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

 le cahier (keye yay)

    : notebook, exercise book

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

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

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

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

The Art of Bookkeeping

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

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

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

Meantime, Mademoiselle is waiting for an answer...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

French Vocabulary

la mademoiselle = young lady

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

une chemise = shirt

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

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

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

le cahier = notebook

le/la garagiste = mechanic 

Flower Charm (c) Kristin Espinasse

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


Eagle (c) Kristin Espinasse

When vines talk... the "Eagle" (left) is being told by the "Shusher" (right, finger on "mouth") to be quiet, "It's not the end of winter yet... nature is still sleepy." And you, do you believe that vines are more than wood stalks? The characters in today's story do... and they make wine according to the moon!

le caissier (kay-syeh)

    : cashier, teller

feminine: la caissière (kay-syehr)


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

When your husband asks whether you would like to volunteer for Friday night's professionals-only dégustation, smile and reply "tout ce que tu veux, cheri"... never mind that you aren't active in the local wine scene, that you won't recognize names or faces, that this dernier détail could lead to embarrassment.

Capture plein écran 07032011 083603 Request, quand même, not to be in charge of the caisse.

Arrive at the mind-blowing Domaine Viret. Ascend the massive stone stairs to the mind-blowing cave. You have never seen anything like it! If this is a biodynamic's cellar, then the Egyptian-inspired reaching-towards-the-galaxy "wine cathedral" must be a tribute to la Voie lactée!

Be amazed by the floor-to-sky vats, the ancient amphorae, and the 20 walkin'-to-their-own-(and-to nature's)-beat winemakers who are busy setting up shop.

Search for the woman who has been helping your husband with PR... Check her out: assess any threat as she strides up and listens to your husband's introduction: "Voici ma femme".  

Wonder whether to kiss or to shake. Notice how the other woman is studying you: were you what she expected? Older? Younger? Bolder? Weaker? Chopped liver?

Study Other Woman, who is wearing that secret magic glittery powder that all beautiful French women wear. Regret the pharmacy "flour" that now feels like dough on your own face. Wish that you'd worn a skirt, as she has done, and black-heeled boots, as she has done... and earrings and a pretty barrette in your thick brown hair! 

Feel like chopped liver for two-seconds flat, in time to pull the full length of body skyward. Nod like a princess when you feel like une grenouille.

Spend next half-hour worrying whether Other Woman likes you or not, sees you as competent or not, would rather you be here or not....

Then get over yourself! After all, you are here to help!

(From this point on refer to Other Woman as "Colleague". Much better. Plus, hope that if she's reading she's not offended by your carefree reporting...)

Follow Other Woman, or "Colleague"... over to cellar entrance, where a small table is set up. Notice cagnotte. Cagnotte!!! Be eternally grateful when Colleague says she'll handle the money.

Nod head enthusiastically when given the easy-peasy-French-cheesy task of distributing the wine glasses. One per paying customer. You can handle that.   

Listen to lowdown: five euros for guests who've reserved (whose names are inscribed on The List); ten euros for those who have not reserved. Wonder why you are listening to The Lowdown, after all, you are only in charge of easy-cheesy glasses-distribution... n'est-ce pas???

Watch Colleague in action: "Sorry, sir, but you have not reserved. That will be ten euros."
Observe as Colleague uses her charm to save a sale "but it is only ten euros for the tasting and the dinner! C'est quand même pas mal, non?!"

Back up Colleague, chirping "Quelle bonne affaire!" ("Affaire"? Attention to word choice, which comes back to haunt you!)

Watch Colleague as customer hands over a 20-euro note. "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" "Do you have anything smaller, Sir?"

Be impressed when Colleague gets customer to hand over two fives. Smart woman. Realize we'll need all the fivers/change we can get.

Stare, stunned, when Colleague leaves you to man the stand, with a breezy "I'm off to try some wine..." Regret that you are not a wine-trier, then quickly get over it...

Jump into action!: greet customers, request fives/change, defend the ten-euros entrance fee to those concerned...

Watch, amazed, as the line piles up, with everyone suddenly being related to the winemakers. "Sorry, yes, perhaps, but the entrance fee is still ten euros!... or five, depending!).

Feel mortified when you attempt to charge the owner's wife the 10-euros fee....

Swear you will never again assume that a cashier has shortchanged you... when three times in the evening you accidentally cheat a customer! (Listen like a thug to the reprimand and the tsk-tsk of "Madame, je vous ai donné un billet de vingt!") 

Wonder where in the Milky Way did your Colleague stray? On second thought, be glad for the chance to man the stand. You've learned a lot: for one thing, you are not the pushover you thought you were. Just look at how you plucked up those line-cutters who tried to steal behind you in time to swipe a glass and sneak into the tasting room! Boy, are their butts going to be sore!!!

Learn to decipher journalists (remember what Colleague taught: journalists are not used to paying. Let them by -- just remind them about a write up... hoping one of them will eventually write an article...

Be the One of Them to eventually write the damned article.


Le Coin Commentaires
Join us here, in our community corner. Respond to today's story, offer a correction, or ask each other questions about French or France! Click here to enter the discussion or simply to learn from it.


French Vocabulary - Click one of the following links to listen to this vocabulary list: MP3 file or Wav file

-> la dégustation = tasting

-> le dernier détail = last detail

-> quand même = even so, nevertheless, all the same, really

-> la caisse (money context) = the till, cash register

-> la Voie lactée = the Milky way

-> une barrette = a hair clip

-> la grenouille = frog

-> la cagnotte = the kitty (in a different context -> the jackpot)

-> une bonne affaire = a real bargain!

-> de la monnaie = some change

-> un billet (money context) = a bank note

-> un billet de vingt = a twenty Euro note

-> ..... "n'est-ce pas"? .... isn't it so?
used at the end of a sentence as an expression of affirmation after a statement - equivalent of 'tag question' in English.

-> "Tout ce que tu veux, chéri"... = 'whatever you want, darling'...

-> "C'est quand même pas mal, non?!" = It's not bad really, is it?!

-> "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" = 'Do you have anything smaller, Sir?'

Chief Grape.

Check out these helpful France guides--filled with travel tips by our readers:


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

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

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