What is "miaulement"? + a new Paris tip on what to see in the city!

Ile st. louis in Paris, at the fleuriste's (c) Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the generous "welcome back" following Wednesday's post. I am touched to the core--or coeur--by your encouraging words and warm reception! These flowers are for you, en vous remerciant! Picture taken in Ile Saint Louis, Paris.

le miaulement


    : miaowing (or le cri du chat)

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

Depuis le couloir, j'ai entendu le miaulement des chatons.
From the hallway, I heard the miaowing of kittens. 

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

"The Scoop"

Before I tell you what happened during my one-month sabbatical, I should tell you what happened just before it.

Cat litter. Cat litter happened.

Three days before my one-month departure we were a family of 6: four humans, two dogs. But in the early hours of November 4th--when the moon was high over the Mediterranean Sea and all the valley lay sleeping--our son smuggled home a kitty.

As I lie there in bed oblivious to the goings-on, Max came into my room. Speaking in hushed tones he informed me he had a Christmas present for Papa.

"But it's November, Max! Noël is next month."

"Yes, but they'll be out of stock by the holidays..." With that our 18-year-old motioned for me to follow him up to his sister's room.

Opening the bedroom door I saw my daughter's tousled hair. The rest of her was hiding behind a sheet. As Jackie lowered the drap I saw a second outline: that of a perky-eared interloper. 

kitty, bowtie, white socks, minou, kitten (c) Kristin Espinasse
Meet Pancho...

"You guys, no! No, no, no!" This was no time to take on a cat--not even an especially cute one with its natural bow-tie and white socks.  No.... But the miaulement of the fragile creature had my heart saying YES.

Meantime, three precious days remained in which to check off my To-Do list. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up before my one month absence. Already I fretted about household management--how would the kids and the dogs fare while we were away? And now a 6-week-old kitten!

True, Jean-Marc would return the week after the Seine to Normandy cruise--but I would be away for the month. Sure, my husband could take over on his return, but would everything run smoothly without the woman with the measuring stick? (Who would correctly measure the dog--and cat--food? Who would verify water bowl level? "You know," I kept reminding everyone. "An animal can go without food--but NOT without water!" I said this just to drive home the point--of course an animal needed la nourriture, too!)

"Look, I think it is best that we take the kitten when Papa and I return from our trip. Besides, it is only 6 weeks old--it needs another two weeks of mother's milk!"

Alas, it was too late. The kitten's mom had washed her paws of the responsibility. She was already out hustling on the streets again. And this was out of my control--but I could take responsibility for a kitten. It would need to be neutered, for one.... 

My pre-sabbatical To-Do list grew. Only now priorities were re-arranged: instead of a suitcase belt (sorely needed for my torn valise), "kitty milk" now topped the chart.  As count-down to departure loomed, I could be found whiling away the minutes in the supermarket Pets aisle. We needed infant formula for chatons and  kitty litter. But which kind of each? (There were several to choose from!) It was easy to linger among pet paraphernalia when my eyes caught on non-essentials like the jingle-bell collar (the green one or the red one?), or the jouets (the felt mouse or the plastic jingle ball). I didn't dare consider the cat skyscraper. Gosh no!). I grabbed the inexpensive toys. Tossing them in my caddy, I told myself I would deal with my husband's reaction later!  

Though I wanted our kitty to feel comfortable and to meet all its needs, I had my doubts about how this would all work out. Sure, the kids were motivated now. But would they really keep up their end of the kitty-litter/feeding agreement? And what about family vacations--already a tricky situation when it comes to pet care.

Mostly I wondered if we were capable of giving another living, breathing soul the attention and care it deserved. And what about the little creature's safety? After posting a photo of our adoptee on Facebook, a commenter wrote in: Please make sure he's an in-door cat. You will triple his life-span

Could we make sure? Were we willing and able to watch all the doors and windows... when in summertime we live les portes ouverts, or "doors open"? Besides, did I really agree with indoor cat philosophy? It had a kind of Stepford Wives feel about it: eerie and unnatural. To never feel growing grass beneath one's paws--to live in a contained world--that's no life for a cat!

But what do I know? Inexperienced, I would have to develop my cat philosophy and opinions along the way.  

And it looks like there will be plenty of experience to be had. Returning home from my sabbatical, groggy from jetlag, I tripped over a basket. 

"Oh, hello you!" I said, greeting our little minou.

That's when I heard not one miaulament.... but two!

(To be continued)

The pillow reads "Love you more." It's a gift I brought back for Jean-Marc. That's Pancho (beside ol' Mr Sacks), and do you see something under the couch? Surprised me too! Meet Lily, Pancho's sister. She's a calico.

Do you have any cat tips for me? Any ideas for a waste management system for those kitty crottes? How to control litterbox odor? Is your cat an indoor or outdoor cat? Declawed or not? Homemade cat toy ideas? Click here to answer or to see other cat tips.

French christmas music
Everyone loves this holiday CD! Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 

If you liked the LOVE YOU MORE pillow, pictured with above, you can order one here (great gift!)

French Vocabulary

le coeur = heart
la nourriture
= food
la valise = bag, suitcase
le chaton = kitty
le jouet = toy
le minou = kitty

Ile Saint Louis and a brasserie (c) Kristin Espinasse
More photos of Paris, where our cruise began. This is the entrance to Ile Saint Louis.

Shakespeare and Company bookshop (c) Kristin Espinasse
I took my friend Linda to a favorite Paris haunt

You don't have to be fancy or elegant to fit in in Paris. You'll still look charming.

street scene in Paris 5th arrondissement (c) Kristin Espinasse
Something about this soft-spoken bouquet, set on a modest table with its own cloth. Can the eyes ever tire of these scenes? To comment on this post, click here.

What to Do in Paris? I don't want to forget this latest tip by Lanier. This one's going on my bucket list!

They are now offering a guided tour of the kitchen gardens at Versailles which are run by the national School of horticulture. There aren't nearly the crowds you find at Versailles and you will see possibly every form of espallier known to mankind. It really is a worthwhile outing made even better by the lovely folks at la Cuisine Paris.  Posted by: Lanier Cordell

Thanks, Lanier! And for more tips on what to do in Paris, click here. (There are two pages of comments, so when you get to the end of the first page, click the link beneath the last tip to get to the next page.)

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

haut les coeurs!

"Heart in Burgundy" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Current events have us wearing our hearts on our former façades... and it's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

haut les coeurs (oh lay ker)

    : lift up your spirit, take heart, be brave! have courage!

Thank you, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, for today's French expression: Carolyn writes, in response to Monday's seisme post:

Small thought - watching their dignity and fortitude, I think [the Japanese] may not want to be called 'victims'.

My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! - [High the hearts]... I love it that this word, in France, implies "to infuse with courage".

Thank you for linking those of us who love France with a country I am taught to love (having lived through Pearl Harbor) as I never thought I would, watching their fortitude in the face of the impossible.


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

Universal Love

I am rooting through the medicine chest, looking for the small blue box that contains my mouth guard. I haven't worn the protective shield in over a month, but I need it now. Teeth grinding is up, along with that ticky tremblement just beneath my eyelid. Twitching and grinding - it is the body's way of responding to those things that are out of its control: like our dog's destructive behavior, like Japan, like Mother Nature.

I grab the small blue box and pry it open... when something flies past me... landing with a TING!  I bend over, narrowing my eyes, ignoring the annoying tremblement de la paupière. 

I see a heart lying there, on the floor... t'was a heart that had fallen out of that toothbox...

Suddenly it all comes rushing back to me...

I see myself back in Mexico, packing my bags. I see my mom reaching to hug me. I hear her voice: "I've put a little surprise in your toothbox... open it up when you are on the plane."

I'm on the airplane now... reaching into my backpack for the blue box. I open it up and there, beside the plastic tooth guard, is the tarnished locket-heart.

I hear Mom's explanation when I call her that evening to thank her.

"It was a gift," she says.  And she tells me the story of the bus ride, when the Mexican "street man" stepped on board. 

Listening to the poor passenger who had taken the seat behind her, Mom sympathized, pointing to her own losses: she took off her hat and pointed out her thinning white hair. Then she pounded on her chest, pointing out her missing breasts!

When she put her hand on her hip, the man could not possibly know about the once broken bone. Mom didn't have the Spanish words to tell him.

And so, without translation, the odd couple on the bus shared their rotten luck, without drama, without fuss. And when Mom stood to get off the bus, so, too, the Mexican man stood up.

Humblement, the street man reached into his frayed pocket and pulled out the little tarnished heart-locket. He closed Mom's hand over the gift, before sending her off with a mutual heart-lift. 


Standing there in the bathroom looking down at the treasure in the palm of my hand... I feel the quiet peace that has swept in all around me. The world outside the bathroom door might be in a state of chaos. But I no longer feel swept up in it, shaken or tossed. 


 Le Coin Commentaires
To comment on today's word or photo--or to ask our cozy community a question--click here to access the comments box. Corrections to French/English text most welcome.


  July2005 039

Mum's the word! Jackie (pictured sans maquillage, age 7) thanks you for your feedback on her story! She's written three more articles... one of which is très "edgy". (She doesn't seem to have a problem with self-censorship, as her mother does!) I warn her that posting the story might get her kicked out of school. Her roll-of-the-eyes response? "Et alors, la liberté d'expression? What about freedom of speech?" 

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