cougar (and the French word for "boy toy")

indice + Jean-Marc's recorded letter...

I discovered a new sport-hobby while trying to keep up with Jean-Marc on vacation: vélography! One hand on my wobbly vélo, I photographed the fast-moving scenery—including island vineyards, hollyhocks, cornfields, grandmothers, cats, and—whoaahhh—oncoming traffic! I even experimented with over-the-shoulder photoshooting, awkwardly repositioning the camera all the while steadying my bicyclette. It didn't take a circus performer's agility to succeed, and the sloppily executed stunt felt as freeing as it was exhilarating! 

After recently losing the passion for photography, this accidental discovery--vélography--rekindled my love for the  art of snapshooting. (A note about today's photo: that's my bike's panier in the forefront. The pink towel inside is for the beach, where we are headed for an early morning swim, after I wrap up my camera in my shirt--lest one grain of sand scratch the lens! )


indice (an-deece) noun, masculine

    : clue, indication

 Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc read his letter addressed to you just below: Download MP3 or listen to the Wave file

A Day in a French Life.... by Jean-Marc 

Note: today's entry is written by Jean-Marc. The English version follows.

Bonjour amis lecteurs,

Nous tenons sincèrement à vous remercier pour tous les messages nous souhaitant "bonne fortune" pour le futur. Je voudrais aujourd'hui vous donner un indice sur ce fameux "secret". Vous devez savoir que Kristi meure d'envie de vous le révéler mais voilà, c'est moi qui la bloque et je suis donc la personne que vous pouvez blâmer... Vous saurez néanmoins d'ici à la fin du mois d'août la nature de ce que notre vie nous réserve pour le futur.
Je profite de cette tribune pour vous annoncer une très bonne nouvelle. Notre Mistral 2010 vient d'obtenir 89 points et notre Lunatique 2010, 91 points au Wine Spectator...et, autre indice, cela n'a pas de lien avec notre secret...

 Bien amicalement,


Hello Dear Readers,

We'd like to sincerely thank you for all of the good luck for the future messages. Today I would like to give you a clue about this great "secret". You should know that Kristi is dying to reveal it to you but, voilà, it is I who am preventing her and I am, therefore, the person you can blame. Nevertheless, you will know by the end of the month of August the nature of what it is our life reserves for us in the future.

I will take advantage of this post to announce some very good news. Our Mistral 2010 wine just received 89 points and our Lunatique 2010, 91 points in the Wine Spectator... and, one more clue, this has nothing to do with our secret...



To comment on Jean-Marc's letter, click here. You might also follow Jean-Marc on Twitter.

Vive la vélographie! Here's one of those over-the-shoulder shots. Almost swerved off the path, and into the cornfield, while taking it.

Popular modes of transportation on the island of Ré. A lot of hats there too. This woman's "bucket" hat is perfect for protecting the ears from harmful rays (read: skin cancer). Recently, my dad had a small piece of his ear cut off ... and you are already familiar with my own skin cancer surgeries.

Remember to protect your skin this summer. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day and wear  it on cloudy days too!  P.S. look for a sunscreen without cancer-causing chemicals, so as not to defeat the purpose! Share your favorite sunscreen here. If you know of a good chemical-free sunscreen, share the info in the comments box. Thanks!

   Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.


Ile de Re (c) Kristin Espinasse
Another shot on the île de Ré, where islanders show respect for their hollyhocks... it seems some homeowners would rather step aside than uproot a wayward flower!


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

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Umm … did I miss something? Is there a hint in there somewhere?

Congratulations on the excellent ratings, though!

Christine Dashper

Aah the suspense continues! Congrats about your wine though, fantastic!

Bill Facker

It's good to know you are both doing well! It's good to know the wine continues to be spectacular! It's GREAT to know YOU. Aloha, Bill

Pat Cargill

I am puzzled by the need to extend the announcement of your news.

What gives?

Congratulation, J-M on your excellent wine ratings!

Bill Facker

And concerning sunscreen ... my favorite sunscreen is sitting in a Brasserie in Versailles ;-)

Mike Hardcastle

Enforced waits are usually because of the need to confirm agreement with some third party so.............I'm more convinced than ever that the secret has to be a business venture. Perhaps a holiday complex with wine appreciation classes, or french language classes........ on verra bien.


Ronni Ebbers

Sounds like a marvelous holiday. Bravo to Kristin on her velophoto shot.

Congratulations on the excellent scores for your wine. We have been enjoying your rose and red (named only Dentelle 2009) this summer.

The rose is superb and refreshing outdoors on our very warm and humid North Carolina summer evenings. Is Mistral distributed in Paris? We'll be there much of September.

I eagerly await your exciting news.






