Based in Los Angeles, December Tea is a blog by Lauren Bailey. Her posts explore the world around her, through words, pictures, and constant cups of tea.

September Madness

September Madness


Don’t you love New York in the fall.

It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.

- Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

As the calendar flips to September, summer breathes its final breaths as the season of back to school begins. Though it has been four years (crazy how time flies) since my last first day of school, my love for buying school supplies remains. This was one of my favorite parts of the new school year. Finding the supplies list for the upcoming year, and walking back and forth across the store as I searched for notebooks with no holes so I could write in the margins, pencil cases to house my erasers and clear mechanical pencils; and an array of folders in a variety of colors, one for each subject. The supplies lists grew shorter and the book lists grew longer as I entered college and grad school but I would still seek out new supplies for each upcoming year. Even now this time of year feels like a new chapter in a way that sometimes New Year’s does not.

I often think of the You’ve Got Mail line about a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils this time of year. If you too dream of a bouquet of pencils, CW Pencil Enterprise offers this gift around Valentine’s Day with the option to attach a bullet eraser to your order. There’s something so satisfying about a fresh pack of pencils that hasn’t been touched. It’s full of possibilities. The same can be said about a new notebook or fresh stack of post-its. You have no idea yet of the ideas or drawings or random notes that will fill those pages and it’s exciting, sometimes daunting, to think of what these supplies will look like once you’ve finished with them. I think that’s one thing I love so much about the idea of buying school supplies, it’s a new start whenever you want one. Want to jazz up your work desk, buy a couple new pens in bright colors to make that to-do list a tad more exciting. Or at least make the crossing off of said to-do items more satisfying. I’ve come to embrace my love for picking out just the right pencil or color of ink for one of my fountain pens or finding just the right texture of paper in a notebook. It’s the small details that make it exciting to me. There’s also a spark of joy whenever I pull out my bright yellow pencil case or one of my Staedtler pencils with its bright pink eraser cap. These erasers are also some of the best erasers I’ve found and for $0.15 a piece they’re a steal. They may bring back memories of elementary school but they leave no residue behind and are up for tackling the hardest jobs. 

I’ve always had strong opinions about what types of school supplies I enjoy which got me thinking: which school supply would reign supreme were they to go head to head?

To answer this question the 2018 school supplies bracket was born. This is part a question of which school supply does one prefer and part a question of which supply would beat out all the rest. It’s like March Madness but instead of basketball teams, it’s a head to head battle of items that used to be part of our day to day lives. The rise of the computer and technology have made many things in my life easier, but it doesn’t always provide the thing I need. Sometimes I need to sit and sharpen a dozen colored pencils and enjoy the colorful shavings they create. It’s mediative and downright fun. While doing this exercise, I found that it would’ve been a close race between the ruler, eraser, and pencil. These were the instruments I kept reaching for and without this project would’ve been much harder to  complete. As this whole subject is about tactile objects, I decided to make the bracket by hand. This proved harder than I had initially imagined as math was indeed a leading component yet it was also far more satisfying once I figured everything out. 

I would love for this to be an interactive challenge and have uploaded the bracket so everyone can download and participate. Click on the link and you’re ready to go. The bracket was made on A4 paper but can easily be resized to the standard 8.5 x 11 paper when printing. I think it would be a lot of fun to have this as an office challenge or to do amongst friends. I fully intend to complete my bracket and decide which school supplies comes out on top. The items are grouped together by categories so the writing utensils, desk and backpack accessories, and paper products are all matched against each other. Will the #2 pencil beat the pen? Will post-it notes be the ultimate winner or will the calculator swoop in and be the surprise dark horse? Please share your brackets and findings with me. I can’t wait to see what everyone deems to be the best school supplies.

Now, if this has gotten you in the mood to seek out some new school supplies of your own, a few of my favorite places to look would be:

CW Pencil Enterprise
Located in New York City, this store is one of my favorite places to visit. CW specializes in pencils, pencil related accessories, and now stickers. This year they’ve introduced their first mechanical pencil to the store. I’ve been visiting for the past four years and enjoy collecting their yearly pencil patches - which so far I have succeed in doing every year since 2014. Run by Caroline Weever, a self-proclaimed life-long pencil enthusiast, this store has items for the pencil fanatics and those who are looking to return to something more tactile. Pencils are sold individually and you’re able to try out each type in store. They also create pencil sampler packs of their favorite pencils for scoring baseball games (speaking of baseball, a brand new pencil was unveiled this week that CW designed and it is specifically for scoring games), for lefties, for crosswords, and so many more. They also offer shipping so no matter where you are, a pencil can come to you. I think a separate post of my favorite pencils and pens is in my future. 

Present & Correct
This London based store has been an online favorite of mine for many years. I am hoping that this October I’ll be able to finally visit in person. Not only is their website design stylish, it offers every type of modern or vintage office supplies you could possibly want, and introduces new products to me each visit. It was through their website that I was introduced to the Italian stapler that reminds me of a shark and has the tiniest staples I’ve ever seen. It makes for a very satisfying stapler experience. Their section on paperclips is one of my favorites. Who knew that the look of paperclips has evolved over the years. One of the first things I bought when I started my job was a selection of rose gold oval paperclips. They add that little something to papers. You’re always bound to find something for your real or imaginary desk whenever visiting their website.

Goods for the Study
This is another New York store that is part of McNally Jackson. I’ve visited their Goods for the Study location at 50 West 8th Street and it is a one stop shop for all your school supply needs. There is a wall of pencils and pens when you enter situated next to a wall of notebooks. It was here that I discovered the notebook brand Esme Winter. These notebooks are hand bound in England with sturdy pages that don’t bleed and so far Goods for the Study is the only place I’ve seen that sells them in the US. A variety of binder clips, folders, and all types of accessories are sold throughout the store. It is a great place to browse when you’re unsure of what you want or to want to seek out that specific item you’ve had your eye on.

Shorthand is a store that was recently recommended to me. It is located in Highland Park, Los Angeles and is the first brick and mortar store of Iron Curtain Press, who have done notebook and pencil case collaborations with CW Pencil Enterprise. Shorthand sells items designed for the love of your desk. Here you will find specialty notebooks, pencil cases, greeting cards, and items to bring a little joy to your desk. It is on my list of places to visit and poke around in person. Their website is beautifully designed and you could easily spend a good deal of time looking for new supplies.

The Quiet of Bookshops

The Quiet of Bookshops

Things I've Been Enjoying Lately

Things I've Been Enjoying Lately