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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

Meet Becca!

May 30, 2012

Hi y’all! My name is Becca and I am the newest addition to the UncommonGoods team. I will be blogging and tweeting about UG throughout the summer. I would love for you to get to know me. Here are some fun facts…

I volunteer with Camp Kesem, a national organization that provides a free weeklong summer camp for children whose parents have or have had cancer, and develops student leaders. It is inspiring, empowering, and all around fun. (Seriously, who wouldn’t want to hang out with amazing children, playing hilarious and fun games for a week in the summer!)

I love water – in a glass, in a pool, in the ocean, as rain, etc. As far back as I can remember my summers revolved around swim team! Go Gorillas! (Yes, my summer swim team’s mascot was a Gorilla. I know that Gorillas are not a water animal, and most likely cannot swim, but I just love the irony!)

Despite a slight aversion to planes, I love to travel. I had the incredible opportunity to travel abroad last summer in Germany. I loved exploring the cities, the history, the culture, and the food!

[I ate this delicious plate of pasta in Germany, the land of schnitzel and bratwurst.]

Speaking of food, I love pasta to the point of it being almost an obsession. I would eat pasta every night for dinner (and probably lunch) if I didn’t think a little variety is good in a healthy diet. Also, shout out to my mom who makes the best spaghetti and meatballs!

Finally, no list of things about me would be complete without an uncommon fact. So, without further ado, I collect wind chimes. I started back when my family used to go to the beach in the summer. I love their peaceful sound and know that they will be the perfect addition to my future house’s sun room or wrap around porch (hey, a girl can dream!).

The Uncommon Life

How to Style Tea Towels in Two Rooms

May 29, 2012

I live in a very old building in Brooklyn. My apartment definitely needs a little work, so I’m always on the lookout for fun ways to dress the place up. After hearing about a few ways to take tea tea towels above and beyond their dish-drying duties, I decided to give towels as home decòr a try.

Inspired by these suggestions, (but not feeling crafty enough to get stitching or framing), I picked out some of our newest towels to try a few ideas of my own.

Tea towels can be used a curtains, turned in to pillows (as several of our reviewers have suggested in the past), or framed (also suggested in a customer review).

I absolutely love coffee and tea, so for my first towel decòr experiment I chose Sara Selepouchin’s Tea and Coffee diagram towels.

I didn’t get too fancy with the tea tea towel, but I do love the idea of having a tea towel diagraming tea! I hung the towel on my oven, right near my tea pot, so this one might end up soaking up a spill or drying a dish at some point. But for now, it just looks really nice hanging in my kitchen.

The coffee towel is another story, though. I can’t bear the thought of this lovely piece of textile art– a tribute to one of my all time favorite things–cleaning up kitchen messes.

First, I ironed the towel, because it came out of the packaging a little creased. Then, I refolded it to fit the space I wanted it to cover–a weird, painted over door on my kitchen wall.

I used nails to hang a thick string across the space, then used clothespins to hang the towel, creating a clothesline look. For a more rustic feel, you could do this with twine or frayed rope.

Simply adding two towels to my kitchen was a big improvement. I’d much rather look at Sara’s delightful diagrams than my old oven or the thick paint over the mystery door.

The towels look great in the kitchen, so I wondered if the same trick would work in another room and chose the Typographic Tongue Twister Towel to add a nice pop of color to the living room.

My husband built a fancy oak cover for our radiator that also acts as an end table. It’s beautiful, but I worry about it getting scratched or ruined by someone not using a coaster. This towel solves that problem. It makes a great table runner, because it’s small enough that it doesn’t cover up all of the wood’s natural beauty. It’s fun, colorful, and really looks great with my giant paperclip print.

I love the design so much, that I might actually frame the towel and hang it someday. But for now, it’s keeping my end table/ radiator cover safe while adding color and style to the room.

Wooden Drawing Model Guy agrees and gives the Typographic Towel a thumbs-up. Or he would…if he had thumbs.

The Uncommon Life

Giveaway: Show Us Your Colorful Mug Shot!

May 18, 2012

The original Face Mug has gotten a lot of attention since he first looked at us with those wide eyes, flashed that perfect (for stuffing with cookies) smile, and landed in our lineup.

We’ve heard gifting stories of how he’s made loved ones laugh, suggestions for filling him with different drink and treat combos, and some interesting alternate uses–like a business card holder with candy on top or a cheerful place to pot a plant. But one thing we’ve heard time and time again is that folks would love to see this character in color.

While Mr. Mug isn’t exactly on hand in color just yet, he is available for purchase on pre-sale and can be yours as a set of two in warm or cool colors. And, to add to the fun, we’re giving away all four to one winner!

Entering is easy. Just send us your best, most colorful mug shot. Use colorful props, bright outfits, and bold backgrounds. Or, take a photo with a color-altering Instagram filter, edit with your favorite program, or come up with something even more creative!

Post the photo to our Facebook timeline and we will post it in our Show Us Your Colorful Mug Shot album.  Share it with your friends and get them to “like” and comment on your photo. Tell your friends to tell two friends and so on, and so on… because the photo that gets the most Facebook love wins a set of these technicolor mug!

We’ll announce the winner on June 1, so start snapping, editing, and spreading the word!

The Uncommon Life

Checking In With American Forests

April 30, 2012

I asked our friends at American Forest last month what they’d been able to do with our Better to Give donations over the past year. Turns out they’ve planted more than 59,000 trees across the US. Isn’t that incredible? And it’s all because of you. Each time you pick American Forests at checkout, we donate $1 to their tree-planting programs. Thanks for your loyal support!

Since 2010, UncommonGoods has helped support the planting of more than 59,000 trees through American Forests’ Global ReLeaf® program. This partnership has planted trees in critically important locations that span across 6 states and 9 separate ecosystem restoration projects. American Forests is proud to have planted the following trees on behalf of UncommonGoods and all of their respective customers and employees.

Name: Spotted Owl Habitat Restoration in Angeles National Forest– 210 Trees
State: CA
American Forests is partnering with the USDA Forest Service to replant areas of Angeles National Forest that have been damaged by wildfires. It will take three years to replant all of the damaged areas. In 2011 project work will include growing seedlings, preparing the site, and planting and monitoring. This project will work to restore the critical habitat for the California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) and other threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and animal species. The Spotted Owl’s primary habitat is forest areas that include Douglas fir.


The wildfires destroyed 10% of that habitat within Angeles National Forest. This project will also protect the local ecosystem. The site is part of the watershed at the headwaters of Los Angeles River. Soil erosion has negative effects on aquatic species in the Los Angeles River so the newly planted trees will prevent soil in and around the planting site from eroding into the river. The planting will also help prevent future wildfires by restoring the site with native tree species before the land can be taken over by non-native grasses.

Name: Poe Cabin Fire Restoration – 22,691 Trees
State: ID
American Forests is teaming up with the USDA Forest Service to replant areas of the Nez Perce National Forest that were damaged by wildfires. Planting trees at this site offers numerous benefits, including a decrease in soil erosion which will lessen the amount of sedimentation being deposited into the area’s water sources. This in turn will help to protect anadromous, fish that live mostly in the ocean but breed in fresh water, fisheries located along the Snake River. Deer and wild turkeys will also benefit from this project. Reforesting the area will provide these species with places to hide and keep warm during the winter months. Part of the reforestation project encompasses the Pittsburg Landing Road, which allows access to the Snake River. The river provides a host of recreational activities and is a popular tourist location. This project will plant tree species, including the severely threatened whitebark pine, a species found in the western US and Canada that is threatened by wildfires, mountain bark beetles, and blister rust. American Forests is sponsoring various projects to reforest white bark pine this year.

Name: Kraft Springs Fire Rehabilitation – 8,470 Trees
State: MT
American Forests is partnering with the USDA Forest Service to reforest areas within the Custer National Forest. This area has been damaged by multiple wildfires, occurring in 1998 and 2002. The area continues to see an increase in wildfires due in part to a changing climate which has created warmer and dryer conditions. These conditions have allowed wildfires to burn with previously uncharacteristic severity. As a result of the wildfires, forested habitat has been reduced by 69 percent. Reforesting this area with ponderosa pine will increase habitat and food supply for elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, and goshawk.

Name: The Chiginagak Volcano Valley, Alaska Native Tree Restoration Project — 6,613 Trees
State: AK
The Chiginagak Volcano Valley in the Alaskan Peninsula was damaged by a lahar flow that greatly decreased the wildlife population and destroyed much of the foliage. The lahar flow also reached creeks, contaminating them with sulfuric acid. The purpose of this project is to restore the native habitat and protect the water by replanting 350,000 trees.

The trees to be planted are Alders, Poplars, Willows, and dwarf conifers to ensure native species diversity. This project also benefits the area economically. The rivers and streams damaged by the lahar flow feed into Bristol Bay, which supports a large fishing industry. Repairing the ecosystem will bring back fish into these streams and ultimately into Bristol Bay.

Name: Showerbath Wildfire Reforestation — 2,000 Trees
State: ID
Approximately half of the planting site was harvested in the early 1970s and unsuccessfully replanted with Douglas-fir Seedlings. The mortality of that planting was very high because of the harsh conditions created when most of the overstory was harvested. This project will plant 63,000 Douglas-fir and Lodgepole pines over 210 acres to continue to protect many species of wildlife, improve watershed conditions, and to keep the Salmon-Challis National Forest enjoyable for recreational use.

Name: 2010 Kirtland’s Warbler Habitat Creation — 5,500 Trees
State: MI
This reforestation project in the Huron Manistee National Forest is designed to plant 402,000 trees over 369 acres with the state of Michigan and the US Forest Service in order to provide habitat restoration for the Kirtland’s Warbler. The Kirtland’s Warbler is an endangered species song bird which requires both the particular Jack Pine specie to nest in and scattered openings of land to fulfill their habitat needs. The trees themselves must be in the range of 4-15 years old for the Kirtland’s Warbler to nest in, making the effect of this project not fully seen until down the road. These specific conditions that the Kirtland’s Warbler requires will be put in place to combat the ever increasing encroachment of human inhabitation on the bird’s habitat. The trees for this project will be planted in the spring of 2010 by local contractors.

Name: Cave Gulch & Maudlow-Toston Fire Rehabilitation — 7,500 Trees
State: MT
This project will reforest an area of the Helena National Forest that was burned in the 2000 Cave Gulch and Mauldow-Toston fires. Roughly 40,000 acres of National Forest Lands’ were burned by these fires located in the Big Belt Mountains. Over 400 acres of this land will be planted on with 130,000 Douglas-fir and Lodgepole pines. This project hopes to improve the local watersheds, which contain critical fish-bearing streams that are also important to the other wildlife in the ecosystem that count on these fish for food.

Name: WildEarth Guardians 2010 New Mexico Riparian Restoration — 200 Trees
State: NM
WildEarth Guardians aims to plant over 65,000 native shrubs and trees across four distinct watershed located in total throughout the state of New Mexico. These four project areas are located along the Santa Fe River, Bluewater Creek, La Jencia Creek, and the Rio Puerco. All of these watercourses have seen intense historic disturbance regimes, including domestic and wild ungulate overgrazing and browsing, destabilized stream channels and banks, non-native shrub and tree establishment, extreme temperature loading and fluctuations, and impacts of off-highway vehicles. These impacts have resulted in degraded stream and riparian area functionality. The goal of this project is to restore function to the area by undertaking a variety of proven restoration measures, including non-native species removal, stream channel and bank stabilization, native species reforestation, domestic and wild ungulate control, and prohibiting off-highway vehicle access.

Name: Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge — 5,859 Trees
State: TX
American Forests continued the partnership with the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge for the 14th consecutive year by supporting the on-going reforestation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This area is one of the most biologically diverse regions in all of North America and is also one of the poorest, though fastest growing, regions in the United States. The reforestation of this corridor benefits the unique wildlife of this subtropical region, including endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarondi. More than 490 species of birds and about 40 percent of all North American butterfly species (300+ species) live in this four-county project area. This project helped maintain a bountiful and biologically diverse land as a key component to the area’s ecotourism industry.

The Uncommon Life

5 Tips for Better Smartphone Photos

April 25, 2012


Hello! My name is Chelsea and I blog over at Tea Talk. I’m a full-time grad student, freelance journalist, and Phoenix enthusiast who is obsessed with personal style, photography, and iced coffee. My sweet boyfriend, Scott, and I absolutely love taking photos of our adventures, and really love how easy my smartphone has made taken photos on the go for us. But lately I really love how easy my smart phone has made taking photos on the go. Here are some of my favorite tips for better smart phone photos.

1. Look for unique angles and use them to your advantage. Look up, look down!

2. A flash is convenient, but natural light is your friend!

3. Use a tri-pod or mount, like the Oona, for steady photos and self portraits.

4. Using photo-enhancing applications like Instagram and Hipstamatic can help you create more interesting photos with your smartphone. They also are great for giving you an opportunity to share your photos with other photography enthusiasts.

5. Smart phones make it so easy to snap a picture anywhere and at any time. If you spot something beautiful, don’t think twice-take a photo of it. Chances are that someone else will think it’s beautiful as well.

We are so happy to announce that UncommonGoods is now posting photos on Instagram as @UncommonGoods. We would love to follow back and see what you are snapping.

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.

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