Explore California History at the Gold Country's Columbia State Historic Park

July 25, 2012

Columbia State Historic ParkOne of our favorite destinations for a quick family getaway is California's Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills. It's a relatively short 3 hour drive from the Bay Area, and there are plenty of things for families to do. You can visit historic mining towns, pan for gold, explore caves, go wine tasting (for mom and dad, of course), take a ride on a 19th-century steam train, hike, fish, and more.

The highlight of our visits to the Gold Country always Columbia State Historic Park in the Tuolumne County town of Columbia. In fact, much of Columbia is the park itself. While most of the small Mother Lode towns along Highway 49 are filled with California history, Columbia takes this to an extreme—its downtown has been preserved to represent its mid 19th-century heyday, and in fact it's the best preserved Gold Rush town in California.

Columbia is kind of like California's answer to Colonial Williamsburg, but on a smaller scale. It's a fantastic place for families with children since there's a lot to do and see. The downtown state park part of Columbia is also closed to vehicular traffic for much of the year (stagecoaches excepted), so it's safe and families literally have the run of the place.

A Family That Eats Together: Skillet Steak Peperonata

July 23, 2012

skillet steak peperonataMarin Mommies presents this week's guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike. Nicole is also the creator of the new Little Froglet line of children's activewear.

Nicole's meal plan for this week features soy-ginger chicken kebabs, spaghetti with a raw tomato sauce, rotisserie chicken Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi), slow cooker carnitas tacos, and this skillet steak peperonata.

I met Lynne Curry author of Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut at the Farmer’s Market last month. During her book signing, she had her book open to skillet steak peperonata. The image of the perfectly cooked steak with peppers drew me right in. I knew I needed to read her book and so, now I am in the process of cooking my way through it with a future larger discussion on local meat to come. Just skimming through the pages, I knew a lot of her recipes would work perfectly for the carnivore families who read A Family That Eats Together.

Super Kid-Friendly Apps for Smartphones

July 23, 2012

Girl with smartphoneMarin Mommies presents another guest article by Marin Mom and writer Gabrielle Cullen.

From TV to DVDs to iPhones, iPads and other smart tools, parents are constantly monitoring what those little eyes see. Instead of fighting tooth and nail about something the kiddo finds online, get ahead of the game and have a top-notch, super kid-friendly folder of smart apps at the ready when media time is requested.

For ages 2 on up, there is a hefty amount of choices, including interactive storytelling, memory, color or number games and many hand/eye coordination games.

Check out this list of family friendly apps—all have been kid tested and parent approved!

Shake-n-Tell: Free, upgrades available for $1.99—all ages
Will the princess to save the prince next time your little ones are begging for a goodnight story? Cool new app Shake-N-Tell gives users various stories plots and endings, very Choose-Your-Own Adventure, and every night could mean a new tale. There are “flash card” prompts for characters and plot points. The app is free but there are advanced packages including the Princess Pack, the Space Pack and the Ghost Pack. There is even an recording option! Created by a stay-at-home writer dad, this should be the first one in the folder. Check it out.

Why So Shy???

July 18, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Melissa Lapides, Marin mom, licensed marriage and family therapist, and parent educator.

A shy child can be quite frustrating to deal with, even embarrassing at times. You are at a party, the playground, or a playgroup and your child is hiding behind you refusing to greet others. You encourage them to look into the other person’s eyes and say hello, but this makes them clam up even more. Now you begin to feel clammy as well because you have run out of ideas for them to “snap out of it” at this point.

Sometimes parents feel they owe people an explanation about why their child is unable to cooperate and join in conversations, greeting or other interactions. Using an excuse of shyness for your child is usually done out to make the situation more comfortable. The best way to really address the issue is to understand it more and use prevention before you get yourself and your child into these uncomfortable situations.

There is no question that a parent could worry or be concerned if every introduction and interaction your child has with others becomes a painful and uncomfortable experience. I invite you though to take a breath and really assess the situation before panicking.

A Family That Eats Together: Grilled Shrimp Flatbread with Chickpea Puree and Cilantro Pesto

July 16, 2012

Zucchini spaghettiMarin Mommies presents this week's guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike. Nicole is also the creator of the new Little Froglet line of children's activewear.

Nicole's meal plan for this week features one-pot Asian chicken with rice and bok choy, rice with grilled summer squash, fusilli with olive and pancetta, tortilla soup, and this grilled shrimp flatbread with chickpea puree and cilantro pesto.

In the summer, I am always looking for light and healthy meals that don’t have to be cooked indoors. This is a quick and easy recipe, which can be made in minutes if you own a food processor. Just use the same food processor bowl for both the pesto and puree, making the pesto first. Also, make sure to buy peeled and deveined shrimp. Doing it yourself is time consuming and who wants to deal with the mess?

Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay.

Servings: 6–8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Mompreneur: Child Photographer Nancy Alcott

July 16, 2012

Nancy AlcottChild photographer Nancy Alcott didn't start out taking pictures of children, but discovered that is was her true love after giving birth to her daughter. Now, she's an award winning photographer recording memories for families throughout Marin and the Bay Area. We asked Nancy a few questions about her and her work. Learn more about her and see more of her photos at www.nancyalcott.com.

Please tell us about you and your background.

I am a mother of two amazing children, Amstel, 4 and Zealand, 2, and we live in Mill Valley. I am originally from Michigan, but have made California my home for nearly eight years now.

How did you get started with photography?

I fell into photography quite by accident nearly four years ago, beginning as a travel photographer. Upon giving birth to my daughter, I realized my true love was photographing babies and children, and my calling was found.

Off to See the Wizard with the San Francisco Symphony!

July 14, 2012

Wizard of Oz SF SymphonyWho doesn't love the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz? With its beloved characters and songs, it's a classic we've all watched since we were kids and maybe even introduced to our own children. Now see it on the big screen at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall accompanied by the renowned San Francisco Symphony! If your kids haven't seen it, it's a fantastic introduction, and if they have, it's a whole new amazing experience.

Conductor Michael Francis leads the symphony in not only performing the movie's score, but, through the use of some technological magic, accompanying Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Burt Lahr, and the rest of the cast in their songs, too. It sounds like a fun event for the whole family. Come in costume and you can enter a raffle to win great prizes.

Learn More About Novato's New Charter School this Sunday

July 13, 2012

North Bay Educational FoundationInterested in learning more about Novato's proposed new progressive charter school? This Sunday, July 15, at 4 pm there will be the third in a series of public meetings to inform the community about the school, which will be Marin County’s first Core Knowledge curriculum pre-k through 8th grade public charter school.

The meeting will include an overview of the proposed charter school, a detailed look at the Core Knowledge language arts program, the grade-by-grade curriculum sequence, and an interactive Q&A. North Bay Educational Foundation (NBEF) will also present general charter admissions policies and guidelines, and attendees will have the opportunity to sign a consideration of intent to enroll. In addition, there will be opportunities for interested community members to get involved in bringing this educational opportunity to Novato.

How Does Our Garden Grow 2012? Part II: Going Vertical

July 10, 2012

vertical gardenWhen we last wrote about our adventures in vegetable gardening this season, we were just seeing some tomato and pepper seedlings emerge. Now that we're firmly in the midst of summer, the garden is taking off. 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 and peppers, all of which are doing pretty well, and direct-sowed two varieties of heirloom summer squash, Ronde de Nice and Zucchino Rampicante, and purple podded pole beans.

In order to save some space, this year, we're going vertical! At first I contemplated creating a sturdy trellis structure to support everything, but after examing the garden, I realized things didn't have to be so complicated. I ended up lining the back of the fence with some nylon trellis netting and the beans and vining Zucchino Rampicante squash started doing their thing and climbed away. This way, we were able to plant a lot more in the garden space that we have, and we definitely have a lot more growing in our garden than we did last year.

The beans, which are supposed to get to around six feet tall, have actually grown past that over the top of the fence. The kids are totally fascinated with the growth of the beans, and I am, too. Shades of Jack and the Beanstalk, I guess. Some of the bean plants have wrapped themselves around our neighbors' tree; I've assured them they can have any beans that hang down on their side of the fence.

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