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Entries from August 2016

Moving to Mexico : voler de ses propres ailes

Mamacita

Everyone's flying the coop! Our son, Max, moves to Montpellier. Jackie, I told you, moves to Aix-en-Provence. And my Mom is moving to Mexico after her husband, Mr John, flew the coop to Paradise!

"But your mom already lives in Mexico..." you say. No. She lives in Puerto Vallarta--with the rest of the gringos.

Of course my sister and I are alarmed. Mom, all alone now, will be living on the fringes of the city, "in the jungle," as she is fond of saying. And from our phone conversations (which systematically cut off after 11.5 minutes, owing to a telecom hitch), I can't quite make out just what it will look like, her new place, which she has alternately referred to as a cabana and a casita. I finally pinned Mom down....

"So it is a freestanding structure? It has a toilet, a shower, and a sink. That's all? Is that a corrugated roof I see in the picture? Are you sure this isn't a converted garage?!!!"

Heidi is there now, helping our Mom move from the marina to the barrio. My sister is going to stick out like a sore thumb with her blond hair! What will the locals think of the new neighbors? (Neighbor, singular--Heidi heads back to Denver in 3 days.)

"Don't worry!" Mom says. I've already figured it out. I'm going to tell them that I am the foreign mistress of Rocky's father (my mom's housekeeper's brother--a champion boxer who she has appointed as her official Chief of Security--and who also lives in the hood).

"And that makes Heidi Rocky's Swedish half-sister? Is that the story?"

"Don't worry, Honey. Everything will work out!"

I just got off the phone with my sister, who doesn't even know the word heydo (not that I can spell it--but I did once work in a Swedish vineyard!), and who has bug bites from head to toe. "That reminds me to pack mosquito repellent," I said, staring at the solid roof over my head. "Can you think of anything else I should bring when I get there in three weeks?"

"Pack a baseball cap!" Heidi laughed. "...to hide all that blond hair when you get here. No one speaks a word of English."

I guess my sister hasn't heard about Mom's plan.  Meantime Rocky (not his real name. I'm already feeling my role of protective  sister!) and I are talking on Facebook messenger. He's learning English. Me, Spanish. I'm sure he has plenty of questions--given he thought his mom was Aztec!

I just know Mr John is watching the whole colorful scene from Paradise. I can hear his favorite message: Don't worry about a thing. Just enjoy life! With that, I leave you with today's French phrase, in theme with Mom's new chapter in life. Please wish her all the best. And if anyone out there does dry wall construction--Mom's going to need a new ceiling beneath all that corrugated metal. And insulation as thick as my sister's American accent!

Hasta la pasta, and thank you for reading!
Kristi

COMMENTS - to leave a comment, click here.


TODAY'S WORD: voler de ses propres ailes

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word:
Download MP3


Voler de ses propres ailes, c'est d'être indépendant, subsister par ses propres moyens.
To fly with one's own wings is to be independant, to get by via one's own means.

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


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.

YOUR AD HERE. Reach 26,000 readers. Place an ad in the French Word-A-Day newsletter. Click here.

 

Heidi-swede
My sister, Heidi, and my nephew and niece. Photo taken in March.

HAVAIANAS: One thing both Heidi and I will be packing are a good pair of flipflops! Mom gave me her pair of Havaianas last time she was in France, and I wear them everywhere (even hiking the local calanques!) Click here to order

Colorful Foutas - I will of course be bringing my favorite towel. Maybe I can wrap it around my head and forego the baseball cap? Click here to order.

Mosquito spray or bracelets! Here are some options in case you, too are in the market for some. Click here.

SUNDRESSES! It will be too hot to wear anything else. Click here to order.


FORWARD THIS POST
If you enjoyed today's post, please forward it to someone who might enjoy receiving French Word-A-Day. 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 
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See Jackie's new home in Aix-en-Provence! Apartments Tour & Finding student housing in France (It's a jungle!)

Cire-advertisement
When my daughter saw this photo, she recognized a favorite bar in Aix-en-Provence. I was actually hoping she would notice the old sign, above it. One thing's sure, we don't see things the same way. Read more about hunting for a studio in Aix, in today's story.

TODAY'S WORD: une studette

    petit studio
    little studio
    small room, accommodation, rented to students


ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download Studette

Ce jour-là, un tablier noué autour de la taille, les manches retroussées, il avait décidé de mettre de l’ordre dans sa studette. — (Dai Sijie, Le Complexe de Di, Gallimardl)
That day, an apron knotted around his waist, the sleeves rolled up, he decided to clean up his studio.

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

On Tuesday Jean-Marc and I drove around the périphérique of Aix-en-Provence, in a rush to make it to our 10 a.m. appointment to visit a studio apartment for our daughter.

Hunting for parking, I couldn't believe my eyes when a spot appeared. "There's one! Take it!" I said.

Jean-Marc pulled into the narrow slip and sprinted to the pay meter, half-way down the block lined by giant, shady platane trees. Moments later we were walking through the maze of Aix's centre ville. The pastel-colored buildings rising to meet the blue sky helped to calm us down. Both Jean-Marc and I have been on edge lately, and the latest news this morning (our daughter had overslept, missing our meetup) was enough to make me wonder if--I--and not our daughter--should be shopping for my very own studette in Aix. Every wife and mother needs her own man cave!

But those same fountains, along with the soft palette of old buildings had a calming effect. And yet, we needed to keep some of this feisty adrenaline going.... "We are not leaving this town until we have found a place for Jackie!" I reminded Jean-Marc, who had already received 2 cancellations for some apartments we were supposed to visit.

At 8 rue Matheron, a youngish realtor greeted us, looking fresh out of école immobilier...except France doesn't have real estate school. Anyone can show a house or, in our case, a tiny studio for one....

Apartment-1


As we followed the bright-eyed realtor, climbing a narrow, winding staircase to the 6th floor, I began to have doubts. "Fire hazard!" for one. Claustrophobic by now, it was some relief to step down into the room on the last floor...when other doubts cropped up. A half-window (with bars) permitted a view of the sky only...the mattress looked like a Hotel de Puces, and the kitchenette was covered with dust and dead bugs.

Remembering our surprise at losing our deposit for our son's apartment (even after he and his girlfriend spent hours cleaning it) I wanted to know what this company's expectations were... "Excuse me, sir." I interrupted. Will this be cleaned before our daughter moves in?" I already knew the answer, which I repeated on our way to the second appointment:

"Non!"

The second and third appointments (with a different, less-perky realtor) had four families vying for an available studio, each of us keeping our cards close. That's when Jean-Marc slyly asked, "Will the winning party be the first one to whip out his or her checkbook?"

Apartment-2

The sarcastic look sent back by the realtor meant that we had begun to lose favor with her, not that we had any to begin with. I studied the three other families, wondering who might secure housing today. This studio was was clean and modern, if piping hot from a south-facing midday sun. But there was an elevator - no need to climb 5 flights! This looked like the one, but we still had 3 more appointments....

Four families now zigzagged across Aix, eventually sprinting to keep up with the Realtor With Attitude, who was presently ducking into a clothing boutique....

Any confusion was soon cleared up, when a small door with 8 apartment numbers appeared. Jackie will love this! Brushing by clothes racks each time she enters or exits her new home. Oh, the quirks of Aix-en-Provence, where your front doorstep was shared with a boutique!

Apartment-3

Four families passed beneath the colorful awning and brushed past the rack of summer dresses to access the hidden stairwell. Another hike up an old staircase to the 5th floor (no elevator) and we arrived in a charming studio with ancient red-tiled floors,  light gray cupboards, and all around spaciousness! It was the perfect man cave for me (I'm only dreaming!)...but I knew it wasn't for my daughter. That is when I began thinking of my Mom, who just lost Mr John, her husband and who is about to move out of their condo--to live on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarto, in the barrio! Mom would love this place...which seemed much safer despite 5 steep flights of stairs and Mom's bad hip!

Realizing this wasn't the right place for Jackie (or Mom) and panicked about the high demand for apartments in Aix, I elbowed Jean-Marc, "should we take the previous one? We need to reserve it before the others get it!"

Jean-Marc agreed, casually pulling aside our realtor. "On le prend!"

Given The Checkbook Comment, earlier, I was surprised when the realtor agreed so easily, even assuring us we could sign for it back at her office. Alas, once we separated, we received the famous call: l'apart n'est plus disponible.

Now we were desperate. For the next visit, we stood facing two sweaty lovers, hickeys all over their necks. The man pointed to the mattress up in the loft and said: it comes with the studio....

I elbowed Jean-Marc and we backtracked to the door, down the dusty stairs, back out to the winding streets of Aix. Little did we know that we were about to find the perfect place, at our very next stop. As we wait for the paperwork to go through (not easy for a wine farmer and a blogger to prove a constant stream of income, given the weather and a few other factors!), we will believe our good fortune when we receive "les clés en main", or keys in the hand. The place has a mezzanine (a loft just big enough to hold a mattress--an advantage when it comes to limited floor space), which was Jackie's only wish, so she is very very happy!

