Get Comfortable with Saving Energy and Money

December 15, 2014

Nugget Marin Mommies Presents a sponsored article from the Bay Area Regional Energy Network and Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade.

Energy Efficiency Improves Your Living Space and Pays You Back

With the holidays fast approaching and temperatures getting colder, many Marin families are looking for ways to make their homes more comfortable. What a lot of families don’t know, is that a home improvement project designed to make their home more comfortable in the winter months can also make their home more energy-efficient all year round, and qualify for rebates through Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade.

Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade offers rebates for energy-efficient home improvements such as air sealing, duct sealing, attic insulation, wall insulation, and high-efficiency furnaces, cooling systems, and water systems—all designed to enhance indoor comfort and air quality, lower utility costs, add value to your home, and protect the environment. Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade is funded by PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission, with additional funding from the Bay Area Regional Energy Network and Marin County.

Make Your Own Holiday Gingerbread House

December 14, 2014

Gingerbread House

Every year we create a gingerbread house using the nice kit sold by Trader Joe's, but last year, after constructing a house from the kit, my daughter decided she wanted to take our gingerbread house building experience a step further and create another one—this time from scratch! Fortunately, as we found out, it's easy to do and fun.

First thing you have to do is come up with a design for your house. We created a template for a basic gingerbread house that's simple to create and put together. (You can download our template, formatted for two letter-size sheets of paper; get page one here and page two here.) You can embellish and elaborate on this little house and make it your own special creation.

Christmas in Marinwood: The Nisja Bear's House

December 13, 2014

the Nisja's Bear's House in Marinwood

Marin is home to many communities that really go above and beyond the call of duty when getting into the holiday spirit, and of all the places in the county I think Marinwood, the neighborhood sandwiched between Novato and San Rafael, has the most decorated holiday houses per capita!

It's only natural then that one of our favorite Christmas houses happens to be located in Marinwood: the Nisja Bear's house, which has been delighting Marin and Bay Area families for over three decades. Every year there's something new to look at, and plenty of old favorites to visit again.

Marinwood's Mickey Mouse Christmas House

December 13, 2014

Mize's Mickey Mouse Christmas House

One of my children's favorite decorated and lighted Christmas house is the Mize family's Mickey Mouse House (AKA "Mickey's Christmas House") in Marinwood. Visit it, and you'll see why it's so popular! The Mickey Mouse House, located at 417 Blackstone Drive (at Las Gallinas Avenue), looks to be just a regular lighted Christmas house at first glance. Last year, the Mize family and the Mickey Mouse Christmas House were even featured on the ABC series The Great Christmas Light Fight.

Get out of your car and walk up the short driveway, though and you'll see why it's worth a visit for kids of all ages. Every evening from 6 to 10 pm, the two-car garage is opened to reveal two galleries of what has to be every Walt Disney toy, stuffed animal, decoration, and gimgrack ever produced, all artfully arranged in two spectacular holiday displays.

Come Play at Snow Days at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

December 12, 2014

Snow Days at the Bay Area Discovery Museum Bundle up and come on down to the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito this Friday-Sunday to play in the snow! The museums first-ever Snow Days Family Fundraiser takes place on Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. In addition to playing in the snow, museum visitors can learn about the science of snow, participate in winter-themed acitivities, and have a frozen good time!

The real snow at Snow Days is provided by event sponser Northstar California ski resort near Lake Tahoe. Play in the snow, then find out how a snow storm is formed and learn how Northstar makes its own snow using state-of-the-art technology. Snow Days fun also includes train rides through the museum grounds, snowmen building, storytimes, ice exploration, an ice sculpture demo, and more.

Admission to Snow Days is $10 for museum members and $15 general. Buy advance tickets online here. Proceeds from the Snow Days Family Fundraiser go to supporting the Bay Area Discovery Museum's mission to ignite and advance creative thinking for all children.

Cool Camps for Winter Break in Marin and Beyond

December 12, 2014

studio 4 artLooking for something fun for the kids to do over the upcoming winter break? Check out some of the great winter day camps here in Marin and San Francisco.

  • Studio 4 Art
    1133 Grant Avenue

    (415) 596-5546
    Campers will have the choice of many different projects each day. Popular events such as clay, sewing, cartooning, and painting will be highlighted, all tought by Studio 4 Art's professional artist teachers. The camps are December 22–24, 29–31 and January 2 from 9:30 am–1:30 pm for ages 4–14. A sibling discount is offered. For more info, visit
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum Winter Break Camps
    557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito
    (415) 339-3900

    The BADM is offing two two-day sessions: Art Attack on December 22 and 23 and Shipwrecks and Treasure Hunts on December 29 and 30. Both run from 9 am–3 pm and are for children ages 4–7. In Art Attack, explore your artistic potential and express yourself through paint, sculpture, nature objects, recycled materials, and the very popular messy art curriculum. Shipwrecks and Treasure Hunts campers will sing chanteys, make maps, dig for artifacts and treasures, and discover strange sea creatures. Cost: Supporting Family Members: $210 per session; general: $235 per session. Note: no extended care available. For more info, visit

Marin Weekend Family Fun for December 12, 13 & 14

December 12, 2014
The Rombeiros' Christmas House
Visit the Rombeiro's Christmas House in Novato this weekend.

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.

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. Also, check out our North Bay Christmas Tree Farms and Lots article.

Friday, December 12

  • Snow Days Family Fundraiser
    Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito
    Friday-Sunday, 10 am–4 pm

    Bundle up the whole family and come to the museum's newest family fundraiser: Snow Days. Explore the museum transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with REAL SNOW! Young museum visitors will enjoy playing in the snow, learning the science of snow, and participating in special winter-themed activities and programs. It’s sure to be a fantastically frozen good time. Tickets: Members $10; General $15. Location: 557 McReynolds Road, Fort Baker, Sausalito. For more info, call (415) 339-3900 or visit their website.
  • San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker
    War Memorial Opera House

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 & 7 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. Performances of Nutcracker begin on Friday, December 12 and run through December 29. Ticket prices start at $26. For more info, call (415) 865-2000 or  visit their website.
  • Marinwood's WinterFest Family Event
    Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael
    Friday, 5–7 pm
    Come celebrate the holiday season at Marinwood's annual WinterFest! Ticket prices include: photos with Santa, arts and crafts, face painting, bounce house, holiday treats, live music and more... Tickets: $10 in advance kids ages 2–12, $12 at the door. Adults are free! Location: 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Zoo Lights Preview
    San Francisco Zoo
    Friday–Sunday, 5–8 pm

    As a warm up for the full-on fun of Zoo Lights, the zoo is extending hours for these special weekend nights in December. Come enjoy the San Francisco Zoo at night under magical holiday lights. Shop at the all-new Holiday Marketplace, see the reindeer romp, enjoy hot apple cider and cocoa at Cafe Playfield, and hum along to seasonal music as you play in the Elinor Friend Playground. Adults $5, kids 14 and under $5, kids 3 and under: free. For more information, visit their website.
  • Le Petit Cirque de Noël
    Marin County Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Friday–Sunday, 6–7:15 pm

    Let Petit Cirque de Noël presents A Magic Box under the Big Tent at Marin Country Mart. Tickets: free for children age 18 and under; $15 adults. Tickets required for seating and can be purchased at the Trading Post or on Brown Paper Tickets. To reserve tickets, call the Trading Post at (415) 448-5043. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, December 13

  • Breakfast with Santa
    Ross Valley Fire Station, San Anselmo
    Saturday, 8 am
    & 10 am
    Bring the family to the annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Ross Valley Fire Station. There will also be a toy drive so be sure to bring a toy! Limited seating. Tickets: $6 children, $8 adults in advance or $8 and $10 adult at the door. Register by calling (415) 258-4640. Location: 777 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo. For more info, call (415) 258-4600 or visit their website.
  • Breakfast with Santa
    San Rafael Community Center
    Saturday, 8:30 am & 10 am

    Breakfast with Santa features pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice, milk, coffee and a surprise treat from Santa! Two seatings: 8:30am (doors open at 8:15 am, barcode: 22661) and 10 am (doors open at 10 am, barcode: 22662). Cost: $5 children, $7 seniors/adults. Pre-registration is required; please specify seating time when registering. Share the joy by bringing a can of food to donate to the Marin Community Food Bank. Location: 618 B Street, San Rafael. For more info call (415) 485-3333 or  visit their website.
  • Holiday Fun at the Farmer's Market
    Marin County Mart, Larkspur Landing
    Saturday, 9 am–2 pm
    This holiday celebration will be packed with fun family-friendly activities, including writing and sending a letter to Santa, complimentary photos with Santa, children's entertainment, holiday cookie decorating, pony rides, face painting, and seasonal music and caroling. Snack on festive holiday treats and beverages, including savory toddies for adults, Hoppy Holidaze Christmas Ale from Marin Brewing Co. and warm apple cider. In addition to a great selection of farmers' market organic produce, pastured meats, artisan cheeses, baked goods, nuts, jams, confections, wreaths and holiday flowers, you can also shop for unique farm inspired locally made arts and crafts. Donations of gently used and new toys will be accepted. For more info, visit their website.
  • Breakfast with Santa
    Belvedere Community Center
    Saturday, 9–10:30 am
    Music, crafts, a tasty breakfast, and a visit with the Big Man! Photo opportunity with Santa, so bring your camera. Cost: $15 per person. Please call (415) 435-4355 for reservations. Reserve your seats in advance as space is limited and tickets will not be available at the door. Location: 450 San Rafael Avenue, Belvedere. For more info, visit their website.
  • Bookmarks Annual Teddy Bear Tea
    Belvedere-Tiburon Library
    Saturday & Sunday, 9:30 am, 10:30 am & 11:30 am

    You and your favorite bear are welcome at the Teddy Bear Tea. Wear your holiday finest, and enjoy refreshments, music, stories and crafts. Proceeds will benefit the Children's Library. Tickets $25 per person. For children 2 and up. Location: 1501 Tiburon Boulevard, Tiburon. For more info, call (415) 789-2665 or visit their website.
  • Let it Snow, Novato!
    Novato City Hall
    Saturday, 10 am–5 pm, carriage rides from 5:30 pm–8:30 pm

    Kids... put on your mittens and come play in the snow. Sleds and all other festivities will be provided free of charge. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will arrive by fire truck at 11:30 am and kids will be able to get their pictures taken with the jolly pair. There will be free candy canes and balloons. Children will also be able to enter a coloring contest and get their faces painted. Live music and more. Free. For more info, visit their website.
  • Wreath Making Workshop
    McNears Beach Park, San Rafael
    Saturday, 10 am–1 pm

    Bring the beauty of nature to your front door with a festive, homemade wreath! Join rangers at McNears Beach Park for a day of sipping hot chocolate, listening to holiday tunes, and creating your own natural wreath to take home. Fresh greenery, pinecones and other natural materials will be provided. You may bring your own decorations to use. This event is ideal for ages 7 and up; no experience necessary. Rain does not cancel this event. RSVP appreciated but not required. For questions or to RSVP contact Ranger Sarah Burkhart at Location: 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael. For more info, visit their website.
  • Sausalito Winterfest
    Downtown Sausalito
    Saturday, 10 am–7 pm

    Kids holiday activities take place from 10 am–2 pm, and the Holiday Fine Art and Craft Fair takes place from 10 am–7 pm. For more information, visit their website.
  • A Holiday Magic Toy Box Tea at Falkirk
    1408 Mission Avenue at "E" Street, San Rafael
    Saturday and Sunday, seatings at noon & 3 pm
    The tea is an old-fashioned tour de force in the elegant Queen Anne Victorian Falkirk Mansion. Homemade tea sandwiches and sweets are served, along with tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages. Features include life-sized toys, a raffle, and plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure you bring your teddy bear or other favorite toy! This extremely popular event is by reservation only and always sells our early! Reserve your spot by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online here. The cost is $25 for adults and $22 for children, or $45 for an adult-and-child combination ticket. For more info, visit
  • Kids Book Event: A Cookie for Santa
    Book Passage, Corte Madera
    Saturday, noon

    Author Stephanie Shaw reads her book, "A Cookie For Santa." "The Gingerbread Man" mixes it up with "The Night Before Christmas" in this cleverly constructed Christmas story about a smart cookie who avoids becoming Santa's midnight snack. Location: 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. For more info, call (415) 927-0960 or visit their website.
  • Fifth Annual Teddy Bear Tea à la Française
    Red Hill Church of San Anselmo
    Saturday, 11 am–12:30 pm
    Come for tea and hot cocoa, finger sandwiches, holiday cookies, and fun! You and your little ones will enjoy tea service, traditional live holiday music, a fireside telling of The story of Christmas in English and French, and a professional photo seating! Each child should bring his or her own teddy bear (or nounours) to share tea time with and dress in dapper holiday style! Free (donations are accepted but not expected). RSVP required at Location: 921 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo.
  • San Francisco Bazaar Holiday Show
    Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason

    Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–6 pm
    Celebrate the eighth year of this locally produced art and craft show. Shop the handmade market, participate in DIY workshops, enter the Crafty Raffle, eat local food, enjoy live entertainment, and more. First 200 people in the door get a custom tote bad and limited-edition print. Free admission. For more info, visit their website.
  • Forest Wreath & Garland Workshop
    San Francisco Presidio
    Saturday & Sunday, noon–5 pm

    Join us for this all-ages event and learn how to make a unique "field and forest" wreath made entirely from natural materials collected from around the Presidio. All supplies will be provided for this free workshop, however, we encourage participants to bring along their own embellishments such as ribbons, old cards, fabric scraps, and small mementos to make your wreath a one-of-a-kind piece of art! Location: Pershing Square, Main Post at Arguello Boulevard and Sheridan Avenue in the Presidio. Free. Reserve your spot here. For more info, visit their website.

Rainy Day Holiday Fun: Easy Playdough Snowmen

December 11, 2014

Playdough snowmanKids love sculpting with Play-Doh, and it's easy to make at home for a fun rainy day activity. You probably have all of the ingredients sitting in your pantry right now!

We whipped up a batch of white "snow-dough" to make some cute holiday snowman decorations. It was an easy and fun craft for the kids to make. This recipe makes quite a bit of dough—equivalent to two large cans of Play-Doh. If you don't need that much, feel free to cut recipe in half.

To make your own snow-dough, you'll need:

Some of Our Favorite Family Holiday Movies

December 9, 2014

The Snowman videoDuring the holidays, we're inundated with Christmas-themed movies and TV specials of all different kinds. But what's really worth watching? Being something of a family of movie buffs, we decided to put together our list of favorite holiday movies, so here are seven seasonal offerings that we think are worth repeat watching each December.

The Snowman

Based on the picture book of the same name by Raymond Briggs, The Snowman is short 27-minute animated film that tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve, only to find that it comes to life later on that night and takes him on a magical journey to the North Pole.

There’s no dialogue to speak of, except for some introductory narration by David Bowie (yes, David Bowie). The Snowman, with its musical interlude featuring the haunting song Walking in the Air, beautiful animation, and messages of friendship and loss, is a true classic. Your kids will love it, and I challenge any parent not to get choked up by the end.

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