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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Father’s Day Puzzle Project

June 8, 2012

Every year for Father’s Day I get my dad the same thing – a store bought tie. This year I decided not to add to the mountain of ties in his closet, but instead give him a unique gift we could create together. The vinyl collection puzzle was that perfect unique gift – what’s better than some quality father-daughter time, while creating DIY wall art!?

Background Research:
Many a family game night during my childhood was spent working on puzzles. You would think that putting together puzzles would be a calm activity; however, in my family it is practically a competitive sport. Each piece was quickly put in place as we raced to see who could put in the most pieces in our 250, 500, even 1000 piece puzzles. It was a fun challenge that we could compete in together!

Hypothesis:
The Vinyl Collection Puzzle will be not only a great father-daughter activity, but also a great DIY Father’s Day gift.

The Experiment:
On a slightly overcast Saturday – perfect for a family afternoon indoors – my Dad and I set up an old folding table in the basement, opened the box, and got down to work*. Now, I am sure everyone has his or her own unique “puzzle-ing” style. My Dad insisted (like he always does) that we start with the edges, and then work our way in.

While working on the puzzle, I got to spend some quality time with my Dad! I heard about some of his records and we even took a break to look at some of them. (Disclaimer: The Bruce Springsteen Collection is actually my Mom’s…she had a New Jersey roommate in college.) The vinyl collection of the puzzle is quite unique and diverse, but my Dad found a tape version of one of the records in the puzzle (Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits)!

My Dad and I were not the only ones working on the puzzle – we had a little “helper.” She decided to walk through the center of the puzzle taking some of the pieces with her. Beware of these four-legged “helpers!” Despite this adorable distraction, after a few hours, my Dad and I finished the puzzle. (Disclaimer: My Dad is incredibly good at puzzles!)

The next step was to create the wall art that would become my Dad’s present. I set out to my local arts and crafts store to buy a picture frame. I chose to get a nice black frame that was 18” by 24” – the dimensions of the puzzle. The tight fit holds the puzzle between the glass and the backing, which means the puzzle can be mounted without being glued together. (You never know when you might want to take down the puzzle and put it back together again!)

When putting the puzzle into the frame, make sure to take extreme care. (You don’t want the puzzle to fall completely apart and you’d have to redo it, unless you are a master puzzler who enjoys the challenge.)

*Helpful Hint: When beginning the puzzle find a large poster board to do the puzzle on, the sturdier the better. When you frame the puzzle, the poster board makes it easier to slide the puzzle to the backing of the frame.

Finally, we attached the framed puzzle to the wall with standard picture frame hooks. Then stood back and admired our work!

Results:
The finished product is not only a beautifully completed puzzle, but also a piece of wall art. It now hangs in my family’s basement so that my Dad will see it every time he (and anyone else) hangs out down there, which is pretty often!

Conclusion:
The vinyl collection puzzle is a great family activity for anytime, but especially this Father’s Day. Even if you aren’t able to make it home to spend time with your Dad, a DIY activity like this puzzle is a great Father’s Day gift. To all the fathers in your life, I wish them and you all a Happy Father’s Day! I hope your day is full of memories and perhaps a few DIY craft presents!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Gift Guides

The Winner of the Pinterest Mother’s Day Contest

May 7, 2012

Another Pinterest contest means another chance for our Social Media team to get together to debate a winner. This time, the Mother’s Day contest required a different kind of discussion. We weren’t just picking out the best designed bedroom, we were deciding who’s mother most deserved a gift from UncommonGoods. The contestants in the Mother’s Day Pinterest contest told us so many stories about their mothers with pins and boards. Some made us laugh, some made us hungry, all of them made us want to call our mothers.

Here are some pins that tugged at our heart strings.


Tina pinned a picture of her mother and the cartoon character that makes her smile. We couldn’t help but find Tina’s mom simply adorable.


This one tugged directly at our stomach. Natalie‘s mom kept things exciting for her children by serving “brinner” once a week. Not only did she work a full-time job and then cook a homemade meal, she made memories for her children.


Elisse posted an image that told us so much about her incredible mother- she served in WW2 and paints watercolors. We are such suckers for vintage photos!


Kim‘s mom’s spinach ricotta looks delicious. It’s hard to believe that her mother isn’t even Italian with cucina skills like those.


Jennifer‘s pin made us giggle. Every mom seems to equip their purses for everything needed in an emergency- bandaids, hand sanitizer, hard candies. It also made us realize how much we are turning into our mothers!


But out of the 56 entries, the board that stole our hearts was by Jennifer Smillie. During our individual screenings, we had all decided that her mother is someone we would love to meet. Jennifer’s pins and stories were so sweet and helped draw us a picture about her incredible, free-spirited mother.

Please help us congratulate Jennifer and let us know how you are celebrating your Mother this year!

The Uncommon Life

Can Diana F+ Come Out and Play? by Alli of Kisses & Chaos

March 28, 2012

Photographer and blogger Alli wrote about her Diana Camera on her blog, Kisses & Chaos, not too long ago. We loved her tips and stories so much that we asked her if she would kindly share her experience with you.

