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Entries from December 2018

Bon bout d'an! + What is an adult? (Surprising answer by one of France's most famous philosophers)

Sunrise in la ciotat (2)
For this last post of the year, my mind is a scramble--une bousculade. As with the beginning of any essay, there are so many possible directions in which to set out. This is when a writer must hone in on a subject or, at the very least, un thème.

Because everything is bubbling up inside of me in a good and sunny way, it can't help but overflow onto this page. Whether this positive energy will last until lunchtime--or carry on through the end of the year--peu importe. What's essential is to go with it. If I had to sum up 2018, I would say flow of life is where it is (or was). This past year (the tears come as I type this) I have, once and for all, not fought the changes. Come what may are the words on my lips this morning, and these 3 words offer a willing and ready nod to the future.

QUOI QU'IL ARRIVE. Come what may, I will (live, advance, deal, love, hurt, heal). Come what may I will try hard to swallow my pride, forgive myself for missteps, hug the one who's rattling me. Sometimes I need rattling. I thank God those that rattle me also love me, forgive me, and practice short-term memory when it comes to offenses. I'm thinking of my Mom and my husband, two very strong characters whom I have struggled to live with in 2018. But if I have had a revelation in the past décennie, it is this: others struggle to live with me too!

So if you are like me, don't feel too bad about your idiosyncrasies. Continue to smooth them out in the coming year and, in the meantime, take heart in a famous writer's words: Qu'est-ce qu'un adulte? Un enfant gonflé d'âge.*

(An adult is only a child blown up by age!)

We still have our meltdowns, we still, as a little girl screamed in the park the other day (MAMAN! LES BRAS! LES BRAAAAS!), want to be carried when we can no longer soldier on. We are still goofy, awkward and inadequate--creative, silly, and sweet. We are snotty nosed brats and innocent as newborns (we don't know what is coming next and we are at the mercy of it).   

All we need to do from here on out is to be considerate of others and gentle to ourselves. I wish you, Dear Reader, un bon bout d'an and  I will see you here in the new year quoi qu'il arrive.... 

With lots and lots of love (oh, les larmes sont revenues!),


Smokey and Kristi Christmas tree

gonfler = to bore, exasperate, get on somebody's nerves
une bousculade = rush, scramble
un thème = theme
peu importe = whatever, it doesn't matter
quoi qu'il arrive = come what may, whatever happens
la décennie = decade
maman = mommy
les bras! = your arms (I want you to hold me!)
bon bout d'an! = Happy end of the year!
les larmes sont revenues = the tears have come back
*Simone de Beauvoir

Doves by the sea in la ciotat

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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51 ans comme le pastis! + Come paint in Provence!

Paint provence with Tess

The flyer above is for my dear friend Tess's art getaways here in France. Click on the banner above and put this experience on your bucket list for 2019!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Eh bien, I didn't mean to take a week off of writing this journal. I had planned to touch base with you on Christmas Eve, with a meaningful story, when the word intrusive popped into my mind. Call it intuition...or maturing in age...but the fact is je ne voulais pas vous gonfler avec trop de choses.

And maybe I didn't want to exasperate myself either? Whether one more letter in your inbox would have sent you (or me) into a tailspin, or chute libre, is only an assumption--something I make too many of, which brings me to New Year's goals. What are yours?

As you take a moment to think about that, let me veer off track and say: on Dec 22nd I turned 51 comme le pastis. The kids were away, Mom was recuperating, and Jean-Marc had to work. So after moping around the house all morning, I took Jules's advice to mark the occasion. I did this by kicking around my garden until I bumped into a better occupation by way of an 8ft-tall scraggly stalk. The Jerusalem artichoke plant never did produce the bright sunflower-like blossoms I had hoped for, back when I buried it, but might there be the promised sunchokes below ground? The thought perked me up until I had both hands in the cool dirt, the lushness and scent of the earth awakening sense and curiosity.

That is how I dug up an unexpected treasure on my birthday. A harvest of topinabours. How thrilling it is to discover abundance in an outwardly barren environment! What else is out there hidden, yet-to-be-discovered? Like gifts that remain to be opened, such are the days et les découvertes ahead.

*    *    *

Lulus provencale kitchen richard olney
The delicious book Jean-Marc gave me for my birthday. I believe it is out of print. Used copies are available here.

eh bien = well
gonfler = bore, exasperate
chute libre = tailspin
51 comme le pastis = 51 like the (famous) pastis
le topinambour = Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke
une découverte = discovery

A little red vespa, right, parasol pines and the rocky coastline here in La Ciotat. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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Entertain friends with this delicious French synonym + Mieux vaut tard que jamais!

The crust or trottoir on my favorite pizza at Chez Henri

TODAY'S WORD: le trottoir

    : sidewalk, pavement, curb
    : slang for the outer crust (or le rebord) on a pizza, tart, or quiche

Listen to Jean-Marc
 Download Trottoir

En France et en Suisse, par métaphore, le trottoir est aussi le nom communément donné au bord d'une tarte ou d'une pizza.
In France and Switzerland, as a metaphor, the sidewalk is also the name given for the crust of a tart or a pizza.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Mieux Vaut Tard Que Jamais"

Yesterday--24 years after moving to France--I got the chance to thank Marianne. Marianne is the mother of Fred, who is the godfather of our son, Max. It was Fred who picked me up at the Marignane airport in the fall of 1992, after a 24-hour voyage from Arizona. I'll never forget him glancing down at my cowboy boots as he stood beside the baggage carousel, wearing a crisp Façonnable chemise and Italian loafers--at least I think that is what he was wearing--and if I retell this same story in 10 years, don't be surprised if Fred is sporting an Izod sweater and wingtips. While my memory may be foggy for details, it is crystal clear when it comes to kindnesses, as we will see in the following remembrance.

Fred drove me to his family's home in Marseilles, where we unloaded my U-Haul moving boxes and mes valises and waited for my then-boyfriend, Jean-Marc, to get off work. Fred lived with his parents, Marianne and Michel, and his 17-year-old frère cadet, Antoine. Over the next 10-months, I had the chance to eat many a Tuesday night dinner at Marianne's table, where I sat absorbing every detail. From pre-dinner ritual of apértifs (I loved Porto!) to the post-dinner digestif (le marc!), I drank it all in. Looking back, I wished I had put down my wine glass and helped Marianne carry all those heavy gratin dishes!

Yesterday was my chance to thank her. Michel and Marianne had come to see our vineyard and they were here, as well, to visit Château de Pibarnon, where they're considering celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After touring the Bandol winery, we headed to the charming port of La Madrague, to eat at our local pizzeria, Chez Henri.

Port of la madrague boats pointu filet fishnet

Almost as soon as we were seated, I blurted out a decades-late remerciement: "Marianne. You may not know what an impression you made on me all those years ago!"

Thinking about it, Marianne would have been the age I am now: 48.** She would have been serving dinner in high heels and a slim, above-the-knee skirt. It may have been leather. With her shoulder-length wavy black hair parted in the center and her big green eyes, she looked as beautiful as when she left for work that morning at her law firm. And here she was, late at night, serving 8 of us homemade gratin de courgette and steak--followed by a cheese platter, salad, dessert, and coffee (and perhaps a limoncello maison...). 

Over the years I thought a lot about Marianne as I tried to cook and to entertain--all the while balancing kids, casseroles, and my own burgeoning career as a learn-as-you-go écrivain.

As I considered all I wanted to convey to Marianne, the waiter at Chez Henri appeared... and the focus was about to go to the savory pies he set down in front of us. It was time to hurry and sum up what it was I wanted to say to Fred's mom all these years later....

"I wish I had helped you clear the table!!"

Looking at me with those beautiful green eyes, which now sparkled and smiled, Marianne said: "I have no memory of you not helping."

As everyone dug into their pizza, I savored Marianne's words until Michel piped up with some perfectly-timed comic relief. Pointing to the crust on our pizzas, he offered: Do you know what we call this in French? 

(Two of us shook our heads.)

"Le trottoir. The sidewalk."

The sidewalk indeed! This concluded our meaningful stroll down Memory Lane--Life's gentle path where we overlook shortcomings and recall only the best in others.

                        *   *    *     

**This story was written three years ago.

Marianne (second on the left, with her son Fred--Michel to the right--and their grandchildren and extended family)

Zucchini gratin casserole
Marianne's Easy Lasagna & A Favorite Word
Marianne's Zucchini Casserole

Related Serre Chevalier Stories
A Kiss by a Stranger (or Une Biz in Le Bez)
These boots are made for walking (overcoming fears)


mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
la chemise = shirt
la valise = suitcase
le frère cadet = younger brother, little brother
un apéritif = drink before lunch or dinner
digestif = after-dinner liqueur
le marc =
a digestif made of grapes or apples
le remerciement = thanks
gratin de courgette = zucchini casserole
limoncello maison = homemade limoncello
un écrivain
= writer
le trottoir
= sidewalk, pavement

The view from Chateau de Pibarnon, where we visited with Marianne and Michel.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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

Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher (These boots are made for...)

Maison de village in saint chaffrey alps
Village home in Saint-Chaffrey, Southern French Alps

Today's word: la botte

    : boot
    : bundle (sticks)
    : bunch (radishes)

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Eh bien, ces bottes sont faites pour marcher et c'est exactement ce qu'elles vont faire. --Nancy Sinatra
These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

Our drive up to the Alps was getting off to a bleak start. Not five minutes into our trip and we encountered a monumental embouteillage, only this time it wasn't les gilets jaunes protesters--it was VINCI--the company in charge of the motorway. It was they who had closed les péages. I looked out our passenger window to a sea of commuters who would not make it to the office by 9 a.m..... 

Jean-Marc began driving on the road's shoulder, passing two lanes of stalled vehicles to reach a raccourci farther up on the right. Following a caravan of renegade drivers, we weaved back down through La shimmy up the backside of Cassis. There we broke off from the southbound traffic and entered the freeway north--not a single car ahead of us now. It was surreal--like the day after the end of the world, and only the two of us remained.

On the opposite side of the autoroute, heading toward Marseilles, thousands of cars were backed up. Little did they know what lie ahead. Les pauvres!

The two of us carried on, three-and-a-half hours northwest to Serre Chevalier--where a group of mountain towns are niched among the southern French Alps. It was there, 24 years ago, on the banks of the rivière Guisane, that Jean-Marc proposed to me. But that was not the reason for our return....

We were there to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jean-Marc's friend Fred (godfather to our son Max). It was Fred's parents who loaned us their apartment years ago, for Jean-Marc's special plan. As we drove past Saint-Chaffrey, I looked up the street to where that old telephone booth used to be--the one Jean-Marc slipped into to phone my Dad and ask permission to take my hand in marriage. He burst out of that phone booth like Superman, having transformed from a bachelor to a near-married man!

Nostalgia courses through me when we return to les Hautes-Alps. It was here our children learned to ski, and here where we have our longtime mountain friends--a group of athletic bon vivants who love nothing more than to wake before the sun rises and hike 8 hours (mountain peak to mountain peak?) in the summertime. They are funloving, hard-playing professionals--and for years I have watched them from a awe.

Coincée, bloquée, compliquée--or simply lacking confidence--I often find a pretext to stay in our cheap hotel room rather than pile in with a houseful of extroverts while les sportifs go downhill skiing or meet for a daylong randonée. I don't have the gear and have all the fear. Part of this (the non-idiosyncratic side) goes back to a mistake I made years ago when Jean-Marc took me to the top of the mountain to une piste noire.  It was there I learned I could not ski. I eventually inched my way forward, on my bottom, cussing all the way down the icy, steep slope. (This explains why I no longer cuss, or dire des gros mots--I used up every single expletive on that day!)

While the black diamond (the word for a vertical ski run?) was Jean-Marc's mistake, I regret to this day that I didn't sign up, then and there for ski lessons. And so, for all these years I've stayed in my room, which only alienated me from our mountain friends who came to know me as Jean-Marc's femme sauvage. In the end, I didn't even bother to go to the mountains, but sent Jean-Marc off on his own.

This time something shifted in my brain. It might have been all the walking (and some running) I have done since September. Or my state of mind (improved from physical exercise). Somehow all those blocks--or one of them--lifted! And when we walked into our friend Guillaume's ski shop, I marched right up to the sales girl and said je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas! 
Hautes alps piste trail hiking boots ski de randonne
Hiking while Jean-Marc does cross-country

Having found a solution to a fear (slipping) I've held on to for ages, I followed my husband to the nearest piste and chased him right up the side of the mountain (OK, a small section of it) but I may as well as arrived at the summit of Mont Blanc! That is how good it feels to overcome something that has held you back for a very long time.

At Fred's 50th birthday party, I joined our friends and danced the night away in my new hiking boots. The faux-fur trim is an affectionate nod the femme sauvage at heart who is, little by little, climbing her way out of her hotel room--to the dance floor and beyond.

Non-slip bottes de neige
Visit our mountain friends here:
Guillaume's ski shop 
Benjamin and Virginie's restaurant (menu pictured below)
Lionel's Bière Alphand
Hervés Hotel (not the cheap room I mentioned in my story!)

Le white restaurant at serre-ratier benjamin melquiond


la botte = boot
un embouteillage = traffic jam
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
le péage = toll (booth, bridge)
VINCI = partner to the French government, this company is in charge of many of the roadways throughout France
le raccourci = short cut
les pauvres = poor things!
bon vivant = one who enjoys life
coincé(e) = uptight
sportif, sportive
= athletic, sporty type
ski de randonnée = ski touring
une piste = track
je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas = I would like non-slip boots
merci = thanks
femme sauvage = wild, unsociable woman
Little chalet of dreams
A stone chalet in the Hautes-Alps. Do you enjoy reading about this part of France?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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

Fastoche Loaf--you must make this savory bread (via this cool hack for the favorite French yogurt cake!)

Cake o gateau sale
You must make a cake salé! It is everything from a casual main course to a late-night snack in bed (extra good warmed--just like the sheets this time of year)....

Today's word: le cake salé

    : loaf, savory cake

Audio File & Example Sentence: click here
Le mot « cake » s'est étendu à un gâteau salé... fait avec des légumes, des olives, du jambon, etc. On parle alors de « cake salé ». The word "cake" has been extended to a salty cake ... made with vegetables, olives, ham, etc. This is called "salty cake".

A DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

A Cake Hack?

Ever since I learned to make my brother-in-law Jacques yogurt cake--and after watching the French bring delicious savory loaves to various fêtes--I have wondered about the possibility of combining the two: that is, using the easy-to-remember cake recipe... for a savory loaf. Savory loaves are practical, economical, and among the best comfort foods! If you need further motivation to make one then listen to my Mom who, on tasting the slice you see above, exclaimed: Why make bread when you can make this?! 

And what could be better than knowing recipes by heart? This is what the handy-dandy yogurt cake recette allows us to do (it brilliantly uses the yogurt's container as the measure. No need for measuring spoons or cups or balances, and in no time you are able to toss together a delicious entrée or dessert! Having mastered the super fastoche yogurt cake, I've been on the lookout for another easy offering for my family or something to bring to a social gathering--like my friend Cynthia and Ian's crémaillère in Bandol (I brought the gâteau de yaourt...but now I wished I'd taken along this cake salé--because it is my family's new favorite it'll soon be yours!).

Cooking with smokey yogurt cake savory loaf
        This recipe tastes better when you make it with a family member or friend.  

Tésté et approuvé
So the cake hack worked. Génial! All I did was follow the traditional yogurt cake recipe while ignoring the sugar part. Here's a reminder for the yogurt cake recipe....


- one small (individual size) container of plain yogurt (reserve for measuring the remaining ingredients)
- flour
- sugar
- vegetable oil
- three eggs
- one package levure chimique (that is 2 teaspoons of baking powder)

Instructions (Easy as 3-2-1...):

Fill/empty the yogurt container...
...3 times with flour
...2 times with sugar
...1 time with vegetable oil (if I'm out of vegetable oil, I'll use olive oil or butter...)

