Previous month:
July 2005
Next month:
September 2005

Entries from August 2005

ceinture

Ceinture 

Ceinture de Sécurité

(sen-tur)

noun, feminine

seat belt

In the historic town of St. Maximin, where visitors from all over the world come to see the relics of Mary Magdalene (behind thick glass in the town's basilica) I prepare for a short périple.* The tree-lined parking lot in front of our centuries-old village home is complet,* all 14 parking spaces have been claimed. I am about to make one Frenchman's day by liberating une place*--just as soon as I can wrestle my one- and three-year-olds into their car seats.

While I attach Jackie's seatbelt, Max hums, pulls at my hair, or points to the pigeons in the dilapidated square. Beneath the campanile--which hasn't rung in the hour in years--Madame Cagnasso is scattering baguette crumbs again; if she keeps this up, there'll be more birds here than beret-toting Frenchmen. Maybe that's her plan. I look up to see Monsieur Alag, my other neighbor, shaking his head in response, "Elle est complètement dingue. She's absolutely nuts." Monsieur looks as old as Mary Magdalene, perched there on the curb in front of les pompes funèbres.* He hates it when Madame feeds the pigeons. "C'est sale!"* he says, pointing to the crotte-lined* curb. I sidestep the pigeon droppings on my way around the car to buckle in a three-year-old Max, "Mommy's going to put YOUR ceinture* on now," I say.

Max stops humming and releases another lock of my hair. His eyes leave the pigeons and refocus on my still-pursed lips. Next, a little voice replies, "SEN-tewr, maman."

I pause for a moment, signal "un instant" to the impatient driver who is still waiting for our spot, and repeat "SEN-tewr," making a mental note to say SEN (like century) from now on and not SAHN (like sonnet).

"Voilà, maman!"* the little voice replies.

With that, the bilingual boy resumed his humming, the maman put the car in reverse, the pigeons plastered the village floor, and the neighbors fussed or frowned over feathers in the little French village of St. Maximin.

French Vocabulary

dessus = above; dessous = underneath; le périple (m) = journey; complet = full; une place (f) = a spot (parking place); pompes funèbres (fpl) = funeral home; c'est sale = it's dirty; la crotte (f) = droppings; la ceinture (f) = seatbelt; voilà, maman = that's it, mom.


Words_in_a_french_life 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."


...........
Listen:
Hear my son Max pronounce the word ceinture: Download ceinture.wav

...................
Expressions:
faire ceinture = to have to go without
se serrer la ceinture = to tighten one's belt, to go without
un coup au-dessous de la ceinture = a blow below the belt

Also:
la ceinture de sauvetage = life preserver
la ceinture de parachute = parachute harness
la ceinture de sécurité = seat belt
la ceinture marron, noire = brown, black belt (karate)


Proverb:
Le mensonge ressemble à la ceinture : il n'attache que son propriétaire.
A lie is like a belt. It only secures its owner.

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.


cabane

French cabane = hut or fort (c) Kristin Espinasse                         La cabane de Fontouse in the French Alps at Queyras

la cabane (ka-ban) noun, feminine
  1. hut, cabin, fort; shed
  2. jail, clink, slammer

............
Listen:
Hear my son Max pronounce the word cabane Download cabane2.wav

...............
Expression:
en cabane = in the slammer/clink (jail)

Also:
la cabane perchée = tree-house
la cabane en rondins = log cabin
la cabane à outils = toolshed
la cabane à lapins = rabbit hutch

........................
Citation du Jour:
Les noeuds sacrés de la vraie amitié se forment bien plus facilement sous un humble toit et dans les cabanes des bergers que dans les palais des rois.

The sacred ties of true friendship are most easily formed under a humble roof and in shepherds' huts rather than in kings' palaces.
--L'Arioste

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

Sometimes the Var* is as dry as the desert heat that melted away my childhood days. In August, clothes on the line sèchent* within French minutes. Wait a day too long and shirts fade from blue to bleu-gris,* folds become permanent (at least until ironed out or rewashed) and neighbors think your brains have charbroiled for leaving French couture to cook on the cord.

Out collecting the laundry, I gather a fitted sheet and startle before a trio of trespassers. I shoo the sauterelle,* catapult the caterpillar and backhand the beetle. Such are the hazards of living in the French countryside. But then I'll trade dryer lint, shrinkage and static cling for a few sheet stowaways any day.

I turn my attention to the wet clothes. When I have emptied half a plastic tub of laundry I run out of pinces à linge.* I know where the clothespins have disappeared to: my children's cabane.* My thoughts turn to daydreams and soon I am back in the Arizona desert...

When I was a kid, we didn't have clothespins. My mom used a machine to tumble dry our bell-bottoms, tube tops and other groovy garments (soiled after building another cardboard casa in the backyard). There wasn't a fancy French name like "cabane" for our hut. My sister and I referred to it as a fort. Its walls were composed of refrigerator box, and not French linen. A sign on the door would read "Stay out" and not "Éloignez-vous!"*

Ousting a traitor from my kid's French cabane means shouting "Dehors!"* Back at le frigo* box, we simply said "Out!" While my sister and I secured our fort with scotch tape, Max and Jackie's cabanes (built with tablecloths and chairs) are held together with clothespins. Which reminds me, I'd better get back to work. I've got laundry to pin and hexapods to hurl.

.....................
*References: le Var = a département of SE France; sèchent (sécher) = to dry; bleu-gris = blue-gray; la sauterelle (f) = grasshopper; la pince à linge (f) = clothespin; la cabane (f) = fort; éloignez-vous! = scram!; dehors! = out!; le frigo (m) = fridge

(c) Kristin Espinasse. For more stories by this author, read Words in a French Life

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.


allumer

Chalet en Queyras = Cabin in Queyras (c) Kristin Espinasse
                   A chalet in the French Alps at Queyras

Allumer

(a-lew-may)

to light



In a rustic hamlet nestled into the French Alps at Queyras, we drank café-au-lait from gigantic ceramic bowls, slathered homemade confiture de mûres over thick slices of buttered bread, and talked about what a good night's sleep we had just had. The French were fibbing, weren't they? I know I was—I had sore and tired limbs to prove it!

I looked over at the haute-couture horseback riders who shared our room of creaky bunkbeds. I had not bet on the elegant equestrians adapting, let alone bragging about how well-rested they felt. I watched as they gathered their fancy gear and bid us fellow lodgers bonne continuation! We'll weren't they the perky ones!

"Come on, let's head out," Jean-Marc followed the perky ones' lead, summoning Max, Jackie, and me. We would be taking the same path as the riders, he informed us, only on foot. And we needed to get a move on in order to make it to the next lodge by lunchtime. I reluctanly left the inn's cozy kitchen, where another cup of coffee and a good book was my idea of an adventure.

The two-hour hike turned out to be a cake walk as we followed scent and sediment... (the horses had scattered their version of Hansel and Gretel crumbs). Sidestepping les crottes, I watched as the slope gave way to a valley; in the distance, our next rest stop, where we would camp for the night.

"C'est un vrai refuge!" Jean-Marc informed us.

"Ah, oui?," I challenged, through clenched teeth.

 As we approached the hostel, the outhouse came into view. I scanned the environs, but the haute-couture horseback riders were nowhere to be found; this only confirmed my suspicion that they were fibbing about last night's comfortable accomodation! I became convinced that the savvy travelers had found feather beds at a nearby chalet, and were happily dining on fondue... where we would soon be eating beans.

Jean-Marc checked in, while I wandered over to the barn where we would bunk for the night, like so many bundles of hay... talk about close quarters! The room was even sparser than last night's dortoir. And there were no creaky beds; instead a long line of mats covered the floor of a wooden loft. We would be sleeping nose-to-nose with strangers!

That night I quickly staked my bed, making Jean-Marc take the mattress which butted the the stranger's beside us, where the ladder dropped to the floor below. Only, this trick backfired on me when in the middle of the night I woke up needing to use the toilet!

Not only was my husband blocking me from the exit, but I could not see the way to the ladder.

I now understood why so many of the lodgers were wearing those funny headbands with the flashlights embedded in them! But why didn't we have any fancy headgear?!

I elbowed my husband. "Pssst! I need to go!"

"Vas-y!" came the groggy answer.

"But I can't see!"

I felt my husband shuffle and a light went off... it was coming from his telephone. Jean-Marc shined the bright screen to my bed, then his, then over to the ladder, effectively lighting the first few steps along the path to the outdoor potty.

I was not sold on the idea of using an iPod to navigate my way outside (it was pitch dark out there! and a long way to the toilets! and what about bears?)

Vas-y! Jean-Marc nudged me. 

Why was I the only one who had to wake up with the bathroom call in the middle of the night? I thought about all of the hikers who dozed peacefully. Back in the dining hall, I had watched them down pitcher after pitcher of wine, not a care in the world (personally, I had been tormented with the idea of a full-bladder for night) before scrambling up the loft's stairs to sleep, and so peacefully! Why couldn't I be that simple?

Perhaps simplicity was as simple as following the illuminated path before me, this, thanks to my husband's MP3. I tied on my hiking boots and held on tightly to the lightsource. The journey from the crowded loft to the outhouse didn't have to be a complicated venture, it could simply be an adventure.

 

French Vocabulary
 
le café-au-lait = coffee with milk
la confiture de mûres (f) = blackberry jam
la haute couture (f) = high fashion
bonne continuation! = all the best!, good luck for the future
le sentier = path
la crotte = droppings
c'est un refuge = it's a refuge
ah, oui? = you don't say
vas-y = go on

Listen: Hear the word allumer pronounced Download allumer.wav

Also:
une allumette = a match
une allumeuse = a tease (a flirt)

Expressions:
allumer le feu = to light the fire


Citation du Jour:
L'absence est à l'amour ce qu'est au feu le vent; il éteint le petit, il allume le grand. Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and kindles the great. --Roger de Bussy-Rabutin


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.


épouvantail

   Epouvantail_1
Queyras, the French Alps (where even French scarecrows know how to tie a scarf).

un épouvantail (ay-poo-vahn-teye) noun, masculine
  1. scarecrow
  2. fright

verb: épouvanter = to terrify, scare (someone)

Also:
épouvantable = dreadful, frightful
épouvantablement = dreadfully, frightfully; appallingly

...................
Listen:
Hear the word épouvantail pronounced Download epouvantail2.wav

..................
Expression:
être habillé comme un épouvantail = to be dressed sloppily

..........................
Citation du Jour:
Jouis toujours du présent avec discernement, ainsi le passé te sera un beau souvenir et l'avenir ne sera pas un épouvantail.

Always enjoy the present with discernment, in this way the past will be a nice memory to you and the future will not be a fright.
--Franz Schubert

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

It doesn't take a scarecrow to deter me from un dortoir:* just one innkeeper's floor plan wherein the guest-room in question sleeps 10 and includes a single bathroom (part of which is made private by a thin curtain).

While les épouvantails* scared away the French crows in the garden outside our gîte* I wished they'd stun my resistance to lodging and latrining with so many rucksacked strangers. But then shower, sheet and seat sharing were on our agenda for the next three days. It was high time to send the inner prude packing--or ruin my family's back-to-nature Alpine adventure.

The aubergiste* set aside a paring knife, homegrown courgettes* and beans, wiped chapped hands on her apron and said, "Suivez moi."* Back outside, Max, Jackie, Jean-Marc and I climbed stairs that led to un grenier* where Madame pointed to two sets of bunk beds. "Did you bring sheets?" she said. That's when I noticed the other bare cots. "Those are for the cavaliers.* Attendez,"* she said, tilting her head, "that must be them now..."

Cavaliers? I turned to find a group of jodhpur-clad colocataires.* "Bonjour" one of the women said. "We're a little smelly. We've been riding for a week..." With that, she threw a stylish fedora across the room where it landed on the one and only cot-for-two. Before long, she undressed.

I didn't mind cheval* smell: it was privacy that bothered me--specifically, the lack of it. The next three nights would be devoted to outing the impostor who sometimes comes to camp chez moi*--the Miss Priss who hijacked my communal living soul and sits on my shoulder like a curly lashed devil with an ongoing commentary: "Did you see where the toilet is located? Do you realize you will be sharing a bedroom with all those strangers? You'll have to change your clothes behind the shower curtain--where else? And if you snore tonight, ALL those French will hear you?" As if the French don't snore.

Stay tuned for night two, when the number of roommates quadruples and the new crowd won't be wearing stylish fedoras, but flashlights (secured mid-forehead, like a third eye.)... Épouvantable!*

.....................
*References: un dortoir (m) = dormitory; un épouvantail (m) = scarecrow; un gîte (m) = resting place, lodging; l'aubergiste (m) = innkeeper; la courgette (f) = zucchini; suivez-moi = follow me; le grenier (à foin) (m) = hayloft; cavalier(ières) = horseman/woman; attendez = wait a minute; un colocataire (m) = co-tenant; le cheval (m) = horse; chez moi = at my place (within); épouvantable = frightful

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.


congé

             Comps sur artuby France (c) Kristin Espinasse
                           The sleepy French village of Comps sur Artuby

congé (kohn-zhay) noun, masculine
  1. vacation (British: holiday); leave
  2. discharge, dismissal
  3. authorization, permit

Hear the word congé pronounced: Download conge.wav

....................
Expressions:
congé sans solde = unpaid leave
congé (de) maternité = maternity leave
congé de maladie = sick leave
en congé = on vacation (British: on holiday)
congés scolaires = school vacation

French Proverb:
Il y a un temps pour s'en aller et prendre congé.
There is a time to go away and to take a break.


.............................................................................
French-inspired food memories from an American childhood

On Wednesday I received an email from Jacqueline, the French blogger behind the website Cuisine et Compagnie. Touché!--she has tagged me to participate in a questionnaire or "meme". The famous question, one which began in English, was translated to French and is now making the rounds among many a food blog--both French and English--is:

"Citez cinq aliments, plats ou autres, qui ont fait partie de votre enfance, et qui vous manquent, parfois, quand la nostalgie vous prend..."

"Name five foods, dishes or otherwise, that were a part of your childhood, and that you sometimes miss when nostalgia gets to you..."

Allez--j'y vais! Here goes!:

1. Bologna sandwiches:
I loved the way the soft, bleached bread stuck to the roof of my mouth. I miss the crunch of iceberg lettuce (something I cannot find in France). Mostly, I miss that my sister used to make them for me. She still makes me sandwiches when I visit, only the bread's now brown and the bologna's been bumped (for smoked ham or turkey).

2. Soft shell tacos:
Mom would dice tomatoes and avocados, slice green onions and black olives, grate cheddar cheese and put out a tub of sour cream and a jar of picante sauce. Next she would sizzle the corn tortillas in vegetable oil to soften the shells after frying the spicy ground round. We built our tacos with the chopped, sliced and sizzled ingredients until they became foldable as an over-packed valise.

3. Red Vines: those cherry-flavored licorice twists
Hidden under a pile of blankets on the floorboard of my mom's '68 Camaro, I'd hold my breath as we motored past the cashier, tires crunching over the gravel parking lot on our way to find a parking space before the giant outdoor screen. Next, mom would throw a blanket across the Chevy's hood and my sister and I would hoist ourselves up and begin passing red vines back and forth while chewing to the likes of the seventies blockbuster, Jaws.

4. My mom's carrot cake:
...for the one-inch thick cream-cheese-based icing with pecans atop the moist, carrot-flecked spicy cake. I'll never be able to reconstruct this childhood favorite as cream cheese (of the Philadelphia sort) is impossible to find here in the Var.

5. Shirley Temple: 
Perhaps the first clue that my future would be French: the grenadine syrup in my favorite childhood drink. I can still feel the firm maraschino cherry between my back teeth--crush! Ahhh... This last childhood favorite is the bridge between past and present, between America and France, in that its ingredients are only a hop, skip and slurp away.

Continue reading "congé" »

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.


ennui

            Ennui
                                When the French get bored...  Parc Asterix

un ennui (ah-new-ee) noun, masculine
  1. boredom, tedium
  2. worry, problem, trouble

.....................
Listen
Hear "ennui" pronounced: Download ennui.wav

.....................
Expressions:
Quel ennui! = What a nuisance! (Also, "What a bore!")
les petits ennuis = little annoyances
avoir des ennuis = to have problems, to be in trouble
créer des ennuis à quelqu'un = to cause problems for someone

........................
Citation du Jour:
Quand un bruit vous ennuie, écoutez-le.
When a noise bothers you, listen to it.
--John Cage

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

I study the perpetrator. She is wearing a gypsy inspired jupe* in slate blue with a wildflower border. Around her waist she has tied a bordeaux and navy striped silk scarf--a sentimental treasure that once belonged to her grand-père.* She has on her bathing suit with the red hearts and her hair is parted to the side and gathered neatly with une barrette nacrée.* A fashion statement maketh she.

When l'ennui* begins to tickle her rhinestone bedecked feet, she stalks the brother first, then la maman.*

"Maman! Elle m'énerve!"* Max says.

I tell Max to follow me. "Wait here," I say. "We're going to town and I'm going to buy you a beer. I'll have a mint syrup* and we can defuse a bit."
My ten-year-old laughs about the beer, which he knows will really be a soda.

"Je déteste me preparer! I hate getting ready," I say, trying to buy time before Max gets bored enough to gravitate back to his sister and chisel at her nerves.

I have washed my face, applied tinted moisturizer, mascara and some brillant à lèvres* and am now trying to revive some very bored tresses.

"I know what you mean," Max sympathizes. "I get ready by putting on a baseball cap for six minutes and that fixes my hair."

I admire my son's no-nonsense approach to hairdressing. I now understand that caps can correct cowlicks. If only they could curb l'ennui.*

.......................
*Refererences: la jupe (f) = skirt; le grand-père (m) = grandfather; une barrette nacrée (f) = a barrette with pearl finish; l'ennui (m) = boredom; la maman (f) = mom; Maman! Elle m'énerve! = Mom! She's bugging me!; mint syrup (le sirop de menthe) = a popular summer drink consisting of water and mint syrup; le brillant à lèvres = lip gloss; l'ennui (m) = boredom

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.


rallonge

              Papa Poule = Father Hen (c) Kristin Espinasse
                             Papa Poule in full tourist mode (Italy, 2003)

une rallonge (rah-lonzh) noun, feminine
  1. an extension cord
  2. a leaf (to extend a table)
  3. an extension arm, piece

............
Listen
Hear pronounciation of "rallonge": Download rallongejm.wav

............
Also:
une table à rallonge(s) = an extendable table
une rallonge d'argent = some extra money
une histoire à rallonge = a never-ending story
un nom à rallonge = a long, complicated surname, a double-barrelled name

..............................
French Proverb:
Qui plus dépense qu'il n'a vaillant, tresse la corde où il se pend.
He who spends more than his worth, braids the cord that hangs him.


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

(The story that originally appeared here, along with the vocabulary words, below, is now a part of this book!)
....................
*References: une rallonge (f) = a cord; la pétanque (f) = a game of "boules" or bowls played with small heavy steel balls; Pop Rocks = fizzing candy powder that "pops" in your mouth; une grenouille (f) = a frog

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.