Review: 2023 Unison Composition Notebook- Target

The Unison composition notebook has been a steady companion over the years. It featured excellent smooth paper that responded well to fountain pens of all sorts and had enough tooth for pencils. It almost always won out the composition book roundups as the go to budget choice.

Sadly, those days are over.

Most of the features are the same as they have been- decently sturdy card cover, well taped spine, strong stitching, and 80 pages of college ruled paper.

The paper this year is different. It’s softer feeling, a bit toothier, and not as smooth. It’s also pretty absorbent.

I used this notebook for notes at a 2-day training. I took notes with two different gel pens- a Sharpie S Pen with a medium point as well as a PaperMate InkJoy gel click with a medium point. Both in black ink. I have previous written about how the InkJoy writes like a firehose spewing ink onto the page. The S Pen is also a wet writing gel pen. This is why I like them- their wet delivery makes them smooth on every paper. It wasn’t until I pulled out both a medium and a micro Uni Ball Signo 207 that I realized that the paper had more tooth and wasn’t as smooth, my fat wet nibs had hidden the roughness of the paper.

I was surprised when I turned the page and saw copious amounts of soak and show through.

The venerable Unison for fountain pen is no more. If it can’t handle these two wet gel inks, how can it handle fountain pen. I didn’t even bother with testing.

Though I jest, there were reports when I did my last composition book round up that many stores had Unison books that did not line up with my stellar reviews. Sadly I think we can erect the tombstone. 2023 is the year our venerable Unison stopped being awesome.

Review: Up+ Up Journal Target Back To School Sale

Back in early August I headed to Target, not for Back to School Supplies and Sales, but for their Market Pantry Dark Chocolate Almond Butter*. I found myself wandering the store, you know as you do. I finally found myself in the back to school section. I had no intent of purchasing anything, because I’m SABLE on all my supplies.

Nostalgia took over and I looked at the comp books, because just one can’t hurt, right?

Of course I picked up the venerable composition book champ- Unison. But alone in a bin below some colorful gel pens I saw this beautiful purple hardcover journal, it gave budget Moleskine vibes. I picked it up and fell in love with it’s subtly textured very hard cover and the bright pop of color from the elastic and ribbon page marker.

I held it and wandered a bit until I found it’s friends- a selection of other warmly colored 5x9ish journals in a bin labeled $5. At $5 this journal was and is a bargain. You see it’s paper and cover paper is made from sugarcane fiber, a paper that typically is thin and strong for it’s weight and absolutely lovely with fountain pens.

This journal has traveled with me everywhere. I toss in in my pannier when I go for bike rides, I scribbled ideas into it when I sat in the woods or on the beach. When I went to Maine to visit fam, this journal went with me. The cover has only gotten better over time. The subtle dents and dings it’s achieved only serve to make the cover look better. Some of the paper cover’s texture has burnished to a delicate shine. The cover has achieved wabi sabi excellence.

Inside the end sheets are bright and happy. I love their patterns and colors. The page marker is heat sealed and also a coordinating color. Oh there’s a pocket I use for stashing receipts and stickers.

How is the paper for writing? Excellent, smooth with a bit of tooth. It handles the gel pens I’ve been using with ease and the few fountain pens I’ve been using well too. Pencils feel great. Overall I really like this little journal and despite the fact that I’m SABLE on all my journaling and art supplies, well, I’m tempted to buy a bunch of these since they are on clearance for a whopping $4.24 each. Link to target’s website, no affiliate links.

As a side note, I think my expectations around a notebook/journal have evolved over time. Currently, I like a notebook/journal that is inexpensive but performs with reasonable excellence. I do not expect perfection. If the price is right ($5) then I can deal with some show through on the verso of the page. I no longer see it as a deal breaker. I still cannot tolerate feathering and bleeding. Lately I’ve used mainly gel ink pens! Fountain pens are a bit of a rarity. Further I’ve started to delve into thick juicy wet writing BOLD gel inks. This fits my current scale of work- my current work sketchbook/journal/planner is 8×10 inches and fat. I’ll document it in another post. But My way of thinking is that these fat bold gel inks mimic a fountain pens inky intensity when it comes to bleed and soak through. I really do need to ink up a few fountain pens.

Anyway, this fits my criteria of affordability and decent performing paper. It also helps that it can survive my panniers on my bike through my summer commute via rail trails as well as my backpack on day hikes.

*With significantly fewer carbs and more protein than Nutella this hits my sweet tooth with just the right amount of sweetness that I occasionally crave, especially after a long bike ride.

