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Gift Guides

Award Season Isn’t Over Yet

February 28, 2011

Don’t roll up the red carpet yet. Congratulations to Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, and the casts and crews of 2010’s best movies. But awards season isn’t over.

This year UncommonGoods wants to shine a spotlight on America’s favorite gifts and gift-givers. And we need your help!

Nominate your favorite gift by liking it, or submitting a product review for an item you recently purchased.

And nominate your favorite gift-giver by telling us about him or her in the comments below. Every year we get gifts from family, friends and coworkers. And a few we remember and cherish for years to come.

You know what we’re talking about– that keepsake memento, that small gift that cheered you up when you needed it most, or the special gift that reminded you how much you’re loved. Let us know about the person who made a difference in your life, and say thank you in the best way possible.

We’ll be offering prizes for the best gift-givers of 2010, so make sure you nominate your favorite friends and family members today. And check back in a few weeks, to see the winners.

Gift Guides

Our Best Friends: Photo Contest

February 21, 2011

This week, we’re celebrating our favorite pets. Whether you (like me) gaze longingly into the window of every pet store and stop at pet adoption fair you pass, or you already have a beloved pet in your family, I’m betting you have a great collections of photos, videos and stories to share.


Jessica, our graphic designer, shared this pic of her dog Jingles (L) with Madison (R).

So this week, you can share them with the UncommonGoods community by joining our group on Flickr, posting to our Facebook wall, tweeting @uncommongoods, or leaving a comment below.

We’ve got some pet-friendly gifts to give away, and if your pet is posing with a pet-friendly gift from UncommonGoods, we just might add your pet’s photo or video to our website!

We’ll announce our winner(s) next week.

Gift Guides

Biodiversity Bombs

February 2, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil has spoken, and if the groundhog is to be believed, it looks like spring is right around the corner. Time to start thinking about spring flowers?

Last week, Treehugger blogger Sami Grover wrote about a growing movement of people swapping seeds. These folks are planting more than plants and vegetables; they’re committed to biodiversity in their gardens. Many will be meeting up in England for a “Seedy Sunday” this weekend.

But if there’s too much snow on the ground to make it to a seed swap in your area, get started with our brand new wildflower seed bombs. Choose a packet from your region, and you’ll be ready to go with wildflower seeds native suited to your area. Each bag contains 5 seed bombs, plenty to fill your backyard or share with your neighbors.

Originally these bombs were created as a way to revive vacant lots in Cincinnati. But I think they might just revive all of us from the winter blues!

Read on for a full list of seeds included in each set.

Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Boom Boom in the New Year

January 7, 2011

The Random Acts of Kindness Kit is a game with no winners. Just pull a card out of the deck, follow its suggestion, and do something nice for a fellow human being. Then pass the card on to a friend or stranger and suggest they do the same. You can track how far your act of kindness spreads, by registering your deck online with the Boom Boom Revolution.

What better way to start off 2011? Norma tries out a card from the deck, and winds up meeting a new friend.

1. Product Name: RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS KIT (Boom Boom Cards)

2. Research Question: What does it take to be kind to someone just for a moment and how does that affect them?

3. Hypothesis: The Random Acts of Kindness Kit offers the opportunity for me to make a difference in a person’s life, just by being kind to them or by showing my appreciation for what s/he did for me. I hope to also encourage environmental awareness and reach out to others.

4. Experiment: After following the instructions to register my deck of Boom Boom
Cards, in order to trace my impact, I had to decide which act of kindness or philanthropy I wanted to do first. I was so enthusiastic I wanted to do all of them right away, but I realized that would defeat the purpose. I chose to start small and buy a stranger a cup of coffee.

5. Results: It wasn’t as easy I thought it would be. I became shy for the first time in my life. Standing in line at Starbucks, I looked around and set my sights on a mom with toddler in tow.

But when I got to the register I chickened out. Why couldn’t I do it? Was I afraid she would think I was strange, or did I think it was a silly gesture? I had to regroup and try again.

My next few visits to various coffee vendors were also unsuccessful. I found myself seeking the perfect person and judging the outcome. What did I want to accomplish by committing a random act of kindness?

I wanted to be kind for a moment to someone unsuspecting, with no judgment of deserving, for no reason at all.

One chilly morning as I headed to UncommonGoods to start my day, I dropped by my friendly neighborhood bagel shop. I poured my hazelnut morning fix and was paying for my toasted everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese when I heard a booming Brooklynite voice behind me.

“Hey whaddo I owe you?” he said, as he held up the unmistakable blue and white New York Greek coffee cup.

I paid for it! As he tried to figure out if I was trying to pick him up, I handed him the Boom Boom Card and asked him to read the card and pass it on. His other burly friends giggled like little school girls and encircled him they read it together and I heard him say “Ah…hey that’s cool” and another one said, “You give it way and then you can see where it goes.”

Success!

