From fashion to tech to entertainment, every few weeks Minnesota Monthly editor Amy Nelson reviews a roundup of new products, events, and odds and ends she finds interesting. Have an idea? Reach her at email@example.com.
Quill & Cue greeting card subscription
There’s something delightful and nostalgic about getting a handwritten note in the mail, especially if you weren’t expecting it. And that’s why Quill & Cue appeals to me so much with its monthly subscription service that provides a colorful greeting card, envelope, postage stamp, and writing prompt called the Cue Card. Founder Alyssa Malecek Toft started the Minnesota company a year ago as the pandemic kept many of us at home and separated from family and friends, with the simple mission to “change the world one handwritten note at a time.” The greeting cards are beautiful designs on card stock ready for your words.
Some are simple illustrations, others have words of encouragement such as “You are a star” and “You make everything better.” The Cue Cards change each month so if you already have something in mind to say to a certain someone one month, hang on to the prompts for other times you’re not sure what to write. Examples of the cues include recognizing the “hardest-working person you know” or someone “who kept showing up, time and time again, to let you know they were there for you.”
For $8 per month, there are subscription options for adults with elegant designs and themes and for children with more playful designs and age-appropriate prompts. I’ve already dashed off two of my sample cards to friends I wanted to reconnect with and to brighten their day. Now I just need to focus on improving my illegible handwriting. quillandcue.com
Cheeterz Club glasses
As I’m writing out those Quill & Cue cards (see above), I’ll be wearing my cheeky new Cheeterz Club magnified readers. This company embraces the idea that people of a certain age may need a little help with their sight, declaring in its website that “modern aging is less about being fearful of what’s next, and more about being fierce on how we approach it. And above all else, it’s about being interesting to look at.” Under $30 each, these handcrafted glasses for both men and women are customizable by frame style, magnification power, and fashion tints.
The frames also claim to be made from “plant-based plastic that is hypoallergenic”—but made in China. For an additional $25, you can add a blue-light filter to your frames too. My review frames, the Savannah Blonde Ambition, came with a stylish magnetic rich red glasses case with the words “Because it just happens overnight” on the inside flap as well as a leopard-print pouch. This particular oversized style doesn’t fit my face that well, but there are plenty of other styles to pick from and at this price, I’m planning to try a few different looks. cheeterzclub.com
“Talk More. Smile More. Save Gorillas.” Say what now? That’s the tagline on this Bluetooth-enabled mobile handset and speaker called simply Banana Phone. Whether you’re looking for a White Elephant gift or have a banana-lover in your life, the Banana Phone may just be quirky enough to appeal to some. (Get it?)
Charge the life-sized piece of plastic via the micro USB port and connect to your iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth to make phone calls or play music. The Banana Phone has a Bluetooth range of 60 feet and 20 hours of talk time per charge. Still, the number of caveats for this $40 toy had me wondering if the novelty was worth the worry: do not use near water, do not expose to extreme temperatures, unplug during lightning storms, and, my favorite, do not eat. The company does claim to contribute 2% of annual sales to gorilla conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. bananaphone.io
Pull Start Fire
I’m a big fan of fires all year round in our outdoor fire pit, especially in the winter snow. The Pull Start Fire product makes starting those flames simple even with wet wood and doesn’t require any matches, lighters, fuel, or kindling. I’ve had many fires sputter out after the newspaper I have added burns up, so this windproof and rainproof product seems like a nifty hack.
Stack wood as you would like, put the Pull Start Fire brick on top of or touching the wood and loop the string around at least one log, pull the string, and the brick starts flaming. For $17 for a 3-pack, the Pull Start Fire burns for 30 minutes and is safe to cook over. I had a friend try this product in his fancy Solo Stove (which I’ve been looking at buying for some time now) and he reported it was fast and efficient but did add that the gun powder smell lingered for some time. For more adventurous campers, the Pull Start Fire can easily replace all the other items—lighters, etc.—you may forget to pack. pullstartfire.com