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Entries from February 2016

What does Journées Portes Ouvertes mean? And How To Succeed in College.

Journées-portes-ouvertes
Just back from Aix-en-Provence, where Jackie and I visited a potential faculté, or college... and it has nothing to do with fashion studies!

Domaine Rouge-Bleu will soon embark on another USA tour. Meet Thomas! Click here for cities and schedules.

TODAY'S WORD: les portes-ouvertes

    : open house (U.S.), open day (U.K.)

Thanks to Nancy, Katia, and Audrey and all who helped with the English translations when I posed the question earlier on Facebook! My mind was drawing a blank. Does this happen to you, too, when you study languages for so long and are multilingual?

Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to rent in France. Celebrate special occasions with family, friends. Click here.


FRENCH PRONUNCIATION

Improve your spoken French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jackie pronounce today's word and example sentence: 
Download MP3 or WAV file

Les portes ouvertes. Aujourd'hui, Maman et moi sommes allées aux portes ouvertes en faculté de langues à Aix-en-Provence. Open house (or open doors). Today, Mom and I went to the open house at the language college in Aix-en-Provence.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Learning How to Learn

If it were up to the Gods of French Academia, they would have my children declaring their future careers by the age of 12.  But how can a kid know whether he wants to be a scientist or baker before the age of adolescence? 

Neither of our children were able to declare their future metier at such a tender age. Max, who now studies international trade in Aix, once chose literature--and lived to regret all those book reports. And his sister, Jackie, eventually found her way into fashion studies. She will take her baccalauréat exam (graduate high school) this June, and is set further her fashion studies this fall. Or was....

"I would like to be a writer like you," Jackie recently announced. Once I picked myself up off the floor, a smile began to form across my face. Wasn't that ironic! I thought. At her age I wanted to be a fashion designer! 

"Don't worry, Mom! I want to somehow combine the two fields...."

Jean-Marc and I had mixed feeling about this recent vocational switch-a-roo. But in the end I realized that what's important is not what we study, it's how we study. What's important is to learn how to learn.

The language arts school that Jackie is interested in cites a 4 percent success rate for students who are coming in from vocational schools. But Jackie is not daunted. "I think of you, Mom," she says, remembering the story of how a D student made it into college on probation and went on to graduate cum laude.

It's funny how Jackie remembers that, and this tells me two things: she really is listening to me, and two, she's got a good memory. With those two tools she is on her way to succeeding in college. Add to that a steady stream of motivation and determination and her success in at la fac is surer and surer. 

What, dear reader, would you add to that? How can a student succeed in college? 


COMMENTS


Jax-n-max
Jackie and her brother, Max, in the college town of Aix-en-Provence

PROVENCE PHOTO WORKSHOP - Improve your skills with a 5 day workshop this summer. Click here.

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Sunrise
Sunrise with Almond blossoms. Photo taken here at our vineyard. 

FORWARD THIS
If you enjoyed today's post, thanks for taking the time to share it. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Marianne's Easy Lasagna & favorite French phrase

DSC_0030

We returned home last night from our family ski vacation to find poppies blossoming along the railroad tracks in our village. Bonjour Printemps! Are you here to stay?

TODAY'S EXPRESSION

    "Ça ne mange pas de pain" = it doesn't cost a thing

* literally, "It doesn't eat bread". I heard Jean-Marc say this while we were on our family vacation this week. Since, I've been saying it everyday!, ie:

"Jackie, send your fashion article to France Today or French Provencal magazine"- ça ne mange pas de pain! You've got nothing to lose!


Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…
Click here.

FRENCH PRONUNCIATION
Learn how to speak French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

La compassion, la tolerance, le respet pour l'autre... ça ne mange pas de pain.
Compassion, tolerance, respect for others... it doesn't cost a thing.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristi Espinasse

Home now from a 3-day family getaway to the French Alps, the first thing I want to do--before even unpacking my valise, is to make Marianne's delicious lasagna! I've already been to the store this morning, to get the short list of ingredients for this easy, 6-ingredient recipe!


Chalet-clothesline
                      L'Art de vivre en montagne


MARIANNE'S FASTOCHE LASAGNE
(Marianne's Easy-Peasy Lasagne)

Twenty-three years ago, sitting at Marianne's convivial dinner table, I would not have thought to ask for the recette. But I've grown up, since, and rearranged my priorities! While I still stare at all the French guests--losing my attention span to daydreaming as my gaze picks up all kinds of inspiration from those seated around the table--I can now punctuate these lapses with pertinent questions, such as, Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... or May I have the recipe for this delicious dish? 

Monday night, as I stared at the stuffed squirrel on the chalet's wall, Marianne served up lasagna for thirteen, and Michel, Marianne's husband, explained: "The squirrel came from Alsace...."

I thought to ask Why?, when another, more pressing question came to mind: "Marianne, est-ce que je peux avoir la recette de ce lasagne?" And here, dear readers, is what she answered (my notes and questions are in parenthesis, in case you want to give me any pointers before I go to make this recipe this afternoon!) :


First make an easy bolognaise sauce...
Sauté some onions, add ground beef (around 100 grams or 3.5 ounces per person) and continue to cook, separating the beef with a spatula,  mixing it up with the onions. Add salt and pepper and a can or so of tomatoes (or tomatoe paste). 
 
Then add cream.... Marianne says she added two cartons of crême fraîche liquide (she held up her hands to give me an idea of the carton size, which I guess is about 8 ounces per carton. This will depend on how much beef you use, so just do it by guesswork, which is my plan! (As for me, I bought 3 small tubs of sour cream. Do you think this will work?) 

Now put down the first layer of lasagna noodles --precooked, directly from package, followed by one layer of the meat/cream sauce and one layer of shredded gruyère cheese. Repeat until you reach the top  of the pan. (Do you line the pan? I think I'll butter it or add sauce first... let me know!) 

Into the oven at 150-180C (300-350F) for 25 minutes... and voilà, fini!


KRISTI'S NOTES

I love the idea of this basic lasagna recipe, which gives me courage to make lasagna for the very first time. With an easy 6-ingredient base, I am free to be creative, adding chopped carrots to sauté along with the onions, or adding nutmeg and a lump of butter to the cream and meat sauce.... I may also add some leftover parmesan along with the shredded cheese. 

What would you add? Let me know this-and any other tips in the comments. I am so excited to finally be making lasagna, as it will be a very practical recipe at harvest time!

Check out these casserole dishes at Amazon.

COMMENTS

Marianne-michel
Everybody had seconds! Thanks, Marianne and Michel! For another easy, quick, and delicious recipe by Marianne, click here.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
valise = suitcase
recette = recipe
Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... tell me about that (stuffed) squirrel on the wall


SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.

FRANCE & MONACO We offer exclusive short-term holiday rental properties throughout France and Monaco. Click here.

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Max-and-antoine
Vacation is over. This morning Max and Antoine are pulling out large stones from the vineyard floor and piling them at the end of the vine row, where an ancient restanque (Provencal stone wall) hints at a new purpose for these heavy rocks.

Smokey-snow
P.S. Smokey had a blast in the snow, chased tennis balls and ate plenty of snowballs too!

FORWARD THIS POST TO A FRIEND.
Thanks and see you next week!

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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Cheez Whiz + The 3-ingredient dessert my French guests raved about

French chestnut cake recipe

Make this easy chestnut cream cake and your guests, like mine, will be dipping their spoons into the pan for more! (Cuillères, because the French do not eat cake with fourchettes, as we do back home in Arizona.)

TODAY'S WORD: le marron

    1. brown or chestnut (color)
    2. chestnut 
    3.  black-eye (slang)

Mas-de-perdrix-kitchenMas de la Perdrix-the perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…click here.

 


ECOUTER 
Listen to Jean-Marc and improve your French pronunciation: Download MP3

C’est en 1882 alors que l'économie locale ardéchoise dans l’élevage du ver à soie traverse une crise due à une épidémie, que Clément Faugier, jeune homme du terroir, crée à Privas la première fabrique de Marrons Glacés.

It was in 1882, during a time when silkworm farming in the Ardèche was in a state of crisis due to an epidemic, that Clément Faugier, a young man from the region, created the first candied chestnut factory in Privas.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristin Espinasse

When I first moved to France I began to notice all kinds of unusual behavior among the French, most of it coming from my husband-to-be. Jean-Marc loves the outdoors and we would often hike down the jagged calanques, to the sea, where we enjoyed picnicking. Jean-Marc's favorite things to eat included the traditional baguette and cheese... and a brown paste that he would suck from a tube. (I know that last phrase lacks elegance, unlike my then-boyfriend).

It turned out he was relishing his favorite childhood goûter, or snack: chestnut cream in a tube! And who was I to judge the way in which he ate it--when my favorite childhood snack was Cheez Whiz? For those unfamiliar with the product, French Wikipedia offers some incite:

    Il se présente sous la forme d'une pâte de couleur jaune et est conditionné dans des pots en verre.
    It is presented in the form of a yellow-colored paste, and packaged in glass pots.

Not my Cheez Whiz! Mine came in an aerosol can--all the better for spraying directly into the mouth before replacing it in my grandmother's cupboard, beside her canned green beans from my grandfather's garden.

An ocean away from those delightful gastronomic episodes, I now cultivate beans in my own garden, and compensate for so much healthy eating by punctuated indulgements. (Did you know you can now buy Cheez Whiz in France?)

One of my all-time favorite, decadent desserts is this French chestnut cake that Jean-Marc's aunt often made us during harvest time at her vineyard. And when we began our own vineyard, Marie-Françoise (that's her handwriting in the opening photo) brought this beloved gâteau de marrons to our harvest picnics, to help us out. Everyone loves it and so will you! 

 

FRENCH CHESTNUT CAKE
Le Gâteau aux Marrons

Note: you can purchase the chestnut cream here at Amazon. It's pricey, but only three ingredients are needed for this cake, which costs around $15. (I served 8 people). Also, you may notice how Aunt Marie-Françoise handwritten recipe (pictured) calls for beating the egg whites and gently folding them in. Up to you. (I'd rather spend the effort pulling weeds near my fava beans. Grandpa, you would be proud!)

INGREDIENTS

    => 500 grams or 1 can(about 2 cups) of Crème de Marrons vanillé (vanilla chestnut spread)
    =>100 grams of butter (about 7 tablespoons)
    => 3 eggs

In a pan, over medium heat, combine the chestnut spread and the butter until softened. Remove from stovetop and let cool before adding three beaten eggs. Stir to combine. Pour into cake pan.

Cook 45 minutes at 150C (300F)

Note: my cake seemed ready after only 20 minutes! It is a thin cake. I served it plain, but you could frost it or put a chocolate sauce on top! Sliced strawberries would be nice. Here's a picture of one I topped simply, with pecans and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Why not share this post with a friend? Thanks and enjoy. Et bon appétit!


COMMENTS
To leave a comment or to read one, click here

French Chestnut cake gateau aux marrons

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Making-parsley-pesto

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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


My Life Philosophy (A Love Story)

BLOSSOMING-IN-PROVENCEToday's story is from the book Blossoming in Provence--a good gift for Valentine's day! Order here.


TODAY'S FRENCH WORD... is all the French words in the following love story, because that is what love is: le tout--everything! Happy Valentine's day in advance. (Don't miss Jean-Marc's pronunciation of the entire vocabulary list, following the story.)


Mas-de-perdrix-kitchenMas de la Perdrix-the perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…click here.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristin Espinasse


When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE... and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century, when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépéles oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.


COMMENTS
To comment, click here

Hat-freckles

"Hat freckles," Me and Smokey. I love straw hats! Check these out.


Provence & French Alps Tours – Two regions of France in one affordable, small group tour. Majestic mountains, Provence colors. Wine/cheese tastings, Michelin Star cuisine. Click here. 


French Vocabulary
Listen to the following list of French words
Download MP3 or Wav

le troisième âge
 = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped, a vintage Mobylette
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket.
Wicker market basket. A classic market basket

l'anchoïade
(m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God

Improve your French pronunciation with Exercises in French Phonetics


FRANCE & MONACO We offer exclusive short-term holiday rental properties throughout France and Monaco.

First-fava-bean
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    >> More chapeaux de pailles!


Window-washer
My old man

SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.

