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Entries from July 2014

lettre de condoleances and a tribute to Mary Glen

Love in the mist
With this flower, called Love in a Mist, we shower the Glen family with our support. May today's words speak for all of us here--all who have followed Tanya's story of the search for her Mom. Missing for five days, Mary Glen was found Wednesday night, having passed away.


le souvenir de temps heureux

    : the memory of happy times

Lettre de Condoléances pour la famille Glen
Sympathy Letter for the Glen family

Dear Tanya and family, 

Words fail to express what complete strangers, as well as those closest to you, are feeling right now for your dear family. Tanya, you introduced yourself in a letter, over a year ago, telling me you had married a Frenchman and were planning on coming to France. You didn't speak French and needed help expressing yourself in another language. Someone (Sandy? Monique?) told you about my language blog.

I may have told you then to rest assured, you are in good company: that made at least two of us who struggled to speak French! And today, having woken up to news about your Mom's passing, I struggle even to speak English.

It was another reader--Trina--who emailed me the news this morning. Like many, she did not know you personally, but the moment she read your story she was with you, avec coeur. Trina writes:

My heart goes out to all of you, to Mary's friends and family. You are all in my prayers.  

Still unsure of what to say at this heartbreaking time, I will use Trina's example. And gathering everyone near--all who are reading--we will borrow words from the French and do our best to comfort you, showering you with our collective sympathies. With hopes that the pain you are feeling will ease, petit à petit, and that you will bravely continue on with your petite et adorable famille, the one you have recently founded. And may your proud father and loving sister be by your side and you by their side, for the remainder of this life. 

Mary Glen, left. Tanya, right, with her father. Kassi, Tanya's sister is in blue. Photo credit: Rebecca Dever at

May memories of your dear Mom carry you gently forward to France and beyond. Wherever you go, your Maman is in your heart. And we thank you for putting her in our own hearts, too. What a privilege to have met your Mom via your photos and words; what a joy to have learned about Mary Glen "the most loving person you could ever meet."

The above words were your own, Tanya, and here are the French words I promised. I will do my best to translate them, but remember, I struggle along with you in this "language of love." Oui, amour éternel, just like a mother's love.

And now--

Que le souvenir de temps heureux vous aide à supporter cette pénible épreuve. Sachez que votre peine est comprise et partagée par ceux qui vous aiment.

May the memories of happy times help you through this painful hardship. Know that your pain is felt and shared by those who love you.

Kristin and friends here at French Word-A-Day


To the Glen family: Every bud on the sunflowers and every blossom on the bougainvillea reaching all the way to the heavens represents our collective faces here in this language community. You don't know us but we stand facing you at this difficult time, extending our support and offering our respect in memory of the beloved and beautiful Mary Glen.

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    
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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

A friend's gone missing. Please help. disparu - appel à témoins - avis de recherche

For Mary-Glen

A reader's Mom has gone missing. With your attention we may be able to help Tanya and her family reunite with their loved one, Mary Glen. Photo taken yesterday, after the sunflower harvest. The drying seeds, little messengers of hope, will soon be on their way to the Phoenix desert.

Three French words and their meanings, just below:

disparu / appel à témoins / avis de recherche

    : missing / seeking witnesses / missing person notice

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

Last night, while reading my Facebook feed, I noticed this heartbreaking post from a reader of my blog. Tanya writes:

Laying here in my parents living room along with my sister, brother and SIL. I can't believe my mom is still missing. The hardest part is not knowing where she is. I pray she is in a hospital as a Jane Doe and not stranded in the hot desert without water, lost and confused. How can this happen?

1-Capture plein écran 29072014 092217
      photo of Mary Glen

I could only imagine the torture Tanya's family was going through, having recently gone through a similar scare. Only, my own Mom was missing for a matter of hours. For Tanya's family, the agony has gone on for nearly three days now.

1-Capture plein écran 29072014 092423
           Mary Glen, pictured left, and family.

Since seeing Tanya's Facebook post--and the AVIS DE RECHERCHE or missing person's notice she posted (click here to see it), I can't stop thinking about Mary Glen. Just moments ago, while typing this post, I noticed a tip was posted on the page--someone may have seen Mary Glen yesterday:

Tina writes:

I'm pretty sure I saw her downtown at Central & Washington at the bus area. She asked me for some change, but I didn't have any, nor realize she was missing until a few hrs later until I saw it on FB. This was at around 3:15pm.

This just goes to show the power of getting the word out and of keeping the faith. According to that post, Mary Glen would have been seen at 3:15pm on Monday--nearly two days after her disappearance! 

Please help Tanya and her family and help get the word out. Do you live in Phoenix or  do you know anyone who lives in Phoenix? You can forward the Missing Persons page (see it here) or this post to your friends.

Via Twitter, or other social media sites, you may post a message and this link:

Do not underestimate the effect your gesture will have on helping to bring Mary Glen home to her loved ones.

   Mary Glen and her dear husband

If you live in Phoenix, please talk to your neighbors, shopkeepers, gas station attendants--anyone at all with whom you can share this missing persons report. Get the word out!

Anyone with information on Mary Glen can call the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit at (602) 534-2121 or email 

For the latest tips you may follow the Facebook page that Tanya made for her Mom, here at Where is Mary Glen? You will also find a helpful post, by Mary Glen's other daughter, Kassi: Lessons this difficult experience has taught their family (a must read for anyone who knows someone with dementia or Alzheimer's).

Thank you so much for your help and prayers and positive thoughts for Mary Glen. And to Tanya's family: keep the faith!


More seeds of hope for the Glen family. Photo taken in Camaret-sur-Argens

Thanks to today's sponsors, who help make it possible to send out these posts.


A close-up of Mary Glen. Her family writes:

Mary is the most loving person you could ever meet. Really. She would give the shirt off her back to help you when you need it. She has the biggest heart you could ever imagine ...Please keep Mary Glen in your prayers and thank you all for your support.

If you have any tips please call the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit at (602) 534-2121 or email 

For the latest tips you may follow the Facebook page that Tanya made for her Mom, here at Where is Mary Glen?

Avis de recherche missing persons
"Avis de recherche", or Mary Glen's missing persons notice. Notice more helpful information, such as the fact that Mary wears glasses. Her age and height are noted here.

Help spread the word. All information or tips to:

  • (602) 534-2121 or email

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.

Reverse culture shock (and a pink flamingo) + Next Winetasting!

Sunflower and pink flamingo
Sunflowers--and come see the exotic pink bird in our garden... at the next wine tasting here at Mas des Brun, August 6th. We hope to see you! Contact for details.

le flamant rose (flamahn rowz)

    : pink flamingo

Audio File: listen to today's word and example sentence, read by Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Flamant Rose. En Camargues, les flamants roses sont des espèces protegées. Pink Flamingo. In the Camargue, pink flamingos are a protected species.


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

"Reverse Culture Shock"

After missing the London-Nice connection, Jackie’s bag made it all the way home from Denver! My  16-year-old was sleeping off her long voyage when Chronoposte arrived with the beat-up valise, but when Jackie awoke her first instinct was to ask for that bag.

“It’s in the garage, Sweety. Have Max carry it up for you.” I left my daughter to root through her suitcase (sur place, for there was apparently no time to wait for her brother!). Moments later I heard a knock on my bedroom door.

“Mom, there’s a surprise for you in the garden….” Jackie said, wearing that crooked smile her father wears when he’s up to something.

I couldn’t help but wonder what my husband (assuming he was in on this) had installed, erected, or otherwise “fashioned” in the backyard. Would it be pleasing to the eye? Would it involve a thick band of silver tape as so many of his solution-inventions do?

Climbing the stone steps beside the garage I followed the girl in cutoffs, my heart swelling as her ponytail swept from side to side. How Jackie had changed in four weeks, after spending time with my sister and family in Colorado and Idaho!

“Mom. I need to take the TOEFL test. I want to go to the University of Colorado, in Boulder!” she announced, almost as soon as her plane landed….

TOEFL? Boulder? Go away from home? But that was a few years away! For now we were here together, here in a garden in the south of France--here on a treasure hunt! My eyes scanned the verger, its floor covered with paille. But nothing looked out of the ordinary … there was the comfrey and the row of chives I’d recently planted, the little plants leaning out of their toilet-paper roll jackets (which were supposed to eventually compost, according to the experts).

With an anxious motioning from my daughter, I moved on to Sector Two, where four raised beds made of local stone held a chaotic forest of herbs and vegetables. “Say ‘hot’ or ‘cold’, and help me find it!” I begged, when suddenly a bright something to my right began drenching my peripheral vision, in pink!


Turning, my eyes met a plastic pink flamingo.

"It’s from Heidi," Jackie pointed out.

Well that was odd, I thought, staring at the unnatural object. Sort of kitch! Normally my sister has better taste than that. In fact she has very good taste! And how did this one get by Brian (Heidi’s fiancé, whose elegant style I’ve always admired). You’d think he would have hinted to my sister to choose something else as a garden ornament!

It would be necessary to hide the thing. But would I remember to pull it out when my sister came to visit? In the words of Walter Scott, “Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” No! The whole scenario was too complicated. I’d have to fess up, let my sister know that this one was a bomb. Not at all my style.

“Heidi said you would understand,” Jackie smiled, eager to know my thoughts.

Understand? Now it was I rooting through the pockets of my mind’s valise, trying to make associations. Pink flamingo… understand… pink flamingo? Little beads of sweat formed over my brow as I came close to failing The Recognition Test.

Was it something to do with our childhood, Heidi's and mine? My mind raced back the the Arizona desert, where coyote and quail and rattlesnakes roamed. Were there pink flamingos, too?

“Mom!” Jackie’s impatience woke me from my reverie. “Heidi said it’s something you (you Americans) do. You put these in people’s gardens … to surprise your friends! 

My mind began to perk up and I was back on the streets of Phoenix, rolls of toilet-paper in hand, laughing with a gaggle of girls as we played a prank on a friend. Once the cactus and the citrus trees and the mesquites in the front yard were covered … we’d leap out of the yard and run like bandits.

I vaguely remembered an occasional pink flamingo in those desert gardens, but it never registered then (at 12-years-old). Except in retrospect. Yes, it was another kind of prank! Not the kind kids were good at (owing to the expense of the plastic birds.). Toilet-paper could easily be stolen from the bathroom!

It was surreal, standing there in my garden, listening to my French daughter teach me a lesson in American Pop Culture. Surreal may well be the definition of reverse culture shock: when something is so intimately familiar to you that you can’t recognize it at all.

"You mean out of all the stuff you bought in America, you managed to cram a giant flamant rose in your suitcase?"

"Aunt Heidi helped me," Jackie shrugged her shoulders and that crooked smile was back.

As we gazed at the kitchy pink bird, I threw my arm around my daughter and broke out into what the French call a fou rire—a serious case of the giggles. That sister of mine. She’s priceless. And so is this cheap pink flamingo!

Would you keep the pink flamingo--and “own it” when your French compatriots come to visit, questioning your sense of style? Or would you plant it in your neighbor’s garden, and so introduce the prank to French culture--which seems to have its own version: garden gnomes! Click here to comment.

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


Not everybody is thrilled with this new arangement. Some are getting their feathers ruffled over it! A pink imposter?

Pink flamingo and corn

Braise ("brez") is not happy with the new setup either, and is remembering a sarcastic French expression: Tout nouveau tout beau (A new broom sweeps clean). Harrumph! Time to chew on an ear of corn, if ever it will grow (another new experiment ... Come see the garden and taste some wine, on August 6th. Email to reserve your spot on the bench!)

A growing photo library - with many French words!
For more photos, be sure to follow our new Instagram page. Click here.

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Edits to this post are most welcome and so helpful here in the comments box.

If you enjoy this French word journal, please share it with a friend. 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!
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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Unlucky in French

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

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

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.

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

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.


"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.


To respond to this story, click here.

Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

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New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and 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.

voler de ses propres ailes

My son Max- favorite car-my Dad-Jean-Marc

Learn even more French via our instagram page, where new photos will include le français!

voler de ses propres ailes
(vo-lay deuh say pro-prz zaylz)

    : to fly with one's own wings (to stand on one's own two feet)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc (cicadas chattering in the background): Download MP3 or Wav file

Souvenez-vous quand vous ou vos enfants ont volé de leurs propres ailes?
Do you remember when you or your children stood on their own two feet?


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

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

Voler de ses propres ailes--it was one of the first expressions my affectionate host family shared when I came to France to study. And now it is Max's turn to fly with his own wings. Though I know he is ready, every maternal fiber inside of me is tightening, as if it would still be possible to shield a grown child from the outside world.

Careful not to link arms, I flutter beside my son as he struts over cobblestone paths in Aix-en-Provence. In a sunny square with a giant stone fountain and a café teaming with life, we approach an historical building, one visibly caressed from the bustle and hum. I wonder if those shutters on the second floor are designed to shut out the chatter which ricochets across the old stone façades, as bullets did in wartime. A plaque at the square's entrance hints at a dramatic scene that must have played out here. Now, where young mens' lives were yanked away, a new life is beginning for a modern-day Frenchman, thanks to those who came before him... and so a mother's mind yammers--from apartment hunting to apocalypse. 

"It's this one here," Jean-Marc says, motioning to a door on the ground level. Flimsy venetian blinds cover a large window beside the entrance. (The French have a thing for outdoor window treatments and it's not uncommon to see door curtains flowing in the wind.) My eyes roam from the second story apartment to this rez de chaussée studio. There are no shutters on this window to block out the noise. But there are bars.

"Bars!" I say, linking arms with my son as we study his new digs.

"Maman!" Max shrugs, but the twinkle in his eyes tells me he's not so bothered by the mothering. "Nobody can break into this apartment," he points out. 

"It's not that!" I lie. "It's just... do you think you can study with this bruit?"

(My husband's sacocheMr Sacks, is photobombing this photo! A fold-out couch, just beside Max, marks the limit of this studio.)

We are now standing in a room so small you'd mistake it for a Galaries LaFayette window display... Beyond the large fenêtre, there are no mannequins--only a couple of parents, a nineteen-year-old Franco-American and a pretty realtor. The four of us are now busy closing a transaction. Tak, tak, tak and fast as that you can sign away your first born....

The hipster realtor--a pretty French girl who might be a mini cougar (?) shakes our hands. "You can move in August 1st! If you need anything at all," she says to Max, "you can call me."

"Do you live around here?" I ask, my hand strangling hers. Why am I suddenly wondering whether she's wearing a bra beneath that spaghetti-strap top? Am I reading my son's mind?

For once, Max is linking arms with me, stealing me away from the scene. As we hurry to the next-door café and score a table, my mind changes channels and I'm thinking about coincidence.

Look at those new glasses he's wearing. How his vision has changed since he last got his eyes checked, during his military registration. Glasses!... I remember the new pair I wore and how fun it was to try on a new persona in a new city, in France....

 "Can you believe that 24 years ago I lived just around the block from you, here in Aix-en-Provence? Imagine that!"

Yes, imagine that.

To respond to this story, click here.

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. 


Thank you for the warm notes of support you sent in, after I wrote about the death of a reader and editor for this blog. There was some doubt as to whether the "Bill" in question was one of our regular blog commenters.  

No, he wasn't. Bill never once sent in a public comment. He sent all corrections privately. A shame, as his notes were so colorful! I have now posted a photo of our friend Bill (thanks to John Newman for sending the picture). There is also an extra section--"In his words"--in which Bill describes himself. Click here to see the updated post.

Find the French words associated with this photo when you view it here at Instagram

To comment on this post, click here. Thank for sharing this post with a friend. More stories in the book First French Essais: Venturing into Writing, Marriage, and 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.


Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs
"God is love," I would say. "Dog is love," Bill would suggest. Today, read about my invisible editor, who passed away suddenly. We didn't always agree, but otherwise got along grammar-warily. Photo of my dog Smokey and his mama, Brez.

hommage (m) 

    : tribute

présenter ses hommages = to pay one's respects
en hommage de reconnaissance = as a token of gratitude

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

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

William Myers has passed away. You may not have known him but, if you have a minute, I'll tell you about the man who taught me "mom" is spelled with a lower case "m" (...sometimes, anyway).

This was but one of our disagreements. But who was I to argue with the Grammar King? Mostly, I kept opinions to myself, firing off a quick Thanks! Edits all in now! each time Bill responded to my newsletters. And he responded to every single one of them since signing on, sometime in 2006.

One day I noticed the cc line in Bill's emails. Who were all those people to whom (yes, to whom, Bill would say) Bill was copying his edits of my newsletter? Some sort of editorial team? 

Soon I got a letter from another blogger. "Hey,he said, "how do you know Bill? Just wondering, cuz this guy just started correcting my posts!"

I recognized the blogger's address from the cc line of those edits Bill was sending me.

Soon after, my own address stood out in the cc line. This time the edits were directed to Anu Garg! Oh no! I didn't want The Wordsmith to associate me with the grammar police and The Accidental Grammar Posse. (Posse? I began to assume the other "cc's" were random writers in cyberspace, all of us rounded up to witness the latest grammar assault! The streak of light connecting our "dots" (or misplaced commas) was a certain Willam Myers. Who was this man?

Myers photo color
                                            The Grammar King.

In the 8 years since Bill began crossing my t's, I gathered bits and pieces of his colorful personality. I wish I could share them all, but here are just a few:

Openminded for one!
It was odd (and finally amusing) how Bill would end his proper English grammar corrections with a string of street slang or rap. (I should search my inbox for an example of Bill's colorful lingo, but given there are 1000s of emails from him, the task would be overwhelming!)

1000s of emails from Bill
Bill, I gathered, was a compulsive correspondant and internet surfer. He collected email addresses to such an extent that I once heard an isolated French wine farmer ask: Who eez zis 'Beel'? The vigneron in question was briefly mentioned in one of my stories. But he was not overlooked by Bill, who tracked him down and nearly cc'd him--along with the rest of us!

Cynical? Playful?
Bill corrected my grammar with a slap-of-the hand voice: "No, Dummy! It's 'its' not 'it's'! he would scold, in 16pt and in red or purple or green (and not "red, or purple, or green"--notice the commas. Bill would have!)

In His Own Words
"I'm a lapsed Catholic & retired lawyer."

Animal Lover
In a recent email to my mom (small "m")--another character he'd tracked down and cc'd--Bill wrote, "I have long had a big thing for homeless animals. I have rescued & been honored & blessed by: Angie, Lacey, Honey, Snowflake and Kabuke...."

Apparently, when Bill wasn't rescuing apostrophes, he turned his attention to misplaced cats and dogs.

That recent email to Mom (capital "m" this time) was, little did we know, his last to her. It included a long rant about the scandalous and exhorbitant price of medication. Bill was desperate to share some price-saving tips: "It will surely reward your dear husband," Bill wrote, "to investigate the deals at Robinhood Family Pharmacy..."

Mom thanked Bill for his note, so touched that he would think of her. Next, she added:

"You have been such a BIG influence on Kristi and her writing all of these years, I do hope you know how much you are appreciated."

How serendipitous Mom's note would be. In it, she managed to thank Bill for me, as I would not get the chance to....

John, a close friend of Bill's wrote to me. "I wanted to let you know that Bill Myers has died.  I know he so enjoyed his correspondence with you and that it gave him much pleasure as he was increasingly confined.  Thank you so much for you kindness."

I recognized John's email from the mile-long cc lines on Bill's earlier notes. I realized, then, not all of the grammar posse were strangers.... Some were very dear to Bill.

*    *    *

Walking my dog through the forest, a tear streams down my face for a stranger I met in cyberspace. It was too late, now, to thank him properly. (Thank God Mom had followed her instincts, praising him affectionately!) 

Smokey tugged at his leash, pulling me forward along the path. How odd it was to be so touched by someone you'd never touched. Through watery eyes I looked around at the blurry forest when suddenly the tree bark came into focus... and then my dear dog's glossy coat, and then the ground beneath my feet. I once read a book about God. And the words come back to me now, in a new light, a light shining on the objects all around me:

I am the bark... I am the fur... I am the pebbles...

As I listened to the voice in my head define God, I pulled a piece of perforated tissue out of my pocket, to wipe my eyes. 

I am the tears... I am the toilet paper that dries them...

I laughed at the voice, which spoke the truth, with humor. It told me, finally, who Bill was. Like each and everyone of us, he is love.

Looking around now, at the tree bark, my dog's fur, the goosebumps on my body, I see it all so differently. I take a deep breath and breathe out to a deeper calm. Life goes on and on.

To respond to this story, click here.


Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. See photos here

Cat in Villedieu

A photo Bill would have appreciated

Smokey and tulips

And another (of Smokey)

Kristi and dogs

And another, of the blogger he helped for all those years. We had in common a love of language and animals. Thank you, Bill, for helping me cross my t's. When you don't write back today, I'm going to notice. Then I'll go out and notice the bark, Smokey's fur, and the pebbles beneath our feet.

To respond to this post, click here. Edits welcome, too....

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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cross-cultural awareness: say it in French, do it often

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse

I made a lovely acquaintance. Don't miss her in today's story. Picture taken in Morocco, where my mother-in-law once lived and where we celebrated her 70th (in 2011).

la conscience multiculturelle

    : cross-cultural awareness

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

Comment développer la conscience multiculturelle et le respect des autres régions du monde?
How to develop cross-cultural awareness and the respect for other world regions?


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

Clumsy? Ignorant? Afraid?: On not letting your mind talk you out of enlightenment

Driving alone toward Marseilles, my pint-size Citroën was whipped to and fro by the Mistral wind. Passing a semi-truck was a chilling experience, but when cars swept by to my left, au même temps, I gripped the steering wheel in terror.

Wouldn't it be ironic to crash on the way to hospital? Just when I began picturing myself in bed beside my mother-in-law--sporting the same drip system as she--I shook my head, putting the brakes on an overactive imagination. I was not destined to be Michèle-France's hospital roommate. I was going to be her visitor!

Only, arriving at St. Joseph's réanimation wing, I learned visiting hours were over....

In the salle d'attente, I waited to know whether hospital staff would make an exception. After all, I'd travelled far to get here--and even kept calm looking for parking when the hospital lot was complet!

Flipping through a fashion magazine, waiting for the staff's answer, a murmuring of Arabic tickled my ears. Two women seated en face were in a lively conversation. Every so often their sentences were peppered with French. 

The older woman wore a traditional dress and a head scarf and her daughter (?) faded jeans and dyed blond hair. She looked my age, en le quarantaine...

I set aside the magazine. Why look at models when you could admire the real thing? Authentic women

"You are mixing languages," I laughed, entering the conversation.

The blond smiled and her mom lit up. Thick gold fillings in Mom's teeth sparkled along with her smile.

"I do the same," I assured them. "Only in French and English--when I talk to my kids."

My waiting room friends giggled, and I thought to tell them about the wonderful movie I'd seen the night before: La Graine et le Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche. Only I was quickly riddled with doubts. To  suddenly bring up an Algerian-Tunisian film... wasn't that, after all, assuming? Or dumb or ignorant or flippant? Along the lines of "Hey, I notice you're North African and I just saw a North African film!!!

Et alors? As if guessing or alluding to another's culture was a no-no. The tricks the mind plays on us to keep us silent and alienated one from the other! So what if I put my foot in my mouth? What was important was to reach out. 

"Where are you from?" I blurted, only to die a twelve-second death when the daughter hesitated.

(One-thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three....)


"Oh, I hear Algeria is beautiful." 

One-thousand four, one thousand five... my new friend was looking at me silently. If she was seeing my thoughts, she was now picturing my great French aunt, who carried around a razor blade in her pocket! A war bride in Algeria, she was poised to slit her childrens' throats, then her own, rather than be killed by a native during la guerre d'indépendance Algérienne. It was a matter of dignity.

The shocking thought was but a flash, part of a great Kaleidescope of images that churn in my mind as it sifts life's experience. Here, now, with the bottle blond and the gold-toothed grandma, a new set of images swirled into the technicolor machine, a mind ever hungry for understanding.

Soon (back in the waiting room) a lively conversation began. As barriers quickly dropped talk turned sentimental. "I don't understand why we all can't get along," the bottle blond from Algeria said. Live and let live. We need only respect one another's religions.

Hallelujah! Inshallah! This was my kind of conversation: away with the small talk, get right down to matters of the heart. But just when we were getting to the soul of things, my telephone rang. It was my mother-in-law trying to talk me out of coming to the hospital.

"Too late," I said, "I'm here. Now if they'll only let me in to see you! I'm waiting to see if they'll make an exception to the rule."

When I hung up the phone, the women across the room were in an excited conversation as they turned to me. "But you should have told us your situation. Come!" said the younger woman, pulling me over to the door where a note had been posted to the wall."

"You need to call this number and they will let you in!"

"But I've missed opening hours..."

"Tell them you've come from very far away!" And, with a smile and a wink, my new friend added, "Arizona, you said? Yes, tell them that!"

Our eyes embraced as we said goodbye to one another. We had so much in common, least of which our homelands in the desert.

 *    *    *

Update: my mother-in-law is doing much better after near kidney failure. She was her regular feisty self when I visited, yesterday, and she swore she'd kick me in the butt -- me donner un coup de pieds aux fesses, if I hung out in her room any longer! So scram, she said, get lost... and bring me a few madeleines next time you visit. This hospital food is for the birds!

To respond to this story, click here.

 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.

Paris window (c) Kristin Espinasse

A picture (taken in Paris) that reminds me of my mother-in-law. I can almost see the stylish interior, inviting us inside for a taste of some delicious olive tapenade. Read a favorite story "Mal Barré" (Up The Creek) about my French mother-in-law. 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 have the munchies, in French + We have a party, I learn a few more lessons...

1-Mas des Brun French wedding anniversary country dinner
Photo (by Pascale Gauthier) of our wedding anniversary dinner, here at home.


    : to have the munchies (a sudden desire to snack)

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

The following story was written in 2014...

On Friday night 45 of our closest friends came over for a sit-down dinner to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Jean-Marc and I weeded our front yard, dusted our window shutters (Spiderwebs? Really?), and rented tables and chairs from the Mairie

Lesson no. 1: Etaler. (Spread out.)

As the guests arrived, I quickly saw what a bad idea it was for the boys to have set the hors-d'oeuvres table on an incline. Not wanting to question our son's 19-year old friends (who we hired to help)--and seeing their pride in their new jobs--I turned a blind eye and hoped for the best. And the guests did their best to cling together at the edge of the drinks table, with only one or two tumbling off the little hill every now and then.

Lesson no. 2: Impose-Toi! (Butt in!)

Because I'm jittery, Jean-Marc insisted he would take care of the party details. So when the hors d'oeuvres arrived--unassembled, in three giant ice buckets (were those tortillas for the spreads? If so which?)--my husband told me to leave it for the boys to work out. "If they have a question, they'll call Vava and Laurent (our friends/caterers)!"

Only, when Vava arrived for the party, she quietly pointed out the ratatouille (in dainty plates across the hors d'oeuvres table) was not for cocktail hour--it was for the main course

Lesson no. 3: Fourchettes, pas cuillières! (Forks not spoons!)

Finally seated, Jean-Marc announced to our 45 guests it was time to pick up our plates and head to the banquet--where the lamb and accompaniments awaited us. Sort of....

We watched as the men at the fire pit handed over plates of roasted meat, but where was the ratatouille? Quick, grab it from the tables in the backyard and dart back to the buffet--scrape, scrape, scrape. Now where were the serving spoons?

Whoops, spoke to soon--I meant forks! Run back to the kitchen and get fourchettes so the guests will quit trying to fling the meat from platter to plate with the help of two slippery spoons!

Lesson 4: On Mange à Table! (We eat at the table!)

All calmed down now, with full tummies, I noticed how some of the guests were getting tipsy.... All those special cuvées Jean-Marc brought out--including a 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (grapes we picked before our marriage) had not gone to waste!

Jean-Marc now stood swaying, eating his ice cream behind me as I sat sober as a splash of water, talking to old friends. But every now and then my arm flew up to swat at my husband--who was dripping bright red cassis sorbet as he leaned over me and my new dress!

Lesson 5: Commander un bon DJ. (Hire a good DJ.)

When an uncomfortably-long lull had us lingering at the dinner tables, I wondered Where has Jean-Marc disappeared to? 

"He's fiddling with the sound system," someone explained. Finally, guests began trickling down to the boules court, where a dusty dance floor awaited. 

And awaited... and awaited. The music just wasn't doing it, and it was either the fault of Jean-Marc's smartphone (some music system!) or the fact that all those "request songs" we'd asked our guests for made for lousy dance material.

My poor husband now stood swaying on the dance floor until two lit girls and a faithful old friend joined in. I could no longer stand staring from the sidelines with the audience; it was time to buck up, disengage from the gawkers, and join the offbeat dancers.

Jean-Marc reached out for me, grabbing my hand and twirling me around a few times, when I stopped to whisper in his ear: "No one wants to dance!" I murmured, so as not to utter my true thoughts: they think our party sucks!

"Well," he said--the sparkle in his eyes melting me inside--"then they'll all go home earlier." With that he laughed, a little tipsy, and twirled me around and around. I was charmed by Jean-Marc's words. He was clearly remembering my aversion to all-night parties. And he was telling me, in his own way, that he didn't have to party all night either... but could be happy twirling his sweetheart around and around... till the party poopers went home.

Though my husband's words encouraged me (the only real party pooper in the group), it was still painfully embarrassing to be dancing with the awkward quartet, before a group of gawkers (who were only feeling awkward themselves, given the beat just wasn't calling them forth)... So when the current song ended I wiggled my way, as discreetly as possible, off the dance floor and into the kitchen to check on things.

The counter tops were inch-deep with liquid from all the dirty wineglasses. I now had a perfect excuse to be absent from the doomed dance floor. If anyone questioned my disappearance, I could cite "the flood on the kitchen counter." But once the water was sopped up, back out to the dance floor I went. 

You wouldn't believe the change of scene: disco fever had struck! The men and woman gyrated, twirled, and bucked back and forth across the dusty boules court. Dancing queens every one of them! Our friend Cyril (a former DJ) had thoughtfully taken over. Yahoo!

Lesson no. 5: La Nuit Blanche ne Tue Pas! (A sleepless night won't kill you!)

By 3:30 in the morning the dance floor was still going strong, but I was not. Worried about my neighbors, worried about my dogs (stranded on the balcony above us) and itching to call it a night, I watched nervously as the party carried on and on... right on into our kitchen.

Apparently our guests had an attack of the munchies! Plates of leftovers were pulled from the fridge. And the freezer was raided for leftover ice cream. 

But like a biblical Martha, I busied myself in the kitchen, trying to scrape melted cheese from the wicker platter (19-year-old boys didn't put a plastic sheet down first). Frustrated and wondering when the party would end--by 5 am or 6 or 7 -- noon?) I scraped at the braided bunch of cheesy wicker, finally shoving it aside.

Returning to the small crowd, I studied all the bright faces (5 or 6 friends remained). I noticed people enjoying life. Life was not some number. It wasn't "3 am" or two hours later, or the next day. Life was now, here for the taking. Why not grab it? 

* * *

The next day my mother-in-law lost consciousness. I am quickly finishing this story so I can drive to Marseilles to sit by her bedside. What's important in life? I don't know, but I am learning. 

*    *    *

I am beginning to think my husband is a much nicer person than I. For when--at that melt-down moment at 4:30 am--I said to him "They're still here!" He looked at me and, with a smile, he said, "they are having a good time at the party."

*    *    *

I am learning, from friends  and my husband, that what's important in life is that we help others to have a good time at the party.

Thanks for your thoughts for my dear belle-mère. (Three years after writing this post, and my mother-in-law is doing very well.)

  Bagatelle wedding Jean-Marc Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc, thank you for twenty years together. I have learned so much by your side. 

EMBRYOLISSE cream - used by French grandmothers and makeup artists

FRENCH GOURMET ITEMS - including herbs, mustard, coffee, tisane, chocolate, cakes

FRENCH SHOPPING BAG - made and knit in France!

PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet with a map of the Paris metro!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of 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    
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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Visit our new vineyard? + "hairspray" in French

Sunflower prickly pear blossoms
The sunflower to the prickly pear blossom: "Mousse or Gel?"
Prickly Pear (smacking her gum): "Aqua Net, Sweetie--and a perm every three months!"

la laque (lah lak)


une bombe de laque = a can of hairspray

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

La laque est le produit-phare de toute femme un peu coquette. Hairspray is the star performer of every stylish woman.

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

Last night, over at Facebook, I posted a conversation between a few high-maintenance fleurs in our garden (see the photo and caption at the top of this post). But I was a little startled by an unexpected inquiry that followed...

Raisa wrote:

Kristin, are you guys opening your winery and gardens up to the public? Is that the master plan?

After thinking over Raisa's question, I decided now was as good a time as any to faire face à cette dilemme....

Raisa, we'd like to strike a balance between private and public, 95/5:

95 percent of the time we can walk around in the buff (Jean-Marc), and 5 percent of the time--opening hours--we'd improve on the outfit we're already wearing (i.e., I would be careful to swap pj's for a blouse and slacks). Come to think of it, I can't promise Jean-Marc will follow suit.)

*    *    *


Chief Grape and I are very happy to announce the very first winetasting here at Mas des Brun--followed by a private wine sale featuring selected bottles from Jean-Marc's cellar.

The "girls" in the backyard (Sunflower and Prickly Pear, who we met earlier) hope you'll stop by and say "Coucou," or Hello. They're busy doing their hair in the perm-aculture garden, but you could stroll up the steps and call in, if you like.

July 12th. 4:30 pm is the meet-up time. To reserve your seat-cushion contact Jean-Marc at: or leave a message in this comments box.

Laundry and tapenade

We'll sit at the picnic table and I will serve up my mother-in-law's famous olive spread, or tapenade. (The saturated colors are the fault of my smartphone. Can you blame it for being so inspired?).

Don't forget to reserve your spot. The best seats are to the right, with a lovely vue mer, or sea view! Then again you might prefer gazing at the laundry. To each his own. A chacun son goût.


Improve your French and your day. Thanks to all who wrote in identifying the author to the life-changing text, above. Read Max Ehrmann's "DESIDERATA" in English (with French titles), here

In case you missed the Sourire, or Smile post, you'll find more garden pictures and more "flower girls" here--plus another bilingual poem read by Jean-Marc. 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!
♥ Give $10    
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

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

s'incruster: do you know this popular French word?

Argousier or sea-buckthorn

My smartphone offers these automatic edits. I know they exaggerate the truth, so I'm letting you know that the fruit you are looking at is un chouiard, or "a smig" lighter in reality. As for the taste, I'm not lying when I say these orange berries will make your face pucker faster than French lips!

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


Vite fait, trois mots!
 Quickly, three words for you today--along with the various situations in which I learned them. (You can listen to Jean-Marc pronounce all three words: Download MP3 or Wav file)

(to crash a party, or to overstay one's welcome)

Friday night, after enjoying salmon and leek crêpes with our Texas Wine Importers, we carried on to Chez Henri--a pizzeria at the end of our local fishing port.

"Salut, les amis!" Jean-Marc announced, swooping in on a large table of montagnards. Our friends from the Alps were back! They'd been invited to join some other friends for a birthday celebration.

"On va s'incruster," my husband announced, greeting his friends with kisses. Then, scooting onto an already cramped bench, he signaled for me to do the same.

The table erupted in cheers, with a lot of tipsy revelers motionning for me to join in, "Allez. Assis-toi! A côté de moi!"

Talk about a warm welcome for a couple of gatecrashers!


Overheard near the beach: 

Mes cuisses sont flasques! (My thighs are flabby!)
La peau de mon ventre est flasque! (My stomach is flabby!)
Mes bras sont flasques! (My arms are flabby!)

(Note: To the person who writes in whenever I share weight-related terms--please know I am not promoting dieting (at the expense of young women readers, as you say). The goal here is to highlight spoken French. Hopefully one day we can file away this word as "dinasaur French"!

(Hippophae rhamnoides)
*see picture at the top of this post

Serendipidous! The following comment by Theresa helped me identify a plant I bought last year at the market in La Ciotat. Ever since the name tag fell off I've been trying to remember just what was this local shrub I'd dragged home--and then I read this reader comment:

For your skin, have you looked into sea-buckthorn? It is a great plant remedy for a lot of skin issues, including cancer.

 Thank you, Theresa. This is great news! I had not realized the buisson I got at the market was so suited for my situation! I'm enjoying all the info on this argousier shrub, including this, from Wikipedia:

Sea buckthorn:  various pharmacological activities such as cytoprotective, anti-stress, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, anti-atherogenic, anti-tumor, anti-microbial and tissue regeneration have been reported.

I hope you enjoyed today's change of format. When thoughts are hard to settle, these mini updates are another way to share a few more French words. To comment, click here.

  Max summer job

I leave you with a few photos and a letter from a reader. One of the perks of Max's summer job at the pizzeria? Free food! Max is making plenty of "pies," given that soccer fans are favoring this snack for the soccer Coup du Monde. And what are you eating while watching le foot?

Chère Kristin,

I know you won't remember me, but early last year I sent you a note asking if you knew anything about Maison des Pelerins in Sablet because I wanted to go spend a couple of weeks in the south of France, particularly in the Rhone valley area. You were kind enough to reply and said that while you didn't have any personal experience of it, you had heard some good things. I wanted to let you know that we did go there for two weeks at the end of September and it was truly lovely, the house was larger and prettier that we expected from the photos, with a great little patio and a well-equipped kitchen, the town was tiny and charming and well located and we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting the owners, who were staying in their other property below us. It was a wonderful two weeks, and when I saw the new photos that were posted in today's column, I really wanted to go back there! 

Bien amicalement à vous,

Deborah Page

(Thanks, Deborah. Great to read your review of our longtime sponsor, Maison des Pelerins, in the beautiful village of Sablet. To view photos of this rental home, click here.)

Braise and bee flower

Braise and the bee flower -- the name escapes me at the moment, but they grow here, abundantly, after Jean-Marc used them as a soil amendment (afterwhich we learned these flowers are bee favorites. Good for saving and protecting les abeilles.)


Mom dressed up our picnic table, using the almonds we picked. I love this picture--and loved the comments at Facebook. This photo caption from Sh'reen Morrison really made me laugh:

"Got her back with the help of the CIA, FBI, TSA and all Santa's Reindeer ! Nice work Kristin !"

(If you missed the story of Mom's 10 hour disappearance, read it 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

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