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Why You Need to Give the Furball a Hug Today

Posted by Caroline Fong June 4, 2014 05:00 PM

Today is Hug Your Cat Day. Have you heard of it? Me neither. But a friend had told me about it, and I proceeded to google it. Sure enough, itís one of those cute, funny holidays.

If youíre the lucky momma or papa of a furry feline, go ahead and give him some extra love today. And if youíre feeling extra generous, gift that furball one of these delightful toys.

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Gifts for Pops: Be His Favorite Child

Posted by Caroline Fong June 2, 2014 05:00 PM

I know parents arenít supposed to pick favorites, but I donít think itíd hurt to earn some brownie points. Besides, as the oldest of my siblings, Iíve had the fortune and misfortune of having received the bulk of my parentsí attention. Itís only fitting that I get pops a thoughtful gift.

If youíre going to get dad a tie or shirt, close your wallet. There are ways to get him a ďtraditionalĒ gift while still making it unique. Iíve rounded up a few of my favorite things from The Grommet as well as a few common items you could gift your dad that heíd probably love your help with.

If your dad is a manís man:

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For the dad who likes well-trimmed facial hair, get him a shaving gift set from Napa Soap Company. Handmade in the Napa Valley, this gift is economical and eco-friendly. It comes with approximately one year's supply of shaving soap even with daily use, and itís made with natural ingredients that sound good enough to eat!

If your dad prefers to landscape the garden instead, get him this handsome set of hand-forged garden tools from Fisher Blacksmithing. Functional and made from time tested designs, each piece is solid, comfortable, and a beautiful work of craftsmanship.


T-Shirts: Breathe New Life into a Fashion Staple

Posted by Caroline Fong May 28, 2014 03:00 PM

Back in the 90s, graphic tees were all the rage. From your favorite band to your favorite cartoon, there was a t-shirt for that. Weíve since stepped away from the cheesy t-shirts, but the t-shirt has never really gone out of style. Itís our favorite pair of jeansí laidback best friend.

Now, a few folks are marrying the retail trend of customization with t-shirts, bringing personality and your sense of style into this time-tested wardrobe piece. Iíve rounded up a few (fun!) ways you can inject some color into your t-shirts.

If you live in Japan and love Uniqlo:


How to Protect Your Baby from his Baby Bottle

Posted by Caroline Fong May 21, 2014 02:00 PM

In my mind, plastic is a very innocent material, and Iíve never paid it much mind. Itís flexible, can be transparent, and comes in all sorts of colors. It doesnít break like glass and I donít need to cringe at the sound of my spoon coming in contact with a can or steel container.

In March, Mother Jones published an article on the scary new evidence on plastic. Even if BPA-free, it can still contain other estrogenic chemicals and ďendocrine-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates.Ē Theyíve all been linked to ailments and could even affect the health of future generations.

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One of 5 Phases' little fans


Raise Your Feet for Lost Sock Memorial Day

Posted by Caroline Fong May 9, 2014 02:00 PM

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I am convinced there is a sock monster that lives in my washing machine. On good days, I manage to find the same number of my beloved socks in the clean laundry. On grumpy days, I find lone socks, adding to my growing collection of odd socks.

Today is Lost Sock Memorial Day, the day we commemorate the lost halves of our socks. Let's raise our feet in memory of these lost feet mittens and replenish our collection. And let's go over a couple of ways to avoid losing more socks, shall we?


Mother of Invention: 6 Original Gifts for Mom

Posted by Caroline Fong April 28, 2014 02:00 PM

Necessity is the mother of invention.

The English proverb points to how we create or invent things during difficult or trying times to reduce difficulty. The origin of the proverb is sometimes attributed to Plato, but I like to think of my mom.

If I need help thinking through the answer to a problem, I know just who to turn to -- my mom. To this day, if I am sick, she will prepare different soups and broth from scratch to help me get better. (I mean, props to my pops too for being able to hand-build a bunk bed for my siblings when we were little and needed an extra bed!)

Well, Mother's Day is now only two weeks away. What are you getting your mom? She deserves more than just flowers and a card. Why not get her something unique and made by a Maker who puts just as much care into his or her product as your own Mother does when it comes to you?

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1) Fiat Luxe Felted Soap, $14 -- Available in wonderful scents such as verbena and lavender mint, these all-natural, handcrafted soaps are all scented with botanically derived essentials oils. They're enveloped in soft felt, which creates an exfoliating and fragrant lather. This soap is the perfect aromatic escape at the end of a busy mother's day.


Journey to Product Launch: Ecotonix Debuts on Earth Day

Posted by Caroline Fong April 21, 2014 05:00 PM
"Journey to Product Launch" is a two-post series. Read the first one here. In this second post, Product Pitch winner Gail Loos shares her juggling act as a Maker leading up to the Earth Day launch of her product, the Ecotonix Compost Shredder, on The Grommet.

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I was hardly done patting myself on the back when the requests started to fly in. Was I available for interviews with TV and magazine reporters? Able to shoot video? Write blog posts? Submit pricing spreadsheets? Upload photos?

No problem, I thought. I'll just put you in touch with our marketing department. Wait, I am the marketing department...and the sales department and product design and engineering, too!


Boston: City That I Love

Posted by Caroline Fong April 18, 2014 05:00 PM

boston strong.jpgIt will be Marathon Monday in three days, and I am reminded of how much I love this city. We went through an awful event last year, but we held strong and were in it together.

Iíve been seeing my fellow Bostonians rocking Boston Strong memorabilia, and I love it. Back at Disney World, all cast members had their names and hometowns on their pin badges. People find meaning in identifying with a place of origin, and we all certainly identify with Boston here.

With the Boston Marathon coming up, if youíre looking for more ways to celebrate your city in addition to rocking a sweet Boston Strong t-shirt, here are four items that will turn heads at home and out.

Holding a Boston Strong party?


Tin Parade Patriotic Table Banner ($39) -- Made of fabric, not paper, this table banner is a distinct alternative to traditional tablecloths and runners. Since itís reusable, you can decorate for the 4th of July or the Boston Marathon and beckon a good time year after year.


Cool New Toys for Little Ones -- But Really For Yourself

Posted by Caroline Fong April 16, 2014 05:00 PM

Spring is here! Or rather was here. It seems to be taking a hiatus in New England at the moment. I did just wake up to a sheet of snow covering all the cars in the neighborhood this morning.

If youíve had to bring the fun back inside, youíre probably hunting for some fun things to do other than Netflix. Iíve rounded up five cool toys that will delight the kids in the house, but also entertain the grown-ups -- even if the only kid around is your inner child!

1. Siege Toys Catapult ($40)


This nifty little miniature replica of a medieval siege engine is made from birch wood and assembles in 10 minutes. Itís suitable for children ages 12 and up, and that includes grown-ups. Donít be shy in engaging office warfare or duking it out in a friendly fight with the kids! Did I mention you can catapult gummy bears?


Journey to Product Launch: My Million-Dollar Idea

Posted by Caroline Fong April 14, 2014 05:00 PM

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For todayís post, learn about a product through a Maker's own words. Meet Gail Loos, the Ready for Market winner of The Grommet's 2014 Product Pitch Event, and her winning product hack. The Ecotonix Compost Shredder is a hand-operated food scrap shredder and recycling system.

It seemed so simple in concept. Find an idea that solves a big problem. Identify and quantify potential buyers. Hire someone to design, manufacture, and sell my innovative new product while I sit back and count a growing pile of money. Like many budding entrepreneurs, I dreamed of this straight path from idea to early retirement -- if I could only find the right problem-solving idea.


Weave Comfort Into Every Part of Your Day

Posted by Caroline Fong April 9, 2014 05:00 PM

Most of us donít have the luxury of living close to work and have to regularly commute for long stretches. Couple that with all the little fires we deal with at different points of our day, itís easy to feel deflated at dayís end.

If youíre like me, I am a fan of creature comforts. Yes, Iíll take an extra fluffy pillow for my head in bed. Yes, I need extra cushions on the couch. Yes, Iíll wear fluffy socks. And yes, Iíll sometimes sit on a Yogibo bean bag to work.

In the name of relaxation, Iíve rounded up 6 items to work into your day for some points of comfort. Simply choose from the three groups below for whatís most important -- and relaxing -- for you.


Ever had a case of itchy or suffocating underwear? Sure you have, and Iím sure itís a place you never want to be in again.

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For the lads, find comfort in Charles van de Pear ($49) boxer shorts, which combine the best-of-both-menís-underwear-worlds. Adjustable with built-in support, these luxury menís underwear are made from lightweight woven cotton shirting fabric that softens with each wash.


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 springís 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. Iíve 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 youíve been looking for a way to shake up the Ďole 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)


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


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 thatís you, hereís a roundup of five items that will help you spruce up the greenery around your lovely house.

Letís 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.


2014 Product Pitch Recap: A Day at Fenway Park [PHOTOS]

Posted by Caroline Fong March 21, 2014 05:00 PM


Game Day at dawn. We wake up nice and early to set up for our community event! It was so nice to admire the lit-up EMC Club and Citgo sign in the early morning light.


Good Hacks That Also Do Good

Posted by Caroline Fong March 19, 2014 08:00 PM

This last Grommet Gallery of hacks should technically debut next week, but who could wait? The 2014 Product Pitch is tomorrow!

Today, the trucks came to pick up the last of the pieces to set up Fenway Park for the event. I was happy to tuck the last of the speaker gift bags (holding Grommet goodies) into the wide vehicle that pulled up, being careful not to crush any of the beautiful Grommet blue tissue paper.

And with this final Grommet Gallery of six hacks that do good, we excitedly wait until Game Day tomorrow. There will be an awesome display called the Grommet Garage showcasing all seven Grommet Galleriesí hacks.


Tech Hacks for the Geek in You

Posted by Caroline Fong March 17, 2014 04:00 PM

This is the week. Anticipation is building. In two days, The Grommet will be hosting the 2014 Product Pitch at Fenway Park, where eight product finalists will pitch to a panel of experts for a chance at the grand prize.

Every week leading up to this one, Iíve been writing and featuring roundups of different Grommet Galleries, which will all be showcased at the Grommet Garage at our exciting community event. This weekís Grommet Gallery of hacks from The Grommet are tech hacks for the geek in you.

These arenít your typical tech toys. One was made using some really cool technology and it looks great on a desk. One is for you to put together, but the fun doesnít end there. Thereís even one for group play -- or group jams, specifically. Theyíre all tech hacks, which mean creative solutions -- whether for art, music, or photography. Youíll see.

1. Cut Maps: Stainless Steel Table Maps ($30)

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Think laser cutting technology has no place in the art world? Well, check out this tech hack for art. Created by a mechanical engineer using CNC Precision technology, these laser cut maps depict a birds-eye view of your favorite city and its street. Theyíre a beautiful exploration of the intersection between technology and art.


Product Pitch Spotlight: MassChallenge Roots for Underdogs

Posted by Caroline Fong March 14, 2014 07:00 PM

Not long ago, I was listening to a local entrepreneur share a tale from his early startup days. As with most bootstrapped undertakings, cash was in short supply. One night, he decided to take his wife to the movies for some much needed R&R time. Pulling out his wallet, with sweat beading his forehead, he put in his card at the kiosk and crossed his fingers. What relief when two tickets printed out.

This is just one of the many stories startup folks must share over sweat, beers, and hard work. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. And thatís very true for most startups looking for cash. Funding from accelerators, incubators, or venture capitalists usually comes with some sort of strings attached.

Why then does the biggest startup accelerator in the world give out a sum of a million dollars and take zero equity?


The Product Pitch Finalists: Eight Going to Fenway Park

Posted by Caroline Fong March 12, 2014 02:30 PM

A week and a day from now, weíll be watching The Grommetís 2014 Product Pitch at Fenway Park live streamed on!

I hope youíve been checking out the great eight -- four finalists from Ready for Crowdfunding and four finalists from Ready for Market. They were voted by YOU, the community. And now, you get to see them pitch their best foot forward to prove their product has what it takes to hit it out of the park and beyond!

For a rundown on the finalists, hereís a cheat sheet to help you keep score on Game Day, March 20th.



Bringrr and BringTags -- Bringrr is a reminder device (and car charger) that pairs with your smartphone and notifies you if youíve left it behind as you start the car. For other important items such as your wallet, keys, laptop, or even cat, tag them with small and colorful Bringtags, which can track their location and check if theyíre on you.


Hacks for Fun from The Grommet

Posted by Caroline Fong March 10, 2014 08:30 PM

Itís a week before Game Day at Fenway Park, where all eight 2014 Product Pitch finalists will gather to play ball -- or pitch their products, rather. For all the fun theyíll be having, letís drum up some fun around the house before we watch the festivities on live stream on that day.

This weekís Grommet Gallery of hacks are six Grommets that will help your little ones hack their way to fun. From twists on the classic card house-building to unconventional musical instruments, these play hacks will have your little one -- including yourself -- racing with creativity!

Fun for the tinkerer.


SKALLOPS ($19.95) -- This junior set comes with 52 Skallops clips and one deck of quality custom Skallops playing cards for you and your pint-sized builder to construct several small creations, such as dinosaurs or silly hats.


Product Pitch Spotlight: A Boy's Dream to Create Great Products

Posted by Caroline Fong March 7, 2014 05:00 PM

The 2014 Product Pitch is only two weeks away! I canít wait until the day Iím standing at Fenway Park, watching the eight finalists pitch for the ultimate product launch prize against the backdrop of this iconic baseball park.

In this weekís Product Pitch Spotlight as part of the pre-game coverage on, I am catching up with Max Ash, last yearís Product Pitch winner for community favorite.

So far in this blog series, weíve heard from innovators who are helping maker businesses; from innovators who are giving us better maker tools; and also from makers themselves. Max is a maker, who happens to be nine years old. Heís learning the ropes to getting a product off the ground with his amazingly supportive family -- brother Sam, mom Jennifer, and dad Ronald.


Better Hacks for Health from The Grommet

Posted by Caroline Fong March 5, 2014 04:30 PM

This past weekend, I came down with a cold. For the past three days, Iíve been wiping my nose nonstop, nursing a woozy head, and experiencing toe-shaking sneezes.

This weekís Grommet Gallery of hacks happen to contain six better hacks for health. It appears to be quite timely since Iíve been noticing (and trying to avoid) an alarming number of coughing and sneezing commuters on the train. But alas, I must have hugged one too many sick friends.

To help you build better overall health, here are six hacks that will work from the inside out -- or in this roundup, from the outside in. Remember, prevention is better than cure!

For strengthening your body.

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Yoga by Numbers ($119.95) -- Beginners to yoga, fear not. This yoga mat guides you with numbers and provides guidance through DVD instruction at your own pace to build up strength and flexibility. Be good to your body, and youíll still be moving around like a spring chicken.


Product Pitch Hacks: A People's History of Underappreciated Hacks

Posted by Caroline Fong March 3, 2014 07:00 PM

Last weekís blogging theme as part of the pre-game media coverage of The Grommetís 2014 Product Pitch looked to the community for loved, but Underappreciated Hacks throughout the years.

We all have our favorite. From 3Mís Post-it note and Scotch Tape to the brown paper bag, there are product inventions that have become a part of our daily lives. I wanted to know what ingenious fixes the community had come to use day in and day out. Itís time to give these great products a little bit of attention.

From Meghan Gibbons of @gibbonstwin1:

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In her blog post ďVaseline: A Household Staple,Ē Meghan shares how such an inexpensive and overlooked item has many, many uses. It can be used as a makeup remover, a split end sealer, and as a fragrance preserver of any perfume you wear (just dab some on your pulse points before spritzing) -- not to mention itís great for preventing chapped winter lips!


Product Pitch Spotlight: Storytime Toys Combines the Old and New in Product Design

Posted by Caroline Fong February 28, 2014 05:00 PM

When mechanical engineer and mom Kara Dyer starting looking at dollhouses for her daughter, she felt like Goldilocks as she examined the existing dollhouses on the market -- they were either too expensive and elaborate or cheap and uninteresting. There was no ďjust right.Ē

Combining her product design skills and her friend Sara Argueís artistic talents, Kara founded Storytime Toys, whose line of classic fairy tale toy houses have enjoyed a successful initial production run on Kickstarter and a product launch on The Grommet.

We are excited to invite Storytime Toys as a speaker at the 2014 Product Pitch at Fenway Park. Dollhouse-making sounds classic and quaint, but their Maker story is one of the coming together of traditional skills and new technology in software and hardware for design innovation.


Foodie Hacks from The Grommet

Posted by Caroline Fong February 26, 2014 12:00 PM

Is it not foodie heaven when we find better ways to make or grow tastier food? Is it not delightful to discover new ways to prepare or store your favorite drink? And the best part is being able to share it with friends and family.

This weekís Grommet Gallery of hacks features food kits and kitchen tools that will give new life to your kitchen and palate. From growing mushrooms to storing produce naturally, here are six hacks that will let you eat and drink better!


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Back to the Roots ($40.95, Set of 2 Kits) -- If youíve always wanted a mushroom garden, behold the magic of an indoor pearl oyster mushroom growing kit whose soil is made from 100% recycled coffee grounds. Pearl oysters have a woody flavor and meaty texture, making them great for all kinds of dishes.


Product Pitch Hacks: Hacks for Drinks and Eats

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

A hack is a creative solution to a problem or a better way to do something.

Historically, everyone has loved cooking hacks. We swap recipes and watch the cooking channel in the hopes of being inspired by the cooking gods as we try to learn all the best techniques to beef up our cooking repertoire.

Last week, I asked the community what some of their Top Chef Hacks were. I wanted to hear from those who may be a whiz at substituting ingredients or knew how to prepare a mango in no time. It could even be for food art.

Here are some easy food and drink hacks that you can try out!

From Lisa Eberly of The Skinny on Health:

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In her blog post ďKitchen Hack: Make Cheap Wine Taste Expensive,Ē Lisa shares her hack for making cheap wine delicious on a grad student budget -- by letting it breathe or ďaerateĒ!


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Buy Differently is a sponsored blog powered by The Grommet, and part of 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 or Finds. The author is solely responsible for the content.
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.