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The Uncommon Life

10 Tips for a Sustainable Summer Party with Bekuh of Secondhand Sundays

July 23, 2012

Hello there friends! My name is Bekuh and I’m the creative type behind the blog Secondhand Sundays; my personal blog filled with pretty vintage wares, delicious home cooked meals, crafty handmade goods, and life as a newlywed in Virginia. Most days you’ll find me playing in my studio or outside on the porch with my husband, and our pup Nellie. There is nothing we love to do more than be outside together.

I also love to use seemingly random holidays as an excuse to invite friends onto our porch to dine alfresco for an evening. On Bastille Day this year we threw a grandiose country garden party full of locally sourced food and drink for our friends.

During this first year of marriage Ryan, and I have had many conversations about budgets, and spending money, and to say we are on a tight budget would be an understatement. BUT we are also huge supporters of organic, fair-trade, and locally sourced produce. So, we made a commitment to continue buying our groceries in what we feel is an ethical way, while sticking to a pretty tight grocery budget. What does that have to do with this party you might ask?

Well, Ryan and I decided to buy as much as we could locally with a budget of $70 to feed 20 people, including wine (our guests brought the beer). And yes we succeeded, spending less than our targeted budget for the whole shebang. Here are my secrets to sustainable party success:

Reduce Waste with Cloth Napkins
Instead of using disposable napkins we buy linen dish rags to use in our personal life, so we just set out a giant stack of these beauties for our guests, saving us a lot of paper waste.

Cut the Garbage, Use Your Own Silverware
In the same vein instead of using plastic silverware I find that using our everyday silverware is easy to clean-up, and helps elevate the party into something more intimate, and nice.

Use What You’ve Already Got
When thinking about decor I definitely take the stance that the food comes first, atmosphere second. Because we don’t have enough porch chairs that match for big groups I decided to embrace the mix-matched atmosphere and incorporated lots of color through vintage linens, wild flowers, and brightly colored accents, like the Solar Tealight. It magically all came together in the end and I think embracing the resources you do have is the best way to go.

Homemade Tastes Better Anyway
Another great savings for us was Ryan’s contribution of the homemade bread, bbq sauce, and hummus. Homemade bread costs pennies to make and it’s always a crowd pleaser. The hardest part is waiting for the dough to rise.

Locally Source Your Produce in Bulk
We joined a CSA back in February and with our allotted $10 share that week we were able to pick-up all of the produce we needed for the party, with the exception of a couple of cherry tomatoes, the watermelon, and the peaches. The additional produce we needed to complete the meal came from our local farmer’s market.

Serve Foods that Grow with Your Guests
Foods that seem to grow as the number of people do, like couscous salad, is another great way to feed a lot of people with little monetary waste. Outside of the couscous I only used a small cucumber, about six cherry tomatoes, half a medium sized onion, one red pepper, and a handful of mint and pine nuts for 20 people. Since this is a versatile dish, you can keep adding more ingredients to account for unexpected (or extra hungry) guests. Now that’s economical.

Local Wine Fits the Bill
Local wine can also be surprisingly affordable, and with a lot of great options too. We bought two bottles of Virginia wine for $25. The Rocking Carafe was a great way to show off the wine and encourage people to try some.

Ask for a Contribution
Guests always want to contribute to the get together in one way or another and asking them to bring their favorite summer beverage can save you a lot of pain in trying to pick out something that will please everyone. We are really lucky to have a good friend who home brews some pretty amazing beers. Martin brought two six packs of home brew to share and they were definitely a highlight; all of the guys tried their hand at opening one with the One-Handed Bottle Opener.

Think Outside the Box for Fun
For entertainment we played Pictionary against one of our porch walls, using an old high school projector to draw on. It made it a lot easier for a lot of people to play and see no matter where they were standing. We will definitely be doing this again.

Buy in stages for a Better Deal
My last money saving tip, spread out your grocery shopping over a couple of weeks, buying things in stages. I bought the peaches for our dessert a couple of weeks before when a local farmer had a great deal on them, and froze the sliced peaches until I was ready to bake. You have to seek out the deals.

I truly believe you can feed, and entertain people in an affordable, and sustainable way using fresh local ingredients. It’s easy to do, but takes a commitment on your part to seek out the local markets and farms, make things homemade, and out of simple ingredients. Also, remember to sit back and enjoy your company, they’re only there for a little while. I hope the next time you’re planning a party you’ll look around your neighborhood for inspiration first.

big kiss, bekuh
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.