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Gift Guides

Top 10 Baby Gifts from our Buyer

July 30, 2012

My name is Melissa, and I am the buyer for Children’s & Leisure product here at UncommonGoods. Basically, I am constantly on the hunt for new, cool, and – of course – uncommon items for our assortment. We scout trade shows, blogs, craft fairs, and more to find the best and most special product for our site and catalog. Kids is all about personality and I try to find awesome (and educational!) pieces that both kids and moms will love. Also, one of my favorite things about working at UncommonGoods is that we are really all focused on the inspiration, story, and artistry of our items – all of the vendors and artists I work with are so interesting and inspiring, and care so much about the quality and specialness of their product.

There is so much on the site that I am excited about, but I was asked to put together a Top 10 Baby Gifts list, and so here is my best shot (in no particular order):

2012 Birth Year Box – Kerri Lee’s amazing Birth Year Box is such a special gift for parents because it allows them to have a safe and beautiful place to store early memories. I love the sweetness of the dragon – I also just got a sneak peek of the 2013 Snake, and I really look forward to seeing what you all think! We also have birth year shadowboxes (similar to these keepsake shadowboxes) that are coming in for Holiday – get excited!

Birth Announcement Pillows – I love Lori Blum’s subway-inspired Birth Announcement Pillows – they are fresh and modern, yet timeless as a record of a parent’s special moment in time.

Baby Fortune Cookie Slippers – Della Slowik has some of my favorite quirky items – her Toddler Sushi Booties and Adult Sushi Slippers are a riot as well.

Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate – These 100% Egyptian cotton veggies are so cute, and a perfect aww-worthy toy set. The carrot and mushroom both crack me up.

‘So My Story Begins’ Babysuit – I love this graphic – it always makes me smile. It also has one of my favorite customer reviews: “This baby outfit garners sounds of delight at baby showers. It brings a smile to everyone’s face as they immediately discuss how unusual it is. So My Story Begins has the potential to be an heirloom for the family.” (Cheryl from Capistrano Beach, CA)

Upcycled Sweater Moose Head – Josh Title’s cool Moose Head is a great decorative piece for a nursery made from discarded sweaters. These are eye-catching and quirky – we loved it so much we hung one up in the office!

Farmer’s Market Babysuit Collection – These Farmer’s Market Babysuits are truly all American, with 100% Texas cotton manufactured in Pennsylvania and printed in North Carolina. Make sure to check out the packaging, that is the selling point for me – what a perfect gift!

President Block Set – My favorite products are those that have both play and educational value – these are that, and handmade to boot. Other favorites along these lines are our Periodic Table Blocks and Nursery Rhyme Blocks. Stay tuned – we also just added some Egyptian Hieroglyphics Blocks and ABC Sign Language + Braille Blocks that I think are amazing.

Babiators Sunglasses – These are just cool, and a perfect mini-me moment. As one customer says, her baby “looks like his Daddy’s twin when they wear their sunglasses together” (Nana from Bryson City, NC)

Baby Shower Baskets: Take Me Home Outfit and Toy, Hat, and Bootie Set – These are brand-new to the site, and a couple of my favorite items, so I had to sneak in two for my last spot in the top 10! The toys are wonderfully soft and cuddly, and the hat, booties, and wrap sets are all of a beautiful and durable quality. I think these make the absolutely perfect baby shower gift!

There are so many more items that I love, but I hope this quick list helped you find the perfect items for you and your (or your friend’s or family’s) baby. I would love to hear if there any other items from our site that you all think are a particularly good baby gift – please share!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press

July 25, 2012

Research
Since I am naturally an ice cream mix master (my first job in high school was with Coldstone Creamery!), I chose the Cuisipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press for my experiment. Along with my mastered mixing techniques, I consider ice cream the seventh major food group and live off of the sweet stuff during the summer months.

Hypothesis
I think that I can make homemade ice cream sandwiches to cool off on a hot summer day.

Experiment
I knew this would be a fun project to work on during a hot Sunday afternoon with my brother, Colby. We first brainstormed what cookie and ice cream combinations would be the tastiest. I splurged on an Upstate NY favorite, Stewart’s ice cream. And we cheated a little bit on the cookies.

The first step was making the cookies!

Our little helper needed to take a break during the clean-up.

Once the cookies were out of the oven, we laid them out to cool. Note: I anxiously made the mistake of waiting only five minutes and I had a sloppy mess. You MUST wait for your cookies to be completely cool!

Once completely cooled, we started using our tools. Included in the package are three different sandwich shapes – a heart, a star and a circle. The directions are simple and printed on the back of the box – cut the cookie; scoop up the ice cream; cut the second cookie and twist the handle to press together; twist to release the sandwich.

Conclusion
What a delicious treat! We ended up with lovely heart shaped sugar cookies with black cherry ice cream, peanut buttery overloaded cookies with peanut butter cup ice cream, and star shaped double chocolate chunk cookies with a classic vanilla ice cream. After our sugar crash and hour-long nap from a hard-working afternoon, we went back for seconds!

