How to Add a Personalized Surprise to a Wedding Gift Straight from the Registry

How to Add a Personalized Surprise to a Wedding Gift Straight from the Registry

Scrolling through another politely-requested online gift registry, I see the usual suspects: a crockpot, a distinct china pattern set, a brightly-colored stand mixer. The difference, this time, was that it was a dear friend from college who had become engaged. While I was thrilled for her (and who doesn’t love to attend a wedding), I was disappointed with the gift registry—she was asking me, one of her closest friends, to buy her a stock gift off of a registry list….

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Colorful Keepsakes: Make a Personalized Coloring Book from Your Favorite Photos

Colorful Keepsakes: Make a Personalized Coloring Book from Your Favorite Photos

It was just days away from my best friend’s birthday and not only was I short on her favorite flamingo-printed tissue paper, but I didn’t even have a good idea for her present. After some serious mulling, I decided I wanted to give Ellie a gift that expressed how much fun I always have with her, whether it’s an afternoon coffee date or our trip to the Caribbean last summer. We had taken some pretty amazing shots on our island-hopping…

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Hit Rewind: A New Year’s Eve Party That Turns Back Time

Hit Rewind: A New Year’s Eve Party That Turns Back Time

Rifling through a box that I’ve yet to unpack in the two years since buying our home, I pull out a stack of old photos from my high school days. I can’t help but wonder how time possible could have passed so quickly. As I pull a second handful of pictures from the box, a few CDs become visible—and they give me a brilliant idea for ringing in the new year with a trip down memory lane. With photographic proof…

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Keep Them Tied up with Laughter by Disguising Christmas Gifts in Prank Wrapping

Keep Them Tied up with Laughter by Disguising Christmas Gifts in Prank Wrapping

“Let me guess… Peanut M&Ms?!?,” my dad says, squishing the wrapped gift in his hands and shaking it ever so slightly. While they’re still his favorite treat, and a longstanding tradition I always include with his holiday gifts, I’ve had to learn the stealthy art of prank gift wrapping in order to stop dad from another year of, “Oh, I bet this is my candy,” as he tears into the paper. The sneaky gifting tricks I’ve developed over the years,…

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A World of Possibilities: How Technology Has Changed the Psychology Behind Gift Giving

A World of Possibilities: How Technology Has Changed the Psychology Behind Gift Giving

The other day, sitting at my desk at work, I got a whiff of something in the air—maybe it was a dish someone heated in the microwave that had a distinct food court air, or a hint of the outdoor chill lingering in someone’s jacket, or it was just the early-dimming light of a late December afternoon—but I was transported back into a memory. There I was, wandering around a childhood mall the first year I could drive, trying to…

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Honoring Diverse Cultural Traditions for a Christmas Around the World Party

Honoring Diverse Cultural Traditions for a Christmas Around the World Party

Sometimes, the best gift is simply being appreciated for who you are and where you come from. My alma mater, in the Bay Area, attracted a diverse student population—the racial makeup of our student body was like a youthful United Nations. Come Christmas, there was no right or wrong way to celebrate, as long as we all came together in peace, friendship, and joy. My dormmates and I started a tradition of celebrating an eclectic Christmas together and, while each…

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Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

Easy Projects to Transform Reclaimed Scrap Wood into Rustic DIY Christmas Gifts

Fall is my favorite time of year—the leaves change colors, the weather starts to cool, and there’s always a lovely autumn breeze. But every once in awhile, in my little Texas town surrounded by nothing but wide open plains, that lovely autumn breeze turns into a gust of destruction.   About two weeks ago, we were bombarded with winds that were just too much for our old weather-beaten fence to stand up to. A section broke free from the support…

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A Carry-On Christmas: Travel-Friendly Gifts That Pack a Punch, Not Your Luggage

A Carry-On Christmas: Travel-Friendly Gifts That Pack a Punch, Not Your Luggage

“Above the river and over the woods, to Grandmother’s house I’ll fly…” I can’t help but laugh at my own goofy rendition of the familiar holiday tune, all the while puzzling on how I can possibly fit everything I’d love to gift my family into my carry-on suitcase—without needing to oust my favorite outfit of worn-in jeans and a cozy flannel top. Then it dawns on me. I don’t need to forgo my fireside comfies, nor will I have to…

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A Gift in Itself: Easy Eco-Friendly Christmas Wrapping Ideas

