Friday, April 29, 2011

A CERTAIN SOMETHING



Views of one of the two pairs of bronze hunting dog statues at the entrance of the Château de Chantilly. Sculpted by monumental animal sculptor Auguste Cain (1822-1894).

Un chien, is of course, a dog. But what does "avoir du chien," literally "to have some dog," really mean?
Expression
Elle a du chien(!):  she has a certain something(!)


Photos courtesy of Carol E. Cass
©2011 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FLOWER LANGUAGE

What does a peony say in French? If it's blushing pink it says, "Je suis timide." (I'm shy.) If it's pure white, then it says "Prudence, veillez sur vous." (Be careful, watch over yourself.) If it's red, then its topic of conversation surely is passion.

Vocabulary
une pivoine:  a peony
le langage des fleurs:  the language of flowers
personnifier:  to personify

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, April 24, 2011

LIKE GRAND-MERE USED TO MAKE AT EASTER


A French Easter tradition, like grand-mère used to make: oeufs à la coque en chocolat--emptied egg shells filled with melted chocolate, cooled and hardened. These are simply peeled and eaten. Another variation is to fill the eggshell with a creamier chocolate ganache that can be eaten with a spoon, and served in a coquetier for a yummy Easter dessert.

Who brings the eggs?
In Alsace and Loraine it's the lapin de Pâques or Easter Bunny, as in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon countries, who hides chocolate and candy eggs in the garden for children to find on Easter morning. In the rest of France, however, the popular legend is that the chocolate Easter eggs fall from church bells "returning" from Rome where they had "voyaged" during the three days before Easter. In fact, during those three days, church bells in France are silenced, then on Easter Sunday burst with sound celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
Le voyage des cloches à Rome.
Engraving by Grandville.

Vocabulary
une grand-mère:  a grandmother
un oeuf à la coque:  a soft-boiled egg
un coquetier:  an eggcup
une ganache:  a whipped filling of chocolate and cream used in desserts such as cakes and truffles
un lapin:  a rabbit
les cloches d'eglise:  the church bells

Expression
There is a distinction in the French language between "la Pâque" the original Jewish celebration and "les Pâques" the multi-faceted Christian celebration. Thus:
Joyeuse Pâque, i.e. Pâque without an "s" is said to wish a Jewish person a Happy Pessah, and Joyeuses Pâques with an "s" is said to wish a person of the Christian faith a Happy Easter. There is no difference in the pronunciation!

More on eggs...

©2011 P.B.Lecron

THE PERFECT FORM

Eggs, source of life and the forme parfaite!

Vocabulary
un oeuf:  an egg
parfait, -e:  perfect
une douzaine:  a dozen

Expression
Il ne faut pas mettre tous ses oeufs dans le même panier. 
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.




More on Easter...


©2011 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, April 23, 2011

READ MY BOOTS

What's new in French garden stores? First we saw...
 
Cushy pads. These new gardening boots are both kicky and a quick read. By Aigle, the manufacturer which has been giving 'the French touch' to outdoor wear and gear since 1853!
Vocabulary
bottes en caoutchouc:  rubber boots
bottes de jardinage:  gardening boots
un jardin:  a garden
un jardinier:  a gardener
un aigle:  an eagle
Expressions
avoir un coeur d'artichaut:  to have the heart of an artichoke, meaning to be a person who falls easily in love
avoir la patate:  to have the spud (literally), meaning to be in top physical form
raconter des salades:  to tell of salads (literally), meaning to tell tall tales
gagner du blé:  to earn wheat (literally), meaning to make money; to earn dough
en rang d'oignons:  in a row of onions, meaning in a line; originally the 17th century expression meant to be in a place where one was not invited




Then we noticed these...
Flower boxes have come out of the closet! New bright colors are as eye-catching as the flowers coordinated to bloom in them.



More vocabulary
une jardinière:  a flower box
un bac à fleurs:  a flower planter
du terreau:  (some) potting soil
une jardinerie:  a garden center
assorti, -e:  matched

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

CULTURE IS LIKE CONFITURE

My all-time favorite French expression: La culture c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale. Culture is like confiture, the less one has, the more one spreads it around. Some attribute this to French writer Françoise Sagan (1935-2004), others say that it was an anonymous slogan that appeared on graffitied walls during the May 1968 demonstrations in Paris.

Vocabulary
la pensée du jour:  the thought for the day
étaler:  to spread out or on
une brioche:  brioche, a sweet yeast bread

Expression
Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!  Let them eat cake!

Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Friday, April 22, 2011

A HEAD OF LETTUCE

From the window of superb modiste-chapelier Novalande in the charming
Normandie port village, Honfleur.  photo Carol E. Cass

There's a citation in French attributed to Mark Twain floating around on the Net that for the life of me I cannot find in his work to authenticate:  Il y a trois choses qu'une femme est capable de réaliser avec rien: un chapeau, une salade et une scène de ménage. 

Roughly translated: There are three things that only a woman is able to make out of nothing: a hat, a salad and a domestic argument.

That sounds like Mark Twain, but is it really? The Web site proffers the quotation comes from Twain's Contes Choisis, i.e., Selected Stories. I've skimmed through the book twice without finding the citation. A third and careful reading I will have to forego, having misplaced that volume. Can anyone be of help?

VOCABULARY
un chapelier, -ière:  hatter, hatmaker
un modiste:  milliner (a person who makes or sells women's hats)
une salade:  a lettuce, a salad; also a muddle or tangled confusion
raconter des salades:  to spin yarns, to tell stories
égarer:  to mislay (here) ; to mislead, to lead astray

©2011 P.B. Lecron

VIVE LA SIESTE

By the way, Napoleon and Leonardo da Vinci were also catnap adepts.

Vocabulary
une sieste:  a nap, siesta  
une micro sieste: a nap that lasts less than 5 minutes
vite fait:  rapidly done
faire un petit somme:  to take a catnap
sommeiller:  to catnap


Expression
En Provence, le soleil se lève deux fois, le matin et après la sieste. --Yvan Audouard (1914-2004), French journalist and screenwriter


In Provence, the sun rises two times, in the morning and after the siesta.

Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 18, 2011

ON THE WATERFRONT

                                                                                                                                photo P.B.Lecron
An idle moment along the quais of Conflans-Ste-Honorine, the long time capital of French inland waterways. The inland port is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) downstream from Paris, at the confluence of the Oise and the Seine rivers.

Vocabulary
une voie navigable:  a waterway
un cygne:  a swan
une mouette:  a seagull

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A TASTE FOR LUXURY

One way to make sure you don't miss dinner...
Give French cats the choice between a bowl of tap water and a bowl of Evian, and they'll inevitably choose Evian. Cachemire, silk, camel hair? These cats recognize quality right away and will curl up on the best fabrics in a second. But I never dreamed they knew anything about stainless steel cookware until I discovered Pompon, a.k.a. Guy l'Eclair and sometimes called Yo-Yo, nesting in my best French Cristel marmite.


Vocabulary
soie:  silk
cashmere:  cachemire
poil de chameau:  camel hair  
inox:  stainless steel
marmite:  stock pot


Expression
Une truite dans la marmite vaut plus que deux saumons dans la rivière.  A trout in the pot is worth more than two salmon in the river.  






Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

FIND THE INTRUDER

Cherchez l'intrus--is the French term for the ubiquitous children's game where the child is shown a group of images and has to select the one that does not belong in the group.
Vocabulary
chercher:  to search for, to look for, to try to find
l'intrus:  the intruder
un jeu d'enfants:  a children's game

Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DUSTING: DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

Do you have a stringed instrument that needs a good dusting that simply playing it won't give? Try this tip.

A French architect told me about how one of his more meticulous clients kept her personnel busy dusting every nook and cranny, baseboards included, of her pied-à-terre in Paris with high quality, natural bristle artist's paintbrushes. After having rolled my eyes imagining myself dabbling over my entire apartment and its eclectic contents with post-modern strokes, it occured to me that this is the best way to clean in between the strings of musical instruments. Computer keyboards, too.

I use, however, an ordinary, but soft, virgin housepainter's brush for a wider sweep.






Vocabulary
un pied-à-terre:  a small apartment or house kept for occasional use, literally 'foot to earth'
un pinceau:  a paintbrush
poils de martre:  sable bristles
un instrument à cordes:  a stringed instrument
un clavier:  a keyboard
un ordinateur:  a computer


Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TULIP

On a tulip jag, or should I say, on jagged tulips...
Chilly April weather gives long life to the tulips I walk past every day.
Vocabulary
une tulipe perroquet:  a parrot tulip
frisé(e):  curled, frizzy
panaché(e): variegated
avoir du panache:  to have brio, panache

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

GREENING UP

April in Paris is almost synonymous with the blooming of flowering chestnuts, like these young trees in front of the  administrative building of the Musée du Quai Branly, also known as the Musée des Arts Premiers. The museum is dedicated to the primitive arts and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

The vertical garden, created by botanist and researcher Patrick Blanc in 2006, has become one more must-see landmarks on Paris streets, and is practically at the feet of the Eiffel Tower. More than 15,000 plants colonize the vertical surface of the building.

Vocabulary
un marronier:  a chestnut tree

Expression
En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai fais ce qu'il te plaît."  In April, don't remove a thread (of clothing); in May do as you please. That is to say, better not count on warm weather until the month of May.

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 11, 2011

KITSCHY SWEET


Even though I don't usually buy individually wrapped sugar, I cracked for these Eiffel Tower sugar sticks. Considering we have only one friend who takes sugar in his coffee, they may be around for a long while.


Very merchandisable. The box opens into a sugar stick distributor and the back has interesting Eiffel Tower fun facts. Can holidays be far away?


Next to the sugar sticks in the supermarket were these Béghin Say sugar cubes wrapped in minature postcard views of  Paris, Versailles, Strasbourg, Nancy, Lille, Honfleur, Le Mont Saint Michel, La Rochelle, Carcassonne, Avignon, Marseille, Nice and Ajaccio. Bed and breakfast hosts will undoubtedly set out these "visit France" enticements on their morning tables.

Vocabulary
le sucre:  the sugar
une dosette:  a little dose
une bûchette de sucre en poudre:  a sugar stick
sucre enveloppé:  wrapped sugar
un morceau de sucre:  a piece of sugar; sugar cube


Text & photos ©2011 P.B.Lecron

Thursday, April 7, 2011

L'ESPRIT TULIPE

Vocabulary & Expressions
l'esprit:  the spirit
une tulipe:  a tulip
La Tulipe:  a name given in military camps to corporals and sergeants who had a knack for seducing women during the Ancien Régime, i.e., the old reign before the French Revolution in 1789
faire le joli coeur:  to adopt affected or precious manners, sometimes pretentious, in order to be liked by women

©2011 P.B. Lecron

HAIKU FARMING

The Field
The field was full of
closed tulips and a red
umbrella nearing.
Wheelbarrows
Nothing depended
on green wheelbarrows waiting
in the cool light rain.


Thinking of William Carlos Williams. 
Photographed at Les Fermes de Gally©2011 P.B. Lecron  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

PICK YOUR OWN

Les Fermes de Gally...a reference in French self-pick farms


One of the best pick-your-own farms in France, Les Fermes de Gally, is not far from Versailles, and therefore, not that far from Paris. A real treat tiptoeing through the tulips and digging up leeks even on a drizzly Sunday in the mud.

Vocabulary
cueillir:  to pick
la gadoue:  the mud
une pluie fine:  a drizzle
pluvieux, ieuse:  rainy
bottes en caoutchouc:  rubber boots
For your easy listening pleasure
La Gadoue with Petula Clark or try Jane Birken's more graphic version of the same tube (that's French slang for hit). Fun.

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 4, 2011

THE COOL FACTOR: MEN'S COLORED LACES

Tying into men's fashion
Eye-popping power statement at your feet. A houseguest visiting from America just returned from a Parisian shoe store with a flashy men's accessory, convention-kicking colored shoelaces to re-look his shoes. One more choice to make when getting dressed: reverent or irreverent. Trés Stendhalien en rouge et noir.

Vocabulary
une boutique:  a shop
une chaussure:  a shoe
un lacet:  a shoelace

Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, April 3, 2011

FANCY PANTRY

My word, is that jar of apricots wearing a tutu? Be the first on your block to dress up your preserves with a round of tulle netting and gold elastic ribbon like these French cherries, prunes and apricots soaked in wine. A ballet on the shelves of the épicerie of Les Fermes de Gally, near Versailles.

VOCABULARY
une griotte:  a Morello cherry
une cerise:  a cherry
un pruneau:  a prune
un abricot:  an apricot
une épicerie:  a grocery store
une ferme:  a farm
Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, April 2, 2011

WHAT'S INSIDE A POISSON D'AVRIL?

Breaking into a piñata may be more lively, but there's the same element of fun spilling the chocolate friture and candied eggs out of a poisson d'avril, a prelude to the cocotte de Pâques..

This poisson d'avril which we bought yesterday is a simple milk-chocolate child pleaser; more serious chocolate lovers would prefer a higher-grade and more noble chocolat noir. Recommended Parisian chocolatiers that also sell online(!): Marquise-de-Sévigné, Patrick Roger or Jean-Paul Hévin.

Vocabulary
une cocotte de Pâques:  an Easter hen
un poisson:  a fish
un poisson d'avril:  an April Fool's day prank; chocolate or cut-out paper fish
une friture:  a small fish, here chocolate fish
Text & photo ©P.B. Lecron

Friday, April 1, 2011

APRIL FOOL--POISSON D'AVRIL!

Crybaby, my Franco-American hybrid kids' pet fan-tailed goldfish must have been on my mind when I went to the chocolate shop. 

One more slip of the tongue, this time on the funnest day of the year in most places in the world, April 1.   In France the April's Fool prank is called a poisson d'avril, literally fish of April. The most common gag here is for school children to stick a cut-out paper fish on the back of a teacher or classmate, then giggle about it.

It's a big day for the chocolatier, too, who makes and sells ribbon-clad chocolate poissons d'avril, usually filled with smaller chocolate fish or fritures. Wanting to buy a chocolate fish on a first of April at our town's chocolatier, I inadvertantly asked the salesgirl for a poisson rouge (goldfish)It was not until after she looked at all of the chocolate poissons d'avril on display, then say that she didn't have a poisson rouge, that both of us realized that I had just pulled her leg.
All of these poissons d'avril were swimming around Aux Colonnes, a chocolatier in Versailles. 
Our prettiest poisson d'avril ever--a Lalique fish.
Vocabulary                              
un poisson:  a fish
un poisson rouge:  a goldfish
une friture:  a small fish
chocolatier, ière:   maker or seller of chocolate
faire marcher quelqu'un:  to pull somebody's leg    
une farce:  a prank
un canular:  a hoax
une plaisanterie:  a joke
Expression
Ton lacet est défait:  Your shoelace is untied.

Want more? 
A Fool for Poisson d'Avril

A comedy of errors!
For more language fun, including some of my now famous slips of the tongue :
Sip 'n Slip
Caution: Language Barrier Crossing
Chic, Chickpeas
Madame Malaprop Goes to the Dentist
I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore
It's All in How You Say It
Accidental English
The Artichoke Next Door

Text & photos ©2011 P.B. Lecron