How to say kleptomaniac in French?
How to say "chills" (from emotion) in French?

"a sa guise" - a wonderful expression, but what does it mean?

Boat in Giens (c) Kristin Espinasse
It's a little more chaotic than usual around here today--there are workers in the living room, workers in the bathroom, workers in the trees! I chose this calming image to begin this post... up to you to choose today's story à votre guise.

à sa guise (ah-sah-gheez)

    : as one pleases, as he/she likes

Audio File: Listen to our daughter Jackie, read today's example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav

Aujourd hui, je vous donne le choix entre trois histoires à lire. Vous êtes libre de choisir à votre guise.
Today I'm giving you the choice between three stories to read. You are free to choose as you like.

For those of you who would enjoy a story from the archives, here are your choices (I chose the essays based on the amount of "likes" recorded at the end of the blog edition...):
  • Eleven people liked How to Compliment a French Woman. Click here to read.
  • Twelve people liked Smells like Teen Spirit. Click here and scroll down to the story column.
  • (Oh, forget "likes"--a writer should not look at "likes"--but I hope you'll still read this one: Outrunning the Bulls in Italy, in the story "Sauve Qui Peut!" Click here.
Bonne lecture! Happy reading!
P.S. I will be looking for more stories to rerun--as my mom (then my dad and Marsha) will be visiting in May (and June). I'm going to want to spend a lot of time with them and I'll need to put this newsletter on break (or reduce the number of posts). If you can recommend a story from the archives, please let me know. That would be so helpful! Comments welcome here.


Wildflowers (a gift from Jean-Marc), another French mailbox, and a  letter I received recently... 

Salut Mrs. Epinasse... or should I say Mme Epinasse!
My name is Sydney Cardozo and I am in one of Mme Siff's French classes this year at my school in Richmond, Virginia! I am 16 (almost 17) and a junior... so I am starting the lovely college process! Our College Counseling Office here at Collegiate encouraged the juniors to ask their teachers in very creative ways to write their letters of recommendation. 
So now to the point of this very random email! Our class reads your blog weekly and we are often quizzed on the funny stories and vocab! Recently our class saw Jean-Marc and Mme Siff together on a post... it was like she ate dinner with a celebrity! So cool! This may be a tall order to ask, but I was wondering if somehow you could help me ask Mme. Siff to write my letter of recommendation in one of your posts! (Sort of crazy, sounds like I am asking her to prom or something!) But if you could find any time to add a sentence or two saying something like "By the way Valencia Siff... would you like to write Sydney's letter of recommendation?" that would be so awesome! 

Hi Sydney, All of us reading wish you bonne chance!
P.S. Mme. Siff, Qu'est-ce que vous en pensez? 
Centuries-old olive tree and mas (c) Kristin Espinasse
Some of the centuries-old olive trees that were pruned this month. The event became a great spectacle, when the ancient olive trees, down by the roadside, were trimmed. The French pulled their cars off to the side of the road, and several people rushed up to take souvenir olive branches!

Max's friend Paul (right, and here) suggested building a shelter for the dogs, a shady place out of the sun. The boys were supposed to be resting after clearing out the olive grove (and getting scratched from head to toe by all the thorny bushes!). Instead, the worked another hour on the personal project. How to say "hard workers with soft hearts" in French? 

Max laundry
Later on, Max did his laundry. Those olive trees he'd helped out... helped him back.
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"How to say "hard workers with soft hearts" in French?"
"Des bosseurs au coeur tendre"?
Thank you, Kristin for the happy moments you give us (((hug)))

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Vera, and thanks for the hug :-)

David Manuel

The article with your son holding a photo of himself as a little boy, as he was becoming a man, may be my favorite.

David Manuel
Lexington MA

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Every time you write you open new horizons through your photos and stories with a lesson in French woven in between. I am so impressed with the ancient trunk of the olive tree which has new growth after several hundreds of years. It stands as an inspiration for all.

Have a wonderful visit with your family during May. I'll be thinking of you. Bon week-end and many, many thanks.

Pat Cargill

Love the pics of your handsome, industrious son. Smokey seems to be watching the construction and perhaps il pense: "cool, man, cool."

Sydney, you will go far in life! Quelle bonne idée to write Kristi. Mme Siff will be surprised this morning, and btw, great photo of J-M and Mme Siff--took a look back.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
What a beautiful image of the flowers, boats, sea and mountains! I could look at that all day!
I re-read the "canon" story. Jules et vous sont tous les deux magnifique! (Is that correct?)
I complimented a woman the other day and she was so overcome I couldn't believe it. I told her she had the most gorgeous hair and how it compliments her skin tone. She was a woman close to my age and she had let her hair go gray and it was just so becoming. I told her I am not that brave to let mine go gray. She said, "I was having the most terrible day and your compliment just lifted my spirits!"

Debbie Ambrous -

Hi Kristin,
I loved seeing the morning glory blossoms in the first picture. I never thought about them growing so close to the sea. Morning glory vines almost covered my mom's house, so they always remind me of her.
Sydney is a very clever and creative student. With such industriousness, I am sure Sydney will excel. We must remember to encourage others. Seems that Max is excelling also and enjoying his work along with it.

teresa stiffler

Any story about lavender would be delightful---Merci !


Hi Kristin
Those souvenir olive branches were probably not just mementos. Olive trees can be grown from 'truncheons' - limbs or branches - they have a certain value so I guess the souvenir hunters were happy and laughing all the way to their gardens! If any are left you might try planting one - but I am not the right person to advise you how to go about it.
From South Africa


My suggestion for the duration of Jules's visit is to post an occasional photo of her with a sentence or two about her daily experiences with all of you, as well as the locals. I'm guessing all of your readers love to see pictures of her and know what you and she are up to!

Kristin Espinasse

Alastair, wonderful to learn about truncheons. Good to think the old olive trees could be sprouting in neighboring yards!

Susie, love your suggestion, and Teresa, I know just the lavender story. Thanks.

Tish Tyler

Bonjour kristi. How about some stories about Smokey and Braise while you are enjoying visits from family? I enjoyed today's email.
Tish -today in rainy Sancerre,France


Hi Honey,

Great post today - I absolutely devoured all of your photos. I laughed when I noticed once again that you use an old tree stump for your clothesline. We need to get rid of that silver pole and put in another tree stump. Picky - Picky - Picky - I know, sorry. It's the artist in me.
Max & Paul can be my treehouse carpenters.

When Kristi was on the phone a couple of days ago she was complaining about JM - he had just returned from a French Home-Depo and had drug a present for me into the living room. Kristi had a fit that he was bringing more stuff in the house along with all the workers and building supplies. I think she was jealous!!! My son had been out buying me presents....Jean-Marc loves me because I always stick up for him at all times. I love my son...wonder what the present is....maybe a hammock to hang in the forest.



Jan in Monument, Colorado

Somehow I missed the post with the picture of Mme Siff and J-M, so I clicked on it. So glad I did--otherwise I would have missed the picture of Colorado in Provence. You could have fooled me--it certainly looks like a typical Colorado scene. You saved me a trip to Provence (not really, I'd love to go back there)! Also, in today's post, I loved the idea of people stopping to pick up olive branches. Metaphorically, the world could use more olive branches!

joie in Carmel, Ca.

I liked todays phrase. Another to tuck away in my brain. I learned a word the other day from a Parisian pastry chef Apollonia Poilane on a cooking show that I really like. Do you ever use it? Copain-meaning buddy or literally I guess someone to break bread with, a special friend.
Have a restful couple of months with your family....what am I saying, somehow I doubt it will be totally restfuly with your mom there! She will keep you going!

Alisa, Florida

Does anyone else see the dog's head on the right hand side of the big, old olive tree?? It looks like a Chocolate version of our two favorite pups, Mama Braise and Smokey-R-Dokey!

joie in Carmel, Ca.

Just think of all the stories you will have after the visits and all the photographs. So in a way I guess you could call it "research" for your future episodes ;-)

Jim Alsip


Laura and I just returned from spending a wonderful month at our condo in downtown Charleston, SC. One afternoon as we walked down lower King Street we passed a gentleman who was carrying "Mr. Sack's" brother!


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful post and pictures(!!) and an even more beautiful way to start the weekend!
ANY post that you choose to rerun is absolutely wonderful and a breath of fresh air!
Have the happiest time with you family!
Hugs to all of you!
Love, Natalia

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Dear Kristi,

What a beautiful sight to bring us into the weekend...boy, would I love to be aboard one of those boats, looking at that beautiful view all day!
Love all the photos and the story of Max and his friend Paul. So nice to hear about the boys doing something loving and kind for the pups and enjoying the great outdoors. And Max doing his own laundry! That's awesome-keep up the good works Max! Your wonderful parents are so thankful and lucky to have your help.
I read all the past stories and loved them all. Thanks for re-posting!
Can't wait to see pictures and read about Jules, your Dad and Marsha. Have a wonderful time with all of them!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

FWIW I have never found a 'Like' button on the post on line. There is an e-mail button, one to share on facebook, one to tweet, and one to share in general. But not a simple Like button. Thus I have never clicked one.

Do all the other readers see it?
Would I see it if I went through to facebook, which always has a like button?

I hope some of your rehab construction is finished before your guests begin arriving.

Those olive trees are so huge! The branches removed must have been equally huge. Looking forward to see more olive tree photos as they come into leaf.

Leslie in Portland, Oregon

While I enjoyed all three of the posts you suggested. I particularly liked the photograph of your mother in "How to Compliment a French Woman." Now I have a clear view of her face to put with the comments she posts here. She is indeed beautiful, and she has passed some of her loveliest features on to you! Have a wonderful time together!

Marianne Rankin

This post reminded me of a line from a poem by Baudelaire:

"Enivrez-vous: de vin, de poesie, ou de vertu, a votre guise."


Wow, so much removed from that huge old tree. They must have known what they were doing, but my first thought when I saw so much gone from such a huge trunk was whether it would survive.

Joanne Ablan

Kristin, Vous seriez toute en amour de la Seine croisiere avec AMA Waterways. Je suis
en croisiere pendant que je vous ecrit ce courriel. A bord "toute est luxe, calme, et volupte"! J'espere que cette pensee d'un futur plein de joie vous soutenez dans vos
moments d'epreuve. Joanne de Vernon aujourdhui et de Rouen a demain!

joie in Carmel, Ca.

How about posting some of your earliest stories. Some of us have only been following you for 7 years or less. Perhaps two a week and one to keep us could line some up now and then just push the send key!

joie in Carmel, Ca.

I just happened to notice the number of readers you have now and I remember when it was 27000....I would deem this quite successful.

Jan (in Edmonton, Canada)

It's interesting that "guise" in English means the opposite of "disguise." When Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, the lady-in-waiting tells the Doctor, "This is her very guise." Maybe it has the same origin as the French word.

Enjoy your visits with your family! I agree, some photos would be a treat, but after they've left. Take a well-deserved break. The last thing you need is the stress of sending out your blog when you have guests.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin,

Do it!

Take that well deserved break ... go ride a bicycle on the beach ... let the breeze set you free. And even though you have family coming, I hope you will enjoy some "alone time" for introspection and battery recharging. I assure you, we will all be here when you return ... waiting patiently for the fantastic rewards of FWAD.

Thank you for your gifts.

Mahalo Nui, Bill

Valencia Siff

Dear Kristi,
Merci mille fois! J'accepte d'écrire la lettre de recommandation pour Sydney et elle va certainement gagner la compétition grâce à toi!

Kristin Espinasse

Valencia, Thanks for sharing the good news! All the best to Sydney and classmates.


Jan, thank you for referencing (16th. C.) English "guise" for "likeness." Not only is French hard to pronounce (we know this from the thick accent of even good English speakers) but so many words are bewilderingly similar-but-different in meaning than what one would expect.

On another subject - on a site with so many worshiping commentators, and of course at the risk of raising ire, I suspect that JM didn't really pick those flowers and that poor K. feels obligated to massage the truth in that quarter because, after all, her blog serves other purposes. Just saying.


That's a beautiful photo of the boats on the water and the flowers in the foreground! Love that the boys built a shelter for the dogs when they were tired from working :-) They're good kids!


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