The Uncommon Life

Wedding Week 2013

May 20, 2013

You made last year’s Wedding Week so exciting and gosh darn fun we had to do it again! We asked our favorite wedding blog, The Knot, and new magazine Southern Weddings to put together collections of their favorite wedding gifts. We also pulled together some great wedding-themed blog posts to get you excited this wedding season.

Home Accessories buyer Katie gives some tips for creating your wedding registry. And she should know, she just got engaged!

Meet Tavia, one of our newest artists who takes a truly uncommon approach to a traditional wedding band.

You have all these great new place settings but what now? Take some tips from a Martha Stewart-wannabe on what to do and what not to do while setting your next dinner party.

UncommonGoods Tabletop Buyer and newlywed (and self-proclaimed kitchen rookie) Candace shares her top 10 favorite kitchen gadgets.

Still want more? Our copywriter Nathan demystifies wedding traditions in our Uncommon Knowledge series.

Gift Guides

How to Create Your Dream Wedding Registry

May 20, 2013

Not to sound overly girlie or cliché, but getting engaged was absolutely one of the happiest, most blissful moments (weekends) of my life. And sure, now five months later I am entirely wrapped up in comparing caterers and photographers and yes trying on many, many white dresses and making many, many decisions (who knew there were so many decisions to make?). It’s been a total blast. As it turns out, I love planning! Now, that’s not to say I haven’t had my moments – total emotional breakdowns/spazz moments … I am somewhat comforted to know that I have found this to be a shared experience among just about all my engaged/married friends. (This is a highly emotional time, people!) but I am getting better at thinking big picture and turning any moments of stress into excitement. I think by the time our wedding date rolls around, I’ll have this down to a science. Until then: lots of deep breaths, long runs and on certain nights: copious amounts of wine.

Katie’s Uncommon Registry board on Pinterest

As for some of those details – while we are taking some liberties with certain “traditions”, building a registry was one of the most fun projects I have worked on during this flurry of planning – and we approached this in a somewhat traditional sense – all while infusing our personalities into it from bottom to top. I have been to enough weddings in the past 2-3 years to see several approaches to registries, and being in the retail business and overall a product-passionate person, I am at somewhat of an advantage as to knowing what is in the competitive landscape for products. Here are some tips of the trade and from my experience that might be useful for anyone who is just getting started in this:

(1.) SET UP MORE THAN ONE REGISTRY:
We tried a few different approaches, and in the end, we chose to register with four different sites. We wanted to make sure we gathered the best products from the best sources to match our taste and needs, rather than trying to retro-fit into one or two retailers who might not have exactly what we wanted. Not to mention, a lot of traditional retailers don’t carry the really unique, wow items to add personality into your home. I also really love when my friends register at a few different places, so that I can mix and match gifts and price points to give them what feels like a cohesive package of goodies.

The first place we registered with was the service Knack. We used this to pull in items from sites that did not have their own registry or if there were not enough items on the site to rationalize an entire registry. I had used Knack for friends’ registries and found it exciting to see items aggregated from funky, smaller stores. I liked that it opened up the market for registering outside of traditional retailers, but the checkout process was somewhat laborious to use. (E.g.: to purchase an item, you click into the item page from the main registry page, select “Buy Now” – which then takes you to the separate retailer site to purchase. Once you purchase it through the other retailer (and have to enter in all address information, etc), then you have to click back to Knack to tell the service you purchased it. Not the easiest, I did not check out correctly the first time I used it and I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person! After imagining some of the less tech-savvy folks in our life trying to use this service, I decided to break out what I could onto separate, more traditional registry sites.



Your wedding registry is an opportunity to show off your style and point to the “wow” items you’re dreaming of.

(2.) ASK FOR HELP!
After building out registries which solved for pots and pans, plates and cups, coffee makers and cookbooks, I thought I had thought of everything. Well, thankfully, I sent our registry links around to my mom, sister-in-law, and my fiancé’s mom. Definitely ask around, while there are tons of wedding planning books and websites, I found getting advice from the people who know us best to be the most helpful. They knew we didn’t need overly ornate plates or silver serving pieces, but they also jumped on the fact that I had missed sheets and towels and silverware.

