Family Fare this July at Ghiringhelli's in Novato

July 16, 2011

Ghiringhelli Novato Family FareNorthern Marin's newest dining hot spot, Ghiringhelli’s Pizza, Grill and Bar in Novato, presents fun for the whole family with Family Fare every Monday evening in July from 5:30–7:30 pm. Families can enjoy a great dinner along with terrific children's entertainment.

Kids can sing along, dance the Hokey Pokey, take part in arts and crafts activities, play games, and watch movies. Performers include Richard J. Rogers the Music Man, Marin kids' favorite Miss Kitty, and even a magic show, who will alternate on different Mondays.

Family Fare admission is $5, and Ghiringhelli's entire menu plusa a kids' menu will be available. Ghiringhelli's menu features pizza, pasta, salads, burgers, steaks, and more. Reservations are advised, but walk-ins are welcome, too.

How Does Our Garden Grow? Part III: It's a Garden!

July 16, 2011

Our garden: beans, tomatoes, squashWhen we last wrote about our adventures in vegetable gardening, we were just some seedlings emerge. That was a long time ago, but it did seem like it took forever for any of them to get to the size where they could be planted in the outdoors. I'm sure our unseasonably cool weather had something to do with it. The carrots and radishes were something of a bust, since it turns out that nobody really likes radishes all that much and the kids got impatient with the carrots and pulled most of them out well before they were ready. We ate a lot of baby carrots as a result. They were pretty good, too.

It seems now that summer is really here and as a result, so is our garden. It seems that it was just yesterday when all the plants were little seedlings, but now they're well on their way to producing some veggies. We transplanted the tomatoes, all of which are doing quite well, and direct-sowed some summer squash (Costata Romansca zucchini and Pattison Strie Melange, a French heirloom variety). In our raised bed we also planted some heirloom Dragon's Tongue beans which should produce beans that are yellow with purple stripes, as well as some regular own green bush beans.

Dinosaurs Galore and More at Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science

July 12, 2011

LHS dinosaurI haven't been to Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science since way back when I was in college, so when I learned about their new exhibit Dinosaurs Unearthed, it seemed like a great reason to visit this hands-on science center located in the hills high above the UC Berkeley campus. Since the focus of the show is dinosaurs—every kid's favorite science subject—my children thought it was a great idea for an outing, too.

Dinosaurs Unearthed, on view at the Lawrence Hall of Science through January 1, 2012, features lifelike animatronic dinosaurs that open their jaws, move the limbs and tails, blink their eyes, roar, stomp, and more. My son and daughter were both extremely excited to come explore the world of the dinosaurs here, and we were not disappointed. You can visit a variety of popular dinos, including Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Triceratops, and others.

As soon as your enter the building, we got a taste of what was in store with a life-size triceratops near the exhibition entrance. We were all amazed by how realistic it looked. The kids were so excited they insisted on seeing the dinosaur exhibit immediately.

Family Dining in Marin: Cafe Reyes in Point Reyes Station

July 11, 2011

Cafe Reyes in Point Reyes StationOver the past few years the little West Marin town of Point Reyes Station has become a hot spot for tourists and Bay Area day-trippers. With its bucolic rural setting, charming downtown, nearby Point Reyes National Seashore, and emphasis on local sustainable foods and agriculture, it's no wonder why it's become such a popular place. For visiting families, however, Point Reyes Station can pose something of a challenge, especially when you're hungry and need something to eat. Offerings in town tend to be either expensive or extremely busy, especially on weekends and holidays. That's why we love Cafe Reyes.

Located on Highway One just around the corner from downtown Point Reyes Station, this rustic and charming restaurant is inexpensive, usually uncrowded (it's more of a hangout for locals rather than a tourist destination), and offers up some of the best and most authentic Neapolitan style pizza we've found anywhere. Cafe Reyes has been around for years, serving up Mexican-inspired fare for many years until they decided to switch gears a few years ago and install a massive wood-fired pizza oven, which you can see—or feel, owing to the amount of heat it gives off—when you walk in the front door.

Drum Parties with Mika's Drumming Magic

July 11, 2011

Drum Party from Mika's Drumming MagicLooking for a fun, unique, and memorable birthday party? Marin's Mika's Drumming Magic offers exciting drum parties for people of all ages.

Mika provides instruments and excellent facilitation for groups of all ages, drawing on skills he's developed over 15 years of facilitating drum groups for schools, workshops, private and corporate clients. Drumming Magic drum parties are paced in a way that makes them fun and accessible for participants of all ages. Even participants who consider themselves non-musical are amazed with what they and the group create together!

Instruments can be made available for groups of up to 200 people. Sessions can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. A 45-minute session will work well for almost any party. Drum parties can occur both  indoors and out, and don't require special permits since the drums are not amplified.

Shhh… Don't Tell Anyone About Chicken Ranch Beach

July 10, 2011

Chicken Ranch Beach near Inverness in West MarinWhen the weather gets warm, it's time to think about going to the beach. Good, safe swimming beaches with warm weather can be hard to come by in Marin and Northern California, but they're out 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 don't tell anyone about it, OK?)

Like Heart's Desire Beach up the road a bit in Tomales Bay State Park, Chicken Ranch Beach sits on the shallow, relatively warm waters of Tomales Bay. It's a popular place for families, with a gentle, sandy beach and no surf to speak of, only ripples that lap gently on the shore. Kids can wade, swim, play in the sand, and run to their hearts' content. Chicken Ranch Beach is a fabulous place to raise your beach umbrella, spread out a blanket or two, and spend the day relaxing in the sun. Since it's on the opposite side of Inverness Ridge from the ocean, the summer fog often burns back for a pleasant sunny day tempered by cool breezes from the mouth of Tomales Bay a few miles away. The West Marin vistas from the beach are spectacular, too. Unlike the beaches at Tomales Bay State Park, there's no entry fee here—it's free, if you can find it.

Summer Sunsets Concert Series at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

July 8, 2011

This summer, Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum is open late by popular demand on select Fridays for the Summer Sunsets Concert Series. Come to the museum from 5–7 pm tonight, July 8, and July 22, August 5 and 19 for an evening of family fun by the Bay with music, food, and the special exhibition Curious George: Let's Get Curious! Curious George himself makes a personal appearance at 5:30 pm (so don't forget your camera) and musical performances begin at 6 pm.

This year's Summer Sunsets lineup:

  • July 8: Rhythm Child introduces children and families to the basic elements of music in a drum circle experience. Come drum, dance, and sing in the museum's Festival Plaza.
  • July 22: Popular Bay Area children's entertainer Enzo Garcia brings his eclectic selection of instruments— including five-string banjo, musical saw, accordion, harmonica, and enzotar—and songs to the museum.
  • August 5: Dance and sing along with the Bloody Scupper Plunder Club as they perform songs of piracy, general mayhem, and high-seas adventure.
  • August 22: It's always a dance party with Asheba, the energetic singer, songwriter, and storyteller whose show is spiced with Caribbean and world beats inspired by his childhood on Trinidad.

Picnics, Nature and Play at Stafford Lake Park

July 6, 2011

Stafford Lake County ParkStafford Lake, the reservoir that provides the town of Novato with much of its drinking water, is also the site of one of Marin's favorite outdoor recreation spots: Stafford Lake County Park. There are so many activities to do at this 139-acre park, and I'm surprised my family and I don't come here more often, especially since it's literally just around the corner from our house. If you haven't been there, you've certainly passed it on Novato Boulevard on your way out to the Cheese Factory or Point Reyes. You owe it to yourself to stop by and see what Stafford Lake has to offer.

One of the things that Stafford Lake offers in abundance is physical beauty—a sparkling blue lake surrounded by hills, trees, and bucolic dairy farms. Wildlife abounds, and we saw plenty of deer and of course a whole flock of the ubiquitous Canada geese that seem to inhabit every park in Northern California. We packed a picnic lunch and ate at one of the many tables scattered throughout the parks shady picnic area. Tables have charcoal BBQ grills, and group areas can accommodate up to 500 people. My kids loved the huge play structure, which seemed to be in like new condition. In fact, the whole park was extremely clean and well kept up.

Puff the Magic Dragon at Mill Valley's 142 Throckmorton Theatre

July 5, 2011

Puff the Magic Dragon from the Puppets & Players Little Theatre at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill ValleyBeloved characters Puff the Magic Dragon and Little Jackie Paper return to the magical land of Honalee in a performance by the Puppets & Players Little Theatre at downtown Mill Valley's 142 Throckmorton Theater, on Tuesday, July 5 at 6 pm. Join Puff and Jackie on their quest to recover the Magic Box of King Cobwebs. During their journey, the heroes fight a duel onboard a pirate ship with Captain Bilgewater and his sidekick Grog, face a fearful storm at sea, and travel to the bottom of the ocean, where they meet a friendly octopus named Rastapus, who helps Jackie discover that the Magic Box contains "the most powerful magic of all"—the magic of his own imagination.

This delightful 30-minute show features marionettes and hand puppets, delightful songs, and an energetic live performance by Gil Olin, who doubles as a storyteller and a pirate. Tickets for Puff the Magic Dragon can be purchased for a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $8 for children; order them by phone at (415) 383-9600 or online.

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