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Entries from September 2014

Stepmother or stepmom in French

Marsha in Cassis

I am bookending today's post with photos of my belle-mère, Marsha--in honor of the beautiful and inspiring woman my father married 20 years ago. I dropped off Dad and Marsha at Marseilles International airport today after an enriching, cozy and delicious visit (many great meals in la mijoteuse and many more by the sea, including here at La Plage du Bestouan in Cassis.). 

la belle-mère (bel-mair)

    : stepmother, stepmom
    : mother-in-law 

Today we have the pleasure of reading an excerpt from Marie Houzelle's novel " Tita." Marie and I met at The Paris Writer's workshop four summers ago and I am inspired by her success ever since she rode off on her bike that last day of school. The following story gives many helpful insights into today's word: la belle-mère. Enjoy, and merci beaucoup, Marie!

Mamans et Belles-Mères

an extract from Marie Houzelle’s novel Tita

Tita by Marie Houzelle

Léonie veut aller à la fête (Léonie wants to go to the party). 

Behind the tree there’s a hut with quinces, apples, nuts, some tools and, on a low shelf, a heap of books. I start reading Léonie veut aller à la fête. Léonie, the heroine, is invited to a dance for the first time. Her father, who is a sailor, is away in Africa. She’s excited about the party and would like to wear the dress her father sent her for her birthday, but there are a few snags. Her stepmother, madame Mercier, thinks she’s too young. Then Dora, the stepmother’s daughter, wants to borrow Léonie’s dress. As Dora is much larger than Léonie, the dress might not survive.

The story is good, but I’ve read it before. What catches my attention is the way Léonie addresses her stepmother. Léonie calls madame Mercier Belle-mère. Which is the French word for both mother-in-law and stepmother, and literally means “beautiful mother”. This sounds like a solution.

Because Coralie and I have a problem: we don’t know how to address our mother. She is a belle-mère to our older brothers and sister, but they just call her Odette. Justine even coined a pet name for her: Dette (which actually means “debt”). Coralie and I are supposed to say Maman, but we don’t. Ever. We don’t call her anything. At all. Which might get us into trouble. Because it’s not polite to just say “yes”, or “thanks”, or “please”; you should go on with the name or title of the person. As in “Thanks, Loli”, or “Please, Grand-Mère”. We can’t do it with our mother, we just can’t bring ourselves to pronounce the word maman, it sounds so babyish; so we try to avoid situations where we’d have to.

Now why not call our mother Belle-mère? She is beautiful.

I can’t wait. I run back to the house with the book. I find Coralie in the coal shed, grinding chunks of coal onto her hair with both hands.

“Hi,” she says. “Where have you been? I’d like to be a gypsy. Can you become a gypsy?”

“I guess. Shall I read you Léonie veut aller à la fête?” Coralie wipes her hands on her dress and follows me outside.

On the green bench under the wisteria I read aloud, practicing my Belle-mère responses. I notice that Léonie hardly ever says anything to her stepmother. Most of their exchanges consist in madame Mercier’s giving orders and Léonie’s answering “Oui, Belle-mère."

Then our mother calls from inside, “Tita, Coralie! Lunch!”

Normally, we’d just go. Silently.

But I answer, “Oui, Belle-mère.”

Coralie echoes, “Oui, Belle-mère.”

Our mother doesn’t seem to notice. She never pays much attention to words.

*    *    *

belle-mère beautiful-mother = mother-in-law or stepmother.The adjective beau or belle is used in French for all step and in-law family relationships, probably in order to encourage good feelings that might not arise naturally.

maman what little children usually call their mothers in France. It’s okay for children (other than Coralie and me) but the trouble is, some adults go on calling their parents maman and papa. As a term of address, I’ll bear with it: if someone wants to remain a baby, who am I to object? But you have to cringe when people use these words when talking to and about someone who’s no longer a child. As in “poor man, his papa just died”, or “her maman will come from Brittany to attend her wedding”.

(From Tita’s Glossary)

Marie Houzelle 

Marie Houzelle grew up in the south of France. Her work has appeared in the collection Best Paris Stories, in Narrative Magazine, Pharos, Orbis, Serre-Feuilles, Van Gogh's Ear, and in the chapbook No Sex Last Noon. "Hortense on Tuesday Night" was chosen by Narrative Magazine as one of the five top stories of 2011. TITA, the story of a precocious seven-year-old girl in a small, wine-producing town the south of France in the 1950s, is her first novel. Visit Marie's blog here.

To order Marie's novel, Tita, click here.

Kristi and Marsha
Marsha and me. It is a lucky belle-fille or stepdaughter who giggles with her belle-mère

"Pass the salt," somebody says. 
"Get it your selfie," Marsha smiles, when we are interrupted at the dinner table while taking this photo.

Marsha and Dad parc mugel

Marsha and my Dad at Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat. Did I already show you this photo? On my Instagram or Facebook page maybe....

Thanks for forwarding this post to a friend who might enjoy these French words and their meanings.
A bientôt,

P.S. More about Tita, via this Publishers Weekly review:

In Houzelle's first novel, Tita is a seven-year-old girl growing up in the south of France in the 1950s whose life seems to be defined by obstacles: the many foods that disgust her, the school that fails to challenge her, and parents who struggle to understand her. Tita is precocious and clever, but in some ways painfully inept. She is thoughtful but frail obsessed with rules and rituals, and determined to understand the nuances. Through Houzelle's sharp, straightforward prose (which captures Tita's perspective), the story of how Tita grows takes center stage. She learns the alternatives to those things that have held her back or held her down. She challenges social strictures that she feels are meaningless. She battles her mother to get what she wants, and when sometimes that turns out to be the wrong decision, she acknowledges it. At the novel's end, Tita is still a little girl, but her brilliance, potential, and unusual way of looking at the world will have won readers over.

To read Tita, order the book 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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Favorite French Customs and Traditions (and Quirks)!

Window shutters

Opening the windows pour faire courant d'air -- this is but one popular French custom. Today we are talking about French traditions and quirks so get ready to share your observations here in the comments!

une bizarrerie (bee-zahr-reuhr-ree)

    : a quirk or peculiarity 


Today, following the Favorite French Words post, we are sharing our Favorite French customs and traditions. From habits the French have while eating--to the way they go about greeting--we are sharing our observations here in the comments box

What kinds of things do the French do that intrigue or inspire you? Seen anything quirky or funny or intimidating or bizarre?

Share a cultural curiosity you have seen with your own eyes--or share something you've heard about!

Looking forward to reading YOUR observations about France and French customs. Click here to share something uniquely French


Message to Jean-Marc. Bon anniversaire de mariage, chéri! Given today is our 20th wedding anniversary, I'll share a favorite French tradition: les dragées! You see these colorful sugar-coated almonds on wedding tables--each guest receives a handful of them--and at christenings. (Any celebration is a good excuse to enjoy them. You can order them here, at Amazon.) 

With my very dear Dad in Cassis

Meantime, enjoying every moment with Dad while he is in France! Thanks to my belle-mère, Marsha, for this father-daughter snapshot taken in Cassis. Why the socks, Dad? Oh, I see: "Keeps the mosquitoes from biting!"... :-)

Marsha and Dad Cassis

Marsha and Dad also celebrated 20 years of marriage. Bon anniversaire de mariage!

Mom birthday
And yesterday, September 23rd, was my Mom's 68th birthday. I shared this photo and this message with her on my Instagram:

Celebrating Mom's birthday today. Wish we could be together, dressed in brightly-colored swimsuits, lipstick smeared across our cheeks--daring, finally, to live exactly as we please. (Photo taken today in Sanary-Sur-Mer)

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.

Favorite French Words & next winetasting!


Last winetasting in September is on the 28th at 5pm. We would love to see you so don't be shy--nobody here bites! Email to reserve your seat on the front patio. 

mimi (me-me)

    : cute, sweet, nice pretty

--from the word mignon. Mimi, in casual talk, means "kiss" (un mimi sur la joue = a kiss on the cheek). And in childspeak mimi means chat. (See a whole list of babytalk here)

trop mimi = too cute
c'est mimi = so sweet (or nice or pretty or adorable)
fais-moi un mimi = give me a kiss


Today I need your help. I'd like to spend time with my Dad and Marsha, who've just arrived. So I need you to share the word of the day. Let's make that our favorite word of the day. What word or phrase comes to mind when you think of a delightful French term? What French word makes you smile? To share a favorite French word, click here

Dad and Kristi 2014

Aw, c'est mimi! A sweet moment with my father. Going to enjoy every minute of his visit. Spending time with Dad and my lovely belle-mère, Marsha, will be a mini-vacation. See you sometime next week....

Love you More pillow. I bought that pillow for Jean-Marc. I like to put it out when we have wine tastings. It breaks the ice and lends to the cozy and inviting atmosphere. Get your own Love You More pillow here. Give it to a parent or your sweetheart or your child. Maybe you need one for yourself?

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.

Le quignon - is it your favorite part too?

Pomegranat photo by sam gish

One more winetasting in September--here at home. Join us!
Thanks, Sam Gish, for this snapshot taken at our winetasting. The next meetup is September 28th. Hopefully there will still be flowers on the bougainvillea. Email us today and let us know if you can make it! Confirmations to 

le quignon (kee-nyohn)

    : heel, hunk, or end of bread

Audio FileDownload MP3 or Wav file

Un quignon de pain. Smokey aime bien qu'on lui donne un quignon de pain le matin. A heel of bread. Smokey really likes for us to give him a heel of bread in the morning.

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


Today we're going on a treasure hunt, or une chasse au trésor. So follow the photo captions and keep your eyes peeled for a crusty hunk or heel! We're searching for the tastiest part of the baguette--the one everyone wants, that crisp on the outside soft on the inside QUIGNON.

Somebody's run off with the quignon--and just when I finished making soup! So help me get back the hunk so I can sit down for lunch and enjoy MY end of the baguette!


And we're off! Is that it, barely visible on top of the green mailbox in the garage? No, that's an entire baguette and not un quignon. (I can't use that one. I found it, hard as tooth, at the back of the bread drawer. But it makes a nice vignette over there on the boîte aux lettres, no? Maybe the postman will think he's lucky.


Meantime, pas de chance, I'm still out of luck. And my stomach is growling away! Quignon, guignon, où est-tu? Where are you?

Hey! Just what has Jean-Marc got in the hand he's hiding beneath the edge of the photo. Nice try, Chief Grape. Hand it over! (Photo by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith)

winetasting at Mas Des Brun
What? You say the guy facing you, the one giving the talk on wine, is empty-handed? Alright then, which one of you turkeys is hiding my quignon?

Fine! A little patience will surely produce results. I'm hungry--but I can wait.... 


Comme si de rien n'était (as if nothing was amiss...) Here we are in the backyard, toujours sans quignon. Some very suspicious looking garden visitors, wouldn't you say? (Or is it the photographer? Yah, right, Cynthia. Pretend to be documenting the wine tasting when really all you want is that quignon for your own cup of soup. HAND IT OVER, buddy!)

Crockpot chicken

Meantime, what's this guy doing?! Waiting for lunch, perhaps? Why the anxious look on your face, Smokey? Can't hold the secret any longer? (By the way, thanks, dear readers, for all those crockpot recipes you sent in, here! I've made a few of them already. And this here (pictured) was a suggestion by JoAnna W: "put a whole chicken in the slow cooker..." JoAnna, I will never again cook chicken any other way. Not one gram of meat wasted and broth to freeze for winter!

Bon, chicken soup is waiting. All I need for lunch is that crusty, soft-in-the-middle perfect for dipping quignon!!!


Quick hide the evidence! Is that you woofing down the quignon, Smokey? Well, harrumph! No chicken soup for you! 

Off to see about that 5-week-old baguette on the mailbox -- that is, if the mailman didn't beat me to it. Salut, and see you next time.


The best part about writing these missives is hearing from you. Stop by and say hello in the comments box. And if you enjoy these stories, please forward this post to a friend.

For more stories, get a copy of "First French Essais" here at Amazon. When you buy anything at Amazon, using this link to enter the store, your purchase helps support this free language journal. 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.

Un mijoteuse: a must-have for cool weather comfort!


No picture of a crock pot to illustrate today's word. How about a windowsill, which is sort of in theme with the corresponding story (the first sentence anyway). P.S. This snapshot was taken in Ménerbes.

une mijoteuse (me-zho-teuz)

    : slow cooker

Also: crockpot, crock pot, or cocotte

Audio file / Example Sentence: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (he's recorded it for me while harvesting grapes at Chateau Pibarnon... you can barely hear the vendengeurs in the background :-) Download MP3 or Wav file

Une mijoteuse c'est un "appareil électroménager fonctionnant comme une casserole chauffée à feu doux, permettant la cuisson durant des heures quasiment sans risque de bruler la nourriture." (-Wiktionnaire)

A slow cooker is an electric appliance that works like a casserole heated over slow fire, allowing for hours-long cooking, practically without risk of burning the food.

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

Slow Food

An upcoming visit from my dad and my belle-mère has motivated me to dust the windowsills and dig out the crockpot, two things I don't think about doing very often.

Oh, I like the slow cooker alright. If I didn't tend to complicate things I might use it more often. But after learning that some ingredients need to be sauteed first--and that all food must be room temperature before adding to the crockpot, I realize one-pot cooking is too detail oriented for me!

That's sure not how Dad made it sound--years ago, when he was a bachelor once again. Back then he raved about the one-pot method of cooking. "Just toss everything in, put the top on, and set the timer. Nothing to it!" Dad would then leave for his 8-hour work day at Boeing, and return home to the warmth and comforting aroma of beef stew.

"You've got to have one of these!" Dad urged, offering to buy me one if I didn't mind carrying it on the plane back to France. Back then I must've preferred to bring back loads of peanut butter, Carmex, 501 jeans and any number of things besides a 13-pound crockpot!

Meantime I discovered France's version of the one-pot cooker: la cocotte minute! Funny how it works in the reverse: meals are ready in 30 minutes instead of 8 hours. I soon discovered that no matter what you put in a pressure cooker it tasted like a French grandmother's secret prized recipe! What a wake-up call. Anyone could cook!

But I never felt completely comfortable using the cocotte minute (having read about a female athlete who received 3rd degree burns after the pressure cooker exploded). So when my cocotte minute bit the dust after 10 years, I began wishing for Dad's slow cooker. 

Certain they didn't exist here (never having seen them anywhere in France) I almost gave up, until my dear friend Doreen (remember The Dirt Divas?) brought one back from England for me. It was huge! "How did you get it here?" I asked.

"Dave drove it back in our station wagon!" (I see, the English use crock pots, too!)

While it wasn't as big as Dave's station wagon, it was large enough to make chili for our entire harvest team. I think that's what Doreen and Dave had in mind, after noticing me panic before each harvest season.

They even offered a lengthy cookbook along with it! And therein lies the problem: l'embarras de choix. But it isn't the "embarrassment of choices" that's disheartening, it's all the ingredients and steps! Specifically, it's that bit about having to precook stuff. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a "one-pot" meal? The thought of all the splattering and extra equipment led me to use le four for last night's one-pot meal: gigot de 7 heures. But it's a shame to heat the entire oven for one medium-size casserole. 

Yesterday, in a last-ditch effort I googled "do you need to fry meat before slow cooking?" and realized I'm not the only têtu, or stubborn mule, out there!

And today I'm googling "do you really need to follow a recipe when slow cooking?" I think if I could just cook au pif--or by guesswork--then my crock pot would earn a permanent place on the kitchen counter.

Meantime, if you can offer any inspiration -- some very basic delicious recipes for the slow cooker --then I'll quit kicking my hooves in the ground. After all, this mule is hungry for some comfort food! 

P.S. crockpots do exist in France! They're called mijoteuses :-)

Comments or Recipes
To respond to this post, or to add your favorite crock pot or slow cooker recipes, click here.


Check out this best-selling crock pot if you are in the market for one. You're purchase helps support this free French word journal. No matter which item at Amazon you choose, by using this link to enter the store, you're purchase will count towards this blog.


Jackie and Grandpa Kip

Jackie and Grandpa Kip. Favorite picture of my dad and my daughter.


Photo of Jackie taken last night, in front of the fig tree. The kids love it when we have visitors--for the savory meals that suddenly appear on the dinner table! (Max, if you are reading, come home from Aix tonight. THERE'S FOOD!) 

... come to think of it, this 3-quart crockpot is half the price and perfect for my fledgling for his studio apartment.

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.

Tarpin! How to say "super duper" in French?


2009. With Jackie, when Smokey was tarpin young. Lately everyone's growing up around here! (Picture taken months after Smokey's horrible attack.)

Today's word is listed under "Parler Marseillais," or Marseilles lingo, so it may be a regional expression....

tarpin (tar-pahn)

    : a lot, very 

Would then "super duper" = tarpin tarpin? :-)

Audio File & Example Sentence: listen to Jean-Marc: Click MP3 or Wav

Il fait tarpin chaud. It's very hot!
Il y a tarpin de monde. There's a lot of people here! 


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

Modern English and My Daughter Share the Same Birthdate

If you've followed my Facebook or Instagram page lately, you may have sensed a spell of nostalgie. Since our firstborn flew the coop last week, I've been posting photos of the kids when they were petits bouts de choux. Back when they used to say the cutest things.

"Peur pas!" Max would say to his little sister, giving a whole new meaning to "don't cry!" But when kids hit the teenage years those sweet little phrases turn into gros mots and you wonder, Where did the innocence go?

Nowhere, I'm happy to report. Nulle part!

Driving my daughter home from school, she's in an unusually chatty mood. Perhaps that Huffington Post tip worked ("25 Ways to Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?' Without Asking Them 'So How Was School Today?'" worked!) Currently Jackie's talking about her favorite movie....

"Have you seen Will Hunting?"

It takes a minute to translate my daughter's English--so strong is her French accent. "Yes! I think so. It's with Robin Williams and... whose that other guy?"

"Matt Damon!!!"

"Ah. And you say it's a  good film?"

"C'est tarpin bon!"

"Are you watching it in English I hope?"

"Yes," Jackie says, to my surprise. "Only it's hard to understand."

"Why's that?"

"Because they're speaking in old English. (Here, Jackie's exact words are "l'anglais d'avant.")

"Oh? What year did the film come out?"

"I don't know," my 16-year-old says. "1997?"


*    *    *

To leave a comment, click here. If you like, you might enjoy adding a punchline to today's story. I hesitated over this last line: "That old, huh?" before leaving the end as is. The actual response I gave? A good chuckle!

French Vocabulary

petit bout de chou = little kid
le gros mot = cuss word
nulle part = nowhere
peur pas = fear not
tarpin = very
bon = good 


Winetasting at Mas des Brun
Thanks, Meiling Newman, for this snapshot of a previous meetup. Winetastings at our home are informal and unpredictable. If it rains this Saturday we'll end up inside, as cozy as those sardines in Marseilles' vieux port. To reserve your seat for Saturday's 5 o'clock tasting, email 

First potatoes
Bye for now. Off to make un potage! Planted a potato that had sprouted on the kitchen countertop. Thrilled to find this at the bottom of the bucket! Enough to make one serving of Soupe à l'oseille et aux pommes de terre, using the sorrel from the garden.

My belle-soeur, Cécile's recipe: Stir fry the following. Add water. Simmer one hour.

  • A few finely sliced potatoes
  • handfulls of sorrel
  • some onion
  • a bouillon cube if you have one
  • s & p
  • bay leaf if you have one handy
  • sour cream (optional), to stir in after

Blend, right there in the pan, with a handy-dandy mixer like this one. 

Sack of potatoes
Took this photo near Valréas. Can you explain this set up? Is it a warding off? Or an IOU to the postman? Fodder for a roving photographer? Comments welcome.

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.

Meetup at our place + How to say "fair trade" in French?

Fair trade panama hats

     A shop in the village of Le Castellet, near Bandol.

MEET-UP! Come to our home for a wine-tasting on September 13th or Sept 28th! To reserve your seat, email

le commerce équitable (koh-mairce-ay-kee tahbl)

    : fair trade

Example Sentence
Le commerce équitable est un commerce conçu pour assurer une juste rémunération à des producteurs des pays pauvres afin qu’ils puissent développer leur activité à long terme et améliorer leur niveau de vie. (Fair trade is a business designed to assure fair payment to producers in poor countries so that they might develop their activity for the long term and improve their standard of living.)


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

Anniversaries, deaths, and périménopause. Whew! I think another bullet post is in order... 

  • Happy 20th anniversary Dad & Marsha! Gros gros bisous.
  • Can we talk? Adieu Joan Rivers.
  • From Chief Grape to assistant caveau. Jean-Marc's gone back-to-school at Chateau Pibarnon!
  • Monday = mother-in-law's shoulder surgery. Priez pour elle.
  • Bleu? But my daughter asked for blonde!
  • I love bells! jingle bells. Cow bells. sleigh bells. Everything but Hell's bells.
  • Périménopause, vraiment?
  • Took only two years to realize the local post office has a drive-thru.
  • drive-thru = service au volant. ("service on the fly")
  • When you return an empty pitcher to the frigo, you are giving your mom (or wife) a glass of air with which to quench her thirst on a sizzling hot day.
  • Pickle juice is no substitute for vinegar when washing windows.
  • Just because you signed up for my double opt-in email newsletter does not mean you can automatically add me to your mass mailing!
  • Did the previous bullet sound arrogant or self-important?
  • Walk a mile in another's souliers
  • Non spelled backwards is noN.
  • Always end on a positive note.
  • The cicadas are gone. Hello cricket song! 

