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Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 4 to 5

November 26, 2014

All-in-1 EaselFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers on Monday; today, we'll look at indoor fun and active play toys for ages 4 to 5.

Ages 4 to 5 Indoor Fun

All-in-1 Easel
Forget the floor, the kitchen table or–gasp!–the walls. Every little artist needs a proper wooden easel. Adjustable to grow with your pint-sized Picasso, this beauty is double-sided for communal creativity, combining a blackboard and magnetic whiteboard. The top dowel holds a roll of paper nearly 19' long, and three paint pots fit into the bottom shelf. What a work of art! $79.99

Lottie Snow Queen
Lottie is thrilled to receive a party invitation to the Lottieville Masked Ball. Inspired by one of her favorite stories, Lottie decides to dress as a Snow Queen. Wearing a silver, sparkly mask and a magnificent ice blue and frosty white gown studded with silver snowflakes will any of her friends recognize her? $19.99

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Babies & Toddlers

November 24, 2014

fold & go trampolineThanksgiving is nearly here and of course so are the Holidays! As many parents know, finding the perfect gifts for kids can be a challenge, especially when it comes to toys. The toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, filled us in again this year to the hottest toys for this Holiday season. Five Little Monkeys' picks are based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've broken down their recommendations into lists for various age groups. First, we'll look at the most popular toys this year for babies and toddlers. Tomorrow, we'll look at toys for ages 4 to 5.

Baby (0 to 1 year)

Bead Maze by Whoozit
Beads on the run! Wooden bead run activity toy features 3 colorful bead runs, rotating gears, mini wooden Whoozit that glides on track, fabric cords and a discovery mirror. Water-based non-toxic finish. $29.99

Date Night Marin November: "Date Day" at the Coast

November 6, 2014

Date Night MarinBay Area locals know that the coast can be cold and miserable during the summer, but sunny and spectacular during the fall before the rain arrives in earnest. For November's Marin date night, we decided to take a look at fun activities out in West Marin coupled with a great dinner or lunch. Let's face it—you probably won't be driving out to Point Reyes for a night out, but a day out is a whole different matter!

You can find some ideas for daytime outdoor outings in our special sections dedicated to Point Reyes and the outdoors in Marin.

Do you have a favorite date night (or any time of day) spot that you'd like us to highlight in a future post? Let us know.

Point Reyes and Point Reyes National Seashore have a wealth of fun activities to do with or without the kids. Get in touch with with nature on a long hike, paddle Tomales Bay on a kayak excursion from Blue Waters Kayaking in Inverness, or visit the artisan cheesemakers of West Marin on California's Cheese Trail. Of course, a long walk on the beach might be in order, too.

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.

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.

Recycle Your Electronics for Free at the GreenCitizen Eco-Center in San Rafael

September 28, 2014

Green Citizen San RafaelIf you were wondering what to do with all those old obsolete electronic devices, look no further—Marin County now has a full-time place for e-waste recycling! GreenCitizen recently opened its first location in at 777 Grand Ave in San Rafael. This new Eco-Center provides a place for Marin residents and businesses to recycle their old electronics for free and learn about e-waste recycling. The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm all year long.

GreenCitizen decided to open its San Rafael center after seeing many Marin County residents recycle at its Eco-Centers in Berkeley and downtown San Francisco. While new to Marin, GreenCitizen has helped over 250,000 residents recycle their electronics and performed over 20,000 e-waste pick-ups from businesses since it opened nine years ago.

GreenCitizen tries to extend the lifetime of the electronics that come through its doors, and 30% of the items recycled there are fixed up so they can be reused. What cannot be reused is responsibly recycled within 150 miles of San Francisco.

NewborRN Solutions Offers Support from Pregnancy to Parenthood

September 23, 2014

Karmi and WendyNewboRN Solutions is a local registered nursing corporation created by Marin mom and former hospital administrator Karmi Soder and her business partner Wendi Karam, a pediatric RN. The mission of NewboRN solutions is to help educate new parents and provide them with the information and support they need.

Their resources and services include CPR certificaiton, childbirth education, sleep consultants, night nurses, doulas, acupuncture, personal trainers, and more. They server Marin and the North Bay, San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Peninsula. We asked Karmi to tell us a little about herself and NewboRN solutions.

Please tell us a little about yourself

I am a mother of four, pediatric nurse practitioner, and former hospital administrator who wants to help other families! I love being a nurse and getting the "awww" reaction. I love having my children know about my business and how hard parents work to be better parents- and that it is a lot of work but can also be the most fun job ever!

Preserve Memories in Clay with Ceramic Hand and Foot Prints for Babies and Kids in Marin

September 23, 2014

Piggy Print ceramic handprintOne of my most cherished keepsakes is a ceramic oval embossed with the hand prints of my kids. We did it a few years ago with Shawna O'Conner and her wonderful Your Piggy Prints. It's beautiful, and I'm really happy that we made it. After all, the kids will never be that little again! (We profiled Shawna in an article here.)

With the holidays coming up, and since your kids aren't getting any younger, why not create one yourselves? Needless to say these ceramic hand and foot print pieces make fantastic gifts for moms, dads, and grandparents, so go make one now and avoid the holiday rush.

Here's where you can make this unique and priceless clay hand or foot print craft in Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

Your Piggy Prints

San Rafael 94903
(415) 595-8446

Run by Marin mom Shawna O'Connor, Your Piggy Prints creates beautiful ceramic keepsakes. Contact Shawna at (415) 595-8446 or shawna@yourpiggyprints.com to make an appointment in her home studio in San Rafael. She also appears at events throughout Marin. Prices range from $25 for an ornament or magnet to $90 for a quad print of any four prints in one piece.

Date Night Marin: September 2014

September 19, 2014

Date night in MarinWe all love our kids, but sometimes you just have to get away and do something as grownups. Enter the date night! In this new monthly series of articles, we'll be highlighting some of the best in fun activities and date destinations for Mom and Dad to do in Marin sans little ones. Do you have a favorite date night spot that you'd like us to highlight in a future post? Let us know.

This month, September, 2014, we're focusing on places where you can get food, drink, and great live entertainment.

Northern Marin

Sleepy Novato has never been considered a nightlife hub by any stretch of the imagination, but over the past couple of years, that's begun to change. Trek Winery, a family-run tasting room and wine bar in downtown Novato, offers award-winning wines and live entertainment on weekends. This month, Trek presents live music by Chime Travelers in the tasting room on Saturday, September 20 from 7 to 10 pm (no cover). On Saturday, September 27, the Marin Comedy Show presents standup comedy by Steve Mittelman in the barrel room ($25 reserved, $20 general admission). Trek is located at 1026 Machin Avenue. Visit them online at trekwine.com or call (415) 899-9883 for more information.

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