On the way to meet Malou and Doreen ("The Dirt Divas"), Jules and I ventured through the town of Valréas. That's Mom... Her smile has returned.

bestiole (bes tee ohl) 

    : little creature; insect, bug

Example sentence:
Elles ne savaient pas quel genre de bestiole c'était. They did not know what type of insect it was


I just ordered this book for my mom, Jules. It's in rupture de stock, here in France, so we're waiting patiently for its arrival!:

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Smashing Bugs!

If you were that collared dove cooing from the giant plane tree above, the view from the sky might provide curious sight...

There, on a South of France garden patio, among great clay pots filled with lilies à gogo, two women are dancing a kind of "gardener's twist".

"It's called 'The Lily Bug'!", Doreen explains, out of breath as she lifts her foot for another leg-twisting "Diva drill"--designed to literally squash out the competition! I follow her example and dance over to another of Malou's towering lilies, where I select a red-jacketed "dance partner" (the shy, would-be suitors are hiding among the lily leaves... and each time we reach for one, off it slides, via its elude-the-gardener defensive strategy). 

"They're sly devils!" Doreen warns, lifting her foot and slamming it to the ground. Without missing a beat our Dirt Diva selects another red-winged bestiole, one that will soon become "patio paste" (I wince as the little scarlet-backed bugs meet their fate via a tap-tap-twistaroo of our shoes).

Doreen is teaching me bug control. After the "wringing of the worms" (a horrifying fate in which invasive, hard-shelled worms meet their death by a swift thumb-to-forefinger twist), I am learning the lily-bug-squash technique.

It seems to be the most efficient means for eliminating the lys plants pire ennemi: the sometimes gooey lily beetle!
"Take that" (step-step-step... squash!) and that (twist-twist-wipe!

The turtledoves in the tree above look on, awestruck. Their featherless friends, below, are putting on quite a show!


Post note: Meantime, beneath the old plane tree, or platane, my mom, who came with me to Malou's home (where Doreen joined us), sat at a garden table, poring over Malou's knitting magazines. Every once in a while, Jules looked up, delighted by the table's spread: there were Moroccan cookies on a painted earthenware tray, and a selection of colorful sirops (banana-kiwi, lemon, lavender, mint), a large painted pitcher filled with fresh water and ice cubes decorated the cloth-covered table which overlooked Malou's magic garden.

"That Malou is smooth," Mom nodded her head, impressed. "She makes it look so easy." From my spot, over there on the bug-speckled patio, I had to agree. One day I would learn the art of hostessing. Meantime, I'm in bug boot camp being trained in the swift-kick-removal of unwanted guests: those lilioceris lilii, or lily snatchers!

Le Coin Commentaires
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An announcement from Chief Grape:

We are happy to let you know that Rouge-Bleu wines got some very nice scores on the lastest Wine Spectator issue : 90 points for Mistral red 09 and 87 points for Dentelle red 09. This link will help you locate them.


Just a few of Malou's lilies. There are many, many more! Thanks, Mom, for taking these photos, here and below.

French Vocabulary

à gogo = galore

la bestiole = bug

le lis (lys) = lily

le pire ennemi = worst enemy

le sirop = fruit drink made of one part fruit syrup, ten parts water (more or less...)

Reverse Dictionary

collared dove = la tourterelle turque

   Dancing among the lys, or lilies. Read about how I met the Dirt Divas. Click here.

Sirop Amazon has a big selection of refreshing drink syrops: add a swirl of grenadine to a glass of water, top with ice, and voilà - refreshing summertime! Check out all the sirop flavors and order one, here.

Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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"Leaves of Grass" (c) Kristin Espinasse
A veritable "Lawn Chair". You know you have work to do in the garden... when the grass grows high enough to tickle your lazy butt into gear! Read on.

semer (seuh may) verb

    1. to sow

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French word "semer", along with its conjugation and the example sentence, just below. Download MP3 or Wav file

Verb conjugation: je sème, tu sèmes, il/elle sème, nous semons, vous semez, ils/elles sèment (pp = semé)

L'amour est comme une plante: il faut le semer et il poussera.
Love is like a plant: you need to sow it and it will grow. Chow Ching Lie

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"Altruism in the garden"

The Dirt Divas came over on Friday and I am sad to say that this is the last we will hear of them... for dorénavant they will be known as Garden Divas!

After receiving a few letters from the UK—in reference to "dirt"—it began to dawn on me that dirt is something you wash off and not, as we hicks know, an affectionate term for soil. (Truth-be-told "soil" kind of creeps me out, ever since the movie "Soilent Soylent Green"—soil/soilent soylent...) Thank you, English (as distinguished from North American) readers, for the suggestion to use "earth" in the place of "dirt" when talking about soil. I will try to remember that. And, hereafter, we'll call the earth angels in question "Garden Divas".    

But back to our story. The Garden Divas showed up, opened the car's trunk and bada bing bada boom! what did they produce? Another carload of future blooms!

Next, the Dirt, or Garden, Divas quickly went into action lugging a motley crew of plants to the nearest shady spot. Any and all sorts of containers were used: there were buckets, cardboard boxes, wooden crates, and pots in tin and terra-cotta! The divas' no-fuss flower-farming was a lesson in itself (I'll never forget a previous "delivery" in which the baby plants arrived... in plastic yogurt cups! I guessed at the Divas' no-fuss philosophy: "If it's sturdy and you can poke holes in it, then you're good to go!")

After several aller-retours to the car and back to the shady spot, the Garden Divas went to work using their own tools to "crack" the cement-like earth that is our flower bed... and by the end of the afternoon bada bing bada boom!, the beds were looking very nearly groomed!

I noticed the Divas' discretion in overlooking those plants that had withered and died since their previous visit.... The frost accounted for one or two of the potted plants (it had been suggested to me that they come inside for winter)... the remaining losses were the result of precarious planting (on my part).  

Watching the Garden Divas toil, I had that humbling feeling, the kind you get when witnessing others give "without strings": they help, asking nothing in return, they reach out... and we mortals eventually learn.  

After the Garden Divas left, I remained outside until sundown, tossing California poppy seeds and wondering about that altruistic "do unto others" mystery: doing, giving, helping, smiling, encouraging, nourishing... flourishing!

I told the Garden Divas that I did not know how to thank them. Mais, il n'y a pas de quoi! Their reward, they said, will be in watching my garden grow.

The next day, while out planting more of the seedlings, I caught myself daydreaming. In my mind's eye, I was taking a motley crew of potted plants that I'd grown from seed... to a friend in need. That is when the full meaning of the Garden Divas "reward" revealed itself to me.

Le Coin Commentaires
Join us now in the community corner. Ask and answer each others questions and help to make this an enriching place in cyberspace. Click here to participate by leaving a message.

French Vocabulary

dorénavant = from now on
aller-retour = round trip
Mais, il n'y a pas de quoi! = why, it's nothing! 


Merci encore to Malou and Doreen, the Garden Divas. Read another garden story, click here.

Kissing Bench In garden seating: The French Kissing bench! Click here for more info.

Bestselling books on the French language:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice  
 2. Exercises in French Phonics

Not so best-selling... but a fun book on the French language!
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France 


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


A couple of Max's cahiers from 4ème (8th grade). More than in the classroom, cahiers are used in many French establishments...  

 le cahier (keye yay)

    : notebook, exercise book

(from the Latin "quaterni" or "set of four": the first cahiers had four pages... from the pliage, or folding, of one page)

le cahier d'exercices = workbook
le cahier à spirale = spiral-bound notebook
le cahier de textes = homework notebook 

Audio File: The sound files will return soon... now that Chief Grape is back (I'll get him, shortly, at the airport in Marseilles).

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Art of Bookkeeping

I am at the bank trying to deposit a royalty check (made out in US dollars). I watch as the mademoiselle behind the counter is overcome by a look of doubt.

"Et qu'est-ce que c'est comme société?" she interrogates, pointing to the name at the top of the check.

Mademoiselle's question sounds like an accusation in the ears of the homebody who is hearing it. Standing there in muddied boots and an unironed chemise I wonder whether my appearance has anything to do with things? No, I reason. You are once again reading too much into it (besides, it's impossible to see my boots from where she is sitting). 

Meantime, Mademoiselle is waiting for an answer...

"C'est une maison d'edition," I point out.

I am instantly ashamed of the smug feeling I have just enjoyed in announcing that the check has been issued by a publishing house! But any puffed-uppery is short-lived when, like soiled clothes tossed into a laundry chute--I am abruptly released from Pride thanks to Truth. (Truth is, the young teller makes more money in one month than I have made in six months of book sales... and the exchange rate sure doesn't help things!)

I watch as Mademoiselle Money-Maker reaches for a thin spiral notebook; inside, I see handwriting scrawled across les pages quadrillées. Next the bank teller practices what I have come to know as "French Data Entry". Forget, for a moment, France's history of being on the cutting edge of data processing (remember Le Minitel?), the French still revert to ink when it comes to documentation.

I stare at that flimsy cahier. Will she note the check information in there? Will my money be safe?....

Since moving to France, I have seen and been intrigued by the modern-day uses of scholastic notebooks by the likes of dentists, secretaries at town hall, the local garagiste, and, now, the banker. Record-keeping at its French best! In the flip of a curlicue-covered page (French longhand is unmistakable), my dentist can tell me my children's oral history. (Note: the same dentist also has the latest Mac with which to view those cool tooth diagrams on the big screen... I guess cahiers are more for documenting than for drawing). 

Such old-fashioned ways and means for information recording are a breath of fresh air in this technologically chetchy society. But I have to admit that it comes as a relief when I notice the bank teller doing a backup (...and typing the check information into a computer database).

All that scribbling in the cahier seems like a lot of extra work... but then again... if Mademoiselle's computer ever gets fried as mine once did... then I am grateful knowing it's all been documented--my not-so-smug salary--via dotted I's and crossed T's.


Le Coin Commentaires
Have you, too, noticed the French tendency to use cahiers to record data? Is it just me? Or do the French have a tendency to note... and to note encore!? Share your experiences... and ask/answer questions in our community corner (aka the comments box!)

French Vocabulary

la mademoiselle = young lady

Et qu'est-ce que c'est comme société? = what kind of company is it?

une chemise = shirt

C'est une maison d'edition = it's a publishing house

le Minitel = in the early 80s, pre World Wide Web, the Minitel (picture a small computer terminal) was an online-information resource (users could look up telephone numbers, reserve train tickets, do online banking... way back when!)

les pages (f) quadrillées = the cross-ruled, checked pages

le cahier = notebook

le/la garagiste = mechanic 

Flower Charm (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Fanfare on the Front Porch" Thanks again and again to the Dirt Divas for coloring up our world. These flower arrangements were created by Doreen. She gave them to me at Malou's house, after tea and a "books-n-gardening" meeting. We loaded the freshly planted pots into the trunk and I drove wildly, excitedly home. So much so that when I opened the trunk there was dirt everywhere. I tucked the clumps of plants back into their upended pots... and followed Doreen's instructions: put the two outside (in any weather), and the others indoors until the threat of frost passes.

I could not imagine, then, that from the clumps of dirt and scattered greens... up would come this jubilant scene! P.S.: Doreen had apologized for the plastic containers, suggesting I set them into something a little more eye-catching. I hope these boots will do the trick! Many thanks encore, Doreen and Malou. I hope to see you here again very soon! To comment on the flowers or to share your own gardening notes, join us in the comment box, click here.

You will find more stories and photos of the Dirt Divas in the "Garden" section


Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Poppy (c) Kristin Espinasse

It's Vagabonde Vendredi -- time to stray from our comfortable way. I have been saving this favorite flower from my garden for you. Enjoy!


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aviver (ah-vee-vay) verb


    : to stir up

French verb conjugation:
 j'avive, tu avives, il avive, nous avivons, vous avivez, ils avivent past participle: avivé

Audio File & Example sentence: listen to Jean-Marc:  
Download MP3  or Wav

Pour que la muse vienne vous visiter, bousculer vos habitudes, avivez votre matinée! For the muse to come and visit you, shake up your habits, stir up your morning.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse 

Take a new path each day. Shake things up. Do the unexpected

These things run through my mind as I type, fresh dirt beneath my fingernails, along this chattering clavier. (Have you ever listened to the sound of typing?  Stop. Ecoutez! What do you hear?I hear the sound of hailstones hitting the front patio. Did you hear it too? Type on and listen closely... Oh, chameleon keyboard, when I am in the moment, listening with all my might, I hear falling pebbles of poetry.)

It is always a good time to be in the moment. The same goes for writing a thrice-weekly journal on a deadline. This edition will go out, automatically, "preprogramedly," in four hours. Between then and now a lot could happen... such as:

Bees! I could bolt back outside, to where I left my trowel... and look at bumble hides. Yesterday, while visiting with the Dirt Divas (pictured, below), Doreen pointed out the blanched-butted bumblebees.  (Did she call them "white bums"?)  Just thinking of their name makes me light.

Light, this is how I'd like the next four hours to pass—légèrement—and not lourdement. "Heavily" happens when we're over-serious. Why not be neither heavy nor lighty-flighty... why not shoot for "whimsical weighted"?

But back to "what could happen in the next four hours"... Isn't this an exciting thought? Perhaps one might leave the work desk and take a spin around the block (or building, or airport, or internet café) or wherever this letter finds you reading....

Then, there's always a free moment for a one-minute meditation: time to clear the mind and replace any negative (defeating, fearful, muckity-puckity pensées) with positive ones or, better yet, Godly ones.  "Meditate on the Word" my mom, Jules, might tell me. She might also tell me to do something new (and so be renewed?), such as ride my bike to Camaret and give my new friend Liliane a jam jar of jardin jewels: those ruby and sapphire and citrine splendors in the garden.

(Alas, a few hours have now passed... and I haven't managed to lighten up. Worse, I feel weightier than before. Perhaps this is the ol' "one step forward, deux en arrière" snare?)

Never mind. What's important is to keep marching on and with a sing-song in one's step. And if, by chance, you need a guide, you might chance to follow a certain blanched-bumed bee hide...

as it bumbles,  and as you stumble, from one good intention to the next. At least you tried :-) 


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Thanks for stopping in to say "bonjour" today. Click here to comment. 

 No picture of the blanched-bottomed bumble bee... Will you enjoy this blue-winged one instead?
  Blue Wings (c) Kristin Espinasse


 The dear
Dirt Divas (Malou & Doreen), who never fail to make one smile. I hope their generosity is contagious. 

   French Vocabulary

écouter = to listen to
légèrement = lightly
lourdement = heavily
le jardin = garden
deux en arrière = two (steps) backwards



There's fan fiction and now "pal poetry": study my latest poem (on the previous page)... and see  how Newforest gussies it up here, below, finding just the right French words and making it even more meaningful:


"Le Point du Jour"  

(Poème de Kristin revu par 'Newforest')




 Ce matin je me suis levée avant les ipomées. 

Coucou, levez-vous!

Je me suis penchée vers ces fleurs matinales

Qui dorment encore, serrant leurs pétales.

Coucou! Levez-vous!

Plus loin, les grillons répètent sans cesse leur cricri strident,

Mais les jolies fleurs bleues, pas encore éveillées, 

Savourent les plaisirs d'une grasse matinée.








  Morning glory
  Photo by Andrew Farrell





Poetry vocabulary 


- une Ipomée = Morning Glory






(un volubilis is a synonyme)





- se pencher = to lean over





- encore = here, it means still (still asleep)





- serrer = to tighten, to grip tightly





- un pétale = petal 





- plus loin = further





- le grillon = cricket





- sans cesse / continuellement = non stop





- le cricri is the French word for the sound made by crickets





- (être éveillé) = (to be) woken up





- savourer le/les plaisir(s) de ... = to enjoy


- faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in 

please help me to thank Newforest for this new and improved poésie. Click here to leave a comment. 





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Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.