Shopping Local and Serendipity

I’m a big list-maker. A HUGE list-maker, especially at this time of year when there are cards to mail, letters to write, gifts to buy, extra errands to run, and all kinds of Christmas-related tasks to accomplish. There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off a box on one of the many to-do lists I cart around. (Well, MAYBE there are one or two other things—wink, wink, nudge, nudge!) I rarely venture out without a goal, a mission, a purpose.

But sometimes all of those checkboxes start bugging me and I just want to wander aimlessly. Like without a hundred things to do/see/accomplish. Like how I imagine other people live—with days full of whimsy and unplanned adventures.

What I realize when I finally get myself to do this— when I leave the list tucked away— is that cool things pop up. Cool pencil and pen-related things, it turns out. (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely turn off my “writing instrument radar.”) We hit a number of local craft shows throughout the year and have a great time wandering around and chatting with people making really interesting things— alpaca socks (the best!), soap, mustard, bowls, and brooms. You name it, someone’s making it.

Here are few of my serendipitous finds that are just too cool to not share.

Index card holder

Notecard holder

This little block of wood with an embedded magnet and ball bearing is the perfect thing to hold up an index card (for, you know, more lists). Intended to be a recipe card holder, I almost walked away from the booth because I never use recipe cards anymore. Then the light dawned (I was having a slow day, I guess) and I plopped down $5.00 for this wonderfully simple way to prop up any old index card.

Index card holder

It’s turned out to be really handy, and for five bucks, you can’t go wrong.

Handmade Pens 

Bob's pens

I run into Bob and Virginia Lenhart a couple times a year, and almost always find something on their table of colorful and well-crafted kit pens to bring home.  At the last show, I picked up The Spartan, the top pen in the photo, and swapped out the ballpoint refill for a Moleskine gel refill. Accented with #10 o-rings and gunmetal accents, the design is unique and fun to hold. The bottom pen, with its magnetic cap, is one that I use all the time, certainly as much as some brand name pens. The prices are right and it’s just fun using pens that are made by such nice local folk.

Old Pencils

Old pencils

On Saturday evening, we stopped at the open house of a local antique shop for punch and cookies and a look around. Amongst the costume jewelry, beer steins, china, coins, and Bullwinkle glasses (tempting!), I stumbled onto a few shoeboxes stuffed with loads of old pencils. PENCILS. Man, oh, man, did I start pawing through those. An older couple look on and chuckled and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want old pencils, but when I showed them the cool designs, the old time phone numbers (4-4475), and the awesome colors, they started coming around, and the woman admitted, “I DO like writing with pencils!”

Old pencils

I wound up picking out a couple of handfuls, despite dried up erasers and that basement smell. I couldn’t have been happier.

Old pencils

Who knew that all of these treasures lurked in the little shop I drive by all the time?

Old pencils

So though I am list-bound most of the time, these unexpected finds remind me that it’s fun to get out and see what the world tosses my way. Who knows what treasures lurk right in your town, your village, your neighborhood. Shop local and keep your eyes open for surprises. It’s as much fun as checking a box.

Serendipity: Magnetic Pens by Bob & Virginia

A couple of rainy Saturdays ago, we were looking for a little something to do, and wound up at a craft show held at a local firehouse. Mother’s Day is coming up so I thought I’d keep an eye out for mom gifts. There were a lot of lovely, but usual, items. Soaps, leather goods, lots of jewelry, pillows, and fleece blankets. And in another room, a little pottery, cutting boards, kettle corn, jam, and maple syrup. Everything was well-made, but nothing was really catching my eye…until we made our way into the last room.

Magnetic pens
Look what I found!

WHAT?! Could it be?! A pen booth?!! Why yes it was. I think I yelped with excitement. Maybe not out loud, but something in me yelped. Because I’ve NEVER seen handmade pens at craft shows. Until now.

Magnetic pens

Bob & Virginia Lenhart had a table loaded with wonderful handmade pens. It sounds cliche, but there really was something for everyone. They had pens made from exotic Bethlehem Olivewood and Bog wood, pens made to resemble the shocks on a Harley-Davidson bike, bolt-action pens, pens with styluses (stylii?), and pens made from colorful acrylics…all gorgeous and unique. I should’ve had the presence of mind to take a picture of their table, but I was so pen happy that the thought never crossed my mind. I quickly honed in on a pair of hefty acrylic pens…one a rollerball, the other a fountain pen…both with magnetic caps. SO COOL.

A sweet pair
A sweet pair

These are substantial pens. I only have a so-so kitchen scale, but I’d put them around 1.5 ounces (or about 43 grams), which is about twice the weight of a Lamy AL-Star. Once I picked them up, I couldn’t stop playing with the magnetic caps which emit a satisfying SNAP when the pen is capped or posted. It’s a really cool sound, and feels a bit like the pens cap themselves. Addictive, is what it is. And so I bought the pair.

Posted caps

Another great thing about local wares is that prices tend to be more reasonable. At just $27.50 for the rollerball and $31.95 for the fountain pen, it’s clear that the Lenharts are all about offering quality pens at fair prices.

Magnetic caps

The rollerball came loaded with a Schneider Topball 850 0.5mm refill which is dark and smooth, but just a hair on the wet side. I’ve since swapped that refill into another pen and installed an Avant 0.5mm refill from Staples, which is a current refill favorite. Writing perfection. The fountain pen came with a couple of cartridges and lays down a shockingly smooth medium line. Both pens are a joy to use and travel to and from work with me every day.

Posted pens
Posted pens

There’s so much talk lately about buying local, but generally that means heading to farmers’ markets for just-picked produce and right-from-the-oven baked goods, or stopping at a nearby farm for fresh brown eggs. Who would’ve thought that there would be “homegrown” pens right in my own backyard?

THAT was a happy surprise.


Check out some of Bob & Virginia’s pens at their website: