Tag Archives: Marin

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Bubble Day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Bay Area Discovery Museum recently held a Bubble Day, the first of many special hands-on events at the museum this summer. As a longtime fan of the magic of bubbles, it was great fun for me to see a new generation of children discovering simple bubble wonder and fun.

You can make your own bubble mix at home with simple ingredients. (Recipe below.) A bucket of mix will last a couple weeks. Leave it out in a yard or on a porch for spontaneous summer play!

Recipe for Great Bubbles

There’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes. The best mixes come from ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

Learn lots more fun bubble experiments and activities.

Enjoy making your own bubbles!

This activity adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Happy Summer! Easy Summer Solstice Cupcakes

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of the summer season, is upon us June 21 this year, at 05:04 Universal Time, or 1:04 am on the U.S.’ east coast, 10:04 pm, June 20, on the west. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it can be marked by Midsummer festivals, especially in Scandinavia, where people celebrate with maypoles that honor nature’s bounty and bonfires that recall the heat and warmth of the sun. Still other cultures have solstice rituals that honor the sun, the feminine and the masculine.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, my family often attends a summer solstice celebration at Muir Beach, hosted by the Muir Woods National Monument park rangers. We enjoy a bonfire, nature storytelling and campfire songs, and a ritual walk around the fire, holding stalks of sweet flowers and herbs, and then throwing them into the fire, to greet the new season and also let go of anything that no longer serves us.

View more photos of summer solstice at Muir Beach.

An easy way to celebrate Summer Solstice, whether your gathering is a large one or a cozy one, is to make Summer Solstice Cupcakes. This recipe comes from the terrific book, Circle Round:

Just as Winter Solstice gives birth to the light, Summer Solstice, with its day that never seems to end, holds the seeds of darkness. We discover darkness in the bits of chocolate concealed inside this sunny cupcake.

1/2 C butter (one stick) softened in the summer sun
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2 C flour, sifted first and then measured
pinch of salt
2 t. baking powder
1 C milk
1 C chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir in. Follow with 1/2 cup milk, then the other half of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Use paper liners, or grease and flour cupcake tins. Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375′ oven.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes.

Because of the sweetness of the cake and chips, these don’t need frosting, but you can certainly add it, in a solid color or a cheery sun or flower design.

This is a great explanation of how Summer Solstice works. Happy Winter Solstice to those in the Southern Hemisphere, who are marking the lengthening days. Perhaps chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate chips are in order?

Happy Solstice to all!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Heed the Call of the Pumpkin at these Great Bay Area Pumpkin Farms

pumpkinfield2

Few people can resist the delights offered by a pumpkin farm. They’re wonderful places for urban and suburban families to slow down just enough to feel the turning of the year and maybe try some harvest or other activities from times past. And, of course, there are the pumpkins themselves — jolly orbs that lay in profusion among pastures until you, the visitor, pick the most perfect among them to take home.

With Halloween almost upon us, most pumpkin farms have gone into high gear, with lots of activities over longer hours, and a host of pumpkins still available for the picking. Included in this listing are working farms and special pumpkin patches in the North, East and South Bays.

Note: The 41st Annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival takes place October 15-16 this year. Enjoy a parade, entertainment, contests, crafts, food, and displays of the world’s largest pumpkins, before or after visiting a charming South Bay pumpkin farm.

pumpkinvine

South Bay

Half Moon Bay bills itself as the “Pumpkin Capitol of the World” for good reason. Many people know about the yearly Art and Pumpkin Festival. Less well-known is the bounty of area farms, many of which have been in families for generations, along Highways 1 and 92.

Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

This delightful pumpkin patch offers an extremely large variety of pumpkins, all grown on-site. This working farm also features a hay pyramid, scarecrows, play areas, a Native American tipi, cornrows, U-pick sunflowers, and an antique John Deere tractor. The farm is wheelchair-accessible.

See Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm for directions and more information.

Arata’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Open since 1932, Arata’s is one of the oldest working pumpkin farms in the Bay Area. In addition to pumpkins, enjoy pony rides, animals, a hay ride, and a huge hay maze — clearly a labor of love — constructed out of 10,000 bales of hay.

See Arata’s Pumpkin Farm for directions and more information.

Little Creek Ranch Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Just up the road from Arata’s, Little Creek is a delightful family farm and pumpkin patch suitable for very young children. Pumpkins lay far apart on flat ground, so there are no vines to trip over. The entire pumpkin area is surrounded by low hay bales. There is a play structure and pony rides, along with other animals.

Call Little Creek Ranch at  (650) 726-2765 for directions and more information.

Pastorino Farms, Half Moon Bay

Pastorino Farms dates from the 30s and is known today for its huge assortment of pumpkins, along with its big orange-and-black decorated barn. Pastorino offers train rides around a small track, a jump house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Hand-made signs that identify the many different types of pumpkins, some of them quite unusual. Also nice is the farm’s large selection of Halloween decorations and kitchen wares.

See Pastorino Farms for directions and more information.

Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay

A working farm since 1942, this popular, charming spot offers lots of activities for all ages, especially young children. In addition to a good selection of pumpkins, Lemos Farm features pony rides, hay rides, a hay maze, a train for small children, a toddler-oriented play zone, haunted houses for older and younger children, and animals you can feed and pet. Lemos Farm retains a great deal of charm from the South Bay’s rural past.

See Lemos Farm for directions and more information.

pumpkinsign

East Bay

Smith Family Farm, Brentwood

Smith Family Farm has been in the same family for three generations and offers lots of great old-time activities on its large farm. There’s a leisurely tractor-pulled hay ride out to the pumpkin field, a corn maze, a hay maze, displays of antique farm equipment, live entertainment in a barn, a host of animals, and lots of fresh U-pick produce. The farm offers lots of places to picnic and play in a large, varied ranch setting.

See Smith Valley Farm for directions and more information.

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, Clayton

Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm, at the base of Mount Diablo, features a large variety of pumpkins and squash in all shapes and even colors. This working farm offers lots of fun activities for all ages, including a trackless train, a playland featuring old-fashioned games, and plenty of farm animals. The farm represents a part of the area’s rural past that is largely disappearing.

See Clayton Valley Farm for directions and more information.

Joan’s Farm, Livermore

This large, pretty working farm offers a taste of the Old West: There’s an Old West town, gold panning, antique farm equipment, a museum, and more. There’s also a large corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, and a farmstand with fresh produce for sale.

See Joan’s Farm for directions and more information.

pumpkins

North Bay

Peterson’s Farm, Petaluma

This working farm opens to the public for Halloween. Families may visit on weekends or after 2 on weekdays. In addition to two large, natural pumpkin fields, Peterson’s has lots of animals to feed and pet, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, ponies, rabbits, pigs, calves, and a very big but gentle bull known as Wooly Monster. There are also fresh vegetables, flowers, free-range eggs, and an observational bee hive, all in a very intimate farm setting.

See Peterson’s Farm for directions and more information.

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma

This large, beautifully situated pumpkin farm in the Chileno Valley is also the home of Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. Visitors can milk a cow or dig for potatoes in a potato field, in addition to buying some of the best homemade ice cream around (pumpkin and vanilla) and specialty farmstead cheeses.

See Peter Pumpkin Patch for directions and more information.

Adobe Pumpkin and Flower Farm

This 30-acre farm has thousands of pumpkins and gourds for the picking, along with U-cut zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and more. Adobe also has a great corn maze, a hay ride, a haunted barn, a jump house, animals, crafts, and food and live entertainment on weekends.

See Adobe Farms for directions and more information.

Nicasio Valley Farms, Nicasio

Along with a large, picturesque organic pumpkin patch, Nicasio Valley Farms offers U-pick strawberries, lots of gourds, and a farmstand featuring a complete array of fresh organic vegetables, as well as eggs, breads and cheeses. There is a hay maze, a jump house, musical entertainment and food for sale.

Call Nicasio Valley Farms at (415) 662-9100 for directions and more information.

Still want more? See Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes, Hayrides and More in the San Francisco-Sacramento Area.

Have fun this pumpkin season!

pumpkinantique

Pumpkinbarn

sunflowers

annapumpkin

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Photo Friday: County Fair Pig Race

My family has attended the Sonoma-Marin Fair for as long as we’ve been in this area, nearly 20 years. We’ve visited many other county fairs and even the wonderful California State Fair, but this local, medium-sized one remains our favorite. We love visiting the animals, and the food and craft exhibits, riding our favorite rides. We slowed down a little on the games, not because they’re not fun, but because we already have a ton of stuffed animals. Our new favorite event is a relatively new addition — the Pig Race. The Hambone Express, an outfit out of Arkansas, races little pigs in groups of four around a small track, announcing their names, which are all puns on famous people — Christina Hogulera, Lindsay Loham. Good country fun, this fair never fails to signal the start of our summer.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer fun!

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also enjoy:

This Moment: County Fair Funnel Cake Eating Contest

I have photographed our lovely fair a lot. Last year I did a 3-part series:

Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Animals
Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Food
Sonoma-Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

 

Photo Friday: Serene Spring

My family recently took a Sunday bike ride down a wonderful country road not too far from our home. We saw far fewer cars (and more cows) than bikes, as we wound around the two-lane, experiencing wonderful old ranches, trees beginning to flower, rolling green hills, and the most perfect endless blue sky. All agreed that the day and the outing were superb. Of course, I occasionally held the group up, whipping out the camera to preserve the memory. I’m glad I did. Just looking at this photo puts me at peace.

I hope you’re enjoying a serene season, wherever you are.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: World’s Favorite Tulip
Photo Friday: Signs of Spring
First of Spring: Larkspur, CA

Photo Friday: Tamalpais Motel at Dusk

I’m not sure quite why I can’t resist lingering over a neon roadside sign at dusk. Nor why I find some to be just a bit forlorn. Perhaps it’s the gulf between the sign’s bright promise — in this case evoking our local mountain, given the Native American Miwok name meaning “coastal mountain” — and the reality of a motel, or a bar, or an eatery that’s seen better times. Or maybe it’s just the time of day, the light, the glory and wonder of neon, and the beckoning of the open road, none of which ever grow old.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: Ghost Sign
Photo Friday: San Francisco Storefront

First of Spring 2011, Larkspur, CA

Woman in electric blue Mary Janes reading a paperback while walking

Bunches of boys on bikes

Cucumber seedlings set out at the market

Small girl with flower-ringed bun being walked to ballet

100 year old pocket park

Metal chairs on front porches

Cupolas, a flag in the breeze

Dinner special on restaurant chalkboard

Old couple walking with canes

Smell of wild onions

Crack of baseball bat on ball

Dappled sunlight

Hope

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Animals

County and state fairs are wonderful, traditional summer events. They offer down-home fun for people of all ages — rides, carnival games, contests, shows, and farming and animal exhibits. If you’re in California, which has a whopping 58 counties, chances are there’s a county fair near you right now. Even the California State Fair is happening now.

For me, the animal exhibits and contests are at the top of the list of things that make a great fair what it is. As a non-farmer, I can get educated about farm animals and the work and culture of breeding, caring for and showing them. Farmers, breeders and interested youth can also showcase their skills and work. In very rural areas, fairs offer rare opportunities for busy farmers to interact, to show and to see what others are doing.

Animal exhibits have been a part of American county and state fairs ever since 1807, when farmer and mill owner Elkanah Watson showcased his sheep in the public square in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. According to StateFairRecipes.com, he clanged an old ship’s bell to attract attention. His goal was to encourage local farmers to raise Merino sheep, so that his mill would receive superior quality wool. By the late 1800s, county and state fairs were occurring all over the U.S.

Each fair bears the unique imprint of its geographic area. My favorite local county fair is the Sonoma-Marin Fair, which occurs in Petaluma, CA, in late June. I recently posted a pictorial of the fair rides and games. Now it’s time to highlight the animal exhibits.

Of course, the cows are a favorite. We appreciate our weekly delivery of local Straus Creamery milk.

The chicken coop was moved to a bigger, breezier area. It’s always fun to see (and hear) the regal roosters, hens and chickens.

Hog races were a new addition this year. The caller and operation came all the way from Arkansas.

We spent a long time in the sheep and goat barn.

And we took in a Sheep Showmanship competition of 4H and Future Farmers of America youth. We were impressed with the participants’ diligence and sheep handling, as well as with the seriousness of the competition, the obvious work and skill involved, and the sheep themselves. This site explains sheep show judging.

See photos of last year’s fair’s pig showmanship competition and more.

Watch for the final installment about the Sonoma Marin Fair: The Food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

I love summer’s county and state fairs, none more than our local Sonoma-Marin Fair, in Petaluma, which has come and gone this year. The Marin fair is closer, and the Sonoma fair bigger, but frankly, this one that we latched onto many years ago (before Anna was even born) is the keeper. It’s a wonderful combination of farm animals and agricultural events; classic rides, games and food; a wide midway for strolling; country performers; and down-home exhibits and contests that recall simpler times when people came to fairs to show their baking and animal-handling prowess and to be exposed to new things.

Here are some photos from last year’s fair. This year, I took so many, that I divided them into sections. Come along and ride the thrilling and classic fair rides and soak up the atmosphere and draw of the traditional fair games on a summer day and dusk in June.

I love this Falling Star sign so much, I took movies of it!

Coming up: Fair farm events and food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

The Great Backyard Bird Count

On Saturday, some friends and I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a 4-day event that is winding down today. We had great fun and saw lots of birds while hiking around the Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds in San Rafael, CA, a nearby place I’d never visited before! There’s still time to join this and other bird counts. In fact, they’re part of an ongoing effort by the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology to track, learn about, and assist bird populations. Here is complete information about bird counts and how you can get  involved. In the meantime, enjoy our walk with us.

We immediately spotted lots of birds in the nearby trees, such as Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Red-Winged Blackbirds, House Wrens, and these Finches, both male (top) and female.

The large ponds were teeming with bird life, both on water and in the trees. It was amazing what I could see in the trees with binoculars. It was as if a hidden world opened up. There were birds everywhere — white glints of gulls, herons, and egrets.  (I admit I’m not sure what kinds. My friends, and their kids, were all much better classifiers than me.) Flocks of Canada Geese flew by and we did our best to count/guess how many there were.

In the water were Avocets, and these graceful Black-Necked Stilts.

Plenty of ducks and geese swam by and called noisily to one another. Ducks we spotted included the poetically named Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, and, of course, the lovely emerald-headed Mallard.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Red-winged Blackbird. It took me a moment to register the bright orange-red color on the tops of their wings. These seem in repose, watching a duck.

We found a great stand of trees, hosting lots of bird life. (Quickly moving bird life, that seemed to sense when you were closing in with a camera, before flying away.) We were able to identify Robins and these Western Bluebirds.

I quietly followed this Great Egret for a while. I liked the way he mozeyed down the trail, taking his time (Slow Egret?), before sticking his neck out.

This tree was full of noisy, cheery blackbirds.

You can listen to a group of blackbirds, seemingly signaling spring.

 

The tally for the Bird Count got entered online. As of mid-day Monday, there had been 46,912 checklists submitted, 553 species observed, and 4,531,433 individual birds counted. In a little over an hour, we contributed 170 birds in 24 species to the list in order to help the Bird Count get a snapshot of bird activity over a busy, migrating weekend in February.

As for me, the activity really whet my appetite to do more bird watching and counting. Who knows? One day I might be able to identify those white birds in the trees.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might like these other citizen science projects.

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