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Entries from December 2012


roulotte gypsy trailer caravan wheels france tiny home (c) Kristin Espinasse
While filming Smokey (trotting the flower-flanked trails at a nearby calanque), my video recorder broke! For now there is a grand total of three clips at my YouTube channel. Thanks for taking a moment to view them and to subscribe to the channel. (Photo of Jean-Marc in a gypsy trailer we once tried to buy. Wish we hadn't let this one pass us by!)

rétrécir (ray-tray-seer)

    : to shrink

A popular film, Honey I shrunk the kids, was translated by the French: Chérie, j'ai rétréci les gosses.

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

Arrivant dans notre salle de bain, j'ai realisé que tous les éléments avaient rétréci. Arriving in the bathroom, I realized that all of the elements had shrunk!


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

I'd just as soon park a trailer at the edge of our property—and live there—than go through the tortures of renovation. Such flighty thoughts consume me, lately, as I watch giant tractors blaze past Mas des Brun, with a grumbling preview of what's to come. 

But fleeing from the chaos is not the solution. Last time I avoided a chantier I returned to find our bathroom had shrunk!

Two or so years ago, back in our former vineyard in Sainte Cécile, most of the major renovation was past us. We were now putting in wood floors in our upstairs bed and bath. The project was my husband's idea, after he could no longer look at the floor tiles there (I kind of liked them, and grew convinced they were some sort of Provençal classic—even if they were pink and flourishy, and even if you risked spraining an ankle each time you walked over the loose ceramic squares).

One day Jean-Marc breezed into the small guest bedroom where I had been holed up for the duration of the floor project (I secretly hoped to live there forever, and not have to deal with the towering mess down the hall. In fact, couldn't we just board up that side of the house, and forget about it? Just how much room did we need anyway? Besides, I wasn't getting a good vibe from the former bedroom... which was a wreck, what with the furniture piled high and wobbling with books, lamps, and whatever could be tossed up there so as to make room for the floor boards to go in. On occasion, I would venture into the room, take one look at the dusty heaps, and run out again).

When the work was nearly done, Jean-Marc was excited to tell me that the last floor board had been hammered down and would I like to see the results? 

Entering our bedroom, I had to admit the place looked much warmer minus the white and pink tiles. So far so good....

But I'll never forget walking, like Alice in Wonderland, into our newly finished salle de bain. Stepping past the carpentry tools, over the saw-dusted threshold, an astonishing new world appeared. Crossing the small and narrow bathroom, it seemed as though I was walking through another dimension.

Soon the spell broke and I realized this wasn't some sort of other world, something was seriously off, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Then, when I went to turn on the faucet, I didn't feel the knobs right away. On close examination, the knobs were there, only they were a foot lower than before. Le lavabo was now below my hips!

Quickly I spun around and, just as suspected, I saw how les w.-c. had shrunk, too. If it were any lower to the ground it would be a turkish toilet!

Alarmed, my eyes darted over to the tub. Rushing up to it, I saw how la baignoire now reached below my knees! My eyes swept back over to the sink, where I now noticed how the foot of sink had disappeared beneath the wood planks.... Looking around in a daze, I realized what had happened, but it was too late to go back now—the floor of our bathroom and all that was attached to it had been submerged!

Jean-Marc, who now towered over the sink like a giant in a doll house, didn't seem fazed by the petit error.
"Well, what do you think?" my husband smiled, eager for a rewarding word.

What did I think? What did I think?

"I think the plumber forgot to unbolt the toilet... and the sink, and the tub before the carpenter raised the floors!"

"I couldn't get a hold of the plumber," Jean-Marc snapped, quickly growing defensive. "And if you are not happy with the results, then why don't YOU organize these projects!"

With that, the disgruntled giant stomped out of the room. I watched as saw dust flew up from beneath his heels, adding another dusty coat to all our junk that was crammed, stacked, and teetering in the corner of the room. I wanted to close my eyes and believe that on opening them, presto!, everything would be back intact—including our standard-sized sink.

Instead, I went to sit down on the edge of the tub, to collect my thoughts.... only the tub edge was not where it used to be!

As I sat sore on the floor, shaking in frustration, I had to admit he was right. If I wanted things done to my standards (or at least standard sized), I had better get off my butt and participate.


Post note: here we are now, two years later, faced with another renovation project. You'd think we'd have learned from experience, but it seems we're off to a "passionate" start, what with our first project (talked about in the previous post).

French Vocabulary

le chantier = building site, a place that is under construction

la salle de bain = bathroom

le lavabo = sink

les w.-c. = toilet

la baignoire = tub



  roulotte gypsy trailer caravan wheels france tiny home

 While we'll probably not move to a trailer at the far end of our lot, my mom, Jules, would sure like to! Look at the cozy bed in the back. She could read her novels and peek out the back window... to see how the arm-flapping, mouth-flapping, couple in the house on the hill is doing during renovation.

roulotte gypsy trailer caravan wheels france tiny home (c) kristin espinasse
The slow life near the sea... Wouldn't this roulotte be a cheerful addition to the olive field?

roulotte gypsy trailer caravan wheels france tiny home
Happy trails! See you very soon. If you have enjoyed this edition, please forward it to a friend.

Metro cuff
Paris Metro Cuff! It also makes a wonderful conversational piece -- to wear on your wrist.  A wonderful "conversation piece" for your wardrobe. Order one here.

  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.


basal cell carcinoma post op photo forehead skin cancer
One year ago... the fur is fake, the scar is real. Wish me luck for this Friday's dermatologist appointment in Marseilles. (The other spot on the tip of my nose seems to be growing.)

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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New video + saupoudrer + "quitte à le faire"

Viewing this edition via email? You'll need to click over to the website, here, to see the video. In the clip, Smokey and I have just returned from a hike (at a nearby calanque) in time to share the French word for "to sprinkle" as well as the useful term "quitte à le faire". You'll hear Braise, Smokey's maman, complaining in the background (she's stuck, stage left... in the chenil). You'll also see some of the old trees in the oliveraie just below, where fèves once grew. Hidden on the left of the screen, there is the stone cabanon that you saw in the previous video. Translation note: in the short film, you'll hear me refer several times to baking "powder". I really mean to say "soda". (The French word for baking soda is "la poudre chimique".)


saupoudrer (soh-poo-dray)

    : to sprinkle something with (sugar, powder, kindness)

saupoudrer de la farine, de poivre, de panure = sprinkle with flour, pepper, breadcrumbs 
saupoudrer de chance = to sprinkle with luck
saupoudrer d'amour = to sprinkle with love

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and the terms, just above: Download MP3 or Wav file

You'll also hear the expression quitte à le faire. Can you guess what this term means, based on the context in which it is used in today's video? Share your translations in the comment box.


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

A lot of activity here at home today, beginning with the massive hole being dug up behind the mas. Along with many of our fellow country-dwellers, it is time to bring our fosse septique up to standard after the French government updated its rules and regulations concerning assainissement

Apart from the septic tank, we are kicking up dirt in other areas of our domaine. A huge machine, or excavatrice, rested in the olive orchard over the weekend, after it was used to blaze a trail from the oliveraie to the upper terraces, where Jean-Marc will plant his mourvedre vines.

Jean-Marc suggested this morning that, while we have access to the backhoe, or pelleteuse, we ought to use it to dig up the dirt we will need for our next vegetable plot. The idea is to build 4 buttes, or raised garden beds, through which we will run a drip system that will water our future potager.

"Want to have a look at the future garden?" Jean-Marc proposed.

Minding my steps across the muddy path with its deep, giant tractor-tire imprints, I gingerly followed my husband up to the terrace in question. Now was the chance to assess things. But once we reached the restful spot, all peace was lost.

I didn't point out the fact that the tractor had trail-blazed right over my experimental carrot patch! (how could the tractor operator have seen it, anyway, for the carrot tops hadn't yet appeared). Instead, I focused on my husband who was busy searching his coat pockets.

Jean-Marc produced a piece of paper on which he had sketched a diagram, based on my verbal description (and a few jottings) of our dream garden. But why, I wondered, were the beds square when they were supposed to be rectangular? And why were the four corners of the beds almost touching? There should be enough space between the beds for some sort of... ornamental object... maybe a circular bench or a tree. Yes! Wouldn't that be pretty!

As I proceeded to imagine, going as far as to raise my arms and spin, ornamentalement, Jean-Marc stomped his feet to the beat of reality. A bit dizzy, I stopped to listen to him.

"You need to get a tape measure and some markers!" he advised, unamused by my demonstration. 

"But I am ONLY brainstorming!" I informed Monsieur Spoilsport.

"Well we ONLY have the tractor till Thursday!" came his sporty reminder.

And on we went, spinning and stomping until the only ones with their feet on the ground were the four-footed creatures watching us. If only Braise and Smokey could go ahead with the renovations.... and save us all from the frustrations of home-improvement.


Follow Jean-Marc's journey as he plants a vineyard on the terraces surrounding this historic olive orchard. His new blog is called Mas des Brun.

French vocabulary:

le chenil = kennel (note: I'm looking for the word "dog run", which better describes the fenced area Jean-Marc created for our dogs to use during the daytime. Submit a term in the comments box. Thanks!

une oliveraie = olive grove

le cabanon = stone hut

la maman = mom

la fève = broad bean, fava bean plant

Vocabulary from today's story (please help by sharing translations in the comments box):


fosse septique









Our 15-year-old, Jackie, falling from the sky like an angel. Photo taken from beyond the trampolene, just beneath her... I love the peaceful feeling this image brings, and enjoy reminding our kids that, once upon a time, they fell from heaven, into our arms.

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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.