Link Roundup: Penpal Enabler Edition

I often make lists of neat things for the sake of reminding myself of my tastes. Lists take up less room than things, unless those lists are housed in stacks of notebooks (shhh). Living in a small apartment with a tight budget means a lot of window shopping via listmaking. I hear this is why Pinterest was invented, but I'll take a folder full of links or a hastily scribbled notebook page any day. Here's a list of letter writing related things culled from various other lists in my collection.

What's been on your list lately?

Captain Fancypants

I am a huge fan of New York City transit. Makes sense; I've lived there my entire life. It is on my 30-by-30 list to ride every subway line in one day. I don't think I'll get to cross that item off in time (I have a week and there is other work to be done, like finally a visit to Gramercy Typewriter), but when I do, this tape should seal all the letters I write while on my journey.

These book journals, handmade with lots of love in Oregon USA, have been guarding my deepest secrets for years. Perfect for keeping track of various penpal information or life events to share, or sketching people on the subway.
I'll be in my bunk, gawking over the beautifully photographed and well-curated items in this shop. All of them.

You know when you are a teenager and you feel alone because you're into all these things and no one else you know is SUPER INTO hot glue guns or letter writing or typewriters? Then you grow up and someone makes beautiful pins of all these things because they are also super weirdos. Nothing says badass mail nerd like having an enamel pin of an airmail envelope on your faux-leather motorcycle jacket. One day, I'll fly my badass mail nerd flag with these pins. 

In which I fully admit that the most expensive possession in my life is not my laptop, or my car, but a fountain pen. (I'm still floored over the fact that I own a car, and it's been twelve years.) This is Lamy's way of letting me know that I can, come September, feel like a wealthy fancypants. With a writing degree. When I land an office job, these are the only pens I'm writing with.

LEP HQ Vermont Meetup

Stationery Battles. Celia, Anna, Kimmie, and Thanh-Thuy.
On June 24th the first ever pilgrimage to worldwide LEP Headquarters in Winooski, Vermont, USA took place. I was privileged to be among the lucky few who got to set my GPS to Vermont and point the car northward for a weekend unlike any other.

By the time night fell over The Green Mountain State, things were just getting started at LEP HQ. Julie and Denise, our hosts extraordinaire made sure Cecilia Johnson, Kimmie David, Brian Sebastian, Thanh-Thuy Doan and I were warmly welcomed with lots of food and wine. We became fast friends and learned that it takes a village (and instructions) to open a pre-packaged vegetable tray.

The vegetable tray in question, background left.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to those of us at LEP HQ, Brittney Luna Bertrand and Cassie Swisher were desperately scheming up a story to explain to customs officials why two women who had met less than an hour before were crossing an international border together with a punch board and 8,400 envelopes. As of this writing, they still don’t seem to have their story straight.

The following day dawned bright over LEP Land, bringing blue skies, warm temps and our very own Anna Vlasova who pulled up a chair at the kitchen table while we all had the equivalent of a religious experience over Kimmie and Brian’s stamp collection. The day was spent writing to our brethren LEPsters who weren’t able to join us. Some of the recipients of this mail may notice that their letters contain a brown sticky substance. Don’t be alarmed (or grossed out), it’s bacon jam and Denise is entirely responsible for turning us on to this deliciously evil condiment.

Lori Says: All Hail Bacon Jam 
Knowing that if anyone could put the F-U-N in "funeral home" it would be Thanh-Thuy, off we went that evening to her and husband Jim’s establishment of eternal rest. After a tour from Tall Jim we settled in for pizza (yes, there is a pizza named ‘Six Feet Under’ and yes, it is delicious) and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity (CAH). For those of you who’ve never played, here are a few tips I picked up from the game:

1. Your fellow card players have minds as disturbing as your own. In some cases much more so.
2. Do not trust the French Canadians. They are tricksters and pretend to not understand some words in order to win.
3. Some people are just plain angry. Especially about important and sensitive subjects like candy corn.
4. You can use your phone to look up the dirty words that confuse you but will probably be automatically subscribed to some weirdo porn site as a result.
5. Flatulence will be discussed. You’ll learn more about gas than you should know.

Things may have gotten ugly back at LEP HQ on Saturday night so all I’ll say is this: There was a 50 percent off sale on La Papierre stationery. Some of us have a very competitive shopping habit. Many of you are going to become completely sick of receiving mail on the once lovely blue haired girl stationery. Cecilia had to rent a storage truck to get back to Massachusetts.

Brian and Kimmie posing in front of Where The Magic Happens.
Before I knew it Sunday was upon us and it was time to pack up my tent (Seriously guys, how much wine did we drink Friday night??? This thing looks like a bunch of four year olds assembled it.) and make my way back to reality. Those who stayed behind for a few more hours or another day were kind enough to share their continued adventures with us all through Facebook. I wanted nothing more than to turn my car around and join them again. This group, like all of the LEP is an amazing family. Julie and Denise, a million “Thank yous” for this weekend and all you do. It is magical.

Cassie does an envelope punch board tutorial.
 Written by Lori B. (AKA Mighty Mistress of the Vine) in Massachusetts.

Dear Fancypants: Be brave and be honest.

Welcome to Dear Fancypants, a monthly advice column on penpals and other philatelic things. Dear Fancypants will run the first week of the month. To submit a question, contact

Dear Fancypants,

I am wondering if you could please provide me with a little bit of advice when dealing with a penpal (non-LEP) who seems a tad pushy and seems to have very strict ‘guidelines’ in terms of reply time, letting her know the MINUTE the letter arrives etc. I have received daily messages from her asking when her reply will be posted, even though I had explained that it would take me a month or so to reply due to ‘life’ at the moment. It’s gotten to the point where I feel a panic attack coming on whenever I look at the envelope sitting on my desk and I get stressed when I receive a prod from her. How can I reply nicely that I don’t feel the ‘click’ that I would like with my pals and that I don’t think I can write with her?

The last thing I want to do is upset anyone, but this is a hobby and it shouldn’t be stressing me out, right?


Hi, Anxious.

The breakup stage of any relationship is often the one met with most terror-- even if it's the outcome you ultimately want.

Early on in my most recent incarnation of penpalling, a correspondent of mine asked for any advice I could give on non-monogamous and open relationships. I asked my my then-life partner what his advice would be. His response was, "Be brave and be honest." The simplicity of it floored me. Really, this advice can be applied to all sincere relationships. Be brave: have the courage to live the life you want (in this case, one free from things that cause you anxiety that you can control). Be honest: tell your pal you will no longer be writing her. They go together, really: you need bravery to be honest, and honesty if you are to be brave.

There is no way to control what someone else feels, nor would you want to do that, but you can strive to be kind. Send along a notecard to this person. Let her know that, while you've enjoyed writing with her and getting to know her, this will be your last missive because you don't think you're a good fit for her style of penpalling. You'd like to free up space in her life for someone who can respond more often and quicker than you can, and at the moment you need a month in between letters. Use "I" statements. Make it about what *you* need, not what her shortcomings are.

There is no guarantee that her feelings won't be hurt, but you're being honest about what you need and want in life, and you owe that to both of you, as well as your other penpals.

Captain Fancypants