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Entries from December 2010

chance

Still Life Avant Pie (c) Lynn McBride

Quelle chance! We have a story and a recipe and photos--including the still life, above--for you today by guest blogger Lynn McBride

chance (shons) noun, feminine

    : luck

une chance = a stroke of luck
avoir de la chance = to be lucky
Bonne chance! = Good luck!


French Tartes or Southern Pies?  Oh, the dilemma…


by Lynne McBride

Here’s a favorite quote from Michelle Obama.  When asked what it was like to suddenly live in the White House with an army of staff, she admitted it was great, then said, with wonder:  “If you want pie, there’s pie!”  Hey Michelle, that’s my idea of paradise too.

OK, so what about French pies?  Well, the French  do things a little differently, no surprise there.   Bye-bye American pie.  The difference?  In addition to the sloping shape of the edge of the dish, an American pie is plump and indulgent, and can be piled exuberantly high with whipped cream or meringue, or topped with a decadent crust or crumbs.  Is that American or what?  A French tarte, alternativement, is in a dish that’s shallow with straight, fluted sides.  It’s thin and refined, understated and elegant, most often just a divine crust topped with beautiful fruits.  Oh so French.

French tarts (c) Lynn McBride

Must we choose between the two?  Oh let’s not.  I’m proposing two recipes this week, the best of both worlds.

As you may know...

Continue reading "chance" »

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


s'occuper

Josephine baker colins
Read about "Josey" (from our former stomping grounds of St. Maximin) in today's story... and don't miss a photo of Smokey's Ma and Pa at the end of this edition.

s'occuper

(so-kew-pay)

verb


to keep oneself busy


Italian Josephine made homemade pizza the size of a hamburger patty, only there wasn't any viande, just a bony anchovy and a meaty olive or two. When she had the energy, she delivered her Italian pies and stayed to watch you enjoy them. And she never charged.

"Ça m'occupe." It keeps me busy, she would say, simply. As I ate, she would sit facing me with her cane, her knitted shawl, and her buckled shoes, and reminisce about an American friend, whose name she shared, and the adventures they had back in the '50s along the Côte d'Azur, when one ran an Italian épicerie and the other ran away from Paris. I listened, but mostly I studied Josey, whose dark eyes, once dull, now sparkled.

The last time Josephine showed up at my door with one of her trademark mini pizzas, she was carrying a black-and-white photograph.
 
"I have something to show you," she said. We sat at the table, I in my one-size-fits-all dress (weeks away from giving birth to my second child) and Josey with her shawl and cane and buckled shoes, the black-and-white photo between us. The scratched and faded image revealed the two glowing Josephines: one "café," the other "au lait." The women were dressed in satin kimonos and holding umbrellas, smiles as big as the complicity they shared. I studied the old photo from afar when suddenly my Josey mentioned that her friend loved to sing and dance....

Sing. Dance. Josephine! That's when I grabbed the photo from the table and viewed, up close, the veritable, the one and only Josephine Baker—the celebrated American danseuse (and sometime secret agent) known to appear at the Paris Folies in nothing more than a jupe made of bananas, her pet leopard, Chiquita, in tow.

My excitement was cut short when Josey told me that she was moving to Saint-Raphaël, that her daughter could no longer look after her here in Saint-Maximin. I quietly set down the photo and looked at my friend as a lump formed in my throat. C'est toujours comme ça, I thought bitterly. Just when you meet someone—the kind of person you can just sit with and say nothing to and not feel awkward, the kind who makes a little pizza pie for you because they are thinking of you in your absence—they up and move to a faraway city!

Before Josephine left, she pushed the photo across the table. "C'est pour toi," she said in her soft voice. I tried to tell her that I could not accept her photo, that she should keep it, but she insisted. I couldn't take Josey's only photo of her with her legendary friend...unless...unless it wasn't the only one? Perhaps there were others? Yes! There must be others of those "girls" in the good ol' days—other snapshots—with leopards and banana skirts and maybe a feather boa or two!

I watched as my Josey padded out the door, little steps with her big-buckle shoes. So fragile, she seemed, that you might have taken her for a broken-winged bird, but for the leopard-printed tracks in her wake.

***

 

YOUR EDITS HERE
 Thank you for pointing out any typos or important ambiguities (!)  here


French Vocabulary

la viande = meat

l'épicerie (f) = grocer's

le café = coffee

au lait = with milk

la danseuse (le danseur) = dancer

Folies = Les Folies Bergères (famous music hall in Paris)

la jupe = skirt

c'est toujours comme ça = it is always that way


 

Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the verb s'occuper: Download soccuper.wav

Expression: Occupe-toi de tes affaires! = Mind your own business!

Conjugation: je m'occupe, tu t'occupes, il/elle s'occupe; nous nous occupons, vous vous occupez, ils/elles s'occupent

 Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Kindle 189
Kindle Wireless Reader, 3G + WiFi. Order one here.

DSC_0020

Smokey's parents: Mr. Sam (left) and Mrs. Braise (brez). 

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You did read the story of their elopement in Marseilles? They were about to board the train for Venise when we finally caught up with them! Read the story here.

 Recipe! Though I never did think to ask Josey for her pizza recipe, here is something similar...  a cinch of a recipe from my daughter's French godmother, Rachel. View it here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"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


bouée de sauvetage

Barcelonnette (c) Kristin Espinasse
                           Decking the French halls in the town of Barcelonnette. 

bouée de sauvetage (booay deuh sove tazh)

    : lifebelt, lifeline, lifebuoy

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

I sit and I listen. I try to ignore the temptation to go upstairs and work on the computer. Email can wait. So can senseless surfing. This is where I need to be: facing my belle-mère, listening. As for the internet, which beckons, it can be a black hole in which I can throw every "spare" minute. I don't want black holes. I want fountains of light; presently I see them in my mother-in-law's eyes.

If I look closely, aligning my pupils with her own, then, more than light, I see the very fires of her soul. Heat enough to purify my own pathetic wanderings until I am back on track, engaging in life.

I train my eyes on the seventy-one-year-old speaker. Keep focused! none of this nervous glancing around the kitchen to dwell on yet another dusty distraction. The dust will always win, winning our very bodies in the end!

Lifesavers... she is talking about life savers....

"Elles sont mes bouées de sauvetage." "They are my lifeline," my mother-in-law is explaining. And I hear, once again, about the wonderful women in her life. The selfless "sisters" who check in with her twice a week. 

"Elles sont tellement occupées... mais elles sont toujours là pour moi."  "They are so busy... yet they are always there for me." I hear about her dear friends Katherine and Eliane: two French women who are, to my mother-in-law, veritable heroines.

Their relationship skirts the boundaries of "race" and religion (my mother-in-law being a proud "pied-noir" and an unconvertible atheist). Her "angels" are evangelical but my belle-mère doesn't mind their differences just as long as they don't preach to her!  

"Et qu'est-ce qu'on se marre! On se marre comme des petites vieilles!" Oh, and how we laugh! We laugh like little old women!" With that, my mother-in-law's eyes twinkle like sunlit drops from the Fountain of Youth.

She is laughing now, her heart 200 kilometers away, back home in Marseilles, where her angels are gathered with their own families. After a few more chuckles of appreciation for her friends, I watch her reach up to clasp her upper arm. Her shoulder is hurting her again; her laughing trails off and her mind returns to the present, where pain tortures her limbs.

My own heart is now light years away from the internet. I reach over to rub my belle-mère's back. I do not know whether she likes this outreached hand on her back, but I learn as I go.

 

    Le Coin Commentaires
    To leave a comment, click here. Merci d'avance!


French Vocabulary
la belle-mère
= mother-in-law
le pied-noir = a "black foot" (a North African born French woman or man) 

 

Bien dire magazine Keep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here.

 

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Smokey says"reftrovers... mmm mmm!" 

DSC_0041
Smokey: back when reftrovers were rare! (pictured Smokey and his 5 sisters)

Recipe!
Did I tell you that my mother-in-law is the best cook in the world? Here is one of my favorite recipes of hers... one that Jean-Marc uses this time of year. (Currently the recipe is in French only... you are welcome to help translate it!). Click here to go to view this recipe

Kindle 189
Kindle Wireless Reader, 3G + WiFi. Order one here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"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


poix

Bonne Fetes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Braise, Smokey, and family wish you bonne fêtes... "many happy returns"! If Smokey looks a little pained in this picture, it is the photographer that is troubling him: why, he wonders, is her cross-eyed face contorting like that? Wouldn't "Cheese!" or "Ouistiti!" be just as effective in getting us to smile? How she troubles herself!

 poix (pwah) noun, feminine

    : pitch

noir comme poix = pitch black, "black as pitch"
poix sèche = resin
poix liquide = tar
tenir comme poix = to stick like tar
avoir de la poix aux doigts = to have sticky fingers (said of a thief, pickpocket, or clepto) 



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

Night Blindness, or "Moonblink"

Last night I stood stoveside, emptying into our biggest pan two packages of chicken thighs. Normally I am careful to discard all of the fatty peau before roasting. Not this time. 

"Don't you think that will be enough?" Jean-Marc questioned.
"Une douzaine?" Max seconded. 

"I'm hungry!" came the hasty reply. Given all those chicken thighs it seemed I was hungry for life.

I had just been out driving after dark: a quick aller-retour to pick up my daughter from a neighboring village. The pitch black sky, noir comme poix, was pouring out rain and my windshield wiper was flapping after the rubber blade had broken. I could barely see the road beyond... the headlights were so faint that I wondered whether I had mistaken the lumière for moonshine? 

Testing this theory, I switched off the phares... then switched them on again. Off... then on again... Still, only a breath of brightness.

Next, I put on the high beams... only to wonder: were they, too, in need of replacing?

There are no street lights out in the deep French countryside, where the stars and the moon must oblige. Out walking at night one's eyes eventually stabilize, but a pilot's vision must follow different retinal rules.

"Why has everybody suddenly decided to take this road tonight!" I complain to my daughter, of the half dozen cars we had just passed.
"For the same reason you have..." Jackie points out and there's no arguing there. Besides, I can hardly hear my girl... so loud is the fan whose job it is to free the fog from the window. Though the glass has been cleared, I don't dare turn off the defogger... lest our breath creep back onto the glass, further blurring my range of vision!

I am traveling at a snail's pace, focusing on the faded white line to the right of the road. It is my guide. I don't dare look straight on, or be blinded by the oncoming headlights!

Grumbling and swearing I swerve back to the middle of the road after leaving too much leeway for the oncoming traffic. I don't want to end up in the gutter again. The ditch to our right is hidden in the dark, but I know it is there having traveled this road enough to "navigate it in the dark," so to speak; presently I am speechless at such a blind assumption. 

Each time a car begins to tailgate, blinding me from the back, I pull over, letting the impatient one pass. But on the long narrow stretches, there is no way to let these cars doubler, given the ditch that runs parallel.

It is so hard to see on this pouring pitch-black night! I begin to scold myself for not scheduling an eye exam. Surely it is my glasses--the prescription is prehistoric by now! As for the windshield wipers, I have no excuse. Why didn't I have them changed on a sunny day? Because on a sunny day I must have been busy sunning my cares away! 

Finally, we are almost home and the brightness of a main road lightens things, not the least of which our heartstrings. Just when I breathe out a sigh of relief my heart seizes up again as I become aware of an "overtaker". The angry van jerks past us, but not before its passenger extends a bare arm out of the window... in time to shake a fist. Next, the fist opens and its forefinger circles seethingly in the air.

"Ha! T'as vu ça?!" Did'ya see that? Jackie questions.

"He thinks I am crazy," I explain to my daughter, who is already busy planning a retaliation.

"Laisse tomber," I tell her. He'll be humbled one day... when a little weakening of the eyes and a few more decades gone by... will do away with so much misplaced pride.
. 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, reflections, and comments welcome here


French Vocabulary
la peau = skin

une douzaine = a dozen

un aller-retour = round trip

noir comme poix = black as pitch, pitch black

la lumière = light

le phare = headlight

doubler = to pass

laisse tomber = let it go, don't bother with it

DSC_0013
Time now to get ready for Christmas dinner, or le gros souper de Noël! Though we won't be having the famous Treize Desserts there'll be plenty of pastries and clementines... Bon appétit! (pictured: our multi-purpose earthenware tagine. Find one for yourself, in the shopping section below)

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


aimer

Love Well (c) Kristin Espinasse
A favorite saying... painted on a modest fence; it reads...

"Pour bien vivre, bien aimer et laisser dire."
To live well, love well and let others say what they will.

aimer (ay-may) verb

    : to love

 j'aime, tu aimes, il aime... nous aimons, vous aimez, ils aiment...

 

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

Examples of Amour

It began in the black of the night. Lying there in bed, I was not thinking about my birthday and for this I was grateful. Please, God, let me think of other things besides myself and my well-being.

I must have been thinking about China in the late 30's and the heroine of the book that I am reading. Before I fell to sleep last night, she was still stirring... freeing so many tiny feet from foot-binding.

I wriggle my toes beneath the sheets... freedom all around me! What more could I want for my anniversary? And yet...

(The alarm rings...)

"Eh ben," Well, whaddya know! Jean-Marc teases.
"Ce n'est pas possible!" It can't be.
"Qu'est-ce qui n'est pas possible?" What can't be?
"43 ans!" Forty-three years old!
"Et si et c'est bien!" Yes it can and it is good! 

And with that, my husband began to shower me with cadeaux...

There was the cup of coffee he brought me... in a mug featuring a photo of Braise and Smokey....

Cadeau no. 2 was my daughter, whom he awoke... in time for her to offer me une petite boîte of dark chocolates.

Up next... a book... by a rebel nun (I have written about her here).

The gifts continued every quarter of an hour! Cadeu no. 4: a little olive tree: the one I had feared buried beneath so many weeds. How much guilt have I felt, believing I had "choked" it in neglect (leaving it there, alone, in an abandoned garden patch). And now, a second chance! I sat there with little olive tree in my lap. I sipped my coffee, stared at my chocolates, the book, and listened to the water fill my bath.

Reste là! Jean-Marc said, disappearing into the salle de bain. "Ne regarde pas!"

When all was clear and I could come in I could hardly conceal an ear-to-ear grin. On the wall I saw the metal letters that had tumbled off a year or so ago:

"A N G E"

Whereas Jean-Marc had once used duct tape to hang the letters... this time he glued them!

I stared at the French word for "angel". I do hope to act like one this year. (As my mom always says "act as if!" (by the way, she is the one who gave me the metallic "A N G E" letters).

As for the angel in China whom I spoke of earlier (busy unbinding so many tortured feet) -- I'm not sure what she has to do with my story, except to serve as a reminder of how much there is to be grateful for... and that the key to happiness is in the giving of oneself, as Jean-Marc did so beautifully with, among other things, the little olive tree.
. 

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French Vocabulary

le cadeau = present

une petite boîte = a box

reste là! = stay there!

la salle de bain = bathroom

ne regarde pas! = don't look

un ange = angel

Birthday oustau 004
A previous birthday party (my 36th) in 2003. Jackie and Max.

Mom_velo

A favorite picture of my mom, Jules (photo taken in 2003). Looking forward to calling her today! 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"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


rapporteuse

me and Heidi (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken in 2004. That's the tattletale, on the left, and my sister, Heidi (The "RuleBreaker"), right. Our mom, Jules, painted the quail and my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, gave me the owl (next to the rosary and the purse). Voilà... just another family photo. Do you sniff homesickness? 

rapporteuse (rah por tuhz) feminine singular of "rapporteur"

    : tattletale, tell-tale, blabbermouth
.
synonym: informer


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

When The French Break Their Own Rules

I am setting out this morning to write about those rule-breaking Frenchmen... when the absurdity of this story's title strikes me: for why, after all, have the French invented rules if not to break them!

Skipping quickly now to the heart of my story and to the examples I mean to show you (in my borrowed role of tattletale, or rapporteuse), I'll now highlight two rarin'-to-be-trespassed rules, the first leads in to the second so follow closely:

In the tiny town of Richeranges Jean-Marc and I stumble onto a Saturday-morning market. Though the stalls are filled with eye-catching items, Jean-Marc and I are in the market for a W.C. (or water closet or toilet or "powder room" if you like). Only, Richeranges—like most villages and cities in France—is hiding its public restrooms. 

While I search high and low for a loo, Jean-Marc slips into the nearest eatery... intent on breaking rule number 1 and rule number 2:

(French Rule Number One): Restaurants, Cafes, Bistros and the like are not public restrooms.

So much for Rule Number One. Jean-Marc breezes in, past the bartender which, in all honesty, is easy enough to do in a packed room, and heads straight for the W.C., which—cha-ching!—is vacant.

Le diable! I mutter, I who have just sneaked into the bar... creeping quietly in my husband's tracks. I know intuitively that it's now or never: run up and take his place! He'll let you in first.... this may be your last chance. Allez!

Every namby pamby nerve in my body freezes up. No matter how badly I need that "room", I'll not break this French rule! 

I watch as a line of rule-breakers forms outside the bathroom door. Too late now.

As I stand there, going green in the face, a woman walks into the crowded bar, about to break rule number two:

(French Rule Number Two: On entering a public lieu, always begin with Bonjour Monsieur or Bonjour Madame (or Bonjour Monsieurs-Dames)

The newcomer looks around the room impatiently and I'm wondering whether she, too, needs the toilet room?

"Well, no tables!" Says she, looking at me as if I were one in her party and did I have a suggestion on where we might go next?

"C'est plein!" she complains, shaking her immaculately-coiffed head. "Il n'y a pas une place!" She looks at me, expectantly and I'm wondering whether she's taken me for the maitre d'?

"Que faire... que faire..." she seems to be waiting for an answer but all I can lend is a lifting of the shoulders: I dunno.

I am so distracted by her dramatics that I forget my own dire need... instead, I find myself nodding conspiratorially. Next, I watch Madame slip, self-righteously, over to the lavatory; a willing enough customer, it wasn't her fault if the restaurant was out of seats!

Le diable! Why didn't I think of that?

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

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  DSC_0004
"Tendresse" (and tiredness after breaking more rules!)

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"Pawtners in Crime" 

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More rule-breakers! I meant to tell you about friends Eliane & Alain, who visited us last month with this merry group of  Marseillais. They tasted wine and shared tales of their "trespassings" (or how to break French Rule Number Three). And they left me with gifts, including an apple with a beak mark in it. "It's the best kind," one of the men explained. Always pick the ones the birds have gone for. They're the best!

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


malentendu

Jean-Marc, Kristin, and Jackie in 2009
Photo of Embarrassing Parents.... or "Embracing Parents" depending on your point de vue. (Pictured: Jean-Marc, Kristin, and Jackie)

malentendu (ma-lahn-tahn-dew) noun, masculine
1. misunderstanding

Expression:
faire cesser un malentendu = to clear up a misunderstanding

L'oreille distraite est l'organe du malentendu.
The distracted ear is the organ of misunderstanding.
 --Albert Brie

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

Recently, the kids and I were invited to my husband's office for a "Welcome the New Employee" apéritif. The three of us Q-tipped our ears and shined our shoes in hopes of looking our best before heading over to Jean-Marc's new office to hear him speak.

After the apéro, a few of the employees, along with the director and company's founder, decided to dine at a nearby eatery. When we were invited to join them, I signaled sharply to the kids, reminding us all to keep our act together. 

At the reception desk, we waited patiently for our table. To pass the time, the men smoked clopes, the children  played a game of pool, and I maintained my new role of Delightful Wife. 

Our act was running smoothly when one of us began rocking from foot to foot. No matter how hard I tried I could not hold it any longer and so tottered over to the reception desk to ask a pertinent question:

"Where is the 'vaysay' please?" I posed my question in French, trying hard to prounounce the unusual word for "restroom".

"Vaysay?" the receptionist questioned. Confused, she turned to her colleague, who tried to translate.

"I think she's asking for un whiskey." 

Shocked as much by the misunderstanding, as by the indelicate manner in which the women spoke about me (as if I was invisible!), I shot a casual look over my shoulder, to assess any damage to our family's carefully put together first impression. What a relief to find the director and the boss carrying on as if they hadn't heard a thing.

I returned my attention to the women behind the desk. 
"No! Vay-say. I would like....un toilet!" I whispered, hoping to shush them up, but it was too late. 

"Madame wants a whiskey!" the receptionist shouted, this time to the maître d, who stood across he room at the bar.
***

It took a few flailing arms to get the point across, at which point the maître d personally escorted me to the restroom. So much for slipping out unnoticed. I hadn't meant to make a scene but isn't that what happens when you put on an act?



French Vocabulary
une clope
= a cigarette
Où sont les 'vay say,' s'il vous plait? = Where are the toilets? ('vay say' is from "doo-ble-vay-say"--the pronunciation for "W.C." [water-closet])
un apéro  = short for "aperitif," or drink. Apéritif also refers to a cocktail party
maître d = le maître d'hôtel = headwaiter 


***

Walnut Wine and Truffle     Groves Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves is a culinary travel book that navigates the back roads—as well as the menus and markets—of the southwestern region of France with newfound excitement. Through interviews with local home cooks and chefs, visits to local farms, historic sites and wineries, market tours, and serendipitous detours, Lovato provides a glimpse into this unspoiled wonderland. The alluring recipes and stunning photographs let readers discover the true jewels in France’s culinary crown as well as discover the country’s most beautiful and less trod-upon provinces. Order here.

More Gift Ideas....

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(last Christmas, 2009) Me and my dad

DSC_0072 Joyeux Anniversaire!... to my dear dad, who encouraged me to follow my heart to France. And happy birthday to Marsha, left, his beautiful bride of 16 years. 
And happy happy b-day to my littlest sister, or soeur cadette Kelley. I stole this picture from her:
Kelley
 

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


pièces jaunes

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Our 13-year-old, Jackie, making a wish after putting several pièces jaunes into the votive candles tray.  Sign up for a free French Word-A-Day


pièces jaunes (pyes zhone) noun fpl

    : "yellow pieces", or loose change

French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.
. 

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

Jackie and I are counting coins in the parking lot beside the boulodrome. It's "after school" aka "l'heure du gouter" and my 13-year-old is hankering for a powdery beignet, only I'm out of cash, or had thought I was....

Réfléchissons! What about the car's cendrier? My daughter and I grab for it... one of us signaling our victory with a rattling of the removable ash bin (and those cantankerous coins within!). 

The triumphant rush is quickly hushed when all we can see inside the cendrier is a yellow haze. Pas de chance! Gone are the silver-edged coins that would make our bakery run an easy one. Not a one- or two-euro coin to be found!

"Plan B" has us pecking out several easy targets: the more "meaty" 10 and 20 centime pieces. What's left are the tinny tiny pièces jaunes. For our muffin mission, we'll need another 30 or so of these petite pièces.

Building little coin stacks as we go (and none of those paper penny wrappers I used as a kid, years ago), we sort through centimes of various value—in ones, twos, and fives—to add to our modest but respectable ten and twenty centime pieces. Enfin, we arrive at the spendable sum of one euro.

Having done the arithmetic and painstakingly come up with the gist of it (the funds necessary for one sugary bun), we linger thoughtfully. It is a mixture of pride and politesse that is nagging us. On the one hand, or the "pride side", one of us (I've already elected Jackie) is going to feel very uneasy unloading a ton of tiny coins on the baker's counter. And on the other hand (celle de la Politesse) one hates to trouble the baker with so much coin counting.

Then there's the guilt: the "yellow pieces" really don't belong to us. They are for the needy, or should be. A hankering is not a need, nor is a hankerer a needy one (though a hankerer may be hungry, and for a bun!). I am thinking of "Operation Pièces Jaunes" the French foundation that began in 1990 with the goal of improving the daily lives of children and adolescents in pediatric hospital wards.  

Yes, but, giving is optional and, as options go: we can opt to use these yellow pieces now... and use this occasion as un rappel: a reminder to contribute our cantankerous coins to Operation Pièces Jaunes!

How quickly we convince ourselves and, like that, fast as fried flour, Jackie is off to the baker's for her beignet and back in a flash. 

"How did it go, Sweety? Did the baker look at you funny?" 

"No," Jackie assured me. "But she wanted me to tell you that she would be happy to buy some of our wine. That we need only to go and see her...."

With that, I slid down in my car seat. I had thought about pride; I had thought about la politesse... but I hadn't imagined our baker would worry about our very own financial fitness! Let that be un rappel. Next time I'll remember: the pièces jaunes really are reserved for the poor!

***
Post Note: to be clear, the French do regularly use those not-so-handy pièces jaunes... (else why would a baguette cost 85 centimes? Hmmm?). So don't hesitate to use them when you are in France.

...still and all, it is good to be reminded that a better place exists for our excess: in the pockets of the less fortunate it is always used best
. 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are most welcome, here, in the comments box

French Vocabulary

le boulodrome = area for playing boules

l'heure du gouter = snack time

le beignet = doughnut

réfléchissons... = let's think for a moment...

le cendrier = ashtray

pas de chance! = outta luck!

les pièces jaunes = "yellow pieces", spare change, pennies

enfin = finally

celle de la politesse = that of politeness

un rappel = a reminder

 Walnut Wine and Truffle     Groves Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves is a culinary travel book that navigates the back roads—as well as the menus and markets—of the southwestern region of France with newfound excitement. Through interviews with local home cooks and chefs, visits to local farms, historic sites and wineries, market tours, and serendipitous detours, Lovato provides a glimpse into this unspoiled wonderland. The alluring recipes and stunning photographs let readers discover the true jewels in France’s culinary crown as well as discover the country’s most beautiful and less trod-upon provinces. Order here.

 

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That's the other Jackie, in drag. She is one of my muses, someone I had the chance to meet thanks to my belle-soeur, Cécile. Read a poem ("Bohème") I wrote for Jackie and see a picture of my belle-soeur (she's the one with the tattoo) here.

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And speaking of bohemiennes, I hope you don't mind my sharing this mini-review (more of a "Tweet") I wrote yesterday about another unlikely bohème, Darlene Deibler Rose:

DarleneEvidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II

Might I add:

Thankful to be reading this book about a strong woman who doesn't have a namby-pamby bone in her body and who knows the meaning of gratefulness (grateful for a coconut covered fly to eat, grateful for a grass mat on which to sleep...)  Order this book, here.

 

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"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


donner

Christmas in Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse

How much is that kitty in the window? Photo taken in Vaison La Romaine. Never miss a Provençal picture, sign up for French Word-A-Day.

donner (doh-nay) verb

    : to give      => donner secours = to give help, aid

All the "definitions" for the word "to give" are in today's story. Read on.

Listen:
Hear the word 'donner' pronounced: Download donner.wav

 

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

The Art of Giving

The other day I called Jules in Mexico to ask for her help in giving. What could I give my belle-famille for Christmas? What could I give my friends? The idea of giving someone something that they may not like or need makes me want to just give up and call this season "greed".

"It's all so commercial!" I complain to my mom. 
"That's not the point," Jules argues. "It's about learning to give...."

Learning to give. Jules is right! How many of us need practice in, as Mom calls it, "The Art of Giving"? This season may be a commercial one (one that began some time on Black Friday...) but if, amidst the cramped cash registers and credit-card turnover--if we can learn to reach down deep into our pockets... then maybe the act of reaching will be the first in many more automatic acts of kindness?

Yesterday I learned about a man who exemplifies the art of giving (and thanks to Christine Buckley for pointing us in his direction). Narayanan Krishnan was already at that time a celebrated chef at a Five Star hotel there in India and was on his way to Switzerland, where he was short-listed for an elite post. But on the way out of his Indian village, he had the shock of a lifetime. He witnessed a man eating his very own waste in order to quiet his hunger pangs.

Narayanan Krishnan did not go to Switzerland. Instead, he sat down on the floor with his trusty cutting board...  and began fixing meals for that hunger-pangued man, and for others who could not care for themselves. The following year, in 2003, he founded the nonprofit group Akshaya Trust (http://www.akshayatrust.org/). 

29-year-old Narayanan Krishnan wakes at 4 am to begin the work to feed the homeless, the mentally ill, and the old—those who, as Narayanan points out, have been left uncared for by society.

In the following video (click over to the blog if you are reading via email), Narayanan shows us how to give with the whole being: body and soul:

He makes the food...

he carries it to the incapacitated

he feeds it to the weak, hand to mouth

he washes their wasted bodies

he cuts their hair "for them to feel, psychologically, that they are also human beings"

he gives them a shave

he prays at their feet

he holds their hand

he makes them laugh!

he takes them into his arms and hugs them...

 "Food is one part, love is another part," Narayanan explains. "Food gives them physical nutrition; the love and affection which you show will give them mental nutrition!"

Along with hunger, there is dignity, along with an empty stomach, there is a heart in need.

"We are all the same," Narayanan remarks. "Everybody has got 5.5 liters of blood. I am just a human being. For me everybody the same!"

After viewing such an act of kindness, we are inspired to break out and to do the same... we wonder, as Narayanan did, about the purpose and the meaning of our own life: what is it if not to reach out and help others?

"There are thousands and thousands and lots and lots of people suffering...

...What is the ultimate purpose of life?

It's to give!

Start giving

See the joy of giving."

***

To comment on this story, click here.
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To view the video (for those reading via email), click here and skip to the end of this story. To fully appreciate the clip, watch it twice (reading the captions second time around).



Note: Narayanan is one of the Top Ten CNN heroes for 2010. 

Looking for places to give? Not sure how to choose the right charity? Check out Charity Navigator. Many of the charities offer the possibility to sign up for monthly sponsoring -- a great way to ensure that some of your earnings regularly go to those who really need it. To recommend a charity, use the comments box

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My beautiful-hearted mom, "Jules". 


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Jules says to look a person in the eye when you smile, that's one way to begin giving. And to never underestimate the power of touch. Happy Holidays. Hugs to all!

French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Les anges dans nos campagnes". CD here. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"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


frigo

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Smokey The Bandit & The Frigo Caper, in today's *bi-lingual* story column! For a free subscription to French Word-A-Day, click here.

le frigo (freego)

    : fridge, icebox

synonyme: frigidaire, réfrigérateur, (refrigerator) & la glacière (ice box)

Ado, véto, resto... the French seem to love abbreviation. This is not to say that others of us are not guilty of truncating terms: in English, for example, we say fridge... Have any apocopic terms to add to this memoClick here to begin truncating...

French christmas music French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Les anges dans nos campagnes". Order CD here. 


A Day in a DOG'S Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey

(French text by Carol Donnay... English text follows!)

Smokey dit: "Zut, encore rien pour moi.. Peut-être dans le bac à légumes? Mais je suis pas végétarien. Comme dit Maman Braise quand elle me voit végéter devant le frigo vide de viande: " Smokey, chéri, même si tu végètes, t'as rien..."

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(That's me, Smokester, behind Mama Braise)

Smokey says: "Darn, as always, nothin' for me... Maybe in the vegetable crisper? But I am not a vegetarian. As Mama Braise says when she sees me vegetating in front of the meatless fridge: "Smokey, dear, even if you vegetate, you'll still get nothing!"

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Hmmm... Hmmm....

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Je végète, je végète.... Vegetating... vegetating....


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Mama Braise a raison. Rien!  Mama Braise is right. Nada!

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OMD! C'est elle... L'Ombre!  OMG! It's her. The Shadow!

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Je donne la patte! Je suis innocent! I give you my paw! I'm innocent!

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Je t'assure, je n'y faisais rien! Je végète, je végète. C'est tout! 
I assure you. I wasn't doing a thing... vegetating, vegetating. That's all!

:: Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Box::
Thank you, Carol, for the opening text to this picture story. I have added additional text, in French (one-liners beneath the remaining photos) -- hope I got the grammar and spelling correct! Any edits are welcome here, in the comments box. Merci!

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