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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

From Puppies to Pistols: Six of History’s Most Uncommon Gifts

December 14, 2017

Today, few things say “holiday season” so well as Christmas trees, carols, and gifts. So what if we told you that none of those traditions have actually been around for very long? Christmas trees didn’t catch on in the US until the turn of the 20th century, and caroling—at least as we know it—was a distinctly Victorian invention. As for Christmas gift-giving, that’s a new tradition, too, popularized by wealthy 19th century New Yorkers.

Image our surprise, then, when we set out to assemble a collection of history’s strangest Christmas gifts and came up with—get this—absolutely nil. Lucky for us, diplomatic gift-giving is a time-honored custom, and one that’s sprouted plenty of oddball stories… just the thing to will all that pre-holiday shopping stress away.

And so, to celebrate the coming of the holiday season and all the good-natured gift-giving that goes with it, we present—with, um, minimal comment—six of history’s most uncommon gifts.

No. 1: A Live Puppy

You can’t archive a dog! Featured good: Pedigree Poem Pillow, $90

In theory, a puppy isn’t all that odd a gift, but bureaucracy can make anything weird. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush received five gifts from Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov. Among them? A black-and-white Bulgarian shepherd puppy dubbed “Balkan of Gorannadraganov,” or “Balkan” for short. Valued at $430, Balkan was one of many thousands of presents Bush received throughout his tenure as president, most of which were sent to the National Archives to await the opening of his presidential library. For goods worth $305 or more, that’s standard procedure, and in order to hang onto anything above that threshold—a risky move, as costly gifts may sway foreign policy decisions—presidents and their spouses are required to purchase the gifts back from the US government.

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The Uncommon Life

Giving Tuesday 2017:
Partner Stories & Doubled Donations

November 28, 2017

If you’ve been paying attention to our blog this month, you’ve probably noticed references to something called “Giving Tuesday” slipped in among our many holiday gift guidesBut what exactly is Giving Tuesday?

Launched in 2012, Giving Tuesday is perhaps best described as a foil for the ever-popular quasi-public holidays Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Celebrated yearly on the Tuesday that follows Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday encourages observers to use the day to focus on giving back, both in their communities and in the world at large. Here at UncommonGoods, this will be the third year we’re toasting Giving Tuesday by doubling our donations to our Better to Give partners. That’s right: On November 28, 2017—otherwise known as today—we’ll double the donation your partner of choice receives when you select them at checkout from $1 to $2, and, as always, we’ll do so at no additional cost to you.

Not sure who to choose? We love all of our partners, so we can’t play favorites. We can, however, link you to the four stories we shared this month, one for each partner, to count down to this very day… you know, in case you need a little nudge.

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The Uncommon Life

Storytelling with 826 National:
Meet the Garcia Family

November 27, 2017

*Editor’s note: Here at UncommonGoods, we’re counting down to Giving Tuesday—an annual day of giving back observed on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—by sharing stories from our Better to Give partners. Up this week, with our final story: our newest partner, 826 National, introduced in July of this year. Today, we’re proud to share a video that highlights the story of the Garcia family, whose children have flourished with help from 826LA.

Meet Katherine Garcia, her brother, and her mom, Juvenita Martinez, residents of the Mar Vista neighborhood in Los Angeles. In the above video, created by 826 National, Katherine tells us about her ambitions to write—and Juvenita shares how 826LA’s unique programs have helped her children excel in school and among their peers.

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The Uncommon Life

Giving Back with the IRC:
Meet the Ngalamulume Brothers

November 20, 2017

*Editor’s note: Here at UncommonGoods, we’re counting down to Giving Tuesday—an annual day of giving back observed on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—by sharing stories from our Better to Give partners. Up this week: the IRC, short for the International Rescue Committee. Through our Better to Give program, which allows you to choose a non-profit partner at checkout to receive a $1 donation at no additional cost to you, we’ve donated over $92,000 to the IRC since beginning our partnership in 2016. Today, we’re proud to share a story from the IRC about Patrick and George Ngalamulume, two African refugees now living in Boise, Idaho.

Patrick Muteba, 21, left, and George Ngalamulume, 18, right; photos by Jonathan McBride/IRC

Written By Kulsoom Rizvi, Digital Content Officer, International Rescue Committee

Patrick and George grew up in the inner cities of Zambia, where they witnessed and experienced all kinds of hardships and ugliness: sleeping on cold cement floors, lacking enough food to eat, hearing cries of rape outside their doors. They would walk for miles, sometimes without shoes, to fetch water from the nearest well.

But what the Ngalamulume brothers craved most was a proper education. They were taught basic literacy and math at a local school—local meaning several miles from their house—but they knew there was no future for them in Zambia. Their parents had fled the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo; as sons of refugees they would find it nearly impossible to go to college in Zambia.

And yet, today, Patrick and George have become the first people in their family to attend college. The brothers have big ambitions to continue their educations at medical and law programs. They want to make a difference, to give back, to make a better world.

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The Uncommon Life

Sharing Survivors’ Stories with RAINN

November 13, 2017

*Editor’s note 1/18/2018: We originally shared Samantha’s story in our countdown to Giving Tuesday. Today, we celebrate Samantha’s courage to speak out and we share her story again as part of our Keep Marching campaign. All profits from our Keep Marching Necklace sold on January 20 and 21, 2018 will be donated to RAINN.

*Editor’s note: Here at UncommonGoods, we’re counting down to Giving Tuesday—an annual day of giving back observed on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—by sharing stories from our Better to Give partners. Up this week: RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Through our Better to Give program, which allows you to choose a non-profit partner at checkout to receive a $1 donation at no additional cost to you, we’ve donated over $350,000 to RAINN since beginning our partnership in 2010. Today, we’re proud to share a story from Samentha Moore, a participant in RAINN’s survivor series.

“It’s a beautiful thing, to be a survivor of something so heinous.”

“I felt like a broken record. It was embarrassing for me. I told people after the first and the second…but after the third [rape] I felt like a freak show,” said Samentha Moore. Samentha’s experience with multiple incidents of sexual assault by a stranger left her feeling self-conscious and blaming herself.

“Even for the longest time after my second rape, I hated leather jackets because he had a black leather jacket on, so that was something that triggered.”

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The Uncommon Life

37 Enchantingly Uncommon Facts about Unicorns

November 7, 2017

Ever wondered what a Unicorn’s horn is called? Are unicorns real, or is the mighty beast just a myth? How do you catch a unicorn? We rounded up 37 enchanting facts about everyone’s favorite elusive horned horse to make it easy to find everything you’ve ever wanted to know about unicorns in one magical article.

1
The gleaming, magical horn that’s captured our hearts is officially called an alicorn.

2
Alicorn isn’t just the name for a unicorn’s horn. It’s also the name for a horse with wings and one horn.

 

3
While Nessie may still be the Highlands’ most notable mythical creature, the Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

 

4
Scots celebrate the majestic equine on National Unicorn Day each April 9.

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The Uncommon Life

Counting Down to Giving Tuesday
with America’s Iconic Cats
(and American Forests)

November 6, 2017

*Editor’s note: Here at UncommonGoods, we’re counting down to Giving Tuesday—an annual day of giving back observed on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—by sharing stories from our Better to Give partners. First up: American Forests, the country’s oldest conservation organization and our longest-standing not-for-profit partner, with whom we’ve recently teamed up on an initiative dubbed Wildlands for Wildlife, which aims to protect the Endangered Species Act. Through our Better to Give program, which allows you to choose a non-profit partner at checkout to receive a $1 donation at no additional cost to you, we’ve donated over $385,000 to American Forests since 2010. Today, we’re proud to share their story on ocelot recovery through forest restoration.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) stumbled upon an ocelot den site, where they observed a three-week-old male kitten. Credit: USFWS

Written by Eric Sprague, American Forests Director of Forest Conservation Programs

Just before Christmas last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) posted cat photos on their website. While everyone loves cat photos, they aren’t exactly noteworthy in their own right. Except these were not your typical cat photos.

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