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Entries from September 2009


You could say that these sécateurs are the liaison between grapes and wine, couldn't you? For how could one exist without the other--how could wine be born without vines first being torn? It is with a snip or a clippety clip that one then becomes the other. In cutting the umbilical cord, or stem, transition begins.

So then transition, or liaison, this is our word of the day. First, a note from our sponsor. (To sponsor an edition of French Word-A-Day, contact me).

liaison (lee-ay-zohn) noun, feminine
    : union of two elements
    : connecting of two notes (music)
    : connection, link between two places*
    : love affair

* Quand je l'ai appelé, la liaison était mauvaise.

Audio File and Example sentence: listen to the French words, above Download Wav or Download MP3.  (More on the French word "liaison" at the excellent L'

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

I should tell you about how today's word was chosen. It began when Jacqui, one of our volunteer grape pickers, offered me a story about her harvesting experience, giving me permission to post it. I asked if she could summarize her story in one word (a word that I might match with a French "word of the day").

"Transitions," Jacqui offered.
"That won't work," I pointed out, regretfully. "Transitions is the same word in French. I illustrated my point with a sincere attempt to pronounce the French version of the word:  "TRAHn ZEE sheON."

Ah, yes, Jacqui sympathized. We now had a dilemma.

Enter "liaison," a synonym for "transition". Now to make the word fit! For when we think of "liaison" we think of dangerous things... like love.

It is Jacqui's love for France and all things French that has her returning to Provence at every chance.... even if "chance," on this occasion, meant the crippling prospect of grape-picking. (Jacqui suffered a knee injury after a week of non-stop picking...). Though, from the "sound" of her words in the following missive, one senses that Jacqui has overlooked the pain, and in pain's stead, found poetry. Read on... 

by Jacqui McCargar

A Provençal vineyard in the pre-dawn is a quiet, still place. The sun begins its ascent and shows its fiery red face as it peeks from behind Mont Ventoux to the east. The vines begin to take shape out of the dimness and the birds start to sing.

As the sun rises higher and the air warms, the slight mist that hangs above the vines disappears. In the distance cars coming down the drive make crunching noises on the gravel surface. Our picking crew has arrived to start another day. We get organized with our pails and sécateurs,* sunscreen is applied and hats are donned in anticipation of the hot Provençal sun.


We will harvest trellised and goblet trained vines. The trellised vines are much easier to harvest because the vines are trained on wires and most of the grapes hang down and are accessible.

The goblet style are normally much older vines and are very low to the ground which necessitates bending, squatting, kneeling and, sometimes, crawling on the rock strewn ground to find the grapes Mother Nature has so successfully hidden from the marauding birds that would feast on them.

We get our row assignments and march off with our empty pails and our shears...


For a while clip clip clip and the sound of grapes hitting the bottom of the pail is all that is heard. French and English banter, occasional bursts of laughter as we make our way down the rows of vines. Our pails fill and we empty them into a case or a bin that is pulled by the tractor.


Lunchtime eventually comes around and we either head to the farmhouse to eat at the big outside table or picnic sur place* in the vines.

Baguettes and cheese, charcuterie* and ailloli,* cold mixed Provençal veggies, pizza, wine and beer... on and on it goes.

After our food coma subsides, we head back to the vines and again clip clip clip into the rhythm clip clip clip -- ouch! (nicked a finger). Medic! Band-aid in place, the clipping continues. Some of the grape clusters are woven so tightly together or around a vine or trellis wire... that it becomes quite a puzzle to find the stem to cut that will liberate the grapes from the vine.

At the end of the day we take the grapes back to the cellar to be de-stemmed and crushed.


They are then pumped into the fermentation tanks and we are ready to clean equipment--seaux*, sécateurs, caisses*--for tomorrow's ramassage de raisins.*

Now it's back to our apartments for dinner and beer or wine and a good night's sleep so we can come back tomorrow...  and recommencer.*



Mille mercis to Jacqui, for her harvest hymn. Please be sure to leave Jacqui a note in the comments box. I know she will enjoy hearing from you!  And to Jacqui: thank you for all of the grapes that you brought in... before your knee brought you down! Thanks, too, for the lovely pear tart and for the hot, comforting meals that you cooked for your fellow harvesters.

Jacqui McCargar is a native Californian from Sonoma County's wine country and a Francophile, who loves almost everything about France.

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; sur place = on site; la charcuterie (f) = cold meats (ham, salami...); ailloli (m) = aioli, garlic mayonnaise; le seau (m) = bucket; la caisse (f) = box, case; le ramassage de raisins = gathering of grapes; recommencer = to start again

In Gifts and more..

Pizza herbes

Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of Oregano, Thyme, Basil & Marjoram

Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled savon.

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation. Highlights the essential French grammar and vocabulary you need to know to test well. Prepare for quizzes, tests, AP, PRAXIS II, SAT II, CLEP, and N.Y. Regents Level I-III. Helpful for travelers!



"Scraps & Spikes." (whoops, spokes, "Scraps & Spokes". A sneek preview at this Saturday's photo gallery. Don't miss it! Click here for more about these photos.

If you enjoyed today's edition then why not share it with a friend. Forward this edition. If you are reading the blog version, check out the "Share" button at very end of this post.

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Le Petit Larron -- The Little Thief.

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larron (lah rohn) noun, masculine

    :  thief

l'occasion fait le larron = opportunity makes a thief

Le larron does not seem to be used in conversational French (my daughter taught me the word after she learned it in her French class while reading a classic text) ... so here are some useful synonyms:

un escroc (swindler, con man, crook)
un malfaiteur (burglar)
un voleur (thief)

Audio File and Example Idiom: Download Wav or  Download MP3

    s'entendre comme larrons en foire = to get along well, to be as thick as thieves

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

Today's episode will be brief -- brief as the life of a houseplant under the tutelage of a black-thumbed housewife.

Au revoir* to my dear Spathiphyllum plant, a gift from my voisine,* Brigitte. I kept you, dear Spati, en vie* for a record 6 months... when last night six thieves broke out of their prison pen...


(Photo of "thieves breaking out of prison pen" -- not the actual pen--which is much larger. Here, the puppies are simply re-enacting the breakout that led up to so much mischief...)

...wrapped their sharp teeth and puppy breath around your lovely white flowers, and dragged you kicking and screaming across the kitchen and living room floors... leaving your leaves and your dirt in their wiggly-tailed wake.

No time to write; I've got puppies to police and a houseplant to treat...with bandages, glue, and a splint or two --  thanks to the ol' black-thumbed housewife remedy.


(photo of Mama Braise, giving les petits larrons a lecture! Oh, those troublemakers look smug!)

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome and appreciated. Click here to access the comments box.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
au revoir
= goodbye; la voisine (f) = neighbor; en vie = alive

Thank you for visiting our sponsors:

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In Gifts and more...

French Country Diary

French Country Diary 2010:
A week-at-a-glance datebook celebrating the French countryside with dozens of full-color photographs

Play and Learn French:
Over 50 Fun songs, games and everyday activites to get started in French

Mon Arbre Genealogique (My Family Tree)
: French Toy Imported from France

Cap Black - inexpensive, useful gift for a Francophile
"Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur"

Bon Appetit:
Wine Country Gift Basket


I am very excited about yesterday's photo shoot, in Camaret-sur-Aigues! Don't miss twelve more snapshots from this cozy neighboring town. When you sign up to become a contributing member of French Word-A-Day you will have access to hundreds of photos of the French countryside and the quiet Provençal life.  Click here to find out more.

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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Max and Jackie with baby Braise, 2006

la fifille(fee-fee) noun, feminine

 : affectionate term for "my little girl" or "sweetheart"

Petit Larousse (French) definition: fifille = fille, fillette (girl, little girl)


Audio File & Example Sentence:
Listen to my (then 11-year-old) son, Max, pronounce the following sentence:
Viens ici ma fifille! Come here, my girl!

Download MP3 or Download wav

French Expression:
filfille à sa maman = (derogative) mommy's little girl

by Kristin Espinasse

(Note: the following story was written 3 years ago.)

I had many concerns about acquiring a dog: Who would take it for a walk? Who would make sure there was enough fresh water in its gamelle,* and what about la pillule,* barking, ticks... not to mention who would watch it while we were away?

Strangely, of all my worries, communication wasn't one of them.


"That's a good girl!" I congratulate our puppy, Braise, after she has done her besoins* outside the house (and not on the couch like the last time).
"You are SUCH a good girl!" I repeat, patting her soft head in approval.

"Mom, Braise doesn't understand you!" my 8-year-old says, pointing out the problem: English.

I never thought about our dog being French. I stop to consider Jackie's point. Though I do not agree with my daughter (Braise understands my English... when there's a reward biscuit in my hand), her language comment does remind me of a tip that I have just learned: speak in one-, two-, or three-word commands.

When next I return to the house, I offer our pup a one-syllable English order: "Come!"

But Jackie stands her ground. "Viens!"* she corrects, in French. Our puppy obeys -- only who can say whether it is the French or the English command that worked? Hmmm? Hmmm!

When Braise jumps up on me I react. "Down!" I tell order.
"Koo-shay!"* Jackie insists, over-riding my command.

"Sit!" I continue, determined to educate the dog à ma façon.*
"Assis!"* my daughter counters, with growing concern for our dog's linguistic education. If Jackie has her way, our dog will communicate via French one day.

To my "Shake!" Jackie corrects "Donne la patte!"* and when I say "Good girl!" Jackie feels compelled to translate my flummoxing foreign words: "Bien, fifille!"*

My daughter's concern throws me back in time to when I used to stroll her, as a six-month-old, through the village of St. Maximin. "Are you hungry?" I would say if she cried, or "You seem a little tired." Occasionally a French neighbor would intervene.

"You are not speaking English to your child, are you? The two languages will confuse her!" they cautioned. I remember being taken aback by what I found to be an absurd idea: that the commingling of languages might in some way harm my child, or at least result in mental mayhem.

I listen to the child in question, who is speaking to our puppy in French and to her own mother in English. Instead of letting language tangle in her mind, I'd say she has it wrapped around her Franco-American finger. As for our puppy, she has us all tied around her Provençale paw.

Comments welcome. Please share with us one benefit of being bi-lingual. Can you think of any negatives (or set-backs) to knowing many languages? Do you believe that there is some truth to what those ladies said about confusing a child by teaching the young learner another language? Share your thoughts and experience here.


Provence 2009-3 004

Today's story was written three years ago. Now, our Braise has puppies of her own. We are much more relaxed about babies, now, and therefore speak in French, English... and sometimes Franglais! (The photo above was also taken by Jacqui McCargar. Thanks Jacqui!)


~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~
la pillule
(f) = pill, birth control; la gamelle (f) = bowl (for pet); les besoins (mpl, from "faire ses besoins" = to relieve oneself) (for an animal: "to do its business"); viens! = come here!; koo-shay! (pronunciation for "couché!" = (lie) down!; à ma façon = my way; assis! = sit; donne la patte! = give me (your) paw; bien, fifille! = good, little girl!


In Gifts and more...

Paris metro towel

Paris Metro Subway Tea or Kitchen Dish Towel

La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking.

     First published in 1927 to educate French housewives in the art of classical cooking, LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE has since become the bible of French cooking technique, found on every kitchen shelf in France. A housewife and a professional chef, Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange wrote in a rigorous yet highly instructive and engaging style, explaining in extraordinary detail the proper way to skim a sauce, stuff a chicken, and construct a pâté en croûte. Though her text has never before been translated into English, Madame Saint-Ange's legacy has lived on through the cooking of internationally renowned chefs like Julia Child and Madeleine Kamman, setting the standard for practical home cooking as well as haute cuisine.

Visions of France: See the breathtaking beauty of southeastern France from a spectacular vantage point. Shot in high-definition from a helicopter-mounted camera, these two programs afford dazzling views of historic Provence, and the world-famous Mediterranean wonderland The Riviera. Order this DVD.

A Little Bit of France : (a gift basket with gourmet French favorites). See the selection 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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ame soeur

Soulmates (c) Kristin EspinasseSoul mates

l'âme soeur (lam sur) noun, feminine

    : soul mate


Audio file and example sentence: Listen to my daughter (then me, with a bit of difficulty...) pronounce these French words:

Download Wav or Download MP3

Pourquoi cette difficulté de trouver la véritable "âme sœur"? Peut être parce qu’il n’y en a qu’une sur Terre. Why is it so difficult to find one's true "soulmate"? Perhaps because there is only one of them on earth.


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

My brother-in-law Jacques is in love. Love, love, love.

With Mariem.

They met two months ago in Avignon. Amour, amour, amour.


I met Mariem last week and she is everything I could wish for my beautiful beau-frère.* Mariem is lovely from the inside out.  She glows.

And so does Jacques: il rayonne.* It must be love. Heaven knows.


We all deserve love, every one of us, but Jacques and Mariem especially so. Ils le méritent.* If I could I would compose a list of one hundred reasons why Jacques and Mariem especially deserve each other's love, but the list might turn into an epic novel. Besides, if I know you, you don't need convincing: you simply trust in the healing power of love....

Love covers a multitude of sins.


I do have a picture of our lovely Mariem... but because I have not asked permission to post it, and because Mariem is one to shun the spotlight, we'll have to settle on this one instead (thanks go to one of our puppies, "Sugar," who graciously offered to be a stand-in for the lovely Mariem):


To Jacques and Mariem: I think and I feel, I hope and I appeal that this love will endure à jamais*: forever.

Especially, I pray that it will. I know others do, too (Maman Jules, for example. Happy September 23rd birthday, Mom! I love you! And I will call you soon...). 


One question I love to ask couples is: What is your secret to staying together?


Would you please, dear reader, share yours? Would you tell us your secrets to a love that lasts? I will share them with my brother-in-law and his lovely bride-to-be. Tee-hee!

...and I promise to read your comments, each and every one, to my own husband, just as soon as he wakes up tomorrow morning... to 15 years of marriage with me. God bless him!

So please share with us now your own relationship wisdom. What works for you? Whether you have been together 5 months or 50 years, please tell us your tips for a long-lasting love or simply give us one word that represents relationship endurance.

Click here to see reader-submitted tips or to share your own. Mille mercis!




~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~
le beau-frère
(m) = brother-in-law; il rayonne = he is radiant, he shines; ils le méritent = they deserve it; à jamais = forever



CecileExcerpt photos from the most recent edition of Cinéma Vérité.


In Gifts & more...
Staub Oval Cocotte: The French oven is a timeless standby for stews, roasts, soups, casseroles and other one-pot classics.

Eiffel Tower Paris Tea Light Candle Holder

The Ultimate French Review and Practice (Book+ CD-ROM)

Bonsoir Lune / Goodnight Moon (French Edition)

Navigation Paquet, Art Poster

P.S.: I will be joining two authors at the American Library in Paris, to talk about "fish-out-of-water experiences" living in la belle France. If, by chance, you are in Paris on Oct. 7th, we would love to see you at this meet-up.

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


DSC_0005Harvesters' Hands: Jacqui (left) and Denise (right). More, in today's story column written by Denise.

main (mahn [silent "n"]) noun, feminine

    : hand

My dictionary has one full page of definitions and expressions for the French word "main"... I will need your help, today, in listing those "main" (hand) terms and idioms that you know. How about if I start... and you continue the list? Here goes:

un coup de main = a helping hand

...Your turn to add a definition or expression via the comments box. Merci!

Audio File & Example Sentence
Download Wav or Download MP3

J'aurai besoin d'un coup de main pour trouver des expressions françaises.
I will need a helping hand for finding French expressions.


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

Sun-shiny faces greeted me this early morning as I headed out to my car, to take the kids to school.

"How's everybody doing?" I asked our volunteer harvesters, who were walking up the dirt driveway, sack lunches in their hands, beat-up shoes on their feet (I guess they'll have to toss their tennies when they return home). These, our American harvesters, were on their way to the kitchen, to put their food into the refrigerator before returning to the cellar to take orders from my husband, Chef Grape.

"Everything going okay?" I prodded.
"Très bien," they assured me and, unconvinced, I searched their faces for truth or fiction

The women, who had arrived over a week ago, mascara and lip gloss intact, were now wearing nature's glow, solo, on their bare faces, which I try tirelessly to read (Are they really doing okay? Do they want to abandon the grape ship... and swim to St. Rémy, to shop, instead of clip? Will they ever come back to see us again after working 8-hour days in the fields, amid mud, beneath the wet sky, racing against lighting's specter on high?).

One person's treasure... is another's tribulation
I realized this morning that, just as I am guilty of judging people, I am also coupable of judging people's experiences. In either case, I often get it all wrong.

Read about the transcending experience of one of our harvesters who, having pushed her digits to the limit, has a newfound respect for the humble hand, forget intellect. Professor Denise is back to share another installment of her grape experience.

M E S   M A I N S
by Denise Lavoie

While weather conditions have certainly dominated conversation among both harvest workers and vigneron (can anyone say scorching heat or torrential downpours?), I have been preoccupied with more immediate matters -- namely, my hands.


In my routine life back in the States, I don't give my hands much thought. They lead, if truth be told, a relatively sheltered existence. From plenty of warm water and soap, to hand cream and the occasional manicure, my hands want for nothing -- and it shows. They lack callouses or any other marks that might indicate manual labor; in fact, they deal mostly with information processing and dissemination, in one form or another. They are classic, urban, 21st century hands.


Enter, then, the Provençal harvest. My hands have, literally, taken a beating. They are dry, grape-stained, cut, blistered -- they are no longer sheltered. Just as grapes seek the canopy of leaves, my hands are searching for shelter and renewal.

Yet, I am proud of my hands. No matter their outward appearance, they are withstanding this agricultural test. And, just like the grapes they are harvesting, my hands have dug deep and found an energy source they didn't know existed.

My hands -- as well as the rest of me -- are in the meaty middle of harvest.



Denise Lavoie

Denise Lavoie, an American with Quebeçois roots, drinks wine and studies it via a small wine technology program in the Pacific Northwest. She also instructs at the college level. This is her first time visiting France. She met the Espinasses via an introduction from Robert Camuto, after reading his book Corkscrewed.

She can be reached at -- or leave her a note in the comments box.

Note (correction): In Denise's last article I mistook the word "mark" ("indelible mark") for "mask". If you missed that story, please take a minute to read it here.

Puppy Update


The Three Musketeers: They're fierce and mighty... especially with the help of Mother's milk!



Shop for books and more at Amazon and help support this free French word journal:

Vis-à-vis: Beginning French

Horizons French text book (with Audio CD)

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French

Clean Provence. Eau De Parfum Spray

Sweatshirt "Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur"

Sea Salt by La Baleine -- a classic on every French table

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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♥ Give the amount of your choice


Boulangerie (c) Kristin Espinasse
A bakery in the town of Camaret sur Aigues, in the heart of Provence.

fille (fee) noun, feminine
 : daughter

Telle mère, telle fille.

Like mother, like daughter.


Audio File:

Listen to the French word "fille" and the above quote: Download mp3 . Download wav

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

            (We Three: my daughter, my mom, and I)

At ten-years-old:
I liked motorcycles and baseball.
My daughter likes mascara and karaoke.

We both loved swimming...

I liked to wake up at the crack of dawn.
She loves to sleep in late.

I loved frogs.
She likes ladybugs.

I was round.
She's a stick.

I ate tacos.
She eats tapenade.

When I lied, my face turned crimson.
When she lies, hers turns convincing.

I collected desert wildflowers and gave them to the neighbors.
Jackie fancies bamboo, has a carnivorous plant, and is giving in other ways.

I was once called a bible beater and went and hid.
She got called "Blond!" once and was livid.

My daughter speaks in French and in English.
I spoke in English and in Tongues.

She has a godmother and a godfather.
I had a mafia of angels.

Jackie's great-grandmother and her grandmother were Catholic and Atheist, respectively. Mine were Mormon and Jack Mormon, respectively.

Jackie's table trick is to eat the eyes right out of the fish on her plate. She
learned this from her great-grandmother, a French woman who survived WWII. My trick was a disappearing act involving any food placed in front of me (except fish eyes). I learned this from my American grandmother, an excellent cook, who smoked her morning cigarette in the trailer's "salon" and called everyone "Hon".

Jackie's mom has healthcare and a mutual.
My own mom had a mutual agreement with my sister and me: what you say is what you get and whatever you say Don't Say You're Sick!

I really, really wanted a live-in dad.
Jackie really, really wants a horse; she already has a Father Hen.

When my mom got mad at a man, she moved on, took her kids with her.
When Jackie's mom gets mad at her man, she throws (virtual) plates, then meditates.

Jackie's mom is over-serious, over-sensitive, and over-anxious.
My own mom was over-generous and, sometimes, over-the-top.

Mom let me dig up the back yard once. "What the hell, let her make a pool."
Jackie's mom is a control freak, doesn't cuss.

I had a sister who was prettier than I.
Jackie looks like her.

At my daughter's age, I once started a fire in the field behind our trailer park, almost making homeless our neighbors, mostly retirees. I admitted this to Jackie (on confiscating a lighter!), who wanted to know whether I ever told my parents. (Mom, Dad: are you reading?)

I had a crush on Doug Pearson from kindergarten through eighth grade. He had dimples, or fossettes, and did a mean impression of Gene Simmons: fake blood, black eye-liner, and all.
Jackie's heart is faithful to horses: four-legged rock-stars each and every one.

I automatically pledged allegiance to the flag.
My daughter questions whether Sarkozy will keep his promises.

Jackie and her mom wear the same shoe size: 7.5
My own mom is one size smaller, though she is larger than life.

I was a real softie, though my daughter is really not so tough as she thinks she is. (Perhaps we are not so different after all?) And, every once in a while, I catch myself following in my mom's leopard-patterned, untamed tracks. Secretly, it comes as a relief: to free-up the over-serious, under-the-countertop, once carefree fille.*

                                               *    *     *
Note: this story was written over a year ago, when my daughter was ten. She turned twelve today. As for Jules, you'll have to ask her her age. Birthday wishes are welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

Waterpark Lorgues 015

My mom, Jules, in 2003 (after her first mastectomy!). That's Jackie on the left.

Puppies and Harvesters

DSC_0023Jacqui, Kristin, Pamela and the pups.

Note: there are now three "Jackies" here at our farm: my daughter, American Jacqui (pictured here) and Scottish Jackie.

Salut from Sainte Cécile, where the sky is pouring down rain and our harvesters are braving the muddy grape bog below. The heavens are howling; between grumbles, the sky spits fire helter skelter across the Provençal paysage.

I am waiting for the soaked soldiers to return, waiting with a pile of towels, hot coffee and Nutella...


Update: (one hour later...) the harvest continues beneath the still streaming sky. I hear howling in the distance, only, this time, it isn't coming from the heavens....

"Boot camp!" that's what Mom used to call harvest time. The harvesters might call it GRAPE CAMP!

The following edition is in honor of my Mom's and my daughter's birthday (September 23rd and 18th, respectively). Joyeux Anniversaire Jules and Jackie! Je vous aime.


French Wooden Alphabet Blocks for kids. Makes a great baby gift.

Urban Crayon Paris: The City Guide for Parents with Children

My French Coach by Nintendo. Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French, no matter your age. The simple touch screen interface lets you spend less time learning the game and more time learning French.

Streetwise Paris Laminated City Center Street Map

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


(Photo taken here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu.) Read about one harvester's experience in the following story column!

Reminder:  If you happen to be in Paris on October 7th then we would love to meet you at the American Library!

terroir (ter-waahr) noun, masculine

    : soil; land

un accent du terroir = a rural accent
la cuisine du terroir = country cooking
un poète du terroir = poet of the land
les mots du terroir
= words with a rural flavor


Audio File and Example Sentence: (Note: I'm afraid a couple of American "r's" slipped in to this recording...) Download Wav or Download MP3

Le terroir ? Il est très important pour la qualité des raisins que l'on peut obtenir, mais c'est surtout le travail de l'homme dans la vigne qui fera la différence, permettant au terroir de s'exprimer ou non.

(Would some of you like to volunteer to translate this one? Thanks for sharing your interpretations in the comments box!)

A Day in a French Life...
Our volunteer harvesters are now volunteering to write stories!  You'd think that after yesterday's wet-n-wild experience (the harvest took place among some very muddy and wet vines...) that the drenched from head-to-pieds pickers would've run home... Instead, they stayed put (with the help of sticky mud?), and eventually returned -- along with a truckload of grapes -- to the cellar, where they washed out all of the buckets and finished a galore of chores. Wet chickens they are not!

The following story was written (before the deluge) by friend and newbie farmer Denise. Enjoy it and please share it.

T E R R O I R Denise Lavoie

As someone earning a certificate in wine technology, the term "terroir" gets tossed around a lot and assumes an almost mystical quality. For me, it became something very real in my first day of harvest here in Provence.

Terroir is the mark a particular place stamps on the grapes and, ultimately, the wine made from those grapes. Place can also leave an indelible mark on people. While grape-picking can be fatiguing and troublesome on one's back, feet, and arms (and the vines seemed to have their way with my exposed forearms -- I have the red welts to prove it), in the end, it is my first, full taste of Provence that is stamped in my sensory memory: the green and gold of the grape leaves as far as the eye can see, soil with rocks the color of butter and foam, gnarled, gray old vines pushed low to the ground by constant mistral winds, deep blue grapes whose sweet, intense taste foreshadows the smooth, yet complex Rhone-blend wine to come; all against a clear, never-ending blue sky, and that mistral wind -- strong enough to knock you sideways, yet providing much needed relief from the heat of the late summer Provençal sun.

Add to this a large dose of good-natured, always helpful fellow harvesters, several languages, some friendly banter among the vines, and a vigneron who cares deeply about the fruit, and you have a pretty solid picture of the mark Provence -- this very real place -- has left on me. I have no doubt my body will ache at the end of each day, and I can (relatively easily) wash away the soil from my hair and the grape juice from my fingernails, but my first taste of Provence -- with its feast for the senses -- will remain and be recalled in each glass of Provençal produced wine that I drink.

Denise Lavoie, an American with Quebeçois roots, drinks wine and studies it via a small wine technology program in the Pacific Northwest. She also instructs at the college level. This is her first time visiting France. She met the Espinasses via an introduction from Robert Camuto, after reading his book Corkscrewed.

She can be reached at -- or leave her a note in the comments box.

The chore of chasing grapes.


Les Provençaux et Les Puppies

Puppies Best Friend and a couple of Mother Hens: Jean-Marc and Uncle Jean-Claude. (The other two puppies are patiently waiting their turn to be cuddled.)


French Clockmaker sign : a reproduction of an old French merchant's sign

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves : made with no colorings, artificial preservatives, pulps, purees, juices or concentrates.

In French Music: "Au sourire de l'âme" by Pep's (recommended by my son, Max)

SmartFrench Audio CD's: Learn French from real French people!

French movie: Un coeur en Hiver / A Heart in Winter. Check out the reviews.

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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The harvest: Phase Two and Grape Expections in today's story column.

attente (ah-tahnt) noun, feminine

    : expectation

"Attente" has other meanings and expressions... Help add to the definition by listing them in the comments box.

contre toute attente = contrary to all expectations
répondre à l'attente de = to live up to someone's expectations

Audio File and Example Sentence
: Hear me pronounce the following French words Download Wav or Download MP3

Dans son souci de répondre à l'attente des visiteurs, elle a bien balayé devant sa porte.... mais le vent s'est levé et les feuilles sont rentrées.

(Help translate this sentence in the comments box. Merci d'avance!)


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

The following story is for my mom, Jules. We all miss you at this year's harvest. Love, Kristi

Grape Expectations

I can't help wondering what everybody is thinking. By now, all of our volunteer harvesters have arrived, en direct from Amérique!* And they are all here, directly or indirectly, as a result of my on-line journal or blog.

I look around and wonder whether the readers-harvesters are seeing the same thing that I am seeing: a grape farm. I have never been comfortable with the term "vineyard," which conjures up the image of an estate with great Gallic gates, beyond which an imposing Chateau sits pretty sipping tea or brandy.

One thing pretty about our farm is the view: where a sea of grapevines is rivaled only by the Provence Giant in the distance: the sublime Mount Ventoux, now mauve, now blue. I love how the light plays on its colorful French face. To the right, Les  Dentelles, stand proud, like the finest French lace.

Otherwise, here at the farm it is no gates, no glamour. A plain dirt road leads up to the no-nonsense cellar. The long building in which we live has been divided up: part of it (the cellar) belongs to twenty-three investors; the other part is our still-needs-paint-in-places home sweet home.

Because our harvesters are volunteers/blog readers, I find it a delicate duty to lay down the law, to point out pesky procedures. But Jean-Marc has no problem issuing pruning shears, passing out seaux*... and pointing, swiftly, to those never-ending vine rows.

The pathetic craver-of-approval in me hopes beyond hope that the readers-harvesters will continue to feel that good cheer that, up until now, they may have felt, virtually, à travers* these stories that you are reading here. But out there (where the unsuspecting harvesters have begun their workday), the wind has picked up, and a cool chill takes the warmth right out of the early morning air. Oy vay!

(And just as you have come here for French terms--and ended up with Yiddish--our volunteer harvesters may have come here seeking la vie en rose*... only to end up with hard labor!)

One of the volunteer harvesters asked, innocently enough, before arriving:

"Have you seen the movie A Good Year?..."

I sensed her anticipation (expectation?) and could not bring myself to answer her question (Yes, I have seen A Good Year... No, it ain't that fancy here!).

This here harvest is not A Good Year but One Hell of Two Weeks. This is not a vineyard *estate* -- but a friend- and family-owned farm with tractors, dust, weeds and very good grapes! There won't be a maid serving pastis on a tray. We are deep in Provence, deep in the dirt and terroir. This is Authentic France, far from movie production sets, but we all have a part to play... in getting those grapes that bottomless grape cart. Oy vay! Oy vay!

Bon courage to our harvesters and please don't throw grapes at me for writing this journal entry. It is never easy to share one's journal with those who inspire its stories. (Perhaps you will get me back, chers lecteurs/vendangeurs?* and share with us here your own impressions.... What say you, dear readers who have remained behind, in the comfort of your home sweet homes, far from the grape grind?)


Regarding Photos:
I know, I know: you would love to see photos of the harvest. This, I will try to do! However, it is a little more delicate to publish photos of our harvesters -- given that they are rock stars, and all. On a serious note: because our volunteers have just arrived, I haven't yet had the chance to ask their permission to post photos. Stay tuned.... Meantime:

That's me, a bundle of nerves beneath the composed exterior. I hope everyone is getting enough to eat... I hope everyone enjoyed the pizza party... I know they enjoyed these oriental pastries -- a gift from my lovely Moroccan friend Mariam.


I haven't asked permission to post photos of these three rock stars... and so I'd better play it safe for now. Just call me a wet chicken or scardey cat, or both.

Here. I'll take a chance and post this one. (That's "Charles of the Vines", a.k.a. "Chuck" to the left. I hear he has a blog and I suspect he's capable of posting my photo without asking permission first. So, I'll get him before he gets me! (My brother-in-law Jacques is center and my husband, right.)

Comments are welcome and appreciated. Thank you for using the comments box!

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~
= America; le seau (m) = bucket; à travers = through, across; la vie (f) en rose = life (behind) rose-tinted lenses, the good life; lecteurs-vendangeurs = readers-harvesters


The Puppies!

Ma fille, Jackie (she'll be eleven for 4 more days!)

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

Diorshow Mascara: super volumizing, lengthening, and curling mascara
Mistral soap : a best-seller! Hand-crafted in the heart of Provence, and made according to a three-hundred year old tradition
"Ville de Paris" & "Service des Egouts" written on these replica Paris Cufflinks
Fleur de Sel. Gathered from the salt beds of Camargue, this subtly flavored salt will add burst of flavor to your food.

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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clochette a vache

Cow-bells (c) Kristin Espinasse
photo taken in the Montafon Valley, Austria. Click to enlarge.

clochette à vache (klo-shet ah vash) noun, feminine

    : cow-bell

Audio File & Example sentence: Listen to American me... and my French son... give our individual versions of the following French words! Download Wav file or Download MP3

Je collectionne les clochettes à vache.
I collect cow-bells.

Note: my first three or four attempts at recording the phrase were, well, attempts! Max informed me that I was mispronouncing "collectionne" (as "koh-lek-see-OHn"). He tells me it is "ko-lek-see-Un). I re-recorded it, and you now hear the correct pronunciation). Thanks, Max!

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

Just poking my nose in here today, Saturday, to let you in on a secret: I collect cow-bells. Voilà. Maintenant vous savez tout!

I am here also to tell you that I have updated my photo blog, "Cinema Verite," so if you are a member, do not miss the latest gallery with over a dozen photos from our Austrian adventure. (If you need me to resend the link, don't hesitate to let me know!)

If you are not a member of Cinéma Verité, what's keeping you from delighting in the "weekly dozen"? If you enjoy this French word journal and the photos that accompany it, then you will love the Saturday edition!

Mooochas gracias (et merci beaucoup!).

P.S.: ... I'll let you in on another family secret: though I do collect cow-bells, I have an irrational fear of les vaches and have been known to scale a valley's steep slopes--and circle around it--in order to avoid the heavy herd below. Needless to say, my family moos at me a lot. 

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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My son, Max, taming les toutous.

Harvest update: Youpie* -- Charles has arrived! After a quadruple bi-pass surgery in 2007, this is his third vendange* here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu where Charles doubles as investisseur! He just can't seem to get in enough back-breaking, knee-numbing grape-picking (and he can't get in enough greasy chips in either! Don't worry, Martha, I'll see if we can get our harvesting hands on some carrot sticks for your hubby!)

apprivoiser (ah-pree-vwa-zay) verb

    : to tame, correct, discipline... to make fit for domestic life

Verb conjugation: j'apprivoise, tu apprivoises, il apprivoise, nous apprivoisons, vous apprivoisez, ils apprivoisent  => past participle = apprivoisé

Audio File and Example Sentence: Download Wave file or Download MP3

On ne connaît que les choses qu'on apprivoise.
We know only the things that we tame.

        "Le Petit Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A Day in a French Life...

Kristin Espinasse

The Taming of Les Toutous*

The puppies are now three and a half weeks old and, as of two days ago, we have found families for them all. Because we are giving the golden retrievers away it was not too difficult to find homes for them. The challenging part, from here on out, will be to tame those toutous--or les apprivoiser. We have another four to five weeks to live in harmony... or in havoc... together.

As for the training of the pups, their future owners already have plans for them...


One of the six chiots* will become a French truffle expert, trained to snuff out the most fanciful fungi! Can you tell which one of the pups is already showing potential in this field? Sniff, sniff, sniff, renifle, renifle, renifle*...


A chicken farmer claimed the second puppy, which will, dorénavant,* be in charge of the two thousand chicks that were menaced, last year alone, by sixty-eight renards* (or was that one renard and 68 attentats*?).... (No worries: the new owner assures us that the pup will mostly be in charge of playing with the children on the farm.)


Two of the puppies will déménager* to Marseilles, from where their father hails.... We do not know what kind of specialists, if any, they will become. Shall we try to devine?: Fishmonger? Policier?* Or mascot for the Marseillais Ballet? Wait a minute -- opera! -- yes, this one (center stage, below) looks as if she were practicing already.


One of the pups will move to a neighboring town to be with a family of four whose own venerable Golden just passed...

...and one of the babes -- the only one who has been named so far -- will stay with us. Can you guess its name? Here are a few hints: the prenom* is in theme with its mother's name ("Braise") and I once knew an ours* by the same name....

That's got to be our pup, there, sliding off the side of the la botte de paille.* He's a little clumsy (it's in the genes: his grandmother failed pom-pom tryout, though his Great-Grandmother Jules was a champion cheerleader!)



It's time to thank my son, Max, for helping me with this photo shoot. He had his hands full trying to keep those puppies on board (or "on botte")!

...and was all-too relieved when Maman* returned to the fold.

Note: If you have recently signed on to this word journal, then you may have missed the story about how our dog escaped in the bustling city of Marseilles with her new fiancé (the father of those puppies). It is a three-part story that animal-lovers might appreciate. (Plus, see photos of the puppies father!)


~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~
= yay; la vendange = wine, grape harvest; le toutou (m) = doggie; le chiot (m) = puppy; renifle (renifler) = sniff (to sniff); dorénavant = from now on; le renard (m) = fox; un attentat (m) = attempt to harm; déménager = to move; le policier (femme policier) = policeman (policewoman); le prenom (m) = (first) name; un ours (m) = bear; la botte (f) de paille = bale of hay; maman (f) = ma, mom




  1.  The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
  2.  Exercises in French Phonics
  3. French Bingo (ages 3+)
  4. Lego Eiffel Tower model stands more than 3-1/2 feet tall


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