16 Dec 2020

fountain pen ink: de atramentis santa claus and a very merry christmas!

I'm a big fan of De Atramentis inks: they have so many ink lines with interesting ink colours. A chocolate scented ink called Santa? Sold. I also like to write my Christmas cards using an ink that feels a bit festive and one called Santa sounded like a good one to consider for this year. Last year, it was J. Herbin's Emerald of Chivor so I needed one that would live up to its (literal) dazzling heights.

The bottle even has a picture of Santa on the label! Can a brown ink really be festive? Well...

It did end up being my Christmas card ink of choice this year and I hope the chocolate scent stayed for long enough for the recipients of my cards to get a whiff.

Up until now, I've still yet to be disappointed by De Atramentis inks and this one has proved a worthy addition to my (extensive) ink collection.

And as this is the last planned blog post for 2020, I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. I hope you all have a restful festive period.

25 Nov 2020

revising for postgraduate exams resulted in this 'random nuggets of knowledge' notebook

During the last twelve months, I have taken two surgical exams. Postgraduate exams are a whole new kettle of fish! At medical school, we needed to know a little about everything so you'd think revising for exams that were for a subset of that 'everything' would be easier? Nope. Turns out there is still a mountain to learn for surgery. The little about everything still applies, but for everything to do with surgery and every surgical specialty out there.... And it's actually a 'little bit more' rather than just a 'little'.

In September, the first exam I took was a written one and it was a multiple choice question exam. Easy enough - question banks were how I approached my revision and they served me well. I passed and then decided to sit the next exam in February which was a practical one. It is 'OSCE'-based (obstructive structured clinical examinations) where there were anatomy stations, practical skills ones, communication ones and anything you can imagine that is related to every surgical specialty out there. This was more difficult to revise for!

During my shifts at work (I was doing my clinical shifts in the Emergency Department at the time), I approached every potential surgical patient as if it was part of this exam. I did pretty well in the examination stations so that must have worked!

However, for the more knowledge-based stations, I used another question bank. This and revision for the first exam resulted in the most random notebook full of nuggets of knowledge from pretty much every surgical specialty.

I have to admit, this wasn't my most organised way to revise for an exam but it seemed to work ok. Part of it was that I didn't expect to pass the second exam as it was meant to be a practice one, albeit an expensive one!

My next exam won't be for another five years or so but for that one, I'll make sure I'm much more prepared and organised!

11 Nov 2020

three months using the bullet journal system. Is it working?

Having now used my bullet journal since the beginning of July 2020, trial and error has enabled me to figure out what works and what needs to re-visit the drawing board. I'm still in my Papier bujo and with the aid of various pens and paper materials, I've developed a journal that is a pleasure to use on a daily basis. 

My monthly layouts are ever evolving. September was a liner top to bottom style whereas October is in a grid format. I'm still trying to decide which one works best for me - both have their pros and cons! For once, I'm sitting on the fence with this one until I give both systems a few more uses. 

August was a busy month; I moved to a new area and also started a new job. As a result, the space I left for each day felt like it just wasn't enough. I ended up using two columns a day on some occasions. However, as the months have gone by in this new job, I've needed less of the two columns and the space has been enough. I also tried out @ellolovey's Instagram 'doodle a day' which explains the appalling drawings down the right hand side. 

There isn't a colour code as such; I just use whatever colour I feel like to accent some important events or tasks. 

I've enjoyed looking for an interesting quote for each double page spread. Some are quite motivating and some have really resonated with me. The one by Tina Fey below is one that I quite like; I was going through a phase where I felt quite disillusioned with things because I had noticed that assertive women are treated differently to assertive men. They are often called aggressive or obstructive and this is something I've noticed throughout my short career so far. I have no idea what the solution is because I have noticed some women calling other women these names too! 

Each month, I sit down to review my goals. I like to exercise as much as possible (but without injuring myself) and the use of a MyZone belt (a gift from my sister) helps with this. The time I take to reflect on the month also allows me to see what worked within my bullet journal. I'll often know if my system is working or not because I'll either feel calm and organised or burnt out and frazzled! 

What I've enjoyed is the flexibility with the set up. Mid-way through my currently bullet journal, I decided I needed a revised Bucket List. And that is what you can see below! 

And no bullet journal is complete with something Animal Crossing related! Below is a list of Redd's paintings and statues I still need to complete my museum. Very important pages indeed. 


- I've really enjoyed the flexibility with the pages. I can use as much or as little as I want for each week. So far, I've stuck to a double page spread but for 2021, I'm going to freestyle it (I think). I also like that I can have random collections in my bullet journal. 

- Using a bullet journal has allowed me to stay creative (within my limited capability!). I aim for a minimalistically creative look (if that's such a thing) and I think for the most part, I've achieved that. 

- Goodbye to wasted pages in pre-set up planners! I've never had much use for address pages as I usually send e-cards/emails instead of post to try and cut down on my environmental impact. 


- A lack of structure is something that is very unlike me! I think bullet journaling has been good in that regard as it has allowed me to learn a bit about spontaneity and how to adapt when things don't go to plan.

- The time taken to set up some weeks have been much more than I would like. 2021 will look very different as a result; much more minimalistic!

- Choosing which notebook to use for my next bullet journal. This really is a pickle!

Overall, there are very few cons to using a bullet journal. There is a set-up for everyone; you don't need to copy someone else's system as what will work for someone else will not necessarily be a system that works for you. Much of the fun is working out what does work for you and how to adapt it to make it even better. Let's see how my next three months fare! 

28 Oct 2020

journaling: a little every day goes a long way - my one line a day journal by leuchtturm 1917

Over the years, I've mentioned journaling quite a lot on here. In 2019, I decided to start a five year memory book and opted for the Leuchtturm 1917 offering because it was guaranteed the paper would take fountain pen well. Orange is one of my favourite colours so that was the colour I opted for. This is a thick notebook as you can imagine and so far, the hardcover has held up well. 

I've filled in every day of 2019 and 2020 so far. Whenever I write that day's entry, I always find it fascinating to read the previous year's entry and it instantly takes me back to that day in 2019. For this year, I decided to try using prompts instead and to save what I did for my main journal where I write freely.

Other things recorded in it are my workouts and how much effort I had put into it. My sister gifted me a MyZone belt in May of this year and I've been using it regularly to stay fit and ensure I'm putting maximal effort into my HIIT sessions which I do a few times a week at home. Seeing my progress and effort keeps me motivated for my workouts, along with the competitive element (against my sister which is a guaranteed losing battle as she is an army reserve officer).

The next three years will be interesting and I'm already looking forward to seeing what memories are recorded when this notebook is filled.

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 Sept 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 Sept 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!