One Month of Morning Pages

At the beginning of the year, I decided to try a new habit: morning pages. I’d read a lot on the internet about the benefits of this practice, and wanted to give it a shot. Read on for my take on how morning pages are working for me.

Some background on morning pages: it seems like everyone has already written a blog post on what they are, and if you found your way here, you’ve probably already researched the concept a bit and are looking for some ways people have made it work for them. If you’re still confused, check out this article or this one for some more details.

I was most attracted to the idea of clearing my mind. Right now, I don’t have a specific goal to be more creative or generate ideas; rather, I want to stop complaining out loud so much, be a little more “in my head” than external processing, and allow for more quiet time at home. I thought perhaps morning pages would be a great way to help train my brain to do this more.

I’ve been doing morning pages for about a month now. It took me a few weeks to actually sit down and do it. When I finally did, the first week, I was ALL ABOUT IT. I am pretty good with sticking with habits (check out my series on the Four Tendencies and habit tracking to learn more about that!) so although part of it was certainly that it felt good to stick with it – especially since I’ve never been at all interested in keeping a diary or journaling – there was also something else. I was almost on a high from writing every day! I didn’t worry about what I was writing; I let myself be judge-y or complain-y or petty; I did my best to fill up the pages.

The next few weeks weren’t as good, though. I found myself a little underwhelmed, mainly recounting what I was doing that day or being really negative about something. I didn’t feel like it was cathartic beyond having the nice moment of waking up and having quiet moments sipping coffee.

That helped me realize that I have really enjoyed the habit part of it: sitting down in the morning at my tiny New York City-sized dining room table (which I don’t really use otherwise), sipping hot coffee, and having a quiet ritual that isn’t related to a screen right when I wake up.

I wrote about this on my Instagram and a follower, @lalunechacha, mentioned that morning pages feel more like a problem-solving tool through writing. That clicked for me! It has been really useful to think through why I am feeling a certain way, but when I don’t need to do that, it hasn’t felt particularly beneficial. La Lune suggested meditating which I have been trying to get back into.

Next steps? Right now I am alternating between meditating (using Headspace app, which I am considering trying a monthly subscription for) and morning pages. If I feel excited about writing morning pages, I go for it. If I feel like my mind is really scattered I will meditate instead. If I am thinking about something I want to figure out or work through, I’ll write that morning to try to allow myself to go deeper into it.

Have you used morning pages? What did you think? How is it working for you?


Haul: Hightide Store (Los Angeles)

My one request on a recent vacation to Los Angeles was to visit the Hightide Store pop-up in Downtown LA. Friends: It did not disappoint.

I held myself back and got a nice mix of things I’d planned to buy and fun surprises that didn’t break the bank too much!

The store itself is lovely and the planners are all located on a cart-like structure in the back of the space, organized beautifully and clearly. Each planner type has an open “tester” so it’s pretty easy to figure out which one you want, then choose a nice fresh new one.

I went for one of the vertical A5 sizes, as I’ve been wanting one for a long time! I plan to do a full review of this planner, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but it is pictured in these photos. It’s the NZ Vertical A5. They had most, though not all, of the Hightide Diary range in this US pop-up (I would have liked to see the nahe cover range, for example). You can semi-easily sort through all the options on their Japanese page if you are curious. I do believe the only way to get these planners in the US is at this store or through Rakuten or Amazon Japan, so I was really excited to visit the shop!

Besides planners, I picked up a few little miscellaneous items that have turned out to be super useful! (I so often go into stationery stores and buy things I’m sure I “need” and then…never use them…anyone else?)

I had been meaning to order the matte black washi, so I picked up one of those (as expected since it’s MT brand, it’s great). I also got a random pen that writes in this bizarre and irresistible way! Apparently a cult favorite according to Jetpens, the Pentel Tradio Pulaman pen is sort of a calligraphy pen, sort of a fineliner, and sort of a faux fountain pen!? I have not yet mastered it, but it feels extremely unique on paper. It’s smooth but also has kind of some friction and will spatter if you go too fast. I’m excited to keep playing with this one.

Finally I couldn’t resist two countertop buys: bookmark tabs/pagekeepers! The black ones are a thin metal and look so sharp with my white Scribbles That Matter bullet journal, and the colored ones are magnetic and a little flimsier. I’ve been using those in my notebook that I write my Morning Pages in (my new year’s resolution and the topic of a future post). They were both a little pricey at around $5-8, but since I’ve actually been using them, I’m not thinking about that too much now.

The staff at the store were extremely nice and even threw in a logo sticker (perhaps they noticed my ridiculous happiness as I bounced around the store, examining every little item). Although the location is a bit hard to find, it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in LA. If it becomes permanent, all the better to have a New Year’s excuse to visit LA annually to get a new planner!

DIY: Monthly Tabs for your Bullet Journal

One of my favorite parts of my 2018 bullet journal was the monthly tabs I created. They’re really easy to make and you can do them in a few different ways. Read on to find out how I made mine!

You will need:

I cut the Post-It tabs in half, then trim the leftover sharp corner into a curve, matching the already-curved corner as closely as possible. You can see in the photo above that the left side of August’s tabs is the pre-cut one and the right side is the one I cut. But I’m using a macro lens here, and it’s not as obvious “in real life”! 

I found that a Sharpie worked best on these tabs. They have a nice opaque color and don’t smudge. I liked how the white tabs and the black text complemented the black Leuchtturm1917 I used for my 2018 bullet journal.

After a year of making tabs each month, I highly recommend making all your monthly tabs at once. This keeps the tabs the same size and your handwriting as similar as possible. If you aren’t a perfectionist like me then this may not bother you as much! But I wasted more than a few tabs because I wrote the letters a different width or height. That said, I’ve barely made a dent in the pack I have, so they are pretty generous with their tab count!

Although you can use any tabs, the beauty of the Post-It tabs specifically is twofold. First, they are sturdy. The tabs you see above have weathered up to a year of use being thrown in and out of my purse and barely have a scratch on them! Second, they are actually repositionable, but still retain their stickiness, just like Post-It pads. Having used these for a year, I recommend them 1,000%.

That said, for 2019 I’m going to start off the year by potentially trying some new tabs – and some new tricks I learned from a year of monthly tab-making!  

I’ve had these tabs/bookmarks for literal years and had a sudden burst of excitement this weekend at trying my new white Uni-Posca Do! paint pen on them for a rainbow of monthly tabs! Sure enough, they look amazing together, don’t you think!?

They’re not perfect, though. First, the paper is extraordinarily thin. The adhesive is repositionable which is great, but I’m worried that they won’t be sturdy enough to stand a year of carting around in my purse.

Finally, as you can see a little in the below photo on the February tab (and October one although it’s blurry), the color itself is sort of scratched off. This again makes me worry even the color might not be durable enough to be carted around for a year.

I used the slimmer tabs to try a numerical approach. Since they’re repositionable, I plan to try both and see what I think looks better. I like the idea of the smaller ones since then I could also fit in a symbol based one (like books or theater) to flip easily to my trackers.

The good news is though, I learned from last year and did all of the months at once! That way everything will match!

If these fail me, I may borrow some colored Sharpies from work (hooray for being an arts educator with easy access to a rainbow of Sharpies!) and use different colored markers on my beloved white Post-Its. Stay tuned for updates!

As a last note, I also have these vegan leather tab stickers from Russell + Hazel, but I’m not sure I’m going to use them although I love the look of them. I’m just not a rose gold girl, and the leather is more of a grey than a black which I feel would clash with my new white-and-black Scribbles that Matter. More importantly, though, every time I go to use them I get scared because I think the adhesive is permanent rather than repositionable. Thank goodness for 3M, am I right?

Do you use tabs in your bullet journal? Let me know below!

Review: Pilot Juice Up Metallic Gel Pens

Continuing my ongoing love of Pilot Juice Up gel pens, here’s an overview of the metallic set – four colors plus gold and silver that are pretty much the best metallic pens I’ve used. (Not that I’m totally biased or anything…)

As ever, the Pilot Juice Up gel pens are super smooth and nice and shiny, just like you’d want from a metallic pen. I love the size: the 04 (roughly the same as 0.38 mm) are slim enough that they match my smaller handwriting preferences in my bullet journal, but thick enough to show a lot of the metallic cover.

The gold and silver are certainly the superior colors, but the tones of the pastel colors are lovely and still have a great sheen to them even if they’re a bit more subtle than the gold/silver shades. You can see in the photo above that my ring light caught the colors and shimmers so well that it’s actually hard to read in direct light!

I also love the attention to detail of the design of the pens. The silver body color with the color accents that perfectly match the color of the ink is such a great touch. While not heavy at all, they feel really good in your hand as you use them – the grip is just soft enough but doesn’t seem like it will get gummy.

I’ve used all six colors so far as accents in my bullet journal and they actually inspired me to use color in a way that this minimalist really hadn’t (beyond a bit of washi tape that I stuck with for like, 4 months!). Some photos of details of spreads are below so you can see each color in action.

Overall, I love these pens and highly recommend them if you’re in the market for a high-quality metallic pen set! I got mine from Jet Pens individually (I tried the gold and silver first), but you can pick them up in a set here.

Review: Grey Gel Pens

One of my favorite ways to add subtle accents and cues is with grey gel pens. Surprisingly, they can vary a lot because of the tone of the color. Here are a few of my favorites!

Like my Black Gel Pen review post, I’ll be using the following criteria to rank these pens:

  • Smoothness (1 being scratchy, 5 being uber smooth);
  • Opacity (1 being thin ink, 5 being nice and dark);
  • Style (1 being basic utility/nothing special aesthetically, to 5, aesthetically thoughtful and awesome); and
  • Writability (a nonsensical term I’ve made up, for how pleasant it is to write using the pen for a long time, on a scale 1, not particularly pleasant, to 5, very pleasant overall).

Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pen, 0.7
Smoothness: 4/5 | Opacity: 3.5/5 | Style: 3.5/5 | Writability: 4/5
I was really excited to try this unique pen. It’s a bit too bold for me but I do like having it available. It has a lovely inky quality to it, almost like a fountain pen effect, and it’s very smooth.

Pilot Juice Gel Pen, 0.38
Smoothness: 4/5 | Opacity: 4/5 | Style: 3.5/5 | Writability: 4/5
I was really excited to try this unique pen. It’s a bit too bold for me but I do like having it available. It has a lovely inky quality to it, almost like a fountain pen effect, and it’s very smooth.

Uni-ball Signo UM-151 Gel Pen, 0.38
Smoothness: 4.5/5 | Opacity: 4/5 | Style: 4/5 | Writability: 4.5/5
This is the winner grey gel pen for me! The color is a cool grey – not too warm, nice and pale but still legible, and overall a great, smooth pen. If you’re in the market for a cool grey pen, this is the one for sure. The other two in this post are much more on the warm side.

Below you can see this pen in action, in the timetable on the side of the below spread.

Review: Black Gel Pens

The workhorse of your everyday carry, having a good black gel pen can make or break your planning experience. Here I’ll talk about my favorite black gel pens over the years — believe me, there have been many! — and hopefully you’ll be able to find your favorite too.

We’ll go from thickest width (measured in millimeters) to thinnest. As you might guess if you’ve read this blog before, my favorite pens hail from Japan, and this collection is no different.

I’ll rank them by:

  • Smoothness (1 being scratchy, 5 being uber smooth);
  • Opacity (1 being thin ink, 5 being nice and dark);
  • Style (1 being basic utility/nothing special aesthetically, to 5, aesthetically thoughtful and awesome); and
  • Writability (a nonsensical term I’ve made up, for how pleasant it is to write using the pen for a long time, on a scale 1, not particularly pleasant, to 5, very pleasant overall).

Muji Gel Pen, 0.38
Smoothness: 4.5/5 | Opacity: 5/5 | Style: 3/5 | Writability: 3.5/5
I love a good Muji gel pen and these are such solid choices. Although nothing to write home about in my opinion, it’s a nice, thick and quite smooth gel pen that I especially loved using in college when I was writing notes. It rarely skips, is super opaque, and dries quickly. Aesthetically they’re not my favorite, though I know they’re insta-famous and the frosted plastic has a nice touch.

Uni-ball Signo UM-151, 0.38
Smoothness: 4.5/5 | Opacity: 4.5/5 | Style: 3/5 | Writability: 4/5
This is such a solid pen! A nice business option, it’s very smooth, comfortable to write with for a long time, and rarely skips (in the 0.38 option). Having owned many of these over time, I will say the grip definitely gets gummy after a year or two, and that, coupled with a peeling label, definitely takes away from its style.

Pilot Juice, 0.38
Smoothness: 4/5 | Opacity: 4.5/5 | Style: 3.5/5 | Writability: 4/5
You can’t go wrong with the Juice if you want a retractable gel pen rather than a capped pen like the two above. I love the clip for fidgeting during meetings and aesthetically I do think it’s a bit of a step up from the Muji or Uni-ball Signo. It skips on me more than those two pens but never enough that’s bothered me hugely.

Uni-ball Signo bit, 0.38
Smoothness: 3.5/5 | Opacity: 3/5 | Style: 4/5 | Writability: 4/5
Although my ratings above don’t make this pen seem super-positive, I actually really love the Signo bits! The ink isn’t quite as opaque as other black gel pens I’ve used, so it almost looks like a very, very slight fountain pen effect (zoom in on the last photo in this post to see that). I also LOVE the needlepoint tip, which allows you to really see what and where you’re writing in a way that can be more difficult with conical gel nibs like the Muji. This seems to be a discontinued pen, unfortunately.

Zebra Sarasa Push Clip, 0.3
Smoothness: 2.75/5 | Opacity: 3/5 | Style: 3/5 | Writability: 2/5
The Sarasa has the some great affordable color sets, and I love the 0.3 mm size, but it is soo scratchy. It doesn’t bother me much as far as using colors for accents, but it’ll never be an everyday carry for me because of the scratch factor.

Pilot Juice Up, 03
Smoothness: 4/5 | Opacity: 4.5/5 | Style: 5/5 | Writability: 4.5/5
This is my favorite pen ever of all time! It is SO stylish and comfortable, and I love the 0.3 width; large enough to be legible but thin enough to make my minimal heart very happy. Its one fault is that it’s not quite as smooth on all papers as the Signo DX is. I used to use it on Tomoe River Paper in my Hobonichi last year, and it was significantly more scratchy for some reason than my other pens – not enough for me not to use it, but annoying when it skipped. It works just fine in my Leuchtturm journal, though, and is also fine on the regular old Staples blue-lined notebooks I use at work.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C, 0.25
Smoothness: 2/5 | Opacity: 3/5 | Style: 3/5 | Writability: 2.5/5
The Hi-Tec-C is a needlepoint classic. I mean, look at that nib close-up! Because it’s just so teeny, this is really an accents-only pen for me, used in my planner for writing the dates of an at-a-glance calendar in a 5mm grid. I definitely don’t like using it for writing out lists or jotting down notes.

Click this photo to zoom in and get a closer look at samples of these pens in action.

Most recommended pen? Hands down, the Pilot Juice Up. It looks great in a professional environment with its pleasingly minimalist aesthetic (and that font they use! I want it!), and it is wonderfully functional. 

Review: Washi Tapes

Oh washi tapes! How I love to collect you – and rarely use you (stationery addict confession time). The truth is there are so many beautiful washi tapes out there but my neutral, minimalist heart has a lot of trouble making good use of them. Still, I’ve found a few phenomenal ones for any fellow minimalists out there. Plus, a quad of tapes that, sadly, I suggest steering clear of.

Let’s start with my favorites.

MT Patterns Washi Tape (dot gold) MT is just the gold standard (pardon the pun) of washi tape to me! I got my first set of pastel colors at the MoMA Design Store way back before Muji even had an outpost in the storied museum shop. When I learned of a magical craft tape you could actually reuse and move without tearing up your paper, I was astounded. They really work! I’m a big gold accent fan, if you haven’t been able to tell from this blog so far, and this subtle gold dot is a lovely gateway into washi tape.

MT Solids Washi Tape (pastel grey) A great pale grey. Still too dark compared to my favorite palest-of-pale grey Tombow Dual Brush Pens, so I don’t use it as much.

BGM Washi Tape (light grey) I was thrilled to discover that BGM tapes are just as good as MT! I love that this slim grey is exactly 5mm tall so they work beautifully in bullet journals.

BGM Washi Tape (check rainbow) If you follow my Instagram you know how obsessed I am with this tape. They’re so gorgeous, a lovely watercolored box rather than a solid color. And of course they’re also 5x5mm so they work great as accents in bullet journals.

And now onto the ones that I just never reach for and, in fact, wouldn’t recommend…

Paper Source Shimmery Gold Washi Tape This is a lovely washi tape but not a true washi; it’s not particularly repositionable. That said, it isn’t as big of an offender as the Russell + Hazel tapes below. If you need a matte, shimmer gold tape that’s opaque, this is a good one, but just be wary of trying to move it around your pages.

Russell + Hazel SmartDate To Do List Rolls I LOVE Russel + Hazel so much – their mini planner binders were my gateway drug into customizable planners! But these washi tapes were a huge miss for me. First, they aren’t true washi (which they don’t seem to claim on their site, in their defense, although I could’ve sworn I saw them use that language when they released these months ago). These are decidedly NOT repositionable – at all. Second, while the design is 1,000% up my alley, they aren’t on a 5mm grid (alas! and they did imply in their marketing that these are for bullet journallers, too). I was so excited to roll out those lovely perfect circles but as you can see in the photo below they just don’t align.

Russell + Hazel SmartDate Calendar Rolls Again, the font/text styling is top-notch but they don’t match the grid. Perhaps they match their proprietary binders, but those are preprinted, so I’m not sure why you’d necessarily need timed tape for those. Either way, the adhesive on the tape was significantly stickier than washi tape adhesive, so I found myself tugging a bit more to get the tape to come off in order to snip off a time or date. Too much fuss. I’m sorry Russell + Hazel: I love you, but not these tapes!

And there you have it! Reviews of all my favorite, and least favorite, washi tapes. Do you have any favorites, or have you tried any novelty washi? I have my eye on some of the wood-grain or marble (of course) variety and I’d love some recommendations!