What does Journées Portes Ouvertes mean? And How To Succeed in College.

Just back from Aix-en-Provence, where Jackie and I visited a potential faculté, or college... and it has nothing to do with fashion studies!

Domaine Rouge-Bleu will soon embark on another USA tour. Meet Thomas! Click here for cities and schedules.

TODAY'S WORD: les portes-ouvertes

    : open house (U.S.), open day (U.K.)

Thanks to Nancy, Katia, and Audrey and all who helped with the English translations when I posed the question earlier on Facebook! My mind was drawing a blank. Does this happen to you, too, when you study languages for so long and are multilingual?

Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to rent in France. Celebrate special occasions with family, friends. Click here.


Improve your spoken French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jackie pronounce today's word and example sentence: 
Download MP3 or WAV file

Les portes ouvertes. Aujourd'hui, Maman et moi sommes allées aux portes ouvertes en faculté de langues à Aix-en-Provence. Open house (or open doors). Today, Mom and I went to the open house at the language college in Aix-en-Provence.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Learning How to Learn

If it were up to the Gods of French Academia, they would have my children declaring their future careers by the age of 12.  But how can a kid know whether he wants to be a scientist or baker before the age of adolescence? 

Neither of our children were able to declare their future metier at such a tender age. Max, who now studies international trade in Aix, once chose literature--and lived to regret all those book reports. And his sister, Jackie, eventually found her way into fashion studies. She will take her baccalauréat exam (graduate high school) this June, and is set further her fashion studies this fall. Or was....

"I would like to be a writer like you," Jackie recently announced. Once I picked myself up off the floor, a smile began to form across my face. Wasn't that ironic! I thought. At her age I wanted to be a fashion designer! 

"Don't worry, Mom! I want to somehow combine the two fields...."

Jean-Marc and I had mixed feeling about this recent vocational switch-a-roo. But in the end I realized that what's important is not what we study, it's how we study. What's important is to learn how to learn.

The language arts school that Jackie is interested in cites a 4 percent success rate for students who are coming in from vocational schools. But Jackie is not daunted. "I think of you, Mom," she says, remembering the story of how a D student made it into college on probation and went on to graduate cum laude.

It's funny how Jackie remembers that, and this tells me two things: she really is listening to me, and two, she's got a good memory. With those two tools she is on her way to succeeding in college. Add to that a steady stream of motivation and determination and her success in at la fac is surer and surer. 

What, dear reader, would you add to that? How can a student succeed in college? 


Jackie and her brother, Max, in the college town of Aix-en-Provence

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Sunrise with Almond blossoms. Photo taken here at our vineyard. 

If you enjoyed today's post, thanks for taking the time to share it. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Tarpin! How to say "super duper" in French?


2009. With Jackie, when Smokey was tarpin young. Lately everyone's growing up around here! (Picture taken months after Smokey's horrible attack.)

Today's word is listed under "Parler Marseillais," or Marseilles lingo, so it may be a regional expression....

tarpin (tar-pahn)

    : a lot, very 

Would then "super duper" = tarpin tarpin? :-)

Audio File & Example Sentence: listen to Jean-Marc: Click MP3 or Wav

Il fait tarpin chaud. It's very hot!
Il y a tarpin de monde. There's a lot of people here! 


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

Modern English and My Daughter Share the Same Birthdate

If you've followed my Facebook or Instagram page lately, you may have sensed a spell of nostalgie. Since our firstborn flew the coop last week, I've been posting photos of the kids when they were petits bouts de choux. Back when they used to say the cutest things.

"Peur pas!" Max would say to his little sister, giving a whole new meaning to "don't cry!" But when kids hit the teenage years those sweet little phrases turn into gros mots and you wonder, Where did the innocence go?

Nowhere, I'm happy to report. Nulle part!

Driving my daughter home from school, she's in an unusually chatty mood. Perhaps that Huffington Post tip worked ("25 Ways to Ask Your Kids 'So How Was School Today?' Without Asking Them 'So How Was School Today?'" worked!) Currently Jackie's talking about her favorite movie....

"Have you seen Will Hunting?"

It takes a minute to translate my daughter's English--so strong is her French accent. "Yes! I think so. It's with Robin Williams and... whose that other guy?"

"Matt Damon!!!"

"Ah. And you say it's a  good film?"

"C'est tarpin bon!"

"Are you watching it in English I hope?"

"Yes," Jackie says, to my surprise. "Only it's hard to understand."

"Why's that?"

"Because they're speaking in old English. (Here, Jackie's exact words are "l'anglais d'avant.")

"Oh? What year did the film come out?"

"I don't know," my 16-year-old says. "1997?"


*    *    *

To leave a comment, click here. If you like, you might enjoy adding a punchline to today's story. I hesitated over this last line: "That old, huh?" before leaving the end as is. The actual response I gave? A good chuckle!

French Vocabulary

petit bout de chou = little kid
le gros mot = cuss word
nulle part = nowhere
peur pas = fear not
tarpin = very
bon = good 


Winetasting at Mas des Brun
Thanks, Meiling Newman, for this snapshot of a previous meetup. Winetastings at our home are informal and unpredictable. If it rains this Saturday we'll end up inside, as cozy as those sardines in Marseilles' vieux port. To reserve your seat for Saturday's 5 o'clock tasting, email jm.espinasse@gmail.com 

First potatoes
Bye for now. Off to make un potage! Planted a potato that had sprouted on the kitchen countertop. Thrilled to find this at the bottom of the bucket! Enough to make one serving of Soupe à l'oseille et aux pommes de terre, using the sorrel from the garden.

My belle-soeur, Cécile's recipe: Stir fry the following. Add water. Simmer one hour.

  • A few finely sliced potatoes
  • handfulls of sorrel
  • some onion
  • a bouillon cube if you have one
  • s & p
  • bay leaf if you have one handy
  • sour cream (optional), to stir in after

Blend, right there in the pan, with a handy-dandy mixer like this one. 

Sack of potatoes
Took this photo near Valréas. Can you explain this set up? Is it a warding off? Or an IOU to the postman? Fodder for a roving photographer? Comments welcome.

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

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Drap: On teaching your kids last-minute lessons


While out on a scenic walk with Smokey, we spotted this watercolor artist and his lazy hammock. But cloth swings aren't the topic of the day... sheets are! So read on....

un drap (drah)

    : sheet

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

Plier vos draps-housses au lieu de simplement les ranger tels quels est un moyen pratique d’organiser vos draps et de garder un maximum de rangement. Folding your fitted sheets instead of simply putting them away "as is" is a practical way to organize your sheets and to save a maximum amount of space. -Comment Plier Un Drap Housse

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

Passing my daughter in the hallway, I notice she is carrying a bundled sheet. I watch her open the nearby buffet and cram it in among the stacks of bedding stored there.

"Pas si vite! No so fast!" I say, wagging my finger.

"But it's clean!" Jackie argues. She's only used the drap housse two nights--when she and her best friend took over her brother's new studio in Aix.

"Yes, it is, and you are right to put it back," I say, congratulating my teenager on her consideration. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I would deliver a stack of freshly-washed and line-dried clothing to her room only to find it back in the laundry basket after the clean clothes ended up on the floor--mixed in with the rest!

Thankfully those days are over. Only now Jackie needs to learn how to fold a fitted sheet. "I'm going to show you an astuce!" I say, bracing for my daughter's resistence. But before she can roll her eyes, I play the sentimental card:

"...Your great-grandmother Audrey taught me this one...."

My student is now willing, if not super enthusiastic. "Here take this," I say, shaking out the bundle. "Now find one corner and poke your index finger in its seam!" 

Jackie is less triumphant when she locates the stitched coin, but I won't let her boredom dampen things. "There! Now, in the same way, reach over and locate another corner seam. Then join your fingertips!" 

I manage to drop the sheet during the demonstration. Reaching to pick it up, I hear my daughter rouspéter with impatience.

"Jackie, this trick will come in handy one day. Imagine two years from now when you are in college....

My girl is not sold on the homemaking tip so I add some key words.

"When you are in school in Boulder you'll have a little place rien que pour toi. Then you'll be happy to organize your living space and this tip will help." I shake out the fallen sheet, but my daughter groans. Apparently a sheet-folding demonstration is as painful as a tooth-pulling!

Normally at this point I give up and do it myself. But this time I take a good long look at my almost seventeen-year-old. Her grumblings turn to silly faces as she tries to coax me out of a serious mood.

Gripping the sheet the words pour out of me. "Jackie. LET ME BE YOUR MOM.... I have so much catching up to do. So many things to show you before you finish growing up."

My eyes begin to sting and, blinking them, I feel my daughter's arms around me. Her tender voice is a lullaby:

Maman, pleure pas....

*    *    *

It's a day later now and, after the tears, c'est le sourire. Do you know, dear daughter, that when your brother was little, he used to say the same thing only with difficulty? 

"Peur pas!" he would say to you, his newborn soeurette. And now you are almost grown. Big enough to stay overnight in Aix at your brother's new digs! Max will be leaving home in a few weeks, taking over the apartment permanently, and I wonder how things will be then? Will we feel the void?

Peur pas! I hear Max's little voice. I remember it so well! And now I imagine his current 19-year-old voice: "Pleur pas, Maman. I'm leaving you my sister. And my laundry, weekly."

My nostalgic daydream bursts when I remember the 10-pound laundry bag delivered just this morning. Well! If he thinks I'm going to continue to be his personal laundress he's got another thing coming: Mom's Sheet-folding lessons. The full, unedited, teeth-pulling version!

French Vocabulary

une astuce = a tip, trick, trade secret
le coin = corner
rouspéter = gripe, grumble, moan
rien que pour toi = all for yourself
le sourire = smile
la soeurette = little sister
peur pas = fear not

sunflower seeds growing in the backyard
 After posting here, I love to go over to Instagram and upload the latest photos of our home and garden. You'll see Smokey, Chief Grape, the "kids", Jules, and the local environment here on a vineyard near Bandol. Click here to see the latest images.

Readers Comments

This comment from Cathy, in response to my covoiturage post, made me smile. It might encourage you to check out BlaBlaCar when next in France.

Having read concerns people have posted I have to say that what sold me originally on the service was that I was able to read reviews. Reviews of both drivers as well as of passengers. You can see how long someone has been a driver, what kind of car they drive. Drivers can check out passengers. I will always choose a veteran driver if I have a choice. I chose my first driver because he had positive reviews and one said he had transported their rabbit. Haha! That's who I wanted!! Turns out he's a Marseilles detective that lives in Perpignan do transits twice a week. So doing some research in advance and you can avoid a lot of surprises. Yes, it was a bit odd to climb into a car with three strange men at 1:30 in the morning at a parking area at a highway exit. But that miracle ride took me directly to Barcelona airport for a 6 am flight. Hip hip hooray for Blah Blah Car and the people who use it!

    To read the covoiturage post, click here.

Enjoy many more photos of France at Instagram

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

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

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

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.

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

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.


"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.


To respond to this story, click here.

Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

*    *    *

New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France

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

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

Desiderata poem in French and English: lifechanging words


Our 16-year-old set out, yesterday, on a 24-hr voyage. Alone, she flew from Nice to London, then London to Dallas, and on to Denver. Unsure of what to say to my daughter before she left, I slipped the following poem into her travel bag. Photo taken at the Vieux Port in Marseilles, on break from her internship at a couturier's. 

 "D E S I D E R A T A" by Max Ehrmann

Allez tranquillement parmi le vacarme et la hâte
Go placidly amid the noise and haste

Et souvenez-vous de la paix qui peut exister dans le silence
Remember what peace there may be in silence

Sans aliénation, vivre autant que possible en bons termes avec toutes personnes
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons

Dîtes doucement et clairement votre vérité; et écoutez les autres, même le simple d'esprit et l'ignorant, ils ont eux aussi leur histoire.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Évitez les individus bruyants et agressifs, ils sont une vexation pour l'esprit.
Avoid loud and agressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

Ne vous comparez avec personne : vous risqueriez de devenir vain ou vaniteux.
If you compare yourselves with others, you may become vain and bitter.

Il y a toujours plus grand et plus petit que vous.
For there with always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


                                           photo of Jackie taken in 2011

Jouissez de vos projets aussi bien que de vos accomplissements.
Enjoy your acheivements as well as your plans.

Soyez toujours intéressé à votre carrière, si modeste soit-elle
Keep interested in your own career, however humble

C'est un véritable atout dans les prospérités changeantes du temps
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Soyez prudent dans vos affaires car le monde est plein de ruses
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery

Mais ne soyez pas aveugle en ce qui concerne la vertu qui existe ;
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

Plusieurs individus recherchent les grands idéaux ;
Many persons strive for high ideals;

Et partout la vie est remplie d'héroïsme.
And everywhere life is full of heroism

Soyez vous-même. Surtout n'affectez pas l'amitié.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Non plus ne soyez cynique en amour
Neither be cynical about love

Car il est en face de toute stérilité et de tout désenchantement aussi éternel que l'herbe
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass


Prenez avec bonté le conseil des années,
Take kindly to the counsel of the years

En renonçant avec grâce à votre jeunesse.
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Fortifiez une puissance d'esprit pour vous protéger en cas de malheur
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune

Mais ne vous chagrinez pas avec vos chimères.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings

De nombreuses peurs naissent de la fatigue et de la solitude.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

Au delà d'une discipline saine, soyez doux avec vous-même
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself

                               Jackie, 7 years old.

Vous êtes un enfant de l'univers, pas moins que les arbres et les étoiles;
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

Vous avez le droit d'etre ici.
You have a right to be here.

Et qu'il vous soit clair ou non, l'univers se déroule sans doute comme il le devrait
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

La Ciotat 8.16.03 047

                                  With my daughter, 5 years-old then...

Soyez en paix avec Dieu, quelle que soit votre conception de lui
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be

Quels que soient vos travaux et vos rêves,
Whatever your labors and aspirations

Gardez, dans le désarroi bruyant de la vie, la paix de votre âme.
In the noisy confusion of life, keep at peace with your soul

Avec toutes ses perfidies, ses besognes fastidieuses et ses rêves brisés,
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams

Le monde est pourtant beau ;
It is still a beautiful world;

Prenez attention.
Be cheerful.

Tâchez d'être heureux.
Strive to be happy.


If you enjoy this free language journal and find it helpful in any way, help keep it going with a small donation. Merci beaucoup!


Jackie riding a donkey in Southwest France

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

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

avoir la tete sur les epaules & Jackie's return

avoir la tête sur les épaules (ah-vwar-lah-tet-soor-layz-ay-pawl)

    : to be sensible, to have a good head on one's shoulders

Audio File:
listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's expression: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Pour faire un si long voyage seule à 15 ans, Jackie doit avoir la tête sur ses épaules. To go on such a long trip alone, at the age of 15, Jackie must have a good head on her shoulders.


    by Kristin Espinasse

Jackie's back! After a 4 week stay with her grandparents in Idaho, we met our daughter at the Marseilles airport. We are so proud of her for travelling solo from Sun Valley to Salt Lake City--then on to Paris and Marseilles. At the age of 15 she navigated the various airports, waited for long stretches for connecting flights, and got through customs--without any assistance at all. Bravo jeune fille! Tu as bien la tête sur les épaules!

Nearing the airport exit, on our way to pick up Jackie, Jean-Marc suggested we search the sky for her plane. After all, how many other avions were arriving at 5:12pm? 

"There she is! There's our girl!" I said, pointing to the sky above the deep blue Mediterranean. Our heads were craned before the windshield as we watched the plane descend like a metaphor. Thanks to this voyage de découverte, Jackie was gaining in Independence and confidence--learning to fly with her own wings or, as the French say, voler de ses propres ailes.

Entering the airport périphérique, I learned our plan was to meet Jackie at the zone de livraison des bagages.

"Baggage claim! Why aren't we meeting our daughter at the gate?!" 

Before Jean-Marc had a chance to answer, I bet this was part of the plan: he was rooting for our daughter to make it all the way through the voyage--from security check in Ketchum, Idaho, to baggage claim in Marseilles, France. 

"Go ahead," he encouraged me. There's still time to meet her at the gate. While Jean-Marc parked the car, I hurried toward the terminal.

Speeding to meet Jackie, I took a wrong turn in Hall 4--the arrival and departure terminal for international flights. By the time I got to "arrivals" (downstairs) the gate was clear. Everyone had already met up with their loved one. 

At baggage claim I ran into our friend Astrid, who was there to pick up her son from a similar trip (his voyage of independence took place in Miami, Florida). There was no time to chat; after a quick bise I sped off to find my daughter--but ran smack into Jean-Marc instead. With a giant ear-to-ear smile he announced our girl was waiting outside on the curb.

Pushing past my husband, I darted towards the tall glass doors--all but smashing in to them. Why weren't they opening? The answer came quickly enough as the doors slid open automatically, revealing the empty sidewalk beyond.

But where was she? Was this some sort of father-daughter prank? I give in! I give in! Bring on the much-anticipated reunion! I scrambled to and fro in frustration until... Was that she?  Beside the parking meter there was a tall figure with a mane of long blond hair. The apparition stopped me in my tracks and got me doubting.  

No, this was a woman. Studying the stranger's body language--upright, yet relaxed--I didn't recognize my girl, who tends to slouch. 

But could it be Jackie? I picked up my pace again--deciding to run around to the side and get a better look before bounding in and swooping her into my arms. I've made the mortifying mistake before, of embracing a complete stranger. With a bit of caution, the embarrassment might be avoided. 

But love throws all caution to the wind. Racing, now, toward the upright woman, whose back was to me, I threw my arms around her. My joy was sprinkled with relief on hearing the sound of her voice.

"Maman! Maman!"

*    *    *

That's my girl. Welcome home!!!


Valerian flower a.k.a. Le lilas d'Espagne (c) Kristin Espinasse

Before picking up our daughter at the airport, I saw this butterfly while watering the garden. As the papillon softly flapped its ailes, I thought of Jackie. This picture is for her. The leopard wings are just her style.

French Vocabulary

bravo jeune fille! = way to go, young lady!

tu as bien la tête sur les épaules! = you've got a good head on your shoulders

un avion = airplane

le voyage de découverte = discovery trip

voler de ses propres ailes = to fly with one's own wings

le périphérique = beltway, ring road

la zone de livraison des bagages = baggage claim

le hall = air terminal 

la bise = kiss

maman = mom 


  Outfits for Misfits (c) Kristin Espinasse

Black, black, or black? What to wear to the concert in Arles? Lately I'm picking my husband's brain for fashion advice. He didn't like the shoes here (the ones on the right are my daughter's), but suggested the black flip-flops my mom had left behind. Good idea! Let's go casual.

Panier du potager (c) Kristin Espinasse
Kale, parsley, zucchini, favas and tomatoes. Next year I'll remember to plant corn and melons and carrots in our potager garden

Smokey and Love Salad (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey: I love me some fruit salad. Recipe at the end of this story.

*    *    *

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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.

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c'est déjà pas mal

Block party in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
"A path of one's own." Our daughter Jackie in 2005, in Queyras. Keep marching toward your dream, My Girl, and don't forget to enjoy the sights along the way! More about our recent pep talk in today's story column. Forward it to a struggling student. (Note: the sign reads "block party".)

A few seats are still available at the Washington DC wine dinner with Jean-Marc on March 20th -- click here for more information.

A word and an expression for you today, as I couldn't choose between the two:

c'est déjà pas mal

    : not bad at all, nothing to sneeze at; it's a good start

The second entry, the term pep talk, goes with today's story. Only I couldn't find a good French equivalent so I'm including these examples found on line (I ran out of time to translate them. If you'd like to help, you can share your translation in the comments box, for all to enjoy).

Mon quart de travail a débuté par un pep talk, discours de motivation du superviseur à son équipe. --L'Actualité, Volume 25

La crise est trop profonde pour qu'un pep talk, un discours « motivateur » ou un cri de ralliement puisse agir efficacement. --Renaitre a la Spiritualite: Essai  By Richard Bergeron

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

"You were laughing in your sleep last night!" I said to my daughter, who is sharing my room while her father is away.

"I love it," I assured her. "Always laugh! Laugh and be positive as much as you can in life."

My suggestion wasn't fazing Jackie, who stared out the window wishing to skip school. "Can't I have just one day off?"

