Monthly Archives: June 2012

Are You Ready for the Summer?

I lived for summer camp as a kid and was fortunate enough to experience a variety of sleep away camps…music camp, girl scout camp, farm camp, YMCA camps, church camps. Aside from the talent shows, roasting s’mores, and paddling through some of the most lovely, crystal clear Wisconsin lakes ever, nothing came close to the daily mail. Don’t get me wrong, I was camper with a smile from ear to ear all day long, but being far from home for a few weeks at a time one starts to wonder what her best friend was up to or how her family was spending their days.

Every day after lunch I’d race to ‘mail call’ and cross my fingers for a correspondence from back home. So when I went online to check out my old favorite wilderness camp in northern Wisconsin, Camp Manitowish, I was a bit surprised to find a link to Camp-O-Gram. It’s basically a fast way to communicate with your child via email letter rather than old-school mail. The staff prints the email and delivers it with the daily U.S. Post. That’s all well and good but even today I would still rather receive the real deal, signed/sealed/delivered, and I hope my kids would as well.

So how do you get your children motivated to write you? Try out these options.

Love the Ecojot Camp Stationery from Paper Source with the cheery layout and perfect lines for the young writer.

Your little campers will have no excuse not to send a note or two back home with this 50’s style Camp Correspondence Set from Yellow Owl Workshop. Love the old-school feel!!

PH Design Shop sells the ultimate Camp Stationery Set which even includes stamps, custom mailing labels AND compass buttons for the adventurous ones.

Crazy about theses personalized Postcards from Camp created buy Laza Flair.  And while you are on her etsy store…

You can order a Personalized Summer Camp Journal for your camper. It will make the memory writing feel that much more special. Send it off in a care package to arrive soon after they have settled into their cabin, a reminder someone is thinking of them back at home.

The eco-friendly Camp Journal from Paper Source can hold all those adventures a camper might not even want to share with her favorite bunk mate.


For the true “tripper” as we referred to them at Manitowish, the Water Proof Journal will come in handy especially on that wet portage when your boot got stuck in the mud and your gear was soon soaked. Good times.


Of course there are the kids who might not always be loving the camp scene. You can find a collection of real life letters in P.S. I Hate it Here which share some classics moments…

So here’s to the memory making at camp. And if you’re not in that paddling through the woods spirit just yet, here’s a little song to leave you with…

Good old Meatballs. Sorry. It’s the camper in me.

I Got a Perfect Way

I’m not sure if anyone still buys CDs anymore, but it wasn’t too long ago that to get the one or two songs you really wanted on an album you had to buy the whole dang thing. Now of course you can go to iTunes and cherry pick whatever songs you want without fear of biting into any bad pieces in the box of musical chocolates.  This technological development is helping speed the demise of the music publishing industry but, thankfully, a parallel dynamic hasn’t taken hold of another publishing modality near and dear to me; the cookbook.

I like to cook and have assembled, mostly through gifts, a decent-sized cookbook collection.

If you’re looking for a recipe for a rue-scented onion glaze, I’ve got you covered. Should you want to make a child’s birthday cake in the shape of a steam engine, no problem. But while I love books and love having them around, (Wendy and I kicked around the idea of having our dining room full of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves), there is something a little hard to swallow both psychologically and fiscally speaking, about buying a big ‘ol cookbook when you’re really only after one or two recipes.

This is when the pen and paper can be useful. I haven’t done it lately, but after college as I started getting interested in food, I’d think nothing of writing down recipe ideas or cooking techniques from cookbooks without having to purchase the book itself. In fact, a good Friday night back then would involve heading Uptown to grab a coffee at Starbucks (now closed), peruse CDs at Cheapo (now moved), and look at books at Borders (now closed).

I suppose jotting down recipe ideas from the Charlie Trotter Vegetable cookbook could be viewed in an unfavorable light, but at the time I wasn’t going to spend 50 bucks on a cookbook and so I rationalized my jotting by believing (hoping?) the chef would actually be okay with what I was doing. That is, there was good culinary karma being spread as a recipe or technique reached a wider, albeit non-paying, audience. Hey, I was young.

