for the love of trees

This Shabbat, the calendar works out so that it is also Tu b’Shevat, aka the new year for trees. This is a time that is generally marked with ecological awareness. I’ve cared for and written about the environment for about thirty years now (thankfully you don’t have access to those early writings, though they were pretty good for an elementary school student). I’m surprised and dismayed to discover I’ve been mostly silent here about this topic.

I use quite a significant amount of paper each year. How do I reconcile that with caring for the environment?

photo of several Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebooks in PSG's collection.

My favourite notebooks are from Clairefontaine and Rhodia. Why do I love them so very much? They are made from pulp and wood by-products from forests independently certified by PEFC or FSC as sustainably managed.


Clairefontaine manufactures their own paper. This provides them complete control over the entire process. They’ve reduced their water consumption, the paper is chlorine-free, they use natural inks (which I believe they purchase), supply most of the energy (80%) necessary for the manufacturing process, and are committed to reducing waste.

These are important things to me, every day. These issues should be important to you as well. If we don’t take care of what we have today, there will be nothing left for tomorrow.

This ראש השנה לאילנות I decided to help raise awareness about how one company is working to make a difference. Another company doing so is Tom Bihn, with their UPS shipping Carbon Neutral Program.

Do you have a favourite company that is doing so? Please let me know.

photo collage of Clairefontaine sustainability marks on three different notebooks

Additional reading:

I’ve received many products from Exaclair USA and Tom Bihn over the years, some may be shown in this blog post. I have purchased even more on my own, the FTC wants you to know. There are no affiliate links in this post.

with notebook & planner love and kindness.

It was hard to decide what to write about today. I surprised myself and earlier this week was quite vocal at little acorn and PennyWise Consulting. I could write an overdue followup to my post, how to go on. I’m a distance runner who enjoys well written fiction. I understand the importance of pacing. After a long day in the city mostly disconnected from current events, I’m curled up on the couch with a snuggle Buddy (Shadow is cuddled close with E) and I’m going to write very briefly about one of my favourite topics: notebooks & paper. Self care in this long game is important.

Over at the QuoVadis blog, last week I wrote another essay comparing the Trinote and Principal planners. It was fun to write.

Foster kittens love the QuoVadis Principal too!

Over the past several years, I’ve developed a relationship with Karen and Sunny of Exaclair, the exclusive U.S. importer and distributor of a French family of brands: Rhodia, Clairefontaine, J. Herbin, Brause, Schut Papier, Decopatch, Avenue Mandarine, G. Lalo, Exacompta, Quo Vadis and Maildor. While they don’t sell direct to the public, if you ask very extremely nicely, you can visit. I had a wonderful visit with them this morning. Their office is near the flower district and it rained this morning and I found it delightful to walk down 28th before heading to them and smelling everything, it definitely helped clear out some of the unsavory aromas NYC is famous for.

There are several great new notebooks and products I’ll discuss more in the coming weeks. Including my new favourite, the A5 grid version of the Clairefontaine “My Essential” notebook. Why is this notebook wonderful?

It’s paginated!. While I love the clothbound A5, and find it an amazing value, pre-numbered pages make me happy. I’ve been sitting on this great notebook for over six months and I’m excited to finally be able to share it!

Spread of Clairefontaine notebooks and 2017 Exaclair catalogue

Many thanks to Karen and Sunny for letting me invade their office this morning.

I’ve received many products from Exaclair USA and have purchased even more on my own, the FTC wants you to know. There are no affiliate links in this post.

#rhodiapaperproject weeks 5, 6, and 7

What is the #rhodiapaperproject? The wonderful people at Exaclair/Rhodia are doing a paper project, it’s a chance to sample various papers without investing in an entire notebook! I subscribed to weeks 5, 6, and 7. A month ago, I wrote about week 4. First, though, I apologize for the tablet photos with terrible lighting. It’s mid-December, I’m impatient for the solstice and longer days.

Week 5 samples included a sheet of lined Rhodia paper in sizes N° 8, (3 x 8″), N° 10 (2 x 3″), N° 16 (6 x 8″), N° 19 (8 x 12″). Why did I request this sample if I could use a ruler and cut out the shapes myself?


It’s one thing for me to cut a rectangle out of a sheet of paper but that paper takes an entirely different view when it is lined. Yes, I know the standard spacing and could even cut up a sheet of Rhodia lined paper, but this is the way. I’m not going to discuss the paper. It’s lovely Rhodia with the beautiful violet lines we all know and love. I’m going to focus on the various sizes and how I could see using them.

The Rhodia Pad, N° 8, surprised me. I see it as useful for grocery lists or for when I brain dump tasks en mass. By folding in half, to 3×4, it interacts well with many of my existing systems. A quick vertical fold can make an easy 2 column list. While not a perfect fit, I believe it works with my A5 filofax flex, which has sadly been discontinued. This pad is also available as a 5/5 grid and with a black cover.

While I love many things tiny, I just can’t figure out when I’d use the Rhodia Pad, N° 10. It’s just too small and with just 7 lines, they’re more a hindrance than a help. This pad is also available in a 5/5 grid, but I’m not really sure how this would fit into my needs.

Yes, the size of the N° 16 Rhodia Pad is in my sweet spot, at least for paper size. One thing this project helped me clarify is which sizes are “L+M”, lined, with a margin. I’m very picky about all the rulings on my page and I find the margin rule for this sizes makes me happy that there are two other options, a 5/5 grid and “O” a blank sheet.

Finally, we are at the largest size sent for this trial, Rhodia Pad, N° 19. At this larger paper size, I find that a margin is not as intrusive, but I wish it hadn’t increased proportionally with the size of the page. When I need a paper this size, this is definitely a pad I would turn to. It is also available in the 5/5 grid and the “O” blank sheet.

Week 6 samples highlighted three different rulings of Clairefontaine bright white, 90g papers, all at the same 6×8″ size. If you follow me on instagram, you know that my current daily notebook is séyès (French) ruled. My MIL picked up this notebook for me when she was in France a few years ago, and for some reason while I was aware of this rule, this is the first time I’ve used it, and I fell in love. I don’t quite use it quite properly, but more on that in a future post. I was curious how a different brand prints it up and jumped at the chance to see the differences.

The two papers are very very similar and I like that all the lines after the red margin, are the same violet, my other cahier has the primary ruling in a bold violet and the secondary lines as a light weight teal. Now as for the other two sheets, a lined and a lined with margin … I like both. The margin is unobtrusive on the front of the sheet (I tend to use the backs differently than the front) and I like that the header is minimal. While I’m currently in love with séyès rule, I definitely see benefits to all three of these rulings.

Week 7 samples are from the Meeting books. They are available in two sizes, Compact 6½ x 8¼” and Large 9×11¾”, each with 80 pre-printed micro-perforated lined sheets that include space for Date + Notes + Action. The Classic Rhodia Meeting Book has orange or black coated and waterproof card covers and 80g paper and the Rhodia Meeting Book 90 has a black polypro cover and 90g paper.

rhodiapaperproject-week7-cNow, honestly, if there wasn’t a little label on the bottom of the two sheets specifying which was the 80g and which the 90g, I can’t easily tell the difference by look. I love the very faint light grey narrow rule and while I am not a fan of orange (E loves the colour, the Brooklyn kitchen featured orange cabinetry!) this is a very easy-on-the eye shade. One thing I do wish was changed was that on the reverse of the sheet, the Action area was on the left-side of the page so that I could easily fold it over for review or even to be able to tear it off to take away.


This was a fun way to be able to discover the different styles, sizes, and types of Rhodia and Clairefointaine papers. I hope I’ve helped bring some insight into some of the different products. Please let me know if you’ve found it helpful. Thank you Exaclair for creating the project!

#rhodiapaperproject week 4

The wonderful people at Exaclair/Rhodia Drive are doing a paper project, it’s a chance to sample various papers without investing in an entire notebook! I subscribed to week 4 and on Monday received my samples, a sheet of my favourite paper and an index card that is now my absolute favourite (it’s now on my wishlist despite my index card stash). I’ll surprise you, it’s true, I love this paper in all its pastel shades.

So what’s interesting about this test and why I jumped at it is that I’ve been using Clairefontaine paper for a long time. I bought this 120 sheet multi-subject grid notebook in 1996 for $3.36 from Pearl Paint in East Meadow, NY.

My question: had the paper changed? Did I still love it?

No fear! It is definitely the same lovely paper I remember. There are improvements in printing the grid lines over the past 18 years, the line is sharper and I think very slightly finer. The ink is still the same beautiful violet blue line that I find very refreshing on the eye.

I didn’t spend much time testing this paper as I know it and quickly reaffirmed my love of it. Something I had never done before was to test it with various pens. While I haven’t performed an extensive test, I was delighted to find how it behaved with fountain pens and super fine pens, I spent most of my time writing in pencil for my maths class. As I had no fear and wanted to fully test the sheet, I even took a Sharpie to it. I love the smoothness and I love this paper. I think that after I work through my waiting lineup of notebooks I will return to this favourite for my daily work logs.


Now 3×5 index cards are something I have an inexplicable love affair with. Maybe it comes back to my wanting library check out cards in the back of all my books when I was seven, I don’t know. This is the size I like for a wide variety of things and almost always have several near at hand. A few years ago the 99¢ store had a bunch of cards in stock and they were different from what I could normally find at that price. The ruling is portrait, they’re a decent stock, and they were 2 for 99¢ so of course I stocked up. I love grid paper even more, though haven’t found a grid-card I like. The grid ones I have are only printed on one side and the card stock is rough, encourages bleed through, and definitely cannot stand up to a day of abuse. These index cards are now my new favourites. Though it will be quite some time before I can justify buying new cards!

What’s delightful about these? They have the same happy grid on both sides as my favorite notebook and can take any writing instrument I grabbed (including a big ol’ sharpie), without bleeding through. The paper is smooth and can stand up to some time in my back pocket. While they’re a bit fancy for my meal planning and grocery list, I would be delighted to use them for daily planning cards.

Thank you Exaclair for offering this #rhodiapaperproject!