Xmas/Yule Game Ideas

1 Play Christmas Movie Trivia

Get in the holiday spirit by having a Christmas movie marathon, then play a round of Christmas movie trivia to see who is the most festive of them all.


(Photo via Warner Bros.)

December Dice Game

 White Elephant is a traditional gifting game that we all know and love. This year, switch things up a bit and play this dice game. It’s a fun take on the gift exchange. (via Play. Party. Pin.)

3 Have a Cookie Decorating Party

Bake a batch of sugar cookies (or buy them) and set up a cookie bar with all the fixings to make the sweetest holiday treats around. The best part about this party is you get to eat it all when you’re finished.

4 Play Spoons With Candy Canes

Pick up a pack of candy canes and playing cards to spend QT with the family. Spoons is a classic card game that’s usually played using just cards and (you guessed it) spoons, but you can swap it out for candy canes for a festive spin.

5 Lucky Last Line Gift Exchange

In this gift exchange game, a poem tells players to pass the gift left and right. You end up passing the gifts all around the room, and whichever present you have in your hands at the end of poem is the one you get to open. (via Play. Party. Pin.)

What are your favorite Christmas activities? Let us know.. 


Presents You Can’t Gift Wrap

Untying a bow and ripping open the wrapping paper to reveal the surprise inside is undeniably exciting… for about a minute. But it’s the type of gifts that simply cannot be wrapped that end up sticking with you longer. Giving your super stressed friend an appointment for a massage or upgrading a flight for the globetrotter nearest and dearest to you is not only better way to give, but it will mean so much more than any bauble or trinket ever could. From subscriptions to goat donations (!), these gifts ideas will make you the most thoughtful giver of the bunch.

Goat and 2 Chickens from World Vision ($100): We guarantee this charitable gift will not only totally surprise the recipient, but will make you both feel all warm and fuzzy inside by providing a supply of eggs, milk and meat to feed families in need.

Drawing from Chic Sketch ($10): Your fashion girl bff will flip when she receives her own personalized fashion illustration. Grab a photo from her blog, submit it to Chic Sketch and it’ll be turned into a drawing by one of their fashion illustrators.

Custom Star Kit from the International Star Registry ($54): Guys, who remembers the movie A Walk to Remember? If you do, then this gift will be extra special (and tear-inducing). Who doesn’t want to have a star named after them?!


DIY Kitchen Tips for the Holidays

For all your aspiring #topchefs out there, we’ve got you covered with a little expert advice from renowned housewares designer and entertaining guru Carter McGuyer.

Carter is the brains behind more than 350 kitchen tools and gadgets, and has collaborated with fan-favorite brands like Crate and Barrel and Crisp. He definitely knows what’s up when it comes to kitchen efficiency. For all of us that get a little cray in the kitchen this time of year, Carter is serving up his top tips for keeping things under control. They’ll come in super handy when you’re prepping for your holiday feasts.

1 Good Tools 

A few high-quality essentials make meal prep faster and more efficient. Carter suggests investing in a basic cook’s knife and a paring knife to handle all of your needs. You’ll never reach for anything else. Carter says, “Good paring knives, like the Bird’s Beak Paring Knife ($12) I designed for Crisp Cooking Tools, can be used for peeling, coring, slicing or carving creative designs, making attention to detail a breeze. A basic cook’s knife is great because — assuming you keep it sharp — it is extremely versatile and can be used for almost 90% of cutting tasks.” And, while we’re on the topic, Carter also insists on keeping those blades sharp. It’s a step that people often overlook, but keeping your knives in tip-top shape is the first secret to chopping like a pro.

2 Learn how to use the tools and master basic cuts 

Good knife skills make any kitchen task easier and waaaay faster. A quick search on YouTube will land you tons of tutorials. Not sure what you’re searching for? Carter talks about his most-used methods and why you need them: “Some of my favorites include mincing, which can be used to cut garlic, shallots or other pungent alliums into small pieces; slicing, which is useful for everything from vegetables to cheeses; and julienning, which is a specialty method that can spruce up any salad or cocktail garnish.” His Wavy Knife ($13) design is also great to add a little ruffled texture to your veggies.

3 Prep ahead of time 

Carter’s time-saving secret? Because fruits and veggies can be stored overnight, he cuts up everything he needs several hours or up to one day ahead of time. One of his go-to meals is a warm, rich fondue served with a generous platter of (pre-cut!) fruits and veggies. How genius us that? Carter also keeps things easy with elegant twists on common slow cooker meals like chili and soup. His suggestion for a relaxed dinner is a total home run: “Set it up the night before your party, and then welcome guests into your delicious-smelling home the next evening. Slice onions or scallions ahead of time, and along with cheese and some sour cream, you have a full-fledged toppings bar for guests to add to their chili or soup.”

4 Use fresh herbs 

Carter loves serving simple dishes and amping up the flavor with fresh herbs and spices. “Not only can you use an Herb Mincer ($16) to finely chop your herbs, but you can also use it to strip the leaves from the stem, which saves you a lot of time and frustration!”


Based on research from the MIT Media Lab, Koko uses an innovative form of crowdsourced cognitive therapy.

An Old Problem

When we’re stressed, we often become our own worst enemy. We tell ourselves that we can’t do it. That we aren’t good enough. That things will never get better.

Our thoughts influence how we feel. While we can always modify our thoughts,  wrestling with our own mind can sometimes feel like a losing battle. Koko is based on the simple idea that we can be stronger together. Together, we can tame our thoughts, build resilience, and learn to stay calm and collected in the face of any stress.

A New Technology

Some of the most powerful software applications and services from the past decade have been powered by collective intelligence. Google, Wikipedia, and Quora, to name just a few, work by intelligently coordinating the collective behaviors of thousands, if not millions, of people on the Internet.

Could this same approach help promote well-being? Could we crowdsource the treatment of stress and anxiety? What benefits might come from a ‘peer support’ model, where everyone learns by teaching others?

Koko hopes to answer these questions.

The Science

In a randomized controlled trial, a web-based version of Koko outperformed an existing intervention on a host of psychological outcome measures.  The results were analyzed by researchers at MIT, Northwestern, and Columbia, and the findings were published in a leading medical journal.

In my opinion This app is definitely a great stress reliever

Learning to say YES

I’ve recently read the stunning book called “Year of Yes“, it is like listening to your long-distance BFF tackle all the bad vibes in her life — insecurity, self-doubt and less-than great relationships — and ultimately come out the other side stronger and even funnier, all while wielding a celebratory bottle of red wine.yearofy

Though it might seem like Shonda has her life together, she’s painfully honest about both her personal shortcomings and early financial struggles. Our fave memory has to be when she’s broke and deciding on her grocery essentials: “Sometimes the toilet paper does not win. Sometimes a broke woman needs the red wine more.”


She focuses on her strengths and forgave her weaknesses. In an interview with Robin Roberts, Shonda revealed her original career goal was to become a literary author. One disastrous novel draft later, she realized, “I am not Toni Morrison,” and that was okay, because she had other talents. Instead of aspiring to be someone else, Shonda dedicated herself to her strengths — television writing — which ultimately led to her success.

“Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.” In 2014, Shonda revisited her alma mater to deliver a commencement speech. While the entire speech is worth a listen, one of her best pieces of advice is her approach to dreams. She urges Dartmouth graduates to focus on concrete actions, rather than lofty dreams, so that their goals actually stand a chance at coming true.

Video Here

She owns her work. Once she found success with her shows, Shonda stopped taking network notes — she had a vision and she was prepared to execute it. In an interview with The New York Times, she told them, “What was great for me about Scandal was I had earned a lot of political capital with the network… I had done Grey’s, I had done Private Practice. What were they going to do, fire me? I wasn’t worried about what anybody else thought. This one was for me.” While accepting criticism can be helpful, it’s important to know when to draw the line, so that it doesn’t derail your creativity.


The greatest lesson from Year of Yes is that saying “Yes!” to new experiences, the goals that you’ve been too scared to pursue and honesty in your relationships will be life changing. Instead, she said “NO” to her fears of speaking up and “YES” to championing herself. She writes that before the year of yes, she was afraid to be herself in interviews, until the challenge made her realize, “If I say nothing of substance, tell them nothing, share nothing, give them nothing… why? Why am I even there? What am I afraid they will see if I am really myself?”Shonda’s biggest “Aha” moments didn’t come from saying yes to crazy activities like bungee jumping off a cliff or sky diving.


January Job Hunting Tips

Whether you recently graduated from college or are considering making a move to better your career, starting a job search is probably top of mind. Along with the excitement, though, the process is probably also met with a resounding “oof.” With the days ahead consisting of blasting out your resume, checking (over and over again) for reply emails and scheduling interviews, landing your dream job takes some serious hustle to nab. But don’t lose hope yet.

1. Get the Apps to Turn You into a Networking Wiz: The hiring process has turned into something tech-driven, and the days of simply sending a resumé are gone. Once you’ve sent that email, now what? That’s when you use the right apps to follow up and track your progress.There are three apps I love that integrate into your Gmail. Streak CRM will easily track your important email outreach, Sidekick will let you know when people have opened your email, how many times, and from what device and Rapportive will show the social media profiles of the person you’re emailing right within Gmail.
2. Search for Gigs on Social Media: Online job boards will only take you so far — remember that every social network is a search engine of its own. “People think LinkedIn is the only social network you can use for professional connections. We’ve heard numerous stories through the FindSpark community about our members developing relationships and landing jobs because of Twitter and Instagram.” Pro tip: Search a hashtag by combining the word “job” or “hiring” with your city — so for NYC, try #nycjob or #hiringnyc. You can also just search the words “hiring advertising Charlotte,” for example, to get real-time recent job results.
3. Tout Your Tech-Savviness: You’re in the middle of the interview, and the interviewer asks about your skills. Emily says that you should especially look to the previous year for new tech skills you may have acquired. “Be sure to think about the new tools or versions of software you’ve learned in the past year. People want to know you have familiarity with the most updated tools. Be sure to add these as keywords to your skills on LinkedIn in addition to your digital and physical resumes.”

4. Follow Up — Fast: Don’t get so excited when you get a follow-up email that you forget to reply. First things first: respond (you know, rather than call your bestie like, “OMG, I’m going to have an interview!”). Remember that it’s going to be a competitive month, so you have to be ready to follow up and schedule interviews quickly — don’t let emails get dusty in your inbox. It’s best to respond within 24 hours. Highly responsive applications are likely to appear motivated and get the interview booked more quickly.

Vitriol another name for sulphuric acid

What it is… 

1. Chemistry. any of certain metallic sulfates of glassy appearance, ascopper sulfate or blue vitriol, iron sulfate or green vitriol, zinc sulfate or white vitriol, etc.
2.oil of vitriol; sulfuric acid.

A pungent-ethereal colorless dense oily corrosive liquid produced by the reaction of sulphur trioxide with water and used in accumulators and in the manufacture of fertilizers, dyes, and explosives. Formula: H 2 SO Systematic name sulphuric(VI) acid. The historical name of this acid is oil of vitriol.


How it operates 

Because the hydration of sulfuric acid is thermodynamically favorable and the affinity of it for water is sufficiently strong, sulfuric acid is an excellent dehydrating agent. Concentrated sulfuric acid has a very powerful dehydrating property, removing water (H2O) from othercompounds including sugar and other carbohydrates and producing carbon, heat, steam.

In laboratory, this is often demonstrated by mixing table sugar (sucrose) into sulfuric acid. The sugar changes from white to dark brown and then to black as carbon is formed. A rigid column of black, porous carbon will emerge as well. The carbon will smell strongly of caramel due to the heat generated.[20]

C12H22O11 (white sucrose) + sulfuric acid → 12 C(black graphitic foam) + 11 H2O (steam) + sulfuric acid/water mixture

Similarly, mixing starch into concentrated sulfuric acid will give elemental carbon and water as absorbed by the sulfuric acid (which becomes slightly diluted). The effect of this can be seen when concentrated sulfuric acid is spilled on paper which is composed of cellulose; the cellulose reacts to give a burnt appearance, the carbon appears much as soot would in a fire. Although less dramatic, the action of the acid on cotton, even in diluted form, will destroy the fabric.

(C 6H10O5)n + sulfuric acid → 6n C + 5n H2O

The reaction with copper(II) sulfate can also demonstrate the dehydration property of sulfuric acid. The blue crystal is changed into white powder as water is removed.

CuSO4·5H2O (blue crystal) + sulfuric acid → CuSO4 (white powder) + 5 H2O

Why is this needed to be known

Flow.  Flow is affected by viscosity.  Viscosity is defined as:

  1. the state of being thick, sticky, and semifluid in consistency, due to internal friction.
    synonyms: thickness, gooeyness, viscidity;

    • a quantity expressing the magnitude of internal friction, as measured by the force per unit area resisting a flow in which parallel layers unit distance apart have unit speed relative to one another.

Viscosity greatly affects the speed at which the ink will flow from your pen. This of course affects how much ink you get on your support (writing surface) at a time.  A lower viscosity means that the ink will flow much faster.  A higher viscosity means the ink will flow slower.  What your pen angle is to your ground also changes the ink flow of course so a slanted or level writing surface affects things as well.  Of course it seems that the more parallel to the ground you are the lower viscosity you might want.  However a I have found a higher viscosity seems to have been the norm in medieval ink making where writing on a slanted desk seems to have been the norm.  But then again, there is surface tension to take into account. That can really affect things as well.


Flow is also affected by the surface tension of the ink.  Surface tension is defined by Merriam Webster as:


: the force that causes the molecules on the surface of a liquid to be pushed together and form a layer

If you alter the surface tension then the ink will change how it is attracted to your dip pen and how it is attracted to and interacts with your writing support. The same surface tension is going to act differently depending on what support (writing surface) you are writing on. If your surface tension is high enough the ink will just bead up on the support and never really interact with the support more than to sit on it.  If the surface tension is lower the ink will more readily interact with the support.  Of course if the viscosity is also very low then the ink might be absorbed by the writing surface all to easily.  Surface tension can also affect how the ink transfers to the support from your pen.  The ink may cling to your pen and then create blobs when you first start to write with it.  Especially if the surface tension is high but the viscosity is low.  Of course if the surface tension is low and the viscosity is high then you have the problem of the ink transferring to the writing surface almost too quickly but then acting like a syrup once there.

And that’s just some aspects of flow and how two parts of it interact.

Then there is the most taken for granted quality of the ink, color.  If you’re making a black ink, black is black right?  No, there are different kinds of black because of different shades of black and differing qualities such as flat or reflective.  With iron gall ink the color black comes from the iron turning black instead say rust colored or even yellow.  That happens because of the tannic acid as well as ambient oxygen in the liquid along with other things.  Of course the liquid could be water, wine, brandy, beer or vinegar depending on the recipe.  Of course those things really can affect the surface tension and the viscosity as well as the color.

For carbon inks the black color is a function of carbon being black.  But what you grind it with (I do recommend a wet grind) can really affect how well the carbon incorporates itself with the fluid used to carry it.  Water doesn’t like to incorporate carbon very well.  Vinegar can help that along but even if you just use vinegar it isn’t a perfect fix.  Of course you could add a surfactant such as ox gall.  Of course ox gall surfactant greatly decreases the surface tension of the liquid it is added to.  So now you have to balance that with the proper amount of viscosity and maybe even add something to increase the surface tension somewhat.  Typically a binder of some sort.

Then we get to binders which help hold the inks in place as well as the things in the ink that give the ink color.  Binders that I’ve seen include tree sap and egg whites.  The most common tree sap mentions is gum arabic but any gum sap will work such as apple, pear and cherry.  All of which were used in the SCA time period (1600 to the dawn of time) and all of them could be referred to simply as “gum”.  So when you see “gum” in a recipe, keep in mind it could be any type of gum tree sap and how the ink will behave will vary greatly from one kind of gum to another.

Also glaire can be used.  Glaire is the liquid substance after hyperwhipipng egg whites.  Best directions I know of on the internet for making glaire can be found here.  Of course glaire is not particularly flexible so something to add flexibility to your ink would be good.  Wait, ink has to be flexible?

Of course it does.  If the ink isn’t flexible its going to break and flake and fall of the page when you bend or turn the page.

Often honey is added to glaire to help with its flexibility.  However honey is hygroscopic so you need to be careful how much you use.  Hygroscopic is the quality of a substance to attact and hold water.  Even from humidity in the air.  As you can imagine an overly hygroscopic ink would be a very bad thing.

Gum saps on the other hand are pretty flexible and not hygroscopic.  What binder you use of course is going to affect not only the surface tension but also the viscosity.  Then again all the other ingredients are going to affect those things as well.  Binders can also affect iron gall inks.  The binder can really affect how the tannic acid and the iron interact with one another as well as how the iron and the water/air transfer oxygen to the iron. That in turn of course changes how the ink turns black an how black the ink becomes..  I’ve seen gum arabic really slow down and impede the ink from turning black.  So I strongly recommend that you put in the binder last.

Also the support can really affect the color of the ink.  For example pergamenta is notorious for not getting along well with iron inks such as iron gall ink. However, I have a friend and fellow ink maker in Atlantia who has no problems whatsoever with iron gall ink turning black on pergamenata.  He is using the recipe for iron gall ink on paper from The Book of Secrets 1596 sold under the sign of the gun for that one.

Of course then there is what you cook or soak your ink in,  As in the container.  Often I hear people talk about iron posts but they were very uncommon I am told in period.  Copper and brass ones were more common.  Of course most recipes for iron gall ink call for using a earthen vessel new and without any glaze.  They knew it mattered greatly because it could affect the end result of the ink.  Do you boil of soak your galls?  If you soak them for how long?  Some recipes say soak an boil.  Soaking usually means your going to get a mold growing on your galls and this is a good thing.  I was doing research on the Library of Congress iron gall ink webpage seven years ago and found out that mold makes your iron gall ink richer and blacker.

Of course then there is the carbon inks such as sumi ink.  The recipes for sumi ink can be very closely guarded secrets going back hundreds if not thousands of years I am told.  I’m sure if I buy thousands of years for sumi ink recipes in use today but I suppose it is possible.  We do know some stuff.  Pine resin burned from clay lamps collected on copper pots is considered to produce superior quality sumi ink.  Then they mix it with a specific quality and kind of clay and then either dry or bake them into small bricks to be mixed with water later or make it a liquid sumi ink.  Apparently what kind of pine, or clay mix are still shrouded in secrecy by many sumi ink makers.  It really can change the quality of the sumi ink and how it looks.

Colored inks come in natural and chemical as well as some which are a little of both.  Hawthorn berry ink mixed with alum is one such mixed natural and chemical inks.  Of course the same berry harvested even weeks apart can produce entirely differing colors using an otherwise same recipe.  Ink made from brazilwood is really a chemical ink as the hematoxillin (the active color ingredient) is extracted from the brazilwood.  It can vary in color from bright red to crimson, to purple to violet as an ink.  It also makes yellow but it is a terrible yellow for using as an ink.  Apple bark yellow is much better.

Then there is the quality of light fastness to consider.  If the ink is on pages of a book those aren’t going to be exposed to light very much as the book will be closed and thus the pages hidden from light most of the time.  But pieces that are displayed will need more light fast ink.  Hawthorn berry ink isn’t very lightfast but generally speaking it doesn’t need to be if it is in a book.  Purely chemical inks have fewer problems with light fastness but not none.  Even very lightfast inks such as a good iron gall ink can be very lightfast but still break down over time due to exposure to photons.

And then of course there is permanency.  According to “40 centuries of ink” English tax rolls after 1200 AD were required to be done in iron gall ink on sheepskin parchment preferably the fat side.  Why?  Because iron gall ink is more permanent than carbon inks which you can just scrape off without much effort or just wipe off with a wet cloth or sponge.  Also the iron gall ink interacted with the sheepskin in such a way that any attempts to scrape off the iron gall ink would be able to be detected.  You can’t detect very careful scraping on calf skin parchment.  And the fat side of the sheep skin, as opposed to the hair side, is much better at holding the ink once it is on the parchment than the hair side as well.

And all of these things can be taken into account and balanced against one another if you are knowledgeable enough to do so.  You carefully pick your ingredients and the process by which you will make your ink based on how you want your final product to interact with the support or supports it will be put on not to mention the type of pen it will be put on because inks do not interact with quills, metal dip pens and reeds the same way let alone with cartridge pens.

In ink making this component stops ink from running excessively and it darkens the ink.

eg: Latin Ink.

Take an earthen vase (or jar or pan) that can contain 8 pounds of water; then (add) half a pound of small gall nuts and crush them well; then boil until (the water, the mixture) is reduced by half; then take three ounces of gum Arabic and grind it well; and pour (add) the gum to the mixture in the jar and boil it until reduced by half. Remove the jar from the fire and take 4 ounces of vitriol and one pound of warm wine and mix them together in another jar and add little by little to the ink, stirring well. Leave it to rest for two days, and afterwards, every day, stir four times with a stick.