How to say zipper + recycle or repair your shoes! + Comps-sur-Artuby

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
A cobbled path leading to church in the village of Comps-sur-Arturby. More photos at the end of this edition.

Today we are talking about repairing or recycling clothing. Please join the discussion, sharing your experience and ideas for staying stylishly up-to-date--while minding ecology and the economy.

Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  


une fermeture éclair (fair-meh-tyur-ay-kler)

    : zipper


Audio file: The following example sentence comes from the planet-friendly French site
Listen to Jean-Marc read the words below:  Download MP3 or Wav file

Des semelles usées, un talon cassé, une fermeture éclair de sac coincée... Avant de les remplacer, vous pouvez confier vos chaussures et accessoires à un cordonnier. En plus, vous soutiendrez une filière au savoir-faire de plus en plus rare en raison d'un manque de clientèle.

Worn out soles, a broken heel, a purse zipper that's stuck... before replacing them, you can entrust your shoes and accessories to a cobbler. What's more, you'll be supporting a trade that is more and more rare owing to a lack of clientele. 

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

Last week the winds picked up here in Bandol, sweeping out the warmth of summertime. Though our seaside environment benefits from an extended season--or un été indien--my feet don't seem to know the difference: mid September now and j'ai froid aux pieds!

Time to put away the flip-flops.... Rummaging through the floor of my closet, looking for close-toed shoes, I discovered a few possibilities for fall: a pair of pseudo Mary Janes (not sure about the style), Converse hi-tops (hand-me-downs from Jackie, the interior lining is as holey as Swiss cheese), a pair of high-heeled dress boots--so cheap the talons are two different sizes (no wonder the markdown), a pair of black boots from the 90s--and a pair of black ballerinas from the same decade (I now wear the latter as slippers--so will have to rule these out as a possibility. Once sportswear turns into loungewear it's hard to sport the items in public again. Know what I mean?).

I stared thoughtfully at the eclectic pile. Tucking my flip flops into a shoe box--it seemed a little sorting might reveal some new possibilities. I spotted my loafers. Yes! Slipping them on I had a look in the mirror and realized, once and for all, I will never have that look of relaxed elegance: my ankles stood out beneath my pant legs, and the brown leather shoes were dull. Maybe a good polish would take care of that? 

Studying the motley crew of shoes, I now saw a workable set of possibilities for autumn. What's more, I remembered a pair of brown leather boots (those ought to take care of these ankles!) that would round out the collection.

In the cellar, I sorted through a box of shoes, finding the boots at the bottom. Pulling them from the tangle of chaussures, I was disappointed to see they'd been sorely twisted--their new shape resembling a curled crevette! I slipped them on, hoping to straighten out the toes, but when I tugged at the worn zipper it finally broke.

More than a broken zipper, I noticed how worn out the soles were. There was no use procrastinating, it was time to buy a new pair of bottes. But the last time I went shopping in the area, I found the shops unwelcoming and the prices even more alienating. I was only having a bad day, it wasn't the fault of the commerçants. But seeing all the merchandise, I wondered: how can anyone afford to dress these days?  My mind still lives in 70s prices--maybe that is why everything seems so expensive these days. I am fortunate to be able to replace my shoes, but I feel terrible for those who don't have the same privilege.

Studying the worn boots, it seemed I could squeeze another season out of them--I needed only to visit the cordonnier! An added incentive of visiting the local cobbler was the satisfaction of not adding to the dreaded pile--the universal garbage dump, or the landfills, that gets harder and harder to breakdown as time goes by. I can't bear to throw out another pair of shoes when I picture heaps of discarded chaussures all across the land--choking landfills with leather, plastic, and shoe glue. I wish I'd always thought this way, but I am a late-bloomer when it comes to recycling. It's only in the last 5 years that our household has installed boxes for glass, metal, plastic, clothing, batteries, and "small electric units" (our grocery store collects coffee machine, electric toothbrushes, and the like). Before that, we made an effort here and there, but were discouraged by the lack of follow-up (our village's recycling system, at the time, was hit or miss).

Boots in hand, I entered our town's cobbler shop and soon realized why people are not so motivated to extend the life of their belongings: because it can be costly to do so! There in the tiny shop, as I waited for the cobbler to finish mending a pair of sandals, I noticed the finished items on the counter, waiting to be picked up. A pair of high-heeled sandals had a receipt tied to them: 26 euros for the repair work! I began to calculate: at $35 dollars one could almost replace the dainty pair of dress shoes.

Ah, but les bonnes affaires coûtent cher! I remembered an old saying I once learned from a very wealthy French woman: Good deals cost a lot! she said, as I accompanied her shopping in Cannes. It's true, and I've witnessed the principle here at home where my husband delights in showing me his latest 19 euro steal. I zip my lip, knowing that in one more season I'll be sweeping those falling-to-pieces shoes into the dustpan, along with rest of the pile up on the doorstep. Some deal!

Back at the cobblers, I set my boots on the counter for the cordonnier to inspect. 

"I'll need a new fermeture éclair...and it looks like the soles are shot...anything you can do about the leather?"

I watch as the shoe repairer notes down some double-digit chiffres: 16.... 12.95...  The amount increases when I decide to go ahead and have the second zipper reinforced, just in case.

When the cobbler hands me the bill I'm lost for words, so he speaks for me: Est-ce que ça ira? Will this work?

I guessed it would have to... After all, what was the alternative? I could buy a new pair of boots--for twice the price (given the you-get-what-you-pay-for wisdom, mentioned above) or I could prendre soin, or care for my own boots. The price to do so was alarming, but in the end I was paying less than I would otherwise.

I hoped to be making the right decision, and in the time it took me to reply to the old cobbler, my eyes scanned his tiny shop. In addition to shoes there were several bags waiting for repair (this is where old Mr. Sacks, Jean-Marc's beloved sacoche, was mended). I remembered, now, Jean-Marc mentioning the ancient cobbler "You've got to meet this character!" Jean-Marc had said. I wondered now, just how many years had the cobbler been here? Were they even training cobblers these days? Wasn't it a dying trade?

As I stood there, hesitant, a few more locals walked in, dusty and worn shoes in hand. The cobbler greeted them by name and I gathered he had a few supportive clients. One more couldn't hurt. 

 *    *    *

Cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-word-a-day

To comment on today's story, click here. I would love to read about your experiences with caring for your own things, and your thoughts on sustainability, supporting local business, or whatever you feel like sharing. 

Extra credit.... Teachers, please share the French Word-A-Day blog with your students, to help increase their vocabulary. 


 j'ai froid aux pieds = my feet are cold
un talon = heel
la chaussure = shoe
la crevette = shrimp, prawn
la botte = boot
le commerçant = shopkeeper
le cordonnier = cobbler
le chiffre = amount, sum
la fermeture éclair = zipper
prendre soin = to care for, to take care of 

In Ways to Improve Your French: Listen to music!

ZazzZaz's album. Debut album from one of France's greatest recent success stories. Seemingly out of nowhere, newcomer Isabelle Geffroy (AKA Zaz) ended up topping the charts in France for over two months with this debut album, an engaging blend of Jazz, Soul and French Pop. With singles like 'Je Veux', even non-French speaking listeners will be enchanted by Zaz's voice. Order it here.

Join me on today's virtual tour of the village of Comps-sur-Artuby. These photos were taken in 2001.... The pictures are very small, but you can still get an idea of the breathtaking environment.

If you missed the recent photos tours, check them out:

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

What has this old post office become? Some people in France live in converted chapels, others in ancient bread ovens (large architectural structures as big as a baker's), so the idea of moving into a post office shouldn't be so surprising.

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

I believe this building is called un hangar, or shed. 


Max (c) Kristin Espinasse,
A then 6-year-old Max...


Les nuages, or clouds in Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Les nuages, or clouds, in the distance


Comps-sur-Artuby, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
November in Comps-sur-Artuby...


Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Art studio "The Little Scops Owl"

Pronounce it perfectlyPronounce it Perfectly in French. 

* extensive pronunciation exercises including supplementary help based on poetry, proverbs, familiar sayings, historical quotations and humor

* A guide to French pronunciation expressed in the phonetic symbols of the International Phonetic Association (IPA) 

Order it here.

cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

I hope you enjoyed today's story from the shoe repair shop, or cordonnerie. To comment on today's post, or to send in a correction, please use the comments box here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

How to say snack in French?

