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Gift Lab: Summer Picnic

June 1, 2012

Background

The Picnic Backpack ($40) is a two person picnic backpack. The core of the backpack is fully insulated thermal lined pocket, while the smaller front pocket comes with storage for [also included] two: plates, cups, napkins, forks, spoons, knives. There is also one waiter’s tool bottle opener. It also has a cell phone pocket on the strap and side and front pockets for a bottle and accessories.

It comes just as expected!

Hypothesis

I love to go out to eat or entertain at home. I also like to combine the two by getting a couple friends together for a nice outing in the park (food included, of course!), but there’s always the hassle of lugging my picnic basket which gets way too heavy. The weight of the basket plus its components doesn’t even include my beverages. I usually have to carry an extra backpack with the beverage and utensils. By the time I get to the park–I’m exhausted.

I think having the weight on my back alone would be easier, and this backpack seems to have the right storage for my drink, food, and utensils. I think I’ll be more excited and willing to bring lunch from home to the park, or anywhere for that matter, with this backpack.

Experiment

Instead of picnicking with friends as planned, I opted to take my younger brother Naquan (14 years old) and cousin Mya (2 years old). Taking these two would be perfect in figuring if this product will turn my picnic horrors upside down. My brother willingly (shocker) carried the FULLY packed bag, while skateboarding!

Dealing with a teenager and toddler is not the easiest thing, so I aimed to keep them happy with plenty of snacks and games.

Conclusion

The picnic was a success! With this one backpack, I was able to fit 1 qt. of water, 2 bowls of salad, 2 yogurts, 2 pints of fruit, 2 canned beverages, an abundance of snacks, a full-sized sheet, beach mat, card games, hand sanitizer, a trash bag, iPod, and there’s probably other things I’m forgetting. This backpack kept all of my cold items chilled, and everything I wanted to keep dry dry. According to Naquan, it was easy to carry–even on wheels. It was easy to setup, cleanup, and everyone enjoyed the day out in the sun (well, mostly shade).

In conclusion, picnicking was made fun again and we can’t wait for our next outing!

Gift Guides

June Birthdays… now is your time!

June 1, 2012


You say it’s your birthday!? Then tell us about it on Twitter and Facebook.

Enter yourself and friends with June birthdays and this year their gift could be on us. Tag your friend in a comment on this photo on Facebook or Tweet at them with #UncommonBDay to enter them into our June Birthday Contest. Do both of those things for a double entry!

The winner will be contacted on June 30.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Celebration!

May 4, 2012

Background: The Himalayan Salt Tequila glasses, $30, are a finely veined, translucent appearance of rose quartz, but they are actually carved from the highest quality, food grade, Himalayan pink salt. They are long lasting and won’t be easily dissolved. They are also 100% antibacterial!

Hypothesis: I have a hard time replicating that perfectly salted glass look that all of my favorite restaurants and bars have effortlessly achieved each time I stop in.

Every time I have tried to do it at home when hosting a girls night in or on my way out with some of me fave gal pals I find myself either:

1-mistakenly forgetting I handled salt and rubbing my eye (ouch)
2-making a mess of my counter/floors
3-having some of the salt crystals make a run for it before I even hand it off to my friend/guest

I predict this will no longer be a problem for me now with these beautifully hued Himalayan Salt Tequila glasses

Experiment:

To ensure that this truly works I will need the following ingredients

-A bottle of yummy tequila
-Lime
-Four Himalayan Salt Tequila glasses
-A few friends 21 and over


Next step is the use of the shot glasses followed by fun times!



Conclusion:

Everyone really loved the Himalayan Salt Tequila glasses, so much so we had quite a number of rounds of shots. (I mean we wanted to make sure they really worked well). What I loved about them was how much of a conversation starter they were. I also liked the fact that I didn’t have to try so hard to perfect the salted rim effect, it was just pour and go.

As weird as this may sound the only thing I didn’t like was how salty they were. After a few rounds if you let the tequila sit for like a minute or so in the shot glass the salt dissolves a little more causing the shot to be all types of salty. This was not the case for all of the shot glasses strangely enough, just one of them did this. This one glass was sort of reshaping before our eyes.

Side note: Be sure that you let them drain out so that the bottom doesn’t dissolve sooner. The liquid pooled just a little on the bottom. Rest assured though these glasses aren’t dissolving anytime soon but when it does start to you get a shot glass that holds more tequila along the way!

My friends and I can’t wait to use these again.

Gift Guides

Happy Birthday May Babies

May 1, 2012

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?

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Tell Us A Story

April 23, 2012

Background Research

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.

Hypothesis

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.

Experiment

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:

Cinderella
Featuring the voices of Rinnell Curry & Brandon Chu

Rumpelstiltskin
Featuring the voices of Melanie Majewski and Cassie Tweten Delaney

Conclusion

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.

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