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Entries from September 2017

La Crève and Chili Basta! Fast and Easy Chili recipe with a Provençal twist

Corsica where the mountains meet the sea

Along with most of the rest of France, j'ai chopé la crève. I wonder how? Did I catch a cold while crammed into a stairwell with other ferry passengers on our way home from The Island of Beauty? Or, as my dentist suggested during a three-part "crowning" series (ma première couronne! I've got one more appointment to go...), did I catch a draft during mi-saison--when even the French don't know how to dress?

As I lie under a pile of blankets, with a sore tooth and a headache, my daughter appeared, having just returned from her job waiting tables (this time at a local campsite canteen). Speaking softly she asked if there was anything I needed. "Je peux t'ammener du thé? Quelque chose à manger?" Can I bring you tea? Or something to eat? Next Jackie informed me, "Tout le monde a la crève. Everybody's got a cold. (And, by the next day she had it too :-(

Then Jean-Marc began complaining of a maux de gorge.... Uh-oh spaghettio! 

Speaking of food, I have not lost my appetite so it must be, as Jackie guessed, la crève and not the dredded grippe, or flu. At the first signs of a sore throat, I wondered whether a hot or spicy soup would help? N'importe! Best to hurry and make something before symptoms got worse and there was nothing to eat in the house! A nourishing bean stew--coupled with fading vegetables from the farmers market--would get our family through the next couple of days.... I only needed to shop for one ingredient (the ground beef), but you may have another substitute (chicken, turkey, cubed porc...) available? Hopefully you have some onions and carrots lying around and a can of kidney beans? You are almost there....

CHILI BASTA (or chili "bye-bye" in bye-bye La Crève!)

350 grams of ground beef

Herbes de Provence (the "Provençal part!)

salt and pepper

2 carrots

2 peppers (I had one yellow, 1 red)

1 red onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 large cans (800 grams each) of tomatoes (mine were whole, in juice)

1 can of kidney beans (800 grams)

1 or 2 Tbsp of SRIRACHA SAUCE

1 tablespoon honey (I used Jean-Marc's vineyard honey)

=> Brown the meat, adding the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Transfer to larger soup pot. Continue frying the rest of the vegetables in oil, either together at once, or, as I did, peppers, the onion and garlic, then carrots....adding them to the soup pot.

=> Add two cans of whole tomatoes and their juice (I broke up the whole tomatoes with my hands). Then add the kidney beans, the honey, and the hot sriracha sauce. Let simmer for an hour (the longer the better). Bon appétit and don't forget to wear a nice écharpe to keep the drafts out and prevent  la crève!

What do you enjoy in your chili? I love to cut up cubes of cheese (I had emmental and delicious comté on hand) to add as a topping--this helps cool down a scalding hot chili.

listen to today's French phrase choper la crève:

Choper la creve

Spicy Chili basta on a bed of Corsican chestnuts or chataignes

Chili Basta on a bed of chataignes harvested in Corsica. Hey, chestnuts would be good in in this chili, too! Next time....

For more recipes, scroll to the end of this post, and look for the "recette/recipe" tag. Many thanks for reading and for those who would like to support this free word journal, it is easy to do so:

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Beaux Arts school in Toulon
Jackie, our 20-year-old daughter, begins her second year at art school. After living in Aix-en-Provence, where she studied design, she will now attend class in Toulon at the historic L'École supérieure d'art et de design Toulon Provence Méditerranée. Wish her bonne chance! (And wish the rest of us bon rétablissement...or "get well soon!")

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

France's "Island of Beauty" and the expression "essuyer les platres"

Muddy view

For our 23rd wedding anniversary we went to Corsica--to a hotel that looked very tempting as it was recently renovated... Unfortunately, it was not ready to welcome us in the best conditions. At the end of our stay, we can truly say we "wiped the plaster" with our very own clothes! Find out the meaning of today's expression essuyer les plâtres--and read about our trip to France's "Island of Beauty" in today's post.


    : to be the guinea pig

    : to cope with teething pains, to  endure the early hiccups of something new (hotel, business, service, etc...)

