Saturday, 21 September 2019

Hobonichi Unboxing, Part 2: Custom Covers from Snow Cover Journal

Please see here for Part 1 in which I write about my purchase from the Hobonichi Techo shop.

This year I wasn't very enthused with the covers that Hobonichi were offering. I was in the market for 2 covers, because in the first couple of years, I didn't buy a cover, thinking I'd make one myself. That never happened, so now I'm trying to catch up by buying one extra cover each year until all my diaries are covered (so to speak!). There were two covers in the shop that I quite liked, but I wasn't sure. (These were the Candy Plaid and the Floral Handkerchief, for any curious Hobo fans reading.) Then I realised that I didn't like the interior colours of either of them! They were beige and black respectively -- my two least favourite colours! I spend at least as much time looking at the inside of the cover as the outside, as it peeks out around the edges when the book lies open. I don't want to spend a whole year looking at a colour I don't like (sorry Hobo!). So I decided to seek my fortune elsewhere.

After extensive searching on Etsy I found a shop called Snow Journal Cover in China. The seller makes custom covers with your choice of design for the exterior, and a selection of 12 interior colours. I liked many of the cover designs, and the interior colours were pleasing. The bookmark ends could also be customised. When factoring in the postage and the inclusion of a cover-on-cover, the cost came out to be only slightly more for the customised Snow Journal covers. So I decided to go for it!

I placed my order for the covers on 28th August, knowing that custom orders take time to make. It turned out perfectly as they arrived one day before my Hobo order did! It wasn't deliberately timed, but it couldn't have worked out better. My order was packed very well, even with bubble wrap and cute wrapping paper tied up with string.

The two designs I chose were Fuji-San with Sakura in grey, and van Gogh's Almond Blossoms. I chose the option which includes a cover-on-cover for both (a clear plastic cover which goes over the cover proper to protect the fabric). I definitely insist on the extra protection as I leave my diary out on the coffee table most of the time: it's in danger of tea spills and sometimes the cat sits on it.

This cute postcard came with it. It says: "Sometimes when I'm with you, I forget myself." It will make a lovely pocket deco. This photo shows off the custom bookmark ends as well. They're exactly as I requested.

These covers have one less pocket (I think) than the Hobonichi brand covers, but there are still plenty, in my opinion.

The biggest problem I will have now is deciding which cover to put on my 2020 Hobo, and which to put on my old one! I still work with my older Hobos quite a bit though, as I like to go through and fill up the blank/spare pages with paintings, practice drawings, quotes, ideas for art projects, etc. Or sometimes I find old ephemera (brochures, movie tickets, restaurant business cards etc) that I can add to the relevant year.

In the end I decided to put the Almond Blossoms cover on my 2017 Hobo. This photo shows well how the interior of the cover is visible when you're working in it.

Even though it isn't full (yet!) my 2017 Hobo is still quite chonky!

Here it is with my current/2019 Hobonichi side by side for comparison. This is the plain pink cover matched with the Night Forest print cover-on-cover. The Hobonichi cover looks slightly bigger in this photo, but it's not -- I think it just looks like that because it's (even) thicker. And it's still very much a working item so please excuse the bulldog clips and ugly sticky notes! As you can see, the Hobonichi cover-on-cover has a matte finish, whereas the generic cover is shiny. This doesn't matter in everyday use, only when you're trying to take photos, ahem. It has a different, smoother feel, but I personally find it just as pleasant.

Here is a comparison shot of the interiors. The Snow Cover Journal is on top, and the Hobonichi cover underneath. You can see when looking at the corners that the generic cover-on-cover doesn't fit quite as closely to the cover itself. I'm not bothered by this, but others can always stick to the Hobonichi brand cover-on-cover if they prefer.
P.S. I did a course on colouring-in as therapy back in 2017. XD

I am absolutely thrilled with my covers from Snow Journal Cover. They're exactly what I wanted and will make my diary-writing experience more pleasurable all year long. I'll definitely keep them in mind for next year.

Hobonichi 2020 Unboxing, Part 1

(Gosh, it felt strange to write '2020' instead of '201-something' in the title!)

