Never Grow Up: A Peter Pan Inspired Read Across America Day Book Club Pajama Party

Never Grow Up: A Peter Pan Inspired Read Across America Day Book Club Pajama Party

“Think of the happiest things; it’s the same as having wings,” sings the television. I’m five years old, watching my absolute favorite movie, Peter Pan. From the first time I saw Pan loop up into the sky, I wanted to be the one to fly with him to Neverland, stopping at Big Ben on the way before soaring into the stars straight on ‘til morning. It almost seemed possible; all I needed was some fairy dust. Unfortunately for my mom,…

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A Wondrously Wordy “Good Morning, Dr. Seuss” Read Across America Gift Exchange

A Wondrously Wordy “Good Morning, Dr. Seuss” Read Across America Gift Exchange

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” – Dr. Seuss As a toddler, my mom would drop me at my grandma’s house early in the day before she went to work. I’d spend those mornings with my nose buried in Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Socks, and The Cat in the Hat, sipping hot chocolate while cozied up on the couch. I would sit, enthralled,…

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Bring Your Brogue: Charmed St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas Inspired by The Quiet Man

Bring Your Brogue: Charmed St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas Inspired by The Quiet Man

There’s an Irish pub near my home that I frequent quite often. It was my dad’s favorite place, and we were often the only people there born this side of the Atlantic. Warm and homey, it was thick with brogues and resplendent with laughter. I once took my soon-to-be-in-laws there and a friend of mine introduced himself to them saying, “Many a times have I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in this very pub with Brian. And, a few of those…

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DIY Minecraft Party Ideas for an Interactive Gamer Boy’s Birthday Without Screens

DIY Minecraft Party Ideas for an Interactive Gamer Boy’s Birthday Without Screens

The surprise of creating a pickaxe, or mining your first ore. Figuring out how to light your first fire. Discovering the meat explosion that comes from a pig. Realizing how to swim—and learning never to dig straight down. These are my favorite memories of Minecraft when I started playing the beta version back in 2010. Enderman didn’t exist back then, we didn’t have guidebooks on how to build everything, and we had to learn how to make our own torches…

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Verdant Spring Equinox Party Ideas: From City Apartment to Lush Urban Paradise

Verdant Spring Equinox Party Ideas: From City Apartment to Lush Urban Paradise

I grew up surrounded by nature. Summer meant walking through the oak forests on the island where I lived, following a path to the ocean. Fall was a riot of orange, red, and yellow leaves, the crisp New England air reminding me that winter was coming. And nothing was better than looking for deer prints in the snow each winter, following their tracks in hopes of catching sight of the elegant creatures. But no season was more charming than spring,…

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Celebrate Greenery, Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year, with a Return to Spring Dinner Party

Celebrate Greenery, Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year, with a Return to Spring Dinner Party

My wife and I live in Chicago, near Lake Michigan. We walk to the shore often to appreciate its wild beauty, an untameable giant abutting one of man’s great cities. And while it is beautiful, the howling and biting wind that whips off it this time of year reminds us that we live in a very cold area. Once Christmas passes, our thoughts and hopes immediately begin to turn to spring.   This year, our longing for a change of…

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Crafty Homemade Gifts That Toddlers Can Make to Playfully Inspire the Joy of Giving

Crafty Homemade Gifts That Toddlers Can Make to Playfully Inspire the Joy of Giving

My little cousins, 2 and 4, are preschool crafting fiends. They come home with pages upon pages of pasted art, funky scribbles, and other staples of the toddlers’ craft repertoire . When I enter their kitchen, I’m met with a fridge door covered in construction paper, cotton balls, tinted macaroni, and what I can only imagine was a glitter bomb. Last weekend, I was at their house on a mission to spend the afternoon crafting gifts that the little ones could give to their…

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Goodbye Winter Blues: 5 Mood Boosting DIY Projects for a Weekend of Self-Care

Goodbye Winter Blues: 5 Mood Boosting DIY Projects for a Weekend of Self-Care

Last weekend, I had all of Saturday and Sunday to myself. My partner was traveling and I was, unusually, caught up with work for the week. I should have been thrilled with two largely empty days sprawling out before me. Instead, I felt anxious. We moved a little over a year ago and, working from home, I still didn’t have much of a social circle in our new hometown. For an extrovert like me, that can make a weekend alone,…

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Be Our Guest! Bonjour to Imaginative Beauty and the Beast Disney Dinner Party Ideas

