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Capturing Holiday Moments

Ethan's ornament
Ethan’s ornament

The holidays are full of friends, family and precious moments that you’ll want to remember.  Having a camera at hand is the perfect way to record those times. But what if there’s a moment that the camera missed? Painting word pictures to capture what the camera couldn’t is a priceless post-holiday gift.

Writing a descriptive account of a holiday moment not only helps to beef up your albums, it can also make for a very special thank you note or end of year letter. Look at the photos you’ve taken so far, write the moments in between and enjoy reliving your holiday memories!


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The Gift of Experience: Painting Classes

Corks and Canvas Events Wisteria Painting

If there’s one activity we love almost as much as writing, it’s painting–especially if there’s a glass of wine right next to our palate! Perhaps it’s natural for creative types to be drawn to art forms across genres and across media. It certainly is for us. There’s something freeing and rejuvenating about sitting facing a blank canvas with a palate of glistening paints in hand, ready to be used for beauty. So, if you have a friend who’s hard to shop for, if she’s anything like us–a writer perhaps, or just a creative type in general–why not consider giving her the gift of experience this Christmas and treat her to painting class?

Art classes abound in a city like Seattle, which is home to as many artists as coffee-drinking intellectuals. But unless the recipient you have in mind is a serious painter, we suggest you check out one of the social painting classes offered in the area, many of which offer refreshments such as wine, hors d’oeuvres, and little snacks. We’ve checked out a couple of them lately, and have two recommendations as starting places.

Corks and Canvas Instructor

Corks and Canvas Events

Described by the owner as offering the Nordstrom of paintings, Corks and Canvas Events are the ultimate in a girls’ night out (not, of course, that they have to be limited to women).

For these classes, the wine is just as integral as the painting, so they’re held at wine-related places like wineries, wine bars, etc.

The instruction at these events is wonderful. The instructor makes an effort to walk around with her canvas, painting as she goes so you can see clearly what she’s doing. It’s really nice not to have to crane your neck to see what’s going on. In addition to the wine, this was something we really appreciated about the class. She also encourages you to follow your own strokes and not focus so much on sticking to the example painting. Very liberating!


Corks and Canvas Group Shot

Painting on the Vine

Classes by Stani Meredith of Painting on the Vine have recently relocated from West Seattle to the Seattle Creative Arts Center. A big feature of this class is that the participants are encouraged to paint whatever their heart desires. If you feel like painting pink flowers instead of yellow, or a landscape instead of a vase–run with it! Stani will help you through the process.

And Stani really knows her stuff! She focused on the craft of painting and gave instruction on different techniques and even taught us a bit about the origin and history of certain styles and strokes. We not only walked away with beautiful paintings but also with a bit of art knowledge we didn’t have before.

Photo from Painting on the Vine.

Painting on the Vine

Our evening at Painting on the Vine was courtesy of Stani Meredith at Painting on the Vine.

Some photos taken by Daytona were previously used on The Flying Salmon, her blog at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

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The Gift of Experience: Holiday Tea at the Sorrento Hotel

Sorrento Hotel Exterior

As writers, there’s nothing like stepping into an historic building lit up with Christmas lights and evergreen boughs to get us in the holiday mood. The two of us experienced the official start to our month long holiday celebrations last week when we visited the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood for Holiday Tea.

The Sorrento Hotel, which opened over a century ago, in 1909, takes its architectural cues from the The Vittoria in Sorrento, which was the architect’s muse. Walking through the circular porte-cochère and into the lobby lined with rich wooden walls, we enjoyed the Christmas decorations, tastefully done, and spotted our fireside place in the lobby tea room.

As we settled into our large, comfy chairs, we scanned the menu and chose our tea–an assam, a tradition for the two of us–and ordered Pimm’s Cups, one of several English-inspired cocktails on the tea menu. As writers, friends, and mothers, the two of us spend a lot of our time together wrangling very active little boys while we talk about each others’ writing projects and how we’re doing at balancing our many roles in life. It’s a joy, and we’re both thankful for the ability to inspire and encourage each other. Sometimes, though, it’s important to remember the foundation our friendship was built upon and get out and do something special together, something usually involving one of our favorite things, such as tea.

We sipped our assam and our Pimm’s cup, the sweet, flavored liqueur complemented by the fresh flavors of muddled cucumber and citrus–while we talked about our kids and about writing, of course, but also what else is going on in each others’ lives. For Sarah, it’s about redefining her style and finding ways to care for herself now that she’s gotten into the new groove of motherhood that comes when a baby starts to transform into a toddler. For Daytona, the topics of interest are photography and cooking.

That’s part of what’s so lovely about sharing experiences like this together: we’re forced to set aside the responsibilities of day-to-day life for a couple of hours and reconnect–really connect. As our food arrived, we were already relaxed and ready to enjoy the artfully-created little bites that had been prepared for us. The berry scone was still warm from the oven and needed almost no cream to be rich and decadent, perfectly complementing the huckleberry cream-filled cannoli with walnut preserves. The tea sandwiches were anchored by the classic cucumber sandwich but then elaborated upon with a caprese-inspired open sandwich on a little toast, tiny triangles of bread with goat cheese, walnuts, and honey, and a smoked salmon sandwich accented with shaved cornichons.

An experience like holiday tea is a great gift for friends or family, which is why it is top on our list of gift ideas for the holidays. It has everything, tasty bites, hot cups and cool drinks, mixed with great conversation. A chance to rest and reconnect can be the greatest gift during a busy holiday season. So sit back, enjoy a cup of tea and have a happy holiday!

Sorrento Hotel Interior

Sorrento Hotel Christmas Tree

Sorrento Hotel Tea Room

Sorrento Hotel Horse and Wreath

*Disclosure: Our tea time was provided courtesy of the Sorrento Hotel.

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Writer’s Kitchen: Working through the Seven Sorts of Norwegian Christmas Cookies


One of the things I love most about my Norwegian heritage is the appreciation of simple yet delicious baked goods. From the cakes and cookies to the tortes and candies, Norwegians know how to take a few simple ingredients–butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, for example–and transform them into something spectacular and beautiful.

This year I’ve been observing the tradition of the syv slags kaker, or seven sorts of cookies, that are a must in a Norwegian household during Christmastime. I started tracking my progress over at Outside Oslo on November 1, and so far I’ve discovered a new favorite: serinakaker, pictured above. These cookies are at once crisp yet delicate, with an elegant sprinkling of chopped almonds and pearl sugar on top. It takes a lot for a cookie to make me sit up and take notice, but these do exactly that.

Another favorite type? Sandbakkelse.


These pretty and delicate little cookies are formed one by one in molds, and are perfect to make with loved ones as you sit around the table catching up and talking about life. They are a specialty of my Grandma Adeline, who has been teaching my mom and me to make them. While you could certainly fill them with some sweetened whipped cream and lingongberry preserves, many Norwegian families–including my own–prefer to eat them as cookies rather than tarts.

Last week we baked krumkaker together, and I have a batch of pepperkaker dough chilling in my refrigerator now. I’m starting to feel the clock ticking, though, as I still have three more sorts to make! If you happen to have a traditional syv slags recipe that you enjoy making, let me know–I’d love to hear from you! Or if the tradition is new to you and you’re interested in learning more, I’d be delighted if you’d follow Outside Oslo, where I’ll be writing much more about these cookies in the coming weeks!

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Writer’s Kitchen: Edible Christmas Gifts, Part 2 (Homemade Graham Crackers)


How are you doing on your Christmas shopping? To be honest, I haven’t even started. I do know what I’m giving some people, but I haven’t actually done anything about it yet. With some pretty major deadlines on my calendar for November and December, and all the Christmas baking I’ve been doing, there hasn’t been a lot of time. I consider it my duty, however, to give you some great ideas for Christmas gift-giving this year, however, and I have a new idea for you today: Homemade Graham Crackers!

I came across this recipe while looking through a copy of Catherine McCord’s new cookbook, Weelicious, and decided to whip up a batch for my son. It turns out that these cookies are delicious and contain the perfect balance of crispness and softness–just like a graham cracker from a box. Even better, they can be made in any shape you like, and you know exactly what goes into them. These would make a great gift for the coworker who always brings homemade treats to work and obviously loves to bake, or perhaps for the other mothers in your playgroup. Wrap them up in a pretty cookie tin with a copy of the recipe, and you’ll be good to go! Get the recipe!

Photo originally from Outside Oslo

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Writer’s Kitchen: Edible Christmas Gifts, Part 1

Orange-Cardamom Caramels

I know, I know, it’s probably a bit early to be talking about Christmas. After all, Halloween is just barely behind us, and Thanksgiving is still weeks away. However, one of the jobs of a blogger is to get you thinking about ideas in advance, right? In that case, I’d like to start talking about edible Christmas gifts. Whether you love lavishing your loved ones with expensive presents or your writer’s budget is maxed out right now, edible gifts are sure to touch a sweet spot in any recipient’s heart. We’ll be talking in the coming weeks about how to add a personal touch to your Christmas gift-giving. To start, I’d like to share a recipe for orange-cardamom caramels. I came up with the recipe recently and shared it in my most recent story for the Norwegian American Weekly. I hope you enjoy it!

Get the recipe