Culte: How I found out I was in a sect in France (humor)
ça tombe bien (a useful phrase) + congé or vacation

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

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.

Susan Dayton Hodgson

What Joy! To enjoy haveing your loved ones so close to you. Thanks for shareing a peak into you family life.Give your mom a big hug for me.

Leslie NYC

This reminds me of taking a drawing class as an adult after not having done anything in years. I just needed a teacher to say, "okay, kids, get out your colors!" and I was off, a 45-year old kid.
How inspiring to see three artists so eagerly and fluidly jump in and paint, still clearly in a creative groove.
Thank you for the recipe and example of une vie comblée.


Finally, we get a glimpse of Jules ~ and a word about her!! I understand how your life could sparkle in those moments with everyone happily together. Love the paintings!

Linda D.

And now you have made ME very happy and content. Just watching your family bond over paint, sunshine and affection left a HUGE smile on my face. Contentment, indeed. Thank you for sharing this moment with us.


Thanks for the reminder, Kristi, to pause, appreciate life's blessings, and find joy in the present. Some paint with brushes, but you paint with words. Always a treat! - Janet


What a spontaneous gathering of artists. It is so wonderful to see the different interruptions of the same image and your description is spot on. I love them all, but I wish we could see more Jules’ painting. You are inspiring me to get the paints or pastels out and be creative. It has been a long time since I have indulged. My creativity has been directed to cooking, gardening and other activities.
Thanks for the inspiration 🥰

Judy Feldman

What a great story! (Of course, I would love anything about painting🎨) a wonderful way to bring your family together. Thanks so much for including the photos. I can just feel the pleasure everyone was experiencing!

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Janet 💕

Kristin Espinasse

I will be glad to give her your hug. She named one of her birds Suzie after you. I enjoy the stories she shares of your teenage years together.

Kristin Espinasse

Get out your paints, Kathleen! 🖌️💕

Sandy Maberly

What a talented bunch your family is! Both paintings are so beautiful. I’m glad everyone had a chance to be together.

Kathryn MacCullough

Great photos. Beautiful family.


Our dear Kristi,
Your beautiful words today just wrap themselves around my heart.
What a joyful afternoon!
Once again you have given us inspiration to look around our own lives and appreciate our loving families and graced well being.
Bless all of you always.
Natalia xo

Suzanne Dunaway

Oh, what better than to discover art with one's grandmere, soeur, frere, a parrot, a few doves and three hedgehogs! HEAVENLY! What a lovely family you all are so lucky to have. And painting frees the soul...

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Kathryn!

Mary L Kennedy

Kristi, did your mother cut her hair? She used to have a long braid. Love the shorter version and also loved the braid. She's beautiful!


Gee whiz, Kristi,
Everybody looks like they are creative! I feel that way when I am around my family, except that when I see my great nieces and great nephew ages 4, 5, and 6, hopping and jumping to music I tell them I feel like dancing! Now I am going to go into
that dark, cluttered hole of a closet and dig out the bag where I have stashed my watercolor materials and give it another try.
Merci--vous et votre famille m'inspirez!

Kristin Espinasse

Mary, yes! She cut it herself. I love it shorter. Thanks for the compliment, which I will be sure she receives.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I love this story so much along with the photos! It's so fun to see the different interpretations of the same scene! I love seeing your family enjoy time together! That's what life is all about!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Your family exemplifies affection, appreciation and the closeness of family. You all follow your own paths, which seem to bring you back a happy place. And that is so uplifting to read about!


Such an inspiring story ... and I LOVE the paintings. Would it be possible to see the finished oeuvres?
Thank you for the joy you bring us all!!!

Anne Woodyard

Such joy!So happy for you all!

Did you know I was playing hooky from my paints today? Just the reminder I needed - seeing how much joy the act of creating brings to we humans - to say nothing of our curious animal friends. Into the studio NOW. Yes - the present moment is very enlightening. Thanks, Nancy

Dave Kapsiak

A beautiful story. Frank Capra’s classic movie said it best, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Like most people, I have to remind myself of that periodically.

Thanks for the pic of Smokey

Karen Cafarella

How wonderful to have them all painting together. I loved seeing them all. Makes me want to try my hand at painting again.

Big hugs to all!


What fun! What creativity! My family's creativity does not include painting. I'm impressed! Thanks for sharing the moment.


Love, love, love this joyous story of your beautiful family and their vie comblee. I could have just step into that scene and loved every minute! My dream is to paint one day, hopefully very soon! My goal for 2020!! Loved your photos and all that they shared!


Words can’t express the joy I felt reading your words and especially seeing the photos of your mom, son and daughter. The loving bonds that unite them plus the creativity they- and you and Jean-Marc- display are so very special, and unique. It is insightful on your part to recognize this moment as being emblematic of a fulfilled life! Savor this moment.

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Fab fab FAB - vibrantly visual even vivacious vignette today, dear Kristi -- radiant with the swirling contentment of a family awash in vital, peaceful, loving shared fun! I will be back a time or ten to rejoin you, the doting witness and recorder of this spontaneous expérience de pointe! Quiet joy, wow! Quel vignette!


So inspired by your family's talent and joy of being together . . .

Kristin Espinasse

Chris, really enjoyed your words about how following your own path brings you all a happy place👌💕


Beautiful scene you captured. Talent, Talent, Talent plus your Talent for telling the story ! Try rose géranium essential oil dotted on ankles, wrists, and neck to keep moustiques will also ease the itch if you are bitten! Am loving your book. Wish you were still in Les Arcs


Jackie is such a talented artist. I sure hope she goes back to school to become a designer, a couturier, or something else in the art or design field. She is bound to be good at it, and customers will appreciate her gift!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Teresa. I will show her your note. It is a great encouragement!


What a beautiful post! Xo

K J Laramie

A touching, living tableau ... so beautiful!


Life just keeps getting better and better. It's such a joy to watch your family. Thank you for sharing all these years.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Amanda! And thank you for reading all of these years. That means a lot.

Kristin Espinasse

Les Arcs...thanks for the lovely wish, Mary-James. 

Joan Miller

Thank you for your lovely writings. I enjoy all the home stories. Merci, Joan Miller


Oh, what wonderful, talented artists you share your home with, Kristi. You must be so proud of them. Jackie's painting is absolutely breathtaking. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience with us. I could see myself there, in your yard, silently moving about the easels, hearing the doves in the trees amid the relaxed conversation of your family, feeling the gentle breeze on my skin as the scent of paint drifts off into the distance.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Katia. Your poetic words brought me back to that lovely day. 


What a lovely story. You have a wonderful gift.

Betty A Gleason

Look how many people you have inspired to paint! The painting in your family all started with your Mom. She should be so proud. Kudos to Max for cajoling her to resume. I am glad to see that she is starting to reinvent herself, even if by baby steps at the moment. I hope she feels the joy I am sending her in my prayers. I will be more faithful. Hugs to all.

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.)