How to say "life vest" in French: bouée de sauvetage
How to say "luck" in French + recipe for Lucky New Year Pie with Grand Marnier


Josephine baker colins
Read about "Josey" (from our former stomping grounds of St. Maximin) in today's story... and don't miss a photo of Smokey's Ma and Pa at the end of this edition.




to keep oneself busy


Italian Josephine made homemade pizza the size of a hamburger patty, only there wasn't any viande, just a bony anchovy and a meaty olive or two. When she had the energy, she delivered her Italian pies and stayed to watch you enjoy them. And she never charged.

"Ça m'occupe." It keeps me busy, she would say, simply. As I ate, she would sit facing me with her cane, her knitted shawl, and her buckled shoes, and reminisce about an American friend, whose name she shared, and the adventures they had back in the '50s along the Côte d'Azur, when one ran an Italian épicerie and the other ran away from Paris. I listened, but mostly I studied Josey, whose dark eyes, once dull, now sparkled.

The last time Josephine showed up at my door with one of her trademark mini pizzas, she was carrying a black-and-white photograph.
"I have something to show you," she said. We sat at the table, I in my one-size-fits-all dress (weeks away from giving birth to my second child) and Josey with her shawl and cane and buckled shoes, the black-and-white photo between us. The scratched and faded image revealed the two glowing Josephines: one "café," the other "au lait." The women were dressed in satin kimonos and holding umbrellas, smiles as big as the complicity they shared. I studied the old photo from afar when suddenly my Josey mentioned that her friend loved to sing and dance....

Sing. Dance. Josephine! That's when I grabbed the photo from the table and viewed, up close, the veritable, the one and only Josephine Baker—the celebrated American danseuse (and sometime secret agent) known to appear at the Paris Folies in nothing more than a jupe made of bananas, her pet leopard, Chiquita, in tow.

My excitement was cut short when Josey told me that she was moving to Saint-Raphaël, that her daughter could no longer look after her here in Saint-Maximin. I quietly set down the photo and looked at my friend as a lump formed in my throat. C'est toujours comme ça, I thought bitterly. Just when you meet someone—the kind of person you can just sit with and say nothing to and not feel awkward, the kind who makes a little pizza pie for you because they are thinking of you in your absence—they up and move to a faraway city!

Before Josephine left, she pushed the photo across the table. "C'est pour toi," she said in her soft voice. I tried to tell her that I could not accept her photo, that she should keep it, but she insisted. I couldn't take Josey's only photo of her with her legendary friend...unless...unless it wasn't the only one? Perhaps there were others? Yes! There must be others of those "girls" in the good ol' days—other snapshots—with leopards and banana skirts and maybe a feather boa or two!

I watched as my Josey padded out the door, little steps with her big-buckle shoes. So fragile, she seemed, that you might have taken her for a broken-winged bird, but for the leopard-printed tracks in her wake.



 Thank you for pointing out any typos or important ambiguities (!)  here

French Vocabulary

la viande = meat

l'épicerie (f) = grocer's

le café = coffee

au lait = with milk

la danseuse (le danseur) = dancer

Folies = Les Folies Bergères (famous music hall in Paris)

la jupe = skirt

c'est toujours comme ça = it is always that way



Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the verb s'occuper: Download soccuper.wav

Expression: Occupe-toi de tes affaires! = Mind your own business!

Conjugation: je m'occupe, tu t'occupes, il/elle s'occupe; nous nous occupons, vous vous occupez, ils/elles s'occupent

 Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Kindle 189
Kindle Wireless Reader, 3G + WiFi. Order one here.


Smokey's parents: Mr. Sam (left) and Mrs. Braise (brez). 

golden retriever dogs straw hat paver tiles france 
You did read the story of their elopement in Marseilles? They were about to board the train for Venise when we finally caught up with them! Read the story here.

 Recipe! Though I never did think to ask Josey for her pizza recipe, here is something similar...  a cinch of a recipe from my daughter's French godmother, Rachel. View it here.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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angela billows

Thats such a lovely story, a snippet of a moment in time, I hope you find the photo.......

angela billows

PS thought Smokey might be interested in my Molly's
its all about the life and times of a scotty dog living in Provence!

catherine taylor

I loved your account today about the two Josephines, thank you so much.

gail bingenheimer

Du livre, "Ourika," Je vis qu'en effect je n'avais point connu mes devoirs: Dieu en a prescrit aux personnes isolées comme à celles qui tiennent au mode; s'il les a privées des liens du sang, il leur a donné l'humanité tout entière pour famille. La soeur de la charité, me disais-je, n'est point seule dans la vie, quoiqu'elle ait renouncé à tout; elle s'est créé une famille de choix, elle est la mère de tous les orphelins, la fille de tous les pauvres vielillards, la soeur de tous les malheureux.

Wendy Wurlitzer

Josephine Baker is great! Macy's in Washington, D.C. had a display of her posters and memorabilia in the windows months ago. Have you seen the movie Princess Tam Tam? I bought the movie online from Kino Video and recommend it. Thank you Kristin and Happy New Year!

Marianne Rankin

Interesting about Josephine Baker. I seem to recall reading somewhere that she preferred living in France because there was little or no racial discrimination there.

Have you noticed that the French are not as preoccupied with "celebrity" as Americans? Indeed, the first time I heard "celebrity" used as a noun for a well-known person, it sounded really strange.

Thanks for the Tarte a la Tomate recipe. I'll try it. I plan to include some crushed, diced olives, but at some point, if you can post a recipe for Tapenade, I'd appreciate it.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Interesting post today! How did you come to meet Josey? Were you strolling the town of St. Maximin taking photos?
Josephine Baker's life was interesting. I read a book about her life years ago. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur in WWII for her work as a spy for the French Resistance.


Thank you for this beautiful post about "your Josey." It seems that she must have loved you deeply to have entrusted you with her memories of a dear friend. Braise and Sam seem to be very much the happy couple-although Braise is more of a "ham"--love the hat. Happy New Year.

Pat Cargill

I love this store about Josey and Josephine and that she gave you this precious photo of find it! Such a blessing to have a friend who pops in w/little tartlets. I make homemade pizzas, w/ a whole wheat crust, and believe me, anything goes when it comes to the toppings. A nice smear of olive oil over the crust before adding anything is tres important a moi. If you have it, a bread machine can mix and rise and punch down and rise the dough up once more, BEEP when fini'd et voila! Roll out the crusts and have fun with the toppings. Yum.

From a clear cold, but warming trend in motion, Roanoke.

Jules Greer

Hi Eileen, Actually I think I was the one who first met Josey. I was living with Kristi & Jean-Marc in St. Maximin for a few months in the summer of 1997. This was when I was going through a very difficult time and unfortunately I was a little over the top with my drinking. (I VERY SELDOM DRINK ALCOHOL OR WINE ANYMORE - I finally got away from tiquilla (sp?) and martini's two years after I moved to Yelapa, Mexico.

I would wake up really early (5:00 a.m.) and it was easy to vacate Kristi's house because I lived in a seperate guest quarter across the courtyard. The little guestroom had a big sliding glass door that looked out into a park in the village. Naturally I would pull on my cowboy boots and English riding pants (at that time I had
a horse and had been jumping my horses for years). Just before the sun came up I felt the most alive - didn't like to miss a sunrise. I would wander down to the mainstreet of this wonderful little village and join all of the farmers in the cafe's that were setting up their stalls for their famous market days. As soon as their booths were organized they would retire to the cafe's to warm up on Pastis. Being a rebellious lady that lived in a cabin in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona I would clink my glass of tiquilla to their pastis. I had never really lived in a small community before so I had yet to experience
the true meaning of "It takes a village".

The entire village straighted me out in those few months, and Josey was one of my first friends. She gently informed me that the French way was to wait til lunch and then enjoy a couple of glasses of local wine in the cafe's.

John-Marc used to complain that his Mother-in-Law was running for Mayor. The stories I have - priceless.

I hope to somehow, someday, figure out how to use spellcheck on this #@$%! computer...maybe Kristi can show me soon.



Robert Wildau

Bingo! What a nice piece in all its details, but especially because it also concerns Josephine Baker whose life story is so fascinating. I didn't know she had lived around St. Maximin. Hope you find the picture and can fill in any more you know or saw personally of her history.

Mike Hardcastle

Kristen, What a wonderful anecdote today and what marvelous memories Josephine clearly has. I bet you miss her little pizzas, I get biscuits off my neighbour but pizza only for dinatoire. It's a pity your friend moved away.
I hope you find the photograph although some souvenirs see determined to hide themselves away until 'they decide' it's time to be found. I saw Josephine Baker on stage at the Moulin Rouge or the Follies Bergere in the early 1960s and still have the program somewhere in my house, but like your photograph it's determined not to be found. Looking at today's prices I'm amazed that I could afford to go, they must have increased by more than inflation.

Frank Levin

Jules' post make clear that the writing gene can be passed on from generation to generation. I wonder, Kristin, if you have the painting gene as well or if it mutated into the photography gene which you clearly do posess.

Cathleen Hoffman

Hi Kristen: I loved your story about your frienship with Josey and her friendship with the famous Josephine. Every now and then you will read a sentence that gives you chills because it is so deliciously descriptive and right on target. Your sentence about a fragile bird leaving leopard footprints was just one of those chill giving, perfect sentences. I just lost a dear friend that was elderly in body, but young in spirit. Another perfect line in a recently read novel was that we can be "related by affection" and that must be what you felt for Josey. Thanks so much for the story. Cathleen

Jean(ne)  Pierre in MN

After reading this, i went straight to my library for books and DVDs of this interesting lady. And may we all have a special friend like your Josie come into our lives.

Bruce T. Paddock

Some years back, friends came to visit me in New York City and took me out to a French restaurant on theatre row. The owner spent the evening working the dining room, and he chatted with us for 10 or 15 minutes. He made several references to "my mother," and my friends nodded as if they knew who he was talking about.

After he'd moved on, I told my friends I hadn't realized they knew the owner. They said they didn't. "Then why was he telling you about his mother?" I asked.

One of my friends picked up a menu and showed me the cover again. It had a drawing of a slim, black woman, and the name of the restaurant: Chez Josephine. Turns out the owner (who is white, which may be why I didn't make the connection right away) is one of the many children of all races and ethnicities whom Josephine Baker adopted. I'm told he wrote a fairly thorough biography of her as well.

Audrey Friedner

There is a wonderful restaurant in Manhattan, Chez Josephine on 42nd St. between 9th and 10th Ave. owned by Jean-Claude, one of Josephine Bakers adopted children


Not enough people take the time to sit and listen to our older folk; such stories they have to share if we only would wait a moment while they collect their thoughts.

Thank you for sharing your moments with Josie, Kristen. May we all find it in our hearts to embrace those older than we for, one day, we shall become them.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut tout le monde,

Great story today, Kristin. Thanks for sharing. I’m also enjoying the comments and, as always, I learned a lot from both the story and the comments.

Jules, I hope we can get together someday and share stories about the Superstition Mountains. I’ve done lots of hiking and camping in “dem dar hills” including a three-day desert survival adventure alone. That place is not for wimps! Some of the oldtimers used to use people for target practice out there.

Jules, I noticed the website “” associated with your comment. Was that your site in a former life? Maybe you should start a blog and tell some of your stories. . . . you could doodle on Absoloodle!

A bientôt

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Enchanting, Kristi! As your story warms me, little snow flurries drift through the air and my Mom is en route home to Seattle, I raise my mug to you and all the people who enrich our lives and touch our hearts so dearly. Many of which are part of the FWAD family. What a wonderful world….


I pop in from time to glad I did today. What a touching story written with great sensitivity. And I enjoyed the responses as well...especially the one from Jules...ta mere extraordinaire!

Leroy Ryan

I would sure like to see that photo of Josie and Josephine. I'm a fan of you all.

Marianne Rankin

I didn't know that Josephine Baker had adopted any children; good for her!

Jules, your comments were interesting. Before you get too upset, rest assured that Spellcheck does NOT catch all errors. For example: two, too, and to; their, there, and they're; piece and peace - and so on. We know what you mean.

Happy new year, everyone!

Mary Paulson

Kristen, today I enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as your story of Josey. Your readers really express what they receive from your writings.I have reread the story of Josey several times now.Each time I feel a little more insight to her. Love it when Jules chimes in. I agree with Herm in Phoenix. I would read
Jules for sure.
Happy New Year to All !


Black and white photograph. This phrase doesn't need hyphens at all.

I really like this tale.


