Move Mom into the wine cellar? + France wins!

France wins world cup fracro soccer
Notice the cushion on the bench, left. More in today's story!

Today's Word: le but

    : goal

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following words:
Le but. Hier soir La France a marqué quatre buts pour gagner la finale de la Coupe du Monde de football. Goal. Last night France scored four goals to win the soccer World Cup.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

Homeless Wine and Homeless Widows
 (and the World Cup Win!)

    by Kristi Espinasse

There is no tranquil place to write today, so I'll dive right in--along with the pounding of hammers and hearts (just had a heart-to-heart with our 23-year-old, Max, who had a setback of his own). Now he's back on track and I can begin this Monday morning edition where I left off: wondering how to focus on writing whilst construction workers are swarming on the opposite side of this wall (and there goes the jackhammer! And here comes a request for a pencil, and could someone open the gate? So another truck can arrive? And, Madame, do you have a cup? For what? Coffee? Oh, I can make you that...).

Bon, bref: We are creating a cellar for Jean-Marc's soon-to-be homeless wine! This was the solution to Where to put our homeless Mom?...but back to wine:

Since we sold our vineyard and then moved to La Ciotat, all Jean-Marc's vin has been stocked in a converted garage-studio. We now need to clear the studio of its floor-to-ceiling vintages and place le vin somewhere else....Voilà for the little cellar that will soon piggyback our kitchen (walk out the kitchen door,  turn left and walk into the 2-meter wide caveau. It will be ready in 10 days. Mom will be here in 7... On ne s'ennuie jamais!)

Last night I looked across the living room. Thirteen of us had our eyes peeled on le grand écran as France led against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup. A ceiling fan whirled above us, moving the humid air in circles around our sweaty bodies. Our two couches were filled and a bench and chairs held the rest of us supporters.

I kept looking for Mom, wondering where we would put her in a scenario like this? Would our new colocatrice be watching the game with us? (It would depend on her mood. If down, she'd be under a pile of covers in the wine cellar (soon to be her studio). If she were feeling up, she'd definitely be watching the match with us, her cup runnething over with rosé!

But would she behave? That is always the question. And it's a moot point trying to answer it. The best I can do is ask myself the very same: Would I behave? Will I?

This is the entire fear I have behind Mom living with us, because, in the end, the only one we can control is ourselves.


To be honest, even I found it difficult to behave during the World Cup Match. Case in point: While daydreaming during the match of all matches, you've just thought up a way in which your guests could be a bit more comfortable. Wait! Do not suddenly spring up and search for seat cushions while everyone's eyes are on the soccer ball. God forbid you'd walk past the screen during a but, or goal, and block another's view!

As I learned last night, goals happen quickly and unexpectedly. And so do the changes in life--hammers, hearts and all. Perhaps the best we can do is not to block another's vision, whether our own, our guest's, or, ultimately, God's.

*    *    *

Heidi mom 2018
My sister, Heidi, and our Mom, Jules. I can't thank Heidi enough for flying to Mexico to help Mom during this transition...first to Denver, then on to France.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le but = goal 
bon bref = in short
le vin = wine
le caveau = wine cellar
le grand écran = the big screen
le supporter = fan
la colocatrice (le colocataire ) = roommate, joint tenant, housemate
Kristi
Kristi here. Happy to announce a new way to support this French word journal: via check! If you are interested, email me at kristin.espinasse@gmail.com

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


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

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

On ne s'ennuie jamais

    : never a dull moment

Click here to listen to on ne s'ennuie jamais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Even Cheese Puffs sound elegant in French: Gougères recipe and post by Ann Mah, author of The Lost Vintage

Ann mah the lost vintage novel in beaulieu-sur-mer France
Our family lived on two French vineyards during the last 10 years, beginning in this 2007 post. Ann Mah's book brought it all back--the sights, the sounds, and the scents--especially the beauty, the history, and the passion behind it all. I learned more about wine reading Ann's book, in addition to details of WWII (like the humiliating punishment for collaboration horizontale--or sleeping with the enemy!). The novel's modern-day narrator, Kate, is curious, funloving, and determined to pass her Master of Wine exam, a feat that brings her back to her family's vineyard in Burgundy where she discovers a hidden side of war and wine. Excellent summer reading! Order a copy here. 

Today's Word: Une Gougère

    : cheese puff

How to pronounce gougères? Click here to listen to the following example sentence
Une gougère est une brioche salée au gruyère. Il s'agit d'un mélange de pâte à chou et de fromage (du gruyère le plus souvent) que l'on cuit au four. A gougère is a savory brioche with Gruyère cheese. It is a mixture of puff pastry dough and cheese (usually gruyere) that is baked. --L'Internaute.fr


Gougères and The Lost Vintage

by Ann Mah

I fully admit that one of the reasons I wrote a novel set in a French vineyard was so I could linger there in my imagination. I've been enchanted by Burgundy's ever since I first visited the region in 2010 to research an article about Thomas Jefferson's favorite wines. And if I also sensed the presence of hovering ghosts, they only added to my fascination.

Burgundy is, obviously, famous for its wine - but the food is pretty fantastic, too. I have fond memories of eating Epoisse cheese so ripe it flooded the plate. There was beef bourguignon that melted under my fork, and snails drenched in garlic-parsley butter. But my favorite treat was the gougère - a cheese puff that is at once savory, crisp, and tender. As it turns out, hail from Burgundy where they traditionally accompanied cellar wine tastings.

Food and wine are a huge part of French culture and they play an important role in my new novel, The Lost Vintage, where they become a metaphor for all the issues that the characters are grappling with - questions of tradition, change, and how ( if) we should confront the past.

I hope you will enjoy The Lost Vintage - and if, like me, you're coming across the kitchen, I'm making a recipe for my favorite cheesy cheese puffs. Made of pastry cabbages, they seem mercurial to cook. In fact, they are ridiculously simple - so easy, I often bake them with my four-year-old daughter. Although some choose to blow the dough into mounds, I prefer to shape it with spoons, which creates a rough surface that turns golden and crunchy in the oven. Gougères pair beautifully with almost every kind of wine - and they also make a great cocktail snack for hungry book clubs. If you do these, however, beware: a batch does not last long!

I'm so excited to share The Lost Vintage with you! Happy reading - and health!

--
Many thanks to Ann Mah for the previous story and for the following recipe! 

Gougères French cheese puff recipe

Gougères / Cheese puffs
Makes about 35 puffs

2/3 cup (160 ml) water
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons (65 grams) butter
3/4 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
3 large eggs 2/3 cup (75 grams)
grated Gruyère or Comté cheese

1) Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Line with baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) In a medium saucepan, combines the water, salt, butter, and cayenne pepper. Heat the mixture until the butter melts and it begins to boil.

3) Immediately dump in the flour and stir briskly to combine. Continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture forms a ball and begins to film the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.

4) Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to slightly cool. Add the eggs one by one, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to fully Add the cheese and stir to combine.

5) Using two spoons, serving the dough into small mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Each mound should be about the size of a cherry tomato; Space them evenly to allow for puffing.

6) Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and continue baking for 18-20 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Note: Gougères are best hot from the oven, but still appealing at room temperature. To reheat, place them in the oven at 350ºF (175ºC) for 4 to 6 minutes.

Lost vintage 2
“Mah’s detailed descriptions of life on a family vineyard, how wine is produced, and how subtle differences in taste are discerned are so robust that a novice wine drinker may progress to aficionado status by the end. Engaging… will delight Francophiles and readers who enjoy historical fiction with a twist by such authors as Lauren Willig or Christina Baker Kline.” –Library Journal (starred)

Jackie in cap ferrat  ann mah the lost vintage
Our Jackie grew up on the vineyards in Provence and was once crowned Harvest Queen (at age 9) for diligently picking grapes each September. It is all a memory now. Reading The Lost Vintage one can still hear the flutter of leaves and the creaking of buckets brushing by the old vines. Click here to order a copy.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


A slang way to say "water" and when the French can't get good wine they make it in the hallway!

Dechet zero apero la ciotat
Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary by picking up a fleet of ordures (garbage) along with other volunteers.  We joined Amélie (left of center, beside JM) in her One Footprint on the World initiative. I have never met so many joyful litter-pickers. (Facebook page here.)

Speaking of doings, a lot of stories are streaming by--a fleet of daily happenings both big and small. Both our daughter and son live with us for the moment, and soon we will have another family member onboard.... 

For now, I need to simplify this personal journal you are reading, this diary that disguises itself as a French Word-A-Day. Let's grab a random story and run with it before all the other little stories clogging my mind shut everything down.

Let's begin with today's word, presented in a streaming fashion... 

LA FLOTTE = fleet (read on for 2nd meaning)

I learned it Sunday night when Jean-Marc's parents' longtime friends came to stay the night. Nicole and Michel (if you've read Words in a French Life you met them in the chapter called "Casse-Croûte") have lived all over the world, but when in Libya, in the 70s, they found it difficult to find good wine. Unsatisfied with what was available, they quickly went into production--in the narrow hall of their apartment

Purchasing 10 liters of Joker grape juice, some sugar, and levure...I believe... but that's not the point...the point being by 2 am, with fermentation underway, loud popping sounds echoed throughout the building waking all the inhabitants! 

Even garage wine (or hallway wine...) needs to age, so it wouldn't be ready for Nicole and Michel's first dinner guests--and there was no way Nicole was going to serve Vin de Libie which tasted different from what the couple was used to in France (no offense to those of you who enjoyed 1970s Libyan wine!).

"What did you serve, then?" I asked.

"De la flotte! Ordinary water!" Nicole explained.

For once, the French preferred la flotte to la piquette :-)

Voilà the little story behind the French word, flotte (heretofore "fleet" to the rest of us). You can use this word among friends when asking for ordinary water. But don't ask for "de la flotte" at the restaurant, or le garçon may be offended.


Post note: I was supposed to write Part Two of our trip to Cap Ferrat, but then today's story would've gotten lost in la flotte of memories. By the way, my daughter and I never intended to get any tattoos (no tatttos still)! Also, for those who wrote in, that was a screenshot of me in my bathing suit and not a video.

On the walkway to cap ferrat view toward beaulieu-sur-mer

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le casse-croûte = snack, informal meal
la flotte = water (slang)
la levure = yeast
la piquette = plonk, ordinary (bad?) wine
le garçon = the waitor
Jean-marc nicole michel
Jean-Marc's parents both passed away. These are the best friends of his parents. I hope you'll read the light-hearted story Casse-Croûte, in my book. You'll learn, among other things, why the French keep their hands on the table and their unique way of pronouncing the word Tupperware. Order here and thanks for your support. It keeps this journal going!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


It began with tattoos... (our mother-daughter escapade to Cap Ferrat) + un attrape-rêve

Attrape-reve capteur de reve dreamcatcher in french
Do you own a dreamcatcher? We kept seeing these attrape-rêves last week--in the most unexpected places: La Ciotat, near Cannes, and again in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Coincidence? (photo of our daughter)

un attrape-rêve (also un capteur de rêves)

    : dreamcatcher

Selon la croyance populaire, le capteur de rêve empêche les mauvais rêves d'envahir le sommeil de son détenteur. Agissant comme un filtre, il capte les songes envoyés par les esprits, conserve les belles images de la nuit et brûle les mauvaises visions aux premières lueurs du jour. a dream catcher or dreamcatcher. According to popular belief, the dream catcher prevents bad dreams from invading the sleeper's sleep. Acting as a filter, it captures the dreams sent by the spirits, preserves the beautiful images of the night and burns the bad visions at the first light of day. (Wikipedia)


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

Our 20-year-old returned for a second season waitressing at the port in Bandol. She will work "sept sur sept" or 7 nights a week (including 2 or 3 lunch services, double shift) until mid-September. But before Jackie begins the demanding workload, we spirited away for 3 nights to Cap Ferrat--a breathtaking peninsula next to Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This mother-daughter escapade would be a summer vacation with an underlying goal...

Because our daughter is floundering (continue her design studies or take a year off and work fulltime? Or move to the States!), I thought this drive up the coast could be the chance to practice positive thinking, to try some assertiveness exercises...and why not chat about le fric while we are at it (how will she make a living? Meantime, better save those waitressing wages!). As my goals for our trip unfolded, a lighter theme began to announce itself...

It began with tattoos (Jackie wants one...). We saw a young woman on the beach sporting a tatouage of an attrape-rêve....

A day later, on the road to Cap Ferrat, we passed a pick-up truck with a sticker of an attrape-rêve. "I'll bet we'll see another of those dreamcatchers on this trip," I said to my girl, grasping for some sort of meaning to our journey. Though a dreamcatcher in Amerindian culture is an object that catches bad dreams, the sound of the words "attrape rêve" could remind us to run after our own dreams....

Villefranche-sur-mer

Arriving at Villefranche, my daughter held on to the wheel with one hand, surreptitiously glancing at her GPS phone-map, which she held in the other hand. Her Citroen, newly mine 15 years before, jerked its way up the hill in a series of nerve-racking hairpin turns. "Give me that phone! Keep both hands on the wheel!" I begged.

Handing over her mobile phone, Jackie instructed me to "Hit recenter. Hit recenter!" Tapping my daughter's iPhone screen, I noticed how the map honed in to our location, making our exact whereabouts crystal clear. Génial! I suggested to Jackie we might, from here-on-out, hit our own "recenter buttons" when feeling stressed--whether during a series of hairpin turns up the hill or whether on a Sunday afternoon when, instead of enjoying an hour at the beach, we're rumination about a bunch of deadlines coming up this week....a week in which we also have guests to host, appointments, and a tax extension to deal with). Remember to hit recenter. Hit recenter and be in The Now Whereabouts (instead of The Future Whereabouts. We'll cross that road when we get there!)

Beaulieu sur Mer jumelee Tempe Arizona
Beaulieu-sur-Mer. What a coincidence this town is a twin city with my college town, of Tempe, Arizona, where I majored in French at ASU (alumni article here, click then scroll down the page)

 

Jackie in between beaulieu-sur-mer and cap ferrat
My driver, my daughter, my dreamcatcher


I'd do well to hit the recenter button now, instead of panicking over how to tie-up the rest of this story within one hundred words (if you prefer shorter posts, rather than long ones, let me know). So let's all take a moment to breathe and remember we have the rest of the week to get everything done. Whatever your workload, whatever your commitments--break it down. I hope this message was helpful to you (I know I needed it too!)

I'll be back at the next chance to tell you about our third sighting in three days of the mysterious attrape-rêves (aka capteur de rêves) not far from Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where for three full days I hit the recenter button while trying, all along, to help my daughter figure out her own next steps.

On the beach in Beaulieu-sur-mer

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Que nenni! A fun, useful new expression + a must-see beach along the French mediterranean!

Mediterranean garden and stairs to the Rayol-Canadel beach
Stone stairs leading down to the beach in Rayol-Candadel-sur-Mer

Que nenni? If you think today's expression has anything to do with the following travelogue...que nenni! (Not at all!) It's just an expression that jumped off the page as I sat reading an article on sardines, recently, chez le coiffeur. Speaking of fish, we ate a lot of this when Dad and Marsha visited. We also discovered magnificent places--de beaux endroits--I had never been to before--all a short distance from La Ciotat....

TODAY'S EXPRESSION: QUE NENNI

    : not at all

 Thanks, Jean-Marc, for your regular recordings, like the following

(Click here to listen to the French expression "que nenni")

Décidément, cette presqu’île me réservera sans cesse des surprises. Je pensais la connaître par cœur, et pourtant… C’est par faute de l’avoir parcourue, par la mer ou par le sentier du littoral. Mais que nenni, j’y découvre toujours quelque chose.


Decidedly, this peninsula will never stop surprising me. I thought I knew it by heart, and yet ... It's not by fault of having traveled it, by the sea or by the coastal path. Not at all. I always discover something.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

"Bad-wah," my belle-mère, Marsha, giggled, as we sipped l'eau gazeuse at a restaurant overlooking the sea at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

Bad-wah? Funny! I never saw it that way before. Eyeing the bottle of popular French fizzy water, I wondered did anyone else notice a small marketing flaw for Badoit? (Pronounced "bad-wah" as you may have guessed).

Good thing it's "good wah", a favorite of ours, as were the Mediterranean waters below us. We had swum all day in the little cove, one reminiscent of a beach in Italy. 
Rayol-candadel-sur-mer palm trees stairs to the sea
De -- pronounced deuh ou der?
A hillside of beautiful stone stairs leads down to the sandy beach. You can see the last section of the escalier above, in the picture of Jean-Marc and my dad. As Marsha and I trailed behind, my belle-mère practiced her French, which sounded good...until it came to "de"....

"Der" she said, as per the pronunciation guidebook she had in her beach tote.

I've seen the pronunciation for "de" written that way, and I know anglophones who pronounce it comme ça, but for me... the French word "de" sounds like "deuh". But who am I to give lessons (I still can't pronounce dessus or dessous--or even truffe--some of The Most Difficult Words in French to Pronounce). Still, I stand by my pronunciation of de (it's deuh!). But let's not waste this travelogue on a debate (let's duke it out in the comments box, instead :-)
Les galets agates along the beach at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

The sand at Le Rayol-Canadel beach sparkled and was covered with "agates,"as my belle-mère called them. Holding a palm-full of the amber or black or white stones, Marsha talked about the chance we had to find these pebbled beaches in France.

As we lie there on the sand, chatting, a couple in their 80's made their way toward us, lugging a kayake! Marsha and I looked up, to the mansion above us and realized we'd parked our foutas right before their private entrance!

To our surprise, the man and woman humbly excused themselves and encouraged us to stay put. As they tugged on the two-seater kayak, lifting it three feet, up to its storage spot, we were mesmerized. Gazing up at their white locks and athletic builds, Marsha and I must have had the same thought: I want to be paddling across the sea--in my bikini with my sweetie--when I'm an octogenarian!

Meantime, my dad, all of 76 years young, was swimming like a kid in the gulf. "I love this salty sea--I'm floating!" he smiled, as we joined him for a swim. I never thought about the buoying effect of l'eau de mer, and it felt great to finally let go and allow the sea to partly carry me. 

Farther out, beyond the Gulf of St. Tropez, we could see les Iles d'Or (Porquerolles, Port Cros, and Le Levant), as well as the famous mauve hue, which announced the beginning of the sunset. As my dad and Marsha marveled at their chance to be in this magnificent place, their gratitude caused me to polish my own lenses, and see our part of the world...indeed life..."anew."

There is so much to look forward to...like my 80s, my sweetie, bikinis, and nouveaux défis (those bikinis?). And, most importantly, this growing sense of appreciation I have at 50. 

Aioli at rayol-canadel sur mer france 
At L'Escale restaurant, Dad loved this "aïoli with a twist" (sweet potatoes and beets replaced a few classic ingredients)

Jean-Marc returning from beach at rayol-canadel sur mer
Jean-Marc returning from the beach

FRENCH VOCABULARY
que nenni = not at all 
chez le coiffeur = at the hairdresser's
les beaux endroits = beautiful places
la belle-mère = stepmother (also means mother-in-law)
l'eau gazeuse = sparkling water
l'escalier = stairs
le foutas = popular towel on Mediterranean beaches (photo below)
le défi = challenge
l'escale = port of call, stopover, refueling stop
Chatting with my belle-mere in rayol-canadel sur mer
Me and my belle-mère. Readers of this journal associate belle-mère with another woman dear to my heart. Her story, here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


It's good to be back! How to say "go with the flow" in French + La Ciotat recommendations

Kristi and Dad at Le Vieux Port in La Ciotat
Me and my Dad at the old port in La Ciotat

Today's phrase: prendre les choses comme elles viennent

    : to go with the flow

Audio file: 

Click here to listen to "go with the flow" in French


 
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
   
"Call Me Flo"

  by Kristi Espinasse

At 3:30 this morning, au milieu de la nuit, we sat around the coffee table eating chouquettes and drinking coffee. Dad and Marsha were dressed for their flight home to Sun Valley, Idaho. We had spent the last two and a half weeks together, and yet we had not shown our American family all of La Ciotat. 

We didn't go to Figuerolles and we never took La Voie Douce--the former railroad track which was now converted into a beautiful nature path for walking, cycling, and running... Ah well, there's always next time, la prochaine fois! Meantime, we ate, we swam, and we saw.... Here is a little of ce qu'on a vu.....

Pointus fishing boats
The charming "pointus" or wooden fishing boats at Port des Capucins, which we often passed on our way to the old port. This time of year the fishermen were painting and repairing the colorful vessels, a task that summed up my Dad and Marsha's view of La Ciotat in general: a clean, well-cared for city! My family was so impressed by the city's organization, by the clean streets, the urban renewal going on here at the moment, and by the kindness of the locals, including Sam who invited us over for un vrai festin (we thought we were coming for an apéro (drinks and cacahuètes), but this Algerian-born, former soldier in the Israeli army--who went on to become a bodyguard for a member of The Jackson Five--served us a rainbow of local specialties including pissaladière, anchoïade, and pastis. Sam represents just one in a colorful soup of characters who call La Ciotat home...imagine the myriad of stories that remain to be told by the rest of La Ciotadins!
 
Restaurant la crique
Speaking of characters, the waitresses at Restaurant La Crique (what a find) have 'tude! They remind me of the take-no-bs servers from my American childhood (well, at least those on TV. Does anyone remember Flo, of "Mel's Diner"? While I'm here, I'll sidetrack to a nickname I've recently acquired, "Flo". It's short for "Go With the Flo" which is exactly why I did not keep up this French word journal while my Dad was here. I needed to put aside my rigid publishing schedule of the past 16 years--and chill!

Mirabelle plums
It is important to point out these mirabelle plums, after we discovered two of these trees in our small garden (we suspected something was growing here, after seeing sticky prints on the ground when we moved here last August! The fruit has a delicious tartness which, when matured, is very sweet. We ate them like candy in between our aller-retours to town and to the beach...

Municipal park in la ciotat

In addition to the breathtaking Parc du Mugel, La Ciotat has an impressive municipal garden, somewhere near (over?) the underground parking lot. You can relax on a public bench and eat your sandwich... if you don't mind strangers wishing you "bon appétit". Swallow quickly and say "merci!"

Dad at Plage du Mugel
Asked what was the highlight of their trip, and Dad and Marsha enthusiastically replied Plage du Mugel!...but at that point they had not seen another secret hideaway, farther up the coast. I'll tell you about that in the next post. It is time now to take a vacation from my family's vacation :-) I'm off to begin a new chapter in Ann Mah's lastest book, THE LOST VINTAGE, which just came out today. Please read along with me, order your copy here.

The lost vintage

FRENCH VOCABULARY
au milieu de la nuit = in the middle of the night
les chouquettes = little round puff pastries with large sugar sprinkles
la voie douce = the gentle path
la prochaine fois = the next time
ce qu'on a vu = what we saw
le festin = feast (read this entry from the archives)
un pointu = old wooden fishing boat, read more here
la pissaladière = a kind of pizza without tomato sauce (only carmelized onion, anchovy and olive)

Max jackie jean-marc marsha dad and kristi
Relaxing with our grown-up kids and our adventurous guests, who have landed in Amsterdam, by now, and are getting ready to board their flight to Salt Lake City. Bon voyage, Marsha and Kip! 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Relâcher: A day to fly a kite (or fly like a kite!)

Poppies and bees
A vocabulary-packed Sunday letter for you today. The regular edition will return in a fortnight or less.

Bonjour,

For the second time in four weeks, I'm breaking my "no working on Sunday" rule. My Dad and Marsha arrive Tuesday and I'm in a flurry of last-minute To-Do's--including keeping up this blog--which is silly because, really, a year from now who will even remember whether or not a post went out "twice-weekly" in June of 2018? I should relax and just enjoy this day. Tomorrow will come and go. A chaque jour suffit sa peine....

But it is no trouble, or peine, when my Dad and belle-mère visit. Any "flurry" goes back to my perfectionistic strivings (and these are only strivings, for if you took a shower in our guest bathroom--which I did just by chance this morning--and thank God for that!--you'd see spider webs on the ceiling and when you reached for the savon... il y aura que dalle (there wouldn't be any)...because I don't buy shower soap! No, I'm too practical for that (I use a tout-en-un-- an all-in-one shampoo. I can even wash my bathing suit with it!)

Even so, I'm adding "toile d'araignée" to my to-do list--as well as savon, and après-shampooing (I don't have cream rinse in my guest bathroom either. Je suis trop pratique : when the kids come home I give them my cream rinse--then I rouspète (rouspéter, to grumble) when I go to condition my hair, having forgotten the bottle's downstairs! 

Back to last-minute to-dos... this morning I'm all over the place, and a little bit rouspéteuse that my husband is away kitesurfing for the weekend. But I 'm not really mad at Mr High-in-the-Sky. Deep down I admire Jean-Marc for "living each day"--especially le dimanche. Sunday is the perfect day to dream and to play (unless you work at the mall or in a restaurant or at a vineyard, which I did. In that case you need to designate another day in which to relâcher, or let go).

Smokey golden retriever epuisette
Smokey's doing yoga while I'm getting ready to collect pond scum for my permaculture garden!

So off I go, back to my favorite morning activity: using my new, chouette, épuisette -- a Mothers Day gift from Jean-Marc. The net-on-a-pole allows me to go fishing in my pond...for mulch! As the pepper tree loses its tiny leaves, they collect on the pond's surface....

As the leaves swell with nutritive water (so as not to say fish poop) I see it all through a Willy Wonkian lense: only, my garden is my chocolate factory. Zipping back-n-forth from the fountain-pond to the vegetable beds, in a world of my own, I am, finally, in my element. Oompa oompa ooompa-dee-doo...let those cobwebs collect in the bathroom--I'll figure out how to make them garden fodder, too!)

Enjoy your week while I catch up with mon père. A bientôt, chers lecteurs!

Amicalement,
Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
à chaque jour suffit ça peine = each day is enough trouble of its own
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "stepmother")
le savon = soap
après-shampooing = conditioner
que dalle = nada, nothing
toile d'araigner = spider web
tout-en-un = all-in-one
rouspeteuse = complainer
dimanche = Sunday
chouette = cool
epuisette = shrimp net

Sauterelle grasshopper anis dill plant flowering
Look closely at the flowering dill...see an Oompa Loompa or a sauterelle?

The less creators have to worry about their funding platform, the more they can focus on what everyone wants them to do: create. --Ethan Siegel, Forbes Magazine

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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    
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Escalader: the story of Mamoudou Gassama, "The Spiderman of the 18th"

French president Macron and Mamoudou Gassama
"The Spiderman of the 18th" speaks with the President. Mamoudou Gassama's selfless act awarded him more than citizenship, a job, and a bravo from the President, it has given him--and all of us--l'éspoir in humankind. Let's hope that after the media invasion, this former refugee will be left in peace--to grow and to find happiness, and, finally, a bit of rest, in France. Read about this man's bravery.

Today's word: escalader

    : to scale, to climb

Listen to Jean-Marc read the sentence below, and today's word, in French: 

Click here to listen

Filmé par des passants, l’acte spontané de Mamoudou Gassama samedi à Paris a été vu des millions de fois sur les réseaux sociaux : on le voit escalader, à mains nues et en moins de trente secondes, la façade d’un immeuble parisien pour sauver un enfant de 4 ans suspendu à un balcon au 4e étage. --www.ladepeche.fr

Filmed by passersby, the spontaneous act of Mamoudou Gassama Saturday in Paris has been seen millions of times on social networks: we see him climb, with bare hands and in less than thirty seconds, the facade of a Parisian building to save a 4-year-old child hanging on a balcony on the 4th floor.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

By Monday morning, the heroic act of Mamoudou Gassama was all over the media. In awe along with the rest of France, I sat with my coffee, in bed, reading about the 22-year-old Malian refugee who had acted on instinct to save a 4-year-old child from imminent death. In his parents' absence (the father had stepped out for a few courses, or items at the store), the petit bonhomme wandered out onto the terrace of a 5th-floor apartment...and ended up dangling from the balcony.

Mamoudou, scaling to the 5th floor...

In the 18th Arrondissement of Paris...
As a crowd gathered below, screaming in horror, the young Malian man, who had been walking past, quickly assessed the situation before springing--quite literally!--to action. Within 30 seconds he had scaled the side of the building, going from balcony to balcony--at times jumping to reach the next level. Thank God he did not miss the bar! 

Reaching the 5th floor he landed on the balcony, having swooped up the crying child. The two safe inside the apartment, Mamadou had to sit down, his legs were trembling so badly. One can imagine his emotions were every bit as shaken. He had just taken a selfless risk, and could have easily slipped to his own death. 

Mamoudou recounted the incident to journalists:

"J'ai eu peur quand j'ai sauvé l'enfant et puis on est allés dans le salon, je me suis mis à trembler, je n'arrivais plus à tenir sur mes pieds, j'ai du m'asseoir" I was afraid when I was saving the child, and then we went into the living room and I began to tremble. I could no longer stand up with my feet. I had to sit down.

Dubbed "The Spiderman of the 18th"
In a second act of bravery, this Malian refugee faced an onslaught of reporters outside the hospital, where the firefighters had taken him and the child.  

Watching the news again Monday night, I was struck by this young man's composure and ability to speak a foreign language under a barrage of questions and the blaring, flashing camera lights. 

When he woke up, Saturday morning, the man who had escaped to France only last September, could never have dreamed the start of a new week would include a visit to the guilded salon of L'Elysee, a personal bravo and a job offer by French President Macron, and the gift of French citizenship; a cadeau even more precious to a young man who had travelled from from Mali to Burkina Faso, to Nigeria, and to Libya, where he was beaten before managing to get on a boat and cross the sea to Italy. His hope was to reach somebody who could help him, he who had been displaced from a very young age. On his way, he ended up helping a child--every bit as displaced as Mamadou had been.

We wish Mamoudou bon courage and bonne continuation, especially as he faces all the attention--the good and the bad (the jealousy, the questioning, the prying)-- that comes with being thrown into the spotlight.

As for the job? If he accepts, Mamoudou will soon be working as a fireman in Paris. I think you would agree, dear reader, that he more than passes the physical fitness test! More than that, he is an example to all of us to not hold back, to protect the innocent, and to be as graceful and recongizant as he, before a media flurry--or simply life's flurry.

Mamoudou Gassama interview on RMC
"Dieu merci, je l'ai sauvé." Thank God, I saved him. "Je l’ai fait parce que c’est un enfant. J’aime beaucoup les enfants. Je n’ai pas pensé aux étages. Je n’ai pas pensé au risque." I did it because it was a child. I love children. I didn't think about all the floors. I didn't think about the risk.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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    
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


French Mothers Day + J'ai la dalle - my son keeps saying this. What does it mean?

Hammock and Smokey
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Today's phrase: avoir la dalle

 : to be hungry

Click here to listen to the following sentence:

J'ai la dalle. J'ai la dalle. Maman, j'ai très très faim...il n'y a rien à manger dans le frigo! -Max
I'm hungry. I'm hungry. Mom, I'm really really hungry....there's nothing to eat in the fridge!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

The eve of French Mothers Day, my son and daughter appeared. I had been making dinner for their father (due home from work at the wine shop in the next hour), when suddenly our omelette-for-two became an occasion to casser la croûte

As we shared scrambled eggs (my omelettes so often end up this way...) the kidults came up with ideas for Mothers Day morning:

"I'll get up early. We can have coffee together before I leave for work!" Jackie's offer conjured up a cozy garden scene, the two of us curled into chairs drinking café-au-lait, birdsong in the background.... "And we can go to the beach for a swim...." 

Not to be outdone, Max offered to take me to lunch, to Bandol, where his sister works. Talk about a perfect Mothers Day plan!

Max is 23 now and Jackie will be 21 in September
   Our kidults, Max and Jackie.

Mothers Day morning, Jean-Marc headed back to Marseilles for his Sunday shift at the cave à vin. Meantime, my daughter overslept...with just enough time to peck me on the cheek, before hurrying out the door....

Max was passed out in his bed after returning home from la boîte de nuit at 5 a.m. I'll let him sleep until 11, I thought, and then we'll head out to the restaurant. It'll be crowded in Bandol, but Max will drop me right in front of the establishment, in true Mothers Day favor!

En attendant, I decided to putter around the garden and enjoy my fête....and that's when I discovered our carport was empty. No cars! Oh, yeah, that's right: I'd forgotten the three of us are now sharing one car (ever since Max sold his, before he began his exchange program in Mexico!)

Oblivious to our stranded situation, Max lavished in his sleep while I began to wonder about lunch--and so did Smokey--my ever-accountable, always ready to celebrate 3rd child.

The restaurants in our area were booked for la Fête des Mères. I decided to décongeler a few hamburgers from the freezer. I began frying some onions.... Adding the viande hâché, and some rice, I let the ingredients cook through while collecting some salad greens from the garden beds (which are literally beds--made up of our son's old bed frame and its sliding drawers!) 

I woke my son in time to enjoy lunch out on the porch, beneath the flowering pepper tree. "It's delicious," Max said. I really love the sauce, he added.

"Those are caramelized onions with honey," I pointed out

"But, I have to tell you something, Mom...." Max said, staring into his empty plate. "J'ai la dalle!"

So that is what he had been murmuring all week, "I'm hungry!" Well, I don't feel too sorry for him. There's something called a frigo here in our house, and there's food in there. Donc, sert-toi, mon fils! 


FRENCH VOCABULARY
casser la croûte = to break bread together
la boîte de nuit = nightclub
en attendant = in the meantime
décongeler = to thaw, defrost
la viande hâche = hamburger meat
j'ai la dalle = I'm hungry
le frigo = fridge
sert-toi = serve yourself
Kristi Espinasse (2)
Mon cadeau pour la fête des mères, from Max (Jackie gave me a beautiful bouquet, on American Mothers Day, a few weeks earlier)

Look at that bracelet! Max is forgiven for not taking me to the restaurant by cab, by bike (seated on the handlebars, wheee!), by piggyback, or by puce (we could've hitchhiked). This reminds me of something my belle-mère would've said, to make us all laugh. Which reminds me, encore, how much we missed Michèle-France on French Mothers Day, and every day. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. 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


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.