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Entries from May 2011

saboter

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Time for a break... (Photo of "Ulysse" The Great Dane taken near Giens)

 

 saboter (saah boh tay)

    : to mess up

Example Sentence:
C'est 'l'autosabotage': elle fait de son mieux pour saboter ses efforts. It's 'self-sabotage': she does her best to mess up her own efforts.
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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"Sabotage"

Mom and I are sitting at the kitchen table, slicing kiwis and oranges, layering them into a pottery bowl. After each juicy couche we toss in a mixture of sliced, roasted almonds and some sucre vanillé.

I am still shaking my head. It is indulgent to wallow in self-pity for as long as I have this morning, but I go on stretching things... now that Mom is here to do the listening.

"I should have known better than to leave the quiches to cool outside overnight! I had a feeling that what I was doing was risky... but I did it anyway!" My mind replays the scene in which I walk out onto the patio, stretch before the morning sun, give thanks for the day ahead... when next my long, lifeless hair shoots up and stands on end! A loud cry escapes me as my eyes fix on two SHREDDED tarts--the savory mint and goat cheese pies in which we'd invested so much time last night.

I am shaking in anger from my high-ended hair all the way down to my twisted toes. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS? I cry out to the field ahead of me. The rabbits run off, the nightingale's song stops... In the silence, I look down at the pies, noticing the claw marks... c'était les chats sauvages!

***

An hour later and I've salvaged as much of the quiche as possible (the parts still hidden under the heavy covering that I'd rigged in hopes of avoiding such a calamity), cutting up the pie into little squares and presenting it on a pretty platter. After making sure that no part of the salvaged quiche had come into contact with those feral claws, I could only hope that what remained was enough to feed some thirty French relatives...I'd have to supplement things with several slices of toasts de tapenade. Thank goodness we were only in charge of a part of the apéritif and not le plat principal!  

As Mom and I cut up the kiwis and oranges (we are also in charge of part of the dessert) I am once again obsessing over the details of this latest petite calamité. What would the talk show psychologists call it? That's it: sabotage or le sabotage de soi or l'autosabotage!

As I share my woes, I keep a swift eye on Jules, who is having difficulty peeling the oranges. "Mom, you need to get the white part off... don't leave it like that!"

After the sabotaged quiches, I don't want to end up with a sabotaged fruit salad or else we'll have nothing to bring to the annual family picnic!

I look up to make sure I haven't hurt Mom's feelings... I didn't mean to be disrespectful. Just because Mom no longer cooks doesn't mean that she doesn't know how to. She cooked for years--and sewed her girls dresses, and made us blankets, and the rest. Yes REST! These days, she is retired from all that.... Her days as a single mom rearing her children are over. 

Mom continues to skin the oranges and I try to suppress the urge to control my sous-chef. Instead I indulge in another round of rumination.

"I can't believe those cats ate the quiches! Granted, I set them outside on the table to cool, but I had covered them with two oven-racks, one roasting pan, a flower pot (now in pieces, on the ground) and a Heavy casserole. Surely that was enough protection? GRHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

As I obsess about the details, Mom studies me with sympathy, and so I indulge some more...

"Maybe I did it on purpose? Have you heard about those people that sabotage their own efforts? Yes! Why would I set myself up for failure?"

Jules is quick to dismiss any psychobabble: "Maybe it's not about you. Maybe its about the cats!"

With that, my storyteller Mom gives me one of her best:

"Just imagine Mama Cat out there on the eve of her day of honor (here, Jules lifts her knife and points out to the vines, to the wild Mediterranean forest just beyond)..." 

"It's Mother's Day here in France and we're about to go to a family picnic and bust our guts. Meantime, there's a poor old Mama Cat out there... lying flat on her back, eight little 'kids' piled on top of her."

"Just look at all these brats sucking the life out of me!" Mama Cat agonizes.

Crouched behind a nearby bush, a couple of Mama Cat's "teenagers" hatch a plan to help out their distressed mother....

They might rob the poulailler, just around the bend... or check out Madame Canard's nest, along the ruisseau, and see whether she's had her babies yet...

Around about this time a savory ribbon of flavor sweeps into their domain... threading through the vines, over the sweet honeysuckle, and into the wild thyme and lavender den that the cats have taken over.  The cheesy scent snakes around them, hugging their hunger pangs. The teenage cats look up and eye the farmhouse across the field of vines... There on a crooked iron table lie two pies! Only one obstacle is stacked up between them and the prize quiche... some sort of bizarre leaning tower of pots and pans and flower pots...

Mom didn't need to finish her story before the spirit of Mother's Day took hold... and soon I found myself cheering for the wild feral cats and for their poor mama lying lifeless beneath a heavy carpet of screaming brats.

And, just as I did as a child during storytelling hour, I'm now fancying myself the main character (one of the teenage hero cats), bringing home the bacon (or goat-cheese quiche), proud smile on my face....

Any frustration that I have felt over the sabotaged quiches (or, lately, in switching rôles with Mom, cooking all her meals), is replaced with a sense of satisfaction. Finally, it is an honor and a pleasure to care for our moms. 

With a renewed attitude, I am no longer obsessing and I've cut out the psychobabble. I can even resist the temptation to scold my sous-chef for sneaking the odd bite of orange while slicing up the rest of the fruit, imperfectly, but in her very own mama cat way.
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Nyons

Photo taken in Nyons, France. 

 

French Vocabulary

une couche = layer

le sucre vanille = vanilla-flavored sugar

c'était les chats sauvages = it was the feral, or wild, cats

toast de tapenade = toasted bread with crushed olive (and anchovy and caper and...) spread

l'apéritif(ive) = appetizer

le plat principal, or plat de résistance = main course

la petite calamité = little calamity 

le poulailler = henhouse

le ruisseau = brook, stream

 

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.

 

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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    
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    ♥ 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


bestiole

DSC_0022
On the way to meet Malou and Doreen ("The Dirt Divas"), Jules and I ventured through the town of Valréas. That's Mom... Her smile has returned.

bestiole (bes tee ohl) 

    : little creature; insect, bug

Example sentence:
Elles ne savaient pas quel genre de bestiole c'était. They did not know what type of insect it was

***

I just ordered this book for my mom, Jules. It's in rupture de stock, here in France, so we're waiting patiently for its arrival!:

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.
. 

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

Smashing Bugs!

If you were that collared dove cooing from the giant plane tree above, the view from the sky might provide curious sight...

There, on a South of France garden patio, among great clay pots filled with lilies à gogo, two women are dancing a kind of "gardener's twist".

"It's called 'The Lily Bug'!", Doreen explains, out of breath as she lifts her foot for another leg-twisting "Diva drill"--designed to literally squash out the competition! I follow her example and dance over to another of Malou's towering lilies, where I select a red-jacketed "dance partner" (the shy, would-be suitors are hiding among the lily leaves... and each time we reach for one, off it slides, via its elude-the-gardener defensive strategy). 

"They're sly devils!" Doreen warns, lifting her foot and slamming it to the ground. Without missing a beat our Dirt Diva selects another red-winged bestiole, one that will soon become "patio paste" (I wince as the little scarlet-backed bugs meet their fate via a tap-tap-twistaroo of our shoes).

Doreen is teaching me bug control. After the "wringing of the worms" (a horrifying fate in which invasive, hard-shelled worms meet their death by a swift thumb-to-forefinger twist), I am learning the lily-bug-squash technique.

It seems to be the most efficient means for eliminating the lys plants pire ennemi: the sometimes gooey lily beetle!
"Take that" (step-step-step... squash!) and that (twist-twist-wipe!

The turtledoves in the tree above look on, awestruck. Their featherless friends, below, are putting on quite a show!

 ***

Post note: Meantime, beneath the old plane tree, or platane, my mom, who came with me to Malou's home (where Doreen joined us), sat at a garden table, poring over Malou's knitting magazines. Every once in a while, Jules looked up, delighted by the table's spread: there were Moroccan cookies on a painted earthenware tray, and a selection of colorful sirops (banana-kiwi, lemon, lavender, mint), a large painted pitcher filled with fresh water and ice cubes decorated the cloth-covered table which overlooked Malou's magic garden.

"That Malou is smooth," Mom nodded her head, impressed. "She makes it look so easy." From my spot, over there on the bug-speckled patio, I had to agree. One day I would learn the art of hostessing. Meantime, I'm in bug boot camp being trained in the swift-kick-removal of unwanted guests: those lilioceris lilii, or lily snatchers!

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Thank you for sharing your story or message in the comments box. 
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An announcement from Chief Grape:

We are happy to let you know that Rouge-Bleu wines got some very nice scores on the lastest Wine Spectator issue : 90 points for Mistral red 09 and 87 points for Dentelle red 09. This link will help you locate them.

 

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Just a few of Malou's lilies. There are many, many more! Thanks, Mom, for taking these photos, here and below.

French Vocabulary

à gogo = galore

la bestiole = bug

le lis (lys) = lily

le pire ennemi = worst enemy

le sirop = fruit drink made of one part fruit syrup, ten parts water (more or less...)

Reverse Dictionary

collared dove = la tourterelle turque


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   Dancing among the lys, or lilies. Read about how I met the Dirt Divas. Click here.

Sirop Amazon has a big selection of refreshing drink syrops: add a swirl of grenadine to a glass of water, top with ice, and voilà - refreshing summertime! Check out all the sirop flavors and order one, here.

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

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


choper

Grignan Roses (c) Kristin Espinasse
A rose lover's Shangri-la: the village of Grignan. (Just don't steal the flowers... or the sweetness.... read on in today's story column.).

choper (sho-pay) verb

    : to steal, to pinch, to nab; to catch

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Il a chopé un rhume / He caught a cold.
Elles ont chopé le sucre du bistro. / They nabbed the sugar. 


Synonyms: dérober = to purloin chiper = to swipe, filch piquer = to pinch, to nick


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

(Note: the following story is a re-post. It was written one year ago...)

"The Sugar Snatchers"

When your aunt and your uncle are in town for under a week... you've got to be picky and choosy about just which postcard-pretty places you'll take them to see.

Grignan was a must! Its chateau, overlooking the vine-flanked valley, and its perched, rose-petaled village, were once the residence and the stomping grounds of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote prolifically to her fille. Picture so many words showering down from the chateau, falling like tears of joy, watering all those heirloom roses, from "Autumn Sunset" to "Gipsy Boy".

The flowers steal one's attention making it is easy to be attracted to this rose-rampant "rise" in the French sky. Their colorful petals pull your eyes up the narrow paths, or calades, past the boutiques and the art galleries until you are overlooking the patchwork paysage of Provence. After your eyes expand over the valley, they are drawn back in to the skirt of the citadel, which bustles with café life.

There, at the Brasserie Le Sévigné my aunt, my uncle, and I sipped caffeine from colorful tasses à café. Feeling that after-lunch slump, we were content to let our ears do the walking and we listened as they bent here and there capturing the various conversations, most in French, though some were accented in English "city" or "country." I wondered whether the two ladies at the next table were from London? Then again, what do I know about the topography of talk or "accentry"?

Finishing our café crèmes, we stood up to leave.  I called over to my aunt, motioning to the sugar (we were each served two packets with our cup). Having only used one-half of a sugar envelope, I was slipping the leftovers into my purse. I had seen my aunt do the same at the previous café.... "Waste not, want not," she had explained, offering another of her affectionate winks. I figured I could give my aunt the extra sachets de sucre for her train trip to Paris the next day... It is always good to have a little blood-sugar-boosting sucrose on hand when traveling.).

"And take that one too!" I encouraged, pointing to the unused sugar packet in front of her.  
Just then, I caught sight of the Englishwomen at the next table. They were watching wide-eyed.

Caught red-handed, en flagrant délit, I had no choice but to finish shoving the second packet into my purse and I cringed when I realized the sugar envelope was open and showering down granulated sweetness, mixing with the contents of my purse.

My dear aunt, her back to the would-be whistle-blowers, was unaware of our unseemly circumstance. "Here," she said, handing me her unused packet of sugar. Meantime my uncle voiced our actions, as my uncle is wont to do: "Oh, what's that? You are taking some sugar? I see."

The problem was others, too, were seeing! And, what with my uncle's commentary, we thieves were a terribly conspicuous crew.

"Put. It. In. Your. Pocket!" I snapped at my fellow sugar-snatcher. But my aunt stood there, her arm extended like a red flag, sugar packet waving like the drapeau of death. It seemed to take hours for that sugar packet to reroute itself into my aunt's pocket and I stood startled-eyed until the evidence disappeared into la poche.

As we turned our backs on the café, my aunt overheard the condemning comment at the next table as one woman spoke in a disapproving tone, pointing out our petty theft to her table-mate. "They've taken the sugar!" she reported. 

Half-way to the getaway car and my aunt and I were giggling, "They've taken the sugar!" we laughed, lacing our voices with disapproving English accents. My uncle got into the back of the car, scratching his head in confusion, having missed the episode completely. Meantime, I started the engine and my aunt hopped into the passenger's seat and when we did she winked at me: 

"I've got the sugar," she confirmed. "Hit it!"

With that, we peeled out of the postcard-pretty town, bidding goodbye to a proper Madame de Sévigné and leaving, in the sugar dust, the would-be whistle-blowers with their cups of unsweetened tea.

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:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

To leave a comment or a correction, thank you for clicking here.

Do you have a minute to read a short story about my uncle? And about keeping up appearances? Click here.

French Vocabulary

une fille = girl, daughter

une calade = a sloping, paved pathway

le paysage = landscape, scene

la tasse à cafe = coffee cup

le café crème (synonym for le café au lait) = coffee with cream

le sachet de sucre = sugar packet

pris en flagrant délit = caught red-handed

le drapeau = flag

la poche = pocket

Reverse Dictionary

waste not want not = (not a word-for-word equivalent, but here are two equivalent French proverbs: les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivieres ("little streams make big rivers") and plusieurs peu font beaucoup (a lot of littles make much)

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  DSC_0042

 "The Missing Photo". Mama Braise says: "But where is my picture, missing from the bottom of the rack?" Smokey (off in the distance, chewing on something) responds: "...munch, munch, munch...." Braise: "Smokey, is that you I hear?"....

   French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

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.

Refreshing mosterizing mist: vine therapy by Caudalie

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"The Joy They Bring". Smokey, as a young whippersnapper, and Chief Grape. 

Meet Chief Grape in Belgium  :

- In Liège at "Vive le Vin", May 26th from 6 PM
- In Brussels at "La Maison des Vins", May 28th

Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, 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


avouer

MalJuDoKris

These ladies light up my life. Mom and I had an inspiring visit with the Dirt Divas. I wish I had had a tape recorder with me to capture some of the chippy bantering! From left to right: Malou, Jules, Doreen, Kristin. Click to enlarge the photo.

avouer (ah voo ay)

    : to admit

avoue-le! = admit it!

Example sentence: J'avoue que je suis un peu sauvage. I admit that I am a bit unsociable.

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.

 

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

"Secrets"

I decided not to tell Mom until she got here. Why ruin her trip? Why get her thinking on something, ticking about it, when, instead, she could experience another day or two of peace? Besides, she had 24 hours of travel ahead of her and I wanted that trip to go as smoothly as possible.

And so I waited until she arrived to admit to her that I had broken a promise (that is, I think I had promised? It seemed I had. If my guilty feelings were any indication, then I had surely given Mom ma parole).

When I finally told Mom about the broken promesse, prefacing the avowal with enough of a lead-up that Mom was poised to receive une bombe... I let it drop, my little firecracker: Mom, I am so sorry....

... but I did not get around to having your latest painting framed! It is still rolled up, as you had left it, and I am afraid that it might be damaged, having been stored in that position for this long....

Closely, I studied Jules's face, not being able to stand another instant of guessing what her reaction might be. Suddenly, all the worry lines that had built up during my long lead-in to THE AVOWAL... disappeared.

"Is that it?" Mom questioned. I assured her it was. Only, instead of being disappointed, Mom seemed utterly pleased! Oh, that's nothing!, Jules assured me, falling back onto her pillow in relief.

On the subject of pillows... I notice Mom's head has been resting a lot on her oreiller in the last week... (This brings us to Secret No. 2.... : Mom's Avowal)

By day four or five of Mom's visit, my suspicion is growing.... and by lunch on the 7th day, I have lost my appetite. A lump in my throat, hopelessness rising inside, I look across the picnic table to Mom. Something is just not right. That contagious charisma that shines out from within has been replaced by a dull regard.  

I begin to string together the clues:
She's not brushing her hair...
She's sleeping till noon... 

I suspect Mom's reclusive behavior has to do with her medications... the ones she promised she would bring with her to France this time! My eyes begin to smart. There's that pinching sensation that warns that tears are on the way. When I resist (holding my eyes tight), I feel my very own anxiety ignite... 

That evening I fight the urge to retreat, to lick my own wounds up in the privacy of my room. Instead, I stop by Mom's window in the courtyard. The shutters are open and Mom is seated on the other side, framed by the room's light. She is wearing her brightly colored dressing gown with the glittery sequins. If only the colors in her sunken soul matched her vibrant robe.

I carry a garden chair over to the window and its ledge becomes a table between Mom and me. My question breaks the silence. "How are you feeling?" Having asked THE QUESTION, I brace myself for Mom's avowal.

She admits: "I've been halving my medication..."

The information sinks in. My chippy of a Mom has done it again! Though I feel like screaming, I decide, instead, to try for once to learn from past lessons. I calmly ask Mom to tell me exactly how many pills remain. Mom produces two packets, two different medications. She pulls out the sheets of tablets and begins counting. "Well... if I cut them in half, then..."

"No half doses!" I remind Mom. "Now, tell me, how many days do you have left?" I hear the macabre irony as the question rings in my ear, for, without medication, Mom is not truly living: she is suspended, in time, like a deer frozen before headlights.

Mom explains that she was not able to get four weeks' worth of her medication, and I am reminded of the shoddy situation of health care elsewhere. Not everyone has the privilege of walking into their pharmacy and leaving with enough medications to meet their needs. 

My heart goes out to my mother and to her husband, who tries hard to meet all of her needs. Only, this time, it was an impossibility.

I learn about how he has saved coupons in order to be able to stock up on the supply of medications that Mom would need for this trip. Only, they were a week short of being able to benefit from the 2-for-1 offer... and so Mom left with "almost enough medication". Because the idea of traveling all the way back to Mexico, having just gone off her meds, frightened her, she began dividing for the future!

Mom tells me that the secret she's been keeping has only aggravated her symptoms.  "But, Mom!, you should have told me, immediately! Transparency!," I remind her, "is the key to peaceful living."

As soon as I've preached my latest sermon, I am struck by the absurdity of my cloudy philosophy (I remember my own secret...). From now on, I might do well to practice transparency before illuminating others on the virtues that lead one to peace. 

***

Post note: so I made Mom a deal: why not make it our goal to accomplish two monumental-to-us tasks: to get the painting framed and to get to the doctor! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Merci d'avance! Click here to leave a message.

 

Related story: This isn't the first time our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test. Once, I locked Mom out of the house (I don't think I've written about that one...!!!) and another time, two years ago, Mom came to France without her anxiety medication. We had to live through a trying power outage, which only added to the moodiness (click here)!

French Vocabulary

chippy = (adj = rascally; noun = rascal)

ma parole = my word

la promesse = promise

une bombe = bomb

un oreiller = pillow

la robe = dress 

 

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"The Courage to Face Another Day". A trompe-l'oeil in the village of St Roman de Malegarde.

Shop like the French!

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Shopping trolleys--seen everywhere in France--are practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another disposable plastic sack! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys (or click on one of the trolleys here)

Capture plein écran 12052011 095757 Stripped trolley

  Doreen mom

"Missing Malou". Kristin with Doreen and Mom. (Photo by Malou)

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


cache-cache

cherry tomatoes (c) Kristin Espinasse

In the game of cache-cache, or hide-and-seek, Smokey-Doo has just made a not so strategic move.... Cher Smokey, find a better hiding place! 

Never miss a word or photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here

cache-cache (kash kash)

    : hide-and-(go-)seek

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these words: Jouons à cache-cache! Let's play hide-and-seek! Download MP3 or Wave file

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

Hang around to win...

Today we are playing cache-cache and you have been caught! Yes, you, sitting there, conspicuously, staring into your laptop, your iphone, your computer screen.... Quelle cible facile! What an easy target you are!

OK... now it is my turn to hide (off I go.... me voilà en train de disparaître....). Time for you to start counting...

...Un, deux, trois....

Hey! Slow down a bit! ... Ralentis un peu! I'll need some time to get to ma cachette.... 

I hear you now... et mon coeur se met à battre...

You shout:

"Ready or not, here I come!"...

"Sors, sors, où que tu sois!"
Come out, come out wherever you are!

Off you go in search of me...
There behind the Houdini barrique.... 

... out into the grapevines... through to the sweet-scented garrigue (weave in and out of the golden broom and honeysuckle) and over to the creek...

Along the way you've looked everywhere but UP!... up, up, and into cyberspace! 

TROUVE! Click here to see where I've been hiding out, and learn what I have to say... and do come back, won't you? In time to leave a message, thisaway:

Le Coin Commentaires

Anything to add to today's post? Comments and corrections welcome here

French Vocabulary

cache-cache = hide-and-seek (hide-and-go-seek or hy spy, I spy)

quelle cible facile = what an easy target

me voilà en train de disparaître = here I am, disappearing now

un, deux, trois = one, two, three

ralentis un peu! = slow down a bit!

ma cachette = my hiding place

mon coeur se met à battre = my heart is starting to beat (quickly)

sors, sors, où que tu sois! = come out, come out, wherever you are!

la barrique = wine barrel

la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrub land

trouvé! = found! 

P1010996
Meantime, Chief Grape tries his hand again at beekeeping. Here he is, stoking the smoker, ready to put some bees to sleep before lifting the roof of their ruche, or hive, and intervening...

goldern retrievers and sunflowers (c) Kristin Espinasse
That's Smokey's Dad, Sam, hiding with his sweetheart, Braise, in the sunflower patch (9 months weeks later... and Smokey "hatched"!!!). If you haven't read the story of Sam and Braise's elopement in Marseilles... well, then, you're in for a real SAGA. Hang on to your seat and click here for Part One

Capture plein écran 20052011 094508 Here is a book that I think my mom -- and everyone who love Paris -- will be interested in. It is available for pre-order, here!

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.

After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history. Order The Greater Journey here.

***

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

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


cheveux blancs

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Our son, Maxime, examines some weight-lifting equipment on his birthday. Notice the patch, just above his ear (read on, in today's story...). Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here

les cheveux blancs (lay sheh veuh blahn)

    : white hair

Also:

le cheveu gris = gray hair
les cheveux poivre et sel = salt-and-pepper hair

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

A seize ans, notre fils, Maxime, a déjà quelques cheveux blancs!
At sixteen, our son, Max, already has a few gray hairs! 

Check out Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills. Click here to order.
. 

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

Sage at Sixteen

Well, Mr. Max, you turned 16 yesterday! And, mon pauvre fils, we spent the landmark occasion doing errands, or les courses, but you did not complain.

Having picked you up from collège, we headed over to Orange, for your appointment chez l'orthodontiste. From time to time, as I drove, I would look over at you, Max, as you sat there in the passenger's seat, earplugs in, listening to your favorite song, Mocking Bird. A cloud of calmness settled over you and I had to ask, a few times, "Est-ce que ça va?" You assured me it was.

Now and then, my eyes fixed on that patch, over your left ear. I'll never forget when, earlier this week as you sat in the coiffeuse's chair, the hairdresser shut off the electric shaver and announced, Votre fils a des cheveux blancs!

Unbelieving, I got up out of my chair and went to see the very same: a patch, no bigger than the tip of an eraser, of white hair! 

You were pretty cool about that, too, taking the information in stride, just as you are taking this afternoon of errands with the same calm and collectedness.

When we pull into the grocery store drive-through, to collect our commande, you ask whether it's too late to buy a can of sirop de menthe....

But when I try to amend our order, the machine balks. After several attempts to add the sirop de menthe to our virtual cart, I dissolve into a mist of exasperation. My forefinger punches the menu screen until I finally give up.

That is when, Mon Fils, you quietly exit the car, come around to my side of the vehicle, and say in a soft voice: "I'm going to try to figure it out, Mom."

***

You may have received a few cadeaux on your birthday, but I wonder whether you are aware of the gift of peace and serenity that you have clearly shown me, this week? Your newly-won patience was again evident in the car ride, at the grocer's and, later, at the sports-goods store, where we would try out a gamme of weight-lifting equipment, only to leave the shop empty-handed when all of those "promotions" added up, costing your mother a lot of confusion. I needed time to figure things out--to decide just which set of barbells, which bench press, which curl bar... would be best for a growing boy. When I broke the news to you, I braced myself for your disappointment. Instead, you responded with a tender smile, and that serene gleam in your eye. "T'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre."

Last night at the dinner table, after blowing out your birthday candles, you told Grandma Jules and me that you have had a very long life, that it feels as though you had been around forever - and not a mere 16 years.

As I listen to your wondrous thoughts, my eyes return to that patch of gray, just above your ear. Though I don't understand the metaphysics of time and space, of one thing I am certain: in my hopes, in my prayers, in my wishes and in my far-flung dreams... forever, my dear son, you have been with me.

 

Smokey and Braise (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey (left) and Momma Braise illustrate that tender, mysterious, and sacred Mother-Son bond. (Photo taken in 2009, when Smokey was a wee whippersnapper.)

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. 
. 

  French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

French Vocabulary

 sage = wise

mon pauvre fils = my poor son

Orange = a city in the Vaucluse

est-ce que ça va = is everything OK?

la coiffeuse = hairdresser

Votre fils a des cheveux blancs! = Your son has some white hair!

le cadeau = present

la commande = order

le sirop de menthe = mint syrup

mon fils = my son

la gamme = the (product) range

(ne) t'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre = don't worry, Mom. I can wait

le cadeau = gift, present

And how about a Reverse dictionary for some of the English terms?:

now and then = de temps en temps

a patch (of white hair) = une tache

to take something in stride = accepter quelque chose sans sourciller

empty-handed = les mains vides

une bougie = candle

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We had to round up some candles... (1 = 10... +1 x 6!) (left to right: Kristin, Jackie, Max)

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Max, I love your smile, I love your engaging sense of humor, I love that twinkle in your eye, that faith that says "I will try". I think you are cool (I think you're a geek), I think you are intense, I think you are very, so very sweet. Enigmatic, charismatic, diplomatic... are just a few words to describe you, Mr. Moose (from "Maximousse", not his name, but a term of endearment all the same). The two photos, above, are by Jean-Marc. The one below Jackie took.

Kristin and Jean-Marc (c) Jackie Espinasse
Max, you have brought so much joy to our lives. Your mom and dad thank you (and your sister, too, though she won't admit her appreciation just yet!).

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


zone de confort

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Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here. Pictured: our daughter, Jackie, at the écurie, where today's story takes place... By the way, is anybody else as terrified by horses as I am?


zone de confort (zown deuh kohn fohr)

    : comfort zone
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

sortir de votre zone de confort = move out of your comfort zone
oser quitter votre zone de confort = dare to leave your comfort zone


Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the 5 star reviews, and order, here.
. 

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

Out of One's Comfort Zone

At the horse stables where my daughter has her riding lesson, Jules and I are sitting on the freshly-mowed pelouse. Mom is wearing her bubblegum-blue poncho and her panama hat with the red silk roses. She has spread out her Mexican tapis, the bright blue one with all the giant red fish, making our trespass even more conspicuous.

I try to hold my tongue, after all, I have recited enough rules for the day (earlier, in the village of Tulette, I noticed Mom making a beeline toward the café, where two Moroccan men sat smoking. "Let's not talk to anyone!" I suggested, not wanting to get involved in another names-and-telephone-numbers exchange.  Mom indicated she wouldn't, but eventually, mon adorable chipie de maman, left me at the table in order to chat with the shopkeepers, making friends and appointments as she went...)

Back on the grass at the stables, I spoke: "This isn't such a good idea," I said, of the blanket and the feather oreillers that Mom had dragged out to the lawn beside the horse arena. "In France people don't lie on the grass!" 

Mom's response was to rap on the feather pillow, ordering me to take a seat! Next, like a starfish, she threw out her arms and legs, fell back on the pillow, and sky-gazed. "AHHHHHH!"

My back toward the barn and to the riders who were surely reporting us, I sat there, crookedly, unwilling to relax into the comfortable pillow beside me. Leaning sharply on my elbow, my eyes scanned the horse park, where I began questioning the quality of grass....

Perhaps different grass has different rules? I wondered. This grass here, with its wheat tones and dry patches... was different, wasn't it?, from Paris Luxembourg Gardens grass. There, you wouldn't dare relax (...or have the pelouse police on your back!).

My elbow grew sore and my back, at such a crooked angle, tired... along with my rules and resolutions. "Go ahead. Lie back!" Mom suggested, eager to share the world from her eyes-to-the-sky perspective.

When my head hit the pillow the first thing I noticed were the leaves in the tree above me. SUCH GREEN LEAVES! With the sun shining down through them, the tips were saturated with color.

The feuilles, shaped like giant outstretched hands, waved in the breeze, capturing all of my attention so that when the stable-owner marched up and towered over me, I could not see her for the tree leaves!

I scrambled to a seated position in time to be read my rights. Surely we were in trouble for suffocating the grass!

But, instead of a reprimand, all I heard were these inviting words: Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée. With that, the stable owner slipped by, a smile and kindness still sparkling in her eyes.

 ***

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

Let's create a fun list together....

100 (or so) Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I'll begin - with a few goals of my own:

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1.  Ask the baker whether you might take her picture!

2. Go on a solo road trip

3. Give a talk at a library (or a school), sharing an idea or a hobby

4. Plant bird-of-paradise next to your mailbox

5. Stop the car next time something catches your eye (like the lady who sat out in front of her home, knitting)

6. Paint happy stars on a door, chez vous!

7. Tuck wildflowers into your hatband

8. Write a 40-page novel... for your eyes only and just for fun!

9... (Your turn to leave some tips here in the comments box!)

 

French Vocabulary

une écurie = horse stable

la pelouse (also le gazon) = grass

le tapis = rug

la chipie (pronounced "she-pee") = rascal, little devil

mon adorable chipie de maman =  my lively, mischievious, light-hearted and charming Mom

un oreiller = pillow

la feuille = leaf

Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée = Seize and enjoy this magnificent day!

 

IMG_5147
On a recent walk near the river, Mom gathered wildflowers (chèvrefeuille, or honeysuckle, and genêt, or broom) for her hatband, or ruban de chapeau.

When you purchase any item from Amazon, using the following links to enter the store, your purchase helps to support this free language journal. Merci d'avance!

French Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide 

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Read review for this memoir

  Capture plein écran 16052011 090119
Wicker basket. For the farmer's market, for the beach, for a carry-on, for a picnic... (that's my mom, Jules's basket, pictured below!) Buy this multipurpose "panier" here.

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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


surclasser un passager

IMG_5002
Mom has arrived!  Here she is in her bump-me-up outfit (do you see Frida Kahlo on the cape?), the one that got her whisked into business class the moment she stepped onto the airplane. "Who can resist Frida?" Mom demanded, with that testy twinkle in her eye, when I asked for the specifics of her airline upgrade. (Picture taken last February, during my visit to Jules's home in Mexico.)

surclasser un passager

    : to upgrade or bump up a passenger
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wave file 

Hier, Jules a été surclassée dans son vol Mexico-Amsterdam.
Yesterday, Jules was bumped up for her Mexico-Amsterdam flight. 

 

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

Mom arrives

The call of the rossignol pierced through our flowery courtyard, tickling my ears with poetry. I was standing in the doorwell of the studio we had prepared for Mom, peeking out from behind the climbing jasmine, when I realized that there was some sort of delay over there in the driveway....

Wearing house slippers, I scuttled over to the front gate, beyond which I saw Jean-Marc unloading Jules's carry-on. "But where is Mom?"

"Elle est dans la cave," he answered. Alors comme ça, my chipie of a mom had disappeared into the wine cellar!

When next I saw a cloud of red, I recognized Jules in her favorite Frida Kahlo cape. She wore her panama chapeau with the thick red hat-band, in which she had tucked two red roses en soie.

"John bought these from the blind Mexican on the corner...." Mom explained, wanting me to know of her husband's thoughtful gesture the hour before her departure from Puerto Vallarta. 

"This one's you," Mom indicated, her hand reaching up to locate the first flower, "...and that one's me". She patted the silk flowers, "They represent his love for us".

I recognized another of Jules's attempts to bond her husband and her daughter. If only my darling mom knew that, just like that nightingale singing in the hedge, her family communicates clearly now and the best is yet ahead.

***

Postnote: Standing there in the driveway, no sooner did I have all of Mom's attention.... when four thieves rushed in and stole her affections!  I stepped back to offer my place to two tinsel-toothed teens and a couple of gushing goldens. Waiting in line, behind the dogs, my joy was not diminished in giving the others first dibs.


Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this story or to today's word, click here.


French Vocabulary
le rossignol = nightingale
elle est dans la cave = she's in the wine cellar
alors, comme ça = and so, like that
la chipie = little rascal, little devil
le chapeau = hat 

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  DSC_0109

 Three characters in Villedieu (Vaucluse): one of the places I'd like to take Jules while she's here.

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Le Trolley! Practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another plastic sac! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys

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Capture plein écran 12052011 095845
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Sunflowers can be just as happy on a small balcony as in a field wide as the breeze. Why not plant one this weekend? Photo taken in Cassis.

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

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


quand le jour viendra

Break free (c) Kristin Espinasse

Break free, break through, break-the-rules...  in fashion, in writing, in gardening, in cuisine, in living. Pictured: the latest "escapee" in our garden: allium (representing unity, patience, and humility).

quand le jour viendra

    : when the day comes
.
Example Sentence, from today's letter written by Newforest:

Vous lirez tout ça demain ..., bientôt ...., un jour ..., quand le jour viendra... You will read all that tomorrow..., soon..., one day..., when the day comes...

Capture plein écran 10052011 164120
Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French Grammar makes mastering grammar easy. Check out the book's reviews and order here.

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

An Unexpected Tribute

The following French words were written by Newforest, who regularly enriches us, from a quiet perch in the comments box, with French words and their meanings.  Thank you, Newforest, for sharing these gems of the French language via your responses in the "coin commentaires". The following response sent via email, is a follow-up to the April 26th newsletter and I thank Newforest for letting me share this unexpected tribute.
. 
Note: In the following letter, Newforest responds to a story I wrote, one taking place in a French home-improvements store, where I am killing time when a customer with a hell-on-wheels heart captures my eye in time  to calm a condemning mind and reignite an old dream...
 
Newforest writes:

Pour passer le temps,
to pass the time,
. 
ou plus précisément:
or, more precisely:
..
pour TUER le temps,
to KILL time,

on attend, on attend...
we wait, we wait...
.
On peut parfois attendre bien longtemps,
Sometimes we can wait a very long time,
. 
paisiblement,
peacefully,

nonchalamment,
cooly,

anxieusement,
anxiously,

désespérément.
desperately.

Quel désagrément!
How unpleasant!

Efforcez-vous de prendre votre mal en patience,  
Try hard to grin and bear it,

en faisant le poireau, s'il le faut ...
by waiting a long time, without moving, if necessary...

Encore faut-il être joliment patient,
You might have to be pretty patient,

évidemment...
Clearly...

Quand on en a assez de poireauter, qu'est-ce qu'on fait?
When we've had enough waiting, what do we do?

On fait les cent pas dans la rue, ou devant un bâtiment...
We pace back and forth in the street, or before a building...

On marche de long en large (sans liaison entre "g" et "en"!)
We walk to and fro (no joining the "g" and "en"!)

On arpente solitairement les avenues...
We stride alone along the avenues... 

On prétend s'intéresser aux vitrines des marchands.
We pretend to be interested in the shop windows.

Un jour, pour tuer le temps, un écrivain entra dans un supermarché,
One day, to kill time, a writer entered into a supermarket,
. 
genre grand bazar équipé pour ceux qui adorent bricoler!
a kind a great bazaar for those who love DIY!

et là... !? ... Choc! Attraction! Eblouissement! Miracle?
and there...! Shock! Attraction! Amazement! Miracle?

Les yeux de l'écrivain en question se sont accrochés
The eyes of the writer-in-question cling
. 
à une personne dont les traits et qualités
to a person whose features and qualities

frappèrent son imagination et sa sensibilité.
would strike her imagination and feelings.

Elle reconnut la présence et l'âme d'une héroïne,
She recognised the presence and the soul of a heroine,

l'héroïne d'un conte pour les petits et les grands.
the heroine of a story for children and adults.

Savez-vous que cette femme écrivain au grand coeur,
Did you know that this woman writer with a big heart,

pleine d'idées, d'imagination et de bonne humeur,
full of ideas, imagination, and high spirits,

donnera vie à toute une série d'aventures,
will give life to a series of adventures,

à de la poésie en action, à ...  Chut!... Vous lirez tout ça
from poetry in action, to... Shhhh!... You'll read all of that

demain ..., bientôt ...., un jour ..., quand le jour viendra...
tomorrow..., soon... one day... when the day comes...

Encore faut-il que l'auteur en question se libère des liens du confort quotidien,
But it is still necessary that the author-in-question free herself from ties of daily comfort,

évitant les mille et une excuses plantées le long de son chemin,
avoiding the thousand-and-one excuses planted along the way,

et soit finalement seule, face aux paysages, menant les personnages
to be finally alone, facing the scenery, leading along the characters
. 
dans des aventures qui en-chan-te-ront
in adventures that will enchant

(mais oui, j'en suis sûre)
(yes, of course! I am sure)

les lecteurs de 'sept à soixante dix-sept ans'.
readers from "seven to 77" years old.

***
Thank you, Newforest, for your touching words and for remembering my dream of novels-writing! I continue keep this goal simmering on the back burner...  Meantime, your words offer heaps of encouragement. Merci beaucoup!

Le Coin Commentaires

To comment on Newforest's letter -- or to correct my English translation -- please click here. Many thanks again for sharing your responses to this post in the comments box.


French Vocabulary by Newforest

* nonchalamment = lazily, cooly
* un désagrément = unpleasant feeling
* s'efforcer de = to try hard
* prendre son mal en patience = to grin and bear it

* faire le poireau / poireauter (click here for a word-a-day entry on this term...) = to wait for a long time, without moving, without walking,
Careful... * faire le poirier = to do a headstand!
(le poireau = a leek   and  *le poirier = a pear tree)

* être joliment patient = to be pretty patient / to have loads of patience
* en avoir assez de poireauter =  to be fed up with waiting and waiting
* faire les cent pas / marcher de long en large
= to pace to and fro, to walk to and fro, to pace up and down
* arpenter (la rue) = to pace up and down (the street), to stride along
* bricoler = to DIY (Do It Yourself, to work indepenently, without professional help)
* faire semblant / prétendre = to pretend
* s'accrocher  = to cling
s'accrocher à quelqu'un = to get emotionally attached to somebody
*les traits = here, the features
* quand le jour viendra = when the day comes
un éblouissement = glare, dazzle (by very strong light)
- Here: amazement, dazzling experience
- and it also means dizzy spell

se libérer = to free oneself
* évitant = avoiding
* les lecteurs 'de 7 à 77 ans' = readers of all ages and conditions

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NAME THIS FLOWER (click here)... it's for Newforest, in thanks for today's words, and so much more!

 

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With special thanks to the Dirt Divas... for this and the other blooms bursting in the garden.

Upcoming events: Taste Chief Grape's Dentelle wine on May 16th from 6 to 10 PM (note that Jean-Marc and Kristin won't be able to attend this time!)  at restaurant l'Office in Paris.

***

A Feast at the Beach A Feast at the Beach. Travel back in time and immerse yourself in the Provence of the late 60s. Sensitively told, filled with humor, tenderness and a beautifully descriptive narrative regaling the reader with the tastes and smells of Southern France, A Feast at the Beach deftly blends the foods of Provence with stories that will touch your heart - and just may inspire you to rediscover your own joie de vivre. See the reviews, here.

*

Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter -  handcrafted by artisans to last for generations. Order here.

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Some of you asked about this flower, which goes by the common name: Love in a Mist. Now read about Amour en Cage, or Love in a Cage

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


bien fringué

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"Love in a Mist." One of the "locals", dressed to the nines for springtime. Thank you, Dirt Divas, for all the lovely flowers that are popping up in the garden!

bien fringué(e) (bee ehn frehn gay)

    : well-dressed

From "la fringue" (garment). Today's expression is used in informal speech! (Read: my daughter and her girlfriends use the phrase often!) Also: "Elle a de belles fringues!" = She has great clothes!

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

Fashion and The Four Agreements

At a house-warming party, or crémaillère, I spoke to the best-dressed guest. I would soon learn that such an opinion was "my truth" and not necessarily her own, that what matters about our appearance is not what others assume or conclude, but that we do what our creative hearts and instincts inspire us to do!

Seated on jewel-toned cushions in our South African hostess's courtyard, I listened to the woman wearing the dos-nu dress as we sat huddled together, fast friends. Not knowing a single soul, I had gravitated to her enigmatic presence.  Not knowing a single thing to say, I said the truth:

"J'aime votre robe!"

With that, an animated conversation began. I pointed to the whimsical ruffles along her sheer hemline... "C'est très joli!"

I looked down at my own get-up, which whispered "Play it safe! Wear black and beige!" In a rare moment of recklessness, I'd thrown on a sheer, calico scarf, tied it tightly around my neck, letting one of the long ends flow down my back. The decision felt dramatic and a little bit thrilling! setting into motion a series of unusual events: I dug out a pair of high heels... dusted off a bottle of perfume, and found a can of hairspray... As I dressed, I shut off the volume of the inner-critic, who heckled back rules about scarves and age, time and place. "Yes, there is a place! I shouted back, and if I don't dress up now, then when will I?" With that, I drew a red line around my lips, filling it in with several strokes of vibrant determination.

"Il faut oser...." You've got to dare...the woman in ruffles explained and, as she spoke, I took in her every detail. From the thick white bandeau tied over her closely-cropped, auburn hair... to her heeled ankle-strapped shoes. She told me that she chose the shoes from a tas de chaussures that her girlfriends had piled high, as they do each season, when they troc their clothes. (And what a great idea to clothes-swap!)

"I don't wear a lot of dresses... or heels," I admitted, pointing out the grapevines that surrounded us. Out here in wine country, it's not practical. 

Il faut du provoc! came the response to every one of my wardrobe-wavering excuses.

Provocative! Oh no, not I! I don't want to mislead others... and risk being mistaken for une pouffe!

The woman in frills shook her head. "Mais ça, c'est LEUR HISTOIRE et non pas la tienne! But that is their experience and not your own! It's their assumption based on their experience and it isn't your reality." Ultimately it is their baggage, not our own. And we are free to unpack our own suitcase and dress up or down as we so fancy! 

The woman huddled beside me threw her arms out as she spoke and her passion and her joy echoed in the delicate threads that enveloped her. "But all this fashion flair must come naturally to you?!" I said, sharing my doubts.

"Mais, non! I look back at photos of myself in my twenties and wonder, "Why didn't I dress up? Why was I so hard on myself. At 50, I'll try anything! So what if I make a wardrobe mistake one day? It doesn't matter... Il faut oser! You've got to dare!"

When I confided that I had a wedding to go to this fall, and that I would be wearing a little black dress, the woman in ruffles ran her coal-lined eye over me and suggested:

"Wear red instead!" 

Red? Wow? RED! Her enthusiastic response was the best reminder to shake up those "rules" of fashion (especially the oft-cited "little black dress"). I may not end up wearing red; but I will try to remember to oser, and, especially, to forget about fashion's dos and don'ts! Ultimately, how we appear to others is out of our control - it has so much to do with their own experience. It is based on their story and not ours. So why not write our own book? I'm calling mine "La Femme en Rouge"!

 ***

Postnote: Please excuse the "her" and "woman" and "she" references. But I was not sure at which point in the story to name our stylish character, who goes by "Anita". Anita tells me that she is a coursière for L'Orchestre National de Montpellier. The nature of her job (as messenger) means that eccentricities in dress are impractical (a good pair of boots are "par for la coursière"...) so Anita makes up for it by dressing up at every chance. I would have needed several chapters to share Anita's generous and affectionate spirit with you. I hope you've caught a glimpse of it here...

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


P.S. Based on the ideas that Anita shared, I wondered whether she had read the book The Four Agreements. Turns out she has, in French!  (I have not read it, but have heard it praised by friends.)

Speaking of fashion, a few books to consider. Read the reviews and choose for yourself!
Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel and 

French Vocabulary

la crémaillère = housewarming

le dos-nu = low-backed dress

j'aime votre robe = I like your dress

c'est très joli = it's very pretty

il faut oser = you've got to dare

le tas de chaussures = pile of shoes

le troc = trade

une pouffe = a tart

La Femme en Rouge = The Lady in Red

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Dear Mom, can't wait to see you on Wednesday when you land in Marseilles! Can't wait to show you the artichoke I grew from seed! (Pictures taken with this handy pocket camera.)

***

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