Finishing my Moleskine

I am always curious how people use their notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, files, etcetera. I carry a notebook around with me wherever I go in addition to my daily diary (this year it has been the gorgeous Frankie Diary) to capture thoughts, jot down ideas, make lists, note words and passages and generally write down anything and everything that springs to mind.

It is all too often I turn a page and forget look back at what I’ve written down to remember. Last week I finished using my Moleskine ruled cahier and now is the time to reflect on my note taking over the course of its use between July and September this year.

New words

Sometimes I think my true calling is lexicology. I love words, their meanings and context, their applicability and purpose, their romanticism and function. One of my new year’s resolutions for 2015 was to read a book per week and surprisingly I have mostly managed to stick with this. As with any resolution, some nights I am awake until the wee hours and plough through three a week, and others lure me into a lull over a few weeks. Some of my favourite books this year have been “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres (yes yes I know I am late to the party on this one), “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozens and “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. One of the most wonderful aspects of reading is all the new words that become part of my vocabulary. Throughout my Moleskine these are the words and their definitions that made an appearance:

vicissitudes (n), plutocracy (n), autarky (n), brio (n), despotism (n), neologism (n), coruscating (adj), deracinate (v), otiose (adj), cavil (v, n), axiomatic (adj), sepulchral (adj), praeternatural (adj), meretricious (adj), bildungsroman (n), solipsism (n), douguya (n), depredation (n), rapacity (n), anomie (n), elegiac (adj), perseverate (v), denizens (n), quixotic (adj), emissary (n), calliope (n), schadenfreude (n)


Snippets 

Some snippets that I seem to have noted down for no other reason than charm:

+ happy as a clam in high tide

+ a party without cake is just a meeting

+ fridge pickers wear bigger knickers

+ my enemy’s enemy is my friend

+ work smart, not hard

+ express yourself, don’t repress yourself

And sometimes I seem to have been playing games with myself.


Passages

I make good use of the “highlight” function on my kindle. Sometimes however I want to write the words and see them immortalised in my ink.

Passage from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Passage from Just Kids
Passage from Just Kids

Happy List

On instagram at some point this year I came across the “happy list” concept and glued a few into my notebook to avoid them floating around in my bag or keeping them tucked in my diary. Happy lists should be looked at, to remind you of all the things you are grateful for.


Things to return to

I’ve clearly asked myself some questions to remind myself to do a bit of reading around the subject or noted down something I want to expand on and put some thought into. Such as:

+ is there a difference between equality and treating everyone the same?

+ de Bono’s thinking caps – which one for when?

+ BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List – who is Kath Viner / Camilla Cavendish / Karen Blackett / Zanny Minton Beddoes / Sara Khan?


Overall I have really enjoyed using this notebook, I find the paper handles my fountain pens very well (even my reasonably broad-nibbed Parker 45), and the pages are a good size to write a piece without it spanning across reams of paper. The creamy colour has a pleasing vintage effect, but it does cause some bleed through. I think this notebook has a feel of simple sophistication about it and I will return to using it one day. On my list before that day though are my Tsubame “comfort” notebook mentioned a few blogs earlier and a Calepino number 1 ruled notebook.

Next though are these little beauties. I managed to get some of the new Field Notes limited collection, the Shenandoah edition. This will be my first foray into Field Notes and I have been reading with interest the many views on the notebooks across the stationery blogosphere. They certainly are portable and I love the natural finish of the covers. We shall see! Thanks for your service, Moleskine.

Serpentine Pavilion

Every summer the lawn outside the famous Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens is adorned by a piece of contemporary architecture known as the Serpentine Pavilion. It is described by the Serpentine Gallery as “an international site for architectural experimentation, presenting inspirational temporary structures by some of the world’s greatest architects”, and according to the website is one of the most visited architectural exhibitions worldwide. This year marks the 15th year of the Pavilion and, over the years, the lawn has been previously filled by architects such as Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. A duo called selgascano are 2015’s architects and are based in Madrid.

Every year the Pavilion brief is the same. It needs to use approximately 300 square metres of space, and should be a flexible, multi-purpose social space with a café. It also needs to be the designer’s first installation in the UK, hopefully to provide a highly-visible platform for their work.

Selgascano’s Pavilion is a series of polygonal structures encased by a translucent plastic (similar to that used at the Eden Project in Cornwall and Canary Wharf Crossrail station) and surrounded by coloured tapes. The steel structure supports the plastic which is stretched to create a series of interconnected “rooms” with a central space housing a pop-up Fortnum and Mason cafe.

There are several entrance and exit points and a corridor surrounding the central structure allows the individual to walk directly around the Pavilion and discover these windows and doors. The architects have indicated that they drew inspiration from London in their design, particularly from the Underground with its tunnels, access points and connectivity.

One of the Pavilion's open doors showing the external tapes and internal plastic walls with steel arch structures.
One of the Pavilion’s open doors showing the external tapes and internal plastic walls with steel arch structures.

Across the internet it’s been described as a psychedelic cocoon, an Instagrammer’s paradise, beautifully childish, a kind of amoeba whose four blobby pseudopodia reach out across the grass, an eye-catching bauble, and a big bag of fun. Having read these reviews before visiting the Pavilion, and now having visited, I tend to agree with all of these characterisations!

The most important part of the Pavilion’s design to me seems to be the interaction between the structure and light. Clearly colour has been used liberally to create an eye catching, bright and playful landmark, and this is very obvious from the outside. The interpretation of the Pavilion from the inside however is very reliant on light conditions and the perspective of light depending on which part of the structure you’re standing in; the vibrant tapes throw different hues onto the internal plastic structure and the reflective surfaces mean that the internal colour seems to morph as you move closer or further from the walls. The Pavilion also simultaneously seems to complement, and contrast against, the surrounding green environment. It sits glowing among the green.

Internally I spotted pinks, oranges, yellows, blues, greens and purples. There are doors and windows to the structure that let natural light in, and there doesn’t appear to be any artificial light to tamper with this effect. The white floor has a reflectivity of its own (and, although it is a little battered after a whole summer of use), is a welcome canvas against the vivid walls. On the outside the plastic moves whimsically with the wind, creating a liquid, globular effect.

I actually enjoyed the exterior of the Pavilion the most. The plastic’s reflectivity is most obvious on the outside where light abounds and the contrast against the bright tapes was more striking. The whole structure also seems much larger when you walk around it in its entirety.

Me and me. Some of the external Pavilion walls are highly reflective which creates a psychedelic effect.
Me and me. Some of the external Pavilion walls are highly reflective which creates a fun, psychedelic effect.

Dipping in and out of the corridor between outside and inside is fun too. A real childishness comes over me when I have the opportunity to play a bit of hide and seek or jump out and say boo. I think this was probably intentional by the architects as the whole structure seems to want to be utilised and explored.

The Pavilion isn’t given a budget by the Serpentine Gallery, but instead uses various sources of sponsorship and the sale of the eventual structure to fund its design and build. This year’s installation is going to become a performance space in Los Angeles and I think it really suits this function. The Pavilion is used for performance and events during the evenings in London and if I hadn’t have left it so late I would have loved to revisit and check out the effect of colour and light in the dark when the green-ness of Hyde Park isn’t all around. Its size means that any performance is going to be intimate and most likely quite organic and stripped back because there isn’t a whole load of space for props or staging. Acoustically, noise carries; the tinkles and chatter of a pop-up cafe is audible but doesn’t echo. When speaking out loud the absorption of sound makes it feel like there is a slight hush on your voice. Although part of the brief is for the Pavilion to host a cafe during the day, it does feel a little of a wasted opportunity the night-time cultural use doesn’t transcend into daylight hours.

Fortnum and Mason cafe occupying the central space within the Pavilion.
Fortnum and Mason cafe occupying the central space within the Pavilion.

Despite being colourful and appealing to my inner child, there isn’t anything comical about the Pavilion. It’s stylish, built at a human scale, and uplifting. It’s interesting and has a naturalness and simplicity about its design that makes the most of its surroundings using (what appear to be) cheap and accessible materials. There isn’t anything fundamentally groundbreaking or innovative about the design, and perhaps that makes it a little safe for selgascano’s first UK installation. I didn’t come away from the Pavilion feeling that I had experienced a unique and overly memorable piece of work, but it was certainly enjoyable, fun and a novel way to interact with colour, light and space as London’s autumn greyness starts to set in. I’ll be back next year.

 

Pistachio Loaf Cake with White Chocolate Cream Frosting

I’m not sure how overtly autumnal pistachios are but I sure do love them. The ritual of shelling salted pistachios and seeing the pile of husks grow rapidly is very satisfying; for some reason my family seem to buy all of the pistachios at Christmas. While in Greece in September, I tried a wonderful bright green pistachio ice cream at Lolita’s Gelato and found out that pistachios are a local delicacy in Santorini, they’re everywhere. I love their green hue and that a handful of them counts as good fat! I recently came across a recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery’s “Cake Days” for this pistachio loaf cake and the idea really appealed to me. I must admit haven’t had the best of luck with Hummingbird Bakery recipes in the past. It was sadly hidden away right at the back of the book before the guidance notes, as if nobody is meant to find it! Well, I found it and had to give it a go.

The cake is soft, with sweetness coming from the frosting rather than the cake itself, well-distributed nuts and it is a lovely pale green against the white frosting. The chopped pistachios on top of the cake add a pop of colour and contrast against the white and easily give the flavour away to whoever’s looking! Just look at this green!

This was another long bake and a lesson I’m taking away is to reduce my oven temperature as the outside was ever so slightly too dark for my liking. When I tucked into a slice I felt that the outer crumb was slightly too hard. A similar timed bake with a touch less heat is one thing I’d do differently next time. Another random but potentially helpful point is that I used a very angular loaf tin. I have three different loaf tins with varying degrees of rounded corners and depths and I chose this one as it was the deepest, but on reflection I feel like the loaf cake looked a little like a brick with frosting on top 😳 (mostly because of the colour of it… but the sharp corners certainly didn’t help).

I can’t get enough of this frosting. It is so versatile. The original recipe called for a simple icing glaze (which I’m sure would work fine) but I wanted to use this frosting to give the cake extra height and volume, as well as a bit of piped decoration. I also judged that the cake was unlikely to be overly sweet based on the ingredients used, and wanted to add a little bit of luxury. I’ve slathered this frosting on blueberry cakes, lemon cakes, cupcakes of all flavours, carrot cakes… it works with many different cakes because the primary flavour is buttercream with a discreet white chocolate, almost vanilla-like sweetness.

This cake earned me a lot of kudos at work! People hear that you’ve baked with pistachio and are instantly interested; I suppose it’s quite an unusual baking ingredient. I would definitely recommend making it as a casual gift, to serve if you’re hosting a cup of tea for friends of an afternoon or to keep in a cake tin for slices during the week. It’s easy to make too (if you have patience for all that pistachio chopping!).

Ingredients

For the cake

190g unsalted butter
190g plain flour
190g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp/5g baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
25ml sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (for the cake mixture)
15g shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (to top the cake)

For the white chocolate cream frosting 

100g white chocolate
140g unsalted butter, very soft
140g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan) or 180 degrees (conventional), and grease and line a 2lb cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer or with a hand-held mixer until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix very well until completely incorporated into the mixture. It shouldn’t curdle.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the mixture in two halves. Beat the flour in on a slow speed to avoid overmixing.
  5. Add the sour cream and vanilla essence and mix.
  6. Mix in the 100g of chopped pistachio by hand so that they are well distributed. By this point the mixture should look a little something like this:
  7. Add the mixture into your lined loaf tin and smooth out. The recipe calls for 50-60 minutes before checking it with a skewer but mine needed about 67 minutes!
  8. Remove for the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so before turning out to cool completely.
  9. Melt the white chocolate in small chunks in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. I have read that white chocolate has the lowest melting point of all chocolates and so if it’s overheated it doesn’t incorporate into other ingredients very well or set well. Keep stirring it and take it off the heat as soon as the majority of the chocolate is melted – the remaining chunks will melt in from the existing heat. Allow this to cool in the fridge for about 5 minutes.
  10. Beat together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy and stiff (about 5 minutes).
  11. Add the white chocolate into the buttercream mixture slowly and continue to beat until it reaches a light and soft consistency. If you want to spread the frosting then feel free to use this straight away. I piped mine so I popped it in the fridge for 10 minutes to pipe smoothly.
  12. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cake. Sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios onto the frosting and put the cake on the nicest cake stand you have.

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more pistachio recipe as it’s not a common ingredient. I imagine it would go well with a sharp citrus flavour too. Perhaps I will incorporate some into my next lemon drizzle to see what happens!

PS – isn’t my copy of Homer’s “Odyssey” beautiful?! I’m slightly obsessed with it! I can’t take it out of the house as I don’t want to get the edges bent or accidentally spill something on it. It’s a joy to look at. And read of course; I’m making my way through it slowly but surely. I’d be interested if anybody out there has read it and would care to discuss it with me!

Autumn Bake: Almond and Plum Crumble Cake

The flavours of autumn are everywhere. The colours are too. Look at these beautiful colours I found in Greenwich Park last weekend. The vibrancy and variety of hues is unbelievable and one of the great charms of autumn is that it seems so fleeting.

Suddenly all I want to cook with are pears, mushrooms, aubergines, beetroots… It’s so nice to start wrapping up (while it’s still light until seven-ish) and indulge in cosier tastes. I decided to get well into autumn baking with this almond and plum crumble cake. I baked it as a dessert for a family meal I hosted at my house in Greenwich. However, large slices found their way into my bag for work during the week and went down a treat with a green tea of an afternoon. I really enjoy baking with ground almonds and substituting part of the flour content in fruity cakes in particular. I think it works so well when baking with fruit because the ground almonds soak up some of the moisture that most baked fruits produce or the syrups that are sometimes used to pour over fruity cakes to penetrate the bake with its flavour (a la lemon drizzle). This cake has a subtle almond flavour which is lovely and sweet when paired with the tangy plums.

The cake batter is quite thick and needs spreading when you add it to your cake tin. I suppose this is to support the plums as this is a relatively long bake and sunken plums is not an option! Decorative eh?

The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked - the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking - you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.
The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked – the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking – you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.

I added extra brown demerara sugar to the crumble topping for extra crunch and caramelisation. Sometimes I’m a bit of a maverick with crumble and add all sorts to try and achieve crumble perfection: oats, honey, dried berries cut up finely, chopped brazil nuts… it’s all getting a bit granola isn’t it? The extra demerara was as far as I went with this one! Luckily I didn’t find there was any need to cover the cake with foil while it’s baking, even though it’s a long bake, to stop the crumble from colouring too quickly or getting burnt.

This bake doesn’t rise too much while cooking; it stands at about 6cm tall when baked and the crumble is about a half centimetre of this height. A fair amount of my previous baking experience has been layer cakes with inches of cream and frosting so setting it on my cake stand felt very strange! Where’s the rest of it, I thought. Nope, the beauty of this cake is in its autumnal rusticness and simplicity. I served it slightly warm with pouring cream or a dollop of custard (custard wins for me every day! Everyone else around me favours cream).

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175 golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 22g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 85g sour cream
  • 6 plums, halved and stoned

For the crumble topping 

  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 22cm springform round cake tin, as deep as you’ve got, with baking paper.
  2. Make the crumble topping first. Add all the crumble ingredients to a bowl and rub until it reaches your desired texture. It should look something like this:


  3. Now move onto the cake, which is really ridiculously easy. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, ground almonds and soured cream into an electric mixer or big bowl. Sift in the baking powder and flour and beat with your mixer or hand-held electric whisk until smooth.
  4. Tip all of the mixture into your tin and level out with a palette knife.
  5. Arrange the halved plums (cut side up) over the cake mixture and push in so that only the top centimetre or so of the plum is visible above the cake. It should look something like my earlier picture.
  6. Then scatter the crumble on top as evenly as you can. It should look something like this:

    The crumble mixture on top of the cake batter and plums. The quantity of crumble produces a good half a centimetre of crunchiness. I found there was no need to cover the cake with foil at any point during the bake to stop the crumble getting too dark.

  7. Bake for 1 hour until all the usual signs of a baked cake are evident (skewer comes out clean, no wobble, no instant deflate, etc). It should look something like this:


  8. Cool in the tin and then tip out to cool fully. Cut into chunky slices and serve with cream or custard. I stored the cake in an airtight tin and it was still yummy for about 2 days. After that the plums were a little too soft for my liking so my partner and I ate all remaining cake for fear of wastage.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while baking.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while in the oven.

I can’t wait to get going with some more seasonal cooking. I picked up a handful of wild mushrooms from the nearby green grocer which I’m planning on having for brunch tomorrow: fried with some garlic, butter and parsley and served on toast with a poached egg. Actual heaven on a plate. Seasonal cooking can be every day too right?! Enjoy the cake!

Diamine Claret Review

image

image

image

image

image

So that’s that. I intend on trying this ink out with my vintage Parker 45, the nib of which is closer to medium than fine with quite a wet flow, which might bring out the richness of Claret more than the Kaweco Sport has. Next I’m moving onto the Pilot Iroshizuku shin-ryoku shade of green and really looking forward to it.

Proscuitto, Manchego and Balsamic Onion Quick Bread

Have you been watching the Great British Bake Off? It’s one of my favourite programmes of the whole year. It’s light-hearted and there aren’t really any expectations for the winner at the end, although some of them have gone on to do very well in the public eye, and some non-winners have too. Ruby Tandoh’s weekly column in The Guardian is one of my favourite sources of new and interesting recipes. I am a big fan of Nadiya and Tamal. I’d be very happy if either of them won!

After each episode I always feel very inspired to produce something from the week’s theme. I’ve got a lot of experience making cakes but I feel like cake week is the only one I’d be anywhere near my comfort zone within. I’ve noted down lots of recipes from the series so far that I want to try my hand at, and BBC Food are handily publishing 5 recipes from each week on their website. Today was the perfect opportunity to return to week 3 (bread week) and bake Alvin’s proscuitto, manchego and balsamic onion quick bread which basically sounds like heaven in an oven. I’ve never made a quick bread or soda bread before, and just the thought of the combination of ingredients and flavours here make me ridiculously hungry. They’re the the kind of toppings I’d go for on a pizza, or pull together on a cheese board.

I am very lucky where I live in Greenwich to have a couple of gorgeous independent shops about 30 seconds walk from my house. It’s all very English, there’s a fishmonger, butcher, florist, green grocer and cheese shop. The Cheeseboard is a teeny shop on the corner packed with wines, olives, chutneys, dairy products, bread and baked goods and CHEESE. They’ve never let me down so far no matter how esoteric the cheese is that I’m after.

There was a fair amount of preparation to do for this recipe. All that tearing of proscuitto and basil, dicing manchego and slicing onions. The actual breadmaking part feels very short! I suppose that is the beauty of a quick bread. Take your time over preparing the onions so that they become super sweet and juicy while cooling. It’s the presence of these onions that mean you could almost eat it without butter because there is already a chutney-esque flavour running through it.

After rubbing the butter and flour together, it’s important that all the dry additions are well distributed through the breadcrumby mixture because apparently quick breads shouldn’t be handled too much. You don’t want to be kneading it excessively with the aim of distributing the fillings. The picture above is what my dry ingredients looked like all ready to receive the buttermilk.

I used about 250ml of buttermilk to make the dough just come together rather than the full 300ml. It looked so appetising even before going in the oven! All the different flashes of colour are lovely.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (olive, vegetable, rapeseed etc)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (22.5ml) soft brown sugar
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp (5ml) bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp (5ml) salt
  • 30g cold, diced unsalted butter
  • 80g proscuitto, torn roughly
  • 200g manchego cheese, diced into roughly 1cm chunks
  • Handful of torn basil leaves
  • 300ml buttermilk (or 300ml milk mixed with 20ml of white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp (15g) butter, melted, for brushing over the finished quick bread
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Warm the oil over medium-high heat and when hot, add the red onions and stir. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar, increase the heat slightly, and cook, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely (this should take half an hour or so).
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large deep bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles very fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Put a small amount of cooked onions, manchego and proscuitto aside to top the bread with when it goes in the oven.
  5. Add the remaining onions, prosciutto, basil and cheese to the flour mixture.
  6. Mix the buttermilk with 25ml water. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, I used about 250ml rather than the full 300ml and you’re trying to make a dough which just comes together. Add more buttermilk if the dough is too dry, or a little plain flour if it’s too wet.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, roughly shape and transfer to the prepared baking trays. Flatten the loaf to about 4cm thick. Score the top using a sharp knife and top with the reserved balsamic onions, proscuitto and manchego.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden-brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. I covered the bread with foil 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time to make sure it didn’t get burnt. If the bread sounds hollow when you tap its base, it’s done.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and brush with melted butter. Allow to cool fully.

The fact that this quick bread already has a handful of meat and cheese in makes it delicious on its own rather than a bread for sandwich-making. I had it with a spread of goats cheese. I was actually impressed by how soft the crumb was, as I was expecting a rather more dense loaf given the lack of kneading and yeast. Quick breads keep well in airtight containers, in the fridge for a few days or frozen when fully cooled down. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of the GBBO final next week!

September Stationery and Bookish Bloomsbury

I have been reducing my expenditure slightly on stationery over the last couple of months. I should say that this doesn’t mean the quantity of stationery I have acquired has reduced. The truism “quality over quantity” has probably sprung to your mind, but one of the best aspects of this particular passion of mine is that great, unique and usable stationery comes in all shapes and sizes, for all prices.

One piece of stationery that I love and have decided I can’t live without? Washi tape. Perhaps to some, these decorative tapes appear relatively useless. But since incorporating them into my various written pursuits, I find I can’t get enough of the stuff. Using washi tapes can add instant luxe appeal to the most drab of Paperchase sale cards. It adds splashes of colour to darkly-coloured notebooks and boring office-cupboard plastic wallets. It can be used as page markers or bookmarks. Borders, lines, boxes in a scrapbook. I am a bit obsessed. I have about 20 different washi tapes and I chop and change these in my daily collection just like my pencils and pens.

image

Much of September’s stationery I bought in person and on a singular occasion. I went for the most wonderful walk in Bloomsbury recently. It’s amazing what you see when you’re actually looking for it. The British Museum is very famous for its wonderful collection of Greek antiquities, and while I nosed around museums all over Greece recently it’s noticeable how many pieces of Greek art and history are actually on loan from the British Museum… to Greece! On taking a stroll past the British Museum I noticed for the first time that many of the shops nearby have a Greek theme. That would have never caught my eye before my recent holiday. Anyway, my reason for being in the area in the first place and the eventual moral of this story is that Bloomsbury has the most fantastic aura of bookishness and literacy about it. Over the course of about four hours I strolled around with a coffee (Holborn Grind, delicious) stopping off at various independent bookstores and stationers. Best day ever.

One of my first stops was Blade Rubber Stamps. This is a shop devoted to, well, rubber stamps. I love using rubber stamps and often incorporate them into notes and letters. I’ve been lusting after a date stamp for some time, having been patiently waiting for this cute little one (number 11) to come back into stock at one of my favourite stationers’ Present & Correct. Blade Rubber Stamps has a vast range of products; seasonal motifs, short messages in vintage style type, floral designs, black cabs… you name it, it’s on a stamp. They had a great selection suitable for letter-writing, and I was particularly drawn to a tiny snail stamp (as in “snail mail”). But then I found this beauty. So far the quality of the stamp seems excellent; it produces a lovely and extremely fine colonial font. I’ve been inking it up with my Lion stamp pad as the ink comes out brilliantly black. Gorgeous isn’t it?

Onto some of my paper and ink acquisitions over the last month. I purchased a couple of my new washi tapes from Volte Face on Great Ormond Street, and the rest I picked up at another of my favourite stationers’ – JP Books in Soho. JP Books specialises in Japanese products and the display of books and magazines (predominantly in Japanese) fascinates me. Oh the hours I’ve spent in here. It’s ironic because the stationery collection isn’t vast, but they stock products that I just haven’t come across anywhere else. All that testing and handling and reading takes time. First and foremost I bought myself a Tsubame Cream notebook. I have read reviews of the Tsubame Fools range of notebooks online and I know that they are well respected for their bleed resistant, watermarked paper. On opening this notebook you are confronted with the creamiest of papers. The cover is soft-bound and has a leathery effect to it, and there is a great, very lightly woven linen-style binding on the spine.  I’ll update on this when I get stuck into using it properly. Oh and I’m too nervous to write my name on the cover. I don’t want to ruin the look and feel of it by scrawling my name on the front yet!

My other two purchases are disposable pens and came at a snip. These are the Pilot Uniball Signo RT1 in blue black (0.38mm) and a Kuretake brush pen. While I love a good fountain pen I do have a special place in my heart for fine gel pens. The Pilot RT1 is a very smooth pen to write with and I really like the blue black tone.  While it’s not going to win prizes with me for uniqueness, it’s a worthwhile everyday pen and I’ve been using it consistently at work ever since I added it to my weekly collection at the expense of all my other pens, which is actually quite an accolade considering how much thought I put into said weekly collection. The image at the top of this post is a sample of how the RT1 writes, very occasionally I have an issue with the ink skipping (as you can see on the word “mean”) but overall the ink is consistent. I’ve only doodled and jotted with the Kuretake brush pen so far. I’m actually attending a brush lettering workshop later this month for which I’m hugely excited. I’m planning to keep it safe to use and practice with after I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to produce beautiful brush calligraphy!

On my walk I stumbled across Persephone Books on Lamb’s Conduit Street. Persephone Books is predominantly a publishing house with a bookshop attached, specialising in female writers particularly from the early 20th century. I couldn’t walk out of this shop empty-handed. This book, “Someone at a Distance” by Dorothy Whipple, was recommended to me as featuring a meaty plot and having a very literary style of writing compared to some of the more light-hearted books on offer. I proudly walked out with this under my arm and I’m about to start reading once I finish the current book I’m on (“Confessions of a Sociopath” by M.E.Thomas). I’m looking forward to it because it seems to be different to my usual fictional choices which have recently included “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce, “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozens, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “A Song for Issy Bradley” by Carys Bray). Persephone Books deserves its own blog post though and I’m popping back soon to meet the staff at Persephone Books to learn more about their publishing style, book selections and future editions.

Have you used any of these products? I’d be delighted to hear your reviews.