UncommonGoods, Uncommonly Good: Birthday Gift List edition

This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods.com. Find the best ideas for men, women and kids at UncommonGoods. They carry thousands of unique and unusual gifts, from fun jewelry and cool accessories to creative home decor and kitchen items.

I use to be the best wish list maker. No joke. And it wasn’t always those stereotypical what-every-kid-asks-for lists like puppies or ponies or rocket ships. (Though I totally had a puppy on my list until I was 14. And that’s because that was when I finally got one.) I always had the coolest, but within reason, toys and games. As I got older, my lists got better. I could actually fine tune my list based on which relative I was sending it to according to the likelihood they’d buy it for me. In my twenties, as adulthood kicked in and I got fewer and fewer gifts, I knew to ask for somewhat practical yet fun gifts. That’s how I ended up with a deep fryer one year.

This year, though, as I ready myself for 32… I’ve got nothing. Sure there are things I’d like, but nothing really “birthday wish list” worthy. Fitbit is a bit too on the expensive side. Roomba is on the beyond the expensive side. And the new tervis tumbler is just kind of meh. Plus, I can’t put those on a list and be like “oh hey, yet another tervis” because it’s the only affordable item I asked for.

Thankfully, though, through this partnership with UncommonGoods, I’m finding a lot of stuff that I might not have necessarily thought to get or ask for. UncommonGoods is a company that works to connect you, the shopper, with unique and fun goods from a variety of craftsmakers and artisans. (Coolest thing of all is that the whole shop was inspired by a Smithsonian Museum craft show!) They have a wide variety of items, in a vast price range. I was actually really shocked at how much stuff they have on their site. I wasn’t sure I was actually going to see everything! However, to help you guys navigate through it all, I’m going to highlight some items from their super helpful lists. And since my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, why not look through their birthday gift guide? Now. They also have this broken down into birthday gifts for her and birthday gift for him — if splitting things up help like that helps you out at all.

It was really hard to pick my top favorites, but here are 9 items I really love!

UncommonGoods Birthday Gift Lists

  1. Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn Mug – I mean, who doesn’t want a giant rainbow unicorn for their coffee/tea/cocoa? It would just make mornings magical.
  2. Scratch Map – I’ve had my eye on this map for over a year now. Not even for myself, but for a couple of my younger sisters. It’s a super fun way to document your travels!
  3. Literary Candles – Let’s be honest, while all of these are fun, I most definitely want my home smelling of 221B Baker Street (which is a combination of Black currant tea and leather books)! Also cool and related: they have those amazing Literary Scarves! Something I also love.
  4. City Map Glasses – I am absolutely in love with the Chicago glass. I would likely even order extras just in case I accidentally broke this–heaven forbid!
  5. Foodie Dice – I. Love. These. I am actually 100% most definitely getting a set of these for myself for my cooking streams. It has a cooking method, a protein (animal and non), veggie/sides, spices, and carb/grains. I think it’d add a fun crazy element to my streams — the unpredictability of it all and having to come up with a recipe on the spot. I just love this idea.
  6. Flavors of America Salt Collection – There’s 11 different salts in this collection that span across the country. From Maine to California to even Hawaii. I’m a sucker for spices, especially salts. And I would love to explore these on various meals. (Or, ok, yes, I would my cross-country season fries.) This is just one of many spice collections from UncommonGoods I’d like to get.
  7. Scotch Infused Toothpick Gift Set – I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly. (For real, though, there were a lot of boozy gifts. Like a lot. I had a hard time narrowing it down so it wouldn’t look like I was some terrible alcoholic.)
  8. Homemade Gin Kit – Speaking of boozy… They actually have a lot of cool brew-it-yourself kits. Everything from different types of beers to kombucha to liquors. I’ve not had a huge amount of exposure to gin, but it’s something I’d like to try more of. In moderation, and stuff, of course.
  9. Novel Teas – Again another literary gift. There’s 25 tea bags, each with a quote from an author. It’s English Breakfast tea — aka caffeinated, so I can’t have it — but again, this is one that’s been on my eye as gifts for others.

