le nounours + teddy bears spotted in France (photos)
tergiverser + pictures of the French island of Porquerolles

pagaille + typography photos

Typography and a cheese shop in Salernes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Typography is the theme tying today's photos together. Enjoy and, if you know someone who appreciates lettering, please send this on!(Picture taken in Salernes, pottery-making village and more!)

pagaille (pah-geye)

    : shambles, chaos, havoc, mayhem, disarray; mess, disorder

Audio File: Listen to the next four lines: Download MP3 or Wav file

quelle pagaille! = what a mess!
mettre la pagaille = to mess up
semer la pagaille = to sow discord, wreak havoc upon 

Dans notre maison en rénovation, c'est la grande pagaille. 
In our home undergoing renovation, it's total chaos! 

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

I'm having a hard time deciding on the word of the day. Between bruit and poussière and marteau-piqueur... and craquer and crier and bagarre it is an embarrassment of choices as the French like to say. If only there were as many options for shelter....

Yesterday, only day three of renovation, and we began to snap. It happened when our bedroom (Jean-Marc's and mine) became host to yet another castaway: the muddy, odorous Braise. our 7-year-old golden retriever. (Our luck took a turn when it began to rain, leaving no choice but to bring the dogs inside a house overcramped with workers, plastic sheeting, and buckets of rubble.)

Under normal circumstances, one more boarder in our safehaven room would not have been a worry. But, as it was, our love nest--already bursting with two armoires, a bed, a giant lazy recliner and my corner office--was now home to our daughter, our clothesline, the living room sofa, Jackie's wardrobe (piled high on a fold-out armoire), an extra mattress, our 15-year-old's school affairs--including a chest of books--and a pile of baskets, chairs, and luggage, too. I might have added our dining room table to this list, but that would be an exaggeration, for we are using our pillows as individual table tops, preferring to eat in our bedroom, the only private room of our house. 

(It is amusing to think of a letter Mom once wrote to my then-boyfriend, in 1992: "Dear Jean-Marc," she began, "...just one bit of advice: give Kristi a room of her own. She needs her space.")

As I look around at the piles of wet clothing, dirty plates, books, garbage, people and dogs I think of natural disasters and les miserables who endured them. How grateful they would be for this warm room, for this cup of coffee, for the gentle melody playing in the background... it is the sweet snoring of our muddy dog, whose gentle ronflement tempers the pounding of the jackhammer. My eyes settle on the peaceful image of our sleeping beauty. If she can dream amidst the chaos, maybe I can, too? 

...Except that the workers have just now tumbled into our private space--on their way past the dining bed, past the wet clothes and dog, past this desk on which I type and over to the balcony to begin drilling on the back wall. Oh, to dream again!

French Vocabulary

le bruit = noise, din

la poussière = dust

le marteau-piqueur = jackhammer, pneumatic drill

= to lose it (to break down)

crier = to shout

la bagarre = fight, brawl

le ronflement = the snoring

  Typography for the dogs, in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse

Pairing today's post with some snapshots of French typography. This first picture was inspired by Braise, the dog dreamer in our story. The sign reads "Biscuits for Dogs."

Telegraphe typography in Comps sur Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse
Looks like we are not the only ones undergoing "the works". This old post office in Comps sur Artuby is being fixed up. Will it be a private home or will it be what it says it is? You never know in France, where people move into bakeries and even historic little chapels--converting the once public sites into private nests. Do you know of an unusual place into which someone has moved? Comment here.

Typography at the butcher's in Visan (c) Kristin Espinasse

 At the butcher's in Visan. Notice the typography... and not the gruesome hooks above the old wall tiles!

 In our old stomping ground of Les Arcs-sur-Argens. This typography hints at a liquor store once upon a time.

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


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Denise Southwick

Merci Mille fois. My French 2 class is in the middle of building a French city,and you provide me today with some great photos for them to see.
My upper level class uses your word a day for their journals also. Thank you so much.

Bill Facker

Burning the midnight oil with a new listing contract here on Kauai when your post popped up. One very positive item related to the renovation .. it has seemingly stimulated the "Kristin Muse" and you have certainly produced some great work in conjunction with the "noise". Writing may be your "sanctuary of peace" amidst the chaos ... writing may be your "sleep" .. that inward place you go to blank out the exterior mayhem. If so, please thank the construction guys because I sure do like reading your stuff! Aloha, Bill

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hang in there Kristin! Hopefully it will be over soon. Your love nest sounds way too crowded. I would move out to that little cabanon in the yard.


I teach college French and love your blog. I often show your posts to my students. Merci mille fois. Sheila

Pat Cargill

Chere K, best to you et famille as you continue renovation. So true and insightful about the "les miserables" thought. It is such a stressful process; yet in the big heart you have, you remember your blessings far outweigh your troubles.

Bill in St. Paul

We have a several churches that have been made into private homes. In one case it looks like it's been made into three separate apartments/condos. We actually have some old commerical signs on buildings that must be left in place as they are "historic", even though the businesses being advertised are long gone.

Sue at Naperville Now

so -- in the spirit of HGTV (are you familiar with the Home and Garden network?) will you be taking before and after photographs during the renos? House junkies like me are curious to see your plans and progress :)

Kristin Espinasse

Msshe and Denise, thank you for sharing this blog with your students! Makes my day! (And what a cool city-building project Denise mentioned!)

Bill F., best wishes with your latest listing. I like what you say about writing being a sanctuary. It is true!

Eileen, we could throw the two haybales weve been saving inside. The weathers getting cooler... thanks for the idea!

Pat, who me the big heart? Speak for yourself!

Sue, We are missing some photo opportunities. Need to work on this... 

Julie Farrar

I laughed out loud and your mother's letter.

Your thoughts about those surviving natural (or manmade) disasters were right on target. However, I think back even farther to a time in history when entire families were living in a space of that size. In some of the apartment buildings I've stayed in in France before we bought, I've climbed up to the uninhabited top floors of the building and imagined what it was like for those who stuffed themselves into these cramped, dark spaces. Our 80 sq m apartment seems like a palace compared to those.

Audrey Wilson

Hang in there Kristin ! After 18 months of similar living we finally looked around our lovely home as you will do & said 'we've done it! ' That was 18 years ago
Chin up as we English say

Lenore (in Brooklyn, NY)

Your post of today describes just how we were living for the past few months, until exactly a week ago when our renovation project was completed! I have to say that when my home was turned upside-down with the chaos of the work-in-progress, I found it very difficult to do even the simplest things or even think clearly. As you so aptly describe, nothing was in its place. I couldn't even make myself a cup of coffee at home. Now, though, I am thrilled with the finished result -- as I know that you and your family will be as well.

Christine Allin

This too shall end, Kristin. At some point it has to! Your word today reminds me of lyrics from an Adamo song that have floated around in my head for decades~ "Il y a cette triste pagaille dont je dois sortir."
(Had to look that one up to get it right..)

Pennie in Canada

As you know, it's the journey, not just the destination that matters. Sharing the experience with friends and family along the way is good, and then, some day, you'll look back on it and have a lot of laughs. Thanks for letting us in on the adventure. Bon aventure! (Yikes, I just realized I'll be flying to France in exactly one month! I won't remember a word of French, but I am so excited about the adventure!)

Sevahn Merian from Michigan

Dear Kristin,

You are always finding the treasure in your trials. You are adorable. My cats also teach me to be peaceful when there is chaos. Have a lovely weekend.



John woke up this morning to find his 'teeth' in two pieces on the floor beside his bed...Breezy our dog was secluded in the bathroom hiding under a chair. I on the other hand discovered that if I rolled two washclothes inside of a face-towel and carefully tucked them into the front of my bathing suit that I looked at least '50' again. I think we have slid over the edge down here 'Mexico-Way' but I'm sure just like you Kristi - in a few weeks everything will be back to normal.

I feel so young today - wish i could send you a photo....I will bring my washclothes to France to wear on the beach!



Linda Williams Rorem

Years ago, one of my best friends and her husband renovated a nunnery in Paris for their home. It struck me as odd, at first, but they did a wonderful job and ended up with a lovely, spacious house in the 14th arr. Courage!

Diane Young

I think you're getting some good material for writing during this grande crise. Granted, it seems a high price to pay, but you could start thinking about another book because you are definitely writing a lot more since the renovation started. Hope you're taking lots of photos of your bedroom because it's gotta be a sight to behold. Bless you for remembering that your mess would be a palace for many around the world.


OMG!!! Even I am overwhelmed with this (your) mess! My hat is off to you for being able to get so much into one room and still function inside of it. I thought my daughter was the only person who could pull that off. She added a three year-old and a new baby to her mess. You still out did her!
Oh how I love your mom! I am still laughing so hard I can hardly type. I am going to try her washcloth idea.


The drilling is the worst! Ours started at 8:30 and could be heard all over the house. Impossible to concentrate. I tried loud music, but frankly that just made it worse. But I am grateful that the contractor showed up on time - a first since we started the project!
Wondering how long your project is going to take.

joie in Carmel, Ca.

I hope you are photographing the renovation. All I can say is "and this too shall end."


How often do you peek behind the curtain? Home remodel always leaves me in a state of high tension. When its over, its over, leaving the opportunity to tweak that outcome and questioning whether all the choices made were the best? My weakness is always, rushing in to ask a worker about different possibilities. Or trying to direct the process. I admire your patient observations and ability to "nest" among the new temporary arrangement, focused on coping. With all the uproar, it certainly affects the feng shui of ones mind. I see, even your mom is finding new inspiration in the thoughts of remodel! :) lol

Gordon Lyman

A few years ago we did a rennovation of our kitchen and some other parts of the house. It was a slow, slow process done with the help of talented friends whenever their time or ours was available.
During that epoch we went into the bathroom down the hall to do dishes or to get water. Meantime, our refrigerator worked but was "temporarily" moved out of the kitchen. We got so used to all that, that when the project was finally done we kept finding ourselves shaking our heads, standing for example in front of the "temporary" location of the refrigerator even though it had been moved back into the now-finished kitchen. :-)
In the years since we've been enjoying the new worth-waiting-for kitchen, and our funny memories of the remodel time.
BTW, K says "Finding a new posting by Kristin is like going into the garden and finding a new rose."



Our dear Kristi,
Once again you have given us inspiration! To be able to write such wonderful posts through all the noise,clutter, and headaches(!!) is nothing short of awesome!
It will pass and it will be beautiful!
I know that sounds easy for somebody to say when their lives are not upside down, but we did survive the renovations (without a divorce,LOL) and you all will be so thrilled with what you have accomplished!
HANG IN THERE!!!! More days behind now than ahead!
Love, Natalia XO

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

There's just not much nice about renovations - I thought we would be living with our refrigerator in the living room forever --- then, all of a sudden it starts to come together, and slowly things get put back in their place - and some even nicer things get brought in, and it's all worthwhile. Meanwhile, you might want to go retrieve that nounours and hold on to it, have it give you hugs, because this renovating is almost always a bumpy ride! Then, ta da, beauty!

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

P.S. I can never get enough of signage, old buildings, and photographs - keep them coming!

Marianne Rankin

One of the good things about renovations/ repairs is that you realize how wonderful life normally is. Over the years we've had to replace a water heater, a refrigerator (that wasn't too big a deal), and a few weeks ago, a furnace. One doesn't realize how much stuff one has until it has to be moved. I still can't believe everything that was in the utility room that I had to take out to make room for the furnace workers. I'm still putting some of it back!

We had tile installed at entries because the carpeting was wearing out - that was just a couple of days or so each time.

But when we finally replaced the carpeting with new flooring - every single thing had to be moved into other rooms: furniture, lamps, piano, etc. etc. - AND all the books on several bookcases. I wound up giving my son a day off school because he'd stayed up for hours to help me move everything. A few years later, we are enjoying the floors, and expect to do so for a long time to come.

