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Entries from March 2012


"Another Cabanon" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Recently, while editing photos in Picasa (Google's free photo-editing software), I noticed they offered a newer version. After hitting the update button... I tried out a tool called "effet lomo" (lomo effect?). The result is seen above (I snapped the photo while driving to the dermatos the other day). Which photo editing software do you use? Thanks for sharing your answers here, in the comments box.

Come see our family vineyard! Visits are by appointment only... but don't let that formality scare you away! We would love to see you for one of our convivial wine tastings! If you plan to be in Provence, leave us a message here, in today's comments box, and we'll add you to one of our upcoming April, May, June, (...) get-togethers. Jean-Marc and I hope to see you one of these days!

contrarier (see sound file, below...)

1: to annoy
2. to frustrate, to thwart
3. to alternate
4. to force to write with one's right hand

Marilyns ad

 Provence Villa Rental
Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quand j'ai vu que les chiens avaient creusé des trous dans le jardin, j'étais bien contrariée!
When I saw that the dogs had dug holes in the garden, I was very annoyed!

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

Everything's Coming Up Choses!

I think it was one of the plantes grasses--you know, those low-maintenance types, the kind you see on every mémé's window sill?--yes, I believe it was one of those that flowered first, sending out little yellow blossoms, fine as baby's breath, sassy as firecrackers!

Next, I discovered periwinkle-color coureurs beside the garden steps. The vinca had bloomed! and for the first time in the two years since Malou passed me the cuttings!

I knelt down beside the small scattering of flowers (there were one... two... trois!), appreciating the exact shade of blue, and giggling "Pervenche! Now I have pervenche, too!"

Buoyed by success, I waltzed over to one of the messy, unmade flower beds, where I discovered that Doreen's what's-her-names had flowered too! It now seemed safe to give that plant a name.... Madame Quelque Chose! Not only had Madame flowered, she had become fertile--in time to send out offspring! One of the "little springs" must have landed in the tiny crack beside the cellar door, where the seedling was now blossoming!

High on hope, feeling as invincible as the irises which were budding right alongside the rest, I might have floated blindly past the first bêtise... bêtise, to say the least--for the dogs had dug up 'The Eye's Feast'! (well, that's what we might have called them, those curly-leafed blossoming things for which the Latin name escapes me).

Speaking of escaping... there go the guilty ones! Smokey and Braise are now running like blazes to hide behind the Whaddayacallits (just what is the name of that bush? Oh, never mind. I've got work to do in the garden, beginning with a couple of very big holes to fill!). Quelle bêtise!

Post note: (or "turning trous into treasures"") I didn't stay ruffled for very long... but soon had an inspiration! One of those holes was the perfect size in which to plant the grand courge plant... it had been such a little courge plant when my friend Caroline carefully uprooted the seedling from her flower pot and gave it to me. And now a bright yellow flower has appeared! Beneath the blossom an olive-size pumpkin is growing! Off to tuck that one into the newly-dug you-know-what.

The Comments Corner

 To respond to anything in this post, click here. Hint: the comments corner is a great place to ask questions about French and life/travel in France. Your collective knowledge and helpful answers to each others' questions are appreciated!


French Vocabulary

la plante grasse = succulent

la mémé = grandmother

le coureur = runner

trois = three

la pervenche = periwinkle

la bêtise = bit of mischief

le trou = hole

la courge = squash


Smokey in the window...



In case you're feeling inspired to add a caption to this photo... please share it with us here, in the comments corner!


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Kelly and nancy in oregon
At Corkscrew in Portland- Nancy, left, and Kelly on the right

David Wolff JoAnn Calfee Cindylee Giammona
David Wolff, JoAnn Calfee, Jean-Marc and Cindylee Giammona. Cindylee writes: 

Here at the wine bar, Corkscrew, miles from our home in Hawaii, my dose of France converged over clinking glasses of wine, tabled with two other women readers of your blog. We enjoyed the wine and atmosphere immensely. My disappointment to lose out on a bottle of the, sold out Lunatique, was replaced by my prize bottle of Mistral, as you can see by the smile on my face. Aloha and all the best, Cindylee


Do you have a photo from Chief Grape's wine tour? Or maybe you have a photo from your visit here at the family vineyard? Send it to me with a "permission to post" and I will share it here. Merci!


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la prise de conscience

Père et Fille. Jean-Marc and Jackie (did you read her letter on maquillage?). Tomorrow, March 29th, is Chief Grape's 45th birthday!

la prise de conscience (preez-deuh-kon-see-uhns)

    : realization

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the French words below: Download MP3 or Wav file

Cette prise de conscience était un peu troublante. Il parait que ma peau a vignt ans de plus que moi. This realization was a bit troubling. Apparently my skin is twenty years older than I am.

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

She said I need to reapply sunblock every two hours, that when I drive I should put on a long-sleeved (linen) veste in summertime, and that I might consider having the windows in my home (where I work) coated with ultraviolet window film. But the kicker was, she said I have an old peau... She did say that, didn't she? 

Standing in the dermato's office, I watch the scrutinizing regard of the doctor, who does not avert her eyes when delivering the conviction: "Vous êtes plus jeune que votre peau!"

 Because she says the word "jeune" several times in the same paragraph, I initially take it as flattery. Since when was middle age "young"? ...But then the words begin to translate themselves, as French words do, slowly... surely—tick, tick, tick—until, like a grenade, they explode with meaning. 

She never said I was young... she said I was younger than my skin... which I guessed, was old!

   "44 year-old woman". Photo taken 4 weeks ago... those are stitches from the second basal cell surgery. My forehead is coming along, too...

No need to guess any further, the dermato is blunt: "You have prematurely old skin! Votre peau a vingt ans de plus que vous!

I am tempted to shush her up, tempted to claim and enforce that universal rule of tact, only, reason tells me that tact is sometimes nothing more than a tool for illusionists: it is magician's smoke! I don't want Houdini, I want Dr H, whose higher goal it is--in telling me the truth about my skin--to prevent further dégâts.

Dr H. says I will need to catch up to my skin's age! The good news is I have twenty years to do so.... Meantime, I will need to slow down the "advancement" of my cellules--and prevent further skin cancers associated with older skin--by slathering on the sunblock, closing the curtains in my bright office, and staying out of the sun. 

(It is a strange new goal, that of trying to catch up one's biological age to one's physical age! Weren't the two the same?)

The other good news was that the third mysterious growth (or the purpose of my doctor visit) turned out to be a harmless angiome--and not another invasive cell. OUF!).

I pay the doctor 42 euros, thank her for the "reassurance", and leave the office. When I get into my car I look into the rear-view mirror....

First, the crows feet leap out. Gosh, the lines around my eyes are deeper than I remembered their being... my skin looks tired, too.

I have the desire to google "44-year-old skin" or "44-year-old woman" just to see what I should look like. What, after all, should I look like? 

In the end, I resist the urge to let google toy with my emotions. I am strong, tough as leather, and you might even say I have the skin to prove it.

French Vocabulary

père et fille = father and daughter

joyeux anniversaire = happy birthday

la veste = jacket

le/la dermato (dermatologue) = dermatologist

Vous êtes plus jeune que votre peau = you are younger than your skin

Votre peau a vingt ans de plus que vous = your skin is twenty years older than you are

les dégâts (m) = damage

une cellule = cell

un angiome = angioma (a benign tumor made up of blood vessels). Our son Max was born with a dime-size bright red "angiome" on his forehead. The doctors referred to it as "une fraise" (a strawberry)

ouf! = phew! 


Alex Polner Jean-Marc Espinasse Joanne Polner N.J. at Vestry Wines NYC
Another snapshot from Chief Grape's USA wine tour. Here is Jean-Marc with Alex and Joanne Polner. Photo taken at Vestry Wines in NYC.

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 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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un comprimé


Through thick and thin. Photo of Braise (pronounced "brez") and son Smokey--or one of his five sisters? Photo taken over two years ago. Braise still cleans her 30-month-old's face, still lets him rest his head anywhere on her fluffy pillow of a body. She'll never run away without him, and vice-versa, which is why we can keep one dog chained and the other free (they take turns being attached when out in the yard). Still, once in a while they manage to foil the system, and off they go on another escapade....

un comprimé (kohm-pree-may)

    : tablet (medication)

Example Sentence

Si votre enfant a du mal à avaler un comprimé, mettez-le dans un petit bout de fromage.
If your child has difficulty swallowing a tablet, put it in a little piece of cheese.

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

"Drug Smuggling"

Braise and Smokey are fine--good as new, in spite of another run in with l'inconnu. The dogs snuck out around 7 pm, during the chaos of Monday evening, when I was away at the kiné's... (and while the kids were, soi-disant, in charge of things!) 

We now suspect that the wounds (this time Smokey returned with a few...) might be the result of the dogs getting into something they shouldn't be getting into--like a compost bin! Out here in the campagne, people get creative about keeping wild animals out of their trash. I have heard about the use of scrap (read sharp, jagged, pointy) fencing to prevent charognards from rooting through the poubelle.

Our dogs have been known to dine on OPC (Other People's Compost)--even after a well-balanced meal here at home! An old, jagged fence or gate--used as a "keep out" cover for a compost bin--could explain the wounds which appeared, this time, on the dogs' faces. (We will need to walk the property when Jean-Marc returns, to search for the source. Some of the land around our farm has been used as an unauthorized dumping ground--where all kind of "sharpness" reigns.)

Meantime, the dogs are comme neuf: and we have tripled our efforts to keep a rein on them! On Sunday, the wounds closed enough so that Jackie and I could give the runaways a needed bath. Outside, in the shade of the mulberry tree, we scrubbed the dogs. By the time we were done, we were as soaked as our furry clients.

Once the dogs were dry (they took themselves through the spin cycle, dashing toward the closest patch of grass, diving through it like bullets), I gave them their antibiotics.

Drug Smuggling
As any dog-owner or parent knows, administering medication to an innocent can be tricky. Braise, our 6-year-old golden retriever, will spit out anything that isn't sweet or savory. Her son, Smokey, will eat anything--only, once he's seen his mama take her pills, he wants his candy-coated too...

Like my Grandmother Audrey before me, I use a tried-and-true method to dispense those bitter pills: la confiture! In the absense of Smucker's Strawberry, I find that sweet Chestnut purée works very well (we had a can of it in our frigo, I use the it for a simple and delicious cake. Only the can was left open and the purée had solidified. Instead of tossing it out, I discovered it makes a great pill-coating!

Another recent discovery is leftovers! I wish I had figured this one out earlier--before using some of our favorite cheeses (fromage being an easy way to smuggle doggy drugs--just cut off a piece, push the pill into the creamy center, and pop it in your dog's mouth!). Recently I made mashed potatoes (the bumpy kind, and not the French kind, which are perfectly puréed). Refrigerated mashed potatoes are easy to form into little balls... in which a bitter comprimé and be swiftly smuggled. The upside is that those potatoey bumps that I failed to smooth out (as expert French chefs do) now work in my favor: the dogs can't tell the difference between those, and the hard tablets which I am sneaking past their little unsuspecting noses. Voilà!


The highlighted words in today's story correspond to related stories; click on the words to access the stories:

  1. "another run in" = read about the first mysterious "morsure"
  2. "the chaos" = read about the mother-daughter melt-down that followed
  3. and a lot of vocabulary in Friday's kiné (kee-nay) story, don't miss it 


French Vocabulary

l'inconnu (m) = the unknown

soi-disant = supposedly

la campagne = the countryside

un charognard = scavenger

la poubelle = trash

comme neuf = like new

la confiture = jam

le frigo = fridge

le fromage = cheese

un comprimé = a tablet (pill)

voilà = just like that!



  Tom mann

More scenes from the USA wine tastings, this one in D.C. Pictured: our neighbor in Cairanne, Tom Mann, and Jean-Marc. Photo by JR Cook

Collin and beth

Here is chef Collin, who helped us with last year's harvest, and this is Tom's wife, Beth, who we hope to see soon--when she comes back home to Cairanne. (photo by Suzanne Codi).

  Zayra and elizabeth

Here is Zayra, left, and Elizabeth, right, who helped with the 2010 harvest. 

Marie-noble charlie betty
Mary-Noble, Charlie, and Betty (photo by Suzanne Codi)

Suzanne codi2
Here is Suzanne Codi, Charlie's wife, and Jean-Marc--presenting his "Lunatique" wine.


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 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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une séance

"Demure" (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Demure" and une demeure, or dwelling, in the town of Richerenches. Photo taken last February, during truffle season (the outskirts of this modest town are loaded with the pricey fungi! (No wonder the town's prefix has "riche" in it!)

Meet Jean-Marc at Cork Screw Wine Bar tonight--in Portland. More info here.

une séance (say-ahnse)

    : session

Example Sentence:

The prescription read: "20 séances de rééducation faciale post-opératoire par kinésithérapeute diplômé d'état." 20 sessions of post-surgical facial reeducation by a state-certified physical therapist. 


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

Language Lessons Chez Le Kiné

At a clinic in Avignon, I take the stairs down to the sous-sol. Pushing open a door at the end of an empty corridor, I am relieved to find a waiting room on the other side. 

Entering the salle d'attente, I see several people in the next room. A man in a white coat stands, indicating that he'll be with me dans peu de temps. I thank the man with the salt-and-pepper hair and glasses, take a seat and let my eyes wander.

Looking back into the salle de rééducation, I notice a variety of contraptions on the tables. Patients are seated, each resting his hand inside one of the gadgets. I watch the strugglesome openings and closings of hands wondering what sorts of accidents led up to this?

No time to imagine the answer, for the man in white is now motioning to me. I follow him into another room, where I lie back on a table de massage.

"When did you have la chirurgie?" he asks, placing his fingers on my forehead.
"Four months ago. Last fall..." I feel pulling and pinching as the Kiné examines my scar.
"And what is this?" he says, pointing to a white lump along la cicatrice.
"I don't know..." later, I will learn that it is part of the surgical fil that has not been fully "digested". 

 "I've been faithfully massaging it," I promise the Kiné, lest negligence be the source of those lumps and bumps along my scar line, a line that forms an "H" across my forehead.

"OK," the Kiné says, standing up. I am dismissed from the table. 
"Do you think you can help diminish the scar?"
"Yes, but you will need to stop 'massaging' it," he smiles. It seems I have overdone it.

The kiné scribbles down a note on a recycled piece of paper. I mouth out the word, wanting to be sure I've understood: C-E-R-E-D-E-R-M.

"C'est un pansement siliconé," the kiné explains. You'll find it at the pharmacy. Wear the patch and, in a few weeks, I will work on your scar. "Mais," he warns, "your forehead will be tout rouge after each session!"
"That's OK." I assure him. The one good thing about skin cancer surgery, is that it rearranges your priorities. 

For the next three visits I lie on the kiné's table trying to "see" what I am feeling: a lot of pinching and pushing, a lot of little painful jabs. It is a tolerable pain, a douleur that cures.

As the kiné works, he deflects from the douleur by chatting about language. 

"How do you say 'pli'?" he wonders, while pinching my skin.

Pli?... Wrapping paper comes to mind (one smoothly 'plis' the paper before taping it...)

"Fold!" I answer.

"Fold..." the kiné repeats. "C'est ça. You need to fold the skin." With this, he takes my main to demonstrate the 'pli', or "skin fold" along the loose skin on the back of my hand. I watch as the pinching and pushing creates a skin lift or fold. I am to make a series of these 'folds' as I work along the scar.  

Next, the kiné reaches over to the drawer and pulls out a bâton, which he uses to brace part of the scarred skin on my forehead. He puts his finger a half-inch away from the baton, and pushes into the skin, effectively forming another "pli".

Remembering the kinés language curiosity, I point out that the English word for baton is "stick".

"Yes, that looks like a chopstick you're using," I tell the kiné.
"Une baguette... a chopstick!" he repeats. 

By the second séance my kiné announces that the scar has been effectively décollé.

"Unstuck?" I question, furthering the informal language lessons which accompany the physical therapy sessions. 

"Yes, unstuck!" he declares, flexing more than my skin. Language muscles!

Only one or two more "new" words, before our sessions come to completion. "Did I have the doctor's ordonnance?" the kiné requested. 

Uh oh, the prescription... yes, the doctor's prescription... the one I was supposed to find and bring to the kiné, so that I could be reimbursed for the three séances.

With that, I taught the kiné one final word, a word I assured him was an oft-used one... at least in my vocabulary: procrastinate!

"Procrastinate?" The kiné searched and searched, but he could not come up with the French equivalent. I hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed in me, once he found out what I was up to--that is, once he understood what "procrastinate" meant. Oh, well. I could always put off giving the answer, a defining act at that!


