Bois, Kindling, or Tinder in French + A Fun and Free Activity while walking

Pointu wooden boat christmas lightsWooden boats all dressed up for the holidays. More about le bois in today's story. Enjoy French delicacies? Don't miss the sweet column at the end of the edition. If today's word is too easy for you, find some more advanced terms in the story below. 

TODAY'S WORD: le bois

    : wood

AUDIO: Listen to all the French words in today's story by clicking on the sound file below. Then scroll to the vocabulary section and check your comprehension.

Sound file for the French words


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

If it's wintertime where you live and you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, maybe you have discovered the joy of collecting sticks? I talked last week about our morning promenades, and today I'll share one of the multi-purpose benefits of la marche--because besides being good for the mind and body walking is good for treasure-hunting. More about that in a minute. First, some history for the wood-related term "stere," from Wikipedia:

"The name was coined from the Greek stereós, "solid", in 1795 in France as a metric analogue to the cord. The unit was introduced to remove regional disparities of this former unit, for which the length could vary greatly from 6 to 13.5 m. It is not part of the modern metric system and is no longer a legal unit in France, but remains used in the commerce of firewood."

En hiver, a stère of wood is a treasure, especially when you have gone to collect the logs and stack them yourself. Jean-Marc drove to Aubagne recently, to a wood yard, where the two of us filled the back of our jeep with logs. It was amusing driving up onto the vehicle-size scale to weigh our car and then weigh it again after we filled it with le bois. I wish I'd brought gloves for protection, but we managed to pile a bunch of le chêne into our bagnole. After driving back onto the scale to weigh our load, a giant digital screen registered 190 kilos. The next step was to park in front of a trailer (inside of which a secretary was tallying up our purchase). The total price? 50 euros.

Returning home to stack les bûches beside our front door, I was surprised at how little 190 kilos amounted to once we stood back to admire our (short) wood stack! Ah well. The upside about helping my husband with the firewood--and learning to build a fire--is how it has opened my eyes to all the wood treasures out there. I can hardly wait to get out of bed each morning and take off in search of sticks!

It is amazing how much kindling can be found in our neighborhood here in town. This isn't the woody countryside. And yet, each morning I'm delighted to find small branches and hearty twigs here and there along le trottoir. It must be the wind blowing everything around at night. Trees lose their flimsy limbs, delivery trucks leave behind morcels of crates (or entire cageots), and beautiful pine cones salt and pepper the ground all around! 

In the beginning, before wood-collecting became our winter sport (it involves lots of lunging and bending), Jean-Marc and I would return home with a few sticks each, but as our outings continued, so did my appetite for kindling. Now we carry a bag (Jules' suggestion) and often manage to fill it.

Jean-Marc doesn't have the same enthusiasm for our firewood findings. He won't shout "LOOK AT THIS ONE!!” each time a thick stick is discovered. But he is a willing and faithful accomplice. (And just this morning he did finally shout “LOOK AT THIS ONE!!” if only to humor me. Or maybe he is finally feeling the joy in it? In nature's equivalent of dumpster diving!

Across the street from where the trucks deliver to the local eateries, there's the beach--another good place to treasure hunt. I have had my eye on an 8ft long log that washed up to shore a month ago. But pride keeps me from waking my husband and stealing out into the night with a giant saw. What if someone noticed us? Besides, there must be laws against collecting wood in certain areas. But picking up smaller pieces of driftwood seems to be ok....

When I feel self-conscious about how the two of us look walking home with armloads of sticks each day, I make a joke of it: "Our neighbors are going to start referring to us as Monsieur et Madame Bois or Monsieur et Madame Bâton..." Thankfully the older you get the less you care! How do you say that in French? Because I'm going to carve it on one of my bâtons!

Madame baton
Madame Bâton. The bag is practical (and helps with discretion).

Sticks

When we return from our walk, I like to set all the wood along the stone stairs, where the sun helps to bake them dry. Stepping back to admire the short and tall bâtons, I see more than a lineup of sticks: I see so many funny characters.  

Free tinder or kindling in the city does have its downside (if some of you are smiling now, you have already figured out what took me weeks to understand: we have lots of dogs in town, and they only have one place to pee—on the ground, near...or on...these wood treasures). But even that won't stop me from picking up sticks. I'm too obsessed. (Lately I wear gloves, when I remember to bring them.) More than an obsession, I like to think that, like the resourceful ant, we are building, day by day, a useful reserve for our family. And sitting here typing this story next to the fire, in a warm room, feels cozy and good!

