le frisson

etre tout sucre, tout miel

Jasmine Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
Squint your eyes and you might see the whimsical warning (beneath the flowy jasmine); the door sign reads: "Attention, Chien Bizarre!"/"Watch out for Strange Dog!" (Notice the little hearts on the ironwork. Photo taken in Brignoles, while on a stroll with Mama Jules. Imaged enhanced by Picasa's free "lomo" filter.)

être tout sucre, tout miel
(to be all sugar, all honey) 

    : to be the picture of sweetness (kindness)... or to appear to be!

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Une personne qualifiée comme étant 'tout sucre tout miel' montre une apparence lisse et extrêmement gentille - voire trop - mais ce n'est qu'une apparence. On utilise cette expression lorsqu'on soupçonne que derrière les sourires et l'affabilité de façade se cache autre chose, un caractère ou une envie bien moins avouables.

A person who is referred to as being "all sugar all honey" exhibits a smooth and extremely kind appearance—indeed too kind—but this is only an appearance. We use this expression when we suspect that behind the smiles and the apparent graciousness, something else is hidden: a character or a desire that one perhaps would not want to admit. —French definition from


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

The Control Freak & The Honey Harvest

This is not how I imagined it to be, waking up on what might have been a relaxing samedi. My plan was to stroll into the newly clean and orderly kitchen, make a cup of coffee in the calcaire-free coffee maker, and enjoy the morning ritual from this side of smudge-free windows. The coffee... the view... what more could a reformed slacker wish or do?

So much for four weeks of spring cleaning! And the house had been coming together so nicely... My eyes locked onto the offender, my stubble-faced soul mate. There he stood at the kitchen table, surrounded by every pot and pan in our nicked and handles-bent collection. Even the oven's roasting pan had been brought out... 

All in the name of honey!

ruche honeycomb beekeeping
                          One of those sticky frames pulled from the ruche.

It appeared to be bottling time. After three years of misses, Jean-Marc now had a hit! The amateur beekeeper had finally struck liquid gold!


"Oui!" he answered, oblivious to the mess. Jean-Marc continued to hum along to a favorite song. As he hummed he scraped the sides of the sticky wooden cadres. For this, he used our biggest kitchen knife which was now encrusted with beeswax!

Le gâteau de miel! There seemed to be more of it than the honey... and whether more or less both conspired to make one great sticky mess! The shambles continued all the way over to the kitchen sink, where a host of jam, pickle, and tomato jars were draining. But were they sterile enough to hold honey? My eyes returned to the suspicious surfaces and to the floor... where golden droplets glistened in the morning sun. 

I wasn't the only one staring goggle-eyed at the sticky drops of honey across the kitchen floor: Smokey and Braise, who stood outside, noses-flattened against the kitchen window, were already drawing up a Whose-is-Whose proprietorial map. I could almost hear Braise:

"Son, I'll take the sticky sector beneath the table. You get to lick up the floor by the sink."

"Oh no you don't!" This plan, real or imagined, would not see the light of day... not if I had it my way! I felt the remnants of a stubborn will... as it welled up from within me.... 

I looked over at the honey maker. Presently he was licking his fingers

"But you can't do this that way!" I cried. There had to be a more orderly and sterile system for bottling honey! 

"Laisse-moi faire!" Jean-Marc was calm, but firm in his suggestion. 

"But I..."

"Let me handle this!" he repeated.

I looked over at Braise and Smokey, who by now were drooling beneath their window-smashed noses. 

"Laisse-le faire! Laisse-le faire!" The dogs seemed to urge, all the while their eyes shined... as brightly as those glistening honey-drops which fell glop-glop-glop spot after spot.

The next morning I dragged my feet into the kitchen. On the stove were two great casseroles. I lifted the lids... 

Just as Jean-Marc had promised, the sticky process had worked itself out, thanks to a little heat! There, in the pan, was a perfect waxen disk. Below it, pure honey!

As I stared at the miracle of miel—and the perfect order that had arisen from chaos—the words from the song that Jean-Marc had hummed the day before came to mind. As I hummed, I thought about the control freak inside of me and how, in order to break free, one might chance to be wild—wild as honey....

You can go there if you please
Wild honey
And if you go there, go with me
Wild honey

You can do just what you please
Wild honey
Yeah, just blowing in the breeze
Wild honey
Wild, wild, wild...




                   "Mon Coeur"/"My Love" Do you see the big heart in the center?....

Please forward this edition to a friend who loves French. 

Here is that honeycomb-turned-"lid" that I found in the pan, on top of the pure honey. Please put your honeycomb or beeswax project ideas (candles? furniture wax?) here, in the comments box. Jean-Marc is looking for things to do with beeswax and ways to use this precious natural "cake". Thanks! Flowers from Anne and Karen

French Vocabulary

le samedi = Saturday

calcaire = chalky, hard water deposit

la ruche = bee hive

oui = yes

le cadre = frame

la cire = wax

le gâteau de miel = honeycomb

laisse-moi faire = let me handle this

laisse-le faire = let him handle this

le miel = honey


Fran and Katie by Alex and Joanne Polner
Jean-Marc, Fran Rorie, and Katie Dyer by Alex/Joanne Polner. Alex and Joanne took this next photo, too...


Jean-marc by alex or joanne polner

Katie dyer team fur
Katie notes: Here is a recent photo of the Team. Windsor is the smiley red boy in the back.  Aslan, half brother to Nigel and Smudge, is the silly blond in the middle, and Smudge is the naughty girl in the back row. Smudge's mother, Lizzie, is in the front next to her son, Nigel, who is Smudge's littermate.


Related Stories

  1. Bobbing for Bees - Smokey gets into some stingy mischief! Click here.
  2. "The Beehive/mailbox" - a cool idea -- but not so postman friendly! Click here.
  3. "On Entertaining Angels... or Unannounced Apiculteurs" -- another lesson in hospitality. Thanks for taking the time to read this one.

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


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Ed Abraham

Absolutely loved today's "Honey column" You make even rendering honey a fascinating experience.......Keep up the outstanding work.

Dr. Ed Abraham in Phoenix, Arizona

Kathy Shearer

Ah, yes. Sticky sweetness everywhere. I am reminded of our own bee-keeping days. We used a 10-frame extractor: after cutting the caps off the wax cells, we placed the dripping frames into the extractor and whirled the honey out. Unfortunately, we had placed the extractor on the kitchen table and whoosh! Honey droplets went outward, downward (these were good directions) and upward, onto the ceiling. Quelle mess!!


Hi Kristin, I've been following you for a while, but this is my first comment. I loved your story about honey extraction. I'm starting a hive this year, and await the delivery of my bees at the end of April, so if successful, I'll be making a mess of my kitchen in the autumn. I just read about making "spoon oil", a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, to revitalize wooden kitchen spoons, so that's one idea for your wax. I look forward to reading about your continuing adventure of living in France.

mhwebb in NM, USA

After reading of your honey-rendering experience, I have a new appreciation of "the bee man" and his wife, from whom I buy honey throughout the year. Did you know that beekeepers usually have soft hands as a result of getting honey and beeswax on them so often?

Blessings, Mary

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md

YAY!! Congratulations, J.M.!

This was a sweet story, Kristin - in many ways. And I'd be humming as well as doing a jig with this being accomplished. That is one of my most favorite U2 songs. Thanks for reminding me of it. How fun to see the photos and listen to the song.

Team Windsor is one awesome team. Each, with mouthes open, look as if they have had a wonderful life.

Katie Dyer

Kristin, I loved this post! You conveyed jean Marc's gentle demeanor perfectly. The Team would be more than thrilled to help Jean Marc clean up the honey droplets.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, PA, we have a tradition from the Moravians of using beeswax candles at Christmas.

Thanks for posting the photo of the Team; I wish you could meet them.



I adored your post today. It's amazing how you continue to enchant us with your life. Of course I am crazy about my son Jean-Marc and always thankful that he found you in that nightclub in AIX almost 20 years ago. As I have always told you, JM is the perfect husband for you, he continually shakes up your life with all of his delightful adventures. I love and adore both of you -

Jean-Marc has been through the mill with his honey project. It has taken him 3 years to reap his harvest, I remember when all of the bee's disapeared two years ago, but that didn't stop JM. He is quite a man - he never gives up - now he is covered with his pot of gold.

I also loved seeing Katie and her wonderful goldens - I am one of her biggest fans...

Thanks Kristi for bringing such joy into my life this beautiful Wednesday morning.



Cynthia Gillespie

I am fascinated by bees, love the honey, and adored your story, Kristi. Does anyone know where I can see an "open" hive in Provence? That is, a hive that is covered on one side by glass so that we can look into it? Merci!



Johanna DeMay

Bonjour Kristin,

Some potters use melted bees wax to coat the bottoms of their pieces, which resists the glaze and thus prevents pots from sticking to the shelves during the firing. We used to do it that way, and it could be a challenge to find a source of bees wax. Perhaps there is a potter in your area who could use your wax, or who knows someone else who could.

I loved reading this wonderful story today - especially since we too are in the throws of spring cleaning. We are clearing out a lot of old stuff we no longer use from the studio, and we just came across a big stash of bees wax!
Serendipity strikes again, n'est-ce pas?


from Albuquerque, where the wind is still blowing.


Whoa, keeping a beehive is like, so cool! :D Is it actually hard to keep? But anyways, congrats :D I think a 3-year wait is really long, but i bet looking at all the sweet golden "goo" is worth it! :)


Melted beeswax can be put in candy molds and with the addition of a piece of twine put in for a hanger, made into Christmas ornaments. This would not work if you were using real candles on the Christmas Tree though. Loved the story and so happy the honey project finally came to fruition.


Great posting...I look forward to them "thrice" per week!


What a sweet story!

alors "laisse le faire!" (not laisse lui faire)

laisse les faire
laisse nous faire

Odile, from Eagle-Rock, CA. Il pleut!


Yes, I agree with Ardi. I have a number of old (OK, reproduction) cookie/candy/butter molds. I am always looking for a source of clean beeswax to make Christmas ornaments. My friends are always excited to see the new ornaments I will make each year. What a fun story this one was!

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

I love Ardi's idea. It reminded me of the beautiful wax ornaments we bought in Munich in 1969! One is an angel and one an oval plaque of a crucifix scene. The both have flat backs and I'm sure were made from molds. They had some color to them -maybe you can melt with some food coloring and then pour into some type of candy or cookie mold? My ornaments are a little worse for wear but have survived being in a hot garage for 43 years!! Great Christmas gifts or maybe a little medallion with "R-B" on it to tie around the wine bottle or affix to the wine box, etc. I loved your story this morning - can relate to both you & J-M!!

Diane Dainis

Love the honey story. And yes there is a heart in the middle! I'm sure he did that just for you. Tell Jean Marc congratulations on his abundant harvest of honey. Delicious I'm sure. Wish we were back there again to taste some.
Have a wonderful sweet day.
Mansfield MA


Yes, extracting can be messy. However, it would be less of a problem if you had a electric (hot) extracting knife and you would 'save' all that honeycomb also. In addition you may think about getting a 3-frame electric extractors that would make the process a lot easier... Good luck and good eating.


I totally get how you feel. My husband started making sauerkraut, and at times it turns the house into a skunk den. Plus jars and mess everywhere. But the end product is delicious and very nutritious.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Odile, for the lui/le help. Smokey and Braise are slackin in the grammar department....

Larry, excellent tip. I just drove past the beekeeper store (in Bollene)... but resisted going inside. The last time we stepped foot in there we walked out with lighter pockets! It looks like the investment is beginning to pay off :-) 

Ardi, great idea. Ill tell J.M. about the ornaments.

Judi, a wine medallion would be cool--for those gift bottles.

Johanna, we do have a potter in Serignan--but after reading the ideas here... I think well hold on to the beeswax.


Mom, double thanks.


I know only one thing about honey (maybe two): it has natural antibacterial qualities and will keep forever; it also tastes fantastic. As for beastie, Jones loves honey, also. Great photos. Mary

Susan Carter, Westminster, CA

Great story Kristen, I can just imagine the sticky mess that turns out to be well worth it. Hope the dogs had fun cleaning it up.
Love the idea of medallions for wine bottles. We had a wonderful Easter with Rouge Bleu wine. Drank the 2008 Dentelle Rouge (which I had stashed) & the 2009 which I bought when Jean-Marc was here last month. Everyone loved them both.

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Félicitations, Jean-Marc! You are literally and figuratively reaping the sweet rewards of your perseverance. What a creative couple you are, Kristi; you with your artistic use of words and JM using his persuasive ways with nature to produce wine and honey!


Must see a pic of pups licking floor!

nancy v

You make me want to start a bee hive! I imagined the dogs faces and their tongues lapping up the golden honey. Happy! Happy! Happy! Laughter is a wonderful thing. Thanks from Port Townsend, Wa. It is just noon here.

Eileen deCamp, Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
Loved the story today, especially since my husband is a beekeeper. We were out the other day capturing a swarm. Has JM had to do that yet? The whole beekeeping hobby is interesting and fun! I have my own bee suit now so I can help and not worry about getting stung! I bet the honey is delicious! Our neighbor gave us some Christmas ornaments made out of bees wax and we have some candles made with the rolled wax.

L. M. Davies

Ah, I'm jealous! There's nothing like local honey! It not only tastes great enough to deal with the mess of producing it, it helps with allergies (since the bees are producing honey from the same blooms that are irritants). And do I have ideas for beeswax! Far too many to post here, but they come under three general headings - for the Seamstress, the Beauty Queen and the Artist. For the Seamstress, sew two shank buttons together with heavy coat thread. (Shank buttons are the kind without holes; they have a metal shank on the back) once the buttons are together - they look like two wheels on a VERY short, thread axle - fill the space between them with the beeswax. Now, when you sew, run the needle and thread across the beeswax and your thread will never kink!(it doesn't stain your clothes - don't worry) The Beauty Queen would mix the beeswax with olive oil and scent in various proportions to make either a hand & body creme or lip balm. (More oil for cremes, less for lip balm.)For you, making a scent infusion is a relatively painless process since you already have lavender and other herbs growing on the property. You can expand your choices just by purchasing scented oils. The Artist can use beeswax, dried flowers and cheesecloth to make a beautiful wall hanging. Place the cheesecloth on parchment or a cookie sheet, then arrange the dried pressed flowers to your taste. Then paint them with melted beeswax in several light layers. While the wax is still pliable, add a piece of wire or twine as a hanger. The end result is translucent and looks lovely hung in a bathroom window. Scent the beeswax when you melt it and you've got a wall sachet! I've done all three of these things so you know they're not complicated or hard! lol Have fun!


When I heard about the drops of honey on the floor, I winced. I can't stand tacky floors! I hope you let the dogs come in and clean up for you.

Beeswax candles sounds like a lovely way to use that "disc" of wax. But alas, I can offer no advice on how to make them...

And finally, eating locally-made honey is supposed to be very useful in warding off local "bugs" and viruses!


We have been beekeepers since '95, and love it. Glad to hear that Jean-Marc is so enchanted by his hive, and having them can only help with the pollination of his vines.
What Cynthia Gillespie called an "open hive," is generally called an observation hive. If she, or anyone else, wants to see one while visiting Provence, they should visit the Thursday Market in Nyons. There is a nearby beekeeper who frequently brings an observation hive to the market where he sells his honey, beeswax and candles.

Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

I loved my beeswax as much as the honey from my hives when I kept bees. One of my favorite beeswax projects is making solid lotion bars, like liquid moisturizer, but better for storing and traveling. Apply to the skin and the bar melts on like butter. You can add essential oils or let the beautiful natural smell of the beeswax shine through. Simple recipe from four all natural ingredients at

Bill Facker - Kauai

Sweet! :)

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Great story.
I hope the bees are happy now, and stay for another year. Cool to have your very own honey.
It will be fun to hear which of the uses of beeswax proves successful for you.

Kristin Espinasse

Melanie, really enjoyed my visit to (especially love the lotion bars post, and the reader comment about adding zinc--for a wonderful sunscreen bar!) Great articles. I hope to visit again soon!

Kristin Espinasse

AlpillesGal (and Cynthia), Thanks for the tip to visit the Nyons market on Thursday--to see the open bee hive. 

Kristin Espinasse

L.M. Davies - thanks for the delightful ideas titled for
the Seamstress, the Beauty Queen and the Artist :-)





Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Great to "join" you and Jean-Marc in your sweet Saturday morning honey scene. Many, many years ago my great grandmother would give me a small portion of honeycomb. It was a wonderful sweet and chewy treat for a child of five or six. If you should have any wax left after trying the great ideas given by your readers, you could use it to seal the surface of jars of jelly or preserves you might make this Summer. It only takes a thin covering of wax to protect the jellies from molds in the air,etc. This is an old fashioned method, but a good one. Bises, Cynthia


K - As usual, I'm behind in my reading, but my heart forces me to post regardless of who sees it. Can't believe no one mentioned the inclusion of a song to go along with the story. Music is my passion, even if I can't hold a note - or even find one! But I truely believe what I read somewhere - "music is the language of angels" - and your choice of music so fits this story and your love of JM. Please try to include more of these musical links when the muse strikes.

Fondly, and with thanks,

Jim from Carlsbad Ca.


natural beeswax goes into lip-balm. I've heard it's really, really good


Love the reference to "Wild Honey." It brought back memories of when my son was 3, now he's 13. We used to sing it together when I was cooking in the kitchen.


I enjoyed this post Kristi! I suggest you make hand lotion with the bees wax and scent it with your wild lavander for all the knicked up hands during the grape harvest!!


We love the wine from Bandol ....
Have a wonderful vacation.

George - Florida USA

Barbara Penn - Palmdale, California

Just took a look at your "old" blog called "Rendre service". Now there is a book cover photo if I ever saw one (the one with the bike). Would you consider this for your next book's cover?


I needed this in the fall also....
some times I review postings....
just to get a sense of ..... well being....


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