We have a new dog. Welcome Ricci!


After one year and three months sans chien, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of our newest family member: "Ricci". She is a 3-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd and she hails from une ferme in Aveyron. 

Ten days ago, at a party, I was chatting with Corinne about her mini Aussie. "We love those dogs," I said, "but aren’t they a bit nervous?" Corinne, visibly gaga about her Berger Américain (as they are called in France), assured me le tempérament depends on the owner. With that in mind, I began to dream about these lovely dogs once again…

By the next day, Jean-Marc was combing through ads on Le BonCoin when he came across "Penny" a 4.5-year-old BAM (Berger Américain). Before we knew it, we were headed 5 hours north to a cow and cannabis* farm, where the busy owner was phasing out her dog breeding business. She had two adult females available: Penny and her 3-year-old cousin, Ricci. 

We had come all this way to see Penny, but understood right away she was not for us. "We live on a busy street," I explained. "We can't have a barker...the neighbors would not like it." Behind the chain-linked fence, there was another dog, who was a lot calmer and she was making eyes at us. "Who is that?" I asked.  

"C'est Ricci."

“Could we please see her?” With that, the gate was opened and both dogs bolted out, running circles past the chickens, over to the barn, and back. Ricci came when the breeder called her and I took her into my lap. She was thoughtful and calm for a moment and I knew, of the two dogs, she was the better bet.

My daughter had cautioned me to only take the dog if there was un coup de coeur - a lighting-strike attraction. This sort of put the brakes on things as I was not instantly enamored. I was, in fact, full of hesitation. But I couldn't be sure, either, if I wanted to leave without Ricci. We had come so far...we could make this work...fingers crossed this wasn’t a mistake. One final thought sealed the deal: Grandma will love her no matter what.

"We don't have a leash," I said.

"She's never been on a leash," the farmer replied, adding she was very sorry there might be some fleas….

"Assis!" I said to Ricci, to get a closer look, but the little shepherd did not respond.
"She doesn't know any commands..." the farmer explained.

Because this seemed like a risky transaction, and considering the upcoming expenses (sterilization? vaccination?) I negotiated the price down as far as possible. I reasoned, privately, that if we returned home and there were no surprises with this adult dog (hip replacement surgery?--I'd heard horror stories), I could eventually send a donation to the farmer to make up for any losses on her part.

Ricci now in the passenger’s seat, on my lap, I picked off as many fleas as possible during the 6-hour ride home. Our seat was also soaked in saliva, even so, the long voyage went better than expected. The closeness helped form a kind of bond, but, after reaching her new home, Ricci was running into walls. She didn't understand door-windows, and banged right into our porte vitrée. The "dog bed" concept threw her as well. And the flush of a toilet, the vacuum, the garbage truck…just about any sudden bruit had her running for cover and making puddles around the house, in the bed, and on the couch. The former “Berger” from Aveyron may as well have been dropped off on Planet Mars.

She’s been on high alert since landing here near the beach in La Ciotat. There will be so much to learn for her and for us, but thankfully, everyone in our family is smitten by cette petite Louloutte, and ready to help.
"I'm Max! You'll be seeing a lot of me," my son said, taking her calico face into his hands and gently caressing her. And when she freaked out on the leash with me, Max's girlfriend, Ana, tried a different approach by first presenting the leash for Ricci to sniff. Gradually, Ana was able to coax her out into the garden, with Max cheering her on.

Grandma Jules is over the moon and inspired "Reece is so paintable! I’m just crazy about her!”
“Mom, her name is ‘Ricci’, that’s Ree-Chee like the perfume Nina Ricci... (but "Reece" is sweet, reminiscent of the peanut-butter cups I loved as a kid).

“I'm going to call her Chi-chi,” Jackie already decided, via video chat as we all gathered for Ricci's first night home.

Ana calls her "Ma Petite Puce," a popular term of endearment in France (but also appropriate given Ricci was teaming with fleas.). On day two Ana returned to help give Ricci a chewable medication for the fleas, the ticks, and any potential worms. And it worked immediately. 

What a whirlwind two days it has been since bringing Ricci home: loads of laundry, retraining, shopping (leash, bed, food, toys), and agitated sleeping. But we've enjoyed every minute. Speaking of time, that coup de coeur Jackie insisted on may not have been instant, but it came after a leap of faith.

Whether a coup or a leap, all that matters is that our dog is here. Bienvenue, dear Ricci. We love you already!

To leave a comment about our new dog, or any sort of advice on welcoming an adult farm dog to the city, click here.
Will Ricci's startle reflex calm down? Will she continue to make puddles when scared? Advice welcome and appreciated.




Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the French and English terms

sans chien = without dog
une ferme = farm
Le Berger Américain = Mini Australian Shepherd 
le tempérament = disposition 
la porte vitrée  = glass door
le bruit = noise
mon loulou, ma louloute = affectionate term for pooch, pup
ma petite puce = my little flea

*Le cannabigérol est un composé de la plante de chanvre. Cannabigerol is a compound found in the hemp plant.

Ricci mini australian shepherd

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In the car during the ride home from the farm in Aveyron and, finally, on an evening walk on the beach here in La Ciotat.


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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Heartwarming in French: Ana & A Gift for the Birds

Ana and Loca
Today's story is part wedding anniversary, part birthdays, part peanuts, and part people. You have already read a little about Max's girlfriend, and today you'll learn more about Ana (and why we love her).

Are the photos in this newsletter appearing? If not, view all of them here at the blog.

TODAY'S WORD: “Qui réchauffe le cœur”

 : heartwarming, that which warms the heart

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This week marks 29 years since Jean-Marc and I walked the matrimonial carpet at La Paroisse Saint Antoine de Padoue in Marseilles, inching our way down the cathedral's central passage toward a no-going-back "Oui" or I do!

It is hard to believe almost three decades have passed since tying the knot here in France. I had to laugh, recently, overhearing my husband make a dermatological appointment for each of us, proof we are barreling toward retirement ensemble.
"Chérie," my husband says, putting his hand over the phone. "C'est pour un contrôle, oui?"
"Oui," I nod. Yes, just a checkup.

After making the dreaded yearly appointment, we rejoined our grown kids, including Ana (Max's petite amie whom we've adopted along with her two dogs) on the front porch, for a celebratory lunch. I've got my sunhat on, for prevention and to keep my rosacea at bay, and Jean-Marc has cranked out a fabric awning over our terrasse. These days even he can't tolerate le soleil

As I'm setting the table, Max calls out, "Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes!"
Worms in the peanuts? Mon Dieu! I beeline over to where the kids were enjoying an apéro, to find the jar of nuts slithering. I'm so embarrassed for Ana to see this! As for my kids, it wouldn't be the first time they've found expired food chez nous. And my son is quick to point it out! Honestly, now that it's just Jean-Marc and me at home, the food doesn't circulate as often. (I can't speak for my own Mom, who lives in a studio around the side of our house, with her own pantry and fridge.)

"Max, please toss those peanuts into the compost!" I urged, before escaping to the kitchen to recompose myself. But it was too late, all my sloppy and negligent parts had spilled out into the light of day. Gone was the cool urban housewife-writer I may have been trying to impersonate; in her place, a negligent nut (that is to say I should've been seated outside with my family, instead the lively nuts took center stage). 

Returning to the front patio, still red in the face (not from rosacea this time...) I found Max, Jackie, and Ana on the ground, beside a few small piles of peanut shells. Nearby, dans les parages, a flock of familiar doves paced back and forth in anticipation.

"What are you guys doing?" 

"We are preparing the peanuts for the birds," Ana explained, heading The Stale Peanut Initiative.

"But you don't have to bother with that..."

"Ce n'est rien," Ana assured me.

"But the worms..."

"The birds love them!" Ana pointed out. Beside her, Max sat on the gravel, using the kitchen scissors to cut up the rubbery cacahuètes--and Ana and Jackie were using their fingers to break up the peanuts. As for the slithering vermin? Même pas peur! The industrious trio was too busy feeding the hungry to worry about a few unsavory visitors.

In the end, the kidults cracked every nut (even this one, who overcame the embarrassment). Those stale legumes became fodder for the doves that have been struggling since the drought. It was heartwarming to see these young people salvaging those peanuts. They could have easily chucked them into the compost, instead, they considered the birds.  

“Look at those beautiful kids. You and Jean-Marc are truly blessed. Happy anniversary!” Jules raised her glass and sipped some champagne from the apéro, as I updated her on all the activity out in the yard. 

After our 29th anniversary lunch, a day after Mom’s 77th birthday, I brought out the chocolate cake Jean-Marc had chosen for Jackie’s birthday and we sang Joyeux Anniversaire to our daughter who recently turned 26. What a week of special days! It was a lot to keep up with. No wonder those worms slinked by unnoticed. This cool urban housewife’s been busy with more important things, like writing about all these blessings.

    COMMENTS: To comment, click here

Les Tourterelles and Izzy the Beagle.


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce these words:

Qui réchauffe le coeur =
= together
Chérie, Cheri = dear
pour un contrôle = for a checkup 
La petite amie = girlfriend 
la terrasse = patio
le soleil = sun
Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes! = Mom there are worms in the peanuts!
= before dinner drinks and munchies
chez nous = at our place
ce n’est rien = it’s nothing
la cacahuète = peanut 
même pas peur = it doesn’t scare me
la tourterelle = dove, turtledove
Joyeux anniversaire! = happy birthday! 

Mom walking Kristi down the aisle
Mom walked me down the aisle in her black tuxedo. To the right, my French mom, Christine, who hosted me during my 1989 exchange program in Lille, France.

Kristi Ingham Jean-Marc Espinasse
September 24, 1994. At the evening celebration and dinner, after our church wedding

Sincere thanks to readers who recently sent in a blog donation, jumpstarting the fall season of future stories and vocabulary. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal week after week. Ça réchauffe le cœur! --Kristi

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“Bonjour, Kristin. How impressive that you remember my aspirations to learning several languages. I have recently begun an online class (live, with other students!) in Norwegian with hopes of improving my conversational abilities. Maintaining my low level of French is mostly reading your missives, for which I am truly grateful! This year I did get to use my Spanish in Mazatlan, and my Japanese in (you guessed it) Japan, and those fluencies added a great deal to the enjoyment of both trips. Even decades after my formal studies, I have somehow been lucky enough to remember a surprising amount. "Foreign" languages have really added a lot to the quality of my life, and thanks for being part of it.” Ginny B.

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse 2023
Here’s to our anniversary! I loved my Mom’s comment after she realized how long Jean-Marc and I have been married:
“29 years? That’s a record, Honey. Most people have married 3 or 4 times by then!” Sacré Mama Jules. (Jules, you are one of a kind, xoxo)

Click on the book cover, above, to discover a new, French-themed read for the week.

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