Jackies-place
Jackie's studio! You can see my hat, as I am flattened against the far wall, trying to photograph the size of the apartment.

Studette
Another advantage is the full size window, which leaves me with loads of nostalgia--and goosebumps. In 1990, two floors down and out on the street, I walked towards this window, and made a sharp left, on my way to to get croissants for Jean-Marc. Madly in love, I had no idea that the spirit of our daughter was looking out that very window, whispering to me down there on the street, "See you in the future, Mommy..."

Post Note: Throughout our visit, I got an even greater appreciation for an inspiring book I have just finished. Diane Covington-Carter's memoir about her time in Aix is a sheer pleasure to read. I did not want it to end! Remembering my own junior year abroad, I knew one thing to be true--I would have appreciated it even more had I had to wait for it! Having read Diane's book, I can now go back to Aix (thanks to Jackie's studette, i.e. my man cave), and discover all she wrote about, including her favorite hotel, café, and activities.

Read EIGHT MONTHS IN PROVENCE - You will absolutely love Diane's book. I recognized so many French Word-A-Day members in the reviews section for this book, and I've left a review as well! CLICK HERE to order.

COMMENTS
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Eight-months-in-Provence
                          Click the image above to order Diane's book


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.

YOUR AD HERE. Reach 26,000 readers. Place an ad in the French Word-A-Day newsletter. Click here.


Selected products
When you shop at Amazon via one of the links, below, you help support this free language journal

Kristi-foutas
I love my new foutas towel and am finding many uses: pareo (beach wrap), beach towel, picnic blanket...
Mon panier. And I have gotten many requests for this market basket. You can find a similar style right here. I had mine custom embroidered in France.

TISANES - French herbal teas. My family drinks one every night, to help drift off to sleep ORDER HERE.

Good French moisturizer! My daughter and I continue to use and enjoy this popular French facial moisturizer. Don't miss all the reviews! Click here.

French groceries: Carte d'Or coffee, berlingots candies, cassoulet and more.

Laguiole steak knives are for sale in many of the local French market stands

French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut.

Espadrilles -  seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere!

PARIS EIFFEL PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty.

Lovers-apartment
Can you see the steam coming off that mattress? Because you were so nice to review all my product links above (thanks!), I'll show you the lovers' apartment that we visited, hickeys and all, before we found the right place for Jackie! Notice the mezzanine with mattress. Mezzanines are very popular in student housing in France. Is it the same where you are?

THANKS FOR FORWARDING THIS
If you enjoyed today's post, thanks for taking the time to share it. That's so helpful to me!

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


How to say "To invite oneself over" or "to overstay your welcome" or "to crash a party"

Alps2016
We spent several days in the Alps, last week, and crashed a dinner party the last night. Read on, in today's story.


CHOCOLATE WORKSHOP! Join two chocolate shop owners in Provence, France & learn how to make chocolates using French techniques. We’ll stay in a medieval village and roam outdoor markets, castles, and more! CLICK HERE.


TODAY'S WORD: s'incruster

    to invite yourself
    to worm your way in
    to overstay your welcome
    to sneak in
    to crash a party


ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download MP3

S'incruster: Lors de notre dernière nuit dans les Alpes, on s'est incrusté chez nos amis, Isabelle et Eric, où on a mangé un dîner très très simple, très convivial, à l'improviste.
To invite yourself: On our last night in the Alps, we wormed our way in to our friends', Isabelle and Eric's, where we ate a simple, convivial and improvised dinner.


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.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

During our 4-day stay in the Alps we had the chance to catch up with so many of Jean-Marc's friends, most of whom he has known since lycée, or high school. On days one and two of our trip, we were invited to an outdoor méchoui. The amount of food at the barbecue ("assez pour un régiment" as my husband always says) meant that we didn't need dinner, each of those nights, but could return to our room to enjoy a warm and fragrant tisane de berger (an herbal mix of verbena, lime flower, citronella, peppermint and orange flower) before drifting off to sleep--our hotel windows cracked open for the cool night's breeze (...and the hourly gong of the clock tower, located 20 meters away).

