Hiking with Kids in Marin: Mt. Tamalpais' East Peak

August 14, 2012

Mount Tamalpais East Peak Verna Dunshee TrailI grew up hiking on the trails of Mt. Tam with my family, and have fond memories of walking around the summit of the mountain and marveling at the fantastic views. The East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais is a great place to go for families looking to take a hike with small children, and it also offers what are arguably the most spectacular views of any hike in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it's a great spot to take out-of-town visitors, too.

The easy, paved, .7-mile Verna Dunshee Trail that circles the mountaintop is accessible and perfect for strollers, too, and it's recently been repaved and upgraded. In addition to panoramic views of the Bay Area, the East Peak has a small visitor center and gift shop, as well as a seasonal snack bar offering candy, hot dogs, ice cream, and sodas. It's always a great place to stop for a treat after a family hike.

You'll also find the Gravity Car Barn and Museum near the snack bar. Open to the public on weekends from noon to 4 pm, the Gravity Car Barn pays tribute to the long gone Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway, an excursion railroad that from 1896 to 1930 transported visitors up to the summit of Mt. Tam via steam train, and back down to Mill Valley by means of a free-wheeling gravity car, a replica of which is housed inside the gravity car barn and is rolled out when the museum is open.

A Family That Eats Together: Flank Steak Pinwheels

August 13, 2012

Flank steak pinwheelsMarin 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 quick and easy shrimp and green bean stir fry, 3 cup chicken with garlic spinach, rocket pesto with linguni, chicken fried rice, and these flank steak pinwheels.

It seems like premade flank steak pinwheels are the rage at the grocery stores where I live. I have bought them and never really thought that they were all that good. In this recipe, I attempt to make them juicer and tastier than anything you buy pre-made. The result is a fantastic salty-sweet filling that my family gobbled up. My son especially loved the sauce to dip the steak in. I served it with Israeli couscous and an heirloom cherry tomato salad.

Servings: 4–6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

The Best Savings Account for Kids

August 13, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by financial planner and mom Tanya Steinhofer.

Once my son’s savings piggy bank accumulated a fair amount, it had been my plan to take him to a local bank to open a passbook savings account, so he could experience opening an account, have tangible evidence of his money and watch it grow. I recently began the search for a passbook savings account and came to the realization that this type of account has gone the way of the Dodo bird. For those unfamiliar with this type of account, it’s a savings account that comes with a physical booklet that gets stamped with the amount of deposits and withdrawals (similar to a check register). So I broadened my search to see what type of savings accounts (not investment accounts) are available for kids. I called a few local banks and some national ones with large footprints locally, as well as one online-only bank (ING Direct).

Fresh Blackberry Puffed Pancake

August 12, 2012

Oven-puffed berry pancakeThis puffed pancake or "Dutch baby" is a favorite breakfast treat in our house. During the summer we love to make this puffy, custardy pancake with fresh berries, like wild blackberries that we go out and pick ourselves. Blueberries and raspberries work great, too. We also make it with apples and other seasonal fruit at different times of year. The kids love to watch this pancake cook through the oven window, since the batter puffs up dramatically as it bakes.

It's actually quite easy to forget to put on your oven mitt when you're moving the hot pan in and out of the oven—I know this from painful experience—so always make sure you have one on you hand before you reach in to grab the skillet handle. Needless to say, this probably isn't a recipe for little ones to help with, but they can with measuring ingredients and mixing the batter.


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or even a mix)
  • Warm maple syrup or powdered sugar for serving

10 Money Saving Tips for Back to School Shopping

August 11, 2012

The start of the school year is just around the corner, so it’s the time to start shopping for those back-to-school clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, and all the supplies needed for school itself.

The costs of all those clothes and other necessities add up, of course. Seeing how much you actually spent on back-to-school stuff can often come as shock. Fortunately, there are ways to cut down on the expenses of back-to-school. Here are a few tips to get the things your kids need while not breaking the bank:

  1. Make a list of the items your kids need and prioritize them by importance.
  2. Once you make your list, stick to it when you go shopping. All those little things you put in your cart can really add up.
  3. Check your home school supplies inventory before you set out on a back-to-school shopping trip. You never know what you’ll find that you can check off your list.
  4. Set a back-to-school budget and stick to it.
  5. Seek out those end-of-summer sales and stock up if you can.
  6. Research clothing, backpacks, and other items online first to compare prices and find the best deals.
  7. Visit your local consignment stores, especially those that specialize in kids’ clothes like Marin Kids Consignment in San Rafael. You’ll be amazed at some of the deals you can find there on gently used and like-new items.

Parents Come Together to Save Ring Mountain Day School

August 8, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Karen LeFurgy, Ring Mountain Day School parent and Vice Chair of the school's Board of Trustees.

As a mother who enjoys reading Marin Mommies on a regular basis, I wanted to share with other local moms a positive story about a group of engaged and active parents at Ring Mountain Day School. I’m very proud of our story and particularly eager to share it with other parents who may be searching for a top quality school that embodies what a true school community is all about.

All three of my children are attending or have attended Ring Mountain and I serve as Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees. For those who are unfamiliar with us, we are an independent K–8 school in Mill Valley with an enrollment of just under 100 students. At Ring Mountain, we try to be a little different than other schools by offering small class sizes of 8–15 students so that our faculty can apply an individualized, integrated approach and teach a core curriculum that emphasizes problem solving in real-life situations, promoting comprehensive

What You Can Do to Help Prepare Your Preschooler for Kindergarten

August 6, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by dad, parenting coach, author, and co-creator of Studio Grow Tom Limbert. Learn more about him and how he helps parents and families at parentcoachtom.com.

Somewhere in a big room with a long table and a bunch of chairs, some guys decided the way to fix our failing education system in America was to cram all the curriculum down to younger children quicker and sooner. These visionaries went on to conclude that it would be a good idea to test all those children and, based on those results, reward some schools and penalize some teachers. Teachers felt the pressure so they taught more children faster. They needed those more children to be more ready when they started kindergarten in the first place. So parents felt the pressure and decided to hold most of their children back until they were “ready” for kindergarten. If you have a preschooler right now you know all too well about this pressure. Bet you’re stressed about whether your child will be ready. Hoping your school will bring him up to speed? Me too. But there’s plenty parents can be doing at home to help prepare their children for kindergarten.

Most parents immediately think of numbers, letters and colors when they think of early childhood education and kindergarten preparedness. But any preschool or kindergarten teacher will tell you, there’s much more to it. There are social and emotional elements that are much-less quantifiable than the cognitive aspects of development, but just as integral to a child’s performance in school. The good news is there are many ways you can help prepare your child for kindergarten in your home on a daily basis. You don’t even have to go out of your way really. Just be a bit more alert to learning opportunities. Keep in mind that in order for the machine that we prefer to call our schooling system to operate effectively, children will mostly have to be able to focus, follow directions and respect others.

Birthday Party Fun at PlayLand in Sausalito

August 1, 2012

PlayLand birthday party at the MLK Gym in SausalitoThe PlayLand indoor bounce house experience in the MLK Gym in Sausalito is always a blast to visit. We recently attended a birthday party there, and everyone, kids of all ages and adults included, had a fantastic time! It's definitely a place to consider when planning your next children's party.

PlayLand is a full-sized gymnasium full of inflatable bounce houses, including a 40-by-20-foot sports arena, a 15-foot slide, a bounce house with basketball hoop, and a toddler bounce zone. PlayLand offers two different party packages: semi private weekday afternoon parties and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon private parties.

Weekday afternoon parties run for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and are for up to 12 children (you can pay for more). Two time slots are available, 2–3:30 pm and 3:45–5:15 pm. The cost is $150 for Sausalito residents and $160 for non-residents. You'll have exclusive use of a decorated private party room with balloons and table covers, and will share the bounce house facilities with the public. You'll need to provide all food, drink, and tableware, and alcoholic drinks are not allowed.

Marin Parents Place’s Programs and Services Address Your Family’s Needs

August 1, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Rebecca Wood Breen, LCSW, Parents Place Coordinator, Marin County. She highlights some of the programs and services offered to Marin parents by the Parents Place in San Rafael.

Your 2-year-old constantly throws himself on the floor when he doesn’t get what he wants. Your 5-year-old torments her 3-year-old sister. Your 13-year-old won’t speak to her step-father. And you’re so worn out from managing one domestic crisis after another that going to work in the morning seems like a vacation.What can you do?

Parents Place in Marin County can’t take you away from your challenges and problems, but we can help you resolve them and make life better for yourself and your family. We gear all of our programs toward practical, effective, easy-to-implement solutions that are custom-tailored to meet your family’s specific needs. Our range of services includes:

  • Support for expectant and new parents, including a free New Moms’ Support Group, Preparing for Childbirth with Yoga couples workshops, Infant Sleep and Infant Massage workshops, and breastfeeding support. We recognize the importance of support and community during this exciting and challenging transition.
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