Four Fun and Easy Homemade Valentine's Day Cards

February 8, 2016

Butterfly valentine's day card

My kids always love to make their own unique Valentine's Day cards to give to friends and classmates every February. Here are four fun and easy card projects to make at home with common craft supplies that you probably have on hand already. We think these really beat the store-bought Valentines, since they're handmade, beautiful, and "from the heart."

Children of all ages can do most of the steps in these crafts, but grown-ups may want to help with cutting and gluing, depending on children's ages and skill levels.

Butterfly Valentines

This butterfly-shaped card that we made is designed to hold either a candy stick or a pencil, and is easy to make and decorate. We cut out the butterfly shape with scissors and decorated the card with stickers. You can embellish yours with whatever you like, such as crayons, markers, glitter, or paint. You'll need:

Hiking, History, and Nature at Olompali State Historic Park in Novato

February 8, 2016

Olompali State Historic Park

Just north of Novato, on the eastern slopes of Mount Burdell, lies Olompali State Historic Park. This gem of a local resource is often overlooked by families as they drive by on Highway 101, but it's well worth a visit. With miles of hiking trails, historic sites spanning 8,000 years of human habitation, and sweeping views of the Petaluma River Valley, Olompali has much to offer for visitors of all ages.

The story of Olompali starts with the Coast Miwoks, who lived on the site for thousands of years. Olompali was one of the primary Miwok settlements in Northern California until the 1850s. At the park, you'll find evidence of their presence here in the form of a "Kitchen Rock", a large stone used as a mortar by the Miwok people to grind acorns and seeds, and a reconstructed village with redwood bark and tule reed kotchas—traditional Coast Miwok dwellings. There's also a native plant garden with educational panels describing how the Miwok used each plant for food or medicinal purposes.

Wonton Party for Chinese New Year

February 7, 2016

Fried wontonsTomorrow, February 8, marks the beginning of the celebrations for Chinese New Year: the Year of the Monkey. It's a tradition in our house to make wontons, as dumplings are traditionally associated with the holiday. Wontons are easy to make, tasty, kid-friendly, and you can get everything you need at your local grocery store. Furthermore, they're something children can help make with minimal effort, and they even have a lot of fun folding the things.

So, pick up a pack of pre-made wonton wrappers and other ingredients and get ready to start your Chinese New Year wonton party! Our recipe is for chicken wontons, although you can use pork, shrimp, or other fillings, depending on what you like or happen to have on hand. Wontons can be prepared in a number of different ways, including steaming, boiling, frying, and can even be served in soup (our favorite).

Ingredients

The wontons

  • 1-1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into pieces
  • 1 package square wonton wrappers

Fun and Easy Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year

February 7, 2016

Dragon paper craftThe Chinese Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey, starts tomorrow, February 8. To kick off your celebration, create some neat Chinese New Year crafts, like these cute paper dragons and lanterns. They're easy and fun to make and perfect to decorate the house, and make great playdate, school, or scout group activities. They'll also be perfect to have on hand while you watch the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade on February 20. Have your own parade through the living room!

Paper Dragons

Here’s what you’ll need to make your dragons:

  • Gold stickers or paint (red and gold are traditional colors for Chinese New Year)
  • Crepe paper in red, yellow, or orange
  • Dragon head template (download here)
  • Heavy white paper or card stock (letter size)
  • Markers or crayons
  • Wooden chopsticks or other thin but sturdy sticks
  • Tape

Make a Bowl of Guacamole for Game Day

February 6, 2016

Guacamole For some reason, guacamole seems to be perpetually linked to the Super Bowl. Come February, the pebbly-skinned green fruits go on sale at the supermarket, inviting you to make a big bowl of delicious creamy guacamole to snack on or add to recipes.

When it comes to guacamole, I think simpler is better. There are so many recipes out there, often including ingredients ranging from tomatoes to mayonnaise (yuck!) to those seasoning packets you find in the supermarket containing who-knows-what. The New York Times cooking section even recently published a recipe that included green peas! Most traditional guacamole recipes eschew these ingredients in favor of simplicity, allowing the flavor and unctuous texture of the avocado to be the star. I think my favorite guac recipe which I'm sharing here does just that.

It's almost a shame that we all feel the need to make guacamole during the Super Bowl, given that California's avocado season runs from March through October. The imported Mexican ones seem to be a decent substitute, but I've found that the avocados from Peru and other South American countries aren't as good.

Marin Family Weekend Fun for February 5, 6 & 7

February 5, 2016
Jack London State Historic Park
Take a family hike this weekend at Jack London State Historic Park.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Event Calendar.

Friday, February 5

  • Super Bowl City
    Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco
    Friday & Saturday, 11 am–10 pm, Sunday, 11 am–3 pm
    Centered in Justin Herman Plaza, on the Embarcadero at the foot of San Francisco’s famed Market Street, Super Bowl City will feature family-friendly activities for fans of all ages. It will offer a fun—and free—way for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the extravaganza that is the sporting world’s biggest annual event. For more info, visit their website.
  • Create Valentines—The Green Way!
    San Anselmo Library

    Friday, 3:30–4:30 pm
    Create unique valentine cards for friends and family by re-using colorful everyday materials like junk mail, old cards, magazines, and more! Location: 525 San Anselmo Avenue. For more info, visit their website.
  • Kids' Pajama Party with Julie Bayless
    DIESEL, a bookstore, Larkspur
    Friday, 6–7 pm
    Pull on your PJs and bring your teddy bear to the bookstore! Author Julie Bayless will be here to read you a bedtime story. Get cozy, listen to a story or two, have some milk and cookies and get your books signed. Then head home for bed. Location: Marin Country Mart, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. For more info, visit their website.
  • Montessori de Terra Linda's The Wizard of Oz
    Showcase Theater, San Rafael
    Friday, 7 pm

    Join the upper elementary class from Montessori de Terra Linda for a theatrical performance. Students aged 9–12 have worked to develop a show with action and song that will be performed one night only. Tickets: $12 adults, $10 children and seniors. Purchase tickets here. Location: 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, February 6

  • Learn How to Pier Fish Paradise Beach Park, Tiburon
    Saturday, 9 am–11 am
    Join rangers to learn the secrets and tricks of the trade when fishing from a pier. A limited amount of poles will be available on a first come, first-served basis. A valid California fishing license is required when fishing from the shore, not from the pier. All skill levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring a fishing pole. Park entrance waived for participants. Meet at the fishing pier in Paradise Beach Park, 3450 Paradise Drive, Tiburon. For more info, visit their website.
  • 2016 Waterbird Festival
    Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary
    Saturday, 9 am–4 pm

    Celebrate scaups, scoters, cormorants, and more! Visit Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary for naturalist-led bird walks, exclusive field trips, and fun bird-themed activities. Bring a pair of binoculars or use our spotting scopes to see the waterbirds that call Richardson Bay home. Location: 376 Greenwood Beach Road, Tiburon. For more info and to regsiter, visit their website.
  • Free Saturday Morning Yoga
    Old Mill Park, Mill Valley
    Saturday, 9–10 am

    Practice a modification of alignment-based anusara-inspired Hatha yoga with a combination of breathing, standing, and seated postures in front of the beautiful redwood trees. Prepare to sweat, breathe, align, and stretch. Enjoy a fun unique environment of mindfulness and acceptance while strengthening your core, balance and long muscles. For all levels. Bring a mat and water bottle. Location: Meet at Old Mill Park Amphitheater, 10 minutes prior to start of class. For more info, visit their website.

The Perfect Camp Awaits at the 2016 Marin Summer Activities & Camp Fair

February 5, 2016

Marin Summer Activities & Camp FairIf you're trying to make a decision on the perfect summer camp for your kids, save the date for the upcoming Marin Summer Activities & Camp Fair, which takes place Sunday, March 6 from 10 am to 1 pm at Conlan Center Gymnasium at the Dominican University of California in San Rafael.

As in years past the Marin Summer Activities & Camp Fair will offer plenty of fun for everyone, with free pizza, fun prizes for kids, and a bounce house, as well as representatives from dozens of summer camps. This year the fair is expanding to include other summer options like tutoring and activities, too! Older campers in middle school and high school are encouraged to attend as well.

February Classes and Programs at Parents Place Marin

February 4, 2016

Girls LeadershipParents Place in San Rafael has been a valuable resource for countless Marin County parents and families. They offer a wide variety of programs and classes for parents and children throughout the year. Here are a few of the classes they are offering for the month of February.

Choosing the Right Preschool

Tuesday, February 9, 7–8:30 pm
Understand different preschool philosophies and how to identify high-quality programs that match your needs. Learn the criteria to consider when choosing a program, what to look for during school tours, and tips for gaining admission into selective schools. With Cara Guyot, parent educator. $40; $25 for second person. Register here.

Infant and Child CPR (for expectant parents, parents, grandparents, and caregivers of children up to onset of puberty)

Sunday, February 21, 10 am–noon English, 2–4 pm Spanish
Learn to recognize an infant or child in distress, rescue measures for choking, CPR techniques, and infant sleep safety. Includes hands-on practice with mannequins. One-year certification provided. Pre-crawling babies welcome. With Shanda Manion, CPR instructor certified by the American Heart Association in basic life support. $45. Register: English, Spanish.

Celebrate Valentine's Day with the Family at Hearts on the Hill, Saturday, February 6

February 2, 2016

Kids on the Hill Preschool logoJoin Corte Madera's Kids on the Hill preschool for their annual Valentines-day-themed Hearts on the Hill Fundraiser this Saturday, February 6 from 3:30 to 6:30 pm at the Corte Madera Community Center. All families are welcome!

This year's Hearts on the Hill features fun for the entire family, including carnival-style games, face painting, a cupcake walk, a live DJ and dancing, food and drinks, a raffle for a family getaway to Disneyland, a children's fashion show with Rikshaw Design, and a fantastic silent auction for exciting items like Giants tickets, meals, one-night getaways, golf outings, kid's birthday parties, and more.

Tickets are available at the door on the day of the event and cost $5; children 2 and under are admitted free. All proceeds benefit Kids on the Hill Preschool. The Corte Madera Community Center is located at the Corte Madera Town Park at 498 Tamalpais Avenue.

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