A bilingual message from Jean-Marc + Un Petit Accident while preaching


This morning while out on a walk I took a tumble and slammed into the ground of uneven wooden planks. I gashed my knee (le genou), elbow (le coude), knuckles (les articulations des doigts), and the palm (la paume) of the opposite hand. Jean-Marc reached down to help and, after I recovered, I laughed and said, Pride comes before the fall! That'll teach me to walk and preach to my husband about why we have two ears to listen! 

Pride and falling are themes of The Lost Gardens--the memoir we are writing about our years on 2 vineyards in France. While Jean-Marc opens up and tells the story of what led up to his falling apart, my chapters focus on our relationship and the promise we made that would see us through those rollercoaster years. The most recent installment in our online memoir, Chapter 16, talks about a therapy we stumbled on in the garden. I leave you with a quote that will help any relationship, friendly or intimate, followed by a bilingual message from Jean-Marc. 


The chemist who can extract from his heart's elements, compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise, and forgiveness and compound them into one can create that atom which is called love. --Khalil Gibran

Audio File: Listen to the French translation, click here

Celui, par quelque alchimie sait extraire de son coeur, pour les refondre ensemble, compassion, respect, besoin, patience, regret, surprise et pardon crée cet atome qu'on appelle l'amour. 

A Bilingual Message from Jean-Marc:

At a time when I am about to reveal what was the most intense moment at the Mas des Brun, I wanted to say how much this effort of writing our memoir helps me to consolidate the delicate scar of the loss of this promised land.

It also allowed me to talk about taboo subjects such as my father's suicide or my bipolar tendencies which I now accept and control much better.

I am aware that the progress of our book is slow but it is a new exercise for us.

I wish you a great summer.

Take care of yourself.

Jean Marc

À l'heure où je suis sur le point de dévoiler ce qui a été le moment le plus intense au Mas des Brun, je voulais dire combien cet effort de mémoire m'aide à consolider la délicate cicatrice de la perte de cette terre promise.

Cela m'aura également permis de parler de sujets tabous tels que le suicide de mon père ou de mes tendances bipolaires que j'accepte et maîtrise maintenant bien mieux.

Je suis conscient que l'avancement de notre livre est lent mais c'est un exercice nouveau pour nous.

Je vous souhaite un bel été.

Prenez soin de vous.


Jean-marc kristi smokey mas des brun
Kristi writes: I'll never forget the day this picture was taken, at the lowest point in Jean-Marc's depression, 2016. You wouldn't know it from the photo, and neither did our overnight guests, who asked for a picture. Everyone smiled for the camera. 

To purchase The Lost Gardens and begin reading right away, click the link below:

Vines mas des brun

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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S'Emerveiller: Dolphins in The Bay of La Ciotat

Bay of la ciotat south of france
The breathtaking Bay of La Ciotat. Left: L'Ile Verte (The Green Island). Right: Le Bec de L'Aigle (Eagle's Beak).  Even more beauty and grace dwell beneath the surface of the sea...

Today's Word: s'émerveiller

    : to be amazed
    : to marvel at something

Soundfile: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following French:

Le bonheur pour une abeille ou un dauphin est d'exister, pour l'homme, de le savoir et de s'en émerveiller. The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it. --Jacques-Yves Cousteau

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Cetaceans in La Ciotat 🐬

After Jean-Marc and I pulled into our driveway, I hopped out of the car and hurried past the fast-approaching chickens (whenever they see me they think "TREATS!"). I was heading straight into Mom's place, to curl up at the end of Jules' bed, beside Smokey, and share with them an unforgettable rencontre.

"Mom, you won't believe what Jean-Marc and I saw this morning! We were motoring through the bay of La Ciotat--advancing so slowly I could have swum faster than the boat! Oh, there must be a word for that kind of slow boating…" as I searched for a term Mom answered, as quick as a contestant on Family Feud:


"Trawling!" I said, impressed Mom knew the word. In return, I received an eye roll from Jules, who never ceases to be amazed at how I underestimate her knowledge in a particular area (like Mediterranean saltwater boat angling? Hmmm.)

La pêche à la traîne

That's it, he was trawling...or doing la pêche à la traîne, as he calls it, using his new fishing pole. And this time I was in charge of steering la barquette, via the long wooden lever, le gouvernail, on the back of the boat. I was aiming straight for Ile Verte, just as Jean-Marc instructed me to do...when something up ahead jumped out of the water!

The next time it leaped I clearly saw an aileron. Les requins ont les ailerons. Sharks have fins, I thought. Jean-Marc who was busy placing his leurre on his pole dropped his equipment when he realized we were in the rare company of les dauphins !

There were two and they were leaping out of the water par-ci par-là. Even swimming under our boat! Finally, the pair swam côte-à-côte,  porpoising along the sparkling surface of the sea. It was magical, rare and beautiful! Un vrai spectacle!

