A Marriage Secret? + A Tribute to Mon Epoux

Ecrins national park alps
For this special edition, all the French vocabulary is featured in the story (the sound file returns next week). Picture taken last month at Ecrins National Park in the Alps.

Today Jean-Marc and I celebrate 26 years of marriage. I had not planned to write un hommage (and was due to update you on a mother-daughter périple)... when I realized il ne faut pas manquer cette chance!

I would have liked to have composed a list of 26 Things (God knows that would be a colorful one!)… but I am growing weary and a little suspicious of all these lists published across the internet. I think I just need to start from here, and work with what I have--and that would be this growing appreciation. I may not always feel that or realize that (or even want to admit that)... but the truth is:

That my life is better because of him
That my heart is larger from loving him
That my soul is stretched forgiving him
That my mind is calmed in union with him

We may not always be better, loving, forgiving, or united with one another--but our hearts have somehow kept us on track. On second thought, The Grace of God has kept us on track. (I can’t speak for Jean-Marc here. But he might agree that une force mystérieuse has kept us together. Qu’est-ce que t’en dis, Chéri?)

My favorite question for married couples is, “C’est quoi votre secret?” More than the answer, I love how this question causes two people to look into each other’s eyes and suddenly light up. There is that unmistakable smile of appreciation. And it is better late than never. Mieux vaut tard que jamais.

I think if somebody were to ask me our secret I finally have the answer: During difficult times, just hold on. And, as often as possible, se regarder dans les yeux...et souriez.

K and jm marriage
Hands squeezed tightly 26 years ago, and still holding on today. To follow our intimate story of love on two vineyards, read along as we write our memoir, The Lost Gardens.

un hommage = a tribute
un périple = journey
il ne faut pas manquer cette chance! = mustn't miss this chance
mon époux = my husband
une force mystérieuse = a mysterious force
qu’est-ce que t’en dis? = what do you have to say about that
mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
se regarder dans les yeux = look each other in the eyes
et souriez = and smile

Park ecrins alps
Ecrins National Park, in the Alps, one of the many French destinations I have had the pleasure to visit. Thank you, Jean-Marc! Happy Anniversary, Chéri!

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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An update from Kristi + Bienvenue, Sourire, Faire La Gueule

Jackie party le vin sobre
Our daughter, Jackie (center, at her father's wine shop) reunited with her closest friends during her recent visit. 

to those who have just signed on to this French word journal. And a warm welcome back to longtime readers. Heureuse de vous retrouver! To get the most out of this language blog, be sure to read beyond the featured word--to the personal column about our life in France. Most of the useful vocabulary happens there!

A link to a delicious tomato tart recipe follows when you read to the end of this post. Speaking of French food, check out The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux Samantha Vérant's delicious novel! Order it here.

Today's word: sourire

   : to smile

Click here to listen to the French Example Sentence

Sourire mobilise 15 muscles, mais faire la gueule en sollicite 40. Reposez-vous : souriez !
Smiling mobilizes 15 muscles, but frowning requires 40. Rest: smile!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Coucou! It's so good to be back after un petit congé sabbatique. I'm not quite sure it is over yet, this personal break, but I am cracking the whip this morning, trying to get back in the saddle of reporting to you weekly from France. Stick with me in the coming months and we are going to collect hundreds more words and phrases and so challenge our brains. Couldn't we all use a new challenge ces temps-ci ?

Tomorrow is my daughter's 23rd anniversaire and she will celebrate in Miami, Florida--having flown home yesterday, landing safely after flying near l'ouragan. Ouf! I am grateful for the 4 weeks we spent together, and I thank you, dear reader, for having patienté, having waited patiently for this blog to resume.

Jackie and I made the most of our time together and I'll soon share one of our memorable périples with you (hint: c'est un truc de ouf!). For now, I am easing back into a work schedule: writing once per week for this blog, twice a month for our wine life memoir, The Lost Gardens (the next chapter goes out tomorrow), and brainstorming most of the time. It is this last bit that wears me down--this think-think-thinking all the time. I now understand that an overactive mind is not a bad thing: not if you regularly do a vidange, an emptying. (Like emptying some of it on paper!)

Almost two decades ago I said adieu to a non-valorisant job at a vineyard and began working independently as a writer. To all who follow this journal, actively or passively, whether to learn French or to learn about life in France, thank you for reading and for le boulot you have given me these past 18 years. I appreciate it more than ever.



bienvenue = welcome
heureuse de vous retrouver = welcome back (happy to see you again)
coucou = hello
un congé sabbatique = a sabbatical
ces temps-ci = these days
un anniversaire = birthday
un ouragan = hurricane
ouf! = whew!
patienter = to wait patiently
un périple = journey, excursion
un truc de ouf = a crazy thing
le carnet = notebook
une vidange = an emptying, draining, an oil change
le boulot = job
amicalement = yours (see other ways to sign-off a letter or email)
Tomato in paris cavist
Strange to see tomatoes for sale at a Paris wine shop! Photo taken in 2015, when visiting Jackie in Paris, where she was an intern for an haute couture designer.

Tomato tart recipe
La tarte tomate. One request my daughter had while home in France was to enjoy my homemade tomato tart. I made several for her! She ate the last one at the airport in Amsterdam, packed with love for her long journey home to Miami. For the recipe, click here and scroll down the page.

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.

Exciting News! An update from my Staycation

Painting watercolor artist tours vacations in south of France Tessa Baker
Bonjour from La Ciotat where I am checking in from my staycation to share the good news of Jackie's arrival tomorrow, Wednesday. We are thrilled to see our daughter who we have not hugged since before this pandemic began. We thank you for keeping Jackie in your thoughts and prayers as she navigates 3 airports, traveling from Florida to Paris and onto Marseilles.

Also, I'd like to highly recommend my friend Tessa's painting excursions in Provence. Many readers here have enjoyed these relaxing and creative getaways and have returned several times. 

Today's Word: le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage.

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.

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

(story written in 2012)

If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. And, I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"


The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraicher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 


Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.


French Vocabulary

le maraîcher = produce guy

la politesse
= good manners

quelle horreur! = how embarrasing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well

Hats (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats and lopsided benches add charm on the île de Ré. 


Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whimsical windows and a cool Vespa on l'île de Ré.

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.