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The Uncommon Life

The Uncommon Life

Meet Gaby!

December 14, 2011

Hello there! My name is Gaby and I am the newest addition to the Uncommon Goods team. You are going to see a lot of me as I will be writing on this blog pretty often. Here are some other things you should know about me.

I have my own lifestyle blog, Paperplanes & Maryjanes where I talk about food, clothes and décor. I have also recently opened Paperplanes & Maryjanes Handmade where I currently sell a collection of knit and crochet bows.

I recently moved back to Brooklyn from San Francisco where I was living for 6 months. I competed in a Facebook contest and won the opportunity to work as a blogger for Levi’s as The Levi’s Girl!

One of my most beloved possessions is a 65 Schwinn cruiser named Ursula. I am most likely to be found riding around the park blasting Mama Cass from my iPhone in my front basket and singing along.

I eat an embarrassing amount of tacos and Tootsie Rolls- but never at the same time.

When not on my bike, I sing along to songs on my ukulele which I taught myself how to play this summer. (I also just chopped off all my hair and miss it dearly.)

The Uncommon Life

5 Original Christmas Cocktails

December 13, 2011

The first bloody mary was mixed at the St. Regis in NYC. Mojitos were invented by Cuban sailors. And apparently Mai Tais were first enjoyed in the tropical paradise of Oakland, CA.

Unfortunately, some cities aren’t lucky enough to have a hometown drink. To help fill this need, we’ve concocted some cocktails for several identity-starved cities. After all, it’s holiday party season, and every city deserves a reason to say cheers. Whether you hail from these cities or not, you can celebrate by toasting with these unique traditions-to-be.

Wondering how we picked these cities? Well it’s funalytics my friend! We wanted to find the thirstiest cities in America, ones who would really appreciate our cocktail chemistry. So we looked at sales data from our popular Whiskey Stones and Bike Chain  Bottle Opener. We figured that if a city was buying up whiskey stones at a faster rate, they would probably love our amateur mixology skills.

Here’s a toast to the thirstiest cities in America. Join us in raising a glass, won’t you?


(image courtesy of Disneyland Bronze-Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse; Denise Cross)

Remember when Dumbo got drunk with Timothy Mouse? Here’s a Disney-inspired punch that will have you hiccuping and seeing everyone through a rose-colored glass.

– 2 bottles of champagne, chilled.
– 4 oz X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
– 1 cup passion fruit juice
– 2 blood oranges, juiced

Mix ingredients in punchbowl.  Serves 8.


(image courtesy of Baseball on a Mailbox; Noah Sussman)

Iced and peanut-flavored, it’s equal parts snow balls and ball park.

– 6 oz. coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
– 12 oz. milk
– 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
– 4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
– Club soda

Blend liqueur, milk, ice cream and peanut butter until smooth. Pour and top with splash of club soda. Serves 4.


(image courtesy of the nog, the stache or the sweater?metropolitician)

This ‘nog could be considered a weapon of mass deliciousness- thick, creamy and not intended for civilians.

– 12 egg yolks
– 12 egg whites
– 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
– 1 quart brandy
– 1 pint rum
– 1 gallon heavy cream
– 1 cup powdered sugar

In an extra large mixing bowl, beat yolks until lemon colored. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add brandy and rum, alternating between the two. Mix well. Stir in 3/4 gallon heavy cream. In a separate bowl, lightly beat 6 egg whites and then fold into the large bowl mixture. Reuse bowl to beat remaining whites until very stiff, and add powdered sugar and rest of heavy cream. Fold remaining egg white mixture into eggnog mix. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 12.


(image courtesy of Christopher Columbus; Conspiracy of Happiness)

Columbus wassailing, and now he’s not.

– 2 quarts apple cider
– 1 1/2 cups orange juice
– 3/4 cup pineapple juice
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 2 cinnamon sticks (3 ins)
– dash ground cinnamon
– dash ground cloves

In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-30 mins. Remove cinnamon sticks. Serve pioneering carolers in blue vessels for a mariner feel.  Serves 10.


(image courtesy of Arizona Christmas; Kevin. Cochran)

A festive, frozen margarita to get you in the (slightly sweaty) spirit.

– 6 oz. white tequila
– 6 oz. Triple Sec
– 8 oz. cranberry juice
– 6 oz. lime juice
– 6 oz. sour mix
– 8 cups ice

Mix ingredients in blender until smooth. Serve in a coupe glass. Serves 4.

The Uncommon Life

Holiday Party Hosting Perfected

December 7, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  We’ve got gift-giving covered, but we’re leaving the party planning to other experts.  Take a look at some ideas we’re building on and borrowing from in order to host the perfect holiday get-together.

Set the scene for your party with DIY decorating ideas from interior designer and stylist Matthew Mead, who shared his tips with blogger Centsational Girl.  His number one piece of advice?  Keep it simple, which will help both you and your guests feel at home.

(Image courtesy of Centsational Girl)

Once the table is set, fill it with delicious dishes to impress your guests.  Food blog 101 Cookbooks has a comprehensive collection of holiday recipes to draw inspiration from, including hearty dishes like this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad and festive snacks such as these Butter-toasted Hazelnuts.

(Image courtesy of Heidi Swanson)

Don’t let your dinner table take all the attention – just because you’re staying in doesn’t mean you can’t dress up!  Refinery29 has a variety of outfit ideas, ranging from celebrity-inspired looks to key bold red pieces.  Just don’t fall prey to any of these common holiday faux pas pitfalls!

(Image courtesy of J. Crew)

For a comprehensive guide to hosting a holiday cocktail party, the Drinks team at Serious Eats has compiled a complete how-to for hosting.  Michael Dietsch suggests crafting and creating signature cocktails in advance, anticipating 1-2 drinks per guest per hour, and stocking up on bagged ice.

(Image courtesy of Jennifer Hess from Serious Eats)

Close out the night with a variety of Christmas cookies to serve as dessert or to give as parting gifts.  Bree Hester of Baked Bree is sharing 12 weeks of Christmas cookies, including these unique Hot Chocolate Cookies and the Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

(Image courtesy of Bree Hester)

And if you can’t share the joy of the holidays with friends and family in person, make sure to send along season’s greetings with an uncommon card, stocking stuffer, or personalized gift.

The Uncommon Life

7 Curious Truths about Christmas Gift Giving

December 1, 2011

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing. Here at UncommonGoods, we like to celebrate the act of giving, but let’s face it – it’s also fun to receive. So I thought it would be fun to mine through some of the data we’ve collected from holidays past and see if any patterns emerge that indicate who gives the best gifts. That way, I’ll know who to be *extra* nice to when next Christmas rolls around…

Below are 7 interesting trends in Christmas gift giving.

(Note: Because we’re a privately held company, I’m not at liberty to divulge just how much data was involved in doing this analysis, but let’s just say it’s, like, a lot. There are also some cases below where I realize seeing the actual dollar figures would be nice, but again – it’s not something I’m really allowed to share. Sorry.)

1. Men procrastinate.

This first observation might seem fairly obvious to some people, but I think it’s interesting nonetheless to see it played out in the data. Women plan ahead; men procrastinate. Women consistently get their holiday shopping done earlier in the season – it’s not until about December 6th that men start to get their act together and their buying rate starts to surpass that of women. So if you want a well thought out gift, you’re more likely to get it from a woman than a man.

(Since we’re an internet retailer, we necessarily have shipping cutoffs somewhere between Dec. 21-23 – otherwise, I’d expect there’d be a big blue spike around 11pm on Christmas Eve.)

But even worse than men in terms of planning ahead are college kids. Splitting the data by age group, we can see that the older you are, the earlier in the season you get your shopping done.

Breaking it down, it looks like the 65+ age group has 60% of their shopping done by Dec. 4. It’s not until Dec. 10 that the 18-20 set get 60% of their shopping done – almost a full week behind their grandparents. I guess experience teaches you not to wait until the last second. Again, it may seem obvious, but if you’re expecting a gift chosen with a lot of forethought, it’s less likely to come from a teenager.

