Chaise (c) Kristin Espinasse

Pull up a chaise and let me tell you a little about this newsletter's beginnings... (photo taken in Nyons.)

avant-propos (ahvahn pro poh) noun, masculine

: foreword (to a book or a story)


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Sound file and Example sentence: listen to Kristin pronounce these French words:Download MP3 or Download Wav

Aujourd'hui, lisez un avant-propos de cette gazette.
Today, read a foreword to this gazette.


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

After the illico post, I received this request from Anne, who writes:

I am a French teacher "et bien sûr, j'adore French Word-a-Day!" It occurred to me today, as I was reading and enjoying your lovely photos of your daughter and your dogs, that I should require my students to read French Word-a-Day! I think they would love it, too. Any chance, that before September, you could make one of your postings an introduction to you, your family, your occupation, your vineyards - for those who may just be joining? (I think us old-timers would enjoy it, also!)

Thank you, Anne, for this request. I have been meaning to update the "about" page and this is a wonderful invitation to begin....

You mentioned a personal introduction... 
My name is Kristin and I have written this word journal since October 2002—the year I gave up the self-defeating folie of contacting magazine editors, daily, with writing proposals or queries. It took one hundred seventy-seven rejections (façon de parler...) before I had an inspiration: maybe this was the wrong path? Or maybe editors are the wrong audience for my writing?

Making faces at Smokey, trying to get him to smile for the camera.
Stepping off the beaten track for a mindful minute, I determined what it was I loved in life: France (I had managed to graduate with a degree in French... only I did not know what to do with it) and writing (the profession I had secretly wished to pursue, but reasoned that only "real writers" were permitted into that area).

So much for reasoning. I set out on a new path. My dog-eared copy of Writer's Market collected a thick layer of dust as my own guided-by-the-gut gazette—and the French words inside of it—began to be polished via a daily word journal titled "French Word-A-Day." Inside, I posted a French word and a story to illustrate the word (and in so doing re-ignited a writing dream....).

Since that day, I have not veered from this voie--a freer path. And though liberty comes with its own constraints (revelations! revelations!), there is nothing like being able to wake up in the morning and snap up the Moroccan jingle bells from one's doorknob—and wear them around one's waist if one so fancies.



Anne, you asked me to talk a little about my family and our activities...

We moved to this grape farm in the Vaucluse three years ago, when our son Max was 12, our daughter Jackie, just 9, and Braise-The-Dog only 1 (her own son "Smokey "R" Dokey, in now the same age!).

In 2006 my husband, Jean-Marc, realized his dream: to have his own grapevines and to make his own wine!

JME in heaven
Thank you to "Wendy and Alan in Sicily" for this photo!

At the end of the month we will "attack" our 4th harvest. This year should be a little less chaotic, as the home improvements are finished (we now have doors and windows, whereas the first season we went without...). And whereas last year's harvest corresponded with the birth of sextuplets (on the part of Braise-The-Dog), this year ought to be a cake walk or une marche du gâteau. Well, we can always hope so.

Voilà for an avant-propos for Anne, who had actually asked for an introduction... a word that I have just checked in my dictionary:

introduction: the act of beginning something new

What a wonderful word: introduction!  I will try to address this one with each post: a new beginning. Thank you for reading! To share this word journal with your students (or friends or family), click here to access the sign-up form. Subscriptions are free.

Le Coin Commentaires
Questions, corrections, and comments are most welcome. Thank you for using the comments box, click here.

French Vocabulary
la folie = madness

la façon de parler = manner of speaking

la voie = way, road

voilà! = there you have it!


A Day in a Dog's Life by Smokey "R" Dokey

Smokey says: I love cake! And, thanks to surgery and bees, I've had my fill of comfort food lately. What's more, with the harvest around the corner, Gramma K  is experimenting in the kitchen! I hear her muttering something about "Perfection isn't gonna stop me now!" Stay tuned for some recipes... meantime, need any kitchen supplies? Remember, when you buy an item at Amazon, using the following links, your purchase helps support this French word journal.

Copper bowl
Copper mixing bowl. Mauviel, a French family business established in 1830 and located in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poeles, is the foremost manufacturer of professional copper cookware in the world today. Order here.

Mixing bowl
Creuset mixing bowl.

<= Gramma K has big eyes for this one...


We've got lots more stories, words, and photos for you. A très bientôt!

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Robyn Daniels

Attagirl! Always a good idea to revisit yourself and those you love regularly - we think we know ourselves and our nearest and dearest so well, and yet we are always changing, never the same - each day a new beginning. Howevermuch we think we know our world we are just scratching the surface and there are depths to be plumbed in the simplest of daily acts and interactions with constant companions.

Now where's that pen? And camera. Always have your camera with you to capture what intrigues you - for me yesterday it was a really groovy customised 'hippy' campervan outside my local supermarket

joan mckniff

Thank you for your wonderful pages. I wonder if you might discuss word souvenir, a word/concept that I always hated until I lived in France where I got the feeling it meant, in French, to bring it under...sort of to have the memories come back, be evoked. Thanks, Joan


Forward: And there I thought "forward" was the first word of a wellknown song! Standing for "moving onward" -
and foreword was a sort of introduction into the story of a book, amongst other meanings. Just shows that life is a crib-to-grave learning process, as they say in German (von der Wiege bis zum Grab).

Thank you Kristin for your great French-Word-A-Day of today!


Hi there...I didn't know that you had tried 177 times, thank goodness you found your voie :)

Gerry Ventura

Love hearing more about your family. Where is the winery, and do you do tastings? We will be in Provence in the fall, and would love to meet you and taste the Rouge Bleu...I think that's the correct name of your wine.
I enjoy reading your letter each morni

Bill in St. Paul

Like Smokey, our long-gone Golden Theo loved cake, too. My mother was dog-sitting while we were on vacation, had baked a cake for lunch with a friend, had cut one piece from the cake for her friend, walked her friend to the door and when she returned to the kitchen the cake was gone! Only a few crumbs led to the guilty one. Smokey, you need those sugar calories to heal. Get Grandma Kristi to give you some cake.

Chris Golding

Hi Kristin. Through reading your stories (and a lot of hard work besides), my daughter has just received A* (the top grade) for French GCSE (UK exam for 16 year olds). Last night we went to a "French" brasserie to celebrate. We enjoyed the French cuisine but unfortunately we couldn't practise our French. We had 2 waitresses - one from Brazil and one from Slovakia - and neither knew any French!

Thankyou for the entertainment and instruction you give us.

Surrey, England,
18 degrees C.
Heavy rain expected this afternoon


Hi Kristin, Thanks for refreshing the details of how you arrived at where you are now. I love the photo of Smokey w/cone and repaired chair--everything in its place. Good luck with the harvest' I hope the weather holds. Mary


Robyn, "always have your camera" is an excellent tip. Did you get that photo of the hippy van?

Joan, I think we need Neforest's help for the word "souvenir" and for some examples. Newforest?...

Laura, I made a mistake in the spelling: it should be "forEward"....

Meredith, 177 is a guess. I figured one in a hundred would accept. I published three or four articles... so my guess might be off...

Gerry, Oui! you, and others, are welcome to come by and try our wine. We just need to agree on a time and a day -- so email us and we'll set a date!

Chris, Félicitations to your daughter!

Patricia West

Sorry, not really related to the text, but I was just wondering if you could link products purchasable on Amazon from which you get commission, to Amazon.fr or even UK as I might order those, but can't from Amazon.com. Is it possible?

Cindy McDonald

Ah, Kristin, comme le temps passe! J'adore photo d'aujourd'hui. Les couleurs, comme tout dans le sud de la France, tenir compte de la terre, le soleil et tous les plaisirs merveilleux. Merci pour votre temps et de partager votre vie avec nous. Beaucoup de Bisous!

Jean(ne)  Pierre in MN

I didn't know that you have had your vineyard for such a relatively short time, and yet, we can buy a bottle here in the Twin Cities! Que le monde est devenu petit. I look forward to your writing and your take on your French life.

Pierre Howard

Doesn't "la voie" also mean a traffic lane?

Amber Hilll

I think we show our brilliance by being flexible. Thank you for branching out in this direction..Me and my big furry girl {Newfoundland/Bronwyn Boudica} read your blog each day..and we are most happy to hear Smokey "R" Dokey is doing just fine..and as handsome as ever..Your readers in the Adirondacks.


Thank you for yet another wonderful post & the re-introduction to you and your family. It is nice for those of us who found your blog a bit later than others.
And so nice to see Smokey still so bright, chipper & full of himself despite what to others (of the canine variety) might seem like a physical 'set-back'. What a wonderful pup!

Ophelia in Nashville

Vive "la folie," Kristin! And persistence, too!

Re Je me souviens.... This expression has always seemed to me to be much stronger than Je me rappelle or I recall. Je me souviens can even suggest, to me at least, I remember WELL and I WILL NOT FORGET.

Also, Verlaine.... Je me souviens des jours anciens et je pleure....

Will be interested to hear Newforest's take on this phrase.

Robyn in Strasbourg

Kristin - I just started receiving French Word A Day a couple months ago after I saw it in My American Market and wanted to let you know that I look forward to reading it whenever it pops up in my inbox! I had no idea you'd been doing this since 2002 so I appreciate the introduction :-). I love reading your stories and seeing your pictures - they are always such beautiful pics and both brigthen my day! Thanks for all your time & effort.


Lovely story and we love all of you! xo

Pamela fr Los Angeles

Hello Kristin, Thank you for another lovely blog. I have fallen in love with Smokey. I think his dog collar looks like a halo around his saintly head. Saint Smokey seems appropriate!


Kristin, So interesting to see how the way you introduce yourself has changed over the years. Thanks for re-introducing youself to everyone!

P.S.: In fact, the correct spelling of the word as you use it above is "foreword" (different from "forward," as Laura observes).


Poor little Smokey in his cone! I always feel so bad for canines in cones. My dog had to wear one after surgery and he was miserable. Plus, getting whacked in the back of the knees by a cone is no fun for humans either!

Herm Meyer in Phoenix, AZ

In the picture with the chair and Smokey, Smokey seems to be saying:

Please don’t stare
At the collar I wear
Like that old chair
I’m undergoing repair


I'm also from the desert in AZ, and couldn't wait to get the heck outta there, which I did. Since then been searching for some place beautiful to relocate permanently .... hubby is British and we thought maybe we would try France, but alas! The sordid trouble with finding employment! If we could live off the land would do so but its a tricky proposition taking into consideration TAXES and having bills to pay, grrrrr.
My pup Winnie & I enjoy your posts very much and read them regularly (she just having gone thru the cone-head experience and NOT having had the optomistic outlook on the situation that Smokey has).
Will keep an eye on France, tho, and are wishing to relocate some day. In the meantime, I love to read about your adventures and just wanted to thank you for doing so. My Canadian-French grandmother (Memiere) will be 95 in Sept; so the genes are there as soon as we can get the $$$$ to follow!

Raleigh R. Pinskey

Hello.. Carefree, AZ was 113 last week. Now it cool.... Only 101 today.
I love your newsletter. Each issue brings knowledge to my being and a smile to my heart.
FYI, and I'm sure you know this and just had a fuzzy moment... avant-propos (ahvahn pro poh) : forward (to a book or story).....
The spelling of that part of the book that introduces the content is spelled Foreword - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A foreword is a (usually short) piece of writing often found at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature, before the introduction;The word foreword was first used around the mid-1800s (originally used as a term in philology). It was possibly a translation of the Dutch "Voorwoord".

Claire O'Connor

Greetings from Tucson Arizona (Roquebrun/Languedoc-bound in 2012 -- soon-to-be fellow expats!)

I for one appreciate the freshness and immediacy of this format -- (who'd-a-thunk!?) and am grateful for your unique genius as you express it in the world. I appreciate your humor and light-heartedness and your deep ability to really see and feel and experience AND COMMUNICATE the splendors of your life! You are a sprightly and compassionate guide! Salut!

A bientot!


Hi Joan,
Here is a bit of help with the word “souvenir”.

Actually, in the last newsletter, I used it in the expression: “un mauvais souvenir” = what will stay in Smokey's memory after the nasty 'bee experience'!
You may choose to forget about a bad/painful experience (and of course, Time helps too) and then, when the pain / bad effects have lost their sharpness, what remains in your mind is no more than “un mauvais souvenir”.

→ avoir/garder (= to keep) un bon / mauvais souvenir (of somebody, of a place, of an experience, of a holiday...)
= to have happy / unhappy memories (of …...)
note that “souvenir” is singular

→ “un souvenir de voyage” is a present you buy to remind you of the place you visited.
(this miniature Eiffel tower is “un souvenir de Paris”)

→ “en souvenir de moi” - Here, to show your affection, you may give a little present to someone “en souvenir” of you = as a memento, as a keepsake – the idea is that when he/she sees your present, that person will think about you – the present will remind him/her of you.

→ at the end of a letter in French, you may write:
“Présentez mon bon souvenir à Sophie” = Please, remember me to Sophie.

et voilà...
Hoping the examples helped you to clarify the whole concept.

Bonne soirée!


thanks for the intro.. So enjoy your photos..as I scroll - the face, the bells, the garden with smokey and I'm drawn to a tatoo? Hmm... big in the islands and they always carry a meaning and story. Is there one there?

amyk in DC

In honor of Smokey's love of cake and bee hive mishap, here is the recipe for my grandmother's Honey Cake (my favorite):

Nana’s Honey Cake
3/4 c. oleo (butter) – softened
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour (cake flour is best)
1 t. vanilla
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
6 egg whites
1/2 c. milk, 1/2 c. water

Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy – 5 minutes or so. Butter will lighten in color. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix milk, water, and vanilla in another bowl. Add dry and wet alternately, starting and ending with dry. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into batter (be sure to lighten batter by first folding in about 1/3 of beaten whites and then add rest). Pour into 3 greased and floured round pans (I use Baker’s Joy in 9” pans…I would prefer 8” pans). Bake at 350° F for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely, spread layers with honey and stack.


Coincidentally I just learned a few weeks ago what "avant-propos" meant. Our stat book has been translated (and amended) into French by two colleagues at Grenoble and Bruxelles. They added an "avant-propos" before the exiting preface. They said some amazingly nice things about me and my co-author, easily the nicest things anyone has written about me in French! So I've been sending copies of the avant-propos to my few friends who can read it. Tim liked it.


The colours of "la maison barricadée" au numéro 3, Rue de... (I feel like calling it: Rue du Souvenir? Rue des Archives? Rue des Artistes?) are amazing! The light and sunny olive green "patiné", and the attractive contrast and variation of amber make me forget the state of the woodwork and the crumbling kerb. I must confess the extra door on the right makes me feel very curious. I'd like to push it and see what's behind it and where it leads to.

Kristin, thanks for the inviting chair & table. Yes, I'll gladly come and sit down... and read all about your "avant-propos".

May I add some Vocab precisions for your French Vocab List?
---> "un avant-propos" (syn: "une préface")
= a forewOrd

---> "la façon de parler" / "la manière de parler"
= the way someone speaks
Ex: Sa façon de parler est désagréable (unpleasant)
---> "façon de parler", expression you write between commas and WITHOUT the article "la" is the equivalent of 'so to speak'

By the way, in the last syllable of 'foreword', why a letter "O"?
-> because a 'forewOrd' is made of 'word'(s) written 'befOre' a story.


Kristin, I forgot to add that, your US 'It's a cake walk' is the equivalent of the British 'It's a piece of cake'.
In French, "le camembert" may "walk" or even "run" when "bien fait" (!) but so far, no "marche du gâteau"...
The French equivalent of 'cake walk' / 'a piece of cake' is quite simply:
"C'est du gâteau!"

Sharon Auckerman

Hi Kristin, I noticed that in the picture of Braze (love his name) there is a potted plant with blue flowers, is that Plumeria like I was able to grow in Florida? They are beautiful plants, and I never thought to form them. Do you know the correct word for doing so? I think it is something like emperilier.

Jennifer in OR

Would have loved to see the clashing slippers. :-)

Thank you for a new introduction!


I couldn't help noticing the "Rouge-Bleu" combination in your last photo. I've got a feeling the BLUE plant in the terracotta pot is a plumbago (is it, Kristin?) ... having a friendly conversation with the RED busy lizzies in the old bucket. Braise looks settled enough in its white stiff "collerette", watching the garden from a distance.

Revelation time:
To me, the "chaise-sans-siège" (the chair-without-a-seat) is the 'ghost' of a chair -or is it the old relative of a chair I saw not long ago in Greenwich, on a pavement, in front of a second-hand sort of shop. How weird! I took a photo of it and will send you a copy. Maybe the little bells round your waist will tell you some secrets about the way the two chairs are related.
Less than half an hour later, I was in front of the "Fan Museum", Croom Hill Street, where, a few meters away, I saw a couple of beautiful old chairs getting stuck at the back of a van, by a man looking rather suspicious (I took a quick photo when he wasn't looking...). The chair photos mentioned will be on their way to you very soon.

Ophelia, I read your post and I'd like very much to reply. I think I will.


Very sorry to take too much space today in this "Coin Commentaires", but I'm back again.

I guess the noun "souvenir" reminded you of the verb "se souvenir" - and the emotional line written by Verlaine emerged quite naturally in your mind: "Je me souviens des jours anciens et je pleure"... Verlaine remembers his past (“les jours anciens” / happier days!) and sees himself, sad, lost, powerless, like a dead leaf blown here and there by a nasty wind.
Thanks to your post, I enjoyed re-visiting the poignant scene, its musical “violons de l'automne” and the mood of “langueur monotone”. Merci!

Now, about your remark concerning the 2 French verbs that can be used to translate 'to remember'.
In English, you remember a fact, a person, a thing, a day, a place etc.... In French you can use the verbs “se rappeler”, or “se souvenir”. I'd say that the only difference between the verb "se souvenir" (intransitive) and the verb "se rappeler" (transitive) is in the construction.
→ "se rappeler" a fact, a person, a thing, a day, a place....
→ "se souvenir" OF ... Immediately after the verb, you must add "de / d' / du /de l' / de la / des", according to what follows.

Ex: Je me rappelle LE jour où il est arrivé / Je me souviens DU jour où il est arrivé.
= 'I remember the day when he arrived' . In both cases, I have not forgotten that day, everything about the day when he arrived is still very fresh in my memory. Both sentences mean exactly the same.

By the way, a certain development of the melancholic mood in Verlaine's poem "La chanson d'automne" can be found in the nostalgic poem by Jacques Prévert, music by Kosma: "Les feuilles mortes" = 'dead leaves' (song known in English as 'Autumn leaves'). The song was first introduced by Yves Montand in the mid/late forties and has been sung in French and in English ever since, by so many singers! You might like the 1981 version by Montand (he died in 1991) or the version by Edith Piaf, Juliette Gréco... by Nat King Cole, Serge Gainsbourg, ... any jazz version of the tune, or you might prefer a more recent version by Andrea Bocelli...

Ophelia in Nashville

Newforest -- I enjoyed your responses. Thank you. And you are correct. I was moving way too quickly yesterday in my reading and missed the reference to "souvenir" as a noun. Have thought about the difference between se souvenir and se rappeler before, so I immediately connected to those verbs.

And I, too, love Yves Montand's version of Prévert's "Autumn Leaves" as well as Verlaine's poem.

Also, Kristin, when I said "Vive la folie," I did not mean to underestimate la "folie" of the frustration you experienced -- if that's what you meant. I was sincerely and enormously impressed by your persistence. Writers write and you pursued your passion regardless. Like so many have said, I feel fortunate to have discovered French Word a Day.

Bonne journée à tous et toutes.

Fred Caswell

Merci beaucoup encore, Kristi!

For Jean-Marc: a special photo of you, showing why Kristi still loves you -- a rugged, handsome dude with unpretentious clothes which are but a glimpse of the inner strength, humbleness, dogged determination, and wisdom with intelligence (as you know, they don"t always go together).

Good taste is hair stubble around your mouth and chin area, like mine only younger! Is that some rouge in your moustache? Ma mere est ne une francaise canadienne avec les cheveux rouge: donc, j'ai eu des rouge dans ma moustache jusqu'a tout les cheveux sous le nez changent a blanc.

Please forgive my French -- not too bad for an 83 year old -- n'est pas?

Good luck with your grape harvest and wine production! Love to all, Fred

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Light-hearted and lively reintroduction! Truly, we begin something new each day, don’t we? A beautiful way to see life. As Robyn Daniels commented, always good to reacquaint (and so many times WISH I had my camera!).

Best wishes on your upcoming harvest!

P.S. Loved the jingle bells :)


Just had a quick look at Kristin's next Newsletter (27th August).
A different picture of the old "chaise-sans-siège" gives a closer view on the flowers. So, yes, in blue, I'm sure now it is a plumbago, but the red flowers "dans le seau" (in the bucket) are not busy lizzies - and not geraniums either. I know what they are but what are they called? At this very minute, "je ne souviens pas de leur nom".

Lynn McBride

Love the avant-propos after the fact. And, as a free-lance writer, I was so comforted by your number of rejection slips. I don't have as many, but only b/c I'm not as ambitious and persistent! Their loss, but the way. Enfin, boy did you ever find your voice!
What great comments, too. I've learned lots of new phrases, and how to bake a new cake.
Pauvre chien, glad he's better.

Maureen O'Connor

Merci beaucoup. I have not been following you for very long, so was quite interested to read 'un peu d'histoire' about you and Jean Marc.

En Avant Rouge Bleu!

Sandra Vann

As always, mille mercis Kirsten for sharing, believing in yourself and your destiny and for inspiring us! Finding la voie...I like the phrase. I am pursuing several paths and dreams and find your stories enlightening and helpful. To living life fully, writing, painting, travel and relationships in places we love.

A bientot. Happy Holidays.

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