I have recently had the pleasure of partnering with Uncommon Goods…purveyors of all things quirky and awesome. If they don’t have it then you don’t need it… there’s a little something for everyone. They have amazing gift ideas for women. Have a hard to shop for man in your life? They’ve got you covered with great gifts for him too…but I’m getting away from the point and my point is a good one…

A few weeks ago they were kind enough to send me the Diana F+ camera kit (which I have been wanting for ages) with some Lomography 120 black and white film (I already had the color film), asked me to go play and then tell you guys what I think. Seriously? You don’t have to ask me twice, no sir. So play I did.

The instruction manual was actually helpful! Say what? I know! A helpful instruction manual? Bust out your ice skates ’cause hell froze over. It’s short, sweet and to the point. That’s my kind of instruction manual. No long explanations – just quick and easy. It explained the settings and (surprising) features. A toy camera with features? Yup. You heard right. It has the basics you find with any toy camera with one exception: it has a pinhole setting. It’s like someone getting their peanut butter in my chocolate. This camera is Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night…your average toy camera with vignetting and saturated colors but then BAM! it also has this secret pinhole identity which creates dreamy photographic goodness. This revelation brought about the infamous “Alli Happy Dance-Dance-Dance of Joy and Happiness™.” +1

property of Kisses & Chaos
(Good god, I’m an idiot.)

Ok. Playtime details:

I have other toy cameras (Holgas, quad cams, polaroids, etc) but I have never had the chance to play with a Diana. Though really lightweight it felt sturdier than my other toy cameras. I was impressed that the back plate actually has a good locking mechanism so it doesn’t accidentally pop off and expose your film. (I have had this happen with my Holga -which is why it is now held shut with electrical tape- and it is very frustrating to have a roll of film ruined due to poor construction…I’m just sayin’…some people say it’s part of the “charm” of a toy camera…I think those people must have a lot of disposable income cause I get m-a-a-a-a-a-d when my film gets ruined in the name of “charm.”) Safe and secure film makes Alli a happy camper. +1

The film was easy to load (unlike my Holga, which you have to man handle and knock around) : +1. The locking back plate, lens and other accessories were easy to get on and off : +1. As I wound the black and white film I noticed that I had to strain to see the exposure number on my film and it was a VERY bright sunny day. I initially thought this was a flaw with the camera, but after shooting with a different brand of film I discovered the fault actually lay with the black & white film I was using. (The extremely dark paper made it impossible to read the film. Boo.)

So as I traipsed around the countryside taking photos of cows’ butts, camera around my neck, I discovered that the lens cap had fallen off somewhere amid the tall grass. I spent the next 5 minutes retracing my steps trying to find it (which I did). Loose lens cap: –1.

I decided to try out the pinhole feature using the bulb setting (which means the shutter stays open until you release it). The Diana comes with this little, well, to use the technical term, thingy-ma-bob that you pop into place to keep the shutter open for long exposures. Brilliant idea! I didn’t have to hold the shutter release manually which can cause camera shake. Fantastic! +1. But it was awkward to use and kept falling out…which subsequently caused camera shake. Damn! Hopefully it will be easier to use with practice but for now it counts as a –1.

above and below: playing with the pinhole settings

Since the camera is a toy camera, the film has to be advanced manually. This has its advantages and its drawbacks. Drawback? If you forget to wind your film you wind up with double exposures. Advantage? The film doesn’t wind automatically so you can have double exposures. I like to play with double exposures, so for me this was a total perk. +1

I would love to try the Diana with a flash and shoot indoors. The kit, sadly, doesn’t come with a Diana flash…it has to be bought separately (-1)…of course you can also buy a hotshoe adaptor which means you can a non-Diana flash if you like, but I think I will, since I am all anal & matchy-matchy, buy the Diana flash (and the adaptor because I’m a weirdo like that).

The kit did come with a hardback book – Diana F+: More True Tales & Short Stores, which is a collection of essays and images of, you guessed it, the infamous Diana camera. I doubt I would ever buy the book separately, but I enjoyed skimming it (even if I think the book’s claim of being filled with work by “Diana masters” was over-selling it a bit… Okay…totally overselling it. I think the “shoot from the hip” photo movement is absolute rubbish and an insult to photography. It’s best not to get me started). +1

So let’s tally up the score. The Diana F+ camera receives a grand total of…*drum roll please*… 4 points! What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. I have no point scale… but here are my final thoughts:

I will not use the film again… between the dark paper making it impossible to read the frame number and what I consider to be poor quality film I’ll be sticking with my Kodak 120 for all my medium format photographic needs. I must say, however, that I do love this camera to bits and it will likely replace my Holga as my toy camera of choice. It was fun and easy to use. Thank you, UncommonGoods for giving me such a wonderful new toy! (And to dear friends and family who are reading this: I know what I’m getting you for your birthdays… whether you think you want one or not. You’ll thank me later. The great and powerful Oz has spoken.)

Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick

image/video credits: image #1 © uncommon goods

all other images © 2012 Alli Woods Frederick. all rights reserved. use without express written permission is prohibited.

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