I come from an awesome sweet-toothed family that celebrates spring with a party full of deserts, and I plan on making these for next year’s event. What a clever treat and fun activity!

Gift Guides

Our Top 10 Best-Selling Voter Favorites

July 18, 2012

Choosing new merchandise to feature on our website and in our catalog is definitely a lot of fun, but it isn’t always easy! Luckily, we have a community of design-savvy voters eager to help us out. Each week we add a fresh batch of potential products to our community voting app and watch as voters tell us what makes something unique, useful, and attractive enough to be considered an uncommon good.

Many of these voter favorites didn’t just get attention while under consideration, but also elicit fantastic feedback from actual customers now that they’re available for purchase. Here are just a few of those best-selling community picks.

10.) Cymbal of Love Pendant The winner of our 2011 Jewelry Design Challenge received a ton of positive feedback in the challenge’s semi-final round and it has since become a customer favorite.

During those early stages Monica told us, “This is fantastic! I also make jewelry and accessories from repurposed musical items, and this is both original and adorable.”

Now that the necklace is available for purchase, it continues to receive praise. Reviewers love the upcycled story, the craftsmanship, and the beauty of this handmade piece.

9.) Mushroom Kit We harvested a great crop of voter comments from this uncommon good. Our community was super excited about growing mushrooms at home, and now that this kit is on our shelves we hear some fantastic feedback from mushroom farmers across the country.

Mushroom Lover (an appropriate alias!) from San Diego wrote, “As a mushroom lover this is perfect, for others it is a fun and unique gift for vegetarians, gardners, and the hard to buy for person who has everything.”

8.) Quiet Courage Necklace Mary Steratore’s sterling silver necklace makes a lovely gift for a graduation or a new job or promotion. Our voters weren’t quiet when it came to sharing their opinion on this product, though. They spoke up to tell us they loved the combination of smokey quartz and garnet, the subtle yin yang charm, and, of course, the meaning behind this symbolic piece.

7.) Love is Art Kit This clever kit created a bit of controversy when we first asked our community what they thought.

“Eeek!” Amanda exclaimed along with her thumbs down vote.

Charli, on the other hand, voted thumbs up. “This is awesome for a cheeky bridal shower gift.” She continued by explaining that the kit is a great way to be creative and fun with your partner.

We’re pleased that since the product entered our assortment folks have tended to side with Charli. We continue to see great reviews for this product–though some folks are more modest than others. Juajua from Oregon explained, “We are a modest artsy couple and bought this for our wedding night. Super fun and a sweet momento. Was extremely messy and took a long time to clean off (not a bad thing). Since we are fairly modest, we are going to lie about the painting that we plan on hanging over our bed, and say that we bought it on our honeymoon.”

6.) Portable Ping Pong Set Our voters got excited about this easy way to take ping pong on the go. But one voter, Catherine, pointed out that it’s not just about portable play.

“LOVE this because I don’t have dedicated space for a ping pong table but this would be ideal,” she wrote.

5.) Himalayan Salt Tequila Glasses Our community thought these salty glasses were extra sweet. A few voters commented that, while they didn’t care for tequila, they liked the glasses enough to give it another try. Others mentioned that they could make a great gift for someone who has everything. Inspired by the enthusiasm of those who left comments, we couldn’t wait to try these out ourselves. Our customer service supervisor, Keshia, and her friends found that they met expectations when she conducted a very scientific (and, from the looks of things, quite fun) gift lab.

4.) Mother & Daughter Letterbook Many voters shared touching stories of mother-daughter relationships in their comments. Such as this story from Cherie, who said, “My mother is my best friend. These cards represent the priceless relationship that a mother has with her children, something to be cherished forever. A perfect gift for any mother — from new mommy to great-grand mommy!”

The Letter Book continues to be a success, and we’ve heard more touching stories of mothers and daughters creating memories over the last few months.

3.) Butterfly Puddler This functional piece of handmade stoneware garden art by Jo-anne and Gerald Warren received just shy of 1300 votes. Our community was excited by the beauty and purpose of this piece, but expressed some concern over whether or not it would actually draw those winged wonders. Based on feedback from customers who’ve purchased the Butterfly Puddler since it entered our assortment, the mineral-filled well does the trick when it comes to attracting butterflies.

2.) F Bomb One of our top-voted items, with over 1600 votes, this punny paperweight also received a plethora of positive comments. Several voters told us the image made them laugh out loud, a few mentioned friends with a penchant for that f word whom they’d love to buy it for, and others mentioned that they’d like to keep it next to a swear jar as a reminder not to drop the bomb at work.

And finally, our best-selling community-approved product…

1.) Corkcicle “This is the BEST IDEA EVER!!!!” wrote Debi. (Yes, she included the four exclamation points.)

“This looks great!” Kimber commented. “I run a wine cellar and know this would be a big hit. People are always looking for fun unique wine items. It would be a ‘must have’ for my collection.”

