Thursday, June 21, 2018

Holding Vigil

I'm holding vigil for a friend who is doing the hard work 
of making her way to the other side. 
This photo is taken from her altar when I stayed with her awhile back. 
I was supposed to see her today probably for the last time
and to sit with others who have loved her dearly 
to meditate, hold vigil and send her as much love 
as she might need to soar. 
But our time together was cancelled by her caregiver at the last moment. 

So I'm holding my own vigil. 
This photo perfectly fits how I'm feeling. 
I'm holding the beauty of her flame,
 her precious life, in my heart. 

If you're so moved, please say a prayer for her journey. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Divine Feminine Oracle Cards

Another book bento, this time for the Oracle Cards I just received
by the amazing Meggan Watterson and Hay House. 
A deck of magnificent cards of goddesses, saints and divine women figures
along with the booklet that describes each and their positive message. 
I picked the card of Brigid for my post today:
The Goddess of the Eternal Flame. 
Her message couldn't be more perfect for me right now. 

Brigid represents the flame, that light we carry deep within us
that never goes out though we might think and fear that it has. 
And the shift and healing that takes place 
after walking in the dark of a cold winter
for what feels like far too long. 
An internal light that reminds us that we do not walk alone
and the best is yet to come. 
She is the light of dawn
and hope and healing and growth of spring. 
And the reminder that the dark, the winter never lasts long
and that we are all sacred. 


The Divine Feminine makes me think of Provence
and my trip to Mary Magdalene's cave, La Baume,
which was a magical journey for me. 
It makes me think of the balancing of the feminine and masculine energies
and the state of the world and its perilous imbalance right now. 
And of course I think of MM herself.

It also makes me think of my mother.
I didn't realize until writing this just now that, my mother,
who passed several years ago, is now part of my Divine Feminine frame of reference. 
Like all of us, while she was always a tiny part of the Divine Mind 
without really truly knowing or fully understanding that, 
(as is true for many),
she now has an even greater, stronger, more powerful connection 
to the Divine Feminine. 

And I think of the women I've known
who have recently lost husbands and beloveds
and the tribe of women who share the understanding of that kind of grief. 
Mary Magdalene shares in that company and tribe. 
That is some powerful company. 

So grateful for this gorgeous deck 
with its divine and uplifting messages. 
Thank you, Meggan Watterson!
(Artwork by Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman)

** Sidenote:
The tiny, barely-visible cross leaves at the bottom of the Bookbento
are the dried olive leaves from Mary Magdalene's cave
where I journeyed to in the South of France 3 years ago this month.
I took them off the floor where they had fallen from
the two small olive trees in pots on the lower level of the cave.
These are flanked by the medallions I bought in the abbaye gift shop:
one of MM and one of St. Michael. I submerged them in the pool of water
in the back of the cave so they would be imbued with what I would call Holy Water
after centuries of veneration to Mary Magdalene. 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

French Mother's Day Chateau Bouquets

(Five Queens Room/Chenonceau)

Today is Mother's Day in France 
and these photos are from some of the chateaux
on a Mother's Day weekend some years ago.

They filled their ancient rooms with these exquisite flowers. 
My last Mother's Day post showed the exterior of one of the chateaux
so I thought I'd show a few of the actual lovely arrangements. 

While the French Fete des Meres is always the last Sunday in May
(unless it coincides with Pentecost and then it's moved to the 1st Sunday in June),
I just learned that the Italian Mother's Day is the same as in the US,
2nd Sunday in May and is known as La Festa della Mamma.

In the UK, it was known as Mothering Sunday
and was originally tied to the Christian calendar
falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent,
usually late March or early April
when followers were given time off to return to their 'mother' church.
 Always something to learn while blogging!

I think this last basket of creamy white roses and Cala lilies is my favorite
with its view out the window to the water. 

Bonne Fete des Meres to les Mamans in France! 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Poilane's Long Lost Bread Artiste

Not only am I missing Paris today
but I'm also missing these magnificent bread sculptures...

... made by a long gone artiste.