Crack 3 eggs into a mixing bowl, and beat until mixed. Add one container (around 150 grams) of plain yogurt. Add 1 measure of oil (half the amount, if you prefer), three measures of flour, and mix in the  savory ingredients... here are the savory ingredients I added for our cake salé or savory loaf:

- 1 can of tuna fish
- large handful of black olives
- sauteed red onions
- fresh tomato
- salt, pepper, herbs of Provence
-a generous sprinkling of chia seeds on top make an agreeably croquant topping for this savory loaf!

Pour mixture into a cake pan (I like this kind with removable bottom ) and put into the oven at 180C (350F) for 25 minutes. (temperature and time vary--keep your eye on the cake and use a knife to test the center. When le couteau comes out dry it's ready.

Enjoy with a simple green salad. Hide a few slices for your late-night snack!

Update: The second time I made this recipe, I used leftover mussels which I shelled, added grated gruyère, black olives, and sunflower seeds--not to forget the crunchy chia seeds on top! It was nice and moist, but a little bland (I'll stick to tuna next time! And think about feta cheese for a nice kick). The olives really make it and are a part of the most traditional version--and for a reason! Some like to chop up the olives for a better distribution throughout the cake. Next time I might try anchovies and capers. What do you think? What would you add to this versatile cake salé? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

Cake sale savory cake wheat grass germe de ble
Those sprouted greens in the back are Les blés de la Sainte-Barbe--a Provencale tradition I learned from Jean-Marc's family. My husband sprinkles the wheat grains on paper towels, in three different coupelles and (my Mom) waters them until the new year. It is said:

Blé bien germé, c'est la prospérité pour toute l'année. (Wheat well-sprouted is prosperity all year.)


la fête = party, gathering
la recette = recipe
la balance = scale (for weighing)
une entrée = starter, first course
fastoche (from facile) = easy-peasy, a walk in the park
la crémaillère = housewarming
le gâteau de yaourt = yogurt cake
lé cake salé = loaf
génial! = brilliant!
tésté et approuvé = tested and approved
la levure chimique = baking powder 
croquant = crunchy
le couteau = knife
la coupelle = small dish

Golden retriever make yogurt cake
Don't miss the video Smokey and I made for the yogurt cake. Click here

Golden retriever kiss yogurt cake

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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

Do you miss the vineyard? + A handful of French vocabulary

Looking back
Looking back. Photo by my Mom.

A question I am sometimes asked is: Do you miss the vineyard? The answer is often the same: I don't look back. (One exception is when I am going through the blog archives, and come across a lively story like today's....)

le sanglier (sahn glee ay)

    : boar, wild pig

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I was surfing online, looking for information on how to discourage wild boars from gobbling up our grapes, when I stumbled into a forum at wherein a poor soul, one with the same dilemma as my winemaking husband's, wrote:

Ici les sangliers font de véritables carnages dans les vignes : ils reconnaissent les meilleures grappes et nous les dévorent juste avant qu'on les vendange (d'ailleurs, ils ont même la délicatesse de ne manger que les grains puisqu'on retrouve les rafles de la grappe encore accrochées à la vigne) !

Here, wild boars make a veritable carnage in the vines: they recognize the best grapes and devour them right before the harvest (what's more, they have the finicky tendency to eat only the fruit, given that we find only the grape stems left on the vine)! 

Jean-Marc would sympathize with this downhearted farmer--given that we spent a part of Saturday morning out in the field, among the vine rows of ripe grapes, testing a solution to The Gobbling Boar problem.

"Mais, regarde ça!" Jean-Marc pointed to the grape clusters, which were still intact--yet missing several bites full of fruit. Putain de merde! Ils mangent que les meilleurs!

Seeing the butchered fruit, Chief Grape was hopping mad, and his vengeance would come soon enough, only, in an animal-friendly way....

ACME Transitor Radio Repellant
(would Wile E. Coyote approve?)

Jean-Marc reaches into a bag that he's been carrying and produces what looks to be like talkie-walkies, but, to my dismay (for it might have been fun to shout "Over and out!" in French--not that I know the translation) turn out to be transistor radios.

"Marche par là," my husband instructs, and I walk south, passing one, two, three... seven, eight, nine vine rows. My job is to march until I can no longer hear the sounds issuing from the transistor radio that Jean-Marc is holding.

As I advance, I occasionally become distracted--for the nearby garrigue (from which all the wild pigs issue) is draped in bright red berries! There are little white flowers which set off the tiny crimson balls and I'm about to reach for a bouquet of flower-berries when my husband shouts:

"Tu entends toujours?"

"Oui, oui.... j'entends! Oui, oui, je t'assure!"

As I walk on, I fall into further distractions, wondering, this time, which radio station we are listening to? What if the current program (some sort of noisy political debate) ends... and the next program contains classical music? Wouldn't, then, Jean-Marc's experiment backfire? I pictured the wild boars arriving en masse, lulled forward by Mozart and the inspiring symphony in the some sort of sanglier Shangri-la, where they would "find the light"... and a bounty of grapes to boot!

Never mind. It isn't my job to question Chief Grape; my duty is to go along with his latest inspiration or invention: this one being The Wild Boar Buster (after the Dust Buster, which was invented by some other lucky duck, else why would we be trying to scrape together a living on a boar friendly fruit farm?!)

When I can no longer hear the static voices on the radio, I stop in my tracks, turn back, and flap my arms suggestively, or in a way that suggests that even a boar could hear no more. I watch as Chief Grape sets down one of the cheap transistor radios--just beside the gnarled and woody base of a very old grenache vine. Voilà, repellent number 1 is en place. Our mission continues in much the same way, I, advancing in spite of distractions (this time I just had to reach for une poignée of romarin... and it was too tempting not to bend down and study an impressive ant colony).... each time Chief calling me back to the present étude with "T'entends? Est-ce que t'entends?"

"Oui, oui... je t'assure. J'entends!"

As I walk on I wonder about rain, about wind, about any number of kill joys--make that kill ploys--that might carry off or damage the repellent radios that Jean-Marc is leaving throughout the parcelle. But these concerns are nothing compared to my next souci. It occurs to me that hunting season begins next week and that this field will soon be alight with chasseurs! These hunters/locals might have snickered when learning about the music played in Chief Grape's cellar (a comforting concerto with a positive influence on the wine that rests there), but what will they think this time--when they discover that the renegade winemaker is planting radios in his vineyard?

It's no use fretting about my husband's reputation. Besides, I know what he would say: "Laisse les parler!" Let 'em talk! 

Meantime, between the cheap radios and the chasseurs, I'm done worrying! Up to the poor wild pigs to fret this time--though I secretly hope, next time I look out the kitchen window, to find them dancing a jig, or swaying a slow waltz.

*    *    *

Breizh grapes
         Our first golden, Breizh, protecting the grapes. 

French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the story: Download MP3 or Wav file

mais regarde ça = look at that!

putain de merde = @$!#

ils mangent que les meilleurs! = they're eating only the best!

le talkie-walkie = walkie-talkie

marche par là = walk that way

la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland

tu entends toujours? = do you still hear?

une poignée = a handful

le romarin = rosemary

le souci = worry

Smokey and Biscuit
Smokey was born on our first vineyard, nine-and-a-half years ago. Yesterday he received an early Christmas present from my Mom. Meet Biscuit! Smokey held Biscuit in his mouth for the longest time, his tongue wagging as an audible groan of thanks welled up in his vocal chords. Have you ever heard the gratitude of dogs? If happy tears had a sound, it might be this!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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

From the French Alps to the Colorado Rockies: Notre fille s'installe

Finding Gilbert-Cover copy

In books: Finding Gilbert, A Promise Fulfilled: Diane Covington-Carter grew up haunted by her father’s stories of his time in France during World War II and the orphan boy, Gilbert, who he tried to adopt and bring home. Fifty years after the war, can she possibly find Gilbert to tell him that her father never forgot him? Order the book.

Today's word: appartenir

    : to belong

Listen to the following sentence in French, click here
On donne tout à nos enfants y compris des peurs qui ne leur appartiennent pas.
--Lyse Desroches
We give all to our children including fears that do not belong to them.

A DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

Now that our daughter lives an ocean away in Colorado, I've become a stalker. I regularly check her social media accounts, hoping for a video or photo, and, throughout the day I log on to Messenger to see if she's active, or live. I know, it is pathetic and I'm starting to feel like a real creep! 

