Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cafe de Flore~ Travelin' Tuesday

Cafe de Flore~ A Paris landmark since 1887
and known as a favorite for many 19th and 20th century writers and artists
including Earnest Hemingway, Lawrence Durrel, Truman Capote and Camus
as well as Picasso and Apollinaire.

Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were known to
take their coffee and croissants here in the mornings
and discuss philosophy over drinks in the evening.

Sartre is said to have written one of his famous quotes here:
"Man is condemned to be free."
Put that in your beret and smoke it!

Writers still sit here and scribble away
and every year the cafe awards a literary prize
known as the Prix de Flore.

I've never written here but I think on my next visit
I'll park myself inside with pen and paper
and a couple of books on Sartre and de Beauvoir.
I've always meant to read more about them.
Where better than the very place they sat, wrote
and chewed on philosophy and croissants?
And until then, I'll have that to look forward to.

Located on the Left Bank
on the corner of St. Germain des Pres and Rue St. Benoit
in the 6th arrondissement,
check out the website for a few inside shots:

172 blvd. St. Germain
Metro: St. Germain des Pres
Open 7am to 1:30am

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sierra Nevada's Salmon Lake~ Travelin' Tuesday

Welcome to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Returning last summer to this lake in the Sierra
with my sister and her two children,
I got to tromp the path of 13 again.
And as someone reminded me,
How often do we get to go there?

When we were teens, my sister and I were introduced
to this special place east of Sacramento,
a mountain range I look back on with Magical Memory Mind.

I thought after all these years the lake would look smaller
but only the island, where a weekly barbecue for guests still takes place, had shrunk.

As we drove the gravel road into the parking area, I spotted a huge,
magnificent plume of craggy mountains I didn't recall seeing before.
I'm pretty sure they were there some 30-odd years ago.
How had I missed them?
Most likely my 13-year old nose had been buried in a comic or favorite book
in the back of the van we traveled from San Francisco in.
Much at the lake, though, is just as I remember it.
One still calls the Lodge from a phone attached to a tree
and waits at a tiny dock for barge pick up.

The beauty of the lake and its surroundings still stuns the senses
while being barged across the water with a week's worth of supplies.

An old picture of my sister's sweet baby face
looks up from the crystal water she stood
hip-high in next to the dock;
water she would no longer walk in
shortly after the photo was taken thanks to
the large crustacean that brushed her foot;

As well a picture of my own lobster face, young, frizzy, blond hair
escaping the barrettes I tried desperately
to keep it tamed with.

The Lodge too has not changed with some of the very same furniture, artwork and record albums on the shelves still sitting beneath the old record player.

A flood swept in some years ago and soaked the album covers
leaving all the records now sitting open
in bare, white sleeves.

For a week during my 13th and 14th summers, I spent many a warm, Sierra-dusty day parked on this dock.

A crush on one of the teenage boys working at the Lodge kept me in or near the Lodge itself in the hopes that he might see me.

We listened to the music he and his co-workers played over and over.
The songs that most quickly transport me back:
the Allmann Brothers "Eat a Peach" album:
'Melissa' and 'Ain't Wastin Time No More.'

For my sister, it was Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'.
(Be glad I didn't put that on the playlist!)

Nights here were filled with the most star-studded sky
I had ever seen in my short life
or probably ever since.
It was the beginning of my love affair with the night sky
and a (very) brief one with the aforementioned teen.

I recall smooching in a hammock on the Lodge's 2nd floor deck overlooking
the lake and stars; the closeness of his body against mine,
side by side and overlapping, swinging gently,
the hammock folding us together,
a swarming mass of co-mingling hormones.

His, most likely a normal teenage boy's
raging path toward the culmination (or at least hope) of one thing.
Mine, the more complex canyon of need
being thrown a bucket of soul-quenching coolness 
in this fatherless daughter's parched landscape.

Each soft kiss, every stroke of my arm, the bent leg over mine
was an incremental boost in self-confidence,
of which I had little.

Someone of the male persuasion,
a young man already extremely opinionated about society and the world,
thought enough of me to appreciate my sunburnt body,
attending my soul with kisses.
And I drank it in with moonless starlight.

No matter how hormone-driven his attentions may have been,
or how little he may remember one sunburned blonde
among his many summers of weekly (teenage girl) shipments,
I am certain he never guessed at the depth his amorous attention
reached within the cavern of a young girl's tender heart.

My best friend at the time also joined us one of those weeks at Salmon Lake:
A beautiful, articulate young woman named Liz
who died of cancer at the age of 26.
My mother said, after Lizzie died,
that she'd never seen her look as happy as she did at Salmon Lake.

Something about this place
 left its dusty mark
on my soul.

And how thrilled I was to return with my sister,
the one I first shared this with,
and to share this that I've loved
with her teenagers.

I return here in my mind
frequently over the years
and last summer
our very short day-visit
filled me with the resolve
to return for my own stay as an adult.

A stunning mountain lake
in a poem-inspiring range;
a summer teen crush;
and precious time with a now
long, lost friend

creates magic in the mind
from a few summer evenings
under a star-studded sky
on a lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I'll let you know what
the next trip back to 13 brings!

For rate and accommodation information and/or history about Salmon Lake,
click here.

(All photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Possibilities are Endless~ Buddhist Thought for the Day

"The Buddhist tradition teaches the truth of impermanence, or the transitory nature of things. The past is gone and the future has not yet happened, so we work with what is here -- the present situation. This actually helps us not to categorize or theorize. A fresh, living situation is taking place all the time, on the spot. This noncategorical approach comes from being fully here, rather than trying to reconnect with past events. We don't have to look back to the past in order to see what people are made out of. Human beings speak for themselves, on the spot."

~Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

I love this quote because it reminds me that
every moment in our lives is filled with choice.
Think on that regularly~ Every single second
gives us a myriad of options
that can grow into a kaleidoscope
of different colors, shapes and patterns
that touch our lives.

And rather than going back and holding on to an old story,
we are free in every moment to make things new,
to create our lives filled with the things, people,
ideas and creative projects
that we want and love.

Sometimes living in the present moment
can make things a little wonky.
Things change~ but that's the beauty!

Impermenance is the only thing we can count on
so we might as well get comfortable with it.

Our evolution depends on it!

My new motto lately:
'The Possibilities are Endless!'

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pt. Reyes~ Travelin' Tuesday

Welcome to
the California Coast!

During a magnificent visit to San Francisco recently,
after a scrumptious breakfast at a new (to us) little French cafe
on the corner of Polk and Green~ La Boulange~
(just a block from my old house at Larkin and Green)

We took my favorite drive
over Mt. Tam, through fragrant Eucalyptus woods
all the way to Stinson Beach and up the coast
toward the Petaluma cut-off from Pt. Reyes Station.

Headed for Napa (the Lonnnnggg Way!)
to meet some friends who had just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary
(their party was the reason for the trip),
we stopped at this gorgeous roadside viewpoint of the coast.

These colorful landscapes
always make me wish I had taken up painting.
But I would say that I hold my camera like a brush,
stroking and playing
and waving the camera around like a wand
until I find the right combination for my stage set

And sometimes I just point and shoot!
Had we not been in such a hurry to join dear friends
I would have loved to stay at this roadside Lodge in Olema
for a taste of Barbecued Oysters!

Maybe for our 50th Anniversary
that will be my request.

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Laduree Birthday Lunch~Missing Paris Day

After receiving more than one request for Laduree photos while in Paris,
on the day that turned out to be my Birthday Lunch (a few months early),
I armed my purse with an index card scribbled with all the addresses of
every Laduree shop in Paris so after lunch I could make my way to
the nearest one and snap a few window shots.

"The Chef" and I walked across the Champ de Mars
to the end of Rue St. Dominique, across the Seine and up
George V to my sister's new office just around
the corner from the Champs Elysees.
(Could she get any luckier??!)

When we arrived, we greeted the typically French way
(she's been there almost 20 years now)
smooching cheeks all 'round.

She asked what we wanted for lunch,
we told her it was her call,
we trusted her,
and then she asked:

"Have you guys ever eaten at Laduree??!"

My jaw dropped and then I burst out laughing!
I showed her the index card and my after-lunch plan.
And then we followed her to the Laduree shop around the corner
on the Champs Elysees!

We poked around the windows...

And checked out the menu...

...then headed inside.

And my Laduree Birthday Lunch began...

We took the price-fixed menu, and while we each ordered our own entree and plat,we shared all around.

Starting with the...

Eclaire mangue verte, crevette et abricot moelleux
(Mango, shrimp and soft apricot eclair)

The fabulous...

Saint Jacques cru au Limoncello et figue de barbarie
(Limoncello and prickly pear scallops)

And the truly outstanding...

Souffle a la truffe noire et au celeri
(Black truffle and celery souffle)

Followed by...

Espadon a la reglisse et baton de canne a sucre, tomate rotie entiere et courgette jaune grillee
(Swordfish with a touch of liquorice and sugar cane sticks,
served with a roasted tomato and grilled yellow zucchini)

And the...

Dorade rose 'pageot' au kumquat et confit d'aubergines
(Pink Sea Bream pageot with confit of eggplant)

Finished with the wildly popular...

Buchette Chocolat Caramel~
Buchette chocolat noix de pecan, fines feuilles de chocolat noir,

caramel mou parfume a la fleur de sel, biscuit moelleux au chocolat noir et mousse sabayon chocolat caramel. (Pecan nut and chocolate biscuit, thin dark chocolate leaves, soft salted caramel, dark chocolate soft biscuit and caramel and chocolate zabaglione)(!!!)

The absolutely dreamy...

Millefeuille Praline~Pate feuilletee caramelisee, creme pralinee, praline d'amandes et noisettes croustillantes. (Carmelized puff pastry, praline cream, almond pralines and crispy hazelnuts).

And the adorable and sweet...


Biscuit macaron moelleux a la rose, creme aux petales de rose, framboises fraiches et litchis.(Smooth rose flavoured macaroon biscuit, rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees).

I even ended with a little French coffee which I almost never do.

I felt like Marie Antoinette for a day! The setting is spectacular, the food fabulous and the company perfect, a magnificent birthday lunch with my two favorite people.

We were so involved with lunch,
we forgot to get macaroons to take with us.
Ah well, another reason to return
and try some of the other stores.
Don't miss Laduree on the Champs Elysees!

Open Daily 7:30am-12:30 am
Metro: George V
75, Av. des Champs-Elysees
8th Arrondissement

For more information on the history of Laduree,
further photos and anecdotes about it's beginnings, go to:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I Love about San Francisco~ Travelin' Tuesday

Welcome to one of my favorite cities in the world!
Not only is it one of the most magnificently diverse and beautiful cities ever
but for several years growing up, it was my hometown.
So here is, what I hope will be one of many posts on,
what I love about San Francisco!

*I love:

~The Tourist Energy
(Now I know many San Franciscans do not love tourists.
In fact, some complain bitterly about them.
But to me, their energy is part of what makes it the city what it is.
Their happiness and joy in simply being there is obvious, clear and contagious.
There is something beautiful about seeing people so in love with a city
that their hearts and their smiles cannot be contained!)

*I love:

~The Golden Gate Bridge...

~Walking the streets of the city...
~The smell of the restaurants churning out grill fumes...
~That despite having maybe only a few squares of dirt outside their front doors,
San Francisco residents will plant endless jasmine and hibiscus
in their miniscule yards...
~And even as a past resident of the city,
I still love the tourist spots

Fisherman's Wharf.

...and Joe's Crab Shack...

~Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers...

~The Palace of Fine Arts...
~And the Palace of the Legion of Honor
(a mecca for professional--and us amateur-- photographers alike!)

*I love:

~Street Fairs where whole blocks are closed off for artists...
~the street art...

~The many parks of the city but most especially
Mountain Lake Park
where I spent much time during my teenage years...
(the same lake where, a few years ago,
a baby crocodile was discovered. Don't look at me!)

*I love...

~Open Studio Weekends
where different neighborhood artists open their studios
to the public to view and buy their artwork...
~Mt. Tamalpais in the sunshine...
~Writing at the little Italian cafe on Union Square
~ Sacrepantina cake at Stella's Bakery
and the Raspberry Twists at Mara's in Northbeach ...
*I love:
~The clanging bell of the cable car...
and the smiles on the passenger's faces.
~And I love, more than anything,
looking forward to returning soon!