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Entries from August 2012

pecheur & the big news revealed!

Toc toc (c) Kristin Espinasse
I have never seen a multi-colored Fatima before. The rainbow-coated hand tickles a sluggish passer-by, Reveille-toi! Reveille-toi! Wake up! Wake up and paint the town! (Picture taken on the Ile de Ré. Watch out for the cougars.)

Today's word is le pecheur, after the mention in Jean-Marc's letter, just below. Read it in French or in English, and listen to the recorded letter: Download MP3 or Download Wav file

le pêcheur (pesh-er)

   : fisherman 

 Finally, the news!

Chers amis, Dear friends,

Après 5 années de grande intensité, nous avons décidé d'ouvrir une nouvelle porte de notre vie familiale. Nous venons tout juste de nous installer au bord de la Mer Méditerranée, à proximité du village de pêcheurs de Bandol. After 5 very intense years, we have decided to open a new door in our family life. We have just settled beside the Mediterranean seashore, close to the fishermen's village of Bandol.

Bien entendu, cela peut sembler étonnant de quitter notre vignoble de coeur mais nous avons suivi notre instinct qui nous mène vers la mer. Nous resterons néanmoins très liés au Domaine Rouge-Bleu et je continuerai à en assurer une partie de la distribution. Of course, this may seem surprising to leave our cherished vineyard, but we have followed our instinct which leads us to the sea. We will remain, however, very tied to Domaine Rouge-Bleu and I will continue to ensure a part of its distribution.

Bienvenue à Caroline et Thomas à qui nous passons maintenant le témoin. Je détaillerai dans une future édition les raisons qui nous ont poussés à ce changement majeur de notre vie. Caroline et Thomas se présenteront à vous tout prochainement. A big welcome to Caroline and Thomas to whom we now pass the baton. I will give more details, in a future post, about the reasons that pushed us towards this major change in our life. Caroline and Thomas will introduce themselves to you very soon (in an upcoming post).

Entre temps, les vignettes de Kristi prennent une petite pause mais, rassurez-vous, elles reviendront très vite avec l'air marin... Meantime, Kristi's vignettes will take a little break but, rest assured, they'll be back quickly, with the sea breeze.

Nous vous remercions pour tous vos messages de soutien. We thank you for your messages of support.

Jean-Marc & Kristi

P.S.: Harvest is around the corner. Jean-Marc will be there, in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, with Caroline and Thomas. They are looking for helping hands to bring in this year's Domaine Rouge-Bleu vintage. If you are interested in volunteering for a day, a week, or even a bit more, contact Caroline at caroline@rouge-bleu.com

Click here to leave a message in the comments box.

 

Hollyhocks and door knocks (c) Kristin Espinasse
Some people are so creative. 

If you enjoy this French word journal, thanks for telling a friend about it. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


au grand coeur

Window poesie (c) Kristin Espinasse

A picture or two for you. Merci infiniment for your bighearted response after Monday's larme edition. Everyone should receive such support and encouragement. Heaven knows how many people need a prayer today. If you are reading, then this one's for you.

au grand coeur (oh grahn ker)

    : bighearted

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Example Sentence:
I really need some help with today's example sentence. Could some of you use today's term—the adjective "au grand coeur"—in a line of text? Click here to leave your example. Thanks for checking the comments box for readers' example sentences.

 

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  little billboard (c) Kristin Espinasse

Little four-legged billboard... The photos in today's edition were taken last month, in Gigondas. To comment on these photos, or on any item in this edition, click here. Do you know someone who needs a colorful lift? Forward this post to a friend, who might enjoy a free subscription to French Word-A-Day.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


larme

Vendange2004 018

"A step closer to Italy," in today's photo, and increasingly off track in today's story. Read on.

une larme (larm)

    : teardrop

Audio file: The captain of this ship's away, so your stuck with my sound recording today... Download MP3 or Wav file

D'ou viens ces larmes? Where do these tears come from?

 

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

There was once a time when I would wake up and know precisely where to go and what to do: go to your desk and write. For ten years a regular edition, a deadline, and an interactive readership structured my day. My job was to watch life unfold and then try to report back about it, with crossed t's and dotted i's and many experimental flourishes in between.

But for the past few months much of life's unfolding has slipped by, unreported, after I received a friendly gag order from my husband. I understand the need to keep quiet about a certain changement in our life, but this particular restriction has thrown me off course.

Increasingly weak-willed, I have begun to lose my sense of direction—along with the motivation to get back on course. Worse, there is a growing temptation to flounder. Lately, in between productive spurts, all I want to do is watch YouTube gardening videos and vegetate. Permaculture and permarest. Voilà, c'est tout!

This morning I woke up and wondered, What if I stay in bed all day? and so I looked over at my husband, who was reading the news and sipping the tea I'd brought him previously, and I said... 

"Et si je restais au lit?

"Of course, Chérie, stay in bed all day," Jean-Marc replied.

I thanked him for his blessing. Next, I got up, showered, and dressed. Sometimes all a wayward soul wants, more than a resting place, is the hope of a resting place. 

I eventually found my way over to the computer, in time to set down these words. I can't place the tears, though.

 ***

 To leave a comment, click here.

And a question for you... From 2002-2005 this journal went out daily; in 2006 it became a "thrice-weekly" edition. Some say once-per-week would suffice. What do you think? Would you like to receive  these updates once, twice, or "thrice-weekly"? Thanks for your feedback here, in the comments box.

 

French Vocabulary

un changement = a change

voilà, c'est tout = there, that's all

et si je restais au lit? = and what if I stayed in bed (all day)?

chérie (cheri) = dear

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  Kristi and Jackie

Down memory lane: me and Jackie in 2005. Jackie (now 14) and Max (17) get their braces off tomorrow!

DSC_0385
Jackie, 7 years later. Smokey says : I'm putty beneath your arms!

DSC_0380
Jackie, walking away. Smokey, "What, no more putty? How about my washer-dryer impersonation? Wait! COME BACK, my Princess!"

 

  DSC_0815

Changing subjects, I had the chance to visit George Sand's jardin in Nohant (in the Indre department of France). I even swiped a few seeds, collecting them ever-so-gently, hopefully unnoticeably. This yellow flower is the "achilles" flower. To comment on any item in this edition, click here.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


a recipe + les dernières nouvelles

DSC_0394
Home sweet home. Have you ever visited us at Domaine Rouge-Bleu? Jean-Marc and I would love to read your memories, here in the comments box. Merci beaucoup! 

Today, read an update by Jean-Marc in French (the English version follows, at the end of this letter.)

les dernières nouvelles

    : the latest news

 Audio file (coming soon! Jean-Marc will read his letter at the next chance. This morning he is busy moving cases of wine. He has a great big ceinture around his waist and is suffering from lumbago, not that this has anything at all to do with the sound file that is missing here....)

 

"Les Dernières Nouvelles" de Jean-Marc

Dans deux semaines, Kristi sera heureuse de vous annoncer ce que l'avenir nous réserve. Elle a très délicatement donné un indice dans sa dernière édition et je voudrai à mon tour vous éclairer un peu.

Je dois dire que nous avons été très touchés par les propositions toutes positives que vous avez émises.

Un nouvel entrant dans notre famille, qui soit humain ou chien? Cela serait magnifique mais je crois que le prochain venu sera plutôt la descendance de Maxime ou Jackie.

Un réalité TV show? Et bien, nous y avions en fait pensé par le biais d'un échange de Domaine avec un vigneron Californien. Nous pensions focaliser cela sur les aspects d'adaptation culturelles dans les deux sens, sachant qu'il aurait été également intéressant de voir comment Kristi, qui est devenue très Française (à part pour la prononciation) aurait (sur)vécue à ce nouveau choc culturel.

Agrandir le vignoble?
Non Merci...je suis encore jeune et je ne veux pas vieillir de 3 ans chaque année.

Déménager en France... Euh, j'adorerais cela mais ce serait alors en gardant des attaches avec Rouge-Bleu.

Enfin, Jules qui vient s'installer en France? Non, elle a un mari et ce serait la meilleure façon de se fâcher avec elle. Jules va maintenant pouvoir venir nous voir plus souvent, puisqu'elle aime la mer....


Bientôt, je laisserai Kristi vous dévoiler ce secret, elle en meurt d'envie!
***

Pour laisser un commentaire, cliquez ici. 


An Update from Jean-Marc

 In two weeks Kristi will be happy to announce to you what that future holds for us. In her previous edition, she very delicately gave you a hint and I would like my chance to clear things up a bit.

I should say that we were very touched by the positive guesses that you offered:

A new member of our family, whether that be human or dog? That would be great but I think the next arrival will be, rather, a descendant of Maxime or Jackie.

A reality T.V. show? Well, we thought about that, as a matter of fact, with the angle being a vineyard exchange with a California winemaker. We thought about focusing this on the aspects of cultural adaption, in both senses, knowing that it would be equally interesting to see how Kristi, who has become very French (apart from (her French) pronunciation!) would have survived this new cultural shock.

Expanding the winery? No thanks. I'm still young and don't want to age three years each year.

Move somewhere else in France? Uh, I'd love that, but then we would have to keep some sort of link with Domaine Rouge-Bleu.

And finally, Jules moves to France? No, she has a husband, and that would be the best way to have a falling out with her. Jules will now be able to come see us more often, because she loves the sea...

Soon I will let Kristi unveil the secret, she's dying to! 

***

To comment on Jean-Marc's letter, click here.

Mmanm's photo's 259
Another snapshot of home in Sainte Cécile (taken in March 2009). That's Braise outside. Inside, Mom has set up her corner office, where she loves her notebooks, papers, flowers, and her time to think about painting. 

 

  P1100150-001
It's a good thing Jackie borrowed my camera, or I might never get around to posting an updated photo of this mother-son fishing team. That's Mama Braise, left, and son Smokey, right. They are posed beside the little canal at the edge of our property. Braise is about to jump... (stay tuned for a silent picture-story, hopefully next week...) See you Monday or Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

  P1100341-001
Last but not least, today is both my brother-in-law, Jacques', and Smokey's birthday! Jacques turned 42 and Smokey turned 3. Joyeux Anniversaire to two wonderful guys! To leave the birthday boys a message in the comments box, click here. Off now to put the cake in the oven. Those are green nectarines, or prunes, on top--and that's an easy yogurt cake underneath. 

Would you like the French yogurt cake recipe? I just posted it here.

DSC_0136
Look at those toes. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


Yogurt cake recipe

marbled French yogurt cake recipe instructions and baking cooking temperature

I went through my photos, trying to find a photo of the finished yogurt cake. This one, above, isn't typical--it's a marbled version (add chocolate powder to remaining cake batter after emptying part of it in the pan. Pour over the top and bake). Pictured: a roof tile from our home. You can see the handwriting which records when the tile was made, the 30th. The year is not indicated.

Uncle Jacques' Gâteau au Yaourt


The first French yogurt cake I ever tasted was made by my mother-in-law, and bodyguard, Michèle-France. She explained that she had used her son, Jacques', recipe. I had no idea my brother-in-law could bake! 

The genius behind this cake is that there is no need to use measuring utensils. You need only reserve the yogurt container as a measure, once you've emptied the contents into the bowl. 

Ingredients:

- one small (individual size) container of plain yogurt (reserve for measuring the remaining ingredients)
- flour
- sugar
- vegetable oil 
- three eggs
- one package baking powder* (about 2 teaspoons) 


Instructions (Easy as 3-2-1...):

Fill/empty the yogurt container...
   ...3 times with flour
   ...2 times with sugar
   ...1 time with vegetable oil (if I'm out of vegetable oil, I'll use olive oil or butter...)

Tip:
First combine yogurt, beaten eggs & sugar. Next, add flour and baking powder, stir. Add a pinch of salt... Pour in oil and mix well (Uncle Jacques recommends using "un fouet" (whisk) to mix the batter. Pour into a cake pan (or muffin tin) and bake for 30 - 40 minutes at 350°F (175C)

Extras: Jacques suggests adding sliced (canned) pears (drained from their syrup) to the top of the cake before baking. The pears will sink nicely into the cake for a sweet "second version". 

I sometimes mash up bananas and add them... or sneak in some grated zucchini or carrots. Chocolate chips are great inside, too! Or pureed pumpkin! Add walnuts :-)

Try replacing the sugar with maple syrup!



Having trouble with the sound? View this video on our YouTube channel. Then look for the "speaker" icon in the lower left corner of the video.

French yogurt cake or gateau yaourt and creche with santons
You can use many kinds of cake pans, like this Bundt pan, for your yogurt cake. I like to toss in goodies, in the middle. Fresh strawberries are lovely there, too! In the first photo, a bread pan was used, and in the video, above, I used a round cake pan.

Share this post with a friend. Thanks!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


epine

  Capture plein écran 14082012 121905

Mr. Farjon came by to drop off this newspaper clipping (see our son, Max, posing with our town's mayor after a military march). Mr Farjon brought a few other things when he came to visit. Read today's story for more.

une épine (ay-peen)

    : thorn

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

Les épines, ça ne sert à rien, c'est de la pure méchanceté de la part des fleurs. Thorns are good for nothing. Just a flower's way of being spiteful! —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite the giant fly of a dog buzzing between us, I managed to speak to Mr Farjon.

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

Smokey and I watched as Mr Farjon selected a long and thorny stem from the pile of just-picked weeds beside him.

"It's a chardon. We call it chausse-trappe," he explained. With that, my friend told the story of how the plant got its name: the roman army dug ditches and filled them with this needle-sharp weed. And the poor used it as well, piling on rooftops....

"To keep away thieves?" I guessed. 

Mr Farjon shook his head, repeating, simply, that the dried plant was piled on housetops. (I guessed again: for insulation?)

As I tried to picture the thorny rooftops, Monsieur Farjon presented the next specimen, aigre-moine .

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

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

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

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

"Epine du Christ."

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

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

  DSC_0338

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

DSC_0333

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

As for Mr Farjon, he was oblivious to all the thoughts bubbling up in my head, thoughts about how and how not to appear to society. Thankfully, Monsieur's attention was focused on the task before him.

Watching him write, I had a hunch that the moment was something to capture. It may not have been history in the making, and this may not have been an historical figure, but the moment and the person were just as fascinating. I ran to get my camara.

It occured to me to try and capture a shot of the two of us, by using the automatic timer. I wished I had put on make-up or styled my hair, but that was a poor reason to miss capturing the moment. 

DSC_0339
The first photo didn't turn out, for my hand flew up as I fell down in the seat, just before the camara clicked.

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

  DSC_0342

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

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

"You are beautiful!" I assured him.

"My birthday is tomorrow," he confided. 

(He was turning 83.)

 

DSC_0344
The trusty Peugeot... I took a photo of the two when I first moved to Sainte Cécile. I didn't know Monsieur at the time, but thought I'd spotted an unforgettable character. (Now where is that photo... somewhere in the archives here.) 

 I sent Mr Farjon off with some samples from my own garden. He very much wanted the two kinds of chamomile growing there, gifts from the Dirt Divas. I tucked several dates inside the bag, for a sweet surprise--nourishment a plant genius needs while burning the midnight oil, poring over plantasauruses or thesauruses or dictionaries, rather. 

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

DSC_0349

As Mr Farjon took a right at the end of the lavender row, I wondered if I would ever see this man again. And this, not because of his advancing age.

***

Click on the highlighted words in today's story to read the corresponding stories, such as "Love in a Cage" in which Monsieur asks: is your husband the jealous type? Click here.

Meet Mr Farjon's older brother, a wine farmer, in the story "to help out"

Meet several of Mr Farjon's "friends"--that is, the wild plants that grow in this part of Provence

Read about another visit from Mr Farjon, in the story "fleurette".

More garden posts here.

  DSC_0357

Mr Farjon's handwritten notes botaniques, above

Capture plein écran 14082012 121756
Here's the rest of that newspaper clipping that Mr Farjon thoughtfully clipped for us. Sorry about the missing text! My fault hurrying to get this post finished on time. The next post goes out on Thursday.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


maraicher

Hats (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats and lopsided benches add charm on the île de Ré. And in today's story, even church mice behave like smitten kittens... 

 

le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market

(see another definition below, in the audio file section)

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage.

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.

 

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

Even Church Mice Behave Like Smitten Kittens

If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. And, I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"

 ***

The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraicher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 

***

Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.

 

If you missed part one of this story, read it here. To leave a comment on today's post, click here.

 

French Vocabulary

la politesse = good manners

quelle horreur! = how embarrasing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well

.

 

Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whimsical windows and a cool Vespa on l'île de Ré.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


cougar (and the French word for "boy toy")

Cat on the isle of Ré (c) Kristin Espinasse
Watch out, you middle-aged skirt chasers—here come les couguars! (Note: I didn't see any cougars to photograph on the island of Ré; I hope this cat will do! Also, enjoy these white umbrella flowers, which covered the island, competing with all those hollyhocks.)

 un coug(o)uar (koo-gar)

Le mot couguar désigne une femme, généralement de plus de 40 ans (la génération de trentenaires qui précède la cougar est plutôt appelée "puma"), qui cherche ou fréquente des hommes plus jeunes, typiquement ayant au moins quatre ans de moins qu'elles. Ces hommes sont généralement appelés des toy boys ou des lionceaux. --definition from Wikipedia

The word cougar designates a woman, generally over 40 (the generation of 30-year-olds who precede cougars are called "pumas"), who looks for or hangs out with younger men, typically at least four years younger than herself. These men are generally referred to as "toy boys" or lionceaux.

Audio File (Note: waiting for my LION to return from his errands in time to record today's definition... ) Update: the sound files are ready, listen here: Download MP3 file or listen to Wav file


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

Our second day on l'île de Ré we rode our vélos from the beach to the farmers' market. I parked my rental bike in front of the tourist office, waved goodbye to Jean-Marc, and set out to discover the busy marché, with its fishmonger, its beachwear vendor, its olive merchant, and its obese man selling figure-slimming cookware. Step right up, Madame! Check out this pan!

The pots and pans salesman wasn't the only curious sight, there was that aspirin-white American woman with the two giant watermarks on her shirt... My bathing suit had soaked through! Thankfully, I was unaware of the state of my chemise, and could suffer the embarrassment later, upon checking my appearance in the mirror back at our rental.

As I checked myself in la glace, scrutinizing every detail of my person, I remembered the remark my husband had made after we met up outside l'office de tourisme. Unlocking our bikes for the ride home, Jean-Marc teased me:

"Ça va le maraîcher?" he snickered. 

The produce guy? So my husband had seen me lingering at the vegetable stand... chatting with that young man!

The embarrassment bubbling up from within soon showed itself on my face, which reddened visibly despite a precautionary thick white mask of sunblock.

I laughed it off. After all, that student selling onions and cantaloupes was only a few years older than our son, Max! What did my husband think I was—a cougar

Of all people! The truth is, while my barely-clad French contemporaries were busy watching Sex and The City (around the time we were reaching our 40s), I was poring over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, fearful my sinful nature would betray me at any moment! The word "cougar" never even entered my lexicon until my friend Diana shared the term with me, over an evening barbecue in which our middle-aged husbands smoked cigars and helped themselves to seconds from the dessert tray.

Facing the mirror, searching my face, with its crows feet and cicatrices, I couldn't help but think how ridiculous my husband's insinuation was, that an out of shape, 44-year-old femme mariée had been flirting with a charming student! 

(Did I say charmant?)

To be continued... (Click here for the 2nd half of this story)

Note, the underlined (or highlighted) words within the article contain links to archived stories, including the story in which Jean-Marc is caring, for the first time, for his very own vines. Don't miss "Surrogate Mother" (La Mère Porteuse) here.

French Vocabulary 

le vélo = bicycle

le marché = (farmers') market

la chemise = shirt

l'office de tourisme = tourist office

Ça va le maraîcher? = How's the produce guy doing?

une femme mariée = a married woman

Fun French expression: in the story, I referred to my skin tone as aspirin white. I borrowed the expression from the French, who use the following idiom: blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine (as white as an aspirin pill)

 

Kristin (left) with Kris Hendrickson
If you're new to this journal—welcome! That's me, Kristin, on the left and this is the 10th year that I have written this blog. One of the rewards of writing is meeting readers. Kris (right) joined us for one of our last tastings of the season. She eventually traveled back to Brittany after being stuck in Tulette one week no thanks to car problems. Kris tells me the Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine she and her husband bought helped them through this extended visit! 

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  DSC_0518

Spotted another cougar on the way back from the beach.... There's Jean-Marc heading to the market.

DSC_0584
Holding up the hollyhocks. Islanders take such good care of their star flower. One woman told me that a hollyhock, or rose trémière's, lifespan is two years. Lucky for us, each season they drop hundreds of graines,  reseeding themselves. To comment on any item in today's edition, click here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


indice + Jean-Marc's recorded letter...

DSC_0555
I discovered a new sport-hobby while trying to keep up with Jean-Marc on vacation: vélography! One hand on my wobbly vélo, I photographed the fast-moving scenery—including island vineyards, hollyhocks, cornfields, grandmothers, cats, and—whoaahhh—oncoming traffic! I even experimented with over-the-shoulder photoshooting, awkwardly repositioning the camera all the while steadying my bicyclette. It didn't take a circus performer's agility to succeed, and the sloppily executed stunt felt as freeing as it was exhilarating! 

After recently losing the passion for photography, this accidental discovery--vélography--rekindled my love for the  art of snapshooting. (A note about today's photo: that's my bike's panier in the forefront. The pink towel inside is for the beach, where we are headed for an early morning swim, after I wrap up my camera in my shirt--lest one grain of sand scratch the lens! )

 

indice (an-deece) noun, masculine

    : clue, indication

 Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc read his letter addressed to you just below: Download MP3 or listen to the Wave file

 

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A Day in a French Life.... by Jean-Marc 

Note: today's entry is written by Jean-Marc. The English version follows.

Bonjour amis lecteurs,

Nous tenons sincèrement à vous remercier pour tous les messages nous souhaitant "bonne fortune" pour le futur. Je voudrais aujourd'hui vous donner un indice sur ce fameux "secret". Vous devez savoir que Kristi meure d'envie de vous le révéler mais voilà, c'est moi qui la bloque et je suis donc la personne que vous pouvez blâmer... Vous saurez néanmoins d'ici à la fin du mois d'août la nature de ce que notre vie nous réserve pour le futur.
 
Je profite de cette tribune pour vous annoncer une très bonne nouvelle. Notre Mistral 2010 vient d'obtenir 89 points et notre Lunatique 2010, 91 points au Wine Spectator...et, autre indice, cela n'a pas de lien avec notre secret...

 Bien amicalement,

Jean-Marc
 

Hello Dear Readers,

We'd like to sincerely thank  you for all of the good luck for the future messages. Today I would like to give you a clue about this great "secret". You should know that Kristi is dying to reveal it to you but, voilà, it is I who am preventing her and I am, therefore, the person you can blame. Nevertheless, you will know by the end of the month of August the nature of what it is our life reserves for us in the future.

I will take advantage of this post to announce some very good news. Our Mistral 2010 wine just received 89 points and our Lunatique 2010, 91 points in the Wine Spectator... and, one more clue, this has nothing to do with our secret...

Cheers,

Jean-Marc 

 

To comment on Jean-Marc's letter, click here. You might also follow Jean-Marc on Twitter.

 

Thanks for visiting our great sponsors!

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

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DSC_0559
Vive la vélographie! Here's one of those over-the-shoulder shots. Almost swerved off the path, and into the cornfield, while taking it.

DSC_0523
Popular modes of transportation on the island of Ré. A lot of hats there too. This woman's "bucket" hat is perfect for protecting the ears from harmful rays (read: skin cancer). Recently, my dad had a small piece of his ear cut off ... and you are already familiar with my own skin cancer surgeries.

Remember to protect your skin this summer. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day and wear  it on cloudy days too!  P.S. look for a sunscreen without cancer-causing chemicals, so as not to defeat the purpose! Share your favorite sunscreen here. If you know of a good chemical-free sunscreen, share the info in the comments box. Thanks!


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Ile de Re (c) Kristin Espinasse
Another shot on the île de Ré, where islanders show respect for their hollyhocks... it seems some homeowners would rather step aside than uproot a wayward flower!

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


location

Tourist (c) Kristin Espinasse
We're back now from salty and floral île de Ré, or the Isle of Rhé. This furry tourist, above, enjoyed people-watching from a window overlooking the farmers' market in St Clément des Baleines. His carefree let-it-all-hang-out attitude is reflected in the relaxed rental sign just below. Discover the sign's missing letters in today's vocab entry, here:

 

une location (lo-kah-syon)

: rental, renting

 

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 Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French terms: 

Download MP3 file or Wav file

 

location de vélo = bike rental

location de meubles = furniture rental

location d'un immeuble = property/real estate rental

location de voitures = car rental

location de maison de vacances = home vacation rental

mettre en location = to rent out

prix de location = rent

 

Reverse dictionary: rental

rental contract = un bail

rental charge = une redevance

 

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

This story column will return next week. I've got more anecdotes to share with you--and some exciting news too! Meantime, if you would like to take a wild stab at just what it is, this scoop I've been keeping from you, then click here and offer up your most imaginative guess!

Jean-Marc and I will be reading your comments, and I know my mom, Jules, will get a kick out of some of your far-fetched guesses. So get creative and have fun figuring out just what it is we've been keeping secret.

Click here to leave a wild guess, and many thanks for playing along with us!

Amicalement,

Kristin

 

Thanks for visiting our sponsors

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

Hotels in France. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

 

I love bikes and flowers and baskets (c) Kristin Espinasse
Vélos, or bikes a-gogo on the île de Ré. 

Forward this edition to a friend, who might use this link to sign up for the free French Word-A-Day journal

 

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French Listening Skills: Are you really hearing the language?

Check out these helpful and creative tips--by readers--about how to better understand spoken French. Click here.


 

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa