affolement & Recipe for Zucchini and Potato Gratin


"Cruisin'" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Two things I love about Italy (see the second in today's story...)

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clandestin(e) [klhon deh sten (steen)] noun

: stowaway

(adjective: underground, secret, illicit)

Example Sentence & Audio File:  Download WAV or MP3

Au retour de Sicile, les enfants ont découvert quelques clandestins dans la voiture! On the way back from Sicily, the kids discovered a few stowaways in the car!

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

On our long drive home from Sicily, Max and Jackie moaned and slapped at their arms and their knees. Ça pue et il y a des bêtes! It stinks and has bugs!

The kids were complaining about a couple of stowaways with which they had to share the back seat.

DSC_0016Jackie wrinkled her nose and Max leaned far away from the pest-ridden, poussièreux passengers, but the kids' theatrics did not win them any sympathy from the driver.

DSC_0014 "Your mom would like to keep those chairs," he said, of the cobwebbed clandestins

There, in the front seat, I heaved a sigh of relief. It looked as if those throwaway stowaways were truly mine to keep! I had not sorted through the Sicilian trash bins pour rien, had not tippy-toed past the broken glass, lifted the tossed toilet seat, the rotten tomatoes, and the rancid meat only to have to return the chairs to the trash heap.

Through a cloud of flies I had not in vain tried to save three rustic lives. But there was no way of saving us now from the stench coming from the back of the car....

"And your mom would like to keep the cabbage..." he explained, referring to the 7-day-old chou (one of the many garden gifts from our landlord, and while it was easy to know how to prepare the eggplants—as for that smelly chou... what to do, what to do?).


Home on the range... a temporary cover for the chairs until I figure out how to saw wood for some new seats. Wish I'd paid more attention in 7th-grade carpentry class.

Le Coin Commentaires

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French Vocabulary

ça pue et il y a des bêtes! = it stinks and there are bugs!
poussiéreux (poussiéreuse) = dusty, dust-like
clandestin (m/f) = stowaway
pour rien = for nothing
le chou = cabbage



Finding one of the chairs....

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Bill in St. Paul

Kristin, if you like scrounging furniture, you need to live near a university. At least here at the University of Minnesota at end of each semester, you can find all sorts of furniture in all different states of repair, sitting on the curb outside of apartments and rental housing for anybody to take.

Suzanne in Monroe Twp, NJ

Kristin, I think you and my sister have a lot in common! Although she does most of her retrieving at brocante sales and fle markets. She'll have to tell you about her "finds" when we see you in late September.

Chris, Utah

Try caneing seats for them...very educational and worthy of your labors. Might have to make custom frames with holes to fit in the bottoms.


What a lovely pair of rustic looking chairs! Only "les sièges" (the seats) need some attention but the woodwork looks quite good.
What to do? "Rempailler" the seats, so, look for "un atelier de rempaillage" (not "cannage"). You might have to shop around for a good price, but "les chaises en valent certainement la peine" (= sure, the chairs are worthwhile). This is if you want to give them not only a new friendly home, but also a new lease of life!
For a quick fix: 2 cushion pads will do, covered with any cushion cover you fancy, or any cover you can cut and sew yourself with spare material. Great fun!

As for the third "chaise clandestine", at the moment keeping company to the red and blue flowers, I can see the front leg on the right has got a poor and rather thinnish 'ankle'. No "rempaillage" for that type of chair as it's supposed to have a wooden seat, unless you fancy using the 'hole' to welcome a pot filled with... ivy perhaps (or...?).
As mentionned in my comments in the previous newsletter, that chair is (to me) the special "ghost" chair that drew all my attention. Kristin, I'd guess that, by now, you've received 2 photos of its "relative" found "sur un trottoir" along a little street leading to Greenwich Park about a month ago!

Oh! "l'odeur des choux" that are no longer fresh... and the little flies that quickly infest them. Max & Jackie, I do sympathise with your moaning! Hmmm, difficult to find a compost heap while travelling on a motorway, so... I would have left "le chou en question" somewhere along a Sicilian or an Italian field and it would have carried on with its rotting process without upsetting anyone. Did you keep it/them in the car all the way back home???

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love looking for treasures! Do the French have a word for "looking for junk"? We used to love the one day in Germany where everyone would put all their unwanted "stuff" out on the street and everyone would get out early and go looking for someone's unwanted treasures. We called it "Junking Day". I forget the German word for it.
Are you going to sew some cushions for the chairs? The blanket you have folded on the chairs looks great with the sunflowers!


of some interest to readers who are learning French or are interested in chairs:

-> "rempailler" = to reseat a chair, to give a chair a new rush seat

-> "le rempaillage" = reseating

-> "un rempailleur" = a repairer of rush seats

-> "canner" = to cane the seat of a chair

-> "faire refaire le cannage d'une chaise" = to have a chair re-caned

-> "le cannage" = caning, canework


BTW, as we mentioned the legs of the chairs:
- if a human leg is "une jambe",
- the leg of an animal is "une patte"
- **the leg of a piece of furniture is "un pied"! (les pieds de la table, les pieds de la chaise)
- and the leg of a journey is "une étape"


Suzanne, will look forward to hearing Margaret's stories!

Bill, great tip on where to find furniture!

Chris, doesn't that sort of thing require patience?...

Newforest, glad these chairs look good enough for a "new lease on life." My plan is something you have mentioned: cushions! (P.S.: I saw your note in the other comments box, re the red flowers: I think they are verveine?) Grateful for your vocab list for the chairs. Merci! Also, will have a look in my inbox for those photos.

Eileen, I don't sew but will look for some ready-made cushions... The sunflower yellow beach blanket was sold to us by a beach vendor in Sicily!


LOL!!! Kristi!
I am just such a collector!
In looking at your chairs up close and photographical might I suggest two alternitives to your seating delema? Instead of just cutting out a hunk of wood to put there, or a pillow, what about trying either a good thick leather seat, or maybe a weaved seat-or is it caning?
T'would make them comfey!
Either one is no harder than knitting lol~

You can do it!!!


Ask our friend Corey. She is amazingly creative and can give you good ideas re: chair seat fixes.


So hilarious. I can just imagine the scene. When we lived in Spain, I brought many smelly antique chairs home--the cats thought that they were fantastic. Thank you.

Kathleen Heckathorn

Kristen, I have been rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned chairs for years. My reborn treasures seem content to live out their second lives here with me in Orange County, California. Keep up the good search.


I love that you love old chairs too! While in Paris there was a street sale at the end of our block (on rue Lecourbe). I purchased a darling chair and paid faremore for the cover and back pillow. And I only had to walk a block home with it. But I love it now that I am back home and use it for my computer chair, making my derriere at least, in Paris!!


You had 7th grade carpentry? We had home ec where we learned to make campbell's tomato soup cake and dust hummels. Lorrie

Julie Dufaj

I simply have to comment on your husband's photo. He is the best kind of Frenchman, a man's man and a woman's man, too. Not typical of the men I saw when in France, most of whom seemed a little bit too thin. He's the kind of Frenchman an American woman can appreciate, rugged but with gentle, kind eyes. The two of you must make a smashing picture together!

Chris, Utah

I'll bet they were originally caned/rushed chairs until the bottoms rotted out, then they made quick makeshift bottoms as you see here. Yes, go to a rempailleur, quoi, en vitesse! I'm sure you'll find a pattern you'll love, and you will be able to restore the chairs to their original glory. And yes, if you did it yourself it takes time and patience. Pull the trigger and pay a chair artisan to do it. You'll be VERY happy you did.

Anne Daigle

The backs of the wooden chairs look like quarter sawed oak. Caning would be nice. In Louisiana, it cost about $70 a chair the last time we had it done. In this hot climate, the cats appropriate all caned furniture during the summer.
Anne Daigle

Marianne Rankin

You can find great things in trash bins. I've never rescued a chair, but I found a wooden two-drawer filing cabinet in perfect condition except for the front of one drawer, which was coming loose. I re-glued it and used it for a number of years.


Hello Chris,
I can't be absolutely sure whether Kristin's pair of rustic chairs used to have a rush seat or a solid seat, or a padded upholstery seat nailed / stapled over it... Nevertheless, I would agree with you and think they would look gorgeous with a rushed seat. This would surely give them another 50 or even 60 years of happy life - long enough to have their 'life story' told by Jacquie to her children and grand children!
The third chair (ex-bistro type) looks a bit fragile at the moment and needs to have its front right "pied" examined, then, all depends whether the general state of woodwork is healthy enough before any renovation work, of course.

Kristin, just out of sheer curiosity:
if you turn that third chair upside down, can you see a groove around the seat? or small holes fairly close together? I'm wondering whether it might have been caned (sheet cane or woven cane). If not, it might have had a solid seat with a pattern in the middle? (like the Greenwich one...?)

'Chair artisans' have, in this day and age, all my respect and admiration!


sharing with whoever is interested:

Click on this link, then click on "Vidéo Rempaillage" (you might enjoy the music too)
A skill to acquire!
I learned that, if you want to have a go at rush seating, the cheapest and easiest is to do it with 'Kraft paper rush' - an ideal choice for a first chair...

Here is colourful and very creative Sylvie Clop, and her craftwork,
near Bedoin, in Vaucluse:
"Un de ces jours", Kristin might go and see Sylvie & her workshop! (?) and ... we might also get interesting photos of Bedoin on Cinéma Vérité.
(this is just "une petite idée en passant", Kristin)

Workshop Gepetto, in Alpes de Haute-Provence

A very comprehensive website here, from a family business who live in my part of England:
-> also selling their own seat 'bottoming' training DVDs...

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Newforest and friends. Great to read your ideas and thoughts about the chairs. The two dark brown wood chairs came with wooden seat (with etchings). Thank you for the links (loved Sylvie Clops colorful work). 

Jo Ellen

Speaking of Vespas...the other thing you love but did not address, I'm on my way to a motorcycle safety class to get a licence to drive one in San Francisco! My daughter just bought one, after selling her car, and I'm moving in the direction of cheapening my commute. Congrats on rescuing perfectly good chairs!
Jo Ellen


Lucky the chairs are great.


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