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Entries from April 2007

abri

Abri
Shelter for a cart on its last leg.

un abri (ah-bree) noun, masculine
  shelter, cover; screen

Je répète...celui qui aime et qui est aimé est à l'abri des coups du sort!
I repeat...he who loves and who is loved is sheltered from fateful blows!
--Alfred de Musset
.

Column
At the end of a swaying line of yellow irises, their green feet tickled by a slow moving rivulet, I saw our neighbor.

"Come on over," Mr. Delhome called out, indicating the makeshift bridge. "I have something for madame." Jean-Marc and I stepped off the path that we had been following during an evening walk.

My husband approached the stream, stepped onto the first of two overlapping wooden crates before catching my hand as I put one foot then the other across the planked pont.*

Our neighbor was planting a row of trees along the south end of a parcel of vines, just across the field and over the stream from our house. I noticed a flowering lilac bush, newly planted, its scented blossoms as white as the peak of Mont Ventoux which we could see in the distance. I wondered why Monsieur Delhome had taken the trouble to decorate this corner of an immense field. It wasn't as if there was a potager* to enjoy alongside it. (Peep's* garden was just down the creek, below an immense plane tree; now that would be a nice place for a lilac bush! And Mr. Delhome might enjoy his flowers more often at that end--Peep being Mr Delhome's father). But here, far across the field from Peep's garden, there was only row on row of vines which mimicked the rows of vines all around and off into the vine horizon. One would only come here to tend grapevines, and yet there is a lovely lilac plant to soothe the eyes on a scorching day.

The trunk of Mr. Delhome's car was open and a few tiny trees remained. It seemed he was planting an oliveraie* in the lonely space between the vines and the creek. "You'll need to plant it "à l'abri du Mistral,"* monsieur said, offering me what looked like an olive branch tucked into a small black carton.

My neighbor might as well have offered me a cozy wingback chair in which to read a favorite book, or a patchwork quilt to use by the fireside: the organic gift triggered the same comforting delight.
"Je...je suis... Merci beaucoup, monsieur!" I stammered.

I tried to imagine where we would put the little olive tree amidst the tractors and piles of broken cement. Now six weeks into renovation, the front terrace of our farmhouse is a stockyard of old doors, wooden crates, and broken concrete.

As if reading my mind, monsieur offered, "If you don't have a place for it right now," he said of the delicate tree, "you can put it in a protective clay pot. It just needs shelter from the Mistral."

I stared at the little olive branch which was as fragile as a vagabond's heart. And when the wind howls, as it will--whether across an empty plain or within a veinard's* soul when luck runs out--each needs a quiet abri.*

Monsieur's message, if not intended for a mere mortal, was not lost on me. I tucked it away, not knowing when this simple truth might sing to a weatherworn spirit. And then there was today.


..............................................................................................
References: le pont (m) = bridge; le potager (m) = kitchen garden; Peep = (pronunciation for the French word for pipe--which hangs from the corner of this man's mouth and afterwhich he is called); une oliveraie (f) = olive plantation; à l'abri du Mistral = sheltered from the Mistral (wind); veinard(e) = lucky devil; un abri (m) = shelter

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, recite today's quote: Download abri.wav
Je répète...celui qui aime et qui est aimé est à l'abri des coups du sort!
.
Related Terms & Expressions:
  un abribus = bus shelter
  un abri-garage = carport
  l'abrivent = windbreak
  un abri bétonné = bunker
  prendre abri = to take cover
  le sans-abri = homeless person

In Store:
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
A Good Year (soundtrack)
Traditional Savon de Marseille Olive oil Soap block in decorative tin

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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sur-le-champ

Jackieslc
A little lifetime ago: my daughter when she was two. Taken in Morhiban, Brittany.

sur-le-champ (sur-luh-shom) adverbial phrase
  immediately, right away, without delay, directly

Si le soleil et la lune se mettaient à douter, ils s'éteindraient sur-le-champ.
If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they'd immediately go out.
                                                                --William Blake
.

Column
On the last leg of a daylong journey, one beginning at a Gallo-Roman amphitheater* in Paris's Latin quarter and ending eight hours later in our medieval hometown, I sent myself flowers* (figuratively speaking, as the French do when they want to congratulate themselves via a verbal patting on the back).

"Did you guys just see that?" I questioned my kids as we cleared the toll booth. Having overtaken several long rows of cars, I sped into a fluidifil,* or automatic payment lane, as indicated by the "CB"* sign on the portico. Normally I get slightly panicked as I approach a multilaned French toll plaza, unsure
that I will have time to find the corresponding booth (amidst lanes labeled "T,"* "CB," or with an icon representing coins or a man in a hat--the latter indicating that an actual human will help you with the payment transaction).

My sur-le-champ* manoeuver that whisked our car to the front of the pack had me feeling uncharacteristically smug. Rarely do I find pleasure in one-upping the French (one, because outwitting, like math, does not come easy to me and two, because I majored in philosophy at Looney Tunes University--that is, I enjoyed too many cartoons as a kid. You know what happens to Wile E. Coyote, self-pleased smile painted across his furry face, the minute he eclipses Road Runner: dumb as a dart, he hits a pole).

Still gloating from my victory, I offered to reveal the modus operandi behind it all: brainpower.
"You've just witnessed your mommy's brains in action!" said I, leaving the line-waiters in a puff of invisible exhaust. I was still patting my own back when I received my daughter's sharp retort.
"What brains?" she wanted to know.

Max snickered and I had to admit that the quippy comeback, delivered in English, was a pretty good riposte for a nine-year-old Francophone.

A little puzzled by our chuckles, my daughter rephrased her question, this time in her native tongue: "Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire "brains? What does "brains" mean?" It turns out that she only wanted to know the French word for gray matter: cerveau.*

I realized from her reaction that my daughter is like Road Runner. Let the Dumbdarts and Know-It-Alls pass by (and eventually hit their heads on the pole), as for her, she is building her own totem of wisdom--one word at a time.

....................................................................................................................
References: ampitheater: learn more here; to send oneself flowers (to compliment oneself) = (in French) s'envoyer des fleurs; un fluidifil (from "fluide" and "fil" = fluid (moving) line; CB (la carte bancaire) = bank card, credit card; T (télépéage) = automatic lane for those holding a special electronic card; sur-le-champ = immediate; le cerveau (m) = brain

:: Audio file ::

Listen to my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download sur-le-champ.wav
Si le soleil et la lune se mettaient à douter, ils s'éteindraient sur-le-champ.
.
French products:
Roger & Gallet Signature Mini Guest Soaps -- (tip: store the soap in linens closets, sock drawers, etc... and freshen up the frowsty air!)
Moulins de la Brague Extra Virgin Oil in Tin Box
In music: Chimène Badi

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

 

isoloir

  Mairie / Town hall in La Motte, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
On Sunday the French voted in mairies/town halls across the Héxagone.

un isoloir (eezo-lwahr) noun, masculine
  curtained voting, polling booth


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


(April 24, 2007) I am in Sainte Cécile for the week visiting my husband who has been holding down the French fort—a fragmented one at that, what with with ceilings coming uncemented and doors dropping like dragonflies. By the time the kids and I move to the wine farm this summer most of the gros travaux will be done (we hope).

In the midst of renovation, surrounded by fallen walls and broken beams, I type this message on a computer covered with dust and debris.

Here, in a makeshift office, one as foreign to me as an AZERTY keyboard once was, I try to go with the flow, to catch a steady, if rushing, current that will allow me to move forward with my work.

Dust motes enter the room like unruly thoughts seeping into the brain. The poussière settles onto the piles, piles which cannot find order as there is no place to store or arrange anything in this hollowed out home. Je ne peux pas travailler comme ça!, I decide, pushing the keyboard away. My husband's stapler tumbles to the floor. Crash! The noise startles me in time to see the situation with fresh eyes.

The situation is that today (and everyday) I want to capture the streaming scene before me, to paint this picture in prose and not without passion. Up to now, I have set down one condition for my writing: silence. I might as well have shackled my fingers, arrested any creative "rumblings from within" right there on the ever-so-silent spot. It is time to cast away the "conditions" and to focus now on this idea: to be able to create during an upheaval, that is true freedom.

To be too finicky with the "where and when," the "how I will work" (in a quiet room, when the kids are asleep; in an airy studio, creativity uncorked with a glass of wine) is to take one's freedom and feed it to the fish. Write where you are, paint where you are planted and let mood, not merlot, alter the mind. Forget isolation; you are in the stream of things, riding that current. The fish may be hungry and chasing, but you are doing your work anyway. That is freedom.

Speaking of freedom, the French voted over the weekend. On Sunday morning we were standing inside the Town Hall, shaking hands with a senator who, along with our mayor, was greeting villagers as they waited to cast their vote. Jean-Marc seized the opportunity to explain the voting process to our children. I stood close by, hoping to learn a thing or two about les élections présidentielles.*

"Those are the candidates," Jean-Marc began, pointing to the twelve stacks of paper lining the center of a fold-out table.

"You take one printed slip of paper from each stack, then go and hide behind that curtain there," Jean-Marc explained, pointing to the voting booth.

"Once inside the isoloir,* you crumple up the slips with the names of candidates that you do not want to win. Then, you tuck the remaining billet* into the blue envelope, exit the isoloir and place it in that see-through urne* over there."

"But do you have to take all twelve slips of paper?" Max wants to know. "No," Jean-Marc answers, but it is the tradition. "In case voters do not take all twelve slips, there is someone in charge of leveling the stacks of paper so that voters aren't swayed by the most popular candidate." My son's question brings up the point of paper waste and I wonder if this is why electronic voting has recently been introduced in many towns across France.

I look past the curtained isoloirs to the patriots who form a line that extends out the door, down the stone steps and into the town square where a quartet of iron swans seem to cry out "Vive la France!"* --their tears filling the moss-covered fountain to the delight of the littlest Frenchmen whose hands draw circles across its surface. I watch as those circles fan out into so many question marks across the fountain's surface as if to echo a question which ripples across the country: Qui sera le futur président de la France?

...........................................................................................................
un gros travaux (m) = major work; azerty = a type of keyboard used in certain Francophone countries, so named for the first six keys across the letter board; la poussière (f) = dust; je ne peux pas travailler comme ça! = I cannot work under these conditions!; les élections présidentielles (f) = presidential elections; un isoloir (m) = voting booth; un billet (m) = ticket; une urne (f) = ballot box: Vive la France! = Long live France!; Qui sera le futur président de la France? = Who will be the future president of France?


J'ai l'intention de vivre ma vie tel un homme obéissant, mais obéissant à Dieu, en accord avec la sagesse de mes ancêtres; mais jamais sous l'autorité de verités politiques toutes récemment découvertes dans l'isoloir.  I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. --William F. Buckley, Jr.

:: Audio file ::
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote: Download isoloir-mp.mp3

J'ai l'intention de vivre ma vie tel un homme obéissant, mais obéissant à Dieu, en accord avec la sagesse de mes ancêtres; mais jamais sous l'autorité de verités politiques toutes récemment découvertes dans l'isoloir.

                            *     *     *
Thoughts on writing, from today's story, were inspired by a book that I just devoured, Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming a Writer by Judith Ortiz Cofer. If you are a writer or artist, or want to be, then don't miss the chapter "The Woman Who Slept with One Eye Open". More on this book, here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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échapper

Echapper
At the end of today's story, I landed here in Paris.

In addition to my writing voice, I am working on my reading voice which, I realize, is a bit formal (read: stiff as a day-old baguette). I hope to slow the voice down, relax a bit. Even so, I'm afraid I'll never talk like Nancy Sinatra (or how I imagine she might talk after walking in such carefree boots).

échapper (ay-shapay) verb
  to escape

Les gens ne connaissent pas leur bonheur, mais celui des autres ne leur échappe pas. People do not know their own happiness, but the happiness of others does not escape them. --Pierre Daninos

Column

Hear the following story:

I was sitting in the food court, polishing off a plate of Japanese stir-fry when another one of those invisible forks in the road appeared. The year was 1993. Toni Morrison was just awarded the Nobel Prize for literature and I hoped language was my calling, too. In the meantime, I needed a job.

There at the air-conditioned mall, a middle-aged man and a young woman sat down at the table across the way. The woman had hair the color of salsa and skin as pale as an onion. I recognized the man as the one who used to buy expensive ski clothing for the pretty blondes who decorated his arms. I sold him the Bogner ski suits and Revo sunglasses. Afterwards, I cleaned the dressing room floor. The purse-size pooches (belonging to the French-speaking blondes) made puddles and pire.*

When the man signaled "Bonjour," I threw my paper plate in the trash, set the tray on the poubelle,* and walked up to the table, my posture straighter than before. I had been to France since we last met. I had quit the ski shop, returned to college, graduated, and met a Frenchman before the upswing I was on changed its course, landing me back on the desert floor which, to a Francophile, might as well have been quicksand.

Middle-aged Marc introduced me to Frances who stopped biting her cuticles in time to shake my hand. She didn't speak French like the Bogner blondes did, but she apparently spoke the language of love. Marc asked if I was looking for work, mentioned some kind of start-up and that he needed a few more girls.
"It's telephone work," he coughed. There would be callers.

Frances shook the ice in her cup and looked away nervously. That's when I understood what kind of telephone work we were talking about: three-lettered and rhyming with "hex."

My face turned the color of Frances' hair and if I hadn't been so embarrassed I might have embarked. But phone hex wasn't in the stars for me and just then, in a sudden cosmic shift, the color from my cheeks drained onto that invisible fork in the road, highlighting the path before me in crimson. I followed the red brick road out of the mall, away from the phone hexers, through the valley of the sun and eventually ended up back in France, having ay-shapay* belle any deep-breathing clientele.

As for the cosmic gods, it is not without a sense of humor and a good heart that they sent another would-be phone hexer to the Hexagone.*

                                      *     *     *

..................................................................................................
References: pire = worse; la poubelle (f) = garbage can; ay-shapay = pronunciation for échappé (belle) = to escape narrowly; l'Hexagone (m) = France

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc read today's quote: Download Echapper-quote.wav
Les gens ne connaissent pas leur bonheur, mais celui des autres ne leur échappe pas.

Terms & Expressions:
  échapper à quelqu'un, quelque chose = to escape something, someone
  le nom m'échappe = the name escapes me
  laisser échapper = to let someone, something escape
  laisser échapper l'occasion = the let the opportunity pass by
  s'échapper de prison = to escape from prison

In Music & More:
"Le Femme Chocolat" by the award winning Olivia Ruiz
Maison Francaise -- decorating tips (and great pics) in this *French language* magazine
French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak French

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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foi

Foi
Without a modicum of foi, life can be a three-ring circus.

Foi

(fwa)

noun, feminine

faith

 

My daughter says that books are like cigarettes, une mauvaise habitude, and would I please put the reading aside for one night?

"Of course, Sweetheart," I promise, returning the book to its shelf. Is that a tremble in my arm? Sweat on my brow?

"And the cahiers and the pens—put them away too!" Jackie insists.

My head starts to pound and the twitching begins. I leave my hard- and soft-bound drugs, feeling the first symptoms of withdrawal as I walk away from words. I tell my daughter that I got the habit from her Mexican grandmother, Wholia, and that one day she'll need a paper-and-pen fix too. It runs in the family like flat hair and latent fury.

I don't tell my daughter that her Mexican grandmother, Jules, is really American, but leave it as Jackie's told it time and again. It is her story and not mine, and she gets that storytelling gene from Wholia, or Julia—make that "Jules".

At the dinner table, Jackie asks, "Why does Grandma Jules dress up for dinner?"

I sit there in my felt slippers and pajamas, thinking up an answer.
"Because people like to look at pretty things when they eat, and don't we love looking at Grandma Jules?" My daughter agrees.

When Jackie says, "Let's do like Grandma Jules!" I prepare to get up, walk to the powder room, and put on some lipstick. Instead, my daughter reaches for my hand, closes her eyes and says:

"Dear Lord, thank you for this food."

It is no thanks to me, nose deep in a book, fingers curled around another cartouche, that my daughter learned to pray. But tonight we'll take Wholia's example, and hope that, like fury and fine hair, faith runs in this family—if not always in stride.

                                                   
YOUR EDITS HERE
Thank you for pointing out any typos or "grammar worries" in this story. Click here to submit edits or to comment 

French Vocabulary

une mauvaise habitude = a bad habit
le cahier = notebook
une cartouche = (ink) cartridge (refill for pens)


:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/foi.wav

Terms & Expressions:
  digne de foi = reliable, trustworthy (witness)
  être de bonne foi = to be sincere, honest
  la mauvaise foi = dishonesty
  avoir la foi = to have faith
  perdre la foi = to lose one's faith
  sans foi ni loi = to fear neither God nor man
  avoir la foi du charbonnier = "to have a coalman's faith" (simple faith)
  avec les yeux de la foi = "with eyes of faith" = to believe sight unseen

If you enjoy French Word-A-Day, please take a moment to learn how you can support it. Thank you!

Hear the following story:

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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recette

Recette
A recipe for scaring crows, French and otherwise.

la recette (reuh-set) noun, feminine
  1. recipe, formula  2. receipts, returns

Ils avaient des goûts communs et des métiers différents: ...la recette même de l'amitié. They had common tastes and different professions: ...the very recipe for friendship. --André Maurois
.

                                                                   Column
For you today: thoughts from the writing trenches...

                                    *     *     *

Do you have the recipe for success? Well, maybe you do. As for me, I have never been good with recettes* and find myself cooking (and constructing a career) "au pif," that is, "by guesswork." The risk is a flat cake here and there--rather, many flat cakes ici et là,* and a lot of "putting the cart before the horse," while watching everyone else seemingly glide by, maps in hand, water bottles overflowing and, Poor weary traveler would you like a sip? Surely you are thirsty?

Maybe you are like me, always forgetting to drink?

Thirsty, you find yourself on some sort of path. You learn to follow your hunches. For a while you have faith. Then, against your better judgment, and under the guise of "getting some perspective," you take your eyes off the next stone step. You trip, of course. Looking up, you are astonished. While you are,
indeed, nearing a summit you are also a deep desert canyon away from your destination. What happened? Now anyone's guess is better than yours.

While you grovel around for hard ground, the temptation at this point is twofold:

  1. board the next cable car.
  2. measure your progress against another traveler's.

Grace intervenes in time to remind you that there are no free cable car rides and that to compare yourself to another is to kill your so-called craft. While you thank Goody-Two-Shoes Grace for her wise thoughts, you rather fancy a bit more groveling at this low point, a bit more scraping-of-your-face against the rocky ground, for the blood and tears that pour out are strangely soothing.

                                *     *     *

............................................................................................................
References: la recette (f) = recipe; ici et là = here and there

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's quote:
Ils avaient des goûts communs et des métiers différents: ...la recette même de l'amitié.
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/recette.wav

Books on France and more:
Translated into English for the first time since its original 1927 publication, La Bonne Cuisine has long been the French housewife's equivalent of... The Joy of Cooking (Publishers Weekly)
"Words in a French Life" -- soon available in paperback!
TeLL me More French -- Used everyday in more than 10,000 academic institutions

Recipe!
Last week, I told you about Madame Delhome's savory "Cake aux Olives". Here's the recette.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

 

soigner

Soigner
Soignez-vous up high on a hilltop. Photo of my daughter, Jackie, wishing she could fly. Taken at the top of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Sea salt


Fleur de Sel (French Sea Salt): Gathered from the salt beds of Camargue by a Master Salter (Maitre Salier), this subtly flavored salt will add burst of flavor to your food. Fleur de Sel is truly an addictive taste!



soigner
(swan-yay) verb
  to treat, to nurse
  to look after, to take care of

Les maladies que l'on cache sont les plus difficiles à soigner.
The illnesses that we hide are the most difficult to treat.

                                                    --Chinese proverb
.

                                                                Column
Several weeks ago Jean-Marc, Max, Jackie, and I spent winter break in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just a short drive from Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. Our cécilienne farmhouse being in escrow at the time, Aunt Marie-Françoise offered us a room in her holiday gîte*--affectionately known as "la Cigale".* Though it
was too early to hear the trill and drum of the cicada, the cypress trees--which the winged ones set abuzz in summertime--were in full bloom out in the countryside and the powdery pollen sent me sneezing, sniffing, and shuttering up the windows.

While the children and Jean-Marc headed over to uncle Jean-Claude's for dinner one evening, I stayed behind, closing doors, fenêtres,* and painted shutters to block out the allergens which, in turn, were blocking my lungs. As I headed up the creaky wooden stairs to the mezzanine, where a dog-eared book and a box of Kleenex decorated the nightstand beside the guest bed, I was startled by an insistent knocking at the door.

"Qui est là?" Who is there? I barked, in defense.
A soft voice answered, "C'est Marie-Françoise."

The front door was bolted shut in such a way that I found myself locked in the cottage. Not wanting to make Jean-Marc's aunt wait, I hurried over to the window and unlatched the wooden shutters, pushing them open before the twilight.

Aunt Marie-Françoise appeared in a frame of white petals. The almond tree behind her was in bloom and the periwinkle sky beyond seemed to push forth the snow-white flowers. Below, purple irises polka dotted the driveway, announcing that spring had sprung in the land of the papes.*

Jean-Marc's aunt lifted her trusty wicker tote, setting it on the stone windowsill. She is always pulling things "Ta-da!"--or rather Voilà!--from that bottomless basket; from coffee pots to confectioner's sugar there is always some sweet sundry rising to its surface.

This time, Aunt Marie-Françoise produced a dark blue bottle marked "Aroma Force" which, according to the label, promised to "aide l'organisme à se défendre."* I turned the bottle around, noting the ingredients which included peppermint, lavandin,* clove and eucalyptus--essential oils used in aroma therapy.

Suddenly, the bottomless basket hiccupped and out came a piece of cardboard. My savior-soignante* offered her excuses for the haphazard cut-out, which she had quickly designed to help trap the steam in the aroma therapy "nose bath" or "sinus steam" that she was prescribing me. I watched my aunt's impromptu demonstration in which she fit the curved end of the cardboard cut-out to the bridge of her nose and, with a dramatic intake of pretend steam, she relaxed her facial muscles, offering a look of supreme soulagement.* Ahhh!

The last item to pop out of the basket was a jar of tomato soup. "You lose a lot of liquid..." Aunt Marie-Françoise explained, "...when you have allergies: tears, sneezing...be sure to drink a little of this soup," she prescribed.

Before I had the chance to ask how she had found the time to confect the care package (having just finished a full day's work as a speech therapist), Aunt Marie-Françoise was off--but not before offering up an appreciative nod to the flowering almond tree whose delicate white blossoms seemed to soothe her own silent sufferings.

***
Comments, corrections--or stories of your own--always welcome and appreciated! See the Comments box at the end of this post.

........................French Vocabulary..............................

le gîte (m) = lodging; la cigale (f) = cicada; la fenêtre (f) = window; le pape (m) = pope; aide l'organisme à se défendre = helps the organism to defend itself; le lavandin = (type of) lavender; soignant(e) = one who nurses; le soulagement (m) = relief
.
:: Audio File ::
Hear Jean-Marc recite today's proverb in French: Download soigner.wav
Les maladies que l'on cache sont les plus difficiles à soigner.

Shop:
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Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"
A money belt for traveling. Perfect size for your passport and currency.

Terms & Expressions:
  soigner une maladie = to treat an illness
  se soigner = to take care of, look after, oneself
  soigner sa ligne = to watch one's figure
  soigner sa clientèle = to take care of one's clients
  soigner son image = to look after one's image
  soigner les blessés = to nurse the wounded

Verb conjugation:
je soigne, tu soignes, il/elle soigne, nous soignons, vous soignez, ils/elles soignent
past participle = soigné
Check out the Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs by Bescherelle


IMG_3019
In other French towns... Villedieu. For a cozy halt, stop into the Café du Centre, order a chocolat chaud.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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franc

Franc
For the purposes of this edition, and so as to remain neatly "in theme," we'll call the little guy in the lower left "Frank."

franc, franche (frawn, frawnsh) adjective
  frank, true, free, exempt

...and the verb "franchir" : to cross, step over (out), overcome

Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.
Without stepping out his door, one can know the world.
--Lao-Tseu
.

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Madame Delhome's floors are so clean you could lick flan off them. As I tiptoe over to our neighbor's sofa, I shudder to think about my own floors until my mother's wisdom comes back to comfort me, "Don't worry about the dust, honey, people feel better about their own homes when they walk into yours."

While that is some comfort, I don't want Madame Delhome to feel bad about how her flan-lickable floors make me feel (messy), so I won't share any nuggets of wisdom with her this early on in our friendship. Instead, I'll take off my shoes.

I ask the kids to take off their go-dass,* too, before three of us wrestle Braise back out onto the front porch. (Moments earlier, when we left for cocktails at the neighbor's, our dog fancied a swim in the stream and a "dry off" in the powdery earth, the same powdery earth, I realize, that seems to be stuck
to the kids' socks!)

Barefooted, the kids and I finally sit down on madame's rustic-style leather sofa while monsieur and madame settle into the matching wood-trimmed chairs. Jean-Marc is seated next to madame. I make narrow eyes at the kids, reminding them of their manners before each of us accepts a slice of olive cake from a blue earthenware plate.

The cake aux olives* is rich with cubes of gruyère cheese and bits of ripe red tomato beneath its golden crust. The snack is heavenly good but when madame offers to give me the recipe I tell her, "Please, don't trouble yourself." What I really want to say is "By all means! Write it down carefully and don't miss even one ingredient!"

Remembering my dream of having a vegetable garden, I turn to Monsieur Delhome.
"I saw a man down by the stream working in a potager,"* I say, knowing all the while that the garden-in-question belongs to Monsieur Delhome.

"That would be Monsieur Blanc," Monsieur Delhome, points out. "I let him work on that parcel, as he loves to garden!" That "parcel" is right next to a parcel of our own and I think about how easy it would be for Monsieur Blanc, who loves to garden, to expand his project south...then we all could enjoy the fruits of his labor!

"I have always wanted a vegetable garden!" I hint. "Do you know of anyone...who might like to, uh, borrow a bit of our land for tending?" I notice that Monsieur Delhome looks confused and so I repeat my indirect wish. "It would be nice to know someone who enjoys gardening...".

"What exactly do you want, Madame Espinasse?" Monsieur Delhome demanded, putting an abrupt stop to any vagaries. Just then I felt an olive stick in my throat.
"Are you asking me to send Monsieur Blanc over to work your field?"
"No," I protested, embarrassed. Though I wanted exactly that.

The directness that Monsieur Delhome was asking for reminded me of another of my mom's nuggets of sagesse:* ask and you shall receive (but be clear about what you need and don't beat around the bush!). Still, words do not come easy and we leave the Delhomes' with my worrying about the flaky impression that I have made.

A few weeks later Monsieur and Madame Delhome stop by for a visit and present me with a beautifully illustrated book on gardening. Inside, there is a handwritten note including warm words of encouragement. I point to the book's cover where an elaborate arch of roses shades a grassy path leading to a beautiful vegetable garden--one prettier than I have ever imagined.

"What exactly are you implying, Monsieur Delhome?" I say, practicing Monsieur's direct approach along with some newfound initiative. "Do you think that I could make a garden as pretty as this?"
"Pourquoi pas?"* monsieur questioned, looking me directly in the eyes.

As for the Delhomes, they seem to have a little more faith in their new neighbor's abilities than she herself has.

.....................................................................................................................
References: go-dass (pronunciation for (la) godasse) = (slang for) shoes; le cake (m) aux olives = olive cake; le potager (m) = kitchen garden; la sagesse (f) = wisdom; pourquoi pas = why not?

Madame Delhome's Cake aux Olives:
  (without tomatoes and with ham!)


--150 g. olives noires et vertes denoyautées
(about 5 oz of black and green olives, pitted)
--250 g. jambon (8 or 9 oz of ham)
--4 oeufs (4 eggs)
--150 g. comte (approximately 5 oz) of comte (or gruyere)
--150 g. farine (roughly 5 oz) of flour
--4 c.s.* huile d'olive (4 soup spoons of olive oil)
--15 cl. lait (something like 5 oz of milk)
--1 sachet levure chimique. sel. poivre. (1 packet of baking powder. Salt and pepper to taste.)

I have not made this cake so please don't throw eggs at me if the above calculations don't pan out! With that cautionary note in mind, I'll try to translate the recipe's instructions...

--Scald (or "ebouillantez"--and what a verb!) the olives and cut them in two. Cut the ham and cheese in cubes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
--In a mixing bowl ("une jatte"), place flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Make a "well" ("un puit") with the dry ingredients, in which to add the following: beaten eggs and milk. Mix well.
--Add oil, olives, ham and cheese. Mix again.
--Pour mixture into an oiled pan. Cook one hour and fifteen minutes (approximately).
--Bon Appétit!

:: Audio Clip ::
Hear my son, Max, recite today's quote: Download franchir.wav
Sans franchir sa porte, on peut connaître le monde.

Terms & Expressions:
  jouer franc jeu = to play fair
  le franc-parler = plain-spoken
  avoir les coudées franches = to have elbow-room
  la boutique franche = duty-free shop

Shopping:
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Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design
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Fallot Dijon Herbed Mustards - Set of 4 French Mustards

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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saluer

Bluedoor7_2Photo of a French door and its hesitant greeting. 


saluer (sah-loo-ay) verb
  to greet, to wave to, to nod to; to salute

Nobles et mystérieux triomphes qu'aucun regard ne voit, qu'aucune renommée ne paye, qu'aucune fanfare ne salue. Noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye beholds, which are requited with no renown, which are saluted with no trumpet blast. --Victor Hugo
.

                             Column
Near the end of the vine horizon, where wheat-colored fields come to a halt before a massive steel hangar,* I saw her waving.

"C'est Madame Delhome," Jean-Marc said, lifting one hand off the steering wheel to return madame's friendly gesture. Our neighbor wore a checkered flannel top and faded blue jeans. She might have been an American farmer if she weren't French.

"Have you met her?" I asked my husband, who answered that he had not. My hand flew up as I waved back, encouraged by madame's initiative and friendliness.

As we drove past the row of vines that madame was pruning, I caught a glimpse of the handsome woman with the engaging smile and sun-kissed complexion as she paused from her chores to acknowledge us strangers.

That wave! In one generous to-and-fro motion the neighbor's greeting was unmistakable. Using the full length of her arm and in one natural and unaffected gesture she offered up the most warm-spirited acknowledgment of our existence.

Not that my own salutation would have been cold or even feigned; it simply would not have been. For too many complications would have cropped up at the instant in which I perceived "the new neighbors" (us) in the distance. Indeed, had it been me hunched over those vines when the new neighbors cruised past, heads in the clouds, my reaction would not have been as simple or as natural as Madame Delhome's had been. I would have hidden behind the very branches that I was tending.

Had I uncharacteristically taken the first step, the process would have been a complicated one and nothing like madame's spontaneous salutation. Whereas madame announced her location among the great field of vines, this with a grand flagging of the arm, I would have weighed the risk of signaling when chances were the passengers in the speeding car hadn't seen me in the first place. Oh, the hazards of appearing uncouth!

When I was certain that the new neighbors had spotted me, only then would my hand have cautiously inched up, all the while anticipating a signal back. In the event that the neighbors weren't actually noticing the awkward figure out there in the vines--but were, horror of horrors, pointing to the dazzling sunset just beyond, then a bit of emergency backtracking would be necessary. I would have to save face by swatting the air as if shooing a mouche.*

And though I sit here, weeks later, practicing Madame Delhome's friendly wave, I must say: it just isn't easy being simple. But then, as my husband says to me, sometimes gently, but more often while swatting his own forehead in exasperation:

"Pourquoi faire simple quand tu peux faire compliqué?!"
Why be simple when you can be complicated?!

................................................................................................................
References: le hangar (m) = shed; la mouche (f) = fly

:: Audio Clip ::
Nobles et mystérieux triomphes qu'aucun regard ne voit, qu'aucune renommée ne paye, qu'aucune fanfare ne salue. Download saluer.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
saluer quelqu'un de la main = to wave to someone
saluer d'un coup de tête = to give a nod
saluer quelqu'un d'un chapeau bas = to take off one's hat to somebody
saluer quelqu'un d'un coup de chapeau = to raise one's hat to somebody

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A book that I have just ordered, and another that I am currently reading. Check them out and don't miss this non-French-themed favorite!


Verb conjugation:
je salue, tu salues, il/elle salue, nous saluons, vous saluez, ils/elles saluent => past participle = salué

Check out the Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs by Bescherelle

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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anniversaire

Anniversaire
Talk about an original gift...Jean-Marc got stairs for his birthday (not these pretty ones but some other pretty ones) and can now access his future office without having to climb a ladder! Photo taken at La Bastide de Magnans in Vidauban.

anniversaire (a-nee-vair-sair) noun, masculine
  anniversary, birthday

Un diplomate est un homme qui se rappelle l'anniversaire d'une femme et qui oublie son âge. A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age. --Somerset Maugham
.

                                                                Column
The sky above the snow-capped Ventoux Mountains burned as red as a rooster's crest. With no crowing birds around to announce the start of a new day, the heavens stepped forth and obliged.

"The sky is clear!" I announced to Jean-Marc, who was set to celebrate his fortieth anniversaire* at the new farm. In a few hours, more than seventy-five guests (former school buddies from Marseilles and their growing families) would make the hour and a half trip north to the sunny Vaucluse...or so we hoped.

"Ciel rouge le matin, pluie en chemin," red sky in the morning and rain is on the way, Jean-Marc replied, dragging the mattresses out of the house in a last-ditch effort to make room for the guests. I had forgotten that old French dictum. Thinking about the imminent rain another adage came to mind, one that I learned on my wedding day while contemplating the clouds that mirrored the dark Mediterranean sea: mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux -- a rainy wedding, happy marriage. No reason the same couldn't be true for my husband's 40th anniversaire! I set down my coffee cup and left the garden chair and the sizzling sunrise to help our ol' quadragenerian lug the bedding over to the cellar.

The house emptied quickly what with only three mattresses, one small table, and four chairs furnishing it. With an empty house we might have just enough room to squeeze everyone inside...like so many sardines swimming toward the sun (the sun that was presently menaced by a barrage of incoming clouds).

When the bedding was stored, Jean-Marc paused to admire the view. "Well, at least we can see the Dentelles-de-Montmirail!" I looked east to the imposing limestone peaks which glistened like marshmallows in the fiery sky.

An hour later those limestone marshmallows had fully melted, becoming one with the clouds that had overtaken them. I threw Jean-Marc a sympathetic look as we brought in the last of the party supplies.
"To be honest," Jean-Marc admitted, "it really doesn't bother me. We can all wear raincoats! Besides," he said revealingly, "the grapevines are parched and the rain will quench their thirst."

As if on cue, the dark sky opened up and showered the caring vigneron* with approval. And there, beneath the pouring rain I realized, at last, that the former finance major was truly a farmer "au fond."*

..............................................................................................................
References: un anniversaire (m) = birthday; le vigneron (la vigneronne) = wine grower; au fond = deep down (at heart)

:: Audio File :: Download anniversaire.wav
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, sing Happy Birthday in French to her father:
Joyeux anniversaire
Joyeux anniversaire
Joyeux anniversaire, Papa
Joyeux anniversaire!


Terms & Expressions:
bon, joyeux anniversaire! = happy birthday!
un cadeau d'anniversaire = birthday present
l'anniversaire de mariage = wedding anniversary
souhaite un très joyeux anniversaire à quelqu'un = to wish someone a very happy birthday

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Treat yourself to a treasure of a French language dictionary!
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Check out "Behind the Wheel French" -- an 8 CD language course.
Lonely Planet France : inspiration (and itineraries) for exploring France your own way

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice


"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."
--Jed

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