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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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Friday Forum: 1/11


Certain TV shows always inspire me and get me thinking about the writers behind them. How do they come up with such amazing concepts and ideas? What is their writing process? Where do they find inspiration? This is why I love following their blogs. Do you have any writers that you follow? What do you glean from them? Who are your favorites?

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Your Divided Attention

Overlooking the snowy mountains.
Overlooking the snowy mountains.

You read that right. I’ll need your divided attention. These days, undivided attention is hard to come by, and sometimes not always the most necessary attribute to have. As a new mom, I long for the days when I could sit down and write undisturbed. I could pour my full attention into whatever tickled my whimsy. But those days are gone. Case in point, even as I’m writing this sentence, I’m holding my child back from the power cords with my foot. This is what I might consider the epitome of divided attention…or as some call it, multi-tasking.

I love those rare sweet undisturbed moments and since my little one has gotten more mobile, those are few and far between. They come with nap time, bedtime, and when dad takes him for a hike on the weekends. Those are the moments you have to cherish and the minutes you really have to utilize. It can get overwhelming. Where do you start? There’s so much you want to do and only a matter of hours to do it. It’s like routing a river through a pinhole.

I could give you the tactics I use to get the most out of my few free moments…lists, tricks using a timer, etc. But in all honesty, there are times when you just need to sit back and let the pressure roll off your shoulders and just write when you feel like it. You have to remind yourself that it’s not all about the race, sometimes it’s just about the writing. The sheer pleasure you get out of writing what matters to you, when it matters to you.

If you find yourself in a pinhole situation of time, don’t stress. Relax and let the words come as they may. It’s your free time, so shrug off the pressure and let yourself focus your attention on being free.

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Destination Inspiration: Full Sail Pub

Full Sail Brewing

By the time our beer-tasting weekend in Bend, Oregon, came to a close, none of us was ready to leave. Our husbands, babies, and the two of us had had a wonderful weekend together, and heading home just didn’t seem right. So we took the long route, heading toward Hood River, which would guarantee a scenic drive with a great destination–Full Sail Brewing Co. That was a perfect consolation to the fact that we weren’t ready to return to normal life back home.

Full Sail Brewing


From classic pub fare to more original summer delights, Full Sail is a sure shot when you are unsure where to eat. Here’s what we enjoyed that day.

Summer Vegetable Pesto Pasta zucchini, broccoli and cherry tomatoes tossed with rigatoni in our housemade pesto sauce. Topped with parmesan cheese.

Salmon Fish and Chips Session Lager battered wild Alaskan salmon with house made coleslaw and lemon caper tartar sauce.

The veggie salad was perfect on such a hot day! Fresh, firm (not overcooked) vegetables had the perfect coating of pesto. The pesto was light and had just enough flavor to be noticeable but not take over the flavor of the veggies.

The salmon is just what you’d expect. Strong, juicy flavors let you know that the pub didn’t skimp on quality. The Session Lager batter lightly coated the salmon almost more like a tempura than a beer batter. We both appreciated that they didn’t overdo the batter. It’s not uncommon to get a fish and chip plate where the fish is outweighed by the batter. Not at this place!

It may seem strange this far into our brewery trip to not get a beer, but we felt that the best accompaniment to our selected meals would be a glass of wine. And since we are in Oregon, why not try some of the local fare?

A personal favorite part of this meal definitely was the wine.

2008 Winemaker’s White Blend by Maryhill Winery, Goldendale, WA

2008 Peace, Love & Chardonay by Springhouse Cellar, Hood River, OR

Both wines were cool, crisp and refreshing with slight, but not overpowering fruit notes.

Full Sail Brewing

Location and Atmosphere

Overlooking Hood River, the location is definitely part of the restaurant’s charm. With windows for walls in the main dining area, the sweeping view of Hood River is breath taking. The atmosphere is busy, however, and seating can be snug. So come with an expectation that you might make some new friends!

Full Sail

Writeability and Purchased Presence

Come with a notebook and a pen–and ideally a writing partner. You could bring a laptop, but come with a fully charged battery and we suggest doing this only during the off hours as it gets really busy during the rush. This is a great place to gather and brainstorm with friends while enjoying tasty food, quality drinks and a beautiful view of Hood River.

Price: $$

Expect to pay around $5 – 11 for a shared plate, or $10 – 15 for an entree. This is pretty typical of this style of pub and the portions are more than reasonable. This is a brewery, so keep in mind that the drinks are most likely where your money may disappear to.


Street parking is often available along Columbia Street. But be warned, the street is on an incline, so depending on where you park, you may have an uphill hike ahead of you.

Full Sail


Writer’s Tip

There are some restaurants that are great for writing and some that are great for resting. While we always advocate having a notebook on hand, this is one of those restaurants that can be a nice place to just relax with friends, food and a nice drink. A rested writer is a productive writer!

Find It

Full Sail Tasting Room & Pub
506 Columbia Street
Hood River, OR 97031

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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