Category Archives: Kids and Food

Carpool Candy 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids

Here’s the third and final installment of gift guides! Hope you found something good in the gift guides for ladies and gentlemen. Holiday goodies continue with kids stuff!

While putting this list together, I planned to separate boys and girls for easier shopping, but realized I didn’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes. I bet there are boys who’d love a cooking kit and girls who’d want a basketball mug, so I mixed it up. There’s also something for all ages– from 4 year olds to fussy teens.

Click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. (Hopefully they’ll be cool with me swiping their photos and we’ll call it even.)

These suggestions are my gift to you, loyal readers. If you want to throw some good will my way, share the link to this list on social media. The price is right, and no wrapping!

Happy shopping!

Purl Soho kniting starter kit on

Knitting starter kit — If your gal is crafty, this kit could inspire a new passion, or add to her yarn collection. It includes enough soft Merino wool to knit a scarf, plus birch needles and an instruction book. ($62)

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Construction plate & utensils— For the kid who loves trucks and/or needs a push to clean his/her plate. ($18)

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For older kids (and maybe some adults!) how fun is Mr. Food Face? There’s a Mrs. Food Face to accessorize too. ($12)

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LuLu Lemon bag— Lulu Lemon has became a coveted brand for young girls. This nylon cross-body bag is a great size, has an adjustable strap, and features special pockets for her cell phone and sunglasses. ($68)

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Zara terez pink leggings on

Crazy leggings— I don’t have girls but the hippest little gals I know are wearing funky leggings from designer Zara Terez. Some look like blown-up photographs of candy and cereal, others are cartoonish, vintage, or psychedelic. They seem to know no age limit! ($48)

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Selfie wand-– Selfies aren’t going away. Kids– especially teens– love capturing their every move. This magic wand makes it easier to get cool backdrops and more people involved. ($25)

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Pedi-socks — If you have a girl who likes to pamper herself, pamper her further with these adorable socks that keep your tootsies warm while preserving your pedicure. Available in many patterns and colors, they may also appeal to girls who like to wear flip-flops all year long. ($12)

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iPhone recharger stickers — If your house is like mine, there’s a lot of fighting over who took the recharger. These clever sticker sets make identifying chargers a cinch. ($13 for 4)

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Faux fur slippers— This furry footwear evokes fireside at the ski lodge. They’re a bit more sophisticated than UGGs at a much cozier price. ($19)

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New License kit— Older teens are hard to buy for but this kit is a nod to their new maturity and responsibility, and who wouldn’t love fuzzy dice? ($25)

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Talking Olaf— If your kids’ Frozen obsession hash’t cooled off, this Olaf doll can be pulled apart and put back together AND will sleigh you with jokes. ($23)

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Gold star glitter pillows— Show her she shines bright in your eyes with these fun pillows for a chair or bed. She’ll probably think the sparkly cat is also adorbs. ($36)

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If she’s more preppie than glitzy, try these monogrammed pillows. ($22-30)

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Cooking kits-– Foodies can choose from baking yummy treats, or cooking sweet breakfasts or gourmet tacos. The taco kit comes with 3 Mexican recipes, fun food facts, menu suggestions, cooking tools, and all the ingredients.  ($25 for single kit or $60 for 3 months)

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Voice changer – Answer the phone like a robot or record a voicemail like a spaceman. Kids will love the 9 different voice-disguising effects. You’ll like the big fun for a small price. ($12)

hoop mug on carpoolcandy.comHoop mug–Ceramic mug is perfect for shooting marshmallows into hot chocolate or crackers into soup. ($24)

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Football receiver gloves — My sports-obsessed boys don’t play on a football team but love to toss the pigskin around in the park or backyard. They say these gloves are the coolest new thing because when you put your hands together to receive the ball, they create a design or spell out a logo. ($35)
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Wooden robot — How’s this for a mix of old and new? A puzzle and toy, this beautifully carved wooden robot turns into a cube. ($20)

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Zipline kit — We want the kids to back away from the screens and play outside more, yes? Here’s a great motivator. This kit will help you (or your handyman) set up a zipline in your backyard. And check out the light-up version for night zipping. ($120)

uncommon goods smartphone projector on carpoolcandy.comSmart phone projector— Kids can see their favorite YouTube videos and Instagram pix blown up on any wall with this simple box. Great for parties too. ($27)

grommet bracelet maker on carpoolcandy.comFriendship bracelet tool— — Maybe she’s graduated from the Rainbow Loom but still needs to get her craft on. This handy gadget was invented by a mom who saw her daughter struggling to make more intricate bracelet styles. The tool spins, and you create colorful designs, loops, zigzags and more. ($35)

thirty-one bags on carpoolcandy.comMonogrammed tote bag — Thirty-one makes sturdy, fun bags of virtually any size and shape– from lunch bags to totes to cinch-sacks– in tons of patterns.

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The cinch sack can be monogrammed  for a personal touch. Perfect for sleepovers and the price is nice. ($20)

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Portable road tape— I love this idea for little kids, especially when traveling or visiting relatives. Keep some Matchbox cars in a bag, put the tape down on any floor or table and you have an instant playground that stimulates imagination. The tape won’t damage surfaces or leave a sticky residue. You can even use it for decorating. ($13)

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Marbling paint kit— For the kid into art, this kit teaches Japanese marbling technique. ($16)

Hammacher Darth Vader toaster on carpoolcandy.comKitschy toasters-– If your kids are into certain pop culture icons, this may help you get them out of the bed in the morning. The Star Wars logo as Darth Vader transforms innocent slices of bread into sinister breakfast tokens of evil. ($50)

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If Hello Kitty is more your style, she comes on toast too.

If you don’t find everything you need on these lists, check out the 2012 gift guides for kids here and 2013’s here.

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!

The best museum for kids in NYC

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Last week, my kids were on spring break and we had no major plans. I tried not to panic.

My boys (ages 8, 10 and 14) are not so much the “I’m bored!” or “What are we doing today?” types and more of the sit-in-a-dark-basement-playing-Xbox-for-6-hours types.

If I let them, they would skip breakfast and wander up at about 11am seeking juice and a cheese stick (no time to pour cereal) before burrowing downstairs with a control stick for another 3 hours.

I can’t stand it.

My challenge is coming up with something enriching that will interest their wide age gap, and elicit the least amount of groans and eyerolls.

I’ve found a solution: the Museum of the Moving Image.

Despite a 20+ year career in TV and digital media, I had never heard of this little gem, tucked into a residential neighborhood in Astoria, Queens. It’s an extra 15 minutes on the subway from the city, but well worth it.

First off, the look of the place is stunning. It’s super modern and all white–  like you’re on the set of a space movie– but it’s also pristine in a calming way.


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The museum lobby & cafe

There was a new exhibit by digital artist Jim Campbell, which had several sculptures and visual pieces on screens that were surprising optical illusions, playing with light and space. My kids were looking at art, and enjoying it!

I was thrilled.

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Camera collection

Next, we moved onto the museum’s permanent collection, which includes some cool sculptures, and old TV, radio and film equipment. You see the evolution of still and video cameras , microphones, and sound systems.

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There’s an entire room of old TV’s of every size, that’s like walking through a time warp. I forgot about those huge geezer screens built into a cabinet, or the plastic, spacy-looking tiny TV’s from the 70’s. No flat screens! No HD! The kids were fascinated.

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TV collection

There are a series of interactive stations where kids can spend hours creating. One was a blank screen, with a video camera someone controls by joystick on the side. The kids stood in front of the screen and recorded a 3-5 second video, which instantly played back so we could see how it looked. If you like the video, the gift shop will make a flip book of your video that you can take home.

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Animation stations

Another station was a table of computers and several flat wooden sets and characters. My boys sat there for at least 20 minutes (til we dragged them away) making animation videos on the computer.

They learned the process in about 30 seconds and loved making things move on-screen. We emailed the best ones to ourselves for later.

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Some kids were hunkered down in sound booths changing music, sound effects, or dialogue from famous TV shows and movies. You could change the sound of Bart Simpson’s fall down the stairs, or make Judy Garland say something other than “There’s no place like home,” from the Wizard of Oz. 

The museum houses some iconic movie special effect artifacts, like Freddy Krueger’s giant sweater used in a Friday the 13th movie when aliens came screaming out of his body, or the motorized mannequin of Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist that allowed her head to spin around.

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Yup, that’s Mork from Ork’s space suit, Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills cop getup, and snazzy costumes from the movie Chicago.

On another floor, there’s an extensive exhibit on make up and costumes, and actual scripts  from recognizable movies and TV shows like Taxi Driver and Seinfeld. The kids loved the original toy and kitsch collections, from every Star Wars plastic ship and action figure, to a Get Smart lunch box.

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One highlight for adults and kids was the entire wall of playable video games– some free-standing like in the old arcades, and some ancient units attached to TV screens. I got so nostalgic seeing that Atari tennis game with literally two lines on opposite sides of the screen bouncing a ball blip back and forth. I used to play that for hours! Tetris, Genesis, or Frogger anyone?

Need I say more? The Museum of the Moving Image was a huge hit.

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Astoria has great restaurants for ravenous museum-goers and/or foodies. We ate a casual  lunch at the Bare Burger a few blocks away. They have a large, eclectic menu of organic food, with many healthy choices. The kids loved their burgers, fries and shakes. My salad was excellent, and I highly recommend onion rings for the table.

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Don’t think I missed the irony of dragging my kids away from video games… to play older video games. But they discovered the joys of Ms. Pacman, and didn’t even realize they were getting some context and culture too.

It was a win, win.

What’s your favorite museum for kids? Tell me in the comments.

Top 7 best eats in Martha’s Vineyard

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It was only a few weeks ago when we were digging our toes in the sand in Martha’s Vineyard, but feels like a lifetime since school has started and I’m back to work. One of the things I love most about the Vineyard is how much there is to do, and more importantly, eat. With only a week on the island I tried to make every meal count. The food reminds be of being in Europe or other places where everything is homemade, with natural, and often locally grown ingredients.

Last year I made a list of my favorite foods on the Vineyard, but I was still able to come up with a whole new list for 2013 of my favorite eating experiences.:

Fresh baked bread — Oh my. I’m a carb whore. I know white flour is no good so at home I almost never eat bread that doesn’t have some wheat or grains in it. But the Portuguese and Sour dough bread on the Vineyard is worth breaking all the rules. You can probably try any local bakery but we ate several kinds from the West Tisbury farmer’s market and Cronig’s  Market on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Cronig’s carries a variety of Pain d’Avignon   breads (ferried over every morning from Hyannis) that are to die for. I highly recommend the rosemary sour dough dipped in olive oil. I’m swooning just thinking about it.

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Seafood – We like to set aside a night to pick up fresh fish from a local market to cook at home. There are myriad choices but we went with lobsters, steamers and chowder from the Net Result in Vineyard Haven. The ruddy kids running the counter know their filets and can help you decide what to get, how much to order, and how to cook it. The seafood tasted like it was caught a few hours before, which is completely possible.

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State Road— Wilson’s birthday fell during our vacation week so we had an adults-only meal with friends at arguably the best restaurant on the island, State Road.  It’s a small place, with two rooms set in a restored barn, giving it a rustic feel. It’s fine dining, but very low key. There’s no dress code, very little décor and minimal candlelight but feels cozy.  The menu of farm-to-table offerings is simple but filled with unusual, tantalizing options. We ordered strategically so we could all taste as much as possible and none of the delicious plates disappointed. Among our favorites were the corn soup with lobster, quahog fritters, and pan roasted duck breast.  Amazing desserts included a berry cobbler and solid bar of dark chocolate with pistachios and sea salt. Explosions of yum in every bite. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation.

Sharky’s Cantina—If so much seafood is sending you overboard, sample a cerveza and chimichanga at Sharky’s. This Mexican tavern–with locations in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs— is perfect for families. It has a huge menu to satisfy picky kids and health-conscious adults and won’t break the bank. Make sure you order the guacamole and a watermelon margarita.

Humphreys Bakery sandwiches— Want to picnic on the beach? Humphrey’s has been serving up sammys on the island for more than 50 years. The menu of this old school shop looks like it hasn’t changed since the 70’s and why should it? The sandwiches start with thick homemade breads and generous helpings of meat. My chicken salad was excellent and Wilson loved their signature Turkey Gobbler, teeming with stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Call ahead to avoid the lines.

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Art Cliff Diner— There was a lot of hype surrounding this tiny spot in Vineyard Haven—between the foody awards and constant crowd outside its door. I can tell you firsthand the Art Cliff deserves every accolade.  There’s an old-fashioned counter and maybe 15 tables, packed with plates of gourmet brunch food.  The thick French toast was cooked to perfection, the Nutella and banana crepe sublime, but it was the egg frittata with sausage, asparagus, and brie that knocked our socks off. It was, by far, my kids’ favorite meal. There was not a morsel left on any plate. The wait is crazy so I recommend you put your name in early and walk around Vineyard Haven to pass the time, but remember it closes at 2pm.

Art Cliff Diner Martha's Vineyard review on

Art Cliff Diner Martha's Vineyard review on

Back Door Donuts—I had heard the legend of this Oak Bluffs mainstay but didn’t understand why people would line up in a dingy parking lot to wait for baked goods at all hours of the day and night. Until I tried the apple fritter.  I don’t even like fruit in my pastry but I flipped for that fritter. Sweet, doughy, warm and gooey. The donuts weren’t bad either. Mmmmmm.

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Now I’m hungry! Would love to hear your Vineyard food favs in the comments.

New York City with kids: a little sight, a little bite

new york historical society museum for kids

We live about 30 minutes from New York City and I like to take a Big Apple family outing about every six weeks. Our weekends are packed with sports and activities, so it doesn’t always happen , but it’s a goal.

Wilson’s always game but the boys (7, 9, and 13) are usually wary. It might be because our excursions usually entail a cultural activity, which they whine and complain about beforehand, but usually enjoy.  I’ve learned the key is to make it short, limit the walking, and always, always, entice them with food.

We recently took a particularly successful city sojourn that’s blog-worthy for those seeking that sweet spot activity that’s engaging, educational, and fun.

Eli eats burger

We started out at the Shake Shack on the Upper West Side.  We are burger connoisseurs so believe me when I say the Shack Burger with house sauce is terrific and you can’t find anything as delicious as the Shack-cago dog without hopping on a plane to the Second City. The fries are also quite good and the shakes always wow my boys.  They even have a vegetarian option (but really, what’s the point?) and for those of you needing extra courage and/or patience for  your day of culture with the kids, they sell wine and beer.  The lines can be long so try to go just before 12p or after 2p if possible, but the reasonably priced, tasty eats are completely worth the wait.

new york historical society museum for kids

Then we sauntered a block over to 77th and Central Park West to the New York Historical Society Museum.  We all loved the short film about the history of New York that repeats in the lobby theater all day. It’s shown on a giant screen and follows the city from shipping destination to power center, highlighting its diversity of citizens and significant events. The museum has an eclectic group of exhibits– from art (paintings, photography and sculpture)  to culture (Tiffany lamps to vintage trains and toys.) The building is easy to navigate and you can cover a lot in a short time.

Eli plays interactive game at Children's History Museum

Eli plays interactive game at Children’s History Museum

But the must see for kids is the  Children’s History Museum on the lower level of the building. The idea is to explore the history of New York through the eyes of children of the past. There are several interactive exhibits in the space, on topics that interest kids. 13-year-old Jacob liked the voting exhibit that was a guessing game teaching who was allowed to vote in elections through the years.

Jacob creates his own 1930's headline

Jacob creates his own 1930’s headline

The kids museum offers great free programs so check the calendar before you go. The day we visited, an expert on Abraham Lincoln give the kids a quiz about his life. My uber-competitive boys love learning that way.  There are also two scavenger hunt lists kids can fill out as you walk through the building, which keeps them involved.

Lincoln quiz in museum library

Lincoln quiz in museum library

While you could spend more time there, we did a clean sweep of the museum in about two hours. All that walking and learning made my guys hungry again so we headed to Sugar and Plumm a bistro with Parisian flair– on 79th and Amsterdam.  You can sit down and eat from a menu featuring items all made with fresh ingredients like buckwheat savory crepes and chicken and waffles.

Sugar & Plumm NYC with kids

OR  you can skip the real food and go for dessert– in almost any form.  The choices are heaven, but the choosing was hell. How to commit, between sundaes, cookies, cakes, chocolate, and gelato? Still pining for Paris, Jacob and I split a banana Nutella crepe that was sublime, and I bought some cookies on the side.

Sugar & Plumm NYC with kids

There’s also a small but ample candy section that will make your kids’ eyes pop out of their heads.  Aden and Eli shared gummy worms and a bar of white chocolate while Wilson had coffee and a macaroon. We sat at a communal table by the window, admiring every whipped cream, chocolatey delight that passed by.

Sugar & Plumm NYC with kids
In the car ride home, the kids confessed to enjoying the museum and still fondly remember the food. It’s always good to end on a high note and we had enough sugar and caffeine in us to soar.

Please tell me in the comments about any successful New York activities you’d recommend with kids.

Top 7 Best Eats in Martha’s Vineyard

One of my favorite ways to get info on a new place we’re visiting is to look it up in the New York Times Travel section’s  “36 Hours in ….” series. That article always has great, succinct advice on what to do and see, and more importantly, where to eat.

I always prefer the inside scoop from someone who’s been there, and not a lame paragraph in Fodor’s, so thought I’d share some tips with you. Today’s post is on food and later this week I’ll post about fun activities, especially with kids.

Here’s my report on our Top 7 eats from the trenches of Martha’s Vineyard :

–While not quite on the Vineyard yet, I highly recommend you stop at Pie in the Sky bakery in Woods Hole. No matter what ungodly hour you got stuck with to ferry your car over, you can get a great cup of Joe and delicious bread and cookies. Don’t miss their famous popovers.

Look at the size of that thing!

— Many restaurants will claim to serve the best lobster roll on the island and it would be fun to try them all but we only had time for two. I would recommend the lobster roll at MacPhail’s Corner Cafe.  I liked the toasted buttery bun and the right amount of mayo to bring out the flavor of the big chunks of lobster. The Net Result and Among the Flowers are also good places to try one.

–Surprise, surprise but my list is saturated with seafood! For the best takeout fried clams  I would head to The Bite in Menemsha. This tiny shack by the beach fries up clams, oysters, squid, shrimp and scallops, and has chicken and mozzarella sticks for fish-fearing tots. Tender fresh fish and not overly greasy.

–Wherever I go, especially in the summer, I must find ice cream. The Vineyard has many places to sample a scoop but I recommend  Mad Martha’s. This award-winning homemade ice cream comes in many flavors off the beaten path– black raspberry, mint Oreo, butter crunch, coconut– that evoke gelato with their rich taste. They also offer a wide selection of homemade frozen yogurt that tastes like food, instead of chemicals. Locations in Edgartown, Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs make it easy to covet a cone.

Friends Katie & Marisa loved Mad Martha’s

–If you’re still hankering for lobster but don’t want to bust the bank, head to Larsen’s Fish Market  in Menemsha for an excellent raw fish selection. Lobsters of every size, several fish filets, swordfish, clams, mussels and more are so fresh, sometimes you can see the fisherman who caught them zooming off in his boat when you arrive. The friendly staff offers great cooking advice for novices and the prepared foods– particularly the lobster bisque— make Larsen’s an essential stop on your eating tour.

Live lobster races: cruel torture or last hurrah?

–If you’re passionate for pastries like me there are many bakeries on the island to satisfy your sweet tooth. Our favorites included the banana bread from Morning Glory Farm, pies at Eileen Blake’s,  and apple fritters from the famous Black Dog.  The fresh and local ingredients make eating these treats seem less sinful, and somehow more healthy.

–My 12-year-old son is obsessed with sushi so he was determined to try it on the Vineyard. We took a deep breath of sea air, ordered salmon, eel, and tuna rolls from The Net Result in Vineyard Haven and hoped for the best. I was skeptical but it was fresh, delicious sushi.  You can eat at picnic tables outside the market or take it to go, as we did,  for our ferry ride home.

Almost forgot amazing clam chowdah from the Seafood Shanty!

We didn’t have a bad meal on the Vineyard. Maybe it’s because we knew where to go or maybe because so much of it is made with all natural ingredients, the food just tastes better.  Even if your kids don’t love seafood, there are plenty of choices and price points for traveling families.

I’d love to hear any places you’ve tried on the Vineyard for our next trip…tell me in the comments.

Life’s a Beach

Today was one of those days where I had a choice and I picked the right one.

Between attending dozens of my kids’ baseball games and my new part-time job, I haven’t had much down time in weeks.  Today was the first day in a while I planned to catch up on errands, phone calls, emails, and blogging. I was all set to get to it when a friend called to ask if I wanted to go to the beach.

I could have been responsible and stayed home to get my work done and my house organized….or I could swim in the ocean. We hadn’t been to the beach all summer. I packed the cooler and towels and 12-year-old Jacob and I headed to Seabright, New Jersey.

It was a perfect day.

First I dug my feet in the sand.

Then I watched our boys play football and frolic in the water as the sun warmed my back and a gentle, warm breeze ruffled my magazine.