"Why didn't you dive in? Mom questioned, "The dolphins would have swum with you!"

Eh oui! Pourquoi je ne l'ai pas fait? All I can say is, bonne question! Maybe I was afraid that when they saw me, they'd think "TREATS!" 

I leave you with a video of the dolphins we saw. Wait until the very end, where you will see them jump out of the water at least three times. To view the video, click the center of the image below. If you can't view it here, see it on my Instagram page.


s'émerveiller = to be amazed, spellbound, struck 
la rencontre = encounter
la barquette = small boat, little boat
le gouvernail = rudder, tiller
Île Verte = The Green Island
un aileron = fin
le requin = shark
le leurre = bait, lure
le dauphin = dolphin
par-ci par-là = here and there
côte-à-côte = side by side
la bonne question = good question
Pourquoi je ne l'ai pas fait? = why didn't I do it?
The two dolphins we saw very near our boat. In the background, the hills near the seaside towns of Les Lecques and St Cyr-sur-Mer.

Max wakeboarding bay of la ciotat
Our son Max, wakeboarding in the Bay of La Ciotat.

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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♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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La Poubelle: How God handles the competition: A funny message from The Almighty

Smokey golden retriever at the pond
"I don't care if I am an artist or not, what worries me is writing good stories. Besides, when I start taking myself for an artist - which can happen to me in a moment of madness - I start to write any which way and I have to throw everything in the trash the next day. I am a craftsman, not an artist." -Harlan Coben. French translation and sound file below.

Today's Word: la poubelle

    : trash can, garbage can, bin

Sound file: hear Jean-Marc read the following French:
Je me fiche d'être ou non un artiste, ce qui me préoccupe, c'est d'écrire de bonnes histoires. D'ailleurs, quand je commence à me prendre pour un artiste - ce qui peut m'arriver dans un moment d'égarement -, je me mets à écrire n'importe comment et il faut tout jeter à la poubelle le lendemain. Je suis un artisan, pas un artiste. -Harlan Coben

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"How God handles the competition: A funny message from The Almighty"

When I saw Mom heading to her butterfly chair, our golden retriever Smokey trailing behind her, I hurried outside to catch up with the colorful duo. They were headed over to the pepper tree, which also shades our little pond. Mom wore her purple muumuu--what a find at the friperie!--and Smokey sported a feathery train: a wake of turtledoves dragging along behind him, as jittery as a bride. 

"Mom," I said, hurrying over. "The latest episode of Charles Stanley was great! It's on listening to God."

As Mom tossed pockets full of seeds to her precious birds, I briefed her on the various ways to hear the Almighty, Le Tout Puissant (through His Word, through circumstances, through prayer, through people...) then shared highlights from the half-hour sermon, including the pastor's recipe for prayer, as he suggested here:

"Don't start by asking for everything you want. Start by listening. Say this simple prayer:

Heavenly Father, I need to listen to you….I'm gonna be quiet and I just want you to speak to my heart, and help me to listen carefully so that I can do exactly what you want me to do."

"Mom! I got down on my knees and began to listen. I tuned in, straining to hear any words at all from Above. I heard a lot of distracting thoughts but began to visualize my soul as a boat, a craft moving towards the Message on the horizon. I began to see any distracting thoughts as flotsam.

"Do you know what flotsam is?" Mom interrupted.

Of course I knew what flotsam was! Was this not MY visualization?

Mom proceeded to point out the pepper blossoms floating on the surface of the pond beside us: "Flotsam!" Mom shared.

I nodded patiently, eager to get on with my story. "So Mom, listen. I knelt there like that in silent prayer, wading through the flotsam, heading toward the Almighty on the horizon, the closer I got the more I could hear the message--until it was loud and clear! Do you want to know what I heard?"

"Yes. Tell me!" Mom was on the edge of her papillon chair.


Mom lit up. "Really?" she said, emptying the birdseed from her purple muumuu pockets in order to give me her undivided attention. As the turtle doves and Smokey settled at our feet, some eating, others sleeping, I told Jules the rest of the story, as I am telling it to you now, dear reader....

"Mom, after I heard the message, I headed downstairs to make your favorite cake. Passing by the end table, I noticed a carte de visite. A pink business card. It read masseur kinésithérapeute."

My brain imputed the data: Calling card...masseuse....

I knew better than to get all paranoid. After all, it wasn't as if this was a massage therapist. It looks like she's a kind of physical therapist, I reassured myself. She's working on Jean-Marc's injured knee. Still, I kept noticing the pretty pink paper, the elegant typography, her English (??) name, and my thoughts (Why the need for a card when there's internet?). Internet... Suddenly I was tempted to google her.

This suspicious circumstance was interrupted by a message from The Above:


Just as I stood wondering if this was truly Providence guiding me (the pastor said God speaks through scripture, prayer, and circumstances...), The Almighty radioed in again, this time with instructions!:


Jette-le dans la poubelle? This felt sort of wrong. Who am I to destroy my husband's papers? Besides, what if he asks about the card's whereabouts? (Would he? Would he dare!)

I soldiered on past the card, only to hurry back and pick it up again, and there I heard Le Tout Puissant once more:


I paused a brief moment when another thought, this time my own, surfaced: Who am I not to listen to the Almighty? And without the slightest feeling of guilt or wrongdoing, I chucked it! Je l'ai balancé! How easy it is to eliminate the competition (real or imagined...) when you listen to Le Tout Puissant, God Almighty!

Post note: After I finished sharing the story with Mom, who was now laughing, and I along with her, I heard a final command:

"Write that story!" It was Mom guiding me this time.  And I listened to her!

1994 marriage town hall kristi jean-marc
I hope my husband has as much fun reading today's post as I had writing it ;-) Happy 26th anniversary to us tomorrow, July 4th.Photo taken on our wedding day, July 4, 1994. Our church ceremony (photo here) was two months later, in September.

la friperie = thrift store
la carte de visite = business card, calling card
masseur kinésithérapeute = physiotherapist
je l'ai balancé = I chucked it, tossed it
la poubelle = garbage can
cheri = dear

Irises (gone to seed), bougainvillea, and sunflowers in our garden. Thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!

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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Words on Love and an "au pif" recipe

Smokey peppercorn tree
Our golden retriever, Smokey, enjoying shade under the peppercorn tree. Today's entry begins with the French version of Love Is Patient, Love is Kind and ends with a recipe (the two sections have nothing to do with each other but are, like today's recipe, au pif (spontaneous). 

L'amour est patient, il est plein de bonté;
l'amour n'est pas envieux; l'amour ne se vante pas,
il ne s'enfle pas d'orgueil, il ne fait rien de malhonnête,
il ne cherche pas son intérêt, il ne s'irrite pas, il ne soupçonne pas le mal,
il ne se réjouit pas de l'injustice, mais il se réjouit de la vérité;
il pardonne tout, il croit tout, il espère tout, il supporte tout.
L'amour ne meurt jamais. 
   (1 Corinthiens 13:4-5)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read Love is Patient in French

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

(If you find a better English version--a better match with the French--thanks for sharing it in the comments box)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Paring tomatoes at the kitchen sink, I thought to google "recette salade lentilles." But with my hands dripping le jus de tomate, I didn't want to reach for my smartphone and begin typing.That's when an inspiration came to mind:

The recipe is whatever you desire….

Voyons... Just what did I desire? And, equally as important, what ingredients were on hand? I suddenly remembered some boiled eggs in the fridge….and pickles (which go well with des œufs durs…).

"It would be nice to have some salmon," I said to Mom.

"I've got some left over...from the salad you brought over yesterday," Jules offered. Parfait

Too bad we were out of onions… Attends une minute! There’s one, hiding under a branch of drying peppercorns on the buffet….

Eggs, salmon, onion, and how about those concombres I bought last night, while visiting Cynthia at her corner épicerie

Any crumbs and seeds on my planche à pain are automatically added to whatever salad I'm making--lentil salad is no exception! Allez hop! In they go! (Mom wrinkles her nose at this crummy ingredient. But I have no problem with days old miettes - and will add them to a recipe here...if only to give you a good vocabulary word. Miette--un mot chouette!)

Some olive oil, mustard, and the white truffle vinegar (we're lucky to have a supply of this élixir. Jean-Marc stocks it at his shop!)....

Salt, pepper, and voilà!  The only other ingredient is time. But hunger knows not patience. Alors souvenez-vous

The recipe is whatever you desire
Using ingredients you have “sous la main”
Hunger knows not patience
Mange quand tu as faim!


la recette = recipe
la salade = salad
la lentille = lentil
le jus de tomate = tomato juice
voyons = let’s see
parfait = perfect
attends une minute! = wait a minute!
une épicerie = grocer, grocery
le concombre = cucumber
la planche à pain = breadboard
allez hop! = off you go!
une miette = crumb
choutte = nice, neat, good
le frigo = fridge 
sous la main = on hand
Mange (manger) = eat
tu as faim = you are hungry
alors = so then
souvenez-vous = remember

Kristin espinasse garden bouquet
In our garden. Photo by Jules. Thank you very much for reading today's au pif--spontaneous--post. I have been working on a story about some dolphins, and will hopefully share the rencontre chanceuse in the next post. Have a lovely weekend. 

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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Papillonner: Mom's butterfly chair + a fluttery French verb for you today

Smokey in the papillon chairSmokey in the butterfly chair, or la chaise papillon. Papillon--it is a favorite French word but did you know there is a fluttery verb to go with it? Perfect for today's story, about Mom's favorite fauteuil....

Today's Word: Papillonner

    : to flit around, flutter about

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence:
Ne te laisse pas distraire par les événements extérieurs ! Prends le temps d'apprendre quelque chose de bon et cesse de papillonner! Don't be distracted by outside events! Take the time to learn something good and stop fluttering! --Marcus Aurelius

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Now this is the best spot!" Mom swears, as she settles into her portable garden chair and takes in her surroundings.

"Come over here, Kristi! You've got to see the view from here. This is the best spot!"

My mind is aflutter. Mom! You said that last time. And the time before! Instead of voicing such thoughts, I accept the invitation to sit down and experience Jules's new garden digs--make that her latest garden digs: the new location for her favorite chaise.

The chair is a Mariposa, meaning "butterfly," which hints at its shape. Here in France, it's called a fauteuil or chaise papillon. A gift from granddaughter, Jackie, I wouldn't have picked this particular model, but have since grown to admire it, having noticed how much Mom uses it. The easy chair with its canvas sling and folding metal frame was conceived in Buenos Aires in the late 30s. A description of the chair's design calls it "Nature meets art." Perfect for Jules!

Papillonner: aller de-ci de-la = to go here and there

Mom drags her butterfly chair all over the jardin, parking it according to her mood. If she is blue, the Papillon is stationed behind the house, where Mom will cloud-gaze alone or stare at The Narrow Gate (a "door" of blue sky amidst the distant parasol pines).

Jules's big blue chair sat for a tired while beneath the giant cedar tree, where she mourned her husband, John, and it languished, for a time, in the far corner of the yard, where Mom cried over the loss of her little dog, Breezy, buried back home in Mexico).

Up and down, a butterfly among the flowers 

Comme un vrai papillon, like a real butterfly the chair lands in various places, taking nectar, nourishment, and hope from nature's gentle surroundings. When Mom is happy, she totes her easy chair to the front yard, and reads beside the pond, after which her big blue papillon might flutter over to the blossoming hedge of laurier rose, where she listens to French tourists walk along the trottoir just outside. (It is a good way to practice her Français!)

No matter where her chair goes, our faithful golden retriever, Smokey, follows, as do her birds--a dozen tourterelles and, since covid, all the pigeons who no longer feed at the restaurants down the street.

"Look up at the sky, Kristi! See the passage between those two giant parasol pines? That's The Narrow Gate!" (and a meaningful scene for Mom to contemplate).

"Yes. Yes, Mom, I see it!" I sound annoyed but I am only tempering Mom's enthusiasm. She is so excited about THIS spot and about THAT detail.

"Did you see the way the sun is lighting up that one sunflower? Now THIS is the best spot!" Mom insists. "Come stand over here, beside my chair. The sun is now falling on the little patch of onions! Look at the shimmer of light! You've got to see the view from here...."

Mom doesn't know it, but she is a light. And a joy to see, moving her butterfly chair from tree to tree. Beautiful, comme un papillon qui butine.

Butterfly chair in garden
Mom's butterfly chair beneath the weeping pepper tree. Mille mercis to Jackie for this gift.


le papillon = butterfly
le fauteuil = chair, easy chair
la chaise = chair
le jardin = garden, yard
laurier rose = oleander
le trottoir
= pavement, sidewalk
la tourterelle = turtledove
butiner = gather pollen, gather nectar
comme un papillon qui butine = like a butterfly gathering nectar

Mom setting the scene
Mom, in her Jack Daniel's T-shirt (the one she swiped from Max). Thanks, Mom, for helping Smokey to pose for today's photo to illustrate this post.

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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L'Oubli: Two accidental versions of the same story (on forgetfulness)

Cat in nyons
Ah...L'oubli! When is forgetfulness a good thing? In today's unusual edition all vocabulary is at the end. We'll restructure things next week!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While in the kitchen I noticed steam rising from the countertop. Approaching the messy comptoir for a closer look, I recognized the Starbucks souvenir mug (Vail edition) I'd purchased while visiting our daughter, Jackie, last year. I never did use la grande tasse for its intended purpose (it's too heavy; I prefer somewhere between dainty teacup and bol, which the French love for their café au lait). But all is not lost (even if my memory is, we'll get to that in a minute....) I regularly put the giant cup to use, mostly to measure out dried couscous: one Starbucks mug couscous plus one Starbucks mug hot water…. Feeds 6.

Recently I've found a second use for the mug: lentils! I've been sprouting the dry légumes like crazy ever since my belle-soeur Cécile showed me the simplicity of sprouting beans: no special equipment necessary. But, after forgetting the sprouted lentils in the mug last week, it was time to toss them out...so I and set the large cup on the counter as a physical reminder to feed the sprouts to our hens.

Only now there was steam rising out of the giant mug! What the...? Staring at the cloud rushing out of the mug, I noticed another cup beside it, on the counter. It held a cold café au lait...Putting two and two together, I realized I'd put the wrong cup in the microwave!

Oh no! Not again! It was one more oubli in a streak of forgetfulness. Just this past week I had left some bread in the 450f oven. Forgetting about it completely, I headed out for a long walk. This near-disaster was curtailed when, remembering, I hurried home from my walk only to learn I'd forgotten to put the bread in the oven first place!

The bread now in the oven and my phone's timer set to the highest volume, I hurried out of the house to resume my morning exercise, oblivious to the fact I'd left the door wide open and the keys dangling from the keyhole (something clear-headed Kristi would never do, not after coming face-to-face with a cambrioleur)!

Voyons, what other forgetfulness encounters have I run into? Run into...reminds me of running into people and the fear of not remembering names. I've set up systems for this. Just the other day in church I pulled out my smartphone, went to "contacts", and discreetly as possible reviewed the list of church members (there are only 12 of us). Turns out I knew the names all along… Why second-guess myself when I would do better to have faith!

Speaking of la foi, I will end with a quote I read this morning from Corrie Ten Boom (a Dutch Christian watchmaker and author of The Hiding Place), which hints at why such forgetfulness happens in the first place:

"If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” Indeed, if we weren't so distracted by everything around us, we might recall what is essential.

Post Note:  Like those steaming hot sprouts found on my counter...I just discovered a previous draft (from May 29) of today's story (written June 1st)!! I'm going ahead and posting both stories--we'll worry about all the edits later. I've got to eat lunch now and rest my mind! 



This morning I headed out for a walk, certain to have finally chosen the right direction. It's all about balance, I reminded myself, stepping past the garbage which needed emptying. La poubelle could wait. So could Jean-Marc's chapter, which needed editing. And there was an item I needed to return to the store…. Ça peut attendre! Why does everything feel like it has a deadline? Why all the rushing all the time?

The best way to begin this day is by clearing my mind and getting some exercise. Well, that was my mantra as I picked up speed along on the trottoir. I was a mile into my walk, when I saw a green parrot fly over. Magnifique ! This reminded me to say a prayer….

Dear God. Please clear my mind. (Deep breath. Exhale…) Make room so i may hear your voice above all "else".

All else being the deluge of information filling my head. It's the fault of overcuriosity (too much information-seeking, internet surfing, social media, email, too many demands of family who swear they don't make demands but they do!)

Dear God. Please clear my mind. Make room so I may hear your voice above all "else". I repeated the prayer until…. Mon Dieu! A response came! Here is what God said....


Oh my God! I totally forgot about the bread I had put into the oven...at 450degrees…. A while before I left for my walk.

Oh no! Not again! Forgetfulness! There was no time to scold myself for yet another oubli--not when the bread was about to catch fire (would it? What is the next stage after complete carbonization?).

I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and called Max and he did not answer.

I called Mom. She answered!

"Mom, I need you to get your keys and go into the house and get the bread out of the oven. Be careful when you open the oven door! The mitts are in the top right drawer!"

I hurried the one mile home, running the last few blocks only to find Mom watering the garden….

"Did you get the bread?"

Mom carefully weighed her words. "You must have left it on the stovetop, Darling."

Notice Mom didn't say "forgot" ie you forgot to put it in the oven…. I hurried into the kitchen to see with my own eyes the uncooked loaf. There it was!

Placing the loaf in the oven, I quickly set my smartphone's timer to 30 minutes and upped the volume just to be sure. Hurrying out of the house to resume my walk, I unwittingly left the keys in the door and left the door wide open. (Mom gently informed me of the forgotten door when I returned from my walk.)

"I keep forgetting things. What is wrong with me?" I said to Mom.

"Kristi relax. You just need to quit policing all of us."

Policing? What did this have to do with forgetfulness? Besides, any apparent bossiness was something I was working on!

Sensing my defensiveness, Mom began to backpedal. "Well, as for me, what helps is gratitude and dying to self (that die-to-self business may sound bizarre, Dear Reader, but what Mom means by dying to self is squashing the ego). Mom began pulling weeds, to illustrate such soul-cleaning.

"I know!" I growled, putting on garden gloves and helping with the garden chores. "I know! I'm the one that gave you those books. From Francois Fénelon to Thomas A. Kempis I know all about dying to self! I read it first!"

Mom overlooked my meltdown, with this next, barely concealed strategy: "I'm not saying you need to do those things, I was only saying *I* need to do those things."

Harrumph! We continued the tug-o-war in the garden until... a clump of seedlings caught my attention:

"Hey, I should thin these zucchini don't you think?"

"Good idea!! Don't throw those out...I'll replant them over here!" Mom offered.

Ten minutes later we stood back to admire our join effort and a new row of zucchini, which Mom artfully interspersed white alliums and strawberries. Brilliant!

The hot topic of forgetfulness was but a distant memory--and so was whatever it was we were arguing about :-)


le comptoir = counter, bar
la grande tasse = big cup, mug
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law (can also mean stepsister) 
un oubli= oversight, forgetfulness
cambrioleur = burglar

Smokey snoozing
Smokey snoozing in the garden. I'm off for a bite to eat and a snooze, too. It's good for the brain! I hope you enjoyed and were not too confused (like me....) over two versions of the same story. And please don't worry about my memory. Like all of you, I have the world on my mind! Today's edition was reckless (I did not check and recheck my text as many times as usual). If you catch any typos or would like to edit my French, my English, or my grammar in either language--your help is most welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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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Two brothers at Aldi and riots in France

The Green Island
L'Ile Verte. The green island, here in La Ciotat, for a peaceful image to begin today's post.

Today's Word: chercher ses mots*

    : to be at a loss for words

*I settled on this "word of the day" following the struggle in writing a story in these sad, scary, and emotionally-charged times. Thank you for reading with open hearts.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the parking lot at Aldi I was loading our groceries, Mom's, then mine, into our car, when I saw two familiar faces. It was the funny duo behind us in the checkout line. Turning to the brothers (who were twins?), I smiled:

Je voulais vous remercier pour votre bonne humeur. Ça fait du bien--surtout en ce moment. I hope they understood my French, and my appreciation for their funny commentary back in line, when they were snapping each other's face masks and reminding one another to keep at a safe distance from the next customer. They were regular Laurel and Hardys in the age of coronavirus!

The short, gray-haired men, so full of antics back in the store, suddenly grew shy, in a French version of Aw, Shucks! "Well," one of the guys offered, you've got to have a sense of humor in times like these!"

"C'est sûr!" I agreed, adding, "Are you from La Ciotat?"


"My mom and I are from Arizona," I shared.

The men grew thoughtful. "A lot of upheaval in the US right now..." one of the brothers reflected.

"Here in France, too..." I said, mentioning the riots breaking out in Paris and beyond.

"Non!" The brothers replied, in a possible misunderstanding (were they unaware of the émeutes?).

"Non!" They affirmed. "We are not racist!"

I think the brothers were referring to themselves--or possibly to our region? Either way, they echoed the feelings or beliefs or ideals of many.

Our conversation ended in awkward silence, one that lingered. Later that day the brothers' words returned to mind. "We are not racist." I understood what they meant. I believe they were sincere. I know I am too! My last thought came as a surprise: But is that enough? Is it enough not to be racist?


Je voulais vous remercier = I wanted to thank you
bonne humeur = good humor
ça fait du bien = it does one good
surtout en ce moment = especially at this time
une émeute = uprising, riot

The coast in la ciotat
I leave you with a peaceful image taken here in La Ciotat. Thank you for reading.

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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A funny French expression to help you respond "sur-le-champ"

Sos bijoux perdus
The sign near the beach reads "SOS Lost Jewelry in the water." Here in La Ciotat, there's another place where people lose things... and it also has to do with water! Learn a handy expression in today's vocabulary-packed story!

Today's word: sur-le-champ
    ​: at once, immediately, right away

Audio: listen to Jean-Marc read the following definition:

Une riposte c'est une réponse vive, instantanée, faite à un interlocuteur 
action qui répond sur le champ. A riposte is a lively, instant reply, made to an interlocutor [often one who has just asked a question] for an on-the-spot response.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After packing un panier-repas for my husband's lunch, feeding the hens, and working on a chapter for our book, I knew if I didn't pause to eat something I would quickly turn into an LSB--a Low Blood-Sugared Zombie! (Do you know the feeling?) Funny, LSB also stands for "Low Surface Brightness Galaxy" which could explain our brainpower when we run out of fuel... It could also explain the inversion of letters, above, but we're sticking with LSB--for consistency! 

For le petit déjeuner, I was preparing a kiwi, an orange, and a baguette with beurre de cacahuète...when a cry sounded from a nearby galaxy (my son's room):
"I can't find my boot!"

"Max!" I set down my paring knife. "I thought you were wearing your Dr. Martens to work?"
"I can't find my boot!" The dismissive response reminded me he's as stubborn as his father. And I knew both well enough to predict the next scene....

On hands and knees, I was now searching for the LMO--Latest Missing Object. (LMO also stands for a Living Modified Organism which is what I become each and every time my family pulls me away from my own morning race...to join their own wild goose chase!) Crawling around on the floor Max and I knocked heads. Aïe! Aïe! This was no way to start a day!  What am I doing down here with the dust bunnies under the bed? I should've listened to my friend Sophie....
When I was newly married, Sophie (married to Jean-Marc's best friend, Nico) was my model of the Modern French Woman: feisty, sexy, Sophie also had the gift of riposte, or funny comebacks. It was Sophie who taught me How To Deal With People Who Constantly Misplace Things:
"When zey say, 'Where eez it?' (zees thing they are losing...). You tell zem zees: 'C'est. Dans. Le. Chiotte'." 
(It's in the crapper.)
I should have listened to feisty Sophie. 25 years later and I am still being dragged into everyone else's wild goose chase at the expense of my own treasure hunt (I could be searching for words for my next story, instead of crouching here on the floor, my head pulsing from a skull collision!)

Spotting the missing botte, I let out a victory shout. "There it is! There's your boot. Way back beneath your bed. You go get it!"
Dusting myself off on the way back to the breakfast table, I encountered my husband. "Next time I'm gonna tell you guys to look in the toilet! Oui! C'est dans le chiot!" I said, threatening, une fois pour toutes, to stop searching for everybody's lost stuff.
"Chiotte," Jean-Marc corrected. "'Chiot' means "jeune chien." Next I received a light scolding: "Chérie, after all these years in France, where have you put your French?"

Well, what was there to say for myself? "Je l'ai mis dans le chiot?" I put it in the puppy?

It may not have been a sassy response, but it was quick--sur-le-champ!

un panier-repas = a packed lunch
le petit déjeuner = breakfast
beurre de cacahuète = peanut butter
la botte = boot
aïe  = ouch
riposte = retort
chiotte = toilet, crapper
chiot = puppy
jeune chien = young dog, puppy
une fois pour toutes = once and for all
sur-le-champ = immediate

Smokey as a puppy
Which of these puppies stole my French? A young Smokey and his sisters are scolded by their mama, Breizh. 

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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Two celebrations + Langue de belle-mère (a funny word for a certain party favor)

Our garden in mayGiven Mothers Day is celebrated on different dates across the globe, I will take this moment to wish all caregivers a Joyeuse Fête! Photo: the tidy side of our garden. We'll talk about the weeds--and a mother's needs--in the following story.

Today's Word: Langue de belle-mère (f)

    : party blower 

literal translation: "mother-in-law's tongue" (photo below)

 Audio file: Click here and listen to three featured words in the following sentence, read by Jean-Marc

Une langue de belle-mère, aussi appelé sans-gêne, est un accessoire de cotillon utilisé dans les occasions festives. C'est un tube en papier (parfois en plastique) avec souvent tout du long une bande en plastique ou en métal souple, aplati et enroulé en spirale, muni d'un bec en plastique avec une anche ou plus rarement un sifflet. En soufflant dans le bec, le tube se déroule et l'anche émet alors un son caractéristique. A mother-in-law's tongue, also called without shame, is a party favor used on festive occasions. It is a paper tube (sometimes plastic) with a long a plastic or flexible metal band, flattened and wound in a spiral, including a plastic beak with a reed or on rare occasions a whistle. By blowing into the spout, the tube unrolls and the reed then emits a characteristic sound.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I was standing in the party aisle at the dollar store, fighting back a wave of resistance about buying such throwaway items, when a bag of plastic sifflets caught my eye. Red, white, and blue with stars and stripes, these musical blowouts would be a symbolic addition to the decorations I was gathering. After all, Max, our soon-to-be 25-year-old, is half-American. If any more justification were needed for buying the cheap, single-use item, I found it in the giant description on the label....

"Langue de Belle-Mère" 

Sifflets langue de belle mere party blower mirliton

What a funny and delightful name for party blowers! As someone who appreciates the playful side of the French language, this was a find! Plus, I could share the expression with my blog readers. Vendu! 

Carefully setting the mirlitons into my basket, beside the Joyeux Anniversaire banner (reuseable, n'est-ce pas?), and the balloons, I now had enough festive trim to decorate our living room and surprise Max the moment he woke up! Hélas, returning home on foot from the store, any satisfaction turned to stress...there were a number of to-do's remaining on my list in order to be ready for Le Jour J. There was the birthday cake to make, the shortcrust pastry to pre-bake, the couscous to prepare... and the cadeau to wrap, the card to write, the guest bathroom to clean and...and...

AIDEZ-MOI! Who else was helping around here?!!

Recently, during a venting session (by the way, I googled "venting" and scientific studies show it does NOT help! Best to suck up and soldier on!) in which I unloaded my current frustrations about family life, my Mom said in so many words: Face it. You are not a caregiver.

Who me? Not a caregiver? Ouch! In protest, I cited all the things I do for everybody around here all the time....

"But you do them grudgingly...." 

That did it. I was ready to divorce my entire family! Bon débarras! Mom's next words eased the you-do-it-with-a-grudge sting: "It's normal you'd feel this way! You should be done taking care of kids by now. Mom went on to say I could use a housekeeper and a gardener. But I don't want those things. I'm fine here in the dust and the weeds!

Being somewhat of a rapporteuse, I went and tattled on my mom to my son--and I didn't have to travel far as we are three generations living under one roof.

When Max's reply amounted to the opposite (that I care too much about everybody and their business) I began to notice the varying feedback I was receiving came from family members who feel either neglected...or smothered.  I suppose I may never know the answer as to just what kind of caregiver/homemaker/wife/mother/daughter I am--but this much I know for sure: Domesticity is something I value and admire in others. And what we value says a lot. Our valeurs coupled with effort is what matters.

Recently, a letter from my dad revamped my domestic energy which has been deflated for some time. (The first words of Dad's email refer to a post he was forwarding on) Dad's note begins:

A well written essay on the importance of tending the hearth and giving substance and comfort to the ones we love.  We know how hard you work to take care of your family.

I love you,

Dad's words had a super transforming effect! I began polishing my bedroom window after months of staring at the dusty designs on the glass. From there, I started to see other chores in a new light: the light of matter (as in this so-called drudgery matters!)

As for tending the hearth, my sister Heidi is a shining example to me. Whether tucking homemade sandwiches into our carry-ons when Jean-Marc and I fly home to France, or waking early to decorate her living room to honor a family member's birthday, my soeur ainée truly enjoys and finds peace in homemaking and caring. I called Heidi to tell her about my birthday decorations for Max. "That's wonderful!" she said. 

"I learned it from you!" 

"Thank you for letting me know that," my sister said, touched by the recognition. 

It's time to end this essay somewhere.... I'm just not quite sure where. How about I pass out those party horns? Those langues de belle-mère? And we celebrate--via a needed second wind--all caregivers and those who love them!



joyeuse fête = happy celebration
le sifflet
= whistle
le langue de belle-mère = party blower 
vendu! =  sold!
le mirliton = party horn blower
Joyeux anniversaire = happy birthday
n'est-ce pas = isn't that right?
hélas = unfortunately
le jour J = D-Day, the big day
le cadeau = present, gift
bon débarass = good riddance!
un/e rapporteur/se = a tattletell
la soeur ainée = older sister

*Corrections to this blog are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Max friends gift shoes
Max, trying on a pair of shoes his friends gave him. Also on the table, wines from 1995 -- gifts given to Max his birth year--enjoyed 25 years later! Jean-Marc says all the wine was still good, beautifully intact! I didn't have wine, but I can vouch for the cake--my mother-in-law Michèle-France's recipe is always good! Would you like to know the ingredients in a future post?

Birthday lunch for max
Max, center, with his best friends, and we, his parents.

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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Cheese needs to breathe and so do we

Smokey golden retriever lavender jugs wooden shuttersPhoto of our dear golden, Smokey

Today's Word: respirer

    : to breathe, inhale

Click here to listen to the French quote below:
Respirer Paris, cela conserve l'âme. Breathe in, Paris, it conserves the soul. --Victor Hugo

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While preparing a plateau de fromages for today's lunch, I was surprised to see the refrigerated cheese now wore a fuzzy white coat: the Comté, the Saint-Félicien--even the bûche de chèvre--all were covered in velours blanc!

"It's still mangeable," my son assured me, taking a bite to prove his point.

"Here, hand me that!" I said, carefully cutting off the mold. "I thought this glass​​ Tupperware was a good idea for conserving cheese," I said to Max, who stood nearby, preparing pasta. (Linguines au Citron et Saumon Fumé. It was delicious with the finely minced leaves from the lime tree!)

"Cheese needs to breathe," my son explained.

Mais bien sûr! It was an aha moment, one that returned later in the hour...
After lunch, I went to lie down but was kept from resting after a few worries trotted through my mind: there was the weekly blog post I failed to complete, and there were a few accrochages with family members. I was feeling emotionally lessivé when a funny phrase trotted through my mind, in place of the soucis:
Le fromage a besoin de respirer.
Yes! It was the right message at the right time: cheese needs to breathe and so do humans and their projects. I've set aside the blog post I had been writing but I can give it to you in a nutshell--or in a fuzzy white coat en velours if you fancy: 

The half-written post was an update about our online memoir, and un message de remerciement to those dearhearts who responded to my recent entry: Staying Sober at Two Vineyards. Once again, I am deeply moved by your words of support, especially by the fresh perspective you offered following Chapter 14.

Now, to end on both a serious and terribly cheesy note: Regarding any doubts about continuing on a path of sobriety...I have put those doubts aside. This cheese just needed to breathe! (No wine or spirits necessary. A fresh perspective worked beautifully. Merci!)

Post Note: Taking some of the pressure off is vital if we are to keep our sanity and continue living healthfully. One pressure I have felt is the need to turn this online book into a hardcopy or paperback. For now, it will remain an online book, available for purchase here.


le plateau de fromages = cheese plate, cheese platter
la bûche de fromage de chèvre = log of goat cheese
le velours = velvet
blanc = white
mangeable = edible
Linguines au Citron et Saumon Fumé = linguini with lemon and smoked salmon
mais bien sûr = but of course
un accrochage = clash, dispute, fender-bender
lessivé = whacked, worn out
le souci = worry
c'est le cas de le dire = you can say that again
(that last phrase appeared in the previous version of this post. But I'm keeping it here as it's a good one!)

Wild poppies
Wild poppies are in bloom now. Enjoy.

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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