Make Some Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

February 2, 2017

Valentine's Day cookiesMy kids love to make these basic sugar cookies and decorate them for Valentine's Day. They are easy to make and are a fun project for a rainy day. Decorate your cookies with pink and red Valentine's sprinkles or, better yet, an artistically applied drizzle of rich dark chocolate. They look festive and taste good too.

Give as a gift wrapped in cellophane bags tied with raffia or ribbon or in a heart-shaped box. Who wouldn't be happy to get these delicious and pretty sweet treats on Valentines Day?

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (you’ll need a little more for dusting your work surface, too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Groundhog Day Results: 6 More Weeks of Winter

February 2, 2017

Ground HogThis just in: Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, meaning that winter will be here for another 6 weeks or so. All the alternate, less noteworthy groundhogs, such as Atlanta's General Beauregard Lee did not see his shadow, which means an early Southern spring.

Groundhog Day has always been America's most underappreciated holiday, but not in our house! Our kids saw it on the calendar and have been eagerly anticipating the great day for weeks. We're extra lucky this year in that Groundhog Day coincides with that other unofficial American holiday—the Super Bowl.

Hiking, History, and Nature at Olompali State Historic Park in Novato

January 31, 2017

Olompali State Historic Park

Just north of Novato, on the eastern slopes of Mount Burdell, lies Olompali State Historic Park. This gem of a local resource is often overlooked by families as they drive by on Highway 101, but it's well worth a visit. With miles of hiking trails, historic sites spanning 8,000 years of human habitation, and sweeping views of the Petaluma River Valley, Olompali has much to offer for visitors of all ages.

The story of Olompali starts with the Coast Miwoks, who lived on the site for thousands of years. Olompali was one of the primary Miwok settlements in Northern California until the 1850s. At the park, you'll find evidence of their presence here in the form of a "Kitchen Rock", a large stone used as a mortar by the Miwok people to grind acorns and seeds, and a reconstructed village with redwood bark and tule reed kotchas—traditional Coast Miwok dwellings. There's also a native plant garden with educational panels describing how the Miwok used each plant for food or medicinal purposes.

When Life Hands You Meyer Lemons, Make Lemon Bars

January 31, 2017

Lemon barLemon bars have to be one of my all time favorite desserts. I usually reserve lemon bars for special occasions, because they are so sweet and rich. They are great for a special treat, party or a school event.

My mom gave me a huge basket of Meyer lemons from her tree, so naturally I used them to make some lemon bars. If you're not familiar with Meyer lemons, they're a seasonal citrus fruit that's similar to the regular Eureka lemons that you find in the grocery store, but with a thinner peel; they're sweeter and more aromatic, too. The lemon bars they made are truly fantastic, with an amazing citrus flavor that you simply won't get from grocery store lemons. If you don't have a Meyer lemon tree yourself (or have a friend who does), you can find them Trader Joe's or at one of the local farmers markets—while they're in season.

Here is the recipe I used for lemon bars. Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but you have to offset the tartness of the lemons. If you don't have Meyer lemons, that's OK. This recipe is still fantastic with regular lemons, too.

10 Wonderful Valentine's Books for Children

January 30, 2017

My kids have always loved to go to the library and check out a big stack of books that relate to the current holiday or season. Valentine's Day of course is no exception, so here are some of our choices for great kids' books to read this week. Find them at your local library or bookstore. The links on each title take you to that book's listing on the Marin County Free Library website.

Llama Llama I Love You by Anne Dewdney
In this board book, little llama shows his friends and family how much he loves them with heart-shaped cards and lots of hugs. It's a perfect introduction to Llama Llama for babies and toddlers.

Groggle's Monster Valentine by Diana Murray
Groggle has been up all night making a Valentine’s Day card. This isn’t just any Valentine, though, and it has to be perfect—it’s for Snarlina, his beast friend in the whole wide world. Will Groggle's monster impulses foil his plans? (The library doesn't have this book yet, but you can suggest it to them.)

Slow Cooker Chili for a Cool Evening

January 30, 2017

slow cooker chiliWinter is the perfect time to fire up the slow cooker and make some long-simmered comfort food. Chili is a perfect food for a cool winter, fall, or early spring evening. Everyone in our family likes it, and you can offer a variety of different condiments so everyone can customize their bowl to their own liking.

Here, I’ve adapted my go-to chili recipe for the slow cooker. Put all the ingredients in the cooker in the morning and let it go and it will be hot and ready in time for dinner. You can also chop up the vegetables for the recipe—onions, garlic, and green peppers—in the food processor, saving a little more work in the process.

Horsemanship Summer Camps for Kids in Marin

January 30, 2017

Horse

Is your child fascinated by horses? Has she always wanted to learn how to ride a horse, or if she already rides, would she like to improve her skills? Horseback riding is always a popular summer activity, and a number of horsemanship camps throughout Marin for horse lovers to choose from.

Miwok Livery Stables

This equestrian center on Tennessee Valley Road in Mill Valley is open for registration. Camp hours are 9 am to 12:30 pm for morning camp and 9 am to 3:30 pm for all-day camp, and after care is available until 5 pm. Cost is $650 per week for morning sessions and $850 per week for all-day camp. These camps always sell out early. Visit www.miwokstables.com for more information and to fill out an online application, or call (415) 383-8048 for more information.

Visit a Museum for Free in February

January 29, 2017

Visit a Bay Area Museum for freeDid 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.

First Wednesday of the Month—February 1

First Thursday of the Month—February 2

Bank of America Museums on Us—February 4 & 5

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:

Fun and Easy Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year

January 28, 2017

Dragon paper craftThe Chinese Lunar New Year, marking the start of Year of the Rooster, begins today, January 28. To kick off your celebration, create some neat Chinese New Year crafts, like these cute paper dragons and lanterns. They're easy and fun to make and perfect to decorate the house, and make great playdate, school, or scout group activities. They'll also be perfect to have on hand while you watch the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade on February 11 Have your own parade through the living room!

Paper Dragons

Here’s what you’ll need to make your dragons:

  • Gold stickers or paint (red and gold are traditional colors for Chinese New Year)
  • Crepe paper in red, yellow, or orange
  • Dragon head template (download here)
  • Heavy white paper or card stock (letter size)
  • Markers or crayons
  • Wooden chopsticks or other thin but sturdy sticks
  • Tape
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