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La flemme! La grasse matinée... + Lackadaisy is not a flower

Writing deskJean-Marc and I begin Part Two of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. This project would not be possible without the support of readers. Mille mercis to those who have purchased the online edition and are reading our story and cheering us on. Without you we would be at Chapter Zero! The blog post below, written in 2013, takes us back to Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, where we thought we would live forever. To buy our memoir and begin reading right away, click here.

Today's Word: flemme? buanderie? semence? pieds d'alouette?
(have your pick from the colorful vocabulary section following today's column...)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Lackadaisy is not a flower

March 2013 - I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.

Beyond the bedroom window, the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black nuages. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so-called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the buanderie or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).

Wherever... he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!

I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home? 

I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!

Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard les graines de fleurs. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!

There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!

I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....

And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...

Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".

I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).

I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the fenced dog run... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...

I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.

As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!

I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water! 

I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.


EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (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!

Orange mexican poppies smokey golden retriever
la flemme
= slackness
avoir la flemme = to feel lazy
le nuage
= cloud
faire la grasse matinée
= to sleep in, lie in
la buanderie
= utility room
quelle horreur! = Awful thought!
Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras!
= this is not a dumping ground!
une semence
= seed
les graines de fleurs = flower seeds
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late
pieds d'alouette = larkspur
le cabanon = stone hut (shed)
Sunflowers at mas des brun
Once again, I encourage you to discover our book-in-progress. Part One (chapters 1-12 are now finished) and plant the seeds for the inevitable dénouement. Thank you for helping us to tell our story: Click here to purchase The Lost Gardens.

Feedback from Chapter 11:
J-M, this chapter is quite moving, and I find myself touched by the revelation of the near-accident on the tractor after a long day harvesting. Your description puts the reader right there with you. And, too, we who have been on this journey with you from afar, better understand why you left a successful and seemingly 'perfect' situation. (There isn't a perfect anything anywhere, but Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes seemed close!) How wonderful your dream to move to Bandol happened and you found Mas des Bruns. Successful storytelling brings the reader into the story and you & Kristi are certainly accomplishing that. --Patty

Artichokes at mas des brun sea view
The artichokes that eventually...and a tiny glimpse of the sea view Jean-Marc wrote about in Chapter 12 of The Lost Gardens.

Smokey, helping to make sure we leave you with a smile. Enjoy your week ahead!

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


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I just did this yesterday. I have no idea what will come up because many of the packets were expired. Mais une semene est une semene! It rained lightly today so they hopefully got their first drink and say "yes, she wants me to grow up and be beautiful" I will let you know how mine turn out.


You went from wanting to languish in in your bed where your feetsies were covered with warm blankies to wanting to linger outdoors in the flowerbed where your seed babies were covered with warm earth.

Beautiful exhilarating story, Kristi!

Brenda Prowse

Living in an apartment in Paris the last 7 years-I miss working in a garden and pruning, planting, weeding. I have pots of flowers on the window ledges and indoor plants but it’s not the same. Maybe the Lutheran Church next door would like my volunteer help in their gardens? I hope all your seeds blossom beautifully Kristi. Bisous

Jan in Colorado

You've inspired me to do the same. I have lots of packets of wildflower seeds languishing in my junk drawer. Most are from funerals I attended. I'll have to try to remember where I planted each packet so I can remember the person who passed when I see the flowers (if, in the unlikely event, any of them actually grow). First, I'll have to wait until the newly fallen snow melts. In March in Colorado, there will always be newly fallen snow! Maybe I can strew the seeds in May.


A nice reminder that Spring IS coming, even in the Midwest. Next weekend is the change to Daylight Saving Time!


Bonjour, Kristin,
I see the « Jules effect » in the painterly way that you have scattered the colorful flower seeds. Another one of your mother’s blessings.

Kristin Espinasse

Joanne, thank you for seeing this and for thinking of Jules. 💕


Our dear Kristi,
Today's post just wraps us in hugs!!
Beautiful words,incredibly wonderful names,beautiful pictures.....
Only more icing on the cake is the happy news that the next Lost Gardens is available for us to enjoy!!
SO looking forward and about to purchase.
Did NOT want to see the first book end,and now it won't!!
Natalia xo

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Natalia. No need to purchase another book. We are working on the second half of the book, which you bought already. Thanks for your lovely support, as always. 💕

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

You are an inspiration Kristi. Me, I'm waiting patiently for your book to be finished. Consider me a cheerleader dancing you to the end.

Nigel Bassindale

Hi Kristi,
Love your Word a Day emails.
I think your husband is more likely to potter in his shed, not putter! On the other hand, he may be practising his golf putting or maybe spluttering in his coffee over a newspaper headline.

Chris Allin

This is from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary...

putter verb
put·​ter | \ ˈpə-tər \
puttered; puttering; putters
Definition of putter (Entry 3 of 3)
intransitive verb
1 : to move or act aimlessly or idly
2 : to work at random : TINKER

Suzanne Dunaway

LOVE this post. And just for the record, the lazy gardener in me turned her back to the seed beds and THREW the radish seed over her shoulder, then stomped around on the earth.
Two months later that section was green leaves and I pluck one to see what was on the end...a LONG lovely French radish. So gardening doesn’t have to be precise on any one day, haha.

Kristin Espinasse


Judi Dunn

..... I love this one too! You are an inspiration to not be a lazybones. but to get up , get dressed ( if you have to) and show up! Even tho I am 79, the one thing I want to be till the end of my days is useful! One can always find some big or little chore to do... as if throwing wildflower seeds were a chore... and you have shown us all what delight there can be in a rainy day with your delightful 'seed sowing' escapade! Now I must find delight in a load or two of laundry! Amiaclement, Judi


Hi Chris,

My parents used the phrase, "putter around" to mean working on a bit of this and a bit of that. I still use it with this meaning.

Good puttering! Bette

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