Thursday, December 29, 2011

Food of the Gods

A peachy little eatery in Greece today.
(Did the Gods have fake flowers?)

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joyeux Noel

Happy Christmas Everyone! 
Above is the little Christmas tree in our apartment's entryway
which the concierge does every year. 

On our first night in Paris,
after a long lunch with ma soeur in Montmartre,
we unloaded our bags and took a walk across the Seine 
to the Village de Noel at the Trocadero. 

I had to come back for some day photos of these lovely little treats.

I did not taste a one 
but now wish I had indulged in one of these gorgeous roses!

The colors, the textures,
everything looks scrumptious.

And Christmas-y! 

I have to admit, on a cold night at these little fairs,
the vin chaud with a little fruit and sugar is my favorite.

Oh, but then there's also the crepes.

Ok, so both! 

Wishing you a Christmas filled with all your favorite things!
And I promise~ so many more photos to come.

(photos copyright: Kirsten Steen) 

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis the Season~Missing Paris Day

And I am sooo ready!
I have my 'Bastille My Heart' festive red nail polish on...

...and I've been working on the old abdominal obliques 
and think I'm somewhat ready for the onslaught of Foie Gras and cheese
(although The Chef made Stifado de Boeuf this weekend and topped it off with 
cranberry pancakes for breakfast so that might have put me a little-or big- behind)!

But mostly I'm ready for my Paris family and friends
and the joys of Christmas in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. 

Anyone have any Paris photo wish lists? 
I'm in the mood for making wishes come true. 

And my best holiday wishes to everyone 
in the countdown to the New Year! 
2012~ Here we come!

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Moulin Rouge~ Missing Paris Day

When my sister first moved to Paris from New York,
they lived in a small apartment just half a block off the Cimitiere Montmartre
right around the corner from the Moulin Rouge.

I spent hours in the afternoons curled up 
at the tomb of Alexandre Dumas le fils
writing in my notebook
blissfully content at 
being in Paris for
the first time
and wondering if,
at the end of his life,
Dumas wished he could change anything. 

I love cemeteries especially in Paris
with their long alleyways and ornate tombs.
Each tomb is a work of art whether sweetly cared for
or left to grow cobwebs, plastic flowers darkened with dust and broken stained glass windows.

Something about wandering through them
reminds us of how little time we have
but not in a morbid way.
It puts things in perspective.

Is there anything you wish you could change from yesterday
that you could do differently today?
Remember it. Mark it. Change it.

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Inviting You To Go Deeper~ Buddhist Thought for the Day

"I am inviting you to go deeper, to learn and to practice
 so that you become someone who has a great capacity for
 being solid, calm, and without fear, because our society needs people 
like you who have these qualities, and your children, our children, need people 
like you, in order to go on, in order to become solid, and calm, and without fear."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this quote because it reminds us that our journey is not just for ourselves
but also for those who look up to us, who follow us, learn from and imitate us.
Children look to us for how best to get along in this world
whether we are their parent, teacher, or friend. 

As Joseph Campbell once said, 
"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life."

They need to know, as do we, that life is filled with heartaches,
and the best life is not one without heartache or failure
but the one in which we find the treasure in every difficulty. 

(Photo: San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden)
(Copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How God Changes Your Brain~ Teaser Tuesday

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 and author.

Today's selection is from 'How God Changes Your Brain' by Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman. P. 48.

"In the summer of 1999, I had the opportunity to study a group of nuns who had been practicing the Centering Prayer for a minimum of fifteen years. This was the first brain-scan study of Christian contemplative practitioners, and we discovered that the neurological changes were significant and very different from how the human brain normally functions. Even more surprising, the neurological changes were nearly the same as those we recorded from a group of Buddhist practitioners, who obviously  nurtured very different beliefs. This evidence confirmed our hypothesis that the benefits gleaned from prayer and meditation may have less to do with a specific theology than with the ritual techniques of breathing, staying relaxed, and focusing one's attention upon a concept that evokes comfort, compassion, or a spiritual sense of peace. Of course, the more you believe in what you are meditating or praying about, the stronger the response will be." 

A fascinating look at the effects of meditation (and prayer) on the neurological aspects of the brain. While I have recommended meditation to family and friends, I find that people either don't understand the benefits to themselves (of which there are a myriad of variations that last far beyond the time spent sitting) or they are terrified of time alone and/or what they will find inside. What a very different world it would be if everyone took a few minutes every day to slow down, go inside and feel a little peace on a regular basis.

From the back cover:
"* Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process. (From page 62: 'Another important study...also showed that meditation enhanced the brain's thickness and neuroplasticity. Normally when we age, our cerebral cortex thins.')
* Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love. 
* Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
* Intense prayer and meditation lastingly change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bountiful Wishes!

Since they are now saying (as I've always said)
that gratitude is good for mind, body and soul,
Giving thanks here for:

*the many spectacular friends and family in my life,
*a wonderful and generous partner who shares my everyday world,
*the many true blessings I've been bestowed
*the gift of past, present and future
*the colors of each season
*and you!

What are you thankful for?

Wishing all of you a most bountiful Thanksgiving! 

(Photograph copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wooded Bliss~Missing Paris Day

 Had to share a few more photos of the ancient buildings
of Bar le Duc. 

It's no secret that I love doors and windows...

and especially the wooded doors and ceilings of medieval times.
And there's no shortage of them here. 
Look at what this window revealed.
 The dining room where I will be a guest on this next trip to Bar le Duc
has a similar ceiling only with a luscious, deep turquoise shade between the beams. 
Wonder what's for lunch in this room today? 
Maybe a little wild boar stuffed with the champignons of the Lorraine area
and a piece of this sweetness with a dark cafe creme. 

And yes, I was teased and giggled at for taking this photo.
The woman behind the counter couldn't understand why I would want a shot of it.
My photography companion tried to explain with a shrug of her shoulders:  "C'est different." 

I've been told that Bar le Duc has some of the oldest buildings in the area
and this Monument Historique sign gives you an idea of just how old.

And then there's my favorite: the timbered-house. 
I never tire of gazing at this style. 
There are a couple in Paris I'll have to find on this visit and share with you.
I only found them recently though they stand just around the corner from a place I've walked by 
over and over throughout the years. 
One of the things I love about Paris!
Bon Lundi toute la monde! 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, November 14, 2011

One-time Residence of the Duc de Bar~ Missing Paris Day

Always when we travel to Paris,
we visit family in Bar le Duc,
a small town in the Meuse Departement of Lorraine
about 3 hours east of Paris. 

When I came to the Old Town section for the first time twenty years ago,
I took a similar photo of this window 
which was just as dressed up as you see it now
(though the valences portrayed the flowers of summer). 

I love the lavender wreath
and matching pots and boughs.

Many of the houses of the old town 
date back from the 15th to 17th centuries.
And on my last visit, I pointed and clicked 
at houses, doors and windows from all directions... 

...and traversed the many old walkways
that still resemble the days of the Dukes. 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Full (Hunter's/Sanguine) Moon and 11/11/11

Pinned Image
~Image via Pinterest

The full moon of November is known as the Hunter's Moon (also called the Sanguine or Blood Moon) mainly because it gives plenty of evening light during hunting season. And the hunters of our family in France are already catching rabbits for our visit. The Little Unfortunates are typically served in a sauce of their own blood (not my favorite but it makes the hunters happy) and one must chew carefully in preparation for the inevitable buckshot. Actually my favorite rabbit in France was made by our butcher, just next door at the bottom of our stairs, simply baked lined with moutarde and jambon. It is endlessly interesting to return to a country that still handles much of its food straight from the farm or field. The open-air markets dangle animal parts for sale or offer live versions in cages. The fresher the better. After a huge lunch in the country, we walk in the forest for the express purposes of aiding digestion and spreading feed for the wild boar.

Tonight the moon illuminates the skies and the hunter's vision and tomorrow, the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, the numbers 11/11/11 are all about illumination, transformation and enlightenment. Some see it as a time of peace. The fighting of World War I officially ended at 11:00 on November 11th in 1918 (the war itself ended the following June but the fighting ceased on this day). Some believe it's a time portal. Some see it as good luck and will spend 11/11/11 this year buying lottery tickets.  Gamblers will try their luck and others will tie the knot, hoping for an auspicious marriage beginning. A pair of twins will celebrate their 11th birthday with 11 candles in buttercream number 11. Those dedicated to peace and transformation will meditate on transmissions of light and inner awareness.

And for you, I'm wishing all of these good things: peace, illumination, auspiciousness and good hunting.
And if 11/11/11 is indeed a portal, happy travels!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parisian Christmas~Missing Paris Day

Happy Monday everyone! 
The world (and winter) are looking better recently
as we booked our tickets to Paris for Christmas. 

A gift in itself-
there are so many things I am grateful for:

* Strolling the Paris streets
* Time with family and friends
* Foods of a particular (French) flavor
* Sounds of the most romantic of the romance languages
* History, history and history
* The double kissy- face
* Hot cafe drinks
 * Photo walks
* Foie Gras!!

What do you love most about Paris?
(Or wish to see most?)

(photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Seven Billionth person born on Halloween

~Photo from Pinterest~

Adam Vaughan at The asked readers what they would say to the 7 billionth person born to our world today. What would you say?

According to Vaughan, when the 6 billionth, Adnan Nevic, was born to Sarajevo in October 1999, Salmon Rushdie advised:

"The ancient wisdoms are modern nonsenses. Live in your own time, use what we know, and as you grow up, perhaps the human race will finally grow up with you, and put aside childish things." 

Nevic himself said recently, "I wish that the birth of the seven billionth child brings peace to the planet."

In the comment section, some said, 'learn to laugh...learn to learn...and enjoy what you have learned'. Some offered sympathy. Some advised 'smile often'.  One reader suggested a must read: 'Allegory of the Cave' from Plato as being all you need to know. (You can bet I'll be looking that one up.)

One quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams'. One reader offered insights into which countries might be best born into and advised: 'Perchance you be born in the "Land of the Free", there is still a simple solution for you and your family: pack your bags and emigrate to Denmark.'

One quoted Kurt Vonnegut: 'We are here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is.' One reader waxed Spock-like, 'Live long and prosper'. NostrodamusNOT said: 'You got the wrong planet...Get yourself an agent and a free transfer to another solar system'.

One suggested, 'Train yourself to have a long attention span' and quoted Mahatma Gandhi: 'Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed'.

And another ended with, 'Just be true, in any sense you wish. Life is a ride, bloody enjoy it.'

But my favorite?

"Welcome to the world, and sorry about the mess.
We've left you a changing planet - one that seems to be warming and struggling to cope with all its inhabitants. We're not quite sure what'll happen yet, but your generation could be the makers or breakers. Find out what the scientists are saying and do something to help, even if it's only very small.
But enjoy your life too...our planet changes, but the human spirit doesn't. Never stop being fascinated by the world. Follow your heart. And stay away from fizzy drinks."

I think I'd add to those the words my grandfather left us with after every family visit, holiday gathering and kiss on the cheek: 'Be kind to one another.' 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Expected One- Teaser Tuesday

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 and author.

Today's selection is from The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan. (p.330-31)

 "Maureen looked intently at the skull while listening to Sinclair's explanation. A thought hit her, and she exclaimed, 'It's John! The skull--it's in all of Mary Magdalene's iconography, the paintings. She's always shown with a skull, and no one has ever been able to give me a good explanation for it. Always a vague reference to penance. The skull represents repentance. But why? Now I see why. Mary was painted with the skull because she was doing penance for John--literally with John's skull.' 
Sinclair nodded. 'Yes. And the book, she's always shown with a book.'
'But that could just be scripture,' Maureen observed.
'It could be, but it's not. Mary is shown with a book because it is her own book, her message that she has left these for us to find. And I hope it will give us insight in to the mystery of her oldest son and his fate, because we just don't know. I'm hoping that the Magdalene will put that mystery to rest for us herself.'" 

Have just started this book and it looks to be quite interesting. So very much we don't know and I love getting other people's take on the subject. As the author states on her website, the beauty of art is "the perpetual mystery of interpretation".  Isn't that the beauty of life?!