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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.

Gift Guides

Last Days of Summer

September 7, 2011

The sun is still shining, the AC is still on, and we might be able squeeze in at least one more trip to the beach. No matter how you long you try to hold on to the lazy days of summer, it’s time to admit that the season is coming to a close. But don’t worry, before back to school bells ring and leaves start turning, there’s still time to have a little fun with these clever toys and activities for kids.

Continue Reading…


Color Ball Kit

July 21, 2011

Color Ball Kit

Jessica said: “This is a wonderful idea and craft project. I know, as a mother of two, kids will enjoy this and have fun telling their friends that they handmade their own tennis ball. The price is very reasonable and teaches a good skill set. I would purchase this product!”

We’re having a ball choosing products for our community voting app, and we hope you’re enjoying sharing your feedback! Up for voting this week, the Color Ball Kit is a fun and easy way to get started felting. Add warm water and soap to the provided wool, then start squishing and watch the fleece turn into colorful felt as it covers the included tennis balls. Would these bouncy balls make a great craft project for your kids? A fun gift for an aspiring juggler? Cute toys for your favorite pooch? Visit our voting app and let us know how you’d use this creative kit.


How to make an outdoor trestle table

May 16, 2011

Weather forecasters and ice cream trucks might tip us off to summer’s start–but we all know the season hasn’t really begun until you’ve fired up the grill. In the spirit of packed coolers and good company, we’re kicking off the Ultimate BBQ Giveaway with our friends at Fresh Home magazine, where we’ll serve seconds (and thirds!) of outdoor tools worth over $1200–everything you’ll need to keep the grill hot, and your guests cool. Find out how to enter here.

But before you invite all your neighbors over for a backyard BBQ, Fresh Home magazine has this great guide to build an outdoor table using leftover building materials you might have lying around your garage.

Photo by Robert Reichenfeld Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

December 10, 2010

Product Name: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

Background Research:

I can knit in stockinette all day long, but can I actually knit a fitted mitten? I’m not just testing out this knit kit, but also testing my skills. The real challenge will be, can I finish these mittens in time for cold weather?


Using the iMitt DIY mitten kit, with everything I need included, I can teach myself to knit mittens before winter really kicks into gear.


I was a bit nervous when I laid out all the materials in front of me. Two balls of sage green yarn, a pair of circular needles, stitch markers, a yarn cutter and a daunting set of instructions. And these weren’t normal mittens; they had openings for my fingers so I could operate a smart phone in the cold. What had I gotten myself into? I’d just tweeted that I’d be finishing these mittens soon, so I had no choice but to get started.

Check out some of the work in progress photos.

Well it took a few tries, and the help of some friendly YouTube vloggers, but I did it!


The mittens were knit! And the weather reports are calling for snow. I finished just in time.

This kit did have about everything I needed. I grabbed a ruler to check my measurements and kept my laptop on so I could get a second opinion on some of the instructions. The pattern was pretty daunting for a self-taught knitter like myself. I consulted YouTube and frequently, restarted a few times, but it all came together. And the challenge was definitely worth it.

One thing I learned was that the woman’s small still ran too big for my tiny hands. I adjusted the pattern to start with 36 stitches and that worked much better. If you’re knitting for a child, or like me, you have ridiculously small hands, be sure to adjust the pattern before you get started.


When I first saw the shape of a mitten emerging from my needles, I knew I’d done it. And there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment. I couldn’t recommend the iMitt DIY mitten kit enough to all your crafty friends.

The mittens are super cute, warm, and have a perfect sized opening for my thumb and pointer. Now I just need to get an iPhone!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: It’s Electric!

November 19, 2010

1) Product name
Discover Electronics Kit

2) Background Research
Not only do I tinker with a lot of electronic hardware as a hobby, but also in my day job. I’m always confused about the finer details of how that doohickey connects to that thingamabob, so what better way to help me better understand than an electronics kit! This kit looked like it would suite my purposes as far as materials and research is concerned, and on the plus side its travel sized so I can take it on the go.

3) Hypothesis
With this kit I can teach myself how circuits works and hopefully create some cool gizmos and contraptions.

4) Experiment
I’m dedicating an hour or more every day following the instructions, building little gizmos (love that word), and hopefully having a little fun along the way.

5) Results

The instructional booklet was very detailed in how one can create something from nothing in a matter of minutes, before I knew it had created a series of LED lights in which blinked accordingly to serious of signals in which I set up, I was amazed. The walk-through in the booklet displays all of the pieces so that they are easily identified; this also helps with my memory retention since I could easily associate a picture to a piece and piece to a picture.

There is a section in the booklet where a formula must be learned so you don’t blow up your LED lights. (Nobody wants that!) But the formula was easy to follow and really helped in the more advanced sections of the kit. I was hardly ever satisfied with my decision of my final build, I either wanted to remove something or add more (more LEDS!)

The original breadboard was malfunctioning, but this was a probably due to the fact that I was building some rather unorthodox contraptions, so I had to get a new one. Regardless of the few speed bumps, it is an awesome kit!

After a few hours and days playing around with the kit, I didn’t need the booklet for reference any more. I felt like a pro, confident enough to speed through a build without fear of a though of “Will it work?” I have created tone-activated LEDs and LEDs that dim on and off almost like a Christmas light decoration. Overall it was an awesome and fun experience in a short amount of time.

6) Conclusion

Not only does this kit include the materials needed to get a understanding of electronics and circuitry, but it also comes with, in my eyes, the most down-to-earth, easily readable instruction booklet in the universe (well, maybe not the universe). I am waiting for the opportunity for anyone to ask me what Diodes do, what Ceramic Capacitors are used for, how to use Regulators, how timers work and where to put those darn Electrolytic capacitors so I can blurt out all the knowledge this kit has given me. I would definitely recommend this to a person of any age who is interested in making their own basic electronics, or someone who simply wants to have fun and learn at the same time.

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