Like I said, I had a super hard time narrowing things down. There’s just a huge wide variety of items on UncommonGoods. Yes, I’ll admit, something are out of my price range… but they do indeed have a lot of affordable items as well. And definitely a lot of items I’ll be (not-so) secretly wishing for this year!

Have you checked out UncommonGoods before? What’s your favorite item?


#JurassicBirthday gift guide

As you may remember, or have deduced on your own, Jurassic World is opening the day before my 31st birthday. Thus: #JurassicBirthday.

I already got myself a pre-birthday treat of the Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy dvd set. It was on sale at Target, and I mean, how could I not? I get that not everyone is all excited about Jurassic World, and some of you might be completely over it due to all the hype. But for me, it represents a couple things. Firstly, I mean, dinosaurs are cool. They’re just fascinating. Secondly, Jurassic Park and the fictional character’s John Hammond’s dream — I mean, that’s the core of my love. Dreaming that anything can be possible — making your imagination a reality. And lastly, ok, yes, I’ll admit it’s campy and ridiculous and that just makes it so amazingly awesome. Especially the sequels. (And I’m hoping JW has this in appropriate measures — given the previews, and trained raptors, I’m sure I’ll get my wish.)

Anyway. I’m excited about Jurassic World AND my birthday. And so with that, here is my dinosaur-loaded #JurassicBirthday gift guide!

#JurassicBirthday gift guide

» View from the Triceratops figure from Modcloth (sold out)

» Fun for you Life wall decor from Modcloth

» LEGO Jurassic Park for Wii U

» LEGO Jurassic Park/World sets

» Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal phone case from LookHuman

» I dig it necklace from Modcloth
(I actually own 2 dinosaur necklaces, but this was the first one I had my eye on.)

» Dino Puns are Pteroble shirt from LookHuman

» Floral Dinosaur tank from LookHuman

» Object d’Artifact from Modcloth

» Purassic Park phone case from LookHuman

» Dino Skulls pillow from LookHuman

» “Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth” print from Etsy

» Dino my gosh dress in navy from Modcloth (sold out again! It always comes back in stock when I don’t have the cash for it.)

Now, I realize most of these are from the same place… but I knew if I spent any time on Etsy looking at awesome dinosaur stuff I’d be there for 5 weeks and never get this post out. The one print I’ve got listed is one I’d saved previously, so it was easy to grab. And also too awesome to leave off.


Holiday Gifts: Miscellaneous Picks

And here it is. Three days of lists ending with this: the miscellaneous list. These are just the ones that I like simply because I like them. There’s not much of a theme, though you’ll see a fair bit of Chicago stuff, mainly because I will indeed miss this place so much.

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» Field Museum pewter desk ornament – I mean, this is my dream, this is my goal. I really want to work at the Field one day. It holds a special place in my heart, and I’d love to have this tiny desk version of it to have and to keep for ever and ever.

» Chicago Flag Scarf – A fun reminder that if I can deal with Chicago in the winter, I can survive that season anywhere.

» World’s Columbian Fair map – Another Field Museum piece. The Columbian Fair is how the Field Museum got its start. Some of the original collection is still on display. And last year I got to go experience their Worlds Fair exhibit — and it was amazing. I love the history of the museum. (I saw this on Etsy, but of course, now I can’t find it and I didn’t save the link.)

» Vacuum – I’ve had so many of those wimpy little stick vacs. What with two cats, there’s just hair everywhere. I want something that can deal with all of that. Either with hardwood or carpet (since I don’t know what my next apartment will have).

» Apple TV – While there are many options for these media streaming machines, I’ve got movies from iTunes, and thus… unwilling to lose those movies, an Apple TV just make sense. Mainly I just really want to watch them on the big screen rather than just my iPad.

» CW by CorningwareErin recently partnered with Corningware to showcase these amazing dishes. And I just fell for them. I lack bakeware. I mean, seriously, I’ve got 1 8×8-inch metal pan, a pie tin, and a toaster oven-sized tiny baking sheet. Not having proper cooking dishes means that my meals are limited. And it’s frustrating.

» “Dino puns are pteroble” shirt – I mean… YES.