Whenever something such as the above ends, and, I'm sure, when your large-scale renovations are done, you will revel in ordinary days where you don't have to listen to noise, you don't have to walk through an obstacle course, and you can find everything. It will be great to see how your place looks when the work is finished.


hee, hee, hee . . . washcloths as "beauty aids" . . . I'm "tucking" :) that idea away . . . I'm thinking it is going to come in real handy! :D Genius, Jules! ! ! hee hee hee . . .

I don't envy the trials of renovation, but I will envy the outcome, I'm sure! (But, it does seem to make for some great writing material!)

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Kristin- Love to follow reno projects, and before/after photos. I've lived in construction for far too long- once had to hold my laundry in one hand, while climbing a ladder up to a second floor laundry (the central staircase had been removed). Next, I spent a year writing my book because the only room accessible was my bedroom, and that kept me contained. Now, am doing another project and every day that it is silent, I know I have to go make the phone calls and find the workers one more time and cajole them to finish...be happy for the noise-at least they are there working!

Jan in Monument, Colorado

I have a renovation horror story that could have served as inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock. It occurred when we were converting a deck at the rear of the house into an office. Here on the Front Range of Colorado, we endure an invasion of miller moths in late spring. The builders had removed the rear door and replaced it with a partition that only went about four feet up the open space. The new office was enclosed, but not well sealed yet. I was on the phone one evening with someone I didn't even know very well when our cat started exhibiting some extremely agitated behavior. Looking for the source of his excitement, I looked up to the partition and saw quite literally hundreds of moths streaming in. Not knowing what else to do, I screamed a quick goodbye to the person I was talking with, turned off all the lights, and hid out downstairs in the basement until my husband came home. Needless to say, for a couple of weeks we each were swatting at and disposing of several dozen moths every morning. After about three days the cat had had his fill of moths and ignored them, leaving us to do the dirty work. When the ordeal was finally over, everything had to be cleaned, including drapes and windows since the moths leave ugly drippings behind. I certainly hope nothing like that happens during your renovation!

N Vandenberg, San Antonio, Texas

Oh . . . . would it be possible to camp out for a couple of days? At least a break - go on a day of adventure - to the beach? Maybe overnight?
You make me feel better about the ongoing construction of two houses - one on either side of mine. And my barking dog, who is doing his job of warning me of possible intruders at every nail, cement mixer, etc. It is 4:30 on Saturday and they have been at it since 7:30am.

Try to stay focused on the end product and again, thank you for your clever writing and wonderful pictures. Nancy

gail bingenheimer

Last week was spring break so I did my spring cleaning. I only do it once a year. I painted and shampooed the carpet but you are right it took a week and I was exhausted. However, I'm back to work this week and it feels good to be in a clean home. I don't know how I would feel if it would take forever!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Good luck, dear Kristi! Please keep in mind the end product will be worth the mayhem and there is no way around but through (ok, an exception to this rule it seems, is to find that chocolate)! Do keep your sense of humor and gratitude as is your style which again you’ve shown us here.

It’s been over two years since I replaced all the windows and doors, plus trim, painting and some needed repairs all in the cold of winter and just before Christmas. Just last summer it was the removal of old linoleum and refinishing of the wood floors in the great room and living room. Ugh, I did not know how I would make it through. Now all the mess and chaos is a far-distant memory and the pleasure of looking through beautiful windows and French doors (that actually work!) and walking on gorgeous floors is a joy each and every day.

If all else fails remember: this too shall pass. I am so excited to see the transformation!


For me your typography photos underline how much we lose thanks to computer graphic software. The charm of imperfection has such value.

And I wonder how many of your readers have been through the renovation process. Many, many, to judge from the posts. I rebuilt my house myself. It took years and my family laughed at the camping! But as others have said, it does pass and there's huge satisfaction in living in a home that you've had some part in building.


How about renting a tent??


A fire in our appartment forced us to "camp" upstairs in one room while the cleaning-up was being done and the ensuing renovations. It was a horrible time - dust everyhwere and meters of books covered in soot - which is sort of sticky and jolly hard to remove. Soot in photo albums, in underwear drawers....wherever we touched, we got black fingers....And the workers would not co-ordinate their activities, so that it dragged out for months. I sympathize, Kristi, it is a trying time. Admire your abilitiy to write so well under duress!

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