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.

Enrich Your Imagination at "Why Is Mud?"

March 9, 2014

Why is Mud?Marin Mommies presents a sponsored article from Marin writer Elise Holland and her interactive storytelling website Why Is Mud?

Calling all young readers! Enrich your imagination, have fun, and win prizes at Why Is Mud?, the interactive storytelling website from Marin writer Elise Holland. Read online and follow the adventures of Meylyne as she journeys through the enchanted land of Glendoch where she and her friends unravel the mystery of the Thorn Queen. Why Is Mud? is perfect for young readers ages 7 to 12.

Readers will get a new chapter of The Thorn Queen each week, and can then submit answers to questions about what they read. Those who answer correctly will win prizes, and can even have their answers written into the extra chapters for the book!

Vote Yes on Measure A for Novato Schools!

March 8, 2014

Yes on Measure A for Novato SchoolsNovato residents may have heard by now that Measure A is up for renewal soon. What is Measure A? It's a parcel tax that's been in place since 1992 that helps fund Novato's fantastic public schools. Renewing Measure A will not raise taxes—it just renews a source of existing school funding (and the State of California can't touch a penny of it). And as most Novato parents know, our local schools need all the funds they can get.

Measure A will help maintain comptetitive science, engineering, and math programs; help attract and retain high-quality teachers and maintain managable class sizes; and protect important music, arts, library, and athletic programs. None of the funds generated by Measure A can be taken by the state or used for administrator salaries.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for March 7, 8 & 9

March 7, 2014

Jack London State Historic ParkHere 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 7

  • Diesel Larkspur Pajama Party with Elisa Klevin
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Friday, 6–6:30 pm

    Pull on your PJs and bring your teddy bear to the bookstore! Author Elisa Kleven will be here to read you a bedtime story. Get cozy in front of the fireplace, listen to a story or two, have some milk and cookies and get your books signed. Then head home for bed. Elisa Kleven is the author and/or illustrator of more than 30 picture books for children. Location: 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle. For more info, call (415) 785-8177 or visit their website.
  • Beauty and the Beast
    Playhouse, San Anselmo
    Friday, 7 pm & Saturday, 1 pm

    Manor Elementary School 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders sing, dance, and act in a favorite love story! Tickets: $10 adults, $7 students/matinee. Location: 27 Kensignton Road, San Anselmo. 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 8

  • Novato Mothers Club Rummage Sale
    Downtown Novato Recreation Center
    Saturday, 9 am–3 pm

    One-stop shopping for your growing family! All items sold are in good condition. Maternity clothes, boys and girls clothes, toys, and books for infants, toddlers, & preschoolers. Plus everything you need for your baby—strollers, high chairs, & nursing items and more. Location: 950 Seventh Street, Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Great Baby Romp
    Presidio, the Observation Post
    Saturday, 9:30 am–1:30 pm

    Find a fantastic class for your baby or toddler at the Great Baby Romp. Enjoy classes, yoga, art, dance, complimentary lunch from Fresh Baby Bites, play areas, and even free nanny service at the exhibit hall so you can roam and explore some of the best resources the Bay Area has to offer. Cost: $65 per family. For more info, visit their website.
  • McInnis Park Family Fun Obstacle Run
    McInnis Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 9:30–11:30 am

    This is a family-oriented event that will have fun obstacles dispersed throughout the one mile course. Families will be challenged on their teamwork and endurance while participating in a fun afternoon! Location: McInnis Park, 310 Smith Ranch Road, San Rafael. Meet at the Hillside picnic area. For more info, call (415) 446-4423 or visit their website.
  • Family Farm Days: Ocean Exploration
    Slide Ranch, Muir Beach
    Saturday, 10 am–2 pm

    Enjoy ocean-themed activities and a hike to the tide pools. The low tide will reveal sea stars, anemones, and many other discoveries. Fee: $30 per person; age 2 and under free. Discounts apply for families of 4 or more. Register here. For more info, visit their website.
  • Kid's Love to Cook! Hands On Cooking Demonstration
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Saturday, 10:30–11:30 am

    DirectionFive is back at the Marin Country Mart Farmers' Market on Saturday! Kids and parents will enjoy a cooking demonstration and tasting with hands-on participation (appropriate for children of all ages). Haley, the market’s resident DirectionFive teacher knows that kids will eat almost anything, including raw vegetables, fruit, and nuts, if they are involved in chopping, mashing, measuring, mixing, and pouring. Location: 2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Camp Fair 2014
    Dominican University's Conlan Center Gym, San Rafael

    Saturday, 10 am–1 pm
    If you're trying to make a decision on the perfect summer camp for your kids, don't miss this Saturday's Marin Camp Fair at Conlan Center Gymnasium at Dominican University of California in San Rafael. There will be pizza, snacks, and a bounce house for the kids while parents visit representatives from over 100 local summer camps. For more info, visit their website.
  • The Adventures of Phineas McBoof with Dr. Noize Unplugged
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    Saturday, 11 am

    Doctor Noize, a singer and multi-instrumentalist with a passion for interactive pop/rock and a degree in music from Stanford, inspires young audiences to be musicians and creators themselves. He returns to the Discovery Theatre with the latest adventure of the mischievous monkey, Phineas McBoof. For ages 6 months and up. Cost: members $5; general $16 (Includes museum admission). For more info, visit their website.
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