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Entries from January 2020

Culotté: a cheeky word for you today

KINDLE Do Not Go Gentle. Go to Paris

Travel with award-winning author Gail Thorell Schilling as she jaunts alone to Paris and southern France to ransom her self-confidence and learn how to age in her engaging memoir, Do Not Go Gentle. Go to Paris: Travels of an Uncertain Woman of a Certain Age.  Rattled by fears that she is losing her keys, her job, her looks, this 62-year-old American with a little French and less money transcends mishaps ranging from botched connections to a fickle sweetheart. Her travels expose her to the wisdom of feisty Frenchwomen, still vital in elder years. Joie de vivre, she learns, has no expiration date. Click here to order the book, Worldwide distribution via Amazon.

Today's Word: culotté (koo-loh-tay)

    : cheeky, daring, sassy

Sound File: listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentence from

Culotté, cela veut dire "avoir du culot, être effronté ; manifester cet état d'esprit : C'est plutôt culotté de venir sans être invité." Culotté, it means "to be cheeky, to be daring; to manifest this state of mind: It is rather cheeky to come without being invited."

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Robot Panties (or Les Culottes en Fer)

By now we are all familiar with the automated side of life, as increasingly machines replace people. But do you ever wonder how Old France is faring in this new world? In the past week, I've been surprised by the degree to which public areas are automated--from fast food to fast doctors we are going to have to have more than steel nerves to function in the coming robotic world....

For now, we must resist while we can.

On our way home from the Alps, I agreed we could stop at Mac Do (as they call it here) on one condition: we would not do the drive-through but would go inside, sit down and eat our lunch (with linens if possible...). This intention to slow down was foiled when we encountered the computerized self-service stations where extra seating used to be. Taking a deep breath, I searched for the "Royale" burger I had the last time I was here (a year ago?). Not finding it, I went to the front counter to order from a human, only to learn that was impossible. All of the registers had been removed, and the counter now served as a barrier. It wouldn't be the first barrier we would run into....

Arriving home a few hours later, I unpacked in time to accompany Mom to the doctor. At the medical center I searched for a secretary when another patient pointed to a dull gray tablet near the exit. Studying the screen I was explaining to Mom how to use the computerized check-in when we ran into another pépin: the instructions were, of course, in French.

"Don't worry Mom. If you ever have to come here alone somebody will help you!" I assured her. With that I offered a pleading look to the two patients, who smiled in solidarity.

From there Mom and I went grocery shopping only for one of us to become frustrated upon learning that every fruit/veg had to be weighed electronically and self-labeled. My feisty Mamacita, having moved here from Mexico (where she had only to reach out her kitchen window to pick papayas) returned everything to the bins and grabbed a prepackaged sack of pears. Harrumph (well, I'll say harrumph. Mom exclaimed a much more colorful word!). If this automated society is challenging for the French, it is baffling for immigrants. Thankfully we aliens could stick together on this changing planet.

On the way to the checkout, we were eager to pay and leave only to learn no humans were available (owing to a broken cash register. The newly remodeled store put in two cash registers and five self-checkouts... Mom and I headed to the second register, only to find it abandoned; we would have to use the self check-out stations. Knowing this would take a while (our motley duo attempted self check last time. If you think weighing 3 apples back at the produce section was complicated, try typing in 46 tiny digits when the scan code doesn't work). Taking another deep breath, I asked if they had a public bathroom (a pressing question since arriving to the store 45 minutes earlier...). Non, the manager smiled, they did not. Now I ask you, who smiles when delivering bad news if not a robot? Which leads me to the point I am trying to make....

Looking around the shiny new store (which included a beverage stand and snacks for sale), I wondered how it was possible to put so much effort into supermarket efficiency and so little thought into human beings? You might say the company's decision to forgo a public restroom was culotté --cheeky on their part!  Humor aside, I (and my bladder) can't help but think: In order to keep up with this futuristic society, we'll need more than nerves of steel, we may need robot panties!  