Visan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
The faded painted sign above reads "Cafe de la Mairie". (photo taken in Visan) I am pairing today's story--which takes place at fashion school--with window fashion. Enjoy the colorful scenes that decorate this edition and please consider forwarding it to a friend.

un en-cas (or encas, pronounced "on-kah")

    : snack

French definition: 
Repas léger en cas de besoin. Light meal in case of need.

Other ways to say snack in French: un goûter, un casse-croûte, une collation, and "quatre-heures" (for the four o'clock snack kids eat, often after school)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Jackie and I arrived half an hour early for her second stage of the year, in the town of Six-Fours-les-Plages. Her first internship (in St Cyr, last fall) was at an optical shop, but this second experience is more in line with her career goals: she hopes to work in the fashion industry. Specifically, she dreams of being a styliste personnelle for the stars. 

Standing in the hall at the lycée professionnel, I keep my 15-year-old company as we wait for class to begin. To pass the time we study our surroundings. Near the entrance there is a bald mannequin dressed in a red and black flamenco skirt. On the walls pictures of runway shows feature futuristic outfits the students have created. In another frame, outside the secretaries' office, there is a delicately beaded handkerchief, something my grandmother might have made.

Like fallen beads, a nostalgic instant is dispersed when a teacher in horn-rimmed glasses bustles by us. Her arms are hugging a collection of dummy heads. It is amusing to watch as the collective heads of hair are further dishevelled by the purposeful gait of the hurried teacher, who disappears into a room full of hairdryers and sinks.

Returning my gaze to our immediate surroundings, I wonder if one of those wild-haired wigs is destined for the flamenco dancer? Qui sait? My attention turns now to all the French teenagers huddled in groups, waiting for the class bell to ring. They are wearing tight or flouncy skirts, leggings or baggy pants, inch-thick eyeliner or none at all, leaving me as much in the fashion dust today as I was at their age.

Curious, I look to see what Jackie is wearing. She has on her favorite T-shirt: all white with a large impression of the rapper Eminem. Over this, she's wearing a classic button-down jean shirt she's swiped from my closet. Wrapped around her neck there is a thick crocheted scarf in army green. She's got on her low-riding jeans and red Keds (or the French equivalent of red Keds, whatever that is). Overall, Jackie's outfit is a study in contrasts and it would take confidence to mix so many different styles.

Speaking of self-assurance, how would my daughter do during lunch hour? I remember how uncomfortable I felt as the new kid at school during lunchtime, when I would buy a sandwich in the cafeteria only to steal outside to hide on the outer limits of the dining hall, opposite the parking lot, where all the freaks hung out (the jocks were congregating with the cheerleaders at the picnic tables, and the artsy types seemed to go home for lunch to restyle themselves). 

In case Jackie couldn't find a friend to eat with, I packed her a trusty en-cas, something she could quickly consume in between classes. By the way, I hoped she would last until lunch... and not get hungry during the long morning session.... I remember suffering humiliation when my stomach cried out during quiz time. At a time when only scratching pencils could be heard, there would be those condemning gargouillements coming from beneath my desk!

In a room full of French language majors this was embarrassing enough, but for my daughter, who would spend the morning in a room full of fashionistas, a squawking stomach could really cramp her style!


Comments or corrections welcome here

French Vocabulary

styliste personnelle = fashion consultant

un stage
= internship, training program

lycée professionnel = vocational school, trade school

qui sait? = Who knows 

Gigondas window (c) Kristin Espinasse
Window in Gigondas 


Blue shutter clay maisonnette (c) Kristin Espinasse
Beaded curtains and a little house on the sill.

Easter window (c) Kristin Espinasse
 In theme with Easter... a beloved window in Gigondas

In window accoutrements we have this stylish "echo window" with a rooster.

A favorite window in Caromb. To comment on any item in this edition, click here.

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign up for French Word-A-Day here. It's free and goes out thrice-weekly.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Sacoche - how to say satchel or briefcase (or "man purse") in French

St Tropez south of France scooter
A scooter in St. Tropez. Look closely at the sagging object my husband is carrying. Meet Mr. Sacks, Jean-Marc's lovable sidekick. The photos in the following story were taken over the years....

Today's Word: la sacoche (sah-kohsh)

    : handbag, saddlebag, purse, bag

from the Italian saccoccia, or "little pocket"

la sacoche en cuir = leather bag
la sacoche d'écolier = school bag
la sacoche à outils = tool bag
une soirée de sacoches (Canadian expression) = girls' night out, evening with girlfriends

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Ode to Mr. Sacks

I couldn't believe my ears when Jean-Marc, packing for his business trip, mentioned: "I'm not taking my sacoche with me." 

Vraiment? My husband might as well have decided to leave an appendage behind--son bras droit, for example, the one he uses to lift his wine glass. That is how vital his trusty, takes-with-him everywhere sacoche is to him.

What with increasing restrictions for carry-on and check-in, Jean-Marc's dear sidekick, Mr. Sacks, is the latest victime of airline cutbacks!

Poor Mr. Sacks! I've never felt sorry for the old bag before. Mostly, I've felt envious. Mr. Sacks is the one who goes on all the business trips with my husband. Mr. Sacks goes to all the local wine tastings while I sit at home guzzling tap water.  


sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr Sacks in Paris... the one on the left. (Make no mistake, the other bags mean nothing to Jean-Marc!)

man purse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Ventimille, Italy, watching locals play boules, or pétanque.

I do pity, Mr. Sacks, now that his saggy little body is pouting in the corner of my husband's office. This is the first time in his 12-year-old life that he's collected dust. Normally he's on the go....
Croatia (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks cruising the island of Cres, in Croatia. Just kidding, Jean-Marc would never put Mr. Sacks in this predicament (water). This brings me to the next point...

Regularly I am asked to hold on to Mr. Sacks while my husband sprints off to use a public restroom or when (as pictured above) he is practicing a sport. "Tu peux prendre ma sacoche?" He asks. And I always grumble, not wanting to hold the heavy "third wheel". Apart from tractor wrenches, he even keeps wine bottles (for his tastings) in there...

spitoon (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks (on the floor, next to the bucket spittoon)

Some refer to Mr. Sacks as a "man purse".  That always makes me snicker. Hahahahahaha! Man Bag!!! Sac Homme! I point at Mr. Sacks. But Mr. Sacks isn't laughing... 

Kristi Mr. Sacks Malta
Me, babysitting Mr. Sacks in Malta in 2017. Jean-Marc purchased the leather bag in une maroquinerie  in Draguignan, years and years ago. It was love at first sight.

the guilty look (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc's got that guilty look on his face. He's always holding hands with Mr. Sacks instead of with me--and he knows it!  While others worry about the other woman, I have to worry about the old bag!

sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks is with him on bad hair days...

beach in Ste. Maxime (c) Kristin Espinasse
And on good hair days... at the beach in Sainte-Maxime.

Avalon (c) Kristin Espinasse
And especially on family days!

Lourdes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Visiting the healing waters at Lourdes. Can you spot Mr. Sacks?

sacoche brief case Burgundy france Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Burgundy... with the winemakers...

fountain (c) Kristin Espinasse
But old Mr. Sacks, as you can see, is beginning to sag. I worry that items inside him will begin to fly out of his slouching pockets. I especially worry that money will fall out. For this reason, I sometimes follow close in Jean-Marc's wake as he goes about his errands. I am stumbling along behind him swatting my arms back and forth prepared to catch those banknotes that might come flying out of that sagging bag. 

vintage sacoche (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks is coming apart at the seams, which just goes to show even sacks have middle-age crisis.

Over the years I've tried to get Jean-Marc to consider buying a new bag. Nothin' doin'! "But it's a hazard," I argue (a financial hazard at that! Just think if money really were flying out of that bag). 

"I'm keeping my bag!" my husband always argues back.

in Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
A couple of weeks ago Jean-Marc announced with an ear-to-ear grin: Je l'ai fait réparer, mon sac. He had brought Mr. Sacks to the leather mender's, in town. The guy did a wonderful job, Jean-Marc told me, adding that the man was nearly 90 years old. 

Any ill will or harsh feelings I may have felt regarding Mr. Sacks flew out of the picture (as those bank notes might have...). My heart smiled thinking of the wrinkled man sewing the wrinkled bag, one soul giving life back to the other, each content to be of service for as long as they were needed or wanted.

vraiment = really
le bras = arm
droit = right
tu peux prendre ma sacoche = can you take my bag?
la maroquinerie = purse, bag, and luggage shop
le sac homme = man purse 
je l'ai fait réparer = I had it fixed
mon sac = my purse PORQUEROLLES (c) Kristin Espinasse
Oh dear. Here is Mr. Sacks on the little island of Porquerolles, with Jean-Marc and his formidable mop-spear. I hope you read about this confection--Jean-Marc was very proud of it--in the chapter "Lance".

Flower steps in Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mr. Sacks in Caltagirone, Sicily... can't you see him sniffing the pretty flowers? Voilà, for this edition. If you feel like one more story, read about the time I found a heart-stopping message inside of Mr. Sacks.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


cat in camaret (c) Kristin Espinasse
"A Cat in Camaret". I searched my photo archives for a picture of a veste, gave up and settled on this one instead. Note: The next word goes out on Monday. Bonne fin de semaine!

veste (vest) feminine

    : jacket, blazer

French Expression:
retourner sa veste = to change sides (in a debate, for example)
tomber la veste = to take off one's jacket
se prendre une veste = to get turned down (by a guy or a girl) 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 file or Wav file

Sa veste est tellement grande qu'il nage dedans.
His jacket is so big that he is swimming in it.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I hear a soft knock at the door of my home office. The clock on the computer reads 7:10 a.m., which means the kids are about to head out to school.

"Entrez," I say, prepared to receive a goodbye kiss from either my son or my daughter, before their father takes one of them to the bus stop and the other to a ride-share.

Max struts in, dressed in his father's best suit—or one-half of it, for he is wearing only the jacket. (Instead of slacks, he has on jeans). Noticing the confusion on my face, Max explains: "It is for debate class. I'm speaking today!"

From the way his face is beaming, I can tell Max is very pleased with his appearance. His eyes shine brightly as he waits for my reaction. I have to admit, he looks quite charming, but, I am afraid, not for the reason he thinks....

In fact, the jacket Max is wearing is several sizes too big for him. Il nage dedans

Here follows a mother's dilemma: to coddle or to cut to the chase?

Do I break it to him, letting him know the veste is way too big (thus sparing him of being a target for his snorting, finger-pointing, cohorts)? Or do I mimic the enthusiasm that radiates from his entire person? I can only imagine what it must feel like to try on your father's best costume (or half of it)and to esteem yourself as big enough to fit into it! 

For a moment, I try to see my son through the lens in which he sees himself. Looking again at the boxy, over-sized jacket, I refocus...

No longer are the shoulder pads reaching out beyond his arms. No longer are his knuckles hidden beneath his sleeves. No longer do his legs look like toothpicks beneath the baggy jacket.

"Qu'est-ce que tu es beau!" I declare.

Max closes his eyes and smiles, revelling in the compliment. 

Still a little concerned about the size, I decide to test my son's current self-perception. "Do you think it might be a little too big?" I wonder aloud.

Max looks down, as if to consider size for the first time. "Peut-être. Mais ce n'est pas grave."

I think about his friendly tormentors and how they are about to receive today's bite on a silver platter. And will the teachers be able to conceal their amusement? After all, what is an adorable and endearing sight to a mother... might be a comic one to anyone else.

I will just have to leave it to my son to defend himself, with style and elegance—and what better place to do that than in debate class!


French Vocabulary

bonne fin de semaine = have a nice weekend
entrez = come in
le costume = three-piece suit
Il nage dedans!  = he is swimming inside!
la veste = suit jacket
Qu'est-ce que tu es beau! = just look at how handsome you are! 
Peut-être = maybe
mais ce n'est pas grave = but it's no big deal 

Max, playing in the snow -- only two years ago!

Max-identity card
My. How they grow! Mr. Max, photo taken last week.

And a little French to round out this edition!

Un peu plus tard, elle m'a marié et nous a donné deux beaux enfants. Comme elle était souvent frustrée d'élever deux enfants dans une culture et une langue étrangères, elle a commencé à écrire à ses proches sur sa vie d'éxpatriée... avec ses joies et ses peines.

Read the rest of Jean-Marc's letter--along with the English translation--in my book Blossoming in Provence. Click here.

Thank you for keeping my book in mind for your gift-giving needs. Blossoming in Provence makes an entertaining and educational present. Good for birthdays and Valentine's Day, to name a few occasions!  Thank you for your support :-) Order it here.

Finally, if you can't pay for a copy now--no worries, you might try to win one. It may not be too late to win one over at The Provence Post. I've been enjoying reading the comments there, including this one by Laurel (thanks, Laurel!):

"love Kristin's french word a day...the books are even better"

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

bien fringué

"Love in a Mist." One of the "locals", dressed to the nines for springtime. Thank you, Dirt Divas, for all the lovely flowers that are popping up in the garden!

bien fringué(e) (bee ehn frehn gay)

    : well-dressed

From "la fringue" (garment). Today's expression is used in informal speech! (Read: my daughter and her girlfriends use the phrase often!) Also: "Elle a de belles fringues!" = She has great clothes!

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

Fashion and The Four Agreements

At a house-warming party, or crémaillère, I spoke to the best-dressed guest. I would soon learn that such an opinion was "my truth" and not necessarily her own, that what matters about our appearance is not what others assume or conclude, but that we do what our creative hearts and instincts inspire us to do!

Seated on jewel-toned cushions in our South African hostess's courtyard, I listened to the woman wearing the dos-nu dress as we sat huddled together, fast friends. Not knowing a single soul, I had gravitated to her enigmatic presence.  Not knowing a single thing to say, I said the truth:

"J'aime votre robe!"

With that, an animated conversation began. I pointed to the whimsical ruffles along her sheer hemline... "C'est très joli!"

I looked down at my own get-up, which whispered "Play it safe! Wear black and beige!" In a rare moment of recklessness, I'd thrown on a sheer, calico scarf, tied it tightly around my neck, letting one of the long ends flow down my back. The decision felt dramatic and a little bit thrilling! setting into motion a series of unusual events: I dug out a pair of high heels... dusted off a bottle of perfume, and found a can of hairspray... As I dressed, I shut off the volume of the inner-critic, who heckled back rules about scarves and age, time and place. "Yes, there is a place! I shouted back, and if I don't dress up now, then when will I?" With that, I drew a red line around my lips, filling it in with several strokes of vibrant determination.

"Il faut oser...." You've got to dare...the woman in ruffles explained and, as she spoke, I took in her every detail. From the thick white bandeau tied over her closely-cropped, auburn hair... to her heeled ankle-strapped shoes. She told me that she chose the shoes from a tas de chaussures that her girlfriends had piled high, as they do each season, when they troc their clothes. (And what a great idea to clothes-swap!)

"I don't wear a lot of dresses... or heels," I admitted, pointing out the grapevines that surrounded us. Out here in wine country, it's not practical. 

Il faut du provoc! came the response to every one of my wardrobe-wavering excuses.

Provocative! Oh no, not I! I don't want to mislead others... and risk being mistaken for une pouffe!

The woman in frills shook her head. "Mais ça, c'est LEUR HISTOIRE et non pas la tienne! But that is their experience and not your own! It's their assumption based on their experience and it isn't your reality." Ultimately it is their baggage, not our own. And we are free to unpack our own suitcase and dress up or down as we so fancy! 

The woman huddled beside me threw her arms out as she spoke and her passion and her joy echoed in the delicate threads that enveloped her. "But all this fashion flair must come naturally to you?!" I said, sharing my doubts.

"Mais, non! I look back at photos of myself in my twenties and wonder, "Why didn't I dress up? Why was I so hard on myself. At 50, I'll try anything! So what if I make a wardrobe mistake one day? It doesn't matter... Il faut oser! You've got to dare!"

When I confided that I had a wedding to go to this fall, and that I would be wearing a little black dress, the woman in ruffles ran her coal-lined eye over me and suggested:

"Wear red instead!" 

Red? Wow? RED! Her enthusiastic response was the best reminder to shake up those "rules" of fashion (especially the oft-cited "little black dress"). I may not end up wearing red; but I will try to remember to oser, and, especially, to forget about fashion's dos and don'ts! Ultimately, how we appear to others is out of our control - it has so much to do with their own experience. It is based on their story and not ours. So why not write our own book? I'm calling mine "La Femme en Rouge"!


Postnote: Please excuse the "her" and "woman" and "she" references. But I was not sure at which point in the story to name our stylish character, who goes by "Anita". Anita tells me that she is a coursière for L'Orchestre National de Montpellier. The nature of her job (as messenger) means that eccentricities in dress are impractical (a good pair of boots are "par for la coursière"...) so Anita makes up for it by dressing up at every chance. I would have needed several chapters to share Anita's generous and affectionate spirit with you. I hope you've caught a glimpse of it here...

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here in the comments box

P.S. Based on the ideas that Anita shared, I wondered whether she had read the book The Four Agreements. Turns out she has, in French!  (I have not read it, but have heard it praised by friends.)

Speaking of fashion, a few books to consider. Read the reviews and choose for yourself!
Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel and 

French Vocabulary

la crémaillère = housewarming

le dos-nu = low-backed dress

j'aime votre robe = I like your dress

c'est très joli = it's very pretty

il faut oser = you've got to dare

le tas de chaussures = pile of shoes

le troc = trade

une pouffe = a tart

La Femme en Rouge = The Lady in Red


Dear Mom, can't wait to see you on Wednesday when you land in Marseilles! Can't wait to show you the artichoke I grew from seed! (Pictures taken with this handy pocket camera.)


Never miss a word or photo. Have French Word-A-Day delivered, free, to your inbox!

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

parler métier

I believe I can fly (c) Kristin Espinasse
"She going places... only, sometimes, she wonders just where... " (pictured our 13-year-old daughter, Jackie)

parler métier (par lay may tyay)

    : to talk shop

Example Sentence: Aujourd'hui, Jackie vous invite de parler métier avec elle: est-ce que vous avez un boulot qui vous plaît? Today, Jackie invites you to talk shop with her: do you have a job that you like?

"Mon Futur Métier" by Jackie Espinasse

Note: the following letter was written by 13-year-old Jackie. Mille mercis to our friend Newforest, who edited the French text. For the ENGLISH VERSION, click here.

Bonjour à tous. Vous allez bien? Moi, ça va "nickel"! J’ai une question à vous poser, (si vous pouviez y répondre j'apprécierais beaucoup). Est-ce vraiment aussi dur qu'on le dit de trouver du travail? Je me pose beaucoup de questions à ce sujet, car (malheureusement) moi je n’ai pas beaucoup de notes brillantes!

En ce moment, les professeurs nous répètent tout le temps qu'on doit savoir dès maintenant quel métier on fera quand on sera grand. Quant à moi je suis un peu perdue car je n’ai pas trop d’idées à propos de ce que je voudrais faire dans l’avenir.

Travailler dans la mode pourrait être la solution idéale car LA MODE me passionne! Le problème c’est que ça va être dur de trouver un patron qui veuille d’une fille qui n'a pas de bonnes notes. Ils préfèrent celles qui ont un bon bulletin!

Vous allez tous me dire: "IL FAUT TRAVAILLER !" Je suis d'accord mais j’ai vraiment peur de me retrouver dans un métier que je n’aimerais pas....
Choisir un métier pour l'avenir, ce n’est pas aussi facile que ça ... je vous le dis!
S’il y a des gens qui travaillent dans le domaine de la mode, SVP donnez-moi quelques idées sur votre métier. 

Merci d’avoir lu.


Le Coin Commentaires
Do you have a response for Jackie? Can you relate to Jackie's "what to be when I grow up?" dilemma? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us in the comments box.

English Version: I have put my translation in the comments box. Corrections welcome! :-) 

=> To read Jackie's previous story, about the right to wear makeup, click here.



- nickel = nickel.  It also means spotless, spick-and-span (objects, a room...)  
- ça va "nickel" -> familiar for "ça va très bien, tout va parfaitement" = everything is fine  
- trouver du travail -> here, travail = employment
- dès maintenant = as from now
- un métier = a job, a profession
- être un peu perdu(e) = to be a bit lost, a bit hopeless
- le patron = boss, employer
- les bonnes notes = good marks, good results at school
- le bulletin = school report
- il faut travailler = we / you've got to work
- je suis d'accord = I agree
- l'avenir (masc) = the future

Near the town of Jonquières: a mustard-flower patch beneath the olive trees. Beyond, the rosemaries share their spot in the sun with so many dried leaves. 
"Going Places" with Braise and Smokey. To the left is le ruisseau, or little brook -- the water there feels so good to these furry, webbed feet! The vines to the right belong to our neighbors, Jean-Marie and Brigitte.

51Qckm1DSfL._SL500_AA280_ I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

How to say "to staple" in French? And a wardrobe malfunction on the way to a wedding in Cassis

Cliff - Falaise in Cassis (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Today's story takes place in Cassis, where risks are taken... especially with fashion. Read on...

agrafer (ah graf ay) verb

    : to staple, to fasten, hook up, clip together

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc*: Download MP3 or wav
J'ai agrafé mon pantalon. I stapled my pants.

Have a moment? Check out my husband's wine blog & see videos of our farm. Click here.

Sara Midda's South of France: a sketchbook  Featured book: Sara Midda's South of France: a sketchbook


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

In the narrow lobby of Hotel Le Golf (Cassis), I wait for my husband. I am flipping through a slim Souleiado catalogue that I have found on a little side table. The model on the cover is wearing a seductive evening gown en soie. Her shoulders are bare, her neckline, golden before the plunge.

I look down at my own pasty "plunge".... As for my dress, I begin to have doubts. We are on our way to a wedding... will this dress fera l'affaire? It is knee-length, showing off my neon-white legs. The fabric is black and made of gauze. There is raspberry stitching along the square neckline, voilà for subtle design. My daughter has helped me by gathering the side ties into a noeud papillon in the back of the robe. The bow tie she has fashioned reminds me of the way I wore my dresses... in the third grade.

I try to put aside doubt, reasoning, the dress is new! Shouldn't newness alone guarantee it is not démodé? 

Suddenly all of my self-doubts dissolve the minute I see my husband, whereupon the focus is no longer on my threads... but on his.

Tossing the magazine onto the table... I study my husband's getup. What an entrance he has made! Even the woman behind the counter has dropped her calculator and lowered her glasses. Take a look at him

I wonder, why isn't his dress shirt tucked in?
"I like it this way," he insists.
"But you must tuck your shirt in when you wear a cravate!"

"Do you have a stapler?" my husband asks the woman behind the counter, dismissing me. That is when I notice his jeans, the bottom seams of which are coming undone. Jeans?! Undone seams?! 

"A big one or a small one?" the woman asks, searching for une agrafeuse. The question seems absurd.
"Une petite fera l'affaire," Jean-Marc answers.

And just like that—with a no-nonsense sweep of the stapler, tac! tac! tac!—he fixes his pantalons.

I look over to the woman behind the counter, whose reading glasses are now dangling from her hand, as if knocked over by one Frenchman's innovation. "Pas mal!" she declares, appraising Mr Fix It. 

I gather my purse from the side table, when my eyes catch on the Souleiado catalogue. The model on the cover is now looking up at me and her head is shaking, condemningly. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Next time help him dress, darling. As for you....

But, not giving her the chance to utter one word more, I turn my head and hurry out the door. 
Part One (or the last scene in this story)
 In case you missed the "suite" to this story, read part one: click here.

French Vocabulary

Souleiado = a maker of Provençal fabrics, clothing, and linens
en soie = in silk
fera l'affaire = will fit the bill
voilà = presto
noeud papillon = bow tie
une cravate = tie
une agrafeuse = a stapler
une petite fera l'affaire = a small one will do it
le pantalon = pants

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbookA book that steered me, subconsciously, to France. Sara Midda's South of France is a wondrous sketchbook of a year's sojourn in the South of France. This is a very personal journal, crammed with images, notions and discoveries of the day-to-day. In tones of sea and morning sky, stucco and brick, olive leaf and apricot, rose and geranium, exquisite watercolors capture the landscape, the life, the shimmering air of a region beloved by all who have fallen under its spell.

Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety