Previous month:
December 2017
Next month:
February 2018

Entries from January 2018

The French are always saying this word. But they're NOT talking about money!

My desk and almond blossoms
Parlez peu, écoutez beaucoup, voyez tout et faites en sorte d'en profiter. Hear this in French and see the translation, below. (picture of my former "writing desk with a view". I just learned, yesterday, that we have an almond tree in our new back yard...after it bloomed this week!)


    : make the most of
    : enjoy

Click here to listen to today's word and phrase with "profiter"

Parlez peu, écoutez beaucoup, voyez tout et faites en sorte d'en profiter.
Speak little, listen a lot, see everything and make sure to enjoy it all.


    by Kristi Espinasse

My father, known for his sunny disposition, swears his secret to happiness is the fact that he can't remember what happened yesterday. I get this forgetful trait from him (I would have preferred to inherit Dad's happy-go-lucky gene instead)!

When I can remember to, I try to exercise my mind before falling to sleep by using the age-old prière d'examen or examination of conscience. It is a review of the day in which one tries to glean lessons from the all the bumps and well as the high notes of the day!

Reimagining the ignation examen

               (So enjoying the ideas in this book! Order here)

Such a day in review is a worthwhile and valuable tool or outil for living a more meaningful life. But a small snag (or two...) kept me from continuing this thoughtful practice throughout January: One, my memory (turns out ce n'est pas fastoche to remember every event of the day). 

The other thing that deterred me from examining my day, was the rub-your-nose-in-it factor. The truth is, January got off to a bad start and I blame it all on jet lag. C'est tout la faute du décalage horaire! We landed in Marseilles in a million little pieces, just in time for my belle-mère's funeral, the next day. I'll never forget my sister-in-law meeting us at the airport. And my daughter's boyfriend was there too, to surprise her with a bouquet of flowers!  

We all left the airport in two separate cars (the lovebirds in the other). I sat in the back seat as Cécile drove Jean-Marc and me home among the bistro lights in Marseilles (we'd gotten lost and were making our way out of the city's maze). Above us, the night surely held stars, but I could not see them from the backseat window. Already my mind was fogging over from exhaustion, dehydration, and grief. That, in a nutshell, is my excuse for January's grumpy beginnings--and the emotional scrapes that followed (how easy it is to take everything out on the person closest to you, the one you are wedlocked to!).

Through it all, my belle-mère's voice was as clear as the North Star: Ma ChérieMa Chérie. "My Dear, My Dear"..... Consoling, comforting, all-forgiving (if a little feisty at times: "You could have visited me more often!"). Yes, I certainly could have

After my own feisty month, I'm ready to return to a nightly "day in review." I don't want to underestimate the littlest thing, bonne ou mauvaise, that happened across my path today. Not even the whisper in my mind, right now--the words my belle-mère spoke the last time I saw her: "My Dear, Enjoy your journey." Ma chérie, profite bien de ton voyage! 

Sunflowers or tournesol from our vineyard

un outil = tool
fastoche = easy
le décalage horaire = jet lag
la belle-mère = mother-in-law, stepmother
ma chéri(e) = my dear
bon(ne) = good
mauvais(e) = bad
profite de ton voyage = enjoy your journey

The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed. Click to order.

French Jacquard Dish Towels, order here.

Do you know the popular French breakfast drink, "Ricoré"? My belle-mère and I used to drink the 60/40 (chicory/coffee) mix all the time! You can order it, and many other French delectables here

Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals
    Enjoying the beauty of a marvelous câprier or caper plant.


Caper bush on Corsica with capers and flowers
I leave you with a beautiful caper blossom. A bientôt!

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.

Les Gens are the secret to a long life + faire d'une pierre deux coups

Old port and fishing boats or pointus in La Ciotat France on the Mediterranean Sea

"To interest oneself in a lot of things, to be surrounded by people who we love--that's the secret to my longevity." -French actress Michèle Morgan. Listen to her words in French and see the translation, below. Picture taken in La Ciotat, where I bumped right into a reader of this word journal. Read Wendy's reaction below.


    : people

les jeunes gens = young people
les gens du monde = society people
les gens du voyage = travelling people ("gypsies" do not miss my Mom's story


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence

S'intéresser à beaucoup de choses, être entourée de gens que l'on aime est le secret de ma longévité.

--Michèle Morgan. See her in the classic wartime film Passage to Marseille on Blu-ray or Amazon Video

Passage to marseille michele morgan

Passage to Marseille and many classic French films are available on Blu-ray or Amazon Video, click here


  by Kristi Espinasse

My New Years resolution for 2018 was the same goal as last year: to think positively. What a disaster that turned out to be. Almost as soon as I set the intention, it was as though the universe clapped its hands and began rubbing them together greedily

I am a positive enough person. It's those stray negative thoughts peppering my day--and the occasional barrage of doubtful thinking--that I was aiming to obliterate (perhaps that is where I go wrong--this tout ou rien approach to things?). 

Ouf! It turns out positive thinking is not essential to good health. According to psychologist and author Susan Pinker you could be a very grumpy person and still live a long (and grumpy) life. More than eating well or exercise, it is social integration that leads to longevity. Les interactions en face-à-face are key to health and happiness.  This could be anything from saying bonjour to the acknowledging the bus driver or waving (however awkwardly) your neighbor. Each time we connect with somebody, however little that connection, we get (and give) good vibes. Good vibes = a vibrant life.

The village effect
       Susan Pinker's book is available here.

"Faire d'une pierre deux coups"

To kill two birds with one stone is a terrible (and terribly useful) expression. It sounds so much better in French where there's no mention of the poor birds: faire d'une pierre deux coups.

It means to complete two things with only one action. Don't you love such éfficacité? Walking is a neat example. It is an activity where you can clear your mind, strengthen your muscles, and come face to face with humanity. It was the first two benefits that got me out initially, but, lately it is the social interaction that is keeping me in stride with life. The most unusual things can happen while out on a walk. Last fall a homeless man kissed me (an innocent "bise"). That's another story, we're getting off track!

I have a few other examples to share with you about some heart-lifting incidents while out on walk, but we'll skip ahead to Wednesday's chance encounter. Wendy heard about La Ciotat from my blog and decided to discover the old port--having traveled here from Cotignac (where she and her husband, Ken, are visiting from Canada). At the moment she and Ken pulled into the public parking lot and got out of their car, I was speedwalking right past them, oblivious to the synchronistic moment. That's when I heard a soft voice... "Kristi?"

We stopped to have a coffee together in the old town, before Wendy and Ken accompanied me part of the way home. For the last part of my walk, I mused about how different each and every day is when you step out of your routine--and when you don't rush home for whatever may seem pressing.

Post Note: In regards to positive wasn't such a désastre after all. I just went about it in a backward way. First, step out. The positive thoughts will follow.


tout ou rien = all or nothing
ouf! = whew! phew!
la bise = kiss
faire la bise = to greet somebody with a kiss on each cheek

Do you already shop at Amazon for groceries or other needs? When you enter Amazon via a link in my newsletter, and then make a purchase, you help to support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

Sky blue La Ciotat T-shirt with fleur de lys. Click here.

Protect your skin when you walk: La Roche-Posay repair face moisturizer with spf 30. Click here to order.

The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed. Click to order.

Looking for a host or hostess gift? French gourmet sea salt gift set, for a taste of France

Kristi Ken Wendy Emmaus bookstore Cafe de l Horloge

Kristi, Ken, and Wendy. After coffee, we stopped into the tiny bookstore beside Le Café de L'Horloge. I believe it benefits Emmaüs charity (see this colorful bande-dessinée for the story behind Emmaüs). In the little boutique there is a "tirelire" (piggy bank) honor system where you put a few coins in for each book you select. Photo by Wendy, as you can see!

Wendy and Ken
Wendy is a retired social worker, and Ken is passionate about WWI history. He is soon to begin a blog on the topic. Now read Wendy's account of our serendipitous meeting:

Hi Kristi:

I want to thank you again for giving us some of your time yesterday. I am still feeling stunned at us bumping into you in that parking lot but basking in the glow of our chance meeting. As I looked back over the morning and the drive down from Cotignac to La Ciotat, I wonder at the purpose of the few traffic delays we had-one on the road where we had to pull over for 2 big transport trucks hauling enormous steel arcs and then traffic jams in La Ciotat. They all contributed to the perfect timing of our meeting.

When I gazed across the parking lot yesterday to see if you might know the parking lot rules, first I saw a lady with blond hair and then as you came closer, I wondered if it was you and then I thought, well let's try calling your name and if I am wrong, no big deal. When your face lit up, I was flabbergasted. What are the chances of this serendipitous event? I am still feeling so delighted. I have been following your blog for about 4 years and must say I look forward to it every time it comes in. I would like to mention that how you write really reflects the special person you are in real life.

It likely would be helpful for you to know a bit more about us. As you heard from Ken the deal was a month in Provence before we drove north in 2014 to visit all those military cemeteries of the fallen from the names on the Cenotaph in his home town of Cobalt in Ontario. He has been working on this research for several years a and it has been a great retirement project for him.

How did we end up in Provence? Well my friend from Ottawa and her husband (he was born in France) had been coming to Carces near Cotignac for the month of March for 20 years. They no longer come but she has given me info about the area. When I started researching possible villages, the internet indicated there is some English spoken in Cotignac due to the number of ex-pats. We only speak a little French so it seems like a good choice. And here we are-this is our 4th year of escaping some of our nasty Canadian winter by spending it in Cotignac. We have found a delightful apartment to rent with a good property manager and feel quite at home here.



Kristi and Wendy
Kristi and Wendy outside Lecture Ephémère, the charity bookshop attached to Café de L'Horloge. 

Thank you very much, Wendy! Adding to the impossibility of our meeting, were the number of times that morning that I delayed going out for my walk. Finally making it out, I considered shortening my itinerary that day. I'm so glad I didn't! It just goes to show what good things happen when we go the extra mile.  

Ken and Wendy

Tumbling euphorbia rosemary and a parasol pine tree above a wall of graffiti

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.

From Red Cross most read Frenchman in the world. The inspiring story of Marc Levy

Author Marc Levy
In the decade since he began writing, Marc Levy become most-read French author in the world. To all who dare to follow their dream... may today's interview give you wings!

un entretien (ontr-tee-en)

        1) an interview 

       2) management/service (a car check-up, etc...)

Audio File: Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file
Aujourd'hui, lisez mon entretien avec l'écrivain Marc Levy.
Today, read my interview with the writer Marc Levy. 


by Kristi Espinasse

Do you find it enormously reassuring to learn that someone's remarkable success happened later in life? Does it fill you with hope to discover that the respected novelist or chess player or... started out as a first-aid worker—unaware of a nascent talent within him? 

As a lifelong student of writing, nothing motivates me like another's bumpy or unlikely journey to literary success. It makes me believe that it's not too late to pen The Classic and Universal Story... the one that could be enjoyed by all generations till the end of time!

Reading about French author Marc Levy, and how he changed professions several times before happening upon his calling as a writer, I am encouraged to plumb the depths of my own vocational well. Could it be that in this mad pursuit of writing, chess is really my calling?

One thing's sure, French will open doors either way. So it's a safe bet to continue pursuing language! I think even Mr. Levy would agree. Enjoy his words, below, about France, culture, and writing.  

...And, after reading the interview, take time to consider: the dream job you are so passionately pursuing (or currently practicing) may be, after all, but a means to an even more stimulating and meaningful métier--the one your heart is diligently fine-tuning, while you are busy chasing your dream!


1. Why did you choose to leave France and make a home for yourself in the States?

Believe it or not, I originally left France to go to England, which makes me a terrible Frenchman. (There is a rivalry between England and France that dates back several centuries.) I had fallen in love with London and the British sense of humor, and I lived quite happily there for ten years.  I then moved to the States because I also harbored a deep love for New York City.  My son had also decided to study in the U.S., so my longstanding desire to be in New York provided the perfect pretext for me to follow him and play the overprotective parent!  But in all seriousness, I was attracted to the multicultural, multiethnic aspect of New York.  163 different communities and ethnic groups shared their lives there—it was as if the whole world had gathered in one place, and that place was New York.  It was a city in color that I wanted to be a part of.

2. You have a love for food and cooking.  What differences do you see in the American vs. the French approaches to cooking and dining?

The French cook with less of everything: salt, oil, sugar, sauce, etc.  It is fascinating to see, in fact, how much flavor you can produce when you do this.  But I’ve noticed that many new French restaurants are now adopting the trend of overusing ingredients.

The main difference between restaurants in Paris and New York?  The noise.  I’ve been in some restaurants where there is more noise in the dining room than food on your plate.  A restaurant in Paris that played its music as loudly as New York restaurants do wouldn’t last more than a week.  When we invite friends out to dinner, we usually want to talk to them, not yell at them.

Elle et lui levy
Read this one in French. Order ELLE & LUI here

3. You have an older son who was raised primarily in France and a young son whom you are raising in New York. What differences do you see in the French and American parenting cultures?

My older son was actually raised primarily in London.  It's a bit difficult for me to comment on contemporary French parenting culture, since I've been living outside of France for the past 15 years, but as far as I can tell, there aren't too many differences.  As parents, we all love our children with the same heart and want the best for them.

I suppose one subtle difference might be that in France, we focus less on the psychology of the child and more on his or her practical education.  For example, when I was at a friend's house, she had told her son he couldn't do something and he responded, "You're hurting my feelings!"  Our French friends laughed, as this is not very French—it would not garner a French child much sympathy when being scolded or told no.  Perhaps French parents are more old-fashioned, stricter in this way...or at least, mine were with me.

4. Some language learners are fearful of speaking English to a French person, afraid they’ll make an embarrassing mistake. Did you ever humiliate yourself in English? Any examples you are willing to share?

I do this every day.  One example that comes to mind is something I once said to a woman in the street. She was trying to light her cigarette, but her lighter wasn’t working, so as a proper French gentleman would, I offered her my own.  I asked her, “Do you want my fire?”  After she had left, the American friend I was with burst into laughter.  When I asked him what was so funny, he explained to me why that had been a ridiculous thing to say.  I was absolutely mortified!

5. Humor, or a good joke, is often “lost in translation”, making it even more difficult to adapt as an expat.  Did you ever find it difficult to appreciate the sense of humor in your adopted country, or to share your own sense of humor?

Yes and no.  Humor is one of the most important things in my life—it’s like a drug to me.  I have watched so many comedies and read so many books to try to better understand American and British humor.  What I have discovered is that the jokes we make are often very specific to culture, sometimes only understood in the country they are from.  For example, a joke about cheerleaders that Americans find hilarious would be confusing to the French, because we don’t have cheerleaders in France.

Living in a new place, you come to understand that it is much more difficult to share your sense of humor, but as implied in my answer to your previous question, sometimes you can make people laugh without knowing why.

6. There are some colorful expressions in French, such as “faire du lèche-vitrines” or “avoir un oursin dans sa poche”.  Can you share a favorite French expression?

One of my favorites is “Ce n'est pas tombé dans l'oreille d'un sourd”. The English equivalent is “It hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” or that the information has been fully understood, but translated quite literally, it would be “It hasn’t fallen into the ear of a deaf man.”

7. Regarding pronunciation, what do you think about accents? (i.e. when speaking English, do you strive to lose your own French accent? Conversely, what do you think when hearing someone struggle to pronounce French?)

I would love to do that—if only I could get rid of the “z” and say “the” one time, as it should be!  But in regard to hearing a foreign accent in French, I find it very charming, and never ridiculous.  Especially when an American woman speaks French, it’s so sexy.

Et si cetait vrai levy
Read this one in French, order here (scroll down for the English edition)

8. Regarding things getting lost in translation, how do you feel about having your French words—so thoughtfully chosen during the writing process—translated into English, or another language, now that your books are being made available worldwide?

It’s a real concern.  The initial English translation of my first book was so bad, it really killed me and almost ruined the story.  For a writer, finding a translator who understands your writing is as difficult as an actor finding the voice that will dub over his own.  (Dubbed voiceovers for foreign movies and television shows are very common in France.)  Translators are constantly underpaid and underappreciated, but their role is so important that they should really get a part of the royalties.  They aren’t just translating, but adapting the text, and to do so, they must be good writers.

When I received corrections for the English translation of my second novel before it went to print, I sat down with both versions in front of me, trying to go through and compare every word.  In the middle of this, the doorbell rang and the mailman arrived with the Chinese manuscript.  I went back to my desk and closed everything.  I learned that day that after a certain point, you must trust that the translator likes and understands your work, and wants to accurately reproduce it.

9. It is both fascinating and inspiring to read about your path to writing, and the failures that brought you there.  In one interview, we read about some of the words of wisdom you shared with your son.  You said, “The biggest mistake you can make in your life is to avoid any mistake by not doing anything.”  Could you please translate that into French for us, and so leave us with the courage to pursue our own dreams?

La plus grande erreur que tu pourrais faire dans ta vie serait d'avoir évité toute erreur en n'ayant rien fait.”

  If only it were true

Click here to order this book

A little more about Marc Levy

With 13 novels published over the past 12 years—all of which have been #1 bestsellers in France and many other countries worldwide—Marc has nearly 30-million copies of his books in print in 45 languages. 

Before his first novel, If Only It Were True, was published in the U.S., Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights for DreamWorks. The movie, Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, was a #1 box office hit. Since this remarkable introduction, US readers have not had easy access to Marc's subsequent works. Until now. Click on the book cover below, or link, to discover all of Marc Levy's books.
Ps from paris

Read Marc Levy's P.S. From Paris

Une autre idee du bonheur (French edition)


...or read the above book in French. Order here.

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.

Cassis recommendation + Une Tuerie: a popular slang term often used by foodies and bon vivants

Bar du XX eme siecle Cassis France tapas menu cuisine wine vin

Looking for an authentic wine and tapas bar in Cassis, France? Read on! 


    1. to die for, killer, freakin' delicious

the original meaning of tuerie is: a massacre

LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc read the example sentence in French click here

Cick here to listen to today's word

Le gâteau au chocolat de ma maman est une tuerie!
My mom's chocolate cake is to die for!

Cassis france rue pierre


"A Parade of Little Plates"

  by Kristi Espinasse

As we walked down to the port of Cassis, strolling beside candy-colored buildings lit up by so much sunshine on a crisp January day, my husband quizzed me.

"So what do you think you'll have for lunch?" he grinned.
"Oh, I don't know," I played along. 
"Du loup? Ou bien...du magret?..." Jean-Marc persisted. Whether in French or in English, he was taunting me!

"Peut-être..." I tried to be nonchalant, or else show my weakness for eating--especially for pan-seared French bistro cooking which I trusted was on le menu du jour. But what an assumption that turned out to be! When Jean-Marc invited me along to his noon-time meeting with a couple of wine représentants, I imagined we would lunch in a cozy resto--at least that is what my man led me to believe when he told me about his meeting in Cassis.

But as we sidled up to the comptoir in a bar formerly frequented by local drunks, I began to regret the perfectly sound meal que j'aurais pu me cuisiner! The meal I could have cooked, had I not taken the bait! But who wouldn't be tempted by a visit to Cassis? I decided to focus on that part of the equation and forget about rotisserie chicken (or lamb chops I would no longer have). And just as I let go of expectations, one of the reps looked my way:

With the kindest eyes, trentenaire Maxime said: It must get very boring to sit through these wine-fueled meetings

The man who had the same name as our son must have caught me staring at the bar counter which was packed with opened bottles of wine. And he must have translated the expression on my face--a look that read what am I doing here? But he couldn't have read the rest of my thoughts: What--at 15 years sober--am I doing seated once again in front of a sea of open wine bottles? (I periodically asked myself the same question: what am I doing moving to a vineyard? What am I doing with a frigo full of wine samples? Married to a winemaker? Now a wine merchant? But two vineyards later, and many wine-fueled lunches (wait, where's lunch?) like this, and I've not fallen off the wagon, pas une seule fois!

Embarrassed to be caught looking so forlorn, I perked right up with the help of my bubbly drink (sparkling water, bien sûr): "C'est vrai--des fois çela me gonfle! True, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Mais, c'est aussi un privilège d'être parmi...vous (how else to say it was a privilege to be among the movers-and-shakers in French wine?). There are so many characters in the wine industry, so many stories, so much camaraderie that even a teetotaler can manage to fit in somewhere. I pulled my barstool up a little closer, and j'ai lâché prise....

"I smell eucalyptus!" Jean-Marc was saying, swirling his rosé and dipping his nose back beneath the rim of his wine glass. I giggled to myself, of course, that's your favorite tree... isn't it true how we become more sensitive to the things Just as Jean-Marc loves eucalyptus trees (and was now tasting them) I love characters. A wonderful group surrounded us now.....

There was the gentlemanly owner, Jacques, and his wife Marie (was there ever a more beautiful face? a mixture of Greta Garbo and the author of the bestseller Mange, Prie, Aime...).  Then there were the wine reps, Pierre and Maxime - jovial opposites, and obviously good friends and business partners. By the end of our meeting ("our" for I was now very much connected) we all agreed to meet up for an oursinade--a half day of sea urchin hunting.  And speaking of food--the very reason I'm writing to you on the weekend--like magic it began to appear from the back of the bar... where a distinguished Spaniard appeared, with plate after plate of savory tapas!

Fried calamari at wine tapas Bar du XX eme Cassis France

Ardoise or chalkboard menu at XX eme siecle wine and tapas bar in Cassis France
A mouthwatering array of tapas on the bar's "ardoise" or chalkboard menu

C'était une tuerie! There were crisp-fried calamari, lightly-crisped potato disks and a creamy aïoli sauce...and there were couteaux (razor clams, pictured at the end of this post, are a "fruit of the sea" with a long "knife-like" shell), melt-in-your-mouth Iberian ham, anchovies in oil, and addictive tomato-rubbed toasts or pan con tomate. Speaking of addictive, can you get drunk on tapas? I don't know, drunk is no longer a feeling I enjoy--but I felt agreeably woozy after the delicious défilé--or parade of little plates.


le loup = bass fish
le magret (de canard) = duck breast
le menu du jour = today's menu
le comptoir = counter, bar
le trentenaire = person in their 30s
le frigo = fridge
ça me gonfle = it bugs, bothers me, I get fed up
lâcher prise = to let go
une tuerie = to die for
aïoli = Mediterranean sauce made of garlic and olive oil
le défilé = parade, procession

Adventures on the wine route

I forgot to say that this wine bar also hosts book signings. The walls of the bar are covered with large framed photos of French authors--but the owner happened to be reading a book by American writer Kermit Lynch. He was enthusiastically showing us the book, Adventures on the Wine Route

Wine reps Maxime Pierre and Jean-Marc
Maxime, Pierre, and Jean-Marc

Le Vingteme bar resto tapas wine in cassis france
If you go... here are the bar's coordonnées, or contact details:

"Le Vingtième" 
17 Avenue Victor Hugo, 13260 Cassis
Téléphone : 09 80 53 24 43

Le Vingtième is open from Wednesday to Sunday (winter hours) for lunch and dinner.

Le couteau de mer or solen or razor clams
Flowers and volets or wooden shutters in Cassis 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.

Our Current Mess + Une Alerte Orange

Portrait of a woman in white by Susan Winkler
This book recommendation comes to you wonderful dad! We chatted via Skype last night and Dad could not stop raving about Portrait of a Woman in White. If you love history, art, and romance--and are interested in WWII--buy Susan Winkler's book!

"Winkler takes a topic of growing interest, the recovery and return of art stolen by the Nazis, and weaves a story spanning 23 years about one family and one painting. Not a novel about the horrors of war... (but) the struggles of trying to reestablish a life when everything you know and love is gone." --Booklist Order this book

TODAY'S WORD: une alerte orange

    : Weather report warning of strong wind or other possible natural disasters

AUDIO FILE: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 

Alerte orange

Aujourd'hui à La Ciotat c'est une alerte orange - ça souffle fort et il faut se méfier des objets volants.
Today in La Ciotat it's an "orange alert" - it's very windy and you must watch out for flying objects.


    by Kristi Espinasse

As far as this week's compte-rendu, why not start right in the middle of the mess--and pan out from there? I woke up this morning to find a pot of roses had tumbled into Smokey's water gamelle. The yellow roses were a gift from our chauffagiste, who got a lot of business from us, recently, when a slew of appliances broke down here at our 1960-built home in La Ciotat.

This week our plumber hit the jackpot when our plumbing system balked. After tearing apart our concrete patio with a marteau- piqueur, the workers (there are now two) revealed several of old pipes being strangled by tree roots (the "tree" in question is no more than an overgrown pittosporum. They crop up around here and grow into pipe-menacing arbres!). 

As I sit here unsure of when we'll be able to use the W.-C. can always use a bucket?), I am as ready as you are to change the subject. I'd rather tell you about the bright yellow mimosa blooming in our neighborhood. It really made me smile to see those sunshine blossoms dotted throughout the streets this week. And it reminded me of one of the many delights of January! 

Mimosa flowers blossoms france january

Alerte Orange--Orange (level) weather warning
I was hoping to go out for a mind-changing walk this morning to see what else is blooming (and to escape the pounding of jackhammers and scraping of sewer pipes), but there is a  strong wind blowing through town (more than that pot of yellow roses, it is knocking down tree limbs and overturning outdoor furniture). So I'll stay inside wishing instead of walking--wishing that wild wind would upend certain trees and their pipe-strangling racines! Then up-up-and-away those gnarling, choking roots would go, along with our plumbing woes....

The good news is, once our plumbing is fixed and our electricity is rewired (an upcoming project)--and now that we've replaced our water heater and our home heater, too...our 1960s property will be up-to-date, or, as the French say, à jour. Sure, there'll be a few outdated things--like the bidets in the bathrooms. And did you know the French use le bidet for more than washing (private parts, clothes, and small dogs)? In a pinch, they're used for....le pipi! So would you in desperation, dear reader, toss out this bucket and use le bidet? Be honest...and let me know in the comments!


le compte-rendu = update, report
la gamelle = bowl, dish (for animal)
le/la chauffagiste = heating engineer
le marteau-piqueur = jackhammer
un arbre = tree
le W.-C. = toilet
la racine = root
à jour = up-to-date

Mimosa flowers france january blossoms

Do you enjoy this free language journal and want to help keep it going all the way through its 17th year? Consider sending a donation to help with the costs and effort of publishing French Word-A-Day.

Although I have not read each and every email from you, I have enjoyed those I did in fact read. My goal is to eventually go back to the beginning. Wow what a goal. The donation is small but my gratitude is immense for all your efforts. --Deborah 

Click on one of the following links to support this journal:

Send $10
Send $25
Send another amount, here

Merci Beaucoup! Your contribution is a great help--and an encouragement, too!

Nearby town of Cereste

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.

Try this in the New Year: s'aérer l'esprit

Wearing wetsuits to walk in the winter sea in La Ciotat

Walking in the sea, mid-January, in La Ciotat, France. Some wore wetsuits, others (as in a man we saw just this morning) wear only an iconic Speedo!

s'aérer l'esprit

    : to clear the mind

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French words:

S'aérer l'esprit

s'aérer l'esprit. marcher, promener, gambader, sont des bons moyens pour s'aérer l'esprit
clear one's mind. (to) walk, walk, gambol, are good ways to clear the mind.


by Kristi Espinasse

I've always liked the idea of a "tool belt" when it comes to finding relief from a difficult, tricky, painful or otherwise impossible situation. Number one in my toolbag, or belt, as you well know if you have read this journal for a while, is scripture (bilingual is especially helpful). 

The second tool, or outil, I hinted at in the "enchanted" post: a good devotional, or little book of méditations quotidiennes.

And today's tool is the third (hammer? wrench? screwdriver? measuring stick! yes! much more positive-sounding--for we do grow each time we find ourselves gripping for a tool in our trusty belt). Here's that tool, and not necessarily in order of importance (for I have not yet mentioned family and friends--they are essential in our emergency sacoche à outils!)

Walking in Cassis France

LA MARCHE - that's it, Tool Number 3 is walking. What I especially like about walking is the multiple benefits that come from the single act of putting one foot in front of the other. Firstly, it is symbolic: it is a stepping forth. We literally cannot remain in the same (stuck) place when we step forth. Alors, en avant!

Then there is the change of scenery which must, if we open our eyes (for who walks with les yeux fermés?) change the picture (sad, fearful, coléreux?) in our mind. Of course it is possible to walk and remain focused on whatever is eating at us. We can literally see right through the objects coming toward us (such as other walkers). But if we refocus, say, on another ambulating soul, in time to glimpse the expression on their face - we realize we are not alone in our emotions. 

Yesterday, while researching the topic of walking, The title of a YouTube video caught my attention: Walking and Silence. Here's a man that decided, one day, to shut up or se taire (after thinking he knew everything) and walk across America. It was either this or become a monk. This black man with dreadlocks and I have at least two things in common: as a last-ditch effort we have both seriously considered living in a cloister. Pour toujours! And both of us have come to the conclusion that walking might be a more realistic place to start.

To start to find peace (or enlightenment? or resolution? closure? ...You fill in the blank!).

   *    *

Calanque of port d alon
A favorite place to walk is in the calanques or sea-inlets.

I would love to hear about your experiences walking. Tell me all the benefits it brings you, why you do it, where you do it--what you like to do when you're doing it (listen to music? chat with a friend?). Or, if you don't walk, tell me what you do to clear your mind. For that is the word of the day "s'aérer l'esprit). To comment, see the link at the end of this post. 

Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino, click here to order

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris...

Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James

Women's Fitness walking shoes

Lastly, this book: Meet Peace Pilgrim, who crossed the U.S. on foot seven times with only the clothes on her back to spread her message of peace. She lived off the land and the kindness of those she met, sleeping outdoors, on cement floors, in parked cars and, once, on the front seat of a fire engine in Tombstone, Arizona. Whenever she ran into trouble – from blizzards to black eyes – her sole response was love. order here

Flowers at the port of Bandol 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.

Enchanté de vous rencontrer + rest in a teachable spirit

Smokey golden retriever bougainvillea france
This photo was taken years ago, at our vineyard, but it could be our new place here in La Ciotat. We have the same chairs (from my belle-mère), same bougainvillea, same gravel, same dog. Familiarity is comforting, isn't it? If you have read this letter for years, you are getting to know our family. If you are a new reader, Bienvenue! So nice to meet you (hear our message below). New or longtime reader, it would be a pleasure to hear from you in the comments. Tell us which city you live in, your age, and your reason for studying French. Merci beaucoup.

Enchanté de vous rencontrer

    : nice to meet you

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc and me read the following French words:

Enchante sound file

Enchanté. Nous sommes enchantés de vous connaître.
Delighted. We are delighted to know you.



    by Kristi Espinasse

The adjective enchanté is just the word in which to kick off a new year for this French word journal.  May we all be so enchanted in 2018--happy to meet new people and new challenges, and delighted by the serendipities we are bound to encounter. And when things go wrong in the coming year (for can things always go right?), may we find inspiration from today's word...and "en" "chant" or inwardly sing until things are back on track again.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to inwardly sing when you are hurting. Believe me I know! But during a week of hard knocks, I happened on a missing note--a kind of bridge between despair and hope. It is advice from my 370-year-old French friend, Fénelon, whose paper-thin book "Let Go" is a fixture on my table de nuit. Here's Fen's advice:

Rest in a teachable spirit.

The suggestion can be interpreted as deeply as you'd like (Allez-y!), or it can simply be taken "surface level". Either way, let's learn, learn, learn! in the new year--beginning with the sunny French word enchanté, and continuing on with whatever leçons de vie are thrown our way. (And there will be plenty if you are in any kind of relationship with mankind, n'est-ce pas?)

*    *    *

French Vocabulary

enchanté = pleased to meet you, delighted, enchanted

la table de nuit = night stand

allez-y = go on! go for it!

leçons de vie = life lessons

n'est-ce pas? = isn't that right

Easy French Step-by-Step - master grammar fast! 
Embryolisse - an affordable and popular face cream from France

A swimwear shop in La Ciotat...and a new friend for Smokey?

Your support is appreciated
This journal comes to you free, straight from my heart. If you would like to help financially support my writing in 2018, click on this donation link. 

Mille mercis!

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.

Les dents de bonheur - "Happiness Teeth" are part of this elogy

Dear Reader,

The regular edition of French Word-A-Day will return in a few days. Meantime, I've been trying to write a eulogy for my belle-mère without sounding too sentimental, too dramatic, or too poetic--but all of these things, from poesie to sentimentality, evoke the richness of Michele-France's life. This--and her humor, her stubbornness, and that charming gap between her front teeth (the French have a term for this: "happiness teeth" or les dents du bonheur)--only begin to paint of picture of our beloved, ginger-haired Pied-Noir (born in Meknes and proud of it. She was the daughter of an equally strong-willed mother).

Since losing Michèle-France on Christmas Eve, I have pinpointed just what it is that provokes each flood of tears, each hiccup of emotion, each groan in my throat as I toss in bed, walk past her apartment, or sit on a pew watching the curtains close in front of her flower-topped casket, as I did Thursday. It is the realization that there will be no more. No more "My darlings" (Ma chérie, she would say with such tenderness), no more visits to her little apartment up the street, no more shared yogurt cakes, no more "I didn't want to bother Jean-Marc so I'm calling you to remind him to..." no more attitude towards the nurses, sass towards the shop assistants as she limped into the store with the help of her cane and her granddaughter, no more intelligent jokes, no more beautifully painted-red fingernails, a string of gold rings (one from her son) below, no more Elvis, no more bodyguard, no more teasing me about her son's ex-girlfriends, and, I will admit...

NO MORE TAPENADE. You little rascal, I say to my belle-mère during another earth-to-heaven conversation. I've asked you for years for your tapenade recipe. And you went and took it with you!!

In a poignant send-off arranged by the crematorium, to the tune of Love is all we have left, the curtains at the front of the ceremony room open once again. My belle-mère's casket is gone and all that remains is a crown of flowers on the floor. I am stunned.

* * *       

"I miss you so much it hurts," I wrote on Facebook, where my mother-in-law's account is still live. Though she struggled with technology Michèle-France did not let a learning curve keep her from keeping up with the times. Quickly overlooked by her Facebook friends (including some of you) were the gaffes she made (like using a photo of a stranger (you?) as her profile picture. And posting another photo--this time of one of my sponsor's luxury villas--to use as her cover photo). Her grandchildren (or was it my sister-in-law? for Jean-Marc had given up) eventually came to the rescue, helping her to find a suitable picture of herself to use as her profile (and the luxury villa was replaced by a more modest interior belonging sister-in-law! This all could be explained by the following: while my belle-mère tried to conquer technology--she still couldn't figure out her smartphone camera, or else she might have posted a picture of her own lovely salon, or living room.). 

My heart now in a brace, I clicked open Messenger to read over the SMS conversations we'd had over the years. Michèle-France's texts were filled with gratitude and those silly stickers she got me to use, too (do you know the one with the dog digging in the ground and retrieving the big I MISS YOU heart? She was telling us she missed us even before she left this earth).

Now it is our turn to feel the weight of her absence. How heavy it is! Heavy as all those buckets of olives we were planning to cart over to her little apartment when, last fall, she announced that she was feeling better--good enough to make another batch of tapenade. We never got to make that tell-all batch, in which the longtime mystery (those ingredients!) would be revealed. Instead, a bigger mystery has replaced it: Where in the world is my belle-mère? I've been looking for her everywhere--in the sky, in my dark room at night, in the intricate designs in the tiles on my bathroom wall, in the waves crashing across the shore here in La Ciotat, at the top of our cypress tree beyond a bent branch--surely she's looking down on me? I can hear her tender voice, Ma Chérie, Ma Chérie....

She is, I decide, in every particle in everything, everywhere and everlasting. She is as close as a far as the Heavens. Surely she is up there--waving her tapenade recipe, smiling with those charming dents de bonheur. There is nothing she would keep from you or me, least of all her generosity. In the coming year, I will be reaching, reaching high for those heavenly instructions. I will share with you anything I find.



Michele-france jean-marc and mr sacks

My mother-in-law (those charming "happiness teeth"), my husband, and good ol' Mr. Sacks, who my belle-mère called "Monsieur Sacoche".

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.

Bonne Année

Bonjour et Bonne Année. Je suis bouleversé par tous vos messages de soutien et vous en remercie du fond du cœur. Un nouveau chapitre de notre vie s'ouvre... Avec ma profonde reconnaissance.
Hello and Happy New Year. I am overwhelmed by all your messages of support and thank you from the bottom of my heart. A new chapter in our life opens... With my sincere gratitude. --Jean-Marc 
Pictured with Michèle-France, who passed away on Christmas Eve. We are heading back to France, tomorrow, to celebrate my belle-mère's life. I will share Jean-Marc's tribute to his mother in the next post. Thank you all for the tenderness you shared in the comments. Our family is deeply touched. --Kristi 


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.