Posted on Leave a comment

Daily Writer’s Fix: April 1-5 (Travel Edition)

Water at Kauai Beach

How does vacation–or any type of travel for that matter–impact your writing life? Chances are, if you’re like me, that it can be a challenge to maintain any sort of routine. And to be honest sometimes it’s good to take a break from that routine–if you’re confident you’ll be able to to pick it back up upon returning home. Another challenge is how to balance your typical writing with the journaling or note-taking you may want to do to record memories and moments from the trip. With that in mind, let’s spend some time this week working on travel-writing skills. That way, when you travel next time you’ll have an easier time observing details, taking notice of seemingly small yet important moments, and ultimately letting the words flow on the page. And with that, here’s the exercise:

Every day this week, observe something in your neighborhood or life as though you were traveling and seeing or experiencing it from the eyes of a visitor. What are the sights and sounds of the place (maybe it’s your backyard or your neighborhood park) or the event (it could be a trip to the market or a playdate with your friends) that capture its essence? What do you need to put into words in order to bring you back to this time and place when you reread your writing in the future? Consider each of the five senses. Notice the who, what, where, when, and why. Observe the thoughts running through your head–those that are related, and the seemingly random ones that that are popping up. Jot notes as they come to you, and then when you return to your computer, write a few paragraphs about your experience.

Posted on Leave a comment

Writer’s Kitchen: Words and Wine During Travel

Harbourside Seafood Grill Bar Area

Developing a writing ritual or routine is a feat to be celebrated. So what happens when one travels, and as a result uproots all of that progress for a moment in time? For me, traveling is a time of suspension, a hiatus of sorts when all of the routines of life get put on pause and one simply focuses on enjoying the experience. Finding time for things like writing becomes a treat rather than a necessity, and as a result those times of engaging in that activity are often more profitable and enjoyable than they otherwise might be.

Sauvignon Blanc at Harbourside

While traveling to New Zealand earlier this month, I found little time to write. On a whirlwind trip for a travel story I’m working on, there was little opportunity to open my laptop for any purpose aside from planning the next day’s schedule. However, I did manage to slip away to a lovely little bar attached to a fancy seafood restaurant in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbor area for some wine tasting and writing. It was totally by accident; I had caught a cab to the area to meet up with the group I was traveling with, but finding that the event had been canceled due to weather, I found myself with a free hour and a half until dinner. I climbed the stairs up to the Harbourside Seafood Bar and Grill and settled in for some reflection. Harbourside Sign Harbourside Seafood Grill

I always carry a notebook and pen with me, which is a practice I’d encourage every writer to do without fail. Because of that, I was able to find what felt like stolen moments in which to write. I opened the notebook with no expectations other than to allow words to flow freely onto the paper. I chatted with the bartender about New Zealand wines and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc to try. He brought out my glass plus a sample of another of his favorites, and noting my interest in the wines he printed out for me a guide he uses for training the staff on the country’s grape-growing areas. I made notes of the Sauvignon Blancs I had tasted thus far in the trip, marking them on the map the bartender had given me, and I wrote in my notebook.

Harbourside Seafood Grill Stairwell

Nothing I wrote that day–neither the wine notes nor the words that flowed on the pages of my notebook–will make it into published works. Rather, I took the opportunity to synthesize thoughts that have been swirling around in my head and I processed them through the act of writing. The result was the beginning of a weeks’ long journey into discovering my ideals of the writing life and how I might begin to execute them upon returning home.

Those unanticipated moments can be as productive as the ones that are scheduled, if the writer allows him- or herself to take notice. The time I spent that afternoon are still guiding my thoughts as I work through how I want to orchestrate my schedule and time this spring.

How do you utilize those unanticipated moments when they occur? What comes out of them as a result?

Harbourside Seafood Grill Bar

Posted on Leave a comment

Scraps to Scrumptious: Post-Flight Dinner

Spicy Tomato Pasta

A few nights ago, after returning home from a trip for a travel piece I’m writing, I needed to make a late dinner. Rummaging through the refrigerator, I threw away remnants of meals from the week before consisting of leftovers we didn’t have time to eat. Virtually all that was left–aside from the food that belongs to our live-in guest–were the typical fridge staples: jams, cheeses, flours, and the like. In such circumstances, however, a well-stocked pantry means that with a little creativity, there’s no excuse to say there’s nothing to eat.

I had half a box of rigatoni, a can of diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and chili flakes, and that was almost all I needed to put together a satisfying late-night dinner, a veritable midnight snack.

What are your favorite pantry creations?

Spicy Post-Flight Pasta
A Nooks & Cranberries original

1/2 pound rigatoni
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Small handful of Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, pressed
Generous sprinkling of dried chili flakes
1/3 stick butter
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, bring diced tomatoes to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and garlic, and continue to cook, turning up the heat to bring to a light boil. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces slightly. Stir in butter and allow to melt, then add garbanzo beans and cook until heated through. Drain pasta and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Serve.

Serves 3-4.

Posted on Leave a comment

Destination Inspiration: Sterling Coffee Roasters

Sterling Coffee Roasters Sign Portland holds a soft spot in our hearts. Just a few hours away from Seattle, it’s easy to drive there for a weekend, and it’s a perfect urban getaway for people who like books (one word: Powell’s!), good food, the Northwest lifestyle, and–of course–coffee.

Sterling Coffee Roasters

Food and Beverages

Let the flavors shine by keeping your coffee order simple: an espresso or macchiato if you like your coffee mostly straight, or a cappuccino. The flavors are incredibly smooth, while being distinct and bold. This is the way coffee should taste. As for the food, the chocolate-coffee loaf had a moist, spongy crumb, a delicate and not-t00-sweet flavor, and a color as deep as espresso. In other words, it was an ideal accompaniment to the showstopper coffee.

Sterling Coffee

Location and Atmosphere

Described on the website as “Coffeehouse Northwest’s darling child,” Sterling–which is located on Northwest 21st Avenue in the Alphabet District–is a lovely little cafe that’s “afforded every luxury, from the nicest clothes to the best finishing school.” That essence is carried throughout the entire production, from the white tablecloths to the well-dressed staff.

The Alphabet District has a distinct charm in itself. An area zoned for historic preservation, the district is named for the alphabetical progression of street names. With beautiful classic buildings lining the streets, after you’ve enjoyed your visit at the cafe, it’s worth a walk to admire the historic scenery.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

To be honest, you probably don’t want to come here with your laptop–there’s simply not enough room for a computer and your order on those charming little white linen-wrapped tabletops complete with centerpieces. But you will want to have a tiny notebook on hand to jot down all the ideas that come to you as you sip your cappuccino in such an inspiring setting.

Sterling Coffee Roasters Interior

Price: $$

Coffee and pastries cost the standard handful of dollars. Bring a $10 bill and you’ll be set for a drink and pastry.


The only complaint about this place is the parking. For a city that–like Seattle–is so focused on bicycles, everyone seems to be driving around here, and street parking seems to be in high demand.

Writer’s Tip

As the space in the cafe doesn’t really afford room for much more than a notepad, try a notepad-sized exercise to get your brain churning on your current project. Whether your project is fiction or non-fiction, see if you can boil the content of your piece down to one or two sentences. The idea of the exercise is to sharpen the message behind your piece and give focus for further critique. If you don’t have a current project, perhaps use the notepad method and work backward to develop a short story from a single nutshell sentence. Happy writing!

Find it:

Sterling Coffee Roasters
417 NW 21st Ave
Portland, OR 97209

Posted on Leave a comment

Chelan Writing Retreat: The Barrel Feast

It was a gorgeous weekend. The sun was out, the sky was clear and the snow capped mountains were a gleaming backdrop. The best part was that we were viewing all this splendor from the car as we drove out of Seattle and made our way to Chelan for a quick writing retreat.

The kids were set to spend quality time with the dads and the women were off to let the their writing minds take them where they may…well, with a loose itinerary. We were to visit a few wine tasting rooms, meet a press contact for dinner, stay the night at a lovely resort overlooking Lake Chelan and then meet for a “Wine Immersion” experience the next morning. Boy were we in for a treat!

Chelan Horizon

By the time we had settled in at The Lake House and tasted some of the wine provided in the room, it was time to meet our contact for dinner. We were privileged to meet about a dozen or so people for the intimate Barrel Feast at Tunnel Hill Winery. What a fantastic experience! We arrived and were led into their barrel room in which was set a long table with a silk copper runner, candles and place settings lined by four wine glasses each. After a brief meet and greet, we took our seats and were presented with a four course meal, complete with wine pairings. Our host, Guy Evans, introduced the cook who is the head chef at Cafe Mason.

Beet Salad

We poured over the mouth-watering courses with the wine pairings and got to know the people sitting around us. As I looked up and down the long table, the writer in me started to churn…or more accurately, the fiction side of my writing mind. Sure, I could write a compelling piece about how lovely our trip has been and how tasty the local fare is, the travel magazines would surely eat that up. But the fiction-writing side of my brain was looking for something a little more thrilling, mysterious even. It kept wondering ‘what if’. Like, what if someone left for the restroom and didn’t come back? What if the next person to visit the restroom found the previous person’s body slumped against the wall, dead? Of the people I’ve met so far, who would make the best victim? Who would make the best murderer? Perhaps the congress woman sitting next to me, political motives are often seedy. Or what about the innocent-looking newly wed couple to my right? They do seem a little too innocent. What could they be hiding? Or this contractor across the table, how far would he go to win a bid? My brain went on like this, humming in the background as I made pleasant conversation and secretly gleaned information for character development.

While I am fortunate to have a steady job as a freelance writer, sometimes the pressure to produce non-fiction material takes over and my fiction muscles feel neglected and atrophe. This trip was a nice opportunity to stretch those muscles and get back in action. I’d like to encourage you, if you have a passion for writing fiction, to allow yourself to let go every once in a while and run with the wiles of your imagination. Of course, do your due diligence, if you have a non-fiction deadline, but then exchange that notepad for your story-telling notepad. Soak up the characters around you and let your mind wander down the path of ‘what if’s’.

Writer’s Tip: Having a restricted setting with a set cast can force you to get creative with your limited options.  Next time you go to a restaurant, find the table with the most people and use them as your cast of characters. Write a short story that takes place in that restaurant with just that table of people.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Destination Inspiration: 21st Amendment Brewery

21st Amendment Draft Beer List

Having home-brewers for husbands means that we’re never in danger of being in a new city and not knowing where to find good beer. Take San Francisco, for example. Until a few weeks ago, Daytona hadn’t been there in five years, and although Sarah still visits her family in the Bay Area from time to time, it’s been over a decade since she moved away. Yet on our recent weekend together, as our first afternoon in the city drew to a close, our husbands whisked us over to 21st Amendment Brewery in the city’s historic South Park neighborhood for a pre-dinner refresher.

Food and Beverages

We’ll be honest, we came here for the beer not the food, even though it is a brewpub and we could have eaten if we wanted. But having enjoyed a great lunch earlier at La Boulange and having dinner plans with Sarah’s family, we stuck to our mission and ordered beverages. That is, after all, what 21st Amendment Brewery was founded upon.

Daytona’s choice, the South Park Blonde, was refreshing and light yet flavorful, with a friendly wheat profile. The Red Dwarf IPA, which both of the men ordered, was described as “A red IPA with caramel and Munich malts combined with Simcoe and Amarillo hops, like peeling an orange in a redwood grove.” Sarah chose a cider from the Two Rivers Cider Company.

Location and Atmosphere

Near the financial district and San Francisco Giants baseball park, we can only imagine that 21st Amendment is a favorite stop before and after work and games. The atmosphere is light and almost lodge-like with lots of wood and warm colors. The chalk art on the walls and the menu is also really impressive!

21st Amendment Brewery Interior

Writeability and Purchased Presence

It takes little than a pint apiece to add a sense of camaraderie to a gathering, which makes 21st Amendment a great place to meet your writing group after a day at work. Sit back and enjoy the convivial atmosphere as share your successes and what you’re writing on at the moment. As long as no one’s waiting for your table, feel free to linger.

Price: $$

The price is just what you’d expect from a brewpub, with draft beers ranging from $5.50 to $6.50 for a pint of most beers.


We had no problem finding street parking, on what seemed like a pretty slow afternoon. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, and at an hour too earlier for dinners and parties to begin.

Looking outside from brewery

21st Amendment Brewery Interior Horizontal

Writer’s Tip

There is a history behind 21st Amendment that makes it a ripe place for brainstorming with your writing partner, possibly about a story that could be set during Prohibition. Whether or not your story has anything to do with historical references, there’s nothing like gathering with friends over good beer. (

Find It

21st Amendment Brewery
563 2nd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

21st Amendment Interior