Robyn France

Loved the story--proofed as well --it's a show stopper. You will make Wed.--keep asking for help. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


I don't see anything to change here. It is a thrilling and poignant story, great choice for inclusion. For readers who are interested in vocabulary, I do think it would be good to point out that "s'occuper de quelque chose or quelqu'un" also means "to take care of someone or something". In fact I think of that as its most common meaning.


I would put a comma after pizzas to separate the two complete phrases:
The last time Josephine showed up at my door with one of her trademark mini pizzas[,] she was carrying a black-and-white photograph.


Wow, Kristen, this is a great story. It's well-written and connects your little domestic world to the big world, links past to present, is particular and universal. And a great ending!
Loved it,

Bill in St. Paul

This is what happens when you retire and don't get up at 4:30am anymore: you can only comment on the other comments! I agree with the suggested changes by Sandra and Marcia. You leave us hanging, however, wondering whatever happened to Josey and where she went to live.


I love the part about her footprints leaving. So visual!


What an amazing and beautiful story! I hope you print the photo in your book.

Jules Greer

Bill - you are so funny...I was up at 4:30 too! I am re-retiring as soon as Kristi puts this book to bed next Wednesday.



Bill in St. Paul

LOL! Jules, the problem is that I have/had been getting up at 4:30am for so long that I'm having trouble getting my body to "sleep in".

Olga Brown

I just love the story. It's so touching! It's one of my favorite.
I would not change anything.

Good job!

Betty Gleason

I love the last line, but get lost in it. Perhaps a comma after "seemed" and just "leopard print tracks" without the hyphen.

edith schmidt


Loved the story and hope you'll include her photo in the book if you use this one. Josephine Baker was a fascinating woman and I'm sure your friend is too.
In the first paragraph: "And she never charged." is not really a sentence. Maybe you can combine that phrase with the part about her staying "to watch you enjoy them." into one sentence?

Edie from Savannah


Inspired by your lovely story,I just had to play a Josephine Baker song to write to: "C'est Si Facile de Vous Aimer." It is so easy to love your stories--merci beaucoup!

Now the picky part of my comment: Unlike a few other readers, I wasn't sure whether you did finally accept Josey's gift. For clarity, the beginning of the penultimate paragraph could be "she" or "Josey"

Cynthia Lewis

Sometimes I go directly to the photos of Smoky and Braise (and today Mr. Sam). Could it be that Braise is on the left in the photos because I see a nursing I recognize her face,I think? I remember this story from last year and I love it!

Bruce T. Paddock

Hey, Kristin –

The colon after “viande” doesn’t really make sense; a comma would work just fine.

Consider a comma after “buckled shoes.”

The apostrophe in “50’s” is completely optional — it’s correct with or without it — but I seem to remember in one of the earlier pieces you had a number followed by “s” without an apostrophe. How concerned are you about consistency?

Technically, you need a comma after “épicerie,” because what follows “and” is an independent clause. That said, I think the sentence flows better as is.

You need another “I” between “mostly” and “Josey.”

Do you know that’s how your Josephine spelled “Josey”? Because I’m much more used to seeing “Josie.”

“black and white” is a compound adjective that modifies “photograph,” so you’re right, it needs the hyphens.

The double-hyphen after “Josephine Baker” should be an em dash.

“Just when you meet someone” is the start of a new sentence, so it should be “…bitterly. Just when…”

Two more double-hyphens that should be em dashes.

“…the kind that makes a little…” should be “…the kind who makes a little…”

You don’t need the comma between “she said” and “in her soft voice.”

Two more double-hyphens that should be em dashes.

Another one of my favorites, this is. I just reread it aloud to my wife.

Please tell me you still have the photo. I’m not sure if it would be appropriate in the book (it might; I just don’t know), but I sure would love to see it.


I think I'm an apostrophe person - and probably someone has pointed it out above, as they did in my last comments post.
But 1950s is plural and if you shorten it, it becomes '50s, with the apostrophe before the 5, as it replaces the missing '19'.
This story was one of my all-time favourites. So glad you are including it. It makes tears well every time I read it.

Vincent De Kime

Wow, I'm so impressed with all of you wordsmiths (is that one word?). And that is a really lovely story Kristi!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Vince. Great to see your note. Hi to Jamie and bon week-end!


I wondered if it should be "me in" instead of "I in my"??
Not sure but sounds better to my ears

Kristin Espinasse

Jeanine, me sounds better to me, too. I is the corrected version.... hmmmm.....

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