» Chicago flag holiday shirt – It’s just fun. I love Chicago. I love our flag. But of course I found this online at some random site… and didn’t save the link. Ugh.

» Owl necklace – I had an owl necklace just like this for a long time. It was really the only necklace I wore until very recently. And then one day it just disappeared. I’m extremely bummed that it’s gone. I got the original from Kohl’s, but that was a couple years ago, so… I think random etsy shops are going to be my best bet.

» Slippers – I have the worse luck with slippers. Or rather, my cats have a personal vendetta against my slippers. They have destroyed probably 3-4 pairs. Kaija just has this weird shoe thing, and she loves slippers the most.

» Bemz slipcover – Another thing my cats have destroyed. I love my slipcover. But my cats decided to rip up one of the arms. So… I’d like to get another one. These two designs from Bemz are just fun, and I think would fit well within my home.

Don’t forget to check out my Fandom and Adventure gift picks too!


Holiday Gifts: Adventure Picks

More gift picks! This time the theme I chose was “Adventure” … which I may have interpreted somewhat differently. I think the shirt in this pick really speaks to my sort of adventure (or at least for this current part of my life).

2015 Holiday Gift: Adventure Picks

» Ladies of the Field by Amanda Adams – This book is all about the early women archaeologist. These are the women who paved the way for the career path I’m heading towards. “In a time when ladies dressed in ruffled petticoats, these women were sporting work trousers, smoking men’s pipes, and riding camels through uncharted Middle Eastern deserts.” It’s amazingly romanticized in my mind, but oh so amazing.

» The Fossil Hunter by Shelley Emling – Another great woman in the field, only this time it’s paleontology. (No, archaeologist do not dig up dinosaurs.) Mary Anning, at only 12 years old, discovered the “first” dinosaur skeleton in 1811. I use the quotations for obvious reasons, at some point, someone before that time probably stumbled across some fossils. But for the most part, Anning is sort of considered the mother of paleontology.

» Harry Potter: The Creature Vault by Jody Revenson – The universe of Harry Potter is just amazing. And this book not only goes into detail into that, but also rare concept illustrations that are just beyond amazing.

» Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman – 1) Short stories, 2) fantastical creatures, 3) NEIL GAIMAN. Need I say more?

» Stuffed Animals & Pickled Heads by Stephen T. Asma – Yes, a completely weird title. But this book is a narrative of the culture and evolution of natural history museums.  This books plays right into my current adventure, with my goal of one day working at a natural history museum.

» Dinosaurs in the Attic by Douglas J. Preston – Another museum book, this time the American Museum of Natural History. This book, written by a former employee of the museum, is just filled with random facts as well as a good history of the museum and its exhibits.

» Mountains landscape tote bag – This is just a fun print from LookHuman. It’s got this beautiful design that’s fun, but also sort of vintage-y.

» “I like to party, and by party I mean read books” shirt – It speaks for itself.

» “Count me in” phone case – A nice reminder of what I want for my life. (Though throw in “decaf” right before coffee.)

» “Wash you spirit clean” print – I seem to be surrounding myself with John Muir quotes. (I’ve got one for my facebook header, and another for my iPad background.) I consider myself a Christian, and growing up I definitely felt a closer relationship to God out in nature (or even just outside in general). So for me, I love this print showing mountains (mountains!) along with this quote.

» Trail Mavens trip – I love Abby for sharing her Trail Mavens experiences. I wish I lived out west so I could go on every single trip. They are very smartly set up and planned. There’s a lot of love put into their details. I would just love the chance to go on one of these trips.

» Multitool – When I was little, I loved my Swiss Army knife. It wasn’t big or fancy, but I loved just all it had. So of course, now, I definitely want a multitool. Some of the guys bring theirs on tour and they’re just spectacularly handy.

In case you missed yesterday’s Fandom list, you can find it here. Tomorrow I’ll have one more, final list.


Holiday Gifts: Fandom Picks

It’s that time! Yep. It’s holiday time, so on with the lists of things I want, but more-than-likely won’t get either because I chose to spend the money elsewhere (and my family doesn’t tend to see/use any list I make, because, hello 30.)

Anyway, I didn’t mean to time this out with Fandom 5 — and yes, there are way more than 5 picks here, but it fits the theme. I just want to get these out before the holidays, and well, to stop myself from adding more to it.

2015 Holiday PIcks: Fandom

Going from left, top to bottom, onwards to the right

» Amiibos – I’ve yet to get any of these, which given all the fuss going on with their inventory levels and such… well, I think the only thing going for me is that so far I’m going after the more popular ones, so they’ll at least be likely to be in stock somewhere. Link, Zelda, and Peach are my top three picks so far, with Sheik, WFT, Villager, Little Mac, and Pit coming after that. (And yes, I know about Villager & WFT — I helped break some of that news.)

» Super Smash Bros for Wii U and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – So I might be in the minority among my friends, but I actually want Captain Toad more than Super Smash Bros. This isn’t saying I’m meh about Smash. It just means I really want Captain Toad. I mean, it’s just. so. flipping. clue.

» Harry Potter book series – I have a few of the books, but maybe only like… 2. I’d just really like to own the complete set in physical copies so I can continue to read them over and over again. I’d also love to get all of the movies too, but I want the books first.

» My Little Cthulhu/Mythos Buddies figures – Yeah, yeah, yeah. I put these on my list every year. And yes, they’re pretty much discontinued. But I want it! Adorable little Old Ones.

» Frostbeard Studios candles – Some other bloggers tipped me off to these candles, and they’re just too nerdy and fun to pass up. I mean, they’ve got an “old books” scented candle. I want them all for their titles. But really go for any sort of woody scented candle.

» Batgirl purse from Lucy Liz – I love her purses. Classic, feminine shape covered in absolute nerdiness. I feel like this would make a great special occasion purse as well as an amazing thing for cons. Depending on how strong that chain is, could make an awesome every day purse too.

» Bruce & Golden Smaug Funko Pop Vinyl – I think my list of must-have Funko pop is crazy long, and I always have a hard time picking the ones I want the most. But these are two are definitely ones I’m interested in. I tend to talk myself out of getting these when I’m at cons and such, but I just really want these and need to pull the trigger.

» Tsum Tsums – I mean. Yes. I’m mildly addicted to this game. Mainly because it’s adorable. My list of wants for these is going to rival my Funko list. Although, not really the people tsums… those ones are still just weird to me.

» Lego Hobbit: Unexpected Journey – It’s Hobbiton. The Shire. And it’s Lego. I must have it. (And yes, I’ve put this on my list before, but dang if Lego prices aren’t what I remember!) And of course, I’d also need all the other dwarf figures to truly recreate this experience.

As I mentioned, there are definitely more fandom things I’d love. But I’ve got to stop somewhere. However, of course, I’ve got 2 more lists that I’ll share over the next couple of days.


Patreon: Another way to support bloggers

Talking about sponsorships and the business side of blogging isn’t always easy. It falls into the “self promotion” category. While some people are adept with this and can do it seamlessly without a second thought… for others, myself included, it’s like a really awkward dance where we spend too much time trying not to trip over ourselves or bump into others.

If you’re reading my blog actually within my site itself, and not in any sort of RSS reader or whatnot, then you’ll see I offer ad space for sale. I like this because it allows people to be exposed to other sites/stores/blogs. Also, it offers something in return for their financial support.

Ad space seems to be the main way bloggers support themselves. However, I was curious about alternative means — maybe people who’d like to support me and my work, but who aren’t necessarily interested in having an ad on my site. And that’s when I remembered Patreon — something a friend sent me earlier in my creative writing career.

AdorkableMe: Patreon

You may have noticed over the last couple months footnotes on my posts mentioning this site. Patreon is a service that allows friends, followers, and fans to support creatives on a monthly or per project basis. Crowd-funding your site, basically. However unlike places like Kickstarter or GoFundMe or IndieGoGo… Patreon is bigger picture, less one specific project.

Think of it like a pledge drive.

You donations to the creative help cover any sort of day-to-day costs (hosting, etc), as well as special features. Creatives can list their goals, and also offer rewards based on contribution level. One of the new features here on my site is a result of these goals: reading new-to-me comics each month. When we reach higher milestones it’ll “unlock” new features like quarterly giveaways and vlogging.

