Coffee Break: Paint Nite

Gift Ideas for Your Significant Other | CorporetteThe hardest gift to get can be for your significant other (or someone similarly close). My latest thing with my husband is getting him/us experiences (either as a couple’s activity or a “get some baby-free time to yourself, love!”). One of our favorite things that we did this year was use a Groupon for Paint Nite. (There are a lot of companies doing the same thing around the country — a friend in the South is a big fan of Painting and Pinot; I’ve seen other mentions of similar companies in my parents’ home town of Cleveland, Ohio.) The basic idea: you go to a bar, get to drink, and an artist takes you through a painting s/he has done, step by step; at the end of the night you go home with your version of the original painting. You get all the supplies you need, and did I mention there’s wine? My husband and I come from vastly different artistic backgrounds — I can barely draw a circle, whereas he nearly went to art school for college — and we both had a bang up time. Admittedly, we have two copies of the same painting now (mine is on the left, his is on the right — it’s supposed to be a dark horizon at night) but the experience was more fun. Other ideas in this line of thinking: a gift certificate for a 2- or 3-hour cooking, bartending, or wine tasting class; a tour of the city (I’m a big fan of Context Tours after an amazing afternoon spent learning about the gardens of Paris; I may have to get the hubs an architecture tour of NYC) — NYC certainly has eating/drinking tours aplenty. Ladies, have you found any other good classes, either through Groupon, word of mouth, or other things?  Two tickets to Paint Nite run $130 (less if you find a Groupon or something, obviously). Paint Nite

Update: Sean from Paint Nite commented below and is offering 45% off classes with code “DrunkenSanta” if you buy tickets before January 1.  Woo hoo!



  1. I have several male friends whose dream class is something akin to NYC sailing school. I think it’s basically a weekend in the summer where you show up for two days and learn to tie knots and sail on the Hudson. I don’t think it’s cheap but I have seen groupons for it and I think they discount off season if you want to buy ahead.

    I’ve considered getting it for my SO before but ended up going with a flight lesson. Personally though I never use these kinds of “experience” gifts or if I do, it’s always a stressful “crap, this is going to expire and I need to use it” sort of experience.

    • I agree on the stressful part. I got my SO a flight lesson as well, but I also booked it for him, went to it with him (I upgraded to a 4-seater so I could tag along at his request and managed not to puke during the flight), and then drove him to dinner. I wanted it to be enjoyable and not stressful for him.

    • “it’s always a stressful ‘crap, this is going to expire and I need to use it’ sort of experience.”

      AIMS, you summed up my exact reaction to these experience gifts.

      • Anonymous :

        Oh gosh, me too. I hate “experience” gifts. Plus, I hardly ever really want to do the thing anyway.

        But, I also hate surprises, surprise parties, etc.

    • Yes! I love the idea of experience gifts in theory, but using them can be stressful. For our wedding my husband & I got a gift certificate from a couple friends to one of the best restaurants in the world. The first problem was that, although it was not a small amount of dollars, it would not have covered even the cost of one person dining there, where dinners with wine are easily $500+. Every time we think to use the gift certificate, we feel like we need to justify a big splurge. The second problem it that it’s practically impossible to get a reservation there. In the beginning, I was so excited, but after some failed attempts, I’ve made less of an effort and …now it’s been *3 years* and every time I see this friends I feel terrible that we have not used their gift. I wish I could cash it out for them and return their money!
      So it was a totally thoughtful gift— we love restaurants and had always hoped to try this place—but having the gift certificate has mostly been stressful.

      • I’ve always gifted under the assumption that, if it’s a gift card for a restaurant, it should cover a reasonable dinner for the recipient(s). I’m not quite sure why someone would do what your friends did unless you mentioned that you were planning to go to the restaurant soon.

      • backgrounder :

        There is a similar chain called Bottles & Bottega in Chicago which offers painting + BYOB. It was fun – did it a couple of times and have some (reasonably) nice paintings for my house! Fun experience

  2. I think experience gifts are great. This year I am going a little further and bought my husband a guitar for Christams (he has never played but has expressed an interest). I called a local music store and they are allowing us to take joint guitar lessons together. I am going to rent a guitar and have already prepaid for the lessons. I’m a little nervous about the gift, but I have found if I don’t commit us then we’ll never do it. My husband has recently been bemoaning us not having enough activities outside of the house, so I am took him on his word and signed us up! Hopefully this doesn’t backfire.

    • Moonstone :

      I just read a book called “Guitar Zero,” about a cognitive psychologist who took up guitar at age 38. It was really interesting in a Malcolm Gladwell-sort of way because he explained a lot about what is happening in your brain when you learn a new skill.

      • You just saved Christmas! That book is PERFECT for my impossible to buy for but very deserving and sensitive Dad! Thank you thank you!

  3. I have never heard of Paint Nite, but it sounds fun! I enjoy painting/drawing, but don’t really do it very often.

    TJ – Lately, I feel like I am grumpy and annoyed all the time. Sometimes I feel like I get tired of the daily grind. Get up, commute to work, dinner, chores, bed and then do the same thing all over again. When I’m at work, I have a hard time getting motivated. I get distracted easily and I have to force myself to get tasks done.

    The thing is I don’t really have a reason to feel this way. Work is good, no family drama. We’re getting a new house built and will be moving in the next couple of months. I feel like I need to snap out of this bad attitude, but I’m just not able to do that.

    The one negative thing is that a month and a half ago, I lost my sense of taste. The weird thing is I can smell fine, but when I take a bit of food there is nothing there. My general doctor prescribed me an antibiotic b/c she saw some inflammation in my sinuses, but that didn’t work. I saw two ENT doctors and they both said my nasal passages looked fine. And they both prescribed me Prednisone and a nasal spray. Again, no difference.

    I’ve sort of started to accept this issue and just eat what I can. It’s just tough around the holidays b/c I love desserts and baking but I can’t taste any of it. It’s just weird losing such a basic sense.

    I know I have so many good things in my life, but I can’t seem to break through this negative attitude. I’m taking a week off work for the holidays so I’m hoping that will help me relax and reset my attitude. Also, with the new year and new house I’m hoping that will help me have a fresh start.

    I just I sort of wanted to put this out there publicly for some accountability, so I can actively work towards a better mental state.

    • ExcelNinja :

      Hey Sparrow, it could be a teensy case of depression. Depression runs in my family and I haven’t been hit yet, but my brother, mom, and dad all had/have severe cases. My brother definitely has lost his sense of smell/taste before, and if everything is peachy in your life but you just can’t see the light, there might be some kind of chemical imbalance going on. Maybe check with your PCP on what they think?

      Sometimes all you need is a 3-month run of antidepressants to just hit the reset button, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifetime chronic issue. Hope you feel better soon.

      • +1 I was diagnosed with depression ages ago and have been on medication, in therapy, or both ever since. I am NOT saying you will need to be on it forever, more the time period that ExcelNinja described. My point in telling you about my history is to echo that these are all symptoms of depression and I have experienced all of them. Am experiencing a lot of them now in fact! I have already made an appt with my doc to get my meds back. The combination of the holidays, ALL the darkness, and an increasingly stressful job have triggered it for me.

        You are not alone and this is not unusual! I too hope you feel better soon. I know how it feels and it is dumps..

        • Thank you both! I was also thinking it could be depression. The gloomy weather is probably not helping. My mom really likes her doctor so I’m meeting with him after the first of the year. I’ll mention checking into the depression symptoms.

          • ExcelNinja :

            Best of luck and keep us posted :-) I can’t imagine how irritating it must be to not be able to taste all those Christmas cookies!

    • Definitely do not just accept the loss of taste. Going to the doctor may be stressful but please do not give up yet. Having a house built must be adding to stress on top of things too. Can you temporarily tweak your routine, e.g. order dinner in once a week to give yourself a chance to relax.