The results of those Friday nights can be found in my kitchen’s recipe drawer. Amidst the pots and pans and gadgets I haven’t used for years is a stack of handwritten notes and recipes that I use to this day.

I bring this all up because when I bring out the notes for a stock or marinade that I wrote down on the back of a paystub from Caribou, I clearly remember the time and place of its recording and it’s an oil-stained passport to the past which wouldn’t exist if I had the entire book.

There are of course those cookbooks that one is required to physically have around, the textual equivalents of “The Joshua Tree”, but for those times when you just want to hear “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti and nothing else on the album, grab a pencil and a paystub.


Writing, Writing Everywhere

More and more I’ve noticed the amount of handwriting showing up in advertisements, magazine articles, and television commercials. One of the first places it caught my eye was in the New York Times Style Magazine.

There is a fantastic section called Edible Selby where the reader has a glimpse into the lives of  up-and-coming, sometimes under the radar, chefs. The Times asks questions in handwriting such as “What are the signs of a great paella?” or “Could I get the recipe for the salted potato bake?” and the chef replies back also using handwriting.

It’s a catchy way to not only bring interest into the article but also, especially for the foodies out there, a chance to literally see the recipe through the scribbles of a future of Thomas Keller.

W magazine has also used this technique with their WHERE/ON SET section where movie stars handwrite descriptions of specific scenes. Love the one above where Michelle Pfieffer describes the behind-the-scene photo from her new Tim Burton film Dark Shadows. It can bring you a bit closer to this “star” when you see their own handwriting and feel their own energy behind the pen. (love this one, of course)

Some advertising gurus believe one of the most effective copy techniques to grab a reader’s attention is by using simulated handwritten notes and doodles. The argument is when you introduce a handwritten element into otherwise digital monolithism it becomes very different in a simple, humanizing kind of way.

Even in this day and age of computer generated everything, the power of handwriting stands out.

Thanks to the Dads

Thank you to the father figures in our lives who inspire us each day. We are blessed beyond words, even the written ones. Cheers.

Farm Bopie

Grandpa Mac



Running partner DAD!!

Oops – I mean…

Love you Dad.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I ask myself that question every spring, trying to recall which annuals I planted the pervious year in our urns, including which dahlia tubers I picked out from the annual Bachman’s tuber sale and my favorite Two Pony Gardens.

So this year I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to record which plants, both annuals and perennials, have survived, thrived or disliked our backyard throughout the summer.

I had been eyeing this Moleskin Gardening Journal for the last few months up at Tangletown Gardens and broke down the last time I stopped by (needing to replace the many kale and swiss chard veggies destroyed by squirrels and other four legged critters… AHHH!!). I’m giddy about what’s inside this Moleskin. Aside from helpful information regarding leaf shapes, plant habitats, etc., the journal includes five themed sections such as notes on plants, garden design ideas and observations during garden visits, as well as blank tabs in the back for more creative, personal use. Now all I need to do is actually enter in the information before baby Brown arrives in a month.

There are many out there to select from…

I noticed the Lifestyle Notebook Gardening during my visit to MARA MI last month and was taken by the Japanese influence seen through its organized journal, shopping list, garden dictionary (in Japanese however), and seasonal plan sheet. Very fang shui.


Gardener Cathleen Hands decided to design and sell this journal after many friends and students praised her for the homemade journal she brought to class. The water resistant Garden Journal has everything you need for an organized garden with monthly planning sheets and a pouch to hold seeds, and the helpful coil binding provides a strong surface to write. This gardener knew what she was up to!

There is always the classic Archie Grand notebook, Gardeners I Met and Liked, which is an ideal size when taking notes while wandering through the MN Landscape Arboretum, Brooklyn Botanical Garden or Portland’s Rose Gardens. Or your neighbor’s backyard.


Or for the artistic gardener, this light-hearted garden journal from cartoonist Brave Mable would suit their green thumb marvelously.

Now if only my new journal would get rid of those kale-eating little buggers.