Experience Life on the Farm at McClelland's Dairy Pumpkin Patch

October 10, 2014

McClelland's Pumpkin Patch PetalumaMcClelland's Dairy is a family-run, certified organic dairy farm located just west of Petaluma, and their annual Halloween pumpkin patch just keeps getting better and better every year. McClelland's is relatively low-key but bustling, and it offers a lot of fun for families, especially if you have small children or are just looking for a more genuine farm experience. If you haven't been there yet, it's definitley worth putting on your fall family itinerary.

The entrance to McClelland's can sneak up on you a little, so keep an eye out for their signs as you head down Bodega Road into the Two Rock area west of Petaluma. Turn into the dirt driveway and follow it over a little bridge to the dairy farm. On your left you'll see their three-acre pumpkin patch, where you're welcome to go pick that perfect Halloween pumpkin off the vine. Ample parking is available in the meadow on your right.

Pumpkins and More at the Tolay Fall Festival

October 9, 2014

Tolay Fall FestivalMany families in Marin and the North Bay have fond memories of visiting the popular pumpkin patch at Cardoza Ranch outside Petaluma. In 2005, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department acquired Cardoza Ranch, also known as Tolay Lake Ranch, turning its 1,737 acres of farmland into a county park.

Tolay Lake Ranch is a unique spot, with a freshwater lake, wetlands, diverse wildlife, and 8,000 years human habitation with extensive archaeological and historical sites. Tolay Lake Regional Park is currently under development and access is restricted, although the public can visit the park through a day-use permit program.

The Sonoma Regional Parks Department keeps the spirit of the old Cardoza pumpkin patch alive by holding the annual Tolay Fall Festival, now in its eighth year. This popular event takes place over two  weekends in October, October 11–13 and October 18–19, from 11 am–5 pm.

In addition to Halloween pumpkins in the huge pumpkin patch, the festival features a plentiful harvest of gourds, squash, multi-colored corn, and other produce, as well as a pumpkin seed-spitting contest, ranger-led hay rides, a giant straw maze, a Native American village with demonstrations, the Night Time Creatures Barn with the Creepy Crawly Critters Room, live animals, nature hikes, old-fashioned crafts , lawn games, and more.

Marin's Five Favorite Playgrounds for Family Fun

October 7, 2014

Pioneer Park in NovatoOne of the questions we often get asked is "What's the best playground in Marin?" Rather than give our opinion, again, we decided to put that question to our readers via social media, and to let you choose the top five playgrounds in Marin County. So, without further ado, here are the five best playgrounds in Marin, as chosen by Marin Mommies readers, along with the five runners-up:

Number 1: Pioneer Park, Novato

Pioneer Park must be a favorite of families in Marin, since it was the first choice by a wide margin. This large park has a recently improved playground with tot lot and equipment for older kids, as well as plenty of lawns, picnic areas, and shady trees. There are also tennis courts, restrooms, a bandshell, and even an historic cemetery to explore on the hill adjacent to the park. Location: 1007 Simmons Lane, Novato 94945

The Blue Angels Return to San Francisco for Fleet Week 2014!

October 7, 2014

Blue Angels perform in San Francisco for Fleet WeekCome and celebrate the men and women who serve in our country’s Navy and Marine Corps at San Francisco Fleet Week 2014. Fleet Week features a variety of events, including a parade of ships, an air show, live music, ship tours, and of course exciting performances by the Navy’s popular Blue Angels precision flying team, who return to the skies over San Francisco Bay this year after a hiatus due to federal budget cuts.

Events take place in a variety of locations on the San Francisco waterfront from October 9–13. The Blue Angels practice on Thursday, October 9, from noon to 5 pm, and rehearse on Friday, October 10 from 3 to 4 pm. They'll perform over San Francisco Bay on Saturday and Sunday, October 11 and 12, from 3–4 pm. They can be seen from a variety of locations on the Bay, including Angel Island and Fort Baker in Sausalito. The Blue Angels' performance is part of a Fleet Week airshow that also includes the Patriots jet team, the Horsemen P-51 Mustang Flight Team, the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute team, and others.

What's for Dinner: Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

October 6, 2014

chicken and broccoli stir fryI love it when I find a dish that everyone in the family loves and that's healthy, economical, and easy to make, too. This Chinese-inspired chicken and broccoli stir fry is all of those things. Serve it with some plain rice or Asian noodles and it's a complete dinner that comes together quickly.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

The 2014 Marin Mommies Pumpkin Patch Poll!

October 6, 2014

Petaluma Pumpkin PatchEvery family has their favorite place to pick their Halloween pumpkins. What's yours? Tell the world by voting for your favorite pumpkin patch below in Marin Mommies' fifth annual Pumpkin Patch Poll. You don't need to be a registered user to vote, so make your choice known! Participants can vote only once, and the poll will be open through Sunday, October 26, 2014.

2013's winner was was Marin County favorite Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, followed by Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch (last year's winner) in second, and with the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Farm in Petaluma coming in third. Who will take the top pumpkin patch honors this season?

If you don't see your favorite Marin or Sonoma County pumpkin patch listed here, let us know about it.

Fresh Healthy Family Meals from Pernilla's Pantry

October 6, 2014

Pernilla's PantrySometimes I find myself making the same things over and over again for dinner, or grabbing takeout more often than I probably should. That's why I was so interested in Pernilla's Pantry, a mom-run business here in Marin that offers creative healthy meals for busy families.

Pernilla's Pantry is a little different from other meal delivery services in that the food is not prepared for you in advance. Instead, you get a recipe cards and all the ingredients that you need to make four fantastic family meals for the week. Pernilla's Pantry was created by Pernilla, a Marin mom and Swedish native who loves to share her passion for food and good cooking with others.

We had the opportunity to try out a week's worth of meals from Pernilla's Pantry recently, and we were all very impressed! Here's how it works: log in to the Pernilla's Pantry website and choose your meals for the week. You can also choose to order dinner for two or a family of four. During our week we had grilled salmon with orzo and brocollini; roasted chicken with creamy broccoli slaw; tomato, olive, and spinach pasta; and pork tenderloin with snap pea salad.

A Visit to Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch

October 5, 2014

Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin PatchThis weekend we paid a visit to the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, a certified organic pumpkin patch that has been a Marin County tradition for 19 years! Located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, the farm is just west of the Nicasio Village Square right on Nicasio Valley Road. Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week through Halloween from 10 am to 6 pm, and it's definitely worth a visit this season.

Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green Italian and Australian varieties, a weird looking warty French pumpkin, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, and decorative cornstalks, apples, as well as drinks and snacks.

Like many Halloween pumpkin patches, Nicasio Valley Farms offers the obligatory jumpy houses and inflatable slide. There are also hay rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, farm animals to visit, a climbing wall, face painting, and a train. Many of these attractions have an admission fee, and some are available only on weekends and select days.

Our Top 10 Spooky Halloween Movies for Families

October 4, 2014

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were RabbitHalloween is a few weeks away, and there's nothing much better than watching a spooky (or not too scary) movie with the family and sharing a big bowl of popcorn. I polled everyone in our family to find out what their favorite Halloween movies were, and we came up with this list of ten that we think are must-sees.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (G). This Halloween classic has been family favorite since 1966, so you probably watched it when you were a kid. Charlie Brown still gets nothing but rocks while trick-or-treating, Linus is positive that the Great Pumpkin will pay a visit to the pumpkin patch, and it's still funny and touching. For all ages.

Spookly the Square Pumpkin (G). Based on the picture book of the same name, this story about a differently shaped pumpkin and his farmyard friends is funny and a cut above most Halloween programming for young children. Ages 1–5.

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