*    *    *
P.S.: To be clear, none of the sticks I've picked up are smelly. No good dog would pee on a stick (would it?). Sticks are for tossing and chasing! And sticks are for hunting and heating. Tell me, what do you do with your picked-up sticks? Do you make art with driftwood? Let us know in the comments.

Driftwood along French beach
Sticks and wood collected on the beach--there's even a half-burnt log (score!), and a lot of driftwood.

IMG_4810
This wild, woody pile was a gift from our son Max. Can you guess what it is? Hint: it comes from a vineyard and is excellent firewood for the BBQ. Answer: These are "les sarments" or woody vine shoots. Skip to the photo below for a French dessert or sweet of the same name....

FRENCH VOCABULARY

la marche = walking
un stère = stere of wood
en hiver = in winter
le chêne = oak
le bois = wood
la bagnole = (slang) car
une bûche = log
le trottoir = sidewalk
le cageot = crate
le bâton = stick
le sarment = vine shoot
la friandise = candy, sweet

Les sarments orangettes chocolat candy
Sweet of the Week: Les sarments. (Popularly known as "orangettes.") These chocolate orange “shoots” (sarments = that part of the grapevine that is pruned in winter) are made up of a piece of candied orange peel and dark chocolate.

Chez gerard patisserie la ciotat
This time of year you’ll see these candies drying behind the counter of our local pâtisserie, where my son Max picked up a few hundred grams of the delicacy for a recent Sunday lunch.

Sarments are a Christmas specialty and a favorite friandise to savor with coffee or tea. To be extra decadent have them with hot chocolate.
Parasol pine cones
Sunset over the shipyard in La Ciotat, and a parasol pine tree about to release more cones. May you find many treasures in your day. See you next week and thank you for reading.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Le Prénom + French Dog and Cat Names for your pet

la ciotat france beach surf fun dog sunset
In winter dogs are allowed on this sandy beach. Out strolling with Mom at sunset last night, we enjoyed seeing 5 cavorting canines--including Ruby the pit bull. She wanted to hop on that surfboard and glide up the coast with the help of a couple of giggling girls pulling the rope. Meet another local pooch in today’s story...

TODAY’S WORD: “le prénom”

    : first name

SOUND FILE: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the example sentence and all French words in this post. Then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Choisir le prénom de son animal à quatre pattes n'est pas toujours une mission facile.
Choosing a name for your four-legged friend is not always an easy task.

Click here to listen to the French


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Lately, my husband and I have been enjoying morning walks together. Jean-Marc likes to stroll along the waterfront, whereas I prefer a brisk walk inland, away from la foule. So we take turns deciding, or as the French say, à chacun son tour.

Recently we were heading home along La Voie Douce, when an older gentleman and his dog entered the sentier, just ahead of us. Because our turn-off was only 30 meters away, it didn't seem polite to cut around the slow-paced duo only to hurry off the path. 

As Jean-Marc and I slowed our own pace, I studied the dog. His white whiskers contrasted against his black poils. He was as old in dog years as his master, and both had a big belly. The dog carried itself with ease and it was hard to miss the jolly bounce in his steps.

That lovely creature exuded joy from head to tail and sent its feel-goods reverberating back to us. When the duo turned off the path, we followed, this being our exit as well. Entering a field, the man unleashed his furry companion.

"That is one happy dog!" I said, striking up a conversation. 
"Un chien est comme son maître," the man smiled.
Wasn't that the truth? A dog is like his master. I remembered our sweet Smokey and liked to think he took after me...even if he really was a splendid composite of his three-generational family.

"What is your dog's name?"
"Cachou. Like the bonbons," the man said, referring to those popular black lozenges in the round yellow tin....

Cachou-lajaunie-Didier-Descouens
photo by Didier Descouens via Wikipedia

"Cachou, that's a clever name for a black dog!" I hunkered down to pet the labrador. 

"Where did you get Cachou?"
"From his mother, who we had before him."
"Oh, that's how we got our Smokey," I shared. "Our golden passed last summer at almost 13."

The stranger gazed at his dog. "Cachou is twelve-and-a-half."
"Well, he looks very strong and energetic. He is a happy dog!" 
"That he is!" the man smiled before we walked our separate ways.

It was another lovely rencontre with man's best friend. After losing Smokey, these encounters are helping to fill the in-between time, even if I still don't know when or if we will have another dog. I look forward to seeing Cachou again, and all the other toutous in our neighborhood--including Féli, Lilou, Zoe, Joie, Pharos, and more whose names escape me. I am going to do better at writing those names down for the day we have the pleasure of welcoming another dear furball, or petite boule de poils. For now I spend my time dreaming about who he or she will be.

***   
***  

9A6A173A-9DED-4EE5-A20D-E0B57B2CC586

Before we adopted our first family dog, Breizh (a golden retriever and Smokey's mother), Jackie composed a list of favorite dog and cat names in French, including Ombre (Shadow), Flocon (Snowflake), Fripouille (Rascal)... The right column lists some cat names in French, including Choupette (little tuft of hair), Réglisse (Licorice), and Chouchou (Darling)

Jackie and breizh
Breizh and Jackie in 2006

RELATED STORIES
=>  Le Chiot: when we got our first puppy, Breizh in 2006
=> When Breizh had Smokey and his 5 sisters

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le prénom = first name
la foule
= the crowd, mob
à chacun son tour = each person gets a turn
la voie douce = the gentle path
les poils = fur
la rencontre = meeting, encounter
le toutou = doggy
une petite boule de poils = a little fur ball 
Breizh = Breizh
Ombre = Shadow
Flocon = Snowflake
Fripouille = Rascal
Choupette (little tuft of hair)
Réglisse (Licorice), and Chouchou (Darling)

30AABA0D-BC0A-453A-BF7B-244D009C9B66
We also met “Saga”—the softest, sweetest Ridgeback Rhodésienne. Saga was visiting France from Sweden. Mom and I wanted to take her home with us! Tell me, what kind of dog do you have? And what’s le prénom?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Glou-glou! How to get out of cooking for Thanksgiving (hint: be a turkey)

16D47309-C6A0-4238-998C-E53BD12D28FETurkeys or dindes at Château Miraval, in 2005. "Glou-glou! Gobble-gobble!" turkeys say, in French and in English. More turkey talk, and some mischief, in today’s story.

TODAY'S WORD: glouglou or glou-glou

    : gobble-gobble
    : glug-glug* (the sound of wine pouring out of a bottle)


FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

For the sound clip click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Turkey, in our Franco-American family, is a term of endearment and not a bird for roasting. I say the word often, as in yesterday when my daughter grabbed my favorite lipstick  (“In love with Olivia”) and beelined it to the front door.

"You turkey! Give it back. Now!"
"Just this one more time," Jackie pleaded.
"Alright, then. And good luck with your job interview, Turkey.” 

Then there's my son, who loves to lock me out of places—the house, the car.... "You turkey!" I squeal, as Max pulls out of the restaurant parking lot, making me chase him down the road for a ride. “Open the door! Let me in. You are SUCH a turkey!” (See video below...)

TURKEY = MISCHIEF
“Turkey” for me equals "mischievous person"—someone who causes trouble in a playful way. I may be using the slang term, the American argot, incorrectly, but I’m sticking with it because of the warm, nostalgic feeling it brings this Yankee, decades away from home. (Am I using "yankee" improperly too? I don't mean to say it any other way than with yearning and affection. Gosh, Thanksgiving must be getting to me!)

Jackie
That mischievous look. Jackie, when she was little--before she discovered make-up.

Meantime, a very warm and nostalgic holiday is upon us and this year I will try not to be a turkey by pretending I don't have to cook a Thanksgiving dinner because I'm in France. That's a turkey of an excuse to get out of preparing a bird, some stuffing, and greens, isn't it?

For now, I wish all of you turkeys a delicious celebration, generously salt-and-peppered with mischief.

Happy Thanksgiving. Joyeux Action de Graces. Though the French don’t use that expression, they are wonderfully full of mischief--and therefore amusing tablemates who would be more than grateful to join in and break bread with all of us here! So tell us, dear reader, what you are eating on T-Day? And please note the city where you'll be feasting. We turkeys want to know!

Gobble-gobble, glou-glou,
Kristi
P.S. I've just changed this post's title for the nième fois. Here's the new one: "How to get out of cooking for Thanksgiving (hint: be a turkey)". On second thought, that doesn't seem like a very good idea...

Also: Check the side-bar of this blog for two additions to the Books section. Merci!

RELATED POSTS
Se Maquiller - a bilingual story by my daughter about wearing makeup. Read it here

FRENCH VOCABULARY
glou-glou = gobble-gobble, glug-glug
l'argot (m) = slang, jargon
Joyeux Action de Graces = Happy Thanksgiving
nième fois (énième fois) = nth time, umpteenth time

VIDEO: click on the arrow in the center of the screen below, to start the clip



53503B25-4114-4027-A5AA-EB1B3D6DA514
A local turkey living here at the Bastide Marin sanctuary and garden in La Ciotat

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety