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Holiday Gifts

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Tip: Use Socks to Disguise Your Christmas Gifts

December 21, 2011

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would love to try to guess what our folks got us for Christmas. With so many mysterious treasures under the tree, taunting us, we couldn’t help but lift, shake, and squeeze them in hopes of guessing their contents. Okay, the truth is, we still do it.

Cassie, Luke, and Beau, 1993
Much to our dismay, my mom is an expert at making sure that her gift selections stay under wraps until Christmas. She has put rocks in boxes to throw off the weight, stashed tiny gifts in giant boxes, wrapped notes explaining that the gifts were actually somewhere else (e.g. “Look in the closet for your real gift”), among many other tricks. One of the sneakiest ways she’s gotten me, and yes, I’ve been fooled by this more than once, was the good ol’ sock trick–with new socks, of course.

The sock trick is an easy way to disguise an easily guessable gift. It’s also a way to get away with giving kids socks for Christmas. You’ll just need a few pairs of socks, wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon.

First, figure out how many pairs of socks it will take to cover your gift. The 100 Shapes Stencil Book is pretty small, just over 7 x 7 inches and about 1/2 an inch thick, so I used four pairs of socks to make my gift package extra cushy.

Wrap the socks around the gift, making sure that the “padding” covers both sides. If you keep the pairs together, you’ll get a little extra cushion.

Once the gift is hidden in socks, you can continue wrapping as usual. I start by placing the gift on the paper, then cutting off the amount I’ll need. I tend to stick to a simple wrapping technique. I fold the sides of the paper over the gift, tape, and fold the ends up toward the middle before taping again. I also finish it off with a simple a bow.

If you’re looking to get fancy with your wrapping technique, you can get some tips from a pro by checking out our How to Wrap a Gift Box and How to Tie a Gift Bow videos.

When you’re finished, the present will be nice and squishy, so the recipient will probably think they’re getting a sweater, decorative holiday towels, or something else less fun than the awesome gift you really picked out for them. And they get some bonus socks.

What’s your favorite way to disguise a gift? Have you ever been tricked by a sneaky gifter? We’d love to hear how! Share your sneaking gifting stories in the comments below.

Gift Guides

No Time To Wrap? We Offer Gift Boxing!

December 13, 2011

We know it can be hard enough to find time to shop, let alone get all of those gifts wrapped. But don’t worry! Our talented gift boxing team can get your order gift-ready and include your personalized gift message. You can add gift boxes during the checkout process online, or ask a representative to box your items when ordering by phone (1.888.365.0056) for an additional $4.95 per box.

Gift Guides

How to Ask for Cash (or Gift Certificates) for Christmas

December 8, 2011

We’ve all been there. December 26: The carpet beneath the unlit tree is bare (except for those fallen, dried-out pine needles), the last of the holiday feast is confined to tinfoil in the fridge, and you’re stuck with an over-sized sweater, tube socks, and a pre-packaged Christmas cookie gift box. You’re wondering if you should have just asked for cash.

If you’re saving up for something special, have a store you’d love to shop from, or just know that your friends and family don’t really get your taste, the answer is yes. It’s okay to ask for cash, or gift certificates, as long as you do it with class and follow a few etiquette guidelines.

According to the Emily Post Etipedia, it’s fine to tell your family members and close friends that you want cash for your wedding. We figure the same goes for holiday gifts. If your mom asks what you want, and you really want cash or a gift certificate, tell her how you feel. This also helps word-of-mouth bloom. If your mom knows you want cash, and your grandma asks your mom what you want, then your grandma knows you want cash.

However, there are gift-givers who might not feel comfortable with this idea, or think that they aren’t giving a “real” gift unless it’s wrapped in shiny paper. You know your friends and family best, so it’s your call whether to outright ask for money. For those folks who usually give traditional gifts, you may need to drop extra hints to let them know that you’d actually prefer the dough.

Gift etiquette expert Sherri Athay suggests spreading the word subtly in her advice to CNN Living. For example, if your old-fashioned aunt asks what you want for Christmas, you could say, “Oh, I’ve been saving up for…” or “I love anything from [your favorite store].” This will help her feel better about giving you cash or a certificate to the store in question.

While asking outright is fine when it comes to your parents, best friend, or another close relation, and dropping hints isn’t an etiquette no-no in most other situations, remember that no one is required to give you what you want and it really is the thought that counts. If you do end up with another “Happy Holidays” mug or a DVD of a movie you just watched on Netflix last week, you can always save it for a re-gift next year.

Gift Guides

How to Make a Gift Bag

December 2, 2011

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to gift wrapping. I purchase the gifts I want to give and stuff them under the bed or on a shelf in the closet until right before Christmas. Then, while I’m fantasizing about radiantly glazed holiday hams and sweetly spiced rivers of eggnog, I’m also faced with making a pile of presents bright and giftable.

Those odd shaped, extra-uncommon gifts pose a particular challenge. I suppose I could skip the fancy wrap and just stick bows on things that don’t pack up pretty. Or, I could put any asymmetrical or otherwise un-rectangular products in big boxes stuffed with lots of tissue paper, then wrap them. I go with option three–a fancy gift bag.

While the bow trick works in a pinch, it’s not nearly as fun to take off a bow as it is to find a surprise inside of pretty wrapping. I know this, because my husband is a huge supporter of “just stick a bow on it.” I do have to admit, it’s a step up from his other, “just hand her the thing in a crumpled-up shopping bag” approach.

The second tactic–put that hard to wrap gift in another box–seems like a viable option, but wrapping a box just right takes time and creates a lot of waste; you spend 20 minutes getting each crease perfect, only to see your lovely artwork ripped to shreds and tossed in the trash. It’s heartbreaking, really.

So, you can see why, for me, option three takes the customary yuletide fruitcake.

Not only are gift bags simple to use and reusable, they’re also easy to make. All you need is some heavy wrapping, construction, or scrapbooking paper and ribbon to create a sturdy, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wrapping. I picked pretty blue craft paper from the paper mezzanine at Pearl Paint here in New York. (Yes, that’s really what their paper department is called; it’s an entire sublevel–mezzanine, if you will– full of gorgeous papers for wrapping, crafting, and scrapbooking.) I wanted my bag to be festive, but not too Christmasy, so it could still be reused after the holidays. To fasten the paper, I used a Staple-less Stapler, but you could easily use a hole punch and stapler to create a similar effect.

First, make sure you have enough paper to cover the item you’d like to wrap. To wrap the Holiday Record Coasters, I placed the product in the middle of the top half of the paper, then folded the bottom up to completely cover the gift. It’s okay to make the bag a little bit bigger than you need it, just make sure the gift doesn’t stick out of the top.

Next, “staple” along the edges on both sides. The staple-less stapler will create interlocking flaps for a secure hold, but it also leaves a small hole where you punch. You’ll also want to punch once in the bottom left-hand and once on the bottom right-hand, just above the seam.

Threading the ribbon through the holes not only adds decoration, it also increase the bag’s sturdiness and create a handle. However, before threading the ribbon, make sure you have enough by measuring it against the length of the bag four times (once for each side, once for the handle, and once for extra ribbon to work with).

Start threading by inserting the ribbon in one of the bottom corners, just above the seam. Leave a few inches of ribbon, then pull the remaining ribbon up through the next hole in the side of the bag. Tie the two ends into a knot, and create a bow with the remaining ribbon from the short end. Using the long end, continue to thread up the side of the bag, looping around the outside edge of the paper.

When you come to the end of one side, leave enough ribbon to create a handle before continuing to thread down the opposite side.

Once you reach the end of the second side, pull the remaining ribbon up through the hole on the corner above the seam. Pull the leftover ribbon back though the final loop on that side, and tie it into a secure knot. This side won’t be as pretty as the bow on the opposite side, but the problem can be easily remedied by cutting off any excess ribbon and tying a new bow to cover up the knot.

The finished product uses no tape, glue, or staples (if you go the staple-less stapler route), can be used over and over again, and costs less than buying a pre-made gift bag. For an added touch, stuff the bag with leftover wrapping paper, folded into fans (or other origami shapes, if you’re feeling extra crafty), instead of using a new sheet of tissue paper.

Gift Guides

Holiday Gifts Your Teen Will Love

November 22, 2011

The holiday season is is in full swing, and we’re pouring through our assortment selecting great gifts for everyone on your shopping list! Many of our picks are inspired by our Twitter contest winner, Jodie. She won a $500 UncommonGoods shopping spree earlier this year, and we’ve had a ton of fun helping her choose the perfect gifts for her favorite people.

After creating guides for babies and kids based on Jodies’ nephews, age 8 months to 6 years, we realized that although Jodie doesn’t have a teen on her shopping list, many parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents (to name just a few) do. With this in mind, we picked a few of our favorite gifts for teens.

Remote Control SUV Kit- It may not be time to hand over the keys to a new car, but you can hand over this cool kit. The Remote Control SUV kit starts out as a puzzle and snaps together to become a motorized vehicle.

Bike Bells- A great stocking stuffer, these hand-painted bike bells are functional, funny, and stylish.

Guitar String Bracelets- Whether the teen in your life is a musician, music-lover, or just likes to look good, these unisex accessories are chart toppers.

Sneaker Customization Kit- Designer shoes are expensive, but this kit, which includes sneaker wipes, paints, and a high-quality paint brush, makes it easy for your favorite teen to create their own.

Dancing Lion Speaker- Plug an iPod or another music device up to this lively lion and he dances and sings along. Check out our video to see the King of the Jungle boogy.

Recycled Cotton Animal Mittens- Trendy, but still uncommon, these cozy, cute mittens are made from yarn spun from leftover fabric from upholstery factories that would have otherwise been discarded. They’re also available in mink and skunk.

Black Cat Headphones- More comfortable than earbuds, these hand-crocheted headphones have a vintage feel that still appeals to modern teens.

Big Grips iPad Case- Available in blue or green, these grippy foam covers make your teen’s favorite electronic sidekick easier to hold on to.

From fashionable accessories and beautiful jewelry to techie gadgets and fun games, we’ve got all kinds of great gifts for teens. Stay tuned for more gift guides to find perfect presents for everyone in your life this season!

Need a gift recommendation for a hard-to-shop for teen? Leave a comment below.

Gift Guides

Quiz: What Does Your Favorite Ornament Say About You?

November 21, 2011

With Thanksgiving this week, it’s just about time to deck the halls and get jolly! That tree isn’t going to trim itself, but before you start stringing popcorn chains and throwing tinsel all over the place, take a moment to look through our ornament lineup for 2011. Pick the one that speaks to you, and read on to find out what that choice says about your personality. It might just help you plan a seasonal look as uncommon as you!

Have you got your favorite ornament in mind? Okay, read on to see what your ornament (listed clockwise from top) says about your personality:

Egg Ornament-
You appreciate the beauty in everyday objects; you always see the sunny side.

Penguin Knit Ornaments-
You like traditional décor with an uncommon twist. You aren’t afraid to take something iconic and make it your own!

Funky Fish Tagua Ornament-
You know that unusual can be beautiful! You love to express yourself and know there’s nothing fishy about being unique.

Felt Cat Finger Puppets/Ornaments-
You’re always looking for double-duty décor. When these cuddly kitties aren’t hanging from your tree, they’re fun finger puppets.

Porcelain Nail Ornament-
You like to keep things simple. Now that you’ve hammered out your own personal style, you stick to modern designs, sleek shapes, and bright whites.

Sheep Ornaments-
You’re not afraid to show your softer side—whether you’re decorating for a crowd of guests, or sprucing up a space to enjoy independently!

Candy Cane Scarf-
You think the holiday season is sweet, but you’d rather show off your style by decorating yourself instead of a tree.

Not seeing the your perfect ornament in the graphic above? Check out more uncommon ornaments and find something sure to fit your holiday decor style!

Gift Guides

Baby’s First Christmas Gifts

November 21, 2011

When our Twitter contest winner Jodie told us she’d be spending part of her $500 UncommonGoods shopping spree on her young nephews, we got excited to help her pick out some fun kids gifts!

Her youngest nephew, Mark Anthony III is 8 months old, so this will be his first Christmas. We know that parents often think baby clothes and booties are adorable, but we decided to skip the apparel and go right for the fun stuff! We thought Mark Anthony would have a better time playing with these cool toys than sitting around just looking handsome in a babysuit.

Stacrobats- These stackable acrobats are colorful, soft, and help your little one develop dexterity and coordination.

Pull Along Cowboy- A modern take on the classic pull along toy, the cowboy kicks up his boots as his trusty horse gallops along when pulled.

Lollacup- This little penguin looks like a fun toy, but it’s actually a special straw cup designed to help baby drink comfortably and minimize spills.

Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate- Made of 100% hand-picked organic Egyptian cotton, these vibrant veggies help soothe baby’s gums as new teeth come in and aid in imaginative play as the little one grows!

Repurposed Sweater Animal Mittens- We know we said we were skipping the baby clothes, but these comfy mittens don’t really count. They’re pretty much stuffed animals for little hands, so even though they do keep fingers warm, we bet they’ll make baby’s list of favorite toys.

Giraffe Lovie/Blankie- Providing the security of a baby blanket and the fun of a stuffed toy, the Giraffe Lovie is made for close contact with sensitive skin. It’s made from certified organic cotton fabric and contains no chemical dyes, so you’ll feel comfortable letting baby get comfy!

Peek O Fabric Activity Box- Baby will be surprised when he opens this fun gift, and the surprises keep getting better! The interactive box includes a variety of panels featuring fun activities, and the best surprise, the stuffed dog who lives inside the box.

Indestructible Nursery Rhymes- Indestructibles ™ live up to their name! These illustrated books are tear-resistant, drool-proof, and dishwasher and washing machine safe.

Like these baby gift ideas? We have many more where these came from! And, if the kids in your life are a little older, don’t forget to check out our gift guide inspired by Jodie’s older nephews.

Need a personal recommendation for your favorite nephews? Leave a comment or tweet @uncommongoods !

The Uncommon Life

The Biggest Supporter of the Arts

November 17, 2011

There was a time when Santa’s elves had to work hard in the months before the holidays, stuffing dollies, carving rocking horses from wood, and assembling shiny new bicycles. It seems as though letters to Santa have changed a bit, and now those elves are placing orders to Apple for iPads and checking parental advisory warnings to see whether the latest video games are suitable for youngsters.

Does any one out there still care about artisan made goods?

Letter to Santa & Letter to Santa (Back), magma666

Although those pointy-eared little fellas don’t get to use their artisan skills as much as they’d like these days, we know UncommonGoods shoppers do still appreciate high-quality, handmade pieces. With this in mind, our highly scientific data analysis team decided to find the Biggest Supporter of the Arts and give that city their due recognition.

We took a gander the sales of a few of our most artfully-made items including:
Stephen Kitras’ hand-blown Glass Globes
Traci Medeiros-Bagan’s Crocheted Headphones
Al Stephens’ Hand-forged Cheese Slicer

Lo and behold, Atlanta wins our title for Biggest Supporter of the Arts! But we’re proud to say Brooklyn’s not far behind.

Here’s the full breakdown of how our art-loving cities stood out against the rest of the country:

Atlanta, GA Atlanta is known as the cultural hub of the south. This peachy city hosts nearly 50 arts and culture festivals each year, evidence that Atlantans don’t just love handmade goods, they also like to party.

Brooklyn, NY For years, Brooklyn has been in the shadow of Manhattan’s art scene, with no Village, fewer well-known galleries, and cheaper food and rent (making it harder for artists to starve). Now, Brooklyn’s art culture is booming. The Brooklyn Museum rivals the MET, The Brooklyn Flea attracts hipsters, crafters, and all kinds of creatives, and neighboorhoods like DUMBO and Williamsburg are known for their studios and galleries.

New York, NY Brooklyn’s art-lovers came out a just a hair ahead in our analysis of art sales versus overall sales, but NYC holds steady in the top five. New Yorkers have long appreciated art, earning the city the reputation as the art capital of the world (we suspect that Parisians are still a little ticked over losing the title).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, plassen

Austin, TX Austin may not be home to a world-famous museum, but they do boast the Austin Museum of Art. Austin art fans can also visit Austin Art Garage, a gallery founded to highlight emerging artists while bringing affordable art to the people. We love the idea, but as far as we can tell from the photos on their website, the Austin Art Garage is not really a garage at all, so you’ll need to go elsewhere if you also need an oil change.

Chicago, IL The Art Institute of Chicago is in Chicago (which is good, because it would probably have to change it’s name). The world-renowned museum’s adjoined school, aptly named the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is often considered one of the best art schools in the United States. Sure, tuition is expensive, but fortunately artists make a ton of money right out of college, so new graduates won’t have to worry about student loan debt.

Art Institute Lion Wearing Bears Helmet , egvvnd

Actually, that last bit of information may not be entirely accurate. Do your part to help those art and design grads pay the bills by giving the gift of handmade goods this holiday season!

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