Bonne et heureuse Année 2012!


The Christmas decorations are still up in the town of Grignan. Have you taken down your holiday decor? Click here to comment

le sang-froid

    : calm, equanimity, imperturbability

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc (I am told my husband has a beautiful voice! Don't miss it): Download MP3 or Wav file

Lors de situations conflictuelles, çela aide pas mal de garder son sang-froid!
During situations which involve conflict, it helps quite a bit to keep calm!

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

When Jean-Marc was inspired to clear out the cellier—on Christmas Eve—I did my best to contain my annoyance. Not to be unthankful, but couldn't he have chosen any other day of the year? A day, say, when our extended family wasn't about to arrive for Le Repas de Noël? After all, there were any other number of last-minute things to do besides emptying out the mudroom!

Ten years ago I would have manifested the strong opposition that I currently felt regarding my husband's absurd sense of timing. As manifestations go, it would have been a subtle one (I might have sulked), yet packed with menace (continue doing your own thing... and I'll fly back to America. You'll see!).

But such manifestations were for naught (my then boyfriend put a stop to the nonsense by buying me a one-way ticket home!)

We've come a long way, Chief Grape and I, though the first years of intercultural marriage were as shaky as the pile of junk that now lined the outside of our mudroom, nearly blocking the entrance where our guests were due to arrive in the next hour or so! To my amazement, the entryway was now cluttered with everything from a broken globe to a lonely lava lamp. 

I stood staring at the chaos. Instead of order and polish we now had dust and "demolish"...or so it looked from my blurry perspective. No matter how far I think I've advanced along the path of sagesse, I'm always astonished at how quickly I can lose my footing when I lose sight of the horizon in time to notice a weed along the way.

No use staring at the lava lamp and its dusty company. Remembering to "look up!" I experienced a radical change of perspective. What had appeared to be disorder... was beginning to look like order! I looked beyond the piles, past my husband, and into the cellar.... The shelves looked neat and tidy—and you could actually see the floor!

Motioning toward the stacks, Jean-Marc explained, "Jacques is going to help carry these things to the car". 

Bien sûr! My husband's timing was not so absurd after all. He had simply waited until his brother's visit (tonight, for Christmas Eve dinner), to haul off the junk. 

Once again I am reminded that what might not make sense to me, may very well be clear in the grand scheme of things. 


Le Coin Commentaires
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Read about that one-way ticket home in the introduction to Words in a French Life

French Vocabulary

le cellier = storeroom

le repas de Noël = Christmas dinner

la sagesse = wisdom

Both photos in today's edition were taken in the town of Grignan, where we had a lovely stroll and a bite to eat, on Friday, with friends Toni and Gary. (We ate at Le Poème de Grignan. It was delicious!) Can you recommend a restaurant in Provence? Click here to share it with us!

Capture plein écran 21122011 083440
The photo, left, was also taken in Grignan, during another sweet stroll with my aunt and uncle. The picture was snapped so quickly -- almost as an afterthought. Had I known it would be used for the book's cover, I might have swiped the neighbor's pot of geraniums, and placed it near the door! Just as it is (without anything "blossoming") we'll chalk it up, this flowerless "Blossoming" cover, to one more quirk of French life.

Meantime, I would like to take a moment to send out an enthusiastic appeal to anyone who has not yet purchased a copy of my book: 

Please support a self-published author--each time you do, you make the world a more creative place! 

Click here to buy a copy of my book. Merci beaucoup!



Further Reading:
Check our Larry Krakauer's blog, in which he writes about his visit to our vineyard. Click here. You'll even see a photo of my brother-in-law, Jacques, whom you read about in today's story.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Mary-Anne Helms

No not until Epiphany!!! When I was in Paris a few years ago around the 10th or so, lots of places still had theirs up and it was so cheery in the midst of miserable wet weather!! Bonne annee.....


