SADDLE RIVER, N.J. -- She's known as the daughter of Mario Perillo, founder of Perillo Tours -- surely you've seen the commercials over the years (they now star her brother, Steve) -- but in reality, Linda Perillo Zazzali would rather be known for her honest, from the hip advice.
Trained as a writer -- she was a journalism major in college -- the mom of eight ages four to 21, blogs at " The Real Hip Mom" on everything from travel to fashion, makeup, cooking, and parenting.
"I can't do math, taxes, or handle finances, but I can write," said the Saddle River resident, who worked at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge. "So, blogging is natural for me. It’s a way to be expressive."
Her biggest mission: letting moms know it's ok to have tough days and not be perfect.
"Being a mom is a job, and I think realizing that and knowing it’s ok to call that a career is one of the reasons I started The Real Hip Mom," she said.
Of course, being a Perillo means travel advice tends to take front row and center. She has, after all, traveled the globe. Pressed for her top picks, Italy ranks number one. It is, she said, her "second home" and "first love."
"It's the land of my roots, and the Italians are so in love with life, so gracious and hospitable you wonder how we even survive without two-hour lunches and long walks here," she said. "It abounds with culture and food and each region bursts with its own people, language, and beauty." Not to mention great shopping.
Second on the list is Disneyword, which she's been going to since her oldest was two. "It’s just a laid-back land of other crying children, screaming children, strollers, and very happy parents," she said." Nobody cares how you're dressed or what you look like. When you stroll around each park you become one with the land, forgetting there is even a world outside the gates."
Hawaii is another top pick. "If you can brace yourself for the distance -- Perillo Zazzali likes to break up the flight and do a stop over in either direction -- it’s paradise.
"Hawaii wins over so many wide-eyed tropically driven travelers because it’s magic lies in its Polynesian fantasy-like beauty, coupled with the security and conveniences of being in the U.S," she said. It also happens to be one of Perillo’s top destinations 30 years plus and counting.
If travel is the first question the Pearl River, N.Y. native often gets when folks recognize her name, how she manages to stay sane with so many kids is a close second.
Her answer? Realizing there's only so much you can control and going with the flow. "Any time you're doing what you enjoy and you find inner reward from that, you create calmness within you."
That includes the days one (or more!) of her kids sends her over the edge.
"I realize, too, that every age has a 'scope.' I can't expect my 6-year-old daughter to understand what I do at 49, and I forget that sometimes. Then I tap myself on the shoulder and remember, of course, she doesn’t care if the electrician is coming today and we need to be home … she wants Dairy Queen because it’s paramount to her existence."
Her other "secret?" Living vicariously through her children and trying to stay current. "It keeps my youth alive, and I can be one with them."
Go to www.therealhipmom.com/ for more information.