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Bilingual Post: se sublimer (and more about the creative process)

  stone house yellow hose painted sign dog picket fence wooden lintel italy aosta valley dog Love Well (c) Kristin Espinasse

The painted sign reads: "To live well, love well, and let the others say what they will!" Pour bien vivre, bien aimer, et laisser dire. (Picture taken during our family vacation in Aosta, Italy. I repost this photo often because the message is so good and a needed reminder!)

 se sublimer (seuh-soo-blee-may)

    : to transcend oneself, to go beyond one's limits

Example sentence
Dans ce délicat exercice, elle a le don de se sublimer pour produire une histoire qui va elle, engendrer un moment de bonheur à ses lecteurs. (see translation in the story below)

Audio File: listen to today's word in the following story, written and read aloud by Jean-Marc! Download MP3 or Wav file


Un jour dans la vie d’écrivain de Kristi... by Jean-Marc
A Day in Kristi's Writing Life... by Jean-Marc
Aujourd’hui, je voudrai vous parler de ce qu’est le quotidien de notre chère écrivain.
Today, I want to talk to you about what is a typical day in the life of our dear writer.

Kristi se lève vers 6H le matin, ouvre la porte pour que Smokey (qui alors aboie et réveille toute la maison), puis Braise sortent quelques minutes) puis, elle va gentillement nous préparer le thé.
Kristi wakes up around six in the morning, opens the door so that Smokey (who then barks and wakes up the whole house), and then Braise, can go out a few minutes) then she kindly prepares us tea.

Ensuite, elle revient dans notre chambre pour boire le thé, consulter ses emails sans malheureusement pouvoir y répondre car c'est bientôt l'heure d'écrire son édition.
Next, she returns to our room to drink the tea, to consult her emails, without, unfortunately being able to respond to them for it is soon time to begin her edition.

C’est au tour de Jackie et Max de se lever et alors que je vais accompagner Maxime au bus, c’est Kristi qui le plus souvent s’occupe d’amener Jackie à l’école. 
Now it's time for Jackie and Max to get up and while it is I who takes Max to the bus, it's most often Kristi who takes care of getting Jackie to school.

Il est 8 H 30 et Kristi, le plus souvent, n’a toujours pas idée de ce qu’elle va écrire. Pour elle, l’inspiration est souvent synonyme d’improvisation.
It is 8:30 and Kristi, most often, still has no idea what she's going to write. For her, inspiration is often synonymous with improvisation.

Ce léger stress et la pression de devoir écrire une édition la plus parfaite en moins de quatre heures, tout en ayant à inclure sponsors, photos, messages vocaux, est une réelle prouesse d’artiste, surtout lorsque cela se produit en moyenne trois fois par semaine. 
This slight stress and the pressure to have to write the most perfect edition in less than four hours, all the while including sponsors, photos, vocal messages, is a true prowesse of the artist, especially when this is reproduced, in general, around three times a week.

Dans ce délicat exercice, elle a le don de se sublimer pour produire une histoire qui va elle, engendrer un moment de bonheur à ses lecteurs.
In this delicate exercise, she has the gift of transcending herself in order to produce a story that will itself engender a moment of happiness for her readers.

Pendant ce temps là, Kristi a un grand besoin de calme et ne se donne que quelques courtes pauses pour aller grignoter un fruit.
During this time, Kristi has a real need for calm, and she only gives herself a few short breaks to go and snack on a piece of fruit.

Une fois l’édition terminée, elle prépare notre déjeuner, va faire balader les chiens et puis, après avoir mangé son repas, elle va décompresser par une petite "sacro-sainte" sieste.
Once her edition is finished, she fixes our lunch, goes to walk the dogs and then, after eating her lunch, she goes to decompress by a little sacred nap.
Vient ensuite l’heure de lire les commentaires qui sont pour elle la récompense des efforts fournis dans la matinée. Elle va ensuite avoir un tout petit peu de temps pour répondre aux très nombreux emails et de s'occuper de nos enfants, de rencontrer quelques amis, de tenir la maison propre...
Next up, it is time to read the story comments which are for her the reward for her morning efforts. She'll then have a little time left to respond to numerous emails and to take care of our kids, meet with friends, and keep the house clean.

Voilà, je pensais vous pourriez savoir à quoi ressemble une journée type dans la vie de votre écrivain. Comme vous le voyez, cela ne lui laisse pas beaucoup de temps de loisirs.
So there you have it, I thought you might like to know just what a typical day looks like, in the life of your writer. As you can see, it doesn't leave a lot of time for leisure.
Aussi, j’espère que vous serez indulgents si elle ne répond pas toujours aux très nombreux emails qu’elle reçoit. Sachez néanmoins qu’ils sont tous lus et appréciés.
Also, I hope you'll be indulgent if she doesn't always respond to the numerous emails that she receives. Know, however, that they are all read and appreciated.
Même si Kristi travaille énormément, elle se considère privilégiée de pouvoir être en contact avec de si nombreux lecteurs qui ont tous également du talent, de la sagesse et un grande âme.
Even if Kristi works alot, she considers herself priviledged to be able to be in contact with so many readers who all have, equally, talent, wisdom and great souls. 


 => Listen to today's story, read aloud by Jean-Marc! Download MP3 or Wav file


You've Got Mail! (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc, standing next to a mailbox at our cousin's house near Aix. When André and Annie (aunt- and uncle-in-law) hung their boîte à lettres one this magical plane tree... the tree responded by reaching out... for the longest hug in history (it took a decade or two to complete the hug!) Maybe someone should contact the Guiness Book of Records?

Thank you! I enjoyed your translations to yesterday's example sentence. Search the comments box to see them here. Here, again, is the sentence:

Le bonheur des yeux lui ferait-il raccrocher son cœur comme le chapeau du porte-manteau ? (Philippe Rousseau, L'Or des ecrins)

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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charming way to say "eye-candy" in French


Clothing shopfront paris hats chapeau promos sales vuitton marc jacobs hermes
Hats outside a shopfront in Paris, to go along with today's quote

bonheur pour les yeux

    : eye-candy

Audio File: (check back later for Jean-Marc's recording. Meantime, help! I need your assistance translating today's example sentence. Click here to leave your translation.)

Le bonheur des yeux lui ferait-il raccrocher son cœur comme le chapeau du porte-manteau ? (Philippe Rousseau, L'Or des ecrins)

Recent Interviews:
  • Listen to Jeff Steiner's podcast and learn about how my self-published books were picked up by Simon and Schuster. Also, learn tips on moving to France. Click here.
  • New York Times writer Ann Mah invited me to contribute to her Tuesday Night Dinner. Check out what we cooked up, here.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

In today's post, a few more photos from the cruise. Enjoy... and see you tomorrow with a special post, in French, from Jean-Marc.

Entering the town of Grignan, an ancient lavoir is all dressed up in columns
The clock tower shows the time, the leaves, the season.
In front of the antiques dealer's.

The bistro (where my aunt and I stole the sugar... and got caught! Click here to read the story and to learn another term "en flagrant délit".) 
Queue de Chat (c) Kristin Espinasse
Do you see the cat?
Grignan Castle (c) Kristin Espinasse
Fellow cruisers on our AMA Waterways river voyage. Remember to keep my friend Susan in mind, if you need help with travel arrangements: 
Grignan Old Village (c) Kristin Espinasse
Terrace with a view...

Grignan Gift Shop (c) Kristin EspinasseGuarding the goods: one of the many shop dogs you'll see in these quaint French villages. All of today's photos, above, were taken in the town of Grignan, where Madame de Sevigny wrote heartfelt letters to her daughter.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Need encouragement? How to say "If at first you don't succeed try try again"

saint-peray cornas domaine chaboud wine barrel Les bouteilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thank you for your encouraging feedback on the recent video I made with Smokey. But after trying and failing to make a follow up recording, I'm wondering if I should just stick to photography (today's pic taken on our Rhone river cruise) instead! In times like these, I find the following saying to be particularly reassuring: 

dix fois sur le métier, remettre son ouvrage!
    : if at first you don't succeed, try try again!

(a second translation follows. See the audio section, below)


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentences: Download MP3 or Wav file

Dix fois sur le métier, remettre son ouvrage.
If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

Note: sometimes "vingt fois" is used. I found this example at

Nous devons mettre en pratique la maxime bien connue de Boileau, « Vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage », c'est-à-dire revenir inlassablement à la tâche en multipliant les occasions de faire passer les messages. We must apply the well-known maxim of Boileau: "go back to your work again," that is, keep at your task tirelessly and take every opportunity to get the message across.

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

On The Workings of Inspiration

Saturday afternoon, during a restless and agitated sieste, I began to sense some kind of pull coming from within. Next, it felt as though invisible fingers had wrapped around me and were now carrying me out of my bed and over to my desk.

There, I began searching wildly for my video camera. Incredibly I found it, only to rush around trying to find a stable surface on which to set it, and so begin recording the message that was bubbling out from deep within. 

But each time I steadied the camera (on a chair or on the bed or par terre) it tipped and fell over.

Va dehors... I continued to follow the curious inner-urging, which led me down the dirt path opposite the leafy potager, past the clothesline, and over to the cabanon.

Along the way, I picked up a plastic laundry basket, already calculating the height at which I would need to place the camera. I automatically grabbed a picnic chair, in passing.

Now facing the stone wall of the shed, the camera steadied on the laundry basket, which teetered over the chair, I quickly hit "record".... 

Next I hurried around to the other side of the lens. 
Smokey followed, until we were both posed before the camera like a couple of animated puppets, brought to life by the artist behind the scene.

After only one take, the recording was a relative success (not counting the lost footage, when the camera ran out of space), so much so that Smokey and I began to entertain visions of the next Cannes film festival, where we fancied ourselves strolling the red carpet with the likes of Jean Dujardin.

Not wasting a moment, Smokey and I set out to top our first recording. Cannes here we come! Only this time, when the camera began rolling, calamity struck.

The puppets petered out! 

And so it was that, without the great puppet master, Inspiration, the two self-appointed starlets hung heavy from the strings that once supported them.

Across the path, over on the clothesline, the laundry hung in much the same way. And so I got up and went to collect it. 


Post note: the question now is, do we wait for inspiration in order to carry out our artistic pursuits?

If I waited for inspiration each time I set out to write, I would not write very many stories (today, for example, was a total no-inspiration day... a day in which I wanted to crawl back under the covers, and rot there).

But my motto has always been "don't wait for inspiration! Keep plugging away! Work past the difficulty." While this advice is good for writing, it may not work for filming—a medium which is much less forgiving.


French Vocabulary

la sieste = nap
par terre = on the floor
va dehors = go outside
le potager = kitchen garden
le cabanon = stone shack, or hut


"Maybe next time we should wear wigs?" Smokey suggests.... photo taken in Avignon, one of the ports we visited during ourAMA Rhône river cruise.


