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The Uncommon Life

Why it’s Better to Give with The International Rescue Committee

June 20, 2016

“The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities.                                                                                                     –The International Rescue Committee 

There’s a lot of information packed into that mission statement, and it’s difficult to actually sum up everything it means, because the organization behind it, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) does so much to help those in need. Humanitarian crises include war, natural disasters, famine, drought, and numerous other man-made and environmental tragedies. The IRC’s responses to those crises include education, vocational training, economic support, emergency medical care, and countless other programs to empower those impacted by situations they had no control over. While it’s hard to outline all of the fantastic work IRC does in a blog post, it’s less challenging to express the pride and honor we feel as we welcome them to our Better to Give program.

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Design

A Serving Solution
as Amazing as Chocolate

June 13, 2016

Few treats are quite as inviting as rich, decadent chocolates. That familiar, sweet scent. The lure of its velvety texture. The promise of a few moments of the unique pleasure the mouthwatering morsels will bring.

What could possibly make this bite-sized treat even more appetizing? A presentation that gets chocolate out of the box and on full display. The A-Maze-ing Chocolate Server does just that, and offers a clever solution when it comes to stashing those leftover wrappers.

“We wanted to create a presentation worthy of chocolate, because chocolate is amazing,” said UncommonGoods’ Senior Product Development Associate Tiffany Jyang, who worked on creating the design for our Uncommon Collection.

The initial idea for the piece was, in part, based on the success of other Uncommon Collection items that offer unique serving solutions. Products like the Pistachio Pedestal, Popcorn Bowl with Kernel Sifter, and Cheese & Crackers Serving Board  are all unique presentation options that each tackle an entertaining challenge–discarding nutshells, dealing with pesky unpopped kernels, and keeping enough cheese and crackers on deck to keep snackers satisfied. With these designs in mind, the Product Development team thought about other ways to improve the presentation of foods frequently served at dinner parties and cocktail hours.

A-maze-ing Chocolate Server | UncommonGoods

“Sometimes there’s an excess something that you don’t want to carry around at a party or stick in your pocket,” Tiffany explained. “In [the case of chocolates] it’s the wrapper. This [server] is an all-in-one solution.”

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Maker Stories

Tony Holman’s Problem-Solving Pottery

June 9, 2016
Tony Holman | UncommonGoods

Tony Holman working in his Plano, TX studio, photos by NéQuana Rollings

 

“Being a full time artist is never easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work (and gray hairs),” says Tony Holman, a potter who makes practicality and purpose look good.

Tony began honing his pottery skills almost 40 years ago at Indiana University, fine tuned them soon after at Bloomington Pottery, and now runs his own studio in Plano, Texas. It’s here where he creates his line of handcrafted helpers that play a vital part in the well-appointed kitchen.

Statues in the Holman's yard

Tony created these statues in grad school. They now stand in the Holmans’ garden

His kitchen creations—an all-in-one fondue warmer and platter setself-draining utensil caddy, and omelet maker that turns out fluffy eggs in 45 seconds flat, to name a few—are an irresistible blend of form and function.

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

 

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The Uncommon Life

Vintage Wisdom: 10 Uncommon Facts About Wine

May 25, 2016

Wine is bottled poetry ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food. ~ W. C. Fields

Whether you’re a sophisticated sommelier or just enjoy a nice glass of vino with friends and a good meal, wine is a storied substance with a fascinating history. It can be daunting to uncork the subject, so to begin, may we suggest this vintage collection of ten uncommon facts?

Wine has a Long History

Wine production began in the Ancient Mediterranean around 6,000 BCE. The mood-altering properties of the alcohol in wine were soon associated with mysticism and religion, from the hedonistic rites of Dionysus and Bacchus to the sacraments of Christianity. But the fermented grape products of the ancient world left something to be desired. Wine as we know it today was born circa 1091 CE with the Cistercian order in Burgundy. They planted grapes at Clos de Vougeot and are credited with organizing vineyard parcels based on how the wine tasted, the modern mode of vintages followed to this day.

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The Uncommon Life

Waves of Wisdom:
9 Uncommon Facts About Sea Glass

April 4, 2016

Imagine that you’re walking along the beach on a gorgeous sunny day when something shimmery in the wet sand catches your eye. At first you think it might be a rock, still glistening from the tide that washed it in. But as you get closer, you see that it’s really more of a gem. Not a gem in the precious stone sense, but in that “Wow, I just found something really special!” way. It’s sea glass–the smooth, frosty product of broken glass left to tumble in the waves.

Collectors scavenge the shores to find these tiny treasures, and some creative beachcombers even turn bits of found sea glass into beautiful jewelry pieces. Since we recently expanded our own collection of sea and beach glass designs, we decided to learn a little more about the glass “gems” at the center of these wearable works of art. Read on for a few of the uncommon facts we found about sea glass.

 

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Are These Unbreakable Cocktail Glasses the Real Deal?

March 8, 2016

Yvette_giftlab

Product: Unbreakable Cocktail Glasses – Set of 6

Research:

When I first came across our new unbreakable cocktail glasses (which are advertised as chip, crack, and breakage resistant) I was pretty skeptical. Any type of drinkware, especially the lowball cocktail glass, is usually so delicate it’s almost made to be broken. Cleaning up a broken glass might not be fun, but deliberately shattering glass is pretty satisfying. Intentionally breaking something you’re not suppose to is also pretty entertaining, so I’m sure you can understand my excitement when I set out to test these indestructible drinking glasses.

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Maker Stories

Beach Glass Beauties: Jeanne Kollecker’s Marvelous Marble Pendants

February 11, 2016

It was a magazine article that drew Jeanne Kollecker to the arts. “About five years ago, I read an article on beach glass in Lake Erie Living,” she explains. Intrigued, the Chardon, Ohio resident decided to search for some herself on the shores of Lake Erie near her house. “I started hunting and it became an addiction. I knew right away I wanted to turn it into jewelry. You can find a piece and just say, ‘Wow, this would make a great pendant, or an earring,’” she says. She took classes on silversmithing at the local community college, and kept looking for beach glass (so named when it comes from fresh water; sea glass comes from salt water). “Then,” she says, “I found my first marble.”

The beach marble, to the uninitiated, is more or less the holy grail of lakeside treasures — made all the more desirable by the many legends of the object’s origins (more on that below). “They’re such a rare find that when you find one, you do a happy dance,” says Jeanne, who manages a veterinary office by day. “The mystery of them is so much fun.”

As a proud member of The North American Sea Glass Association, she never alters the state of the marbles she finds. “I just wash them with warm soap and water.” The various colors, sizes and finishes of the baubles make each of her pieces unique. “Everything is one-of-a-kind” she says. “No one else in the world is wearing the same piece.”

She takes us through her process — and behind the mystery of the marbles.

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