French word for "goal" or "aim" and thoughts about writing
la question mille francs + French words "le délire", "le plumeau", "la poubelle" and cleaning out my writing den

"Une petiote" is a synonym for "little girl" in French + childhood story

Meet-up: Jean Marc will be in LA soon... & elsewhere in the States...

une petiote (peh tee oht)

    : little girl, lass

un petiot (peh tee oh)

    : little boy, lad

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

Don't you just wonder who lives behind these fascinating French façades? The characters that cohabit, the personnages who putter derrière la porte? I want to know each and every one, and yet....

Ever since I was a child I have asked "qui habite là?" And so I spent a lot of time knocking on doors. If someone was out in their yard, I'd wander up and wait with hopeful eyes until I got invited over to the other side of the property line. If I didn't get invited in, then I might return minutes later with a handful of just-picked desert flowers. How could the neighbors refuse?

I wish this favorite passe-temps had never left me; regrettably—as a social conscious scaredy-cat—I've lost that free spirit, the one that used to drift, dreamy-eyed, from one door to the next. Toc, toc! Anybody home?! Oh, the people I would meet!

As a child I was outside and discovering just soon as I rose from my bed. I could not wait to tie on my roller skates and glide around the neighborhood looking for a new friend. Our trailer park was populated with characters of all ages. And where there's character, there's atmosphere! I was curious to know what everyone else's insides looked like—the inside of their trailer, even the inside of their refrigerator.... I knocked on a lot of aluminum-sided front doors and eventually got invited in for cookies, ice cream, and a chat. I'm not sure what I had to offer in the way of conversation, but the neighbors didn't seem to mind my company.

I loved listening to the exotic foreigner who ended her sentences with "eh?" I was told she came from a country way up north... and I wondered whether she'd ever crossed paths with Santa Claus, eh? I picked desert wildflowers for her and hooked her up with my mom. The two became fast friends.

Three doors down from mine, a man wore a jupe and played funny pipes. I'd never seen him wear a skirt but my friend Donna said that people like that did. I was fascinated. I played the clarinet and wore bell-bottoms which were boring in comparison.

Over in the cul-de-sac, a man, whom everyone called "Father," and his wafer-thin daughter, took me to church. She was so skinny, which was odd given the kind of service they took me to. (I had never before seen people snack at church and I couldn't wait for my turn for "crackers" and "juice" from a fancy goblet. Turns out you only got one of those crackers (and only one sip of the "juice") but the fact was, we were eating and drinking in church!)

The characters whom I encountered in my childhood... from the Canadian to the kilt-wearing bagpipe player to the Catholic priest... continue to impress me and I know that those magical times can be relived. Such experiences are no farther than the next French door. All I have to do is summon that fearless fille inside of me, and head out to the village, with its characters and their mysteries.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Help encourage others in this community to participate by sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Don't worry about your words—just jump in and say hello. Tell us which town you live in. You might even share your age, if you so fancy (and that's as fancy as we get here :-)


French Vocabulary & Sound File...

Download WAV or Download MP3

la façade = front wall of building, home
le personnage = character
derrière la porte = behind the door
qui habite là? = who lives there?
la porte = door
le passe-temps = pastime
toc toc = knock knock
la jupe = skirt
la fille = girl


And a tug beneath her ear lets her know Smokey's near...

Words in a French Life Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. —Booklist


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Oh to be so carefree, curious and trusting again. Think I'll go for a bike ride and see what's out there. The sun's just up and it's beautiful here in Bridgehampton.

paris (im)perfect

I love this story, Kristin! It would be wonderful to feel free enough to find out who lives behind each facade! As writers, we get to do that in some ways. Curiosity + imagination! I can just picture you as a little girl, flowers in hand, wanting to talk to everyone. Beautiful!

jan greene

I'll begin this day with a renewed curiosity for all that is 'inside'. It will require some fearlessness! Fortunately, it is nearly to be 50 today on Cape Cod; easier to be outside noticing Spring gradually approaching.Jan


Kristen: I was a tomboy, yet remember loving that I was a girl. We had what seemed to me a forest as a child right behind our house, oh the adventures. No one could get us back in the house once we were set free.

