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Entries from December 2007

donné

Chasse_vines

New:
Add a "slice" of French life to your own blog, website, or desktop -- check out this gadget.

donné(e)  (doh-nay) adjective
  : dirt cheap ("given")

"Donné," from the verb "donner" (to give), means many things, including "given". Here is an example and proverb:

          Tout ce qui n'est pas donné est perdu.
                All that is not given is lost.


                                   *     *     *
In books: French Demystified: Simple enough for a beginner, challenging enough for a more advanced student.
.

                                                         Column
Our Grenache grapevines, those that slump like old men and nag like old women, just received a spa bath that only aching vines can rave about. While some prefer mud and pay the price, our grapevines go gaga over ground "garbage" -- compost, that is. Like spa mud, organic compost can be costly... especially when you have a klepto in the countryside.

In one towering heap, Jean-Marc had the vine-rejuvenating organic "restes"* delivered last week. Soon after, fate struck, this time in the form of a broken-down tractor. In the days it took to fix the engine, Jean-Marc noticed that the pile of compost was diminishing... As the dent in the pile grew, so did my
husband's angoisse.*

Driving by the vine fields, in search of answers, Jean-Marc noticed an old camionnette* parked alongside the Grenache vines. When next he spotted a paysan* busy with a few buckets, he believed he had found the compost culprit.

Jean-Marc watched as the man, freezing to a standstill before dropping the heavy buckets, gave himself away.

"Bonjour, Monsieur," the man said, stepping in front of the seaux* so as to conceal the compost. "I was just scraping together some of the, uh--fallen bits--of, er, compost," he added, sheepishly.

Jean-Marc studied the dent in the compost pile. "That's a lot of 'fallen bits'," he pointed out. "How many bucketfuls of compost have you 'scraped together'?" Jean-Marc asked.
"Only two," the man swore, stepping aside to reveal the buckets behind him.

Jean-Marc was about to let the man keep the compost, but as he turned to leave he noticed a pile of wood in the camionnette and realized that Mr. Fallen Bits had also helped himself to some firewood (the oldest Grenache vines that had recently died).

"Mind if I have a look in your truck?" Jean-Marc asked. That is when he discovered six bucketfuls of "fallen bits"! Now that explained the great "dent" on his compost pile.

"Monsieur," he began. "If you need compost, I can give you the telephone number of the company that sold it to me because, you know, compost--CE N'EST PAS DONNE!!!"

                                          *     *     *
Apparently compost isn't "dirt cheap" ("donné") -- but who knew it was a commodity? Back to the kitchen now... where I intend to turn those wilted lettuce leaves and a few pumpkin skins, eggshells, coffee grounds and, you know -- "les restes"-- into liquid gold. Never mind physics. This is economics!

                                               *     *     *

One hundred more French words and stories in my book Words in a French Life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: les restes (m) = scraps, leftovers ; l'angoisse (f) = anxiety; la camionnette (f) = pick-up truck; le paysan (la paysanne) = farmer, peasant; le seau (m) = bucket, pail

     The Grape Grower: A Guide to Organic Viticulture
     The French Peasantry in the Seventeenth Century

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my Francophone daughter pronounce today's word & read the proverb:
Donné. Tout ce qui n'est pas donné est perdu.
Download donn.mp3
Download donn.wav

Shopping:
"501 French Verbs" includes common idioms & example sentences demonstrating verb usage.
Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

Ultimate French Beginner - Intermediate (CD/Book)
Visions of France DVD: See the breathtaking beauty of southeastern France.
.

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    
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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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trémousser

Epicerie

trémousser (tray-moos-ay) verb
  to wriggle, to jig about; to wiggle one's hips
  ...and, my favorite, "to bestir oneself"

Listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's word:
Download tremousser.mp3
Download tremousser.wav

                                                Column
To bestir oneself. That's one way to look at it. From another viewpoint, say, that of a mother standing at the head of her kitchen canteen, ladling soup out of a four-quart casserole, all this arm-flailing, head jerking, and torso-twisting looks about as poetic as elbows do on a neatly set table.