This is Part 1 of a 2-part post. Because of the huge amount of photospams, I decided to break this post up into two. Don't worry though, I'll be posting both at the same time so you don't have to wait! Part 1 covers my purchase from the Hobonichi shop of the journal itself and accessories. Part 2 describes my experience with purchasing custom covers for my journals, and a comparison with the Hobonichi brand covers.

Once again, I purchased Hobonichi's Techo (journal) for next year. It seems to have become a yearly tradition for me. While I don't always fill out my diary entry every day, I always have my diary near me, and I use it for various other purposes as well. As per last year, the product onsales were staggered over a 3 day period, but all of the products I wanted went on sale on the first day, so I didn't have to bother myself with placing a hold on my order.

Postage time from Japan was about ten days, plus a couple of extra days until I was able to go to the post office and pick it up (always an impatient wait!). This year's box is a stunning lime green colour. The first couple of years I cut up my boxes to use the cardboard for displays, etc, but I think I'll keep this one to store things in. (My previous Hobos, for example?)

This year, the traditional quote on the box says:
Once, words were engraved in stones.
Once, words were exchanged from mouth to mouth.
I guess people could not help it,
because they were so precious.
We all want to keep words alive.

As per normal, everything inside was packed well.

The free gifts were the usual tri-pen, this time with a red barrel, and a pack of Hyakunin-isshu ("100 poets 100 poems") playing cards. The cards are illustrated by manga artist Radio Wada. Unfortunately I can't play the game as I can't read Japanese and the only poems I know are a small selection of haiku, but the cards themselves set my witchy heart a-fluttering. Can I turn them into a divination tool?

The Techo also came with a fold-out mini poster with a graphic story on it, which I also unfortunately can't read, but the illustrations are adorable and I will keep it as a memento. There was also a lovely card with a link to this website, which seems at first glance to be stories of Hobonichi users. Thank goodness for goog translate because otherwise I'd have no clue of anything whatsoever. I'll have a better look later after I've finished sharing my Hobonichi excitement!

Here are the accessories I purchased. I didn't get too much this year because of my circumstances, but I did get some sticky notes, washi tapes and stencils, plus the adorable Hobo rubber stamp. The two washi tapes are based on traditional Japanese lottery/divination systems so of course I had to get them.

Here is a better look at the stencils. They are much smaller than I thought they'd be. I think I'd need a fineliner to use them properly, but I'll experiment.

See here for Part 2, in which I review my custom covers purchase and compare them to Hobonichi brand covers!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Early Spring Garden Update

Spring is definitely in the air here in Australia. I can feel it on the wind. It's still a cold wind, but there's a fresher quality to it somehow. So I went outside on the first sunny day that came along, to see what was happening.

The fruit trees are blossoming and looking very beautiful right now. The wind has blown some of the blossoms off, but I think we should get a medium-sized crop of both nectarines and apricots this year. The plum harvest should be smaller as I pruned it much more severely than the others last year. There was just too much to deal with and, I have to admit, a lot of fruit (of all kinds) went to waste. I want to do things better next time.

Some plants that I was fond of have died, but others (both old and newer) are growing better than I've ever seen them. Like this daisy I planted about 3 years ago. It's doubled in size in only a couple of months. Unfortunately its twin isn't doing so well due to an apparent whippersnipper incident (I guess the mowing man didn't see it as it was so small) but I didn't bother to take any photos of that.

The hardenbergias on either side are also growing better than I've ever seen them. They didn't even flower the first few years that we lived here. I'd like to make a trellis for them to grow on one day, seeing as they're actually vines.

The lavender I planted last year also suffered from a whippersnipping accident but it seems to be recovering. Also you can see here, the grass hasn't been mowed for months. I have to admit, I secretly like it this way. It's best this time of year: the clover and those plants with the yellow flowers create a beautiful soft green carpet, but the actual grass hasn't exploded yet.

The fernery is looking a bit scruffy. The second of the three large ferns has died now (the stump is visible in the right side of this photo). I waited a year to be sure, but I don't think it's coming back. I will need to decide whether to put in another fern, or do something different. The spider plants are growing well though, and the azaleas are looking beautiful right now, if a bit long in the stems.

