Pumpkins and More at the Tolay Fall Festival

October 9, 2014

Tolay Fall FestivalMany families in Marin and the North Bay have fond memories of visiting the popular pumpkin patch at Cardoza Ranch outside Petaluma. In 2005, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department acquired Cardoza Ranch, also known as Tolay Lake Ranch, turning its 1,737 acres of farmland into a county park.

Tolay Lake Ranch is a unique spot, with a freshwater lake, wetlands, diverse wildlife, and 8,000 years human habitation with extensive archaeological and historical sites. Tolay Lake Regional Park is currently under development and access is restricted, although the public can visit the park through a day-use permit program.

The Sonoma Regional Parks Department keeps the spirit of the old Cardoza pumpkin patch alive by holding the annual Tolay Fall Festival, now in its eighth year. This popular event takes place over two  weekends in October, October 11–13 and October 18–19, from 11 am–5 pm.

In addition to Halloween pumpkins in the huge pumpkin patch, the festival features a plentiful harvest of gourds, squash, multi-colored corn, and other produce, as well as a pumpkin seed-spitting contest, ranger-led hay rides, a giant straw maze, a Native American village with demonstrations, the Night Time Creatures Barn with the Creepy Crawly Critters Room, live animals, nature hikes, old-fashioned crafts , lawn games, and more.

Marin's Five Favorite Playgrounds for Family Fun

October 7, 2014

Pioneer Park in NovatoOne of the questions we often get asked is "What's the best playground in Marin?" Rather than give our opinion, again, we decided to put that question to our readers via social media, and to let you choose the top five playgrounds in Marin County. So, without further ado, here are the five best playgrounds in Marin, as chosen by Marin Mommies readers, along with the five runners-up:

Number 1: Pioneer Park, Novato

Pioneer Park must be a favorite of families in Marin, since it was the first choice by a wide margin. This large park has a recently improved playground with tot lot and equipment for older kids, as well as plenty of lawns, picnic areas, and shady trees. There are also tennis courts, restrooms, a bandshell, and even an historic cemetery to explore on the hill adjacent to the park. Location: 1007 Simmons Lane, Novato 94945

The Blue Angels Return to San Francisco for Fleet Week 2014!

October 7, 2014

Blue Angels perform in San Francisco for Fleet WeekCome and celebrate the men and women who serve in our country’s Navy and Marine Corps at San Francisco Fleet Week 2014. Fleet Week features a variety of events, including a parade of ships, an air show, live music, ship tours, and of course exciting performances by the Navy’s popular Blue Angels precision flying team, who return to the skies over San Francisco Bay this year after a hiatus due to federal budget cuts.

Events take place in a variety of locations on the San Francisco waterfront from October 9–13. The Blue Angels practice on Thursday, October 9, from noon to 5 pm, and rehearse on Friday, October 10 from 3 to 4 pm. They'll perform over San Francisco Bay on Saturday and Sunday, October 11 and 12, from 3–4 pm. They can be seen from a variety of locations on the Bay, including Angel Island and Fort Baker in Sausalito. The Blue Angels' performance is part of a Fleet Week airshow that also includes the Patriots jet team, the Horsemen P-51 Mustang Flight Team, the US Navy Leap Frogs parachute team, and others.

What's for Dinner: Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

October 6, 2014

chicken and broccoli stir fryI love it when I find a dish that everyone in the family loves and that's healthy, economical, and easy to make, too. This Chinese-inspired chicken and broccoli stir fry is all of those things. Serve it with some plain rice or Asian noodles and it's a complete dinner that comes together quickly.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Fresh Healthy Family Meals from Pernilla's Pantry

October 6, 2014

Pernilla's PantrySometimes I find myself making the same things over and over again for dinner, or grabbing takeout more often than I probably should. That's why I was so interested in Pernilla's Pantry, a mom-run business here in Marin that offers creative healthy meals for busy families.

Pernilla's Pantry is a little different from other meal delivery services in that the food is not prepared for you in advance. Instead, you get a recipe cards and all the ingredients that you need to make four fantastic family meals for the week. Pernilla's Pantry was created by Pernilla, a Marin mom and Swedish native who loves to share her passion for food and good cooking with others.

We had the opportunity to try out a week's worth of meals from Pernilla's Pantry recently, and we were all very impressed! Here's how it works: log in to the Pernilla's Pantry website and choose your meals for the week. You can also choose to order dinner for two or a family of four. During our week we had grilled salmon with orzo and brocollini; roasted chicken with creamy broccoli slaw; tomato, olive, and spinach pasta; and pork tenderloin with snap pea salad.

A Visit to Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch

October 5, 2014

Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin PatchThis weekend we paid a visit to the popular Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, a certified organic pumpkin patch that has been a Marin County tradition for 19 years! Located in the small west Marin village of Nicasio, the farm is just west of the Nicasio Village Square right on Nicasio Valley Road. Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch is open seven days a week through Halloween from 10 am to 6 pm, and it's definitely worth a visit this season.

Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers a wide variety of certified organic pumpkins spread out in an expansive meadow on the farm. Pumpkin varieties ranged from your standard Halloween jack-o-lantern types to white ones, green Italian and Australian varieties, a weird looking warty French pumpkin, and flat European "Cinderella" style squash. The farmstand also offers of gourds, squash, and decorative cornstalks, apples, as well as drinks and snacks.

Like many Halloween pumpkin patches, Nicasio Valley Farms offers the obligatory jumpy houses and inflatable slide. There are also hay rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, farm animals to visit, a climbing wall, face painting, and a train. Many of these attractions have an admission fee, and some are available only on weekends and select days.

Our Top 10 Spooky Halloween Movies for Families

October 4, 2014

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were RabbitHalloween is a few weeks away, and there's nothing much better than watching a spooky (or not too scary) movie with the family and sharing a big bowl of popcorn. I polled everyone in our family to find out what their favorite Halloween movies were, and we came up with this list of ten that we think are must-sees.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (G). This Halloween classic has been family favorite since 1966, so you probably watched it when you were a kid. Charlie Brown still gets nothing but rocks while trick-or-treating, Linus is positive that the Great Pumpkin will pay a visit to the pumpkin patch, and it's still funny and touching. For all ages.

Spookly the Square Pumpkin (G). Based on the picture book of the same name, this story about a differently shaped pumpkin and his farmyard friends is funny and a cut above most Halloween programming for young children. Ages 1–5.

Marin Family Weekend Fun for October 3, 4, & 5

October 3, 2014

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.

Most Halloween pumpkin patches in Marin and Sonoma counties are now open—see our complete list here.

Friday, October 3

  • Peter Pumpkin Patch
    Spring Hill Jersey Farm, Petaluma
    Friday–Sunday, 9 am–6 pm

    Pick your own organic pumpkin, dig for potatoes, take a tractor ride, visit farm animals, taste homemade ice cream and Spring Hill cheese, milk a cow, and get lost in the hay maze. Peter Pumpkin Patch also ofers fresh fruits and vegetables and picnic baskets. Free parking. This is a wonderful and fun pumpkin patch on a real working farm. Location: 4235 Spring Hill Road (off Bodega Ave.). For more info, call (707) 762-3446 or visit their Facebook page.
  • Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch
    Nicasio
    Friday–Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

    The Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, winner of our 2013 Marin Mommies Pumpkin Patch Poll, offers certified organic pumpkins as well as countless attractions including hay rides, farm animals, pony rides, mechanical bulls, a bounce house and giant inflatable slide, a farm stand, Big Jim's award-winning BBQ and ice cream. Popular children's recording artist Tim Cain performs every Sunday form 11 am–noon. Location: 5300 Nicasio Valley Road (1/4 mile north of Nicasio square). For more info, visit their website.
  • Petaluma Pumpkin Patch
    550 Stony Point Road
    Friday & Saturday, 10 am–10 pm and Sunday, 10 am–6pm
    Over 50 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds, as well as a 4-acre Amazing Corn Maze (admission $5, 5 and under free; $9 on Friday and Saturday nights 6–10 pm), farm animals, a zip line, weekend pony rides, face painting, jumpy houses and inflatables, food vendors, covered snack area, and more. For more info, visit their website.
  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
    Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
    Friday 10:30 am–7 pm, Saturday & Sunday, 11 am–7 pm
    This free annual music festival of bluegrass, old time, country, and more, founded by the late Warren Hellman, takes place in Golden Gate Park's Hellman Hollow and Marx and Lindley Meadows. This year's headliners include Carlene Carter, Chris Isaak, the Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill and Lucinda Williams, and the Handsome Family. For more info, visit their website.
  • Kids' Pajama Party with Kathryn Otoshi
    DIESEL, a bookstore, Larkspur
    Friday, 6–7 pm

    Pull on your PJs and bring your teddy bear to the bookstore! Author and illustrator Kathryn Otoshi will be here to read you a bedtime story. Get cozy in front of the fireplace, listen to a story or two, have some milk and cookies and get your books signed before heading home for bed. Kathryn Otoshi is a cat lover and an award-winning author and illustrator who lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Daniel, and two cockatiels. Location: Marin Country Mart, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle. For more info, visit their website.

Saturday, October 4

  • Museums on Us Free Day
    Various Museums
    Saturday & Sunday

    Bank of America cardholders can visit the following Bay Area museums for free! Enjoy the Contemporary Jewish Museum, de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the Chabot Space and Science Center. Photo ID and a valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch credit or debit card must be presented. For more information, visit their website.

Date Night Marin October: Pizza and a Show

October 2, 2014

Date Night MarinFor this month's date night in Marin, why not escape the little ones for the evening and take in some pizza and a show? I know… pizza and a movie is something of a date cliché, but for good reason—it can be as fun to do as grownups as it was back when you were 16.

For our October date night suggestions, we're looking at pizza from a more grownup standpoint and highlighting places that craft artisan pizza in Marin. For the show, you can take advantage of all the great local offering this October. The famous Mill Valley Film Festival is back in town, showing the best of cinema from around the world at theaters throughout the county. And both Marin Theatre Company and Novato Theater Company open new productions this month.

Do you have a favorite date night spot that you'd like us to highlight in a future post? Let us know.

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