Fudging in French... + dessert recipe
le mariage civil + noce + the French are softies when it comes to weddings

How to say tenant in French?

Green Eggs and Man (c) Kristin Espinasse
Wish I'd gotten a picture of the hero in today's story. Meantime, here's a lovable stand-in. Photo taken somewhere in the Vaucluse...

le locataire (lo h-ka-tair)

    : tenant

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or  Wav file

Le locataire ouvre grand ses bras. "Entrez, je vous en prie!" il dit.
The tenant opens his arms. "Come in. Please!" he says.  

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

"La Ciotat, La Ciotat!"

I went twice to La Ciotat yesterday. First, in the morning--to get more ingredients for the Healthy Fudge--and again in the evening to look at an apartment for my belle-mère.

The second trip was Jean-Marc's idea. "But are you sure your Mom wants to leave Marseilles? All of her friends are there. And all of her friendly commercants, too." I remember meeting Michèle-France's pharmacist on my previous visit, and witnessing the cheerful bantering between the two women. In a new town, my belle-mère would lose these cozy ties--or have to slowly build them again. 

Jean-Marc assured me that his maman was desperate to move. After nearly two decades in her shoe-size apartment, Michèle-France feels like a bull in a birdcage. And because there is no elevator, she is obliged to climb four flights of stairs--the idea of which keeps her prisoner inside her own home (and one or two nagging health issues do nothing to encourage her to venture out).

In a flowering courtyard a hundred meters from the sea, a thin man is looking out from a ground floor apartment. The smile on his face is as warm as the sunshine pouring down on the flowering lauriers-roses beneath his window. 

"That's Monsieur C. He's moving back to Corsica," the landlady explains, guiding Jean-Marc and me up the stairs to lobby. 

In the entry hall, beside the door of the apartment, there is a giant poster in hues of blue--my mother-in-law's favorite color. The details of the affiche escape me when the porte flies open and another subject comes into view: the Corsican.

"Bonjour, Mr. C." The landlady apologizes for the invasion but we are apparently no bother: her tenant ushers us in with a warm welcome. "Entrez," he says, "entrez!"

We begin our walk-through of the one-bedroom apartment. Passing a hall closet, the landlady assures her locataire: "No need to open it, Mr. C."

"Je vous en prie!" Mr. C. insists, reaching down to push a heavy packing bag out of the way.

I peer into the tiny placard, which holds a few threadbare items. My focus returns to our voluntary guide, Mr. C., whose clothes mimic those in his faded wardrobe. He is wearing an oversized coat and pants and his fedora is about to topple off his head. Standing this closely to Monsieur, I smell fumes on his breath and notice how his eyes are softly lit.... I begin to wonder why he is moving and hope that wherever he goes he will be OK. 

"And here is the bedroom," the propriétaire points out. "The place comes furnished." 

As we step past him, Mr. C. smiles, pushing his packing bag out of the way once again. I reach out and grasp his shoulder in an automatic gesture of thanks. Thanks for the warm welcome. Thanks for being so helpful. Thanks for putting up with this invasion. Only, when I find myself patting his shoulder again and again, I realize my reflex may be overly sympathetic. I begin to wonder: if Monsieur didn't have the glassy eyes and octane breath--if he didn't have the repurposed suitcase--if instead he had a Louis Vuitton and wore a bow tie--then would I have patted him on the shoulder?

No, I wouldn't have! I would have been too intimidated. But here, there was no intimidation or awkwardness--only a sense of camaraderie. Still, I should be more composed--for overt displays of sympathy can come across as pitying, or worse--condescending!

As we continue to tour the stranger's apartment, I think about how quick I am to show affection to certain types of people. How chatty I can be! But put me in a room with the up and climbing Joneses, the cosmopolitans--or people my own age, or savants--and I'm suddenly tongue-tied and awkward. No way I'd be slapping them on the back, ol' pal style. Ça ne se fait pas!

As my mind overthinks my gestures, Mr. C. is going with the flow--the tide of strangers peering into the nooks and crannies of his upturned life. I notice the padlock on his bedroom window shutters; once again I have the urge to reach out... and comfort him? and for what? But the padlock, or cadenas, is proof of the fragility that up til know could only be sensed. 

"That's the WC," the landlady says as we follow her out into the hall again. "It's separate from the bathroom." Opening the door I'm cheered by the tiny room with its bright turquoise blue paint. There is a picture of a saint on the wall, her arms are outstretched just as Mr. C's were, on ushering us into his home earlier.

As I stand admiring the saint a sour scent lifts upwards from beneath my feet, filling my nose with an acidic tingling.... I quickly back out of the WC. but the scent seems to trail out to the hallway. I guess Mr. C. had missed the spot--as men will--only his aim was a little farther off than most.

Overall, Jean-Marc and I loved the apartment, and Mr. C's character lent an affectionate and adorable aura to the place.

"But we'll need to do some repair work," Jean-Marc explained. "Some painting... and we'll need to change the linoleum floors."
The deal was sealed with a bottle of wine - one Jean-Marc promised to bring on the next visit. With a little persuading, maybe we can get him to bring a bottle for Mr. C. (or would fudge be a better idea?), in thanks for his warm hospitality.

On our way out I brushed Mr. C's shoulder once again, finding it hard to resist the lovable character. The gesture wasn't condescending, no! How good it felt to touch a saint and to sense his gentle spirit run through me, filling my mother-in-law's next home with love and abundance.


Post note: The landlord tells us Mr. C. is returning to his native Corsica, after a stint in La Ciotat. No sad ending, here. May the beauty of the southern French island fill his days with joy.

French Vocab

la belle-mère = mother-in-law
le commerçant = storekeeper 
la maman = mom, mother 
les lauriers-roses (mpl) = oleanders
une affiche = poster
la porte = door
le locataire = renter, tenant
entrez = come in 
je vous en prie = please (go ahead)
le placard de rangement = small closet, often in a hallway
ça ne se fait pas! = one doesn't do that!
le cadenas = padlock 
le WC = toilet (bathroom) 

Words in a french life - joAnna students

Photos and words like this are the best reward for sticking to my writing dream, and pushing past all the doubtful moments!  Mille mercis to the students in this photo, and to their thoughtful teacher!

Hi Kristin,  I had an amazing 8th grade French class this year and some of the girls fell madly in love with Words in a French Life.  We did a weekly reading period on Mondays and they would literally fight over who got to read it.  Because I enjoyed them so much, I gave all of the girls in the class your book and they were ecstatic! ... I thought you might enjoy the picture!  

JoAnna, a middle school french teacher in Massachusetts

verrine surimi avocado crab smoked salmon

Another recipe--maybe we're on a roll?

Three sum years ago, when he was 15, our son Max had an internship at a local starred restaurant. There, he learned how to make verrines! I came across this photo in my archives, which comes in the nick of time: we have several guests this month and I've been needing some kitchen inspiration. This verrine (from the word "verre" or "glass") looks simple:

...a layer of chopped surimi (will replace this with real fish...), a layer of guacamole, a layer of sour cream, and a layer of smoked salmon. Top with anèth, or dill--something that happens to be growing profusely in our garden!

La ciotat france colorful buildings
Looking back on this post, written in 2013, I did not know we too would move to the historic town of La Ciotat in the summer of 2017

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.

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


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Such une histoire belle gentile. Aussi the ability to have your belle-mere and other family members so close, dans le coeur and for real.


Nice family story as usual, thank you very much!
All is well that ends well : The Corsican gentleman goes back to his beautiful Corsica & your belle-mère is moving closer to you all. But before she moves in, DIY in sight once again then!!
Have a lovely summer and thanks again for all the sunshine you bring us all, wherever we are!


Just a little correction, not "J.M. and I up the stairs" but J.M. and me.

Have a great summer.


Allen Laskin

Great story!

-guiding Jean-Marc and ME (not "I")
-Octane breath ?
-Mr. C had MISSED (not "miss")
-linoleum (not "linolium", unless that's a French spelling).
-many instances of missing a period (.) after "Mr."


La Ciotat - I love this village.

That's my son Jean-Marc - give him a problem and he doesn't stop until he has turned it into another beautiful story. I am so involved in today's story Kristi. I immediately went off to search out all the information I could find about this lovely village just a birds flight over the top of the mountain above your top terrace where JM's future vines will be planted. I imagine we will all be able to see across the bay below right into Michael Frances' new apartment surrounded by roses. Then I imagined Max and Jackie stopping by for visits after school as that is the village of their school. What more could a Grandmere ask for as she settles into her next chapter of life. I imagine also that JM will be renewing the floors with the same wood flooring that he used on Max and Jackie's bedrooms...I'll bet you a bottle of wine I am right with this guess. I hope you will do a 'day in the life of Michael France' once she is settled so we can get the feel of what it would really be like to settle down in La Ciotat in our mid-70's. I'm off to paint a scene from the marina for Michael Frances new apartment...there are over a hundred images of the village on the internet. What a great post - you have opened another door for me to explore the beauty of Provence with your generous spirit of sharing.

Isn't Max working in La Ciotat this summer??? Maybe he can talk Michael France into a trip down the slide...did you write a story in the past about my adventure with Max on the slide? I need those photos.



Suzanne Codi

Once again your narrative skills placed me right in that apartment, and seeing " Le Corse" as if he were standing right next to me!
So nice to have Jean-Marc's maman much closer to you, and I can definitely sympathize with the stairs issue, wondering how many more years of up and down trips are left in these legs...
Just reread the June 12 garden post, and yes, your raised beds look like you unearthed the " jardins potagers" of an ancient ( Asterix , Obelix et Idefix ?),civilization, what a huge amount of work ( and so much larger than your previous garden) you must be thrilled with the beauty you two created!! Gros bisous from yet another inspired fan , but" verte de jalousie" !

Suzanne Codi

ps HAPPY 4TH OF JULY to the whole Espinasse family!!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the helpful edits! I should forget spell- and grammar check more often, and hear from more people :-)

Mom, so much was left out of the story in order to meet my dumb publishing deadline. And the ending could use work. But putting off a deadline often means the story never gets written.

We are so happy to have Michele-France in the neighborhood.  Maybe she will finally share her recipe for tapenade.

Chris Allin

What a beautiful, touching story.....

Thank you.

Muriel Teusink

I love the idea of reading from your book "Words in a French life" to eighth graders.

Muriel Teusink

Actually, I loved the idea so much, I've just purchased both of your books on Amazon - linking there from your web-site!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Muriel! Very excited to see your note. Just visited the link to Bingham Academy. Fingers crossed more school kids will read the stories from France.

Annette Heath

When describing yourself as being so comfortable with this dear man, and yet not nearly so comfortable with those of the "upper class".........I saw myself in your words.
Merci Kristin. I am not unhappy about being able to relate so well to simple folks and those who need a smile and a pat on the shoulder.

Karen W

As with all of your stories, you have a gift of seeing to the heart and soul of the people you also present to us, Kristin.

It's so nice of you all to look after each other, make homes out of houses, seal the arrangements with new found friends over a celebratory bottle of wine.

Great new words today, too!!

Edie Schmidt

Bonjour Kristin:

We are landlords so have had many folks coming and going in our old (not that old by French standards) Victorian house and adjoining carriage house. Sometimes we find things that were left behind which become part of our lives like my husband's favorite coffee cup. For the most part the tenants go on to bigger and better things when they leave. Once, tenants upstairs had a going away square dance with live music!
Life is never dull. Sounds like you found the perfect apartment for your belle-mere.

Edie from Savannah

Heather in Arles

I am always moved by your writing, Kristin--either to laughter, to tears or to think about something in a way that I hadn't before. Thank you for that. :)

And I see I am not alone in linking with you in...shyness? Over speaking to the excact same groups of people. I am the one who is chatting up the children usually--save for that they have trouble understanding my accent even more than the adults in France!

Your Belle-Mere's qualité de vie is going to skyrocket--and your family's too!

April Lane

I loved this post! You are very similar to me in regard to who you feel comfortable chatting with and showing affection for. I'm sure M. C was captivated by you and I hope your belle-mere will be happy in her new home.


Kristin, you have so many talents, that I imagine it's a problem to do justice to each. As to your photography, you seem to have a gift for picking delightful subjects. If you got into the technical side of photography and spent hours with one shoot, you could perhaps be a professional art photographer.

julie camp

This adorable piece is a prelude. I'm with your mom in wanting the story to continue...details and dialogue. Kudos to teachers for recognizing your books and blog as creative tools to enrich/enhance the teaching of French. Your writing provides a conduit for students to interface with other generations and mores in another culture.
Great recipe and presentation. Thanks for a summery addition to my tired array. I'll add wasabe in some way, maybe mixed with sour cream and mayo. -julie-

Julie Farrar

Things certainly never stand still in the Espinasse family. So glad that your mother-in-law is happy about this move. Certainly it will all work out simply because family is near. And don't feel bad about acting in an overly-familiar way with Mr. C. That's just the American in you coming out.

Diane Young

Vive le potager! How beautiful your plots are with such colorful neighbors as flowers and vegatables. A paradise for the cook who can walk outside and scoop up fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs for le dejeuner. So glad Michele France will be moving to a more comfortable and safer place and be near to you and Jean-Marc. From across the ocean, Happy fourth of July!" Il n'y a pas un mot "lended". Either "loaned" or "lent".

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

What a wonderful story!

Cheryl Curabet

This one was a little wordy with not enough delightful pictures as usual and I have no idea what surimi is


I love all the textures in the main photo.
The iron grill work, the beads, the wall, the salmon shutter and then the lace curtains.
One can see that Jean-Marc truly takes care of his family.
And do I remember correctly that tomorrow you will be celebrating an anniversary???or is it someone's birthday?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Joie, and to all who have just commented! Your notes are inspiring and so appreciated! Yes, tomorrow is our 19th anniversary (for the Town Hall ceremony). We were then married at the church in September of the same year.

Gwyn Ganjeau

What a lovely post! it feels very cinematic. In the film, Mr. C. would leave a 'welcome' bottle of wine for the new tenant. of course the lovely Michele France writes a thank you note on lovely note paper. perhaps she runs across a few things Mr. C has forgotten--an old photo or two, a handkerchief, a shirt that smells like the sea. little clues about who this person is. of course they start a correspondence. of course he comes back to visit friends. of course Michele France prepares a lovely simple lunch--he makes the coffee afterwards because, of course, he knows exactly where everything would be. not sure exactly how it ends. maybe it's just about how orbits intersect for a brief time. hmmm. have to think about that.

happy weekend to all!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Another wonderful story to warm my heart! Love the photo of the students! Felt like I was in the apartment with you and Mr. C., who would have brought out the exact same response in me.

How lovely your dear belle-mère is ready to begin a new chapter in her life near her family.

Bill Facker

Kristin, after reading this beautifully written post, I'm certain there is a novel inside you .... well done! Aloha

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Thanks Kristin -- feeling rather blue since I'm not near my family -- but your photos & story are very mood lifting.

Happy 4th!

I love your mom's ideas & comments. She is very charming and interesting --- just like you.

Merci Beaucoup & stay well!

Frank Chappell

La Ciotat is called "La Ciutat" in Occitan/Provençal/Catalan, meaning "the city". It became prominent in the 15th century.

La Ciotat was the setting of one the very first projected motion pictures, L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat filmed by the Lumière brothers in 1895. After several private showings, the fifty-second long film was given a public screening on December 28, 1895, in Paris, the first recorded commercial public showing of a motion picture. According to the Institut Lumière, before its Paris premiere, the film was shown to invited audiences in several French cities, including La Ciotat. It was screened at the Eden Theater in September 1896, making that theater one of the first motion picture theaters.

Another three of the earliest Lumière films, Partie de cartes, l'Arroseur arrosé (the first known filmed comedy), and Repas de bébé, were also filmed in La Ciotat in 1895, at the Villa du Clos des Plages, the summer residence of the Lumière Brothers. In 1904 the Lumiere Brothers also developed the worlds first colour photographs in La Ciotat.

In 1907 Jules Le Noir invented the game of pétanque in La Ciotat, and the first tournament was held there in 1910. The history of the game is documented in the Musée Ciotaden.



Our dear Kristi,
Once again your writing skill--your colorful descriptions!have just taken us with you and captured our imaginations!This story is wonderful!!
Happy,happy anniversary!May God continue to bless you both and keep all of your dear family in the palm of His hand.
Love, Natalia XO


Although I don't always comment, I always read and smile. Every story is heart warming or heart wrenching or just delightful & I'd truly find something missing if I didn't have your stories to read.
Happy anniversary!


I was there with you. Brilliant and real. Descriptive and sensitive. Brava.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

I really liked your story, so I read it twice! On the second time I found a little Typo: indimidated

I would have been too indimidated. But here, there was no intimidation...

Happy 4th of July!! :)

Kathleen from Connecticut

Happy anniversary.

The apartment sounds wonderful for your mother-in-law and it is interesting that you will do the renovations and not the landlady. Lovely story...you have a way with strangers.

I'll have to try Max's recipe. It look s wonderful.



Hi Lisa,

What a darling comment - Kristi demanded that I get over my intimidation here a few years ago - today Lisa you have shown me the value of even the smallest comment. You have made me laugh and smile and feel loved in one sentence. Thanks for this repeat lesson - one of the most valuable when served up before all of these smarty-pants who have majored in language, writing, travel and hard one lessons in life. What a wonderful and encouraging community we have here at French Word-A-Day....I love all of the comments. Today you have placed yourself in our hearts forever.





Thank you for the wonderful gift of the Lumiere brothers films. I am smitten...of course they had me with all of the French hats in the first moments of their film. I had to click on and off the stop switch so I could fully embrace each scene. As a matter of fact they also had an almost perfect caravan pulled by a horse in the first clip...you know how much I long for a French caravane. You have opened up a new world for me to study for my paintings of France and Kristi. I have just sent one of the videos off to Kristi as I think she may have been too busy celebrating her anniversary to keep up with all the new information she receives from her readers each post. I think she should post one of the Lumiere brothers films on her next post so anyone who doesn't keep up with the comments will enjoy your tip.

Thanks again for opening my eyes to more avenues to enjoy France.



Kristin Espinasse

Lisa, Thanks for the helpful edit. Missed that one! Off to fix it now. 

Mom, enjoyed your latest comment -- and thats a good idea about including a Lumière clip! 

Frank, wonderful educational note -- loved learning these facts. I had been told it was the first cinema, but wondered if it could be true! Good info on petanque too. thanks!

Thank you all so much for your positive words! You keep my writing dreaming alive!


I also wanted to say "guiding Jean Marc and ME!" Aren't we picky? Pay no attention to us, Kristen--we are all envious of your writing skills. Beth in Stockton, CA

Ray Bonetti

What a great story! Corsica yes, that's one part of France I have never been to. Need to add that to the list.

You have a gift for writing that makes it seem like I'm there with you viewing the apartment. No wonder your articles get so many comments, keep up the good work!

Kathy en Californie

Kristin, Beth is right. We may be able to tell you about spelling or the grammar, but I could NEVER write the way you do. Your heart and values shine through; your writing is beautiful; you make us feel that we are living your stories as we read them. Not to mention all the vocabulary and culture you build into it all. Merci!

@ Ray: Corsica should be on your list It is beautiful!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you so much Kathy! What a way to wake up, reading these comments. My writing dream grows steadily, and feedback like this gives me the courage to keep up with It. Mille mercis!

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