Voir La Vie en Rose: Mom’s Secret to Facing Challenges
Banderole & A Warm Welcome Home to Jean-Marc

Trouvaille: Surprise in the garden & a funny adage for not worrying what others think about you

The garden of wonderments. Apart from the red valerian behind my dog, learn about the latest trouvaille or finding in our garden, and don't miss the colorful expression at the end (the funny French equivalent to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me").

TODAY'S WORD: la trouvaille

    : find, discovery, treasure

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Good news: you have an automatic extension through June 17. I am using Expatfile again this year to complete all tax forms quickly and easily, and I highly recommend it. Click here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

There was a time, years ago, when I might have sold my soul for my garden. I remember that exact moment, kneeling beside a rock bed overflowing with parsley and strawberries and buzzing with life in December. The sweet-scented earth, the vivid colors, the warm sun on my back, a ladybug alighting in the midst of it all. This was heaven on earth. Suddenly, I had the thought that I never want to die and so be separated from this terrestrial paradise. I wrote about the experience in our story, The Lost Gardens (there, you know how that ended).

By now you may be picturing a magnificent floral kingdom, but a beautiful garden is subjective, isn’t it? One person pictures a stately Jardin de Versailles, while another envisions a charming potager. My own digs were a messy affair: wild, expansive, out of control. A marriage of weeds and peas and bees and sore knees. Artichokes spread from the garden beds up through the thyme-scented hillside where my husband had begun to carve out his “vineyard in the sky.” There, midway up the hill to heaven, I had strawberries galore and exotic berries–tangy “argousiers.” It was a permaculture playground just as I had imagined it could be. What pride and joy I felt collecting the first (and what would be the last…) creamy, perfectly ripe avocado. Soon after, the avocatier was taken over by an army of bugs–and that, in a nutshell, is the story of my garden: a tale of victories and defeats. 

Among all the love and war in the garden were the unending trouvailles–the discoveries! When I stop to think about it, what gave me the most joy wasn’t the way my garden looked or what it produced, no—all the pleasure and excitement came from the surprises it offered up, les petites merveilles meted out according to its mysterious whims. At Mas des Brun, where we lived for 5 years, those surprises were the fruits, vegetables, and flowers popping up all over the field. While here in La Ciotat, in a crowded neighborhood where we moved after selling our vineyard, there are other hidden treasures to keep me tied to the garden even if this particular yard, made of sand and clay, has been nothing but a struggle.

I’ll never forget the first thrilling discovery this urban lot offered up. Soon after we arrived in 2017, relaxing back into une chaise longue beside the fountain/pond, I looked look up to a branch laden with green plums. Mon Dieu! A second prune tree mixed in among les haies! And, speaking of hedges, soon after Mom moved here, to a converted garage on the northwest corner of the house, she discovered a family of hedgehogs—les hérissons. Wildlife in the city!

Following on the heels of those hogs, three arbres de Judée revealed themselves by springtime (hard to continue hiding among the green hedges with so many fuchsia flowers popping up on your branches). Below, dozens of coquelicots appeared across the yard, and the surprises only continued. There was little room to mourn the loss of my permaculture garden, what with so many nouveautés springing up across this stubborn plot. After wrestling with this garden for 7 years, this springtime has seen the most blossoms. I like to think the return of a dog to the property has influenced its fertility somehow, some way. (All those joyous four-pawed romps around the garden may have stirred the seeds below. Thanks, Ricci, and rest in peace, dear Smokey. You will forever be a part of our garden, your ashes resting beneath the Lilas d’Espagne which have spread in abundance, like a dog’s love.)

Recently, while playing with Ricci, I spied an Acanthus about to bloom! I hurried over to Mom’s to report it, before dragging her out to see it for herself. “Wait, Mom! While you're here, I have another surprise for you…”

Each night this past month, while taking Ricci out for her last run around the garden, my ears were delighted by frog calls. But when I approached the fountain/pond,
la grenouille was nowhere to be found. Turning to go back into the house, it would croak again, sending me running back to the fountain, searching for the green giant (from the sound of its voice it must’ve been huge—un crapaud!). We played Cache-Cache for weeks until, one day I heard a warble from the tree trunk beside the fountain/pond. Hmmm. A frog in a tree? I studied the would-be refuge, a felled palm tree we’d made into an outdoor table. Currently, the table was speaking to me:


I fumbled for my phone’s flashlight. Shining it under the tabletop, I could not believe my eyes: all those thundering ribbits echoing through our neighborhood were coming not from a bullfrog, but from une rainette—a tree frog no bigger than a macaron.

As I marvel at how such a tiny creature could add such a powerful blast of character to our garden I am reminded, once again, that it isn’t the size or shape or appearance of a garden that brings joy. It is the little findings within it that offer eternal bliss. No need to sell one’s soul for this. It is already a gift.


Post Note: If you ever find yourself fretting about the untidiness of your garden—or your living space, for that matter—remember this amusing French saying. 'La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe' translates to 'The toad's spit doesn't reach the white dove,' meaning that criticism or negativity can't harm those who remain unaffected by it. So, embrace your garden just as it is, and live life on your own terms.


The fountain-pond and the palm tree table where the tree frog lives. We eventually lost both palm trees to an invasive “charançon rouge” (a red weevil). 

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Ricci apple of my eye
Apples near the front door. Shoes tidied in the tiles, just behind. 


Jean-Marc recorded the sound file during his layover at the Melbourne International Airport. After 3 months in New Zealand he is on his way home, arriving Friday!

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary

le jardin = garden
le potager = vegetable garder
l'argousier = sea buckthorn berry
le crapaud = giant toad
l'avocatier (m) = avocado tree
la trouvaille = find, discovery
la petite merveille = little marvel
une chaise longue = lawn chair
la haie = hedge
l'hérisson = hedge hog
l'arbre de judée = Judas tree
le coquelicot = poppy
la nouveauté = novelty
le lilas d'Espagne = red valerian
la grenouille = frog
le cache-cache = hide-and-seek
le crapaud = toad
une rainette = tree frog

La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe = The toad's spit doesn't reach the white dove (or "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me")

Mas des Brun garden
This is the back of our farmhouse at Mas des Brun, where we lived from 2012-2017. Those are the rock bed potagers, or vegetable gardens. And that is Smokey, my garden buddy extraordinaire! 

Special thanks to these readers for their helpful donations in support of this French word journal:

Lisa E.
John M.
Julie C.

Dana B.
Carol A.

Edred F.
Suzanne D.

Hi Kristi I so enjoyed your books as well as the word-a-days. Merci. -- John M., San Francisco

Kristi, knowing you all these years has meant so much to me. "Giving you a little dough to blow," as my dad used to do for me, is a pleasure. You keep my mind and heart reflecting. —Julie C., Tempe, AZ

I really like getting your blog. It is always of interest to me. I have CDs that I used to listen to in order to learn French. I have a different vehicle now, and it has no CD player. --Carol A., Willmar, MN


Mom, holding the hedgehog

Smokey, looking through the kitchen window at Mas des Brun, where this one-off avocado was devoured.

Ricci looking conspicuous in front of the massive wine bottles or "dames-jeannes" that decorate a corner of the garden.

Me and Ricci. Soon after this picture was taken, Ricci ate all the fruit on this wild berry plant. I guess she taxed us for her part of the crop! Speaking of taxes, if you are an American abroad don't forget to visit Expat Taxes for a fast and easy filing process

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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Thanks Kristi for this beautiful story! A great reminder that even when things do go as planned/expected life can still be beautiful!

Cathy AbouSakher

Lovely story, as always.
Much love

Petra Douma

Hi Kristi,
According to wordreference.com, a lawn chair is "une chaise longue" -- a LONG chair rather than a LOUNGE chair (not that all lawn chairs are long or even comfortable enough for lounging!)
(from Ontario, Canada)


thank you for sharing your garden. Very charming story and I also love the little surprises that I find in my morning walk in my garden. It is very small but very nurturing even with the clay soil. Very challenging. Enjoy.


Hi Kristi,

Thanks for sharing this story. My garden is pretty wild and I love to see what will pop up next. Gardens are always changing and evolving like we are! We have deer here that eat almost everything. I was watering yesterday and noticed the deer have eaten my phlox again this year! I haven't seen a bloom yet!

Hedgehogs are so cute! I remember seeing them when we lived in Germany.

Ricci is so cute and loves strawberries! My dog Tank loves to eat the blueberries off the bushes!


Nice post today, and a reminder that Mothers Day is the usual safe date to plant annuals here.


A garden seems to have a mind and life of its own. Birds plant seeds & so do squirrels & other creatures. I am always surprised to find something spring up that I haven’t planted & see it as a gift from Mother Nature. My gardens are a bit of a mess, so I sow wildflowers and just let them have their way with the area. I enjoy the blossoms and hope they will choke out the weeds. Your reflections are a breath of fresh air to brighten our days. Thank you


Our dear Kristi,
Well,of course(!!) you again reached out to us,your fortunate readers,with something that is so dear( and hopefully rewarding!)--our gardens! I saw myself in you,years and alot if energy ago, with an imagination full of fresh berries,asparagus,abounding fruits
for confitures......ah yes,the list goes on and on. Reminds me of the light bulb moment when the opinion of others took a back seat to my own self respect , kindness and unending faith. I proudly served Rod our two stalks of asparagus (rest shared with bugs and critters),ditto for berries,and all the rest(!!) In spite if all,I felt like a victorious gardener providing for my family!( tears of laughter rolling down my
face in retrospect!!)
Thank you, ma chere, for sharing your life and experiences!! NO better way to begin the morning!!
To you and dear Jules, joyeuse fetes de meres!
Arms tight around you
Love Natalia

Sandy Zeoli

My garden is always an adventure. Some years I can grow everything I want, others not at all. There are always surprises and I just go with the flow. And, say thank you for whatever there is.

Avocado trees - I don't know what got yours, but there is a very bad diseases that is killing the avocado trees here -- Laurel Wilt. It got our neighbor's tree and is affecting several others in our neighborhood.

But, my tomatoes and pineapples are doing well and if other seeds germinate and don't get eaten by the insects, hurray!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for all these lovely comments and, to Petra, for the helpful correction. It is such a pleasure to read about your garden adventures.

Natalia, I love what you said about your lightbulb moment “when the opinion of others took a back seat to my own self respect, kindness and unending faith.” ❤️❤️

Leslie in Oregon

I am thinking of Jean-Marc in the air on his way back to your home in France. Is he flying back to France via Asia or over the Pacific? Given that his return trip started by his flying west to Melbourne, I'm guessing the former. Be ready for the possibility that he may want to explore with you the possibility of living in New Zealand for awhile. After several 5- or 10-day layovers there during my flying years, I came within a hairsbreadth of moving to the South Island of New Zealand (from the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.). It is an incredibly beautiful country that, from what I understand, has just gotten better during the decades since my last visit.

Tears came to my eyes with your mentions and photographs of Smokey. His life with your family overlapped the wonderful years we had with Henry, our second Golden Retriever, and I miss them both very much. Speaking of pets, hedgehogs can be wonderful pets. I follow an Instagram account (@mylesandwillows) about the antics of 4 dachshunds, one hedgehog and one parrot, all living together in raucous uncaged harmony on a Michigan lake with their human parents!

Gardening has had to take a backseat to my work to empty out my longtime family home so that it can be put up for sale. I'm not sure where I will go, but it will likely be within an hour or two of where my children and grandchildren (two- and four-legged) live (the Bay Area or the Catskills in New York State). Being a widow is a real challenge.

Have a wonderful reunion with Jean-Marc!

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Leslie, Wishing you bon courage as you pack up your family home. Sending hugs and love. Thanks also for @mylesandwillows insta account, which I just joined. I can see how these joyous four-pawed episodes will lighten the load as you bravely moved forward. Take good care.


Merci, Kristi,
Quel beau jardin! Et les pommes ont l'air délicieuses!

Stacy Lund

Hello Kristi,
This story reads like a metaphor for life - it’s the discoveries and wondrous marvels that bring meaning and joy to our days. Currently, my pond is roaring with frogs’ song, but try as I might, I have yet to see one frog this year. I do, however, delight in falling asleep to their sound. Enjoy the mysterious and treasures of your garden. xoxo

Jeanine Woods

Chère Kristi, Merci pour ce post. Comme d’habitude vos messages sont profonds dans leurs simplicités. J’adore vos histoires surtout dans ce post de vos chiens et jardins. Et le vocabulaire m’aide toujours ! Et comme vous, j'aime les travailles que je trouve dans mon jardin et sur mes promenades aussi!


Thank you Kristi, I needed to " hear" that old saying. I'm in the middle of moving into a Smaller apartment, with soo much/many things. Mostly Trying to make things work, look good and be livable, I feel very overwhelmed. Reading that saying, I feel better about getting it to work for the moment, as time progresses change it around, like you would with a garden. It evolves, as long as I enjoy it as it "grows" and it becomes even more "beautiful"" for me. Again, Thank you, God Bless ya. Mollie

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