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Entries from December 2011

se tromper

laundry line wooden shutters europe patina wall blue
A woman's work is never done. Personally, I'll take the job of hanging out laundry... and let my husband patch up the concrete! (Photo taken in Croatia, a few summers ago...)

se tromper (seuh-trom-pay)

    : to be mistaken, to be wrong

tout le monde peut se tromper = anyone can make a mistake
si je ne me trompe = if I'm not mistaken
se tromper d'heure = to mistake the time
que l'on ne s'y trompe pas = let there be no mistake about it 

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

Tu te trompes complètement.
You are completely mistaken 

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Sainte Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here. 

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

Tuesday. I am sitting on the edge of the bed, putting on my make-up. It is around 10:30 am. The washing machine is whirling; in the room beside me, I've hung out the previous load on the étendoir. There is homemade soup (potimarron) on the stove, downstairs. Just up the hall, in my office, my book manuscript is open. I left it moments ago, pour respirer un peu.

Just as I reach for my mascara, I hear my husband's footsteps in the hall. I roll my eyes and shake my head. It's just like clockwork! The minute I am sitting down, seemingly pampering myself, my better half walks in! "Better," because he's certainly been working harder than me this morning!  

Why is it that when I'm slaving away with the mop he's never around... and then, suddenly, when I pull out my mascara wand—poof!—he appears?

Sheesh. I am only sitting in bed putting on makeup because we have a visitor this morning, otherwise I might be doing something much more industrious, such as organizing the mud room (and isn't it high-time for that?!).

Mud aside, I do not like to be "caught" like this, seemingly whiling away the day. All that is missing from this incriminating picture is the proverbial box of bonbons. If I'm such a lady of leisure, then shouldn't the bed be littered with gold foil wrappers by now? 

By now the footsteps are getting louder and my husband has arrived at the bedroom door. I'm just waiting for him to react as he usually does, on seeing me grooming my lashes:

Tu vas au bal?

Only this time, I don't give him the chance to tease me. Instead, I blurt out:

"In case you are wondering, no, I am not going to the ball. You may not think I have anything better to do... but I can assure you...!"

Having accidentally stepped into the line of fire, my better half steps back:
"Chérie, tu te trompes complètement!"

He is right. I am sorely mistaken. The truth is each of us works hard and there is no need to explain ourselves or to keep a scoreboard. I can let down my defenses and get on with dying my eyelashes... though the job might be a little less tedious had I a box of chocolates beside me. 

As for who does more around here, I imagine it is a hot topic in most households. Everyone from married couples to roommates to brothers and sisters (I hear my kids "mais c'est toujours moi qui le fait!") risks being accused of living the Life of Riley. Even if you are single and living alone, there's the temptation to blame the coffee machine for not living up to its side of the bargain.

Some believe in the Pull Your Own Weight factor, but we might do well to respect the other's idea of rest, whether that is watching a football game or sitting down for a cup of tea. I will try to remember this at the end of the day, after I've returned home from the one-hour school run only to rustle up dinner while my better half is now lounging before the crackling fire, listening to music while shelling walnuts!

How those shells suddenly remind me of so many bonbon wrappers strewn across the bed.... Ah là là, it looks like it's his turn to be mistaken for a lad of leisure!


Le Coin Commentaires 

Click here to comment on this story or simply answer this question: Who, besides you (of course!) does the most work at your home? Ever feel as my kids do: "c'est toujours moi qui doit le faire!"

Have a minute for another story? Read "Fluffy Dice" or "Trying to Wrestle a Sou out of You Know Who" !


Potimarron soup recipe? You can go all out and fancy it up (see Laura's delicious recipe), or you can do like me and let your lazybones bring out the best of the squash in three steps:

  1. Scrub the potimarron.
  2. Leaving the skin on (for a colorful, vitamin-rich soup) chop the squash into chunks (after hollowing out the inside. You might toast the seeds with sel de guerand or sprinkle them in your garden... the birds and the earth will love them)
  3. Boil the cubes in water (around 20-30 minutes), with one or two cubes of organic soup stock. Use a blender-wand to mix the soup, et voilà. Garnish with parsley--it full of iron and good for la mauvaise haleine. Of course salt and pepper and a little bit of cream and some cheese (Jean-Marc loves to add Roquefort to his soup) makes it even better!


French Vocabulary

un étendoir = clotheshorse (type of indoor clothesline)

le potimarron = a kind of squash

pour respirer un peu = to take a breather

tu vas au bal = are you going to the ball?

le bonbon = candy

Chérie, tu te trompes complètement = Dear, you are sorely mistaken

c'est toujours moi qui fait tout! = it's always me who does everything!

la mauvaise haleine = bad breath


sweet potato golden retriever wood deck

Smokey and the Sweet Potato (or "Pooch and la Patate Douce")


sweet potato golden retriever wood deck

How to say "busted" in French?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Joyeuses Fêtes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Does the Christmas rush "kill" the joy of the holidays? And re gift-giving, how much is too much and how little, too little? or is it all just over the top? Are we remembering the reason for the season? Read on in today's story column. 

 tuer (too-ay)

    : to kill

tuer le temps = to kill time

Reverse Dictionary

killjoy (spoilsport) = un(e) rabat-joie
to kill two birds with one stone = faire d'une pierre deux coups
to make a killing = réussir un bon coup 

Audio File: listen to our daugher, Jackie, read these French words from today's story:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

    Trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux.
    Too many presents kill the presents.

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Sainte Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here. 

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

Jackie got a head start on the holiday season by drawing up her liste de voeux in November. Since, she has taken every opportunity to remind us onetime Santas just what it is she would like for Noël.

I think that reciting her Christmas list gives our girl as much joy as the items listed on it will one day give her.

"Jackie," I tease, "What was it you said you wanted for Christmas?" I watch my 14-year-old's face light up as I listen to the familiar rundown.

Despite her seeming greed for the gift-giving season, there are only four items on Jackie's list: one costs nothing (our daughter is asking for a certain droit—hint, read her bilingual post on the subject), though another item seems a bit pricey!

Because I doubt she will get everything on her list, I ask Santa's darling to write down a few more wishes for us clueless Père Noëls. Instead, she bowls me over with this response.

"Trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux!

Comment? Have I heard my daughter correctly?  Did she just say that "too many presents kill the presents?"

My mind calls forth a parade of images in which children are ripping open brightly wrapped boxes only to quickly push them aside and reach for more gifts. Did they even see what was in the box? one wonders. Perhaps they did... and the joy and the fun are simply in opening the presents?

Or perhaps trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux as Jackie sees itI am so moved by this most recent leap toward maturity that I want to buy my daughter everything on her list and then some... but wouldn't this be defeating the purpose?

Let's see, what was the purpose?... (Perhaps I should add "memory recall" to my own Wish List?) Oh, yes: gift-giving and the balance between underdoing it and overdoing it. As we ask ourselves this question this holiday season, let's not lose sight of the greater picture: Love, Joy, Peace, and Forgiveness—these are among the greatest gifts of all. I think I'll take my daughter's example, and recite them—like a cherished Liste de Voeux—at every chance. More than that, I'm going to wrap them up right now, in the biggest most glittery box, and send them off to you... Joyeuses Fêtes


Le Coin Commentaires
Love, joy, peace... what to add to this list? What would you like to wish others this season? Leave your wish in the comments box. You might also share your gift-giving philosophy and any thoughts you are having this time of year. Merci beaucoup!


On a grammar note, Jackie tells me that the expression she shared was inspired by the following popular expression: trop de... tue/tuent le/la...  Some examples are:

Trop de travail tue le travail (too much works kills the work) 

Trop de gâteaux tuent le gâteau (too much cake kills the cake)

Trop d'amusement tuent l'amusement (too much fun kills fun)


French Vocabulary

la liste de voeux = wish list

le Noël = Christmas

le droit = right

le Père Noël = Santa Claus

comment = what's that? what did you say?

Joyeuses Fêtes = Happy Holidays


Paris soup kitchen
Maybe the question is not "how much to give?" but rather, "How can I help?" In front of one of Paris's soup kitchens, the sign reads reads, simply: "Help us if you can".

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

avoir des oursins dans les poches

Sea urchin oursin sea hedgehog
A sea urchin, or oursin, is very prickly. You wouldn't want to step on one while wading out to sea! Today's popular French expression has a funny take on these underwater creatures...

avoir des oursins dans les poches

    : to be stingy ("to have sea urchins in one's pockets")

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

The other day, while allowing myself to soak in a hot bath (instead of taking another one of those speed showers, this, during the 21 Day Publishing Challenge), my daughter ran into the room:

"Maman, someone is knocking on the door!"

"Then why aren't you answering it?" I snapped. How ironic that the minute you allow yourself a reprieve, Life's whirlwind suddenly picks up again!

"Oh là!" my daughter scolded, unwilling to be anyone's stress scapegoat.

I softened my tone. "Hurry over to the fenêtre and see who's there."

Jackie took her sweet time to glance out the window, to the cours below. "C'est les pompiers."

The firemen? Zut! That could only mean one thing: Calendar Sales! I felt the urge to slip under the bath water and disappear... Instead, I had another of those inspirations.... 

Don't be stupid, I thought. Now's the time to get to know these local rescuers. For so many years I never needed anybody... and then I ran into a health scare that made me wake up to my very weakness and my need for others.

I felt a little guilty about my sudden motivation to greet the pompiers. After all, my automatic response had been to get out of paying for another calendar (by hiding from the pompier-salesmen), until it occurred to me to turn the "invasion" into an opportunity.

I threw on my robe and ran over to the window, careful not to slip across the wet floor. In my most welcoming voice I shouted: 

"Bonjour, Messieurs! J'arrive! Désolée de vous faire attendre!"

"Prenez votre temps!" the firemen replied.

This time I threw on my jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, slippers, and hurried down the stairs. There was no time to cover up the surgical wound on my forehead, so I simply assured myself it didn't matter; after all, here were the firefighter-saviors. They had seen much more than this!

That said, I felt the need to explain the "double cross" or "H" mark on my forehead, which looked, at best, like an accidental calf branding and, at worst, like some sort of freaky occult symbol! Surely the pompiers would think we sacrificed more than grapes here at our so-called "vineyard"!

"Bonjour!" I greeted the pompiers. Pointing to my head, I made what might have been a very bad joke: "I've been burned!" I laughed off the uncomfortable moment, explaining that it was the sun that had made a bad spot on my forehead and that la mauvaise tache had recently been taken off.

The firefighters looked genuinely sympathetic. I quickly switched subjects. "Alors.... voyons... qu'est-ce que ça donne, le calendrier deux-mille-douze?"

The pompiers handed me their calendar for inspection. Remembering my kiss-up-to-the-firemen agenda, I took the time to peruse the calendar, making a point to linger over the scenes of bravery featured in the months of "Mars" (a car fire) and "Juin" (a forest fire).

Still, no matter how self-motivated I was to kiss up to the firefighters, in the hopes that they would remember me in my day of need, I felt that familiar resistance to fork over the cash for the calendar. I guess I was experiencing another attack of les oursins dans les poches, in which those prickly, figurative "sea urchins in my pocket" were preventing me from reaching in for the money just beyond.

I sucked up and reached in any way, in time to finger the 50-euro note that I had grabbed on the way down the stairs. Jean-Marc had just given it to me the day before, and I had high hopes of holding onto it for a while... and then the calendar salesmen arrived!

A new dilemma presented itself: combien donner? Firemen's calendars are not priced. Kind of like restaurant tipping, each citizen gives what he or she feels like giving. This French concept has always been much too vague for me, so I asked the pompiers to spell it out, clearly:

"How much is your average donation?" I inquired.

"Les gens give anywhere from ten to twenty euros," one of the firemen answered. 

Determined not to be a cheapskate (and keeping firmly in mind my agenda...) I began to hand over the 50-euro note, and to ask, politely, for thirty back. Still, I noticed how heavy my arm felt while reaching for the cash... 

That's when I had another inspiration. Couldn't I get a little more value for my money? More than a 16-page calendar? I was a little ashamed of this devil-on-my-shoulder-inspired thought, but it didn't keep my inner radine from acting on the idea.

"Un moment, s'il vous plaît!" I hurried into the house and rooted through the pantry for a couple of unopened smoke alarms. It had been four years since I bought the détecteurs de fumée. I still hadn't installed them... I think I was waiting to buy batteries or something.

I watched as the firemen cut open the dusty boîtes and freed the alarms from the industrial-strength plastic packaging. The men checked the batteries (which, it turns out, came with the units...), showing me how to do the battery test.

I asked the firemen's advice about where, exactly, to place the alarms, and how would I know whether they really worked (again, they pointed out to me the battery-test button...). With each question, the pompiers responded with patience and encouragement. They even praised me for my foresightedness in buying the alarms (graciously overlooking my failure to install them), informing me that in 2012 such alarms would be required by French law.

Fully satisfied with the transaction, I finally handed over the cash for the calendar and the service. I figured I had gotten a lot of value out of the deal.

I did feel a little guilty about wanting to get my money's worth at the pompiers expense, but if it took stinginess to get those lifesaving smoke detectors working, then so be it! 


It's no fun to face up to one's own flaws and so I'll try to be more aware of my tendency to hold on to things (my cash? my time? my ice cream?) and be more open to occasions to put Mom's words into practice: Give! Give as much as you can at every chance! Give, give, give! Though I have literally watched my mom give away her last $20 (to a stranger), I will try to find the balance between keeping and giving. What is that balance? Does anybody know? 


Le Coin Commentaires
To leave a comment on this post, click here. Please take a minute to note what city you are writing in from (my dear dad loves to know!)


Surgery wound update! Some of you have written in, asking me to post a more updated photo of my forehead. Click here to view a photo taken just two days ago.

Book update: today Erin at TLG Graphics will receive the manuscript and begin working on my book's interior! Wish her bon courage!

French Vocabulary

la maman = mom

oh là = hang on a minute there!

la fenêtre = window

la cour =courtyard

c'est les pompiers = it's the firemen

zut! = darn!

Bonjour, Messieurs! J'arrive! Désolée de vous faire attendre!
Hello, gentlemen. I'm on my way. Sorry to make you wait! 

Prenez votre temps = take your time

la mauvaise tache = the bad spot

Alors.... voyons... qu'est-ce que ça donne, le calendrier deux-mille-douze?
So, let's see... what does the 2012 calendar look like?

mars = March

juin = June

avoir un oursin dans la poche = to be stingy, miserly; literally "to have a sea urchin in your pocket" (preventing you from reaching past it to the money just beyond)

combien donner? = how much to give?

le radin/la radine = cheapskate, skinflint

les gens (mpl) = people

un moment, s'il vous plaît = one moment, please

un détecteur de fumée = smoke detector

une boîte = box

Sea urchins oursins prepared rose wine
Jean-Marc loves sea urchins, "les oursins." Do not miss this funny story about the lengths he will go to in order to hunt them off the popular southern island of Porquerolles.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.