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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

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Film Festivals

March 14, 2012

A couple of UncommonGoods people are at SXSW this week; at the interactive part, not for film. But some of us who aren’t going (passive-aggressive pouting alert: orange) were perusing the SXSW site, looking at the film festival schedule, and saw this: “Big names, big talent: Headliners bring star power to SXSW, featuring red carpet premieres and gala film events with some major and rising names in cinema.”

Well, fine. Stars and red carpets help deals get made and careers get started. However, they are not exactly… uncommon. You can see them at Sundance. You can see them at Cannes. And now you can see them at SXSW.

But at none of the three big film festivals can you see “Downstream: Testing Trout,” (an underground cult of hardcore fly anglers in Ontario obsess over mayfly hatches and spinnerfalls while casting for trout in untouched waters),“The Bicycle Cap Made With Love by a Bike” (a bike and a sewing machine fall in love) “My Very Own Death (a man contests the claim by a scandal sheet that he died from an outdated yogurt), or “Self-Assembly of Bio-Inspired Peptoid Polymers,” (about the discovery of amphiphilic peptoid polymers of specific sequence that, in aqueous solution, spontaneously assemble into one of the thinnest two-dimensional organic crystalline materials known).

For those, you’d have to go to the International Fly Fishing Film Festival, the Bicycle Film Festival, the Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival, and the RidgeDance NanoScience Film Festival, respectively.

Welcome to the world of uncommon film festivals, where red carpets, major names and million-dollar deals are scarce and passionate devotion is in ample supply.

Just for fun, we made a list of some of the most intriguing-sounding film festivals we could find.
Grouped (somewhat) thematically, here they are:

DepicT! 90 Second Film Festival
The 15 Second Film Festival
The Ten Second Film Festival
A.D.D. Short Film Festival (sadly but kind of appropriately, this one was postponed indefinitely)
The 48 Hour Film Project (“you and a team make a movie—write, shoot, edit and score it—in just 48 hours”)
New York Cat Art Film Festival
Pet Film Festival
International Bat Film Festival
International Wildlife Film Festival
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
International Year of Forests Film Festival

Princeton Environmental Film Festival
American Conservation Film Festival (ACFF)
Sustainability Film Festival
Possible Futures Film Festival (“film visions of the positive future that hundreds of millions of people are already living into and creating right now”)

Bicycle Film Festival
California Surf Festival
International Skateboard Film Festival
International Aquatic History Symposium & Film Festival (put on by the International Swimming Hall of Fame)
International Fly Fishing Film Festival
Action Sports Film Festival
Los Angeles All Sports Film Festival (films with “mental and physical competition for the sake of winning a prize,” with “sports” defined as “anything from auto racing to badminton and spelling bees to chess”

Food Film Festival (in association with the James Beard Foundation)
Food Justice Film Festival
Farm Film Fest (“documentary films about our food — who produces it, how it reaches us, and how it affects our health, our environment, and our local and global communities”)
Farm Film Fest (Chatham Agriculture Partnership (CAP – “films that focus on farms, farming, and farming issues”)
Farming Film Festival Video Contest (“Farmers need game changing solutions to meet rising expectations and costs. If you are a farmer, create a video that tells us about a game changing idea or technology on your farm. If you’re not a farmer, find one and help tell their story.”)

Handmade Puppet Dreams (“a touring festival of independent artist films exploring their handmade craft specifically for the camera”)
Strange Beauty Film Festival (films which are “strangely beautiful” and “beautifully strange”)

Rose City Steampunk Film Festival
Viscera Film Festival (female genre filmmakers)
Pollygrind Film Festival (“all about the darker side of cinema and the artists that bring those films to life;” held in Las Vegas)
International Festival of Darkness (“the best and the most macabre that the horror and sci-fi genres have to offer”)

NYC Mental Health Film Festival
Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival
Biomedical ethics film festival
Neuro Film Festival (put on by the American Academy of Neurology Foundation “to help raise awareness about why more research is needed to cure brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, autism, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis”)
RidgeDance NanoScience Film Festival
Nanofest: The Nanoscience Film Festival
YPOP Film Festival (solar films: solar flares, eclipses, etc.)

