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Gift Guides

No Time To Wrap? We Offer Gift Boxing!

December 13, 2011

We know it can be hard enough to find time to shop, let alone get all of those gifts wrapped. But don’t worry! Our talented gift boxing team can get your order gift-ready and include your personalized gift message. You can add gift boxes during the checkout process online, or ask a representative to box your items when ordering by phone (1.888.365.0056) for an additional $4.95 per box.

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Whole Office

December 12, 2011

You work so hard all year and just when it’s almost time to check out for a much anticipated holiday vacation, you are tasked with the toughest job in 2011- finding a gift perfect for the entire team. Let’s face it. Some of the previous company gifts have been epic fails- the embarrassing umbrella with the company logo, the creepily life-like wooden duck sculpture, the tin of unidentifiable cookies.

This year will be different because  UncommonGoods offers a collection of office-appropriate gifts nice enough that recipients will want to take them home or spruce up their work space.

A quirky Face Mug is a great reminder for your team that everyone deserves a cookie break and a chuckle at their desk or after a long day. However, we can not be held responsible for the guy in the next cube who talks with his mouth full.

Stories of vacations in lands far away can now be documented with the  Scratch Map, a beautiful visual for the avid travelers and those dreaming of an escape.

Desktop clutter is a dangerous pandemic that leads to over a million work-related paper cuts a year.  But it can be stopped in its tracks with the Unzippered Glass Zipper Bag, the functional and stylishly designed alternative candy jar that is perfect for housing office supplies or a stash of sweets.

If your office leans more to the sentimental side, remind your office-mates to stay true to themselves with a Be Yourself Paperweight. If your office is not so sentimental, might we suggest something not as easily thrown.

Some single-items orders totaling over $1000 may be eligible for a discount.  Our customer service representatives are available 24/7 and are happy to discuss pricing and options for your order.  Corporate Sales can be contacted by calling 1-888-365-0056, or by e-mailing corporateorders@uncommongoods.com.

Gift Guides

How to Ask for Cash (or Gift Certificates) for Christmas

December 8, 2011

We’ve all been there. December 26: The carpet beneath the unlit tree is bare (except for those fallen, dried-out pine needles), the last of the holiday feast is confined to tinfoil in the fridge, and you’re stuck with an over-sized sweater, tube socks, and a pre-packaged Christmas cookie gift box. You’re wondering if you should have just asked for cash.

If you’re saving up for something special, have a store you’d love to shop from, or just know that your friends and family don’t really get your taste, the answer is yes. It’s okay to ask for cash, or gift certificates, as long as you do it with class and follow a few etiquette guidelines.

According to the Emily Post Etipedia, it’s fine to tell your family members and close friends that you want cash for your wedding. We figure the same goes for holiday gifts. If your mom asks what you want, and you really want cash or a gift certificate, tell her how you feel. This also helps word-of-mouth bloom. If your mom knows you want cash, and your grandma asks your mom what you want, then your grandma knows you want cash.

However, there are gift-givers who might not feel comfortable with this idea, or think that they aren’t giving a “real” gift unless it’s wrapped in shiny paper. You know your friends and family best, so it’s your call whether to outright ask for money. For those folks who usually give traditional gifts, you may need to drop extra hints to let them know that you’d actually prefer the dough.

Gift etiquette expert Sherri Athay suggests spreading the word subtly in her advice to CNN Living. For example, if your old-fashioned aunt asks what you want for Christmas, you could say, “Oh, I’ve been saving up for…” or “I love anything from [your favorite store].” This will help her feel better about giving you cash or a certificate to the store in question.

While asking outright is fine when it comes to your parents, best friend, or another close relation, and dropping hints isn’t an etiquette no-no in most other situations, remember that no one is required to give you what you want and it really is the thought that counts. If you do end up with another “Happy Holidays” mug or a DVD of a movie you just watched on Netflix last week, you can always save it for a re-gift next year.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Jingle All the Way

December 8, 2011

Background Research:
Kim: When I first saw this item, I immediately remembered the recorder that I had when I was six. The only songs that I knew were ‘Hot Cross Buns’ and ‘There’s a Hole in the Bucket’, but I felt nostalgic nonetheless.

Kayla: I was so excited when Kim told me that we would playing the recorder for gift lab because in the fourth grade I had a recorder and even though I have no recent practice at all, I thought it would be a fun experience to live out childhood memories from a long time ago.

Hypothesis:

Kim: This could potentially be an epic failure, because I have no recollection of how to do this. I do, however, think it will be hilarious.

Kayla: The recorder appears to be a really simple instrument but I have no musical talent in my blood whatsoever and getting involved in this could mean huge embarrassment for me.

The Experiment:

Kim: Upon opening the item, I saw that there were no instructions on how to play the item. The one that I had as a child came with a book of songs and how to play them. I was starting to think that this might not be as easy as I had hoped. Thank goodness for Google.

