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Entries from June 2014

Mom goes missing - and What does "quiproquo" mean in French?

Smokey and the sunflower stalk

"Smokey and the Sunflower Stalk." The day Mom flew home our giant tournesol blossomed. But the joy Mom left in her wake turned into something else....

quiproquo (kee-proh-koh)

    : mistaken identity

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav file

Un quiproquo est un malentendu qui fait prendre quelqu'un pour un autre ou une chose pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding in which one person is mistaken for another or one thing for another.


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Yesterday, I received a strange email. Inside was a photo of Mom in a darkened cell. Though the picture was flou, I could tell Mom was smiling and I noticed she had on her travel clothes, including her beloved Frida Kahlo cape--the one she had on when she kissed me goodbye 30 hours earlier.

In the emailed photo, Mom was pictured sitting on the ground with her favorite notebook beside her--le cahier in which she copies her scriptures. (She's almost transcribed The Book of Mark!)


I searched the courriel for a note accompanying the photo but there was none. Then I recognized a prénom above the subject line: Raul. What a coincidence! I thought, She's run into her friend Raul at the airport in Puerta Vallarta--and she's had him use his Smartphone to record and send me her picture, as evidence she's arrived safely.

Owing to the darkened shot, I supposed the photo was taken at midnight, when Mom was scheduled to arrive. It was now 7 a.m. By this time she would have had a good night's sleep in her own bed, beside which her telephone would be ringing on her little nightstand. (I could wait no longer to call her!)

John, my beau-père answered the phone. After our shy hellos, I noticed he still hadn't offered to pass the phone to Mom. That was unusual. 

"What a long trip it's been for Mom..." I hinted, eager to hear Mom tell about the 24 hour journey home to Mexico.

"Yes, I hope her transfers are going smoothly," John agreed.

"What do you mean? She's not home yet?!"

"She gets in at midnight," John pointed out. 

"Yes, midnight--as in 7 hours ago!"

"Oh, God!" John said, and the panick in his voice echoed in the pit of my stomach.

*    *    *

But there was more to the confusion than a misread ticket. There was that mysterious email I'd received, from Raul. Mom knew him from her neighborhood--before he was thrown into the slammer. And Raul, I remembered, had just gotten out of prison.

I thought back to the bizarre email. Why was there only a picture--and no message? I clicked open the email and stared at my Mom. Only now the picture looked very much like a ransom shot!

Panic took over as I calculated the time in which Mom had been missing: over 7 hours! 

Where to begin the search? I emailed Raul.

Careful to keep things breezy, I began with a note of appreciation: "Thanks again for the photo!"--then segued into a positive identification: "By the way, is this Raul?" I'd noticed two prénoms in the sender's line. But one was feminine.... Perhaps it was a joint account and it was Raul's wife with whom I was corresponding? Perhaps I could let her know Mom's been praying nonstop for Raul ever since he was locked up. But before I could type a follow up email, the sender replied:

"Yes, this is Raul. Nice to meet you," came the instant response.

That was odd. We'd already met--back in February 2011 when I visited Mom in Puerta Vallarta. I guessed it was a fault in translation. I decided to follow Raul's lead. More than a lead, he was a lifeline to my dear Mom! 

"Nice to meet you, too!" I typed back, as if it were correct English to carry on telling someone you'd already met "ravie de vous connaître!" 

Then, very unassumingly I pried for information. "Just tried to call my Mom. She is not home yet. Have you seen her today? Was this photo taken last night? Thanks. A little worried."

A moment later Raul replied: "This photo was taken an hour ago. You mom was reading and writing something next to the main entrance from Camino Real airport hotel."

*    *    *

I quickly phoned John to give him the update, adding, "I got this info from Raul. What a coincidence he was at the airport!"

"But Raul's in prison!" John answered. 

