en retard


The garden hose, The Tongue, and many other things to try and hide (or tuck back inside...) before tomorrow's guests arrive! Meantime, the wallflowers—les giroflées (f)—look welcoming. Well, that's a start!

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programmer (pro-grah-may)

    : to schedule, to plan; to program

programmer à l'avance = to schedule in advance

Example Sentence: (sorry, no time for a sound file. Our resident Francophone is busy patching up holes. Read on, in today's story)

Une visite chez nous, c'est possible--et c'est à programmer. A visit to our place is possible--and is something to schedule.

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

This Ain't 'A Good Year'--or Chateau Chic, for that matter!

It didn't hit me right away, you know, les conséquences. For the moment I was operating by inspiration, and Inspiration cheered: "Vas-y! Invite everyone!"

So I did. On Friday I posted an announcement, an open invitation to readers... to visit us at our family vineyard!

It wasn't an open invite in the modern sense of the term:

open invitation (noun): something that seems to give people a reason or excuse for doing something wrong or illegal

Oh gosh, no—not that kind of invitation....

Nor was the "open invitation" meant in the traditional sense:

open invitation (noun): an invitation to do something at any time

NO, NO, NO--NOT "at any time"! Yikes, what a cirque à trois pistes that would be! My mind began to play out the following scenario: a knock on the front door at any old time of day... a jovial group of francophiles standing on our front porch... "Is this where the wine tasting is at?"

Oh no! Not here... or not now anyway! That is, not without an appointment and not until things are more or less in order....

Order? I look outside to judge the current state of our chez nous: the picnic table is broken, a mismash patash of chairs strewn round it. La piscine, the one which visitors must walk past to get to our front door, it is shot too (finally emptied of its murky waters... it is now the dilapidated pool liner that stands out)! Jean-Marc has been busy patching up all the holes, with some sort of mysterious pool glue. Well, it's a step up from the duct tape that he usually uses!

I looked past the piscine to all the flower pots which are scattered across the front porch (in desperate need of sweeping, only no time now! Hopefully Max can balayer, when he comes home from school tonight...). The flower pots are empty (the lauriers a rotten brown from this year's freeze)... and several are cracked or chipped.

Oh yes, bienvenue chez nous! Step right up and take a ticket. What would you like to see next? In ring number three there's a lop-sided trampoline... just past the clothesline, which needs re-wiring—lest the pants we hang there continue to play footsie with the grass just below. Tickle, tickle, tickle!

Ignoring the pants and the pots, I notice that the garden is coming to life... only, in the form of weeds which are busy filling in all those cracks along our front patio! I begin tugging out the mauvaises herbes... only the weeds tug right back at me! Perhaps I should begin somewhere else? Mais... par où commencer?

Where to begin? Not with the lawn! I look over to the bumpy pelouse where great patches of barren earth reveal the occasional trou: Smokey's and Braise's latest digs! I think about our guests, who might like to walk out to the edge of the "lawn", where a lovely picture might be taken. Again, my mind's eye draws up an alarming scene... ending in twisted ankles... or sticky shoes.

Sticky shoes! Forget the cracks in the wall, the holes, and the flowerless pots—I need a super scooper! 

Then there's the driveway, which would be fine (Max pruned the entire row of lavender. Good job, Max!) except for my car, which looks as though a dust-devil had passed through it. No time to wash the car... perhaps our guests will think it isn't mine? I can always pretend it's Jean-Marc's! ...then again the only other car in the driveway is as dusty as mine.

"Don't worry about a couple of holes in the garden or the cracks or the dust," Jean-Marc says. This isn't a corporate vineyard!" He is right, it's just Jean-Marc and I here, looking after things. The kids help when they can and the dogs do their best to undo the rest!

But you are welcome, chez nous, dear reader, family, and friends. Just be sure to call or email first (give us fair warning)... and maybe watch your step—especially if you plan to join us on the trampoline! After a few glasses of wine, we may be able to talk you into that....

Comments Corner

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French Vocabulary

une conséquence = consequence

vas-y = go ahead

le cirque à trois pistes = three-ring circus

chez nous = our place

la piscine = pool

balayer = to sweep

le laurier-rose = oleander

bienvenue chez nous = welcome to our life

la mauvaise herbe = weed

mais, par ou commencer? = but where to begin



For his birthday, I made him a cake (it tasted much better than it looks...), and offered him another puzzle (no kittens, this time). It was nothing like the gifts he gave me for one of my birthdays, but the intention was the same.

Couldn't find a birthday candle...


Thanks for your suggestions on which photo software to use. I'm still having fun with Picasa. They offer many tricky ways to hide imperfections... the downside is that, with all the smoke and mirrors, people may not recognize you in real life! The tools I used for this picture are "Années 60" + "Polaroid". Here's hoping tomorrow's guests recognize us.... Better stick to the previous photo! 


  Photo (1)

 I used Picasa's "Cinémascope" for this snapshot of Katie Dyer and Chief Grape. Whoops! It kinda chopped off the Chief's locks. Photo by Fran Rorie taken during Jean-Marc's USA wine tour. Sadly, Katie's dogs (golden retrievers) couldn't attend the meet-up. Here are their names:

Nigel (Advent Meteor Flag of England, CGC, TDI)
Smudge (Advent Conflagration, CGC, TDI), Diva Golden Rethieva
Aslan (Advent Lion, Rich & Wardrobe, CGC, TDI), the Loon Ranger
Windsor (Int CH Lazyriver Repeat Performance, CGC, TDI)
Lizzie (Advent City Lights, CGC) the Lady Elizabeth
And, Katie notes:
"waiting for us... Gordon (Sunshine Hill Gordon, CGC, TDIA) 9/15/1995 - 4/9/2007"
Katie ends all her emails this way: A couch is a terrible thing to waste; have a bunch of Golden Retrievers


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Bill in St. Paul

Kristin, I wouldn't worry about getting everything cleaned up, we come to see you and Jean-Marc and to get a taste of J-M's wonderful wine. We'd love to visit again this Spring but we'll be visiting Normandy and the cathedrals around Amiens. Depending on how our daughter and new grandson (due in July) are doing, we may try for Provence in the Fall.


Kristin, I laughed heartily at your description of chez vous! Talk about preparing everyone for the worst!! I'm sure you could talk your fans into helping you form a working-bee and getting your ranch shipshape. They'd all rather have your stories than forfeit them for a picture- perfect keep on writing! The photos are beautiful, thank you - you are such a photogenic lot! Someone should make a movie with you all playing your own roles!!


As a long time reader, I always said I would visit Rouge-Bleu if I were ever in that locale, and when our vacation plans included a wine tour of the Cote de Rhone, I begged our tour leader that RougeBleu be included for its authenticity as well as excellent wine (just look at the Wine Spectator 90+ reviews, everybody) If I wanted manicured perfection, I'd go to Mondavi. Having the opportunity to meet the vintner in his domain, however humble, and talk about his philosophy of viniculture while tasting the result of his hard work is the experience I am looking for, and I know I won't be disappointed when my group visits in May. Don't worry about the clothesline or chipped pots; that's not the reason we are coming chez vous, and I promise we won't even notice.

Katie Dyer

Bonjour, Kristin! What a surprise this morning to read today's post with bleary eyes, thinking, that your house sounds just like mine, and then seeing the photo of me with Jean Marc!

I actually hired a scooping service last month, with 5, I simply can't keep up. (Just sing to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas." Five Golden Re-trievers!

Martine NYC

My mother was a nervous hostess when she was young and one afternoon before she had some people over for dinner, she looked around the house and decided that everything looked pretty good. The only thing she really needed to do before guests arrived was wallpaper the bathroom. So she started and of course was right in the middle when everyone arrived. Now "Don't wallpaper the bathroom" is our code for "don't try to be perfect when you're having people over." Easier said than done, but a good note to self.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

We're not looking for the manicured perfection of those giant companies. Brad and I love stopping at the places that are really an extension of the vinter's home. Don't do more than you have to (or would love to). Just get out your pooper scooper and buy a few new pots of already blooming flowers. I'm sure more than one of your guests (raises hand) would love to help get your garden in shape while husbands are talking wine. I think "don't wallpaper the bathroom" is a pretty good philosophy for house cleaning before company.


Hello Kristin, I laughed when I started to read this post. Just yesterday I was looking at our yard and having the same feelings, and wondering what the neighbors must think, "HIllbillies!". It will all get done, just one thing at a time, one thing at a time.

Karen Whitcome - (from windy & chilly Towson, Md)

You've really given me a chuckle today. After seeing all of the comments in response to your "invitational" post, I was left with the feeling that you had opened a can of worms! You probably feel like you spoke before thinking it through. Well, even if you did, that's part of why you are so loved. You are led by heart more than head (and you have a wonderful head)and that's what we love about you.

I love, LOVE the opening pastoral photo! And the family looks wonderful and happy. What could be better?

Don't worry. A stressed hostess is worse than a broken picnic table. Here's a quote for you:

"I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.... I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby." ~Nancie J. Carmody

Eileen deCamp, Charlottesville, VA

Bonjour Kristin!
I don't think visitors will notice all the imperfections that you see. They will see a beautiful vineyard, mountains and lovely hosts. Don't worry! Happy Spring!



I once again awoke this morning anticipating today's post...after reading your invitation on Friday I wondered how you were going to dig yourself out of this latest personal challenge. I know by now all of your fans realize that I too, your MOM, keep up with what is really going on in your life through your precious blog. There is no doubt in my mind that after the last seven grueling months of health challenges that you have learned the art of embracing all new events that are placed in your path....and I must say that this step up to open your heart and mind to one of your greatest fears (people invading your personal and private life) has more than proved to me that you are determined to GROW AND GROW, AND BLOOM AND BLOOM, as you. Yes you have endured all of the past harvests and wine tastings and guests - - - but today you have shown me that you have taken that one step that is the most important, you are no longer going to endure, you are running your life full blown in a daily race of joy and excited anticipation - your OPEN HEART has finally freed you from the pain that enduring can shadow your life with.




Pat, Roanoke, VA

One of the especially nice things about living in the 6th decade of life is the freedom from over- worrying about the way things might look to others. As far as I can tell, most people are not concerned with how things look so much as they are in enjoying the moment with others. That said, when I know people are coming, it jerks me out of my disordered complacency and gives me new eyes to see where I have been letting things slide. In your case, I tend to think there are only so many hours in a day and you have a platter full! It just can't all get done all of the time. I hope the reassurances you are receiving today will take some of the pressure off the way you feel.

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Your house sounds like my house. It is proof that we are living Life.


Ne t'en fais pas. C'est pas la perfection qu'on cherche chez toi, juste un verre et un peu de conversation sous les arbres. If I wanted perfection, I'd go to Versailles.

If you've been overwhelmed by the response and feel the need to back off a bit, we'll all understand that, too. You've got rather a full plate.

Sally Smyth

My dear Kristin.... You describe my jardin to a tee.... the hoses, extraterrestrial varieties and sizes of weeds, the need for poop patrol (I have three little dogs), broken flower pots with last year's dried up tulips spilling out on to the patio which needs a good leaf blow.... But hey, it's SPRINGTIME..renewal, rebirth, seize the moment and listen to the chirping of all of those birds and sit back and breathe.
We all love you...

Alyssa Ross Eppich

I just wanted to write, Kristin, and tell you how much I love the picture of Smokey running in colors. The sunlight is the same shade as his beautiful coat and the orange flowers in the picture echo all of that.Finally, the green, green grass accentuates the Golden Prince running over it. Thanks for a lovely picture!

Alyssa Ross Eppich

And I should have said that this pic appears on your most recent post which I received this morning, lol!


Kristen, dear, you are generous beyond belief! I have always thought that it would be such a wonderful treat to meet you, Jean-Marc, the children and the dogs, so I am printing out this "Open "Invitation", and putting it my "French Dreams"folder as one of the nicest possible things we could do in Provence! But Oh! Could we puleeeze come when Jules is there?????

Steve & Maxine

Hi Kristin,
Now you've done it! I have to explain to my co-workers why I am sitting here laughing at my computer. Maybe you should have started with a warning: "Caution, this blog has been known to cause spontaneous laughter!"


Oh Martine I laughed when I read your comment! You're talking about me in earlier days. Kristin I admire you so. To be able to write as you do, attend to such a beautiful family, take outstanding photos and then entertain your ever-evolving legion of fans takes brains, love, abundant talent and energy. Tu es formidable! Tant pis, not worrying about my up coming book club...the house is clean enough and the weeds will be pulled eventually. Back to reading and la joie de vivre. Gros Bisou!

Christine Webb-Curtis


You truly touched a cord with lots of us readers. Me, too. Like you, I spend much of my productive time writing. And the rest be damned. My other time is spent cooking for the stream of sons and their femmes who come for comfort and sustenance. And who cares? If I spent my meagre money to hire someone to clean the house and tend the yard and garden (including the doggie poop), I wouldn't be able to spend time in France--and that's where my interest lies. France and my laptop--this year, finally, for three months. I'm all set. And you're all set, too.

With affection and admiration,

Chris Webb-Curtis

gail bingenheimer

Every year I have my carpeting (moquette_ professionally cleaned and paint my walls and ceilings. My father did this every year when I was growing up and I'm the only one in my family that still does it. It is alot of work, but it sure does look good after doing it.

Judi Boeye Miller

I'm not having a thousand visitors but I am trying to simplify my life- cupboards and sheds of" stuff" -quilt fabric galore, stamping materials, yarn, shrinky-dink stuff- you name the craft and I probably have the materials, or so my husband says (& he's right). My first thought when I read your message this morning was MAIS, OU COMMENCER!!!! 45 yearsof stuff that needs to be weeded out- your yard has nothing on my stuff! But, I do know the pressure to start somewhere. Like all your readers have said, it's you & Chief G & the wine making that they are coming to see- not the 'wallpaper'!! I just hope some day we will get our France trip together and be able to plan a visit to meet you all in person!

mhwebb in NM, USA

I just loved Jeri's comment, "If I wanted perfection, I'd go to Versailles." Versailles is perfect because no living human lives there. All of the things that you described about your home, Kristin, are signs of life! Living imperfection is better than dead perfection - any day!

Stan York

Hi Kristen,

Although I marveled at your open invitation to have visitors, I never assumed some might think it could be ok to visit without planning. I will be in Provence in July for a week's worth of photography and was wondering what the grapes look like then. Could it be worth a visit and tour to capture those images? With a specific invitation, of course.

Many thanks for the timely and entertaining posts.


Everyone should have a cheerleader in their life like Jules! All of the commenters are correct, visitors are there to visit with you and your family at your home.
I remember one time fussing before guests came. All was nice. The guests came and just sat down in the living room. In comes my standard poodle pup...she'd found some of my underwear in the laundry basket and was proudly prancing about. Poodles must be retrievers too!

Claudine perney

Bonjour Kristin! I just discovered your blog, this is my first experience reading a blog and what a treat it is for your readers to discover the French language and Provence through your beautiful, fun and heartwarming writing and your gorgeous pictures. I Left France to marry an American...many years ago,( we met a la fac a Aix! )Now I live in South Carolina and was wondering if your husband, Jean Marc had a distributor in Columbia, SC. I will definitely tell my sister who lives near you ( in Pierrelatte) to go and buy some of your wines. I spend my summers in my family home near Cheval Blanc and will look for the dates when I can visit your winery. Bonne journee Claudine.

Matilda Cosgrove

Dear Kristin-The invitation to visit for wine tasting came at the right time as we will be in your area May 8th and 9th;however, my husband couldn't fit in a visit to your vendage,with our busy travel itinerary, so we will be waving hi and bye as we drive by.Seriously,If anyone shows up without an invite,hand them a tool or apron and point to all the little tasks that are worrying you.Put up a sign out at the mailbox which states Help Wanted,bring your own tools and lunch ,payment in memories.We plan to drink your wine at the wine shop in Aix and are elated with the anticipation of returning to France and to Provence.Stop worrying,as it emptys today of it beauty.-Matilda at Superstition Mt.

Karen from Phoenix

I always wonder why we feel the need to make sure everything is so perfect when guests arrive. I say "no more". Have fun enjoy the company and live the beautiful life you are living.

Wish I was visiting. I would help organize, ha ha


judith dunn

Kristin... I used to be such a 'worry wart' about everything being 'just so' for guests, invited or not! I used to no be able to never say 'no' to anyone either.... that changed when I became 35 and one day to a request by a friend, 'just said no'... she said 'okay'.. and that was that! My world did not collapse around me! Now that I am 71, and a lover of life every day and I do not worry a bit about everything being 'spit spot', I say come as you are and we will greet you the same! It is not about the things around you that they came to see... it is your beautiful self and stunning family and the love that surrounds all of you and shines thru to all of us.. your LOYAL FANS! Carpe Diem! Judi from Tallahassee

Eleonore Miller

Kristin: You forgot a most important French word with this entry: RUBAN ELECTRIQUE... Good old DUCT TAPE! My cuz,Alain, in Bordeaux saved my suitcase with it when it burst through the seams and seems he uses it for everything as here in Californie as does your Chef Grape!! Merci mille fois for sharing your life with us in U.S. Eleonore in California


Our dear Kristin,
Another wonderful post (and picture!)THANK YOU--as always--for starting our week with smiles!
Please don't worry about cleaning up.People
are coming to see YOU and your beautiful family--! (The lovely scenery is just a bonus).Someone once told me an expression that goes something like"if you don't like it here,don't let the screen door slam you in the behind on the way out!" Sort of put things into perspective. XO


Oh Kristin, I laughed so much when reading today's post, for you sound so much like me when thinking of unexpected guests. I also see mess and dirt around me if somebody wants to visit me at home. A couple of months ago, some college friend from Europe announced his visit and I became nervous. I suggested my husband and me to meet his wife and him in San Francisco, just to avoid showing my mess. But he insisted he did not want to "trouble" me, Hahaha when he indeed made me worry to death about him and his wife seeing my mess. They came for the weekend and everything was fine. He thought I was neat! Hahaha. Perhaps we need more visitors to keep our mess at bay. :-)
Vous êtes un beau couple, Jean-Marc et toi, Kristin!

joie/carmel-by-the-sea, ca.

I am behind. In regards to Friday's blog. You DO NOT have old skin. It is really quite beautiful. Sometimes the French do not get it right. Sure, use the sunblock and a hat at all times, but don't lock yourself up in a room without windows. There is still a life to be lived out there. I have heard that there really is not any advantage to using 60 sunblock over 30.

joie/carmel-by-the-sea, ca.

It took me a long time to understand that friends come for the company not the pristine house and yard (as if mine was ever pristine!)....but you know what I mean. And as you said, after a couple glasses of wine who would know the difference anyway.

Nancy,                     Cambridge

I love having guests, because after the initial panic of- what was I thinking?, I get to work as efficiently as possible. I never reach 100% of the set goals before they arrive- but do accomplish about 80%, which is 80% more then nothing! I just accept what isn't done, have fun, and after they've left enjoy what WAS accomplished. Repeat again; the season is just starting- lot's to do right now.
Loved the family photos-you all look so happy that JM is back in the folds of the family

Judy Feldman

Kristin, I loved visiting you last fall. You & Jean-Marc were so hospitable, that was the only impression that we had. And, don't forgot, everything looks charming in Provence!

Bises, Judy (Scottsdale)


Years ago I took a Lenten class in which the Biblical story of Mary and Martha was used. Martha was busy fussing about the house, food etc., while Mary sat down and LISTENED to their Guest. The book phrased this as the difference between entertaining and true hospitality. None of us expects to be entertained chez toi; but we would all love a chance to enjoy your hospitality.

Mara in Wisconsin

John  Schofield

Kristin, I was in Avignon in February 2010 for a few days on a "bucket list" visit, and won't be back most likely. Could you tell me where your farm is on a map or maybe Google earth? We DID see most of the sites in Avignon as well as the Pont du Gard. We were there during the cold snap just before St. Valentine's day.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Your lovely smile, kind heart and warm personality plus the company of two beautiful, sweet dogs all enjoyed in the Provencal air? Oh, don’t forget the handsome Mr. Jean-Marc and all his charms and excellent wine! Who wouldn’t want to visit and leave knowing they had been a part of well lived real life dreams-come-true.

Love all the photos!!! Oh, Katie’s dogs’ names are so fun and her tag line? Too wonderful!

Kathleen from Connecticut

Kristin, your place is lovely and authentic. It is not a prissy vineyard , but a real working vineyard with a lovely family residing on it. Don't worry about things which take ages to fix and just realize how wonderful your place is. I loved visiting and enjoyed the wonderful wines and watching the dogs chase the lizards.

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