6. Conclusion: Buying this stranger a cup of coffee was uneventful and low key. He didn’t grovel and I doubt if I drastically changed his life. But he is going to keep it in mind for a few days. I saw him stick that card in the pocket of his coat and one morning as he is about to purchase his own cup of joe, he might reach in and pull it out. My hope is that he will remember and want to do the same for the commuter lass in front of him.

I thought I wanted to do this for someone else, but in the long run I realize I did it because it made me feel good.

Gift Guides

How does your garden grow?

January 5, 2011

So how many of you have bought a grow your own gift, like this Bonsai Forest, for yourself or a friend?

Just last week, Lauren sent me a pic of an UncommonGoods orchid she sent to her grandmother as a gift. Her grandmother has kept it growing three whole years!

Let us know how your plants are growing. And if your plant needs a little help recovering from the holidays (anyone else forget to water their houseplants before leaving on vacation?), don’t hesitate to ask for some gardening tips!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: An Ear for Fashion

December 21, 2010

1. Product name: Crocheted Headphones

2. Background research: Music is a major part of my life. I listen to it all day long- at work, on the bus, on the train, at home, everywhere. But I have two major problems: 1- I have tiny ears and 2- I’m always cold.

These don’t sound like applicable problems when considering the enjoyment of music but believe me, they are. I love my iPod and iPhone as much as the next person, but those non adjustable giant white earbuds- erg! They will not stay in my tiny ears for love nor money. Plus when the winter months roll around –and especially now that I live in the UK (where the winters are unbelievable) I always end up wearing earmuffs over my earbuds. It seems a bit redundant.

3. Hypothesis: If I use these beautiful Crocheted Headphones then I will be able to listen to my music, stay warm, and stop worrying about them not fitting properly.

4. Experiment: I chose the yellow headphones. Yellow is definitely my favorite color and this yellow is just the right shade. I can’t wait to wear these headphones in the blustery cold weather of Wales, England, and whatever trips I happen to take. With the hours of listening I will be able to see if these headphones live up to my expectations.

5. Results: These headphones are very straightforward- no instructions needed. The adjustable headband is super handy- they adjust like any other headphones by pulling or pushing on either end. They are comfortable and warm- though if you have larger ears than I do (which isn’t hard) they may not cover your whole ear and give the beloved ear warming effect to the full extent.

The only downside I found is the sound quality. They aren’t as clear or as loud as earbuds- you have to turn your music up louder to hear it at the same level. Once you do that though, no prob. These headphones are a stylish way to warm up in the cold (even if that cold is just heavily air-conditioned public transport). In fact, I even wear them as earmuffs without plugging them in sometimes- I just tuck the cord into my coat pocket and I’m good to go.

6. The bottom line is these headphones are great. They come in super cute colors, they keep you warm, they’re adjustable, and they do the job they’re intended for. What more could you want? I love my new headphones!

– Brenda Barrett

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

December 10, 2010

Product Name: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

Background Research:

I can knit in stockinette all day long, but can I actually knit a fitted mitten? I’m not just testing out this knit kit, but also testing my skills. The real challenge will be, can I finish these mittens in time for cold weather?

Hypothesis:

Using the iMitt DIY mitten kit, with everything I need included, I can teach myself to knit mittens before winter really kicks into gear.

Experiment:

I was a bit nervous when I laid out all the materials in front of me. Two balls of sage green yarn, a pair of circular needles, stitch markers, a yarn cutter and a daunting set of instructions. And these weren’t normal mittens; they had openings for my fingers so I could operate a smart phone in the cold. What had I gotten myself into? I’d just tweeted that I’d be finishing these mittens soon, so I had no choice but to get started.

Check out some of the work in progress photos.

Well it took a few tries, and the help of some friendly YouTube vloggers, but I did it!

Results:

The mittens were knit! And the weather reports are calling for snow. I finished just in time.

This kit did have about everything I needed. I grabbed a ruler to check my measurements and kept my laptop on so I could get a second opinion on some of the instructions. The pattern was pretty daunting for a self-taught knitter like myself. I consulted YouTube and about.com frequently, restarted a few times, but it all came together. And the challenge was definitely worth it.

One thing I learned was that the woman’s small still ran too big for my tiny hands. I adjusted the pattern to start with 36 stitches and that worked much better. If you’re knitting for a child, or like me, you have ridiculously small hands, be sure to adjust the pattern before you get started.

Conclusion:

When I first saw the shape of a mitten emerging from my needles, I knew I’d done it. And there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment. I couldn’t recommend the iMitt DIY mitten kit enough to all your crafty friends.

The mittens are super cute, warm, and have a perfect sized opening for my thumb and pointer. Now I just need to get an iPhone!

Gift Guides

10 Gift Picks for the Uncommon Traveler

December 6, 2010

When I think of this time of the year, the first thing that comes to my mind is travel. Whether going to visit family and friends, or hoping to escape the cold just for a bit, here are the top ten items we wouldn’t want you to travel without.

Picked by Jen Grim, Customer Service Manager

1. Convertible tote

If you only have room to pack one bag, pack this one. You can go from shopping in the bazaar to a fancy dinner with just one bag.

Continue Reading…

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