Fudging in French... + dessert recipe

La Charlotte de L'isle - patisserie in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Forward this post to a French friend. Today's edition, on fudge, is a reverse-dictionary entry: instead of translating a French word, we'll begin with English. This is dedicated to all of our French readers--so happy to know you're reading. You keep me on my toes! (photo of a sweets shop taken in Paris)

fudge (n) (fuhzh)

    : espèce de caramel mou (a kind of soft caramel)

fudge (v)

    : tricher (to cheat)

chocolate fudge cake = le moelleux au chocolat
butter fudge = le caramel mou 

Get your copy of the printed archives of French Word-A-Day. Click here.

 Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Le Fudge est une confiserie anglaise... réalisée avec du beurre, du sucre, du lait et généralement parfumée avec du chocolat ou de la vanille...

Fudge is a candy (or confectionery) made with butter, sugar, and milk and commonly flavored with chocolate or vanilla.

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

The Accidental Confectioners

After my father left early yesterday morning, I remembered an unfulfilled goal I'd set before he arrived: I was to pick Dad's brain a little each day--ask him all about his life and that of my ancestors.... Only, si vite que ça, three weeks had gone by and, poof, he and my belle-mère Marsha were gone!

I sat there in bed last night, eating the last two squares of fudge I'd found in the fridge. As the chocolate melted in my mouth I began to remember one story I'd gotten out of my dad: how surprising it had been to learn that he once loved to make fudge!

My dad, just like his mother was, is a skips-dessert type--so it was amusing to learn that the two enjoyed the bucolic pastime of candy-making. 

"In the 50s," Dad explained, "it was kind of the new fad. Everyone was making fudge."

(Later, I would google "fudge" and better understand why my no-dessert grandmother knew how to make this decadent confiserie: historically fudge came into public consciousness after it was made at college campuses to raise money. Among the first universities to participate in a fudge auction, were Vassar and  Smith college. My grandmother Annette was at Steven's Finishing College (for women), probably making fudge like the others. I wonder.

Dad went on to say that it was easy to make fudge, you only needed three ingredients: cocoa powder, butter, and sugar! "Mom and I just mixed it all together, heating it. Next we let it harden."

As Dad spoke, I looked over at my belle-mère, Marsha, who listened along with me. Wouldn't it be a fun project for Jackie (who would be spending the month of July in the States, with Dad and Marsha) to make fudge with her grandfather? It would be a wonderful souvenir. At the very least it would be an activity Dad and Jackie could enjoy together (should fly-fishing prove unpopular).

Marsha lit up as the two of us hatched a plan to get grandfather and granddaughter in the kitchen together. Locking eyes with my belle-mère I whispered, "I think we have all the ingredients here now--for a healthier version!"

 And just like that--illico presto--stepmother and stepdaughter (make that belle-mère and belle-fille, for isn't that much better?!) were in the kitchen-turned-laboratoire.... for a trial run.

I reached for the coconut oil, the cacao, and the honey as Marsha nodded in agreement: this should work!

My belle-mère agreed that coconut oil would be a perfect substitute. We discovered that both of us used it on a daily basis: Marsha uses it in her morning nutribullet -- and I use the organic coconut oil as a daily moisturizer.

I measured one cup of the oil, before transfering it to a bowl for mixing. Because it is summertime, the oil is almost liquified, so it wasn't necessary to heat it first.

Next, Marsha measured out the chocolate powder (I found a box of 100 percent cocoa powder in the cupboard), before carefully folding in the powdery chocolate (which tended to rise like a puff of smoke as Marsha stirred it. Atchoum!).

After, I measured out 3/4 cup of honey, then poured it into the bowl. That's when the intensive stirring began....

After a few minutes Marsha passed the bowl to me. "Your turn!" Having passed the bowl back and forth a few times we'd whipped up an almost pourable fudge! I grabbed a plastic spatula and Marsha guided the flow of chocolate into a cake pan (we had no wax paper. This was the best we could do!).

I remembered a bag of crushed pecans that had been in the fridge for months. Marsha and I stuck our nose in the bag and determined the spiced nuts were unspoiled--and ready to become the perfect fudge topping. On they went! Marsha then set the pan in the fridge for a few hard-to-wait-out hours. 

"Do you think it's ready yet?" Marsha asked for the third time. Finally, she fudged, pulling out the pan and lifting out a square for us to sample before dinner. As the chocolate melted in our mouths we locked eyes. C'était réussi! The fudge was a success! 

"It tastes kind of like a Mounds bar," Marsha noted.

"It's delicious," I agreed. "But I wonder if Dad and Jackie should stick to the classic butter-sugar-chocolate recipe?"

"It's true that not everyone will like this version," Marsha agreed. "You might have to be used to the healthy substitutions (of coconut oil and honey) in order to have a taste for it."

The real test came after dinner, when the fudge platter made the rounds at the dinner table.... and the accidental confectioners were delighted to see that everyone reached for seconds!

***

Tip: though refrigerated for a few hours, the fudge melted quickly on our fingers. Marsha suggested serving it alongside ice cream -- something that would help preserve it for a few more minutes :-)

Update: after Dad and Marsha's departure, when I ate those last two comforting squares, I noticed the chocolate didn't melt as fast. So an extra day in the fridge helps. I leave you with the recipe:

Healthy Fudge

  • one cup organic coconut oil
  • one cup chocolate powder (unsweetened, 100 percent cacao)
  • 3/4 cup honey 
  • toppings such as crushed nuts, coconut flakes, dried fruit...

Mix all ingredients together. Pour onto wax paper (or into a pan). Note: To loosen the chilled fudge, Marsha set the pan in an inch of warm water--for a brief moment! Then she was able to cut the fudge and lift it out of the pan.

Healthy fudge (c) Kristin Espinasse
We sprinkled crushed spiced pecans on top (made by our friend Phyllis Adatto, of French Country Wines. That's the deep pan we used to set the fudge (normally we would have used a cookie sheet and wax paper...) The pan's diameter was the right size -- small enough to allow the poured fudge to pile up for a thick enough square. 
Healthy fudge (c) Kristin Espinasse
I set the fudge on a pretty pottery dish that Marsha's son, Michael, gave us -- 15 years ago, while on a mission in Europe.

Comments 
To comment on this post, click here. I'd love to know your ideas about what to add to this fudge recipe. Or come back after you've tried the recipe--and tell us how to improve it! Click here to comment.

French Vocabulary

si vite que ça = as quick as that
la belle-mère = step-mother (also means mother-in-law)
la confiserie = sweet, candy -- also "sweets shop" 
illico-presto = pronto 
la belle-fille = step-daughter (also can mean daughter-in-law)
le laboratoire = laboratory 

 

DSC_0072
This recipe would be great to make for the holidays, so keep it in mind. (Here is Marsha and Dad. Picture taken on Christmas, 2009).

  Dogs of France and Europe (c) Kristin Espinasse

End of post photo--to leave you with a smile.The only reason this one is titled "Homeless Dog" is because of the poubelle or garbage can that lends to the imagination. But how many homeless dogs do you know who take the time to put on a shirt? Besides, this dog wasn't dumpster diving, he was practicing the fine French art of gleaning!

Looking forward to sharing a "Dogs of France: Part 2" edition with you sometime. Meantime, enjoy this photo of a "dressy" character I ran into at a ski station on Mont Ventoux. To see the Dogs of France (and Europe!) post, click here and share it with an animal lover.

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Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend :-)

Thank you for the time you've spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. 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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"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


What is a "nappe" in French?

Dad and straw hat (c) Kristin Espinasse
The family hat. John bought it for Mom, in Mexico. Mom left it to me, in France. Marsha borrowed it in San Remo, and yesterday, while sitting out in the morning sun enjoying our coffee together, Dad asked: may I use your hat?

 

une nappe (nap)

    : tablecloth, sheet (layer)

la nappe phréatique = ground water, water table
la nappe de mazout = oil slick
la nappe de brouillard = layer of fog

In English--nappe refers to either the ability of a liquid to "coat the back of a spoon" or the act of coating a food (i.e. to nappe a leg of lamb with glaze). --Wikipedia

Dad in straw hat (c) Kristin Espinasse
While at the market in San Remo, my belle-mère Marsha saw this tablecloth. Les coquelicots! Poppies! It would be perfect for the faded metal table we use, on the front porch, where we have breakfast and dinner these days. Plus, it's plastified! You can use a sponge to clean it. And we did, when I spilled spaghetti sauce last night, and when my young friend and upcoming novelist--10-year-old Madeleine--spilled hot chocolate. These self-cleaning nappes are formidable!

That's all for today's word (more pictures below), you can read more about the word "nappe" in these stories from the French Word-A-Day archives: 

brader = to discount
coussin = cushion 
brusquer = to rush, hurry, hustle 

Now for more photos of Italy, where we spent the weekend with Dad and Marsha... 

Jean-Marc washing cherries at the fountain in St Remo Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc rinsing giant cherries in the fountain. He bought them at the market stall, after Marsha mentioned they were excellent for gout. 

Italian laundry in St Remo (c) Kristin Espinasse
Who needs one more laundry photo? There are so many, but it's hard to resist! Clotheslines remind me of the slow life, simple times, and eco-friendliness. Plus, they force you outdoors, if only for the time it takes to etendre le linge or hang out the wash. Depending on zoning laws, it may be illegal to hang out your laundry in your neck of the woods!

Dad and me (c) Marsha Ingham
My turn to wear the hat, and Dad has his trusty cap. Above, more laundry in the streets of San Remo, Italy. 

Plants and lace and charming Italian window (c) Kristin Espinasse
I love window vignettes! You'll find hundreds of them on this blog, including this one from a 2006 blog post on "10 ways to say No! in French". If you are a pushover, like me, that'll be a helpful article to read!

Forward this edition to a friend, and help spread the French word. Thanks! For more words, buy the book

Beach in St Remo Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse

 A clever floor runner! We also saw these coffee sacks used as wall paper at a local wine bar in San Remo. Repurposing is alive and well in eco-friendly Italy. To comment on a photo, or text, click here.

Superette or maraichere in Badalucco Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse

 Les poivrons, les haricots, de la laitue... peppers, beans, and lettuce in the hilltop village of Ceriana. The Italians love their produce and almost everywhere you look you'll find a kitchen garden. 

Photographing (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

The camera lens turns on the photographer. Jean-Marc's iPhone rivals my Nikon D-60. Look at the crispness of those stones!

Flowers and church in Badalucco (c) Kristin Espinasse
Wonderful flowers outside what looked to be a nunnery facing this church.

Lunch at Il Ponte in Badalucco Italy - Kristin Espinasse

At Il Ponte Restaurant where Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Ten years later and we brought these sweethearts with us to enjoy an unforgettable meal. No menus at Il Ponte. Just sit down and let Sergio bring you course after course of Ligurian deliciousness!

Jean-Marc and Dad talk to Il Ponte owner (c) Kristin Espinasse

Mr Sacks (Jean-Marc's side-kick ) came with us, of course! If only we had snuck a Tupperwear inside, we could have brought home leftovers!

Romaine lettuce for the garden from Badalucco farmers market (c) Kristin Espinasse

Jean-Marc and my dad. Time to drive home to France. Will the market lettuce (lots of baby romaine to plant) make the three-hour trip?  

Trompe l'oeil in Badalucco Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Did you enjoy your virtual travel to Liguria? It's not far from Nice, so next time you are in France why not cross the border and wander up to the magical hills of Italy's hinterland?

To comment on this edition, click here.

Many thanks for reading, and for forwarding this post to a friend! For the printed archives, go here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


sejour + how to say "a nice change of scenery" in French

Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse
My family and I stole away for a two-day séjour in Italy. C'était dépaysant, as the French say--or a nice "change of scenery".

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farm. Click here for photos


un séjour (say-joor)

    1. stay
    2. living room, family room

bon séjour = have a nice stay
une carte de séjour = a residence permit
le titre de séjour = green card
le séjour linguistic = language study vacation
la salle de séjour = the living room 

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

My dad and my belle-mère  love the area where we live, here near Bandol. They'd be happy swimming in the sea and working in the garden for the duration of their trip. But it seemed to me that they should take advantage of their séjour by seeing one of our favorite, not-so-far-away places....

"Why don't you two take our car and visit Ventimilli?" I suggested. Only, almost as soon as I said it, I realized that I had the urge to visit Italy, too! "Better yet, why don't we go together?" 

So on Friday we left our teenagers to dog sit, and we drove three hours east to Italy, where the Friday farmers' market was underway.

Jean-Marc and Mr Sacks (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr Sacks (lower right corner) came with us, too! And that's Jean-Marc about to buy the pair of olive green moccasins. We tried talking Dad into a pair, but he clung to his well-worn sandals, which he duct-taped back together before this trip.

(A short pause to thank our sponsors... followed by more photos, below)

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in our beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet.

Hotels in France. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities. 



Kristi and Marsha
Me and my belle-mère, Marsha, split with the men and wandered through the crowds, ending up at a peaceful park. I'm wearing the hat Dad bought me, and Marsha is wearing my mom's chapeau. Mom is tickled to share her things with Marsha, and asked me to tell my belle-mère to use her easel (both women paint) and her kayak, too. Quelle chance that my moms like each other so much.

Chit-chatting (c) Kristin Espinasse
The slow life in Italy. In the park we enjoyed these circular benches which surrounded all the palm trees. Just as charming were the Italian ladies who chatted about tout et rien

  seaside eatery - Kristin Espinasse
We stopped at a seaside eatery for pasta and when it was time to pay the waiter pointed to the bill and said "This (here) is tax and not the service (or built-in tip). You can leave the tip on the table." It was just an old trick to extract extra cash, Jean-Marc warned my dad. When confronted, the waiter changed his story, indicating that if we wished to leave extra (for the tip is indeed already included in the total price, as a service charge) then we could leave it on the table.... 

Italian woman (c) Kristin Espinasse
If the woman with a T-shirt on her head finds out I took her photo she might clobber me. But what she doesn't know is that she is a work of art. This is one of my favorite images from our trip--it re-ignites a passion for portrait-taking (only boldness is lacking, and to ask a stranger permission is to destroy the photoworthy moment).

The sea, beyond, was rough and when Jean-Marc and Dad went out for a swim they were carried down the coast by a rip tide! They easily reached the shore (near the little cove you see just beyond).  

antiques shop in St Remo, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
The next day we visited St. Remo, where another busy market was underway--and there were several antiques shops like this one....

Brocante or antiques shop in St Remo Italy
And this vintage boutique with the hand-painted shop sign.
 
Ring the buzzer (c) Kristin Espinasse
 I hope Dad doesn't mind all the photos I snap of him. So sometimes I'm sneaky... and pretend to focus on something else, like a set of door buzzers....

"For my door buzzer collection," I answer, when Dad looks curious about where I'm pointing my lens.

Dad and Marsha in St Remo (c) Kristin Espinasse
 "Dad and Marsha"--whoops, I mean, "a colorful Italian walkway" -- yes, that's what I'm focused on here, and not these sweethearts. 

supermoon 2013
We were looking at the night sky when Dad mentioned something about the supermoon--apparently this was the night to see one! This snapshot won't win the "supermoon" photo contests, but this is how the lune appeared on June 23rd in the town of St Remo, Italy.  

Comments
To leave a comment on this, or any other item in today's post click here. See you in a few days, with more French words and photos.

Forward this edition to a friend, and help spread the French word. Thanks! For more words, buy the book.

French Vocabulary: la belle-mère = step-mother (also mother-in-law); le séjour = stay, vacation; quelle chance = how lucky; tout et rien = everything and nothing; la lune = moon 

Mailboxes in Europe "the hedgehog" (c) Kristin Espinasse
"The inchworm and the hedgehog" - Another whimsical mailbox to add to the collection

Thank you for the time you've spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


How to say "stranded" in French?

A calanque somewhere in the south... (c) Kristin Espinasse
A calanque is an inlet from the sea, ideal for walking your dog, picnics, and snorkeling!

Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  


être coincé (etruh-kwen-say)

    : to be stranded

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav

Nous avons été coincés deux fois cette semaine: une fois sur la mer et une fois sur la terre.
We were stranded twice this week: once at sea and once on land. 

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

My dad and my belle-mère arrived on Saturday for a three week visit, ready for a month of surprises.... 

Stranded Twice in One Week
When Jean-Marc offered to take Kip and Marsha out on a boat ride along le littoral, my family were game. (I stayed behind, not because of the previous scare... but because I wanted to avoid any more sun.)

As I drove to Sanary-sur-Mer to meet my family for lunch I began to notice all the white caps across the sea. Arriving at the cove where we were to meet, I found it empty and guessed Jean-Marc must have had to anchor in the previous port of Bandol. But as I turned to get back into my car, I saw the boat stranded on the beach!

My dad was drenched and he and my belle-mère, Marsha--along with 6 beachgoers (who had swum out to help pull the windswept boat to shore)--were busy assisting Jean-Marc.

The boat secured, we huddled into a seaside cafe for lunch. But when my dad could not warm up, we let him thaw inside my car (nice and hot from the sunshine!). During the 15 minutes it took to bring Dad's temperature back to normal, I sat in the driver's seat, learning the story of their sea adventure, which began smoothly (in time to enjoy a swim at Port d'Alon) until they carried on towards Sanary... where they suddenly encountered all those white caps, or moutons.

Next it was a flat tire...
The next day we joined Phyllis Adatto and Tim Smith, our wine-importing friends from Texas, for a visit to Chateau Margui and La Mascarone. Only, while exiting the first vineyard along a long and secluded dirt road, Jean-Marc hit a nid de poule and blew out one of our front tires.

Philippe, the owner of Chateau Margui (along with his lovely wife and winemaker, Marie-Christine), rescued us. We all piled into his red van, some of us sitting on wine cartons, others on duffel bags full of Philippe's diving gear.

Piano-Piano, or "slowly slowly"
Yesterday we took things piano-piano. Marsha and Dad snorkled in a nearby calanque and Jean-Marc finally took the time to treat his jelly fish bite (or what he calls his yelly fish bite), a souvenir from that stormy trek to Sanary.

One more thing
My mother-in-law and I share a growing interest in permaculture--and are having fun mapping out a forest garden. Early this morning Marsha followed Jean-Marc up the hill, to see the bees, when the two discovered a giant stone tank. We had noticed the stone wall, during previous walks, but never realized it was part of an old water reservoir. The discovery is serendipitous as we have been thinking over ways to trap water (or to create un étang to attract insects and wildlife).

How to Say Water Chestnut in French?
So I'll say goodbye, now, and see if my belle-mère would like to hike over to a newly discovered watering hole, and dream about a new host of plant possibilities: water lilies, water chestnuts, and even buttercups!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend, and thanks for reading!

Kristin

To leave a comment, click here.

French Vocabulary

la belle-mère = step-mother (can also mean "mother-in-law")
le littoral = sea coast
le mouton = white cap (also means sheep)
un nid de poule = pot hole
un étang = pond 

Please help me welcome our new sponsor...

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in our beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet.

 

  DSC_0289
Jackie and her grandfather, catching up

DSC_0295
Marsha and Dad, outside the tasting room at Chateau Margui, near Brignoles

DSC_0309
Philippe, who rescued us after the flat tire--and his biggest fan, daughter Pearle.

DSC_0312
One garden's beginnings: the last of the favas--but the snow peas are ready to pick. The zucchinis are growing, raspberries too, and roquette, or arugula.... Very excited to have planted comfrey yesterday. I hear it is a good "chop and drop" fertilizer. Comments welcome here.

DSC_0313
Belle-mère Marsha helped me rearrange the furniture. See a before picture (scroll way down this page. You will also see my beautiful mom!)

DSC_0323
Jean-Marc and Dad making dinner above the kitchen garden.

DSC_0325
We had Phyllis and Tim, of French Country Wines, over for dinner. Marsha set the table... then ran back to the house and carted out one of my mom's paintings. How thoughtful! (Mom, it felt like you were here!)

Phyllis pictures kristi2
Phyllis Adatto took this picture of me. Marsha picked the wildflowers and made a gorgeous bouquet. The vase was a gift from my Mom and John.

 Kristi-dad-marsha-phyllis
And you will find many more pictures at Phyllis and Tim's album "Our visit with the Espinasses". You can read Tim's account of our vineyard visits, here .

To comment on this edition, click here.


 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


cadre

Dog in Villedieu (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thanks, Marsha and Dad, for such a nice visit! I hope you will enjoy this story that I wrote about it... (and here is that photo taken during our stroll in Villedieu "Town of God").

"Meet Chief Grape in Copenhagen . He will be pouring his wines at Mansted Wine May 28th, from 5 to 7 PM"

cadre (kadr)

    : frame (of picture, door, etc)

Note: there are more meanings for the French word cadre. Sorry to not have the time to list them here. Dust off those dictionaries and see for yourselves... meantime, a little bit of dust in the following story...


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Framed!

I was driving my dad and my belle-mère, Marsha, home to our vineyard when I realized that the room I had carefully prepared for their 4-day stay had something terribly, embarrassingly out of place! 

Despite the fastidious organizing that took place in the days leading up to Dad and Marsha's visit, I had forgotten all about the oil painting my belle-mère Marsha had presented us years ago. Currently it was missing its frame! More about that in a minute, meantime, there were other glaring oversights that were now coming to mind. For example,  I might have dusted Marsha's painting, as my own mom had, during her previous visit, when we wiped down all of Mom's paintings. I remember being astonished watching Mom wring out a dishcloth and set about scrubbing down all of her own oil paintings before placing them back on the counter tops.

Mom had overlooked the fact that her paintings were not hung properly, but there was one thing that bothered her. "They need frames. Promise me you will frame them!" I nodded my head as we stared back at the paintings, which gleamed. The colors were so deep and rich after the towel bath. I would have never thought to wash a work of art!

It was during that same visit that Mom discovered Marsha's painting.  Mom admired Marsha's rendition of a typical Provençal mas. The shutters and door were beautifully painted and the climbing roses that reached up to tickle the shutters made this an enchanting scene from any Francophile's dream.

Marsha had set the painting into a beautiful wooden frame before offering it to Jean-Marc and me. When Mom saw that frame her eyes began to shine and I sensed, even before the crime took place, what calculations were going on beyond that innocent face.

"No! The answer is NO!"

"But I just want to show you what my painting would look like if you ever got around to framing it!" Mom explained.

Fast forward to the drive home, where Marsha and Dad are chatting about the countryside as seen from the car window. Another conversation is going on in my own head:

I need to get to the room before Dad and Marsha do! But how to switch Mom's painting out of Marsha's frame?—when Mom's painting is in another room!  And what a dope you are to have placed Marsha's painting there—on the ledge of the heater of all places! This is really going to look bad!!!  

True! I should have given my belle-mère's painting a more prominent place than on the heater! But it wasn't the heat that threatened to damage the painting (we never use that heater, which serves more as a shelf for books and artwork).... it was the seeming carelessness that threatened to damage my carefully soigné appearance of a mature, has-it-all-together daughter. As it was the bed was impeccably made and the en suite bath shined, as did the floors. And then there was my belle-mère's painting—which sat there vulnerably, like a beautiful women whose summer hat had just been blown off by the Mistral... or pinched by a rascal! 

Meantime, Mom's painting of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin now boasted a beautiful frame! It would be one of the first things my Dad and Marsha would see when then walked in the front door.

As things threatened to quickly fall apart (we were nearing home now, just one or two blocks away from The Revealing Moment) I made a quick decision to come clean. Experience reminded me that skeletons always manage to work their way out of the closet, "Bonjour! Bonjour!", the moment the guests arrive. Besides, I have learned that the antics involved in covering up an embarrassing faux pas are often as ridiculous as the situation itself.  The skittish and bizarre behavior one exhibits while trying to mask the skeleton only makes the problem more obvious. There was no way to dart out of the car and into the house in time for a casual switcharoo without my behavior seeming weirder than usual.

Often the best course of action is to admit error and, if at all possible, to swiftly pass along the blame... 

"Marsha, there's something I need to explain... it has to do with that rascal mom of mine!"

***

Post note: my Mom and Marsha have an unusually peaceful relationship as wife and ex-wife of my dad, Kip.  You might say the women are as close as a painting and its frame!

Marsha was quick to forgive Mom and to assure me, "It's nothing to worry about! It's not at all important." Admiring Mom's painting, Marsha remarked, "It's just lovely." 

  Marsha_dad 007

No make-up (Marsha, left) and no breast (Mom, right). I hope my moms don't mind my posting their photo, taken in 2003 after mom Jules's mastectomy. Marsha offered a loving ear back then, and the two women continue to maintain a caring email correspondence. Mom always says, of her ex, that Marsha is the best thing that ever happened to my dad. I think he would agree.

  DSC_0286

I temporarily moved Marsha's painting to my desk, for inspiration while I typed today's story. Click on the picture to see a close up and to read the other inspiration (Flaubert's words) just above.

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Here's Mom's rendition of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin. Mom can tell you stories about one of her favorite places. Maybe check the comments box later on.... Meantime, I need to learn how to drill a hole and hang some of these lovely paintings!

Comments Corner
Corrections and comments are welcome and appreciated. Click here to leave a message.  P.S. no vocab section today. Sorry about that!

Thanks for forwarding today's story to an artist, a stepmother, a daughter-in-law, or to someone you secretly admire! C'est l'amour qui fait tourner la terre (is that how to say "Love makes the world go round?")

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