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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

Checking in with City Harvest

April 24, 2012

We’ve been supporting City Harvest – the world’s first and New York City’s only food rescue organization – since 2011 and we’re happy to report that your Better to Give votes have been put to great use! The response over the last six months has been amazing and collectively, we’ve donated nearly $25,000 through our Plates with Purpose and Better to Give programs. It only costs City Harvest 27 cents to rescue and deliver one pound of food, so these donations have helped feed more than 78,000 hungry New Yorkers!

City Harvest relies on the support of individuals to keep their fleet of 18 trucks and 3 bikes on the road nearly 24/7. This year alone, City Harvest will deliver over 38 million pounds of excess food to help feed our hungry neighbors. To learn more about City Harvest and how you can get involved, go to www.cityharvest.org. You can actually make an impact today by signing up to be a team captain for their annual Skip Lunch Fight Hunger fundraiser that takes place every May. Signing up a team is easy at www.skiplunch.org.

The Uncommon Life

Take It with You

April 18, 2012

My name is Bella and I’m a personal style blogger. But I’m not just about fashion. I have no interest in acquiring the newest “it” bag, or latest designer bauble. What I am interested in is expressing myself in my dress and doing it in an original and sustainable way. I prefer to “shop secondhand first,” and haven’t met a yard sale I didn’t like. I avoid “fast fashion” and anything that comes out of a sweatshop. Recently someone asked if that limited me, but I don’t think shopping sustainably limits my style; I think it helps me explore it.

Recently, I planned a big move. I packed up my worldly possessions, and flew from my hometown of Sacramento, California to Seattle, Washington. I plan to seek my fortune there, and could only take so much in my 2 suitcases coming with me. One of the essentials brought was my charming felted wool clutch. This handcrafted woolly embroidered clutch was the perfect addition to my travel bag. Charming and full of color, this pouch functioned as a wallet, holding my essentials. I loved how cheerful it looked peeking out of my bag- the bright embroidered circles reminding me that everything is connected, and that what comes around, goes around. Since my wardrobe for the time being is limited to just a few things in my suitcases, each piece becomes necessary to have more than one function.

My fire-engine red wool vintage coat serves as stylish and warm outerwear to handle Seattle’s cooler climate. My second-hand oversized black mohair sweater added warmth, especially when layered over my favorite neon yellow acrylic sweater, a recent score from the Goodwill is a gem from the 1950’s as well, and while it harkens from another era, the shout-out-loud at you hue is very on trend for Spring. My jaunty thrifted red knit Tam and sporty red Converse completed my travel uniform, as I go about getting adjusted to my new city. And, my Jenny Krauss pouch fit right in: its bright colors livening up my day and seemed to go with everything.

In fact, I started taking pictures of me and the pouch everywhere, like the world travelling gnome from the movie Amelie. The Peruvian made pouch made itself at home every where, including a great shot of me in front of a killer view of Mt. Rainer, and nestled amongst some, um, “native” gnomes of the Pacific Northwest. Colorful needlework, made from curly wool, crafted by artisans using Fair Trade practices is the perfect accessory for any adventure. Not only do the bright colors match my outfit, it goes with my commitment to sustainable style. And I can definitely take it with me.

The Uncommon Life

Warm Spring Salad with Potatoes and Green Beans

April 12, 2012

Whitney Porter, blogger at Throwing Cake, offered up this spring salad recipe that had us emptying our bowls and going back for seconds.

There are some things, like sandwiches and salads, that you think you should be able to create without a recipe. But then something so great happens that you need to share it with the world, and next thing you know, you’re passing a salad recipe out to everyone who will listen to you.

Add an awesome new serving dish from UncommonGoods to the mix and I was ready to show off something new.

Meet my warm salad recipe. For those who think a warm salad sounds odd, prepare to have your mind blown. Sauteing your ingredients together not only creates the base of a hearty salad, but also forms the dressing to bind it all together. I have done this recipe with steak and without, and as a friend put it “it’s an explosion of flavors.”

Not only it is amazing, but it was pretty amazing looking in the wheelbarrow. It was solid, super cute, made the salad look better then normal, and it gave my roommate and I great joy as we wheeled it around the dining room table. A whole to meaning to, “please pass the salad.”

Warm Spring Salad
served 4-6 people

1 c. shallots, diced
12 oz. haricot verts (french style green beans)
12 fingerling potatoes, sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
drizzle of balsamic vinegar

for the salad
1/2 lb of mixed baby greens
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 c. blue cheese, crumbled

Pour 3 tbsp of olive into a large skillet and saute the shallots and potatoes. When they are almost complete, add green beans and white wine and allow to simmer until the green beans are cooked, but still crisp. Salt and pepper to taste. When the mixture is complete, drizzle approximately 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar over the top and let rest while you prepare the salad base.

In a large bowl (or in my case an awesome wheelbarrow), toss the mixed greens, radishes and blue cheese together.

Take the warm mixture from the skillet and pour over the lettuce mixture. Toss and serve.

** tip: I precook the potatoes in the microwave to make the process go a bit faster. Just place the sliced potatoes in the microwave and cook until fork tender.

The Uncommon Life

Can Diana F+ Come Out and Play? by Alli of Kisses & Chaos

March 28, 2012

Photographer and blogger Alli wrote about her Diana Camera on her blog, Kisses & Chaos, not too long ago. We loved her tips and stories so much that we asked her if she would kindly share her experience with you.

I have recently had the pleasure of partnering with Uncommon Goods…purveyors of all things quirky and awesome. If they don’t have it then you don’t need it… there’s a little something for everyone. They have amazing gift ideas for women. Have a hard to shop for man in your life? They’ve got you covered with great gifts for him too…but I’m getting away from the point and my point is a good one…

A few weeks ago they were kind enough to send me the Diana F+ camera kit (which I have been wanting for ages) with some Lomography 120 black and white film (I already had the color film), asked me to go play and then tell you guys what I think. Seriously? You don’t have to ask me twice, no sir. So play I did.

The instruction manual was actually helpful! Say what? I know! A helpful instruction manual? Bust out your ice skates ’cause hell froze over. It’s short, sweet and to the point. That’s my kind of instruction manual. No long explanations – just quick and easy. It explained the settings and (surprising) features. A toy camera with features? Yup. You heard right. It has the basics you find with any toy camera with one exception: it has a pinhole setting. It’s like someone getting their peanut butter in my chocolate. This camera is Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night…your average toy camera with vignetting and saturated colors but then BAM! it also has this secret pinhole identity which creates dreamy photographic goodness. This revelation brought about the infamous “Alli Happy Dance-Dance-Dance of Joy and Happiness™.” +1

property of Kisses & Chaos
(Good god, I’m an idiot.)

Ok. Playtime details:

I have other toy cameras (Holgas, quad cams, polaroids, etc) but I have never had the chance to play with a Diana. Though really lightweight it felt sturdier than my other toy cameras. I was impressed that the back plate actually has a good locking mechanism so it doesn’t accidentally pop off and expose your film. (I have had this happen with my Holga -which is why it is now held shut with electrical tape- and it is very frustrating to have a roll of film ruined due to poor construction…I’m just sayin’…some people say it’s part of the “charm” of a toy camera…I think those people must have a lot of disposable income cause I get m-a-a-a-a-a-d when my film gets ruined in the name of “charm.”) Safe and secure film makes Alli a happy camper. +1

The film was easy to load (unlike my Holga, which you have to man handle and knock around) : +1. The locking back plate, lens and other accessories were easy to get on and off : +1. As I wound the black and white film I noticed that I had to strain to see the exposure number on my film and it was a VERY bright sunny day. I initially thought this was a flaw with the camera, but after shooting with a different brand of film I discovered the fault actually lay with the black & white film I was using. (The extremely dark paper made it impossible to read the film. Boo.)

So as I traipsed around the countryside taking photos of cows’ butts, camera around my neck, I discovered that the lens cap had fallen off somewhere amid the tall grass. I spent the next 5 minutes retracing my steps trying to find it (which I did). Loose lens cap: –1.

I decided to try out the pinhole feature using the bulb setting (which means the shutter stays open until you release it). The Diana comes with this little, well, to use the technical term, thingy-ma-bob that you pop into place to keep the shutter open for long exposures. Brilliant idea! I didn’t have to hold the shutter release manually which can cause camera shake. Fantastic! +1. But it was awkward to use and kept falling out…which subsequently caused camera shake. Damn! Hopefully it will be easier to use with practice but for now it counts as a –1.

above and below: playing with the pinhole settings

Since the camera is a toy camera, the film has to be advanced manually. This has its advantages and its drawbacks. Drawback? If you forget to wind your film you wind up with double exposures. Advantage? The film doesn’t wind automatically so you can have double exposures. I like to play with double exposures, so for me this was a total perk. +1

I would love to try the Diana with a flash and shoot indoors. The kit, sadly, doesn’t come with a Diana flash…it has to be bought separately (-1)…of course you can also buy a hotshoe adaptor which means you can a non-Diana flash if you like, but I think I will, since I am all anal & matchy-matchy, buy the Diana flash (and the adaptor because I’m a weirdo like that).

The kit did come with a hardback book – Diana F+: More True Tales & Short Stores, which is a collection of essays and images of, you guessed it, the infamous Diana camera. I doubt I would ever buy the book separately, but I enjoyed skimming it (even if I think the book’s claim of being filled with work by “Diana masters” was over-selling it a bit… Okay…totally overselling it. I think the “shoot from the hip” photo movement is absolute rubbish and an insult to photography. It’s best not to get me started). +1

So let’s tally up the score. The Diana F+ camera receives a grand total of…*drum roll please*… 4 points! What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. I have no point scale… but here are my final thoughts:

I will not use the film again… between the dark paper making it impossible to read the frame number and what I consider to be poor quality film I’ll be sticking with my Kodak 120 for all my medium format photographic needs. I must say, however, that I do love this camera to bits and it will likely replace my Holga as my toy camera of choice. It was fun and easy to use. Thank you, UncommonGoods for giving me such a wonderful new toy! (And to dear friends and family who are reading this: I know what I’m getting you for your birthdays… whether you think you want one or not. You’ll thank me later. The great and powerful Oz has spoken.)

Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick

image/video credits: image #1 © uncommon goods

all other images © 2012 Alli Woods Frederick. all rights reserved. use without express written permission is prohibited.

The Uncommon Life

UG Team: Meet Jackie and Philomena

March 22, 2012

The UncommonGoods team is just as quirky, fun and uncommon as the products we sell. With a current total of 113 awesome UGooders, our diverse team is expanding with over a dozen new positions open in various departments.

So who have we recently welcomed among the many new faces in the Brooklyn Army Terminal?

Meet Jackie.

Jackie started as a seasonal team member in October 2011 within the Purchasing department. Since her arrival, Jackie has impressed her team all across the board and made a dent in our Merchandising team. Jackie is now the new Assistant Buyer in Jewelry and Accessories.

What is your UncommonFact?

My two children are Swedish citizens, but I am not!

What made you choose UG?

I was looking to get into retail after years of working in manufacturing, and was extremely interested in the idea of working with a web-based retailer. A friend of mine, who works specifically with B-Corp companies, recommended that I look into job opportunities at UG. I was already familiar with the company as a customer but after reading about the vision and mission, including B-Corp accountability, I was very impressed.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up not far from NYC, in Pequannock Township, NJ. I have lived in Manhattan for 18 years – five different apartments in four different neighborhoods.

And what do you like to do on the weekends?

Hang with friends, go to the beach, farmer’s market, and cook Swedish goodies with the kids!

Along with Jackie, meet Philomena.

Philomena started as our Purchasing Administrative Assistant in September 2011 and has joined our team as the Inventory Planning Assistant. We were very impressed with her infectious can-do attitude and fun-loving spirit.

What is your UncommonFact?

People say that I’m strange because I own over 100 pairs of socks. What can I say? Keeping my feet warm makes me feel good all over! Also, I lived in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong for 1 month in 2005 – it was the experience of a lifetime. It may not be too uncommon, but to me, it was the most exciting thing I have ever done.

What has been your most rewarding experience at UG?

Working in the Purchasing department, and with UG as a whole, is a reward in itself. From day one, the people here have made me feel a part of something more than myself. What I most enjoy is the opportunity to continuously learn about the company’s operation on a day to day basis. The one thing that I admire most about this company is that there are no limits.

What did you do before coming to UG?

I worked as a coordinator for a food corporation, handling the daily operations of ordering food, paper products, condiments and other products for sale to the company’s customers. I was solely responsible for reporting the weekly, monthly and quarterly reports of all products sold within our district.

Describe yourself in four words.

Family-oriented, easygoing, fun and outdoor-loving!

These ladies are among the many new faces to join the UG team permanently.

If you are interested or know anybody that might fit in well with the UG culture, check out all of our current open positions at www.uncommongoods.com/careers. There are plenty of opportunities within Operations, Merchandising, Purchasing, Technology, and more!

The Uncommon Life

Winning Wordsmiths: Our Favorite Uncommon Haiku

March 22, 2012

When we announced our haiku contest, we knew our clever readers would present some great poetry, but we were blown away by the number (more than 250!) of uncommonly creative submissions we received!

The winners earned spots in our most recent email and took home the products they praised in their 17-syllable poems. Only one poet could win in each category, but we’re pleased to share some amusing honorable mentions.

Haiku email

We’re glad MaryAnne Kate took a moment to show off her haiku skills, even though she wasn’t interested in any of the prizes!

We also received this haiku by Carol Thurman after the contest.

Love Uncommon Goods
Always worth a second look
I missed the contest?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We’re sorry to hear that Carol didn’t know about the contest. As you can see, she definitely has haiku skills! But, you never know, she may get another chance. We had so much fun reading everyone’s haiku, we might just have to hold another contest in the future.

As bloggers for The Goods, we also got a chuckle out of Nate Biddick’s clever name drop in his poem about the Tipping Teacups.

Uncommon tea cup
swings and steeps and swings and steeps
and you sip the goods.

And Diana McCartney’s haiku made us thirsty.

One cup black or white.
Hot, green, black or chamomile.
I like mine at night.

But Reanna Reiner took the prize by making us long for tea time.

tipping tea cups

While Reanna will have a new cup at her table the next time she sits down for tea, the winner of a new set of building blocks, Amanda Francis, is enjoying another table. She submitted this very uncommon entry:

Flourine Uranium Nitrogen – Carbon Uranium Boron Einsteinium – Sulfur Helium – Tungsten Hydrogen Iodine Sulfure Phospherous Erbium Sulfur
Yitrium Oxygen Uranium Thorium – Phosphorous Lanthanum Yitrium – Tungsten Iodine Thorium – Boron Arsenic Iodine Carbon Sulfur – Oxygen Flourine – Lithium Irone
Carbon Rhenium Astatine Electron – Germanium Nickel Uranium Sulfur Einsteinium

“Yes! That’s a haiku!” She explained. “Here it is translated into the elemental symbols:”

periodic table blocks

The last line of Amanda’s haiku is quite encouraging, but some folks chose to end their poems with punchlines. Kelly Brooks’ Owl Nightlight haiku started deep, but made us laugh in the end.

Oh, wise one who hoots
Light the pathway to the truth.
Or to the bathroom.

And Eve Schuyler’s winning words made us thankful for safe, well-lit walkways.

Owl Light

We also received some humorous entries for the coveted Stump Ring, but many poets took the sentimental route.

Farida Doblado’s rhyming haiku might also work as pop love song.

This stump may not grow
But my love for you does so
This I always know…

And Darla DeNyse’s haiku captures why the ring makes a great gift for a loved one.

Tree mighty and tall
Deep grows the roots in the earth
What a stable life

But Kat McNally’s winning haiku really captures what this beautiful design is all about.

Kat’s salute to the Stump Ring and the other winning haiku are just a few of the clever poems featured in our latest email. You can click here to read a variety of verses, or sign-up to have our uncommon emails sent right to your inbox.

The Uncommon Life

Rainy Days with Amy of A is for Ampersand

March 18, 2012

Hey there, champions! My name is Amy, and I run a silly little corner of the internet called A is for Ampersand where I blog about thrifting escapades, cats, diet coke, and adventures in my 1984 Westfalia Vanagon. I’m a designer and a writer, but mostly just a hoarder in the making with a raging predilection for all things pre-1980.

