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Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Smitten Couple

November 14, 2012

When they look at each other, they still get butterflies. And when you look at them, you know they’re in it for the long haul. You catch them holding hands and stealing kisses. They finish each other’s sentences. You couldn’t be happier for them, and you can’t imagine either of them with anyone else. So, how do you tell the perfect couple you’re happy they found one another? With the perfect gift. Here are a few that those love birds are sure to love.

Love Token Necklace / Squirrelly Love / Personalized Wedding Wishes Vase / Beating Heart Pillow / Love Carries All-Zlatka Paneva / Custom Animal Couple Portrait / Love is Art Kit / Wine Purse / Personalized Tree Trunk Glassware Duo

Gift Guides

Uncommon Gifts for the Book Lover

November 12, 2012

The smell of ink and paper excites them. They don’t consider a tote bag quite full unless there’s a paperback or an e-reader inside. To them, life is a series of stories. Some call them the literati, bibliophiles, or even book worms. But, they’re not so concerned about those titles, because they’d rather be browsing the shelves for titles from their favorite authors. They are book lovers, and here are some gifts that are sure to read well with them this holiday season.

Vintage Shoe Form Bookends / Storymatic Game / Book Clock / Book Plate Stamp / ReFleece Kindle Cover / Upcycled USPS Mail Sack Tote / Vintage Text Cufflinks / Literary Art iPad Cases

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab: Portable Magnetic Speaker

September 24, 2012

Background Research:
Camping can be a wonderful, relaxing thing. But, can my boyfriend and I survive 2 nights in the Great Outdoors without any tunes?! I’m going to test the Portable Magnetic Speaker to see if I can blend gadgets with my get-away-from-it-all trip. (I wouldn’t want to drain the car battery in the middle of the Catskills for a little background music.)

Hypothesis:
The Magnetic Portable Speaker will keep the tunes coming while my guy and I relax by the campfire.

Experiment:
We took off for Monguap Pond Campground in Sullivan County, NY. We charged the speaker on the laptop while we packed up. The tiny speaker was ready to rock in about an hour.

Easy to Charge Mini Speaker | UncommonGoods

Once we got up in the mountains, unpacked, and got the fire going it was time for some dinner music to go with our campfire hot dogs and s’mores. This speaker may seem tiny, but it has great sound quality. Also, the volume was surprisingly good; we had to make sure we kept it low enough for out camp site without disturbing our neighbors with Stones tunes.

Inside the tent we used the magnetic clip to keep the speaker anchored to a pillow case so the iPod wouldn’t get lost amongst the egg crate, blankets, and sleeping bags.

Portable Magnetic Speaker

The clip got used again during our afternoon bike ride around the campgrounds. (Keeping the volume at a respectable level of course!)
The speaker had a pretty long battery life too. We didn’t re-charge until the second evening. We used the rental car’s handy USB charger port. We didn’t need to recharge it again until we were safe, sound, and relaxed back in Brooklyn!

Conclusion
For the next camping trip this little iPod speaker will definitely be as important as the flashlights and bug spray. It made our excursion just that much more enjoyable without drowning out the sound of chirping crickets.

The Uncommon Life

A Rockin’ Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice) Recipe

August 31, 2012

I had a bunch of leftover cooked jasmine rice in the fridge and a new UncommonGoods gadget I wanted to try, the Garlic Rocker. So I did the math and came up with Garlic + Rice = Garlic Rice. Clever, eh?
Googling “garlic rice” in search of a recipe led me to the discovery that in the Phillippines, it’s a breakfast staple called “sinangag” in Tagalog. Garlic for breakfast?! I was on it like white on rice.
Because fried rice doesn’t require exact measurements–you can judge just by looking how much of each ingredient you want to add to it–I looked at several recipes and more or less winged it from there. (The recipe links are at the bottom of this page.) I also consulted UncommonGoods’ two Filipino software developers, Albert Tingson and Orlando Geronimo.
Orlando (right, in photo) said, “How about if you bring the sinangag to work and we’ll have a good breakfast with some tapa and fried egg. We call it ‘Tapsilog.'” All three of us were enthused about this idea until we remembered that we have no way to cook fried eggs at work.
With any kind of fried rice, you want to get all the elements (except herbs, if you’re using them) cooked and chopped before the “frying” begins (actually, sautéeing in my case, as I used a flat pan instead of a wok).
I put some “fancy” generic store brand frozen peas in a bowl and defrosted/cooked them in the microwave. When they were done, I set them aside.I started scrambling a couple of eggs. The secret to good scrambled eggs is low heat, minimal scrambling, and removing the eggs when they’re still slightly underdone, because they’ll cook a little more from their internal heat. That way, the eggs turn out soft and delicious rather than rubbery and tasteless.
When the eggs were done, I sort of stab/chopped them into irregular, bite-size chunks with the plastic spatula I was using in the non-stick pan. Then I set them aside.I took my leftover rice out of the fridge and broke up the stuck-together hunks so that it’d be ready to be scattered into the pan when the time came. I set that aside, too.Then I cut each garlic clove in half lengthwise so that it would lay flat and stable.Now I was ready to ROCK. I pressed the rocker down onto a nice, fat garlic clove and rocked it back and forth to cut through the whole clove.Oh, how beautiful the results were. Perfect little bullets of garlic that resembled part of a honeycomb. Without bothering to scrape off the “bullets,” I put another couple of cloves underneath the tool and pressed/rocked them, too.Because I’m a garlic glutton, I rocked a few more cloves. Then it was time to sauté the garlic bullets.
I used peanut oil. Chinese cooks normally use it because it has a high “smoke point” – meaning it can get a lot hotter than, say, canola oil, corn oil, or butter, before it starts smoking and burning. Also, its flavor goes better with Asian food than olive oil’s does. (If you live near an Asian grocery, buy it there. It’s a lot more expensive at typical American groceries.)I put maybe three tablespoons more into the pan than I needed for sautéeing the garlic, so that there’d be plenty of gloriously garlicky oil left over to fry the rice with.
I’m an impatient cook and I hate to watch over things, which is why I very often overcook my hamburgers and burn my garlic. Burning garlic ruins it. It tastes really acrid and bad. So I made myself pay attention and kept the heat low-ish. I didn’t ruin it! OK, actually a few pieces were overcooked, but I deleted them.One of the recipes I’d found said to add the rice to the garlic in the pan, but I didn’t want to risk cooking the garlic any longer. Instead, I set it aside with the other prepped ingredients, leaving as much as possible of the now-flavored oil in the pan.
It was time to put together the sinangag. I raised the heat to high and added the rice, stirring it in order to make sure it all got some oil on it. I cooked it for maybe three minutes, not enough to brown it, but sufficient to get it hot and give it some of the character of the hot oil. You can smell when it’s right — it’ll remind you a little bit of popcorn cooking in oil.
I added the peas and eggs and stirred to more or less evenly distribute them in the rice and to get all three elements to flavor-kiss a bit. Then I turned off the heat, added the garlic, and stirred some more. A wave of garlic bliss came over me while putting so much into what was only a couple of servings of rice.And there you have it. In imitation of the photo accompanying one of the recipes I’d found, I pressed it into a little bowl-type thingy (I don’t know what to call it because it isn’t round like a bowl — mini-crock?) and made it look all nice and photogenic.
I served some of it into a bowl that I know is an actual bowl because it’s rounded, added a couple of dashes of soy sauce, and dug in. It was a beautiful, heavenly, garlic symphony, much more than the sum of its humble parts.

Recipe: Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice)

Ingredients
(I’m not giving amounts because it’s up to you and how much leftover rice you have.)

Leftover cooked rice (it should be at least one day old)
Frozen green peas
Eggs
Garlic cloves (lots)
Peanut oil
Salt or soy sauce

Preparation steps
1. Break up the rice if it’s sticking together; set aside.
2. Defrost and cook the peas. Set them aside.
3. Gently scramble the eggs; then break them up into small pieces. Set them aside.
4. Peel and cube (or “rock” – but do not use garlic press) the garlic into quarter-inch-size chunks and saute until golden–not dark–brown.
5. Set frying pan or wok on a burner and set heat to high.
6. As soon as oil has a subtle, shimmery sheen (but before it smokes), add rice and cook for about 3 minutes, until the rice is hot and perhaps very slightly browned in a few places, but no more. Turn heat down to medium.
7. Add the peas and eggs and stir to mix; cook for about a minute.
8. Turn off heat; add garlic and stir.
9. Add salt or soy sauce to taste.

Recipe links
Sinangag – Filipino Garlic Fried Rice
Garlic Fried Rice
Sinangag – Eggs and Peas Fried Rice
How to cook fried rice (Sinangag na Kanin)

The Uncommon Life

Oh Baby! A Week of Baby Gifts and DIYs!

July 30, 2012

It’s a Boy! It’s a Girl! It’s Baby Week here at UncommonGoods. We are celebrating everything related to the little bundle of joy — from baby shower DIYs to gifts for babies.

Visit the hand-picked collections of UncommonGoods baby gifts from our featured bloggers like:

Justina Blakeney

Design For Minikind

Cakies

Oh Dear Drea

Browse through our Oh Baby Pinterest board dedicated to the pitter-patter of little feet and all things baby.

Don’t miss the blog this week! We have DIYs for baby showers, baby gift ideas, Justina Blakeney’s favorite baby Pinterest boards, and more.

Sweeten Up A Baby Shower

Raising Your Kids Green

Top Baby Gifts From Our Buyer

Baby Carrier Gift Lab

A DIY Project to Welcome the Newest Addition to Your Family by Rubyellen of My Cakies

Justina’s Favorite Baby Pinterest Boards

DIY Baby Shower Decor: Paper Tassel Garlands
 

 

Gift Guides

Top 10 Baby Gifts from our Buyer

July 30, 2012

My name is Melissa, and I am the buyer for Children’s & Leisure product here at UncommonGoods. Basically, I am constantly on the hunt for new, cool, and – of course – uncommon items for our assortment. We scout trade shows, blogs, craft fairs, and more to find the best and most special product for our site and catalog. Kids is all about personality and I try to find awesome (and educational!) pieces that both kids and moms will love. Also, one of my favorite things about working at UncommonGoods is that we are really all focused on the inspiration, story, and artistry of our items – all of the vendors and artists I work with are so interesting and inspiring, and care so much about the quality and specialness of their product.

There is so much on the site that I am excited about, but I was asked to put together a Top 10 Baby Gifts list, and so here is my best shot (in no particular order):

2012 Birth Year Box – Kerri Lee’s amazing Birth Year Box is such a special gift for parents because it allows them to have a safe and beautiful place to store early memories. I love the sweetness of the dragon – I also just got a sneak peek of the 2013 Snake, and I really look forward to seeing what you all think! We also have birth year shadowboxes (similar to these keepsake shadowboxes) that are coming in for Holiday – get excited!

Birth Announcement Pillows – I love Lori Blum’s subway-inspired Birth Announcement Pillows – they are fresh and modern, yet timeless as a record of a parent’s special moment in time.

Baby Fortune Cookie Slippers – Della Slowik has some of my favorite quirky items – her Toddler Sushi Booties and Adult Sushi Slippers are a riot as well.

Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate – These 100% Egyptian cotton veggies are so cute, and a perfect aww-worthy toy set. The carrot and mushroom both crack me up.

‘So My Story Begins’ Babysuit – I love this graphic – it always makes me smile. It also has one of my favorite customer reviews: “This baby outfit garners sounds of delight at baby showers. It brings a smile to everyone’s face as they immediately discuss how unusual it is. So My Story Begins has the potential to be an heirloom for the family.” (Cheryl from Capistrano Beach, CA)

Upcycled Sweater Moose Head – Josh Title’s cool Moose Head is a great decorative piece for a nursery made from discarded sweaters. These are eye-catching and quirky – we loved it so much we hung one up in the office!

Farmer’s Market Babysuit Collection – These Farmer’s Market Babysuits are truly all American, with 100% Texas cotton manufactured in Pennsylvania and printed in North Carolina. Make sure to check out the packaging, that is the selling point for me – what a perfect gift!

President Block Set – My favorite products are those that have both play and educational value – these are that, and handmade to boot. Other favorites along these lines are our Periodic Table Blocks and Nursery Rhyme Blocks. Stay tuned – we also just added some Egyptian Hieroglyphics Blocks and ABC Sign Language + Braille Blocks that I think are amazing.

Babiators Sunglasses – These are just cool, and a perfect mini-me moment. As one customer says, her baby “looks like his Daddy’s twin when they wear their sunglasses together” (Nana from Bryson City, NC)

Baby Shower Baskets: Take Me Home Outfit and Toy, Hat, and Bootie Set – These are brand-new to the site, and a couple of my favorite items, so I had to sneak in two for my last spot in the top 10! The toys are wonderfully soft and cuddly, and the hat, booties, and wrap sets are all of a beautiful and durable quality. I think these make the absolutely perfect baby shower gift!

There are so many more items that I love, but I hope this quick list helped you find the perfect items for you and your (or your friend’s or family’s) baby. I would love to hear if there any other items from our site that you all think are a particularly good baby gift – please share!

Gift Guides

Our Top 10 Best-Selling Voter Favorites

July 18, 2012

Choosing new merchandise to feature on our website and in our catalog is definitely a lot of fun, but it isn’t always easy! Luckily, we have a community of design-savvy voters eager to help us out. Each week we add a fresh batch of potential products to our community voting app and watch as voters tell us what makes something unique, useful, and attractive enough to be considered an uncommon good.

Many of these voter favorites didn’t just get attention while under consideration, but also elicit fantastic feedback from actual customers now that they’re available for purchase. Here are just a few of those best-selling community picks.

10.) Cymbal of Love Pendant The winner of our 2011 Jewelry Design Challenge received a ton of positive feedback in the challenge’s semi-final round and it has since become a customer favorite.

During those early stages Monica told us, “This is fantastic! I also make jewelry and accessories from repurposed musical items, and this is both original and adorable.”

Now that the necklace is available for purchase, it continues to receive praise. Reviewers love the upcycled story, the craftsmanship, and the beauty of this handmade piece.

9.) Mushroom Kit We harvested a great crop of voter comments from this uncommon good. Our community was super excited about growing mushrooms at home, and now that this kit is on our shelves we hear some fantastic feedback from mushroom farmers across the country.

Mushroom Lover (an appropriate alias!) from San Diego wrote, “As a mushroom lover this is perfect, for others it is a fun and unique gift for vegetarians, gardners, and the hard to buy for person who has everything.”

8.) Quiet Courage Necklace Mary Steratore’s sterling silver necklace makes a lovely gift for a graduation or a new job or promotion. Our voters weren’t quiet when it came to sharing their opinion on this product, though. They spoke up to tell us they loved the combination of smokey quartz and garnet, the subtle yin yang charm, and, of course, the meaning behind this symbolic piece.

7.) Love is Art Kit This clever kit created a bit of controversy when we first asked our community what they thought.

“Eeek!” Amanda exclaimed along with her thumbs down vote.

Charli, on the other hand, voted thumbs up. “This is awesome for a cheeky bridal shower gift.” She continued by explaining that the kit is a great way to be creative and fun with your partner.

We’re pleased that since the product entered our assortment folks have tended to side with Charli. We continue to see great reviews for this product–though some folks are more modest than others. Juajua from Oregon explained, “We are a modest artsy couple and bought this for our wedding night. Super fun and a sweet momento. Was extremely messy and took a long time to clean off (not a bad thing). Since we are fairly modest, we are going to lie about the painting that we plan on hanging over our bed, and say that we bought it on our honeymoon.”

6.) Portable Ping Pong Set Our voters got excited about this easy way to take ping pong on the go. But one voter, Catherine, pointed out that it’s not just about portable play.

“LOVE this because I don’t have dedicated space for a ping pong table but this would be ideal,” she wrote.

5.) Himalayan Salt Tequila Glasses Our community thought these salty glasses were extra sweet. A few voters commented that, while they didn’t care for tequila, they liked the glasses enough to give it another try. Others mentioned that they could make a great gift for someone who has everything. Inspired by the enthusiasm of those who left comments, we couldn’t wait to try these out ourselves. Our customer service supervisor, Keshia, and her friends found that they met expectations when she conducted a very scientific (and, from the looks of things, quite fun) gift lab.

4.) Mother & Daughter Letterbook Many voters shared touching stories of mother-daughter relationships in their comments. Such as this story from Cherie, who said, “My mother is my best friend. These cards represent the priceless relationship that a mother has with her children, something to be cherished forever. A perfect gift for any mother — from new mommy to great-grand mommy!”

The Letter Book continues to be a success, and we’ve heard more touching stories of mothers and daughters creating memories over the last few months.

3.) Butterfly Puddler This functional piece of handmade stoneware garden art by Jo-anne and Gerald Warren received just shy of 1300 votes. Our community was excited by the beauty and purpose of this piece, but expressed some concern over whether or not it would actually draw those winged wonders. Based on feedback from customers who’ve purchased the Butterfly Puddler since it entered our assortment, the mineral-filled well does the trick when it comes to attracting butterflies.

2.) F Bomb One of our top-voted items, with over 1600 votes, this punny paperweight also received a plethora of positive comments. Several voters told us the image made them laugh out loud, a few mentioned friends with a penchant for that f word whom they’d love to buy it for, and others mentioned that they’d like to keep it next to a swear jar as a reminder not to drop the bomb at work.

And finally, our best-selling community-approved product…

1.) Corkcicle “This is the BEST IDEA EVER!!!!” wrote Debi. (Yes, she included the four exclamation points.)

“This looks great!” Kimber commented. “I run a wine cellar and know this would be a big hit. People are always looking for fun unique wine items. It would be a ‘must have’ for my collection.”

And during that voting phase Kimberly told us, “I was actually looking to buy this verses voting on it. Can’t wait to see when you carry it! I do a trial run of it and then get it for my wine drinking posse as gifts!”

Now that the Corkcicle has a place in our lineup, reviewers continue to write feedback so supportive it gives us chills. Customers confirm that it does make a great gift for wine lovers and it’s an essential to have on-hand when entertaining.

From this delightfully designed cork and ice cube in one to lovely handmade jewelry and everything in between, we’re proud to say these items landed in our lineup with the help of voters like you. Of course, these are just a few of the products that became uncommon goods through our community voting app. Remember to stop by each week for your chance to influence the future of our assortment.

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