Kayla: When we first opened the box together, I got even more nervous than I already was. I assumed that the item would come with a list of notes and how to achieve said notes, but the main idea of the project was actually centered on painting it. I was excited to find this out, but was still unsure of how I would ever learn the song ‘Jingle Bells’. At least Kim knew was she was doing.

Kim: Not entirely! The pictures of where to put your fingers for the notes are just different colored circles. Logically, the black circles are where your fingers go, but I wanted to be sure, so I consulted YouTube.

Kayla: But before we got to playing, we had to paint the recorder. We both enjoy pink, so we cheated and mixed the red and white… as it comes with white, red, and yellow. Our “pink” was more of a coral since we also needed white to pale our yellow – you know how picky girls are.

Kim: I was a little sad at first that the pink wasn’t the shade we were aiming for—a nice pastel—but the coral grew on me after a minute or so.

Kayla: We got done figuring out which paint colors would go where and went at it, too excited to sneak in a photo before we painted it. We were so focused on our video that we missed a lot of visuals. The recorder turned out to be very beautiful however, so we were doing okay in that department. Now the difficult part of the adventure…

Kim: The video was definitely the most difficult, but the most fun, as you can tell from our laughter. We weren’t entirely sure how we were going to make this a two-man job, so I grabbed a bell and my dog, Bebe, while Kayla practiced the song. We were hoping that the bell and the dog would deter people from our horrible playing.

Kayla: Thankfully, I picked up the song pretty quickly. It was a lot easier than I thought and I was really happy with the turnout. Yet, I was still embarrassed to play on film, as I am very self-conscious.

Kim: Personally, I think she was awesome. It was definitely better than my attempts. I’ll stick with my bell.

Conclusion

Kim: This was a really fun project. I had a great time doing it. I was also really inspired by some of videos on YouTube to learn newer, more modern songs. My only advice is to keep in mind that this is designed to be a one-person project, so it only comes with one paint brush.

Kayla: I had a blast with this as I love to paint and decorate things. Even learning to play one simple song was entertaining because it reminded me so much of being a kid again. This is a fun project for children or adults who want to act like children/remember childhood.

Gift Guides

How to Make a Gift Bag

December 2, 2011

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to gift wrapping. I purchase the gifts I want to give and stuff them under the bed or on a shelf in the closet until right before Christmas. Then, while I’m fantasizing about radiantly glazed holiday hams and sweetly spiced rivers of eggnog, I’m also faced with making a pile of presents bright and giftable.

Those odd shaped, extra-uncommon gifts pose a particular challenge. I suppose I could skip the fancy wrap and just stick bows on things that don’t pack up pretty. Or, I could put any asymmetrical or otherwise un-rectangular products in big boxes stuffed with lots of tissue paper, then wrap them. I go with option three–a fancy gift bag.

While the bow trick works in a pinch, it’s not nearly as fun to take off a bow as it is to find a surprise inside of pretty wrapping. I know this, because my husband is a huge supporter of “just stick a bow on it.” I do have to admit, it’s a step up from his other, “just hand her the thing in a crumpled-up shopping bag” approach.

The second tactic–put that hard to wrap gift in another box–seems like a viable option, but wrapping a box just right takes time and creates a lot of waste; you spend 20 minutes getting each crease perfect, only to see your lovely artwork ripped to shreds and tossed in the trash. It’s heartbreaking, really.

So, you can see why, for me, option three takes the customary yuletide fruitcake.

Not only are gift bags simple to use and reusable, they’re also easy to make. All you need is some heavy wrapping, construction, or scrapbooking paper and ribbon to create a sturdy, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wrapping. I picked pretty blue craft paper from the paper mezzanine at Pearl Paint here in New York. (Yes, that’s really what their paper department is called; it’s an entire sublevel–mezzanine, if you will– full of gorgeous papers for wrapping, crafting, and scrapbooking.) I wanted my bag to be festive, but not too Christmasy, so it could still be reused after the holidays. To fasten the paper, I used a Staple-less Stapler, but you could easily use a hole punch and stapler to create a similar effect.

First, make sure you have enough paper to cover the item you’d like to wrap. To wrap the Holiday Record Coasters, I placed the product in the middle of the top half of the paper, then folded the bottom up to completely cover the gift. It’s okay to make the bag a little bit bigger than you need it, just make sure the gift doesn’t stick out of the top.

Next, “staple” along the edges on both sides. The staple-less stapler will create interlocking flaps for a secure hold, but it also leaves a small hole where you punch. You’ll also want to punch once in the bottom left-hand and once on the bottom right-hand, just above the seam.

Threading the ribbon through the holes not only adds decoration, it also increase the bag’s sturdiness and create a handle. However, before threading the ribbon, make sure you have enough by measuring it against the length of the bag four times (once for each side, once for the handle, and once for extra ribbon to work with).