For the entire sum of my 25 years of life, I’ve always sworn by rain. And to be honest, I might be the only one in the entire universe that doesn’t worship the sun. I’m kind of like that witch in Sword in the Stone that hates sun. Know what I’m talking about? I’ve always dreamed about living in Seattle where it always rains. Seattle natives like to battle me on this, saying I’ll get sick of it. To them I say, yeah right.


Goggles Umbrella

So, here are five reasons why rain is THE coolest weather you know. All you sunshine lovers, get ready for a run for your money.

1. Gutter Boat Races
My #1 most awesome childhood memory is making little boats and racing them down the street gutters when it rained. We’d start those boats at our cul-de-sac and follow them alllll the way to the park, which was three blocks away. Why don’t adults do this? Lame.

2. Glorious Thunder
You can fight it all you want, but thunder and lightening storms are pretty much as gorgeous as it gets. Plus, sometimes the power goes out and you get out of work/school, which is always optimum.

3. Slothful Behavior Justification
Sometimes when it’s sunny, you feel like you really need to go out and do something. Yeah, that’s fine, but what about the days when you just want to have a bed-in for peace and start a Grey’s Anatomy marathon? On those days, rain makes this perfectly ok.

4. The Smell. THE SMELL!
You can’t fight it. Rain is THE best smell in the universe. It’s right up there with freshly baked cinnamon rolls and coffee, which both are great things to have on a rainy day.

5. Rain Painting
If you’re a rain hater, it’s probably because you’ve never rain painted. Set out some white construction paper and sprinkle powdered tempera paint on it. Watch as the rain drops blur the powdered paint and create magnificent art.

See? Rain is the BEST. So, next time it rains, grab your best umbrella, get those galoshes, and enjoy it. Happy spring!

The Uncommon Life

Sláinte! Here’s to the ‘Water of Life’ on St. Paddy’s

March 15, 2012

You might not feel particularly lively the morning after a festive St. Patrick’s celebration, but that doesn’t stop many from partaking in the “water of life” in celebration of Ireland. In other words, the rivers of Whiskey will flow on March, 17.

This golden-brown beverage has a rich history, so we thought we’d share a little more about Irish Whiskey.

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones Gift Set

Uisce on the rocks, please.
Actually, whiskey as we know it came to be in Ireland. In the 6th century Monks used distilled grains as the base for medicines. They called it “Uisce Beatha,” in Goidelic, or “water of life,” thanks to its healing properties. (While some may argue that whiskey doesn’t have any healing properties, keep in mind that it is antiseptic and a pain killer.) Over time, the spirit became known as “whiskey,” a mispronunciation of “Uisce.”

Irish Spirit
Whiskey love spread across Europe over time. For example, to Scotland, where it developed in to Scotch. It’s said that Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed imbibing in the distilled drink, and Peter the Great once proclaimed, “of all the wines, the Irish spirit is the best.”

clover and little white flowers image by roens

Spell it how you want–just don’t spill it!
Irish Whiskey remains a favorite, and will certainly be enjoyed the world over on St. Paddy’s, but it’s competition has grown over time. English Whisky, and North American rivals like Canadian Whisky, Bourbon, and Tennessee Whiskey now compete with the original.

Each variety is unique, since the recipes are different. While we can’t help you distinguish the subtle taste differences between a Straight Bourbon and a single-malt Scotch, we can provide a little tip to help you determine wither it’s whiskey or whisky. Countries with an “e” in their name produce whiskey–like Ireland’s Whiskey. No “e” in the country means no “e” in the drink–like Scotch Whisky.

Whiskey Business
Since you won’t want to be caught drinking the wrong whiskey on St. Patrick’s Day, here are a few notes on what makes the original malt masterpiece truly Irish. First, as Tennessee Whiskey must come from Tennessee and Scotch must come from Scotland, Irish Whiskey must be distilled in Ireland or Northern Ireland from native ingredients. Also, true Irish Whiskey comes from a yeast-fermented grain mash that is aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 years. Different brands of Irish Whiskey do have their own subtle flavors, so you’ll have options when it comes time to toast to good health. Sláinte!

Shot Spilz Glasses

Sources: Little Shamrocks, Tullamore Dew, Whiskey Guild, Real Men Drink Whiskey, The Kitchn

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