2. 1999 called… and it’s got a great gift for you.

People who are still on AOL are often mocked. But maybe they shouldn’t be. They do, after all, give us the best gifts.

We found that the average dollars spent on gifts was pretty flat across email providers, with the notable exception of AOL. AOL users spent on average 12.2% more than users of other email services.

So while a recent study by found that Gmail users are more attractive, better educated, and better dressers than AOL users, they are also apparently more likely to be cheapskates.

3. Real Americans live in California.

For a number of reasons – economic, social, environmental – we try our best at UncommonGoods to carry products that are made in the USA. We’re not perfect at it – sometimes a product that is really cool or innovative is only available from overseas manufacturers – but when we can, we try to support local artisans and producers. So who does this really appeal to?

I thought we’d find that America’s heartland – the Midwest, where “real” Americans live – would be buying our American-made items at a much faster clip. And I thought we’d find that those treehugging, Che-loving anarchists out on the West Coast could care less about the issue.

Not so. In fact, looking by region at the percentage of all orders that contain items made in the USA, we see the exact opposite.

It’s one of the most striking statistics that I came across in doing this analysis. At least amongst our customer base, people on the West Coast are 21% more likely than average to buy American-made, whereas in the Midwest people are 24% less likely than average to do so. That’s a huge difference.

So if you want something that supports artists and designers that reside right here in the good old U-S-of-A, expect it from a Californian.

4. Men have no imagination.

I hate to pile on men here (being a man myself, after all), but apparently men are a lot more likely to run out of good ideas and just buy someone a gift certificate.

In our data, men are 23% more likely to give a gift certificate than women are. I guess a more positive way of putting this is that men are more utilitarian, and more likely to give you the gift of options, guaranteeing that you’ll like what you get.
Still seems kind of lame to me. If you want a more personally meaningful gift, you’re more likely to get it from a woman.

5. The older you get, the more you care about other people.

OK, so we have this program at UncommonGoods called Better to Give, where we give $1 from each order to one of four non-profits that customers can choose from at checkout. It’s a cool program – it really reflects what UncommonGoods is all about and it’s one of the reasons I was really excited to work here in the first place.

The thing is, many of our customers don’t actually pick a non-profit to have us donate to. That’s always puzzled me – I mean, there is really no catch and no cost to customer, other than the maybe 15 seconds it takes to read the description of the program and make a selection. But still, a lot of people don’t do it.

What’s interesting though is that the level of participation in Better to Give goes up with age. It’s not because older people have more money – again, these donations come out of our pockets, not our customers’. It just seems like older people have more patience to read through a little text. Maybe they have longer attention spans.

It’s also interesting to look at the geographic breakdown of Better to Give participation. Amongst states, Vermont leads in participation, with customers there being 32% more likely than average to select a non-profit. Given the Vermonters that I know personally, that’s hardly a surprise – they all seem like do-gooder, save-the-world types. On the other side of the coin, New York and New Jersey ranked 49th and 48th in participation amongst states (at 17% and 9% less likely to participate than average, respectively) – I guess being jammed together with other people on the Q train every morning makes you kind of hate society a little bit. (For the curious, North Dakota was dead last in charitable giving, being 31% less likely than average to participate.)

So if you want to receive a gift with a conscience, look to old people. Preferably from Vermont.

6. We get it, New England, you’re better than the rest of us.

Another area that we here at UncommonGoods try to emphasize is eco-friendly product. Again, we’re not perfect here, but we try to offer things that are sustainably produced. And once again, it’s those goody-goodies from up North that tend to lead the pack here.

(The regions above are grouped according to census bureau definitions.)

New Englanders are 2.8% more likely than average to buy eco-friendly products. People from the West South Central region – which is Texas, Oklahoma, etc. – were the least likely to buy earth-friendly things, at 6.8% less likely than average. Which reminds me of my favorite quote from this guy on The Simpsons: “In Texas, we got rid of the environment, and everyone was a lot happier.”

Actually, that’s not quite fair. Texas was not on the bottom of the list of eco-friendly states. The bottom five were actually Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Texas was actually only #40 in eco-friendly purchases – not great, but they are being brought down by their regional neighbors.

And this time around, Vermont wasn’t quite at the top. The top five were actually Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Colorado – all outdoorsy-type states, which makes sense. These people care about the environment, probably because their environment is so beautiful.

Generally speaking though, if you want a gift that is good for Mother Earth as well, someone from New England is more likely to get it for you.

7. Generosity is a ten-letter word.

Lastly, perhaps the most surprising thing we found is that there seems to be a correlation between how much someone spends on a gift and how long their last name is.

I’m not exactly sure what to make of this. People with very short last names don’t spend much, whereas people with names 14 letters long spend 16% more than average. Maybe they’re more understanding of others, given how often they’ve had to correct people’s pronunciation of their names. Maybe they’re more compassionate because their names were made fun of as children. I’d love to hear other theories about this. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that, with an r-squared of 0.52, it’s not an insignificant correlation.

(And no, unless Malcolm X and U Thant were UncommonGoods customers, I don’t know who these people are who have one-letter last names. And yes, I know that U is a first name, but I’m having trouble coming up with other examples here.)

How to get a great gift

So, taking all this data together, we can form a picture of an ideal gift-giver: a woman with an AOL email address, 55 or older, who lives in California or New England and has a long, complicated last name. Does this sound like anyone you know? Then you’re in luck.

As for me, let’s see: my mom is definitely older than 55, lives on the California border, and we have a sort of complicated last name. I think she cancelled her AOL account in like 2001, but if I can just find her one of those old signup CD-ROMs, I’ll be all set…

Brian Hashemi is the Marketing Director at UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

An Uncommon Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

November 22, 2011

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year or attending a potluck, consider taking inspiration for uncommon foods from a few of our favorite blogs. Who knows, you might end up creating a new tradition by cooking up one of the following dishes!

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s unique city-to-country transformation and trademark style have landed her a book deal, Food Network show, and even a movie (to be released next year). Give your guests a taste of pioneer goodness with this unique pumpkin soup, and save yourself from dirty dish duty too!
 (Image courtesy of The Pioneer Woman)

For another stuffed squash dish (and potential main substitute for any vegetarians at the table), Honest Cooking presents a Winter Squash With Stuffing and Goat Cheese that’s just as flavorful as any typical turkey.
 (Image courtesy of Honest Cooking)

Finally, if you’re seeking an alternative to pumpkin or plain apple pie, Jenna of Eat, Live, Run suggests a Chocolate Angel Nut Pie that’s unique and uncommon, but still evokes all the flavors of fall.
(Image courtesy of Eat, Live, Run)

Whether you’re sticking to the classics or making something new, we wish you all an equally Happy Thanksgiving from UncommonGoods!

The Uncommon Life

24 Hour Customer Service!

November 21, 2011

It’s official–the Holiday Season is here. For you, that means it’s time to stock up on Turkey Day side-dishes, make out a list for Santa, and spend some quality time with the family. For us, it means making the switch to 24 hour customer service.

Our customer service rep, Stapleton the Staple Wrangler, was up all night guzzling coffee and helping customers find great gifts. If you need assistance, even in the dead of night, give us a call at 1.888.365.0056, email help (at) uncommongoods (dot) com, or try the live chat feature on our website.

Stapleton has some long nights ahead of him, but luckily, he loves knowing that he’s helping provide a great customer service experience. Our reclaimed steel friend and the rest of the CS team will be available 24 hours now through Dec. 24!

The Uncommon Life

The Biggest Supporter of the Arts

November 17, 2011

There was a time when Santa’s elves had to work hard in the months before the holidays, stuffing dollies, carving rocking horses from wood, and assembling shiny new bicycles. It seems as though letters to Santa have changed a bit, and now those elves are placing orders to Apple for iPads and checking parental advisory warnings to see whether the latest video games are suitable for youngsters.

Does any one out there still care about artisan made goods?

Letter to Santa & Letter to Santa (Back), magma666

Although those pointy-eared little fellas don’t get to use their artisan skills as much as they’d like these days, we know UncommonGoods shoppers do still appreciate high-quality, handmade pieces. With this in mind, our highly scientific data analysis team decided to find the Biggest Supporter of the Arts and give that city their due recognition.

We took a gander the sales of a few of our most artfully-made items including:
Stephen Kitras’ hand-blown Glass Globes
Traci Medeiros-Bagan’s Crocheted Headphones
Al Stephens’ Hand-forged Cheese Slicer

Lo and behold, Atlanta wins our title for Biggest Supporter of the Arts! But we’re proud to say Brooklyn’s not far behind.

Here’s the full breakdown of how our art-loving cities stood out against the rest of the country:

Atlanta, GA Atlanta is known as the cultural hub of the south. This peachy city hosts nearly 50 arts and culture festivals each year, evidence that Atlantans don’t just love handmade goods, they also like to party.

Brooklyn, NY For years, Brooklyn has been in the shadow of Manhattan’s art scene, with no Village, fewer well-known galleries, and cheaper food and rent (making it harder for artists to starve). Now, Brooklyn’s art culture is booming. The Brooklyn Museum rivals the MET, The Brooklyn Flea attracts hipsters, crafters, and all kinds of creatives, and neighboorhoods like DUMBO and Williamsburg are known for their studios and galleries.

New York, NY Brooklyn’s art-lovers came out a just a hair ahead in our analysis of art sales versus overall sales, but NYC holds steady in the top five. New Yorkers have long appreciated art, earning the city the reputation as the art capital of the world (we suspect that Parisians are still a little ticked over losing the title).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, plassen

Austin, TX Austin may not be home to a world-famous museum, but they do boast the Austin Museum of Art. Austin art fans can also visit Austin Art Garage, a gallery founded to highlight emerging artists while bringing affordable art to the people. We love the idea, but as far as we can tell from the photos on their website, the Austin Art Garage is not really a garage at all, so you’ll need to go elsewhere if you also need an oil change.

Chicago, IL The Art Institute of Chicago is in Chicago (which is good, because it would probably have to change it’s name). The world-renowned museum’s adjoined school, aptly named the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is often considered one of the best art schools in the United States. Sure, tuition is expensive, but fortunately artists make a ton of money right out of college, so new graduates won’t have to worry about student loan debt.

Art Institute Lion Wearing Bears Helmet , egvvnd

Actually, that last bit of information may not be entirely accurate. Do your part to help those art and design grads pay the bills by giving the gift of handmade goods this holiday season!

The Uncommon Life

DIY Gifts that Keep On Giving

November 17, 2011

We love the internet – there’s a treasure trove out there of inspiration.  Here’s what’s caught our eye recently in the world of DIY gifts, a trend we’re totally on board with.

(Image courtesy of Design Boom, from Sabine Marcelis)

Our own Jonathan and Kira tested the Beer Making Kit earlier this summer, and it looks like they aren’t the only ones experimenting with DIY distilling: Design Boom brought to our attention Netherlands artist Sabine Marcelis’ “Housewine,” a beautifully simple and functional display of the wine-making process.

(Image courtesy of My Baking Addiction)

Another recent trend that’s right at home with UncommonGoods is indoor gardening, and now that flu season is upon us, a great way to stay healthy is by adding herbs to your repertoire of recipes. Consider making Jamie of My Baking Addiction’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Herb Dip. The Dip includes oregano and basil, which can both be grown in our recycled Grow Bottles!

(Image courtesy of Astronomy Today Sky Guide; photo by Jenny Rollo)

While UncommonGoods specializes in gifts that are great for the home, we’ve also got goods that are out of this world – the Planisphere Watch tells the time and maps the night sky.  If you’re interested in DIY astronomy, check out Astronomy Today’s Sky Guide, a handy tool for tracking otherworldly occurrences.

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