Even the hanging plants are growing well. The first photo, of the Winter cactus, was taken a few weeks ago. They're a bit limper now. I haven't re-potted them for a couple of years, so I should probably think about doing that soon.

Husband and I want to plant a lemon tree in our front yard, in a nice retro-looking garden bed (the retro part was my idea, in case you weren't sure!). That will be a bit of work to set up though, we're busy/tired/sick, and the window of lemon-planting season is already here, so I'm not sure if we can get organised. I'll post any updates if and when they happen!

Meanwhile, happy Spring/Autumn!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

My August, and, September Reading Challenge

August has been a typical Winter month: cold every day and rainy most days. But Winter is in my top two seasons, so I don't complain. My health has been a bit iffy again -- still getting over a virus and then a cold more recently. I was able to go out a couple of times though, and kept myself busy otherwise. There's been a lack of regular posts recently, it's true. Nothing felt like it was important enough for a full post, hence why this one has lots of bits and pieces in it.

What I've been reading ...
I completed my goal and finished The Lord of The Rings on the last day of the month. I might write about my experience with re-reading it later. I'm still very much enjoying reading so I set myself another monthly challenge. For September, I will read at least 1/2 hour a day, and try to finish as many quick reads / short books / short stories as I can. My optional challenge ('stretch goal', I guess you could call it) is to finish one book I've had on my 'currently reading' pile for a long time.

Here is the page I made up in my Hobonichi to track my progress. I don't know why I put such a large piece of washi tape on the left side. I guess I can stick a plain piece of paper over the top of it later if I run out of room on the right hand side. Also, can you spot the several spelling mistakes? Writing vertically and coming down with a cold aren't a good combination for concentrating.

What I've been cooking ...
I tried a new recipe ... Japanese Cream Stew, using the recipe from Japanese Cooking 101, here. It's made with a plain white sauce, which I thought would make it taste bland, but the meat and vegetables are cooked in chicken broth, and it ended up being rich and very tasty. I would definitely make it again.

What I've been drawing ...
I wanted to try doing more drawing this month, because if I want to learn to draw, then I have to practice! I only drew a couple of times, and ended up retreating to 'comfort' subjects, like the fantasy maps I used to draw when I was a teenager. I do most of them in my Hobonichi because they have so many spare pages, it fills them up. I quite like the layered effect on the trees in the centre of this one, though it was mostly accidental.

Speaking of my Hobonichi, I haven't been writing in it every single day, but when I do, I've been trying out different styles. On these pages, I layered the washi tapes, and added small notepapers for highlighted points. To be honest, most of the 'notepapers' are just textured backgrounds that I printed off the internet, cut up into the appropriate size/shape, and edged with a highlighter. And also to be honest, most of the time I just end up writing what I had for dinner or what I watched on Netflix. But I think they give the page an interesting extra dimension.

What I've been working on ...
I'm still working on this yet-to-be-named art project. Things tend to take longer than I thought because I tend to get obsessed, go down rabbitholes, try everything, and research every tiny detail. Currently I'm creating a conscript (constructed script) for it, and I'm trying out different shapes and forms for the letters. (Again, using up spare pages in my Hobonichi.)

What I've been growing ...
Here is a plant that my friend had at work, and needed some tlc. I brought it home and put it with my other indoor plants. It's starting to look nice and plump already. When the weather gets a bit warmer, I'll re-pot it.

What I've been seeing ...
I took a trip to the city to have lunch with some friends, and saw this street art in one of the laneways:

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

August Personal Reading Challenge : Halfway

I enjoyed the reading challenge I did last month so much that I decided to set a personal one for myself for the month of August. I again set up a page in my Hobonichi art diary to record my progress.

My goals for this month are:
❖ read one hour every day
❖ finish Lord of the Rings
optionally ... finish 8 full-length books (including Lord of the Rings)

Here is my tracker as of today:

Each half-circle represents 1/2 an hour of reading. That seems to be the maximum amount of time I can concentrate before my mind starts to wander. Sometimes I have two books next to me, and switch from one to the other if I find my interest wandering. The bonus circles are for casual or incidental reading I did, such as reading stories on a writing forum.

