12 Family Fun Chinese New Year Events

February 5, 2015

Lion dance at Bay Area Discovery Museum Chinese New Year MarinThis month, the Year of the Horse comes to an end and the Year of the Ram begins! Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year takes starts on Thursday, February 19. (This year is also known as Year of the Sheep or Year of the Goat, by the way.)

As with many major holidays, there's plenty of family fun to be found in Marin County and all over the San Francisco Bay Area, ranging from a Chinese New Year Festival at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito on February 16 to the big blowout Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on Saturday, March 7.

Here are 12 fun family Chinese New Year events not to miss in the Bay Area:

Celebrate Valentine's Day with the Family at Hearts on the Hill, Saturday, February 7

February 3, 2015

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 7 from 4 to 7 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, and a fantastic silent auction for exciting items like Giants tickets, meals, classes, 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 at the Corte Madera Town Park at 498 Tamalpais Avenue.

For more information about Kids on the Hill Preschool, visit www.kidsonthehillpreschool.org.

Family Picnics at Marin's Cheese Factory

February 3, 2015

The Marin French Cheese Company Cheese Factory

One of our absolute favorite Marin picnic spots is on the grounds of the Marin French Cheese Company, located just west of Novato on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road. It's an ideal place to spend a relaxing afternoon, whether it's on a sunny winter day or during the summer, and is a must-visit place for Bay Area residents and visitors alike.

If you haven't been to the Cheese Factory (as it's known to locals), then you've surely seen it as you've driven out to the Point Reyes National Seashore from Novato or Petaluma. Both my husband and I grew up visiting this place, and of course now we come here with our own family. It's well worth the trip at almost any time of year, and it's a great first stop on the California Cheese Trail.

Yummy Winter Minestrone Soup

February 3, 2015

winter minestrone soupI love to make a big pot of soup on Sunday evenings, since it's a great weekend meal and makes for leftovers all week long. This version of the classic Italian minestrone soup uses vegetables that are available locally during the winter. It's hearty and filling and good for you, too.

Leave out the pancetta to make it vegetarian/vegan. I also like to make this soup using just water instead of chicken broth—the flavor of the fresh vegetables really comes through. I cook the pasta separately and add it to the bowls when serving. That way when there are leftovers it doesn't absorb all the liquid in the soup when it sits.


Debunking Common Infant Sleep Myths

February 2, 2015

sleeping toddler or babyMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin parent coach, infant/toddler sleep researcher, and family therapist Angelique Millette.

Very often when I am speaking at workshops and conferences or working with parents in their home, common questions include opinions about infant sleep and sleep development. There are many sleep books available to parents that are "opinion-based" sleep books and not evidence based sleep books. This can be very confusing for parents who want to make an informed choice about how best to help themselves and their babies sleep. Also, misconceptions abound as the field of infant sleep research is limited and the research is primarily focused on one area: behavioral changes. A field of infant sleep is changing very quickly and new researching is debunking much of what we knew about infant sleep.

This article will debunk some of the common sleep myths while helping parents to make informed sleep choices that support their parenting philosophy as well as their infant or child's developmental needs.

A few common sleep myths:

Babies' sleep patterns are fully developed at birth.

Babies sleep patterns are not fully developed at birth. In fact, one of the most common reasons babies aren't able to "sleep well" is that the part of the brain that organizes sleep is just beginning to form in the first three to six months. The development of circadian rhythms, the biological temporal rhythms that help our bodies "know" a 24-hour day and the difference between day and night, begins the day your baby is born. The development of your baby’s circadian rhythms is dependent on their environment, i.e. caregivers, environmental cues, light exposure, consistent routines. Parents can help their babies cue their circadian rhythms by bringing them outside, opening the shades in the nursery and other rooms where the family spends time, introducing feed, play, sleep routines, and feeding frequently during the day.

Easy Valentine's Day Paper Craft: Heart Buddies

February 2, 2015

Heart buddiesAlways on the lookout for fun and easy crafts to make, I loved these cute little Valentine's Day heart people that my daughter made in her kindergarten class. My daughter, who takes after me in the craft department, spent an afternoon making an army of these little guys, who she called "heart buddies," to decorate our house for Valentine's Day.

They're easy and fun to make. If you have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, you can trace around it to make your heart shape. If not, you can cut them by hand; it's not hard to do.

To make this craft, you'll need:

Shhh… Don't Tell Anyone About Chicken Ranch Beach

February 1, 2015

Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness

When the weather warms up (even if it's in the middle of winter!), it's time to take advantage of it and head to the beach. Good, safe swimming beaches with warm weather can be hard to come by in Marin County and the Bay Area, but they're there if you know where to look. Some of them are hidden gems known only to locals and other insiders. Chicken Ranch Beach, located on Tomales Bay just outside the West Marin town of Inverness, is one of those well kept secrets. (So do us a favor and don't tell anyone about it, OK?)

Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp 2015

January 31, 2015

Slide Ranch Summer Day CampRegistration is now open for Marin's popular Slide Ranch Summer Day Camp, with sessions taking place from June 15 through August 21, 2015 at their spectacular seaside location in Muir Beach. Camps at Slide Ranch give kids a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience on a working farm and also explore the natural world surrounding the ranch.

