happy and fun in silicon valley

Last week, I posted Armed and Dangerous in Silicon Valley – a list of design, programming, and biotech classes in Silicon Valley to keep you armed and dangerous regardless of your background.

However, when you’re burnt out of pixels, bugs, and pantone colors, it’s helpful to balance it all out with some computer-free classes to get your hands dirty, see some sun, and expand your palette beyond what’s available for take-out. Plus, there are some absolute gems available in the Bay Area that you can’t find elsewhere:

  1. Forage SF – Learn how to forage and identify edibles like fungi, nettles, herbs, and other wild ingredients depending upon the season. The Wild Kitchen dinners are amazing too.
  2. Bay Area Glass Instituteglass blowing is the antithesis of coding – it’s organic, unpredictable, and dangerous (and I love it). We’re lucky to have BAGI in San Jose (they’re the folks behind the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch). Treg Silkwood is one of the best instructors I’ve ever seen.
  3. San Francisco Baking Institute – If you’ve read Tartine and wondered why your lump of dough doesn’t look as smooth and springy as their pictures, you’re in luck. I showed up to SFBI’s breadmaking workshop with zero experience while all of my professional peers wore weathered, monogrammed chef aprons and traded bread war. However, it is a ground-up class and on your first day, you will come home with a dozen baguettes. No experience is necessary though their weekend courses are specifically geared to home bakers. It’s an impressive resource that most Bay Area natives don’t know about – the instructors even compete in the equivalent of the Bread Olympics every four years and SFBI has a hotline for sending starter to bakeries across the country when an unfortunate yeast emergency strikes.
  4. 4505 Meats – these sausage making and butchery classes sell out instantly so it’s better to sign up for their e-mail list and pounce when a new class is announced. However, it’s worth the hassle – you’ll have a freezer filled with amazing sausage and meats for months.
  5. SF Center for the Book – has revived the art of handmade books. If you’ve oohed and awed over those fashionable letterpress cards, now you can make them yourself on vintage Heidelberg presses. In November, they also offer Christmas card and gift tag making workshops.
  6. The Bike Kitchen – is run by a community of cycling enthusiasts who teach in-depth bicycle maintenance courses. They even offer a unique program where you can build a bike from the spare parts they have lying around.
  7. 18 Reasons – spend an hour or two with a local Bay Area foodie who wants to share their love of peanut butter, home brewing, or urban gardening with the community. 18 reasons offers casual evening classes nearly daily and even has some availability on short notice. It’s a great community-oriented alternative to dinner and a movie.
  8. San Francisco School of Massage and Bodywork – aside from their professional programs, they also offer occasional beginner weekend workshops for couple massage classes. If you spend 40-60 hours in front of a computer each week, you may need some extra help getting those knots out of your uber-tight upper back muscles.
  9. College of the Redwoods – Fine Furniture Program – this requires at least two weeks of free time and is 4 hours away but it is worth knowing about. The program was originally started by the legendary furniture maker and design philosopher James Krenov who resurrected the appreciation for fine furniture making in the 1970’s. I took the summer workshop when Krenov was still at the center and the class was taught by Jim Budlong. It was transformative – you’ll want to rethink the way all of your furniture has been built and designed. When I attended, our class had seasoned carpenters, students from RISD, and other craftsman hoping to try a new direction. Jim Budlong is still teaching the curriculum that Krenov started years ago. The two-week programs are subsidized by in-state tuition and are absurdly popular. Some prospective students drive to Fort Bragg and camp out at the school’s doorstep to be first to submit their application on March 1st. I faxed my application a few minutes after submissions opened and was wait-listed (though eventually admitted). It’s a crazy and worthwhile adventure.

Tuck your phone away, disconnect from that bug or release, and refresh yourself with something totally new. We’re lucky to be surrounded by so many extraordinary communities who are excited to share their passions.



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