I can just imagine what you were like & the explorations you went on daily. I still love the outdoors and still want to 'splore'. You help us do that btw, with your postings. Thanks for bringing back some simple and simply great memories Kristen. ps - hoping our Smokey isn't misbehavin'.

Evelyn Jackson

I guess we can't go back to those carefree, innocent, safe days, but we can retain that adventurous spirit! Also congratulations on your column at Bonjour Paris! I loved the blog entry about doing what you love; a good reminder for me right now.

Shannon, Alexandria, Virginia

Good morning from Alexandria, Virginia, Kristin!!

I loved your post today; it gave me courage to continue reaching out to make a connection with people I pass by, especially my neighbors!

Also, since you mentioned the inside of refrigerators, I instantly thought of this photo project I found a couple of years ago and thought that you would love it.

Have a beautiful weekend!

P.S. J'ai 26 ans. :)

Bill in St. Paul

Great story, Kristin, but I wonder if you were a child today going door-to-door what kind of reception you'd get. As a kid we roamed free without being overprogrammed. We had 54 kids in the block that I grew up on and we could always get some game worked up, but I don't see that happening with today's children. Maybe in small towns it still happens, but I don't see it in the "big" city.

Smokey is almost as big as his mother and looking so healthy - way to go Nurse K.


Shannon: I enjoyed the "refrigerator personalities" :-) We'll have to do something like this with our community. Let's see, refrigerators have been done, "view from my window" has been done... what might be fun?

Bill in St. Paul, "without being overprogrammed" that's so true!

Thanks for these responses and wishing everyone a carefree weekend!


The world of the trailer park (how long did you live in that environment?) seems to have given you a unique experience and an incredible opportunity to meet colourful characters. 'Drifting from door to door' inside that community seemed quite natural and exciting for you in those days. That way of life, governed by your 'free-spirit', made you very curious - no room for shyness in that ideal world.

There you are, revisiting childhood where every door was open to this fearless little girl. In your safe and pleasant world, nobody and nothing could or would have harmed you. Nothing seemed to be out of place, there were flowers around, colourful characters of all ages ... and you ..., eager to pick up flowers, to knock at peoples' door saying 'hello may I come in?' and be invited in, quite 'naturally'- and 'safely'.

Far away in time and space from that childhood... and filled with the vision of those easy, free and happy days, I feel all the joy of a magical escape from a different reality - a joy with "un je ne sais quoi" of nostalgia.

Herm Meyer

Salut Kristin,

Thanks for sharing your youthful experiences of "reaching out" with us.

The world has changed, but many of us are still reaching out to new people via email. Also, there is a world of new adventures and learning experiences on the internet. What a wonderful opportunity.

You're still doing a great job of reaching out! Keep of the good work.

À bientôt



I was just the opposite - being very shy as a child and outgoing now. I wonder what changed you? My good friend, Anne, changed me when I was 14. She came from a family of 10 children and she was in the middle. If you had to say something you better not be shy at that household!

Kristine, Dallas

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News. It can be done, one just has to have that joie de vive! Enjoy, from Dallas where it is going to be 73 today and tomorrow it might snow! :)


Talking about physically knocking at people's door to meet new people, I've been thinking that if I did just that, now, (mmm, no longer une petiote!) people would be wondering whether I am
- a door-to-door seller
- or a well trained Jehovah's witness...
- or a woman whose car has broken down and badly needs immediate help...
- or somebody knocking at their door for the only purpose of asking their signature for a petition
- or a member of a political party who wants my vote for the coming elections...

When I first arrived where I'm living now, the best way of meeting 'new people' was via my young children and theirs, via school and sport centre. I also met very interesting people via a nice chat with customers at our nearest farm shop (never at a supermarket!) or via a very friendly -and inquisitive- chat with people I met at my local garden centre (such a wonderful place!)... chat that ended up with a drink at the cafeteria, and them inviting me or me inviting them for a cup of coffee or tea on the following day - at a time when children were at school. "De fil en aiguille" (= one thing leading to another), we would get on chatting, exchanging tips or ideas, and in some cases, meeting again...

drizzling all morning - wrapped up in sea mist - and now -> wet, grey, - grey, wet - and getting more and more wet...


Hi Kristin,
Great story! I wish we could all be that care free! I noticed "La Girelle" above the door. I looked it up and found "rainbow wrasse" a type of fish.
It's beautiful, sunny and 70 degrees here in Charlottesville, VA

Kristin Espinasse

Kristine, great article, thanks for sharing! Eileen, happy to learn the translation for Girelle (rainbow

Keep the lovely comments and expression (merci Newforest!) coming, we dont have to quit learning just because schools out and the weekend is here :-)


I, too, was a child who would knock on neighbor's doors to introduce myself. I remain to this day a person who easily starts up conversations with total strangers. They are people like me so what do I have to fear? If they don't engage in the dialogue, so be it. At least I made an effort to reach out and create a friendly environment. Try it next time you're in line at the grocery store. See what a simple, "how are you today?" can do to transform your day and the day of another human being.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Like Jeanne, I was the opposite of you, Kristin. But happily my sister Margaret was not. Because of her we befriended a woman in Laguna Beach one summer while vacationing and were allowed to play in her daughter's magical play house. Her daughter had grown up and left home. I will always remember that summer.

And speaking of characters, an elderly woman lived two doors down from us in Monrovia, CA. During our many visits to Mrs. Fuller (Haidee) we learned how to play solitaire, served her tea from her tea cart, looked through her scrapbook of photos and clippings of Cecil B. DeMille (Haidee appeared in one of his silent movies). And her brother invented the precursor to Technicolor ... Perrywinkle Color. Her maiden name was Perry.

She would let Margaret dust and arrange her antiques. When my mother expressed concern that she might break one, Mrs. Fuller responded, "Oh Mrs. Dennis. Better a broken antique than a broken heart." I will never forget her and her kindness to us.

Kristin Espinasse

What a treasure Mrs Fuller was. Thanks for sharing her with us, Suzanne.

joie  carmel,ca

I seriously considered applying for a census taking job this year. I have always wanted to meet the people and see inside that "la porte fermee".

Kristin Espinasse

P.S., Newforest, I lived there from the age of 2 to 14.

Annette Heath

It's a beautiful warm day in Norfolk, Virginia. I live right by the Layfayette River. My daughter Shannon was here for one night and two half days (not nearly enough) to bring me a precious little shelter dog. His name is Buzzy and he's perfectly behaved, lovable, and will enrich my life enormously. He's a mixture of Jack Russell and who knows what else. He is so cute. I'll ask Shannon to send a picture of him.
My condo is so quiet now that she is gone and I miss her. It's a bit sad when our children are no longer petiotes et petios.
My Kate will return home from grad school in Paris soon - March 31st!!! Merci Kristin for yet another beautiful door en France.


My father owned a rooming house down the street from us in San Antonio, Texas. In the rear of the house lived the most exotic woman I had ever seen. She was elderly and though it was the 1950's, she still dressed in Victorian garb. She piled and powdered her gray hair and adored it with jeweled clips. She always wore black - long dresses with much ornamentation and walked with a cane. She was obviously once a wealthy woman now in reduced circumstances. Once, when visiting with my mother, Mrs. Fernandez asked if we would like to see her husband's Spanish-American war uniform. She opened one of her many trunks and showed us the uniform, still in perfect condition, and a photo of him standing straight as the soldier he was. But, my fascination was with the beautiful dolls on her antique bed. They had been hers as a child so they had to be more than 80 years old making them date from the 1870's. Lace hung everywhere and the apartment was overstuffed, Victorian style, with pillows, paintings, furniture and memories. When Mrs. Fernandez died, her sister came from Mexico, my mother told me, and threw everything away including the dolls which I so loved. I was heartbroken and wished that I had told her that I would always care for them and treasure them as she had. I see her now, dressed as a wealthy Victorian lady in mourning, bejeweled and erect with her fancy cane. I was too young to ask her about her life and now I wish I had walked down the street, sat on one of her footstools and asked her to tell me the story of her life.


I happy to see your blog is still going! I use to follow it in college as I was a French major-Great site, i really love it!


Kristin Espinasse

That was lovely! Thanks, Annette. I wish you had those dolls for the
sentimental value that they had for you, in memory of Mrs. Fernandez! On second thought, you have kept the best souvenirs -- those that do not collect dust and can be passed on, intact, via the verbal tradition :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Auvan! Im feeling like a blogger-dinosaure and your note makes my day. So glad you are back (dont forget to sign up!) Loved my visit to your

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

When I first moved to Phoenix in 1985 not knowing anyone, I went
around to my neighbors to introduce myself. Some were taken aback by this and others welcomed me with open arms. I still have some of those friends, some have passed on and some never did get to know me. Sunny and 78 here in the Valley of the Sun.


Kristin: At your dinner the other night, did she make a cous cous dinner (lamb or chicken, chickpeas, etc. over couscous?) We lived in N.Africa for 5 years while my husband was building a oil refinery and we ate a lot of couscous. I still make it here when I can get the proper spices and harissa sauce. Jean from Shreveport, Louisiana

Betty Bailey

J'aimerais voir du photos de votre enfance, Kristin!

Gary Brand

Living in Canada and still not being able to properly converse in French has me going around the bend - I so love the culture, food and the "style" that France exudes for me. Shame on me for not immersing myself. I need a French girl friend but my wife keeps objecting.

lou bogue

As a faithful follower of you and the family, I too live in a trailer park, in Dunedin, Fla, a quint lille village and our trailer park inhabitants are 70% canadians and they are very much like your youth, very friendly and quizzacal," I would not use the word "nosy", when they found out thru the" eternal grapevine", that I had a HOT_TUB, they just had to see, thankfully they did not ask to see my frige!I am trying to learn French and have joined a local French group, that meet once a month for a French dinner, I introduced your book and many have read it and are planning to visit you this summer and I will be there in Sept. for the harvest. Keep up your good work. Best to you and yours, Lou

Prashansa Taneja

Bonjour Mme. Epinasse!

Je suis étudiante et j'habite à Delhi, la ville capitale de l'Inde. Je lis régulièrement votre blog et j'en suis accro! Pourriez-vous m'aider? Comment traduit-on la phrase 'Don't waste your time!' en français? Est-ce on utilise le verbe 'gaspiller' ou 'perdre'?

J'attends avec impatience votre réponse!

Votre admiratrice,

P.S- J'ai 16 ans ('fancy', n'est-ce pas? ;) )


I often think that if I had a coffee every day with one of my French neighbours I would improve my French very quickly. I am encouraged by your post to wander around the village looking for a friendly face to try to chat to...


Hi Prashansa,
C'est le week-end et je pense que Mme Espinasse est très occupée. Si vous attendez une réponse "avec impatience", et si vous n'avez pas de dictionnaire, la réponse à votre question est ci-dessous.
(je vous réponds en français, parce que vous avez posé la question en français)

a) "Ne perdez pas votre temps" est utilisé dans le contexte suivant:
Si votre temps est limité pour faire un travail donné, "Ne perdez pas votre temps" = Calculez bien votre temps pour faire votre travail, commencez-le tout de suite. Ne vous attardez pas sur les détails qui prennent trop de temps,... sinon,... vous accumulerez du retard et votre travail ne sera pas terminé en temps voulu (au jour prévu / à l'heure prévue)

b) "Ne gaspillez pas votre temps" est utilisé dans le contexte suivant:
Le temps est précieux, donc, "Ne gaspillez pas votre temps" = Ne passez pas votre temps à ne rien faire. Ne passez pas votre temps à vous amuser ou à faire des choses sans intérêt, sans valeur. Utilisez votre temps au maximum.
Le verbe "gaspiller" s'applique aussi à la nourriture et à l'argent.

Il faut d'abord considérer le contexte avant de choisir a) ou b). Dans certains cas, a) et b) ont presque le même sens et les 2 formes sont équivalentes. A vous de juger.

Note: Si votre connaissance de l'anglais est bonne, vous pouvez utiliser des dictionnaires en ligne comme 'Wordreference' par ex.

Bonne continuation et bon week-end!


(Childhood - Frontdoor - Chat - etc...)
Hi Kristin,

Nowadays, people's front doors are not as accessible as they used to be in your childhood, so to go and meet the owner, to have a chat and make a new friend isn't as simple as it used to be in those days. Having said that, you can't deny the fact that the Internet is giving you a very helpful hand to virtually knock, 3 times a week, on hundreds and hundreds of doors and to present your 'FWAD' newsletters to anyone interested... Thanks to the Internet, you are virtually 'invited in' and so, 3 times a week, you come and share your own life in Provence, your family life, events, encounters (the list of 'characters' you've come across is getting longer...), your picturesque surrounding..., making us smile, making us think... On the top of that, you provided a “Coin commentaires” to respond, discuss, express our opinion, ask for some help...

Every Saturday, here you come again, via 'Cinéma Vérité', to the ones among us who followed the instructions and first opened their door to you. Nowadays, your bunch of 'just-picked desert flowers' has become a splendid bunch of inspiring photos, delivered once a week on our own doorstep... and lasting seven days before the 'flowers' are replaced with a new bunch of photos.

So, I would rather think the favourite pastime of your childhood hasn't completely left you. Since that time, you have been developing your talents and your environment has changed a great deal. However, I'd believe your natural tendencies are still there but they have grown, they have taken new dimensions... and they are still growing ('branching out' said Karen the other day).

In your childhood, your trailer park was 'populated with characters of all ages', so 'characters' were there all around you, easy to discover, to meet and talk to, quite safely! Nowadays, I'm wondering whether your sketching talent transform any ordinary person into 'a character' by intensifying or isolating some prominent features - or whether you see “un personnage” in most of the people you meet and talk to (?)

Patty Beynet

I have adored your last 3 posts. So heartwarming and thought provoking. I also enjoyed the photos of the frigos! But the freezer with the huge snake inside almost did me in! Patty B

joie  carmel,ca

WOW....I could actually read and understand what Newforest wrote to the Indian student. Now, if only I could speak and compose my sentences. Somewhere I missed something....who is Newforest? A person very accomplished in French if not a French person...that much I assume.
No beach weather today in Carmel, but the garage sales were great this morning.

Kristin Espinasse

Bonjour Prashansa, thank you for your enthusiasm and for the question. And merci beaucoup to Newforest for the answer (I would have had a difficult time giving such a helpful response. Merci encore and wishing all a nice weekend... back to the kitchen now, where a dear friend is waiting. Daurade (on a bed of sliced potatoes, tomatoes, onions and lemon) in the oven, time to set the table....


Kristin, have a wonderful weekend as well! It has beautiful here, but I have been stuck at work. Hopefully it will continue to be nice into the week when I'm off.

I too was shy as a child, but as an adult I overcame the shyness. I have met some very interesting people in my life, and I think it has made me a better person for it. Everyone does have a story to tell. Plus when you think you may be a little on the weird side, it is nice to know, other people feel the same way about things.

Take care and goodnight,



Kristin, such a magical post... I can just picture you discovering les personnages of the village... I wish I could do that here, but this is England and it takes approximately 15 years to really have a conversation with anyone ;)

Candy in SW KS

I have been gone all weekend - I'm in Houston visiting my cousin, Cindy, and this is the first chance I've had to read the Friday blog and "coin commentaire". I have loved reading everyone's comments. How special it is to be a part of something so positive and loving and all-accepting. Kristin, we have you to thank for this. Oh, how I wish I were the friend in your kitchen awaiting your daurade! I, too, enjoyed Newforest's explanation "en francais". Merci!

Jennifer in OR

I LOVED this post; it brought back many special memories of my own childhood exploring and meeting neighbors and knocking on doors. I was a child like that. Not as much so now, but that trait will never leave me, much to my husband's chagrin, as I embarrass him constantly by talking to total strangers. Ah, he's getting used to it!

One of my dearest friends here in Central Oregon I met in line at the grocery store. I heard her distinct French accent as she spoke in English to the cashier, and I just couldn't let her get away! I was a few people behind her, but managed to give her my phone number and begged her to call me - I was and still am so fascinated with French! She did call, and the rest is history. :-)


You are what psychologists call a "high connector." And you haven't lost your
curiosity, frendliness and trust in the goodness of the world. What a wonderful

Did you ever dream you would be the patrona of this big vineyard with this great
family living in two countries at the same time? La vie est belle.

I just went through my first bottle of Rouge Bleu and it was great. I wish you would post a wine conversation so when I am in France, I can say that I want a rouge, not too acidic, without the tannic aftertaste, and give us the wine lingo so I can order with a bit of aplomb. Right now I can only say, pas trop acide, but I need to say light, fruity, not deep like a chianti , etc. So then I won't sound like a hick* from Maryland. What's the French word for that*?

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