*    *    *
I leave you with an image of Mom, in her favorite place to shop--the farmers market. The warmth and conviviality cannot be weighed or labeled with a machine. And (at this one, in St Cyr-sur-Mer) the public toilettes are at the end of the leafy lane. :-)


Mac Do
= Mc Donald's
les culottes
= panties, underpants, knickers
le fer
= iron
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
= cheeky
les toilettes (nfpl)
= restrooms, bathrooms

Improve your French pronunciation with the book Exercises in French Phonics

Rainbow in La Ciotat
Thank you very much for reading these stories, especially via email. Each week, more people sign off the email listserver--yet another sign of the changing times. It is a crowded world out there and a chaotic inbox only makes it more overwhelming. So merci encore for hanging on, for being a subscriber to this journal. Without you I would not be writing. I leave you with a rainbow, un arc-en-ciel, spotted here in La Ciotat a few weeks ago. I am leaving, now, to visit our daughter in Miami, and hope to post some photos on my Instagram if you would like to follow me there.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Cheri, did you pay the water bill? Two breakdowns in the Alps....

Today's word (posted in 2004): en panne

    : broken down, out of order

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last winter Jean-Marc and I bought a tiny chalet in the Alps--so small the previous owners named it "Blanche Neige". So far, we have only tested 3 nains (when Jean-Marc, our son, Max, and friend Jorge went skiing early January). I stayed home, leaving the man trio to share the loft upstairs and the lilliputian quarters below.

This past weekend, Jean-Marc and I drove the 3.5 hours from La Ciotat to Serre Chevalier, to spend time at Blanche Neige and to be with our friends. After a nerve-racking drive in rain and in slippery ice, we made it to the mountains after dark, only to hike past the snow that had made a 3 ft wall in front of the stone cabin. What a relief to make it inside and to light a fire in the poêle à bois before taking hot showers and tucking into bed beneath the rafters.  The next day and night went well, more hot showers and enough water to boil pasta... but on Sunday morning we woke up to a worrisome panne....

I noticed it when I tried to flush the toilet. No water. No water, no flush. In the bathroom, one room over, I turned on the faucet. A few drops came out, et c'est tout! 

Returning to the loft, I made my way over to the mattress on the floor and crawled back into bed. "On a un petit problème," I informed Jean-Marc, who then began to cite a few possibilities, including our facture d'eau.

Did he just say he didn't pay the water bill?

Little stone cabin

I looked outside the windows to snow flurries and an icy winter white scene. It was freezing out and there would be no hot shower this morning. And who knew what else was in store? No water meant no coffee, no tea, no porridge. (Porridge may be an exaggeration, but it adds drama don't you think? Oatmeal sounds so boring. Both, however, require WATER!)

Back to the unpaid water bill (if this indeed is the culprit), the old Kristi would have been fuming inside. But the new Kristi (after 25 years of marriage...) stayed calm and reached for the bottle of Evian beside Jean-Marc's side of the bed. With the few ounces of water that remained, I carefully washed my hands. As for my late-to-pay-the-water-bill husband, if he was thirsty he could drink wine! But I needed to have clean hands--the least amount of comfort given the situation we were in!

We maneuvered our way out of the loft (some ducking, some squatting to get past the wooden beams beneath which we sleep). There in the one-room pièce below Jean-Marc opened a door on the floor and entered the cellar below. After fidgeting with the robinet he asked me to turn on the faucet in the kitchen sink. Nada. Pas une goutte.

Jean-marc calling for help
Jean-Marc, calling the water company

Around this time we heard our neighbors' voices and Jean-Marc went outside to find Françoise at her window and, across the street, Jean-Yves was standing in front of his house. More than sympathizing with our dilemma, our voisins quickly flew into action. Françoise texted the emergency number for our water company and Jean-Yves sent over a giant vase of hot water (a treasure better than gold!) I quickly washed up (à la bird bath) and dressed--in time to answer the door. An agent from the water company had arrived.

Quelle image! Looking out from our diamond-shaped window I saw a character from another epoch. The young man wore an unusual béret: flat as a pizza and around the same size in diameter!

"Quel beau chapeau!" I said, greeting him. Remembering the varying types of bérets (I bought an Italian one (falls nicely over the ears) for my mom last year) I asked, "Is it Spanish?" I noticed his ears were completely exposed and I had a mind to pull down the sides of the flat béret and cover them. It was freezing outside! 

"No, it is from the French army. Ça s'appelle une tarte!"

Next, his colleague arrived carrying a giant cocotte-minute and the two descended into the cellar. With the help of a tank of gas and a blow torch, the men melted the ice that had formed around our pipes and the water flowed once more!

Trap door to cellar
Trap door to the cellar full of wine and icy pipes! (And do you spy Mr Sacks?)

That evening we invited our neighbors over for an apéro to thank them for their help. Françoise brought Danièle, who is lodging with her, and who is doing ski touring with our other neighbor, Jean-Yves, an expert mountain guide. Jean-Yves showed up with un fromage de tête (a delicacy consisting of various meats (ears, cheeks... all combined with a lot of parsley and set with gelatin). As we sat before the fire, chatting, I admitted to Danièle that it is so very hard to ask for help, isn't it? If I had been here alone, I told her, I don't think I would have ventured out to knock on my neighbor's door. I would have tried, somehow, to get by. (I can only imagine, in such a scenario, how things would've looked by day two!) And to think there are people who remain in similar absurd situations...all because they are uncomfortable asking for help. 

Danièle reminded me of the French valeur of solidarity. "Especially here in the mountains, in a far-off hameau like this one. We all help each other. Never hesitate to ask for assistance--that is how it works!" On that note I asked our guests about the unusual béret the plumber wore, and the trio each had something to say, beginning with Jean-Yves: "Ce sont les bérets de chasseur alpin." 

"They were worn by the military," Francoise, said. 
Danièle pointed out that these béret-porting troops were the ones who scoured the mountainside during the war both to protect civilians and defend the border.

Jean-Marc added that, since obligatory military service ended some twenty years ago, with President Chirac, certain young men wear the béret out of regional pride and to honor tradition.

My mind returned to the picture I saw outside our diamond-shaped window, of the young man in his extra-wide béret. I remember how timeless he looked. The scene could have very well been from another time and place, except, thankfully, he was only here to rescue our pipes, and, in so doing, prevent a possible guerre des rose or war of the roses. Which reminds me, my hubby did indeed pay the water bill. It was time to thank him for that...only he was already back outside, trying to fix our car which would not start. Oh no! Another panne! 

Many thanks for reading. Edits are most welcome in the comments, below.

Jimny suzuki
And we had just gotten our car out of the shop, remember?

Soutiras beret chasseur alpin militaire
Le commandant Soutiras, officier des Chasseurs alpins, en 1939


Blanche Neige = Snow White
le nain, la naine = dwarf
le poêle à bois = wood stove
la panne = breakdown, out of order
et c'est tout = and that's all
la facture d'eau = water bill, invoice
la pièce = room
le robinet = tap, faucet
pas une goutte = not a drop
le voisin = neighbor
quelle image = what a sight!
la cocotte-minute = pressure cooker
un apéro = pre-dinner drink
un fromage de tête = pork brawn, head-cheese pâté
la valeur = value
le hameau = hamlet
le chasseur alpin = mountain infantry man
Blossoming cover
Book birthday! Blossoming in Provence turned 8 years old last month. This book came together during a 21-day publishing challenge. Today's challenge is to ask for help (still so hard to do!) in getting this book into the hands of someone new. Would you kindly consider buying a copy for a friend? Thank you in advance. Time now to have a piece of cake and celebrate!

I hope you enjoyed a little bit of French history in today's story. Come to France to experience the rich culture. Photo by my friend Beth, from her Lavender and Vine Tour, info here.

Max wearing his wool hat
Our son Max, wearing another timeless hat: after the authentic béret, here's a men's newsboy cap, (more styles here). 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Voir: An assumption...followed by an unforgettable encounter

Patricia Sands book Drawing Lessons
A New Year's sale from Amazon! The spirit of van Gogh lives on the pages of this touching story set in Arles and the intriguing Camargue." Follow Patricia at or on Instagram

Today's Word: voir

    : to see, watch, look at

voir la vie en rose = to look on the bright side

Audio: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following:
La marque constante de la sagesse est de voir le miraculeux dans le banal. The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE  by Kristi Espinasse

On another of those eye-opening walks (whether for the sunset or the beauty in an encounter) Mom and I were once again enchanted by strangers.

We were halfway along our favorite sentier, when two figures appeared on the horizon. As the couple came into focus, I saw her headscarf and glimpsed his long beard. Malgré moi, my mind interpreted the incoming data:

headscarf + long beard = formal religion observed

Acting out of what I believed was respect, I smiled at the woman but carefully avoided eye contact with the man. Don't ask how I came up with such a protocol, except it was loosely based on a conversation with a North African friend who wore the same modest headscarf: "Men and women," she explained, "unless married, are not to be alone in the same car."

Surely there were exceptions to la règle. I don't doubt she could drive with her father or her son or her nephew or cousin. There was so much to learn about my friend's culture and I enjoyed those days, sipping coffee with her in my kitchen, sharing our faiths.

Meantime, back to the future, Mom and I weren't in a car, but I didn't want to take any chances and end up crossing some sort of invisible boundary when the couple, now a few feet ahead of us, passed. As Mom was unusually quiet tonight, chances were low she would strike up a conversation with the les inconnus--even if it is her joy to do so. We were just about to pass the couple, honorably so, when the unexpected happened....

The man suddenly lunged at us! Flailing an invisible sword through the air, he shouted something unintelligible.

I think Mom caught on before I did, recognizing the man's mock sparring. Turns out he was only pointing out--in a most illustrative way--my own headdress: a wide-brimmed black felt hat.

Confused, I looked at my mom who smiled back playfully at the man with the beard. Mimicking his comic gesture: she swept her own invisible sword back and forth, fashioning a "Z" in the air.

"Zorro!" She said, repeating the man's unintelligible word (or one that hadn't made sense moments ago).

Reaching for my hat, I remembered what it looked like and sure enough--along with my black jeans and black coat, it all brought to mind that sword-swinging character.

"Oui, oui, Zorro!" I laughed, looking the bearded-man directly in the eyes, breaking whatever assumptions and oddly-concocted conclusions I had drawn, letting him know his humor was spot on. Touché!

*    *    *

I leave you with a picture of my funloving Mom as she is wearing a similar hat to the one I had on that day. Enjoy, and remember: ne jugez pas un livre par sa couverture or you might miss a wonderful story! 

Jules my mom in front of coiffeur in la ciotat france
My Mom, on one of our evening walks. I have a similar hat to Mom's, only the hatband is different...see mine below.
le sentier = path
malgré moi (malgré soi) = involuntarily
la règle = rule
les inconnus = the strangers
touché! = you win!
ne jugez pas un livre par sa couverture = don't judge a book by its cover
qui sait = who knows

For more French phrases, try The Penguin French Phrase Book.

Kristi black felt hat backpack
Zorro? I wear wide-brimmed hats in the winter to help keep the bright sun off my face. Mom wears hers because it keeps her warm and she likes the style. Check out these felt hats and protect your skin, as I have to. And qui sait...wearing one might lead to a mind-opening encounter.

*    *    *

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

An art escape in France + a little more vocabulary for you...


My dear friend Tessa is organizing more art escapades in France, discover the itinerary at Paint in Provence. Her colorful flyer, above, sets the tone for today's topic: art.

Today's Word: MERCURIEL

    : changing (mood), fluctuating, inconstant, variable...

Audio file here, Translation at the end of post.

Le monde est violent et mercuriel--il fera ce qu'il veut avec vous. Nous sommes seulement sauvés par l'amour--l'amour l'un pour l'autre et l'amour que nous mettons dans l'art que nous nous sentons forcés de partager: être un parent; être un écrivain; être un peintre; être un ami. Nous vivons perpétuellement dans un bâtiment en feu, et ce que nous devons en sauver, tout le temps, c'est l'amour. -Tennessee Williams

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Tess came to visit this weekend! She's my longtime painter friend from England, who calls tomatoes toh-mah-toes, says things like "mercurial" (to describe the sea), and calls me Darling  (as in Daar-ling, we must get together soon!).

We decided to have lunch in Bandol so that Jackie and Tess could see each other, too. Jackie is my 20-year-old daughter and she's studying art in Toulon, and waitressing on Sundays for some argent de poche....

Jackie waitressing at Le Jerome in Bandol France with abstract figurative artist Tess Baker
Note: today's story was written two years ago. Jackie now lives and works in Miami.

After lunch, Tess snuck around the corner, with Jackie, to stuff a big tip into the art student's pocket because in France all tips are collected by le patron, and little of it ends up in the pockets of workers. Jackie insists her boss is fair about this, but Tess wasn't taking any chances, having worked in French restaurants over the 4 decades she's lived here.

Abstract Figurative artist Tess Baker in La Ciotat France painting lessons Provence

After lunch in Bandol, and before our stroll beside the--mercurial--sea here in La Ciotat, Tess suggested we sit down and paint. Quelle idée!  

Sensing my fears, Tess had an idea. "We'll paint that lovely willow tree! Let's simply focus on a section of it. We'll paint those branches..." And the way she said it ("braahn-ches") kind of suckered me into this unexpected watercolor session.

My attention was scattered as I watched people walking by our house, sometimes slowing to view the artistic activity here in our garden. Not only was it nerve-racking to be painting beside an artist, but we now had a mobile audience. One of those passers-by was my 8-year-old golden retriever, who parked himself beside my chair. Smokey wanted to play artist, too! which reminded me: just play!

Smokey golden retriever red beret artist
Artist Smokey. photo by Agnès

"Notice the light hitting the side of the leaves, Tess was saying. "Now see the darkness on the other side. Let's start with the light...." Tess had already made several vertical brown strokes on her canvas. I hurried to pick up a paintbrush but it felt as awkward as chopsticks. And which one to use? Thank God there were only two. Mimicking Tess, I picked up the big one.

Tess was painting away with a shade of green...but where was this color green in the paintbox? A childhood rhyme came to mind, as I struggled to remember color mixing...yellow and blue make green... (or did yellow and red make green?) 

"Here, you can use the color I've already mixed," Tess offered. "Just start sploshing it on!"

I glanced over at Tess's own canvas, wondering what all those verticle brown lines were for?

"Those are the branches, darling," she explained, but all I could see (ahead of me) was the green of the leaves!

"Do you need to get your glah-ses?" Tess hinted.

Oh, yes! Mais bien sûr!

Still feeling ill-at-ease before the blank canvas, I bargained with my art teacher: "OK, I'll paint--but only if I can throw it away in the end!

Tess agreed and before long I was settled in. If those paintbrushes felt like chopsticks, the act of painting felt like picking up slippery noodles with these foreign utensils, or brushes. Why was this so difficult for me? I began to think about Tess's former students, and the wonderful works of art I'd seen with my own eyes. And here I could not even paint a leaf--not even an abstract leaf (as we'd agreed to do, to simplify).

"Just let go!" Tess said. I brushed aside all the torturous thoughts and got on with the moment. When else would a chance like this come around again? A little while later I was giddily painting right over my braahn-ches and trees....with a shower of crimson wings (red for determination? Wings for freedom?). Feeling more and more relaxed, I went to re-dip my brush into the glass of water. That's when I noticed how close the cups were...

Kristin Espinasse paintbrush watercolor abstract painting in La Ciotat France French shutters

"Tess, What are the chances I've dipped my brush into my teacup?" I wondered.

But my good friend brushed aside the worry, "Oh, I'm sure I've done it dozens of times myself. Carry on, darling!

And like that, we sipped our colorful tea, and painted gleefully. The tourists strode by and the pepper tree swayed gently, mimicking Smokey's golden tail as he snoozed on and off beneath the artists' table.

 *    *    *

Post note: Later, when I went to prepare dinner, I was surprised to find my little painting tucked into the window above my kitchen sink. Tess had set it case I had a change of heart. I was glad it didn't end up in the poubelle. The little work of art was, after all, a sweet souvenir of our time together.

Pepper tree paints
Need a paintbrush or some watercolors? When you purchase your art supplies here, at Amazon, I will receive, at no extra cost to you, a small commission which helps me to keep up this website. Merci! 

l'argent de poche = pocket money
le patron = the restaurant owner
quelle idée! = what an idea!
la poubelle = garbage

Drawing lessons

In Drawing Lessons (ebook is on sale!) The author of the Love in Provence series returns to the South of France with a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself. Order here. Sale ends January 31st.

Abstract and Figurative artist Tess Baker paint in provence France La Ciotat pepper tree
my friend Tess Baker. Visit her at Paint in Provence.

Translation of today's French quote: The world is violent and mercurial--it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love--love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love. Tennessee Williams 

Horse rider mediterranean sea
Our mercurial sea in La Ciotat and a chance sighting I will never forget, photos here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Les étrennes: This French custom will have you digging into your pockets.


