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The Uncommon Life

10 Ways to Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 12, 2012

Whether you’re Irish by blood, have the luck of the Irish, or just love a good celebration on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll probably be going green on March 17. Of course, we’re all about celebrating another kind of green here at UncommonGoods. So we figured, why not take a double-edged approach with these green (and green!) goods.

Wearing green on St. Paddy’s will prevent you from getting pinched, but you don’t have to go overboard. Adding a few green accents to your outfit is a great way to show your Irish pride. (1.) Heli Belt’s are handmade using leftover fabric from tatami floor mats and (2.)Ellen Thurmond’s Tree of Life–Renewal necklace features green peridot on hand-shaped recycled sterling silver wire.

Whether you plan on dying your hair green or skipping the food-coloring-infused shampoo, a (3.)Recycled Glass Barrette will look lovely accenting your locks.

Once your perfect St. Patrick’s Day outfit is complete, you can start the party. Serve up green beer in (4.) Recycled Beer Glasses, which also happen to have a slight green tint, since they’re made from glass from car windows. And, if you prefer a mixed drink or something alcohol free, your beverage of choice will look nice in (5.) Protect Our Earth Glasses. These recycled Bordeaux bottle glasses were even called party “must-haves” by HelloGiggles.com.

When it comes to your centerpiece, take a cue from the lush landscape of the Emerald Isle and add a little vegetation to your St. Pat’s. Fresh-cut flowers aren’t always the greenest choice, but our (6.) Moss Terrarium Bottle is a fun DIY alternative. If your thumb is far from green, visit Local Harvest to find sustainably grown blooms and show them off in a (7.)Recycled Wine Bottle Vase, or skip the flowers all together and go with a handmade recycled glass (8.)Four Seasons Globe to ring in Spring.

The centerpiece won’t be the most enticing thing on the table, though. Celebrate with a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, then use the (9.) Fresh Air Compost Collector to save the cabbage hearts and other unused portions for composting. And for dessert? These Beer Mug Cupcakes from I am Baker are too cute not to make.

From green beer to cupcakes that look like green beer, you don’t need luck (or a pot of gold) for your St. Paddy’s Party to be a success. But, the fun can only last one night, so don’t forget to take a few photos to capture the evening. Fittingly, your favorite will look fabulous on display in one of Margaret Taylor’s handmade (10.)Recycled Ceiling Tin Frames.

The Uncommon Life

Why Do We Send Valentines? 10 Uncommon Facts About Valentine’s Day

January 26, 2012

Valentine’s day is a pretty special day. Whether you’re lucky in love, celebrate with single friends, or share the day with family members, you likely have something planned for February 14.

But, why is the occasion so important? Here are a few fun facts about St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day Cupcakes, photo by Dyanna

Who is this St. Valentine guy, anyway?
Today, the Catholic church actually recognizes three saints by the name of Valentine or Valentinus. Each St. Valentine was martyred.

So, which one is the St. Valentine of St. Valentine’s Day?
Legend has it that the St. Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. The emperor at the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers, not having their hearts promised to special someones and all. So, ol’ Claud outlawed Marriage. Valentine didn’t agree with the emperor’s rule and went around marrying folks anyway. Eventually, Valentine got caught and Claudius sentenced him to death for his defiance.

What does that have to do with cards and flowers?
Some believe that the St. Valentine fell in love while he was imprisoned and sent letters to his lover before he was martyred. Others say that another Valentine is responsible for ‘Valentines.’ Either way, the legend says that a man named Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter while in prison. She secretly visited him in captivity, and before he died he wrote her a letter signed, “From your Valentine.”

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Does that mean that Valentine’s Day is the biggest greeting card day of the year?
Not quite! Christmas is still the number one there. More greeting cards are sent on Christmas than any other day, but Valentine’s Day comes in second place.

Why is Valentine’s Day on February 14?
This is another question that’s answer has been argued over the years. Some folks say it’s because St. Valentine died in mid February. Other’s claim that it has to do with the ancient Roman Lupercalia festival, which took place on Feb. 15. The festival marked the start of spring and celebrated fertility.

Did the ancient Romans give each other Valentines?
Not exactly. The Lupercalia festival started with the sacrifice of a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. Boys would slice the goat’s hide into strips, dip them in sacrificial blood, and and run around slapping women with the goathide strips. The women actually welcomed the slapping, because it was believed being touched by the sacrificial strips made them more fertile.

How else did they celebrate?
After the slap-fest, women would enter their names in an urn. The men would then draw names from the urn to chose the women they would be paired with for the upcoming year. These pairings often resulted in marriage.

Interesting tradition! So, that ended with the Romans?
Yes and no. While the custom of using a “lottery” to pick marriage partners didn’t last, the tradition did, in a way, live on. In England in the middle ages young men and women drew names to choose their Valentines. Then, they would pin the name to their sleeve. It’s believed that the term “wear your heart on your sleeve” comes from this custom.

hearts, photo by Barbtrek

How did our modern traditions come about?
While the oldest known Valentine still in existence is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415, Valentine’s got a boost in popularity when Massachusetts native Esther Howland started selling the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in the 1840s.

And that brings us to today…
Now, the average American spends about $100 on Valentine’s Day gifts, meals, and entertainment each year. As for cards, about 85% of those are sent by women. That isn’t saying that men don’t appreciate their Valentines. 73% of Valentine’s Day flower purchases are made by men.

Of course, flowers and cards aren’t the only way to celebrate this day of love. We have all kinds of gifts to help you make Valentine’s day extra special for the love of your life!

Sources: History.comWomen’s Day, About.com

Gift Guides

Last Days of Summer

September 7, 2011

The sun is still shining, the AC is still on, and we might be able squeeze in at least one more trip to the beach. No matter how you long you try to hold on to the lazy days of summer, it’s time to admit that the season is coming to a close. But don’t worry, before back to school bells ring and leaves start turning, there’s still time to have a little fun with these clever toys and activities for kids.

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Gift Guides

Top 10 Gifts for Music Lovers

August 18, 2011

Looking to celebrate the music lovers in your life?  Shuffle through UncommonGoods Top 10 gifts for music lovers, and check out our picks for some late summer songs that will get you singing along!

Created with flickr slideshow.
Cool Jazz Ice Stirrers bring together two things every party needs: music and drinks!  Fill the tray with water before your party for a fun way to keep cool, or mix it up and use the set to make your own popsicles.

The Portable Balloon Speaker is an attractive and easy way to share music from an mp3 player or your mobile device’s headphone jack more effectively than loudspeakers alone would.

Designed by Hannah Garrision & Steve Bernstein, the Guitar String Bracelet is handmade from guitar strings.  Bracelets are sold individually and come in five different colors.

Artist Jeff Davis turns classic LPs into functional and unique Record Bowls.  Whether your favorite genre’s hip-hop or jazz, the bowls come in a variety of styles so we’ve got you covered.

Or, if you have a record of your own you’d like to have made into a bowl, just mail Jeff the record and he’ll create a truly one-of-a-kind Custom Record Bowl.

Our Mechanical Music Box Set puts a new spin on the old-fashioned music box: included are three strips of paper, a hole puncher, and instructions for creating your very own tunes to crank through the instrument.  The set is perfect for budding musicians or seasoned professionals, and comes with a sheet of the Happy Birthday song pre-punched.

Exclusive to UncommonGoods, the Glass Guitar Picks are handmade in Hawaii and available in three colors.

UncommonGoods artist Jeff Davis makes Record Cuff Bracelets from recycled records.  The bracelets, like Jeff’s record bowls, are handmade in Pennsylvania.

Getting ready to go back to school will be infinitely more fun with a pair of Drumstick Pencils in hand that do that classic double duty: business in the front and a party in the back!

Speaking of parties, the Geneva Sound System will have you geared up and ready to go the next time guests are over.  Winner of the  Consumer Products Award by I.D. International Design Magazine in 2010, the speakers are a beautiful way to amplify your tunes.


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Create a playlist at MixPod.com

Gift Guides

Best Dressed Baby

July 21, 2011

We love our new Have-A-Ball Babysuits™ so much, we started thinking about some of the other fun baby goods in our lineup. From old favorites, like the Worth the Wait Set, to new community approved items, like the Baby Fortune Cookie Booties, we have little ones covered from head to toe, whether you’re looking for an adorable outfit for your own bundle of joy or a great baby shower or new baby gift.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.
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Gift Guides

Top 10 Wedding Gifts

July 19, 2011

With summer well under way, your weekends are probably booked with weddings.  Help the happy couples in your life decorate their new home together with our top 10 wedding gifts!

We broke down the best gifts UncommonGoods has to offer for each of the uncommon couples in your life:

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.
For the high school sweethearts that have been together forever, the Heart in Orbit Album is a beautiful way to preserve memories from prom to proposal.  Each copper-bound photo album is handmade in San Francisco.

Give the newly-wedded new homeowners a pair of beautiful, earthenware nesting wedding bowls inscribed with the couples’ names and wedding date.  Choose from two patterns and five warm colors to welcome them home.

Encourage wanderlust in your favorite pair of travel bugs even after they’ve returned from the honeymoon with our set of 3 continent pillows.  Whether journeying abroad or settling down, they’ll always remember that home is where the heart is.

If the paramours in your life are pet lovers, they’ll love a dog blueprint of their pooch.  Pick from a wide (and growing) selection of breeds to showcase their other best friend.

A cooking couple with a cabinet already stocked with pots and pans will appreciate our brand new steam tower, a simple and healthy way to steam three dishes at once.  Included is an inspirational cookbook to further fuel their foodie fun.

Help the Earth-loving pair begin their new eco-friendly lives together by giving a ceramic countertop compost container.  More elegant than most composting systems, the container is elegant enough to sit atop the counter for easy composting and minimal mess.

Our custom Personalized Tree Plate is perfect for the young at heart.  The simple design is engraved onto recycled glass and can be personalized with two sets of initials and the date of the wedding.

The cozy couple will be delighted by a personalized couple pillow.  Pick from a variety of styles for man, woman, bride, or groom, and mother-daughter artists Mary and Shelly Klein will hand stitch the special design.

Any party-throwing pair will love the rainbow hors d’oeuvres set, a beautiful and creative tool to display appetizers or small bites for special events or simply snacking.

Sports fans and lovers will cheer when they receive a reclaimed gym floor frame, hand crafted from the maple floor of Kendrigan Gym in Ashland, Wisconsin.  The 4×6″ frame is ideal for displaying photos of their big day or memories of past big games.

Take a look at our other wedding gifts for even more giving ideas, or if you’re the lucky ones in love, sign up for our gift registry!

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