A Gift in Itself: Easy Eco-Friendly Christmas Wrapping Ideas

As a child, Christmas was full of magic. I loved the gifts, the food, being with family—and collecting leftover wrapping paper at the end of all the festivities. I always asked my family and friends to unwrap their presents carefully so I could save the paper. Then, I’d spend long, winter hours indoors turning the sparkly, colorful, crinkly scraps into art projects. Years later, I still love crafts and DIY, but I’m also more conscious about how wrapping paper affects…

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‘Tis Better to Give: Reciprocal Altruism and the Psychology of Gift Giving

‘Tis Better to Give: Reciprocal Altruism and the Psychology of Gift Giving

I used to be terrible at gift giving. I was always prolific in my gifts, sure, but I wasn’t very good at picking them out—I often bought gifts based on what I liked, and what I assumed the recipient should like. “Here!,” I was basically saying, “I loved this book, so you certainly should as well.” And that tends to make for a bad present—not only is it not what the person in question wants, but it puts pressure on…

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A Sneaky Elf’s Guide to Hosting an Anonymous Secret Santa Office Gift Exchange with Coworkers

A Sneaky Elf’s Guide to Hosting an Anonymous Secret Santa Office Gift Exchange with Coworkers

This time last year, I had just started in a new department at work. Along with my orientation package came an invitation to participate in the office Secret Santa gift exchange. I was hesitant because I didn’t actually know anyone in my new office, but my boss encouraged me to take part—and I’m so glad I did! This fun office tradition truly helped me become a part of the team. On the day of the gift exchange, I arrived at…

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Christmas Wrapping Party Ideas to Get Organized While Getting in the Spirit

Christmas Wrapping Party Ideas to Get Organized While Getting in the Spirit

Gifts are my favorite Christmas decoration. Each present is its own story—mysterious and offering the promise of joy—and the wrapping paper is the prologue . Watching as they are opened, and the heartfelt gifts inside discovered, is the beautiful conclusion. Each box or bag is filled with potential, symbols of upcoming happiness that embody the giddy anticipation of the holiday season. So, yeah, I love wrapped gifts. But actually wrapping them, that’s a whole other story. Wrapping a Christmas’ worth of gifts can be time-consuming and…

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Christmas Shopping Tips to Help Soothe Sensory Overload in Special Needs Kids

Christmas Shopping Tips to Help Soothe Sensory Overload in Special Needs Kids

Christmas music chimes through overhead speakers, brightly colored lights gleam in window displays, and vast aisles of decor offer an assortment of musical novelty toys all belting out carols like a dissonant choir. Rushed shoppers are out in droves, lined up at check-out counters. As their treasures beep across the scanners, I hear them chatting on cellphones, or yelling to a spouse to make a run for a forgotten item while they hold down a coveted place in line. The…

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Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Seniors, from the Inexpensive to the Unexpected

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Seniors, from the Inexpensive to the Unexpected

Buying gifts for seniors, whether your parents or another special person in your life, always seems strangely difficult, even as it feels more vital and urgent—and I think I’ve figured out why. They’ve had a lifetime to accumulate things. More than that, though, I’m always worried about getting something that seems too common, too basic, and not weighted with the thoughtfulness they deserve. There is so much I want to express with my gifts—love, appreciation, respect, a quiet thanks for…

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An Apple Bake Off Party with DIY Decor Inspirations for a Late Fall Harvest

An Apple Bake Off Party with DIY Decor Inspirations for a Late Fall Harvest

The frosts of winter will soon blanket the trees around my hometown with a frozen sparkle, but, first, there’s a final harvest of my favorite handheld snack—the apple. Late fall always means a visit to the local cider mill and farm where my favorite Braeburns are ripe and plentiful, just in time to make a medley of baked treats for the upcoming holiday celebrations. With a basket full of juicy Jonagolds or Galas at hand to inspire my holiday dessert…

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Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

It was arguably the worst day America had ever seen—a few moments in time that no American will ever forget. But, many stories of strength, fortitude, and positive energy have emerged in the 15 years since the events of September 11th, 2001. One such story is that of Robert Herzog, founder of ZogSports, which has grown to become the most popular adult co-ed social sports league in the country. Each year, ZogSports has seen its membership grow. Over 100,000 fun-loving,…

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Get-To-Know-You Party Games That Make a Friendsgiving Feel Like a Family Gathering

Get-To-Know-You Party Games That Make a Friendsgiving Feel Like a Family Gathering

Now known in my circle of friends as “The Epic Bird Battle of 2015,” I’ll never forget watching my old college roommate Sarah wrestle with a 30lb turkey last Thanksgiving. If I can’t be home for the holidays to enjoy my grandma’s famous sweet potato casserole, or to watch my uncles debate over how to spice the gravy, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than sitting at Sarah’s kitchen counter, wine in hand, watching her in her themed apron, attempt to…

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Unwrapping Japanese Gift Giving Traditions: Simple Generosity and Artful Presentations

Unwrapping Japanese Gift Giving Traditions: Simple Generosity and Artful Presentations

When I first started dating the woman who would become my wife, we were young, irresponsible, and worked low-paying jobs. Consequently, and not helped by our love for going out to dinner, we were generally strapped for cash. Her birthday happened to fall a month after we both realized we were in a this-is-the-one relationship, and it plunged me into an indecisive, Hamlet-esque agony. Did I scrimp and save to get something extravagant? Or did I just not get her…

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Urbanite Inspirations for a Rustic Farmhouse Dinner Party

Urbanite Inspirations for a Rustic Farmhouse Dinner Party

Rolling up the sleeves on my flannel, and feeling the creeping cold rustling through my beard, I picked up the bale of hay, and threw it over my shoulder. “You look,” my wife said, “absolutely ridiculous.” I admit she had a point. After all, I was pulling the hay out of our compact sedan, which I had just parallel parked on our busy city street, and was preparing to carry it up to our third-floor urban apartment. It’s safe to…

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DIY Fall Paradise Party Ideas for Hosting an Out-of-Season Luau

DIY Fall Paradise Party Ideas for Hosting an Out-of-Season Luau

Only the leaves blowing past my living room window gave evidence of the day’s chill—the weather in my house was a balmy 80 degrees, and not a cloud in sight. Crepe paper Hawaiian flower banners were strewn across the mantle and apple-scented candles were lit in tiki torches—the party vibe was strong, ready to transport my guests from a world of pumpkin spice to palm trees. A month into fall, the novelty of the beautifully colored leaves and apple cider…

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Personalized Wrapping Paper Helps Craft Thoughtful Gift Giving

Personalized Wrapping Paper Helps Craft Thoughtful Gift Giving

I’ve never liked that old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”—everyone knows the cover is an extension of the book. It’s an introduction to the heart of the story, a way to begin crafting a tale using bright colors, fun designs, or eye-grabbing creative touches before a page is ever turned. And your wrapping paper should represent your gift in the same way. My first foray into personalized gift wrapping was accidental. My sister Susan’s birthday had snuck…

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Hosting a Carefree Birthday Party for Your Introverted Kid

Hosting a Carefree Birthday Party for Your Introverted Kid

Photo credit Etsy seller justalittlesparkle Cake. Balloons. Bouncy castles. These party staples sound like heaven to most children—for my little one, the fuss and hoopla created more stress than smiles. But that didn’t mean he had to miss out on all the fun of a classic kid’s birthday party. When planning a party for an introverted or shy child, ditch the party traditions that cause sensory overload. If your kid doesn’t revel in being the center of attention, or the thought…

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Elfster, Toys for Tots, and You: Conjuring up Christmas Magic on Giving Tuesday

Elfster, Toys for Tots, and You: Conjuring up Christmas Magic on Giving Tuesday

There’s a special magic that wells up in children everywhere this time of year—their hearts are filled with hope at just the thought of twinkling lights, happy carols, and the possibility of snow flurries to turn the world into a dreamy greeting card. Every kid delights in Christmas morning surprises wrapped in colorful paper and tied with a bow, under the fragrant bough of an evergreen tree delicately laced with sparkling garlands. Elfster and Toys for Tots make those childish dreams come true each holiday…

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A Telecommuters’ Office Pizza Party That’s Virtually Guaranteed to Help Coworkers Connect

A Telecommuters’ Office Pizza Party That’s Virtually Guaranteed to Help Coworkers Connect

Photo credit Amazon seller New Wave Office pizza parties were a tradition at my old job, where we would file into a tiny conference room where cheesy pies covered in generic toppings would be stacked up on a folding table. I complained at the time about the lack of veggies, and Arthur eating the last slice of pepperoni, but really missed those moments of office camaraderie once I became a telecommuter—my co-workers lived everywhere from San Francisco to San Antonio. So when…

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