Lire: What are you reading? Recommendations welcome

Finding gilbert
Books make perfect gifts. Finding Gilbert won a Gold Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter. Faculty at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, who judged the competition, wrote: “This is a gripping travel memoir of how childhood stories of World War II turn into a quest. A lot of travel is driven by the quest for answers–and this book fulfills that desire to find the truth in faraway places. This piece about a father’s love and fulfilling a promise to a French war orphan is well done, and a recommended read.” Order the book here.


    : to read

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Apprendre à lire, c'est allumer un feu, chaque syllabe qui est énoncé est une étincelle. To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.--Victor Hugo

Gift idea: There are many Kindle e-readers available, including a waterproof Kindle with twice the storage as well as an all-new Kindle Kids edition with access to 1000s of books.

by Kristi Espinasse

Not far from home, there is an old railroad track, un chemin de fer that has been converted into a beautiful botanical pathway with a variety of fruit trees waiting to be discovered: strawberry, fig, apple, almond, and pomegranate, among others still hidden....

The more I walk the path (these days with Mom, which is an added pleasure), the more we discover. Just last week all of the tree strawberries from the arbusier came out of hiding, revealing themselves via their deep red coats and the splashes of crimson they created on the ground where they fell, ripe for the taking.

Jardin secret

Hidden in plain sight in the center of our city, if this edible path were a book it might be called Le Jardin Secret. Speaking of books....

I was out walking along this peaceful voie, when the sound of protest became louder and louder. Plus loin, I saw a young couple strolling with their toddler, who was having a colossal meltdown.

Je veux lire! Je veux lire! JE VEUX LIRRREEE! cried le bambin, as he pounded his feet against the concrete. 

Have you ever witnessed such passion over the written word? One could only imagine which page-turning tome awaited him at home: Les Misérables?

Speaking of Victor Hugo, here is a bookish quote before we continue our shoe-stomping soliloquy:

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

Clearly that child's literary fire was lit, his face was red as the embers of... Dantés Inferno? We will never know which tale was calling him home, so I offered a thumbs up to the parents and walked on, wishing I had read more consistently to my children--instilled a story time to light their fire for la lecture. Now adults, they wish they had the reading bug, too. I tell them it's not too late! Ce n'est jamais trop tard! But these days, with smartphones, the internet and its endless feeds, it is harder and harder to settle down and read, to remain quiet and tuned in to a book, as people did in l'ancien temps.

I am reminded of a pleasant scene from childhood, which took place on a winter's day in Arizona. Sitting beside my mom in our tiny kitchen, the oven temperature set low, the door ajar, our feet rested on the warm oven door as Mom read a giant novel. Adding to the cozy atmosphere, was our dog, Benji, a long-haired mutt who dozed on the linoleum floor. I don't remember which book I was reading (if indeed I was reading and not daydreaming), but I like to think it was Jacques et Le Haricot Magique. That a little seed could grow big enough to reach the sky--and provide a leafy bridge from here to the heaven--is a story that fuels more than the imagination.... It lights a fire inside of me! 

I am on my way out to the garden, now, to plant some more magical beans.... One can always dream.

Jacques et le haricot magique

Dear reader, what memories does reading evoke for you? And what was the last (or best) book you read? Let us know in the comments, below.

lire = to read
un chemin de fer = railroad, railway
la voie
= path, way, lane
arbusier = arbutus unedo, arbutus tree
plus loin = farther ahead
le bambin = toddler
la lecture = reading
l'ancien temps = olden days
Jacques et le haricot magique = Jack and the Beanstalk

Eight Months in Provence
Eight Months in Provence. For anyone who has ever dreamed of living in France, here is an inspiring book that shows it is never too late! Order it here.

Smokey artichokes
I leave you with a picture of Smokey, in the wild garden we tended together. This picture is from the archives post Most Difficult French Words to Pronounce.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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Cheese, Wine, and etiquette: is it bad manners to ask for seconds in France?

Smokey golden retriever cabanon stone house
"New Day". Smokey reminds us to live simply, slowly, and not to make a cheese about things! Speaking of fromage, tell us your favorite kind in the comments section. Picture taken from our last vineyard.

TODAY'S WORD: en faire tout un fromage

       : to make a fuss about something
      : to make a mountain out of a molehill
      : to make a big deal out of something

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French expression Download En faire tout un fromage

Improve your spoken French: Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

(This story was written 3 years ago)

For Friday's lunch with guests Eugenia and David, there would be two things less to worry about: the plat principal and the cheese plate. (We still had gigot de sanglier--and the rock-star selection of fromages my sister-in-law, Cécile, had brought, when she and Jean-Marc's mom came for Sunday roast).  While these conveniences would not guarantee Fool Proof Entertaining (this time the toilet broke down and I burned dessert), the ready-made plats certainly lightened my To-Do list!

Speaking of To-Dos, I soon realized, during Friday's meal, one thing I'd left off that list:

Continue to Keep Abreast of French Etiquette! 

Doubts began when I noticed my guests' hesitation before the delicious cheese platter including le comté, la tomme, la gorgonzola, les fromages de brebis... missing was la brousse (finished off that very morning for breakfast--over toast, with apricot jam! What a pity, we could have served this--la brousse avec confiture--for dessert instead of tarte brûlée!)

Cheese Etiquette?

When the much-anticipated plateau de fromage remained untouched the second time around, Eugenia finally admitted: "Once, while eating at a French restaurant, I skipped dessert--opting instead for an additional serving of cheese--when someone pointed out it was impolite to have seconds from the cheese platter." Our guest finished her story with an innocent question. "Is this true? Is it bad manners to have another helping from the cheese platter?"

Everything went silent at the table but for the sound of my husband, the host, stabbing at another piece of comté--his fave.

Whatever the rules, we could see by one Frenchman's actions that there was no need to en faire tout un fromage when it came to cheese etiquette (at least not at our French/American table...). Just dig in and enjoy!


le fromage = cheese
le plat principal = main course
le gigot = leg, thigh
le sanglier = wild boar
la confiture = jam
la tarte = pie, tarte
brûlé(e) = burnt
le fromage de brebis = sheep's cheese
le plateau de fromage = cheese platter
en faire tout un fromage = to make a big deal out of something

Ephemera JM
Holidays are coming soon and there are still a few cases of Ephemera wines available to celebrate with. Jean-Marc is proud to announce that his dear baby joined the prestigious wine list of a Two Stars Michelin restaurant in Marseille, Alexandre Mazzia and says it drinks very well :)
To get some within the USA (if you live in a State that accepts wine shipments), you can contact Avalon Wines.
If you live in the beautiful area of Portland OR, go to Pastaworks Providore, Pastaworks City Market, Portland bottle shop and Oregon Wines on Broadway
Give a call before to make sure there are still on the shelves. At last, for Europe, please contact me at
French cheese etiquette cheese knife cutting board rocket flowers
Share your favorite cheese in the comments, below, so we may all venture out and discover a new flavor. Also, how do you present your cheese? Simply? Or do you go all out, setting it atop Fresh fig or vine leaves, sprinkling the platter with nuts? Mini chalkboards on a pick to identify each one? Fresh fruit?...

Related Story: How to Say "I'm Full" in French?

Fromage beurre cheese butter shop in Salernes
I leave you with a favorite photo taken in the village of Salernes, and a delightful quote, by Clifton Fadiman, to make you smile: Le fromage: le saut du lait vers l'immortalité. (Cheese: milk's leap toward immortality.)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

Les Proches: loved ones in French + what brings satisfaction

Books make great gifts and this one is for anyone who loves France and the French way of life. Click here to order Words in a French Life. Et merci d'avance!

Today's Word: les proches (m/f pl)

    : loved ones, close family, close friends

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Qui n'est pas utile à soi-même ne peut être utile à ses amis et ses proches.
Who is not useful to oneself can not be useful to his friends and relatives.
(He who cannot help himself cannot help his friends or loved ones.)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The year is not over but now is a good and quiet time to think about 2019.  By the way this exercise was inspired by a letter to Jean-Marc, from Cousin Fred, who wrote:

I was excited to hear what an amazing year it has been for you - making pinot in Oregon, buying a beautiful boat, opening the shop and competing in an Ironman!  Oh, and co-writing a book with your wife....

Fred's letter made me realize what an eventful year it has been for my family: our daughter moved to Miami...our son was offered a sales internship in Mom came out of her grief and picked up her paintbrush again. 

I began to wonder about my own accomplishments in 2019? Well, I learned to make bread...and...(borrowed from Fred's list): I began a book. While these two things are good, maybe it's best to forget accomplishments and to reflect, instead, on what brought satisfaction this year? Here are some of those things:

First and foremost: hanging on: Hanging on brought satisfaction. This past year, just like every other year, brought with it the temptation to flee, to head for the hills as we say back home. Each year that goes by wherein I don't decamp (from relationships, from work, from sobriety) is a good year!

Next, bread. Learning to make something so basic, so essential, and so practical--and demystifying the process in the process of it all--is deeply satisfying!

Walking. An exercise began in 2017, after my sister, Heidi, suggested it as an antidote to the blahs--or le cafard. Walking every single day--and these days with my Mom--c'est très très satisfaisante.

Regular phone calls from loved ones--mes proches--are pure satisfaction.

Morning meditation (for the soul). Three or so years ago, we literally turned the page: to help cope with the bouleversement, I opened a devotional book, and Jean-Marc and I began reading a page every morning, followed by a prayer. This ritual, lasting under ten minutes, is often the most satisfying part of the day.

Our Dog. Smokey, our golden retriever, now lives with Mom in her studio (just below my bedroom) with no rules. He can jump on the bed, eat hot dogs, and nap beside the kitchen comptoir (in case any crumbs should fall). We share a garden and I am happy to see him all throughout the day, when he is not watching over and protecting the doyenne of our family.  

Gardening. The satisfaction is in all of the discoveries...the caper plant I thought had died, the strawberry bush that multiplied, the Morning Glory that materialized--d'ou viens-tu ma chere ipomée?  Where have you come from my dear Morning Glory? I don't remember planting you.

Diary. This past year I began journalling again. To sit with a blank book and jot down the gist of the day or a quote or a goal, a gratitude, a dare or a doodle... is worth the effort. It is so satisfying to read what we wrote years ago. 

I could go on (les poules! Collecting wild greens--mallow, mustard, dandelion--in the fields for my hens = satisfaction)...instead, here's to reflecting on what brought you satisfaction in 2019. I would love to know one or two things that come to mind. Write them in the comments below.

In culinary books: Let's Eat France!: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus hundreds of maps, charts, tricks, tips, and ... you want to know about the food of France. Order here.
Also,  pick up this year's French Country Diary -- a Francophile favorite!

tenir bon = hang in there
le pain = bread
la marche = walking
le cafard = the blahs, the blues
le coup de fil = telephone call
les proches = loved ones
l'âme = the soul
le bouleversement = upheaval
le toutou = doggy
le comptoir = counter
le doyen/la doyenne = elder
jardiner = to garden
journal intime = diary
la poule = hen, chicken

In How-to books:
Mastering French Vocabulary

Les proches
Les proches--that is one way to say loved ones. A loved one is also un être chèr and un bien-aimé, What do you call a loved one? More importantly: have you called a loved one lately?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice