tel quel


Three things about this photo... share what you see in the comments box, in French or in English.

The snow is melting here in Provence (update: *was* melting...), now if the fingers would thaw too--in time to finish this edition! (The heater in our house has gone awol--or awry? Aië aië aië!)

Today's word:

rebord (reuh-bohr) noun, masculine

    : rim; edge; border; ledge
    : hem (also "un ourlet")

[from the verb "reborder" to put a new border, edge, hem, to something]

Terms & Expressions
  le rebord de la fenêtre (l'appui de fenêtre) = the windowsill
  reborder quelqu'un dans son lit = to tuck someone back into bed

AUDIO FILE: turn up the sound and listen to my son pronounce the French word
"rebord" and the expressions, above: Download Rebord . Download Rebord

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I learned something new about my eleven-year-old yesterday--now if I can just figure out the French word for "unassuming" which is how, it turns out, my daughter can be, vis-à-vis an after-school treat.

We were in the car, about to head home from school, when Jackie overlooked two individually-wrapped brioches. Even the emballage*--which featured a buttery sweet roll teeming with pépites de chocolat*--didn't faze her!

When her hazel eyes finally locked onto the package, I noticed how my daughter didn't immediately pick it up and rip it open. Instead she fastened her seatbelt and talked about how things went in Histoire-Geo.* I guess she isn't going through pre-adolescence after all...

"Jackie, those are for you!" I said, pointing to the sugary goûter.*
"Ah, bon?"* she replied, perking up.

It's true, I don't usually buy packaged goûters, not when a baguette and peanut butter are just as convenient, not when an apple and a steaming mug of oatmeal and honey are on hand.

But I sometimes make exceptions to the over-processed-snacks rule -- as when I am running late to pick up the kids from school, this, because I've lingered too long in the canned-foods aisle at the grocery store. (It is always good to have conserves* on hand and to try something new, I reason--now, will we really eat those canned "cardons" if I buy them? Isn't there such a thing as "cardoon casserole" and doesn't my mother-in-law have a recipe for one?)

"But there are two..." Jackie said, picking up one of the brioches.
"All for you!" I assured her. "Max took the rest to basketball practice."
"Thanks! Sure you don't want one?" my daughter offered.

Noticing Jackie's excitement over such a small surprise, it occurred to me that I might have even more good news to share:

"I also bought TWO boxes of cereal!" I announced, citing her favorite sugar-laden brands. (This brings me to a grocery store enigma: Why is it that when hurrying to the checkout, we tend to chuck stuff, with abandon, into the cart?)

Realizing we now had friandises* at home, my daughter snapped backed to her old self, in time to complain about the cereal.
"Max ate almost the whole box last time! He says he is no longer on a diet, but "en pleine croissance."* That's just an excuse to drink all of the milk and eat all of the cereal! Not only that, but he always chooses the biggest bowl and fills it to the rim!

I allow my daughter to let off steam from a strict school day. Meantime, I file away yet another new vocabulary word from our French conversation (the term in question: "à rebord à ras bord" or "to the rim"). Next, I return to my daughter's rant, the theme being "unfairness".

"I can relate to such injustice," I sympathize. "For example, how is it that you speak French better than I do--when I've spoken French since before you were born?!"

With that, my daughter hands me the second brioche and, together, we throw our cares to (and over...) the brim.*

Comments...or corrections... welcome in the comments box. Thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
un emballage (m) = packing, wrapping; les pépites (f) de chocolat = chocolate chips; l'histoire-geo = history/geography (class); le goûter (m) = snack, afternoon tea; ah, bon = oh, really; les conserves (f) = canned food; les friandises (f) = goodies; en pleine croissance = in the middle of a growth spurt; over the brim = par-dessus bord

Thank you "Newforest" and Odile, for your help with these terms and for the corrections. See their helpful comments in the comments box. And thanks again, Newforest, for these extra translations:

filled to the brim = (plein) jusqu'au bord or (plein) à ras bord, or (rempli) à ras bord

Faux Ami Alert!
Regarding the word conserve, now's a good time to point out a certain faux ami... One mistake we Anglophones often make, when talking about preservatives with the French, is in thinking that "preservative" means the same thing in their language. Not so! A préservatif is something one buys at the pharmacy or, here in France, on many a street corner (by putting coins into an automatic distributor).

A préservatif is not added to food during mass production, but envelopped in foil and sold to amorous types. Get out your dictionaries and look this word up... before waxing poetic about it to le garçon who is taking your order at the local bistro.

*Thanks to Dick Kahane for suggesting today's "Faux Ami Alert" and for the following info: the translation for preservative, in French, is un (agent) conservateur.

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One of my favorite photo subjects: Faces spitting water. I've shot rolls and rolls of them. Humans, cherubs, dolphins, swans, fish, gargoyles... I could spend days taking pictures of fountains. (In fact, I already may have done that.)


The photos you have on your post make my computer so lovely to look at. My 'wallpaper' frequently changes with the pictures & i am living in those places daily.
thank you!


There is a broken window, a broken fountain, and, uh . . ., broken plaster?? I was never very good at finding all of the hidden pictures in the "Highlife" (or was it "Highlite"?) magazine!! However, there is nothing "broken" about the beautiful colors in that photo; they are in perfect tonal order with each other. I wish I had had those colors in my Crayola box:)


The three things I noticed most were that one of the heads in the fountain isn't putting out water, there seems to be a "nonwindow" (not sure what that was for), and the long crack in the plaster. Lovely photo.


trois choses - hmmm
I love the beauty of the tree contrasting with the building.

Are the fountain faces spouting water those of "prominent locals" or just an artist's fancy? - they are serendipitous and wonderful

the broken window but also the "bricked in" (not brick but ..)window. I was told one time that in Italy it is necessary to brick in any windows or doors because one cannot later decide to add a door or window at whim.

Kathy Grossman

It was Highlights Magazine, Diane, and I loved that magazine! Is that an olive tree on the left? And the four faces downspouts in the fountain: I find them charming, but I'll bet children are frightened to drink what comes out of those little ghouls. And the window is in need of serious repair. In addition to the crumbles, is that black mold I see creeping up the wall?


The different textures of the same wall. The way the window is built... to shield the sun, shed rain and snow and always be able to have the window open. And I wonder what the niche was for...


First - There is no snow.
Second - There should be red and rose coming out of the spigots, not just white.
Third - It looks like Roussillon.


The window that appears to be broken, as I looked closer, it looks like lace curtains on the inside. The walls remind me somewhat of the adobe walls that I saw when I visited General Cepede, Mexico, the old with the new. The Fountain is great! What a serene picture.


Such beautiful shades of coral.


OMIGOSH, Kristin! Where can you find your peanut butter?? Or do you have it sent over??? The only place we could ever find it was at a special import shop in Les Halles! The french seem to think of it as culinary least my 'french' do....


ooops, PS where did you take the great photo?

Fred Caswell

Four heads in the fountain -- two "speaking" with a forked tongue spewing their offerings from the side of their mouth, one perhaps rendered silent by life numbing experiences, with the fourth boldly giving forth his contribution to le monde in a confident and straightforward manner -- concrete heads reflecting humanity!

Very interesting to "see" what others see as we scrutinize the same spectacle! Last night we were watching a documentary on the mysteries surrounding the not yet fully understood tragic occurrences in both the Bermuda Triangle (SE of Florida) and the Dragon Triangle (off the coast of Japan). I was enthralled as a male (important) commentator spoke of possible connections and causes, turned to ma femme to ask what she thought of the program -- Nancy's reply was simply "I like his pants". Vive la difference!!!!


3 windows
the one in the middle is blocked
the one at the bottom is hidden
the one at the top is broken

3 out 4 spouts are working

Colour and texture:
the graceful curve of the green olive tree foliage gives a lovely and dainty splash of colour against the 3 tones of the roughly plastered wall

Kristin Espinasse

Patti : the photo was taken in Brignoles, in 2006. As for the peanut butter, I get my supply from Tim and Phyllis of French Country wines (smiles)

and, most recently, from Charles. You can read more about him, here (towards the end of the story):

Scott Robinette

The Place Robinet sign has been cropped out--great photo.


You know, the treat didn't faze her . . . must be a phase she's in!

Kristin Espinasse

onehsancare: thanks for the "faze" edit (and to Chris and George, too, who've sent, via email, a small list, comme d'hab! Just fixed "teaming" (teeming) too. A couple more and we'll be clear... :-)

Off to add the English translation for "friandise". How'd I miss that?


So your snow is melting? Here in the Northeast, we're having a big storm (une tempête de neige) with some ice rain thrown in (du verglas). Not fun. On the other hand, it's a good to be inside at the computer.
Last April when I was in France, my friend Michèle gave me a book called L'Élégance du Hérisson, by Muriel Barbery. I started it over the weekend and I just finished. It's really a wonderful and well-written book. I understand it's available in translation too for those who need the English. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is the English title and please don't be put off by the title. The main characters are endearing and I couldn't stop reading once I started because I wanted to find out what happened to them. There are many good messages in the book too. But of course, you should read and find those for yourself.

Jules Greer

Hi Honey,

This is the most refreshing photo for me - I am dirt tired after working a golden stallion this morning in the I see myself lying in the fountain eating a nice olive and tomato salad, you singing in my ear "Have another glass of wine MOM and you'll feel 50 instead of 62." Wine, food, and song - what more could anyone ask. This photo would be a great painting, I'll paint it like I see it just for you.



Regina Oliver

Merci mille fois - votre exemple d'humilité me donne toujours beaucoup de courage.

I went back to school at the tender age of 40 (with four kids at home) for a few semestres to earn a degree in French, fulfilled that life long dream to teach French -- did research in West Africa to practice!! I right away landed a job teaching high school in Tucson (where everyone speaks Spanish). Culture shock after culture shock, I assure you. Of course, I'm still learning this "belle langue" and often screw it right up. I try always to use any mistakes I make to teach my students, 'we're in this together''s never too late to keep learning. And this year I have a native Belgique in the class, very interesting scenarios.

It's so hard for me, sometimes, though, perfectioniste extraordinaire, to stand corrected - It's such a treasure to read you, learning, living in France.


Great blog. I stumbled across your book this weekend and have enjoyed it very much. I will be a frequent visitor.

The photo? 1)the eyes follow me no matter where I go. 2) There are leaves on the trees, so it wasn't taken in Milwaukee. 3) It puts me in mind of a love-filled trip to Aix about eleven years ago. Fond memories.


1) The fountain - three are doing their job, the fourth is just hanging around smoking. (That's what it looks like) Kinda like any office anywhere.

2) I always wonder when I see an empty niche like this in a wall, who were the saints that were once there? What were the events that made that person go to the trouble of building that niche? Why isn't the statue there any more?

3) The passage of time in this wall -- the rough opening for the window, the long crack, the sharp corners of the niche, and the smooth plaster along the bottom...this wall has been here a very, very long time, and will likely outlive all of us. What stories could it tell?

Kathie Allen

Il n'y a pas un rebord de la fenêtre parce que le plâtre est disparu. Un de les quatre robinets est bloque. Et ce meuble est très vieux.

Bonjour, Kristen.

Kathie Allen


Forget the photo, however charming..I loved the way Jackie shared one of her special brioches with you! Hugs and cheers to a good mother!


Bonne Annee, Kristin!

I've been trying to 'catch up' on all of your postings after a few busy weeks. Love them all, of course, and was especially intrigued by the link to the artist. I want to send it to a friend who is an artist, and can no longer find it. Would you mind posting it again? (It was on You Tube, with a song about 'My Art'and how important it is.

Fred Caswell

My good wife corrected my post above. Her first words were "I like his office (not pants)".

Perhaps I can humbly claim that her accurate reply still illustrates that we never "see" the same thing when we look at the same thing. For this guy, it seems that I don"t always hear what is said -- just maybe she added liking his pants, too. She denies it and is probably correct but I still have reservations!!!


The most beautiful 3 things I see in this photo are the colors. The lovely green of the tree, the slight golden stone top of the building, and the warm red of the lower portion. Your photographer :) is wonderful. As always, a lovely photo.


pardon my second use of the comment box in one day...., but I am glad Patti asked where you get your peanut butter. With all due respect to peanut butter, I am thrilled to find the link for French Country Wines. I live in Houston and will go there tomorrow to get a bottle for my uncle. I had been trying to think of a way to get a bottle of your wine. Perfect. Oh, and I'll take a peek at their peanut butter, too.....

Jennifer in OR

Beautiful. I love the different shades of color on the wall. The tree adds so much life to the picture, too. And the one non-spouting face draws my eyes.

Odile Coppens

kristin, you are going to think I am really nitpicking, but I believe your daughter probably said "a ras bord", talking about the full bowl of cereals.
Et moi, j'en ai "ras le bol " que les gens ici make comments on my weird accent
and ask if I am German... Amicalement, Odile.
(a French American).


Hi Kristin,
Odile's comment confirms the e-mail I sent you earlier on. I can understand how easy it must have been to take the sound "re" for "ra", bearing in mind the first word of the expression was "à", so, in your ears, "a-rA-bor" became "a-rE-bor". There is such a word as le "rebord", edge that sticks out, so, ok for le rebord de la fenêtre (un appui de fenêtre), but "un bol" doesn't usually have "un rebord". Anyhow, the expression is "(plein / rempli) à ras bord".

Dear Jackie,
L'histoire des 2 brioches au retour de l' école nous montre que tu es gentille et pas gourmande. Tu sembles un petit peu réservée (je me trompe?), et tu n'es certainement pas égoïste!
Passe un excellent trimestre!

Back to you Kristin,
The word "cardon" in your text did attract my attention and I spent a whole fantastic hour in the world of cardoons and artichokes... and large structural silvery plants! Thank you ever so much!

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--I love it all, but I'm especially taken with that little window. And I want to touch that wall. merci, eve

Jeana Hurst

Love your website. I first travelled to France in the 80's as an investment banker and then in the 90's as an antique dealer. The numerous trips to France enticed me to try to learn the language. I don't seem to have the brain for languages, but I keep trying. I am in a conversational french class with 6 women and a french teacher. I found your book at a resale shop,read it and shared it with my class. We are now all fans of your blog. Thanks for sharing you insights and lovely life with us!


I see a gorgeous fountain, with three spouts watering and a broken glass window above.

Nan M

So would "Je suis une femme sur le rebord" translate as "I'm a woman on the edge"? ( Ha Ha ) I am a friend and nieghbor of your harvest worker, Chuck McGrath, and his Martha. I love reading your word-a-day. Delightful.


Kristin Espinasse

Here's a link to the art video that Maureen was looking for (at the end of this post):


I studied French in grade school and high school here in the States. I am trying to get back into it and stumbled across your blog some time ago. I appreciate the little lessons and stories; thank you.

It was not the photo, mais le faux ami que provoque ma réponse. I made the very mistake of saying "préservatifs" when I meant preservatives. My French exchange student and his father had quite the laugh at my expense, something a bit horrific to a 14-year old boy. Now I look back with great amusement at the situation. Thankfully I never said the word to un garçon!

Thank you for your great blog entries,


Great site.

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