Because this post is probably going to be long (hi, have you met me? Brevity is not a talent of mine), I'm going to cut to the chase. Have you heard of Uncommon Goods? If not, you're missing out. They've got oodles of awesome stuff, ranging from cute to clever to OMG I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW. They also donate some money off their sales to charity, which is pretty cool.
When I first discovered them, I lost many hours browsing their site - I did not rest until I was sure I'd seen EVERYTHING they had to offer. I am nothing if not thorough.
They are also quite helpful in the gift department. Some people are just hard to shop for, you know? They don't tell you what they want, they don't have a Pinterest board to guide you, and/or you don't really have money to spend on them anyway but you're kind of obligated so you should probably get them something, because it's their birthday and society dictates that you get your friends birthday presents. You can pretty much find something for everyone here, and by everyone, I mean "people that are cool" because if there is not a single item on this website that they would enjoy, then I'm really not sure what kind of people you are associating with. You should probably just buy them at Target gift card and call it a day. BUT, that's boring. Practical, yes, but who wants to be practical at a time like this? NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE BORING.
Or, you could do like my coworker and I did for another coworker, and run out to Wal-Mart over lunch and buy a pink-camo cake decorated with little plastic minions (because his last name is Minion and that's a hilarious real-life pun) wearing tiny plastic tiaras.
What I'm saying is, you can do better.
There's a lot of stuff on this site. I know, I know. This task is overwhelming. Let me help you. Let's pretend we are shopping for a birthday gift for someone. The first thing you need to do is click on the button that says "Birthday Gifts" - and then you can relax, because they've got everything sorted out. They've got stuff for your lady friends and stuff for your man friends and even some awesome hosting accessories for the actual shindig that you are throwing, which I suppose could count as a gift, 'cause hosting a party is hard work. I mean, you have to clean your house and stuff. (Be advised, though, that these categories are not mutually exclusive - there are a lot of things in the "Gifts for Men" category that I would, personally, love to have for myself. So don't rule anything out.) They've also got a lot of really cool artisan handmade gifts - not just jewelry, either, though there is some of that. (And, honestly? I really love their jewelry. A lot of it is out of my price range, but it's really pretty.) This necklace is amazing but more than I generally spend on, well, anything, if I can help it. Plus it's made out of recycled sake bottles. WHO SAYS I DON'T LOVE THE EARTH?
Okay, okay. Some stuff is expensive. But you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that most of it isn't. You can get a pretty solid and praise-worthy gift for about $25, which is about my normal gift-giving budget for someone that's not my sister. (We tend to overspend on each other, but in our defense? We're fun to shop for.) They actually have a whole collection of Gifts Under $50 which is where I'm guessing most people would be inclined to shop.
I MEAN, THERE'S A NINJA UMBRELLA. This thing is bad-ass. And it's only $24.
Sadly, I did not get the ninja umbrella. What I got instead is, I think, better.
CLEVER PRODUCT + WINE = WIN. (Know thy audience!)
I've always wanted one of these. And by "always" I mean "ever since I found out they existed." It's basically an icicle that's not made of ice that is attached to a cork (in case you couldn't figure it out by the name) that you throw in your freezer and then use with your opened bottles of wine to keep them chilled. White wine, red wine, doesn't matter. Brilliant, right? I thought so. At least I was convinced that it was brilliant in theory, but I am a woman of science and I needed to see for myself.
I was determined to be thorough (as I mentioned earlier), which translates to "testing both red and white wines" because THE PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW.
So much prep work. Science is hard, guys.
First things first: the red wine. The box says you can stick the frozen corkcicle into your red wine and in fifteen minutes, it will be chilled and you can drink it. Because you're not supposed to drink red while cold. Which I do anyway, because (a) I am not a sophisticated wine person and (b) my red wines generally tend to resemble alcoholic grape juice. I don't like dry wines - they have to be on the sweet end of the spectrum. This makes me some sort of heathen, I know, but I don't even care, because I like what I like.
