How to say "party animal" in French?
26 actes de gentillesse

French Word for pine tree

Braveheart (c) Kristin Espinasse
The other day while Smokey and I waited in the school parking lot for Jackie, kids filed past our car, occasionally stopping to point and to laugh: "Mais regarde sa langue! Just look at his funny tongue! Ahahahaha!"

"Laisse tomber! Don't worry about it, Smokey. They don't know your story." So many stories out there... how little we know of the "strange" looking people we pass on the street. The holidays are as good a time as any to open up our minds and our hearts.

le pin (pahn) noun, masculine 

: pine tree

le pin d'Alep = Provencal white pine

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read todays word, phrase, and example sentence: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Cette année, notre sapin de Noël est un petit pin d'Alep.
This year our Christmas tree is a Provençal pine.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

When Jean-Marc suggested hunting for this year's Christmas tree in the forêt behind our house, our daughter wrinkled her nose. Now there was a grimace I could translate in French or English: it said that all her friends probably had real Christmas trees, the kind on display at the mall!

Our daughter's reaction made my husband even more determined. It was high time to lift the consumer veil from our children's eyes: A true arbre de Noël didn't always come from the checkout lane! Not this year anyway... not when a forest dense with pines crowded our back yard.

Allez! Jean-Marc persisted, dragging our 15-year-old Christmas tree snob off the couch.

I remained hidden in my room, where I'd taken refuge from all the holiday frenzy. There, in the quiet, I heard footsteps as my husband, our teenager, and the dogs crossed over the boules court on their way to the forest. 

Not 10 minutes later and they were back. The brisk foray seemed a bad sign... they must have encountered les chasseurs and had to postpone their search. I sank more deeply into my bed, wondering just when the tree chore would get done! Why didn't I keep the ugly plastic tree of yesteryear? It had been so easy to decide to part with it, while trying to cram our entire life into two economy trucks last September. What a dumb decision that was! (the tree, not the cheap movers—not one lamp broken in the deal!).

But what was the deal with our tree? I threw back the covers and got out of bed. In the living room I found Jackie back on the couch, watching TV. 

"Well, what happened?" 

My daughter smiled. "Rien". 

"But did you find tree?"

"Oh, oui..."

"Well, do you like it?"

"Oui," she nodded, and the stars twinkling in her eyes were proof of that. I felt a bit star-struck myself, bewildered by the peaceful atmosphere, when it was chaos I had anticipated.

My daughter followed me into the sas, the cozy entryway to our home, where a rustic fireplace and two felt-covered fauteuils have become a favorite resting spot.

There the tree stood, between the cozy sas and the dining room, punctuating the two spaces like a semi-colon that joins independent clauses—in this case santa clauses!

Leave it to that delicate, sweep of a tree to join all our Christmases of yesteryear, to the one just before us, the one I had tried to steer clear of!

Jackie knelt down on the ground to arrange the area beneath the tree. "Papa collected some mousse in the forest," she explained, as she borrowed some of the characters from the crèche, setting them on top of the deep green ground cover.

The door opened and Jean-Marc came in, his arms full of firewood for the cheminée. "Alors? Ça va l'arbre? Your daughter cut it down."

"It's beautiful!" I admitted. "What kind is it?"

"Un pin d'Alep."

I ran to my dictionary to look up the term. Un pin d'alep equalled a Provençal pine. What more could a hopeless Francophile want than a French Christmas? This year it would be un Noël Provençal

And what more could our daughter want than a real arbe de Noël. From the sparkle in her eyes, it was clear this year she had one.


Bonnes fêtes! Happy holidays dear reader. May the spirit of the season grab you... filling you with peace, love, and forgiveness. Thank you for reading these missives and for your encouragement to continue writing them. 



To comment on this post, click here



la forêt = forest

un arbre de Noël = a Christmas tree

 allez! = come on!

les boules = the game of Pétanque, read Gary's story

le chasseur = hunter

rien = nothing

le sas = (a synonym for sas is chambre, or room, but here it refers to a small entry way)

le fauteuil = chair

le papa = dad, father

la mousse = moss

la crèche = nativity scene

la cheminée = fireplace

amicalement = warmly (is "friendlily" a word?...)

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", "Sainte Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here.


Smokey has taught himself how to eat, despite his little handicap (we won't go into details, but he may have learned the trick from a mama bird...). And he has a trick or two for keeping his tongue in place. Name this photo--your thought bubbles are most welcome! To comment on any item in this post, click here.

If you enjoy these words and photos, thanks for sharing them with a friend or classmate or teacher--anyone who loves France!

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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Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Julie Farrar

What a touching story. Our kids can surprise us so often. And Smokey looks positively regal with that halo of lights around him. Bonne fêtes! Maybe later I'll have a caption for Smokey-doke.

Pat Cargill

"Ecoutez!" I think I hear the Christmas Angels singing!

Merry Christmas to you and family, Kristen, and mille mercis for your continued postings this year, always a pleasure.


Glad to be the first to comment to announce that tomorrow is Kristi's birthday...
Happt birthday to my lovely wife and merry Christmas to all

Robyn France

Joyeux Noel to all. Lovely story and joyeux anniversaire en plus, Kristi. Belle histoire cette fois-ci!

Cindy McDonald

Joyeux Noël chère Kristin. I wish for you and your lovely family good health, peace and love. My Toutou sends sweet Smokey his best wishes too..(he's not sure about les bises.) xoxoxo Cindy

Karen Whitcome (in Towson, Md)

Bonne Anniversaire, Kristi!! I hope that the joy you find today matches the magic we find in today's story. And, may it also begin and end with the adorable Smokey.

Have a peaceful and joyous holiday!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Have a happy birthday, Kristin.

It sounds like the Christmas spirit has found you just in time.


"We love you Smokey, oh yes we do..." (To be sung with the tune from Bye,Bye Birdie).

How I do love that dog. He will never let the laughing creeps get to him. He is too strong and too loved.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I look forward to your posts and your videos in the future.


Happy Birthday Kristen, and Merry Merry Christmas to all of you!


Bon Anniversaire et Joyeux Noel, Kristin, et à toute la famille. Great story et bravo to Jean-Marc!


"Is that Santa's sleigh I can hear?"

Buon compleanno, Kristen, and buon natale to the whole family.


It's true, you know, ridicule is born of ignorance. If we all could walk not even a mile, but perhaps a few yards, in each other shoes, what empathy we'd all have for each other (and for Smokey).

Barbara - California

Like Laurie, I too love 'our' Smokey. He's a miraculous bundle of love.

Bon Anniversaire Kristin!. I thoroughly and sincerely enjoy your style of writing. So true to heart...


Joyeux Noel to you & your family (Smokey & Braise included). Your tree is lovely and Smokey looks very proud of it. I'm grateful for your stories through the years, they have always moved me by lifting my spirits, evoking chuckles & belly laughs or a tear. I look forward to more in the New Year.

Cheryl in STL

What a sweet story! The tree is lovely and the story even more so. Joyeux Noël à vous tous et une bonne année, aussi! Thank you for these regular glimpses into your Provençal life!


"Savon d'Alep" is originally from Aleppo (Halab), Syria, and is made from olive and laurel oils. It is not made from pine trees!

Martine NYC

"Mama Braise told me to hold my head high. . ."



Ken Scupp

Bon Anniversaire Kristi. Vous avez vingt-neuf ans encore! Caption- Pas des pepites de chocolat biscuits pour pere Noel cette annee. Joyeux Noel a toute la famille aussi.

Pennie Vandenbroek

The pine tree, the moss from the forest, the figures from the creche, a wood fire, your family (including Smoky and her mother), all feel like a very special Christmas card from France. Thank you for sharing your lives with us in far away Canada. Blessings to you on your birthday, and may this be your best Christmas ever!

Bill Facker

Aloha, "Mele Kalikimaka" to all, and the happiest of Birthdays to you, Kristin. Mahalo Nui for another year of French Word A Day!

Julie from Edinburgh

Happy birthday Kristin - it is also my dear mother's birthday tomorrow she will be 88 and like you she sees only the best in everything. her sight is failing now but she still is full of optimism and love for her family. Your FWAD is truly a joy filled with honesty and love. blessings to you and your family this christmas.

Bill in St. Paul

Smokey looks like he's singing "fa-la-la-la" to me. I remember when Smokey was attacked and almost killed, he's come along way and seems to have adapted well. The whole family is now in town and I have to be on my best behavior, playing games with my grandchildren that I haven't played in 60 years! Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all!!

Elizabeth Lincoln

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas from Oregon! Your depiction of home life often makes me smile- while the particulars may vary from my American experience, there is a beautiful commonality which reaches across differing cultures, making things like retreating to your room to escape the chaos in the rest of the house something I definitely identify with ( we have 3 boys)! Here's to more wonderful videos and essays in 2013 - I love reading not only your blog but also the comments which follow, from all over the world.

julie camp

"Thank you, God," says Smokey.

From you I learn French and writing. Thank YOU Kristi for the lessons and for inspiring us with your shared reality. Joyeux anniversaire. Bless you. Tomorrow I will be imagining you being celebrated, all day.

Bill in St. Paul

Oops, almost forgot - Happy Birthday, Kristin!!


Smokey is getting ready for a New Year. The tongue placement is his version of the song, "Auld LANGUE Syne." What a smart dog!


Oh, and happy birthday!

(And, has Smokey confused "barf" with "bark?")


My Darling Kristi,

I just finished my second reading of your post today - a story I could read again and again. I can see you in my minds eye sitting at your little make-shif desk in the corner of your bedroom clicking away on your keyboard as this story flowed effortlessly from your heart. How wise you were when you decided to have a blog to make the decision to just let your thoughts flow - to release your true imprint onto the page before you. You have brought forth another little 'Masterpiece' this morning cloaked in the simplicity of life. I am once again blessed by your presense in my world -

A big kiss and a HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUG to the little girl that has changed my life forever.



Vance Anderson-Inks

Happy Birthday, Kristin, And
Feliz Navidad to you and your family

Candy in CO

Happy birthday and Merry Christmas dearest Kristi. May 2013 bring numerous blessings and grand adventures for you and your family. I don't post often anymore, but that doesn't mean that I don't read and enjoy your posts. They are always a bright spot in my day. Hugs to all!


Dear Kristin,
I have adored discovering you and your family this year! I too have been a little overwhelmed lately with all that needs to be done for Christmas and long for a little more simplicity. What a beautiful picture of your tree and Smokey!

Wishing you a very happy birthday! With love from Karene in California.


Arrrrrrrhhh, Horry Niiiiiiight................

ed- in Cornwall.

Joeux Noel to you all et un bon annee!
Merci pour tous les postes!

ed- in Cornwall.

Ici il pleut et pleut et pleut mais your
posts have been brightening up my days with
all the warmth in them!

Leslie Riley

Bon anniversaire, Kristin, et joyeux noel a tous!

Smokey: "Santa, I am being such a good boy!"

Gwyn Ganjeau

Kristin, this was so lovely. You found the holiday sparkle, and it was in Jackie's eyes--a lovely reminder that we don't CREATE the sparkle, we discover it. this was the most peace-filled post. thank you.

one other note: in trying to resolve the tragic events of last week, i saw the following story. people all over the world are doing 26 random acts of kindness--one for each of the people who lost their lives at the school. yes, the only thing that can conquer darkness is light. it's something i CAN do in a situation that makes me feel utterly helpless. give it a read.

merry christmas to all the special people at FWAD!!

