Does someone you love have a birthday this month? Enter them to win a shopping spree at UncommonGoods. From now til May 31, you can tag your friend in this photo on our Facebook page and they’ll be entered to win. Leave a comment to let us know why your friend or family member is special to you, and why you hope they have a great birthday. Be sure to include their birthday! We’ll pick one lucky birthday girl or boy to receive a gift card to UncommonGoods.
And here’s the best part— you can enter as many times as you like. So if you, your mother, sister and best friend forever are all May babies, you can enter each time. If there’s no more space to tag a friend’s name, just leave a comment on the Facebook post.
You can also double your chances of winning a birthday prize for your favorite people by tweeting:
Hey @uncommongoods! Help me wish my friend @name a very happy birthday. http://unc.gd/JDvfrB
Is your birthday in May? You should enter yourself too. We know UncommonGoods shoppers are great when it comes to finding perfect gifts for the people they love, but we wouldn’t want you to forget yourself.
Treat yo self!
Congrats to our April winner: Dottie Filla Hibbeler, who was nominated by her sister Patty.
Patty says: My beautiful sister Dottie Filla Hibbeler would love an Uncommon Goods gift spree for her April 21st birthday. She is a wonderful gift giver and I’m sure if she won she would get me a cool Tocky alarm clock for nominating her. Right, Dot?
While I may be a mild-mannered writer for UncommonGoods by day… by night I’m a swashbuckling writer of Broadway musicals! Except for the swashbuckling part. And the Broadway part. But I do write musicals; you just haven’t heard of them yet.
Have you ever wondered why so many musicals are adaptations of a movie, or book, or something else? One reason is that writing a musical well is extraordinarily complicated, even without having to come up with a story from scratch. So writers like adapting existing material because it gives them a foundation on which to build.
The problem for new writers? That foundation can be pretty expensive — just imagine how much it costs to get a movie studio to agree to let you use one of their films! So as a writer, it would be a real asset to have a tool that helps me come up with exciting, original stories.
Among our writing products at UncommonGoods, we have two that are specifically designed to help you generate stories. The Storymatic uses a large deck of cards with prompts on them, and Rory’s Story Cubes are a set of dice with evocative images on them.
One of my favorite games has picture dice like the Story Cubes, while on the other hand, I feel a little intimidated by the size of the Storymatic deck. So my hypothesis is that the Story Cubes will be my most effective story-making tool.
Rory’s Story Cubes, $7.50
Using the Story Cubes is pretty intuitive. You open the box (which has a magnetic cover that swings open like a book) and inside is the set of nine dice. Dice are pretty self-explanatory: you simply roll them and see what turns up.
First to catch my eye are images of a fountain and a castle tower. I immediately picture the two together, in European style piazza where people chat and soak up the afternoon sunlight. There’s the image of a cane: I picture an old man who comes to sit by the fountain each day. Then there’s a strange image of arrows pointing out in all directions. I think, maybe the old man isn’t there today. Maybe someone is wondering where he is. I see the image of a lock—maybe someone locked up in the tower has been watching the piazza every day and realizes the man isn’t there.
I write the dialogue of a scene between two women up in the tower, and it comes pretty easily. One feels compelled to find what’s happened to the man, while the other tries to reason with her. The other dice images prompt specific lines of dialogue, or provide unexpected twists to the story that would be interesting to learn more about. The tone is mysterious, with a lot of room to spin the story into something longer.
The Storymatic, $29.95
The box holds two different colors of cards with words on them, and what looks like a pretty involved instruction book. Unsure what I’m supposed to do, I start reading the instructions and discover that the process is actually very simple. There are “gold” cards that show personal attributes that combine to form a character, and “copper” cards displaying plot elements. The instructions look long because contain a number of ways to use the cards, but they all basically boil down to this: “Draw a couple cards of each color. Build a story around them. If you get stumped, draw more cards.”
For my character cards, I draw “aging model” and “dish washer.” Awesome. I can picture a once-glamorous woman reduced to working behind the scenes at the kind of swanky establishment she once patronized herself.
My plot cards are “can’t get down” and “fossil.” Hmm. I started by thinking literally, imagining a kind of adventure story where she’s climbing a ladder and gets stuck, but finds a fossil. That didn’t really appeal to me. So I started thinking more figuratively. I thought, maybe she really wants to leave the kitchen and join an event happening below. I wasn’t sure if that was stretching “can’t get down” too far, but I was the only one playing, so no one complained. I pictured her boss, who has no sympathy for her, and thinks of her as a fossil. Between the two of them I could picture some good dialogue.
When I ran out of material, but still felt like there was more to the scene, I started drawing more cards. The first I drew was “midnight in a graveyard.” Yikes. Wrong story. At first I felt like I was obligated to find a way to use it anyway, but once again I realized that I was free to make my own rules, so I kept drawing. I drew “fever,” which prompted my ex-model to try an excuse to get out of work. “At last, love” was a tough one, but it prompted a great little sarcastic rant, spinning off the idea of “where have you been all my life?”
You can listen to my stories here:
Featuring the voices of Rinnell Curry & Brandon Chu
Featuring the voices of Melanie Majewski and Cassie Tweten Delaney
In the end, both sets helped me create intriguing stories with lots of potential.
Rory’s Story Cubes is simpler and feels more like a game. I can picture using them with friends just for fun. You could also do them as a travel activity, using the box to hold them when you roll. Because all you’re given are pictures, I felt like these were really liberating.
Storymatic feels more specifically like getting writing prompts, but they’re really interesting prompts, and combining them creates a huge variety in the results you’ll get. Because what you receive is so much more specific, I ended up investing more thought into the process of making the pieces come together, which in the end resulted the script that I liked better of the two.
With the Storymatic I found myself thinking about my characters in greater detail, while with the Story Cubes I felt like I was able to move more quickly into the action of my story. Both are effective ways of starting out, and I will most definitely be using them again.
Win up to a $250 shopping spree for you and your mom.* Just repin this image below to a Mother’s Day board, follow the instructions, and leave a link to your finished board in the comments below, or the pin on our Pinterest board.
Let your Mom know why she’s the best with this board filled with images that remind you of her. Don’t have an exact photo? No worries– be creative with these prompts and have fun!
We’ll announce the winner on May 4, so you and your mom will have plenty of time to shop together, before or after Mother’s Day. For every 50 entries we see, we’ll add $50 to the grand prize, up to a total of $250. So after you share your board with us, be sure to tell your friends and family to enter too!
*Or mother figure, or moms. Whoever you’re celebrating this Mother’s Day!
Does someone you love have a birthday this month? Enter them to win a shopping spree at UncommonGoods. From now til April 30, you can tag your friend in this photo on our Facebook page and they’ll be entered to win. Leave a comment to let us know why your friend or family member is special to you, and why you hope they have a great birthday. Be sure to include their birthday! We’ll pick one lucky birthday girl or boy to receive a gift card to UncommonGoods.
And here’s the best part—for every 50 people you enter, we’ll add $50 to the grand prize, up to $250. So if your mother, sister and best friend forever are all April babies (and maybe you are too), you can enter each time.
You can also double your chances of winning a birthday prize for your favorite people by tweeting:
Hey @uncommongoods! Help me wish my friend @name a very happy birthday. http://unc.gd/Hs8uas
Is your birthday in April? You should enter yourself too. We know UncommonGoods shoppers are great when it comes to finding perfect gifts for the people they love, but we wouldn’t want you to forget yourself.
Treat yo self!
Background Research: The Stackable Lunch Pot is a sleek, chic, airtight food porting device comprised of two containers that fit together in a quite nifty manner. The larger of the two holds 18.6 ounces; the smaller, 10 ounces. A fashionable matching spork is included.
Hypothesis: Some people–cough cough (me) cough cough – have trouble restraining themselves in the presence of tasty food, and need help with the dreaded “portion control.” Can the Lunch Pot help me keep a lid (har har) on my appetite despite the temptation of homemade risotto?
Experiment: The first phase of the investigation required the making of risotto that was delicious enough to be a formidable temptation. The following recipe yielded more than adequate results.
Pressure Cooker Brown Rice and Kabocha Risotto
-All measurements are approximate; risotto is very forgiving.
-You can use any winter squash — butternut, pumpkin, or acorn, but the beauty of kabocha is that the skin is edible so you don’t have to peel it.
-Recipe is adaptable to a rice cooker or ordinary pot, but
1) A pressure cooker does the best job of making brown rice become creamy the way Arborio does, and
2) If you don’t use a pressure cooker, you have to pre-cook the squash.
2 T butter, 1 T olive oil
1.5 cup short-grain brown rice (I used sweet brown rice because that’s what I had on hand)
1 small kabocha squash, washed, seeds, pith and stem removed, cut into evenly-sized 1” pieces
1-2 T dried sage leaves
3 ½ – 4 c chicken or vegetable broth
Large handful chopped parsley (Flat-leaf is a stronger taste)
Large handful shredded Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt fats over low-medium heat in pot of pressure cooker. Add rice and stir until coated with oil. Add sage and kabocha, stir. Pour in broth, stir. Put lid on pressure cooker and bring to full pressure. Lower heat as much as you can without losing full pressure. Cook anywhere from 18-40 mins (depends on the kind of rice you have; try 18 to start and if that’s not enough, bring up to pressure again and check after another 5 minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat if that’s not enough. Next time you try it, you won’t have to guess).
Turn off heat and let pot sit for 5-10 minutes, then use quick-release method to let off pressure.
Stir in parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual servings with grated cheese.
The risotto-cooking phase of the experiment having been completed, the next step entailed filling the smaller of the two containers with the tempting substance, and larger one with salad makings (dressing was put in a separate small container from my motley collection).
I should confess that the thought of bringing only the small container of risotto goodness to work caused me some momentary sadness. My lab assistant, Rusty Marmalade, distracted me by conducting a spork inspection.
Despite my misgivings, when lunchtime rolled around at work the next day, the contents of the 10-oz. container were satisfyingly filling. Moreover, the container’s volume limit did, in fact, prevent me from eating too much.
Unanticipated Challenge: The Lunch Pot’s rubber gasket creates a vacuum seal that prevents air from getting in and leaks from getting out. It also prevented me from being able to open it the first time I closed it (fortunately before I put any food in it). There is a cute little instruction diagram inside the lid showing how to open it when the suction is too great for your strength.
However, I didn’t understand it. I tried to pry off the lid by pushing the spork upward, with no results. I tried a metal spoon–no dice. I emailed our vendor. They sent me this helpful video, which didn’t help me.
Finally, pushing the lid up with all my might, I managed to break it. My more intelligent co-worker, Cassie, noticed that the lid was meant to be screwed off. Not pried. Mystery solved.
Gasket Corollary: The green rubber gaskets come off, making it easy to thoroughly wash away any lurking food or bacteria.
1) The Lunch Pot is a wonderfully-designed device both functionally and aesthetically.
2) The smaller container is the perfect size for a correct portion of any main dish, and the larger, for salad.
3) I am not an engineer. But I can cook all right.