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Entries from January 2024

Congé: A word for when you take a break from work/business

Vroom! A zippy reminder this blog is on congé, or break. See you in two weeks. Enjoy a few cartes postales from La Ciotat until this Ciotadenne returns….

Surf twingo

Many thanks to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation during my congé. Your support means a lot!

Julie S.
Karen F. 
Betty M.
Janice H.

Glad to do it. I love your site. Keep it up, please. Julie S.



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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Bien Joué! Why Jackie is leaving Lyon

Coiffure hair salon french village
Today, find out why my daughter was at the hairdresser's when she should've been on her way to FINAL EXAMS! 

Note: After today's post this journal will go on break thru February 8th.


    : well done!, good job!, way to go!
    : well played

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I really want to learn a new thing, I do not know what I am interested in, though. UI/UX design? Being a certified therapist? Fashion? So much that I can or could be. Should I pretend to be someone until I am this person?

The above is an excerpt from a letter our daughter wrote one year ago. I am happy to announce we are all rejoicing now that she has passed her examen oral in Lyon—la dernière étape in a race to earn her BAC + 3, or bachelor's degree in one year. Bien joué, Jackie! You did it! You hunkered down, put your doubts and fears behind you, and traded your bartender apron for a student’s cap. Then you proceeded to wow us all! Tu nous as bluffés.

I admit when you shared you were going to study UX/UI design, I was doubtful: did you say computer coding was part of the curriculum? I had similar misgivings when you dropped out of fashion in Toulon to go to bartending school in Miami. But if there’s one thing about you it’s this: once you know what you want, your determination follows. I watched you line up everything, lightening speed: you located un logement in Lyon, turned in all your papers at le pôle emploi (to the stellar counselor who found you this intensive program and knew could do it), packed your belongings, sold some things and once again headed off into the unknown in search of who you might become.

Then, the first setback. After quitting your job, you got a call informing you you were rejected from the program! Was this a sign? Some of us here at home whispered we didn’t think computer design was right for you, but you remained calm. You called the director to ask, Why? You told him you were very interested in this program and to please reconsider your candidature. Meantime you looked for a last-minute employment and tried to stay out from underneath that cloud that forms above you during transition time, dark as the inside of a cocoon before the butterfly struggles out and takes flight.

Friends talked you into a weekend getaway. You had just landed in London when your phone rang at the airport. You almost ignored the call, but finally answered. It was the school director. Having had a second look at your dossier, he decided to give you a chance. Class started in less than a week!

You hung up the phone and quickly called back the rental company. The room was still available! You flew home and boarded the train to Lyon.

You were the first to arrive at the renovated house-turned-apartments in Villeurbanne, never suspecting the strangers now filing into the common space (it was their first night in these new digs too) would become friends for life: a young doctor from Saudi Arabia, a computer programmer, a student musician, 2 nurses, a nuclear engineer, a biochemist, a dental hygienist, a logistics specialist, a shop manager/wedding photographer, and an agronomist (ahem, a weed producer).

You had me laughing when your biggest concern the first day of school was switching out your rickety chair for the one across the classroom you’d already set your sights on. I now see it as a metaphor….

At 25, you always considered yourself un mauvais élève: a dreamer with severe test anxiety. But you set your mind on overcoming these obstacles and soon you had that chair, and more. You wasted no time choosing your project (your mock business was a cruise company for seniors, and you threw your heart, soul, and sweat into designing your logo, your app, your webpage, and interviewing seniors (your grandparents included).

The calendar ahead was challenging, 3 years of work crammed into one--including an internship (it was up to you to find the company, dar dar!). Six months into the program and the pressure was unbearable: you wondered how you were going to turn in your preliminary report, finish your internship at the PR company, print out all your work in a series of booklets, and create your PowerPoint presentation. C’était la mer à boire! A bitter and impossible feat!

When in the 11th hour you had a panic attack at the PR office and an ambulance took you to ER you might have had a good reason to call it quits….after all, was this accelerated program worth the toll it was taking on your nervous system?

Back home we held our collective breath. “Jackie is tough! She's a Marcus!” Grandma Jules reminded us. Meantime, there in Lyon, your roommates rallied around you, gathering in your shared living room to hear you practice your 50-minute speech for your final exams before un jury. They took notes and shared “improvements”. 