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Wishing you a very Happy Birthday, Kristi! I hope you spend it doing something you love!
What a beautiful Christmas tree; so special to have obtained it from your land rather than from the store! I wish all the Espinasses a Joyeux Noël ~ may the simplistic true spirit of Christmas warm your hearts this holiday season! And Merry Christmas to Jules, as well!

Elaine Thomson

Happy Birthday Kristin and thank you for your very helpful word-a-day posts each week. Having lived in the Poitou-Charentes region of France for 9 years I can really identify with some of your observations on French customs and way of life. You have a lovely way of educating us with the language and life in France.

Also thank you and your co-star Smokey for your videocasts - don't change your style whatever you do it is great!

I hope you and all your family and readers have a very Happy and peaceful Christmas and healthy New Year.



Your stories always make feel warm all over, filled with real life and love but not sentimental. I think you are a great writer to be able to communicate your feelings so well that the reader can feel what you are feeling.
Joyeaux Noel!

anne wirth

Bravo! You and your family have the true Christmas spirit.
Smokey is Waiting .......(in the last pic.) Waiting for the Child to arrive.

Merry Christms and Peace and Blessings to you and your family.

From Kissimmee, Florida

Linda Lippner

Smokey is regal and dignified no matter what!

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

Ahhhhh! The smell of a fresh tree.............


Bonne anniversaire Kristi! I hope you have a wonderful day. My grandma turned 100 yesterday but they will be celebrating it on your birthday.
Joyeux Noel to you and your family!

Frances Anamosa

Joyeux Noel, to you and your family. Many thanks for sharing with all of us. I wish you all the best for the happiest of holidays, and a very wonderful 2013. Frances in Napa.


Et Bonnes Fetes ausssi a' toi!

I haven't had the time to post anything recently, but I wanted at least to wish you all the best of the season!

Joanne Ablan

Tell Smokey that it was a lot of Golden Retrievers who were the
first responders with love for the grieving community of Newtown.
We should all take a lesson of noblesse oblige from this golden
breed who steadfastly serve us with their fidelity to love.


Happy Birthday Kristi and Merry Christmas and Happy New year !!! Long may you continue to "blog" and share your life and times with us all .....You share a name (Kristi) with my daughter and also a B-day with a grandaughter,and the love of all things(well mostly) French, with me. Take care ...enjoy the Christmas season with your family and lovely dogs...and continue sharing your life with us all in 2013. Anne in New Zealand.
PS..Best wishes to Jules too !


Hi dear Kristi,
Today's story once again wrapped itself around my heart.It brought back all the emotions that your beautiful Jackie feels at her age, and also(!) those that her dear parents feel as well. Wonderful times of life for you all!
Chere Kristi, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are indeed a Christmas child,with gorgeous spirit radiating from the inside. We are all so blessed to have you in our lives and fortunate to be part of yours. May God grace you always with faith,health and joy.
Love, Natalia XO

Diane Young

Dear Kristi,
You give us all the Christmas spirit when you point out the need to love others. Have a blessed birthday and a Christmas filled with love. Hugs to all la famille Espinasse, and maybe an extra one to Smokey, our treasured friend. Think he's smelling the wonder of the season.

Michael in southern Québec

Joyeuses fêtes à tous.

Sherry Frank

What a perfectly lovely story. I think we all remember the angst of the first tree from the mall. A real tree is Christmas. The ornaments look more beautiful and everything smells nicer.

Snowing here in Kentucky et it fait tres froid. Joyeux Noel to you and your beautiful family. Many dog hugs to Smokey and Braise.



Happy Birthday for tomorrow, Kristi, Happy Christmas to you all!


Happy Birthday to you, Miss Kristi. And thank you as well for a beautiful story. Smokey looks pretty terrific to me; let's not dwell on past "might have beens."
A Happy Christmas and a Joyous New Year to you and your family.


Patience Tekulsky in L.A,

Oh, my goodness. Two postings in a row from me. But golly, I have to share that my fabulous daughter shares a birthday with you. What a lovely coincidence. Two favorite people, one day of celebration. May you have all good things in the year to come. Bon Anniversaire! to share her wonderful paintings.

Rosalie Isom

Joyeux Noel, Kristin - et à toute la famille "Bonne Année."
Have yourself a "merry little provençal Christmas." I'm driving to Tucson tomorrow to my family. Rosalie

Amanda Frost

Interesting that the Provençaux have appropriated the Aleppo pine as their own!

Merry Christmas to the winemakers!

Irene Tanedo

Je suis souhaite un tres Heureux Anniversaire chere Kristin!:)

May your heart and home be filled with joy, peace and love on Christmas and all throughout the coming year..Merry Chirstmas!

A million thanks to all your posts..


Merci Kristin,

Cette histoire est une vraie merveille de la saison. Le pin est parfait et je me souviens biens l’histoire du petit Smokey. Moi, je lui trouve assez beau qu’il est unique.

Bon Anniversaire à toi et Joyeux Noel a toute la famille.

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)

Joyeux Noel to your family, Kristen. Merci for this blog which brings a little France into my life each week. You are so good at making me see & feel things that are often overlooked in the rush of a hectic life. I often don't get to your blog the first day but they always make me smile or shed a tear & you have made me feel so much a part of your family. Hugs to you all & Smokey & Braise.

John Sanders

amicalement = warmly (is "friendlily" a word?...)

Alas "friendlily" is not a word, but "amicably" is. However, "warmly" is a much better translation.

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Fred Caswell

For so many reasons and like so many of your readers, you have my lifelong gratitude and love. Bon anniversaire, Kristi!

My daughter, Carol, celebrates her 54th birthday with both some joy and a heavy heart (long story). Nancy and I will add our love and wishes the next day, Christmas Eve. You may recall Carol came home as our Christmas baby on Dec. 25th!


Joyeux anniversaire, chère Kristin! C'est une saison des Fêtes chez toi. Que ta nouvelle demeure ne se remplisse que de joie et d'amour .
Joyeux Noël et Bonne et Heureuse Année 2013!

Augusta Elmwood

Bravo, Jean-Marc for giving your children an experience and a lesson they will not forget! Merci Kristin, for sharing your French life with us! Je vous tous souhaite un joyeux Noël, et que cette année nouvelle vous apporte santé, joie, et prosperité! Bisous, Augusta


I sunk deeper into my bed,
I sank more deeply into my bed.
Sorry, I like correct English grammar.

Audrey Wilson

A Hapy Birthday Kristin !!
Bonne Fêtes a vous et toutes la famille

Kristin Espinasse

Merci beaucoup for your response to this story. I thought about doing a rerun, and now I am so glad to have faced the blank page once again! Your notes are the best reward to this effort! 

The thought bubbles for Smokey are just wonderful! Thank you.

Angela and Catherine, thank you for the helpful corrections.

Julie, happy 88th to your dear mother :-)

Bill, good luck with the games and enjoy your family.

Candy, so happy to see your note. I was  JUST thinking about you!

Gwyn, thanks for posting the link and the idea to 26 Acts of Kindness. Wonderful idea.

Marilina, your feedback is so encouraging!!

Anne, Wish our town was called Kissimmee! You lucky you!

Melanie, thinking of you, and your Grandma, aussi!

I am enjoying every single word ... and need to finish thanking you for them... but we are leaving now for a birthday lunch. Woohoo! xoxo Kristi

mary paulson

Oh Kristi, what a big smile you brought to me this morning at 3:40am. Enjoy your birthday fete. Thank you for all your stories and sharing this year. Thank you , Thank You. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. May this coming year be the best one yet!

Pat Cargill

Wishing you a very happy birthday, chere Kristin, and it sounds like you are happily eating another fabulous French meal right now! Woohoo, yes! Love and warm wishes à famille Espinasse! Cheers à tous!

And thanks to Gwyn for the link. Big hugs.



It breaks my heart that I am now with you today. I am having all kinds of thoughts and memories right now. I guess only you can imagine how I am feeling right now. Please take lots of photo's - I wish for you all of your dreams, but then again I think you already have received all already. That is the good news, there are always more surprises down the road that we haven't even considered...Thank God for that.

I remember the moment you were born - what a story that was....and then all of the moments in our lives together. Just the memories are a wonderful gift.

I can't seen to write -

I'll come back later -



Vince Patrucco

Smokey is a wonderful dog, and my Casey sends him a big kiss!

Judy Feldman

Bonnes fetes, Kristin. I wish you & your family a wonderful holiday in your new home, and look forward to another year of your lovely stories.

Bises, Judy

Olga Brown

Joyeux anniversaire, Kristi!
By the way, Jean-Marc, I did not forget about Kristi's birthday, you just were first! I waited for that exact day: the Russians don't say "Happy Birthday" ahead.It's our rule, for some reason.
I also wish you all (including the dogs!) a very Merry Christmas!

Andrea Hughes

Kristin, I hope that you enjoyed your Birthday lunch! "Bon anniversaire"!! I'm sure that it was "delicieux"!
I wish you and your family a "Joyeux Noel" and a "Bonne Annee"!
I so appreciate your thought-provoking stories.
"Merci mille fois et bonne continuation!"


Cynthia Lewis from Salisbury MD

Happy Birthday, Kristin! I hope your day was lovely; I believe I missed it by about thirty minutes "your time". Your story today made me think of Christmases at my grandmother's home in North Florida. One year my uncle cut a long needle pine for our tree; the branches droop a bit and the needles are really long. The ornaments and tinsel would slide off almost as soon as we tried to put them on and during the night (too excited to sleep) my brother and I could hear them tinkle as they hit the floor. But it was a wonderful tree just as your pine is very special. Many,many thanks for your expressive writing which is a marvelous gift to all of us. Best wishes, Cynthia

Jan in Monument, Colorado

Happy birthday a day late, Kristi! I celebrated your special day (and I didn't even know it!) at a local creperie with friends, enjoying a glass of pinot gris, a crepe brie and sharing a crepe creme brulee for dessert. I hope your meal was as lovely as mine! Joyeux Noel to you and your wonderful family (Jules and John too!) and to all your readership!

Diana Barron

Happy Birthday Kristi, and Joyeux Noel to you all, I hope you have a wonderful Noel in your new home. With love from Diana, Western Australia

june furey

Kristi,thank you once again for a wonderful year of stories, this is being sent to you from "down under' where we are nearly 11 hours ahead so Xmas day is only a few hours away. I am with my family including a geat granddaughter, and all the thrills of Santa arriving in the morning, so household full of anticipation and excitement.
May you and your family have a the happiest of Xmas joy, felicitations from your artist ami June, New Zealand

Sydney Server

Cool pic. Love Paris!

Angela Sargent

A gentle story. Happy birthday Kristin and Merry Christmas to you all. Thank you for all your postings.

Xxx Angela

Marianne Rankin

I am catching up on FWAD and enjoyed this post, even thought it is a week or so after it was written. Kristin, I hope you had a happy birthday, and send belated wishes for a wonderful year ahead. Likewise, Bonne Annee a la famille, avec toutes sortes de bonnes choses. And to the larger "FWAD community," too.

As for the tree, I've always wanted to go to a tree farm or suitable place and pick one. We don't have a lot of space for a real tree, and in the past when we had one, our cats knocked it down, spilling water and breaking ornaments. Maybe someday ... I'm glad Jackie had the experience, and since you have "pins" nearby, you could have a real tree every year.

Thank you for continuing to send FWAD to us, and I'll be grateful to read the blog whenever it's convenient for you to post something new. Merci!

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