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Entries from October 2022

Today is The Day! Something mammoth to celebrate!

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com

Today's Expression: "dans la panade"

    : in a jam (in a difficult situation)

Other ways to say "in a jam": dans le pétrin, dans la mouise...but if you really want to speak like a native it's dans la merde!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Today is the day! Twenty years ago, on Sunday, October 28th, this French word journal began. Jean-Marc (or a seven-year-old Max?) took this picture in the hallway of our home in a medieval French village. When I look at the image above, I see a 34-year-old woman striking out on a new path. Just look at that mammoth computer. How things have changed over two decades. Nowadays, in a jam, I'll type on a tiny phone using my two thumbs and a lot of squinting--because, short of hijacking a satellite, I will do just about anything to publish my weekly post, and so stick to a promise I made to myself 20 years ago.

Now, if I am an accidental hijacker, that makes you an accidental accomplice. Because without your regular encouragement, this blog, this body of work, would not exist. Thank you for your love and support!

I am off to post this latest entry, in time to meet Jean-Marc for a celebratory lunch. Only, it seems my blog server is having technical problems...making today's delivery very uncertain. I may have to don a Hijacker costume for an early Halloween scare for those tech guys working on the issue. But all I have is a "cowboy" ensemble. Now, how does one say "This is a stickup in!" French? Would that be "Ceci est une intrusion!"? 

Goodbye for now, dear reader, and may these letters never be an intrusion. Thank you for reading and, as always, I would love to hear from you. Simply hit the return key (if reading via email), or leave a comment, below. I would really appreciate it.

Amicalement

Kristi

I leave you with a photo taken in Le Marais, during my recent escapade with my daughter

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Every Francophiles Favorite F Word + 2 Days in Paris!

Montmartre Paris France sacre coeur church
Evening in Paris is a magical time to flâner. Rounding a corner in Montmartre the Sacré Coeur Basilica came into view unexpectedly and took my breath away. Don't miss today's story, below.

TODAY'S WORD: flâner

    : stroll, wander, roam, saunter, meander
    : to laze about, to be idle

La flânerie = loafing, idleness

La flânerie, n’est pas seulement délicieuse ; elle est utile. C’est un bain de santé qui rend la vigueur et la souplesse à tout l’être ; à l’esprit comme au corps ; c’est le signe et la fête de la liberté . Strolling is not only delicious; it is useful. It is a bath of health which gives back vigor and flexibility to all the being; to the mind as to the body; it is the sign and the festival of freedom. -Henri Frédéric Amiel

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French quote and all French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On the train up to the capital I tapped my daughter on the arm. The TGV passenger in seat 661 pulled out her earpods. "Oui, Maman," she smiled patiently.
"Sweetie, we still haven't come up with a plan for our two days in Paris. Actually, we only have this afternoon, this evening, and all day tomorrow in the city. What would you like to do?”

"Hmm. Let me think about that. I'm a little hungry now. Did you say you brought a picnic for the train?"

"I did!" Reaching into my purse, I pulled out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "I made you two: one on healthy bread and the other on the good bread! There's also an apple, some Snickers, and a bag of walnuts if you like--and some water!" 

 “Aw, thanks, Mom." Jackie said. "Well, how about dinner and a cabaret at Le Moulin Rouge?”

“Oh, I don’t know about that…” I said, wondering if the iconic cabaret was family friendly? Why not see The Nutcracker instead? No, Christmas was two months away.... Oh, what did I know about cultural activities anyway? I don't go to operas or ballets. They give me itchy legs. I can't sit still. Was there a Lady and The Tramp show? No, that was at Disneyland Paris, some twenty years ago. Jackie was five-years-old at the time. She is all grown up now and I've got to finally readjust my motherly lens, from the little girl of my heart to a grown woman--ever in my heart.   

"Don't worry about it Mom. We'll just walk around Paris and see..."

A scenic walkabout? I was tired already. This all sounded much better as a French verb... flâner!

Still, I didn’t know if my sore back could handle that much flânerie. But this was no time to be a wimp, or, as the French say une chochotte. For how often does one get the chance to visit The City of Light—even when one lives in France? And when would I see my youngest child again? Only one of us was coming home to La Ciotat this time. The other was about to fly off again, from the Charles de Gaulle airport to Seattle to who-knows-where after?

Even if this strolling strategy, this unfocused flânerie, was doable, la météo, which forecasted la pluie, could put a damper on our mother-daughter escapade. Finally, without some sort of itinerary, we might waste our time in this prized destination: historic Pa-ree! Just what were we in for then? As always, I tried to visualize every scenario, unsure of what to expect. Then again, expectation so often leads to disappointment. So why not go along with Jackie’s idea of a meandering--a carefree and much-needed vagabondage--and, as Yves Montand so famously sang, flâner sur les Grands Boulevards! After all, action leads to discovery, all we needed to do was put one foot in front of the other...and the streets of Paris would reveal a treasure of possibilities.

    *    *    *
I will tell you more about our time in Paris once I have organized my notes. Meantime, in the coming weeks, I'll be writing about matters closer to home, sharing a few updates about my Mom, her unexpected and grumpy companion, and a meaningful milestone in my career. Thank you, as ever, for reading!  

mother and daughter paris trip umbrella streets of paris rain

Paris coffee shop
A few more photos taken while flaning around Paris. 

max ana boyfriend girlfriend paris getaway
We bumped into a couple other flâneurs in Paris: my son, Max, and his girlfriend, Ana, who snapped the mother-daughter photo, above.

le bottier parisien cordonnerie shoe repair key maker

Dogs in Montmartre tableaux st pierre gravures paris montmartre
Dogs in the cobbled streets of Montmartre. I like this moody image of a woman walking her dogs, snapped while walking arm-in-arm with Jackie.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


What to serve our Guests? (and "Bob's Your Uncle" in French)

Le vin sobre la ciotat wine shop
The sign says “Open.” Coucou from La Ciotat. If you are visiting our city, why not stop into Jean-Marc's wineshop? Call ahead and he will be happy to see you at Le Vin Sobre  Bar à Vin.

TODAY'S PHRASE: "Le tour est joué"

    : that's all there is to it, and Bob's your uncle

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to listen

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Wednesday we entertained guests from Oregon and Wyoming. Audrey, from Portland, and her beau, Grant, joined us here at home for le déjeuner sur la terrasse. Planning for a meal still doesn't come naturally for me, so after a flurry of possible eats whirled through my mind like the autumn leaves outside our window, I put a stop to le délire and phoned my sister.

As soon as Heidi picked up, I rattled off my progress. "So I've made salmon, and then today I made pois chiches...and tomorrow I'll make la tarte aux tomates...

"Wait--did you say you made salmon yesterday?"
"Yep."
"But when are your guests coming?"
"Tomorrow." 

The long silence that followed made me defensive. "It's totally okay to make salmon a day-and-a-half before serving. It's just m-a-r-i-n-a-t-i-n-g!" I said, to sound fancy. While there is nothing sophistiqué about how I organize for guests nowadays, it's steps above what it was years ago, as a newlywed and clueless hostess. Back then, I would struggle through everything on the same day: drag our toddlers to the supermarket for dinner ingredients, hurry home to unpack groceries and clean the house. After chasing kids all day, I would prepare a multi-course meal for our invités, including the les amuse-bouches, l'entrée, le plat, la salade, le fromage, le dessert. It was exhausting. I was bad at it. My nerves were shot. No wonder I drank!

But back to the present: Wednesday's lunch went so smoothly it's a wonder I continue to shy away from inviting. When I stop to remember that serving others is an opportunity for growth, this new perspective is energizing. As my sister often reminds me: people are just happy to be there. Serve some good wine!

Jean-Marc popped the cork on a bottle of Pinot Noir from Domaine de La Mongestine, where our son is sales manager. "This is the best wine!" our guests said, raving about it. Oh really, but how was the salmon? you may be wondering....

Eh bien, we hadn't gotten to it yet. Our little festin began with some delicious pâté forrestière compliments of Audrey. Now, in all fairness (here begins a little side note to my sister...) how come Audrey can walk one hour to our house, under the midday sun--with pâte tucked inside her purse--but I can't serve Monday’s salmon on mercredi?). I'll leave you to chew on that.

Audrey's pâté from Carrefour was delicious. Next we had petits toasts de tapenade à la truffe, alongside some Italian green olives from La Maddalena. Miam, miam! And finally, slices of la tarte aux tomates, some chick peas, and du saumon au poireau now filled our plates. As we ate, we were eager to learn more about peaceful and beautiful Wyoming, from Grant, and Audrey gave us tips on how to get along in Portland in winter: "a jacuzzi and a fireplace are your best friends," I believe she said (or was Audrey talking about Wyoming and the minus 20 degree winters?). I was little distracted as a hostess, trying, as we ate, to control our erratic environment: les guêpes were busy hovering around la bouffe! As we swatted the winged interlopers I noticed the sun was now burning down on Audrey, but I didn't want to interrupt the conversation yet again. Thankfully Grant quickly solved the problem by offering his hat. 

Chapeau, Grant! I thought, to which Audrey added "Et Bob est ton oncle!"

Et Bob est ton oncle?...

Heu, that sounded familiar. Was that some sort of code? Such as, Beware of Kristi's salmon? With that, Audrey laughed (was she reading my thoughts?). "Bob's your uncle is even funnier in French," Audrey explained, "so I've been saying it that way lately." 

Ouf! So it wasn't the salmon. No, it could not have been. Because I ate that Monday Night Salmon all the way to Friday and, Bob's my uncle, it went down fine. And it looks like Grant and Audrey fared well, too, given they made it over to Jean-Marc's wineshop, the next day, to say goodbye before heading up the coast to Menton. 

And there you have it or, as Audrey says et Bob est ton oncle. Thank you for reading today’s gastronomic entry, and look for the link to the tomato tart (following the vocabulary section, below).

***

IN BOOK NEWS: Very happy to see Ann Mah's new novel about Jackie Kennedy is out. Click on the cover below to see the rave reviews, and to order a hard copy of Jaqueline in Paris...or read it immediately on Kindle.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
A few words below are highlighted; click on them for an interesting read
coucou = hi there
le tour est joué = that’s all there is to it, and Bob’s your uncle
le déjeuner
= lunch
la terrasse = porch
le délire = frenzy madness
l’invité(e) = guest
le pois chiche = chick pea, garbanzo bean
la tarte aux tomates = tomato tart
les amuse-bouches = nibbles
l'entrée = first course
le plat principal = main course
la salade = green salad
le fromage = cheese
le dessert = dessert
le festin = feast
le pâté forrestière = mushroom pâté
Carrefour = a popular French supermarket
le mercredi = Wednesday
miam! = yum!
la guêpe = wasp
la bouffe = slang for “food, grub, nosh”
Chapeau! = well done! Bravo!
heu! = hmm!
Et Bob est ton oncle = that’s all there is to it
ouf = phew


Read the Story Archives for photos, soundfiles, and more:
1. Recipe for the easy, delicious, 4-ingredient French tomato tart
2. Sobriety does not equal Foolproof Entertaining

Jean-marc kristi audrey grantJean-Marc, Kristi, Audrey, and Grant

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety