My way or the cahier

I have more than a few rough notes laying around containing thoughts on the humble cahier (“ka-yey””)style of notebook. Most are written when its new notebook time, and I start thinking about exactly what I might need. I guess the usual pro’s and the con’s type of thing. While far from exhaustive, the following outlines why the humble cahier more often than not fits the bill — at least for me.

As pen people, we all understand the joy of any writing instrument (fountain or otherwise) is inherently tied to the paper we’re using. Despite quality paper coming in many formats, we’ve probably all been in the “I can’t find the exact thing my ridiculously picky pen-nerding soul wants right now” situation more than once. At times like these a default go-to works more often than not, and for me that has long been a cahier of some kind.

While tells us the cahier (ka-yey, kah-; French ka-yey) is, amongst a couple of other things, a notebook, paperback book, exercise book or journal, most know it simply as something like this:

There have been a few…

Start Here

Although the adage goes something along the lines of any journey begins with a single step — occasionally it’s a stumble. Though perhaps a little harsh, fountain pen users will know what I am talking about here. My first cahier experience? A set of three from Moleskine. I mean, back in those early days of my stationery exploration, that’s what people who cared about such things used wasn’t it? Well, perhaps according to shrewd marketing, airport gift shops and large department stores — however this soon ran contrary to my paper quality sentiment above.

Since those early missteps there have been quite a few more positive experiences. Familiar to many, there have been Clairefontaine, Rollbahn, Rhodia, Baronfig, Milligram, and currently a set from Lamy which I’m finding very pleasant to use. There are no doubt a good few others in my tried-those list which escape me at the current time.

I refuse to even start down the specifications rabbit hole, and with so many unique dimensions around the place these days, there is hardly a cahier “standard” of any sort when it comes to sizing.

To be honest that doesn’t really bother me too much, however the following would be the general description you would find from most sellers – here, the Dymocks bookstore Moleskine product page:

The medium-sized Moleskine Cahier is a beautifully made Moleskine exercise book. It’s a soft-cover notebook with a flexible cardboard cover and visible thread-bound stitching.

…The plain notebook is the perfect art notebook, university notebook or personal journal, with simple mid-sized blank pages. The Kraft notebook has a beautiful, natural-cardboard cover that will appeal to those who love earthy tones.

…perfect for students, designers and creative people who take a lot of notes. Each has 80pp with 16 perforated pages and an expandable inner pocket.

All shapes, sizes and colours…

Whether you are a stickler for specific definitions or not, a cahier to me is a thin, softcover notebook. Having used thread bound, staple bound, A5 (and A5-ish), B5 (and B5-ish), and up to A4 — my definition is fairly broad.


So, why this humble notebook?

A simple answer to that question is found in that sublime interaction of paper quality and utility. I’ve always found most manufacturers who produce quality, fountain pen friendly paper, generally have a cahier in their line up alongside the usual hardcover notebooks. So in most cases, there are numerous choices if paper quality lies anywhere within your key criteria. Again, if you are reading this, I assume it probably does, and if your fountain pen performs well on the paper, generally most other pens will too.

As for utility? Well we could just as accurately substitute mobility here. There is a certain lightness about the cahier which a hardcover notebook will never quite match. Here I’m not talking about simply mass in grams — more so the overall footprint. Absolutely, your typical cahier will weigh less than an equivalent hardcover, though beyond that, a cahier is generally unobtrusive in nature. Tucked beside your iPad or laptop walking to a meeting? In and out of a briefcase or back pack? Stacked on a bookshelf or corner of a desk? The cahier is an easy carry, straightforward in and out, and seamless fit for any space.

Ok, so in praise of this jack of all trades — what about compromises? Generally where significant breadth of application is apparent, we tend to sacrifice depth, or quality and performance in a few key areas. To my why of thinking, the question should relate more to fit for purpose than what may be lacking compared with an arbitrary list of criteria. Any criteria need to be yours don’t they? Further, they should indeed be very specific to you.

For me? Paper is a deal breaker, and I’m sure anyone this far into the post thinks exactly the same. As I’ve mentioned though, with the right brands, there aren’t any real compromises required here. The softer, card-stock covers? As long as they prevent the the front and back pages ripping off as it goes in a bag — all good. Further, they allow each half of the notebook to be folded back on itself — perfect for cramped desk spaces or perhaps when you have no desk at all.

While they perhaps don’t look quite as a good as a hardcover on ”my minimalist desk setup” posts, and may get a little scuffed going in and out of a bag, for my own purposes, I cannot really come up with any significant negatives.

Well that’s me. You? It may be all, all wrong, so thank heavens for the choices we have in this stationery caper, and as usual, that’s why we’re so often invested in the search.

Supporting Australia’s Locally Produced Coffee

Image courtesy Perfect Daily Grind

Among the many things which have become apparent about our somewhat fragile existence in recent months, is that a reliance on far reaching and complicated supply chains should probably be questioned. Sure, this year’s iPhone may make it’s release date, and while I couldn’t source one of those from a local producer adjacent to the NSW – QLD border (wherever that may end up…), coffee is a different story entirely.

A few years ago I did a little research into which varietal my humble backyard coffee tree might be. Yes it’s arabica (which is the species incidentally), however here we are talking variety (or varietal) — the sub-species if you will.

Originating from a coffee plantation not far from my parent’s home in northern NSW, many of the varietals grown there were of the SL (Scott Laboratories) type. Trying to match my own tree aside, at that time from my reading, the local coffee production didn’t seem to be in what you’d call a buoyant phase. Although things seem to be changing, according to this article in Perfect Daily Grind, it seems an overall awareness issue remains:

Australian coffee has something unique to offer, but the local supply chain is somewhat disconnected. Many local coffee shops and consumers are unaware it exists in the first place, while buyers and roasters don’t know what production costs or the quality of what is produced.

Buy (and try) local

Of course we are not all home roasters seeking green coffee from local plantations, and to be honest, it’s easier to support local growers through local cafes, where retail stock may be on offer in addition to what you are sitting down to drink.

Easier again are the many more online options, for example the True Brew 100% Australian grown offering from Moonshine in the Byron Hinterland:

True Brew is a naturally (dry) processed coffee from the Mountain Top Coffee plantation, Nimbin NSW. Spray and pesticide free and low in food miles this is a coffee that tastes as good as it makes you feel.

(Incidentally, seeking Moonshine in person doesn’t require a trip to Federal in NSW — for those in Brisbane, you can find it at their new cafe under the Story Bridge).

Although much of the awareness of locally produced specialty coffee relies on cafe’s actually serving it, the only way that will happen is if we as consumers get behind it when it is on offer. So, on the rare occasion some Australian specialty is on the menu at your local — give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think.

Failing that, perhaps stay at least a little more local, and try coffees from Papua New Guinea or Indonesia (you won’t be disappointed with either). My standard home-roasted blend these days nearly always has a PNG sourced green from my local roaster as part of the mix, which also appears in many of their roasted blends which you can purchase online.

And for those who are seeking some green stock to roast themselves, check out the Indonesia-Pacific tab at my favourite online green source, Ministry Grounds in the ACT.

There is plenty out there, so have a click around and do some some digging yourself. Support our local growers, reduce the miles and footprint, and enjoy some great coffee along the way.

It’s All New

In many ways it’s new, yet many things remain the same. Outwardly the world has changed — permanently I would imagine, though perhaps that will be clearer in another few months, or more likely years. The “same”? Well, that remains our own little segment of that world doesn’t it, narrowed even further by factors beyond our own control.

I find myself with the ability to have shifted from working in an office to doing so from home. One of the extremely fortunate group whose employment remains largely unchanged (for the current time at least), save for the change in geographic location. A good portion of what follows can (and should) be dismissed quite readily, for I really have nothing to complain about, as the first sentences of this very paragraph can attest. That said, many of the day to day challenges in this narrow little world of mine (and of many), remain well… the same.

A world of phone diversions, virtual portals and a mix of operating systems. Of screens both small and large, Zoom meetings and group chat. Substandard sound and connections (can you hear me…? they say, lips moving in their own silent isolation bubble — well for starters I don’t know what you’re trying to say, so lets go with no…), weird videoconference backgrounds, and the real likelihood of caffeine poisoning, I wonder whether this new reality is all that distant from a truly dystopian version. Perhaps it is a brave new world.

Now is the time for more communication rather than less, they say in the tips about managing virtual teams. True enough, and it certainly seems virtual conversations are far more frequent than the real ones ever were. Another email anyone? How are we doing with that cc field and reply all? Pretty consistent it would seem. More communication? Tick. More effective communication? Judgement reserved. Actually let’s not reserve it — you all know the answer.

Hold up. Yes, dismiss those two paragraphs. Nothing to really whine about when there are those with genuine, devastating problems having arisen from all of this. I remain very, very mindful of that.

I do have some genuine concerns, as I sit and work in the relative safety of my own home.

Many good friends I’ve left behind in Brisbane’s CBD continue (for now), to front up to work every day, managing or working in cafes and retail outlets — some ultimately having to close their doors.

With an economy like nothing I’ve seen before, not only will some of these businesses perhaps not see the other side of this situation, but their people are in constant direct contact with members of the public — many of whom seem to have no real concept of social distancing, let alone adherence to it. All I can really do is hope and pray I see you all in thriving businesses again, whenever that may be.

In the previous post I mentioned the journaling habit I’d managed to sustain over the past year or so, which continues each morning as I write this. Structure and routines are key when working from home (again… “they” say), and I must admit mine took a hit in the first couple of weeks remotely working. The journaling remained, the overall incidental physical activity level plummeted — notwithstanding the fact I no longer sit on a bus for two hours every day. I’m sorry — what are we doing with that time now? Certainly an adjustment, and one I am still making. Can’t be that hard right? Exactly what I said before this all started…

We now begin to enter a period of perhaps even greater uncertainty, as restrictions begin easing on our “path out”. I must admit to being a little uneasy at the fervour our general populace has shown in embracing this new “freedom”. Perhaps this unease will need to subside if I’m to see those businesses mentioned above thriving again.

Eventually there will be an office to return to. I guess…?

hazel and me

Family owned and run businesses really are the best aren’t they? When it’s your own family — even better. I’d have to say my sister knows a thing or two about owning and running a business, having successfully done so for most of her professional life.

Now? Well something a little different.

Introducing hazel and me

Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle with quality homeware products…

A range of quality hand made fabric homewares for your online shopping pleasure — now shipping Australia wide:

We believe in taking a practical approach to living a zero waste lifestyle. Our products are eco friendly choices, look attractive and will stand up to every day use. We make all items from our premises in the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Products galore…

I can now finally reveal that I’ve been beta testing these products for several months now (disclosure: I was provided these products free of charge, I mean… she is my sister), and can certainly vouch for the quality and utility they offer. Sustainable, helpful, locally made products? I say bring them on!

Time to use that flour and bread improver you’ve all been hoarding…

Whilst most areas of the every day home are well catered for in the Kitchen, Bathroom, Lunches and Garden categories in the online store — I’d like to propose one more (selfish) addition: Barista.

Barista cloths, yes indeed. There is nothing like an Unpaper Towel to dry that portafilter basket before dosing your next espresso. Delter Press drying and draining? Absolutely — got you covered! (Also fits an Aeropress – go figure!!)

Portafilter pre-dose prep taken care of…

The Delter drain…

I don’t really think there is a better time to reassess what we use around the home, and if that results in the need for some products like these, I’m sure you’ll find something you like that will serve you well.

My sister? Well, she’s pretty great.

hazel and me (affiliate link – every purchase earns me a thank you from my sister)

Also on Instagram and Facebook.

Sneaking Back In

The great New Zealand south island family road trip – July 2019

What do you do after all this time — just sneak back in like nothing ever happened? Like a teenager returning home late only to have the back door hinge squeak really loudly when you try and silently close it? I guess that’s it. Like nothing ever happened. Nothing to see here — with the exception of a random new post.

In the context of having your own blog with zero deadlines and a misguided perception of being “busy” doing other things — I see the last post here was 25 March 2019, about some colourful pen refills. That’s a year ago. Not a bad break of sorts. When you feel like writing, I guess you do just pick up pen and/or keyboard and go — like you never left.

I could offer various reasons for why now, however would be lying not to admit the usual introspection which typically occurs around the earlier part of the year (this post originated late January in its early draft).

Although clouded by recency bias, if I think back over the past year or so and the topics usually covered on these pages — there is nothing overly new to report. Pen news saw the acquisition of a Lamy 2000 ballpoint and a bottle of ink (a gift of Iroshizuku Momiji). Apart from being a somewhat lazy roaster in the latter part of the year, the coffee supply and consumption maintained a metronomic rhythm. We all have our dependencies I guess.

That journal streak

I did learn that when I’m not writing here, perhaps I’m writing there. In this case, “there” being a morning journal habit which Streaks app tells me I have now completed 263 times. Once I got into it, my first decent streak was broken at 126 when away for the day one weekend (somewhat proud of myself for not fudging the numbers on that one). Managing to get back on the wagon, I’m currently back up to 133. My hot tip on getting started? A one page limit in an A6 journal – done and ticked off in a flash.

Due to a very generous Christmas gift I was also able to learn the AirPods Pro are transformative to both my listening (that active noise cancelling…), and daily carry habits (daily backpack now sans over-ear headphones). They are seriously good.

Every year my consumption habits change and I’ve been in and out of podcasts, blogs and the usual splattering of social media. There is no quick summary of all this so perhaps more detail is for another day. I would add I’ve recently been enjoying viewing my RSS feeds (yes, still…) through cached full text in Lire.

Is there more to report on? Well, quite a bit most likely. Do I have any idea where to start with all of that? Absolutely not. First a word, then a post, and from there we’ll see.

Perhaps one of those other things to report on – dabbling in the Theme System journal…

I am somewhat mindful of what has changed in the world since beginning this draft to the current time, however perhaps some of the two hour commute I’m now saving by working from home can be devoted to writing a little.

Anyway, I’ve made it back in, the door is closed, and I’m carefully making my way up the stairs — looks like I’m going to make it…

Light flicks on…