    : New Year's gift, tip, bonus

étrenner = to wear or use for the first time; to be first in the line of fire

Listen to Jean-Marc read from
Avec les vœux du Nouvel An arrive le moment des étrennes. Vous ne savez pas à qui donner ni quel montant consacrer à cette tradition ? Ce don d'argent n'est pas obligatoire, mais c'est un signe de gratitude qui permet d'entretenir les liens avec des personnes qui vous facilitent la vie. With New Year's wishes comes the moment of New Year's gifts. Unsure of who to give to or how much to devote to this tradition? This donation of money is not compulsory, but it is a sign of gratitude that allows you to maintain ties with people who make your life easier.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Saturday Mom and I were crammed between the two folding doors of the telephone booth (now a tiny, free library brimming with books). We were checking the latest titles, including Shogun, which Mom could not read because it was in French. Helping return the book, I looked out through the window of the cabine téléphonique and spotted Postwoman Marie....

Postlady marie

"Mom! There's Marie! Should we give her her gifts now?"

Mom suddenly confessed she had eaten Marie's present. The giant champagne bottle filled with miniature candy bars had been too much of a temptation, stored as it was for the past three weeks on Jules's kitchen comptoir....

We began searching through our coat pockets for some cash, for this was the opportunity we had been looking for... Tis the season of les étrennes! Time to tip those people in our lives who make our days easier or brighter. (And I certainly appreciate it when Postwoman Marie opens our gate and drops a package--rather than putting a yellow ABSENTE slip in our mailbox for pickup at the post office!)
"Hurry, she's getting back on her motorcycle!" Jules and I sped toward Marie, singing Maria Maria! 
Having caught up with la factrice, we showered Marie with kisses in thanks for her warmth and realness.

 Marie pulled off her heavy casque de moto, revealing bright blue cropped hair.

"Oh, I love the blue!" Mom said, "even more than last week's green!"

"Merci beaucoup," Marie smiled. "Attendez!" She said. Having accepted our gifts, Marie pulled out a stack of calendars from one of the satchels on her yellow motorcycle. "Il faut choisir...."

Mom was thrilled by the unexpected gift, and she thoughtfully examined the selection of themed calendriers....

Il y avait des chevaux, des champs de mer....

Not wanting to keep our postwoman waiting, I nudged Mom to hurry up and select a calendar.

"Oh, I'd better take the kitties," Jules decided, and Marie nodded, from one animal lover to another.
Our factrice put her helmet back on, only for Mom to shower her with more kisses. And when our blue-haired postwoman drove away there were bright pink kiss prints, les bisous, all over her helmet, and hopefully all over her heart.

les étrennes = New year's gift, tip
la cabine téléphonique = telephone booth
le comptoir = counter
la factrice, le facteur = postwoman, postman
la casque de moto = motorcycle helmet
attendez = wait
Il faut choisir = you need to choose
il y avait =  there were
les chevaux = horses
un champ de fleurs = fields of flowers
la mer = the sea
le bisou = kiss

Jean-Marc bottling his Rouge-Bleu vineyard wine
BOOK UPDATE: Jean-Marc and I began our vineyard memoir last April and completed 10 chapters online. This Friday, I will post chapter 11, about the day Jean-Marc informed me he was ready to move on....

Our story, The Lost Gardens, is for anyone who has ever chased after a dream, no matter the cost (to relationships, to one's health, to one's peace of mind).  Click here to purchase and begin reading right away.

Kristi in telephone booth and smokey
picture of the telephone booth-turned-library from today's story

When you shop at Amazon via the following links, a small percentage goes to support this French word journal. Merci beaucoup!

French Country Diary 2020 Engagement Calendar
Embryolisse - a popular French face cream for men and women
Bonne Maman variety pack - a favorite jam/confiture
All European Travel Plug Adapter Kit

Jules my mom in front of coiffeur in la ciotat france
A favorite picture of my Mom, taken yesterday. More picture on Instagram, if you'd like to follow me there.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Cahier? Carnet? Calepin? Harness time, dreams and goals in a BuJo (bullet journal)!

Help welcome today's sponsor and discover a thoughtful way to visit the City of Light! Paris Off Script is unique and authentic. Each excursion is about physical immersion, creative inspiration, and the contentment gained by slowing down and discovering beauty in small things. If you are a curious traveler who enjoys seeing things with fresh eyes and forging new connections—with ideas, with other people, with yourself—this is the trip for you.

 Today's Word: une liste de tâches

    : a task list, to-do list, work list

Audio file: click here to listen to the following sentence in French 

Bullet Journal est une méthode d'organisation personnelle développée par le designer Ryder Carroll.  Le système organise la planification, les rappels, les listes de tâches et d'autres fonctions organisationnelles dans un seul bloc-notes. Bullet Journal is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists and other organizational tasks into a single notebook. --Wikipedia

 A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I will jump right in and tell you what's exciting me for the new year.... BULLET JOURNALING! 

I have been longing to go back to notebooks for some time, but this year--with the ever-spiraling bullet journal movement--I am going to put pen to paper and dive right in to an inky everafter.... 

Fact is I'm late to the party. Though I won't receive my carnet for another day or two, l've already begun blocking some pages--and can recopy or tape them into the agenda when it arrives! For that is the very nature of a "BuJo" (BUllet JOurnal)--we compose and assemble it any which way we please! 

To begin a BuJo (it took a while to embrace the cutsey-trendy term, but embrace I have!) any blank book will do, but it is helpful to have a dotted, grided, or lined page. You then divide the notebook into sections...with an Index at the front that corresponds to the pages you will hand number. You will do that won't you? Hand number some pages and join me in this craze? 

More like an anti-craze. Crazy are we when our minds are filled with information: to-dos, appointments, birthdays, dreams and lists. What better than to collect them all in one space--and with doodles! Perhaps this is what sets bullet journalists--les bujoteurs--apart: the unique ways in which they illustrate their calepins

Because of this, there is a plethora of accessories available to the bullet journalist, or bujoteuse (feminine of bujoteur): everything from "washi" tape and stencil bookmarks to a rainbow of pens. But I'm starting with what I have, though I did buy a brand new blank book (with dots instead of lines or grids):


After carefully considering a handful of journals, I chose a purple hippo. I don't know why, must have been the confusing variety of choice or l'embarras de choix! With this journal (there are several colors and you can choose another animal (I got a cerf, or deer, for Jean-Marc) a percentage goes to the WWW charity. C'est bon!

Initially, I hesitated before the bullet journal idea: I already have an organized system in place. But my Google and my notes app lack that fully creative and visual je ne sais quoi that are a BuJo's raison d'être.

My reasons for beginning a BuJo include: wanting to spend less time online, the desire to focus on what is important (family, friends, this blog, landmarks) improve my chicken scratch handwriting, enjoy the hand-to-paper transfer of thoughts, and visually see the info in my head, organized and illustrated... or simply dumped out onto the paper....Indeed a popular page in a bullet journal is the Brain Dump, which I think sounds better in French La Vide Tête:

Brain dump
By the way if you are looking closely at my list above, that eye cream is not for vanity purposes... it's chemotherapy for another skin issue (which my doctor burned off the other day. Ouf and aïe, aïe, aïe!)

I also got a bullet journal (un journal à puces, in French) for Jean-Marc-- hoping it will allow him to continue to dream, focus and find meaning in the new year. I'm hoping it will be a habit we add to our morning routine of coffee in bed and reading. A few ideas he might use to launch his journal:

He could begin the first pages with the customary index, future log (6 columns in which to glimpse the coming months), monthly calendar...and then the fun begins via "collections" (simply title a new page with something you'd like to list or track):

-- Lists of places he has been and cities he would like to see

-- His dreams( I know he would like to sail around the world...)

-- A "wine finds" section

-- A Future Project or "Someday" section....

-- Health tracker, for running, biking, swimming...

-- And why not more of his unique inventions :-)

Also, he enjoys card games and puzzles: my hope is he will discover a game he can enjoy within his journal , something to quickly draw up and play (any suggestions?).

The list of possibilities is as endless as time--which gallops on! May we all harness it in, one page at a time, in the coming year.

The bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

In books => Read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll 


le carnet = notebook, book

le cahier = exercise book, notebook

le calepin = notebook

la raison d'être = reason for being 

un journal à puces = bullet journal

ouf = phew

aïe, aïe, aïe = ouch

I also got this book, in French, for fun and inspiration!

scripture doodle
A scripture doodle! Good for memorization... and handwriting/doodle improvement...which I need!

Dingbats notebooks
Our notebooks just arrived! I'm off to plan, dream, and doodle! If you'd like to order, here's a link to Jean-Marc's deer journal or pick the elephant...or the tiger or...

Kristin espinasse bandol cafe narval
Looking forward to bringing my BuJo to the cafe in Bandol or elsewhere. Thanks, Tanja, for this photo via Instagram.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety