Stationery: Bullet journaling

Stationery:

Bullet journaling

Since late last year I fell victim to the bullet journal craze. I am easily swayed by trends, as we all know, but this time I was actively looking for a system that would bring back pens and notebooks into daily use.

Before the bullet journal I used to have a scattered system all centered around the regular journal (a classic hard cover Moleskine) where I wrote very infrequently in the past few years, when I needed to know what I thought and felt about something, or tried to deal with a situation. Besides that, I had a special notebook for each novel (a Moleskine Cahier) where I drew diagrams and explained characters, inspirations, etc.

For several years I’ve also had my Filofax for daily tasks and lists, but it has been a little frustrating with its small size (I think in Filofax terminology it is “personal” size) and the rings making writing a bit cumbersome. I always felt restricted by the Filofax, although enjoyed the feel of its soft leather cover in my hand, its paper bulkiness and the ease of leafing through. I still keep it permanently next to me on my table, even though I rarely touch it. Another, larger ring planner I own (the red one here), gets very little use because those rings are just uncomfortable.

My new system combines the journal and the organizer in one notebook. I started using a Markings by CR Gibson notebook. which is kind of a classic Moleskine dupe, for everything from daily tasks, ideas, story developments, random personal thoughts, dinner party planning, trip packing, everything. At the end I keep lists of books read, thrift store purchases, story ideas, sewing projects and so on. I call this a bullet journal, but I don’t follow any bullet journal notations or anything. I do embellish it by drawing flora and using special lettering for parts of it. I expect it to last me about a year, maybe slightly less. I still keep a separate notebook for the novel I am working on and a separate dream journal.

It is really a joy to have everything in one place, and treat it less seriously than I used to with my regular journal (which I wanted to be the container of only very deep and universal thoughts—I know, I’m rolling my eyes too!). This is just life with everything it carries. It’s a much more relaxed approach and fits my style well.

Because the cover of my inferior notebook was peeling off and looking unsightly, I made a removable leather cover for it. Very excited about that feat! I had actually thrifted this cover some time ago, but it was brown and way too big, so I had to modify it. I cut it down and sewed it back on, dyed it black and in the process I also added two pen loops, which are visible in that first picture. Never want to let it out of my hand now. The thought of being able to use this cover for years, with different notebooks, is particularly comforting too.

Speaking of pen loops, I have discovered that I need at least two pens to use concomitantly: one for writing and one for drawing. For writing I use now 0.4 or even finer point gel pens. My favorites are the capped ones, not the retractable. Most often I’ll pick up the Muji 0.38 gel ink ball point and the Pilot High Tech-C Maica 0.4 point. I can’t express in words the pleasure of writing with these pens: my brain feeds on it like it’s sugar. I now even flesh out stories on paper, and my writing is often better than on the computer, although I sometimes feel the frustration of not being able to write fast enough to keep the pace of my thoughts. In the end, probably a good thing, because by the time it hits the paper, the idea had time to be edited and become more clear.

For doodling right now I am using a Pentel Sign pen, which has a somewhat flexible felt tip that can create variation of line thickness. It works fine. In the future I am planning to get a Tombow Dual Brush Pen so that I have more options in just one pen loop. I know!

I know a lot of people find stationary irresistible. An article I read recently talked about how humans have found ways and tools to extend their brains—maybe this is why pens and paper have such wide appeal, who of us cannot use a few extensions to our brains? I know I can (and badly need it too).

Checking in: Snow day



Another snow day. I heard yesterday on the radio that historically in our area we get the most snow of the winter in the first two weeks of February. Right. So, it’s not over. This winter has been relentless.

But a snow day is not a bad time to write a blog post over here with updates.

It has been a rough start of the year. Cold aside. My grandmother passed away last week and I want to share about what she meant to me but I’m not able to just yet. I’m still frozen.

This year. I don’t know what else it’s going to bring. Several of my closest friends are going through hellish situations that have accelerated in the new year, and it just makes me feel so anxious about life. Life after forty. Why are we so unprepared for getting old? You feel like you’ve known all along but then when it happens, you’re at a loss: it’s not what you thought. Might it be that our culture doesn’t prepare us for it in any way? Why are all the books only about young people? When did you last read a novel where the main character is in their fifties? A woman in her fifties?

I’ve been working a lot on new stories and new submissions. I am still behind schedule with everything. My plan is to get three short stories published, then go back to the novel and do some final edits before starting to submit again. I’m almost there. One more story to go.

I never thought I’d become a short story writer, but I’m enjoying the process now. With a story you feel the stress, the pressure and the obsession taking over for only a limited time, after which you let go. With a novel, you live in the cloud for years. I don’t know which is best. Depends on what mood I’m in. I am looking forward to open that big manuscript again and give it a go.

My daughter has made the most unbelievable strawberry cupcakes as a trial for her little brother’s Valentine’s Day in preschool, and I have licked frosting from every surface that it touched. Generally sugar is not something I crave, unless it’s hidden in chocolate, but I that frosting was from another story, obviously.

And I am going to meet some friends this week for a bead-sorting party, which sounds like more fun than I’ve had in quite a while. What to wear? Leaning toward the raw silk sack dress over leggings and long sleeve t-shirt. And maybe my new silk and silver tassel necklace, because jewelry is obviously a must on this occasion.

Last weekend I left an Eileen Fisher duster in the store. What was I thinking? It was a linen blend, black, an interesting, swingy cut. But then I had also found other things that I wanted apparently more and I didn’t want to go overboard. I bought instead a great wool moto jacket, a knit linen Vince tunic that goes with everything, and a linen/cotton canvas tote by Norma Kamali—I cannot resist bags and I have been looking for a black beach bag for a long time. I don’t remember why.

Looking forward to the end of the week. At least then we’ll have wine.

A dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology: DeadSteam

One of my short stories, “A Visitor at Sultana’s Castle,” is set to appear in the upcoming DeadSteam anthology, edited by Bryce Raffle, to be published by Grimmer & Grimmer Books in October 2018.

The dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology will include seventeen chilling stories of the monsters lurking around every corner, the ghosts haunting the darkest streets of Victorian London, and the dead things crawling out of their graves to consume the flesh of the living. These are tales of the ghoulish and the gothic, chilling stories of haunted streets, of vampires and demons stalking the city from fog-drenched alleyways lit only by gas lamps.

Featuring stories by David Lee Summers (Owl Dance, The Brazen Shark), Jen Ponce (The Bazaar, Demon’s Cradle), Wendy Nikel (The Continuum), Karen J Carlisle (The Adventures of Viola Stewart), Jonah Buck (Carrion Safari), DJ Tyrer, Jay Seate, Lawrence Salani, James Dorr, Lori Tiron-Pandit, Rob Francis, Ross Smeltzer, CC Adams, Alice E Keyes, Steve Carr, E Seneca, and Bryce Raffle (The Complications of Avery Vane).

Wardrobe planning: What I’ll wear

Looks like everyone (Grechen of Greche’s Closet, Talia of Ethel Grace, and M of Work From Home Wardrobe) is thinking about planning their future purchases and style tweaks for the year, and I am, as always, feeling the inspiration.

Something good came out of my (too many) Instagram outfit pictures: looking back through that record of outfits I was able to form a better idea of what clothes I enjoy and which ones don’t really work for me.

I like oversized, generous volumes, both on top and bottom. I like layers, in full black, but also in black and white, and black and grey. I like full length coverage.

I enjoy natural fabrics: linen, cotton, cashmere, silk, wool. I own one tencel pant and one bamboo shirt and I like both, but I am not looking to add more of these fabrics to my wardrobe (although they are somewhere on the sustainability spectrum).

The world and everyday life are a complicated spaces to navigate. Some people try to simplify everything, and wouldn’t that be so easy if it were possible? It’s not. For me there is beauty and a lot of merit to the complexity of our modern lives and choices at large, but I know I can simplify some aspects of it, and my closet is one of those places.

And simplifying might be too simple a word, because closet choices make political and social statements of their own, and are in no way shallow and meaningless as they might seem to the untrained eye.

I like basic shapes that float away from the body. Cuts that allow for movement. I like to be enveloped in beautiful fabrics that feel luxurious and natural to the touch. I like to lose myself inside my clothes. Hide. I wear them as armor for sure.

The few silhouettes that I want to wear are very clear to me: the boxy shirt, the long skirt (basic A-line, bubble, harem), the long sack dress, the wide leg pants and long cardigans. These are the main elements. Short cardigans, tunic dresses, skinny pants and fitted tees are often useful for layering, but not key style elements on their own. The slouchy pants are somewhere in the middle: I kind of love them, they are practical at times (running after kids at the town park) but they are not the first thing I think of when I consider what defines my style.

With the exception of the long cardigan, I can sew all my (preciously named) “defining-style elements” myself, which feels very freeing and gives me a lot of control. I like control. I have made the boxy shirt in cotton and linen and am planning one in raw silk now, and maybe a fine wool fabric later, although I do have a couple of cotton&cashmere kimono sweaters from J.Jill that serve me just as well in cold weather. I have made the wide leg pants in denim and I have several linen and wool versions, from J.Jill and Eileen Fisher. I am planning to sew a raw silk pair any day now (I already bought the fabric). I have made the sack dress in linen, cotton and raw silk, and I don’t see any other need there.

My wardrobe is over ninety percent thrifted and handmade, and I am very content with that for many reasons, ecological and budgetary. Accessories are also predominantly second-hand or handmade. I have a few too many bags, but I am coming to accept it as my big weakness, and I’m trying to let it be, for now. Although I don’t know if that’s so smart—I am these days making a packing list for a five-day trip and seriously considering taking five bags: travel tote, travel hobo crossbody, plus two small crossbody bags and one fanny pack!

Shoes are sometimes difficult to thrift, but I try to find them second hand in online shops. I feel like I have the staples I need, like Birkenstocks clogs and sandals, canvas sneakers, and army boots. I own some oxfords and loafers too, but I’m not crazy about pairing them with most of my wardrobe, as they feel insubstantial. I like a platform or some sort of heavier feel to the shoe.

This year I am going to test these revelations and stay on course. I’ll try to observe if anything else of importance comes up, but I doubt it. I’m feeling very good about my clothes right now. They are fun and cause me little to no anxiety. It’s nice.

Something new and something old

Although I started with such a clever title, I don’t want to keep up the suspense, which must be killing you for sure, so I’ll let you know right away that I’m talking about the new year on one hand and some sketches I made in the past but never got to publish on the blog, on the other. Your chance to close this page and move on to more entertaining content.

I keep drawing these sketches of my favorite literary women in the form of Cucuteni goddesses, and I can’t say that I am not very fond of them. I feel like they encompass so many of the things that hold meaning in my life: writing, feminism, ancient matriarchies, female deity cults, dark literature, creativity.

I’m obviously no plastic artist of any form, but I do enjoy doodling like everyone else. I guess literary women sketches is something that I do now. And this is quite the elite group, though isn’t it?

Shirley Jackson is joining in from her own blog post, which I did publish on the blog some time ago, when I remembered I had a blog.

I just wanted to gather all these in a blog post, to save them on my website for the future. I haven’t posted anything here in the longest time, and instead I waste a lot of energy on Instagram. Lately, though, I have been feeling that uncomfortable feeling again, that I am giving these social media platforms free content to do with it as they please. And while I get various benefits from it (exposure, connections) I feel like it’s a waste if I don’t publish it on my own website. I am pretty annoyed with Instagram lately and the “algorithms” they push at us, so that my feed is populated by whatever they deem more suitable for me, instead of the chronological order of posts from the accounts I care to see. I probably should unsubscribe from many accounts so I only follow the ones that I care about most. Like reduce the number to under 100. Would the algorithm manage to screw that up also? Probably. I have moments when I feel this urge to republish all my Instagram content on a page on this website. I have resisted it so far. I don’t know how much sense that would make.

I don’t know what to do about Facebook either. Many ethical dilemmas there. But I feel like I do need it to connect with professional groups that I need to be involved with. So I deleted my old account that contained too much personal stuff and started a new clean one, which I plan to keep strictly professional in tandem with the author page. It’s not working already.

Keeping up with social media is becoming too much work, right?

I listened to a podcast on Me & Orla yesterday on using Pinterest as a business and found it so interesting that I had to implement some of the advice immediately. I do like Pinterest a lot and use it frequently especially for food and clothes, not so much for promoting my writing or to send traffic to this blog. Vertical images with text. And mixing up your own pins with repins on the same boards. It’s what I’ve come away with.

So, yeah, I might post more over here this year, because social media always ends up scary and disappointing and making you feel like a tiny, stupid cog in a machine controlled by malevolent forces.

See you around ?

It’s been four weeks since my last check-in

white tulips

Not going to put any schedule on these anymore, because it just doesn’t work.

Anyway, since I last checked in, I went with the family on a short trip (by train) to D.C. It was a sunny trip that coincided with the climate march, which we didn’t join I guess because we chose to explore the museums, which were cool and comfortable, instead of letting the kids be scorched by the sun outside. We kind of expected to run into the march at some point and join in for a short period of time, but somehow we just missed the whole thing. I feel a bit conflicted about that, like maybe I shouldn’t advertise it, since I’d like to project a more militant image, but no many would be fooled anyway, right?

The highlight of the trip was a breakfast we had at a place called A Baked Joint. I had a salmon bagel with fried capers that I had dreams about the following night, so “dreamy” is the proper adjective here. The Spy and Space Museums were fun too. Food and museums—this was all our trip.

I packed brilliantly for this, all the clothes worked out perfectly except for the bag which snagged my clothes and I am right now considering getting rid of. But I’ll wait for a bit before I do anything I might regret. I am working on a packing post, since it was the first time I was happy with all my clothes and I don’t want to forget how I achieved such a feat.

I have been reading some good books. My friend Charity let me borrow two of Michelle Paver’s scary books, Dark Matter, A Ghost Story and Thin Air. I liked both quite a bit, although they could have been scarier. But very pleasant and entertaining reads. I also read Wicked, by Joanne Fluke, which . . .  was okay for a gym read. I loved, loved, loved Mariko Koike’s The Graveyard Apartment (read this one on my way to D.C. and back). There is nothing like Japanese horror, is there? It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it is gripping and chilling. I have just started The Cat in the Coffin by the same author and it is very promising also. I find even the titles of these two books brilliantly simple and scary.

I finished the last season of Wayward Pines on Hulu. Really good, I thought. Now I am giving The Strain a try and it’s okay, I think. Although the Alien-type parasite coming out of the mouth is a bit too revolting for my taste. I am also watching Hotel Beau Sejour on Netflix, a Flemish-language ghost series, and it’s very atmospheric, which I like a lot, but rather slow moving, which might be a problem for some, but I don’t mind.

The weather has improved and although it’s still kind of cold most days (I am wearing a wool sweater and wool socks in the house right now), but it’s sunny enough to be pleasant and to start to get me out of my winter’s funk. I think. I am feeling much less anxious and even a bit optimistic, if I dare admit it. Like not all is lost and life is not over just yet.

Here is a list of things that made me cry last week:

I’m sure there is a lot more that I am forgetting, but this is about it for now.

10×10 closet challenge



Ten items of clothing for ten days. It’s one of those challenges that flourish over on Instagram, although the credit for initiating it goes to two style blogs, Style Bee and Unfancy. Since I had been following some of the women who did it several times in the past and derived a lot of pleasure for watching them mix and match those few items of clothing, I felt an impulse to join in and play along.

I am not a capsule wardrober or much of a minimalist when it comes to the number of clothes I own. I like options, get bored quickly and enjoy my thrifting adventures that contribute to my about-to-burst closets. But this challenge might be interesting, I though to myself one morning, and in ten minutes I had a pile of ten items to wear for the next two weeks (I didn’t include the weekends in the challenge).

My thoughts after the challenge: I like options and I get bored quickly. Still it was fun, because I didn’t take it all too seriously and I switched my items around later in the day when I felt a need for it.

All my items came from the thrift shop:

  1. wide-leg, cropped denim (Allen Allen USA, thrifted)
  2. straight-leg black denim (THVM, thrifted)
  3. oversized cotton black sweatshirt-dress (J.Jill, thrifted)
  4. black, knit linen, long-sleeve top (Madewell, thrifted, )
  5. grey, knit linen, boxy top (made by me from a dress of my daughter’s)
  6. white cotton boxy top (made by me from thrifted cotton bedsheets)
  7. white silk&angora cardigan (Moda International, thrifted)
  8. grey cashmere long cardigan (Cynthia Rowley, thrifted)
  9. Birkenstock London, black leather (thrifted)
  10. Black suede oxfords, (G.H. Bass, thrifted)

I did include outwear (the two cardigans) and shoes in my initial ten, but at some point during the challenge I decided to switch the shoes for two more items of clothing. I ended up only adding one pair of leggings.

It was a frustrating exercise. The fun part was the companionship and camaraderie I felt with the women who participated on Instagram, but the getting dressed itself was annoying. My enjoyment of my clothes was somewhat diminished by the limitations of the exercise. My clothes are not useful and functional, they are playthings. I kind of feel like the minimalist and utilitarian approach to clothing can only suit those who don’t really care about clothes, but I know it is not true—many women who do capsule wardrobes and reduce their options love their clothes. So I don’t know where we differ, but this is not for me.

