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Entries from November 2022

Le Prénom + French Dog and Cat Names for your pet

la ciotat france beach surf fun dog sunset
In winter dogs are allowed on this sandy beach. Out strolling with Mom at sunset last night, we enjoyed seeing 5 cavorting canines--including Ruby the pit bull. She wanted to hop on that surfboard and glide up the coast with the help of a couple of giggling girls pulling the rope. Meet another local pooch in today’s story...

TODAY’S WORD: “le prénom”

    : first name

SOUND FILE: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the example sentence and all French words in this post. Then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Choisir le prénom de son animal à quatre pattes n'est pas toujours une mission facile.
Choosing a name for your four-legged friend is not always an easy task.

Click here to listen to the French


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Lately, my husband and I have been enjoying morning walks together. Jean-Marc likes to stroll along the waterfront, whereas I prefer a brisk walk inland, away from la foule. So we take turns deciding, or as the French say, à chacun son tour.

Recently we were heading home along La Voie Douce, when an older gentleman and his dog entered the sentier, just ahead of us. Because our turn-off was only 30 meters away, it didn't seem polite to cut around the slow-paced duo only to hurry off the path. 

As Jean-Marc and I slowed our own pace, I studied the dog. His white whiskers contrasted against his black poils. He was as old in dog years as his master, and both had a big belly. The dog carried itself with ease and it was hard to miss the jolly bounce in his steps.

That lovely creature exuded joy from head to tail and sent its feel-goods reverberating back to us. When the duo turned off the path, we followed, this being our exit as well. Entering a field, the man unleashed his furry companion.

"That is one happy dog!" I said, striking up a conversation. 
"Un chien est comme son maître," the man smiled.
Wasn't that the truth? A dog is like his master. I remembered our sweet Smokey and liked to think he took after me...even if he really was a splendid composite of his three-generational family.

"What is your dog's name?"
"Cachou. Like the bonbons," the man said, referring to those popular black lozenges in the round yellow tin....

Cachou-lajaunie-Didier-Descouens
photo by Didier Descouens via Wikipedia

"Cachou, that's a clever name for a black dog!" I hunkered down to pet the labrador. 

"Where did you get Cachou?"
"From his mother, who we had before him."
"Oh, that's how we got our Smokey," I shared. "Our golden passed last summer at almost 13."

The stranger gazed at his dog. "Cachou is twelve-and-a-half."
"Well, he looks very strong and energetic. He is a happy dog!" 
"That he is!" the man smiled before we walked our separate ways.

It was another lovely rencontre with man's best friend. After losing Smokey, these encounters are helping to fill the in-between time, even if I still don't know when or if we will have another dog. I look forward to seeing Cachou again, and all the other toutous in our neighborhood--including Féli, Lilou, Zoe, Joie, Pharos, and more whose names escape me. I am going to do better at writing those names down for the day we have the pleasure of welcoming another dear furball, or petite boule de poils. For now I spend my time dreaming about who he or she will be.

***   
***  

9A6A173A-9DED-4EE5-A20D-E0B57B2CC586

Before we adopted our first family dog, Breizh (a golden retriever and Smokey's mother), Jackie composed a list of favorite dog and cat names in French, including Ombre (Shadow), Flocon (Snowflake), Fripouille (Rascal)... The right column lists some cat names in French, including Choupette (little tuft of hair), Réglisse (Licorice), and Chouchou (Darling)

Jackie and breizh
Breizh and Jackie in 2006

RELATED STORIES
=>  Le Chiot: when we got our first puppy, Breizh in 2006
=> When Breizh had Smokey and his 5 sisters

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le prénom = first name
la foule
= the crowd, mob
à chacun son tour = each person gets a turn
la voie douce = the gentle path
les poils = fur
la rencontre = meeting, encounter
le toutou = doggy
une petite boule de poils = a little fur ball 
Breizh = Breizh
Ombre = Shadow
Flocon = Snowflake
Fripouille = Rascal
Choupette (little tuft of hair)
Réglisse (Licorice), and Chouchou (Darling)

30AABA0D-BC0A-453A-BF7B-244D009C9B66
We also met “Saga”—the softest, sweetest Ridgeback Rhodésienne. Saga was visiting France from Sweden. Mom and I wanted to take her home with us! Tell me, what kind of dog do you have? And what’s le prénom?

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


Glou-glou! How to get out of cooking for Thanksgiving (hint: be a turkey)

16D47309-C6A0-4238-998C-E53BD12D28FETurkeys or dindes at Château Miraval, in 2005. "Glou-glou! Gobble-gobble!" turkeys say, in French and in English. More turkey talk, and some mischief, in today’s story.

TODAY'S WORD: glouglou or glou-glou

    : gobble-gobble
    : glug-glug* (the sound of wine pouring out of a bottle)


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

For the sound clip click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Turkey, in our Franco-American family, is a term of endearment and not a bird for roasting. I say the word often, as in yesterday when my daughter grabbed my favorite lipstick  (“In love with Olivia”) and beelined it to the front door.

"You turkey! Give it back. Now!"
"Just this one more time," Jackie pleaded.
"Alright, then. And good luck with your job interview, Turkey.” 

Then there's my son, who loves to lock me out of places—the house, the car.... "You turkey!" I squeal, as Max pulls out of the restaurant parking lot, making me chase him down the road for a ride. “Open the door! Let me in. You are SUCH a turkey!” (See video below...)

TURKEY = MISCHIEF
“Turkey” for me equals "mischievous person"—someone who causes trouble in a playful way. I may be using the slang term, the American argot, incorrectly, but I’m sticking with it because of the warm, nostalgic feeling it brings this Yankee, decades away from home. (Am I using "yankee" improperly too? I don't mean to say it any other way than with yearning and affection. Gosh, Thanksgiving must be getting to me!)

Jackie
That mischievous look. Jackie, when she was little--before she discovered make-up.

Meantime, a very warm and nostalgic holiday is upon us and this year I will try not to be a turkey by pretending I don't have to cook a Thanksgiving dinner because I'm in France. That's a turkey of an excuse to get out of preparing a bird, some stuffing, and greens, isn't it?

For now, I wish all of you turkeys a delicious celebration, generously salt-and-peppered with mischief.

Happy Thanksgiving. Joyeux Action de Graces. Though the French don’t use that expression, they are wonderfully full of mischief--and therefore amusing tablemates who would be more than grateful to join in and break bread with all of us here! So tell us, dear reader, what you are eating on T-Day? And please note the city where you'll be feasting. We turkeys want to know!

Gobble-gobble, glou-glou,
Kristi
P.S. I've just changed this post's title for the nième fois. Here's the new one: "How to get out of cooking for Thanksgiving (hint: be a turkey)". On second thought, that doesn't seem like a very good idea...

Also: Check the side-bar of this blog for two additions to the Books section. Merci!

RELATED POSTS
Se Maquiller - a bilingual story by my daughter about wearing makeup. Read it here

FRENCH VOCABULARY
glou-glou = gobble-gobble, glug-glug
l'argot (m) = slang, jargon
Joyeux Action de Graces = Happy Thanksgiving
nième fois (énième fois) = nth time, umpteenth time

VIDEO: click on the arrow in the center of the screen below, to start the clip



53503B25-4114-4027-A5AA-EB1B3D6DA514
A local turkey living here at the Bastide Marin sanctuary and garden in La Ciotat

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


The Vas-y Effect. You know this secret to happiness and success...

Bicycle paris hearts
A random photo from Paris. You can never see enough hearts! Keep looking for them, and enjoy the following pick-me-up message.

TODAY'S WORD:  "Vas-y!"

    : go for it!

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce all 12 French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"The Vas-y Effect"

Coucou and a warm bonjour to anyone reading. I am sitting here trying to calm my mind and figure out where to begin today. So far I have woken up, enjoyed some reading/devotional time, and gone for a walk with my husband). Returning home, I picked up the house (that sounds funny doesn't it? How much does a house weigh?), had a boring bowl of flocons d'avoine and now sit quietly in front of my laptop, trying to stave off panic and doubt. 

There are a dozen directions in which I could go from here (finish an article, begin a chapter, compose this week's blog post...). I could even call it a day--ça suffit pour aujourd'hui!--crawl under the covers and give up on my dreams. Abandonner. But if I am still typing it is because a still small voice whispers: Vas-y!

(Now those are two brilliant words in French: Vas-y! "Go ahead!" as in put one foot in front of the other and move forward.)

Meantime la peur, l'angoisse, le doute--for my work, for my family, for the holidays--it all threatens to steal this moment of concentration. And they say this moment is all we have. The future is made up of moments just like this one. We never reach that happy/balanced/focused place. We must uncover it here and now. Doing so involves risk. The risk of trying. Trying involves effort. And effort involves la volonté or will. Are we willing? At the very least are we able...

...to do what we need to do right now to be at peace, to find release, to be free...?

There is no denying we are capable. But do we want to? Yes, we want to move forward (but aren't we going in circles now? We spend so much time going round and round that the initial effort we so resisted would be done by now)! So it's discipline then? Discipline is the key to happiness??

Yes! Discipline does lead to happiness in my experience!

Well, thank you for listening to all that. I needed a personal pep talk this morning. And now my daughter has returned from some errands and says she has something to show me. I go downstairs and see a bounty of groceries. "I know you have la crève and it is not easy to cook... so I got choucroute for lunch...and there's plenty for dinner! And there are kiwis and crêpes and hot chocolate and..."

And I will end on that happy note! I do believe we are rewarded when we take the first steps towards our dreams/goals/or nagging to-dos. Trust the process, I tell myself, again and again. Now, off you go, dear reader, to face the moment. Vas-y! Vas-y!

***
Hearts and Smokey
While looking for "hearts" in my photo archives, I found this sweet soul, Smokey.

*The "devotional" I mentioned in the story, and highly recommend is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

vas-y! = go for it
coucou = hi there
bonjour = hello
les flocons d'avoine = oatmeal
ça suffit pour aujourd'hui = let's call it a day
abandonner = to give up
la peur = fear
l'angoisse = anxiety
le doute = uncertainty, doubt
la volonté = will (to do something)
avoir la crève = to have a bad cold
la choucroute = sauerkraut

Heart leaf
Enjoy your day and keep looking for the hearts in it. See you next week! For more calming thoughts, read Desiderata again in French and in English.

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


Hommage: Adieu Mr. Farjon "The Plant Whisperer"

Robert Farjon peugeot bike
Robert Farjon leaving Domaine Rouge-Bleu, where my family once lived. The hollyhocks seem to be hugging his vintage Peugeot bicycle. Find out why plants love this dearly departed Frenchman in the following tribute. 

TODAY'S WORD: amour-en-cage

    : love in a cage

Amour-en-cage is a synonym for Chinese lantern, or physalis. I loved the term the moment Robert Farjon shared it, and today it is especially meaningful.  

ADIEU, ROBERT
France has lost a national treasure. Plant & Provence historian Robert Farjon has passed away. I learned of Monsieur Farjon's passing from Caroline, winemaker/owner, with Thomas, at Domaine Rouge-Bleu vineyard and B&B in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. The following story, written years ago, is in hommage to Mr. Farjon. Thank you for reading and for sharing today's remembrance far and wide. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

August 14, 2012 - I had an unexpected visit from Mr Farjon the other day. It was such a coincidence, as I had been thinking of him recently—nostalgically remembering all the visits he paid me a several years back.

Just like old times, Mr Farjon parked his ancient Peugeot (a bicycle) outside our portail, leaning it against a giant wine barrel, one of two that flank the entrance to our courtyard. Running up to the gate to greet him, I noticed how stiff his legs were as he walked, slightly hunched over. Instead of leading him to the picnic table, beneath the old mulberry tree, I offered him a seat on the steps beside it.

I was eager to point out our new friends in the garden.... Four years ago, there wouldn't have been any mirabilis jalapa, or marvel of Peru, growing here—and forget about the lily of Spain, or valerian, which now shot up throughout the courtyard, in splashes of raspberry red! Today our garden is home to many a drought-tolerant flower, thanks to those who have sown the love of plants in my heart.

Despite the drought (read: we did not water our grass this year, and parts of the garden suffered the pinch), there were a few plants I wanted to show Mr Farjon, now that the plant whisperer had re-appeared after a 4-year absence.  

But it was difficult to concentrate on my guest, what with Smokey hovering between us. Like a gawky, attention-vying sibling who wants to join in, Smokey wagged his entire body, inching between my friend and me. His full body wag said I'm so happy to see you!, never mind the two had never met before. Indeed, it had been that long—my dog's lifetime—since Mr Farjon last came to visit.

Despite the giant four-pawed fly buzzing between us, I managed to speak to Mr Farjon.

"What have you got there?" I asked Monsieur. Waiting for the answer, I casually pushed Smokey aside, but my dog just wiggled right back in again, so I gave in.  

Smokey and I watched as Mr Farjon selected a long and thorny stem from the pile of just-picked weeds beside him.
"It's a chardon. We call it chausse-trappe," Farjon explained. With that, my venerable visitor told the story of how the plant got its name: the roman army dug ditches and filled them with this needle-sharp weed. And the poor stacked it on rooftops....

"To keep away thieves?" I guessed. 

Mr Farjon shook his head, repeating, simply, that the dried plant was piled on housetops. (I guessed again: for insulation?) As I tried to picture the thorny rooftops, Monsieur Farjon presented the next specimen, aigre-moine .

"Sour-monk" I mumbled, trying to translate the term.

As with each plant he brings, Monsieur took pains to point out where he had uprooted it. "Next to the telephone line. Beside the ditch—just up the street, after the fork in the road."

If I made the mistake of showing a blank look, Monsieur repeated himself, in addition to his usual stuttering, until I nodded convincingly: "Yes, beside the telephone line, up the street--just after the fork in the road!" It seemed important to Monsieur that the plant's location was understood, and he insisted certain plants were very rare these days. When new vineyards are planted, many of these rare plants are torn out. "You can find this plant by the telephone pole," Monsieur repeated, sending an unmistakable order that I should pull over and observe the weed the next time I drove by.

"It contains tanin..." Monsieur spoke a bit about the aigre-moine. "It was used to color wine." Just as I began to wonder whether or not to run and get Jean-Marc from the wine-cellar (wouldn't he love to know about this one?!), Mr Farjon set down yet another specimen.

"Epine du Christ."

"I remember that one," I said, softly. Mr Farjon had once showed me the thorny weed, otherwise known as "Christ's crown". It was this weed—found here in our neighborhood, that was used to torture Jesus.

We paused in time to move to the picnic table, where I asked Mr Farjon if he would note the names of the plants in today's lesson.

  DSC_0338

As he wrote, I noticed his hands--the hands of a plant man! Long nails, perfect for pinching or cutting weed samples, and dirt beneath the tips--evidence of the morning's plant harvest!

DSC_0333

To some people, long soil-stained nails equal unkempt.  Others might notice the beauty of these nails, with their hard, smooth surface and elegant curve--perfect for scooping out a plant's delicate racine. As I stared at Mr Farjon's nails, I was unexpectedly envious. I wished my own nails were as healthy looking (though, admittedly, I couldn't own up to the caked dirt part--but that is only because I have not earned the right to wear dirt on my person--or under my nails. But a plant genius may sport soil wherever he pleases and the world would do well to respect him for it!)

As for Mr Farjon, he was oblivious to all the thoughts bubbling up in my head, thoughts about how and how not to appear to society. Thankfully, Monsieur's attention was focused on the task before him.
Farjon handwriting
Watching him write, I had a hunch that the moment was something to capture. It may not have been history in the making, and this may not have been an historical figure, but the moment and the person were just as fascinating. I ran to get my camara.

It occured to me to try and capture a shot of the two of us, by using the automatic timer.... 

DSC_0340
Notice Mr Farjon's concentration. He would eventually look up, to question what all my running back and forth was about.

  DSC_0342

"Now look into the lens," I said, coaching my subject.

 "I'm not photogenic," Mr Farjon demured.

"You are beautiful!" I assured him.

"My birthday is tomorrow," he confided. 

(He was turning 83.)


Farjon bike market

The trusty Peugeot... I took a photo of the two when I first moved to Sainte Cécile. I didn't know Monsieur at the time, but thought I'd spotted an unforgettable character, and wrote about it here.

I sent Mr Farjon off with some samples from my own garden (see photo at the top of this post, and the mysterious package in his hand). He very much wanted the two kinds of chamomile growing there, gifts from the Dirt Divas. I tucked several dates inside the bag, for a sweet surprise--nourishment a plant genius needs while burning the midnight oil, poring over plantasauruses or thesauruses or dictionaries, rather. 

Then I watched as he rode off into the endless blue and green horizon.

     *    *    * 

DSC_0349
Mr Farjon departing on his Peugeot. What a chance it was to spend time with you, Monsieur Farjon. Adieu, merci, and please say hello to Smokey who passed away one day after you. He was the very same age, too (in dog years): 92

Here is darling Smokey, as a young lad, when he first met Mr Farjon. In this picture he is showing his respect for the plant man the only way he knew how: getting tangled up in some leafy subject matter:

Smokey loves gardening

 
Farjon book cover
Mr Farjon and his Peugeot bike on the cover of First French "Essais". The last chapter, about meeting Farjon, is online (scroll down the page until you see the title "The Plant Man". 
Finally, do not miss Mireille Besnardeau's (Robert Farjon's niece) excellent hommage in FrenchView the printed article .

Robert Farjon portrait
Reposez en paix, Robert Farjon (August 9, 1929-July 15, 2022)

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


Désinvolte: Mom's new pet (and a message from Smokey?)


The sign on this quirky façade in Alsace reads Le Chat qui Pêche ("The Cat that Fishes"). Read on for a story about another smart cat...and don't miss the photo at the end of this post.

TODAY'S COOL WORD: "désinvolte"


: casual, nonchalant, detached, glib

A FEW BLOOPERS...Today's sound file, recorded by Jean-Marc, has a funny mistake. The good news is you will hear both the term and the translation (in English).  Click the link below for the audio, then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I was looking for a word to describe Mom's new pet, son animal de compagnie, when Jules offered a suggestion: "ALOOF. Cats are aloof." Well that seemed like a good term to share with you today... until I saw the boring French translation:

"réservé" "distant"...

Bof! You already know those words, in French and English! Luckily, the dictionary offered an interesting synonym for aloof: désinvolte, which reminds me of "revolt" which is what Lili The Cat did when we moved into her house 5 years ago. You see, Lili belonged to the family living here before us. But they were moving abroad and were unable to transport their 12-year-old minette overseas...So we agreed to help out by adopting Lili. But when our new chat figured out our golden retriever, Smokey, was part of the Live-Together deal, she hightailed it over the border, to the neighbor's.

Then, mysteriously, the very day Smokey passed away, Lili quietly migrated back....

I almost stepped on her while watering the rose bushes. Longhaired Lili was the same color as the muddy gravel surrounding her. Lifting her up I had a shock: she weighed less than an empty sock and she resembled as much. This wasn't the neighbor's fault. Our kind voisine regularly fed her, along with the other felines living over there (including one of Lili's offspring), but Lili is a fussy eater, picky to the extreme. "And she is not sociable and won't come into the house—not even when it storms!" My neighbor filled me in on a few of Lili’s quirks as we chatted at our little “window” in the hedge between our yards..

The day Lili met Jules everything changed, for both immigrants. My mom, who moved to France 4 years ago, when her husband passed, was now grieving over the loss of her best friend and confidant, Smokey. "He used to sleep beside me, with his head on my pillow. We used to talk to each other all night long," Mom shared. I remembered their special language, and loved it when Mom impersonated a talking Smokey! 

Since Smokey departed a great void filled Jules' studio... until sock-light Lili appeared! Lili, as you know, had this reputation of being distant, unfriendly, unpredictable, ungrateful--and maybe even a little bit sociopathic...à vrai dire). So we had zero expectations when she returned after 5 years, and instinct told me to reroute the errant cat over to Jules' place, to the little studio 15 meters from our front door.

This many months later and Lili weighs almost as much as our chubby puppy (Smokey never looked his age, even at almost 13 years). "She won't eat anymore home-cooked salmon, so I'm giving her meatballs," Mom explained, during one of our daily "Lili chats". I love going over to Mom's and sitting on the edge of her bed in time to hear of Lili's latest exploits (just as we used to discuss darling Smokey antics):

"She ran off the other cat," Mom said, of the stray with the broken tail who used to eat Lili's leftovers. "And she loves to sit behind the window and glare at the two hedgehogs when they come for their dinner!" (Jules offers Smokey's unused dog food to the spiky hérissons... carefully soaking it in water first). "I can't believe she is 17 years old," Mom confides, petting her new boarder. "You love Grandma, don't you? You can have anything you want! You deserve it!"

I can't believe Lili has come this far--from misanthrope to Miss (that's "beauty queen," in French). It remains a mystery how this cat manifested in time to become Jules' new confidant. I like to think that some tubby golden-haired angel in heaven is smiling down: I promised I would never leave you alone, Grandma! Smokey is saying, in that special, human parlance he uses with Mom.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un animal de compagnie = a pet
désinvolte
= nonchalant, detached
bof! = meh, nah
le chat = cat
le voisin, la voisine = neighbor
la minette = kitty, kitty cat
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
un hérisson = hedgehog
la Miss = beauty queen


Lili, beside Mom's pillow, doing her best impression of Smokey. 

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