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Mini Escapes: Fashion, Food, Fitness and Fun for the Holidays!

Want to disconnect from the fast pace of the holiday season? Check out these mini-escapes to lift your spirits!

Do you fantasize about escaping various "required" duties during the holidays, such as: hosting and entertaining houseguests; attending company parties; decorating your home and office;  purchasing, wrapping and sending gifts; sending holiday cards; delivering gifts to friends and loved ones?

While many-if not most-of these activities can be very enjoyable individually, in the aggregate they can truly be overwhelming. Instead of just powering through your "to do" list alone, take a few hours with a friend, and treat yourself to a change of scenery. Here are four ideas to help you unwind and recharge your batteries:

Spend Friday evening, Dec. 9, from 8 pm to 11pm, at Cypress Wine Bar, at the Westin Hotel, in Bellevue. You'll be treated to a special performance by jazz musician Brooks Giles III.

If you're out holiday shopping on a Thursday night, the Suite Lounge at the Bellevue Hyatt features live music by Mark Haynie and his band from 9 pm to midnight.

Is planning your holiday meal causing you grief? Why not have some fun and learn a new technique or two at a cooking class? Blue Ribbon Cooking School offers a special holiday buffet class on Sunday, Dec. 18 with wine pairing suggestions and tastes for each course. On Friday Dec. 23 they offer a gourmet southern style holiday dinner class featuring an Orange-Infused Turkey Breast with Mullet Cabernet Cranberry Sauce and Rosemary-Brie Macaroni and Cheese. Appetizers, microbrews, Northwest wines, all dishes prepared in class and copies of recipes are provided for all participants.

If your favorite holiday skirt, pants or dress seem a little bit tight around the middle, blow off some steam and burn some extra calories at boot camp. Club Emerald and the Stroum Jewish Community Center offer a variety of classes to fit into your busy schedule.

Progressive holiday walk in Mercer Island - start at Chick's Shoes & Service for some good walking shoes, get coffee at Starbuck's, then stroll to Tatters for a gift for your bff. Head over to  for a holiday party dress, stop for lunch at or Sushi Joa, and amble over to Mud Bay for an assortment of treats to fill your favorite pet's stocking. Cross over to the and purchase artwork, jewelry and other gifts for friends, neighbors and family members.

After you walk and shop till you drop, rest your weary legs and sip a glass of Merlot or Chardonnay at the Olde Wine Store. You can finish your shopping by purchasing wine and wine accessory items for coworkers and hostess gifts.

So, if you can't take a day or two off, take a mini-escape for a few hoursand decompress. It's possible that the change in scenery will lift your spirits and the extra burst of energy will fuel you through the remainder of the holiday season. And, you might find that you enjoy your required activities-and even those optional, fun events-more than you anticipated. Perhaps you'll even find that you need to add a new tradition to your already busy holiday season-a mid-holiday season mini-escape!

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