be easy to find the current week. All the days are numbered so you know just where you are in the year. It almost seems like an excessive measuring of time.

Nice extras are the phases of the moon, world maps, and international holidays. You never know when that might come in handy. There is also a separate booklet in the back for addresses and notes.

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If this planner were a person, she would be a highly organized international traveler with a love of quality and an environmental conscience.

Pilot Gold and Silver Paint Markers

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Tis the season for a little extra sparkle so I thought I would try the Japanese-made Pilot Gold and Silver Paint Markers. I bought these locally for just over $8 CDN for the set of two. These really are like paint, not ink. You need to shake them vigorously before using like you would a spray paint can and you even hear the same kind of clatter. The package has very specific instructions to that you must follow. Helpfully, these instructions are also summarized on the back of the pens themselves. They really do need to be shaken and tried out on a bit of scrap paper before you start writing. I had a couple of mis-starts but when I followed the steps they write well with a nice metallic sheen. The paint dries almost immediately; I only had some slight smudging with the silver pen. 

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After trying them on my regular notepaper, I wondered how they would work on something different so I pulled out my Canson sample book and tried the Ingres black paper. Ingres paper is a type of  fairly heavy drawing paper with a slight woven texture (this texture is officially called a laid mesh). The sample book only has black, but it says that it comes in seven other colours. The metallic sheen of the pens pops even better on the black paper.

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These pens are called “extra fine” but that description is not particularly helpful as compared to a regular pen the line is fairly thick. The package also says that they mark permanently on a variety of surfaces but so far I have only tried them out on paper.

Overall, I like these markers. They are definitely a novelty pen but they do add some nice shine to the page.

If these pens were people they be fun-timers and love a noisy, festive party. 

The Idiot

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I recently finished reading The Idiot by Elif Batuman. I had previously read her memoir of her graduate studies in Russian literature, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, a thoroughly enjoyable and unusual book so I was looking forward to her first novel. While The Idiot isn’t quite as good as The Possessed, it had many chuckle out loud parts and enough references to writing and writing tools I thought I could discuss the book based on those topics alone.

The protagonist of The Idiot is a first-year university student called Selin. As she wants to be a writer, she spends a fair bit of time writing in her journal so naturally she has an appreciation of good paper. “The mall had a Japanese stationery store, where I bought a new spiral notebook. It had the most supple and creamy paper, and a pink cover decorated with a maroon anthropomorphic bean. The bean had one hand on its hip, and was waving with the other hand. It was a marvelous notebook.” (p. 414) To me, this just sums up the best of Japanese stationery, great paper and the quirkiness of the illustrations.

Early on in the novel, Selin volunteers to be a tutor in a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Her description of the dismal classroom concludes with: “On the table were a sign-in sheet, a dead spider plant, and a dead spider. On a shelf in the closet lay a stack of marbled composition notebooks and a box of unsharpened Ticonderoga pencils.” (p. 63) Hardly the most inspiring supplies but I can just picture it.

As the book takes place in the early 1990s, email was still a new and unfamiliar thing. Selin marvels over the strangeness of being able to see both sides of the correspondence. “Always there, unchanged, in a configuration nobody else could see, was a glowing list of messages from all the people you knew, and from people you didn’t know, all in the same letters, like the universal handwriting of thought or of the world. Some messages were formally epistolary, with “Dear” and “Sincerely”; others telegraphic, all in lowercase with missing punctuation, like they were being beamed straight from people’s brains. And each message contained the one that had come before, so your own words came back to you – all the words you threw out, they came back. It was like the story of your relations with others, the story of the intersection of our life with other lives, was constantly being recorded and updated, and you could check it at any time.” (p.4)

I hadn’t really thought about how with traditional letter writing you don’t usually have a copy of your original correspondence (unless of course you used carbon paper). Even emails that are more like conversations than letters, it is odd to have them transcribed and to be able to re-read them. She is wrong about email always being there though. I have no idea what became of old emails I wrote with service providers now long gone. Maybe with cloud storage email is becoming less ephemeral.

Overall, I would recommend this book even though, true to her age, Selin could be a bit tiresome and the ending was not entirely satisfactory.