After several contented hours, we watched the sun sink slowly and decided we needed a seafood spread. We love Moby’s Deck in the Atlantic Highlands, where you eat at picnic tables overlooking the water and the fish is fresh and the beer is cold.  This is what I ate:

After dinner, we completed the idyllic day with homemade ice cream from Napoli Boys  in Belford. I highly recommend the black raspberry. I had a cone and Jacob had a flurry.

Sure, I stayed up late posting this blog and my to-do list is teeming, but I have no regrets. Swimming in the ocean peels years off and makes me feel like a squealing kid again. The sun and sea air nourished my soul. Conversation with good friends and seeing Jacob happy with his pals brought me joy.

The kids have a new expression (or maybe it’s old but new to me): YOLO, meaning “you only live once.”  Today was a YOLO kind of day.

What’s stopping you from taking a YOLO day? Take one before summer evaporates into fall.  What would you do? Who would you take? Tell me in the comments and then make it happen!

My Top 7 Favorite Paris Eats

I spent last week in Paris with my 12-year-old son, Jacob and some friends. It was a trip I had planned and saved for for more than a year. When you tell people you’re going to Paris they cluck with envy and often share personal experiences of their time there.  I had been once before– when I was 21 and traveling after studying for a semester in Florence– and I had fond memories of the sights and feel of the city.

The City of Light lived up to my memories and the hype.  We had a magical week walking the neighborhoods, wandering through museums, sightseeing, shopping, and of course, eating. If you ask Jacob to name his favorite part of the trip he will certainly say the food. We ate with abandon, but miraculously I think I lost weight. The French eat small portions and don’t snack so I guess all the walking balanced out the bread, cheese, and desserts I consumed.

Paris is an epicurean’s delight. Everything is so fresh, I don’t think we ate any processed food the entire week.  I can’t say enough about the bread.  Every morning, Jacob had a pain chocolat (chocolate croissant) or pain avec jambon et fromage (ham and cheese croissant) and even at the most basic cafe, they were the best we’ve ever had. Several mornings I walked into a random bakery and ordered a giant baguette that was crunchy on the outside and doughy and warm from the oven on the inside, and cost less than a dollar. C’est magnifique!

Here are my Top 7 favorite Paris eats:

–Greens and Gruyere  This classic French salad usually comes with walnuts or pine nuts and a light vinaigrette dressing. The rich, gooey gruyere is baked so it’s soft and easily spreads over the crunchy toast. Yum!

Steak Frites   This was Jacob’s fav for sure. We loved it so much, we visited the famous Le Relais de l’Entrecote twice in a week. There is no menu as they only offer one meal. No-nonsense waiters serve you a green salad with Dijon dressing and two helpings of steak frites with a special green sauce that you can’t get anywhere else.  Delicious desserts include profiteroles and fruit melbas topped with gelato.

Falafel in Le Marais. Who knew you could get such terrific Middle Eastern food in urban France? Le Marais is an old neighborhood on the Right Bank  that’s home to many Jews. The falafel, meatballs, tabouli and hummus at Chez Marianne were a tasty distraction from traditional French fare.

Crepes  Is it wrong that we had crepes four times in a week? I admit to my weakness for the light, thin, buttery pancakes smothered in Nutella and bananas, topped with whipped cream. We also indulged in savory crepes with ingredients from greens and assorted veggies to eggs, ham and cheese. We found the excellent Creperie du Clown on rue des Canettes, but the crepes from street stands were equally scrumptious.

Macarons  These melt-in-your-mouth cookies are in pastry shops all over Paris but the famous bakery Laduree is where you want to sample them. Macarons are two light, flaky meringue-like biscuits held together by ganache, buttercream or jelly. They come in a wide variety of flavors from raspberry to pistachio, but my preference is chocolate and cafe.


-Hot Chocolate at Angelina  This fancy cafe on rue de Rivoli, near the Tuileries Gardens, is pricey but worth the splurge for a hot chocolate and pastry break on your way to shop on the Champs-Elysees. Imagine melting the richest dark chocolate bar and drinking it out of a teapot. It’s somewhere between hot chocolate and chocolate syrup, and with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, it’s sweet bliss.

-Gelato  Paris isn’t the only place you can get gelato, but it’s one of the best. It must be the all natural ingredients and dense flavor that make this Euro-ice cream so good. Many flock — as we did– to Berthillon on the Ile Saint-Louis for the grande dame of glaces. The chocolate was other-worldly.  Don’t I look psyched to dig into this raspberry and chocolate cone at Gelateria Amorino on rue de Buci?  They shape the gelato into a rose which is almost too pretty to eat…but not quite!

Jacob & friend Avery sample gelato at Berthillon

If you have a pleasurable Paris provision to share, please tell me in the comments. Bon appetit!

What’s For Dinner?!

Is there a phrase in the family lexicon more odious and gut-punching than “What’s for dinner?”


That maddening query rarely comes from my husband. Wilson will happily eat anything. No joke, he loves airplane food, various game meat, even gefilte fish.

It’s my hungry, exasperating kids who march through the door from school and– before they can dump their backpacks– brazenly spit out,” What’s for dinner?”…like they’re challenging me to a duel.

I enjoy simple cooking and strive for healthy food whenever possible. Much to my kids’ disappointment, the only time we see the Golden Arches is on a road trip or at the airport a few times a year.  But trying to feed them healthy food that they’ll eat is a constant challenge.

Each week, I serve many meals while serving many mini masters. Wouldn’t it be grand if all three of my boys (ages 6, 8, and 12) liked the same foods? Eli doesn’t like steak and is allergic to nuts and shellfish. Aden will eat broccoli but hates beans, and sweet potatoes.  Jacob doesn’t like turkey and will only eat the bottoms of asparagus (who doesn’t like the tips?!) They love pasta but one likes it plain, one with red sauce and no meat and the other with meat sauce but no onions.

It’s exhausting.

Like most moms, my days are packed with work, errands, phone calls, emails and shuttling the kids to activities…not to mention keeping the house from post-tornado conditions.  Often I get to the 4pm witching hour– when dinner is looming– and my good intentions in the morning got pushed down on the priority list and I have no meal plan.

Even if I’m on my game, prepared a menu, and had the forethought to defrost something,  “What’s for dinner?” still makes me clench my teeth and want to flee.

It’s like the only obstacle between my family eating a delicious, healthy meal and starving to death …is me.

It’s entirely too much pressure.

No matter what I put on the plates, someone’s not going to be happy and it will be my fault.  Like all parents, I hate to fail. Even one forsaken fish filet can set me off.

I know I’ll never please all the people all the time and I should just make the meal and move on.

Another answer to “What’s for dinner?”

“We’re eating out. “

I’m So Over Chicken Fingers

Credit: Mee-Sun Y.

Credit: Mee-Sun Y.

 My kids — like most–  love chicken fingers. I usually don’t mind them and have even helped myself to leftovers when my boys don’t clean their plate. But we just returned from spring break in Florida where my children (ages 6, 8 and 12)   ate more fried fowl than I ever want to see again.

I’m kind of a stickler for nutrition so vacation is their time to spurn the spinach and embrace the junk. They get sweet cereal for the week (Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp are favs) and I hold my tongue when they choose fast food. In our regular routine at home, we don’t eat out often, but when we’re forced to frequent restaurants for all our meals, the kids’ menu gets old fast.

Most restaurants offer the fatty four: hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta, and chicken fingers– usually stacked next to a teeming pile of fries. I’m not a fan of the nitrates in a hot dog,  my kids aren’t big meat eaters, and pasta puts them in carb overload with no protein. That leaves chicken fingers as the most “sensible” choice.

Where’s the regard for basic nutrition?  How about scrambled eggs and a fruit cup? Or spaghetti with meatballs instead of a half cup of butter. My kingdom for a piece of protein not deep-fried in oil with a green vegetable on the side!

At one point in the week, 6-year-old Eli was feeding on fingers twice a day. He had no issue with it, but watching him bathe his chicken and fries in ketchup was starting to make me ill. I ordered  salads with every meal, hoping he would eat off my plate. My boys actually like many vegetables but they take an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude towards healthy food while on vacation.

There’s also the drink dilemma. Often when we go out, we let the kids order soda or lemonade, instead of their usual milk or water with meals. It’s a special treat they treasure. But when we were eating out for every meal, they were downing 2-3 sugary glasses a day. When I tried to set limits, they all sneered at me like I was the Wicked Witch, spoiling their innocent fun.

I believe in moderation so I’m willing to restrain my instincts on vacation.  At home again, reality sets in and it’s back to balanced breakfasts and veggies at dinner. Chicken fingers will be off the menu for a while. I feel better and deep, deep down, they do too.