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Entries from January 2013

même pas peur!

cat in a box (c) Kristin Espinasse
Psst. There, in the right-hand corner. A cat in a box on a steep ledge. Ever feel like that? (photo taken in 2006, in Italy)

même pas peur! (mem pah purr)

    :  Not afraid!

Même pas peur is an expression French kids say when confronted with something or someone daunting. It means "I'm not a bit afraid!"

 Audio File: Listen to me talk about today's appointment in MarseillesDownload MP3 or Wave file

Aujourd'hui, j'ai un punch biopsie et j'ai même pas peur... et je dis n'importe quoi... Today I have a punch biopsy and I'm not all scared... and I'm just talking nonsense (...when I say that I'm not afraid)... 

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

Même Pas Peur: A few examples 

Même pas peur! The kid on the playground says to his cohorts, when the school bully threatens him: "Même pas peur! That guy doesn't scare me a bit!"

Même pas peur! I'm not afraid! The French woman says with a wink, when her hairdresser suggests chopping off all her locks, for a new look. 

Même pas peur! My son jokes to his friends as he inches over to the edge of the falaise... and jumps 15 meters to the shimmering waters below.

Même pas peur! my husband says, when I hand him the toilet brush and point to the chore.

And ... Même pas peur! I tell myself this morning, as I head out, now, to the doctor's. May the results of this skin biopsy come back speedily, different from the last time... and the time before that....


To read about my first experience with skin cancer, click here.  

Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse
Then... (Kristin, Max, Jean-Marc, and Jackie)

Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse
...and now! (Max, Braise, Jackie, Smokey, Kristin, and Jean-Marc). JM looks a little serious, but he's just impatient to get the picture over with, after several retakes. What do Braise and Smokey look like they're thinking? Comments here.

Note: the first photo was taken at Domaine du Banneret (Jean-Marc's uncle's winery, in Chateauneuf du Pape). It was before Jean-Marc began his own winery, Domaine Rouge-Bleu. We moved again, last September and are still settling in, here near Bandol.

Other places we have lived: Marseilles (when we first met), St. Maximin (after Max was born), Les Arcs-sur-Argens (the longest we ever stayed put!), Ste. Cécile-les-Vignes, and now we are back near the sea, where we started from!

Did you enjoy this post? Thanks for sharing it with a friend, classmate, teacher or anyone interested in France :-)

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

la panne

Blue bicycle (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken last summer in Alsace. Maybe you, too, need more peaceful thoughts today? Read on, in today's story. First, here's a calming wish from a reader, who wrote to another reader in response to the latest post: 

Happy Birthday from England Gus. Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the gentle night to you. —Hank Sweet

Thank you Hank, and everyone who wrote in wishing Gus a happy 88th. Gus must be away celebrating, for he hasn't seen his messages yet... which means there is still time to leave one here, in Gus's message box! (Gus has received 237 messages so far. If you've left a message but do not see it, scroll to the last message and look for the link to "more comments")

la panne (pan)

    : breakdown, 

être en panne = to be stopped, broken down; penniless
la panne d'inspiration = lack of inspiration
tomber en panne = to break down (car, machine)
le coup de la panne = the broken down car trick (or how to pretend you are stranded, to get a date to kiss you!)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce some of the expressions above, as well as the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Avec ma première fiancée, je lui ai fait le coup de la panne.
With my first girlfriend, I played the "stalled car trick". 


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

The Year of Positive Thinking

My son is transferring fritters from his plate to mine, as we sit at the table picking at dinner. "Je ne les aime pas trop," he admits. "Désolé, Maman."

"That's okay. They're not very good," I agree. I must have put too much water into the mix, and that is why the fritters flopped.

"The problem with your mom is that she is not consistent," I say, more to myself than to Max, as he gets up to empty his plate, back into the frying pan. Maybe the dogs will eat them?

"Do you want some chocolate pudding?" Max asks, holding the fridge door ajar.

"Yes..." Yes... that's my problem. Inconsistency! One day I'm making this, another other day I'm making that, from lettuce smoothies to deep fried panisses. I made an extra effort this time, after Max returned from his friend's house, full of praise for the cook....

"Putain. Ed's grandma can cook!"

"Don't say putain!" I complain, taking another stab at a cardboard fritter.

"Désolé." Max glides by, stopping to kiss me on the forehead, before disappearing to his room with his dessert.


Putain. I look around the house. The stove top is glopped with chickpea batter. I'm not a good cook!

I stare at bare walls. And I need to learn to decorate!

My mind begins to reel until, still after still, the negativity gains momentum...

I'm not making progress.... I still haven't gotten anything done... Cobwebs on the ceiling... I can't see a thing... am no good at dusting... JUST LOOK AT THE TOILET RINGS! 

For someone who has experienced a degree of success in her work life... it's pathetic how she fails at her thought life! 


I am spared another round in the thought arena when the telephone rings. It is my daughter, who is spending the week at her friend Manu's. 

"And what are you up to?" Jackie asks, when it is my turn to update.

"Well, I was thinking of going for a walk... but I need some motivation to get moving!"

Silence on the other end of the line tells me my girl is thoughtfully considering my dilemma.

"You could go out and collect wildflowers..." she suggests.


Wildflowers. What a beautiful thought! Just the idea of wildflowers is enough change my train of thinking. I follow Jackie's suggestion and before long, I'm on a dirt path surrounded by mauve-colored fleurs sauvages. Mediterranean heather is carpeting the forest floor in January!  I gather a modest bouquet, to put in a small vase. I set the flowers on my nightstand. The next time I find my thoughts wandering, I might bring them back to this exquisite focal point, a point of departure for a more positive thought journey. 


Do you consider yourself a positive person, only to catch yourself thinking self-defeating thoughts? Any tips on keeping the mind in line?

My mom has a wonderful technique to keep the negative thoughts out before they even enter in: she puts a "watchman" at the gate of her mind. She ended up firing the first watchman (who she decided was a wimp), exchanging him for two big burly bouncers! Now when a self-defeating thought saunters up like the devil, the burly bouncers at the door to her beautiful mind take care of the unwanted guest!

Between my mother and my daughter, there are enough ideas to make this, finally, The Year of Positive Thinking!

What about you? You coming along too? 

Comments welcome here, in the comments box.


je ne les aime pas trop = I don't like them that much

désolé, Maman = sorry, Mom

la panisse = traditional southern French (or Ligurian?) fritter made of chickpea flour, water, salt and a little oil, fried in more oil.

putain = caution, offensive word! (suffice it to say it's much stronger than "damn"!) Though it is true you will hear this word, spoken by young and old, as a language learner like me, and a non-native, you might want to avoid practicing it!

la fleur sauvage = wildflower


Santons and cards beside the Provençal Christmas tree.

I had such a happy visit with the Dawson-Taylor's, who bought our village house in St. Maximin 15 years ago...  Kate, David, and daughter Amanda have kept in touch and we enjoy a treasured friendship, despite the years that pass between visits. I made the super easy fool proof yogurt cake, taking some of your suggestions (I stole a lemon from the lemon tree and grated it into the sugar this time. So good!) I used a Bundt pan, for a change, and filled in the center with candy. Click here to see the recipe and video.

I hope to upload a short home movie taken in Italy. Sign up to our YouTube channel to be alerted to the lastest video.

In Alba, Italy last week.

Did you enjoy this post? Thanks for sharing French Word-A-Day with a friend, classmate, teacher or anyone who loves France!

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.

tribute to reader Gus + Bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An

Fanny at Chez Panisse - a book by Alice Waters
A Francophile might like this book cover, and a foodie or kid-at-heart might enjoy the content. Read the reviews for Fanny at Chez Panisse here. Meantime, learn about another panisse in today's column, a tribute to Gus Elison!

Bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An

    : new year's resolutions

Audio File: our son, Max, just woke up and I talked him into helping me record today's sound file (after my own attempt to pronounce the French words might have misled a language learner! Listen to 17-year-old Max: Download MP3 or Wave file
(Did you want to hear my version? You did didn't you?: Download MP3 or Download Wav)

Quelles sont vos bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An?
What are your new year's resolutions? 

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

I did not plan on making a list of new year's resolutions until, tout naturellement, a list began to form....

More Deep Belly Laughter

It was while stumbling onto a video that made my sides split with laughter that I realized DAILY LAUGHTER was a perfect goal. To fully appreciate the video, you'd have to be someone who, like me, got a little freaked out about GMOs last year, had a health scare/surgical snafu and decided to learn more about raw foods, followed a few too many juice guru videos... and ended up able to laugh about it all (...and still make le jus vert for Jean-Marc and myself each morning!)

Goal Number 2 Trust Your inner cuistot! 

Then, yesterday, New Year's Day, I set out to make the chickpea flour-based "winter farinata" (La Cucina di Terresa's) when a change of plans led to an innovative, au pif moment... and I began to accidentally make a southern French savory side dish: les panisses! I'll be frying those up for Max and me at lunchtime (tant pis for Jean-Marc and Jackie, who are away!), and may share the recipe (or a video?). I've got some leftover salmon that I'll spread on top, and some miam miam good confiture d'oignon that a lovely teacher, Youlia, from the Ukraine, offered me on New Year's eve (she had spread her homemade onion jam on top of foie gras, for a sweet/savory combination). 

Goal Three: Bring Joy into another's Life

The most recent new year's goal came after receiving this touching letter, from a reader's daughter:

Dear Kristin,

We both admire a special man. His name is Gus Elison, he is my Dad. On January 2, 1925 he became the oldest of three children. Because of the economy and being so close to Christmas, Dad never had a real Birthday Party. That is until 2013. Kristin, you have meant the world to my Dad, will you help me with a request to have Birthday Wishes from around the world? 

Dad means the world to me, and he is that rare breed of man that has made this world a better place.

Thank you for bringing joy into his life,

Mary Gotz

Thank you, Mary, for letting us know about Gus's 88th birthday today. Bon anniversaire, Gus!

To anyone reading, please join me now in sending greetings and birthday wishes to this venerable member of our French Word-A-Day family: Gus Elison.

Click here to write your birthday wishes to Gus in the comments box.

More about Gus:

=> We first learned about Gus after my mom selected him among nearly 2000 entrants for the antique key giveaway. Do not miss both Mom's and Gus's (original comment) here

=> Next, we met his lovely French wife, Paulette, and saw these photos.

=> What a surprise when Gus and Paulette came to visit me in France, and introduced us to the beautiful Jeanne.

=> Another member of our French Word-A-Day family, Herm, wrote a special poem for Gus. Herm, if you are reading, could you please post that poem in the comments box?


Thanks again for leaving Gus Elison a birthday wish. Click here to share your message


tout naturellement = very naturally

le jus vert = green juice 

le cuistot = a cook

au pif = to cook by guesswork (pif = slang for "nose"), to eyeball it (when measuring), to play it by ear

tant pis = too bad, tough luck! 

miam miam = yum yum

la confiture d'oignon = onion jam

bon anniversaire, or "bon anniv" for short :-) = happy birthday

Thanks for sharing French Word-A-Day with a friend, classmate, teacher, family member or anyone who loves France!

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.