Monthly Archives: June 2013

An Off-the-Grid Grin

Twin Citians have slowly been crawling out of the dark over the past 6 days. After two nights of epic (sorry, a word often used by our boys) wind and rain storms, the power was knocked out in hundreds of communities, a record setter.  Most people were not too pleased about their warm homes, lack of hot water, pitching every item in their freezers, iMacs out. I could go on. But honestly, I didn’t mind a bit.

After four days of no power, I was secretly hoping for a few more dark and calm moments in the house. While Nick was grinning ear to ear soon after electricity was rocking our homestead, I was wanting to go back in time.  There was a calmness in our home I had not felt for awhile. The boys stopped asking if they could watch a “show”; I was unable to work on Brown Ink Paper Goods or watch Mad Men episodes in the evening; there were no distractions like the laundry or emails piling up; no Instagram to follow. Instead, I sat beside my battery-powered lantern, (I was pushing for candles but Nick refused additional heat on our 1st floor), and wrote the letters I’d been wanting to write for the past month. With all the darkness and quiet surrounding me, without any electricity I was more focused than ever. I was present and I loved it.

Although I was not out in the public that often during the post-storm days, a friend of mine noticed a change. People were conversing more than usual, versus looking at their phones. There was a simple yet noticeable change in this face-to-face communication.

Did communities take anything away from this pause in their lives? It’s unclear. But maybe this summer we can all put our gadgets to the side, at least a few nights a week, grab a pen and write…whatever, to whomever. Connecting with yourself and others, a break in the action and a needed respite for many I’d imagine. I admit I enjoy and appreciate, even more lately, the coolness to my once toasty bed but I’d get off-the-grid for a quiet moment on most nights these days.

On a paper note, if you are in need of gorgeous writing and office supplies and live close to Minneapolis, head over to russell and hazel. It’s their annual Sidewalk Sale now through Sunday where they’ve unloaded lovely goods for fantabulous prices. Go run, not walk…especially since most of us will return to cool, electrical powered homes. Lucky us? That’s the head scratcher.

voila party

My co-pilot and I are opposite when it comes to blogging. He has the wit, and at times bizarre, inside-baseball kind of humor. Me, I’m more practical and sing-songy. Nick handwrites all his posts before logging in and I, on the other hand, need to type when organizing my thoughts (I realize, a bit anti-Brown Ink). Nick stores all his ideas in his head. For me, I collect ideas and store them under a specific category using my awesome filing system (with the help from russell&hazel file folders).

Funny enough, even with well-intended folders spilling over with post ideas, for me it always comes down to what feels fresh at the time. I often wait for the right topic to knock me over. So this past week, buried under stationery catalogues while narrowing down the goods to premiere on Brown Ink this fall (so excited!!), I had no time or room to let an idea surface. But leave it to a morning run to solve or at least sort out my present problems. Summer humidity finally arrived and out came my need for a summer party…voila. Who doesn’t love a little social gathering in the heat of the season!?!

invite1 Take the time to handwrite an invite! I used these invitations from MARA-MI for a Bon Voyage party for my neighbors this spring. I adore the origami and gold foil print inside the envelope.


 And for more of the garden party…

Garden Party Invitations

Rifle Paper features a beautiful party invitation which can be used for many occasions.



Use this nautical, summer themed gift tag from MARA-MI with a bottle of bubbly for the host.


0040 Make your drinks labels stand out and feel festive with a celebratory stamp!



Letterpressed Neon Coasters - "Bottoms up"

These chic, neon coasters from Haute Papier use an added touch with the letterpress handwriting.

Find a way to make a statement as your guests arrive. A good friend of mine welcomed her friends by using chalkboard paint in her front entrance. An easy feel good.

 Find chalkboard paint around town or make it temporary with peel & stick boards


Of course, if your party has many people chatting it up with one another, they will love the napkin notes for the last minute thought, much easier than digging for you iphone to message yourself.

With these food writing pens, your handwriting is actually edible!

iPad Step example

If you’re not a big Thank You note writer, make it simple by shooting a photo with the host and send a card using inkFelt, RedStamp, or Postagram, all phone or tablet apps which send an old-fashioned written card, on real paper, delivered by a mail carrier. All before you exit the party.


Let the festivities begin….


With many Moms finally finding some air after a hectic end-of-school-year season, the energy output continues on with Father’s Day only 10 days away. I thought a few gift tips might be helpful. Let’s begin with cards…

Father's Day Fly Fishing Card

I’m crazy about the Fly Fishing Father’s Day card created by the Floridian folks at Rifle Paper Co

Make it! Fancy Father’s Day Card

This DIY Father’s Day Card from Moomah is pretty darn sweet and not too difficult for even me!


Portland, OR’s Quill & Fox has created the perfect card for the coffee-loving father

Image of Father's Day, 1003Image of Father's Day, 1001

For the humorous dad, these memorable cards from local Old Tom Foolery will be appreciated

And now the treats…

These Kraft Notes from Kikkerland Design are classic, a must for any high-styling dad these days

And while you’re on their site, include a Matchstick Pen with your order for a little gift topper!  (bonus: use coupon code FATHERS13 for 20% off, order by June 9th)

Restoration Hardware ate their Smart Pills when creating the Chalkboard Door Hanger. The kids might not like this one, but Dad will. Just think, he can write out the message the night before “Start coffee machine. Watch cartoons until 8.” And all might be calm in the house just a wee bit longer…Imagine.

