Oreiller (Or how to say "pillow" in French) + My Mother-in-Law teases me about my husband's past love life

The French have a very specific word for someone who vacations in July...

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...

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?

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..."

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


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Julie F in St. Louis, MO

What a clever, clever entry. I may steal this structure for an entry on my own blog. As for the books, yes, you should read Germinal. It was my French read last summer because our apartment in Dijon was near Place Emile Zola, which has a restaurant named Le Germinal. Haven't eaten there, though, because it's all about frog legs. This summer I'm reading Le Bonheur des Dames (forgive my French, didn't check the exact title). In support of that, I went to the Bon Marché in Paris.


I have been reading all of Laurie R. King's twist on Sherlock Holmes series. She created a plot twist with a young girl that has recently been orphaned and moves to Sussex with a maternal aunt. She stumbles upon a retired Sherlock Holmes (who is keeping bees) and Mrs. Hudson. She becomes his "partner" and eventually his wife and solves many more mysteries, cases, etc. I love this series! I also just finished the entire series of books upon which the HBO series: Game of Thrones is based -- terrific!


Just finished "The Lantern" by Deborah Lawrenson. It's a novel set in Provence that's part mystery, part sensual delight as the story builds around fragrance.


When meeting friends of my future mother-in-law, I was asked what were my people? When I explained that I did not understand the question, they continued to ask: What is your blood, where do your people come from? I told them of my "Heinz 57" background (English, Irish, Scottish, French, Dutch, Danish and German) and received the reply: Well at least you are white!


My potato salad dressing is made with mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder (not salt).


Kristin, my favorite ingredient for potato salad dressing (besides mayonnaise, of course) is a bit of Dijon or other spicy brown mustard, and a dollop of lemon or lime juice. My list of ingredients includes potatoes, onion, celery, a bit of pickle, chopped hard-boiled eggs and some chopped red bell pepper.

Carolyn Chase

"French" Potato Salad (I thought you'd love the way this one was titled!) Served this to my family in June and they all seemed to like it.
My Mom had always used a mayonnaise based dressing so this was a great change from that.

Georgian home cook Louise Brescia of Atlanta shares an herbed potato salad that's great with burgers and barbecue.
Everyday Food, July/August 2009
• Prep Time 10 minutes
• Total Time 30 minutes
• Yield Serves 6
• 2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
• Coarse salt and ground pepper
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
• 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
• 1/4 small red onion, sliced
1. Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water by 1 inch and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and onion and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.
Cook's Note
If you don’t have sherry vinegar, try cider or champagne vinegar instead. Use your favorite fresh herbs in this potato salad to make it your own.


I've just read Erik Orsenna's "La Grammaire est une Chanson Douce", a fantastical story about 2 children who are lost at sea and land on an island, having lost the ability to speak. It is a love poem to language in general and to the French language in particular. Highly recommended!

April L.

I like the "list" idea...and if I ever have the choice, I guess I am a "juilletiste" myself. August makes me a little sad because it's the last month of true summer...

My mother is German and she taught me a basic potato salad recipe which I have tweaked through the years. If there is one "extra" ingredient that never varies, it would have to be the one you will have no trouble with: herbs de provence! I only have dried on hand, I just sprinkle a teaspoon or so (I am never exact) and it adds a delicious flavor.


We have both a compost bin and a mulch pile where leaves can break down. This year we put in some container gardens, and I have been enjoying fresh green salads almost every day. We also have a traditional in-ground garden where we grow corn and beans.

I plan to take a look at that video on terrace gardening because we have quite a slope at the back of the house. But I also recommend looking online for the videos on permaculture. This is also as important to know as how to grow your own food.


The last time I felt like the odd person out was about 12 years ago on the plâge at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer when I, too was wearing a one-piece suit!

Carolyn Chase

Here's a second option - the dill really changes the flavor of the dressing. I've also used American cultured sour cream (perhaps some creme fraiche, in France)

Green Bean & Potato Salad With Lemon-Dill Aioli
Serves 4 as a side
For the salad
* 4 cups of fresh green beans, rinsed with the ends trimmed off
* 3 large or 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into equal-sized cubes (I like Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn for this salad)
* Tray or two of ice cubes and lots of cold water
For the aioli
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup mayonnaise
* 2-3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (go heavy if you like garlic, light if you don’t!)
* 3-4 tsp fresh lemon juice
* 3 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1. Make the aioli by combining all the sauce ingredients and stirring well. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. It’s okay if it seems a bit salty and garlic-y – remember, this is going to cover a whole lot of unseasoned vegetables.
2. Place the cubed potatoes in a steamer pot over an inch or so of water and steam, covered until tender when pierced with a fork, roughly 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.Then remove from the pot and allow to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Then add the green beans and blanch then until they’re just a little bit tender but still bright green – probably 3-4 minutes or so. While they’re cooking, prepare a large pot of very cold water mixed with ice cubes so that you’ll have it at the ready to put the blanched beans in – this is important so that you can stop the cooking process (otherwise, they’ll continue to cook and end up overdone). Once the beans are done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon or by pouring them into a colander, then place them in the ice water bath for 5 minutes to ensure that the cooking stops.
4. Combine the steamed potatoes, blanched beans and the sauce, stirring with a large spoon to ensure that everything gets well-coated with the aioli and serve. Goes amazingly well with grilled or poached salmon, grilled chicken, burgers or really anything you can throw at it

Please note that this is a flexible recipe so these amounts are just a rough guide – you should taste as you go and adjust as you see fit. And if you want to throw other ingredients into the salad that sound good to you, you should. Without further ado, enjoy!

Kathleen from Connecticut

My summer staple has been shirts on hot hot hot days. It used to be sundresses. Now I have a cute summer dress that I'll wear on the dog days of summer.

You have a great wardrobe of dresses - they are so cute!

A good read is Louise Penny series starting with "Still Life". They are mysteries which take place in Quebec with the main character being an Inspecteur General for all of Quebec. There are 7 books with the 8th coming our in August. Several friends and I have enjoyed them.


Being allergic to eggs, my Mom started adding bacon to her potato salad instead of eggs. I've continued the tradition, with onions, sometimes celery, and the traditionaly mayonnaise and Grey Poupon mustard salad dressing.


I recommend the documentary A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. There are not many written accounts by women of their day to day lives in this time period. It was very interesting to me to get a glimpse into this world.

Karen from Phoenix

I am currently reading The Unknown Errors of Our Lives stories by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Wonderful stories.

Someone said I couldn't have a Twitter acct. because 140 characters isn't enough for me.

My potato salad is very basic, onion, peppers, red potatoes and black pepper.

My summer this year has been very lightweight long shorts.

I don't have a documentary but have a website I am involved in. It is Free kits to any military veteran suffering from PTSD and other issues. Check it out.


Left- or back-handed compliment: I once got my long hair cut into a bob, and my best friend told me it "took years off..."


My mom was from Finland, land of potato eaters....her tip to making great potato salad is to pour about a third of a cup of apple cider vinegar over the potatoes while they are still hot, So the potatoes soak up the vinegar. My trick is LOTS of hard boiled eggs.

louis Bogue

Your Best kept secret, won"t surprise me if you would be moving to Italy, to a nother Vineyard, just a wild guess!!Love to all, Lou


I just watched and loved:
BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER'S JOURNEY with a snippet about French puppeteers being trained by the master.

Karen in Missouri

Deja Vu: After 14 Spring time trips to various towns in Provence and actually living in village houses and doing what the locals do most days, I now get these instant flashes that take me on instant trips to France. It usually occurs in the Bistro kitchen or in our winery, or next to our Bocce court at home. I love these free quick trips to the land I love. I am pretty sure I lived there in a different life!

C Millican (New Brunswick, Canada)

What to read? Well, anything and everything by Sarah Addison Allen or Miriam Toews. As a side note, I have recently come to the realization that for me, e-readers will NEVER replace a book ... there is just something connective about holding a book, looking at it's cover while it's resting on the nightstand, the feel of the pages, seeking out that special title or author at a used book store ... none of this can be replicated with an e-reader. I guess I'm just old school!!!

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Fun post, Kristin! My favorite potato salad these days is made with a shallot-dijon vinaigrette and adding crumbled blue cheese and chives to the potatoes.
Currently reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, which was made into an Academy Award nominated film last year. It's written from the point of view of a black maid working for a white family during the Civil Rights era of the 60's: heart-breaking and thought-provoking.


My summer staple is to always wear a long, flowing, cotton skirt when it is hot, humid and sultry. Just walking, with the skirt swishing, creates a small breeze that helps to cool me off. I am able to sit in any fashion I like without having to worry about what is being exposed, etc. Plus, if I am traveling, I am free to go into any church or public area without the need to change my clothes -- I am conservative enough for any occasion -- throw on a scarf or wrap and I can go anywhere!

I must say that I really find this "list" of comments intriguing!

Enjoy your summer -- I wish I were there, but surgery is calling! Maybe next year!

