Basculer: How bad choices (and an old tractor) killed a winemaker’s dream: Jean-Marc story is featured in this week's Wine Spectator
Une triste nouvelle concernant ma belle-mère

Mood swings in French + Catcalling Workmen?

Swing in paris
Une balançoire, or swing, in Paris to illustrate today's word....

une saute d'humeur

    : mood swing

No dog is immune to a mood swing.
Aucun chien n'est à l'abri d'une saute d'humeur

(from the book Tout sur la psychologie d'un chien (All about Dog Psychology)


    by Kristi Espinasse

This past Tuesday, nervous about the aller-retour to the big city, I asked my daughter to drive us to visit Grannit (how my French kids spell "Granny"). My belle-mère is in the clinique de réadaptation again. Whereas two years ago I drove twice a week to Marseilles, for Grannit's previous convalescence, these days the thought of what could go wrong, in transit, steals what courage I have left.

Exiting the highway, there seemed to be an accident lurking around every corner. I began to react to "reckless" cars--and they were all reckless in my eyes.

"T'as vu celle-là! Did you see that one!"

"Yes, Mom. He was only merging."


"Calme-toi, Maman!

Gripping the handlebar above the passenger seat window, I apologize to my 20-year-old chauffeur for my overbearing behavior. I only had two cups of coffee, so caffeine wasn't to blame. Something else was shaking me up. I just couldn't identify what (update: it was only hormones. Only?).

According to French Cosmopolitan (a magazine I read in my 20s. Not in my 40s...or, now, days away from my 50th...), yes, according to Cosmo, during week two of a woman's cycle: "votre niveau de testostérone vous donne un coup de fouet sur le plan mental et physique..." (I thought that meant testosterone was whipping my mental state.  Yes! I agreed! But it really means it was heightening it. Well, it was certainly heightening my anxiety. Turns out estrogen is the culprit there.  To think I'll be 50 in a few days and I still haven't sorted out what hormones are and which does what. But I've known about mood swings ever since buying the book Potatoes Not Prozac).


Golden retriever smokey resting after his walk
         Smokey knows the feeling!

We eventually made it into the clinic, in time to wish Grannit a happy December 12th birthday. Grannit's eyes would not let me go, but we had to return home before rush hour (!!!).

Determined to be someone my daughter (and our dear Grannit!) can lean on again, I headed out with Smokey this morning to try to begin to master one area of my life (that of being master of my dog). It is a one-step forward, two back, undertaking, this dog walk of ours but we are gaining confidence. Nearing the end of our block, I heard the scraping sound of shears and a group of men cussing from behind the bushes. Their demeanor changed from gruff to polished when, one by one, the workers sent Smokey and me greetings through the leafy hedge that separated them from us. Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! said the men.

I ignored the dubious voice in my head and returned, one by one, every single one of the workers' hellos.

Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!

By the time I arrived at the beginning of the hedge one of the voices manifested in the form of a bearded man wearing a wool bonnet. He was walking towards a van with the words Les Jardins de L'Espérence written across the side. "Bonjour, Monsieur. Tell me about Les Jardins de L'Espérance," I ventured.  I had a sense of what the answer would be and the man responded serendipitously: It was, he said, a kind of solidarity to put those in difficult situations back to work, as well as to help the handicapped. I had the urge to put all those Mr Bonjours to work on our half-trimmed hedge just down the block. And this time my instincts agreed, casually suggesting I wait until my husband returns... to make such a proposition.

Smokey and I walked on, one with a smile, the other, unusually calm-footed (or "-pawed"). Did you see that? I thought. Smokey did not act up when we passed by all those muffled bonjours! Tears were running down my face, not from sadness but from the cold wind. As I wiped them aside in front of the boulangerie two more friendly faces appeared in the form of strangers. Hervé and Francine stopped to inquire about Smokey's head collar, or "gentle leader", which looks like a muzzle.

Oh, non, I assured them, Smokey est très gentil! Yes, they could see that, they said, reaching to pet my golden retriever. But they cautioned that if a more aggressive dog challenged Smokey, my "muzzled" golden retriever would be defenseless! I thanked them for their conseil--but at this moment I was working on building back my courage--not feeding my fears. Besides, as goes dog-walking advice:

Too many cooks spoil the broth!
Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce!

But what a friendly melting pot we'd met by venturing out this morning! Hervé and Francine waved goodbye, casually informing us that they often pass this way each day à la même heure. (They must have mistaken my watery eyes for tears!) 

"Au plaisir. Looking forward to seeing you again," I said, bidding our new friends goodbye and heading home with my dog-in-training. I am so pleased with Smokey's progress...and, I admit, proud of my own, as well.

I leave you, Dear Reader, with all good wishes for the holidays. See you in 2018. And would you keep my mother-in-law--our "Grannit"--in your prayers? Let's all remember not to take anything for "Grannit"!




aller-retour = round trip
clinique de réadaptation = rehabilitation center
un coup de fouet = a strong boost 
à la même heure = at the same time
le conseil = advice

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard
In case you missed it,  please read Robert Camuto's article "How Bad Choices (and an old tractor) Killed a Winemaker's Dream". It does a good job summarizing why we sold our vineyard and moved on.

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Portland! They will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines this week in Oregon! If you live nearby, don't miss  seeing them.

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
For any questions, please call +33 6 65 21 35 92 or email Jean-Marc at

Patina in french

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