Be Our Guest! Bonjour to Imaginative Beauty and the Beast Disney Dinner Party Ideas

When I heard the opening arpeggio of that familiar piano tune and saw the dark, wistful castle again for the first time in years while sitting in a silent movie theater, I got tears in my eyes. The sheer beauty of the French Baroque styling, the gorgeous costumes, and, of course, the talents of Emma Watson make Disney’s upcoming live-action retelling of Beauty and the Beast my “can’t miss” movie of the season. I’m so excited I’ve watched the trailer…

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Meatballs and Meditation: How to Host an Eat, Pray, Love Friendship Book Club Soiree

Meatballs and Meditation: How to Host an Eat, Pray, Love Friendship Book Club Soiree

Just after Valentine’s Day 2006, at a time when people thought print was dying and new books couldn’t move the needle, a comedic memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, at once both reverent and irreverent, cynical and romantic, hit the shelves. Despite (or maybe because of) the romantic holiday having just passed, it became an immediate best-seller. This was Eat, Pray, Love, a tale of divorce, frustration, and travel. It is, at its essence, deeply human. And that’s why it was, and…

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Modern Paper First Wedding Anniversary Gifts for Couples Living in the Digital Age

Modern Paper First Wedding Anniversary Gifts for Couples Living in the Digital Age

When my first anniversary was coming up, all those long two years ago now, my wife and I had to look up what the traditional gift theme was. She had guessed it was paper, but I dismissed that. “Paper,” I scoffed incredulously. Turns out, as is so often the case, she was right and I was wrong. My wife and I are not very traditional, so, paradoxically, we decided it would be fun to try to follow the spirit of…

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Relaxation Gift Ideas for Anxiety Prone Loved Ones to Inspire a Calm and Serene Mind

Relaxation Gift Ideas for Anxiety Prone Loved Ones to Inspire a Calm and Serene Mind

We all know someone who’s always anxious about, well, everything. While everyone gets nervous about this or that, for some people, anxiety affects their daily life. We often refer to them as “nervous” or “a real worrier,” but those labels simplify what our anxious loved ones experience, and even giving them a gift can create stress for both the giver and the givee. After all, you don’t want to give them something that will make their anxiety worse, like concert…

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Snow Day Winter Crafts and Games: “Cool” Boredom Busters That Warm up Imaginations

Snow Day Winter Crafts and Games: “Cool” Boredom Busters That Warm up Imaginations

Puffy snow-quality coat? Check. Mittens clipped to coat? Check. But wait—where’s her hat??? Getting my niece ready to play in the snow takes a full 20 minutes of hunting down winter accessories and struggling into layer after layer of warm clothing. Her excitement means she’s unable to stay still, even for us to help put her boots on. We finally get outside and have ten brief, but blissful minutes of pointing, touching, and snow throwing… and then she decides it’s…

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Last Minute Oscar Party Planning Ideas That Blend Hollywood Glamour with Glitzy Fun

Last Minute Oscar Party Planning Ideas That Blend Hollywood Glamour with Glitzy Fun

I have a confession: I don’t hate the Oscars. I know I’m supposed to grumble about how you can’t really objectively judge art, but my wife and I watch every year. I’ll also pretend I don’t know who everyone is, saying things like, “What’s a Hayden Panettiere,” or whatever, but I peruse the celeb clickbait articles. Sure, I’ll tell myself that my fingers did so on their own, but we know the truth. When it comes down to it, I still…

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Creative Packaging Ideas to Add Pizzazz and Personalization to Gift Cards for Teens

Creative Packaging Ideas to Add Pizzazz and Personalization to Gift Cards for Teens

As a young adult not far from her teen years, I remember exactly how it feels to be gifted free stuff. Free meals, books, and hobby-related items always made for a fantastic day in my book. So, for my cousin Holly’s 16th birthday last week, I remembered that feeling and decided to give her what I most appreciated at that age: a gift card. When you give a teen a gift card, you’re handing over a sense of freedom, and…

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Easy Snow Day Sports Crafts for Preschoolers to Make Fun Winter Memories with Kids

Easy Snow Day Sports Crafts for Preschoolers to Make Fun Winter Memories with Kids

For years I’ve been babysitting my best friend’s kids, Daniel and Nathan, and I feel so lucky to watch their personalities emerge. Now that they’re 4 and 6, we’ve become a big part of each other’s lives—they even call me Auntie Rai. While we usually spend our time together climbing trees or kicking a ball around the year, the recent snows in our area have made the jungle gyms impassable (and there are only so many snowmen I can handle),…

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Simple and Sweet DIY Coworker Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Office

Simple and Sweet DIY Coworker Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Office

There are few questions more fraught in the workplace than, “So, do you have Valentine’s Day plans?” It can lead to some awkward moments. The answer could be, “No, for I have yet to find love,” or, “We’re going skydiving with heart-shaped parachutes,” and then everyone else feels like scrambling to improve their plans. And many people just say, “I don’t really do Valentine’s Day.” Work relationships are an interesting middle ground in our lives. You spend a ton of…

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National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

“Oh, my stars! It’s a letter from dear Willeford! He’s writing from far off America!” You’ve probably watched a scene just like this one on some BBC period drama, with sumptuous clothes and weirdly bad lighting and various viscounts—and a character exclaiming delightedly at receiving a letter. It’s almost unimaginable that there was a time when you could go months without word from a loved one, instead of reading about the daily life of grade-school acquaintances on social media. But…

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A Year of Simplicity: How to Embrace the Minimalist Gift Giving Trend of 2017

A Year of Simplicity: How to Embrace the Minimalist Gift Giving Trend of 2017

Wandering aimlessly through the mall, I hunted for the perfect gift: an item that would be useful and beautiful—something that says, “I care about you,” without saying, “Here’s another knick-knack that I know you probably don’t need.” How in the world are you supposed to give a gift to a minimalist? 2017 is the year of consumer simplification—and that can make gift giving even more challenging. Many of us are being influenced by the minimalist lifestyle, from Marie Kondo’s viral decluttering magic to…

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A Kids’ Valentine’s Day Craft Party to DIY Handmade Treats, Cards—and Fun

A Kids’ Valentine’s Day Craft Party to DIY Handmade Treats, Cards—and Fun

Around this time of year, my friend Sophie and I find ourselves reminiscing about the good ol’ days of elementary school, when we would make construction paper valentines for each of our friends. Though we were clumsy with a bottle of Elmer’s glue and overzealous with the glitter, we worked so hard to create perfect notes and cards that all had unique, personalized touches. Last year, Sophie didn’t want her two school-aged daughters to have to rely on pre-made valentines…

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Woo Him with Japanese Valentine’s Day Traditions and Heartfelt Homemade Gifts

Woo Him with Japanese Valentine’s Day Traditions and Heartfelt Homemade Gifts

My husband and I will be celebrating our sixth Valentine’s Day together this year, so the traditional gestures of chocolates, flowers, and a card were beginning to feel a little trite and bland. Our love for each other, however, is not, and I wanted my gifts to reflect this. As a travel and culture enthusiast, I searched abroad for some international inspiration. Though I always thought of the holiday as an invention of Western culture, the roots of Valentine’s Day actually date back for centuries,…

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Motivational Gift Ideas: Inspiring Friends to Keep Their 2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Motivational Gift Ideas: Inspiring Friends to Keep Their 2017 New Year’s Resolutions

March is how far I got in 2016. Come to think of it, March is about how long I can maintain my New Year’s resolutions most years. But wouldn’t it feel amazing to see a New Year’s resolution through for an entire calendar year? I’m determined to tough it out in 2017—I’m in it for the long haul and I know my friends are, too. From 12-step programs with support groups to exercise buddies counting on you to show up…

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The Year of the Rooster: A Traditional Chinese New Year Celebration for 2017

The Year of the Rooster: A Traditional Chinese New Year Celebration for 2017

A few years ago, my college pal Amanina, known as Amy to her American classmates, wasn’t able to make it home to Malaysia for Chinese New Year. She was clearly bummed—it’s the most important day of her year, a celebration of family and a chance to make way for new luck and opportunities—so I decided to bring home to her with a Chinese New Year-inspired surprise party. I started with very little knowledge about Chinese New Year, or its traditions,…

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The Legendary Saint of Love: Honoring the History and Traditions of Valentine’s Day

The Legendary Saint of Love: Honoring the History and Traditions of Valentine’s Day

Around the year 270 A.D., Emperor Claudius II decided that men would make better fighters if they were unwed, so he outlawed marriage for any potential soldier. Seeing this as a crime against humanity—and love—Saint Valentine secretly performed marriages for young men and their lovers. Infuriated, Emperor Claudius II had St. Valentine thrown into jail and sentenced to a horrible death, which was carried out on February 14th, according to legend. As the wife of a former Airman, I’m personally…

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