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Entries from January 2019

La Poubelle (when your work goes POOF! into the galaxy's garbage can)

Sunrise in La Ciotat
You've seen this one before...but does one ever get tired of the sunrise in La Ciotat? Besides, who wants to see a picture of a poubelle...

Today's Word: la poubelle

    : garbage can, trash can, dust bin

2000 French words
Increase your vocabulary with 2000 French phrases. Click here to order the book

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Sometime ago, when we lived at our first vineyard, Smokey and I started a YouTube channel. You may have seen us trying to make something with lentils...or viewed our Yogurt Cake Tutorial. I think you would agree that our golden boy is a natural behind the camera! And, I admit, having my dog alongside takes away some of the behind-the-camera jitters.

Open wine without corkscrew

But as far as vlogging goes, Smokey and I don't have a very good track record. On average, we upload a video every 4 years.... And so on Sunday, 4.5 years after posting How to Open A Bottle of Wine with a Book, I began to feel that creative itch to make a video. Having just returned from the farmers market with a backpack full of goodies, a topic naturally presented itself: We could call our video, What's in My Bag!

Nevermind bad lighting or a bad hair day, Smokey and I were ready to begin filming again! To distract from the gray skies (and our gray whiskers... which have appeared since the last filming...half a decade ago...) we sat within a wide frame and put the focus on the backpack beside us. Malin, non? 

If only we were truly clever we would have been able to save our 4-minute chef d'oeuvre from the ethers of the internet. Gone went the 30-second intro where we ask viewers to send us topics for future videos. And gone went the 3-minutes of footage in which, one by one, we pulled items out of our trusty sac à dos (how Smokey enjoyed grabbing for the parsley and the laitue and the fenouil Not wanting to torture him, I tossed him a datte and we concluded our video with a look at the bright green row of fèves behind us. 

Impec! Satisfied with our recording, we hurried into the house to show it to Jules, who gave it a thumbs up. Go ahead and post it!

If only we had. But no, one of us had to fuss with it (taking screenshots until poof! The footage completely disappeared. Nowhere to be found (not even in the phone's poubelle!

It was hard to let that one go, so, after racking my brain for hours behind the screen of technology, I headed out for a walk to clear my head. And that's when it occurred to me: maybe the universe was sending a message. Maybe I should NOT pursue a new year's goal of making more videos? But then who am I to interpret the universe's message? 

Next I asked my Mom's opinion, my sister's opinion, my husband's opinion--and finally my therapist's opinion. The latter answered with a question: Why are you asking for everybody's opinion?

So, Dear Reader, I won't ask your opinion... instead, I'll ask you to send Smokey and me bon courage. Perhaps we'll return to the farmer's market to refill our backpack, and refuel our dreams.

Warmup video kristi
P.S. Jean-Marc took this warm-up video of me. In it you will hear me answer Jean-Marc's question, What are you going to write about tomorrow? I promise that after viewing it (right here) you won't feel so bad about your own accent when speaking French! To see more Day in the Life videos, look for the follow button at my Instagram account, and keep your eye on my Instagram channel. Many thanks. Note: Instagram  is best viewed on a mobile phone, though you can access it by PC (only you won't see the channel. Not sure why...). Click here for the video.

malin = smart, clever
chef-d'oeuvre = masterpiece
le sac à dos = backpack
la laitue = lettuce
le fenouil = fennel
la datte = date
la fève = broad bean
impec = impeccable 
Here's a screenshot from the video Smokey and I made before I accidentally deleted it forever! It's been a frustrating week as far as technology goes: issues with my listserver (which sends out these emails), issues with a built-in editor (which slows down my blog composition sessions), and many discouragements. TGIF! (DMCV: Dieu merci, c'est vendredi!) Enjoy your weekend.

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 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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The Stranger, Part 2 (+ The Word the French say When Smiling for a Photo)

Eglise cathedral church france la ciotat
A series of empêchements might have kept us from bumping into a stranger. Read on for part 2 of our story...

Today's Word: ouistiti!

    : Say cheese!

A ouistiti is also a small creature, this one.

A life of her own emilie carles
A book on my nightstand, and a memoir I've had for a very long time that is even more meaningful to me now. I hope you will enjoy Emilie Carles A Life of Her Own. Click here to order.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After smiling ouistiti for the photo, we left our accidental amie there on the cobblestone path and headed inside the art supply store. Mom needed a special product for prepping her unusual canvases (that's a whole other story).

As Jules searched for supplies, I listened to the commerçant, who said he may have to close shop--having lost 17,000 euros since les gilets jaunes began protesting last November. Mon Dieu, this poor man needed customers! Just as that thought ran through my mind, I heard jingle bells. And there, in the shop's entrance, les cloches still swaying on the doorknob, stood our elegant new friend!

Ah, rebonjour, Madame said. I was thinking.... it would be nice to have the photo your mom just took of us, she said.

Mais bien sûr! I smiled, reaching for my phone. Madame, with a perfectly manicured thumbnail, in clear gloss, flipped open her own phone which had rhinestones on it and a tiny screen which caused her no end of frustrations. Voyons... Madame mumbled.

I began searching with Madame until she got sidetracked by a photo album and there began an impromptu vernissage (or art showing of her daughter's works). I like the coquelicot, Madame said. Ah, but I musn't go on. Say, could you send the picture here, she said, pointing to a message box. 

Equally challenged by technology, it took me a few moments to figure out how best to transfer the file, but we succeeded, managing, at the same time, to record each other's phone numbers. A round of Who's On First ensued as we looked for evidence that we had indeed called each other...and so registered our numbers.

Mindful of every delicious minute we were enjoying together in this serendipitous meeting, hélas, the time had come to say goodbye. Kisses on each cheek, and Madame disappeared beyond les cloches, the door chiming behind her.

Only to reopen 10 minutes later....

I have a little something for your Mom, Madame announced. Hanging from her wrist, there was a little lavender gift bag....

Jules thanked Madame for the kindness, and was visibly moved by the surprise. I noticed Mom did not open the gift, and guessed she was going to enjoy the suspense a little while longer....

In the car ride home, I relived the entire encounter. Can you believe it, Mom. It was so easy to talk to her about everything and nothing--and there was so much spontaneous affection. It is rare to speak to somebody this way. I can't explain it... I went on, Madame was... She was...

Mom gazed out the car window, her mind drifting out to sea as she searched for the words I had not yet found. Her thoughts returned in three giant waves, to describe Madame:

She. Was. Real.

*    *    *
(For Part 1 of this story, click here)

I've not asked Madame permission to post her photo. But there's a snapshot, below, and here is a sketch from my Instagram. I hope you will join me over there, where I post mini-updates and photos throughout the week. I'm sorry for not posting a picture of the gift Mom received. Every story needs an element of mystery, don't you agree? 


un empêchement = hitch, hindrance
ouistiti! = say cheese!
un/e ami/e = friend
17,000 euros = 19,340 US dollars
mon Dieu! = my God!
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
rebonjour= hi again
la cloche
= bell
la poignée de port = door handle
voyons = lets's see
le vernissage = private viewing of art
le coquelicot = poppy
hélas = alas, sadly

Madame and me la ciotat backpack

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 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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♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Haphazardly in French + Serendipitous Meeting with a Stranger, Part 1

Lavender and Vine painting tour provence
Experience a Lavender & Vine painting tour! Discover the magical light of Van Gogh this summer (lavender season) or fall (wine harvest). Join our small group with professional instruction to paint in Provence. Rates and tour info here.

Today's Phrase: au petit bonheur

    : haphazardly, randomly

Le bonheur, c'est de continuer à désirer ce qu'on possède. -Saint Augustin
Happiness is wanting what you already have.

January Book-A-Thon....
For two years now I have quietly read your blog, enjoying your triumphs and trials. Unable to sleep one night, I opened your email to find a request to buy your book. It was time for me to step out of the shadows and support your cause. What a delight! I have been unable to put it down. I wish you loads of success. --Jeanne
Blossoming cover
January book-a-thon: buy a book for a friend. Your purchase supports my writing and helps new readers find their way here. Merci! Available in ebook/Kindle or paperback.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

It was serendipity. How else to explain Saturday's meeting with un inconnu?...It was, as Madame said, not par hasard the way we ended up walking, one in front of the other on a cobblestone path at the same point in time....

Time! One minute more, one minute less and we'd never have met. Earlier at home, on our way to the car, Mom had said, Do you have any Kleenex? No? I'll go back and get some. Pockets stuffed with mouchoirs, and in town now, we were stalled another 5 minutes admiring the giant seed pods on a tree we could not name. Lolling about we approached le centre ville on our way to the art supply store, when a gothic church caught my eye. Let's go look! 
Church eglise la ciotat cathedral architecture gothic
To think all of these accidental adjustments in our schedule were not accidents, but were serving to line us up at an exact point on a geographical line of happenstance. There we were, meandering down a narrow street when Mom paused, colliding with the stranger behind her... 

Oh, pardon, Madame! Mom said. Apologizing, she motioned toward the historical buildings surrounding us. 

Ah, oui! C'est magnifique, Madame smiled. At this point she might have nodded and walked off. But she stayed...

Je suis
d'ici... she offered, her raspberry red lipstick drawing us in to such glamour: silver-white hair (I don't have a lot of it, she insisted) in a lovely twist, held up with a barrette. She wore wool pants, a jazzy, printed vest, black boots (they are hand-sewn, I got them at the farmers market!) a long foulard wrapped around her neck and big dark glasses.  She reminded me of one of those characters in Advanced Style.

Mom could not help herself: Look at you! You are so beautiful! The three of us huddled closer, and a conversation ranging from hair loss to the horrors of war ensued.  

(Stranger to Mom): Ah, you were born in '46, and I in '44--when bombs were falling over France! They placed my 4 siblings in various homes, but I was still nursing. The soldiers did not believe it so they squeezed my mother's enormous... (here Madame held out two widely cupped hands for effect...). To this day I am a skinny little thing, Madame concluded. When the Mistral blows through town it carries me away! But I'm out today... no wind! 

Mom was getting cold feet--not from the war story--no, it was the frozen cobblestones beneath her Converse hightops that were making her antsy. But before we moved on, Jules really wanted a photo of Madame ...
Je ne suis pas photogenic....Madame insisted--only to jump into my outstretched arm and smile ouistiti! Locking elbows, I marveled at the natural affection coursing through our hearts. Ce n'est pas par hasard...Madame repeated, as she looked up and flashed that heavenly smile.
*    *    *
Lavender and vine painting tour in provence villages art trip europe
The photo in the opening of this post, and this one, are from Beth. I have personally experienced her hospitality during one of her organized trips in Provence. Do check it out, it may be just the adventure you are looking for in 2019! 

le bonheur = happiness
un inconnu = stranger
par hasard = by accident
le mouchoir (en papier) = tissue, Kleenex
le centre ville = town center
le foulard = scarf, neckerchief
ouistiti! = cheese!

Kristi jules max in kitchen
Recent Instagram post: Three generations, with my Mom, Jules, and my son, Max.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Tabouret, fouet, penderie, bonnes idées - and a glimpse into the writing life

Tabouret de bar bar stool
It is not enough to have good ideas, you have to act. If you need milk, do not sit on a stool in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will pass by. -Curtis Grant (don't miss the French translation below)

Today's word: un tabouret

    : stool, footstool

un tabouret de bar = bar stool
un tabouret de cuisine = kitchen stool
un tabouret de piano = piano bench

Il ne suffit pas d'avoir de bonnes idées, il faut agir. Si vous avez besoin de lait, ne vous installez pas sur un tabouret au milieu d'un champs dans l'espoir qu'une vache y passe.

Hemingway paris writer write
Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images. Order it here.

My backpack sac a dosA DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

The following paragraph was posted with the picture above at  Instagram....

A bar stool with a lot of memories and, sur son dos, a backpack with a lot of souvenirs. It is comforting to have familiar things out. I wore that sac à dos on the plane, in '92, when I moved to France. It somehow got shoved in the back of the closet. Lately, now that I keep it on the chair by the kitchen, I've been taking it out with me, using it for shopping. Today it brought good luck via a touching and meaningful encounter with a stranger. I think that meeting must've swept all the energy out of me (in a good way) and I'm afraid I'll be lazy and not sit down and write about it all. At times like this is good to rest, let the doubts pass, and then exercise a bit of violence with yourself (French for "give yourself a kick in the butt"!). We all need a handy whip when it comes to realizing our dreams....


sur son dos = on it's back
le sac à dos = backpack
un souvenir = memory

closet = la penderie
to go shopping = faire les courses
lazy = parasseux (euse)
stranger = un inconnu
whip = un fouet

My writing space
This is my writing desk. My computer and paperwork is hidden under that scarf--because this is also my bedroom and in order to sleep I don't want to be thinking about work. Yet, I think about work all the time. Because writing this blog is my life.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Cussing, swear word: You've heard of gros mot, but what's a juron?

Park in la ciotat provence France
Today's crime story (or tale of your choice...) takes place here, at our local park in La Ciotat....

French Word of the Day: un juron

    : swearword, curse word, cuss

lâcher des jurons = to use strong language
un chapelet de jurons = a string of expletives

U.S. taxes for worldly americans living working staying tax compliant abroad
U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans--A fascinating topic if you're an expat or wish to become one. Click here for additional info i.e. ever heard about the unlucky Accidental American? Find out more in the book!)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Often, all it takes to come up with a story is one good line. Take, for example, the following snippet overheard at the park earlier today: 

Allez les enfants. Plus de gros mots. Je filme pour votre maman.

Let me translate that one for you: Come on, kids, no more cussing. I'm filming for your mom! With a gem like this--spoken by a camera-wielding grand-mère to two little tikes on bikes--you could pen an essay about public vs. private personas. But who wants to get all philosophical at this time of the day (it's evening now, and I've got to put my hens to bed).

Then again, with a bit of one-sided dialogue like the above, a short piece could be written about cussing in France, specifically, all the little gosses who do it. You do hear the terms merde and putain issuing right out of the mouths of babes! If you don't believe me, spend a day at the beach, sit beside some stressed-out sand-castle engineers. Or go to the city park, right before l'heure de goûter when everyone's as edgy as a Parisian waiter. But back to badmouthed kids...

Allez les enfants. Plus de gros mots. Je filme pour votre maman...

Squeezing that line like an orange
, you could eke out an article on grandparents who care for their grandchildren (I see so many at the park on Wednesdays). But this is a French word journal, not a bilingual abstract in Droit et Société. Besides, it would require research and, well, it's time to think about dinner.

One thing's sure, in literature...the need for a jumping off point! The aforementioned snippet, or bribe, could serve in an argumentative piece about how the French are more sloppy than you think they are (conversely we get etiquette from them... From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

etiquette (n.) 1750, from French étiquette "prescribed behavior," from Old French estiquette "label, ticket"

Oh well, we don't want to label anybody (least of which a let-rules-slide septuagénaire!). All we want to do today is marvel, for a moment, at so many possibilities in writing and in life and, especially, to take note of one grandmother's gusto as she lovingly, creatively goes with the flow....

l'enfant = child
le gros mot = swear word
la maman = mom, mommy
la grand-mère = grandmother
la/la gosse =kid
merde = sh....
putain = f...
bribe = snippet
l'heure de goûter = snack time
septuagénaire = person in their seventies, septuagenarian
Locals say la Ciotat is where petanque or boules began
You're likely to hear some colorful jurons at a pétanque tournament...and they're not saying saperlipopette!

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Compunction and cacahuètes + a handful of vocabulary...

Lychees peanuts in shell and salad
See those cacahuètes above the mushrooms and beside the lychees? More in the following story and lunch with Max and friends.

Today's Word: la cacahuète

    :  peanut

Peanuts also go by the name arachide, though Jean-Marc tells me cacahuètes (also spelled cacahouètes, which means cacao de terre) are the more popular term.

Simple French Food Richard Olney France cooking Mark Bittman
This cookbook, on my wishlist, is available in hardcover or on ebook or Kindle

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE, by Kristi Espinasse

The upside of three generations living under one toit is that when one family member is sore with you another is completely ignorant of your sins and is still your friend....

As I mope around the house this morning, doing chores to cleanse my soul, I've become aware of this lump in my throat. One thing that works it out (anxiety or unexpressed tears) is sitting down to write even if I'm not gonna tell you who I've unintentionally hurt! What matters is I'm compuncting, which is neither a word in French nor English, but it means you are feeling angoisse from guilt and mistakes you've made. 

If mistakes aren't humbling enough, I was moved when my son and his friends wanted me to join them in the garden for lunch (I believe they invited Jules, too, but she's disappeared into her room...). Max went as far as to find me in my room, where I was shelling a factory's worth of peanuts and grinding them between my teeth (there is no greater anxiety relief than this peanut processing activity).

Come on, Mom! Everyone is asking for you! Max said. Hesitant (yet honored a group of young people wanted me at their table), I picked up my jar of nuts and extended it....before yanking it back.

Cacahuètes! Max shouted. Give them to me! The laughter and the tackling (Max pried them away, like a football) put a halt on my compuncting.

Smokey jumping beside pepper tree poivrier
Le faux-poivrier or false peppercorn tree...and our Smokey

I wish I had taken a picture of the garden setting, notre basse-cour as Jean-Marc calls it (for the chickens running around)--a bucolic setting for this le déjeuner beneath the Mediterranean blue sky, full sun and warmth (en janvier!), the weeping pepper tree--and Max, Antoine, Zoé, Yann, and Mommy, as they now (jokingly) call me, having learned the story of an adolescent Max, who'd missed the cultural clue about teens calling their mom Mom in the States. How could he have known? Raised in France by an American maman who didn't let him in on the term. Ah well, he eventually figured it out. 
And I will eventually figure it out too: what is said and what is not said. If only it were as simple as "Mommy"....

I have no idea how this story is coming across. I hope at the least you have learned a few more French words and, in so doing, we can all better express ourselves, in French, in English, whichever, whenever, pour le mieux.

le toit = roof
l'angoisse = anxiety
la cacahuète= peanut
la basse-cour = farmyard
le déjeuner = lunch
en janvier = in January
la maman = mom
pour le mieux = for the best (possible outcome)

Recently Featured books:
French Country Diary
Demystifying the French
Lulu's Provencal Table

Park in la ciotat
A park here in La Ciotat--and a beautiful place to walk, think, and pray for serenity.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Amour-Propre: Breakfast, Boundaries & A Blow to the Ego

Little cakes or patisseries
Félicitations to our son Max! After working in Reims he will continue his internship with Lanson (champagne) in Paris, as part of his work-study year with Montpellier Business School. Before heading to the capital, he's having a big barbeque today with his friends. I'm in charge of salad and homemade oven fries... so, here's a story from a few years ago....  

amour-propre (ah-more-prohpr)

    : self-esteem, self-love, self-worth; pride

blesser quelqu'un dans son amour-propre = to be a blow to one's ego

Demystifying the French by Janet Hulstrand
Janet Hulstrand's book is now available for pre-order. Click here and read it very soon!

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

I am getting a kick out of the French definition for the verb vexer: être offensé dans son amour-propre or "to have one's pride offended". I don't know, French definitions always sound so dramatic to me and this is only one of the reasons I love foreign language.

But vexer, that may explain my response this morning as I stood in the kitchen in my purple PJs tucked into orange ski socks chanting positive affirmations for the beginning of the work week.  (This was after I realized I was incontinent and before I discovered my computer had crashed, and the reason for which I am typing this post on my son's keyboard. I have to crane my neck to look up to the screen, which is placed on a shelf next to a bong. A BONG?!...)

But back to my story, lest I lose the courage to work in these unusual surroundings. Back to hurt or offended pride... yes, I was standing there in the kitchen, tissues stuffed in more places than my pockets, psyching myself up for another Monday, when my son stumbled into the room.

"There is nothing to eat in this house!" Max lamented.

I begged his pardon, for there was always something to eat in this house. When was the last time he skipped a meal? Besides, I said, reaching for the bread bag, there was brioche! (I quickly peered into the bag to verify the brioche was not growing green fuzz on its back. And even if it were (which, ouf!, it wasn't) would I be the first parent in the history of the world to have plucked off a spot or two of green fuzz before thrusting the miserable bread back at her child?).

Pourquoi je ne peux pas manger le petit déjeuner comme tout le monde?" Max complained.

"So you want to follow the sheep?" I countered. "And do like everybody else does? Be numb to your own decision making? Well, a good box of GMO flakes will help you with that! And you can buy it with your own money!"

Meantime, I pointed out, there is brioche or oatmeal or yogurt or oranges or bananas for breakfast. With that, I grabbed my tea and tore out of the kitchen.

To the young man left holding the bag of brioche it must have been quite a sight, that of a pride-hurt mama stomping off in big orange ski socks over sagging purple PJs and a faux fur vest (snapped up from my daughter's giveaway pile—the extra layer almost keeps me warm). 

I am nothing if not a mix—of new and used, thoughts and things, stuffed tissues. I do the best I can. At times I make do. And sometimes, just sometimes, I wish others would too.


Re that bong I mentioned (you were wondering, weren't you?). Find out what it really was in the first few paragraphs of this story, click here to read it.

French Vocabulary

amour-propre = self-love
vexer = to hurt, offend
la brioche = sweet bun, sweet loaf of bread
ouf = phew

Pourquoi je ne peux pas manger le petit déjeuner comme tout le monde? = why can't I eat (a normal) breakfast like everybody else 

Our golden retriever Smokey beneath the old shutters and a selection of french pastries
Thanks Mom (pictured below) for the dessert. See the video (and hear Mom speak French... when you slide this picture left over at Instagram)

My mom Jules in a field of phacelia flowers planted in our old vineyard
Photo of my Mom taken when we lived at the vineyard near Bandol. That's a field of phacelia flowers. Jean-Marc sowed them to enrich the ground (and attract bees) before planting his vines. 

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.

Marquer le coup (A hike, swim at Parc du Mugel) + Do what you want to do


A favorite day planner. Get a copy of French Country Diary and fill it with all the meaningful and exciting things you will do this year.

Today's phrase: marquer le coup

    : to mark the occasion, to celebrate

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

New Year's Day began with blue skies, birdsong (les gazouillis, as JM calls it), and an urge to get outside. There were some things I wanted to do before le premier janvier slipped by, and with Mom's suggestion still strumming in my mind I set out to marquer le coup.

It took a while to get around to what I wanted to do, what with so much chicken poop, but after cleaning le poulailler (carefully transferring the fumier, or black gold, to the base of our plum tree...) I ran to my seed baskets in search of more fava beans. Les fèves are the easiest things to grow. You could probably drop one on the ground and it would spring up a few weeks later! Plus, fava leaves make nutritious salad greens...while you are waiting for the haricots to develop.

While sowing these giant seeds (which also serve as the trinket in this season's Gâteau des Rois), I bumped into Jean-Marc, returning from his morning run. Do you want to pack a lunch and we can go for a swim? I said, vocalizing my 2019 goals: more picnics! more hikes! more swims!

I packed a salad of pois chiches, red onion, diced fava leaves, chopped turmeric, and a few other ingredients Dr. Greger recommends (and some he might resent: fromage and foie gras...) and off we went to Parc du Mugel--the most glorious spot in La Ciotat. 

Mugel walk
Wearing our bathing suits under our winter clothes and doudounes, we hiked up to the botanical park, past the flowering Bird of Paradise, some bright red bougainvillea, and down into a swimming hole my father discovered a few years ago. On seeing two couples of a certain age swimming in the turquoise water, Dad exclaimed, I'm going to return here and swim. (And he did! Only it wasn't the first of January....).

Looking around the otherworldly coastline (the smooth falaise across the bay looks like something out of Planet of the Apes--or the part of the surface of the moon) the land meets the turquoise waters below, which lap over a rock island in the center of the inlet, before rising up to the east with hills of green as in a dream.

Rocky calanque at  parc du mugel la ciotat
picture, showing the rocky terrain, taken on a previous hike

Settling down on a rocky perch, we sat beside our backpacks and Jean-Marc put his head in my lap. As he napped I debated whether or not to brave the icy waters when I noticed un plongeur wearing a thick, full-length wetsuit!

Fait ce que tu as envie de faire, my husband said after lunch, as we packed up our picnic and hiked to another beach, But I am going to swim!! 

Fine, you swim, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself, I said, looking across the beach to where a crowd of New Year's Day swimmers stood beside a line of drying wetsuits.... As we got closer to the others, music filled our ears. I looked up to a quartet of jazz musicians--a talented family ranging in age. The wonderful sound carried us across the pebble beach where we set out our towels. 

Jean-Marc was the first in! And no sooner did he disappear under the glittering surface than a taste for the same experience tickled my senses. I began peeling off my clothes and, as discreetly as possible--not wanting to make a spectacle of myself...I walked over to the shore. Hard to do on those big, slippery pebbles!

Like a newbie on a trapeze, arms flailing for balance, I fell into the water. One more new year's goal bubbled up through my mind: Keep on trying new things, regardless! Better a plunge into exhilarating waters, than a staying put on a bed of rocks.

He looks cold!
Jean-Marc navigating over the slippery rocks. The water was cold but very enjoyable (at about 15C or 60F)

les gazouillis = chirps
le premier janvier = January 1st
marquer le coup = mark the occasion
le fumier = manure
poulailler = henhouse
la fève = fava bean, broad bean
un haricot = bean
le gâteau des rois = King's Cake
le pois chiche = chickpea, garbanzo bean
le fromage = cheese
la doudoune = feather, down jacket
la falaise = cliff
un plongeur = snorkeler
fais ce que tu as envie de faire = do what you want to do
  =>Try Mastering French Vocabulary

Yogurt cake kings cake gateau des rois hack
Here's another cake hack for you: If you cannot find a gâteau des rois in your area, why not make a traditional yogurt cake (easy recipe here) and stick a magical fava bean inside (magical because I have actually planted the bean after plucking it out** of a cooked cake. The seed grew!).

From Wikipedia: À l'intérieur de celui-ci, était introduite une fève ; celui qui avait la chance de la trouver dans la part qu'il recevait était nommé roi. Inside (the cake) a bean was inserted; the one who had the chance of finding it in his slice was named king.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with peaceful moments and inspiration to follow your dreams.

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