Creative Gifting With Uncommon Goods

With the holiday season officially just around the corner, I can't help thinking about the great gift hunt of 2015. You know, the search for the perfect gift for everyone on your list (and a thing or two for you too - shopping is hard work, you deserve it!) 

Shortly before we took off for Japan, Uncommon Goods contacted me, asking if I wanted to do a little gift shopping for myself.

Having heard about the Brooklyn-based online shop many times over the years, but never having shopped there, I was pretty delighted to discover that not only did they ship to Canada (and heaps of other international destinations), but also carried a great selection of handmade goods from makers alongside other creative gift options and DIY kits. Plus a third of their offerings incorporate upcycled or recycled materials and $1 from your purchase will be donated to your choice of one of their not-for-profit partners. Read more about that program here.

Unique gifts, feel-good business practices, delivery to my door AND no need to slog through page after page of dismal Etsy listings (or the mall) to find a gem. You know what I mean! Love it when someone else has already narrowed down the options! 

I easily spent hours browsing and dreaming... paper teddies and carving kits, pretty jewels and catapults, wine glasses and claymation... I could go on all day! 

What's nice about Uncommon Goods, is that there's really something for everyone - even those notoriously difficult to buy for people in your life. If you don't get too sucked into shopping for yourself, that is! 

Find lovely gift options for women by clicking here. I really love the Solar Photography kit, Parchment Blossom Earrings (you'll never guess they're made of veggies!) and Calligraphy Starter set.

You can shop for all sorts of unique gifts for men by clicking here (they're always the hardest to buy for, aren't they?) I think the DIY Smartphone Projector, Sake Making Kit or an interesting watch would make wonderful gifts for your favourite men.

There are even personalized gifts which are perfect for celebrating big (or little) milestones. Or, you know, just for cuddling! See them all here.

Go on, browse a little, you know you want to!

Uncommon Goods let me do a little shopping in exchange for this post however all opinions are my own.

Muji Yourself

One of my favourite shops to frequent in Japan is Muji. Filled with well-designed basics from clothes to housewares to stationery (and oodles of delicious snacks), there's always something simple yet delightful to discover.

While I was a little sad to see that my favourite Muji snack is no more (curry flavoured "chips" made from okara aka soy lees), our local Muji is five (5!) floors of fun including a lovely cafe, so I guess that makes up for it. (Plus, with their big food section, I'm sure I can find a new snack to love... guess it's time to start taste testing!

But what really made me forget about my snack disappointment was the fabulous Muji Yourself section! Most (all?) Muji stores include a free stamp counter where you can customize your Muji stationery or create unique wrapping for gifts. Different cities/stores usually offer some unique stamp designs and I've heard rumours of seasonal ones too.

Not one to resist a casual craft opportunity, I purchased a simple wirebound notebook (only ¥100 / $1.10) and got right to work.

Of course, I didn't discover the provided stamp ruler until after those tragically lopsided eyes, but in the end decided that quirkier is more fun anyway!

Luckily, there are two sides to play with, so added a little Fukuoka love to the back of the book. (Before you think I'm getting too cheeky, I'll pause to point out that FUK is Fukuoka's airport code!)

That was fun, but I think I need more stampng fun - there were so many I didn't get to use and I keep daydreaming about patterns to try. I did spot a pack of blank postcards in the stationery section...

Do you have any Muji favourites? I always loved their hair elastics when I lived in Japan - the perfect amount of stretch!

Book Off - Japan's Used Book Heaven

I have a major soft spot for Japanese books. Clever craft ideas, adorable illustrations, innovative photo styling and an amazing variety of subjects await. Browsing any bookstore is pretty heavenly, but I might just love browsing bookstores in Japan the most.

Of course, loving every book you pick up can get pretty pricy - and that's where Book Off comes in. Japan's beloved chain of used bookstores allows you to pick up an armload of beautiful books without throwing your travel budget totally out the window.

Since we have a Book Off in our temporary neighbourhood here in Japan, I just had to go browsing for treasures. I walked out with a wonderful assortment of craft books, magazines, kids books and a gorgeous bilingual guide to Fukuoka - all for ¥2500 (about $27 CDN).

Here's what I picked up...

Yasashii Kirigami by Kanako Yaguchi - a lovely kirigami book with international designs. Here's the English version.

Schumann the Shoeman by John & Stella Danakis - I grabbed this one for the illustrations which are totally gorgeous and collage-based but really enjoyed the story of the passionate cobbler too!

Self-made Stationery by Kazumi Udagawa - clever papercraft projects. English version here.

りんごとちよう - the Japanese version of The Apple and the Butterfly by Iela & Enzo Mari. This wordless picture book is a fantastic addition to your bookshelf in any language. It tells the tale of the lifecycle of the apple and the butterfly.

Hand & Heart magazine Issue 1 - pom poms, sashiko patterns & crochet slippers. Patterns & step-by-step instructions included.

Fukuoka d design travel - a design-oriented guide to Fukuoka's shops, restaurants and overall spirit. 

Can't wait to see what treasures I discover on my next visit!

Do you have a favourite bookstore from your travels or hometown?