Mediterranean Grilled Chicken

June 30, 2014

Grilled Mediterranean chickenSummer means it's time to fire up the grill and cook something delicious for dinner. One of the hardest things to cook on the grill is whole chicken. It's too easy to end up with a birds that's charred on the outside and underdone on the inside, but I think this technique is almost foolproof and results in a perfectly cooked chicken every time. It also speeds up the cooking time.

I like to marinate the chicken for a few hours—or overnight, if I'm thinking ahead—in a citrusy, herb-laded mixture that's full of great Mediterranean flavors. I can't say that it's purely Greek or Italian, but it uses flavors common in each cuisine. It helps to have an herb garden just steps from the kitchen door, too!

Feel free to vary this recipe to suit your taste. For example, I sometimes replace the oregano with fresh chopped rosemary for something equally delicious. Whatever variation I decide on, this is one of my go-to dishes for a summer cookout.

July Classes and Programs at Parents Place Marin

June 29, 2014

Parents Place MarinParents Place in San Rafael has been a valuable resource for countless Marin County parents and families. This spring, they offer a wide variety of programs, from childbirth education to classes for parents and children. Here are a few of the programs they offer in July, including a free JAMaROO Music Time demo on July 1, and a free new moms' discussion group starting July 23.

Free Demo: JAMaROO Music Time (9 months–4 years)

Children will sing, play simple instruments, read stories, balance bean bags, and dance with streamers to a variety of music from around the world. Class themes are related to nature and the outside world. Parental supervision is required. Preregistration is required. Tuesday, July 1, 10–10:30 am. Register here.

JAMaROO Music Time - plus bonus free play! (9 months–4 years)

A fun-packed, 40-minute class that combines music, creative movement, and storytelling. Children will sing, play simple instruments, read stories, balance bean bags, and dance with streamers to a variety of music from around the world. Class themes are related to nature and the outside world. Tuesdays, July 8–22, 10–10:30 am. $39 per child, $22.50 for each additional sibling for three-week series. Parental supervision is required. As a bonus, our playroom will be available for free play 10:40 am–noon after each session. Register here.

Walk or Bike the Newest Bay Trail Section at Hamilton in Novato

June 28, 2014

The Bay Trail Novato HamiltonThe latest completed section of the Bay Trail opened this Thursday in Novato's Hamilton neighborhood, and we had a chance to check it for a short hike. With easy access from several points in Hamilton and stunning views, this is a great place for families to head outdoors for an active outing.

The Hamilton section of the Bay Trail skirts the old runway of this former air force base, which has been returned to its original wetland state. The trail is flat and accessible, and welcomes walkers and cyclists to travel along the wetlands that border San Pablo Bay. It is, of course, ideal for walking with an offroad-capable stroller, too.

You'll find neat little lookout areas along the way, with benches and informative placards that tell you all about the bird life in the area (don't forget your binoculars!) and about the wetland restoration project. My daughter and her second grade class actually helped work on this project, so she was excited to see the results. The views are stunning, with Mt. Burdell to the north and Mt. Diablo to the east.

Marin Family Weekend Fun for June 27, 28 & 29

June 27, 2014
U-Pick at Bloomfield Organics
U-pick at Bloomfield Organics takes place this Sunday.

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.

Friday, June 27

  • Free Children's Garden Series: Circus Bella
    Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco
    Friday &
    Saturday, noon–1 pm
    This free event is part of the Children's Garden Series at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. Back by popular demand! Circus Bella is top-notch circus acrobatics, aerial artistry, and daring feats of balance and strength, set to original live music of Rob Reich and the Circus Bella All-Star Band. Meet the artists after each show! This show will take place on the Esplanade. For more info, visit their website.
  • Friday Night Jazz
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Friday, 6–9 pm

    Enjoy live music on Fridays in the Marin Country Mart courtyard! This Friday, Five Play Jazz Quintet. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marinwood's Music in the Park Series
    Marinwood Park, San Rafael
    Friday, 6–8 pm

    Marinwood’s most popular event is back! Enjoy Friday evenings in the park, featuring live music, delicious food by Marinwood Market, wine and beer. Cost: Entry is free; food, wine & beer may be purchased. Location: 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, call (415) 479-0775 or visit their website.
  • Friday Nights on Main: Circus Adventure
    Downtown Tibruon
    Friday, 6–9 pm

    Bring the entire family for a night of fun. This Friday: Circus Adventure. Puppet Show from the Puppets & Players Little Theater (shows at 6 and 7:30 pm), jugglers, face painting, balloons, live music and more. For more info, visit their website.
  • Summer Music Series
    Pacheco Plaza, Novato

    Friday, 6–9 pm
    Bring your chairs and enjoy a picnic from Paradise Foods or sit outside the local restaurants including Boca Pizzeria, Taki Japanese restaurant, and La Coppa coffee and Tea. Acts include Los Boleros, Beatles Flashback, the Retromaniacs, and Spirit of the Caribbean. This Friday, enjoy the music of The Zydeco Flames. Location: 366 Ignacio Boulevard, Novato. For more information, visit their website.
  • Jazz & Blues by the Bay
    Gabrielson Park, Sausalito
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Jazz & Blues by the Bay at Gabrielson Park in Sausalito is a free event. Lawn seating available (first-come first-served). This Friday, Frank Bey and Anthony Paule Band. Sponsored by Sausalito on the Waterfront. For more info, call (415) 289-4100 or visit their website.
  • Tam Valley's Creekside Fridays
    Tennessee Valley Cabin, Mill Valley
    Friday, 6:30–8 pm

    Bring the family, pets, chairs, and blankets to the weekly free musical event. This Friday, Close Enough will be performing. Food available for purchase. For more info, call (415) 289-4152 or visit their website.

