Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin mom and writer Gabrielle Cullen.
Here in Marin, we mommies are fortunate to able to frequent many unique and often times independent locally owned toy stores. A place to take the kids while looking for the 20th birthday gift of the year. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about, great for playing, and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia. Yes, the toy store of yore—some still exist! They’ve managed to survive the arrivals of gigantic retail monsters who’ve plopped themselves down in a cool 20,000 square feet of space in a strip mall somewhere down the road. So next time you need a gift, a new addition to the household stash, or just maybe a half an hour of peace, hit up one of these super cool spots. Not only will you be supporting a local business, but the kiddos will have a blast to boot.
It goes without saying that every Holiday season Santa Claus is an extremely popular guy. He and his small army of little helpers will be making the rounds for photos, breakfast, and other holiday fun at various shopping centers and other locations in Marin County. (And of course you'll need to tell him what you want for Christmas, too!)
We make every effort to assure that all listings and hours are as accurate as possible, but occasionally Santa has to take a break to feed the reindeer or tidy up his beard, so make sure to call or check the venue's website before visiting.
Photos with Santa
Santa Photos at Northgate
November 16–December 24
Northgate in San Rafael invites children to visit Santa and have their picture taken with Santa Claus at his winter wonderland house, in the Macy's wing. Individual photos and packages are available. Santa will be on hand Monday–Thursday from 11 am–8 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am–8 pm and Sunday from 11 am–6 pm. Santa takes breaks from 1–1:45 pm and 4:30–5:15 pm. More info: www.shopatnorthgate.com
Santa Photos at the Village at Corte Madera November 17–December 24
Visit Santa at his house near Sundance Monday–Saturday from 11 am–7 pm and Sunday from noon–6 pm. Santa takes breaks from 1–1:45 pm and 4:30–5:15 pm and on Sunday from 2:15–2:45 pm. More info: www.villageatcortemadera.com
Santa Photos at the Town Center Corte Madera
November 23-December 24
Shopping during the holidays at Town Center Corte Madera is always a festive occasion for the entire family with a chance to have a free photo for the kids with Santa Claus, have your gifts wrapped for free by volunteers from Hospice By The Bay, and enjoy some live music to provide the holiday spirit. Photos with Santa schedule: Friday, Saturday, Sunday – November 23-November 25, 11 am-4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2, 11 am-4 pm; Saturday and Sunday, December 8-9, 11 am-4 pm; and Daily, December 15-December 24, 11am-4pm. For more info, www.shoptowncenter.com
Sausalito Winterfest at The Big Tent by Spinnaker Restaurant
Saturday, December 8, 11 am-1 pm
Photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and their elves. Free. Make sure to bring your camera. For more info, visit their website.
It's that time again—the Appel & Frank Babes & Babies Shopping Event takes place at St. Mary's Cathedral Patron's Hall in San Francisco on Saturday, November 3, from 9:30 am–2 pm. New and expecting moms, you are invited for a fun day of shopping, education and information!
Shop from 65 local designers and companies offering baby and toddler clothing, accessories, gear, toys, resources, and much more, all at discounted prices, of course. There will be awesome gift bags for the first 200 families, play spaces and activities for the kids, and a raffle with great prizes including a Stokke highchair, Joovy stroller, and a Medela Pump in Style breastpump.
You'll also find informational seminars from on topics including sleep training, diapering, cord blood registry, and more.
Marin Mommies readers get discounted admission of $5 for two people with the code MARINMOMMIES when ordering in advance at www.appelandfrank.com. Regular admission is $5 each online or at the door.
Stock up on waste-free lunch gear from Fabkins, Mimi the Sardine and Lunchbots tonight Wednesday, August 15 at Mimi the Sardine's Corte Madera Store. They'll have items up to 40% off, including organic cotton napkins, stainless steel containers, Mimi Kids items (lunchbugs, backpacks and more!), and the entire Mimi Home Spring/Summer Collection.
Enjoy wine and nibbles while you shop! It all takes place from 3–6 pm at 305 Montecito Ave A, Corte Madera.
We're also giving away a fabulous Mimi the Sardine lunch clutch to one lucky Marin Mommies reader! To enter to win, send an email with "Mimi" in the subject line to email@example.com by 11:59 pm on Friday, August 17. We'll choose a winner at random. See our full giveway rules and terms here.
The start of the school year is just around the corner, so it’s the time to start shopping for those back-to-school clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes, and all the supplies needed for school itself.
The costs of all those clothes and other necessities add up, of course. Seeing how much you actually spent on back-to-school stuff can often come as shock. Fortunately, there are ways to cut down on the expenses of back-to-school. Here are a few tips to get the things your kids need while not breaking the bank:
Make a list of the items your kids need and prioritize them by importance.
Once you make your list, stick to it when you go shopping. All those little things you put in your cart can really add up.
Check your home school supplies inventory before you set out on a back-to-school shopping trip. You never know what you’ll find that you can check off your list.
Set a back-to-school budget and stick to it.
Seek out those end-of-summer sales and stock up if you can.
Research clothing, backpacks, and other items online first to compare prices and find the best deals.
Visit your local consignment stores, especially those that specialize in kids’ clothes like Marin Kids Consignment in San Rafael. You’ll be amazed at some of the deals you can find there on gently used and like-new items.
When it comes to back-to-school, green is the way to go! Instead of throwing away plastic and paper products in the trash every day, invest in some reusable eco-friendly lunch box supplies for your kids this school year. The ones listed below are durable and will last for years. Our family owns several of the items that I’ve listed here and use them all the time for school lunches, snacks, and picnics.
Here are some of the green items that my kids’ lunch boxes are never without:
Reusable cloth lunch bags:
Mimi the Sardine's lunch bags, like their signature Lunchbug (shown here), are made right here in the Bay Area from cotton fabrics designed and produced in Sweden. Their fabrics are spill-resistant, machine-washable, meet the Oeko-Tex 100 Standard, and are made without harmful chemicals. They even come in colorful patterns that mom and dad might even consider taking to work! Prices range from $18.55 to $26.50. Visit their retail store in Corte Madera at 305-A Montecito Avenue.
LunchSkins sandwich bags are perfect for holding sandwiches, chips, vegetables, or any other lunch item. LunchSkins are made from a thick cotton fabric that is coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner. They’re dishwater-safe, durable, and come in a variety of colors and patterns like pink berry flower, green lizard, navy shark, red bird, mango slice, and red apple. Snack bags are $7.85 and LunchSkins are $8.95.
Graze Organic sandwich and snack bags are made of washable and durable organic cotton, so they'll last for countless uses and eliminate the need for disposable plastic baggies. A velcro closure keeps contents secure and fresh. Designs are suited for both kids and adults—original artwork is screen printed by hand with water-based ink. Prices start at $ 24.00 for a set of 3 bags.
Sears recently gave us a $200 gift card to buy something from one of their in-house brands, like Kenmore, Craftsman, or Land's End. Sears also offered to give away a $100 gift card to one of fabulous readers—read on to find out how to win!
One of my favorite Christmas cookies from my childhood is the thumbprint cookie—a rich butter cookie that's rolled in chopped walnuts and topped with a dollop of raspberry preserves. As a kid, I always loved to help my mom make them. My special job would be to make an indentation in each unbaked cookie with my thumb. We decided to thumbprint cookies this year, and we got to inaugurate our new Kenmore Elite stand mixer that we got from Sears.
A stand mixer is one of the things I've really wanted for quite some time, so I'm pretty excited about it. The Kenmore Elite mixer looks kind of like an Art Deco version of the comparable Kitchenaid Artisan mixer, and has pretty much all the same features, but with a more powerful 400-watt motor. It also mounts all the Kitchenaid mixer accessories, like a meat grinder and pasta roller, too. The kids love the neat little LED on the underside of the mixing arm that illuminates the contents of your mixing bowl. Really cool!
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!)
Come and find all your holiday gifts at Appel and Frank's Stockings & Stilettos shopping event on Wednesday, December 8, from 5 to 9 pm at the Regency Center's Sutter Room, 1270 Sutter Street (at Van Ness) in San Francisco. There will be variety of unique gifts from more than 70 talented designers at discounted prices. Shop for fabulous jewelry, clothing, accessories while enjoying complimentary wine, beauty services, goodie bags, and a raffle.
Admission is normally $10, but Marin Mommies readers can them at the special price of $7 with the code MARINMOMMIES at www.appelandfrank.com or at the door. Secure your goodie bag by purchasing your tickets online (quantities are limited).