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Best Of 2013: Family 

Writers Picks

click to enlarge SARA SANGER
  • Sara Sanger

Best Alternate Reality Where Parenting Is Cool

In Fairfax, one can walk into Huda Al-Jamal's shop Revolution 9 and leave the hippie town immediately. Revolution 9 is a convergence of all things progressive, edgy and hip—and it's for kids.

OK, it's for adults, too. Here you can buy treasures found in many Japantown stores—erasers, trinkets, a copy of Spirited Away. You might also find a book on Banksy, amazing hand-picked jewelry, or a T-shirt Huda designed herself. Local teens endearingly call the store "Rev9."

The focus of the shop is clearly to extract one's creative self. You can also see this with the shop's legitimate student gallery. "The vision of the shop has always been the gallery," Al-Jamal explains. Kids present their portfolio to Huda, a painter with degrees from Cal and Dominican, and hang their show with a bona fide opening.

Friday nights at Rev9 are Game Night hosted by Amin Al-Jamal, Huda's son, an artist and student at Drake High School. Amin leads kids in fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and also emcees Parent Night, where local moms and dads can drop off their child and go to dinner and a movie as Amin leads games and projects in the shop's backroom.

Revolution 9 also makes T-shirts, the latest of which include phrases like "I Freaking Love Science," "Do Not Meddle in the Affairs of Wizards" and "Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon." Visitors can design their own shirts, and Rev9 will make it on their transfer press, in-house.

And while you wait, you can kick back on a velvet vintage couch in the store's lounge, where modern, non-hippie tunes are usually playing on the sound system. There's even a video game. The annual Halloween Fright Room is themed differently each year, and the spring Mad Hatters Tea Party is coming up in April.

Is there a reason not to go to Revolution 9? Unless you hate Star Wars or My Neighbor Totoro (there's five-foot stuffed Totoro inside), art supplies and edgy bumper stickers, or fusions of urban beauty and culture with a capital C, once you enter this vortex, it's hard to leave. 14 Bolinas Road, Fairfax.—E.G.

Best Magician That Won't Spend His Entire Fee at the Bar

Magicians have to be suave people. Who else can entertain young children, teenagers and adults alike? And with what, a deck of cards? Maybe a rubber ball and some silk hankies? Whether entertaining a classroom of third graders or a room of burly construction workers, 18-year-old North Bay magician Julian Sterling is a seasoned pro who can't even legally buy a beer yet. Starting at age five with a Lance Burton home magic kit, he started gigging professionally at age 10. This guy is no Gob Bluth; he's more like David Copperfield with a cooler haircut. The young local illusionist is graced with an air of approachability and a quick smile that says "there's no need to be afraid"—but remember, magicians always have something up their sleeve. www.magicave.com.—N.G.

click to enlarge GABE MELINE
  • Gabe Meline

Best Place to Let It Snow Weird Soapy Coagulated Thingies

Sleight of hand is all about misdirection. An illusionist calls attention to her left hand, waving dramatically in the air, while her other slips the coin into a pocket. The point being: sometimes the real magic is happening where you aren't really looking for it.

Every winter, the town of Windsor invites local artists to create small-scale Christmas trees inspired by Charles Schulz's iconic Charlie Brown tree from the television special, and thus, throughout the month of December, the Windsor Green is transformed—presto chango!—into the Charlie Brown Christmas tree lot. Every night, hundreds of people gather to stroll through the grove of trees, and to add some extra spice to the festivities, the city brings in a snow machine. As Christmas music plays and beams of light shine up into the air, artificial snow dances through the sky, floating down to the upraised hands of dancing revelers.

Last December, for one brief moment, the real magic happened down where few were looking. Shortly after a heavy rain, the snow machine started up, and the music began. A small toddler, fitted with bright rubber boots, had just discovered that dancing in a blizzard of fake snow is nothing compared to the sheer joy of stepping, splashing and dancing— through a mud puddle. Windsor Town Green, Windsor.—D.T.

Best Post-Sonogram Pregnancy Perusing

If you do your parent-to-be shopping at a chain store, chances are you'll have to rely on your mother-in-law and/or the internet to tell you what to buy. But if you drag your sweaty, pregnant self over to My Baby News, you'll get a level of customer service you can't find anywhere else. Want a stroller demonstration? You got it. Need a show-and-tell of the five different cloth diaper brands and three different kinds of breast pumps? They've got you covered. Need to make at least three trips to a clean bathroom that's easy to find? They have that too! The local store's attention to detail and personal touch is undoubtedly why you voted them Best Baby Gift Store in Sonoma County. 3011-A Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, and 921 Lakeville St., Petaluma.—R.D.

Best Reason to Not Run Like Hell from the Cops

"Uh-oh." Sebastopol police officer David Edney knows that's the usual first reaction when he approaches teens. So he devised a novel program to chip away at the fear and suspicion officers often encounter. These days, Sebastopol patrol officers can exercise some positive reinforcement with the town's younger citizens. The intent, explains Sgt. David Ginn, is "to reward youth we identify as doing good things," such as skateboarding teens caught in the act of wearing helmets or youth seen raising the flag outside their school. "At first, they don't know if they're going to be in trouble" when the officers single them out, adds Ginn. But when the upshot is a coupon for free pizza, ice cream or movie tickets, for once, these are tickets the recipients are happy to get.—B.R.

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