Trouvaille: Surprise in the garden & a funny adage for not worrying what others think about you
Convoquer: Leap of Faith & Mom goes into the Hospital

Banderole & A Warm Welcome Home to Jean-Marc

Look who's back! Jean-Marc has returned from New Zealand. Today, read about the sweet reunion while learning several new French words and phrases. Photo taken on Tongariro.


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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On the eve of American Mother’s Day (which differs from La Fêtes des Mères here in France if only by the date) our matriarch Jules was up all night, busy contemplating the sky. Lying in her cozy bed, gazing out la baie vitrée beyond the pine trees to a patch of sky blanketing our sleepy seaside town, Mom was guessing the exact celestial location of her beau-fils, who, after 3 months away, was en route from New Zealand to France.

“I didn’t sleep all night!” Mom said, excited to see her “Number 1 Son” as she calls him. It was rare for Mom to appear on my doorstep before noon, but this was not a normal day. “What time will he be here?!” Jules pressed.
“Mom! I’ve told you many times. Jean-Marc touches down in Marseille at 10:15 a.m. By the time he goes through immigration, collects his bags, clears customs, and meets Max for the drive home, it will be noon.”

“Grandma, I need your help with the Welcome Home banner,” Jackie said, diverting her grand-mère’s attention. It was my daughter’s idea to create une banderole, but we didn’t have many craft supplies and we were running out of time. Shouldn’t we put our energy into something more reasonable—like making dessert for our reunion lunch?

“Oh, Mom. Come on! We’ll figure it out. Where are the felt tip pens?” 
“They’re upstairs,” I relented. “I’ll get them….”

Motion has a way of stirring creative thought and by the time I reached the top of the stairs, boom! It hit me. A roll of wax paper. Ça fera l’affaire! Returning with the pens, I grabbed some papier de cuisson from the drawer beneath the microwave and unrolled 4 feet of wax paper.

“Will you write the sign?” Jackie asked.  
“But you are the one with the pretty handwriting!” Realizing this was no time to dawdle, I accepted the honor and sketched the words “Welcome Home” in all caps before grandmother and granddaughter went to work decorating l’affiche. Jackie drew the mountains Jean-Marc had climbed (Taranaki and Tongariro) on one side and, in the center, she doodled a partial world map joining France and New Zealand via a dotted line with an airplane flying midway along les points.

Jules, who normally paints scenes using her palette knife, paused for several moments holding a foreign object in her hand: a Sharpie. To Mom, a pen was something you wrote with; nevertheless, she painted, this time, with words:

“Jean-Marc is the Greatest Son in the World!” she exclaimed, in one stroke, and “I love my beautiful son!! XOXO Mom” in another. A final flourish read, simply “I love you” (enclosed in a pink heart). 

A bright yellow orb shone from the right side of la banderole. Beside le soleil the words SO PROUD OF YOU! summed up our collective message. Finally, to the lower right, I carved out an old-fashioned heart with our initials JM + K. Voilà our heartfelt banner–and there I’d thought it would be a complicated project. Sometimes you’ve got to trust in la spontanéité. Speaking of which…the queen of spontaneity had an idea:

“Here, take my credit card and go buy some of those little patisseries at the baker!” Just like that, Jules had graciously solved our dessert dilemma. Meantime, Jackie could not find any balloons but located some sparklers and attached them to a bottle of rosé to be carried out as the family sang Bienvenue, Papa! 

We had just pulled everything together, including the cake run, when we heard voices in the garden--and those weren't the neighborhood cats. Max came in first, in time to hurry over to la banderole and add a final message for his dad: it read “Vigneron du monde!” (Worldwide Wine Maker!) En effet, if Jean-Marc had left for New Zealand in the first place, it was for more than climbing mountains, he was there to help a team of winemakers as well as to reach new summits in his own wine path: he even managed to make 50 liters of rosé on the side. (Unfortunately, there was too much sugar in the grapes or this would have been his 5th batch of Ephemera: a series of ephemeral wines he makes now and then, from various locations: Willamette Valley, OR,  USA, Etna, Sicily, Italy, and Provence, France).

His own ephemeral journey over, here he was now, in the flesh, our Chief Grape! He had dropped 4 kilos but that mischievous grin was bigger than ever as he stood there on the threshold of our home. Ricci ran up, and we all held our collective breath. Would she recognize the disheveled voyager? After all, we had recently adopted her before Jean-Marc left for New Zealand. 

Our little shepherd approached cautiously until a warm recognition came over her. Ça y est. Son maitre était de retour! With that, the room erupted in cheers:

“Bienvenue, Papa!”
“Welcome home, Chérito!”
“There’s my son!”
“Woof! woof!”

Jean-Marc’s eyes glassed over as he hugged each of us, deeply touched by the warm welcome. “Merci pour ce chaleureux accueil. Merci, merci, c’est gentil,” he repeated, his voice full of emotion. In the distance, the colorful banner added extra cheer, reminding me of the spontaneous joy that comes from following a loving hunch. Bravo, Jackie, for the symbolic banderole. It will be a tradition from here on out, wax paper and all!


Post Note: After the heartfelt reunion everyone ran to the beach to jump into the sea—everyone, except Grandma, Ricci, and me. As my husband often reminds me, "Just do what you want to do!" Chacun fait ce qu’il a envie de faire! I leave you with that little bit of Chief Grape wisdom, along with a touch of my own (learned from a French grammar teacher in college): “There are exceptions to every rule.” Do what you want to do—go to the party or don’t if you don’t want to, but know when you must go.

This is how my husband and I were able to give each other the freedom to pursue our personal interests these past three months. He climbed mountains, and I dove deep into my own challenging and rewarding pursuits, including writing and caring for my Mom. This together-apart fusion reminds me of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.”

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. 

IMG_2634_OriginalJackie and Jules, our resident artists working on the Welcome Home banderole. All that was missing was a paw print from Ricci! What could we have used for that? Half a beet? Spontaneity says It's not too late to add it now.

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Jean-Marc and Ricci swim
Jean-Marc and Ricci's reunion, followed by our dog's first swim!  


Click here to listen to the French words and expressions banderole

La Fête des Mères = Mother's Day

la baie vitrée = bay window

le beau-fils = son-in-law

la grand-mère = grandmother

une banderole = a banner

la spontanéité = spontaneity

le soleil = the sun

le papier de cuisson = wax paper

l’affiche = the poster

les points = the points (the dots)

Vigneron du monde = Worldwide Wine Maker

Ça fera l’affaire = That will do the trick

Ça y est = There it is

Son maître était de retour = Her master was back

Chérito = (a term of endearment, similar to "dear" or "darling")

le chaleureux accueil = warm welcome

Chacun fait ce qu’il a envie de faire = Everyone does what they want to do

Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction = Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction

Félicitations, Chief Grape, for following your dreams to New Zealand and making wine.

Jean-Marc is back and ready to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him to reserve a date at [email protected]

Jean-Marc on the top of Taranaki. Where will he go next?

Kristi and Jules cruise
Wait! Maybe it's time for me and mom to travel next! (I'm only dreaming. We are still waiting for Mom's health insurance to renew so she can get to the bottom of her current health issues. So I have made this hopeful poster/dream board of the two of us, to look at until this dream comes true!)

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


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Grace mcKee

If I may say, as an artist, it is a palette (not pallet) knife. Enjoy having your husband back!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Grace. I appreciate your help. Off to fix it now. 💕


Always lovely to have a warm welcome Home.

I adores Kahil Gibran's words On Marriage... it is so beautiful to have freedom in relationships/relating:

My favourite words from the Poem

let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Welcome Home Jean-Marc!

Trina in St. Petersburg, FL, USA

What a delightful story, Kristi! Here's to a speedy renewal of health insurance for Jules & a speedy recovery! Those words by Kahil Gibran that Kristina wrote are beautiful. His poetry was a favorite of both my mom's & her eldest sister. They learned that about each other when they discovered they both had the same book.

Diane Heinecke

Welcome home, Jean-Marc! What a reunion. Loved the preparations and all the photos in today's post. Blessings to all of you! On to the next adventure?


Hi Kristi,
Thanks for sharing your reunion! What a lovely welcome home for JM!
Were you all able to see the Northern Lights? I saw so many photos of them! Love the words from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry!
Have a great weekend!

Kristin Espinasse

Eileen, We did not see the Northern Lights, but we heard they were visible from La Ciotat.


Hi Kristi. Loved the welcome home post. Sweet family reunion for sure. Speaking of travel, I took my first trip abroad in 5 years. COVID, etc etc. Went to Mallorca with Tessa for a wonderful watercolor trip. May Jules and you sail the seas (or fly over them) soon. ❤️

Nan Reinhardt

Kristi, I've been a fan for years, but haven't commented much. Your fond welcome home for Jean-Marc warmed my heart on a day when warmth is exactly what I need. Trying hard to get an editing gig done today and also get words written on my latest book, which is due to the publisher on August 1, and yet feeling sad and out of sorts. You are always an inspiration and a joy. Bisous toujours et merci pour le soleil!


Saint-Exupery works for all of life's moments, big and small..


What a wonderful collaboration of creativity! A joyful reunion and appreciation of each others unique talents and the grace to be able to pursue them. Much happiness to all of you

Ronald Holden

Wouldn't a French person say, of a dog's owner, that he's the dog's Patron, rather than Maître?


Your writing brought out the emotional joy of your reunion. Happy for you all. Sweet of you to share.


Our dear Kristi,
Once again( and as always!) your beautiful words filling this post filled with love just wrapped themselves around our hearts.
Such a joyful reunion,one that absolutely reminds us that indeed,life is a gift ,that's why it' called the present(!!!)
And! Also! a ( prophetic)coincidence of the most meaningful kind,that when reading Jean Marc's wisdom "chacun fait ce qu'il a envie de faire",I was reminded of the same excellent advice given by my dear brother George to newlyweds Rod and myself ,now nearly sixty years ago( wow,hard to believe so long ago) as we set out on our journey of life together.
Blessings ,ma chere, and always,arms tight around all of you.
Natalia. Xo

Suzanne in Monroe, NJ

Welcome home, Jean-Marc. I can only imagine how wonderful the stories of his experiences will brighten your meals. I love the saying "do what you want to do" especially for a couple. In my marriage, it is "wear what you want to wear." Even if that meant red sneakers to a wedding.

Julie Farrar

Bienvenue to Jean-Marc! What a great experience he must have had, even though it's hard to have our loved ones so far away.



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