Petits Oublis: 'Forgetfulness', Etourderie, and verb conjugation (listen to it!)

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Today's Word: l'oubli

    : forgetfulness, oversight, memory lapse

*New: Don't miss the verb conjugation for oublier, just after today's vocabulary-packed story below...

ListenL'oubli n'est pas un ennemi de la mémoire. C'est un phénomène non seulement banal mais aussi indispensable, qui lui permet de faire le tri dans la masse d'informations qui nous parviennent en continu et qui ne peuvent pas être toutes engrangées. Forgetfulness is not an enemy of memory. This phenomenon is not only banal but also indispensable, allowing it to sort through the mass of information that reaches us continuously and that cannot all be collected.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I am beginning to concerned about this latest series of petits oublis... so I've decided to come here to talk about it with you. I'm guessing a few of my readers are aged 50 and above, and will have a thing or two to say about the topic of forgetfulness, or  les moments d'étourderie.

When last I misplaced my key and asked Mom if she had seen it.she replied, Darling, you left it in the front door. (Was that a concerned look on her face? The walking-on-eggshells tone in Mom's voice tells me something too: Is it my mood again?) I remember responding in a nonchalant way, Oh, thanks Mom--yes, I was in the middle of bringing in the groceries, I explained.

And yet I feel anything but insouciant about memory lapses, forgetfulness, oversights, flakiness, and forgotten appointments that are becoming some sort of norm lately...

As someone who does not drink, does not take medication, regularly challenges her brain by speaking a foreign language, eats a (mostly...) plant-based whole foods diet, walks daily, prays and gets plenty of sleep how could this be happening to me? 

A few possibilities come to mind: as a ronfleur, or snorer, chances are sleep apnea may be affecting the quality of sleep... And then there is the anxiety that I arrange my life around--it is why I no longer drink alcohol and why good nutrition, sleep, exercise and, recently, therapy is helpful to me. And yet...

When I left the kitchen robinet running for 10 minutes the other day (the irony! I had been filling a bowl in which to wash mes patates...and so recycle the water afterwards!), and then left the oven on after serving the oven-baked fries... I was alarmed at the latest oversights! But panick doesn't help things, now does it? Peace, after all, plays a big part in a well-functioning brain!

So, dearest reader, please chime in in today's comments box with your own thoughts on forgetfulness a.k.a. les petits oublis. Meantime, may those of us concerned with memory lapse take heart in the following thought (whether you remember it or not!):

L’oubli favorise l’innovation, libère la pensée et stimule la curiosité. Forgetting promotes innovation, frees thought and stimulates curiosity. --Simon-Daniel Kipman

*    *    *

There are many tools to help with our memory--including the exercise of conjugating French verbs! Listen to Jean-Marc conjugate the verb oublier

Verb conjugation oublier

tu oublies
il oublie
nous oublions
vous oubliez
ils oublient

French country diary 2019
A tried-and-true memory aid is a good old-fashioned calendar... and this one is a beauty: The popular, beloved French Country Diary makes jotting down appointments and reminders a pleasing , mindful activity. Order one here.

l'oubli = oversight, forgetting
les petits oublis = forgetfulness
une étourderie = forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, inattention
le ronfleur, la ronfleuse = snorer
la patate = potato, spud
le robinet = tap, faucet
insouciant,e = carefree, unconcerned, untroubled

St. P paint
Photos in today's post are from my friend Beth. Check out her popular Lavender & Vine Tour in Provence. A vacation (and all those heady aromas from the French countryside) will do wonders for one's memory :-)

Beth painting tour in provence

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Bilingual post: Le Coton-tige + a French doctor's thoughts on cleaning your ears

Maison des Pelerins ancient door in Sablet Provence
Spectacular views from every window, a charming, private courtyard, comfortable spacious rooms, and air-conditioned bedrooms make Maison des Pèlerins very inviting all year round. View this rental property.

Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Ne mettez jamais rien de plus petit que votre coude dans votre oreille. Don't miss the rest of this post...and thanks for sharing it with a friend who might enjoy learning French.

"le coton-tige"

    - cotton swab
    - cotton bud
    - Q-tip

Coton-Tige: click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following text in French

Particulièrement polluants, les cotons-tiges en plastique seront interdits en France dès le 1er janvier 2020. Dans le cadre de la loi Biodiversité adoptée le 20 juillet, le Parlement a interdit la mise sur le marché de ces bâtonnets très utilisés en France pour l'hygiène ou le maquillage, mais entrant dans le triste classement des plus gros déchets retrouvés sur les plages et dans les milieux . --La Fin du coton-tige

Particularly polluting, plastic cotton swabs will be banned in France as of 1 January 2020. Under the Biodiversity law adopted on July 20, Parliament has banned the placing on the market of these sticks widely used in France for hygiene or makeup, but falling into the sad ranking of the biggest waste found on the beaches and in the environments. - "The End of the cotton swab"

by Jean-Marc, winemaker, nature lover

Whether writing about falling off his bike in Marseilles or spending a day in his favorite coastal spot, Jean-Marc is always happy to contribute a story for us. Enjoy today's....

Avec les beaux jours et la chance d'habiter à proximité de la plage, j'ai redécouvert le plaisir de nager en mer. Se faisant, j'aime bien mettre la tête sous l'eau, pour admirer les fonds quelquefois "braconner" quelques oursins.
With this beautiful weather and the chance to live near the beach, I rediscovered the pleasure of swimming in the sea. So doing, I like to put my head under water, to admire the seabed ... And to sometimes "poach" a few sea urchins.

Violet sea urchin

Néanmoins, ces derniers temps, j'ai remarqué que mon oreille droite se bouchait dès que je mets la tête sous l'eau. Et le temps passant, j'avais de plus en plus de mal à la déboucher ce qui était assez désagréable. J'essayais bien d'utiliser un coton tige pour la déboucher mais cela fonctionnait de moins en moins bien.
Nevertheless, lately, I noticed that my right ear was corked as soon as I put my head under water. And as time passed, I had more and more trouble uncorking it which was very unpleasant. I tried to use a cotton swab to unclog it but it worked less and less well.

Finalement, je suis allé consulter un "ORL" (Oto-rhino-laryngologiste) qui m'a regardé l'oreille et m'a dit que j'avais probablement un bouchon. Avec un tube et un aspirateur, il a retiré sans difficultés ce bouchon et en a profité pour nettoyer mon autre oreille.
Finally, I went to consult an "ENT" (Otolaryngologist) who looked at my ear and told me that I probably had a blockage. With a tube and a vacuum cleaner, he easily removed this plug and took the opportunity to clean my other ear.

Je lui ai dit mon étonnement à voir autant de saleté dans mes oreilles, moi qui me les lavent régulièrement avec un coton tige.
I told him of my astonishment to see so much dirt in my ears, I, who wash them regularly with a cotton swab.

Il m'a alors fortement déconseillé d'utiliser cet ustensile. "C'est comme passer le balais et mettre la poussière sous le tapis" m'a dit-il. Pour se laver les oreilles, rien ne vaut un gant de toilette et du savon.
He strongly advised me not to use this utensil. "It's like sweeping dust under the carpet," he said. "To wash your ears, nothing is works better than a washcloth and soap.

To comment on Jean-Marc's story, find the link at the end of this post.

Jean-marc about to swim off boat
I hope you enjoyed JM's article. He is happy to return to his beloved sea, now. Remember "Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear" :-) Ne mettez jamais rien de plus petit que votre coude dans votre oreille--çela dit, that said, you may gently clean your outer ear with the help of these items.

This type of pocket-shaped wash mitt, or gant, is the standard washcloth in French homes. Do you remember seeing these in France? Share in the comments and you can order a few here

SAVON de MARSEILLE soap with olive oil. Perfect for all skin types. Order here

Beach near La Madrague  vue of La Ciotat Parc du Mugel

"Beaucoup de gens jettent les cotons-tiges dans la cuvette des toilettes plutôt que dans la poubelle de la salle de bains. Et ils font en effet partie des déchets les plus présents dans les milieux aquatiques. En 2015, nous en avons ainsi retrouvé pas moins de 16 226 dans les rivières ou sur les littoraux européens. Mis bout à bout, cela équivaut à trois Tour Eiffel et demie !" -Antidia Citores, of Surfrider Foundation

A lot of people toss cotton swabs into the toilet bowl rather than in the bathroom garbage can. And this makes up a good part of the waste most often found in aquatic areas. In 2015, we found no less that 16 226 (coton swabs) in rivers or along European coastlines. Put end to end (these coton swabs) this equals three and a half Eiffel Towers! Surfrider Foundation

La Madrague beach yellow flowers
The beach at Port de La Madrague in St. Cyr-sur-Mer

Dear Kristin,Thank you so much for your amazing assistance in my French language learning. 😊 -Divya

Your "Day in a French Life" story, and your language lessons, are worth many times this amount to me. -David

Thanks for all the great stories you've shared over the years. I feel I've become a part of your family in France! -Augusta

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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 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!
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Can you drink tap water in France? Readers comment about water safety, share tips, warnings

golden retriever yellow irises stream canal reflection rhone water dog chien ruisseau
France boasts an abundant supply of water. But can you drink from the tap? Is it potable, or drinkable? Just where does tap water come from and, more importantly, What is in it?

TODAY'S WORD: l'eau du robinet

    : tap water

ECOUTEZ/Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

Eau du robinet. Peut-on boire l'eau du robinet en France?
Tap water. Can we drink tap water in France?


Is our water in France safe to drink? (Maybe too safe?)

by Kristi Espinasse

As I type this report, it feels as though my tongue has been stripped of its taste buds after drinking a glass of water from our kitchen sink. But before causing a national panic--and before this blog disappears from the radar silenced by the powers that be--let me say that, up until 4 days ago, I have always drunk tap water in France!

And yet, I can't help but wonder: are they putting something into our water? 

Wait! Before calling me paranoid, or "one of those conspiracy hurluberlus" (true, I have been glued to "prepper" videos, lately, as I stuff our property (our prepper homestead?) with edible plants, trees and "Patriot" blueberries

Strangely, our tap water did not taste (or smell!) this way before last week's mouse-induced flood, so maybe it's our fault? But I can't picture Jean-Marc, naked in the pigeon hut, pouring cleaner down the water pipe (on second thought where exactly is the water pipe?). Before I start to suspect my husband--as well as The State of France--let's go over the facts. And here are the facts: our tap water tastes like la javel!

As I sit here sucking on my tongue (hoping to get my taste buds to stand up again after being mowed down by municipal water!), I ask myself, Is it simply a coincidence? That just as we recovered from Friday's flood, and repaired the water pipe, the nearest water treatment plant suddenly changed its recipe for tap water? Adding tons of chlore! POW this stuff is strong!!!

Meantime, we are drinking bottled water, and bottling up our tap water to be analyzed in Toulon. As for my poor bleached tongue, I can still enjoy my mother-in-law's just-made tapenade! So maybe taste buds do regenerate?

In the comments, below, share your experience with tap water. Do you drink it? Why? Why not? Do you drink l'eau du robinet when in France? Should I buy a filter? Have water delivered? Thanks for sharing all you know about eau.

Update: several of you have recommended the Brita Filter Pitcher and the Big Berkey water filter 

Tapenade olive spread green black olives triangle shapes
Michèle-France's tapenade. She makes two types, from green olives or black olives.


potable = drinkable
un hurluberlu = an eccentric, oddball, extravagant person
la tapenade = green or black olive spread
la javel = bleach
le chlore = chlorine
l'eau du robinet (f) = tap water

Eau non potable undrinkable water not for drinking
No filling your water bottle here! On an ancient fountain in Brignoles, the double warning reads: Eau non potable ("not drinking water")

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 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!
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Semence: Sowing seeds for a French flower garden

Scarecrow (c) Kristin Espinasse
Only scarecrows are immune to canker sores. The rest of us are sitting ducks! (photo taken in the Queyras Valley, in the French Hautes-Alpes)

If you are new to this word journal, I hope not to scare you away with an ugly first word. (You could always skip to the story column and learn sores--I mean scores--of flowery vocabulary...)

I've been nursing a burning and painful aphte for a few days now. Is it all those oranges I've been eating? Or a food allergy or hidden stress? Or maybe an acidic mouth? Jean-Marc tells me to sprinkle baking soda on it and there he goes again, citing yet another "remède de grand-mère". His grandma must have been a wizard... or une sorcière...

un aphte (pronounced "unnaft")

    : a canker sore, a mouth ulcer or lesion

Terms and phrases found in an internet search:

soigner un aphte = take care of a canker sore
soulager un aphte = to find relief from a canker sore
traiter les aphtes récividants = to treat recurring canker sores
guérir des aphtes = to heal canker sores
un aphte sous la langue = a canker sore beneath / under the tongue

Un aphte est une ulcération douloureuse... A canker sore is a painful ulcer. --French Wikipedia
Le mot aphte vient du mot grec "aptein" qui signifie brûlure. The word aphte comes from the Greek word aptein which means "burn".

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

Lackadaisy is not a flower

I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.

Beyond the bedroom window the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black clouds. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the utilities room or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).

Wherever, he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!

I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home? 

I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!

Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard flower seeds. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!

There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!

I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....

And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...

Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".

I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).

I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the dog yard... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...

I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.

As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!

I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water! 

I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.


To comment on this story, click here. Share your own stories of lackadaisy, or maybe you wanted to share a home remedy for canker sores? Click here to read the comments.

French Vocabulary

quelle horreur!
= Awful thought!
une semence = seed
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late

  Camomile (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Flowerboy" Among the seeds tossed out on Sunday were camomile, the actual plants were gifts from the Dirt Divas. I had save the flower heads (unsure of where exactly the seeds were...) I tore up the flower tops and threw them round... hoping they'll turn into what you see in the photo above (our garden back in Sainte Cécile).

Jacques and Kristi weaving lavender
Brother-in-law Jacques and I, weaving lavender wands or les bouteilles de lavande. Have you planted lavender in your garden or in pots on your window sill? You, too, could make a lavender wand this summer! Watch Marie-Françoise make one here. Photo taken in 2008.

Italian gardening (c) Kristin Espinasse
Space-saver gardening, for when you don't have a field to scatter seeds--this is just as sweet!

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend. 

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 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

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So much for anonymity

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
 "This one's for you!" (pictured: that's me with the cake, my husband, right, gets all the wine around here--even when we lived on a vineyard, where wine all but flowed from the garden hose.)

A (Very Special) DAY IN A FRENCH Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday a delicate and meaningful milestone quietly passed. Waking up, I searched for a way to respectfully acknowledge the date, lest it pass as another ordinary day. Quietly walking out to the bedroom terrace, I looked around at the countryside.  As far as the eye could see, there was greenery: olive and almond trees, the forest, and the sea.

It was a relief to wake with a clear head and no regrets. Breathing in the morning scent, I closed my eyes. Now was the time. I offered up the simple acknowledgment, and thanks. There was a moment of complete and utter silence, and then seagulls cried in the distance. A train passed, blowing its horn. The neighbor's dogs barked. My robe sagged, and I reached down to tighten the belt. It was both an ordinary and an extraordinary day.

"You can take me to lunch," I hinted to Jean-Marc, both reminding him of the important date—and suggesting how he might help me to mark the occasion.

"How about with a big glass of cognac?" he chuckled.

"That is NOT funny!" No matter how many times I tell him that such jokes, given the circumstance, are in bad taste, he cannot help himself.    

"OK, then how about a six-pack?" my husband continued.

"T'es terrible!"

"I'm very proud of you," Jean-Marc assured me, planting a kiss on my lips. His tenderness provoked flashbacks of years ago, when I would discover little notes stuck in a book I was reading or in the pocket of my robe.

"Çela fait dix jours. Continue, Mon Amour... That makes ten days. Keep it up, My Love," the encouragements read, and "Trois semaines! Fier de toi, Ma Chérie! Three weeks now! So proud of you, My Dear!"

The scribbled notes were encouraging but had I foreseen the future, I might not have had the guts to continue on the new path, not knowing that some of the rockiest parts were just around the corner. The hand-written notes would stop. The sores would begin to open.

A decade has passed and I am still on that fragile path; despite all the setbacks, I have never once veered off track. And even if I wouldn't be celebrating the 10-year mark with a glass of champagne, I was looking forward to eating out with my husband.

Only, when my daughter ran up, asking to bring a friend home for lunch, plans changed. Five months at the new school, and she, too, had passed a delicate milestone: the courage to invite a new friend home!

Well, at least I no longer have to fret about what to wear to the restaurant! The positive thoughts continued as I set about tidying the house, and preparing for my daughter's special lunch.

But as I hurried to fix up the house for our important guest, I felt a familiar rush of panic. There won't be time to finish the cleaning AND to get the meal started. Recognizing the anxiety—that old foe that I could not cope with ten years ago—I was able to put a stop to it. No, there wouldn't be time if I insisted on a perfect outcome. But there was plenty of time otherwise!

What was important, after all, wasn't how the house looked or what we ate, it was how our guest would feel. I wanted Jackie's friend to experience that good and cozy and welcoming feeling and to leave with a desire to return! 

"Promise to come back and see us?" I said, kissing my daughter's friend goodbye after lunch.

"Oui!" came the shy response.

Noticing the look in the young lady's eyes it seemed a guardian angel was smiling back at me. If I had gone to the restaurant to celebrate and be pampered, I would have missed this heavenly encounter.

At the end of the day Jean Marc presented me with a gift. Gently tapping on the door to the bedroom, where I had been putting away a stack of freshly folded clothes, he curled his finger several times, signaling to me to follow him.

I was a little leery of whatever he was dragging me out to see. After polyester pajamas, discount branch shredders, and T-shirts I could never wear in public, I never knew what kind of gift was up his sleeves.

"Will I like it?" I asked, nervously, letting my husband lead me by the sleeve.

Opening the front door, I saw the little cherry tree posed just beyond the welcome mat, like a gushing guest. I looked closely at the delicate, leafless branches. The tiny buds were burgeoning.

"Congratulations!" Jean-Marc said. "I'm so proud of you!" 

The burgeoning continued, inside of me, as teardrops surfaced like the little buds of the cherry tree. Fragile as its branches, my sobriety continues.

Update: February 3rd, 2019, I celebrated 16 years of sobriety.

Golden retriever Smokey resting on the balcony overlooking the vineyard and hills

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 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.


Max Espinasse
In a nearby calanque... I'm counting on our 17-year-old, Max, to bring home more "fruits of the sea"... because I sure don't trust some of the fruits they're selling us at the supermarket! Read on, in today's story column. (Photos in today's post are by Jean-Marc)

nourrir (noo-reer)

    : to feed, to nourish

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this vocab list: Download MP3 or Wav file

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!
And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself.

se nourrir = to feed oneself
nourrir des espérances
 = to cherish hopes
nourrir au sein = to breastfeed
une conversation nourrie = a lively conversation 
mal nourri = ill-nourished
bien nourri = well-fed
nourrir une rancune = to nurse a grudge


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

Seated at the dining room table, a basket of nuts separating us, Jean-Marc and I were having one of those highly animated arguments that arise when one spouse's neurosis butts heads with the other spouse's neurosis.

Him: Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité.
Me: Ha! You mean the truth according to you

Him: Hmph!
Me: Hmph!

When there seemed to be no resolution in sight—so red were our faces, so steaming were our ears—one of us did a remarkably sensible thing... by dipping his hand back into the hat of sujets à aborder, or "stuff we need to talk about", and drawing another ticket!

His defensive tone gone, my husband's voice remained firm:

Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir!

I listened to my husband's French and, translating his words, I was hit by their deeper meaning: 

"And it isn't by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to feed yourself!"

This remark wasn't some sort of idiomatic low-blow. Jean-Marc literally meant what he said, and his concerned tone sent a steel ball spiraling towards my mur de défense

There was a tightening sensation in my throat, which felt as though someone were squeezing it. Tears pushed up from out of nowhere.  The more the tightening, the more tears were extracted until my face was streaming with them.


"Do you ever cry openly?" A loved one once asked, while helping me with relationship issues. I considered her question. Capable of spontaneous tears when suprised by an image of vulnerability (a defenseless human or animal), I don't often have the same tear-ejecting response when confronted with my own helplessness. Maybe that's because I'm not always aware of it.

This time my husband's words hit the emotional release button. I sat facing him, silently dissolving into a puddle of larmes

Jean-Marc was right. I haven't been eating lately—not after discovering that even the French have let genetically modified organisms into the marketplace! What had been a gradual awakening to the reality of the food industry... has rapidly become a full-out phobia in which every carrot is suspect and every grape sits taunting me from the produce aisle and every package of chèvre bleats, "You sure this goat hasn't grazed on pesticides?" And forget about meat when the cows are eating the animals that are eating the chemically altered corn!

Afraid even of endives, I've been madly sowing seeds in the potager, but the vegetables growing there aren't yet mature; this has me impatiently picking the beet's leaves and other leafy beginnings—when all the crickets don't beat me to them.

For the kids and Jean-Marc, I buy organic fruit, arsenic-free rice, and charcuterie labelled SANS OGM. I quit buying Chocopops and replaced Nutella with a biologique version.. All dishes are made from scratch but the more I research food news the more it becomes complicated to come up with "safe" meals and I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.


Back at the confrontation table, Jean-Marc tries to be encouraging. "You can eat some of this baguette," he offers, pointing to the two loaves, just beyond the basket of nuts.

But there are pesticides in that fresh-baked baguette. Didn't he watch the film?!... And besides, the carbohydrates in bread break down into sugars... and sugar feeds cancer! 

Mon dieu! What's got into me? Food safety is enough to drive you crazy. Looking down at that basket of noix that separates me and my husband, suddenly those nuts are looking more than organic... they are looking like a good warning of what can happen when you get carried away with fear.


To comment on this post, click here.


French vocabulary

Tu ne veux pas entendre la verité = you don't want to hear the truth
sujets à aborder = subjects to address
Et ce n'est pas en mangeant trois feuilles de laitue que tu vas te nourrir! = And it's not by eating a few lettuce leaves that you're going to nourish yourself 
le mur de défense = wall of defence
une larme = a tear
la chèvre = goat
la charcuterie = processed meats
biologique = organic 
la noix = walnut 


  Max Espinasse
At this rate it's going to take a while to nourrir our family. Come on, Max, get back in there and catch Mom a giant daurade!

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 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!
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OGM + organic seed giveaway!

An artichoke plant grown from seed. Once it flowered, more graines were collected; with them I hope to grow a new plant in our garden. Is it true that seed collection--from our own gardens--may one day be illegal? Or is this just one of those conspiracy-theory rumors? By the way (and not in the same breath as conspiracy!), the film Genetic Roulette is free for viewing today (Friday), after which you will have to pay to see it! 

For those waiting to read the English translation to Jean-Marc's story, click here.

OGM (oh-zhay-em)

    : un organisme génétiquement modifié
    : a genetically modified organism (a "GMO"); a plant, such as corn, that has been genetically modified 


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

In the past month, apart from enjoying every moment with my dear mom (Jules left yesterday...), I have been learning about food, specifically genetically modified food--something that is banned here in France (due to the need for further testing regarding health risks...).

In the United States, genetically modified foods are prevalent, having been silently introduced into the market place in the 1990s. Found in fruits and vegetables, GMOs are in everything from ketchup to peanut butter to kids' breakfast cereal, and are served in restaurants, on airplanes, and in school cafeterias. Currently genetically modified foods do not require labelling (in the States) so there's no knowing whether or not an apple or a cookie or a jar of peanut butter contains them. 

Because the following topic could be a touchy or emotional one... I'm going to play it safe and assign myself the role of debate moderator--rather than debate participant! (go ahead and call me une poule mouillée or wet chicken--anything in order to hear your personal view on this GMO topic!)

So please share with us now your opinion on GMOs: would you eat a fruit or a vegetable that has been genetically modified? Yes or no--and why? 

Thanks for adding any related links (to documentaries, websites, books) that might persuade some of us to agree with you!

Share your view here, and enter to win seeds from this amazing artichoke plant, grown in my garden in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes... and soon to be planted here in our new garden near Bandol.

Click here to enter the discussion: "For or against GMOs".


One of the most exciting days of my life was seeing this gorgeous artichoke plant arise... from a single seed!

Thanks for forwarding this post to a friend!



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 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.


"Raw Paws" - or the Society for Mutts that Don't Do Meat or Cooked Veggies. The group is only a fictional one--for Mr Smokey R. Dokey (pictured) won't be giving up his viande vittles any time soon. But, being the gentle cohabitant that he is, he respects certain members of his family that are experimenting with a new way of eating... read on. 

cru (kroo) adjective

    : raw

 There are a few other definitions for "cru", most of which are not in theme with today's story. Help define the additional meanings, here in the comments box.

Example Sentence:

Manger cru, c'est manger un aliment vivant. To eat raw is to eat a living food.


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

I, Crudivore?

My teenagers and I stand transfixed before the food processor. Smokey and Braise join our huddle which forms a demi-circle around the encased liquid: a mysterious green-flecked food source. Max's eyebrows lift in amusement, while his sister, Jackie, backs cautiously away from the counter. As for the dogs, they're just giddily grateful to be included in a food related activity. But was this food? After all, it sort of looked like swamp matter, which, arguably, is food to some... slimy creatures and mythic beings, for example. 

"Qu'est-ce que c'est exactement?" Max questions.
"What is it? Why, it's a lettuce-banana smoothie!" I dare say.

"Un smoo-sie laitue-banane?" Jackie wants to be sure she has heard correctly.

"Un milkshake... avec de la salade?" Max repeats, unbelievingly.

"Yes, it's 'un smoothie vert'... and there is no milk in here!" I correct my son. "...and you won't even taste the greens--that's the magic of it!" (I had read that one way to get your kids interested in 'drinking green' was to get them to participate in such an experiment as this, after all, what kid isn't fascinated with weird science?

I searched the kitchen armoire for three of our most attractive glasses (having read that presentation was key) and filled three tumblers--the only glasses that were uniform in size... and not chipped... or misted with calcaire. Pouring out the smoothie, we watched, eyes agog, as the pulpy liquid slid out (our food processor did not succeed in rendering the vegetables and ice in a velvety "smoothie" state - as I had seen on Youtube, where I'd gotten the inspiration for this raw food breakfast for amphibians, or, rather, champions).

As the glasses filled, large blobs of thick green runoff slid menacingly down the side of the glass, to the horror of the voluntary tasting crew. It was all the kids could do to not pinch their noses as they took up the goblets and tilted them at the edge of their mouths....

"Et alors?" It is good?"

Max licked his green lips and Jackie wiped her own lèvres vertes with the back of her hand....

"C'est pas mal," came the non-damning consensus.

"Vraiment?! Really?!" with that I upended my own goblet in time to feel the fragments of lettuce streaming between my teeth. Surprisingly, and, as promised, the vitamin rich greens were tasteless, and only the sweet flavor of banana prevailed. I crunched down on the unprocessed ice. "Next time I'll freeze the bananas," I promised, "...and we'll forego the ice!"

The kids set down their goblets and ran back upstairs to carry on with more conventional activities, such as playing with new hairstyles (Jackie) or resuming un jeux d'ordi (Max), activities that were sacrificed for The Green Smoothie Experiment.

Meantime, I sat down at the kitchen table and sipped the rest of my "live" drink. The watery bits (melting ice) were a little disappointing, but I reminded myself of all the vitamins that I was drinking in!

While a daily green smoothie may not cure my skin problem, it is a step in a positive direction. And it is empowering to know that, while some things are out of our bodies' control, we still have a big say in what we "feed" our living cellules


 Le Coin Commentaires
Has anyone here tried to incorporate more raw foods into their diet? What about juicing? Can you recommend a good green juicer? What equipement to you have in your healthy kitchen? Do you turn to medication--or to mangoes--at the first sign of illness? Any warnings you might like to add? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, here in the comments box.


Two books I plan on buying (add your recommendations to the comments box):

Raw Food Made Easy, by Jennifer Cornbleet

Live Raw: Raw food recipes for Good Health... by Mimi Kirk

Selected French Vocabulary

la viande = meat

calcaire = chalky

et alors? = well then?

c'est pas mal = it's not bad

vraiment = really?

un jeu d'ordi (ordinateur) = a computer game


Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

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




 Exercise, or healthy Alpine living, near the town of Serre Chevalier. 


 One final health tip for you--not that I am in a position to hand out health tips!--but the French words on this sign seem a good remedy for many of the body's ills; the sign reads: Ce qui compte... c'est l'amour. ("What counts... is love"). Photo taken last month, in the town of Monetier (near Briançon).

Speaking of love, do you have a minute to read a story about my French mother-in-law? Click here to read "Elvis in Ancient 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 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.


We'll go ahead and use this photo (for its calligraphie) to illustrate today's story, which might as well be titled "Les Bêtises de La Peau" or "Skin Stupidity". Read on... and cover up with sun screen!

la peau (poh)

    : skin

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

Protégez votre peau du soleil. Mettez un écran solaire.
Protect your skin. Apply sun screen.

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

Skin Sins

It looked like a blemish... only it didn't go away. On studying the spot on my forehead, I wondered whether it was a scar--one I had somehow overlooked? Only, I couldn't remember running head first into anything recently.... Besides, I would have remembered the bleeding, the bandaging, and the scabbing (not to mention the embarrassment).

After prodding and poking at the bump, to no avail (I guessed it wasn't acne...), I decided it must be an age spot--a pearly one at that. At the age of 43, I seem to be manufacturing them! There is one above my right eyebrow... and another is coming into view over my left sourcil. Only those spots are the color of age-spots: brown. Did age spots come in other colors and thicknesses?

When the flesh-tone spot in the center of my forehead began to grow (it was growing, wasn't it?) I began to have doubts and, one weekend last month, I threw all of my worry energies together in time to make an appointment chez le dermatologue.

Only problem was: in August, in the South of France, all dermatologists are on the sunny beaches of Costa Brava (just kidding--in truth, I do not know where skin doctors vacation in summertime, but they do vacation, and, therefore, it was difficult finding someone to diagnose the worrisome growth).

I would have to wait three weeks to see a skin specialist in Orange. On my way to his office, I kept forgetting things: where I put my wallet, especially. I managed to misplace it three times that week, whereas I'd never before lost my porte-monnaie. If I am absent-minded by nature, this head-in-the-clouds tendance became epidemic the week of my appointment.

The dermatologist's office is located in an historical hôtel particulier. Stepping past the sky-high iron gate, I peered around the cobbled courtyard. It looked bleak (no swayback benches, no giant pots with trailing flowers), but then it occurred to me: what busy dermatologue had time to sit or to water plants? I decided this was a good sign and stepped over the threshold.

Inside, the only other patient in the sterile waiting room sat reading Voici (France's version of People Magazine). The woman had a big bandage on her ankle. I wondered what skin-related malady had befallen her? 

After checking in, I waited beside the woman with the ankle bandage, and as I read the cover of her magazine, I overheard voices in the next room:

"Je vous ai fait un rendez-vous chez le chirurgien plasticien. I've made an appointment for you at the plastic surgeon's...the secretary was saying to the young woman who had just seen the doctor.

When it was my turn to be examined, the diagnoses came almost as soon as I arrived at the examination table. No magnifying glass was needed, no special flashlight. The only instrument the doctor used was a great blue magic marker. 

Doc used the thick blueberry-colored marker to draw a circle around the mysterious growth, highlighting the area that would need to be excised. Next, he handed me a mirror.

I stared at the spot on my forehead, which appeared even bigger than before. "C'est un carcinome baso-cellulaire." "It's basal cell carcinoma," the doctor explained.

Still starring into the hand mirror, I saw my glassy eyes flanked by mascarad wings, which blinked. 

The doctor assured me: "It is the most common type of skin cancer: nonmelanoma. I diagnose at least one case per week. A lot of farmers around here get it. (I thought of my husband, Chief Grape, who had already had an 8-inch chunk of flesh taken out of his back, some 15-years-ago. He would need to be reexamined!) 

If left untreated, the doctor explained, the cells would keep on growing. But I would probably die of old age, he assured me, before I would die of this type of skin cancer. "That said, basal cell carcinoma is malignant and can spread to the bone, in which case it is best to remove the growth."

The doctor washed off the blue mark from my forehead and scribbled a note to a colleague, a visceral and digestive surgeon, just up the street at the Clinique de Provence.

I wondered whether I shouldn't travel farther, to have some sort of specialist remove the facial growth?But when I voiced my concern, the doctor chuckled: "No need to send you to China to have some cells removed!"

 I laughed, too. True, it was no use complicating the matter. First things first, get the growth removed! And no time to dally, for a second growth appeared last month, piggy-backing the first.


Post note: I was uneasy about the idea of a visceral-digestive surgeon cutting and sewing my forehead! Wouldn't a plastic surgeon be a better choice? For days I debated the doctor's recommendation. And then I said a prayer and asked for peace of mind about my decision... and that is when the answer came to me, clear as day: "visceral" means "organ" -- and isn't skin the biggest organ we have? Therefore an organ and digestive doctor would seem to be the right match! I'll see the doctor this Tuesday, which is also la rentrée, or back-to-school for our kids.

 Le Coin Commentaires
Statistics show that 3 out of 10 light-skinned persons may develop basal cell carcinoma in their lifetime. It is the most common form of skin cancer. Share your "sun sins"--experiences, stories, and knowledge-- here, in the comments box--and help spread awareness of this preventable disease. 

 Update: Read about my visit to the surgeon's... where I learn that a gut doctor has been recommended to remove the facial growths... Click here

A picture of the spot:
You can see the spot on my forehead in a picture I posted last month. Click on the following link and look for the first picture (with the pink scarf) in this story column (then click on the picture to enlarge it). The pea-size, flesh-tone spot is in the center of my forehead, one or so inches below my hairline:


French Vocabulary

le sourcil = eyebrow

la tendance = tendency

le porte-monnaie = wallet

un hôtel particulier = private mansion

Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

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




This Frenchman has the right idea: wear a hat! Photo of the trompe-l'oeil taken in 2009, in Pourrières.

    French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills


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 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.

la goutte

Abandoned Beauty (c) Kristin Espinasse

Beauty in abandoned places. Beside the bricked-in, condemned windows, a random poppy bouquet, born in the cracks of concrete. Photo taken in Bollène (Vaucluse) (with a handy pocket camera I'm using a lot these days (click here for more info)

la goutte (goot)

    : gout

Note: our family is about to begin bottling wine now (see story, below)... no time to go on... but there are other meanings for today's word, goutte. See some related terms and expressions here!

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Cette fois-ci, j'avais une crise de goutte dans la main.  This time, I had a gout attack in my hand.


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

A Farmer is Never Hors Service (Even When His Limbs are!)

Today we will bottle 12,000 units of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine! Adding to the excitement and chaos is a surprise visit from my husband's pire enemi: la GOUTTE! 

Yes, gout! Jean-Marc has suffered from the "kind of arthritis" for the last 15 years. (It runs in his family.) The attacks, which are usually concentrated on the foot area, always strike at the most inopportune moments--just before a road trip (so that driving is out of the question) or just before an important mise en bouteilles--such as today's!

And so it is that Chief Grape is partly hors service (given that his hand has doubled in size, painfully so, after this latest attack). Thankfully, Uncle Jacques stopped by to help prepare the area for the bottling. And now that Max is a buff (time to embarrass our teens again, la honte!) almost-16-year-old, he is able to be an even more dependable main droite for his father.

Meantime, The Chief is doing what he can to speed up the healing process: he's asked me to help apply an argile, or clay, emplâtre to diminish the swelling in his hand. To cover the wet clay, we made a cutout from a bag of Harry's American Bread (those of you living in France will recognize the colorful packaging!). 

The homemade cast was tied together with some elastic string normally used in training our baby vines. And, speaking of entrainment, Chief Grape's hand, trussed this way, has a certain "punch" to it... wouldn't you say?


P.S. What, you may be wondering, sets off one of these gout attacks? Though wine is most often cited, for Jean-Marc les asperges is another pire ennemi! And, this time of year, they are everywhere, those menacing green spears! (Hidden in soups, unrevealed in risotto...) 

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments are welcome here, in the comments box. Thanks in advance! 

                                      Chief Grape, multitasking.

 French Vocabulary

hors service = out of service

pire ennemi = worst enemy

la mise en bouteille = wine bottling

la main droite = right-hand man, woman

l'argile (f) = clay (click here for story)

emplâtre (m) = plaster (medical)

l'entrainement (m) = training

les asperges (f,pl) = asparagus

also: les pointes d'asperges  = asparagus tips



Smokey (standing next to me as I photograph his mama, Braise), says:

"Her eyes were closed. Could you please take another?"

Me: "Of course Smokey-Dear. And good of you to look out for your beautiful mom!"

Smokey: N'est-ce pas qu'elle est belle, ma maman? (Ain't she purdy, my mama?)

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click 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 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.