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The Uncommon Life

Warm Spring Salad with Potatoes and Green Beans

April 12, 2012

Whitney Porter, blogger at Throwing Cake, offered up this spring salad recipe that had us emptying our bowls and going back for seconds.

There are some things, like sandwiches and salads, that you think you should be able to create without a recipe. But then something so great happens that you need to share it with the world, and next thing you know, you’re passing a salad recipe out to everyone who will listen to you.

Add an awesome new serving dish from UncommonGoods to the mix and I was ready to show off something new.

Meet my warm salad recipe. For those who think a warm salad sounds odd, prepare to have your mind blown. Sauteing your ingredients together not only creates the base of a hearty salad, but also forms the dressing to bind it all together. I have done this recipe with steak and without, and as a friend put it “it’s an explosion of flavors.”

Not only it is amazing, but it was pretty amazing looking in the wheelbarrow. It was solid, super cute, made the salad look better then normal, and it gave my roommate and I great joy as we wheeled it around the dining room table. A whole to meaning to, “please pass the salad.”

Warm Spring Salad
served 4-6 people

1 c. shallots, diced
12 oz. haricot verts (french style green beans)
12 fingerling potatoes, sliced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
drizzle of balsamic vinegar

for the salad
1/2 lb of mixed baby greens
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 c. blue cheese, crumbled

Pour 3 tbsp of olive into a large skillet and saute the shallots and potatoes. When they are almost complete, add green beans and white wine and allow to simmer until the green beans are cooked, but still crisp. Salt and pepper to taste. When the mixture is complete, drizzle approximately 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar over the top and let rest while you prepare the salad base.

In a large bowl (or in my case an awesome wheelbarrow), toss the mixed greens, radishes and blue cheese together.

Take the warm mixture from the skillet and pour over the lettuce mixture. Toss and serve.

** tip: I precook the potatoes in the microwave to make the process go a bit faster. Just place the sliced potatoes in the microwave and cook until fork tender.

Maker Stories

Building a Totem Necklace with Ana Sheldon

April 9, 2012


Ana Sheldon is the artist behind the Custom Totem Necklace, a collection of stones that is intended to be a play on physical and spiritual balance. Each necklace is unique with a set of hand-picked stones that represent different qualities. Creating a Totem Necklace for yourself or a loved one is a special and personal process so I asked Ana to share her inspiration behind the piece and how she would create a Totem Necklace for the women in her life.

How did the Totem Necklace come about?

Totem was one of my first designs. Really Totem is just about using different shapes and colors stacked up together to create a visually pleasing composition. I wanted to create a cool way to wear a “stack” of beads that I liked to look at together.

Erin, the UncommonGoods head jewelry buyer, saw Totem on a website and approached me with the idea of doing custom pieces with meanings. I chose some stones that I work with often and did the research on what they mean. I hope when people wear a Totem that they have created or someone has created for them that they remember what it represents. To have something that reminds someone of their strengths or that a friend believes in them is a powerful thing.

What stones would you choose when building a Totem Necklace for the women in your life?

If I were to create a Totem Necklace for my sister Rene, I would choose Amethyst for clarity and Blue Lace Agate for calming. She has a lot going on in her life-hectic career, active family, and many people who depend on her-so clarity for her in her day to day and a sense of calm at the end of the day. Rene has a great way of accepting an unavoidable obstacle and being proactive in creating a solution without wallowing in it so I would add Apatite for acceptance and Onyx for strength. Rene is also an artist so I would choose Picture Jasper for creativity.


Ana and Rene in center

For my mom I would choose Moonstone for emotional balance. She is always striving for balance in all aspects of her life and I admire that. Rose Quartz is for love and my mom shows me unconditional love always. I would add Amazonite for hope because she has a positive outlook on what could come to be in every situation. Garnet is for devotion. I appreciate how devoted she is to me and my husband and kids. She would do anything for us and it is apparent. Last I would add Green Adventurine for confidence. I would hope it would bring my mom the knowledge of all the great qualities that I listed above!

Anna and her mom

Lastly, for myself I would choose Picture Jasper for creativity, Yellow Jade for inner peace and Green Adventurine for confidence. Being a wife, mom, artist and small business owner I can use all the focus in the world so White Jade would be useful. That being said, I am living a life that I love so I would add Ocean Jasper for appreciation.

Maker Stories

From Soup to Scents: Hart Main’s Man Candles

April 3, 2012

Having a great idea is only the first step in building a successful business as a product designer. Hart Main took that step when he was just 13 years old. Hart’s idea came to him while his sister was selling heavily-scented candles in common fragrances for a school fundraiser. He took a whiff of the wax and wondered why no one was making candles in scents that everyone could enjoy.

Now, the young entrepreneur and his family are not only running a business producing Man Candles, candles with less perfumed, flowery smells, they’re also helping to feed the hungry.

Hart is pretty busy, with his business, school, and the swim team, but he took a moment to tell us more about his candles, donating soup, and how kids (and adults) with great ideas can follow in his footsteps.

Q.) What was it like starting a business at a young age?

I was 13 when I got the idea for ManCans, it was late October of 2010. I was really excited at first to get my ideas down on paper and then trying to find ways to accomplish them. At times, though, it can be frustrating when things don’t work out like you planed. Being young, and looking younger, also works against me sometimes. It’s hard to get some adults to take you serious. I can’t drive places without my parents so adults want to talk to them about my business instead of me. And I am not allowed to legally own the business, because I am a minor, so my parents currently own it.

Q.) What was the first scent you developed and why did you choose that scent?

A scent list was my first list of ideas that I wrote down on my laptop. I don’t remember what ones were at the top of that list, but the first three that we bought to start making candles were Fresh Cut Grass, New Mitt, and Campfire.

Hart making candles.

Q.) Why did you decide to make the candles in used soup cans?

I wanted them to be different than most candles you find at a store, in glass jars. This was another brainstorming process and I knew I wanted something that was recycled and easily accessible. We talked about pop cans, sports drinks bottles, and a few other things, but the soup can was just sitting there from the dinner the night before. At the time it seemed a perfect size and easily accessible and inexpensive. At that time there were no plans of donating thousands of cans of soup, that came out of necessity. Looking back, this was a really lucky find for the business, but it has become a core part of my business. All containers that have the ManCans logo on them are recycled food containers [from soup] donated to people who need a little extra help.

Hart opening cans to serve at a soup kitchen.

Q.) What’s your favorite ManCan scent at UncommonGoods?

My favorite scent is Fresh Cut Grass. I like being outside, playing baseball, and playing with friends, and it reminds me of that when I smell it.

Q.) Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

I get asked this question a lot through email from kids my age that want to start a business or make a difference. I try and answer their questions the best I can related to what they are doing, but I always tell them two things. 1.) Find a way to solve a problem with your business and people will buy your product. 2.) Find a way to give back to your community and they will support you.

‘Manly’ smells: New York Style Pizza, Sawdust, and Fresh Cut Grass

Hart’s creative candles are also available in Coffee, Campfire, and Dirt smells that men (and women) are sure to enjoy.