La Chandeleur: Candlemas, Santons, Crepes (and a Sobriety update...)
To chill or relax in French + allergy season in France

Chapeau bas and Froissé (do you know this emotion in French?) + Ski Lessons from Mom

Table for two in Le Castellet France Provence valentines day hearts
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Today's Word: chapeau bas

    : hats off!, bravo!

When we say "chapeau bas!" we recognize the merit or the value of someone

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the MP3 soundfile


Follow Kristi on Instagram Kristi Espinasse

Carefully entering Jules' studio, I notice Mom seems relaxed. Last night when we parted we were both froissées. The subject of our little clash, our escarmouche?: a project Mom shared with me, one she was excited about before I added mon grain de sel...and dried up her enthusiasm. 

(Not to worry, Dear Reader. The Universe, or Our Heavenly Father, as I like to refer to that mysterious force guiding us all--would straighten me out, tôt ou tard. And I reminded Mom of that much, lest she thinks I am blind to my own faults. It never fails to amaze me how we must learn the lessons we so forcefully try to teach others.).

Tiptoeing over to Mom's bed in the corner of her studio, I asked if I might sit down. "Sure, grab some pillows," Jules said, straightening her wool hat. She was wearing a down-feathered coat, too, which meant she was leaving all the windows open again, en hiver, to accommodate our old dog who now lives chez elle. "He gets too hot in here," Mom explained. Just when I thought Mom, who brought us up in the Sonoran desert, would never get used to this colder climate, here she is bundling up for another's comfort. Chapeau bas! Mom has my full respect (even if she doesn't always know it).

Smokey shuffled up to the bedside, his queue wagging in that special way of his. "There goes that helicopter tail," Mom smiled, patting our golden retriever on the head.  With that, Old Smokey backed up several yards... and charged forward, picking up enough speed to hoist himself onto the bed. If only his helicopter tail could lift his body (just as it lifts our spirits)! 

"I'm going to need to lower my bed. Smokey is getting too old to jump up here." 

"Yes, we'll do that, Mom," I said gently. And, on saying so, I became of aware of a lot of "Yes, we'll dos" that we haven't yet dones:

We'll do the art supply store (to get some needed "medium" for Mom's paints)
We'll do the bus terminal... (to look into a bus pass for Mom)
We'll do Van Life (one wish of Jules's is to hit the road with Smokey and me. Oh the places we would see!)

"Are you leaving this afternoon for the mountains?" Mom asked, waking me from my rêverie (in which the three of us were cramped in a van, looking for yet another road stop W.-C.).

"Uh...oh yes, we’ll  be away 3 days."

"Why don't you take ski lessons this time?" Jules was right. At 54, it was never too late for me to learn to ski. 

(I would like to preface the next few paragraphs by pointing out that I may have misunderstood or misremembered Mom's ski tips, so if anything seems off, blame the writer and not the instructor...)

"Roll your ankles when you want to turn," Mom began, and with that Jules offered an on-the-fly ski lesson from bed, where, with her woolen hat and doudoune she was already dressed the part of La Monitrice de Ski.

Tip No. 2 had something to do with the skis' edges. "Put all your weight down on them to turn. And remember your ankles!" Tip No. 3 "Lean forward!" and Tip 4 "Get an instructor whom you don't know. And one that's cute!"

Mom reminded me that when everybody else goes off to ski, instead of ambling around town in the cold... waiting to join my family for lunch, I could be taking lessons

"This can be your secret," Mom concluded. "Never share your dreams or people will stomp on them!"

Oups! It was clear Mom was still smarting from last night's mère-fille melee. If there was any tension in the room now, Smokey felt it first. I watched as his gray-whiskered face moved back and forth from mother to daughter, anticipating what would happen next.... 

"Mom!" I said. "I didn't mean to stomp on your dreams. I only wanted to help you with the details. I realize now that you weren't asking for my help, you only wanted me to listen and to share your enthusiasm. I get it."

And I realize I want the same when I share my plans with others (my husband, Mr. Fixit, comes to mind...).  That's what we all want, isn't it? For someone to listen to our dreams, our goals, our projects...and not interfere via their own doubts, negativity, or concerns.

“..and if they do have anything to say," Mom added, "let it be uplifting. Always lift people up!

Chapeau bas, Maman! You are one lovely human. With that Smokey's queue began spirling again. Mr. Helicopter Tail seemed to agree, wholeheartedly.

Post note: I didn't take ski lessons when we visited our daughter, in the Alps last weekend. I think I need a few more pointers from Mom, first. 

Briancon Alps France
More photos from our trip in my Instagram gallery

froisser = to offend, to hurt
= hurt
une escarmouche = skirmish
mon grain de sel
= my two cents' worth
en hiver = in winter
chez elle = at her place
chapeau bas! = hats off!
la queue = tail
le W.-C. = toilette
le moniteur/la monitrice = ski instructor
la doudoune = down jacket
oups! = whoops!

Jules and Smokey studio
My Mom, Jules, in her studio with Smokey. 

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My mother-in-law had wooden steps built for her bedside so her dog could get up on the bed. :-)


Hi Kristi,
Great story today and I love the photo of Jules and Smokey! You are blessed to have your mom with you. It reminds me to get on a plane and fly down to Georgia where my mom is living. She is in a memory care center now and I don't get down there as much as I should. Even though you and Jules have your mère-fille melees once in awhile, you have a connection which is precious!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

So wonderful to see Jules! And how comforting for Jules to have Smokey with her. Unconditional love and companionship…
This story is quite insightful and a great example of personality preferences and the impact on relationships. We all have likenesses and differences and understanding them can help us realize that the consequences of our interactions may not always be personal but rather a function of our preferences.
Human dynamics can be so interesting. It is sometimes much easier with our pets!

You truly have a gift for finding truths and understanding in everyday human interaction…

Arpi Sahr

In 2004 I went with my husband's big family to Colorado. Toward the end of the week, just as your mother suggested, instead of sitting around yet another day waiting for the others to come down for lunch, I took a lesson on the bunny hill. When I fell the band on the ski pole pulled on my thumb and tore the ligament between thumb and forefinger. As someone whose daily need is to play the piano I had no business taking such a risk as getting on skis. I will add that at the very moment that I signed up for that ski lesson they were announcing a sled ride about to start. I could have been sitting in a sled enjoying the glorious scenery to the sound of tinkling bells. I am SOOOOO glad you didn't do that ski lesson.

Karen in NY

1968. Northern Quebec. Tout le monde parle Francais except me and my college roomie. Well she can, me not so much. Fah -reezing cold. The ski lesson was: keep the skis in a v shape, don't head straight down the mountain, and sit down if you get going too fast. Lots of sitting. Lots of laughs. Lots of linament. 1998. Colorado Rockies ski trip, 14,000 feet. Gasp, wheeze, snort. Never mind. I have sea level lungs. 2022. I use ski poles and ice cleats to walk down the icy driveway to get the mail. Skiing is great.
Best wishes to your mom and Smokey.


Listening is a true miracle! And, it's a daily practice:)

Prends soin de toi:)


Dear Kristi,
A good reminder to listen and not judge. Thanks for sharing. 🥰

Karen Cafarellakc

To really listen to one another and hear what we are saying is a true connection. You are both so loving and caring to each other, that is so beautiful. Love the picture of Jules and Smokey.

Big Hugs to you both.

Ellen A.

Your mom Jules is honestly the most beautiful older woman I can ever remember seeing. More lovely than Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Olympia Dukakis, etc. I feel certain that while genetics (lucky you) and good bone structure play a part, it is her spirit and creativity that make the difference. Best to you both, and to dearest Smokey.


Merci pour cette bonne et sage histoire, Kristi. Je me demande si tu a fait une des Grandes Randonnées de France dans une Parc Nationale? Hier, j’ai vue une présentation par Zoom d’une membre de mon club Français. Elle et son mari ont fait le GR54 en la Haute Dauphine, le G5 de Modane à Larche, et le G4 de Palaud-Sur-Verdon à Moustiers, en quelques septembres, si j’ai bien compris la présentation en français. Quelles expériences magnifiques! Je pense que tu peux nous raconter une histoire exceptionnelle si tu et J-M feraient une des Grandes Randonnées. Peut-être un de tes liseurs à fait une?


i am also married to mr. fixit, and there is a youtube video titled
"it's not about the nail" , which really hits the nail on the head!

hugs to you and jules for the love and kindness you both share!!

Diane Covington-Carter

I so agree about listening.
It is a lost art.
We have two ears and one mouth, so should listen twice as much as we talk, right?
Bravo, chapeau bas a toi, for apologizing and realizing your mom just wanted to have you listen to her dream/plans.


Well, Jacqui lives in a ski town. It would not be all that difficult to take lessons for one morning. Then you would have tried, you could conquer a couple of the fears about it, and you could decide to go again or not. Just do it. (The views from the top of any ski hill are amazing!)

Lauren Golden

Arpi is projecting herself on Kristi. Not a good idea. Kristi will know when or if she is ready to learn to ski.


Hi Kristin from Australia. Your petite anecdote about Smokey’s efforts to get onto your mum’s bed made me smile. I thought that I would share the solution that my good friend has put into place. Her beautiful old friend loves to climb onto the lounge in the evenings and this became too difficult.The simple solution was to buy a little kitchen step, the kind that might be bought for very little money in a hardware store or a baby store for little ones to use the the bathroom. It works a treat and does not involve lowering the bed. Hope this might bring some inspiration your way.

Theresa North

I have read your blog for awhile now and sent some ideas when you asked about Portland, Oregon. I went to Pastaworks to taste wine when Jean-Marc was pouring there (with your son.) I enjoy your stories and have had to learn the lesson of listening instead of advising with my daughter (who is the same age as yours.) I'm currently in Cavaliere, Lavandou if you are interested in getting together sometime.


Dear Kristi

Chapeau bas for this uplifting post which prompts us to think about the other. Our Heavenly Father in His wisdom advises us to do two things - to love Him and to love each other and you (and your beautiful Mum) have encouraged us to do this at a time when it is becoming clearer that selfishness causes so much froisse. More than ever, the world needs us to listen to each other and lift each other up. Thank you for this most positive of messages.


Are those stuffed toys Smokey is resting his chin on? Lovely photo of Jules & Smokey.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Becky,
Yes, those are his stuffed animals, or “peluches.” 🐾💕

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Theresa, It would be a pleasure to meet up! Please contact me via e-mail and we will find a time to meet. 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Ellen. Mom was very touched by your comment 💕

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! I love the term human dynamics and enjoy learning and sharing about these interactions. 

Ron Cann

I have been following your blog since we returned from living in Paris for a couple years in 2003. But prior to that, at age 50, in 1997, we moved to Lake Tahoe. I wanted to give myself the "ski childhood" that I never had. We learned to ski, eventually skiing double black diamond runs. Even though I had to return to work 10 years later for another decade, I never regretted that experience. Now at 75, I could never have done it.
Of course, we all are different and there really is no "taille unique" in life (click here -X-to hear Jean-Marc pronounce that! :). But perhaps, your mom has a good suggestion!


Touching, once again! Plain and simple truths imparted in a most benign and beautiful way…🍎 Envisioning the three of you in Jules’ room brings to mind the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree“ (lucky you!) … and the abundant love you share together and with us is extraordinary.

Marianne Rankin

How did Jules, who raised you in the Sonoran Desert and lived for years in Mexico, learn ski techniques?

How old is Smokey now? Around 12? In any case, I'm glad to see he is enjoying spending time with you all, and especially on Jules's bed. It's another way to connect.

Kristin Espinasse

Bonjour Marianne, In 1976 we moved to Colorado for a school year. There, we skied often. While my Mom and my sister, Heidi, continued to ski after we returned to the desert (skiing in Flagstaff or when traveling), I never kept up.
Re connecting with Mom and Smokey—it is wonderful. We have a daily get together on the end of the bed, chez Jules. It is very calming to cuddle Smokey while chatting with Mom. 

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