AUDIO FILE - listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French: 


Pour notre 23 ième anniversaire de mariage, nous sommes allés en Corse dans un hôtel qui avait l'air fort alléchant car tout récemment rénové.... mais qui n'était malheureusement pas prêt à accueillir dans les meilleures conditions. A la fin de notre séjour, nous pouvons dire que nous avons "essuyer les plâtres".


    by Kristi Espinasse

When you are married to an outdoorsy kind of guy nice hotels are not a priority. The idea is to spend vacation time exploring--and not lavishing in a cozy bed made up of fine linens. Instead, lumpy mattresses, bathrooms shared with strangers, and noisy streets just outside our window are something I have grown to expect when my husband reserves "une chambre". And though we have moved on up, over the years, to nicer and nicer accomodations, I never expected Monsieur Rough-It to reserve, for our 23rd wedding anniversary, such impeccible digs...or at least they were touted that way in the newly-made-over hotel's presentation.

So there we were on Corsica this past Thursday, wrinkled and stiff after an overnight ferry ride from Toulon to Bastia...but that didn't matter as we were headed for an impeccible piscine (as seen in the hotel's impressive ad) to float to our heart's content--i.e. pass the time until our room was ready....

If only the pool were ready.  Ah well, a few dirty cushions, a pile of wet towels (no more dry ones available so Jean-Marc lounged on a tea towel), and an unfinished poolside bathroom did not take away from the scenery. Just look at the view of the Mediterranean! But when the hiccups continued to our room (faulty light switches, a garbled telephone line to the reception, and no T.V. or internet, we soon realized the hotel was experiencing teething pains ... and that we guests were, as the French say, wiping the plaster!

Even if the newly-renovated hotel's plaster had dried weeks ago, there were many unfinished bits. Instead of detailing all of them in this post, let's turn our attention outward--beyond the boastful (and soggy) what the French call "The Island of Beauty"....

Caper bush on Corsica with capers and flowers

Quelle trouvaille! What a find to see these beloved capers growing high up on the island. If Corsica is known as L'Ile de Beauté, it is also appreciated for its delicious harvests. Chesnuts, olives, figs, citrons (heritage tree, grown for its skin), grenadines, grapes, pomelos.... and those ball-like strawberries growing in the wonderful arbousier trees. Jean-Marc pulled off to the side of a breathtaking (so steep I couldn't breathe) road to gather a handful of the ripend fruit for us to eat. (I'm looking for the photo of those strawberries to show you now, meantime, here's a picture of the châtaignes we gathered by the side of yet another winding road... They should remind you of another of Jean-Marc's favorite things to hunt and eat. Can you guess?)

Corsican chestnuts chataignes are in season in october and used in flans  fiadons  and many of the islands culinary specialties

Chestnuts looking very much like oursins, or sea urchins! Jean-Marc loves both of these Mediterranean délices.

Apart from the goodies you can pick along the roadside or in the wild maquis, we sampled a lot of Corsican dishes made up of local cheese, like brocciu, and "tested" a lot of creamy desserts, like fiadon - a Corsican cheesecake recently discovered at the spectacular Mugel plage here at home in La Ciotat

Fiadone - a dessert specialty on Corsica  similar to cheesecake.

It took a lot of seaside naps--relaxing siestas in which we were rocked to sleep by the waves at the beach, to digest so much Corsican goodness....

La sieste - even mr sacks had a nap at the beach on Corsica

Even Mr Sacks--Jean-Marc's dear, elderly sacoche, needed a nap--because, you know, in dog years Mr Sacks would be 140 years old....

Kristi and Jean-Marc 23rd anniversary2

And in married years, our couple is 23 years old. We are both grateful to continue to love and to cherish. Thanks, Jean-Marc, for planning a wonderful celebration on France's Island of Beauty! Corsica was as beautiful as ever...even if it didn't feel as authentic and rich as the first time we ventured here years ago (to Ajaccio). Jean-Marc had a simple explanation for that: 

"Because back then we were roughing it!"

The earthy scents and rugged fare came back to me, remembering those inexpensive inns run by old Corsicans who probably hunted the sanglier they used for their rich terrines, and picked the figs from their own modest gardens. Next time we may skip the fine and soggy linens in exchange for a lumpy mattress and one of those authentic inns.

