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Back to School: Fall Arts, Crafts and Cooking Classes and Lectures

It's back to school time, so take your brain off summer vacation. Here are some opportunities to get your noggin firing some extra neurons this fall:

Jonathan Franzen @ City Arts & Lectures: Perhaps THE great American novelist of his generation (The New York Times Book Review called his latest novel, Freedom, "a masterpiece of American fiction"), Franzen (who previously authored The Corrections) is a deeply cerebral writer who crafts multi-layered plots of dramatic social commentary. At Herbst Theatre, he'll be talking to Mark Breitenberg about his writing life and new works. September 13th, 8 pm. Other City Arts & Lectures events to get on your calendar include Jonathan Safran Foer, Maya Rudolph, Mark Morris and Judd Apatow. (check out the full schedule here).

Glass Blowing @ Public Glass: To really step outside of your comfort zone, try a glass blowing class or two at Public Glass in Bayview. Their fiery classrooms host introductory courses with inspiring teachers, where you'll learn the basics and make drinking tumblers. From there you can move on to the big leagues and learn to make, say, flower vases or decorative pumpkins to impress your friends with. Full list of classes here.

Homebrew How-To @ 18 Reasons: Of course you've always wanted to make your own beer. This 18 Reasons class teaches you how to make your own small-batch brew on the cheap in the comfort of your own kitchen. In this class, taught by Bryan Hermannsson and Patrick Horn, there will also be delicious homemade beer to sip on while asking any question big or small. September 14th, 7pm, tickets here.

Make Your Own Terrarium or Mounted Staghorn Fern @ Workshop: Get some green into your apartment with Workshop's desktop terrarium and staghorn fern classes. First, swing by Workshop's Panhandle headquarters to craft your own desktop gardens from succulents, plants and moss in a glass jar that fits almost anywhere. This class is perfect for kids too. Staghorn ferns, prehistoric and rustically beautiful, can be mounted on refurbished wood and look like a pair of antlers. It's like plant taxidermy (except living) on your wall. All supplies are included for both classes. September 11th and September 25th, all classes listed here.

Darkroom Workshops @ Rayko Photo Center: For those with basic photo processing skills, the vast Rayko Photo Center in SOMA offers multiple-week classes designed to expland your mind and abilities in a photo lab. Try their "Alternative Techniques for the Photographic Darkroom" class, in which you will learn how to alter negatives, paint with light, alter prints with coffee or tea and more. Their Black & White Photography Level 2 class is perfect for any casual photographer with basic lab skills who wants to push their work to another level. You'll create an entirely new body of work, learn various printing techniques and critique your classmates' work. Sign up for classes here.

Cooking classes @ Tante Marie's: This school in North Beach, founded in 1979, offers enough courses to make your head spin: French regional cooking, sauce making, food and wine pairings, home baking, cooking with wine and spirits, and the list goes on. There are evening classes, weekend workshops, weeklong courses or one day courses for you to choose from to fit in your schedule. Take one of these and you'll be cooking better for the rest of your life! Sign up for classes here.

Cocktail education w/ Bourbon & Branch and Liquor.com: These babies sell out in a flash, so sign up quickly. Bourbon & Branch's classes cover the basics of all five major spirits, and you'll learn how to make everything from "hi-balls" to "long drinks" using classic recipes and Bourbon & Branch's originals so you can set up your own classy bar at home. Liquor.com periodically hosts swanky dinners paired with gourmet cocktails and the knowledge to go with them. Their latest (sold out, of course), is at Jardiniere, where Traci Des Jardins' cuisine is gracefully matched with cocktails to complement it, while the hosts educate guests on how to do their own match ups at home.

Photo via polkadotandplaid on Flickr.com