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Author: Brian B

Brian thinks that giving someone a gift is just about the most fun you can have, so long as you don't stress out about finding the right one. He likes helping people not stress out during the holidays. Hit him up for ways to make your Christmas more fun.
Fun Games to Play at Christmas with the Whole Family

Fun Games to Play at Christmas with the Whole Family

Last Christmas, I got together with my wife’s family. It was a great Christmas. One night, though, someone suggested we play a game, and some of the younger attendees immediately declared, “Cards Against Humanity!” Now, I like that game. With the right crowd, it can be a blast. This wasn’t it, though. Too many in-laws, too many people being uncomfortable, too many people not feeling like they could play at their highest (er, lowest?) level. A girl who just married…

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Can I Make a Wish List Using Multiple Websites?

Can I Make a Wish List Using Multiple Websites?

Nobody is into just one thing. Everyone has a lot of hobbies, passions, and interests. A woman in our building loves our local football team—like, to the point where I’m worried about structural damage. But she’s also a huge outdoors fan and knows more about wild mushrooms than anyone I’ve ever talked to.  That’s part of the joy and diversity of life, but it doesn’t always make shopping for someone easy. After all, if they’re putting together a list, it…

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7 Secret Santa Yoga Gifts for the Yogi in Your Life

7 Secret Santa Yoga Gifts for the Yogi in Your Life

One of the cool things about getting older is seeing things change. The other day, my wife and I were having sushi, and I thought about how so many comedies from the 80s had sushi as a signifier of laughable snobbery. Now that’s unimaginable. We scarf it down while watching football. It’s a normal (and delicious) thing to eat.  It’s the same with yoga. Not too long ago, people thought yoga was weird and just for crunchy granola types. That…

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Types of Gift Exchanges that’ll Spice Up Any Event

Types of Gift Exchanges that’ll Spice Up Any Event

This summer, we hosted a BBQ, and the invitation said we were going to do a gift exchange. A friend texted to ask what the occasion was, and I had to explain that there wasn’t an occasion. It was just that 1) people like getting gifts, and 2) gift exchanges are fun.  Those, to me, are universal truths. You don’t need it to be a holiday to have a gift exchange, and no matter what kind of event you’re having,…

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How to Create a Christmas Wish List that will Simplify Your Shopping

How to Create a Christmas Wish List that will Simplify Your Shopping

If you’re like me, then your excitement about Christmas shopping looks like one of those stock market charts from the 1920s. It starts out going up because you’re excited about getting things for people and embracing the festivities. Then, eventually, it kind of crashes. The stress of trying to get everything done can become overwhelming.  You probably don’t want your loved ones to experience that kind of stress when shopping for you, so you’re always looking to simplify your list….

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5 Unique Gift Exchange Themes for Adults

5 Unique Gift Exchange Themes for Adults

One of the great joys in life is having old friends. Knowing people for years—or decades—gives you a perspective on life that gets richer as you age. One of the other great joys of life is making new friends. Creating friendships as an adult gives you a whole new shared language to develop.  Friendships are as important for adults as they are for children, and one of my life philosophies is that they should be celebrated. One way to do…

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Why You Should Use an Electronic Way to Draw Names from a Hat

Why You Should Use an Electronic Way to Draw Names from a Hat

Recently, we hosted a barbeque and decided to play horseshoes. We were going to divide teams by drawing names out of a hat, so I volunteered my old trusty White Sox cap. My wife looked at me for a full two seconds before declaring that maybe we’d use a “less comprehensively sweaty” way of picking teams.  That made sense. And it illuminated something important: when you’re drawing names from an actual hat, you need an actual hat, with all its…

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7 Secret Santa Gifts Under $20 that Anyone will Love

7 Secret Santa Gifts Under $20 that Anyone will Love

Just about everyone who has run a Secret Santa has had a variation of this conversation:  “Want to do a Secret Santa?” “Heck yes! I love those. Just… is there a, um… ” “Price limit?” “Yes!”  A lot of Secret Santa exchanges have a price limit of some sort. We’ve had ones that are as low as $10 and others that go significantly higher. It makes sense. You don’t want to overspend, and you don’t want to seem cheap. Maybe…

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8 Crowd-Pleasing Christmas Games to Play with Large Groups

8 Crowd-Pleasing Christmas Games to Play with Large Groups

When we throw parties, I want to make sure that everyone is having a good time at all times. So, I rotate between rooms and ping back-and-forth between groups. It’s pretty hard to keep up (“Were you guys just talking about Stranger Things? Oh, right, tax policy.”) and even harder to enjoy myself.  That’s why we now make sure there are games at the party, especially around the holidays, when parties get larger and more frequent. Games are really helpful…

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Dinner Party Christmas Games for a Holly Jolly Good Time

Dinner Party Christmas Games for a Holly Jolly Good Time

If there’s one thing my wife and I love, it’s hosting a dinner party around Christmas. We enjoy gathering loved ones around us during some of the longest and darkest nights of the year, bringing warmth to the table, clinking glasses, and raising spirits. It’s a burst of brightness.  Still, hosting a dinner party can be a high-wire act. You need the right combination of great food, lively guests who get along, and stuff to do. Once the plates are…

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9 Office-Safe Secret Santa Theme Ideas for Work Parties

9 Office-Safe Secret Santa Theme Ideas for Work Parties

When I was fresh out of college, a few years ago (ok, more than a few), I had a job at a consulting company. To make things more fun, they had a party committee. One holiday season, they set up a Secret Santa gift exchange and decided to do a theme. Fun, right? Absolutely. They were fun people!  But the theme they chose was British TV dramas of the 1980’s. Needless to say, not everyone knew what this theme encapsulated,…

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4 Ways to Draw Names from a Virtual Hat

4 Ways to Draw Names from a Virtual Hat

A few years ago, my wife and I hosted a tree trimming party. We had never done one before, so we looked up how to make our tree trimming party fun and memorable. Our guests were excited because we were one of the few in our circle of friends who had a real tree. So, perhaps carried away by the scent of pine (okay, and the egg nog), we expanded the party by adding a Secret Santa gift exchange.  What…

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7 Virtual Christmas Games for Remote Office Parties

7 Virtual Christmas Games for Remote Office Parties

I’ve worked two remote jobs. One was pretty isolated. There were emails and some video meetings, but I was pretty much on an island. I honestly can’t remember the names of the people I “worked” with. Needless to say, my motivation was not particularly high.  The other one? Constant chatting. Lots of video meetings. Regular check-ins. Weekly Fun Friday questions to get to know each other. I made life-lasting friendships there, even with people I’ve only met once or twice…

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The 5 Best Christmas Wish List Makers

The 5 Best Christmas Wish List Makers

I remember the joy of making a Christmas wish list when I was a kid. I’d think about what books I wanted, what toys I needed (needed!), which video game commercials had spoken directly to my soul. I’d give the list to my parents, who, as far as I knew, personally delivered it to Santa.  But after it was signed, sealed, and transported northward, there was always that gut-clenching moment when I realized I forgot something. Or I saw a…

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5 Tips for a Gift Exchange with an Odd Number of People

5 Tips for a Gift Exchange with an Odd Number of People

There’s nothing wrong with being odd.  For whatever reason, we tend to think “odd” numbers are, well, off. Even numbers are solid and divide easily. They have a graceful symmetry. Odd numbers? They’re weird and quirky. It’s right there in the name! I don’t know about you, though, but I like things being odd. It makes life more interesting. Odd numbers can be like Alice in Wonderland, taking you to weird and fun places.  And contrary to popular belief, having…

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How to Play Secret Santa with a Techy Twist

How to Play Secret Santa with a Techy Twist

My uncle sat there staring at us, like he did every Christmas, glancing at every upturned face with the suspicion of a trained detective. One by one, he’d look at us, trying to spot a clue: a twitching smile, a glance away, a tell-tale blush. He was trying to figure out his Secret Santa.  He never got it right.  Eventually, someone would just confess. Other people had gifts to open. That was our ritual: watching a person guess every name…

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The Best Office Party Ideas for a Cool Summer Company Picnic

The Best Office Party Ideas for a Cool Summer Company Picnic

In the long history of spoken communication, most sentence combinations have been uttered. But one that probably hasn’t is “It’s such a nice beautiful summer day. I’m really excited to go into work!” Or, ok, it may have been said, but never sincerely. It might, in fact, be the most sarcastic sentence possible. That’s the thing about work. Most of us have to do it, but there are days when it feels almost impossible to focus on it. And as…

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A Graduation Party Planning Checklist: Elfster’s How-To Guide

A Graduation Party Planning Checklist: Elfster’s How-To Guide

When I was getting ready to start college back in the 90s (cue lightning and thunderbolts in the background), we didn’t really need much. Bedding and such, of course, but besides that just a couple of packing crates, my books, my Discman, my CD case, and, of course, some decorations to show just how unique and idiosyncratic I was. I think there was an Escher? That blew some minds, man. In some ways, not a lot has changed. College students…

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The Best Eid al-Fitr Gifts for Traditional Ramadan Gift Giving

The Best Eid al-Fitr Gifts for Traditional Ramadan Gift Giving

The sacred and solemn holiday of Ramadan is a time of prayer, of reflection, and of charity. It is a time of peace, where one prays for the world—and for themselves. It’s not for focusing on small worldly and bodily needs, such as food, but for seeking out your inner quietness for answers to spiritual matters. That makes it a time of fasting, when food cannot be eaten between dawn and dusk. To mark the end of that most holy…

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What to Put in a Beach-Themed Gift Basket or Bag for Her

What to Put in a Beach-Themed Gift Basket or Bag for Her

This beach season, you’re probably looking to add something more to your bag than suntan lotion and the newest teen vampire novel—although you totally want both of those too. You want to rock the sun and sand in style, comfort, with a little decadence, and a lot of goodies. You want, nay need, great beach gear. And so do your girlfriends! This year, why not send a beach-themed gift bag to your sister, girlfriend, wife, or best friend? It’s a…

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Ochugen and Oseibo Gift Ideas: Japanese Customs and the Tradition of Giving

Ochugen and Oseibo Gift Ideas: Japanese Customs and the Tradition of Giving

What do you say when you give someone a gift? No, not “here,” or “look, I got you a gift,” but what is your gift saying? What are the wordless messages you are passing along when someone opens that special thing you gave them? There are a million possibilities but at the core, at the purest level, you are saying: I value you. In Japan, gift-giving is less about the gift itself as the meaning behind it, which is why…

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The Best Traditional Kwanzaa Gifts to Make and Give

The Best Traditional Kwanzaa Gifts to Make and Give

Kwanzaa has always been one of the world’s most exciting holidays, especially in North America. It is a burst of light and color, of sun and laughter, emerging brightly into the coldest and darkest days of the year. It’s a celebration of heritage, but it isn’t one stuck in the past. It creates a vibrant tapestry of the past, present, and future, looking toward the next day while honoring the last. Kwanzaa is a unique holiday in that it comes…

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Unique Diwali Gift Ideas: Celebrate India’s Festival of Lights Around the World

Unique Diwali Gift Ideas: Celebrate India’s Festival of Lights Around the World

The word Diwali, with its upward-lilting last syllable, already carries within it a lightness and a note of grace. That’s fitting, too: A translation of the word reads “rows of lighted lamps,” a beautiful and warm image invoking peace, warmth, and openness. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights in India and around the world, is one of the high points on the Hindu calendar, a day when light triumphed over darkness. And it’s that selfsame light that we…

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Hot Summer Kickoff Party Theme Ideas: Planning Outdoor Activities for Sunny Days

Hot Summer Kickoff Party Theme Ideas: Planning Outdoor Activities for Sunny Days

There are few things I love more than a classic Americana summer party. Food on the grill, cold drinks in the cooler, music sifting through the hot air reminding you of the past—and of the current endless present. Kids running around, firecrackers going off, lawn games that are fun and weirdly competitive. Burgers and ribs, grilled veggies, salads passed around laughter-filled tables. A long and sultry day that sunsets into a firefly dusk and a dance-filled night.  It’s the bottomless…

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