More Novato Christmas Lights: 2095 Vineyard Road

December 20, 2010

Kirt Donaldson Christmas house in NovatoTo 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.

Find a Last-Minute Holiday Bargain at Marin Kids and Maternity Consigment

December 18, 2010

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!)
  • Fisher Price Rainforest Bouncer Seat with buckle, vibration, hanging toys, music/lights/sounds ($29.99)

The Fratello Marionettes Return to the Larkspur Library with the North Pole Review

December 13, 2010

Fratello MarionettesThe Fratello Marioettes return to the Larkspur Library with their exciting holiday show The North Pole Review! This fun free family performance takes place on Monday, December 20 at 4 pm. This puppet extravaganza features a juggling penguin, a Brazilian ice-skating snowman, the Hawaiian singing sensation the Hi-Fi Sisters, and more.

We attended the show last year, where the audience ranged from babies to grade school aged children, and everyone had a great time. The show got pretty crowded, though, which is probably why you need to call the Larkspur Library this year at (415) 927-5005 to reserve your space. You'll be glad you did!

The Larkspur Library is located in downtown Larkspur at 400 Magnolia Avenue. For more information or to RSVP for the show, call (415) 927-5005. You can also visit them online at

Holiday Shopping at Stockings & Stilettos

December 7, 2010

Stockings and StillettosCome 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 or at the door. Secure your goodie bag by purchasing your tickets online (quantities are limited).

12 Days of Holiday Books: Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas

December 6, 2010

Fancy Nancy Splendiferous ChristmasFans of Jane O'Connor's popular series of Fancy Nancy books won't be surprised to learn that Nancy considers Christmas to be a splendiferous time of year. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas (32 pages, HarperCollins, 2009) follows its fancy character through the holiday season as she makes cookies, decorates the tree (too much tinsel? No way!), goes caroling, and awaits the arrival of her beloved grandfather.

Tragedy of sorts strikes when Nancy insists on putting her prized fancy tree topper on the Christmas tree. But all is made well with a little help from Grandpa. With colorful and appropriately fancy illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser, Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas will appeal to its target preschool through first grade audience, who may even pick up a few new vocabulary words after reading this book.

The Best Toys for Kids this Holiday Season

November 24, 2010

Folkmanis Golden Retriever Puppy PuppetEvery parent knows that finding a truly great toy can be a challenge, especially when you're trying to find one that's not only fun, but educational as well. For this 2010 holiday season the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has again helped take the guesswork out of toy shopping by compiling their annual Best Toys for Kids list! Nominated and voted on by the toy experts who are members of the ASTRA, the list of winners features a wide variety of toys for just about every age group imaginable. There's an emphasis here on good old-fashioned imaginitive play and fun, so you can feel good about buying these for your children.

We're also happy to see some local companies represented here, like Emeryville's Folkmanis Puppets and San Francisco's Green Toys, Inc.

Gift-giving and the Thankless Child

November 23, 2010

Christmas presentsPresenting a guest article by Mill Valley parent educator Julie King and co-author Joanna Faber. It's especially relevant for this time of year! You can learn more about Julie and her services, workshops, and presentations at

Have your kids been known to announce, upon opening a gift in front of the gift-giver, “I already have this one. You should’ve gotten me the other kind!”? Many of us have had kids burst into tears upon opening a gift, or angrily declare "I don't like this," causing great distress to the startled giver and great embarrassment to the hapless parent.

It can be hard not to be horrified by such unseemly behavior, or to question our own parenting, worrying that we’ve brought up greedy, spoiled brats. The urge is to punish them, to take things they value away from them, or to lecture them about all the less-fortunate children in the world. However satisfying these tactics may seem, though, none of them tend to create the grateful child of our dreams.

Create a Family Heirloom for the Holidays at Studio 4 Art

November 19, 2010

Kids can create a holiday heirloom for your family at one of Studio 4 Art's great hands-on workshops this season.

On Saturday, November 20, create your own clay ornaments from 10 am to noon. Use Studio 4 Art's wide selection of tools, footprints, handprints, and even dog prints to make unique and beautiful holiday ornaments. $20 cost includes 2 pounds of clay, firing, and glazes. Additional clay available for an additional cost. This workshop is suitable for participants ages 2 to adult.

By popular demand, Studio 4 Art will hold a second clay gingerbread house workshop on Saturday, November 27 from 10 am to noon. Construct a gingerbread house that will last a lot longer this holiday season—make it out of clay! This workshop has become a holiday tradition at the studio, and it's a fun project to work on as a family. Workshop costs $40 and is for ages 5–adult. Gingerbread houses will be fired in their kiln; you can come back and paint yours with glaze for no additional charge.

Studio 4 Art is located in downtown Novato at 1133 Grant Avenue, at 2nd Street. For more information on these and other workshops and creative activities, call them at (415) 596-5546 or visit

Gingerbread Cookie Sculpting for the Holidays

December 15, 2009

Gingerbread Play DoughFor 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

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