The note at the bottom says: "I decided to start the challenge on the 5th, so I had a lot of catching up to do!"

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

My July

I know this update is a bit late, but I thought I'd do it anyway, now that I feel like it. There isn't much to report again from last month. I still have some ongoing health issues and I'm still not able to work right now. I've been doing what I can. It's the middle of Winter in this part of the world, and there have been some cold, frosty nights. I like the cold weather, wearing scarves and hats and layers, but I haven't been able to get outside much to enjoy it so far.

What I've been reading ...
I participated in the July 24 in 48 Readathon. I was busy on the actual weekend of the readathon -- the only time I've been busy for ages! -- so I decided to go easy on myself and let my personal readathon run for a week ... then a couple of weeks ... I kept track of my reading in my Hobonichi diary. As you can see, I still didn't quite reach my goal. I find reading is harder in the age of casual games within arm's reach. Each circle represents half an hour of reading:

What I've been working on ...
I've been doing some research for a new art project. There aren't many details yet, at least not that I'm willing to reveal. Sorry about that, but here's a sneaky behind-the-scenes pic. I again decided to use my Hobonichi to keep my notes in, as it has so many spare pages and I wanted to use them somehow:

What I've been drinking ...
In this cold weather, I've been drinking lots and lots of tea! I re-started my planned series of tea review blog posts. Hopefully there'll be another one soon. I also made progress on setting up my hutch with my collection of teapots and tea storage tins. Thanks to a recent donation from Mum, I now have a collection of Delftsware (Dutch blue and white ware) too, though unfortunately I doubt most of it is real. (I'm not showing the bottom shelf because it's not done yet.):

Selections from Instagram
I only posted one photo on Instagram last month. I just haven't been in the mood for sharing, not feeling like I have anything to share. Nevertheless, here is my photo of the foodie outing I went on a couple of weeks ago (photo is pre-pouring on of the delicious and generous serve of curry sauce!):

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Tea Time : The Norns by The Forest Witch

Note: I have already removed the tea from its original packaging and placed it in a tin for storage, but originally it came in a resealable stand-up pouch the same as the one pictured.

Today's Tea: The Norns from The Forest Witch
What is it? From the Forest Witch website: "A black tea swirling with deep forest fruits of elderberry, currant, and blueberry. Woody clove and sweet fennel round out the flavour, all creating a deep cup of tea, dive in if you've the heart for it."
Ingredients: organic black tea, organic blueberries, organic elderberries, organic currants, organic cloves, organic fennel, flavour
Recommendations: Steep 1 teaspoon for 3-5 minutes.

The Tea and Me:
The Norns is created by independent tea blender The Forest Witch Mia, located in Canada. All of her teas are inspired by Celtic deities or fantasy themes such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and most recently, Good Omens. The Norns are the little-known Goddesses of fate in the Norse pantheon, deep and mysterious.

The dry tea has a very strong, earthy spice scent. I steeped it for 4 minutes, hedging my bets with the instructions. I usually try black teas both with milk and without. My preference is to drink black tea with milk, but I like to try it both ways to find the best. The black tea has a very strong fennel flavour, though not as much like liquorice as the spice itself. This is possibly due to the influence of the cloves, which come through too in a moderate way. Strong tannins made my tongue wrinkle, made even more astringent by the fennel. I found that the fruits were barely noticeable.

Adding milk punches down the tannins and allows the fruit flavour to come out. Even still, I found the berry flavours too subtle to be satisfying. My personal taste in teas is to the sweet side, so perhaps my taste buds were searching in vain for something that was never meant to be there.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed The Norns and would purchase it again. It's the perfect tea to sip deep into the night, staring into the flame of a single candle, waiting for the witching hour to arrive.

The Norns is available online from The Forest Witch shop. I found the price (in Canadian dollars) very reasonable and the postage costs to Australia, too, especially compared with many U.S. sources. She also has an Etsy shop if you prefer. I loved dealing with Mia and look forward to making many more purchases with her. Her Instagram is here.

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