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Entries from August 2019

Saudade - Just what does it mean?

Le chalet

Saudade. A word overheard on vacation (thank you, Jêrome, and Paola, from Brazil). The term "saudade" isn't French (not yet*)--but a good mot to start with as we get back to school and work (la rentrée) and back on course with our goals, dreams, and visions which so often bring us full circle to our nostalgic beginnings. Thank you for reading this journal and for sharing it with somebody who loves France. I hope these posts enrich more than your vocabulaire.

Today's word: saudade 

    : a feeling of delicious nostalgia
    : a profound emotional state, both positive or neg (gone-by days, lost love)
    : the sentiment of missing something or someone; homesickness

*Saudade is considered a Portuguese word difficult to translate, to the point that the creation of a French neologism was even considered. -- Saudade est considéré comme un mot portugais difficile à traduire, au point que la création d'un néologisme français a même été envisagée. (Wikipedia)

Click here to listen to the word saudade, as it appears in the sentence above


by Kristi Espinasse

My belle-mère Marsha once said: "The last thing you toss into your suitcase is the thing you end up using the most!" Was she ever right! And to think I hesitated about bringing my Kindle to the Alps.  On second thought, I reasoned, it might come in handy...what with the weak wee-fee, or internet reception, in the remote valley where I would be joining my husband, who had arrived the week before.

There in Serre Chevalier, in the Alpine hamlet of Les Boussards, I snuggled into the loft of a tiny stone chalet. Flipping open my Kindle (bought a few years ago, with high hopes of remedying my readers block), I had a look at my digital library. That's when I noticed the title As a Man Thinketh... I don't remember if or when I ever read it...

My Mom once shared a consolation about the right man at the wrong time, and the same could be said about a self-help classic! A book we tried to connect with years ago suddenly aligns with us, its words jumping right off the page and diving deep into our fertile minds. And so it was with the bestseller Tel Un Homme Pense. Over the one-week retreat to the Vallée de la Guisane I read and reread this little gem (only 65 pages) by James Allen, carefully chewing on and putting into practice its wisdom when away from the text (as when, in a pair of cheap sneakers, I followed my husband of 25 years--a soon-to-be triathlete--and our friend Nicolas up a steep mountain.


High up with the cerfs and the wolves that hunt them, my heart beating faster than an Arizona hummingbird and my t-shirt soaked from effort--I remembered a favorite passage from the book:

There is no physician like cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of the body....

With this nugget in mind, the hike became faisable and uplifting (literally. As the body is the slave of thought, it soon came round...especially when we reached the serene lake at the top of the mount...).


If I got to practice the book's principles while pushing my 51-year-old body to its limits in the Alps, I didn't miss the many opportunities to retrain my brain during the rest of our trip (away from the comfort and familiarity of home and into new places and new social situations...including a French marriage in which I was certain we guests were all going to sleep in a barn with no toilet. Just goes to show how past experiences (...) frame our perspective! After psyching myself for the wedding, I was pleasantly surprised when the groom showed us to our very own room and its en-suite amenities!

"Our own room!" I said to Jean-Marc, shutting the door in relief.

"But of course. What were you thinking?" My husband replied.

What were you thinking. A question we might all ask ourselves more often, as the mind tends to gallop forward, like a wild étalon. A wild stallion may be a beautiful thing, except when it bolts, taking you along for the ride.

It is time to tame our thoughts and move forward into the new year. Whether you are going back to school or back to work today, je vous souhaite une bonne rentrée. Keep nostalgia and longing in your heart--saudade--be a little more fleur bleue and continue to follow your dreams wherever they lead.



Post Note: I highly encourage you to buy a copy of As a Man Thinketh. Each time I reach the end of the book, on my Kindle reader, I start over again. And when I can no longer recall the meaningful sentences highlighted within, I've come up with a helpful two-word summary to keep on track throughout the day: Lofty thoughts! Lofty thoughts! 

As a man thinketh james allen poverty to power

The edition, above, is the one I just purchased for my Mom. It comes with an extra book:As A Man Thinketh & From Poverty to Power

If you'd like to order a Kindle, click here.

saudade = a kind of longing
le mot = word
la rentrée = back to school, back to work (after summer break)
le vocabulaire = vocabulary
la belle-mère = stepmother (also can mean mother-in-law)
wee-fee = French pronunciation of Wi-Fi 
le cerf = stag, deer
faisable = doable
un étalon = stallion, male horse
fleur bleu = romantic
je vous souhaite une bonne rentrée = I wish you a good start (to the new (school year or back to work after break)
être fleur bleu = to be sentimental
amicalement = best wishes

Nicolas and Jean-Marc in Nevache
Nicolas and Jean-Marc at a mountain top in Nevache

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

ça tombe bien (a useful phrase) + congé or vacation

The photo above has nothing to do with the word of the day, but it fits nicely with vacation....

Today's Words: ça tombe bien

    : it's a good thing, it's good timing, the timing is right

by Kristi Espinasse

It was late at night when an alert flashed across the screen of my mobile phone, interrupting my mindless social media scrolling. The text (a prompting from our shared Google Agenda--my husband's and mine) read:

"Massage therapist in 15 minutes"
The words may as well have been in verlan for they meant nothing to drowsy me, initially, but on second glance I understood my husband had scheduled a late-night massage. 
But he was away in the Alps... Alone in the Alps! Schedules a late-night massage?! 
I automatically checked the time (it was after nine...). If I had begun smoldering at that moment, my homely mouthguard would have melted!  I began to picture the not-so-homely masseuse... Thankfully my imagination didn't run off too far this time. Instead, it quickly dawned on me: my forgotten calendar entry! My friend Audrey had recently asked whether I knew of a local massage therapist, as she wanted to purchase un bon d'achat for her stepdaughter. I told her I did not know of anyone, but that I would think about it. And lest I forget, I decided to note it on my digital calendrier, which prompts me to remember things, such as: 
"massage therapist for Audrey"
My husband should be laughing by now if he is reading this story. Jean-Marc always teases me about my digital calendar entries because  I often neglect to log the hour (I simply write it in the subject line) which case the calendar defaults to some random time slot... usually a most-unlikely hour!
Like this, both my husband and I receive reminders of my 3 a.m. lunch appointment...or an alert that church is about to begin at 11p.m. or that I have a hair appointment at the crack of dawn.
"Chérie," my husband will say, as he shuts out the light at night, "Don't forget to take Smokey to the groomer's at midnight." With that he snickers and shuts out the light.
I'm glad we can both appreciate the humor there! We weren't always this quick to laugh at each other's idiosyncrasies (and we're still working on it), as you will know if you've been reading our moody vineyard memoir....

*   *   * 
Post note: Audrey, I found a massage therapist for your belle-fille. I think I'll schedule a session for myself. It may just help relax my overactive mind!
Bonnes Vacances!
See you in two weeks, as this journal is going on a little summer congé, or break et ça tombe bien! Thank you all for reading and for your thoughtful comments and support which mean a lot and keep me going....à bientôt!
Kristi ape truck
I am headed to the Alps and hope to cross over the border and visit Italy, where this picture was taken years ago. Those little trucks ("triporteurs") always steal my heart! 
le verlan = a kind of French slang, or "backward slang" similar to pig latin
la masseuse = massage therapist
un bon d'achat = gift certificate
un calendrier
= calendar
la belle-fille
= step-daugther
le triporteur = three-wheeler
le congé = break, time off, leave
ça tombe bien = it comes at a good time
à bientôt! = see you soon!

Today's phrase "ça tombe bien" is found in the story Unlucky in French, read it in the archives, here 


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Combler: Satisfied or fulfilled in French (and in life)

Smokey Max and Jackie
10-year-old Smokey is happiest when he is in the presence of his pack, or "sa meute." More on happiness in today's post. (Photo taken from inside my Mom's studio)

Today's word: combler

    => to fill
    => to fulfill, satisfy
    => to fill a gap (in one's life)

une vie comblée = a fulfilled life
combler son retard = to make up for lost time
je suis comblée = I have everything I could want or wish for

Book News: Soon we will finish chapter 7 of our memoir about life on 2 vineyards and the toll it eventually took (having already tested our marriage). This next section will be posted soon and it is as raw and personal as the first 6 chapters.  Click here for more about our story. 


  by Kristi Espinasse

Sunday afternoon, après l'Eglise, I was sitting on a fold-out beach chair in front of Mom's place when a thought burst through my mind: Je suis comblée!

The bright pink beach chair was a present from Mom and the joyful feeling was a gift from the here and now, or l'instant présent. In this moment there was my mom, my son, and my daughter--and there was Jean-Marc who had just walked up to see why all of us were gathered.

Jean-marc  max  jackie  painting

All this activity began with Max, who had a day off from his current internship at Château de Pibarnon. Max has been repeating the same wish for months: Je veux peindre! He backed his wish by a mission: "and Grandma needs to get back to her canvas!" Finally, he went around to the side of the house, to Jules's studio, to try and drag her out of bed. "Let's go to the art supply store!" he said.

Oh but he had to tug! He had to tickle! He had to flop! In the end he managed to get Jules up and painting again! It was around 4 in the afternoon, after my own siesta, that I stumbled onto this lively scene: two easels, two artists, a dozen tubes of oil paint and a host of creatures looking on--all Mom's doves, who live in the trees above, three little hedgehogs watching from behind a stack of logs, and dear sweet Smokey.

Max and Jules
Jules and Max. I love to listen to them banter. They have a wonderful rapport or complicité.
Jackie and her grandmother Jules kissing bonjour
Faire la bise. Jackie greets her grandmother with a kiss

Max and Jackie painting
Brother and sister painting with a palette knife at the chevalet, or easel


Soon Jackie showed up. She wanted to paint too! The former art school student began by helping her brother... until the urge to begin her own toile propelled her over to Grandma, to borrow some fournitures....

"First go and change into your old clothes!" Jules said. Just like that, illico presto!, the youngest artist donned old shorts and a t-shirt over her bathing suit and was back before you could say Prussian Blue.


Jackie and portable easel oil paints
A portable chevalet purchased in Draguignan, years ago. Happy to see it come to life again..

Max jackie smokey painting with oil

Circling around my family, admiring each of their paintings, I notice all three were working from the same photo of a parrot in a palm tree. How interesting to see each artist's interpretation!

Max, totally absorbed in his work, reproduced the picture using the same proportions and similar colors. Meantime, Jules's vision was grand: a bigger bird, wider palm leaves, and vivid colors!

Jackie's 'Perroquet dans le Palmier' was as delicate as lace! Using a palette knife like her brother and grandmother, her strokes were fine and detailed. 

Jackie oil painting parrot palm tree
Jackie's painting (midway through)
Max jules painting
Max and Jules's paintings at the beginning of the session.

How the art reminded me of the artists themselves: one orderly, one generous, one delicate--all the qualities I admire in my son, in my Mom, and in my daughter....

Hélas, the painting session came to a sudden end when the mosquitos moved in! Quickly scattering, each artist hurried into the house, leaving the doves, the hedgehogs, and Smokey to admire the unfinished works. The next day, when I said good morning to our golden retriever, I noticed a splash of blue on his wagging tail. And when it came time to feed the birds in our garden, a few had crimson red nails after landing on top Mom's painting. And Jules herself had splashes of purple in her silver hair. 


après l'Eglise = after church
je suis comblée = I am filled with happiness
l'instant présent = the here and now
je veux peindre = I want to paint
un chevalet = an easel
une toile = a canvas
les fournitures = supplies
illico presto = right away (see the  word-of-the-day post, here and lovely pics of the dogs)
le perroquet = parrot
le palmier = palm tree
peinture en plein air = outdoor painting 

Max's painting midway through

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.