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Seasonal

5 Spring Steals to Send Winter Off

Posted by Caroline Fong April 7, 2014 10:30 AM

This recent winter felt especially long. It seemed like a snow storm greeted us every other week. But with spring’s official arrival, I am more than happy to take the sunnier mornings and afternoons even though the past few days have seen some dark clouds and chilly winds come nightfall.

And for me, there are certain mini milestones that come with the sought-after seasonal change. I’ve been wearing my spring leather boots more than my thick winter boots. I feel happier (and other folks seem so, too). There are more outdoor activities. In fact, just this past weekend, I participated in a fun public pillow fight in the Cambridge Common. What a way to welcome spring!

If you’ve been looking for a way to shake up the ‘ole routine a bit and welcome spring, here are five steals under $30 to start you off for some spring times.

1. Rice Cube ($19.95)

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Friends love friends who can cook. With the nicer weather and the upcoming warm weather vegetables that will be available, now’s a great time to try your hand at sushi-making. If you’re intimidated, use this sushi tool to easily make cubes of this healthy and delicious food.

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How to Spruce Up Your Spring Garden

Posted by Caroline Fong March 24, 2014 05:00 PM

As cliche as it sounds, spring is my favorite season. Yes, it may have something to do with the beautiful flowers and nice weather, but what I love is what those things signify: the blossoming of life.

And maybe New York City is a poor example of spring, but if you were in the Big Apple this past weekend, it was teeming with tourists. The warm weather and sunny days seemed to have pulled them right from the ground (or airport, rather) and planted them onto the pavements of the city of lights.

We are now four days into this fantastic season, and most of us probably prefer to be outside in our gardens than being in the big, big concrete city. If that’s you, here’s a roundup of five items that will help you spruce up the greenery around your lovely house.

Let’s start from the ground up.

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Hudson Valley Seed Library ($22.50, Set of 6) -- Want to grow Lemon Cucumbers and Good Bug Blooms? Mix and match a selection of regionally-adapted seeds in gift-quality packs featuring original works designed by artists. Take part in the preservation of these heirloom seeds from Hudson Valley of upstate New York in time for spring.

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The What-to-Buy-When-Santa-Brings-You-Cash Gift Guide

Posted by Caroline Fong December 27, 2013 07:15 PM

Yesterday, I went into work and asked my favorite post-Christmas question: “What did Santa bring you?”

My adjacent seat-mate told me Santa had brought her brandy to which everyone nodded in agreement that Santa was a smart man. Bobby (star of The Grommet trip to the R. Murphy Knife factory) told us that Santa had brought him clothes and money to which everyone exclaimed the latter was an awesome gift as an adult.

Santa had brought me money, too. With the extra cash, I had wondered about the different ways I should spend it. Wasting it on a few big meals seemed too gluttonous. Buying more shoes would make the shoe racks a walking hazard. And I have more books on my book list than I can keep up with.

If you’re in the same boat as me, here’s a quick gift guide for things that you can buy with the new year in mind:

You’ve been overworked and sleeping poorly this past year. And Santa just gave you $200.

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Holiday Checklist: Donate One Toy

Posted by Caroline Fong December 11, 2013 03:00 PM

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I have a secret fondness for toys. Actually, I think everyone does. My greatest possession in life (when I was eight years old) was a small sack of stuffed toys that I had personally picked out at the store. And I actually still have key pieces of that collection, such as my three Garfields.

With Christmas just around the corner, the topic of toys is on every parent's mind. I remember the look of delight on my dad's face as I was happily admiring each stuffed animal. I am sure any parent would rather this scenario than the distress of the alternative.

This holiday season, you can donate a toy to a nonprofit to help a family whose letter to Santa may have been lost in the snow. Here are some great places to start:

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How to Buy Christmas Gifts for Anyone and Everyone

Posted by Caroline Fong December 2, 2013 01:30 PM

I have a close friend who already has all her Christmas presents picked out, purchased, wrapped, and sitting in neat stacks on her bedroom floor. Her chipper updates on Facebook include pictures of said presents, which make me guiltily remind myself to finalize my own list.

The problem, however, isn't deciding who to buy presents for or where to buy presents. It's what to buy. This past weekend, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning combing the web, looking for the perfect (or even just near-perfect) gift for everyone on my list.

With so many options, it's easy to suffer from decision paralysis -- especially when you're trying to balance the “perfect” gift factor, price, convenience of shopping in an online or brick and mortar store, navigating mall crowds, free shipping deadlines, and more.

I've put together a cheat sheet for almost everyone in your circle of friends and family. So go ahead, relax and have another cup of hot chocolate.

DAD

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Sempli Cupa Rocks Gift Set, $50 -- These handblown crystal wine glasses are designed to spin and decant at the same time. Buy a set for the old man and include a nice bottle of Port so that he can sit back in style.

MOM

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Anywhere Fireplace, $169.99 -- You are the apple of her eye. This holiday season, get her the fireplace that she's always wanted. Smokeless, no ash, non-toxic, it burns eco-friendly bio-ethanol liquid fuel and is made of contemporary high gloss painted steel and tempered glass. It'll be a great conversation piece and a warm addition to any entertaining room.

BROTHER

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Spooner Board, $54.95 -- Have a little rascal that just won't stay still? Get him this balance board; it'll challenge him to stand, sit, rock, spin, slide, tilt, flip, or wobble on any surface, anywhere.

SISTER

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Lille Huset, $35 -- Legos are great, but painful for the unassuming foot. If your little sis loves arts and crafts, get her this collapsible DIY dollhouse instead so that she can let her imagination run free.

Before we continue, you may say wait! All your sibling gifts were for children. What about older siblings? Well, I am counting on them being just as cool as your friends, so keep reading for other gift options.

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Unique DIY Gifts: Give an Adventure

Posted by Caroline Fong November 25, 2013 02:30 PM

This past weekend, my mom and I were having dinner when she showed me the bracelet a co-worker had made for her. It was intricately weaved together, using strands of many different colors.

“Her wrists were full of them!” mused my mom. “It’s so popular to make things now.”

I chose this opportunity to tell her about the Maker Movement. Even though its roots stem from more tech and hardware, there is an overall interest in DIY, homemade, and homegrown. My mom should understand as she herself was the proud curator of a blooming summer garden this year.

This holiday season is the perfect time to dip your toe into DIY. Whether you’re a cheese aficionado, jewelry lover, or paper craft buff, here are six fun DIY Grommets that you can gift or share with a friend (or mom). Now wouldn't be a bad time to put your gin connoisseur friend to the test.

For the love of homemade food and drink

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Urban Cheesecraft (Goat Cheese, Chevre) -- This delicious kit includes everything you need to make 10 batches of goat cheese, including easy-to-follow instructions. Just add pasteurized milk and enjoy homemade cheese in about one hour.

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The HomeMade Gin Kit -- This is a great DIY project for grownups who like to imbibe. It comes with everything you need to make a small batch of high quality, subtly fragrant gin at home. And it's all ready in 36 hours.

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Gifting 'Aha' Moments as Stocking Stuffers

Posted by Caroline Fong November 18, 2013 02:30 PM

If you’ve been out casually browsing the department stores as I did this past weekend, you’ll notice an old retail trick: lining the space around the checkout area with quick deals and impulse buys that you may pick up, adding another few dollars to your order.

This is because those items are high-margin products for the retailers. They make for great impulse purchases because they’re cheap, fun, deliver instant gratification, and may have an nostalgic element to them -- like with a classic game of pick up sticks or your favorite bubble gum.

But squandering a few dollars here and there for items that cease to amuse us past the first hour of our purchase creates waste. And when the items are used as gifts, such as stocking stuffers, they end up as meaningless gifts.

To put together some acclaimed stockings this year, limit the dollar floral notepads, soap, or key chains and check out this roundup of problem solvers that provide practical solutions in an ‘aha’ way.

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Cuppow ($7.95) -- No more spilling hot coffee on the go. This is a lid for your mason jar, turning it into a portable travel mug.

Bubi Bottle (Starting at $14.95) -- Foldable, versatile, and durable, this water bottle can scrunch up in your pocket or double as a cold or hot compress.

Glove.ly ($29.95) -- These gloves let you use your whole hand on the touch screen if you want, and they’re extra warm and soft with an insulated layer of warmth.

Gleener ($19.95) -- Eliminate unsightly fuzz and lint with this nifty shaver on your favorite cardigan.

OnHand ($19.95) -- For college students rushing back and forth, store your files in this wrist-ready USB flashdrive.

PocketMonkey (Starting at $18.95, Set of 2) -- This tool packs twelve functions together into a one-millimeter piece of stainless steel that's the size of a credit card.

For more shopping ideas for useful items you can gift, take a browse through the 3rd catalog of the season from The Grommet.

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3 Easy Ways to Select a Meaningful Holiday Gift

Posted by Caroline Fong November 11, 2013 01:30 PM

During a friend’s recent birthday, I noticed a mildly interesting pattern. Many of the gifts she received were of those ten-dollar teddy bears you can pick up at a CVS or supermarket.

It had only bothered me because I was contemplating minimalism later that weekend. I realized that if my friends were to give me such easy (read as lazy) gifts as the generic teddy bears, it’d be hard to keep my possessions at a meaningful minimum.

This holiday season, I challenge you to not give another hand lotion gift basket, teddy bear, or run-of-the-mill candle. Here are three ways you can select a meaningful gift for a friend or family member (or even a workmate).

LOCATION

Pick from a selection of Grommets that turns memorable landmarks, cities, towns, and even lakes into cherished keepsakes and works of art.

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6 Sweet Gifts For When You Can't Attend That Family Dinner

Posted by Caroline Fong November 6, 2013 12:00 PM

We’ve all been there. It’s the holidays, and your parents or in-laws have been expecting you for a get-together, but you just can’t get away at the moment. It makes you cringe to hear the disappointment in their voices. A “sorry” isn’t enough. What should you do?

Well, as sweet as you must be, send them something sweeter. Here is a roundup of six sweet gifts that anyone would be happy to get in the mail.

If you hold true to your Boston roots:

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These sweet treats are made right here in Massachusetts.

Harbor Sweets ($19.50) are chocolates handmade in Salem. Their signature candy is the Sweet Sloop, a sailboat-shaped concoction of almond butter crunch, coated in white chocolate and dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans.

Chococoa ($28) are a delicious gourmet twist on the traditional whoopie pie, a staple of every childhood. The husband and wife creator team traveled to France and beyond in search of the best chocolate. When they returned to the U.S., they opened the Chococoa Bakery and Cafe in Newburyport with the updated Whoopie.

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Santa's List: Toys Made in the USA

Posted by Caroline Fong November 4, 2013 01:00 PM

Every year, I put pen to paper and put together my shopping list. It's one of my favorite things to do. I like to project my best Santa while planning the perfect gifts for the different personalities in my family and circles of friends.

If you're in the midst of putting together your list this year, why look further than your own American backyard? For my picks of toys and games made with American heart and soul, I like to think this is what Santa would've put together:

1. Constructive Eating: Meal Set with Placemat, $37.95

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Delight your little ones with a plate, utensil, and placemat set that will let them play while eating. The utensils include a forklift fork, front loader spoon and bulldozer pusher. They’ll have your kids shoveling food in their mouths in no time at all. All materials are FDA-approved, free of PVC, BPA and phthalates, and made in Illinois and Michigan.

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About The Grommet

We launch undiscovered products and help them succeed; we call them Grommets. Grommets aren't just things. Grommets are products with a purpose invented by people with stories. More »
SPONSORED BLOG
Buy Differently is a sponsored blog powered by The Grommet, and part of Boston.com Finds, a site you can count on to bring you the best discoveries around Boston and beyond. This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or Finds. The author is solely responsible for the content.
CONTRIBUTOR
Caroline Fong
Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.
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