6 Months Later…

Well, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

It’s been just under 6 months since I last posted anything here. Between work and working on my health and wellness (more about that over at LessISMoreHealthy on YouTube.) I haven’t had time to make art other than for work and certainly not to write up dedicated posts about it.

I’ve learned a lot about balance over the last few months and the balance had to shift toward taking care of my health, else, in the words of my nurse practitioner, I die young after living with a reduced quality of life. She was kinder about it than that, but still. This is not my place to directly discuss my health, but I’m now significantly healthier- my numbers during bloodwork are better and most of all, I FEEL better.

It’s dramatic, but I’m going to lean into it, walking and riding my bike has changed my life.

It’s funny, I had to pick up a few things at Wally World and Tarjaaaay when I spotted the Back to School display and decided it was time to make a return to writing a bit about stationery. So I picked up a few gel pens and, you guessed it, composition notebooks. After making this decision and sitting on the tools to be reviewed for a week, I received a DIRE warning from my hosting company. Fix the spambot problem with my blog or get it removed from their servers.


So I spent this morning, updating all the wordpress plugins that I had set to manual, which was fine when I was regularly updating and looking at the admin panel of this blog on the regular. Now, all the important anti-spam stuff is set to auto-update and I can breath a little easier.

I also realized that NONE of the comments and feedback had gone to my email as it’s supposed to, so if you have reached out to me after February of 2023 and I didn’t get back to you, well, it’s not you, it’s me and my obstinate need to control all aspects of my blog until I ignore it completely for 6 months and never update stuff so things end up disappearing… Yeah. Sorry about that.

No promises here, but as my health has improved (I still have to majorly focus on it for at least another year to get my numbers back where they need to be, but progress is progress and should be celebrated) I realize I also need to focus on the MANY other things in my life that bring me joy and happiness. Which of course, includes art and writing.

As an aside, as I write this, and reflect on a work email I had to draft yesterday, WOW is my writing out of practice. That email I wrote yesterday read worse than anything I’ve written in many years.  So I’m going to work on wring again.


Another Month Goes By

It seems I update this here blog once a month or so. I used to be so good at updating all my social media and cross promotion, now I get a video uploaded and I forget to announce it anywhere and everywhere. Go figure.

I have been uploading nearly Daily Vlogs to my new Channel Less IS More Healthy, which I started to document my journey into becoming more healthy. It’s not lecture-y or preachy, just me documenting my walks with weirdo little videos and playing around with video making techniques and talking about the efforts I’m making to change my health. It’s super important to me and keeps me accountable about my efforts. If you are interested head over and have a watch, maybe like and subscribe. The most recent video is here:

Getting Healthy on A TIGHT Budget

I’ve also cut back on the number of art videos I’m uploading. The amount I was loading per week/month wasn’t sustainable. Also I’m now in SHOW SEASON at work, which means a lot more work coming up! Here are the art based videos for this month:

Etching Glass

Foam Texture Plates on the gel plate

Making Foam Texture Plates

And a Art Vlog

My Pocket Notebook Habit

A Month of Videos

I have loaded up a bunch of new videos this past month. It’s wild to think that it’s already February. I hope y’all are staying warm out there!!!

In a bit of news, I have moved my health and wellness content over to it’s own channel. I found that anytime I mentioned my health on Comfortable Shoes Studio YT people left, in droves. So, the new channel is Less is MOre Healthy and I’m doing accountability vlogs and documenting my walks with my weird little videos. I’m still doing vlogs on the Comfortable Shoes channel but they will be specific to art and creativity.


Vlog 027

VLOG 028

VLOG 029

VLOG 030

Continue reading

Values Journaling Worksheet

I have been working on a video about values journaling. This is the blog post for that video.

Start your values journaling with this worksheet:

values list

Circle all the things on the list that are important to you. EVERYTHING.

Then organize them into similar linked lists, try to get it to 10.

Write about each of the 10 lists/words.

Don’t do this in one sitting. Spend some time with each topic. Write at least page in your journal for each one.  Ask yourself why is this important to you? Why did you pick this? Go deep. Now go deeper.

Now take each theme and explore it in your art journal.

The hardest question you will ask for each theme/topic is: Am I living up to this value right now? If so how? If not how can I? What changes can I make in my life to align my life with my values?

When you start to think about changes, remember that you’ll need to break each one into small manageable steps to make achievable goals. (Check out SMART goals.)

Here are some questions to ask yourself after you’ve found your words and are exploring your responses.


James Clear’s value’s journaling post, check out his section about his integrity report. He’s got good questions there.