La Reine de la musique soul est morte.

The Queen of Soul Music has died.

Je n’ai réalisé qu’hier que je connaissais toutes les chansons d’Aretha Franklin.

Only yesterday did I realize that I knew each of Aretha Franklin’s songs.

Pas les paroles dans leur intégralité, mais leur mélodie et refrain.

Not every single word of the lyrics, but the melody and the chorus.

Ce n’est pas souvent qu’une chanteuse laisse une telle empreinte musicale.

It’s not often that a woman singer leaves such a musical soundtrack behind.

J’ai aussi réalisé en entendant les chansons d’Aretha Franklin passées sur toutes les chaines de télé et les stations de radio que je les avais toutes entendues alors que je vivais encore en France.

I also realized, listening to Aretha Franklin’s songs, played on all TV channels and radio stations that I had heard all of them while I still lived in France.

Il y a eu aussi bien sûr la comédie musicale des Blues Brothers en 1980 qui l’a fait davantage connaitre de notre côté de l’Atlantique. Un succès phénoménal en France.

There was of course the musical comedy The Blue Brothers in 1980 which gave even more visibility to Aretha Franklin on the other side of the Atlantic . A blockbuster in France.

Il y eut aussi une amie de campus qui n’écoutait pratiquement que des chanteuses. Quand je lui rendais visite, on sirotait nos cafés en écoutant Patti Smith, Annie Lenox, Pat Benatar, Rickie Lee Jones, ou bien encore Janis Joplin.

There was also a girlfriend on the campus who listened almost exclusively to women singers. When I paid her a visit, we sipped our coffees listening to Patti Smith, Annie Lenox, Pat Benatar, Rickie Lee Jones, or still Janis Joplin.

Et il y eut ce fameux duo Aretha Franklin Annie Lenox Sisters Are Doin It For Themselves.

And there was this infamous duet Aretha Franklin Annie Lenox Sisters Are Doin It For Themselves.

De toutes les chansons d’Aretha Franklin, j’ai toujours préféré I Say a Little Prayer and Respect.

Of all her songs I’ve always prefered I Say a Little Prayer and Respect.

I Say a Little Prayer est une telle consolation quand rien ne va plus.

I Say a Little Prayer is such a soft consolation when things go down.

Quant à Respect la chanson ne m’a vraiment donné la chair de poule qu’après des années de vie aux États Unis.

As for Respect it’s only after many years spent in the U.S. that the song gave me goosebumps.

Le mot Respect s’écrit et se traduit de la même façon en français et en anglais.

The noun Respect is spelled and translated the same way in French and English.

Le sens n’est sans doute pas tout à fait le même dans les deux pays.

The meaning is probably not exactly the same in both countries.

Un demi-siècle plus tard la chanson Respect a encore la même pertinence. Je ne sais pas ce que ressens à cet égard.

Peut-être juste du respect.

Half a century later the song Respect has still the same relevance. I don’t know what I feel about it.

Maybe only respect.

French Friday: Avoir une Autre Langue C’est Posséder une Deuxième Âme

I have some serious competition. My daughter is discovering French expressions à la vitesse grand V or at a very high speed. Even though, I still have une longueur d’avance sur elle or I’m still ahead of her, once in a while she reminds me of an expression I no longer use. The only reason being the limited number of people I speak French with.

It’s a little bit my fault since I did everything I could to avoid French people in my first years in the USA, knowing they would keep me away from improving my English. Then I moved too often to even have time to reach out beyond school, work, and neighbors. And let’s be frank: although there are quite a few French people in the States they don’t really form a community as other foreign-born people do. So in the end, my only regular French interlocutor remains my husband. I lucked out since his French is stellar. But the two of us cannot use an entire dictionary on a regular basis.

This explains how my daughter forwarded me a pretty crude French expression the other day and I had to admit that I had forgotten about it. However, it did remind me of an equivalent, almost as vulgar. I try to exemplify the best of France on my blog, so I will skip them 🙂

Yesterday the same daughter forwarded me a BuzzFeed article about France. There were a few mistakes, mostly due to translation. I sent her a link to the French newspaper Libération, so she could get the facts right.

As I read the French article I noticed the noun amende, which means a fine.

Its homophone amande, spelled with a A, means almond.

A few words then rushed to my mind.

Un trombone in French is both a paper clip and the musical instrument.

Baguette designates both the infamous French bread but means also chopsticks or still a magic wand in baguette magique.

Aïe means ouch, while its homophone ail means garlic.

Un tourniquet can have so many different meanings in French. It can designate a turnstile, a medical tourniquet, a sprinkler that rotates, a revolving display or still a merry-go-round on a playground. The other merry-go-round is also called a carousel from the French noun carrousel. But that’s for another post titled What Happens to French Vocabulary Abroad?

The French Emperor Charlemagne – the one who supposedly created school for French kids – is also supposed to have said that speaking another language is to possess a second soul.

It sounds so pretty in French: Avoir une autre langue c’est posséder une deuxième âme.

Based on my modest experience, I simply wonder if we start paying attention to our native language only when we know at least another one and start to understand our native land only when we’ve left.

In homage to Yosemite and to my kids, who still teach me so much, a photo from the magical park

French Friday: The World Is Your Oyster

Wondering words from a wanderer, as migrants keep fleeing their native lands and pressing against borders and gates in the United States and many European countries.


Many moons ago I wandered tree-lined California streets with names I had never heard of, you, a baby propped up in her stroller, eyes wide open on this big new world.

“This is University Avenue,” I read. You giggled. “Here we are on Waverley Street and this is Ramona Circle. Middlefield Road takes us to the park.”

Your belly laugh encouraged me to practice and map this new town in my head, next to Paris metro lines that I knew like the back of my hand.

You adored the playground, even though you didn’t walk yet.

“La balançoire,” I said when I sat on the swing, you, tucked on my lap, the sky a promise above our heads.

“Le sable,” I told you, sand slipping between my fingers. Time stopped when we sat in the sandbox, together, with nothing to do but wander and wonder.

Were you as dizzy with dreams than I was when we slid down “le toboggan,” my arms wrapping your round waist, your laugh catching in your throat as the speed increased?

“Le tourniquet” was your favorite and mine too. The sun played peek-a-boo between the eucalyptuses, heady with a fragrance neither of us had ever smelled before. The merry-go-round continued its route, taking us round and round while never leaving our new corner of the world.

One morning, a squirrel darted in front of us.

“Oh!” you exclaimed, equally surprised and delighted.

“Un écureuil,” I said.

You giggled. To you, every word was a surprise and a delight.

You tried to repeat and your attempts made you laugh again.

One day, you would call “Squirrel! Squirrel!”

Another word filled with too many strange sounds for your mother to ever pronounce it the right way, but it would reassure her that you could: you would belong.

One day, I read this strange sentence: “The world is your oyster”.

I opened my dictionary.

In French, the expression means “le monde t’appartient”.

The world belongs to you.

And one day, you greeted passersby with a loud, cheerful, unmistakable “Hi” that they reciprocated with equal exuberance.

I sighed with relief.

You belonged.

A knot tied my throat.

Would you remember where you came from?

Maybe one day, I imagined,

you will wander and wonder through

foreign streets,

foreign smells,

foreign words,

a baby in the crook of your arm,

hoisted up on your shoulders.

And you will read out loud the names of the streets you wander through.

Words will bump against the roof or your mouth,

linger at the top of your tongue

trip on your lips.

Words that you won’t ever pronounce the right way will belong to your baby,

who maybe one day

will wander and wonder…


Because we are only wanderers who wonder in this oyster-world that belongs to us.

French Friday : Her Cupcakes and Mine

Wherever you live in the U.S., I bet there is a place nearby that carries French macarons. When I lived in France you could glance at them through the windows of fancy salons de thé, particulary in Paris. That was it.

Americans go gaga over macarons. And the French are crazy for cupcakes. Which didn’t exist in France until fairly recently.

As for me I baked my first batch of cupcakes for my oldest daughter’s birthday somewhere in the mid 1990s in California. Cupcakes are very popular with school-age kids. It makes sense due to their individual size and to the countless decorative possibilities. With kids away from home I no longer bake cupcakes, but I always explore dessert recipes. Especially when I have to use an ingredient that could go to waste. Which was the case with a huge container of strawberries on Wednesday. The weather was warm, so I decided to make a no-bake dessert with strawberries.

On Wednesday, my friend Katie Cross released her novel You’ll Never Know, the third book in The Health and Happiness Society series.


This cupcake makes me want to bake. And eat, too.

Rachel has lost weight. Lots of weight. For months now she follows a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and stays away from her beloved frosting-covered cupcakes. Rachel should be proud of her achievement and be content. After all, she’s healthier than ever and looks fantastic. But she may have shed pound after pound Rachel still sees the chubby girl she used to be whenever she glances at a mirror. Exercising has soon become an obsession. Now training for a marathon, Rachel ignores her best friend’s advice when she suggests slowing down. No way. Rachel must run this marathon. Her life depends on it. Only then will she be truly successful and happy. But when Rachel trips on the treadmill and badly injures her ankle, the marathon is soon out of the question. Rachel fights against her physician’s orders and still believes that she can make it in time for the run. For now, however, she’s unable to train and is losing herself.

In You’ll Never Know Katie Cross tackles the topic of women’s relationship with food, the quest for perfection and everlasting happiness with a set of relatable characters. Rachel’s mother is, as it is often the case, the reason behind her daughter’s unhealthy relationship with food. She’s a binge eater and even though she’s not instantly likeable, she still loves Rachel and will grow through the novel. Because she has her own reasons for hiding her broken heart behind bottomless bowls of cereals, loads of bacon, and super sized sodas.

Fortunately for Rachel she has her friends, the rocks that keep her sane when she feels lost. Each one of them has her own personal story and relationship with food and exercise too, but like the musketeers, the young women have each other’s back.

Rachel, on the other hand, has never trusted men and has preferred serial dating to the risk of an honest relationship. And when one young man she really liked stuck around she broke up. Was she afraid to be liked in return? This will change, though, when she meets an intriguing young musician who slowly becomes a friend.

At the heart of the story there is the bakery, the lovely Frosting Cottage, the place of temptations that Rachel wants to avoid at all costs, but can’t any longer when one of her friends offers her the chance to work there. Initially 100% against, Rachel finally accepts, now that she can’t train for the marathon and needs a job to stay away from her depressed and depressing mother. Now not only surrounded by delicious looking cupcakes she must also bake them. And frost them. Rachel’s living her worst nightmare. And yet, this is while working at the Frosting Cottage that she will start therapy – first against her will – and embark onto a real change journey that will bring back her early childhood and take her to the roots of her problems.

There is a lot to love in this novel. Being a French native I adore desserts and perhaps even more making them, so I particularly enjoyed the bakery setting and the baked goods’ yummy descriptions.

Whether sharing Rachel’s exact same life experiences or not, You’ll Never Know will resonate with any young or older woman dealing with the destructive power of self-hate and the illusion that the way you look affect your level of happiness.

In any life situation hope is never out of reach, even when it seems inaccessible. You’ll Never Know remains a positive novel, which tells of the power of female friendships, the importance of professional therapy, the necessity to forgive self and others, and the realization that happiness comes from within.

This is a novel by a woman for women. Best read with a cup of coffee or tea and a cupcake too.

Chance is you’ll want to buy one from the Frosting Cottage. They are the bomb. Too bad they are also fictional. So if you want a real summer cupcake, you may want to try mine.


Not as impressive, but cute, no?

Here’s the recipe.

Although a three-step recipe should be easy as a pie, I managed to mess up. I read 4 cups of strawberries and not 2 1/2. Which was great to use most of the strawberry container but a bad idea since the frozen yogurt would drown under. So I added a little bit of vanilla extract. Also, I didn’t have any snap cookies at home but some lemon thins. I figured that the recipe was already tweaking a typical cupcake recipe, so I went along my mistakes.

There was a consensus of opinion among my small home-based culinary judges.

Husband and wife agreed. Not bad these Strawberry Fro-Yo Cupcakes.

Now, here are the different places where you can find Katie’s novel You’ll Never Know. I hope you’ll give her a chance.







FRENCH FRIDAY: Thirteen French and American Habits. Treize Coutumes Françaises et Américaines.

On Tuesday I read a blog post that made me smile for several reasons:

1- It’s written by a blogger I had the chance to meet in person and she had not blogged since a while. So I was happy to read her again.

2- Born in Togo, she has lived in France for several years before moving to Canada. We share a common land and an immigration experience too.

3- Her post, about some Canadian Habits she hasn’t yet adopted after five years spent in Canada, matched the post I had just written for my weekly French Friday. In fact, two of the habits she described as still being foreign to her happened to be two of mine as well.

If you read French, I encourage you to pay a visit to Madame Gaou who started to blog, first from Toronto and now from Montreal. Si vous lisez le français, je vous encourage à lire le blog de Madame Gaou. Ses billets sont tour à tour drôles et émouvants. Toujours très personels et sincères.

Since I’ve lived in the United States for more than twenty-five years, many American habits are now mine. And yet, I remain a little bit French too. So here are Thirteen French and American habits I’ve either kept or not yet adopted. It felt natural to write this post in the two languages that I speak every single day. No need for Google translator today, my friends 🙂


I Don’t Wear PJs In Public

The first time I saw my neighbor walk her kids to the bus stop in her pajamas I thought something was wrong at her place. It appeared that more moms followed the same fashion. Sometimes they even drove in their nightly outfits to the convenience store, and not only early Saturday mornings. To be honest I envied their carefree self-confident attitude. My French upbringing tsked tsked in my head. So I’ve never worn PJs in public in the USA. Heck, I barely wear sneakers in the street 🙂

Je Ne Me Promène Pas En Pyjama En Public

La première fois que j’ai aperçu l’une de mes voisines accompagner ses enfants à l’arrêt de bus en pyjamas j’ai pensé qu’il y avait un problème chez eux. Mais rapidement j’ai remarqué que d’autres mamans suivaient la même mode. Parfois elles conduisaient au magasin du coin de la rue dans leurs pyjamas, et pas seulement tôt le samedi matin. Pour être franche j’ai envié leur attitude insouciante et décomplexée. Mon éducation française me rappelait à l’ordre. Donc je n’ai jamais porté de pyjamas en public aux USA. Pensez donc, je ne porte même pas de baskets dans la rue 🙂

I Don’t Bring My Own Wine To Restaurants

Maybe I’ve an edge. My husband is a wine connoisseur and has been seen going through the wine list before the menu. Choosing a glass of wine is part of our going out experience. We figure that if we trust a chef to create a menu we should also trust the sommelier to come up with a wine list. My husband has often made great finds while browsing through these lists and spoken with many sommeliers across the country.

Je N’apporte Pas Ma Bouteille De Vin Au Restau

Aux USA il est en effet possible d’apporter sa propre bouteille de vin dans certains établissements. Si vous avez vérifié et pouvez le faire vous paierez cependant un corkage fee, qui varie en moyenne entre $10 et $20. Mais le corkage fee peut monter à $75 et voire au-delà de $100 dans un restaurant haut de gamme. Choisir un verre de vin est un vrai bonheur pour mon mari qui lit toujours la carte des vins avant le menu. Si nous faisons confiance à un chef avec son menu pourquoi ne pas faire de même avec un sommelier ? De plus on peut faire de belles découvertes en explorant une carte de vins et entamer de bonnes discussions avec des sommeliers, comme nous le faisons partout aux U.S.

Drive-Thru? Thanks, But No Thanks

Years ago, witnessing my son’s efforts to make me a normal American mom I finally gave in and used the Starbucks’ drive-thru. And drove away without our order.



Fortunately no one was following me, so I backed up and offered an apologetical shrug to the puzzled barista.

Now, on a hot day, when I am with my grown-up kids I do an occasional drive-thru. Alone? Never.

I’m a terrace and not a drive-thru kind of girl.

Embed from Getty Images

Drive-Thru ? Merci, Mais Non Merci

Lorsque mon fils était au lycée et espérait me transformer en une véritable maman américaine, j’ai fini par accepter de commander nos cafés sans bouger de notre voiture. Et je suis partie sans attendre la commande.

« MAMAN ! »

« Zut ! »

Heureusement aucune voiture ne me suivait, donc j’ai fait marche arrière et offert un haussement d’épaule contrit au garçon qui n’y a rien compris.

Avec mes enfants et s’il fait super chaud j’accepte un occasionnel drive-thru. Seule ? Jamais.

Je suis faite pour les terraces, pas pour le drive-thru.

I Eat Three Times A Day

Early childhood education leaves it marks, like it or not. I grew up eating breakfast, lunch, an after school snack, and dinner. I brought up my kids under the same rules. Now I stick to three meals a day. I don’t snack unless I hike, and I don’t skip a meal unless I’m sick.

Je Mange Trois Repas Par Jour

L’education reçue pendant notre petite enfance laisse des traces, qu’on le veuille ou non. J’ai grandi sous la sainte trinité: petit déjeuner, déjeuner, diner. Et un goûter après l’école, bien sûr. J’ai élevé mes enfants de la même manière. Maintenant je m’en tiens à trois repas par jour. Je mange entre deux si je fais des randonnées. Je ne saute pas de repas à moins d’être malade.

No Ice Cubes, Please

In my early years in the States I witnessed many strange things. Most were not strange per se, just different from my French lifestyle. In France, ice cubes were only used on hottest summer days and never with wine. On both costs of the country, I saw women adding ice cubes to their Chardonnay. To make it last, one of them told me. I didn’t judge her, only noticed. As I had noticed the ice cubes added to water at the restaurant, even at the height of winter. Freezing-cold water won’t ever be my thing. I just filter my tap water and keep the pitcher in the fridge.

Pas de Glaçons, S’il Vous Plait

Au cours de mes premières années aux USA j’ai vu beaucoup de choses étonnantes. La plupart ne l’étaient que parce qu’elles étaient différentes de mon mode de vie français. En France, les glaçons étaient réservés aux étés chauds et on n’en ajoutait pas à son vin. Sur les deux côtes des U.S., j’ai vu des femmes ajouter des glaçons à leur vin blanc. Pour le faire durer, m’a dit l’une d’entre elles. Je ne l’ai pas jugée, j’ai seulement remarqué. Comme j’ai remarqué l’eau glacée servie dans les restaurants, y compris au cœur de l’hiver. Glaçons et eau glacée ne seront jamais mon truc. Je filtre l’eau du robinet et garde le pichet au frigo.

I Don’t Ask For a Doggie Bag

I try to order based on my appetite, so I can finish my plate. Occasionally my husband asked for a doggie bag when we took the kids to our favorite Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. There were still great leftovers that he gathered and gave to one of the homeless people we passed on our way to our car. Even though I have not made this American custom entirely mine, I applaud the fact that no food should go wasted. Seems hard to inforce in France where for so long not finishing a plate at a restaurant was considered stylish. I never followed this French custom, based on my upbringing. But the doggie bag custom is embraced by most people in the States.

Je Ne Demande Pas De Sac À Toutou

J’essaie de commander en fonction de mon appétit et de terminer mon assiette. De temps en temps quand nous allions dans notre restaurant chinois favori à San Francisco mon mari emballait les bons restes qu’il donnait à l’un ou l’une des sans abri sur notre chemin de retour vers notre voiture. Même si le doggie bag se traduit litéralement par sac à toutou, la plupart des américains emmènent le reste de leur assiette pour leur consommation personnelle. Si je ne pratique pas cette coutume j’applaudis l’effort anti-gaspillage. Je me souviens que finir son assiette dans un restaurant français n’était pas de très bon goût. La coutume américaine d’emporter ses restes chez soi est par contre suivie par beaucoup.

I Don’t Do Black Friday

When I landed in California for the first time I swore to try every American thing. But Black Friday could not be my thing. I was never a shop ‘till you drop kind of person back in France. And I quickly realized that I preferred cooking, baking, hosting Thanksgiving and eating the leftovers the day after rather than shopping. So I easily resisted the call of the deal. Still do. Sadly Black Friday is now a French thing too, even though Thanksgiving is not celebrated there.

Le Vendredi Noir N’Est Pas Pour Moi

Quand je suis arrivée en Californie je me suis promise d’essayer tout ce qui se faisait aux Etats Unis. Mais Black Friday ou Vendredi Noir n’est pas pour moi. Je n’ai jamais été une folle de shopping en France. Je préfère cuisiner, faire de la pâtisserie, recevoir le jour de Thansgiving, et manger les restes le lendemain au shopping frénétique, donc je résiste facilement à l’appel des affaires du siècle. Black Friday aux Etats Unis était récemment encore réservé au lendemain de Thansgiving, toujours célébré le quatrième jeudi du mois de novembre. Les soldes commencent tristement maintenant le jour de Thanksgiving. Tristement aussi l’Europe et la France s’y sont mises aussi, Thanksgiving ou pas.

I Eat Dinner Before 8:00 P.M.

Gone are the times when I didn’t like a six o’clock dinner invitation. Because of our children’s school schedule, however, we started to eat dinner sooner than in France. In fact, the reason why Americans eat dinner earlier than the French is easy to understand. Sunup and sunset are much earlier across the USA than they are in France. School and work schedule follow and mealtimes too.

Je Dine Avant 20 Heures

Fini l’époque où je n’aimais pas une invitation à diner à six heures du soir. À cause des horaires de classe de nos enfants nous avons commencé à diner plus tôt qu’en France. En fait, la raison pour laquelle les américains dinent plus tôt que les français est facile à comprendre si vous avez vécu aux U.S. ou simplement visité. Levers et couchers de soleil sont plus précoces qu’en France. Horaires d’école et de travail suivent et les heures de repas aussi, bien sûr.

I Carry a Travel Mug When I Shop

I always carry a thermos filled with water with me, since I want to limit the use of plastic bottles. I also take my coffee/tea mug if I leave home in the morning. I no longer leave them in my car but will sip from them when I shop and go on with my day. Customs remain personal choices. My husband has not made his this very American habit, even for his early morning commutes. Ordering coffee to go is also natural to me now, while it felt strange for many years.

A thoughtful Mother’s Day gift from my daughter. I LOVE this travel mug, which keeps water fresh, even when left in the sun.

Je Me Déplace Avec Mon Thermos

Je posséde different thermos que j’utilise tous les jours. Plus de bouteilles plastiques pour moi. Et je conduis, fais mes courses avec mon café ou thé si je ne l’ai pas fini avant de partir de chez moi ou simplement si j’en ai envie. Mon mari par contre n’a jamais adopté cette coutume très américaine même lors de ses trajets de travail matinaux. Commander mon café à emporter m’est maintenant naturel, alors que je ne l’ai pas fait pendant des années.

She also bought me this coffee/tea travel mug, which I use a LOT.

I Wear Baseball Hats

In France I used to wear berets and hats of all sorts, but no baseball hats. They simply didn’t exist when I lived there. Maybe because I’ve mosty lived under sunny climates, maybe because my husband was often offered baseball hats when he attended professional conventions and seminars, I discovered how practical baseball hats could be. I wear one almost every day and not as a fashion statement. First and foremost, I love baseball hats for sun protection and for the occasional bad hair day.

Je Porte Des Casquettes de Baseball

En France je portais des bérets et plein de chapeaux, mais pas de casquettes de baseball. Elles ne se faisaient pas du tout quand je vivais en France. Peut-être parce que j’ai beaucoup vécu sous des climats ensoleillés, peut-être parce que mon mari a reçu de nombreuses casquettes promotionnelles lors de conférences et séminaires, en tous cas j’ai adopté relativement tôt le port de la casquette de baseball. J’en porte une presque tous les jours, mais pas en accessoire de mode. C’est ma protection #1 contre le soleil et aussi mon alliée quand mes cheveux sont indisciplinés.

I Talk to Total Strangers

This is my most prefered American trait of character. Okay, sometimes some conversations carry TMI, but as much as I was initially uncomfortable when people I had never met talked to me, I miss these impromptu discussions when away from the States. More frequent in small towns and in the great outdoors, even in New York City and Los Angeles people still interact with each other in the U.S. And I do too.

Je Parle À De Parfaits Inconnus

Les conversations spontanées sont une véritable signature américaine. Parfois, je le reconnais, certaines personnes en abusent et vous déballent toute leur vie dans la queue au supermarché. Mais si ces échanges m’ont tout d’abord surprise et presque inquiétée après l’anonymat parisien, c’est ce qui me manque en premier quand je suis loin des États Unis. Même à New York et Los Angeles les gens parlent très facilement entre eux. Et je le fais aussi.

I Use Coupons

I had no idea what they were when I spotted them in the very thick Sunday paper (another surprise). Soon, though, I understood the value coupons offered. Years later, I still don’t clip as faithfully as many American customers do, but I collect coupons of interest and use them.

J’Utilise Les Coupons D’Achat

Je n’avais aucune idée de ce qu’étaient les coupons quand je les ai tout d’abord découverts dans le très épais journal du dimanche (la taille de ce journal hebdomadaire était aussi une autre surprise). J’ai rapidement compris, cependant, que ces coupons offraient des rabais sur toutes sortes de produits, beaucoup que je n’utilisais pas, mais parfois pour un gel douche que j’aimais ou bien encore un produit d’entretien nécessaire. Je ne découpe pas scrupuleusement les coupons comme beaucoup de consommateurs américains le font, mais je garde ceux qui m’intéressent. Particulièrement pour les utiliser dans les drugstores de quartier. Aux États Unis les pharmacies sont situées dans les drugstores, ces magasins qui vendent presque tout : produits d’hygiène corporelle et de ménage, médicaments sans prescription et vitamines, mais aussi petits gâteaux, bonbons, alcool, papeterie dont de gigantesques sélections de cartes pour souhaiter n’importe quel événement et célébrer n’importe quelle personne dans votre vie, et tant d’autres choses. Suffisament pour y utiliser tous ces coupons.

What follows is a perfect combo for the person I am now: a French American

No To Creamers, But Yes To Peanut Butter

When I arrived in California I had no clue what creamers were. These flavored or unflavored tiny containers intrigued me. So I tried. Once. I prefer my coffee black. To my recent knowledge creamers don’t exist in France. Peanut and also almond butter, though, live in my fridge. I discovered peanut butter over my first visit to New York City in 1986 and brought back a jar to Paris. Not too popular back then 🙂

Non Aux Succédanés De Crème, Mais Oui Au Beurre de Cacahuète

Lorsque je suis arrivée en Californie j’ai tout de suite remarqué ces petits pots parfumés à la vanille, au caramel, au mocha, et à tant d’autres parfums. En vente dans le rayon des produits laitiers, mais aussi en libre service dans les cafés, les restaurants, les hôtels, les stations services puisqu’on peut aussi y faire le plein en café, et bien sûr chez les copines quand on boit un café ensemble, je me suis laissée tenter. Je préfère le café noir. Beurre de cacahuète et maintenant d’amandes, en revanche, ont leur place dans mon frigo.


Whether you also make your home away from your native land, live somewhere between past and new habits or not, tell me…

Que vous fassiez votre vie dans votre pays natal ou pas, viviez entre anciennes habitudes and nouvelles coutumes, dites moi…

P.S. Et bien sûr Bonne Fête Nationale à mes lecteurs et lectrices qui vivent en France! Ici Bastille Day comme on appelle le 14 juillet, sera calme, mais nous penserons à notre pays et à ses habitants.


French Friday: In French and English, Stories and Songs For Our Times



In this first part of the 21st century, immigration is politicians’ main focus, whether in the U.S. or across Europe. It is also on most citizens’ mind, regardless of their political opinions.

I’m not an expert on immigration reform, but it is clear that unlike the immigration of the 1990s, for example, global conflicts, armed or not, are now the #1 reason for people to flee their native land.

The social and economic roots of gang culture in Central America or the wars in Africa and the Middle East are far too complex to allow me the right to write anything about them.

Like you, I am only a witness of their consequences.

Our children are, too.

And since they witness other children in distress they ask questions and deserve, if not lengthy answers, at least some explanation.

Children can be sometimes self-centered, but they are also instinctively and immensely compassionate.

Over the last weeks, as I kept thinking of all the children, directly affected by immigration policies or disturbed by the current news reports, I wrote down a list of books that address the topics of exile and immigration and have been written just for kids. I only list them, linking to the authors and illustrators’ websites, whenever available.



The Journey Written and Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey (in English and Arabic) Written by Margriet Ruurs, Translated by Fallah Raheem and Ilustrated by Nizar Ali Badr

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation Written by Edwidge Anticat and Illustrated by Leslie Staub

Refugee by Alan Gratz

This is a novel for older readers. A must read that I discovered after Librariahn reviewed it on her blog.

Refugees and Migrants (Children in Our World) Written by Ceri Roberts and Illustrated by Hanane Kai

Global Conflict (Children in Our World) by Louise Spilsbury

This book is a good start for children who want to understand why people leave their native land for a foreign country. And it’s great for their parents too.

Strictly No Elephants Written by Lisa Mantchev and Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

This Picture Book is much lighter in tone and is the only book in this short selection that’s not addressing immigration per se. It is, however, a wonderful story that tackles differences. Differences often scare people and convince some to keep anyone looking, living, or speaking differently at bay. There is a happy ending to this charming and yet meaningful book designed for young children.


Yesterday night I decided to add a list of French songs to these books. I was really lucky to find an article that includes some of my favorite songs about immigrants, refugees, or simply foreigners.

The song Mercy, inspired by the birth of a baby girl aboard the humanitarian ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean Sea in 2017, represented France this year at the Eurovision, a singing competition. Mercy’s mother had fled her native Nigeria to escape violence and prison. The child’s father was already jailed in Lybia. The song didn’t win the competition but gave a face to the 21st century’s human migration stories.

Here is a version with English subtitles and the real baby Mercy.

A year after her birth, she and her mother are two of thousands in one the largest refugee camps, based in Sicilia.




P.S. About the flowers that illustrate this post.

Last week my husband picked a bouquet of lilies at Trader Joe’s because it was our anniversary. The cashier asked him about his plans for the day. Learning that we would celebrate our anniversary, he announced that the flowers were on Trader Joe’s. We still don’t know if it’s a store policy or if the cashier took the initiative.

The lilies have bloomed a day at a time, releasing an exquisite fragrance that filters through the house. I love flowers of all kinds, but this bouquet has been particularly gorgeous. Each flower has opened, slowly and perfectly. Well chosen bouquet to start with, for sure 🙂

But I also believe that it carries a random act of kindness. The smallest are often the ones that matter most, particularly during hardship and heartbreaking moments. On my side, I just try to return each one.

I wish you all a beautiful weekend and also a safe and meaningful Fourth of July!





French Friday: A Woman. A Jacket. Their Future.

Now that I’ve been away from France for so many years, strange things happen to me. Once in a while, here in the U.S., I doubt of myself when I read words written in my native language.

Like when I spotted joi de vivre. Is joie spelled without an E at the end?

Or when I saw Tina Fey wearing a T-shirt that read ‘La Femme Est Le Future.’ Is futur spelled with an E at the end?

For all things French I ask my husband rather than Google Translator, like my son always suggests me to do. Years abroad have neither affected my husband’s grammar nor spelling skills. His oral and written French are as impeccable as they were when we lived in Paris. He even kept his French accent 🙂

“Of course joie is spelled with an E and futur is spelled without,” he confirmed while checking his email. He also excels at multi tasking.

French spelling has never been an issue for me either. But when French words are misspelled in otherwise extraordinary books or on clothes worn by celebrities, it’s natural to hesitate.

Since the T-shirt ‘La Femme Est Le Future’ is quite popular now, in case you’d like to purchase one I’ll suggest staying away from French Connection. Despite its name, French Connection is a UK-based retailer of fashion clothing which didn’t ace the French class.

I found some T-shirts with the proper spelling here. In case you wonder, ‘La Femme Est Le Futur’ means ‘Women Are the Future.’ Interesting to note that in French the singular still implies all women, while the plural is necessary in English.

As I go on with this post I realize that I have the opportunity to elaborate just a bit about the French noun and adjective ‘futur.’

The adjective futur and the adverbial locution à venir are often synonyms. For example: le futur gouvernement or le gouvernement à venir. Both mean: the future government. Or still dans les années futures or dans les années à venir. Both mean: in the future years, in the years to come.

On the other hand, the nouns le futur and l’avenir, which both mean the future, are not synonyms.

Avenir designates a period of time that people who are alive now will know, while futur hints to a more distant future that belongs to future generations.

For the former meaning, using futur instead of avenir borrows from the English language.

In his book Le Fou d’Elsa, French poet Louis Aragon wrote: “L’avenir de l’homme est la femme” or

Women are men’s future.

That Aragon chose l’avenir instead of le futur shows his optimism regarding the upcoming important role of women in the world.

I want to be as positive as the poet, so I definitely prefer the T-shirt that proclaims ‘l’avenir est féminin’ (the future is female) to ‘la femme est le futur.’

However, I don’t really plan to buy any of these T-shirts.

Many moons ago I owned clothes printed with American words that either I didn’t understand or proved to make no sense.

UCLA, for example, didn’t ring a bell when I wore the university sweatshirt through my last year of high school, and I had no clue that the jacket I wore during my first winter in California advertised a fake New York sport team.



The UCLA sweatshirt ended its life somewhere in France, but the jacket is stored in a bin, here in the U.S., since it carries many of my early immigration memories.

I’ve always believed the man who told me cheerfully that this Brooklyn-based team my jacket promoted didn’t exist. I’m from Brooklyn, he told me. By the way I also always believed he spoke of a baseball team, until I noticed the sticks and puck when I took the picture for this blog post:)

It’s not like my future depends on it, but my avenir is not as long as it was when I wore this jacket, twenty-seven years ago.

So hockey fans, it’s your turn…



















A few weeks ago I had coffee with three friends. One of them came with her 100% adorable and smart four-year-old son. Knowing I was from France he announced that he was his grandma’s chouchou. I asked him how his brother felt not being his grandma’s favorite.

“I’m not her favorite!” he exclaimed. “She loves my brother too!”

I was relieved that it was the case. “Then,” I said. “You are your grandma’s chou.”

“Okay,” he said.

Now that I had made him half of a chou, I had to elaborate. In this context, chou is sweetie in English.

Being the chouchou, however, is not really a compliment. At school, the chouchou is the teacher’s pet. At home, it’s the darling, the child who’s preferred to any other.

“Anyway,” I told the little boy. “You are an adorable bout de chou.”

“A bout de chou,” he repeated in perfect French. “What is it, already?”

“A bout de chou is a child.”

“So I am a chou and a bout de chou?”


A few days later, I saw one of my three friends. She ran over me, announcing that she had recently explained to a French teacher the difference between a chou and a chouchou.

“But,” she said. “The teacher insisted that a chou is a cabbage. Is that true?” asked my friend, clearly surprised that I would have let the boy’s grandma call him a cabbage.

“Well,” I started, “not only. It’s complicated.”

“French is really a weird language,” she concluded.

“You can say that,” I admitted.

If only she knew the many ways a word as simple as chou is used in French! I thought. Ça me prend le chou! It drives me crazy.


So the word du jour is CHOU!


Yes, a chou is a cabbage but also a puff pastry. La pâte à chou (x) is the pastry dough used to make profiteroles. Chou can also mean “head.”

Just a few of the many expressions used with the word CHOU :

Être bête comme chou: To be dumm as a cabbage. Describes someone who’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

C’est bête comme chou: It’s dumm as a cabbage. Describes an easy, simple task.

Avoir des oreilles en feuille de chou: To have ears shaped as a cabbage’s leaves. To have big ears.

Chouchou: the darling, the teacher’s pet.

Être dans les choux: To be in the cabbages. To be in a bad situation.

Être un chou: To be a puff pastry. To be adorable, kind.

Faire chou blanc: To do white cabbage. To fail, to miss, to not be successful, also used when looking for a specific thing and not finding it.

Rentrer dans le chou: To enter the cabbage. Describes a frontal attack, both literally and figuratively.

Un bout de chou: A piece of cabbage. A small kid.

Une feuille de chou: A cabbage’s leaf. A poor-quality newspaper.

If you want to hear the differents expressions in French:


But the selection of books below is not a feuille de chou. I wrote it to honor every dad, daddy, pop, papa, baba…

Since each one is different these books are different too. So if you are still looking for a small gift to celebrate a father or even a grandfather in your life, I hope you’ll find a book that will fit the day.

Hammers and Nails written by Josh Bledsoe and illustrated by Jessica Warrick

When a little girl and her father must unexpectedly spend the day together things get complicated. But, when they decide to step outside their comfort zones, well, things get simpler and really cool.

Now a classic with a twist and a modern story:

I Love Dad With the Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by the one and only Eric Carle

Dad By My Side written and illustrated by Soosh who posted series of images of a larger-than-life father and his adorable daughter on Instagram. Over 2 million views made her an instant sensation.

Made for Me written by Zack Bush and illustrated by Gregorio de Lauretis

The refrain, “You are the one made just for me” reinforces the unique ties between a father and his child, from the second he was born to future moments.

Many grandfathers take care of their grandkids, whether during weekends or vacations or on a daily basis, so they should be celebrated too. Three of my favorites Picture Books:

Being Frank written by Donna W. Earnhardt and illustrated by Andrea Castellani

When Frank is too frank with his friends, his grandfather helps him learn that the truth is best when served with diplomacy. Laugh-out-loud humor depicts a grandpa as a role model for tact.

How to Babysit a Grandpa written by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Lee Wildish

From the popular Series How To…

This is a step-by-step book on how to babysit grandpa. From what to eat to what to do on a walk or still how to entertain gandpa, this is funny and heartwarming.

Grandfather’s Wrinkles by Kathryn England and Richard McFarland

There are stories behind wrinkles. Grandpa certainly knows how to tell them. This is sweet and funny and a really lovely book to share between a grandfather and his grandkid.

The Night Before Father’s Day written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Amy Wummer

Part of the Series The Night Before…

It’s the night before Father’s Day, and Mom and the kids plan a surprise for Dad. When he goes for a bike ride, everyone gets to work. Dad wakes up the next day to find his garage well organized and his car squeeky-clean. Dad celebrates by taking everyone for a ride.

Pizza Day written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai

A young boy and his dad assemble the ingredients to make their own pizza. There is even the recipe!

I love this one because my husband and my son love to cook together. It’s quite funny since my son started first to bake with me when my husband was too busy with his career to ever cook. Then, with more time my husband became quite a chef. Now, when our son is home the two of them enjoy preparing dinner. Totally fine with me 🙂

Too Much Glue written by Jason Lefebvre and illustrated by Zac Retz

Matty loves glue. Dad loves glue almost as much as Matty. At home, they make tons of things with glue. But in school, Matty goes overboard, creating a mess, but with unconditional love, Dad declares Matty project a masterpiece.

That Cat Can’t Stay written by Thad Krasnesky and illustrated by David Parkins

When Mom brings home a stray cat one day, Dad decides against. Dad doesn’t want a cat, and certainly not two or three or four. When stray cat number five arrives, Dad, however, takes a surprising stand.

Holly Bloom’s Garden written by Sarah Ashman and Nancy Parent and illustrated by Lori Mitchell

It’s not easy to be a gardener when everyone in your family has a green thumb. But Holly’s artistic dad is smart and keeps telling up that she just needs to find the right tools. And sure enough Holly finds her own way to create flowers in her father’s studio.


These books are really trop chou! These books are really too cute!















French Friday: Everything You Wanted to Know About French Kisses. Yes, Even That One.

A few days ago I finished a novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who was one of my children’s favorite authors. They loved her Series The Shadow Children. Her most recent book is a standalone novel for teens. The Summer of Broken Things is set in Madrid, and although there is much more to the story than the foreign Spanish setting, Madrid plays a big role. I smiled when I read what surprises the two American girls as they wander through their summer neighborhood. They notice that an American third-floor is not a European third-floor, that most American favorite food is not easy to find. And they notice couples kissing in the street.

Like I noticed that American couples didn’t kiss in the street. Or when they did, it was not how French couples kissed in the streets.

I returned my book to the library and went to yoga. As I entered the studio I bumped into a friend, leaving one of those heated classes that reminds me of a sauna.

“I don’t hug you,” my friend said. “I’m so-o-o sweaty. By the way, how do you say, “hug” in French?”

“Uh,” I started. “There is not really a word.”

“Really? How come?”

I tried to come up with something. But I was quickly rattling on. So I shrugged apologetically.

Then, there was Joey‘s comment on my last post. “Yes, we’re huggers,” she wrote about Americans. “We are. Kisses are for dear friends. Handshakes are for strangers. Everyone else is a hug.”

Okay, I thought as I unrolled my mat. I guess I’m not done with the topic of hugs and kisses.

So today I’ll try to give you the basics about these infamous French kisses. In case you’re planning a trip, it can be helpful. As you know the most simple, ordinary gestures symbolize a culture and sometimes result in involuntary mistakes from the newcomer. Believe me, I know. Mistakes, anyway, remain the best way to learn and embrace our differences. Worst case scenario you’ll make people smile. Been there, done that 🙂




How do French people greet each other?

They shake hands or kiss on both cheeks.

When do you shake?

It’s quite obvious that you never kiss in professional and business related situations. French handshakes are then the norm. They must be firm and eyes are supposed to meet too, whether you’re a man or a woman.

When do you kiss?

Girls and women always kiss when they meet their friends or friends of friends, whether these friends are girls or boys, women or men. Back in France, I kissed people I had never met, only because friends introduced them to me. However, older men and women will more often be greeted with a handshake. You still follow me? 🙂

Faire la bise describes this action, literally to do the kiss.

On se fait la bise means we’re going to kiss each other (on the cheeks).

This is NOT a kiss between lovers. La bise is a quick, light kiss where lips don’t linger on the cheek. In fact, lips don’t have to touch the cheek, even though the cheeks meet. What MUST be there, though, is the sound that resembles this: The song Big Bisous which is from the mid 70s is interesting for the sound of the kisses too.

This is why la bise is also called un smack.

Careful: a French smack is NOT an American smack.

No French is going to slap you in the face if he/she says: Allez, on se fait la bise (Come on, let’s kiss).

A very common equivalent to la bise is le bisou. Le bisou is one of the first words taught to babies in fact. And all little French kids know how to blow a kiss at a very young age. My French-born daughter delighted Californian passersby with her bisous. Un bisou can be petit or gros, small or big.

A phone call between friends or relatives will often end with, “Bisous.”

How many kisses?

There is no rule, since the number varies per region. Most often it’s one kiss on each cheek, sometimes two, and sometimes more. In my natal Normandy people tend to favor two alternative kisses on each cheek. Since there is also no rule about which cheek to kiss first, there are occasional odd situations where people hesitate (right or left cheek?) and accidently brush their lips too close to the mouth. So-o-o embarrassing.

Above, I mentioned that older people are greeted with a handshake. However, when family members introduce their own friends, even when they are older, it’s expected to kiss them.

I will always remember my born-American children’s reluctance to meet their grandparents’ friends but also neighbors and merely acquaintances when they grew up. They knew they would be kissed, something that they quickly found strange and uncomfortable.

For full disclosure, I feel the same way now. Some French cultural aspects are not as natural as they were when I lived there. Emigrating create some inevitable distance. It’s not bad, just different.

And yes, the first American hug I ever received left me as embarrassed as my kids with their first French kisses. It felt so odd to feel another body pressed against my chest and belly.

Do men kiss in France?

When they know each other well and see each other regularly, or are young, men will kiss, even though they often shake hands. Sometimes they kiss while shaking hands.

Do the French hug?

Kind of. Not really. No.

In my early months and even years in the U.S., I was often surprised, a little embarrassed, but also moved when a total stranger hugged someone in obvious pain or despair. Like it was the most normal thing to offer another human who needed comfort. Although I’m unable to be so spontaneous, I think it’s kind and very American.

No big bear hug in France, even during hard times. People will vaguely squeeze your shoulder, but never hold you against their body. Sometimes, men who are good friends, regardless of age, will pat each other’s shoulder in a quick move that has nothing in common with an American hug, since there is no other body part in contact besides the hand on the shoulder. Parents and lovers are the only people who provide something close to a hug to their kids or significant other. But le câlin is the American cuddle, not really a hug.

There are always exceptions in France, as this video clip illustrates. The French songwriter and singer Renaud sings J’ai embrassé un flic (I Kissed a Cop). The clip shows the singer with a sign that reads Câlins Gratuits or free hugs. Notice the “hugs.” Some are really close to an American hug. Again, this is a song. Most French people don’t hug as spontaneously and with the same strength as American people.

The absence of hug in France seems odd when one considers how French people kiss so much in public. Including the infamous French kiss.

You were probably still reading to finally know how the French call the French kiss.

Le baiser français? Non.

Only Americans say French fries, French doors, French manucure, or still French drain. Nobody say French kiss in France either. We kiss, that’s all.

In order to avoid major embarrassement:

Un baiser is a kiss in French.

But baiser does NOT mean to kiss. Baiser is slang to say making love. The F word is the exact American translation. So careful here 🙂

This song from one of my favorite French contemporary songwriters and singers is about this kind of baiser. It is actually a beautiful song, with gorgeous lyrics.

Embrasser is the only verb that means to kiss.

An American embrace is une étreinte, which is rarely used alone. The kind of étreinte will be described for clarification purposes. For example: une étreinte amoureuse, between lovers.

To embrace is étreindre. For lovers the best verb is enlacer.

Embrasser can, however, also be used for ideas or causes that are embraced.


If you aren’t a hugger, France is a great place for you.

As long as you don’t mind learning a few rules about these French kisses, kissing lots of people, and being kissed in return.

When current and former French presidents demonstrate the art of the French greeting kiss.


Embed from Getty Images


French Friday: I’m American. I Hug.

As soon as I started the Cours Préparatoire or CP, which is the equivalent of the American Kindergarten, I fell in love with history. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the stories our teacher read out loud and the ones I started to decipher on my own, likely because I understood that history tells of a people’s stories. Likely also, because I lived in a village with one single elementary school divided between the lower and upper grades. While the first year in the lower grade completed easy additions or copied the alphabet, our teacher taught history to the first and second graders. And I listened.

Now that I think about the woman who taught me my first three years of elementary school I’m sure she was more rebellious than she looked. With her severe chignon, in her classic knee-length skirt, silky blouse worn underneath a lab coat, and her strict orders she definitely reigned above us. And yet I knew that she disliked anything royal. I could feel it. She was a public school teacher after all and worked in a country where the Revolution triggers strong opinions, still in 2018.


“It’s a protest? No, your majesty, it’s a revolution.” The infamous quote is the answer that the duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt gave to Louis XVI, on July 14, 1789. Used now by the French railroad workers’ union to announce their strike with French President Emmanuel Macron as the king.

At home, my mother and my father put the principle of equality above liberty and fraternity. They were old enough to know that true liberty and fraternity could not be be achieved without equality.

As a kid I disliked the color bleu roi or royal blue, because of its name. Queens and princesses did not enchant me. I never dressed up as one, never pretended to be one, and certainly never wanted to be one. Real or not, I kept my distance from princesses.

One thing I loved about the U.S. when I moved there was the certitude that the country didn’t want to have anything to do with royalty either. I still applaud Americans for kicking those British tea trunks in the Boston Harbor, paving the way to the Revolution.

Last weekend, though, it was hard and almost impossible to entirely avoid royalty.

I managed to skip Harry and Meghan’s wedding on TV and everywhere else. I wish them the best, of course, as I would wish the best to any couple embarking the marriage boat. Which is equally hard to steer, for royalty and the rest of us.

That said there is ONE thing in common between Meghan and me.

When she started to visit Kensington Palace she greeted the palace guards with hugs, threatening centuries of protocol and shaking the entire kingdom (queendom since a while, in fact).

When scolded, Meghan replied, “I’m American. I hug.”

When I started to explore the countless playgrounds in my new American neighborhood I greeted mothers with solid handshakes.

No one scolded me, thanks to the infamous American acceptance. Yet, based on the quick surprised look I caught in their eyes, I should have felt compelled to explain, “I’m French. I shake hands. Or I kiss on both cheeks.”

I’m always glad that I didn’t go for the kiss. A bisou or a smack, like the French nowadays call the very light kiss (es) that only natives truly master, would have triggered some real shock, particularly in the early 1990s.

Phew. I’m so relieved for Meghan. At least she isn’t French.

Secretly, although I don’t care about what’s going on one way or another at the palace across the Chanel, I hope Meghan will stick to her good old American hugs and defend them.

When instinctively I lean toward French people to embrace them and meet their resistance I also say, “I’m American. I hug.”




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