It's the weekend after Christmas, and the holiday specials are off the TV, the all-Christmas-music radio stations have gone back to playing whatever they normally play, and those gifts that were under the tree are now scattered all over the house. Despite the big run-up of Christmas cheer, it's disappointing when the whole holiday train comes to a seemingly full and complete stop after December 25. While I feel a certain amount of relief that the holiday chaos is pretty much over, I'm also wishing that I had more time to slow down and savor the pleasures of the Christmas season.
Fortunately, I have good news for those of you out there who haven't yet had your fill of holiday cheer—the Christmas houses are still open! If you're still looking for that holiday spirit, head on down to one of our local decorated houses and take in the magic one last time (or two or three, even).
This last weekend we finally put up the Christmas tree and all its associated trimmings. This meant that it was also the time for my annual lecture about how the Christmas tree is not a toy, and neither are the ornaments. Actually, it wasn't so much a lecture as a series of shouted admonitions aimed at not breaking quite as many ornaments as feared during the tree-decorating frenzy.
Ironically, while many of the ornaments on our tree look like toys, they're not. They actually seem to be make out a plastic-like substance that breaks if, for example, you look at it. This, coupled with the sheer irresistability of the toy-like ornamants to small children led to considerable ornament carnage in our house over the weekend. Our kitchen counter was turned into an impromptu Christmas tree ornament triage ward where Spongebob Squarepants, the Grinch, and a wooden elephant all lay ready to undergo emergency surgery. "Super Glue—stat!" I shouted to my trusty nurse, who, being at the other end of the house, suggested I get it myself.
For many of us, the holidays mean it's time to bake cookies and other seasonal treats. It's always fun to get the kids involved, and this gingerbread cookie recipe via What's Cooking's Michelle Stern is a perfect one to use. It doesn't take a long time to make (no rest time in the refrigerator), and it can be worked and shaped like play-dough. Unlike a lot of cookie doughs it holds its form and doesn't melt into a shapeless blob in the oven.
Gingerbread Cookie Play-Dough
5 ½ c. flour
3 t. baking soda
1 ¾ c. dark brown sugar
¼ c. dark molasses
4 ½ t. ground cinnamon
3 t. ground ginger
½ t. cloves
¼ t. salt
1 c. melted butter
½ c. boiling water
1 egg, beaten
Click on a Christmas tree marker on our customized Google map to open a popup window for that location—clicking on a link in the window will take you to a listing with location details, hours, and contact information for that tree farm or lot, as well as information about tree types and special features like gift shops, petting zoos, complimentary refreshments, and more.
The Marin and southern Sonoma County Christmas tree farms and lots currently listed on the map some of our and our readers' favorites. If we've missed one that you think should be included, please let us know and we'll consider adding it to the map.
This year for Christmas my son inadvertantly decided that he wanted what turned out to be the hot toy this season: the amazing Playmobil Egyptian Pyramid. While it's apparently a totally cool toy, I never dreamed that it would be something that would be wiped off the shelves of every toy store and big box realtor in west of the Mississipi. In fact, we've noticed that many popular toys, especially things like LEGO and Playmobil, are just gone—as in not there, out-of-stock, backordered, or never there in the first place.
Are you a Marin mom making and selling something extraordinary on Etsy? If so, tell us about it! We're looking for some local moms who sell their handcrafted products on Etsy for an upcoming feature on Marin Mommies. If you fit that description, please contact us and tell us about what you're doing.
We're specifically looking for Marin or Sonoma county residents who are creating items of interest to families, such as baby and children's clothing, toys, art, etc. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your work, and of course include a link to your home page on Etsy.
On Wednesday, December 9, Marin Dance Theatre and Marinwood Recreation Department present a sneak preview of the popular holiday ballet Sophie and the Enchanted Toyshop. From 1:15 to 2:15 pm, meet some of the characters from this beautiful ballet and watch them perform their dances. This event takes place at the Marinwood Community Center at 775 Miller Creek Road in San Rafael. The performance is free, but reservations are required. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to see the full-length version of Marin Dance Theatre's Sophie and the Enchanted Toyshop, it will play at the Marin Civic Center on December 19 at 1 and 5 pm. It's a two-act children's ballet that features over 120 dancers plus professional guest artists. Adults $33, students and seniors $23. For more information, go to www.mdt.org or the Marin Center Box Office to purchase tickets.
When you're sick of shopping... When you can't stand another Christmas song piped in on the sound system... When you can't bear one more cheesy holiday special on ABC Family Channel's seemingly endless parade of TV movies... Maybe it's time to forget about the Christmas rush, bundle up, hit the trail, and take the family outdoors for a holiday hike.
Fortunately for us, we live in California, and winter is almost like our spring: no snow, no ice, and bright green grass springing up everywhere. It's really one of the most beautiful times to head outdoors and take a hike and be thankful that you didn't listen to your older brother and move out to Chicago, where as I write this it's a balmy 8ºF.
As you shop for Christmas gifts for your children, did you ever wonder, "How safe is this toy?" HealthyToys.org, a website run by the nonprofit Ecology Center organization, has released its second annual consumer guide to toxic chemicals in toys. On the site, you can search for or browse hundreds of popular toys by name, brand, and toy type, and find out how they tested for lead and other contaminants including bromide, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. All of those chemicals are things we can probably all agree shouldn't be found in children's toys!