10 Fun Family Outing Ideas for Spring Break

April 14, 2014

Drum bridge at Japanese Tea GardenWhat are you doing on your week off from school? Here are a few of our picks for fun things to do with the family around Marin, the Bay Area, and Northern California during Spring Break. Enjoy!

Cash Flow Is King

April 13, 2014

Tanya SteinhoferMarin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and financial planner Tanya Steinhofer, CFA,CFP®.

There is an old saying that “Cash is King”. Its origins are unclear, but it has been widely used in reference to the tendency of companies and households to hold excess cash in times of uncertainty or distress to preserve flexibility. In the financial planning world, I prefer to think of the phrase “Cash Flow is King” because understanding and managing one’s cash flow is critical to being able to build wealth and save for important life goals.

The first phase of managing your cash flow is to understand how much income you make each month, net of taxes. This should include your annual bonus or commission income, averaged out over the year. Once you know what your monthly net income is, you can decide how to allocate it.

When Life Hands You Meyer Lemons, Make Lemon Bars

April 12, 2014

Lemon barLemon bars have to be one of my all time favorite desserts. I usually reserve lemon bars for special occasions, because they are so sweet and rich. They are great for a special treat, party or a school event.

When a friend gave me a big bag of Meyer lemons from her tree and mentioned that they make spectacular lemon bars, I just had to try them out with this recipe. If you're not familiar with Meyer lemons, they're a seasonal citrus fruit that's similar to the regular Eureka lemons that you find in the grocery store, but with a thinner peel and sweeter and more aromatic. The lemon bars they made were truly fantastic, with an amazing citrus flavor that you simply won't get from grocery store lemons. If you don't have a Meyer lemon tree yourself (or have a friend who does), you can find them Trader Joe's or at one of the local farmers markets—while they're in season.

Here is the recipe I used for lemon bars. Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but you have to offset the tartness of the lemons. If you don't have Meyer lemons, that's OK. This recipe is still fantastic with regular lemons, too.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for April 11, 12 & 13

April 10, 2014

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 throughout the Bay Area in our Family Events Calendar.

Friday, April 11

  • CHOMP! They Came from the Swamp
    Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–4:30 pm

    This new exhibit is for the entire family. The Special Exhibits Gallery will be transformed into a swampy paradise for hundreds of meat-eating plants. Visitors get a bug’s eye view of a few of these peckish plants to learn why these plants have adapted to attract, capture and, eat prey, as well as how they have perfected and honed their hunting skills. Admission fee applies. For more info, visit their website.
  • Easter Bunny Photos
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Friday & Saturday, noon–8 pm and Sunday 11 am–6 pm
    While your kids are waiting for the big day, they can visit the Easter Bunny and have their picture taken with him at his whimsical spring house at Northgate in Terra Linda. He'll be at the Macy's wing starting on April 4. For more info, visit their website.
  • Basics of Freshwater Fishing
    McInnis Park Pond, San Rafael
    Friday, 4–6 pm

    Bring the family for an afternoon of fishing. Park rangers will teach the basics of freshwater fishing at McInnis Park Pond. A limited number of fishing poles, bait and tackle boxes will be provided first-come, first-serve. Fishing license required for participants 16 and over. Meet at the skatepark in McInnis Park in San Rafael (310 Smith Ranch Road) and we will hike up to the pond. For more info, contact ranger Dan Sauter at DSauter@marincounty.org or visit their website.

Saturday, April 12

  • Spring Eggstravaganza!
    Mill Valley Community Center
    Saturday, April 12, 8:30 am–noon

    Join Mr. E. Bunny for a breakfast and photo op from 8:30–10 am (don’t forget your camera). Mr. E. Bunny will start each egg hunt: 10 am for ages 2 and under, 10:15 am for ages 3–4 and 5–8. Egg hunt is free, but tickets required for breakfast. Tickets available at the Community Center & Aquatics/Fitness Center. Adults $6, children $4, 2y and under free. Location: 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. for more info, call ( 415) 383-1370 or visit their website.
  • 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 kid's storytelling, 9:30–10:30 am. For more info, visit their website.
  • Healthy Kids Day
    Marin YMCA, San Rafael
    Saturday, 9 am–noon

    Bring the family for a day filled with fun and activities! This year all kinds of fun events scheduled to remind kids and families it’s important to get out and play. Come hungry—the Marinwood Fire Department will be serving a pancake breakfast. All events are free to the community. Location: 1500 Los Gamos Drive, San Rafael.For more information contact Niel Bergquist at (415) 446-2152 or visit their website.
  • Easter Bunny Brunch & Carnival
    Belvedere Community Center
    Saturday, 9:30 am–noon
    There will be a brunch ($5 per person) and an Easter egg hunt ($5 per child). Brunch takes place from 9:30 am–10 am, and the Easter egg hunt will take place in the playground starting at 10 am; the children will be grouped by ages. Buy your event package before the event! Bunny Hop Package is $10 per child and includes wristband for age appropriate hunt and 10 tickets. Egg-stravaganza Package is $20 per child and includes wristband for age appropriate hunt and 20 tickets. Extra tickets will be available for purchase at the event. Tickets are non-refundable. For more info, visit their website.
  • Easter Bunny Breakfast
    The Village at Corte Madera, Cheesecake Factory
    Saturday, 9–10 am
    Children of all ages will enjoy the Easter Bunny, music by Tim Cain, balloon animals, and more! Cash or check only; payments accepted at the door. Suggested donation $8 per person. RSVP to (415) 924-8588. Seating is limited! For more info visit their website.
  • Cal Day 2014
    UC Berkeley
    Saturday, 9:45 am–6 pm

    Cal Day is UC Berkeley's annual open house showcasing everything the renowned university has to offer. There's plenty for kids and families to do: tour the campus, meet a K-9 officer from the campus police department, watch Cal sports teams, and participate in hands-on science activities and demonstrations (get your Science@Cal passport stamped). Of course you can listen to the Cal Band and other music acts, too. Find a full roster of events here. For more info, visit their website.

Win Tickets to the April 29 Speak to Me Event: The How of Happiness

April 10, 2014

Sonja LyubomirskySpeak to Me, Marin's premiere series of intelligent, inspiring speaking events for women, presents the final event in its 2013/2014 evening series, "The How of Happiness" with Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., on Tuesday, April 29 at 6:30 pm at the Mill Valley Community Center.

Sonja Lyubomirsky is professor of psychology at UC Riverside and leading expert in the science of happiness, as well as the author of two books: The Myths of Happiness and The How of Happiness. She will present the latest science and share results of her extensive research on how we can create happier and more fulfilling lives for ourselves, our families and our communities.

We're giving away one set of two tickets to this event to a lucky Marin Mommies reader! The first reader to send an email to contests@marinmommies.com with "Speak to Me April" in the subject line will receive the two tickets. Many thanks to Speak to Me for sponsoring this giveaway. Read our complete giveaway rules here.

Marin County Farmers' Markets 2014

April 10, 2014

It’s spring, and that means it's time to go to your nearby farmers' market and buy fresh organic produce and other locally grown and produced goodies. Marin has some year-round farmers' markets, but the majority of them start up again in spring after going on hiatus in the fall. Here is a list of of year-round and opening dates for a variety of local farmer's markets throughtout Marin and the North Bay.

Year-round farmers' markets:

  • Civic Center Farmers' Market in San Rafael takes place every Thursday and Sunday morning from 8 am–1 pm. They have lots of organically grown produce, breads, eggs, and fresh cut flowers. The Thursday farmer's market is located next the Civic Center duck pond and the Sunday one is located in the Civic Center parking lot.
  • Corte Madera Farmers' Market takes place every Wednesday from noon–5 pm. This farmers' market is located at the Corte Madera Town Center off Highway 101.
  • Marin County Mart Farmers Market happens every Saturday from 9 am–2 pm, rain or shine. Pony rides for kids from 10 am–2 pm, live family entertainment, and more. At Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Larkspur Landing Circle.
  • Marinwood Community Farmer's Market, at the Marinwood Plaza in San Rafael on Saturday mornings from 9 am–2 pm. Located at Marinwood Plaza 101 Marinwood Avenue San Rafael.,
  • Mill Valley Farmers' Market takes place year-round on Fridays from 9:30 am–2:30 pm at the CVS Pharmacy parking lot next to the Alto Shopping Center, off of Blithedale and Lomita in Mill Valley.
  • Sausalito Farmers’ Market, Sundays from 10 am–2 pm at Dunphy Park adjacent to Bridgeway in Sausalito

Color Your Easter Eggs with Homemade Natural Dyes

April 8, 2014

Easter eggs with natural dyesColoring Easter eggs is a fun spring tradition, but do you really know what's in those commercial dye kits that you pick up at the supermarket? Dying your Easter egg dyes with your own homemade natural dyes is easier than you think, and the results can be really beautiful. There are plenty of recipes and formulas out there, some of which work better than others.

Over the years, we've experimented with various mixtures and figured out a few that really worked well. You can make these plant- and food-based dyes with many of the things that you have on hand in the pantry or refrigerator, or can pick up at the farmer's market, so why not give it a try?

When we do this our kitchen becomes part art studio and part mad scientist's lab. The process is similar for each dye: mix up a natural color source with water, white vinegar and salt, simmer it to extract the color, and dip in your hard-boiled eggs. The results take more time than your standard Easter egg coloring kits, so patience is a virtue here. Our kids always spend quite a bit of time hovering over the dye bowls wondering if they're ready yet. "Not yet" is usually the answer.

Beach to Boardwalk: A Family Getaway to Santa Cruz

April 8, 2014

Santa Cruz panorama from the Dream InnOne of the great things about living in Northern California is the fact that there's no shortage of fantastic places to visit that are only a short drive away. A destination we love to visit for its beaches, stunning views, laid-back attitude, and world-famous Boardwalk is the seaside town of Santa Cruz.

The quintessential California beachside town, Santa Cruz is an ideal place for a family getaway for a long weekend, with plenty for everyone to do, from swimming and surfing to playing at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We also love the fact that Santa Cruz is only about two hours away by car—a road trip distance that everyone can manage without getting too cranky or rambunctious.

There's so much to do there that we can't possibly cover everything in one short article, so here are a few of our favorite highlights for a family visit on summer vacation, spring break, or any other time of year.

Create a Cute and Colorful Easter Egg Wreath

April 7, 2014

Easter egg wreathEaster is less than 2 weeks away, and my kids and I have been busy creating festive holiday crafts to decorate the house for our big family celebration. My daughter insisted on making a cute and decorative wreath for the front door, so we came up with this fun and easy Easter egg wreath paper craft.

If you don't want to create your egg shapes freehand, I made a basic egg template that you can download and print onto colored paper. Get it here.

To make this craft you'll need:

  • Paper plates
  • Paper Easter grass, multicolored
  • Pastel colored paper for the eggs
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Markers, crayons, paint, glitter, etc.
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