Anything to add? I'd love to read your random bullet list. Click here to comment.


gros bisous = big big kisses
adieu = "until God" (goodbye)
assistant caveau = wine cellar helper
priez (prier) = pray
pour elle = for her
le frigo = fridge
vraiment? = really?
souliers (m) = shoes

Zinnia and smokey

Planted dozens of zinnia seeds. Only one took -- giving back a half-dozen flowers on a single plant! Sow generously. You never know who will reciprocate or how generously!

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.

bonne rentree (et bon courage!)

Sunflower tournesol golden retriever smokey
Smokey wishes you all une bonne rentrée. And, naner naner!, after enjoying his breakfast baguette, Smo-smo gets to linger beneath the lazy sunflower whilst Jackie hurries for the bus. How to say "to rub it in" in French?

bonne rentrée (f) (boehn-rahn-tray)

    : happy back-to-school

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download MP3 or Wave file

Saw the following greeting on my friend Zahia's Facebook page. She's been busy wishing her nieces, Meissa and Inès, Bonne rentrée or "Welcome back (to school)."

Zahia writes:

Coucou! Toutes les bonnes choses ont une fin, hélas, je te souhaite de passer une trés bonne rentrée! Hi there! All good things have an end, alas, I wish you happy back-to-school!

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


Merci Beaucoup! 

This morning, and for the first time since summer began, I woke up in a pitch dark room. Gone was the comforting view of the forest and with it the daily wake-up ritual of searching for my favorite tree (the old parasol pine at the top of the hill. When I focus on the curve of that arbre I see the outline of a giant heart. Any anxieties that woke up with me disappear beneath the promise of that tree).

This morning no light, no forest, no heart. The buzz of Jean-Marc's réveil jolted our family into a new reality: la rentrée! Back-to-school for our daughter (the remaining fledgling in our nest) means a new schedule for everyone. No more sleeping in 'till seven. No more pep talks with Mr. Pin Parasol. Funny how each day feels like the first day of class and, waking to the uncertainty of the next 24 hours, we are like small children approaching the giant gates of the school yard. Shaking in our boots our socks fall to our ankles as we stumble forth, into the unknown. Another day.

Recently even a big-hearted pine tree could not coax me out of bed. You know the old ditty: Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my mama said....

Yes, but just what did mama say to do on days like this? To find out the answer I called my Mama and here is what she said:

"Focus on others, not yourself!" The message was delivered firmly but with love.

Facing a new work day, I sucked up and wrote about another's pain, sharing my mother-in-law's situation instead of my own. Next, my thoughts traveled over to you, dear reader, and how you are surely experiencing "days like this." I wondered, Did you, too, dial up my Mom, who gave you the same answer: "Focus on another!" Because that would explain the outpouring of support following the previous post. I did not expect so much sympathy over a seemingly unsentimental subject: email. You must have read between the lines of the story -- when suddenly a heart came into focus

I'm looking out my bedroom window now and the big-hearted tree is finally coming into view. Ouf! It's back! And with it a new day. But I didn't want this day to end before sending you a sincere remerciement. Thank you so much for looking past your own pain and focusing on another's. Your empathy is deeply touching!

This post was supposed to be about back-to-school and the French penchant for wishing everyone bonne rentrée. But we haven't gone too far off theme: "Happy return," after all, is the universal topic, the bonne rentrée everyone's talking about. Yes, many happy returns! May each day be a new day--with new hope and new courage for all. Whatever is hurting you, let it gently blend into this friendly forest and reappear as the giant heart of compassion: the balm to heal all wounds. Bon courage.



French Vocabulary
un arbre = tree
le réveil = alarm clock
ouf! = phew!
un remerciement = thanks
amicalement = yours, best wishes 


  Gloves gants arrangement

Things that make me happy? Decorating my potting stand with vineyard gloves and clothespins. Just looking at this scene brings a smile. Any you? What makes you happy? 

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 Pomegranate tree grenadier and golden retriever
Smokey's mom napping beneath the pomegranate tree... this makes me happy.

The following stories will build your French vocabulary. Need help deciding which story to read? Check out reader comments below.

Ceder le passage 
Phew! I had my passenger's foot firmly pressed on the imaginary brake pedal through this whole post. I don't remember being this way as a new driver. - Karen 

Rendre service
Le vigneron and le paysan of a previous post are excellent stories and great testimonials of life in the senior years. At 81, I can relate to André and his active life. - Herm

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