Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions? More Champagne and Chocolate!

If there is anything I wish for you this New Years,
it is more decadence, more travel, more champagne and chocolate!

Life is too short... not have it all!

On this last day of 2010,
do me the honor of letting me thank every single one of you
for your companionship, your ideas,
your passion, your creativity.

I am grateful beyond words to each and every one for being here.
I have come to love your presence, look forward to your visits, feel lost without your words
and am constantly amazed at the feeling of friendship I feel
toward loved ones I have never met.
As we support one another,
know that I adore you.
And wish you every
in 2011!

As my French teenage niecelette would say:
<3 <3 <3

Monday, December 27, 2010

Notre Dame Noel~ Missing Paris Day

(Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Someday I'd like to go to Midnight Mass at Notre Dame on Christmas.
I've been told it's spectacular.
The family we normally spend it with,
when in Paris for the holidays,
lives about three hours outside of Paris.
And we've never been inclined to give up that time with them
for anything.

I love how Paris dresses herself up pretty during the holidays,
making herself even more inviting.

While I love the holidays, I'm finding myself happy to have them behind us again this year.
I can feel the collective sigh of relief from adults and parents.
Time for quiet family dinners...
 and New Year's Resolutions!

Got any?

Friday, December 24, 2010

'S a Wonderful Life~ Merry Christmas!

Found this old postcard from 1908
sent from one of my ancestors to another.
I love hunting amongst the scrapbook for treasure
picking through photos and postcards looking for clues as to who they were.

I'm on their trail but they don't make it easy!

Wishing you a verry Merry Christmas
to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse on Winter Solstice

Anyone see the glorious morning lunar eclipse?
I missed it.
Woke up at 3am and it was over.
Moon was gorgeous though!
But if you caught it,
I hope it was spectacular in your area.

Happy Winter Solstice!

(Postcard via The Graphics Fairy)

Monday, December 20, 2010

'That' Time Again in Paris~ Missing Paris Day

I love that time in Paris when all the boulangerie windows
are stacked with the wickedly delicious,
almond-paste filled
Galette des Rois.

Means it's Christmas
as well as marking Epiphany
on January 6th.

I think they are made to be so delicious,
all filled with their decadent frangipane,
so that when you take a bite
an epiphany reminds you, 
 how good life is!

Happy Christmas Week!  
Epiphanies to all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Paris: The Luminous Years'' on PBS tonight

As if to answer the question in my last post, a documentary on Paris and its artists (between the years 1905 and 1930) makes its nationwide premiere tonight at 9pm on PBS. The 2-hour documentary, 'Paris: The Luminous Years- Toward the Making of the Modern' by Perry Miller Adato (who has won awards for her documentaries and includes the likes of  Dyland Thomas, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe to mention a few) includes archival footage as well as interviews and never-before-seen photos of the artists and writers of the time. It explores the artists and their relationships as well as how these relationships affected their lives and work.

The film includes words from a stellar line-up of modern art celebrities such as Jean Cocteau, Aaron Copland, Marcel Duchamp, Sylvia Beach, Marc Chagall, Stravinsky and others.

"It's the period from 1905 to 1930 when everybody, almost nearly everyone -- it's just amazing -- who did anything that was important in the arts, in nearly all the arts, was in Paris," explains filmmaker Perry Miller Adato. "Sometimes only for a couple of weeks, sometimes for a couple of months, others for their whole lifetime, but it didn't matter because no matter how short or long it was, it changed their work, and it changed their life."

Tune in tonight for a look at how our favorite city became the inspirational meeting point for the creative minds and souls who inspired each other and then nearly a century of future artists.

(Quote from Monique Marcil's article more of which you can read here.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Writing Cafe in Paris~ Missing Paris Day

(Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)

My last trip to Paris
I think I told you that I spent one particular day writing
in several cafes, churches and the infamous Shakespeare and Co.
trying purposefully to fit them all into one day.

One of the cafes was Le Champ de Mars
just across the park of the same name
which separates the 15th and the 7th arrondissement
and houses the monument-iful Tour Eiffel.

I have yet to walk through this park without being able to take my eyes off the tower. Funny that something so despised by the French in the beginning should become such a national symbol. Like the Golden Gate Bridge and Big Ben, anyone who sees this symbol in a photo or tv clip knows instantly where they are.

The tree-lined alleys are typically hopping with joggers,
le sport of jogging having 'stuck' in France.

On this particular day, I ordered myself a lait chaud
and set about filling longhand pages in my notebook...

...taking notes on the interior of the cafe...

...the people...

...and, as they were preparing for lunch,
the powerful French aromas emanating from the kitchen.

A friend of ours goes to Paris nearly every summer for two months
to study painting under a Montmartre artiste.
I've made a couple of requests regarding certain scenes in the neighborhood
and I think Cafe Le Champ de Mars might make the perfect subject matter!

Paris definitely has that je ne sais quoi
that attracts artistes of every ilk.

What is it, do you think, that inspires such devotion to artistry in this city?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter in Paris~Missing Paris Day

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

One of the things I have started again,
particularly good for when I am missing Paris or anticipating going,
is to listen to French radio.

This helps me to pick up on French words I have missed, lost
or that need refreshing.
The most trouble I have with the language is hearing it
so this helps to quicken my auditory comprehension
(such as it is).

If you care to join me,
go to
click on the red button on your right
that says "Ecoutez le Direct"
and try to pick out the words you understand.
You can also read the headlines
(with French dictionary handy, of course)
and pick up a few new words that way.

If I close my eyes, I can smell le cafe at my small red table,
taste le pain from my bread basket
and hear the conversation between the couple sitting next to me.

A bientot!
(look it up!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Ten Books of 2010

According to the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Jonathan Franzen's book Freedom heads the year's ten best books. Followed by:

The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie
Room by Emma Donoghue
Selected Stories by William Trevor
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Finishing The Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.

What about you? What were your favorite books of the year?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Greek Sunset~ Travelin' Tuesday

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

This sunset walk along my favorite site for strolling
in Nafplion, Greece
makes me think of ancient eyes watching this same dramatic scenery
a thousand years ago.

It must have looked similar~
Even some of the tastes were the same,
the land of golden olive oil and grapey, fermented wines.

I wonder if the sage greenery
and red ochre cliffsides looked the same~
the blue water
like a giant mirror to the stars.

Myths were built amid such beauty~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Language of Baklava~ Teaser Tuesdays

Hosted by MizB at shouldbereading.

Here's how to play:

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

This week's choice is Diana Abu-Jaber's "The Language of Baklava":

"Mrs. Manarelli travels around the neighborhood with covered bundles that at first I think are babies. Then she comes to our house and I find out that it's food: pasta slippery with fresh pesto, or a plate of grilled sausages, or a whole roasted chicken. She cooks and then she looks for people to feed, because Johnny is always on a diet and Marco is delicate and sensitive and allergic to everything. When she and Bud meet, it's as if they've found each other at last. She raps on the glass of the kitchen door as Bud fries some lentils and tomatoes and onions. 'Hey you?' she calls. 'Whatcha doing in there? What is that in the pan?'"

I recently heard Diana Abu-Jaber speak about her writing and was as enthralled with her voice, her personal storytelling and anecdotes, as I was with this book. While she writes fiction as well, this 'culinary memoir' is deliciously filled with mouth-watering descriptions of her father's Jordanian cooking (and colorful personality) and each chapter includes family recipes, several of which I plan to try. I highly recommend her book, as well as her way of describing the world, and wish you luck while reading it. Keep something to snack on nearby.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Constant Flux~ Buddhist Thought for the Day

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

“Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda

Needed to hear this today. And I'll take spring, morning and birth!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'Nother Bourtzi Day~ Travelin' Tuesday

(Photo copyright Kirsten Steen)

Thought you might enjoy another shot of Bourtzi from a different angle.
And a different boat.

The older gentleman who owns this sailboat
takes tourists out for a spin by the hour or the day.
And one of these days,
I'm gonna take him up on it.

Care to join me?
You bring the shrimp
and I'll bring the champagne.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bourtzi~ Travelin' Tuesday

(Photograph copyright Kirsten Steen)

Today let's travel back to Greece!

Specifically Nafplion, a favorite haunt of ours.

Out beyond the little boat is the tiny Venetian castle

known as Bourtzi

also once known as home of The Executioner.

(Long ago, the town didn't believe the executioner should live within the city

so he was relegated to this teensy island.)

In Nafplion, Bourtzi is boasted to be the consummation place of

one of actress Melina Mercouri's marriages

(when it served as a hotel).

Mercouri was famous for several things:
actress, political activist and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece.

She starred as Ilya in the 1960 film

"Never on Sunday"

for which she won Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.

The film also featured her future husband, Jules Dassin,

who wrote, directed and starred.

Think I'll be putting this one on my queue.
Time for more things Greek!

(Poster photo thanks to Wikipedia)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Writing Re-Treat

This would probably be the best Trick-or-Treat costume for me this past week.
I left on Halloween for Colonyhouse, the Oregon Writers Colony
Writing Retreat in Rockaway Beach (a 3~1/2 hour drive for me)
and, for the most part, have been sucker-cupped to my computer this week
with a few breaks for showering, eating and visiting with my writing companions.
If I had visual artist/graphic capabilities,
I would insert pen, notebook and computer
to the above photo.

It's my third visit to Colonyhouse (for photos and more info, click here) and I've booked myself a few more weeks next year, the luxury of uninterrupted writing time being hard to come by in the real world.

Right now I dedicate one day a week to writing
~and whatever other little tidbits of time I can sneak in~
but hope one day in the future to be able to set aside 2 or 3 days.

The once-a-month writer's week at Colonyhouse is normally one full work-week (technically Mon-Fri.) but one of my writing companions had 2 extra days coming so ours has been a FULL week. Such a gift! (And thank you again!)

Our week started off stormy, with the first night's winds whipped so high
I was afraid the roof might venture away looking for a new home or an even better view.
But after that, things calmed and we were blessed with a little sun
and a relatively serene week.

My room upstairs looks out onto a windswept tree
but yields a little view of the ocean to the right
and Lake Lytle to the left.

The storm wreaked havoc with some of the local wildlife
and birds became a theme during our week.

My writing partner (we normally meet on Mondays to spend a full day writing)
ended up performing two bird rescues the day after the storm
and while delivering them to the local wildlife rehabilitation center
got a call about a third (which, luckily, someone else was able to bring in).

I've been rereading Jonathan Livingston Seagull and, while here, dreamed of a spiritual bird sanctuary/zen-like retreat which I later realized was only a few blocks from the (real-life) place I go in my mind for meditational/guided imagery sessions.

Not certain about the meaning of the all the bird symbolism this past week (there were even more references to birds) but I know it will all be revealed. The fun is in the magical path (the journey/process) leading to the answers (the destination).

The Stormy Weather Arts Festival is on this weekend in Cannon Beach (and as I sit writing in a little cafe in Manzanita, the weather is cooperating to resemble its name). I took a few hours in my last couple of days to venture into Manzanita and Wheeler for some book browsing, antiquing and chai sipping.

The Cloud & Leaf Bookstore came highly recommended by my writing partner

and right next door is the Bread and Ocean Bakery/Bistro which makes a sticky bun seasoned with cardamom (!) and their own homemade chai,

serves dinner in the evenings...

and also sells a coffee brand I hadn't seen before. Sleepy Monk Coffee (locally roasted in Cannon Beach), organic and fair-trade. Loved the logo and coffee roast names.

There isn't much that's not charming in Manzanita...

and I'm looking forward to my next writing re-treat
for days of intensive writing,
symbolic insights
and breaks spent exploring on the Northern Oregon Coast.

(All photographs copyright Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Double Decker Fun~Missing Paris Day

Did you try the Double Decker Bus when in Paris?

We found it fun and informative~
A treat when you have out-of-town guests who are new to Paris,
a driver with a little joie de vivre
and a few good jokes.

Pick your seat in the sun, don your headphones
and allow someone else to entertain your guests with Paris' good side,
pointing out all your favorite side-stories along the way.

I like being able to hop off and stop into a cathedral for a taste of ancient dust
or a cafe to breathe in and savor a favorite sud ouest recipe
and sample a glass of something rather ruby-esque,
then jump back on and continue onto the tour's next destination.
The metro is fun (when you don't live in Paris)
but everyday life in between the major sites
is every bit as stimulating.
Don't miss it!

(I'll be on the lookout for this party hat to wear on my next birthday!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mary Cassatt~Lecture at the American Library in Paris~ Missing Paris Day

Self-Portrait of the Artist

Tuesday November 9th, 2010 at 7:30pm, the American Library in Paris will present a lecture and slide show on the world of artist Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) given by Chris Boicos.

Born to an affluent family in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (ancestral name Cossart), Mary Cassatt went against her family's wishes in pursuing a life of artistry-- much less in Paris. Frustrated with her male instructors and fellow students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she took it upon herself to study the old masters.

Moving to Paris with a few family chaperones in 1866, and as women were not yet allowed to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, she requested to study with one of the school's masters being accepted by Jean-Leon Gerome. She became friends with Edgar Degas and was invited to exhibit with the Impressionists, becoming the second woman in the group next to Berthe Morisot who also became her friend. Degas introduced her to working with pastels as well as etching, both of which she became proficient in.

Against her father's wishes (who offered throughout her life to help pay for her living expenses but never her art supplies), her instructor's patronizing and the French school's refusal of female students, she made her own way, becoming well-known for her tender scenes of mother and child. In later years, she took up the Women's Suffragette movement and in 1915 exhibited eighteen works in support of the cause.

For a look into her life and work, join Chris Boicos, Founder of Paris Art Studies (and former Art History professor at USC in Paris) at ALP.

ALP is located at:
10, rue du General Camou
(a couple of blocks from the Eiffel Tower)
7th arrondissement,
75007 Paris, France
• Tel. +33 (0)1 53 59 12 60

For more information or a schedule of upcoming events, go to

(Photo above, a Self-Portrait of the Artist, and info via Wikipedia)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tripping over Clouds~Buddhist Thought for the Day

"Fixed ideas are like a wisp of cloud or smoke, but nonetheless people find themselves blocked or captured by these. You would laugh if you saw someone tripped by a cloud, or if someone claimed that they were imprisoned by the air. But, in fact, people are endlessly being trapped by things no more substantial than air or clouds. They make a wall with their mind, and then it imprisons them.

Inherently, there is no wall or anything to trip over. These things are mirages they've created from the thoughts they gave rise to. Do not insist upon your own fixed ideas. Your persistence is your own narrow mind. If your mind is broad, it can easily embrace the entire world. However, if your mind is narrow, even a needle cannot enter. You have to keep letting go of your stubbornness, and always be deeply respectful of all life and things. This is returning to and relying upon the Buddha-Dharma. This is also how to become a free person. Always be humble. Be humble. The fragrance of your broad and generous mind will warm others' hearts."
~Zen Master Daehaeng, No River to Cross: Trusting the Enlightenment that's Always Right Here

I love this quote. It reminds me that my thoughts and judgements about other's behavior are just that, my own thoughts and judgements which keep my mind narrow. Still working on the 'fragrance' of my 'broad and generous mind'. Trying to remember humility and compassion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Venice is a Fish~ Teaser Tuesday

Hosted by MizB at shouldbereading.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,
*Open to a random page,
*Share 2-3 “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,
*Please no spoilers!
*Share the title & author.

Today's selection is from Tiziano Scarpa's 'Venice is a Fish':

"In any other boat in the world, a single oarsman, with a single oar, on one side only, would end up turning comically in circles. On a gondola, thanks to the boat's asymmetrical centre of gravity, it darts straight ahead, switches into reverse, slows and accelerates, brakes, halts, heads off diagnoally, turns a right angle, keeps balance, deadens the waves. The oar spoons the water, spanks it, scoops it, digs it, cuts it, kneads it, tickles it, turns it like a ladle, forces it like a crowbar. The oar dives suddenly, re-emerges floating almost horizontally at water level, but if necessary it plunges vertically, in a few free square centimetres, with a flick of the wrist it twists like a screwdriver, elegantly disengaging the twelve-metre black wooden beast from an impossible jam." (p.43)

This eloquent description almost makes me want to go back simply to watch the oars of the gondolas and their water dance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Arahova at Delphi~ Travelin' Tuesday

Today's photo was taken in a small, mountain village (Arahova) near Delphi, my favorite Greek archaeological site which can be seen here. Greece is sprinkled with these gorgeous old fountains sometimes well-kept, like this one, and sometimes they are remnants of the Turk's stay in Greece and ignored, abandoned and defaced.

Random Writing Prompt:

Create a story around the owner of the mop you see leaning inside the fountain. Is the owner male or female? Young or elderly? Cleaning the fountain? Their own home? Or working for someone else? Or... does it have certain traveling powers?