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


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

TODAY'S COOL WORD: "désinvolte"


: casual, nonchalant, detached, glib

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

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

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

"réservé" "distant"...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRENCH VOCABULARY

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


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

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

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

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


Today is The Day! Something mammoth to celebrate!

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

Today's Expression: "dans la panade"

    : in a jam (in a difficult situation)

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

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

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

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

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

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

Amicalement

Kristi

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

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

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

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

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


Every Francophiles Favorite F Word + 2 Days in Paris!

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

TODAY'S WORD: flâner

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

La flânerie = loafing, idleness

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

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

Click here for the audio file

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mother and daughter paris trip umbrella streets of paris rain

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

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

le bottier parisien cordonnerie shoe repair key maker

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

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

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

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


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

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

TODAY'S PHRASE: "Le tour est joué"

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

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

Click here to listen

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Et Bob est ton oncle?...

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

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

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

***

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


“La Douloureuse”: A funny way to say “the check” + A Tourist Trap, Beware!

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Handwoven fishing baskets on La Maddalena Island, off Sardinia. Read about how we got trapped in a tourist net in today’s missive, and learn another meaning for la douloureuse. Speaking of pain, my eye surgery went well. Thank you for your kind notes.

Today’s (Slang) Word: la douloureuse

  : the check, the bill, “the painful”

AUDIO: Click the link below to hear the example sentence + all the French vocabulary. Then scroll down to check your French comprehension.

Click here for thr MP3 file

L’argot s’est enrichi d’un mot charmant. La note à payer, connue sous le nom d’addition, s’appelle, depuis quelque temps, la douloureuse. Slang has been enriched with a charming word. The bill, known as “the addition,” has for some time been called “the painful.”— Aurélien Scholl

In books: How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

La Maddalena c’est le royaume du poisson! Jean-Marc said, and from the selection of fish on display outside the island eateries, I could see why.

It was our second day along the Italian archipel, and we had reservations at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host. Seated now among the stylish clientele, I began to feel uneasy in my sundress and mismatched wool cardigan. Tant pis! I was in good company. There across the table sat my husband, wearing his favorite T-shirt: “Real Men Drive Tractors.” Regarding evening attire, we might be slowing down... But in affaires of the heart we are making good progress. For that I raised a glass of acqua frizzante as my date reached for his Vermentino and we toasted to 28 years of marriage. Tchin-tchin!

They say novelty is one key to a good marriage and something new for us is letting me pay the bill. All these years my husband has handled l’addition, for a “pain free” transaction. Even if the debit is coming out of our mutual account, I don't feel it so much when my spouse takes care of the check. I became aware of this when traveling to the US last month, when Mom surprised me with $500! “It will make things a little less painful for you while on vacation. Enjoy your time with your sisters and your dad and use this to help with the restaurants.” How generous of Jules to offer me spending money to make the bill—or “la douloureuse”—as they call it in France, a little less painful.

Les Oursins Dans Ma Poche? It isn’t that I have prickly sea urchins in my pockets, preventing me from reaching for my cash. It just depends on the situation. While spending is one thing, giving is different matter and something that doesn’t hurt at all (as Jules says: it feels good to give!). But overpaying, that’s another story and so on with ours….

Jean-Marc and I had settled on the pasta and fish (I would order the pasta, he would order the fish and we would share our main (and only) dishes. But when we learned the fish of the day didn’t have a set price (it was listed at 7€ per 100 grams) we asked the waiter for just one serving or “fish for one” figuring we were within our budget.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said he, “we only have turbot in that case.” Having never had turbot, I figured he was apologizing for having only a substandard fish “for one.” “It’s ok, I’ll have the turbot!” I decided, certain it was the best deal on the exotic fish menu….

For a substandard fish, that turbot was magnifique! It was a flat fish, similar to sole, and very delicate looking. The waiter carved it for us and we each had a palm-sized portion to go along with the pasta dish we were splitting. I ordered cheesecake for dessert and Jean-Marc ordered an extra spoon for his “taxable” portion as he calls it. (The kids and I call it Get Your Own the Next Time! But the kids, all grown now, weren’t here and so the bill would be even less—or should have been....

Holy cow! No wonder the French call the check “la douloureuse.” The meal we shared cost 108 euros. Just as I was resigning myself to pay the painful note, Jean-Marc smelled something fishy….

“Sixty-six euros for the turbot? But that’s impossible. We ordered fish ‘for one’!”

“But maybe we should have asked the price?”

“One serving of fish is around 500 grams. They are charging us for almost one kilo!” An argument ensued when the manager came over. “This is NOT fair!” my husband insisted, giving his final word. With that, the manager pointed to the bill and drew a line through the 108 euro total…JM and I were hopeful… until the manager scribbled “100.” 

Fifty euros per person was not unreasonable for our anniversary dinner, and I just wanted to pay the bill (more than ever) and leave before the scene got any bigger. But my husband wouldn’t let that fish go! On the way out he stopped the manager, who was in the middle of serving clients on the terrace. Next, Jean-Marc raised his finger and wagged it like never before. Wag, wag, wag! “La prochaine fois qu’on vous demande un poisson pour une person ne servez pas un poisson facturé pour deux persons!!!” The next time someone asks for fish for one don’t charge for a fish for two!!”

I stood there feeling as awkward as my dress until, finally, I grabbed my husband by the arm, sunk my fingernails in and the finger-wagging stopped. Next, we stumbled off, one of us shaking in indignation, the other struggling along in slippery sandals. 

We passed several more eateries on our stroll back to the rental apartment, and I wondered just how many other tourists were in for a surprise when la doleureuse arrived. Meantime, my husband walked silently. It was time for some humor to dispel the mood, and what better than a play on words?

“We’ve got to remember never to order turbot again. It’s the most expensive fish!” 

“No it isn’t,” JM corrected me. “All the fish cost 7 euros per 100 grams.”

”Well then, you might say we were ‘turbo’charged!”

So that’s my fish story, dear reader. I would love to read about your own mistakes or any tourists traps you yourself fell into while traveling. Thanks for sharing and see ou next week.

***

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FRENCH VOCABULARY 

le royaume du poisson = the kingdom of fish
tant pis = oh, well
les affaires = articles of clothing
l’acqua frizzante = sparkling water
le Vermontino = a grape variety from Corsica, Sardinia, Liguria, and Provence
tchin-tchin! = here’s to you!
la douloureuse = the check, “the painful thing”
avoir les oursins dans la poche = to be a cheapskate, “to have sea urchins in your pockets”

In books: Her Own Legacy by Debra Borchert. A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Order here

 

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The port of La Maddalena 


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A cheery eatery near our Airbnb

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Can you read Jean-Marc’s T-shirt via the reflection in the window?

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

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

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


Vadrouiller: 7 updates while we roam around La Maddalena

beach cove sea fennel plant nature La Maddalena Italy
A serene island cove off the Mediterranean sea coast of Sardinia

Her Own Legacy Chateau de VerzatHer Own Legacy by Debra Borchert: A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Available in paperback or read it on Kindle

 

 TODAY’S WORD: vadrouiller 

: wander, meander, roam around 

 

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

Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

Bonjour from Italy ou on vadrouille. My husband and I are roaming around une petite île off the NE coast of Sardinia. So, for this week’s nouvelle, instead of writing a story, which would require full concentration, let’s enjoy some bribes (breebs) or “brief updates”. I think this is win-win or gagnant-gagnant for us both because you will have some variety and I will get to wander around some topics—as well as some island topography. Allons-y

  • Chapeau! Congratulations to my dad for his recent efforts to acquire a second language (Spanish). He has studied 80 days straight, anywhere from 15 minutes to 2.5 hours per stint, in order to parler espagnol. Really proud of him. (Though I wish he’d parler français.)

  • On allume les bougies. September 23rd. Time to light some candles—76 to be exact. Today is Jules’ birthday. Joyeux anniversaire, Maman! You are a LIGHT in our lives and your wisdom makes us stop and think and be more loving. 

  • Les Cendres - Have you ever seen a loved one’s ashes? I hadn't, which is why it took 2 months to get up the courage to pry open Smokey’s urn. To my surprise my dog’s cendres weren’t scary, nor were they gray and black. They looked like sand on the beach. While beautiful isn’t the word to describe cremated remains, those ashes were peaceful and so was the burial, thanks to the help of my husband. Alongside the urn, the package I received contained a paper heart soaked in flower seeds, which we planted among the ashes. 

  • Les Noces de Nickel: As go wedding anniversaries, 28 years corresponds to “nickel” and signifies resistance, malleability and equilibrium…

  • Sardo-Corse : the language spoken by locals here on the island of La Maddalena, where we arrived Wednesday morning. C’est dépaysant, Jean-Marc said. Italy is exotic, compared to France and a nice place to celebrate our 28-year union.

  • Une greffe - Tuesday I will have eye surgery to remove a “pterygium.” It’s a condition people from the desert or the seaside or from ski areas sometimes get. The harsh conditions (sand and sun) cause the eye to grow a protective layer...and when it spreads as far as the iris it can obstruct vision. Because pterygiums can grow back after removal, a graft is recommended… Mama Mia! (I wonder if that means “ouch” in Italian—or Help me, Mom!)

  • If you don’t hear from me next week it’s because I’ll be strutting around my neighborhood showing off a cool new eye patch. But more likely I’ll be resting in bed watching YouTube with my free eye. Jean-Marc has recommended a classic called La Grande Vadrouille. It’s a comedy and you know what they say about humor, le rire c’est la meilleure médecine.

Bye for now and see you when I see you.

Kristi

P.S. After the vocabulary section, enjoy photos from Sardinia and La Maddalena

B7308FA1-E76C-428F-8167-07E12BA3317DLa grand-mère et la petite-fille. grandmother and granddaughter, Jules and Jackie. Photo taken Sunday, on Jackie’s own birthday—her 25th. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

ou on vadrouille = where we’re wandering around

une petite île = a little island

une nouvelle = story

allons-y = let’s go

gagnant-gagnant = win-win

Chapeau! = bravo!

parler espagnol = to speak Spanish

parler français = to speak French

on allume les bougies = we’re lighting some candles

Joyeux anniversaire, Maman! = Happy birthday, Mom

les cendres = ashes

les noces de nickel = nickel anniversary

c’est dépaysant = it’s a good change of scenery 

une greffe = a graft

La Grande Vadrouille = The Great Stroll

le rire c’est la meilleure médecine = laughter is the best medicine

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IMG_4287

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Sardinia Italy fisherman basket village steps

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

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

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


Piquer: Guess who moved out of our house and stole away with our stuff?

Son Max apartment mirror cutting board painting
Max, working from his new îlot central. After 8 months of renovation, our son is finally settled into his new appartement.  

Visiting La Ciotat or a nearby town? Stop in and see us at Jean-Marc's wineshop. Call ahead and we'll set up a visit.

Today's Word: piquer
    : prick, bite, sting
    : to steal, nab, nick

Her Own Legacy Chateau de VerzatHer Own Legacy by Debra Borchert: A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Available in paperback or read it on Kindle


FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce piquer +hear all of the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...by Kristi Espinasse
Lunch Chez Max

Mom and I were driving to Max's new digs when I cautionned my passenger for the nième time to Hang on! 

But what is there to hang on to when you are seated with a cactus? We had just bought the prickly housewarming gift at la pépinière's, only to discover it was too tall to fit into the back of our jeep. That left the passenger seat....

As the tires eased over another nid-de-poule in the road, Jules shielded herself with a flimsy towel, using it as a barrier between her and the spiky cadeau which was set on the floorboard and stood level with Mom's shoulders. By the time we arrived at Max's condo complex, both driver and passenger were already worn out from the gift-buying adventure. Only now there were four flights of stairs to climb (pas d'ascenseur), to make it to Max's pad.

Introducting FLOF = "Free Lunch on Friday"...
We are so proud of Max for the way he planned and orchestrated the renovation of his appart (make that "condo" in English,  because even if apartments and condos look similar in France, in some cultures you don't buy an apartment--you rent one). Max called on friends and family for all works associated with his condo and managed this bighearted team on his own. Max and Uncle Jacques demolished walls and Jacques put in the dry wall, Aunt Cécile did the woodwork, architect friend Zoë drew up a floorplan, pal Clément installed the electricity, best friend Yann, his brother, and father put in the floortiles, Anaïs added many loving final touches and Jean-Marc and I did various errands and a lot of cooking! In the 8 months it took Max et compagnie to renovate his apartment, and while he continued to live here at home--nourri, logé, blanchi--I often hinted that it would be nice to eat chez lui one day. "We can call it FLOF! Free Lunch on Fridays!" Thus, FLOF was born and here we were, about to enjoy a meal--our first FLOF--chez Max! 

But, as guests...what to buy for someone who has everything? Let me tell you a little bit about how that happened. First, do you know the verb in French for "swipe" or "steal"? It's "piquer"! Here are some examples/funny synonyms of piquer--as well as a list of missing items from our family home:

Max a piqué le canapé... he nabbed the couch

il a piqué le gel douche... he pinched the shower gel 

il a piqué la lessive... he pilfered the laundry detergent

il a piqué le miroir... he lifted the mirror

il a piqué la table de nuit... he swiped the nightstand

il a piqué le repose-pied ... he stole the foot rest

il a piqué trois tabourets de la cave de Jean-Marc... he took three bar stools from Jean-Marc's wineshop

il a piqué la planche à découper...and he ran off with the cutting board!

(He yanked that last item right out from beneath the veggies I was about to chop! And, as usual, he offered a grinning and irresistable explanation: he's taken these items in the name of sentimentality. He grew up with a lot of this stuff--and would like it to live on chez lui. Blame it on la nostalgie!) As for the shower gel and clothes soap, his sister stole it back. (Go, Jackie!) I'd like Aunt Cécile's cutting board returned, but it does look good in Max's kitchen and who can resist that devilish grin, that twinkle in his eyes that says: it's mine now

Despite all that our son looted, I still got him an early crémaillière present. So, you might ask, what does one offer someone who steals? (Quelqu'un qui pique?)

Something piquant, of course!

And so, dear reader, we got him a cactus.

***

Chez son Max french mirror cactus basket apartment la ciotat
The cactus gives a touch of Max's southwest American roots.

421C364E-E6FF-4A74-BC60-41038901D322
While saving for a dining room table, Max is using this foldout card table (also snatched from our place...). He got the bistro chairs free, too, from our friend Fabrice, at Le Vin Sobre Marseilles, who was clearing out his own wine shop. The chess board was a gift from grand-mère Michèle-France, years ago. Max's cork bar stools (you can barely see one there at the kitchen island) are are available here. The bar stool reminds us of a champage cork and the wire cage surrounding it. 

***
Related Stories from the Blog Archives:
Mortgage is a Creepy Word... (Max looks to buy an appartement
Nid-de-Poule - insight into one of our vocab words via a story Max wrote when he was in high school
Cécile's work - a story about my belle-soeur

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un îlot central (de cuisine) = kitchen island
un appartement = condo
piquer = pinch, nab, nick, steal
nième = umpteenth
la pépinière = the garden center, nursery
le nid-de-poule = pothhole
le cadeau = present
nourri, logé, blanchi = "fed, housed, laundered", the term is often used in a humorous, sarcastic sense
Max a piqué le canapé = he nabbed the couch
il a piqué le gel douche = he pinched the shower gel
il a piqué la lessive = he pilftered the laundry detergent
il a piqué le miroir = he lifted the mirrorµ
il a piqué la table de nuit = he swiped the nightstand
il a piqué le repose-pied = he stole the foot rest
il a piqué trois tabourets de la cave de Jean-Marc = he took three bar stools from Jean-Marc's wineshop
il a piquer la planche à découper...and he took off with the cutting board
la crémaillère = housewarming party
piquant(e) = prickly

Max Jules tv Queen Elizabeth death
Max and his grand-mère, Jules

Max and Jules
Feathers and clouds... 

Jean-marc pasta chez max mirrir
Jean-Marc enjoying Max's pasta. Max also made a delicious green salad and served Magnum ice cream chocolate pops for dessert.

Kristi and son Max

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

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

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


Redémarrer: Bonjour. An update from Kristi

Sunny English sheepdog
In Denver, I got to meet "Sunny", my sister's 5th chien de berger anglais ancestral, and enjoy a longawaited reunion with family. Read on and bienvenue to new subscribers. Delighted to have you with us! 

Today's Word: redémarrer

    : to restart, start again, to get moving

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

The eightHave you read The Eight? It takes place in France, is loaded with history, and Mom loved it! Order it here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Et hop-and just like that-summer is over. The French call this time of year la rentrée, "the start of the school year" or simply the return from vacation for those of us heading back to work. It is time to redémarrer or restart this blog with a quick update from our home in La Ciotat.

From the Rocky Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea...
It feels good to come home to France after a solo, three-week visit to Colorado. And like anyone returning from a getaway I have a lot to catch up on including, apparently les mites! Hungover from jetlag I stood in our kitchen pointing to le plafond as my husband balanced himself atop our wobbly dining table, a sharp wooden stick in his hand. You need such weapons to scratch the buggers loose from from their encrusted nests. Allez! Oust! Begone unwelcome weevils! Get out of my oatmeal, get out of my rice, get out of my life!

It is time to calm down and focus on writing and it doesn't come easy after a two-month pause. Writing for a living means the brain is constantly churning. Everything is grist for the mill! The mind chatters possible sentences, edits phrases, rearranges ideas and words only to scatter when facing a blank page. All that brain sweat for nothing. Two summers ago I decided to go on summer break "just like teachers do," and rest my head. I still don't know whether that's a good idea or not. I think this summer taught me that writing regularly is more than a healthy discipline--it is an anchor.

There, I've said everything but what I came here to tell you. Let those previous paragraphs be a warm up and now let's sprint to the finish with a recap of my time in Denver: After 3-and-a-half years apart from my family, I had the chance to see my sisters, Heidi and Kelley, and our Dad for a belated 80th birthday celebration. While this was the highlight of my trip, so were the many hugs from my niece and nephew, and seeing the two off to college at CU in Boulder. I also got to experience a “Tailgate party” before the CU football game, and, back in Denver, savored enough Mexican food and pastrami sandwiches and Triscuits to hold me over until the next time. Oh, and we discovered Elk burgers (thanks Rondo and Tom!) and Colorado corn so good it makes organic French maïs taste like cardboard. I will need to better explore the French farmers markets during corn season--and update you.

Kelley-heidi-Dad-Kristi
My sisters Kelley and Heidi, our Dad, and me in Boulder.

Other highlights included a special gift delivery from a reader (see painting below), keeping up with my sister on daily walks with sheepdog Sunny (Heidi is a jet plane while I'm a hangglider) and a sober dance in the rain at a biker bar! But I'll save that one for now. A writer must always have a story up her sleeve and the option to leave it there!

Now, back to those pesky pantry invaders and to other areas needing attention and care here at home. Tell me, how are you and how was your summer? I would love to hear about it in the comments. And thank you so very much for reading these French-infused updates, moths and all!

Amicalement,

Kristi

Edits to this post are welcome and appreciated. Merci beaucoup!



FRENCH VOCABULARY
Are any of the following words new to you? Which is your favorite term and which is hardest to pronounce? 

le chien de berger anglais ancestral = old English sheepdog
bienvenue = welcome
redémarrer = to restart
et hop! = and that's it! and just like that!
la mite = moth
le plafond = ceiling
allez! = go on!
oust! = get outta here!
le maïs = corn
amicalement = yours

 

IMG_4064

Thanks, artist Judy Feldman, for this precious rendition of our dearly departed dog. Those eyes! That tongue! That soft, silky, golden hair... That's our Smokey! Hard to believe he's been gone two months.  

IMG_4112

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

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

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


Adieu Sweet Smokey: French for "Dog Heaven"

Sweet Smokey (2)

Forever in our hearts. Goodbye, Sweet Smokey: August 16th, 2009-July 16, 2022

We take a moment to rise above our sadness to thank you, dearest Smokey, for all the humor, love, and care you so generously shared. We will never forget you. As Jackie said, the hardest part is that this marks a new chapter of our lives.

Dear readers, we are gently turning this page here at home, quietly sharing with each other all of our memories of our happy dog days with Smokey. This journal will return in September, along with a new chapter of our lives, salt and peppered with French words, and ever sweetened with memories of our cherished chien who is now in dog heaven or Le Paradis des Chiens.  

With love,

Kristi

  

Jackie and Kristi
Daughter, Jackie, Smokey, and Kristi.

B&s
Comforted. A young Smokey with his mama, Breizh, who he now joins au Paradis des Chiens.

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

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

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


Learn what "quiproquo" means via this familiar synonym + Vive Smokey!

Smokey golden retriever day lily
Our soon-to-be 13-year-old, Smokey and day lilies from our friends Anne and Kirk. Don't miss a beautiful picture of my Mom, Jules, at the close of this post (if your are reading via email, click on the link somewhere below to continue reading).

TODAY'S WORD
: "un malentendu" 

: a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misapprehension

AUDIO: click here to listen to the example sentence below

Un quiproquo est un malentendu où l'on prend un être vivant, un objet ou une situation pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding where one takes a living being, an object or a situation for another.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

During yesterday’s heatwave I was looking for a cold treat to bring Mom. In the frigo I took a yogurt and a banana and headed out the kitchen door, to our garage-turned-studio where Jules has lived for four years now. Le temps vole!

Beyond the sliding glass doors I saw Mom resting on her bed. The ventilateur on the nightstand that had been cooling her was now whirring loudly on the floor beside our golden retriever.

“Mom, are you keeping cool enough? Let me bring in another fan!” I said.

“No, I’m OK. Pull up that chair I brought in for you.”

I set the goûter in the fridge beside the very same yogurt I’d brought previously and noticed it was untouched. On my way back I picked up the green metal fauteuil and set it in front of the kitchen island, facing Mom’s bed, and we settled into our late afternoon tête-à-tête, chatting while petting and fussing over Smokey, who turns 13 next month. As I caressed our dog I suddenly felt another bosse, this time between his neck and shoulder, nestled deep enough to go unnoticed as it grew…and grew. It was nearly the size of a tennis ball!

“When we had all those bumps removed 4 months ago, I knew it was only the surface of the iceberg.” I said to Mom, as a heaviness filled the room.

“Well,” Jules replied, searching the positive side, “he is one happy dog!”

That is true. And so much of it is thanks to Mom, who gives all the credit right back to Smokey. “Do you hear him talking to me?” Mom asks, as we gaze at one of the favorite members of our family, his blond hair whirling in the ventilator's breeze.

Yes, I do hear those two. I hear Smokey barking suggestions to Jules all day long, and have the pleasure and delight of hearing Mom translate them all to me as the two go about their day. At 7 in the morning Smokey says: Bark bark! It’s time for breakfast, Grandma, and by 8: Should we go out to the garden now, Grandma? Bark, bark!  Sometimes at 11, he'll wonder, Is it time for a snack, Grandma? Bark! And finally at 8 pm. It’s late now, Grandma, let’s head in for the night! Smokey’s humble, easygoing, loving and caring dogness is an ever present sweetness in our lives—and as you have seen, he is a helpful guide in Jules’s life. If I begin to think about our life without him I….

“Honey, reach up and turn off the stove,” Mom said, immediately dispersing our troubled thoughts.

I swung around, still in my chair, and turned off the electric burner. “What’s cooking?” I asked Mom.

Jules' face contorted at the thought of duck. “You know I raised ducklings as a child…”

Where this duck came from is a mystery. Mom’s been talking about it for a while. “I can always cook that duck,” Mom will say, when she wants to put off going to the supermarché

That duck. Mom said it was part of the purchase she made at Jean-Marc’s boutique, but I don’t remember my husband selling canard in his épicerie-wine shop. I turned around again to look at Mom’s fry pan. Inside there were kidney beans and strips of that duck.

“You must be desperate,” I said, and we both chuckled at Mom’s predicament. On second glance, I noticed something unusual: la viande était blanche.

“Mom, that’s not duck.”

“It isn’t?” Jules looked hopeful.

“No. It looks like chicken to me. It could even be frogs’ legs!” (The “strips” were similar in length...)

“Frogs’ legs!” Mom gasped. Even Smokey was surprised and he lifted his head in time to wrinkle his nose. Sniff, sniff…

“Could you show me the package?” I asked. Mom retrieved it and there, on the label, it was clear where the quiproquo began.

“Mom, it says ‘dinde,’ not ‘duck’.”

Dinde?

“Yes, Dinde…turkey!” 

Dinde, dinde, wonderful! Am I pronouncing it correctly?” From the looks of things Mom had won the food lottery (and gained a new favorite French word).

“Would you happen to have any rice to go along with it?”

I offered to go and make some, but first, I reached down to caress Smokey. What I’d give to sort out his situation as easily as we did Mom’s. 

“Everything is going to be OK," Jules said, finding just the needed words. "We are all in God’s hands."

As for these heavy hearts, I'll remember He comforts those too. With this spiritual balm easing our painful emotions, we are now free to live each day to the best of our ability--for us, this means rearranging priorities in time to play ball and run through the sprinklers! Or whatever else our favorite furry family member enjoys this side of the rainbow bridge, and may it be miles and miles and miles away. Vive Smokey!
 
13 year old golden retriever Smokey and his tennis ball
Smokey, resting from another tennis ball run. It's true what they say about dogs: every lesson we need about life can be learned from man's best friend. For starters, Get up, go outside, chase the ball today. Always wag your tail. Never complain. Show enthusiasm at all times. Be one big furry ball of love. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Audio File for vocabulary

Audio file here

le frigo = fridge

le temps vole = time flies

le ventilateur = fan

le fauteuil = armchair 

le goûter = 4 o’clock snack, tea time

le tête-à-tête = private talk

la bosse = lump, bump

le supermarché = supermarket, grocery store

le canard = duck

une épicerie fine = fine foods, delicatessen

la viande était blanche = the meat was white 

quiproquo = misunderstanding, mistake

la dinde = turkey

vive = long live

IMG_3683 (1)

Photos: a closeup of Mom’s kitchen island and its decor

IMG_3826
July 14th, 2022. Jules, the first garden tomatoes of the season, and a smiling Smokey. He really is a happy dog. Thanks so much, Mom, for spoiling him with your round-the-clock presence, love, and treats.

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

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

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