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Entries from June 2016

French Word-A-Day: Brevet + Max's exciting news!

Attempting to pose for a family photo. See the final result at the end of this post!

Today's Word: un brevet

    : diploma, school certificate
    : patent

ECOUTEZ: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French
Download MP3 or DownloadWav

Le brevet. Notre fils, Max, a eu son bts! Le brevet de technicien supérieur (BTS) est un diplôme national de l'enseignement supérieur français. Il se prépare normalement en deux années après l'obtention du BAC baccalauréat. A la rentrée, Max va commencer une ecole de commerce à Montpellier. (definition of BTS from Wikipedia)

Diploma. Our son, Max, has obtained his diploma. The Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS) technician certificate is a national diploma of higher education in France. is usually earned in two years, after graduating with a Bac (baccalauréat). In the fall, Max will begin business school in Montpellier.


    by Kristi Espinasse

As the sky wakes up this morning summertime is in clear view from my kitchen window. Beyond our lounging golden retriever, Smokey, and the pink flowering oleander, all the deck chairs are covered with beach towels--drying in time for the next swim in the sea. There is a bright sunny patch of sunflowers to the left of our wooden deck, and another crowd of tall stalks with yellow-petaled tops to the right. As if this wasn't symbolic enough, of summer, the cicadas have begun singing, or trilling, and the bougainvillea is covering the front of our farmhouse, where butterflies weave in and out of the vine's fuchsia-colored petals.

Sunflowers, cicadas, and papillons, or butterflies--c'est l'été! Another thing synonymous with summertime, is this: French students waiting anxiously for their exam results. One of our children has just received word on his ....


Congratulations to our Max who passed his BTS (brevet de technicien supérieur) and will now go on to a 3-year business school, most likely in Montpellier!

Photo caption from my Instagram: A very relieved and happy son, who just got his BTS (a two year university program that will allow him to get into business school) . Seven out of 13 classmates passed, and Max was was sweating it out until results came in! In more good news, he was accepted into two business schools. (No, the watch is not a present. He is getting ready for work, delivering pizzas by night and working as a lifeguard by day. He will work 7 days a week until the end of summer.)

Voilà. A little compte rendu from our vineyard, where the sunflowers and the cicadas -- with their bright shining petals and their clamoring vocal chords, seem to be celebrating one young frenchman's success. As for the butterflies, they've fluttered over to my daughter and settled inside her tummy.  We'll know her exam results next week. If all goes well, she will receive her baccalauréat ... and go on to design school in Aix-en-Provence.


(find Jackie in the photo at the top of the page...then whisper bonne chance". Hint, she is walking toward baby Christian.

l'été = summer, summertime
le papillon = butterfly
voilà = there you have it
le compte rendu = update, news
bon chance! = good luck
amicalement = yours truly


“There is no better way to experience France than by wandering aimlessly through a farmers' market in Aix or Avignon―the colors and fragrances, the wild strawberries and fresh cheeses. Marjorie Williams's Markets of Provence is indispensable, an authoritative and seductive guide to the best of the region.” ―Luke Barr, author of Provence 1970

One more shout-out for Markets of Provence, after so many French Word-A-Day readers ordered a copy! When you shop at Amazon via any link in this newsletter or blog, you help support French Word-A-Day.  Click here to order Markets of Provence.


Here's one last French phrase for you for today: sage comme une image. Google translate "sage comme une image" as "good as gold". Me thinks "sage comme une image" = "well-behaved as a photo"!


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 help 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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French Word-A-Day: Gourde + summer camp in France

Photo taken this morning, while out on a walk with Dad and Smokey (can you find him in this photo?) My family leaves soon. We are busy making memories. Speaking of les souvenirs, here is a story from 2006, when our son, Max, was eleven years old and on his way to camp....

une gourde (goord) noun, feminine
   1. gourd, flask, canteen
   2. simple (mind), maladroit
   3. Haitian currency (the Haitian gourde)

gourd, gourde (adjective): dull, numb (cold); dopey, clumsy

On appelle familièrement gourde une personne un peu sotte.
Informally, we call someone who is not very bright "gourde".

                                  --from the French Wikipedia, "gourde"

- in the heart of Provence. Click HERE.
2. FRANCE & MONACO rental throughout France & Monaco. Click HERE

by Kristi Espinasse

(From the 2006 blog archives...)

I hope he finds his way to the bathroom at night
, I think, wrapping a piece of tape around my son's new lampe de poche before using a permanent marker to label it "ESPINASSE, Max". One of the first things I learned when I moved to France was that the French always capitalize last names; presently I could use a lesson on how to label dark socks....

I examine the navy blue chaussettes in one hand and my navy blue marker in the other. The dark socks will be difficult to mark, just like the flashlight and the gloves were. Too late to order iron- or sew-on labels. I remember the roll of tape. Sure, it will come off in the wash... but then the packing instructions indicate that there will be no laundry service during the first week of summer camp! I stick a piece of labelled tape on the foot of each sock, happy to tick one more item off the list. I hope his feet will be warm enough.

The light blue bob is easy to mark: ESPINASSE, Max (just under the bill), as is the tube of crème solaire. Will he think to put on his hat? Will he protect his little freckled nose with the sun block? And the back of his neck? The merciless Alpine sun now haunts me.

Max sits on the edge of the bed, twirling his Equipe de France soccer ball. "Mom!" he protests, embarrassed to see me labeling even the little packets of Kleenex.

"But it says here to mark 'TOUTES les affaires'," I explain, waving the list titled "Trousseau de base." My son points a finger to his temple and taps it. A little dingue you are, he signals. His sparkling eyes and toothy smile soften my defense.

I open the smallest bag, and move the new orange toothbrush and the comb aside. I hope he'll find relief up north from his chronic allergies... with that, I slip the tissues in and zip the small tote shut.

When I've labeled every sock, bottle, comb, tube, gourde and packet, I turn to my sparkly-eyed son. I feel like a dope marking so many unprecious items against loss, when all I really want returned from camp is this eleven-year-old boy.

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French Vocabulary

une lampe de poche = flashlight; la chaussette (f) = sock; le bob (m) = cap (hat); la crème solaire (f) = sunscreen; toutes les affaires (fpl) = all of the belongings; trousseau de base = (packing) basics: clothes, accessories, linens...; dingue = crazy; la gourde (f) = canteen

Max is now all grown up, and enjoying summertime with friends. No more camp, but there is always petanque! (Max is in the white shorts and dark blue T-shirt).

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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 help 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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Joie de Vivre + A must-visit beach in La Ciotat, close to Paradise!

Parc du Mugel

My dad and Marsha arrived late Tuesday night--despite the national strikes!  I am taking the next two weeks off to enjoy every minute with family. Today's post was written during their last visit in September of 2014. Photo taken at Le Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat, where today's story takes place.

TODAY'S WORD: joie de vivre (jwah-deuh-vee-vruh)

    : love of life

: 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.


    by Kristi 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 :-)


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.

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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 help 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!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Pouponner: How Do YOU care for your guests? (And vice versa). Send tips!

A homemade tart by my mother-in-law offers a loving touch. I want my American family to feel cared for--pouponné!--when they stay with me this month. Tell us what makes you most comfortable when you are a guest in someone's home. Conversely, tell us ways you try to be a good guest. Click HERE to comment.


    : to dote, to look after

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

Quand vous avez des invités à la maison, comment faites-vous pour les pouponner?
When you have guests at the house, how do you dote after them?


     by Kristi Espinasse

My mind is reeling with images of my brother-in-law in our bathtub. Now that I have your attention, would you please help me with my current obsession? (No, it is not my hunky beau-frère. It is my hunky French bathroom--the one that adjoins our bedroom (never mind you have to walk across the TV room and the foyer to reach it!). I love its original (and rough!) features: 50's bathtub, solo sink (still proudly sporting its sticker from the last century: "fabrication Française"), and even the shoe-box size triple mirror-pharmacy, over the sink, which is chipped around the edges after decades of use. (The sink has its own originality: you cannot set down your trousse de toilette, for one--and, second, it is placed beside the bidet (we use ours to soak laundry).

I am always trying to view our home through a visitor's lens. Depending on your international perspective, a few things may be amiss. In previous posts I've talked about the missing clothes dryer and a garbage disposal. But I no longer wish for those conveniences. In their absence, I have learned to make "black gold" (compost) from all the kitchen scraps, and I now find  bucolic pleasure in hanging my family's  laundry (that is, when our golden retriever, Smokey, isn't bursting my pastoral bubble--by leaving fresh "landmines" beneath the laundry line, making it necessary to dodge them as I hang the bath towels! Grrrh!)

Which brings me to another concern for my visiting family: les serviettes de bain. As I've told you before, our towels are as stiff as cardboard and scratchy as sandpaper after drying in the Provencal sun. Should I explain this to our guests...or just smile to myself when I hear the bathwater draining from the tub? Someone's in for a suprise! Aïe-aïe-aïe!

This all brings me back to those bath-time worries I told you about. Will my brother-in-law know how to use our tub like a Frenchman? (Sit down. Hold extendable shower nozzle over your head until drenched. Set down nozzle. Suds up and hurry up. Hot water is limited!)

A phone call from Dad last night reminded me that I need not worry about this. "Brad and Kelley can use my shower! But if they are staying in your room -- where will you and Jean-Marc stay? In the pigeon coop?"

Ouf! What a relief when guests work out the quirks among themselves, n'est-ce pas? (And no worries, Dad. Jean-Marc and I will make a cozy nest in his vineyard office--across the hall from Max, who will be staying below the pigeonnier while you and Marsha stay in his bedroom). This'll be like camp! "Camp Quick Bath for The Pigeons."

Speaking of we pigeons and our grooming schedules....Dad's comment reminds me of one last quirk:  the upstairs shower he will now be sharing with Brad and Kelley. Owing to a blip  in French construction (!!!), it is necessary to enter the shower sideways--and to suck in your stomach to clear the very narrow entrance.

Ah well! It is a quirky French house and I love it. I hope my family will too!

What are the quirks in your home and how do you get ready for guests? Tell me ways to make a guest feel at home--and tell me how you try to be a good guest when you stay with family and friends.
Click HERE to leave a comment.

le beau-frère = brother-in-law
trousse de toilette = toiletry bag, make-up bag
la serviette de bain = towel
aïe = ouch! ow! oh, dear!
ouf! = phew!
le pigeonnier = attick, garret, place where pigeons stay (dovecoat)


So happy to have contributed to the book, My Publishing Journey - a helpful tool for anyone who dreams of publishing their writing. Inside the book, you will find my essay on how I overcome writers block. Order your copy HERE.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it! 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 help 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!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Baguette? How I Come up With the Word of the Day

Miss Bossy Boots in my kitchen. We're a good team! Next winetasting is June 10th at 3pm. You are all invited.

TODAY'S FRENCH PHRASE: mener à la baguette

    : to boss, to boss around, to rule with a rod of iron

ECOUTER--Hear these French words spoken by Jean-Marc:
Download MP3 file or Wav file

Pendant le repas et la séance de peinture, la charmante Tess nous a mené à la baguette.
During lunch and the painting session, charming Tess bossed us all around.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Betty, one of our guests at yesterday's lunch and winetasting, asked how I come up with the word of the day. Voilà mon secret: I first write the journal entry and then try to find a word to summarize the story's theme. This is easier said than done, and I end up scrambling for a French word--any French word! Tant pis!

Case in point: yesterday's meetup. Most of the thematic words that could have worked have already been used in the years of journal entries that I've stashed online--words like festin (September 2005), dégustation or, given the gastronomic theme, un fouet (August 2004, "Tribute to Julia Child").

Unable to come up with a word for today, I relaxed back and recalled scenes from yesterday's convivial RDV. And that is when I heard it! A slight murmur....a snippet from our table lively conversation at the table.

       photo: The delicious meal Tess prepared for our guests.

Was it Meiling or Wendell or Thelma who said it? Peu importe! What matters is what was said: "There goes Miss Bossy Boots again!"


Miss Bossy Boots is my dear friend, chef, and artist Tess (wearing purple and cutting this baguette). She created a delightful and enriching way to experience France, via her Paint Provence vacations--and she often brings her "darling hearts" (or, more often, "Naughty ones!") as she calls them, to our home--and brings a gourmet lunch to boot. (To boot, hey....). Smokey adores Tess as she is the most generous and leaves behind tasty salmon skins and all les restes.

Hearing our guests call Tess Miss Bossy Bottes, I'd found our word of the day! Only how to say it in French?

Jean-Marc suggested chef, so I looked that up. "Faire son petit chef" does indeed mean, "to boss around". But so does mener à la baguette ! And this was the more colorful of the two idioms--plus there was a foodie theme in the phrase!

Hélas non! The baguette in question refers to an iron rod...and not a warm, golden and fluffy loaf of French bread weilded by an authoratative English woman!

Ah, well, as Tess would say, "Darling Girl, don't worry about it!"

Well who am I to argue with Miss Bossy Boots? All worries aside, I leave you with that delighful phrase-of-the-day...and these souvenir photos from yesterday.


Eugenia, Kristi, and Tish. We are all wearing blue, hinting to the sky to change colors. They gray eventually gave way! And we enjoyed a sunny moment...before the rain came down.

Tish took this picture of our new deck, facing our front porch. What should be planted in the bed below? (Extra credit if you name a perennial food crop!). Comments welcome here.

With Eugenia, from Georgia, and Betty, from North Carolina. 

                            "The Angels' Share."

Missing from this photo is my beautiful friend Cyn and her adorable Bandol neighbors, Cathy and Jean who didn't speak English and who were wonderful sports! Pictured: Cyn's husband Ian, Mary Lynn, Jean-Marc, Betty, Eugenia, and Tish. Jean-Marc is talking about "The Angels' Share". This is the amount of wine that evaporates, each month, from the wine barrel. The French say the evaporated or missing wine goes to the angels, La part des anges...

I think I'll leave off on that ethereal note--and let this story enjoy a heavenly ending!



Tant pis! = oh, well! (too bad)
Voilà mon secret = here's my secret
le festin = feast
la dégustation = tasting
le fouet = whisk
RDV = rendez-vous, meet-up
peu importe = no matter, it doesn't matter
hélas = unfortunately
les restes = leftovers
amicalement = warmly


Marjorie R. William's new book on French food and culture: Markets of Provence.

"Thorough, accurate and mouth-watering. Essential reading for all market-hoppers.” ―Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence and A Good Year". Order a copy here.

I am so excited to see my blurb on the back of this book, in between these Provence and Food experts! Thank you for ordering a copy 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 help 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!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.