Create Your Own Heart-shaped Crayons for Valentine's Day

January 22, 2015

heart shaped crayons for valentine's dayCreating these beautiful custom crayons is a fun craft project that everyone in the family can do. These really turn out great with minimal effort, and the results always exceed our expectations! These make a fun and pretty gift for Valentine's Day, as well as neat party favors. They even look great as decorations around the house.

These crayons look amazing and professional and are so easy to make. Plus, since you have kids, you probably have the materials to make them lying around the house already in the form of broken crayons. To make them, the first thing you need to do is round up all the old crayons in your house. If you're like us, this should not be very difficult.

Of course you can also go out and buy a box of crayons to make this craft, since they're not that expensive. (Once you make a batch of these, you'll find that you're always careful to bring home the leftover crayons that restaurants give you with the kids' menu.)

Family Hike and Picnic at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen

January 20, 2015

Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen

Last weekend, we paid another visit one of our favorite outdoors spots in the Bay Area, Jack London State Historic Park. Located in the small Sonoma Valley town of Glen Ellen, it's about a 45-minute drive north from Marin and a great destination for a family outing.

The park is made up of land that was at one time the Beauty Ranch owned by renowned writer, social reformer, early sustainable agriculture advocate, and rabble-rouser Jack London (1876–1916), author of classic adventure tales like The Sea Wolf, The Call of the Wild, and White Fang. Jack London State Historic Park is always a destination for us in winter and early spring—the wildflowers are in bloom, the weather is cool and clear, and it's breathtakingly beautiful.

Dine in with Meal Delivery Services in Marin

January 20, 2015

meal delivery from Pernilla's PantryLike many families in Marin, we lead busy lives—so busy that sometimes important things like family meals can get lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, that's where meal delivery services come in! These local culinary life-savers provide you and your family with delicious, healthy meals as well as the opportunity to sit down together at dining table in the evening, without having to resort to fast food or some other quick solution.

Here are some of the meal delivery services that deliver to homes in Marin County. All these services deliver throughout the county (with the exception of West Marin) unless otherwise indicated. If we've missed your favorite, please let us know about it and we'll consider adding it to the list. With all of these services, you can place your order online via the web or a mobile app. We've personally reviewed a few of these services, so read our reviews via the links to learn more.

Most of these services offer gift certificates, too, so it goes without saying that they'd make great gifts for new parents or someone else who needs a little mealtime help.

Jessie et Laurent

Run by husband-and-wife culinary team Jessie and Laurent Boucher, their creations are made from fresh local ingredients, and their weekly menus have a huge selection of really delicious sounding entrees for delivery. Minimum order is $70. You can also call them to get started at (415) 485-1122. Read our review of Jessie et Laurent. www.jessieetlaurent.com.

Chef Daddy Cooks Food Your Kids Will Eat: Beef Bourguignon

January 19, 2015

Beef BourguignonOn cool winter nights, it just seems right to make some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food classics. One of my family's favorites is beef bourguignon.

This timeless dish of beef braised with red wine and vegetables is easy to make and I have yet to find anyone who doesn't love it. It's one of my dinner party staples, since you can throw it all together in the early afternoon and just let it go on the stove so you can socialize instead of slave away in the kitchen.

One of the other great things about beef bourguignon is that you can make it from an inexpensive cut of meat like chuck, which the long braising time renders tender and delicious. I like to buy locally raised grass-fed beef from Marin County producers like Stemple Creek Ranch and Marin Sun Farms when I can, and this is a great way to prepare a quality ingredient without breaking the bank.

Gymnastics Birthday Parties at GymWorld in San Rafael

January 19, 2015

GymWorld Birthday Parties San RafaelBirthday parties where everyone can burn off some energy through active play and exercise are always a lot of fun, and the Gymagic gymnastics parties offered by GymWorld, a state-of-the-art gymnastics facility in San Rafael, are a great choice for Marin County families.

GymWorld's facilities include a ton of fun activities for birthday partygoers, including a big foam pit that kids can jump and flip into off the two large trampolines that lead into it. Kids can also have fun on GymWorld's climbing wall, trampolines, tire swing, a trapeze, and cargo net.

During the party, GymWorld's fun and energetic instructors will teach kids gymnastics tricks handstands, cartwheels, rolls, and more. Instructors will adjust the party activities based on the ages of the partygoers—they have an array of over 50 different games and obstacle courses to choose from! High-energy Gymagic parties are full of music and energy and offer fun for everyone! Parties at GymWorld are ideal for kids ages 3 to 12.

The Past Comes Alive This Saturday at Fort Point Civil War Living History Day

January 18, 2015

Fort Point Civil War Living History DayThis coming Saturday, the 150-year-old walls of Fort Point will again echo with the sounds of fifes and drums and tramp of boots as this San Francisco landmark celebrates Civil War Living History Day. Come watch and interact with dozens of reenactors from the American Civil War Association portraying Union soldiers and civilians from the time of the War Between the States at the only Civil War-era brick fort west of the Mississippi.

Fort Point's Civil War Living History Day takes place Saturday, January 24, 2015, from 10 am to 5 pm. Activities include infantry and artillery demonstrations, flag raising and lowering ceremonies, performances by period military musicians, and more. Reenactors are happy to answer questions about history and various aspects of life during the Civil War.

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

January 17, 2015

cinnamon rollsSometimes a hot fresh cinnamon roll really hits the spot, especially as part of a weekend breakfast or brunch. We usually buy a package of refrigerated unbaked cinnamon rolls from Trader Joe's, but we recently tried making our own from scratch. At first the idea seemed a little daunting, since it involved yeast, letting the dough rise, and making a sugary glaze, but you know what? It really wasn't that difficult at all!

Since you do have to let the dough rise a bit, you have to plan making these a bit in advance, but it stil goes fairly quickly. You can also make the glaze with either freshly squeezed orange juice or even coffee in place of the milk. It all depends on what you're in the mood for. This recipe makes 10 to 12 sticky, sweet, and delicious cinnamon rolls. The kids love to help make these, too, so have them lend a hand in the kitchen!

Ingredients

for the cinnamon rolls

Marin Weekend Family Fun: January 16, 17, 18 & 19

January 16, 2015
Learn all about the famous Sea Lions at PIER 39 in San Francisco this weekend. Photo: PIER 39.

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

Friday, January 16

  • Sing and Dance with Miss Kitty
    San Rafael Public Library
    Friday, 10:30–11:15 am

    Join Marin County favorite Miss Kitty for a series of fun family concerts just right for children aged birth to 8 years old. Free, no registration required! Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, call (415) 485-3322 or visit their website.
  • Sea Lion Encounter at PIER 39
    PIER 39's Entrance Plaza, San Francisco
    Friday–Monday, 11 am–4 pm

    Learn everything you ever wanted to know about California sea lions during the celebration of the return of these gregarious pinnipeds to PIER 39's famous K-docks! Free educational walking tours provided by naturalists from the Aquarium of the Bay. Tours begin at the top of the hour between noon and 4 pm each day. Enjoy complementary refreshments. For more info, visit their website.
  • Parents Night Out
    Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 5–10 pm

    Drop off the kids and enjoy a night out! While you relax, the kids will be having fun with the Marinwood camp staff playing games, park time, arts, crafts, snacks & more! This event often sells out—register early! For ages 2–10. Cost: $20; $18 sibling (same family) discount. For more info and registration call (415) 479-0775 or visit their website.

Saturday, January 17

  • 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 listen to music (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Rockin' Ropes Opening Weekend
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday-Monday, 9 am–5 pm

    The zoo invites kids ages 4–14 years old to enjoy the elevated ropes obstacle course "Rockin’ Ropes Adventure" in the Pachyderm Building. To keep everyone active and healthy for the new year, this challenging ropes course will be open on weekends and school holidays. Young visitors can zip, swing, jump, step, and slide their way through 30 feet of fun; for this opening weekend a bounce-house obstacle course will be availalble for the little ones. Fee: $3 upper-level SFZS members, $5 regular SFZS members, and $7 general (after museum admission). For more info, visit their website.
  • 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.
  • New Exhibit: Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Saturday–Monday, 9 am–5 pm
    Step into the pages of beloved children’s books and enter a world of early literacy adventures! Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites immerses children and adults in favorite picture books, from the gardens of The Tale of Peter Rabbit to the urban snowscape of The Snowy Day and the tropical island of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Designed for children from birth through 8 years old and adults, Storyland engages visitors in storylines and literacy activities that lead them to discover that it’s never too early to develop a love of reading. Free after museum admission. For more info, visit their website.

Hands-on Fun for Spring at Slide Ranch

January 16, 2015

slide ranch spring flingSlide Ranch is a great place for family members of all ages. We tried out one of their family farm days in the past and my kids had a great time petting the sheep planting seeds, milking a goat, and making nature crafts. They offer guided tours and lots of hands-on activities, including collecting eggs from chickens, planting seeds, sampling from their organic garden, learning to make crafts and food just like the early farmers, and exploring the nearby tide pools.

Slide Ranch is located off of Shoreline Highway in Muir Beach. Below is a list of their upcoming spring events. Their programs do fill up quickly, so you need to plan ahead if you are interested in participating. Register for programs online at www.slideranch.org.

Spring Family Farm Days

  • Ocean Exploration Family Farm Days
    Saturday March 14, 2015 and Saturday May 23, 2015, 10 am–2 pm
    Enjoy ocean-themed activities and a hike to the tide pools. The low tide will reveal sea stars, anemones, and many other marine discoveries. Each family will receive a free copy of the book, Exploring Low Tide in Northern California. Cost: $25 per person; age 2 and under free.
  • Sheep to Shawl Family Farm Day
    Saturday, March 21, 2015, 10 am–2 pm
    Our clothing comes from animals and plants! Learn the whole process, from sheep shearing demonstrations in our pasture to wool spinning in the yurt. Watch a live demonstration of how sheep get a haircut, and local wool expert Christie Collins will teach us fun activities to show how that wool eventually becomes a sweater. Everyone will get a chance to spin wool and take home some soft memories of the day! Cost: $25 per person; age 2 and under free.
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