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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Sobriety does not equal Foolproof entertaining

Cheerfulness

I wish you cheerfulness. That is what we all need to offer and to receive. That is true courtesy which enriches everyone, beginning with the one who gives it. This is the treasure that multiplies in the exchange. We can sow it along the roads, in the tramways, in the newsstands; it won't lose one atom of itself. It will grow and flourish wherever you toss it. (French translation and credit below)

TODAY'S WORD: Recevoir

    : to receive
    : to entertain


ECOUTEZ/LISTEN to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav
 
Je vous souhaite la bonne humeur. Voilà ce qu'il faudrait offrir et recevoir. Voilà la vraie politesse qui enrichit tout le monde, et d'abord celui qui donne. Voilà le trésor qui se multiplie par l'échange. On peut le semer le long des rues, dans les tramways, dans les kiosques à journaux ; il ne s'en perdra pas un atome. Elle poussera et fleurira partout où vous l'aurez jetée. -Alain, Propos sur le Bonheur

Improve your French pronunciation


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristin Espinasse

Sobriety Does Not = Foolproof Entertaining
...it equals so much more

There was a time, early in my marriage when, not knowing any better, I would prepare for a dinner party in the most exhaustive way. I would wake up that morning with no clue of what to cook--rush to the grocery store, filling my cart so high that I would have to let everyone in the line behind me pass me, par politesse. Returning home, worn out before the day began, I would put away the groceries, put away my toddlers (who were also in the grocery cart), and begin to clean my house. Having cared for the kids all day while tossing menus around in my head, I would prepare myself before preparing dinner (usually something in the pressure cooker--a metaphor for my emotional state?). I will never forget the night my English friend Caroline arrived, pausing outside my kitchen window to witness the chaotic scene: the sink was full of pans and the countertops were piled with cutting boards, utensils, vegetable scraps.... 

And I will never forget the day I threw a plate across the room at my husband. It was all TOO MUCH! I wanted to go home to America and let my sister resume the cooking and entertaining. I could lie on the couch and drink beer!

(Today, February 3rd, I celebrate 13 years of sobriety! May I never go back to being a beer-guzzling couch potato who dreamed of marrying a prince. Clearly God had a better plan for me. Even if--3 years into my sobriety--He put me on a vineyard and turned my husband into a winemaker! Poof!)

Challenges, challenges. Back to entertaining. It was my friend, Alicia, stockbroker by day and Malaysian Martha Stewart by night, who taught me the most precious lesson: prepare as much as you can in advance! Days in advance! 

I have lost touch with my friend but I will get back with her one day - as I try to do better at maintaining my friendships (something I am not very good at. This has nothing to do with not loving my friends. It may have something to do with being "a solitude"--or a recluse or a hermit or an introvert...or an alcoholic? But we should be careful not to label one another. Don't you think? As my Mom always taught me: what you say is what you get).

Meantime, this week I reconnected with several friends - over one dinner party and one luncheon (both at my house) (both in the space of 4 days!). And while Alicia's tip has transformed my life (I use the tip for packing and more), it could not save me from The Argentinian Ants!  I watched as they marched into the kitchen, foiling my best organizational plans!

Yesterday's lunch with Corey and Yann and Anne and Kirk would be a test! There was no way I could prepare the quiches ahead of time... or the ants would get to them as the pies cooled in the oven. The best strategy would be to prepare everything an hour before my guests arrived -- and to sit down quickly for lunch before the meal cooled down (inviting the ant invaders)!

I won't go into the painful comedy involved in getting soup and quiche ready in under an hour - but I can tell you that by the time my friends walked up the driveway, I had ants in my pants from nerves gone haywire (and probably, simply, from having ants in my pants!)

You see, no matter how much progress I have made, I still get very disheartened over that still-elusive state of peace and calmness. You would think I would have "earned" it after practicing 13 years of sobriety. But truly, there are days I ask myself if a glass of rosé would do me more good than harm?

At those times when I wonder if a glass of rosé wouldn't be the lesser evil (compared to this tension), I tell myself this: Look back. Look back over the last 13 years. More than beginning to write, I began to pick up the pieces of that plate I threw across the room. 

Still picking up the pieces, "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly," I can now begin to fill my plate and offer the goodness to others. Ants and all.

Thank you for reading and for the encouragement you have sent in over the years. It means so much to me.

Amicalement,
Kristi

To comment, click here.


Read about yesterday's lunch and see photos at Corey's Tongue and Cheek blog (lunch entry is right here.) And thank you, Corey, I am so touched to see your post! And thank you for teaching me to make soup and quiche and to just be oneself. You are so fun to be around.

Anne and Kirk, thank you for the wonderful photos from yesterday's lunch- posted to your Facebook page or to mine

Entertain
Thanks also to Sandra and Patrick for the lovely cake platter. The tart is from Anne and Kirk, and the antique stack of music is from Corey see Corey's French Brocante at Instagram.

 

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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.