La flemme! La grasse matinée... + Lackadaisy is not a flower

Writing deskJean-Marc and I begin Part Two of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. This project would not be possible without the support of readers. Mille mercis to those who have purchased the online edition and are reading our story and cheering us on. Without you we would be at Chapter Zero! The blog post below, written in 2013, takes us back to Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, where we thought we would live forever. To buy our memoir and begin reading right away, click here.

Today's Word: flemme? buanderie? semence? pieds d'alouette?
(have your pick from the colorful vocabulary section following today's column...)

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

Lackadaisy is not a flower

March 2013 - I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.

Beyond the bedroom window, the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black nuages. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so-called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the buanderie or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).

Wherever... he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!

I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home? 

I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!

Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard les graines de fleurs. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!

There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!

I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....

And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...

Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".

I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).

I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the fenced dog run... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...

I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.

As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!

I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water! 

I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.

***

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Orange mexican poppies smokey golden retriever
FRENCH VOCABULARY
la flemme
= slackness
avoir la flemme = to feel lazy
le nuage
= cloud
faire la grasse matinée
= to sleep in, lie in
la buanderie
= utility room
quelle horreur! = Awful thought!
Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras!
= this is not a dumping ground!
une semence
= seed
les graines de fleurs = flower seeds
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late
pieds d'alouette = larkspur
le cabanon = stone hut (shed)
Sunflowers at mas des brun
Once again, I encourage you to discover our book-in-progress. Part One (chapters 1-12 are now finished) and plant the seeds for the inevitable dénouement. Thank you for helping us to tell our story: Click here to purchase The Lost Gardens.

Feedback from Chapter 11:
J-M, this chapter is quite moving, and I find myself touched by the revelation of the near-accident on the tractor after a long day harvesting. Your description puts the reader right there with you. And, too, we who have been on this journey with you from afar, better understand why you left a successful and seemingly 'perfect' situation. (There isn't a perfect anything anywhere, but Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes seemed close!) How wonderful your dream to move to Bandol happened and you found Mas des Bruns. Successful storytelling brings the reader into the story and you & Kristi are certainly accomplishing that. --Patty

Artichokes at mas des brun sea view
The artichokes that eventually...and a tiny glimpse of the sea view Jean-Marc wrote about in Chapter 12 of The Lost Gardens.

IMG_20150513_154826
Smokey, helping to make sure we leave you with a smile. Enjoy your week ahead!

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


late bloomer in French

1-IMG_20140809_093833-EFFECTS (1)

First corn! Pictured this way it reminds me of The Good Witch's wand from The Wizard of Oz. That sure explains the magic going on around here, in the veggie patch! (Forgive me for the over-saturated photo. All that Instagraming is driving out the purist in me! More photos from our corner of France right here at Instagram.)

Today's word is in English - for our French readers' enjoyment: 

Late Bloomer

    : a late-blooming plant (une plante tardive)
    : someone who took his or her time to learn something or to bloom
      (quelqu'un qui a pris son temps pour découvrir sa passion)

Audio File: Listen to the sentence in French, below: Download MP3 or Wave file

(Today's example sentence is in honor of one of our readers, Herm, who also has a blog Herm's Rhyme Thyme)

He is what we call in English "a late bloomer." He began to publish his poetry after the age of 85.
Il est ce qu'on appelle en anglais "une plante tardive." Il a commencé à publier sa poesie après l'âge de quatre-vignt-cinq ans.



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

Sometime in May I began to notice how everyone else's tomato plants were growing and mine were not. I started pacing up and down the pathways in our garden in search of spontaneous seedlings. (New to permaculture I hoped for natural, automatic crops--raised from the ashes of last year's abundance!)
 
In June my husband brought home store-bought tomato plants, au cas où. Around that time, I began noticing how everyone south of Paris was racking in loads of strawberries. But my own fraisiers were no more than masses of green leaves, no berries in sight. 

By the time the neighborhood fruit stand ran out of strawberries, my plants began to show blossoms. Then came the tiny fruit. There was never enough to fill a whole basket, but it was easy to enjoy a few strawberries each morning while out pulling weeds in the would-be veggie patch.

Finally the tomato seedlings shot up! There were no tomatoes yet but that didn't matter--by then my neighbor, Annie, was delivering sackfuls from her potager!

"Compte sur moi le mois prochain," I promised Annie, pointing to those aromatic seedlings (the tomato scent was unmistakable!) which would ripen just like the strawberries--plus tard. I would then reciprocate, sharing a bounty of my own!

Now, each morning passes and I'm out in the garden, popping giant strawberries (green tops included!)  into my mouth as I go about my chores. I don't have baskets and baskets to show for it, but if you added up the incremental "harvest" or the number of times I've opened my mouth and thrown back a strawberry you could equate that to an entire farmers market stand marked "FRAISES A VENDRE!" (And if you added the times my golden assistant, Smokey, sneaked a berry, you might count a truckload!)

1-IMG_20140809_091326
 
      Caught in the act! 

Oftentimes while digging in the garden I wonder why I didn't learn to jardiner years ago. Meantime, I'm enjoying watching my tomatoes fatten up (they still have not turned red) and can you believe those kernels of corn grew up? (Oh, I have not told you about them!) As for the maïs, I have no way of knowing whether I'm behind again this time--as no one grows corn in Provence. Either way, I've learned a thing or two about my garden and myself, namely that we're both late-bloomers. 

 

Roma tomato
Roma tomatoes. The yellow flower in the background is wild St John's Wort, a good insectary and a good herbal treatment for Jean-Marc's  biodynamic permaculture* vineyard. (*he'll be adding fava beans between vine rows soon!)

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

au cas où = just in case
un fraisier
= strawberry plant
le potager = kitchen garden, veggie patch
Compte sur moi = count on me
le mois prochain
= next month
plus tard = later on
jardiner = to garden
le maïs = corn, maize

  Strawberries or fraises
A precious few, or enough to share.

Note for annie

Now find a toothpick and recycle some stationary....

1-IMG_20140809_101453

And don't worry about your French too much, just let someone know you're thinking of them:

Annie, 

It's just a little "kiss" to tell you I'm thinking of you. It's hot and I don't go out much. But (thank goodness) it's summertime.

Kristi

Pictured in the canning jar: tarragon to fill in all the empty space, mint blossoms to add charm, fennel flowers for a burst of yellow! and a precious handful of fraises for neighbor Annie's dessert.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


brindille and a fun and sustainable activity + Winner of book giveaway!

Les brindilles-twigs

Notice the flower bed to the right--filled with hand-picked brindilles! Twigs = free mulch, and they're fun to gather, too! (Had I to redo this picture, I'd put bright fluffy pillows in the garden chair, and hang beaded curtains across the cabanon's entry. Can you picture it?)

New

Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


une brindille (brein-dee)


    : twig, stalk, sprig

ramasser des brindilles = to gather, collect, or pick up twigs

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc. God knows I should! Download MP3 or Wav file

Les brindilles sont des rameaux minces. Ces petits morceaux de bois protègent et nourissent les plantes. Twigs are thin branches. These little pieces of wood protect and nourish plants.

Thanks to modern technology, I can now email my husband the example sentences (such as the one above). He then uses his Smartphone to do the recordings (killing the motor of his tractor, in time to do me the favor.) Then, presto!, he emails the file to me and it travels virtually--across the vine fields to our bedroom--where I type up these editions) How about that?!
 

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

"Twiggy"


That rough patch we went through, me and you-know-who, eventually smoothed itself out--and would you believe a new passion grew out of it? I'm not talking about a rip-your-clothes off passion (not when my family--and you, Dear Reader--might be reading), no, I'm referring to a new interest, an accidental hobby that's keeping me grounded these days.

Funnily enough, it was a real rough patch--one teeming with rocks, weeds, and concrete--in which my husband and I signed The Peace Treaty, using garden picks and not Sharpies. I had been bee-lining it through the yard, on my way past Jean-Marc (harrumph!), when I saw the riot of weeds in the cobbled stone lit. Ever since moving here, in the fall of 2012, I'd been meaning to tame that flower bed, but all the misplaced concrete was a put-off.

That's when I remembered a sure-fire remedy: Sweat Equity! It's a tool we sometimes use when suffering from The Couples' Blues and it goes like this: Why not put our energy into building up our homestead instead of tearing it down? Fast as that Jean-Marc and I were ripping out the weeds and chiseling concrete, with a goal of planting one more lavender row (oh the rows we've sowed!...).

Removing the misplaced béton from the bed was tough business--requiring a sledge hammer and a ton of elbow grease. My husband teased me when he noticed I'd sneaked off to work on a side-project, but I assured him my work was just as vital: by gathering all these little sticks, or brindilles, I was making sure my partner's work would not be in vain. (The last time Jean-Marc cleared a garden bed for me--it quickly grew back its weeds!)

Brindilles or twigs


By piling, around the plants, these broken branches--or what the French called BRF*--we could keep weeds from growing back--as well as keep moisture in! Plus, the twigs would eventually decompose, nourishing the lavender in its tidy row (a further advantage of all the hand-picked twigs: neatness). 

Hunched low to the ground, I noticed how relaxing the twig-gathering activity was. Were those endorphins coursing through my body? As my fingers roamed the earth's floor, I marveled, uncovering all kinds of treasures. Aside from twigs, there were broken faïences, dried almonds from the tree above, and even a metal pendant with rhinestones. Gosh, maybe it was platinum with diamonds? What did I know? 

I tucked the charm into my pocket, just as I'd done as a kid, filling my poches with findings from the wash, or flood bed, behind our neighborhood. How invigorating to roam the Phoenix desert, weaving in and out of the palos verdes, hunting for treasures and returning with wildflowers for my mom and the neighbors.

Scooting over to the Provençal boules court, on my hands and knees, I hit pay dirt. Some of the planks, which line the court, were rotting--shedding small piles of sticks. Mulch city! But there was competition, and I watched the omnipresent ants hauling off their share!

Les fourmis weren't the only obstacle. Gathering twigs when Smokey's around, c'est presque impossible! My golden can't resist poking me with his nose until HE is the unique object of my attention. And this is how I quickly became a one-armed forager. Luckily, the activity is just as agreeable with a furry arm rest on one side and, below, l'embarras de choix -- or an embarrasing variety of choice. (Don't you love the French expression for abundance?)

Back now, foraging beside my husband, who has almost finished excavating the flower bed, I notice he has on his new favorite shirt (you can see it at the end of this post). He's got a real color theme going for this summertime, and it's neon jaune. His shoes are yellow, too--and so is his Smartphone!

"I've got a new name for you," I say.

"Ah, bon. Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

"Mellow Yellow."

The joke is not lost on him and we both laugh at how riled up we can get when we disagree on things.

Next, I'm careful to laugh at myself. Passions are an all or nothing thing for me. I can't just collect a few brindilles, I've got to have a giant stick factory!

What a picture, squatting there, fists full of my favorite new commodity, a mile-high wood pile growing beside me. Just call me "Twiggy."

 

Comments
To respond to this story, click here. Note, I'm still editing today's post, feel free to share corrections in the comments box. Thanks. Will add to the vocabuary section soon, here

French Vocabulary

le lit = bed
le béton = concrete
la faïence = earthenware
une poche = pocket
*BRF = bois raméal fragmenté ramial chipped wood

 

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. See pictures here.

  Seeds of Hope Jane Goodall

WINNER of our book giveaway....

Dana, are you reading? You were comment number 30 (automatically generated number) in the "humble oneself post" and you've won Jane's book: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. Email me, Dana (who wrote "Those naughty dogs might have led you to a new friend"), and I will ship you your book. Félicitations!

Smokey and rock wall
 Out of time now... so much more to say about les brindilles. What a soothing activity, now part of my daily routine. P.S. Can you spot Smokey? And the boules? No, that's not a hulo hoop! It's a piece broken off of my husband's wine barrel. Hey... more mulch! Comments welcome here.

Missed a story? Check out the archives!

Thanks for sharing this post with a friend. :-) 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


To humble oneself + what to give someone you've unintentionally hurt

Letter of sympathy
Russian comfrey and letter of sympathy (with misspellings), reads Sir/Mam, I offer all my regrets for the loss of your chickens. I am sincerely and deeply sorry for the pain this has caused you..." (Read on, in today's story column.)

New2

Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

 

se rabaisser (seuh rah bay say)

    : to humble oneself, to show humility or respect

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav

Je me suis rabaissée devant le potager, en visant mon plant préféré. Et puis, je l'ai arraché!
I lowered myself before the kitchen garden, and targeted my favorite plant. Next, I yanked it out! 

  At only $8 Exercises in French Phonetics is a great tool for improving your French.


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


I left Annie's whimsical garden with a bag of stinging nettles and a mission: to plant the medicinal orties and, secondly, to heal an open wound--celle de ma voisine.

The orties, no matter how menacing their bite, would be easy to manage; I needed only to wear gloves to transplant them. As for the pain we'd caused our other neighbor--I was not sure how to proceed... so I followed--hanging on as my body whisked forth my soul, over to the field just below.

There in my own jardin, I landed. Walking past the flowering consoude, with its ornamental purple bells, I knew instantly it was the one. I had just given a seedling to my friend Cari, keeping the mother comfrey--all decked out now in blossoms--for myself. Even then I knew I should have given the best away, and patiently waited for the seedling to grow into another purple-belled marvel. It wasn't too late this time around....

Se rabaisser (the French translation for "to humble yourself") literally means to bow down, and this I did before the royal purple bells of Symphytum x uplandicum--the noblest subject in my potager.

I knelt not as a worshiper before an idol; I met the ground as a broken heart falling in pieces! If the act was dramatic, it encompassed more than the sorrow for my neighbor's lost chickens, it carried with it the weight of other trespasses--both personal and universal. Isn't that what it feels like to be deeply sorry, or navrée? As though the weight of a world's sins rests on your guilty shoulders. 

Kneeling there, the rocks below me drove their jagged edges into my skin. But I felt only the pain of shame as I searched for words.

 "Please let there be understanding--and forgiveness. Please heal this pain."

There was nothing I could do to bring back the stolen chickens. And only God knows how hard I try to keep our dogs inside our property lines. The best I could do was to reach out to my neighbor: apologize, ask what I could give or do, and let her see the human face behind the unknown perpetrator. 

As I stood there, now, on a foreign doorstep--my heart thumping in my throat, my arms holding out a potted plant its leaves going limp before my very eyes--my new neighbor studied me, her lips a straight line.....

 (A suivre/To be continued here in Part 2 of story)

Comments
To respond to today's story, click here

Note: highlighted links within the story refer back to previous journal entries:

Annie's garden (including part one of today's story)
Kristi's garden (picture)

FRENCH VOCABULARY
celle de ma voisine = that (wound, blessure) of my neighbor
le jardin = garden
la consoude = comfrey
le potager = vegetable patch
navré(e) = deep sorrow, sadness for one's mistake

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. See pictures here.

  Seeds of Hope Jane Goodall

Plants are the best gift, no matter the occasion! An olive or peach tree, aloe or comfrey! They nourish, improve the air we breathe, and are often healing. A book about plants is the next best gift of all. I am offering one copy of Jane Goodall's latest: Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment in today's comments box.  You can say anything at all: respond to today's story, or tell us your favorite plant. Click here to comment and enter.

P.S. I can't promise, so don't hold me to it--but if I manage to get a signed book on Monday night--when I go to see Jane Goodall speak in Aix!!--then I will include the signed copy in the giveaway. Otherwise the book will be shipped to you directly via Amazon.com. Good luck!

Thank you for sharing this post with a friend.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Paris meet-up! + "Ticket Restaurant": an idea worth spreading?

Bougainvillea plant and golden retriever (c) Kristin Espinasse
Looking in our kitchen window, Smokey says, "Ever seen those signs in French restaurants: "Nous acceptons les Tickets Restaurant?"

"Yes, Smokey dear, I've seen those stickers in the window--but you don't need a ticket to eat at this greasy spoon! Now take a seat and I'll be right out with your Croquettes du Jour!" (Photo taken after Friday's storm, which took down our bougainvillea. But it was a happy accident--it made such a pretty window frame!) 

ticket restaurant (tee-kay reh-stor-ahn)

    : meal voucher (offered to salaried employees)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following Wikipedia definition (the English translation is found in the story column, below): Download Ticket MP3 or Wav file

C'est un support de paiement remis par l'employeur au salarié pour lui permettre d'acquitter tout ou partie du prix de son repas compris dans l'horaire de travail journalier. Il est en général utilisé pour le paiement d'un repas dans un restaurant, ou pour l'achat de nourriture dans un magasin. C'est un avantage social alternatif au restaurant d'entreprise.

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.

 


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

Food stamps are in the news. Whereas they were once given to children and the elderly, today working-age Americans are claiming the "nutritional aid."

Out in my vegetable patch I'm sifting through seeds and the latest infos--finding it hard to believe that, back home, things have come to this. When I left Arizona for France, in '92, people were throwing food in the dumpster. Now, some are dumpster diving!

For those who don't want to glean à la Agnès Varda, victory gardens are back in style--just as they were during WW1. People are changing out their front lawns for rows and rows of lettuce, beans, and tomatoes. Some of these kitchen gardens are as attractive as the former, manicured, jardins that they've replaced--in many cases even prettier....

jardin de moins (c) Kristin Espinasse
Some are even growing medicinal herbs and flowers....

Personal potagers--and, when not possible, community gardens--are definitely one answer to the food crisis. (And the act of pulling weeds and planting seeds is calming in these uncertain times.) But as I plant rows and rows of fava beans and mangetouts (amazed at how prolific and easy they are to grow) I think about those who do not have the time to enjoy food-giving soil....

When you work from home, it's easy to nip out and dig a 10 minute trench for radish seeds or spend 15 minutes filling a large bucket with dirt and potatoes (use one "mother" or sprouted potato and get a 1.5 pound yield!) not such an easy task when you work 20, sometimes 60 or more minutes from home (unless your boss will overlook a bucket of patates in your south-facing cubicle?).

That's when a light goes off: le ticket resto--France's genial meal-voucher! What better time than now to introduce this European invention, which began in post-war England!

"That's not government aide," Jean-Marc points out. Les tickets restos are an employee perk."

He's right, and Wikipedia goes on to say:

A meal voucher is a payment aide offered by an employer to the salaried worker, permitting him or her not to have to pay all or part of the price of a meal consumed during work hours. It is generally used to pay a restaurant tab or the purchase of food in a store. It's an alternative advantage to a company cafeteria.

Jean-Marc and Wikipedia may be right about that, but if more companies would offer the "perk," maybe more people would meet their daily nutritional requirements as well as get a hot meal--in some cases their only meal of the day.

The French may not have been throwing out food when I arrived in the early 90s (as a starry-eyed girlfriend to a French national), but they sure appeared cushioned from need. It seemed everyone could see the doctor--who still made house calls, for under $20--and most workers received meal tickets--whether they needed them or not. It was another one of those citizen's rights.  (According to the popular food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, French law requires businesses to provide a dining room for their employees. Where this is not possible they must offer tickets restaurants, so that an employee may eat in dignity and comfort (i.e. away from his or her desk). 

I remember a colleague's outrage on learning that not all employees received the same advantage. We were sitting in a busy bistro, in Marseilles, the scent of roasted chicken and potatoes wafting through the air, carafes of wine on every table, dessert--meringues, tiramisus, crème caramels on the rolled out tray. "Que desirez-vous?" the waiter had asked.

My colleague ordered the same several-course meal as all the other "employed" patrons were ordering (from Chamber of Commerce teachers, like us, to what looked like a variety of workers)--and she didn't forget chocolate for dessert!

"Un fondant," she said, ordering the chocolate cake with the soft, melted interior. 

Gosh that sounded good! But as a temporary worker (without the same meal ticket advantage) I opted for a cup of coffee.

To my surprise my colleague ordered a dessert for each of us and handed the waiter an extra ticket. "I'm a little hungry today," she said, batting her eyelashes. 

Her gesture was thoughtful--and we would just see if the extra ticket would work. She wouldn't be the first to attempt to use the meal vouchers in a sneaky way--some even succeed in buying alcohol and cigarettes and other non-restaurant purchases (it is not unheard of for a supermarket to accept tickets restos as payment for milk and butter--and maybe the latest tabloid? and a pack of gum to go with it?! And how about those préservatifs next to the check out register? Little did French Enterprise know her employee perks were also helping to curb unwanted pregnancy!)

Yes, there are abuses of the system. But overall restaurant tickets seem like a great idea in this economy. What, dear reader, do you think about the meal voucher scheme? Can you see your company handing these out (or do you have a lunch room, making it a moot point)? Would it incite you to order the chocolate mousse? Or would it come in handy when you ran out of hairspray or M&Ms (or, and Smokey would like to add, croquettes)? And would your local mini-market tolerate the substitution?

Comments
To respond to this post, click here.

Sponsored by: Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos

Book signing Ann Mah and Kristin Espinasse 

Two book events--in Paris. Hope to see you at one of them!

  • My friend Robin is hosting a book signing for Ann Mah and me! (For those who participated in my bookcover vote, now you know which was chosen!) Robin has thoughtfully extended this invitation to French Word-A-Day readers and she encourages you to bring copies of Ann's and my own books if you already own them. As well, there will be books for sale. Owing to limited space, please contact Robin right away if you can make it to this book event. Her email is rmkatsaros@yahoo.com
  • Also, Ann will be giving a book talk with Patricia Wells, on February 5th at the American Library, 7:30pm.  The two authors will interview each other. I can't wait!

Note: I've had another big set-back in the production of the "First French Essais" book. The full-color photos I submitted (and carefully sub-titled) were too small for printing purposes! It's back to the drawing board as I toss those and go through 20,000 photos, looking for just the right ones to illustrate each chapter. And it just dawned on me that, because I tend to severely crop my pictures, I may have trouble finding photos of 300 dpi or higher!

Ever feel like giving up when you're this close? How do you find the motivation to pull through to the finish line? Comments welcome! Meantime, I'll have copies of Blossoming in Provence for this upcoming book signing....

1-blue sky

First almond blossoms. Pop! pop! pop! and the tree will soon be bursting with pink petals...stealing the spotlight from the bright blue sky. (P.S. in case you were wondering, nope--this photo's too small too! At only 735 x 777 pixels it won't print to 6x9!) Rolling up sleeves....

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


mangetout + the thrill of sowing seeds

sugar pea bean stalk (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey and the Beanstalk... this snapshot reminds me of a favorite fairy tale. (Pictured: the near transparent "mangetout" bean that sprang up in December--alongside the wire fence of the dogs' pen.  I love the camera perspective. Had the lens been moved that much more we might have placed Smokey on a branch... and sent him on a celestial journey. To think that even a slight shift in perspective could put us on a higher path today....) 

mangetout (manzh-too)

    : sugar pea or snow pea or snap pea

Mange tout means, literally, "eat all"--for the sugar pea's popular advantage: no need to shuck it, you can eat it whole

In old French a mangetout is a reckless spender--somebody who eats up his or her savings.

New

Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.



Audio File:
listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence Download MP3 or Wav

On ne l'écosse pas le mangetout. On le mange comme ça.
We don't shell sugar peas. We eat them as is.

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

This week I'm as restless as a leaf. I don't feel like writing stories. I feel like sowing seeds!

There is nothing more fun than rushing outside with a handful of graines--especially in the morning when the ground is dewy and pliable! I love to poke seeds at random--par ici et par là--increasing the odds.

The things that come up! And in the most unexpected (or forgotten) places: sugar peas in the dog pen (in December!), snapdragons beside the restanque (in January!), melons in a field of cane! 

Planting par hasard is the fun way to garden.  No longer limited by rules ("plant 5cm apart, in partial shade, after frost") you can enjoy a try everything! freedom:

Try over there by the clothesline... try there by the parked cars... try there by mailbox... try there by the telephone pole... try there by the barbeque and there by the compost bin and there by the water spout.... 

Sow tomatoes and sunflowers and that pit in the apricot you're eating. Why not! Then be amazed when a snow pea blossoms along a crooked fence, its bright green leaves embellishing it. Enjoy the faint purple hue of coriander flowers beside the yellow garden hose. Be astonished when the snapdragon seeds you shoved in your jean pockets, in Spain--then accidentally ran through a wash cycle--offered up a fuchsia bouquet in France!

Begin to feel like maybe, just maybe, you're a budding gardener genius after all. Feel a little heady that the grain of creation you hold in your hand--the seed that is no longer than an eyelash--will, in three months time, tower above your 74-year-old aunt!

Meantime, rush outside--any time of year--to your yard or another's. Keep plugging seeds under the snow, beneath the leaves--even in the pockets of the trees!

 ***

Post note: ever heard of seed bombing (a.k.a. aerial reforestation)? It's also a movement whereby citizens make seed balls (water+clay+variety of seeds) then "bomb" unsightly curbs, forgotten industrial yards, and your neighbor's junk yard. Imagine sunflowers growing where garbage once collected, or snap peas climbing a broken fence! 

Comments
To respond to this story, click here.

French Vocabulary

une graine = seed
par ici et par là = here and there
la restanque = stone terrace used in agriculture
par hasard = by chance

 Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.

  P1010790-1
This nigella, or "love in a mist" appeared beside the cellar, born of seeds gathered from our former garden.

P1010798
You may remember this beauty, which popped up beside the pool at our old home. I harvested plenty of its seeds and planted them here in the back yard....

1-happy-gardener

After trying my luck the past few years--planting seeds beside the garage, by the clothesline, in Jean-Marc's wine barrels... last March we had rock beds built! (But it's still more fun to plant everywhere else!)

Kale

I seeded the beds with a wild sweep of the hand (picture skipping stones, only you're holding seeds instead). In addition to some whole plants I bought (zucchini, raspberry) hundreds of seeds grew.  See what came up, here!

 

1-IMG_20140113_104021

Pancho says: what are "tree pockets?"

I'm on my way outside, now, with a pocket of seeds--and also an answer for Pancho! I leave you with a letter I received this week:

Kristin,

I had to forward this to you to read as Claudia and I were made known to each through your French Word a Day blog. Maybe this will help you understand just a bit of how much we appreciate your writing. God bless and love to Jules.

Best regards, Barbara (and Claudia) 

Thank you Barbara and Claudia for the story you sent! Here is the link for others who might enjoy it, too--and the wonderful artwork!

DSC_0815
In the town where my husband was born, it was a thrill to see author George Sand's garden--which reminds me to tell you this: notice the plants and flowers all around--especially when they go to seed. Then fill your pockets with seed magic! To know that a little bit of George Sand's jardin is growing in my back yard--it's enough to make me want to settle down, finally, and write a story!

DSC_0070

Speaking of seeds, check out what I gave my best friend for Christmas--I got this package for the variety (and not for fear the world is going to pot. Then again... :-)

 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


How to say wasp in French... and the fascinating life inside a figue!

Kristin Espinasse with Smokey, Fig tree, Olive Grove, boules or petanque court (c) Jules Greer
"Ignorance is Bliss." Remember this photo from last September? Back then, while eating my way from one end of this fig tree to the other, I had no idea there was more to a fig than meets the eye.... 

une guêpe (gep)

    : wasp

Terms, Expressions, and an example sentence:

la taille de guêpe = slender-waisted, hourglass figure
le nid de guêpe = hornet's nest 

Pour éviter les piqures de guêpes, un vieux truc [ou astuce] de viticulteurs: pincer le bout de la langue entre les dents tant que l'insecte menace. Cela créée une légère tension corporelle qui le gêne, s'il vient à se poser sur la peau.

To avoid wasp stings, an old tip [or trick] from winegrowers: pinch the tip of your tongue between your teeth for as long as the insect threatens. This creates a light corporal tension that bothers [the wasps], if they come to land on the skin. (that story here...)


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


Figs and the Fascinating Life of a Lilliputian Wasp

Last night I heard a curious sound coming from outside the bedroom window. Toc, toc, toc.... Was it a thief?

My heart fluttered as I tuned into the strange noise. I listened to the intermittent thumping and shuffling, wondering what in the world? Was it a wild animal?

My mind reeled with possibilities, eventually settling on the least spooky conclusion: falling figs! I remembered back a day or two ago when playing fetch with Smokey. As he retrieved his stick, over by the boules court, I saw a scattering of figs lying there on the ground.

Next I noticed the ping pong table. It too was covered with figs.... I recalled the rumbling sky and the burst of rain we'd had the day before. The figs must have been knocked from the tree.

Allez. Pousse-toi, Smokey! Va là-bas, BraiseLike looters who appear on the scene, our dogs rushed up to the fallen goods, attempting to cash in on the catastrophe. 

I reached down to pick up a fig and saw it was too young to salvage. But then, could one eat an unripe fruit? It was a question I'd often wondered about. Such a pity all these figs might be destined for the compost pile, instead of our plates--in the form of tarte à la figue or figues farcies au fromage bleu or "figues tout court"!

Impatient to know the answer I tore open one of the figs. Instead of the usual raspberry color with lovely star-burst yellow accents, this one was pasty white inside. 

As I stood frowning into the fig my eyes caught on something... something wiggling! Dropping the fig I wondered, Was that a worm I just saw?

I walked over to the ping pong table and picked up another fig. Splitting it open I searched the interior until--wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!--I found what I was looking for. Beurk! C'est dégoûtant!

Any disgust was soon replaced by curiosity. The little fig in my hand was teeming with life. But how had the wiggly vers gotten there? Turning the fig round and round, I could find no port of entry....

An internet search ("worms in figs") opened up a fascinating new world--in which two living things come into being by the grace of the other--a process called mutualism. But how is this possible and which came first--the chicken or the egg (or the fig or the wasp?). 

Quit sait? Meantime what is known is this: because of the location of the fig's flowers (inside the fig), to pollinate it a female wasp has to enter the fig through a tiny hole in its base. It takes a very small wasp to do this, hence its moniker "la guêpe liliputienne". 

Once inside, the female deposits pollen and lays her eggs, which soon hatch. After the pupal stage, male wasps quickly find their way over to young females--and mate! Next, ever energetic, the males forge an escape route for the females (remember, everyone is still trapped inside the fig!). But all that gusto soon goes broke. The machos die at or near the sortie de secours and only the females make it out alive.

As the females crawl out of the fig, their little legs collect the pollen distributed by the first wasp.... Exiting, finally, the fig they salute their fallen heroes (OK, this part's made up) and, without missing a beat, make their way over to the nearest fig and into a little hole there at the base. Next the whole extraordinary cycle repeats itself!

As I said, some of the males--and those females who've lost their wings on the voyage out, die sur le chemin...   These unlucky ones remain there, fallen heroines and heroes, trapped inside the fig which then grows and ripens around them--like a sweet tomb.

At this point you may be wondering, like I was, whether or not to give up your addiction to figs? Could you overlook this wiggly fact and bite into the luscious fruit with the same wild abandon?

(Relax, nature cleans up the gory mess....)

Better than a sci-fi movie, the mutant fig eventually (and completely) consumes the unlucky wasps--this with the help of alchemy! ASU's Ask A Biologist column explains the process:

Figs produce a chemical called “ficin” that breaks down the wasp bodies. Ficin is so effective at breaking down, or digesting, animal proteins that natives of Central America eat fig sap to treat intestinal worm infections.

The article goes on to say that the rumor some of us once heard (about fig newtons containing crushed insects) is false. As for the figs on the trees, it all depends....

Recently, I watched my friend Isa reach for one of our figs while admiring our fig tree. Je les adore! She cooed, about to pop one of the fruits into her mouth.

Noticing the figs weren't ripe yet, I yanked the fruit out of her hand. 

"I wouldn't do that if I were you...."

***

Comments
To leave a comment, click here -- or share your favorite fig recipe (and assure me that you are no namby-pamby--that you won't let some lusty wasps keep you from enjoying this fascinating fruit!). 

French Vocab

toc-toc-toc = knock-knock-knock
allez = come on
pousse-toi = move it!
va là-bas! = go over there!
la tarte aux figues = fig pie, fig tart 
figues farcies au fromage bleu = figs stuffed with blue cheese
figues tout court = simply figs (figs full stop) 
beurk = yuck!
c'est dégoûtant = that's disgusting
un ver = worm 
qui sait? = who knows
sur le chemin = along the road
la sortie de secours = emergency exit 

Kristi and Chief Grape - Painting by Dana Constance Thomas
Kristi and Chief Grape. (We moved from the Ste Cécile vineyard, Domaine Rouge-Bleu, almost one year ago, but Jean-Marc will always be the grape chief. Meantime he's getting ready to plant his next vineyard). Painting by Dana Constance Thomas. At Dana's blog, you will find the interview we did together about what inspires me... and the answer to this question : If  Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?. I had a lot of fun answering that one. Don't miss the interview, here

sunflowers old french farmhouse mas in st cyr-sur-mer france
I planted sunflower seeds sprouts last fall -- and forgot about them. Those are radish pods. Having fun in the garden -- hope you are having fun there, or elsewhere. Enjoy your day.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


What's a "marsouin"? + French garden tour!

les annonces dans la fenetre (c) Kristin Espinasse
A wild boar, a hedgehog, a dog... lion... chicken. I can't find a photo of a porpoise to illustrate today's word--thankfully these furry and feathery volunteers behind a shop window are happy to pose as one. (And the handwritten ads were taped to the window by students looking for work).

le marsouin (mar-swehn)

 : porpoise 

In old French le marsouin was pourpois (poisson-cochon, or fish-pig)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence Download MP3 or Wav file

Le marsouin est aussi appelé le cochon de mer.
The porpoise is also called the sea pig.

Porpoises are related to dolphins and whales. Do you have any other trivia or something to add for this marsouin entry? Do you collect marsouins or have you ever seen one? Where? Thanks for sharing here in the comments box. 

Entrance to kitchen garden, or potager (c) Kristin Espinasse

Smokey says Come along on a garden tour with me...

How to say arugula in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
And see poppies, roquette, and zucchini!

Kale, cucumbers, fava beans (c) Kristin Espinasse
Inside the stone beds there are cucumbers, kale, and lots of fèves

Stone restanque (c) Kristin Espinasse
There are stairs leading up to an ancient rock wall... once hidden behind masses of thorny brambles. 

King of the hill (c) Kristin Espinasse
That's me, says Smokey, humble King of the Hill. 

DSC_0296
And these are tomatoes, peppers, and poppies from the field. 

Butiner or pollin gathering in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
Here's how bees and hummingbirds pollinate. Help save these creatures--allez make haste!

DSC_0300
Raspberries and soucis, or marigolds... does the latter really work or is that an old wives' tale?


DSC_0301
 Some of the materials have been reporpoised. (Sorry to interrupt your story, Smokey, but the word you are looking for is "repurposed".) 

Smokey: This re- re-puh... re-puh... reporpoised wood comes from the French railroad tracks below our house. 

Tourguide (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hope you enjoyed my garden tour. Be kind to bees, purposes, and the earth.

(Smokey, I think you meant "porpoises" this time.)

Future kitchen garden (c) Kristin Espinasse
Back in February, Jean-Marc and I planned out the garden. But we didn't always see eye to eye...

  Working-in-garden
This old panier has had many reincarnations: once used in a produce shop, it has since held bath towels, dried herbs, fresh pots of lavender, bottles of shampoo and bath supplies. Currently it holds a tie from a bale of straw, the string could now be used to tie up the tomatoes... or mend a broken corner of the basket....

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


How to say crutch or crutches in French

Spaniel and cafe (c) Kristin Espinasse
""The rare Frenchman who uses the crosswalk" Computer is back and so are some long-lost photos from years ago! Youpie! Yay!


une béquille (beh-kee)

    : crutch, stand; kickstand (bike)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file

Elle marche avec des béquilles. She walks with crutches.
mettre une moto, un vélo sur sa béquille = to put a motorbike or bike on its stand.
se déplacer avec des béquilles = to get around on crutches


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

I was staring up at a flower seed display with packet after packet of possibilities when I heard a tap tap tap coming up from behind me. Turning, I saw a woman on crutches who was now looking up at the same rack of flower packets.

"Bonjour," I smiled, quickly turning back around in discretion. A moment passed before I thought to scoot over so that the newcomer could see the entire display.

"Ne bougez pas. Vous ne me gênez pas du tout," she assured me. Her hair, gathered up in a large twist, was the color of Mexican poppies ...or maybe honey-colored nasturtiums? ...the ones I was debating  whether or not to buy. I liked the idea they were edible plus pretty to look at. I had recently bought a pack of blue starflowers, or bourrache, for that very reason. Come to think of it I had recently bought quite a few packets of flowers, so maybe I'd better head off now, and meet-up with Jean-Marc, who was two aisles over, in the "automatic watering systems" section of the store.

But before leaving I felt the urge to say something to the middle-aged lady with the béquilles. During the handful of minutes that we had stood staring up at the flower seed présentoir, I sensed her endearing presence. We had only exchanged a brief greeting and that is when I saw what my dear aunt Charmly would refer to as stardust. It's that heavenly sweetness that emanates from a kindred spirit.

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have them all!" I said to the stranger, betting on the possibility that she, too, was overwhelmed by what the French call l'embarass de choix. There were so many flowers to choose from. I went to put back the seed packet I had been holding when the lady with crutches responded to me.

"Which one is that?" she asked.

"Oh... cosmos," I offered.

"Cosmos?" She had never heard of the flower before.

"Ah," I said, smiling. "They grow this high..." I motioned with my hands," and are covered with fuchsia flowers. (I was thinking of the cosmos that my mom had so loved, back at our farm in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. The thought of Mom fawning over those flowers threw me back in time.)

Perhaps emotion had cast a fragile shadow over me, for next the stranger offered an affectionate compliment.

"Hold on," the woman said, as I  returned the seeds to the display. "I will plant them and they will remind me of you."

It was such an intimate and generous thought that it caught me completely off-guard. I thanked the woman with the Mexican poppy-colored hair and quickly hurried off.

It was a strange reaction and, even as I was walking away, I wanted to turn back... to say something back to her just as nice! But what?

Two rows over, in the watering section of the store, I stood there debating. I should go back and get the seeds that she had been looking at (morning glories, I think they were...) and tell her I'll plant them and think of her, too! But as the seconds turned to minutes I convinced myself that the window of opportunity had passed. At this point it would be too awkward to return.

Hélas this touching encounter will be filed under Missed Opportunities. Meantime somewhere in France dozens of cosmos will bloom this summer. I see the woman with the Mexican poppy color hair hobbling up to admire them. She's finished with her crutches by now, and a part of her is even jogging down memory lane.

***
Post note: Recently, I discovered in my seed collection a packet of Mexican poppies (a gift from Malou a few years ago). I will scatter them and think of the golden-haired stranger. She won't have the joy of knowing my gesture (as I had knowing of her plan) but that brings me back to stardust, which must--like the emanating and far-reaching light from which it is born--illuminate kindred spirits the world over. Somehow she will know.

To comment, click here. Share your remarkable experiences with strangers or talk about another theme in today's edition. Thanks.

French Vocabulary

le présentoir = display rack

ne bougez pas vous ne me gênez pas du tout = don't move. You're not bothering me a bit

le bourrache = borage

les béquilles (f) = crutches

hélas =  alas

un embarras = a difficulty (more here)

l'embarras de (or du) choix = embarrassing variety of choice, multiple possibilites

Au présentoir des fleurs je suis resté bête devant l'embarras de choix.
At the flower display I was stumped before all the choices.

avoir l'embarras du choix = to have too many solutions

Rainbow over the vines (c) Kristin Espinasse
Months before we moved to our first vineyard, in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, we would visit it. Here is a picture of Jean-Marc beneath a rainbow... and on the verge of a colorful future in winemaking. You can also see the kids and our dog Braise.

Jean-Marc will kick off his USA Wine Tour in March!  Click here for more info and to see what other cities he'll visit. 

The Dog Wash (c) Kristin Espinasse
A blessing in disguise is what Jean-Marc calls my latest computer crash... for when my PC was repaired, we recuperated all the pictures that were lost during the first computer crash! It is fun to see the kids, in 2007. That's Braise they are washing... in an old grape bucket from Uncle Jean-Claude's vineyard

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Le gazon (pelouse) - lawn, grass, turf in French

"Lawn Chair (c) Kristin Espinasse
We lived and worked on this organic vineyard in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes from 2007-2012. (See today's story column for a special memory about that time). Jean-Marc will be in SEATTLE soon, check out the latest stop in his USA wine tour, here.

le gazon (gahzoh(n)

    : lawn, grass, turf

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word as well as the list of terms, below: Download MP3 or Wav file


semer du gazon = to plant grass
la motte de gazon
= turf, sod
le gazon anglais = an immaculate, well-kept lawn
le gazon artificiel = AstroTurf
la tondeuse à gazon = lawnmower
tondre le gazon = to mow the lawn

Le gazon est composé de nombreux brins d'herbe.
The lawn is made up of many blades of grass.  "Gazon" entry at Wikipedia

Cultural Etiquette & Synonym for gazon (= pelouse)

Ever noticed how a finger-wagging Frenchman will appear out of nowhere to begin chasing you while you walk--and now dash!--across the municipal grass? This was just one instance of culture shock I suffered when moving to France.

But how was I to know the grass was off limits? Back in Arizona, we throw blankets across public lawns and nap on them! Not something you want to do in France (though, as with French grammar, some exceptions do exist).

Please share your France lawn story or grass gaffe here,  in the comments box. Meantime, if you see a sign that reads Ne pas marcher sur les pelouses or Pelouse interdite or even Nos pelouses centenaires sont réservées pour les petits oiseaux (our centuries-old lawn is reserved for the little birds)... you'll know to keep off the grass!


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

Today's story is a favorite memory about a struggling-yet-determined Frenchman, who in 2006 set out to live his dream of wine-making. In the short essay "Surrogate Mother" or Mère Porteuse, you will learn about Jean-Marc's fierce mothering instinct and his tender beginnings as a wine farmer of 25,000 orphaned vines. Click here to read the story.

 

Smokey's Field (c) Kristin Espinasse
Dear Smokey in the tall grass at Domaine Rouge-Bleupaver tiles, tomettes, floor French farmhouse Provence
Pictured: our former kitchen. Though I never learned to be a grand chef, I could whip up a delicious, easy yogurt cake - and so can you! Click here - I'll bet you already have all the ingredients in your kitchen.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens