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Entries from June 2020

Words on Love and an "au pif" recipe

Smokey peppercorn tree
Our golden retriever, Smokey, enjoying shade under the peppercorn tree. Today's entry begins with the French version of Love Is Patient, Love is Kind and ends with a recipe (the two sections have nothing to do with each other but are, like today's recipe, au pif (spontaneous). 

L'amour est patient, il est plein de bonté;
l'amour n'est pas envieux; l'amour ne se vante pas,
il ne s'enfle pas d'orgueil, il ne fait rien de malhonnête,
il ne cherche pas son intérêt, il ne s'irrite pas, il ne soupçonne pas le mal,
il ne se réjouit pas de l'injustice, mais il se réjouit de la vérité;
il pardonne tout, il croit tout, il espère tout, il supporte tout.
L'amour ne meurt jamais. 
   (1 Corinthiens 13:4-5)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read Love is Patient in French

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

(If you find a better English version--a better match with the French--thanks for sharing it in the comments box)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Paring tomatoes at the kitchen sink, I thought to google "recette salade lentilles." But with my hands dripping le jus de tomate, I didn't want to reach for my smartphone and begin typing.That's when an inspiration came to mind:

The recipe is whatever you desire….

Voyons... Just what did I desire? And, equally as important, what ingredients were on hand? I suddenly remembered some boiled eggs in the fridge….and pickles (which go well with des œufs durs…).

"It would be nice to have some salmon," I said to Mom.

"I've got some left over...from the salad you brought over yesterday," Jules offered. Parfait

Too bad we were out of onions… Attends une minute! There’s one, hiding under a branch of drying peppercorns on the buffet….

Eggs, salmon, onion, and how about those concombres I bought last night, while visiting Cynthia at her corner épicerie

Any crumbs and seeds on my planche à pain are automatically added to whatever salad I'm making--lentil salad is no exception! Allez hop! In they go! (Mom wrinkles her nose at this crummy ingredient. But I have no problem with days old miettes - and will add them to a recipe here...if only to give you a good vocabulary word. Miette--un mot chouette!)

Some olive oil, mustard, and the white truffle vinegar (we're lucky to have a supply of this élixir. Jean-Marc stocks it at his shop!)....

Salt, pepper, and voilà!  The only other ingredient is time. But hunger knows not patience. Alors souvenez-vous

The recipe is whatever you desire
Using ingredients you have “sous la main”
Hunger knows not patience
Mange quand tu as faim!


la recette = recipe
la salade = salad
la lentille = lentil
le jus de tomate = tomato juice
voyons = let’s see
parfait = perfect
attends une minute! = wait a minute!
une épicerie = grocer, grocery
le concombre = cucumber
la planche à pain = breadboard
allez hop! = off you go!
une miette = crumb
choutte = nice, neat, good
le frigo = fridge 
sous la main = on hand
Mange (manger) = eat
tu as faim = you are hungry
alors = so then
souvenez-vous = remember

Kristin espinasse garden bouquet
In our garden. Photo by Jules. Thank you very much for reading today's au pif--spontaneous--post. I have been working on a story about some dolphins, and will hopefully share the rencontre chanceuse in the next post. Have a lovely weekend. 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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Papillonner: Mom's butterfly chair + a fluttery French verb for you today

Smokey in the papillon chairSmokey in the butterfly chair, or la chaise papillon. Papillon--it is a favorite French word but did you know there is a fluttery verb to go with it? Perfect for today's story, about Mom's favorite fauteuil....

Today's Word: Papillonner

    : to flit around, flutter about

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence:
Ne te laisse pas distraire par les événements extérieurs ! Prends le temps d'apprendre quelque chose de bon et cesse de papillonner! Don't be distracted by outside events! Take the time to learn something good and stop fluttering! --Marcus Aurelius

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Now this is the best spot!" Mom swears, as she settles into her portable garden chair and takes in her surroundings.

"Come over here, Kristi! You've got to see the view from here. This is the best spot!"

My mind is aflutter. Mom! You said that last time. And the time before! Instead of voicing such thoughts, I accept the invitation to sit down and experience Jules's new garden digs--make that her latest garden digs: the new location for her favorite chaise.

The chair is a Mariposa, meaning "butterfly," which hints at its shape. Here in France, it's called a fauteuil or chaise papillon. A gift from granddaughter, Jackie, I wouldn't have picked this particular model, but have since grown to admire it, having noticed how much Mom uses it. The easy chair with its canvas sling and folding metal frame was conceived in Buenos Aires in the late 30s. A description of the chair's design calls it "Nature meets art." Perfect for Jules!

Papillonner: aller de-ci de-la = to go here and there

Mom drags her butterfly chair all over the jardin, parking it according to her mood. If she is blue, the Papillon is stationed behind the house, where Mom will cloud-gaze alone or stare at The Narrow Gate (a "door" of blue sky amidst the distant parasol pines).

Jules's big blue chair sat for a tired while beneath the giant cedar tree, where she mourned her husband, John, and it languished, for a time, in the far corner of the yard, where Mom cried over the loss of her little dog, Breezy, buried back home in Mexico).

Up and down, a butterfly among the flowers 

Comme un vrai papillon, like a real butterfly the chair lands in various places, taking nectar, nourishment, and hope from nature's gentle surroundings. When Mom is happy, she totes her easy chair to the front yard, and reads beside the pond, after which her big blue papillon might flutter over to the blossoming hedge of laurier rose, where she listens to French tourists walk along the trottoir just outside. (It is a good way to practice her Français!)

No matter where her chair goes, our faithful golden retriever, Smokey, follows, as do her birds--a dozen tourterelles and, since covid, all the pigeons who no longer feed at the restaurants down the street.

"Look up at the sky, Kristi! See the passage between those two giant parasol pines? That's The Narrow Gate!" (and a meaningful scene for Mom to contemplate).

"Yes. Yes, Mom, I see it!" I sound annoyed but I am only tempering Mom's enthusiasm. She is so excited about THIS spot and about THAT detail.

"Did you see the way the sun is lighting up that one sunflower? Now THIS is the best spot!" Mom insists. "Come stand over here, beside my chair. The sun is now falling on the little patch of onions! Look at the shimmer of light! You've got to see the view from here...."

Mom doesn't know it, but she is a light. And a joy to see, moving her butterfly chair from tree to tree. Beautiful, comme un papillon qui butine.

Butterfly chair in garden
Mom's butterfly chair beneath the weeping pepper tree. Mille mercis to Jackie for this gift.


le papillon = butterfly
le fauteuil = chair, easy chair
la chaise = chair
le jardin = garden, yard
laurier rose = oleander
le trottoir
= pavement, sidewalk
la tourterelle = turtledove
butiner = gather pollen, gather nectar
comme un papillon qui butine = like a butterfly gathering nectar

Mom setting the scene
Mom, in her Jack Daniel's T-shirt (the one she swiped from Max). Thanks, Mom, for helping Smokey to pose for today's photo to illustrate this post.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

L'Oubli: Two accidental versions of the same story (on forgetfulness)

Cat in nyons
Ah...L'oubli! When is forgetfulness a good thing? In today's unusual edition all vocabulary is at the end. We'll restructure things next week!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While in the kitchen I noticed steam rising from the countertop. Approaching the messy comptoir for a closer look, I recognized the Starbucks souvenir mug (Vail edition) I'd purchased while visiting our daughter, Jackie, last year. I never did use la grande tasse for its intended purpose (it's too heavy; I prefer somewhere between dainty teacup and bol, which the French love for their café au lait). But all is not lost (even if my memory is, we'll get to that in a minute....) I regularly put the giant cup to use, mostly to measure out dried couscous: one Starbucks mug couscous plus one Starbucks mug hot water…. Feeds 6.

Recently I've found a second use for the mug: lentils! I've been sprouting the dry légumes like crazy ever since my belle-soeur Cécile showed me the simplicity of sprouting beans: no special equipment necessary. But, after forgetting the sprouted lentils in the mug last week, it was time to toss them I and set the large cup on the counter as a physical reminder to feed the sprouts to our hens.

Only now there was steam rising out of the giant mug! What the...? Staring at the cloud rushing out of the mug, I noticed another cup beside it, on the counter. It held a cold café au lait...Putting two and two together, I realized I'd put the wrong cup in the microwave!

Oh no! Not again! It was one more oubli in a streak of forgetfulness. Just this past week I had left some bread in the 450f oven. Forgetting about it completely, I headed out for a long walk. This near-disaster was curtailed when, remembering, I hurried home from my walk only to learn I'd forgotten to put the bread in the oven first place!

The bread now in the oven and my phone's timer set to the highest volume, I hurried out of the house to resume my morning exercise, oblivious to the fact I'd left the door wide open and the keys dangling from the keyhole (something clear-headed Kristi would never do, not after coming face-to-face with a cambrioleur)!

Voyons, what other forgetfulness encounters have I run into? Run into...reminds me of running into people and the fear of not remembering names. I've set up systems for this. Just the other day in church I pulled out my smartphone, went to "contacts", and discreetly as possible reviewed the list of church members (there are only 12 of us). Turns out I knew the names all along… Why second-guess myself when I would do better to have faith!

Speaking of la foi, I will end with a quote I read this morning from Corrie Ten Boom (a Dutch Christian watchmaker and author of The Hiding Place), which hints at why such forgetfulness happens in the first place:

"If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” Indeed, if we weren't so distracted by everything around us, we might recall what is essential.

Post Note:  Like those steaming hot sprouts found on my counter...I just discovered a previous draft (from May 29) of today's story (written June 1st)!! I'm going ahead and posting both stories--we'll worry about all the edits later. I've got to eat lunch now and rest my mind! 



This morning I headed out for a walk, certain to have finally chosen the right direction. It's all about balance, I reminded myself, stepping past the garbage which needed emptying. La poubelle could wait. So could Jean-Marc's chapter, which needed editing. And there was an item I needed to return to the store…. Ça peut attendre! Why does everything feel like it has a deadline? Why all the rushing all the time?

The best way to begin this day is by clearing my mind and getting some exercise. Well, that was my mantra as I picked up speed along on the trottoir. I was a mile into my walk, when I saw a green parrot fly over. Magnifique ! This reminded me to say a prayer….

Dear God. Please clear my mind. (Deep breath. Exhale…) Make room so i may hear your voice above all "else".

All else being the deluge of information filling my head. It's the fault of overcuriosity (too much information-seeking, internet surfing, social media, email, too many demands of family who swear they don't make demands but they do!)

Dear God. Please clear my mind. Make room so I may hear your voice above all "else". I repeated the prayer until…. Mon Dieu! A response came! Here is what God said....


Oh my God! I totally forgot about the bread I had put into the 450degrees…. A while before I left for my walk.

Oh no! Not again! Forgetfulness! There was no time to scold myself for yet another oubli--not when the bread was about to catch fire (would it? What is the next stage after complete carbonization?).

I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and called Max and he did not answer.

I called Mom. She answered!

"Mom, I need you to get your keys and go into the house and get the bread out of the oven. Be careful when you open the oven door! The mitts are in the top right drawer!"

I hurried the one mile home, running the last few blocks only to find Mom watering the garden….

"Did you get the bread?"

Mom carefully weighed her words. "You must have left it on the stovetop, Darling."

Notice Mom didn't say "forgot" ie you forgot to put it in the oven…. I hurried into the kitchen to see with my own eyes the uncooked loaf. There it was!

Placing the loaf in the oven, I quickly set my smartphone's timer to 30 minutes and upped the volume just to be sure. Hurrying out of the house to resume my walk, I unwittingly left the keys in the door and left the door wide open. (Mom gently informed me of the forgotten door when I returned from my walk.)

"I keep forgetting things. What is wrong with me?" I said to Mom.

"Kristi relax. You just need to quit policing all of us."

Policing? What did this have to do with forgetfulness? Besides, any apparent bossiness was something I was working on!

Sensing my defensiveness, Mom began to backpedal. "Well, as for me, what helps is gratitude and dying to self (that die-to-self business may sound bizarre, Dear Reader, but what Mom means by dying to self is squashing the ego). Mom began pulling weeds, to illustrate such soul-cleaning.

"I know!" I growled, putting on garden gloves and helping with the garden chores. "I know! I'm the one that gave you those books. From Francois Fénelon to Thomas A. Kempis I know all about dying to self! I read it first!"

Mom overlooked my meltdown, with this next, barely concealed strategy: "I'm not saying you need to do those things, I was only saying *I* need to do those things."

Harrumph! We continued the tug-o-war in the garden until... a clump of seedlings caught my attention:

"Hey, I should thin these zucchini don't you think?"

"Good idea!! Don't throw those out...I'll replant them over here!" Mom offered.

Ten minutes later we stood back to admire our join effort and a new row of zucchini, which Mom artfully interspersed white alliums and strawberries. Brilliant!

The hot topic of forgetfulness was but a distant memory--and so was whatever it was we were arguing about :-)


le comptoir = counter, bar
la grande tasse = big cup, mug
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law (can also mean stepsister) 
un oubli= oversight, forgetfulness
cambrioleur = burglar

Smokey snoozing
Smokey snoozing in the garden. I'm off for a bite to eat and a snooze, too. It's good for the brain! I hope you enjoyed and were not too confused (like me....) over two versions of the same story. And please don't worry about my memory. Like all of you, I have the world on my mind! Today's edition was reckless (I did not check and recheck my text as many times as usual). If you catch any typos or would like to edit my French, my English, or my grammar in either language--your help is most welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Two brothers at Aldi and riots in France

The Green Island
L'Ile Verte. The green island, here in La Ciotat, for a peaceful image to begin today's post.

Today's Word: chercher ses mots*

    : to be at a loss for words

*I settled on this "word of the day" following the struggle in writing a story in these sad, scary, and emotionally-charged times. Thank you for reading with open hearts.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the parking lot at Aldi I was loading our groceries, Mom's, then mine, into our car, when I saw two familiar faces. It was the funny duo behind us in the checkout line. Turning to the brothers (who were twins?), I smiled:

Je voulais vous remercier pour votre bonne humeur. Ça fait du bien--surtout en ce moment. I hope they understood my French, and my appreciation for their funny commentary back in line, when they were snapping each other's face masks and reminding one another to keep at a safe distance from the next customer. They were regular Laurel and Hardys in the age of coronavirus!

The short, gray-haired men, so full of antics back in the store, suddenly grew shy, in a French version of Aw, Shucks! "Well," one of the guys offered, you've got to have a sense of humor in times like these!"

"C'est sûr!" I agreed, adding, "Are you from La Ciotat?"


"My mom and I are from Arizona," I shared.

The men grew thoughtful. "A lot of upheaval in the US right now..." one of the brothers reflected.

"Here in France, too..." I said, mentioning the riots breaking out in Paris and beyond.

"Non!" The brothers replied, in a possible misunderstanding (were they unaware of the émeutes?).

"Non!" They affirmed. "We are not racist!"

I think the brothers were referring to themselves--or possibly to our region? Either way, they echoed the feelings or beliefs or ideals of many.

Our conversation ended in awkward silence, one that lingered. Later that day the brothers' words returned to mind. "We are not racist." I understood what they meant. I believe they were sincere. I know I am too! My last thought came as a surprise: But is that enough? Is it enough not to be racist?


Je voulais vous remercier = I wanted to thank you
bonne humeur = good humor
ça fait du bien = it does one good
surtout en ce moment = especially at this time
une émeute = uprising, riot

The coast in la ciotat
I leave you with a peaceful image taken here in La Ciotat. Thank you for reading.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.