Freedom & Fer: L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.

Bird tracks on the beach and the sea
Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. Don't miss the translation, below.

Today's Word: le fer

    : iron
    : shoe, horseshoe
    : rail

les fers = chains

Click here to listen to the following sentence

L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.  --Jean-Jacques Rousseau

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
    by Kristi Espinasse

Have you ever noticed the self-imposed prisons we sometimes check into when we put limits on our freedom? Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously wrote: L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.
 
La liberté is a gift. To some it is a right. Either way it is something to be thankful for each and every day, so why would anyone ever restrict their own champ des possibilités
 
We do this in ways in which we are often unaware...
 
Out walking along the seafront this morning, I suddenly froze at the sight of a familiar figure in the distance. I felt the urge to turn around and hurry home, or else bump into somebody I was avoiding. I could have bucked up and continued on, but it would have been an awkward march forward. Which, come to think of it, is better than a bloody march forward, as those who have fought for our freedom have suffered on not-so-distant sandy shores....

Because of this absurd social dilemma I now had to change directions, which was dommage as it would curtail my daily walk (an exercise that began a year ago, with the goal of restoring peace of mind. Quelle ironie!
 
Alors, in a quick change of itinerary, I took up a parallel path on the sandy beach just below. By zigzagging up and down the narrow plage I could elongate this alternate route and--unexpected bonus-- improve my workout, thanks to the different niveaux along the beach, and to the sable, which is more challenging to walk on.
 
No sooner did I begin snaking my way home (down to the water, back to the boardwalk, and down again) than I became aware of just how dorky this looked (in comparison to the other morning sportifs, all advancing in a straight line, on a designated path), for who loops up and down a narrow beach if not a loopy person! 
 
Oh, but it was enjoyable while it lasted! even if the couple in their beach chairs stared (I swear I could read their thought bubbles: "What's up with Loopy Doop?").
 
That's when a thought bubble of my own came up: YOU HAVE GOT TO PRACTICE YOUR FREEDOM! 
 
This was true... And here! And now!

At that moment I looked down and saw hundreds of fine tracks in the sand--made up of little affirming steps just like mine! The tiny four-toed footprints zigzagged and looped up and down the beach... What was striking was who left these exquisite tracks... it was no other than the symbol of freedom herself. For who is freer than a bird? 

Allez. En avant! No matter your setbacks, keep moving forward in your own original way, thankful all the while for the freedom to be able to do so.
 
Doves by the sea in la ciotat
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
les fers = chains
partout = everywhere
la liberté = freedom
le champ des possibilités = field of possibilities
dommage = too bad
quelle ironie = How ironic
alors = so
la plage = beach
le niveau = level
le sable = sand
le sportif = athlete
allez = go on!
en avant = keep move forward

Bird tracks on the beach

 

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Un coup de bol + ras le bol and recipe for "le pain en cocotte" (dutch oven bread)

Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith
photo by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

A SPECIAL WELCOME to students who have just signed on to this journal. It is an honor to have you with us! This blog began in the South of France in 2002 when our children were 5 and 7, and I worked at a  Swedish-owned winery while my husband sold Italian wine bottling machines. (I am American and he is French.) We left our jobs, focused on writing and wine and eventually bought a vineyard of our own. Currently, we are sharing a more personal story and you may follow along as we write it: The Lost Gardens goes behind the scenes of this lighthearted, cheerful (in the style of today's column, below) blog to the dark and hopeless moments that punctuated our private life. Feedback on our memoir:

"A raw, honest, and heart-wrenching telling of a trying period. So vividly told." -Janet
"Your combined story is powerful..." --Chris
"This book will be a great help to others, and a testament to the strengths you have each discovered in yourselves." -Ellen 

Anyone who has ever chased a dream while trying to hold on to their loved ones will be moved by our book's dual narrative: my husband writes about his ambitious pursuit of winemaking, and my chapters focus on our relationship as our vineyard rises.... and ultimately falls. But that is not the end of the story.... Purchase the memoir here and begin reading right away.  

Today's phrase: un coup de bol

    : a stroke of luck, a fluke, lucky break

Sound File: click here to listen to the French phrase below

Un coup de bol... à ne pas confondre avec le ras le bol (ce qui veut dire " fed up").
A stroke of luck... not to be confused with le ras le bol (which means "fed up").

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

"Wonder Bread"

Quelle Trouvaille! I was hunting through the second-hand shop, with Mom, when I stumbled upon a dutch oven. Le Creuset no less. The torn white sticker read 5 euros. But it weighed a ton! Did I really want to buy this empty canon ball?

Oh, but it was canon! A real knock-out as go dutch ovens. Cherry red. A slate-black handle (so handsome you'd forgive it the first time it blistered your fingers). The retro typography L E  C R E U S E T. The creamy enamel interior. Tu vas regretter, a little voice said as I began walking away. And so I turned back...et on connâit la suite....

I am typing this with burnt fingers which reminds me to include the following disclaimer: pay attention when baking today's wonder bread and porter des gants!

Now that you've been warned, and you promise to be mindful while making this fastoche bread recipe--don't hold back! This is every bit as good as a French baguette and simple comme bonjour...to make.

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Follow the simple video instructions at the end of this post for a no-fail loaf that will wow your family and friends! If you don't have a dutch oven and can't locate one second-hand, check out these dutch ovens on Amazon.com

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le pain en cocotte = dutch oven bread
quelle trouvaille! = what a find!
canon = gorgeous
on connaît la suite = the rest is history
porter des gants = wear gloves
fastoche = easy
simple comme bonjour = easy as hello
MVIMG_20190829_120611
The antique hachoir berceuse (rocking chopper) was another find at the second-hand store! You can find these new here

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Even the underside is beautiful, reminiscent of the marbled French yogurt cake!

MVIMG_20190829_120718
I've finally run out of farine, or flour, after making so many loaves :-) Latest obsession: to add Everything but the Bagel seasoning mix to the top. So good! I leave you with the video that simplifies the steps:

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Saudade - Just what does it mean?

Le chalet

Saudade. A word overheard on vacation (thank you, Jêrome, and Paola, from Brazil). The term "saudade" isn't French (not yet*)--but a good mot to start with as we get back to school and work (la rentrée) and back on course with our goals, dreams, and visions which so often bring us full circle to our nostalgic beginnings. Thank you for reading this journal and for sharing it with somebody who loves France. I hope these posts enrich more than your vocabulaire.

Today's word: saudade 

    : a feeling of delicious nostalgia
    : a profound emotional state, both positive or neg (gone-by days, lost love)
    : the sentiment of missing something or someone; homesickness

*Saudade is considered a Portuguese word difficult to translate, to the point that the creation of a French neologism was even considered. -- Saudade est considéré comme un mot portugais difficile à traduire, au point que la création d'un néologisme français a même été envisagée. (Wikipedia)

Click here to listen to the word saudade, as it appears in the sentence above


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

My belle-mère Marsha once said: "The last thing you toss into your suitcase is the thing you end up using the most!" Was she ever right! And to think I hesitated about bringing my Kindle to the Alps.  On second thought, I reasoned, it might come in handy...what with the weak wee-fee, or internet reception, in the remote valley where I would be joining my husband, who had arrived the week before.

There in Serre Chevalier, in the Alpine hamlet of Les Boussards, I snuggled into the loft of a tiny stone chalet. Flipping open my Kindle (bought a few years ago, with high hopes of remedying my readers block), I had a look at my digital library. That's when I noticed the title As a Man Thinketh... I don't remember if or when I ever read it...


My Mom once shared a consolation about the right man at the wrong time, and the same could be said about a self-help classic! A book we tried to connect with years ago suddenly aligns with us, its words jumping right off the page and diving deep into our fertile minds. And so it was with the bestseller Tel Un Homme Pense. Over the one-week retreat to the Vallée de la Guisane I read and reread this little gem (only 65 pages) by James Allen, carefully chewing on and putting into practice its wisdom when away from the text (as when, in a pair of cheap sneakers, I followed my husband of 25 years--a soon-to-be triathlete--and our friend Nicolas up a steep mountain.

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High up with the cerfs and the wolves that hunt them, my heart beating faster than an Arizona hummingbird and my t-shirt soaked from effort--I remembered a favorite passage from the book:

There is no physician like cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of the body....

With this nugget in mind, the hike became faisable and uplifting (literally. As the body is the slave of thought, it soon came round...especially when we reached the serene lake at the top of the mount...).

MVIMG_20190817_105331

If I got to practice the book's principles while pushing my 51-year-old body to its limits in the Alps, I didn't miss the many opportunities to retrain my brain during the rest of our trip (away from the comfort and familiarity of home and into new places and new social situations...including a French marriage in which I was certain we guests were all going to sleep in a barn with no toilet. Just goes to show how past experiences (...) frame our perspective! After psyching myself for the wedding, I was pleasantly surprised when the groom showed us to our very own room and its en-suite amenities!

"Our own room!" I said to Jean-Marc, shutting the door in relief.

"But of course. What were you thinking?" My husband replied.

What were you thinking. A question we might all ask ourselves more often, as the mind tends to gallop forward, like a wild étalon. A wild stallion may be a beautiful thing, except when it bolts, taking you along for the ride.

It is time to tame our thoughts and move forward into the new year. Whether you are going back to school or back to work today, je vous souhaite une bonne rentrée. Keep nostalgia and longing in your heart--saudade--be a little more fleur bleue and continue to follow your dreams wherever they lead.

Amicalement,

Kristi

Post Note: I highly encourage you to buy a copy of As a Man Thinketh. Each time I reach the end of the book, on my Kindle reader, I start over again. And when I can no longer recall the meaningful sentences highlighted within, I've come up with a helpful two-word summary to keep on track throughout the day: Lofty thoughts! Lofty thoughts! 

As a man thinketh james allen poverty to power

The edition, above, is the one I just purchased for my Mom. It comes with an extra book:As A Man Thinketh & From Poverty to Power

If you'd like to order a Kindle, click here.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
saudade = a kind of longing
le mot = word
la rentrée = back to school, back to work (after summer break)
le vocabulaire = vocabulary
la belle-mère = stepmother (also can mean mother-in-law)
wee-fee = French pronunciation of Wi-Fi 
le cerf = stag, deer
faisable = doable
un étalon = stallion, male horse
fleur bleu = romantic
je vous souhaite une bonne rentrée = I wish you a good start (to the new (school year or back to work after break)
être fleur bleu = to be sentimental
amicalement = best wishes

Nicolas and Jean-Marc in Nevache
Nicolas and Jean-Marc at a mountain top in Nevache

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle