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Entries from April 2005

un agrume

      Cat on a French porch (c) 2005 Kristin Espinasse
          At the cheese and honey-maker's house, in Tarradeau

agrume (a-groom) noun, masculine
1. citrus fruit

...........................
Citation du Jour
Vous pouvez croire en Dieu de deux façons, ou comme la soif croit à l'orange, ou comme l'âne croit au fouet.

You can believe in God in two ways, like thirst thinks about an orange, or like the donkey thinks about the whip.
--Victor Hugo

(The character Ursus speaking, in Hugo's "L'Homme qui rit")

............................................
A Day in a French Life...

Our kumquat tree keeled over. It was Jean-Marc who delivered les nouvelles* on that gelid last day of winter. At first I didn't believe him, you know, denial et compagnie.*
"No, it's not dead," I insisted, clipping past him on my way to the mailbox. The citrus tree rumor was pulp fiction to me.

Each day I'd cross the would-be flowering tree, throwing a sideways coup d'oeil* in its direction, not willing to look too closely, not wanting to know.

Printemps* got off to a late start here in the Var* and the poppies made a tardive,* rouge-vif* appearance, the wild lavender, with their floppy high top "ears" burst open in the garrigue* and the grass took on a deeper shade of verte.* I continued to speed walk past the sleepy kumquat tree, both keenly aware of and hopefully oblivious to its "hibernal" state.

The other day while unloading groceries I stopped abruptly, turned, and faced the leaf-bare tree. I moved in slowly, like a teenager approaching a sink counter, upon which lies a completed pregnancy test, where the verdict is just millimeters away. On the last step, I threw myself over the potted tree to learn la vérité.*

What I saw was a life flashing before me; the tree's and mine. Notre vie ensemble.* Seven roller-coaster years, to be sure, beginning with rain, then sunshine and now hail. Oh, the hail!

I now saw the end of a citrus-scented epoch. We'd shared four front porches together; we even shared the tap water. But most important, we shared a need for a warm, cheerful home. Indeed, that's how we met.

             (Il y a sept ans...  Seven years ago...)

"It's so gray in here, no wonder you're depressed!" The doctor's comment threw me. I had not invited him in to critique my home's interior, but to check my blood pressure. Besides, shouldn't a 300-year-old village home with meter-thick walls be dark? And weren't French doctors supposed to be formal when they came to visit? He may as well have said "What an ugly ear canal you have there!" or "Look at the cra-cra* on your tongue!" Doctors never say that, and they don't comment on interiors either.

I have never been one to decorate a home, or a body for that matter, preferring to focus my energies on the decor and dressing of a mind--a place where drapes don't fade, tables don't collect dust and fashions don't come and go with their usual flippancy.

While the doctor's comment didn't send me to Mr. Bricolage* to purchase a can of jaune-citron* paint to splash on the old walls, it got me dressed and out the door, feet heading toward the market to have a look at Katy's stand.

Katy was about as tall as the miniature agrume* trees she sold. She had hair the color of bark, and eyes the shade of a newly sprung leaf. "I can deliver those for you tonight," she said, handing me la monnaie.*

That evening she pulled up to our porch in her old truck, opened the two back doors and unloaded the trees, waving me away as I tried to help.

"It's nice here," Katy said arranging the trees, and I noticed how the vibrant orange fruit threw a warm glow over the entrance hall.

                              *   *   *

Adieu, mon ami,* the little French citrus tree. Thanks for the warmth, the sweet-scented air and the golden hue you threw over us as we shuffled to and fro before you, busy with our sometimes humble, sometimes highfalutin' lives. Tu vas nous manquer.*

...................................
References: la nouvelle (f) = piece of news; et compagnie = and the rest; le coup d'oeil (m ) = glance; le printemps (m) = spring; le Var = region in SE France; tardive (tardif) = late; rouge-vif = bright red; garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland; vert(e) = green; la vérité = truth; notre vie ensemble (f) = our life together; cra-cra or cracra (from crasse) adj = crass, gross (stuff); Monsieur Bricolage = "Mr. Fix-it"--a home supply store; jaune-citron = lemon-yellow; un agrume (m) = citrus fruit; la (petite) monnaie (f) = change; adieu mon ami = goodbye my friend; tu vas nous manquer = we will miss you

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


un sou

    Tirelire = piggy/coin bank (c) Kristin Espinasse
                           La Tirelire ~ The Piggy Bank

un sou (soo) noun, masculine
  1. shilling; five centimes; one cent

Also: les sous (mpl) = (informal) money

Expressions:
de quatre sous = worthless
sou par sou = progressively
un sou est un sou = one mustn't waste money
propre comme un sou neuf = mint condition (clean)
n'avoir pas le sou/sans le sou = to be penniless
être près de ses sous = to be stingy
une machine à sous = slot machine
n'avoir pas un sou de bon sens = not to have an ounce of good sense

......................
Proverb
Prêter argent fait perdre la mémoire.
Lending money leads to memory loss.


................................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here, with the French vocabulary (below) is now a part of this book.)**

......................
*References: une chaussette (f) = a sock; une culotte (f) = underwear; un gant de toilette (m) = a washcloth; une dent (f) = a tooth; J'ai envie de dix = I would like ten; Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq. Cinq euros = One, two, three, four, five. Five euros; J'ai trois sous = I have three coins; la fenêtre (f) = the window

** Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


étendre

Etendoir_4 étendre (ay-tahndr) vrb
1. to stretch
2. to lay
3. to spread
4. to extend
5. to dilute; to thin

s'étendre = to stretch oneself out, to lie down

Expressions:

étendre le linge = to hang out the washing
s'étendre sur un sujet = to expand upon a subject
étendre raide = to knock out (cold)
se faire étendre = to be laid out cold, to be knocked out (boxing)
étendre ses ailes = to spread its wings
étendre ses connaissances = to expand one's knowledge
aussi loin que le regard peut s'étendre = as far as the eye can see

...........................
Citations du Jour
Le travail, entre autres avantages, a celui de raccourcir les journées et d'étendre la vie.
Work, among other advantages, has this: it shortens the days and extends life.
--Denis Diderot

Le progrès en art ne consiste pas à étendre ses limites, mais à les mieux connaître. 
Progress in art is not in extending one's limits, but in knowing them better.
--Georges Braque

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


le fossé

Garden_view_1
le fossé (fo-say) noun, masculine            View from the garden
  1. ditch, trench, drain; gap

Expressions:
sauter le fossé = to make a risky decision
le fossé culturel = the cultural gap
le fossé entre les générations = the generation gap
saigner un fossé = to drain a ditch

Proverb
Ne triomphe pas avant d'avoir franchi le fossé.
Don't rejoice before crossing over the gap.


.........................................
A Day in a French Life....

(The story that originally appeared here, along with the vocabulary below, is now a part of this book. Don't miss it!)
...........................................................................................................
French vocabulary from the vignette that appeared along with today's word: sans mur = without a wall; le terrain (m) = land; littéralement = literally; la fourchette (f) = fork; cette fois-ci = this time; le pas (m) = step; le pied (m) = foot; la globe-trotteuse (f) = globetrotter; le soutien-gorge (m) = bra; sans sein = without a breast; le coeur (m) = heart; wet chicken (la poule mouillée = French for "coward"); meubler = to furnish; le pépin (m) = snag; le jardin (m) = garden; le fossé (m) = ditch; le cabanon (m) = shed; en main = in hand; Santé = To your health! (Cheers!)
Reverse French dictionary: The English expression first, French equivalent second
a drainage ditch is une rigole d'écoulement
an open ditch is une douve
hedging and ditching in French is l'entretien des haies et fossés
and ditchwater, in French is l'eaux stagnantes
Finally, when something is "dull as ditchwater" it is ennuyeux comme la pluie

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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  ♥ Send $25    
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


décontracté

Rock wall = mur en pierre (c) Kristin Espinasse
A garden wall somewhere in our village.

décontracté,e (day-kohn-trak-tay) adjective
1. relaxed  2. casual, laid-back

Proverb
Une mer calme n'a jamais fait un bon marin.
A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.


......................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here, and included the French vocabulary below, is now a part of this book.)

....................
la chaise (f) = chair; la nappe (f) = tablecloth; la belle-famille (f) = in-laws; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; le beau frère (m) = brother-in-law; la marmite (f) = cooking pot; le matelot (m) = sailor; le jardin (m) = yard; SWAAR (pronunciation for 'soir = g'night); le grenier (m) = attic; moi-même = myself; sock juice = coffee (the French refer to American--weak--coffee as 'jus de chaussette'); le rouleau (m) = roll; l'au revoir (m) = goodbye

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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  ♥ Send $25    
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


fier

          Campanile (c) 2005 Kristin Espinasse
                                              Le campanile
A Day in a French Life...

To see our village through an outsider's eyes--C'est le top!*--as my son would say; it is a cadeau* that doesn't come in a box, won't send me rummaging for an empty vase and scissors, and will not require a swirled ink remerciement* along with a fifty-three cent timbre.*

Each moss-covered medieval stone, brass doorknob and wooden shutter--if it hasn't charmed me already, is now shooting Cupid's arrows at my heart. Over the week-end I had the chance to faire decouvrir* an ancient hamlet and in return discover a new appreciation for our niche here in the Var region of France.

"What does this village date from--the 1500's?" my guest asks.
"The twelfth century," I reply, bursting with fierté,* as if I'd lugged each and every stone up the hill myself, and set every rock in place. "It's medieval," I add, stressing "med-ay-ee-val" because it seems more dramatic that way.

We walk past a row of village gardens, individual terrains* of French dirt passed down from one family to another for centuries. On some plots, a shack or cabanon* sits, its door now flung open in a warm weather welcome, a marcel-sporting* Frenchman shuffling in and out, garden tools en main.*  In the old days, and if this were l'hiver,* he might take a break from tending the vines for a few swigs of red wine. The alcohol would warm his body, giving him "le courage" to return to the windy field and resume work.

"Look at the strata," my cousin says, pointing to the plateau ahead of us. A road for local traffic was carved from the plateau, revealing several clay-red layers of earth. "A geologist's dream," her husband replies. We cross the concrete pont* atop a thirsty river-bed, before walking up an ivy-flanked dirt path to the village.

Admiring an intricately pruned arbre fruitier* and delicate lily pond in the medieval part of the village my friend remarks, "It doesn't take much," and we shake our heads in unison, awed by one villager's souci* for the three square meters of terrasse* before his home. I watch Madame next door shower her plants with a peculiar watering can--a one-gallon plastic bottle that once held thick, scented laundry detergent.

At the top of the medieval village we stood, faces parallel to the sky's belly, looking up at la tour,* mystified by its huge rectangular slabs of stone. "It looks like these stones have been quarried from the sea," my friend says. La mer* is 25 minutes--en voiture*--from where we stand. It is incomprehensible how the heavy stones could have been carried back to the village in the 12th century and used to build the tower. I gaze at the porous stone and imagine the possibility, deciding not to consult a guide book. I want to believe that every stone came from the sea, a harmless illusion that suits me just fine.

.......................
References: c'est le top! = it's the best!; le cadeau (m) = gift, present; le remerciement (m) = thanks (une lettre de remerciement = a thank you letter); un timbre (m) = stamp; faire decouvrir = to discover; la fierté (f) = pride; le terrain (m) = piece of land; le cabanon (m) = cottage; shed; le Marcel = that classic French tank top; en main = in hand; l'hiver (m) = winter; le pont (m ) = bridge; l'arbre fruitier (m) = fruit tree; le souci (m) = worry (concern); la terrasse (f) = terrace; la tour (f) = tower, castle; la mer (f) = sea; en voiture = by car

Today's word:
fier, fière (fyer, fyeruh) adjective
1. proud; high-minded  Also: la fierté (f) = pride

..............................
Expressions
le courage fier = lofty courage
faire le fier = to show off
fier comme Artaban = as proud as a peacock
fier comme un pou = "proud as a louse" (arrogant and vain)
être fier de quelque chose = to be proud about something
être trop fier pour mendier = to be too proud to beg
se tenir sur son fier = to hold a high-and-mighty attitude

.................................
Citation du Jour:
Au lieu de raturer sur un passé que l'on ne peut abolir, essayez de construire un présent dont vous serez ensuite fier.

Instead of scratching out a past that cannot be abolished, try to construct a present that you will one day be proud of.
--André Maurois

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


une pente

Pente (c) Kristin Espinasse

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
(Spring Break: April, 2005)

Did I mention my children are on vacation? Things are a little "en pente," or sloping, around here and I feel I am sliding, trying to keep up with word weaving and kid wrestling. The two pint-sized giggle machines stop by my keyboard every five minutes with: "Can you fix Elodie's hair?" (handing me a doll with finger-socketed locks) or "My football is stuck on the roof. Tu peux me le chercher?--Can you get it for me?"

Yesterday I took a break from the giglet and the ball-toting Gaul to snap a few more photos of our village. I hope you like the image above, with its mingle-mangle of old stones and non-consistent patterns. By the way, Max and Jackie, who are leaning in so close to this keyboard that the keys are now coated with a humid layer of kid breath, would like to add "Salut!"

Roquebrune 012
Max & Jackie: Fueled by giggles, they race through the town of Roquebrune.

Today's word: une pente


une pente (pahnt) noun, feminine
1. slope (of a roof), incline
2. tendency

French synonyms:
la descente, une inclinaison, un escarpement, la montée, la côte

Expressions:
en pente = sloping, inclined
avoir la dalle en pente = to love to drink; to be a boozer
descendre la pente = to let oneself slide (morally)
être sur une mauvaise pente = to be going downhill
remonter la pente = to get back on one's feet again
suivre sa pente = to follow one's (natural) bent or inclination
être sur la pente glissante (or) savonneuse = to be on the skids; to be on a slippery slope

Citation du Jour
La vie offre toujours deux pentes. On grimpe ou on se laisse glisser.
Life always offers two slopes. We climb or we let ourselves slide.-
-Pierre Hebey

What to Do in Paris : readers share their suggestions. Have you been to Paris? Please share your favorite things to see and places to stay. Click here. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


un endroit

Porte = Door (c) Kristin Espinasse
endroit (on-drwa) noun, masculine
  1.  place, spot, locale
  2.  right side (of garment, etc.)

Also:
à l'endroit = right side up
à l'endroit de = toward, with regard to
au bon endroit = in/at the right place
à quel endroit? = where(abouts)?, where exactly?
par endroits = here and there, in places

Expressions:
rire au bon endroit = to laugh in the right place
le petit endroit "the little place" = the toilet, the john, the loo

And, for my friend Dominique (et ses amis du tricot/ and her knitting friends):
une maille à l'endroit, une maille à l'envers = knit one, purl one
tout à l'endroit = knit every row

Citation du Jour:
Le vrai vagabond ne repasse jamais deux fois par le même endroit.
The true vagabond never crosses the same spot twice.
--Paul Nougé

................................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here, and included the references below, is now a part of this book.)

.....................
*References: la bêtise (f) = stupid thing; un écrivain (m) = writer; un souci (m) = care

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


appuyer

vallon in Les Arcs (c) Kristin Espinasse

appuyer (a-pwee-yay) verb
1. to press; to lean, rest (against, on); to prop (up)
2. to rely on; to support (petition)

Expressions
appuyer sur le champignon = to step on the gas
appuyer sur la chanterelle = to harp on

.......................................
Citation du Jour - French quote of the Day
Le plaisir peut s'appuyer sur l'illusion, mais le bonheur repose sur la réalité.
Pleasure may lean on illusion, but happiness rests upon reality.
--Chamfort

...............................
A Day in a French Life...

Don't miss the story that originally accompanied this post, now in this book!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


le pavillon

Rue Pourquoi Pas = Why Not Street (c) Kristin Espinasse
le pavillon (pah-vee-ohn) noun, masculine
  1. small house; lodge; ward, pavilion
  2. flag

Also:
un pavillon de banlieue = a suburban house
un pavillon de jardin = a summer house, pavilion
un pavillon de chasse = a hunting lodge
un pavillon de détresse =  a distress flag

Expressions:
amener son pavillon/baisser pavillon = to surrender
montrer son pavillon = to fight boldly
couler pavillon haut = to founder but not give up, to lose with elegance
se ranger sous le pavillon de quelqu'un = to put oneself under another's protection

Synonyms: villa, abri, cottage, chalet, bungalow

..............................
Citation du Jour:
Une fortune est plus à l'abri dans une tête que dans un sac.
A fortune is safer in a head than in a purse.
--Félix Leclerc

........................................
A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here and included the French vocabulary, below, is now a part of this book!)

.....................
References: l'imprimante (f) = printer; l"itinéraire (m) = itinerary, route; le Mourillon = beach in Toulon; l' arrachement d'une dent = the pulling of a tooth; les gencives (fpl) = gums; l'autoroute (f) = turnpike; au cas où = in case; la glycine (f) = wisteria; le goéland (m) = gull; la plage (f) = beach; la cigaloinette (from "cigale" = cicada; "cicada house"); le muguet (m) = lily of the valley; le voisinage (m) = neighborhood; pourquoi pas? = why not?; la rue (f) = street; quelle image = what a sight; le calme absolu (m) = absolute calm; pourquoi pas moi? = why not me?

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline