Posted on 2 Comments

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Destination Inspiration: Crux Fermentation Project

Crux Exterior

When it comes to picking a place to go to write, coffee shops are the typical choice. But sometimes it’s nice to get off the beaten path and get a change of scenery. Sometimes the new setting can also help give you a fresh perspective on what you’re writing.

On our recent trip to Bend, one of the highlights was Crux Fermentation Project. Having opened in June, Crux is one of the newest craft breweries in the area.

Crux Larry Sidor


Food and Drink

While the babies napped, we sat down with our husbands to talk with Crux co-owner Larry Sidor, who is former brewmaster of Deschutes Brewery. Our husbands are home-brewers, so they were starstruck getting to talk and share beers with Sidor. Sidor shared with us a sampling of the beers before showing us the facilities.

They have food too but we had just come from lunch at 10 Barrel.


 Crux Sampler

Location and Atmosphere

Crux earned it’s namesake for being literally at the crux of Bend, OR. From this point you are about equidistant from anywhere in Bend.  Spacious new facilities, big and open, are accented with large shiny brewing equipment. You can look up from your pub fare and see Larry himself checking on the next batch.

One of our favorite parts of the facility is the patio. Hops growing up tall lattices and tables shaded by umbrellas and trees make a nice retreat with good friends and a cold beer.

Crux Hops

Crux Interior

Crux Equipment

Crux Equipment

Crux Patio

Crux Larry Sidor

Writeability and Purchased Presence

If it’s a sunny day, then order a beer and a snack and head out to the patio with your writing buddy and work on your screenplay plot.


You’ll have no trouble finding a spot in the parking lot that’s just as spacious as the building itself.

Crux and Beer Tour

Writer’s Tip

If you’re lucky enough to be there as one of the local beer tours shows up, use this as an opportunity to eavesdrop on snippets of buzzed conversation for dialogue practice.

Find It

Crux Fermentation Project
50 SW Division Street
Bend, OR 97702

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Destination Inspiration: Monteillet Fromagerie

Monteillet Sheep in Field

One of the highlights of our recent trip to the Walla Walla Valley was an afternoon at Monteillet Fromagerie just outside of Dayton, Washington. When you have just a few nights in Walla Walla, it can be hard to decide whether to dedicate your time to visiting as many wineries as possible or to break it up and check out some of the region’s other specialties as well. However, we highly suggest seeing if you can work the fromagerie into your schedule.

Pierre-Louis and Joan Monteillet are the couple behind the fromagerie. They lovingly tend French Alpine goats and Friesian and Lacaune sheep on their 32-acre farmstead that seems worlds away from the city life that we’re so used to and that even a smallish town like Walla Walla provides.

Monteillet Cheese

Monteillet Goat


Just visiting the fromagerie is a treat in and of itself, but then you get to taste the cheese. If you choose to do a sampling, you can order a plate of their current cheeses to enjoy at the small counter inside or outside in the garden. If it’s a hot day, a glass of chilled rosé is a welcome pairing.

Location and Atmosphere

If you’re checking out the foodie scene in Waitsburg during your stay in the Walla Walla Valley, a trip to the fromagerie is well worth your time. It’s just eight miles past Waitsburg, and if you get your timing right, you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the fromagerie before dinner at the Whoopemup Hollow Cafe. The question is, will you ever want to leave?

That’s right, the Monteillets have created an oasis of sorts in their little corner of Eastern Washington. The world seems to slow down there, and just sitting in their lovely garden has the ability to melt away any tension you may have brought with you.

Monteillet Lanterns

Monteillet Tendril

Writeability and Purchased Presence

Bring a notepad–the same one you use for wine tastings, perhaps–and make notes on the cheeses you taste. Sit back, relax. Observe, brainstorm, dream. Take notes just to help you remember. Otherwise, just enjoy. If the Monteillets have a moment to chat, take the opportunity. You’ll be in for a treat.

The Monteillets also have a gite, or French holiday home, which would make an excellent place for a writer spending a little time away from the busyness of life.


Tasting runs about $10 and a glass of wine is about $5. We also recommend bringing a cooler in case you want to take some cheese home.

Monteillet Sheep

Monteillet Outdoor Kitchen


Parking is abundant here. Drive down the long gravel road until you come upon the tasting room and you’ll be sure to find a place out in front.

Writer’s Tip

Lose yourself in the remote countryside atmosphere. Taste the variety of cheeses and write about your experience. Consider it cheese tasting practice. And, as we always advise, notice the people around you and take notes for future character development. Above all, relax and enjoy yourself!

Find It

Monteillet Fromagerie
109 Ward Rd.
Dayton, WA 99328

Posted on Leave a comment


Have you ever had so many things to do that you didn’t know where to start? Lately that’s been happening to me in terms of writing. I’ve had so many ideas swirling in my head that I just didn’t know what to write down first! I felt literally paralyzed.

Earlier this week I decided to grab my notebook and pour my brain out onto the page. It was hard. I stuttered. I strained. Finally, I had a list started. Why was that so difficult?

It is like a new breed of writer’s block. For me, in this case, it was matter of organization and worrying about capturing every little thought before it got pushed out by another. I was so afraid I’d forget something that my brain was blocked up with everything trying to get out the door at once.

Shower crayons can be a writer’s best friend.

After I took a breath and looked at my list, I started thinking of ways that might make the ‘un-blocking’ process easier.

1. Talk to a friend. If you are unsure where to start, see what idea seems to be swimming at the surface. What topic do you find yourself talking about the most?

2. Read. Read. Read. Your subconscious has a way of letting you know what is most important. Start reading and as you find your mind wandering, jot down a key word or phrase to capture that thought and get back to reading. Do this every time your mind strays from the text. After you’ve finished a couple chapters, look at your list and see what themes emerge. Pick the primary theme as your starting place.

3. Purchase shower crayons. I love these! You can often find them in the toy or stationary aisle of your local store (or on Amazon of course). The shower is often my think tank and it really helps to be able to write down ideas they second they pop into my head.

4. Go for a walk. Fresh air and blood circulation really help untangle all the ideas bumping around the brain. Bring a notebook of course and before you know it you may be perched on  the curb, jotting everything down.

5. Go somewhere. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting out. At N&C we are huge advocates of finding inspiration in all kinds of places. Check out some of our Destination Inspiration locations for ideas of where to go to unclog your brain.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.