Yoda Essential Notebook - Small

A quote from the beloved Star Wars on anything will put smiles on the Brown boys’ faces especially when to comes to a Father’s Day gift idea. Thankfully, the Yoda Essential Handbook seals the deal. You can even monogram the book for free! Love.

Anti-Gravity Space Pen

And while you’re shuffling around my new favorite Owen & Fred website, why don’t you pick up an Anti-Gravity Space Pen so Dad can feel a little Neal Armstrongesque on an off…or on day.



If Dad is like most men out there, he’s lacking in the stationery department. Why not surprise him with a handsome, engraved Blue Fly note card from Terrapin Stationers?

Or for the sailor, the Golden Nautical card set is elegant and sporty

For New York Yankees fans, this Vintage Yankee Stadium Seat Pen was created from authentic wooden seats salvaged from the stadium before ’73 when the seats turned to plastic. The disc at the top even features the original blue paint.

For the final touch, check out the latest design coming out of the USPS.

Every year over 140,000 images are sent to the USPS for consideration as a stamp. The latest Johnny Cash Forever Stamp was a standout for obvious reasons.

Of course, there is no reason anyone needs to spend a dollar on this day….

Have the kids create an IOU or coupon for projects around the home or look here for a printable Father’s Day Check like the one above.

The best gifts of all are the handwritten ones in my mind. A poem, one sentence “I love you Dad” sentiment from a child, a list of the favorite attributes of your father. After he’s loved and enjoyed on this holiday, tape the written thoughts in Dad’s medicine cabinet, frame the words for his office desk, or place them in his glove compartment. These are reminders, created by the hand and heart, of the most important part of life.

(PS – If you’re looking for even more gift ideas, check out my list from last year for inspiration.)

Turn Up the Radio

I got my last autograph about eight years ago from the pianist Lang Lang. It was following a performance and I had to first purchase a CD (his) for him to sign. As he was signing it he didn’t ask me my name or where I was from or what my favorite concerto was. Rather, he scribbled his name (I think) across the CD, and passed it to a handler who returned it to me. It was all assembly line stuff; no interaction let alone a perfunctory connection.

That experience came into sharper relief last week when I took my seven year-old to a Twins game. We got there plenty early and as we were settling into our seats and hot dogs our neighbor and his two boys walked by on the way to their (better) seats. The boys had their mitts with them, which made sense, and also baseballs, which didn’t. I asked about the baseballs and apparently the practice these days is for kids to give baseballs to a handler, the handler then passes the balls around the dugout, and sometime later in the game signed balls are returned to their owners. No player interaction, no chit-chat, no getting nervous by being so close to a hero. At least Lang Lang looked at me.

After the Twins game I thought about the various sporting events I’ve been to recently and the current state of the autograph. It seems that it’s – thankfully – not the “wanting” of the autograph that’s changed in the 30 years since I was an autograph-seeker, but more the autograph “getting”. I remember seeing an ad in the paper several years ago for a sports memorabilia show where Kirby Puckett would be signing autographs for like $25 and thinking “that’s just wrong”. I’m sure it’s the way of the world these days, and probably has been for some time, but paying for that 15 seconds of chit-chat isn’t my idea of how to get the autograph. There’s no story attached and the story oftentimes equals the actual procurement.

To this day I remember seeing an ad in the paper (I really loved newspaper ads), for an autograph signing in about 1979 at Lupient Oldsmobile. The draws? Steady Freddy Barrett and Steve Payne, a couple of Minnesota North Stars, neither superstars, which didn’t matter in the least. They were professional athletes, names I heard on the radio as I fell asleep in my room, and I could actually see them. So right there on the showroom floor they signed a 4″ x 6″ glossy action photo of themselves, we got into a little friendly hockey banter (“oh yeah, you just gotta pit the puck in the back of the net, eh?), and while it likely cost the dealership a few bucks, it didn’t cost me anything. Those guys were heroes to me and I’ll never forget it.


As I’ve been seasoning a post about autographs for awhile now, a couple months ago I asked my mom if she’d go through my old stuff looking for the Barrett-Payne pictures. She didn’t find them – probably disintegrated from too much time under my pillow – but she did unearth a memento of handwritten youth maybe of even greater value; the Elf-a-gram.


In December at my high school a person could spend 25 cents, write a note to another student, and that note along with all the other notes were then delivered at the same time to the recipient’s classroom. Actually, as I think more about it, the whole thing was kind of terrible. It was just like every other day in high school in that it was a popularity contest with nowhere to hide. The cool kids got tons of grams and attendant candy canes, (you wonder if the receiver was also the giver), while others got none. Uff da.


But while the message and intent may have been mixed, the medium of communication undeniably wins top praise. It wasn’t a text or an IM but an actual note with its far fewer chances for misinterpretation. I mean when the captain of your hockey team tells you he loves you, and he’s two years older, and he put it in writing, you both believe and remember it. He was something of a hero to me, he gave me his autograph and it didn’t cost me anything, not even a wooden nickel, which was in among the stuff my mom found while spelunking for Steady Freddy. True story.