The kids always try to work me when their dad is out of town. Usually they succeed in getting one ditch day each, but as school gets more and more demanding I can't in good conscience give in. Besides, I promised Jean-Marc to keep both slackers on track.

As we drove the country road to school, passing the newly pruned olive trees, I noticed how the ground was covered here and there with pink blossoms. The almond trees were dropping their dainty coats. A new stage was unfolding.

I looked over at my daughter, "Just think. Your career is about to begin! This fall you will be enrolled in fashion studies. You are on your way!" I reached over and patted Jackie's leg.

"Ouai," her deadbeat response was one interminable sigh. I knew what was bothering my girl. She's told me many times before: "Et si je ne réussis pas?"

"Of course you will succeed!" I smiled at my passenger.

There she sat, in her army combat pants and bad girl sweatshirt (no words on the black shirt, just three hand gestures. I couldn't make out their meaning, but the symbols--including a fist--seemed to say Don't mess with me!). On the outside she looked tough but inside she was sucking her thumb. The insecure future loomed ahead of her.

Entering the school parking lot I recognized one of the pions whose job it is to welcome students.

"Je peux me baisser? Can I duck down?" Jackie pleaded to return home to bed.

I knew my daughter was tired, but I did not realize the extent of her spring fever. Now was a good time for a pep talk!

"Look, you need to get to class today. Listen to the lecture and that's half the work! Be kind to your future self--don't make her have to struggle tonight by trying to learn the material all on her own.

Jackie seemed to awaken to the suggestion. Maybe she was finally able to make the listen in class  less work at home connection.

"I could go to permanances and get my homework done..." she considered.

"Study hall... Great idea! You're future self will love you when she is relaxing in front of her favorite program tonight instead of falling to sleep on her math book!"

"But I'm too tired to go to school today!" Jackie said, falling back into her rut.

"Look, Choucou. It may not be obvious to you what all these classes are adding up to. But they are all paving the way to your future freedom! One day soon you will be exercising your dream job--if you will just keep showing up and opening your mind to the... possibilities." (I betted "possibilities" sounded better than "lessons", so I used it trusting Jackie's subconscious to make the switch!)

"Look at me," I chimed on, "I may not feel like working today, but I will go home now and write my column--never mind my lack of energy. This is how I practice my dream of writing for a living. Once I sit down to type the first few lines of my story, I'll get in the groove--and so will you. What's important is to begin!"

I continued with my pep talk, tossing in several points on the power of positive thinking, something, I admit to my daughter, that I still struggle with. "But we have to continually keep our thoughts up!" I cheered.

Kissing Jackie goodbye I quizzed her. "Do you understand what I am saying?" I smiled.

"I'm getting half of it," she admitted." Je retiens la moitié de ce que tu dis."

"Oh..." I said, feeling my spirits sink... until I remembered to take my own advice.

"Mais c'est déjà pas mal!" Yes, that's not bad at all!

To comment on this story, click here. To share your own stories of pep talks and school struggles and positive thinking or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps click here.  

French Vocabulary:
= yah
le pion
(la pionne) = monitor
la permanence = study hall
chouchou = sweetie 


 Yay! Just received an update from Valencia Siff (pictured left) who tells me that Chief Grape's winetasting in Virginia was a success. I'm teary-eyed seeing Valencia's touching message (thank you, V.! P.S. You are beautiful!). A few seats remain for the D.C. tasting. Please check this page with a link to reserve your seat. 

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
From the photo archives: Colorado in Provence! This site in Rustrel, France, is known as Le Colorado Provençal. Posting it for all our Colorado friends. Naner naner!

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
Around Rustrel, another lazy French village with crawling roses and sleepy benches. 

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 help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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♥ $25    
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la honte!


Photo: Nothing to do with today's word... just a slice of country life as it looked here at the farm one week ago.

la honte! (lah ohnt)

    = how embarrassing!

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



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

"Why is it We Do The Very Thing We Set Out Not To Do?"

(In a parking lot, somewhere in a busy industrial zone...) My daughter and I are walking arm in arm, following the shade that our bodies make. We swerve to the left, to the right, let our heads fall together, and then to the side. The dark figure on the sidewalk contorts, following our every move and it is our delight to throw out another command or two. What a thrill it is to be in control, finally, to watch our image do what we tell it to!

Earlier, when we arrived at the shopping center for a beauty consultation, Jackie repeated her request:"S'il te plaît, Maman... Please, Mom, do not tell the saleswoman, 'My daughter does not need to wear le maquillage'!"

I quickly translated her plea: by informing the saleswoman that my daughter did not need makeup, I would be announcing: "She's too pretty for the stuff!" And such a remark would be "la honte" to my daughter.

Compte sur moi! I promised. Even though I feel my daughter does not need makeup, I knew it would be a surprise and a treat to offer her a cosmetics lesson. (After her essay on maquillage, we received many thoughtful responses and tips, one of which was the suggestion to have a makeup consultation.)

Fastoche! I thought. I'd worked in a department store and I'd witnessed the girls at the makeup counter offer customers free lessons. I figured that after Jackie's lesson, we would purchase the fond de teint that she had been asking for (to camouflage les boutons, she explained).

With this plan, I led my daughter into the makeup boutique. After I inquired about a makeup lesson, the woman behind the counter consulted her cahier.
"Voyons... la leçon de maquillage... çela coute 25 euros." 

"Vingt-cinq euros? Does this include a gift with purchase?" (I was hoping it might cover the cost of the fond de teint that we were in the market for...)
The woman shook her carefully coiffed head, Non.

Wondering what to do, I translated the figure into US dollars: $36! What if we purchased something?...

The saleswoman confirmed: "With a purchase of three items, we can offer you the makeup lesson." With that Jackie and I hurried over to the makeup display case, but the first item my daughter saw (lip gloss) was 32 euros ($40)! With this "three item" scheme, the lesson would end up costing nearly $100!

I tried to negotiate with the saleswoman. "You see... she's only thirteen..." I pointed out, looking over at my daughter, who was showing the first signs of la honte

There, I'd done it! I might as well have said "she doesn't need to wear makeup!"

Strangely, instead of taking the clue that I'd gone and done the very thing I'd promised not to--I chose this moment to give my daughter a lesson in consumer relations... 

"Don't be embarrassed, Sweetie. It's normal to talk about the price for something!" I said to my daughter, looking over at the saleswoman for confirmation. Only, the saleswoman stared blankly back at me.

I ignored the whispering beside me, "Maman.... Maman!

The saleswoman's reaction only fueled my determination for a winning outcome (couldn't, after all, this be a gagnant-gagnant, or win-win situation? As it was, the boutique had no other clients. Was it too much to ask for a makeup demonstration? The two saleswomen were standing around and it might also be the chance for them to practice the métier....)  

I tried reasoning: "It's just that... instead of buying grocery-store makeup I had the idea that I would treat my daughter to..."

But any fanciful ideas were immediately cut short when my daughter began poking me, determinedly.

"Jackie!" I admonished the arm-poker. After a few more bumbling lines, the irony of it all occurred to me: this great effort at economy was, in the end, at my daughter's expense!

Like that, we sklunked out of the makeup boutique, one of us feeling like a has-been, the other feeling like Honte personified.


Half an hour later I study the thick shadow ahead of me, watching as it glides forward, at ease. We turn our heads right, then left... Arm in arm my daughter and I march forward, laughing now and again at the funny contorted figure on the pavement. 

"I'm so sorry for embarrassing you!" I repeat to my daughter, who shakes the sack in her hand in response. "It's okay. This is just fine!" I had wanted to buy her a step-up from the grocery-store makeup....

With that we head to the car, swerving from side to side, our shadow following along, in real time. I shook my head at my "step up" makeup plan. All that really matters, in the end, is that we are in step with each other.

Le Coin Commentaires
To respond to this story click here.  


French Vocabulary

s'il te plaît, Maman = please, Mom

le maquillage = makeup

compte sur moi! = count on me!

fastoche! = nothin' to it!

le fond de teint = makeup base, foundation

les boutons (m) = pimples

la leçon de maquillage... çela coute 25 euros = the makeup leçon... that costs 25 euros

Maman! Maman! = Mom! Mom!

la honte = shame

Forget about the weeds. Rest easy. Smokey and I. (Photo by Chief Grape)

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.


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

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

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.

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

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