Try this in the New Year: s'aérer l'esprit
Cassis recommendation + Une Tuerie: a popular slang term often used by foodies and bon vivants

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

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Nearby town of Cereste

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Audrey Wilson

Same wind here Kristin .kept me awake all night banging so hard on the shutters here in hospital I thought some one was hurling bricks at them !!
Sympathies on all your problems with the house When we restored our barn &produced finally our home We could have written book !
Bon courage Eh ?
Audrey x

Nancy LoBalbo

Now there's an idea! There must be a book in all this, Kristi! Good luck with the house et. alia
xoNancy L.

joie in Carmel

I know all about those off the ocean winds! Is it worse than the Mistral? And for the bidet....bien sur!

Kristin Espinasse

Thinking of you, Audrey. Hope you can return home soon. 💛

Claudette Snitiker

I have been "avec toi" for a long time. We have much in common. I have a French heritage and had a Junior Year abroad in Paris. Had a family friend in St.Tropez who welcomed my 20 year old person for the holidays.

Quelle joie! Que de souvenirs.

You have the best life ever! Enjoy every minute ever with a wonderful husband and great children! I enjoy receiving your daily emails.


Roseann Milano

Kristin- I'm having a hard time picturing your new 1960's home. Have you posted any pictures of the exterior? is it a stand alone villa or an apartment or.... I just can't seem to figure it out. I need the geography to be able to picture it in my head. Photos soon?


Bon courage, Kristi! I hope that all the plumbing issues will be resolved quickly and that the wind will calm down. While in university, we were renting a century-old home in Toronto when, at -30C in early January, we discovered that our main pipe was blocked by the roots of an old tree. I felt terrible for the poor workers who had to work outside in such weather conditions, then felt grateful when a few days later I could use my bathroom again instead of having to go to the neighbours in desperation. That said, bien sur, I would use le bidet for *that* purpose if required. ;)


Our dear Kristi,
So many home repairs(!)and now the Alerte Orange weather warning!
You have more than hands full and yet always bring us smiles and patience!So makes me wish to follow your inspiration!
Particularly with the weather....
our beautiful Montecito(Ca) was,after the largest fire in CA history,hit with rain and mudslides which not only devastated the town ,but killed 9 people with 40 still missing.No water, gas,utilities or fresh food,now a forced mandatory evacuation for an indefinite period.
God granted us to be away,safe at our home here in Las Vegas,but seeing Mother Nature in such force,destruction and death to people we know(and knew)--really touches us to the core.
On a lighter note(!),I agree(!)le bidet ,good for any old port in the storm!!
Natalia. Xo

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

What is le pipi?

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Haha - never mind. I looked it up!

Faye LaFleur

Lovely photos! Regarding the bidet, I say whatever works!!!🙂

Patricia Sands

Kristi, thanks for the wonderful mimosa memories. Such a pleasure to see those joyful, fragrant blooms!


oui oui to the pipi! ;-) xoxo


As a former Peace Corps (Cameroon) teacher, I find no problem using a bucket. But if that is not your style, I say "What is the point of having a bidet if you cannot find inventive ways to use it?"

Jan Hersh

Back in 1970 on the first evening in France in a small town on the outskirts of Paris... I discovered the first and only bidet I had seen in my life. It was a cheap hotel room. I assumed it was a toilet and used it as such....
Later I learned what it was for.

The next hotel room in Paris had no bidet in the top floor room...but the toilet was down the hall and consisted of a hole in the floor with a roll of toilet paper near by. Yikes. However, I survived.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

I sometimes think that I must be getting close to being French - but then subjects such as that of the bidet come up (or stopping for lunch instead of eating a sandwich in the car and enjoying relatively empty autoroutes at midday during black Saturday holiday changeover days) and I realise that I'm not there yet. I do hope that your house inconveniences are behind you now.


In Rome, in 1978, we often had a we fown the Hall, yet a bidet in the room. I learned how easy it was in the middle of the night to put the bidet to good use.


Sorry, a W C down the hall!


Our dear Kristi,
With all the racquet AND the Alerte Orange,you have plenty going on!
As always,you give us patience and inspiration to get through these things and,till then, wait for the silver lining! And WOW!Those gorgeous mimosas are definitely one of the silver linings!!
Especially enjoyed the good reviews for Portrait of a Woman in White.
I had seen this book offered ,and was contemplating buying it(on Kindle)but hesitated until I'd heard something more(preferably good) about it.Lately I seem to have drifted into mostly devotionals and needed a nudge to again break into something else.
So many great comments about the bidet (and to pipi or not to pipi?That is the question???!!!!!!!!)! The only thing that I could add is porquoi pas??
Natalia XO

Nancy Stilwagen

I just wish we had bidets in the US. After a stay in France, I have really come to miss that convenience.

Erin Ross

Bonjour Kristi, and Hola de Panama,
I have been reading your helpful and insightful blog for a year now. Dave (dear husband) and I have lived in a beautiful mountain town in Panama, Boquete, for 13 years ( formerly,Northern California,U.S Natives)
Me, being a "late traveler" (in my 60s) discovered France and fell into "Enchante",the word you said recently was "Singing inwardly".. oh what joy to hear that ... because it exactly expressed how I felt about France ( and the people I love who are dear to me).
I sent to friends and family your thoughts about losing your belle-mere, I had tears in my eyes.
Thank you for my Piece of France.
I bought the book " The woman in the white Dress". My Book club here read "Suite Francaise" and if you have not read it..please do. Extraordinary. Recommended by my best friend here, who is Swedish. This is an internationally Rich Community.
Gracias for your continued emails. I know it is hard to keep it up. As I read the comments,we all appreciate your (and Marc's) efforts.
Graicas por Todo y Abrazos (hugs) Erin from Boquete Panama

Cynthia Lewis

The French must have a similar expression to the English: "When it Rains it Pours". I do hope that all will be repaired and in working order very soon. The invasive roots of the pittosporum remind me of the roots of our weeping willow trees. You never want to plant them anywhere near a building with indoor plumbing! Many years ago, we learned this when we bought an office building with an existing large willow tree growing at one end. Some years later, the plumbing became choked with the willow's roots.
How wonderful to have those bright yellow mimosa blossoms all over town in January! Thanks for the photos. I hope the wind will subside in a day or two and you and Smokey will get out and about. My best wishes for all.
P.S. I'm going to look for the book, "Portrait of a Lady in White" which your Dad enjoyed so much ... local library should have it ... sounds like a really good read especially since I lived through those years.


I'm starting a movement where one leaves their desk, car to sit and enjoy lunch!

Gail L from AZ

I never knew what a mimosa looked like before! Perhaps they grow here in Arizona, too? We have bougainvilleas. THank you for the book recommendation...I’m going to order it! I’m so sorry about the plumbing problems. Our home was built in 1960 too. We have replaced and updated many things. I’ve still never seen/used a bidet...even when I was in France!

Laura C

I always thought that W.C. meant water closet, obviously English. So it was a surprise to see it listed in your French vocabulary. Perhaps those initials mean something else in French? We don't want to contaminate the purity of French language with Franglish, do we???


From my experience of two years living in France, I can say that the bidet can handle liquids but never solids!!
(I learned that the hard way....)
Phyllis from WA


You seem to brave so many struggles but are always an inspiration.
The mimosa look like Australian wattle (Acacia) Are they related?


I googled mimosa, but it didn't look like that - it was pink 😊 That looks exactly like wattle, which is in the Australian coat of arms. Wattles grow in every state of Australia, and if you select the right varieties, you can have flowers all year round, like my parents did. The seeds are edible, and often used in icecream

Merle Minda

Somehow I am not receiving your latest posts. Your site tells me I am signed in but haven't received these last two posts. Please check, merci!

Audrey Wilson

Thakyou Kristi Think it will be several weeks yet . Still wearing this corset ( like armour !!)


Agree on le bidet. I sure wish they were included in US bathrooms. Yet, we just built a house, & I did not include one! Pourquoi?

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

I like the idea...I'm all for the idea, but often practicality wins out. But, I'll try!

Kathleen from Connecticut

The woes of home ownership. I guess that in France, they do not have home inspections prior to buying a house. In Connecticut it is mandatory and saved many post repairs. Tree roots are the worst things to happen to pipes and electrical wires. At our office building, we had roots that constantly broke our sewer pipes.
Are you having the Mistral? That wind is very agressive and can last for long periods of time.
Soon your house will be almost new.


Deborah Auclair juice and champagne. It is very popular here in Massachusetts. However since I have given up alcohol, I will need to find something else with bubble. Club soda?

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