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Entries from September 2016

Etat des lieux : What happens before you move into a rental home in France

Market-day-aix-en-provence
How to get a car into the pedestrian inner-city of Aix-en-Provence, on busy Market Day? And a special message at the end of this post. Don't miss it.

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: état des lieux

    : walkthrough (before moving into a new place)
    : inventory of fixtures

faire l'état des lieux: to make an inventory, take into account the state of fixtures in a rental.

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

L'état de lieu. Jeudi dernier, à Aix-en-Provence, on a fait l'état de lieu de la studette de notre fille, Jackie.

Walkthrough, inventory. Last Thursday in Aix-en-Provence, we did the walkthrough for our daughter Jackie's 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

When it came to moving our daughter into her new studette in Aix-en-Provence, Jean-Marc was in charge of logistics, or how, exactly, were we to transport a couch, a bed, a bookcase, table, chairs and teddy bears through the city center--the pedestrian city center!

My job was to figure out which furnishings our daughter would take from our house, to use in her new apartment. Given the logistics question--and the fact that I alone would be carrying the contents of two cars up 3 flights of stairs, I carefully calculated weights and balances. Everything would have to be fold-able and lightweight!

Five single, bendable mattresses would make both a couch (three units) and a bed (two units) for the mezzanine (picture of a mezzanine, here). The metal bookcase was collapsible, as was the side table. Now if only the inner streets of Aix-en-Provence were as flexible....

Thanks to a secret pass that would magically make all the metal stump barriers, or bornes escamotables, disappear into the ground--allowing our car to pass, Jean-Marc was able to enter the old town--only to be surprised by the scene. It was market day!!! Our car quickly disappeared into the mire, with its cacophony of market carts, horns (delivery trucks), and a nervous copilot.....

"Watch out for the chihuahua! Ooh-ooh, the lady with the cane! Look! Your going knock over that clothes rack! Jean-Marc! Don't hit the honey stand!" My eyes focused on the pyramid of bottled miel--would it still be there after we inched passed it in our overstuffed car? Could my husband even see out the windows?

Against the side of a building, a toothless beggar sat on the sidewalk, a cup of change at her feet. As our car zigzagged forward she grabbed the money, quickly tucking in her legs as my driver hung a close right, past the rôtisserie stand, the scent of slow-roasted chicken filling our car. Amazingly, Jean-Marc managed to navigate the clogged inner center of Aix. As he proceeded toward a very narrow archway, I was about to protest ("that passage is clearly for pedestrians only!!! Is this even legal???"). Too late. Jean-Marc was putting our quatre-quatre in gear! I quickly reached out of  my passenger side window, grabbed the rear-view mirror, and pulled it in just as we began to clear the ancient archway. We made it through!!!

A few more narrow bends and turns--and Jean-Marc dropped us off (me and the contents of our car) in front of a handsome door with an old knocker. Looking up to the sky was like looking out of a canyon of historic buildings, all forming the maze of la vieille ville, or old town Aix.

Bon, time to get to work, before Jean-Marc returned with the second carload (from Jackie's car, which I had left outside the center, along with our daughter who hurried off to her first day of design school....).

As we did not yet have keys to the building, the plan was for me to wait for someone to enter or exit the building. That chance came sooner than expected, when the mailman suddenly appeared. I stole into the building with the first mattress--and hiked up three flights to begin stacking items beside Jackie's apartment door....

By the fourth or fifth trip, my head began to spin and I sat down on the cool tiles of the stairwell, to contemplate my middle age. Deciding I was relatively young one, I popped back up and finished in time for Jean-Marc to unload the second car and return to help with the metal bookcase!).

By this time the young man in charge of the walk-through, or l'état des lieux arrived with the keys to the apartment. As he did a spot check of all the items in the rental unit (one light fixture didn't work, a glass shelf in the bathroom was broken...), I did an inventory of my own state of being. Sore, sweaty and very thirsty.

When our daughter arrived a few moments later looking fresh as a new rose, I thought to myself, She'd better make a lot of friends this semester--friends with muscles--'cause this is the last time I'm moving her!!

...Unless she wants to move back home tomorrow.... In that case, I'll skip up and down the stairs again, a couch section on each shoulder!

"Mom, don't cry." Jackie said, setting her school books down on the kitchen counter (which I noticed was a bit crooked, and should be noted in the inventory).

"Honey, those aren't tears. That's sweat!"

*    *    *


Jackie-arrives

Jackie, discovering her apartment for the very first time. She would have helped us with the move, but logistics (she needed to be at school) and timing (by 9 a.m.!) did not work out. And there was only one window of time in which to do the déménagement, or move.

Jackies-19
Last night we went back to Jackie's apartment in Aix, to celebrate her 19th birthday. We were so cozy thanks to comfortable couch, made up of three of these foldable foam mattresses, which I used so often, in our garden and when the kids have overnight guests. Here is the less expenive version, that I got Jackie, and here are many more styles, below.

FOLDING FOAM BEDS - many uses! Click here for a large selection.

FOUTAS! Those wonderful covers/towels/blankets. Every folding bed needs one! Click here.

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

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

 
PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

 

  Kristi driving ape truck
Kristi here. See you in a few weeks. I am leaving on a voyage to finally see my Mom, after my father-in-law, Mr John, went to Mexican Heaven. Follow me to Puerto Vallarta when you follow my Facebook or my Instagram account. I'm going to take you along in my little pocket!

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


To come to a decision. On Turning the Page of our vineyard dream

Kristi-harvesting-figs

Four years ago, I thought we had finally put down our anchor--that our grandkids would eat these figs that Smokey and I were  harvesting here in the Land of Milk and Honey. Jean-Marc can better give you the reasons for wanting to move. Until then, today's letter answers some of those questions you may be having.

TODAY'S WORD: parvenir à une décision

    : to come to a decision


ECOUTEZ - Listen to me pronounce today's word: Download Parvenir-decision

On n'est pas encore parvenu à une décision finale.
We have not yet come to a final decision.

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


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Ever since Jean-Marc admitted that he no longer had the energy to farm and that he wanted to sell our vineyard and turn the page--and ever since my first reaction (Non!!!) I have been struck by the number of coincidences in favor of a move.

First, our children's response. "This place is too big for you, Mom. You don't want to live all alone up in this secluded area. And Papa is tired..."

Their last point is the only reason I would consider moving. The other points can be argued: our home is 180 square meters, or 1800 square feet. That's not too big, is it? As far as being alone in a secluded area--I'm too busy learning about permaculture--or natural gardening--to notice the downside of too much land. I may also have been too busy to notice how behind I've fallen on weeding. When I look out over the wild garden and see how unruly everything has become...a greater realization comes to mind. Apart from several technical decisions to do with planting the vines, Jean-Marc and I now know what went wrong with our property and our home: we spread ourselves too thin. We never got the help we needed. And we are not in our 30s anymore.

Imagine two middle-aged people stepping out of their hillside farmhouse each morning. Jean-Marc heads down to the vines, spends hours watering amidst the heatwave. I grab my broom and begin emptying the house of so much trekked in dirt. Looking up, I get distracted by the spiderwebs (which somehow make their way back inside each week) until I see an overflowing bowl of kitchen scraps, pick them up and take them up to the orchard and vegetable garden, behind our mas....

There at the base of the forest, my eyes dart left and right, making sure a family of sangliers, or wild pigs with sharp horns, isn't noshing on our saffron ready to charge at me for surprising them all. Coast is clear. I begin to pull weeds, harvesting berries as I go for a "breakfast on the run". I've forgotten my pruning shears, way back at the house, so make a mental note to cut down the overgrown fennel--until I see a tree that desperately needs watering. But Jean-Marc has the main hose....

Off I go to another project, hanging out the laundry. I trek back down the hill, stopping inside the house and trekking in more dirt. Filling the laundry basket, I head back out to the line, and hang it all to dry. My eyes sweep over "Kristi's vineyard," planted on the terrace below my clothesline, by Jean-Marc and Max's friends two years ago. The ground is parched and several vines have shriveled up. I hurry to the house, grab a 10-liter watering can and return to the lower terrace to dart from one thirsty vine to the next. The sweaty effort is a drop in the bucket.

This brings us to our faulty planning and to biting off more than we could ever chew. If we were to start over again, I would have grown my own garden organically--from the front porch outwards. Instead, I have peppers down in Kristi's vineyard, blueberries  over by the new deck, and--continuing up to the forest behind the house--a sprawl of other plants and pollinators--everything from avocado trees to honey bees (the hives, located higher up in the forest, are Jean-Marc's project).

My multi-level garden (sounds glorious but imagine a parched hillside) and our old farmhouse keep me busy with spurts of ineffective efforts, in spite of trying different schedules ("water and care for the front yard in the morning--and the back yard in the evening. And, for the farmhouse, thoroughly clean one room each day"). This all looks good on paper until things get into the way (or I get lazy).

A car with German license plates is slowly pulling up our driveway, attracted by the giant sign down by the side of the road ("Wine. Olive oil. Honey. CLOSED"). I already know the question: "Can we buy some honey?" (or wine or olive oil). And my answer still hasn't changed, We're not ready yet. On a bad day I want to scream: Can't you read the sign. FERME. CLOSED! Instead I smile, and watch as the car tries to back out of our driveway, zigzagging back and forth, running over the prickly pear cactus and taking a few branches of lilac with it. A familiar scene that is, when all is said and done, comical to see.
 
By now the illiterate visitors have mowed down the poor cactus and the lilac is but a shadow of what it once was. More help. Better planning. 30-year-old bodies. What else will it take to change Jean-Marc's mind and convince him to stay here ("The Land of Milk and Honey," as I called it when we moved here four years ago)? I'm no longer sure that convincing my husband is the answer. As for turning the page, Circumstance seems to be doing that for us.

The-original-farmhouse (2)


Lilac-bush
First photo taken before the previous owner restored the mas, or farmhouse. Second photo taken at a wine-tasting here last year, when the lilac was in bloom.

RELATED POSTS: Click on the titles to read the posts

Is Jean-Marc Single? Can I Buy Your Home?

To Come to a Decision: On Turning the Page of our Vineyard dream. (Story here).

Moving to Mexico: To Fly with One's Own Wings. (Story here).

The Previous Move Which Brought us Here to The Sea near Bandol....

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

EMBRYOLISSE - the face cream my daughter, Jackie, and I both use and love! It gets its name from its many uses, "it is a moisturising cream, a cleansing cream that gently removes make-up, an after-shave cream and a cleansing lotion for babies and children" ORDER HERE

APRONS, French-themed - keep the tomatoes in the tart and off of your nice shirt. CLICK HERE.

FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

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

Cherry-tomato-tart

If you missed the delicious tomato tart recipe, find it here.

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


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


Tarte Tomate : that seasonal French recipe you love and have been asking for!

Tomatoes-in-biarritz
I know this tomato picture is crooked. Just tilt your head and carry on. A good recipe awaits you!

TODAY'S WORD: cocher (ko-shay) verb

  : to check off, to tick (off); to score

cocher la bonne réponse = to check the correct answer


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse


(Note: The following story was written in the fall of 2007.)

The kids and I are sitting at the kitchen table, polishing off a tomato tarte. My son insists that this is one of his favorites.

"Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman," Max suggests. His sister seconds that, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and managing to nod at the same time.
"Thanks, Jackie. Use your napkin!" I remind my daughter.

In my brain, I travel over to the "meals" department, where I uncheck the "pot-au-feu" box, and je coche the square that reads "tarte à la tomate". (The first was fade, the second, flavorful.) I'll get the menus right one day. In the meantime, there's nothing like encouragement from your twelve-year-old boy.

...and there's nothing like constructive criticism from your ten-year-old:
"Less mustard next time," Jackie advises, swiping her mouth again.
"Use your napkin!" I repeat, filing away my daughter's tip. She's right about la moutarde.

As I fine-tune my mental menu, checking and unchecking boxes, noting my family's likes and dislikes, I feel a cold, wet nose knocking at my elbow. That would be our dog, Braise (brez), reminding me to tick the "more scraps" box.

"Merci, Braise!" I say, rubbing my wet elbow. "Now won't you use your napkin, too?"

                          *     *     *

Tomato Pie / La Tarte à la Tomate

This recipe comes from a French friend, and not my mother-in-law. Rachel (rah-shel) is also la marraine (godmother) to our daughter. The ingredients and mode d'emploi were huffed and puffed to me during a grueling hike (we'd finished the tomato pie during a rest stop) somewhere near the town of Martigues... or was it Marseilles... or Marignane? Memory fails me, but the recipe is too simple (and too delicious) to forget! Here it is. Enjoy it and share it:

1 store-bought pie crust (here, we use a puff pastry, or "pâte feuilletée")
2 or 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 cup of shredded Emmental cheese (or Gruyère)
2 or 3 large tomatoes, sliced

Tomato-tart

Instructions:
Roll out the store-bought crust (if rollable). Make sure the crust base is pre-cooked or the tart may turn out doughey-bottomed... Slather mustard across the dough's surface. Sprinkle cheese over the mustard and set the sliced tomatoes across the top. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and a filet or "swirl" of olive oil to taste. Cook the tomato pie in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes.

*variation: try tapenade (crushed olive spread) in the place of the mustard.

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here.
 
French Vocabulary

la tarte = pie; Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman = You should make this more often, Mom; le pot-au-feu = boiled beef with vegetables; coche (cocher ) = to check off (box); la tarte (f) à la tomate = tomato pie; fade = (pronounced "fad") bland, insipid; le mode d'emploi = how to, directions; merci = thanks

Cherry-tomato-tart
This one was made with cherry tomatoes! Here are some helpful tools for your tart!

TART PANS! Find a good pie pan for baking a tart. CLICK HERE

APRONS, French-themed - keep the tomatoes in the tart and off of your nice shirt. CLICK HERE.

TABLECLOTH, Provence-themed - scroll down to the Maison d'Hermine Birdies on a Wire, HERE. I love this one!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE book- for the chapter "Casse-Croûte" and for the pleasure of a real French picnic. Buy the book, HERE.

Tarte-tomate-tomato-tart

FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE


Chair with cherry tomatoes

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


Something the French never eat & our first official wine harvest

Max-harvest-2016

Our son, Max, delivering more cases to the harvesters, who will empty their buckets of grapes inside.


TODAY'S WORD: réchauffer

    to heat, reheat
    to warm up
    to encourage

Réchauffer le coeur de quelqu'un = to console or comfort someone


ECOUTER: "Kristi a réchauffé toutes les pizzas. Kristi reheated all the pizzas. Download Rechauffer



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Jean-Marc and I don't see eye-to-eye on many of the wine harvest details. But no matter how different our opinions are, there's one thing I know for sure: my husband is, and will always be, Chief Grape. My job is to support the farmer and winemaker and to keep my own anxieties at bay during his critical vendange! A very emotional harvest at that, given we do not know if we will be here in one year's time--a period of doubt having settled in over these past six months.

Our last harvest or not, it is still extremely difficult not to freak out when Chief Grape will not tell me how many people are showing up for harvest lunch. Exasperated by my constant drilling, Jean-Marc made the decision to order pizza. But if there is one person who can complicate pizza, it's You Know Who.

"So you are going to order it the night before? And store it in the fridge? But the French don't like cold pizza!" I pointed out.

"It won't be cold. You can set it out a few hours early and it will come to room temperature!"

"But the ants will get to it by then!"

On and on we went, until it dawned on me I could  get off The Crazy Hamster Wheel whenever I chose to. I could stop worrying.  I could put into practice the helpful acronym KISS:

Keep
It
Simple
Stupid

As it turned out, there were twice as many people than expected. And, as wildly imagined, they preferred their pizza hot!

Seeing my distress, Jean-Marc's buddy, Nico, seemed to understand the acronym KISS, too. He suggested that if anyone bothered me again for hot pizza, to tell them to just KISS it! (Only he used a more colorful French expression! No, I'm not going to tell you which one!)

But when Nico himself reached for a hot slice as I ran by with the sizzling pies, I realized the French really are particular about the temperature of certain foods!

Hurrying back and forth from the front porch to the oven, my friend Cyn and I delivered la pizza réchauffée, after struggling with the cheap plastic (free with purchase) pizza cutter to divide it (burning our fingers off in the process). The red floor tiles of this farmhouse were covered with clumps of dirt from everyone trekking in to use the restroom. Each time I looked at the mess it reminded me how out of control things were. Here and there, sticky globs of fig were evidence that some people had taken dessert into their own hands--enjoying fresh fruit from the giant tree by the pétanque court. The fallen figs had gotten smashed into their shoes and were now being trekked--along with the dirt and a coat of our dog's fur (Smokey's entire body wags with joy when guests are here)--across the floor inside the house.

Looking down at the floor which was thick with clumps of dirt, I felt that familiar tightening in my throat. The heatwave, the hot oven, the dirty floors, the polite needs of our harvesters (Do you have another band-aid? More hot pizza? Any more cold water?)....everything was spinning out of control.

Running back to the sink, where I had been trying to filter water from a one-liter carafe to all those empty water bottles, my eyes caught sight again of the dusty, sticky floors--only this time everything came to a standstill.

A peacefulness came over the room. The dusty floors began to blur. Looking up, I saw dusty vineyard fields. I was now remembering the scene from 5 hours earlier, before even the sun had risen, when Jean-Marc's friends began to show up, one by one, to the scorched grape fields. Some even brought their children. All brought an unspoken message: We are here to help you at this difficult time.

Back on the front porch I reached for a slice of hot pizza as Cynthia sped by, and sat down to experience first hand what the French so honorably call la solidarité. Though it hurts not knowing whether or not we will continue with this vineyard (and farmhouse-garden) dream, there is no feeling that compares to the catharsis of manifested solidarity--of two dozen friends holding up, with their nicked, scraped, grape-stained hands, an exhausted farmer and his wife.

And if we are here for the next harvest--si Dieu le veut--I will make pasta salad next time! That's one thing the French will eat at room temperature :-)


COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here.

Harvesters2016
More pictures from our harvest here on Instagram


Cynandian
Our friends Cynthia and Ian



Brita


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


BRITA WATER FILTER - I used this one for our harvest! Here are some good water filtering pitchers. Click here to order one.

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


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

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

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

Mom-moves
Did you read the previous story about my Mom's move? Don't miss it, click here.

THANKS FOR FORWARDING 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 
♥ 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