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Last fall, we had the rare opportunity to visit The Essig Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. Not usually open to the public, we were able to take part in this special visit as members of the Lawrence Hall of Science’s family group on Meet-Up. On Friday, February 12, in honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday, the Essig Museum is once again opening its doors to the public. It’s a small space on the UC Berkeley’s campus, but their collection features a breathtaking assortment of rare species of beetles, grasshoppers, ladybugs, butterflies, moths, and more. Here’s a sample of some of the stunning specimens we saw.

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Be sure to reserve your space for one of the tours! You can get more info on the Essig Museum of Entomology website. And happy birthday Charles Darwin, who was born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809! Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Darwin tour one day and combine a trip to his birthplace with a visit to the Galapagos?

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Lately, I’ve rekindled my love for two old hobbies: reading and knitting. The project I’m most excited about is a “bicycling scarf” I’m making for Rama so cars can see him better when he’s pedaling around town on his 10-speed. I was thinking about using some kind of reflective fiber in the scarf, but they didn’t have anything like that at Jo-Ann’s, so I settled for this neon yellow (the photo doesn’t do the color justice — it’s actually a much more fluorescent hue.)

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To ensure that I actually get this scarf finished (as opposed to sitting in my knitting box for years and years like this green project pictured above), I formed a knitting club. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, but surprisingly have never joined. We meet every Tuesday night at the cafe across the street from my house. It’s perfect because I can put Elodie to bed and then run across the street for an hour or two for some tea, crafting, and conversation with friends while Rama gets some work done at home. If you live in the area, come join us! Or start your own crafty gathering in your own neighborhood. Maybe you’re already part of a knitting club, if you are, take a picture and tag it #nightknitting on Instagram. I’d love to see what you’re working on.

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Three years ago I moved to Paris for a year with an 18-month old girl. I quickly learned that there are places where children are welcomed with open arms (playgrounds, some museums), and there are many more place where children are frowned upon if they cause the slightest commotion (most restaurants and cafes). If you’re going to Paris with kids, I think this map will help you navigate the best places in the city to bring your little ones. Some of the restaurants I’ve included even have kids menus and high chairs (Le Pure Cafe) — a real rarity in the City of Light. And some of them were created especially for families (Le Petit Cafe du Monde Entier). And if you’re going solo, perhaps with an adoring partner in tow, I think you’ll find some nice spots to soak up the ambiance while indulging in some French delights (food, wine, eclairs). Take a look!

Click here to open the map in a new browser.

Berlin Living Room

Last week our former landlord from Germany came over for dinner. It was so nice to see him, and it made me think about the beautiful apartment we rented from him when we lived in Berlin. It was probably my most favorite place that I’ve ever lived.

We spent a lot of time in the living room, just working. I loved having a tiny little balcony where I could grow plants, hang laundry, or step out for fresh air and a view to the street below.

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We brought those IKEA sheepskins back to the States with us. They’re a little dingier now, but still cozy. The print came from a printing museum in Leipzig.

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The kitchen was so delightfully East German. Everything so compact but functional. When we moved in, much of the kitchen things were packed away in boxes. It was so fun going through them and discovering all these strange little gadgets. We loved the white mixing bowls so much that our landlord said we could have them, and we still use them here in California.

One of the best things about living abroad is getting a different perspective on life. When I think about being in that apartment I think about the serenity of the light, the echo of footsteps in the quiet courtyard where we all kept our bikes or took out the garbage, and the beautiful textures of the wooden floors and the jute carpets in the hallway. I’ll never forget that place, and am so grateful we can continue the relationships we formed there — even with someone like our landlord, who we hardly ever saw — but here or there, we’ll always have a place at our table for him.

You can see more photos of our Berlin apartment here on my flickr page.

 

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Today was Elodie’s last day of preschool. Two years went by in a flash. It was a magical time.

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of playing…

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and sleeping…

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and painting boxes…

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and fishing for marbles…

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and basking in the California sunshine…

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And I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful school for our girl. And I am so grateful to our parents for making it possible. Thank you Grandma Futaba. Thank you Grandma Cait. Thank you Captain. We love you! And we’re ready for Kindergarten!

All photos courtesy of Griffin Nursery School.

Hello Kitty Ten

Last week we embarked on our very first camping trip as a family. We booked a Sunday night (since weekends in summer fill up as soon as reservation windows open), at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about an hour north of Berkeley. Since it was such a quick trip, it was good to not be very far away from home. We actually almost forgot our tent! Thank goodness I remembered to ask Ram if he had packed it in the rental car, before we got on the highway.

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When we pulled up to our redwood-shaded campsite, we saw that our friends from San Francisco had already set up their tent (right next door), and were playing in the creek down the hill behind our sites. It was a perfect campground for kids. Elodie and her friend had so much fun wading in the ice cold stream, dragging the Hello Kitty tent around, and later, making s’mores. I didn’t sleep fabulously, despite my brand new double air mattress, which fit perfectly in our tiny 2-3 person tent, but that didn’t dissuade me from making plans for our next camping trip, which we booked this morning — Pinnacles National Park! It’s going to be hot, hot hot, but we’re hoping to see some shooting stars during the meteor shower, which peaks tonight!

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I can’t wait to discover more great California campsites! Do you have a favorite? I’d love to know.

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My husband, Rama and I enjoy a type of travel known as “coffee tourism.” It’s not what you’re thinking. We don’t go to places like Costa Rica or Ethiopia to see how coffee beans are grown and harvested. We go to coffee shops. He, to drink the coffee. Me, to indulge in a little coffee shop atmosphere and complain about the poor selection of teas (coffee shop bastards! Don’t even try serving me your one type of tea in a pint glass!)

I don’t drink coffee. But I do love me a good coffee shop. And one of the most adorable, prettiest, sweetest ones I’ve ever visited, was, of course, in Japan.

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I read about Little Nap Coffee Stand in Kinfolk Magazine, so when we went to Tokyo last spring, we made a point to venture to the slightly out-of-the-way location on the western edge of Yoyogi Park. We were both over the moon when we got there because not only did they have really nice coffee, they had even nicer ice cream! I had some kind of amazing flavor like rum or something, and it was definitely one of the most delicious things I ever ate. Artisanal. In every sense of the word.

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