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Gift Lab

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Will Using an Updated Instant Camera Be a Snap?

October 14, 2016
Instant Camera Gift Lab

As a photographer I’ve played with all kinds of cameras, from high-end digital cameras to dollar store 35mm, and Polaroids are no exception. So when I saw that the classic Polaroid camera has been re-imagined for the digital age with the I-1 Analog Instant Camera, I knew I had to test it out. With a trip to London and Paris coming up, I had the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Does Beer Make Everything Better? (Even Pretzels and Mustard?)

October 5, 2016
Emily Gift Lab Pretzels and MustardResearch

I’ve always been a fan of pretzels. From your standard UTZ variety, which were often packed away in ZipLocs in my elementary school lunches, to the inimitable Auntie Anne’s (cinnamon, obviously) which have suckered me in at shopping malls and train stations alike, I’ve loved ‘em all. Something about fall makes pretzels seem like especially appropriate snacks, and I’ve been craving them as the air has gotten chillier. Maybe my small sliver of German ancestry has me feeling some lingering Oktoberfest vibes all the way on Long Island – in which case, this experiment is all the better, since it involves a fair amount of beer. I’ll be using the Craft Beer Pretzel Mix as well as the Make Your Own Mustard Kit, which also calls for beer as an ingredient, because what goes better with beer pretzels than beer mustard? I’m hungry. Let’s try it.


Beer will make everything better, including homemade pretzels and mustard.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Can This Filter Bottle Provide Hydrated Hiking without a Heavy Pack?

September 28, 2016

Laura Gift Lab Water Bottle


Anytime I go hiking, I make sure to bring plenty of water. This usually means hauling around a 2-liter water bottle that’s too big for my hip-pack. (I know, it’s really a fanny pack, but “hip-pack” sounds so much cooler than a bad fashion choice circa 1989.) A big water bottle means hiking with an even bigger backpack to hold it in. So, how can I use my lighter pack and still carry enough water? Perhaps I should give the Adventure Filter Water Bottle a try.

I haven’t gone on hikes any longer than 10 miles, so I’ve never purchased any kind of trail-side water filtration system. My guy and I planned to do a 4+ mile trip where we were camping at Mongaup Pond Campground, so I figured this would be a good time to test out something in that category. I wanted to fill up my bottle from one of the spouts with drinkable water before we headed out.


The Adventure Filter Water Bottle will be easy to use on the trail, and it’ll filter water so it’s clean and tasty.

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Can You Do Cold Brew Coffee at Home?

September 22, 2016

Randy and Cold Brew


Coffee is good. Hot coffee when it’s still hot out is not so good. Will the Cold Brew Coffee Maker save me?


I am one of about 2/3 of adult Americans who will have a cup of coffee today at work. But in the dog days of summer, hot drinks aren’t really what I’m thirsting for. Unfortunately, every time I’ve tried to make iced coffee it came out bitter. It usually just sits in my fridge as a testament to my failure for a few days before I toss it.

Maybe I’ve just found 1,000 ways not to make iced coffee.

With that in mind, I set off with the Cold Brew Coffee Maker to try one more time.

Before I picked up this coffee maker I had no idea what “cold brew” meant. As I learned from the instructions, it’s a method of brewing where cold water is slowly percolated over ground coffee. The cold water prevents the bitterness of the beans from flowing into the retaining jar, and the slow pace allows plenty of flavor to end up in the final product. It takes a while, and the longer you allow it to take, the more flavor will end up in your cup.


My null hypothesis: I can’t make a decent cup of iced coffee.

My alternative hypothesis: I can (if I use the right tools).

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Roll Out Ravioli Like a Pro

September 1, 2016

Marisa | UncommonGoods


Ravioli Rolling Pin

Ravioli Rolling Pin | UncommonGoods


Dumpling statue

Me, next to a statue honoring the dumplings of the world, in the Fine Arts Center at the Minnesota State Fair

I’m a known dumpling lover. I’ve always wanted to make ravioli, because 1) it’s a form of dumplings, 1a) dumplings are the best, 2) it’s delicious, and 3) pre-made ravioli seems too expensive for what it is, and 4) the one time I did I buy store-bought ravioli, it was suuuuper suboptimally subpar. As my mom says, “The dough gets leather-y.”

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Is Homemade Butter
Really Better?

August 15, 2016

Ken Tests the Butter Churner from UncommonGoods


I was initially skeptical when I first saw the butter churner in our collection. I’ve baked bread, brewed beer, and made yogurt, so it’s not as if I’m against making things at home. I just didn’t see what was to be gained by churning butter myself instead of buying it. I’d almost forgotten it when the churner turned up in the top ten selling items for several days straight. And that was during the busy holiday season, when making it to the top means elbowing through serious competition. What did all of these people see in homemade butter? Did they know something I didn’t? Had all my favorite food writers failed to share the wonders of fresh butter straight from the churn?

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Wrinkle-Free Clothes to Go

August 10, 2016



Collar Perfect Compact Travel and Touch-up Iron


I tend to do a lot of long weekend getaways throughout the year. But firstly before I go any further let me just state that I HATE ironing and tend to mostly pack clothes that don’t require any ironing. However, since I have not yet mastered the art of packing by rolling my clothes up some things still end up getting wrinkled while en route to my destination.

Additionally – I am a bit of a germaphobe, so the idea of using random irons in hotels and/or rented homes/condos for the weekend does not appeal to me AT ALL! I’ve been the victim a number of times to burnt blouses and the ever-so-hated stained clothes as a result of the rusty water coming out of the provided irons.

After watching the video on our product page for this compact iron I was eager to try it out since it can be used for much more than just the collar. The bonus here for me was that it doesn’t require the use of water. It was also like nothing I’ve personally seen before, so I was even more excited to get my hands on it.


I predict that the Collar Perfect-Compact Travel and Touch-up Iron will be added to my list of traveling must-haves!

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Gift Guides

Gift Lab: These Grilling Goods Turn Camping into Glamping

August 1, 2016

Laura Tests Grilling Goods


I may not be the most glamorous glamping girl, but I do like to get out of Brooklyn once in a while to see some open, green spaces. Recently, my guy and I packed up a rental car, dropped the cats off with a sitter, and headed for the Catskills. Due to the joys of city traffic we made it to Mongaup Pond Campgrounds 5 hours later (just a couple hours later than expected).

I have been stocking up on fun camping gear all winter long, including some things for the grill from UncommonGoods. I already had the Grilled Cheese Maker, the Kabob Grilling Baskets, and both Coffee and Pine Firestarters ready to go.

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