Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Break!

The lion of March arrived more than a little soggy following two straight months of rain, and the lamb seems to be heading out nearly as wet, but in between we had four lovely weeks of California sun where we packed in a ton of activities.

Our first March adventure was an outdoor class, or walkabout, where we learned to identify edible plants that grow in the wild: acorns (for flour), Miner's Lettuce, Thistle leaves, Stinging Nettles, Yerba Buena. Because the class took place in a public park, we were unable to pick the plants we saw on the hike; but soon after, we went on a walkabout of our own on which we used our new-found wilderness knowledge to discover these savory delights. And better still, on that second hike, we found some chantrelle mushrooms which we incorporated into our meal that evening.

The fruits (and fungi) of our wild plant and mushroom forage

As Pearl's semester came to a close, Pia arrived once again and we all headed directly to the Tattoo Expo at the Cow Palace. Amidst the bikers and tattoo aficionados, we looked as out of place at the expo as we did hiking the Grand Canyon in our argyle sweaters and designer shades but we mingled and talked to a few artists and eventually found the artist we want to work on us. She is located in Fresno so one of our next Pia reunions will have to take place down there. To see some of her work, click here:

The following day, we took Pia to visit our Community Supported Agriculture Farm in Dixon, CA for a tour and afternoon tea. We spent that day walking around the farm, seeing where our weekly box of veggies comes from and enjoying the newly hatched chicks.

Grape vines at Eatwell

The atmosphere couldn’t have been any different from the previous day's events. Here, we were surrounded by farmers and lovers of the earth, having gathered together to enjoy the sun and hear the farmer, Nigel, discuss his plans for the farm, which include building his new home: an "earth house" which will eventually be covered in soil and grass.

The frame of the Earth House

The house is designed to last for 900 years, and to withstand nuclear explosions, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. It's really amazing, and he's building it all himself, with the help of members and friends. Here is a video of the house that they posted a few weeks ago; when we saw it last week, some of the walls had already come up.

Pearl, Lily and Pia climb the house

After a full day in the sun, we came home and started a 1000-piece puzzle, the first of four puzzles we completed in the week that Pia was here.

For the remainder of Pia’s visit, we participated in activities to help us heal and relax: Pearl led morning yoga classes where we all learned to further control our breath, find our centers, and stretch our bodies.

Pia and Pearl took a capoeira class a block from our house where they attempted cartwheels, backbends and sweeping movements with their feet. While they certainly weren’t as graceful as the teacher or older students, everyone in the studio made them feel welcome; they even joined the roda (pronounced “hoddah”), where the professora and students took turns playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing and ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The girls were a bit embarrassed to “play” with the far more experienced students whose moves included acrobatic play, feints, takedowns, leg sweeps, kicks and headbutts. Still it was an amazing experience due to the studio’s warm welcome.

Pearl also took Pia to Wing Chun class where she got to show off the moves she’s been learning in the last two months. Pia learned to aggressively defend herself eastern style, all the while enjoying the warm welcome that Pearl’s studio showed her.

To help their bodies recover from capoeira and Wing Chun, Pia and Pearl painted a ceramic salad bowl and plates at Brushstrokes (, another fun activity in our neighborhood.

Our new salad bowl and plates

Towards the end of the week, Chris took a few days off work and we spent three days waking to yoga and meditation, cooking and enjoying amazing vegan food (the Guatemalan enchiladas and the Mauritian dinner were highlights), putting together puzzles, hiking, and showing off our moves with our brand new hula hoops. On Pia's last day in town, we hiked up to--and through--the Berkeley Botanical Gardens and back, a 9-mile hike in total.

The Redwood Forest at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens

I think it's fair to say that when she boarded the plane for the red-eye that evening, Pia probably slept pretty well after a long, active, and fun week. And we can't wait for her to return so we can do more Berkeley/California exploration.