Slide Ranch offers 10 nature-based camps geared for all different age groups including Ranch Rangers (ages 5 to 13), Slide Explorers (ages 5 to 8), and Junior Farmers (ages 8 to 13). Slide Ranch also offers three Junior Camp Counselor weeks for teens ages 14–18, where they attend and help teach at the camp.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for January 31 and February 1

January 31, 2015
Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen
Head to the Wine Country and visit Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen this weekend.

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 Events Calendar.

Saturday, January 31

  • 2015 Waterbird Festival
    Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Tiburon
    Saturday, 8 am–4 pm

    This fun community and family-friendly event is free and will include naturalist led bird walks, bird scope stations to gain a closer look at the waterbirds visiting our Bay, interactive educational activities, and expert speaker sessions. There will also be exclusive fee-based field trips available. Location: 376 Greenwood Beach Road, Tiburon. For more info, visit their website.
  • Hands-on Tam Winter Work Day
    Mount Tamalpais, Muir Beach, and Muir Woods National Monument
    Saturday, 8:30 am–1 pm

    Together, we will work to improve trails, care for natural landscapes, and improve habitat for birds and other wildlife. Our projects provide a wonderful opportunity for hands-on learning and many of our projects are family-friendly and open to volunteers of all ages. Visit OneTam.org to learn more about our work. Register online here.
  • Whale Watching at Point Reyes Lighthouse
    Point Reyes National Seashore
    Weekends, 9 am–3:30 pm

    Go see the whales out at the Point Reyes Light House and Chimney Rock. Shuttle buses leave Drakes Beach every 15–20 minutes. The cost is $7 per person; children under 16 are free. No cars allowed at Point Reyes Light House on weekends and holidays December 26 through mid-April. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy the best local and organic produce, flowers, pastured meats, seafood, organic cheeses, yogurt and milk, breads, baked goods, pasta, confections, olive oil, and brunch and lunch offerings! Kids can take a pony ride and visit the petting zoo (10 am–2 pm), try out some arts and crafts (9 am–2 pm) and Jill from Music for Children will be performing (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Junior Chef Classes: No Bake Valentine Treats
    Williams-Sonoma, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 10 am
    Valentine’s Day treats are the tasty topic of the next class designed by Jennifer Tyler Lee, creator of the award-winning food game Crunch a Color and author of The 52 New Foods Challenge cookbook. Together we’ll make three easy, no-bake treats that are perfect Valentine’s Day! Suitable for ages 5–13. Call the store to reserve your spot (415) 924-6799. Location: The Village Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • Children’s Theatre Association presents Jack and the Beanstalk
    Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, San Francisco
    Saturday, 10:30 am and 1 pm

    Jack in the Beanstock is a musical retelling of an English fairy tale. It is a toe-tapping whimsical comedy with wonderful characters. Happy-go-lucky Jack, his poor mother, Betsy the cow, the Golden Goose and of course the crazy Giant. Entertainment for the entire family to enjoy. Admission: $13 plus $2 processing fee (waived at the door). To purchase tickets, visit their website.
  • Creative Family Fun: Morse Code Messages
    Presidio Officers' Club, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–4 pm

    This month the Creative Family Fun events celebrate the amazing maritime history of the Presidio. The Army communicated through Morse code during the 1906 earthquake. Learn how to send your own message by making some Morse code jewelry. Drop-in anytime between 11 am and 4 pm. Free. Read about our visit to the Officers' Club here. Location: 50 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • World on Stage Performances: Murphy Irish Dancers
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Saturday, 11 am
    Performing a variety of step dances including jigs and reels, combined with impressive leaps, this amazing group of young dancers will connect you with age-old Irish traditions and joyous celebrations that are very much alive today. Cost: $5 members; $7 general after museum admission. Purchase tickets here. Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Fort Baker, Sausalito. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bay Area Children's Theatre: Bob Marley's Three Little Birds
    Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
    Saturday and Sunday, 11 am & 2 pm

    The reggae music of Bob Marley evokes the spirit of Jamaica in this modern-day fairytale about the unexpected adventures of timid 11-year-old Ziggy. Watch out for evil Duppy, but “don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right!” Based on the story by Cedella Marley. Recommended for 4 and up. Tickets: $22 adults, $18 children, $20 seniors, $13 groups (10 or more). Location: 2020 Addison Street Berkeley. For more info, call (510) 524-2941 or visit their website.
  • Storytelling Festival Featuring Olga Loya
    San Anselmo Library
    Saturday, 2–4 pm

    Bring the family (all ages) to the San Anselmo library's free fourth annual Storytelling Festival. The featured teller this year is Olga Loya, a nationally known Latina storyteller, performance artist, and author. Loya dramatically and vividly mixes Spanish and English in her performances. Her repertoire reveals the diversity and richness of our collective culture in its commonality and individuality. Kids to grandparents and everyone in between can also share stories too. Location: 110 Tunstead Avenue, San Anselmo. For more info, visit their website.
  • Music for Families with the San Francisco Symphony: Let's Dance
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
    Saturday, 2 pm

    From Mazurkas to Marches to Mambos, conductor Christian Baldini, and the San Francisco Symphony will show you how music can move and groove—and how people groove right along with it. Recommended for ages 7 and older. Half price for ages 17 and under. Purchase tickets here. Location: 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Visit their website for more info.
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