How Does Our Garden Grow 2012, Part I: Seeds and Seedlings

March 24, 2012

Seedlings at the windowA few weeks ago, we visited the Petaluma Seed Bank to pick out our seeds for this year's vegetable garden. After last year's experience with really slow-growing seedlings, we decided to be a little smarter about how we did things this season.

Last year's garden was hit-and-miss, mainly due to the cooler-than-usual weather we experienced here in Northern California. The hits were our tomatoes—we had tons of them, and the vines kept producing well into December! Sadly, our squash plants never really got going, and only produced a few fruits. What we had was good, but there wasn't very much. The peppers that didn't get destroyed by cutworms early on didn't produce that well, either. Hopefully this season will be a little warmer and we'll have better results.

Our first task was to start the tomato and pepper seeds indoors. Last year we used egg cartons. They worked OK, but our seedlings took a long time to grow, and apparently the egg carton cups aren't deep enough to allow for proper root development. This time we picked up a reusable and recyclable plastic seed-starting container from the Seed Bank. It has 72 cups, so we have room for plenty of seedlings, and the whole thing fits into a neat drip tray to keep things neat.

Explore the Marin Headlands this Summer at Coastal Camp

March 21, 2012

Coastal CampWith its wind-swept hills, vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, and wealth of natural wonders and historic sites, the Marin Headlands sounds like the ideal place for a summer camp. Well, in fact, it is—Coastal Camp by Naturebridge offers educational and fun day camps in the Marin Headlands for children entering kindergarten through 9th grade, and partners with the National Park Service and the Marine Mammal Center for some fantastic educational opportunities.

Campers will explore this amazing national park and learn about the area's natural and cultural history, marine mammals, and coastal ecology, investigate tidepool creatures in the intertidal marine lab, hike along coastal trails, and even sail San Francisco Bay on board an 82-foot schooner. Coastal Camp programs are led by college-age camp counselors and experienced professional field science educators.

Creative Hands-on Birthday Parties at Studio 4 Art

March 20, 2012

Art birthday party at Studio 4 Art in NovatoMy kids have been getting creative at Novato's Studio 4 Art since it opened on Grant Avenue a few years ago. We've all enjoyed their hands-on art workshops and classes. Studio owner Kebby McInroy recently opened the Studio 4 Art Annex around the corner from the main storefront, and we decided to hold my daughter's recent birthday party there. Needless to say, it was a big hit with all who attended!

The Annex is a cute little cottage that Studio 4 Art uses to hold parties, special events, and summer camps. It holds up to 20 children, who can work on a variety of different art projects around the two large tables in the space. The Annex space has bamboo floors, track lighting, kids' art on the walls, lots of natural light, and a warm, welcoming ambience.

For our party, we chose mosaic nameplates, which the girls crafted out of colorful ceramic letters and pieces of glazed ceramic tile. Each project was totally unique, and everyone was really proud of their creations. When everything's dry, you can hang them on the wall—they make great decorations for children's rooms.

Spring Special for Families at the Rolling Hills Club

March 19, 2012

Rolling Hills Club poolHave fun and get in shape this spring at the Rolling Hills Club, Novato's family sports and fitness club. With swimming, tennis, racquetball, a fitness studio, classes, camps, and more, Rolling Hills has been a favorite of Marin families for three decades.

This spring, the Rolling Hills Club offers Marin Mommies readers free enrollment for both month-to-month and annual memberships. Furthermore, if you sign up for a year, you'll get a month for free.

Members can take advantage of discounted rates for great family activities and services like Rolling Hills’ Stingrays swim team, summer camps, children’s birthday parties, and more.

For adults, Rolling Hills offers a full fitness center with cardio and weight equipment, a day spa, personal training, tennis, swimming, pilates, a lounge (with fireplace, TV, and complimentary coffee and tea) and more. There’s even an on-site café run by students from the Culinary Institute of America.

A Family that Eats Together: Roasted Chicken and Potatoes Española

March 18, 2012

Roasted chicken EspañolaMarin 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 baked ginger chicken, beef bulgogi with pear dipping sauce, curried cream of tomato soup, broccoli rabe pesto with orechiette, and this easy and delicious Spanish-style roasted chicken.

This is super quick and easy recipe in which you throw everything into the baking dish and let it cook for 1 hour. The result is a terrific stress free dinner the whole family will love.

Servings: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Are You in Fashion Limbo?

March 14, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Bay Area fashion stylist Katie Rice Jones.

Those few months just after the birth of your beautiful baby can be trying times especially when it comes to fashion. You feel stuck between wearing your maternity frocks that make you still look pregnant and your pre-baby skinny jeans that make you feel like a stuffed sausage. You’re in a fashion limbo of sorts. However even with your limited clothing options and an abundance of closet confusion you still have to get dressed. So how do you break out of limbo with your style intact?

First—Don’t torture yourself by trying on your pre-baby clothes too soon. Give yourself a break. You didn’t gain the baby weight overnight; you’re not going to lose overnight, either. Rest assured you will be back into your regular clothes soon enough.

Chef Daddy Cooks Food Your Kids Will Eat, St. Patrick's Day Edition: Irish Soda Bread

March 13, 2012

Irish soda bread, cooling on a rackSince St. Patrick's Day is this Saturday, why not celebrate by gathering the kids in the kitchen and whipping up a loaf of traditional Irish brown soda bread? It's so easy to make—and so good—that I bet you'll find yourself making it more than just on March 17.

This dense, moist bread gets its leavening from baking soda and buttermilk, hence the name. I happen to like the brown kind, made with whole wheat flour, the best, but you're welcome to use all white flour if you so choose.

A Family that Eats Together: Easy Chicken Cacciatore with Red Pepper Sauce

March 11, 2012

Easy chicken cacciatoreMarin 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 slow cooker Moroccan brisket with red onions, broccoli rabe pesto with orechiette, kheema mattar curry, Guiness and onion soup with Irish cheddar croutons, and this easy chicken cacciatore with red pepper sauce..

This is a quick and easy recipe that the kids will love. The peppers make the sauce sweet which is a nice addition to cacciatore. What I love about it is how easy it is to make it. I let the chicken poach in the sauce so it is not only healthy but it makes the chicken super juicy with little effort on my part. I serve my cacciatore with spaghetti but any pasta will do. This recipe gets better as left-over’s. I added some peas to it for our lunch today and it was a hit!

Cooking with Kids: Delicious Oatmeal Raisin Mini Muffins

March 10, 2012

Oatmeal muffinsI'm always looking for healthy but tasty snacks for the kids' lunch boxes or for after school. My daughter brought this oatmeal muffin recipe home from preschool last spring and it's been a hit in our house ever since. This recipe is easy enough that children can help out in nearly every stage (let mom or dad take them in and out of the oven, though).

With whole-grain oats and raisins, these muffins are tasty and kid-friendly, but full of nutrition and fiber. You can also add chopped walnuts or substitute dried cranberries for the raisins. Be creative!

You can make these as either full-sized or mini muffins. Mini muffins are a real hit with the kids, and they're the perfect size for school lunches, after-school snacks, or for play group treats. We often bring these for school class parties, too.

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