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Entries from June 2009

lavoir

lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

lavoir (laah-vwar)noun, masculine

    wash house, washing place

Audio File & Example Sentence
Listen to my daughter's dear friend, Sonia, pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 sound file

On lave son linge sale au lavoir.
We wash our clothes at the (community) wash basin
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Improve your French pronunciation with the Exercises in French phonetics book. Click here. 
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A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

At the old stone lavoir* in Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues a man is doing the washing.  There is a plastic bucket beside him and box of sugar in his hand. He is sprinkling the white powder over the linge sale,* which drips from the centuries-old stone below. When the laundry begins to froth at the surface, I realize that not sugar--but laundry detergent--is responsible for this sudsy chemical reaction.  Turns out our washer man has recycled the plastic box of sugar into a soap recipient, so as not to carry a much bigger box to the launderette each time.

lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

I study the ancient wash room from across the street, where I have finished a photographic journey around the Provençal village. I am headed back to my car, content with the images I have captured, only, the man at the lavoir is the most precious picture of all! As a rule, I do not point my lens at the locals. It seems intrusive--if not exploitative. However, just as with French grammar, there is an exception to every rule and, in this case friends are that exception.

After all, the man and I had established some sort of rapport* (you might say we were des connaissances*) back at the fountain when first I arrived to the village. Seated on some steps, he had been feeding the birds... and I had been setting out, from the municipal parking lot, to discover the village. 

Locking my car door, I had paused to witness the scene across the way:  the joy on a stranger's face, the happiness that only a dance with Dame Nature* can bring. The dance, in this instance, was no more than the doting relationship between man and wild animal: Monsieur was feeding the pigeons.

How his face lit up with delight, bite after bite, on feeding the feathered friends to his right! When one of the pigeons flew up--to land at the top of the fountain--a friendship was born: that's when I pointed my lens at the pigeon and snapped the photo. Monsieur smiled at me, as if I had photographed a member of his very own family. He pointed to his bag of bird feed (a small sack of rice, premier prix*). I nodded in affirmation. Hunger is hunger, black, white, or feathered, and he who gives to the poor is priceless.

...Priceless as the scene before me of a lone man washing a lone shirt in a lonely French town. Of the many remarkable scenes I had viewed from the other end of a camera lens, none were so picturesque as this. But how to proceed? It occurred to me that I might simply ask Monsieur's permission for his photo.

Lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse

Permission granted, I watched as Monsieur thoughtfully rearranged the bucket and the box of soap before returning to his chore. I could now see his working hands, as they kneaded and scrubbed, and I now had a better view of the soapy subject:
"Ma chemise,"* Monsieur explained, and his accent was as foreign as my own.

"Je suis marocain,"* the washer man offered.
"And I am American," I offered back.

But what to say next--apart from "do you come here often?" And so it was that I asked the clumsy question:

"Do people actually use these old washbasins?"
"Vous savez,"* Monsieur said simply, unassumingly, "on n'est pas tous les riches."*

I set my costly camera aside... and wanted to crawl under the stone lavoir and hide. I had an urge to become small, petit as the pigeon back at the fountain--and with an appetite as all-consuming as its own: an appetite for amour* and approval from the man sans machine.

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Thank you for your comments & feedback.


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Lavoirs: Washhouses of Rural France ~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~

le lavoir (m) = wash basin; le linge (m) sale = dirty laundry; le rapport (m) = connection, relationship; la connaissance (f) = acquaintance; la Dame Nature (f) = Mother Nature; le premier prix (m) = first (bargain) price; ma chemise (f) = my shirt; je suis marocain = I am Moroccan; vous savez = you know; on n'est pas tous les riches = we are not (all of us) rich; l'amour (m) = love

Book (photo above): Lavoirs: Washhouses of Rural France
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lavoir (c) Kristin Espinasse
Postnote: Monsieur, sensing my malaise, offered a kind conclusion to our conversation:
"Besides," he said, "Je n'ai pas de femme," I don't have a wife... and not alot of clothes to wash.... Je n'ai pas besoin d'une machine à laver.

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


colis

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Today's story, by guest author Arnold Hogarth, takes place in Paris, on the charming Ile Saint-Louis....  Speaking of Paris, mille mercis for the fun and inspiring Paris suggestions that you sent my friend, Greg-- who sends you his remerciements.

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Today's word from French Word-A-Day. (...sign up if you haven't already!):

colis (ko-lee) noun, masculine

    : parcel, package

Audio File & Expressions:
Download MP3 sound file and listen to my eleven-year-old daughter pronounce the following:

 par colis postal
envoyer/recevoir un colis

Trois jeunes de 17 à 20 ans ont été placés en garde à vue après le vol de 46 colis postaux. Three youths, aged from 17 to 20, were placed in police custody after stealing 46 postal parcels. --Le Parisien

Book: Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

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P  E  R  C  E  P  T  I  O  N  S
by Arnold Hogarth

What is America’s fascination with France? Beyond the museums, walking tours, monuments, cafes----just what is it? Well, for this American, it’s the difference in values, attitudes, and perceptions submerged in the deep waters of each culture.
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When, on occasion, one surfaces – there can be confusion, sometimes angst, but many times great humor, and even moments of sweet poignancy. This story is true . . . (more or less).

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A Paris Lady

Post Office on Ile. St. Louis:
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As I reached for the aluminum glass door to the tiny Post Office located on Ile. St. Louis in central Paris, an old lady carrying a cardboard box, of dimensions approximately 18” x 18”, rushed in front of me and at the last minute crowded between my extended arm and the aluminum handle I was reaching for—and  inserted herself and her box between me and the door. The box could not have been heavy, as she managed it easily with ungloved hands that showed the ash and wrinkles of a very old trooper.
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The temperature was approximately 40 degrees. With neither gloves nor a scarf, she warded off the moist chill with only a worn wool coat, a crown of wiry snow white hair, a black and white checked cotton dress, black leggings and brown boots of the working type, not the fashion type.
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She peered at me through glasses more resembling goggles, and said something in French. I speak no French, so spoke back in English -- and she just looked at me. Just then a teenage girl approached and said, “excuse me please,” nodded politely to the old lady, and said something to her in French. The old lady smiled thinly and the teenager then turned a sweet gaze on me and asked if I would permit the old lady to precede me.
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I smiled at the old lady and she went to the postal counter on the right. The counter to the left had a young man heavily engaged with the clerk. I estimated his transaction would take a long time; so, I lined up behind the teenager, who insisted I go in front of her because I arrived before she had.

“Do you know who that lady is?” the teenager whispered to me in a lovely French accent.
“Why no,” I replied.
“Oh,” she said, “that’s Madam de Gerverseux,” as if I would immediately know who she was.
“Madam de Gerverseux?”
“I think she’s almost 90 now,” the teenager said, “she lives just around the corner in a small ground floor studio apartment.” Madam glanced around at us while the clerk went to the back room to fetch something. From her curious expression, I think she sensed that we were talking about her, and I think she understood some English. Taking a good look at her, I realized that she was quite attractive and her eyes were not old, but crystal blue and very penetrating. She smiled sweetly at me with a long and sturdy gaze.

She didn’t look close to 90--closer to 70--but because of her worn clothes and somewhat bent posture and movements of an older person, I didn’t think twice about her at the door; but, as I say, upon closer inspection, she was very pretty. The clerk returned and there was immediate reengagement regarding madam’s cardboard box.

“So, who is she?” I asked the teenager.
“Before the second war, around 1938,” the teenager said, “when Madam de Gerverseux was around twenty, she was the toast of Paris, a dancer, singer, and one of the great beauties of the era. She was an understudy to Josephine Baker, the famous, American Black entertainer, and worked with her many years at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysèes. All the children in Paris learn about Madam de Gerverseux life. She was also a hero in the French underground movement during the war and responsible for saving hundreds of French lives. Everyone knows who she is and what she has accomplished.”

“But,” I said, “she seems so bedraggled, almost like a street beggar.”
“Oh, no,” said the teenager, “she made a fortune during her time, and as far as anyone knows, she has a lot of money. It is said, though, that she lives like she does, because money is of little value to her. She tells people there’s nothing it can provide that isn’t available without it. We learned all about her in school, and every school child in France knows how wealthy she is.”

The clerk took Madam’s cardboard box from the counter top, cradled it easily on his hip and gently patted the top of Madam’s hand, and said something in French. She smiled radiantly, turned, nodded kindly to me and the teenager, and walked proudly with quick steps and pushed through the aluminum glass door. We watched through the window as she stepped briskly down the sidewalk. The sun was out and shown on her face as she turned and smiled at us through the window.

“I wonder what was in the box,” I said, “such a big box and so light.”
“Oh,” said the teenager, “there’s never anything in the box. She comes almost everyday at about this time, with a similar box and mails it to herself. Sometimes, you will see that the box is torn and scrapped where she has repeatedly removed the old label – and she brings the same boxes in time after time until there are in tatters, and then she replaces them with new boxes.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to disparage the great women. Just then the clerk said something to me in French, and I shrugged.

“Yes, Monsieur, what can I do for you?” he said in broken English.
“Do you have a box like the one the madam just carried out?”
“Oui, Monsieur,” and he went to the back room. I could hear him rattle around and he soon reappeared with an identical box. “And what,” he asked, “do we put in the box?”
“Just this,” I said, handing him a note I had quickly scribbled.
“And where do we send the box, Monsieur” the clerk asked.
“Do you have Madam’s address?”
“But of course,” Monsieur.
“Please address the box to her,” I said.

As I went to leave, the teenager asked, “Do you mind if I ask what you wrote?”
I reached out my hand and held hers, and told her that I had written - "I love you".
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--
Arnold Hogarth, 77, was raised in So. Cal. and currently lives in Fallbrook, San Diego county. He is retired and spends two months in Paris each year.

Please help me to thank Mr. Hogarth for his story by leaving your feedback and comments in the comments box! A simple "merci" might really make this writer's day, qui sait?

 

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photos (c) Kristin Espinasse. Lily of Spain flowers thriving along an ancient rock wall in Rasteau.
Valerian flowers (a.k.a. les lilas d'Espagne" growing from dusty ledges along a rock wall in Rasteau).

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


l'accent tonique

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Les hasards du métier: I have been hollered at...while photographing the locals...but this is the first time I have ever been mooned by one! Photo taken in the town of St-Maurice-sur-Eygues, coming soon to a Cinéma Vérité "theater" near you!

l'accent tonique (lah-ksahn toh-neek) noun, masculine

    : tonic stress (aka "accent d'intensité)

Audio File:
Listen to my son Max's definition: Download "accent tonique"
L'accent tonique c'est quand tu appuies sur une partie d'un mot, genre insister sur une syllable. Tonic stress is when you put stress on a certain part of a word, for example, by insisting on a syllable.

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Today we're going to talk about "tonic stress" à la français. In case you were wondering (as I was...), "Tonic Stress" is not a new fitness fad for forty-somethings. Non. And Tonic Stress is not an Anglophile cocktail-- served up with an olive and a twist of lemon--at the Bar Hemingway in the Ritz Hotel....

Be not mistaken: Tonic Stress is not a modern-day malady (you won't find the term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, no SIR-ee ... or might that be sir-EE?). Again, Tonic Stress is not some Parisian potion to put on our hair spare heads, as if! Comme si

Finally, Tonic Stress is not a reaction, one undergone or suffered by French pigeons, when stalked by an uber-anxious American expatriate. No, tonic stress is.... well, it is...

(...the "pressure of finding a suitable definition for Tonic Stress" -- might that be what tonic stress is?).  Apparently not. Read on, in the following letter:
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Hi, Kristin,

Signing your “livre d’or”, in addition to reminding me that I owed you another story, also reminded me of an incident that casts some light on the difficulties of understanding spoken French.

I used to subscribe to the audio series “Champs-Elysées”, and on one of their tapes (yes, it was tape cassettes at the time), a word popped up which sounded like “dédor”.  It was in the context of an award being given in the fashion industry.  Of course, with “Champs-Elysées”, you get a transcript of the tape, so I looked it up.  The actual expression was “dé d’or”, meaning “golden thimble”.

My immediate problem was that I had not previously known the word for “thimble”.  But on a deeper level, a problem with spoken French is that, for various reasons, it’s very hard to separate the words in a spoken stream.

One reason is that most final consonants are not pronounced at all.  Another is la liaison, which attaches the final consonant from one word, modified, to the beginning of the next (running them both together).  But perhaps the major reason French words run together is the lack, in French, of what in linguistics is called a “tonic stress” (in French, “l’accent tonique”).

In English, the tonic stress is very important.  It moves around as a word is varied, and it’s important for speakers to get it right.  Thus, for example (showing the stressed syllable in capitals):


“Photograph” is pronounced /FOE-te-graf/

“Photographic” is pronounced /foe-te-GRA-fic/

“Photographer” is pronounced /fe-TOG-re-fer/


Which syllable is stressed is a major part of distinguishing these words when you hear them, as the actual endings added, “ic” and “er”, are themselves very short.  And if, in a sentence, you hear two stressed syllables, there’s a word division in between somewhere.

Alone among all the languages I know, French has no tonic stress on individual words.  Instead, in French, the stress falls on the last syllable of a group of words united by their meaning.  Other Romance languages have tonic stress on individual words.  In Spanish it’s so important that if the stress doesn’t fall in a standard position, the stressed syllable is marked with a written accent mark.  In Italian, it’s not marked (unless it’s on the last syllable), but you’d better know where it is (as in English).

Only in French is it lacking, which can cause all the words in a spoken sentence to run together, as if they were one word.  Showing the stress:

Je vais aller à l’université deMAIN.

If that were an English sentence, it would probably be read:

Je vais ALLer à l’uniVERsité DEmain.


For all the above reasons, if in a spoken French sentence you encounter a word you don’t know, then you don’t know where it ends.  Then you don’t know where the next word begins, and you risk losing the entire rest of the sentence.  In other languages, particularly Germanic languages like German and English, you have a better chance of actually hearing the divisions between the words.

Having studied French, Spanish, and Italian, I find them to be quite similar, and of about equal difficulty, in their vocabularies and grammar.  But French is much harder to speak and to understand when spoken.  This is for the above reasons, and also because it has a lot more sounds than Spanish and Italian, and some of them, for a native English speaker, are very odd and hard to produce.

Just some thoughts on the language.

Regards,

Larry

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Note: Larry Krakauer, a retired engineer, organizes a free conversation group every other Wednesday evening, in the vicinity of Wayland, Massachusetts (USA). Contact Larry at:  LJK@alum.mit.edu 

Exercises in French Phonics A Vous de Parler / Your Turn to Talk
Many thanks to Larry for his thoughts on language. Now, let's talk about "Tonic French"--that is: Let's get our French in shape by talking about l'accent tonique and more: share your comments about language learning. Do you have difficulty, as I do, pronouncing French? What are some questions that you have always wanted answered, about the French language? To all French teachers, students--and Francophones-- who may be reading: please help answer any forthcoming questions in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

Don't miss an entertaining anecdote by Larry, here.

And check out the bestseller Exercises in French Phonics, by Francis W. Nachtman, for more on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly!


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http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=FrenchWord-a-day&loc=en_US

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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


poireau

Pigeons (c) Kristin Espinasse. Photo taken in St. Maurice-sur-Eygues
"What's for lunch?" (That'd be the pigeons talking and not the Frenchman studying the pigeons, fork and knife in hand, hands rapping the table in the courtyard, below! Do you see the second pigeon, hidden in the "trou" to the left?

un poireau (pwah-roh) noun, masculine

    : a leek

(The plural is "poireaux")

For those of you who are wondering what to have for your next meal (besides pigeon...), guest columnist James R. Wilson is here today to share a recipe! Note: if you are reading this journal in a blog or website other than French Word-A-Day, via syndication, be sure to visit the original source--and sign up for the free newsletter while you're there!
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Green Velvet Soup
(Leek Soup)


From the Kitchen of James R. Wilson
(Green velvet—it’s not just for cotillion dresses any more!)

Fortune smiled upon me when I was a student in France, affording me the chance to live in Normandy among some very talented cooks.  My dear friend, Andrée Harivel, of Paris and Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy, was a particularly gifted cook.  Dédée, as her friends and family called her, used to make this blended vegetable soup whenever the main ingredient ‘les poireaux’ (leeks) were in season.  She insisted that it was a real elixir and just what I needed in my diet—full of vitamins and minerals, and some “oligo-elements”.

Green Velvet Soup was a purifier, in Andrée’s repertoire of home remedies.  Eating these “oligo-elements” would help to detoxify the liver so one would not suffer from ‘mal au foie’ or even worse, the ‘crise de foie’.  (Of course, the first time someone told me that I was suffering from a ‘sick liver’, I was deeply concerned.  I had never known anyone who had had such an affliction.  I later discovered that it is a very common malady in France, something I had mistaken/continue to mistake for heart burn.)

In any event, according to Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, leek soup is what French women eat/drink/live on when they want to shed the extra pound or two. The magical Leek Soup is, in her estimation, the Spartan alternative to overeating and for ‘recapturing your equilibrium from time to time’.

 For me, Green Velvet Soup, so named for its creamy green appearance after it has been blended with a “robot Marie” (a hand held mixer) or in a blender, also brings back plenty of fond memories of watching Dédée chop the veggies, add them to her pressure cooker and then sit back and chat with me over a glass of fine wine.  We would be but seven minutes from a fine meal.  I learned, later, that cooking this soup in the pressure cooker helped it to maintain its high level of vitamins, minerals and those elusive ‘oglio-elements’.  In case you don’t have a pressure cooker, though, I will tell you how to make it stovetop just the same.

Going Shopping:

Leeks, about 1 kg (2 pounds)

Zucchini, or yellow summer squash (3-4 small ones, or a larger one w/o the pulp section)

Carrots, two or three nice orange ones

Potatoes, a couple of small ones

Tomatoes, four medium-sized

Spices:  Herbes de Provence, sea salt (about 1 Tbsp), fresh ground pepper, bay leaf

Alternate spice mix might be a nice Italian Seasoning, like what is most readily available in the stores.


(Essentially, you can also add most any vegetable you like to this soup, or any left over veggie that you might have.  I have in the past added spinach, sometimes green cabbage, chunks of winter squash, green bell peppers, sweet onions.  Whatever you choose to put in, make it something that would blend nicely.  Corn, for example, would not and would make this soup seem very strange in the end!)

Herbes de Provence—in case you can’t find a prepared mix at the store:

   * 3 tablespoons oregano leaves
   * 3 tablespoons of marjoram leaves
   * 3 tablespoons thyme leaves
   * 1 teaspoon basil leaves
   * 1 teaspoon sage leaf
   * 3 tablespoons savory
   * 2 tablespoons lavender flowers
   * 1 teaspoon rosemary

Combine and mix well.  Store the mixture in a small airtight jar in cool location.

Soup Preparation—The Short Version:
Clean all vegetables well, throw in to pot and cook until tender; blend; and, serve.

Soup Preparation—The Long Version:
Start by cleaning and rinsing the leeks well.  They are a strange vegetable in that they trap some of the dirt they are grown in amongst the layers.  To clean leeks, it isn’t difficult.  Dédée showed me how to take my knife and starting about one inch from the rooted bottom, slide the blade in and pull straight up, slicing it open all the way to the top.  She then turned it one quarter turn and sliced it up again—essentially cutting the leek into quarters without fully separating the plant.  Holding the rooted end, she could then manage to wash fully the leeks without having to deal with the mess of losing parts of it in to the sink.  She would then trim off the roots, and the very tips of the leeks, and discard those.  Don’t get rid of the dark green part of the leek—it is very flavorful and gives the soup its color.

Chop the leeks in to smaller pieces, about an inch or two wide, so that they will cook and blend easier.  Add them to the pressure cooker/stew pot.

     Wash zucchini or summer squash, remove ends, chop and add to leeks.

     Peel potatoes and carrots, chop, add to pot.

     Wash and remove stem from tomatoes (or use one large can of tomatoes from store), add to pot.

     Add spices.

     About 2 inches of water.


Cooking Instructions:
If you are using a pressure cooker, like I do, you put the lid on, seal it, and bring to a boil.  Cook for seven minutes when it reaches pressure. After, remove from heat and run pot with cover on under cold water until pressure releases before attempting to open the pot.

If you prefer to make the soup in a stew pot, bring to boil, and simmer, uncovered for 20 to 30 min. until vegetables are all tender.

Once you have cooked the soup, either under pressure, or in a stew pot, be sure to remove the bay leaf, which is tough and will not blend.

Serving Suggestion:
Blend the soup either in a blender/food processor or with a hand held blender until it is a smooth green texture.  It should appear like fine green velvet when finished.

(You can, of course, eat the soup without blending, but it isn’t as nice to look at, and some people don’t like all the big chunks.)

Top with sprig of fresh parsley, serve hot.

In Normandy, many will often put a tablespoon of ‘crème fraîche’ (essentially sour cream) on the top as a garnish as well.

Bon Appétit!


(This soup also stores well frozen to be unthawed and enjoyed later in the winter.)

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Comments

James Wilson, professor of French and Spanish, studied under the auspices of Middlebury College and the Language Schools.  When James isn't teaching, he enjoys gardening at his lakeside home, and his other current task, writing a history for his hometown in Maine.

Read a heart-warming story by James--about one fiesty Frenchwoman. And, whatever you do, please be sure to leave James a note, in the comments box, to let him know that you enjoyed his recipe and story--as well as these very useful tips on language learning!
Do not miss them: Download "Tips For Foreign Language Learning" by James Wilson

Bonne cuisine French Cooking

First published in 1927 to educate French housewives in the art of classical cooking, LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE has since become the bible of French cooking technique, found on every kitchen shelf in France.


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Cinema Verite:
Enjoy the weekly photo blog & a new gallery of images each Saturday

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Note to Cinema Vérité Members: Over 15 South of France photos have been posted to the photo blog. See the towns of Carquerainne, St. Roman de Malgarde... and enjoy the charming hameau of "Les Farjons". If you have misplaced the log-in address... just send me an email and I will send it to you right away! 

Feedback from Cinéma Vérité members:

I am really enjoying these photos...

The smiling faces as they peep out from behind the trompe l'oeil shutters knowing they are playing a joke...

The quirky choice of colours for shutters and walls creating a joyful riot of colour facing the street...

The two makeshift rusty bars supporting a centuries old timber lintel over a window (could it have possibly fossilised already :-))...

The duet of circular crosses and clocks about a stained glass window...

The impish trio of faces spitting in the fountain...

The stone cobbled street that simply changes direction to flow downward as a retaining wall...

The sausage dog looking for someone to take him for a roll around the block...

I enjoy them all as they show the whimisical and inventive quality that I love about France!

--Gretel, from Australia

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When you become a contributing member to French Word-A-Day, you will have access to Kristin's photo blog "Cinéma Vérité". The weekly "photo bouquet" is updated each Saturday with a dozen or more fresh-as-baguette photos of France.  Don't hesitate, sign up today -- you will be glad you did!

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


Comme Si de Rien N'Etait

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After a spell in Marseilles (Hex in the City?) the dogs are hanging out now, like angels, at the farm. That's the seductrice (winking). Sam "The Man," the gentleman gigolo, is looking camera shy. Click to enlarge this photo.

comme si de rien n'était

    : as if nothing had happened

Sound File & Example Sentence
Download MP3 audio clip

Les chiens nous regardent, comme si de rien n'était.
The dogs look at us, as if nothing had happened.

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

(Note: The following story is continued from Wednesday's post.)

We wake up to the sound of barking!
Rushing over to the bedroom window, we see no dogs in the cours* below. Hearing more aboiements* I look up to the sky. It is the seagulls that are calling. Cursed seagulls!

The sun is shining brightly, comme si de rien n'était.* The night had the nerve to end, the next day, to begin, sans chiens.*

"What are we going to tell Jackie?" Jean-Marc asks.
Our daughter sleeps, each night, with her hand dangling from the bed, to the floor, where it rests with reassurance on her dog's soft back.

I made two handmade tags and quickly attached them, with twisties, to their collars. We will have new médailles made "illico presto"!

I do not know how to answer my husband's question. I keep opening my mouth, but only the letter "I" comes out. 

"Je vais faire un tour,*" Jean-Marc decides, putting on his T-shirt.
"Wait for me!"

During the ride over to the commissariat,* I see a caniche* on a leash, its owner trotting along, light on her feet.  My face feels so heavy--as if anchors were drawing down the sides of my mouth; it is a strange sensation: the palpable weight of a frown.

I was not brought up to be so negative! "What You Say Is What You Get!" was the only other elixir in the medicine cabinet of my American childhood--that--and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. There were no cures for lost dogs even then.

*     *     *

At the police station, the droplets of blood have been wiped away. The comptoir is clean and behind it one of the officers is telling us there have been no reports of missing dogs.

We are turning to leave when another officer speaks up: Attendez une minute*... golden retrievers? Ça me dit quelque chose*... Yes, last night... at the train station--il y avait deux chiens goldens en train de s'amuser sur la pelouse.*

"Ce sont nos chiens!"* My husband shouts, his back already to the police officers as we hurry toward the exit.

*     *     *

At la Gare Saint-Charles a man is passed out beneath a tree, beer bottles surrounding his head like a halo. Jean-Marc and I step around the SDF*. There are no dogs playing on the grass, some twelve hours after the last sighting. We head up the famous sky-high stairs.

I see spots of blood on the steps--the same sanguine spots that Braise had left across the kitchen floor last week, before going into heat.
"Braise!" Jean-Marc shouts across the upper esplanade. A few disheveled men, beer in hand, look over to the shouting man. "BRAISE!" he calls out, with force. The men set down their bottles and study the newbie wanderer. 

Braise come here! my husband commands, to the empty air before him, as if our dog would appear, comme ça.* And why not?
"BRAISE, Braise viens*!" I join in, zigzagging forward, looking here, there, in search of a miracle.

I see another homeless man sleeping on a filthy mattress beneath the train station. I hope the dogs slept here, à côté de lui,* so that all might find comfort.

"Let's go back to the B&B and get something to eat," Jean-Marc finally decides.

Driving out of the parking lot, Jean-Marc turns right--changing direction at the last minute. 
"We'll just have a look over here," he explains. The car climbs to the upper-level, behind the train station, where a small square is empty... but for a couple of wayward travelers who are perched, side by furry-side, at the top of some steps, three or four meters from the street.

Ils sont là!* The tired travelers look over at us... comme si de rien n'était.

*     *   *

Once the dogs are locked into the car, with the windows slighly ajar, I turn to thank the hero. "You are king. KING!" I shout, having once mistaken my husband for the King of Spain,** once upon a time....

"I would marry you all over again!" I say, wrapping my arms tight around him, rediscovering the palpability of passion. And a kiss never tasted so good.


***
Comments

Update: Don't miss SAM'S version of this story (in French, of course!)... over at the blog Entre Gris et Rose.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~References~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Language and Love King of Spain: please don't miss the Gallic love story of how I met my husband... and mistook him for un roi. Read the introductory chapter to my book Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language.





DSC_0034
An attentive amour.

French Vocabulary
Would some of you like to help define these words in the comments box? Merci!

cours
aboiements
comme si de rien n'était
sans chiens
je vais faire un tour
commissariat
caniche
Attendez une minute

ça me dit quelque chose
il y avait deux chiens goldens en train de s'amuser sur la pelouse
ce sont nos chiens! = those are our dogs!
SDF
comme ça
viens
à côte de lui
ils sont là


DSC_0211
Braise, left, and her dashing, doting, date for the night in Marseilles.

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MAP of the Misadventurers' path


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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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creve

DSC_0186
Now that you know the ending to our lost dog story, we can slow down a bit -- and learn the middle part! (Click on the photo to enlarge... and please excuse the marchand de sable or "sandman" in Sam The Man's eyes, but you'll allow him the excuse of complete exhaustion, won't you?!)
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crevé(e) (kruh-vay) adjective

    : exhausted, dead beat

Audio File & Example Sentence
Download & listen to "creve" MP3

Les chiens, qui se sont échappés, sont complètement crevés.
The dogs, who had gotten away, are completely exhausted.
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A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

(Note: To read Part One of this story go here).

At the commissariat de police along the Canebière, Jean-Marc and I step up to the comptoir.* I go to rest my arms on the counter-top... when I see gouttelettes* of blood on its surface. My hands drop to my sides and I look over to Jean-Marc, who is already pleading with les policiers*:

"S'il vous plaît... on a perdu deux chiens...."*

Three officers fix expressionless eyes on us. They must think we are crazy. Here we are, looking for a golden retriever in heat... when the person in line ahead of us had been injured. But weren't our own hearts bleeding? Could the officers see the injury inside of us?

They could. Earlier, at Stalingrad square, it was another officer, stationed in a fourgonnette,* who had suggested we stop into this, the Noailles, police station. I had run up to the police truck, after nervously crossing over tram tracks and traffic lanes, to ask whether anyone had reported a missing dog. Only, as the policeman leaned over to the truck's window, to hear me, a few more frantic citizens arrived. The man now standing behind me was drunk--and the woman standing beside him, angry.  "Bon,* I will let you get back to work..." I said to the policemen, wondering whether, to the authorities, domestic anger might constitute a more pressing situation. That's when the officer shouted over my shoulder, to the man and the woman: "Would you two keep your voices down, please?!" Next, he pulled out a notepad.

"Were the dogs tattooed?"
"Yes!" I remembered with a sigh of relief.
"Were they wearing médailles*?"
"Yes... I mean, no! Both dogs recently lost their tags..."
"Have you called the SPA*?"
"Yes--but we got a recording!" I remembered my husband's cynical remark, after hanging up the phone: "Et, bien sûr, ça ne répond pas!"*
"Are the dogs méchants*?"
"No! No, no!" This was the third time that we were asked this question, which still took me by surprise. I had not realized that golden retrievers might pose a threat to anyone! Unless... out of desperation... or in response to what might feel like a threat... Oh, Seigneur!* What if a couple of kids found the dogs and tried to drag them inside, by their collars--when the hungry animals wanted to find their way home? My mind began to draw up disaster.

"Is there a number where we can reach you?" the policeman asked, putting a stop to my imaginings. After carefully noting down the information, the officer suggested we stop into the Noailles police station.

*     *     *

Back at Noailles, I stare at the droplets of blood on the counter, wondering where oh where is our dog--and is she in pain? I hear Jean-Marc's voice, and see that he is turning to leave. "Merci," he thanks the officers, who wish us bonne chance.*

On the corner of Canebière and Boulevard Garibaldi we see Jean-Noël, Sam's owner. He is standing alone, which answers a pressing question. Jean-Noël reports that he has spoken to his wife, Sabine. She confirms that no street accidents--involving dogs--have been reported. Oh, mon Dieu--it is only a matter of time!

"Chances are, the dogs are still roaming..." Jean-Noël says, on the bright side, and I am touched by his hopeful heart. My own heart sinks at the thought of Sabine and Jean-Noël losing their dog--all because of us! "Sam" their golden retriever of eight and a half years... is one of the reasons that travelers flock back to their charming B&B, where the golden host adds so much to the cozy atmosphere.

"I'll head north," Jean-Noël tells us.
"Okay," Jean-Marc says, "We'll head west."

Braise (foreground), limping, Sam her saviour nearby I try not to think about how the dogs may be heading east, or south--advancing in the opposite direction. The situation is hopeless and the dogs--helpless! It is the helplessness and the innocence of the animals that torture us the most. How to explain the nauseating sentiment? It feels as if my own five-year-old child--and his little sister!--had wandered onto a freeway! I can almost hear the cars screeching to a halt, as the "toddlers" toddle across seven lanes of traffic. God help them!

I do my best to keep my thoughts tied up, for fear I'll let loose the wrath of WHY: Why did we bring Braise to Marseilles?! Why didn't we have her spayed?! Dammit, Dammit, Dammit! Maybe if I displace the heavy blame from my heart that is being crushed... I will find relief?

The wrath of WHY continues: Why did we choose this weekend to come to Marseilles! Why did I let my family talk me into getting this dog? I knew she would break our hearts one day... one day....

One. Day. One. One... Focus your mind! One. Love... Love is all. Be loving. There is no use pointing fingers. What we are to do is to love each other through this pain. I reach over to put my hand on Jean-Marc's back, which is wet through his T-shirt with worry. He is weaving in and out of traffic, looking left, to my looking right--our eyes endlessly scouring the crowded boulevards and side streets of Marseilles. I look under the parked cars, up the stairs to the church.... inside the open garages. They could be anywhere--anywhere at all.

*     *     *

Fast forward. It is 2:30 a.m. the next morning....

"Let's do another tour around the neighborhood." Jean-Marc says. The tears in my throat wet my vocal chords so that I do not recognize my own voice. It is a low, slow, slur that comes out: I do not know how to tell Jean-Marc that I want to go to sleep now. I feel too guilty to admit to this. How can one ever stop looking for a lost love?

"I think that's enough for tonight," I say.
"You don't want to do one more circle around the block?" my husband asks, point blank.
"I don't know. I can't make a decision! I want you to decide."

"Ne me mets pas dans une situation embarrassante!" Jean-Marc's words strike back.
"But, I--"
"Ne me mets pas dans une situation embarrassante!"

I am stunned by his unexpected reaction, until I begin to try to translate the French: "Do not put me in an uncomfortable position." It is then that I feel compassion instead of defensiveness. It wasn't fair to ask him to end the search.

And so I end it.

"Let's go in now." And we do, but not before unlocking anxious eyes from the sidewalks, the alleyways, the parks, the gardens and the squares. Oh, Braise--Sam!--are you somewhere out there? Goodnight.

Inside our rented room I ask one last question. "Veux-tu me prendre dans tes bras?"* And I hope my husband's arms will strangle the worry inside of me, in time for us to fall to sleep.

.

***
Read the final chapter of this story.

Note: this story continues on Friday. Comments


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~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~
Would some of you like to help translate these terms in the comments box? Merci beaucoup!

comptoir
gouttelette
policier
s'il vous plâit... on a perdu deux chiens....
fourgonnette
bon
médaille
SPA
Et, bien sûr,
ça ne répond pas!
méchant
oh, Seigneur!
bonne chance
Veux-tu me prendre dans tes bras?


DSC_0081
May she never fly off by the wings of her ears (see how they're ready to go!) again!
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In books: The Rose Cafe: Love and War in Corsica

Rose cafe Starred Review by Publishers Weekly. Avoiding military service in Vietnam, American author Mitchell spent six months working in the kitchen of the Rose Café on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, a season of which he recollects in this powerful memoir.

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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--Candy T., California


Remerciements

DSC_0208
Our girls.

No French "word" today (in the traditional sense...), just great thanks, or remerciements.

Following the heartfelt responses that my family continues to receive, in response to yesterday's journal entry about our lost dog, I could not bear to leave you hanging on until tomorrow for the rest of the story. 

For all of you who have written in asking for an immediate update, here is a big hint: the photo, above, was taken yesterday afternoon. The girl in the photo is our daughter, Jackie, and the paw she is holding issues from a slightly limping leg -- but a leg all the same!

Oh, how we love this leg and its lusty, loitering, Lolita at the other end! Never, dear girl, NEVER put us through this roller-coater lost-dog ride again!

*     *     *

Please check back tomorrow, when I will tell you the rest of the story (as well as give you an update about saviour Sam... or "Sam The Man"! (Oh yes! He is our "man", that Sam!) Meantime, thank you for your touching témoinages. I hope they have touched and given hope to others as they have us.

Amicalement,
Kristin & Jean-Marc

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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


chien perdu

DSC_0079
Our beloved dog, Braise. Photo taken one month ago...
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CHIEN PERDU

    : LOST DOG
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Audio File
Download Chien "perdu" MP3 file

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A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

A terrible thing happened at the breeder's in Marseilles: the dogs escaped.

Jean-Marc and I arrived at the boarder's (who, I now admit, were not really brothel owners at all--but a sympathetic couple who run a charming bed and breakfast near the Gare St. Charles). We had met them--and their dashing golden retriever, Sam--last year, when we rented a room, chez eux,* for the night. When they graciously agreed to welcome Braise for the weekend--at the height of her chaleur*--we couldn't believe our luck.

And now, somehow, that luck has gone terribly amuck. Sabine, the B&B owner, met us at the door of the historic building in the heart of Marseilles. That is when we heard the bad news: "Ils se sont échappés."* The dogs had disappeared.

Sabine was white with worry, having just returned from an initial street search. "Je ne comprends pas!"* she said. How could the dogs have possibly gotten loose? Sabine & Jean-Noël's B&B, an ancient bonneterie,* is located off the busy street, beyond a towering row of sky-high buildings which flank La Rue de la Libération. To enter their home, one has to pass through three doors, one entry hall and a courtyard. How the dogs made it through all of these barriers, to the street, beyond, is one great mystère.*

There was no time to figure it out. Jean-Marc and I turned on our heels and headed back out the door. We had this naive notion that we might find our golden retriever--as one might find a needle in a golden haystack--by sheer chance.

*     *     *

The "haystack" that is Marseilles is nearly two million inhabitants strong. Stepping back out onto the Rue de la Libération, I watch, horrified, as the cars lurch, screech, and speed by. Our Braise, who was reared in the countryside, is accustomed to dirt roads. The most dangerous "wheels" in our area belong to tractors--which occasionally putt-putt past by our farm, a haven that she rarely ventures away from.

DSC_0093 My God, Marseilles. Of all places to be lost! Please God, please God...

I begin questioning the pedestrians. "Excusez-moi... vous n'avez pas--par hasard--vu des chiens?"* Incredibly, a man and his daughter have seen the dogs sans laisses*:

"Two long-haired dogs? Yes, we saw them around 3 o'clock. They were headed that way."

I thank the monsieur, allowing the bad news to register. 3 o'clock? That was 3 hours ago! Just how much distance could two dogs cover in 180 minutes? I look down the crowded street, innocently searching for the dogs -- before it dawns on me that they had been headed toward the crowded Canebière on this saturated Saturday afternoon. 

"Come on!" Jean-Marc says, "We had better take the car." As I begin to cross the street, I feel my torso jerk backward. Instinct. A car honks, angrily, sparing me. Beyond, more cars reel by, jumping lanes, erratically, ever eager to get ahead of the next guy.

*     *     *

As we make our way down the boulevard, I notice how hard--at times impossible--it is to see the sidewalk, where the dogs might still be wandering. The cars, which line the trottoir,* are packed so closely together that they block our view of what might lie beyond.

Lie beyond... Oh mon Dieu!* What if the dogs were lying somewhere in the middle of the street?

Our search on wheels begins. Jean-Marc pulls over the car again and again. "Run in and ask the barman... Hop out and ask the coiffeur*... Go and check with the greengrocer... There's a policeman!" Meantime he throws his head out the window to question pedestrians: have you seen two dogs--goldens? On a perdu deux chiens*... Headshake after headshake, they haven't.

As we drive up one narrow street and down the next, busy boulevard I see many dogs. Each and every one on a leash--lest it be crushed by a car or a tram! I look down to discover, for the first time, the chaotic tracks of man and machine. Looking up again I see a tram rushing forward. Even the homeless people, who almost fade into the background of the busy streets, have their scrawny dogs secured with leashes--and for good reason!

I have never seen so many people in one place in all my life. If the cubbyholes and pockets of this crowded city aren't hiding our dogs--the people are--via one great human patchwork curtain. The absurdity of our search settles in--and seizes us. I feel a lump growing in my throat as shock steals my voice, strangles the breath of hope. We continue our search in silence, here beneath the sun that soon will set.

*     *     *
Continue reading Part Two of this story.

Comments

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~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
chez eux
= at their place; les chaleurs = heat (dog's heat); Ils se sont échappés = they escaped; je ne comprends pas = I don't understand; la bonneterie (f) = hosier's / lingerie shop; le mystère (m) = mystery; Excusez-moi... vous n'avez pas--par hasard--vu deux chiens? = Excuse me... you haven't--by chance--seen two dogs?; sans laisses = without leashes; oh mon Dieu = oh my God; le coiffeur (m) = the hairdresser; on a perdu deux chiens = we have lost two dogs
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DSC_0094
My mom, Jules, and Braise playing together last Spring, in the Vauclusian countryside, not a car in sight.

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


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--Candy T., California


lupanar

DSC_0049
I've lived on funny-named streets before ("Never Mind Trail" back in Carefree, Arizona...) but this one takes the cake: "Rue des Emmerdeurs" (un emmerdeur/euse = a pain in the neck).

*     *     *

Please excuse the temporary change in format. Your editor is feeling very much like a rebel *without* a cause today. (And, Mom, if you are reading this, don't be too mad about my swiping your unfinished painting (see below). I didn't have any other "hooker" photos on file (after my computer crashed last March, remember?) to illustrate today's journal entry. Note: ALL of my mom's paintings are for sale because of the Swine Flu fiasco in her adopted country of Mexico. (Mom's husband has been out of work for several months now! Pray for him and her). Bon, while I'm on a roll now--writing down things that I shouldn't normally speak of--let's see, what else can I share... How about a brothel story?

*     *     *

"Le lupanar" is a synonym for bordel French. Another synonym is "maison de tolérance" (house of tolerance) and the humor is not lost on me as I go about putting together this unexpected edition...

Lupanar... loop... loopy... it is how my brain feels after over-thinking the subject of animal procreation--and ethics--this, after an unexpected response to Wednesday's story column ("tryst"). Against (or following?) my own animal instincts, I offer the following "micro missive".


A Day in a French Life...

Kristin Espinasse

"Stripteaseuse" a painting by my mom, Jules. To inquire about a painting, contact my Mom via Facebook (look for "Jules Greer") We are shipping Braise off to a brothel in Marseilles this morning (room, board, and amour in exchange for one case of Côte du Rhône rouge*). That's right, wine for would-be chiots*--evidence that troc* is alive and well in modern France!

I was going to write a story about our dog's unlikely** journey to motherhood... until some unexpected courier arrived in my inbox, this, in response to a recent journal entry.

And now, in a strange reversal of roles, it is *I* who have performance anxiety.

*     *     *

PS:  The economy is bad everywhere. The Madame in Marseilles (who runs the brothel I mentioned) tells me they're down to one client: Sailor Sam (the seven-year-old Golden Retriever who happens to be a perfect match for our Braise). Wish 'em luck.

Note: I realize today's vignette might be more maladroit than funny. Comic relief (if only for myself) was my intention. When writing an on-line journal, sharing one's personal life is often a hit-or-miss operation. What's important is to aim with the heart.

Thanks again for tuning in to life here at the vineyard. It is a dream come true to share it with you. I wish never to offend--or to step on anyone's toes--only to capture and share French life... as it ebbs, as it flows.

*     *     *
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own are still, and always, welcome!
*

~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
côtes du Rhône rouge = Rhone slope reds (see our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine ); le chiot (m) = puppy; le troc = (see here)

**Braise's unlikely (journey to motherhood) : Normally, Braise would have been spayed (if I'd have had my way). Note: any further contrarious commentary should be directed to Monsieur Espinasse. (Merci beaucoup! But please go gentle on him... he's still healing from an épaule luxée. Oh, what a week it's been!)

"Stripteaseuse" a painting by my mom, Jules. To inquire about a painting, contact my Mom via Facebook (search for "Jules Greer").


*

Parisian Bistro Chairs (c) Kristin Espinasse
What could be more delightful than a French town named "Orange"? Photos of a French town called Orange. Don't miss at least 15 pictures in tomorrow's Cinéma Vérité.

Three Random Words:
un épulche-légumes (m) = vegetable (potato) peeler
une olivette (f) = plum tomato
un pressoir (m) = wine press

*

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


rendez-vous galant

Cabanon & Flower Field (c) Kristin Espinasse
Love Shack. I took a dozen photos of this dreamy field and dashing farm hut, located outside the town of Orange. See several of the images in Saturday's Cinéma Vérité. Updating the French photo site, each weekend, is both a privilege and a pleasure--I hope it brings you as much enjoyment! Check out what CV members have to say, here (at the end of the page).

*     *     *

rendez-vous galant (rohn-day-voo gal-ohn) noun, masculine

    : tryst (amorous)

un lieu de rendez-vous galant = a trysting place

Audio File & Example Sentence
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word & example sentence:
Download Rendez-vous galant mp3


Braise-La-Chienne est partie pour un rendez-vous galant dans les vignes.
Braise-The-Dog took off for a tryst in the vines.

Book events: Jill Jonnes (author of Eiffel's Tower) will be speaking at the charming & marvelous Red Wheelbarrow bookstore at 7pm!
*

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

The thunderstorms have ceased, the sol* is cool and dry, wet beneath the surface. Jean-Marc and I are having lunch in the front yard, under the Chinese mulberry tree-sans-mulberries. Unlike the mûrier* we picked on Saturday morning, our tree is fruitless. But Dame Nature* has a way of evening the score--the reproductive scoreboard, that is--even when we'd rather be on the losing end.

"Tiens, tiens, tiens...."* Would you take a look at that? Jean-Marc remarks.

My eyes leave a plate of aubergines,* halved, roasted with garlic, tomato, and drizzled with local olive oil. I look across the lawn and see a familiar form in the tall wheat-colored grass beyond. The outline, oddly, amounts to a Scottish terrier.

Oh, terror! I now remember the conversation I had with my daughter last week, after she informed me that our dog, Braise, was en chaleur.*
"We'll see about that later!" I had said to Jackie, not wanting to believe that we were about to attack another round of Dogs in Heat; we had only just recovered from the latest one, after the September grape harvest!

I still can't believe Braise is back in heat--can't believe how blind I can be to all the signs--like those sanguine spots that kept appearing (and disappearing) across the kitchen floor.... Turns out Jean-Marc had been cleaning them up this time.

Back at the picnic table, my anxiety sets in, with every seductive step of the terrier trespasser.
"Calme-toi,"* Jean-Marc suggests. Next, I listen, astonished, as my husband's own blinders go on: "Nothing's going to happen," he chuckles. "That dog is too small!"

"Ha! On peut t'étonner,"* You'd be surprised! I say, unsure of my French, certain of my suspicions.

I watch the terrier-terror tiptoe forward, trying his luck... and I notice, with relief, that Braise isn't reacting--but is busy combing her golden retriever coat with her coarse tongue.

"See. I told you not to worry," Jean-Marc points out.
"T'as raison.* I guess it's not that time yet... her hot-to-trot hormones haven't kicked in."

And just as we sit back and settle in, Braise's hormones begin to spin! With that, we watch, mouths agape, as Braise jumps to her feet, leaps across the lawn to greet Don Juan and, illico presto,* our "demure" demoiselle is long gone!

*     *     *

Post note: As if a mother and wife hasn't enough to worry about... I watch, with fright, as my newly-crippled husband hops onto his bike! Off he pedals, his upper body in a sling, one-hand on the bar. The bike zigzags and bounces over the soft, sometimes muddy earth, into the feverish field beyond. "Braise!" the broken man shouts, "Reviens!* Bon sang!* R-E-V-I-E-N-S!"


***
Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and appreciated. Merci!

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le sol (m) = ground; le mûrier (m) = mulberry tree; la Dame Nature (f) = Mother Nature; tiens, tiens, tiens = well, well, well; une aubergine (f) = eggplant; en chaleur = in heat; calme-toi = calm down; on peut t'étonner = you'd be surprised; t'as raison = you have a point; illico presto! = right away!; reviens! = come back!; bon sang! = dammit!

*     *     *

Name that Flower...

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Ever feel like the odd one out? PS: Does anyone know what kind of flower this is (the blue one, that is!) and do you know what it is used / farmed for?

Three Random Words:
potiner
= to gossip
un soubresaut = jolt; start (fearful start)
un trublion = troublemaker

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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