On day three we joined friends in the quaint Alpine hameau of Plampinet, where we ate the plat du jour--just across the path from the community bread oven. Filling up on garlic-laced aioli and all the trimmings (hard-boiled egg, cabillaud fish, potatoes...) we were already planning on a warm mug of tisane for dinner when Jean-Marc received a call from his friend Bernard... "On joue au boules ce soir!" Come over tonight for a game of pétanque!

I was doubtful, wondering about the timing of it all. It was nearing 8pm, or dinner hour! Though Bernard's offer was kind, he was, in fact, inviting us over to the home of Isabelle and Eric--where Bernard himself was a guest! Were they aware of this plan?

Almost as soon as the flurry of worry began, I cut it short and gave no further attention to the familiar voice in my head--a practice made easier over these past months, when life has found a way of bringing ce qui compte or what's important to the surface. And friends are important! As for doubts, if you have them, voice them!

"Bonjour, Isabelle," I said, kissing our friend (and Bernard's host) on both cheeks. "On s'incruste!" I added, letting her know I was uneasy about showing up at the dinner hour.

"Mais, non!" Isabelle smiled. "We have plenty of leftovers from yesterday's barbecue." Next, our accidental hostess went over the inventory, "On a beaucoup de fromage... and there is some couscous ... and a bit of lamb...."

As the guys took turns tossing the steel ball across the dusty field, I threw out my arms and waved my hands. "Isabelle, let me help you set the table!"

Isabelle and I left the boules court to walk across the prairie where four chalets are sprinkled across the grass--all homes belonging to Eric's family. The couple's dog, a cairn terrier, Léa (along with Yoda, an Australian shepherd, all their dogs are named after Star Wars characters), trotted ahead of us. "Elle est rigolotte," she is a funny dog, Isabelle laughed, as we walked up the wooden stairs to her chalet.

That's when we discovered that all the cheese had been eaten, the couscous was rancid, and there were no more bits of meat. And 9 of us were about to sit down to dinner!

Completely undaunted, Isabelle took a second inventory. "Let's see... we still have a head of lettuce, some cantaloupe and (peering into the freezer) twelve sausages."

I watched Isabelle, remembering that here was a girl (now a woman) that Jean-Marc had a serious crush on all those years ago. And I could understand why. I too had a crush on this keeps-cool, down-to-earth natural beauty! And over the years I had so admired her style.

Isabelle grabbed a large wooden bowl, poured in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and began whisking together a traditional vinagrette.  She handed me the lettuce and I searched for a salad spinner. But when the spinner I found was missing a handle, I paused.

"It broke off a long time ago," Isabelle said. "I didn't want to toss it out. Just use your finger to turn it!"

The lid of the spinner had enough traction so that I could place my index finger on the rotating surface and "draw" an O (each "O" producing a spin of the basket beneath). It was a little awkward, but it worked! And it saved the trash dump from one more broken spinner!

"I still have my broken salad spinner, too," I bragged, hoping to gain points with Isabelle and celebrate a quirk we had in common! Instead she pointed to the blackened parts of the salad. "Toss those ends out."  There was no use kissing up to Isabelle. Her friendship was uncomplicated and for keeps, and this was my chance to fit into an accidental production line including Isa's other guests.

Laure cut the melon, jazz musician Denis set the table, Alban barbecued the 12 merguez sausages, and Margot, Isa's daughter, searched for wine... locating some magnum's of Jean-Marc's rosé! I studied the whole friendly enterprise when it suddenly hit me: You could do this too! You don't have to panic each time people come for a meal! You could keep it simple, like Isabelle!

At last we placed a mishmash of chairs all around the deck and enjoyed the colorful feast on the table--green salad, orange melon, grilled merguez and lots of good French bread. I hurried to grab the seat next to Isabelle. It went against the rules of politesse (in which we offer the best seat to others), but if I have learned one more thing over these past months of uncertainty it is this: stay as close as possible to people who inspire you.



Kristi-and-isabelle
Jean-Marc, me, Isabelle and Eric. Another picture, from years past, and the end of this post.


COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here.


When you shop at Amazon via one of the links, below, you help support this free language journal.

Foutas-sanary
I spied this favorite towel of the French in Sanary-sur-Mer.  Click here to order.


FRENCH HERBAL TEAS - TISANES : my family enjoys a good tisane every day! We grow many of the herbs here, but you can buy them in a convenient sachet. ORDER HERE.

STRAW HATS -  a good selection here.

Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Order here.

Espadrilles -  seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere! Click here.

Paris Peace T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty. Click here

Kristi-and-isa-party
Photo of me and Isabelle taken ten years ago, in 2006.

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


Thank you! + Pronunciation lesson by Benjamin Huoy

  IMG_5435

Thank you very much, on behalf of all of our family, for your touching messages following my beau-père's passing. Many of you noticed an error, throughout my story, when I referred to John as my "father-in-law." I really meant to say "step-father!" Did you know that the French keep it simple--by using the term beau-père for both step-father and father-in-law? I like this--especially as the words beautiful father do much to honor John!

We return, now, to our French lessons. I have a very special edition for you written by a teacher that I admire. Benjamin Huoy has written a few posts for us before and he is back, today, with a helpful lesson on French pronunciation. Enjoy and, as John always said, don't worry about a thing!

Amicalement,
Kristi


Headphones

7 steps to follow to get a French pronunciation you can be proud of

Imagine the scene.

You just arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and would like to buy a croissant, so you go to the Paul bakery in the corner, take a deep breath and say "Bonjour, je voudrais un croissant s'il vous plaît".

Then you realize the seller didn't understand a word you said. Embarrassed and feeling dumb, you switch to English and wonder what you did wrong.

Something similar happened to me when I tried to speak English for the first time (I'm a native French speaker), and I can still remember how embarrassing it was.

The reason this happens to so many of us is that we've been learning languages the wrong way.

Luckily, getting a French pronunciation people can understand isn't that hard if you use the right method.

Here are 7 steps you can follow to make sure you have a French pronunciation you can be proud of and don't get embarrassed next time you order a croissant in a bakery.

#1 Listen before you read

When you learned your native language, you started by listening.

In fact, you waited years before learning how to read.

You need to do the same in French. You need to learn with your ears before you learn with your eyes.

Why?

Because you're used to the sounds of English, so if you see French words, you'll automatically pronounce them the way you think they should be pronounced and not the way they're actually pronounced.

That's how I spent the first 4 years of my English-speaking life saying "hey-veal" instead of "evil". So embarrassing!

In French like in English, it's better not to know how words are spelled, because they usually don't sound anything like the way they're spelled.

Don't believe me? Read the following sentences out loud!

je mange
tu manges
Il mange
Ils mangent

"Mange", "manges" and "mangent" are all pronounced the same way even tough they're written differently.

But if you don't listen before you read, you're likely to pronounce the final letters without knowing they're in fact silent.

If you don't make listening before reading a habit, you'll associate the words you learn with the wrong pronunciation, won't be understood and will have a hard time understanding spoken French, because the French you'll hear won't be the same as the French you imagined.

#2 Avoid simplified French pronunciations

most textbooks and French courses include simplified French pronunciations.

They tell you that "bonjour" is pronounced "bawnjour" and that "Quelle sorte de légumes avez-vous?" is pronounced "kehl-sohrt deh leh-gewm aveh-voo".

This may seem helpful, but it's actually ruining your pronunciation.

French and English don't use the same sounds and trying to pronounce French words with English sounds is like cooking chinese food with traditional ingredients of French cuisine. You may end up with something similar, but it won't taste Chinese at all.

If you want to sound French and be understood, avoid simplified French pronunciations at all cost and listen to the words first.

It'll take more time, but locals will actually be able to understand you when you speak.

#3 Use pronunciation dictionaries

The best way to get a good French pronunciation is to choose a course which includes audio spoken by native speakers and not simply text or robot voices.

But what if you read a book and don't know how to pronounce a word?

In this case, you can use a pronunciation dictionary like Forvo or Rhinospike.

Forvo contains recordings of thousands of French words while Rhinospike allows you to ask people to record words and sentences for you.

#4 Make listening to French a daily habit

Listening to French is the activity you should spend most of your time doing as a French learner, because it's the best way to get used to the sounds of the language.

Every time you listen to French, you improve your understanding of the language, naturally learn grammar and improve your pronunciation.

But don't listen to random shows and podcasts just because they're in French. It's essential to listen to something you partially understand so you can learn from it.

If you're a beginner, this means the best listening material is probably your French course itself or some easy children's books.

If you're an intermediate or advanced French learner, you can listen to real-world material or to podcasts made specifically for French learners such as Français Authentique.

#5 Get feedback on your pronunciation before going to France

Simply listening before reading is the guarantee that your French pronunciation will be much better than average, but the only way to make sure it's perfect is to get feedback.

In fact, I recommend you to try to get feedback every time you learn a new sentence.

The best way to do that is to have a French conversation partner, but you could also use the Judge My Accent subreddit where you can submit a recording of yourself speaking French and get feedback.

Getting feedback is terrifying, but it's the best way to notice mistakes and to correct them before you have the time to develop bad pronunciation habits.

Think about it this way. Would you rather practice your pronunciation with a helpful friend or find out whether people can understand you or not for the first time when you talk to complete strangers in France?

That's it, you now know the 4 most important steps to follow to get a good French pronunciation.

French pronunciation is only one of the three main skills you need to master if you want to become a confident French speaker though. Which is why I created the 30-Day French course, it helps you learn French naturally using proven methods and real-life conversations.

Click here to learn more about 30-Day French and discover the 3 essential steps you must follow if you want to successfully learn French

Benjamin-vineyards
Many thanks, Benjamin, for sharing your pronunciation lesson with us--and for scrambling for a photo when I asked for one to accompany this post!

Here is Benjamin and his fiancé, Aysa,  in the vineyards of Noizay where French vignerons make the famous Vouvray wine.

Click here to learn more about Benjamin's 30-Day French program

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


Mon Beau Pere: my step-father passed away

John-greer
My one and only beau-père, John.


My step-father passed away on Sunday. We are all in shock and facing the reality of life without this tender and loving man who knew the power of gratitude.

"You and your sister are really nice," my mom said over the phone, as she tried to process the news. "But John--he was the kindest person I have ever met. He was an angel!" Mom's words hung in the air as another, familiar sound, began to fill my head.

Kristi, don't worry about a thing. I recognized John's voice, which was now echoing in my mind. Just enjoy life! How many times had my beau-père repeated this to me? 

John exemplified this trust-the-universe attitude. Day after day he got up, fed the neighborhood cats (which were lined up at his front door), then carefully combed his hair and dressed his best before taking the rickety bus across down town Puerto Vallarta to go to work. In a beautiful resort by the Bay of Banderas, John shared his experience and knowledge with a sales force of young Mexicans. He loved his job! He turned 74 on July 4th, and continued his feed-the-homeless-head-to-work schedule up until Thursday. He died of heart failure, days later, in Javier hospital. He must have shared his trust-the-universe attitude with the nurses, too, as my mom heard laughter each time John called her from room 107. He dialed her up one more time before falling to sleep, to tell her he loved her.

"He told me he loved me 50 times a day!" Mom shared, in one of many fragmented conversations we would have over the next 24 hours--until my sister, Heidi, could fly in from Colorado, to help Mom put one foot in front of the other. 

                                                                         ***

Before I went to Mexico, last March, I told my family that  yes, I was going to see my Mom. But that I was really making the trip to see my step-dad! I had a feeling I needed to get over there and spend time with John.

My father-in-law picked me up from the airport, then returned an hour later to pick up Heidi and my niece and nephew when they flew in, from Denver.  John cooked for us,  entertained us, and asked us, often, "How are you doing? Can I get you anything? Is everything alright?"

And he always had the same, from-the-heart response. "I'm glad to hear that. Don't worry about a thing. Just enjoy life." He would then disappear, in his neatly-ironed shorts and bright blue golf shirt (the color of his eyes) and leave us to spend time with our mother.

On the telephone with the hospital reception, Sunday, I tried to locate my mom, who had rushed to the hospital a few hours before. As I repeated to the secretary who I was looking for, a light went off and she said, "Oh, yes.  Mr. John."

Mr. John. I knew he had passed, but her words made it seem that he was present. And her adorable (accidental) name, "Mr John," let loose another flood of tender emotions and regrets. I could hear my beau-père's reassuring voice, once again. Don't worry about a thing! Enjoy life!

The day my father-in-law, "Mr John," passed away, I walked around in a haze until I found a better project. I hurried outside to rescue the neglected laurier, or bay leaf tree (bought months ago), and finally planted it--in honor of a man who loved to serve others and who was a great cook!

I knelt beside the little bay leaf tree and made a promise to a certain angel: "I will, once and for all, try my best not to worry about things! And I will enjoy life! Thank you. Thank you, Mr. John. I miss you so much."

My thoughts go out to John's family, and to my dear Mom who is lost right now and who has 50 stray cats pounding on her door each morning. And she is all out of cat food.


COMMENTS
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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Genou: an injury, a day lily, and good company & a Chocolate workshop in France!

France-flowers
Photo taken in our old stomping grounds of Orange.


CHOCOLATE WORKSHOP! Join two chocolate shop owners in Provence, France & learn how to make chocolates using French techniques. We’ll stay in a medieval village and roam outdoor markets, castles, and more! CLICK HERE.

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TODAY'S WORD: le genou

     : knee

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download Genou

Notre amie Anne s'est blessée au genou.
Our friend Anne hurt her knee.

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Anne and Kirk, of Music and Markets Tours, came to visit yesterday. Do you remember them from the post Sobriety Does Not Equal Foolproof Entertaining? Maybe not, as most of the story was focused on those formidable fourmis (ants! and trying to keep ahead of the army which threatened to spoil our lunch here at home).

Well, Anne and Kirk were back! This time for lunch (elsewhere!) at a nearby port. It would be a little challenging for Anne to hike down to the waterfront, as she had injured her knee at an outdoor cinema the other night. But, with her genou now secured by a barrage of Velrco (and looking so pretty in a black and white print dress which matched her knee brace), Anne trooped down to the beach--past scented parasol pine trees, and families picnicking on the pebble beach--for lunch with us at Chez Tonton Ju.

Anne-kirk-jm-k


Over carpaccio de boeuf and salade de poisson fumé,  we talked about the recent challenges here at our vineyard--and brainstormed for solutions. Throughout lunch, the couple, who have been married some 40 years, allowed us to vider notre sac, or say what was on our hearts. After, they generously gave examples of their own failures, or échecs--all the while reminding us that what we are going through is not really a failure. That only time could be the judge of that!

Returning to our home, Kirk handed me a gift he had been promising for some time. I looked into the plastic sack and saw a clump of dirt....

"It's the day lily!" Anne smiled.

The famous day lily! The little flower that could! It had made its journey from Kirk and Anne's garden in Virginia--all the way to Aix-en-Provence, where it lived for a time in a quiet courtyard--its leaves caressed each day by the singsong of students rushing to classes--and tourists singing the praises of one of France's favorite towns: The home of Cézanne! The birthplace of our daughter, Jackie! The first garconniere, or bachelor pad, of our son Max. And where I met Jean-Marc, 26 years ago in a nightclub called Le Mistral....

Along with nostalgia, a light breeze swept across our front porch, ruffling our dog, Smokey's whiskers. Standing beside our golden retriever, Kirk got down on his knees to plant the inert clump of dirt, at the base of the grape vine trellis that shades our front porch in summertime. "The day lily will begin to show green shoots, very soon! And the flowers will come out next May or June!" Kirk promised.

"That's almost a year from now...." I whispered. But my next thought I kept to myself, Would the lily be dug up in between time, if our situation changed?

At that moment everything went silent. I guess we were all having the same thought, when suddenly Anne's words swooped in and restored good cheer: "You'd better be here in one year! You are going to see this flower bloom!"

As I finish typing this entry, my eyes are pinched and wet. A blink releases a few unexpected tears. I know the day lily will bloom. The question is where?



COMMENTS
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Selected products
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Paris-map-letters
So many uses for these Paris Map Wooden Letters: buy one or many for the kitchen, baby room, bathroom, or for a unique gift. Allow a month for this handmade product, Click here.

Kristi-foutas
I love my new foutas towel and am finding many uses: pareo beach wrap, beach towel, picnic blanket, and instant dressing room (I changed into my swimsuit here on the beach calanque of Figuerolles in La Ciotat, while holding the wrap carefully... Click here to order.

Mon panier. And I have gotten many requests for this market basket. You can find a similar style right here. Be sure to read the reviews. (I had mine custom embroidered in France, with this funny message for Jean-Marc.)

Jackie-skin

Our 18-year-old, Jackie, keeping her skin protected with a straw hat. More styles here.

Good French moisturizer! My daughter and I continue to use and enjoy this popular French facial moisturizer. Don't miss all the reviews! Click here.

Organic Cover/blemish stick. I use it to cover my facial scars, red rosacea, and to protect my skin from sun damage. It is moist and it smoothes on seamlessly. I sometimes use it in place of base. I love it! I use "ivory" even in summer. But there is "honey" tone too. Click here.

Check out this Paris Peace T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty. Click 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 
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Go with the flow: Reveil, Apero, repas, siesta, petanque and calins!

Jacques-t-shirt

My brother-in-law invites us to a barbecue...but getting to his house in Avignon, Sunday morning, would be another adventure! (Don't you love his "Vacation Hour" T-shirt? From 12 o'clock on, here are the translations: Wake up, Cocktails, Meal, Siesta, Boules (or Bocce ball), Cocktails, Meal, Hugs.)

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TODAY'S Expression: to go with the flow

Two ways to say go with the flow: prendre les choses comme elles viennent and suivre le cours de la vie

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's expressions:
Download MP3 file

prendre les choses comme elles viennent and suivre le cours de la vie

Improve your spoken French. Try  Exercises in French Phonetics


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse


When Jean-Marc said we needed to pass through Marseilles, on the way to our family get-together in Avignon, I knew this was not going to be a smooth trip! The ride would be more complicated and less comfortable (requiring an early-morning departure) than if we took a direct route, as planned. But the detour would now allow us to pick up Jean-Marc's mom, in La Ciotat, make a wine pick-up and delivery, in Marseilles, and offer my sister-in-law a ride to the barbecue at my brother-in-law, Jacques' place!

While it would have been easier to cruise from point A to point B--and catch up on our sleep--there was no question that this detour would help a lot of people. And it was a good exercise in serving others instead of doing what was easiest for us.

You would think that with our motives in the right place, the universe would suddenly align to smooth out the path before us. Mais non! No sooner had we set out on our zig-zagging Race to Avignon, than we hit one obstacle after another!  From the triathlon that blocked our shortcut from Cassis to Marseilles--to an almost-foiled wine delivery (at Stop No. 2 the bottles were not ready) to a sudden case of dry mouth (Jean-Marc's mom urgently needed us to stop somewhere for water!) it was one hurdle after the next.  I began to wonder if self-servitude would have been the better way to go (the initial point A to point B "me-me-me" plan!). Instead of a peaceful ride, I was now listening to my husband shout at other drivers, waving his arms out of the car window for effect. I wanted to shout too!: Je t'avais dit! I TOLD YOU SO!

Instead, I refocused--from the frustrated driver to his  mama who commented on an entirely different scene from her passenger window....

"Look at all these trees.They're called microcouliers... Years ago, these boulevards were lined with plane trees so big they almost formed a canopy over this boulevard! But the beautiful trees came down with a disease and were replaced by these. They seem to be doing well...."

As we inched forward along the busy Boulevard Michelet, Michèle-France looked down the Prado--a street that leads to the sea. "When I lived here in the 60s, I would leave my little chambre de bonne and go to the Plage Borely for a swim. There was a cabanon...there with a restaurant called "La Mer". (Turning to the frustrated driver, Michèle-France offered, "We had your baptism lunch there, after you were born!)

"Ah! Le Castellane!" Michèle-France exclamed as we advanced past the Prado boulevard. "There is a farmers market that lines this entire street. I loved to do my shopping here. Les bigarreaux cherries are the best kind to buy this time of year! "

I smiled watching my mother-in-law sit up in her seat, dry mouth gone from all that salivating! Her head no higher than the seat back, the head rest high above her crown of wispy fine hair, Michèle-France gazed out the car window, taking it all in, her beloved Marseilles.

Not far from the St Charles train station, we made a right onto my sister-in-law's street. Here, Michèle-France  studied each and every detail. "Ah! there's a bank... and a bakery not too far. Oh, and blood-analysis lab. That's always handy!" My mother-in-law was happy to see that her daughter lived in a lively neighborhood. Seeing Cécile appear, with a sunny Bonjour and a kiss, my mother-in-law was now beaming!

As convenient as it would have been to have driven straight to Avignon, I'm so glad we took the zigzagging, inconvenient Path of Growth. Wishing you a good day, dear reader, and the courage to go with the flow, to prendre les choses comme elles viennent, and to suivre le cours de la vie. You are sure to be on the right path.

Amicalement,

Kristi

COMMENTS
(click on the link at the end of this post)

 

Tanja-espadrilles
I ran into my friends Ricard (left) and Tanja (right) while on a date with Jean-Marc Friday night in Bandol. Tanja is so stylish every time I see her! So I thought you would enjoy seeing which shoes she had on, on a midsummer night in the south of France! SOLUDOS! I was surprised to find this brand on Amazon. Read the customer recommendations, which suggested sizing up one size? Check out all the styles and order some espadrilles HERE.

When you shop at Amazon via one of the links, below, you help support this free language journal.

Colorful Foutas - perfect gift : quick dry towels for beach, poolside, sauna, gym, massage...they make very pretty table cloths, and cover-ups too! Click here to order.


Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Click here.

Shop for Handmade Toys and Games find the perfect
made by hand (or "fait main") gift. Click 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