Friday, November 16, 2018

Florida's The Breakers

I was lucky enough to do a little traveling this past month
thanks to my father and his wife 
whom I call
My Fairy Stepmother. 
Unlike some step-relationships,
this wonderful woman does everything in her power
to bring family together,
including hauling me clear across the US, 
from one coast to the other,
for a visit 
generously using her miles. 

They rented a little place on Pompano Beach 
for the month of October and invited me for a week.
And since we were having hardwood floors put in at my house,
and the place was filled with a thick layer of dust, fumes and noise, 
my sweetie thought it might be perfect timing. 

While they took me many places, 
one of those places I ogled and snapped photos of for an hour
was The Breakers in Palm Beach. 

Since I still have many family members and friends
not on Facebook or Instagram (where I upload most of my photos),
I thought I'd share. 

While I didn't see any of the actual guest rooms,
each room on the main level was an exquisite treat...

with exquisite views. 

This was only part of the wine offerings in one of the restaurants. 
There was another small locked room with most likely more of the higher end choices. 

According to someone who had been there recently,
this flower arrangement was a small one compared to the last. 

While the property was founded by an industry tycoon in the 1890's,
this hallway feels almost like Versaille. 

Each time a fire leveled the hotel in the early 1900's,
it was rebuilt more luxurious than before. 

After the 1925 fire,
it was redesigned by the very same designers of 
New York's Waldorf Astoria... 

And given a more European flavor
using the Villa Medici of Rome as a model. 
Similar to the Medici Gardens,
this courtyard is stunning. 

And this magnificent ballroom 
looks out on the gardens. 

This is the view just outside the famous bar. 

It's proximity being so close to the water,
this luxury hotel was named after the waves just outside its doors. 

Of course, a seat in the bar
calls for a little bubbly. 

While you can't see any of the fish,
you can see here by the coral 
that the counter is an aquarium. 

Hope you've enjoyed this little tour of The Breakers. 
Come back next time for more Florida fun photos! 

For more info and pics of The Breakers,
Click Here.

(All photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Novel Setting & Deep Breathing

It's been a rough week here in the US
with the hearings (don't even want to say his name) for the Supreme Court nominee,
 feelings of frustration and betrayal along party lines, fear and anxiety among women,
the list goes on and on. Emotions are high. Women are trying to stand together
and at the same time, I'm seeing some very reactive behavior. 
Me included. 

Anybody else wake up in the mornings with just a tad bit of anxiety?! 
Maybe even more than usual?!
Sometimes I wake with the feeling that I just can't do what's expected on this planet. 
And I don't have what you would call a high stress life,
especially after my injury put me out of work. 
But the feeling is still there, like I'm not meant for this place and have no idea
how to navigate what must be waded through.  
It feels like it's sometimes too much for my brain to comprehend. 

Luckily, it's my writing day
so I'm retreating into my novel
where many of those above feelings are still located 
but my job is only to help my characters navigate
and try to make the language work as smoothly as I can. 

The photo above is the Prior's Table Restaurant 
(within a 12th century Cistercian abbey in the French countryside 
called Abbaye des Vaux de Cerney) 
where my love interests meet and set up their first date. 
I'm in my final read through before sending out 
to my last round of readers. 

Wishing you a good week
and hoping whatever you are navigating 
is nothing but smooth sailing. 
Be sure to take deep breaths and 
hold someone's hand if needed! 
I'm here if you need me. 

For more photos and info on the Abbaye, 
Click Here

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Life Tapestries

The_Lady_and_the_unicorn_Desire.jpg (1400×1146)

Missing Paris Day is finally back after a hiatus. 
And while I have this photo somewhere from an exhibit in Paris many years ago
(The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry series)
(I even bought the coasters in the gift shop and use them at home),
I had to borrow this image cause who knows where that photo is!?

Lately it feels like someone keeps punching holes in the fabric of my life,
my tapestries, 
you know those threads that we weave tightly together,
threads dipped and gilded, steeped in our beliefs, 
our safety nets, our security blankets wrapped around us?! 
I'd been asking for some changes to help me propel myself to the next level
but I wanted, you know, small changes with big benefits. 
And maybe, possibly even with some benefits I can see. 
Between my own health issues
(which one after another keep trying to scare me out of my mindset),
the very painful (for her) death of a close friend
and then the ensuing pain of loss for 30 years of friendship, 
loss of my career (due to said health issues and an injury) as well as my income,
and other minor but still painful punches,
my tapestry is starting to look like it's been carried around by a homeless person,
used to keep warm and maybe even slept under... 
on the streets ... since the Middle Ages. 

But we keep on plugging. And trying to find the beauty and the blessings. 
Cause that's what this life is about. That's how we survive.
And that's what she did.

And I know I'm not alone.
It's a freaking jungle out there.
And everyone, and their mother and grandmother and sister, has a story. 

This week I am so blessed to be at my writing retreat on the Oregon Coast
(even with having to hire someone to haul my week's worth of necessities
up all the stairs to the house and then more stairs to my room).
The sun came out for awhile yesterday so I took a break from my room, 
worked in a cafe in my favorite little beach town nearby 
and spent some time outdoors by the ocean. 

Now more than ever, 
it feels so important to cherish every moment,
the heartbreakingly beautiful ones, so starkly sad ones, 
the gut-wrenchingly (and gut-punchingly) powerful
and achingly exquisite ones. 

This may be one of my last few visits to my writing retreat 
that I've gone to twice a year for the last eight years
so I'm trying to look at it through those eyes. 
Everything is precious
here and in life. 
The beauty, the broken things. 
The words and ways we talk to each other, treat each other, 
the ways we make each other feel. 

Our tapestries already get so threadbare and worn
from uncaring, outside influences.
And from the giant holes some unseen force
decides we need to learn how to sew with our minds!

Take care of each other's fabric.
And cherish all the Feels. 
We still get to be here to feel them!
But only for so long.

(Lady and the Unicorn tapestry photo via Wiki)
(Beach photo copyright Kirsten Steen)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mary Magdalene's Feast Day and... Beauty

On this day in Provence, in the South of France,
this reliquary, said to house part of the tibia 
and a lock of hair of Mary Magdalene,
is brought out and sent through the town in procession. 

And around the world, she is honored
as representing the Divine Feminine and its resurgence.
While there are probably countless definitions of this concept,
for me it is about bringing back balance,
with both masculine and feminine energies, 
to the patriarchal world and time we find ourselves in. 

It's about living within our power,
about empathy and understanding, forgiveness of others, 
about healing and the sacred of your own feminine energy. 
It's about High Priestess energy. 

(Visitor's notes to Mary Magdalene in her cave at La Baume)

And this weekend, on the eve of the Magdalene's Feast Day,
we also celebrated and honored another red-headed Marianne.
My friend of thirty years passed last week
and many of her friends gathered in her backyard garden, 
filled with the flowers, images, fairy lights and people that she loved,
to honor her, to feel her, speak of her,
to hold on and to let her go with love. 
She was/is a High Priestess of Beauty, 
creating it everywhere she turned,
from morning to night. 

And many of the things I mentioned about the Divine Feminine
are the things people spoke about my friend and honored her for. 

In one area of her decorated yard sat a table 
with a bouquet of beautiful pieces of paper 
and a canister of colored pencils. 
And from her pear tree, budding with fruit, hung colored ribbons. 
The tree, surrounded with bouquets of flowers, 
 became a Blessing Tree where many of us wrote wishes or blessings to her
and hung it from the tree's ribbons. 

Go in peace, Beauty! 
Your heart has filled us with such richness.
May you soar high and free
and tease us often with glimpses. 
I will miss you forever!  

Marianne 'Octavia Hunter' Galloway 
* 1/7/67- 7/15/18 *

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

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 Divine Feminine 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)