de guingois
une ficelle


I don't know why I want "straight" to always be the rule when, in fact, I often admire what is off-center. Read on, in today's story column.

Next meet-up: Phoenix, Arizona—December 26th. Download PHX flyer

règle (regl) noun, feminine
    : rule, ruler; rule (of conduct, grammar); (règles = menstruation)

Audio File: listen to today's word and hear Jean-Marc read a passage (that is: (a list of rules) from today's story  Download WAV or MP3

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

Somewhere in Provence, on a little crooked farm, beyond a few crooked walls... and a crooked Christmas tree... four off-kiltered kin sit 'round a table.

"We need to STRAIGHTEN UP around here!" one of the crooked ones says.

She pounds her fist on a crooked surface. The table is nicked, scratched, and sullied from enough errant knives and fourchettes that the surface looks, on second glance, like a wall of faded hieroglyphics. The only thing not carved into the wood are the amorous initials of the man and woman who call this place home.

"Home!" the woman points out. " a cozy respite from a crooked "outside". In here, there is order—or should be!" she announces, pulling an errant sock out of her bathrobe's pocket. "And just whose is this? And where does it belong?"

Three other members at the tilted table look into their bowls, trying to conceal crooked smiles, but the speaker can see their reflections on the steamy surface of their soup.

Out comes The Book. The title, written in long hand, reads:

"The Little Book of Simple Rules"

With a crooked, self-satisfied smile of her own, the woman straightens up in her chair and reads the subtitle (which is, simply, a reflection of the words above it):

"Le Petit Livre des Règles Fastoches"

"Can I read?!" the kids at the table ask and their excitement has the speaker thinking up a new rule or two (see rule numbers "Six" and "Seven," below...).

The older child begins to read the rules which are written down simply, if a bit crookedly—like chicken scratch (or like the scratches beneath their soup bowls, on the surface of the table). They state, in no uncertain terms, that WE SHALL:

Take off our shoes at the front door.

(Enlever nos chaussures à la porte d'entrée.)

Put on our slippers.

(Mettre nos pantoufles.)

Change the empty toilet paper roll.

(Changer le rouleau de papier toilette quand il est vide.)

Not lean back in our chair.

(Ne pas se balancer sur notre chaise.)

Not throw clothes on the floor.

(Ne pas jeter les habits par terre.)

Take turns.

(Chacun son tour.)

Not interrupt (the speaker).

(Ne pas couper la parole.)

Return borrowed objects.

(Rendre les objets empruntés.)

Not drink more than three cups of coffee per day.

(Ne pas boire plus de trois cafés par jour.)

With this last rule, the reader interrupts himself.
"Mom... how many cups of coffee have you had today?"
"No one follows these rules!" the woman complains, and the caffeine puts that much more "edge" into her response. With that, she sniffs, narrows her eyes and pulls from her other bathrobe pocket a cardboard cylinder. "Nobody ever changes the roll of toilet paper!" she laments.

The woman gets up from the table, walks across a room of crooked tiles, and pitches the empty roll of papier toilette into the fire. The cardboard goes up in flames, sending out a wave of warmth: a cozy respite from rigidity. She looks back at her family, listens as they laugh and share the events of the day. The "Book of Simple Rules" has been tossed aside, a safe distance from the soup splotches that now color the table with life lived.

"However crooked, we all seem to line up here each night, the woman decides, "around a square table. Maybe it's time to "join 'em," quit trying to control everything—except for the knife: this, in time to carve our amorous initials, encircled within a crooked heart, into the table's wobbling wooden surface.

*     *     *
Comments welcome. Be sure to read the comments--even if you aren't yet leaving any. My mom, Bill, Sandy, Christine, Pat, Marianne, (oh, it's never a good idea to start a list of names, for I always leave dear friends out, on accident!)--will be chatting in my absense (sp?) and sharing stories of their own!

French Vocabulary: la fourchette (f) = fork

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la règle d'or = the golden rule
les règles de route = rules of the road
les règles du jeu = rules of the game
mettre quelque chose en règle = to put something in order
se mettre en règle avec Dieu = to make things right with God
la règle de la maison = the rule of the house (establishment)
en règle générale... = as a general rule...
avoir ses règles = to have one's period (menstruation)

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics, bestseller by Francis W. Nachtman, on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly!

French Demystified: A Self - Teaching GuideFrench Word-A-Day: Summer 2009 Stories

I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany

Learn French In A Hurry: Grasp the Basics of Français Tout de Suite

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Bill in St. Paul

Hmm, I didn't get an email but I linked from Wednesday's post.

Anyway, great story, I think anybody who's lived in a family has had these "family meetings" where the head of the house wants certain things done without having to remind or ask anyone.

Here's a turn-about story, though. My wife ALWAYS gets up before I do. Many years back my wife asked that I make the bed when I get up - yeah, I could do that. I perfected my method of making the bed over the years until this year when my wife asked that I not make the bed anymore. "Why, what's the matter with the way I make the bed?" I asked. "You don't pull the top sheet all the way up (and a few other "mistakes" that I don't remember). Do you make the bed while you're in it in the dark?" "Well, of course, I flip the bedclothes on your side up, set the pillows up, get out of bed, set the bedspread over the pillows - it saves having to walk around the bed twice."

I don't know, maybe it's that man/woman difference. The bed looked made to me but my wife didn't like having to hunt for her side of the top sheet when she went to bed.

So in the little book of rules that I'm supposed to follow, I crossed off "make the bed".

OK, don't be shy, let's have some stories about "family rules".


Here, here...what a delightful and true story...I try to get order in everything and eventually chaos wins...out with it I say, my hands and arms are tired of moving things around so they line up properly. Having said that I think I need to print out this list and frame it and post in appropriate locations in the house.

It is warm here dear Jules and family, very beautiful and I have to laugh inside everytime I see someone bundled gets into the 40s at night and 60s during the day, at least for now.

Have a great Friday and weekend.... : )


So glad to have some Kristin to read today since I didn't get an e-mail either. I had just clicked on to see what was added to Wednesday and Thursday's conversation and quelle surprise!

In my household I'd be happy if at least ONE rule were followed. As the years have passed, however, expecting to have no order in the house has become much less nerve-wracking than expecting la règle de la maison to be followed. That doesn't mean I like it, but that attitude does make life more manageable. And I plan on outlasting the kids -- they will eventually move out completely and then I can be a happy camper who can quickly find the measuring spoons that someone now puts away in the dish cabinet or who will no longer find laundry baskets full of damp clothes because someone removed them from the dryer rather than wait another twenty minutes to dry his own clothes or, well, you get it.


We have all tried to get our families to make and follow simple little rules. My suggestion is just give up, no matter how well intentioned they are, the kids forget and you end up yelling at them, the husband forgets and you end up in a snit that he doesn't understand because he doesn't even remember talking about "rules". You can not win this one, ever!

It is wet and windy in the Tampabay area, and going to very cold for the weekend. It feels more like Christmas' of past.

Christine Jackson

Jules, where are you? I was hoping for another story along the lines of the last one.

Bill, that's a great story and so classic!

Still cold in Salt Lake City (35 F) Hoping for snow...

Christine Jackson

Kristin: I loved that you put the French Translation in this edition! Those colloquialisms are so tricky to learn unless you get them straight from the source - thanks!

Karen - Maryland, USA

Kristin, I love today's repost. I feel a tad off kilter today myself. I'm even having my 3nd cup of coffee and looking at the very off kilter Christmas tree that we hastily purchased last night. A Nor-easter snow storm was breathing down our collective well-scarved necks and the whole of our city was squeezing their previously planned weekend Christmas errands into whatever time they had left before the snowfall.

Coffee at my side, I am pondering how we can give this poor crooked tree a make-over and watching the snow continue to blow and fall upon the 8 inches that now covers the ground. Besides wondering about where to carve out (ahem) a "spot" for the dogs to use, I am happy that this has occurred on the weekend before Christmas to "mettre en règle avec Dieu". It will force us all to take some time to stop the mad rushing about on the crooked outside and just enjoy the season. I've just thought of a new Rule: We shall make a snowman with the snow displaced after clearing a spot for the dogs!

Time for cocoa in Towson, Maryland where the white-stuff continues to accumulate and the teenagers take their long winters nap before donning their snow gear. Oh - the mess that will follow...

Kristine, Dallas

Rules? I live by myself so the rules are whatever I decide they are that day! Now, when I was growing up~ that is a WHOLE 'nother post and 1/2!!!

Cool/cold (depending on one's definition) 37F here!

Evelyn Jackson

Hmm...rules, eh? When I had kids at home, we had a couple. Don't drink directly out of the milk container, don't put the ice cube trays back in the freezer EMPTY, please don't throw sweaty sport socks into the laundry all balled up. (oh, how I hated turning them out to wash!) Now that I live alone, I probably break all those rules! Which goes to show that rules really aren't all that important!
It's grey and icky in Iowa this morning, 20 degrees, some fog.

Candy Witt

Good morning! Kristin's post helped me remember an old song of the Kingston Trio (ah, I'm showing my age!) "There was a crooked man and he wore a crooked smile, he had a crooked sixpence and he walked a crooked mile. He had a crooked cat and he had a crooked mouse and they all lived together in a crooked little house . . . Uh oh, don't let the rain come down, uh oh, don't let the rain come down, uh oh, don't let the rain come down. The roof's got a hole in it and I might drown!" Anyone know what the heck that's supposed to mean? :) Anyway, I'm with Kristine and live alone so I just make up the rules as needed! When my son, Andy, was 14 and wanted to move into the basement, I taught him how to use the washer and dryer. My rule then was I would not try to figure out which of his clothes were clean or dirty out of the pile that was constantly on his floor. If he needed clean clothes that was his problem! I'm so glad he's coming to visit for Christmas! It's sunny and beautiful here in SW KS - very unusual for this time of year. Thanks, Bill, for your anecdote, and for everyone who shares their comments.. Always a pleasure to start my day with you. Yes, we need more stories from Jules!

Candy Witt

Maybe Oncle Jacques can figure out how to give us "puppy updates"! I miss the stories and photos of Smokey and Blaise! Dogs always have a way of "straightening out" our priorities. (How was that for fitting into the "crooked" theme of the day?)


Speaking of order: My husband always had his spice drawer alphabetized and I used to make fun of him. Well many years later when he met some old friends of mine they commented on how I used to alphabetize my spice drawer. I have never lived this down. He is very anal about things being in their place and I guess that in reality I am too, although I like to kid him about his anal retentiveness.
I guess that we are just 2 peas in a pod. You should see how organized our silverware drawer is and our cooking knives are all in their particular resting place.
But in my defense I must say that I am very abstract random in my thoughts. I am an artist.

Kristin, I like your description of your kitchen. I can just picture an old farm house and how quaint it is. That is what I love about France and especially Provence. If I were living there, I love to live in a farm house or small village house, with the french country table with marks on it and all. It is just a different way of life.

On another note, here in Connecticut, we are expecting 3 - 6 inches of snow between this afternoon and tomorrow morning. but it won't last until Christmas - rain is expected a few days later. Oh well, such is the New England weather.

jan greene

How wonderful to think of rules when they fall in face of Holiday. Nice to get our perspective as quiet of a huge snowfall is anticipated. Oh, for New England, Cape Cod weather.

Ken Boyd

Thank you for this wonderful Blog , ? Site ?
I really do look forward to it .
My French is improving at the rate of a word a month so
you need to keep writing perhaps another 66 years .
Did you visit my photo site including views of France ?

Thank you again Kristen
Ken , Napa Valley

Karen - Maryland, USA

Kathleen, your husband sounds very much like mine. When I met him the whole pantry was alphabetical. It worked for him to have Chicken Noodle soup filed under "C" and Mushroom Soup under "M". Of course, he rarely cooked so he couldn't then see how it makes more sense to put all items into categories instead. I am right, aren't I? Naturally I changed it when we married BUT he still can't understand it.

Kathleen & Jan - it's a comin' and it's a very heavy storm!

Marianne Rankin

My son actually does change the toilet paper roll, although he often expects me to put a new box of tissues out. Now that he is 18, he has to do his own laundry, etc.

I had never alphabetized my spices until a year or so ago. As I accumulated more, it was getting hard to find them, so finally I put them in ABC order, and it does help.

Karen in Towson, you and I are probably having the same weather. What was originally forecast as 6 inches or so is now supposed to accumulate to a couple of feet by tomorrow! It is falling faster than it can be shoveled off a walk or swept off a car. Where we live it's already at least a foot deep, and around 28 degrees F. Very Christmasy. We are essentially snowed in, so maybe this afternoon I'll make cookies, finish decorating, etc.

Enjoy the snow if you have any, and stay safe! I'm sure les Espinasse are enjoying Arizona weather.

Mary Rossi

Bonjour Kristin,

Someone sent this to me and since you are a "wordster" I thought you might enjoy this.
Blessings of the season, from Belle's mom, Mary

You think English is easy???
Read to the end . . . a new twist!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language!

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren't invented in England or French Fries in France.

Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why when the stars are out they are visible but when the lights are out they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this...

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP'.

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP! When is rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When is doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, is time to shut UP!

Oh . . . one more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night? U-P!

Angela George

As a photographer, I like "off center." I too like to make images of clothes hanging. I grew up across the river of a Canadian border town. When I crossed the river in a ferry boat to visit my Canadian relatives who lived in two story houses, I would watch the women reeling in the hanging laundry from their second story dwellings. As a child, I was always fascinated with this custom. Your photos of hanging clothes made me think about my early childhood. I travel a lot and find myself taking photos of hanging clothes in various parts of the world.
Ann Arbor MI

David de Garis

Hi Kristin from sunnry Sydney downunder. Watching all those stories of the snow and the extreme cold weather, Eurostar stuck in the tunnel etc.
Anyway that wasn't really the reason for this posting. It was to thanks you for all the great stories and pics that you have posted this past year. Especially the great snaps of Braise and Smokey and of course those cute puppies when they were like that. Both Nina and I followed all of that closely, being owners of a Golden ourselves, Ruby who is now a little older, sept ans! Have a great Christmas and New year with your family and give those puppies a pat from me and maybe a liver treat ... not sure if you have those freeze dried liver treats there but Ruby will do anything for them - she is so motivated by food. Seeya from Dave, Sydney, Australia


Salut Kristin,
et les regles pour Smokey et Blaisse? vous avez oublier! J'adore vos photos de vos chiens et je suis vraiment contente que Smokey et presque query! (sorry ages since I wrote in French so probably riddle with errors... but that's why I've subscribed to your newsletter) I know the pup will be spoilt rotten for Christmas...all the best Anca

Bill in St. Paul

It doesn't look like either the blog or the emails have been created. I saw where Friday's emails went out on Saturday, but so far today there's nothing.

Bill in St. Paul

If you didn't get an email today, here's the link to Monday, December21 blog:

Christine Jackson

Mary, that is GREAT!

Poppi Tims

Love the new book and am sending one also to my cousin in Australia, so you will be famous also 'Down Under!!'

I hope you and your family have a really great Christmas and nothing but the 'bestest' things in 2010!!

Thanks for your great company through the year and I look forward to meeting you in Paris at Shakespeare & Co.
Poppi x


22nd December...skies are blue,cicadas are singing which means it will be a perfect, hot summer day here... certainly not a day for rules!

Wishing you a wonderful birthday Kristin!


Welcome home to the desert, Kristin! It is always difficult when you love two places. I would love to spend summers in France, and winters in Arizona..that is the best! We would love to have you close at hand, but you would be homesick in no time...the puzzle is, where indeed is home? Where the heart is, of course. See you soon,
Hugs, Cerelle


Sharon, I am in the Tampa Bay area also!! Bonjour to you, my Florida friend!

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