Raffoler: A Great Verb for Something You Love (such as dogs and cookies...)
Which is more noble: "l'equilibre"...or "la perfection"? (A Christmas Story)

Un Jour à la fois: One day at a time during the holidays + Tarte Tatin recipe

European Christmas decorations window display photo Kristi Espinasse
Take inspiration from these jolly characters, left, and hang in there when this holiday season speeds up! More words and encouragement in today's update.

Words in a French Life by Kristi EspinasseOffer a book this holiday season! Thank you for keeping my collected stories in mind for a French-themed Christmas present. Click here to purchase Words in a French Life or another book to put under the tree.

TODAY'S WORD: Un Jour à la fois

  : one day at a time

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

J’hésite. I am unsure as to what to share today. I've got Christmas on my mind, as do many of you, family, and a To-Do list I'm avoiding (nothing too important. Néanmoins…).

Heureusement, I also have the reminder that “today" all will be well. Even during the holidays… It is when I think of tomorrow, the rest of the week, la semaine prochaine, and Christmas Day that pressure sets in. When I recall my responsibilities beyond today things quickly superimpose one atop the other for an imminent, all-at-once effect and suddenly I'm feeling overwhelmed, dépassée

Un Jour à la Fois
I know the key is to take things one day at a time. And today there is a Tarte Tatin baking in my oven, a new/old dog napping on the couch, a husband working across the table from me, and my Mom peacefully sleeping in her studio on the side of our house. If Ricci gave us a scare a few weeks ago, it was Mom's turn to worry us next. Several weeks ago Jules experienced severe pain behind her left eye. Was it a migraine? Had she scratched her eye? A visit to the ophtalmo revealed Mom’s ocular pressure was high. "She's been seeing more and more floaters," I pointed out. The optician assured me they would not cause the "detached retina" Google had warned about. That was a relief—until recently—when the pain returned and Mom's vision fell like a curtain during intermission…. 

It was back to the eye doctor on Friday and a troubling report: Jules' eye pressure had more than doubled since the previous visit. Mom insists she has used the nightly medicated gouttes prescribed to her, but I’m not so sure.

Now she has three new medications to take and a thrice daily visit from "Sargent Kristi" to make sure they're taken. 

Health issues during the holidays are like unexpected guests: they can leave you scrambling. But when I keep things in the day, letting life unfold, everything tends to work itself out, often beautifully. In this moment I have the comforting warmth of a pie baking, the muffled bark of a dog dreaming, and the rattling of my husband's keyboard and my own here now as I type. Best of all, I have my beautiful Mom, who spends these days counting her blessings and, in so doing, inspires me to do the same.

One more thing that is helping this last month of the year: I've got my husband cooking and he is also taking Mom to her early-morning lab appointments, for a bimonthly prise de sang. Jules and Jean-Marc--the two are a dynamic duo and they love nothing more than to tease me as I chase them to the car, with a list of instructions on how to get through the next hour: don't forget this, and be sure to do that!

Even after the family car disappears around the corner, I’m left wondering if Mom could have had that glass of water before her blood test. Oh well, she’ll drink it when she gets home! 

I'm still working on "lâcher prise" or giving up control, and letting go. Life gives us so many chances to practice during the holidays, doesn’t it? How about you, dear reader, how is the end of 2023 going for you and yours? What is the temperature of your current mood? Thanks for sharing a few things you are grateful for in the comments, and, as always, any corrections to this post are welcome and appreciated. See you next week!

To leave a comment click here. Merci beaucoup!

Jules and Max
Photo archives. 2017. Max and his grandmother, Jules, when both lived in Mexico.


Click here to listen to the sound file

un jour à la fois
= one day at a time
J’hésite = I hesitate 
néanmoins = nevertheless, nonetheless 
heureusement = luckily, fortunately
la semaine prochaine = next week
dépassé(e) = overwhelmed
la tarte Tatin = upside down pie
ophthalmologue = eye doctor 
la goutte = drop
la prise de sang
= blood test
lâcher prise = letting go
le sapin de Noël = Christmas Tree

Tarte tatin recipe

When the holidays make life topsy-turvy, what better than to make this upside-down pie?

3 apples (I used "golden delicious)
2 TB sugar (more to taste)
a few dollops of butter

Sauté the quartered apples in the butter and sugar. Add some pinches of salt and spices, if you like. For the shortcrust pastry:

85 grams of butter (I used salted)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
1 tablespoon sugar (I skipped this)
1 cup flour

I discovered Paule Caillat's French Tart Dough via David Leibovitz's website. First, melt the butter in an ovenproof bowl for 12 minutes (or until the edges brown). Carefully remove the butter from the oven and stir in the flour, forming a ball. Transfer the ball to some wax paper then add another sheet on top before using a rolling pin to smooth out the dough, to roughly the size of your tart pan. 

Place the sauteed apples at the base of the tart pan, then carefully transfer the shortcrust pastry dough over the top. (I mixed chopped pecans into my pastry dough before rolling it out). Bake for 25 minutes at 210C (410F).

I was unable to flip my pie over for the presentation (it was a burnt sticky mess, let me know your tips for improving it). But it tasted good all the same with its caramelized apples with a crumbly short crust topping. It disappeared quickly!

European Christmas Noel window decorations

Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Tom D.
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Barbara B.
Holly R-J
Suzanne D.

Joyeux Noel Kristi. Your new dog is wonderful! Sheryl W.
Continued thanks for brightening my inbox. Always a smile to be found. Merci bien. Karen L.
Joyeux fêtes from Suzanne and Don and Loulou LOVE Ricci. . . love love love Ricci. Suzanne D.

Christmas lights in Bandol France
Le Sapin de Noël - Christmas tree above the port of Bandol. Happy holidays and take good care!

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Fay Plauche' Butler

This is my 85th Christmas and I would like to share my most valuable treasure - my family. What gifts they have been.

Best of all, is watching my son and his son start their own law practice together. Another is seeing a granddaughter follow in her banker/mother's footsteps and her brother making a name for himself at a large company. All are college graduates with advanced degrees and are credits to their communities for which I thank God on a daily basis.

God bless parents the world over and the children they are parenting.


Exactement what I needed to read this morning. Un jour à la fois indeed.

Sending prayers for Jules.. What a remarkable woman, as well as her daughter, son-in-law, et les no-longer petits enfants. I am grateful for your posts which I began following over twenty years ago. Hard to believe. I still treasure this.lien avec France, your talent for writing, and your sagesse.. Merci, Kristin. Joyeuses Fetes and Bonne Année 2024.

Linda Headrick

Kristi, I am grateful for a routine day with my family… My husband and our elderly pug. Prayers for Jules, and thank you for sharing the snippets of your life. I recently received from Amazon, your “Words in a French Life”, and look forward each night to reading some pages before I go to sleep!
Joyeux Noel!

Jennie Jordan

Kristi I am grateful for your regular posts that have become a valued part of my routine. It’s reassuring to read that faraway places can remind us of home and other families go through the same life cycles. And I am smiling because I, too, earned the moniker of Sergeant but mine was ‘Sergeant Brown Rice’ for being such an annoying stickler for whole grains! Thank you for the unusual pastry recipe….I’m going to try making that tarte tatin tonight.


At least your Tarte Tatin looks like one. My attempt at Thanksgiving was much worse...tasted good but the apples didn't caramelize . My recipe said to put a little milk in...that didn't work. It sort of turned into a falling apart apple pie. However I can help with the crust....go to the store or a bakery and get puff pastry sheets. Cut in a circle a bit larger than your pie tin, then lay two sheets at a time on top and brush with melted butter....tuck the edges down. I am going to conquer this one.

Karen in Northport, NY

Oh, so many blessings to count. Good friends, reasonably good health, reasonably comfy life, financially solvent and emotionally stable. It has not always been so and I appreciate my good luck and "deferred gratification" all the more having survived the hard times. Not to say there aren't still an assortment of worries but nothing dire at the moment. Good enough.
Re Jules. We're about the same age. Lost a lot of my vision a couple of years ago due to cataracts. It's scary. Had surgery, also scary. I'm back to driving safely at night again. Hang in there!!


Un jour à la fois. . . C’est toujours le bon conseil!
My adult son lives and works nearby. I am grateful for that and for my two sisters and their families. One lives nearby and the other visits me here à la plage and I visit her aux montagnes. Then there is my emergency response family for whom I am also grateful. We prepare for the stormy weather together and yesterday we got together for a holiday party. Since we all got new bright yellow helmets someone had the idea that our party cake should be in the shape of a bright yellow helmet! The helmet cake with raisins and yellow frosting was delicious!

Christine Webb-Curtis

I haven’t commented on your posts in ages, Kristi, but today’s post resonated with me and encourages me to put aside holiday anxiety and stress and enjoy my family and surroundings. It was just what I needed. I wish your mother well and maybe I’ll go and make a tarte tatin myself—and pretend I’m back in France. Joyeux Noël to you and yours.

Chris Cutler

Thank you Kristi. I'm new to your blog and loving your posts.
I've just published my first novel: in English. An Englishman invites his French girlfriend to supper. Mindful of le quart d'heure périgourdin she is suitably late. Much later, basking in the afterglow he whispers 'I thought you wouldn't come.' There follows an exchange based on the double entendre and their different mother tongues. All jolly amusing until I have to translate the passage for the French language edition!


You are doing the correct thing- taking a day at a time. When feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and allow oxygen to get to your brain. When stressed, the body tightens up preparing for reaction. Blood goes to the muscles and less to the brain, causing us to not think as clearly as possible. Deep breathing and taking a moment to calm the body will bring more oxygen to flow through the brain and will help clarify thinking. We forget to do that in times of stress. Give yourself breathing time especially during this holiday season. You are not in control of what happens to you, but are in control of your response to it. Blessings to you and your mother. Jo-Anne


Feeling confident that diligently taking the prescribed medicine will solve the problem! Get better soon, Jules! We all love you!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Susan. That is reassuring!

Kristin Espinasse

A very helpful reminder to breathe. Thank you, Jo-Anne, for the explanation too. I hope everyone reading this is taking a deep breath. 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! And congratulations on your novel. That is wonderful!


Kristi- what a great attitude and reminder after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we should continue with giving thanks throughout the year. A grateful heart is a merry heart! And how can we have a merry Christmas without a merry heart?
p.s. I really like the Christmas Cactus in the photo above (at least it looks like one). Nice photo!


Our dear Kristi,
What a(nother!) wonderful post,beautiful pictures( especially your tarte tatin--YUM!!),
And!AND! such super good vocabulary!!) THANK YOU!!
One Day At A Time is exactly what I needed to hear today.Particularly during the holidays I sometimes feel overwhelmed with challenges.
Your never failing inspiration really puts things in perspective.
Extra special prayers for Jules, and for
all of you.You are such a loving and devoted daughter-- and family--and I'm sure there could not exist enough words to express what a gift and blessing in life this is.
My beloved Mama died unexpectedly at 52,I was 20 then , and I still so miss her sweet presence in my life.Particularly thought provoking for me for when I turned 52 and could fully comprehend just exactly how very young that age is.(magnified even more now looking back from a 77 year old viewpoint!))
Joyeux Noel mes cheres.Arms tight around you all.

Merle Minda

Just a note about your mum's eye -- Kristi, a few years ago my husband needed emergency surgery as his retina was detaching and almost 98% detached! The problem? We were in SIngapore -- a long way from Minneapolis. Finding the right eye practice and eye surgeon was challenging in the middle of the night but by 10 am the next morning we were all set. The practice of Arthur Lim I Singapore, a huge practice with a fabulous collection of SE Asian art in their reception room, took us on. Roland was in surgery by noon and had a terrific result. He was about 85 at the time. So don't wait if your mom needs surgery. It's simple and easy to recover from. Good Luck. Bonne Chance!

Julie Farrar

Yep, don't we all need to learn the fine art of lâcher prise. Hoping the best for Jules.


Dear Kristi
I have subscribed to your lovely emails for quite some time, but until I read it today on my laptop instead of my iPad, I didn't realise quite how useful it would be. I have now started a Vocabulary Notebook, which takes me back to my A Level French days and my post-A Level Business French!
Thank you for this - you have renewed my enthusiasm, and I will definitely make use of this 'vocab' collection when I next have a 2-hour French conversation over un bon cafe with my lovely next door neighbour in May when we revisit our holiday home again in the Lot et Garonne.
Merci mille fois, et Bon Noel a tous! (sorry I don't know how to add accents without my iPad keyboard!)

Denise Givens

Saying a prayer for sweet Jules! I’ve read your emails / blog for so many years! One day at a time is all we can do, especially at this time of year. We are sad here as my mother in law was supposed to come to us for Christmas from Montpellier but she’s had to cancel due to a knee problem. Hugs to you Kristi!

Mary liz

You’re a loving and caring lady. Pretty sure that will never change.
You have captured the essence of selflessness … “ others”


At 80 I am thankful for each day I can spend with family. My brother passed away two months ago from pancreatic cancer. No signs, no warnings. So remember, love each day with each member of your family. Put the worry about decorating , getting presents, etc....if it gets done and it will give your family the best gift of all...LOVE.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Merle! I hope Mom does not have the same condition, but your note is so hopeful in case she does need surgery. Merci, merci!

Kristin Espinasse

Joie, I am so sorry about the sudden loss of your brother. Thank you for your thoughtful words to us all. Today, the best gift we can give it our love and our time! 

Kristin Espinasse

Sorry to read about the change of plans, Denise. Speedy
recovery to your mother-in-law.

Eileen Burns

Hi Kristi, Have Jules' doctor check for narrow angle glaucoma. I had the same symptoms. A quick and pain-free laser procedure fixed me up just fine....Hope this helps! MUCH LOVE, Eileen Burns

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Eileen. So helpful! Will ask the doctor on Moms next visit in three weeks. Much love back! xoxo

Kristin Espinasse

Aw, thank you, Mary Liz!!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, chère Natalia. That is too young an age to lose a mother. We need a mothers love, guidance, and support for as long as possible. I am thinking of a lovely video wherein a nearly 100-year-old mother is giving her 80-year-old daughter a cookie, and what joy it brings! Thankfully our family can extend to our friendships, and we can offer love, guidance, and support to each other. Your comments certainly do that. XOXO

Sue J.

Prayers for your dear Maman -- and for all your family.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Our life has become a matter of just getting through each day. Many of the crises in our lives of late have happened on holidays. I have become evermore grateful for those holidays as each one is now more and more precious.
How wonderful it is that Jules has a
safe, cozy space with a loving family as she faces challenges. I hope that she will be able to soon clearly see the shimmering tree lights and the glow of love around her. Our prayers are with your dear Mom.
When one considers what is truly important, and for some, being sustained by faith, it is somehow easier to try letting go…or as you so beautifully put it, letting life unfold…one day at a time ~


Un jour a la fois! Exactement!! Especially while recovering from flu and bronchitis - and Birthdays, Anniversary, Christmas all nipping at my heels! Loved your writing today (well, every day!) - just what I needed to be a bit more patient with myself. Thinking good thoughts about your Mom! Like one of your other readers, I have had laser eye surgery for my glaucoma and it helped a lot! Best to all of you in these busy, lovely holidays! Pet the dog, I always say - and the world rights itself!

Lynn at Southern Fried French

Merry Christmas, and bonne santé and bon courage to your mom. Here’s wishing you a nice, relaxing Christmas season. As a fellow blogger, I just loved the title and picture for your recipe. Hilarious! A truly honest recipe. And I’m sure it was delicious!

Leslie NYC

Eileen, I also had narrow angles, so I had an iridotomy in each eye as a preventive measure. It is probably the same laser surgery you mention. It keeps pressure from building up, preventing acute(sudden) glaucoma.
Anything having to do with the eyes makes me anxious, but I made a conscious decision to breathe deeply during the procedure and it was all fine. That calmed me. A miraculous treatment.
Kristi, I wish Jules and your family well.
I get very unbalanced during the holidays and will try your un jour à la fois advice. Merci.🎄❤️

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