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The Uncommon Life

Our Pin the Halls Pinterest Contest Winner (Plus some Holiday Party Pinspiration!)

December 4, 2012

We’ve been singing carols and craving Christmas cookies since our Pin the Halls Pinterest Contest launched last month. We received just around 100 entries, so picking the winner wasn’t easy. Along the way, we discovered some great recipes, DIY ideas, and tips for planning the perfect holiday party. We couldn’t stand the thought of all this knowledge going the way of the fruitcake (i.e. not getting eaten up), so before we get to the grand prize winner, we’re happy to share these holiday honorable mentions.

The color-coordination and homey feel of Jenny’s board first caught our eye, but her pins that appeal to the stomach are what we love most. We think peppermint bark and sea salt caramels would be a hit with sweet-toothed holiday party-goers, and this gingerbread man in a hot chocolate hot tub is deliciously silly. (Though we do feel just a little bit bad about wanting to bite his head off.)

Mimi’s board also includes bountiful baked goods.

Petite whoopie pies, candy cane cookies, and red velvet cupcakes (in glass jars!).

Mimi’s DIY foodie faves aren’t limited to edibles, though. We also loved this gorgeous sparkling ice wreath.

We love the idea of a DIY party, and Amy’s board is packed with great ideas.

Goofy backgrounds for holiday pictures, a fully-decked table, and recycled paper gift wrap are a few of our favorites.

We adore this bit of decor–which can also double as an advent calendar or a fun way to display gift bags filled with party favors.

We also love the idea of incorporating vintage finds into the holiday festivities. Missy’s board features more than a few pieces the Ghost of Christmas Past would surely appreciate.

Vintage-inspired candy cane gift wrapping that Missy said reminds her of her grandma, red and white striped luggage that could double as an offbeat decoration, and vintage versions of some classic characters.

Another of Missy’s pins really stands out too, but not because of its vintage vibe. We just think this green Grinch martini would make a great addition to any party this time of year.

That sweet and sour holiday drink concludes our honorable mention round-up, but before you run off to throw a holiday bash of your own, don’t forget to browse the winning board.

Zillie Zallie’s beautifully blue-tiful collection strays from the traditional red and green, but still feels very jolly.

Her uncommon pins include frostbite mocktails (perfect for those who’d rather avoid the spiked eggnog), blue and white cake pops (that look delightfully like ornaments), candy doing double-duty as decor, and these luminous blue lights.

Please help us congratulate Zillie Zallie on winning an UncommonGoods holiday shopping spree, and don’t forget to spread the holiday spirit by visiting all of our favorite Pin the Halls boards to repin the recipe for your perfect holiday party!

***We had such a great time pinning and party-planning that we couldn’t wait until next December to hold another contest! Enter Pin the Halls–Part 2 for another chance to win a holiday shopping spree!***

Gift Guides

Melissa’s Game Night: ZinZig

September 10, 2012

Hello! My name is Melissa and I am a new buyer over here at UncommonGoods. I look for product for a number of categories, including and especially games and toys. Obviously, for these types of items, the question “is it fun?” comes up every time in our decision-making process. The thing about games is that the ideal way to determine how fun a game is going to be is not in reading instructions and checking it out alone at my desk at work – but rather with friends at home. Shocking and insightful observation, I know.

So, in an effort to do my job better (take note, boss!), make new friends (I just moved out to New York City to join UncommonGoods from sunny California – or, in my case, foggy San Francisco), and generally have fun, I decided to start hosting game nights to test the new product that I’m considering. When we were chatting about this in one of our sample review meetings, someone threw out the idea of sharing the experience with our UncommonGoods community, and Melissa’s Game Night was born.

Up first was ZinZig ™:
“ZinZig is the wine tasting and trivia game that will challenge your mind and palate. So sit back, relax, and sip your wine. You’re in for a Zin-ful good time ™!”

I bribed my friends over with offers of pasta & sautéed Brussels sprouts, convinced them that yes, it is a great idea to play a wine tasting board game on a weekday, and raced out of the office to get set up.
[Disclaimer: since I just moved to NY, my living room looks pretty sparse, I know — hopefully it will continue to get more interesting as these blog posts continue!]

Once I cooked dinner for the boys (note to self: make more female friends), I asked/told one of my friends to read out the instructions and help us get set up. Luckily for him, it was fairly straight-forward and user-friendly: the beginning of the game opens with drinking and testing all of the wines. We also each picked a winery as well as a figure to represent us on the board. We each started on the space of the Winery that we chose – since the board is circular, the location that you are on is not really important (until the end) – it is all about the squares that you land on. On each turn, you get a trivia card and have to try to answer correctly – once you answer, the square you are on determines whether you “Swap”, “Trade”, etc. There are a few wild squares (ie: Corked: Wine spoilage detected. Answer wrong and lose one bottle card), as well as my personal favorite – Sip and Savor – in which you “Sit back, relax, and enjoy your wine” while earning a free card.

Each trivia card has a ‘resource’ printed on the back; the point of the game is to collect one of each resource (barrel, grape, bottle, cork) to start production. Once you do that, you move to the middle of the board and go through the stages of production (crushing, fermenting, aging, bottling) by answering a trivia Card. The first player to complete production is the winner of the game. Even though I am overly competitive, I did not manage to win. The shout-out of victory goes to my friend Mike who came in from last to crush us all.

In terms of game play, I thought the range of the level of difficulty of the trivia questions was well-balanced and on the intelligent side. I am a fairly big wine geek, my friend Alex claimed to know nothing, and everyone else fell somewhere in between. All of us got answers right and wrong, which made it a fun learning experience as well. The game lasted roughly 2 hours, and a good time was had by all. This game was approved and is available now HERE.

Thanks to Barry, Matt, Alex, Gabe, Colin, Erik, and Mike for playing!

The Uncommon Life

Baby Shower Decor: DIY Tassel Garlands

July 30, 2012

Paper tassels garlands are so popular now. And rightly so – they add the perfect pop of color and whimsy to any room or party space. And they’re fairly easy to make… with a small team of crafty friends you can get through a couple yards of garland. Last week I embarked on making over one hundred paper tassels for a friend’s shower and thought it would be the perfect decor DIY to share during Baby Week!

Here are the steps I took to make my paper tassel garland:

Lay the tissue paper on a flat surface so one of the shorter sides of the rectangle is facing you. Fold the tissue paper in half lengthwise. Turn the tissue paper so the long, open edge is facing you and the folded side is on top. Fold in half twice widthwise.

Cut thin strips from the bottom, open edge to the folded edge, leaving a one inch space. I used a rotary cutter for speed but plain craft scissors will do.

Open up the paper and lay it out with the fringe out to the left and right. Comb all fringe so the paper lays flat.

Roll the paper up from one end to the other.

Now your tissue paper should look like a pom-pom or Red Fraggle’s hair. Make sure your fringe is combed while you are rolling. Once the entire piece has been rolled up the delicate fringe can break if you try to comb it.

Twist the center of the pom-pom.

As you twist, fold the pom-pom in half creating a small loop. Use glue or a clear twist-tie to secure your tassel on string or twine.

Marvel at your perfect tassel, but not for too long. Get back to work! One tassel does not a garland make!

Have you made a paper tassel garland? Tweet photos of your tissue paper masterpiece at @UncommonGoods.

The Uncommon Life

How To Sweeten Up Any Baby Shower by Kenda of Remaking June Cleaver

July 30, 2012

Well hello there! I’m Kenda, author of Remaking June Cleaver and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to a lot of baby showers this year! I love all of the adorable decorations and excitement. Mommy’s-To-Be are getting very creative with their party planning – even with the food they serve. I’d like to share with you two unique (and sweet) ideas I’ve seen.

Animal Cracker Fun Dip
I think it’s so cute when even the shower food reminds you of times with your little ones. What better symbol of fun snack times than animal crackers. Using a tasting platter, serve the cookies with several fun ‘dips’ for your guests. Start with whipped cream and then add sprinkles, crushed peanuts or crushed peppermint. Guests can create their own flavor combinations. An animal cracker has never tasted so good!

Ice Cream Sandwich Platter
Having a summer baby shower means you may need a way for your guests to cool off. Pass on the usual sorbet punch and serve up homemade ice cream sandwiches instead. One great tool for serving is a sushi platter – it can be chilled in the freezer beforehand so that your sandwiches don’t melt as quickly and it gives you a perfect spot to pile on the whipped cream for endless dipping. You can add sprinkles, colored sugar and more to make your ice cream sandwiches something to write home about!

The Uncommon Life

Our Backyard Party Pinterest Contest Winner!

July 6, 2012

We’re sure this week saw plenty of backyard parties, thanks to July 4th! While our social media team isn’t taking an extra-long holiday weekend like many lucky folks out there, we are seriously celebrating BBQs, beaches, and backyard parties and we’re pleased to announce the winner of our first ever Backyard Party Pinterest Contest!

But first, we’d like to share a few of the boards that caught our eyes.

Adrienne’s board leaves us longing for the good old days. Her film strips, snapshots hung with clothespins, and family photos in Mason jars help us remember what summer’s all about–making memories with those you love.

Alyssa’s board also had some great examples of nostalgia, but her food selections are what really stand out. Baked s’mores, blackberry frozen yogurt, and an assortment of summer salads–yum!

Dustie’s boho board steers clear of sugary sweets, and features a variety of summer fruits instead. We love how the colorful fruit fits right in with the playful theme. On one pin Dustie commented, ” In a past life I was a GYPSY!”

Zillie Zallie’s red, white, and blue Independence Day party is another great example of a board with a solid theme and a cohesive look. Patriotic punch and watermelon stars, anyone?

And…the winner is…

NYC Recessionista, Alison. Her deep fried Oreos, Nutella popsicles, and cubed pineapples make us hungry, her friendship bracelets evoke memories of summer camp, and the photos of her own family make us want to get to know them. We’d definitely attend her backyard party!

We received nearly 200 entries, but Alison’s stylish board stood out in the end earning her the grand prize. Congratulations, NYC Recessionista!

The Uncommon Life

Backyard Party Pinterest Contest

June 22, 2012

Summer is finally here and we can’t wait for backyard barbecues and picnics in the park. In fact, we have been Pinning about it all winter and now want to see your summer inspiration boards!

One lucky winner Pinner will receive an UncommonGoods gift card to furnish their summer party.

Leave the link to your inspirational Backyard Party board in the comments below and/or on the original pin in our Summer Time board and you’ll be entered to win.

We’ll announce the winner on July 6. How much that person wins is up to you. For every 50 entries we see, we’ll add $50 to the grand prize, up to a total of $250. So after you share your board with us, be sure to tell your friends and family to enter too!

Follow us on Pinterest for more updates, and leave a link to your profile in the comments. We follow back!

Good luck and happy pinning. We can’t wait to see your brilliant boards!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Molecular Gastronomy Dinner Party

June 21, 2012

Background Research
Wikipedia says that “Molecular gastronomy is a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate, explain and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general.”

Huh?

I have heard of this food science. I have heard of different restaurants in metropolitan areas around the world, maybe even in not-so-metropolitan areas. I have seen it done on one of those cooking shows. Many friends have gone to wd-50 in NYC and said it was interesting. My friend Stephanie had a 12 course meal of different foods reconstructed at a resort in Mexico. The pictures were awesome. I mean a lemon meringue pie that looks like a SOS Sponge awesome!

Walking at the NY Trade Show I see some fun pictures of crazy foods and then a kit. I can do this at home? Yes please! I couldn’t wait to try out this new product.

Hypothesis
I will be the new Wylie Dufresne, with the help of some friends, and make a meal that will impress the masses. This will all be accomplished in 1 night without a culinary class and with little cooking skills. My most impressive meal is chicken and rice.

Experiment
Materials Needed:
1 Molecular Gastronomy Kit with all its contents
Blender
Roomy Fridge and Freezer
Hand Blender
Lots of Bowls
Stove
Lots of Pots
Friends
Wine (just in case it all goes wrong)
Ingredients for all recipes (frozen chocolate wind, arugula spaghetti, balsamic vinegar pearls, goat cheese raviolis, raspberry raviolis).
Extra ingredients to pair with the yummy food
TV
DVD player
Timer
Scale if you want to be exact

Step 1: I watched the DVD to pick the recipes I wanted to cook and get all the instructions.

Step 2: I Gathered friends and all materials.

Step 3: Watch DVD of all recipes with friends and decide what recipe has the longest cooling time and do that one first. (FYI: Chocolate wind had to cool down in the fridge and then sit in the freezer for about an hour.)

Step 4: Start cooking/ being a scientist.

Goat Cheese Raviolis

Chocolate Frozen Wind

Arugula Spaghetti

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Step 5: Make everything look pretty for the cameras.

Goat Cheese Raviolis with tomatoes and basil / Arugula Spaghetti and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls with Tomato / Frozen Chocolate Wind with Raspberry Raviolis

Step 6: Enjoy!

Thanks for your help Nate and Stefanie and Morgan and Sorayah!

Conclusion
The kit has very thorough instructions that walk you through each step by showing you and some great music to keep cooks dancing. It makes the process easy and super fun! And the balsamic pearls and arugula spaghetti looked the best! But maybe I need some more snacks when things are cooling in case guests have not had a snack before the party. I think I just need one more party and a little less wine, and I can open my own restaurant! So fun!

The Uncommon Life

How to Style Agate Centerpieces

June 11, 2012

Whether you are throwing a backyard dinner party or planning a wedding, centerpiece ideas are sometimes a daunting task. They are the focal point of your sit-down meal and can really bring a room together if they are styled right. Although the Agate Cheese Platters are great for serving up snack, they are also versatile and could fit into a number of decor schemes. On the bottom of each platter are three rubber bumpers which creates a nice platform. The jewel-tone platters also have a natural shiny finish so they will glow in the dim light of a party.

I was interested in seeing how the Agate Cheese Platters would work in a centerpiece design, I took them home, put my decorating hands to work and came up with three different ways to style them.

CRAFTY
Some of the cutest centerpiece ideas out there are composed of found items. Make your centerpieces personal with a craft touch. Create a small penant banner with washi tape and neon twine and string it between two tall sticks. I used wooden knitting needles but another great option are painted twigs. Personalize a mason jar by wrapping it in colored yarn or twine. Lastly, I pulled some guitar picks and a harmonica from our collection to add some personality to this table decoration.

CHIC
These eggplant platter just scream glamour to me so I wanted to see a sleeker look. I pulled out some crystal and glass candle holders that would reflect nicely when the lights get low. Around the platter, I sprinkled some white flower petals to soften the entire look. I only wish it was dark enough to test the glow of the platter in candlelight but was pleased to see the reflection of the crystal on the platter.

RUSTIC
I thought it would be an interesting contrast to add some rustic charm to the polished platters so I started with an old honey jar of white flowers tied with natural twine. I set the jar in a bed of dried moss from the craft store and scattered small twigs and stones. I was so happy with the little enchanted forest I created.

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