"Arrête de danser!" I remind Max. His sister, Jackie, who is seated en face,* grins. She's not dancing yet, but she is wearing a Tecktonik t-shirt. "The dance" even has a trademarked name!

While Tecktonik dancing began in Paris seven years ago, the craze, or "phénomène,"* ignited sometime last fall in our southern French town. Because the upper body is about all one needs to get grooving, Tecktonik dancing can be done just about anywhere, especially: in the doctor's office waiting-room, in the car on the way to school, while walking down a tree-lined boulevard on the way to buy baguettes, while brushing one's teeth, while doing one's homework, and even while being tucked into bed by one's mom. "Max, stop dancing!" I remind my son, trying to plant a kiss on his flash-dancing face.

One of the things that I like about Tecktonik -- besides the fact that it gets my son away from the computer and provides him a fitness break, is its "flashback" quality: Tecktonik dancers, in their waist-high slim-fit jeans and geometric tops, look as though they have stepped out of the 80s. I spent my teens in that decade; twenty some years later and all that 80's glam grandeur is flashing--and flailing--before my very eyes!

So that it may flash and flail before your very own, watch with me now a video of our own Tecktonik, bionic, glam-on-it dancer: "DJ Max" (sorry about the video lighting -- which could use some sort of "teck tonik" -- but it's the best we have for now): http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=spvsUO-MX8k


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: en face = across from; le phénomène (m) = phenomenon

     Le Nouveau Petit Robert: (a *French/French* language dictionary)
     Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
   

Shopping:
Printed in French, Chatelaine magazine features articles on practical home advice, health, beauty, family, and fashion issues, practical home advice, and a wide variety of recipes.

Cartes Postales: A Delightful Album for Postcards
La Perruche sugar cubes are made in France and have a rich and perfumed taste with hints of honey and vanilla.
The Pudlo Paris guide--available in English for the first time in 17 years!

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

 

chouia

Cabanon_french_woods
I love today's word "chouia"! I hope you will share the enthusiasm by sharing this gazette, vignette (we'll figure it out yet) with a friend. And don't miss the sound clip, below, where you can hear my mother-in-law pronounce "chouia" (there's even a "flash" story from our recording session).

Also, in the Shopping section, see one of the gifts that Jean-Marc got me for Christmas... highly recommended if you are looking for a gift for a gal.~
.

                                       *     *     *
un chouia (or chouïa) (shooy-arrh) noun, masculine
   "un petit peu," a smidgen

[Chouïa is an Arabic word; we hear it often here, in the South of France.]

In books: "Autonauts of the Cosmoroute" is a love story, an irreverent travelogue of elaborate tales and snapshots detailing Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop's thirty-three-day voyage on the Paris-Marseilles freeway in 1982. Uncovering the freeway's hidden underbelly, they push life and literature to surreal extremes. This shot of sun is a satire on modern travel and the great explorers, and an intimate look at one of the greatest literary spirits of our time.
.

Column
"Just a smidgen," my mother-in-law says, pushing her plate forward with a little more enthusiasm than her French words would let on. "Un chouia,"* she insists as I dig into the pan, portioning off the cake in a range of slice sizes. Next, like a metal detector, I let the spatula hover over the cake until I sense my belle-mère's resistance melt like scrap gold. "Ça ira," that'll do, she says, indicating her choice -- the largest slice: like mother-in-law, like daughter-in-law. I lift it out of the pan, keeping every crumb intact.

It is 2 p.m. on Christmas day and we are still stuffed from the réveillon.* But there's always room for chocolate cake and, this time, my mother-in-law's has candied orange peel inside. (She's scalped the oranges before stringing the skins, hanging them to dry over her living-room radiator.)

I didn't know about the candied oranges -- which just goes to show how my mother-in-law is always holding back an ingredient (chippie* that she is) just to throw us off.

"So your chocolate cake calls for orange peel?" Aunt Marie-Claire ("Michou") inquires, as we huddle around the desserts. My belle-mère* remains vague as Aunt Michou fishes for instructions and is, in the end, left to wonder about how to rig orange peels over her own Parisian radiator.

Meanwhile, I wonder about how I'm going to get the Provençal "Pompe à L'Huile" Olive Oil Cake recipe out of Aunt Michou.... But before I can make any progress, she tells me it took her THREE years to get the recipe from Cousin Sabine.

Our recipe scalping reminds me of the demise of my belle-mère's oranges. If we aren't careful, we'll be strung just like those pathetic peels -- only Cousin Sabine doesn't have a dainty radiator -- but a walk-in Provençal fire pit, hooks and all!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: un chouia (m) = a smidgen; le réveillon (m) = Christmas Eve Dinner; une chippie (f) = little devil; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

More about my belle-mère, French cousins and aunts in my book, Words in a French Life ...and more about cake in La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
:: Audio File ::
Listen to my mother-in-law pronounce today's French word.
Un chouia. Un petit chouia.
Download chouia.mp3
Download chouia.wav

"Bravo, bravo 'ma cocotte'!" My belle-mère cheered, after our recording session. I had showed her my blog and explained the various columns: the "word of the day," the story, the quote.... "Bravo, bravo, 'ma cocotte'," she approved. All those bravos... well, I suppose I'll forgive her for calling me "chicky".
.
Shopping:
Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier
French in Action : A Beginning Course in Language and Culture, the Capretz Method: Part One
A Christmas present that I received from Jean-Marc. I love it! TRESOR by Lancome "possesses a blend of lilac and apricot, with lower notes with amber and musk."

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

 

réveillon

Maisonvalbonne
Revving it up in the town of Valbonne.

réveillon (ray-veh-ohn) noun, masculine
  1. Christmas Eve Dinner, New Year's Eve Dinner, midnight supper
      (réveillon de Noël, reveillon du Nouvel An)
  2. Christmas / New Year's Eve party

Great French-themed books for children, by Catherine Stock:
"A Spree in Paree" and "A Porc in New York". The illustrations are delightful!

                               *     *     *
Today's quote:
Le Père Noël ne fait jamais de réveillon dans sa maison, car il rentre au mois de mai ; ce n'est plus la saison. Santa Claus never has Christmas Eve dinner at his house as he returns in May -- when it's no longer the season. --Francis Blanche
.

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

Preparations are under way for tonight's réveillon and, once again, there isn't much for me to do but twiddle thumbs—in between and among twiddling a bit of dust, twiddling together a bit of decor, and twiddling over to our marriage armoire to check on place settings. We'll need 12 this year.

Santa's helpers, disguised as everyday Frenchmen, are here to stir up the savories and sweets. Cousin Audrey is making la soupe de courge with ginger and pears. Uncle Jacques is bringing oysters. My mother-in-law (en route now from Marseilles, along with my oyster-bearer beau-frère) has in her overnight bag her chocolate cake and some homemade "carrot bonbons" (she is also toting smoked salmon and foie gras)...

Jean-Marc is marinating garrigue sanglier for roasting in our cheminée. Aunt Marie-Françoise is bringing her gâteau de marron and soup bowls for her daughter's potage... Aunt Michou (a.k.a. "Michounette"), in from Paris, will surely have in her bag une devinette.

We've friends here from Texas as well: Phyllis and Tim. Twelve jars of peanut butter arrived ahead of them (this, after the last 12 and the 12 before that—enough to twiddle the tastebuds of any expat).

As for me: I am in charge of finding matching napkins, plates, and glasses. Best untwiddle my fingers and toes, and get to that now, illico presto!

"Joyeux Noël à tous et à tous une bonne nuit!"*

French Vocabulary

le réveillon (m) = Christmas Eve dinner; la soupe (f) de courge = pumpkin soup; le beau-frère (m) = brother-in-law; garrigue sanglier (le sanglier de la garrigue) = wild boar from the Mediterranean scrublands (that is, the field behind our farmhouse!); la cheminée (f) = fireplace: le gâteau (m) de marron = chestnut cake; le potage (m) = thick soup; la devinette (f) = guessing game (anyone's guess); illico presto = right away; Joyeux Noël à tous et à tous une bonne nuit! = Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

     Le Petit Larousse Illustre 2007: an exceptional French dictionary!
     Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
    
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote:
Le Père Noël ne fait jamais de réveillon dans sa maison, car il rentre au
mois de mai ; ce n'est plus la saison.
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/reveillon.mp3
http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/files/reveillon.wav

Shopping:
Got Nintendo? Get "My French Coach".
Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French, no matter your age. The simple touch screen interface lets you spend less time learning the game and more time learning French. The game includes 8 touchpad mini-games to sharpen your skills at your own pace, and lets you track your progress with charts showing your performance learning the
language.

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

 

libérer

Arbre_vines

libérer (lee-bay-ray) verb
  to free

I received this quote as an early birthday present from Jules (my mother). I hope your inner (or outer) artist will enjoy it to.

J'ai vu un ange dans le marbre et j'ai ciselé jusqu'à l'en libérer.
I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.
--Michelangelo
.

Column
Disclaimer: the following newsletter -- gazette, vignette, billet -- whatever it is that you sometimes, often kindly, call it... may not be coherent, elegant, or even relevant. It may not follow the rules of style, it may not flow, it may not rhyme or even count its toes (if indeed words on paper are wont to count those

I know. A period and "end parenthesis" are missing from that last paragraph (she says, rolling up her sleeves for this renegade essay, a charivari* of worn-out words that just won't die). Welcome to a writer's life. Writing is (when it is not) a disease, one that pesters, pokes, and brings on chills. One that would ultimately have its victim gallivanting around in men's heels (anything for a story).

(Pausing now, to sip a third cup of coffee and to click open an incoming email from Anu Garg.* The subject line reads "A.Word.A.Day--jabberwocky" ("meaningless speech or writing"), which brings me back to our rip-roaring senseless essay, a slapped-together story minus congruity, lucidity and, most of all apology.

Did I mention that tomorrow I turn 40?

"Forty used to be OLD!" my grandmother tells me, as I lie in bed, portable phone to my ear, amazed at how Utah might as well be one block away. My grandmother's voice makes its way over the Land of the Free, the ocean, across France, and over to me...

"OLD!" my 89-year-old grandmother's words echo. I pull the receiver away from my ear, not sure whether to be inspired or hot-wired by her comment. She's just "stirring the pit," my mom would point out. (Only Mom uses another word for "pit" -- one beginning with an "s" and rhyming with "hit".)

And while my grandmother's words stir me, on this, the eve of turning forty -- hot-wired, or inspired, her message is now clear to see: Forget about gravity and what "used to be" --  these matter little in light of eternity.
                                                       *     *     *
Last month my sh(p)it-stirring grandmother lost some of her feist (not a real word, but remember THIS is a renegade "birthday essay" heist). She learned that she is eligible for hospice. For once, between puffs from an oxygen tank, she admitted that she was afraid: hospice seems to her like a "full stop".

I've a mind to tell my grand-mère* to rip out the punctuation To forget about "full stop" To ignore condemning commas To let the modifiers dangle ... whatever those are...

...And to, as the "rest home renegade" that she is, rewrite her future as she pleases and, especially, to leave us guessing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le charivari (m) = hullabaloo; Anu Garg = author, wordsmith; la grand-mère (f) = grandmother

More about my grand-mère in this book "Words in A French Life"
In Film: Paris Je T'aime: Stories of Love. From the City of Love


:: Audio File ::
Listen to today's word and quote:
Libérer. J'ai vu un ange dans le marbre et j'ai ciselé jusqu'à l'en libérer.
Download liberer.mp3

Download liberer.wav
.
Shopping:
Le Petit Larousse Illustre 2007: an exceptional French dictionary!
Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Beginner's Program
Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
Roger & Gallet Lavande/Lavender Perfumed Soaps

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

 

cul sec

Serignan_courtyard

cul sec! (kew sek)
  bottoms up! down the hatch! cheers!

The expression refers to leaving the bottom of a glass (cul) dry (sec), having emptied its contents. The French definition is "Boire un verre d'une seule traite." "To drink a glassful in one gulp".

                                    *     *     *
Cake update: I've posted my mother-in-law's chocolate cake recipe over at the Pif (that's "peef") blog: http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/recipe
.

Column
Fifty kilometers north of Avignon, in the toasting, teetering town of Tulette, there is a little watering hole disguised as a proper buvette.* Chouette!*

There, at a table by the window, two expat-strangers conversed in a formal style called "get-to-know".

With set faces and serious eyes, the women -- stiff and secure behind their fruity Mai Tais (OK, the drink part's a lie*) ...

...were about to unwittingly zap that suffocating "small talk" trap...
When in walked a drunkard who all but sat in their laps.

In slavering French, with a thirst that vodka couldn't quench, our slurry seatmate began to relate...

...babbling on in a futuristic French tense, in a language so evolved that it made little sense.

"Cul sec!"* said he, raising his glass.
"Cul sec!" he sang. "Cul sec!" he sneezed.
Meanwhile his timid tablemates shared knowing glances, mouthing doubts about "was the guy tipsy?"
"Cul sec!" slurred he in what was possibly repartee.

It was thanks to this French equation (for all the man wanted, in the end, was a "cul sec!" translation) that the women, once straight-faced strangers and stiff, became fast friends in a language jiff.

                                       *     *     *

Seated across from me, and Mr. Tipsy, was the writer who recently reviewed my book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: la buvette = refreshment room (café); chouette! = cool!; lie = (we were just drinking coffee); cul sec! = bottoms up!

In books/France: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly:
"This heartbreaking story by a uniquely gifted writer is about transforming pain into creativity, human despair into literary miracle." -- Elie Wiesel

Gifts and more:
"FRENCH in 10 minutes a day" is a fun, dynamic and engaging way to begin your love affair with French.
"La France" Magnetic Puzzle -- learning tool includes the French regions and French departments with their specialties
In French Music: Pop à Paris - More Rock n' Roll and Mini Skirts
French Country Diary 2008 (Calendar)

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

 

cafard

Serignan_christmas
In the town of Sérignan (Vaucluse)


cafard (ka-far) noun, masculine
  1. cockroach
  2. melancholy, blues (depression)

Chaque minute de cafard vous prive de soixante secondes de bonheur.
Each depressing minute deprives you of sixty happy seconds.
  --Blas de Otero

In books: Provence: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource by Barrie Kerper
.

Column
Chocolate cake. It is one of the things that springs to mind when I think of my belle-mère. I see her cautiously stepping off the train. In her right hand there is a plastic Monoprix sac; in her left, a small overnight bag.

"Attention!" she warns, as I reach for her sacoches. "Le gâteau..." she says, indicating her bag. Knowing her, she's wrapped that cake with a few rounds of aluminum foil before balancing it on top of the few personal items in her carry-on. In the shopping bag she's got the latest editions of Voici and Elle, magazines which she'll hand down to me when she returns to Marseilles after her weekend stay. She's in good form when she's reading gossip and looking at the fashion magazines, and when she's baking cake.

As for the chocolate cake, she's not sure if it will be any good. She's still building back her confidence after quitting cake completely, or the baking of cakes, I should say. At one point in her life, making chocolate cake was akin to climbing Kilimanjaro: a seemingly impossible feat. That period, which
Jean-Marc respectfully refers to as "her tired moment" was, truly, dark as the chocolate in her famous gâteau and minus a merciful dose of sweetness.

Around that time we were organizing a joint baptism/birthday party for our daughter (her older brother, by 2.4 years, was about to turn three). The food was to be catered... except for the dessert. Jean-Marc planned to ask his mom to make her chocolate cake.  

Given my belle-mère's "fatigue," this seemed a cruel request. "Are you sure we can't order the cakes from one of the dozens of bakers in the area?" I asked. "Ne t'inquiètes pas, chérie," Don't worry, Jean-Marc assured me. It would make his mother happy to make the cakes.

When Michèle-France learned that her son had "ordered" from her three chocolate cakes--THREE!--she all but fled under her unmade bed. She had no proper cake pans, for one. For two, three, and four, well, let's just say that there began a scramble--a veritable scurry--to get the cakes together in one blues-busting hurry!

One week later the cakes made it across the French countryside, to the vineyard in Trets-en-Provence where the festivities had already begun. Jean-Marc greeted his mother, helping her out of my brother-in-law's car, and paused to inspect the cakes. Their undulating chocolate surface only hinted at the transformative effort involved.

Later, I noticed Jean-Marc inquiring about the dessert, asking his friends if they had enjoyed his mother's very special cake. With each friend's affirmative nod, I followed my husband's eyes over to his mother's and watched as he added an encouraging wink. I searched my mother-in-law's face which seemed to lift; where once numbness and shadows had gripped, there was now a noticeable shift.

A soft light, like the glowing embers of a fire after midnight, took flight, there behind the once pained regard of a woman whose eyes now reflected her son's delight.

Now, in those lively, soul-filled eyes, I saw that my husband's "cruel" request had been compassion in disguise.
                                        *    *     *

la belle-mère
mother-in-law

attention!
careful!

la sacoche
bag

le gâteau
cake

Read popular French magazines and speak like a native!: Voici (gossip) & Elle (fashion)
.

Terms & Expressions:
un coup de cafard = a fit of depression
avoir le cafard = to be feeling down
.
:: Audio File ::
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce this French word & quote: Cafard. Chaque minute de cafard vous prive de soixante secondes de bonheur.
Download cafard.mp3
Download cafard.wav
.

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

 

avouer

Holiday_photo_2

avouer (ah-voo-ay) verb
  to confess (one's love)
  to admit to (a crime), to own up to

Que toutes nos pensées soient telles que si on te demandait à tout instant ce que tu penses tu puisses toujours l'avouer sans honte. May all our thoughts be such that if one asks you at any moment what you are thinking you can always admit it without shame. --Marcus Aurelius

                                     *     *     *
A great review!: Please don't miss Susan Sparkman's review of my book "Words in a French Life"
.

Column
I admit it. Je l'avoue. I set up an email account for my brother-in-law, Jacques, announced his status (célibataire!*) in a post I wrote entitled "beau-frère,"* then proceeded--minus my share of  "savoir-vivre"* -- to get entangled in yet another moral snare.

Alright, I admit it: I snooped! I snuck into that Gmail* account, clicked open the courriels,* and read my beau-frère's fan mail!

...this before he even knew what had hit him or, I should say, before *I* even knew what had hit me; for what was that if not a moment of folly?

To be fair, and before the pouring on of tar and feathers (would you dare?), it was concern for clarity (would Jacques understand the correspondents' English?), injury (would someone send hate mail?), and duty (surely it was my duty to field the courriels?) that turned me into self-appointed email intermediary.

                             *     *     *
Post note:  I admit it. Je l'avoue... I set up a Facebook account for my brother-in-law, too! (Open to all--including future pen pals comme vous!*). To access the link, you may need to sign up for a Facebook account (takes only a minute). "Jack's Friends" is open to everyone!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: le (la) célibataire = single man or woman; le beau-frère (m) = brother-in-law (you can read the post here); le savoir-vivre (m) = social etiquette; gmail = Jacques' address; le courriel (m) = email; comme vous = like you
.
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "avouer" and today's French quote:
Avouer. Que toutes nos pensées soient telles que si on te demandait à tout instant ce que tu penses tu puisses toujours l'avouer sans honte.
Download avouer.mp3

Download avouer.wav
.
Shopping & Gift ideas:
Roger & Gallet Lavande/Lavender Perfumed Soaps
Michel Thomas Speak French For Beginners: 10-CD Program
Words in a French Life -- in bargain book form, while supplies last!
In Film: A Good Year

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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mangeoire

Chocolate_trough_2
If a chocolate trough existed, it might be behind these doors.

mangeoire (mahn-zhwar) noun, feminine

  1.  trough, manger (animals) ; feeding dish (birds)
  2.  crèche (Christ child's crib)

:: Audio File ::
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and proverb: Download mp3 or Wav

           Cheval affamé nettoie sa mangeoire.
            A starving horse cleans its trough.


In music: 21 Christmas Songs in French and English.

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

Reading to my Francophone children in their native tongue is a humbling, sometimes humiliating experience. Not only for the "pause pronunciation"—child-issued breaks in which I must stop reading in order to repeat a French word that I have tripped up on—but also for the words that I still do not know: both French... and in English.

Thankfully, not all "readings" are cause for reprimand. De temps en temps, there are eye-opening moments when suddenly, more than a word making sense, the world seems to take on new meaning as well.

It was while reading a chapter called "The birth..." or "La naissance de Jésus" to my daughter that I felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes. An English word with which I've had but a yearly encounter—usually during the holiday season—suddenly defined itself as its French counterpart moved up my vocal chords and exited in a French chorus of sound and meaning. The text preceding the word (indicated between asterisks, below) only served to set the dramatic stage:

Là, dans la saleté et entre les animaux, elle mit son bébé au monde. Puis elle l'enveloppa chaudement et, comme il n'y avait pas de berceau, elle le déposa dans *une mangeoire* pour qu'il puisse dormir...

("There, in the filth and between the animals, she brought her baby into the world. Then she wrapped him warmly and, as there was no cradle, she put him down in a *feeding trough* so that he could sleep.")

Replacing the word "manger" with "feeding trough", its equivalent, gives the account an even more heartrending effect; "manger" is poetic, while "feeding trough" effectively evokes the brutal bed that was the only resting place for the delicate newborn.

                                        *     *     *

As for those instances of humiliation—whether in fumbling through French text before a ten-year-old... or in the stories that I have lived and that will never be told—my mind now calls up a peaceful bergerie, wherein an unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility; this, instead of me.

French Vocabulary

de temps en temps = from time to time; La Naissance de Jésus = The Birth of Jesus (from the book "Grande Bible Pour Les Enfants," Chantecler edition); la bergerie (f) = shelter (sheepfold)

In books/France: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly:
"This heartbreaking story by a uniquely gifted writer is about transforming pain into creativity, human despair into literary miracle." —Elie Wiesel
.

Gift ideas and more:
In Games: Play Paris Smarts and explore the city of baguettes, cafes, and fashion! Pick one of the 60 beautiful cards and find out: Which Paris neighborhood makes its own wine? Where can you pick up clothes from last year's runway shows? And how did the "City of Light" get its name?
SmartFrench: Learn French from Real French People
  ...and music is a great language tool! Check out Marc Lavoine

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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inébranlable

Sauzes_chapel_alps
The village of Les Sauzes, not far from the Italian border.

................................................................................
At $6.99* a pop, "Words in a French Life" in bargain book form makes perfect stocking stuffer for the Francophile in your life!
*while supplies of the hardbound remaindered copies last.
...............................................................................

inébranlable (ee-nay-brahn-lahbl) adjective
  unshakeable

Soyez assis avec toute la majesté inaltérable et inébranlable de la montagne. Laissez votre esprit s'élever, prendre son essor et planer dans le ciel. Be seated with all the unchanging and unshakable majesty of the mountain. Let your spirit rise, soar up into the sky and glide. --Sogyal Rinpoché
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Column
"Unshakeable" is a state of being to strive for around here. Only, daily I get tripped up. Come the six o'clock hour and I can meltdown with the best of them. My son and daughter, both "the best" and "THEM!," no longer have meltdowns... of the nose-to-the ground-pound-your-fists-and-cry-like-a-hound
type... but they join me, along with Jean-Marc, Braise, and now Coco, in the end-of-the-day soul slump. Everyone is tired, everyone is hungry, and everyone has the patience of a Parisian taxi driver chaotically circling the Arc de Triomphe, returning to the airport to pick up more tourists.

Thankfully, moods change and it happens that at the dinner table one or even two of us out-of-sorts types will be in an inquiring mind--enough to distract the rest of us into self-forgetting if only for an evening. Last night it was my son Max who wanted to know:

"What is the meaning of 'ee-pee'?"

Ee-pee? It took a moment or two for my son's French accent to register. Next, an image of a long-haired type, bandana tied around the head, pot-stained fingers now forked open and signing the language of peace appeared in my mind's eye.

"You mean 'hippy'," I corrected. Just saying the word "hippy" was enough to lift lamenting lips into a smile. Meanwhile, Jean-Marc came up with a definition for our son. "Hippy...C'est un comportement "cool" qui s'est développé dans les années 60 suite à la libération des moeurs et en refus de la
guerre..."*

As I tried to concentrate on my husband's explanation, I saw our cat, Coco, wrestling again with the Christmas tree ornaments. One quarter of the tree is bare, thanks to our furry feline Grinch.

"Coco!" I snapped. Instantly, Braise appeared at my knee, wagging half of her body. "I didn't call you, Jalouse.* Go lie down!"

When the kids began to laugh, Coco startled, fell off the couch, and landed on all fours. That's when the kids' muffled giggles grew info a snorting uproar.

"Everybody, calm down!" I said, as the food got cold and the kids, distracted, accidentally ran their elbows, and pajamas, through the sauce on the plate below.
"Roll up your sleeves!" I shouted.
The kids did as they were told, accidentally knocking elbows...
"Watch it, Jackie!" Max complained.
"Je ne t'ai rien fait!" I didn't do anything to you!
"Arrêtez, les enfants!" Knock it off, Jean-Marc warned.

Next, another ornament fell off the tree and crashed, startling Coco whose fur flew up as he arched his back. The kids gurgled, Braise barked, and I threw up my arms at wit's end. "Coco!" The cat ignored me, but Braise was back, tail wagging and pretending to be the cat!

"Jackie! Go lie down!" I snapped.
"But I didn't do anything!" my daughter replied.
"I meant, 'Braise'!"
That's when Max laughed at his sister, "ha-ha, go lie down!," who then complained to her father. The edge was getting sharper and I was ON it until I fell off...

"Why is it that every single time we sit down at the table..." I began.
"THIS is a time of rest, a time to enjoy one's meal in complete calm. After a long day, we should be able to sit down and relax...ENJOY each other. We all just need to learn to be COOL," I said, adding "...mommy, especially!" so as not to point to finger at anyone in particular.

A moment of reflection ensued until the "crash!" of yet another paw-swatted ornament disturbed the silence. That's when the room came alive again beginning with Max, who had a behavioral suggestion for his edgy entourage.

"Why don't we all become ee-pees?" he offered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
References: Jean-Marc's hippy (also hippie) definition = Hippy...It is a behavior--"cool"--that was developed in the 60's following the freeing up of stuffy customs and as an anti-war statement; la jalouse (f) = the jealous one

     In French music: ZEN by Zazie
     In DVD: French for Kids: Learn French
.
:: Audio File ::
Inébranlable. Soyez assis avec toute la majesté inaltérable et inébranlable de la montagne. Laissez votre esprit s'élever, prendre son essor et planer dans le ciel.
Download inebranlable.mp3
Download inebranlable.wav


Shopping:
French cosmetics: Caudalie: A true Vinotherapie® Spa experience
French film: La Vie en Rose

In books: Christmas in the Trenches:
"In 1914, British and German troops were dug into trenches in France, facing one another across the barbed wire and barren ground called No Man's Land. On Christmas Eve, the British soldiers heard the Germans singing Stille Nacht and joined in." --From School Library Journal

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