    • espresso bean :

      Definitely sounds like it could be depression. I went through the same thing last year around this time. It felt like I was just going through the motions just like you described.

      You sound like you’re functioning okay, but you’re not enjoying life. I would recommend talking to a therapist and/or psychiatrist (the therapist can recommend a psychiatrist) and taking it from there. Until you can get an appointment, can you shake up your routine a bit to find some fun in the daily grind? Little things like taking a walk at lunch, changing up your commute, pampering yourself with a manicure or scheduling fun plans with a friend to look forward to won’t necessarily make the feelings go away, but they can help make life feel more spontaneous and more fun.

      And I’d see a regular doctor about the taste thing. It could be related to depression or it could be something else, but either way, don’t just accept it! I hope there’s a way to get your sense of taste back so you can enjoy the things you like to eat.

      Good luck!

    • I’m so sorry you can’t taste! I couldn’t taste for two weeks and it was incredibly depressing (not in the clinical sense, obv). My issue was infection in those tiny upper sinuses. I had to go on a different antibiotic. But I also couldn’t smell, except for a vague whiff of something here and there.

      I hope you can get that cleared up.

    • I once got Alan a day playeing paintball in the wood’s with some other freind’s of his. But I said NO WAY when he wanted me to do this with him. You can’t imagine what a bunch of jerk’s he had as freind’s growing up and they went from playing dungeon’s and dragoon’s to xbox to that paintball stuff. They all go upstate and shoot each other with paintball’s. FOOEY! Then he came home smelleing funny–he said it was the PAINT, but I think he wound up falling into some kind of SMELLEY pond (mabye a cespool), and it would NOT get out of his hair. DOUBEL FOOEY!

      Needeless to say, I did NOT do this dumb thing with him— he was begging for it for along time, so I told him GO, have fun, bring your dumb freind’s but leave me OUT OF IT! HOPEFULLY THE HIVE WILL HAVE SMARTER BOYFREIND’s THEN I DID! YAY!!!!

    • Thanks all! It felt good to at least put my thoughts on paper, so to speak. I am looking forward to having some time off work and spending time with family. When I think about that it does put me in a better mood.

      I did some research online and there is a taste and smell center in DC that specializes in this type of disorder. So that is an option to consider.

    • "Allergies" PSA :


      Don’t know if you ever read any of my posts about my allergies that weren’t allergies, and then were a sinus infection that required surgery, and then turned into GI problems because of all the massive antibiotics and steroids and then ended up being allergies after all. Suffice to say that I went through months of no smell and no taste, though usually together. Among other fun things, I gained a lot of weight because I was never satisfied by eating. I digress.

      Looooong story short: please have a trusted ENT or two “scope” you. It is hideous and gross and sometimes painful if they don’t spray enough topical anesthesia up your nasal passages before pushing the scope up there. But they can literally see inside your sinus cavities on a camera. This is, in my unfortunately extensive experience, the best way to tell if you have inflammation or an infection. If you do, you want to treat it before you have to have surgery. Again, the voice of experience.

      I feel for you and I’m sorry you have to deal with this. It can be depressing and scary and hard to follow through, but important and worthwhile to do.

      • Sorry, I did not see your reply until this morning. I can relate to what you mean about not feeling satisfied. I did go to two ENTs and they did a scope while I was in the office. They did not notice anything but one of them said I had a slightly deviated septum. The next step would be to do a sinus CT scan. Since the initial scope came back clear, I’m not sure if I will do the scan. I’m meeting with another general practicioner in January to get some more advice and I’ll see what he says. Thanks for the info!

  4. Painting places and paint your own pottery places are a lot of fun. I’ve even done them as a networking/client event. My husband has gotten me photography classes and cooking classes as gifts.

  5. Gail the Goldfish :

    Zozi is another groupon equivalent for activities. It’s more skewed towards athletic and outdoorsy type things. I’ve bought several horseback riding related vouchers from them (which for some reason always seems to be combined with an alcohol-related excursion-trail ride and winery, trail ride and brewery, etc), and they usually have an archery one that looks like it might be fun.

  6. Those cooking classes can be really fun and a great date night. There’s a grocery chain in my city that does them. There’s usually wine involved. I’m not sure how much “learning” happens, but they are a good time.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I’m going to a cooking class tonight with a bunch of friends from the gym! Super excited about it!! (Part of my “keeping busy during the holidays so I won’t notice I don’t have a husband any more” strategy.)

    • Also our local college and golf course does a series

  7. In SF there are lots of fancy tasting nights. Chocolate/ whiskey/ wine/ cheese+charcuterie / chocolate+whiskey/ whiskey+chocolate+whipped cream (i don’t even know i’m making things up).. but if I had money I would do more of those.

    My family also sometimes pools together to get gift season tickets for someone. I.e. the Virginia Opera for my sister and her husband. That hopefully is less stressful, because they can usually pick their own nights, or switch their nights for free at least.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Mmm I now want to go to a fancy tasting night. That sounds SO good. I am so jealous

  8. Immediate threadjack: One of my friends is married to someone who does very, very well. They are extremely generous, but sometimes it makes me uncomfortable. When I visit, they insist on paying for extravagant meals, car service, that kind of thing. These are not things I would normally suggest that we do, but I get the feeling that it makes them feel good to treat me and our other friends to things. I try to repay the kindness in ways that I can afford, even though they’re on a much smaller scale.

    We’ve never exchanged holiday gifts before, but this year they sent me a beautiful leather bag out of nowhere. It was very thoughtful, but now I wonder if I should start trying to gift back the same amount. The problem is, I know what they spent on it (it’s a well-known brand), and it’s not realistic for me to spend that amount. I don’t spend that amount on my own siblings! He probably makes ten times what I make, so I get that they’re operating in a different realm, but still…

    I already sent a note thanking them profusely. Should I send a gift back? Thoughts?

    • I would not assume that they wanted you to reciprocate (dollarwise). Perhaps give them thoughtful gifts? When I was an impoverished student, a dear friend who was a little older and much more established than me, always took me to nice restaurants and gave me really generous gift cards.

      She was like an Auntie Mame to me, and there was no way I could reciprocate dollar-for-dollar, but also no obligation to do so! She said she was tired of the Boston area and so I gave her a little puzzle showing parts of London with a note saying, “Sick of Boston? How about I give you London instead?” Stuff like that. Thoughtfulness can go a long way in these situations.

    • I think the thank you note is nice, and maybe a small, personal gift. If you know they like baked goods, and you can cook, do that. Or if you’re talented in flower arranging, a small holiday vase. Also, send them a photo of you using the gift, I’m sure they would be pleased to see you enjoying it. I’m sure they realize you can’t reciprocate, and it would be insulting it return it. Sometimes, the joy is in the giving.

    • SAlit-a-gator :

      When you get a nice gift, you say thank you. That’s it. There is no reason to be paranoid about matching the gift amount. It sounds to me like your friend values your friendship and wanted to do something nice for you. She just happens to have more resources than you do, so her “something nice” might seem outlandish to you. Having financial resources and giving nice things to people whose friendship you treasure is perfectly normal and very enjoyable. Please be a gracious friend and don’t make a big deal about this. I’m sure your friend would have hated to hear the anxiety that her nice present has already cost you. You’ve thanked her and even sent a note. Enjoy the purse and continue being a great friend.

    • Juliette Barnes :

      Are they trying to cultivate you for a threesome? That happens to me all. the. time.

    • anonymama :

      Give them something thoughtful in the range you can afford. Incidentally, this is kind of how I feel when someone gives me a homemade gift that obviously took a lot of time, like a homemade quilt, or a hand-knit sweater… it’s too much! I can never make something like that in return! But I always come around to, some people just like giving/buying/making gifts, and you should assume they gave it to you because they wanted to, not because they had any expectation of reciprocation (and in fact it might make them uncomfortable if you tried to reciprocate, knowing your difference in financial circumstances).

    • Just thank them honestly and graciously. Send a gift that makes sense for you without concern of reciprocating. They are certainly aware that they are in a different financial position, and they probably just truly enjoy being able to give generous gifts like this.

      Somewhat different situation, but: I make a lot more money now (less than 10 years into my career) than either of my parents ever did in their lives (both are retired now). For a milestone anniversary, I gave them a gift that they could never have afforded themselves, that I knew would bring them a lot of joy. One of the best things they’ve ever done for me was accept it graciously with deep and honest thanks, but without anxiety or pushback (no “you shouldn’t have” or “we can’t accept this” or “I can’t believe you spent so much” or anything like that). I was slightly afraid they would do this, and the fact that they didn’t made giving them the gift much more of a joyful and fulfilling experience for me that it already was.

      I guess the point of that long story was: if your friends have good intentions, and they probably do, the single best thing you can do in return is to accept the gift graciously, so they can fully experience the ‘joy of giving’.

  9. Ugh. Boston folks, I am so dreading the commute tonight right now. I work in the western burbs and live in the city. Traffic is already looking bad and it’s only 4PM. Really wish I could have left earlier. To top it off, the reason I can’t leave earlier is due to a surprise big meeting which I totally would have suited up for if I’d known! Ack! Hope snow tires really work!

  10. give me the slip :

    Is your slip supposed to match your skirt, your tights, or does it matter? I didn’t wear one today (big mistake), but even if I had more than one choice (nude), I don’t know what I would have chosen anyway: khaki colored corduroy skirt & gray/black fairisle tights.

    Also, if the slip has a slit, it seems to make the most sense to orient the slit with any slit in the skirt–hence the often shapelessness of most slips. HOwever, this particular skirt has 2 vents in the back, kind of like a blazer. My existing slip has no slits. Would I have just worn it and said, oh well, here’s my slip you can see through the slit in my skirt?

    • I’d try first to match the dress or skirt. That way if it shows, it looks like the lining.

    • Your Horrified Great Auntie :

      It doesn’t matter what color your slip it because it should never be showing! If it would with the vents in this skirt then you can’t wear the slip.

      • Thelma would be horrified (yep, I had a great-aunt Thelma). And my grandmother.

        Is there a way to solve the tights/skirt issue if I *can’t* wear the slip because of the vents??

        • The only hope is to get a slip that is very short and falls above where the slits start. But agree your slip should not show.

          • Or if you really LOVE the skirt, pay a tailor to put a lining in. This may not be cheap.

      • +1 for the name. I can hear my Aunt Lila gasp at this

    • Silvercurls :

      Buy a half slip and cut two vents in it? Warning: if your skirt is tailored get a similar slip–not one with multiple gores, many panels, or any other tailoring tricks that result in abundance of fabric. Otherwise you’re going to spend the day unsuccessfully trying to hide your slip when you walk, or sit down. Don’t ask me how I know this.

    • I’d have worn a nude slip a couple of inches shorter than the skirt. The slip should never show.

  11. Lila Fowler :

    Well. I have a lot to say on this topic. This fall I started a great campaign to meet new people and as part of that took a. lot. of. classes. I am in NYC and here is a master list I put together: – This is an art teacher I had at the MOMA in the spring – she leads her own AWESOME classes around NYC museums. Highly recommend. – This is the NY Wine Company, at West 23rd btwn 6th and 7th. They have a studio they use for their classes and do a great job – this is the Institute of Culinary Education on East 23rd st – I have taken some pretty serious and pretty non serious classes there – ABC Languages on W 30th St on West 14th St – this is sort of a paint along class as described by Kat – not in a bar and they are working on their liquor license. There is a Brooklyn location too – this is a more interpretative painting class and they have a liquor license – this is a cooking place where you cook a meal and then eat it as a group – great fun! – cheeses and pairings. Yum and fun! – Baking and pizza making classes – good fun (Bleeker St location) – I haven’t take a class here yet, but hear good things

    You can actually sometimes book those cheaper on which is a great way to get ideas for new classes.

    So anyway, hope that helps in some way shape or form! If anyone is interested in taking a class at any of these places let me know – I am always up for a new friend joining me!

    • classes galore :

      This is an awesome list. Thanks for compiling! I wish I lived in NYC — I’d totally sign up for one of these. Does anyone know of any comparable resources in Chicago?

    • oh, i’m in NYC and i’m book marking this list. Question: did you find any of these activities to be very date-night like? I see lots of couples in some of the pics and hate being the third wheel (even to strangers)

      • Lila fowler :

        I haven’t felt third wheel in any of these classes – all have had singles and friends/groups

    • I love your screen name. That is all.

    • Gail the Goldfish :

      I went to the Bowery Culinary Center once for a beer and cheese class. So not a cooking class per se, but it was a lot of fun.

    • Miss Behaved :

      God, if I lived in NYC, Murray’s would be my second home…

  12. ladies, i could use some support. I sort of burst into tears in front of my HR manager at the quarterly 1 to 1 meeting and… well it was received surprisingly well but I feel wretched. :/

    • I’m sorry. That’s no fun. Humans cry, and we’re still humans in the workplace, rather than efficiency-bots. So don’t feel bad about crying at this 1 x 1 meeting. *hugs*

      What caused you to cry, if I may ask? Is that something folks on this site could help with?

      • thanks *hugsback*

        It’s.. well, complicated. I have been trying to come up with a short version because no one needs to hear all the sordid details but basically my anxiety around meetings, especially this type, is sky high because it’s a PTSD trigger for me and that kind of went ‘splodey. Apparently the difference between me doing everything else and me when put in a meeting room is… well. So noticeable she’d been going “wut” at it as long as she’s been my HR. It.. sucked. Majorly.

        • Senior Attorney :

          Big hugs, Calibrachoa! It happens to the best of us!

        • Can you schedule future one on ones out of office? My first idea is a coffee shop but that’s probably not ideal for the conversation – then again, feeling triggered is even less ideal! Your HR sounds pretty sympathetic, I bet if you told her you’re really uncomfortable in meeting spaces, she’d make the effort to think of some place else you could meet.

    • AnonInfinity :

      It happens to the best of us. I once cried in front of a partner at my firm because I was overwhelmed and getting work piled on work piled on work the day I was leaving for a long weekend completely off with my husband (to recover some from the feeling of being overwhelmed…). Like, ugly cry. He was so nice about it, but I felt like such a fool. I don’t think he ever told anyone, and we now act like it never happened.

      So, heaps of commiseration here. Have plenty of wine and cookies tonight. You’ll definitely feel better tomorrow.

      • thanks… I actually don’t think I have any wine at the house (OH NOES!) but there IS cranberry liquor. and cookies.

        • AnonInfinity :

          Cranberry liquor sounds intriguing. What do you mix with?

          Best of all, I’m sure it’s delightful with cookies.

    • I’m sorry. Sending positive thoughts your way. Hope you feel better soon!

    • I cried at my office Christmas party! It was awkward :/ Everyone has pretended it didn’t happen so far.

    • ExcelNinja :

      I’m sorry :( I’ve cried before, in front of a supremely grumpy boss to boot. You are still a professional, intelligent, and capable person. Hugs!

  13. Hey- Thanks for writing a cool article about us. We’re in 60 cities across the US and Canada, so we’re near all your readers.

    Have them use promotional code “DrunkenSanta” to get 45% off if they buy tickets before January 1st

  14. Here are some experiences that you can do with an SO like mine, who wishes he could go on The Amazing Race. These are not competitions, but they include a bit of scavenger hunting / exploring / puzzling, and you can even take your teenagers along if you want to make it a family thing.

    – Accomplice NYC (they used to have one in Hollywood, but that seems to be defunct)

    – Watson Scavenger Hunt — many themes, indoors, outdoors, several different cities

    – Spy in the City — Washington DC —

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