OGM + organic seed giveaway!
faire du vin (to make wine in French)

se chamailler

Jean-Marc en train de bricoler. Jean-Marc doing some DIY.
Who could argue with a man in a dress? Not when he's repairing the front door! P.S. Would anyone like to explain just what kind of robe this is? There's a specific word for it--can you guess it? Comments welcome here, in the coin commentaires.

 Your comments on GMOs or genetically modified food were fascinating and educational. Thank you so much for taking the time to weigh in on the debate! If you missed the OGM (or GMO) discussion, please click here to read the comments and to add your own. GMOs do exist in France (that bottle of imported, brand-name ketchup in our fridge?), even if the production of GMOs are interdit.

 se chamailler (seuh-shah-my-ay)

  : to squabble, to argue, to bicker

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French: Download MP3 or Wav file

Depuis trente ans qu'ils étaient mariés, ils se chamaillaient tous les jours.
For the thirty years that they've been married, they have bickered every day.
 --Guy de Maupassant , Les Contes normands

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

Several months ago, during the nerve-racking period of waiting to find out which direction our immediate future would take, Jean-Marc and I got into a particulary awkward dispute. Looking back, I can't even remember what it was we were arguing about, but I won't soon forget how, by the end of the engueulade, one of us was wearing tomato on their face.

Prior to la tomate, and during the heated accrochage, I watched with amusement as my husband struggled to deliver his be-all-end-all winning point. Just as mine does when I am shaking with indignation, my husband's face turned crimson and his cheeks began to puff up... until the words building inside his mouth tumbled out! And when his gargled and incomprehensible "point" was made, he stomped off to his cave to save face (only in wine country can a man truly stomp off to his cave!)

As the door slammed, I began celebrating my victory (MOI VICTORIEUSE!).  I grabbed the soup pan that was drying in the évier and, polishing it, stole an admirative glance at The Face of Righteousness. 

But after making faces in the dull "mirror", primping my victory look, in vain, I had an inspiration: now might be a good time to try one of those home-made beauty treatments! My eyelids appeared to sag from so much wide-eyed dramatics and there were lines echoing the corners of my mouth. Les rides! In truth, I looked and felt just as defeated as my husband. All that word slinging had had its ugly effect! 

I had recently read somewhere that fruit acid peels were good and that one needn't pay all that money for un soin de beauté when the same—or even better—ingredients could be found for a dollar, in one's kitchen. Eyeing the fruit bowl, I noticed the half-dozen tomatoes, a gift from my friend Houria, who picked them in her potager that same morning.

After watching a couple of detailed YouTube videos on homemade beauty masks, I was ready to try out the two-step procedure: 1. cut tomato in half. 2. rub each half into face. 

It felt good to stand over the kitchen sink rubbing those tomato halves over my forehead, cheeks, chin and nose. The effect was soothing and I soon forgot about our marital chamaillerie.  When the juice quit dripping down my face, I moved from the sink over to the stove to see about dinner. While the mask did its wonders (there'd be a 30-minute wait), I would turn my attention to dinner prep.

Lost in a new level of peace that stirring up comfort food brings, I was startled when the front door flew open. That's when I remembered the caveman. My husband must have found the words he had been desperately searching for—and now he was back to deliver them! 

I felt my body seize up as I prepared for round two, la double defense. As adrenaline coursed through me, I became aware of a strange tightening in my forehead.... Next, my cheeks began to crack!

Oh no. The tomatoes! Standing there with smashed pulp on my face, I became aware of my gross disadvantage. But there was no time to rush to the sink to rinse off this humiliating flaw. And so I did what any she-fighter worth her stripes would do, I wore the tomato paste like war paint, letting what might have been a handicap—work as a scare tactic!

No, actually that is not at all what I did. What really happened was I stood before the husband-caveman-warrior feeling super defeated whilst the fruit mask tightened and tightened. (And, gosh, was that a tomato seed stuck to my nose? So ego-deflating!)

I quickly learned there's no better remedy for defensiveness than a home-made tomato mask. Unable to open my mouth without sending a dozen crackling lines up my fruit-hardened face, I decided to play it cool... and not so much as blink.

Oddly, Jean-Marc didn't seem to notice the tomato glop on my face—so concentrated was he on his point. Not wanting to draw attention to those seeds stuck above my narines, I stood unblinking, listening to my husband. The more I listened, the more he seemed to make sense. And when he was done making his point, only my eyes moved as they followed him out the room.

Strange how peaceful things felt when wearing the mask of non-resistance. I'll have to try it again sometime, on my own, minus the tomates.


To comment on this story, click here. 

French Vocabulary

la dispute =argument

une engueulade = a telling-off

la tomate = tomato

l'accrochage (m) = clash, row

moi victorieuse! = me winner!

un évier = sink

les rides (f) = wrinkles

un soin de beauté = a beauty treatment

le potager = kitchen garden

la narine = nostril

Rembobiner? No that's not it... What is that French word that means "leveling off the bottom of a door so that it doesn't "catch" each time you try to close it"? That's what Jean-Marc is doing here. Click here to comment.

  • Read the book Words in a French Life. You'll find out how I met Jean-Marc, why he bought me a one-way ticket back to the States (good riddance!), and how I returned to marry him and to begin this French word journal, now in its 11th year!


Plastic sheeting Jean-Marc will use to waterproof his new cellar. See the "cellar" here, at the end of this post.

Jules is back home in Mexico. I'm left with these photo souvenirs. Mom writes: I was the only one Jean-Marc could hypnotize into being his little helper - later on in the day after I had picked up lots of rocks, climbed the ladder to hand them to JM I just looked up into his eyes and said, "Honey, I need a nap." I think this is a great 'study' for a painting of an old woman in France. When you look at me you can hear my bones creak and my silent moans.


What is Smokey saying? Click here to add a thought bubble.


Check out our readers Best Tips for Learning French -- and if you have any French-learning tips that work for you, please submit them here.

Has a friend just forwarded you this post? To sign up for the free French word journal, simply click here. We'd love you to join our French word family!

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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Tom B, Jersey City NJ

Smokey: "I'm glad it's them and not me!"


What a real Laugh out Loud posting this one is - brought a big grin (rather than delicate smile) to my face - the thought of you with red cracking cheeks, pips up your nose and JM not even noticing!! Thanks for this one. A tres bientot. xoxoxo

Linda R.

Actually I just popped in to see if anyone had come up with the proper name for JM's outfit - my niece would know, but she's not here. Your face mask story brought a smile : )
I always remember a sign above the door to the principal's office in a school where I taught: "Be careful of the words you say; keep them soft and sweet. You never know from day to day which ones you'll have to eat." Not that I've always heeded the advice even when it would have been a good idea.


I know it as a kaftan, but the punjabi dress for men is also similar in style.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Smokey" "Nobody wants to play with me today!"

I love the quote by Linda above. That's great!

Kerry tomb

Smokers thoughts. ". If I keep looking this way, no one will ask me to help"

Karen Whitcome (in warm and rainy Towson, Md)

I'm with Nancy. I've always called those robes, "kaftans".

Very amusing post - the visuals keep coming. And, poor Smokey - waiting for his walk. Bet he misses Jules.

The house is adorable!


Hilarious story today. Thanks so much for sharing this tomato slice of life with us, Kristen.

Marcia Fyfe

Hi Kristin,

As a child of the sixties, it looks like an African dashiki to me.
Were enjoying seeing how nicely you've settled in to your new life.
Cheers from St. George's, Grenada in the Windward Islands, West Indies.
Ciao for now, Marcia and Jack on Rights of Man


Smokey: "Spend years chasing your tail and the answer is right there in front of you."


I sure do wish that they could make this ground softer and more comfortable.

Patty Austin in Bethesda, MD

Smokey might just be thinking ... "This new place is pretty nice, the light is so awesome, look at that beautiful plant shadow!"


Your new home and lands look lovely. Be happy!!


Your Best Post EVER!!!!!! Hilarious!


First, I'm going to try the tomato masque - who knew?

Smokey is likely thinking: "These people are nuts - makes much more sense to relaaaaaaaax in the sun!"

Fred Lovett

Having been married three times for a total of 45 years, in my present association with a Sicilian man, I can apply the lessons I learnt in that life.

1, You will never change a person's opinion by force of words.

2. Don't ever nag! It only builds resentment.

3. Apply the dog training rules: When they do it right (according to your thinking) compliment them.

When they do it wrong avoid anything like punishment which will reinforce their actions.

You don't need force, that only builds fear and resentment.

After 10 years in this relationship we are still in love.


It appears to be a ghendura, traditional dress for Moroccan males at home, as well as other North African countries I expect.

Mary L. Holden

Smokey: "Positively Millet for 2012--one GLEANER and a beautiful dog!"


