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Summer

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Gift Lab: Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press

July 25, 2012

Research
Since I am naturally an ice cream mix master (my first job in high school was with Coldstone Creamery!), I chose the Cuisipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press for my experiment. Along with my mastered mixing techniques, I consider ice cream the seventh major food group and live off of the sweet stuff during the summer months.

Hypothesis
I think that I can make homemade ice cream sandwiches to cool off on a hot summer day.

Experiment
I knew this would be a fun project to work on during a hot Sunday afternoon with my brother, Colby. We first brainstormed what cookie and ice cream combinations would be the tastiest. I splurged on an Upstate NY favorite, Stewart’s ice cream. And we cheated a little bit on the cookies.

The first step was making the cookies!

Our little helper needed to take a break during the clean-up.

Once the cookies were out of the oven, we laid them out to cool. Note: I anxiously made the mistake of waiting only five minutes and I had a sloppy mess. You MUST wait for your cookies to be completely cool!

Once completely cooled, we started using our tools. Included in the package are three different sandwich shapes – a heart, a star and a circle. The directions are simple and printed on the back of the box – cut the cookie; scoop up the ice cream; cut the second cookie and twist the handle to press together; twist to release the sandwich.

Conclusion
What a delicious treat! We ended up with lovely heart shaped sugar cookies with black cherry ice cream, peanut buttery overloaded cookies with peanut butter cup ice cream, and star shaped double chocolate chunk cookies with a classic vanilla ice cream. After our sugar crash and hour-long nap from a hard-working afternoon, we went back for seconds!

I come from an awesome sweet-toothed family that celebrates spring with a party full of deserts, and I plan on making these for next year’s event. What a clever treat and fun activity!

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!

The Uncommon Life

How To Repot Succulents

June 8, 2012

As Charlotte (you know, the one with the web) would say, Salutations! I’m Blair – the bloggin’ gal from the lifestyle and fashion blog, Wild and Precious and what a pleasure it is to be over in the beautiful blogging world of UncommonGoods today. And now that I’ve introduced myself lets chat about a way to spruce up that patio of yours.

In the world of trends, Succulent plants seem to be taking home the crown in the fauna and flora category. And why shouldn’t they? Their lush “I don’t give a darn,” character is nothing to be ignored. Succulents are hardy, unique, and perfect for the dry summer heat. They don’t ask for much, but a good environment to get their start in life will take them a long way. No green thumb needed — follow this quick DIY tutorial to get your happy Succulents repotted and ready for your front porch or city window.

Did you make mudpies growing up? If so, this might be your favorite part — make your own dirt mixture! When picking out potting soil just get the very most basic stuff. You don’t want anything too rich in additives — Succulents just don’t like that stuff. The goal of your dirt mixture is to get water/food/light/nutrients to and away from the roots in a time appropriate fashion. Mix coffee grinds and a little sand into your dirt before filling your pots. The sand will keep your soil from getting too over saturated with moisture (remember, these type of plants are desert dwellers – they aren’t use to a whole lot of the wet stuff) and the coffee grinds will help fertilize as well as keep away slugs and bugs that would otherwise love to nibble your Succulents down to nothingness.

You can save and use your own coffee grinds but if you aren’t a joe drinker check out your local coffee shop or favorite Starbucks. In a new effort to be green (reduce! reuse! recycle!), Starbucks is bagging and giving away used coffee grinds for garden use.

As far as picking out pots the world is your oyster. You don’t need anything too big and can even choose to put more than one succulent together in a pot. I chose these funky modern pots to compliment my trendy vegetation.

With your pot(s) picked out fill 1/3 of each pot with sand. Do not try to cut costs (sand is cheap anyway) by bringing home sand from your beach vacation — that stuff is full of salt and your succulents will no longer be… well, succulent. Sand is important in helping move around and drain water. Once you’ve got the sand in, fill with your dirt mixture leaving a small lip of space up top.

The plants: I picked out three wee little plants from Home Depot. They were around $4 each. They had crazy names, but in my excitement I lost the tags. I’m thinking about naming them myself though… ah, I digress.

Before introducing your plants to their new home give the bottom of the existing dirts/roots a bit of a scrunch. Flare the root structure out a bit. This will help it transition better into its new/bigger/better environment. This is something good to remember when planting anything anywhere. If you don’t break up the bundle they are used to having in their temporary store shells, they might be a little too shy to branch out (pun intended) into their new world.

Now — where to put them? These guys are not fans of the midday sun. They prefer indirect/filtered sunlight and enjoy a nice airflow (I chose to put mine on my front porch which is roofed). As for watering — unlike planting in your garden, you do not want to water these right away after repotting. Give them some time to adjust and then give a good watering about once a week during the warmer months. Don’t ever leave standing water in your pots — it makes them angry.

Wham bam thank you ma’am we have ourselves some repotted Succulents! Call your self hip cause you’ve got the trendiest little plants on the block. Mischief managed!

Thanks for hanging out with me — pop over any time to say hi Wild & Precious. ta ta friends.

Check out more planters and seed kits at UncommonGoods.