Saturday, June 28

  • 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 family music (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Opening Day: Point Reyes Farmer's Market
    Toby's Feed Barn on Main Street
    Saturday, 9 am–1 pm

    Join us for opening day festivities including live music from the Fog Belters. Chef’s booth demonstration with Missy Will and a welcoming ceremony and toast. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Performance: Little Beats Music Program
    Mill Valley Community Center
    Saturday, 12-2 pm

    Get a taste of the new Little Beats early childhood music education program this Saturday with a free musical performance. Popular Bay Area children's musicians essence and Rachel will perform, joined by the Little Beats music program staff. Location: Mill Valley Community Center lobby, 180 Camino Alto. For more information, call (415) 383-1370 or visit their website.
  • Italian Street Painting Marin Pop-Up Gallery
    Downtown San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–9 pm & Sunday 10 am–6 pm

    Italian Street Painting Marin Pop-Up Gallery on A Street will feature 20 of California’s amazing street painters as they bring history to life. Step back into California of the 1940s, with music of the era and paintings depicting that time. Children ages 2–12 can take part in a free street painting activiity. For more info, visit their website.
  • Talk to the Animals!
    Fairfax Library
    Saturday, 11 am

    Ventriloquist Tony Borders entertains ages 3 and up with his menagerie of funny, furry friends! This takes place instead of the regular storytime. Location: 2097 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Fairfax. For more info, call (415) 453-8151 or visit their website.

The San Rafael Pacifics Go to Bat Against Breast Cancer This Weekend!

June 26, 2014

San Rafael Pacifics pink uniformMarin's own boys of summer, the San Rafael Pacifics, have started another fantastic season of professional minor league baseball in San Rafael's Albert Park. This weekend, the team will be promoting breast cancer awareness with some unique activities and giveaways!

At their June 27 game against the Sonoma Stompers, Pacific players will be donning specially designed pink dresses in the style of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League immortalized in the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own. The Pacifics will be the first men’s professional baseball team in history to wear dresses!

Two dress/uniforms will be autographed by Academy Award winner and A League of Their Own star Tom Hanks, and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation. Other uniforms autographed by members of the Pacifics will be auctioned off as well.

Easy Mountain Biking Trails for Families in Marin

June 24, 2014

Mountain biking for families in MarinMountain biking is an extremely popular activity in Marin, and for good reason—it was invented right here on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais! There's really nothing quite like a ride down the trail, and it's a great activity for the whole family.

Get your kids started on cross-country cycling by trying out some of these easy, bike-friendly Marin trails. All you'll need is a mountain bike or other off-road capable bicycle and a helmet. (Make sure you bring plenty of water and some snacks, too.)

All these trails are designated for bicycles, and have minimal hills and technical sections for easy riding and maximum fun for family riding.

One of the other benefits of riding offroad is the absence of cars and other related hazards. My daughter actually learned to ride her bike on some of these trails. Get them started early, and they'll be shredding in no time!

  • China Camp State Park near San Rafael is a popular destination for local mountain bikers. It's one of the few places in the Bay Area that has single-track trails open to cyclists, but families with beginning bikers will want to head for the wide easier paths like the Shoreline Trail. There's a $5 day-use fee here. On weekends, swing by the historic Quan Brothers Snack Shop in China Camp Village for post-ride ice cream and other treats.

Create Patriotic Baker's Clay Jewelry for the 4th of July

June 24, 2014

Baker's clay patriotic jewelry for the 4th of JulyYour kids can show off their patriotic pride this 4th of July with one of these baker's clay jewelry pieces that they made themselves (with an adult's supervision, of course). They're easy to make, and the basic baker's clay recipe can be used for all sorts of crafts throughout the year.

Here's what you'll need for the baker's clay:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Baked Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

June 23, 2014

spinach and cheese manicottiThis recipe for baked manicotti is an old favorite of mine, and something that my kids love to both help make and eat, too. Tubes of pasta are filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese and chopped spinach, then covered in tomato sauce, and topped with a rich béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese. It's hearty and delicious at any time of year, and the kids don't even notice that the manicotti filling includes spinach (something good for them!).

The kids like to help stuffing the manicotti tubes, so get them into the kitchen to lend a hand making dinner. If you're in a hurry, use a good quality jarred sauce and it will come together quickly. We like to make our own, and usually have a container of it in the freezer for recipes like this. (I've included my basic tomato sauce recipe below, too.)

Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce package manicotti tubes
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 6-ounce bag organic baby spinach leaves

Watching the Fireworks in Marin

June 23, 2014

Fireworks displayFor families with young children, the ritual of watching 4th of July fireworks can be a little inconvenient. Babies and toddlers are often scared of the noise (if you're close enough to hear), the summer sunset at around 9 pm means most kids are up way past their bedtime. It's even worse if you decide to wake them out of a deep sleep in time to see the fireworks (trust me, I've been there). Nothing's quite as crabby and grumpy as an overtired child, no matter how great the fireworks are.

With this in mind, we've sought out places to watch the fantastic fireworks display at the Marin County Fair that don't involve leaving the car, so the little ones can doze in peace. The Marin County Fair's fireworks used to be kind of weak, but in recent years they've made a real effort to improve them, and the last few shows we've seen there have been really impressive.

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