This is not a chouia but a cabanon in the French woods (c) Kristin Espinasse
Cabanon in Les Arcs-sur-Argens

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.un chouia (or chouïa) (shooy-arrh) noun, masculine

    : "un petit peu," a smidgen

[Chouïa is an Arabic word; we hear it often here, in the South of France.]

Audio File: Listen to my mother-in-law pronounce today's French word.
Un chouia. Un petit chouia. Download Wav or Download MP3

"Bravo, bravo 'ma cocotte'!" My belle-mère cheered, after our recording session. I had showed her my blog and explained the various columns: the "word of the day," the story, the quote.... "Bravo, bravo, 'ma cocotte'," she approved. All those bravos... well, I suppose I'll forgive her for calling me "chicky".

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

(Note: The following story was written two years ago.)

"Just a smidgen," my mother-in-law says, pushing her plate forward with a little more enthusiasm than her French words would let on. "Un chouia," she insists as I dig into the pan, portioning off the cake in a range of slice sizes. Next, like a metal detector, I let the spatula hover over the cake until I sense my belle-mère's resistance melt like scrap gold. "Ça ira," that'll do, she says, indicating her choice—the largest slice: like mother-in-law, like daughter-in-law. I lift it out of the pan, keeping every crumb intact.

It is 2 p.m. on Christmas day and we are still stuffed from the réveillon. But there's always room for chocolate cake and, this time, my mother-in-law's has candied orange peel inside. (She's peeled the oranges before stringing the skins, hanging them to dry over her living-room radiator.)

I didn't know about the candied oranges—which just goes to show how my mother-in-law is always holding back an ingredient (chippie that she is) just to throw us off.

"So your chocolate cake calls for orange peel?" Aunt Marie-Claire ("Michou") inquires, as we huddle around the desserts. My belle-mère remains vague as Aunt Michou fishes for instructions and is, in the end, left to wonder about how to rig orange peels over her own Parisian radiator.

Meanwhile, I wonder about how I'm going to pry the Provençal "Pompe à L'Huile" Olive Oil Cake recipe out of Aunt Michou.... But before I can make any progress, she tells me it took her THREE years to coax the recipe out of Cousin Sabine.

Our recipe hunting reminds me of the demise of my belle-mère's oranges. If we aren't careful, we'll be strung just like those pathetic peels—only Cousin Sabine doesn't have a dainty radiator—but a walk-in Provençal fire pit, hooks and all!

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More about my belle-mère, French cousins and aunts in my book, Words in a French Life ...and you'll find the recipe for my mother-in-law's chocolate cake (sans oranges) in this book.

French Vocabulary

un chouia (m) = a smidgen; le réveillon (m) = Christmas Eve Dinner; une chippie (f) = little devil; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

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A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Braise & Smokey

(Braise and Smokey are perusing the family photo album...)

"Just look at how you and your sisters wore me out, Smokey!"
"Hey," Smokey says, "isn't that Sugar doing the splits?"
"Smokey, are you listening to me? I said 'look how exhausted I was."
"Cool, she could do the splits while eating lunch!.. or was she sleeping? Wow, she could do the splits while sleeping!"


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TRESOR by Lancome "possesses a blend of lilac and apricot, with lower notes with amber and musk."

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Marika Ujvari

Hi Kristin,

Whose place is that in the opening photo? It is lovely!


Diane Scott

Yes,I agree Marika, it is indeed lovely! A perfect hide-a-way to restore one's soul! I would love to replicate it in my backyard, but for now, I must escape to it only in my imagination :-)


Yes, a definite dream hideaway (for rental?)... so long as you have the chocolate cake to go with!!:) Ironically enough, I made this very gateau last night, but must say it doesn't work out so well when you cut the recipe in half. Chocolate cake is always edible, of course, lopsided or not.

Diane Scott

This conversation sounds vaguely familiar. I would bet were we to look back to this post, we or some like ourselves, made these very same wishful remarks. Our longings never change -- they just get "longer."

Shannon, Alexandria, VA

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, Kristin. Here's to a remarkable New Decade, 2010! Cheers!


Bonjour, Je m'appelle Daniel, Et je suis un élève de français. J'aime bien des exercices de francais que tu envoyes.
J'adore la langue! Cette une très belle langue mais très fort pour quelqu'un qui parle l'anglais. Mais mon francais va mieux.
Bonne journée et remerci!
~~***Bonne année!!!!~~***

Bill in St. Paul

"Our longings get longer" - oh, how true!

Happy New Year, everyone!


Mmarianne Esposito's Ciao Italia website has a Chocolate Olive Oil Cake recipe. It is the one of my family and friends favorites. So yummy and moist it doesn't need frosting. The comment made by everyone is "It is chocolate, but has olive oil not butter or shortening in it so we can have seconds and thirds".

Jeanine Hubert

Ma cocotte : one endearing word more like my sweety. I find it strange that I did not see the name of your mother-in-law...I hope that you have better relation with the mother of your husband (and grandmother of your children)that I sense in your blog (even if it's 2 years old....). My mother-in-law died a few years ago and I miss her still : remember life is short....

Loretta LaCoy

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Kristin from Atlanta, Georgia

I look forward to your "Once-a-Day French lesson". Thank you for doing this.

Larry Krakauer

Thanks, Kristin, that word is new for me.

There seem to be a lot of words for "a little bit". An interesting one in English is "skosh" (with a long "o"). It comes from the Japanese "sukoshi", in which the "u" and the "i" are both pronounced very briefly. It was brought back from Japan by soldiers after the war.


Marika, The cabanon is located high in the garrigue (scrubland) above the village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens

Jeanine, my belle-mere's name is Michele-France. She continually delights me with her sense of humor and way with words. I am lucky to have her for my mother-in-law and, lest I forget this, my own mom reminds me--often

Larry, thanks for "skosh" -- it's a fun word indeed!

Bonne annee to all -- may 2010 be joy-filled and, like skosh, a lot of fun, too!

Christine Jackson

Daniel (or anyone else who knows): I see that you are typing French accents on a presumably American Computer. I asked a French friend of mine who lives here and even she doesn't know how to type the accents. Can you tell me how you do that?

Merci Beaucoup from a sunny and snowy Salt Lake City where it is currently 34 degrees.



Beautiful little hamlet -- calling the 'dreamer' by name to come forth and enter -- even if in only our imagination.

Bonne annee to all -- may 2010 be even a better year for you - your family and friends and business to thrive-- Oh one cannot forget the sweet dog(s) too.

Love your blog!
The Dowser's Daughter

Marika Ujvari

HELP!!! Can't get to the chocolate cake recipe. There is a glitch in the link. Can someone copy it for me please?


Kansas City 4 degrees F. Sooo cold.

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