How to say "life vest" in French: bouée de sauvetage

poix (pitch) + Night blindness while driving

golden retrievers christmas tree franceBonne Fetes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Braise, Smokey, and family wish you bonne fêtes... "many happy returns"! If Smokey looks a little pained in this picture, it is the photographer that is troubling him: why, he wonders, is her cross-eyed face contorting like that? Wouldn't "Cheese!" or "Ouistiti!" be just as effective in getting us to smile? How she troubles herself!

 poix (pwah) noun, feminine

    : pitch

noir comme poix = pitch black, "black as pitch"
poix sèche = resin
poix liquide = tar
tenir comme poix = to stick like tar
avoir de la poix aux doigts = to have sticky fingers (said of a thief, pickpocket, or clepto) 

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

Night Blindness, or "Moonblink"

Last night I stood stoveside, emptying into our biggest pan two packages of chicken thighs. Normally I am careful to discard all of the fatty peau before roasting. Not this time. 

"Don't you think that will be enough?" Jean-Marc questioned.
"Une douzaine?" Max seconded. 

"I'm hungry!" came the hasty reply. Given all those chicken thighs it seemed I was hungry for life.

I had just been out driving after dark: a quick aller-retour to pick up my daughter from a neighboring village. The pitch-black sky, noir comme poix, was pouring out rain and my windshield wiper was flapping after the rubber blade had broken. I could barely see the road beyond... the headlights were so faint that I wondered whether I had mistaken the lumière for moonshine? 

Testing this theory, I switched off the phares... then switched them on again. Off... then on again... Still, only a breath of brightness.

Next, I put on the high beams... only to wonder: were they, too, in need of replacing?

There are no street lights out in the deep French countryside, where the stars and the moon must oblige. Out walking at night one's eyes eventually stabilize, but a pilot's vision must follow different retinal rules.

"Why has everybody suddenly decided to take this road tonight!" I complain to my daughter, of the half dozen cars we had just passed.
"For the same reason you have..." Jackie points out and there's no arguing there. Besides, I can hardly hear my girl... so loud is the fan whose job it is to free the fog from the window. Though the glass has been cleared, I don't dare turn off the defogger... lest our breath creep back onto the glass, further blurring my range of vision!

I am traveling at a snail's pace, focusing on the faded white line to the right of the road. It is my guide. I don't dare look straight on, or be blinded by the oncoming headlights!

Grumbling and swearing I swerve back to the middle of the road after leaving too much leeway for the oncoming traffic. I don't want to end up in the gutter again. The ditch to our right is hidden in the dark, but I know it is there having traveled this road enough to "navigate it in the dark," so to speak; presently I am speechless at such a blind assumption. 

Each time a car begins to tailgate, blinding me from the back, I pull over, letting the impatient one pass. But on the long narrow stretches, there is no way to let these cars doubler, given the ditch that runs parallel.

It is so hard to see on this pouring pitch-black night! I begin to scold myself for not scheduling an eye exam. Surely it is my glasses--the prescription is prehistoric by now! As for the windshield wipers, I have no excuse. Why didn't I have them changed on a sunny day? Because on a sunny day I must have been busy sunning my cares away! 

Finally, we are almost home and the brightness of a main road lightens things, not the least of which our heartstrings. Just when I breathe out a sigh of relief my heart seizes up again as I become aware of an "overtaker". The angry van jerks past us, but not before its passenger extends a bare arm out of the window... in time to shake a fist. Next, the fist opens and its forefinger circles seethingly in the air.

"Ha! T'as vu ça?!" Did'ya see that? Jackie questions.

"He thinks I am crazy," I explain to my daughter, who is already busy planning a retaliation.

"Laisse tomber," I tell her. He'll be humbled one day... when a little weakening of the eyes and a few more decades gone by... will do away with so much misplaced pride.

French Vocabulary
la peau = skin

une douzaine = a dozen

un aller-retour = round trip

noir comme poix = black as pitch, pitch black

la lumière = light

le phare = headlight

doubler = to pass

laisse tomber = let it go, don't bother with it

Time now to get ready for Christmas dinner, or le gros souper de Noël! Though we won't be having the famous Treize Desserts there'll be plenty of pastries and clementines... Bon appétit! (pictured: our multi-purpose earthenware tagine. Find one for yourself, in the shopping section below)

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Jens from Copenhagen

Bonnes Fêtes à toi aussi ainsi qu'à ta petite famille et une Bonne Année 2010.

A la prochaine année.

Linda R.

Joyeux Noël - thank you for all your delightful and insightful stories, sharing your family life and introductions to the wonderful world of French. Bonne Année à toi.

Joan Delise

Merci,merci! Thankyou Kristin for allowing me to share in your wonderful French life. I have so enjoyed reading your blog this year and learning about your life in the French countryside!
Bonnes Fetes et Bonne Annee!! Joan D Massachusetts

Eileen deCamp

Joyeux Noël Kristin!

Amber, Peoria IL

So sorry I missed your birthday....I started to read that day and was distracted, I'm sure by the words "Mommmmmmyyyyyyy" coming from some corner of my house! So, a belated bonne anniversaire! Also, Joyeux Noel!
By the way, the Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter is lovely!
Also, absoluety LOVED the picture of Max and Jackie from just a few years ago...adorable! My how fast children grow and change!

My best to you and yours. Please tell Jean Marc we've been enjoying Rouge-bleu Dentelle and Mistral this holiday season.


Paul Heffron

Merry Christmas, Kristin, and to your lovely


Judy Bell

Glad you and Jackie made it home safely and soundly. Love your dogs, though Smokey does look a little worried. Brez has to be one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen -- obviously intelligent and has "heart." Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you Kristin, and your beautiful family!

Jules Greer

Merry Christmas Kristi - I can see in my mind's eye all of the excitement in your kitchen right now -


Joyeux Noël to you & yours, Kristin. I've meant to email you to say, but I will here, that I read a very nice article in the WPost Travel section last week in which, ta da, there was Jean-Marc escorting the author around Marseille. I was a few days late in reading it & it was such a nice surprise.



louis bogue

Merry Chrismas and Happy New Year to you and the family, my heart is there with you every day, much Bonne chance, Love Lou

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut tout le monde,

Un Noël joyeux et bénie à tous !

If I had to put captions on the Golden’s photo . . . Braise would have a bubble over her head saying, “The things I have to do for room and board around here! What’s this woman going to think of next?” Smokey thoughts would be, “This photography thing’s getting out of hand, I have limits you know!”

Albert Einstein had some profound thoughts. One concerned darkness. . . . He said, “There is no such thing as darkness! What we call darkness is just the absence of light.”
He also said, “There is no such thing as silence! What we call silence is just the absence of noise.”

Moonshine for moonlight? Good one, Kristin, especially when you’re driving. The mountain folks will love that one.

À bientôt

Audrey Wilson

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année a toi et ta famille
I enjoy your site & learn a lot of new phrases, if I can manage to remember them in conversations that is !!
I look forward to your site in 2011
Meilleurs voeux


Merry Christmas Chère Kristin and belated birthday wishes. Maybe I sent them already? The holidays put my mind (what's left of it) in such a whirl, with notes everywhere reminding me of tasks yet to be performed, i.e. picking up 2 quarts of oysters today for our beloved oyster stew. I was supposed to that yesterday!
So if I didn't send them I will pronto...Happy Happy Birthday and best wishes for the year to come.
Je t'embrasse très forte.

Julie F

Joyeux Noêl et Bonnes Fêtes à tous. Now I'm off to finish cooking for the festivities myself and to make one more run to the supermarché before the Midwest snow blankets us.

Ken Boyd

Love your posting today Kristin .
The little rimes and Moonshine instead of Moonlight .
And for god sake, get a better car ! I want you around for a long while .
Napa Valley


Chere Kristin,

Ta photo avec les Clemintines, et la earthware tagine sont tres sympa. La composition est tres belle. Bravo!

Je te souhaite ainsi qu'a ceux qui vous sont chers, un tres bon Noel et tous mes meilleurs voeux pour 2011~

San Jose, CA

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Merry, Merry Christmas Kristin to you and your family. xoxo

Bill Facker

It's an old phrase, but true .. Peace on Earth .. This is my wish for all of us. And, bless all the creative souls around the planet .. those who bring joy and wonder to the masses through their vision and connectivity. Kristin, you fall into that category - Mahalo Nui Loa for your contribution to the Higher Selves of your readers. All the best in 2011! Aloha, Bill Facker


Joyeux Noel Kristin and family. Blessing and Peace this Christmas Day.


When I saw the title I was wondering why you would write about peas. Oops! Must keep reading FWAD and learning more words.
May your family have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.

Jean(ne)  Pierre in MN

Merry Christmas Kristin to you and all the family from my little snowy corner of Minnesota. Our creche of Santons from Aix is set up in the bookcase this year; do you make one? Our oldest are from 1966!
thanks for sharing your corner of my beloved Provence--bonne annee a tous!


Do they have Rain-X in France? It works wonders and it really works. You hardly need your wipers at all, even in the worst rain. When other cars have pulled over, we are sailing along. You apply it, then wipe it off. It works for weeks. You know when to reapply it again. Rain beads right off the windshield.

Love the pictures of your doggies.

Merry Christmas!

Voie de Vie

Joyeux Noël Kristin, Jean-Marc et tout votre famille.

Just keep going for the joy, and the dogs will always go along for the ride. :)


Merry Christmas!!! Thank goodness you made it home--all is well.
Thank you for all of your wonderful posts and adventures over the past year. Mary


Joyeux Noël to the Espinasses.
I think that Braise and Smokey got into the stockings and ate everything that they could find and then were caught wearing the stockings to keep their feet warm.
Driving at night in the raining is driving me crazy especially where there aren't any lines on the roads. I know how you feel.


Adorable - Golden retrievers are of a breed tres speciale. Joyeux joyeux to you and your family, Kristen!

Diane Dainis

Merry Christmas to you and your family Kristin. Have a wonderful day and welcome in the New Year soon with a glass of wine for us
Diane, George and Alex Dainis


Joyeuses fêtes à toi aussi chère Voisine :)

Jules Greer


Last night John dressed up in his beautiful white linen shirt with some kind of vague pattern intertwined within the slacks...alagator (sp?) shoes and ordered me to come out of my cave.
He left a sack at the end of my bed with a lucious wine colored turtleneck and grey cashmere walking shorts (with black belt).
Time to get out of my cozy (melencoly sp?) bed. When I walked into the living room all the candles were lit (at least 20 scattered around) and the fragerance of John's special dinner wrapped itself around me.

John said, "This is the beginning of a new chapter in our life. After dinner we are going to promanade around the Marina, and from now on we are going to continue this special ritual (sp?) every evening. We are blessed."

Now the morning has arrived. Channel 74 (we get Los Angeles, Calif. here in Mexico) is playing beautiful Christmas music and they have their camera focused on a real Christmas yule log that is actually burning down minute by minute....this is so cool.

John is doing his normal day - preparing to walk over to the grocery store and pick up last minute items for his turkey dinner. I am happy, I know my girls Heidi and Kristi are safe and blessed - what more could I ever dream of.





Braise and Smokey are probably thinking, "I thought there were supposed to be presents in these stockings...?"

They're adorable--Merry Chrismas to you all!

Fred Caswell

You have given each of your readers another gift to treasure -- another insight into you, an honest sharing of your essence, a loving mother who protects her daughter with wisdom shown by her actions and advice, a talented writer courageously baring her humanity.

Once more, thank you, Dear Kristy! Peace


Haha...look at all your puppies with their stockings on! What a funny wonder Braise is looking a little pained!
Merry belated Christmas to you all and hope the rain stops for a little sunshine...I'll send some of ours your way ;-)


PS Merry Christmas and the best new year to you too Jules! Lovely to hear your "voice" again!

Susan Carter

Love the picture of Braise & Smokey and the look on Smokey's face is absolutely shouting "How does this woman always manage to find a new way to humiliate me?". Had the same experience driving home in the rain last night as I couldn't see the lane lines on the 405 freeway as people were flying by me at 70 mph, but my glasses are only a few months old.

gail bingenheimer

Mon mari et moi souhait vous et les gamins Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

mary Paulson

I have a few experiences similar to yours ,
driving up here in the Northwest, Oregon to be exact. You have certainly kept me smiling more this year Kristin. Thanks for all the good , healthy laughs early in the morning! you are the first person I read.
Merci !

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