Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Three Best Catalog Reviews of 2012!

Resolution for 2013 -
Less catalogs, more Us Weekly!
It's the time of year when it seems just about every site is offering up their picks for the Best of 2012. So, here's mine: the three best catalog reviews of 2012!

The Pottery Barn catalog fantasy is compared to reality in the Mommyologist's The Pottery Barn Catalog is a Bigger Buzz Kill Than Size Zero Celebrities.

The Pottery Barn Kids catalog gets real at A Very PBK Christmas from The Fordeville Diaries.

The Williams-Sonoma catalogue is delightfully dissected in The Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog on

So there you have it, my picks for the three best catalog reviews of 2012!

Oh, and one more. Not a catalog review, but if you haven't seen the product reviews for The Hutzler 571 (it's a banana slicer), they're really pretty awesome.

Not only can The Hutzler 571 slice bananas, it can even be a Christmas tree ornament!

Image from
What's more festive than that?

Just in case you're wondering, no I was definitely not compensated for anything mentioned in this post.

What's your Best of 2012?

Friday, December 28, 2012

My Favorite "Nutcracker" - by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

I've never been a huge fan of The Nutracker, not the story or the ballet. I always figured it just wasn't for me.
Until this year, when I received a review copy of this version which is based on the original Nutcracker story and is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This version of the Nutcracker story is absolute perfection.
Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816, is a fascinating story, which I was surprised to find when reading that it is not that similar to the perhaps more famous ballet production on which it is based.

As much as I was enthralled by the words (translation by Ralph Manheim), it was Maurice Sendak's amazing illustrations which were truly enchanting.
 And funny. How could you not love this depiction of the Nutcracker?
While the book itself is a little bit of a difficult read for kids, they will be so entranced by the illustrations and by the general story you might just pull off skipping a bit. (Or not.)
Nutcracker is $24.99 and published by Crown in 2012. I highly recommend it, but don't take my word for it - New York Times Book Review called Nutrcacker one of the ten best illustrated books for kids this year.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Egg Nog + Chocolate Liqueur = Best Holiday Drink Ever

I'm not a big drinker, but this really is the Best Holiday Drink Ever.

Just two ingredients:

Egg Nog
Image from

Chocolate Liqueur (I'm a big fan of Godiva)

Image from
Mix, stir and drink!

Happy Holidays!

For lots more egg nog creations, check out the board Egg Nog-rific on Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Five Fun Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve with Kids

Another New Year's Eve is almost here, and I'm hoping to celebrate with my kids in a way that works out better than last year's epic fail - spoiler alert: if you give sugary mocktails and noisemakers to eight toddlers, no amount of champagne will make your night turn out OK.

This year instead of relying on my own craft fail-esque ideas, I've consulted the experts on Pinterest.

Here are five ideas for fun ways to celebrate New Year's Eve with kids:
Pinterest via Anna Sandler via Sara Coys
  • Take fabulous photos. Kids can wear their favorite formal wear, or you can provide fun dress-up options like hats, boas, sunglasses or these fantastic mustache props for photo ops.
Via Pinterest

  • Let them stay up until midnight. Yeah, real midnight. Not some fake midnight at noon or some "8pm is the new midnight" bullshit. Just let the kids stay up till midnight. Honestly, how many New Year's Eves will there be when the kids will be content to watch TV and hang out with their parents? Enjoy these few years when a late bedtime is enough for it to be the Best. New. Year's. Ever.
For lots more ideas, visit New Year's Fun for Kids on Pinterest. And if you have ideas for amusing the children on New Year's Eve, please share them below!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Candy Cane Craft: Do a Pepermint Stick Experiment!

I recently got a very awesome book in the mail to review: Candy Experiments, by Loralee Levitt. In a word the book is awesome. My kids and I spent an afternoon doing just about every experiment in the book, and they were totally and completely engrossed.

And the side-effect of the experiments that I liked the most was that they used candy. Candy for science instead of for eating.

How perfect is this book so kids will use up at least some of their Halloween candy doing experiments?

One of the easiest and most fun experiments we did was fill a bowl with water and then see what candy floated, and which sunk. You'd be surprised by the results, and I was surprised by how much candy this particular experiment was able to use up as the kids kept asking to try "just one more!" Of course, kids. Of course.

If you want to try your own candy experiments, here's a fun one from the book that uses Candy Canes, Crazy Canes:

Time: 10 to 30 minutes
Skill Level: Get a grown-up

Snap! That’s what happens to your candy cane if you try to bend it. Is there a way to bend candy canes without breaking them?

What you need:
Aluminum foil
Baking sheet
Candy cane or straight candy stick

What to do:
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
2.  Tear off a square of aluminum foil. Fold it in half, then fold again and again to make a rectangular strip about 3 inches wide (wider than the candy cane). Bend this strip into a fun shape, like a zigzag, an S-curve, or a bowl.
3. Place the foil shape on the baking sheet and put the candy cane on the foil shape. Heat in the oven for 5 to 20 minutes. (The melting time will depend on the size of the candy cane.) Check frequently until the candy cane has softened and curved into the shape of the mold.
What's happening:
When you’re melting an ice cube, you can see it turn to water. An ice cube is a solid, made from molecules locked together as crystals. When it melts, the molecules break apart. The solid becomes a liquid.
The molecules in a candy cane don’t make crystals. Instead, the candy cane contains lots of kinds of molecules jumbled together, like the fruit Life Saver in the Life Savers Melting Race experiment on page 96. When it gets warm, it doesn’t turn liquid right away. Instead, it gets softer and softer as the molecules shift around. That’s why you can turn a warm candy cane into a crazy cane.
In fact, your candy cane has already been heated and bent. A candy cane is made from a straight candy stick that’s bent into a cane shape while it’s still warm.

To purchase the book visit

I was not compensated for this post. I did receive a copy of Candy Experiments - and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

If It Were Up to Me

I first read the lyrics to this song when a friend posted it to Facebook.

Cheryl Wheeler, the artist who wrote it, kindly granted permission to reprint it here. You can learn more about the inspiration for the song, as well as about Cheryl, and her music, at She's also on Facebook and Twitter.

If It Were Up to Me

Words and Lyrics by: Cheryl Wheeler

Maybe it's the movies, maybe it's the books
Maybe it's the bullets, maybe it's the real crooks
Maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's the parents
Maybe it's the colors everybody's wearin
Maybe it's the President, maybe it's the last one
Maybe it's the one before that, what he done
Maybe it's the high schools, maybe it's the teachers
Maybe it's the tattooed children in the bleachers

Maybe it's the Bible, maybe it's the lack
Maybe it's the music, maybe it's the crack
Maybe it's the hairdos, maybe it's the TV
Maybe it's the cigarettes, maybe it's the family

Maybe it's the fast food, maybe it's the news
Maybe it's divorce, maybe it's abuse
Maybe it's the lawyers, maybe it's the prisons
Maybe it's the Senators, maybe it's the system

Maybe it's the fathers, maybe it's the sons
Maybe it's the sisters, maybe it's the moms
Maybe it's the radio, maybe it's road rage
Maybe El Nino, or UV rays

Maybe it's the army, maybe it's the liquor
Maybe it's the papers, maybe the militia
Maybe it's the athletes, maybe it's the ads
Maybe it's the sports fans, maybe it's a fad

Maybe it's the magazines, maybe it's the internet
Maybe it's the lottery, maybe it's the immigrants
Maybe it's taxes, big business
Maybe it's the KKK and the skinheads

Maybe it's the communists, maybe it's the Catholics
Maybe it's the hippies, maybe it's the addicts
Maybe it's the art, maybe it's the sex
Maybe it's the homeless, maybe it's the banks

Maybe it's the clearcut, maybe it's the ozone
Maybe it's the chemicals, maybe it's the car phones
Maybe it's the fertilizer, maybe it's the nose rings
Maybe it's the end, but I know one thing.

If it were up to me, I'd take away the guns.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Is there anything to say, to write, when faced with such unbearable tragedy?

I've been online too much today watching too closely the unfolding of the Newtown tragedy. The massacre is even worse than first imagined, with a death toll of close to thirty that includes twenty children.

Twenty children.

How can anyone, anywhere be OK with twenty children dying? And more honestly, not just twenty children dying, but twenty children murdered. Murdered by a lone gunman with horrifically powerful guns.

I've read (and then read some more) about the need for greater gun control, the need for better mental health services, and about how we can all try to identify the warning signs in potential perpetrators. I've read about how schools can lock doors, install metal detectors, and have no visitor policies. I've read about why issues of school safety are why some choose to home school.

But what are we really saying by offering all of these potential solutions? Nothing, really. Just hoping against hope that there is an answer that would mean something like this won't happen again.

And while there will always be tragedy and evil in the world - it's always been there, I do believe there could be less.

I do believe there is hope, and I do believe there are solutions.

But I also believe it won't be easy.

Maybe people will decide it's time to change the gun laws, even if that means the loss of their constitutional right to bear arms.

Maybe people will decide it's time to change how schools operate, even if that means kids lose their right to attend a school free of alarms and metal detectors.

And maybe, we will all agree that whatever we lose in this process of change is meaningless when we think about today's truly unfathomable losses.

My heart and thoughts with all who are suffering. May the memory of those lost today forever be a blessing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Unique Gift Wrap Ideas: Wrapping Gifts with Duck Tape

We are just a few nights away from the end of Hanukkah, so the majority of my gift wrapping is already finished. This year, I've (of course) used Duck Tape to wrap them all instead of regular scotch tape.

Since the awesome people at Duck Tape Central sent me rolls of EZ Start Duck Tape I also used it to decorate the packages. The Tape comes in lots of festive colors, some Christmas-themed and some good for year-round gift wrapping.

I paired the tape with brown Kraft Paper and was really happy with how the gifts all turned-out. These decorative tapes also are great for decorating cards, gift bags, and shipping boxes.


These EZ Start Duck Tapes are also used to make easy photo frames and other cool projects, like this one.

And of course, I need to post soon about the epic crafts my tweens and I made with mustache Duck Tape.

Disclosure: Duck Tape sent me samples, but I think we all know how much I adore this stuff.

All photographs from Duck Tape, ShurTech Brands except for the last one.

For more gift wrapping ideas, check out 10 Fun Ways to Wrap A Gift and Cool Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding the Funny: The Holiday Edition!

Finding the Funny Holiday Edition

It's a very special edition of Finding the Funny!

Today I'm teaming up with My Life and Kids, Kelley's Break Room and 14 more bloggers to bring you a special Holiday edition of Finding the Funny!

How to Link Up

Link up as many posts as you want - old or new - as long as they're related to the holidays and will make us laugh! Your post will show up here and on 16 other blogs! It's easy to link up!
  • Click on the "Add Your Link" button at the bottom of the page.
  • URL: copy and paste the URL of your blog post (be sure to use the exact post URL).
  • Name: enter the TITLE of your blog post - this is what will appear below your post picture. (Limited to 30 characters)
  • Enter your email address (don't worry - this won't be shared.)
  • Click on NEXT and choose an image that will appear in the link up.
  • Stick around and read the other posts and get ready to laugh!

Meet the Bloggers

All 17 of us will be sharing your posts on our blogs!
My Life and Kids
Kelley's Break Room
The HillJean: Because My Life is Fascinating
The Fordeville Diaries
Frugalista Blog
Hollow Tree Ventures
Honest Mom
House TalkN
I'm Still Learning
Let Me Start By Saying    
The Mom of the Year
Mom's New Stage
Motherhood WTF
Ninja Mom
There's More Where That Came From
Random Handprints
Toulouse and Tonic

Link up!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Book Giveaway! Win "Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat" **Giveaway Closed**

The Giveaway is now closed! Congrats to the winner King J's Queen!

I will admit that my mom lifestyle with-a-side-of-blogging leaves very little time for reading real, actual books.

Which is too bad, because I really like to read real, actual books instead of pecking away night after night at my virtual trough.

So I was delighted to receive a review copy of Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch In the Throat, the hilarious new book from Jen of the similarly titled blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat.

Jen covers all of the hot areas of holiday drama and comedy, with chapters that dissect the annual holiday cookie exchange (her thoughts on the whole thing are succinctly summed up in the chapter title, You Can Keep Your Cookies, I'm Just Here for the Booze), photos with Santa, humble brag Christmas letters, and her most well-known rant, how she really feels about Over Achieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies.

Want your own copy? You can buy the book here AND.... one lucky winner will receive an autographed copy!

To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite (or least favorite) holiday tradition.

For extra entries (leave a comment letting me know you like/follow or already like/follow):
- Like People I Want to Punch in the Throat on Facebook
- Like Random Handprints on Facebook
- Follow Jen @Throat_Punch on Twitter
- Follow me @Anna_Sandler on Twitter

Enter now! Giveaway closes at 9:00pm EST on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.

Small print:
Contest open to U.S. residents age 18 and over. Contest ends at 9:00pm EST, Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Winners will be randomly selected via and announced here as well as emailed with the good news. Entrants must provide contact information in their comment. If winner does not respond within twenty-four hours, a new winner will be selected. I was not compensated for this post or for promoting this giveaway. I did receive a review copy of the book.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

SantaCon Toddler

Below is a photo of my son Ziggy getting his SantaCon on in 2010. Yes, I encouraged my son to pose with two drunk Santas, not to mention the two elves who had seen more coherent days.

And the Smoking elf in the photo above? Totally fine with it - it's not like my kid even glanced up from his texting to take in this whole New York City scene anyway.

A holiday memory to treasure forever? Definitely, and we even have a mention in an AP story that ran today: Better Watch Out: SantaCon is Coming to Town.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Other Stuff I Wrote Last Week and a Spectacular Craft Fail, Too

I love all of the holidays of the winter season, which is why last week I wrote for not only a Hanukkah Guide but also 10 Amazing Advent Calendars.

And the result of Hanukkah + Advent Calendars at my house? Yeah, that's right, a punch board filled with Hanukkah gifts for my kids to enjoy during the middle five nights of the eight night holiday. If that's not winning, I don't know what is.

I've also got where to see holiday lights all over New Jersey in Garden State Glow, so if you're in Jersey you're all set for a Tacky Light Tour.

Also, in other holiday-rific news:
- has my favorite tall tale I tell the kids in her Handy Guide to Lying to the Kids.
- shared my wrap-up of ugly menorah hats in their post 8 Reasons Chanukah Rocks.

And last, but clearly not least, CraftFail featured my not-so-festive dreidel cookies.

Lying to my kids, ugly menorahs, kitchen disasters... yes, clearly I'm WINNING.

Have a great week everyone! We certainly will here at our house where it's Hanukkah tonight and every night for the next week. Chag Sameach!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Duane Reade: Happy and Healthy with a Side of Ology!

Ah, the Duane Reade circular - how I love you.

It's true. While I'm not an extreme couponer, or even a couponer at all, I do like to get a good deal.

Duane Reade has a new in-store magazine, Happy and Healthy, and it makes it so easy to find out the Happy and Healthy items of the week, which this week are Ology - Laundry.

If you like to plan your shopping before you go the magazine is available online, but there are also plenty of magazines available when you enter Duane Reade.

After taking a meander around the store to check out things like their awesome collection of New York-y Holiday cards,

I literally followed the deals down the escalator.

I headed to the Ology section where I quickly found the sale priced Ology laundry detergent and Ology fabric softener, both which are running low at our house
and both which were priced $2 off at $4.99 instead of the usual $6.99 for the detergent, and $5.99 instead of $7.99 for the fabric softener - which I knew from having checked in the circular at home beforehand.
And of course, I'm so glad that Ology products don't have harmful chemicals.
I got a Nine candle for a certain person with a birthday at our house, and some Ology tissues in a very cute box, and at a very good price ($1.49 marked down from from $2.79), and my shopping was done.
Just in time to meet my husband for lunch, and then to see the Macy's holiday windows.

It was a great New York City day.

Happy Holidays!


I've got lots more photos from my trip over in my Google+ Album, check them out here.

You can also learn more about Happy and Healthy by following the hashtag: #DRHappyandHealthy on Twitter, as well as @DuaneReade on Twitter.

You can also find Duane Reade on Facebook and YouTube.

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias #SocialFabric #cbBigApple #DRHappyandHealthy

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Kids Chillin' in Florida

We spent Thanksgiving in Florida visiting my Dad.

We had a great time, we were all happy to see Grandpa (and he, us of course), the warm weather was delightful, and we got to introduce the kids a lot of cool stuff in Florida - a trip to Miami, a visit to famous beaches, and grits and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast.

But I think one of their favorite memories will be of just chillin' in the big hammock.

Ah, to be a kid...

Monday, December 3, 2012


Yep, I am now the proud mother of a nine-year-old.

Personally, I don't think she looks a day over 8 and 7/8.

Keeping with family tradition, she was sick on her birthday. More on that later...

Happy Birthday, to the one-and-only Magpie. Nine looks good on you.

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