When an expat's expat parent comes to live with daughter in France: After 25 years in Mexico, Mom is moving in!

Window and shutter in Mexico
Au revoir Mexique. Our Mom is about to begin a new chapter in France!

On ne s'ennuie jamais

    : never a dull moment

Click here to listen to on ne s'ennuie jamais

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
A blow to her wings, not to her spirit! 
by Kristi Espinasse

My mom has been an expat in Mexico for 25 years (the same amount of time I've been in France). Now, following a recent coup dans l'aile, or blow to her wings, Jules will be moving into our nest and we are going to take things au jour le jour (just as the birds do!)

Petit à petit l'oiseau (re)fait son nid.
Jean-Marc and I will be researching the administrative side of when an expat's expat parent comes to live with American daughter and French son-in-law in France. (Kicking myself for not applying for French nationality after all these years. It would come in handy about now!). Meantime there are some non-administrative pépins, like where to put Mom...now that our two kidults have moved back in for the summer. As the French say: On ne s'ennuie jamais.

I'll be back with you later for an update. D'ici là, meantime, please send Jules and my sister, Heidi, (who just arrived in Puerto Vallarta) bon courage. They'll need it. They have two days to turn the page on a colorful chapter in Mom's life. On to the next! 

Jules in st-cyr-sur mer at la madrague
We may need a second bagnole now. How about this Méhari? Perfect for a sunset drive here in La Ciotat...

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un coup dans l'aile = a blow to the wings
au jour le jour = day by day
Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid = little by little the bird makes its nest
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
on ne s'ennuie jamais = life's never boring
d'ici là = meantime
bon courage = good luck
la bagnole = car 
la maman = mom, mother, mama...comme Mama Jules ♥ 

Heidi Kristi Mom Jules wedding day
Surrounded by my sister, Heidi, and our Mom, Jules at my 1994 Wedding in Marseilles.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


faciliter

DSC_0281
Pétanque and potager. Been planting lettuce, kale, and goji berries beside the boules court, turmeric, too! It looks like the Braise and Smokey are busy with a game now... OK, as long as they don't stop for a healthy snack! 

faciliter (fah-seel-ee-tay)

    : to ease, to make easier

Audio File: listen to the following example sentence Download MP3 or Wav file

Ma mère est là pour faciliter cette transition.
My mom is here to help ease this transition.

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

One of the reasons I wanted Mom to come visit, the week after we moved to Bandol, was so the kids and I wouldn't be alone while Jean-Marc was away at harvest. (He wanted to help Caroline and Thomas, the new owners of Domaine Rouge-Bleu during their ten day vendange).

The other reason I needed Mom here was for her ability to instantly infuse our new home and our environment with a unique essence: that of family, of love, of timelessness. Once Mom arrived it would be as though we had always been here forever, along with the French and British predecessors of this 19-century mas.

Indeed, as I hear Mom's voice echo throughout the meadow—where she is off on her morning walk with two happy dogs—it is as though I have never left home, whether that be the Arizona desert, where I grew up... or the bustling city of Marseilles, where Mom arrived in time to greet her first grandson... or the quiet village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where Jules came to help with the growing family, only to learn that tumors were growing inside of her. Mom literally left a piece of herself in France that time, before returning home to Mexico to have the other breast removed.

From the boules court where I am picking figs....

P1100876
Figs-hunting with Smokey...

P1100883

...I spy Mom exploring the ancient restanques and the future vegetable garden. Jules is wearing my old hiking boots and another of her loose ponchos (she never did have the reconstructive surgery, after her mastectomy--and hated those constrictive prosthesis bras which would gradually inch up, finishing the journey by strangling her at the neck! The ponchos and other loose-fitting clothing have become Mom's carefree solution).

I wave from beneath the figuier, shaking a fig at my fellow explorer down below. When Mom sees me she lights up, shaking a discovery or two of her own.

"Look!" Mom shouts, waving an exotic flower "the only one in the meadow". I don't have the heart to tell her that the delicate blue flower grows à gogo in a neighboring field. I watch as Mom returns in time to fill a shot glass with water and place the "rare" blue specimen (a chicory) on my desk. "Honey, always keep flowers on your desk," Mom smiles.

After the flowers, there will be gifts of pine cones ("look at the teethmarks!" Mom enthuses. "I wonder what wild animal was hungry for this one?"), and feathers (Mom loves to stick them in her hat, along with the wildflowers), and intricate leaves, "for your souvenir book," Mom suggests. In the evening I will tuck the leaves and the feathers into my journal, and do a sketch, as Mom suggests, of the little potager garden we are planting. I want to document where I've planted things--in case it all grows out of control! Meantime, lettuce, kale, rhubarb, turmeric, blueberries, gojiberries, beets, verbena, celery, and cilantro are coming up like like morning sun. A brand new day....

After sharing two decades of France with my Mom, I couldn't wait for her to be here to usher us into this next chapter of our lives. Like the opening paragraphs of a great novel, Mom is helping to set the scene of this mysterious and promising new beginning. It is her commencement as well; the start of a new year--her 66th. Happy birthday Mom!

Selected French Vocabulary

la pétanque = game of boules. See Herm's poem.

le potager = kitchen garden

boules (f)  = synonym for pétanque

la vendange =  harvest (definition, photo, and story here)

le mas = country farmhouse

une restanque = a support wall made of stones

à gogo = galore, in great quantity

 

P1110062

Some family photos for you. There's Mom, outside with Max. Inside, that's my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, and 15-year-old Jackie.

P1110067

Jean-Marc, Michèle-France, Jackie, and me.

P1110076

Jules, Max, Jacques, Michèle-France, Jackie, and Jean-Marc, before serving Jackie's birthday cake.

P1110078

La famille. To comment on any of these photos, click here.


P1110101
My brother-in-law, Jacques.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


How to say "leash" in French: laisse

P1100930
From Mexico to France. Mom, out walking Smokey R. Dokey along the boardwalk in St. Cyr-sur-Mer. Following our big move south, the dog leashes are still packed.... I know they're around here, somewhere. For our Sunday stroll by the sea, belts doubled as dog laisses, or leashes. (I thought to use the belts on our bathrobes, but 14-year-old Jackie said something like, "la honte!" (or how humiliating to been seen walking the dogs... with the help of terry-cloth leashes!)

une laisse (less)

    : leash

Example Sentence:

Merci de tenir vos chiens en laisse.
Please keep your dogs under control by using a leash.

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

After I finished setting up Mom's room, I stood back and had a look at the overall effect. The scene looked uncannily like that of my childhood salon, where Mom had her bookcases, a low-lying canapé, and all her favorite babioles. It is funny how we sometimes recreate, if unconsciously, cozy corners of the past. Do you think Mom will be snug and comfortable here? I put out a fresh bowl of fruit, to sweeten things.

P1100776

Mom's room will revert to my office, in three week's time , when Jules returns to Mexico. Not thinking about that, now....

P1100830
I'm a little slow going these days. Adjustment blues. In the kitchen I turn in circles... when suddenly there's a rap on the window. It's Mom--absolutely brimming with enthusiasm I LOVE YOUR HOME! I LOVE YOUR HOME! Mom's mood is contagious and I can't help but break out in one great smile. 

P1100833
We were on our way to the la pépinière, to buy more mulch and some dill that I wanted to plant--when we got off track and ended up at the chair brocante's... we found two powder blue crapauds anglais--those cozy English chairs that one sips tea in while eating finger sandwiches (just a wild guess). "Mom, we can't drag those home." Mom: Sure we can! And so we did.

P1100837
"Always keep a deck of cards out," Mom suggests. "It will liven up this corner." Mom is right, that petit coin was a little sleepy before that deck came out!

Meantime... Donne la patte. Gimme your paw, Smokey! Mom trains our golden. (Side note: see the room beyond? That's the  TV room. You can just spot one of Mom's paintings. It has already moved. We're just trying things out, Mom says, rearranging paintings, bibelots, and the rest. We're also trying out the powder blue chairs--but are considering making covers for them (Jean-Marc doesn't like the color).

  P1100842

 Mom and I take a break from decorating, and head upstairs (just past the TV room) to my bedroom. There's a balcony there... convenient for reaching the tree top! I pick a couple of figs for la goûter.

P1100843
Mom eats les figues... washing them down with Bandol rosé! (The wonderful black recliner belonged to Maggie's father, a Scottish man, who moved into this mas in the 60's. See a photo of Maggie and Mike, who sold us their home, here). Maggie's father loved this chair. I hope he would be pleased to know Mom loves it, too. It has wheels! I'm just waiting for Mom to ask me to push her around--wheee! (The answer is non!--those wheels are not for racing.)

P1100846
Jean-Marc says the crapauds are comfortable. Now I won't worry anymore about the spontaneous purchase. How much do you think the old chairs cost? Leave your best guess here, in the comments box.

P1100858
Outside the cabanon de cochon, Jules is giving Smokey etiquette lessons. Mom can't speak French, but she's learned a few commands:

donne la patte (gimme your paw)
assis! = sit
couché = lie down
là-bas! = scram! (literally "(go over there!")

 

P1100865
Jackie, left, missing her friends back in Sainte Cécile. Grandma Jules offers a sympathetic oreille...

P1100870
Jean-Marc and Jules look at boats. The colorful ones, there, are known as "pointus"--they are the classic fishing vessels of yesteryear. Perfect for catching daurade or loup... but not so practical should you want to cruise over to the islands of Frioul. Do you want to visit the island of Frioul? Pack a picnic... throw in the anchor... go for a swim among the rocky island coast....

  P1100887

Voilà. It's time for me to think about lunch, then pick up Jackie to share it with. Au fait, here she is with Grandma Jules, shopping in Sanary-sur-Mer. Jackie didn't end up with the mustard yellow vest, but it sure looked cool on her! We didn't buy anything (on a fait du lèche-vitrines), but gathered ideas for her upcoming 15th birthday, on September 18th!

If you are new to this word journal, bienvenue! You can read more about Jules and Jackie and our Franco-American family in the books Words in a French Life and Blossoming in Provence. Thanks for reading!

French Vocabulary

le salon = living room

le canapé = sofa

le canapé-lit = sofa-bed

la babiole = knick-knack

la pépinière = plant nursery

le crapaud = toad 

le fauteuil crapaud = squat armchair

la brocante = second-hand shop

le petit coin = small corner (also toilet room)

la goûter = snack time

le cabanon = stone Provencal hut

le cochon = pig

une oreille = ear

la daurade = sea bream

le loup de mer = sea perch 

voilà = so there you have it

on a fait du lèche-vitrines = we went window shopping (literally "we licked windows")

au fait = by the way

bienvenue! = welcome!

ça y est = that's it

 

P1100885
Ça y est. Jackie is the tallest female in our house! To comment on any of the photos or items in this edition, thanks for using this link.

P1100932
Mom got the cool belt-leash (the leather one, with fringe. I got stuck with the nerdy one--that looks like a tie... trying to look like a belt... trying to look like a leash.)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


muse

Sheep in Les Arcs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Who (or what) is your muse? For me it can be a scene, like this one... and suddenly inspiration comes! Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1999-2007. 

I tried to find a French synonym for une muse, but I landed on a French definition instead. Here it is, along with the day's story, written two summers ago:

une muse (myooz)

    : une source d'inspiration pour un écrivain, un poéte, ou une artiste 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the definition to muse: Download MP3 or Wav file

la muse verte = absinthe (the drink that is said to have inspired 19 Century writers)
invoquer sa muse = to call on one's muse
courtiser les muses = to court the muses
taquiner la muse = literally to tease the muse (to give a go at poetry)
les muses = The nine Muses

un musée = museum (from the Greek mousaion, or "a seat or shrine of the muses").

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

Last night I dialed up Mexico and listened as Jules picked up the phone at the other end of the jungle. I felt grateful to hear my mom's voice and immediately asked whether she would like to hear about the fictional nouvelle that I had begun.  

Mom was game. Only, as I heard myself recount the historiette (involving a senile goat that wears recycled espadrilles), I realized—before Mom even suggested it—that I still wasn't addressing the muse... or was it that the muse wasn't addressing me?... or rather neither of us was addressing but rather a-skirting. Quite simply put, we were, both of us, the muse and I, conveniently and once again skirting the heart's history. Whether or not skirts were involved is beside the point. Let's see, is there a point?

"I think you use humor to deflect," Mom pointed out, in so many mom-wise words. "Underneath the guise of comedy, lie your profound stories." 

I offered a few mumbly yah-yahs and you're right about thats. Mom was unconvinced. That is when she reminded me of a line she had just heard in a movie, words that stirred her heart, and maybe they would stir up my own in time to share a few true lines. 

"You are God's muse"

 "You are God's muse," Mom said, quoting the film. She left enough silence for the words to find feeling in my mind. We are God's muse.... 

Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chèvre aside. I reassured myself that the story could be told another time. Next, I thought of Mom's words:

"Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"

I opened a new window on my computer screen. I took a sip of coffee, staring for a thoughtful while at the proverbial blank page. Finally, I typed in the title of my story. My throat tightened followed by a stinging in the eyes. Closing them, I felt wet lashes.

I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, no more than a title. It read, Naked

Next, I closed the word document and shut off the computer. I walked down the quiet hall to the bedroom, where I changed into my pajamas. I can't sleep without them.

 

   "Locked" in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin Espinasse

French Vocabulary

la nouvelle = short story

la historiette = anecdote, short story

la chèvre = she goat

 

  Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse

Forward today's story to a struggling artist. Thanks. (Picture of Smokey taken two summers ago. What is he thinking? Click here to add a thought bubble.)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


casse-tete

Chief Grape and his puzzle
Jean-Marc's latest pastime. Read on in today's story column.

un casse-tête (kass tet)

    : jigsaw puzzle, brainteaser
    : difficult problem, headache 

Note: un casse-tête is a synonym for puzzle. The French more often call a puzzle "un puzzle" or "un jeu de patience".

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read today's word and the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Les premiers puzzles se faisaient en peignant une image sur la surface d'une fine planche de bois que l'on découpait ensuite à l'aide d'une scie à chantourner... le mot anglais "puzzle" signifiant d'une façon générale une énigme ou un casse-tête. The first puzzles were made by painting an image on the surface of a thin wooden board that was then cut with help of a jig saw... The English word "puzzle" means, generally speaking, an enigma or a brainteaser. —fr.wikipedia.org

 

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

There is nothing so soothing as watching an overworked man piece together a jigsaw puzzle. Sitting quietly beside the crackling fire, a puzzle piece held gently between rough, calloused fingers, my husband is lost in concentration. I have had the chance to observe this "pieceful" scene, almost nightly, ever since Jean-Marc cleaned out the cellier, salvaging this old puzzle in the process.

Just outside the window, the rows and rows of grapevines—now leafless, woody, and sleeping like a log—no longer vie for his attention. For a rare moment, Jean-Marc is at peace.

On the table before him, my husband has laid down one of my mom's largest oil paintings—it appears to be the perfect base on which to construct his scattered oeuvre!

(Jules will not be shocked to learn that her painting currently serves as a foundation—au contraire—she is known to roughhouse with her art: scrubbing down dusty paintings and, sometimes, completely obliterating scenes with a coat of wet paint!

Sometimes Mom forgets her plein air paintings, leaving them out in the rain—only for them to survive, blessed by God's tears, dried by the muse or le Mistral!

Yes, by unwittingly lending her painting as a puzzle support, I think Mom will even be honored to learn that she is participating in this restorative effort, one that has an especially calming effect on her treasured—and tired—beau-fils.)

From the kitchen, where I am putting away dishes, I pause, enjoying the scene of a tired man "puzzling". The scene is restful, even to me. I sit down at the kitchen table to sip a steaming tisane and watch my husband work, this time effortlessly.

Initially, Jean-Marc tried to interest our daughter (owner of the puzzle) to participate with him in this jeu de patience. When Jackie eventually lost interest (or patience?), Jean-Marc continued working on her puzzle without her.

As I observe my husband I am humbled by his appreciation and interest in our daughter's puzzle. Watching him devote all his concentration to the subject, I can't help but feel a little ashamed at an unfair remark I made many years ago, before we broke up for the first time:

The heated scene took place on a busy street in Marseilles and went something like this:

Me: "You are so macho!"
Him (hugely offended): "Je ne suis pas macho! JE NE SUIS PAS MACHO!

I can't even remember what the subject was then, but tonight, sitting here sipping my tea, it is hard to contain my smile as the puzzle in the next room begins to come into view, piece by piece....

I now see two fuzzy kittens clinging side by side—innocent and helplesssuch a fragile couple!

How sweet to see a big strong man putting together a kitten puzzle! I think, when suddenly my mind returns to the accusatory scene on the busy city street, some twenty years ago.... 

Macho? What was I thinking?! I look over, affectionately, at the puzzle maker and feel a strong sense of gratitude for one man's care and diligence in piecing back together the innocent and fragile couple. It takes puzzle maker's patience. This I know for sure.

 ***

Learn more about our exciting (and rocky...) courtship, in the intro chapter to Words in a French Life. And in the follow-up book, "Blossoming in Provence", a girlfriend-come-wife learns many more lessons in patience!

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments regarding today's story, or edition, are welcome here, in the comments box

French Vocabulary

le cellier = storeroom
une oeuvre = a work (painting, book, film) 
au contraire = on the contrary, just the opposite
plein air = a painting produced outdoors
Mistral = strong wind coming from the north or northwest
le beau-fils = son-in-law
une tisane = herbal tea
un jeu de patience = puzzle 

 

Rose hips (c) Kristin Espinasse
The pieces of Nature's puzzle.

Puzzle statue in Ramatuelle (c) Kristin Espinasse

A puzzle statue we spotted in Ramatuelle. I hope you enjoyed this edition. Keep up your French with the following, highly recommended book:

Exercises in French Phonics

Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


baratin & baratiner

Prince 2 CV Citroen (c) Kristin EspinasseDoes one need to hit the road to sell books on French life? Not when your MOM is busy pounding the pavement! Read on... (photo taken in Briançon). Note: the next word goes out in the new year. Meilleurs Voeux! Bonne Année!

le baratin (bara-tehn)

    sweet talk, smooth talk

baratiner = to sweet-talk somebody, to chat someone up
baratineur, baratineuse = smooth talker 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (above and below): Download MP3 or Wav File

Pour vendre des livres il faut avoir l'art de baratiner!
To sell books, one must know the art of sweet talk!

 

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

The Pick-Up Artist

You know what they say about a good salesman: He or she could vendre de la glace aux esquimaux! This is especially true of my dear mom, Jules, who is busy selling my book on French life to lovers of Spanish! For the past ten days, Jules has made it her mission to convert the tourists who flock to her little neighborhood along the Bay of Banderos, in Mexico.

Dressed in her trademark linen poncho (her latest one, in white, was a Christmas gift from her husband John), a red turtleneck (to match her red Converse tennis shoes), white pants and her trusty fedora, Mom sets out to beat the previous day's sales record.  

Like any saleswoman worth her salt, Mom knows that one of the best ways to market a product is to get out there and pound the pavement! In Mom's charismatic presence, travelers are forgetting for a moment that they are in Puerto Vallarta... when they begin to perceive the hum of the accordion as Mom dances up and down the boardwalk at the marina, picking up yet another potential bookbuyer with her sweet baratin. "Bonjour, Monsieur!...."

Every salesman has a challenge to overcome. In this case, that would be the absence of a tangible product to peddle! This doesn't discourage Mom one bit and, minus an actual copy of Blossoming in Provence, Jules manages to sell the goods "sight unseen", via verbal promissory notes extracted from the innocent tourists. "You will buy my daughter's book when you get home, won't you?! Merci, Madame!..."

Having worn a trail along the docks, Mom heads to The Coffee Cup, where more unsuspecting travelers are having their first cuppa, unaware of the lively scene about to take place.

This is when Jules fires up the computer (The Coffee Cup has three or four of them, reserved for customers), and logs on to Amazon.com.

"Oh, Kristi!" Mom slaps her hands to her heart. "You are at number 31 in Hot New Releases!"

A few of the customers look over, in curiosity. For the sake of drama, Mom grabs onto the sleeve of the customer beside her. "Look! That's my daughter," Mom exclaims, pointing to the screen. "This is the book she published in 21 days--and now it is topping the bestseller charts!" (Like any saleswoman worth her salt, a little bit of exaggeration--or what, in all due respect, we might call "artist's license"--is par for the course!) 

And so it is that my dear mom has spent the past ten days--betting that the Hispanophiles who visit Puerto Vallarta are really Francophiles in waiting. Win or lose, she is certainly selling books in the process!

Thanks, Mom!


Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this post, please click here

See a photo of Mom, her husband John, and me in Puerto Vallarta. Click here and don't miss the story!

If you haven't yet... please click here to purchase your copy of Blossoming in Provence. Many thanks for your support--and for giving my dear mom a day off work today :-) 

 French Expression:

vendre de la glace aux esquimaux = to sell snow to Eskimos
le baratin = smooth talk
Bonjour, Monsieur! = Hello, sir!
Bonjour, Madame = Hello, Ma'am 

 

  word sculpture in Jonquieres France (c) Kristin Espinasse

An interesting sculpture in front of the town hall, in Jonquières (Vaucluse)

Dreaming of coming to France in 2012? Check out these posts for some fun ideas on what to do once you get here:

And check out Where to Rent a Car in France?

Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)

 

 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Canon: How to compliment a French Woman

DSC_0026
A lesson in adjectives: windows are "charmante", women are "canon". You wouldn't say a window is canon, but you could say a woman is charmante. Read on and learn about the French art of complimenting. Photo taken this week in Orange (Vaucluse).

canon [kah noh(n)]

    : gorgeous

There are other senses of the word.. for today we'll focus on the one above

elle/il est canon = she/he's gorgeous
les canons de la beauté = canons of beauty 

Audio File: listen to today's French word and phrase: Elle est canon Download MP3 or Wav

. 

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

How to Compliment a Frenchwoman

Mom and I are in the village pharmacy, having made a beeline here from the doctor's office. We're in luck when one of the three counter stations instantly opens. We step up to the comptoir and I hand over the scribbled ordonnances.

As the pharmacist studies the doctor's prescriptions, Mom studies the pharmacist and when the latter turns and disappears into the stock room Mom is breathless. "My God. She's beautiful!"

"I know," I respond, matter-of-factly.

"She looks as though she could walk right out of this vineyard town... and onto the big screen!" Mom is wowed.

"Did you see her hair?" Mom continues, and I recall the thick brown boucles that fall to the pharmacist's waist.

"Chestnut-colored," I guess.

"With golden highlights!" Mom corrects. "And not a stitch of makeup. She is a classic beauty -- like Audrey Hepburn--only, she must be 5'11!"

"I know, Mom. She is gorgeous." I conclude.

"Well, haven't you ever told her that?"...

I think about the pharmacist -- she is what the French would classify as canon. If she is this beautiful... chances are she is the last one to have heard about it. After all, the French do not dish out compliments as the folks back home do--at least not to strangers. But this isn't to say that they do not praise one another, or strangers--they just do so discreetly, almost imperceivably.

How to explain this to my mom, who is poised to shower compliments just as soon as the pharmacist returns? Mom has already done the impossible (by reaching for those chestnut curls! I can't believe she ran her fingers through the pharmacist's hair, as a mother would her own daughter!).

"Mom, the French are..." (and here I pause to find the correct word...) "...the French are a little reserved that way!"

Mom is not impressed with this latest French-etiquette lesson, which is quickly dismissed, and, by the time the pharmacist returns, I feel the need to explain the goggle-eyed woman to my right. If I don't say something right away, Mom will say it for me--in her own extravagant way.

And so I blurt it out. "Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique!"

As if Mom could understand my French (which she cannot) she looks at me expectantly, until I've coughed up the entire compliment:

"...et c'est vrai!"

Were we French, Mom and I would have waited until the pharmacist walked off and, while she was still within earshot, we would have let her hear our admiring thoughts: qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette fille! Elle est charmante!

Though we have yet to master the French art of complimenting, our Mom-thinks-this approach seemed to have the same effect... and that palpable French reserve that I had so often felt began to break a little bit in time to soften or melt.
. 

French Vocabulary

le comptoir = counter

une ordonnance = prescription

une boucle = curl

Ma mère pense que vous êtes magnifique! = My mother thinks you are magnificent

Qu'est-ce qu'elle est belle cette femme! = She is so beautiful, this woman!

Elle est charmante! = She is charming!

DSC_0106
Everyone thinks their mom is canon - and I, especially so! Sorry for the dark image (I should have used the camera flash!). This photo of Mom, aka Jules, was taken just this morning, before she left on her 24-hour voyage home to Mexico! Here she is readjusting her turtleneck (earlier, she had on a camisole beneath her Frida cape! I told her to cover up - because I know she gets cold on airplanes).

 

Capture plein écran 20052011 094508

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work.

After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a greater journey in the City of Light. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. None had any guarantee of success. That they achieved so much for themselves and their country profoundly altered American history.

Order The Greater Journey here.

 

 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


avouer

MalJuDoKris

These ladies light up my life. Mom and I had an inspiring visit with the Dirt Divas. I wish I had had a tape recorder with me to capture some of the chippy bantering! From left to right: Malou, Jules, Doreen, Kristin. Click to enlarge the photo.

avouer (ah voo ay)

    : to admit

avoue-le! = admit it!

Example sentence: J'avoue que je suis un peu sauvage. I admit that I am a bit unsociable.

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.

 

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

"Secrets"

I decided not to tell Mom until she got here. Why ruin her trip? Why get her thinking on something, ticking about it, when, instead, she could experience another day or two of peace? Besides, she had 24 hours of travel ahead of her and I wanted that trip to go as smoothly as possible.

And so I waited until she arrived to admit to her that I had broken a promise (that is, I think I had promised? It seemed I had. If my guilty feelings were any indication, then I had surely given Mom ma parole).

When I finally told Mom about the broken promesse, prefacing the avowal with enough of a lead-up that Mom was poised to receive une bombe... I let it drop, my little firecracker: Mom, I am so sorry....

... but I did not get around to having your latest painting framed! It is still rolled up, as you had left it, and I am afraid that it might be damaged, having been stored in that position for this long....

Closely, I studied Jules's face, not being able to stand another instant of guessing what her reaction might be. Suddenly, all the worry lines that had built up during my long lead-in to THE AVOWAL... disappeared.

"Is that it?" Mom questioned. I assured her it was. Only, instead of being disappointed, Mom seemed utterly pleased! Oh, that's nothing!, Jules assured me, falling back onto her pillow in relief.

On the subject of pillows... I notice Mom's head has been resting a lot on her oreiller in the last week... (This brings us to Secret No. 2.... : Mom's Avowal)

By day four or five of Mom's visit, my suspicion is growing.... and by lunch on the 7th day, I have lost my appetite. A lump in my throat, hopelessness rising inside, I look across the picnic table to Mom. Something is just not right. That contagious charisma that shines out from within has been replaced by a dull regard.  

I begin to string together the clues:
She's not brushing her hair...
She's sleeping till noon... 

I suspect Mom's reclusive behavior has to do with her medications... the ones she promised she would bring with her to France this time! My eyes begin to smart. There's that pinching sensation that warns that tears are on the way. When I resist (holding my eyes tight), I feel my very own anxiety ignite... 

That evening I fight the urge to retreat, to lick my own wounds up in the privacy of my room. Instead, I stop by Mom's window in the courtyard. The shutters are open and Mom is seated on the other side, framed by the room's light. She is wearing her brightly colored dressing gown with the glittery sequins. If only the colors in her sunken soul matched her vibrant robe.

I carry a garden chair over to the window and its ledge becomes a table between Mom and me. My question breaks the silence. "How are you feeling?" Having asked THE QUESTION, I brace myself for Mom's avowal.

She admits: "I've been halving my medication..."

The information sinks in. My chippy of a Mom has done it again! Though I feel like screaming, I decide, instead, to try for once to learn from past lessons. I calmly ask Mom to tell me exactly how many pills remain. Mom produces two packets, two different medications. She pulls out the sheets of tablets and begins counting. "Well... if I cut them in half, then..."

"No half doses!" I remind Mom. "Now, tell me, how many days do you have left?" I hear the macabre irony as the question rings in my ear, for, without medication, Mom is not truly living: she is suspended, in time, like a deer frozen before headlights.

Mom explains that she was not able to get four weeks' worth of her medication, and I am reminded of the shoddy situation of health care elsewhere. Not everyone has the privilege of walking into their pharmacy and leaving with enough medications to meet their needs. 

My heart goes out to my mother and to her husband, who tries hard to meet all of her needs. Only, this time, it was an impossibility.

I learn about how he has saved coupons in order to be able to stock up on the supply of medications that Mom would need for this trip. Only, they were a week short of being able to benefit from the 2-for-1 offer... and so Mom left with "almost enough medication". Because the idea of traveling all the way back to Mexico, having just gone off her meds, frightened her, she began dividing for the future!

Mom tells me that the secret she's been keeping has only aggravated her symptoms.  "But, Mom!, you should have told me, immediately! Transparency!," I remind her, "is the key to peaceful living."

As soon as I've preached my latest sermon, I am struck by the absurdity of my cloudy philosophy (I remember my own secret...). From now on, I might do well to practice transparency before illuminating others on the virtues that lead one to peace. 

***

Post note: so I made Mom a deal: why not make it our goal to accomplish two monumental-to-us tasks: to get the painting framed and to get to the doctor! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Merci d'avance! Click here to leave a message.

 

Related story: This isn't the first time our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test. Once, I locked Mom out of the house (I don't think I've written about that one...!!!) and another time, two years ago, Mom came to France without her anxiety medication. We had to live through a trying power outage, which only added to the moodiness (click here)!

French Vocabulary

chippy = (adj = rascally; noun = rascal)

ma parole = my word

la promesse = promise

une bombe = bomb

un oreiller = pillow

la robe = dress 

 

DSC_0026

"The Courage to Face Another Day". A trompe-l'oeil in the village of St Roman de Malegarde.

Shop like the French!

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Shopping trolleys--seen everywhere in France--are practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another disposable plastic sack! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys (or click on one of the trolleys here)

Capture plein écran 12052011 095757 Stripped trolley

  Doreen mom

"Missing Malou". Kristin with Doreen and Mom. (Photo by Malou)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


zone de confort

P1020013
Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here. Pictured: our daughter, Jackie, at the écurie, where today's story takes place... By the way, is anybody else as terrified by horses as I am?


zone de confort (zown deuh kohn fohr)

    : comfort zone
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

sortir de votre zone de confort = move out of your comfort zone
oser quitter votre zone de confort = dare to leave your comfort zone


Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the 5 star reviews, and order, here.
. 

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

Out of One's Comfort Zone

At the horse stables where my daughter has her riding lesson, Jules and I are sitting on the freshly-mowed pelouse. Mom is wearing her bubblegum-blue poncho and her panama hat with the red silk roses. She has spread out her Mexican tapis, the bright blue one with all the giant red fish, making our trespass even more conspicuous.

I try to hold my tongue, after all, I have recited enough rules for the day (earlier, in the village of Tulette, I noticed Mom making a beeline toward the café, where two Moroccan men sat smoking. "Let's not talk to anyone!" I suggested, not wanting to get involved in another names-and-telephone-numbers exchange.  Mom indicated she wouldn't, but eventually, mon adorable chipie de maman, left me at the table in order to chat with the shopkeepers, making friends and appointments as she went...)

Back on the grass at the stables, I spoke: "This isn't such a good idea," I said, of the blanket and the feather oreillers that Mom had dragged out to the lawn beside the horse arena. "In France people don't lie on the grass!" 

Mom's response was to rap on the feather pillow, ordering me to take a seat! Next, like a starfish, she threw out her arms and legs, fell back on the pillow, and sky-gazed. "AHHHHHH!"

My back toward the barn and to the riders who were surely reporting us, I sat there, crookedly, unwilling to relax into the comfortable pillow beside me. Leaning sharply on my elbow, my eyes scanned the horse park, where I began questioning the quality of grass....

Perhaps different grass has different rules? I wondered. This grass here, with its wheat tones and dry patches... was different, wasn't it?, from Paris Luxembourg Gardens grass. There, you wouldn't dare relax (...or have the pelouse police on your back!).

My elbow grew sore and my back, at such a crooked angle, tired... along with my rules and resolutions. "Go ahead. Lie back!" Mom suggested, eager to share the world from her eyes-to-the-sky perspective.

When my head hit the pillow the first thing I noticed were the leaves in the tree above me. SUCH GREEN LEAVES! With the sun shining down through them, the tips were saturated with color.

The feuilles, shaped like giant outstretched hands, waved in the breeze, capturing all of my attention so that when the stable-owner marched up and towered over me, I could not see her for the tree leaves!

I scrambled to a seated position in time to be read my rights. Surely we were in trouble for suffocating the grass!

But, instead of a reprimand, all I heard were these inviting words: Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée. With that, the stable owner slipped by, a smile and kindness still sparkling in her eyes.

 ***

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, feedback, and stories of your own are most welcome here, in the comments box.  

Let's create a fun list together....

100 (or so) Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I'll begin - with a few goals of my own:

DSC_0014
1.  Ask the baker whether you might take her picture!

2. Go on a solo road trip

3. Give a talk at a library (or a school), sharing an idea or a hobby

4. Plant bird-of-paradise next to your mailbox

5. Stop the car next time something catches your eye (like the lady who sat out in front of her home, knitting)

6. Paint happy stars on a door, chez vous!

7. Tuck wildflowers into your hatband

8. Write a 40-page novel... for your eyes only and just for fun!

9... (Your turn to leave some tips here in the comments box!)

 

French Vocabulary

une écurie = horse stable

la pelouse (also le gazon) = grass

le tapis = rug

la chipie (pronounced "she-pee") = rascal, little devil

mon adorable chipie de maman =  my lively, mischievious, light-hearted and charming Mom

un oreiller = pillow

la feuille = leaf

Profitez, mesdames, de cette magnifique journée = Seize and enjoy this magnificent day!

 

IMG_5147
On a recent walk near the river, Mom gathered wildflowers (chèvrefeuille, or honeysuckle, and genêt, or broom) for her hatband, or ruban de chapeau.

When you purchase any item from Amazon, using the following links to enter the store, your purchase helps to support this free language journal. Merci d'avance!

French Demystified: A Self-Teaching Guide 

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Read review for this memoir

  Capture plein écran 16052011 090119
Wicker basket. For the farmer's market, for the beach, for a carry-on, for a picnic... (that's my mom, Jules's basket, pictured below!) Buy this multipurpose "panier" here.

P1000694

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


surclasser un passager

IMG_5002
Mom has arrived!  Here she is in her bump-me-up outfit (do you see Frida Kahlo on the cape?), the one that got her whisked into business class the moment she stepped onto the airplane. "Who can resist Frida?" Mom demanded, with that testy twinkle in her eye, when I asked for the specifics of her airline upgrade. (Picture taken last February, during my visit to Jules's home in Mexico.)

surclasser un passager

    : to upgrade or bump up a passenger
. 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wave file 

Hier, Jules a été surclassée dans son vol Mexico-Amsterdam.
Yesterday, Jules was bumped up for her Mexico-Amsterdam flight. 

 

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

Mom arrives

The call of the rossignol pierced through our flowery courtyard, tickling my ears with poetry. I was standing in the doorwell of the studio we had prepared for Mom, peeking out from behind the climbing jasmine, when I realized that there was some sort of delay over there in the driveway....

Wearing house slippers, I scuttled over to the front gate, beyond which I saw Jean-Marc unloading Jules's carry-on. "But where is Mom?"

"Elle est dans la cave," he answered. Alors comme ça, my chipie of a mom had disappeared into the wine cellar!

When next I saw a cloud of red, I recognized Jules in her favorite Frida Kahlo cape. She wore her panama chapeau with the thick red hat-band, in which she had tucked two red roses en soie.

"John bought these from the blind Mexican on the corner...." Mom explained, wanting me to know of her husband's thoughtful gesture the hour before her departure from Puerto Vallarta. 

"This one's you," Mom indicated, her hand reaching up to locate the first flower, "...and that one's me". She patted the silk flowers, "They represent his love for us".

I recognized another of Jules's attempts to bond her husband and her daughter. If only my darling mom knew that, just like that nightingale singing in the hedge, her family communicates clearly now and the best is yet ahead.

***

Postnote: Standing there in the driveway, no sooner did I have all of Mom's attention.... when four thieves rushed in and stole her affections!  I stepped back to offer my place to two tinsel-toothed teens and a couple of gushing goldens. Waiting in line, behind the dogs, my joy was not diminished in giving the others first dibs.


Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this story or to today's word, click here.


French Vocabulary
le rossignol = nightingale
elle est dans la cave = she's in the wine cellar
alors, comme ça = and so, like that
la chipie = little rascal, little devil
le chapeau = hat 

Thank you for visiting our sponsor!

LES PORTES TORDUES (The Twisted Doors): The Scariest Way in the World to Learn and Listen to French! Check it out (if you dare).  

 

  DSC_0109

 Three characters in Villedieu (Vaucluse): one of the places I'd like to take Jules while she's here.

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Le Trolley! Practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another plastic sac! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys

Capture plein écran 12052011 095757


Capture plein écran 12052011 095845
 check out this one with matching boots (click here)!

 

 

 

 

DSC_0114

Sunflowers can be just as happy on a small balcony as in a field wide as the breeze. Why not plant one this weekend? Photo taken in Cassis.

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Sur la production de la passion

P1000893
In pursuit of one's shadow... read on. (P.S.: ever seen the shadow of a tongue?)
. 

Sur La Production de La Passion
(On Manufacturing Passion)

During a telephone conversation last night, Mom and I talked about passion and peace (a dichotomy?) On the one hand, our passions drive us... and yet we are always looking for the road to La Paix.

"I spent several hours cruising the internet yesterday," Mom tells me. "I navigate from one creative site to the next." It is all overwhelming in the end. Finally, Mom concludes:

Perhaps I need to manufacture my own passion!

...Maybe I'll go out and buy some paint thinner... but then, I am so happy here (away from the blank canvas), resting quietly by the window, sharing this chocolate-chip cookie with Breezy!


Some say peace is what happens when we give up our passions. Just a thought and, along with Mom's cookie, quelque chose to snack on today....
. 

Le Coin Commentaires
Your thoughts are welcome here, in the comments box.

P1000890
 
Mustard-flower passion beneath still-sleeping vines.

P1000883
Some are passionate about orchids... here's a wild one for you.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens