Joyeux Noël: A Christmas Message from Kristi
Bonne et Heureuse Année: the language of a new year

La Canne à Pêche: A Highly Amusing (Economic & Time-Saving) Gift Exchange!

Ricci American shepherd sunrise Mediterranean sea green moss rocks
The moss on these rocks is "Christmas tree green" and the sea, dazzling at sunrise.


    : fishing pole

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The first gift on Christmas morning came in the form of sunrays. Clear blue skies and warm temperatures meant our extended family would be able to enjoy a festive meal on the terrace instead of crammed inside, some of us at the table, others seated sur les canapés. Last-minute switcharoos make me nervous, but moving the party outside would be worth the temporary dérangement.

When our daughter woke up she helped her father transport our heavy dining table out to the front porch and I quickly decorated it with the help of a green linen nappe (one my mom picked out years ago), pine cones, dried bougainvillea petals and the colorful crimson leaves from a wintering jasmine. 

With la dinde reheating in the oven (Jean-Marc cooked and carved the turkey la veille...) Jackie put together the amuse-bouches, ignoring my questions and concerns over quantity and timing. "Mom, I am calm. Do not stress me out." My daughter’s firm words prompted me to pause and experience some of her peace as she slowly rolled smoked salmon and herbed cream cheese into long ribbons of cucumber, arranging the bouchées artfully onto a platter before baking a tomato tart. Jackie was finishing up some guacamole when my in-laws began arriving, arms laden with food and wrapped gifts. Over the years I have learned to anticipate these helpful contributions, the challenge is finding available fridge and counter space to receive the generous offerings! Now that we have a dog, I am careful not to set down food haphazardly. So when my belle-soeur Mariem placed a large tray of Moroccan cookies on a bench I immediately re-routed dessert to the crowded stove top. "Ricci might like those," I explained. (Later on, we would learn our toutou liked the turkey resting on the end table... but Grandma Jules was quick to intervene: “Ricci! Down!”)

I wish I could report that I am getting better with entertaining but, for a so-called control freak, the chaos involved in hosting Christmas is, to put it mildly, déroutant. And now with a toutou tossed into the mix, it feels like a three-ring circus. As I try to ensure everything from a well-behaved dog to a fork with every plate (one of my family members regularly disrupts my careful table settings, using a fork or two to serve the meat!) the Powers That Be further shake things up by inserting into this madness a lot of "choses non-anticipés". 

Christmas on the terrace with family
Ma belle famille. My in-laws and family

One thing we did anticipate this year was gift overload. I settled on a one-gift-per-guest rule (each person brought one cadeau to be exchanged). It was my sister-in-law who came up with the idea to fish for the gifts. Jury-rigging a headless mop, a string, and an S hook, Cécile produced a formidable canne à pêche for our little treasure hunt.

Jules was the first to go fishing...immediately catching a coffee cup depicting the London Tower (a gift from Meissa who recently visited England). Next Mom passed the fishing pole to Jean-Marc et ainsi de suite… 

Jean-Marc caught an aperitif set….Cécile a pêché une livre sur Marseilles…Mariem hooked a bamboo electric toothbrush….Max reeled in some decadent truffles (wrapped in a lottery ticket!)… Jackie caught a soft blanket, Meissa hooked a giant candle, Farès fished a kitchen composter, Zachariah hooked a handpan drum…Jacques reeled in a fondu maker…and I made off with a spa massage for 2!

By now the joy and laughter was so contagious I forgot all about the dog, the forks, the timing or whatever else I was struggling to keep on top of…in time to experience one final gift of the day: le relâchement total. And, ahhh, did this feel good!

Bye for now, dear reader. Bon bout d’an as they say here. Thank you for another year of reading my journal. See you next year for a brand new chapter in this French life. 

Bien amicalement,
P.S. Click the arrow in the center of the image below to watch the 5-second video "Fishing for Gifts"


Click here to listen to the sound file
la canne à pêche = fishing pole 
le canapé = couch, sofa
le dérangement = disruption
la nappe = tablecloth
la dinde = turkey
la veille  = the night before
l’amuse-bouche = appetizer 
la bouchée = bite, mouthful
le toutou = doggy
la belle-sœur = sister-in-law
déroutant = disconcerting
la chose = thing
non anticipé = unforseen
le cadeau = present 
et ainsi de suite = and so on
le relâchement = loosening up, letting go
bon bout d’an = happy end of the year
bien amicalement = yours

Mille mercis to readers sending in a donation for the first time, and to those of you who regularly contribute to my journal. And thank you for your thoughtful notes. It is all so encouraging!

Al K.
Mel L
Jim S.
Lynn R.

Brad D.
Marcy W.

Thom B.
Rajeev B.
Linda H.
Diane O.
Marsha B.
Renee H.
Cerelle B.
Marlies W.
Danielle W.
Caroline M.
Maureen M.
Mary & Bill E.
Natalia, Rod et Les Mignons

Wishing you a Blessed Christmas. Diane O.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année à vous et votre famille, Kristi ! Maureen M.

God Bless you and your family and wishing you continued success and MUCH LOVE.

Merry Christmas to all! and to all a good night!! thank you for your open heart and kindness
. Marlies W.

Hi Kristi, I've been fascinated by your stories ever since you began your blog. I hope this helps along the way! Joyeux Noel! Caroline

Thank you for helping me remember and sometimes learn new French words and phrases. I can read technical French but day-to-day French is very different!
Brad D.

Chere Kristi, Thank you so very much for your generosity in sharing your life and photos ~ you are a good reminder of what's important in life. Love your reader's quote on 12/21, too. Merry Christmas, Kristi to you and your family. Love, Danielle W.

Thank you for all the joy you've brought me over the years! You help nourish the francophile in me which means you lift me up! Your writing and sharing bless me. May many blessings come right back to you in 2024!

To comment on today's post, click here. Thanks in advance for your notes. They are individually-wrapped gifts that I love to read.  Corrections are welcome and appreciated.

Read a story from 2008 about an awkward gift exchange involving a lavender wand and holy water from Lourdes.

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.

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


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Suzanne Dunaway

relâchement. Write that in CAPITAL LETTERS ON YOUR BRAIN...but even better swallow the word and let your body (a body that knows WAY more than a brain) take over to give you a calm, productive, non-demanding, enlightening and gentle New Year full of adventures.
Not in the French meaning...haha.
Adventures of the spirit.
That massage for two sounds just like the perfect start to 2024.
And my secret to you for ANY entertaining is FRITTERS. I can send you a basic recipe and you will never disappoint your guests.


Hi Kristi,

Looks like a wonderful time with family! I love the fishing for gifts! Isn't it such a joy to spend time with family?!

Blessings to you all!

Suzanne in Monroe, NJ

What a fun Christmas fete and a wonderful way to liven up the anonymous gift giving! Your feast sounds delicious. We feasted on smoked salmon also along with caviar, blinis, cheese with apricots and cranberries and grissini. Our Christmas dinner has been delayed to a friend's illness, so Christmas was very intimate and peaceful. So glad you could enjoy your family with the mild weather.


Merry Christmas to you and all your family. Looks like you celebrated the spirit of Christmas - which is always found in the heart. What fun fishing!! Reread Suzanne D. advice for 2024. Wishing you excellent health, lots of joy and love in 2024.

Diane Heinecke

Sending you and yours health and many blessings in the New Year, Kristi! What a fun idea: fishing for wrapped presents. I am the worst person to be around before guests arrive. I need to learn how to calm down. None of our families are nearby, so I can't hand the reins to anyone else. You have hosted guests from all over the world, besides large family groups. If you have any tips, I'm all ears. 👂👂


What a delightful idea for exchanging gifts! It looks like everyone was having a great time. Weather looked beautiful and what better way to enjoy the day than a feast outside! Your massage gift sounds perfect for you, especially after all the preparations and busyness of this season. I hope you enjoyed the day and will appreciate the relaxation that the spa will give. Let that restorative treatment be a wonderful way to begin the new year. Much happiness to all of you and a keynote for the year ahead. Jo-Anne


Our dear Kristi,
Oh(!) ma chere,thank you for another wonderful post,beautiful pictures,and tres utile vocabulaire!!!(really helps us!)
Kristi, you truly are an inspiration and have the most
Incredible way of putting things into perspective.
If anyone can entertain that many people,complete with delicious food,fun( fishing for gifts!)and very especially such true consideration for everyone's feelings,oh my goodness!!, it most definitely is YOU!!
Wishing you and your gorgeous family every blessing of health of happiness.Our New Year will definitely be enriched by your words and your presence.
Arms around all of you.
Natalia. Xo

Frances in Napa, CA USA

Thank you for your writing and humor and sharing. I love the idea of fishing for presents! Happy New Year to you and your family!


Merry Christmas Kristi, and a very Blessed in Jesus New Year to all!!
My thanks to you for all of your sharing of your ups and downs and joys, too!!
God bless, C-Marie

Jeanine Woods

Bon bout d’an Kristi! Merci pour votre histoire de Noel chez vous. Quand vous êtes l’hôtesse, c’est c’est inévitable d’avoir stress. Je suis content que vous et votre famille avaient de bons temps avec l’amusement de la canne à pêche et les cadeaux ! Pour moi, Noel était formidable mais j’étais l’hôtesse, alors, il y avait le même stress ! Je suis toujours content quand les fêtes de la fin d’année sont finies. Bon année a vous et votre famille, Kristi !


J’adore la canne à pêche vidéo, Kristi! Mille mercis pour une nouvelle jeu de Noël! Amitiés, Joanne


Oops!, C'est "LE NOUVEAU jeu" au lieu de la nouvelle. Je suis tellement désolée!

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