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Entries from May 2016

French strikes--and Lunch at Chateau de Pibarnon with Eric De Saint Victor!

Doing much much better around here. Many thanks for the warmth, understanding and support you have sent. Picture of Jean-Marc and me taken two days ago, at Chateau de Pibarnon. Photos by Phyllis Adatto.

Today's French Phrase: HISSY FIT

    : un caprice

ECOUTEZ: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or  Wav

Caprice. Phyllis a fait un caprice afin que Tim accepte de venir dans le sud malgré les grèves et les pénuries de carburant.
Hissy Fit. Phyllis threw a hissy fit so that Tim would agree to come south inspite of the strikes and fuel shortages.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Some things are more charming--more fiesty, colorful and evocative--in English. One example is this peppery string of words:  TO HAVE A HISSY FIT. Hearing the long-forgotten phrase flooded me with nostalgia and joie de vivre--and "joy of life" would effectively describe the woman who recently uttered those words.

Phyllis, one mighty half of our Texas importers (Tim, her husband being the other half), was telling the story of being stuck in traffic during the current strike which has France at a stand still. Most of the gas stations are dried up after angry workers blocked the gas depots and what pumps are open are hidden behind a line-up of cars queuing for blocks to fill 'er up!

Tim, who was to drive them from the Luberon to the coast of Bandol, was doubtful about attempting the 2-hour trip. But a dwindling gas tank and throngs of disgruntled motorists would not keep Phyllis from going ahead with plans--and meeting Jean-Marc and me for lunch at Château de Pibarnon!!! (And if Phyllis didn't throw that hissy fit, I might have -- firing up the phone in time to faire mon propre caprice! Tim and Phyllis - get your butts down here. Tout de suite!

"Un caprice"--now that's the suave French counterpart to our arm-flapping, messy-haired "hissy fit". Don't you love language? I leave you some photos from our recent feast. Many thanks to the owner of Château de Pibarnon, Eric De Saint Victor, who exudes French elegance and class--and whose down-to-earth presence means he's as comfortable serving home-made deep fried beignets as he is pouring his award-winning reds rosés. 


Before we begin, let's set the scene with these words borrowed from the Chateau de Pibarnon's website:

Overlooking the Mediterranean and grown on undulating hills where olive trees, cypresses, figs, pink laurels, pines and oaks grow, the Pibarnon vineyard truly dazzles the eyes - a bit of paradise in Provence, situated on the highest slopes of the soil of Bandol. The wonderment begins as you start up the small, winding road from the village of Cadière d'Azur to Château de Pibarnon. The road climbs up through the vines and pine trees of Alep, offering unforgettable glimpses of Ciotat bay and Bec de l'Aigle. Then, round a sharp bend, the Pibarnon estate reveals all its charm. On the hill where the optical telegraph linking Toulon to Paris used to be, stands the Pibarnon farmhouse, a perfect replica of an 18th century Provençal farmhouse. Above the farmhouse are serried ranks of vines up to a height of 300 metres and a series of corries facing the peaks of Le Castellet to the north and the resolutely blue sea to the south. From the cellar's terrace, the view is worthy of the Theatre of Epidaurus. Remodelled by hefty bulldozers, the semi-circular vineyard looks like a mighty Greek amphitheatre overlooking Cap Sicié and the Mediterranean. The vines, planted on restanques, centuries-old terraces hand-built by generations of "wall-builders”, resemble hanging gardens suspended on those steep slopes.

Eric De Saint Victor tasting his renowned wines with Jean-Marc, Phyllis and Tim.

The tasty meal began on the front terrace facing the sea. Eric fried these fleurs de courgettes (zucchini flowers) after dipping them in batter. The secret for their crispness was to flatten them in the pan of olive oil (and not stuff with cheese). Then sprinkle gros sel (fat salt) on top. Exquisite. Delicious! Recipe in French HERE. (When I make them at home, I'll translate it into English) Notice how Eric left part of the stems on for a beautiful presentation!

We then moved inside, to Eric's family dining room, where he served us each dish--beginning with this starter: fresh buffalo mozzarella and the tastiest tomatoes I have ever eaten. We passed around the house olive oil and drenched our plates in Bandol terroir and goodness!

