To peel or to pare or to shuck in French: éplucher + new video!
mangetout + the thrill of sowing seeds

How to say "little girl" (or small bottle) in French: une fillette + Maternal instinct


Some pictures from home, and, as Maurice Chevalier would say, thank heaven for little girls.

une fillette (fee-ette)

    : a little girl
    : a cowardly man

The term fillette also refers to a small bottle, especially in regards to wine.

Audio File: listen to the French word fillette (file by Wikipedia):

Improve your French pronunciation with  Exercises in French Phonetics

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

(A story I told my daughter, in the dark, early morning hours before school started.)

Waiting at the bus stop in Bandol, warm inside our car, Jackie reviewed her textile lesson while I spied some of the technical vocabulary on her study sheet....

"Ourlet. Ha! I know that word. It's on the tip of my tongue... Oh yes, "hem"! Now to pronounce it: ohr.... ohr... ohr-lay!"

"Mom!" Jackie sighed.

"Oh, sorry!"

I left my daughter to study, turning my attention to the holiday lights that circled high up into the municipal arbres. The tree garland reminded me of Arizona, where our paloverdes and even our cactuses are illuminated this time of year. And just like back home in Phoenix, there were palm trees here, their trunks circled high with holiday lights!

As I admired the twinkling trees, a shiny spot tickled the corner of my eye. I looked over to discover the glittery backpack of a little girl who had just gotten out of her father's car.

I watched as the father adjusted the backpack. The little girl helped by lifting her lopsided ponytails out of the way. Next, the fair-haired darling spun around, lifted her face and her smile was met by a tender kiss as her father reached down and bid her bonne journée.

Look at that sweet little girl! I said to Jackie. But as soon as I spoke my eyes filled with tears.

Those little sagging socks at her ankles, that crooked part separating her pigtails, those pink and purple pom-poms that dangled from her backpack. How it all brought me back.

"You are all grown up now!" I looked over at Jackie, whose tie-dyed hair fell over her study sheet. Well into her teens--and with the groovy locks to prove it--she would soon trade fad for formality. Lately, she spoke of wanting a more soigné or sleek look. I could just see her cutting off her blond locks in favor of a glossy, dark carré, or blunt cut. The day was coming.

I ran my hand across my 16-year-old's soft head as we watched the little girl turn toward the bus. 

"Elle est mignon!" Jackie agreed.

The more I watched the little girl, the more I saw childhood slipping away as it now stepped, with its sagging pink socks, onto the bus....

"Look at my eyes. I'm crying!"

"Maman..." Jackie reached over and kissed my cheek.

I didn't mean to be over-dramatic by pointing out the tears. But I had learned, not too long ago, to let 'em see you cry!--a stretch after years of never letting 'em see you sweat! 

As my daughter lay her head on my shoulder, I told her a family history:

"When your dad and I split, twenty or so years ago,  I went to gather my thoughts at a nearby cafe. But those thoughts I'd been carefully collecting were suddenly blasted as I glanced over at a nearby table. 

The woman sitting there laughed with joy as she held a newborn baby in her arms. When my eyes hooked on that infant, a deep pulling began to rake through my body, collecting tears as it advanced. I quickly paid for my coffee and rushed off as tears poured out. I had never before felt that maternal instinct. And now it was too late. The father of my unconceived child had said it was over between us."

My throat grew tight as I told my daughter the story of her near non-existence. 

"But I came back! And I had you!" I said, giggling. It was time to lighten up the conversation!

"No, you had Max..." Jackie pointed out, in typical sibling rivalry.

"Yes, but then I had YOU. And what would life be like without my little girl?" I turned and looked out the window once more, in wonderment. 

The man beside the car in front of us watched his little girl climb the stairs of the bus. When her glitter and pom-pom backpack disappeared into the bus, he turned to me and smiled. Then he got into his car and drove off... as mysterious, as forgiving, and as promising as Father Time.

 *    *    *

To respond to this story, click here. Wondering about that split? Read about the one-way ticket home Jean-Marc bought me here, in Words in a French Life (the intro chapter!).


  Christmas tree sapin
How to take down Christmas decorations. Step 1: move the tree outside the house. Step 2: "Hey, it looks pretty good out here..."

Yellow flowers
Today's word was fillette. Can you spot another fillette somewhere in this picture? Where is Lily, Pancho's sister?

Olive tree

La voici! (Here she is!)

Lily and Pancho
Lily, Pancho, and Pouncers Rights: Whoever sees it move first gets to pounce on it!


The irises to the chair: Psst! "Don't turn your back on us!"

Our golden, Smokey. A survivor and an inspiration. We got his mom from the pound, and him from Heaven.

Say this now: Today I will imitate my dog. I'll turn sticks into flutes and I won't mind the critics when they say I'm doing things backwards. 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. 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


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Marika Ujvari

When I start my day with your blog, I know my day will go well. Love to read about your life, Kristi, and I enjoy the great photos!


Love how you said you got his mom from the pound and him from heaven!!!! Awww that is so great!You put a smile in my heart!

Chris Allin

One never knows what chord you are going to strike with each post you send out, Kristin. I experienced such a heart-wrenching moment in an airport years ago, watching a mother walk by with her little girl. The saving grace is when your grown up daughter hugs you as tightly as she did as a child.
That is a sweet moment.


Wonderful photos, Kristin. Yours is a beautiful world!

Marika Ujvari

Kristi, you should publish a large table-top photo book with all your beautiful photos also!!!

anne wirth

Beautiful! What wonderful gifts God has given us, Kristin.



You got his mom from the pound??? Who would give up a golden? I mean, what's not to like!

She's lucky she landed with you. And so are those kitties!

Suzanne Codi

I get laughed at because I cry at sentimental tv commercials involving a "papa" and his baby ...thank you Jackie for hugging your Mom, a much kinder response!!!
We'd love to see pix of Jackie's hair...Lily's is now natural on the front half of her head, and totally bleached on the underside in the back, which makes for interesting " chignons" on top of her head...and she's 19...I guess better that the greens and blues of the last few years...

Annette Heath

The memory of and the longing for our children when they were never goes away. As I said a tearful goodbye to my youngest after Christmas (she is 33), I noticed her wipe a tear. She has a busy career and flies globally, so was off to Singapore in the new year, and recently home from South Korea. Found myself flooded with memories of childhood Christmases....where did my little girl go?

Pat Cargill

You have touched a deep spot in us--mothers and fathers watching the little ones go, always a bit anxious, and then watching them grown up and going in a starker way. Gone far. Gone long time. True, you never get over remembering those earlier days.

Jackie is so attuned to you and her sweet comments and head-on-your-shoulder moments are lovely, pricless. I know you know that. Sweet Mama. Bonne journee, chere, Kristen!


Tears in my eyes when I read your story today. I have felt exactly the same sadness, longing and also happiness for my children. Thankyou. A very proud father. x w.

24/7 in France

At the end of every visit to the US, my (grown) daughter and I are in tears, missing each other already! Love the animal photos, too.

Sandy Maberly

Sweet story, Kristie. I may not always comment, but I always read them with pleasure. I finally got all our Christmas decos put away on the 6th (as it should be). Time marches on and yearly rituals come and go. It will always be the bitter sweet memories that bring a tear. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

Karen, Towson, Md.

Read through blurry wet eyes, your words today reminded me to savor each moment I have with my children who seem to want to quickly fling themselves at some unspecified finish line of "success" while I balance a Cheerleader Pom Pom in one hand and a Reduce Your Speed sign in the other.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I enjoyed your story today. I love the sweet relationship you have with Jackie. You will always have that special connection. I bet the father of the little girl was thinking about his daughter all grown up when he spotted you and Jackie.


Pouncers rights! I love it! :)

Smiles aside, my tears welled up, too, when your writing resonated with me. First, I was lucky enough to visit my hometown, Tucson, this December. We saw saguaros wearing santa hats, adobe homes strung with big, colorful, bulbs, and palm trees turned into white, flashing pillars. I saw my family, my beautiful niece and nephew, my brothers, my father. Now I am back in "ChiBeria," wishing the cold away.

Second, although my sons are younger than your children, at nine and eleven years old, I finally understand that it truly, really does go so, so fast. My eleven year old is growing out his hair and recently asked me if it hurts to have an ear pierced (I haven't shared this conversation with my husband!). He snuggles less, smiles less, and sulks more. It feels very unfair to me that we may have some very rough adolescent years ahead of us, and then, when he is hopefully past it, he will leave us. Maybe not. But yes, it can be so hard to see a glimpse of the sweet innocence, the years stretching ahead of us, that younger chidden bring back into focus.

Fay Plauche' Butler

They do not look back. It is for you to cast your view forward.

Joan Linneman

Hello Everyone:
My daughter is all grown up, but has five children (four of them fillettes), and the booklet of photos for my purse that she gives me every year is always my favorite Christmas present. She includes photos of my son's family too, with his two children, and I can only wonder where she gets the time and energy to do everything she does. Enjoy the little ones, because they won't stay little for long.
"God bless us, every one!" Joan L.

Judy Bell

You got Braise from the pound? I'm so surprised to learn this. Braise is truly one of the most beautiful animals I've ever seen. (Hates cats, though, I think.) Smokey is adorable!

Judy Bell

Elle est mignon. I learned a new phrase -- She is cute. (Had to look it up, so it will probably "stick" with me a little longer.)


Not sure what I long for more....being in Provence, or another Golden Retriever. When your "little girl" grows up Kristin she will be your best friend as mine is . . . and I believe you have a similar relationship with your mother? It only gets sweeter.
I am looking for suggestions for vacation rental agencies in Provence. I have seen many on your blog but most are for houses and we probably will only need an apartment....;or very small house.

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Tears fill my eyes - your story is so touching. Thank you for sharing.

Judy W.

A beautiful post, Kristin. You are so lucky to have such an honest and openly loving relationship with your daughter. Also...Love the photo at the end of Smokey and his flute.

Nyla Witmore

When I click on the word...the site does not clearly show how to click to HEAR the word pronounced correctly. I miss the male voice that articulated the phrases that you used to have. It was so helpful and I would play it over and over? Perhaps you could address this in an upcoming blog so we can grow by hearing a native speaker??

Dave Kapsiak

Thank you once again for brightening my day.

Dave Kapsiak

Sheryl in Denver

So "une fillette mignon" is "a cute little girl"? I will remember that next time I am ordering off the menu. :) Ma fillette mignon a 25 ans maintenant. Alors, je comprends tes mots. Et tes larmes.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.

- Fiddler on the Roof

Dottie Traudt

Sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes. I have boys, but the same sentiments hold true. Thanks for sharing.

Julie Schorr

Salut Kristin,
I believe the correct spelling is "Elle est mignonne." My students are requesting more pictures of Max! The cats are adorable! Merci for the lovely post today!

Odile Coppens

Bonne Annee Kristin!
and remember :
Il est mignon (le petit garcon))

Elle est mignonne (la petite fille)

Odile, Eagle-Rock, CA


Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us! :) Motherhood is truly the most beautiful and challenging adventure, in so many ways! You are a fantastic mom, Kristin. This story brought tears to my eyes. And the photo of the tree outside is gorgeous.

Barbara Bottini

Loved today's posting. I too sometimes had those feelings. But do take heart. Soon you, like I, will have the joy of witnessing your adult children fulfilling their promise and achieving great things as grownups.





Mollie Baker

I am not usually sentimental, but this touched a chord within me today. My youngest daughter got married just before Christmas, and a week later I stood at the airport with her and her husband, saying good-bye. I have 7 children, so this was not our first parting—yet it was still hard! We can take comfort in remembering that these are merely turns in the road, which will result in their own fond memories!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Hi Kristin!

Thank you so for a very lovely post & wonderful photos. It was very bittersweet --- I felt tears but also smiles.

Stay well!


Kristin -- thank you so much for letting your readers know that Braise was a shelter dog. Having no children, my three (shelter) dogs serve as my "grrrls' and my babies. It is so important, whether in France or in Las Vegas, NV, or anywhere else in this great big world, to "Adopt, Not Shop." A shelter dog is one of the most priceless gifts you can ever give yourself and/or your family.


We like the dogs, but your kitten pictures are stealing the show for now.

Joanne Polner

Grown-ups and children and babes

When you are a grandmother, as I am, you shed tears a second time when the grandjoys--the grandchildren--grow up, too. It is difficult to imagine that our own daughters will be having their first tears along with us, as their children grow up and reach out even further into the world. We want this beautiful growing up and enrichment from life's good experiences; we want this for our daughters and sons and we want this for our grandchildren. Still, in our joy, our tears are also sad. We stay young when they are small and growing. When they can look us in the eye, we realize the power of time. My husband and I hope to reach the age to be great-grandparents (about fifteen years from now). Could that possibly happen to us by the time we are 88? We hope that we will live that long awake and aware! At least, in all, we also hope that our progeny and their progeny will shed tears for us in loving memory. And the wee babe or babies? Oh, they will smile and return everyone's attention to looking again to the future. Life will be good. Bonne chance, familles d'amité internationale

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

How could the critics say that you "are doing things backwards" when you have so many readers who love your genuine, heartfelt way of writing? Thank you for today's tender story which touched my heart. I always enjoy your photos, too. Bon weekend!

Frances Anamosa

You had me in tears today. Your words evoked for me the feeling I had last week when I put my 21 year old daughter on the plane to go back to college. Thank you, again. Frances in Napa, California


Like you, Kristin, each time I see children, I think back of the time when my own were around that age. Sweet memories kept flooding back and then reality would make me wonder where time had gone by. And from your text, the word "ourlet" also brings back memory. J'ai poursuivi des cours de couture à était une fois.


I could easily tell that Smoky is The Music of Your Heart, Kristin! :-)
(As all of us, dog lovers, feel about our dogs/cats/pets we have.)

By looking at this adorable picture of his and his ever mange(able) flute, I can also hear the tune he is playing — a tune of simplicity and peace — which is all over your woodsy and magical place. I just can't envision it being fenced, or even modernly electrically fenced, or to daydream of any variety of dog chain clanking sounds around such property.

I would say that, to prevent your dogs' future escapes, it IS possible to just walk around your property with them in a close contact, perhaps after one of your bonding walks with them, and to just show and tell them (as meaningful as you could manage to be) the boundaries of your property which THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED to cross over. The message should be conveyed in the very reassuring statements (and in any language you feel you'd be sounding more convincing and authoritative.)

Perhaps, you would need to repeat the whole procedure a couple of more times, it depends on the level of your bond with them, as well as at the level of their training they are able to give back right now.

Such approach works with my dog. She is 9 y.o. by now. After some extensive training she's been through since 1 y.o. she has beed able to do so (and much more) since 4 years old, never failing me in my requests now.

For the last two-three years she is soo-o determined to please me, that I could only be delightfully surprised sometimes with the levels of her canine devotion, which often ends up with the hearty laghters of mine and others around. Dogs are amasing mind readers too. And after a few years with you they just know what is next, and what is EXPECTED of them.

Perhaps, you could also play around the Right Tune with them, getting your message across to them effectively (C'est possible!!) so they would never again be the source of your disappointment and worries, and you would still be able to channel to us The Divine Music of your joie de vivre.

Judi Miller

Pure love, shared! Thank you!

Diane Young

I wish I had been less of a typical teenager now that my mamma is long gone. I know it's a common phase most teens go through but the older I get, the more I think about how awful it must have been to be the mother of a teenage girl who refused to walk down the street with you. Fortunately she lived to be 90 so I had time to reverse my chilly attitude and become her loving daughter. She's been gone for 10+ years and I miss her all the time. Treasure every moment with Jackie, and she will remember these precious years.


Our dear Kristi,
The only word I can say here for today's post is:EXQUISITE.
Exquisitiely written,exquisite sentiments,and exquisite pictures,
THANK YOU for sharing these with us!
Natalia XO

Leisa Smith

What a wonderful way to start my day, and thank you for this dear Kristi, simply beautiful and one of your best.

And your photos are gorgeous, you are so talented!!
xx Leisa

Jackie Smith

This story touched my heart! What a great reminder to cherish every day; times passes by so quickly!

Chris Allin

Dear Jules,
I wish I could sit down with you at a table under the olive trees, sipping on a glass of Jean-Marc's wine. Mother to mother...talking about the gift of daughters~

Heather in Arles

Whew. That was lovely and very moving.
Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Kristi...for you and ALL of the members of your brood!


Turn around , and she's two
Turn around and she's four
Turn around , and she's a young girl
walking out of the door

Turn around and she's tiny
Turn around and she's grown
Turn around and she's a young wife
with babes of her own

It all happens in the blink of an eye....!

Fred Caswell

Beautiful! So very sorry I missed sending you love & my best, computer broken for weeks, struggling to keep mind and body as healthy as possible, working to slowly upgrade my I-Phone "skills", and just dealing with life.

Must add that your tears were matched as sadness struck as thoughts of the loss of our closeness. Wish I could give you more support and feel more connected. Affectueusement!

Fred Caswell

Two funeral services yesterday am didn't help! Real love hase no death. Moi

Jules Greer


Missing you this morning - painting olive trees from your vineyard, looking out over the sea. Painting France seems to bring me closer to you when we are apart.




Another late post from Tennessee, with tears in my eyes and a smile. You have such a gift for catching the most tender, ordinary/extraordinary moments. Looking at your photos today, I thought you might also enjoy this quote.

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind. -Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965)

Cheers to you on a beautiful sunny day.

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