Browsing Tag

DIY

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make Cocktail Bitters

December 19, 2013

Morgan | Bitters

Research
I’m a devoted whisky (and occasionally whiskey) drinker and usually enjoy my Scotch like I enjoy the top shelf of my dresser: neat. But I was intrigued to see if bitters might prove an opportunity to salvage a liquor I’ve all but quit–rum. The recipe calls for a high-proof rum, so I picked up one of my favorite antiseptics, Bacardi 151. I also bought an aged rum (to test my bitters in later) that I was hoping might change my opinions of the drink. That rum, Plantation Grande Reserve (note the fancy pants name), was a vast improvement over any rum I could remember tasting (in either direction), in my younger days, so I was looking forward to a different experience, perhaps.
Bitters 1

Bacardi 151? Hello old friend.

Hypothesis
I don’t think I’ve ever tried bitters before, but I’m coming in with a semi-open mind. I like bitter things. There’s something smart-sounding about the word “bitters.” As I have a general preference for straight alcohol, I’m not sure how much this will “add” to the experience, but perhaps since I’m less predisposed towards rum, it may make that drink more enjoyable. (Spoiler alert: I cheated and came up with this last line after the experiment.)

Experiment
Preparing the mixture is actually a good bit of fun, adding the composite spices and ingredients as if your high school science teacher were a part-time bartender. (I didn’t see you and you didn’t see me, Mr. Chard.)

DIY Cocktail Bitters | UncommonGoods

Here I am masterfully peeling an apple and not cutting myself, the skins to be mixed into the jar of rum and spices. No blood! Easy enough.

The preparation requires a morning and evening shake of the mixture in its jar, which is a fun way to interact with your little blooming bundle of joy, and to appreciate the visual richness and beauty of the concoction as it does its thing. Eventually you’ll forget to shake it one morning and you’ll feel guilty for the rest of the day. Just let it go–it’ll be fine.

DAY 1 TEST
Finally, after a long and eager wait, 2 weeks are up and it’s time to open my present! Hold on there just a minute, bud–a few more steps before we’re ready for cheers. First we have to strain through cheesecloth (which doubles as gauze if you cut yourself peeling that apple earlier–try to use the clean portion).

Bitters | UncommonGoods

The liquid is separated from the solid ingredients, which are placed on the stove to simmer with water then cool. This is a good opportunity to be extremely impatient, blow on the mixture, and just dump it in hot anyway. (Again, you’re probably fine.)

Bitters in Process | UncommonGoods

After cooling, we strain the mixture once again. OK, this is your exit solids! In the trash you go! We then get started on simple syrup (a sugar and water mixture that is heated and added in equal parts to the rum mixture). Add to dropper bottle then the big payoff.

I decided on bourbon because, well, I like bourbon and it seems to feature in a good number of bitters cocktails. I could make a cocktail, but I’d rather really taste the bitters here just to see how they work with the alcohol. A bit of bitters drip drop into some Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Drinking Bourbon

Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing it for me. Nope. Had I done something wrong? I don’t think so. Was it last Friday when I neglected to shake the bitters? Were they exacting their revenge? Nah – I don’t think bitters hold grudges (although they are called bitters…). I think it was just the combination. The iconic Buffalo Trace flavor now muddled into something indecipherable and a bit all over the place. I added a bit more but that just added to the confusion. My eyes saw the Buffalo Trace and my mouth was failing to compute.

Give up? No way. We’ll try again tomorrow.

DAY 2 TEST
New shirt, new day, new opportunity to drink.

Back on the saddle and off the wagon with something a bit more compatible, perhaps – rum. Yes, my aged rum would make a late-game, surprise guest appearance in a highly unscientific evaluation.

In one glass – straight aged rum
In the other – that same rum with a few drops of bitters.

Bitters and Rum

This one makes sense. The rums obviously blend well, and this time I’m able to actually taste the spiced apple. Not overpowering, but definitely adds another dimension. Yeah – I get it.

Conclusion
I could see this enhancing a mediocre rum or allowing for a drinker to taste a decent one from a different perspective. I imagine you could mix into a number of different cocktails with different alcohols. (The instruction booklet names a few.)

The highlight for me though was the process. Enjoying a drink usually consists of nothing more than opening a bottle and pouring it. Occasionally this might involve stirring in a few extra ingredients–and sure–there are even bitters you could buy. But there was something very satisfying about the process; in the interaction with all the individual ingredients, in the ultimate unification of those flavors. There was something satisfying in the wait. Alcohol is one of those things that can take longer than anything to get right. We buy liquors that have been waiting for years, heck, decades to taste just right, then we sip them and they’re gone.

This kit represents the process, the time, the care that goes into a good drink. This probably won’t change my lineup of standby drinks or undying love of a good straight Scotch, but it was an interesting ride, I learned a bit, and I have something new to taste along with some of my old favorites. Nah, I ain’t bitter.

Gift Guides

How to Make Your Own Stamps with the Carve-A-Stamp Kit

November 19, 2013

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoodsWhen us Marketing Team gals heard about the new Carve-A-Stamp Kit, we wanted to test it our for ourselves. So a couple weeks ago, we ended work things a little early for some crafting, gossip, and girly tunes in a secluded conference room in the office. (Ok, there were no tunes but if there were, it probably would have been something like Beyonce or Carole King. Or just Beyoncé.) We learned a lot in that small room. Not just about each other, but the kit in general. Here are some things we learned.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods1. The kit comes with easy to follow and beautifully illustrated instructions, 25 original templates designed by Owl City Studio, transfer paper, a stamp block with two sides for carving, a carving tool with multiple blades, a red stamp pad, and a muslin bag to store your finished product.

2. The designs are adorable. It was hard for me to choose so I ended up doing the bow and the polka dot bow tie. Good thing the stamp was two-sided – I have an obsession with bows and am terrible at making decisions. Cassie decided on the owl and Emily on the leaf.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods3. The transfer paper is super easy to use. All you had to do was trace one of the designs, place the paper on top of your stamp block, and rub gently to transfer the image onto the stamp. The image showed up nice and clear on the rubber and in the proper direction. Remember: stamps work backwards!

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods4. The transfer paper also comes in handy when you’re free-handing your design. Fancy-pants graphic designer Jessica drew her stamp creation by hand, a hot air balloon, and used the transfer paper to recreate her original design onto the stamp block.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods5. Not every carving tool is for everyone. Since all of our designs were so different – some curvy, another more jagged, some with tiny details and dots – we each found our own favorite carving tool. Test them all to figure out which one works best for you.

Carve-A-Stamp Kit | UncommonGoods6. The finished product is a lot prettier than what you carved. We all looked at our designs when we were done and said “ick” – in unison. But once we stamped the design on some paper, they all looked amazing. All those little imperfections you see (since your eyeballs are probably three inches from the stamp while you’re working) don’t show up when you use the stamp. Plus stamps are supposed to be a little imperfect. That’s their charm!

Happy stamping!

Design

6 DIY Projects For Your Home Sweet Home

August 8, 2013

I recently moved into an adorable brownstone in Brooklyn, and as much as I love my faux fireplace against a brick wall and my fabulous French double doors, I admit that my white walls are currently screaming for attention and my shelves are yearning for some sweet, sweet lovin’. Before I moved back to NYC, I was traveling for a few years and I never got a real chance to make my home a real home that reflected my personality while living abroad. This was due to the fact that I was either stuck inside a tiny chambre de bonne in Paris or my toilet was less than a foot away from my shower-head in South Korea. (Yes, everything got wet whenever I showered. I still shudder when I think about it.) One of the reasons why I moved back to the states was because I wanted my love of home décor to go beyond the limits of the space of a shoe box, and to ignite my dying creative spirit through endless tribal-print toss pillows and painted mason jars. Now that I’m finally in a decent sized apartment, it’s time to tackle a few do-it-yourself projects to spruce up my living space and to finally cross out “Decorate my home to make the holy Martha Stewart jealous” off my bucket list. Below are my top 6 ideas I’ve found online (AKA: procrastinating on Pinterest) that I hope to complete before the end of summer. They’re fun, easy, and won’t break the bank!

Wine cork magnets

1. Wine Cork Magnets – For my severe love of red wine and DIY projects that take under 30 minutes to complete, these wine cork magnets made it to the very top of my list. I open my fridge every day, and even though half the time the inside is empty, at least these adorable wine corks will have me feeling quite sophisticated. (And okay with myself that the groceries weren’t done for the week.)

Painted Terra Cotta Pots

2. Painted Terra Cotta Pots – I love getting my hands nice and dirty with a new project. What better way to do that than getting paint and dirt all over? Lovely Indeed‘s painted terra cotta pots would look great hanging in my living room near the windows, and I adore the fact that I could mix up the colors and change the plants inside seasonally.

Geometric Print Curtians

3. Geometric Print Curtains – Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m semi-obsessed with geometric shapes and anything tribal-print. Maybe it’s just a quirky fact about myself or a problem that will result in an intervention, either way I will most definitely be making One Little Momma‘s awesome curtains. And PS- Potato-printing is, indeed, involved!

Tribal Print Storage Containers

4. Tribal-Print Storage Containers and Boxes – Since we’re on the subject of tribal prints, I might as well mention these next. I’m prone to collecting gadgets and gizmos of plenty (whosits and whatsits galore) and stashing them in the back of my closet or hiding it all under my bed only to be forgotten. Having Modernette‘s containers and boxes in tribal print not only makes the perfect excuse to keep all my treasures at a hand’s reach, but it also creates a funky bohemian display for my lonely shelves and fireplace mantel.

Chalk Board Serving Platter

5. Chalkboard Serving Platter – I know I was complaining about living in a tiny room in the City of Lights, but if there was one thing I got out of living in Paris for two years it was gaining an excellent knowledge of stinky cheese. These Wit & Whistle chalkboard serving platters would be perfect to show off my fromage skills the night I decide to play host for my future wine and cheese parties.

Decorative Power Cord

6. Decorative Power Cord – Power cords hate me, and as a result, I hate them. They tangle, they get dirty, they break, they’re inconvenient, they runaway from my outlets and play hide and seek for two days. But with the magical powers that washi tape beholds and tips from DesignLoveFest, I believe our hate-hate relationship can turn into a beautiful love-hate relationship.

 For more cool ideas, check out out our DIY Pinterest board!

Gift Guides

How to Celebrate your Baby Bump with the Belly Art Casting Kit

July 30, 2013

My wife and I just welcomed our new baby into the world, but before his arrival we wanted to do something special so we would always remember that beautiful baby bump. With 5 weeks left to go – we decided that it was time to cast the belly.

Belly Art | UncommonGoods

Using our Belly Art Casting Kit from UncommonGoods, we recruited help from our 5 year old. At first glance, because of all the components and 4 page instructions, the process appears some-what complicated.

However, we soon learned that even a 5 year old could do it, literally.

The kit comes with a large plastic sheet that SHOULD be used to cover the floor and surrounding furniture – it will get messy- and a bottle of Vaseline to rub on the areas of application (don’t be shy – apply as much as you can).

Getting Ready The kit also comes with a dry plaster roll which should be cut into strips. These strips are to be dipped into a warm bowl of water (the smaller the bowl, the smaller your strips should be cut). Also, the strips should be cut over the plastic covering because powdered residue forms as you are cutting. Latex gloves are also included – highly recommended – took me a while to get the plaster off my fingers when it dried up.

Once the strips are cut, Vaseline is applied and you have your warm bowl of water, simply dip the strips into the bowl and apply and rub into the areas that you want to cast.

Julian 1Julian 3Make sure you layer a few times – the more layers the better it will look. Also, remember to refill water as it cools off – the warm water has a much better effect as the plaster dissolves.

Rubbing it in also helps for aesthetics on the finished product.

Once all areas are covered and layered – let dry for about 15 minutes. Then, it simply pulls right off.

Belly Art |  UncommonGoodsLet dry overnight and then use the tool included within the kit for sanding and sculpting.

Finished Belly Cast | UncommonGoodsThe whole process took less than an hour and was so much fun. We used the plaster belly for the baby shower and had attendees sign it – similar to how one would with a broken arm cast. Now it works great as a bedroom decor piece to show our baby where he lived for 9 months.

Design

How to throw a Geek Baby Shower

July 29, 2013

How to throw a geek baby shower | UncommonGoodsA couple months ago, our staff threw a baby shower for Naomi. Hopeful for her little girl to be a tiny scientist, Naomi asked for a series of baby items with a geek theme from our assortment. We were so impressed and excited for her that we put together some crafts to throw a geeky baby shower.

Beeker plastic cups | UncommonGoodsClear plastic cups are easily transformed into beakers with the help of a marker.

Test tubes for punch! | UncommonGoodsFor those interested in taking smaller sips, test tubes are another beverage vessel choice. Plus they make the table look like a lab.

Apple Pi Cupcakes | UncommonGoodsApple Pi Cupcakes!

Geek themed cupcake toppers | UncommonGoodsWe made cupcake toppers from images we found on the web. Print out two identical images and glue with a toothpick or skewer in the middle.

Solar mobile | UncommonGoodsJust like in elementary school, a mobile of the solar system was a fun and easy project. With some paper, tempera paint, string, and cotton balls you can recreate the plants in our solar system for a colorful decoration.

Decorate with gifts | UncommonGoodsOn the tables, we used the Nerd Flashcards that Naomi requested as a gift to keep the theme going.

Naomi's Geek Baby Shower | UncommonGoodsJudging by the smile on Naomi’s face, our crafts were worth the time and papercuts!