I really like this business model for creatives. It’s like my relationship with my local NPR station: WBEZ. I love my station, I enjoy listening to it and it provides me news and entertainment. It’s something I access often. I love that it’s ad free and accessible to anyone who wants it. Which is exactly why I chose to become a member — making a repeating monthly donation. Patreon allows people to offer the same sort of support to content creators, like myself.

And I would like to take this time now to share my gratitude for my patrons and their support:

Natasha from Falling to Earth – Natasha’s been a great supporter of me for a long time. We met back in my 20SB days. I’ve always appreciated that even during hard times, Natasha still keeps a bright spirit about her — and has been a great source of encouragement not just for myself but others.

Jenn from Old Haunts – I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon Jenn’s blog, but I remember instantly feeling a kinship.  She’s nerdy and witty and just has some really amazing style. I’m exciting about continuing to get to know this new friend.

As a way of celebrating my gratitude for them, I have a special little “wall of love.” I’ve got their names on bright colored cutouts, along with some fun, loving quotes. I also post up each of the goals we complete together. It’s all displayed above my coffee bar, so I start out my morning in a heart of thankfulness.

So. From me, to my patrons and to my readers: thank you.


Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for…

» A mom who loves and supports me, and has bailed me out way more often than she should have had to.

» A dad and stepmom who accept me for who I am, or at least, let me believe that — and love me regardless.

» A brother who sends me endless pictures of his soon-to-be 1 year old daughters whenever I feel down.

» My brother’s girlfriend for being a wonderful addition to our family, and giving us 2 adorable little girls.

» A niece who loves me despite all the distance we’ve had between each other, and who Facetimes me and lets me talk to/at her baby sisters.

» A group of sisters who forgive, teach me patience through example, surprise me with their humor and curiosity.

» My extended family; the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins… all of whom have helped shape me into who I am today in their own ways.

» My Mucca family, for loving me especially for the weirdo I am. I would have been lost a long time ago without them.

» My cats who comfort me during my down times, make me laugh endlessly, put up with my terrible singing, and show me unending love.

» My patrons and blog sponsors, without whom it’d be hard to keep up with this stuff.

» My blogging/online community; from 20sb compatriots to NintendoEnthused/MKGLers to FGbloggers to the punkists to IGGPPC — you enrich my world, even if mostly virtually.

» A temp office who wants the best for me and keeps offering me work.

» Cold weather and warm winter wear.

» A chance to do this college thing over again, and attempt a new career path at 30.

» Blazers, accessories, and other outfits that make me feel like a real adult.

» Netflix binges. Books to get lost in. Other fictional worlds to distract me.

» Thin mint coffee creamer.

» The feel of new comics.

» Never giving up on myself.


a closer look: Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan

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So for the last 6 months, I’ve briefly shouted at you guys regarding my love for this new Ms. Marvel run. I was definitely intrigued and nervous at first, when I heard about what was sort of being planned for Marvel NOW’s relaunch of the character. I mean, a Muslim-American teenager… there’s a lot of great potential for awesomeness, but also, great danger for worn out cliches and stereotypes.

But honestly, after seeing these first 6 issues. Guys. GUYS. G. Willow Wilson has done such an amazingly beautiful job with this story. I mean, I’m sold on it. 100% sold on it.

Ok. Ok, so you’re thinking, what’s up, it’s just a comic book, right? Ms. Marvel is, now, part superhero story, and part coming of age story of a girl from Jersey who’s really just trying to figure out who she is and how to do the right thing. It’s so endearing and so relatable.

I mean, I want so much to gush about EVERYTHING regarding it… but also don’t want to spoil it, because you really just need to experience this yourself.

But when we live in a world when oh so many heroines in comics, including the last Ms. Marvel, look like this:

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It’s kind of refreshing to have one that looks like this:

Ms Marvel needs theme music streetclothes
She’s normal. I mean, this is one thing that I love about Kamala. She reads very much true to her character. She is incredibly relatable. Every time a new issue comes out, I just want to hug it — which is hard, because I subscribed digitally. But Ms. Marvel not only captivates and charms me, but I can’t leave an issue without feeling like I can go battle evil and be a little braver and a little more sure of who I am.

And I mean, Kamala is a nerd, just like us…

Ms. Marvel You are wolverine! Fan fiction

I seriously cannot, cannot recommend this new Ms. Marvel strongly enough. Go. Go read it now.


Such Fun! (meet my favorite show, Miranda)

I’m not a stranger to marathoning season after season of various tv shows. Mostly I just bounce around from whatever’s available. Not having cable really since high school when I lived with my mom, well, I appreciate shows, but there are few that I eagerly await.

However, one show that I have absolutely fallen in love with — that just, I don’t… might be one of my favorite shows ever… is Miranda.

I don’t normally do sitcoms. A lot just rely on awkward humor that’s hard to watch after a couple episodes, or the jokes get too crass or dry… or for whatever reason, I just can’t get into them. But with Miranda… oh goodness. I’m not often a laugh out loud type of person, but I totally am with Miranda.

Yes, it’s awkward. And there are fart jokes. And slapstick. But I just love it. Maybe it’s the British humor… Really, though, I think it’s all Miranda Hart. I saw her first in Call the Midwife — which she was ok as Chummy — but she just kills it basically as her sitcom self.

And to show my love of Miranda, here’s a series of gifs from the show. Hopefully from them, you can sort of see why I sort of feel like Miranda Hart is my spirit animal.

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Now go on Hulu and watch all three seasons because I need someone to yell “such fun!” and do their Heather Small impressions.


Drone Day – aka: I love my job.

So, as some of you know I work for a department in a large university that does a prestigious summer program for extremely talented youth. And it has been phenomenal. I love my office. I love my job. I’m good at what I do. And yes, I stare at a lot of spreadsheets all day and research products and have to manage order/shipment schedules…. But it’s great. (It’s also why I’m not online as much, especially as things are starting to get crazy busy.)

Best thing is: my office lets me geek out. In fact, they support it and join in with me. Case-in-point: Drone Day.

For one of our 4-6th grade programs, we are ordering drones. Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition quadcopters to be exact. Five of them.

This is pretty exciting. Drones are still fairly new as far as consumer products, though their prices are dropping. And even though there’s some controversy with the FAA regarding drones, well… I mean, they’re drones. It’s freaking cool.

So when I found out that not only was I buying these for our program, but I’d be the one to get to test them out? I definitely nerded out a bit.

Drone preparing for flight time

Also: Yes, my desk is tiny and pretty much always covered post-it notes.

On Drone Day, I got the batteries charged and was prepping everything for our flight time. The Power Edition comes with 2 batteries, each with about 30-36 minutes of flight time on them. No, that’s not much, but it’s much much much better than the standard edition.

And since this was for a class, I didn’t customize it with the interchangeable colored propellors. The kiddos can choose that stuff.

After lunch, the office went out to a nearby soccer field, gathered around, and I scared the crap out of them when I hit “take off”. We left the indoor haul on it (the rounded quad-thing you see in the picture above), rather than the exposed outdoor one. With this being our initial flights, I didn’t want to risk the propellers.

First off, these things can be noisy. Not distractingly so, but it definitely makes you understand why there’s no mic on this thing — just the two cameras. Also, it does produce a good amount of air underneath it, like you see from regular helicopters but on a smaller scale of course.

The controls were not completely intuitive, even though I did watch a whole lot of tutorials and read the manual numerous times. And we had a little wind to deal with. But you get the hang of it quickly.

I absolutely wish I could have more time with this machine to really master the controls and navigation. It was so much fun to work with. And I can’t imagine it in an indoor setting where you’re not fighting the wind.

I was zooming it around, we took off the altitude restrictions… and I got it to do flips. Such fun!

And, of course, a quick little office selfie from our back porch. Eventually it’d be nice to just know where the photo button was so I could take one without having to stare at the control panel on my phone.

Drone Office Photo

At the end of our fun, one of my colleagues turned to me and said, “man, we really picked the right person for your position this year!” I am so grateful to be a part of this office, not even for the drones, but just for the amazing people that I work with.