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Entries from February 2022

Sacoche: How to say "Man Purse" in French + update on Mr. Sacks

Jean-Marc and Mr. Sacks on Porquerolles Island South of France
Notice the leather satchel on the ground: meet Mr. Sacks, Jean-Marc's lovable sidekick. This picture is from my Instagram where I've been carefully choosing photos & pairing them with interesting French words. Follow me on Instagram for more. 

Today's Word: la sacoche (sah-kohsh)

    : handbag, saddlebag, purse, bag

from the Italian saccoccia, or "little pocket"

Audio/Listening: Click the following link 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 sound file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
"Ode to Mr. Sacks"
(The photos in the following story were taken over the years....)

I couldn't believe my ears when Jean-Marc, packing for his business trip, mentioned: "I'm not taking my sacoche with me." 

Vraiment? My husband might as well have decided to leave an appendage behind--son bras droit, for example, the one he uses to lift his wine glass. That is how vital his trusty, takes-with-him everywhere sacoche is to him.

What with increasing restrictions for carry-on and check-in, Jean-Marc's dear sidekick, Mr. Sacks, is the latest victime of airline cutbacks!

Poor Mr. Sacks! I've never felt sorry for the old bag before. Mostly, I've felt envious. Mr. Sacks is the one who goes on all the business trips with my husband. Mr. Sacks goes to all the local wine tastings while I sit at home guzzling tap water.  

sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr Sacks in Paris... the one on the left. (Make no mistake, the other bags mean nothing to Jean-Marc!)

man purse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Ventimille, Italy, watching locals play boules, or pétanque.

I do pity, Mr. Sacks, now that his saggy little body is pouting in the corner of my husband's office. This is the first time in his 12-year-old life that he's collected dust. Normally he's on the go....
Croatia (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks cruising the island of Cres, in Croatia. Just kidding, Jean-Marc would never put Mr. Sacks in this predicament (water). This brings me to the next point...

Regularly I am asked to hold on to Mr. Sacks while my husband sprints off to use a public restroom or when (as pictured above) he is practicing a sport. "Tu peux prendre ma sacoche?" he asks. And I always grumble, not wanting to hold the heavy "third wheel". Apart from tractor wrenches, he even keeps wine bottles (for his tastings) in there....

spitoon (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks (on the floor, next to the bucket spittoon)

Some refer to Mr. Sacks as a "man purse".  That always makes me snicker. Hahahahahaha! Man Bag!!! Sac Homme! I point at Mr. Sacks. But Mr. Sacks isn't laughing... 

Kristi Mr. Sacks Malta
Me, babysitting Mr. Sacks in Malta in 2017. Jean-Marc purchased the leather bag in une maroquinerie  in Draguignan, years and years ago. C'était le coup de foudre! Love at first sight!

the guilty look (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc's got that guilty look on his face. He's always holding hands with Mr. Sacks instead of with me--and he knows it!  While others worry about the other woman, I have to worry about the old bag!

sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks is with my husband on bad hair days...

beach in Ste. Maxime (c) Kristin Espinasse
And on good hair days. Here they are at the beach in Sainte-Maxime.

Avalon (c) Kristin Espinasse
And especially on family days!
 

Lourdes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Visiting the healing waters at Lourdes. Can you spot Mr. Sacks?

sacoche brief case Burgundy france Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Burgundy... with the winemakers...

fountain (c) Kristin Espinasse
But old Mr. Sacks, as you can see, is beginning to sag. I worry that items inside him will begin to fly out of his slouching pockets. I especially worry that money will fly out. For this reason, I sometimes follow close in Jean-Marc's wake as he goes about his errands. I am stumbling along behind him swatting my arms back and forth prepared to catch those banknotes that might come flying out of that sagging bag. 

vintage sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks is coming apart at the seams, which just goes to show even satchels experience a middle-age crisis.

Over the years I've tried to get Jean-Marc to consider buying a new bag. Nothin' doin'! "But it's a hazard," I argue (a financial hazard at that! Just think if money really were flying out of that bag). 

"I'm keeping my bag!" my husband always argues back.

in Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
A couple of weeks ago Jean-Marc announced with an ear-to-ear grin: Je l'ai fait réparer, mon sac. He had brought Mr. Sacks to the leather mender's, in town. The guy did a wonderful job, Jean-Marc told me, adding that the man was nearly 90 years old. 

Any ill will or harsh feelings I may have felt regarding Mr. Sacks flew out of the picture (as those bank notes might have...). My heart smiled thinking of the wrinkled man sewing the wrinkled bag, one soul giving life back to the other, each content to be of service for as long as they were needed or wanted.

***

Mr Sacks new flapUpdate: Since this post was written, 10 years ago, Mr. Sacks has had yet another facelift (thanks to our friends at Mon Cordonnier, in Aubagne). Mr. Sacks will turn 23 years old soon and he's as busy as ever (this morning he journeyed to Marseilles with Jean-Marc and my Mom, to pick up Jules' new French health card. All documents are safe with him. Thanks, Mr. Sacks!). 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le sacoche = satchel
vraiment
= really
le bras = arm
droit = right
tu peux prendre ma sacoche = can you take my bag?
la maroquinerie = purse, bag, and luggage shop
le sac homme = man purse 
je l'ai fait réparer = I had it fixed
mon sac = my purse
le coup de foudre = love at first sight


Jean-Marc and Mr. Sacks on Porquerolles Island South of France
Oh dear. Here is Mr. Sacks on the little island of Porquerolles, with Jean-Marc and his formidable mop-spear. I hope you'll read about this unusual confection--Jean-Marc was very proud of it.

Flower steps in Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Caltagirone, Sicily... can't you see him sniffing the pretty flowers? Voilà, for this edition. If you feel like one more story, read about the time I found a heart-stopping message inside of Mr. Sacks.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


To chill or relax in French + allergy season in France

Port capucins la ciotat south of france wooden boats pointus
Photo of Port des Capucines from my Instagram where I have been posting a daily photo and French word all week. Be sure to hit the follow button on my Instagram for the daily updates.

Today's Word: décompresser

    : relax, chill, chill out

Audio/Listening:
Click the following link 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 to listen to soundclip


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Chilling" in French

When Jean-Marc returns home from work in winter he sets down his trusty leather bag, "Mr. Sacks", and heads straight to la cheminée. "Bonsoir, Chérita!" he sings, in passing. As he builds a fire, I'm curled up on the couch nearby, trying to contain a day's worth of thoughts in the time it takes my husband to décompresser, or chill, from a long day at his wine shop.  

Recently when he returned, he must have brought with him a generous sprinkling of pollen, because I began sneezing uncontrollably as soon as he walked through the door. ATCHOUM! ATCHOUM! ATCHOUM! So much for a peaceful accueil. A day later, Jean-Marc was the one sneezing. "Je ne sais pas ce que j'ai!" he complained. His head was "dans le brouillard" and he had le nez qui coule. "I think it's allergies," I said. "It's that time of year."

"Peut-être," he said, reaching for another mouchoir. I made a mental note to buy more Kleenex and observed my husband as he skipped dinner, drank a warm tisane, and managed to stay up late enough to watch le foot (that's soccer, in French, and that night was PSG - Real Madrid!). But by the next day he was in worse shape, and I guessed he was worn out from sneezing and blowing his nose. The French call hay fever le rhume des foins (foins corresponding to dried grass or hay) or la rhinite saisonnière and it is the first time Jean-Marc's suffered from it, or so he thinks.

And that's the problem with seasonal allergies—they’re so easy to confuse with a cold. Maybe his yearly cold was hay fever, after all?

Still, he is complaining of les courbatures and chills--two symptoms not associated with allergies. And this throws a wrench in plans for today's essay (which was supposed to be all about hay fever!).  We still don't know what Jean-Marc has (he tested negative for Covid), but I hope it isn't la grippe.... Meantime he's headed back to the snowy Alps to ski and to help out our daughter (maybe catching her Dad's cold is not what Jackie had in mind when she reached out to us recently...).

As for me, I'm learning to stay out of it (or most of it): let everyone decide for themselves and live with their own decision-making. Best to stay curled up on the couch and keep my many thoughts and opinions to myself so that everyone can décompresser (my husband is certainly chilling--et c'est le cas de le dire!). I’m a lot more chill these days too, and that (first line in this last paragraph) is my new tool in my Human Relations tool belt.

And now, a good day to all, thank you for reading and remember to look out for yourselves...as you continue to quietly look out for others.

Amicalement,
Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la cheminée = fireplace
Chérita (from "chérie") = dear
décompresser = to chill, relax
atchoum! = atchoo!
un accueil = reception, welcome
Je ne sais pas ce que j'ai! = I don't know what I have
dans le brouillard = head in the fog
le nez qui coule = runny nose
peut-être = maybe
la tisane = herbal tea
PSG - Real Madrid = the Paris and Madrid soccer teams
la rhinite saisonnière = seasonal rhinitis
le rhume des foins = hay fever, allergic rhinitis
les courbatures = aches and pains
c'est le cas de le dire! = and you can say that again! 

Vocabulary added later (and missing from the sound file)
le mouchoir = tissue, Kleenex
la grippe = the flu

Sacoche mr sacks briefcase
Jean-Marc's trusty leather bag, Mr. Sacks.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


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
Wishing you a Joyeuse St. Valentin today, as this journal won't go out on Valentine's Day. In the meantime, please follow me here on Instagram. Merci!

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


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

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

FRENCH VOCABULARY
froisser = to offend, to hurt
froissé
= 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. 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


La Chandeleur: Candlemas, Santons, Crepes (and a Sobriety update...)

Santonpainter
Brushes, paint, and clay figurines at a santon maker's in Marseilles. Read today's story about a few French traditions taking place on February 2nd. And don't miss a very personal update in the post note.

Today's Word: la chandelle (shahn-del)
 
    : candle

Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word for candle in today's proverb: Download Chandelle.wav
  Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle.
  The game is not worth the candle. (It’s not worth it).


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

All good things must come to an end and in Provence santons are no exception. On February 2nd, at Candelmas (what the French call "Chandeleur") the meticulously arranged crèche is finally taken down and the colorful clay figurines are carefully put away. That's when the party begins--for February 2nd is also known as Crêpe Day!

Regretfully, our family didn't have any hand-painted santons to store, but boy did we put away the pancakes! When Jean-Marc couldn't find his mother's crêpes recipe, he rolled up his sleeves and made the batter au pif--mixing together a bunch of flour, several eggs, a drenching of milk, a dash of salt, a swirl of warmed butter, and a few larmes of water.

Meanwhile, I prepared the fillings tray: the salty and sugary additions that would top off the delicate crêpes. The salé selections included le gruyère, le jambon, le tarama, le saumon fumé, and l'houmous. As for the dessert crêpes, we had sugar for sprinkling and other sweet spreadables including fig jam, caramel sauce, chestnut purée, Nutella and Aunt Marie-Françoise's lavender honey. Missing were the whipped cream and my mother-in-law who, if she were here (instead of in Marseilles preparing sarrasin crêpes for her neighbor) would've loved a drop or two of lemon juice and a powdering of cinnamon to go with the sugar on her crêpes.

Jean-Marc had pre-cooked the crêpes for reheating at the dinner table, this, thanks to the handy dandy "crêpes party" machine (a Teflon coated unit with six mini pancake-shaped warmers). Because I didn't see my husband grilling the cakes, I can't be sure if he remembered to flip them with the right hand while holding a coin (une pièce d'or) in the left (an old French tradition for prosperity (and good crops!).

Some say the golden, round crêpes are reminiscent of the sun and, therefore, the coming of printemps. While our pancakes reminded me of those things, the golden disks had me thinking of back home where the Arizona desert is lit by the large chandelle in the sky. I remembered my nieces and nephews, little southwestern marmots who were probably just coming out of a long slumber in time to celebrate Groundhog's day, awake in time to enjoy my sister's homemade waffles (a sort of square-shouldered, dimply-cheeked big brother to the dainty crêpe and, in my experience, all the better for hogging).

***
POST NOTE: A CELEBRATION
I wrote today's story in 2007, in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens. This is where I lived, where I began my blog, and where I made a life-changing decision to quit drinking. This week marks 19 years of sobriety! I will never regret the decision to stop drinking, which has led to so many improvements in my life and innumerable blessings. It led to a career in writing, an occupation that focuses my mind and allows me to turn life's frustrations and challenges into comedy (and on occasion, into meaningful reflections). One more thing: while editing this post, and researching Candlemas, I learned it is also called “The Purification.” In 19 years I have never made that connection, and I just had to run over to Mom’s and share the accidental significance: 

“I'm no saint,” I said to Jules, “and I’m not saying I’ve been purified. But I like how significant this is--my sobriety corresponding to The Purification!

Mom looked at me and shared her own no-nonsense definition. In Jules’s Dictionary, and in all caps:

PURIFICATION = FREEDOM

Leave it to Mom to come up with a rockstar definition. I love it! And I feel it, with each sober anniversary. Freedom

Kristi and Smokey primevere flowers solex bike
photo by Jules. Sobriety is one of three themes in our memoir "The Lost Gardens" (the other two topics are marriage and starting a vineyard). If any of those themes interest you, please check out our book.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Listen to Jean-Marc read the vocab list:

Click here for the audio file

le santon = clay figurine, nativity figure
au pif = "by the nose" (by guesswork)
une larme = tear
salé = salty
le gruyère = swiss cheese
le jambon = ham
tarama = a pink-colored, fish roe-based creamy spread
le saumon fumé = smoked salmon
le sarrasin = buckwheat
une pièce d'or = a gold coin
le printemps = springtime
la chandelle = candle
le brocanteur, la brocanteuse = second-hand goods seller, antique trader

Brocanteur santons suze-la-rousse antique market
A brocanteur selling santons at an outdoor antique market in Suze-la-Rousse

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens