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Entries from April 2009

la frangine

Jean-Marc's frangine.

la frangine 


noun, feminine

sister (in informal French)


When Jean-Marc's sister comes to stay with us, the kids want to touch their aunt's pink hair, ride in her orange car, and give up their beds for her comfort. Do you still live in a school bus and can we come visit? they want to know.

The bus has been sold, she tells them, but there is plenty of room in her two-ton camion. The home being of a mobile nature, such a visit might be in Normandy or Paris or even Africa—wherever work or wonderment might take her. Aunt Cécile has worked as a mime, as a circus-tent technician and, most recently, as a driver for a punk-rock band—she even holds a poids lourds license.

Aunt Cécile with the pink hair drove up in an orange station wagon this weekend. She is taking the clunker to Africa. Her mission is to transport English books to a bibliothèque in Gambia. For cash, which she calls flouze, she will sell her car along the way, in Morocco perhaps, where station wagons are used as taxis. And while she is there, she—and the friends with whom she is traveling—will get the shots they need for Africa. Immunization, Cécile explains, is less expensive in Morocco. For the price of one French injection, she and her potes can each get vaccinated before venturing south along war-torn roads that lead to hungry villages.

Along our manicured driveway, our family gathers for the bon voyage wishes. But before she goes, there are so many things I want to ask my sister-in-law about her life, one so different from mine.

"We don't ask these questions," my mother-in-law sighs, wanting to ask them more than I. 

After my belle-mère kisses her daughter goodbye, it is my turn to say au revoir.

There we stand, side by side, my frangine and I—I with salon highlights in my hair, my sister-in-law with Mercurochrome streaks in hers (the dark red liquid stains it radical pink), I with diamonds on my finger, she with jewels in her soul. She is a French Robin Hood and her treasures are the cast-offs that she spirits away from the privileged. I am the stable, square, secure sister-in-law, still searching, longing to be spirited away with those old clothes and books of mine that are headed out the door, to Afrique.


*     *     *


French Vocabulary

le camion

le poids lourd
heavy goods vehicle

la bibliothèque

le flouze
(or flouse)
dough (argot for cash as are le fric, le pognon, le blé, and la thune)

le pote

bon voyage
have a nice trip
la belle-mère

au revoir

l'Afrique (f)

Thank you for buying a copy of my book, Blossoming in Provence.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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une pantoufle

Three Characters in the Vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse
This week we reunite with three characters from the archives, French personnages who have touched me in one way or another. I hope they will touch you, too.
Note: a sound file for today's word, and more, can be found at the end of this letter.

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noun, feminine

  : slipper


The man in line in front of me wore pantoufles two sizes too small. His swollen calves, riddled with eczema, hung over his ankles, which disappeared into his shrunken slippers. As usual, he wore sweatpants that rose mid-calf.

I often see the man in pantoufles hanging out of a village poubelle. He is passionate about garbage and is forever reaching for it. His backside, with the vertical line peeking out from the center of his waistband, is a familiar sight in our village. When he isn't dangling (and flashing) from a trash barrel, he is hunched over, collecting litter from the street, careful to put the waste where it belongs. We have a tidy village thanks to this man, who appears to both love and abhor trash.

Standing in line at the Crédit Agricole, the man wearing pantoufles waited for his turn to visit the bank teller. He had that same blank look on his face, the one he wears while hunting for garbage: expressionless, transfixed by trash—or troubled by it, you never know.

From behind the counter, the pretty guichetière inquired:

"How much today, Jean-Pierre?"

J.-P. stepped forward and replied, "Vingt euros."

"Il n'y a pas. You don't have that much," she answered. "How about fifteen?"

Jean-Pierre nodded, fixing his eyes on a ballpoint pen chained to the comptoir.

"Here you are. And don't spend it all at the Bar des Sports, okay?"

Jean-Pierre remained unresponsive to the guichetière's charm and humor. Though the carefree cashier and the catatonic garbage-picker had this same exchange every day, I stood there, ill at ease about overhearing the limits of J.-P.'s fortune. Not that I didn't know even more about him—and his family (everyone knows everything about everybody in this village. Or so they like to think they do).

Take, for example, J.-P.'s sister, Agnès, who hangs out the clothes to dry along their apartment's tiny 2nd-floor balcony. She does housework in her underwear. The only time she is dressed is in the winter or when she walks her dilapidated dog. She has the exact same corpulent frame as her brother and looks identical to him; only, she wears teal-green eye shadow, caked black mascara and red lipstick when she drinks. Drunk or sober, her hair is a nid d'oiseau. When she's not hanging out clothes, she can be heard a kilometer away, barking orders to their elderly mother.

"J'en ai marre! Mange! Mange! I'm fed up! Eat! Eat!" she says, waving a spoon before her mother.

My own mom, Jules, who lived for a while in a third-floor studio across the street from Jean-Pierre and his family, encouraged me to not be so quick to judge Agnès (pronounced ON-yes).

"She has so many worries," Mom explained. "Poor thing. She has to spoonfeed her mother, who sits there, mouth clamped shut, stubborn as can be. When she does get a spoonful in, her mother just spits it right back out! Then she's got all that laundry. She never stops!"

I tried not to judge Agnès, but I did find myself avoiding her, and I crossed the street at the sight of her and her porto-enflamed cheeks. Something about her seemed déséquilibrée.

One day, while walking to my mom's studio, I saw Agnès slumped over her doorstep. I noticed she was dressed. From her eyes poured two black rivers, down her face, across her red lips and onto her thin, soiled shirt. My mom sat next to Agnès, her arm around the sad woman's shoulder. In front of the women there was a flurry of French paramedics, beyond, a narrow stretcher covered with a long white sheet. My eyes locked on the bundle in the center, beneath le drap blanc.

That evening I saw Agnès' brother snapping up litter from the uneven cobblestone paths of our village. His pants were on straight, and the unsightly crack had disappeared. Gone were his predictable pantoufles. He wore white, canvas tennis shoes, his puffy heels hanging out the back. His face remained expressionless, though his lips sunk a bit at each end. His hair was combed, parted. And just like the garbage collector's shoes, the village was pristine the night they carried Agnès's and Jean-Pierre's mother away.

The trash man may never understand the beautiful bank teller's humor, but Life's comedy is something he knows: as with the never-ending reach of litter, the trick is to keep moving, to keep after it. Life, that is.

*     *     *

Feedback and corrections are always welcome, appreciated, and helpful! Thank you for responding to my story in the comments box.

Not sure how to respond to today's story? Maybe you'd rather answer this light-hearted question, instead: Do you, like Agnès, do housework in your underwear? Answers, here.

French Vocabulary

le personnage
= character
la pantoufle = house slippers
la poubelle = garbage can
le Crédit Agricole = the "largest retail banking group in France"
la guichetière = the bank teller
vingt euros = twenty euros
le comptoir = counter
le nid d'oiseau = bird's nest
déséquilibré = unbalanced
le drap blanc = white sheet


More about today's French word pantoufle...

un(e) pantouflard(e) = a homebody

The verb "pantoufler" means to leave a government job to work for a private corporation (speaking of a civil servant).

passer sa vie dans ses pantoufles = to live a secluded life
raisonner comme une pantoufle = (to reason like a slipper) to reason foolishly

And a charming old expression (sadly, not used anymore): "Et caetera pantoufle" or "Etc. pantoufle" used to end an enumeration. "In our refrigerator we have milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, etc. pantoufle."


Shopping: two books  
 1. French dictionary:  Acclaimed by language professionals the world over, the Oxford-Hachette Dictionary has long been the market leader.  
 2. Barron's How to Prepare for the AP French Advanced Placement Examination



Citation du Jour:
Il y a de grands voyages qu'on ne fait bien qu'en pantoufles.
There are great journeys that are best traveled in slippers.

--Jean Sarment

Audio File by Jean-Marc: listen to the French word pantoufle and the example sentence, above: Download "Pantoufle" Wav File . Download Pantoufle MP3 file

In Books & Music:
Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream
I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
In French music: Serge Lama

Songs in French for Children including Alouette, Sur le Pont d'Avignon, Claire Fontaine, Prom'non Nous dans les Bois...


More characters on the way, in the Wednesday and Friday editions! Meantime, don't miss some of my favorite personnages in my book: Words in a French Life. You'll meet "Madame Richard," "La Petite Souris", and one persnickety priest ... among many other French characters. And if you already have a copy of "Words", why not buy another copy for a friend? You might just ignite the love of French life in another, and there's no telling where this language adventure will take them. I still can't believe where it has taken me!

Three Random Words:
desseller = to unsaddle
empoté,e = awkward, maladroit, clumsy
fâcher = to make angry, to vex

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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le rosier

Rosiers in Orange
Please excuse this extra email in your inbox this morning... I hope this photo of a ravishing "roseburst" (taken yesterday, just outside the orthodontist's office in the French town of Orange...) will make up for that!

le rosier (leuh rhoh-zee-ay) noun, masculine

    : rose bush, rose tree

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Missing a little French in your weekend? I've just posted another 15 photos over at Cinéma Vérité... You'll also find two videos and several photo galleries when you sign up to become a contributing member of this French word journal.

If you love French Word-A-Day, and look forward to the words and stories each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, then you might enjoy the perks of a contributing membership! Click here to begin, and enjoy a little armchair travel each weekend!

*     *     *

Note: Already a Cinéma Vérité member? To access the photos, please use the link that I sent you (in an email with the subject line "Merci beaucoup!").

Three Random Words:
une falaise (f) = cliff
gamberger = to think hard
l'heur (m) = good fortune


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Mmanm's photo's 181
Where Angels Fear to Tread. The red sign says "off limits to the public". That didn't stop Mom from wandering into the junk shop's entrails.  I shouted for her to come out and, when she did, she looked up at those angels, shook her head.

bousculer (boo-skoo-lay) verb

    : to jostle, push, shove; to bump into or against; to rush, hurry up
  to shake or liven up

Bousculer les habitudes, c'est encore le meilleur moyen de faire évoluer les choses. Shaking up one's still the best way to make things happen. --Cyrille Guimard

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

In less than two weeks Mom will return home to Mexico. Of all her coming and goings, this visit has been the least eventful (apart from Le Big Fry): no riding to Marseilles, weekly, in an ambulance, no standing in the soup line (and getting chewed out by her "stickler-for-rules" daughter), no pilfering through the local poubelles for Secret Garden lawn furniture, no running away from her hostess-daughter's home, in Saint Maximin (...and again in Les Arcs....).

If my unruly Mom's larger-than-life ways are shrinking, her mind and her dreams aren't following suit. She has places to go and gypsies to see and why, darling daughter, are you so serious all the time? Follow me!

I leave you now with a story from the archives. Meantime, off to see what Mom is up to....

June 7th, 2006...
Four days from now, life as I know it will be bousculée* when a certain character takes up summer residence chez nous.* You may remember her as the one whose shirt shot up when the French cancérologue,* using his elementary English, and in a thick accent, asked to see her teef...

"TEETH!" I cried to my mom, tugging her blouse back down. "He wants to see your teeth!"

What, you might ask, was a cancer specialist doing examining your mom's teeth? Bref:*

In the summer of 2003, my mom was at the Paoli-Calmettes* cancer institute in Marseilles for a mastectomy, but what she really wanted was a few new teeth. It had been years (ten? fifteen?) since she had set foot in a doctor's office and she was making up for lost time. There was her hip (the broken one, and the reason for her séjour* in France), and the teeth that she herself had pulled back in Mexico (you know, the littlish ones to the side of the side of the side of the two front ones). In a nutshell, her most recent visit rocked my world and, just when things are getting calmed down again, the woman with the flamboyant feather in her hat is returning.

It isn't the sum of a few more malentendus* that will soon shake up my quotidien,* but one starry-eyed survivor who, by her breath, will be a constant reminder to part from my tree-hugging ways, to venture out to the end of the limb and consider the view from the tip of an unsteady branch. Only from that perspective can one understand that baring a few cancerous teefs* in life is no big deal, the important thing is to trust, to take the instructions facing you and follow them even when you can't speak the language or understand the outcome, to know people will step in to help, if you will but let them. The rest doesn't really matter much and the lesson is always the same: it is better to bare your soul than to sit clenching your teef.*

References: bousculé(e) = shaken up; chez nous = at our place; le/la cancérologue (m.f.) = cancer specialist; bref = in brief, to make a long story short; Paoli-Calmettes = cancer institute in Marseilles; le séjour (m) = stay; le malentendu (m) = misunderstanding; le quotidien (m) = everyday life, routine; teef = (made up word for 'le sein' = breast); teef = (from the doctor's slurred English, for "teeth")

Terms and Expressions:
le bouscueil = debacle
la bousculade = jostle, scuffle, rush
se bousculer = to get a move on
Listen: Hear my son, Max, pronounce the word "bousculer": Download bousculer2.wav

Conjugation: je bouscule, tu bouscules, il/elle bouscule, nous bousculons, vous bousculez, ils/elles bousculent => past participle: bousculé

French synonyms for bousculer: bouleverser (to overturn), culbuter (to knock over), heurter (to knock against), pousser (to push) (but also to grow...), secouer (to shake)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


"Zig" and "Zag" a couple of gypsy chicks (...or "pintades") that live up the street. I mentioned them in Saturday's Cinéma Vérité, and showed a few other "characters" from my neighborhood including one Don Juan of a swan.

(boo-zhowt) noun, feminine

    wanderlust; itchy feet 

avoir la bougeotte = to have ants in one's pants, to be always on the move

French definition : envie de voir le monde - a desire to see the world

Example sentence from French news*:
Aujourd'hui, Robert Piché a toujours la bougeotte mais il voyage en sage aventurier. Today Robert Piché still has wanderlust, but he travels as a wise adventurer.

*"Le tour du monde - Commandant Piché : les racines du ciel," Le Devoir

Audio File: hear the French word "bougeotte" and the example sentence: Download Bougeotte Wave . Download Bougeotte MP3

My French Coach by Nintendo: Learn French through mini-games and competition
Speaking Better French: The Key Words and Expressions that You'll Need Every Day

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

The enigma surrounding my mother is beginning to dissipate. It began with her response to a question I posed in a recent post: "Tell us your goals". Mom's were to:

Hit the road, whether in a Porche or on a donkey, find out what lies around that next mountain!

There could not have been a truer statement and, in a nutshell, that is my Mom: 99 percent wanderlust, one percent rooted to the ground. As I read my own mother's comment among a dozen others, I think about Mom's husbands.

All four of them, if they read Mom's answer, would surely be shaking their heads at the day a young bride ran away: whether on foot, by car, by plane... or by Mexican ponga. She hasn't stopped "running" since, and she's never caught up with "that next mountain."  My mom, I am beginning to realize, is a gypsy at heart... which might explain why my childhood home came with wheels.

There in our single-wide trailer, I observed my mom and her "enigmaties" (so as not to say "eccentricities"); beyond the exotic exterior, deep inside her beautiful heart, basking in the twilight of mystery, was the golden seed. A French gypsy had unwittingly sowed it there, on fertile ten-year-old "soul", setting my Mom and, by design, me on a wayward and wonderful journey.

Today I invite you to enjoy part two of Mom's story. (Read part one here.)

Mom writes:

53 years later; as I recline around a lovely French table in the heart of Provence, memories of my first encounter with the French color my thoughts as I inhale the aroma of spring deep in the Rhone Valley. 

(note: Jules is missing from this picture... busy taking the photo from afar!)

I am seated with a bunch of Kristi's French relatives by marriage - my mind fading in and out of the scene - unable to follow their lively conversation. I reminisce once again of my first encounter with JOSEPHINE - the first and only Frenchwoman who took up her brush and painted my future on the rainbows of dreams.  Of course she was a GYPSY!!!
Josie's first words to me were "Bonjour, Cherie, comment vas-tu?"

My ears perked up and they were filled with this strange and melodious sing-song chatter....what on earth was this? At ten years old and in 1956 (pre-t.v. and coming from the mountains of northern Utah) I was ignorant of France and the most beautiful language in the world.
Josie's voice floated down the stairs enhancing this already enchanting memory.  Her slippers were a metallic gold, like the sparks of light bouncing off of her hair this late afternoon.  I didn't know which end of her to focus on first -- it was all so magnifique.  After her shoes my eyes caught the repeated glimmer of gold woven throughout the hemline of her dress.  In and out, the strands of gold swam through the heavier layers of thin taupe-colored yarn that constituted the knitted entirety of her dress. So many firsts for me in that treasured moment of time... a foreign language... metallic gold shoes... colored hair... a dress made of  strands of gold... BIG DIAMONDS on graceful fingers... and of course the finale: a glass of rose-colored liquid in a beautiful cup, fused on a stick of glass with a tiny upside-down saucer attached. How great it was to be ten years old, to have your body and soul quake with expectation and wonder of what is around the next corner!  At this moment I was seduced into the wandering, dreamy life I would continue to pursue with joy every day of my life.
I was invited through the gate into this magical garden of delights in the fall of 1956 -- a door I stumbled upon that opened up door after door... each doorway introducing me to the magic and wonder of life.  Josie and her adorable husband, Jimmy, lit the fires of language, history, archeology, cuisine, cocktail-hour, style & elegance, the art of sharing (with a ten-year-old)... mentoring to all of the little sprouts of my senses and soul.
There was so much to discover about Josie and Jimmy; of course I had to share this find with my 13-year-old brother, Rusty.  And so our adventure began.  When Josie and Jimmy met Rusty, I was kind of pushed into the background, understandably so, because Rusty was a star -- a STAR whose brightness couldn't be denied.  I was fine with this, mostly because he was my star too. Underneath my skin resided a solitary soul who could turn on and off her brightness when need be. 

*     *     *

I hope you have enjoyed my Mom's stories.  If you would like to respond to them, please do so here, in the comments box. Merci d'avance!


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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gens du voyage

Photo taken in the nearby town of Suze-la-Rousse
That's my mom, center stage, ever curious about what lies just around the corner. She's a gypsy at heart. Read on, in today's story column.

gens du voyage (zhan-doo-voy-ahzh) noun, masculine, plural

    : people of the voyage, gypsies

French synonyms:  Romas, Gitans, Tsiganes, Manouches, Romanichels, Bohémiens, Sintis

1. Practice Makes Perfect: Advanced French Grammar
2. Learn French in your car : comprehensive grammar and vocabulary for beginners and advanced students
3. Bilingual storybook (Little Red Riding Hood) with  side-by-side text  in French and English. the accompanying CD helps with French pronunciation

A Day in a French Life...
Kristin Espinasse

Mom's gypsy blood is boiling this morning. It all began with that donkey (our neighbor's) that she threatened to swipe... and saunter off with. We talked her out of it. For now, she is bartering, poking, nudging--trying to get me to take her to the art-supplies store. So I said, "Mom, I'll take you anywhere you want to go... if you'll write today's post. This conversation began at 7:58 this morning and, at 8:29, the following missive arrived in my inbox. Enjoy it!

(Mom would like to add one disclaimer: "Please forgive all spelling and punctuation errors and keep in mind that I consumed copious amounts of Jean-Claude's Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Domaine Rouge-Bleu around the picnic table yesterday.

*   *   *

My Darling Kristi, I just realized this morning that I have never told you about my first mentor, the exciting French Circus Madam...


I met her when I was at the most impressionable age of ten.  One day as I wandered up and down the manicured banks of the lower Colorado River in Southern Arizona (our family was wintering in a beautiful resort (trailer-park) located below Lake Havasu), I noticed a garden of enchantment at the end of the path I was following.  The closer I approached, the more I felt the intensity of great expectation pounding in the center of my chest, as I focused in on what filled my entire vision. 
Nestled at the very end of the path, surrounded by a real picket fence (this is 1956!) was the first glimpse of what would shape my future -- color all of my dreams -- and ultimately lead to yesterday's lunch with my true French family here in Provence in 2009.
Tango 62' : a close-up of my Mom's painting of her 62nd birthday dance. The setting was a scene in a children's fairy tale. Little mining carts pilfered from historic Arizona copper mines of the past were placed behind the fence, each one filed to the brim with happy, riotous flowers which shouted in all of their glory and FREEDOM the joy of living the life of a gypsy.  In the center of this happiness lie the first Gypsy trailer I had ever seen -- little wooden steps snugly placed between the boarder of plants that surrounded the little wooden trailer. To me it seemed as though the house floated upon a giant green cloud speckled with flowers. The trim around the door and the entire rooftop seemed to be wooden shingles of some interesting type of carving, each shingle a piece of art. I seem to remember bells hanging from the door and a smokestack coming from the rooftop.  The coup de grâce of course was the faded WWII grayish-green jeep parked beside this masterpiece.
I imagine, the little girl I was, that I approached this gate skipping to the sound of the birds singing in the giant trees that lined the glorious Colorado River, knowing deep in my heart I had discovered a gift that would change my life.  As I peered over the magic gate, the door to the trailer opened, and down the stairs floated the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She was tall and statuesque, copper hair her crown, skin bronzed by the Arizona sun.  This was the first time I recognized elegance -- God gave me the perfect initiation into the wonder of style and carriage as my eyes devoured every little detail of this wondrous creation of His. be continued on Wednesday....


*   *   *
DSC_0069 If you enjoyed Jules's story, thank you for letting her know! Leave my Mom a note in the comments box. While you're there, tell us whether or not you, too, are a gypsy at heart. Ever wanted to "plant" a gypsy caravan in your own back yard? Or saunter off with the Sintis? Let's be nomads today, and note down more of our "travelling fancies" in the comments box, for all to see, enjoy--and be inspired by!

PS: Regarding Mom's painting, in today's story, don't forget to read the story of her Tango with Jean-Marc.

Related books:
Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey
The Gypsies: In a rare publishing event, Jan Yoors' The Gypsies became an instant classic upon its original publication.


A vélo in Orange (a nearby town). Missing a little French in your weekend? Become a contributing member of French Word-A-Day... and receive the weekend photo (and sometime film...) edition, Cinéma Vérité, as a gift.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Today we are talking about growth... and goals.:
by the way, ever feel too chained down to bloom?  (photo of a budding vine here at our farm).

velléité (vay-lay-ee-tay) noun, feminine

    : vague desire, impulse, whim

French definition from L'
Intention de faire quelque chose qui n'est finalement pas mise en pratique.
The intention to do something that is, finally, not put into practice.

Audio File : hear today's word and definition, above:
(Note: still working on the MP3 file, enjoy the wav for now)
: Download Veillete Wave


    by Kristin Espinasse

I intended to write a story about dog food today
but, on a rare whim, I changed topics.

It is good to be flexible... something I am still trying to learn as I kick, spit and, eventually, contort myself into a carefree version of the former self.

So it is no secret, not anymore at least... that "cool, relaxed, less rigid" remains high, if not number one, on my "Goals" list.

Come to think of it, my "Goals" list (currently consisting of only one goal) is beginning to look as straight-jacketed as I feel this morning: restricted, confined, limited. Good thing we can remember to follow those whims--to move on from Dog Food to a new mood--and from a new mood... to a new horizon.

So today, please join me in kicking up more dust, and paving the way to new dreams and aspirations. Here are a few of my goals:

1. Be More Flexible

2. Build a stone cabanon

3. Learn to make / edit movies

Your turn to share three goals. Do you want to Swim the English Channel?  Plant a field of lavender? Volunteer? Be on Oprah? Learn to Tango? Kiss a Koala"?

Thanks for sharing your "Three Goals" here, in the comments box--for all to enjoy. Who knows, you might just inspire one of us to shake things up on our own Goals list... and aspire to something new!


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

moitie moitie

Is this field of poppies "Half full or half empty"? Such philosophy can make or break one's day! (Watercolor by Dr. Warren Plauche.)

moitié moitié (mwa-tee-ay mwa-tee-ay) expression

  : halved, shared, fifty-fifty ; so-so

faire moitié moitié = to go halvsies
à moitié moitié = by halves

Read about the lastest art showing, below, and find out how to buy a painting from the artist.


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

Oh, boy! What a morning! A "so-so" internet connection (half on, half off...), a half-day at school for the kids ( = half as much time to create this newsletter...), a half-night's sleep... and now a half-baked edition?

Let's hope not! Speaking of halves, or halvsies, enjoy today's photo-painting vernissage: half of the images are photos that I have taken, the other half are paintings (based on the photos) by artist Warren C. Plauche.

This is Dr. Plauche's second vernissage ("art exhibition") at French Word-A-Day (see the first one here and the story behind it, here). This one is titled "VerNaissance". Dr. Plauche explains that he wanted the term to translate to "true rebirth" en Anglais".  Learn more about this water colorist here, and if you would like to purchase a painting, you may contact the artist directly: wooney [AT] .

Click here to view the photo-painting gallery. One more note... I ran out of time and was not able to post the titles to these paintings. I hope Dr. Plauche doesn't mind if we turn this into a You Name It game. Please help me name these picture-paintings by adding your title to the comments box. The works are currently titled "A", "B", "C"....

Merci d'avance for participating in today's "Name That Painting!" (or "Name That Photo" if you prefer!)

Note: all photos are best viewed here!


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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"Exotic" grass
Hello from Sainte Cécile, where the vine rows are newly-plowed and the ravens and magpies are out, pecking the fresh earth, much to the alarm of the earthworm.... In other news, read about the "red grass", above, in today's story column...

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Special thanks to South African writer Marita van der Vyver, for her generous write up on French Word-A-Day in her column "Reading Space". Also, thanks go to Lynn McBride, the journalist I wrote about a few months ago. Her article, "A Family Affair, " about this word journal, appears in the May issue of France Magazine.

désherbant (day-ser-bahn) noun, masculine

    : grass / weed killer

synonym: herbicide


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

Our neighbor, Jean-Marie, stopped by the other day to drop off a forklift--something we needed for our latest mise-en-bouteille.* While Jean-Marie was here, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about gardening. Jean-Marie and his wife, Brigitte, have 50 hectares of vines... and a few potagers* to boot!

"I'm thinking of moving the tomatoes up here," I said to Jean-Marie, as we stood on the patch of grass just above the creek.

"In that case, you'll need to put up a wind-breaker... a row of thick buissons,* or something."

He had a point. After all, we were standing smack in the middle of the Rhône, where the wind blows down the valley... like a fleet of jet planes--upending anything that isn't anchored to the ground (or at least deeply-rooted, like our vines... or cemented in, like our home!). The tomatoes wouldn't stand a chance.

Speaking of thick buissons, or hedges, I asked Jean-Marie to identify a certain scratchy patch, just beyond the clothesline.
"Do you think we can burn that down?" I asked. "It is difficult to cut down, with all those thorns!"

The truth is, every time I hang out the clothes, that prickly hedge reaches out and bites me from behind!

Jean-Marie explained that those were chestnut shoots, fallen from a nearby arbre.* He added that they would make nice trees if we thinned them out.

I tried to picture the trees, and the soothing shade they would offer... instead of the stinging "bites"! Too bad we couldn't move the entire scratchy hedge over to the new tomato patch, let them sting the Mistral into submission instead!

Our next stop was the portail,* beside which I had been transplanting local flora, including a new, unidentified favorite: a rusty red grass that Mom and I had seen growing, en masse, near the town of Tulette. This vibrant herb would make a lovely contrast to the purple irises and Spanish Lily, two other "locals" that have made their way into our garden.

Mom and I had dug up a few samples of the exotic and colorful grass... and quickly transplanted it into our garden....

a vineyard near Tulette

Jean-Marie took one look at our botanical "find"... and chuckled as he identified it:

"C'est Roondoop".


The plant's name did not disappoint; it had just the je ne sais quoi that I would expect for such an exotic variety: Roondoop. I loved it!

"Oui..." Jean-Marie continued. "The grass turns red like that after the herbicide takes effect.

"Grass killer?"

That is when the dots connected: "Roondoop" was really "Roundup"! A désherbant used by some farmers to keep the weeds down in the vineyard.

No wonder we didn't have any of that "lovely red grass" growing here at our farm...

I quickly yanked the dead grass out of our garden before my organic-wine-farmer husband returned from his US wine tour... in time to scream "Quelle! horreur! Quelle horreur!"

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Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own!--are always appreciated and enjoyed. Thank you for using the comments box!

***Don't miss Jean-Marc's article "Désherber" and find out his views on herbicide.***

Also, see pictures from Jean-Marc's tour, in his "Thank You" post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la mis-en-bouteille (f)
= bottling; le potager (m) = vegetable garden, le buisson (m) = bush; un arbre (m) = tree; le portail (m) = gate

An excerpt from Saturday's Cinéma Vérité:
I named this court-métrage "Blond", so that I might share a scene with you from my first arranged meeting with Jean-Marc. There we were, February 1990, in a bistro along the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence....

It was our first date. I wore an over-formal black coat-dress, three-inch high heels, and many layers of make-up, behind which I peered out, amazed, at the young Frenchman who had asked me for my number, just days before. As he sat there, in jeans, studying me, I wondered what he was thinking (was everything okay? Was that an approving glance?....).

He was smiling, and he smiled as he spoke these words: ...

Read the rest of this story, and see the one minute movie (below) over at Cinéma Vérité.

video clipvideo clipvideo clip

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.


Cabanon in town of Piolenc (c) Kristin Espinasse
Ever feel like this? Unhinged, patched together, or just plain in pieces? Let me tell you... we got to sleep late last night after our latest mise-en-bouteilles. Read about last night's bottling, in the story column, below. Photo © Jules Greer (thanks Mom!)

                                          Cinéma Vérité

Cinéma Vérité will go cinematic this weekend! Don't miss our first court-métrage* titled "Blond". The filmmaker (13-year-old Max) filmed his mom in this slice-of-life one-minute episode (hey, you gotta start somewhere!), which takes place here at our vineyard. Along with the clip you'll hear Max's narrative en français. For more information about Cinéma Vérité, click here. (court métrage = short (film), "one-reeler").

scotcher (skoh-tchay) verb

    : to tape something

French Idioms & Expressions:
rester scotché = to be flabbergasted, stunned, gobsmacked
scotcher sur son siège = to be glued to one's seat
scotcher devant la télé = to be glued to the t.v.

Book: Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French
Gourmet food: Sel Gris: Hand Harvested French Organic Sea Salt
Movie: Watch French classics: Jean De Florette / Manon of the Spring
Beauty: skin care => Caudalie French *grapevine* therapy

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

By 8:30 p.m. last night, many thanks to friends, we finished our latest mise-en-bouteilles in spite of the hiccups and the ad libs, and thanks to the sticky system invented along the way...

It all began with a missing truck: the rented camion d'embouteillage (a truck/machine-on-wheels that spits out bottles faster than a sergeant's drill). 

That is when I learned that just because you rent something in France doesn't mean it'll show up when and where you need it. Thank goodness for the flexibility of friends... Margaret and Peter arrived bright and early from the town of Cairanne... only to be sent home (no truck = no travail). They kindly offered to return in the afternoon and when they did we had to send them home again!

When the truck finally did appear, we realized it was missing much of the bottling gear! So, illico presto,* we began a series of slapped-together solutions including a system for taping the boxes shut.

Margaret (aka La Scotcheuse) was our system and it was her job to not get caught in all that sticky tape as she unfolded and constructed the boxes. Her husband, Peter, was at the end of the bottling line, sealing those boxes and sending them off after I filled them with wine.

Filling the boxes with wine was another matter entirely. It involved reaching up to the conveyer belt and plucking up the bottles. Imagine, for a minute, the activity of picking apples... only these were of the heavy, breakable, and fast-moving variety! It seemed ludicrous to have to reach up to grab the bottles, but given the missing equipment... this was the only way. 

As I twisted and reached to collect the full bottles, turning again to place them in their cases just behind me, I couldn't help but glare at the young man who came with the truck, one of the hired helpers. A cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, he puffed and puffed while putting the bottles into the boxes. The heavy trail of smoke wafted, en masse, into the lungs of the man at the end of the line: my friend Peter!

"Eh oh! Attention à la fumée!" I reminded him.  

And that is when I almost wished I'd scotched my own mouth shut.... For the young man narrowed his eyes, and abruptly left the production line... leaving me with one more "apple tree" to pick and its ever-moving, fast dropping fruit.

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*French Vocabularyillico presto = right away

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you for tchatching with us in the comments box!

PS: Our Domaine Rouge-Bleu Rosé, in spite of all the production line snares, was bottled with joy, laughter, and a great amount of care. Find out where to buy our wines.

PPS: If that's not enough to get you to buy a bottle... well, then, check out our dashing French wine maker, just below.

Dashing French Winemaker. (photo © Annabelle Storfer) 

Did you miss yesterday's word (crapaud)? See it here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.