Next, right at the head of the table and on a rustic cutting board, Eric carved a trussed lamb roast. "The 'selle" is the best part," Eric said, pointing to his back to describe where on the lamb the "selle" was located.

The selle d'agneau was accompanied by two in-season side-dishes: the first, a par-boiled medley of fresh fava beans, spring potatoes, zucchini and lardons (little bits of bacon). The second, earthy girolles or chanterelle mushrooms, lightly stir-fried in butter--salt, pepper and garden parsley added at the end. We also enjoyed the halved garlic roasted beside the lamb!

Eric and Jean-Marc during an after-lunch stroll through the winery.

Strawberries were served with creamy chantilly. This wasn't the typical whipped cream, but more of a thick sweet soup. Delicious! Only, the dessert was not to be! I watched as Eric poured from a vintage bottle of Pibarnon -- soaking the fraises in wine!

I have not been faced with this dilemma in the years since I stopped drinking. I was not going to erase 13 years of sobriety in the name of strawberries and politesse! I'm not that embarrassable! What would Dear Abby say? Where was the book of etiquette for this delicate situation?

And then...a stroke of bonne chance when Eric lit up a cigarette and went for a quick pre-dessert smoke on the terrace. When his helper, Patricia, knocked on the dining room door, once again, and entered, I flagged her down and pleaded. Next, I watched as Patricia served up a generous bowl of strawberries just for me, and high-tailed it to the kitchen to rinse the wine off of them--making it back before the famous winemaker ever knew the difference!

Ouf! Some people have to worry about which fork goes with which plate. For others it's a very different story. Thank you for reading mine, and I look forward to sharing many more in the coming years. 



Enjoying sparkling water and plenty of olive oil! I wanted to show you the wonderful glass bottle, or "cruet", Eric uses to pour his oil. I have been searching for one for our home and have found something similar, in this glass porron pitcher or cruet.

Special thanks for Phyllis and Tim for the photos. For more pictures--including lunch the next day, here at our place!--visit my Instagram.


Have you read Blossoming in Provence? You will learn so many French words and phrases, tucked inside these thoughtful stories of our French life. It makes a great gift and you can easily order it.

"Always a new French word and related phrases; always a reminder about the value of good living."--Jan Marquardt

"Francophile? Want to live, laugh & love in Provence? This book is for you" --Robin Little

"Quietly moving" --Nancy Paul
Chateau de Pibarnon countryside
Read another post about Château de Pibarnon, learn about Pi-Bar Ephémère, and see what Eric cooked up 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!
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"Unfit mother" in French + A Celebration

The following is a curious choice for word-of-the-day on the eve of our son's 21st birthday, but the term mère indigne popped up in today's story. I then found an old word-a-day soundfile from when Max was 11 years old. So there you have it. An almost ready-made post! Here we go:


    : an unfit mother

ECOUTEZ: Listen to a then 11-year-old Max pronounce the example sentence for indigne:
Download Wav 

Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner.
He who ceases to learn cannot adequately teach.
--Gaston Bachelard

"It may be broken but it tastes the same"

    by Kristi Espinasse

Dear Max,

In a matter of hours you will turn 21--and I will not make the mistake I made a few years back when I forgot to wish you Happy Birthday first thing in the morning.

(Quelle gaffe! And for the record: of course I knew it was your birthday! Especially after that first cup of coffee.)

Almost as soon as I gave birth to you in Marseilles, I learned a most dreadful French term: "mère indigne." It was used by parents in a seemingly joking sense: "Je suis une mère indigne!" French moms would say, exaggerating some oversight in the realm of nurturing (like forgetting to give their child homemade dessert, after the homemade main course). And there I was still trying to figure out how to make soup! (Water + veggies, Max. Don't sweat it.)

I won't go into the fears and regrets I had as a young mother in a foreign country before internet (where last month I learned how to make ravioli lasagna for your sister, who turns 19 in September). No! I would rather focus on my réussites, and one of my and your father's biggest successes (apart from your adorable sister) is YOU!

Now for a confession: I am still trying to figure out what to do for you on your birthday, and I thought, somehow, this open letter could be a part of that--if only to record noir sur blanc, my sincere intentions:

SO MAX, here's the agenda for MAY 17th....

1. Wish you Joyeux Anniversaire -- before the rooster crows! Before that first cuppa!

2. Take you shopping. While I believe less and less in shopping, this is one occasion where I believe in it BIG TIME ("big time," not as in "I'm gonna spend big on you!"... big time as in I won't make Mistake No. 2 again: appointing your sister as personal shopper (I was tempted to recycle last year's gift--the one Jackie picked out and charged on my card--that expensive activities "box" where you were to pick among skydiving, car racing, rafting...but I am not THAT desperate (if practical. And increasingly frugal). Besides, it came as a relief that you would not be jumping out of an airplane. Please choose the Romantic Dinner For Two for you and Mathilde. And hurry up before the coupon finally expires!!).

3. Make you your grandmother Michèle-France's gâteau chocolat! This year I'll use real birthday candles and not the ones I scrambled for in time's past (like those fondue candles--exhibit A, below--swiped from I Can't Remember Where...). And I'll try to make a more uniform cake even if, as I have always told you and your sister, "It may be broken but it tastes the same!"

                         A toothless Max

4. I've elected your Dad to cook one of his specialties: magret de canard with pears in honey! (I'll make the rice to go with it!)

5. Toot-toot! I'm going to ask readers to finish today's post and then come back and read this piece about you HERE.

And then I am going to brag to our guest, Chris--friend and wine importer from Portland, about what a wonderful son you are. I'm going to tell him--make that everyone!--about the rainbow-colored flowers you brought me, yesterday, out of the blue. And about how you and your sister dragged me out of the house, last night, to watch you two play tennis. And about how you taught Jackie all your tricks. And the complicité you two share. What a gift to a parent to see her children enjoying each other's company!

My favorite moment from yesterday, Max, was hearing you call out to me, as you have since you first learned to speak: "Mom look at me! Mom watch this! Maman! Regarde-moi!" Last night I watched you run up to the tennis net and--tucking both feet beneath you as you jumped--clear it! That smile on your face. That delight. That wish, want, or need to impress me. No matter how old you are my favorite words will always be: Look Mom! Regarde-moi! Say it at 30! Shout it at 65! I will be watching you forever--delighting in all you accomplish, whether that be graduating college...or urging your sister to call for a second interview (your encouragement worked! Jackie got her first summer job at the water park!).

Happy birthday, Mr Max. You know I love you. Now don't take me to the cleaners. I'll teach you that English idom when we go shopping later! Because if there's one place you and your sister are complice--or partners in crime--it's at the mall!


Jackie and Max in Aix-en-Provence.

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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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Accidental Cassoulet -- an update

1-Mas des Brun wedding anniversary

The regular edition, with bells and whistles, will be back next week. Photo of our home, from our 20th wedding anniversary, in 2014. Truly A Good Year for Jean-Marc.

Dear Readers,

If I ever wrote a cookbook or a memoir I would call it Accidental Cassoulet. And if I have one regret in my life it is this: not to have cooked from scratch from the age of 12 (when I was a wiz at grating cheddar cheese on a flour tortilla and grilling it in the oven. But one day I started a kitchen fire in our trailer, putting an end to any culinary prowess.)

When I was 14 years old and living in a condo in Carefree, Arizona my mom took me to a naturopathic doctor after I passed out in World Geography class (while giving a speech. I would pass out at one more speech, in college, and again at an airport checkpoint, which makes me realize today that blood sugar wasn't the only culprit. Anxiety has been there all along).

Nowadays, I realize that if I had followed that naturopath's advice to the T, 34 years ago (eat frequently, eat nutrient-dense foods) I might have avoided a lot of soucis, including self-medicating with alcohol. And I might have avoided skin cancer, because when you care about what you put into your body you care about your body). But these difficult experiences have led to a greater understanding and compassion for others.

I do believe, as Hippocrates said, that food is medicine. But if I break my arm, I will go to the hospital. (And I believe that some forms of depression are akin to breaking every bone in your body. And yet, my husband went to work today.)

I'm not sure where I am going with all of this information, except to bring you some sort of update. No, things are not much better. But some things are stronger. Things like faith, hope and marriage. Jean-Marc will get through this. He continues to ask for your prayers.

Meantime, Hippocrates, I'm making accidental cassoulet again today. (Is it an accident the second time around?). I've gotten into the habit of making a roast chicken (setting the chicken on a bed of potatoes and carrots and onions in their jackets). We eat this for dinner. Then, on day two, I put the leftover potatoes into a glass Tupperware for salads, later--some of the chicken, too, depending... Then I add white beans (soaked overnight, then boiled in water, strained) to all the roasting pan juices from the chicken. There are usually bits and pieces of garden rosemary, from the stuffing. I swirl all this together (having left the carrots, which are by now carmelized). 

Food is the way to a man's heart, they say (and to his health...). But they don't talk enough about a man's mind. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for being so open about your struggle. So many pieces of the puzzle of our 22-year marriage have come together in the past two weeks. The roller-coaster ups and downs. At times I have felt my stomach tighten when the train we are on creeks to the top of another mountain, only for my insides to (feel like they'll) drop out when we are hurled over--and now speeding down the opposite slope!

Jean-Marc, the day that I realized that it wasn't you steering (overconfidently to the summit or fearfully to the bottom of the sea), I found perspective and empathy. And the day that you realized it wasn't you steering--but a mood steering--you found the courage and the determination to fight for the wheel.

I have always hated roller-coasters. They make my teeth chatter. They hurt my head. They have been known to come apart in mid-air! They test all of my preconceived notions about preconceived notions. But I will stay on this ride and share seats with you until we reach level ground--and beyond! This isn't a decision. And it is more than a promise "for better or for worse". And because I've lost the direction of this letter, I'd better add, This is much more than Accidental Cassoulet!

Is this, finally, the mystery of love? 

*   *   *


Who looks like they are petrified? And who looks like they have won the French lottery? Jean-Marc and I taking our vows, in 1994.

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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A Ray of Sunshine in French: A message from Jean-Marc

For those who've never seen us before, I thought to include this photo of Jean-Marc and me, pictured under this pink chinese umbrella. We've lost a bit of hair which is understandable in these cloudy times! At first I thought this quote (to our left) was an unfinished sentence. But on rereading it, I now see it in a new light:

"No relationship is only sunbeams--but two people sharing an umbrella and surviving the storms together."

And here is the original quote in English, following the French.
Aucune relation n'est qu'un rayon de soleil, mais 2 personnes qui partagent un parapluie et survivent aux tempêtes ensemble. No relationship is all sunshine, but two people can share one umbrella and survive the storm together.


TODAY'S WORD: le rayon de soleil

    : sunbeam, ray of sunshine

MESSAGE FROM JEAN-MARC in the following sound file. 
Download MP3 or Wav file

Tous vos messages sont des rayons de soleil dans cette période très difficile que je traverse. Je vous en remercie du fond du coeur.
All your messages are rays of sunshine in this difficult period that I'm going through. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


by Kristi Espinasse

In case you were wondering, from the opening quote, whether our marriage is in peril--wonder no more! We are truly huddled together under this umbrella of one man's depression, waiting for the rain and winds of change to blow over so that we may settle onto solid ground again. We have cancelled our family reunion and reduced our life to the essential: love and trust, food, water and sleep. (And medical attention, for those of you who were concerned I might try to pray his depression away.)

Jean-Marc and I want to thank you for your compassion and understanding. I have read aloud your comments to him, clicked on your links, listened to your songs, read your scriptures and quotes and watched your recommended videos. I've starred your notes, researched your suggestions, and if I missed anything Mama Jules pointed it out ("Remove Carol's email address which was accidentally published along with her comment!") Thanks, Mom! Thanks for making me scan 300 comments!

And thank you for each and every word, which merited a reread or, as Mom say, is worth collecting in a hard-bound edition! Yes, that would be a treasure. For the moment, we'll save some trees and hope that others will find, as our family has, comfort and de l'espoir in so many thoughtful words and personal stories of depression. Thank you for your generous outreach and for your courage in sharing.

At this time Jean-Marc feels the strong need to rest, so I am posting a photo of his hammock (which he has only used once!) to remind him to go there. And to go gently through this difficult time.

And to scoot over, so that that large umbrella and I can fit in, snugly. 

*    *    *

Hammock and poppy
Poppies and Olive trees in the back yard

Flower steps

Many rivers to cross. May they be rivers of flowers.  (a favorite photo of Jean-Marc and Mr Sacks)

photo from 2008. Thank you for keeping Jean-Marc in your thoughts and prayers. Sending all this bright sunny compassion back your way.

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.