Just down the street from us
in their corner window, 
Blvd de Grenelle's Poilane bakery in Paris
frequently used to display an exquisite scene 
 made out of BREAD.

Every time I walked by and there was a new one,
I had to get out my camera.
And now I'm so thankful I did!

Because one year when we returned, 
they were gone. 
They simply covered the window with a curtain. 
And each time I went by, I checked. 
But always the curtain. 
I finally went in to ask
after years of watching for them 
and wondering about them. 
The young clerk had no idea what I was talking about. 

Missing whoever it was 
that created such artistry. 

For some info on Poilane's famous dark bread,
Click HERE

(Photos Copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Heloise and Abelard

Heloise died on this day in 1164.
If you walk along the Seine on the Ile de la Cite not far from Notre Dame,
you'll come upon this plaque announcing that Heloise and Abelard lived here in 1118. 

We've all heard of their tragic love story. 
There are books, songs, poems and plays about them. 
Pierre Abelard, a canon, theologian, philosopher and teacher 
requested room and board in exchange for tutoring Heloise
in the home of her uncle where the young woman lived. 
It's not long before Heloise is pregnant. 

Once her pregnancy was discovered, 
Abelard sent her to Brittany to be looked after by his family
and it was there that their son, Astrolabe, was born. 

Her uncle insisted Abelard marry her and he agreed
 but only if it could be kept secret to protect his reputation and career. 
Heloise was not interested in a secret marriage,
or as it sounds from some of her letters, in any marriage.
Her written opinions about marriage 
are quite strong and unusual for women at the time. 
But she finally gave in. 
She was brought back to Paris where they were secretly married. 

However, to punish Abelard, the uncle lets it be known. 
To protect Heloise, Abelard sends her to a nunnery where she had spent her early years. 
The uncle, believing Abelard has discarded his niece after using her,
sent some of his friends to Abelard's room to castrate him. 
Following this, Abelard also took up the life of a monk
and made Heloise take the habit, again against her wishes. 
Their child is barely mentioned in any of the letters between them over the years
and little is known of his fate. 

Many years later, Heloise becomes the Prioress of her nunnery
and a respected physician thanks, in part, to Abelard's tutoring. 
In reading more about her,
I didn't realize (or remember) that originally she was a reputed scholar in her own right,
well-known for her brilliance in her studies. 
According to one source, this was the reason Abelard chose her. 
And to this day, she is considered an important part of 
French literary history and the Epistolary genre.

In Paris in the middle ages,
schools began with the School of Notre Dame
located on the Ile de la Cite and taught by the clerics.
By 1200, the Left Bank had become a hotbed of schools and monasteries
which gave rise to the University of Paris. 
Abelard was just one of many teachers
and this was just one story 
which became famous through their writings. 

Wonder how many other stories like this one were never told?!

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mother's Day wishes

Mother's Day is coming up! 
And when we visited the Loire Valley one Mother's Day Weekend 
several years ago with The Chef's parents,
we found that many of the chateaux decorate their rooms with
magnificent flower arrangements for the Moms. 

Both his parents are gone now as is my Mom
and what I wouldn't give now to walk both those Moms 
through these gorgeous rooms as a Mother's Day Sunday treat. 

List of things I miss about my Mom:
* The way she swept my hair behind my ears with her long fingernails 
when I was little to put me to sleep *
* The beauty of her long elegant hands *
* Her music and radio voice *
* Late night drives in the car, my sister and I wrapped in blankets
in a bed in the back watching the stars and silhouetted trees through the window *
* Her giggle *
* Her sing-song voice when she was in a good mood *
* Her I love you's *
* Her love of all things purple *

If you are blessed to still have your mom, 
I hope you have a little something sweet planned for her.
And if this day simply brings up loss and sadness, 
I hope you will show yourself some sweetness.
Pick a bouquet from the garden for yourself,
or stop by the store for a little tenderness for your heart. 
We all tend to mother those close to us in our lives
so don't forget to mother yourself this weekend. 

Bonne Fete des Meres!

 (The above photo is Chateau Azay le Rideau.
For a little more info on the chateau itself, Click HERE.) 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ina Caro on Chartres Cathedrale

(New Book Bento on Instagram)

While I've been laid up, 
I've been reading Ina Caro's Paris to the Past,
her wonderful book about Paris day trips by train to historical sites. 

Caro tells an interesting story about the building of Chartres,
one of our favorite cathedrals in all of France.

On June 10th, 1194, the areas of the church that the bishop had wanted replaced
mysteriously burned (along with much of the city),
 the most precious and expensive parts of the church being left untouched. 
The people of the town were terrified, thinking that the church's holy relic,
the Sancta Camisia, the tunic it was believed Mary wore while giving birth to Christ,
had burned. The townspeople not only believed that the relic had kept them safe,
(after being displayed on one of the ramparts before a raid that never happened),
but had also made them wealthy. Thinking it was gone, many were preparing to leave. 
So in his bid to implore the people for funds to rebuild the church,
the bishop started a procession through the town with the saved relic
which had been kept in the surviving crypt. 
He told them it was a sign that Mary wanted a new cathedral to house the relic. 
The funding and the building began. 
And were completed thirty years later. 

(Labyrinth outside behind the church)

Caro also mentions the cathedral's interior labyrinth
which is usually very difficult to get a photo of as it's covered most of the year. 
But while she was there, it was uncovered and visible
as pilgrims walked it on their knees. 

Malcolm Miller, the tour guide who has been giving daily English tours 
(except Sundays) since 1958, replied, upon being questioned about their actions,
that it was because it was the Summer Solstice.
So if you've been wanting to get a good look at the labyrinth,
 you now know when to go. 
According to Caro, the labyrinth is walked by modern pilgrims
as a symbolic pilgrimage meant to symbolize the twists and turns of life.
The Chartres labyrinth has no dead ends.
And they walk it together to symbolize that we are all in this (life) together. 

(15th Century clock and tower)

We've been to Chartres 4-5 times, often taking friends and visitors when we're in France. 
One of the last times was with Ed's parents who are both gone now 
so I can't think of it without remembering the sweet afternoon we spent roaming the cathedral
and having lunch at a little place across the street. 
We've done a couple of tours with Malcolm Miller and have indeed found him
as Caro describes him, 
"with snide but hilarious comments... humor and bitter sarcasm..."

One bit of humor he shared with us was a comment made by a member of his tour audience:
Something along the lines of... 
'My mother did the tour 20 years ago but it was a different tour guide then 
because he had dark hair.'

(Wisteria growing alongside the cathedral)

If you are interested in a tour with Malcolm Miller,
the website states that he still does tours every day but Sundays
From Easter to end of October at Noon and 2:45 
and from November until Easter one lecture only at Noon
(if there are 8 or more interested and he is in residence.)

You can also get his book Chartres Cathedral HERE

And Ina Caro's book HERE.

Chartres Cathedral website is HERE.

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Paris Market Tarts and Spring Flowers

Missing these gorgeous tarts from our
Grenelle Open Air  Market in Paris. 

In fact, I'm missing just about everything about spring and Paris right now.
I am flat on my back with a disc issue and nerve pain
and scrolling/strolling through the many photos of
spring in Paris on Instagram. 
Everybody is posting stunning and tantalizing photos
of blooms in luscious colors all over Paris.

If you're on Instagram and interested in seeing them,
here is a list of a few of the Paris photogs I follow:

 a parisian moment
paris mon amour
wonderlust paris
vivre paris
girls guide to paris
paris online
a perfect day in paris
herve in paris
lily paris

Each of these, even if a few days back,
has some dazzling spring flower shots to share. 
You can also follow me on Instagram: @ steen.kirsten
Guess I should share a Paris spring shot here too.
Here's one with a little spring color in the background...

Hope you are enjoying spring wherever you are! 

(Photos copyright:Kirsten Steen)

Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Bento~ The Shark Curtain

Happy Spring All! 

I've been having fun making Book Bentos on Instagram.
Just finished Chris Scofield's book The Shark Curtain
and created this picture using a few symbols from the novel. 

While the book is considered a YA novel,
it's not just for YA readers
dealing with plenty of grown up issues. 
But once you're inside Lily Asher's 14 year old head,
in 1960's Portland, Oregon,
it's hard to see the world 'normally' again. 
But in a good way. 

Check it out if you're looking for something 
fresh, creative, unique and edgy. 

And in the meantime,
enjoy the early days of spring
with a cup of tea and a good book! 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Paris Café

Just a quick note to say hello and post a photo
that makes us feel like we're in Paris. 

This is Le Champ de Mars
just off the park of the same name near the Eiffel Tower. 

And though I'm late,
also wanted to wish you a 
Happy New Year! 
It is still January (just barely)
so I can still fit it in. (My rules!) 

I'm here in the Pacific Northwest 
where the rain has finally begun in earnest. 
We had a little respite yesterday
but more on the way. 

I usually try to update my reading list on
GoodReads when I can. 
And since it's the rainy season
and the perfect time for a good book,
 what's everybody reading? 

I'm into two books on writing 
(see GoodReads on the right for titles)
and John LeCarré's The Night Manager
which is a fantastic short series, by the way. 
Hugh Laurie plays an excellent Bad Guy. 
And the tension is beautifully created without a lot of nasty scenes
(though rest assured, there are still a few.) 

So while we're dreaming of Paris
and waiting out the rain,
tell me what you're reading! 

Bonne Année!

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Patisseries... and loved ones on my mind.

Missing Paris today... and my in-laws. 
We spent this past weekend at my mother-in-love's 
cleaning out the last of her furniture
as the house has now sold.

A sad task and the final round
of dividing up her belongings,
deciding who keeps what 
and making the last painful trips to the donation center. 

Remembering their visit to Paris 
at the end of our year of living there,
I couldn't help but think of the bustling little boulangerie/patisserie
that sat just across the street from us on the corner. 

When my In-Love's had tired of trekking through the streets of Paris
or long drives and cathedral and chateau visits in the Loire,
they LOVED sitting on the blue couch in my dining room
staring out the French window
watching the people coming and going
through the doors of the boulangerie.
Something tickled them about the number of people
emerging with baguettes or pretty-ribboned pink boxes 
filled with pastries and chocolates. 
Often there was a line out the door and a dog or two 
also waiting with their owners on the end of a leash. 

My father-in-love had a healthy sweet tooth
and nearly daily made his own trek across the street
to come home with a pink box and his favorite gateau.
He started with the smallest one
and worked his way up to the largest. 
Some days he suggested we skip lunch
and just have gateau.

The sweet little boulangerie on that corner is gone now...
as are my in-laws. 
On that corner now sits a(nother) bank. 
And in my home here in the Pacific Northwest
sit a few items that remind me of my mother-in-love
who just left us this year. 

But in my heart is the sweetness of the memory
of the two of them together, enjoying the view out the window, 
chuckling as they pointed things out to each other while they held hands.

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, October 30, 2017

French Wine Harvest Lowest Since 1945

It appears this year's French wine harvest,
as predicted, 
is the worst in over 70 years. 

Spring frosts decimated vineyards, 
(twice this past April)
causing the harvest to be 18% lower than 2016
which was the lowest in decades. 

And not just in France.
Austria, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland 
were also hit hard. 

The losses have varied anywhere from 25 to 90 percent
despite some vineyards employing old-fashioned 'smudge pot' techniques
using fires in oil drums and fans to hinder the damaging cold on the vines. 

Climate change is also a challenge to this business. 
One article suggests that global warming will cause
grapes to ripen earlier causing low quality wines and higher alcohol content
(which the French I know do not care for.)

But the article also stated 
that while this year's grape harvest quantity will be down,
 the effect of the warm, dry summer weather
means the quality will be high.
So at least there's that!

May want to stock up on your favorite French wines
in case of price hikes.  
While I'm a fan of American (specifically California) reds,
I'm not partial to the French reds.
And just the opposite with whites. 
I love French whites but not so much American whites. 

It will be interesting to see how the French, 
in all their brainstorming on how to deal with their challenges,
will end up handling climate change
and how the business, and the wines, will change. 

à Votre Santé.

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
Info via articles in The Guardian and The Daily Meal.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pompeii Exhibit (OMSI)

We had a chance to visit Portland's OMSI this summer
and its Pompeii Exhibition. 
I can't say enough good things about it. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post HERE,
(with photos of the real Pompeii)
getting to visit this site in Italy was like a 
life-long dream come true for me. 

And in this exhibit,
I love the way so many aspects of it
make you feel as if you are there. 

And not just there,
but as if you are there back then,
in early Roman times. 

79 A.D. to be exact. 

In fact, 
many of the captured images below are from a film
which makes you feel as if you are walking through a Roman house
of the period. 

Much of the exhibit 
is about showing you things as they would have looked then. 

But not all.
From a photo of the ruins,
the picture below shows a sidewalk,
large stones put in place
for the times when water ran through the streets. 

And while this is a recreation,
at the real site of Pompeii,
some of the baking houses
still had ovens semi-intact.

And these wine jugs above remind me
that in my earlier post on Pompeii,
I found a family wine maker who is working to recreate
nearly the exact wines the Pompeians drank at the time
through resin lifted and tested from underground wine storage terracotta jars. 
By using the same vineyard locations, same climate, same soil
(well as same as one can get 2,000 years later),
and knowing what to strive for with the tested resin,
they are striving to get as close as possible. 
And someday I hope to taste this new/old Pompeian wine. 
But for now, the price is about 10 times what I prefer to pay for a bottle. 

In the last room, 
the OMSI exhibit even includes some of the casts 
of the Pompeians who were captured in time.
Frozen in their last agonizing moments. 

While much of the exhibit, 
like at the actual site,
is exciting and astonishing and awe-inspiring,
this is the saddest room and aspect. 

If you're in the Portland area,
the OMSI Exhibition goes through Oct. 22nd, 2017. 

And if you wish to visit my post with more info and photos 
of the actual site including the family recreating Pompeian wine, 
please Click Here.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
1945 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR

Museum + Pompeii Exhibit- $26 Adult
Museum + Pompeii- $22 Senior (63+)
Museum + Pompeii- $17 Youth (3-13)

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen
Please do not reproduce.) 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happy Magdalene Feast Day~ July 22nd

Two years ago in June, I made the journey to La Baume, 
Mary Magdalene's cave in the South of France. I started out nervous though excited to make the trip to the cave in Provence alone but in the end, I was determined to protect that sacred space of my own pilgrimage. And I've struggled to process what the journey meant for me. 

It was a breaking out... of my perpetual fear, out of my comfort zone and my reluctance and avoidance of "religion." It was a diving in... to Gratitude, into the Sacred, into myself. It was a partial melding of my own spirituality, which I've been cultivating since I was 19, with the powerful spirituality of the ages. 

Everything I needed while there opened itself up to me literally within seconds, as if there were absolutely no lag time between the thought of what one wants or needs and the universe providing it. It was twenty four hours of pure awe and full on Power. In fact, everything I needed to get myself there to make the journey opened itself up to me easily as well. And I've been there in my mind nearly every day since. And been changed by it. I have felt called, as one of the many voices, to help bring forth her message which is why she became part of my novel. And I'm excited to have made the commitment to make the journey again with someone who has wanted to go and with my partner who had to miss the trip last time. 

You can read about my journey and see photos of the cave and surrounds here in 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen) 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Restaurant Le Montparnasse 1900... encore

I ran across some lovely photos yesterday
of the restaurant Le Montparnasse 1900. 
And of course I was missing Paris as soon as I spotted them.
The magnificent decor is of early 1900's Paris.
It originally opened in 1858 with its first renovation in 1906
giving it its Art Nouveau beauty,
then renovated again in 1924 and most currently, 
nearly 100 years later, in 2003.

Its stunning interior is worth the price of admission,
typical Brasserie fare
serving many of the most traditional French dishes like
Steak Tartare, Foie Gras, Soup a l'oignon, Escargot and more. 
My mouth is watering just writing the words. 

If you'd like to see the original post 
with more photos,
click Here.

For the website with a full gallery of photos of the interior
and the menu, 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)