Capture plein écran 18112012 101316Bonne Femme Cookbook. Learn the recipe for tapenade as well as cultural/culinary insights to this delicious French life. Click here to order.

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.


 NEWS! I am excited to be featured in Ann Mah's Tuesday Night Dinner column. It will be published today, so please check back, via this link, to see if the interview has been posted. You'll learn about what a typical evening mealtime is like here at our place!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Video for Aunt Liddy!

Chère Aunt Liddy,

I saw your email this morning and was saddened to learn that you needed to sign off from French Word-A-Day, due to difficulty seeing the words. Smokey and I have made you this video, in hopes of being able to read you a story or two, so that you may continue to enjoy this column—even if you can no longer see it.

Update: Sadly, the story was cut off after the video recorder ran out of room! But you will still see the two minute introduction. (The story transcript is here)



P.S. For those who are unable to see the video (in your newsletter), click over to the website, here

To comment on the video, thanks for clicking here. Would you like to see more videos? Thanks for the encouragment and feedback on this project.

Regarding the video backdrop: The scene was filmed at home, with the cabanon in the background and the olive orchard just beyond. Enjoy. (language tip: at the end of the video, before it cuts off, I am telling Smokey to "Sit down!" (Assis!) and when that doesn't work, I insist he lie down (the command is Couché!). After that the video cuts off....


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
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pourboire: How to say tip in French

Susan Boehnstedt aka Rouge-Bleu (c) Kristin Espinasse
Today, in the US, it's Le Jour de Merci Donnant and I'm busy giving thanks for the people in my life, including YOU and Rouge-Bleu. Read more about my high-school chum in today's story. Note: you haven't heard much about Susan, over the years--that's because I haven't had the chance to see her much. I do have a funny photo, near the end of this post, taken on one of those rare visits, in 2007...


pourboire (por-bwar)

    : tip

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence in French (note: enjoy the uncut version, in which you'll hear Jean-Marc's reaction to the mile-long example sentence I've selected. Listen closely as he teases, "oh, they're gonna like this one!... Oh, ça va leur plair celui-là! I did leave out my laughter, at the beginning of the recording, and had to beg my husband to please quit the tickling, it's time to get to work!): Download MP3 or Wav file

Le pourboire. En France, cette pratique s'est développée plus tard, au 19ème siècle, pour récompenser les cafetiers et restaurateurs d'un service de qualité. Le pourboire signifiait comme son nom l'indique un verre qu'on offrait en remerciement d'un service rendu... The tipIn France this practice was developed later, in the 19th-century, to compensate café-owners and restaurateurs for quality service. Le pourboire signifies, as its name indicates ("pour boire", or "for drink") a glass (drink) offered in thanks for a service rendered... (from, Les origines du pourboire)

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

...Continued from the previous post "Plein d'Entrain")...

When the tour bus rolled up to the dock, where our AMA cruise boat waited, I noticed my best friend and travelling companion reach for her porte-monnaie. Quickly, I mimicked Susan's gestures, as I would throughout the voyage, to ensure my behavior was in line with the other tourists', none of whom appeared nervous, awkward, or conspicuous.

Only, as I reached for my own portefeuille, I ran into an embarrassing pépin. Among all the loose change there was only one large coin. The rest were those itty-bitty yellow ones—les pièces jaunes my husband gives the gitans who instantly appear at city stop lights, brandishing water bottles and squeegees.  After they've doused our windshield with sudsy water, one feels obliged to thank them for it. But when my husband hands over the loose change from our cendrier —mostly pennies, twenty French cents worth—I want to hide inside the glove compartment. Manque d'espace! 

Back in the tourist bus, staring into my change-purse, I was tormented by visions of a tour guide throwing pennies back at me, just as some of the gitans had done, so offended were they by what was judged une insulte.

As I fingered the change, counting and recounting the coins, my best friend became aware of my fixation. "Everything alright, Rouge-Bleu*?" she inquired.

Completely absorbed by the contents of my change-purse, I was barely aware of answering. "I only have yellow coins for the second tour guide, "I murmured. "I've got a 2-euro coin for the first guide... but I can't find another two-euro coin to offer the second guide."

Like a broken record, I couldn't seem to change tracts. My thoughts were repeating and repeating, 2-euro coins... what will I do?... no two euro coins... what will I do?

"But you have enough," Susan assured me, pointing out that all the yellow coins added up to two euros.

"Yes, I know, but I can't hand over so much loose change!" The broken record in my mind continued 2-euro coins... what will I do?... no two euro coins... what will I do?

"Why not?" Susan was intrigued.

Was it fierté? I didn't want to be the tourist handing over the pennies, never mind the pennies added up to two euros! I'd be seen as one of those oursins-dans-la-poche types. A real cheapskate!

"And besides," I explained, trying to downplay the pride—by highlighting my thoughtful side—"if everyone gave the lady twenty coins (of ten centimes), that tour guide would be painfully weighed down. Just how would she and her heavy poches climb onto the metro for the ride home?"

Susan shook her head and smiled. "Rouge-Bleu, don't be silly. You have enough money—denomination doesn't matter!"

I nodded my head. Susan was right. Still, I couldn't help but stare into my purse willing a two-euro coin to appear. No matter how many times I ran my fingers through the centimes, turning them, I couldn't uncover a might-be-hidden-somewhere 2-euro coin.

Noticing the obsessive behavior, Susan put a stop to it in her usual discreet manner. "Look here, Rouge-Bleu," she said, holding up a prized 2-euro coin of her own.

I unglued my eyes from my change-purse, with it's bottomless pit of pennies, to discover my pal's proposition.

"I'll trade ya!" she said, "One of these for all of those."

It only took a thoughtful instant to be released from so much torture. Merci ma chère Rouge-Bleu.


Post note, as we walked off the bus and it came time to tip the tour guide, I did so with assurance. I was so relieved to have a big coin to give her, and not a handful of embarrassing pennies. ...Until it occured to me that Susan was about to pay for my freedom!

As she approached the tour guide, I studied my dear friend, as I would throughout the trip, mimicking her every gesture. I still had so much to learn.

How graceful she was as she thanked the guide, pausing to drop those pennies into her palm in one sincere shower of thanks.

I hope Rouge-Bleu will enjoy this tribute to our friendship, and that the story gives you an idea of her character. To leave a comment, please click here.

French Vocabulary

la porte-monnaie = coin-purse
le portefeuille = wallet
pépin = snag, hitch (pépin has another meaning. Read the story here)
les pièces jaunes = pennies
le gitan = gypsy 
le cendrier = ashtray
manque d'espace! = but for the lack of room!
la fierté = pride
avoir les oursins dans la poche = to have sea urchins in one's pockets (making it hard to reach for one's money...), ie, to be a cheapskate, skinflint, pinchpenny
une poche = pocket
merci ma chère Rouge-Bleu = thank you my dear Rouge-Bleu 

*Rouge-Bleu is the name my best friend and I call each other, after coming up with the moniker back in highschool. Susan had an after-school job in cosmetics (Lancome) and we enjoyed trying on all the make-up! When we discovered a lipstick called Rouge-Bleu, we couldn't pronounce the French word without dissolving into laughter. I still have trouble pronouncing it.

You may also recognize the name from our wine labels... Jean-Marc liked it so much he borrowed it! But the original Rouge-Bleu is my dear friend of 30 years. 


Rouge-bleu kristi susan

Susan, aka Rouge-Bleu, came to visit after our first harvest, in 2007. Though the harvest was over, Jean-Marc managed to find another field to glean. I'm wearing red--trying to stand out like a beacon lest the hunters (with whom we shared the field) mistake the harvesters, or vendengers, for venison! To comment on any item in this post, click here.

Now to tempt you to come to France... if you need assistance with airline tickets or hotel reservations, please contact Susan. She is the most devoted travel agent. 

You can email her at or call her at 480-831-9076.

Fall in Avignong (c) Kristin Espinasse
Meantime, keep thinking of your next visit... and you will be here soon! (photo taken in Avignon)


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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plein d'entrain

Peek-a-boo (c) Kristin Espinasse

Fall colors in France's 3rd largest city, Lyon, where our croisière fluviale docked on the last day of the AMA Waterways river cruise. If you dream of traveling the French canals, please do me a favor by contacting my best friend, Susan, for details of our Rhône river trip. Her email is or call her at 480-831-9076.

Today's word: plein d'entrain
In the category of French words I often hear but have no confidence using, comes the expression "avec entrain" or pleine d'entrain. A French relative used it, just yesterday, on seeing a photo posted near the end of this post. Amarie writes:

Merci pour cette belle photo pleine d'entrain. Thanks for this lovely, spirited photo.

Audio File: listen to Amarie's sentence, above, as Jean-Marc reads it: Download MP3 or Wav file


Definition: There are other ways to translate the "plein d'entrain" phrase. According to forum members over at WordReference, and to, here are some more possibilites:

  • bubbly
  • cheerful
  • lively 
  • vivacious
  • zippy
  • zestful
  • full of get-up-and-go
  • (help add more definitions of "entrain", via the comments box. Thanks in advance)

    Are you beginning to love this word as much as I am? Are you now feeling reckless enough to use it in conversation? Why not practice here in the comments box? Some more example sentences would be helpful.

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

Even though I was on a vacation retreat with a very close and trusted friend, it took a whole day to begin to relax and to leave all soucis behind. Though I no longer needed to think about nagging issues back home, there were new subjects to obsess about, even on a relaxing river cruise. One concern that came up (after who gets the bed closest to the bathroom? (the nervous half of our duo won out))—was tipping.

The French should write a book about pourboires; instead they prefer the subject keep its air of mystery, just like the seductive citoyens. Ask any Frenchman "How much should I tip?" and he'll say what every native says: "In France, tipping is not obligatoire. ...However, if you enjoyed the service you can show your appreciation by leaving whatever amount with which you are comfortable."  

Twenty years in France and I am still uncomfortable about tipping. I would not want to slight a bellhop because of my ignorance. And did I know whether to tip the bus driver?—when it seemed the tour guide got all the pourboires? Thankfully, my best friend and traveling partner, Susan, had sent me a brochure of our trip, and I had read the section on gratuities. Apparently tipping would take place at the end of the trip, when in one fell swoop we could thank all cruise employees via the those handy envelopes marked "Tips for cruise manager" and "Tips for ship crew". A low-down on how much per day, per entity, was clearly given (for example, 3 Euros per passenger, per day for the Cruise Manager and 12 Euros per passenger, per day for the crew).

As to how much, exactly, to leave the on-shore tour guides, there was a helpful section about how to show appreciation for them, too; it even included a handy tip range (between 1 and 2 euros per guide). That seemed reasonable to me, and it was easy to decide on leaving 2 euros—instead of only 1—at the end of our guided tour of Les Baux de Provence. I even had the necessary change. So why start to sweat and obsess when it came time to hand over the money? 

That story next... 


Thank you for reading. To comment on this post, or to read the comments, click here. I would love to read your notes about travel, including issues such as tipping, taking the tour bus, pit-stops, staying in new and unusual places, and any anecdotes you have to share.

 French Vocabulary

le souci = worry (click here for the "souci" edition)

le pourboire = tip

le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

obligatoire = compulsory, obligatory


Almost time to tip... in Avignon. Get those 2-euro coins ready for the tour guide! Please share your tipping anecdotes here, in the comments box. I'd love to know how you handled tipping while on a guided tour. What about the bus driver? Did you tip him too? On our trip it seems the tour guide got all the pourboires

"Etienne", a boat with character, parked near our cruise ship.

Our group travelled past Chateauneuf du Pape, and I felt a sharp tug to my heart while gliding past the life we left behind, after our move two months ago. Incredibly, the tour bus passed by Uncle Jean-Claude's wine cellar! I actually saw my aunt and uncle perched on the curb, smiling up at our bus.

I stood up and began to wave excitedly from the other side of the bus's tinted windows... but my aunt and uncle did not see me, in spite of their searching eyes. If you are reading, cousin Audrey, I think I saw you too... in one great emotional blur. XOXO.

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French Christmas music. Everyone loves this CD. Order a copy here.

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In jewelry, check out this Paris Metro Cuff. A perfect present for a femme Francophile.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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le soleil liquide

Light shop or magasin de lumiere in Lyon (c) Kristin Espinasse
In autumn, when the sky turns gray, all the hidden colors come out to have their say. While strolling with my dear friend Susan, my eyes drank in this vibrant scene, along a cobbled path in Vieux Lyon. The stones in the back wall seem to have caught the colorful fever. Notice how their colors reflect those of the giant balls of light. More color for you in today's edition.

le soleil liquide (so-lay-lee-keed)

    : liquid sunshine (aka rain)

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

Nous avons tous apprécié l'énergie et l'optimisme de notre manager de croisière, Sebastien, qui nous a souvent rappelé que la pluie n'était que du soleil liquide! We all appreciated the energy and optimism of our cruise manager, Sebastien, who often reminded us that rain was no more than liquid sunshine!

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

Just a few snapshots for you today. There are many anecdotes to share, but it is Sunday—a day to think of other things besides writing. 

Le soleil liquide...
Besides the photos, here is a wonderful expression you might employ right away. It's guaranteed to make those around you smile. I heard it on our trip when our talented and friendly cruise director, Sebastien, ushered us out of the boat and into the sometimes gray and raining skies. Allez-y! He said when we searched for our umbrellas. C'est du soleil liquide!

From there on out we called Sebastien "Mr. Sunshine".  


L'Amphitryon (c) Kristin Espinasse
I first learned the term "bouchon" from readers, who kindly offered their tips on What to do in Lyon, here.

Covered in gold (c) Kristin Espinasse
Yellow feuilles, a salon de thé called Banana's, and a popular mode of transportation...


Bouchon Lyonnais (c) Kristin Espinasse
What is the bouchon - cochon connection? Your comments welcome here. While you're there, who can explain why bouchon does not mean "cork" in Lyon?...

For the love of letters (c) Kristin Espinasse
For the love of letters...

The Original Rouge-Bleu (c) Kristin Espinasse
To the left, my long-time chum, Susan, a.k.a. "Rouge-Bleu". (Yes, this is where we got the name for the wine Jean-Marc used to make!)

In other subjects, for those looking for some French tunes to cheer the home this season--all the while helping to improve one's Français, check out this CD:

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here.

  Leaves of Gold (c) Kristin Espinasse

This photo was snapped from the inside of the tour bus. Lyon was covered in gold this week (mental note: mid November is a great time to see the French countryside and the towns)

These cheeky guignols seem to say, Revenez nous voir! Come back and see us again! The sign in the puppet's hand (to the right) reads:  Oyez Oyez, les gônes, prochain spectacle... Hear ye, Hear year Children, the next show is at... 

In case you missed them, I posted a few more photos from the croisière here, in the previous edition called fluviale


Voilà, we've come to the end of our photo spectacle. Hope you've enjoyed a brief glimpse of Old Lyon. More pictures coming soon... Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

For those who would enjoy another story here is one, along with a random amusing expression: les fleurs de cimetière. Find out what cemetery flowers really mean in French... click here.

When you buy any item at Amazon, via the following links (and at no additional cost to you) your purchase helps support this French word journal.

Capture plein écran 18112012 101316Bonne Femme Cookbook. Having just received a copy of this cookbook, I was drawn to the warm and inviting writing of author Wini Moranville. Her tapenade recipe immediately caught my eye, as I have never been able to nail down my mother-in-law's secret version! I'll be trying Wini's... and tweaking as necessary. One thing I did observe is how my mother-in-law puts all the ingredients into the bowl and lets them marinate overnight (before mixing). Order Wini's book for this recipe... or the gougères recipe... or the Kir With a Kick recipe. Many more temptations follow inside the pages of the Bonne Femme Cookbook, as well as cultural/culinary insights to this delicious French life. Click here to order.



Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Autumn in Les Baux de Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
Picture taken at the hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence.


fluvial(e) adjective (flew-vee-al)

    : river, riverine; flowing

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence and the list of French terms:  Download MP3 or Wav file

Kristi et sa meilleure amie, Susan, sont parties pour une croisière fluviale sur le Rhône
Kristi and her best friend, Susan, went on a Rhône river cruise. 

la voie fluviale = waterway
les ports fluviaux = river ports
la circulation fluviale = inland waterway traffic
les eaux fluviales = river water
la navigation fluviale = inland navigation  

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here.


A Day in a French Kristin Espinasse

Choosing the river cruise over the day-long olive harvest turned out to be the right decision... seeing that extra help here at home was not needed after all. Jean-Marc tells me the olive-picking chore soon turned into a pétanque/pastis fest after our volunteers showed up at lunchtime (a little late to begin picking) and therefore needed time to digest (via the pétanque) before gaining courage (via the pastis) to face those giant century-old trees.

Returning home from the cruise, I noticed the abandoned ladders that flanked the olive trees, and the fruit-catching filets that were still on the ground. Chairs scattered here and there hinted at a relaxed gathering, where the women sat tchatching and the men explored the caveau in which Jean-Marc had set up his wine cellar.

The bright blue ping-pong table had moved to the driveway and the leather director's chair (a gift from Mom) now towered over the boules court. As I tried to picture the players, I could almost hear cheering in the distance of time: Allez, Jean-Marc! Vas-y Thomas! C'est à Pierre. Allez, on joue!

Lugging the chair back to the house to protect it from the elements, I ignored the holes in the lettuce leaves (caterpillars? grasshoppers?) and tried not to think about all the catching up to do post vacation. Everything would get done. Rest assured, tout rentrera dans l'ordre. Thankfully, Jean-Marc had cleaned the house and kept up with the laundry, which was now drying crookedly on the line. I was impressed with the effort and touched by the thoughtful welcome home: seeing me drive up, Jean-Marc disappeared behind the front door to witness the expression on my face on seeing the crackling fire in the cheminée. Talk about a warm welcome! 

Hungry, I opened the frigo and saw desserts left over from Sunday (would the lemon tart still be good today, Thursday?). I tried to imagine all the good food the guests brought to the olive-tree harvest/potluck, which Jean-Marc tells me was très bien passé, despite the mostly unpicked trees. It turns out the olives were just an excuse to invite his old chums around.

And this past week's cruise was a wonderful excuse for a couple of other old chums to meet up and to celebrate 30 years of friendship. 


Post note: This restful time away was also an opportunity to write down a goal's list--something I have not done in years. One of the top items on that list is to go on another French river cruise (or maybe even cruise the Danube!). My best friend Susan organized our AMA Waterways cruise (she is a travel expert) and believes AMA Rhône cruises are among the best. Feel free to contact her at or call her at 480-831-9076 for pricing and more details about this particular cruise, or any other. Note: to reserve your cabin for the  2013 cruise, the time to book is now.

French Vocabulary

pétanque = a form of boules
le pastis = an anis-flavored liqueur
le filet = net 
tchaching (frenglish, from tchatcher = to chat) 
le caveau = wine cellar
tout rentrera dans l'ordre = everything would get put back in place
Allez, Jean-Marc! = come on, Jean-Marc!
Vas-y Thomas! =  Go, Thomas
C'est à Pierre = It's Pierre's turn
Allez, on joue! = Come on. Let's play! 
le frigo = fridge
très bien passé = (everything) went well 


feuilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The fall is a colorful time to cruise. 

room with a view (c) Kristin Espinasse
Waking up in Arles... 

the locals (c) Kristin Espinasse
Colorful locals in Les Baux de Provence

Kristi Espinasse (c) Susan Boehnstedt
In my hand I am holding a chuchoteur or "whisperer". We carried the audio units to each destination in order to learn all about the history and more, thanks to the knowledge of the AMA tour guides. (Photo by Susan Boehnstedt.)

Susan Boehnstedt (c) Kristin Espinasse
A perfect travel companion -- and wonderful travel organizer! Contact my dear friend, Susan, for more info on the AMA Waterways cruise we just took. Her email is or call her at 480-831-9076.

Susan writes:

In the past years, river cruising has become a lot more popular and there are many reasons why, but let me just highlight a few for you (not in any particular order):

1. Unpack only once into your spacious cabin (ranging from 170 sq. feet to larger categories up to 255 sq feet).

2. Complimentary free flowing local wines, beer or soda included at every dinner. Unlimited champagne with every onboard breakfast. Complimentary gourmet coffees and teas (lattes, cappuccino, etc.). Complimentary bottled water provided and replenished as needed.

3. Gourmet meals with fresh fish, not frozen.

4. Complimentary city tours with personal audio headsets. Tours range from slow, regular and faster paced tours.

5. Complimentary bicycles on each ship (25-40 depending on ship), including helmet and bike lock for your riding pleasure.

5. Complimentary local and cultural specialty entertainment on ships at night.

6. Complimentary FREE internet and Infotainment system with free Hollywood movies in every stateroom.

7. Luxury accommodations with 82% French balconies on all ships. Some of the newer ships even have a full outside balcony. High quality lines and duvets in each cabin.

8. One of the newest fleets on the rivers. Oldest ship dating back to 2006 and several new ships coming in 2013.

AMA Waterways offers many different river cruising options such as: Africa, Europe, Thailand & Cambodia and Russia venues. To obtain the best cabins, it is wisest to book your AMA cruise 12-15 months in advance of sailing. We have all kinds of specials and promotions running right now.

Please email or call 480-831-9076 for pricing and more details.

  Chapeau! (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats in the town of Les Baux de Provence. To comment on any item in this edition, click here. More photos coming tomorrow...

Still reading? How about a random story, here. You'll learn more about this French life--and pick up several more vocabulary words. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

n'importe quoi: When Jean-Marc broke up with me

countryside france rhone streetlight window shutters paysage var europe
I yearned for a French life, but blew my chances the first time around! Read on (and see you in one week, after la croisière fluviale!)

n'importe quoi (nem port kwah)

    : nonsense; anything at all; "whatever", "yeah, right!"

Audio FileDownload MP3 or Download WAV

Dire que les Français ne sont pas accueillants aux Anglophones, c'est dire n'importe quoi! To say that the French are not welcoming to Anglophones, is nonsense.


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

  "Girl Friday"

In 1993 I found myself back in the Arizona desert, having been deported there by one disillusioned Frenchman. Jean-Marc and I had tried to live together—lasting a full ten months—but all that sizzling chemistry that fueled us in the beginning eventually fizzled out, and our Franco-American romance was over. Jean-Marc's mind was set. To prove it, he bought me a one-way ticket back to Phoenix!

Back in Phoenix, I busied myself picking up the pieces of a life I had quickly left behind. The cold, current reality was I needed to find a job, illico! But what was I qualified for? I had a French degree... but no skills!

I didn't want to go back to being a receptionist, and I hated working at the department store... though I loved my customers, who bought both girdles and g-strings from me (I wasn't personally familiar with either culotte before going to work at Dillard's lingerie department). My customers taught me so much and, just before leaving my summer job--to begin my semester in France!--I received a touching letter of recommendation from the most eccentric, glamorous, and mysterious of my clients (see the "complicité" chapter--you can read it for free by doing a search inside feature, here).

No, I didn't want to go back to those jobs. Come to think of it, if I could somehow sidestep the employer thing altogether... that would be ideal!

I wanted more than anything to avoid a train-train or run-of-the-mill existence—especially in regard to employment, which represents the largest part of one's waking hours.

Self-employment, then, became my goal. Yes! Only by working for oneself could one experience freedom! Only by being one's own boss could one work creatively! Only by calling all the shots could one, say, skip out early for a double matinee, large popcorn with extra butter, and a coke.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration...

I could be a "girl Friday". Better yet, I would be my own girl Friday!

A girl Friday got to do a lot of things. No two days the same! Variety would be the spice of this new (if newly failed...) life. 

I had a car, which was about all I needed, along with the adrenaline of a fresh warrior! Now all I had to do was to decide what I had to offer: what to put on my Girl Friday menu?  Just what, after all, was I capable of? So far I had been good at failing a relationship, but never mind... time to pull up those bootstraps (even if the heartstrings needed a good tug, too!).

Let's see, what were my skills?...

I could help type up papers
I could clear out one's clutter room
I was good at washing cars
I might walk someone's dog?
I could run errands... 
And I sure knew how to apply make-up! (Perhaps offer makeovers???)

....Not to forget that I had a knack for complaining—I had been good enough at it to "win" a one-way ticket out of France!—so perhaps I could offer to "argue one's case" somehow—that is, without having to go to law school. No time for that. I needed to earn some cash!). 

I might not be skilled or trained in any one area, I thought to myself, I might have even neglected these chores in my very own home, but no looking back now!, there were many things I could do! and, in the doing of them, I might just forget, petit à petit, all that I had left behind in France. I might even forget him. (Would Jean-Marc ever give me a second chance?)

Bon. Never mind. I was set! All I needed was a name for my company" (My very own company!!!) But what to call it? It should be something French, non? Never mind my French dream had come to an end, all too suddenly.... 

Because, as Girl Friday, I would be proposing to carry out a variety of jobs, it occurred to me to call my new enterprise "Anything At All". Better yet, why not be fancy—and use the French equivalent! But just what was the equivalent? Would "Anything at All" translate to "N'importe Quoi"? I'd heard the term somewhere before.

N'importe Quoi seemed to mean something along the lines of "You Name It!" (perfect for a service-oriented company, non?), but I still had vague doubts about the actual  translation. What's more, was it prudent for a 24-year-old woman to offer "Anything At All"? Even in English the meaning might be misconstrued....

Despite any doubts, I thought to go ahead with my business-cards order. I could just see the finished product! The card would read, in bold print, "N'importe Quoi!" and there, to the lower right, my name: "Kristi Ingham" with the title "Your Girl Friday". 

                               What my business card might have looked like... Yikes!

Some girl Friday! I never even got around to my first errand: visiting the printer. Instead, I took the first paycheck job I could get, and spent my run-of-the-mill existence in a quiet airpark office, nursing a broken heart. 

It would take another decade or so (a move back to France—which would come sooner than expected, and the foundation of a French family) before I would fully grasp the meaning behind "N'importe Quoi".

Today I sit here at my desk, a self-employed writer, and shake my head sympathetically at the would-be Girl Friday of two decades ago. What a mistake that would have been to call one's company "A Bunch of Baloney" or "Rubbish!" (I cringed when I finally realized the exact translation of my would-be company's name!).

And what folly that would have been, for that failed girlfriend, or girl Friday, to have offered "anything at all"--when what she really should have offered was to share her dream.

20 years later and I am sharing my dream... of writing and living with my French loves (family, dogs, friends and readers). Thank you so much for reading!

Comments welcome here.
I read every comment, sometimes twice (hard not to when your Mom points our her favorites, during the daily phone call!). Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to these posts. Click here to read the comments and see you in a week!

To find out what happened next, you will have to read my book! Here is an excerpt, from the intro to Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language:

Back in Arizona I found a job selling scale-model cars for a small mail-order catalog, which turned out to be the perfect nurse-your-broken-heart job. Isolated and working in an over-air-conditioned office, I had plenty of time to think about my loss and to watch my French life flash before me: the cottage we had moved into just before I left, the weekends spent fishing oursins, or sea urchins, along the rocky coastline, and ... (click here to order the book.)

This book is especially apropos for people who are trying to find a way in life. Buy a copy for a friend. Order a few copies for gifts. Your book purchases help to support this French word journal. Merci. 

French Vocabulary

n'importe quoi = nonsense, rubbish; whatever

illico (illico presto) = right away

une culotte = panty

le train-train = life's treadmill

petit à petit = little by little


 When you buy any item at Amazon, via the following links (and at no additional cost to you) your purchase helps support this French word journal.

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.

51Qckm1DSfL._SL500_AA280_I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material



kristin espinasse jean-marc espinasse church priest marriage vows pulpit speaker microphone wedding gown robe mariee
I managed to win him back... and to get him all the way to the alter in a centuries-old cathedral near the sea in Marseilles. Just look how scared he looks! Petrified! And I've got that jackpot winner expression on my own face. To comment or to read the comments, click here. (In all fairness, there is one more way to interpret that look on Jean-Marc's face: relief! His would-be bride arrived so late to the wedding that the priest was waiting for her out on the church curb, finger-a-wagging! I tried to put the blame on the cultural misunderstanding (see the marriage chapter, around p. 15) that had occurred the hour before, but there was no time to mess around. There was a French man waiting to marry me!!!!

Please forward this story to a friend who is trying, and sometimes failing, to follow a goal... and remind them never to give up their dreams! Il ne faut jamais abandonner ses rêves!


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Max Espinasse
In a nearby calanque... I'm counting on our 17-year-old, Max, to bring home more "fruits of the sea"... because I sure don't trust some of the fruits they're selling us at the supermarket! Read on, in today's story column. (Photos in today's post are by Jean-Marc)

nourrir (noo-reer)

    : to feed, to nourish

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this vocab list: Download MP3 or Wav file

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!
And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself.

se nourrir = to feed oneself
nourrir des espérances
 = to cherish hopes
nourrir au sein = to breastfeed
une conversation nourrie = a lively conversation 
mal nourri = ill-nourished
bien nourri = well-fed
nourrir une rancune = to nurse a grudge


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

Seated at the dining room table, a basket of nuts separating us, Jean-Marc and I were having one of those highly animated arguments that arise when one spouse's neurosis butts heads with the other spouse's neurosis.

Him: Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité.
Me: Ha! You mean the truth according to you

Him: Hmph!
Me: Hmph!

When there seemed to be no resolution in sight—so red were our faces, so steaming were our ears—one of us did a remarkably sensible thing... by dipping his hand back into the hat of sujets à aborder, or "stuff we need to talk about", and drawing another ticket!

His defensive tone gone, my husband's voice remained firm:

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!

I listened to my husband's French and, translating his words, I was hit by their deeper meaning: 

"And it isn't by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to feed yourself!"

This remark wasn't some sort of idiomatic low-blow. Jean-Marc literally meant what he said, and his concerned tone sent a steel ball spiraling towards my mur de défense

There was a tightening sensation in my throat, which felt as though someone were squeezing it. Tears pushed up from out of nowhere.  The more the tightening, the more tears were extracted until my face was streaming with them.


"Do you ever cry openly?" A loved one once asked, while helping me with relationship issues. I considered her question. Capable of spontaneous tears when suprised by an image of vulnerability (a defenseless human or animal), I don't often have the same tear-ejecting response when confronted with my own helplessness. Maybe that's because I'm not always aware of it.

This time my husband's words hit the emotional release button. I sat facing him, silently dissolving into a puddle of larmes

Jean-Marc was right. I haven't been eating lately—not after discovering that even the French have let genetically modified organisms into the marketplace! What had been a gradual awakening to the reality of the food industry... has rapidly become a full-out phobia in which every carrot is suspect and every grape sits taunting me from the produce aisle and every package of chèvre bleats, "You sure this goat hasn't grazed on pesticides?" And forget about meat when the cows are eating the animals that are eating the chemically altered corn!

Afraid even of endives, I've been madly sowing seeds in the potager, but the vegetables growing there aren't yet mature; this has me impatiently picking the beet's leaves and other leafy beginnings—when all the crickets don't beat me to them.

For the kids and Jean-Marc, I buy organic fruit, arsenic-free rice, and charcuterie labelled SANS OGM. I quit buying Chocopops and replaced Nutella with a biologique version.. All dishes are made from scratch but the more I research food news the more it becomes complicated to come up with "safe" meals and I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.


Back at the confrontation table, Jean-Marc tries to be encouraging. "You can eat some of this baguette," he offers, pointing to the two loaves, just beyond the basket of nuts.

But there are pesticides in that fresh-baked baguette. Didn't he watch the film?!... And besides, the carbohydrates in bread break down into sugars... and sugar feeds cancer! 

Mon dieu! What's got into me? Food safety is enough to drive you crazy. Looking down at that basket of noix that separates me and my husband, suddenly those nuts are looking more than organic... they are looking like a good warning of what can happen when you get carried away with fear.


To comment on this post, click here.


French vocabulary

Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité = you don't want to hear the truth
sujets à aborder = subjects to address
Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir! = And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself 
le mur de défense = wall of defence
une larme = a tear
la chèvre = goat
la charcuterie = processed meats
biologique = organic 
la noix = walnut 


  Max Espinasse
At this rate it's going to take a while to nourrir our family. Come on, Max, get back in there and catch Mom a giant daurade!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice