Patti Lorenzi Cowger.jpg

Patti Cowger

The upcoming gift-giving season is arriving just in time. If you’ve been feeling blue lately, there are a couple of cures that are sure to help: spending time with loved ones and surprising them with gifts. I have two out-of-the box ideas that accomplish both.

The first is a gift certificate for a class taught by artist and founder of the Jessel Gallery, Jessel Miller. Don’t dismiss this idea thinking that you or your giftee is not artsy. I can tell you firsthand, that creating a piece of art (whether good or bad), is relaxing and therapeutic. And, as Jessel says, “Plan to be delighted, excited and surprised by your own creativity.”

Each Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., she offers a painting class, usually in watercolors. They are not continuous classes, which means that anyone can join in at any time. She welcomes all skill levels, including those who think they haven’t any skill at all.

Classes are held at the picturesque grounds at 1019 Atlas Peak Road. They also include a half-hour potluck lunch. A gift certificate for one class is $50 or four classes for $150. Supplies are free for the first class. There are only nine spaces available so an RSVP is recommended. For more information, visit

My second idea is another gift certificate and another therapeutic way to express your creativity. This time, instead of paint brushes, you and your giftee will be using cooking utensils. And, instead of admiring works of art at the end of your class, you’ll be eating a delicious meal. The meal will be prepared by you, under the guidance of professional chefs at the Silverado Cooking School.

The school was conceived and established by chef-owner Malcolm de Sieyes. His love of good and pure food began as a child in Massachusetts and developed while living and cooking in France. His life-long appreciation for authentic, farm-to-table cooking inspired him to open the Silverado Cooking School upon moving to California.

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He and international chefs Malcolm Jessop and Frances Wilson teach an array of cooking classes in the school’s state-of-the-art kitchen. Students use fresh, seasonal ingredients from Chef Malcolm’s own local, two-acre Stone Tree Farm, where almost all produce is started from seed. Classes generally run for four hours and feature four courses. When the dishes are complete, everyone joins in to eat the meal they’ve just prepared.

Silverado Cooking School also offers demonstration classes where students learn new techniques. You can even arrange a private event, inviting up to 24 friends, for an abbreviated, all-day or multi-day class with a customized menu and wine tasting.

Standard gift certificates range from $100 to $135, or you can name your own amount starting at $10. Visit to view classes and schedules or to order gift certificates. Classes are held at 1552 Silverado Trail.

Whether painting or cooking, there is no preparation or experience required. Just show up, explore, escape, and enjoy.

Patti L Cowger is an award-winning, credentialed, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email