Previous month:
June 2012
Next month:
August 2012

Entries from July 2012

rouler de nuit

ile de Groix (c) Kristin Espinasse
L'île de Groix, where we vacationed in 2006. We are heading back to Brittany, to a different island, on Friday.... Note: French Word-A-Day will be on break through August 3rd. 

rouler de nuit (roo-lay-deuh-nwee)

    : to drive through the night

 Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc's French: Download MP3 file or hear this Wave file

Pour rouler tranquille et au frais, roulez de nuit! To drive easy and in cool (temperatures), drive through the night!

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

Yesterday Jean-Marc made a last-minute reservation for a home rental on the Île de Ré. We were unsure whether we would go on vacation this year, due to a certain stand-by situation that has us on a roller coaster of emotion.

Briefly, we will be getting off that roller coaster and getting into our family van for the 9-hour drive west, to the coast of Bretagne. To avoid vacation traffic, or what the French call le chassé-croisé of July-August vacationers, we have decided, once again, to rouler de nuit.

The idea of driving through the night makes me nervous, but for Jean-Marc it is not an issue: my husband enjoys the cool night air, the open road, the backseat peace (sleeping kids), and the music he listens to as he drives (I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot of Manu Chao this year, after Jean-Marc returns from the concert in Nimes tonight).

This year, instead of fretting, I might focus on being a better co-pilot. One thing I can do is listen to my husband when he tells me to go ahead and get some sleep. This time, I'll try not to feel so guilty and, especially, I'll try not to startle every 15 minutes, when I wake up after dozing off....

"Are you OK? ARE YOU OK? You're sure you are OK?" I can't help but quiz the driver each time I spring awake. Jean-Marc responds by assuring me he is wide awake and I should rest easy, only, deep down I know that he is only human, capable of nodding off.... T'es sûr que ça va???

Experience reveals him to be an alert and precautious driver. He's driven us from France all the way to Croatia. He's driven from Sainte Cécile to Sicily. Those long hauls make this drive to Brittany a trip around the block. And should he tire, Jean-Marc knows when to pull off the road and sleep for an hour or two, or to ask me to take the wheel for a spell.

A spell! Yikes, that's just it! I worry about the continuum of the road and how it can coax a driver into a trance-like state. To avoid this trap, some drivers roll down the windows, chew gum, or spritz their faces with a spray bottle. Jean-Marc's precautions include a good nap the afternoon or evening of departure and a good supply of caffeinated soft drinks—along with the other astuces already mentioned.

How about you? What do you do to keep alert while behind the wheel? Thanks for sharing your tips here, in the comments box. We'll see you in two weeks... at which point we hope to have some good news to share with you!

P.S. After two skin cancer surgeries this year, driving in the dark is also a good precaution! Now to figure out what to do on this sunny vacation—when my family is at the beach the day long. How about an early morning swim or a late night dip? And this might be a good time to return to knitting, after giving up? Please share some sun-skirting ideas and activities here in the comments box. Many thanks in advance--and I hope you are remembering to wear sun block, too!

 I leave you with our itinerary...

View Larger Map

French Vocabulary

la Bretagne = Brittany

le chassé-croisé = comings and goings

rouler de nuit = drive through the night

t'es sûr que ça va = you're sure everything's OK?

une astuce = trick, tip, helpful idea


Father and daughter in 2006. 

Smokey says, Why can't I come with you? I promise not to ask "how long till we get there?" and I won't fight with the other kids in the back seat. Please, take me on vacation with you!" (Smokey, you and Mama Braise are headed to Uncle Jacques, in Avignon. He's going to spoil you rotten--fun, games, forbidden food--so no complaining!)

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


I couldn't find a picture to illustrate today's word (oreiller) so how about a snapshot of a favorite summertime libation? Also a great way to recycle these Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine bottles!


oreiller (oh-ray-yay) noun, masculine

    : pillow

prendre conseil de son oreiller = to sleep on it (re decision making)
une taie d'oreiller = pillowcase
une bataille d'oreillers = pillow fight 
les confidences (f) sur l'oreiller = pillow talk 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Ma belle-mère m'a offert son propre oreiller. My mother-in-law offered me her very own pillow.


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

At a beachfront café in Marseilles, Jean-Marc is buttering his mom's toast. "Honey or the confiture d'abricot?" he asks.

"T'es gentil," my mother-in-law thanks her elder son. "Abricot, s'il te plaît."

Taking a sip of her tea, Michèle-France turns her attention my way.

"Tu es toujours si jolie," my belle-mère begins. Instantly uplifted by her words, I send a grateful smile across the table. It's a good thing I took the time to have my hair done. That seems to have made a difference!

"I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on you," my mother-in-law continues. My thoughts race back in time. Guiltily I wonder, Did I remember the exact moment too? Little by little, I begin to see the Espinasse family's apartment, in the Roy d'Espagne neighborhood, near the end of Marseilles. I don't remember the pine forest or the sea. I do remember the shining white tiles in the hall entry. I remember that it was just Jean-Marc, his brother, and his mother who lived there in the three-bedroom apartment. I don't recall which floor of the high-rise they lived on—or even taking the ascenseur—though we would have had to.

I do remember the kitchen, where Jean-Marc's mother prepared an exotic-to-this-American dinner (or was it lunch?): lapin à la moutarde. I remember sharing the meal with Jean-Marc's friends, Rachel and Stephan. I do not remember Michèle-France eating with us. Did she discreetly withdraw to her room, to leave us young amours to dine?

As I reminisce, Michèle-France fills me in on where it was, exactly, that we met the first time she laid eyes on me: 

"I met you in the hallway, after you shuffled out of my son's bedroom!"

I vaguely remember the awkward situation. Had I been leaving Jean-Marc's bedroom? Behind me, the disheveled sheets would have covered the mattress. You could just see the desk, where Jean-Marc had been showing me his new Macintosh—when we lost interest in computers. I could also see the hook on the wall, where a green robe hung; it was a gift from Jean-Marc's sister. Was I wearing that robe when I met Michèle-France in the hall?!

I must have needed the bathroom. I could almost hear Jean-Marc assuring me no one was around—just go on down the hall. The restroom was at the end of it....

That is when I must have come face to face with Maman. My fears were now materialized and I could not have been more embarrassed. Jean-Marc must have come out of the room, in time to make the introductions.

Any discomfort quickly disappeared when Jean-Marc's mother smiled an unmistakably warm welcome. As long as I live I will never forget her words: "You can stay as long as you like. You are most welcome here with us. Bienvenue!"

I could not take her up on her generous offer at the time, as I would need to return to Tempe, Arizona, to finish another year and a half of school.


Taking a sip of my café au lait, it is 20 years later now, and I do not seem to have overstayed my welcome. My mother-in-law's eyes continue to glimmer bienvenue!

Michèle-France sets down her tea, and looks at me softly. Next she shares with me, for the first time, what her thoughts were that first time we met.

"I remember thinking: this girl will make my son happy one day!"

I return my mother-in-law's gaze. Her words echoed in my mind as I try to etch them there, on a gray-mattered blackboard.

"Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux!"

Lest the lovey-dovey mother-in-law-daughter-in-law moment were too gushy sweet, my belle-mère adds a little spice to the moment.  I recognize the beginnings of a rascal's smile as it spreads across my belle-mère's face... evidence her mischievous side is waking up.

"Yes, you were une bouffée d'air frais—a breath of fresh air," she winks, "especially after some of the girls he brought home!"

Recognizing the direction in which we are heading, I raise my hands, quickly inserting my fingers into my ears. "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!" I laugh. Next I begin to hum.

When I take my fingers out of my ears, my mother-in-law is in the middle of reciting a string of sultry names, "Ma..." (MArilyn? MArie? MAnon?) but I will not listen to a word of it—just as I won't listen when Jean-Marc's longtime friends tease me about les anciennes copines.

Jean-Marc laughs as his mom continues her innocent taquinerie, and when next it seemed safe to unplug my ears I hear this doozy:

"Ah, and that one! What-Was-Her-Name? Je l'ai jetée de mon lit! I threw her out of my very own bed!"

I can't help but appreciate the colorful scenes my mother-in-law paints with her words, and I finally give in, picturing Jean-Marc's mom yanking some young tart out of her very own bed (sheesh, Jean-Marc—your mom's own bed!).

On a final, tender note, Michèle-France colors in a bright ending to the story:

"But for you," my mother-in-law says as she reaches across the café table and squeezes my hand, "for you, I would have offered my very own pillow!"


 Comments: to respond to this story, or to any item in today's post, click here.

To see that wedding picture again, click here

Don't miss this tender story about my mother-in-law (with a picture, too!)


French Vocabulary

la confiture d'abricot = apricot jam

t'es gentil = you're nice

Tu es toujours si jolie = you are still so pretty

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

un ascenseur = elevator

le lapin à la moutarde = rabbit with mustard sauce

bienvenue = welcome

le café au lait = coffee with milk

Oui, je savais que c'était toi qui le rendrait heureux! = Yes, I knew it was you who would make my son happy!

une bouffée d'air frais = a breath of fresh air

l'ancienne copine = old girlfriend

la taquinerie = teasing

  Jean-marc kristin

Click for a larger image. In love in January 1993... only six months before Jean-Marc would buy me a one-way ticket home! Find out what happened after that, in the intro to the book Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language (the snap shot image includes Jean-Marc writing "la cloche ) fromages"--which is the cheese restaurant where we ate that night. The restaurant places the cheese in a circle on the plate, with a glass of wine at each quarter on the "clock". As you can see, we finished most of the wine and were feeling both giddy (I) and enchanted (him). Well that didn't last long! Don't miss the story.

Then and Now (2012). Photo taken on Jean-Marc's 45th birthday, last March 29th.


Listening skills & learning French: 

I could really relate to this question of Rob's, as I, too, struggle with listening to French. 

I was wondering if anyone has recommendations for a way for me to build my French listening skills? I am improving in being able to decipher written French, but spoken just moves too fast for me. I'd like something I could listen to that would slowly build my skills. --Rob, in Illinois

Leave your listening tips here, in the comments box.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Popsicle chairs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Summertime in the seaside town of Cassis. Don't these chairs look like fruity popsicle flavors (that is, if flavor could be visible to the eye)? Grape, blueberry, citron vert, melon, framboise....

Marilyns ad

 Provence Villa Rental
Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here


juilletiste (jwee-ay-teest) m&f

    : a July vacationer

Audio file: Listen to Jean-Marc read this definition: Download MP3 or listen to Wav file

Un juilletiste c'est quelqu'un qui prend ses vacances au mois de Juillet, et un aoutien c'est quelqu'un qui prend ses vacances au mois d'Août. A juilletiste is someone who goes on vacation in July, and an aoutien is someone who goes on vacation in August.


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

Today, instead of a story, here is a list for you. I hope you'll respond by answering some of the questions that follow each item. Merci beaucoup!

Currently reading: La Bête Humaine. I am cheating, reading Zola's story in English. So far I prefer his L'Assommoiror even his Joy of Life—to his novel The Beast Within, but I'm sticking with the story, which is said to be one of his best (Germinal is also recommended... wondering if I should have ordered that one instead?) P.S. I'm no "classics expert". I just enjoy the way Zola writes about human nature.

    => Tell us what you've read lately or recommend a book. Click here.

A "compliment" I received the other day (by a friend of my daughter's): "C'était bon! Tu cuisines mieux qu'avant!" (It was good. You cook better than you used too!).

    => What is an accidental insult you once received? Share it here.

Eating more of this: salade de pommes de terre 

    =>I'd love to know your favorite ingredient in potato salad... I hope to improve my own! Pickles, celery, red pepper? Any tips for potato salad dressing?

During a recent conversation with Mom: "I'm your mother. You can tell me anything!"

    => Who can you tell anything to? Who do you go to to unburden your heart? Click here.

Summer staple: les shorts en jean. Last year it was khakis, the year before that I wore a white knee-length peasant skirt all summer long, changing tops according to the mood.

    => What is your summer staple? 

New favorite pastime: watching documentaries on YouTube! I loved this Indian video on terrace vegetable gardening (could not understand a word, but was inspired all the same!). Update: I just discovered the subtitles and will be watching this one again.

=> Please recommend a documentary.

=> P.S. you might enjoy this inspiring story of an American urban homestead.  One commenter wrote that the ability to grow one's own food might be more valuable, in the future, than an MBA! Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Comment here.

Recent day trip: to a beach in Saintes Maries de la Mer. Looking around the beach, where there were more topless women than usual, I commented to my friend, Suzanne, that we were the only ones wearing a one piece. Suzanne corrected me: she herself was wearing a tankini

    => Every felt the odd one out? Where were you at the time? Click here.

Latest nag: (to husband): "Please cover up the plate when you put leftovers in the fridge! Less moisture loss!  Fewer odors!"

    => Do your family members stick stuff in the fridge like this? Or is it a French thing? Share here.

Getting a kick out of: the tomato plant that is growing out of our compost bin! Will it produce tomatoes now that it has produced little yellow flowerettes?

    => Do you make compost, or black gold? 

Yesterday's dog mischief: while out on a walk with the dogs through the vineyard, we surprised a family of quails. The mama and her chicks scampered off in every direction, effectively throwing Smokey and Braise off track! I can still hear Smokey, "Which way did he go? Which way did he go?" 

Best Kept Secret: It's true, we've been keeping a very big secret from you (!). Enough said. Stay tuned.... (You may have to wait a few weeks or a few years.... but I will let you know as soon as I can! The gag order is torturing me! The waiting is even more torturous!)

Déja Vu -- you too? Do you ever catch yourself existing in the same moment as yesterday and the day before and the day before that? I'll never forget lying in my bed each night, in a studio apartment in Aix-en-Provence, staring at the intricate shadows cast across the ceiling.  Night after night, there I was again—my eyes tracing, or studying, the same designs from above.  22 years later, and it is the same phenomenon of "I know this moment, it's the same every day. Here I am again, in this exact position!" 

    => Do you ever catch yourself in the "same place same position" twilight kind of zone? And do you ever feel a little creeped out about it? As if such moments were the mileposts in one's life span?


 To respond to any of the questions or thoughts in this post, thanks for clicking here!

Thank you for visiting our sponsors

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

LES PORTES TORDUES (The Twisted Doors): The Scariest Way in the World to Learn & Hear French! Mystery, vocab, grammar, Audio!

Hotels in France. Visit to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

Really enjoying our weekly wine-tastings, which spice up a very regular routine here at the vineyard! Speaking of spice, it was hot-hot-hot the day this picture was taken. From left to right, the glowing cheeks belong to: Charlene, Judy, Karen, and me. P.S. the next wine-tastings are July 16th (4pm) and July 24th (5pm). Leave a message in the comments box if you would like to join us!

Grammar notes and more

Several readers wrote in about the musée mistake (musée, it turns out, is masculine.) Just goes to show that each time I think I've learned a grammar rule (i.e.: words ending with "e" are usually feminine) one of those famous French exceptions pops up! 

Jim Herlan's email was especially helpful. Here it is along with a good tip:

 I believe that "musée" is masculine.  Thus, "le musée."  A good general rule is: English words with Latin roots that end in -um are masculine in French, as in "museum" or "le musée,"

Yoga Harvest. See photos from our 2010 harvest:

Laundry Harvest -- and don't miss the "corvée" or "chore" post, with funny pics from our 2010 harvest  


Can you guess which one is Smokey (those ears are a giveaway). What is Mama Braise saying? "Son..."

Forward this edition to a juilletiste--or to anyone who could use some armchair travel!


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Sheep in Les Arcs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Who (or what) is your muse? For me it can be a scene, like this one... and suddenly inspiration comes! Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1999-2007. 


I tried to find a French synonym for une muse, but I landed on a French definition instead. Here it is, along with the day's story, written two summers ago:

une muse (myooz)

    : une source d'inspiration pour un écrivain, un poéte, ou une artiste 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the definition to muse: Download MP3 or Wav file

la muse verte = absinthe (the drink that is said to have inspired 19 Century writers)
invoquer sa muse = to call on one's muse
courtiser les muses = to court the muses
taquiner la muse = literally to tease the muse (to give a go at poetry)
les muses = The nine Muses

un musée = museum (from the Greek mousaion, or "a seat or shrine of the muses")


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

Last night I dialed up Mexico and listened as Jules picked up the phone at the other end of the jungle. I felt grateful to hear my mom's voice and immediately asked whether she would like to hear about the fictional nouvelle that I had begun.  

Mom was game. Only, as I heard myself recount the historiette (involving a senile goat that wears recycled espadrilles), I realized—before Mom even suggested it—that I still wasn't addressing the muse... or was it that the muse wasn't addressing me?... or rather neither of us was addressing but rather a-skirting. Quite simply put, we were, both of us, the muse and I, conveniently and once again skirting the heart's history. Whether or not skirts were involved is beside the point. Let's see, is there a point?

"I think you use humor to deflect," Mom pointed out, in so many mom-wise words. "Underneath the guise of comedy, lie your profound stories." 

I offered a few mumbly yah-yahs and you're right about thats. Mom was unconvinced. That is when she reminded me of a line she had just heard in a movie, words that stirred her heart, and maybe they would stir up my own in time to share a few true lines. 

"You are God's muse"

 "You are God's muse," Mom said, quoting the film. She left enough silence for the words to find feeling in my mind. We are God's muse.... 

Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chèvre aside. I reassured myself that the story could be told another time. Next, I thought of Mom's words:

"Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"

I opened a new window on my computer screen. I took a sip of coffee, staring for a thoughtful while at the proverbial blank page. Finally, I typed in the title of my story. My throat tightened followed by a stinging in the eyes. Closing them, I felt wet lashes.

I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, no more than a title. It read, Naked

Next, I closed the word document and shut off the computer. I walked down the quiet hall to the bedroom, where I changed into my pajamas. I can't sleep without them.


   "Locked" in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin Espinasse

French Vocabulary

la nouvelle = short story

la historiette = anecdote, short story

la chèvre = she goat


  Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse

Forward today's story to a struggling artist. Thanks. (Picture of Smokey taken two summers ago. What is he thinking? Click here to add a thought bubble.)

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

la dame (today's word too easy? Read the story-vocab section!)

Click on this photo to view it full size. Here are the ladies at the book club in Marseilles. As Agnès (in black, third from right) said, it is a privilege to have girlfriends like these! After agonizing in today's story (the subject is "becoming une dame... when one still secretly believes she's une fille"), I had a good chuckle reading Agnès's group email, in which she unwittingly addressed the ladies in this photo as grils. "Dear grils," she wrote, after sending us this photo souvenir. We forgive Agnès for the coquille, or typo--and I thank her for the needed synonym for "female". Grils works just fine for me! Read on, in today's story.... (Left-to-right: Baby Stella, Cris, Kristi, Julie, Christiane, Olivia, Anne, Agnès, Cari, Lisa, and Andrea. Thanks, Pierre Casanova, for the photo.)

la dame (dam)

    : lady; married woman


Dame Pipi = the woman in charge of the restrooms (in a restaurant) don't miss the wonderful video at the end of this post!

la dame nature = mother nature
faire la grande dame = to put on airs
le jeu de dames = game of checkers
la dame d'onze heures = star of Bethlehem 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Tu connais la dame qui est mariée avec le vigneron?
Do you know the lady who is married to the winemaker? 


A Day in a French Life… by Kristin Espinasse

How Old is Une Dame?

I was sitting in the swivel chair at our local salon when the name-calling began.  To be fair, the so-called insults were unintended—perfectly innocent. The hairdresser was only stating a fact. Mais quand même!

As it was, my hair shot out in all directions, triggered by a couple dozen sheets of aluminum, which held these dishwater blond locks in place during the quarterly balayage. That my hair stood on end had nothing to do with my emotions; it was just a comical coincidence, and not a reaction to what the hairdresser had said.

Specifically she had said, “la dame….” Only, as she said it, she motioned to me! She had been talking to another client about the quick passage of time. “Comme ça passe vite!” she marveled.  “Yes, la dame and I were saying the same earlier.”

La dame? The new label struck like a gavel! Then again, was it so new? Maybe I had not listened before? Surely by now I had been called une dame? I’ve probably been in denial for some time. I looked into the salon mirror….

The only thing worse than a salon mirror is a dressing-room mirror! But trying on a swimsuit is a walk in shallow waters compared to judging one’s reflection in a poorly lighted salon mirror. The light, if there was any, filtered in from the window at the side of the room. The result was similar to the effect one gets when standing in the dark with a bright flashlight held beneath the chin. Enough to scare a 44-year-old girl at heart!

But une dame? Fair enough! I was no longer une fille. That realization came suddenly in my late 20s, when, as if overnight, the French quit calling me mademoiselle.  I’ll never forget the wake-up call as ticket agents, the postal clerk, and the gray-haired woman at the market began referring to me as Madame. (Funnily, the gray-haired men continued calling me Mademoiselle. But I knew the truth, my mademoiselle days were over, from now on I would answer to the call of Madame.)

But la dame? The word was so… hard. Gone was the lightness of la nana or la demoiselle.  As for la dame, it sounded more like la damnation.

It probably just meant “woman”.  I suppose I might have felt the same way, in America, the day strangers quit referring to me as “young lady”, and began saying "here you are, Ma'am." Only, I wouldn’t know, for I never became a woman in America! (I moved to France as a mademoiselle, to later become une madame—a sensitive one at that!)

After the hairdresser washed the chemicals out of my hair, she called over to a new arrival who had snapped up my chair, “Could you please move,” she said to the man, "la dame was sitting there.”

I shivered once again, and not from the cold water trickling down the back of my neck!

Surely my reaction to the dame label has to do with my ignorance? After 20 years in France, I still don’t understand the nuances of the language. Maybe la dame is not so damning after all? To be sure, I would need to look up the word in a good dictionary.

As the hairdresser combed my wet hair, she pointed out that I seemed to be losing a lot of it. “It must be a lack of vitamins,” she guessed. It was odd, she said, usually people lose a bit of hair in the fall or in the spring (but here we were the 5th of July). I was left to the realization that only une dame could experience thinning hair.

At home, rushing towards my dictionary, I passed my husband. “La coiffeuse called me a dame. Isn’t that for women of a certain age?”

Jean-Marc snickered, amused at my naïvety (more fuel for which to tease me with!).  “It’s just a general term for une femme,” he explained. His grin widened when he mused, “You mean she didn’t call you une mamie?”

Seeing I was not amused, he changed his tune. “She should have called you la bombe!” With that, he tugged on my renewed bottle-blond locks.

One thing’s for sure. I’m not gray yet. Thanks to la dame at the hairdresser’s!

    Read another age-related essay here.


French Vocabulary

mais quand même!
but even so!

le balayage
hair highlighting (to balai or brush the hair with blond highlights)

une fille

la nana
synonym for girl 

la demoiselle
young lady 

la mademoiselle
young lady

une femme

la mamie 

la bombe
the (blond) bombshell  

 Now for a little comic relief!

 Don't miss this wonderfully funny video "Dame Pipi" -- a commercial for Vittel filmed in the 70s. Anyone who has ever visited a French restroom will appreciate it. (If you are reading this via newsletter, you'll need to click here to see the video, near the end of the post. Trivia: The restaurant in the video reminds me of a famous place in Paris? Can you name it? Click here to share your answer.


  Cris and stella

That's me, the dame on the right, talking about the writing life—including the joys and freedom of self-publishing. (That's Cris and her baby Stella. Cris should write a book! Her tales of moving to France from Texas are priceless!) To comment on any items in today's post, please click here. (Thanks, Agnès, for the photo)

Forward this edition to a girl or a woman or une dame or une femme or une mademoiselle or to someone who loves females of every age!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Doggy Bag - How to say "doggy bag" in French? + Happy Anniversary!

Peanut Butter and Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse
#doggybag is the term in Twitter speak (tweet with us here), but how do you say "Can I take it home?" in French?

Pictured: Braise (left) looks embarrassed as her son, Smokey, is about to ask for a sac de chien for his leftover beurre de cacahouètes, or peanut butter. "Smokey, that's not the correct translation and, besides, we don't ask for those in France!" Smokey is more than confused after Papy Jean-Marc encourages him to go ahead and ask for one whenever he's in a French restaurant. Who is right: Mama Braise or Papy Jean-Marc? Leave your answer—or your questions!—about this cultural conundrum in the comments box. For more insights into why Jean-Marc, who is French, feels it is right to ask for a doggy bag, read today's story, via the link below.

doggy bag

    : un petit sac pour emporter les restes
    : a little bag for taking home leftovers 


Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following French sentence:  Download MP3 file or Wav file

Le jeune homme a demande un petit sac pour emporter les restes. The young man asked for a doggy bag.


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

Joyeux anniversaire de mariage, mon amour! Aujourd'hui ça fait 18 ans depuis qu'on a dit OUI!
Happy anniversary my love! Today makes 18 years since we said YES!

Here is a story for you, Jean-Marc. I think I knew, after the experience written about in this story, that I had found the right man to spend my life with!

Note: Today's anniversary is for our civil ceremony, on July 4th. On September 24th, 1994, we were married in the church (photo below). You can read about that sticky situation—in which my wedding veil became hooked to the outside of the ancient cathedral— in the book Words in a French Life. Is it any wonder a bride was late to her wedding?

Marry me!
One of us looks terrified. The other looks as though she's just won the lottery.  


Your Edits Needed

Note: the first story (for Jean-Marc) is from the archives and will appear in the book, Vignettes from the Var. When reading the story, if you see any errors in French or in English --thanks for contributing an edit to this comments box. Click here to begin proofreading.



Last September's harvest. Left to right Alexi, Daniel, Sandy, Elizabeth, and Caroline. My dear friend Sandy (center, wearing overalls) recently moved to the UK and is posting--along with her cat Georgia--a lovely healthletter. Please check it out here, and read Georgia Cat's latest post here.

Still reading? Check out the story "Canon" and learn how to compliment a French woman. You'll also see a great picture of my mom. Click here.

When you buy a copy of Blossoming in Provence for your Kindle, your purchase helps support this free French language journal. 

 Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend!


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


comptoir at Le Bar de la Marine in Marseille France Vieux Port  (c) Kristin Espinasse
Nothing to do with today's word, just an iconic zinc bar in Marseilles: Le Bar de la Marine (made famous by Marcel Pagnol in his "Marius" Trilogy.

un aboiement (ah-bwa-mahn)

    : bark, barking (of dog)

Also: aboyer = to bark, un aboyeur (une aboyeuse) = a barking dog

Reverse dictionary: 
to bark up the wrong tree = porter plainte contre la mauvaise personne
his bark is worse than his bite = il fait plus de bruit que de mal 

Audio File: Today it is 17-year-old Max's voice you'll hear when you click on the following file and listen to this French sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Les aboiements de Smokey font peur aux bandits! Smokey's barking scares the bandits!

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

This morning I hurried downstairs to let out our dogs. I wasn't going to make the same mistake as yesterday by enjoying a rare grasse matinée. That extra thirty minutes sleep-in cost me a demi-heure of clean-up time after I was late helping Smokey get to his morning business. Quel dégât!

This time there were no suspicious odors wafting up the stairwell, and I reached le rez-de-chaussée to find the floors clear and dry. Ouf! The week was off to a good start!

"Good morning, doggers!" I offered my warm English greeting quickly followed by some serious French, "Allez les Toutous! Pipi dehors!"

Sliding open the porte-fenêtre in our kitchen, I was amused by the morning routine. Braise paused at the door, letting her son race past her. As Braise waited her turn she looked up at me, anticipating the usual acknowledgment.

"C'est bien, Braise! Très, très bien! Tu attends." I caressed her soft head and rubbed her floppy golden ears between my fingers. She is a sweet dog, if extremely pushy at times (mostly at snack time).

Comme d'habitude, Braise and I turned our attention to Smokey, who had bounded out of the house as fast as a cowboy surprised by bandits. Shooting from the hip—or all guns blazing—Smokey charged forward, propelled by a noisy gargle of aboiements:


Smokey's head shot in every direction, pulled this way and that by his flapping, toothy muzzle—out of which came the skinny dog's tirade of threats. The scene would be hair-raising if seen by any other perspective than our own.

Braise and I watched, unwilling to point out to our voluntary hero the obvious facts: there was, as usual, not a bandit in sight—not even a lowly field mouse sped by.  

Never mind. When Smokey reached the edge of the yellow, parched lawn—fitting of this wild west scene—he began pacing back and forth, coughing out a few more threats in his best impression of gardien. Down below, where the lawn drops off and the grape vines spread out in one great field of spectateurs, Smokey addressed his leafy audience. "I," he barked, "AM Top Dog!"

Braise and I looked at each other knowing very well the truth of the matter: though Smokey is top dog of our hearts, he could not hurt a top fly.

Meantime, he doesn't need to know that... 

"You tell 'em, Smokey! You tell 'em!" in the safety of Smokey's noisy wake, Braise and I cheer the underdog.  Handicapped since the tender age of two months old (his hanging tongue but a hint of les ravages he suffered) he has come a long way since that fateful day, when he crossed paths with a couple of lost and angry dogs who mistook him for an easy target....

What the aggressors failed to notice was the Top Mama nearby.

Braise saved her son that day. After being stapled back together and given a "good chance" of making it. Smokey did. Il a survécu


Read the story of a brave two month old golden retreiver, here.

French Vocabulary

la grasse matinée
to sleep in

une demi-heure
half an hour

quel dégât
what a mess

le rez-de-chaussée
ground floor


Allez les Toutous! Pipi dehors
Come on, dogs! Pee pee outside!

la porte-fenêtre
glass door 

C'est bien, Braise! Très, très bien! Tu attends.
That's good, Braise. Really, really good! You're waiting. 

comme d'habitude, or simply comme d'hab
as usual 

un aboiement

woof-woof, bow-wow 

le gardien, la gardienne
keeper, watchman(woman) 

les ravages (m)

le spectateur, la spectatrice
onlooker, witness, audience 

il a survécu
he survived 

You've come a long way, Baby. Smokey eventually healed on the outside. On the inside he seems to have gained back his confidence, as evidenced by his morning patrol.


Since Smokey's frightening attack, Mother and Son regularly practice Self Defense for Dogs.

Braise: Son, mind your ears! You look more like the Flying Nun than Rambo!

Smokey: OK Mom, just trying to look scary. By the way, who is the Flying Nun?


It takes many tender moments to rehabilitate a victim, especially a victimized animal.

Smokey, left, says: "I can protect you, too, Mom."

Forward this edition to a Top Dog -- or a Top Mama!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.