I yearn for a voice clip from my 21-year-old or any scrap she might share, but what I most often get is a one-word reply, in English: Yes!  (Yes (she's fine). Yes (she is awake). Yes (she is on her way to work). So I try to word my questions differently: Tell me three highlights of your day, I type into the little box that has replaced our lively in-person conversations.

As always, I edit my note so as not to be overbearing: Tell me just one highlight of your day...

Jackie in Briancon Alps France
       from the French the Colorado Rockies...

I don't want to be pushy, manipulating, or agaçante. I'm just living vicariously through my grown child--while trying to edit all the regrets of my past so that she doesn't suffer the same erreurs de jeunesse.

Have you heard from Jackie? my sister in Denver asks. What's the latest with Jax? our father, in Palm Springs wants to know. Lately, readers are asking for updates, too. So here's, hélas, as much as I know:

In November Jackie moved to a popular ski area in the Colorado mountains. My friend Stacey, who lives there and who I've known since we (and my sister and my mom, too!) worked together in a ski shop in Phoenix, welcomed Jackie to stay with her until our newbie expat could find permanent accommodations. Her first appointment (via Craigslist) left Jackie mal à l'aise (it may have been the couple in question--a polite way to say questionable couple--or their attack dog...).  

Soon after Jackie found another roommate situation and was thrilled to tell me about the beautiful apartment. The complex even had a jacuzzi!  There was just one itty bitty pépin: 5 people would be sharing the space--two to a room. Next she mentioned one of the girls would share with a guy. Which girl? Jackie? 

No! Our Colorado transplant assured me, she'd be sharing with a girl--in a room with one bed. (How many of you reading would be comfortable sharing a bed with a stranger--guy or girl?)

Ouf! Within a week our daughter realized that she's a room of one's own kind of person, and quickly found another place (while keeping her ex-roommates as friends. Bien fait!). Now she lives with two girls and each has her own chambre.

That leaves transportation. (Jackie n'a pas une bagnole.) The new pad is farther from the bus stop, meaning that when Jackie finishes her nightshift she must walk another 10 minutes home in the dark (and snow). Hurrah for Uber, which she now uses at night (she walks during the day). It makes a dent in her tips, but is worth everyone's peace of mind!

Apart from her job as a server at the hotel, Jackie is a holiday extra in a ski shop, where she will make even more friends, as I did at her age (Bonjour, Stacey!). That brings us to free time. Just what is she doing with her temps libre

...I see videos of pool halls, jacuzzis, drinks. As I scrutinize the images--those I've gobbled on social media--I wonder if she's dating and ask as much....

Mom, a little privacy, please, comes the 5-word response. 

Harrumph! OK, a little bit of privacy. So can I still give my mini-me a few life tips? (I have some ideas on how to keep up her work wardrobe (buy three pairs of black pants!) and her banking (put those tips right into your account. You don't want cash lying around!). 

Mom, most tips aren't in cash these days, they're on the credit card receipt. (Ooh, her responses are getting longer!)

But my latest suggestion did not even merit a reply. Learning she was shopping at Walmart, I texted: buy a mattress cover for your bed!

And that, dear reader, was the abrupt end to my butting in. (When she spills hot chocolate in her bed and it ruins the mattress--she can pay her landlord's $$$ fee! She'll have to learn her own lessons just as I had to learn mine. Isn't that the bottom line? Isn't that the only way to grow and mature? I am not helping my daughter by finding a solution to every single least those she shares with me...).

Speaking of lessons, this one's for me: this lesson I am learning now of letting my daughter live her life. This brings me to her latest sms, a bittersweet pronouncement:

So sorry I'm not present's just that I am living my life.

Oh...Ah...Aw! I sighed reading it. What more could we want for our children, que de vivre leur vie.  I trust Jackie knows I am here if she needs me. Have your hot chocolate ready, My Girl, and give me a call.

Kristi and Jackie near Aix
Photo of me and Jackie taken in 1997, near St. Maximin


appartenir = to belong to
agaçant = annoying, irritating
une erreur de jeunesse = youthful indiscretion
hélas = unfortunately
mal à l'aise = ill-at-ease, uncomfortable
le pépin = snag, hitch or glitch
ouf! = phew!
bien fait = well done
la chambre = room
elle n'a pas une bagnole = she doesn't have a car
le temps libre = free time
vivre leur vie = to live their life
Kristi and Jackie Denver Botanical gardens kiss mother daughter snow

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Rebelote. Another burglar? When the sonnette rings after dark and you are all alone....

BookCover_EightMonthsinProvenceCC (1)

Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad, 30 Years Late
For thirty years, Diane Covington-Carter dreamed of living in France and immersing herself in the country and language that spoke to her heart and soul. At age fifty, when she set off to fulfill that yearning, she learned that a long-cherished dream can become even more powerful from the waiting. Order the book.

Today's Word: le flouze

    : cash, dough, moolah

A DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

Last night I was startled to hear our doorbell ring at an unusual hour. The sonnette, which is located at our front gate, was buzzing with insistence and its shrill coursed through my body like a bad vibe.

The first thought that came to mind was, Oh no! This can't be happening! Not again! 

All alone in the house, I feared a prowler was using The Doorbell Scam--a way of checking if anyone is home before attempting a break-in. This happened to my neighbor and when she did not come to the door (or so much as turn on the porch light) the unwelcome guest entered her home! It was only when she called out for her petit-fils (believing it was him walking down the hallway) that the robber fled.

Having come face-to-face with an intruder last March, it seemed the same nightmare was happening all over again. Rebelote! It was, again, pitch dark outside and, once again, my husband was 45 minutes away in Marseilles (watching le foot just like the last time!).

And, pareil, I was tucked into bed watching a video on YouTube! But this time all the shutters were latched and secured--and a light was purposely left on in the downstairs bathroom (experts [criminals...] say an indirect light is best--it leaves burglars guessing). And there was my fearless mom--even if she was in the room below me (accessible only from the outside of our house. But Mom wouldn't have heard the doorbell and so I was on my own).

When I heard that buzzer I was chilled, but wasted no time in letting whoever was out there know that somebody was home! 

That somebody hurried down the stairs in her mismatched pajamas, floppy socks, and some Nike pool slides (I lost my pantoufles. Borrowed these from my daughter). Summoning our groggy golden retriever, I threw open the front door and, over Smokey's menacing barks, demanded to know who was out there. QUI EST LA?! 

C'est les pompiers, came a meek voice from behind the metal portillon.

Yah, right! Just this morning another neighbor shared a theiving tactic wherein the bad guys throw on a fake municipal shirt and act like they are here to inspect or to help in some way....

Charging up to the front gate, a limp in my stride (those loose socks and pool slides...), I narrowed my eyes: Les pompiers?Pourquoi vous êtes là? I demanded, scrutinizing the man on the other side of the fence (whilst Smokey was suddenly a ball of docility. Where'd my killer dog go?). 

C'est pour le calendrier... the stranger answered.

Oh...The annual Firemen's Calender....wherein the firemen go door to door for donations. I stood on my tiptoes to look over the gate, and get a good view of a nametag and uniform. Well, it looked legit... And the young man looked so kind and innocent.

Don't fall for it! I reminded myself. 

C'est très tard pour sonner chez les gens. It's very late to be ringing doorbells, I growled--unaware it was only 8 pm, but when the sun goes down in winter, it seems like midnight to me.

Oui, the young man replied. But I've just now finished my shift. Sorry to bother you. In addition to looking innocent, he was very humble. I followed my gut which was telling me to chill out, all's well you can let down your guard.

Well, I said, my legs still shaking in fear as they had the last time, sorry for being so aggressive--c'est juste que je me méfie. I thanked him for his service (un grand merci to all the firefighters out there!!) and hurried to the house to look for some cash--or flouze (a funny word at this point in the story to lighten things up), feeling kind of floozy myself barely dressed in my PJs waving a tip. 

Helecopter firefighters


la sonnette = bell
le petit-fils = grandson
rebelote = same story again
le foot = soccer
pareil = the same
la pantoufle = slipper
qui est là? = who is there?
le pompier = firefighter
le portillon = gate
je me méfie = I'm cautious
collecte = fund-raising
flouze = cash

Related stories:  to have sea urchins in your pockets.



Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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