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Entries from September 2007

sans plomb

Sansplomb
The sign on the back of the old truck says "(ride) in complete security...with Michelin tires".


sans plomb
(sahn plom) noun

    : unleaded
.

Robin's Paris apartment is for rent!
     Rent Robin's Paris apartment!



Example Sentence (see "Audio File" at the end of this edition)

L’essence sans plomb 98 est plus détergente que l’essence sans plomb 95 et se révèle plus corrosive, en particulier pour les pièces en élastomères (caoutchoucs). Ces deux carburants contiennent de fortes quantités de composants aromatiques qui sont très toxiques. Il faut donc éviter d’en respirer les vapeurs et ne pas s’en servir comme agent de nettoyage ou de dégraissage. (from Wikipedia)

Would anyone like to help translate the sentence, above. Put your answers in the comments box for all to see. Merci!
.
...
Column
by Kristin Espinasse

(Note: the following story was written in September 2007)

At the gas station in Camaret I study the menu. I wonder whether to "fill 'er up" with Sans Plomb* 98 (better for the engine?) or Sans Plomb 95 (a few centimes less and just as suitable for my car).

Opening the little door that leads to the gas tank, I pause to re-read the sticker notice which cautions me to use fuel sans plomb. I have yet to make the mistake of filling the tank with another type of essence* (having learned from my husband's mistake); perhaps all that neurotic double-checking has served its purpose?

I look up to verify which pump I am at: "No 2," the sign says. Right, number two. I will remember "pump number two" in time to answer the clerk at the pay booth. (And I will remember, this time, to check that the price matches the total on the screen. OK. Check, check.)

I pull out the nozzle only to return it to its carriage as I always do. "78 euros" are registered on the pump's screen. I am concerned that if I begin pumping, the truck ahead of me will have a surprise tab at the pay booth. I wait until truck rolls past the booth before I pull out the gun once again, heaving a sigh of relief when the screen registers zero.

Next I try, as always, to set the nozzle to automatic. I want to pump as the pros do. I think it has something to do with hitching the nozzle's lever to some mysterious hook inside the handle. As always, the lever snaps back and I quickly give up. I'll never learn the trick, never mind that the other blond, at pump number three, seems to know it. Well, GOOD FOR HER.

When the lever snaps again, this time signaling a full tank, I resist the temptation to force in a few more ounces. Don't take chances; remember from experience that it's not worth the mess. I put the cap on the tank, turn the key and shut the little door. The screen reads 56 euros. (80 percent of that represents tax, as those who think about tax are wont to say. I should think more about tax.)

Pulling up to the pay booth I notice the clerk on the other side of the window. She doesn't strike me as someone who checks manufacturer's notices for fuel requirements or recalls the risks of tank overflow--though she does have on a tank top and you might say it overflows. And she doesn't seem to take her job too seriously. (She is filing her toe nails.)

I marvel at her "filing-toe-nails-in-public" attitude which matches her unorthodox approach at manning the gas station pay booth. In the time that she makes me wait (she's finishing her pinkie toe), I think about how I could learn a thing or two from her: she with the hang-loose curls on her head and liberated legs (she's wearing cut-offs). The closest she has ever come to neurotic, I imagine, is in showing up for work every day.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: sans plomb (m) = unleaded; l'essence (f) = petrol, gasoline

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Les portes tordues (The Twisted Doors)
: The Scariest Way in the World to Learn and Listen to French! Check it out (if you dare).


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word:
MP3 file: Download sans_plomb.mp3
Wave file: Download sans_plomb.wav


Cinéma Vérité

Good news: Saturday's photo bouquet has been posted a day early. Here is a sneak preview! If you are a Cinéma Vérité member and have lost the site access information--pas de souci!--just email me and I'll send it as soon as I can.

DSC_0018-1
The theme for this latest collection of photos is Vaison la Romaine and Faucon -- after the two villages that Jean-Marc and I visited on our 15th wedding anniversary! Don't miss these weekly photos. Become a contributing member today!

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.


arbre

Arbre
A tree-lined lane in our village where horses stopped traffic over the weekend.

From "The Ultimate French Review and Practice":
Review + Practice = Confident Communication in French! More here.

arbre (ar-bre) noun, masculine
  tree

L'arbre devient solide sous le vent.
The tree becomes strong beneath the wind.
--Seneca
.

Column
On Saturday morning, hours after the grapes had shed their morning dew tears and been carted off in the back of my brother-in-law's truck, the sky turned ripe red. I looked over to my mom who studied the rustling autumn leaves above us. Next, the sky rained down jujubes.

The downpour occurred in the town of Courthézon where Jules (that would be my mom) and I had been swept, via a dusty broom, into the medieval courtyard of a Corsican. The Corsican woman wore five gold chains around her neck and when she spoke she shook her broom. Turns out she wasn't angry at us for peeping through her portail.* By the time she had unlatched the gate and swept us in, I understood why: fact is, she was a little bit proud of that red fruit that fell from the sky.

The Corsican shut the gate behind us and in the silence that followed I begged her pardon. "We've been harvesting..." I explained.
"I can see that," she said, pointing her broom to our grape stained shirts. I told her that we had made a post harvest périple* through town and were on our way out when we saw the great arbre* with the gorgeous red flecks of.... fruit was it?

"My mom thinks it is a weeping willow but it looks like an olive tree to me."
"C'est un jujubier,"* the Corsican announced, and her broom shot up to the tree. When next she shook her broom, the branches trembled in response.

"Jujubes are a delicacy," she said as she shook the tree's branches. And that is when the blue sky turned red with those jujubes pouring down from above.

As the fruit hit the cement floor below, Jules and I ran around the courtyard like chickens, plucking up the red fruit and shoving it in our pockets like petty thieves.

The Corsican steadied herself with her broom, bent down and picked up a jujube. Next, she popped the fruit into her mouth, twisted her lips, then turned and spat the seed out. The grape-stained petty thieves followed suit and, like that, perfect strangers stole a lip-pursed moment savoring sweets swept down from the sky.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le portail (m) = gate; le périple (m) = tour, journey; un arbre (m) = tree; c'est un jujubier = it's a jujube tree

     A favorite book: L'Homme Qui Plantait Des Arbres
     Children's (French) book: L'Arbre Genereux (The Giving Tree)
.
Shopping:
"Tune Up Your French" is "the next best thing to a year abroad"
In French music: Gourmandises by Alizee
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Terms & Expressions:
  faire l'arbre fourchu/droit = to do a handstand (with legs apart/together)
  faire grimper quelqu'un à l'arbre = to pull somebody's leg
  l'arbre généalogique = family tree
  l'arbre de Noël = Christmas tree
  l'arbre fruitier = fruit tree

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.


embranchement

Rock_star_bees
Couldn't get a photo of our rock star harvesters as they would like to remain unseen. Here are some rock star bees for you. Looks like they'd rather go incognito like the others...

Eazyspeak French teaches 800 vocabulary words; quickly extends conversational skills

un embranchement (ahn-brahnsh-mahn) noun, masculine
  junction; side road
.

Column
I've been meaning to write about our grape pickers but sense that they might like to keep their privacy. Not that our harvesters are famous, though they look like rock stars to me.

"Did you see how they dress, Mom?"
My mom scrapes a board of just-diced onions into an enamel bowl.
"They're pretty cool, aren't they? Dressing like that to pick grapes!"

Our grape harvesters wear black bikini tops, have long, bare midriffs and stylish rock star pants. Where do they get pants like that? we wonder.

"I sew," one of the rock stars tells me. She's got uneven pigtails and looks like a modern day Pippi Longstocking gone punk. To look at her is to dream about a parallel life. What if... at that fork in the road... instead of stepping on board Air France flight 8919... I'd stolen into the back of Zoé's van and never looked back?

Zoé was the first girl I ever knew with a ring in her nose and a ridge on the crown of her shaved head. We were living in the boondocks of Carefree, Arizona--she, in the basement of her parents' desert casa, and me in a rental on Never Mind Trail. The town really was called "Carefree" and the street, "Never Mind": the town and street names being the most original facts of my life at the time. But Zoé was original and, at 15, she sought just enough anti-conformism to still be able to collect her allowance. Together, we craved the artful, the original and the aromatic (Zoé smoked cloves; I inhaled the air
around her).

Zoé's plan was to lose her parents' basement and get herself a van. In the meantime she listened to The Smiths, "cloved" with her pasty-faced copains,* and kept the rims and the rest of her eyes kohl-lined. I tagged along to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That's about as rock and picturesque as 1983 ever got for me.

Last time I saw Zoé, she was cocktailing poolside at the Hyatt at Gainey Ranch. She had an adored four-year-old son instead of that cross country camion* for which she had been saving her allowance. Without the Mohawk and ring through her nose I hardly recognized her. It was that helium laugh that gave her away. She always sounded as if she had just inhaled the breath out of a party balloon. Indeed, she sounded breathless. It must have been the very absence of oxygen that made her seem otherworldly to me. Looking back, I realize she was my ticket to another time and place--back when awkward adolescence was nothing but a slap in the face.

As for me, I got on that Air France flight back in 89' to find myself.  Make that "to find myself cooking" ... for these rock star harvesters who have rings in their noses and grown-out Mohawks like Zoé's, last time I saw her. We never did hit the road together, Zoé et moi, but took another embranchement.* How different this French chemin* is from Route 66.

                                         *     *     *

Back to our rock star grape harvesters: seventeen mouths to feed today... time to come up with enough grub for a small audience (or, as Zoé would prefer, a mosh pit).


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le copain (la copine) = friend; le camion (m) = truck; un embranchement (m) = side road; le chemin (m) = road

In French music: "the anticonformist artist" Alain Bashung
     Spotted in France: A Dog's Life...On the Road
     

More in Shopping:
Cote Sud magazine (in French): "A superbly illustrated decoration magazine about the art of living a sumptuous life in the South of France."
French vine therapy for sensitive skin: Caudalie Gentle Cleanser
Emile Henry's Flame Top Tagine: perfect for brazing, heat conduction and for slow, natural cooking
"Tune Up Your French"--includes tips on how to avoid taboos and common faux pas and is "the next best thing to a year abroad"

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.


bombance

Bombance
I realized later that we had vegetarians at the table... Live and learn.

Infuse your soul (and studious self) with French music: Les Nubians

la bombance (bon-bahns) noun, feminine
  feast; carousing

Ou je me trompe fort, ou quelque joyeuse bombance est dans l'air aujourd'hui.
Either I am greatly mistaken, or there is to be some jolly merry-making today.
--from the book "On ne badine pas avec l'amour" by Alfred de Musset
.

Column
Along with sous-chef, Jules,* I'll be spending the morning sorting out savories for today's Harvest Lunch Number 9. By the time I figured out that the harvest meal is celebrated at the END of harvest, it was too late: our grape pickers (who've finally admitted they are used to packing a sack lunch) had been
spoiled rotten and looking forward to the next feast. So far, I haven't had to ask the butcher for help--why should he be so adored? And I am learning, after so much resistance, that feeding others is the best reward. (Though I stop and growl when the oven breaks down, as it does when using a gas-fueled four.* Don't panic, unhook the empty gas tank, put it in the trunk of the Citroën, zip over to the supérette/gas station and get a refill. Back in time to finish baking those beans before the harvesters file into the kitchen....)

Today we are fourteen at table, two less than yesterday. I've got chickpeas for a change, fresh from Cousin Sabine's garden; the little beige boules* have doubled in size after soaking overnight (who knew?). The pois chiches*--along with potato gnocchi, betterave,* red cabbage, and guacamole are just a few ideas that come to mind today as I try and accommodate our vegetarian and vegan harvesters who've brought their own supply of soja* just in case. Wait till they discover the peanut butter... They'll never connect celery to soup again!

That's all for now...back to the casserole dance--instead of La Bamba we'll call it La Bombance!*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: Jules = my mom; le repas (m) = meal; le four (m) = oven; la boule (f) = ball; le pois (m) chiche = chickpea ; la betterave (f) =beet(root); le soja (m) = soya; la bombance (f) = the feast

     The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
     From the Caudalie Spa in Bordeaux, France: Sauvignon Scrub   

:: Audio File ::
...back soon (half our French speakers are at grade school, the other half [is]
out in the vines...)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Shopping:
Caudalie Purifying Mask
In music: Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre
Garden Harvest Basket--holds vegetables, bread, rolled towels, knitting supplies....
SmartFrench CD-ROM--"the smart way to learn French"
Roger & Gallet Signature Mini Guest Soaps

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
French Expressions:
faire bombance = to revel, to feast; to go on a spree, binge

French Synonyms
...to bombance:
le repas (meal), le festin (feast), la ripaille (blow-out, feast), le gueuleton (big feed)

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.


faim

Braise_faim
And what if we all just ate grapes and called it a day? Our dog, Braise (brez).

Today's word is "faim!" (That's right: "faim exclamation point".) There's so much to tell you but I'm afraid we'll only skim the surface of this French soup as I've got fruit farmers to feed! More, in today's column, below.

                                    *     *     *
From the makers of Rosetta Stone software: "Pronounce [French] words correctly after practicing with our proprietary speech recognition and analysis tools." More info here.

faim (fan -- N is nasal, silent) noun, feminine
   hunger

Un homme qui a faim n'examine pas la sauce.
A hungry man doesn't consider the sauce.
--Socrates
.                                                   

Column_2
Kicking and screaming. That is how I went into it, this two week stint of cooking for the masses. Not that anyone dragged me into the kitchen. When the subject of feeding our harvesters came up, Jean-Marc told me not to worry about it. But if I didn't worry about it, who would?

At the village supérette* I stare at the shelves of cheese, yogurt, and cream.
"Je peux vous aider?" Can I help you? the man behind the meat counter calls out.
"Non, merci." I thank him, turning back to the cheese aisle.

Forget calcium, the grape pickers need fuel! I dash over to the cereal section and stare at rows of pasta, rice, polenta... Polenta! Aunt Marie-Françoise came over last weekend, her trusty wicker panier* in hand. Inside the basket there was an entire pork roast bathing in mustard cream sauce! When eight of us harvesters devoured the pork roast, Aunt Marie-Françoise offered the recipe, suggesting it went well with rice, potatoes, pasta, or even polenta...

Today we are eleven at table. I toss the polenta into the caddie* followed by rice, pasta, couscous, and tabbouleh. Grains, grains, grains! Fuel, fuel, fuel! (Filler, filler, FILLER!)

Next, I stare at a row of boîtes de conserves.* Beans, corn, peas.... I snap up two of the biggest cans of lentils and plan to add them to yesterday's pasta. I am learning to stretch leftovers, that what isn't enough for four can--with the pull of an aluminum tab--be plenty for fourteen. Just add beans!

My eyes are fixed now on a package of instant flan aux courgettes.* Just add eggs. Perfect! I'll need four boxes but at nearly seven euros a box...Oublie-le! Forget it! I'll make vegetable soup instead. I've got two sacks of potatoes and plenty of onions...Vichyssoise!*

"Je peux vous aider?"* The man behind the meat counter seems concerned. This time I'm frozen, eyes-glued to the pastry aisle, wondering about making quiche for a quinzaine.* We'll be fifteen pickers this weekend when we move our équipe* over to Uncle Jean-Claude's wine farm (in thanks for all the picking and pork roasting he and Marie-Françoise did for us last weekend).

"Je peux vous aider?" Monsieur repeats.
Help? Can he help me? He wants to help me! So why am I still saying "Non, merci"?

The man behind the counter looks sympathetic.
"We've got harvesters," I tell him. "I'm trying to plan meals for the next two weeks."
"I can prepare a pork roast for you!" the butcher says.
"No, thanks. I've got that covered."
"Daube*...roast chicken...lasagna!" Monsieur offers. I respond with a hesitant look. "Here, take my card," Monsieur says. "You can always call in an order. Bon courage!"*

I hear a little voice inside that says "Take him up on it! Take him up on it! Let him help cook!" Only the voice is drowned out by another voice, this one evil and snickering. It says: "You can't have someone else cook! It's too expensive and besides--what would the neighbors think?!"

Why is it that when I need it the most, I have the hardest time asking for help? Thankfully, like Aunt Marie-Françoise and the man behind the meat counter, there are those who fall out of the French sky, arms open like angels. Up to me to learn to stretch my mind, like those leftovers, and let the idea sink in that it is OK to let people help. Benevolence and baked beans--I'll get through harvest season one way or another.

                              *     *     *

The next word goes out Monday--if you know what I mean. (Back to the kitchen!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: la supérette (f) = mini-market; le panier (m) = basket; le caddie (m) = trolley (cart); la boîte (f) de conserve = can of food; le flan (m) aux courgettes = zucchini flan; la Vichyssoise (f) = cold potato soup with leeks and onions; Je peux vous aider? = Can I help you?; la quinzaine (f) = about fifteen, fifteen or so; une équipe (f) = team; la daube (f) = beef stew; bon courage! = good luck!

     La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange
     The French oven -- a timeless standby and a must for pork roast!


:: Audio File ::
(...back next week. All our French speakers, pint-sized and otherwise, are out picking grapes!)

Shopping:
French comfort food: Vichyssoise Soup
French chef apron with wine label
Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl
Mille Bornes: the classic French auto race game.

Terms & Expressions:
  avoir faim = to be hungry
  avoir une faim de loup = to be starving ("to be hungry as a wolf")
  n'avoir plus faim = to be full
  manger sans faim = to pick at/toy with one's food
  manger à sa faim = to eat to one's fill
  avoir faim de = to hungry for

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.


vendange

Mr_espinasse
Mr. Espinasse, king of the vines in his grenache-tinted "robe".

There's a flurry, flurry, flurry of activity here at the moment with soon-to-be hungry harvesters who've just been handed the reins (make that "vines"). I'll let the pickers steer those grapes into the buckets today while I catch up on our column below...before popping into the kitchen to scream "What on earth am I going to feed everyone!" This is one time when I'd rather be picking grapes!

                                    *     *     *
In books: "Words in a French Life": an "innovative and entertaining way of teaching the finer points of French" (--Publishers Weekly)


la vendange (von-donzh) noun, feminine
  1. grape/wine harvest or vintage; grapes (harvested); grape crop

vendanger (von-don-zhay) verb
  1. to pick or to harvest grapes

                      *     *     *

Comme les vendanges, les amours tardives* sont les plus délicieuses. / Like the grape harvest, love gathered late is the most delicious. --Jean Amadou
.

Column
Grab a bucket and follow me out to the vines today. Got a windbreaker? Casquette*? Sunglasses? Courage? Good, you'll need them!

Now reach into the flat-bed camion* and get yourself a pair of sécateurs* and some gloves. Pull them on. Tac!*

Go ahead...choose a vine row. There are many! Trip over a stone or two as you make your way over to the grapes. Set down your bucket next to a gorgeous pied de vigne*--its leaves already burnt orange and crumbling from the ten day old Mistral. Let the wind whip your hat off and cry as you watch it billow over a field branches. One less comfort... Get used to it!

Reach down, down, down, and gather a bunch of grapes. Take precautions. (Distinguish your fleshy fingers from the blue fruit.) Now position your shears. Clip! Relieve the branch of its heavy fruit. Aahhhh.... Watch the vines spring back, feeling lighter on their feet. As for you, you'll carry that weight, bucket by bucket till the sun goes down. Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three four...

By the eighth or ninth vine put your hand on your back and let out a nervous chuckle, mumbling something about how you ought to take up yoga. Now look up, amazed, and see an interminable field of vines. Mon Dieu,* whatever gave you the idea that harvesting French grapes was something like romantic?

...continue to bend, stoop, and sometimes sit...the 40-year-old vines "en goblet"* hide their grapes well under a parasol* of leaves (you'll need to crawl under the slumping vine in order to reach the fruit). The wind gives you a little kick and, fast as that, you're kissing the trunk where all the little balls of fruit are clustered. Chuck those grapes in the bucket, push yourself back up off the ground...and get a move on! This isn't a vacation, c'est la vendange!*

Crash! You've stumbled again. Time to take your pick of juicy French expletives (you've learned plenty from the pickers) and curse those *@#!! weeds that have just tripped you up again. Curse organic farmers and their fields of mauvaises herbes!* On second thought, hats off to organic farmers (like my husband, Mr. Espinasse) and their fields of meter tall *@#!! weeds (while a harvester's Hell on earth, the grapevines here have been spared of pesticides).

What's that? You say you need to use the powder room? Well, Laaa DEEE daaaah! The "powder room" is right here! Just drop your drawers. Huh? Worried someone might see you? Well, then, there's a cypress tree at the end of this field. But hurry up, we need you back here illico presto*...

Off you trot while your fellow harvesters giggle and snort:
"Cypress. Cypress. (Si loin...mais 'si près'!)
("Cypress tree, Cypress tree.  So far, but 'so close'!").
Oh, the tree's not so close. Go on, no one's watching.

Back to work now and shhht! Don't talk so much. See that big guy over there with the queue de cheval?* That's my brother-in-law (the self-elected supervisor). He checks buckets by the minute. Make sure yours is full and don't blame it on the dull shears (as I did, last time he checked) or he'll teach you an old French farming dicton:

"Il n'y a pas de mauvais outils, il n'y a que de mauvais ouvriers!"
(There are no bad tools, only bad toilers!)

What's that? You say you're thirsty? Didn't you bring a water bottle? Never mind. Have a slug of this. No, it isn't milk. There's water (albeit murky) inside. It was the only container Mr. Espinasse could find. Lord knows he isn't finicky about gourdes,* only grapes. Grapes! Grapes! Bring in the grapes!

"Ten more buckets and you can stop!" Mr. Espinasse shouts. No, he's not talking to you, Grapehead! (Nor, to me!) He's talking to our twelve-year-old son, his and mine, telling him that the boy's shift is almost over.

Ha! As for you--we have YOU for the day. Now get on with it! No talking! ALLEZ!* Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two three four....


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: (No time for a reference section today. I'm rushing to the airport in Marseilles to pick up our newest harvester: my mom! I leave you now with some homework: open up that dusty dictionary and look up the words in today's story. Bye for now!)

     Larousse Pocket Dictionary: French-English/English-French


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter pronounce today's word & quote:
Comme les vendanges, les amours tardives* sont les plus délicieuses.
Download vendange.mp3
Download vendange.wav
.
Shopping:
SmartFrench CD-ROM--"the smart way to learn French"
Roger & Gallet Signature Mini Guest Soaps

Terms & Expressions:
  une vendangeuse, un vendangeur = a grape picker
  une bonne vendange = a good vintage
  les vendanges = grape harvesting time
  un vendangeoir = a grape-picker's basket
  la vendange en vert = a green harvest (crop/cluster thinning)
  vendanger une vigne = to harvest a vine
  pendant les vendanges = during the grape harvest
  faire les vendanges = to harvest or pick the grapes
  vendanger de bonne heure = to get an early start on the harvesting

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.


imprévu

Maxvendange
Our twelve-year-old vigneron/vine farmer, Max.

Hello from the blustery Vaucluse where the Mistral wind is harvesting the grapes for us! All we have to do is get down on our hands and knees and scour the dirt floor for the fallen fruit! It's a sticky, scratchy business but with a sweet return (we hope). The harvesters arrive on Sunday night -- in the meantime, my family and I are back to earth-scouring... in search of wayward grapes.

Everyone's favorite!: Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs

imprévu(e) (an-pray-vew) adjective
  unforeseen, unexpected

noun: unforeseen situation

Le beau c'est l'imprévu.
What is nice is the unexpected.
--Thomas Bernhard
.

Column
It sounded like a last gasp for air. My husband was looking out the window when I heard it. That sound. That gasp!

"What's the matter, Jean-Marc?"
"They've fallen on the floor!"
"What?"
"Mes raisins!"*

I looked out the window and saw them lying there, scattered bunches of blue.
"The grapes have fallen!" Jean-Marc gasped, taking one last breath before charging over to the cave* to grab all four buckets, pitching them into his Citroën. I followed on his heels, leaving the coffee and the breakfast toast, and pausing to sling my mom's wicker basket over my arm.

                                     *     *     *

Like that, the harvest has begun, six days earlier than planned, well before the grape pickers' arrival. It was the wind that decided it and she laughed as we scurried below her, like tenants in a house on fire. In a flash we left our valuables: a rigid routine, a sacred schedule, and any comforting habitudes.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le raisin (m) = grapes; la cave (f) = wine cellar; une habitude (f) = habit

     At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry, and a Life
     The Grapes Grow Sweet: A Child's First Harvest in Wine Country

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & quote:
Imprévu. Le beau c'est l'imprévu.
MP3 file: Download imprevu.mp3
Wave file: Download imprevu.wav

Shopping:
L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
Mille Bornes, the classic French auto race card game.
Amelie: Original Soundtrack
French language software -- used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions
Tune Up Your French--includes tips on how to avoid taboos and common faux pas and is "the next best thing to a year abroad".
Moleskine City Notebook - Paris
.

French Terms & Expressions:
  de manière imprévue = unexpectedly
  en cas d'imprévu = in case of an emergency
  sauf imprévu = barring any unforeseen circumstances
  il y a un imprévu = something unexpected has cropped up

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    
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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.


abeille

     Ruche
The sign says "Products from the beehive". Picture taken in Serre Chevalier.

The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

abeille (ah-bay) noun, feminine
    bee

La diligente abeille n'a pas de temps pour la tristesse.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
--William Blake
.

Column
Thank heavens the vines are abuzz once again! And, no, it isn't the grape pickers that are causing so much commotion--but the honey harvesters. That's right--the bees are back!

When the "girls" jumped ship two months ago, leaving their hive as hollow as a hull, I gave Jean-Marc a verbal thump on the side of the head. "Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé?!"* I cried from the other end of the telephone line.* Jean-Marc wasn't sure what happened, but I had a hunch:

Juggling happened. Newly acquired vines (and the tending of them), renovation, moving homes, bees... too many ballons* in the air and one fell. Make that *flew* for everyone knows that bees don't jump ship.

But beekeepers do, or can, or can do if they don't get their act together! No use getting mad, besides--every jongleur* deserves a second chance...

And so it was that, still smarting from that thump, or verbal "bee bop" alongside the head, my jongleur/husband raced right out, empty beehive in hand, and found his queen another colony--this, after much negotiation at the bee brokers (or would-bee brokers. The bee boutique in question doesn't officially sell bees but, faced with one head-thumped and hiveless husband, they quickly changed their pollinator policy.)

The bee homecoming (new bees, old home) was grand and included all the pomp and circumstance of a Provençal parade. (The "pomp" being Jean-Marc's Gallic march down to the blackberry capped creek....followed by an ear-shattering scream I heard out in the field...

"MEEEEERRRRRRDDDDDE!"*

...the "circumstance" being a footloose vine and one fallen Frenchman, the latter having tripped over the former, beehive in hands and 60,000 "girls" strong...

"MEEEEERRRRRRDDDDDE!"

Meanwhile, clueless from the balcony and admiring the full moon above, the shriek caused my eye to wander from the moon and catch on an erratic movement below. Next, I saw a streak across the horizon and could have sworn it was a shooting star disguised in a bee suit. Those silly stars.

                                      *     *     *

Post note: our "juggler" succeeded in placing the beehive on its stone platform beside the creek, beneath the shimmer of stars above. But he's up to his old tricks again, with yet another ball in the air (French Wine Label Design). Check out his progress in the "Vineyard Update" at the end of this edition.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: qu'est-ce qui s'est passé = what happened; the other end of the telephone line = the kids & I were still living in Les Arcs, Jean-Marc had already moved north to begin pruning season; le ballon (m) = ball; le jongleur (la jongleuse) = juggler; merde! = sh--!

     => Dont miss "A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them"
     => Langstroth's Hive and the Honey-Bee: The Classic Beekeeper's Manual
   
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & quote:
Abeille. La diligente abeille n'a pas de temps pour la tristesse.

MP3 file: Download abeille.mp3
Wave file: Download abeille.wav

Shopping:
Don't be caught in customs without it: Burt's Bees Head To Toe Starter Kit
Orange blossom honey from Provence
In Music: "Vive la France" by Jazz great Sidney Bechet including "Petite Fleur" "Moustache Gauloise" "Dans Les Rues D'Antibes"

Terms & Expressions:
  une abeille maçonne = mason bee
  une abeille tueuse = killer bee
  une piqûre d'abeille = bee sting

English Terms & their French Equivalents:
  to have a bee in one's bonnet =avoir une idée fixe
  it's the bee's knees = c'est chouette! c'est extra!
  bee eater (bird) = un guêpier

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
:: Vineyard Update ::
Thanks to a flurry of feedback from "The Wine Label Poll" Jean-Marc has come up with a new prototype that he will enter into our October 1st contest. Check out his latest 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 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.


avis

Vines at sunset with a typical red provençal sky in December 06
A Frenchman's photo fit for a French wine label? Well, that was a mouthful. But will it make an eyeful?

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student... Check out the book, here.

un avis (ah-vee) noun, masculine
   1.  opinion; notice; advice

[From Old French "ce m'est à vis" ("this seems good to me")]

Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien.
I give my opinion, not as right, but as mine.
--Michel de Montaigne
.

Column
Jean-Marc and I are seated at a sushi bar in Aix-en-Provence. Each time the waiters appear (only to collect more hand rolls or sashimi) we must duck our heads as trays of sushi pass over us. The bar, after all, doubles as a wait station. The waiters are busy waiting...and so are we.

It will be a long time until our order arrives. I try to cool a cup of boiling green tea with a few puffs of air. Meantime, Jean-Marc has pulled out his portable phone and is thumbing over the buttons.
"Jean-Marc!" I protest. "We can't check email here!"

I remember back to when my husband stood in as sommelier at a gastronomic restaurant. Arriving home smelling like a roast duck in a cigar shop, he told me about how one of the diners, portable phone in hand, checked email throughout the meal. Realizing my Frenchman's shock (for eating is an art in France and not a three-ring high-tech circus) I made another mental note, this time about how to behave in a French restaurant.

I wonder about hypocrisy and cultural pride as I watch my husband check email. Well, we weren't eating...not yet at least...and we weren't exactly in France (but sort of in Japan, never mind that the Japanese waiters were speaking French). I pushed my chopsticks aside and quickly rooted through my purse for my own phone. I was just as eager as Jean-Marc to see the results of Friday's wine label poll. While I checked the website for percentages (noting that 44 percent of voters preferred the "red/blue" label), Jean-Marc read the comments as they arrived into his inbox.

The feedback was eye-opening. As for the labels, the three prototypes were described as anywhere from "eye-catching" to....

"... simple... forgettable... quirky... intriguing... [expletive].... odd... enfantine*... contemporary... [expletive]... cheap... cute... cartoonish... California... fussy... beurk*... tasteful... modern... belle... ugly... amateurish... ordinary... avant-garde... traditional... harsh... nice... drab... [expletive]... fresh... busy... hard... fly-by night... attirante*... rustic... homemade... young... too much..."

...and--last but not least--reminiscent of "Two Buck Chuck".

I put down my phone and turn to my distracted date. "Do you know what Two Buck Chuck means?"
Jean-Marc, putting his phone away, says "I do."
"You're not making Two Buck Chuck are you?"
"No."
"OK, then. Back to the drawing board!"

                        *   *   *

Read some of the comments that we received, and be sure to add your own, over at Jean-Marc's blog:

If you haven't voted yet, please help us out by taking the Wine Label Poll (at the end of this post). Mille mercis for your avis!*

............................................................................................................
References: enfantin(e) = childish; beurk = yuck!; attirant(e) = attractive; un avis (m) = opinion

Shopping:
Rosetta Stone French - the award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps
We drink way too much of this in summertime: Grenadine / Pomegranate Syrup.
Don't miss the soundtrack to Les Choristes
Caudalie Scrub Trio: A set of three petite sizes of the Vinotherapie Spa signature scrubs

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
:: Audio File ::
Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien.
MP3 file: Download avis.mp3
Wave file: Download avis.wav

Expressions:
  à mon avis = in my opinion
  changer d'avis =  to change one's mind
  donner son avis = to give one's opinion
  un avis amical = some friendly advice
  un avis au lecteur = a short preface to a book
  sauf avis contraire = unless otherwise indicated

                     The Wine Label Poll
Note: the first label was made by a graphic artist--the second and third were pasted together by Jean-Marc during a brainstorming session. Leave your comments (and read others' opinions here).

Rb_0807 Rb_0807_2 Moon

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.