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Entries from October 2007

bévue

Chrysanthemums
Chrysanthemums in Camaret-sur-Aigues, France (Vaucluse)

French Demystified: simple enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a more advanced student

la bévue (bay-vew) noun, feminine
   blunder, mistake

La mort, c'est ce qui nous échappe. L'ultime bévue.
Death, it is that which escapes us. The ultimate blunder.
--Francine Noël
.

Column
Autumn leaves in the valley of the Rhone make for a pumpkin-colored countryside. Driving toward Nyons this morning, admiring Mother Nature's palette, I notice the full-figured flowers for sale at a roadside vendor. Chrysanthemums!

It may be Halloween back home, but here in France we're honoring* the dead, not hawking candy. (And while chrysanthemums are the way to show one's respect to those who "repose," you wouldn't want to offer what the French regard as funeral flowers to a hostess.... not unless you want her to begin planning yours.)

(Note to my friend Charles: you are forgiven.... Next time try tulips!)
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: honoring = (La Toussaint or "All Saints Day" is when the French decorate cemeteries with multi-colored chrysanthemums, honoring the dead)

         The Complete Costume History / Le Costume Historique
         Medieval Costume in England and France


:: Audio File ::
Hear my son, Max, pronounce today's French word and quote.
La bévue: La mort, c'est ce qui nous échappe. L'ultime bévue.
Wave file: Download bevue.wav
.
Shopping:
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love & Language from the South of France
  The Pudlo Paris guide--available in English for the first time in 17 years!
    Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


égout

Monte_carlo_monaco
Not far from the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo: reserve your room with a view here.

Say It Right In French (Say farewell to language faux pas forever!)
.
un égout (ay-goo) noun, masculine
  sewer

Le rêve est un tunnel qui passe sous la réalité. C'est un égout d'eau claire, mais c'est un égout. The dream is a tunnel that passes under reality. It is a sewer of clear water, but it is a sewer. --Pierre Reverdy
.

Column
"Beurk!"* my daughter complains, as we brush our teeth at the bathroom sink which, on the upside, beats brushing at the tub...or "over the tub" for "over" we must lean (and down we must stoop) in order to spit/hit our drain target.

While brushing at the sink is a step up from brushing at the tub, "we're not there yet"* as the French would say. ("There" being a still-elusive state in which water runs in a more orderly and less odorous manner.)

"Ça sent!" my daughter continues. I have to agree with her: the sink smells. I do have my doubts about our drains. But so far there is no reason to believe that the pipes are faulty. And so, with renewed enthusiasm, I rinse out my mouth (determined not to doubt our water spout).

"Tiens!"* My son says, bounding into the bathroom.
"Cadeau pour toi!" Present for you!
"Who's it from?" I wonder.
"Papa!"

I rip open the packaging, never minding the no-nonsense gift wrap (a plastic bag), and find a lime green bottle. Absent is the cut-glass stopper and poetic gold-trimmed label. The sticker reads "2 bouchons par semaine" (2 capfuls a week). Well, there you go: the secret behind a French woman's enduring scent: pour it on!

"Elimine les odeurs..."* the sticker promises; sounds a bit accusing if you ask me. I skip to the end of the label, to the last bit which translates to "disinfects." Why, I find that downright insulting!

On second glance my suspicions are confirmed when, dumb as a drain, I realize that this perfume is for someone else: our promiscuous pipes.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: Beurk! = Yuck! we're not there yet = on n'est pas encore là; tiens! = here!; la souris (f) = mouse; élimine les odeurs = eliminates odors

       Dictionary of French Building Terms: essential for renovators/home-owners
    
:: Audio File ::
"Un égout. Le rêve est un tunnel qui passe sous la réalité. C'est un égout d'eau claire, mais c'est un égout."
Wave files: Download egout.wav
..
Shopping:
"FRENCH in 10 minutes a day" is a fun, dynamic and engaging way to begin your love affair with French.
Chansons Pour Noel: Songs for Christmas (in French)
Learn to speak French with Rosetta Stone French. Proven effective by NASA astronauts, Peace Corps volunteers and millions of students worldwide
.
Terms & Expressions:
  système d'égouts = sewerage system
  les eaux d'égouts = sewage
  aller à l'égout = to go down the drain
  un égoutier (une égoutieuse) = sewer worker
  un égouttoir = a dish drainer
  égoutter (verb) = to drain

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


rongeur

Souris
Italian cats are the best skirt, I mean--"souris"--chasers. (la souris = mouse)

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
(A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream)

rongeur (ron-zhay) noun, masculine
  rodent, gnawer

O temps rongeur, et toi, envieuse vieillesse, vous détruisez tout! O Time, thou great devourer, and thou, envious Age, together you destroy all things. --Ovide
.

Column
My brother-in-law, Jacques, moved out at the beginning of the month. I never imagined that my belle-famille* would live with me, well, not this early on in marriage. (Is 13 years "early on"? On a good day it still seems so.)  The salon,* where Jacques slept each night, barely had time to collect dust before
the new lodgers arrived demanding room AND board! Pushy would-be pensioners were they!

Pension (or "demi-pension"): the term evokes quaint 1920's France, when expats like M.F.K. Fisher took up residence in wallpapered rooms with lumpy beds, droopy curtains, and wobbly writing desks. What more could one's inner poet ask for? Perhaps a bit of dialogue over dinner in the home's quirky kitchen with its even quirkier cook/mistress of the house.

I love the idea of a quirky house mistress: artistic, eccentric and just nutty enough to not mind what the neighbors say. Come to think of it, these are traits both my mother and belle-mère* have in common...

(The one, artistic enough to board an international flight [Mexico city/Paris] in glitterly green pumps and a floor-length fire engine red cape. On the back of the cape, the face of Frieda Kahlo runs from my mom's shoulders to the backs of her knees... Sure you want to wear that, mom? I'm sometimes wont to say. "Absoloodle!" she'd only reply after one of her favorite fictive heros.*)

(... And the other, eccentric enough to lick lemon sauce off her patent leather purse when her forkful of flounder missed its target, landing in her lap where her purse was securely tucked. I still remember my amazement when my future mother-in-law, after a strict aristocratic upbringing, picked up her
purse and gave its shiny surface a swift swipe of the tongue. While the restaurant clientele sat stunned, I felt a sigh of relief escaping my own mouth, as the sauce had escaped hers: I would no longer have to worry about a perfectionistic mother-in-law.)

Digress, digress, digress (for what this essay has to do with M.F.K. Fisher and politesse* is anyone's guess). As for my mother-in-law, she brings us back to today's subject: rodents, or "rongeurs" as the French call them. (I called them pushy pensioners back in paragraph one...) Our house has been colonized by mice! On witnessing our dilemma, my mother-in-law, true to her down-to-earth, sauce slurping self, came up with a solution to our pest problem.
"Why don't you just domesticate them?" said she.

Good thing my own mom's not here at the moment... or she might be seconding my belle-mère's pet proposal by plucking feathers from that four foot tall Frieda cape of hers so as to fashion flamboyant curtains for our furry freeloaders. She'd surely call that a "mouse" warming present. Absoloodle she would.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: la belle-famille (f) = in-laws; le salon (m) = living room; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; fictive hero (from this book; la politesse (f) = politeness

You might love reading M.F.K. Fisher's words on France and the art of eating

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word & quote:
O temps rongeur, et toi, envieuse vieillesse, vous détruisez tout!
MP3 file: Download rongeur.mp3
.
In Gifts:

A Year in Provence (DVD)
Bonjour Les Amis!: French Made Easy for Children (DVD)
In Music: Aznavour: Ses Plus Grands Succes

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


To Spill Your Guts in French

Susan_2
The original Rouge-Bleu (a.k.a. "Susan") in Orange, France.

boyaux (bwa-yo) masculine noun (plural)
   guts, entrails

La voix de la conscience et de l'honneur est bien faible quand les boyaux crient. The voice of conscience and honor are really feeble when one's guts are crying out. --Denis Diderot
.

Column
When one's heart is stuffed with dusty parcels, packages that should have been untied and emptied long ago, then it's time to unpack. The French have a term for this: "déballer son coeur" (to pour out one's heart). More than the poetic French expression, I prefer a nitty-gritty idiom from my American
childhood: to spill one's guts.

While gut-spilling is cathartic, I promised to zip my lip when my best friend* came to visit last week. I vowed not to vent, promised not to prattle on about how life has gone from ho-hum tranquil to high tribulation since Jean-Marc, the kids and I left our quiet home in Les Arcs and moved to a shrilly shon-tee-ay.*

While the hectic harvest is past us, the construction work--with its shrills, spills and ills (the drilling, dust, and unsealed windows which let in the cold autumn air) has resumed. Come November we'll attack month eight of the renovation. While the electricity comes and goes, as does the water, returning sometimes cold, we continue to work and shower and try to go with the flow.

                                        *     *     *
At the Marignane airport I wait at the arrival gate, searching for familiar auburn locks. I spot my friend, Susan, whose hair is the color of a freshly minted centime.

"Nice bangs!" I say, admiring the rich copper highlights that are naturally hers. "Don't you have even one gray strand on your head?"
"Oh, they're there!" Susan insists, reaching over for a hug. "How are you, Rouge-Bleu?"*
"My lips are zipped!" I chuckle, remembering my good intentions: to spend five and a half upbeat days with one of my favorite people.

                                    *     *     *

"Did you know that when mama elephants lose a baby they mourn their loss?" Susan questions me as we enter the highway, exiting the airport. "They even shed tears. And if you listen carefully, you can hear them crying."

I think about big elephant tears, heavy as my dusty parcels of frustration. When next Susan tells me that a mother elephant is never left alone, but that the other female elephants gather around her like great gray shock absorbers... well then it doesn't take long for my lip to unzip and for so many dusty parcels to come crashing down as I mourn the loss of privacy, personal space and predictable plumbing. While such lost privileges are peanuts in comparison to the elephant's tristesse,* another mama's support is soothing all the same.
.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: best friend = (see Susan's bio here); shon-tee-ay = pronunciation for "chantier" (construction site); Rouge-Bleu = nickname for my friend (also the name of our vineyard); la tristesse (f) = sadness

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's word and quote:
Boyaux. La voix de la conscience et de l'honneur est bien faible quand les boyaux crient.
  MP3 file: Download boyaux.mp3
  Wave file: Download boyaux.wav

More French language tools:
Pronounce French words correctly with speech recognition and analysis tools
SmartFrench: Learn French from Real French People
...and music is a great language tool! Check out Marc Lavoine

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


emplette

Seguret
Fall colors in the town of Seguret.

Learn to speak French with Rosetta Stone French. Proven effective by NASA astronauts, Peace Corps volunteers and millions of students worldwide

une emplette (om-plet) noun, feminine

  : purchase, shopping, acquisition

Un turfiste n'est jamais aussi anxieux de connaître le résultat des courses qu'en l'attente de sa femme partie faire des emplettes. A racegoer is never so anxious to know the results of the races* as when waiting for his wife who's gone shopping. --Jean Delacour

*a play on words (courses = races) from the expression "faire les courses" = to do the shopping
.

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

(The following story was written one year ago...at another time and place.)

                                *     *     *
My eleven-year-old returned from the mini-market with a bottle of wine.
"Wine!" said I, astonished.
"Pour faire plaisir à Papa,"* Max explained.

Earlier, Max and Jackie had offered to ride their bikes to the bakery to pick up some items for breakfast. I hadn't counted on their bringing home booze.

"We need toilet paper," I had said as the kids headed out. Please stop by the supérette* on your way back. The kids wrinkled their noses, complaining that they would look carrément ridicule* shopping for toilet paper. When I insisted, they quickly negotiated (offering to pick up a roll of Sopalin* instead).

A half-hour later, the kids returned from the village, their cheeks crimson from the cool autumn air. When Jackie pulled a six-pack of toilet paper from the bag, I guessed she must have had a change of heart on discovering that toilet paper comes in a rainbow of colors (and fragrances!).
"It's peach-scented," Jackie pointed out. "Smell it!"

That's when Max pulled a bottle of wine from his sac à dos.* Jean-Marc examined the bottle, amazed at the coincidence: the Côtes du Rhône wine was from vines located near our future hometown.
"I chose a young wine," Max said, figuring the price might be more reasonable (he'd forked out 6 euros 80 for the bottle).

Coincidences aside, I thought about my eleven-year-old cruising the wine section of the superétte, selecting a particular vintage before checking out. Checking out...

"Wait a minute," I said. "The store clerk let an eleven-year-old buy wine?"
"I told him it was for my dad," Max replied.
Forgetting the absurdity of the matter, my eyes shot over to Jackie. Well, that explained the toilet paper that she had initially been too embarrassed to buy.
She must have told the clerk that the peachy PQ* was for her mom!

...............................................................................................................
References: pour faire plaisir à Papa = to please Daddy; la supérette = mini-market; carrément ridicule = positively ridiculous; le Sopalin (from "Société du Papier-Linge") = paper towel; le sac à dos = backpack; le PQ (slang) = TP (toilet paper)

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Un turfiste n'est jamais aussi anxieux de connaître le résultat des courses qu'en l'attente de sa femme partie faire des emplettes.
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/emplette2.wav

French Terms & Expressions:
  aller faire des emplettes = to go shopping
  faire emplette de quelque chose = to purchase something
  être de bonne emplette = to be worth buying, to be a bargain

In Gifts:

Ticket to Ride Europe -- Award winning train game
For baby: French Baby Dining Set
Rick Steves' Paris 2008 includes friendly places to eat and sleep, walking tours & more

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


âme

Ame
Fishing boats, or "pointus", at the end of Marseilles... These vessels have almost as much character as the man in today's story. Read on and enjoy.

une âme (am) noun, feminine

  1. soul; spirit; heart; essence

La patience est le sourire de l'âme.
Patience is the soul's smile.
--Philippe Obrecht
.

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

In the tiny fishing village of les Goudes, the second to last port along Marseilles' limestone coast, Jean-Marc admires the small Provençal fishing boats while I snap photos. The names of the wooden pointus have as much character as the boats themselves: the fun-loving "Fanny" has received a new coat of white paint and the thick green border around her "waist" has been filled in again; "Paulette's" sides are a bit chipped which suits her chipie personality; further down the dock, the boats "Saint Antoine" and "Saint Nicolas" rock in silent meditation.

Stepping off the docks on our way out of the port, we hear, "Do you want some wood?" Jean-Marc and I turn toward the voice. "Please, take some," the man in the salt and pepper beard continues. Jean-Marc stares down at a pile of driftwood, or bois flottant. As if reading his mind, the fisherman replies, "It's no good for burning." Before Jean-Marc can decline, the man adds, "but you can make art out of it!"

Jean-Marc and I look at each other quizzically. "I'll show you," the man offers, introducing himself as "Camille" (pronouncing it 'ka-me'). "Venez," Come. I look over to the boats: Fanny and Paulette seem to wink and so we enter the fisherman's cottage.

Inside Camille's cabanon the walls are whitewashed--except for one--which holds the cheminée and is painted azure-blue. To the right of the front door is a matchbox kitchen delineated by a U-shaped counter; the kitchen floor is slightly wider than the fisherman's belly. Knives line the wall below a few dented casseroles. There are two wooden tabourets on the opposite side of the concrete counter, which overlooks the small room with the azure colored wall.

"These chairs," Camille explains, "are called 'assis-debout.' Workers lean back on them, not quite seated (assis), not quite standing (debout)." Camille demonstrates, pretending to shuck oysters on the counter before him.

"Venez." We follow Camille's suggestion and take the stairs which lead to a bedroom just off the wooden mezzanine. We walk single file past the unmade bed to the terrace, which overlooks the tiny port. There, on the balcony, Camille has put more driftwood out to dry. Below, I see Fanny and Paulette who are bumping hips on the sparkling dance floor that covers the sea all the way to Africa; the wooden Saints, Antoine and Nicolas, bob up and down and seem to make the sign of the cross in response to the dancing she-boats.

We leave the terrace, pausing before a chest of drawers. Camille points to the unusual applique that camouflages a lightbulb on the wall above; it reminds me of a buffalo scull from my native Arizona, only this one is made of bois and not bone. "Voilà. You can create something like this," he says, reminding us of the woodpiles bleaching beneath the Mediterranean sun. I admire the applique, wondering how we could ever make something so clever as it.

We return to the room with the azure wall to stand in front of the windows which are level with the boats outside. Camille explains that each year he paints the shutters and each year the Mistral wind strips them all over again. Last year he solved the problem by painting them with a product used on boats like Fanny. I study the painted blue shutters until my eyes land on what looks to be a bookshelf below. "Do you know what that is?" Camille says, noticing my interest. "The lavandières used to wash clothes inside there. The linens were pushed against the accordion base in order to free the dirt from the cloth."

At the end of our visit Camille tells us that the fishing port of Les Goudes is where the soul of Marseilles lies. I wonder if Camille might be the âme of Marseilles incarnate, but I don't tell him this. Instead we thank him for the driftwood and promise to "make art out of it."

Camille

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la chipie = little devil; le bois flottant = driftwood; le cabanon = cottage; la cheminée = fireplace; la casserole = saucepan; le tabouret = stool; une applique = appliqué (bulb/lamp cover); le bois = wood; la lavandière = woman who handwashes clothes, washerwoman; une âme = soul

       The Pudlo Paris guide--available in English for the first time in 17 years!
       Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

:: Audio File ::
Hear my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the word âme and today's quote:
La patience est le sourire de l'âme.
MP3 file: Download ame1.mp3
Wave file: Download ame1.wav

Francophile Gifts and more...:
  In DVD: Visions of France
  In music... Provence: A Romantic Journey
  Gathered from the salt beds of Camargue: Fleur De Sel

French Expressions:
une âme soeur = a kindred soul
rendre l'âme = to give up the ghost
se donner corps et âme à quelqu'un = to give oneself body and soul to someone

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


embarras

Labels_2
Click here for a closer look at the individual labels.

More than eighty of the loveliest, most tranquil, and sometimes hidden places in Paris are celebrated in the charming guidebook "Quiet Corners of Paris".

un embarras (om-bah-rah) noun, masculin
  1. a difficulty, worry; a predicament; an uncertainty  2. an embarrassment

La nécessité nous délivre de l'embarras du choix.
Necessity delivers us from the difficulty of choice.
--Vauvenargues
.

Column
Today's word is "embarras" as in the popular French expression "l'embarras du choix" (to be spoilt for choice). Such is the predicament that we currently find ourselves in: the difficulty in choosing a wine label for our vineyard's first bottles! Thankfully, there is a choice....

So many creative designs arrived into our e-mail boxes, both Jean-Marc's and mine, after the last Wine Label Poll and subsequent "call for help". Mille mercis* to the artists, both seasoned and "seasonal," who responded. Whether designers or dabblers, doués vous êtes!*

It is time now to cast your vote for Jean-Marc's wine label. I'd better rephrase that last sentence as the word order would seem to show favoritism! (While Jean-Marc did design one of the 37 labels in today's poll, the goal is to choose the best one for his wine.) To vote for the best wine label:

* First, please view the choices (click on the image to see the complete label; to simply see the corresponding number, put your cursor over the image). View all 37 labels here.

* Next, cast your vote, here:


To read what people are saying about the various labels, click here.

Thank you very much for your vote! For updates about the wine label and to see which one ends up on the bottle check Jean-Marc's blog.

See these related stories:
"Etiquette"
"Avis"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: mille mercis = a thousand thanks; doués vous êtes = gifted you are

:: Audio File ::
Embarras. La nécessité nous délivre de l'embarras du choix.
  MP3 file: Download embarras.mp3
  Wave file: Download embarras.wav

:: Expressions ::
  être dans l'embarras = to be in a predicament
  faire des embarras = to lack simplicity or ease in decision making
  avoir l'embarras du choix = to have too much to choose from
  tirer quelqu'un d'embarras = to get someone out of a tight spot
  mettre quelqu'un dans l'embarras = to put someone in an awkward position

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


moucheron

Moucheron
Why post a photo of bugs when we can look at this escapist image instead? Far from the plague... read on in today's story, below. Photo taken in Collioures, France.

Retiring in France: A Survival Handbook

Wine label update: check out Jean-Marc's blog to see all of the wine labels for Monday's Wine Label Poll

le moucheron (moosh-uh-rowhn) noun, masculine
  midge, gnat; fruit fly
  kid (slang)

Le savoir humain sera rayé des archives du monde avant que nous ayons le dernier mot d'un moucheron. Human knowledge will be erased from the archives of the world before we possess the last word that the gnat has to say to us. --Jean Henri Fabre
.

Column_2
It is time, once again, to talk about living conditions around here... considering that our on-the-mend farmhouse has just survived its first plague.

I began noticing the "black-bellied dew-lovers,"* last week. (So much for a fancy name: a mouche* is a mouche!) The tiny red-eyed fruit flies, or "moucherons," hovered over my favorite pottery bowl until I plucked out a few furry oranges and one sorely bruised apple. There! That'll show them. Undeterred, the little winged parade headed over to the poubelle* wherein a few bottles of wine lured them in like lushes. I grabbed the sides of the garbage sack and with a twist and a toss they were gone. But not for long.

When the fruit flies reappeared, this time en force,* I picked through the fruit again and put a lid on the garbage can. I ran a soapy sponge over the countertops and returned the honey to the cupboard. The kitchen was now spic-and-span, though the fruit flies were the only ones to notice--this from
the rim of my tea cup where they took turns diving into the herbal waters below. Beurk!* I spat out my tea and brushed my finger over my tongue a few times for effect. While looking skyward in supplication, I saw clouds of fruit flies hovering above me and their collective wing flapping was enough to dry the just-wiped countertops. Shivering, I set the fruit bowl outside and ran upstairs to meditate on good sportsmanship....

In my bedroom/temporary office, located over Jean-Marc's wine cellar, I tried to look out the window for inspiration but the glass was one big blur of transparent wings! I shot out of my chair and threw open the window to find Jean-Marc standing on the patio below.
"There are fruit flies up here!" I cried.
"Je sais, cherie.* It is the marc. The flies will be gone in a few days."

I know it is the marc, or pressed grape skins, that are attracting the fruit flies! I have only remained ignorant in the name of good sportsmanship. Last spring, when Jean-Marc realized how complicated it would be to build the wine cellar elsewhere, away from our private home, I finally agreed to let him expand the garage. Though I was wary of losing privacy, I never imagined that a veritable plague of dew-lovers would arrive! And so it is that living above a wine laboratory, a live one at that, is beginning to take its toll.

Returning to my computer I try to get some work done until those "black-bellied dew lovers" begin crawling onto my hands! When they alight on my cheek and traipse across my brow I jump up and run from the room in horror.

Back in the kitchen the air is now teeming with moucherons. I look across the room and the light hanging over the table reveals swarms of them. How will I feed the kids their dinner? I quickly fill two bowls full of leftover pasta, cover them with a paper plate and watch the kids steal outside into the dark, sweet arms flapping as they fend off the dew lovers.

"There are thousands of fruit flies in here!" I say to Jean-Marc the minute he walks in. "Yes, there are four or five moucherons in the kitchen," he replies, and I sense he is low on patience, probably having fending off FLEETS of fruit flies since we last spoke at the window.
"No, there are thousands!" I correct, pointing out the truth as it is plain to see and don't try to pull the wool over me!

Bracing himself after what he perceives to be a verbal attack he responds.
"Millions!!!!!" says he, which is just his way of saying that I am over-reacting and why do I have to be such a nag when I could be a good sport instead?

With that, he abruptly leaves the room and I sit fuming at the table, one hand on my head the other covering a bowl of pasta. I am so upset that I can't even think of a good retort... except maybe, yes, why not...

"You Big Black-Bellied Dew-Lover-You!" The name's gotta be good for something. And those fruit flies shook their tiny heads in glee, the only ones, once again, to appreciate one nagging housewife's repartee.
.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: black-bellied dew-lover = translation of the Greek term "Drosophila melanogaster" (for fruit fly); la mouche (f) = fly; la poubelle (f) = garbage, trash can; en force = in great numbers; beurk! = yuck!; je sais, cherie = I know, darling

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nests, feed families, and more. Rare volume will delight any naturalist."


:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote:
Moucheron. Le savoir humain sera rayé des archives du monde avant que nous ayons le dernier mot d'un moucheron.
MP3 file: Download moucheron.mp3
Wave file: Download moucheron.wav
Shopping:
Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"
Le Grand Miel -- 1000 Flower honey by Bernard Michaud
Songs in French for Children
In French film: "French Twist" starring Victoria Abril and Josiane Balasko

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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essouffler

Essouffler
Swiped my mom's hat (while she swiped my camera for this photo).

Le Nouveau Petit Robert 2008 : it's worth the wait

essouffler (eh-soo-flay) verb
  to make breathless, to wind

My son Max's example sentence (hear sentence in "Audio file" section):
     J'ai couru et maintenant je suis essoufflé.
     I ran and now I am out of breath.
.

Column
Some choices, like whether to eat greasy pizza for lunch or to pedal over to the produce stand for something else, are made in a moral minute. And so it was that I finally took my new bike out for another spin yesterday. As I flew down the country road, I noticed the whoosh of the chestnut trees, the newly crimson grapevines and their light grapeless branches. The harvest is over and a new freedom is in the air. With the wind in my sails, I cruised south to a nearby fruit and vegetable farm to test the capacity of my bike's saddle bags.

Maybe it was the new wide seat, but riding a bike wasn't as painful as I had remembered and before long I turned off the paved road and coasted down a dirt driveway.

The fruit and vegetable stand was deserted. Rows of empty wooden cageots* lined the tables beneath the paillote* and the bright red bench was bottomless: not a soul's seat to fill it.
"Manque de pot!"* the farmer said from across the yard. "You're out of luck!" When monsieur mentioned something about new fall hours I assured him "Ce n'est pas grave." Not to worry. I'd be back! After the effortless journey out to the farm, my mind's eye saw countless aller-retours* in which I'd fill
those saddle bags full of cabbage, leeks, and navets* galore--soar soar! Riding, after all, was like flying. I'd be back like a rocket tomorrow, to shuttle home chou-fleur* and more!

Beaming with bonne intention,* I turned my handlebars north and pushed off...only the bike balked. Turning onto the paved road I noticed the pedals had slowed considerably. I tried shifting down, then up, but the wheels just wouldn't turn as they had before. It must have been the wind... As I zigzagged away from the fruit stand my legs quickly grew tired.

Nearing a mossy brook, beyond which a donkey stood as if in a plein air* painting (the serene Ventoux Mountains for a backdrop), I tried to take my mind off effort. But all those potholes in the road bucked me back to reality.

Not half way home, I had to get off my bike and push. It was as if some great Gallic giant was tampering with the country road, lifting it at the wrong end this time. I finally perceived the tilt, one that was no longer in my favor. Catching my breath while walking my bike along the near-invisible incline I could almost hear the giant's great guffaws--or was the laughter coming from the approaching car? As the vehicle eclipsed me, its passengers seeming to gawk, I whipped out my camera and pretended to be photographing the âne,* feeling very much like the subject in my camera's viewfinder.

Back at home, a slice of greasy cheese pizza on my plate, legs like jelly, tucked beneath the table, I say a quick grace for the missing vegetables. I'd have never made it home had I to shuttle back so much as one skinny stick of celery.
.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le cageot (m) = crate; la paillote (f) = straw hut; manque de pot = no luck; un aller-retour (m) = round trip; le navet (m) = turnip; le chou-fleur (m) = cauliflower; la bonne intention (f) = good intention; en plein air (m) = a painting done "in the open air"; un âne (m) = ass, donkey

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Max pronounce these French words:
J'ai couru et maintenant je suis essoufflé.
  MP3 file: Download essouffler.mp3
  Wave file: Download essouffler.wav

Shopping:
24 Best-Loved French Folk Songs (MP3 download)
The Smart Traveler's Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers
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A sweet French fragrance in retro style Art Deco spray bottle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Terms & Expressions:
  être tout essoufflé = to be all out of breath
  s'essouffler - to get out of breath, become exhausted; to run out of steam

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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"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


piquer

Piquer
My mom (in hat) swishing, scrubbing, and "swiping" a moment with strangers along a country road.

(October 5th 2007) Just a story for you today, on the eve of my mother's departure. Today's word, and the theme of the following chronique,* is "piquer" (pronounced "pee-kay"). While the verb means many things, it mostly means "to sting" (like what happens to the eyes, just before they water, upon a loved one's leaving). "Piquer" can also mean "to steal". Read on...
.

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

The French word "piquer" means "to swipe." It is my mom's favorite verb in French or English--not that she's a klepto--though you might call her a "clipper"...

In the town of Orange, Mom and I are studying plant life. Those municipal planters that lead up to La Place Aux Herbes are thriving and throwing out their green abundance from the suspended pots which line the neatly kept ruelle below.

"I always keep a little pair of scissors in my pocket..." Mom explains, regretting that she forgot her shears this time. She approaches a sumptuous planter and picks up an arm of ivy. When the green leaves feel like rare emeralds in her hands, I begin to have that uneasy feeling that Mom is close to committing another of her clippety-clip crimes. I look both ways, the awkward accomplice, while my mother reaches up and snaps off what she calls a "start".

"Mom! There is a policeman just around the corner!"
"Oh, pffft! To him, I am just an old eccentric woman out picking flowers. It's not like he is going to throw me in prison."

I take a good look at my mother, who I decide is indeed eccentric, though not old. From her silver crown to the soles of those stolen shoes she is the living, breathing definition of original--never mind where those soles originated from... She has swiped my son's tennis shoes, my husband's sweatpants and my very own T-shirt, which she wears as one of many layers under a tan windbreaker (I am not sure where she got the jacket, only that it is not her own). None of the items belong to her, least of all the conspicuous green branch hanging out of her (or whoever's...) coat pocket!

I decide to not worry about Mom. After all, she soon will be boarding a flight to Mexico, returning home, safe from the French flics. Meanwhile, all those parched plants out on my front porch have disappeared... in their place I now see a sumptuous emerald garden. As I look outside to those once neglected pots-now-come-to-life, I feel sick with sadness at my mother's imminent departure. Until she goes, I will steal, swipe and pocket as many moments as I can with my favorite thread and flowerbed thief.

***

French Vocabulary

la chronique = column, story

la ruelle = alleyway, lane

le flic = cop, policeman

Mom's favorite book... and wouldn't you know the hero's name is piquer ("Peekay"). Run, don't walk, and buy yourself a copy here.

French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak French

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California