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Destination Inspiration: Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar Entrance

After coffee at Blue Bottle and lunch at La Boulange during our afternoon in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley a few weeks ago, we didn’t think things could get any better–until we walked into Samovar Tea Lounge.

With its Zen Valley location just half a mile from the other Hayes Valley places we had just visited, we set out on foot to walk off our pastries and lunch and experience a little bit of the neighborhood. What we discovered when we arrived was a tea shop–actually a tea restaurant–that was just up our alley.

Samovar Teas

Food and Beverages

The only thing we regret about our visit to Samovar is that we arrived with full stomachs. Our time in San Francisco was limited, so we packed in as much fun as we could. But that meant not leaving enough room to sit and have a meal at Samovar. If we had, Daytona might have ordered the Russian Service with tagarraon-marined beets, smoked salmon and horseradish, devilled egg with caviar, and other foods served with Samovar’s smokey Tolstoy’s Sip black tea ($24). Then again, perhaps she would have chosen the Japanese Service or Moorish Service–they all sounded delightful. Sarah might have chosen the English service with a 3-tiered platter of goodies and the Breakfast Blend black tea ($24).

Though we couldn’t stay to eat, we did make a point to get to know the teas, spending some time with the servers to pinpoint the perfect ones for us to bring home as memories of our trip.

Samovar Tea

Location and Atmosphere

Located at the corner of Page and Laguna in a micro-neighobhood they call “Zen Valley,” and near the San Francisco Zen Center.

Across the street from some lovely classic San Francisco homes, including one that sold in 2006 for $2.3 million.

Samovar Building

Samovar Neighborhood

Writeability and Purchased Presence

Discreet is best if you’re coming here with writing in mind. Leave the laptop behind, and use your time for contemplation while sipping your tea or to celebrate successes with your writing partner.

Samovar Interior

Price: $$$

The various services, with food and tea, range from $19-24.


You’ll need to find street parking, which, on the day we were there, seemed like it would have been easy enough. However, even if you have to walk a little, enjoy the classic San Francisco architecture you’re sure to see on your way.

Samovar Sign

Writer’s Tip

Word on the street is that some of the Bay Area’s greatest minds have gathered at Samovar to brainstorm or share a cup of tea with comrades. Consider sitting a while with friends, soaking in the zen and do a little brainstorming of your own. Bring pieces to critique, or simply enjoy a meal together after a long day of writing.

Find It

Samovar Tea Lounge – Zen Valley location
297 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Samovar Californian Persian

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Goal Setting Guide

The beginning

Our mission with Nooks & Cranberries has always been to provide inspiration and tools to help you along your writing journey. Sometimes our support comes in the form of photos or destinations, and sometimes in the form of writing gossip and recipes. This time we’d like to share a worksheet put together to help you organize your writing goals.

This guide can be useful for setting goals in all genres and areas of writing, be it a book that’s been brewing in your head for a while, or beginning work as a freelance writer and building your platform. Regardless of where you’d like to take your writing, we’d like to be there to support you all the way in accomplishing your goals. So grab a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and take a peek at this guide. Let the journey begin!

Nooks & Cranberries Goal Setting Guide

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Destination Inspiration: La Boulange, Hayes Valley

La Boulange Quinoa Salad

We happened upon La Boulange in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley after getting coffee at Blue Bottle on New Year’s Eve. With an eagle eye for anything resembling a French boulangerie or patisserie, Daytona spotted the corner restaurant from our bench in Patricia’s Green, and we made a beeline over to see if La Boulange would serve as an appropriate lunch spot for four hungry adults and two toddlers.

With 20 locations, this Bay Area bakery prides itself in making authentic and delicious French food and strives to provide the French neighborhood cafe experience for its customers. The founder, in fact, has a background in working in presigious bakeries in Paris and near Bordeaux.

La Boulange Interior

Food and Beverages

On a sunny winter afternoon after enjoying coffee and pastries at the nearby Blue Bottle, we all needed a real meal but didn’t want anything too heavy. The fresh sandwiches and salads on the menu at Boulange sounded like just the thing; little did we know that the portions would be twice as large as our appeties could handle. The flank steak sandwich, served open-faced, was flavored with roasted onion, tomato, arugula, and aioli. Served with a quinoa salad on the side, it was a hearty yet fresh option, that would have been perfect to split with a friend. As for the salade niçoise, we’ve had some incredible versions in our time, including the one at Brasserie Four in Walla Walla, which is one of the best we’ve ever had, so unfortunately the one at La Boulange, had high standards to meet, and while it was tasty, there was nothing notable about it.

La Boulange Bread

Location and Atmosphere

La Boulange is on the corner of Hayes Street and Octavia Street across the street from Patricia’s Green park. The cafe was crowded, despite the spacious dining room – a good sign in our book! We managed to snag a cozy corner able that was just big enough for the six of us, with toddlers on our laps and the umbrella strollers folded up and tucked away. The atmosphere was upbeat, bustling and overall charming.

Writeability and Purchased Presence

If it’s crowded, you’ll want to be mindful of the other people waiting for tables. If not, feel free to take your time as you enjoy your sandwich and sip your beverage.

La Boulange Steak Sandwich

Price: $$

Pricing is reasonable especially for the hearty portions. Sandwiches (including an option of sides) start at $8.00. And don’t forget to bring a little extra for pastries!


If you’re coming from Blue Bottle, as we did, you don’t have to worry about parking as the two locations are an easy stroll away from each other. If not, expect to seek out street parking.

La Boulange Interior

Writer’s Tip

After a successful writing or brainstorming session, treat yourself to a trip to Miette, the beloved pastry shop that’s located nearby.

Find It

500 Hayes St
San Francisco, CA 94102

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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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Writing as an Excuse to Explore

Worthy Brewing Construction Site

Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”

I love that! From the writing that Sarah and I do for Destination Inspiration–which takes us to coffee shops and restaurants from Seattle to San Francisco–to The Flying Salmon, the Pacific Northwest travel blog I write for Wanderlust & Lipstick, I have to get out and explore my little corner of the world. I can’t stay home and watch the world pass me by–I have to get out there and experience it, and then share that experience with you.

I agree with Anne, that it is one of the greatest gifts about being a writer. Don’t you?

Image shows Sarah in an interview during our beer-tasting trip to Bend, Oregon, last summer.

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Friday Forum: 1/4

The laundry hamper is apparently the perfect place for an ambush.
The laundry hamper is apparently the perfect place for an ambush.

Earlier we shared about our favorite posts from the past year in a year end Retrospective. Now we’d like to know which ones you liked best. Share which of our posts came to be your favorites and why. Any feedback you can provide will help us better serve you in the coming year. Thanks!

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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