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Entries from March 2014

loufoque meaning + first poppies + chapter translation!

Poppy coquelicot
If a poppy can bloom on the first of March, can a couple of errant cats appear after 6 days away? Photo taken in our field of olive trees. The flowers may have bloomed as early as the end of February!

loufoque (loo-fohk)

  1. madcap, zany, nutty
  2. wild, bizarre

Audio File: Listen to today's word and terms: Download MP3 or Wav

une aventure loufoque = madcap adventure
un chat loufoque = crazy cat
une histoire loufoque = absurd story
une idée loufoque = crazy idea

Update: Cats still gone
Thank you for your outpouring of support, after Pancho and Lily, our 5 month old kitties, disappeared. Your caring and witty and informative stories here (and again here) brought a smile in appreciation of these zany, intuitive and mysterious felines. I will let you know if they return, meantime, I need your help with something else....

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

Fear, anticipation, insomnia, giddiness, short-temperedness, perfect love.... Like the week leading up to childbirth these past days have been a roller-coaster of emotion. Publication date is fast approaching! A few more punches on this keyboard and I can turn in the final chapter of "First French Essais" to my book angels!

But, no, that would be too easy. Trop fastoche! When your alter ego goes by the name of Loufoque, you just gotta go chasing shiny objects--at the precise moment when life is calling for you to stand still, and deliver!

Like a cat who spots a glimmer of shiny foil, I've gone chasing a gum wrapper as it skips across a field of poppies, carried by the wind. It may seem no more than a flimsy reward, elusive and uncertain at that, but to me the object of this chase is most meaningful!

Enough with the metaphors, let me tell you clearly what has happened:

FE front-revised

Moments before my book was to go into publication I had an inspiration! Why not translate the very last chapter about the man on the cover of the book? This would be a double cadeau! One, readers would enjoy reading an all French chapter and, two, the hero of the chapter would be able to understand what is being said about him (Mr. Farjon does not speak English). 

Wouldn't you know this wild-haired idea would come first thing Sunday morning? Excited as I was, I didn't dare contact Erin, my book's "interior architect." After all, Erin, like me, should be observing the Sabbath

And then there was Carol, my reader in Belgium, whom I hired to do the French spell-checking. She had begun translating chapter one (for a future French edition)--but could she skip to the last chapter and get it back to us in 24 hours? C'était le défi!

Meantime, Erin and I were saying our mea culpas to God as we worked away the sacred day....

By Monday morning I had heard back from Carol, who had joined in the challenge: J'accept le défi! she answered, and was off like a rocket. Six hours later she had finished the translation!

Ouf! At this lucky point I'm done chasing shiny gum wrappers. It's time to wrap up this project. But I just need to be sure that some of the ideas in that last chapter were not lost in translation. Here's where you come in, dear reader! 

Would you mind having a look at Carol's translation? You won't even have to say your mea culpas to God--because today is Wednesday! 

For those who would like to see the French translation, click here. And for those of you who would rather leave the computer for now--to go outside and chase shiny gum-wrappers--bonne chasse. Keep pursuing those glimmers of ideas that lead you to your goals.

To comment on this post, click here.

Temple GrandinBook trivia: "First French Essais" shares a link with Temple Grandin's memoir "The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's". Here's how: the "book angels" that designed it and the previous book also designed Temple Grandin's book! (On second thought, maybe this is interesting only to me?--and other Temple Grandin fans!)


French Vocabulary
trop fastoche = too easy
loufoque = zany
le cadeau = gift
le défi = challenge
= whew!


Smokey's phrase of the day: jouer à la balle. Here's our golden returning from a game of catch. But something else has caught my eye: this euphorbia plant. They grow all over the field. I hoped this variety to be euphorbia peplus, aka, "cancer weed" (for its use in treating skin lesions), but, on closer look, it does not resemble these.

Wine jugs
Beside the boules or pétanque court, a line a slurring fans await the next match...

There you go, Smokey. You keep those boys in line!

On my way back from the poppy patch, Jean-Marc and I had a window-to-porch argument. I looked up at him, swearing those were poppies I'd seen (opening photo). But he insists poppies won't grow this early. Pfft! No use arguing with a vigneron (wine farmer). By the way, Chief Grape is staying home this year, but the USA Wine tour goes on!:

Meet-ups: The Wine Women & Kristi's in Paris!
Cousin Audrey of Domaine Banneret and Caroline Jones, new owner of Domaine Rouge-Bleu, will begin their Excellent USA Wine Tour soon. Will they visit your city? Look here!

Paris Talk! I'll join Adrian Leeds on April 8th at her Après-Midi talk. I would love to meet you if you are in the City of Light. Even if you can't make it, be sure to hit the "maybe" button on the Facebook page and I'll bring you with me in my thoughts!

Now that is a wild orchid. Just don't tell Chief Grape--or he may have something else to say!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Ways to say you are hurting (French expressions)

Back of house and centaur flower (c)

My son and his friend Anto helped come up with this list of Ways to say you are hurting, but often the look on one's face is enough to convey the message of tristesse, or sadness. (Photo taken in the back yard, where our cats love to play.)

Les differentes expressions pour exprimer la souffrance:

je suis triste = I am sad
ça ne va pas du tout = things aren't going well at all
ce n'est pas la forme = not feeling so great
je déprime = I'm depressed
je ne me sens pas bien = I don't feel well

Audio File: listen to Anto read the list of Ways to Say Your Sad in French
Download MP3 or Wav

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

The cats are gone. There is no gentler way to say it, not even to myself. For those who wrote in when we first got Pancho and Lily, warning us to keep our cats indoors--please don't say I told you so! I couldn't feel any worse than I already do and any reminders would only kick at my heart.

Pancho and Lily went missing Thursday, hours before they were scheduled to be spayed and neutered. I know, I should have had them locked in the house. Instead, our 5-and-a-half month old cats were enjoying their morning ritual: climbing the olive and fig trees in our yard and chasing Smokey's tail as he sat wagging it below the clothesline, watching his human pin up socks and underwear en étendant le linge.

The last time I saw Pancho I was heading back from the clothesline. I set down my panier à linge and collected our cat into my arms. Like a warm towel fresh off the line, he felt so good. Pancho is the cuddlier of the two chats and we have a soft spot for him as he suffers from separation anxiety, or la névrose d'abandon. (He was not 5 weeks old when given to us and the emotional scars were evident in the way he suckled all the time--his paw or my hand or the pillow case--anything to get back that feeling of mama's closeness). 

Pancho and Lily
               Pancho, left, Lily (his sister) is on the right.

After a good long câlin, we all went about our duties for the day: for me, there was a post to write about our recent trip to Serre Chevalier, for Smokey there was the business of chewing on sticks (or what he likes to pretend to be "flute practice") and for Pancho and Lily there were trees to climb, dangling laundry to swat at and the vegetable patch (so much fun to burst through the parsley "curtains," startling the gardener on the other side. How I fall for the cats' antics every time!).

Our golden, Smokey. A survivor and an inspiration. We got his mom from the pound, and him from Heaven.

By lunchtime, I had finished my post and was slapping together a sandwich in our makeshift kitchen (the living room, where we're camping out during renovations) when a distant questioning ricocheted through my mind: Mais où sont les chats?

I didn't worry too much about it, thinking that we'd soon cross paths again. Still, it was strange that Pancho and Lily had not eaten the treat Jean-Marc had left them in their bowls. The chicken skin was still there, untouched.

After lunch and a short nap, I had set out to weed the kitchen garden when that nagging doubt came back as I worked my way around le persil, or parsley: Mais où sont les chats?

That is when reality hit. Pancho and Lily were gone!

A sickly feeling came over me. A horrible intuition that they hadn't just run off.... Perhaps it was paranoia, but I could not help feeling our cats were the victim of foul play. 

"Not foul play!" Jean-Marc assured me (though birds were--in my husband's opinion--a key to this mystery. Had the cats' instincts kicked in, and now they were off with the birds of springtime? And speaking of instincts, was the vet correct when she guessed the cats had sensed the upcoming sterilization--and disappeared so as to avoid it?).

I thought about one or the other explanations. I remembered waking up that morning of the doctor's appointment, and my husband's comment. "Listen!" he said, "Can you hear the birds? C'est le printemps!" We had lingered there in bed, listening to the chirp parade going on outside our window. The birdsong made me giddy and I bounded out of bed, intent on rejoicing for this, the day that God had made!

But by evening there was not one high note left to reach for. No more birdsong--only a deadpan atmosphere. Even the dogs looked depressed, huddled beside the front door. As I turned the lock, my ears trembled from the sound of la fermeture. The cats were still on the other side... somewhere.

Normally at this point in these missives, the story would lift. The stories always lift! And then there is a happy ending. But at this point, after last night's heavy rainfall--and still no cats this morning--the only way for that to happen would be, for once, to not end this histoire.

And isn't that what Hope is?: a never-ending story.

                                   *    *    *

I moved Pancho and Lily's bed outside. All their belongings are intact, inside. Brushing my teeth this morning, I stumbled over their jingle-bell ball. Reaching down to pick it up, I wondered where to put it.

Comments and a Post Note: Thank you for your support. I really need it at this time. I apologize to cat lovers out there, whose hearts are as heavy as mine is this morning. I didn't mean to let you down. From the moment these cats came into our care, I took their well-being to heart, giving Pancho and Lily all I could. If, as some of you may say, I am responsible for their demise by choosing to let them play outside, then I will have to live with this horror in my heart.

  Roquette or arugula
In the backyard potager, where roquette, or arugula, is blossoming, Smokey is on the lookout for Lily, for where Lily goes, Pancho follows

French Vocabulary
en étendant le linge = while hanging out the laundry
le panier à linge = laundry basket
le câlin = the cuddle, hug
mais où sont les chats? = but where are the cats?
le persil = parsley
c'est le printemps = it's springtime
la fermeture = closing
l'histoire (f) = story
le potager = kitchen garden, vegetable patch

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!