Stapleton Ballet's Nutcracker: A Marin Holiday Tradition

November 30, 2015

Stapleton Ballet NutcrackerThe Stapleton Ballet's annual production of the Nutcracker has been a Marin County tradition for 27 years, and it returns to Marin Center in San Rafael this holiday season for performances on Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6 only.

With over 250 talented dancers from San Anselmo's Stapleton School of the Performing Arts as well as professional guest stars, a visit to this production marks the start of the holiday season for many Marin families.This production features inspired dancing, stunning imagery and beautifully crafted sets and costumes. The timeless tale of Clara and her wondrous adventure with the Nutcracker opens with the lavish Victorian holiday party, featuring exquisite, period-authentic costumes created in 2013. The captivating, mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer makes a grand entrance, weaving his magic into the festivities and placing a spell on Clara’s wooden toy.

Yummy Fall Minestrone Soup

November 30, 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 fall months. 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.


Visit Marin's Amazing Lighted Holiday Houses!

November 30, 2015

Rombeiro Holiday House Novato Marin County Christmas

Perhaps our favorite thing about the holiday season is visiting amazing lighted and decorated holiday houses here in Marin. We've been taking in the displays all of these houses for years, and visiting them again each December is like dropping in to see an old friend. We love to find out what sort of wonderful new displays have been thought up for the season!

When you're visiting these Christmas houses, feel free to drop a donation into the donation box, if there is one, since that December PG&E bill is probably a whopper. (Rumor has it that the Rombeiro House costs upwards of $4,000 each season!)

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Sebastopol

November 29, 2015

Garlock Tree Farm in Sebastopol

It's time to think about getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite any inconvenience.

For the hopeless holiday romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and it's usually a lot of fun, too. Those annual trips to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories, and now it's a tradition with my own family

U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Petaluma

November 28, 2015

Larsen's Tree Farm Petaluma

If you want to have the experience of choosing and cutting down your own Christmas tree, you're going to have to pack up the family truckster and head north on Highway 101 to visit our neighbors in Sonoma County. There, you'll find a selection of Christmas tree farms mostly concentrated in the rural areas of western Petaluma and Sebastopol.

Yesterday we made our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving trip to the three Christmas tree farms located in Petaluma—Little Hills Christmas Tree Farms 1 and 2 and Larsen's Christmas Tree Farm—to see what they had to offer this season. There's nothing that gets you in the holiday spirit more than visiting a tree farm. Did I mention that they're great places for holiday photo ops, too?

Marin Weekend Family Fun for November 27, 28 & 29

November 25, 2015
Winter Wonderland in San Rafael
Visit downtown San Rafael this Friday and Saturday for free snow sledding and more!

There's also holiday ice skating at numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, as well as opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers. Also, check out our guide to North Bay Christmas tree farms and Lots.

Friday, November 27

  • Great Dickens Christmas Fair
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Friday-Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    The Dickens Fair runs on weekends through December 20. Experience Victorian London with hundreds of costumed players, shops offering one-of-a-kind gifts and Christmas treasures, dining, and pubs. Meet Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Jules Verne, David Copperfield, Charles Darwin, and 700 costumed characters. Of course, Father Christmas himself will be on hand to join in the fun. Purchase tickets here. For more info, visit their website.
  • 36th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland
    Downtown San Rafael
    Friday, noon–8 pm & Saturday, 9 am–noon
    Downtown San Rafael will once again commence the holiday season with its Winter Wonderland, Parade of Lights, and Holiday Marketplace with arts and crafts that starts the Friday after Thanksgiving. On Friday: free snow sledding, kids activities (noon–4:30 pm & 6–8 pm), Holiday Marketplace (noon–8 pm) and the Parade of Lights (5:30 pm) with Santa and Mrs. Claus's arrival and a tree-lighting immediately after. On Saturday, kids activities and snow sledding continues (9 am–noon). Location: Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place in downtown San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Boutique
    St. John's, Ross
    Friday, noon–6:30 pm & Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts for family, a favorite teacher, or your neighbors at the St. John's Holiday Boutique. Look for homemade baked goods, jams, jellies, chutneys, and mustards, handcrafted scarves and hats, candles and soaps, or wreathes and holiday decorations. Location: 14 Lagunitas Road (at Shady Lane) in Ross. For more info, visit their website.
  • ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
    Friday & Saturday, 4 pm & Sunday, 2 pm

    Bring the family for this beloved Bay Area holiday tradition. ODC/Dance enlivens Margery Williams’ classic tale of a well-worn nursery rabbit that becomes real. Told though music, dance and a powerful narrative, The Velveteen Rabbit celebrates the unique relationship between a little boy and his stuffed rabbit, and the enduring power of love. Tickets range from $18 to $75. For more info, visit their website.
  • Ghirardelli Square Annual Tree Lighting
    San Francisco
    Friday,  4–9 pm

    Enjoy free live entertainment for the entire family throughout the day culminating with the lighting of the Ghirardelli Square tree at 5:30 pm. This year’s festivities will include live music, children’s entertainment and a visit from Santa. Location: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street (at Beach and Larkin), San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Winter Lights
    Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa
    Friday,  5–7:30 pm

    Winter Lights is an annual event that brings together community to celebrate the holidays and remember our loved ones. This all-ages event is family-oriented and multi-cultural, and features a tree lighting celebration, remembrance candle lighting ceremony, Santa Claus arriving on a fire truck, Taste of Santa Rosa, live entertainment, children's activities, photos with Santa, ornament painting, and ugly sweater contest, and more. Location: 25 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa. For more info, visit their Facebook page.
  • Macy's 26th Annual Union Square Tree Lighting
    Union Square Park, San Francisco
    Friday, 6 pm

    Macy's gift to the city and San Francisco's most recognized Christmas tree will be officially lit in Union Square at 6:40 pm. Macy's 26th Annual Tree Lighting will take place in Union Square Park between Sutter and Post and Geary and Stockton Streets, right across from the front of Macy's. For more info, visit their website.
  • Cinnabar Theater Young Repertory Presents Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
    Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma
    Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 2 pm
    The whole family will enjoy our Young Rep's holiday musical. Everyone's favorite flying car comes to life in this Broadway musical. It's based on the beloved film version of a children's book by Ian Fleming and features an unforgettable score by the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh). You are sure to find this magical musical "Truly Scrumptious."  Admission: $15 adults, $10 your 22 and under. Open seating. Location: 3333 Petaluma Boulevard North. For more info and tickets, visit their website.
  • Disney in Concert: The Nightmare Before Christmas
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
    Friday and Saturday, 8 pm

    A delightfully quirky score from Danny Elfman drives Tim Burton’s fantastical tale of Jack Skellington’s plot for Halloween Town to take over Christmas—and the hilariously haunting results—all while the SF Symphony plays the score live. Tickets start at $25. Purchase tickets here. Location: 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, November 28

  • 36th Annual Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland
    Downtown San Rafael
    Saturday, 9 am–noon
    On Saturday morning, kids activities and snow sledding continue in downtown San Rafael. Location: Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place in downtown San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids from 10 am–2 pm adjacent to the farmer's market and live music from Scott the Storyteller from 9:30–10:30 am. For more info, visit their website.
  • Great Dickens Christmas Fair 
    Cow Palace, San Francisco
    Saturday–Sunday, 10 am–7 pm

    See Friday's listing for details.
  • Holiday Boutique
    St. John's Ross
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm

    See Friday's listing for details.
  • Reindeer Romp at SF Zoo
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Reindeer Romp returns with Santa's favorite reindeer friends Belle, Holly, Peppermint, and Velvet. These four majestic animals mark the return of the holidays at the Zoo and will be on exhibit through New Year’s Day. Stop by the reindeer area on the Playfield Lawn near the Elinor Friend Playground and check out the real story behind these majestic creatures. Free with Zoo admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Let it Snow! at Treasure Island
    San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–5 pm

    Bring the family to this weekend's SNOWvember at the Treasure Island Flea Market. Come shop and enjoy more than 20 tons of snow. Enjoy more than 400 local artists, makers, designers and collectors. The snow falls at 11 am each day. Cost: $3 per person, children 12 and under are free. For more info, visit their website.
  • 58th San Francisco International Auto Show
    Moscone Center
    Saturday & Sunday, 10 am–10 pm
    The International Auto Show features the world’s major manufacturers displaying their 2015 model cars, SUVs, trucks, and vans. There will also be classic cars, race cars, car simulators, hot rods, and more. Admission $10, children 12 and younger free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets at the door only. Location: Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Annual Gingerbread House Open House
    Fairmont, San Francisco
    Saturday, 11 am–3 pm

    Lovingly built with a completely edible exterior, this delectable abode will be unveiled during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the annual Gingerbread Open House on Saturday, November 28, which takes place from 11:00 am- 3:00 pm.  The event is open to the public and offers guests the opportunity to take pleasure in complimentary holiday refreshments and heart-warming music while Santa Claus, a Balloon Elf, a Christmas Fairy pose for photos and kids can write letters to Saint Nick in the lobby’s “North Pole Nook." Location: 950 Mason Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Holiday Craferino
    Petaluma Veterans Memorial Hall
    Saturday, 11 am–4 pm

    The Petaluma Downtown Craft Mart presents its sixth annual Holiday Crafterino show at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building. The show brings together the best in handmade crafts and gifts and raises funds for several worthy causes. Admission: $1 donation. Location: 1094 Petaluma Boulevard South, Petaluma. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bay Area Children's Theatre: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
    Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am & 2 pm

    The beloved story about the adventures of the Potts family and their miraculous car comes to the stage in a special musical version for young audiences. Sing along as Jeremy and Jemima take on the Vulgarians, who want Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the Baron’s birthday. Recommended for ages 4 and up. The performance is 90 minutes, including intermission. Tickets: $22 adults, $18 children 14 and under, $20 seniors 65+. Location: 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley. For more info, visit their website.
  • SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium
    Embarcadero, San Francisco
    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–5 pm

    Start your holiday shopping at this weekend's Etsy event. The SFEtsy Indie Holiday Emporium is an annual market showcasing the SFEtsy team members and other artisan crafters and makers. See a list of sellers here. Location: Pier 35, 1526 Embarcadero, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Santa's Riverboat Arrival
    Petaluma River Turning Basin
    Saturday, 11:30 am
    Santa and Mrs. Claus sail into the Petaluma River Turning Basin aboard a tugboat at noon and disembark in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center on East Washington Street to greet children and distribute candy. Performers will be on hand at the shopping center starting at 11:30 am. For more info, visit their website.
  • Cirque de Bohème: Stolen Moonlight
    Cornerstone Sonoma
    Saturday, 1, 3 & 5 pm and Sunday, 1 & 3 pm

    Experience the magic of a 1920s-style circus based on the French tradition, featuring an amazing cast of characters including a unicycle, contortionist, juggler, slack-rope, hand chair balancing, aerial fabrics, and a hooper aerialist. This intimate circus gathering takes place under the charming tent in the gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, and is limited to 140 guests per performance. Tickets cost $28 for adults and $18 for kids under 15. Last year many of these performances sold out early, so get your tickets soon. Order tickets online here. A portion of all ticket sales go to benefit the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Location: 23570 Arnold Drive outside the town of Sonoma. For more info, call (707) 933-3010 or visit their website.

Special Thanksgiving Civic Center Farmers Market Today!

November 25, 2015

Still need ingredients for your Thanksgiving feast? Finish up your shopping at today's (Wednesday, November 25) special Thanksgiving Farmers Market from 8 am to 1 pm at the Marin Civic Center.

There will be no Civic Center farmers market on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26. That way we all get a little extra time to prepare our feasts, and the farmers get the day off too!

The Civic Center Farmers' Market in San Rafael offers lots of organically grown produce, breads, eggs, fresh cut flowers, prepared food, and more. Today's Thanksgiving farmer's market is located next the Civic Center duck pond at 10 Avenue of the Flags. For more information, visit

ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit is a Holiday Family Favorite. Win Tickets!

November 24, 2015

ODC/Dance Velveteen RabbitODC/Dance's adaptation of the classic children's story The Velveteen Rabbit has been a holiday tradition in the Bay Area for 29 years. With music, dance, and powerful narrative, ODC/Dance tells this classic tale of a well-worn stuffed rabbit who become real, and the little boy who loves him.

This popular production brims with wit, festive costumes, colorful characters—including the 10-foot-tall Nana, a skin-horse, toy soldiers, a crocodile, dolls, and a pack of "real" rabbits, and, of course, plenty of holiday cheer. The Velveteen Rabbit features ODC's renowned company of dancers, 10 young dancers from the ODC school, a score by Benjamin Britten. This production is suitable for children ages 3 and up. Running time is 90 minutes, including one intermission.

Recipes for a Delicious Thanksgiving

November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving turkeyIf you're looking for some fantastic family-friendly recipes for Thanksgiving, then we're here to help! We've decided to list all our recipes for Thanksgiving favorites here in one place for easy reference this week. We've included two different recipes for turkey, as well as a variety of sides and desserts. Enjoy! And we hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.

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