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French Vocabulary

le/la kiné kinésithérapeute = physical therapist

 le sous-sol = basement

la salle d'attente = waiting room

dans peu de temps = in a short while

la salle de rééducation = physical therapy room

la table de massage = massage table

la chirurgie = surgery

la cicatrice = scar

le fil = thread

C'est un pansement siliconé = it's a silicon bandage

mais = but

tout rouge = all red

la douleur = pain

un pli = fold

le bâton = stick

baguette = stick, chopstick

décoller = to unstick
la main = hand

c'est ça = that's it

une ordonnance = prescription

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Join the Lavender Ladies in Provence and visit lavender fields, village markets, Rouge Bleu Winery and more! See Provence Properties.

With Charles

 Jean-Marc's USA wine tour is almost finished. Here he is, in D.C., with Charles McGrath, joint owner (and untiring grape-picker) here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. (photo by Martha Melvin)

Do you have pictures you would like me to post from one of the meet-ups Just write "permission by all to post" in the email subject line. (I need permission by all of the people in the photo). Thanks. I can't post every picture, but I'll try to get in a few more :-)


Never miss a French word or photo! Receive an alert via your YahooAOLGoogle Homepage/ReaderBloglines, or Email each time this blog is updated!


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 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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peter les plombs

From time to time, I like to share this snapshot, taken in the Aosta Valley (Italy) during our 2007 family vacation. We were going through a particularly upheavaling time... when I stumbled across this hand-painted sign. It reads: "To live well: love well and let others say what they will". ("Pour bien vivre, bien aimer et laisser dire.") 

 Meet Chief Grape in California and Oregon soon! Check out some of the cities he is visiting on his USA wine tour, click here.

péter les plombs (peh-tay lay plohm)

    : to lose it, to flip out, to go crazy; to get angry


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

I don't even know where to begin with this one. Perhaps with the action part:


It's true, I lost it--blew my top! Went ballistic! HAD A COW. It happened Monday night, on returning from Avignon, where I had had three different doctor appointments. I suppose I was worn out from the pushing, pinching, and flattening--but perhaps more so from the driving and the waiting! 

The driving began earlier in the day, when I needed to set off in one direction (to take the kids to school), before turning around and heading south, to the city. Manque de chance, because of unlucky scheduling I would need to repeat the aller-retour later in the day (heading north again, to pick up the kids, then south, for the final doctor's appointment). 

At the end of the day, after so many hours on the road and in medical offices, I had but one burning desire: to arrive home, change into my PJs and crawl under the covers!

Driving home from Avignon, along dark and winding country roads, I nursed a comforting vision in my mind: I saw a hot cup of tea on my nightstand, my petit carnet, colorful pens, and my current favorite book of devotion. Only, a cruel irony awaited me: instead of spending time in soulful and spiritual renewal--the next moments would be spent paving the road to hell!

And so it was that I did not walk into the house and make a beeline to my room. Instead, I was met at the front door by my pleading daughter. Here follows a mini-dialogue of what happened next:

Jackie: "Mom, can you take me to S's house?" 

Me: "What? When? Why? NO!" The idea of getting back into the car to drive through the dark to another town was downright painful.

Jackie: "But she needs me!" (insert bucket of manipulation and guilt)

Hit by the unexpected, my meltdown was swiftly underway. After the Who, What, When, and Pourquoi of it, I came to the conclusion that I just could not conclude! I was too tired, too fracassée to deal with what my street smarts were telling me were no more than adolescent drama and caprice. Only, my street smarts were worn out from the day; presently dumbness reigned--and it was dumbness that handed me the first brick!

Paving The Road to Hell
I became angry with the realization that, during the hours in which I was away for medical tests and rehabilitation, my daughter had been on Facebook, chatting with friends, getting involved in dramas and, before long, rescheduling my evening to include one final flippant foray back out into the night! No! I would not drive her to her friend's (all this sous prétexte that the friend was in need. In need my foot -- or rather, my breast!, for a mammography was just one of the exams I'd undergone earlier in the day!)

FORGET IT!!!! I shouted, drowning out my daughter's protests, unwilling to be pushed (or flattened or pinched...) any further! But when my teenager continued to pressure me, something hit a nerve and got me seething

"LEAVE ME ALONE! THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM!!!" I shouted. I was frustrated by the details of the current "crisis" and yet, deep down, my gut and Experience told me that the current adolescent dilemma was nothing serious. I would not have to drive my daughter over to her friend's! I had the perfect right to call it a day and get the rest my body needed--and not feel coupable.  

Instead, my daughter persevered, citing more reasons why I should give in. And give in I did, only not in the way that she might have expected....

"QUIT. PUSHING. ME.J'ai hurlé. Next, I watched as a tirade of gros mots and insults leapt out of my mouth like dragon fire. I listened, astonished, wondering where, sur terre, such offensive words originated? (A telephone call to my Mom, later that evening, would reveal that the words were ancestral--and that my own mom was as astonished as I was, when, 30 years before, she listened to the same tirade fly out of her own mouth. To attribute these gros mots to our ancient kin wasn't so much a it was a reclaiming: I claim these @#&! words to be my own grandmother's words! And, boy, it seemed she sure had a mouth!)

Then, as my mother had done decades before me, I slammed as many doors as I could before ending up in my own bedroom, where I spit out several more 'ancestral' expletives. Next, I fell into bed, completely spent.

That's when remorse hit me like a gavel. Guilty!

Instead of reaching for my devotional, I reached for the computer and googled for an answer.

Google told me to apologize.

(You'd be amazed at what an internet search for "lost my temper with my 14-year-old" brings up!).

 After knocking gently on my daughter's door, I entered and sat beside her on her bed. "I am sorry. Je suis désolée. Day-zo-lay! So sorry. Please forgive me."

I did not take back the punishment that I had given her earlier (she would still lose her computer privileges... for chatting (and thus getting us all into this mess in the first place!) when she should have been doing her homework). I may have been wrong in losing my temper, but my daughter would still have to respect my "computer" decision. As for me, I could still respect our mother-daughter bond, by asking for forgiveness for being in the wrong.

 Finally, I put on my PJs, crawled under the covers, took a long sip of some hot tea... and cracked open my devotional. I am always amazed at the realization that, no matter how hot-to-trot-upon-the-spiritual-path I think I am, when all is said and done, it often seems I am no closer to spiritual perfection than when I first set out.  

 Comments Corner
To respond to this story--or to share your own experience--click here

Post note: I saw the friend-in-question the very next day, and overheard the girls as they giggled about boys, clothes, and other fancies. I felt relief to be freed from any lingering doubt about whether or not I had made the right decision the night before.


French Vocabulary

péter les plombs = to lose it

manque de chance = unluckily

le petit carnet = little notebook

un aller-retour = roundtrip, a coming and going

pourquoi = why

fracassé(e) = shattered

sous-prétexte = under the pretence

un gros mot = cuss word

coupable = guilty

j'ai hurlé = I yelled

sur terre = on earth

je suis désolé(e) = I am sorry

My beautiful daughter, Jackie. She's fourteen going on forever. She is timeless and precious to me!

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 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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Max and Smokey. Photo taken last year. Meet Chief Grape in California and Oregon soon! Check out some of the cities he is visiting on his USA wine tour, click here.

la liberté (lee-behr-tay)

    : freedom

Example Sentence:

La devise Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité est issue de la Révolution française
The motto 'Liberty, equality, fraternity' comes from the French Revolution.

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

Driving Max to school this morning, I spot another yellow-blossomed tree.

"FOR SEE SEE UH!" I say.

Max smiles an indulgent "Oui, mamanUn forcicia". He has seen me point out a dozen of them lately, ever since the plant came into bloom earlier this month.

"Maybe you could work in a garden shop?" I hint. "Une pépinière..."

Max knows where I am going with this one, and turns to look at me sympathetically.

"...instead of going into the armed forces?" I suggest.

"I like plants," Max agrees, "but I prefer nature. The outdoors."


I leave Max at the bus stop, do a U-turn at the roundabout and drive back past my son, who doesn't see me. I spy a grown boy, that is, un jeune homme. His straight posture is built of confidence, of innocence.

I think back to a previous conversation, another time in which I tried to talk our son out of his army aspirations. "But somebody's got to do it!" Max reasoned. Of course he is right. Quelqu'un doit le faire. 

I drive slowly home from the bus stop. The sun is shining , lighting up the details of the countryside. I notice white flowers this time--almond blossoms are carpeting the road ahead!

The path is punctuated by amandiers, so that every ten or so meters I drive over another patch of fallen petals. Farther on, I notice a couple of quail running wild and free. What a peaceful scene!

Only, as my car advances, one bird scampers off into the vines, leaving the other frightened by the giant unknown hurtling down the road.

That makes two of us. 


Post note: Max has another year of high school before he will need to make up his mind about enlisting in The French Armed Forces. 


 French Vocabulary

oui, maman = yes, mom

un forcicia = a forsythia

une pépinière = a nursery

un jeune homme = a young man

quelqu'un doit le faire = someone's got to do it

un amandier = almond tree


Blossoms near the town of Camaret.

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 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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prendre pour acquis


"Leafless Lookout". Overlooking the Rhone Valley, from the perched-on-the mountain town of Séguret.

Chief Grape will be in Portland on 03/22 and 03/23! Check out some of the other cities he is visiting, click here.

prendre pour acquis (prahndr-poor-ah-kee)

    : to take for granted

Learn another way to say "taking for granted" in the following story...


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

Getting a little too cozy in a foreign language: A solution

You may dream of expatriate life and believe that living in a foreign land is enough to improve, if not perfect, your foreign-language skills. Believe me, this isn't always le cas! Take my Mom, for example. She has lived in Mexico for 18 years... and yet she still speaks with her hands, using gesturing to get by...

I'm not so rebellious as Jules, but I can be just as lazy in language learning. Given the choice between studying French grammar and ...voyons.... scouring the toilet--I'd gladly reach for the scrub brush!

Thank goodness for all those grammar drills back in school; if it weren't for the stress and menace of exams, I would have never gotten around to doing the work, like understanding the subjunctive or learning how to conjugate verbs. My French pronunciation was never better than when I was actively studying the language back home in Phoenix, Arizona

Once I moved to France, I began to relax. That is, I began to take for granted the French language, which was buzzing all around me. No longer did I jump at the occasion to overhear a French conversation; I could now tune in and out at my leisure. Mostly, I tuned out (late-night dinner parties and the cacophony of French that go along with them, made my head ache. Trop c'était trop! and besides, what with all the French swirling around me, chances are it would stick subconsciously. Wouldn't it? Even just a bit?).

By taking for granted the fact that I had France at my beck and call, a curious thing happened--I began to resemble--linguistically--the proverbial housewife that has let herself go...  Whereas I once wore a pretty peignoir around the house, I now threw on mismatched sweats (my silk robe represented those lushly rolled French "Rs"; my mismatched sweats represented nouns and their forgotten--or never learned--genders, as well as all the overall sloppiness in my current French-language life!).

Though I may have let myself go in the language, my French husband and Francophone children haven't let up; daily they correct me. Only, lately, I feel their exasperation and frustration. Tu peux au moins faire un effort!", They sometimes complain.

Ce n'est jamais trop tard!
And so I have decided to clean up my act! I hope to surprise my husband, Chief Grape (and Chief Language Supervisor) when he returns from his business trip. But, as in love, seule, je ne suis rien!

I have many language books collecting dust on my shelves. I could learn grammar--even pronunciation--by cracking open any one of these tomes. But I am a sensually motivated learner: to see and hear and touch -- are necessary to me in learning. 

Two weeks ago I logged on to Yabla, a longtime sponsor of my on-line language journal. Yabla recently offered me a limited trial of its language program and I decided to log on and benefit from it... before the période d'essai ran out!

Since, I have put in 15 minutes daily toward a language makeover.  I decided to get grammar out of the way by devoting the first 5 minutes to the "lessons" section. Yabla's grammar lessons must be designed for impatient learners like me--thankfully they are brief! The informal lessons are chatty and the titles are amusing, hence inviting ("When Adverbs Get Cozy With Adjectives"..."Whatever Will Be Will Be")--helping to encourage grammarphobes to have a look at the lessons, which include tips and hints for pronunciation.

Under the "Lessons" tab, there are sections on vocabulary and expressions (I swiped today's term: "prendre pour acquis" from there! For how many years had I used the expression--and wondered about the French translation? Yabla gives three French equivalents for "to take for granted"--including the one used in common, everyday speech: considérer comme acquis. After discovering three different ways to say the same expression, I doubt I'll forget it).

Once past the grammar, it is easy to love Yabla's other tools for language learning, namely videos à gogo! Yabla offers a wide range of topics--photography, politics, daily life--to be viewed among a range of programs: news, documentary, music video, street interviews... 

I loved watching an interview with the famous photographer Cartier-Bresson (under the "People" category). In it, I learned all about a photographer's genius; meantime, Yabla ingeniously taught me expressions "être aux aguets" ("to be on the lookout") and memorable quotes, such as Cartier's own "Viser juste, tirer vite et foutre le camp!" ("Aim true, shoot fast and get the hell out!"). The quotes and expressions are highlighted in the bilingual text which runs beneath the video. Tip: A helpful tool is the flashcard option: when you click on an unfamiliar word, Yabla saves it on "flashcard" to be reviewed--and mastered!--at another time.

Another effective tool is the "listening games" section, in which you hear repeated the various sentences in the video. At the same time, you see a sentence, this time with one word missing (up to you to fill in the blank)! Sometimes I missed words because of the speaker's accent (Tip: Yabla notes, at the beginning of the video, whether the speaker is talking with a French or Canadian or other accent), other times I failed to recognize the spoken words due to the speaker's vitesse. No matter how many times I hit "phrase repeat" (another otherwise good tool), I couldn't understand certain words which ran too closely together). I had many duh, or claque-la-tête moments, when the written words were revealed at the end of the game.

The handy-dandy "slow" button allows listeners to ralentir the speaker (particularly helpful when the videos feature kids, who speak fast and pepper their speech with argot! (By the way, this is when the running transcript, just below the video, really comes in handy! I especially enjoyed learning a new synonym to "radin", or "miser": "crevard". I eagerly tried out the word, just the other day, among adults... Manque de chance: they were unfamiliar with the word. Luckily, my friend's 22 year-old son showed up in time to easily recognize and verify the new-to-us the term: "Ouai, c'est quelqu'un qui est près de ses sous--un avare, un radin!" All this to say that Yabla definitely has current expressions covered!

Hands down, my favorite video was the two-part series... featuring Chief Grape! In the video "Provence Domaine Rouge-Bleu" I saw our farm "sur grand écran" so to speak. There were even some clips of our dogs, Braise and Smokey, and--yikes--of our messy front yard (next time I'll get out the broom and pull a few weeds). But the plus for me was that I didn't need to hit "slow" or "phrase repeat" -- I actually understood everything my husband was saying! I wonder whether this means I am making progress?

The question remains, figuratively speaking: Will I be wearing that pretty peignoir when the Chief returns? Or will he still see me in my "linguistic" sweats? 

 (Pssst... Mom! There is even a Spanish program at Yabla!)

Comments Corner

To respond to anything in this post, click here. Hint: the comments corner is a great place to ask questions about French and life/travel in France. Your collective knowledge and helpful answers to each others' questions are appreciated!

P.S.: Re the photos at the end of this edition... I have a feeling there'll be questions! Would some of you who have experienced it (Meredith, are you reading?) enlighten us on what "carnivale" is in French schools? Thanks for sharing the info in the comments box!


French Vocabulary

le cas = the case

voyons... = let's see...

trop c'est trop = enough is enough

tu peux au moins faire un effort! = you could at least make an effort!

ce n'est jamais trop tard! = it's never too late!

seule, je ne suis rien = alone, I am nothing

une période d'essai = a trial period

considérer comme acquis = to take for granted

Viser juste, tirer vite et foutre le camp! = Aim true, shoot fast and get the hell out!

la vitesse = speed

claque la tête = slap the face

ralentir = to slow down

le radin (la radine) = miser, skinflint

le crevard = tightwad, pinchpenny

manque de chance = unluckily

Ouai, c'est quelqu'un qui est près de ses sous, un avare, un radin! = yah, that's someone who's close to his money, a miser, a pinchpenny!

sur grand écran = on the big screen



Est-ce un oiseau ? Est-ce un avion ? Non, c'est Superman!

16-year-old Max dressed up for "carnaval" today. No, I was not a "crevard" -- I forked over the 30 euros for the costume rental! 


superman in french or in france and vineyard

...Though I did suggest that he wear it every day--for the full 4 days--until we got our money's worth out of it! Perhaps he could even land a gig? then we'd make back some of the moola!


superman in french and in france and tabac store

Saperlipopette! I didn't think he'd take me seriously! 

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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 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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Ulysse (c) Kristin Espinasse

Today we learn the French word for "bouncer". I'd say Ulysse, pictured here, would make a good one, wouldn't you? What might the name of his nightclub be called? If we use the example in today's story (in which we remember the nightclub "Hotbods"), then might we call Ulysse's club "HotDogs"?

Chief Grape will be in Orange County, CA on March 20th! Check out some of the other cities he is visiting, click here.

videur (vee-deuhr)

   : bouncer (nightclub)

Example Sentence

A la porte de la bôîte de nuit, il y a un videur qui vérifie les cartes d'identité.
At the door of the nightclub, there is a bouncer who checks IDs. 



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

The Midnight Run

When Max asked me to drive him to a nightclub at 12:30 a.m., I felt the first pangs of loss for my husband. Chief Grape, who is on a business trip, would not be volunteering to do the driving!

I got to bed by 10:30 p.m., hoping for a few hours of sleep before the night run, but Max woke me up earlier than expected. "Mom, on part dans une demi-heure".

Lying under the covers, fully dressed, keys in hand, I might have easily slept up until departure time, but I couldn't blame Max for taking precautions. This would be his first nightclub experience and he wasn't going to miss one minute of it.

The midnight drive through the countryside was surreal; we passed ancient chateaux and thousand-year-old French cathedrals. I thought back to my first nightclub experience, and to the drive through the streets of downtown Phoenix. There were a lot of stoplights and flashing signs, then; now, in the middle of the campagne, there were only old stone structures and stars. To think that we were nearly 30 years into the future... yet seemingly farther into the past! 

"Hotbods" was the first nightclub I snuck into at Max's age (16). It was a gay club, and almost a sure bet for minors hoping to fool the bouncers with their fake IDs. My date, C, drove me. I was mad about C (un jeune homme)... but began to wonder whether C was mad about drag queens--there seemed to be a few at Hotbods....

Hotbods... what a name! What a memory! It was now my son's turn to make memories, here at a nightclub with a more classic name: Le Monte Carlo. I pulled into the dirt driveway and shut off the engine. We sat facing the dark freestanding building; only a garland of red lights ran along the roof's edge, adding to the mystery.

Max and his friend Timothy, seated in the back of the car, calculated the entrance, where a burly man in a dress shirt guarded the door. 

The boys wore dress shirts, too--but would this be enough to fool the burly videur? In France, you need to be 18-years-old to get into a boîte de nuit. But Max and Tim had a plan: two girl friends were about to arrive. "Si on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer". I guess having a girl on one's arm lends a certain maturity to one's person.

Their plan seemed a little farfelu to me, but what did this old crow know?

I watched the girls arrive, kiss Max and Timothy, and off walked the two newly formed couples... easily slipping past the bouncer. Come to think of it, hadn't C and I used that same plan almost 30 years ago? 

At 4:30 a.m. I was awakened by an SMS from Max. It read: meet me at 5:30 next to the stadium. He might have waited another 45 minutes to send the wake-up call. But I couldn't complain too much. At least the boys had had a safe night. I looked forward to hearing all about it, once they got their hotbods out of that boîte.


Did you ever sneak into a nightclub or make yourself a fake ID? .... 


These were the good ol' days, before the powers that be stamped "Under 21" in bold red on one's license.

My son, Max, is the same age as I am in this photo (almost 17), though he is much smarter--he would never done such a poor job altering his ID. And he might have written YES! in the organ donor box. Had I read The Story of Nai... I might have done so too!


French Vocabulary

on part dans une demi-heure = we leave in a half-hour

la campagne = the countryside

un jeune homme = a young man

un videur = bouncer in a nightclub or bar

la boîte de nuit = nightclub

si on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer = if we come in with a girl, they'll let us pass

farfelu(e) = scatty, odd, crazy


Mary and Peggy and Allen and Mary Ann

From left to right Allen, Mary, Jean-Marc, Peggy, Mary Ann. Peggy writes: We had a lovely visit with Chief Grape last night in Alexandria, Virginia.  He signed my copy of "Blossoming in Provence" and of course, we bought some of your wonderful wine


Bill by Peggy

And here are Chief Grape and Bill.

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 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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Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse

Remember the story (click here) about Tessa and our walk throught the deserted town of Séguret? Here's that tea shop with the Christmas decorations still hanging. Remember the name for those little half-curtains? Les brise-bise. Aren't they sweet? Here's another picture, a little less lacy.

Good news! Chief Grape will be in OAKLAND, CA on March 21st! Check out some of the other cities he is visiting, click here.

LE COLIS  (ko-lee)

    : packet, package

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

Le Remerciement de Gus
(Gus's Thank-you Note)

I received a very kind remerciement from Gus Elison, who won the key in the "French Antique Giveaway". I thought you might enjoy the photos that Gus sent, and the captions that go along with them. Enjoy! 

Gus writes:

From France to Jacksonville... The key has arrived!....















Kristin: Life's rough isn't it, Smokey?

Smokey: Walways me! Walways me!

Mama Braise: Son, what are you talking about?

Smokey: Life is rough. Walways me, walways me!

Mama Braise: Son, we need to work on your grammar! The expression is "Woe is me", and not Walways me!"

Smokey:  Wow is me! Wow is me! I like it, Mom!

Mama Braise: Oh, Woe is we

Kristin: ...or would that be "Woe is us"?

(Braise and Smokey look suspicious and clueless, respectively)

Kristin: Just sayin'...

Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse


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 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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une morsure

Antique shop front in Salernes (c) Kristin Espinasse

A butter and cheese shop in the village of Salernes. Would this be a good photo for a book cover? If so, what might the book title be? Leave your answer here, in the comments box.

Chief Grape's USA wine tour will have him in the Washington DC area on 03/10, 03/11 and 03/12 and in Madison WI on 03/14. Click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting


une morsure (mor-sewr)

    : bite

une morsure d'araignée, de serpent  = spider bite,  snake bite
une morsure de chien = dog bite 
morsure du vent, du froid = biting wind, frost

Audio File: (Oh, man, here we go again. Not a Francophone in the house to record today's example sentence. I'll give it my best... but listen at your own péril! Update: I tried, but could not do it! My American accent drowned out the French words! Waiting for Max to return from driver's school. He have to do the recording this time!)

Example Sentence:
Une morsure est une blessure faite par la bouche d'un animal, incluant les humains.
A bite is a wound made by the mouth of an animal, including humans. --Wikipedia

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

Un Mystère

Smokey made it  home first. Shivering and wet, he hopped from paw to paw until I took the hint and brought him a big bowl of croquettes.  After the two day escapade, he was affamé!

Braise arrived next. Only, as she bounded up to the back porch I noticed her head was covered in blood. Given her energetic arrival, I did not panic, but carefully parted her fur, looking for the wound.  

In addition to the tear along her ear (which must have flopped over onto her head, soaking it in sang), there were four gaping holes in her side! 

"C'est curieux," the vet commented, after we arrived at the clinic. "Normally, if this were une morsure the wound would not be so clear cut...."

I studied at the punctures in Braise's side, and wondered what--or who--could have gotten to her? My stomach weakened at the thought: Could a human have done this?

Impossible! No, she must have run into something sharp. A set of fire-stokers, par hasard? A barbed-wire fence? No, the hooked metal would have pulled at the skin. These wounds were too neat, like holes made by a tiny cookie cutter. 

The mystery was troubling, and I watched, in a state of half-attention, as the vet took care of Braise.

When the vet pushed an aiguille into Braise's front leg, I saw the patient's furry jambes slide out from beneath her until she was lying like a mop, completely anesthetized.

The petit doctor picked up our 30 kilo dog who, when lifted, all but eclipsed the vet in size. "Puis-je vous aider?" I reached for Braise's legs, but it was too late, the vet heaved her up onto the operating table. "J'ai l'habitude," she explained.
Standing beside the table, I caressed our dog. Reaching over to lift her paupières, I saw only the whites of Braise's eyes, which had rolled back. I wondered if she could sense my presence and if it comforted her?

"Vous n'êtes pas obligée de rester," the vet said. I looked over at her hands which were wet with blood. My eyes blurred at the sight of needle, thread, and dog ear.

"Oh... ça va. Je reste." It occurred to me that my presence might be a distraction, but it seemed too late to back out now. Braise had just heaved a gentle sigh. Maybe she wasn't so far away after all... perhaps close enough to be comforted?

With one hand on our dog, I gripped the table with the other. It was only a precaution... in case this new-found nonchalance dissolved into waves of queasiness... and landed me on the floor, supine as our canine! 

When the 45-minute operation was over (I lasted 10 minutes, only to end up chatting with a testy boxer dog in the waiting room), the doctor wrapped Braise's fury torso in one great bandage. 

I couldn't help wondering about those wounds, but the vet put my thoughts to rest by concentrating on the positive: "Braise was lucky. The attack could have been at a more critical place--like the throat."

(Oh, the thought of it!) 

"By the way, what about the other dog?" The vet inquired.

"Oh... Smokey... he is fine. I just hope he tried to help his mother during the attack!"

The vet studied Braise, thoughtfully. "Or maybe it was the mother who was defending the son?"

Of course! Chances are it was Braise who was looking out for Smokey. It wouldn't be the first time she saved his life.


French Vocabulary

une croquette = kibble (dry dog or cat food)

affamé = starving

le sang = blood (learn the expression "bon sang" + a dashing photo of Jean-Marc)

c'est curieux = that's strange

une morsure = bite

 par hasard = by coincidence

une aiguille = needle (learn a ton of "needle" or "aiguille" expressions, here!)

une jambe = leg

puis-je vous aider? = can I help you?

j'ai l'habitude = I'm used to it

une paupière = eyelid

vous n'êtes pas obligée de rester = you aren't expected to stay 

ça va. Je reste = it's okay. I'll stay



           "Mother Love". Photo of Braise and Smokey, taken two years ago. 

Le Coin Commentaires

To respond to this story, or to leave a comment about an item in this edition, please click here.

 golden retriever and French antiques keys

The next day I took Braise's son Smokey to the vet's... 

For the record, trying to keep a dog occupied in the doctor's (vet's) waiting room, is just as challenging as trying to keep a couple of toddlers occupied in the doctor's waiting room. The kids are grown up now, but I have a feeling that Smokey will never lose his need for one's full attention. And seriously, Smokey, how many times can one play Pat-a-cake? (Pardon me, I meant Paw-a-cake.)

Here's a French version of the game, one that Smokey particularly likes to play (keeps him busy during entire waiting room visits).


(sorry, the video is a bit dark. I found it on YouTube.)

Lyrics in French/English: Tape Tape, Petites Mains

Tape tape petites mains
Clap, clap little hands

tourne tourne joli moulin
turn, turn, pretty mill

nage nage gentil poisson
swim, swim, nice fish
vole vole papillon
fly, fly butterfly

Youpi! (Oui!)


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 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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