Which doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do it again as an exercise. It is good practice for vacation packing, for example, although I have been known to take ten items of clothing for merely an overnight trip.

My favorite outfits to wear were probably 4 and 5. 1 is a good contender also. I don’t know if I could name a least favorite—they were all pretty good. Maybe outfit 10 was out of my comfort zone a bit, with too much going on, and outfit 7, where the scarf annoyed me with its bulkiness.

That’s about it. I had a good time and I plan to do it again, given a chance. Nothing earth-shattering.

Bi-weekly (?) check-in



Haven’t been feeling very chatty in the past two weeks. I go through these phases of withdrawal regularly, when I can’t bring myself to talk to anyone, say anything about myself, and I generally just want to hide. I am surprise I still have any friends at all, considering this terrible behavior. I certainly don’t deserve the ones that I have.

My need to hide usually coincides with feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, when I feel like I have no reason to show my face out in the world because I haven’t been productive, useful, etc. These moments have become more frequent later and have made me understand one thing: the more I withdraw, the worst I feel. I am not my own best companion. So the instinct is not right, in this case. I should be looking for people in times of discouragement.

Not having been able to finish that New England story in time really brought my work to a standstill. I didn’t know what to pick up next and felt unproductive which in turn really made me not produce anything. Then the small kid got sick and didn’t let me sleep for several nights in a row, which drained me.

But I have been upping my gym frequency which I’m feeling good about. I even bought my first ever pair of sneakers, just because the elliptical was starting to hurt my feet after a while in the canvas shoes I wore to the gym. I am taking my Kindle and a water bottle with me in the evenings, when the husband is back from work, and retreating into the neighborhood gym for about one hour. So relaxing and satisfying! Although it hasn’t helped me lose any of the weight I’ve gained over the winter.

The weather has also improved around these parts, and I have been to the playground with the little kid two days in a row. I didn’t even take my Kindle with me, but instead just tried to enjoy being out and in the sun.

Have been watching Father Brown on Netflix every night. I enjoyed the first season the most. Maybe it was the lightest in mood, and it became increasingly darker.  Nothing is as satisfying as a good dose of darkness, but I was looking for more small town coziness in Father Brown. Still enjoying it nonetheless.

I read an article in the dentist’s office about the Twin Peaks revival. Has it aired yet? I haven’t checked, but I am almost afraid to watch it, because I’m afraid it will ruin it for me. It was interesting to see how the actors have aged in the promotional pictures. They all look very good. Was a bit disappointed not to see Lara Flynn Boyle in the cast. Donna was such a pivotal character and for some reason the one I identified with the most.

I finished reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and kind of hated it all the way. I just felt like it was going nowhere. Not a good feeling. I’m really not into the classic (old) narrative style at all anymore. Glad to be done with this one. It only reinforces my belief that good scary books are just very hard to find.

I am still working on the Daphne du Maurier biography, while also reading (mostly at the gym 🙂 ) Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough and Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly. Mayhem looks good, although I am bothered by the too many characters introduced too abruptly. But the Jack the Ripper London is fascinating. Ten Days in a Madhouse, is non-fiction. It started as an investigative reporting article and the book was originally published in the 1887 as a journalist’s first hand account of insane asylum conditions in those times. It is not the easiest read, both in terms of writing style and subject matter, but very interesting nonetheless, considering the unique perspective.

The weather has been much nicer these days so I got to go out without the winter jacket, or any jacket for that matter. I started a 10×10 challenge (10 outfits from 10 items of clothing) on Instagram to have some fun with clothes, and it’s going all right, although I have moments when I feel the anxiety of being trapped in the horror of only having a small assortment of clothes at my disposal. Clearly not cut out for minimalism.

I haven’t been wearing my scarves lately, since the black&white wardrobe experiment and I miss them. I bid on a beautiful silk square on eBay which was a sort of Japanese brush design, really pretty, but someone outbid be quickly, which I can’t say I feel too bad about: I prefer to buy on my thrift store trips, which are all sorts of fun, rather than by sitting my couch. But this scarf was a beauty and I have a feeling I am going to be looking for this exact one for a very long time. Still, I must trust my thrifting magic. It is going to come my way sooner or later. Just putting it out there. And it is something to look forward to. Instant gratification is for wussies.