Goodbye La Bise: This Pandemic Marks The End of a French Kissing Custom
Etonner and a big surprise on Easter morning

Débrouillard: Share your thoughts, examples, and tips on resourcefulness

Duct tape in french
Mr. Fix-it is at it again! This time he's "mended" the hammock... Years ago I began a list to record the ways in which my husband shamelessly uses duct tape to fix things. I'm kicking myself for not keeping up that list. I'd best put my energy elsewhere, into today's post about resourcefulness.... Enjoy and please share it with a friend.

Today's Word: débrouillard

    : resourceful, crafty, clever

Audio file: click here to listen to the following French

Ses camarades disaient de lui : C'est un malin, c'est un roublard, c'est un débrouillard qui saura se tirer d'affaire. Et il s'était promis en effet d'être un malin, un roublard et un débrouillard. His comrades said of him: He is a clever man, he is a rogue, he is a resourceful man who will be able to get out of trouble. And he had promised himself to be a clever, a rogue and a resourceful. Guy de Maupassant , "Bel-Ami"
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Resourcefulness is the word of the day. I love the French translation: débrouillard or ingénioux--and even more than these, I admire those who put it into practice. Before sharing these lovable débrouillards, I'd like to ask you to think about some of the resourceful things you do -- is resourcefulness second nature to you? Has this pandemic has caused you to look at the materials around you in a new light, to see these as supplies?

Coincidentally as I type this, one of those news pop-ups has invaded my screen. The alert reads:

Coronavirus. La France connaîtra en 2020 sa plus forte récession depuis 1945... (in 2020, owing to the coronavirus, France will experience its worst recession since 1945...)

If that isn't a motivation to roll up one's sleeves and begin to look at our "things" and "stuff" differently, then what is? Just what are some of those resources we have at hand? If you are like me, you may be overlooking many of them:

I learned this astuce from our yearly meetup with relatives near Aix-en-Provence: each Christmas Annie and André treat our family to a turkey and mixed bird dinner (André is a chasseur). As les oiseaux roast over the fire, Annie places baking sheets full of baguette slices across the fireplace floor to catch the drippings. Guests enjoy these savory slices alongside Christmas dinner.

This "catch the drips tip" is a delicious reminder of the usefulness of bread as a sponge for collecting les restes: whether it's a delicious pasta sauce coating your pan or this amazing hamburger ratatouille--don't wash that pan! don't wash that bowl--not until you have wiped down all sides with bread slices. (plus, wiping down a pan with bread makes the pan easier to clean...). Transfer the coated bread into a Tupperware or baggy and enjoy the savory toasts  (put them under the grill) at the next meal-- served alongside a green salad they make a satisfying lunch, or serve them as a convivial apéro. I do this every time I remember to, but often, I am at the kitchen sink pouring liquid soap into the pan ... before I realize I have just ruined a good opportunity! 

There, that title woke you up! Who knew wine was a resource? Here at our place, even if we all don't drink it, none of us (not even I...) let it go to waste. This next tip I learned from the wonderful Babé (bah-bay) who was the best help each time bottling season came around at our vineyard. As we stood side-by-side in the bottling truck, Babé entertained us with stories of her life and a few great tips, too--like how her houseplants drink wine...

"Never let a drop go to waste! When you reach the end of a bottle, fill it with water and go and feed your plants!" Since learning that tip I "rinse" every bottle, filling it with water to collect what wine remains...and feeding it to my garden plants or directly to my compost.

I was supposed to begin this post with a word about conspiracy theories and why, if I were a Truther (is that the word?), or conspiracy theorist, I'd have a thing or two to say about the coronavirus: my theory would be that The Powers That Be (that be trying to eliminate us all?) -- it was THEY who came up with the Minimalist Movement, created Marie Kondo, got us all to clear out our homes entirely before BAM! hitting us with the coronavirus. Now that we've given away almost everything (I donated a pile of bandanas that didn't spark joy! Those kerchiefs would have made good face masks!) we are as vulnerable as ever. We even sold my daughter's sewing machine after it remained in the closet for 4 years. Dumb, dumb, dumb--sewing machines, like flour, are a hot commodity. (speaking of farine, I hope you are all making the 4-ingredient super fastoche bread loaf right now. I make it every night and bake it each fact I just burned a loaf while typing this post! So much for resources! I'd better end on this note: it is presence of mind that makes us aware of all the wonderful resources around us...and it takes presence of mind, as well, to protect them. 

*    *    *

Burnt sourdough
Is this burnt loaf récupérable? On verra....

It would be a great pleasure to learn about the ways in which you, dear reader, use and repurpose the materials around you. From saving rubber bands to cutting up your husband's T-shirts and making safety masks (see my belle-mère, Marsha's, video)--please share your tips in the comments. Merci d'avance!


roublard =street smart
débrouillard = resourceful, clever, crafty
une astuce = tip, hack, trick
le chasseur = hunter
un oiseau = bird
les restes = leftovers
la farine = flour
récoupérable = recoverable
on verra = we'll see
Our dear Smokey, in between the flower pots.

Smokey and the glycines
Smokey and The Glycines--could be the name of a band. I love this profile pic, with his hooded eyes and a glimpse of that tongue. 
What his Tinder photo might look like?

Happy smokey
Faithful friend for life.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Juliette Préjean Hudson

I received great joy at seeing your beautiful flowers. I did not inherit my Mother’s green thumb, but I enjoy seeing God’s beautiful handiwork, nurtured by His creatures! Thank you for sharing!

Mary Liz

Wow ... can I be first comment. Can’t sleep here in Washington DC area.

Help ... I’m a grandmother doing unexpected help wit( childcare. All my weapons for keeping a 4 year old and a 6 year old occupied ...pools, libraries, playgrounds ...have been stripped away. All that’s left are iPads and TV. These are not the best long term solutions. Anyone have ideas?
Mary Liz


Read them books, it takes awhile and my kids always listened


Hi Kristi, lovely post. My son and daughter moved back in the house--so I am cooking lots-and will try the quick bread for sure

Also Beza says hi to Smoky

Jerry Wood

As my bread making has hit a snag I need une astuce. In this covid times of bare shop shelves I only have a little white flour and some rolled oats, however I’m a whole-wheat guy with no whole-wheat. Any Suggestions would be lovely.

K. J. Laramie

Cut up full-color magazine ads and fashion them into easy or more difficult puzzle shapes, (the prettier travel ads are fantastic) and give one to each child. They will have a break from one another, and from you, for awhile. Glue them down and make art for decorating the house with faraway vacations yet to come for the whole family ... 👍👋🌷


I’ve been making masks out of my quilting fabric stash. They are very colourful!


48 masks made since last Tueday!

Mary Liz

Wonderful idea
Thank you.
Starting Harry Potter

Mary Liz

Lovely idea thank you


Chicken broth! Boil that chicken down or keep store bought on hand. I start with onion chicken soup, the leftover...add veggies, next dat, add more broth and add beans or corn. Amazing how you can stretch it.


Chere Kristi, My dear Ken was the duct tape king! Perhaps not your typical engineer, we laughed because he used it for everything. One of my fav memories of France is the way chickens are cooked at market, with potatoes underneath the rotisserie catching the drippings, yum! Saving the bacon grease and reusing was de rigueur in the south, back in the day. Faites attention à toi et bises pour Jules, Bonne santé xoxox


I make mustard vinaigrette from the leftovers in dijon mustard jars/bottles. I pour vinegar, olive oil and red wine into the leftover container with mustard remains still inside. I then shake well and add other herbs, seasonings, etc. to doctor to taste

I also feed my plants coffee grounds and occasional bits of tobacco from the remains of a smoker's coffin nail.

Patricia Sands

Brava! Good for you!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
Thanks for the post today and thanks to Marsha for her mask making video. I haven't used one yet but I haven't gone out much lately. I am trying to use items in my pantry and freezer to make up new recipes. By the end of this I should have a clean fridge and pantry!
I always love the photos of Smokey!

Doreen Sharabati

In reply to Jerry: if you have a blender, you can turn your oatmeal into oatmeal flour and google recipes for bread with that.

Jerry Wood

Thanks so much I’ll give it a try.
peut-être que ça aura bon goût

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Juliette. I received great joy at seeing your lovely note! "God’s beautiful handiwork, nurtured by His creatures!" Your words are uplifting.

Kristin Espinasse

Enjoy this time with family and these shared meals. Smokey says bonjour back at ya.

Kristin Espinasse

These quilted masks are a great idea!

Kristin Espinasse

Bill, I love the mustard vinaigrette tip. Thanks. I like to use the empty mayonnaise jar, refilling it with pickle juice, mustard, salt, pepper... and giving it a good shake before adding it to potatoes salad.

Kristin Espinasse

Your panty must be looking nice and tidy...if it wasn't already 😂. Bon appétit, chère Eileen.

Kristin Espinasse


I am glad Jerry asked this question, which led to your tip about oatmeal flour. This comes at a good time, as I have been looking for uses for oatmeal! I will try this. Merci beaucoup.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Kristin, if you have not read 'An Everlasting Meal' by Tamar Adler, I highly recommend it. There are so so many tips in it about making use of every little tidbit in your kitchen. As stated on the back cover, 'it is a meditation on cooking and eating.' it's really lovely.

stay well!

Hi Krisi~

Jean Marc is doing his 'Mcguiver' with the duct tape:) Mcguiver was a tv series back in the day....he could get himself out of a scrape, build a tool, do anything with anything at hand to help himself and the WORLD! SO, I use Mcguiver as a verb~ to Mcguiver something is to fix something with sheer will and creativity:) You don't have to be a handyman to Mcguiver something!

Regarding your tips on re-use of items....I had a friend who would use all the crumbs and seeds that he cleaned out from his grille- pain to coat a piece of chicken or fish or use as a gratin for potatoes. Delicious!


Check out Martha Stewart’s link 15 Easter Crafts and Activities for Kids... Hope this helps 😉

Larry Watkins

Have you tried Ezekial bread? The ingredients are unusual enough that you might be able to get them at a health food store or order online. This is the recipe I used:


Love the photos of Smokey. I remember when he was a puppy at Domaine Rouge Bleu. Yes, I am thinking all of those rubber bands and bandanas that I have will make great masks that won't need to be sewn. I too gave away my sewing machine. We've been going through a numerous cookbooks looking for recipes with ingredients we have in the pantry and the freezer. A good way to use all those dried pastas, beans and the lovely spices and dried herbs we brought home from the President Wilson marche in Paris.


thanks for the tip on how to use the leftovers in the mustard and mayo jars. Beats fighting with a spatula to get it all out. My roses love the coffee grounds. Just wondering how I will use the left overs in other jars - salsa, etc. Thanks again,


Ditto on loving the photos of Smokey. Beautiful (handsome) golden!!


Re saving the bread - cut off the top and make croutons out of the rest or slice it for french toast?

Ellen A.

Cooking and baking are great fun with small ones. They get to see the magic happen. Perhaps you could start with Kristi's simple yogurt cake. Then look specifically for suggestions for their age group, such as this set:


our dear Kristi,
Once again(as always!) your beautiful words and creative ideas are just exacyly what we need today--every day!--to keep our spirits up,and wrapped in hugs.
Such great tips!!
I don't have many more suggestions except to let your imagination run free with cooking,(anything goes!)
Also for disinfectant wipes,cut up some of your hubby's old tee shirts:make a diluted solution of bleach and water,dip tee shirt pieces in that,wring out and use.
Such wonderful pictures of Smokey and your gorgeous garden!
Blessings always,dear Kristi,to you and your family.
Natalia. xo


I add eggshells to the coffee grounds I feed my roses.
Our library is closed, but it still is quite a resource because it offers many digital books, audio books, Zip books, movies, and periodicals which are available online for free. My monthly book club will have a virtual meeting via zoom. I expect it to be a zoo though since everyone is starved for contact and connection!

Lynne Schweitzer

Loved today’s blog! Followed the link to the no knead bread making book and ordered it. I have been in the mood to do some bread making. I hope that one of the things that comes out this time of quarantine is that we have given some thought to what a throw-away society we have become—what I mean to say, is how many things that we manufacture that are cheaper to throw away than repair. Well, in general, what I hope for is that we become less thing-oriented. And that we come out of this experience with a better understanding of what is truly important. Thanks for the wonderful post. Especially love it when you talk about food 🙂


Kristi - merci for the lovely photos of Smokey. I remember when he almost didn't survive his puppyhood. I hope he is doing well these days. He is still mighty handsome!

I don't use the heels in my loaf bread. So I freeze them and use them to make a French toast casserole or a cheese soufflé. I like the crouton idea someone mentioned.

I am making face coverings out of t-shirts and gym socks. These are just for my husband and me whenever we do have to venture out which is not very often.

Stay well and hugs to Smokey.


Consider looking for stain glass scratch art and one online store is Dick Blick Art Supplies. 'May want to have stencils to work with initially. Also consider cutting a couple of sheets into four pieces or more while the children learn how to remove the black covering on the paper to show color beneath. Note: if writing their name (taking away the black covering on the dull side) then write the letters backwards (again, stencils come in handy) so the name will come out correctly on the shiny side of paper. Realize that cuticle sticks or corn dog sticks are used to remove the covering; therefore, this may or may not be age appropriate though with supervision it has worked for children. Also, look into sun art prints, drawing or tracing around shading of images. I'm thinking more for the six year old though there are some disciplined and bright four year olds that could do any of this as well. There are a lot of science / art projects. I wish you and all those wiht children at home blessings and good luck.


Thank you for your lovely and clever blog! Also for the wonderful photos of Smokey!
Amazing dog and a joy. I am including a link that may assist with food preservation. take care and stay safe

Leslie NYC

In reply to Mary Liz,
Go for a walk and count how many flowers are in bloom. Or let each child pick his or her 3 favorite flowers or trees. You could “collect” other favorites too: neighborhood dogs, birds singing, etc. Make the walk into a kind of observational scavenger hunt.

Leslie NYC

When I was a restaurant chef, we saved all herb stalks, onion skins and ends, carrot peels, & vegetable bits to add to chicken, fish, vegetable ,or veal stock. Bacon fat makes a great start to a soup or sautéed greens or the fat to coat a cast iron pan for cornbread. Parmesan rinds are wonderful to use in soups, especially if you don’t have any stock. As for stock, you can reduce it down to 1/4 of its volume to freeze it. My freezer is about 1 square foot, so it is filled with all kinds of 1/2 pints of sauces and stocks. Any juices from meat that you don’t sop up with bread can be saved and added wherever you would want stock. Fat from a roast chicken makes a wonderful vinaigrette. I mash it with dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, s & p, pour it over watercress and serve that with the roast bird. If I have them, I also add roasted garlic and chicken livers to the vinaigrette—an option.

Valerie Porter

Make homemade playdoh with flour, lots of salt, water, food coloring...the kids will love it.

Have them do a play...a bunny story, or if a Christian, a simple parable, and film it and then show them...they love to look at themselves!

draw Easter eggs on white paper or just eggs and have them color them, cut them out and put all over the house. Have several spell, "Hi neighbors!" and put those on windows.

Build obstacle courses and film them going through them.

Valerie Porter

If they are boys or girls, let them build forts and tents...boys like to hide and girls like to have parties or read in them. I am not a sexist, just rejoicing in the differences. I have five sons and one daughter, and it was interesting how they used forts.

Cut some big easter eggs out and let them be "stones" across a pretend stream that the kids have to hop on to cross stream..if they fall off they go back to the beginning of the easter egg foot bridge...

Mike Young

An Engineer is someone who can fix anything that doesn't have a mother-in-law!

Valerie Porter

Thank you for those sauce ideas...I can't wait for dinner!

Mike Young

My coffee grounds go into a worm farm. The worms love them!

Andrea Hughes

Save empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls and let the kids paint them, glue them together to make a castle or figures decorated with scraps of tissue paper or construction paper.

Leslie in Oregon

[email protected], there is a reboot of MacGyver, and its fourth season is being broadcast in the U.S. by CBS at 8 p.m. PDT/EDT Friday evenings. (Because its Season 4 did not start until mid-season, I assume that there are quite a few more new Season 4 episodes to be broadcast.) A different actor plays MacGyver, but the character is the same.

Leslie in Oregon

I love Smokey and relish every mention and photograph of him! He is not only beautiful, but he has the kindest, sweetest, most resilient personality.

K. J. Laramie

Your rose bushes will thank you and produce abundant blooms by simply working into the soil around them your cut-up banana peels. Ooh la la 🌹🌹🌹


Lots of good ideas!

Kristin Espinasse

Mike, It is great to learn you have a worm farm and are pleased with it! Just yesterday, I contacted someone through a community service, to see about getting some donated worms. Now to figure out whether to buy a lombricomposteur or build one? Ideas welcome!


My boys love Lego-building challenges. I often read to them or they listen to an audiobook ( for heaps of free audiobooks for children, as well as adults) while they build.

We also do YouTube workouts together. The John Wicks channel on YouTube is made for children, but I love joining in the workouts from time to time.

We enjoy baking or cooking together. When they help in the kitchen, I use that time to help them practise essential maths skills. Your four-year-old can practise counting dried pasta or beans, and the six-year-old can practise multiplication by grouping items. We also practise fractions when baking by multiplying or dividing a recipe.

My kids get daily screen time, but they have to 'earn' it by first doing chores around the house and engaging in non-tech activities. I hope that these ideas might be useful to you.


Kristi, your photos of Smokey with those blossoms are so charming! I'm smiling from ear to ear. I hope that the bread was salvageable. Over here, farine is a hot commodity, and although some people choose to drive from shop to shop seeking flour, I prefer to stay at home and make do. I have Coeliac disease, so I bake with a gluten-free flour mix, and my family doesn't seem to mind it too much, though they certainly prefer regular baked goods. I have been baking gluten-free scones, which are very versatile, as well as making my own almond milk (I stay away from dairy for health reasons), then using the almond pulp to make banana bread. These days, I'm cooking as much as I normally do, but we try to limit our trips to the supermarket and for that reason, I find myself carefully planning our meals in advance.


We have a teddy-bear hunt currently happening in New Zealand. Households that wish to participate decorate their front windows with a teddy-bear, and when families go for a walk, the children count how many bears they can spot. I have seen several households change their display on a daily basis, with one window that now features 20 bears.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Leslie! 💕💕

Kristin Espinasse

Wonderful. Thanks, K. J. !


un ooops!

adj m inv capable de créations, pleine d'ingéniosité

betsy foree

Anyone with tips on using dry (maybe moldy) cheeses?
Merci Betsy

Marianne Rankin

I think the Harry Potter books are a bit advanced for a 4- and a 6-year-old; they will appreciate them more when they're a bit older. There are many wonderful books for younger children, and I recommend including books with pictures, as well as some with simple text that the children can start to learn to read. Mostly they will benefit from listening to you.

Among other projects, the kids could make puppets and put on plays.

Kristin Espinasse

Betsy, funny you should ask! This is an inside joke with JM and me. I am fearful of moldy cheese, whereas JM has a *même pas peur* attitude. I admit that lately, when I find  moldy cheese in the fridge, I hate to throw it we are not going to the store as often. So yes! If anyone has a tip/info on moldy cheese, share it here! 

Janice K Roese


I have enjoyed your daily blog emails for years. I have just tried your recipe for rustic bread, with great results! Thank you! Best of luck, always.

Jan Roese (now from Irvine, California)

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Janice, I am so happy to hear you had great results. Keep on baking! I have halved the recipe and continue to mix it each night and bake it each morning. Take care.

Jeanine Woods

Try baking or cooking with them. It teaches them and is fun to enjoy the end product. I've been doing this via Facetime with my granddaughter (with help from her mom) and she loves it!

marlies t wilding

why not start a band with friends online, and name yourselves "smokey and the glycines" ... i love this name! and namesake!

Joan Kind

I have been making no knead bread for years. Your "pour" trick is genius. I baked a loaf this morning. Worked great. In the past I often thought the time saving was hardly worth the work of cleaning up afterwards. I did make adjustments for high altitude. I baked at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 Minutes. Thanks for the great tip.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Joan, for this update. I am so happy to know this worked for you. I am about to put this mornings loaf into the oven. Your note cheers me on! Happy baking.


Attention... Roublard, is mainly known amoung French as cunning, an old fox ;)

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