Dog in Villedieu (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thanks, Marsha and Dad, for such a nice visit! I hope you will enjoy this story that I wrote about it... (and here is that photo taken during our stroll in Villedieu "Town of God").

"Meet Chief Grape in Copenhagen . He will be pouring his wines at Mansted Wine May 28th, from 5 to 7 PM"

cadre (kadr)

    : frame (of picture, door, etc)

Note: there are more meanings for the French word cadre. Sorry to not have the time to list them here. Dust off those dictionaries and see for yourselves... meantime, a little bit of dust in the following story...

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


I was driving my dad and my belle-mère, Marsha, home to our vineyard when I realized that the room I had carefully prepared for their 4-day stay had something terribly, embarrassingly out of place! 

Despite the fastidious organizing that took place in the days leading up to Dad and Marsha's visit, I had forgotten all about the oil painting my belle-mère Marsha had presented us years ago. Currently, it was missing its frame! More about that in a minute, meantime, there were other glaring oversights that were now coming to mind. For example,  I might have dusted Marsha's painting, as my own mom had, during her previous visit, when we wiped down all of Mom's paintings. I remember being astonished watching Mom wring out a dishcloth and set about scrubbing down all of her own oil paintings before placing them back on the countertops.

Mom had overlooked the fact that her paintings were not hung properly, but there was one thing that bothered her. "They need frames. Promise me you will frame them!" I nodded my head as we stared back at the paintings, which gleamed. The colors were so deep and rich after the towel bath. I would have never thought to wash a work of art!

It was during that same visit that Mom discovered Marsha's painting.  Mom admired Marsha's rendition of a typical Provençal mas. The shutters and door were beautifully painted and the climbing roses that reached up to tickle the shutters made this an enchanting scene from any Francophile's dream.

Marsha had set the painting into a beautiful wooden frame before offering it to Jean-Marc and me. When Mom saw that frame her eyes began to shine and I sensed, even before the crime took place, what calculations were going on beyond that innocent face.

"No! The answer is NO!"

"But I just want to show you what my painting would look like if you ever got around to framing it!" Mom explained.

Fast forward to the drive home, where Marsha and Dad are chatting about the countryside as seen from the car window. Another conversation is going on in my own head:

I need to get to the room before Dad and Marsha do! But how to switch Mom's painting out of Marsha's frame?—when Mom's painting is in another room!  And what a dope you are to have placed Marsha's painting there—on the ledge of the heater of all places! This is really going to look bad!!!  

True! I should have given my belle-mère's painting a more prominent place than on the heater! But it wasn't the heat that threatened to damage the painting (we never use that heater, which serves more as a shelf for books and artwork).... it was the seeming carelessness that threatened to damage my carefully soigné appearance of a mature, has-it-all-together daughter. As it was the bed was impeccably made and the en suite bath shined, as did the floors. And then there was my belle-mère's painting—which sat there vulnerably, like a beautiful woman whose summer hat had just been blown off by the Mistral... or pinched by a rascal! 

Meantime, Mom's painting of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin now boasted a beautiful frame! It would be one of the first things my Dad and Marsha would see when they walked in the front door.

As things threatened to quickly fall apart (we were nearing home now, just one or two blocks away from The Revealing Moment) I made a quick decision to come clean. Experience reminded me that skeletons always manage to work their way out of the closet, "Bonjour! Bonjour!", the moment the guests arrive. Besides, I have learned that the antics involved in covering up an embarrassing faux pas are often as ridiculous as the situation itself.  The skittish and bizarre behavior one exhibits while trying to mask the skeleton only makes the problem more obvious. There was no way to dart out of the car and into the house in time for a casual switcharoo without my behavior seeming weirder than usual.

Often the best course of action is to admit error and, if at all possible, to swiftly pass along the blame... 

"Marsha, there's something I need to explain... it has to do with that rascal mom of mine!"


Post note: my Mom and Marsha have an unusually peaceful relationship as wife and ex-wife of my dad, Kip.  You might say the women are as close as a painting and its frame!

Marsha was quick to forgive Mom and to assure me, "It's nothing to worry about! It's not at all important." Admiring Mom's painting, Marsha remarked, "It's just lovely." 

  Marsha and Jules

No make-up (Marsha, left) and no breast (Mom, right). I hope my moms don't mind my posting their photo, taken in 2003 after mom Jules's mastectomy. Marsha offered a loving ear back then, and the two women continue to maintain a caring email correspondence. Mom always says, of her ex, that Marsha is the best thing that ever happened to my dad. I think he would agree.


I temporarily moved Marsha's painting to my desk, for inspiration while I typed today's story. Click on the picture to see a close up and to read the other inspiration (Flaubert's words) just above.

Here's Mom's rendition of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin. Mom can tell you stories about one of her favorite places. Maybe check the comments box later on.... Meantime, I need to learn how to drill a hole and hang some of these lovely paintings!

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


Lampadaires (c) Kristin Espinasse

At a souk in the Medina of Marrakesh. (Mom, I promise I did not see the "no photo" sign until much later! Not that this would have stopped you from taking a picture!)

Update: No newsletter or word-a-day, on Monday. I'll be in Avignon, chez le plasticien, or plastic surgeon. Wish me luck (it's only a consultation, following the skin scare). Also, wish Jean-Marc & our crew courage--for it's the first day of the red wine harvest!

vexer (vexay) verb

    : to upset, to morally injure

il m'a vexé = he upset me
elle est vexée = she is offended
se vexer = to be hurt (emotionally) 

A person who is vexé might also feel irked, miffed, or annoyed--or quite over and done with you! (as was the man in the following story... read on....


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

Accidental Offender

While in Marrakech for un mariage, I joined a group of wedding guests for a visit to the souq--an outdoor market selling everything from oriental rugs to virility drugs (and in the "everything in between category", please know that for a certain number of dirham coins you can dance with a wide-headed, beady-eyed serpent, while the snake charmer holds your destiny in his flute filled hands!). 

I watched in amusement as we tourists let ourselves be lured into the crowded stalls of the bustling bazaar. "Come in, come in!" The stall owners beckoned, as we navigated the maze of shops. "It doesn't cost anything to look!" they called after the shy or suspicious shoppers. "And if you find it anywhere for less--I'll give it to you for free!" But I wasn't in the market for anything more than a treasured experience, and my fellow soukers--not to be confused with "suckers", for they were not at all falling prey to the peddlers--were helping to grant this wish. I watched as my friend Isa purchased, from the street chemist, Moroccan dye powder (for painting her kitchen) in canary yellow, Mediterranean blue, and brick red. As the shop-keeper transferred the colorful powder from large mason jars to tiny plastic baggies, he pointed to the opposite wall (covered from floor to ceiling with more mason jars, inside of which there were mangled roots and dried leaves and other mysterious things). "Can I interest you in some viagra pour femme?" My friend laughed at the shopkeeper's gumption. "Je n'ai vraiment pas besoin, Monsieur!" Isa's husband, Eric, who sat on a nearby bench, shrugged his shoulders but could not hide his pride. I was impressed with Isa's moxie, but I couldn't help but picture the locals, or the modest women in head-scarfs, and I wondered about the demand (a popular one?) for such a love potion. Out of respect, I quickly let the image (that of an eyelash-batting berber) dissipate in my mind's eye. Best to leave the shroud of mystery in its place, for such is the beauty of a foreign land.

Weaving in and out of the market stalls, our small group purchased Moroccan slippers, or les babouches, silver earrings, cendriers, tassels, and pottery. And when Temptation finally met me, she came swiftly calling from outside the ironmonger's. There, in a shopfront no wider than a minivan, I found my objet fétiche

It was an antique door-knocker (much like this one) shaped like a hand curled over a metal ball. The detail was such that the hand even had une bague on it! I had seen and photographed the hand-heurtoirs, but they were rarely found for purchase.

This one was unique in that it was a mini version of the others. The shopkeeper unhooked the iron knocker from the display and set it in my hand, where I cradled it, admiring its colorful facets, in faded blue and green and burgundy. The paint had been scrubbed off, leaving a fragmented patina which lended so much life to the object that, if it were mine, I wouldn't dream of tampering with it further. It couldn't be more accidentally perfect! 

The peddler told me a story about these iron hands, seen on doors throughout his country: "...placed at the entrance of one's home, they protect one from the evil eye!" His own eyes narrowed as he studied his potential buyer....

I nodded, further captured by the history, which I had never thought of or even wondered about before. "Combien?" I asked the skinny shopkeeper.

"500 dirham."

The antique piece was 50 euros. Too much for me--I had only 100 dirham--enough for lunch, but no where near enough to buy this unique, evil spirit repelling door piece (not that I had plans to put it on a door: It might be used on a wooden medicine cabinet, a desk, a beehive mailbox, an armoire--or used as a paper weight or an interesting bibelot--the possibilities were endless!)

Noticing my first attempt at negotiation, a member of our group wandered over.

"Combien?" Jean-Philippe asked, only to get the same answer from the owner ("500 dirham!").

"Too much!" my souk gardien informed the skinny adversaire. "Let's go!"

And with that, I let myself be led aside in what would be one of many moves in The Game of Negotiation. The stall keeper called us back, "450, then!"

"Non, mais, ce n'est même pas la peine!" "At this rate, it's not even worth negotiating," Jean-Philippe answered, brushing the man off, and I followed my friend to the next stall, as we carefully left our ears behind, at the thin man's shop--lest we miss the next offer!

"Take it for 250!" The man shouted.

Cupping one hand over his mouth, Jean-Philippe whispered to me: "How much do you have?" 
"Only a hundred," I admitted, feeling the first pangs of guilt--for I did not mean to take advantage of the thin man!--but before I could be completely overcome by my conscience, Jean-Philippe made the final offer: "100 dirham!" 

The thin man shook his head in aggravation. "Non! 120 dirham!"

I could not believe it -- the treasured object might be mine for 120 dirham--almost one-fifth of the price! Only, that is when I learned that the twenty dirham that were needed to seal the deal were nowhere to be found. My friend had spent all his money in the previous shops. The others in our group had disappeared and I stood there with my 100 dirham note, not daring ask the man to lower the price any further.

I rifled through my wallet, finding only a two-euro coin. But two euros did equal 20 dirham... if only the man would accept foreign currency--as the other shop owners had.

I had wandered away from the salesman in order to check my purse for any money that might have slipped into its very seams, and by the time returned to make a final offer, the shop owner ignored me! I showed him my 100 dirham bill and the two euro coin. He shook his head, angrily, and waved me away. "Je l'ai vendu!" he snapped, dismissing me. "It's been sold!" 

The thin man's reply came as swift as a slap in the face. More than the disappointment of losing the chance to buy the door-knocker, I felt a surge of shame. I knew the stall-owner had not sold the antique hand, or "chaser of evil eyes", as he had earlier taught me. He seemed to have yanked it from the display and hidden it away--after very nearly being thieved by an evil tourist! His message was clear: I would be the last person on earth to have the privilege of buying the door-knocker! All that was left to do now, was to SCAMPER back to the little hole from which I had crawled out of, while searching my purse seams for loose change.

"The shop owner is vexed," my friend Jean-Philippe, explained, feeling horrible that I'd missed the chance at buying the antique. Only what Jean-Philippe didn't realize is that he wasn't to blame. What's more, I'd taken away with me a priceless souvenir: one that would be a valuable lesson in respect: there is a limit to negotiation; in a healthy transaction there must be a positive balance... and that sometimes leaves a fine line between finding a good advantage for oneself... and taking advantage of another.


I never meant to vex or to take advantage of the thin man--and I yearned to turn back and let him know this truth... The idea came to me that I might even give him, flat out--for keeps!--the 100 dirham and the two euros, to boot--a steal, after all, for this lesson in humility! Only, out of respect for the one vexed, I did not turn back. In so preserving his self-righteousness, indeed--his very dignity--I dragged on.

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


Selected French Vocabulary

un mariage = marriage

viagra pour femme = women's viagra

le cendrier = ashtray

combien? = how much?

le bibelot = knick-knack

adversaire = opponent

un objet fétiche = a favorite (collected) object

une bague = a ring

un heurtoir = (door) knocker


Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.


  Dragonflies (c) Kristin Espinasse

While walking along the ruisseau, Braise, Smokey, and I stopped in our tracks, and stood mesmerized by these dragonflies. Read a tender story about "The Lost Libellule," or dragonfly, here

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