Dutch-Style Split Pea Soup Warms on a Winter Evening

January 5, 2015

Dutch split-pea soup or snertNothing beats a hot and hearty bowl of soup on a chilly winter evening. In the Netherlands, a favorite winter dish is split pea soup, known in Dutch as erwtensoep or snert. It's similar to its American counterpart, but differs a bit in that it uses a variety of vegetables as well as smoked pork like bacon and ham. The Dutch also prefer to use yellow split peas over the green ones we usually associate with the dish.

We had a hambone left over from New Year's Eve dinner and decided to make a pot of snert this weekend. If you don't have a hambone, use a smoked hamhock instead. In the Netherlands they often add slices of smoked sausage, so feel free to add some kielbasa or smoked bratwurst to the pot.

Among the veggies that go into the pot is celery root, also known as celeriac. It's that ugly knobby thing that you may have run across in the produce section, and if you're not familiar with it it can look a little scary. It's delicious, though, and adds a distinctive flavor to the soup, so don't leave it out! It's probably easiest to peel with a sharp paring knife rather than a vegetable peeler.

This recipe makes enough for two meals, if not more. It thickens up quite a bit when it cools, so you can add a bit of water to it when reheating. Also, make sure you reheat the soup slowly as can burn easily.


  • 1 hambone or meaty smoked hamhock
  • 1 16-ounce bag yellow or green split peas

Winter Music Classes for Kids in Marin

January 5, 2015

Music ClassIt's now time to sign up for winter music classes in Marin. My kids have always really loved music, and I think that's due in part to taking music classes like these starting when they were really little. We tried a few different classes around Marin and the North Bay, and really like the Kindermusik programs offered here in Novato by Music with Melissa and the Mary Ann Hall's Music for Children. Regardless of which program you choose, there is a music class for every child from newborn to grade school.

If you’re thinking of getting your child involved in a music class, then now’s the time to sign up. Many classes will resume their sessions in January. Here’s an updated list we’ve put together of a variety of local music programs and classes. If we’ve left out your favorite class then please let us know, or, better yet, leave a comment and tell everyone why you and your kids love it!

Corte Madera

Visit a Museum for Free in January

January 3, 2015

ExploratoriumDid you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.

Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing below.

Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.

Bank of America Museums on Us—January 3 & 4

Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders get free general admission on the first full weekend of every month. Present your card and a photo ID for admission (one free general admission per cardholder). Get full details here. Participating museums include:

Eight Spectacular Stroller Hikes in Marin

January 3, 2015

Stroller hike in MarinJust because your kids are too small to go on a hike doesn't mean you can't! Fortunately for outdoor-minded parents of babies and toddlers Marin County has many outdoor destinations that are perfectly suitable for a hike with your stroller.

When my kids were little, my husband and I must have racked up thousands of miles on our trusty Kelty jogging stroller, which we used on sidewalks, paths, and unpaved trails.

Many of these hikes are over paved trails, so they're suitable for just about any kind of stroller. Just because they are on more civilized paved surfaces doesn't mean they aren't in some of the most spectacular outdoors areas of Marin, so make sure you check them out.

  • Muir Woods National Monument near Mill Valley features majestic old-growth redwoods and has been one of Marin's top tourist attractions for over a century. Stop by during the week to avoid the crowds and take in the wonder of it all in relative peace and quiet. Take your stroller on the main trail loop through Cathedral Grove, it's paved or on a wooden boardwalk the entire way.

Free Junior Chef Classes in January at Williams-Sonoma

January 2, 2015

The 52 New Foods ChallengeThis January, kids can learn how fun and easy cooking can be with a series of free junior chef classes at Williams-Sonoma. Two of the classes were created by local author Jennifer Tyler Lee using techniques and recipes from her new book The 52 New Foods Challenge, and are designed to make it easy to prepare healthy food and to inspire curiosity and confidence in kids.

Classes begin this Saturday, January 3, at 10 am with 52 New Foods: Blender Bar, which is all about creating healthy and delicious superfood smoothies. Other classes include Baking for Beginners on January 10, Better Burgers on January 17, Fun Finger Foods on January 24, and 52 New Foods: No-Bake Valentine's Treats on January 31.

The two 52 New Foods classes are for kids ages 5 to 13, and the others are suitable for children ages 9 to 13.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for January 2, 3 & 4

January 2, 2015
Elephant seal at Point Reyes
Experience Elephant Seals this weekend at Point Reyes National Seashore's Chimney Rock.

Here are our picks for great events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar.

You can also hit the ice at Marin on Ice or another Bay Area seasonal skating rink, which will be open during the holidays. Check out our guide to local ice skating here.

Friday, January 2

  • Make a Nightlight for 6th–12th graders
    Novato Library
    Friday, 1–3 pm

    Make a nightlight—materials and assistance provided. Feel free to bring your own figures to populate your nightlight jar. Soldering involved, so signup and permission form required. For more information, contact the Novato Library at (415) 473-2050. Location: 1720 Novato Boulevard, Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • LEGO Play Day
    Mill Valley Library
    Friday, 2:30–4 pm

    Get in touch with your inner engineer! Free play with LEGOs supports creativity, problem solving, and reading skills, and it's FUN! Age 5 and up. No sign-up needed. Free. Location: 375 Throckmorton Avenue, Creekside Room, Mill Valley. For more info, call (415) 389-4292 or visit their website.

Saturday, January 3

  • Museums on Us
    Various locations
    Saturday & Sunday
    Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders get free general admission to select location museums on the first full weekend of every month. Present your card and a photo ID for admission; one free general admission per cardholder. Get full details here. Participating museums include the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Chabot Space and Science Center. For more info, visit their website.
  • Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm

    Enjoy the best local and organic produce, flowers, pastured meats, seafood, organic cheeses, yogurt and milk, breads, baked goods, pasta, confections, olive oil, and brunch and lunch offerings! Kids can take a pony ride and visit the petting zoo (10 am–2 pm), try out some arts and crafts (9 am–2 pm) and listen to music (9:30–10:30 am). For more info, visit their website.
  • Whale Watching at Point Reyes Lighthouse
    Point Reyes National Seashore
    Weekends, 9 am–3:30 pm

    Go see the whales out at the Point Reyes Light House and Chimney Rock. Shuttle buses leave Drakes Beach every 15–20 minutes. The cost is $7 per person; children under 16 are free. No cars allowed at Point Reyes Light House on weekends and holidays December 26 through mid-April. For more info, visit their website.
  • Explore Stafford Lake Park
    Saturday, 10 am–1 pm

    Come out for an easy nature walk around beautiful Stafford Lake. Along the way we’ll stop and talk about some of the interesting animals and plants that live here. This activity is easy. Water and healthy snacks provided. Park entrance is free. Turn right after the gate house and follow to the first parking lot. Location: 3549 Novato Boulevard, Novato. For more info, visit their website.
  • Free Junior Chef Classes
    Williams-Sonoma, Corte Madera
    Saturday, 10 am
    Cook up family fun by joining us for a series of classes designed by Jennifer Tyler Lee, creator of the award-winning food game Crunch a Color and author of The 52 New Foods Challenge cookbook. This class will boost creativity and confidence by empowering children to make healthy smoothies in the blender. Suitable for ages 5–13. Location: The Village Corte Madera. For more info, visit their website.
  • STEAM Saturdays: Earth Science
    San Rafael Library
    Saturday, 11–11:45 am

    Join us for STEAM powered stories, rhymes, songs, crafts, experiments, and sensory experiences for preschool children ages 3–6 and their caregivers. This Saturday, Earth Science. Location: 1100 E Street, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Experience Elephant Seals
    Elephant Seal Overlook, Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore
    Weekends, 11 am–4 pm
    Weekends and holidays, late December–April. View an elephant seal colony through binoculars and scopes. A special 30-minute slide program about elephant seals may be available at the Lifeboat Station at Chimney Rock, depending on staffing availability. Check at one of the Visitor Centers for whether the slide program is being offered. Visitors will need to take the winter shuttle bus from Drake's Beach. For moore info, call (415) 669-1534 or visit their website.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015

Panorama of Point Reyes Beach

The Marin Mommies team wishes you, your family, and your friends all the best in 2015.

Whales and Seals and More Whales, Oh My! Winter Wildlife Watching in Point Reyes

December 30, 2014

Gray whale off Point Reyes LighthouseLate December always heralds the start of whale-watching season on Northern California's coast. This is the time of year when California Gray Whales (eschrichtius robustus) pass by the coast on their annual southern migration, so start planning your winter trip out to Point Reyes National Seashore to do some whale watching now!

We dusted off our binoculars and telephoto lens and headed out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse on Monday. It was clear and sunny, but extremely windy at the lighthouse. Nevertheless, we did manage to see a couple whales. Last year at this time we went and saw at least a dozen gray whales pass by! The National Park Service estimates between 60 to 100 whales passing the Point Reyes Lighthouse each day right now. If you manage to see some whales, it's an amazing experience that you'll never forget, and it's definitely worth the time it takes getting out to the lighthouse.

Family Fondue Party for New Year's Eve

December 29, 2014

fondueNearly everyone I know (us included) received a fondue pot as a wedding gift. If you don't have one, then your parents most certainly do, since fondue was a huge deal in the 1960s and '70s. Fondue is easy to make, if you follow the directions closely, and makes for a fun social meal—the perfect thing for a family New Year's Eve party.

On New Year's Eves past we've made the traditional Swiss style fondue using Gruyère and Emmenthaler cheeses and white wine. With its blend of wine and strong-tasting Swiss cheeses, It's never been a big hit with the kids, so last year we crafted a new, more kid-friendly version using cheddar cheese. Needless to say, it was a big hit, and ended up being a lot less expensive to make than the authentic version, too.

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