Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Travelin' Tuesday~ Restaurant Jardin des Sens

(This post is a replay of one written for another site with a few alterations.)
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen

On a visit to Paris a couple of years ago, my brother-in-law, Nicolas (pronounced: Neek-o-la) decided to take us to lunch--- in Montpellier! With the new TGV fast trains in France, one can now easily leave Paris in the morning and be seated at a restaurant in the South of France by lunchtime. What used to be a full day's drive doing France's typical speed limit of 130 km per hour (around 80 mph-though they usually go beyond that!) among speed-hungry and passionate Latin drivers can now be enjoyed in temperature-controlled seating with a newspaper and a decent nap.

We made our way into Montpellier and, upon finding the restaurant by cab, were ushered into a glassed room and seated looking out on a bamboo-walled garden flowing with lavender and greenery galore, textured with rock and stonework patterns. The dining room, a sea of foam-white tablecloths and sparkling glassware, held a subtle beauty with a simplistic feng shui of 'calm'.

The sommelier helped select the wines for each course and we were off~ starting with several amuse bouches including a delicate gazpacho of mussels and saffron followed by an oyster-filled pastry shell bubbly in its own froth, then a fondant of cucumber with raw clams and citrus granite.

Next came a salad of wild country greens, cocos nicois and almonds in a tomato aspic followed by a troncon of grilled lobster with a turnip, citrus-honey and grapefruit marinade served in a Banyuls vinaigrette.

Next, Autour de Potimarron: an emulsion with confit and chip, mushroom and sauce with huile d'olive and sel de mer.
After this came my brother-in-law's favorite: L'escalope de foie gras with polenta. I personally prefer my foie gras unseared but this sends Nicolas' eyes back in his head, lashes fluttering, in full gourmand pleasure-mode.

This was followed by a filet of grilled sole on a bed of ravioli with celeri, herbs and mushrooms in a butter sauce with parfum de truffes followed by a grapefruit sorbet mixed with Suze to cleanse the pallet before the next course.

And the last meat course came as a noix de chevreuil of roasted lamb with a puree of carotte and cumin, galettes of potato with parmesan and a jus facon poivrade.

The cheese course was a gazillion different options from the various regions of France.

...my favorites always being of the chevre variety.

The desserts were an assortment which, luckily, we shared.

While the price was less than heavenly, it made Nicolas happy to have the experience (pre-recession) and it made us happy to fulfill his fantasy of jetting down to the South of France to have lunch just for the day. Needless to say, some serious napping took place on the TGV ride back to Paris. And while it may be tres longtemps before we get to fulfill another fantasy comme ca, we are thankful to Nicolas for giving us such a memory as this one!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright...

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

In Deepak Chopra's book, "The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want", Lesson 3 states: "The wizard watches the world come and go, but his soul dwells in realms of light...Your body is just the place your memories call home."

"The boundaries we erect to divide heaven from earth, mind from matter, real from unreal are mere conveniences. Having made the boundaries, we can unmake them just as easily."

We get so caught up in the every day 'mundane hassles' of life that we too often forget, life is what we make it. What we see here is what each of us has created. So you want it different, create it differently. There is magic here. And every second is filled with the endless possibilities of change within each choice.

Most of us know this or touch on this or try to remember this. But my favorite part of Lesson 3?

"Everything on earth is nourished by the sun, which is just a star. The food you eat was converted from starlight, and as you eat it you create a body that has the same source. In other words, your eating a meal is just the act of starlight taking in starlight."

Bears contemplating, don't you think?
Celebrities are not the only 'stars'! So from one star to another, try seeing your next meal as starlight!

Monday, July 20, 2009

'Missing Paris Day'~ Le Petit Chatelet

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

This lovely little place sits sandwiched just between last week's Missing Paris' site~ Shakespeare & Co and one of my favorite cafes to sit and write or people watch, Le Petit Pont. LPP sits right on the corner where one can see the beginnings of the Latin Quarter or stare at the magnificent Notre Dame just across the street. They also kindly serve popcorn with your drink if you're not eating. I frequently bring my writing tools, seat myself where I can see the most, sip on something delightful and bend my head to my writing or stare at the cathedral across the street or the many tourist varietals.

While I've never frequented Le Petit Chatelet, I love the look of it. Because of their location, these places are not cheap so LPP is not usually a daily haunt for writing but I try to make at least one or two trips each visit. And who can resist walking this area, being one of the oldest parts of Paris!

Bon semaine!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Barcelona: Party Town!

Ok, I read recently on authorblog that scientists have declared the air in Madrid and Barcelona to be laced with Cocaine and LSD. No wonder a relative exclaimed that Barcelona was the best party town she'd ever been to! And Gaudi's creations look so...happy?

Hmph. Dilemma: Stay far away or book ticket soon?!??!

Anybody else think the people of Spain might be just a little too


Maybe it's the candy!

(Photography copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays~The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Hosted by MizB at ShouldBeReading.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,

*Open to a random page,

*Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,

*Please no spoilers!

*Share the title & author.

This week's selection is from the delightful Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows:

"I always get the hiccups when I cry, so she ran and got me a glass of water for her fail-safe cure-- you pinch your nose shut with your two thumbs, and plug up both ears with your fingers, while a friend pours a glass of water down your throat without let. You stomp your foot when you are close to drowning, and your friend takes the glass away. It works every time--a miracle--no more hiccups."

Monday, July 13, 2009

'Missing Paris Day'~ Shakespeare and Co.

Here we are today at the famous Shakespeare and Company reading what George (the owner) has to say about himself. Just be careful when walking in as I once spotted George peering out one of the windows above the entrance, spitting down below. Could have been aiming, could have been hoping to miss. Who knows! Just be forewarned!

Happy Monday everybody!!
(Photography copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Energy Cocktails and Life Extension

(Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Looks like it could be a daquiri, does it not? This particular drink is made of mostly vegetables with a few fruits. Ingredients include: green cabbage, carrot, beet, zucchini, raspberries and banana. I've been trying to add more raw foods to my diet and after watching a recent Oprah segment with Dr. Oz about Life Extension and Calorie Restriction, I'm re-hooked.

I had an epiphany a couple of years back (just so happened it took place in LA~that city of Angels) when on a walk I had the distinct feeling I was being given a message; what O. calls an "Aha Moment". I am frequently working on raising my vibration and something told me, while on a hillside overlooking a lovely view, that if I really wanted to work from a different perspective (via vibration and frequency), more raw foods could help me do that.

So, even though I have drifted on and off that wagon since my epiphany, I have been working to incorporate more raw foods still flowing with live energy. And this season's garden fresh bounty (which a generous friend keeps us in large supply of) and berries on the vine (of which I am buying by the flat and freezing for the winter) has upped my energy in ways I could become addicted to.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't gone off the deep end. I still partake in a little steak, red wine and chocolate (on weekends). But during the week, I've been making up energy cocktails in batches and sipping on them over the course of a couple of days. Last week's batch included fresh cabbage, yellow and green zucchini, cucumber, snap peas, parsley and 1 apple lightly steamed and then blended with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana. The whole thing tasted mainly like a thick applesauce.

I have to tell you that 5 pounds came off easily when, instead of reaching for a snack, I reach for one of these energy drinks. I'm also excited and eager to study more about Calorie Restriction and Life Extension as well as the gentleman who inspired these drinks for me, one Billionaire David Murdock, fruit and real estate tycoon, who has created a Life Extension research lab: North Carolina Research Center. He decided, after losing his wife to cancer, that he wanted to create the lab that would find the cure. Gotta love that! I just read an article recently that said the cure has not been found and is probably not close to being found because the system of research will only fund in small increments of safe ideas. So maybe that's what we need, someone with billions who wants to be 'the one' and is willing to go beyond the system's tunnel vision.

If you want to learn more about Life Extension and Calorie Restriction from Oprah's show, click here which includes a segment about David Murdock as well as some other very interesting new info concerning Life Extending Technology.

And join me in an energy cocktail! In setting up the link, I just noticed that the original air date of this particular show was on my birthday! So here's to many more!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Travelin' Tuesday~ Venice

Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen

While I occasionally skip a 'Missing Paris Monday' and in honor of the research I've been doing on Venice for a writing project, I'm adding a 'Travelin' Tuesday'!

I know it sounds like I have many but Venice is truly one of my favorite cities (right next to Paris and San Francisco). While I thoroughly enjoy Rome and love Florence, I absolutely ADORE Venice! Friends who visited recently called it a "Disneyland for adults" but I find the uniqueness of Venice exotically romantic. The gondoliers really will sing for you, there is no traffic noise and the Sambuca, well, watch out for the Sambuca. It's a tad on the dangerous side.

I've recently finished John Berendt's "City of Falling Angels" and Sarah Dunant's "In the Company of the Courtesan" and both have fired up those smoldering embers and made me want to return once again. I suppose part of the reason for setting a story location in Venice is so I can wander the narrow streets and waterways even if only in my head.

My love affair with Venice goes on and will continue until it is completely submerged by the very waters that make it famous and yet threaten to bury it. Let's hope those tourist qualities that bother some will be what actually saves it in the end!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Random Prompts~Our Parents

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Am spending this 4th of July weekend at the beach, specifically the beachhouse of my childhood! It was the place my grandparents took us every summer for years; where my sister and I played jacks on the floor, made forts out of driftwood and castles on the beach. We drew our names in the sand with mammoth curlicues, tried to catch the skinny-legged sandpipers and collected bags of whole sand dollars, colored rocks and two-toned shells.

It's also the house where I spent my last beach trip with my ailing mother before she died of cancer in 2003. This last mother/daughter visit is an excruciatingly painful memory. I've been to the house since with family and again with friends but this time I go with no easy human distractions from this memory.

Last year I created an altar to my parents. I decorated it with a few of their things: a picture of my mother on her tricycle in little-girl curls, scraped knee bandaged; a jar holding the ponytail she saved of her long hair when she cut it short; her desk nameplate; the small fireplace broom that was her last gift to me.

Next to these is a picture of my father as a tiny, proud fisherchild in dark sunglasses holding up his catch; a poem I gave him recently by Czeslaw Milosz entitled 'Gift'; a photo of him with his sister (my middle namesake).

I've added a few other things of meaning: a small bell my family kept on the hutch, a broken watch, a tiny handmade Celtic cross found in the South of France, a hand-embroidered dove made of cloth, the little angel I placed next to my mother's bed while she lay dying.

And at the top of the altar sits a picture I found of me as a small girl, holding my dolly out to someone just out of the frame. An offering.

Some time ago, I came across a writing exercise (sorry to say, the author escapes me): Write about your parents, both individually and as a pair; their likes and dislikes, habits, strengths, weaknesses; their good and bad qualities, character traits, beliefs. When the pen falls aside, what insights poke at you regarding your own purpose in this life as the creation and culmination of the two of them as well as the whole of them?

My beach time this weekend (since my sister now lives far away and won't play jacks with me) will most likely be in search of sand/stone and hand-written gems from the salty deep for my altar. And with that intention, I know I'll find just the right treasures.

(Oh yes and finishing a new poem to celebrate my sweetie on his birthday.)

I never understood the tiny broom gift (particularly since I didn't have a fireplace at the time). I just considered it another example of the effects of chemo. But I'm beginning to see that her soul knew what mine would need. It will come in handy as I write this weekend, sweeping up the ashes of that last beach memory.

An offering~ to the Gods of Insight!