Start threading by inserting the ribbon in one of the bottom corners, just above the seam. Leave a few inches of ribbon, then pull the remaining ribbon up through the next hole in the side of the bag. Tie the two ends into a knot, and create a bow with the remaining ribbon from the short end. Using the long end, continue to thread up the side of the bag, looping around the outside edge of the paper.

When you come to the end of one side, leave enough ribbon to create a handle before continuing to thread down the opposite side.

Once you reach the end of the second side, pull the remaining ribbon up through the hole on the corner above the seam. Pull the leftover ribbon back though the final loop on that side, and tie it into a secure knot. This side won’t be as pretty as the bow on the opposite side, but the problem can be easily remedied by cutting off any excess ribbon and tying a new bow to cover up the knot.

The finished product uses no tape, glue, or staples (if you go the staple-less stapler route), can be used over and over again, and costs less than buying a pre-made gift bag. For an added touch, stuff the bag with leftover wrapping paper, folded into fans (or other origami shapes, if you’re feeling extra crafty), instead of using a new sheet of tissue paper.

Gift Guides

How to find a gift for your best friend

November 23, 2011

When Twitter Giveaway Winner Jodie Evans received her $500 gift certificate, she knew just what to get her best friend. And that’s how best friends are. When you know someone so closely, it’s easy to find that perfect gift.

So rather than let me tell you what you should get your best friend, let me call out 8 of our favorite gifts that symbolize what a great friendship is all about.

face Mug— for the friend you can talk to anytime

birth month flower necklaces— for the friend who doesn’t need Facebook to remember your birthday

7 deadly sins glasses— for the friend who forgives you all your flaws and shortcomings

attitude vase– and the friend who doesn’t let you get away

corkcicle– for the friend who’s always ready to celebrate

level necklace– for the friend who keeps you level headed

fortune keeper chain– for the friend who shares your dreams

sari scarf– for the friend who lets your true colors fly

What makes your best friend the greatest?

P.S. I know you’re probably crushed you missed our Twitter Giveaway, but you can still tweet at us or leave a comment below for personal shopping recommendations. We’re happy to help!

Gift Guides

Best New Gifts of 2011

November 23, 2011

When people ask me, “What makes something an uncommon good?” I typically explain that it’s a product with a unique, unexpected or additional element of creative design. It’s an item that is remarkable in that, “We haven’t seen anything quite like this before” or, “Who would have thought of that?” or “I’m sure I haven’t seen this anyplace else.” Or, another way to explain this, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart might say, “I know it when I see it.”

Here at UncommonGoods we also believe that gift giving is an art form in and of itself, and a singular way to express what you’re feeling in any relationship: love, friendship, happiness, hope, joy, gratitude, recognition or appreciation. That’s why we carry thousands of cool, hand-picked items from stunning jewelry and fun accessories to creative home decor and unique kitchen items. To help make your gift giving easier and more enjoyable, I’m happy to offer my personal uncommon picks for this holiday season. They’re all either new to our assortment this year or only available at UncommonGoods… and every one is sure to put a smile on your special someone’s face.

For Your Sister, Mom or Best Friend

The best way to express how truly special an important woman in your life is to give her something that is personal, unique and will become a treasured keepsake. Our handmade Birth Month Flower Necklace is the choice for the woman who loves jewelry; our handmade Sari Scarf, made from vintage saris is for the stylish woman who loves accessories.

For Him

When it comes to gift giving for guys, think about what is practical and functional– and then consider his interests, hobbies and habits. But if he is someone who already has everything, a little humor and a lot of creative design with one of these four gifts will easily solve that problem:
Man Coasters
Face Mug
7 Deadly Sins Glasses
F Bomb Paperweight

For Kids

What child doesn’t love candy or the amusement park? Try a Gummy Bear Light (ages 3+) or year long indoor fun with an Extreme Stunt Wall Coaster (ages 5+)

For Teens

The cool thing not to tell a teenager is that any adult will also love these five gifts:

Handmade Recycled Knit Arm Warmers
Dancing Lion Speaker
Travel Stub Diary
Fortune Keeper Key Chain
Handmade Glass Bacon and Egg Earrings

A Family Gift

Holidays are about families—which was also our inspiration for creating the Family Traditions Journal. And to help make your family gift shopping easier and this holiday especially memorable, you can start your own family tradition by giving one to each member of your family and all fill out together.

For Wine Lovers

When the Corksicle made its debut at the Atlanta Gift Show this past July, we immediately recognized that this simple and innovative design for keeping wine cool without creating dilution is a must have for any wine lover.

For Pet Lovers

According to the Humane Society, 39% of US households own at least 1 dog, and 33% own at least 1 cat. So chances are that someone on your gift list is either a dog or a cat owner. With more than 400 customer reviews, Bad Dog Tumblers are one of our top all-time best gifts for a dog lover. And, the cat companion is our Inconvenient Kitty Tumblers.

Green Gifts

We appreciate and value products created from materials that otherwise would be discarded and understand why this is important to many people. For over 12 years, we have been a leader in selling creatively designed products made from repurposed and recycled materials. Here are 5 of our most innovative and creative green products for this year:

With a set of Flip It! Wine Glasses you get 2 glasses in 1—both a wine and shot glass, made from repurposed old glass wine, beer and water bottles.
Moss Terrarium, a modern take on the terrarium, features an urbanized micro ecosystem housed within a recycled wine bottle.

“Potluck” Sweater Potholders feature a casing made from a bold, up-cycled sweater picked potluck-style from a charity store.

Recycled Cotton Animal Accessories are made in the USA from yarn spun from the leftover materials from apparel and upholstery factories that would have been discarded.
Upcycled Mail Sack Pouch & Tote are handmade from repurposed mail sacks.

For a Festive Holiday

Get in the spirit of the season this year with our Reclaimed Holiday Sweater Scarf a brand new twist on a seasonal icon. And wow your guests and spark some fun conversations when you entertain with a set of Wine Hourglasses and our Recycled Holiday Record Coasters.

A Gift That Gives Back

Throughout the year we hold a variety of different design challenges that reach a broad community of independent designers and support emerging talent. Graphic designer Michael White’s iconic design on this City Harvest Plate was chosen from over 90 entries from our Harvest Plate Design Challenge. $5 from the purchase of each plate directly benefits City Harvest, supporting food collection for New York’s hungry men, women and children.

At UncommonGoods, we believe in giving back. With our Better to Give Program, every time you order from UncommonGoods, you can choose to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from us.

About Carolyn
Carolyn grew up in Ardsley, NY, also home of the late great ice cream magnet Tom Carvel. She is a classically trained musician who loves sailing, Airedale terriers, Turner Classic Movies and Bruce Springsteen – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Shelter Island, New York and in Paulus Hook-downtown Jersey City’s historic district – with her husband Steve (a sailboat captain), Baxter (their Airedale terrier), and Marmaduke (their very large orange cat). Carolyn’s path to UncommonGoods was roundabout but understandable in a creative, business, retail sort of way. From Cornell University to Wall Street to high end fashion to starting her own business, Carolyn has always had a knack for spotting trends and knowing what people want to buy. For the past five years Carolyn has overseen the buying decisions and product selection for the UncommonGoods catalog and website. In October 2011 she took on a new role as the company’s Director of New Business and Product Development.

Gift Guides

Holiday Gifts Your Teen Will Love

November 22, 2011

The holiday season is is in full swing, and we’re pouring through our assortment selecting great gifts for everyone on your shopping list! Many of our picks are inspired by our Twitter contest winner, Jodie. She won a $500 UncommonGoods shopping spree earlier this year, and we’ve had a ton of fun helping her choose the perfect gifts for her favorite people.

After creating guides for babies and kids based on Jodies’ nephews, age 8 months to 6 years, we realized that although Jodie doesn’t have a teen on her shopping list, many parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents (to name just a few) do. With this in mind, we picked a few of our favorite gifts for teens.

Remote Control SUV Kit- It may not be time to hand over the keys to a new car, but you can hand over this cool kit. The Remote Control SUV kit starts out as a puzzle and snaps together to become a motorized vehicle.

Bike Bells- A great stocking stuffer, these hand-painted bike bells are functional, funny, and stylish.

Guitar String Bracelets- Whether the teen in your life is a musician, music-lover, or just likes to look good, these unisex accessories are chart toppers.

Sneaker Customization Kit- Designer shoes are expensive, but this kit, which includes sneaker wipes, paints, and a high-quality paint brush, makes it easy for your favorite teen to create their own.

Dancing Lion Speaker- Plug an iPod or another music device up to this lively lion and he dances and sings along. Check out our video to see the King of the Jungle boogy.

Recycled Cotton Animal Mittens- Trendy, but still uncommon, these cozy, cute mittens are made from yarn spun from leftover fabric from upholstery factories that would have otherwise been discarded. They’re also available in mink and skunk.

Black Cat Headphones- More comfortable than earbuds, these hand-crocheted headphones have a vintage feel that still appeals to modern teens.

Big Grips iPad Case- Available in blue or green, these grippy foam covers make your teen’s favorite electronic sidekick easier to hold on to.

From fashionable accessories and beautiful jewelry to techie gadgets and fun games, we’ve got all kinds of great gifts for teens. Stay tuned for more gift guides to find perfect presents for everyone in your life this season!

Need a gift recommendation for a hard-to-shop for teen? Leave a comment below.

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