  Smokey getting luxury treatment at the sitters

It looks like Smokey got a good deal at his hotel. We found a couple here in La Ciotat who charged very little, but gave so much more to our 8-year-old (in human years) golden boy. As Smokey continues to snooze (here at home now) I'll be working on this edition--adding more photos and info about France's Ile de beauté. So check back in the next day or two for the pictures and for the latest photos, just below. Many thanks for reading and for those who would like to support this free word journal, it is easy to do so, below.

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Thank you

For years my Dad has raved about his Kindle reading device. During our trip on Corsica, I saw another couple on the beach - each enjoying their Kindles. I finally caved in and got this one. Very excited to use it to read books. If you are ready to cave in and get one too, thanks for using this link. Your purchase helps to support this language journal.

Strawberry fruit from the arbousier tree in Corsica France

Arbutus unedo - or "strawberry tree". As you can see, these don't really look like strawberries and the fruit can be as bland as a mouthful of sand...unless you pick it as just the right time. The last week of September must be that right time. Wow, these were good!


Jean-Marc and I both chose Barcaggio as a highlight of our trip. The charming port, the swim JM enjoyed (and the sea urchins he caught and ate sur place) and the U Fanale restaurant were delicious discoveries. We will never forget the chestnut flan we had at the restaurant!

U Fanale restaurant at the port of Barcaggio

Driftwood lounge chairs before the Mediterranean Sea Corsica France beach
Driftwood lounge chairs for drifting to sleep before the peaceful sea.

Happy Birthday Jules message on the sandy beach in Corsica France

From Corsica to Mexico. Sent this birthday wish to my beautiful Mom, who turned 71 on September 23rd.

Driving onto the Corsica ferry
Driving onto the Corsica ferry for our overnight trajet, or journey.

Watch this space. I'm still uploading photos... Come back tomorrow! Ciao! 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Family Safe in Mexico + Secret to traveling/working in France at the age of 90!

Lou harvesting in Cadiere d Azur

Our son, Max, and my Mom are safe in Mexico after yesterday's earthquake. We are saddened by the news and our thoughts and prayers go out to Mexico. Before hearing the news, I had planned on sharing the story of my 90-year-old reader from Florida who is traveling solo in France...looking to start a new chapter in Antibes, considering a job, and maybe a French girlfriend. Inspiring story below.


    : onward! full steam ahead. Let's go! Press on!


Download En avant

Le secret d'une longue vie? C'est "En avant!" comme dit Lou Bogue
The secret to a long life? "Press on!" as Lou Bogue says.


by Kristi Espinasse

The last time we saw Lou was at our 2010 harvest in Sainte Cécile. He was 80-something at the time. Well, on September 30th Lou will turn 90 -- while on vacation in France.

...Unless Lou's vacation turns into a long-term commitment! "Do you think I could find a job?" Lou asks over lunch at our neighborhood restaurant here in La Ciotat. Jean-Marc, who is sharing the booth, looks doubtful (owing to French bureaucracy or Lou's age?)....

In order to pursue his dream of moving from Florida to Antibes, Lou's going to need an income. "You may be able to work under the table," I say in a kidding way (I am only kidding if the French authorities are reading....). I look across the table to the man with bright blue eyes, rock star long locks (in white), and a slight hunch (I hadn't noticed when he arrived, earlier, after a two-hour grape harvest with Jean-Marc at a friend's vineyard). "I lost a few inches of height after a car accident in my 50s!"

Lou pokes around at his plate of fish (he doesn't eat meat), apologizing for not being able to eat it all. Next, he tells us he walked everywhere, last week, in Paris. "Had no problems with the Métro. So easy to get around... I just needed more time to see everything. I want to see everything!"

This, dear reader, is one secret of Lou's good health and longevity. "Yes, it is my outlook. I want to be around to see what happens next!" Lou cited everything from Elon Musk to, well, grapes! He has been following our chapter by chapter story since our kids were very little. And when Jackie designed her first raincoat, Lou wrote in to the comments, sharing he once worked for London Fog. Every one-line blog comment before and since has been a great source of encouragement to me and my family. Lou is, as you'll soon learn, a born coach (his mentor was a famous basketball coach named John Wooden. Read about him).

Lou's had several jobs since high school (one of his life regrets is not graduating and furthering his education. His other regret is not coming to France at the age of 50, and following all of his dreams back then. I look over at my husand, who turned 50 this year and left his career in wine follow his own heart).

To see Lou and Jean-Marc sitting side by side across from me in the booth is chanceux to say the least. Two amazing men, 40 years apart....

There is so much I want to tell you about both men, especially Lou--on whom I've scribbled a page of notes, everything from "golf passionate" to his favorite BedyCasa (rooms for rent in France) to "Press on!" (Lou's advice when aches and pains set in "Just press on. There is so much to see and do. What good is it to complain or pay to pay attention to pain?").

Yes, there is so much I want to tell you about Lou, but, like Lou, I'm beginning to feel an itch to get outside and experience life, to spend less time behind a computer screen (my husband signed off Facebook. I wonder if I will do the same?). Lou understands that! He's torn between writing his own story and living his story.  How I can relate!

"I can write it all down later," Lou decides. I want to live past a hundred. And why not to 130?" Lou smiles, and my eyes jump back and forth between my husband's face and the soon-to-be 90-year-old's. Both men have wrinkles. And both have grins. But for a 40-year lapse, they are just a couple of extraordinary guys.

So it's no use selling Lou on blogging as a way to earn some cash to pay for his living expenses. "Well, maybe I can find a French girlfriend," Lou lights up.

That's good, but I have another idea: knowing that Lou's dream has always been to be a coach. "why don't you be a coach in the modern sense of the word? You could coach people on lifestyle issues. You are such an encourager, Lou, and a real inspiration! You emanate it!"

Before I say goodbye to Lou, I want to know more about his good health. "I know you don't eat meat but can share more about your diet?"

"At eighty, I began to reduce sugar and salt...there is already so much of it in everything we eat! And I love yogurt. Eat a lot of it to keep my bones strong for walking!"

"What about stress," I ask Lou, who is leaning back so casually on my couch.

"I don't know stress!!"

"Well, everyone has stress," I argue. "What if you are about to miss a plane. And you are running...running for the gate?"

"I won't run for any gate. I'll take the next plane." 


*    *    *

I hope you found some inspiration in our friend, Lou. Lou could not say enough about his own source of inspiration, Coach Wooden. To understand more about Lou's outlook, read one of John Wooden's books.

Jean-Marc and Lou in La Ciotat

An old comment I found from Lou:

Hello, I never miss your blogs and I will never forget the 2 days i spent clipping your grapes and our conversation under the mulberry tree and our pic that you posted on your blog and the great pics i have of all the folks that helped on that harvest and the reason i came to your farm, after meeting Chief grape at a wine tasting here in Tampa, set up by our mutual friend Charles. I regret not being able to find the farm last year but as Jean-Marc, explained on my call, that it had not been a good day, something to do with equipment. I am blessed to have met you all, will be 85 this Sept. but good memories never die, much good luck to you and yours. Lou

Jackie turns 20 years old chocolate peanut butter cake

As Lou says, "Good memories NEVER die." Let's all go out and make some good memories today! Here is one from our daughter's 20th birthday, Monday. I asked her to imagine herself, 70 years from now, traveling solo to one of her favorite destinations. Whether you have 5, 10, or 70 years ahead of you -- so much to do and see. En avant, dear reader, en avant!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Brugnon...or nectarine? (A two word hint: sticky pits) + bee or wasp?

Brugnon nectarine tree loveseat yellow flowers (c) Kristin Espinasse
The word brugnon is used when the pit sticks to the flesh, whereas the word nectarine is used when the pit is free. In English and in other languages, only the word nectarine exists, whether or not the pit sticks. Listen to the sentence in French, below. (photo: A brugnonier, or nectarine tree, at our former vineyard.)

un brugnon

    : nectarine

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the French sentence, below.

Download Brugnon 2

Le terme brugnon est alors utilisé lorsque le noyau adhère à la chair, tandis que le terme nectarine est utilisé lorsque le noyau est libre. En anglais, et dans d'autres langues, seul le terme nectarine existe, indépendamment de l'adhérence du noyau. -Wikipedia 


by Kristi Espinasse

I am getting ready to make a third crumble this week. It's been a lively one, this past semaine, with old friends, new departures (I've begun riding my bike again!), and a very itchy and swollen pied gauche. I was stung by something on Tuesday, while heading out on foot to the farmers market....

I had just put on my trusty yellow sneakers (a hand-me-down from Jackie, the baskets are really orange and only appear to be as yellow as my kitchen) when I felt the most painful piqûre on the top of my foot. MY first thought after what in the heck, was I hope this is one of those good stings!

I searched the ground for a flailing bee (and the top of my foot for a stinger), but saw nothing.... and thought nothing more about it until the coming restless night. My foot itched terribly. The next morning it began to swell and swell.

That day artist and teacher Tess, and my friend Lee came for lunch, along with Lee's daughter Melissa.  "Are you sure it wasn't a spider?" Tess said.

Was a toothy araignée lurking inside my trusty (can they still be trusted?) tennis shoes? But araignées don't sting do they? The shoot of pain I felt was definitely a sting and not a bite!

"Keep your eye on it and if it doesn't get better get to the doctor," my friend urged. Tess rummaged through her purse and, tada!, produced a tube of Anthisan... I had never heard of it before. "You can only get it in England," Tess said, and her singsong response made me wonder what other remedies the English kept in their medicine cabinets?

"I'll  squeeze some on a plate," I said, but Tess insisted I keep the entire tube. I'm glad she did because I had to keep applying it throughout the day and night.

The next morning Jean-Marc and I headed to the old port here in La Ciotat. When I suggested we ride our bikes, he was pleasantly surprised (I have not been on my bike since we lived in Ste Cécile...).  

New bike in ste cecile

    Eight years ago in Ste Cécile...

The swelling in my foot had gone down and I carefully tied the tongue of my baskets back, with the help of my shoe laces. My swollen ankle had more room this way and the bite marks could better heal. A very tight bubble began to rise above those bites (or stings?). Running my finger across the "cloque" (as Jean-Marc called it) I wondered whether to listen to my husband (and pierce it) or leave my body's defense system to finish the job it had begun.

Wooden ramp in la ciotat seafront

There on my bicycle for the first time in years, I followed my husband who lead us along the boardwalk, down a bumpy wooden ramp to the sea and back up to the old port. We parked our vélos on one of the docks.... to check out a little boat... and then continued into the old town to buy some needed liquide vaisselle and some amandes effilées for the crumble I wanted to make.

As I rode my bike I noticed how an already colorful La Ciotat was even more vibrant.  The rush of happiness could only be explained by one of three things: getting back on that bike, time with friends, or that high voltage bee or wasp sting (I like to think that intense shot of pain amounted to something. But if it didn't, don't burst my bubble! (as I said to Nurse Jean-Marc who I'm sure was just dying to stick a pin in me).

*    *    *

French Vocabulary

les baskets = sneakers or tennis shoes
la semaine = week
le pied gauche = left foot
une piqûre = sting, bite
une araignée = spider
liquide vaisselle = dishwashing liquid 
une amande = almond
effilé = flaked

  Cut up nectarines or brugnons for a crumble or pie

Easy Crumble aux Brugnons

6 - 8 nectarines quartered, then cut into smaller quarters

Squeeze of lemon 

1 cup flour 

1 cup sugar (you can use half as much...)

1/2 cup butter (I used salted) 

2 tbsp oats (optional) 


Sliced almonds or other nuts

Put the cut up nectarines into a baking dish and squeeze some lemon over the fruit. Put one cup of flour into a medium-size bowl and add the cut up pieces of butter. With your fingers press the butter and flour together continually until you get a breadcrumb consistency. Add  the sugar, sliced almonds, cinnamon and oats. Mix together before spreading the topping over the fruit.

Bake at 350f or 175C for 35-40 minutes 

Kristi riding bicycle

Last Thursday, riding towards the old port of La Ciotat.

Still reading? Don't miss the story "gribouiller" about Jackie and her handy tip for getting a pen to work! She is around 7 years old in the story... and can you believe she will turn 20 on Monday, September 18th? This reminds me of some good news I forgot to share: our daughter was accepted into art school in Toulon. Félicitations, Jackie!

If you are new to this word journal, you might enjoy the book Words in a French Life. It makes a good gift for a French learner or anyone interested in France.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Another way to get French strangers to talk to you + Canne à pêche

Mediterranean sar fish poisson saar from the coast of La Ciotat France green plate yellow kitchen tiles
Our retro yellow kitchen here in lively La Ciotat makes a catching backdrop for JM's catch: a Mediterranean sar ("saar" in English. Not that that's any help for most of us trying to figure out just what kind of poisson this is!). They do, however serve sar in many seaside restaurants here along the south coast.

la canne à pêche

    fishing pole, fishing rod

Listen to the following example sentence in French: download Canne à pêche

Une canne à pêche sert à attraper des poissons. 
A fishing pole is used to catch fish.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Non, after ending his career as a paysan, Jean-Marc is not retiring! It only looks as though he is! Especially in the photo near the end of this missive. My husband will continue his work in wine. Instead of farming, he'll stick to the wine business (and blending...), discovering good local wines and connecting French wine growers with US importers. Jean-Marc would also like to source grapes and continue making wine, a passion that has not left him....

Meantime the new ciotadin (resident of La Ciotat) is discovering other pleasures--like la pêche! Yesterday our bungalow, our patio, and a part of our yard was tangled in meters upon meters of fishing line as Jean-Marc tried to assemble his new canne à pêche.

Ah, this'll be a good activity for him, I thought, teaching him patience. (But when he called me over to help, I got sucked into the @#&!! test of patience, too!)

Golden retriever Smokey outside yellow kitchen
Our 8-year-old golden retriever, Smokey. His hanging tongue is a séquelle, or consequence from the past...

Smokey and I were careful not to add to the frustration by getting tangled into the growing line (it now reached our newly-planted fig tree at the edge of our lot). Finally, the would-be fisherman reeled in the unknotted line and set out on foot to the nearest digue--his wine-harvest bucket (serving a new purpose) swinging from his arm.

Strangely, no other fishermen were present. Perhaps the day after a storm is not the time to fish? I'd heard of troubled waters.... Jean-Marc assured me people were fishing--he could see them farther down the coast. Donc tout était bon--and he had digue, or seawall, all to himself!

But where were all the fish? When the store-bought appâts (vers américans, or American worms) did not attract any fish, he remembered the humble, trusty, arapède. There were dozens of the little creatures (or "Chinese hats", for they resemble just that). Plucking up a few limpets, Jean-Marc then removed the snails from the shell and voilà--he immediately caught a fish!

Arapede limpet snail bait appat
Finally he could answer a pertinent question posed by the occasional passant, who slowed each time to inquire, Ça mord? Anything biting?

Oui! ça mord! Yes, they're biting!

And, dear reader, I think we can say as well that Jean-Marc has been bitten by the joy of fishin'.

Setting up his fishing pole canne a peche in the digue sea wall france la ciotat
Learn the expression coller comme une arapède, in this early blog story from 2005, taking place in the seaside town of Sète... 

French Vocabulary & related terms

la canne à pêche = fishing pole

le poisson = fish

la pêche = fishing

la digue = sea wall

donc tout était bon = so all was well

l'appât (m) = bait, lure

un hameçon = fishing hook

l'arapède = limpet

Ça mord ? = any bites?

sar = a Mediterranean fish, the nam 'sar' designates many kinds of edible fish.

passant(e) = passer-by


Who could not be happy in a sunshine yellow kitchen (from the 50s or 70s, we do not know)? It's not the most comfortable kitchen, but it has a nice look, doesn't it? A few readers had a solution for the low counter top: Sit down when you chop! So I did, and discovered that by opening one of the cupboards, I have a place to put my legs :-)



Thanks to Nick and Jill Cook for sending this picture of The Connexion interview. Thank you, Jessica Knipe for the interview. You can read part of it here (if I get a copy of the paper, I will share it).

Ice cream
The nice thing about fishing at this digue its proximity to the ice cream truck. Jean-Marc ordered caramel sale and I got the menthe chocolat.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

A Happy Ending in La Ciotat + Donner du fil à retordre

Port of la ciotat

Woke up this morning to a heartwarming story in the online journal France Bleu. A baby dolphin was helped back out to sea after getting lost in the the old port of La Ciotat (dolphins in La Ciotat!!). What a sight he was among the colorful wooden fishing boats, or "les pointus" (sorry the little dauphin is not seen here, in this file photo. But you can see the cutie pie rascal here, along with all those magnificent and historic boats). Read an excerpt from the article, below, and listen to Jean-Marc's recording. The English translation follows.

Donner du fil à retordre

    : to give somebody the run around, to give someone a hard time

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following paragraph, including today's expression "donner du fil à retordre"

Download Donner du fil a retordre


Pendant deux jours, ce weekend, un petit cétacé de moins d'un an s'est invité dans le port de La Ciotat, seul, affaibli et égaré. Les agents du Parc National des Calanques... le groupe d'étude des cétacés de méditerranée ont tout essayé pour le reconduire vers le grand large, mais le dauphin de l'espèce bleu et blanc, préférait les eaux calmes du port. Ça a été la star du weekend et une véritable attraction au port, néanmoins il a donné du fil à retordre aux agents du Parc National des Calanques.

For two days, this weekend, a little cetacean less than a year old, alone, weak, and disoriented invited itself into the port of La Ciotat. Officials from the Parc National ... the research group for Mediterranean cetaceans, tried everything to redirect it toward the open sea, but the dolphin, a blue and white type, preferred the calm waters of the port. It was the star of the weekend and a real attraction at the port, howerver, it gave them the run around--those agents of the Parc National des Calanques

*    *    *

Tomato tart with yellow tomatoes
Don't forget to make a tomato tart while the tomates are in season. This time, yellow tomatoes made a nice change! Here is the easy recipe.

Lily and Jean-Marc in front of the pittosporum
Lily--the cat who came with the house. She ignores us when we call her and appears when we least expect it. Always a nice surprise.

Le petit bassin and Smokey
"Hors service." Out of order...but soon to be back in service thanks to those who've contributed to a most thoughtful housewarming gift. More info, below.

Did you enjoy today's edition? Could you hear the sound file? Thanks for your feedback. And for those who missed it, Margaret, from Yorkshire, had a very thoughtful idea regarding a housewarming gift, or cadeau de pendaison de crémaillère - info at the end of this post

"The fountain will remind you of the love and support of all your readers and friends on those days when you feel homesick or lonely. All best wishes for an abundant and joyful life in your new home!" - Deborah, in Zurich

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

How Egg rolls are Eaten in France & L'appétit vient en mangeant

Merry-go-round in la ciotat at the beach

A native of Arizona I never imaged I'd one day live at the beach. Walking down the promenade, I saw this beautiful scene. Farther down, there was a shop selling bathing suits, beach towels, and giant rafts--one of them, bright green in the shape of a saguaro cactus, caught my eye.... I had an urge to drag it home and lie on it in the garden, on the gravel beneath the two towering palm trees. Looking up to the sky, through the palm fronds to the blazing sun, it might be Phoenix.

l'appétit vient en mangeant

    : appetite comes with eating

    : the more you have the more you want

Listen to today's phrase: Download it here



by Kristi Espinasse

I was going to give you a rundown on all the trees in our garden here in the French town we ended up in, until I considered how ennuyeux the topic would be to some! So I'll share, instead, a popular French phrase I overheard last night (and take just a moment to say that in addition to two palm trees, a magnificent faux-poivrier, a cypress, a cedar and an olive tree--we learned we also have a laurier sauce (bay leaf tree) and a néflier which produces a fruit that ressembles an apricot--if only it tasted as good (I plan to acquire the taste asap). It was exciting to discover these trees which produce edible crops. 

Wood shed
The wooden shed had to come down. It was on its last leg! Today's Mistral might've done the work for us...I wonder, now, if it will blow down our house? Meantime, not a pesky mosquito in sight! They must dread the wind as much as we do.

Last night, after demolishing the old wooden shed beside our front steps (we will plant a just-bought fig tree, "Madeleine" variety (ficus carica produces sumptuous green fruit with a raspberry red interior), we were rewarded with dinner at our neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant.

Jean-Marc wasn't that hungry so he only ordered an entrée: nems aux crevettes, or shrimp egg rolls. When you order egg rolls at an Asian restaurant in France, they come with large lettuce leaves in which to roll them, and mint. A delicious, further crispy detail! After your nems are rolled up in the lettuce and mint, you dunk them in the rice vinegar-based sauce pour nems,  all the while keeping one eye on the remaining three nems or else your table-mate will get your share!

I wasn't any hungrier than Jean-Marc - especially after the fried nems, but a good customer orders more than an appetizer, n'est-ce pas? So I asked for le canard "aux amandes". It is not on the menu but the waiter, who so far did not smile, didn't growl either.

Regarding the waiter sans sourire, I wondered if it was something we said--or maybe the way we looked? After all, we humans are mirrors reflecting the mood of the other. Did we look mad? Serious? Impatient? Stuffy or snobby?

When the waiter returned I thanked him profusely with a tooth-full smile. Jean-Marc, who was not aware of my inner turmoil, bluntly asked for, "encore de la laitue, s'il vous plaît. More lettuce, please." 

I quickly let it go, but could not help but notice when the same waiter smiled warmly and toothfully at the other clients. And then it dawned on me, we were new. Les inconnus. Unknown. As the young man served the other tables, I pictured us at one of them, on the receiving end of a warm sunny smile. One day in the future we would be! Such a familiar greeting would extend out from the Vietnamese restaurant--throughout our neighborhood. A nod by this neighbor, a comment ça va by that one. In the meantime, we would rely on those citizens who make no distinction between locals and strangers (like the restaurant owner, who was bubbly with everyone he encountered, or the woman I walked past this morning, on the way to the market. Her eye contact, nod, and smile was enlivening.) 

After the nems my canard aux amandes arrived. I noticed Jean-Marc perked right up. "Je partage!" I'll share, I said. My husband accepted, citing a popular French phrase, one I will leave you with:

L'appétit vient en mangeant. Appetite comes with eating. 

(This, by the way, would also explain how two not-so-hungry strangers ended up at the ice cream truck across the street, after eating all those egg rolls and some duck :-)

French Vocabulary

l'appétit vient en mangeant = appetite comes with eating
ennuyeux = boring
faux-poivrier (schinus molle) = peppercorn tree
laurier-sauce = bay leaf tree
néflier = loquat tree or Japanese medlar
une entrée = appetizer, starter
le nem = egg roll
le canard = duck
aux amandes = with almonds
le sourire = smile

2016 harvest at mas des brun st cyr-sur-mer
One year ago today we enjoyed our very last wine harvest. Read about it in the story "Something The French don't Eat"

Murier mulberry tree
Speaking of trees in our La Ciotat garden, this one is endearing.... On the eve of our move from the vineyard, my neighbor Annie stopped by. We were having iced tea together when Jean-Marc returned from the back parcel, exhausted from having uprooted a lemon tree, a mandarin and a kumquat. "What about the mulberry tree?" Annie said, unknowingly voicing a wish of mine. I didn't dare ask my husband to pull that up. Next thing you know Jean-Marc, Annie, and I were heaving and straining to get that weeping tree out of the ground (the future owners are putting a pool in that area and offered to let us have the trees).  Struggling to get that tree out of the ground, Annie fell on me once and all three of us nearly ended up in a pile (the tree on top) after the mulberry let go of its grip on the land. I can certainly relate to its attachment! So here we are now, in a new little garden--all together now (except Annie. But she promises to visit soon).

Future fountain
Read about Margaret's idea for a cadeau de pendaison de crémaillère or housewarming gift.

Beneath the willowy peppercorn tree there's a tiled bassin that was in use once upon a time. We would like to get it operating again--adding a fountain feature and some fish (my father suggested koi...). Margaret, who reads this journal from her home in Yorkshire, wrote in suggesting readers pitch in to help bring this petit bassin back to life. Margaret writes:

Meanwhile, I'd been wracking my brains for a house-warming gift for you, one everyone can share if they want and with no strings. I'd like to start a fund to help restore the pond and the water feature. If for any reason that proves impractical, then you can use it to install any other calming and wished for feature in the garden.

Thank you Margaret for the lovely idea! For those who would like to participate in this housewarming gift, click here. Please leave a message along with your contribution so I will know who to thank for this sentimental cadeau de pendaison de crémaillère.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.