I suppose the lesson is, wait and see - rather than jump to the most irritable conclusion! A good lesson to learn! Maybe one to think about in the new year!


I did right after New Year's for the first time in my life! Usually I leave them up until the 7th of January, after we celebrate Three Kigs Day, but this year I needed to claim my home back from the decorations. :)


That's for Twelfth Night...

:-) Gaye

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
We usually don't take our decorations down until after Jan. 6. I enjoyed Larry's blog!

jan Greene

Indeed a sage New Year's lesson. How easy it is to be impulsive and rash with our husbands, when more often it simply works out and we need not waste all the energy objecting! And, your beautiful book has arrived and I am in heaven with your words and stories! Thank you!

Ophelia in Nashville

What a great anecdote and piece of wisdom for the New Year. I can so relate to this story.

My husband believes it's bad luck to leave the decorations up past New Year's Day. This year it was a last-minute New Year's Eve scramble -- akin to your Christmas Eve cellier clean-up -- to get the tree down and dragged down the street for recycling and all the ornaments, lights, and nutcrackers packed away and up to the attic. But it certainly was nice not to do it alone. : )

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

Our decorations stay up until 12th Night and some (lights) a bit longer to chase away the winter gloom. I enjoyed your story about JM's seemingly bizarre timing. What sometimes seems absurd can make perfect sense as you point out.

I like the photo from Grignan which is a lovely village. Have you ever eaten outside the little cafe in the square with the statue of Mme de Sevigne? Portia and Margaret enjoyed hot cocoa and waffles while I had a wonderful pear tarte. They even supplied blankets against the late September chill. A wonderful memory.

Pat, Roanoke, Va

After 27 years of marriage, I too have learned to be less quick to chime in my hasty objections, irritations (B R E A T H E...!) toward my husband. These are lessons not easily, or quickly, learned. Sang-froid is such a great word, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing J-M's speaking ce matin. Always love to look up this stuff:

"presence of mind, composure," 1712, from Fr. sang froid, lit. "cool blood," from sang "blood" (from L. sanguis) + froid "cold," from L. frigidus)."

It is interesting, n' est-ce pas, how over time our hot-blooded tempers can cool through the efforts of learning patience, offering the benefit of the doubt, and sometimes-most difficult for me!-just keeping my mouth shut! I am reminded of all THE MANY "I will not..." sentences I was forced to write in school as punishment for my loud impulsive behavior. Life is not easy. But so worth it!

Enjoying your wonderful book with afternoon tea, a little each day; congratulations, Kristi!



Julie F in St. Louis, MO

"how quickly I can lose my footing when I lose sight of the horizon in time to notice a weed along the way" -- I certainly can relate to this. It's only now, in my 50's, that I'm finally catching myself at this and trying to reverse my usual reaction.

I usually don't begin de-decorating until Epiphany. We're out of town from a couple of days after Christmas until after New Years so I like to leave them up a bit to make up for the days I was gone and didn't get to enjoy them.

Pat, Roanoke, Va

Enjoyed Larry's blog, too. Holiday decorations came down January 1 as part of my recurring New Year's Quest to find order and simplify. Ever-questing for that state of being/living.

Linda H.

No, it's only the 11th day of Christmas today.


I guess timing is all relative--according to one's perspective. Happy New Year--decorations still up until the 6th of January: Epiphany! xoxo

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

la sagesse - hard to come by sometimes!

Bill in St. Paul

Since our tree is up and decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it comes down the day after Christmas - at least the decorations my wife is in charge of come down. The "decorations" that I'm in charge of (e.g., outside lights) will come down sometime, maybe soon.

Two great restaurants in Provence near Vaison la Romaine are La Girocedre in Puyméras (eat in the garden if the weather is nice) and Auberge d'Anaïs (towards St. Marcellin). The latter is in the middle of a vineyard and you can actually get the wine from the vineyard (I think it's all owned by the same family).


Perspective is one of the hardest things to maintain. A few days ago, in the midst of dealing with several moderate to potentially serious problems, we discovered that our telephone land line had gone out, and we are still waiting for AT&T, whose customer service brings to mind North Korea, to tell us when someone can come for the first look--this will be an "outdoor technician," who will study the line coming into our apartment building. If he finds nothing, we will have the privilege of paying $145 for an "indoor technician" to come to our apartment at a date to be determined.

This clearly qualifies as an annoyance, altho, thanks to cell phones and the Internet, we are hardly without means of communication. Nevertheless, I went a bit nuts and hurled invective at AT&T, telephones, unresponsive systems, and pretty much anything I could think of.

After a cup of tea and a cookie, I calmed down. But sometimes you lose it unreasonably. Best to accept that you're human and sometimes will do stupid things.

P.S. Still don't know when AT&T is coming. They--imagine that--didn't call yesterday as promised with an appointment.


We take our decorations down on the day of the Epiphany...January 6th. 12welve days after Christmas.

avril rustage-johnston

Kristin, renember its the twelve days of Christmas: December 25tg - January 6th. Decorations, especially the tree, are entitled to their full span :o)

Margaret Dennis


The thought of a lava lamp made the frustration worth it!

Margaret in very chilly Durham, NC

Karen Mitcham-Stoeckley

A very favorite restaurant of our is in the Var betweenLeLuc and Flassans-on-Issole, Hotel domaine du lac or Domaine du lac. Years ago when the mama owned it after her husband had passed away, we happened upon it in the early evening looking for a place to stay. What a joy. The next morning we sat on the patio overlooing the countryside in the fresh, warm,April sunshine and enjoyed breakfast service and numerous cups of perfect coffee. John began a watercolor of her window with bright red geramiums in profusion around the patio ( it hangs in our kitchen now) and I slipped into my book about the Var history. After a undeterminable amount of time we noticed the staff changing out the table linens. We were perfectly pleased with ours ; the staff insisted we receive new. What had happened was we had sat down for breakfast and now it was lunch time! The following meal was surpreme! In other visits to the Var we have taken our good friends the Woodards from Pennsylvania, where Ray commented he couldn't decide if the food or the waitress was the highlite for him.(God rest his soul) Then we took the Greene's from Missouri and I think Howard had a similiar comment. The meal, the wine selection and the service are excellent and the environment is stellar. The rooms are lovely for an overnight stay.


Our Christmas decorations is taken down usually the weekend after Epiphany, except my winter village; it stays a little longer!


We have those same kinds of cultural misunderstandings although our roots have fewer miles between them than do yours and Jean-Marc's. Our hometowns are only 150 miles apart, but his is north (think of lots of snow and ice skating) while mine is south (think of slushy snow, fried chicken, and honey-dripping accents).
Re Christmas decor: The outside decorations are down because there weren't many of them, but the inside ones are mostly still up. We usually wait until the weekend after New Year's to take them down.

Diane Young

It's takes a lifetime of marriage to acquire the sagesse. Bonne chance! Am beginning to take down few tiny decorations I have, but leaving Advent wreath on table until Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

Erin from Canada

Happy New Year Kristin to you and your family.

I really enjoyed todays story. I find that I am often quick to react to my husbands crazy ideas too. One of my New Years resolutions is to have more patience and I'll keep your story in mind when those moments come up!


With age, comes wisdom, patience and a deep appreciation for what really matters.... You're doing just fine!


I received my copy of Blossoming in Provence a few days ago. Besides being happy to have the beautiful book and to support Kristin, it was fun to see my name in the acknowledgements! I enjoyed participating by doing the odds and ends of editing that I did. I loved the feeling of a community project you gave us by offering us the opportunity to get involved. My decorations are still up, and I have no immediate plans to take them down. We travelled a bit to be with family, and then had a delayed family celebration with our daughters, one of whom travelled to France be with in-laws for Christmas, so I was still adding a few final decoratons on December 30. I hate taking everything down and putting it away!


January 7, after Epiphany. I am not religious, but find the Epiphany deadline just right for stretching things out a little longer. My cards are all down because one of my cats loves to shred them with her teeth. I think I'll sweep up some of the needles from my wreath today--they're all over the hall in my apt. building. Fortunately my super loves Christmas decorations, so he is forgiving.


after Jan. 1

Mary G

Christmas stuff is down and partially packed, just not put away yet. I like to get it over with as close to New Year's as possible. It's fun to put it all up, but it's refreshing to clear it all out again.

edith schmidt


I'm a pack rat and my husband is constantly throwing things away so maybe we balance each other.
I'm slowly putting away the last of the Christmas decorations. My sister gave me a book for Christmas that you might enjoy. It's called "Almost French" and is about an Australian journalist who moves to Paris to live with a Frenchman and her trials and triumphs.

Edie from Savannah

Katy George

hey gal, i got a bottle of jean marc's wine for my birthday!! gift from a friend from a friend here in taos, new mexico, whom i told about french word.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Happy New Year Kristin! I love your book, I am half way thru. Thank you for the mention----the book looks so beautfiul. It is a great read. You did a wonderful job.

Because of your influence, I am taking French classes at the Alliance Francaise in Portland, OR.

Merci Beaucoup!


Thanks for sharing that your book cover photo was taken in Grignan - beautiful! We stay in Chamaret (hence my email) 2k's away and love your new book! Wishing you and all joy in the New Year!

Bob McMullan, Ireland

Enjoying my French Word-a-day and through it constantly disovering new things about life in France..... Can recommend (a personal guide to good eating and drinking) for interesting restaurants and other foody stuff in the region....

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Heureuse Année, Kristin! I related to your story today! This is exactly something that my husband would do. And I admit I don't usually respond with sang-froid, but usually rather "What is he thinking!@#!" I will try to learn by your example next time. I just ordered two copies of your new book, one for me and one for my daughter-in-law. She is a francophile like me, and also works in the vineyards in Napa Valley, so will relate to your vineyard stories, as well. Can't wait to receive it!

Sandra Vann

Merci encore Kristin for sharing your story. Alors, la sagesse it seems is a process... a life long effort I believe, for all of us. Patience and gratitude, am hoping for more of each myself in 2012.
An elderly friend once reminded me that she made it to her 90's, as she was not a "worrier". Wise words indeed, yet sometimes challenging to follow I find.

I am happily leaving up our little tree and some interior decorations until Epiphany as well.

So enjoy all the comments from your readers and wonderful restaurant recommendations for our next visit to Provence!
Bet that mud room looks fab now. I think counting to 20 helps sometimes fyi!
Hugs and best to you and your family.

Vivian Langley

Not until after the Epihany. Vivian, Jan. 4, Lake Charles, LA

Ryszard Wajnert

In Poland Christmas decoration is traditionally kept until the 2nd of February(Marian feast day: Purification of the Virgin). Ryszard, Szczecin, Poland



Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Oh, Kristi, this story made me giggle! I appreciate your message and can so relate. Lest we jump to blame in haste…and precious moments go to waste. Thanks for sharing this gem of wisdom, humor and love!

Ps. Most of my Christmas decorations have been put away.

Kitty Wilson

Here in the often bleak weather of wintry Ontario, all our Xmas pretties will be stowed away this next weekend -- except for the colourfully-lit Tree. For many years I routinely left its cheery radiance set up till my birthday on March 1st, wouldyoubelieve! Driving over an hour's commute home each dark evening was tiring -- till the the tree's merry blessing welcomed me.

Retired now, I still cherish the prolonged presence of my shining tree. The days will lengthen again bit by bit, and the tree will tell me when it wants to sleep.

As for sang-froid amidst the mysteries of relationships, I seem to have more of that with old friends and less of it with new ones. THIS is something to ponder and to work on -- merci pour ceci!

*** Here's to a terrific, tender and triumphant Twenty-twelve for all! ***

Once again Kristi, you make me smile and laugh at my own obsession with dis-order. A simple tale, but so much truth and heart in the telling, makes it sublime. I have my copy of your new book and can't wait for a rainy day at the coast to bask in your stories. Wishing you, Jean-Marc and the family a healthy and adventurous 2012.
With love and friendship, Kim


LOL Spring cleaning can come at any time of year right? It sounds as though you did a wonderful job of not freaking out and it paid off in the end :)
I so love being across fence, which in this case is across the world, neighbors with you and your family.I so look forward to my visits with you and Jules :)
Can't wait to see what is in store for all of us in this wonderful new year!








Anne Winner Anderson

What is marriage but a slow coming to understand the other and to adjust expectations accordingly? (Once, ten minutes before we were to leave for the airport for an internat'l flight, Lang took the opportunity to decide to shut off the underground sprinklers....)
Please don't take down the decorations before Ephiphany, and if you want to wait until after Christmastide, even better!
Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee!

Lori Di Betta

My son put his first Christmas tree up Christmas before last, and never did get around to taking it down! When asked about it, he said he liked how homey it made his apartment!

I am married to un francais, aussi, and it does make for some cross cultural misunderstandings! Thanks for the reminder to always look up, to "fix my eyes on things above." Bonne Annee!


But literally "cold blood"?

nadine goodban

Bonjour Vicky from SF area. I am also from there (here). Can we please connect? [email protected] Merci,


It's only the 11th day of Christmas! Our decorations go up shortly before Christmas and stay up until at least Epiphany - and sometimes a good bit longer.

Beverley Stewart

Epiphany is the 12th Day of Christmas - or "Little Christmas" as it is often called (it is the day when some celebrate Christmas/the Coming of the Magi) so . . cant't really take the decorations down until Christmas is over - we usually take them down the night of the 6th or the day of the 7th.


Ilove this story and its wisedom. Avec de la patience, on arrive a tout.

BTW, My book arrived and I read it for dessert every evening.


Barbara Penn

At our house we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas and the decorations don't come down until the octave of Epiphany. The old tradition is that any important religious festival was celebrated for eight days (hence the "octave"). So our decorations come down on or about Jan. 14. The nativity scene is the most important decoration of all; we made it in 1968 in the old Irish style where the stable is a cave. It has three levels of grass, boulders (stones), and handmade bushes & trees, store-bought figures of people & animals. Over the years we've added different animals: a large, shaggy dog to guard the Christ Child, owls, a mouse, puppy and kitten, a piglet, chicken, goose, the usual animals mentioned in the French "Carol of the Animals, of course, but the mother donkey has a baby donkey. All of the people & animals are looking at the baby, a shepherd brings a lamb on his shoulder, & an old man offers eggs held in his hat. The kings approach closer & closer as Jan 6 draws near. In so. Calif. where we live there is a very strong Hispanic tradition of nativity scenes and some are so large that they fill up one side of the living room. If you like, I will e-mail a photo of our nativity scene. sent a message that your book is on its way. It's my Christmas present to myself. Where are you in the "standings" now?

Karen Whitcome (Towson, MD. USA)

Sometimes I feel like we all lead very similar lives - as unique as we may think we are.

My sisters and I have compared many hysterical notes on the chores our husbands choose to do right before guests are due to arrive. They range from gutter cleaning to my favorite, which is myhusbands cjoice to repaint the baseboards in the main foyer. (there went the welcoming aroma of my apple pie!) What can you do but say Vive la difference! To them there is no time like the present!

I think you should carry around a box of your books to neighboring towns like Grignan, sign them and ask if they'd carry them. I was searching for "Blossoming" in the photo and didn't see it. I suspect you have more English readers than French but I always search for English books when I visit the many sidewalk bookshelves in France.

Our tree is up but undecorated (except for the lights) for the Feast of Kings.

Jennifer in OR

Loved the comments today, and how fun to see another great author in the box today, Cara Black. ;-) I've given her mystery books as gifts to my sister who loves that genre, and for myself who doesn't love mysteries so much, but French things.

Kristi, I have no idea why, but you were in my dream last night. The short of it was that I was your assistant as you prepared for a photo-shoot, and I saved the day by offering you my lipstick, of which you had none! And I advised you to redo your hair, which at the time was up in two lopsided ponytails. Dreams are so bizarrre! There's more, but I won't go into all the crazy details, but what a fun time we had.

Have a glorious new year!


Salut Kristin: De retour du Texas, ton livre était là, au seuil de ma porte. Je l'ai donc tout de suite dévoré le soir mème. Comme toujours, tes petites histoires m'amusent. Car très souvent, je me trouve devant de telles situations. Tu sais bien décrire tout ce qui se passe, tout ce que tu vois et tout ce que tu sens. Et ça me plaît énormement de te lire. Je suis ta fidèle lectrice. :-) Again, I can relate to today's story. I see my husband doing something like JM. He is always so cool- tempered tandis que moi, je ne peux pas garder mon sang-froid. He will tell me to take it easy, then he will hum the tune "When things go wrong, let's sing a song...sing c'est la vie...". And like JM, he has a plan to work things out. :-)
I enjoyed reading Larry's blog.


I just received an email from Amazon. Blossoming In Provence is en route. I can't wait.


Great anecdote Kristin! I felt like I was in your mudroom visualizing the scene as it was taking place ;-) Just ordered two books of "Blossoming" and I'm look forward to reading it.


Yes the trees are still up in Walton on Thames and the wise men are getting further and further along the piano on way to the crib where they arrive on Epiphany.Tomorrow.
I hope to spend a Christmas in our little house in the Lot sometime soon so will have to learn all about Christmas in France
Thank you for a year of lovely e mails which I really enjoy(not sure my French is any better Must try harder!)
Happy new year

Pat, Roanoke, Va

Arthur, oui! Cold blood...see above. Cool, calm, collected....


Kristin: Yes, I am dying to buy and read your book...but am waiting to see if maybe, just maybe, I might win a copy over at Provence Post! Have to check when Julie is doing the drawing. Either way, I will read it very very soon.
Bonne Annee to all of you!

Katie Dyer

Favorite restaurants in Provence? Pas de problème!

In Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, try Café Fleur. The manager is a wonderful man, Christophe Pinaud, and we have had delicious lunches there.

In Paradou, not too far from St. Remy-de-Provence, there is a wonderful restaurant, La Petite France, Owners Jean-Baptiste Gérard and chef Nathalie Feurer have created a peaceful space with an excellent menu.

In Goult, La Terrasse is very nice. We lunched outside on Christmas Eve day, and the tagliatelle with cèpes was wonderful.

In Gordes, the restaurant at Hotel Les Bories is wonderful, but expensive. Chef Pascal has a Michelin star.

Mike Hardcastle

Hi Kristen,
A Happy New Year to you C.G. Les Enfants and all your readers .
I had a Haitian Revaillon and two days later went into hospital (my choice) for a shoulder reconstruct.. I'm told that all will be well in 2/3 months.
In September we were on holiday in Provence and had a memorable meal at 'Les 2 Garçons'. It's not a 'fine' restaurant but the atmosphere is wonterful and it provides excellent value for mony and has done so sine the 1980s or earlier. The very Parisien waiters are great fun . You must know it of course.
Best wishes,


Mike Hardcastle

Forgot to say 'Les 2 Garçons' is in Aix en Provence, sorry,


the last word -



Mike Hardcastle

Sorry, when I wrote 1980's I meant of course 1890's.

They've let me out of hospital (re-education unit, of limb that is not brain) for the weekend so I'm back on mt MacBook for a couple of days.

Best wishes,


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