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Halloween, Autumn, Christmas, Winter, Holiday, Thanksgiving, Holiday camps, Valentine's Day, Groundhog Day, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Spring, Mother's Day, Earth Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Summer, Holidays, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Father's Day, Labor Day, Time Change, Decorated Houses, Kwanzaa, Spring Break, Spring Cleaning, Gift Guide, Holiday Dance, Ski Week, Easter, Fall, Holiday Stress, New Year's, New Year's Eve, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Handmade holiday crafts make great gifts, so make sure you check out Studio4Art's creative Saturday workshops in November and December. All Saturday workshops take place from 11 am to 12:30 pm.
Create an imaginative clay gingerbread house on November 5 and December 3 ($40). It will last a life time and is sure to become a family heirloom. Many families come to this workshop year after year and create their own villages! Begin your house with slab construction, then add clay molded to look like candy and end with a finished piece that is sure to dazzle.
On November 12 make cards with handmade papers, fabric, sewing machines, block printing, printmaking and stamps ($20). Your cards will be beautiful enough to be framed! Each student receives 6 cards to create.
Make your own clay Christmas tree ornaments on November 19 ($30). It's amazing what you can create with a pound of clay! Creating and glazing will be completed in this one-day workshop. Families are welcome to work together. Extra clay is available at additional cost.
Although I've been told making your own homemade granola is incredibly easy, I've never tried it until now. Granola is, in fact, really easy to make, and it's fun, too. It's really hard to mess up (unless you overcook it), and it's delicious as a breakfast cereal, stirred into yogurt, used in other recipes, or just eaten out of hand as a snack.
My five-year-old daughter and I recently cooked up a batch after kindergarten. Since it's fall, we decided to make a "pumpkin pie" granola, inspired by the pumpkin pie spice granola we often buy at Trader Joe's. This recipe (cobbled together from a few out on the Web), uses actual pumpkin puree as well as pumpkin pie spice to make it even more delicious and healthy. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already, too.
As Halloween nears, kids love to read spooky (and not-so-spooky) stories about ghosts, goblins, witches, and pumpkins. Actually, in our house, we read some of our Halloween books year-round. If you're looking for some great Halloween reads to enjoy with your family, here's a list of some of our current favorites, arranged by age/reading level.
Since many kids (ours included) have a love/hate relationship with the spookier aspects of Halloween, you'll probably want to check and make sure some of these books are appropriate for your children, especially the ones listed for older readers.
The book links below take you to Amazon.com; search for them online in the children's catalog of the Marin County Free Library here.
I just bought a mini muffin pan and it's changed my life. No really, it has—not in a big way, but it's inspired us to experiment with different muffin recipes. A healthy muffin makes a great breakfast treat, lunch box snack, playgroup munchie, or Halloween party goodie. One of our favorite muffins to make in the fall (and year-round, even), are pumpkin muffins. They're delicious, healthy (pumpkins have lots of fiber, beta carotene, and protein), and easy to make. Sometimes we just grab a box of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread mix, but more often than not, we make them from scratch. They make the house smell great when they're baking, too.
The kids also like to help make the muffins, and have a lot of fun stirring, mixing, and cracking eggs. Portioning the batter out into muffin cups and working with the oven are best left to the grownups, however. Feel free to add raisins or chopped nuts if you like (1/4 cup). This recipe makes about a dozen muffins or 24 mini muffins, and can be easily doubled if you're feeding a crowd.
This weekend we took the kids to the first pumpkin patch of the season (but certainly not the last). We visited the Adobe Pumpkin Farmin Petaluma, located at the intersection of Adobe Road and East Washington Street. We've sort of made it an annual tradition to visit Adobe on its opening weekend, which usually coincides with the Weekend Along the Farm Trails event. Adobe Pumpkin Farm is also usually the first pumpkin patch to open in the fall, so it's a fun kick-off to the season. Since it's still early in the season they were still putting the fiinishing touches on many things, and some of the attractions like the Haunted Barn and the Christmas Shop were not yet open.
Located just minutes from the suburban sprawl of east Petaluma, Adobe Pumpkin Farm is a real farm that, in addition to pumpkins, also grows flowers and a variety of vegetables. Here you can pick your own pumpkin from a large field, or choose from already-picked varieties in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. Plenty of wheelbarrows are available for hauling your pumpkins back to the Pumpkin Barn and to your car. You can also buy gourds and fresh-cut flowers.
One of our favorite indulgences is personalized cards and other paper products from Tiny Prints. Tiny Prints offers cute and really nicely designed birth announcements, thank-you cards, party invitations, holiday cards, gift tags, and more, all of which you can personalize with your own photos and text. They always offer a selection of really cool Halloween party invitations and kids' Halloween greeting cards. This season there are even more Halloween cards than ever, with 110 invitation designs and 72 children's card designs in all with in a wide variety of styles. They're perfect handing out to your favorite little ghosts and goblins or for inviting the gang to your neighborhood haunted house or trick-or-treat get-together.
There are quite a few invitations that are perfect for more grown-up Halloween oriented events, too, so check them out. In our experience, Tiny Prints' production and shipping times are usually amazingly fast, but you might want to think about ordering yours soon.
My five-year-old daughter must love the book The Apple Dollby local Bay Area author and illustrator Elisa Kleven (40 pages, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007). She checked it out from the library no fewer than two times last year and got it again a few days ago. It's easy to see why it's one of her favorites: The Apple Doll is a charming book, and it's another great read-aloud story (with an added activity) for the fall season, especially if you happen to have an apple tree nearby.
The Apple Doll tells the story of Lizzy, a shy little girl who loves the apple tree in her yard and ends up making a doll out of an apple and twigs that she names "Susanna". She ends up getting teased by other kids for carrying around her apple-and-sticks creation at school. I know this sounds a little odd but the book handles the situation in a much better and sweeter way than I'm describing it here. Ultimately, Lizzy's mom takes the now long-in-the-tooth Susanna and makes an apple doll out of her, which inspires a class apple doll project and friendships and happiness ensue.
Starting in 2012, you need to be a member of Gabriel Farm's CSA to participate in apple picking at the farm. You can sign up for a membership at the farm; the share consists of a case of six half-gallon bottles of the farm's Asian pear juice ($35). Non-members can still visit the farm store.
Late summer and early fall are apple season, and plenty of the tasty fruits can be found north of Marin in western Sonoma County, particularly in the area around Sebastopol, which is famous for its apples. Early every September, we head up there for a visit to Gabriel Farm, a family-run, certified organic farm on fourteen acres in the Graton area on the north side of Sebastopol. Gabriel Farm is especially fun to visit at this time of year because you can head out into the orchard and pick your own apples!
Gabriel Farm is open for apple picking on weekends from late August or early September through October from 11 am to 4 pm. (They're open this Monday, Labor Day, too.) Keep in mind they close at 4, so if you want to spend some time picking apples on the farm, count on arriving no later than 3:30 pm. Gabriel Farm also offers weekday visits and school group or group tours by appointment; call them at (707) 829-0617 to make arrangements.
About the end of July you start to see people stopped by the side of the road, poking around in the bushes. No, they're not doing anything strange or unseemly—they're picking wild blackberries! Late summer is definitely blackberry season in Northern California. And what's best is that these sweet little fruits can be had for free just about anywhere, if you're willing to risk stained clothing from all that blackberry juice, as well as the occasional wound from blackberry thorns.
There is a native variety of wild blackberry, the California or Pacific blackberry (rubus ursinus), but that's relatively hard to find these days, having been supplanted by a non-native species, the domesticated Himalayan or Armenian blackberry (rubus armeniacus). This variety, fast-growing, invasive, and considered a pest by many, was introduced as a commercial cultivar in California in the late 19th century, but like so many non-native species prevalent in the state today, it got loose and spread all over the place. An easy way to tell the difference between the two varieties is to look on the underside of the leaves. The California variety is green, whereas the Himalayan is white.