12 Days of Holiday Books: Drummer Boy

November 30, 2010

Drummer Boy by Loren LongWriter and illustrator Loren Long's Drummer Boy (40 pages Philomel, 2008) is a fresh take on a classic holiday story. The harrowing journey of the titular character, a little toy drummer boy, serves to both affirm the Christmas spirit and to tug on the heartstrings. The toy drummer boy appears mysteriously on a child's doorstep before Christmas. He's accidentally tossed in the trash, and undergoes an arduous, sometimes frightening journey to reunite with the child. All the while he plays his drum, which seems to have a calming and reassuring effect on all whom he meets.

Long's paintings are colorful and luminous, and help draw you into the simple heartwarming story. Our children, ages 4-1/2 and 7, loved the book, but some parts—including the appearance of a big rat, a hungry owl, and the abandonment of the frightened drummer boy in the cold snowy weather—might be a little scary for younger or more sensitive kids. Ultimately, there's a happy ending with an inspiring holiday message. We think it's a Christmas classic! Find Drummer Boy at your library, or buy it from your local bookstore or

12 Days of Holiday Books: Olivia Helps with Christmas

November 28, 2010

Olivia Helps with ChristmasOlivia, everyone's favorite precocious piglet, lends her family a hand in preparing for Christmas in Ian Falconer's hysterical Olivia Helps with Christmas (58 pages, Atheneum, 2007). You'll probably recognize a few of your family's holiday traditions among the ones that Olivia helps hers with (and "help" doesn't necessarily mean "being helpful", which most parents already know…). Untangling Christmas lights, trimming the tree, leaving a snack for Santa Claus, and of course impatiently awaiting Santa's impending arrival are all covered here.

Naturally, this Olivia book wouldn't be an Olivia book without our porcine protagonist's antics such as feeding baby brother William blueberry pie (with messy results), amazingly finding a perfect little table-top Christmas tree, and recoiling in horror as her father prepares to build a fire in the fireplace and potentially roast Santa!

Holiday Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides from Indian Valley Carriages

November 20, 2010

Indian Valley Carriages covered wagonIf you live in Novato or spend time there, especially around the holidays, you can't help but notice the beautiful horse-drawn carriages traversing the length of Grant Avenue, and making their way around town in search of the most magnificent holiday light displays. These classy but decidedly old-fashioned vehicles are owned and operated by Novato resident Gary Sello and his Indian Valley Carriage Company. If you're looking for a family outing in Marin that is truly unique, fun, and stress-free, then you should consider the offerings of Indian Valley Carriage.

Based in Novato's rural Indian Valley neighborhood, Gary and Indian Valley Carriage operate several different carriages, including a formal black and maroon vis-à-vis (where up to six passengers sit facing each other), a three-seat surrey (with a fringe on top!) that can carry four to six passengers, and a large covered wagon that seats up to twelve.

How Safe is That Toy? Find Out on

December 5, 2008 screenshotAs you shop for Christmas gifts for your children, did you ever wonder, "How safe is this toy?", 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!

Lead Poisoning: Is Your Child at Risk?

December 7, 2007

Marin Mommies is pleased to present the second in a series of guest posts by pediatricians Dr. Steven Martel and Dr. Oded Herbsman. Drs. Herbsman and Martel are the founders of Child’s Light Pediatrics, Inc., an innovative, house-call based pediatric practice that serves Marin and San Francisco.

There has been a lot of media attention regarding the risk of lead exposure from children’s toys. Most of this attention has been focused on the risk of exposure from lead paint in toys made in China.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead is a toxic metal that affects the nervous system.  It is absorbed primarily through the inhalation of lead dust and ingestion of lead products.  Lead poisoning generally occurs slowly after repeated exposures.

Cool Holiday Cards and Gifts from MOO

November 28, 2007

Unique & Memorable Holiday CardsThere are a lot of cool ways to make custom products on the web these days, and MOO is one of them. This holiday season they offer a variety of ways to create and order personalized holiday cards. You can use your own photos and artwork, choose from a wide variety of MOO-designed cards, or even choose user-submitted designs from the MOO community. Up to 10 designs can be mixed and matched for a unique set of cards.

Personalized Holiday Cards and More from Galison and Mudpuppy

November 21, 2007

Galison Santa Holiday Card TinIf you're not into photo cards but still want to send out professionally designed, personalized holiday cards, Galison may foot the bill. We like Galison for their innovative and fun Mudpuppy line of children's games, puzzles, toys, and children's stationery products (read what we've had to say about some of their products here and here). Galison's specialty is cards and stationery featuring stylish, fun graphic design as well as art masterpieces from museums and collections around the world.

Getting the Kids Involved: Thanksgiving Side Dishes

November 19, 2007

Cooking with your children is a great way to spend quality family time, and, above all, it's fun! Here are some fun and delicious Thanksgiving side dish recipes to help you get started cooking with your children, courtesy of Michelle Stern, owner of What's Cooking. What's Cooking is a Marin-based business that offers exciting, fun, and educational cooking workshops in home or school for kids aged 2 1/2 through 19.

More Safer Toys for Christmas

November 18, 2007

Roy Toy - still made in the USAIn the search for toys that won't end up in a recall announcement on the 6-o'clock news, we've discovered that, amazingly, there are toys out there that are actually still made in the USA! While that's no guarantee of superiority, it's a pretty safe bet that there's some better quality control and a complete lack of lead paint or other toxins that could be ingested by your children. In fact, some of these toys are downright classics that provide fun, open-ended play and can be enjoyed for years to come, rather than consigned to the landfill with all the other plastic junk.

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