Geraldine Ventura

Once when we were in Provence, some friends invited us to her parents' country home for a picnic. All of the food was wonderful, but I especially liked the potato salad, and she gave me the recipe. Here it is:

3 pounds of any small potatoes, cooked and cut into bite sized cubes
3 green onions, sliced thin including the green tops
1/2 cup of pitted black olives (I use Calamata)
1 pound of sausage sliced into thin rings ( I use smoked)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of vinegrette dressing
1 t. of Herbs de Provence

Mix the potatoes, onions, olives and suasage, and then pour over the dressing, and gently mix again. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and the Herbs de Provence. Voila!

Karen in Missouri

Hummmm, about potato salad...a favorite of my guests at the Bistro is Hot German Potato Salad made with lots of fried and diced thick smoked bacon, reserving the drippings (essence of bacon!)and adding just a bit of olive oil, and then lightly sauteing chopped white onion in the drippings, adding sugar and cider vinegar and bringing to a boil and pouring over hot, cooked red potatoes with chopped hard boiled egg. Add the diced bacon salt & pepper and gently fold all together, Serve with assorted grilled sausages and steamed haricot verte w/ herbs and olive oil dressing.


Hi Kristin,
My potato salad secrets include dill weed, cilantro and a little dollop of sour cream.

My husband and I will be in your area around September 20. Do you have any wine tastings set up for that week?

Joyeux Quatorze!


Etant francaise, je ne jette aucun reste...( Oh, that's so French! they tell me here in the U.S.).
Being American, I always cover them with plastic wrap or foil ...(Oh, c'est bien Americain ca! they say when I am in France).
Small price to pay for having double nationality... and a good reason for me to enjoy your blog, Khristin.
Odile in Eagle-Rock CA, light rain this morning.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

With the temperature hitting 115 degrees a couple days ago, our summer wear is usually cool shorts, preferably in the tall pines of Flagstaff.

A plus tard

Francine Gair

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a magical tale of a circus open only from sunset to sunrise. Wonderful!













Rebecca T. in Baltimore

Food in the fridge should definitely be covered. However, sometimes happy marriage is about prevention--perhaps you should put an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb those odors, au cas où Chief Grape might so happen to forget the new rule?

I agree with Paula--hot German potato salad is definitely the way to go, though I've never made it myself. I also love the potatoes that come in a salade niçoise--lightly boiled and dressed with a simple mustard vinaigrette.

I do have a grammar question. I majored in French but sometimes doubt myself--in your above example ("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.") I noted two things that seemed off to me. First, aren't you supposed to leave months un-capitalized in French? Juillet and août are both capitalized in your example. Second, why "c'est"? I would say "Un juilletiste est..." and not "Un juilletiste c'est...." unless I put a comma between the two or were speaking rapidly and colloquially, where grammar slips are charming and expected. The "c'" for "ça" adds a second subject, but you already have one, so it becomes superfluous. Can someone please correct me if I'm wrong?

As far as the gag order on the new news--Kristin, it is so cruel to torture us so! I suppose misery loves company; now we are anxious too!

If you like Zola, you should think about reading Nana. It is pretty good and pretty grotesque, just how I like it.

Peggy of Omaha, NE - USA

Really enjoyed watching the documentary about Indian terrace gardening, that was suggested by the young lady. Also, among the listed videos, an excellant one on how to grow mushrooms using large plastic bottles. I diffently have to try this, since I love mushrooms.

Evie Clare

A great summer read: Just Kids, by Patti Smith. The story of her early years in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe. Gritty, fascinating, and profound
My favorite summer staple: White Jeans! I have 4 pairs, since they do get dirty easily. But they look so crisp and nice with any top.

Patience Tekulsky

"The Hare with Amber Eyes" by, I don't trust my spelling, Edmund De Waart. Story of a collection of Japanese Netsukes from 17th century Paris to today. Really fasciinating!!!. Am in Vermont on my way to Sutton, Quebec to visit with another fan of yours. Brushing up on my French. Is that what a Juilletist does!I am a true one as my birhtday is July 10th! I love Louise Penny books,and yes, the village in Quebec is Sutton. Mon amie la connait!. Happy Summer a tous!. Patience

Gwyn Ganjeau

This was such a great idea for a post!

First - the frigo. I could never understand why my son and his wife *always* leave things uncovered! I thought it was a generational thing. But my daughter-in-law is Belgian, so maybe it's a European thing! Interesting.

Documentary: I watched this documentary twice in two days i was so haunted by it. It's called "Nostalgia for the Light" The director juxtaposes astronomers from all over the world who have gathered in the observatory in Chile’s Atacama desert to study the origins of life, and the women who sift through the desert daily looking for the remains of loved ones who were political prisoners ‘disappeared’ by the Pinochet government in the 70’s. Both groups are looking in a vast expanse for clues from the past. Yes, pretty heavy stuff--but it was also oddly uplifting and made one think about things greater than ourselves. Here's the trailer

Have a great weekend, all!


"Dropped Names" by Frank Langella - delicious! You're probably too young, Kristin, to remember a lot of these people, but you'll enjoy the chapters on the Queen Mum, Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe... you'll probably chuckle at most of the chapters. A good time had by all.

Marguerite Landry

I'm a potato salad 'purist'! Only potatoes, boiled eggs, olive oil, mayonnaise, salt and red pepper! My nieces swear by it and it's always a hit when they produce Aunt Marg's potato salad. From Lafayette, Louisiana.


I have time to answer one question now. I am reading "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". The book is really good, but not really like the movie, as I would have expected. The movie was good as well and is highly recommended. It stars Judi Dench and Maggie Smith as well as other well know British Actors. I wish I had read the book first, so I wouldn't expect the same story line, but I am enjoying the book just the same. Have a wonderful weekend!

Louise Kahler

Just finisned: Lucie de le Tour du Pin - Excellent book written from her memoirs of la Revolution et the Bonaparte years. Her memoirs were not released until a few years ago. Better than " A Place of Greater Safety" for neophytes like me who are trying to get a grip on the pre and post revolution years. Lucie was a totally amazing woman, kind like Kristin Espinasse!

joie in carmel,ca

Potato Salad: lots of garlic powder and some paprika to go with all the standard ingredients....but no celery. It just does not belong there. Compost: would love to, but the raccoons would have a heyday. Book: just finished "The Invisible Bridge". Set in Paris and Hungary during WWII.


Who can you tell everything to? Nobody. Sometimes not even yourself. I remember a book title with a wonderful double entendre:
"Lying on the couch".

Lisa Teed-Florida

If you are into self-help books like me (because I need a lot of help-haha), my favorite one that I read over and over again is "Boundaries When to Say Yes, How to Say No" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It's a must-read.

Joan Rooney

I just finished reading a lovely - although not perfect book entitled The Art of Hearing Hearbeats. What I love about it is that the prose sometimes reads like poetry and I love the theme that what we see is not necessarily what is real or important in life. The essence of life is below the surface.

Lorri Murray

While cruising on a French vessel along the Florida Gulf Coast (Beneteau Swift Trawler 34) I devoured "The Widow Clicquot" The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. *****


Hi Kristin,

What could be better than sharing summer reads, potato salad recipes and good documentaries? Great idea! I have a couple book suggestions. Having visited Boston and Concord, MA recently, I'm fascinated by the history of that area. I loved American Bloomsbury, by Susan Cheever. The (long) subtitle is: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. Cheever brings these greats of American letters so beautifully to life.

I guess I'm on a narrative non-fiction kick. I also loved Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. Not exactly light summer reading, as the subject matter is rather intense (the aftermath of Katrina), but Eggers is such a gifted writer, and the story he tells is compelling.

A documentary that's on my list which I haven't yet seen is It Might Get Loud. It's a little history of the electric guitar, seen through the eyes of Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge, from U2. Looks fun.


Reality TV in your future?


I will be living the whole month of September, Vendage, near La Cadiere.
Will you be having wine tastings in September?


Hi dear Kristin,
Wow! Another wonderful post that leaves me feeling energized and looking forward to participating in all the fun Summer activities!
Especially like sharing the books you are reading(!) and,needless to say,recipes!!
Adore potato salad(wish I could eat more of it,must stick to a low carb/limited sweets diet :( )
One book that I'm very much enjoying is Sacre Bleu (A Comedy D'Art) by Christopher Moore. It's fiction; includes lots of great Impressionist era paintings.Really entertaining!
Kristin,THANK YOU for starting my weekend off with smiles!
Love, Natalia XO


Having just had a surprise visit by Patti Smith in my shop in Freiburg, Germany, I can't wait to read her book "Just Kids". Supposed to be super. Reading "At Home" by Bill Bryson, which is hilarious and wondrously informative about banal daily life and how houses and accoutrements evolved. Just a grammar point for you: "(It was good. You cook better than you use too!). That should read: better than you used to! Keep your inquiring mind, Kristin, it keeps you as effervescent and refreshing as champagne!!!!

susan in napa valley

alas, or alor,

my french (worse, gascon) husband and i battle over covering leftovers in the fridge. when we are in lectour, his hometown, i cringe at his father's 'friggo'. they leave meat dishes well as patés, etc...) definitely invest in LARGE boxes of arm&hammer (or have ta maman bring them when she visits) that have the 'meshed' side made for the frig. alas, that has been one of our compromises. he will cover things, now,but will not put dishes in the pot into sealed containers the night of the making. he leaves them in their pots for me to clean the next day. (I'm the cook, he's the cleaner-upper)

Hilary Lange

I have just finished reading L'élégance de l'herisson by Muriel Barbery. This wouldn't be a difficult book for you to read in French Kristin. I would be interested to know what the book club folks in Marseille are reading (you mentioned them last week or the week before. I love your essays. They make me long for my return trip to France next year. Hilary

Hilary Lange

Mama is saying to her son: "darling, you can't stop an think because you will lose momentum, but if you trust in your self you can fly like me


La Vie Devant Soi by Romain Gary - a must- read... so touching!


Hi, Kristin,
What a nice light smorgasbord of summer thoughts and questions! As for books (classics being so wonderful to contrast with some modern fare), I have lately downloaded some Balzac and Edith Wharton from iBooks' free selections. You can get them alternatively from As much as I love holding a real book (like yours) in my hands, it is also wonderful to read these classics for free on iPad or kindle. Just read Pere Goriot. Starts slow, but then moves along at a refreshingly modern pace - and I was surprised at the honest look at period Parisian society when married women promoted their young lovers into the elite circles of connections and power. Balzac's powers of description are amazing. You can really see the rich interiors, the shoes, dresses and fine carriages.
I would also recommend putting audio books onto an iPod and listening to some fabulous reads while you garden or do housework.
For a documentary, try Life Without People, which I believe you can see in whole or in part anyway on YouTube. Fascinating visuals that posit how much the world would change, and how long our cities and monuments would last iif humans disappeared from the earth tomorrow.
Have a lovely summer!
Ellen from Beverly Hills


Documentary - Man on a Wire.

Ally Davis

I am reading a great book by Émile Zola for the second time called Thérèse Raquin . The themes are still relevant today.

Hilary Lange

Books by Tatiana de Rosnay in French as well as in English are fantastic. There is a mystery series that takes place in various arrondissements in Paris that are good. The author is Cara Black.


Loved reading "Heaven is For Real" by Todd Burpo this summer! I don't have much time to read (ironic when you make books for a living), but this one's wonderful and a quick read. A much longer read, but SO inspiring is "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. Changed my life!

Accidental insult? I have an aunt known for her lack of social skills, if you know what I mean. When seeing me for the first time in several years (and less than a year after having my first child), she exclaimed, "Well, you've gained a few pounds! You needed that, though. You were always too thin." Hmph.

Summer staple? I like to design t-shirts, so I wear them everywhere. Self-promotion. ;)

Kristin, I think putting leftovers in the fridge uncovered is a guy thing. I hate it, too! ;)


Is anyone familiar with the Brigitte series of novels by Berthe Bernage, from the early 1900s? I bought one of the books at a library book sale years ago (this one: ), and love it! I would love to read more of them, but they are obviously long out of print. For anyone interested in a snapshot of a bygone era, I highly recommend this one.


You write: "Please cover up the plate when you put leftovers in the fridge! Less moisture loss! Less odors!"

It should be either "Less odor" or "Fewer odors."


Oops! Just found this:
I guess they can still be found. Yay!

Hank Sweet

One of my favourites is "First Light" by Goeffry Wellum, a true account of The Battle of Britain by one of the few pilots sill alive. Just brilliant.

Suzanne Dunaway

Yes, I make compost and love what it does to my garden. For potato salad, use a big spoon of Dijon mustard with the mayo and sweet Cerdenne onions, chopped fine along with lemon juice and a slosh of olive oil. I do not use red peppers ever. I do use celery or for a wild salad, fenouille, raw, chopped fine. By the way, things are NOT chopped "finely" or "coarsely"...incorrect English but no one seems to know it.
As for insults, my father in law, who loved to provoke people, once said to me, Suzanne, you cook, you sew, you garden, you paint, you play the stock market, the piano---how come you've never amounted to anything?
I loved response was another story.


Salut Kristin!

Netflix is a great place to find tons of excellent documentaries (I really appreciate you suggesting YouTube though, as I hadn't thought of that). Some documentaries that I highly recommend include:

Food, Inc
The Human Experience
Waiting for Superman
The Horse Boy
The Harvest
Food Matters
All of these are available through Netflix streaming. They are all wonderfully informative films.

~ Dana



Just a thought...I think your secret is Jean-Marc plans to buy a vineyard near or in Marseille.

gigi richard

My french cajun grammy would mix mustard with oil and vinegar and herbs to dress her potato salad, not mayonaisse, like most Louisianans. It had never occurred to me that this was truly that I've lived in Provence for 6 months I see how mustard is used in most salad dressings. Yum! It's my most favorite potato salad.


I can remember when we lived "up north" and had a garden, we couldn't give zucchini away. Now it is $1.49 a pound. Tomatoes are sprayed, hard as rocks and tasteless and cost more than fifty cents apiece. Fresh(?) veggies are an investment. Potato salad. Just add a little pickle relish, a splash of red wine vinegar and a bit of mustard with your mayo'. The best thing to come out of our compost pile when we lived on the edge of woods in N.Carolina was our cat. Nearly wild, he tamed (it took a while) and became the most loving pet we ever had.

anne marie

un bon livre: > David Foenkinos

anne marie

c'etait coupe.....La delicatesse
David Foenkinos

James Williams

Best novels:

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray.

Dr,Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak. The movie is great also. Fantastic cast, and music score.

War And Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.

So many great classics. Where does one draw the line?

Casablanca. Originally a play, adapted into
the movie. Now that's one movie no one has dared to remake so far!!

Twilight Zones, Etc.!!!

I think that the more spiritual one is, the more twilight zones, etc., one is sure to enter. A bit unsettling when you start out life experiencing strange events, etc; especially when your parents don't understand.

More strange still when twilight zones, prophetic dreams, and other "unusual" experiences don't leave you as you grow older!!!

It's really surprising just how many children experience Twilight Zone,and other events, usually losing them over time as adulthood takes over, and the innocence of childhood fades away.

Any wonder why children are accused of having such strong imaginations!! Not to mention the unsettled adult commotion their imaginary experiences cause worried parents, to the delight of child psychologists whose eyes sparkle with revolving dollars signs!

Rod Serling must have had some insight since childhood, which thankfully, became his passion.

Life appears to me to be extremely complex, and what we really know about our existence is virtually nothing, and those who do try to fathom life out are branded "Nutters" and a multitude of other things.

I think it's great that you are exploring this subject.

Everyone can identify with it to some degree. Every person I have met, has had a story to tell of some strange event in their lives. No one is immune.

Kate C

My grandmother once said in a grand voice at an extended family/friend dinner "you wouldn't believe how handsome your father used to be!" As for books, Wolf Hall and now Bring Up the Bodies, but Wolf Hall has elicited a love/hate response among my friends. Moi, j'adore ca!

Mary Nixon

My favorite potato salad is with bacon, green onion, dill salt and pepper and the dressing is half mayonnaise and half sour cream. The secret is to coat the potatoes with a bit of the bacon grease before you put the sour cream and mayo on. The dill is a nice flavor.

Lynn Harden

I a re-reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon! Great read....and wonderful history!

Karen Learned

My book club is reading Dreaming in French by Alice Yeager Kaplan. It is about 3 women and the impact on them of living in Paris for a year. The 3 women are Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis.

I have only read the part about Jackie Kennedy, but it is quite interesting to me since I lived in Aix en Provence for my junior year abroad in college.

Edie Kilgour

Always put a vinaigrette on the warm potatoes before doing anything else. After that red onion, lots of parsley, salt and pepper.I usually add a little mayonnaise and sometimes chopped chives.
Edie in Brunswick, Maine

Amy Brucksch

I have just finished The Glass Castle, thanks to your recommendation several weeks ago. I could NOT put it down and will be using it as my selection in August at my book club when we are to bring a biography or memoir.

Dorothy in RI

Definitely potatoes, hard boiled eggs and onion for potato salad. Optional are celery, dill pickle, parsley.
I like to add a vinegar-oil-mustard vinaigrette to the hot potatoes and mix. Then some mayonaise when cooled and the other ingredients are added.

Diane Fujimoto

This is a fabulous post, Kristin. I have to come back to it and finish, before I contribute, as I don't have the time right now to give it's due diligence. Thank you so much for all your thoughts and ideas!


I love capers in potato salad and lots of parsley

Fanny Cattran

My lovely young friend gazed at my garden and said, 'Your garden looks lovely, all wild and overgrown'. When I laughingly replied that that's not a compliment to a gardener, she dug deeper and said, 'it's like a wild flower meadow'!

Kristin Espinasse

It is Saturday morning and a bowl of potato salad is resting on the picnic table. I have incorporated as many of your tips as possible--with what ingredients I had on hand! I love the idea of capers (thanks Jeanne) and have poured apple cider vinegar (thanks Robin) over the hot potatoes (thanks Karen). This is the same tip my mother-in-law, Michele-France, gave me years ago--but I had forgotten it! I also added herbs de Provence (merci April and Geraldine!). I kept it simple, using cornichons, hard-boiled eggs, and onions. After pouring the vinegar over, I lifted out the potatoes then added the olive oil, mustard, mayo, and sp -- along with the herbs, to the dressing. No one mentioned whether or not they leave the potato skins on (I do).

I will try the other suggestions soon. Bacon is a good idea, and what about the lardons they use so often here?

Hiliary, here is the book club list that Agnès posted (click on link then go to the end of the comments): 

Thanks for the documentary suggestions (wish we had Netflix in France--or do we?) and for your thoughtful responses to the questions. It is a pleasure reading everyones thoughts here. Happy weekend! (P.S. some of the punctuation in this comment may not show up, as I am responding via email and there is a glitch that occurs when the comment appears online!) 

Kristin Espinasse

Louise, thanks for such kind words!

David, thanks for the helpful edit. I need to learn when to use the word *fewer* and when to use *less*.

Elizabeth and Paula, yes, there will be wine tastings during harvest season -- we hope! Please email or leave a comment (in any of the posts, I will see it) in September and I will let you know the current tasting schedule. P.S., Paula--loved your addition of sour cream to the potato salad dressing. Will try that one!

Happy Birthday Patience!

Rebecca, I get confused and forgetful about whether or not to capitalize the months (in French). As I typed that example sentence, I used non caps... but Jean-Marc, seeing my mistake (?) told me to capitalize them. Can anyone help with this and with the rest of Rebeccas question; here it is again:

I do have a grammar question. I majored in French but sometimes doubt myself--in your above example (Un juilletiste cest quelquun qui prend ses vacances au mois de Juillet, et un aoutien cest quelquun qui prend ses vacances au mois dAoût.) I noted two things that seemed off to me. First, arent you supposed to leave months un-capitalized in French? Juillet and août are both capitalized in your example. Second, why cest? I would say Un juilletiste est... and not Un juilletiste cest.... unless I put a comma between the two or were speaking rapidly and colloquially, where grammar slips are charming and expected. The c for ça adds a second subject, but you already have one, so it becomes superfluous.

Amber Hopwood

I absolutely agree that we need to know how to grow our own food! There are a lot of young people that do not know where their food comes from. This is an excellent topic and if you haven't seen it, you should see the Disney movie Wall-E. It is exactly about this topic and where we are headed if we don't learn to grow our own food and learn to least a bit!

In our house, we started small with our kids....growing strawberries and herbs. This year we've expanded to corn, watermelons and pumpkins. It's important that they understand where and how to grow food, not only for La nouriture, but also for the experience of nurturing something, the accomplishment of taking care of something,watching it grow and being able to share it with others.

Thanks for all of the topics today and for asking for our 2 cents!

On a different note, it is le 14 juillet and I always think of French Independance day just as I do of the 4th of July. I remember learning about La prise de la bastille and the events surrounding it. Do you celebrate there as we do here? With potatoe salad?Ha!

Karen Whitcome  (Towson, Md)

I don't know what to do first: make a list of all of these marvelous suggestions or add my own!!?? You have really opened a door to many delights and insights, Kristin. Thanks!

Karen Whitcome  (Towson, Md)

My latest book/author discovery is unlike any other books that I usually read but the stories drew me in.

The author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A short little introduction:

Karen Stride

Hi Kristin
I am interested in visiting you and your wine tasting on 16 July but not sure exactly where you are? I am staying in Avignon.


To whom can you tell anything? To whom do you go to unburden your heart?

I'm sure everybody is going to hate me for the above but I'm used to it. lol It's just that mistakes like that send me screaming up the wall... And you do say to correct you...



WOW !!! I FEEL LIKE I WOKE UP IN MY FAVORITE CANDY STORE THIS many wonderful nuggets of wonderful minds gathered here sharing the sweetness of friendship.

It is amazing how God works in our little universe of 'FRENCH-WORD-A-DAY. Yesterday Kristi called me in the early morning to find my motherly ear and shed her woe's and pain. Apparently someone had reviewed her book on AMAZON and left her an insult along with one a STAR rating. Of course we all know that writers and artists are very sensetive when it comes to their passion because they (as my favorite commenter Bill in Hawaii says, "They cut a vein and let it bleed all over the page/canvas.) As Kristi continued on with her thoughts a familiar phrase repeated itself as it always does when Kristi is defending her place in time - 'I just want to be able to pick up one of my books when I am 80 and see where I truly was at that time of my life.'

Here is the good news - I know Kristi probably sat at her keyboard yesterday morning with the weight of this unkind comment, but she continued on because she does really in the end feel she has a connection and a responsibility to communicate with her readers plus record her place in time.....

AND LOOK AT ALL OF THE LOVE and JOY all of her readers sent her in the comments box after she pulled herself together and put out this post.

Your sharing and connecting here in the comments box is the fuel that Kristi thrives on each post-day.


And I am sure Kristi is flying high on the number of comments she has received from all of you this morning.

Maybe we need to think about feeding AMAZON some more reviews - is there anyone out there that can help with this?



Anne in Melbourne, Australia

I compost everything I possibly can. I don't have one of those special compost bins, but inherited a 'heap' down the back of my back yard. I dig everything in and am occasionally surprised by a potato plant yielding some fresh, un-fertilized, home-grown potatoes, sprouting from the middle of the heap. Lawn clippings also go on it. By doing this and putting all glass, cans, paper and cardboard into the recycling bins which our council collects fortnightly, there's not much that goes into the rubbish bins. I just wish I could somehow recycle all the plastic bags. As for books, my favourire author is Susan Howatch. Bought my first book of hers to read on the train on my way home in 1976, and have read every one since. Favourites: 'The Wheel of Fortune' and 'A Question of Integrity' (which I think was published under the title. 'The Wonder Worker' in America). She is no longer writing, sadly, and has been called 'a modern Anthony Trollop'. I don't know his works, but she's a superb story teller. Most of the last 8 or 9 explore themes of the clergy and related aspects of the Church of England, in gripping stories. I have copied several of the potato salad recipes and look forward to making them next summer. It's freezing cold winter here in Melbourne (Australia) now!


Lately my husband and I are on a Mary Doria Russell kick. She is a brilliant woman and does her research to perfection. We just read "Doc" (historical fiction about Doc Holiday in the wild West) and "Dreamers of the Day" (another historical fiction about a shy American woman in the 1920s who witnesses the making of the middle east when she travels to Egypt and meets Lawrence of Arabia and the young Churchill). Presently we are starting on "A Thread of Grace" (historical fiction about the Italians who saved many Jewish families during Hitler's regime. Great dialogue and characters overlapping factual history.

Diane Young

Just finished reading "The Swan Thieves" by Kate Furnivall. It was riveting. If you like the Impressionists, you'll like this book.

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

summer " uniform" : white knee-length shorts, black top or tunic, black sandals. You can dress it up or down, super practical and time-saving.
favorite thing in potato salad: capers and a little caper " juice" and lots of onions.
Favorite MOST WONDERFUL latest book read " the language of flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh a great story, a great one for you, Kristen! ( NY times bestseller)
Smokey : " Yee Ha!!!!"
And your wonderful Mom is right, we artists want everyone to love everything we do, but I learned a long time ago that as long as you make the majority of your readers or art "appreciators" happy, then you should consider yourself very fortunate! I know 99.9 % of your readers LOVE your work, so you have it made in the shade!!
Grosses bises to all of you, specially Braise and the Smoke


Kristen and Jules,

What I love about this blog is that I truly feel as if I have come to know you and your family. I look forward to reading each new post, not only to hear about life in France but also to see what your family is up to. And of course, you're an excellent writer, so that alone makes the blog worth reading. The negative commenter is obviously not a part of this blog and was expecting something different. Had he/she been part of your little online community, I think the reaction to the book would have been completely different!

Karen from Phoenix

I so agree. I think the negative review is because she doesn't know you and your family. Being part of this wonderful "family" brings us all closer to your words.

Everyone cannot love us as we would like, so don't take it to heart.

You are a joyous, wonderful writer and I always look forward to reading what you write.



Recent book: Becoming George Sand.
Amusing youtube video: Henri 2, Paw de deux. (Becoming a french existentialist cat.)

Mark Holmberg, Minneapolis

Kristen, it is such a joy to read your postings and I love the thoughtful questions you posed.

The latest book that made an impact on me was, Please Look After Mom, by Kyung-Sook Shin. She is a Korean author and this is her first book published in English. The story begins with an elderly couple who travels to Seoul to visit their son. While boarding the train they become separated and mom is left behind. Her husband then gets off at the next stop, returns to where they were separated, and begins to look for her. The book is written in four voices, daughter, son, husband, and mom. Beautifully written, thought provoking, the question is, how do we really know the person we call mom?

Kristen, you have such a special relationship with your own mother that I know you will enjoy reading this book.

Hedy Holmberg

edith schmidt


Just read "The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, From Cairo to Brooklyn". This is a bittersweet memoir written by a journalist who is now an investigative reporter for the "Wall Street Journal". Along the way the author gives us a wonderful portrait of her lovely, bookish, French speaking mother and her attempt to adjust to living in America.

Edie from Savannah

Mary from Winnetka

Potato Salad Tip (also works for Cole Slaw): Always, when I make dressings with mayonnaise, I "cut" the mayo using plain Greek Yogurt. It lightens and freshens!






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