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A Productive February

February is an important month. It’s often a defining time where resolutions either loose steam or pick up their pace. At Nooks & Cranberries, we stayed busy, kept our momentum and came out with a lot of inspiration to share.

We introduced you to some destinations from our visit to San Francisco, including 21st Amendment with great brews and the mouth watering pastries of Tartine.

Tartine Pastry Case

We took on challenges by trying to add a little romance to our writing with the Valentine’s Day Special and stamina with Christina Katz’s 21 Moments writing challenge.

Romance and Roses

Finally, in the Writer’s Kitchen, we explored the delicious possibilities of asparagus and quick meals for the writing life.

Roasted Vegetables

Another productive month! We hope you’ve had great momentum as well and we look forward to sharing more inspiration next month.

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Writer’s Kitchen: Asparagus In Celebration of Spring


As February draws to a close and spring nears, menus begin the transition from creamy, rich braises, casseroles, and stews to lighter fare celebrating the shift in seasonal food and the lessened need to eat for a sense of coziness and warmth. Winter greens mingle with spring lettuces, and root vegetables give way to asparagus.

The latter is one of my favorite vegetables, with its quick-cooking time and pretty green stalks making it easy enough for a rushed weeknight meal or elegant enough for company. Simply roasted with olive oil and salt, its toothsome texture and distinct earthy flavor shine. Steam it just until tender and serve with a brightly-flavored sauce, and you’ll take this springtime staple to the next level.


Asparagus with Tarragon Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Simply Classic: A New Collection of Recipes to Celebrate the Northwest, this recipe is perfect for your file of quick and easy recipes to pull out when you’re on deadline but still want something special to serve your family or guests. You can make the sauce while the asparagus steams, and the whole thing should come together in a matter of minutes.

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 pinch of sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Remove and discard the tough ends of the asparagus. Steam just until tender. While asparagus is steaming, prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. When ready to serve, place asparagus on a platter and pour the sauce on top.

Serves 4-6.

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Destination Inspiration: Barking Dog Alehouse

Barking Dog Exterior

Now that the holidays are over and the new year is in full swing, we’re settling back into a routine. As much as we love checking out potential Destination Inspiration spots in other parts of the country, including the San Francisco series we just wrapped up, we’re enjoying frequenting some local places once again. What better place to start than the Barking Dog Alehouse, a truly family-friendly spot that’s perfect for a writer looking for a place to relax and unwind while working on a story draft?

Barking Dog Bratwurst

Food and Beverages

Known for its selection of Belgian and micro beers as well as their Scotch, the Barking Dog is a great place to discover a new brew. If you prefer wine, they also have a carefully-chosen selection that’s sure to fit your palate.

The menu at Barking Dog doesn’t change much, but it has great variety (and the specials are always unique and seasonal). Always rich and filling, the selection runs from hearty salads and hand made, stone baked pizzas to burgers and gourmet meatloaf and brats.  As often as we visit this restaurant we are never tired of the menu. In fact, we have found that the reliability of the menu tends to create cravings. One afternoon you may find yourself saying, “I could really go for a Barking Dog chicken quesadilla right now!”

Barking Dog Meatball Sub

Location and Atmosphere

Located in a residential area that could be called northeast Ballard, west Greenwood-Phinney, or whatever you like, this truly is a neighborhood hangout.

When there is a great family-friendly restaurant, word gets out. Come dinner time, this place is bustling with patrons and their families. Sarah has used the Barking Dog as a writing location many times and has found that the best time to get work done is just before the rush, then put away the laptop and pull out the pen and pad for character notes. The atmosphere is very comfortable and easy to relax in and stay a while. There are several small tables by the windows and a few booths that are easy to tuck into for a writing spell.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

The relaxed atmosphere makes a writer feel at home. As long as no one was vying for a table, we’d have no qualms sitting at one of the tables against the walls for a few hours with a laptop and notebook, drafting an early outline for our novel or doing research for an article. Of course, we’d make sure to keep ordering snacks or an additional beverage throughout our stay to be polite.

Barking Dog A-Frame Sign

Price: $$

$4 for an imperial pint (20 oz) during happy hour ($5.50 regular), which is about average and $6 buys you a very healthy pour of their house red wine. Entrees range $10 to $12.


Located in a neighborhood, there’s plenty of street parking around, as long as you don’t mind driving a couple of blocks to find a spot.

Barking Dog Interior

Writer’s Tip

As we mentioned above, this place can get very busy. So to really get down to business, come during lunch time or before the rush on a Saturday and cozy up in a booth or by the window with your laptop. Order a nice glass of wine or a cold beer and stay a while. Another perk to the Barking Dog is the awareness of their staff, they are really good at sensing when they are needed and when you need to be left alone. So get comfortable and dive in, you may be surprised at how much you can get done before the rush!

Find It
705 NW 70th Street
Seattle, WA 98117

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Daily Writer’s Fix: February 25-March 1

Portland Sky

How to use Daily Writers’ Fix



Portland Sky

Look up. Right now, from where you’re sitting. From where your character was in the last moment before you stopped your previous writing session. From where you imagine he will be when you begin today’s plotting.



Hotel Bathroom

Take your antagonist on a trip. What does he feel as he showers, using the hotel’s shampoo that smells like his childhood garden?



Empty Parking Spaces

Train yourself to see the ordinary as momentous today. Look at this empty parking space and spend five minutes freewriting. It will undoubtedly feel like a stretch, but go for it and see what you come up with.




Your protagonist wipes his hand across the dashboard, watching as his hand erases the dust. An ordinary moment? Perhaps. But what if it weren’t?



Pickled Asparagus

Go to your refrigerator and pull out something you haven’t tasted in a while, such as a jar of pickled vegetables or a condiment. Describe the flavor in detail, so that someone who hasn’t eated it before will know exactly what it tastes like.

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Yoga Pants

There are a handful of books I come back to whenever I’m in a writing bind. They are like a lucky shirt or an old pair of jeans – the things I slip into when I feel blah. They are my yoga pants.

I’ve been in a writing pickle lately. Overwhelmed and not sure where to start. So I turned to one of my all time favorite default books, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. She is one of my writing heroes and this book has the magical ability to pull me back from the edge of despair and remind me that when you are overwhelmed, just take it one chunk at a time.

Bird by Bird

She says in her book that if when you sit down to write and are bombarded by the mountain of laundry that needs to be done, or the dishes or that thing you needed to take care of last week that you forgot about until just now – when all that stuff comes to the surface, take a breathe and tell yourself all you’re going to do right now is write one small paragraph. One small paragraph of one small scene, perhaps the scene where we first meet your character at the bus stop. Or the moment your character walks into a restaurant and sees the woman he is going to marry, or maybe that moment you decided to quit your job and become – oh, I don’t know – a writer. The point is, take baby steps. Start with these little snapshots and allow the rest of the world to slide off your back as you fall into your groove.

This is where I convince myself that I did buy these yoga pants to work out in, I am working out my writing muscles. I know, bad joke…but it’s the truth. We all need those comfort items to go back to when we feel overwhelmed, those things that steady us in the turbulence and bring clarity in the fog. Consider your writing comforts, do you have a book that inspires you every time you pick it up and read that first sentence? What are your safety defaults in times of writing stagnation?

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Writer’s Kitchen: Quick Meals for the Writing Life

Roasted Vegetables

I’m trying to build a repertoire of simple, quick-cooking meals that I can rely on for when it seems there’s no time to cook. As a writer, I have to. There will always be opportunities to create elaborate, multi-step dishes with an ingredient list as long as the alphabet–it’s just part of life of a food writer. But when it comes to feeding my family on a day-to-day basis, sometimes quick, nutritious (and tasty) food is key. I’ve been diving into my stock of old and new family classics as I create a master list of tried-and-true dishes I can prepare even on the most demanding of evenings. A thousand words to cut? Jacques Pepin’s chicken suprêmes in butter with lime juice and herbs will do the trick. Recipe development flooding my kitchen with desserts? Herb-roasted vegetables come together in a snap to balance out all the sugar. And lest I forget, simple is often best–though it’s one of the hardest things for me to remember. In that case, going to the store to pick up a protein and a vegetable with no recipe in mind (gasp!) and forcing myself to cook by instinct should probably happen more often.

What are your go-to meals when you’re tight on time?

Image from Outside Oslo.

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Destination Inspiration: Tartine Bakery

Tartine Exterior

We had some pretty amazing food and beverages during our recent trip to San Francisco, but visiting Tartine was the icing on the cake. After packing the suitcase and saying goodbye to Sarah’s parents, Daytona’s hosts for the trip, the two of us set out with our husbands and sons to taste for ourselves what makes Tartine so legendary.

Tartine Kitchen

Food and Beverages

Huddling together while sharing the menu as we inched along the line, which started outside and worked its way down the entire pastry case, we contemplated how to best experience all that Tartine has to offer. The crowded space had no empty tables, and even if one were to open, it would be impossible on such a busy day to fit four adults and two toddlers in strollers or high chairs inside. We were pressed for time, anyway, as Daytona had a flight to catch, so we each opted for an open-faced croque monieur to take to go, along with an assortment of sandwiches. While the men were shopping at the nearby Self Edge, a table for two opened up, so the two of us sat down, ordered a couple of glasses of the house red–a Cotes du Rhone–and toasted. It was New Year’s Day, after all.

The owners–the husband-wife team of Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt–were nominated twice for James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chefs before winning it in 2008, and its no wonder. Everything we tasted was nothing short of spectacular. The croque monsieur was served open-faced on an inch-thick slice of Tartine’s bread, and dressed with just the right amount of toppings to round out the meal without overshadowing the bread. Shiitake mushrooms added a savory touch to the sandwich. The quality carries over to the pastries, too, with the chocolate salted rye being a particular favorite (Daytona even experimented with trying to recreate the cookies after returning home). The frangipane tart, filled with blueberries, was lusciously moist and flavorful, even the next day after surviving the return flight to Seattle.

Tartine Pastry Case

Location and Atmosphere

Driving to Tartine, it was evident where the destination was located because of the tell-tale line queuing in front. The Mission District is not only home to Tartine but also to many great shops and restaurants including the birth place of the original Mission style San Francisco burrito. With great pastries and great Mexican food, you know this is one busy neighborhood!

Writeability and Purchased Presence

When we were here on New Year’s Day, the bakery was packed. It was difficult even to stand in line without feeling our personal bubble being burst by an enthusiastic patron ogling the items in the pastry case. When we finally did place our order, we were lucky enough to have a small table open up, which we snatched up immediately. On a less-crowded day, this would be just the place to sit sipping a cappuccino or perhaps a glass of wine while savoring a sandwich and jotting down character sketches from our people-watching. But on a crowded day in which demand is high, it’s best to be respectful of the other customers and make your table available once you finish your order.

Tartine Interior Vertical

Price: $$

Pastries start at around $4.00 and sandwiches $12.00. It’s on the higher side of pricing, but absolutely worth it.


Expect to drive around the block a time or two to find a place; if you don’t mind walking a little, grab the first spot you see in the vicinity and explore the neighborhood while you’re at it.

Writer’s Tip

Give yourself a goal–a word count, perhaps, or to put the finishing touches on an article–and use a visit to Tartine as an incentive. If you meet the goal in your given timeframe, you get to treat yourself to whatever you want at Tartine. We’re confident you’ll succeed.

Find It

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Tartine Croque Monsieur

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Valentine’s Day Special

Today is Valentine’s Day, so it only seems appropriate that we talk about romance. I don’t mean the romance in your own life, I mean the romance in your fiction life.

Romance and Roses

I know what you’re thinking…”Harlequin novels? Bodice rippers? Ew, no thank you. I’ll pass.” Let me assure you right now, that’s not where I’m going with this. I’d just like to share a few tips to add romantic tension, perhaps even create a little chemistry between two unassuming characters. So here are the basics:

-Start with two strong, appealing, sympathetic characters. Be sure they are three-dimensional so you can mess with their heart strings.

-Add conflict. There are two kinds of conflict: Internal and External.

Internal conflict should be the writer’s main focus: defined by either character—the opposing forces within a personality, motivations and aspirations—or by an emotional situation within a relationship—for example, an unexpected pregnancy or an arranged marriage.

External conflict should only be brought in as additional support to the developing romance and plot. External conflict is defined by misunderstandings, circumstances or a secondary character’s influence.

Ideally, give the characters something they have to overcome together…this is where they bond, not necessarily where they connect. Throw several conflicts their way that they work through to create emotional highs and lows. Have them grow closer with each resolution.

-Just as they are starting to realize their chemistry and connect…throw a wrench in it! Heartbreak!

-Many writers will be tempted to bring in a secondary character at this point. It’s an option, but be warned…use secondary characters with caution. You don’t want to muddy the focus on your main couple.

-Then add the final conflict…this one usually requires a lot of sensational dialogue.  Dialogue is the key tool to give life, energy and pace to your writing. This is the epiphany moment! Remember to keep it relevant and consistent to your characters. Let them realize and come to terms with their differences and come together as a couple at last. Hooray!

So that’s writing romance in a nutshell. Strong characters, lots of conflict with emotional highs and lows, all driven by great dialogue to a happy and satisfying ending.

Cheers and Happy Valentine’s Day!