For this particular experiment, I decided to use local wines only. You may not know this, but Iowa is actually capable of growing grapes and making some pretty decent wines. I mean, we're no California, but we do all right. My first wine in this trial is called Serenade and it comes from Fireside Winery in Marengo, Iowa. It's probably about as non wine-like as wines go, which means it's perfect for people who don't normally like wine. Because it doesn't taste like wine. It tastes like Grown Up Grape Juice. More or less. Whatever, it's delicious.
So, here's the thing, that should have been obvious, but wasn't...
First rule of fluid mechanics: displacement.
If you stick the corkcicle into a brand new, full bottle of wine, you're gonna make a mess. I feel like I should have known this, but in my defense, I was eager to get started and try it out, and also because I forgot about Actual Science in the pursuit of Blog Science. So, it may be helpful to pour out some of the wine into a glass first. You probably don't need to empty as much as I did, but... just be aware. Especially with red wine. Because that stuff can make a nice big stainy mess.
I waited the prescribed fifteen minutes (conveniently enough time for my frozen pizza to finish baking) and dove right in. The wine had noticeably chilled, though it wasn't refrigerator-cold. I suspect that it was the correct level of chillness for normal red wines to be, which, as previously mentioned, I tend to not adhere to. At any rate, it was pleasantly not-warm, and I gave it a thumbs up.
NEXT UP: WHITE WINE.
This wine came from the Prairie Moon Winery in Ames, Iowa, which I've been to before but recently re-visited with my dad and stepmother.
GRAPES! aka FUTURE WINE!
This wine is incredibly sweet. It went really well with my accidental mango pad thai that I made a couple nights ago when I bought a box of Pad Thai and realized far too late that I hadn't bothered to read the box and that I didn't have half the ingredients I was supposed to have, because the box only came with noodles and sauce. So I improvised and it turned out rather well. They actually recommend this wine for grilling, which basically means it's an excellent summer evening wine.
For white wine, the corkcicle claims to be able to keep it chilled for up to an hour. Which I decided to test by parking the bottle of wine next to me and checking it periodically. The wine had been previously refrigerated and was sitting at room temperature with the 'cicle, if you must know the parameters of this experiment.
Verdict: it not only stayed cool for an hour, but for at least two hours. After that I had to put the wine away and go to bed, so who knows how long it would have stayed cold! I was pretty pleased. I'm curious as to how long it will stay cold if you were to take it outside to a picnic or a night on the patio - I guess I'll have to do more research!
In summary: this is pretty nifty, I will probably use it a lot, and it would (will?) make a fun, clever gift - one of those things that's really cool to have, but you have a hard time justifying buying for yourself. TWO EMPHATIC THUMBS UP.
Oh, but the fun doesn't stop there. I also thought the Fortune Keeper Keychain was cute, albeit cheesy as heck, but I love cheesy things and I love saving the little slips of paper from my fortune cookies (as long as they are good ones, anyway.) Why not carry around a positive message for you when you are crabby or having a bad day?
It's completely impractical, sure, but it's completely adorable and it comes in a little tin which practically screams "I AM AN EXCELLENT GIFT."
All right, enough about me. You want in on some of this? I KNOW YOU DO. Because the people at Uncommon Goods are - wait for it - uncommonly awesome, I have a $50 gift card to give away to one of you lucky people.
I am going to try to do this a little bit differently (and hopefully more interactive/fun...ly).
Required entry: find something you like from the Uncommon Goods website and pin it to any of your Pinterest boards with the tag #uncommonlyclever. Come back here and leave a comment with the URL to your pin. (I'm going to collect them all on one super-awesome pinboard). OR shoot me an email if you just want me to add you to the board to eliminate all this tagging and commenting nonsense.
If you don't use Pinterest, you can just leave a comment with the name and/or link to your favorite item(s). Also, you should probably sign up, assuming you hate free time and need another Internet time-waster.
1. Like Uncommon Goods on Facebook
2. Sign up for the Uncommon Goods email list.
3. Like [Insert Clever Title Here] on Facebook
4. Tweet about the giveaway. Be sure to mention @UncommonGoods, as well as me (@kelalea) to make sure I see it.
If you want to make sure I see all of these things, please leave a comment for each bonus thing you do. If I don't know you did it, I can't count it!
All right, kids. Go play. You have until August 15 and then I shall find a way to cleverly and randomly select a winner.