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Entries from October 2013

Blog hiatus + special story... and see you in December

Bandol window (c) Kristin Espinasse
An artist's residence in the seaside town of Bandol.

Un mois sabbatique. Some talk of a sabbatical year, but one month may just be enough to recharge these batteries after 11 years of online journaling.

In November, I'll follow a gentle rule: no emails, no blogging. Thanks for helping me stick to it.... If you have sent me a note in 2011 or 2012 and not received a reply, I am so sorry. I wanted to respond, but I slipped behind. Please don't take it personally. I'd feel even worse than I already do!

Before putting this blog and my inbox on hiatus for the next month, one more story for you. I hope it will fill you with hope and inspiration and, especially, tendresse et amour.

If you are looking for the word of the day, I have put it in the following story, somewhere (hint, it's in theme with October 31st...).

"See you" in December!
We'll get back to the regular blog format in December. Thank you for reading!


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

The Photographer and the Body Piercer 

Last night my mind chattered from the day's unexpected and meaningful encounters. I had met two strangers in the town of Bandol, and by the time we parted I carried in my hand a precious, if invisible, puzzle piece. Mindful of its value--and still unsure as to where to place it--I held it tightly lest it fall into a street grate (alas, it wouldn't be the first time!). Meantime, a familiar quote galloped across my soul, dropping a clue as to what this puzzle piece represented: boldness. 

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it... 

Those words were tattooed on my brain like the Lord's Prayer. They must have significance. But who had said them--Ralph Waldo Emerson? Claude Bristol? Mom? And how did boldness relate to yesterday's meeting? 

An internet search brought the first answer and led to an even more profound text, words which would give insight into yesterday's chance meeting, which I will soon share. First, via Wikipedia, here are the powerful thoughts of William Hutchison Murray, Scottish mountaineer and writer:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Now back to yesterday's pivotal encounter in the town of Bandol, and to where boldness and, especially, "countless ideas and splendid plans--and Providence" fit in.

Cynthia was one of the "strangers" I met yesterday. We first chatted online and were struck by our connections to Mexico and France. Cynthia lives very near my mom (who is in Puerto Vallarta), and she has a home very near me, in Bandol.


Over lunch we discovered more affinities, including a love of photography. After coming to France 20 years ago, and with no plans on leaving, Cynthia's circumstances suddenly changed. But instead of returning to the States, she found a creative way to stay in France--by offering photography tours. 

As we talked about the creative activity that had allowed her to remain in France, I was struck by Cynthia's pluck--her courage and boldness to follow her intuition and to trust things would work out!

Though Cynthia no longer gives photography tours of France, she clearly enjoys helping others advance with their cameras. After lunch, Cynthia was helping me snap some pictures when I looked up, dying to ask her a question.

"Which do you prefer to photograph: architecture or people?"

"People!" Cynthia did not hesitate.

"Me too! Me too!" I said, my voice wagging its tail, like my dog Smokey when his heart is full.

"I want to photograph people!" I said, "but I am afraid of being chased away." I told Cynthia about an encounter, earlier, in which I asked the pumpkin stand lady if I could photograph her bright orange courges. The woman's face contorted into a ghoulish non!--scaring me away from my goal.

"How did you respond to the woman's negative reaction?" Cynthia wanted to know. 

"Well, I told the lady that I was American... and that seeing une citrouille, or pumpkin, made my heart swell with nostalgia. The women then grumbled, 'Go ahead, just don't photograph me!'"

Cynthia said I had handled the situation very well, and, buoyed by her encouragement I seized the next opportunity....

We had be walking toward the church when my eyes locked on a colorful figure sitting in front of the tattoo shop, just beside the historic cathedral. 

"Cynthia! That is who I want to photograph!" I pointed my head over to the girl in purple tights, tattoos up and down her arms. I loved the way she was sitting--carefree, yet lost in concentration.

But just as Cynthia was helping me to discreetly adjust my camera, the purple-legged subject moved. Her feet came down off the table as she shifted to greet a friend who was passing by. Oh no, the moment was lost! Or was it?....

Before my mind could reason or object, I found myself  marching toward the young woman! Enough was enough. I could not go on sneaking photos--and giving up, I determined, was no longer an option. 

(Boldness has genius....)

"Sorry to bother you," I said, "but I would really love to take your picture." Next, I told the young woman what a chicken I was to photograph strangers, but how I no longer wanted that to keep me from a creative impulse!

(Boldness has genius, power and magic in it...)

As I babbled on, unbridling my heart, the young woman in head to toes tattoos with piercings across her face, and earlobes weighed down with spacers--looked up at me with gentle eyes. "Bien sûr. Yes of course you can take my photo."

My babbling stopped... replaced by a moral inkling: 

"Do you mind if I publish your photo?" It was a delicate question. I might have been even more direct: I wish to share your creative and inspiring-to-me character with the world, without exploiting you. You okay with that?

Without batting an eye, the young woman assured me it was pas un souci! How refreshing to know that not everyone has as many hang-ups or fearful imaginings as I. I just needed to relax--and snap the photo!


"I'm Kristi and this is Cynthia," I said, in between snapping pictures. "What is your name?"


"Ah, Janis Joplin!"

My subject smiled a confirmation, when I noticed her great and punctured heart.... 

"It's a bleeding heart," Janis said, as Cynthia and I huddled in close, to study the heart tattoo across Janis's chest. We chatted several moments about everything from tattoos to driving lessons to permaculture--in one of the richest conversations I have ever had in the space of 5 minutes.

Meantime, the lumière from the sky above streamed down through the church's eves, to the tattoo shop below. I watched the light fall across these former strangers, how grounded and strong they were, with hearts as warm as the sun's rays.

As I said goodbye to these artists, while holding that precious invisible puzzle piece in my hand, my breath caught. Something had fallen from me, and landed in the street grate!

I saw then what the puzzle piece truly represented: the limitations I set against myself. I no longer have to let my dreams pass me by. I can stop, say hello, and ask the magic question: May I?

courge or pumpkin (c) Kristin Espinasse
The pumpkin stand.... Which do you prefer as a subject: people or things?

To leave a comment, click here. Thank you very much for reading and I will be back in December with more words and stories. Feel free to leave a message here (my email inbox is closed, until I can catch up).  

Through December, the ebook version of Blossoming in Provence is just over $4.  

I know (je sais) by Ito NagaPerfect for the Francophiles in your life: a gift book with brains and heart. I Know (Je sais), a bilingual edition of Ito Naga’s best-selling Je sais, translated by the author and poet Lynne Knight, is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press. Order here.


Janis, if you are reading, many thanks for helping me to put to rest one more limitation. I will think of you each time I ask the golden question, May I? Puis-je?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Say "six pack abs" and the French gutbuster!

Lorgues, France, farmers market, chalkboard, tomatoes, (c) Kristin Espinasse
Stripey awnings, ardoises, or chalkboards, curly handwriting, mysterious woman.... What's so French about this? Photo taken in Lorgues, France, where today's story begins....


le bidou (bee-doo)

    : tummy, stomach

Le bidou is slang and is also used in kid speak. (It is another entry in our Petit Lexique de Langage Enfantin /Glossary of Baby Talk.)

Audio File: MP3 or Wav file

Si tu veux muscler ton bidou fais des abdos... ou bien tu peux essayer la ceinture abdo! If you want to tone your tummy do sit-ups... or you could try the belt toner!

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

After a fun-loving picnic at my dear friends Tessa and David's--in which guests brought a savory or sweet dish and you couldn't help but sample every single thing from spare ribs to lemon pie--Jean-Marc and I waddled to our car for the long drive home from Lorgues.

As I reached over to buckle my seat-belt, the most curious scene unfolded before me. There, beyond the driver's seat, Jean-Marc stood adjusting another kind of belt—his latest inspiration: the French gut-buster.

Ah for the love of machin-trucs! Man and his gizmos! To his credit, many of thingamajigs that collect in our cramped cellier are of Jean-Marc's very own making. Take, for example, the fabulous mop-spear (half mop, half fork—used for hunting spiny sea oursins...) or the toilet paper distributor... born of a reclaimed wine-barrel handle. Wait! That last creation was my own.... Necessity truly is the mother of invention! 

("Necessity" also explains the crowded state of our utility closet. Jean-Marc's philosophy when it comes to hardware bits and bobs is: ne rien jeter and always keep a supply of silver tape! One of Jean-Marc's most trusted accessories, he uses the duct tape for everything from curtain alterations to mop-spear repair.)

But the gut-buster is something else. All the duct tape in France couldn't buzz and beep like this doodad. This is one device my thrifty and industrious husband could not whip up or rig together on his own. He had to order it on-line.

Jean-Marc tells me the battery-operated belt is a muscle toner and that--without any effort on the wearer's part--one can build one of those impressive tablettes de chocolat, or what we call in English "six pack abs."

Either translation works for Jean-Marc and so, apparently, does the chocolate and the beer!  For when he is not wearing his tummy-trimmer while driving long distances, he's sporting it while dining in front of the TV. (Only, in place of the chocolate and the beer--it is wine and cheese he's eating.)

As you can imagine, this spectacular contraption makes my husband an open-target. After the daily teasing I suffer (following the quirks in my own character), I can't help but retaliate!

"Ça va Miss France?" I chuckle, when he fastens his high-tech waist-slimmer, and settles on the couch with a glass of Prosecco and a dish of nuts. "Do you really think that thing works?" I question, as I sit down beside my husband with my own dinner tray (we've settled in to watch the one o'clock news, a cozy tradition, especially since our dining room disappeared).  

But Miss France is quick to poke back when challenged: "Look at your bidou," he says, patting my stomach. "You ought to try it for yourself. Ça te ferait pas de mal!"

My feathers are ruffled now and I turn the injustice into one last grande critique:

"Beurer?" I say, eyeing the manufacturer's name, stamped across the front of the belt. One more "r" and it would be too good to be true! Meantime, I can still have fun with the name....

"Beurrer! What a name for a waist-slimming contraption: to butter! Oh well, don't let me keep you. Butter up, Miss France. Butter those abs!  

                                     *    *    * 
Post note: I'm not laughing anymore. Earlier I spied my husband as he returned to his beloved utilities closet--this time for a scrap of rope to use to belt his pants! I guess the gut-buster is working, and so is Jean-Marc's ever-resourceful mind.

"Which stomach-toning contraption is Jean-Marc using?" you may be asking. It is similar to this one. And he gives the machin-truc a thumbs up! 

(And you can read about Jean-Marc's fabulous mop-spear in one or both of these books: Blossoming in Provence or Words in a French Life. One mop-spear, two different stories. It must be special--or he must be special!)

 French Vocabulary

le machin-truc = thingamajig
le cellier = storeroom or pantry
un oursin = sea urchin
ne rien jeter = don't throw anything away
la tablette de chocolat = chocolate bar (also used to refer to shapely abs) 
ça va? = how's it goin'?
ça te fera pas du mal = it couldn't hurt you
grand(e) = big, great
la critique = criticism 

Caromb, France, truck renault, windshield, (c) Kristin EspinasseMore examples of DIY repair and creation by those ever clever French.... photo taken in Caromb, in 2010

Who needs to hire an ironworker when you can build your own cat balcony? Photo taken in Brignoles, in 2006. 

Here's how things are looking outside our dining room. Nothing a little paint--and a grand stretch of bougainvillea over the top--can't soften! Do you think it will soften?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Buyer's remorse in French: le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur

gray cape, black knit dress, black boots www.french-word-a-day
Not a new dress. But will this one pass? Mom says it could work (minus the belt. You need a silver belt!) She also suggested some new shoes--and why not buy a few new dresses, too? Read on.... 

le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur

    : buyer's remorse

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

A few days ago, I began emailing photos of myself to my mom, in Mexico. The subject line read "cruise wardrobe. HELP!"

In two weeks, Jean-Marc and I will host that Paris-Normandy cruise I told you about. In a panic, I had bought two cheap dresses--and was now experiencing le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur, or buyer's remorse. But with any luck--and with a scarf thrown over the get-ups, maybe the dresses would faire l'affaire?

I knew I was putting Mom in a vise by asking, once again this week, for her critique. I'd just asked for her honest opinion on the 3-page book introduction I recently wrote--a solicitation that ended in a week of silent treatment (on my part) punctuated by a few desperate calls demanding that Mom reconsider her opinion. (I then put Mom through the torture of listening to me read and reread my book's unchanged introduction--a fate I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.)

I ended up rewriting the intro, spitting and cursing through the first few drafts--until it smoothed itself out. While my poor mom took the brunt of my frustrations, she also won all my respect in the end.

When next I asked Mom to edit my wardrobe, she was understandably gun-shy. To shoot down this polyester façade would be to shatter an ill-fitting shell of conformism.

"Honey, what about Jackie's red leather jacket?" Mom suggested, careful to tiptoe around the previous email I'd sent her (the blue dress in question, I realize now, looked like it was made of airplane blanket material).  

"Mom! Jackie doesn't have a red leather jacket!"

Cutting to the chase, my wardrobe editor offered another suggestion. "Honey, why don't you go out and buy yourself some nice dresses?"  

"But, Mom!" I fired off a list of reasons to leave things well enough alone. Besides, going back to the drawing board meant going back to the dressing room. Why don't they just call them for what they are? "Humiliation chambers."

Something about florescent lighting makes the scars across my face appear as train tracks.  And, when I look away from the reflection in the mirror, my eyes catch--like the strained zippers on the hip-hugger pants the 20-year-old salesgirl just gave me--on other unsightly details.  

"You are trying too hard." Mom said, gently. "You need to let go and let God."


Driving back to the supermarket mall, I shook my head. I get it that I need to quit trying to control or force outcomes; that the more I struggle the less I accomplish. I get it that Mom is talking about grace—but what is she suggesting.. that I take God shopping with me?

I'm sure God has more important things to do than help me try on shoes, so I've taken my 16-year-old daughter along as a backup. Along the way I try to let go. Let go.....

I drive past the cheap boutique and park in front of Esprit. They are having 30% off everything in the shop today--a good chance to "change up" those cheap dresses for better quality versions. 

Squeezing in and out of a dozen cocktail robes, I avoid the mirror, but another unsavory detail soon demands my attention. A sour scent fills my nose there in the cramped dressing room....

If I thought the mirrors were humiliating now it was my own body that was mortifying me! I realized that in my haste and hurry to get my errands done, I'd skipped a very important step: deodorant. 

Jackie! Je pue! I stepped out of the dressing room to breathe.

My daughter did her best to reassure me, but I was worried about tainting the store's clothing. I'd better slip off this pretty dress--before I ruin it!--and get my stinky, stressed self out of this store.

Just as I was spinning around to hurry back into the dressing room, I heard them. The three angels.

"Oh là là," they said. "That dress is lovely on you!"

Standing before me was the most expressive trio I have ever seen. The women, who looked related, wore thick make-up in contrast to their fair, copper-toned hair. The French "sisters" looked to be my mom's age (mid-sixties) and their mom could have been their sister. This much I gathered. I also had a hunch they'd just enjoyed a three-martini lunch. Then again, some people are naturally high, playful, and free. Such were these colorful ladies who stood in the hall of the dressing room, showering me with encouragement.

"Thank you!" I said, clamping my arms to my sweaty sides--until I remembered Mom's gentle words: let go.... Let things unfold....

"That is a pretty dress, too," I offered, returning the compliment. (One of the women had a pretty green dress on her arm.)

"Here, try it on!" she offered, handing me the glittery robe.

"Yes, yes, try it on, dear!" their mother, in a flamboyant hat and high tops, cheered. (my own mom would have gone to town with these women! )

Each time I came out of the dressing room the fair-haired trio raved. 

"But isn't it too... (big or small or this or that)" I questioned, each time. Again and again, any doubts and insecurities were hushed, and even my daughter validated the women's opinion. 

By now I had two dresses, a jacket, and even a leather skirt to add to my cruise wardrobe. Oh là là indeed! How quickly my luck had turned around--and how effortlessly things came together!

A joyful rush came over me and I threw my arms around the strangers. And when I remembered my sweaty secret I clamped my arms, which only had the effect of squeezing those dear women even closer to me. Like Pepé LePew I could not help but show my emotion!

If they were put off by my scent, they didn't show it. I looked over at the three women, who beamed. 

God—incarnate in a flamboyant hat and high tops—had indeed gone shopping with me

That's when the truth behind Mom's words struck me. In the end, it's a matter of grace. 

 *    *    *

French vocabulary

le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur = buyer's remorse
faire l'affaire
= work 
je pue
(puer) = I stink


Everybody has their own style, Mom says. (That's Jules, above).

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Doux: mild, temperate, sweet in French

Tomato vine, cherry tomatoes, golden retriever, hide-n-seek, France, gardening (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jouer à cache-cache means to play hide-n-seek. This was a favorite game of Smokey's when he was one-years-old (pictured), though his hiding places were a bit obvious. Now, at 4, he likes the classics: a good ol' game of catch is fine by him. 

doux (do)

    : mild, temperate; sweet, pleasant; soft; lenient

Doux also refers to a gentle person--or how about a gentle soul, like the one hiding behind the tomatoes? Speaking of tomatoes, we're busy harvesting them--along with grapes--during this exceptionally mild weather. 

Terms & Expressions

un billet doux = a love letter
le vin doux
= sweet wine
dire des mots doux à quelqu'un = to whisper sweet nothings
faire les yeux doux à qqn = to make eyes at someone (to look at someone with puppy-dog eyes) 
Share more terms and expressions here, in the comments

Example Sentence:
Une période de temps doux et sec au début d'octobre fait en sorte que les apiculteurs ont amplement le temps de préparer leurs ruches en vue de l'hiver qui approche... A run of warm dry weather in early October is providing beekeepers with ample opportunity to prepare their hives for the coming winter.... (from FAC express and Linguee dictionnaire)

 Bescherelle conjugation guide.     Capture plein écran 16052011 092531"This is without a doubt the definitive guide to conjugation of French verbs... an indispensible reference and not overwhelming for beginning students." Order it here.--M. Savoir (Amazon reviewer) 

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

"It looks like we will have tomatoes up into November!" I tell Jean-Marc, pour la troisième fois. I am excited by the findings in our garden, and motivated to do better next time. (Next time I will stake those tomatoes, which have spread like a riot across the garden beds. Though unruly tomatoes taste just as good, they are harder to find than "ruly" tomatoes--which don't hide behind the parsley or get tangled in with the cucumbers (will need to tie those up next time, too).

Here in the South of France, the weather on this 22nd of October is si doux! si doux! It's so mild outside. I watch the locals swim in the sea and the farmers collecting grapes this late in the season. (As I type this, Jean-Marc and the kids are high on the hill behind our house, working on a morning-long vendange. And when they are done, I know one of them will return to the beach, to wash all the grape juice off with the help of a salt-water bath!)

But back to fall weather... I love to see the autumn wildflowers pop up and to discover which plants are flowering. The roadsides are flanked with yellow beauties called millepertuis, or "a thousand holes"--for the tiny perforated leaves they sport. (In English we call them St John's wort). Some use the flowers to treat depression. My husband uses them to organically care for his vines (do vines get the blues?)

Also flowering here in our garden are the verbena plants—in French la verveine. Their blossoms are like lacy spears and, though silver-tinted, they are pretty in the golden vase Mom brought me years ago from Mexico.

I'm on my way outside now, to collect another bunch of verveine—for the lemony aroma, which freshens the house (and, some say, wards off les moustiques... But my experience is that it attracts the very same! Just last night I stood there with une poignée of leaves (to sweeten my tea) when--zap!--I was bitten by a flimsy passer-by! I watched as the drunk pest staggered off through the air, leaving its victim seething with vexation. How a weightless bully can displace a giant ever amazes me. 

No use letting a wobbly mosquito ruin one's mood. An extra drop of honey in one's tea is sometimes enough to restore sanity. (And a dab of miel on one's mosquito bite couldn't hurt either). When it comes to lotions and potions, Mother Nature's pharmacy is full of possibilities.

*    *    *

  Melissa and cabanon

Pictured above: In other "flowering plants of October," here are some melisse, or lemon balm (I think...). A friend thought it was de la menthe, or mint--and though it tastes a little minty, it is not mint. What would you call a plant whose leaves looked like mint and whose flowers looked like this, pinkish-red?

French Vocabulary
pour la troisième fois = for the third time
si doux = so mild
la vendange = grape harvest
le millepertuis = St John's wort
la verveine = verbena
le moustique = mosquito
une poignée = a handful
le miel = honey
    =>expression, être tout sucre, tout miel 


Hibiscus and smokey
Bill Facker, are you reading? Here is the hibiscus plant you bought us in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. We dragged it south, when we moved. One year later--it's bloomed! (pictured: Smokey, in a rare holding-that-tongue-in moment).

Rosemary and smokey
Like the verbena plant in our yard, this rosemary is very old. But oh the blossoms it produces! What do you use rosemary or verbena for? Share some ideas, here, in the comments box.

Lemon verbena in the house. Did you read the previous post, about our current remodel project? Click here to see it. The work has not advanced since then.... 

Plastic protection sheet
Mom's painting matches the construction tape that holds up these plastic walls. The idea is to keep out dust....

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

A crush on architecture: le linteau

window expansion, lintel, façade, bouganvillea (c) Kristin Espinasse
Beneath the façade, you can see what this 19th century mas is made of. When the demolition workers opened the stone wall sand came trickling out, like fallen seconds in an hourglass. Rubbing la terre sableuse between our hands, Jean-Marc and I marveled at the building materials of yesteryear.

le linteau (lun-tow)

    : lintel, girder

plural: linteaux 

Audio File: The following French definition is from Wiktionnaire. Listen to Jean-Marc read it: Download MP3 or Wav file

Un linteau, c'est une pièce de construction qui se met en travers au-dessus de l’ouverture d’une porte ou d’une fenêtre pour soutenir la maçonnerie. A lintel is a piece of building material that is placed across and above the opening of a door or window, to support the stonework.

Check out the book/CD Pronounce it Perfectly in French.  

un linteau en brique, en béton = a brick or concrete lintel
un linteau en bois = a wooden lintel
un linteau en pierre = a stone lintel

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

After renovating the kids' rooms, last spring, we have turned our attention to the next item on our To Do list: 

  1. renovate kids' rooms
  2. new fireplace
  3. expansion of the dining room
  4. renovate kitchen... 

Mas de la Perdrix-002
This old photo of the farmhouse shows the original openings in the building. Our dining room is behind the fourth opening, bottom right. The window you see below, may have been built in between the two door openings (one was since closed)....

French window with wooden shutters, pots of flowers on the window sill, an old wine crate holds a spider plant (c) Kristin Espinasse
Happily, the expansion means reopening one of those doors. Sadly, it means giving up this cheery window. (But we can keep the beau-frère, or brother-in-law, Jacques.)

dining room, hydrangia, France, wicker chair, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Here is the living room, to the left. Picture taken the week we moved in (Notice the beautiful hydrangia that Maggie and Michael left us, after turning over their home to our care.)

stone mas, house, France, olive farm www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Maggie and Michael also gave us many photos of the mas. This one was taken in 1969.

In thinking over what sorts of "home improvements" were necessary, we vowed never to take away from the soul of the place

Each stone removed (or covered) has caused a lot of fluttering inside of both the walls and me. But we have a good feeling that the current project will only add to the place's charm.

The current project? We will be putting in a cozy window seat....

dining room, hydrangia, France, straw hat, fruit salad, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
(Before photo) My mother-in-law taught me to work at the table. It's so much more enjoyable to prepare salad or soup this way. (Michèle-France likes to watch her programs while chopping.) I like to stare out the window, in between peeling potatoes... Once the window seat is in, we can work with the sun warming our backs. Or we can watch the boats go out to sea... while making minestrone....

Lintel installation. Stone walls, bouganvillea, vine trunk, mason (c) Kristin Espinasse
The new linteau.

But back to those stomach flurries... it hurts to see this old house wounded. Even the old sunflower (left) has its head hung low. I think it's whispering to our builder: doucement, doucement.

I look forward to showing you the sunnier side of this project, once complete. Meantime, has your heart ever gone out to a crumbling building? Are you affected by inert matter, like a slouching roof or a broken window? Simply stated, are you in love with architecture?

P.S While finishing today's post, the windows here in my bedroom shook. I think the rest of the wall has now come down... Let's hope the new lintel has done its job (gulp).


French Vocab
le mas = traditional farmhouse in Provence
la terre sableuse = sandy earth
doucement = carefully, gently

lintels or linteaux in France (c) Kristin Espinasse
More lintel pictures for you from here on down. This one, in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, sports a horseshoe..

cabanon and lintels or linteaux in France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Lintels also hold information. This one is carved with letters that read "Faite en 1948" built in '48. It is a custom to list the date of construction across the lintel. (Picture taken on our family hike in Queyras)

This linteau is made of wood. A concrete slab covers it. Which do you prefer: hidden or exposed beams?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Why sportsmen don't shave in France: l'influx nerveux

Cassis, France, fishing port, and castle (c) Kristin Espinasse
Ever been to the castle in Cassis, South of France? It overlooks the colorful fishing port and gives tourists one more reason to look up.

l'influx nerveux (uhn-floo-ner-veuh)

    : nerve or nervous impulse

More Audio + Example Sentence
by "Frank" from the site Eureka Sport:
Listen to Jean-Marc read it here:  Download MP3 or Wav file

On entend souvent parler de relation entre barbe et influx nerveux ; ainsi, beaucoup de joueurs de foot ne se rasent pas avant un très grand rendez-vous, une finale, généralement, pour "garder leur influx nerveux". Qu'en est-il scientifiquement ?

We often hear about the relationship between beards and nervous impulse; therefore, a lot of soccer players don't shave before an important event, a finale--generally to "keep What does science have to say?

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

When Jean-Marc returned from his marathon wine hunt (Paris, Champagne and beyond), he looked like a caveman. 

"Ça alors! A beard!" I said, opening the front door and welcoming my husband home. 

"It's for tomorrow's semi-triathlon," Jean-Marc said, mumbling something about influx nerveux.

I gathered the barbe was one of those trucs or astuces--or things athletes did to put all chance on their side before a challenge. I'd heard of another, called chambre à part, where sportsmen sleep away from their wives the night of a big event. (Ten days apart and we had that one covered, I thought, as I pulled my husband close, planting a kiss on his furry face.)

The barbed truc or astuce seemed to work, for Jean-Marc made it across the finish line, some four hours after diving off the coast of Cassis. After completing two loops from the shore to the bouées, he got on his bike and pedaled to the town of Roquefort-la-Bédoule. All was going smoothly when he left his bike (back at the beach in Cassis) to run to the presqu'île of Port Miou. Along the way, the triathletes encouraged one another. "Bon courage! Allez!" they cheered when passing.

Nearing la ligne d'arrivée, Jean-Marc needed to dispose of one of those energy gel packs. Approaching one of the race volunteers, he flashed a winning smile and pitched the plastic tube to the side of the road. "Veuillez la jeter pour moi?" he kindly asked, not seeing a trash can anywhere.

His troubles began when a race official, standing nearby and seeing the tail end of the exchange, held out a yellow card. Jean-Marc was sanctioned for littering! In the minute that followed a fiery argument erupted, ending when the official told Jean-Marc to run back and pick up the trash.

The fiasco may have shaved a few minutes off my barbed man's timing, but I like to think the irritation served to stimulate more of that influx nerveux--pushing Jean-Marc past the finish line.

Félicitations, mon chéri!

Jean-Marc finishes the Sardines Titus triathalon in Cassis (c) Kristin Espinasse
Not a gray hair on his head. As for the beard... Jean-Marc, resting after le défi, or challenge.

French Vocabulary
ça alors! = well take a look at that!
la barbe = beard
le truc = trick, knack
une astuce = trick (or clever way to do something)
faire chambre à part = to intentionally sleep apart from your partner
la bouée = buoy
une presqu'île = peninsula
bon courage! = courage! good luck! hope all goes well
allez! = keep going!
la ligne d'arrivée = finish line
veuillez la jeter pour moi? = would you be so kind as to throw it away for me?
félicitations = congratulation
mon chéri (ma chérie) = my dear, my darling

Cassis, France, retro postcards, produits regionaux, streets (c) Kristin Espinasse

My belle-mère, or mother-in-law, sends me these retro postcards. She's particular when it comes to postcard art, and is known to visit several shops before finding just the right card.

Cassis, France, and a goose, or oie, a boucherie, or butcher shop, and blackboard menu out front. Couscous for lunch (c) Kristin Espinasse

I took these photos while strolling through the town with Jean-Marc's Portland wine importer. Chris had just traveled with Jean-Marc, for the 10-day business trip I wrote about, above. 
Cassi, France, restaurant La Cigale et la Fourmi, blackboard, balcony, autumn leaves, blue door (c) Kristin Espinasse

La Cigale et La Fourmis - a restaurant in Cassis... and a famous La Fontaine fable

Cassis, France, L'ou Cassidenne, baker, boulangerie (c) Kristin Espinasse
After retro postcards, we have retro shopfronts or vitrines. How do you like this one?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

to come undone

Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs
Thoughts about give and take, and our dogs latest adventure. Photo taken when Smokey was one.

rental in Provence

Rental in Provence Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa can comfortably sleep 7-9 adults. Inquire here


disjoncter (dee-zhohn-ktay)

    : to crack up, to lose it, to come undone


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

Given a second chance, I would have stayed calm. "Ce n'est pas grave," I would have said, assuring the boys and myself it wasn't a problem-- and that everything would work out comme d'habitude.

But when the dogs sneak off I come apart, no matter who's around.

It was Max and his friend Paul that were around, when yesterday, at noon, our golden retrievers saw a glitch in security (a front door left open)--and ran with it. Ils se sont échappés!  

I was in the kitchen at the time, hunched over a scrambled egg sandwich. Unaware of the fugue, or runaway, I was hyperaware of my lunch's demise. Oh, no--two hungry boys! One scrambled egg sandwich!

The unexpected visitors enjoyed harassing me for a share of my lunch, but I talked Max and Paul into learning to make their own: Crack four eggs, add a bit of water, beat. Toast the bread.... 

Now we were seated at the table with three giant scrambled egg sandwiches. As garden-fresh tomatoes fell from the sides of the stuffed sandwiches, it was hard not to appreciate the bounty before us. "Would you like another onion, Max? Paul, take another pickle--no, really, that one's yours!

(At this point in our pickled debauchery, the dogs were a ten-minute sprint from the house... and gaining distance...)

"Quel honneur de manger avec mes garçons aujourd'hui," I offered, never mind Paul wasn't related. Yes, it was truly a pleasure to have lunch with my son and his pote, or faithful side-kick.  The boys are often funny and engaging and I like the way Paul pronounces my name (Kristi): Et comment vas-tu, Kwee-stee? he says. It is unusual for a teenager to be so personable with his friend's parents and I appreciate Paul's attention.

(Meantime, no attention is given to the dogs, who are believed to be dozing by the front door....)

The mood was so good, so carefree, that I remembered an idea I had for the young men. Though I didn't tell Paul about Max's summer job in the States (fingers crossed he'll be a counselor at a French camp), I could still share the back-up plan....

"How would you two like to work for yourselves this summer?" I told the boys about "Le Projet Foutas" or the "Beach Towel Idea", wherein I would order 500 foutas wholesale (I'd seen the colorful towels here) and the boys could then sell them on the beach, come July, when tourist season is in full swing!

"C'est interdit. It's against the law to sell on the beach, Paul said. "....But we could sell them at the marché de nuit!"

Paul told me about the popular nighttime farmers markets that come to life in summertime. Meantime, Max began to calculate.... and then question the merchandise.... "How will we know the quality?" the newbie seller wanted to know. That got Paul thinking about the middleman (me, the buyer) and the percentage I should be given. "We'll pay you back, and give you 25 percent for your trouble!"

It was rewarding to watch and to listen to the boys seize the business plan, adding their creativity to it. Proud and motivated I spent the next 10 minutes giving the boys sales pitches:

"First, set up an attractive stand..." (I told them about the ladder display I'd seen) "Then, when you get a bite, that is, an interested client, mention that the towels make wonderful take-home gifts for family and friends! Tell them of the various uses: the towels double as picnic blankets, make a great tablecloth... and an effective cache-misère (you can throw them over an unsightly chair or couch). Ca va cartonner!  I cheered. You guys will hit the jackpot!

Just as I was patting myself on the back for the ingenious idea--one which guaranteed my coolness and favor in the boys' eyes, I glanced over at the front door. Where were the dogs?  

Et là, j'ai disjoncté. And there, I lost it.

"MAX! The dogs got away!"

My 18-year-old jumped to his own defense. "Why weren't the dogs in their pen?" he questioned.

"Because I keep them in the house when everyone's gone. I didn't know you were coming home for lunch! Why didn't YOU pay attention."

 I looked at the clock. A half-hour had passed since the dogs slipped off. All the while I had been giving my all--feeding the boys lunch as well as a lucrative sales plan that would make them future millionaires. This, after telling them how wonderful, intelligent, and capable they were. But when it was my turn for help, gone was the reciprocity!

Paul stood frozen as Max argued with me. "Mom, you get so stressed out for nothing. And the dogs always return!"

Putting Max's argument to a stop, I let go an earth-shattering roar. GET IN YOUR CAR AND FIND THOSE DOGS NOW!

For the next hour we searched on foot and by car--one of us willingly, the other grudgingly, so that when I was down by the road shouting Braise, Smokey, I could hear my son at the top of the hill threatening the same. BRAISE! SMOKEY! 

"Max!" I shouted, when next we crossed paths. "If you call for the dogs that way, you'll just scare them away." But my suggestion was met with thundering resistance... and mother and son were off again, in a shouting match.

Occasionally I would look over at Paul, amazed that my arms and lips were flapping like this, in front of our guest. But I didn't care anymore. It seemed to me that the boys didn't care enough. Now came the bitterness. After giving so much what had I gotten in return? These kids didn't seem interested in my well-being at all! 

"Paul has to go home now!" I shouted, finding the boys in front of the TV. After a scant search for the dogs, they'd given up.  

"Max, if you are not going to continue searching, then you can vacuume the house. I don't have time to now--I'm busy looking for our dogs!"

To think, only one hour before, I was cheering the young men forward. Now, I was washing my hands of the Beach Towel Plan and the freeloading salesmen I'd thought to hire! They could find another backer! Why would I want to help someone who doesn't want to help me?

Being a parent is a thankless job! The very thought makes you angry and you lash out, feeling even worse than before. All alone now, you look up at what you once had, and all you see is an empty house, shutters flapping in the wind.

*    *    * 

The dogs returned on their own, before sundown--just as Max said they would. My son was long gone by then. Je vais prendre l'air, he had said, after vacuuming the house.

But before Max left, he came peacefully to my room to ask for the necklace I had offered him. (The day before he had gone shopping with a girlfriend, and she had waited as he bought himself a new outfit).

"Here, Max," I said. "Next time you treat yourself, why not get your girlfriend a little something? Always think of others."

"I do always think of others," Max pointed out. 

"It's true, you do--but next time think of what is heartening to others. Those dogs are important to me. In the future, whether you agree or not with my reaction, please honor it by helping me." 

 It isn't easy to find the words to get through to someone, especially those "someones" of another generation. I hope Max will never forget the necklace, and the symbolism behind it: It is by giving that we receive.

Corrections and comments and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments


French Vocabulary

Ce n'est pas grave = it's not a worry
comme d'habitude = as usual
ils se sont échappés = they got away
la fugue = run away 
Quel honneur de manger avec mes garçons aujourd'hui =
What an honor to eat with my boys 
le pote = buddy
le cache-misère = something used to hide something 
ça va cartonner = you'll sell tons! 
je vais prendre l'air = I'm going out for some fresh air 

"Max and Paul" French teenager motorcycle helmut leather jacket (c) Kristin Espinasse
Paul and Max. Maybe you'll see them at the Provencal markets this summertime? I've had a change of heart and think I'll be their middleman, after all.  

Audio File: Listen to the famous poem, in French, by St Francis of Assisi. 

It is in giving that we receive. The last words of today's story were inspired by a famous prayer. It is the favorite of my friend Melanie, who recently passed away from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. You'll find a recording of the French version of this poem, following Melanie's story, here. (Our daughter, Jackie, has recited the poem:

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

objet-trouve - see what's been found in today's edition!

book cover, sheep, france, (c) Kristin Espinasse
Lost sheep are just one of the things I've found lately (this was a cover I did for a book, whose title was changed to Wish, Prune, Pray: Spirited away to a Wine Farm in Provence. I eventually printed the book, but lost the sheep photo. Then I quit printing the book and found the sheep photo. More about the book some other time, today I talk about a more precious finding...)

objet-trouvé (owb-zhay-troo-vay)

    found object, found art

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.

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

Ever since our kids were little, I've tried to get them to record the words for this French language journal. It's a hit or miss proposition and usually their father, who is also Francophone, ends up speaking into the microphone.

One of the treasures I have today is an archive of their innocent voices as they sometimes struggle to pronounce their native language (yes, even my husband struggles at times. So don't feel so bad about your own efforts!).

I didn't get as many enregistrements as I would have liked to, when the kids were younger, meaning the sound bits I do have are all the more valuable to me.  So when I realized, several months ago, that one of my favorite pieces had been lost to cyberspace, I was sick with grief. I had lost Max's recording of the beloved and inspiring poem by Rudyard Kipling. (At 10-years-old, he had recited the French translation by André Maurois!) 

Zut de zut! (Zewt-deuh-zewt, or "rats!") It was my fault for transferring the file to another web domain. (I had used one of those URL shortening sites, whose specialty it is to take a long browser link and cut it down.) This way I could post a shorter link in my blog, as well as track the number of times the link was clicked.

Live and learn, or, as the French say vivre et apprendre. I let go of the loss and the pinching regret, and continued to fine-tune my blog, nurturing it with new stories and polishing the old ones in my archives.

While working on a collection of stories, I happened on the poem again. Quel dommage, I thought, as I glanced at the page. And then I saw something I had not noticed before. There, to the side, was the original link... The recording had been there all along, I just had not seen it!

I got to thinking, isn't that how it is with so many things--and, even more profoundly, with people? How many times have we thought we have lost something, only to discover it has been there all along?  

To comment on today's word or story, or to read the comments, click here.

French and English version of Rudyard Kipling's poem + Sound file! 
Practice your French and French pronunciation: listen to Max's recording of the famous poem click here

  books Kristin Espinasse

 Here are some other books, published since 2003. Blossoming in Provence is missing from this collection, so is another called Pear Portraits.... Click to enlarge the photo. The book in the upper-left was my first. It was no thicker than a brochure, but it was a book to me.

book pear basket amour en cage chinese lantern (c) Kristin Espinasse
This book wins the shortest print run. Only two copies! The book was the result of our first auction at French Word-A-Day (in 2008, for one of Mom's paintings). Long time reader, Diane, had the winning bid. I sent her a framed painting of "Pear", and made a hardbound book of the exciting auction to sell my mom's painting.

To comment on this post, click here.


A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

alerte meteo

golden retriever dog halloween costume mask, vineyard, fall, autumn, vines, mont ventoux (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Best to be prepared! Good, Braise, one can never be too prévoyant... for holidays--or for the weather! Read on... (photo taken in Ste. Cécile-les-Vignes. We moved away from the vineyard one year ago.

alerte météo (a-lairt-may-tay-oh)

    : weather warning

Example Sentence: (Audio files will return, we're a little sunk at the moment...)

Une alerte météo, ou une météorologique, est un bulletin d'avertissement de l'imminence de phénomènes météorologiques dangereux. --Wikipedia

A weather alert, or une météorologigue, is a warning bulletin of impending and dangerous weather phenomena. 

Tools for language learning:

Blossoming in Provence, short stories about life in France (c) Kristin Espinasse, Blossoming in Provence. Build your French vocabulary by reading the short vignettes of life in France. You'll learn more than the language. Order here. (Makes a good, educational gift!)


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

I was in the supermarket parking lot when I overheard the couple next to me talk about the storm. "Chéri," the woman said, "did you hear the news? They've issued an alerte météo jaune...."

"Si, si," she said to her doubtful husband,"Just look at the sky...."

What a stroke of luck it was to hear the avertissement or I wouldn't have been aware of the upcoming change in weather. On the way home from the grocer's, I rattled off a game plan to my daughter:

Jackie, when we get home, you put away the groceries and feed the dogs. I'll gather the buckets and the towels and have your brother dig out the trench and... oh! I wish your dad weren't out of town tonight!

Rather than count our losses, we'd better add up our defenses. As the old French saying goes: Un homme averti en vaut deux. (A man forewarned is worth two men.) 

Yes forewarned is forearmed! Gathering our "sandbags" (sacks of dog food--and potting soil), I focused on fighting back this time. While the kids and I worked, I couldn't help think about the premonition from a few weeks back, when Jean-Marc and I were ankle-deep in water, working to dry out the house after the previous orage. I had wondered, then, just how a wife alone would cope. I just didn't imagine the answer would come so soon.

"Put them there and there!" I barked orders at Max who, in turn, questioned the dog food. "Just do what I say. Don't argue. Put those croquettes in front of the kitchen door!"

I dashed over to the clothesline to gather the linge and, as I stood there, unpinning my husband's T-shirts and carefully folding them into the basket, that calming feeling came over me. For a moment, I thought about how assured I felt. Until the sky darkened a notch and the horizon took on a dust-colored blur.

Balancing the wash basket on my hip I turned toward the house, when an eerie breeze swept past, ruffling my hair. A few loosened wisps caressed my face, like a menacing whisper in a back alley at midnight. I hurried inside and locked the door.


In bed beneath the covers, my eyes are glued to the sky. Every so often the room lights up with a flash and my heart beats count the moments until--KABOOM--another crush of thunder strikes. 

"Mom, is the house going to come down?" Jackie shifted beside me.

"Of course not, Honey." I took a lesson from my belle-mère, earlier in the day. Never let them see your weakness, only strength. But the truth was j'étais tétanisée! I was paralyzed with fear. They say what you don't know won't hurt you, which explains my change of perspective. Ever since the last storm I can't stop thinking of what could go wrong.

In between thunder strikes, I could hear dogs barking wildly in the distance. Oh mon Dieu! Had they been left outside? Were they being soaked by the downpour? The cries were heartwrenching torture. I had an urge to get into my car to locate the Forgotten Ones... when a flash of lightning sent a chilling warning. There is no way you're going to drive through this storm! 

The windows trembled and shook so hard it seemed they would burst. Lying there, listening to the downpour, I thought about our unsophisticated sandbag system and began to lose faith in our dog food dam. Was the water inching in by now? I'd better get up and check, but my fluttering heart was pinning me to the mattress. 

No matter how hard I prayed the storm only got worse! I could not figure out why faith alone wasn't solving this problem, illico presto! I began to sense a deeper assurance coming from within. Sometimes it isn't enough to wish the storm away, you've got to chase it yourself!

The next crashing boom flung me right out of bed. "Jackie," I said, feeling my way to the door (the power was out now), I've got to check things!" I found a lampe de poche and shined it across the entry, where the dogs looked up with squinty eyes. "It's OK! I said, assuring myself as well as our goldens.

Shining the light toward the kitchen I saw the seaux I'd put out to catch the water (should it flow in beneath the door, like before). Instead, the buckets were floating! 

Seeing the area just below the main fuse box was dry, I stepped up on a chair and flipped on the electricity, in order to use the kitchen lights to see. 

I grabbed the towels and threw them on the floor. Next began the folly of soaking and twisting, soaking and twisting. My daughter now by my side, we filled 6 buckets this way. Our pajama pants rolled up to our knees we squatted to the floor and when we could no longer hold up, we turned over the extra buckets and used them as seats.

I am terrified by the idea of electricity and water, the combination, but I kept my imagination intact; after all, the plugs were high and dry; I knew that the cords behind the refrigerator had been lifted after the last flood. Still, my body trembled until the last bit of water was gone. 

I watched Jackie pass the dry mop, impressed by her maturity. At 1:00 in the morning, she was staying with me until the last drop was gone. We'd screamed at each other when beginning the chore, but the stress worked itself into teamwork. And now we had the pleasure of sharing this accomplishment.

"Thank you so much!" I said, taking the mop from my daughter. "I didn't think there would be this much water." 

"De rien, Maman. It could have been worse."

I took a clue from my daughter, and thought about the bright side of things. We were lucky to have electricity--filling and emptying buckets in the dark would've been a challenge--and the storm was now over. Even brighter was a side of my daughter I'd just discovered, while chasing that storm together. To think I might have missed it, had my prayers been answered.

 *    *    *

Clothesline in Nyons (c) Kristin Espinasse,
We continue to dry out here at home. Meantime, may I share my clothesline passion with you. I'll upload more photos here (if reading via email). Please check back! (Pictured, a favorite "clothesline" find in Nyons--right next door to a fancy pants restaurant. "We'll show 'em." The neighbors seem to say.

French Vocabulary

prévoyant = foreseeing

chéri, chérie = darling

alérte météo jaune = be attentive
(for the other colors click here for Météo France's la Carte de vigilance)

si = yes (when answering a negative statement) 

un avertissement = warning

un orage = storm

le linge = linen (also clothing, when washing or drying)

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

être tétanisé = to be terrified

oh, mon Dieu = oh dear Lord

illico presto = right away

une lampe de poche = flashlight

le seau = bucket 

de rien = it's nothing (you're welcome)

 Corrections or comments welcome here.

  clothesline, laundry, Massif des Maures (c) Kristin Espinasse,
I often walked past this clothes line, on my way home in Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

  laundry or clothes line in Marseilles, rue Baussenque (c) Kristin Espinasse,

I think this one was taken in the charming Panier district of Marseilles...

Clothesline and pegs, or clothespins. Old weathered desk, flagstone (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Our clothesline in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. Sadly, that desk--a dumpster dive find of Mom's--got left behind.

clothesline, sunset, mont ventoux, france (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Our clothesline in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes.

Shop Amazon via the following links and your purchase helps to support this language journal.  Thanks.

Bicycles shopper back

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

relancer + pomegranates and grandmothers c'est sympa!

pomegranate, grenadier, basket, cabanon, rush-bottom chair, and olive trees in France (c) Kristin Espinasse, www.french-word-a-day.comMiam-miam is French for yum. Recently, Jean-Marc bought some used wine-making equipment. The farmer's wife who sold it to him threw in a couple of  antique wine-presses, some old  wine barrels, and even a bucket of pomegranates! (Have you ever eaten one? Inside, there's a bunch of ruby red fruit, the size of a tooth. The French use it to make the famous grenadine syrup--but the "teeth" are fun to eat, too--just watch out for all the seeds. Do you spit them out or swallow them?)

rental in Provence

Rental in Provence Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa can comfortably sleep 7-9 adults. Inquire here.

relancer (reuh-lahn-say)

    : to bug somebody about (to remind him or her)
    : to reboot (computer)
    : to revive, or boot (economy, project)

relancer un client = to make a follow-up call to a client
se faire relancer = to receive a reminder

Thrilled to learn that a high school class has signed on to receive French Word-A-Day via email (thanks professor Engelkemeir!), I am now going to relancer my call to teachers: please keep this French language blog in mind as a learning resource for students. I've beefed up the vocab section for you today, in thanks for your consideration. (And I'll get my kids to help with the sound files, after falling behind this week!)

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

My mother-in-law called yesterday, and I had a hard time hearing her. She is no longer using a land-line, but keeps her cell phone for communication. 

"I'm sorry, could you please say that again?" I'd asked the question twice already, and didn't want to scare her away--or, worse, la vexer--by asking once again. 


"Ah! Max came by and you ate together. C'est sympa!" I was delighted to learn our 18-year-old had stopped by his grandmother's on the way home from school. This was definitely one of the perks of her recent déménagement from Marseilles. Seeing each other is a joy that is réciproque for both grand-mère and petit-fils.

grandson and grandmother, petit-fils, grand-mère (c) Kristin Espinasse,
    Ten years ago, when Max was 8. He was devoted to his grand-mère even then.

"I made him a gratin dauphinois," Michele-France said and, I admit, I felt a tinge of envie that only grew with the next tidbit. "I told him to bring home les restes, but he insisted I keep it for my dinner tonight."

What a turkey! He's got his grandma wrapped around his petit doigt. Last time she made him a quiche that would have put Alsace to shame!

Michèle-France went on to say that, while Max was visiting, he took the liberty of hanging her laundry out on the line. "La corde est trop haute," the line is too high for me, she lamented. "I'd need to be three eskimos tall to reach it!"

I'm not sure whether my mother-in-law's language is politically correct, but her sentences never fail to paint a vivid scene in my mind, which is now entertained with the picture of three strained inuits totem-poled in front of the clothesline

After hanging dry her laundry, Max took his grandma grocery shopping, driving her to the market to buy "deux ou trois bricoles. And I needed to go to the pharmacy, too..." Michèle-France, pointed out, "but I couldn't make it that far. I wasn't feeling well." She didn't want Max to know she suffered from certain ailments, and so preferred to cut-short her errands rather than let on to her souffrance

"I want them to see me strong," Michèle-France always says, of her grandchildren.

I can just picture her standing tall inspite of her weakness. Straightening up her back in time to link arms with her larger than life grandson, as the two went up and down the grocery store aisles, a frilly basket in the crook of the taller one's arm. 

My mother-in-law ended our conversation on a humorous note, telling me about the bisous Max planted on her forehead, just after he finished putting all her groceries away (and setting the table for their déjeuner à deux). "He's so tall I can't reach him anymore," she sighed. "And now it is he who has to bend down to kiss me!"

Later, when Max returns home he doesn't mention that he's been hanging laundry and helping his grand-mère with her errands. "Oh, yah--I saw granny," he says casually.

As he turned to leave, I saw the smear of lipstick on his jaw line....  

I could just see her now, my mother-in-law, standing strong, standing tall--pushing past the pain to reach up high for that kiss. Wobbling there on her tippy-toes she defied gravity--stronger... taller... now the sky was her limit.
                                                                    *    *    * 

Max baseball cap

Max was a lifeguard here in France last summer. Most of his interventions involved resuscitation, mostly girls who had passed out from too much heat.

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French Vocabulary

vexer = to hurt somebody's feelings
le déménagement = moving, moving house
c'est sympa = that's so nice 
réciproque = reciprical
la grand-mère = grandmother
le petit-fils = grandson
le gratin dauphinois = French potatoes and cream casserole dish
les restes = leftovers 
le petit doigt = little finger
la corde est trop haute = the line is too high
l'envie = want, wish
deux = two
trois = three
une bricole = trifle, thing 
la souffrance = suffering
le bisous = kiss
déjeuner à deux = lunch for two

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Bicycles shopper back

Max and Jules, Mont Ventoux, Vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Max (two years ago, at 16) with his other favorite grand-mère, Jules. I can just hear her now. "Now, Max. Repeat after me. 'You are ze most beautiful grand-mère in ze world!' " 

rue pourquoi-pas, whynot street in Toulon, yellow home with green shutters (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Rue Pourquoi-Pas (Why Not Street) in Toulon. To comment on this edition, click here.

Pronounce it perfectly, book, French learning, tool, www.french-word-a-day.comPronounce it Perfectly in French. 

* extensive pronunciation exercises including supplementary help based on poetry, proverbs, familiar sayings, historical quotations and humor

* A guide to French pronunciation expressed in the phonetic symbols of the International Phonetic Association (IPA) 


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