And during that voting phase Kimberly told us, “I was actually looking to buy this verses voting on it. Can’t wait to see when you carry it! I do a trial run of it and then get it for my wine drinking posse as gifts!”

Now that the Corkcicle has a place in our lineup, reviewers continue to write feedback so supportive it gives us chills. Customers confirm that it does make a great gift for wine lovers and it’s an essential to have on-hand when entertaining.

From this delightfully designed cork and ice cube in one to lovely handmade jewelry and everything in between, we’re proud to say these items landed in our lineup with the help of voters like you. Of course, these are just a few of the products that became uncommon goods through our community voting app. Remember to stop by each week for your chance to influence the future of our assortment.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Molecular Gastronomy Dinner Party

June 21, 2012

Background Research
Wikipedia says that “Molecular gastronomy is a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate, explain and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general.”

Huh?

I have heard of this food science. I have heard of different restaurants in metropolitan areas around the world, maybe even in not-so-metropolitan areas. I have seen it done on one of those cooking shows. Many friends have gone to wd-50 in NYC and said it was interesting. My friend Stephanie had a 12 course meal of different foods reconstructed at a resort in Mexico. The pictures were awesome. I mean a lemon meringue pie that looks like a SOS Sponge awesome!

Walking at the NY Trade Show I see some fun pictures of crazy foods and then a kit. I can do this at home? Yes please! I couldn’t wait to try out this new product.

Hypothesis
I will be the new Wylie Dufresne, with the help of some friends, and make a meal that will impress the masses. This will all be accomplished in 1 night without a culinary class and with little cooking skills. My most impressive meal is chicken and rice.

Experiment
Materials Needed:
1 Molecular Gastronomy Kit with all its contents
Blender
Roomy Fridge and Freezer
Hand Blender
Lots of Bowls
Stove
Lots of Pots
Friends
Wine (just in case it all goes wrong)
Ingredients for all recipes (frozen chocolate wind, arugula spaghetti, balsamic vinegar pearls, goat cheese raviolis, raspberry raviolis).
Extra ingredients to pair with the yummy food
TV
DVD player
Timer
Scale if you want to be exact

Step 1: I watched the DVD to pick the recipes I wanted to cook and get all the instructions.

Step 2: I Gathered friends and all materials.

Step 3: Watch DVD of all recipes with friends and decide what recipe has the longest cooling time and do that one first. (FYI: Chocolate wind had to cool down in the fridge and then sit in the freezer for about an hour.)

Step 4: Start cooking/ being a scientist.

Goat Cheese Raviolis

Chocolate Frozen Wind

Arugula Spaghetti

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Step 5: Make everything look pretty for the cameras.

Goat Cheese Raviolis with tomatoes and basil / Arugula Spaghetti and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls with Tomato / Frozen Chocolate Wind with Raspberry Raviolis

Step 6: Enjoy!

Thanks for your help Nate and Stefanie and Morgan and Sorayah!

Conclusion
The kit has very thorough instructions that walk you through each step by showing you and some great music to keep cooks dancing. It makes the process easy and super fun! And the balsamic pearls and arugula spaghetti looked the best! But maybe I need some more snacks when things are cooling in case guests have not had a snack before the party. I think I just need one more party and a little less wine, and I can open my own restaurant! So fun!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Beer Tasting Tool Kit

June 14, 2012

When most of us are confronted with the prospect of working over the weekend it often involves shuffling plans and muffling expletives. Luckily, at UncommonGoods we treat it like any other weekend and turn the mundane into a festival of flavor and fermentation. What follows is our rigorous “testing” of the Beer Tasting Tool Kit.

Hypothesis:
With this Beer Tasting Tool Kit my friends, colleagues, and I will be able to distinguish the difference between dunkels and doppelbocks, lagers and lambics. If not, we will have a good time trying!

Experiment:
We assembled a team of 8 imbibers to evaluate a cornucopia of beers springing from Brooklyn to Bavaria and beyond. The kit includes numbered paper bags for each bottle to encourage blind taste tests. Maybe it was this brown-bagging or the lack of a spit bucket, but this was surely no wine tasting garden party. With a pitcher of water and plenty of snacks on hand, we were ready to get started.

Adhering to the kit’s main tenets of “See, Smell, Sip, Swallow,” we began with the bag labeled #1. After each sampling we filled out tasting cards, measuring the levels to which we detected specific flavors (Creamy, Bitter, Hoppy) as well as notes related to the 4 S’s (Stephanie noted one beer’s smell was akin to “shoes” whereas I found chocolatey hues!). Comparing our notes after each round was as much fun as tasting the beers (some of which were downright painful…I’m talking about you Mr. Double IPA).

Conclusion(s):
We were learning a lot and every new pour made us thirsty for more, but unfortunately, the game came to its inevitable end when we ran out of beer. Perhaps most telling was the fact that our palates need some refining—we were all over the map in describing the taste impressions of each beer. But with further studying of the kit’s super informative fact book and a few more sessions of Saisons and Scotch Ales we will all be beer-tasting connoisseurs!