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.

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