Berry Picking at Amber Oaks in Auburn

Berry Picking 6By Heather Crivellone

One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit and veggies in everyone’s gardens. The sweet, juicy berries, yummy peaches, fresh tomatoes and basil… it’s just all such a treat!  Whether they are in fresh cobblers, home-made pies or just out of the fruit bowl, everyone loves sweet summer fruit. And a great way to get kids excited about fruit (other than the A-la-mode) is to get them involved in watching it grow and the fun of picking the fruit. Luckily, here in Northern California we have plenty of “you-pick-em” orchards where we can take the kids to explore, learn and see where our food comes from.

With the beautiful spring-like weather we’ve been having this past week, it was a perfect time to visit some of our local farms.  Recently, I took my kids to Amber Oaks Raspberry farm in Auburn.  It was a short drive from our home (about 40 minutes from downtown Sacramento) located at 2770 Shanley Rd in Auburn to pick some fresh thorn less Blackberries for a cobbler. Upon arrival, we made reservations (per the website) and spoke with the owner Rhonda.  She was very helpful and guided us in the right direction and helped my kids choose the best (and sweetest) blackberries.  My kids were excited to wear the wooden “berry catcher” (as they called it) and went about picking (and eating) a few too many blackberries. The vines were thorn less, so the experience was that much more enjoyable.  Amber Oaks’ farm is absolutely gorgeous, located in the foothills of Auburn and I was happy just sitting back and enjoying the view while my kids did all the work of picking.

The farm is open for U-Pick on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays in June through November by appointment.  During the month of October, the farm welcomes school groups for educational tours and pumpkin picking. Some of the fruits that can be found on the farm are berries, tomatoes, chestnuts, kiwis, mandarins, pumpkins and more. We had a great time exploring the farm and the owners were extremely helpful and happy to see the kids enjoying the berries.  We did end up making the cobbler… kids were a little too helpful with “licking the bowl”, and at the end of the day we knew we had another successful memory-made summer day in the books! There are many “U Pick-em” farms throughout the area and to locate others, check out this website to find out locations and what types of produce are available.

If you decide to make the trip out to the farm with children here are a few tips: make sure the kids (and you) wear “real” shoes…my daughter refuses to wear shoes and even flip-flops drive her insane. Bring water, put on sunscreen and enjoy the fruits of our area!

Berry Picking 8Berry Picking 3Berry Picking 4Berry Picking 5



Sacramento’s Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Celebration of National Ice Cream Month

Leatherby's Black and Tan SundaeBy Heather Crivellone

The month of July has been recognized as National Ice Cream Month- what a great excuse to enjoy the sweet creamy goodness during these hot summer days.  And the third Sunday of the Month is considered as National Ice Cream Day.  If you didn’t know this, here is a little bit of history… it was declared in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90% of the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities”. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of a kid (or an adult) who doesn’t love ice cream… and especially during these hot summer months!

Ice cream is a staple summertime treat for kids of all ages. And for long time Sacramento residents, there are a few “hot spots” here in the area to keep cool with the icy treat.  I took a random poll to see what everyone’s favorite summertime treat was and the results proved that the top four places to visit for ice cream in Sacramento were: Vic’s, Gunther’s, Farrell’s and Leatherby’s!

Vic’s Ice Cream  in Land Park (3199 Riverside Ave) has been a household name for several generations. They have been a family business since 1947 and continue to serve up some of the best ice cream in Sacramento. Ice Cream isn’t their only forte, they serve up lunch items and according to some regulars, the hot dog sandwich is fantastic!

Along with Vic’s, there is Gunthers Ice Cream.  Another household name who has been serving up ice cream and treats since 1940.  They are located at 2801 Franklin Blvd. in Sacramento from 10am-10pm daily.  Just like Vic’s, they serve up some of the best ice cream treats around, along with lunch specials and even lower fat options for those of us who are “watching their waistlines”.

Leatherby’s Family Creamery, with 3 locations in the Sacramento area (2333 Arden Way, Sacramento, 7910 Antelope Rd. Citrus Heights and 8238 Laguna Blvd. Elk Grove) they have been serving sundaes, floats and other treats since 1982.  They also offer lunch and dinner items… but, the specialty is ice cream, so just skip the meal and go straight for the hot fudge sundae!  Now I can remember my parents taking me to Leatherby’s when I was young for a birthday party and one of my fondest memories was the Clown Ice Cream Sundae.  If you are a Sacramento native and reading this…then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  There was nothing better than a sugar cone, lots of whip cream, ice cream and chocolate chips to make a 5-year-old happy!

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor– (1625 Watt Avenue)  When you walk into this famous ice-cream shop, you will instantly be taken back into time, back into the 1890’s to be exact.  Their theme has employees dressed in part- wearing “old time” attire, straw boater hats and listening to catchy piano tunes. They first opened in Portland, Oregon in 1963 and quickly became popular by offering free ice cream sundaes to children on their birthdays. This tradition still exists, as does the famous Farrell’s “Zoo” dessert (an ice cream sundae that is big enough for 10 people to share).  This is delivered to the guests’ table by several employees who have to carry it on a stretcher….this is accompanied by loud sirens and yelling.  Definitely worth the experience…not sure if I could eat that much ice cream, but it would be fun to try!

Along with finding out the best places to enjoy the sweet goodness, I found that Sacramento area residents’ favorite flavors range from Cookies and Cream, Gunther’s famous Pistachio, Vic’s summertime flavor Pineapple Sherbert and Mint Chip topped the list of local flavors.

So in honor of National Ice Cream Month, go out and treat your family to a cone, shake or sundae… isn’t that what summer is all about?

Weekend Family Fun

Sacramento Weekend Family Activities

It’s looks like the weather is going to give us a wonderful break from the heat this weekend – the perfect time to head straight to Cal Expo for the California State Fair, which begins today. You might also want to stop by Fire Station #11 to meet the firefighters, learn about your favorite reptiles at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center or immerse yourself in art at Fairytale Town. There’s really no way to go wrong this weekend!

California State Fair – Bring the family down to Sacramento’s Cal Expo for the 162nd Annual California State Fair. The seventeen-day California State Fair is a  celebration of the State of California, its industries, agriculture and diversity of its people. For many, the State Fair is the culmination of hard work throughout the year. For others, the State Fair is a family summer tradition of enjoyment with plenty of entertainment, fascinating exhibits, popular livestock venues, and mouth-watering food! 7/11 – 7/26. For hours and admission information, click here.

Seussical the Musical – This show is 85 minutes of high-falutin’ musical family fun with the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude Mc Fuzz, the Whos down in Whoville, and many other characters created by the beloved Dr. Seuss. 7/10 – 7/12. Admission fees start at $6 for kids, $12 for adults.

Fire Station Open House – Bring your families out to Sacramento Fire Station #11 on Florin Road to meet the firefighters and medics who protect your neighborhood. Tour the station, get an up-close look at the trucks, engines, ambulances, and fire equipment and gear that your first responders use every day. 7/11, 2-4 pm. FREE.

Arts for All Day at Fairytale Town – Presented by I Can Do That!, this visual arts show will bring together children of all ages and abilities to interact through art. Stop by the “funshops” to make flying saucers, rhumba shakers, pipe cleaner jewelry, spiral mobiles, and more. 7/11, 11 am to 3 pm. General admission is $5.50, children under 1 year are free.

The Bloom Tree at Fairytale Town – Bring the kids out to see The Bloom Tree, a tale from China about listening to the little things in life featuring an unlikely group of characters working together for the common good. The show begins with a special musical presentation. 7/11 – 7/12, 12:30pm, 1:30 pm & 2:30 pm, $2 for nonmembers, $1 for members (in addition to park entrance fee.)

Treerific Fun at the Discovery Museum – There is a lot of tree-rific fun to be had at the Discovery Museum. Learn about the trees around the museum by enjoying a Nature Trail walk. Discover the age of trees by counting their rings. There will be large specimens outside and smaller ones to view in the classroom. Kids make their own tree cookie necklace to take home as a souvenir! 7/11 – 7/12, 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm. Free with cost of Admission.

Scale Tales at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center – Learn all about our scaly creatures. Can a turtle climb out of its shell? Do snakes blink? Can you really tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of buttons on its rattle? Discover all this and more in this program for all ages. 7/12, 1:30 – 2:30 pm.

What to do with Bored Kids? Take them to the Sacramento Discovery Museum!

By Heather Crivellone

Summertime always leads to that same phrase “I’m bored”.  While it’s hard to keep the kids entertained 24/7, it’s always a good to keep them engaged and learning while they are having fun.

Recently, I took my kids to revisit the Sacramento Discovery Museum for an afternoon of exploring (and to get out of the heat!).


To my surprise, they were fully engaged and having fun that we didn’t even want to go home!

First of all, we began the “Science Scavenger Hunt”- they had levels that fit both my youngest (Kinder) and my third grader.  I’m not going to lie, I did bribe them with a trip to Leatherby’s if they finished (a mother sometimes has to do what she has to do…plus- who can’t pass up ice cream on these hot summer days!).

During our afternoon out, they explored the hands on exhibits, learned about space, the elements of our universe, the color spectrum and even “became astronauts” and launched a rocket to space! They learned about reptiles, amphibians and especially enjoyed watching the rabbits have lunch in the Nature Discovery room.  My son’s favorite activity was the interactive exhibit that allowed him to become a salmon as he “swam” in the river trying to avoid the fisherman and eagle who was lurking overhead.   Everyone had a great time and then we even had a picnic lunch near the pond while we watched the turtles sunbathe.

If you visit the museum on weekends, you can catch their planetarium shows and learn about the constellations in our galaxy.  These shows are held at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays for those over the age of 4. The museum is located at 3615 Auburn Blvd. in Sacramento.  They are open daily during the summer from 10:00 am- 4:30 pm.  Admission into the museum is: Children ages 4-12 $6, Teens ages 13-17 $7, Adults $8 and seniors $7.

Top 5 Family Camping Destinations and Tips Near Sacramento

IMG_3363By Heather Crivellone

Summertime fun always means the “great outdoors” for our family.  Whether it’s hiking, biking or camping, you can always find us making memories out in nature.  Luckily, we live in an area that is surrounded by opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors.  Camping is a great family tradition that fits into everyone’s budget and can make memories that will last a lifetime.

Here are a few of our family favorites that are within a couple of hours from Sacramento and some “tips and tools” to help make your camping experience more enjoyable.

Sly Park– 4771 Sly Park Rd, Pollock Pines. Just up Hwy 50, past Apple Hill, is one of our favorite campgrounds.  With beautiful views of Jenkinson Lake, plenty of hiking trails and our kids love to swim and play at the beach – it’s the best way to enjoy nature while being so close to the city (it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Sacramento). Amenities include:  boating, fishing, hiking, general store close by, plenty of picnic tables, vault toilets (unfortunately, it’s not “glamping” and they don’t have flushing toilets but, it is camping after all).

Collins Lake- 7350 Collins Lake Rd, Browns Valley. This resort is a family favorite for many Sacramento residents.  Located in the Gold Country Foothills just over an hour East of Sacramento- this campground offers a wide variety of family activities. Amenities include:  marina and boat rentals, fishing (they are known for their “big bass and trophy trout”, ice cream shop and espresso shop, children’s playground, swimming beach, general store, laundry, showers and flushing toilets.  Yes,ladies. They do have showers and flushing toilets!  This is my kind of camping. The only downside to Collins Lake campground, is that it can be crowded and on holiday weekends, so you should reserve sites way in advance.

Lake Berryessa Hwy 128, Napa Only about an hour drive from Sacramento, Lake Berryessa is our families “go to”. We love the proximity to Sacramento and the lake (when it’s full), is absolutely beautiful and perfect for a day out on the boat. They have several campgrounds around the lake with amenities including:  hiking, children’s playgrounds, boating, fishing, and vault toilets (sorry ladies).

Fallen Leaf Lake– 2165 Fallen Leaf Rd, South Lake Tahoe. This campground is a little bit further from Sacramento, but being “deep in the woods” as my daughter would say, gives you a bit more of the “camping feel”.  They have bear lockers to store your food, and if you are lucky enough to leave your scraps behind, you may just have a visitor in the middle of the night!  The seclusion makes you really enjoy nature rather than just “hopping off the freeway”.

Amenities include:  general store, showers, flushing toilets (Hooray for flushing toilets!), and if you wanting more of a “Glamping” experience- they rent Yurts that have electric heather and lamps, futons and even bunk beds!

Bothe State Park– 3801 St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga Camping in Napa… a wine lovers dream!  Not only do they have regular tent campsites, but they also have Yurts for those of us who would rather not set up a tent and do some “glamping” instead. Amenities include:  showers, flushing toilets, yurts, swimming pool, hiking and biking. The Bale Grist Mill State park is a small hike away and is a very educational and fun experience for the family.

siena paddle

Here are 4 of my favorite camping tips to help make the experience more enjoyable:

  1. Freeze a gallon water jug before you go and then use this block of ice to help keep food cold during your trip.  As it melts, you will have fresh water to drink.
  2.   Pre make and freeze breakfast burritos and/or regular burritos for easy meals.  By freezing them ahead of time, they will stay transport easier and will help to keep other food cold.   Just toss on grill and eat – no need for cleaning dishes or pans!
  3. Tic Tac Containers can be used for holding spices you will need while cooking, without the large bulky containers.
  4. Instant Coffee!  Starbucks VIA’s are always a special treat while camping – no need to wait for the coffee to brew and clean out the coffee grinds, just pour and enjoy!


These are just some suggestions of the many different areas to choose from.  Camping is a great family activity and with some preparation ahead of time, you can enjoy a relaxing weekend away in nature while creating lifelong family memories.