Novato's La Michoacana Serves Up Mexican Style Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

March 15, 2014

La Michoacana ice cream NovatoA few weeks ago, my kids noticed that the new La Michoacana ice cream store in Novato was almost ready to open, so we made sure to come check it out on its grand opening weekend around Valentine's Day. Since then, we've been back a few times to this shop selling delicious Mexican-style ice cream, frozen fruit bars (paletas), and other sweet treats. La Michoacana offers plenty of well-crafted ice cream standards, as well as a lot of flavors that you won't find at other ice cream stores, so it's well worth a visit if you're in Novato.

Located on Grant Avenue, downtown Novato's main drag, La Michoacana occupies a brightly colored stylish storefront. The interior is equally bright and cheerful, with a clean, modern feel. There's plenty of seating, and even a kids' area with small-scale tables and chairs for the little ones.

La Michoacana offers so many choices on its menu that it's almost overwhelming. Perhaps the first thing to do is to decide what you want: ice cream or a paleta? Ice cream flavors include familiar offerings like strawberry, pistachio, and cookies and cream, as well as more exotic options like Mexican vanilla, pine nut, mamey (a fruit native to Central America), and piña colada.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for March 14, 15 & 16

March 14, 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, March 14

  • Free Day at the Exploratorium
    San Francisco
    Friday, 10 am–5 pm

    Five annual free days are just one way the Exploratorium remains accessible to everyone, regardless of a person’s ability to pay the cost of admission. This time celebrate Pi Day (3.14) with free admission. Location: Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green St), San Francisco. For more info, call (415) 528-4444 or visit their website.
  • Glow in the Dark Geometry Party
    Diesel, A Bookstore in Larkspur
    Friday, 6 pm

    Kids are invited to a Glow-in-the-Dark Geometry Party at the Larkspur store. Grab your PJs and come down to the store geometry party! We’ll be exploring the wonderful world of geometry, learning and building crazy shapes out of glow sticks and Styrofoam balls. Then we’ll turn out the lights and watch the whole thing light up! For more info, call (415) 785-8177 or visit their website.
  • St. Patrick's Day Stories
    San Anselmo Library
    Friday, 3:30–4:30 pm

    Celebrate the rich heritage of the Celts with Irish native storyteller Maureen Kalbus who will whisk you away to the land of shamrocks and leprechauns. Everyone is welcome to attend! Location: 110 Tunstead Avenue, Council Chambers. For more info, visit their website.
  • Shrek! The Musical
    San Rafael Community Center
    Friday, 7:30 pm, Saturday, 1 pm & Sunday, 3 pm

    Shrek! The Musical, based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film that started it all, brings the hilarious story of everyone's favorite ogre to dazzling new life on the stage. Full of all-new songs, great dancing and breathtaking scenery, Shrek! The Musical is part romance, part twisted fairy tale, and all irreverent fun for everyone! Tickets: $20. Purchase tickets here.

Saturday, March 15

  • Family BikeAbout
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday, 8:30–10 am

    Pedal with your pals while enjoying the sights and sounds of your very own zoological park! Families can bring their bicycles to the Zoo for this informative, 1.5-hour, docent-led cycling tour. It’s great to be in the Zoo ahead of the crowds and watch the animals start their day. Registration includes parking and Zoo admission. Participants must bring a bicycle; the SF Zoo does not provide bicycles to rent. Cost: SFZS members $18 per pedaler and non-members: $23 per pedaler. Location: 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • The 4th Annual Marin Teen Girl Conference
    Embassy Suites Hotel, San Rafael
    Saturday, 9 am–3:30 pm

    From troubled teen to teen empowerment specialist and confidence coach, Kathleen Hassan shares a message of self-worth and personal power that comes from her own real-life experiences. Those hard-earned lessons have become the tools for transformation to help women of all ages find their voice and authentic power within. Kathleen will share the secrets of success that completely transformed her life to one that is beyond her wildest dreams. Registration: $15. Location: 101 McInnis Pkwy, San Rafael. To register, visit their website.
  • Bunny Boot Camp!
    Fairfax Library
    Saturday, 11 am

    Bring the little ones ages 3 to 8 to a puppet show. Lieutenant Longears and his Battalion of Bunnies must complete the final delivery of Easter eggs before Sergeant Cottontail blows his top. However, the Big Bad Wolf has other plans for the eggs. He wants to eat them all! Will Wolf get all the eggs for himself? Will Lt. Longears be able to save the day? Find out in Puppet Art Theater’s Bunny Bootcamp!! Location: 2097 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Fairfax. For more info, call 415-453-8151 or visit their website.
  • Olompali Heritage Foods: Spring Greens!
    Olompali State Historic Park, Novato
    Saturday, 11 am-1 pm

    The land at Olompali has provided fresh and local “California Cuisine” for thousands of years.  Learn about wild foods enjoyed by Coast Miwoks, crops cultivated on the Burdell Ranch and bread baked by members of Olompali’s hippie commune.  An easy walking exploration of the park will be followed by a tasting of miner’s lettuce salad and nettle-mint iced tea. More info: (415) 898-4362 x 204 or visit their website.
  • Baby Loves Disco
    San Francisco Zoo
    Saturday, 11 am–3 pm

    Baby loves disco is an afternoon dance party featuring real music spun and mixed by real DJs, blending classic disco tunes from the ’70s and ’80s with today’s hottest dance beats. DJ Big G, MC Jesse B, and T Rock will have us rockin' to kid-friendly tunes all afternoon. Urban Sitter will be guiding the fun at fun craft tables to make pipe-cleaner cereal bracelets, do magic scratch, create color-your-own puzzles, temporary tattoos, and face painting. Free with paid Zoo admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Gustafer Yellowgold's Show
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Saturday, 11 am–noon

    Gustafer Yellowgold is a little yellow cone-headed fellow who traveled here from the sun—and the brainchild of musician/artist Morgan Taylor. This show has become an international phenomenon described by the New York Times as “a cross between Yellow Submarine and Dr. Seuss.” Taylor combines whimsical animation with live music and storytelling to create a wholly imaginative and creative experience. Tickets: members $5, general $16 (includes museum admission). For more information, visit their website.
  • San Francisco's 163rd Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival
    Civic Center Plaza
    Saturday, 11:30 am–5 pm

    The colorful festivities and parade will showcase Irish culture through live performance and entertainment, arts and crafts exhibitors, food and beverage concessions, and children's rides and inflatables. The parade begins at 11:30 am at the corner of Second and Market Streets, where more than 5,000 participants from all over the USA will work their way City Hall. For more info, visit their website.
  • 19th Annual Fairfax Brewfest
    The Fairfax Pavilion, 142 Bolinas Road
    Saturday, 1–5 pm

    Kick off the St. Patrick’s Day weekend early with the 19th annual Fairfax Brewfest at the Pavilion! Come enjoy a day of great beer, music, food, and friends and a chance to support the beauty and vitality of downtown Fairfax. Tickets: adults $30, minors 17–20 $15. Kids 16 and under are free. For more info, visit their website.

Craft Idea: Easy St. Patrick's Day Friendship Bracelets

March 13, 2014

St. Patrick's Day bead braceletMy daughter wanted to do an original craft for St. Patrick's Day—the only criteria were that it was something she could do by herself, she could wear it, and that it was green. I remembered my son making a simple bead friendship bracelet a few years back, so we decided to make St. Patty's day versions. They're super easy to make, even for littler children, and are a perfect way to wear your green on St. Patrick's Day.

To make the bracelets, you'll need green plastic beads and green pipe cleaners. I found both of these at the Dollar Tree, but they're also available at most craft stores, like Michael's or Beverly.

To assemble, string beads—we alternated dark and light green shades—along a strand of pipe cleaner. Vary the length of pipe cleaner and number of beads depending on the size of the child's wrist. Leave about an inch of pipe cleaner showing at each end, and twist together to complete the bracelet. The one thing I did was to snip the pipe cleaner to size, otherwise, the ones we put together were 100% kid-made. My daughter was so proud that she made it herself, that she wore it to bed, even.

LEGO Engineering Summer Camps at Play-Well Marin in San Anselmo

March 12, 2014

Play-Well gear driven LEGO carMy kids love LEGOs, so of course we're big fans of Play-Well, the amazing LEGO activity center in San Anselmo. Play-Well operates on the belief that kids learn best through play, and their activity center is a fantastic place for children to explore, problem solve, and create through the world of LEGO. My kids always have so much fun here they don't even realize they're learning about engineering!

Play-Well offers popular LEGO-inspired engineering summer camps, where kids in grades K–8 can play with LEGOs to their hearts' content and learn engineering fundamentals at the same time. Camps are designed to develop and enhance students' problem solving and critical thinking skills, expose children to concepts and vocabulary of engineering, architecture, and physics, and above all have a great time. Some of this years' camps include: Pre-Engineering using LEGO, Art and Architecture using LEGO, Ninjaneering using LEGO, Bashem' Bots using LEGO, Batman Mechanics with LEGO® Workshop, Jr. Robotics using LEGO, Mine, Craft, Build Survival Game using LEGO and much more. Check out their complete schedule here.

St. Patrick's Day Book for Kids: One Potato, Two Potato

March 11, 2014

One Potato, Two Potato One Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren (32 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2006) isn't strictly a book about St. Patrick's Day, but it has enough Irish charm, humor, and magic to make it a fitting choice to read on and around the holiday.

This retelling of the old "magic pot" story centers on Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady, an unbelievably scrawny (they're so skinny they can sit side-by-side in their one chair) old Irish farm couple who are dirt poor but very happy with the little they have. When Mr. O'Grady digs up a large old pot in his potato field and drops their last potato in it, he finds that the pot doubles whatever is placed into it.

The O'Gradys exploit this magical discovery, but what do they do when Mrs. O'Grady falls in and two Mrs. O'Gradys come out?

One Potato, Two Potato is a delight, from its simple funny text that begs to be read aloud to U'Ren's evocative and humorous illustrations. It's a tale with themes of magic, generosity, contentment, and above all, love. My kids just love this book—I can't even begin to think how many times they've brought this home from the library.

Cool Camps for Spring Break in Marin and Beyond

March 11, 2014

Looking for something fun for the kids to do over the upcoming spring break? Check out some of the great spring break day camps here in Marin and San Francisco. Schools have different spring break schedules, so camp dates vary. See our list below:

  • Studio 4 Art
    1133 Grant Avenue

    (415) 596-5546
    Campers will have the choice of many different projects each day. Explore clay, painting, printmaking, collage, mixed media, mosaics and wheel throwing! The camps are March 31–April 4 from 9:30 am-–12:30 pm ($65 daily; $255 weekly for 5 day camp) for ages 4–14, or 9:30 am–3:30 pm ($105 daily; $435 weekly for 5-day camp) for ages 7–14. A sibling discount is offered. For more info, visit
  • Ark Row Spring Break Camp
    122 Main Street, Tiburon
    (415) 435-2200

    Ark Row Center for Enrichment in Tiburon offers a spring break camp April 14–18 for ages 2–7. Camp includes: arts and crafts, music, cooking, games, and more. Camp cost is $45 per day, 9 am–noon and $60 per day 9 am–1 pm, extended hours available, sibling discounts. For more info, visit their website.

Easy and Delicious Slow-Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day

March 11, 2014

Corned beef and cabbageSt. Patrick's Day is coming up, and for many that means it's time to cook that quintessential Irish-American dish: corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef—usually a tough cut of meat like brisket or round—requires long, slow, cooking over low heat to make it tender, so it's the perfect candidate for preparing in your slow cooker.

Start your corned beef in the slow cooker early in the day; there's a minimal amount of preparation involved. Some recipes call for adding most of the vegetables at the same time, but I think they turn out a bit overcooked. Instead, add them to the pot during the last two hours of cooking.

With the proliferation of vegetables cooked with the meat, there's something here for everyone in the family. Serve your corned beef accompanied by grainy Dijon mustard, horseradish sauce*, and a gravy** made from the cooking liquid. Also, when it comes to corned beef, bigger is better. Much of the weight of the meat is water, and it shrinks in size during cooking, so budget about one pound of meat per diner for a generous serving and leftovers (think corned beef sandwiches… mmm…). This recipe serves about 4 people, depending on how hungry everybody is.

A Family That Eats Together: Sloppy Joes - Italian Style

March 10, 2014

Sloppy joes, Italian styleMarin 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.

This recipe takes the average sloppy joy recipe to the next level and you will never want to go back! The pancetta, like any form of bacon, makes everything better. The sauce is smoky and savory. Add the parmesan and you have a meal you won't soon forget!

Serves: 8–10
Prep time:
20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


  • 1 pound ground beef

Spectacular Views and Spring Wildflowers Await at Ring Mountain

March 10, 2014

Ring MountainEarly spring is a perfect time to take a family hike at Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve near Tiburon. The preserve's renowned wildflower display will soon be in full swing (it's simply stunning), and the views of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais, and the entire Bay Area are spectacular.

We took a family hike there this week, and spotted California poppies, yellow bush lupines, buttercups, and other colorful flowers coming into bloom.. If you haven't been to Ring Mountain, it's definitely worth a visit. Make sure you bring a camera—it's a great place for a family photo.

This preserve on a hill above Tiburon and east Corte Madera was saved from development back in the 1990s, and is home to a number of rare plants like the Tiburon Mariposa Lilly, which is found nowhere else in the world. Large boulders and rocks are scattered throughout the hillside, giving it an otherworldly appearance. You'll even find remnants of Native American settlements here in the way of petroglyphs and a grinding rock.

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