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

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 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.

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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.

Laura Pauli

OOOOOOOOH LOOOOOOVE THIS!!!! ❤️💌📬🛵💋💋💋💋💋💋💋💋💋💋

Carole Fitzgerald

Dear Kristin , I can see where you get your good looks from.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

I love that you know your postwoman so well. It has taken a bushfire disaster here in Australia for people to turn towards each other and embrace their communities. I hope that this spirit of togetherness and mutual support just keeps growing...everywhere.

Diane Heinecke

Dear Kristi, I always thought the timing of les etrennes was very wise. It gives you a little breather after Christmas and it's more personal when you hand it to those special helpers in your life. Love the picture of your mom; thought it was you! Bonne annee a tous!

Audrey Wilson

We have had our factrice for 20 odd years .A lovely lady This year we chose a butterfly Calendar


A lovely story. And your yellow shoes!! Fantastique! Give your handsome husband a bisou from me.


Catherine, I hope, for Australia's sake that that spirit continues, but in America, when 9/11 happened, there was a sweet closeness between all peoples. It was beautiful to see. However, with time, it dissipated, and things went back to the way they were, and now it seems to be even worse. Very sad, indeed.


Silly question. I want to purchase your book and start reading but I don't subscribe to any online book platforms like Kindle. Can I read this simply online in my browser once I purchase it?

chris kelly

Charming visual of the lipstick kisses on the helmet! We tip our mail carrier every year, and the guys that collect the garbage, too, and others. As you say, the people who make our lives easier throughout the year.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2020 for you Kristi, your family and your blog followers. ;-)

Teri from Columbia, MO

Kristi -

I mistook the pic of your mom for you! Please take that as a compliment, as you both have great style!

Janine Cortell

Many years ago I sat next to a gentleman from Marseille on a plane ride from Paris to New York. He said he was worried about landing in New York because he did not speak English. I assured him I would help him find his way through customs and to public transportation. We talked for hours and we began a friendship that lasted for years. Every year at Christmas he would send me a calendar with paintings by an artist who painted with his foot because he had lost the use of his hands. He told me that these calendars were available in many places in France. Sauveur died several years ago. I miss that beautiful gift And I miss him too. Do you know where I can buy these calendars? Bonne année, Janine

Myra Smart

Bonne Année a tous.
I love this post...and what a great idea to turn an unused phonebox into a library.

Kristin Espinasse

Janine, Thank you for sharing this lovely story. I am sorry to hear Sauveur died. There are so many sites that might lead to the calendars you mention. Here is an association to check out

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Teri. Mom and I are both happy to see your comment. 💕

Kristin Espinasse

Suzanne, I will be sure to give JM that kiss! Re the shoes, sadly they are no more. But they got some good wear and tear!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Diane!

Kristin Espinasse

Catherine, I hope you and yours are safe, and am so sorry for what is happening. May the support keep coming, from all over the world and, as you mentioned, from within. Bon courage.

Kristin Espinasse

So kind of you. Thanks, Carole!

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Cherie 💕💕


Our dear Kristi,
Such beautiful pictures(!)and,oh!today's post is absolutely among your best.
You have so inspired us to follow your example of
les etrennes.We are gratefully blessed and all too human in overlooking just how much it might mean to those who could find it a godsend.
Thank you for such a wonderful reminder!!
Natalia. Xo

Henry Lambert

Ever watch “Bienvenue les chi’’tis”?

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Thanks Susie for your message. I am sure that at least some of the new friendships will survive and every bit of closeness is a good thing - but yes, sadly I can see that what you have described as a possibility.

Cynthia Lewis

I had to laugh out loud when I read that You, Jules, had eaten the factrice's candy!! Everyone can relate to that! Thanks for a wonderful description of mother-daughter outing. What a good time you have together. Best wishes to you both.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

Thanks Kristi. xx

Kristin Espinasse


Kristin Espinasse

No, but I have heard of it.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, chère Natalia. 💕

Julie Farrar

I love the pictures of Jules. I hope your holiday was grand.

Laurence in California

No need to reply, but I loved today's entry too.

Happy New Year Kristin and All! ❤️️

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Laurence ♥️


Dear Kristi: Merci beaucoup for your story of les etrennes. We give to our facteur, our trash disposal people & our recycle people. One would think that this spirit would be consistent throughout the year; but, it isn't. I don't know why we forget our humanity toward each other except for Christmas. It's a smile, a "thank you", a "please". How much more does it take to be kind to one another???

I just love your Mom!

Kristin Espinasse


Marianne Rankin

I give cookies to the town crew (trash, recycling, leaf vacuuming, etc. etc.) at Christmastime, and occasionally other times. I give $5 to the mail carrier and sometimes packets for making hot chocolate in cold weather. We used to have a fabulous newspaper deliveryman, who would bring the paper to our front stoop, and put it between the doors in bad weather. He got a tip every collection day. Now the bills are sent online, and the current carrier tosses the paper somewhere in the yard, where I have to hunt for it.

Catherine(but you are in France, madame), many of us in the USA are helping Australia in the wake of the fires. Our church recently sent a large check to a diocese there, to be used in whatever way they thought best.

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