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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: It’s Electric!

November 19, 2010

1) Product name
Discover Electronics Kit

2) Background Research
Not only do I tinker with a lot of electronic hardware as a hobby, but also in my day job. I’m always confused about the finer details of how that doohickey connects to that thingamabob, so what better way to help me better understand than an electronics kit! This kit looked like it would suite my purposes as far as materials and research is concerned, and on the plus side its travel sized so I can take it on the go.

3) Hypothesis
With this kit I can teach myself how circuits works and hopefully create some cool gizmos and contraptions.

4) Experiment
I’m dedicating an hour or more every day following the instructions, building little gizmos (love that word), and hopefully having a little fun along the way.

5) Results

The instructional booklet was very detailed in how one can create something from nothing in a matter of minutes, before I knew it had created a series of LED lights in which blinked accordingly to serious of signals in which I set up, I was amazed. The walk-through in the booklet displays all of the pieces so that they are easily identified; this also helps with my memory retention since I could easily associate a picture to a piece and piece to a picture.

There is a section in the booklet where a formula must be learned so you don’t blow up your LED lights. (Nobody wants that!) But the formula was easy to follow and really helped in the more advanced sections of the kit. I was hardly ever satisfied with my decision of my final build, I either wanted to remove something or add more (more LEDS!)

The original breadboard was malfunctioning, but this was a probably due to the fact that I was building some rather unorthodox contraptions, so I had to get a new one. Regardless of the few speed bumps, it is an awesome kit!

After a few hours and days playing around with the kit, I didn’t need the booklet for reference any more. I felt like a pro, confident enough to speed through a build without fear of a though of “Will it work?” I have created tone-activated LEDs and LEDs that dim on and off almost like a Christmas light decoration. Overall it was an awesome and fun experience in a short amount of time.

6) Conclusion

Not only does this kit include the materials needed to get a understanding of electronics and circuitry, but it also comes with, in my eyes, the most down-to-earth, easily readable instruction booklet in the universe (well, maybe not the universe). I am waiting for the opportunity for anyone to ask me what Diodes do, what Ceramic Capacitors are used for, how to use Regulators, how timers work and where to put those darn Electrolytic capacitors so I can blurt out all the knowledge this kit has given me. I would definitely recommend this to a person of any age who is interested in making their own basic electronics, or someone who simply wants to have fun and learn at the same time.

Gift Guides

Ten Gifts for the Green-Hearted

November 18, 2010

We asked you what kinds of gifts you were shopping for and we heard green, fair trade, & sustainable. So our gift to you: a guide of the best gifts to give with a conscious this holiday season:

Black Floral Belt: Like a casual treasure discovered in an open market far, far away, this textured statement piece is a brilliant way to add color and craftsmanship to my uniform of jeans and tees. But the best part? It’s hand-embroidered with curly wool thread by Fair Trade artisans in Peru. Plus: Julia Roberts wears one on in Eat, Pray, Love. (Just saying.)

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Gift Guides

Gifts for You and Yours

November 10, 2010

At this time of the year, one of the hardest questions is what to get for that hard-to-shop-for person. You want to show how much you care about your friends and family; you want them to know they’re valued. But sometimes it’s difficult to find that perfect gift.

We’re here to help. Over the next few weeks we’ll be responding to customer requests with gift guides to help you find something for even the pickiest of your favorite people. Leave a comment if you’d like a suggestion or two for someone on your shopping list.

First up: Parents.

Once you’re an adult, it can be hard to know what to give to your family. Somehow, homemade macaroni art just doesn’t seem as appropriate. They’ve grown. You’ve grown. Maybe you’re a parent now too. Here are some gifts to remind your parents (or grandparents) just how special they are to you.

Parent's Field Guide

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Laura’s Fishing Expedition

November 4, 2010

On a recent fishing trip to the Catskills Mountains, Customer Service Supervisor Laura Frost tests out a solar-powered water bottle to see whether it holds up in bear country.

1) Product Name: Solar-Powered Illuminating Water Bottle

The water bottle in action


2) Background Research: I haven’t been camping or fly-fishing in years, and I was itching to embark on a nature adventure. I also have quite the collection of electronic gadgets that I didn’t want to drown while on the river. I needed the phone since I was out on the water by myself, a flashlight in case I was still out after twilight (when the trout are happy and active), and a camera to document my trip. On top of all that a night-light is a must have for dark, Catskill nights… in bear country. Gulp!

3) Hypothesis: This double-duty bottle can be a gadget-container during the day and a cheery night-light at night.

4) Experiment: Use the bottle to carry my camera and cell while on the river during the day and have a light that won’t depend on batteries at night while fishing and camping Willowemoc Creek in Sullivan County, NY.

5) Results: If you haven’t ever fly-fished a river know that you have to carry a lot of gear. There’s the rod, the net, the fly vest full of tackle and what-not, plus water-proof waders, and heavy felt-bottomed boots. One is then expected to traverse moving water going over slick, mossy rocks. Grace while doing all this is not an easy thing to pull off. Within the first 10 minutes on the Willowemoc on the first day I stepped on a slick rock and found myself sitting in 10 inches of creek. The good news? My camera and phone were perfectly safe in the Bottle, bobbing in the water while attached to my waders!

This water bottle features a really wide mouth, so my camera and phone fit with room to spare. The draw-sting that comes with it turned out to be handily adjustable. It attaches to the lid and the bottle, so I could attach it to my fishing waders without the worry that I’d drop the bottle while walking the stream.

Back at camp I emptied my gadgets and clicked the light on. It gave off a both a soft white glow and a red glow, which the packaging claims is better for night vision. The light was really handy while I prepped my hot dogs and s’mores.

It was also a welcome night light in my tent. The solar panel charged all day, so it was ready to glow for 8 hours. (It has a really cool, smart solar panel so the light won’t glow using precious battery life, while the sun’s shinning.) The red light was good inside the tent while I settled into my sleeping bag for the night.

The only let down? It was not a good flashlight for getting to the campground’s restrooms. The glow is good in a contained tent, or sitting on a picnic table, but couldn’t throw a long beam like a flashlight can.

The rest of the weekend I kept a mini-flashlight tucked in the bottle along with my cell and camera. My feet got steadier, and I was able to fish deeper water with confidence that my electronic gadgets would be safe. I was able to get some beautiful pictures of the stream and the rainbow trout I caught as well as get a good night’s sleep with my night light nearby.

The perfect view
Gift Guides

Wrapped Up

October 14, 2010

Thanks to all of you who voted last week! Erin writes:

“The votes are tallied and the results are in! The winning sari scarf is the Blue Purple color combination, which means it will be featured in our Valentine’s Day 2011 print catalog. But we saw a lot of votes for other colors too. You never know what you might be able to find on our website during Valentine’s Day ;)”

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Coming Soon

October 14, 2010

I’ve been learning to knit with the iMitt DIY mitten kit. Not quite done yet, but here are some steps along the way:

Just figured out how to create that ‘ribbed’ look.

Almost a whole mitten!

Look ma! No fingers (yet)!

Check back soon to see two finished mittens and a full Gift Lab on the iMitt DIY mitten kit.

Gift Guides

Housewarming Gifts

September 30, 2010

Looking for that perfect gift for a housewarming party? Look no further. Gaby Germaine, UncommonGoods’ photographer, lists her 10 favorite products perfect for any new home. Find them all at

  1. Recycled Windshield Bowl: After photographing this vase, I couldn’t even wait a whole day before buying one for my mom. It’s such a delight to visit home and see it on the dinning table with a fresh bouquet of flowers from Mom’s garden. Each season breathes new life into this item. Fill it with pinecones, ornaments, seashells, or anything that inspires you. The options are endless—I’ve even used it to serve fresh lemonade at a party!

  2. Monogrammed Sachets: I love the letter G, though I’m probably biased by the fact that I have two Gs in my name 😉 I’ve been collecting monogrammed or G shaped items for several years now, and was really happy to add this sachet to my collection. It’s so fragrant, and revamps the traditional sachet with its modern design.

  3. Reclaimed Tool Bowl: This bowl is like an “I Spy” game! From chains to wrenches, padlocks and gears, the details here just keep me so interested in exploring this piece. I am in love with its one-of-a-kind nature and the effort behind each bowl—the artist literally pulls items from dumpsters for these!

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Gift Guides

Employee Picks: Top Fall Accessories

September 24, 2010

1. Tulip Shoulder Bag

If you know me, you know that I love purses! This one has rich autumn hues as well as an entirely unique tulip shape. There are so many features to mention (like it being organic and recycled) – but instead I’ll give a shout out to Brooklyn where it was designed!

2. Um Carry Bag

I chose the Um Carry Bag because I know this recycled wool clutch would turn heads. I like the attention my favorite accessories get, and this is sure to wow my friends. Nobody would expect how it unzips to lay flat. I would like to dub this “the perfect travel bag.”

3. Colored Pencil Pin

I wouldn’t be a graphic designer today had I not started out with finger paints, chalk, and most importantly colored pencils. This Colored Pencil Pin is adorable and would let me proudly display my love of art. Have you seen Jennifer Maestre’s colored pencil sculptures? This was a no-brainer accessory choice.

4. Berry & Pods Wood Necklace

I’ve been going to numerous dinners and gatherings this year. These activities tend to outnumber the amount of dresses that I own. All I picture is sprucing up my little black dress with this fantastic Berry & Pods Wood Necklace. The splash of lime would add some flavor to my bland dresses.

5. Acorn Necklace

When I was asked to participate in picking my favorite fall accessories, I immediately thought of our Acorn Necklace. Simply put, this necklace reminds me of my childhood. The complexity and beauty is understated but the authenticity is unmistakable.

6. Pocket Scarf

As someone who has lost two iPods already this year, I don’t just want this Pocket Scarf – I need it. Us New Yorkers definitely need scarfs to shield us from the frigid winds and it seems as if this one was designed specifically for me.

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