Previous month:
September 2014
Next month:
November 2014

Entries from October 2014

How to say 'forgetful' in French + today's giveaway

Un oubli? No, I did not forget today's photo! I need to leave out pictures, this one time, in an attempt to solve a mystery: "The Vertical Letters Mystery"....

After reports by readers about text "running down the page"--instead of across it--we are trying to pinpoint the issue. You can help by reporting any formatting glitches to (The photo-filled newsletter will be back next week. Thanks for your patience!)

oublieux, oublieuse

    : forgetful,  oblivious

AUDIO: Listen to Jackie read today's example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav

Qui est sujet à oublier, en particulier les bienfaits reçus : Il est oublieux, mais ce n'est pas méchanceté de sa part. (

One who is subject to forgetfulness, especially in regards to benefits he or she has received: he is forgetful, but it's not spitefulness. 

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

The other day, while scrolling down my Facebook feed, an ad jumped right off the page! Usually I skip right over all the seamless Facebook marketing, having developed an eye for ads that are formatted to look like posts, but this particular "update" struck a personal chord: forgetfulness....

Come to think of it, it wasn't a Facebook ad at all. No--it was a post by a FB group I follow. Yes, that's it, "The Alzheimer's Association." I don't recall why I opted-in for Alzheimer updates, but I could surely trace it back, given a moment to reflect.

But back to my story: I saw the update--highlighting a film about a woman with young onset Alzheimer's. The film poster showed a beautiful woman who appears to be daydreaming (up to now a favorite past-time of mine). Though extremely intrigued and tempted to see the movie trailer, a mixture of superstition and paranoia begged the question: Did a middle-aged rêveuse really want to know more about "young onset" Alzheimer's?

Having been reared by a positive force of nature (Mom), I was taught early on a powerful truth: What you think is what you get..... But if one were truly atteint with young onset Alheimer's this "what you think is what you get" axiom would be no more than a moot point. For one has to consistently remember in order for the mind to forge a new reality.

Doubts aside, I began repeating the name of the film: Still Alice... Still Alice... Still Alice. Only, seconds later, having made it over to the Google box, the second-guessing began.

Just an unlucky coincidence, I thought, returning quickly to the Facebook update in time to re-memorize the film's title. Managing this time to type in the correct name, I landed on another clip--a completely different movie. A hilarious film starring the same beautiful actress! But after watching the talented Julia Moore I began to wonder, "Wasn't this movie clip supposed to be about Alzheimer's? But there wasn't one scene that had anything to do with the subject of forgetfulness!" 

And then it came back to me: having searched in vain for the film, I'd clicked on something else. That's how I ended up here in the first place. 

I never did find the full trailer to "Still Alice." But I did discover the book and instantly downloaded it on my iPad. You can download Still Alice, too, or enter today's book giveaway. Bonne chance!

To win this tender, delicately humorous and informative book, tell me something you have heard about Alzheimer's--or share something you know personally about this disease. It could be a tip, a fact, a belief--anything that would expand our awareness of Alzheimer's.

CLICK HERE to comment. 

"In Lisa Genova’s extraordinary New York Times bestselling novel, an accomplished woman slowly loses her thoughts and memories to Alzheimer’s disease—only to discover that each day brings a new way of living and loving." Download the book or enter the giveaway and win a copy.

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.

Winner announced + the French word "marcotter"

cabanon, autumn, france, provence, vineyard, yellow leaves

Apparently the vine leaves are changing up north, but in our area of Bandol the zinnias and the cosmos and one or two hollyhocks are still in bloom. And can you believe one little sunflower just blossomed, here on the eve of November....

marcotter (mar-koh-tay)

    : (of plants, especially strawberries) to layer--or when plants develop airborn roots, then skip across the garden, replanting themselves.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the first line, below Download MP3 or Wav

C’est encore la bonne période pour marcotter vos fraisiers. Si comme moi, vous n’avez pas été hyper consciencieux sur leur entretien vous devriez trouver une multitude de stolons autour de vos plants. Ces stolons vont vous permettre de multiplier vos fraisiers afin de commencer une nouvelle plate bande de vos fruits rouges préférés.

It's still the right time to layer your strawberries. If, like me, you haven't paid much attention to their care, you should find a lot of stolons around your plants. These stolons will enable you to multiply your strawberries in order to begin a new row of your favorite red fruit! (From Tous au Potager)


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

"Distracted by a Newfound Freedom"

In the potager garden behind the house, the tarragon, sage and sarriette are tumbling over the sides of the rock beds, like lush green lava from a lively pit.

A similar kind of chaos is alive inside of me as I try, once again, to go with the flow of life. In four hours we are expecting some very important guests who might as well be rock stars or Jesus. Being the one-track thinker I am, I've pushed everything aside in order to prepare for this event. Mainly--I've pushed everyone aside, according to the belief that I can only succeed in solitude--I can only organize a perfect lunch in peace, without people around me needing things in the meantime.

And then, suddenly, the world showed up--as if to disprove this conviction. My husband announced his sister was arriving for the week. Next, our son showed up unexpectedly, with his girlfriend. The duo handed me a bouquet of flowers and my son asked, "What's for dinner?" 

As two innocent faces looked on expectantly, I began to realize that now is the chance to make my son's girlfriend feel as cozy and welcome as my mother-in-law had made me feel once upon a time. I set the colorful marguerites in a vase, and watched as my son prepared with care a plate of aperitifs. Next, my sister-in-law arrived with her close-cropped platinum hair and wearing a satin pink bomber jacket. 

Surrounded, now, by my loving family, I still fought the urge to send everyone home. It was getting late and according to my written-in-stone plans I should be in bed by now, resting up for tomorrow's production titled "The Perfect Lunch."

Refocusing on my sister-in-law, I thought of all the tattoos hidden beneath that pink satin bomber jacket and how the soft and hard contrasts of taffeta and tattoos mirrored the face of suffering: hers, yours, mine, my lunch guests....

What if none of us were weaker or stronger than another? What if we all tortured ourselves? The only difference being the time and the occasion? What if everything were OK, after all? Do we dare let everything be?

*    *    *

It's 7:30 am and my guests will be here soon (translation: in 4.5 hours). Last night's dishes have been put away. Normally, at this hour, I'd be standing in the kitchen with a roll of scotch tape. Winding the tape around my right hand, careful to keep the sticky side exposed, I'd be swatting my arms and legs with the makeshift glove, trying to vacuum every square inch of my body, lest one single stray hair fall from my sleeve into my gratin dauphinois! The thought of one of my guests reaching for a hair makes me want to run off to a nunnery and live out my days in the bleach-scented blanchisserie, washing away any an all stray hairs of character till kingdom come.

Instead of so much torture, I have been transported to the backyard garden with my sister-in-law, released from the chains of imagination....

"Can I take some to a friend?" Cécile asks, and fast as that our arms begin wading through the aromatic branches, collecting a bouquet of fines herbes. When we almost yank out a population of strawberry plants, our pace slows dramatically to a stop.

"See how they run across the garden?" Cécile says, as we study the long arms of the fraisiers. "We call it "marcotter". Les fraises qui marcotent...."

For a strawberry plant to regrow itself, it must be partly air-born. That is, its roots must be exposed in order to jump to new horizons. Perhaps we too must be a little up in the air, not so tightly grounded--open to new directions--in order to skip off, or marcotte, to higher ground?  
My lunch guests have already come and gone and if there was so much as a hair in the potato casserole I didn't see it. I was too distracted by a new-found freedom. Hopefully it will stick around a while. Better toss out that stock of scotch tape and make sure it does.


le potager = kitchen garden
la sarriette = savory (herb)
la marguerite = daisy
la blanchisserie = laundry
les fines herbes (f) = mixed herbs

  Bouquet of flowers and mama braise
I should be showing you a picture of strawberries that marcottent. But sometimes it is hard getting one's act together. I will try to post a picture over at Instagram and Facebook. Please join me there!

The winner of Friday's book giveaway is Kathy, who wrote: I was just introduced to a wonderful French cheese, Brillat-Savarin, at a wine-pairing event. It is my new favorite - soft, creamy, YUM!

Thank you all for sharing your favorite cheese. What a chance to learn all about the fromages of France and beyond!


Favorite stories about French life in the book First French Essais--filled with vocabulary-building terms! When you order any item at Amazon, via this link, your purchase helps keep this free language journal going. Merci beaucoup. Click here to shop.

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.

The word for cheese + a giveaway!


Enter to win a copy of the excellent Mastering the Art of French Eating: simply name your favorite cheese, right here in the comments box. Bonne chance!

le fromage (froh-mazh)

    : cheese


en faire tout un fromage = to make a big fuss out of nothing, to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

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

Le terme français « fromage » dérive de l’ancien français « formage » ... (et) signifie : « ce qui est fait dans une forme ». The French word "cheese" comes from ancient French "formage" and means "that which is made into a shape."


We're in for a treat today as my good friend Ann Mah is here to talk to us about le fromage! After reading Ann's delicious memoir, I know we can trust this endearing guide to enlighten us in all things French culinary. Now let's hear what Ann has to say about a less charming host, one that lives and thrives on cheese...

Les Artisons

I learned the word "artison" while eating cheese in St-Etienne, France. Near the end of a lavish lunch, my host offered a groaning board of local fromages. He selected one, tapped some powder off its surface into a small glass bowl, and handed me a magnifying glass. I saw a bunch of crumbs moving constantly, tiny specks that sometimes jumped. “Ce sont des artisons,” — cheese mites — he told me. “Small spiders that live in the cheese.” It was completely absorbing and also a little repulsive.

Ever since that meal, my fascination with cheese mites has only grown. And so, on a recent visit to Paris, I visited one of my favorite fromagers — Michel Fouchereau at La Fromagerie d’Auteuil — to find out more about these microscopic creatures — also called cirons, in French — what they do, and why they’re (sometimes) dangerous.

Fouchereau who, as a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman of France) is one of the most informative sources on fromage, thinks of cheese as an animal. “We raise it, age it, and sell it so it’s consumed at its peak,” he said.

Cheese mites, he explained, are microorganisms that exist everywhere — “even in a draft of air” — but they especially love the damp, cool atmosphere found in the cave d’affinage, or cheese-aging chamber. They flock to cooked, pressed cheeses like Comté, or Cantal, boring into the crust, moving steadily towards the softer center, leaving behind a floral, sweet flavor. If left to their own devices, the artisons will take over a cheese until it becomes inedible. Many hard cheeses are, in fact, treated to deter cirons — the rind of Parmesan, for example, is oiled; cheddar is traditionally wrapped in cloth.

There is one French cheese, however, that welcomes these microscopic creatures as part of its aging process: Mimolette. Produced in Lille, near the Belgian border, it’s a hard, orange cheese with a thick crust riddled with holes. Mimolette starts out like any old pressed cheese, but at one or two months old, it’s taken to a special chamber and inoculated with artisons. The microscopic creatures nibble relentlessly, burrowing into the crust, aerating the cheese, and dramatically reducing the mimolette’s bulk. The result is a dense, salty cheese, with earthy, sweet, almost caramel, undertones. Unfortunately, the excess of mites on Mimolette's surface is considered an allergen and health hazard by the FDA; in 2013 they banned the cheese from the United States. Happily, small imports are once again being discreetly allowed.
        The brique fermier is the infamous St-Etienne cheese

Because fromagers keep a large assortment of cheeses in their cave — soft cheeses (like Roquefort, Camembert, or goat), as well as hard cheeses (Comté, Cantal, Beaufort) — they never allow the mites to linger and proliferate. In fact, they wage a constant battle against the artisons, cleaning the floors and shelves of the cave of their dust-like presence, continuously wiping, turning, and brushing the cheeses. “They never stop nibbling,” Fouchereau said. “We tolerate them, allow them to gather and do their work. And then, we eliminate them.”

                                                               *    *    *
Author picAnn Mah is a journalist and the author of the novel Kitchen Chinese. Awarded a James Beard Foundation culinary scholarship in 2005 , Ann's articles have appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune and the South China Morning Post among other publications. The wife of a U.S. diplomat, Mah currently splits her time between New York City and Paris. Visit Author photo by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne. 

Did you enjoy Ann's story? If so, be sure to share with her your favorite cheese, here in the comments--and so enter to win a copy of her Mastering the Art of French eating. Now out in paperback!

Smokey and cheese

The label reads: Indication Geographic Protégée. Hmmm. Smokey wonders if this is why a heavy window separates him from his favorite snack.

Enter to Win The Book!
And you? What is your favorite cheese? Tell me here, in the comments section, and automatically enter to win a copy of Ann's Mastering the Art of French Eating. Click here to enter.

Laguiole knife
Looking for a super gift--around $30--for a Francophile? These Laguiole cheese knives dress up any cheese platter. We received ours as a wedding present 20 years ago and it is always a pleasure to add them to the plateau de fromage. Only three sets left for this colorful Provencal theme, shown above, but you'll find many more Laguiole serving knives 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.

The word "glance" in French

Majorca spain

How is this post showing up in your email program? This is the third edition to go out since I switched email carriers, to Feedblitz. If you have any formating issues, please contact

un clin d'oeil

    : a glance, wink; hint

en un clin d'oeil = in the blink of an eye, in a heartbeat, in a flash


Audio File: A little ambiance in today's soundfile, below--recorded at the beach in Majorca!Listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Aujourd'hui je vous propose un clin d'oeil de notre petit périple à Majorque.
Today I offer you a glance at our little trek to Majorca.

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

"Accordion Man"

The Mistral wind swept in this morning bringing with it the first hint of winter. I felt the chill in the cellar, earlier, while hanging Jean-Marc's backpack, after we returned from sunny, warm Spain!

Summertime may be over, but don't tell that to the guy with the sac à dos. With his rucksack and his beach bag my husband knows a trick or two about extending the season--and he also knows how to skim right by the carry-on baggage limits at Ryanair!

"You sure you can take the beach bag, too? Ah, I see, it counts as a purse! "I say, answering my own question. I look down at my own two-baggage limit and hope to fit in, too, but the women in line ahead of me are shaking their heads. "You'll never get on with that!" they say, scooting forward in line with their own roller-totes (bags the size of watermelons! Seeing those itsy bitsy valises that everyone rolls on board always gets me daydreaming about the contents inside them: one bikini and a little black dress for the missus? And a beach towel and a deck of cards for Monsieur? What else could you possible fit in there?)

As for me, in my little big roller bag, I have two pairs of pants, two dresses, one pair of heels, a pair of sandals, a bathing suit, two sweaters, pjs, an iPad, les slips et soutiens, three scarves, a floppy hat, two camisoles, an inflatable airline pillow, three long-sleeve shirts just in case, two button-down shirts just in case, a gauzy shirt, a chunky, beaded necklace, and two trousses de toilets. (Oh, and a jean jacket--always handy!)

"Yes, this bag will fit on board, Jean-Marc says to the ladies with the watermelons on wheels. Reaching down to demonstrate, he pushes in the sides of my bag, reducing the size by half! He repeats the accordion demonstration at the gate, when an airline official asks me to put the bag into one of those empty metal boxes. If the bag fits in there, we're good to go....  

Holding my breath, I watch Jean-Marc do his trick.... and we pass! Everyone in line is shaking their heads and I just know what they're thinking: Moi aussi, il me faut L'Homme Accordéon!

I leave you with some photos from our trip, and we'll see you on Friday when this newsletter returns with a very French theme!

P.S. Despite all those things I brought... only a third of the bag was unpacked! So much for "just in case" or au cas où!


French Vocabulary
le sac à dos = backpack
le slip = pair of underpants
le soutien-gorge = bra
la trousse de toilette = toiletry bag
moi aussi = me too
il me faut = I need
l'homme accordéon = accordian man

Jean-marc first swim

 The first thing Jean-Marc wanted to do when we got to Majorca!


Typical wooden boats, perfect for bringing in the local fish such as Hake (a kind of cod) or John Dory.


Alot of mischief at the botanical garden in Soller. For one, some knitters "yarn-bombed" this sign. Inside the jardin, it was wonderful to see the great variety of orange trees and the medicinal garden and the cozy potager where peppers were growing on the vine and the basil plants were the size of dwarf trees!


We didn't have the pleasure of riding the trolley, when walking up and down the port was just as fun.

1-IMG_20141021_163807-EFFECTS (1)

After lunch, we had siestas on the beach, where Spanish accents lulled us to sleep. Waking up to the cry of seabirds is like waking in heaven!

Bike and menu

Apart from Spanish, we heard British and German accents, and most menus responded accordingly--or should I say accordion-ingly....


Accordion Man is tired after lugging my carry-on bag through the airport. At the gate in Mallorca he dozed off, perhaps dreaming about the sand beneath his feet, the warm Majorcan waters, and the next trip: to Lisbon in April? We'll see how many more items will fit in my magic bag... so L'Homme Accordéon can do his nifty trick in front of the pretty ladies!

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.

How to say "special needs person" in French?


Sharing for an abundant future. This post is for my belle-mère, Marsha, who recently welcomed a dear and cherished grandson, "Christian," born trisomique (Down's Syndrome).
Today we ask ourselves how to say "special needs person" in French? Meantime, here is a related word, learned recently while gardening with a group of special needs students in France:

minutieux (minutieuse)

    : careful, meticulous, fastidious

Soundfile: Listen to Jean-Marc read an excerpt from today's story: 
Download MP3 or Wav

Ensuite la venue de Pascal et son groupe du foyer Maurice Dujardin des personnes belles, touchantes et très minutieuses. Next came Pascal and his beautiful, touching, and meticulous group from the Maurice Dujardin center.


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

We left off, in the previous story, in a lush permaculture garden by the sea--where I was telling you about the arrival a mysterious French woman--une femme semencière!

Standing in a patch of pumpkins, she might have been the rebel rose trémière, those favorite flowers of mine--especially the rare ones with dark, coffee bean petals with heart-colored nuances, just like her shiny hair.....

  My new permaculture friend! Here with her daughter.

"Je m'appelle Laurence," the dark-haired woman said, reaching out to shake my hand. Though her features were delicate and lovely, I knew by the frank handshake that here was a person who could get right to the core of things, without complicating matters.

(Now's a good time to segue to the present moment, where I'm sitting at my keyboard wondering how to introduce the next heroes of our story: the group of special needs students who arrived soon after to participate in the seedgathering workshop. But how to say "special needs person" in French? ...

Rosie group
Sorting chickpeas at the workshop "Récolte ce que tu sèmes."

I leave you with Laurence's words, part of her garden journal which arrived in my mailbox soonafter the workshop ended.

Bonjour! (Hello!)

Nous revenons du jardin avec une plénitude totale...
We've returned from the gardin with a total abundance...
La découverte de la ruche et de nos nouvelles amies--quel bonheur !!
The discovery of a beehive and new friends--what happiness!!
Ce matin dès 10H nous accueillons Kristi et Cynthia deux americaines heureuses de nous rencontrer ENFIN... This morning around 10 we welcomed Kristi and Cynthia, two Americans that were happy to FINALLY meet us.

  A tamis, or sieve, to catch the seeds.

Ensuite la venue de Pascal et son groupe du foyer Maurice Dujardin des personnes belles, touchantes et très minutieuses.
Next came Pascal and his beautiful, touching, and meticulous group from the Maurice Dujardin center.
Damien, Sacha, José, Valérie, Jean-Pierre et moi même commençons l 'atelier avec des techniques de récoltes bien différentes et amusantes... Damien, Sacha, José, Valérie, Jean-Pierre and I began the workshop with unusual and amusing ways to harvest (seeds).
Thanks, Jean-Pierre Rossi of MOUVEMENT COLIBRIS for this photo. 

Damien who, along with Laurence, taught seedsorting to us students

BLOWING (on the husks) to KEEP only THE SEEDS...
Des Moments de douceurs et de partages, ainsi va la Vie !! 
Moments of sweetness and sharing, so goes Life!!
 *    *    *
Thank you very much Laurence, for this heartwarming note and to your father, José, to Damien, to Pascal and his big-hearted group. Thanks also to my friend, Cynthia, for coming with me!

French Vocabulary

trisomique = with Down's syndrome
une femme semencière = seedkeeper (or seedcarer) woman
la rose trémière = hollyhock
récolte ce que tu sèmes = harvest what you sow
le tamis = sieve
...and the opening photo reads:
la valise vivante = the living suitcase...
aux semences libres = with free seeds
libre d'échange = free to exchange
non HBF1 = non hybrid
oui à la vie reproductible = yes to reproductive life


Breizh, our 8-year-old golden retriever (and Smokey's mom)

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 pois chiche & new permaculture friends!

Pois chiche chick pea
Sorting and saving seeds with a group of French with special needs. 

Ouf! I think we all landed safely, you and me, after yesterday's switchover. French Word-A-Day has changed email carriers and just in time... I have so much more to share with you: words, photos, dreams and more.

le pois chiche (pwah-sheesh)

    : chickpea   

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

Les femmes semencières ont trié les pois chiches, avant de donner les graines à ceux qui ont besoin.
The women seedkeepers sorted the chickpeas before giving the seeds to those in need.

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

Imagine you had a growing passion for something... but had no (local) friends who shared the same interest. And then, suddenly--serendipidously--you met another person who understood you when you murmured the code word....

"Permaculture!" I said, while showing our guests around our garden. "This is an experimental permaculture garden..." (I always toss in the word "experimental"--which covers a multitude of garden sins as well as ignorance on my part.)

That's when one woman spoke up amidst all the murmuring. "Yes, permaculture...." I cannot recall exactly what Marie said next, so amazed was I by this opportunity.

Marie mentioned there were a few local organizations I might be interested in, and she sent me this flyer when she returned home:


...And that's how I found myself standing in a potiron patch, babbling in French to a sacred femme semencière....

(To be continued)

Potiron patch 
A permaculture and forest garden not far from my house. More in the next post.

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.

Breizh is a name and a place and a dog in France

Cabanon melisse

Exercising restraint after posting a recent slew of dog photos. Enjoy some flowering melisse (lemon balm) and this stone cabanon instead. (More about dogs in today's column...)

Breizh (pronunciation uncertain. Here we say BREZ)

    : in the Breton language, Breizh means "Brittany"

Breizh, le nom breton de la Bretagne, vient lui d'un ancien Brittia. (Wikipedia)
Breizh, the Breton name for Brittany, comes from the ancient "Brittia".

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

Our Dog formerly known at "Braise"

The photo at the end of Monday's post led to a few alarmed emails: "Is everything OK with Braise?" one reader wrote in. Another was more direct, "JUST WHERE IS SHE? WHERE'S BRAISE?"

Clicking shut the emails, wave of guilt rushed over me. It's true, my thoughts began. You always photograph Smokey! You never post pictures of Braise. Why is that? Why?

And here, right now as I type this, caring words from my Dad return, just in the knick of time: "You think too much! Relax and enjoy life.") 

1-smokey tomato

One of the things I enjoy in life--one thing that relaxes me greatly--is photographing our 4-year-old golden retriever, Smokey. Training my lens on him--framing him within a variety of botanical backdrops--helps calm an overactive imagination (read "worry,"not "creativity"). In between writing and doing housework, chasing Smokey around the vegetable patch with my camera soothes a certain "go nowhere" agitation--the feeling that I should be doing something consistently, or face the fact: no matter how busy I'm nothing more than a sack of lazy bones.

Braise hollyhock

Blame the news (pestilence, war, climate change), but lately photographing Smokey has become an obsession--to the point where my social media feeds are clogged with dog.  I'm still reading the news, but these photo shoots help not to focalize on it.

But today's post is not about Survivor SmokeyBack to alive-and-well Braise (Smokey's 9-year-old mama--pictured above!). While she may not be my camera's muse, she became an inspiration in her own right the instant we met her at the dog pound. The year was 2006....

If a golden retriever could be homely she was--there in the shadow of her porcelaine-faced sister. Peering into the small cage, our family--including a then 10-year-old Max, an 8-year-old Jackie--were amazed by the rejected pups. Who would give up a couple of golden retrievers?

"Their mother was a breeder..." the woman at the animal rescue explained. "This was her last portée, or litter, and there were no buyers for these two." 

The trailer floor creaked as we stood up in the office of the animal rescue, where the puppies had just been abandoned. Huddled together now, it was time for our little family to make a decision. We had not set out on a search for goldens ("mutts are more intelligent," my Mom had hinted, when we began our search, which led us, eventually, to the French town of Le Muy--and down a dusty back road to a dog dump.

Kneeling to the floor once again, we gazed into the cage when the runt of the litter--the homely girl who initially cowered back--stepped forward in her little cage, leaving her beautiful sister in her shadow.

"I would like to call her Breizh*" Jean-Marc said, locking eyes with her.

"OK..." I agreed. A big deep breath later and we were barreling out of the dog orphanage, lest the owner come to her senses and reclaim the golden angel she'd given up.

In retrospect we should have taken both goldens. Kept the sisters together. But at that moment in time, one dog was as big of a decision as we were able to make. And when four years later Breizh gifted us with a baby, Smokey (the only male in a litter of 6), it was as though the heavens forgave us our oversight.

As for oversight, it took seven years to learn how to spell my dog's name. When my husband suggested "Breizh", I heard "BREZ" and wrote it down as "Braise" for the stories I would write about her. But I would like to correct that error now and, from here on out, pen our golden girl's name in Breton. "Breizh" is how the locals up north would write it. Breizh it is.   

Speaking of locals, a motley cast and crew is calling me now, brightly-colored characters from the backyard veggie patch! The tomatoes and basil and hollyhocks--and we'll see what else is ripe--they're ready to frame Smokey, once again. I think they're as obsessessed as I am. Anything to take their minds of climate change!

See you next time,



Sarriette (savory), strawberries, basil, estragon (taragon)... they love sharing the spotlight with Smokey. Need to mark "fines herbes" on that upended ash shovel (swiped it from Jean-Marc)


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.

Thursday Meetup! + Jeton (do you know this handy word?)

French token or jeton

Only 54 minutes to complete today's post--in time to profiter or take advantage of the garden before tomorrow's rain! Don't miss the bullet statements below--including information on Thursday's winetasting. (photo taken yesterday, at our local supermarché)

un jeton (zhuh-toh(n)

    : token, chip

Example Sentence from Wikipédia:
Le jeton est une sorte de monnaie ou de méreau aux fonctions multiples.
A token is a kind of money or méreau with many uses.

Correctly pronounce French with the book Exercises in French Phonetics


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

And now for the rest of today's speedy content--and dardar, or super quick! 

  • If you are within a one-hour radius of Bandol (VAR), then come to our Thursday winetasting at 4 p.m.! 10 euros. To reserve your seat, email (put "reservation confirmation") in the subject line. 
  • Today's word, "jeton", was featured ten years ago--along with this story. Enjoy and see you in a couple of days. Off now to find my garden spade...

Do you have anything to say about today's word "jeton"? Have you ever used a token to rent a supermarket caddy, or "chariot," in France? What are some cultural differences at a French supermarket? Comments welcome here.


Flowers awaiting rain

Smokey and I are developing our gardeners' reflexes: all potted plants and flowers go out on the porch before the rain comes. Ha! We remembered this time! 

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.

October 9th meetup + joie de vivre

Parc du Mugel

Photo taken at Le Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat, where today's story takes place. 

October 9th (Thursday) Winetasting 
Join us here at home for the next dégustation. Teetolers welcome (you can sit beside me and my pitcher of Eau de Provence!) 10 euros per person. Email 

joie de vivre (jwah-deuh-vee-vruh)

    : love of life 


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

La joie de vivre est une façon d'embrasser l'existence avec confiance, sentiment proche de la félicité telle que la professait le philosophe grec Épicure qui enseigna l'art de se préoccuper de ce qui crée le bonheur. Joie de vivre is a way of embracing existence with confidence, a feeling close to felicity, as professed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who taught the art of preoccupying oneself with that which creates happiness.

Try Exercises in French Phonetics and learn how to pronounce French.

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

Seated under a giant fig tree overlooking the turquoise sea, my belle-mère and I are amazed by the spectacle playing out before us.

"I can't believe he's doing this!" one of us smiles, shaking her head.
"He's so stubborn," says the other.

Moments before, while undressing at the restaurant table, Dad paused to reconsider his plan. That's when he opted to keep his orange T-shirt.... Only, it isn't really long enough to hide his brand-new Fruit of the Looms, the whiteness of which is blinding!

And the color of the T-shirt only makes him an easy target for wandering eyes. But how could anyone's eyes wander after spotting the man striding out to sea in his pill-white undies?

"The French don't care!" Dad argued, justifying his decision before walking away--bare-legged--from the lunch table. He had made up his mind the hour before, while observing a group of 80-year-olds splashing in the crisp blue sea. Amid the falling leaves of autumn, the silver-haired bon vivants were another striking contrast of the changing season.

To think one could swim at the end of September! Such a display of joie de vivre tickled Dad's soul, creating a thirst for salty water. That thirst grew until he shot up from the table with a pertinent announcement. "I'm going swimming!"

That he did not have his swimsuit with him suddenly became a non-concern. Instead, tough luck turned to pluck as Dad disrobed--beginning with his sandals and chaussettes.

Still lean and standing tall beneath waves of platinum blond hair, the former marathoner met the water. A splash and my father disappeared sous mer, causing the water to ripple and the sunlight to dance over the waves. 

As the Mediterranean sparkled and mesmerized, my thoughts drifted out to sea. One day, I hope to be as dear and innocent and carefree--as the man I once called Daddy. It's there somewhere, l'insouciance, swimming in these genes. 

*    *    *

Dad and me walking in cassis

Dad in his bright orange T-shirt and those socks he discarded before swimming :-) Sorry for the photo repost, but this souvenir snapshot of Dad and me is a tender memory. (And you can really see how Dad is happy go lucky. Or as the French say, how he's got that joie de vivre.)

To respond to this story or post, click here. Read another story about my Dad, in the book "Blossoming in Provence". See the chapter titled Attentionné, or "Thoughtful".

French Vocab
bon vivant = one who loves life (eating, drinking, living)
la chaussette = sock
sous mer = under water
l'insouciance (f) = carefree attitude  


Cassis beach
Another of the beaches along Le Cap Canaille, in Cassis: La Plage du Bestouan.

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.

Handy tool in every French home

House in cassis

Visited Cassis last week with my belle-mère and my father. At La Plage du Bestouan we saw this charming home perched over the sea. More photos and videos of this past week's happenings--at Instagram.

la serpillière (sair-pee-yair)

    : floor cloth, mop, swab

une pompe serpillière = utility pump for draining flood water
la serpillière gaufrée = cloth with a deep waffle pattern, handy for soaking up water

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Serpillière. Pour éponger l'eau de l'inondation nous avons utilisé des robes de chambre, des serviettes de plage et des serpillières. Floor cloth. To soak up water from the flood, we used bathrobes, beach towels, and floor cloths.

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

No Time for Jetlag!


Every since my Dad and my belle-mère left on Saturday, I've been remembering scenes from their visit. For when my family is near--even a stormy day is bright... et c'est le cas de le dire (and you can say that again!)

After Dad and Marsha's arrival and a good night's sleep, we were having café au lait near the kitchen, gazing out the window at the gentle rain when the weather suddenly changed gears. I remember sitting there, hoping for a second cup of coffee instead of a reality check, when my Dad voiced my troubled thoughts: "Do you think we ought to look outside the kitchen door--and check the evacuation drain?"

Opening that door caused one of us to begin running around the house, shouting a French version of  The Sky is Falling. Meantime my belle-mère Marsha spoke calmly. "Do you have a roasting pan?" 

(A roasting pan? To catch the sky?)

With no other bright ideas, I followed Belle-mère Marsha's example. The oven doors flew open, two roasting pans were yanked out, and we went to work sweeping the flow of water into the pans and emptying them into the kitchen sink. 

 An hour and a half later, with the help of my dad, my daughter, and a modest pile of absorbant flood tools (bathrobes, beach towels and floor rags) we managed to drain the kitchen of floodwater.

As Marsha swept the last of the water into the tilted roasting pans, and Dad and I took turns catching it, my belle-mère suggested we might invest in a utility pump for the future.

"You mean they make those?" Why hadn't I thought of it before? Something so powerfully... absorbent!

Wet dog
Old photo of Brez and Smokey. They're much bigger now, with fuller coats...

As if on cue, our two golden retrievers returned from the safety of higher ground (we'd moved them to an upstairs room for safety). Looking at all that golden absorbent hair, I finally had a bright idea of my own. Next time we wouldn't need a fancy pump! A couple of giant yellow sponges that could ring themselves out each time... ça c'est du pur génie! Pure genius!

 *    *    *
Update: Yesterday we had another storm when I was here alone. I had been monitering rainfall all afternoon, anxious that the flood doors would open the moment an important visitor was scheduled to arrive... See the story updates when you scroll down my Facebook page

Flood tools I wish I had!

Dad grele

La grêle! Just after the flood, when the sun broke through. We discovered just what kind of storm was going on outside while we were busy with the flood inside.... Here is Dad measuring the hail! To comment on this post, click here.


Smokey Golden retriever

Smokey's store is open! Today he is selling the Love You More pillows and these citrus trees--which make a home brighter. No matter which pillow or tree you buy at Amazon, when you enter the store via this link your purchase helps support this free word journal. Merci beaucoup! 

Promises to keep by Patricia SandsIn books: have you read Patricia Sands "The Promise of Provence"? The sequel is out: Promises To Keep.

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.