The lovable hater behind ‘People I Want to Punch in the Throat’

I’m gonna be honest here kids. I check my blog stats obsessively and I know when you like a post… and when one’s as popular as a Baby Ruth floating in the pool.

My book review posts are not getting as much love as I’d like.

But stick with me on this one!

I need to draw your attention to a hilarious memoir I reviewed this week called People I Want to Punch in the Throat. It’s written by a fellow blogger who loves to point a figurative finger at overachieving, annoying people– particularly maddeningly doting know-it-all parents– and call them out on their crap.

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Not only will you LOL, you may stand up and cheer when she eviscerates the mom who tries oh so subtly to completely exclude her from a toddler playgroup…or those who are certain their child is a prodigy and/or headed for the Olympics.

Here’s a taste….

Mann needs only a few sharp details to accurately sum up distinct personalities. There are the judgmental, designer-sunglasses-wearing “Dolce moms,” the self-interested garage-sale-trolling jerks who hope you won’t break a big bill she affectionately calls “$50 people” and the freaky, pill-popping moms known as “Superusers.”

She loves to pick on extreme parents, who spoil and overschedule their kids. Stories about catty, cliquey moms — similar to the evil sisterhoods in movies like “Heathers” and “Mean Girls” — zero in on complicated female relationships.

Mann deftly uses humor to underscore how intense and humbling mothering can be, which will strike a chord with parents who feel less than perfect.

“Now the Mommy Wars are all about who can out-mom their neighbor. The judging is not about who spends the most time with her kid … or who has the most important job; it’s been ratcheted up to who can breast-feed the longest and in the most unusual places,” Mann writes.

You can read the complete review here.

I’ll keep it short and sweet. Read this book. It will take you about 2 days of side-splitting giggles to get through it and I guarantee you’ll thank me.

See… that wasn’t so bad, right?

I’d love to hear what makes you click or not click on a post in the comments.  I’m listening!


You CAN go home again (and I did)

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North Avenue, Chicago lakefront

Last month, I took Aden and Eli on a pilgrimage home to Chicago for a few days. I grew up in an apartment downtown, overlooking Lake Michigan before leaving for New York a few years after college in 1994.

I loved Chi-town but my dream was to be a TV news producer and although I was working as an associate producer at ABC back then, there was little hope for advancement unless I moved to New York. My father had died of cancer the year before, I was hanging out with my tight high school crowd and not meeting any interesting men, so I needed to get outta Dodge for a while.

My plan was to work in New York for a few years and return to Chicago to start a family and send my kids to Parker, the small private school I attended from 7th-12th grade. My friends would do the same and we’d raise our kids together.

My mother sobbed as I got on the plane headed East, telling me she feared I would meet my husband and never come back. “That’s crazy,” I said. I wanted to make a life in Chicago, but I  would just be away for a bit, and get some work experience under my belt.

Of course, my mother was right.

I moved to New York, eventually got a job at ABC and met Wilson within two years. (For more on that romantic tale click here.) And here we are 17 years later, living in the Garden State.

I’ve made a big effort to get back to Chicago at least once a year to preserve my roots, and introduce my kids to my hometown. My immediate family has left, but my aunt and cousins are there and I still have close friends who graciously welcome me into their homes and lives on each journey.

We’ve hit most of the tourist spots over the years but I try to pick a few special outings each visit.

This year, we went to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field…

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We had a great time for two innings until….

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…it got very dark and started to pour.

…. and saw the amazing animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on My mom was in town for my aunt’s birthday so we also walked around Millennium Park and visited the sculptures.

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The bean sculpture in Millennium Park

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Our reflection in the bean

I enjoyed the cultural detour more than the boys, who much preferred to go back to my friend’s house to play Wii.

We ate deep dish pizza and Vienna hot dogs.

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The boys said this Vienna dog was better than New York hotdogs. And they could use ketchup proudly!

They took a dip in Lake Michigan.


Boys and our friend Jack on the lake in Glencoe

I ran on the gorgeous lakefront and couldn’t help but stop when I got to the building where I grew up.

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Towards the left side of the photo, there’s a short, round building. My building is the taller one immediately to the right of that one.

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So odd to be standing there and have no reason to go inside.

I counted up to the 12th floor balcony to our old apartment and was elated to see a barbecue grill and plenty of planted flowers, just like we had when we lived there. My dad would have loved that.

My boys got along well with my friends’ kids, despite differing ages and genders and the fact that they only see each other once a year. It’s like they know we’re family.

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Our friends Izzy and Liv

We had a pretty tight group at Parker– with only 65 kids per grade in middle school and 90 in our graduating high school class. We developed an intimacy that has endured over the years, despite geographical separation.

I only talk to a few of these girlfriends regularly, but my memories and affection for them are strong, as is our bond. They’re the few people left in my life who knew my father and what he meant to me. Most people I’m close with now– including Wilson– never had the chance to meet him.

I got together with six of these girls for dinner one night and it was one of the highlights of my summer. It took us at least 30 minutes to order because we couldn’t stop talking long enough to decide what to eat.

We’re all in different stages of life–our kids range in age from 3 to 17– and some are dealing with sick parents, career changes, and divorce. Although we’re not in each other’s day-to-day lives, there was an immediate comfort level.  No topic was too personal, no question too nosy, no emotion too deep to express.

We reminisced, reminded each other of our own experiences forgotten or misremembered over so many years, and laughed til our bellies hurt. We lingered at the table after the meal, then walked to get ice cream and sat outside yapping for another hour.

I didn’t want the night to end.

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I’m a much more independent, confident person than I was when I knew these ladies way back when. Yet being with them touched a part of myself I don’t feel very often because I don’t live where I grew up. They know where I came from and they get me.

They are my safe place.

All through the visit,  I tried to point out childhood landmarks to my kids as we drove by (That was my first school! Look at the mall where I shopped! I spent half my teen life in that friend’s basement!) but it mostly fell on deaf ears. Every time I passed these places that were all so familiar to me I was overcome with nostalgia and a yearning for the past.

My boys are too young to appreciate my past. They are creatures of the now.

It was good to see the relics of my childhood through their eyes: as just buildings or parks with no emotional attachments. It helped me to stay in the present, a place I don’t dwell or appreciate enough.

My new dream is that one of my kids will go to college in Chicago. Northwestern would be nice. I’d have a reason to visit regularly, my son would have friends and family nearby, and the city would hold a place in his heart as much as it’s embedded in mine.



Remembering 9/11

I wrote the post below two years ago on September 11th. I was working on a different post today, but after hearing the victims’ names read once again, I really wanted to republish this one.

No one will ever forget where they were that day when the world was forever changed.

I was living in Manhattan, working at Fox News, and Jacob was a year old. I was so grateful that Wilson was working uptown. He had walked down many stairs from his office to escape the chaos after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

In 2001, his office shut down and he eventually walked home with the throngs of confused, frightened people crowding the streets. I didn’t see him much that week and when I finally got home, I was obsessed with watching the news coverage, trying (in vain) to make sense of what happened…trying to feel the pain I had forced myself to numb while at work.

This is the rest of my story….


I knew today was September 11th but I got the kids up and off to school like it was any other day. But when I returned from the bus stop, the TV was on and the victims’ relatives were reading the names of those they lost on that horrific day 11 years ago.

I was weeping within minutes. Even for the tenth time, hearing the names breaks my heart and brings me right back to that Manhattan day. It was a gorgeous, crisp autumn morning and the sky was remarkably clear and blue, before it exploded into fire and smoke and misery.

I was working at Fox News and basically lived at my desk for a week trying to tell the most shocking, tragic, and intense story of our lives. When I was able to get out of the office to catch a few hours of sleep, I could smell the ash and smoke in the air and saw the glazed, damaged looks of my fellow New Yorkers.

I remember seeing the “missing” flyers posted all over the city, and making trips to CVS to get contact lens solution, wipes, rubber gloves to bring to our local fire house to feel like we were doing something to help.

There are so many stories about the thousands of people touched by the attack. For the 10th anniversary, I wrote a series of articles for AOL’s I interviewed a New Jersey man who lost his brother-in-law and was so moved by the experience that when he retired a few years later, he started a fund to support people in crisis in his local community and support cultural events that bring people together.

You can read about TJ Hargrave– who was at his office at Cantor Fitzgerald when he died– and his brother-in-law’s inspiring story here. One of TJ’s daughters read his name this morning at the World Trade Center Memorial. I’m sure he would be so proud of her courage.

I also had the opportunity to interview several New Jersey firefighters last year — some of whom filled in at a Brooklyn fire house in the days following the attack. They tell a compelling tale with some chilling details about their experience in New York and what it’s like for them and their families to face risk every day. That story is here.

I always feel helpless when watching the families of 9/11 victims grieving. But reading these stories is a way to keep the memories of those we lost– and those who risked their lives to help– alive.

One thing we can do is never forget.

New book ‘Champagne Supernovas’ is for fashionistas and 90’s fans

I like fashion, but I’m no style icon. My mother has been getting Vogue for as long as I can remember, but I never had the patience to sift through the whole thing, especially that ten pound September issue. But she was always in the know, her closet teeming with designer duds, so I have some fashion awareness.

As I got older and could afford to buy my own clothes I came to appreciate fashion design, and a good shop can get my juices flowing like few other activities. The only time I would even consider skipping a meal is when I’m getting retail busy. I get a natural high when I leave the mall with a heavy shopping bag, and most days, I enjoy the process of getting dressed and accessorizing.

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That’s why I was intrigued by the title of the new book, “Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the 90’s Renegades Who Remade Fashion,” so I chose it to review this month for the AP.

I loved it, and if you have even the slightest interest in fashion, or spent the 90’s in New York, or opened a style magazine in the last 10 years, it’s a fun read.

Author Maureen Callahan is a writer and editor for the New York Post so her style is blunt and brash and she has some pretty juicy details on the behind-the seams (see what I did there?) drama in the fashion world.

She writes an overview of the whole scene, but specifically explores the lives of McQueen, Jacobs, and Moss, who have fascinating back stories, including parent alienation, drug and sex addiction, and anxiety and depression.

What I liked most about the book was how it made me see fashion design in a new light. Instead of it being an unattainable world I’m excluded from because I don’t have the knowledge or deep pockets to indulge, I now have a better understanding of it as a business and an art form.

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McQueen, Jacobs, and Moss created styles more than 20 years ago that are still influencing trends today. Callahan argues Moss is the most influential model in history, inspiring entire fashion lines from paparazzi street photos, and popularizing staples like skinny jeans and ballet flats.

Jacobs invented grunge and then took it to a luxury level, reinvigorating the Louis Vuitton brand. You know how the classic LV bags got a facelift with white leather and candy-colored logos? Jacobs did that.

McQueen was an artistic genius whose work was memorialized in a wildly popular exhibit at the Met in 2012. I’m still kicking myself that I never got to see it.

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Callahan contends that the waifish, plain models and thrift-shop grunge aesthetic of ’90s fashion was an antidote to the “Glamazons” and gold-plated excess of the 1980s. There was a hunger for authenticity, and no one kept it more real than designers McQueen and Jacobs, and their muse, model Kate Moss.

Rising above childhoods marked by insecurity, financial instability, and a yearning to escape the conventional, the three had an unquestionable and enduring influence on modern fashion. 

The pace is as quick as an H&M runway knockoff. Callahan’s prose is tight, and she stitches together momentum and suspense by alternating chapters on McQueen, Jacobs, and Moss.

The book’s title has three clever meanings: ‘champagne supernova’ is a lyric from a psychedelic song by the 90’s band Oasis, and can refer to bubbly in a martini glass, rimmed with cocaine. A supernova is when a star gets so bright it explodes, the perfect metaphor for the three profiled in the book, who each flame out at least once, but come back fighting. 

You can read the entire review here.

And in honor of New York’s Fashion Week, I leave you with a few fun quotes…..

‘Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves and, of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys they’d just walk around naked at all times.’Betsey Johnson

To me, clothing is a form of self-expression – there are hints about who you are in what you wear.’Marc Jacobs

‘Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.’ – Lauren Hutton

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.’ - Coco Chanel

Fashions fade, style is eternal.’Yves Saint Laurent


Scenes of Summer 2014

The kids went back to school today and football season is underway, so despite the steamy temperatures, summer is officially over.

It was great while it lasted.

Instead of telling you all about it, I’m going to show you some of my highlights in pictures…..

June and July brought lots of baseball. I lost count but it’s safe to say between three travel teams, my boys played at least 55 games in about 6 weeks.

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Jacob’s rec team won the Babe Ruth championship

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We like to act tough and accessorize on and off the field

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Eli played his first season of summer ball

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Sometimes we had three games on one night!

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Aden made his league’s All-Star team and won the game.

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Throwing heat. Look at the determination in the mouth!

We swam in various pools….

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Mid-air pre-splash catch!

….Took long walks on the beach, and tackled waves in the ocean.

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Spring Lake, NJ

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Shadow shot/Spring Lake

We even got some culture….

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Jeff Koons exhibit at Whitney Museum of Art, NYC

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Pondering modern art with Grandpa & Grandma at the Whitney

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Sea creature

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Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Point Pleasant, NJ

I saw Billy Joel again with my mom. Even better the second time! Especially when he sang “Uptown Girl” during the encore to Christie Brinkley in the front row!

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Madison Square Garden/NYC

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Gorgeous as ever and clearly enjoying the song choice

And as you may know from a previous blog, my long-time bachelor brother-in-law got engaged to a great gal.

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He did a great job on the ring

We spent some time in the Windy City….

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Caught a few innings of a Cubs game before it poured rain.

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The boys didn’t enjoy seeing the famous bean sculpture at Millennium Park as much as I did.

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Eli cooling off at the Spouting Faces Crown Fountain in Millennium Park

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Monkeying around at the Lincoln Park Zoo

And finished the summer up with friends on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore.

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Beach football

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Paddle boarding on the bay

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Aden hates looking into the sun

My only complaint is that we were too busy. Not enough down time to reboot. A luxury problem, I know.

Still, my favorite moments were the quiet ones.

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This beautiful view of Lake Michigan made me want to meditate.

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Solo run on Chicago lakefront brought back memories

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I took this in Spring Lake, NJ. A quiet beach with a book is my happy place. Proud to say I conquered all 771 pages of “The Goldfinch”!!!

Hope your summer was full of sunshine and a dash of Zen!


Summer of the ice bucket

Last year around this time, I declared it was the Summer of the Rainbow Loom. In a matter of weeks, everywhere I turned, there were colorful rubber bracelets.

This year, it’s all about the #ALS ice bucket challenge.

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It started with just a few posts here and there on social media but now it seems everyone’s got the ice fever. It’s reaching its peak this week for sure, but so far, I can’t resist clicking on any video that promises to show people getting doused. From my neighbor down the street to Lady Gaga, people all over the country are getting drenched in the name of charity.

Kudos to the geniuses who came up with this simple yet effective fundraising campaign. It’s worked so swimmingly, the ALS foundation has raised nearly $23 million! Last year in August, they raised about $22,000.

That’s alotta cold cash.

It’s also an amazing awareness campaign. I knew what ALS was only because it’s also called Lou Gehrig’s disease– after the famous baseball player who died from the condition– and my baseball-crazed boys knew his history.

The ALS website says: “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. When the motor neurons  die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed (and eventually die.)”

It’s a cruel disease for both sufferers and the people who care for them.

But now there are literally millions of people talking about ALS, and inspired by the idea of doing good. I love that celebrities have gotten in on it. Here’s a link to some of the best celebrity soaks. I highly recommend Justin Timberlake (nothin bad about him in a wet t-shirt), Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift, who did group dumps. But Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner had the cutest one, with their daughters cackling in the background.

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It’s a social media success story.

I’ve read some negative pieces about the Challenge– claiming it’s a popularity contest, it’s taking attention away from other causes, it’s self-indulgent. I’m freezing out that soggy nonsense.

I love it!

I knew my time was coming as I watched the degrees of separation between me and the challenged get smaller and smaller in recent days. In the last 24 hours I was challenged by my friends Julie G., Holland G.,and Julie P.G.

There was no escaping my arctic assignment.

We prepared for the 30-second videos like we were on a Scorsese set. We set the ice-maker to make extra ice, made sure we had the proper spot to get the most effect, and argued over what to say.

I had a frigid friend in Aden who also got challenged today. Jacob was only too happy to do the dumping.

Aden went first. You can see his here.

My favorite part of Aden’s is watching the glee with which Jacob douses his brother. Watch it again just for the beaming older brother getting a free pass to torture his nemesis.

Then it was my turn as you can see here.

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It aint pretty.

Who likes to see themselves on video, especially sopping wet??! But I’ve decided there should be no judgment when doing a good deed and spreading joy. And I’m sure watching me surprised by a waterfall to the head will amuse many.

I’ve seen scores of videos this week but can’t stop watching them. It’s 30 seconds of unscripted fun. When it’s your turn, you know what to expect but you’re still shocked.

And now I challenge MaryEllen Dawkins, Allison Levy, Shani Braffman, and Raquel Grosman. Ice, ice babies!!!

I’m sure this will all fade away in a week or two and we’ll put the ice bucket in the back of the closet….next to the rainbow loom.

But like any good trend, it’s fun while it lasts, right?

My top 7 Jersey Shore restaurants for foodies

Happy summer kids! I just got back from vacation last week at the Jersey Shore and I’m pleased to report we had a lovely time and didn’t see Snookie once. The Shore gets a bad rap sometimes– mostly from those who’ve never been there– but there are gorgeous beaches, great towns, spectacular views, fun family activities…and most importantly yummy eats.

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Spring Lake, NJ

Our family vacations are often anchored by meals. While we usually rent a house for a week, this year we stayed at a hotel in Spring Lake so we ate out more than usual.

Jacob has become a real foodie. He’s incredibly focused on where and what he’s eating next, and now that he’s growing like crazy, he can really put it away. He studies his menu carefully, pondering all possible choices so he doesn’t experience the dreaded “order regret.” His enthusiasm for dining experiences has demanded we up our game.

The Jersey Shore met expectations and Jacob was pleased with almost every meal. So I thought I’d share some of our favorite spots so you know where to eat on your next visit.

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Committed Pig burger in Manasquan, NJ

The Committed Pig/Manasquan– Great place for epicureans like Jacob who fancy themselves burger experts. Ideal for brunch, the place has become famous for unique burgers and delicious pancakes and French toast. We, of course, tried all of it. The gourmet burgers boast a hangar steak, short rib, and brisket combination that sounds complicated but tastes amazing. My boys loved the crispy fries (sweet potato and regular) and the eggs. I was trying to behave and ordered one of their inventive salads and wasn’t jealous of their meals at all.  I advise you to go at off-peak times, or put your name in and walk around charming Manasquan while you wait.

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Eli loved his Committed Pig pancakes

Porta/Asbury Park– This wood-burning oven pizza place feels like hipster Brooklyn on the water. The menu is on the small side, but the pizza and pasta are delish. It’s a huge warehouse space with exposed brick walls and three glass garage doors that open onto a terrace with twinkly lights and umbrella tables. There’s also a large bar with a very cool scene of kids who surely had much more exciting after-dinner plans than ours. But after stuffing ourselves with meatball pizza and a pork ragu penne that Jacob is still talking about,  we walked a block to see the famous Stone Pony and stroll the boardwalk. Rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy, it has all new shops and restaurants and live entertainment that was a big hit with the kids.

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Margharita pizza at Porta in Asbury Park, NJ

Surf Taco/Point Pleasant and other locations — I’m slightly obsessed with seeking out the best fish tacos in the land so when this joint was recommended several times we had to check it out.  Note that it’s not a sit-down restaurant. You order at the counter and bring it to your table, but calling it fast food would be insulting. There’s a wide menu with plenty of kid-friendly options, the fish, shrimp, and beef tacos were scrumptious and the price is right. All the ingredients are very fresh and the taco sauce is yummy. Make sure to get an order of guacamole to share.  Other locations. include Long Branch, Belmar, and Shipbottom in LBI.

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My fish taco before I gobbled it up

Tom Bailey’s Market /Spring Lake — Sometimes you don’t feel like sitting down and waiting for your meal at a restaurant. Sometimes you’re too sandy and sunscreened to be seen anywhere but the beach. And sometimes, you think if you have to sit with your loud, unruly, picky, kids through one more meal you might stab someone with a butter knife.  On one such day we opted to get lunch at this market in town. Think Balducci’s on the beach: a giant selection of gourmet sandwiches they make on the spot, fancy chips and cookies. and fresh fruit and veggies. Great alternative to dining out.

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Lobster at Moby’s Deck, Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Moby’s/Atlantic Highlands — This has been a staple in our family for years. We love a place that welcomes you in your sandy bathing suit, flip-flops, and windblown hair. You order fresh seafood at a counter and sit at picnic tables overlooking the water. They have a great deal on twin lobsters and we’ve enjoyed all the seafood — calamari, clams, scallops, fish filets. Wilson loves the giant oysters and clams from the raw bar, and they have a real bar so you can get a coupla cold ones to get you through your lobster cracking.

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Enjoying the view at The Breakers Hotel, Spring Lake

Breakers Hotel cocktails at dusk /Spring Lake– We’re big fans of The Breakers and have stayed there several times. It has large rooms, a pool, great food, and is located right on a gorgeous beach that never gets too crowded. One of our favorite things to do is order cocktails and appetizers while sitting on the front porch, overlooking the water. The wicker chairs and cool ocean breeze put us into slow gear. The hotel is over 100 years old and staring at that view with a mixed drink in my hand makes me feel like Daisy Buchanan, planning the next party.

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Hoffmans Ice Cream, Spring Lake Heights, NJ

Hoffman’s Ice Cream/Long Branch, Spring Lake Heights and other locations– If you go during prime hours– anytime between 7-10pm– expect a wait but I assure you it’s well worth it. The homemade ice cream comes in nearly 50 creative flavors. We made it a point to taste a variety and not one was less than excellent. I highly recommend Sea Salt Caramel Latte, Espresso Mocha Chunk, and S’mores. Kids and Wilson also loved Key Lime Pie. Is it wrong that we went 3 times in 5 days?

We are headed to Long Beach Island for Labor Day weekend so tell me in the comments some of your favorite Jersey Shore eateries to add to our list!