Pompette: French for “tipsy” or “mildly drunk”
Pancarte: A Funny Sign Taped to the wall of our W.C.

Calin: A Hug in French, Family Reunions and My Break in the States

Dogs in golf cart
Some friendly characters encountered back in the Southwest, USA.

"The book’s chapters weave through the realities of being a mother, wife, and daughter living in an adopted country with different rules, cultural norms and language nuances." Read Carolyne Kauser-Abbott's review of Blossoming in Provence.


    : a hug

Rien ne vaut le sentiment d'être avec sa famille--et un câlin.
Nothing is worth the feeling of being with one's family--and a hug.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Salut! Ça va? My two-week congé is over and I am home now in France--back to the murmur of French, to the scent of the Mediterranean Sea, to bright yellow mimosa and extended family. Sunday's cousinade, or gathering with the cousins near Aix-en-Provence was a joyous occasion even if I am still queasy with le décalage horaire. Surely jetlag was responsible for the confusion when my aunt-in-law, Annie, said I could set down the dirty dishes dans le potager. Now for me, potager means "vegetable garden," but who am I to question the authority of une véritable countrywoman?

Balancing a stack of dessert plates I was headed to the garden when doubt stopped me in my tracks. This time I consulted Cousin Sabine…
"Dit, Annie tells me the dirty dishes go in the potager???"

"Ah," Sabine laughed, "Maman is referring to le comptoir! We call that le potager. Voilà dear reader, an old-fashioned term for you the next time you're referring to the kitchen counter!

I spent a lot of time at the kitchen counter--er, le potager--back in the States, where my daughter Jackie and I had the chance to spend time with our American family. This short and sweet réunion de famille began with a brief stop in Denver, where my sister Heidi nurtured us back from desynchronosis or time zone syndrome. While filling up on everything from homemade tacos to spaghetti and meatballs, I savored time with my nephew and niece, Payne and Reagan, who came home from college CU Boulder for a visit before Jackie and I ubered back to the airport, direction Californie. I was headed to the desert on a very specific mission: to hug my dad.

From cousinade to "calinade"
While family back home often reassure me the phone is marvelous technology, rien ne vaut une bonne câlinade--nothing compares to holding your loved ones close. So, after, several calins back in Colorado, it was time to hug a few more family members. My little sister, Kelley flew in from Washington State, followed by Heidi, and we spent 4 memorable days in Palm Springs with Dad and belle-mère Marsha, enjoying lots of time at le potager, chatting at the kitchen counter, and lots and lots of hugs! But the best was seeing Dad looking so fit, healthy, and happy, grâce à son épouse, Marsha, who is also a doting hostess to us girls. And it was great to finally enjoy our "coffee with Kristi" as Dad calls our father-daughter chats, in the same room instead of on different continents, technology permitting.

Over breakfast of fruit and Raisin Bran, I watched Dad toss blueberries directly from the carton into his bowl. "Dad, don’t you wash the pesticides off those berries?" My father smiled: “I think the body does a good job sorting these things out.  I'm not worried.” I like Dad's relaxed attitude and realize all the stress of keeping my food clean is more harmful than a handful of unwashed berries. It's these bits of no-nonsense wisdom—and Dad’s endearing presence I miss so much...and the fact I can’t see the blueberries--those little things he does daily that speak of his philosophie de vie. So I soak in as much together time as possible and make a vow with my sisters to visit more often.

While chasing each other in golf carts, accompanying Dad and Jasper to the dog Park, or gathering around the potager/comptoir…we all seized the chance to laugh, shed a few tears, and encourage each other. All of these are important for an expatrié, for anyone living an ocean apart from loved ones. Yes, the telephone is a marvelous invention (and Whatsapp and FaceTime, too) but those warm hugs are vital. Rien ne vaut un bon câlin!

COMMENTS - To read the comments or to leave one, click here. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my story.

Heidi Kristi Kelley Dad Marsha Jackie

Heidi, Me, Kelley, Dad, Marsha, and Jackie.

Kristi Heidi Kelley sisters
A sister sleepover, with Heidi (center) and Kelley (right)


First study the French terms below, then click here to listen to them

salut = hi
ça va = how are you?
la cousinade = reunion of cousins
le décalage horaire = time difference, jet lag
le potager = kitchen garden, kitchen counter (in old Provençal)
dit = tell me
la réunion de famille
= family reunion
la câlinade = a made up word for hug fest
le câlin = hug
la belle-mère = stepmother (can also mean mother-in-law)
la Californie = California
grâce à son épouse = thanks to his wife
la philosophie de vie
= life philosophy 
rien ne vaut = nothing equals 

With much appreciation for your donations to my French word journal. Merci beaucoup! 

Odile G.
Dan St G.

Sherry P.
Bill and Mary
Martha and Charles M.

Thanks again for your blog and amazing photos. Odile

I look forward to reading your stories and looking at the beautiful photos, and appreciate the time and care that you put into trying to make everything just right. Be of good courage! Peace and all good, Sherry

Love the blog and stories of life. It's also a good media for Martha & I to keep up with you folks. Thanks again for all the good reads. Charlie and Martha

Don't miss the story about my belle-mère, Marsha.
And a favorite memory "Joie de Vivre" about Dad's visit to La Ciotat

Desert landscape
In addition to seeing my family, the scent of the desert and its familiar landscape brought me back to my roots. This year marks 30 years since I said "I do" and permanently moved to France from the Arizona Desert.

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hi Kristi,
How fun and love all the photos! Looks like you had an amazing time with your family in the states!

Cerelle Bolon

Oh my, Kristi! What a BEAUTIFUL family you have! I am so glad you got to visit but I wish you had had a minute in Phoenix to drop by and see me, too. Ah well, but you weren't in Phoenix, were you? I am so glad you got to go see so many in your family and I sure know what it means to have REAL hugs! I am looking forward to the next ones from my cousins, coming here soon. Best wishes to you and thanks for this happy story; HUGS...

Suzanne Dunaway

Love your family...what a papa and yes, he looks very happy with his darling. Would love to know how "the States" felt after a long time away from the USA. Let's hope the Supreme Court shows its strength and keeps our democracy safe.

Angie Quantrell

I'm glad you had a wonderful time! Some of my favorite places - France, Colorado, and Arizona. Lovely!

Karen Cafarella

How wonderful to spend time with family. Love the pics.

Frances, Napa, CA

Such special times to be together with your family in the US. And to be with your dad and his wife with your sisters and your daughter. I am sure you were bursting with you and happiness. Thank you for sharing with us.

Leslie Hawai'i

I am house-sitting for my cousin's cousin and said hello to a neighbor, explaining how I was related. "Does that make you a Cous-cous?" she asked. I am in love with that phrase!

Kristin Espinasse

I love it!


Chère Kristi.
Ton écritue est très fort et plus engagante.
La variété de chiens mignons est adorable . J'adore le chien blanc.

dr abdul malik

tres interresant. Merci a vous.
Dr Abdul Malik
Toronto, Ontario. Canada.


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful and loving family!!( and what a wonderful family resemblance!!)
Today's post--as always-- wraps us in hugs,and! in my own case in particular, such joyful memories of my own reunions with loved ones.
Through your gifted words,the feelings which you so eloquently expressed for all of us,could not be more heartfelt.
Merci ma chere!!
Arms tight around you all.
Natalia. Xo

Susan Spring

Wonderful to know you're "back home" with family...and having hugs. Would have loved to have the audio for the pronunciation, and am sure I can find it elsewhere.

I have enjoyed your write-ups for years, and really appreciate learning more vocab with you, and hearing of your experiences in France.

In case you're interested...and I appreciate your awareness of natural and nutritious foods (as well as your love for your Dad and his wonderful free attitudes)...Pesticides are created to Stick. They don't wash off. And they are created to kill. So, we decide. Another drop in the bucket, or - avoidance. As a Health Educator and a Pesticide Reform activist for four decades, I encourage avoidance of pesticides.

And I care about you!
~ Susan


What a delightful post! How satisfying to be able to visit family so far away. You have some fantastic photos of all of you together. I hope you created many memories to fill your heart while you are apart. Loved the pix of the dogs in the golf cart! You have such an eye for a great picture.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Susan, I appreciate your input on pesticides. I thought soaking them in baking soda or vinegar removed them, but now I can see how they would stick (or even penetrate the fruits and vegetables). You have motivated me to plant a few vegetables this year! 

Aurelio Johnson

it's a heartwarming reflection on the power of connections and the beauty of family reunions across cultures. Your personal anecdotes beautifully illustrate the warmth and joy of being reunited with loved ones,

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)