(3.) MAKE SURE TO GET YOUR PARTNER’S SIGN OFF
Building the registry was something I decided to take on and consult with my partner after I was more or less finished. I built out the above described registries, added the links to our wedding website, and before I knew it our family and friends were jumping on items as engagement gifts. (What a lovely surprise!) Luckily, my fiancé and I definitely share a similar taste level and aesthetic so I was not too far off. However, once I saw people starting to buy items, I decided I ought to run the registries by my fiancé. The process of editing was funny, while I tried to pretty much stick to the essentials, I may have tried to slide in a few decorative accents that he quickly and swiftly gave the axe (a handmade bell, Katie, really??). So, make sure you are BOTH on the same page to avoid glares from your one and only after the wedding.

Overall, building a registry is a super fun project; I think this is because it allows you to start picturing what this next phase of our life might look like. Sure, we have lived together for going on 4 years now and have stocked cabinets, but our kitchen is largely a patchwork style collection of cast off odds and ends from our moms’ kitchens (happy to clean out their pantries), plates we picked up from the free shop at a oft-visited dump in New Hampshire, and–most notably–our collection of pots and pans from a particularly successful yard sale day. For two people who love to cook and entertain, curating a collection of items to use on a daily basis was an exciting foray into – dare I say – true adulthood. Because really, I think it’s when you own your first Cuisinart that you can call yourself an adult. But it was during the selection of goods that I realized we could hand pick the items that we would use not only to use to heat up soup on a typical Monday night of netflix-marathon watching, but to make our home with, to serve holiday dinners with our families, and in someway, to define who we are as a couple and how we want to make our home. That being said, I believe our kitchen, and our home will always be a patchwork of odds and ends, but at least now we might have matching tops to all our pots and a functioning coffee maker!

My biggest words of advice: Make it about who you are as a couple. If you never bake, don’t register for bake ware; if you aren’t the formal type, register for some high quality, but funkier versions of things – everyone needs plates to eat off of, you don’t need to go for the super expensive kind if they don’t suit your lifestyle. The rules have changed a lot, embrace the freedom to build your home together and have fun with it. When in doubt, consult your family and friends for help, they will love it!

Get your registry started at UncommonGoods!

Design

The Dos and Don’ts of Setting a Table

May 20, 2013

Growing up in a big Italian family, the dinner table was the hearth of the home. It was where everyone gathered during get-togethers or parties, whether or not there was a formal meal set down. As an adult I love having my friends and loved ones over to feed them but so far all my meals have been spread across a small apartment with plates on laps. However I spent enough time setting tables between stirring my grandmother’s gravy (tomato sauce!), reading my mother’s hip-high pile of Martha Stewart Living magazines, and the studying the copy of Emily Post that I bought at a yard sale when I was 12 to consider myself an expert in-the-making in the art of table setting.

Since I don’t have a big rustic table of my own, I have been living vicariously through my newly betrothed friends and have been dishing out dinner party advice. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts I have put together from years of research.

DO mix and match different styles of plates – a great way to hide the fact that you might not have enough of one style for everyone at the table!

DO give everyone at the table all the plates and utensils they will need for the entire meal… unless your butler is there to change each place-setting between courses. This means soup spoons, salad forks, any utensil they may need for dessert.

DON’T put out dessert plates until the dessert course. It’s everyone’s favorite part anyway so save all the surprises for later.

DO learn the basics of place-settings so you can bend and break the rules for your own meals and style.

Some basics: Utensils are set from in the order they will be used from the outside in. This means the fork to the far left is your salad fork; the one inside is your dinner fork. The spoon to the right of the knife is for soup, a course that comes before dinner. Forks on the left, knife on the right as it’s proper etiquette to hold food down with the fork on your left hand as cut with the knife in your right, then switch the fork when you are ready to eat.

DON’T choose a centerpiece with an overpowering aroma. Stay away from scented candles and very fragrant flowers. You don’t want the décor to upstage your amazing meal.

DO make sure that centerpieces allow guests to see across the table to keep the conversation flowing. Nothing is worse than having to talk to someone’s forehead over a ridiculously large flower arrangement.

DO get funky with your napkins. Fold them, roll them, or use a pretty ring. Napkins can really tie a whole table together.

DO provide your guests with a water glass and another for the alcohol being served with dinner. If you are offering white and red wine, choose a versatile glass.

DON’T play music that will stand out. Like your centerpieces, the music should be noticed but not enough to offend or distract. Try something without lyrics – Pandora has a lot of instrumental options that don’t sound like elevator music.

Maker Stories

Tavia Brown’s “Industrial Delicate” Rings to Last a Lifetime

May 20, 2013

“I very clearly remember being six years old and knowing I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And it never changed,” said jewelry artist Tavia Brown. “I ventured down my artistic journey in my childhood and ended up in college discovering metalsmithing.”

That drive, discovery, and dedication lead Tavia to found taviametal in 2001, and stay true to her craft through business ventures, marriage, and motherhood. Fittingly, her latest collection celebrates one of those special occasions in life–saying “I do.”

Tavia incorporates metals not traditionally used in wedding jewelry, like titanium and rose gold, and textural elements into her original designs to create unique rings for men and women. She calls her style “industrial delicate,” referring to the juxtaposition of tenacious metals with elegant design, and although her pieces are a bit bolder than some wedding bands, they are perfect for making the statement, “our love is solid.”

“In my first jewelry class I found my match in this small-scale, three-dimensional medium,” Tavia said. “I knew then that this was what I was going to do.”

The artist now creates her pieces in her own Charlottesville, VA studio, but before setting out on her own she worked as a bench jeweler for a high-end jewelry designer. “I worked in the jewelry studio and daydreamed about having my own studio business,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it; I didn’t have a concrete plan. I just knew I was going to do it.”

Taviametal started out as a part-time endeavor, but grew over time as Tavia transitioned from exhibiting her own work at small shows while still working full-time at her bench job. Over the next few years, she got married, cut back her day job hours, and started planning for her future while helping her husband, who is an entrepreneur himself, with his business.

“Eventually, I knew kids would be the next step and I quit my job for the jewelry designer to get accustomed to not having that paycheck,” Tavia said. “I wanted to ensure that I would still follow my dream and take that big leap after having kids. So I worked part-time for my husband and part-time for taviametal, nurturing both businesses. I eventually switched and made taviametal my full-time commitment in 2007. Since then, my husband and I have continued to support each other in our individual business adventures, helping each other grow.”

Along the way, Tavia also discovered the joy of working with titanium–which is now her signature metal.”I had a very close-knit group of metalsmithing/blacksmithing friends and we would have these Monster Metal weekends during which we would take turns at each other’s studios learning a new technique or trying out a new material,” she explained. “Well, one weekend we tried our hand at titanium. I found that I really liked the color and the weight; and I loved the industrial feel and look to it, which fell right in line with my aesthetics.”

“I discovered that I could use the titanium for my rings, taking advantage of that natural gray color to contrast with other materials and continue the layering of textures that I like to create in these rings,” she continued. “I also found I could apply a heat patina which adds even more color – blue, purple, bronze – to the recesses of the designs. Titanium definitely has its challenges. Some basic metalsmithing techniques cannot be used with it, such as soldering – which is a main practice. So I fabricate my titanium jewelry by cold joining contrasting materials and friction fitting the layers, with an emphasis on textures and design. I really love these challenges about titanium. It keeps me creating in ways that take me outside the box. It pushes me to come up with new and interesting designs, and I am constantly exploring.”

“There are times where I get inspiration simply from the material… its challenges, limitations, and look intrigue me,” said Tavia. “Other times it’s just texture, the juxtaposition and tactility of different textures together, and the manipulation of the materials into amazing surfaces… Another impetus for me is family. This is a recurring theme in my work since college.”

Now, as a mother of two, Tavia is inspired by her children and says that over the years she’s been lucky to be able to mold her schedule around what’s best for her whole family.

“I want my kids to see that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to,” she said. “I want them to know that they can dream as big as they want… On days where I must work longer than the usual I take my kids to the studio with me after school. I have carved out a kid area in my office, complete with easel, art supplies, toys, TV, movies, hula hoops, snacks, and more. Even though I am working, it is fun to be together at the studio.”

Tavia says that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far is “to breathe and be kind to myself and know that it will all work out.” She explained, “If I do my best, my kids will be their best. That’s not to say the ride hasn’t had its moments of difficulty; some days just have tears and other days are full of laughter. Each day is a new day of parenting with new challenges, so I am constantly learning – not just as a mom but also as a metalsmith and business owner.”

Gift Guides

10 Gadgets That Every Kitchen Needs

May 20, 2013

I am a newlywed (1 month on the 27th) and when going to register I thought that I wouldn’t really need much. I mean I have lived in NYC for 13 years so I have acquired lots of stuff. I’m not much of a cook… I guess I was spoiled by my mother who had an amazing dinner almost every night for us, and a new hubby that seems to have more energy than me at the end of the day. I know, a little ironic since I’m the tabletop buyer. And I live in NYC which means space is limited.

But… THERE IS SO MUCH GREAT STUFF OUT THERE! Get rid of the clutter and ask for new kitchen tools that are well designed, efficient, not difficult to use and functional. Here are some items from the UncommonGoods that every kitchen needs and even make me want to help out more.

This apron is perfect for people like me that don’t cook enough to remember how long I should steam those carrots and too tired at the end of the day to remember how many pints are in a cup. Apron is much better to put your dirty hands on rather than an expensive smart phone!

Again, I live in NYC which equals NO SPACE. This is the perfect! It folds up neatly into your utensil drawer. I mean what kitchen doesn’t need scale… weighing food or other things like a toy fox terrier (mine is only 5 lbs).

I am so appreciative of my lovely new husband. He helps so much. That being said, it completely grosses me out to use the gross older counter sponge when washing the dishes. That is why we have two sponges… Spongester keeps things straight.

Modern and lovely! We have started composting since we have started juicing. So much great compost material! This is a sleek way for any home to compost, concealing unsightly mess and odors.

Flavors of America Salt Collection takes my taste buds around the US. It is attractive display and the test tubes are reusable. Sold!

Once again, NYC space constraints… 10 bar tools in one… ’nuff said. (I like my cocktails fancy so the channel/zester tool is my favorite.)

I adore the Horseshoe Heart Trivet. It brings me back to my Texas roots a little, and you never really realize how much you need a trivet until you don’t have one. This one is perfect. The design is cool and has well thought function, the craftsmanship is outstanding, it is handmade in the USA, and it is good luck (horseshoe) and reminds you of love (heart) and/or your childhood in ‘fill in the blank’. You can leave it out as a functional décor piece, or it can even moonlight as a spoon rest. So great!

I have a sweet tooth but I try to stay as healthy as possible. I use honey in my tea, on toast, on cereal, with brie… the list goes on. This is a really beautiful container to keep honey out and at arms’ reach at all times. It fits perfectly with our décor as well; modern minimalist meets artsy and slightly shabby chic.

First, polar bears are cute. Second, I just hate when my ice smells like everything else in the freezer, problem solved with the Polar Bear Ice Tray by Black & Blum. Third, it is inevitable that I will not be able to get all the ice out of the tray then I turn it upside down to shake out and it falls on the floor. Ice tray fail! BUT problem solved with the Polar Bear Ice Tray.

The Wine and Beverage Tote holds an ENTIRE BOTTLE of wine. In the summer I love to sit in the park, on the beach, camp, etc. and the Wine and Beverage Tote HOLDS AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE… ’nuff said.

Get your registry started at UncommonGoods!