14 Oct 2020

my august 2019 - august 2020 work notebook by katie leamon

In the UK, junior doctors rotate every August. From August 2019 - August 2020, I decided not to do, what we call, a 'training job'. This meant that the year did not count towards my future training in whatever specialty I choose (which happens to be urology). This was fine with me and this 'year out' was intentional. I applied for a clinical fellow role which had a large educational chunk to it and it was an amazing year. The highlights were the people I met during the year, the projects I got involved in and started personally and just seeing the difference I had made with the things I had done.

The educational element was something I had never encountered before; being a junior doctor here in the UK is very much 100% clinical time. This role gave me 60% educational time. To try and stay organised, I cracked out this Katie Leamon notebook. With its 300 pages, I was confident it would be enough for this year. Famous last words, eh? It was just enough for the year. You can see how battered it was after constant use... Just look at that spine!

I used post-it notes and Avery note tabs to separate out the different sections that were often referenced. By the end, this is what the top of the notebook looked like.

Every week, I would write at least two to-do lists. The one thing with education was I realised how much slower things can be. As someone who likes to see instant results (hence my choice to go into surgical training), I struggled with this a bit initially. However, over time, I began to sit back a bit and let things run their course.

My to-do lists were often long (usually longer than the one below but this was the one which had the fewest points with identifiable/confidential information on it). You can see that I almost used a bullet journal-esque key to denote a completed or cancelled task.

Below, I've taken a picture of a project I did outside of this role. I did some reading about renal and ureteric stones and these were the notes I took. Unfortunately, I can't show you something from the educational side as some of it is still a work in progress or is in the process of (hopefully) being published.

So this was the notebook which got me through a year of many projects and a lot of educational work. What I really loved about the year was how concentrating on things outside of clinical work made me want to go back into training; and how my clinical days made me miss my educational work!

I think it'll mean that I will always have an element of educational-related activities to my career at every stage and I'm curious to see what the future holds for me in this regard.

23 Sep 2020

archer and olive 160gsm a5 dot grid fabric cover notebooks

As I've decided to give bullet journaling a go at some point in the near future (this might be a case of just 'shut up and get on with it' as I've been putting it off for a few months now), I need the right materials for it. And by materials, I mean notebook. I can't imagine not using my fountain pens or pigmented fineliners in it so I knew it had to have good quality paper and be of a size that would be portable enough for daily use.

A5 is a sure bet for me - it's a size I'm very much used to and having toted an A5 notebook to work everyday for a whole year, I know it works.

In terms of paper, 90gsm is standard for the Leuchtturm 1917 and Rhodia notebooks. I know I like it but I do wonder if there would be too much showthrough for me to be comfortable with. Enter some research I did which led me down a rabbit-hole... which then led me to Archer and Olive. This is not a sponsored post - I'm just a happy customer.

Archer and Oliver is run by Bonnie Kuhl from across the Atlantic.What really enticed me was that Archer and Olive are named after Bonnie's two cats. If that isn't adorable, I don't know what is.

When this notebook arrived, I was impressed by the packaging. It comes in a beautiful thick cardboard box which I will definitely be using in the future to store little trinkets in.

The notebook is wrapped in a single sheet of card and there is a card sleeve displaying the notebook's qualities too. It's great that all of the packaging shown here is readily recyclable. Unfortunately, what you can't see is that it actually came wrapped in plastic which I put in my recycling bin anyway but am still dubious about its capacity for re-use.

I opted for the 'morning sun' design for a few personal reasons and I really do like it's bright, happy, yellow hue. The fabric cover feels very hardy and the elastic closure looks like it is sturdy enough to put up with me potentially overstuffing this notebook.

Although this notebook is only 160 pages, it is as thick as my notebooks that are 192 pages. This is because of the epic 160gsm paper.

This notebook comes with two ribbon page markers which is ideal for what I intend to use it for: bullet journaling. One ribbon can be for 'today' and the other can be at a page of importance (i.e. goals for the year).

It also comes with a pen holder which is stretchy enough for my fountain pen of choice: my Pilot Kakuno. It's surprising how such a cheap fountain pen (it only cost me about £8 at the time) is one of the ones I reach for time and time again.

The interior is as you would expect: a page at the front for your details and then the dot grid pages, ready for use as whatever your heart desires.

I'm not going to lie: I'm very excited about using this. I also have a dot-grid Papier notebook which needs using and it'll be a tough choice to see which one gets used first. There is a part of me that thinks I should use the Papier first because if I use this 160gsm paper first, nothing else will compare. As a self-confessed paper snob, this notebook will do nothing to change that part of my personality!

2 Sep 2020

ink: organics studio fountain pen ink - aldous huxley old world blue

I'm a sucker for sheen and Organics Studio is known for the infamous Walden Pond ink which sheens like mad. I'd never tried an Organics Studio ink before so thought I'd give it a go when I saw this one: Aldous Huxley Old World Blue. To me, it's more of a turquoise ink than a true blue but that may a result of extra fine nibs. I like how the box also has a brief biography for the person the ink is named after too. At £8.75 for a 55mL bottle, I do feel that this is a reasonable price for an ink with plenty of character.

12 Aug 2020

re-reading old journals and preparing for future thoughts

Disclosure: there are emotional parts to this blog post. I also toyed with the idea of posting this or not for a long time but in the end, decided to share it.

As a confessed nerd, I am a huge fan of journaling. Having kept one on and off during my teens, I started decompressing mentally much more in my early twenties. I now journal almost daily and it really is a great thing to do before bed. On the days that have been stressful and I don't write anything down, I do notice that my sleep is more disturbed and I wake up feeling less refreshed the next day.

Mental health has had a spotlight on it for a while now which I think is justified. Conditions that aren't 'visible' have had some unjustified stigma attached to them and I do believe that everyone will have gone through some mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. 

For me, writing is very therapeutic. After my father died (maybe one day, I'll write about the experience of this as a 'good death' is something I am passionate about), what I found most difficult was never being able to talk to him again. In Hong Kong culture, we believe that things you cremate with the body are taken with them to the 'afterworld'. So for his cremation, I wrote him a letter using the best paper I could buy, using my 'Flower of Scotland' ink (as our happiest days were my childhood in Scotland) and written in my best handwriting. This helped me a lot. 

Sometimes, I also like to read parts of old journals to see what I was up to at that particular moment in time. As cheesy as this sounds; by doing this, I could really see how much I'd grown as a person and how much mentally stronger I am too. That said, I still have a long way to go in this journey and the blank journals below are just waiting to be filled with future ramblings that will hopefully allow me to develop more as a person. 

Do you find writing things down helpful? Did journaling get you through any particularly difficult periods of your life?

22 Jul 2020

a trial by error: a bullet journal for 2020 using a papier notebook!

This post has two parts to it. First, an introduction to Papier notebooks (this is not a sponsored post -  I'm just a very happy customer) and then an introduction to my bullet journal for 2021... Yes, I've finally done it and bit the bullet (pun intended).

Papier offer personalised notebooks in three different layouts: dot grid, lined or plain. I bought three: one was a gift for my sister and the other two were (naturally) for myself. The floral one is lined and the Miffy one is a dot-grid layout. Both come with 90gsm paper, a hardback cover, one ribbon page marker and contain 192 pages. They don't have a pen loop or a back pocket.

I decided to use the Miffy one for my 2021 bullet journal and here comes the second part of this blog post. My bullet journal all set-up, ready to go! (Name not blurred out here as my Instagram and Twitter now have it freely on show.)

My first page was a difficult one to commit to paper. It's a common feeling so not wanting to ruin a new notebook and I decided to take the plunge and just go for it. It's not perfect but it'll do!

The all important index, all ready to be filled in as the journal itself gets filled. 

Next, a mood tracker based on how my day went. We'll see if I tend to be a pessimist or an optimist with this spread...

A future log for any events that are coming up but cannot yet my filled into the monthly or weekly spreads as they are so far in advance. I quite like this view as I can see the upcoming year at a glance.

This year is a big one for me. I have a few goals: one of which include moving into my own house. Having not been abroad since October 2019, I would also like to take a small holiday at some point in 2021 so saving for that is another priority. We'll see how this pans out!

A work checklist here. It is based on the most recent checklist I could find and it keeps me accountable and productive in work-related activities.

With my yearly goal of reading as many books as possible (I read about one book a week at the moment - much slower than when I was at medical school!), I like to keep track of books completed. Another thing I don't do often enough is watch films so that is something I want to do more of this year. This tracker will surely help.

I'm always on the quest to improve myself in all aspects of my life so my own 'personal development plan' (PDP) will hopefully help me with this. PDPs are common in my line of work but I try and make my own so much more, including my personal life and goals in there too. Obviously, the personal side of things don't get documented on my work portfolio.

And onto my first monthly spread! I am going to try a linear vertical monthly spread for January and see how it goes before potentially trying something different for February.

And onto my first weekly spread! I am doing a week to one page to start off with and as my week's start on a Monday, I've included the last week of 2019 in there. This also means I get to start this journal sooner so, win win?

This is all still very new to me but it'll be good to try something different and out of my comfort zone.  Once this journal is filled, I think my next one will have to be one of my Leuchtturms or an Archer and Olive journal. We'll see how this all goes!


In a plot twist, I decided to give bullet journaling a go earlier this month. I've posted a few snippets over on my Instagram already but a full blog post will follow at some point once things calm down in a few weeks' time!

1 Jul 2020

dreaming of better days through my travel journal

During lockdown, I was meant to be on holiday for a few weeks, traveling Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, this never happened. But if it had, it would all have been planned in this notebook. This notebook has been with me to a number of places already and my hope is to fill it before long.

My most recent holiday was a long weekend in Lisbon back in October. It was a reward for passing an exam and it was also nice to get out of the country for a bit!

Planning the trip, I always start by noting a rough guide for each day. Sometimes things change depending on my mood which is fine - but I do like to have a skeleton plan for every holiday I take. I'm not the type to fly somewhere spontaneously and just make plans on the day. Maybe that will change one day!

The next bit is an outfit plan so that I know what to pack. And then comes the packing list. This helps to ensure I don't leave any essentials behind here in the UK and also helps for when I pack to come home (to ensure nothing gets left there too!).

I then write a brief list of things I want to see. I work with a some lovely Portuguese nurses who were amazing in giving me a list of 'must-see' attractions. I went to every single one of their recommendations!

Every night, I wrote a journal entry detailing the events of that day and also what I ate (very important information). I don't usually travel with a fountain pen just in case they leak. Therefore, a Muji gel pen accompanied me on this trip.

In the top right corner, you'll see that there is a circular sticker I have folded in half in line with the page. This is a marker for the end of that 'chapter' of the notebook and the beginning of another trip.

I'm not sure where and when my next trip will be but it'll definitely be planned in this notebook. Australia is on my bucket list so that is a possibility if I can get a stretch of annual leave long enough to make the most of a trip there. Fingers crossed!

10 Jun 2020

pretty things: Leuchtturm 1917 A5 notebooks in bellini, powder and sage!

As mentioned in my previous post, I do like pretty things. So when I saw that these Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks were available for purchase.... Well.... You can pretty much guess what happened.

These are destined to be my future journals and over the last few months, my journaling habits have changed. I now write in my journal most days - it's good for a brain dump, helps my mental health and ensures I get a restful sleep most nights. Doing this enables me to write about the good things that have happened, the things that have irked me or have resulted in negative thoughts and also the random nuances of my day that I will read about in the future and (hopefully) have a chuckle about. 

The only question is... In which order do I use these beauties?!

20 May 2020

the twsbi eco rose gold in an extra fiiiiiine nib

Those of you who know me will know that I like a pretty fountain pen (or two....hundred... kidding, kinda). So when TWSBI announced that this year would be a rose gold year, I knew I wanted in on the action. The first rose gold offering is this Eco. The previous rose gold fountain pen TWSBI made had anything but raving reviews - the plating was allegedly of a poor quality and some buyers were left disappointed. However, they have assured customers that they have worked on this and the rose gold releases from this year will hopefully not be plagued with the same problems.

Anyway, here is the pen! I already have an Eco and know of its many benefits: the huuuuuuuge ink capacity, the demonstrator design so that you can see exactly how much ink is left, how lightweight it is in hand and its simplistic design.

One difference about the other Ecos and this one is the packaging. It came with this lovely cardboard sleeve which has the TWSBI logo in a rose gold hue. To me, this sleeve just looks that bit more elegant. The frosted plastic box is the same as always.

The rose gold accents complement the white elements beautifully.... If you like rose gold that is (I know it's not everyone's cup of tea!). The first ink I chose for mine? J. Herbin's Rouille d'Ancre. I love this ink but haven't had much opportunity to use it as work calls for a darker ink.

This is a beauty of a pen and it'll be a regular in my 'constantly inked' arsenal of pens. It currently has Robert Oster's Tranquility in it (an aptly named ink for the current times) but once that runs dry, who knows what I opt for next? All I know is, it will most definitely be inked.

30 Apr 2020

throwback thursday: medschool notes on psychiatry

Whilst doing a massive spring clean and clear-out of my flat, I found these notes I made on a psychiatry placement. These must date back to 2015! I think the pen used was a Pilot Kakuno (fine nib of course) and Diamine Prussian Blue as the ink. The ink seems to have faded a bit (despite not being in direct sunlight) and has turned into dark grey which is quite easy on the eye! The darker blue in the latter is Diamine Denim or Blue-Black - I can't quite remember!

For those of you still holding onto your university notes, what do you do with them? There is probably little to no need for me to keep them but they do look too nice to just throw into the recycling bin!