The Atlanta Philosophy Film Festival
San Francisco Atheist Film Festival
Interfaith Film Festival
Sikhnet Online Youth  Film Festival
International Buddhist Film Festival
San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival
New York Jewish Film Festival
Nihilist Film Festival

Politics on Film (“an annual, bipartisan film festival based in Washington DC dedicated to providing a platform for films that tell stories of America’s politics and policies”)
Magic Lantern Video & Book Store Political Film Festival

BRIEFS: Erotic Shorts Film Competition

DisABILITIES Film Festival
NY Disabilities Film Festival
Sprout Film Festival (“film and video related to the field of developmental disabilities”)
Deaf Rochester Film Festival

GI Film Festival (“the first film festival in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film”)

San Francisco Transgender Film Festival
Lost Aneles Transgender Festival
Post Alley Film Festival (“female-centric and eccentric”)

Legacy Film Festival on Aging
ALFA (Assisted Living Federation of America) Short Film Competition on Ageism

American Indian Film Festival
Los Angeles Asian-Pacific Film Festival
Black History Film Festival
Black Panther Film Festival
Boyle Heights Latina Independent Film Extravaganza
South Asian Film Festival
Urbanworld Multicultural Film Festival  (“dedicated to redefining the multicultural roles in contemporary cinema, television, and online by supporting the urban content creation community”)
Margaret Mead Film Festival (“the longest-running showcase for international documentaries in the US; from indigenous community media to experimental nonfiction”)

Black-Rock-City-Film-Festival at Burning Man

Found Footage Festival
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
The Disposable Film Festival (“short films made on everyday equipment like cell phones, pocket cameras, and other inexpensive video capture devices”)
Century City Cell Phone (Film) Festival

YouTube Your Film Festival
Vimeo Festival and Awards

And finally, we would be remiss not to mention UncommonGoods’s own

Film Festival in a Box

The Uncommon Life

10 Ways to Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 12, 2012

Whether you’re Irish by blood, have the luck of the Irish, or just love a good celebration on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll probably be going green on March 17. Of course, we’re all about celebrating another kind of green here at UncommonGoods. So we figured, why not take a double-edged approach with these green (and green!) goods.

Wearing green on St. Paddy’s will prevent you from getting pinched, but you don’t have to go overboard. Adding a few green accents to your outfit is a great way to show your Irish pride. (1.) Heli Belt’s are handmade using leftover fabric from tatami floor mats and (2.)Ellen Thurmond’s Tree of Life–Renewal necklace features green peridot on hand-shaped recycled sterling silver wire.

Whether you plan on dying your hair green or skipping the food-coloring-infused shampoo, a (3.)Recycled Glass Barrette will look lovely accenting your locks.

Once your perfect St. Patrick’s Day outfit is complete, you can start the party. Serve up green beer in (4.) Recycled Beer Glasses, which also happen to have a slight green tint, since they’re made from glass from car windows. And, if you prefer a mixed drink or something alcohol free, your beverage of choice will look nice in (5.) Protect Our Earth Glasses. These recycled Bordeaux bottle glasses were even called party “must-haves” by

When it comes to your centerpiece, take a cue from the lush landscape of the Emerald Isle and add a little vegetation to your St. Pat’s. Fresh-cut flowers aren’t always the greenest choice, but our (6.) Moss Terrarium Bottle is a fun DIY alternative. If your thumb is far from green, visit Local Harvest to find sustainably grown blooms and show them off in a (7.)Recycled Wine Bottle Vase, or skip the flowers all together and go with a handmade recycled glass (8.)Four Seasons Globe to ring in Spring.

The centerpiece won’t be the most enticing thing on the table, though. Celebrate with a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, then use the (9.) Fresh Air Compost Collector to save the cabbage hearts and other unused portions for composting. And for dessert? These Beer Mug Cupcakes from I am Baker are too cute not to make.

From green beer to cupcakes that look like green beer, you don’t need luck (or a pot of gold) for your St. Paddy’s Party to be a success. But, the fun can only last one night, so don’t forget to take a few photos to capture the evening. Fittingly, your favorite will look fabulous on display in one of Margaret Taylor’s handmade (10.)Recycled Ceiling Tin Frames.

The Uncommon Life

Crowning the Winner of the Uncommon Bedroom Pinterest Contest

March 9, 2012

The decision wasn’t easy but the process sure was fun. Julia, Cassie and I, each admitted Pinterest-aholics, sat down to determine who created the mother of all pin boards for our Uncommon Bedroom contest. Our work was cut out for us with almost 300 entries, but I promise no arguments ensued. Sadly, there can only be one winner but we wanted to share the honorable mentions that kept us debating before we crowned our Queen of Pins.

We really loved Heather’s board for its rich jewel-tone colors and excessive doillies. We also appreciate the fact that her idea of breakfast includes Nutella and her idea of a bedtime story is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.


Nicole had some pretty uncommon items in her dream bedroom. We were drawn in by the fancy bathroom tile and stayed for the pebble pillows and little black dresser.


There seems to be a very consistent affinity for the color purple on Alexandra’s board. Check out the furniture made of repurposed suitcases and wine crates!


Kristi‘s board was full of rich purple hues, hidden closets and spooky details. Her zombie bed kept us talking for days (Do I smell a DIY…)


But the board that stole our hearts belongs to Carter. Her dream beach bedroom makes us long for summer, sun kissed cheeks and sand in our sheets. She put together a cohesive mood board with a combination of decorating styles and mixed media to create a beautiful story that ignited our imaginations.

Help us congratulate Carter on Pinterest and check out the boards that stole our hearts.

The Uncommon Life

Contest: Share your Favorite New Designs & Win!

March 7, 2012

We love reading voter feedback in our community voting app and we want to thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for new designs and talented designers with the chance to win!

Share your favorite potential products on Twitter and you could win an UncommonGoods gift certificate to help buy your favorite new design (or one of the existing uncommon products you’ve been pining for).

How it works:

1.) Pick one of the products up for voting that you think should become an uncommon good.
2.) Visit the voting app, cast your vote, and tell us why you love the product in the comments section.
3.) Follow us on Twitter and tweet your pick @UncommonGoods. Make sure to include a link to the product voting page.

We’ll pick 5 winners to each win a $5 UncommonGoods gift certificate. We’ll announce winners on March 19, 2012.*


1.) Craft a clever tweet. Tell us why you love the product or designer in 140 characters or less. (Reading the product story can be a big help here.)
2.) Vote on as many products as you’d like while visiting the voting app. The products aren’t in competition with each other.
3.) Use the share buttons on the product voting page to encourage your friends to vote for the product you chose, or tweet @ your design-savvy friends to invite them to vote for a chance to win.

Could it be any easier? Yes! Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what we’re looking for. But, of course, you’ll have to show us up with even better tweets.

The Sari Bag has my vote @UncommonGoods! Handmade from recycled materials. Thumbs up!

Judie Bomberger’s family garden stakes should be the next good @UncommonGoods! They’re so rustic yet fun!

Please carry Little Paper Planes @UncommonGoods! My kids (& I) would love them!

I’m a-MAZED by the Labyrinth Game @UncommonGoods! I’ll buy it even if I don’t #win!

I voted for Christina Kober’s fortune cookie #design @UncommonGoods b/c it would make an amazing gift for @mybestie!

We’ll choose the cutest, most clever, and most creative tweets to win. We can’t wait to see your pick and hear why you think it will make a great uncommon good. Happy voting and good luck!

*P.S. This contest is only open to residents in the 50 states and District of Columbia. (We’re sorry about that, but that’s how far we ship!)

The Uncommon Life

Delancey Underground: A Most Uncommon Commons

March 1, 2012

Here at UncommonGoods, we often emphasize the “uncommon” part of our name. But the “common good” part is just as important to us. When something comes along that promises a whole lot of both, we glow like Gummy Bear Lights.

Last year, our founder Dave Bolotsky signed on as an advisor to a very uncommon idea for the common good that’s being floated for the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan where he lives and has long-time family roots: an underground park, proposed for a long-abandoned trolley car station that almost no one knew was there until recently.

This is what the station, officially called the  Williamsburg Bridge Railway Terminal, looks like now:

And this is how James Ramsey and Daniel Barasch, the visionaries behind the concept, imagine it could look if their fantastical and futuristic idea becomes real:

The site, which is owned by the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority; they run the subway system), was so under the radar that MTA management didn’t even know about it. Ramsey learned of its existence from a former MTA engineer who’d been working on a subway line underground during the 1970s. He and Barasch went to the MTA archives in search of more information and, eureka! They found the original diagrams of the station.

In March of 2011, the MTA took them on a tour of the cavernous terminal, and their socks were knocked off. Ramsey, who, for his own design business, had been developing the concept of “sunlight irrigation” — using solar panels, reflective dishes, and fiber optics to bring sunlight where there isn’t any — flashed on what the dank, dark space could be like if it were flooded with natural light by the method he’d been working on. There could be plants! Trees, even! A park!

The “Delancey Underground,” which the press has dubbed the “Low Line” in a nod to the much-beloved, three-year-old High Line park created atop a stretch of abandoned elevated rail tracks on the west side of downtown Manhattan, has captured the imagination of New Yorkers, who are neither over-supplied with open, green space nor accustomed to having prime real estate appear out of nowhere.

And prime it is: There’ll be plenty of competition from housing, retail and other types of businesses when the MTA officially requests proposals for the development of the subterranean space. Because the MTA is seemingly always strapped for cash, Ramsey and Barasch, who are determined to submit the winning bid, are putting together models showing how the park could bring in significant revenue without losing its primary function as a public space.

Because it naturally takes a village to create a neighborhood commons, they’ve also been approaching neighborhood residents, groups, organizations, representatives, and businesses, with the goal of crafting a proposal created through a community-wide process with input from all who have a stake in what happens to the site. Recently they launched a Kickstarter page in hopes of raising enough cash to build a working prototype of the lighting system.

For a pledge of $5000, you’ll get a 12″ 3D model of the full-scale park. Hmmm, that sounds like a very good uncomm– Oh, we know, we’ve overdone that particular bit of wordplay. Let’s just say it sounds awesome.

“Before” photo: Danny Fuchs for The Delancey Underground

“After” photos: Architectural rendering by RAAD Studio/James Ramsey

The Uncommon Life

Contest: Pin Your Dream Bedroom

February 27, 2012

Ok, be honest. Are you as obsessed with Pinterest as we are?

I certainly hope so, because here’s our first big Pinterest contest! Pin this image to a new board, fill it out following the guidelines below, and you’ll be entered to win a gift certificate to redecorate your bedroom!

Leave the link to your bedroom inspirations (or pin-spiration! Too much? It’s hard to resist) in the comments below and/or on the original pin in our Dream Home board and you’ll be entered to win.

We’ll announce the winner on March 9. How much that person wins is up to you. For every 50 entries we see, we’ll add $50 to the grand prize, up to a total of $250. So after you share your board with us, be sure to tell your friends and family to enter too!

Follow us on Pinterest for more updates, and leave a link to your profile in the comments. We follow back!

Good luck and happy pinning. We can’t wait to see your brilliant boards!

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.

Pin It on Pinterest