Yes! Some of the more radical and ingenius friends of mine from FWAD were heating up the 'CHAT-BOX' to see if I would spill my guts. My kind of friends. I was tempted over and over to open my mouth, most of all I was surprised by myself when I was able to toe the line...


J'aime bien avoir les mots de Jean-Marc en français écrits aussi. C'est encore de pratique chez moi.

J'en ai besoin aussi bien que de la langue parlée.

Comme vous voyez!

Merci, et bien à vous tous!
s de l'île de st. simon en Georgie


J'adore Il de Re!!! Have fun. For those investigating sunscreen options, check out the research found on The Environmental Working Group's sunscreen guide web site…they've done some amazing research:
And no, I've no association with this group. : )
Vive l'ete!!

Cynthia Baita

I feel that your "surprise" has nothing to do with wine, or maybe it does...........
When ever there is a secret on hold with third parties, it has something to do with a new addition, a baby perhaps?

Anna Mershon

Anthelios, recommended by my dermatologist is a good sunscreen and comes in 60.



I can't begin to tell you the amount of stress these cliff-hangers drown my life in.

But more than my wineing - I am amazed, and quite proud that Kristi has been able to keep her mouth shut....she was never like this as a child. We all learned early not to tell her anything because she just can't keep a secret. My goodness she has grown into quite a woman over the last 35 years. I remember when Kristi was ten years...she talked so much that I finally went out and bought a tape recorded and set it on the kitchen table and said, 'Honey, just talk to the box, you're wearing me out with all this information." She had stories spilling out of her constantly - the frogs in the wash, the goldmine of cans she was collecting to smash under her tennis shoes for spending money (today Kristi now realizes that all of the beer cans she was finding in the neighbors trash perhaps told a much deeper story regarding the lonely lady down the street.)

OF COURSE I RESPECT JEAN-MARC'S WISHES (SP?) Jean-Marc is really the one responsible for making our lives so much more interesting than they would normally be....JM is the one who is DRIVING THIS BUS.

Sorry about all of the CAPS - I am trying to break this habit but there is nothing like a big shout out when you are feeling the electricity of life.

Of course I know the 'SECRET' - I just keep forgetting I know it because I can't talk about it.......seems like long ago I read somewhere the power of a secret to give you energy and strength to bring it to pass. Maybe that's the game here.



Pat Cargill

Having re-read today's post, I realize there must be a legal-type angle involved here, perhaps some conract to be signed, etc, etc. So, I figure it is about buying/selling; owning/divesting; whatEVAH, it is about J-M and his doings so changes are afoot for the vintner...USA, nah! No way they are moving, at least not across the big pond. Italy? No, again, cannot see Espinasse famille departing la belle France. So additional vinyards somewhere seem to be in their futur. Perhaps a move then. We use Athelios sunscreen, too.

Jules, at least you KNOW, so your caps can settle down, huh?

Pat Cargill

And, BTW, love photos of J-M, way cool, Kristen, and re: his teeshirt:

Check this out mes amis: VERTIGO 05, yeah!


Sue J.

congratualations on the excellent ratings of your wines! sounds like the perfect ending of an Espinasse movie :)


I can't stand to wait! I'm guessing he will get a new job as a head vintner in California.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Congratulations on your wine, Jean-Marc. Definitely well deserved. As for keeping secrets, my husband has me sitting on one, too, known only to family and close friends (and keeping me from posting in my blog). However, before the week is out I think I'll convince him to let me spill. So I respect you for maintaining the silence -- although I can see you wiggling in your seat wanting to blurt it out.


I'm doing the best I can to ignore speculating on the "secret." I'm so happy Kristi has picked up her camera again. I have a little Canon elph that fits nicely in my bike jersey pocket. I've taken hundreds of photos while pedaling. With a little practice you won't swerve. Part of the trick is not to try to look at the camera's screen or especially not through the viewfinder. Just click away and a few will turn out nice if the camera is generally aimed where you are looking. And to photograph those behind you? Look forward to steer, hold the camera backwards above your head, and snap away. It takes a little practice to get the camera angle right, but once you get the hang of it, some fun photos result.

Now, back to speculating on what the secret is...

nancy v

Keeping a secret is always hard - especially when it brings such joy! Congratulations on your wine ratings - obviously not the secret! Let's see - waiting for a contract, a business escrow or the first trimester to pass, book/entertainment deal to finalize, special time for one of your children or ??? What fun.


That is great news about your wines! Is anything you make available to us desert people in Phoenix? I am fantasizing about the rose after sundown on the patio with minsters at full blast watching the last of the sun sink behind the mountains to the west..producing a coral sky.


You do know how to drive people crazy with wonder about your news, don't you? Love Jules comments. Hmm let me guess, you are getting more land? Maybe in Italy? Or,you are moving to the U.S. or...you are opening up a bed and breakfast at RougeBleu.

Anna Castleton

Having had sun damage and skin cancers from
growing up in Africa, I discovered www.perrinsblend.com a completely natural cream that gets rid of skin lesions.

It also works for Lichen Sclerosis.

Tom from Detroit

Kristi, please help. I have to drop the email address that receives French Word A Day. Should I just subscribe with my new address and unsubscribe the old one? I can't find another way to do it on the web page.

RE: the big secret. While the suspense is not killing me, I'll be glad when J-M gives the go ahead to spill the beans.


Oh my nerves! If we think our nerves are frazzeled waiting for this big announcement perhaps Smokey and Braise know or do they. let me see-a trip across the pond to a house in Napa Valley. Does Jules know? maybe we could bribe her with a new poncho.
re the letter..longer words are harder for me it interupts the flow....

Karen from Phoenix

I too am waiting with baited breath!! End of August, I cannot believe we have to wait so long. UGH!

Congrats on the wine rating, it is well deserved.



Okay then, congrats on the wine ratings, but.... When I have to wait for an announcement it always seems to be about a new baby arriving. But, I suspect you are going to announce a new tour. Whatever it is, I hope it means happiness and good health.



I thought moving to the wine farm was amazing news several years back! I can't wait to find out what you have coming now... Now that I have read a couple other comments my mind is racing with the possibilities. I read your book years ago and that is how I came to find your blog. I have 3 kids who were quite young when I was introduced to your life and it has been so much fun following you. I'm sure you have something great in the works!

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

Can't wait for the secret to be revealed.

Jeanne Freeland

I just read an article by Dr Joseph Mercola, whom I trust quite a lot, about how most sunscreens have toxins. If you go to Mercola.com and click on "personal care," you'll find the article and at the end, can order his formulation, which is mostly essential oils but which purports to be more effective than even sunscreens with the nasty DEET.


hmmm, having a baby?

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

It has been a while since we heard how your latest book is progressing, with stories from your family's time living in the Var.

Could the surprise be the completed book?


Trish beat me to it. Are you two having a baby????!!

Am going to see if I can order your wine through our favorite wineseller here. Felicitations on the fabulous ratings!!!

Linda Patton

I can enthusiastically recommend a sunscreen that American woman have been bringing back from France for many years and has recently been approved for sale in the US. It's made by La Roche-Posay and is called Anthelios and comes in many different versions. It feels very nice on the skin and does not react with your eyes which inevitably all the other products I've used do. I am very happy with the Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Melt-In Cream at $24.00 from Amazon (it lasts a really long time) but will try next the Anthelios 50 Daily Anti-Aging Primer with Sunscreen for extra benefit. One note: it does make your skin whiter but also comes in a tinted version. I just brush a color powder lightly over it. I do think it gives the skin a beautiful smooth glow - and I'm over 70.

Anne Winner Anderson

Congratulations on the Wine Spectator ratings, we rely on WS and know first hand the 2010 Mistral high rating is well-deserved!

Jennifer in OR

Love the velo ride pictures. It would be lovely if there is a "movie deal" -- we get to watch the whole Espinasse saga on the big screen! Or maybe a reality-TV show at Domaine Rouge Bleu??

Have a fabulous August!!

Jonathan Kerlin

Thinking about what could be only leads to more problems than it's worth. That being said, loved your photo's, they always show the things you can't always find in documentaries. J'espère que votre été c'est très bon!(Wasn't sure if the adjective referring back to the noun would be masculine, but whatever...)


Hi dear Kristin,
What wonderful pictures! You DEFINITELY have kept your gift(!)and we are so fortunate to be able to share in both your photos again and your vacation adventures! ( beautiful scenery!!)
Congratulations to Jean-Marc for such well deserved ratings!
Another terrific way to start the week!
Natalia XO


How I envy you lot for being able to ride Without a HELMET....!
Jacqueline in Brisbane
PS: I hope I'll find your wines in Belgium when I get there in September...

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Just goes to show, I am not a patient waiter….

In the meantime, enjoyed your free-wheeling photos (especially #23 hollyhock – so pretty, oh my!) of your (sounds so relaxing) vacation!

Congrats on the continued recognition of your wonderful wines!

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)

I can't imagine you losing your enthusiasm for photography because you are so good at it. Congratulations on the wine ratings, Jean-Marc- your wine is most deserving of them. As for the secret, I won't even begin to speculate but will be holding my breath until the news is revealed.

Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Congratulations for the excellent wine ratings! And many thanks, Jean-Marc, for reading your letter to us in French (of course). You are thoughtful to speak somewhat slowly so folks like me can understand. Best wishes......secrets and all!

Laverne Over the Rainbow



Félicitations !

Mary Keates

I'm a great Nanny.....

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md USA

Not a hint in sight, J.M. but it was good to hear your voice and to read about about the fabulous news on the Mistral and the Lunatique. Bravo!! Salut!!

Kristin, now I'm wondering if you might be announcing a sabbatical. If you are losing the joy of photography, could you possible be losing the joy of blogging? Creative people need time to renew. We would understand. HOWEVER...... the news I'm hoping for would really involve something more exciting for all of us!!

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
I have a photo almost identical to your first photo, only I did end up in the ditch on the side of the road. We were on our way to a beach in Greece.
I love the sunscreens from EltaMD.
Can't wait to hear your news, maybe on Friday?
Have a nice week!

Aidan Larson

Congrats on the wine awards and also on being such a cheeky tease! My bet is on the movie of your romantic lives and love story but I'll just wait and see. I'm glad you had such a nice holiday. Il de re is on my list of must-dos while we're here. How was the overnight drive? That was a great idea. It took us 6 hours to get from Barcelona back to Montpellier in July because of traffic and forest fires.
Wonderful snapshots! But be careful!!
Is there a tasting in August?

Ken Scupp

Jean Marc- Felicatations pour votre critique formidable! J'espere les vins sont disponible a Boston.

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Félicitations, Jean-Marc! Kristin, so glad your passion for photography has been rekindled. You have a gift that gives pleasure to so many; I hope it brings joy to you as well!
As for the secret, waiting patiently!

gail bingenheimer

A puzzle to play

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md USA

Could it be a home re-modeling project. Could it be delayed (as they all are) and it has left Kristin with no office until late August?

Kathleen from Connecticut

Congrats on the Wine Spectator ratings.

Kristi, you are a tease, by not telling us. Love the pics.

Susan Widmayer

Congrats on the ratings...it was your destiny!!! plus lots of hard work. We are all such fans, but now we know that the "experts" agree!

I, too, have experienced the fear of discovering 2 BCCs on my face (Basel Cell Carcinoma); one on my lower eyelid, and the other on my upper lip. Just think where the sun falls.... I found a wonderful daily sunscreen at my Wegman's grocery Health Section. It is from MyChelle, Sun Schield SPF 28 with only Zinc Oxide (ZinClear) 11.6% and Titanium Dioxide 0.67%. No retinyl Palmitate or any chemical absorbers like oxybenzone or PABA. It's unscented and includes Aloe and Vit E....my dermatoligist was very happy to see my choice! Please try to find it, or I will send you some. www.mychelle.com
Much love and Happiness for whatever good news you send our way. Susan in Oakton

Frances Anamosa

Congratulations on the great scores on the wines from Wine Spectator. Sure wish I could buy the wine here in Napa. The West Coast office for WS is here in Napa - maybe I'll stroll over there and ask for a bottle. Hah! I love Rose wine in summer, and I sure wich I could taste it. Frances in Napa, California where the grapes are ripening as we speak!


A movie?

Audrey Wilson

Been reading all the guesses about THE NEWS & thinking. Is that you are opening a cave in California or elsewhere States Side??

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Felicitations Jean Marc et Kristi on your ranking in Wine Spectator. You should be so proud after all of your hard work.

I'm dying to know what the secret is just like everyone else. So many funny guesses. Thanks for the laughs FWAD readers!



I realise I am a little late with my reponse but I am only sitting down now, and catching up with my inbox as I watch the replay of the closing ceremony!1 (Did not really feel like waking up at 5.30am on a monday morning to see it live!)

The above link will take you to a very natural, safe and Australian sunscreen...i think you will like what you find.

Genevieve Saffren

Vanicream (SPF 60) is a very effective, safe sunscreen for sensitive skin. The ingredients are enert - physical blocks (titanium oxide & zinc oxide). We have used in at our children center here in LA at a major university for over a year with young children ages 6 mos - 5.5 yrs and adults. 2 of our parents, who are dermatologists, "vetted" this product before we chose to use it. The company's website is: www.psico.com (1.800.325.8232).

Alison Johnston


Changement...ah oui. Ma mere est dans l'hopital depuis 2 semaines. She is improving day by day but it sure is difficult.

I love your wayward hollyhocks! I would love to paint a painting of your photograph. It is simply lovely.

I am interested in posting an ad for "Thyme in my Pocket" on your blog. What do you think? Can you advise me how go about that?

I sure hope I can get back to France soon! Your trip to Isle de Ré looked wonderful!


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