I guessed John wasn't up to date about Raul's exoneration. This was no time to point out answered prayers (I'd fill John in another time. Meantime, he needed to hurry up and get to Mom, who'd been waiting, it seemed, at the airport on that dark curb as seen in the photo).
Feeling silly now, for doubting one instant Raul had plans other than to help Mom, I quickly wrote back to offer him an update:
"Thank you, Raul! I just called John. He is on his way to pick up Mom. So glad you saw her and sent the picture."

"You are welcome Kristin. Nice to meet you. Saludos, Raúl."
His language gaffe (the repetitive "nice to meet you") must have been a mistranslation, one that now struck me as charming and innocent. At this point I felt a little ashamed about my far-fetched kidnapping assumption... that is, until I received an unexpected follow up from Raul:

"Your mom is still at hotel. I saw her and told her yo were a little bit worried. :-) You may call her at 1102 extension at Camino Real airport hotel. Regards, Raúl"
On first glance, there was nothing menacing about the note (au contraire, there was even a smiley face!)..... 

And then I called the Camino Real airport hotel only to find out it did not exist!!!
"No, Senorita. There is no Camino Real hotel in Puerta Vallarta!" the switchboard operator insisted.
I hung up the phone. Where on Earth was Mom and what might have happened to her in the 7 hours since the photo was taken. More importantly, was she still smiling?
*    *    *

I wasted no time emailing Raul, who, little by little, added bits and pieces to the missing puzzle. Why wouldn't he give me all the info at once? Would it all add up to a meeting point -- one where I'd drop off a 100 pound sack of pesos. Bills in exchange for Mom? 

The last email I received from Raul said this: "Your mom was at the lobby of Camino Real airport hotel in México City."

Mexico City?
*    *    *
The race was on! Unable to get in touch with John (I'd sent him on a wild hare chase to PV airport) I fired off an email to John's cohort, Stan, who runs Puerta Vallarta's sports fishing and tackle shop--the name of which I'm too prude to type, so go ahead and call me an old maid! Only then we'd both be caught up in this game of assumptions, which up till now got me nowhere in this puzzling question of Mom's whereabouts!!!

As email voices go, Stan's was lighthearted and humorous. He took in the information--Mom, Missing in Action!!--and got right back to me:

No worries, Stan said, John's been in contact with your Mom. And by the way, did I have a minute to shoot the breeze about marketing? (Mom, it seems, had gone on and on about her daughter with the successful French Word-A-Day site....)

With no choice but to trust Stan's report, I let go of all anxieties and launched into a crash course in product marketing! In a nutshell, start a blog already! (Stan informed me he has one. I must have overlooked the name...)

*    *    *
The next day, 48 hours after Mom left France, she answered the phone on her nightstand. Oh, the stories she had to tell--an adventure including airstrikes, missed flights and lovely people met along the way (are you reading, Jacqueline? Mom loved meeting you in Mexico City!).

I laughed and cried--so relieved to hear Mom's voice. And I smiled as she told me of her lucky encounter with Raul--the tall, elegant Good Samaritan whom she met at Camino Real hotel (where KLM had put her up after a late landing!).

"You should have seen this guy!" Mom gushed.
And that is when it dawned on me. I'd been speaking to a stranger all along! A tall, dark and handsome stranger. A deuxième Raul.

*    *    * //
Post note: When Mom learned I'd mistaken the two Raul's, fearing one of them to be a kidnapper, she burst out laughing. "Honey, you have to write the story." 

"It's too complicated. Besides. I'd have to change Raul's name," I pointed out. 

"Oh, he wouldn't care. And remember, he's innocent!"
Raul may be innocent but it's Mom's turn to be thrown in the slammer! She should have sent the first email herself, instead of assuming Raul would fill me in on all the details of Mom's missed flight. Oh well, no use rubbing Mom's nose in it. Instead I'll take a lesson in politesse from Tall Dark and Handsome Raul (Raul, if you are reading, here goes):
Nice to meet you, too! :-)

...because kind words are always worth repeating!

P.S. Stan, if you are reading, you had suggested (a week before) that we pull one over on Mom's humband, John--suggesting Mom may have found another love interest. Alas, Raul (of Mexico City!) was but an innocent bystander who happened to be in the lobby when Mom's eyes locked onto the Smartphone that could communicate a travel update (however failed, however creative!) to her daughter. No worries, John. Mom only has eyes for you!

To respond to this story, click here. I love reading your comments and so does Mom. I sure hope both Raul's will enjoy them, too!

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. Click here for photos


"Maman sans Tuyau" 

Hello Kristin!

Every so often my husband and I check in on your blog, and came across this lovely pic of your mother with the annoying garden hose in the background. I’m sure I'm not the only one who thought, “oh, it’d be easy to Photoshop that out of the picture!” ... Just in case no one did, here’s the pic, sans tuyau….
Merci pour les bonnes nouvelles de Provence! (And now I’ve exhausted my French…)

Thanks, Anna! As you suspected, some readers did send in a photoshopped version after I lamented about the errant hose! ...
Maman sans tuyau
Anna's corrections...
Maman sans tuyau Paul
And Paul sent in this one, adding: I work for Adobe and thought I'd use our Photoshop product to clean that up and give you a little Summer gift.   I'm no pro at PS but was quickly able to delete the hose and take care of some of the washed out effect from the sun to bring out the color in your mom's beautiful dress and face!   :-)

Thanks, Paul! Love the richness of this one. What a gift, indeed!
 Speaking of Paul, two more Pauls helped us to stack the woodpile... (That's Paul, left, and that's my son, Max, top of the stack.)
Garage garden room
You can barely see Paul no. 3--in the right-hand corner. Now have a good look at our garage, located just off the kitchen. Here's my dream: to turn it into a conservatory (just borrowing the fancy English word, still not sure if I've got the meaning right...

I would love for that wall to the right to be glass and iron (greenhouse). Then we could see up to the boulder, just outside it. And, where Smokey's walking, that would be enclosed, with more greenhouse glass/iron. Then one could amble from the kitchen to the garden room! The floors could be left in gravel (Mom's idea) and Jean-Marc would never have to vaccuume. ;-)

What do you think about this project? Comments welcome here.
*    *    *
Still reading? Don't miss My French Life's  HOW TO LEARN FRENCH ONLINE: The best resources and experts. (Good news: French Word-A-Day is listed in the category "Vocabulary With Soul"!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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To take off, to get off the ground. Can you say this in French?

Mom in the garden

Mom's wish before she took off this morning (it could be custom fit to speak to any one of us, no matter our hearts desires!). Read to the end and find out. (Photo of Jules admiring the poireaux, or leeks, which went to seed, beautifully.)

décoller (day-ko-lay)

    : to take off, to leave the ground (flight)
    : to unstick, unglue, blast off


Mom in the garden

Dear Mom,

You look so happy in the above photo, but the truth is I have never seen you so blue. It was Monday, June 23rd, the night before your departure... 


It was your idea to drag out the lawnchairs--including the chaise longue we found earlier, while dumpster diving. :-)

"We can lie out and watch the stars!" you cheered, but the sadness in your eyes gave away your tristesse.

Hipster (2)

 Chin up, chin up! Allez courage!

But you shot through the garden, and I ran after you, snapping these memories, "...until next year, when you return. It'll go by fast!" I swore over and over.

(By the way, there's the little green Aloe Vera sign, left, the one I made you promise to take when you ran into the store to buy me the soothing plant (this after my do-it-yourself skin peel left my nose all ablister! Next time I'll consider having the dermatologist remove the spots. Though I really do think that euphorbia peplus plant may be the ticket for my little problems!)


 Overheard on the lawnchairs: "I just know the sunflowers are going to open the day you leave...."


"It doesn't matter, Honey. Just look at all the blooms we can see today! By the way, Honey, if you post my picture please tell everyone that Karen in Phoenix gave me this dress! She would be so please to see how it looks."

"I will Mom, I promise. And it looks beautiful on you." (Sniff. Sniff.)

Too bad that hose is in the picture. But there's no way I'm stopping to put the tuyau away--not when I can be enjoying every moment with Mom. 

Walking (2)

"Keep your eyes on the horizon, Honey, and never ever look back!"

"OK, Mom. And is there anything else you'd like to say before you leave?"

"Keep building your garden!"

*    *    *

I will, Mom. I'll do my best to keep busy with a valorisant pursuit, one I can share with others. But I'm going to need your to rescue more orphaned chairs to fill up the garden! So unpack those hiking boots--the ones you pulled out of the dumpster--and leave them here. You're going to need them next time we go treasure hunting!



Post Note: Please send good thoughts to Jules. Her 9:30 a.m. flight was delayed when, suddenly, Air France's air traffic controllers went on strike! She has a long, long voyage ahead of her (now that her flight took off, or managed to décollé, two hours later than scheduled.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Desiderata poem in French and English: lifechanging words


Our 16-year-old set out, yesterday, on a 24-hr voyage. Alone, she flew from Nice to London, then London to Dallas, and on to Denver. Unsure of what to say to my daughter before she left, I slipped the following poem into her travel bag. Photo taken at the Vieux Port in Marseilles, on break from her internship at a couturier's. 

 "D E S I D E R A T A" by Max Ehrmann

Allez tranquillement parmi le vacarme et la hâte
Go placidly amid the noise and haste

Et souvenez-vous de la paix qui peut exister dans le silence
Remember what peace there may be in silence

Sans aliénation, vivre autant que possible en bons termes avec toutes personnes
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons

Dîtes doucement et clairement votre vérité; et écoutez les autres, même le simple d'esprit et l'ignorant, ils ont eux aussi leur histoire.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Évitez les individus bruyants et agressifs, ils sont une vexation pour l'esprit.
Avoid loud and agressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

Ne vous comparez avec personne : vous risqueriez de devenir vain ou vaniteux.
If you compare yourselves with others, you may become vain and bitter.

Il y a toujours plus grand et plus petit que vous.
For there with always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


                                           photo of Jackie taken in 2011

Jouissez de vos projets aussi bien que de vos accomplissements.
Enjoy your acheivements as well as your plans.

Soyez toujours intéressé à votre carrière, si modeste soit-elle
Keep interested in your own career, however humble

C'est un véritable atout dans les prospérités changeantes du temps
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Soyez prudent dans vos affaires car le monde est plein de ruses
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery

Mais ne soyez pas aveugle en ce qui concerne la vertu qui existe ;
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

Plusieurs individus recherchent les grands idéaux ;
Many persons strive for high ideals;

Et partout la vie est remplie d'héroïsme.
And everywhere life is full of heroism

Soyez vous-même. Surtout n'affectez pas l'amitié.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Non plus ne soyez cynique en amour
Neither be cynical about love

Car il est en face de toute stérilité et de tout désenchantement aussi éternel que l'herbe
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass


Prenez avec bonté le conseil des années,
Take kindly to the counsel of the years

En renonçant avec grâce à votre jeunesse.
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Fortifiez une puissance d'esprit pour vous protéger en cas de malheur
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune

Mais ne vous chagrinez pas avec vos chimères.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings

De nombreuses peurs naissent de la fatigue et de la solitude.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

Au delà d'une discipline saine, soyez doux avec vous-même
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself

                               Jackie, 7 years old.

Vous êtes un enfant de l'univers, pas moins que les arbres et les étoiles;
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

Vous avez le droit d'etre ici.
You have a right to be here.

Et qu'il vous soit clair ou non, l'univers se déroule sans doute comme il le devrait
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

La Ciotat 8.16.03 047

                                  With my daughter, 5 years-old then...

Soyez en paix avec Dieu, quelle que soit votre conception de lui
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be

Quels que soient vos travaux et vos rêves,
Whatever your labors and aspirations

Gardez, dans le désarroi bruyant de la vie, la paix de votre âme.
In the noisy confusion of life, keep at peace with your soul

Avec toutes ses perfidies, ses besognes fastidieuses et ses rêves brisés,
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams

Le monde est pourtant beau ;
It is still a beautiful world;

Prenez attention.
Be cheerful.

Tâchez d'être heureux.
Strive to be happy.


If you enjoy this free language journal and find it helpful in any way, help keep it going with a small donation. Merci beaucoup!


Jackie riding a donkey in Southwest France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Bilingual poem that will make you smile

Mom reading paper at the port in Brusc France in a popular café Le Piadon
This photo of my maman really makes me smile. The snapshot was taken in the little fishing village of Le Brusc, at Café Le Piadon.

"Un Sourire"

"A Smile"

Listen to Jean-Marc read this French poem. Click here

Un sourire ne coûte rien et produit beaucoup,

A smile does not cost anything but produces so much*,

Il enrichit ceux qui* le reçoivent,
It enriches the person who receives it

Sans appauvrir ceux qui le donnent.
without impoverishing the one who gives it.

Il ne dure qu'un instant,
It lasts only a few moments,

Mais son souvenir* est parfois éternel.
But its memory may sometimes last for ever.

Personne n'est assez pauvre pour ne pas le mériter.
Nobody is poor enough not to deserve it.

Il crée le bonheur au foyer, soutient les affaires,
It creates happiness at home and sustains businesses,

Il est le signe sensible de l'amitié.
It is the visible sign of friendship.

Un sourire donne du repos à l'être* fatigué.
A smile brings rest to the weary soul.

Il ne peut ni s'acheter, ni se prêter, ni se voler,
It cannot be bought, nor can it be loaned or even stolen,

Car c'est une chose qui n'a de valeur
For it is something which has value

Qu'à partir du moment où il se donne.
Only from the very moment it is given.

Et si quelquefois vous rencontrez une personne
And if sometimes you meet someone

Qui ne sait plus avoir le sourire...
Who no longer knows how to smile...

                         (Left: Smokey's Dad, "Sam", and Mama Braise (BREZ)

Soyez généreux, donnez-lui le vôtre!
Be generous, give him yours!

Car nul n'a autant besoin d'un sourire...
As no one is more desperate for a smile...

Que celui qui ne peut en donner aux autres. 
Than the one who is unable to give a smile to others.



The "Sourire" poem is by Raoul Follereau (1902-1977), who established World Leprosy day and who, throughout his life, shared his compassion for victims of leprosy--as well as for victims of poverty, indifference, and injustice


"Honey moon" in France. Did you get to see it? Where were you, when you viewed it? We were on our front porch, lying on lawn chairs.

  Kristi and kale
Next day in the back yard. I threw on a black top for this picture, after the beige top I had on made for a topless look.... Did you want to see that picture? Hang on, I'll see if I can find it for you. Meantime, some pictures of our dining room and sas (or entry as in front door area).

Our dining room

 We still need to paint...


 I never did keep you up to date on the renovation, which, it turns out, is happening little by little--here and there and you get the picture. See, you did get the picture! 

10 pounds kale

That picture I mentionned. (Only the tank top is nude.) Title: Who needs dumbbells when you've got 8 pounds of kale?

Kristi in the forest garden

Olympic kale torch. (Gardening is a sport!) I am holding a heavy trunk of cabbage which I had to saw off (its leaves were like lace after the insects feasted).

Bon, not sure I've shared the right pictures with you today. As mentioned, my thoughts are hither and thither these days. Off to hug my Mom....


Me and precious, precious Smokey--the son of Sam and Braise, who you saw earlier. I leave you with a photo of our hollyhocks. A French woman once told me: hollyhocks are too hard to grow. You'll never manage. I planted them anyway. Have a lovely, lovely day!

hollyhocks france

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

A trend in France this summer + photos of Ramatuelle

Kristi and jean-marc espinasse
At beach restaurants like this one--and over at the old port in St. Tropez--everyone is asking for un rosé piscine. When June already feels like August, the "glass of rosé on ice" really hits the spot. But if you're like me, you might prefer "de l'eau gazeuse." To each his own, à chacun son goût! (If you are new to this blog, here is a picture of Jean-Marc and me. My husband does the sound files for this journal and I write the stories and photograph. Enjoy!)

"rosé piscine" (roh-zay pee-seen)

    : rosé wine served over ice cubes

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

Pour faire ce qu'on appelle "un rosé piscine," versez le vin sur des glaçons, le tout dans un grand verre.
To make what we call a "pool rosé," pour the wine over the ice cubes, all this in a big glass.


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Decisions decisions! What with the unbelievable encounter Mom and I made last week--and Friday and Saturday's escape to the beach--there are plenty of things to share with you. But something tells me to just let everything percolate, to instead share photos and enjoy this change of pace.

The following snapshots were taken in Ramatuelle, where, ambling alone amidst the winding village paths, I heard sighing....  The quiet and the beauty this village will take your breath away too!  


If you've ever felt out of place, take courage from this wayward branch. What beauty it adds to the picture!


Before I moved to France I would see this color blue in films depicting French life. Blue on the walls, blue on the shutters... and then blue in the Mediterranean Sea over which Jean-Marc married me. (Coming up, now, on our 20th anniversary...)


A white picket fence in America and a volet blanc in France.... 


There are a few imperfections in this photo, but a dreamy something overrides them.


Cool and quiet here in summertime--and a word from our sponsor before we continue...

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. Photos here.

Documenting the color of leaves in June

Ramatuelle, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
All I need is this garden shed-turned-nest. And you? Perfect fpr listening to the birds, and hearing the village come to life with its clanking coffee cups and bonjour messieurs-dames, goodmorning folks.

Ramatuelle, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
So much to do in Ramatuelle, but if you run out of ideas... have a look at the chalkboard outside the Office de Tourisme. Even it is as pretty as a picture.

To comment on today's post, click here.

Share today's post with a friend and help spread the French word. Merci beaucoup.



Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

A food that garantees happiness, luck, health and offspring?

Almond harvest

Happy, lucky, and healthy and we haven't even eaten an almond yet! Just goes to show the power of this fuzzy, favorite French fruit. Read on...

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.

une amande (ah-mahnd)
    : almond

sugared almond = la dragée
almond paste = la frangipane
almond tree = un amandier
sweet/bitter almond = amande douce/amère
almond tartlet = une amandine
... and have you ever eaten a "Pithivier"? A pie made of puff pastry with almond paste inside.
To comment, click here.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentences from Wikipedia.frDownload MP3 or Wav 

  • recouverte d'une peau veloutée au toucher, verte et duveteuse, l'amande est un fruit à coque/ Covered with skin that is velvet to the touch, green and fluffy, the almond is a nut.
  • au temps des Romains, on jetait des amandes sur les mariés pour leur garantir bonheur, chance, santé et une belle descendance. In Roman times they threw almonds at newlyweds, guaranteeing them happiness, luck, health, and many descendants
  • L'orgeat que l'on consomme de nos jours est une boisson fabriquée à partir d'amandes. The orgeat we drink these days is a beverage made partly from almonds.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

We continue this twice-weekly journal with photos rather than essaysThis way I can relax and focus on Mom. Only two more weeks together, time is flying past! Enjoy today's snapshots of our almond récolte and see you in a few more days, with even more pictures :-)

Kissing the almond harvesters

Mom and I returned home to a flurry of activity. Jean-Marc and his friends were tackling the almond harvest. We had been wondering how to approach the chore, hemming and hawing about it for days. Then Guillaume, his brother Benjamin, and Eric (all skiers from Serre Chevalier) showed up! In the no-nonsense fashion typical of les montagnards, or mountain men--the guys brought down the fuzzy shelled fruit in a shower of efficiency!

(There's Mom, kissing Benjamin each time he offers her une amande fraîche.)

Hugging the almond harvesters

Mom's right, a little show of gratitude leads to even more harvested almonds! That's Benjamin's brother, Guillaume, standing on the chair raking in the velvety "fruit."  


But let's not be too kissy-huggy... not with Chief Grape looking on! Good thing his specialty is wine, or he might be called Chief Nut. Just sayin'.


Back to business. Here's Eric, ski instructor and pub owner in Serre Chevalier. Looks like he is holding plyers in one hand. Other alternative nut-crackers included those heavy pétanque balls, which were handy for cracking the shells (see first photo of this series, lower right corner) 


 Trying my luck with the le râteau, or rake. How do you harvest almonds?

More importantly, how do you like your almonds? Roasted, raw and fresh (as devoured here, by the guys), in frangipane (le gâteau des rois...) Comment here, and share ideas on more ways to enjoy almonds!


 Favorite photo of Guillaume: The Art of Almond Harvesting


Benjamin, right, was just a kid when I first met him. Last year, after retiring from professional skiing, he coached the French Women's ski team in Sochi!


In addition to plyers and steel pétanque balls, another alternative to the nutcracker is displayed here. Guillaume, careful with your teeth! 

A message from our sponsors, and one more photo to come...

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Did you enjoy the almond harvest? And learn a thing or two? Here's another tip: A big straw hat makes a charming harvest basket. This one, found at the farmers market, was a gift from my belle-mère, Marsha,  and my Dad

Capture plein écran 16122011 162653Very excited and grateful for the latest review of Blossoming in Provence:

 "I loved this book, and wanted it to go on forever! I'm hoping for a lengthier book from her sometime in the near future." --LuAnn

If you enjoyed this book or the memoir, First French Essais, and would like to leave a review, please click here. Your ratings are so helpful in getting the word out about these books on French life.

To comment on this post, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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to cradle in French + garden photo

Fava beans-snap peas-mom-artichoke
                                     Today is your story. Write on!

Tenir tendrement, bercer

    : to cradle

AUDIO FILE: Jean-Marc recorded the example sentence, below, in lively Marseilles. Enjoy! Download MP3 or Wav

En regardant bien cette photo, on dirait que les fèves, les artichauts, et compagnie sont en train de tenir tendrement ma maman. Looking at this photo, you could say the favas, the artichokes, and the rest are cradling my mom.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Today is "Wordless Wednesday"... except it's Thursday. Please have a look at the photo, above, of my Mom in the garden….and would it be possible for you to write today's story? You know, your interpretation of Mom in the garden, her thoughts at that moment etc.  Make up something good and mix in as many French words as you wish!

Mom and I will be anxiously awaiting all of your stories.  Just post your words here in the comments box. Mom loves this idea; actually she made most of this post up while I was emptying the dishwasher. 

 *    *    *
Sorbonne Confidential Laurel ZuckermanPARIS WEBLOG 
I would like to thank Laurel Zuckerman, author of Sorbonne Confidential. See her Paris Writers News for our talk about publishing and France. I especially had fun with the question Do you have a favorite word in French? Read the intervew here.
Almond harvest 2014
Up next: Three professional French skiers help us get a handle on the almond harvest! To comment on this post, go here.

Share this post and help spread the French word. Merci beaucoup :-)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

en panne

Flax flowers

Never stop receiving these words and photos (this one, with flax flowers, taken in the back yard)

Today's word reminds me we need a Plan B! Recently I've learned that French Word-A-Day is not delivering to all subscribers. Rather than panic (changing mail carriers), I'll continue sending out these posts via Feedburner. But before we lose each other, please take a moment to connect with me here, via Twitter where I may update you au cas où, or in the event....  

panne (pan)

    : breakdown, failure

tomber en panne = break down (car)
une panne d'éléctricité = power failure
une panne sèche = out of gas
avoir une panne d'oreiller = ("a pillow breakdown") to oversleep

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (and today's word and the phrase tomber en panneDownload MP3 or Wav file

Que faire en cas de panne ? 6 consignes pour préserver votre vie et celle de vos passagers si vous devez vous arrêtez sur la bande d'arrêt d'urgence. What to do in case your car breaks down? 6 instructions to save your life and those of your passengers if you have to stop on the emergency lane.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Wearing her Panama hat and her Mexican poncho, Jules inhaled the fresh pine air and wiggled her toes, seemingly oblivious to the exhaust fumes trailing up from the road below. Not two days after she arrived in France, Mom was barefoot on the shoulder of the highway! She may have been shoeless and stranded after my car broke down, but she was smiling bright.

I sat down beside Mom, beneath a shady umbrella pine, and we waited as cars whizzed by. "Here, hold this." I handed over my purse as a makeshift écritoire. Fishing out some old receipts, I scribbled "EN PANNE" across the flimsy paper. Next I colored in the ballpoint letters and tucked the notes on my car's front and back windows, sous les essuie-glaces.

"Lucky for us Max was home and is now coming to the rescue," I chirped, mirroring Mom's  attitude. She was in such a good mood--even after loosing a shoe (her sandal broke back at the pépinière, as we tromped up and down rows of apricot and cherry trees, eventually coming to our senses and choosing a specimen that would fit in my small Citroën).

Mom and the Papyrus 

Shooting the breeze as we waited, I thanked Mom for the tall, leafy papyrus, which was recovered from the passenger seat and now stranded beside us, here on the bande d'arrêt d'urgence. "I've got another pair of sandals for you!" I added, remembering my collection--all gifts from mon beau-père John, who sends them along with Mom each time she comes to visit from her home in Mexico.

When my son arrived, I argued when he got into my car and tried to start it. "I wouldn't do that if I were you! There is a really strange odor... What if the car explodes?!

Max brushed me off and got into my car and--amazingly--drove off! I watched as the car lurched forward and back, all the way up the road. 

"What is he doing?!" 

"He is taking care of things," Mom announced. "He's 19 years old. His friends' cars must break down all the time, Honey. He knows what he is doing."

Five minutes later Max was running back to us, sans voiture. "I found a parking space opposite the mechanic's."

"He's just saved you a hundred dollar tow fee," Max's grandmother pointed out. "Smart kid!"

Normally, when my son's street smarts kick in, I remind him he gets his brains from me (nevermind I was last in my class to graduate). But this time it was normal to give credit to the bright-eyed grand-mère who stood clasping her hands in admiration.

Looking at my son (who finishes high school this week) I had to admit, "You get those brains from Grandma Jules!"

Max won't be graduating last in his class, because he's madly studying for the baccalauréat. Wish him luck! He'll need to pass this high school exam to make it into a university.

To respond to this story, click here


 Son Max, his grand-mère Jules, and the papyrus she gave us. The sign above the tip of Mom's hat is serendipidous. It reads Merci. Thanks Max!

My beautiful maman. Plates full of salad and jam jars filled will water, we're enjoying every moment together, Mom and I! Those are Jean-Marc's muddy docksiders in the background--beside another bouquet of his vineyard wildflowers.


tomber en carafe = slang for to break down on the side of the road
une écritoire = writing tablet
en panne = broken down
un essuie-glace = windshield wiper
la pépinière = plant nursery
bande d'arrêt d'urgence = emergency lane
le beau-père = stepfather, father-in-law

Jean-marc and vines

In other happenings, Jean-Marc scored when a wine nursery gave him a couple dozen orphans! These Tibouren vines are an ancient variety primary grown in Provence. See the babies, above, with their waxy red "hats". The shoots will soon break through the wax and leaves will appear. Presto, a grape is born!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.