It’s amazing how many dedicated Do-It-Yourselfers thrive in a world that places so much value in convenience and instant gratification. We’re not talking about people who save hundreds of recipe and craft ideas on Pinterest to revisit in the winter. (Though we’re all for that!) We’re talking about both novice and professional makers who create for the pure enjoyment of creating. It’s tough to prevent yourself from spiraling into a guilt trip when exchanging gifts with these DIY enthusiasts. You know that they probably spent hours getting their hands dirty to make you something special. How can you compete with that kind of laborious gesture? But just because you’re shopping for a gift instead of crafting from scratch, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show just as much love for your giftee. We’ve rounded up hands-on kits and accessories that will inspire and excite the thoughtful, crafty people on your holiday list.
One day very soon, you may arrive to work and find a fun diversion to your morning ritual: one of the women in Marketing approaches your desk and asks if you want to pick a name for your office’s annual Secret Santa. In the spirit of the season, you agree and reach your hand into a pile of small papers filled with names of your colleagues. Anticipation is rising as you wonder who will travel through your fingers, and who may have already picked your name. When you open your final selection, you learn that you picked that new guy in Accounting. And then you realize you know absolutely nothing about him.
The art of fulfilling your duties in an office Secret Santa can be complicated, whether or not you know your co-workers well. You might have to buy a gift that fits a particular price range, or you may have to recall every interaction you’ve had with your giftee in order to spark one good idea. On top of all of this, there’s the pressure of keeping your identity a secret until the final reveal. Since you might get a call from HR if you start snooping around your co-worker’s desk for hints, we’ve created this gift guide to inspire that perfect Secret Santa find instead. (As for how to keep your gift a secret, we can only suggest that you fess up if you end up picking your own name out of the hat.)
I’ve been told cilantro is really hard to grow so I was skeptical. Could it really be that easy? Just pop the top, bury the seeds and water for a few weeks? And would lime juice help me win the guacamole competition? My answers were yes! and yes!
When I heard we would be doing a more gardener-novice-friendly grow kit, I jumped on the chance to test it out. If all goes well, I’d have fresh cilantro in the house for the Purchasing team guacamole competition in a few weeks! I also knew then that lime (and tons of it) would be my secret ingredient, so I employed the help of our new citrus juicer to get the best results!
So, I did just that! I opened up the can, gently buried all the seeds about an inch under the surface and then poured about 2 shot glasses of water in every day or two to keep it looking moist.
At UncommonGoods, we love searching for sustainable and handmade designs when it comes to the products we share with you, especially with our jewelry and accessories. You want your gift to be unique and a reflection of who she is, so whether the word “stylish” or “eco-concious” (or both) describes your special girl, we got you covered! Below are 15 eco-chic designs and handmade items that you can gift her this holiday season that will not only add to her fashionable wardrobe, but also her green impact on the world.
1. We love our gorgeous lace jewelry collection. This Vintage Lace Heart Within A Heart Necklace is made out of timeless materials such as gold, silver, and lace – the perfect gift for any mother or daughter.
2. If the girl in your life is one to stand out and tends to go against the norm, this Waterfall Ring will quickly become one of her favorite treasures in her jewelry box!
3. This Wine Cork Sling Bag is made out of 100% sustainable cork! The wine lover in your life will appreciate this eye-catching tote and it’ll conveniently play a weekly reminder to pick up more wine!
4. Skip the plane ride and take your wanderlusting lady on a trip to Africa with this organic-designed clutch. It’s woven by artisans in Madagascar from sustainable raffia palm fiber. | Madagascar Handwoven Raffia Clutch
5. The Provence Scarf is a lovely combination of upcycled burgundy cotton jersey and elegant black lace, the perfect touch for any outfit throughout the seasons.
6. Let your lady know that your love for her only grows more and more everyday with this delicate A Tree Grows Necklace.
7. For the ultimate bohemian chic in your circle of friends, bring the essence of India to her wardrobe with this Upcycled Sari Kantha Klutch. (The production of these clutches provides Indian women with a beautiful opportunity to create a better standard of living for themselves, their children, and their communities!)
8. This Emerald Mosaic Ring is made out of beautiful, rough-cut emeralds and is embedded in textured brass. A bold ring to represent the bold love you have for the boldest lady you know!
9. A stunning Tagua Gem Necklace that helps curb illegal elephant poaching, prevents deforestation, and allows local artisans to make a living from the harvesting, carving, and dyeing of the seeds. #winning
10. Chronic tea drinkers and vintage fashion hunters will give you more than a spoonful of smiles when you gift them these Spoon Handle Drop Earrings. They’re casted from 19th century demitasse spoons and then designed into these chic jewelry pieces!
11. Gift a pair of nature-inspred earrings for the ultimate nature lover! | Fern Frond Hoops
12. For the girl who loves to accessorize, this handmade Bora Scarf can pose as a scarf, neck warmer, or chunky necklace!
13. Help keep her precious jewelry organized with a zen-ful touch by gifting her this beautiful handcrafted Hand of Buddha Jewelry Stand.
14. The intricate designs you see on this wallet is made out of discarded black plastic bags in Cambodia. | Upcycled Plastic Crocheted Wallet
15. These beautiful bracelets you see are actually upcycled water pipes made by the hands of Namibian artisans. They use intricate carving techniques to transform utilitarian material into stylish accessories! | Hand Carved Upcycled Pipe Cuffs Set
Brew some beer. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your stein. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Make today a celebration by design. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your day (Oom-pa-pa!)
With the best. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Have a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!
Grab a pint. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab a cup. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab some big ol’ Viking horn and fill it up. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Here’s a toast. (Oom-pa-pa!)
May you be blessed (Oom-pa-pa!)
With a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!
Product: Boombox Touch Speaker, a portable speaker that’s cord free and will blast out your tunes by simply setting a smartphone on top of it.
I love to jam out (preferably to Motown, MJ, or the Rent soundtrack ) while taking my morning showers, prepping dinner, or cleaning my apartment. And although I could play music out loud with my iPhone, it’s never quite loud enough. As a temporary solution, I used to walk around with my iPhone in my back pocket and wear headphones in my apartment, but that quickly became a nuisance. So I decided to search for a convenient speaker that I could use with my iPhone. I wanted something that I could easily bring from room to room without a hassle of setting up or constant plugging and unplugging.
Then I discovered the Boombox Touch Speaker while browsing UncommonGoods at work. I have to admit when I heard that this speaker could play music if I just simply placed my iPhone on top of it, I was definitely skeptical. Trust me, I’m usually a glass-half-full type of gal, but I felt like this little tech discovery was too good to be true. The description claimed that there was no need to set up Bluetooth and no cords were needed. For such a great price, what exactly is the catch? Poor sound quality? Needing to download a $3 smartphone app? Will it break easily?
Skeptical and hopeful at the same time, I’ve decided to test it out on my own to get to the bottom of this mystery.
I was sure that the product would work, but definitely with a couple of setbacks. I was expecting to hear a bit of static or that the music wouldn’t be as loud as I would want it to be. (And super loud Billie Jean is always better than I-could-kinda-hear-you Billie Jean.)
I planned to test out the Boombox Touch Speaker at my neighborhood park for a nice little lazy Sunday. Nothing at the time sounded better than flipping through fashion magazines, snacking on guacamole and chips, and chit chatting with my good friend, Christina, while listening to a few Motown favorites in the background.
When I got the speaker I was immediately surprised by three things: the size, the weight, and the feel. I expected it to be bigger because in my mind “big sound equals big speakers.” But I guess we’re not living in the ‘80s anymore and this doesn’t necessarily need to happen anymore. It was nice to know that I could pop it into my tote bag and still have room for other gadgets and gizmos.
The weight was lighter than I expected as well, even after seeing its small size – I thought it would still be a bit heavier than it was. That was a relief because it would have been a hassle if I had a heavy speaker weighing down on my shoulder during my commute or if I had to complete errands. I hate being slowed down!
The last thing I noticed was the feel of the entire speaker. It’s surprisingly soft, smooth, and easy to hold and carry around. I could place it on my nightstand, fireplace mantel, kitchen counters, or on the shelf in my bathroom. I love that it’s so versatile and doesn’t necessarily need a specific spot to live in my home. So far, I was definitely impressed. (But still skeptical!) I was ready to test the speaker! Off to the park we go.
The next step was simply to just turn on the speaker. I turned it on from the switch in the back, and a blue light popped up. I was happy I didn’t need to charge it or place batteries in. I was like a kid opening up her birthday gifts. I wanted the toy to work – no time for other nonsense!
In the photo below I was so excited that the speaker weighed less than the bag of tortilla chips I was holding!
Now, for the moment I’ve been waiting for! Without reading directions, I placed my iPhone on top of the speaker… and….I didn’t hear one sound come out of the speaker. I knew it! Too good to be true! I turned the switch back on and then off. Tried again. And again. And again. Nothing.
But right when I turned the phone around, I heard good ol’ Marvin Gaye crooning loud and clear, literally. The sound quality was amazing. Success! It was a lot louder than I expected it to be and I actually had to turn down the music through the volume control on my iPhone. (Although, I’m sure others at the park wouldn’t have had any objections to Marvin being a part of their Sunday!)
I’m glad I was very skeptical of the Boombox Touch Speaker because I feel if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been as eager to test it out. I’m 100% happy with it, and would recommend it to any music lover. (AKA: everyone!) My only tip is to make sure that your phone is facing the right way. For the iPhone, make sure the top of the phone sits closest to the speaker, its screen facing up. (Seen in the photo above.)
Now I am able to listen to loud music at home in any room (headphone free!). Also, it’s always a fun to bring out and show off to my friends on any of our rooftop parties or afternoon picnics. I honestly had three people ask me in absolute awe “How is that even possible?” And just as the description advises to do here, I shrugged and said, “It’s magic.”
Watch me test out the speaker and bust a couple of moves in the video below. Happy grooving!
Product: Breakfast For Your Face, a set of three all-natural powders for concocting different face masks.
I have a confession: I am a beauty product junkie. For the past 9 months I have been addicted to BirchBox (they just emailed me to remind me of our anniversary) which means a bounty of new cosmetics every month, and numerous orders in between. I was the kind of kid who would rather spend her Saturday night perfecting a smokey eye or dumping a bottle of Sun-In on her hair than go out with friends. As an adult I approach finding the best eye cream and dumping my paycheck at the Dry Bar with the same enthusiasm.
I am going home to spend a weekend with my cousin Annie in New Jersey. Annie is 14 and has Down’s Syndrome–we’ve been best friends pretty much since she was born. Although she is a veritable mini-me and loves everything I love, I’m not completely sure if she will enjoy slathering something strange on her face.
There are two parts to this hypothesis–how the experience will go over with Annie and what I will think of the product itself. I knew selling this idea to Annie will be a test of my marketing skills. I should tell her we were going to have a girly sleepover with music, movies, snacks, and face masks. Special needs children can be fussy and I anticipate she might not be down with something strange on her face, so I hope the tactile experience of picking her mask and mixing it herself would make it less strange when we apply it.
When it comes to me, I am hesitant about the mask itself. I have had reactions to masks in the past–the worst resulting in a huge burn on my face the night before my first modeling shoot (I have one of those moms). However I have learned a lot about my skin at recent facials and think I am better at making decisions on what my dry skin can handle. Also, this kit is all natural–I can literally see all the ingredients–which makes me trust it even more.
I pull out the almond milk, honey, coconut oil, and yogurt from the kitchen as these seemed to be the ingredients we will be using to mix our masks. Each mask has suggestions for how to mix the mask for different skin types–normal, oily, and dry. I already prepare to mix whatever Annie picks for normal since her skin tends to be very reactive, and the ingredients for dry skin for myself. I let Annie chose which mask she wants to make–not surprisingly she chooses the Cafe Mocha (it looks and smells delicious!). This leaves Yogurt and Oatbrasion for me. Since I am in the midst of an oil-pulling detox (told you I had an addiction) and my face is broken out, I choose the Oatbrasion mask which is exfoliating and can offer me a fresh layer of skin.
I pour Annie a tablespoon of Cafe Mocha and some almond milk and tell her to mix. The bottle didn’t tell me how much almond milk to use and it turns out I poured too much. I add more powder but the mixture is never anything but runny. I clean out her bowl and add yogurt this time which works out a lot better and I imagine it will have the same hydrating properties of milk.
In my bowl, I pour a tablespoon of Oatbrasion, a teaspoon of coconut oil, and a glob of honey (I have a bad habit of not measuring honey when I bake so I figured why start now). Mixing this reminds me a lot of the all-natural face scrubs my mom used to make when I was a kid. It smells amazing and although I give most pleasant-smelling concoctions a taste test (like these in a sample meeting, which was a mistake) I refrain since the bottle is one step ahead of me and suggests that it not be eaten. Okay, bossy bottle, you win this time.
Now for the fun part–slathering this all over our faces. I apply the mask on Annie’s face since I foresee lots of messes if I leave it to her. She giggles incessantly at how cold the yogurt is and steals glances in the mirror to see her face transform into a mud monster. I’m barely done when she runs away to show her brother her face. My mask is a lot less noticeable–there are some clumps of oat bran but overall it’s a really clear mixture. I was feeling a little lazy, and proud of my blow-drying skills, so I didn’t pull my bangs back to apply the mask onto my forehead.
We wait for ten minutes while the masks do their thang. In case you were wondering how to measure ten minutes–it is approximately 7 selfies, or four “Let It Go”s.
After our ten minutes is up, we go upstairs to the bathroom to wash our faces. I clean my face first to show Annie how it’s done. The mask comes off very easily, but I scrub a bit to take advantage of the exfoliating properties of the mask. Annie’s is a lot tougher to remove since it dried a lot more on her face than mine did. I help her with a washcloth but the coffee grounds in the mask are kind of a pain to get off her face.
We head back downstairs for the rest of our sleepover activities–strawberries and cream, Monsters University, and texting boys (well, only I do that last thing). Uncontrollable giggles commence once she realizes I am texting a boy, and I can’t help but wonder if her energy is at all caused by the tablespoon of coffee that just soaked into her face.
Breakfast For Your Face definitely created a successful girls night. We had a project and a beauty treatment all in one. Mixing was easy and fun for Annie which makes me believe girls of all ages, and developments, would really enjoy doing this too.
I loved the way my face felt after I removed the mask. It was smooth and fresh. I totally wish I had pulled back my bangs because I could feel how different my forehead felt (umm, gross)–I got them wet anyway. My worries were for naught–no terrible reaction to my mask. However, I wouldn’t consider the Oatbrasion mix a mask, it definitely is more of a scrub. My aunt loved the way Annie’s skin felt after the mask, which was a relief, so I left the Cafe Mocha and Yogurt mixes for them to enjoy.
This product gets my two gel-manicured thumbs up!
For the last installment of this series of nature-inspired mood boards, we’re going out with a bang. Literally.
Fire is that fascinating element that can create as well as destroy. Ancient cultures have marveled in it for centuries–to the Greeks it was symbol of energy and passion, and the Hindu God Agni represented fire as well as lightning and the sun.
This collection was a little harder to put together as the choices were a lot less obvious than the other boards, so I did some research and got creative. I pulled items that celebrated the shapes and power of celestial orbs; materials made from volcanic activity; and a piece from an artist who incorporates gunpowder and fire in her watercolors.