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Author: Meghan Langseder

6 Simple Tips For Your Best Backyard Summer Soiree

6 Simple Tips For Your Best Backyard Summer Soiree



Make your backyard party sparkle for the 4th of July — and all summer long — with these six simple party tips for planning a great gathering with family and friends. From a laid-back barbecue to a sophisticated soiree, Team Elfster has gathered the must-haves for the perfect summer party plan in our Summer Fun Gift Guide. And there are plenty more great ideas found in our most popular gift guides, too.





1.  Set the Mood for Fun and Function

We know it’s mostly about the fun, but consider the function when it comes to decorating for your summer get-together. Set the table and set the mood for your super summer party with pretty melamine party platters and one-of-a-kind tableware designed for outdoor fun, as featured in Elfster’s Dining and Entertaining Gift Guide. Be sure to coordinate with matching serveware, napkins and acrylic glasses for the perfect setting.




2. Craft Creative Cocktails

Personalize your summer soiree and try a festive signature drink for your guests to enjoy. Our Drinks Gift Guide can get you started with unique mixes and craft mixers for any budding bartender. Want to really mix it up? Check out the Molecular Mixology Cocktail Kit from uncommongoods in which the art of the cocktail meets mad-scientist and creative chemistry in this molecular mixology kit. Deconstruct your favorite drinks, change their look, feel, and presentation, impress your guests, and take your tastebuds on an extraordinary adventure.




3. Serve Up Unique Eats

Spice up your backyard barbeque with some of our favorites to make delicious and creative food the centerpiece of your summertime meal. You may have grilled the perfect burger, but it’s not sublime until you add the finishing touch, Williams-Sonoma’s Burger Bomb Sauce. And Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Gift Guide will help you be prepared, featuring everything from dual fuel grills to rolling patio coolers. And for dessert, don’t forget the s’mores. They’re the best way to end the perfect summer party!




4. Light Up the Night

Use subtle, unique lighting to light up your night, such as Target’s solar metal star string lights or globe lights featured in our guide. These twinkling stars are perfect for trees, shrubs, gardens, and patios, and each string includes 20 solar LED lights powered by a separate solar panel, which allows the lights to be placed in shady areas. Or just sit back and watch the fireflies put on their nightly show.






5. Avoid the Summertime Blues

Keeping the kids busy and happy is the sure cure for the summertime blues — for everyone! Be sure to plan a few kid-friendly games and activities so the whole family can enjoy the best party of the summer. Try a simple art project, cooling water play, or check out our School’s Out Gift Guide for something for kids of all ages.

Which brings me to Tip #6…


6. A Summer Party is the Perfect Time to Host a Gift Exchange!

Looking for a fun and unique way to get the kids (or any guest for that matter) involved at your next summer party? Why not try a beach towel gift exchange using Elfster! Just set up the exchange on Elfster before the party and the kids will love their summer swap. And remember, it’s a secret gift exchange, so they’ll have to find their secret elf at the party. Have fun!

Elfster’s Summer Fun Gift Ideas Guides have something for everyone and just what you need for inspiration for your own wish list. Need help? We are here all summer long. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

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Ivy League-Bound Student Helps to Brighten the Future for Fellow Classmates

Ivy League-Bound Student Helps to Brighten the Future for Fellow Classmates

It’s high school graduation season and I applaud those who are taking that life-changing walk across the stage, cheered on by family and friends. Tassels and mortar boards will be flying as inspirational words of wisdom are imparted to the eager grads. It’s finally time to celebrate their accomplishments and begin the next chapter of their lives. For many, with diplomas in hand, the next step will be attending college, which is certainly a very exciting time, but at the same time, a leap into the great unknown.

But for one group of Ivy League-bound students, that future is a little brighter thanks to one of their own. Before they even hit the bricks at Columbia University in the City of New York, almost 300 members of the Class of 2020 will have an ally as they face their new life together.

Arman Azad, an incoming freshman at Columbia, created an Elfster Meet and Gift exchange as a way for these first-year students to connect and get to know one another on a more personal level to ease the transition to college life. And by all measures, he certainly gets my vote for Most Likely to Succeed!

“Our exchange group consists of students from Columbia’s Class of 2020, and most of us are graduating from high school this year, with the exception of those who took a gap year,” Arman explains. “When we received our acceptance letters, we were also invited to join a Facebook page consisting of our fellow students. Some people have been very active, making friends on the page or organizing local meet-ups, and others have been quieter, just reading what other students post. A couple of my friends from the group and I had floated the idea of bringing each other gifts from our hometowns, and we thought, ‘why not do this with our entire class?’ “

“The Facebook page has about 1,700 students in it, and I’m so happy that over 250 of those signed up for our exchange,” he adds. “It may seem like a small number relative to the group as a whole, but to get 250 high school seniors to sign up for anything is a feat in and of itself, in my opinion. In the Facebook group, we posted a link and instructions to the Elfster exchange, and every day more and more people sign up—so many that we decided to extend the deadline to register through the summer.”

Members of Arman’s group, affectionately known as “Columbaes Class of 2020 NSOP Exchange,” will bring tokens from their hometown to share with a fellow classmate they are paired with in this Meet and Gift type exchange, “no matter how cliché or authentic.”

“NSOP stands for New Student Orientation Program, and it occurs during the first week of school, a time when students bond with their fellow classmates, participate in class activities, and learn more about their school,” Arman says. “The exchange was organized independently, and the Meet and Gift option allows every student to have at least one friend during the first week of school.”

“College can be a transformative and enriching experience, but it can also be an intimidating and frightening one,” he adds. “By pairing our fellow classmates with one of their peers, everyone will have a reason to talk to someone with whom they might not have conversed had they not participated in the exchange. The Meet and Gift option also allows students to message their partner on Facebook before school starts. Whether they choose to meet up in a dorm to exchange the gift or grab coffee and discuss their upbringings, I hope that the exchange allows for the establishment of not just meaningful interpersonal relationships, but also the sharing of cultures and life experiences.”

“Columbia has one of the most diverse undergraduate student bodies in the world, and with over 17% of our class consisting of international students, we felt that there was so much potential to learn more about cultures different from our own,” says Arman. “Thus, our ‘Columbaes’ exchange was born, whose name is a combination of “Columbia” and “bae,” the latter being a common and somewhat comedic term of endearment among people our age.”

So how do you go about organizing such a diverse group of students from all over the world?

According to Arman, “When deciding to organize the exchange, one of our concerns was how, logistically, we would be able to manage such a project with hundreds of students whom we had never met. I googled around a bit, and I was honestly so surprised—and thankful—that something like Elfster existed. It was so simple to set-up and use, and required a negligible amount of effort on the part of the organizer.”

“And who knows—the person with whom you’re paired might just end up being your best friend (or maybe even your significant other!),” he adds. “The random assignment of pairs also ensures that people can make become acquainted with someone without the limitations of stereotypical social parameters, such as socioeconomic status, athleticism, or arbitrary ‘popularity.’ “

“The idea of the exchange is two-fold: on the one hand, it is meant to establish relationships among our class, but on the other hand, it is meant to foster a greater understanding of our diverse backgrounds and histories,” Arman explains. “With so many participants, Elfster is the only place I know of that provides a platform to do that.”

Elfster is proud to support this amazing group of Ivy League students and help foster a feeling of community in such a large learning environment.

“The students in Columbia’s Class of 2020 come from every state in our nation and over 90 countries worldwide, but that diversity is most meaningful when it is understood, appreciated, and shared,” Arman says. “By creating our gift exchange, we hope that each student will bring to college with them something that is meaningful to them and indicative of their hometown. For someone from NYC, that may be a cheesy ‘I <3 NY’ memento, whereas, for someone from Indonesia, it might be a cultural garb or authentic tea. We kept the price limit under ten dollars because we also understand that, at a school like Columbia, there is not only geographic diversity, but also economic diversity. Not everyone comes from a wealthy or privileged background, and we hope that the ten dollar gift limit allows everyone to participate.”

“Some people come to college with established groups of friends, but, for others, the first conversation on campus may happen during orientation,” he continues. “With our gift exchange, we hope to facilitate such conversations, ensuring that everyone has someone to talk to during the first week of school. The quarterback of the football team may not usually hang out with the future head of the chess club, but both probably have fascinating and unique life stories. I hope that the gift exchange brings people like that together.”

And Arman certainly had more than just gifts in mind when he created this exchange to help his fellow classmates: “Getting a present is always fun, but my hope for the gift exchange isn’t really that people receive cute souvenirs, but that students—and our class as a whole—come closer together.”

So hats off to Arman and all the members of the “Columbaes Class of 2020” group. All the best in your future endeavors from Team Elfster.

If you are a recent high school graduate ready to head out into the big, bright world too, why not take a note from Arman and help your university’s Class of 2020 connect on Elfster. It’s easy to get started and stay connected. Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.




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photo credits:

Photo credit: HallmarkColumbia University, Tree House Club, Art Co Store, Amazon

Think Outside the Box This Father’s Day

Think Outside the Box This Father’s Day

Stumped by how to celebrate the great dads in your life this Father’s Day? I was too, so I decided to ask around. Anyone need another ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ coffee mug? “Comes in handy for breakfast in bed — hint, hint.” Need another fun and colorful tie? “Not so much.” So what do you really need?? “Nothing.” Not much to go on there…

The obvious answer, since no dad will ever admit that they really ‘need’ anything, is to give him something he wouldn’t get himself. So I have to go with my gut, think outside the box and get my guys something they’ll love. Since each dad in my life is uniquely special, the same gift will not cover everyone.

When Team Elfster put together our top picks for Father’s Day giving, we kept that in mind. Dads come in all types and styles, so our Father’s Day Gift Guide reflect that in the nearly 50 great gift ideas for the “Best. Dad. Ever.” in your life. Here are just a few of my favorites:

For The Top Chef

When I was a girl, some of my favorite moments were spent in the kitchen with my grandfather, who was quite the chef. I now have some of his favorite “seasoned” pans and still prepare some of his unique dishes. My dad still spends much of his time in the kitchen, so I guess they could be considered my “Top Chefs.” Many of the delicacies created by both were delicious, but very meat-oriented meals, so I am always drawn to a delicious barbecue. If you have a guy with a little extra time on his hands, check out Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, a New York Times best selling complete meat- and brisket-cooking education from the country’s most celebrated pitmaster and owner of the wildly popular Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue. It may be just the thing for your Top Chef, too.

For His Man Cave…

(Or any corner of your home he can call his own.) When we travel, we make it a habit to taste all the local flavors, including the craft beers. Help him discover and remember his favorites along the way with this handmade Beer Cap Map USA from Uncommon Goods. I bet he’ll be up for the challenge to fill this clever map, as each tiny cap tells a story of a great day spent doing something he loves. Discover other great ideas for the “beer guys,” like my awesome brother-in-laws, in Elfster’s Bar & Grub Gift Guide.



For the Tech Guy

I must admit, my husband handles most of the technology in our house, and that’s one thing we can’t live without. One thing I can live without is the jumble of cords that comes along with it. Guess you can call me the organizer, since I was really excited to find a way to control that cord clutter in a quick and easy way that makes life easier for both of us. CB2’s Cord Taco set of 5 leather, half moon organizers keep loose cords neat and knot-free. Wrap earbuds, USB cables and other gadget cords into a tidy bundle secured with a single metal snap. Hooray for clear kitchen counters! Browse Elfster’s Gadget Gifts guide for other handy tech tips.



If it must be a mug…

The elves at Elfster have a unique idea for that, too! Make it a modern twist on the old classic with the His Mustache Mug from World Market. It’s the perfect pick for coffee lovers everywhere and saves on coffee confusion in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a great gift from the kids, too, and is sure to become his new favorite.

Remember — Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19. Be sure to celebrate your dad and all the other dads in your life — husbands, father-in-laws, stepfathers, brother-in-laws, would-be future dads, your uncles, and brothers. Let them know how much you love and appreciate them with a unique gift that’s “out of the box” great! If they see something they love, remind them to add it to their own Elfster wish list to give you a few hints…

Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.



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photo credit: Lil Luna

5 Awesome Ways To Make Summer Great for The Whole Gang!

5 Awesome Ways To Make Summer Great for The Whole Gang!

060Memorial Day weekend has arrived and so has the unofficial start of summer! For my family, that means packing the kids and the dog in the car and making the four-hour journey up to our beloved lake house in the mountains. It’s a magical place that takes our family back in time — where we all love to unplug, kick back and enjoy all that summer has to offer. Not only does Memorial Day weekend allow us to enjoy time together, it is also a chance to honor our country’s veterans, including members of our own family, by attending our local parade. This marks the start of being outdoors almost all day, every day, for fun, meals and adventure. With that in mind, I wanted to share my top picks for summer fun, no matter where you are heading.

Soak Up Summer

All winter long, I dream of the warm days and sunny skies that await us at the start of summer. I also long for the days filled with family fun — no school, no schedules. Take advantage and plan awesome activities that make a big splash for the kids and kids-at-heart alike, like a day at the pool, trip to the beach, or hike in the woods. Whether you travel far like us or stay in your own backyard, make time for a cool treat. I love these unique Zoku Classic Pop Molds from Elfster’s School’s Out Gift Guide, designed with easy cleanup in mind. Just add your favorite ingredients to the mold, like juice, yogurt, smoothies, or sugar-free drinks to the make six delicious popsicles. I especially like to throw in fresh-picked berries we harvest to add extra texture and flavor. Add some alcohol for an adult twist on frozen flavors, like spiked creamsicles, Kahlua pudding pops, or mojito pops!


Make Every Day a New Adventure

For us, summer is all about the roadtrip. I love to get out the good old-fashioned road atlas and pick a spot we have never explored as a possible target. Our whole family loves to get into the planning to make sure we check out all the great sites our destination has to offer. I guess you can call us a family of adventure seekers.  If your family needs inspiration for planning your next summer adventure, a great resource for us offered in Elfster’s Summer Travel Gift Guide has been this handy journal — I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded. It will help you navigate and explore the easily overlooked and wonderful everyday details encountered while traveling, whether near or far away. It’s packed with unique and fulfilling journeys that can be undertaken in any city, as well as prompts to record every whimsical discovery.

Grillin’ and Chillin’

There’s no better way to enjoy summer with family and friends than gathering for a great barbecue. Plan an epic gathering and make it a team effort by encouraging guests to bring their favorite summer dish for great variety of delectable homemade specialties. Many hands make light work, leaving you all plenty of time to relax and enjoy your time together. Perhaps my favorite thing in our Summer Fun Guide to help make party planning and organizing easy is Pottery Barn’s Galvanized Metal Rolling Wagon — looks perfect on my patio, but I love the flexibility of moving food and drinks to any part of the yard.

Turn It Off and Tune In… to each other

Within our lake community, we truly embrace a laid-back vibe all summer long. We are often technologically-lacking in our remote location, so we make it a point to just enjoy being with each other and leave the phones at home. Throughout the summer, we love to gather on the lawn outside the community clubhouse for a special night at the movies, featuring a box office family favorite. Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Guide features an easy to set up portable outdoor movie screen that your family can use in the backyard or anyplace you want a 120-inch projection screen. Just add the projector found on our site, too. Get cozy and don’t forget the popcorn!


Eat More S’mores!

No summer night at the lake is complete without at least one ooey, gooey s’more around the campfire. If you are limited by space (or time) and stuck without a fire pit, have no fear. You can still enjoy the staple of summer deliciousness! Just add chocolate and marshmallows to your favorite waffle or sugar cones and pop them on your grill using the innovative Sur La Table S’mores Cone Rack, another awesome pick from Elfster’s Outdoor Fun Guide. It’s a clever new way to enjoy the best treat of summer with less mess.

Bring on summer! (I know I can’t wait!)  What’s the best product for summer you can’t live without? Hope this helps you get your summer started! Be sure to add what you love to your Elfster summer wish list or plan a summer-themed gift exchange with your gang. We would love to see what you are giving and getting too, so post your best gift pics on Instagram, and add the hashtag  #elfstergram. How do you celebrate summer? Let us know! You can visit us on Facebook or tweet us @elfster, too.



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Global Express Delivery Company Goes The Extra Mile for Elfster Gift Exchange

Global Express Delivery Company Goes The Extra Mile for Elfster Gift Exchange

It is a well-known fact that making personal connections in the workplace leads to increased happiness and raises employee loyalty, but sometimes it’s not so simple when your business is spread all over the globe, with over 56,000 employees in 200 countries.

For the elves at Elfster, connecting communities is what we do best, so imagine our delight when we found one such company using our “Elfin Magic” to connect its greatest asset — its employees — from all over the world.

TNT – The People Network, a global express delivery company, is also in the business of making great connections. The people of TNT make 1,000,000 parcel deliveries around the globe each and every day and are committed to their mission as stated on the company’s website: “Every day, we go to great lengths to connect people and businesses all over the planet.”

 TNT's new brand identity, shown on one of their vans.Photograph by Martin Neeves Photography - - Tel: +44 (0)7973 638591 - E-mail: martinneeves@googlemail.comAs TNT celebrated its 70th anniversary, they wanted to make the occasion something to remember, so the company turned to Elfster to help make these worldwide connections a reality.

“This year, TNT has seen its 70th anniversary. To celebrate, we recently held parties in offices and transport depots and hubs all around the world,” explains Ann Hayes, Elfster gift exchange organizer and TNT Internal Communications Officer based in The Netherlands. “As an express delivery company, our people are our biggest strength. They have made us who we are today – The People Network – so we wanted to make sure that they, more than anyone else, were able to celebrate TNT”s big ‘seven-oh’ birthday.”

“Many of the events were happening either on or around 21 April, so to try and connect our colleagues around the world, we decided to organise a global gift exchange — called People Party Parcels,” she adds. “In the end, we had 170 office/depots participating in the exchange from 50 different countries – from Moldova and Iceland, to Tanzania and Australia. We kept our approach simple: A party location would sign up to Elfster/the exchange, and they would then put together a parcel for another location around the world also participating, and then they would send the parcel via our network.”

So what were the expectations for these special care packages?

“We asked those participating to put together a parcel which would help their colleagues in another country celebrate — containing objects which reflect their people and culture,” Ann says. “For example, our colleagues in Japan sent a Daruma wishing doll to our colleagues in Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan sent TNT head office in The Netherlands a handmade photo collage of all their colleagues in the shape of the TNT logo. I found that those participating really put so much care and effort into the parcels they sent.”

“What I loved about using Elfster was that people around the world were able to chat to each other within the exchange page — colleagues that otherwise may have never connected,” she says. “We had colleagues participating from Siberia, for example, talking to those they sent a parcel to in the UK.”bear (1)


And check out how perfectly personalized the gifts were in this culturally-focused exchange. “[This] is a photo of a teddy bear our colleagues in Siberia put together for the UK – the scarf, mobile phone and t-shirt were all handmade by the people there (with the help of one of their mum’s!),” Ann shares.

We can think of no better way to celebrate such an amazing milestone for TNT, while including those who make important connections happen for the company on a daily basis.

“I think our colleagues really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people they otherwise would have never met around the world, getting a taste of all the different people and cultures that have made TNT the company it is today,” Ann says. “It definitely added something special to our 70 years of TNT celebrations.”

“That’s why we make sure our service is truly personal. That’s why we go the extra mile. And that’s why we call ourselves The People Network.” — TNT website

Have a story to share about how your company motivates its employees? We’d love to hear from you, too. Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here, Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.


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Photo credits: National Geographic Shop, Business Case Studies, Zafiels Cakes

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Spring is in full swing, so whether you are creating your own backyard oasis or planting a bountiful vegetable garden (or maybe both!), it’s time to get outside and get your garden growing.

Does your garden to soak up the sun or is it made in the shade? Either way, we’ll help you get your hands in the dirt and your heart back to nature. Need a little inspiration? Check out Elfster’s Gardening Gift Guide, which features fresh, new garden essentials for you or your favorite green thumb.



Cool Tools

It’s time to dig into spring with just the right tools to make your springtime clean up a snap and summer maintenance a breeze. Not only does our guide offer handy garden tools, but solutions to keep them organized, too.

This large Picnic Time Garden Tote from Target is the perfect way to keep tools in reach anywhere in the garden. Combining convenience and practicality, this is a gardening tote you will want to use all the time. It comes with three metal gardening tools secured in an easily accessible exterior pocket. Attractive and durable fabrics with a stain-resistant interior make this tote the perfect gift for those who love to garden.


Perfect Planters

Looking for the perfect container for summer herbs and annuals? Elfster’s gardening guide features a great selection of planters, including creative solutions to keep flowers and herbs at your fingertips, and hungry critters at bay.

Add a new dimension to gardening with this rustic vertical planter from one of our favorite garden retailers, Williams-Sonoma. Inspired by vintage wine crates, it’s an easy way to enjoy the fresh flavors and aromas of homegrown herbs. No actual planting is required: simply place nine pots of herbs in the tray system — and harvest whenever you like.


Sowing Summer Seeds

With a little careful planning, your garden will fill your salad bowl with its bounty all summer long. Keep is simple or go all out — you decide. And it’s a perfect activity for the kids, too!

Sow the seeds of warm weather vegetables with this prettily packaged Veggie Garden Maker set from Food52. It has everything you need to grow a classic collection of organic vegetables. The seeds were chosen because they’re easy to grow, versatile in the kitchen, and beautifully ornamental. You can grow them in containers or a garden plot — included are 8 organic seed varieties, a recycled steel case, garden stakes, a pencil, and instructions.

Host a Springtime Garden Exchange

Enjoy getting your garden in shape this spring and celebrate the beauty of the season with your friends and family by hosting a secret santa style springtime gift exchange on Elfster, too. It’s a great way to motivate each other to make your garden glorious by exchanging tools, seeds and inspiration! Need help using Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.


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Awaken Star Wars Fans and May the Fourth Be With You!

Awaken Star Wars Fans and May the Fourth Be With You!


Star Wars Day! A day when fans from far and wide (and maybe even from a galaxy far, far away…) will celebrate the unofficial holiday which pays tribute to all things Star Wars.

May the 4th is the worldwide day when fans show and share their love for one of the most popular film franchises of all time. What started as a play on the phrase, “May the Force be with you,” grew as the associated grassroots movement caught hold. Star Wars Day has since become an annual occasion for Star Wars-loving friends to come together for movie viewing parties, lightsaber fights and social media chats.

The popular and often-quoted phrase dates back to at least1979, on the day Margaret Thatcher was elected Britain’s first woman prime minister. Members of her political party took out a newspaper ad in the London Evening News that said “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.” Just goes to show the influence Star Wars has had on international culture since its inception and has only grown decades later!

While fans are eager to celebrate every May the 4th, this year has been especially exciting for fandom. The recent release of the new installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as the anticipation of the release of spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later this year and next year’s Episode VIII, will certainly add to the excitement of the occasion.

Use the Force, Luke

Be ready to celebrate all things Force with your family and friends. Elfster’s Star Wars gift guides have something for everyone in your universe. We have the top Star Wars Gifts For Her, sure to channel your inner Princess Leia, or check out our Star Wars Gifts For Him to celebrate your light side and dark side, too. And don’t forget to pass along the gift of Star Wars to future generations with our inspirational Star Wars For Kids Gift Guide. “You must feel the Force around you.” – Yoda


And on the occasion of May the 4th, some of Elfster’s favorite retailers are offering amazing savings on the top Star Wars-inspired goodies and gadgets, including Amazon, Target and ThinkGeek. Hurray, the savings end soon. See a great idea you’d love for yourself? Be sure to add it to your own Elfster wishlist.

And May the Force be with you!

Elfster makes it easy, free, and fun! Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

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Love and Laughter are Key to Successful Fitness Journey for One Elfster Community

Love and Laughter are Key to Successful Fitness Journey for One Elfster Community

66fcc43224ab59d02dcb31bd9530af86I bet we could all agree we would love to drop a few pounds. Or maybe come up with a fitness plan we could actually stick with when swimsuit season is suddenly bearing down upon us. Embracing a healthy lifestyle sounds so simple. Eat less. Move More. Easier said than done, indeed.

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on diet and exercise plans that may prove to be more costly than beneficial. Bottom line — the most effective way of losing weight is to restrict caloric intake, and the most effective way to maintain the loss is through regular exercise, which takes equal parts dedication and determination. And a bit of motivation can go a long way.

So with lots of love and plenty of laughs, members of one Elfster community are inspiring others to join them on their fitness journey that began with a diet plan and lifestyle change.

“It all started on a Trim Healthy Mama (THM) Facebook page,” explains Elfster community manager Melissa Cox. “THM is a ‘diet plan’ that is based around eating no sugars, low carbs, and high proteins. I originally joined the page and made some funny comments about my husband and I starting the plan and people just ‘ate it up.’ They were constantly looking for my posts, and asking about us.”

According to the THM website, “authors Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett provide a comprehensive, Biblically-sound, effective and delicious way to eat for health and weight loss.

Written with humor and thorough research, these books will entertain, enlighten and encourage women (and men!) to feed their bodies and souls the way God created us to thrive.”

“The page I was a part of is geared towards knowledge of THM and how THM works and it’s not really for people connecting with others,” she adds. “They want you talking about the ‘plan’ on that page, and nothing more. People were begging me to start my own page so that we could have ‘free range’ of conversation, so that’s what I did.”

For this group, “Nothing is off limits, so we [discuss] love, sex, diet, fitness, books, religion, parenting, home décor, our jobs, children, pregnancy, etc.” Melissa explains. ”It’s turned into a HUGE blessing for so many people. I get emails and cards daily with people expressing their gratitude for my page, and how it has helped them.”


Melissa (better known as Mama C. to her followers) and Michael (aka Macho Nacho), her beloved husband and fitness partner, started a co-ed Facebook page — Mama C. & Macho Nacho’s Fitness Journey Unofficial THM — that is based upon the THM lifestyle, but gets more personal. Not only do they encourage and support their online community seeking advice, but stress the importance of taking this fitness journey as a couple. Within days of its creation, the group had 1,500 followers. It now boasts 1,750 members, but has been closed to the public in order to keep the group more intimate compared to many online communities.

“We primarily have women on the page, but are open to both men and women,” says Melissa. “A lot of women have added their husbands or significant others so that they can share in their journeys with them. Most men are ‘lurkers’ and don’t actively participate [in group discussions].”

Melissa describes her page as a positive place only. “This is a co-ed site, built on respect, empathy and empowerment for those around us. All posts featuring shaming, hate speech, or are construed as negative and do nothing to continue the forward positive dialogue of this group may be deleted without notice.”

As a means to build relationships and encourage personal connections within this community, Melissa has created an Elfster group of almost 400 that hosts monthly gift exchanges on the site, as well as an ongoing pen pal exchange, in which participants “must commit to at least 2 letters/cards or small gifts a month to brighten your Pen Pal’s day.” The group also uses Elfster to assign “accountability partners” to be each other’s cheerleader and support system.

“We usually have around 200 that participate in each exchange,” she says. “I have set up a monthly exchange for people to get to know one another. I mean, who doesn’t like to get gifts and personal mail in the mail. Some can’t afford to do it monthly, which with postage is  understandable. So it seems each month we get different people involved. This month we are doing a t-shirt exchange, April was a goodie bag exchange, and March was a mug exchange. I also have a couple other exchanges going on basically because Elfster pairs for me, and I love that. We are doing a 4 month Pen Pal Exchange, where you can be paired with a pen pal for 4 months, and an accountability partner exchange — someone to help you keep on track with eating and exercise.”

“I will continue to do the monthly exchanges [since] the people are loving them!!” she adds. “It helps keep the morale up. And when 200 people get their gift and post pictures of what they got, it’s so exciting!”

The elves at Elfster applaud Melissa’s commitment to her community and her inspirational attitude. Her encouraging words are easily found in her personal message posted to her group: “Y’all are awesome… keep up the love, support, encouragement with one another!”

So what is Melissa’s favorite piece of advice for couples getting in shape together? “Always work together, support and encourage one another. Macho and I wake up at 4:30 every morning and hit the pavement together. We do a minimum of 2 miles. This allows us to start our day together with conversation and prayer. It’s a great start to our day, not only physically, but intimately. And come on, there’s nothing sexier than a supportive spouse who is your biggest cheerleader!”

What are you doing to stay motivated to reach your own goals? Find some inspiration in Elfster’s Wellness Guide. Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here, Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.


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Awesome Mommies Celebrates Motherhood By Sharing Wisdom and Friendship

Awesome Mommies Celebrates Motherhood By Sharing Wisdom and Friendship



“Motherhood is always a piece of cake,” said no one ever, but the joys and happiness that come with being a mom certainly may outweigh the challenges. And sometimes it takes a village to get there. For one lucky group of “August 2015 Awesome Mommies” who all had babies nine months ago, that support comes from a community of like-minded friends who stick together through thick and thin.

“Motherhood is a long and lonesome road sometimes and if you don’t have a support system, you can feel overwhelmed and feel like giving up,” says first-time mom and Elfster Awesome Mommies group organizer Samantha Lane. Looking for a friendly, reliable and safe source to find baby advice and share concerns about her little one, this devoted new mom formed an August 2015 mom group on Facebook six months ago to address what other online communities were lacking.


“What began as a place to post cute baby photos became a community of first-time and ‘been there, done that’ moms who support and care for each other,” Samantha explains. “Our group is made up of almost 150 ladies from all parts of the world. [We are] women from different social and economic backgrounds with different views on life and child rearing.”

“No matter the question or concern,  there will always be a positive remark and plenty of advice to help you through whatever situation you may be facing,” she adds. “We may have been brought together through our August babies, but we have stayed so close because of the support and kindness we show each other. We have kept the group relatively small so that we can get to know one another on a more personal level.”

And according to Samantha, this group of Awesome Mommies is ”full of the most wonderful,  giving and kindhearted ladies I have ever had a chance to know.  Although I have never met any of them, we have created a bond that will only continue to grow as we and our babies do.”

The elves at Elfster are pleased to help connect this tight-knit community of moms who count on Elfster to help them express their appreciation for one another, as seen through several very successful gift exchanges over the past few months. The group’s first two exchanges focused on baby and sibling gifts during the holidays, as well as a candy exchange for Valentine’s Day, but the group’s current exchange has gotten more personal.


Our most recent gift exchange is for Mother’s Day, and it’s the one I’m most excited about,” Samantha says. “Close to 90 members have signed up and we’ve drawn names. As our past exchanges have been more about baby,  this one is centered on mom and things she wants or needs. It’s hard to buy for yourself sometimes, but everyone else loves to buy for others. We set the spending limit at $20.00, knowing some ladies can only spend less or will want to spend more. It’s not about the gift, it’s about the anticipation of receiving a surprise and the fun of shopping for someone you may not know that much about.”

“Our mission is to empower each other as mothers and to be there to support one another through the joys of motherhood while helping one another stay sane!” says fellow mom and gift exchange co-organizer Melinda Hurley-Patterson. “The guessing game and randomness of Elfster helps tremendously. A person can stay anonymous and can give insight to their preferences and their ‘secret’ can know where to mail gifts and no one is the wiser.  We love that it is all hush hush.”

“Our mom’s range from first time moms, to moms of multiples, to moms of six kids,” adds Kim Miller, another one of the group’s moderators. “The one common factor is that we all have a baby born August 2015. All are invited to participate in the exchanges, but at times all cannot.”

The bonds of motherhood go deep for this group, as expressed by the generosity of its members sharing not only personal anecdotes, but the sharing of wish lists on Elfster to help get to know each other better. Samantha notes that the group loves that “we are able to say what we’re interested in and create a variety of options and ideas for our gift giver. We plan on doing an exchange in August, of course, for our little ones first birthday, and I think it will be the most anticipated and attended one yet.” We hope so, little ones!

We applaud these lovely ladies and wish them all a very Happy Mother’s Day — whether for the first time, or if they have “been there, done that.” We hope these bonds of friendship blossom throughout the year, and thanks for letting Elfster join in the fun!

Are you looking for the perfect gift idea for the wonderful moms in your life? Or perhaps you’d like to add that special little something to your own Elfster wish list to give someone a hint? Be sure to check out Elfster’s Mother’s Day gift guide for plenty of sweet suggestions.

We would love to hear how your awesome group is using Elfster, too. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram. Need help getting started with your own exchange? We can answer any questions you may have at





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Love the World You Live In: Celebrate Earth Day Every Day!

Love the World You Live In: Celebrate Earth Day Every Day!


It’s our world and it’s time to embrace it. Not just today, but every day. As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, just think of all the ways you can do your part to protect our planet and help make a difference. The roots of Earth Day began in 1970, and continue as an annual event worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is now celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.

In honor of Earth Day this month, the elves at Elfster have gotten into the action by sponsoring two community Meet and Gift exchanges which allow users from the Elfster community to connect with each other and celebrate Earth Day by sending each other themed gifts.




Nearly 600 Elfster community members are taking part in the largest exchange, called “Our Beautiful Earth,” which suggests that participants mail a photo of something beautiful from photographs they have taken themselves to celebrate the beauty of Earth. Each participant will mail their partner a printed photo that they think shows the Earth’s wonder along with a description of the place and why they love it. A perfect way to show to celebrate Earth Day!

“We already know that people love connecting with each other through gift exchanges,” explained Peter Imburg, CEO of “Sending a photo to another person of a part of the Earth that you find to be beautiful and inspiring is a great way to allow everyone to join in the fun.”

In addition to the photo exchange, there is also a “Natural Beauty and Grooming” exchange that allows the 150 participants to exchange their favorite natural products.

Are you looking for great tips and gift ideas to celebrate Earth Day and make your friendly mark on the planet? Elfster is proud to feature many eco-friendly products for you and the world around you. And every little effort makes all the difference to the world.



Go Plant a Tree

Spring has sprung, so it’s time to get outside and embrace it. Need a little inspiration? Shop Elfster to create your own environmentally-friendly backyard garden oasis. Check out Elfster’s Gardening Gift Guide, which features fresh, new garden essentials for you or your favorite green thumb — from perfect planters to terrific tools. Celebrate the beauty of the world you live in with your friends and family by hosting a Secret Santa style springtime gift exchange on Elfster, too!





Go Au Naturale

Think fresh. Think healthy. And go natural. Elfster’s  Wellness Gift Guide offers many options that are eco-friendly, organic and non-toxic to protect the beauty of our earth. From reusable water bottles to keep you hydrated and in top form, to plant-based remedies to give your body a healthy glow, our earth-loving essentials will keep the world around you simple and safe.

So celebrate Earth Day and honor our amazing planet. And don’t forget to give Mother Nature a big hug today and every day!

Need help using Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.


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