The Lost Gardens by Jean-Marc and Kristi Espinasse
Ragout: Simple recipe for Provencal stew + kitesurfing in Giens peninsula, near Hyérès

Hérisser: from a prickly a verb to help describe an emotion we all felt last week

Writing desk

Ten days ago, my husband and I launched a book and then everything went up in flames--here on the homefront and there, inside Notre Dame. As emotions billowed up all around, we stepped back, stepped away, and then finally stepped up to the plate again. The next installment of our book is up, and we are going to take things chapter by chapter, dealing with the emotions as they surface (unexpectedly, as they did last week). Meantime, everyone who has ever loved Notre Dame will have experienced today's verb. I know our son did, when he walked into the room to share the news. Standing there in shock, every hair on his arms stood up:

Today's word: se hérisser

    : to ruffle, to stand on end (hairs), to bristle

*un hérisson is a prickly hedgehog

Click here to listen to the following sentence

Une émotion est un ensemble de réponses automatiques à des situations extérieures. Il y a des réponses corporelles bien sûr : le cœur s'accélère, les poils se hérissent, la sueur coule sur le visage... --Futura
An emotion is a set of automatic responses to external situations. There are bodily responses of course: the heart is accelerating, the hairs are bristling, sweat is running down your face ...


As someone who writes about French life, I often feel the pressure (and sometimes the need) to address a current event here in my blog or, as one ruffled reader wrote (years ago, following a series of terrorist attacks) "on your platform! Why aren't you talking about (said political issue) on your platform! By not saying anything you are saying something."

But what is a writer to do when a crisis is happening both on the national front--and on the homefront? 

As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, and a woman going through the throws of le cinquantaine, I went into preservation mode last week. I know that sounds dramatic, given the much bigger news of Notre Dame burning down. Honestly, that day seemed like an omen. A very bad omen.

On the bright side--the bright side being the side I have always chosen to write about (the exception being certain chapters in the current book my husband and I are writing...)--on the bright side, thanks to the love and generosity of many, Notre Dame will be rebuilt.  

Last week, certain our book project had come to an end....only days after it had even begun, and still in survival/panic mode, I reasoned, You can always reimburse everyone for their book purchase!

Indeed, my fingers were very near the Paypal mass-refund button! Instead, Dear Reader, we are going to keep writing. Keep telling our story. My hope is that many of you will relate to our choices, our trials, and our faith. In fact, I think most of you will. I trust we are all very much alike and that stories like ours will give others the courage to follow their dreams, to stay committed to their families, and to try and see a bigger picture when life's ups and downs threaten to throw us off track.

The first two installments have now been published on the book site. Jean-Marc and I have written three full chapters. Those pages will go up gradually. If you have not yet purchased our book-in-progress, you can do so now and read the raw chapters before anything gets edited out!

Having felt deep sadness and regret, and hairs that stand on end or se hérissent, let's move forward! Let's keep building, stone by stone, chapter by chapter. And have faith that a year from now, things will look quite differently. What matters in any event--and in any relationship--is the will to rebuild.

For those who have purchased the book, click here to access  the next installment

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here and scroll to the end of the post

Note: after your purchase, a new browser window will open in your browser with the link to the book site and the passwords needed Look for that new window!

If you have purchased the book and need the passwords to access it: email your Paypal receipt to

Silly pic
Photo of me and Jean-Marc taken yesterday. Greasy (me) and unshaven (him). If we look like we've been dragged over the coals of emotion....We have! (And one of us lost a wedding ring in the process...) More in the upcoming chapters of The Lost Gardens (not to be confused with one's private garden. And therein lies the challenge: to tell our personal story with dignity and the right amount of privacy). Thank you for reading our memoir and book in progress

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Helen Johnstone

Hi Kristin

I have forgotten my password , for the book , can you tell me how to re set it

Thank you

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Helen. No problem. I will send it to you via email. 


Hearts and heads up. Keep on with your dreams, Kristin!



I hate to say it, but I can’t remember by password as well! So glad you are staying with the book.

Kristin Espinasse



I have lost the link to the painting tour you were doing, of Provence. Are you still doing it?
Really enjoy your blog!
Ariane in Florida

Patricia Sands

Hi Kristi ~ Just sent you an email about what happens when I open this post on my phone.
Keep going with your book ... writing isn't always easy, as we know!

Anne Umphrey

My heart goes out to all who watched their beloved symbol of Paris and all of France, burn. The word spread like wildfire through my town and among my friends. The phones were ringing and folks were racing to the TV to see this horrible event. Please know that we are with you in sadness, and also in happiness that Notre Dame will come back to life.


Hi Kristin,
I can totally relate to this edition. Sometimes, especially now, that is exactly how I feel with my French studies. I can't help but ask myself, what is the point. So, for me, the timing is perfect. I needed to read this. I thank you! I plug along until I can get back to the place where I want to be on my French-learning journey. Yes, the Notre Dame incident really got me down. I also lost a friend during this time. But I will take your continuing with your book as encouragement to carry on. I send encouraging energy your way that the two of you can get back on track, in every aspect of your life. Blessings, my beloved!


I want to add ..... remember our 9/11 (World Trade Center/Twin Towers)? New York is thriving once again ... as will Paris, yet again, one day! I believe this with all my heart!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Ariane, That is my friend, Tessa, who is giving the painting tours. Here is the link  


Going through the 'throes', or fires, of menopause can be just as dramatic as world events. It changes your world.


Our dear Kristi,
We so applaud you !For your beautiful words,your stories,and,especially(!)how you address such terrible tragedies (now)as Notre Dame with calm,and looking for peace to absorb any and all.You give us inspiration to try and do the same.
So looking forward to the next chapter!
Kristi,would you please email me the password?
I do not have it and am anxious to start reading.
Natalia . xo

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jacq. 💞💞

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Can't wait to read your next book installment!

I was so sad when I saw Notre Dame burning, but what struck me was the golden cross that still stood along with the Pieta! I just felt it was God telling us that he is here with us. The lovely stained glass windows were spared and the relics were saved. People have come together with donations to rebuild and that is something. God is telling us to stick together, work together, pray together!


C’es vrai ce que Eileen a dit; je suis d’accord. J’espère que vous allez écrire ensemble les chapitres 50, 60, 70, 80........


I was just in Paris last week fulfilling a dream to show my granddaughters some sites I admired long ago. Of course we visited Notre Dame one afternoon, which turned out to be just two hours before it caught fire! At midnight we watched from afar as the darkened building was lit only by investigating flashlights and dying embers on the central roof. Horrifying! How grateful we were the next day to behold the still-standing massive bell towers and rose windows, and then view pictures of the pieta, golden altar cross and surrounding statues just behind the fallen timbers. In the midst of destruction there can be observable acts of mercy and grace. For those we are thankful.

Kristin Espinasse


Kristin Espinasse

Classis, I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. Sending good wishes your way, for your French studies, and many thanks for the kind words you have sent us.💕

Marshall Morton

Thanks for the heads up on your book. Missed your initial post on that. I was going to write anyway to ask you to pass on to Jean-Marc that, in need of a nice-bodied for a capsteak the other night I found a bottle of his Lunatique, 2010 harvest. Beautiful! Glad to say I’ve got two more bottles!

Best, Marshall

Marianne Rankin

I have been to Notre-Dame, and even attended a service there years ago. I felt bereft when it was burning, astonishingly affected by it. It's a world treasure. I'm so glad for the response of many to help with rebuilding.

Re the book, I want to wait for the actual book when it's completed (I assume there will be one), because it will be portable. For sure, I will buy it when it's ready.


His wines are wonderful. We are still happily spinning from his recent Portland wine, Ephemera. Even without his own vineyard we hope Jean-Marc continues to produce wine!

Janet Boschmann

Hi Kristen,
Thanks so much for this post today. It was just what I needed to hear, especially ´stories like ours will give others the courage to follow their dreams, to stay committed to their families, and to try and see a bigger picture when life's ups and downs threaten to throw us off track.´
I’m in les cinquantaines too and there are more than just physical changes. Children leave home, you start thinking about retirement and if you’re life’s work is complete or not, and the Notre Dame burns and it’s all un peu trop.
I love your blog! Keep writing!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Janet! 💞💞

Leslie NYC

Maybe this is the one step back portion of the dance for you, Notre Dame, and many of us who are struggling.
The two steps forward will come. I, too, am eager to buy your book as a book book when you are done.
Meanwhile I wish you courage, humor, and love.
You both already know how to write so well.
Looking forward!


Best of luck with your book endeavor. Like everyone else, I felt sick watching the fire at Notre Dame, but at the same time I was relieved that the fire was an accident, not an act of terrorism. The outpouring of donations for its revival is inspiring.
Vive Notre-Dame!

Bonnie Schroth

Hello Kristin,
I have just purchased your new online book through Paypal, however I don’t know how to access the first chapter. Can you assist with this?
I hope so as I am looking forward to it very much!

Thank you. Bonnie

Alice Shupe

That is exactly what I noticed and felt when the first picture from inside Notre Dame came out. What a statement of what - or rather Who - will stand the test of time and eternity. God is indeed with us in times of joy and sorrow. We can stake our faith on Him! And, yes, let's stand, work and pray together!


You two just look cute and happy.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)