12 Days of Holiday Books: The Polar Express

December 17, 2013

The Polar ExpressFor over two decades, Chris Van Allsburg's book The Polar Express (32 pages, Houghton Mifflin, 1986) has been considered a Christmas classic, and is a holiday favorite with countless families, including ours. This simple, magical story of a boy who wants to believe in Santa and his journey to the North Pole about the titular train, is a beautifully illustrated tribute to the holiday season and the child in all of us.

If your only experience with The Polar Express is the somewhat overblown movie version, then you owe it to yourself and your kids to check out the Caldecott Medal-winning book, which is really much different. There's a reason it inspired a movie and countless events (like the Polar Express train rides at the California State Railroad Museum) that take place each holiday season.

Holiday Travel Tips: Traveling with an Infant or Toddler

December 16, 2013

During the holidays, traveling with an infant or toddler can be a unique challenge, especially when it comes getting them to sleep. Marin parent coach, infant/toddler sleep researcher, and family therapist Angelique Millette has complied the following list of handy tips for traveling with children.

Angelique works throughout the Bay Area and across the country supporting families and helping them meet life's challenges. You can learn more about her and her events and classes at

It's that time of year, holiday travel time and many parents have been calling with questions about traveling with their babies and young children.

I've put together a list of tips and suggestions all tried-and-true by parents and their children:

  • If your baby will be sleeping in a pack'n'play on your trip, in the week or two before your trip place your baby in her pack'n'play for sleeping (AM nap or bedtime) so she gets used to the new sleep space.
  • Bring your baby or toddler's lovey, sleep sack (light and heavy weight depending upon the weather in the region you are visiting), unwashed crib sheet (familiar scent), and sound machine. Bring your toddler's blankies, stuffed animals, favorite bedtime books and pj's. This will help your little one to feel more secure in a new place and have reminders of home.
  • Talk to your young child about traveling. If flying for the first time, talk to your child ahead of travel day and tell her about flying in an airplane. Bring along her favorite books, 1–2 new toys and favorite snacks/sippy cup.

12 Days of Holiday Books: The Nutcracker

December 13, 2013

The NutcrackerTchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and its music are now a holiday staples, as is the story of young Marie* and her adventures with the Nutcracker Prince. There are plenty of children's books out there that retell the magical story of the Nutcracker, but our favorite so far has to be writer/illustrator Susan Jeffers' version (40 pages, HarperCollins, 2007).

The book's text efficiently condenses the tale into a story suitable for younger children. Jeffers keeps the action moving but manages to leave in most of the relevant episodes from the ballet. Her watercolor illustrations are perhaps the loveliest thing about this book: colorful, vibrant, and full of action, they really help give the feeling of the ballet's movement and choreography.

It's a great introduction to The Nutcracker story and ballet, and definitely a must-read if you and your kids are planning on seeing a production of the ballet this holiday season. Find it at your local library, bookstore, or

Win Tickets to The Snowman at the San Francisco Symphony

December 10, 2013

The SnowmanThe 1982 animated film The Snowman is one of our favorite holiday classics, and it's even more magical when accompanied by a live orchestra and choir. It's a great way to introduce kids to the symphony, too. This season, The Snowman is part of the San Francisco Symphony's special All is Bright Christmas matinee concert featuring the Pacific Boychoir, directed by Kevin Fox.

The first half of the All is Bright program will feature orchestral holiday favorites and sing-alongs with the Boychoir and soloists. Highlights include A Christmas Festival Overture and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, Carol of the Bells, Do You Hear What I Hear?, and more.

The second half of the program includes the 26-minute animated film The Snowman accompanied by the orchestra. All concert-goers will receive a complimentary glowing concert favor from the Symphony. Performances take place on Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21 at 2 pm.

Gingerbread Waffles for a Holiday Breakfast

December 22, 2012

Gingerbread WafflesGingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats, and nothing makes the house smell like Christmas more than a batch of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven. If you're like me and simply can't get enough gingerbread during the holidays (or any time of year, for that matter) try making these gingerbread waffles for breakfast or a holiday brunch. They're subtly sweet and spicy and can even be used for dessert (try topping them with some good quality vanilla ice cream).

Don't worry if you don't have all the spices that this recipe calls for in your pantry. Ginger and cinnamon are the mandatory ones, and feel free to add something else, like a little cardamom or allspice, to make things more interesting. Try serving these waffles with fresh fruit and whipped cream, but they're also good with butter and maple syrup.

12 Days of Holiday Books: Olive the Other Reindeer

December 18, 2012

Olive, the Other ReindeerWhile listening to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Olive the dog hears the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer" (instead of "All of the other reindeer"), and decides that she, in fact is the reindeer in question. So begins the contemporary Christmas classic Olive, the Other Reindeer (40 pages, Chronicle Books, 1997) by local author and illustrator team Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold.

Olive undertakes an arduous journey—involving no fewer than two buses—to the North Pole and assists Santa Claus using the talents that come naturally to a Jack Russell Terrier. Olive, the Other Reindeer pairs Walsh's charming, funny, and inspiring story with Seibold's cool retro style illustrations, in a book that both children and adults will love. For what it's worth, the book is far different, much simpler, and in our opinion better than the animated Christmas special that's based on it.

Holiday Gift Guide: Organic Produce from Bloomfield Farms

December 16, 2012

Bloomfield Farms CSA shareThis holiday season, why not give the gift of fresh organic produce? This Christmas, our friends at Bloomfield Farms, a family-run certified organic farm outside Petaluma, are offering CSA gift certificates for you to give to family, friends, and colleagues. It's the perfect gift for a family that enjoys delicious, healthy, and locally grown food!

Gift certificates are available in amounts of $75, $100, and $150, and the recipients can redeem them at one the convenient drop-off locations in Marin or Sonoma Counties. Learn more about giving a CSA gift from Bloomfield Farms here.

Bloomfield Farms is also offering an "80 for 80" holiday special—80 pounds of certified organic, dry-farmed Yukon Gold potatoes for $80. Yes, this is a large amount of potatoes, but the price is much lower than what you'll pay at a market like Whole Foods for the same thing (Bloomfield Farms supplies Whole Foods in addition to a number of other local grocery stores).

Go in with friends and neighbors and split up a bag! After all, it wouldn't be the holidays without mashed potatoes, would it?

Give the Gift of TLC this Holiday Season!

December 14, 2012

The Gift of TLC

This holiday season, Marin Mommies is partnering with local Marin County business Dhana EcoKids and other community organizations to help promote the Gift of T.L.C—Thoughts, Love, and Care. All kids are invited to send an original doodle to the children impacted by Hurricane Sandy this holiday season, including those from the New Jersey town of Lavellete, which was especially hard-hit by the storm, and whose residents are only being allowed to move back home this weekend!

So go ahead, make a child's day and share your thoughts, love and care and doodle the Gift of T.L.C. on a plain piece of paper. Make sure you sign your kid’s first name, age, city, and state on the front of the paper with the doodle. Submissions can be a photo of the doodle, the original paper, or a scanned image of the doodle.

Kids are encouraged to send up to three doodles of their creation. Please send them via email to, or post it on the Dhana Eco Kids Facebook page, or mail it to Dhana EcoKids, P.O. Box 1634, Mill Valley, CA 94942. All doodle submissions must be received by Monday, December 17, 2012 to be part of this wonderful campaign.

Holiday Gift Guide: LEGO Games

December 4, 2012

LEGO Hobbit GameKids love games as holiday gifts (especially ones the entire family can play), and kids love LEGOs. Why not combine the two? LEGO games, produced by the world's favorite maker of interlocking plastic building bricks, do just that.

As you might expect, LEGO games are constructed of LEGO bricks. As with all LEGO sets, part of the fun is actually putting the games together, and part is playing them. Kids can also rebuild the games into different versions, or even make their own creations. You can even modify the included six-sided die to tweak the rules of your game.

Many of the LEGO games are German-style board games, which are designed and played differently from traditional American-style board games. These games emphasize short game play times (20 to 30 minutes, tops), repeatability, social interaction (nobody gets kicked out of the game, like in Monopoly, so everyone keeps playing), and the use of strategy to win. Because they're intended for an international audience, there are minimal reading requirements and words involved, except for the instructions. Feel free to modify the rules to your liking, too. We can vouch for the fact that LEGO games are a lot of fun!

Some of our favorite LEGO games include:

  • Creationary, which is similar to games like Pictionary, except instead of drawing you create things out of LEGO bricks
  • Ramses Pyramid, where you race to the top of an Egyptian pyramid, avoiding mummies along the way
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