Quitter + Beyond bye-bye: Good ideas for ending a letter, an email, or a visit with a friend
La flemme! La grasse matinée... + Lackadaisy is not a flower

Wonderful phrase "Comme si de rien n'etait" + a Mother's lesson on giving


Le printemps has come early to France and promises to bring a beautiful late spring and summer, if you are thinking of a wonderful and different sort of holiday why not come on one of my painting trips. All-inclusive from pick up to drop off, you get to see some of the most beautiful places in Provence and beyond. Eat gourmet food and have one on one teaching. The groups are small and friendly. Don’t miss out!! www.paintprovencewithtess.com

Today's Phrase: Comme si de rien n'etait

    : as if nothing had happened

Try Easy French Step-by-Step. Click here to view the book.

Click here for the audio file for today's word

by Kristi Espinasse

We were bundled up and heading out for our walk when Mom reached into her poche and pulled out a plastic baggy: "I've got cat food!" she sang.

Oh no! I thought, before auto-correcting, "Great. That's great, Mom."

(I DO think it is great Jules cares for the needy here in France--just as she did in Mexico, and back in the Arizona desert where she raised us. Even as a struggling, single parent, Mom encouraged us to "give away 10 percent"... and so showed my sister, Heidi, and me the importance of tithing. It's just that now we've got to watch out for our Mom, because she gives what she herself might one day need--to homeless men, stray cats, and les démunies--and we fear some take advantage of her. And when I say les démunies, this includes her 3 rescued hedgehogs and her growing flock of tourterelles. You'd be surprised at just how pushy doves can be! All but knocking on her window with their beaks!)

Some might say we have enough cat ladies in the neighborhood. I've spotted at least three sprinkling croquettes across fences, driveways, or along the trottoirs. One of the women is very discreet, posing as a kind of mail-carrier, scooping kibbles out of her satchel before moving on, comme si de rien n'était. (which, BTW, is another lesson Mom taught: Give, without anyone seeing you do it!)

A few blocks into our sortie, and Mom was eager to show me her latest adoptee: a hefty black cat who lives across from the surf rental shack, where an SDF sleeps at night. As Jules sprinkled dinner along the stairs beside the digue, I spied several empty gamelles on the other side of the bushes.

"There are 5 plates over there!" I pointed out. Ignoring me, Mom went about her joyful occupation, adding more cat food to one of the empty bowls.

"Look! The pigeons are coming." I warned. In 2 seconds flat the cat chow Mom had purchased disappeared beneath a flurry of feathers. "See! The pigeons get to it before even the cats! And look, here comes another woman with a box of croquettes!"

Unfazed, Mom and the stranger raised their kibbles, acknowledging one another and their common goal of comforting the homeless.

Stray cat
One of the stray cats in our neighborhood.

Aware now of my grumpy mood (this hayfever and spring lethargy is severe this year!), I relented: "I'm being a buzz kill aren't I?"

"You sure are!" Mom laughed. "You're just no fun!"

"The French have a word for party poopers," I offered. "It's casse-bonbons. Literally, a 'candy breaker'."

(Update: Boy I was wrong with that translation. Bonbon also refers to testicles! Too late, Mom was already calling me this!)

"Come over here, Casse-Bonbons. I have a surprise for you!"

A surprise? What could Jules have up her sleeves apart from cat food? Mom took my arm and guided me down to the waterfront. When I recognized the building towards which we were walking--the members-only sailing club--I panicked. "We can't go there!" 
"Yes, we can," Mom smiled. "I've already been..."

"No. We can't," I said, digging my heels into the ground. "You have to be invited by three club members" (an exaggeration, it was really two members, but anything to dissuade Mom).

As if she could be dissuaded. Mom tugged on my arm. "Come on!"


A few steps later and I saw the sign, Acces public à la mer, and an arrow pointing to the opposite way of the yacht club. Mais bien sûr. Most beachfronts in France are open to the public! I had just never ventured far enough to see the sign!

And that is how I learned about a little-known gem of a plage--a flat-rock beach--in my own town--thanks to Mom and her trail of croquettes. And why am I surprised? It was Jules who always told us, back in the Arizona desert: to take a new path each day... (and to feed the cats and the homeless along the way).

I leave you with a few pictures of the passage we took to get to the beach, and a meaningful quote at the end of this post. 


EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!



la poche = pocket
les croquettes pour chat = dry cat food
la tourterelle = turtledove
démuni(e) = needy, destitute, the very poor 
le trottoir = sidewalk
comme si de rien n'était = as if nothing had happened
la sortie = trip, outing, excursion
la gamelle = dish, bowl
la digue = seawall, embankmentOuvert au public 
SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) = homeless
le casse-bonbons = pain in the neck, pest
la plage = beach
Magpie on the beach
My mom loves magpies, so it was a treat to see this one on "Mom's beach." Also, notice how the rocks above the magpie form a face. Here, below is the full picture of our view from the little beach.
Rocky beach in La Ciotat
I leave you with the words of Thomas Merton, which may sum up my Mom's philosophy when it comes to giving, loving, sharing. If you'd like to translate the sentence in the comments, that would be lovely: Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. 

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I love your Mum!! She's a gem. We need more like her in this world.

And it sounds like she keeps you wonderfully light hearted and unable to take anything too seriously :-)
What a gift!


I am a faithful reader of your blog and love it. Thank you for the discipline and love it takes to write it. I did see a typo today.
“...and so showed my sister and I“ This should say, my sister and me.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Georgette, for catching this one, and for your encouraging words. 💕


Your honest and enduring writing keeps us growing in wisdom and grace! Thank you!

Tammy Straub

That one is so common, hardly anyone gets it correct! I was taught tha when unsure, remove the other person and say it...it should stay just like that when you put the other person back in.

Tammy Straub

PS, I don't understand this:
sans domicile fixe
not just for people who live here? public access ?

Caro Feely

Laughed out loud at the casse bonbons part Kristi! Thank you for another magic story with so many beautiful messages.

Andrew Kleeger

Sdf = a tactful way to say “homeless”

Dr Nicholas Keegan

Hi Kristi

'Unphased' - should be 'unfazed'.

Regards, Nick


Thank you for this posting - a lovely way to start my day. Your pictures from the beach make it seem a million miles away from a city. A gem of a place for contemplation? Jules reminds me to never stop being adventurous. Thanks, Nancy

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Andrew. I forgot to add the translation. Off to fix things.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Nick. So helpful!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jan! Your words keep me writing!


Hi Kristi,
Could “Comme si de rien n’etait” also be translated as “as if it were nothing,” ie, “easy,” or “no big deal?”
All best,

Mary L Kennedy

Hi Kristi, as a fellow cat lover, I'm so happy Jules looks after our furry friends. Over here we have a very successful program to manage "community cats" (a polite word for strays) and it's called TNR. Trap-neuter-release. Since a stray cat population can get out of control very quickly, the cats are humanely trapped, neutered and returned to the same location where they are fed and tended to. I don't know if this is something you've considered doing, but it's really a great idea and very effective. Thanks for the beautiful photos and wonderful blog.



Notre tâche est d'aimer les autres sans arrêter à demander s'ils en valent la peine.

Judith Dunn

...... I love Jule's attitude toward les chats and the SFDs. She is a uniquely kind and lovely lady. Her sense of adventure at her age is simply delightful! I would want her for a friend if I lived in your charming little town. I have some concern for you two lovely ladies going to the 'rock face beach' alone. I know this will sound crazy and paranoid, but, maybe take a small kitchen knife with you when you go there... remember the old adage...' it is better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it!'... so on that note I will wish you lovely walks with your terrific mother. Amicalement, Judi


Salut, Kristi! I love this post. I am one of those people that give to anyone with their hand out on the street corner or at a stoplight. And, doing the same when I was in Marseille and La Ciotat, which caused the people I was with to raise an eyebrow! I just acted comme si de rien n'etait;)! Great post, great lesson. Love you tons!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Peter. So good to see this wonderful quote in French!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Chris, Let us see if somebody else can answer... 

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristi,

Great story today. Here in Phoenix, I have a covey of quail that visit my back yard most everyday. Fun to watch as they scratch "goodies" out of the grass.

My translation of Thomas Merton's is . . . As it pertains to people: "Don't judge a book by it's cover". I've found that most people have a hidden and interesting aspect just waiting to be discovered.



Our dear Kristi,
Once again,your beautiful and gifted words just wrapped themselves around our hearts--and(!)gave us the most wonderful food for thought!
You and dear Jules are such a team.The love you share and the wisdom you impart to each other is nothing short of inspiration for all of us.
What a blessing and a gift!
THANK YOU!!For this and for giving us something to look forward to with each post!
Natalia. xo


Hi Kristi and Jules!
Love this post and what a beautiful secret path to the rocky beach! Lovely!


Sweet article, Kristin. I believe your mom taught you the right thing straight out of Scripture. Jules is a jewel.


Bonjour Kristin,
Quelle histoire amusante! On dit aux États-Unis, POPOS pour les sites publiques qui sont les propriétés privées. POPOS est traduit Privately Owned Public Open Spaces.
Merci pour l’occasion à mettre le français en pratique.
Ta mère te bénis.


Very nice postings, everyone... Joan


Peut-être ça serait “Ta mère te bénit” au lieu de «te
bénis »?

Jerry Wood

comme si de rien n'était. cette phrase sonne si bien. Roles of the tongue better than the English translation.

Mary Lou Johnston

The fact that hardly anyone writes or says something correctly, does not make it right or even acceptable. The reason that "me" is correct is because "my sister and me" is the indirect object of the verb "showed." A pronoun (e.g., me) used as an indirect object is always in the objective case (e. g., me). "I" is in the nominative case and is used only as the subject of a sentence/verb.

Kristi, I love your "casse-bonbons" story!



Candy in Colorado

Ah, JULES. what a treasure she is!

Anne W Anderson

Let me commend to you Thomas Merton's "The Seven Storey Mountain."

Carolyn Chase

What a delightful story - I have loved your mother from all your posts, and this one shows me our kinship in many ways. Not sure I've ever really made 10% but giving is something to which I'm drawn, and caring for things, and places which can't do it on their own, especially in the human world - animals, environments, as well as people. I'm also one to start conversations with strangers, at least to the extent of making an off-hand comment, but at the very least a smile and a nod, since people here are much less accustomed to the random "bon jour" so frequent in France. Being friendly in and of itself brings me joy, and even more when it is reciprocated in some way.

Frank Chappell

" I " has to be followed by a verb , either stated or understood . As in , she is as young as you and I ( are young ). " are young " is understood , or can be expressed .

" to phase " is to carry out in gradual steps ; " to faze " is to bother .

Frank Chappell

" Comme si de rien n'etait " would be a double-negative in English , " as if nothing wasn't " . By in French , I think it came to like that for emphasis .


Notre objectif dans la vie, c'est à aimer les autres sans s'arrêter pour demander qu'ils le meritent ou non.

Jan G

Another lovely story, Kristi. I'll attempt a translation:
Notre devoir est d'aimer les autres sans s’arrêter de demander s'il le méritent ou non.

Kristin Espinasse

Janet, Thank you for this translation. 👌


Love the story and love Jules. I will have to venture into those unknown areas in La Ciotat on my next visit. Can’t wait to get to Provence again, but Brittany calls first, as Dean has not been there. But my first love is Provence.
Peace, Kathleen

Pam Horovitz

Kristi, As was noted earlier, it takes such discipline to write on a regular basis, and after so many years I can well imagine that there are times when you ask yourself 'why am I still doing this? It's no longer fun.' But for those of us who are your dedicated followers, your writing is about much more than simply familiarizing us with French vocabulary. You, and Jean-Marc, and Jules, and even your kids, are illustrating the joys, and the sorrows, the struggles, and the success of ordinary living. And I say 'ordinary' with admiration, for writing about all those, little, but important aspects of living. Like feeding stray cats.

Today, I will be kept busy helping my daughter make a video to help market her new board game, Annapurna. But my mind will also be on a little stroll on a beach in the south of France where a magpie sits. Thank you for that. Et aussi pour 'le casse-bonbons'!


I hesitate to add one more translation to the mix but, anyway, here is mine...
Notre responsabilité est d'aimer d'autres sans arrêter de demander s'ils le méritent.
Love your site. My 90 year-old mother thinks that you would be a great neighbor!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you so much, Pam! And bonne chance to your daughter for her board game--as well as the video introduction. 💪🎉

Kristin Espinasse

Christopher, I am so glad you shared your translation. It is a favorite quote and seeing the various French versions is a wonderful way to read it again and again.

Bonjour to your Mom. Her thought absolutely delights me!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Jan, for the kind words and for your translation!


For the phase/faze mixups: When Jules moved to France, she entered another phase (section, step, episode) in her life, but being Jules, she didn't let it faze (bother, worry, in her case inhibit) her.

Kristin Espinasse

Great (and helpful) examples. Thanks, Mara!

Robert Head

Thanks Mary Lou, that's the first time in fifty years that I've understood the 'I' thing!

Jeanine Woods

Hi Kristi,
I am a new reader and believe it or not discovered your book at a thrift store! C'etait bonne chance since I then discovered your delightful blog sharing about life lessons (et le vocabulaire francais) through ordinary life experiences. Thank you for your openness and for sharing. Merci beaucoup, Krisi. Je le lis chaque soir.

Kristin Espinasse

Jeanine, What a delight to read your comment and to learn how you found my blog. Your note among this lovely thread of comments is the highlight of my day. Heres to secondhand bookstores and readers like you. 💕💕💕

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