You made it home for a needed rest at Christmas. After 4 days you wasted no time returning to Lyon. You had to find un imprimerie to print out your project, including 4 bound reports, or the 200 pages you had carefully written, and present it before the real jury. You buckled down to business and we did not hear from you again. Le silence radio…

On January 10th you called me unexpectedly. I braced myself as it was your exam day.  "Hi Mom, I'm on my way to the hairdresser’s."

“The hairdresser’s? But shouldn’t you be cramming for your exam?”

Your voice on the other end of the line was so peaceful. Now that you had finished your internship and turned in your work, the intense pressure had subsided. As for your presentation for your oral exam, you knew your subject like the back of your hand. Speaking of which…

“I also got my nails done,” said you. Je vais mettre toute les chances de mon côté. I’m putting all chance on my side and presentation is important!

Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and I hung up the phone with a big smile on my face. I knew right then you would be OK.

Still, I held my breath until you called back that afternoon.... Ça y est. C’était bien passé!”

“Well, what did they say?”

”They said I'm ready to do a master’s!”


Voilà, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this happy update. Jackie is still waiting for the official news, the confirmation that she will receive her certificat (incredibly it is the equivalent of à BAC +3 diplôme) from the vocational school in Lyon. Meantime she finished the challenging UX/UI design program, having met all of the requirements. Bien joué, ma fille! You got that chair and now you’ll get the graduation cap!

Jackie at the hair salon
Jackie at the salon in Lyon, finally feeling ready for her examen oral.

I love reading your comments and learning more about you with each note. Also, you can join me in congratulating Jackie! To leave a comment, click here.

Jackie, left, during her internship at a PR firm in Lyon. After this, she had a few weeks to turn in her final project. And in January, stand before the jury for her oral presentation.

Jackie (right) and her roommates. They shared many meals together and Jackie insists she would never have made it without their care and attention. 

Don't miss the soundfile.

Click here to listen to the French terms below

bien joué! =
good job!
la derniere étape
= the last step
BAC + 3 = bachelor degree
tu nous as bluffés = you blew us away
un logement = accomodation, housing
le pôle emploi = the employment center
un mauvais élève
= a bad student
dar dar = right away
C’est la mer à boire = it’s like drinking the entire sea, no small feat
un jury = examinations board
une imprimerie = printer's
le silence radio = radio silence
mettre toutes les chances de son côté = to put all chance on one’s side

Sincere thanks to these readers who recently sent in a website donation. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal! --Kristi

Joan S.
Walt S.
Mike P.
Patricia S.
Suzanne R.

Bonne année, Kristi! —Mike 

Your journal is a lovely combination of everyday family happenings with many useful phrases and new words to learn. It is well written and I look forward to reading it on Thursdays.  I also enjoy your instagram postings. —Joan

Ricci, receives some scratchies while Jackie rests and enjoys the Australian Open tennis match. 
Reading via email? For the link to the comments box, click here.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

S'Enfuir: To Flee in French: Startled or spooked, our new dog ran away in a panic

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: to flee

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Following last week’s missive “locals helping locals,” I could not imagine the favor would be returned so suddenly… Here is the extended version of a post shared on Instagram, after our dog escaped. 

“Partie comme une fusée” Off like a bullet

After Jean-Marc left for Le Beausset Saturday, to help a friend plant grapevines, Ricci and I strolled to our neighborhood marché paysan, to buy fruits and vegetables. I'm going to take it easy today. Make a hearty lunch, and relax this morning, I thought to myself, already feeling peaceful. In the parking lot where our farmer's market pops up weekly, I struggled with a few baskets of produce while managing my dog. I decided to briefly attach Ricci to one of the fold-out tables, where all the produce baskets were resting. Beneath a giant plane tree, I was chatting with a vendor when un bruit soudain startled my dog...

The noise sent Ricci fleeing from the table. The clasp of her harness having snapped, Ricci took off like a bullet! I watched in horror, feeling like the one who had pulled the trigger. How could I have taken that risk! Why hadn't I tied her more carefully? I dropped my panier and shot out of the municipal parking lot.

Ricci careened towards traffic, her leash bobbing along the narrow trottoir, pursued by frantic me. I heard the cars in the roundabout screech to a halt as our frightened dog cleared the two-lane road in front of La Pharmacie Saint Jean. (Oh Saint Jean--patron saint of shepherds, where were you went my little berger ran off?)

Shooting down the sidewalk, cars passing her closely on her left, the fugitive startled a few walkers who did a double-take when next they saw me flying by. Ma chienne! Ma chienne! Two hairdressers enjoying une clope in front of the salon de coiffure locked eyes with me as I darted past. I could feel their concern and picked up my step. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I saw every detail, even if my eyes were fixed on the champs de vision into which my spooked dog had vanished.

Clipping past the surf shop, la fleuriste, and the boulangerie that just went out of business… I charged after my little dog, clunk-clunk-clunk in my daughter’s riding boots, one size too big. Barely slowing to look both ways, I shot across two lanes to reach the promenade and kept running when my legs began to slow....
Things were looking bleak.

RICCI! RICCI! RICCI! my shouting turned to muffled pleas… oh please! oh please! oh please! …God please! With Ricci out of sight, my words were more a mantra than a calling, a means to tame the terror I felt inside, to drown out other words that told me my dog might soon be crushed by a car.

I passed several walkers who were unaware of the drama unfolding and only saw a deranged woman babbling in bad French. Ma chienne s’est échappée! Ma chienne s’est échappée!

I ran a few blocks further and...there she was! Down on the beach. My heart filled with hope. This is the usual spot where we play drop and run (I drop down at a distance and Ricci charges across the beach into my arms. But just when it looked like this nightmare was over, Ricci, panicked and fled

Ricci american shepherd running on the beach
Attrappez ma chienne! Attrapez ma chienne si vous plaît! I thundered from the sidewalk, but a dozen swimmers preparing to brave the cold January waters did not understand the deranged foreigner shouting from the boardwalk. 

Ricci shot up to the digue, disappearing yet again. I had missed my chance. Oh God I missed my chance! Would it be the only one? She was now headed to the busy roundabout where traffic picks up.  Ricci! I cried in vain.

My mind reeled: why is she running away from me--her big sheep? In the 3 months since I brought her home from the farm, she's herded me like un brébis. More than a little shepherd, Ricci is a Velcro dog, a veritable pot de colle. She is my complete shadow. I know she was spooked but why was she still running away from me? Did she feel she could no longer trust me? Did she, when I tied her to that table and next she heard a POP!!….did she mistake it for an attack?

Vous avez vu ma chienne? Ma chienne! I shouted to anyone listening. "She went that way, past the telephone booth," a man said, but my gut told me he was mistaken. Another man arrived in time to point me straight ahead. Arriving at the one-mile marker in this unexpected sprint, gathering what force remained in my 56-year-old legs, I took off again, with a new mantra gurgling out of me:

JESUS, I BEG YOU! JESUS, I BEG YOU! I didn't care if I sounded like a mad-dashing religious fanatic. Or that faith is something you keep to yourself. Nothing mattered anymore except a miracle, an intervention, the hand of God in this impossible matter.

La Dernier ligne droit-The Final Stretch

Just when all hope was lost the man from the vegetable stand sped past me on his electric trottinette. I thought he had dropped out of the race a while back, but no! Here he was and I knew, I just knew, he would find her. He spotted her another block ahead and managed, along with a few others to corral her back around until, HOLY MOLY!, she was now running to me! (Study, for a moment, the photo at the opening of this post. Right there, pile-poil where you see the umbrella, is where our ecstatic reunion happened.)

In case my little fugitive was still under the spell of panic that set her rocketing across the bay, I dropped, threw my arms out as wide as they could stretch, and grabbed her as she ran up. Whether a miracle of miracles, or a simple answered prayer, my sweet, scared dog was guided safely back to me. Oh, Ricci!


Thanks to all who helped along the way-to the jogger who immediately sped up, to the merchant who dropped his vegetable cart and hopped on his trottinette, to the walkers I could barely see in the far-off distance who reached for my dog. THANK YOU! And if you are a Ciotaden, a local, and you saw a madly wild woman screaming REE-CHEE! GOD HELP ME! You now know this saga had a happy ending. The moral of the story is: no matter how cautious we are will our animals, when their innate instinct for survival kicks in, they are out of our control. The best we can do is count on the goodwill of others, who care and who take the time to help. Merci! Merci beaucoup! Even if I did not get a chance to thank you-dear jogger, dear walkers-I saw you and you are everything! Finally, please visit the Farmers market in the St Jean quarter, open weekend. Adrien, the owner's son, now runs it. But he dropped everything this morning to help us!

With 3.5 year old Ricci. (Photo taken one day before she fled.) Last week marked 3 full months since we brought Ricci home from the farm where she was destined to be a breeder. After "one or two" portées (litters), the owner put her up for sale in the classifieds. Jean-Marc found her there and the rest is history... and now a lovely future, we trust!

To comment on today's post, click here. Merci d'avance!


Click here to listen to all the vocabulary in French and English

pile-poil = exactly, right
s’enfuir= to flee, escape
Partie comme une fusée = off like a rocket
Le Beausset
= town near Bandol
le marché paysan = farmers market
un bruit = noise
soudain = sudden
les fruits = fruits
les légumes = vegetables
le panier = basket
le trottoir = sidewalk
le berger = shepherd 
la clope = slang for cigarette
le salon de coiffure = hairdresser’s
le champ de vision = field of vision
le chien (la chienne) = dog
ma chienne s’est échappée! = my dog got loose
la digue
= seawall, embankment 
la brébis = sheep
attrapez ma chienne! = grab my dog!
le pot de colle
= pot of glue, a clingy dog
la trottinette = kick scooter
le Ciotaden, la Ciotadenne = one from La Ciotat 

Mille mercis to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps me going and I am truly grateful!

Nan D.
Joan S.
Mona S.
David O.
Sharon B.
Valerie Z.
Natalie A.
Edward D.
Josephine H.

Keep up the wonderful work. Merci beaucoup. --Sharon

Bonjour Kristy. J'ai suivi votre newsletter depuis des annees. Vos mots sont toujours une inspiration. Merci et bonne continuation. Nan

I really enjoy your journal and all the beautiful photos.  Thank you for sharing your life with us! Joan

Dear Kristi, Thank you for continuing to share so much of yourself and your life in France. I enjoy having an ongoing French connection. Wishing you and your dear family a healthy and not-to-stressful new year. Jo

Ricci and Jean-Marc at Plage Lumiere
Ricci and Jean-Marc playing Catch Me If You Can! our favorite game, even if Ricci didn't respond that time. When we panic, we forget so much--even the things we know so well!

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Thank you for reading today's offering. If you haven't already, click here to verify your email subscription and continue receiving this weekly letter. (Alternatively, you could leave a comment to this post. Your click alerts my listserver to your "active" status, ensuring you won't be swept off the distribution list along with "inactive" accounts. Ah, the wonders of artificial intelligence--which does not always get it right!  

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Bonne et Heureuse Année: the language of a new year

Kristi and Ricci American Shepherd
With Ricci, New Year's Day 2024. I love her from her nose down to her sweet toes! In today's story, a kindness from strangers gets the new year off to a meaningful start.

TODAY'S WORD: Bonne et heureuse année

    : Good and happy year

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

”L’Abreuvoir — The Little Water Trough”

Bonne Année! Meilleurs Voeux! Surtout la bonne santé! Entering our local supérette for some fresh milk and eggs, I see the shopkeepers huddled around the caisse, bright smiles on their faces as they deliver cheery New Year's greetings. This jolly outpouring reminds me of one more blessing in the new year: all of the familiar faces of our neighborhood and all of the local commerces that we sometimes take for granted. 

We learned our colorful fishmonger has finally gone out of business and what a great loss to our quartier.
"C'est dommage," I say to Jean-Marc. "After all that work I hope the couple are following their dream to retire in Spain!”

"Do you want to open a poissonnerie?" Jean-Marc teases me.

"Mais bien sur que non... c'est juste que...."It's just that I’m sad they are gone, and I regret not visiting them more often. Poissonerie Chez Laure, we hear, will be replaced by a rôtisserie and, as much as we love roast chicken, dans les parages there are now four commerces de volailles rôties.... plus de poisson!

Tant pis! We cannot begin 2024 with regrets. Better to start the year with les bonnes intentions. So on New Year's Day, towards the end of our morning walk, I invited Jean-Marc for coffee and a croissant at Plaza Beach. Daily, we pass by this café along the seafront and wave bonjour to Matthieu, le patron, but we never stop to order anything. (We did give Matthieu some business when my sister, Heidi, was here, last summer, when our smala--including Jules--gathered there several times for l'apéro. I have happy memories with my niece and nephew, and Matthieu spoiling us with an elaborate cheese platter.) 

If one New Year's Goal is to give our locals more business, another is to let them know they are appreciated. "Bonne Année!” I said to Matthieu as we sat down with our dog. “We don't come here often enough but I wanted you to know that what you are doing is impressionant! (Indeed, from a little hole in the wall, Matthieu has created an extended terrace café. He must cross the busy boulevard dozens of times each day to reach it from his tiny local beside the surf shop. “We see you working so hard every day. Do you ever sit down?"

As awkward as the delivery might have been (did they sound patronizing?), my words were rewarded with a warm smile and a confidence: “Si je m’assois je ne pourrai pas me relever. If I sit down I won’t be able to get back up!” And like that, our barista was off to cross the busy road once again and fire up the espresso machine.

Moments later Matthieu returned with some fresh water for Ricci. Despite all the tables he was tending, he stopped to bring our dog a refreshment!

That bowl of eau fraiche, delivered as it was, unexpectedly, in an empty ice cream carton, struck a few chords inside of me. As over-sentimental as it sounds, it touched my heartstrings. It was a small detail, the little water trough, but it was meaningful.

Out over the waterfront, sunrays dazzled the surface of the sea, mirroring a hopeful feeling inside of me. Meantime, the little water trough held its own sparkle, and it skipped across the water’s surface, like one kindness pursuing another: our own and that of the receiver-turned-giver. An endless cycle of goodwill, born simply of intention.


Bonne et heureuse année dear reader, and in case I don’t tell you often enough, you mean a lot to me. Your weekly presence is that sparkle on the surface of the sea, a light that guides me and keeps me writing. 



Plaza Beach
Matthieu's tiny local. We also stopped by for ice cream, last summer, with my niece Reagan. En face, or across the way, Matthiew has a large outdoor terrace with tables and chairs facing the seafront.


Click here to listen to the vocabulary words in French and English

une bonne et heureuse année = a good and happy year
l'abreuvoir (m) = water trough, watering place
bonne santé = good health
la supérette = convenience store
la caisse = checkout, till; cash register
le commerce = business
le quartier = part of town, neighborhood
c'est dommage = it's too bad
la poissonnerie = fish shop, fishmonger
mais bien sûr que non = of course not
c'est juste que = it's just that
la rôtisserie = rotisserie
commerce de volailles rôties = roast poultry business
dans les parages = in the area, in the vicinity
plus de poisson = no more fish
tant pis = oh well
le patron (la patronne) = the owner
le local = unit, space, room
la smala = large family, brood
l'apéro (m) = pre-dinner drink
si je m’assois je ne pourrai pas me relever = if I sit down I won't be able to get back up
l'eau fraîche (f) = fresh water

Sincere appreciation to those making a donation in support of this journal--and for taking the time to send it. 

Jim S.
Lynn R.
Linda H.
Ginny R.

Marcy W.
C-Marie P.

Carmen C.
Adrienne C.

Thanks for sharing your journey. Your words and experiences enrich my life. Wishing you and yours all the best for 2024! --Carmen

I have been with you for so long you feel like a dear friend. Thank you for continuing to share with your readers. I wish you and your family a new year filled with peace, joy and adventure! Adrienne

I finished reading “Words in a French Life”, and currently reading “Blossoming in Provence”.  Some of your stories have me laughing out loud (in bed at night)!  Always look forward to your weekly email. Amicalement, Linda


SUNDAY marked 12 weeks since this 9-kilo bundle of wonder came to live chez nous. Thank you, Ricci, for enriching (and energizing) our lives! 

Jean-marc and ricci on the flat rocks la ciotat

I leave you with a short clip, below, filmed on New Year's Day. Click the arrow in the center of the image, below, and for more pictures please follow me on Instagram.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety