Category Archives: adventures

Oh Santa

After weeks of anticipation, the boys went to Santa Land in San Francisco.  Singing Christmas carols walking around town, I was not expecting their reactions.  The picture says it perfectly.  Poor Santa even gave up his throne.

So, here ya go.  The yearly Santa picture.  It was definitely a Royal Tenenbaum moment.tenanabum

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday filled with memories, and even some of the Royal Tenenbaum variety.

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Camping with Kids – 5 Things to Bring Along

campAs my last post emphasizes, I am now a fan of camping with my kids.  The boys love it, I love it, even our dog, loves it.  That’s not to say it’s not a butt-load of work, which it is.  But at the end of the day being out in nature without the distractions and conveniences of home provides a unique time to create memories.

Here’s my list of five things to remember to bring.

flashlights
glow sticksjiffy pop
harmonica
silly ghost stories

From the flashlights to the ghost stories, each of these things enhances our trips. For example, the glow sticks became the vehicle for Bobby to put on a light show.  How he loved seeing them dance in the dark.  The jiffy pop was more of a distraction, but a fun one.  And, of course the ghost stories told around the fire usually involving two superheros who scare the ghosts away.  That’s right – Bobby and CJ were the heroes –  hopefully will be cherished for years to come.

Take A Trip To Fairyland

Discoverying Mushrooms

Take a break from reality and checkout Fairyland. Catch a puppet show, find a rabbit hole and climb up the Jolly Roger.

Before Disneyland, there was Fairyland. Hidden in the middle of busy Oakland, this hidden gem is perfect for young kids. It offers a fun fantasy filled experience for tots and adults alike.

Founded in 1950 by Arthur Navlet, Fairyland has given generations of tots a fun place to develop their imaginations. From Pinocchio to Alice in Wonderland, Fairyland allows kids to interact with their favorite stories.

Moderately priced at $8 for adults and kids over 1 (under 1 are free), Fairyland is an affordable outing. Make sure to grab a key to the fairytale story boxes – $3 a key. Bobby loved holding and using the key to unlock the story boxes.

photo(2)Bobby and CJ recently experienced Fairyland. He loved running around the grounds, exploring miniature houses and riding the little train around the park.  They also loved sliding down the rabbit hole into a painted tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they enjoyed the painted maze themed after the Queen of Hearts.  Then,we popped by to meet Peter Rabbit.

The music tunnel is pretty fabulous as well.  Both boys basically ran in circles, discovering instruments along the way.  The best part was getting to stand in the middle watching them run around.  Ahh, life as only one can experience in fairyland.

Fairyland has more than fairy themed play structures. It has puppet shows and guest appearances from characters like the Cat in the Hat. There are children’s theater performances from June to October.  We may catch the show about the dragons.  While the theater performances are less frequent, the puppet shoes run daily.  Who knew that a puppet show would mesmerize a two busy bustling boys? I sure didn’t.  They loved watching and listening to the story of the Elves & the Shoemaker.

Of course with so much active play, the kids might need some fuel. Fairyland does have a simple and moderately priced snack bar.  With PB&J, chicken burgers and turkey sandwiches on the menu, you’ll find something. I’d have to recommend the sandwiches over the burgers though. The chicken burger I ordered was breaded and fried, resembling a hockey puck. If you want to play it safe, you can bring your own lunch as Fairyland has a grassy picnic area.

After lunch, you can let your tots expel excess energy by running around the playgrounds.  Then pop back in the car and enjoy a quick drive back to the Valley or stay in the Oakland area and enjoy a myriad of things to do.  Berkeley Bowl is worth a stop.  With endless rows of fresh produce, it’s a great educational not to mention culinary experience for wee ones.  For other ideas check my article on Tilden Park .

similar article published at http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2011/Spotlight-Oaklands-Fairyland/

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish — Go Fish

There comes a time in every young boy’s life when he wants to try to catch something.  Sometimes it’s a bug, other times it’s a leprechaun, but more recently my young boy, Bobby, has been talking about catching a fish. fish So, after much debate about what the first experience should be like whether it should be out at a pond, or part of a camping trip, my husband and I decided to take the easy option.  We went to a trout farm to go fishing.   A trout farm provides a pretty fool proof way of providing a successful first fishing experience.  In fact, it seems pretty impossible not to catch a fish.

So, off we went to Hagemann Ranch in Bodega Bay.   This place is worth the drive.  Boasting two ponds, docks and little nooks and crannies, it was perfect.  Add to that, the convenience of rentable fishing poles and license free fishing, it’s the ideal destination for first time fisherman (and parents too).

So, we rented three poles, bought some worms and were off to fish. As we walked down to the pond, I was a little skeptical and wondering how long it would take Bobby to catch a fish.  Within minutes, Bobby had picked a little spot near the water.   Daddy cast the line, it was game time.  But before I could even start thinking twice about how long it would take and before any other poles were baited up and cast, Bobby had caught a fish.  Squealing with joy, he danced up and down as he saw his prize.  His little brother, CJ, celebrated by pointing and grunting.  Success!

Then, it was time to cast again.  Cast after cast, Bobby caught fish after fish.  Within a half hour, he caught 5 fish.  I never thought I would hope the experience would take longer.  So, we packed up, and had them clean the fish.  On the way out, the boys enjoyed some gummy worms.  Bobby laughed as he pretended to be a fish eating the worms.  It could have been the sugar, who knows, but the little gummy worm fish dance was priceless.

With time to spare, we ventured into a neighboring town to grab some homemade ice cream at Screamin Mimi’s .  For you locals out there, this place is worth a stop.  From the festive decor to the mouthwatering treats, it’s a delight.  I highly recommend the Mimi’s Mud, which is coffee ice cream blended with fudge and cookie love.   Total bliss!

After loading up on sugar, we brought our fish home, stuffed them with rosemary and grilled them over charcoal.  Of course, we let Bobby relive his first “fish story” and tell us all about how he caught fish after fish after fish.  The perfect ending to a (nearly) perfect day.

FarmTots – Sonoma’s Version of Sesame Street

Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to a gem of a program in Sonoma.  FarmTots at the Studdert Family Farm is the country version of Sesame Street.  Tucked away, this darling farm offers days of discovery for young kids and adults alike.  With sheep, rams and chickens, kids can get up close and personal with nature. Farm Tots Cover

FarmTots Epitomizes What Sonoma Is All About

Besides the activities of this seven acre working farm, the main attraction is Cindy Studdert.  Cindy is a trained Montessori teacher and an experienced mom.   A natural with kids, her gentle manner guides and encourages wee ones to get their hands dirty while having fun and learning a ton.

One example is the way she taught Bobby how to care for plants.   The patience of her approach is nothing short of amazing.  It went something like this – Cindy took out plants for Bobby to water and handed him a small watering can.  Of course I thought he’d drown the plants with water as he is an expert in doing so.  As calm as a clam, Cindy explained to Bobby how he needed to make sure each of the plants had water.  He listened and did so.  After she saw how much he enjoyed waterinFarm Tots Plantsg the plants, she brought our more plants to let him water.  She then explained to him how the plants needed to be put in the greenhouse, but she asked him if the neighboring chickens looked hungry.   You can guess what happened next.

With a barn fashioned as a classroom and playgrounds galore, this farm is absolutely kid friendly.   The classroom decorated with twinkling Christmas lights boasts activities at every corner, including a sandbox.  The play structure has a steering wheel so young mateys can steer ye ship.

How did this jewel start?  It started out as a soccer program for kids.  As the kids became more interested in nature and the farm more developed, Cindy followed the children’s lead and modified her program to focus on farm activities.  Of course, she offers the typical preschool things like counting.  But what this program really offers is a hands on experience where kids can gain confidence in their abilities through working on the farm.  To me, this program epitomizes what Sonoma is all about.

Montessori Roots – Cindy’s model of engaging and interacting with the children lies with background as a Montessori teacher.  She emulates Mari Montessori’s’ tenet to follow the child.  Flexible as can be, Cindy makes space to create activities for what the child wants to do.  If a child wants to play in the garden, it’s available.  If they want to play fireman, then that’s available too.  Of if they want to steer a ship and play pirates, then off to the play structure.  If they ate all of the Farm Tots Mike Iketomatoes, then Cindy helps the kids plant more.

She follows another of Montessori’s tenets which is to teach practical life skills.  For example, kids learn to rake and sweep.  In doing so, they develop not only fine but also gross motor skills.

It also seems to follow some Waldorf principles as well as the program follows and teaches children about the rhythm of the seasons.  With fruit cocktail trees, children are able to enjoy loads of different fruit.

Most of the kids in the program also are in other programs as well.  So, the program acts as a supplement to those programs.  With all of the child centered programs in Sonoma, Cindy didn’t feel a need to open a school.

With a fabulous ratio of teachers to students, sometimes even 2 to 1, FarmTots can nurture children with individualized attention schools with larger ratios are unable to provide.

Sound good?  The Nitty Gritty – FarmTots is now accepting preschool aged and school aged children.  The program for preschool tots, starting at age 2.5, is on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 -1:00 (during the spring and then again in late August).  The school aged program is on Wednesday afternoons after school.  FarmTots also has a Parent & Tot Class on March 15, 29 and April 19, & 26 from 9:30-11 at a cost of $10.

FarmTots has a summer program that serves kids ages  2.5-10 during the weeks of June 17, 24.  July 8, 15, 22 and 29 (Mondays – Thursdays from 9:30 -2:00pm).

Contact Cindy Studdert for more information cindylane1@sbcglobal.net

Kid Friendly Wine Tasting in Sonoma Valley

Wine tastingLife in Sonoma may be synonymous with picturesque vineyards but it is also synonymous with kid friendly activities of all sorts.  Finding kid friendly wine tasting experiences, however, can be a little tricky as some of the tasting rooms seem more like museums.  From intimate to commercial tasting rooms, here’s a list of my favorite spots to take family and friends with kids in tow.

RocheSince this article is about wine tasting in Sonoma, I’ll first mention a delightful tasting room steps from the historic Sonoma Plaza.  Let your kids explore the Sonoma Plaza and then continue the fun at the Roche Winery Tasting Room.  In addition to exquisite wines, Roche offers a perfect place to experience life Sonoma style.  Not to worry if your tots are still restless, Roche has a lovely patio for kids to roam.  If your kids are older, Roche also has bike tours of the vineyards!Kid cycling Roche

Meadowcroft is ideally situated at Cornerstone.  Why not let your kiddos let off some steam while hunting around the gardens, and then pop in for a tasting?  That’s what I did.  And, to be honest the folks at Meadowcroft were more than hospitable with the two galloping tots.  They even went out of their way to invite me to feed my kiddos in the tasting room.

Bartholomew Park  offers as its name suggests is in a park setting.  With trails and picnic grounds to roam, all will delight in a visit.  Interested in hiking? Then load your toddler in your backpack and take a hike.  Or bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds.

No list of family friendly Sonoma wineries would be complete without mention of the Larson Family Winery.  This place includes picnic tables and a grassy area with kid friendly games.  If you like  bubbles, then try theirs. We used it to celebrate CJ’s baptism.  Also, for future holiday planning, note that Santa visits Larson.  Wine tasting  and Santa — enough said.

Desire a more intimate tasting experience?  Then consider visiting Peter Cellars.  Located on a private estate equipped with bocce ball, it doesn’t get more kid friendly than this. Be forewarned, however, that this boutique winery offers wines so delightful you’ll be hard pressed not to join IMG_1755the wine club!  Note that tastings are by appointment only.

Up for a bit of a drive?  Then venture to two wineries in my neighborhood – Benziger and Eric Ross.  The warm, friendly and intimate environment at Eric Ross Tasting Room is worth a visit.  Eric Ross is so kid friendly that they keep hot-wheel cars on hand!  And, Dennis and Diane, the tasting room managers, make it a point to welcome kids.

Benziger in Glen Ellen offers a fun experience.  It even boasts a play-structure!  I think one of the only play structures in Glen Ellen.  Take kids on the tractor tour of the vineyard or let them climb the fort and speed down the slide.  Either way you win!

Kenwood offers numerous spots as well.  Why not visit VJB?  VJB offers a little piece of Italy right here in Sonoma.  Feel transported  by the environment, wines and flavors.  In addition to a tasting room, VJB houses a lovely Italian deli and dessert cafe.  The courtyard contains kids providing a respite for parents as they leisurely nibble on Italian treats while letting kids race around the courtyard.  I highly recommend the prosciutto and arugula pizza.  Totally delicious!

I hope you enjoy some of these places.  Did I miss your favorite spot?  I’d love to hear about it!

Fishy Fun – San Francisco’s Aquariums

With cool days ahead, it’s a nice time to check out a new indoor venue.   Aquariums are always a hit with my boys.  Bobby loves looking for the scuba divers, and CJ likes watching the fish.  And, I (to be honest) like sitting down for a few minutes while both of my boys are completely entertained.  So, it’s a win win for all concerned. Image

There are two aquariums just a short drive away in San Francisco – Aquarium of the Bay and Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco.  Both are fabulous places to check out.

The Aquarium of the Bay boasts 3 floors of fishy fun.  It even has a touch pool for kids to get up close and meet some sea creatures.  But the most intriguing part of this magical wonderland are the tunnels.  With over 300 feet of crystal tunnels, kids get to feel like they’re swimming with the fishes (and scuba divers).  Bobby could have spent the day in the tunnels watching the sharks, rays and scuba divers (not to mention running around chasing his buddy).

Another amazing option is the Steinhart Aquarium at the Academy of Sciences!  Make sure to plan time to visit the coral reef, alligator and penguins!  Then, take a stroll across the water walk and watch the rays swim under your feet.  There’s a touch pool too that is fully equipped with a step for little ones to climb up so that they can check things out.  Bobby loved meeting the starfish.  CJ was a different story as he was happy splashing in the water.

Unsure where to go?  Well, let the weather be your guide.  If it’s wet out, then I’d opt for the Academy of Science which is a much larger facility.  You can spend the entire day enjoying the various exhibits and activities offered there.  If it’s dry and not too cold, then check out the Aquarium of the Bay.  Located in Fisherman’s Wharf, the location Imagealone offers tons of fun for kiddos.  Make sure to check out the outdoor playground and street performers!  You may even spot the bush man.