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Entries from May 2005

gaver

   Agayrocher
         The seaside town of Agay, near Fréjus and just east of St-Raphael.

gaver (gah-vay) verb

  1. to force-feed; to fill up (with)

...and in English there is the noun "gavage" (gah-vazh): a feeding for someone who will not or cannot eat.

Expressions and Related Terms:

en avoir jusqu'au gaviot = to be stuffed, to have eaten too much
gaver quelqu'un = to stuff someone with food
se gaver de = to stuff oneself with
une gavade = (a synonym would be "un goinfrerie" or piggery)
Tu me gaves = (I am fed up with you (talking)).

L'éducation ne consiste pas à gaver, mais à donner faim.
Education consists not in stuffing, but in giving one an appetite.--Michel Tardy


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

What? The French Pig Out? 

Eighteen transats are lined up across the Mediterranean seafront. We loungers sit in clusters surrounded by an arsenal of sun cream, stacks of magazines, and our twenty sand-cloaked offspring. Welcome to the rendez-vous Agay, where Jean-Marc and eight of his high school pals--and their wives--reunite once a year in a cozy seaside escape just east of Marseilles.

Two of the nine wives are wearing the top half of their swimsuit; the others are seins nus. We flip through Madame Figaro, Elle and Marie-Claire.

"Tiens!" my neighbor says, pointing to her magazine. "It seems one-pieces are à la mode this season."

I nervously adjust my haut. Just when I've set aside insecurites--and donned a two-piece--the fashion authorities are now touting one pieces! 

Never mind. I never know what to wear anyway. Might as well practice social skills. I turn to Sophie who is applying cream to her daughter. After a decade in France, I'm still tongue-tied when it comes to a natural conversation with my husband's high school friends. I wish I could be as breezy and as funny as the women in this group. I can always try....

"T'as vu comme on s'est jetté sur la nourriture hier soir? Did you see how we threw ourselves on the food last night?" I say to the mom next to me. 

"C'était une vraie gavade! It was a real pig-out!" Sophie laughed, recapping the sun cream and pitching the bottle into a wicker beach tote.

Ouf! I'd made my friend laugh and learned something in the process--a new French word: gavade. I recognized the delightful sounding noun as a Marseillais term (from the verb "gaver"--to stuff). I'll bet you didn't think such a verb existed in the French language what with so many figure-conscious Frenchies? Oh, si!

I was now laughing along with Sophie, thinking of the previous night when seventeen positively chic French citizens and one American "resident of France" turned into one spinning, clawing mass of arms and mouths--Hunger personified....

Panick had arisen after someone miscalculated the number of pizzas needed for all of us adults and our kids! That's when our normally laid-back friends became a human pizza tornado.

We had begun with our ethics intact, serving the kids first until somehow the lines between where the children's meal ended and our repas began became blurred. I noticed that 6 bottles of wine remained untouched as the French turned their attention to the boxes of pizza and to the few remaining pies inside them. Next, all pride was set aside.

When the unseemly gavade was over the French returned to their more disciplined selves--reaching for the sopalin and wiping the corners of their mouths. With all evidence erased someone popped a cork and, for most, memories of the pig out were washed away with the rosé.

*    *    *

More stories in the book Blossoming in Provence. Makes a great gift for a language learner or traveler. Click here to order.

French Vocabulary

le transat = deck chair
les seins nus = topless
tiens = take a look at this
à la mode = in fashion
le haut = top
Marseillais = from/of Marseilles
si = yes ("si" indicates a positive response to a negative question. Ex.: "Vous n'avez pas faim?" "Si! J'ai faim."
le repas = meal
le sopalin = paper towel
le rosé, rouge, blanc = rose, red, white

La ROCHE-POSAY sunscreen is rated top by Consumer Reports

THE FRENCH LOVE THESE BEACH TOWELS - quick drying, good-looking

Bonjour AuRevoir doormat

To order "Bonjour/Au Revoir doormat", click here

Agay coastline (c) Kristin Espinasse
The coastline, or le littoral, in the seaside town of Agay.

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


le lendemain

Agay, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Le lever du soleil dans la baie d'Agay/Daybreak at Agay's bay

le lendemain (lahnd-man) noun, masculine
1. the next day, the day after
2. tomorrow, the future

Expressions:
du jour au lendemain = suddenly
des lendemains qui chantent = a brighter future
le lendemain de cuite = the morning after the night before (hangover)
triste comme un lendemain de fête = "sad as a day after a party," very sad
une aventure sans lendemain = a fling, a one-night-stand

Proverb:
Il ne faut pas remettre au lendemain ce qu'on peut faire le jour même.
Do not put off to tomorrow what can be done today.


..................................
Citation du Jour
L'inquiétude ne chasse pas le chagrin du lendemain; elle prive aujourd'hui de sa force.

Worry does not chase away tomorrow's grief; it deprives today of its power
.      --Corrie Ten Boom

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

The story that originally appeared here is now part of this book!

....................
French vocabulary: le phare (m) = lighthouse; la dédicace (f) = inscription; la balade (f) = stroll, walk; la famille (f) = family; Salut, Maman. Bonjour, Chérie = Hello, Mom. Hi, Darling; une poignée (f) = a handful; la carte (f) = card; "Happy (Mother's) Day to the best of moms. We are so lucky to have you."; le va-et-vient (m) = comings and goings

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


le haricot

        Jackieseaside
           Read about today's image at Photo du Jour (below)

Today's edition is 'une rediffusion' (rerun) from one year ago. The story takes place in Agay--a place we visit each year, along with a half-dozen of Jean-Marc's high school friends, their wives and children.

             The next word goes out Monday. A bientôt! Kristin

un haricot (ah-ree-ko) noun, masculine
  1.  bean

[From Old French, harigoter, "to cut into pieces"]

Also:
le haricot rouge = red kidney bean
le haricot vert = green bean
le haricot beurre = yellow French bean, wax bean
le haricot sec = dry bean
le haricot de mouton = lamb and bean stew

..........................
Expressions:
C'est la fin des haricots! = It's all over!
des haricots = nothing at all or a very small amount
courir sur le haricot (to run on someone's bean) = to importune; to get on someone's nerves
.............................
Proverb:
Haricot par haricot se remplit le sac.
Bean by bean, the sack fills up.


................................................
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: à deux pas (de) = a few steps (from); il est beau = he is handsome; gentil(le) = nice; le souper (m) = dinner; capeesh = American slang for the Italian "capisci?" (understand?); comme ça = like this; le sou (m) = money; le séjour (m) = stay; le bonbon (m) = candy; tchatcher = to yack; un après-midi (m) = an afternoon.
Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.

Photo du Jour
In summertime, once a week or so, we head twenty minutes south to this seaside escape in St-Aygulf. We pack a picnic and some fishing poles and spend a quiet morning inhaling salty air. In this snapshot: my daughter Jackie (last year).

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


le coude

       La Ferme
           Read about this photo at Photo du Jour, below

le coude (kood) noun, masculine
  1. elbow  2. bend, angle

Expressions:
coude à coude = side by side ("elbow to elbow")
lever le coude = to booze ("to raise the elbow")
un coup de coude = a nudge, a poke of the elbow
jouer des coudes = to elbow one's way (through a room...)
se serrer les coudes = to stick together, to help one another
se fourrer le doigt dans l'oeil  jusqu'au coude = "to drive the finger into the eye right through to the elbow" (to be totally wrong)

Citation du Jour
      Une vie usée aux coudes  / A life worn to the elbows
      l'amour la retourne  / Love brings it back
      et elle peut encore servir. / and it can again be of use.

                                                 --René Laporte
........................................
A Day in a French Life...
Not far from a forest of pins parasols,* before which a leafy floor of vines covers the earth like a live green carpet, we sat--twelve to the table--beneath le soleil varois.* A few of the women flipped through photos of Manou's bastide,* observing its before and after transformation.

When we came to the snapshot of the crumbling cabanon* (just off Manou's kitchen, across the gravel driveway) our hostess explained that she and her sister had spent an entire day pulling off the rampant lierre* from what was left of the shed's roof.

Our maîtresse de maison* began the renovation of her farmhouse while pregnant with her second enfant.* That child, a daughter, is now three years old and the house has developed right along with her.

Inside the three-story bastide (in the salon*), Manou's husband had knocked down a cloison* and brought in a giant stone fireplace. The couple got an excellent deal on la cheminée* after its previous owner painted the 19th century relic bubblegum pink. Though Manou and her husband painstakingly removed the rosy coat, a hint of its former party dress (an ever-so-faint blush) remains at the foot of the fireplace.

Returning to our seats, we resumed lunch. Salads, barbecued brochettes and carafes of chilled rosé lined the table's center. Earlier, we had decided to put all the food on the table, but that did not stop the hostess from getting tangled in a revolving door to the kitchen, as she tended to her guests.

While Manou's bastide is on an expansive plot of farmland, it is still part of a tiny Provençal hamlet. A few other stone buildings exist across the gravel path, just behind an old well. Midway through lunch, the woman next-door stomped down the stairs and across the yard, flung open the doors of her bagnole* and blasted the car radio: road rage à la Française.

"What she doesn't realize," Manou said, referring to the ongoing feud (in which the neighbor-in-question had squatted most of the remaining hamlet, part of which belongs to Manou), "is that I love music!"
We went back to viewing the before and after photos while some of the women hummed along to the tunes blaring from the neighbor's trembling jalopy.

Later on, when our fête* neared its end, and the neighbor had thrown her arms skyward before disappearing into her house, I told our hostess that she had a lot of courage to undertake the renovation.

Manou raised her arm, pushed down her sleeve and pointed to her elbow.
"I don't know about courage... but l'huile de coude--elbow grease--oui!"*

...........................
*References: le pin parasol (m) = umbrella pine; le soleil varois (m) = the Varois (region in SE France) sun; la bastide (f) = traditional farmhouse; le cabanon (m) = cottage, shed;  le lierre (m) = ivy; la maîtresse de maison (f) = hostesse; l'enfant (mf) = child; le salon (m) = living room; la cloison (f) = partitioning wall; la cheminée (f) = fireplace; la bagnole (f) (slang) = car; la fête (f) = party, good time; oui! = yes!
Dictionary of French Slang and Colloquial Expressions lists approximately 4,500 common slang words and colloquial expressions. Entries include grammatical information, the definition in English, a sentence or phrase to illustrate usage, and an English translation of the example and, where applicable, a corresponding English slang expression. Each entry also identifies the word or phrase by type: student or youth slang, political slang, literary slang, and criminal and drug-related slang.

Photo du Jour:
This image was taken several weeks back in Tarradeau, at a splendid honey and cheese farm.

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


un métier

       Ampus_3
        Read about this photo at Photo du Jour (below)

un métier (may-tyay) noun, masculine
  1. job, profession, craft, trade, occupation, business

Expressions:
parler métier = to talk shop
avoir du métier = to have practical experience
"Chacun son métier et les vaches seront bien gardées" = "If each does his job, the cows will be well looked after" = (it is best to mind one's own business)

Proverb
Si le métier n'enrichit pas, il met à l'abri du besoin.
If the job does not enrich, it shelters need.


A Day in a French Life...
On Saturday morning I rummaged through the placards* for breakfast. There, among boxes of pâtes,* riz* and organic instant purée de pommes* de terre, I found three boxes of sugar-coated "pops," "smacks" and "crunches". Deciding that I could imagine an even noisier petit déjeuner* than the cereal manufacturers, I set out to dice the loudest fruit in stock chez nous.* To the green apples I added some mute bananas and silent strawberries (synthesizing the bruit*).

Max, Jackie and I split the sweet and tart salad three ways. Twenty minutes later, Jean-Marc sat down to table; before him: a bowl of hot milk and an odd medley of left-over bread ends (now toasted).
"Maman,"* Jackie said, "Where is papa's* fruit salad?"
(Silence and guilty looks ensued...)
"It's okay, Jackie, I have enough here," Jean-Marc replied.
With that, my 7-year-old disappeared.

While Jean-Marc and I were going over our plans for the week-end, Jackie returned; in her hands, a small, faux gold-rimmed bowl, inside the bowl, jagged cuts of fruit. For her father, Jackie had carefully cubed a pomme verte*--leaving its skin--and sliced another banana before putting the fruit into the prettiest bowl she could reach.

"Jackie," I said, "You are so thoughtful!"
My daughter did a little twirl then changed the subject completely:
"Mon métier sera de visiter les choses-- My job will be to visit things!"

Max and I seemed to be thinking the same thing, except that my ten-year-old verbalized his opinion:

"Jackie, that's not a job--"to visit things"--and you won't be paid for it."

After a few moments of reflection, I said:
"That's exactly what your tante* Cécile studied-- le tourisme!"*

...................................................................................................................
*References: le placard (m) = cupboard; les pâtes (fpl) = pasta; le riz (m) = rice; la purée de pommes de terre (f) = mashed potatoes; le petit déjeuner (m) = breakfast; chez nous = at our place; le bruit (m) = noise; la maman (f) = mom; le papa (m) = dad; la pomme verte (f) = green apple; la tante (f) = aunt; le tourisme (m) = tourism

Photo du Jour:
If Jackie does become a tour guide (see today's story) perhaps she'll start by showing off a charming village close to her home: Ampus. This photo was taken 2 years ago, when my aunt and uncle came to visit.

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


secouer

Italie
For more about this photo, see Photo du Jour (below)

Words in a French Life: "...a heart-winning collection from an American woman raising two very French children with her French husband in Provence, carrying on a lifelong love affair with the language."

secouer (suh-koo-ay) verb
  1. to shake; to shake off; to shake out

Expressions:
n'avoir rien à secouer = not to give a hoot
secouer le joug de quelqu'un = to throw off (dictator, tyrant)

....................................
Citation du Jour
Il faut secouer la vie; autrement elle nous ronge.
One must shake up life; otherwise it will eat into us.
--Stendhal

A Day in a French Life...
Beyond my computer screen, I can see out the window to what the kids are up to in the yard: usually soccer, circuits around the house on the vélo* or rollers,* dribbling the basketball or playing cache-cache* with Césarine the rabbit. They switch from one activity to the next, multi-tasking their adventures.

Beyond les aventuriers* I see the wild figuier.* Wild, for its wayward trunks, some of which fall to the ground. Or "fell," I should say. Our neighbor came over and sawed off almost half the trunks, for the bien-être* of the tree. Not having une main verte* to understand these matters, I find it a painful sight--such a gorgeous monster fruitier* razed like that.

The other day I heard a shriek and looked up to find the fig tree trembling. My eyes followed the branches until they reached a cluster of boys engaged in a rain dance around the tree, taking turns shaking the figuier to liberate the rain drops that had gathered upon the leaves.

"What on earth are you doing?" I said to Max and his friends.

The little French Indians froze. Next, five grubby gueules* looked up, sporting whodunit expressions. Before les coupables* would fess up, the Chief, in a heavy French accent, spoke:

"We are refreshing ourselves!"

To borrow a French expression, I should have "shaken the fleas off" those boys for traumatizing le figuier. Instead, I sat back and witnessed joy spinning under the ol' fig tree.

..............................................................................................................
*References: le vélo (m) = the bike; les rollers (mpl) = roller skates; le cache-cache (m) = hide-n-seek; un aventurier (m), une aventurière (f) = an adventurer, an adventuress; un figuier (m) = a fig tree; le bien-être (m) = well being; une main verte (f) = a "green thumb"; un arbre fruitier (m) = a fruit tree; la gueule (f) (informal) = the face; le coupable (m), la coupable (f) = the guilty one


Photo du Jour...

Yet another snapshot from Italy (in this photo, the port of Positano). The French images will be back next week!

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


le chiffre

La Vie de Chien = A Dog's Life (c) Kristin Espinasse
Read about this photo at Photo du Jour, below

le chiffre (shee-fre) noun, masculine
  1. figure, digit, number, numeral
  2. amount, total

Also:
le chiffre d'affaires = turnover (business)
le chiffre arabe/romain = Arabic/Roman numeral
avoir quelque chose brodé à son chiffre = to have something embroidered/monogrammed with one's initials

Expression:
en chiffres ronds = in round figures
faire du chiffre = to make a big turnover, to make a lot of money atteindre des chiffres astronomiques = to reach astronomical sums

...........................
Citation du Jour:
Tout bonheur matériel repose sur des chiffres.
Material happiness rests upon digits.
--Honoré de Balzac

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

Max celebrated his tenth birthday again (this time with "les copains"*) on Wednesday. For this party there was no need to arrange a dozen movable chairs into an oblong shape or to prepare the boom box, no rush to find twelve potato sacks for the races, no need to attach a bag full of bonbons* to a tree branch, or to prepare a cloth blindfold and worry about sightless kids swinging bats. Jean-Marc had organized a soccer tournament instead.

In fact, Jean-Marc was in charge of this year's party: shopping for it, setting it up and animating it. As he unloaded the groceries, I discovered the 'birthday cake.'
"C'est tout? Is this all?"

The strawberry pie was midsized between a fast-food pancake and a frozen pizza. Jean-Marc gave me his usual reply:
"Il y aura assez pour un régiment--There'll be enough for an army."
I looked at the box which read "8 portions" and swiftly pointed that out to Sergeant Cake.

Jean-Marc remained calm, continuing to unpack bonbons, fizzy drinks and candles. When his feathers didn't ruffle, I said:
"Okay. You are in charge of cutting the 'cake'!"

I had turned the whole fête* organization over to my husband as I tend to get really worked up and worried about all of the details. Besides, I reasoned, the party was pour les mecs* (Max didn't invite any girls).

An hour into the festivities I kept noticing how relaxed everyone was and how piece-of-cake-like the whole thing was unfolding. At the refreshment stand where small tubs of candy overflowed and plates were laid out across the table--with sliced-pie for all--I wondered when I would shed my consumeristic coat and send "the Joneses" packing once and for all. By then, I'll have truly comprehended that bigger cakes, more pop, more balloons--toujours plus!*--do not make for a more secure existence; and we all know that a kid would rather have attention than a bigger slice of pie.

I watched Jean-Marc out there on the turf running alongside the sweaty pint-sized soccer players. "Allez! Allez! Allez!--Let's go!" he cheered. He had prepared medals for the winning teams and was looking forward to the post-match award ceremony.

If a delivery van from the House of Pies had stopped by yesterday afternoon, those boys would have continued to whoop, holler and kick up the French dirt out there on the makeshift soccer field, shoveling good times and a little less cake into their memory banks.

....................
References: le copain (m) = pal, buddy; la fête (f) = party; pour les mecs = for the guys; toujours plus!= always more (more and more)

Photo du Jour:
"A Dog's Life, not far from Nice." I'd be "omitting" if I led you to believe this image was snapped in France. It was taken a few years back in a quiet Italian village--the name of which escapes 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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


lancer

        Pointu
          Read about this photo at Photo du Jour, below

lancer (lon-say) verb
  1. to throw, fling, cast, hurl; to shoot
  2. to fire, drop, launch

Expressions:
lancer une opération = to launch an operation
se lancer = to make a name for oneself; to give something a try
lance-toi! = Just do it! (to encourage someone who has a project)

.................................
Citation du Jour:
Tu dois vivre dans le présent, te lancer au-devant de chaque vague, trouver ton éternité à chaque instant.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.--
Henry David Thoreau

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

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

....................
References: évidemment = obviously; s'il te plaît = please; le bouchon (m) = cork; faire péter le bouchon = to pop the cork; lancer = to fire, send off (the cork); Hey-oh! Fais péter le pain! = Hey! Pass the bread!; rouge-tomate = tomato-red; champers = (British) champagne

Photo du Jour:
Today's photo (of a classic "pointu" fishing boat) was taken along the French Riviera, not far from Ste-Maxime. Jean-Marc and I stumbled onto the little fisherman's cove where a dozen such boats were being lovingly fussed over by their owners.

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


naître

French Mailboxes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Read about this photo in Photo du Jour, below.

naître (neh-tre) verb
  1.  to be born

Expressions:
être né pour quelque chose = to be cut out for something
être né pour l'autre = to be made for one another
être né sous une bonne étoile = to be born under a lucky star
être né coiffé = to be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth
son pareil est à naître = "his/its equivalent has yet to be born"
(when something or someone is unrivalled, matchless)

...........................
Citation du Jour:
Il n'y a personne qui soit née sous une mauvaise étoile, il n'y a que des gens qui ne savent pas lire le ciel.

No one is born under a bad star, there are only those who do not know how to read the sky.
--Dalai Lama


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Ten years ago today I woke up in the cave* of a one-room fisherman's cottage overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

I pulled on the stretchy polyester ensemble that Tante* Marinette in Châteauneuf-du-Pape had given me, put on my canvas sneakers and carefully tied the laces. I told Jean-Marc that we had better go. "Now."  I crawled up the stairs--for the stairwell from the cave to the room above was like that of a boat, narrow and steep.

Upstairs, our combination kitchen, living- and dining-room was illuminated by the lights from Notre Dame de la Garde--the historical, hilltop Cathedral just across the vallon.* The church lights cast a warm glow across the tiny room where my mom lay, in full make-up, asleep on the sofa. C'était minuit.*

"We are going to the Renaissance," I said.
"We Marcuses are never early," she reminded me. You girls were each a week late. Go back to bed, honey, and get some rest."

After some hesitation, I said, "We're leaving. If you like I'll call you when the baby is born."
With that, my mom threw on her boots and her straw fedora and made it to the car in time to open the door for me.

"Look at the sky," she said. "All of the stars are out tonight! Let's go."

A few hours later, at the Clinique de la Renaissance, my mom broke into the salle d'accouchement.* "I can't believe they wouldn't let me in here to see my own grandson!" she complained.
(The French doctor had told me earlier that I could have one family member in the delivery room. When Mom stormed the salle,* he made an exception. Mom had been standing in the clinic's parking lot for over an hour, eyes fixed on the third floor window--the only room with lights shining from it. "I knew you were in there!" she said.)

"Mom! Where did you get that?"
She held up a single red rose, stared at it in admiration. Her eyes lit up.
"I swiped it from someone's yard."
"Did anybody see you?"
"Oh, it's raining out now. Besides, no one is up at 4 a.m."

To the newborn she said, "Hello, Max! It's your grah-mair* here! We are going to have A LOT of fun, you and me."

Max, less than an hour old, turned his head ever so delicately toward the fragrant, earthy gift, acknowledging the flower's scent. My eyes glazed over. I was so proud of him.

...............................................................................................................
References: la cave (f) = basement (ours was a converted basement); une tante (f) = aunt; le vallon (m) = small valley; c'était minuit = it was midnight; la salle d'accouchement (f) = delivery room; la salle (f) = room; grah-mair (pronunciation for "grand-mère") = grandmother

Photo du Jour:
The theme in today's story and photo is "delivery".  I took the "mailboxes" photo at the entrance to Les Arcenaulx (a historical, renovated arsenal in Marseilles) where you'll find a popular bookstore and restaurant (near the Vieux Port at 25 cours d'Estienne d'orves).

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


maudit

        Deuche = deux chevaux (c) Kristin Espinasse
       For more about this photo, see Photo du Jour (below).

maudit,e (mo-dee, mo-deet) adjective
  1. cursed, damned, unlucky, star-crossed (ill-fated)

noun (m/f):
  le Maudit = the Devil
  les maudits = the damned

Expressions:
Maudit! = (expletive) Damn it!
être en maudit = to be mad/angry
Quel maudit temps! = What lousy weather!
Maudit soit le jour où = Cursed be the day when...

In Film:
the French comedy, Gazon Maudit (translated to "French Twist") with Josiane Balasko and Victoria Abril.

Proverb
Mieux vaut allumer une seule et minuscule chandelle que de maudire l'obscurité. Better to light a single, small candle than to curse the darkness.

.........................................
A Day in a French Life...
(The story that originally appeared here along with the French vocabulary, below, is now a part of this book!)

Photo du Jour:
The only thing that today's photo has in common with today's story, is the rock wall (just not the same rock wall). The wall in the photo was taken at a nearby farm. As my mom picked giant peaches, I strolled across the gravel path and snapped this photo.

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 have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.