Family Fondue Party for New Year's Eve

December 29, 2016

fondue

Nearly 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 and apple cider. Needless to say, it was a big hit, and ended up being a lot less expensive to make than the authentic version, too.

Fondue is definitely a kid-friendly kind of dish, and they love being able to choose their foods and dip them into the molten cheese. Just make sure to keep little hands clear of the fondue pot, since flames are involved and metal parts can get hot.

Family Friendly New Year's Eve Events in Marin and the Bay Area

December 26, 2016

New Year's Even Bell Ringing Asian Art MuseumSay goodbye to 2016 and welcome in the New Year at one of these family friendly events taking place in Marin and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Many of these celebrations take place earlier in the day or evening on December 31 so little ones can get a taste of New Year's Eve fun without staying up past their bedtimes.

  • Noon Year's Eve
    Bay Area Discovery Museum
    , Sausalito
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm
    Ring in the New Year with your little ones at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Noon Year’s Eve! This kid-friendly affair includes music by DJ ManCub, a celebratory ball drop at noon, dancing, and various art activities like crown making. In addition, enjoy access to the museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits like Lookout Cove and Bay Hall. (Note: Iceless Skating Rink is closed during Noon Year’s Eve.) For more info, visit their website.
  • Annual Japanese Bell Ringing Ceremony
    Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
    Saturday, 9:30–noon

    Ring in the New Year by taking a swing at a giant 2,100-pound, 16th-century, Japanese temple bell at the Asian Art Museum. Participants may take turns ringing the museum’s bronze bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds, and ill luck of the previous year. This time slot is exclusive to members. Bell-ringing opens to general admission at 11:30 am. First come, first served. Pick up tickets to ring the bell at the admission desk. Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.

Winter Whale and Elephant Seal Watching at Point Reyes National Seashore

December 26, 2016

Whale Watching Point Reyes

The New Year 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. Dust off those binoculars and your telephoto lens and head out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse!

While we've had mixed results in our own whale-watching outings, we've usually seen at least a whale or two, and on one visit we saw at least a dozen pass by the lighthouse! It's an amazing experience that you'll never forget, and it's definitely worth the time it takes getting out to the lighthouse.

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 23, 24 & 25

December 23, 2016

Mickey Mouse Christmas House Marinwood  Visit the Amazing Rombeiro Christmas House in Novato this Weekend!

There's also holiday ice skating at numerous locations throughout the Bay Area, opportunities to visit with Santa Claus at local shopping centers, and amazing decorated holiday houses.

Friday, December 23

  • Holiday Ice Skating in Union Square
    San Francisco
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–11:30 pm

    Union Square, San Francisco's main shopping district, gets into the ice skating spirit during the holiday season with an outdoor ice rink sponsored by Safeway. 90-minute sessions start on every even hour. Admission: $11 for adults, 7 children 8 and under. Skate rental $6. Information: (415) 781-2688 or visit their website.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
    Friday, 11 am, 2 pm and Saturday, 2 pm

    Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and the entire Peanuts gang bring this television classic to life. With live actors, an animated backdrop, and Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music performed by the San Francisco Symphony, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas experience you won’t want to miss. This family-friendly concert begins with Tony Award-winner Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I) singing holiday favorites with the SF Symphony and SF Symphony Chorus. Purchase tickets here. Location: 201 Van Ness, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Nike Missile Site Open House
    Marin Headlands, Sausalito
    Friday, 12:30–3:30 pm

    Unique in the National Park Service, this restored Cold War anti-aircraft missile site has intriguing stories to tell. Take a ranger-guided tour of this restored facility, and learn about its history from volunteers, many of whom served at sites like. Free. Read about our visit here. For more info, visit their website.
  • Polar Express Train Ride
    Santa Cruz
    Saturday, 1, 3 & 7:30 pm

    The Polar Express Train Ride departs from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, complete with dancing chefs, singing elves, and a special gift from Santa Claus himself—a silver sleigh bell. Don't forget to wear your pajamas while you enjoy cookies, hot chocolate, and a reading of The Polar Express while on board. First-class tickets still available for rides this weekend. For more info and tickets, call (877) 726-7245 or visit their website.
  • LEGO Play Day
    Mill Valley Library
    Friday, 2:30 pm
    Get in touch with your inner engineer and build with colorful LEGO! We bring out our collection of more than 10,000 bricks, and kids can build whatever they imagine. Free. No sign up needed. Location: 375 Throckmorton Ave. Mill Valley. For more info, visit their website
  • Le Petit Cirque de Noël
    Marin Country Mart, Larkspur
    Friday, 5:15 pm & 7:30 pm
    Full of enchantment, thrill and wonder, Le Cirque de Bohème has delighted kids and adults for years. Founded by Frenchman Michel Michelis, his circus company, Le Cirque de Bohème, was created 12 years ago in Paris and moved to California seven years ago. All tickets are  $25. However, because space is limited in the tent, all attendees must have a ticket, available here at Brown Paper Tickets here.
  • San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
    War Memorial Opera House
    Friday, 2 & 7 pm, Saturday, 11 am & 4 pm

    San Francisco Ballet’s awe-inspiring production is like no other, with colorful, larger-than-life scenery, over 200 dazzling costumed characters, and of course Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score performed live by the world-class San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Ticket prices start at $65. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or visit their website.
  • Marin on Ice
    Northgate Mall, San Rafael
    Friday, 2–10 pm, Saturday, noon–10 pm, Sunday, noon–9 pm
    This Saturday, Marin on Ice opens for another season of outdoor ice skating at San Rafael's Northgate Mall, where it runs through January 11. Marin's only holiday ice skating rink features 6,300 square feet of real ice and will be open daily for outdoor skating. Skating is $15 per person, which includes skate rental. Private ice cabanas will also be available for rental and "Skate Buddies" are available for beginners. For more info, visit their website.
  • African-American Shakespeare Company: Cinderella
    Herbst Theatre, Fort Mason, San Francisco
    Friday, 3 & 8 pm, Saturday, 11 am & 3 pm
    Back by popular demand, the holiday season once again sees the return of this heartwarming holiday show where Cinderella, toiling away as a lowly scullery maid to please her evil stepmother (and oddly masculine stepsisters) comes in contact with a Fairy Godmother who means business with a capital B. Aided by the help of a little bit of magic, Cinderella finds her Prince Charming and learns that anything—even miracles—are possible when you believe in yourself. After the show audience members will have a magical moment to meet the entire cast for a holiday “meet and greet” picture opportunity. Tickets: $20–$40. For more info, visit their website.
  • ZooLights 2016
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday, 5–8 pm

    Experience the wonder of the holiday season and enjoy your 100-acre park, conservation center, and zoo under beautiful and bright lights. ZooLights 2016 takes you on a magical trip to a destination like no other—with Santa Claus, reindeer and a holiday marketplace with food and seasonal delights. Lovely music from carolers will fill the air and bright lights will shine the way as you leave the city behind and retreat to a holiday hideaway. Admission: $8 adults, $6 youth 4–14, free for kids 3 and under; parking $10. Location: Sloat Boulevard at the Great Highway, San Francisco. For more info, visit their website.
  • Zoo Lights
    Oakland Zoo
    Friday, 5:30–9 pm,
    Hundreds of thousands of LED lights brighten Oakland's night sky. Highlights include a candy cane lane themed rides area, a night time adventure on the Outback Express train, rocking around the Christmas trees and a light show that's sure to blow out any bah-hum-bugs. ZooLights is a separate event and is not included in regular Zoo Admission. $8 adults, $7 children 2–14 and seniors 65+, free for children under 2 and adults over 80. For more info, visit their website.
  • Rombeiro Christmas House
    Devonshire Drive, Novato

    Friday–Sunday, 6–10 pm
    Their home is something that truly has to be seen to be believed, and photos don't really do it justice. There are something like 140,000 lights as well as countless figurines, dioramas, and decorations adorning the front and side yards, walls, and roof of the Rombeiro house. If you think the outside is impressive, then you need to go on inside and get a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. You'll find model trains, more figurines, Christmas trees, and the biggest lighted holiday village you've ever seen. Location: 34 Devonshire Drive, off of Center Road, Novato. For more info, read about our visit here.

Where's Santa Now? NORAD Tracks Santa 2016!

December 22, 2016

NORAD Santa Tracker 2016

Every Christmas, the men and women of NORAD take a break from tracking the skies and waterways of North America and instead follow Santa Claus on his annual Christmas trek around the globe. You can check out Saint Nick's progress live online at NORAD's special Santa Tracking website, www.noradsanta.org. You can also track Santa on a mobile app available for iOS, Android, or Windows devices.

Ice Skating Fun at Snoopy's Home Ice in Santa Rosa

December 21, 2016

Snoopy's Home Ice Redwood Empire Ice ArenaOne of our must-do family tradions during the holidays is to visit Snoopy's Home Ice, as well as the Charles M. Schulz Museum right next door. The arena was a gift to the North Bay community from the late Santa Rosa resident and Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, and has been going strong since 1969.

I always consider an outing here a holiday tradition, especially since I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year, and attended a few holiday ice shows here over the years, too. It was always a treat to see Charles Schulz himself sitting in the audience, enjoying the show and chatting with visitors. 

Colorful Hand-Painted, Original Art for Babies and Kids!

December 20, 2016

Looking for a unique gift? Local illustrator and cartoonist Michael Capozzola creates fun and whimsical hand-painted name art that's perfect for the nursery or a child's room. Each personalized creation is made with pen and ink and watercolor on cold-press paper. Inspired by vintage playbills and concert posters, they're bright and colorful, with each letter made out of different objects and shapes.

Michael is a San Francisco-based cartoonist whose work has appeared in Mad Magazine, McSweeney's, and WIRED. His cartoon, "Surveillance Caricatures," ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, for four years, too. He started creating name art as gifts for friends, and soon the commissions and requests came pouring in. You can see examples of Michael's name art work on his website. www.paintedbabynames.com, where you can order your own creation, too! While he refers to them as baby names, they're really gifts delightful for kids of all ages.

Family Road Trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

December 20, 2016

Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of our favorite family getaways is a visit to the Monterey Peninsula and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's about a three-hour drive from Marin, making it possible as a day trip, but even better as an overnighter or long weekend with the family. Winter may even be the best time to visit, since you can avoid the coastal fog that blankets the area in the summer and the tourist season crowds have subsided a bit.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, and we're willing to bet that it is. The exhibits reflect the aquarium's mission to research and educate the public about the biodiversity of Monterey Bay and the California coast, and they're fascinating.

Double-Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

December 19, 2016

Double-chocolate candy cane cookies

These moist and chewy cookies contain plenty of two iconic holiday ingredients: chocolate and candy canes! They're the perfect addition to a holiday cookie platter, and I bet Santa wouldn't turn his nose up to a couple of them on Christmas Eve. If you really want to supercharge the peppermint flavor, replace the vanilla with peppermint extract. My kids think the crushed candy canes on top of these cookies give them plenty of peppermint flavor, so I usually just leave it at that. These are also great made with whole-wheat pastry flour, but plain old all-purpose flour is fine, too.

Ingredients

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