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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

The Phantom Artist

February 23, 2012


A series of skillful drawings have appeared on the wipe boards around the break-out meeting area at the UncommonGoods office. Although we’re very curious to know who the talented artist is, we are hoping that more anonymous images keep appearing.

The Uncommon Life

What’s so uncommon about a big white house?

February 20, 2012


image source, wikipedia

Truman called it a “glamorous prison” and the “great white sepulcher of ambitions”, but the American presidents simply call it home. The White House has been the dwelling of the Commander in Chief since John Adams and has become as iconic as the families who live there. Here are some Uncommon Facts about 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and the interesting characters who have graced the Oval Office.
1. The White House has 132 rooms! There are 35 bathrooms, 16 family guestrooms and 3 kitchens.

2. The White House was the largest house in the United States until after the Civil War.

3. Harry Truman’s mother refused to sleep in Lincoln’s bed during her stays in the White House, as she grew up in a Confederate home during the Civil War.


The Buck Stops Here Money Clip

4. To practice his golf, Dwight D. Eisenhower installed a small putting green in the Oval Office with a trap on one side. Finally in 1996, a full practice green was placed outside on the grounds.

5. The first woman recorded on the payroll at the White House was in 1889 under Benjamin Harrison. It is suspected that she worked as a secretary.

6. It takes 300 gallons of white paint to cover just the residential portion of the White House. The official color used is “Whisper White” by Duron.

7. First family pets are always an interesting topic and there have been many throughout the years. However, Calvin Coolidge had the most interesting menagerie with 12 dogs, 6 birds, two cats, two raccoons, a donkey, bobcat, lion cub, wallaby, pigmy hippo and bear.

8. John Quincy Adams was known to take a stroll from the White House to the Potomac River early in the morning for a naked swim.

9. The President and First Lady are charged for every meal they eat in the White House. They are also charged for incidentals, dry cleaning and toiletries, just like a hotel.

10. William Howard Taft was our heaviest president weighing in over 300 lbs. After he got stuck in the bathtub, all of the tubs in the White House were replaced with larger ones.

image source, Saturday Evening Post

These tidbits of information are sure to impress your friends this President’s Day. If you’re having dreams of a big white house for yourself, here is a collection of achromatic home decor pieces to turn your house white from the inside out!

info sources- Presidential Pet Museum, White House Historical Association, White House Museum

The Uncommon Life

A Haiku For You

February 17, 2012

We don’t mean to seem immodest here, but our emails are pretty awesome. Wouldn’t you agree?

This month, we’re inviting you to help us write them. Here’s the contest: Write a haiku poem for one (or all) of these four products. If we pick your poem, you’ll be featured in an upcoming email and win the item you extolled! Read on for the rules and details:

Periodic Table Building Blocks: These 20 toy blocks contain the entire periodic table– every known element in the universe. Pretty deep, right?

Tipping Tea Cup: Tipping back and forth to brew your tea, this cup sure has some poetic rhythm.

Stump Ring: Is there anything more symbolic than your true love’s initials carved into the trunk of a tree?

Recycled Glass Owl Night Light: Our night owl’s eyes seem to gaze right into your soul.

The Rules

  • Your poem must be a haiku. What does that mean? Glad you asked! Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry with a rich and storied past, but we’re going to simplify the rules for the sake of good fun. Your poem must be contain 17 syllables: 5 on the first line, 7 on the second, and 5 on the third.

    Here’s an example that Marisa wrote for our soup & sandwich tray:

    “I love you, Grilled Cheese”
    “And I you, Tomato Soup”
    -Doomed never to touch


  • You can write one poem for each of the four products.
  • Leave your haiku(s) in the comments below.
  • By submitting a poem, you’re giving us permission to post your name and haiku poem throughout our site, social networks, emails and maybe even catalog!
  • Deadline to enter: March 2
  • Fan us on Facebook. We’ll be posting contest updates along the way, and expect to see some fun poetry gracing our wall soon!
  • We’ll announce the winner(s) by March 20, 2012. Each winning poet will receive the product they best objectified in their haiku.
  • Questions?

    Ok, go. We can’t wait to see your creative poetry!

    The Uncommon Life

    Love Songs We Love

    February 14, 2012

    I love a good love song. I’ll admit I always get a sappy grin on my face when I hear Etta James’ “At Last,” I spent way more time picking music for my wedding than picking out a dress (I ended up walking down the aisle to Tom Waits’ “You Can Never Hold Back Spring” and dancing with my Mr. to M. Ward’s version of “Let’s Dance”), and I have been the gifter of a ‘mixed tape’ more than once.

    But I’m not the only one who loves a good romantic tune. With Valentine’s Day on the way, love is in the air around here, and my coworkers were more than happy to share their favorite love songs.

    Karen, a purchasing associate, just got engaged a few months ago, and she was happy to share her go-to love song. She’s actually thinking of playing “8 Days a Week” by the Beatles at her wedding.




    What is she getting her soon-to-be husband for Valentine’s Day? She’s looking past the chocolate assortment in the the heart-shaped box in favor of his favorite, Peanut M&Ms. She says she’d also like to get him a Growbottle as an inside joke. “I’ve killed his plants before,” says Karen. “He went away for a week once and all of his plants died.”

    UncommonGoods buyer, Candace, also wants to get her fiance something with a special meaning. Since she met her fella in Brooklyn, they fell in love here, and they live near the Brooklyn Bridge, she’s thinking the Brooklyn Bridge Pillowcase Set would make the perfect gift.

    While her favorite romantic song at the moment, “Bless the Telephone” by Labi Siffre, isn’t about Brooklyn, her dream Valentine’s date takes place here. She and her groom-to-be are planning a Feb. 14 visit to the bar where they met, then dinner at a romantic local restaurant.




    And it isn’t just the ladies at UncommonGoods that get a little sentimental around Valentine’s Day. Customer service supervisor, Erik, shared his pick, “Cupid” by 112.




    He says he likes love songs that show the how, “when you’re in a serious relationship with someone, it’s all about commitment.” He’s all about making his girlfriend feel special on Valentine’s Day. He says he likes to cook her dinner, because a home-cooked meal has more feeling to it. He also likes giving unique, handmade gifts, like the Glass Heart Vases.

    Marketing assistant Rocky also thinks Valentine’s Day is best celebrated dining in and just spending some quality time together. He said he thinks the Bunny Couple Sculpture makes a great gift, because it symbolizes just hanging out with someone you love. And what song would he listen to while spending the night in? Stevie Wonder’s “As.”




    Warehouse lead David’s perfect date is just the opposite. He says he likes to spend the day in the city with his wife. “[In New York] you can get off the train anywhere and find something great to do. You don’t have to plan anything.” Since he lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, he loves being able to head to Manhattan to walk in Central Park, check out the theatre, and visit museums.

    He also has a sense of humor about romantic gifts, and gave his special lady Porn for Women. This laid-back take applies to his favorite love song too. David chose Frank Sinatra’s “Funny Valentine” because “Sinatra doesn’t talk about how beautiful of perfect she is, but how she has little quirks that he loves.”



    Do you still need a last minute gift for your funny valentine? Here are our employee suggestions.


    GrowBottle / Brooklyn Bridge Pillow Case Set / Heart Vases/

    Bunny Couple on Couch Sculpture /Porn for Women

    The Uncommon Life

    6 Uncommon Wedding Proposals

    February 7, 2012

    I love a good proposal story. Something about a well-planned surprise and the element of pure astonishment makes me a little giddy. Traditional proposals are sweet, but this hopeless romantic prefers an original and outrageous idea for putting a ring on it, especially a personal gesture that reflects the interests of the couple. With Valentine’s Day coming I have spent an embarrassing amount of time on YouTube perusing proposal videos. These are my favorite most uncommon proposal ideas.

    Matt got really high-tech for his proposal and created a movie trailer about asking Ginny’s dad for his blessing. It aired at a local theater that Ginny and her brother were attending. The best part is getting to see her reaction throughout the viewing of the trailer.

    Now this is a proposal that made my Gleek heart sing. A Canadian couple was touring Philadelphia when the UPenn Glee Club broke into song with The Beatles’ All You Need is Love. I don’t think it took too long for her to realize that the song was just for her.

    Jeff made his proposal to Caitlin with a mural in Lower Manhattan. What citizen would complain about graffiti as sweet as that?

    This guy incorporated some children’s arts and crafts to surprise his school teacher girlfriend. He even made her think she was in trouble by having her sent to the principal’s office so he could get the room ready.

    This flashmob proposal stole my heart, he is so adorable, dancing awkwardly while his girlfriend watches. The proposal seems to take her by surprise, I wonder if she knew her boyfriend would be taking part in public dance in the first place.

    So you think you wanna marry me? These footloose contestants on Canada’s So You Think You Can Dance got engaged on air!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgHuCJU191Y&feature=related

    These romantic dudes incorporated their talent and love for the arts- singing, dancing, film-making and painting- into their proposals. Here are some ideas for a romantic, artistic Valentine’s Date.

    1 Kaligraffiti Pen / 2 Cymbal of Love Pendant / 3 Musical Wine Glasses / 4 Sprocket Rocket Camera / 5 Vinyl Record Tie / 6 Film Festival in a Box: Love / 7 Ceramic Guitar Picks / 8 Instrumental Lighting Lamp

    The Uncommon Life

    Why Do We Send Valentines? 10 Uncommon Facts About Valentine’s Day

    January 26, 2012

    Valentine’s day is a pretty special day. Whether you’re lucky in love, celebrate with single friends, or share the day with family members, you likely have something planned for February 14.

    But, why is the occasion so important? Here are a few fun facts about St. Valentine’s Day.

    Valentine’s Day Cupcakes, photo by Dyanna

    Who is this St. Valentine guy, anyway?
    Today, the Catholic church actually recognizes three saints by the name of Valentine or Valentinus. Each St. Valentine was martyred.

    So, which one is the St. Valentine of St. Valentine’s Day?
    Legend has it that the St. Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. The emperor at the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers, not having their hearts promised to special someones and all. So, ol’ Claud outlawed Marriage. Valentine didn’t agree with the emperor’s rule and went around marrying folks anyway. Eventually, Valentine got caught and Claudius sentenced him to death for his defiance.

    What does that have to do with cards and flowers?
    Some believe that the St. Valentine fell in love while he was imprisoned and sent letters to his lover before he was martyred. Others say that another Valentine is responsible for ‘Valentines.’ Either way, the legend says that a man named Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter while in prison. She secretly visited him in captivity, and before he died he wrote her a letter signed, “From your Valentine.”

    21746_love_carries_all

    Does that mean that Valentine’s Day is the biggest greeting card day of the year?
    Not quite! Christmas is still the number one there. More greeting cards are sent on Christmas than any other day, but Valentine’s Day comes in second place.

    Why is Valentine’s Day on February 14?
    This is another question that’s answer has been argued over the years. Some folks say it’s because St. Valentine died in mid February. Other’s claim that it has to do with the ancient Roman Lupercalia festival, which took place on Feb. 15. The festival marked the start of spring and celebrated fertility.

    Did the ancient Romans give each other Valentines?
    Not exactly. The Lupercalia festival started with the sacrifice of a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. Boys would slice the goat’s hide into strips, dip them in sacrificial blood, and and run around slapping women with the goathide strips. The women actually welcomed the slapping, because it was believed being touched by the sacrificial strips made them more fertile.

    How else did they celebrate?
    After the slap-fest, women would enter their names in an urn. The men would then draw names from the urn to chose the women they would be paired with for the upcoming year. These pairings often resulted in marriage.

    Interesting tradition! So, that ended with the Romans?
    Yes and no. While the custom of using a “lottery” to pick marriage partners didn’t last, the tradition did, in a way, live on. In England in the middle ages young men and women drew names to choose their Valentines. Then, they would pin the name to their sleeve. It’s believed that the term “wear your heart on your sleeve” comes from this custom.

    hearts, photo by Barbtrek

    How did our modern traditions come about?
    While the oldest known Valentine still in existence is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415, Valentine’s got a boost in popularity when Massachusetts native Esther Howland started selling the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in the 1840s.

    And that brings us to today…
    Now, the average American spends about $100 on Valentine’s Day gifts, meals, and entertainment each year. As for cards, about 85% of those are sent by women. That isn’t saying that men don’t appreciate their Valentines. 73% of Valentine’s Day flower purchases are made by men.

    Of course, flowers and cards aren’t the only way to celebrate this day of love. We have all kinds of gifts to help you make Valentine’s day extra special for the love of your life!

    Sources: History.com, Kaboose, Women’s Day, About.com

    The Uncommon Life

    Better to Give: Doing Good in the New Year

    January 12, 2012

    This holiday season, the term “Secret Santa” got a new meaning when mysterious donors paid off Kmart layaway accounts across the country. This heart warming story definitely helped get us in the holiday spirit, but it also got us thinking about ways to do good all year long.

    We try to make it easy for our customers to help us give back through our Better to Give program. Through this program, we donate $1 to the Better to Give charity of your choice each time you place an order with UncommonGoods. Here’s what our partners were up to in 2011, and how you can get involved in 2012.

    AmeriCares provided aid around the world in 2011, including continued work with earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan, providing emergency relief to victims of recent flooding in the Philippines, awarding more than $600,000 in disaster recovery grants to nonprofit organizations across the United States, and much more. With your help, we donated $7,928 to the humanitarian relief organization between October and December.

    You can help AmeriCares continue to do good in 2012 by donating online, volunteering, and getting creative.

    AmeriCares delivers food to mothers and babies in need in Somalia. Photo via AmeriCares by Jaya Vadlamudi, International Medical Corps.

    RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, expanded their programs, helped thousands of people through their online and telephone hotlines, and educated millions about sexual abuse. Customer’s choosing RAINN as their Better to Give organization helped us give $18,910 to the nonprofit in our fourth business quarter last year.

    The organization is currently working with sexual assault victims from Penn State, and are supporting Penn State Alumni in White Out Child Abuse, a national awareness event. If you’re in one of the eight major cities involved, you can participate on January 21, or visit their website to donate online.

    You can also help by joining RAINN in supporting the SAFER Act, a “no-cost bill that will create the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER), which will track the status of DNA evidence collected in rape cases.”

    American Forests is the nation’s oldest nonprofit citizens’ conservation organization. With your help, we gave $19,082 last quarter to help make America a little greener.

    In 2011 American Forests established the Science Advisory Board, a diverse group of scientists from different fields, geographic areas, and work experiences, to help address the complex issues America’s forests are facing.

    American Forests also launched the Forests for Fifty campaign, an effort to complete reforestation and education projects in all 50 states. Through this campaign, the organization will plant more than 5 million trees throughout 2011 and 2012.

    You can get involved by helping American Forests plant trees, or by planting a tree of your own.


    The UncommonGoods team isn’t afraid to get our hands dirty and get planting!

    City Harvest Since 1982, City Harvest has been collecting excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms and delivering it, free of charge, to nearly 600 community food programs throughout New York City. In 2011 the organization delivered more than 30 million pounds of food to hungry people. The organization also provides education and assistance when it comes to nutrition counselling, prevention of diet-related diseases, and bringing sustainable, affordable food to low-income areas.

    On May 11, 2011, City Harvest raised almost $500,000 to help New York’s hungry through their annual Skip Lunch Fight Hunger campaign. We helped by taking part in last May’s event, and by donating $17,431 as the year came to a close.

    Licensed food businesses help City Harvest every day by donating food, but you can help even if you don’t own a store or restaurant. Individuals can donate funds,volunteer in one of City Harvest’s programs , or attend one of their upcoming events.

    Do you volunteer with a nonprofit organization? Are you helping others in your community? Whether you’re gearing up to get involved with one of our Better to Give Partners, or making a difference in your own way, we’d love to hear how you’re doing good in 2012.

    The Uncommon Life

    Urban Gardening & Fire Escape Flora

    January 11, 2012

    I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Especially not self-improving ones. What I believe in is hobbies. Hobbies take you out of yourself. That’s an improvement right there.

    One of my hobbies is gardening. Helping seeds burst into life and transform into flowers or food gives me thrills. I live in a 4th floor tenement building in Brooklyn, NY. But the lack of an actual garden has never gotten in my way.

    I started out knowing, truly, nothing. In fact, I’d always had a black thumb. The few plants I’d ever owned had died from neglect. Yet I developed a yen for pretty, blossom-filled window boxes.

    The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer I bought vegetables from one summer said, “Seeds want to grow, you know.” I couldn’t believe mine would. But they did! The very first year I tried, I had adorable flowers in every window, all summer long.

    This created happiness. Which made me want to continue. That’s what hobbies are all about. You want to do them. They’re not “shoulds.” Unlike New Year’s resolutions.

    I had an actual garden plot, in the ground, at a local community garden for a year. There, I took my first shot at tomato-growing. Holy mother, were those things delicious. And gorgeous. And basically, free. A packet of seeds costs about the same as a couple of New York City farmer’s market tomatoes.

    But the community garden wasn’t quite local enough for me. My fire escape – that was local.

    I’d heard about the Topsy Turvy Upside Down Tomato Planter (“As Seen on TV! World’s easiest way to grow tomatoes!”).

    Reading the paper one day, I came across the idea of making my own version with empty soda bottles, a resource NYC has in abundance. I made a bunch of them, stuffed them with my old potting soil after enriching it with finished compost, and planted each one with a tomato seedling.

    This was the result.

    (Note: Although I had a decent tomato crop with these, I decided that even the largest bottles I used were too small. My tomato plants’ roots were way too crowded. So if you want to try this, use bigger containers, like I’m going to this year.)

    Now, in early January, all that glorious green growth seems like a mirage. It takes a leap of faith to believe that if I buy a few handfuls of tiny, dull-looking seeds and put them in dirt indoors (or outdoors, which I haven’t tried yet) in February or March, then re-plant them in their permanent summer homes after the last frost… six or seven months from today, they’ll look like that.

    It is literally a miracle. But – as opposed to the notion that I could resolve on January 1st to quit even one of my lifelong bad habits and actually succeed, it’s an entirely plausible one.

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