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Entries from December 2017

Une triste nouvelle concernant ma belle-mère


It is with great sadness that my family and I announce that Michèle-France--mother, belle-mère and granny extraordinaire--has passed away on Christmas Eve. 

We will share more about her life when we return to France for her funeral, which will take place on January 4th, 4pm local time in France.  

Amicalement, 
Kristi, Jean-Marc, Max, and Jackie 

IMG_20150311_120157.jpg

IMG_20150311_120157.jpg

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support 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


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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Mood swings in French + Catcalling Workmen?

Swing in paris
Une balançoire, or swing, in Paris to illustrate today's word....

une saute d'humeur

    : mood swing


No dog is immune to a mood swing.
Aucun chien n'est à l'abri d'une saute d'humeur

(from the book Tout sur la psychologie d'un chien (All about Dog Psychology)


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

This past Tuesday, nervous about the aller-retour to the big city, I asked my daughter to drive us to visit Grannit (how my French kids spell "Granny"). My belle-mère is in the clinique de réadaptation again. Whereas two years ago I drove twice a week to Marseilles, for Grannit's previous convalescence, these days the thought of what could go wrong, in transit, steals what courage I have left.

Exiting the highway, there seemed to be an accident lurking around every corner. I began to react to "reckless" cars--and they were all reckless in my eyes.

"T'as vu celle-là! Did you see that one!"

"Yes, Mom. He was only merging."

"WATCH OUT! OH MY GOD!"

"Calme-toi, Maman!

Gripping the handlebar above the passenger seat window, I apologize to my 20-year-old chauffeur for my overbearing behavior. I only had two cups of coffee, so caffeine wasn't to blame. Something else was shaking me up. I just couldn't identify what (update: it was only hormones. Only?).

According to French Cosmopolitan (a magazine I read in my 20s. Not in my 40s...or, now, days away from my 50th...), yes, according to Cosmo, during week two of a woman's cycle: "votre niveau de testostérone vous donne un coup de fouet sur le plan mental et physique..." (I thought that meant testosterone was whipping my mental state.  Yes! I agreed! But it really means it was heightening it. Well, it was certainly heightening my anxiety. Turns out estrogen is the culprit there.  To think I'll be 50 in a few days and I still haven't sorted out what hormones are and which does what. But I've known about mood swings ever since buying the book Potatoes Not Prozac).

WHERE ARE THE POTATOES??? OU SONT LES PATATES!!!!! 


Golden retriever smokey resting after his walk
         Smokey knows the feeling!

We eventually made it into the clinic, in time to wish Grannit a happy December 12th birthday. Grannit's eyes would not let me go, but we had to return home before rush hour (!!!).

Determined to be someone my daughter (and our dear Grannit!) can lean on again, I headed out with Smokey this morning to try to begin to master one area of my life (that of being master of my dog). It is a one-step forward, two back, undertaking, this dog walk of ours but we are gaining confidence. Nearing the end of our block, I heard the scraping sound of shears and a group of men cussing from behind the bushes. Their demeanor changed from gruff to polished when, one by one, the workers sent Smokey and me greetings through the leafy hedge that separated them from us. Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! said the men.

I ignored the dubious voice in my head and returned, one by one, every single one of the workers' hellos.

Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!

By the time I arrived at the beginning of the hedge one of the voices manifested in the form of a bearded man wearing a wool bonnet. He was walking towards a van with the words Les Jardins de L'Espérence written across the side. "Bonjour, Monsieur. Tell me about Les Jardins de L'Espérance," I ventured.  I had a sense of what the answer would be and the man responded serendipitously: It was, he said, a kind of solidarity to put those in difficult situations back to work, as well as to help the handicapped. I had the urge to put all those Mr Bonjours to work on our half-trimmed hedge just down the block. And this time my instincts agreed, casually suggesting I wait until my husband returns... to make such a proposition.

Smokey and I walked on, one with a smile, the other, unusually calm-footed (or "-pawed"). Did you see that? I thought. Smokey did not act up when we passed by all those muffled bonjours! Tears were running down my face, not from sadness but from the cold wind. As I wiped them aside in front of the boulangerie two more friendly faces appeared in the form of strangers. Hervé and Francine stopped to inquire about Smokey's head collar, or "gentle leader", which looks like a muzzle.

Oh, non, I assured them, Smokey est très gentil! Yes, they could see that, they said, reaching to pet my golden retriever. But they cautioned that if a more aggressive dog challenged Smokey, my "muzzled" golden retriever would be defenseless! I thanked them for their conseil--but at this moment I was working on building back my courage--not feeding my fears. Besides, as goes dog-walking advice:

Too many cooks spoil the broth!
Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce!

But what a friendly melting pot we'd met by venturing out this morning! Hervé and Francine waved goodbye, casually informing us that they often pass this way each day à la même heure. (They must have mistaken my watery eyes for tears!) 

"Au plaisir. Looking forward to seeing you again," I said, bidding our new friends goodbye and heading home with my dog-in-training. I am so pleased with Smokey's progress...and, I admit, proud of my own, as well.

***
I leave you, Dear Reader, with all good wishes for the holidays. See you in 2018. And would you keep my mother-in-law--our "Grannit"--in your prayers? Let's all remember not to take anything for "Grannit"!

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY

aller-retour = round trip
clinique de réadaptation = rehabilitation center
un coup de fouet = a strong boost 
à la même heure = at the same time
le conseil = advice

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard
In case you missed it,  please read Robert Camuto's article "How Bad Choices (and an old tractor) Killed a Winemaker's Dream". It does a good job summarizing why we sold our vineyard and moved on.

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Portland! They will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines this week in Oregon! If you live nearby, don't miss  seeing them.

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
 
For any questions, please call +33 6 65 21 35 92 or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

Patina in french

To help support this free language journal with a small donation, click here. (Mille mercis! from Kristi). 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support 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


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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


Basculer: How bad choices (and an old tractor) killed a winemaker’s dream: Jean-Marc story is featured in this week's Wine Spectator

Jean-marc handling plow
In this week's Wine Spectator Magazine, Robert Camuto has written a cohesive account of how things fell apart at our vineyard near Bandol. Find a link to the article in the following column.

BASCULER

    : to topple over, to change dramatically

Il y a 15 mois, alors que tout "roulait" pour moi, ma vie et celle de ma famille a peu à peu basculé vers le doute et l'incertitude.
Fifteen months ago, while everything was going so well for me, my life and that of my family's took a turn, little by little, toward doubt and uncertainty.  



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

Before things speed up and this year comes to an end, I would like to thank you, Dear Reader, for the encouragement and support you have given me in the past year of transition. Whether you read some or many of these posts, whether you took a moment to comment on them, or whether you sent in a donation to keep this effort going, your interest in this journal continues to give meaning and purpose to my life.

Donc, je tiens à vous remercier du fond du coeur!
So I don't want to miss this chance to thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Just this morning while scrolling through my Google News feed, I was amazed to see a story about my husband! The piece, in Wine Spectator, comes at a serendipitous time: the closing of the year and the end of our 10-year vineyard story. I hope you will take a moment to read Robert Camuto's latest article and share it with anyone who has ever chased a dream and lost themselves in the pursuit.

The article begins...

Jean-Marc Espinasse sat on the terrace of his new home in the French Provençal coastal town of La Ciotat and contemplated what went wrong. Three years earlier, Espinasse had launched a daring boutique winery less than five miles to the east, in the heart of Bandol.... continue reading this story at WineSpectator.com

  

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com
 
Provence Vacation Rentals - Sablet Home courtyard
 
SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Recommended by readers. Click here for photos.

Cork screwed
Robert Camuto's book makes a great gift for a wine enthusiast! Order here . You can use the previous link to order any item on Amazon, and so help this free word journal. Merci beaucoup!

Finally, don't miss Robert Camuto's article on Jean-Marc and thanks for sharing it!


Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support 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


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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


Les Bienfaits de la Solitude or The Benefits of being alone

Olive farm st cyr sur me
Solitude revives the soul and the senses. Solitude is the crucible of the mind, the good is purified there; the fake evaporates there.
La solitude ravive l'âme et les sens. La solitude est le creuset de l'esprit, le bon s'y épure; le faux s'y évapore. Citation de Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste ; Dictionnaire universel (1800)

Photo taken in St Cyr-sur-Mer, at our former vineyard (there were also these magnificent centuries-old olive trees).

la solitude

    : loneliness

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

When it dawned on me that I would be spending two weeks alone on the eve of my 50th birthday, I began to fear the big D then the big L. I tried brushing off the wave of blues that suddenly cropped up. Would it grow into depression? Don't even say the word!

No, I don't suffer from depression, so chances are slim it would rear its ugly head. But what about Loneliness? I have never considered myself a lonely person - loin de là! But now that my kids are away -- and my husband, too (only for two weeks), I sense a buffer has been removed from me and the world. This has got me thinking about the different buffers I've unconsciously put into place, over the years, that have protected me from...well, from what? 

THE BIG VOID

As a newly-minted adult wine was that buffer. I quit drinking in 2003, at the age of 35, and threw myself into blogging for the next 10 years. I blogged 7 days a week, then 5, then three. Now I blog once or twice a week and try to be there as much as I can for my family. Family, unlike wine or work, is a positive and healthy buffer! (But is a buffer healthy?) 

Now that my family is gone, I've caught myself searching for a new buffer. What about calling friends? Or setting some sort of challenge --like "every day I will take a new risk"? Try out that evangelical church up the street? or meet a stranger? (I went to the church's website and listened to one recorded church service...and knew for sure that I could not sit through an entire hour of preaching!)

I soon tossed out the idea about meeting a stranger every day or even calling a friend every day.  This just wasn't me. I needed to accept this and "just be".

To just be... to be alone with oneself, this is to face that dreaded void.

It's only been a few days now but this time alone has made me realize that my life is like a hamster wheel, or what the French call Metro Boulot Dodo.  As I take the opportunity to get to know myself better, I am careful not to tie myself into some kind of schedule (schedules can be a kind of buffer, can't they?)

Instead, I am walking my dog at odd hours. (Thanks to those of you who wrote in with tips on how to build back confidence after being overpowered by your dog. I bought The Gentle Leader collar and Smokey and I are making progress every day!) 
And just this morning, while out on a walk, I stopped by my favorite free book booth and met a Frenchman d'un certain âge, who was dropping off un roman. We chatted 5 minutes about everything from New York (he collects books on the subject) to the Cévennes (the topic of the book he was dropping off).

As we said goodbye and set off in different directions, I sensed we both enjoyed a new connection to the universe. No buffers necessary.


Telephone booth repurposed book lending giving library golden retriever smokey and kristi
In case you missed the picture of the telephone booth repurposed into free book stand, here it is. Goodbye for now and à bientôt! 

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com
 
Alone
A book makes a wonderful gift, click here to order any title from anywhere (France, UK, and Canada readers can now access these book links.)

Le Creuset products are available here.

Nuxe skincare is a French favorite, order here. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support 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


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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


Third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur + Charlie Chaplin's big French heart

Toit

After I began watching Invisible People (homeless interviews) a series of unusual things happened here in the sunny south of France. Our heater broke. Then it snowed. Then our water heater broke. Then our car would not start. And then our daughter's car broke down! And then I ended up all alone for two weeks.

This is not to say that you will have bad luck if you focus on the homeless. But if some of these things happen to you (if your usual comforts suddenly disappear), it is much easier to relate to the down-and-out...and to the lonely. More about the latter in the next post. For now, I want to share about another of France's bright stars. 

Abbé Pierre's "holy anger" drove him to fight for the rights of the sans-toit, those without a roof over their head.  Read about this fiery Frenchman, below, and thank you for sharing this post with a friend.


TODAY'S WORD
le (la) sans-abri (sahns-ahbree) noun, masculine & feminine
 
    : homeless person

"Sans-abri" means, literally, "without shelter"; les sans-abri = the homeless.
=> SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) is also a term used for the homeless. Les SDF = The homeless

.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...

by Kristi Espinasse


The following post was written in 2007...

Day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personnage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.

"Abbot Peter" was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former Resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.

Like his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity, yielding to the force of desire, was a man of contrasts. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a "holy anger" and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless. He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" (Ta gueule!) after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from immigration.

His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox, as he felt that priests should be able to marry, that gays should be able to adopt, and that women should be able to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri would be his life's mission.

While [ex] President Chirac was said to be bouleversé* by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched me the most as I listened to the midday news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid," his death, it hurts me more than frostbite."

Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station and demanded the microphone during a live broadcast. It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand. Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as with rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food. Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the "Little Tramp") handed over many thousands of francs, with the explanation "the money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".

Abbe pierre and the ragmickers of emmaus
   (book available here)

It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that were to become his followers were also known as the "Ragpickers" by reason of the junk that they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France. For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the "ragpickers' saint".

Activist for the poor for more than five decades, at 5:25 a.m. on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbe Pierre's light went out, when he died in Paris after being hospitalized for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb:

                               "Il a essayé d'aimer." ("He Tried to Love.")

...........................................................................................
References: les sans-abri (mf) = the homeless; boulversé(e) = deeply upset

     

AUDIO FILE
Listen to my daughter, Jackie (soundfile recoreded when she was 10 years old), pronounce today's word and read the French headlines -- from the journal "l'Orient Le Jour":
La mort de l'abbé Pierre, apôtre des sans-abri, bouleverse la France
The death of Abbot Pierre, apostle of the homeless, shatters France
Download wav or Download mp3


FTT GUIDE MPU
Enjoy 62 pages of the best Provence has to offer with this special selection of writings from France Today. Download for FREE

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

Provence Vacation Rentals - Sablet Home courtyard
SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Recommended by readers. Click here for photos.

Words in a french life
Thank you for keeping my book in mind for the holidays! It will make a good gift for a friend or family member and your purchase helps to support this language journal. Mille mercis. Click here to order a copy.

Other gift ideas: Wish everyone Merry Christmas with this Joyeux Noel T-shirt or this one...

French Christmas music here and also here is a popular one

Le grinch
If you shop around, you can find many classics in French on Amazon...click here

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support 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


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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