Saturday, April 19, 2014

Victory Comes ~Buddhist Thought for the Day

(Photo from the Portland, OR Japanese Gardens)

"Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines,
but it is to the one who endures
that the final victory comes." ~ Buddha

I'm back from the Whidbey Island Marathon,  
 where I walked 13.1 miles in my very first half marathon.

It was a lovely Girls' weekend with fabulous women,
good food, gorgeous weather and a beautiful course. 
I had more pain than expected   
(due to a pesky, slightly weighted fanny pack) 
but made it across the finish line. 
Now I can't wait for next year! 
And am thinking about doing the Happy Girls Half Marathon 
in Sisters, Oregon in November.

A friend is on his way to Boston
to run one more Boston Marathon
after last year's tragic event. 
Sending out endurance energy and good thoughts!

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen) 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Printemps in Paris

Printemps is springing everywhere in Paris! 

Just a few blocks from our apartment,
les arbres are blooming all around the Eiffel Tower. 

And little shoots and leaves
are popping out all over. 

As I have been training to walk a half marathon on Whidbey Island next weekend,
I spent even more hours walking Paris than usual.

I took a break and ate a picnic lunch on a bench 
in the Luxembourg Gardens one day
and this was my view...

Everyone who heard where I was in March said the same thing:
'Ah, springtime in Paris!'

She's famous for that. 
And I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Happy Printemps to you! 

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Le Train Bleu

So as promised,
here are a few more photos of the birthday dinner restaurant
with food photos. 

As mentioned, 
Le Train Bleu is located right inside the Gare de Lyon
with a lovely, sweeping staircase
leading up to the door.

And a menu sits at the bottom of the staircase. 

One of our dinner party members had the traditional Foie Gras.
I know.
I love it.
I'm sorry. 

My entree was a new concept of Foie Gras for me: 
They called it 'Royale de foie gras de canard et duxelle de champignons,
en cappuccino de celeri-rave'. 
It. Was. To. Die. For!

At first, I couldn't help looking at the block of foie gras on someone else's plate across from me,
bemoaning the fact that I had clearly ordered wrong.
Then I TASTED mine!
Floating foie gras in a cup
with a mushroom something-or-other on the bottom. 
Oh mon dieu! 
And the nice man sitting across from me
shared his block of FG with me anyway! 
So I got double the dose.  

He also shared his Noix de Saint-Jacques 
with spinach, endive and fennel. 

I had the Boeuf brase facon bourgeoise
with carrots and jus a glace. 

And then came the cheese,
which I couldn't finish. 

And Baba au Rhum
(Love when they leave the bottle!)

My niece had the Tiramisu
(which she also shared.)

And out the window was a view of the trains
coming in and leaving the station. 

I wandered about and took a few other view photos
on various shelves.

All in all, it was the perfect evening
with the big surprise at a sweet little bistro before dinner. 
I'll be back next week 
with photos of magical Paris!

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Birthdays in Paris

Just a quick note to tell you 
that I am in Paris this week for two birthdays. 
Mine (which is today) 
and my sister's which was this day last week. 
My sweetie surprised me with a ticket 
to surprise my sister for her 50th.
And surprise her I did! 
We pulled it off and she had absolutely no idea.
We took her to Le Train Bleu
in the Gare de Lyon train station. 
What a magnificent place! 
I'm posting a few photos just to give you an idea.

I had to stifle my reticence at snapping photos 
in the face of such opulence...

but they must be used to it.

And all the waiters were very kind. 

Of course I've taken a boat-load of photos while I've been here...

...and promise to be back soon with photos of our dinner.

In the meantime, 
Oh La La
A bientot!

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Strategic Intuition

Hosted by MizB at should be reading.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,
*Open to a  page,
*Share a few “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,
*Please no spoilers!
*Share the title and author.

From William Duggan's 'Strategic Intuition' (p.150-51):

"Through 1906 Picasso tried various styles, all in the previous traditions of realism and impressionism. Then Picasso discovered Henri Matisse. In the summer of 1905 Matisse had the first great breakthrough of modern art. His new paintings created a stir at a fall exhibition in Paris. Over the next winter Matisse painted his first masterpiece of the new style, Happiness of Life...The key features of Matisse's new style were distorted shapes, unrealistic colors, and a flat look without shading or lines of perspective. 

Meanwhile, Picasso had some minor success, enough to win the Steins as admirers: Gertrude, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael's wife Sarah. Now Picasso went to see Happiness of Life and the Steins brought Matisse to visit Picasso's studio. The two painters met again in the Stein apartment. That was the night Picasso found his style.

Matisse brought along his daughter, Marguerite, who worked as his assistant. He also brought along an African sculpture... 

Picasso had a flash of insight. The timing reveals the elements he combined: Matisse's Happiness of Life and the African sculpture. The result was his breakthrough masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. In Picasso's painting you see the same key elements from Matisse's new style...

This kind of creative combination is an open secret in the art world. Artists have a word for the act of stealing: influence...

Strategic intuition works the same way in art as it does in other fields. Innovation comes through creative combination, by bringing past elements together in a new and useful way."

Monday, March 3, 2014

ALP Presents: Evenings with an Author~ Amity Gaige

This Wednesday March 5th, 2014 at 19:30,
the American Library in Paris presents Amity Gaige, the author of three novels, 
O My Darling (2005), The Folded World (2007), and  Schroder,
named one of the best books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review,  
The Huffington Post, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many others. 
It's also been shortlisted for The Folio Prize. In 2006, Gaige was named one of the 
"5 under 35" outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation. 

Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, says:
"In Schroder, Amity Gaige explores the rich, murky realm where parental devotion 
edges into mania, and logic crabwalks into crime. This offbeat, exquisitely written novel
showcases a fresh, forceful young voice in American letters." 

The Economist: 
"It is to the credit of Amity Gaige, an American writer, that her third novel, Schroder, 
transforms this thriller plot into a deeply moving tale...What distinguishes Schroder 
is its insight and language...Ms. Gaige excels at landscapes; her writing has the still, 
clear beauty of a mountain lake." 

 And Kathryn Schulz of New York Magazine:
"It's a mark of how good Schroder is that, upon finishing it, I immediately went out and
read the rest of her work." 

The tell-tale sign of a great writer! And I plan to go out and read all of them myself. 
Stop in if you're in Paris.

American Library in Paris  is located at:

10, rue du General Camou

(Just off the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower)
75007 Paris, France
• Tel. +33 (0)1 53 59 12 60
Tues-Sat: 10h-19h, Sun: 13h-19h.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Smart Phones Not Allowed

It seems that French chefs 
(and some New York chefs as well)
are not happy with the amount of cell phone photography 
going on in their restaurants. 

They are debating using photos of
cell phones with a red circle and a slash on the menus
to indicate that taking photos of your dish
is no longer allowed. 

Many chefs are complaining that,
not only does it leave the food cold
and their creations broadcast across social media,
taking away the element of surprise for future patrons
or possible copy-cat problems,
people tend to behave badly
distracting other diners 
from their own unique experience. 

Um...I'm guilty.
Don't get me wrong,
I haven't climbed on chairs
or rearranged tables to get a good shot
(as the chefs are complaining)
but I have rearranged glasses and silverware
and occasionally asked the other diners at my table 
if they wouldn't mind waiting before taking a bite 
so I can get a shot of their plate. 

But I never use a flash
or disturb others in the restaurant. 

I have occasionally been told not to take a photo of a display
such as at Laduree. 
But I did take photos of their creations on my plate. 

 I feel a little funny about being told I can't do something
if I'm not disturbing anyone else. 
It's true that it is the chef's creation
but I am paying for it. 
But then we get into the etiquette
of how to take photos without bothering others. 

What's your feeling? 

 (Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)
Photos from Restaurant des Sens in Montpellier, France
and Laduree on the Champs Elysee, Paris

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Old Town Nafplion, Part 1

(Arvanitia, city beach around the corner from us 
at the end of Old Town and beneath Palamidi Fortress and Akronafplia.) 

Last November, right after Thanksgiving,
we made an emergency roof repair trip to Greece,
knowing that our roof (and interior) could not withstand another winter of rain
without some patching. 

And we arrived in the midst of a major rain storm
which meant water flowing down the steps like a waterfall
and dripping into our bedroom.

But that's not what I want to show you. 

From the ancient rock wall of Akronafplia,
where some of the stone is still Byzantine,
one can look out over the rooftops
of old town Nafplion.

The old town and the bay lie on one side 
with the tiny island of Bourtzi in the background...

...on the other side... 
the Mediterranean.

Just next to us,
the fortress of Palamidi sits atop the hillside
looking over the city and far beyond. 

The ancient entrance to the old town
is the symbolic gate between the old and new towns.

A few shots of one of my favorite walks in Greece
(which you can see more of Here)

which always has a plethora of lovingly-tended altars...

as well as wild prickly pear
and bougainvillea.

The walk swings around Akronafplia
and back into old town
just in front of Bourtzi.

I took several shots of these palm trees,
their gorgeous seeds in full color.
Sadly, that same week,
I witnessed workers hacking them off.
They all now stand bare along the shore.

The walk along the water brings us to our favorite spot
for a sunset drink

looking out over the bay,
Bourtzi and the sailboats. 

Our roof fix turned out far better than we'd hoped
(a true fix rather than a patch
and new tile to replace the beautiful but water-damaged parquet wood floors.)
We're hoping it won't take us as long to return.
Friends to see, walks to take,
books to write. 

*All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
May not be reproduced.*