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A Château State of Mind

The Château de la Bourdaisière

The Château de la Bourdaisière and the land on which it sits has lived many lives, and witnessed important historical events, sheltered some of Frances past Kings and Queens, soldiers, and noblemen. It’s walls have seen and heard the faces and voices of the past that so many historians, politicians, and leaders would eagerly give anything to be privy to, yet these walls will never reveal their secrets.

The original Château de la Bourdaisière dates back to the14th century when it was a fortress belonging to Jean Meingre. In1520 King Francis I arranged for construction of a new castle on the site. Built for his mistress, Marie Gaudin, the wife of Philibert Babou, Superintendent of Finances for France, after her death, the property and the castle remained with the Babou family. Oddly enough, Marie Gaudin’s granddaughter, Gabrielle d’Estrées, who was born in the château, would herself grow up to become mistress to another King of France, King Henry IV.

After seeing a succession of owners up until the turn of the 20th century, the castle was occupied by the Nazi’s during the Second World War, and then finally turned into an old age home just before it was bought by its current owners and turned into a hotel.

Today, the Château is a small paradise, which boasts endless walking trails, a spectacular flower garden, herb garden, dahlia garden with 205 dahlia varieties, and tomato garden where over 650 varieties of tomatoes can be found. The « tomato bar » open seasonally welcomes guests and visitors for tastings.

A Château State of Mind

During the weekend that I spent with my family at the castle, we felt as though we had stepped back in time. Meals were prepared with fresh ingredients from the gardens, the hypnotic twisting flames of a roaring fire replaced the television screen, and we without distraction we were able to actually spend time together – speak to each other, listen without interruption. Instead of retreating to our own virtual worlds that our cellphones so easily allow, we played chess together, went on walks through the forests, and played with chickens, sheep, and pigs at the castle farm.

What I took from this experience is something that I actually don’t need to be in a 14th century castle to achieve, it is the realization that turning off, and disconnecting from our phones, laptops, iPads, and so on is vital in order to reconnect with the people that matter most to you. Sitting with my family and feeling that I was truly being heard and that I could without interruption listen to them knowing that there was no technological device around to distract not only helped us connect, but it honestly made us all feel incredibly less stressed out! I don’t know about you, but when I have my phone near me I feel obligated to check it constantly and for no reason at all. Not having the feeling of “responsibility” to check my messages, emails, and twitter updates is a breath of fresh air that I didn’t even know I needed.

Disconnect and reconnect!

Hannah Magsamen Barry


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A Harvest

a harvest

This past weekend, my family and I headed into the countryside for a much needed escape from the often oppressive beat of the city. Paris has innumerable charms that certainly enchanted and quickly won me over, but even in the best of love affairs we all need a moment away.

With my parents visiting in France for a week, we rented a car and drove to the Loire. Arriving at a 16th century Chateau about 25 minutes outside of Tours, we were immediately taken not only with the beauty and grandeur of the castle itself, but also of the lush gardens (which I will speak about in another post) and endless forests surrounding the perimeter.


As we arrived on a Thursday evening, we were eager to spend much of our time exploring surrounding villages and wineries the better part of Friday and Saturday, thus leaving ourselves Sunday to explore the castle grounds. As planned, we hit the ground running and managed to discover some of the most beautiful and historically rich castles in the region.

By Sunday we were ready for a rest. Waking up to ominous grey clouds outside my top floor window – the smell of rain was thick and impending – the air crisp and damp. As we sat down to breakfast, drops of rain could be heard tapping against the pane glass windows as we sleepily sipped out morning coffee. It held off though, just long enough for us to think it safe to begin our trek through the orange and yellow tunnels the forest had made. Then it came. Thick and heavy drops of rain fell from the sky and we ran to cover ourselves with what leaves remained on the trees. Once the it stopped, about five or so minutes later, we noticed the forest floor now glistening wet and the treasure that the try crunchy leaves had been hiding from our view, thousands of chestnuts.


Chestnuts are protected naturally by a spikey and unforgiving exterior that allows the nuts to mature unharmed. As the chestnuts reach maturity, the hard shell begins to split and the glistening dark brown chestnut pops through. Seeing this bounty before us, my family and I leapt to the ground and carefully began to extract the nuts from their treacherous casing. Filling our pockets to the brim we trudged back to the chateau with big grins on our faces, proud of our foraging accomplishments.

When the train arrived in to the Gare Montparnasse that evening I immediately felt that jolt and electricity of the city rush through me. Its an addicting and fire like feeling having such culture, art, and excitement surging and pulsating in all directions of where one lives, yet all in a rush can knock you to your feet.

As we finally made it to the apartment and all crashed haphazardly around the living room, leaving our bags wherever they fell, we remembered the chestnuts. As any sane human does on a Sunday night when they are just too tired to cook, we ordered sushi – lots of it. Its one of the simple pleasures of city life to have just about any kind of cuisine imaginable brought right to your door. Along with our sushi we prepared out chestnuts, our little reminder of the simplicity and the beauty of the country right alongside our California rolls.

Hannah Magsamen Barry

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Be innovative


Recycle and reuse materials in artful ways. When my sisters and I were little girls, our mother always covered our schoolbooks with the brown paper bags that groceries were packed in. She carefully cut and turned the bags inside out and then expertly folded the paper around our books. I loved these book covers because they were perfect to draw on. Each was a blank canvas, where markers, pen, and even paint glided on the surface with ease. The paper was thick and sturdy, and my books remained covered for most of the year in these personally decorated jackets. Mom also lined the shelves of our pantry with the paper from these bags, crafted costumes out of them by cutting holes in the bottom and sides (for head and arms) and then gave us paint to cover them. She laid them on the floor of the car as a mat when our feet were muddy; she cut them into pieces to make bedding for our hamster cage and tore them apart to make papier mache material when we needed to craft a volcano for school. In a pinch, she’d use the paper to tie up a package and wrap it up with string. It always reminded me of the lyric “Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things” in the movie The Sound of Music. To this day, I still wrap gifts in brown paper, loving the simplicity and beauty of the finished package.

When I was in college, in art school, I decided to study printmaking. This class required purchasing lots of paper to print on. It was a struggle for me to be able to afford the pieces of handmade, beautiful pulpy papers, as I was a “starving student” and they were expensive. One day at the grocery store, the clerk at the check out asked, “Paper or plastic?” and it suddenly hit me that here was the paper I could print on! I remembered the books my mom had covered and realized this hardy paper would be perfect for my class. Sure enough, when I got back to my room and painted on the brown paper, I created a patina that I really loved, and that was unique to my style. The paper gave my art a touch of age, a bit of a distressed look. Today, I paint all my illustrations on this brown craft paper.

For me, being innovative grew out of the necessity for supplies.

Innovation is simply the idea of using things and seeing things in new ways. Each of us can imagine the possibilities in anything and everything.

Sandra Magsamen

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Remembering to Play


You were born with the drive to grow, to create. You might have forgotten the impulse, but it is still there inside of you. As Ashley Montagu suggested in his book, Growing Young, adults learn from children about the essential nature of fun and abandon in order to prevent “psychosclerosis,” the hardening of the mind. He prescribed the following traits of the child to avoid this dreaded condition: The need for love – friendship – sensitivity – the need to think soundly – the need to know – the need to learn – the need to work – the need to organize – curiosity – a sense of wonder – playfulness – imagination – creativity – open mindedness – flexibility – experimental mindedness – resiliency – a sense of humor – joyfulness – laughter and tears – honesty and trust – optimism – compassionate intelligence – dance – and song.

How do we translate the intrinsic and valuable qualities of creativity into adulthood? How can play, imagination, curiosity, and invention be a part of every day? This quote by Gilda Radner, the comedian who died too young, is a great reminder of the importance of being you:

“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die, whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness.” I believe that we each have the individual responsibility to bring forth ourselves into the world.

Creativity helps you gain confidence, self-understanding, and self-esteem. It increases your concentration, helps you learn to take risks, and creates balance and order. You can make mistakes more freely and solve problems with increased flexibility—skills that enhance all your relationships. Creativity supports innovation, invites you to savor a moment, engages your senses, and helps you see the beauty in all things. It leads you to imagine unlimited possibilities.

Sandra Magsamen

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Embrace your Inner Child

Pablo Picasso said something so profound: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” We are born with creativity, imagination, play, exploration, and curiosity. Children act on these valuable attributes freely, discovering happiness, belonging, communication, and community through them. Can you remember when you were a […]

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I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. Every moment of every day I am actively making something: my art, my garden, yummy meals, great friends, a family, poetry, books, a home, a business, and a life. The truth is, we all are making things, ideas, relationships, businesses, and opportunities all the […]

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