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.
For our final holiday book review of 2010, we've chosen the appropriately festive and funny Christmas Tree!(40 pages, Katherine Tregen Books, 2005)by husband-and-wife illustrator-and-author team Wendell and Florence Minor. We were entranced Wendell Minor's evocative paintings in the book The Last Train, which we reviewed back in September. With that in mind, the vivid and imaginitive illustrations and text in Christmas Tree! did not disappoint.
Christmas Tree! poses the question
If you were
a Christmas tree,
what kind of tree would you be?
A mighty tree or a tiny tree?
A city tree or a country tree?
A tree with curious features or a tree
made just for creatures?
Last week I hosted a holiday cookie party for my daughter's playgroup. I wanted to make my usual homemade gingerbread people, but ran out of time and ingredients while preparing for the party. By coincidence, I had a box of Trader Joe's Deep, Dark Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix in the pantry. I took a look at the side panel and, lo and behold, found you could use it to make gingerbread cookies! I was saved!
I got out my trusty gingerbread person cookie cutter and prepared the cookies before the party so they'd be ready to decorate. You just add a stick of melted butter and a large egg to the baking mix, then form into a dough and chill. Then just roll and cut out as usual. I have to say, they made some of the best gingerbread cookies I've had in a while—moist and chewy with a pronounced spicy kick. They also had a hard to place richness about them, which I attribute to the inclusion of cocoa in the mix.
Young children seem to love Laura Numeroff's series of picture books about the somewhat demanding little mouse (or pig or other animal) who sets off a story that ends up going full circle. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies (40 pages, HarperCollins, 2000) doesnt' really sound like a holiday title, but when the energetic and enthusiastic mouse gets some popcorn at the theater, it sets of a chain of events that leads to the purchase of a Christmas tree, snowman—or rather, "snowmouse"—building, a monumental snowball fight, the crafting of ornaments, the singing of Christmas carols, the decoration of the tree, and, of in the tradition of this series of books, another visit to the movies.
Kids love to pore over Felicia Bond's charming illustrations and pick out all the little details hidden throughout the pictures. The chain of events that takes place in the story is, as usual, humorously far fetched, and if your kids are like ours, you'll be asked to read it multiple times in one sitting. Find it at your local library, bookstore, or Amazon.com.
Note: Sadly, 2010 was the final season for the Marinwood Christmas House. It won't be back this year, so enjoy these photos from last Christmas.
Last year, the most exciting holiday news in Marin was that the famous Marinwood Christmas House was back! At the time it was rumored to be a one-time-only event, undertaken in honor of the late Charles "Dooley" Stitham, who put together this impressive display for decades and who passed away in 2009. We're glad to report that it's here again this year and as awesome as ever!
Anyone who grew up in Marin—especially in San Rafael and Novato—in the past 40 years certainly has fond memories of this amazing decorated house. It was the Christmas House; the one all others aspired to be and the most amazing Christmas house ever. Lighted and decorated and full of colorful animated figures, dolls, toys, and holiday scenes, the Marinwood Christmas House is another of Marin's holiday must-sees. It's open daily through New Year's Day 5–10 pm.
On our first day of Winter Break, my kids decided they wanted to return to Snoopy's Home Ice at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa. We decided to make it a sort of mini road trip and headed north to Sonoma County. The arena was a gift to the community from the late Santa Rosa resident and Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, and has been going strong since 1969.
I always consider an outing here a holiday tradition of sorts, especially since I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year, and attended a few of the holiday ice shows over the years, too. It was always a treat to see Charles Schulz himself sitting in the audience, enjoying the show and chatting with people in the audience.
To us, the holiday lights and decorations at Novato resident Kirt Donaldson's house on Vineyard Road were the stuff of legend, mainly because we never were able to see them—until now. For the last year or two, the house remained undecorated through the holiday season, but we're happy to report that this year it's back and well worth checking out, especially if you're in the area visiting the Rombeiro Christmas House.
The front yard of the Donaldson house is covered in lights, figurines, and inflateables. Giant lighted candy canes serve as posts to hold strings of icecicle lights that criss-cross the yard. Speakers play jolly holiday tunes. And there's a snow machine. Seriously. Actually, it's not really snow in the way that snow really is (i.e. frozen water flakes) but foamy water bubbles churned out by machines on the roof that really do look like snow. The effect is impressive and it's the closest thing we're probably going to get to snow here in Marin, at least not without having to drive to the top of Mt. Tam on those rare snow days.
Marin Kids and Maternity Consignment, owned and operated by Marin moms, can help you find the perfect gifts and outfits for your sweet darlings this holiday season! Looking for the perfect "wear-it-once" outfit for your Christmas Eve family gathering? They have new-with-tags and "worn once" outfits for boys and girls ages newborn to 10.
They also have a wonderful selection of next-to-new toys. Your kids (or you!) won't have to spend 20 minutes removing all the plastic wraps and ties! They can get right to play time and you will spend 50 to 70% less:
Nilo train table, blonde wood with removable landscape sheet to switch to a blank play table $80 (sells new for over $175 with the mat!)
Bear actually manages to stay up for Christmas in Bear Stays Up for Christmas(40 pages, Margaret K. McElderry, 2004), the holiday installment of Karma Wilson's popular "Bear" series of picture books. This time, the tables are turned and it's the normally hibernating Bear who stays up all night while his friends sleep on Christmas Eve, which is something of a challenge given all the holiday activities they participate in during the day.
With charming illustrations by Jane Chapman, this story features a stealthy visit from Santa and a lesson on giving and being together with friends and family on Christmas. It's a cute holiday read-aloud book that preschool and early grade school children will love.