Hi Kristen and Jean Marc,
Congratulations for your new home! We are still in the middle of "crush" here in CA.
Jean Marc is wearing a long dashiki! We wore these in the 70's!!!
Best to you and your family,
Victoria and Jerry

Katie at frenchcravings.com

What a great story! Thanks for providing a laugh to start my day.


Every dog's motto: "might as well take a nap".


As for Jules picking up whatever, Smokey remarks:

"Better her than me!"


Sheryl in Denver

Smokey says: "You guys work way too hard. You should take a nap in the sun."

Love the kimono, JM!

judi dunn

.. Kristin... back in the 60's , when I lived in NYC... we called them 'Dashikis', and they were mostly worn by my African friends at Art School... ( Pratt Institute).
I think he looks charming and comfortable in one. I see them a lot here in Tallahassee , as we have FAMU here and they are very big on 'African pride'. I love the graphic designs ! Try cucumber slices on your eyes for relieving puffiness! Ca march! Judi Dunn, Tallyho.. Florida

Deborah Rice

Smokey says, "Isn't she done yet? I have been waiting hours for Grandmere to come play with me!"

I love the new house, so charming and inviting. Congratulations!


Jenny Pessereau

Best post EVER! Loved it! Thanks!

Jenny P

Victoria Stockton

"my tail smells like bacon." (:
Love your posts and photos! xo

Farren Stover

Smokey: Qu'est-ce que je fais ici avec tous ces droles de gens?


For those naps you need a hammock...no need to waste perfectly spaced trees.

Diane Young

I was so sure you were going to say that Jean-Marc burst into laughter when he saw your visage a la tomate. I really recommend more rirant and less se chamaillerant. Smokey is having a beautiful reve and could care less what the crazy humans are doing. He knows how to enjoy life.

Mary Gilbert

From CSN's Marrakech Express:
Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth
Colored cottons hang in the air
Charming cobras in the square
Striped DJELLABAS we can wear at home

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I love your home ---- it is so inviting & warm. Great post.


Haha, I loved your story- a tomato mask to keep one from becoming a raging 'tomato'!

Cynthia Gillespie

Great story on yourself, Kristin. I think Smokey is thinking, "Ah, Jules is so much fun and soon she is going to leave us and head back to Puerto Vallarta".

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Hysterical! Still laughing! Ah, the differences between men and women...


Hi Kristin! Your new home and the surroundings are beautiful. Great post and story, but just wondering a few things (details!):
1. Did you like the results of the tomato mask? Could you tell a difference?
2. Did you end up agreeing with Jean-Marcs point?


Outstanding post today. It may change my life!
Also like Fred Lovett's words. Thanks. All true.

Smokey's thoughts.....

I'm homesick for the vineyard romps up North.
Finish that door and start planting, Chief Grape!

Karen from Phoenix

HA HA HA!!! Great story. I use olive oil to help keep those pesky wrinkles away. Amazing to help with dry skin all over as well. I am going to try the tomato mask.

Smokey: AHHHH how peaceful it is here!


Joan Linneman

Je pensais au "Monsieur Cramoisie" du Petit Prince avec la tete rouge qui repetait toujours "Je suis un homme serieux, je suis un homme serieux..."
Mais comment se fait-il que Jean-Marc n'a pas eclate de rire?
Les choses que l'on fait pour rester belle...
Joan L. :)

Carol Roge

Kristen: wonderful, funny post!
Smokey: "I've been chasing that tail all day and I've FINALLY caught it! Now it's time for a nap..."

edith schmidt

He's probably wondering why humans don't know how to relax!
I did like that guy's "robe."

Edie from Savannah

Kathleen from Connecticut

I too thought that Jean-Marc would start urging but then burst out laughing, but many times MEN have one track minds and don't see what is in front of them, they are too focused on their points which they want to make.

Mama Jules, just stop working and join me in the sun...sayes Smokey.

Carolyn Chase

Not sure the name for the garment but it looks dangerous to wear when working with tools.
Perhaps simply "planing" would describe what's being done to the door?
I suppose that tomato on the face is a subset of egg on one's face?? I think it was very gentil of him not to say anything.
A truly delightful anecdote - thank you for sharing.

Carolyn Chase

Smokey - Jules has worn me out!


Hi dear Kristin,
This post is absolutely wonderful and filled us with laughter!
You have such a gift for not only making fun of yourself but encouraging all of us to do the same!Life is too short not to be filled with smiles!
THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Natalia XO


Smokey-I hope she doesn't want to take me for another walk!
Kristen, Jean Marc must be a circus to live with. Not a kaftan and not a muumuu so what can it be?

Loy Fraser

I would suggest that the proper tool for taking a bit off of the bottom of a door is the use of a plane. The sharp edge allows you to just take off only what you need and the results look like nothing was taken off at all :-)

Fred Caswell

Once again you made me laugh loudly and have turned a hilarious human chain of events into a most meaningful lesson to be learned and re-learned again and again. Love it! Merci beaucoup!!!

When first encountering the French word "s'entendre" I quessed that it meant "to listen to each other. "Turning to a dictionary it was a joy to learn that the meaning was "to get along, to be friends." Your little story was/is a clear, humorous, and delightful illustration. This lesson may seem simple but I see dept of wisdom and happy consequences when we TRULY listen.

A clergyman once said that we (all) need bigger ears and smaller mouths!



Fred Caswell

Would you please e-mail your snail mail address -- I have something to send that you and ta famille might enjoy.


Que c'est drôle, what a hilarious anecdote today, chère Kristin! I keep laughing, imagining the whole scenario.
I did not read whether your lecteurs et lectrices have corrected your spelling in your "non-resistence" (it is ANCE and not ENCE). Et c'est RABOTER et pas "Rembobiner" pour aplanir le bas de la porte.
As for Smokey in the photo, here's what's he thinking:"il vaut mieux qu'elle (Jules) le fasse. J'ai besoin de ma sieste, moi!"

Kitty Wilson

This robe is likely a daishiki, like the ones my parents brought back from Africa in the early '60's that became popular hippie clothing later on that decade, Still have a couple of stoles Mum gave me. They look great as table runners!


Ha, ha,ha!!! My husband and I don't often fight, but when next the stress of life hits and we do let go with angry words, I am going to rub tomato all over my face - after I have thrown a few at him!! Ha!!!!!!


Hiding behind the mask, didn't you almost feel like laughing, but couldn't because it would crack?
Smokey is saying "I'll go have that nap with "gramma Jules".


Smokey : is she looking for my collection of old hidden bones??? She won't find them!


I bought several such long (striped) robes in Dubai where they're called a dishdash (don't know if that's the spelling but that's what it sounds like). I use them as nighties-cum-gowns when I travel. They were very cheap.

Pat Cargill

Fun post...J-M, the native, has totally gone native in your new digs. Love it!

Melanie Olsen

very funny story with a wise lesson!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

This was a really great story. Perfect incident and so well told.

I was thinking how you posted all those months when you were dealing with this huge issue, to leave the wonderful vineyard behind and move to a new life in a new home. Only now do we get a hint of how much had to be settled for this big family decision.

Do please let us know the right name for Jean-Marc's clothing. It seems we have learned "raboter" is the word for planing a door.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

Fantastic story!!....I'm still laughing. Thanks so much for making me laugh and smile this morning!! I could totally picture the entire tomato scene...So Perfectly...I have to try that one! hehehehehehehe It reminds me of something you would see in an "I Love Lucy" television show. :)


We just returned from Morocco where they call it a djellaba. There are so many names for a garment similar to a kaftan and so many countries where it is the norm for men to wear one.

Wini Moranville

I am so glad you posted "se chamailler"! I just used it today while I was tutoring two lovely young women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Their native language is French and I am teaching them English composition. They were practicing a powerpoint demonstration that they were going to give, and during one of the slides, they started arguing about how many languages were spoken in the DRC.

The kept bickering, and I was able to say, "on ne chamaille pas pendant la presentation!"

It was the first time I had ever used that phrase--and I would have never come across it had I not read this blog. So THANKS!

Wini Moranville

I meant "on ne se chamaille pas..." of course.... :)


Dear Kristi, I think the F version of the M adj Vainqueur is Victorieuse.... :)

Katherine Jayce

Hahahah. A man on a dress? That is one gutsy guy.


This post gave me a smile while we wait on our little Roma tomatoes to ripen near three years after your post. I never thought of using them for a mask, but maybe my daughter has. She recently tried a homemade mask of tomato, cucumber, honey, chamomile oil and aloe (gel). My husband and I suppressed united chuckles while watching her smear what looked like fresh salsa onto her face. Our only words were from body language and eye contact, well hewn from 20 plus years of marriage. :) Yet, she was the one smiling the most when her skin was brighter a short time later. Kristin, have you written of the love-light in Jean-Marc's eyes after la dispute when he looked at your face sans masque? :) It is hard to see the face when one is staring into the heart. God bless you both and your lovely family! I look forward to your posts.

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