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Special Writing Tea – A Delightful Accident

A savory cup

Tea is a crucial part of my  life in many ways, but one of the biggest roles it plays is in my writing ritual. I always brew a cup to enjoy while immersing myself in a couple hours of writing. Beyond that connection, this post has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with a special tea I have added to my collection.

Recently my father-in-law brought back some tea and spices for me from his ministry trip to India. Among the tea he brought back was chai, some Darjeeling and mamri tea. This is the first time I had ever come across “mamri” tea so I was excited to investigate. I brewed up a cup and was blown away with an interestingly savory flavor. It was unlike any tea I’ve ever had. It’s rich, strong, dark and surprisingly full bodied. It packed quite a caffeine punch too!

I did a bit of research to see if this was a common flavor panel for mamri tea. I learned that mamri is a specific type of Assam tea that has been cured in a special way that creates granules as opposed to “leaf” tea. It is inexpensive and the tea most often used in India.

Mamri tea granules

This tea was like no Assam I’ve ever tasted and that’s when it hit me. The spices. The surprising spice flavor had to have come from somewhere else. The tea was stored in a plastic bag. So were the spices. And they were transported together. The spices infused the tea in transport!  The tea was sandwiched between curry powder, saffron and cardamon seeds. What a delightful accident.

This special tea has become such a treat and this new discovery makes me want to experiment with other unusual infusions. Any suggestions? Have you come across any accidental combinations that have turned out to be favorites?

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Destination Inspiration: Blue Bottle Coffee, Hayes Valley

Blue Bottle Coffee and Pastries

We’re excited to kick off the year with a special Destination Inspiration series focused on San Francisco. We ended up in the Bay Area together on a whim over New Year’s weekend, and couldn’t resist checking out some of the best pastries, coffee, and beer the area has to offer. On our first outing into San Francisco (we were staying with Sarah’s parents in Castro Valley), we headed straight to Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley. Though headquartered in nearby Oakland, Blue Bottle has a number of locations in San Francisco and New York.

Slow Coffee Zombies Sign

Blue Bottle Line

Food and Beverages

Blue Bottle Coffee has built its empire upon, well, coffee, and though we live in Seattle–a city known for its coffee–the cappucinos at Blue Bottle are probably the best we’ve ever had. Surprisingly, the pastries are–at the risk of handing down too many declarations that sound like hyperbole–undoubtedly the best  we’ve ever had at a coffeeshop.

The olive oil shortbread had all the elements of a classic shortbread–rich, buttery flavor with a crisp but tender texture–along with the savory touches of Eatwell Farms rosemary and Stonehouse olive oil. The stout coffee cake carried the deep flavors of beer through its tender and moist crumb that was accented with oats and currants. A pecan-caraway streusel finished it off with pleasingly complementary textures and flavors.

Had we visited again, we would have also tried the sesame absinthe cigars made with St. George absinthe and Stonehouse olive oil, and the snickerdoodles with Spanish saffron and Tahitian vanilla, among other pastries. It’s a good thing they recently released a book that, while primarily about coffee, contains an impressive selection of recipes, including all the treats we just mentioned. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes is available at the store and online.

Blue Bottle Pastries in Hand

Location and Atmosphere

The Blue Bottle location in Hayes Valley is like a little hole in the wall that everyone knows about. The kiosk itself is a re-purposed garage with a finely manicured curbside and is tucked in the folds of an otherwise typical ally. It has just enough room for a lovely pastry case, the necessary espresso machines, a counter and the line that seems constantly formed in front of it.

Blue Bottle Alley

Writeability and Purchased Presence

As a walk-up coffee bar in an old garage in a former alley, there’s no place to sit at this Blue Bottle location, but to be honest you don’t really need one; less than a block away you’ll find Patricia’s Green, a little urban park on Octavia Street that’s just right for creative inspiration. On a side note, there’s amazing inspiration to be found in the history of Patricia’s Green and the amazing woman it stands for as a memorial. You can check it out at

Price: $$

Be sure to bring cash or check. The pricing is very reasonable with coffee starting around $3 and generously sized pastries beginning at $1.50.

Blue Bottle Counter

Blue Bottle Pastries


Parking is always a little challenging in San Francisco and the streets near Blue Bottle are no exception. There are a few streets nearby that have free 2 hour parking, but bring money for the parking meters just in case you can’t snag a spot there.

Writer’s Tip

Bundle up on a sunny winter day and get a coffee and some pastries at the kiosk, then head over to Patricia’s Green. Settle in on a bench to enjoy your treats and let yourself daydream and brainstorm as you watch the world pass by. Jot down observations, thoughts, ideas, and reflections as they come to you, and try to bring a little of this creative and happy state back to your writing space back home.

Find It

Blue Bottle Kiosk, Hayes Valley location
315 Linden Street
San Francisco

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A 2012 Retrospective

Wow, it’s already 2013. The first day of the new year is always an exciting time, and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we’d like to take a moment to look back on a wonderful 2012.

2012 was the year of Nooks & Cranberries, to us. We had gone on hiatus for a while, but when we returned last summer, there was no looking back! We’ve been posting daily for months, giving you writing prompts and inspiration, glimpses into the writing life, and, of course, some fantastic Destination Inspiration. The latter is the backbone of Nooks & Cranberries, so we want to take you along on a look back to some of our favorite recent destinations.
For a Seattle writing space, we love Belle Epicurean. Tip: Order a brioche and take a seat at one of the marble-topped window seats.

Belle Epicurean Brioche

We also got out of town quite a bit, giving you some Destination Inspiration from some other great Northwest places, including Walla Walla’s Brasserie Four

Brasserie Four Macarons

Monteillet Fromagerie in Dayton, Washington, …

Monteillet Cheese

…and Whoopemup Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg.

Whoopemup Hollow Gazpacho

We also had a great trip to Bend, Oregon, with our husbands and sons, where the focus switched from wine to beer (as seen from our sampler, below, at 10 Barrel). There’s nothing like getting out of our natural preferences to expand our palates–and our inspiration!

10 Barrel Sampler


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Destination Inspiration: Sunriver Brewing Company

Sunriver Brewing Exterior


Having experienced plenty of beer on our recent trip to Bend, Oregon, by our last night there it was time to sit back and relax. For that, the Sunriver Brewing Company was a good fit. They have it figured out. After visiting many breweries and the restaurants that go with them, the brewhouse restaurant of Sunriver Brewing Company was a lovely way to cap off our day.  On a summer evening we sat out on the deck, wrangling kids and discussing the menu (on which everything looked good).

All the brewing happens off site and the restaurant is tucked into the pocket of the town just outside Sunriver Lodge. The restaurant also has a lodge-like feel with mostly wood interior, and warm tones used in decorating.
Sunriver Brewing Beer

Food and Drink

First things first, we ordered beverages. They have a full bar in addition to serving beer and wine, but since we were in the Oregon to discover the beer, we kept our focus. Having just opened in July, they were still determining what their ultimate lineup of beer would be, but they had a nice selection representing their approach to beer and giving a taste of what’s to come.

Sunriver Brewing Hummus

Location and Atmosphere

Upon arrival, we were taken back to our table that was tucked away back in a corner of the outdoor eating area. It was perfect for a party of six, with four adults and two babies (who, we must add, had obliged our every beer stop for a couple of days). The server brought water in little plastic cups with straws for the little guys while we sat back and relaxed and perused the menus.

There’s something about the setting here that seemed just right for us at this particular moment in time. Having embarked on a beer-tasting trip with babies–something we conquered admirably, if we might add–this place seemed quite family-friendly.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

This is a good place to bring a note pad and some friends. If you decide to stay a bit longer than your meal, order another drink or appetizer and be aware of the crowd. We always advocate being aware of the wait, just in case.

Sunriver Brewing Interior

Sunriver Brewing Play Area


Starters begin at $5 and entrees start at $10.


Plenty of parking in Sunriver Village, though you may have to walk a little depending on how busy things are–we were there on a busy weekend evening.

Writer’s Tip

The atmosphere here is spectacular for character watching. Watch the families at the tables around you and pay special notice to what the kids say. Kids always say the funniest things…especially at restaurants.

Find It

Sunriver Brewing Company
Building 4, 57100 Beaver Drive
Sunriver, OR 97707

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Destination Inspiration: Deschutes Brewery & Pub

Deschutes 11

We hope you’ve been enjoying our Destination Inspiration series on Bend, Oregon. Possibly the most talked about brewery in Bend, Deschutes was a must on our itinerary. We couldn’t miss stopping in their brewery and restaurant to see what all the fuss was about. We got the full Deschutes experience, starting with a tour of the brewery and ending with dinner that evening at the pub.

If you’re a beer drinker, chances are you’ve enjoyed a bottle of Deschutes brew at some point or another. Maybe you even have a bottle or two in your fridge right now. Before we get to the nuts and bolts of our Destination Inspiration analysis, here’s a quick look at where the beer is made:

Deschutes 2

Deschutes 3

Deschutes 4

Deschutes 5

Pretty great, huh?

Food and Drink

Before going on your tour of the brewery, which overlooks the Deschutes River, be sure to eat lunch, because you’re going to be walking around a lot. The tour then ends with a beer tasting, and you don’t want to be there on an empty stomach. By the time the tour is done, you’ll be ready to drive off to downtown Bend to the pub for a snack or dinner.

A few of the items we enjoyed include the pretzel, chips and artichoke dip, burger and mushroom ravioli. While the food was good, naturally the beer was our focus. Needless to say, we tried all the brews but the one that sticks out for this time of year (besides the traditional Jubel) is the Black Butte XXIV. Its rich deep dark chocolaty flavor is complimented by hints of date and fig, with a light tobacco finish. It has an all around great flavor to compliment the crisp winter weather.

Deschutes 6

Location and Atmosphere

The pub in downtown Bend is bustling. We arrived at the peak of dinnertime and took a seat outside in the sun while waiting for our table. Inside the place is huge, though it’s broken into several different areas so it feels more manageable.

Deschutes 8

Deschutes 7

Writeability and Purchased Presence

This is one of those places that’s great to bring a notebook and pen for notes, but your main focus will be on the great food and friends you’re surrounded by. There is a lot going on during the dinner rush, so it’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and conversation. Jot down a few ideas and then let yourself take a break and enjoy a tasty meal and cold beer.


Entrees run from $13 – $21 and beer snacks start at around $6. Beer pricing varies by season.


While there’s a small lot available, you might want to budget in some time for driving around to find a street spot if all the spots are taken.

Deschutes 10


Writer’s Tip

Try your hand at writing a short story. After you place your order, write as much of a story as you can (without self editing!) and see how far you get before your food arrives. For added fun, make it a group effort and everyone at the table contributes at least a paragraph or two. Dive in and see where your story goes!

Find It

Deschutes Brewery
901 SW Simpson Ave
Bend, OR 97702

Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House
1044 NW Bond Street
Bend, OR 97701

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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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Destination Inspiration: 10 Barrel Brewing Company Pub

10 Barrel Sampler

We hope you enjoyed our recent Walla Walla-based Destination Inspiration series. For the next several weeks, we’re going to be highlighting some of our favorite spots in Bend, Oregon, where we recently visited for a beer-tasting tour.

Upon arriving at Sunriver Resort about 20 minutes south of Bend on a Thursday evening, we were definitely ready to stretch our legs and unwind. Six hours is a long time to spend in the car, after all. But with two babies and an impending bedtime, we couldn’t exactly hit the town. So our husbands set out to find some of the local beers to bring back to the resort. That’s when we got our first taste of what 10 Barrel Brewing is up to. We sipped their Apocolypse IPA (and some red wine of course) while watching the sun set and the wildlife roam outside our rooms. It was a great introduction to 10 Barrel’s beer, and we were excited to visit their pub the next day.

10 Barrel Caprese

Food and Drink

Having tasted just one of 10 Barrel’s brews the night before, we were ready on Friday morning to head straight from our resort to the company pub for lunch. First things first, of course, we ordered a round of beverages. Sarah opted for a pilsner while Daytona ordered the sampler, which included a taste of 10 beers, including their award-winning S1NIST0R Black Ale and Apocalypse IPA.

As for the food, we were pleased with our orders ranging from fish and chips to caprese salad and steak nachos. Any time a restaurant has a caprese salad on the menu, it catches our eyes. However, this classic salad can range from bland and watery to nothing short of spectacular. The caprese at 10 Barrel fell somewhere in the middle, with too much emphasis placed on a mediocre dressing, and no ingredient really standing out as superb. The steak nachos, however, were amazing. The fish and chips were good too. And so was the beer. With the family-friendly approach to dining (all ages are welcomed until 11pm), we’d come back frequently if we were locals.


10 Barrel Fish and Chips

Location and Atmosphere

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Bend when the sun is shining, don’t miss the patio here. The patio has the feeling of a really nice backyard party, with happy, laughing people and great food all centered around a big enclosed fire pit. The atmosphere is light and uplifting. This place is family friendly, with kids being welcome until 11 pm.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

This is the sort of place you visit with your writing group or a writing partner. Bring a pad of paper, leave the laptop at home. Be jovial. Have fun.


The pricing is about average for this quality of pub fare with appetizers starting around $8 and main entrees running between $10 – $15. Their fresh made pizza pies run between $11 – $24. And of course you can’t miss trying out some of their beer!
10 Barrel Patio

10 Barrel Interior


Plenty of parking is available in the lot.

Writer’s Tip

Practice your beer tasting descriptions. Being the foodies that we are, our focus is often on the food. But for this trip we switched gears to center our writing energy on the beer. With a writing partner or group, order a sampler and try your hand at beer tasting. Without looking at the bottle or drink menu, try writing your own description and see how close it matches up.

Find It

1135 NW Galveston Building A
Bend, OR 97701


*This meal was provided to us courtesy of Central Oregon Visitors Association.

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Writer’s Kitchen: Finding Inspiration in Apple Pie

Apple Pie Collage
In one simple pie, the writer finds a bottomless source of memories and inspiration. Apple pie has been around since at least the 14th century, with a recipe from 1381 still available. It’s taken multiple forms across cultures, from the French tarte Tatin (Molly Wizenburg’s recipe is a winner) to the classic American version.

All it takes is a little imagination to conjure up one of the Tatin sisters trying to whip up something to serve their guests at their hotel in France’s Loire Valley, only to make a rather delicious mistake that we now call tarte Tatin. Their story is enough of a legend, with various versions of how the mistake came to be, that a writer can almost picture Caroline and Stephanie running around in a frenzy trying to figure out what to do with their mistake before having a lightbulb moment and declaring it a new culinary invention.

As for me, apple pie carries with it the legacy of generations of the bakers–home cooks and professional–who came before me, one of those being my grandma Adeline. Grandma Adeline has a reputation in the family for making one of the best apple pies around. I was honored last month to make one by her side, watching her shape the crust and collaborating with her on how much of each ingredient to put in the filling. We made magic that day, Grandma and I, as we stood side by side–generations apart yet working together on a common goal–putting the ingredients together and then watching as they morphed into something delicious.

That pie is long gone, but the memories linger on. From now on, whenever I bake an apple pie (you’ll find our recipe over at Outside Oslo), I’ll be thinking of that October evening spent with my dear grandmother. Wrapped up in the crust and baked apples will be countless memories of a woman I adore, and one who has taught me so much about baking and of love. For me, inspiration comes from memories and experiences, and thanks to my dear grandma Adeline, I have no shortage of inspiration from which to draw.

Writing prompt: What memories and stories do you have related to apple pie? Use this classic dessert as a starting place for your writing today; if you’re working on memoir, what memories do you associate with apple pie? If you’re writing fiction, have your character sit down with a slice and see where his mind goes.

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Destination Inspiration: Whitehouse-Crawford

Whitehouse Crawford Exterior

When you’re hard at work as a writer–an often-solitary profession–it’s important to get out sometimes and treat yourself to a good meal with friends. So on our recent trip to Walla Walla, we made sure to have some good, serious foodie fun amidst all the work we were over there doing.

For a historic taste of Walla Walla we had to visit Whitehouse-Crawford. Located in a restored 1904 saw mill, this restaurant is like fine dining in a museum. They showcase locally sourced produce, seasonal dishes with rich flavor and great menu variety, all wrapped up in a charming historic building. Our visit here truly was a treat.

Whitehouse Crawford Plaque

Whitehouse Crawford Table


From the selection of cheeses with homemade crackers and chutney to the salad with fresh, seasonal produce, we knew we were in for a treat from the moment the first dishes arrived. Sarah ordered the roasted Copper River salmon with miso garlic chive butter, sticky rice, and ginger-sesame savoy and mustard greens, while Daytona opted for the grilled pork chop served with a polenta cake and chimichurri.

The cocktails are worth noting, with the bartenders putting together a menu of artisinal creations such as the Earl Grey Collins, with Earl Grey-infused vodka with lemon, honey, and soda. The restaurant also boasts an impressive wine list full of local wine selections, including some hard-to-find Cayuse wines.

Whitehouse Crawford Cocktails

Whitehouse Crawford Cheese - Horizontal

Location and Atmosphere

The atmosphere in the Whitehouse-Crawford is classy and relaxing. Exposed historic brick, stark white linens and blue seats in addition to top notch food make this a truly fine dining experience.  The restaurant is located in the downtown area right by the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Seven Hills Winery.

Whitehouse Crawford Pork

Writeability and Purchased Presence

The fact that this restaurant is housed in an amazing historic building makes it ripe for writing. However, this is also a fine dining establishment where reservations are highly encouraged, especially during special wine-release weekends when hotels and restaurants fill up weeks if not months in advance. We don’t recommend setting up camp as you might in a coffee shop. This is a great place to treat yourself to a lovely meal or drinks with friends after a hard day of writing. Take in your surroundings as you walk in and are seated, then take a moment to jot down some ideas while you wait for your food to arrive.

Price: $$$

Starters–ranging from a cheese plate to Vietnamese-style deep-fried calamari–and salads generally run around $12, while entrees range from $16 for the Whitehouse-Crawford burger to $39 for the steak, with most other entrees running around $25.

Whitehouse Crawford Salad


Parking is a breeze, which is exactly what you want for a non-stress night out. Pull up in one of the spots out front if you’re there early enough, or find nearby street parking or a parking lot. Or better yet, if you’re staying at the Marcus Whitman Hotel located in the same block, all you have to do is walk, eliminating the need for a designated driver!

Writer’s Tip

Sit back and relax, and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve been doing. Don’t think too hard about writing here–you deserve a break! But if you’re like us and find ideas popping up all the time, pack along a discreet pocked-sized notebook, or use Daytona’s trick and slip a 3-by-5 note card and a purse-sized pen in your clutch to jot down reminders of ideas as they come. There’s nothing worse, after all, than not being able to enjoy the moment because you’re stressing out about whether you’ll remember something that came to mind.

Find It

55 West Cherry Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Whitehouse Crawford Dessert

This meal was complimentary, courtesy of Tourism Walla Walla.