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Entries from March 2014

aimant + How to be a Chick Magnet + recipe


They don't say chick magnet in French. Here, it's aspirateur de gonzesses (literally, that's "vacuume cleaner of broads")

un aimant (ay-mahn)

    : magnet

Example Sentence 

Les aimants décoratifs servent à maintenir les messages sur la porte du frigo.
Decorative magnets are useful for holding messages on the fridge door.

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

See the Humor in it or Skip it!

If I were as good a salesman as I've recently been accused of being (by the way, have you bought First French Essais? in paperback or ebook?) then I would title today's story this way:


And if I were a really good salesman then I'd offer (well, offer is a big word--with strings attached,  naturally); yes, I'd offer the secret in three words or less! So let's put the theory to the test: am I really that good a salesman (of First French Essais...) and can you really become a girl magnet with only three words?

(Drum roll...) Here are the 3 magic mots. Take note!

"Forget my birthday"

Yep, that's it. That's all it takes to become a girl magnet overnight!--to go from completely invisible, ignored, rejected and abandoned... to rock-n-roll irresistible!

Now, would a good salesman leave you with 3 magic words and then, basta, run with the money? Jamais! Here are the priceless instructions you will need to transform yourself into girl glue:

Simply whisper the suggestion "Forget my birthday" to the future chick magnets of your choice. Start a day early en chuchotant the 3 magic words:

...Forget my birthday... forget my birthday....

Then, the morning of your birthday, Bob's your uncle!* Or Jean-Marc is, or rather, we'll use Jean-Marc for this example!

The morning of my husband's birthday I stumbled past him on my way to the coffee machine. Bonjour, I mumbled. I vaguely remember pausing, seeing him sitting there on the couch--barely covered against the morning chill. I was sorry he woke up so early but didn't apologize, this time, for my snoring. Instead I grabbed a cup of coffee and slipped past him, with a noncommittal, ça va, Cheri?

As I settled back into my warm bed, enjoying my morning coffee before our house guest (Chick #2...) woke up, I heard voices in the front room.

So much for lingering. It was time to get up and hostess. This time I flew past my husband in time to greet Rachel, who was treated to a livelier bonjour! It's always a pleasure to see Rachel, and no need to change out of my morning get-up (pink and red knee-highs, my green-and-black-striped pjs tucked into the socks for extra warmth, and cashmere floor-length robe (five bucks at the consignment store) tossed over the whole (platform suede mules peeping from the bottom). 

Over toast, I caught up with our longtime friend. Rachel was a classmate of Jean-Marc's whom I had met days after him, 24 years ago. Owing to a long history in common, Rachel and I always have so much to say. This time we were chatting about bone density and I was telling Rachel about a tip I'd recently learned: save your organic eggshells, wash them in hot water and, using a coffee grinder, reduce them to a fine poudre. Take a small teaspoon in juice or yogurt and voilà! Calcium!

When Jean-Marc appeared at the table, we barely noticed him but for his greeting, which he was obliged to repeat.

"I said that's awfully interesting conversation on a day like today!" he smiled hopefully.

Rachel and I smiled back, she more politely than I, before continuing our conversation about our future foe: osteoporosis. But a noise in the near distance caused us to pause once more.

Jean-Marc was a broken record: "Fascinating conversation on a day like today!"

Our eyes froze midsentence as Rachel and I jumped up. Planting kisses all over his face, Chick #1 and Chick #2 wished Jean-Marc Happy Birthday!!!...

And that, dear reader, is How To Become a Chick Magnet with only 3 words! Now, depending on your birth day, it might be a little or a very long wait. For poor Jean-Marc, he has a whole nother year to go, before being clawed and kissed by a flurry of embarrased chicks. 

*    *    *

To comment, click here. Thanks in advance!

Selected Vocabulary
le mot = word
basta!= (interjection, Italian?) that's enough
jamais = never
en chuchotant = in whispering
Bob's your uncle = voilà! That's how it's done! That's all it takes!
la poudre = powde

Birthday cake

 Jean-Marc's birthday cake: a crumble I've been practicing ever since Sandra made it, last Friday night for dessert. This one has sauteed apples and carrots (1 grated) and a drizzle of Jean-Marc's honey from his bees.

I like this easy-to-remember measure for the topping: 10 tablespoons flour, 10 tablespoons sugar, 150 grams butter--cinnamon and whatever else you fancy (a sprinkle of granola? pecans?). Malaxer (or knead this together) until fine like breadcrumbs. Spread crumbs on top of fruit (now in a baking pan) and bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes.


 Jean-Marc's birthday may have been like any other day--like laundry day--but there were many beautiful moments within it...


Like his shoes lined up along the porch, to freshen in the air.


And the thyme, collected by our daughter--for her grandmother. We celebrated Jean-Marc's birthday again with Michèle-France on Sunday. The herbs are for my mother-in-law's tapenade, a gift that keeps on giving!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

livre numerique - limited offer!


"With my husband's blessing, I quit my job and turned my attention to writing, learning to spell and punctuate along the way." --from the chapter "Valorisant." (Thanks, Patrick & Sandra, for the photo!)

Good news: C'est prêt! It's ready: the e-book version of First French Essais is live! For a limited time, get the e-book at this price.

Then read the chapter "Valorisant," and let me tell you how a below-average student came to write French Word-A-Day, for university professors. Order the e-book here. It's priced less than a café-au-lait and croissant in Paris--but not for long!

livre numérique (lee-vruh-new-mer-eek)

    : e-book, digital book


Audio File & Example Sentence
Listen to my husband. (God knows I should.Download MP3 or Wav

Un livre numérique (terme officiellement recommandé en France...), aussi appelé par métonymie livre électronique, est un livre édité et diffusé en version numérique, disponible sous forme de fichier, qui peut être téléchargé, stocké et lu sur un écran tel que celui d'un ordinateur personnel, d'une liseuse ou d'une tablette tactile. A digital book (official term recommended in France), also called by metonymy "electronic book," is a book that is distributed in digital version, available in the form of a file that can be downloaded, stored and read on a screen, such as a personal computer, a reader, or a tablet. (French text, above, by Wikipedia)


Please don't miss this limited offer! First French Essais is at its lowest price: in the $6 range. In a few days I will set the public price: in the $10 range.

Click here for the e-book offer--especially for readers of this journal!

And now, it's time to celebrate--by sharing a piece of my sister's birthday cake!
Here is Heidi's gâteau and the message I left her on Facebook. Note: I found a picture of the cake on the internet, and added this personal flourish above the skirt ruffles...

  French-birthday cake
Joyeux Anniversaire to my sister, Heidi Ingham Stiteler. Wish I could hand-deliver you a cake like this one. Wish we could go back to the good ol' days, when you did my laundry  Or simply the good ol' days... when we lived much closer....

To comment, click here.

Une dernière chose (One last thing)
You don't need Amazon's device to read a Kindle edition or e-book. It took a second to download First French Essais on my iPad, but you can use your iPhone or...

  • Smartphones and
  • Tablets

Download First French Essais and take these vocabulary words and inspiring photos with you anywhere!

Wonderful essays designed to lead the reader gently into French life. Special vocabulary sections for French learners. Lovely photos. Attractive and clear layout - a well-thought out book which should be a favorite for Francophiles for years to come. (Goodreads review by Paris Short Story)

Offer ends soon. Get the best price today, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

How "to pamper" in French & some intruders...

Late, late... with the kitchen update! May this snapshot hold you over. Don't mind the compost, and ignore the wires coming out of the wall. And those bottled plants (euphorbia, but which kind?) are a failed attempt to screen the electrical "juttings."

bichonner (bee-show-nay)

    : to pamper

se bichonner = to pamper oneself, to doll up

Example Sentence:
Ses jeunes vignes? Il les bichonne!
His young vines? He pampers them!

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

Le Bichonneur et Les Intrus

Some twenty years ago, while helping Uncle Jean-Claude harvest in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, my husband fell in love with wine. 

He quit his job as an accountant in Marseilles, drove his family an hour north and snapped up a Director of Sales position at a vineyard in Trets-en-Provence. Our son was 6 months old at the time, meaning I have watched my husband's passion grow and develop alongside a living, breathing meter.

Max (who turns 19 in May) helped his father plant his second vineyard last week. Along with my brother-in-law, Jacques, and winemaker friends, 3500 grapevines have now settled at the foot of an ancient olive orchard. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the multi-centenarian trees whispering... their encouragements carried forth by the sea's breeze:

"Patience, les minous, in three years you'll have mature fruit!"

Meantime, Jean-Marc is doing all he can to build their leafy immune systems, giving his dream vines a head-start in life. For two weeks now, from sunrise to sunset, Chief Grape's been pampering his young mourvedre. He began my "making their bed":  sowing soil-enriching flowers including phacelia and mustard flower seeds. As the plants die back and fall to the ground they will feed his growing vines.

Next, he planted his babies, so closely together that he'll have to manually treat them (no room, along the rows, for a tractor to go!). While tucking in his new crop, the rebel and traditionalist in Jean-Marc could not resist adding a few intruders--or what winemakers call "les intrus": grape varieties outside the rigidly-ruled appellation. (At our former vineyard in Ste. Cécile, these intrus were already there: the white grapes, called Rouxanne, were planted by our anti-conformist "forefarmers" to add fraîcheur to the wine).

This being his first chance to plant intruders all on his own--and with our "forefarmers" now smiling down on him--Jean-Marc honored his favorite wine regions (after Bandol, bien sûr!): Barolo and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The nebbiolo grapevine is one he dragged home from our weekend in Italy, two Christmases ago. And the grenache vine is a meaningful gift from Uncle Jean-Claude's Domaine du Banneret. The intruders are easy to distinguish and as conspicuous as a tourist in Paris--what with their bright green leaves hanging loosely about, while the native vines are still wearing their fitted red caps. (Baby vines are sealed with red wax, but the leaves will eventually burst through).

Finally, to guarantee his vines adaption, Jean-Marc individually watered each plant, stopping to dig a ditch each time to catch rainwater. Given there are 3500 baby vines, it's no wonder my husband's been MIA for the past two weeks. But neither of us is complaining; the activity of bringing life to the hillside benefits everyone, not least of which les abeilles (who gladly drank nectar from the flowering amendments added to the soil beneath the grapevines). 

I think one of the things Jean-Marc loves most about wine-farming is the opportunity for innovation. He is always coming up with a solution to a problem, like "How to efficiently distribute and bury the tiny flower seeds among a hundred rows without a machine?" Oh, I can just see my husband's mind cranking out a lively answer: 

Be The Machine!

Indeed. Fueled by inspiration, his shoes cakes with soil, Jean-Marc sprinted from the field into the house, to collect an old rake and our son's 10 pound dumbbells....

Sacré Jean-Marc! There he goes again! My mind recalled the infamous mop-spear: half mop, half silverware (my fork, or place setting!)--the whole tied together with shoelaces... or was it duct tape? 

This étrange invention aided my husband during a sea-urchin hunt off the island of Porquerolles. (It also attracted many dubious, and downright uneasy looks from strangers sharing the ferry with us from Hyères. Do you remember the story?)


This time, in place of my mop and my silverware, Jean-Marc used our garden rake--weighing it down with Max's workout equipment (the dumbbells). Tying the contraption to his backside with a bungee cord (what else?), he flung himself out into the field and became, once again, a one man show.

Quel spectacle! As Jean-Marc sowed his plant-nurturing seeds, driving them into the ground with the help of his curious tail (the "dumbbells-rake"), traffic slowed beneath our vineyard as motorists enjoyed an eyeful: a pregnant man (forgot to tell you about his contraption for seed distribution) and a rake piggybacked by barbells!

There is just no word for it, and no term to describe the man. So I'll borrow a funny phrase from my mother-in-law:

"Jean-Marc, c'est un phénomène!"

 *    *    *

Comments: To comment about our phénomène, or lively character, click here. You may also wish him bonne chance with his dream vineyard! After 15 years of wishing for it--he's got his Bandol vines!

Chief Grape watering

Read about this French "phenomenon," here in this tender short story memoir. A chapter called Malentendu opens with a Meet The New Employee disaster (Jean-Marc gets a job at a wine bottle machine factory, and his wife orders a shot of scotch). Click here to benefit from the new book price!

What readers are saying about First French Essais:

 Delightful and full of joy.

The book will make a perfect mother's day gift!

Beautifully written with charm, warmth, humor and love.

...filled with French you won't find in any textbook.

...and it's a darn good thing I ordered TWO of your books -- one to read and one for opening wine bottles!

Thanks, Cynthia--and to all who are leaving positive reviews and ratings at Amazon. Your endorsements are most helpful in getting the word out to French learners who still do not know of this book's existence. More than a friendly and useful tool for language-learning, this book series is an inspiring story of following one's dreams to France--and staying put when you are flailing like a fish out of water.

First French Essais-Blossoming-Words-in-a-French-life

There is friendly price when you buy all three! See the special offer here:

 Thank you very much for your book support! Whether you buy a copy, or enjoy the stories here, for free, I hope these essays will help to grow your vocabulary and your understanding of another culture. Mostly, I hope you'll go away, as one reviewer said, with a warm smile on your face for days

Smokey, book-ended by yellow kale blooms, would like you to know that he's busy too! While Jean-Marc labors in the field, and while I type away at my desk, Smokey sees to it that this sundried sunflower stalk will be re-purposed. But where are you taking that, dear Smokey?  To the compost bin? To the tool shed? To Jean-Marc for his next inspired creation?

"I'm taking it to play with!"

Smart dog. We could all learn a lesson from a happy-go-lucky!

Order your copy of First French Essais. Click here:

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Flic: A near-collision with the cops!

1-Eileen DeCamp
Thank you, Eileen DeCamp, for your photo vignette of Jean-Marc's wine & my First French Essais! Eileen titled her picture, "Two of my favorite things!!!" With any chance, Eileen's photo, taken on Seabrook Island, SC, will work better than my publicity stunt, filmed here near Bandol!

le flic (fleek)


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and example sentence
Download Flic or Wav

A Toulon, j'ai été poursuivie par un flic.
In Toulon, I was pursued by a cop.

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

Now that my daughter is in drivers' school, we, the chauffeurs and members of her family, are under constant surveillance.

"T'as pas le droit de doubler," Jackie points out, as I speed around the tiny car that was ahead of me. It's one of those voitures sans permis, or "no permit needed" cars--owing to an engine so small it couldn't hurt a fly, or a flying saucer (i.e. faster-moving vehicles that usually require permits). 

Voiture sans permis

Normally my kids get a kick when Mom overtakes one of these "washing-machines," as they are the only other cars that travel as slowly as Mom does.

But back to Mom's misdemeanor... My daughter is right, that was a continuous white line (signaling "no passing!") and not a broken white line that allows drivers to "pass with care."

Yikes! What was I thinking? I must not have been thinking.

Gosh! I've really got to put on my thinking cap, especially now as we are entering the city of Toulon. Suddenly the autoroute forks--and forks again--until we find ourselves about to be swallowed up by an underground passage!

Mon Dieu! They've finally opened the tunnel! After more than a decade in the planning and a false start (the tunnel opened a few years ago, but quickly shut down because of a fault in engineering...). Since, it has become a favorite target for my husband's sarcasm. Each time we pass by the barricaded, would-be shortcut my husband snickers:

"Fine undergrounds we pay for in France! Maybe one day we can actually use them!"

Apparently this was the day. Only, crossing Toulon sous terre was not on our itinerary (the mid-town mall was)!

Seeing the signs to centre ville, I edged two lanes over, trying to avoid the city's underbelly. No sooner had I changed lanes, than a loud grumbling startled me. A glance in my foggy rear-view mirror revealed another car, inches away! 

As the driver blared his horn, the hairs on the back of my neck shot up and my heart raced. But the beads of sweat that had appeared on my brow were instantly dried as my arm flew up and began waving excitedly, along with my tongue, en franglais:

"Mais ça va pas? Gosh! Haven't you ever gotten lost, Mister!"

On second thought, that probably wasn't even a mister, but some just-got-his-license whippersnapper--one who was bent on correcting MOM!

This realization sent my arm waving wildly again. Road rage is a bad thing, but a wee waving of the finger (or arm) at the little big shot ought to teach him a lesson!

Only, a second glance in my rear-view mirror revealed a surprising detail. This was no little big shot. This was a cop!


"What's the matter, Mom?" my daughter's words were warm with concern.

"That's a flic! I just went ballistic on a flic!"


"Jackie! I can't translate right now. That's a policeman behind me!" 

Our voices grew silent as I studied the rear-view mirror. "Please God, please. Please. Please God..." I did a quick mental inventory of my purse, realizing both my driver's license and certificat d'immatriculation were back at home!

"Mom, there's nothing to worry about."

"Please God, no. Please no."

"Mom, that policeman is not going to pull you over!"

The quiet assurance in my daughter's voice caught my attention. I quit babbling in time to listen to Jackie, who enlightened me:

"He is the one that's breaking the law, not you!"

"Ah bon?"

"Blaring your horn at another driver can cause a serious accident," Jackie explained. "It stresses the driver, who might then panic, or even pass out!"

"You did nothing wrong," Jackie continued, confident in what she had just learned in drivers school. "You were only changing lanes!"

As my daughter spoke, I glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw the cop turn onto another road, and disappear.... My 16-year-old was right! Well that ought to teach the flic, the whippersnapper, not to give Mom a heart-attack next time she lawfully changes lanes!

To leave a comment or to read one, click here.

French Vocabulary

T'as pas le droit de doubler = you don't have the right to pass
la voiture sans permis = no-license car, license-free automobile
une autoroute = motorway, highway, freeway (US)
sous terre = under ground
centre ville = town center
mais ça va pas?! = What's the matter with you?!
mon Dieu = my God
certificat d'immatriculation = formerly "la carte grise" or car registration document
ah, bon? = oh, really?


Photos from a French Life... The red iron bed once held my daughter, then my Mom as she recovered from her first mastectomy. Then my brother-in-law slept there, months and months, healing from a broken heart. After, the bed moved poolside, but any lounging there was shortlived when my husband decided to set his 500 liter wine barrels there to rest on the springs (a good night's sleep for his wine?). 

A little bent out of shape now, here is the iron bed's current life--in the permaculture garden behind the house. That peeping Tom, in the right-hand corner, is really a flowering fava bean. Spend more time in a garden. There's so much going on in a veggie patch! 

Book Update for First French 'Essais'!
The first week of publication book sales were nearing 800 copies! A promising start for a self-publisher... But things quickly slowed down by day 5. Maybe a publicity stunt was needed afterall? 

On day 8 (Thursday) I posted a video of a first attempt to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew! Plenty have tried this feat with a shoe, but with a paperback?...

Using my new book, I drove out that cork in under 20 whacks! Alot of people shared the video... but did book sales go up with viewcounts?

Hard to say, because something very strange happened instead... Readers began receiving notes from Amazon: shipping for First French Essais would be delayed one week. That was odd, given the book is printed on demand!

Next, I received a note from Amazon's publishing company. Here is what the senior publishing consultant said:

I've been aware of the success you've experienced with your title and I wanted to reach out to you personally to say, congratulations! We are thrilled for you and want you to know that we are here to support you in any way we can.

It is exciting to receive this kind of offer, and my mind is reeling with possibilities. Meantime, can a publishing company help me sell more books? Stay tuned.... 

Enter The Battered Book Giveaway! Winner gets the book used in the video! Find out why this battered book is meaningful to me: listen to my message near end of the video!

To Enter:

  1. Share the video
  2. Tell me (here, in this box) where you've shared it (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, with a French class, or via email).

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

No "tire-bouchon"? + How to open a bottle of wine with a BOOK! (video)

Iced tea

You don't have to drink wine to benefit from today's incredible tip! (I use the opened bottles for ice tea.) Don't miss today's lively, one minute demonstration on how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.

le tire-bouchon (teer-boo-shohn)

    : corkscrew

Un tire-bouchon est un ustensile utilisé pour tirer le bouchon en liège naturel ou reconstitué d'une bouteille.  A corkscrew is a utensil used for pulling out the natural or reconstituted cork from a bottle.

(Only, what do you do when you can't find your corkscrew?...)

or Comment ouvrir une bouteille de vin sans Tire-Bouchon

No corkscrew? No problem! Try Kristin's tip and learn how to open a bottle of wine with a paperback! Many people have tried the "no corkscrew" stunt with a shoe, but no one has attempted it with a handy-dandy book.

And not just any book....
To open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew, you need two things:

Ready? Watch Kristi's one minute video demonstration (click right here). Using her latest book, she'll drive out that cork in under twenty whacks! You've got to see it to believe it!

Note: no trucages or special effects were used! This video records my very first attempt, no practice runs were used! Watch the bottle closely. With each slam of the book, the cork raises from the bottle. Tip: synthetic corks may be more difficult than liège, or natural cork oak.

You Can Do it! (Vas-Y! Tu Peux le Faire!)
My son snickered (that's Max you hear in the video background). My husband said it could not be done. Even I began to have doubts. But perseverance won out! Thanks for sharing this video with a friend who loves wine or books (or cool tricks). Meantime, never lose hope. If you think you can do something, try!

*    *    *

  Book delivery

 "Corkscrews." Who needs a tire-bouchon when a paperback will do? One of these newly-delivered books was sacrificed in today's video demonstration. Good news: it fared well! Only a dozen rainbow-shaped imprints across the cover, each with "lifted dots" from the bottles design. When I open the back cover of the book, and run my hand over the surface, it feels like reading braille. I wonder, just what are those imprints saying? I believe they're whispering bon courage!

Book Giveaway!
Win the copy of First French Essais used in today's video demonstration! Here's how:

Entries accepted until April 1st! Thank you for helping me get the word out about my First French Essais. And good luck--bonne chance!--winning this very original and sentimental copy. I hope to send it to you with pretty French stamps, directly from France!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

culotte de cheval + new "prix amical" for book!

Do my thighs look big? Some would be surprised French women ask themselves this question. But three months till summertime and, truth is, the French--men, women, and even children--are already dieting! They're talking about it at the picnic table, in the school yard, and in programs on T.V. 

The other day I overhead the term "culotte de cheval" and guessed the subject was fashion (as in "riding pants are out this season"). How wrong I was...

culotte de cheval (kew-lowt-deuh-shuh-vahl)

    : jodphur thighs

Back home we call it "pears." A person whose weight settles below the belt is considered "pear-shaped."

What about you? Where do you store your extra? Sur les cuisses (on the thighs) or on the belly (le bidou, as little kids say)? For me it's my middle--or anywhere, actually. I try not to focus on weight, for, as a dear friends says, what you focus on increases :-)

Today I am focusing on reader satisfaction--a much better place to center one's attention! My new book is already arriving in mailboxes! And the funny thing is I have not seen a copy of it yet (having only read the PDF format).

Because you will be seeing my book before I see it, can you please tell me: how does it look? How are you enjoying the photo-filled stories? Did you notice the puzzle in the back--and the interview? That's new, too!

If you enjoy the book, please consider rating First French Essais here on Amazon. It will be a great help to my book. Thanks in advance and I look forward to reading your book review! 

                     First wildflower bouquet of the season!

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

Finally, "Un Prix Amical!"

Thank you very much for purchasing my First French Essais. The rumble you made while rushing for my book propelled it--to no. 38 on Amazon's Top 100!

If you only knew how many years I've spent, eyes glued to Amazon's Bestsellers page. I watched Twilight hit the charts, then Eato, Prayo, Lovo (translated, it seemed, into a bajillion languages!). And when Shades of Gray lounged like a slut at no. 1, I threw my arms in the air. Help me God! How could a prude like me ever make it to the bestsellers? Without a big publisher? Without a G-string?

And yet I dreamed... One day... maybe one day....

Years passed and THE DAY CAME! What a thrill to hit my computer's refresh button and see my rank finally appear--straight at the top!

But this morning First French Essais tumbled off the list...

...and Amazon slashed my book's price by 40%!!!

As book rank and price radically shifted, I felt both excited... and terrible! On the one hand my book now had the friendly price I'd tried so hard to get, but on the other hand my most faithful and supportive readers--those who purchased during the book launch--did not benefit from a prix amical, or friendly price.

If only writers were mindreaders! I could not know, when pricing my book, that Amazon would sharply undercut it, within 48 hours! Surprised to wake up and find my book selling for $13.50 instead of $22.50, I was amazed at how little control one has, finally, when "self" publishing.  

Let's go behind the scenes and see why:

When an author publishes her book, via Amazon's "print on demand" service, she sets the price based on page number and format--and how much she wants or needs to earn per book.

Because my book is 150 pages & full-color, the minimum price I could set it for was $18.50. But at this price, my royalties would be zero! 

...To make 0.5 cents per book, I would need to set the price at $19
... to make .65 cents per book... I'd have to sell it for $20

But this was no where near where I wanted to price my book! My goal being to offer a full-color book at $15 (a price that seems friendly to all, author included!).

Only at $15, my earnings would be $-2.35! Would I actually have to pay Amazon? 

What if I bought an inventory of books? Would the printer then lower the production cost? How about if I reduced page number? Or removed some color photos? Or did cartwheels? 

I tried every which way to lower the price for readers. Nothing doing! To make a return on my book, I would need to set the price over $20. And one more thing...

In order to make my book available to libraries and booksellers (or anywhere other than Amazon), I would have to set the minimum price at $28! (Get outta here!)

I finally settled on $22.50. For this price I would lose sales to certain countries, making a few cents in others, like England and France (for the latter I make a whopping 0.12 centimes per book!). I would also lose the chance to work with libraries, but could still earn slightly more than a publisher would pay me. And isn't that, after all, the goal of self-publishing? 

It is one goal of self-publishing. The bigger goal is to write what you want to write--and not what a publisher tells you to! But without a major publisher, one who who can buy 25,000 books and resell them at a cheaper price), I am at the mercy of Amazon (my printer).

Sunday morning I watched as Amazon threw me to the lions--or what I feared would be lions once my readers learned the current price of my book!! What to do now?

"Tell the whole story," Mom encouraged, as she always does. "People will understand. You must never be afraid to tell your story."

*    *    * 

To those who paid the higher price, I am terribly sorry. I tried my best to get you the prix amical. But some things are out of one's control (a lesson I learn daily). Considering the life of a book, please know your purchase has given my First French Essais the healthy start every newborn needs!

Shane cook2
Shane Cook, a reader in Texas, is the first to have received the book--as far as I know. Even I have not seen the actual product! I asked Shane to take pictures, so I could rest assured that the spine and covers were as they appeared online. Thank you, Shane! What a relief!

Shane cook
 ... And here is the back, as photographed by Shane. One detail, I just noticed, had escaped me: the note at the bottom of the polaroid. Thanks, Tami, at TLC Graphics, for the delightful caption!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Tips for entertaining + book update!!

Caveau (c) Kristin Espinasse

Exciting book update at the end of this post! First, take note: Cousin Audrey, from Banneret, and Caroline, from Rouge-Bleu, will be pouring their wines in Portland at Pastaworks (Hawthorne, Saturday 03/15 from 3-5 PM & City Market, Sunday 03/16 from 3-5.PM) Don't miss this!

sans façon(s) (sahn fah-sahn)

    : no, thank you
    : unceremoniously

A guest at last night's dinner party taught me a new way to say "No, thank you!" (when the hostess offers an extra serving. Here's an example:

Audio File: Download MP3 or Wav

Hostess: Est-ce que tu voudras encore du gâteau?
Guest: Sans façon. 

You need only say those two words--with a nod and a smile--and you'll be a perfectly fluent guest (if not a perfectly fluent French speaker ;-)


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

Last night we ate at Pascale and Patrick's place. It was my first time meeting les Franco-Luxembourgeoises--after Jean-Marc disappeared daily, last year, to their home near Le Beausset!

"Yep, he's a cellar squatter," Patrick smiled.

I laughed picturing Chief Grape moving in, however lawfully, on another's cellar space.  I knew my husband was only borrowing their cave, to process all those grapes gleaned from a neighboring vineyard the week we moved to Bandol. But it was good to finally meet the wine buddy and his French wife, a funloving hostess who made the four-course dinner seem as simple as posting a letter (as the French say). 

We sat around the fireplace enjoying apéros, including olives from the estate and wine from the oranges amères that grow nearby. While the guests drank le vin, I savored as many olives as I could before being called over to the dinner table, where the others were headed to await their seat assignments.

Saperlipopette! The first course was so simple and lovely I wondered Why didn't I think of that?

In a beautiful blown-glass bowl an all lettuce salade was topped with avocado halves--the halves filled with orange fish eggs. The colors! And the texture of the salty, crunchy oeufs against the melt-in-your mouth avocats. Délicieux!

The main dish was veal with a coppery cream sauce. "That's saffron from the garden," Patrick explained. "Pascale is really into harvesting it for cooking!"

Sans déconner? You can grow your own saffron and avoid the store bought kind! Here was another tip to file away in my dossier "Astuces pour Recevoir." (Now to find it and dust it off....)

The meat was served with a side of steamed grains--a mixture of bulgar, soja, and quinoa. Tak! tak! (check! check!) I think I could manage this... My thoughts spinned as I tried keeping up with the hostess's savoir-faire. Though I couldn't make veal, I could substitue the dinde I'd recently made... (the lemon-drenched turkey had been an accidental success when sprinkled with rosemary... then drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar and set on a bed of figs and red onion!).

Pascale and Patrick's meal was just the inspiration needed to jump-start our first dinner party after the kitchen renovation (party is tonight, renovation is ongoing...). If only I would continue to pay attention, I might walk away with a grocery list and a few more pointers, like this one:

"Here's one for vegetarian guests," Pascale announced, setting down the most exquisite "cake" I have ever seen. Imagine an unadorned birthday cake--only all ingredients are sauteed vegetables (carrots strips, onions, cabbage...)--all held together by delicate sheets of choux.

I'll bet she lined a cake pan with the steamed cabbage... then tossed in the fried veggies, cooked it all, then carefully flipped that pan over for the beautiful "cake effect". And so went my thoughts, pedaling and pedaling, in hopes of one day working it all out--the puzzle of cooking and entertaining.

Gosh the food was delicious! It was hard to muffle those non-verbal éclats of enjoyment, no matter how many times I concentrated on chewing quietly. But this was France, not China (is that where it's okay to hum while you eat?) and remembering one's manners is important no matter what country.

I'm at the end of my story now and I failed to tell you about the lovable characters seated round the table. One day I'll work this out too--the puzzle of putting together a story. For now, I leave you with a handy and oh-so-soignée expression that the lovely Valérie from Toulon (seated one seat over) taught me):

"We say 'sans façon'," she said, nodding her head, encouraging me practice....

Oh goody! That meant the next time Pascale offered a slice of cake, I didn't have to say 'no'! ...I could say sans façons... nevermind it meant exactly the same thing: no more gâteau for me.

*    *    *


la cave = wine cellar
sans déconner? = no kidding?
un apéro (apéritif) = drink
une orange amère = bitter orange
le vin = wine
saperlipopette! = hot diggity!
un oeuf = egg
un avocat = avocado
astuces pour recevoir = tips for entertaining
le savoir-faire = know-how
éclats = fit  (fits of laughter, enjoyment)
soigné(e) = well-groomed

1-Capture plein écran 14032014 101251


(Sample page... I have filled my book, First French Essais, with insights into France and French life, such as the excerpt above. I hope you will learn a lot more than vocabulary by reading this book!)

Thank you for ordering my new book! First French Essais made it to no. 38 on Amazon's Top 100 list yesterday--giving this tender book of essays and photos the chance to be noticed by readers outside of this blog! 

This is a crucial week for book awareness and I very much appreciate all you are doing to help get the word out to new readers. Many of you have bought more than one copy of my latest book. Others, who prefer to read via Kindle or Nook, have offered to buy a paperback for a friend (while waiting for the ebook version to come out).

Looking at the impressive ranking (no. 38!) it's easy to believe that thousands of books are flying out the door, but the bottom line is this: 301 copies have been sold. While this is extremely encouraging, there is a long way to go to reach those readers who are completely unaware of my stories.

You can help me shine the light on this book! If you have not yet bought a copy of First French Essais now is the time. Please don't wait for the ebook to come out. Consider buying a copy for a friend or family member. There is always an occasion to give a gift and what better cadeau than a book?

Thank you for listening. I am deeply grateful for your warm and lively and lovable support! Click here to order.


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

My new book is available now! One reason to buy it today...


Ça y est... It's book launch day! First French Essais is now available here, on Amazon.

A Very Special Day in a French Life...
The morning sun is warming the countryside and still I'm trembling like a leaf--trying to write this crucial book launch page without a PR team, without a marketing director, without Mom.

Like the two shots of coffee I've just downed, I trust Mom will kick in very soon with a plan that would make Og Mandino proud.

"You don't have to be The Greatest Salesman in the World," Mom would say. You are God's Little Superstar!

God's Little Superstar? To think! 

It's good to think but currently my mind's a chatter!: How to sell this new book? Without seeming pushy? And you don't want to appear desperate... But do ask for help when help's needed!

H-E-L-P!  I would be so grateful if you would buy my book today. Here's why: when a number of readers buy a book within a short period, this alerts the book sensor fairies. (Translation: a surge in book sales can boost a book into Amazon's spotlight giving it the chance to be noticed by potential readers!)

To help this wish come true, please order "First French Essais" right now--buy it for yourself or for a friend (Easter, Mother's Day, upcoming birthdays...graduation or "Just Because Day"!)

I am deeply grateful for your help in shining the light on this tender book of photos and essays from France. In "First French Essais," I have done my best to illustrate real, everyday, French life--sharing as many useful terms and expressions--and beautiful snapshots--as possible!

Thank you very much for your support! I'm on my way, now, to dig out my husband's ski suit and warm up inside it. Not sure if it's cold in this room--or just the coffee talking. Either way, sounds like the beginning of a cheesy publicity stunt. Hmm....

P.S. for Kindle, iPad, iPhone... the e-book will be available two weeks from now. Consider getting the paperback today, for a friend. Merci beaucoup!


Bilingual chapter

Lots of educational goodies in the book First French Essais, including

  • one dedication chapter (a side-by-side bilingual story!)
  • "valorisant": the word that changed my career path...
  • colorful photos in every chapter
  • detailed photo captions highlighting villages, French culture, French quirks!  
  • a question & answer section 
  • a fun word puzzle to help you recall selected vocabulary
  • a gorgeous book interior and cover by TLC Graphics

Click here to order First French Essais. 

France and UK readers: First French essais is available at and

To leave a comment or a simple bon courage wish, click here


Every chapter in First French Essais has a polaroid photo beside the title, the picture recalls the image on the previous page. Isn't it lovely? Thanks Erin, for your hard work!

By forwarding today's post, you will help me spread the word of this very special book. You might also share via Facebook et compagnie (Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads). Much appreciated! 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Meet up near Bandol!! + Manger la soupe sur la tête de quelqu’un


It's time to meet up at my place--or very near it! Since leaving Domaine Rouge-Bleu, where we welcomed visitors weekly, I have not organized a cozy get-together. How about an April rendez-vous? More details in the story column below... First, the expression of the day:

Manger la soupe sur la tête de quelqu’un

    : to be taller than someone else, so tall you can "eat soup on their head"

Example Sentence
Today's colorful expression was given to me by my friend Sophie, after she saw my 18-year-old for the first time in a year: Here's what Sophie said:

Max! Qu'est-ce que t'as grandi! Tu peux manger la soupe sur la tête de Martin!
Max! You are so tall now! You could eat soup on Martin's head! (Martin is Sophie's 20-year-old). 

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

Sunday's hike along the turquoise coast spring-cleaned my soul! And it got me thinking: why not plan another meet-up? This time with readers!

The little fishing village of La Madrague (a stone's throw east of Cassis) is a real bijou. I love the classic pointu fishing boats, the knotted filets de pêche drying along les pannes, or landings, the line-up of cafés and the sun-dried characters that seem to live there.

But where exactly? Just which wobbly personnage goes with which wobbly boat? 

As I zigzag along the quai, imagination in full swing, the heart of me longs to know every seaworthy soul! On second thought, let me look that one up and see if it's really what I mean:

seaworthy (adjective): Fit to traverse the seas

Fit? Ah là là, non! That would leave out the most important travelers: the misfits!

What use is life's voyage if we're always clamoring to join our "seaworthy" sisters? The ones waiting on the shiny boat? Might as well offer our thin wrists right now--and be led like thieves, via the speedcraft's connecting ladder.

Meantime the misfits beckon! A rowdy class on patched-together rafts, they're headed full steam ahead--fueled by a zillion little vapors. 

Pastis vapors? 

Perhaps. Et alors? Who am I to judge!

Better to search for that fleck of light in a misfit's eyes. Can you see the sparkle? And if you look closely enough, régardant de très très près, you might even catch it: the glittering coattails of a zillion little vapors leading to l'infini.

Infinity, those dots that connect us to each other for miles and miles and milleniums. 

 *    *    *

I hope you enjoyed today's story which, ironically, veered completely off track from the first nonfiction paragraphs! I'm reminded it's not a bad thing to let go and just see what happens! Will you try this today? Letting go of rigid planning? Let me know!

Also, let me know if you'd like to join me for a meet-up in April. I'll take note of the dates you mention, and start planning some reader rendez-vous. Click here to comment.


le bijou = jewel
le filet de pêche = fishnet
la panne = landing (at the boat docks)
le personnage = character
le quai = quay, platform
le pastis = anis-flavored liquor
et alors?! = and what's it to you?! (so what?!)

Wooden fence

 Beyond a delicate wooden fence, Le Grand Bleu, or Mediterranean Sea. In the background the area called Les Lecques. 


Jean-Marc and his high-school buddy, Nicolas (who was best man at our wedding, and who took this steamy anniversary photo on the same beach last summer! and who appeared here in our jittery wedding photo, in 1994:


 That's Nico, between the priest and Jean-Marc (who looks like he's getting cold feet...).


Jean-Marc was in charge of the picnic, which began with an oursin, or sea urchin apéritif. He hunted these a few meters off the pebble beach. He also served up les oeufs de lompe and tarama (fish eggs and fish egg purée), smoked salmon, mini fromages de chèvre (goats' cheeses), and for dessert, Sophie and Nicolas brought kiwi and raspberry fruit tarts, lemon tarts, and chocolate tarts (minis). (Those are Sophie's toes, left. Sorry I didn't get her picture!)


That grotto, to the right, is where they put all the litter bugs, or pollueurs. You DON'T want to drop trash on French beaches or they'll toss you in a cave. (Not really. But could it put a stop to litter bugs?)

Sentier sign

This-a-way or That-a-way? Par ici or Par là?


 Back at the port de La Madrague. Look at that scooter. Some people know how to get around!

If you enjoy French Word-A-Day, maybe a friend would to? Forward this post, and your friend can sign up here.

The hat is great protection from the sun, and the bandana keeps my neck from turning rooster red. Tell me your sun protection tips. I'm always interested!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Pictures of our yard

Kale blossoms (c) Kristin Espinasse

Kale blossoms! So many surprises outside. Last night my ears were tickled by the call of les grenouilles, or frogs. And then there were those poppies I told you about....

Springtime is here! Forgive me for not posting a word or a sound file today--but there will be vocabulary sprinkled throughout this post--like seeds scattered in the back yard potager


La Guetteuse. Our, spotter (or watcher or guetteur) Braise. She's as territorial as any female! Every gal needs boundaries, can I hear you say yea!

barrels (c) Kristin Espinasse

More wine paraphernalia my husband (Chief Grape) dragged home. The barrels are good for catching rainwater. In the background, part of a bed is overturned. "Upended" is a good way to describe the situation here at the moment (week two of the kitchen renovation...)

We are getting creative, washing dishes in the bathroom sink, drip drying them in the bidet, and stocking them in the tub.


You'd rather see a picture of an empty kitchen, than a full bidet, no? 

Euphorbia peplus

When I can't stand the cramped quarters of home any longer, I head out back....

Euphorbia peplus!
Radium weed, I've been looking for you--and here you were are along, next to the old well.


 Like a worker ant, or fourmis, my husband stores up for winter. He's found an original solution for how to stock firestarter! (Re Domaine Rouge-Bleu, don't miss their USA  Wine Tour. Click here to see if they'll be visiting your city (and please give my cousin Audrey a hug, she'll be representing her family vineyard Domaine Banneret)


The charming laundry baskets came with the house. The small panier holds clothespins; the other panier holds le linge. Now if only Mama Braise, my helper, would learn to use them! But who can blame her for stopping to smell the flowers?


Les mufliers, or snapdragons in the back yard. On the right, a metal ladder leads up to the former water tower. Now we have eau de ville, so no more need to store a tank up there. But my mom would like to store a bed up there, and could we put in a nice little balcony for  her too, she wonders? Wonder is good and wandering even better--so lets continue on....


 The fruit cart he dragged home. When you are married to a winemaker they can't help but dream of their own roadside stand. Chief Grape's dream may soon come true.... Meantime, his stand warms up our front yard.


Meantime I dream of seedlings! I've snagged a few of Chief Grape's wine crates and filled them with sticks, then leaves, then soil, then, compost. What seed would not thrive here? 

(P.S. the purpose of Association Kokopelli is to provide access to open-pollinated seeds, as a way to alleviate hunger and promote sustainable food security. --Wikipedia)


"Pop Eye," or poppy! It surely looked like a tulip but it's a poppy (it's got all those lovely blue-black spikes inside). The lesson of this story is: méfiez-vous des apparences (nothing is quite as it seems).

I hope these photos brighten your  weekend. Please send up a good thought for me, too, as these past few days have been a bit of an épreuve, or trial. But as the saying goes: 

Qui ne tente rien n'a rien
Nothing ventured nothing gained.


Anemones for Erin. Please send out bouquets of positive energy to Erin, who has designed the beautiful interior of my book and who has received hundreds of emails from me with detailed changes each time. Erin, you and Tamara (cover designer, book orchestrator) truly are a gift from above. I cannot thank you enough. Here's to the team at TLC Graphics!

  Alain braux

 A shout-out to Chef Alain Braux, who was a tremendous help in editing my soon-to-be released book First French Essais! Please check out this Frenchman's popular and beloved cookbooks: 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.