jour pour jour + a celebration!

au pied leve

The dryer cycle in Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I chose this picture (taken in our former hometown of Les Arcs-sur-Argens) for today's post. I noticed, only afterwards, how serendipidous it was for one of the socks to be posed "au pied levé, or "foot on the rise".

au pied levé (oh-pyay-leuh-vay)

    : impromptu, spur-of-the-moment (literally, a decision made "in mid-step", or au pied levé)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quand m'a meilleure amie m'a proposé à la dernière minute une croisière sur le Rhône, j'ai décidé, au pied levé, de la rejoindre. When my best friend suggested, at the last minute, a Rhône river cruise, I decided on the spur of the moment to join her.


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

I don't like spur-of-the-moment decisions! I tell my kids and my husband, who specialize in catching me off guard. They have learned to slip their requests into the chaos of the moment, when I'm so dumbed over with whatever is before me (a juicy telephone conversation, a mesmerizing piece of pie, a fascinating documentary), that a "YES!" is almost guaranteed. Qu'est-ce qu'ils sont malins!

It is only after I have agreed to take my daughter and her friend to the mall because "Maman, s'il te plaît!! This is the very last day of les soldes!!" that it dawns on me I'm scheduled to be at the vet's at the very same time—across town, in the opposite direction. Squeezing two stinky dogs and two dolled-up girls into the car—only to race in opposite directions—I swear to myself never again! Plus jamais! 

Never again will you see my car peeling out of the mall parking lot, the woman in the driver's seat frantically waving goodbye as two teens walk off—oblivious to the car, to the woman, and to the two dogs whose furry claws are clutching the bumper, beneath which wheels are spinning as a harried mom tries to make it to her original appointment. 

J'ai appris la leçon. Nowadays, my spur-of-the-moment answer is non! Don't even ask me now—not until I've gotten off the phone, not until I've finished the pie, not until I'm done watching Nos enfants nous accuseront.* Only then can I have a look at my calendar.

But when my best friend Susan emailed two days ago with a spur-of-the-moment can't-refuse proposition, I forgot all about my stickler rule that would save even a slow-footed casanière from overbooking!

Voilà le hic! The trick now will be for this homebody to be in two places at once: both on that Rhône waterways cruise ship headed toward Lyon—and here on the olive farm, on picking day... when some 50 volunteers are scheduled to show up, ladders and baskets in hand!


Post note: Jean-Marc has encouraged me to go on the week-long river cruise with a long-time friend I see once every few years—and not to feel too guilty about missing the day-long olive harvest, which sort of doubled (guilt, guilt) as une crémaillère, or house-warming party.

What would you have done? 

Comments welcome here.

French Vocabulary

Qu'est-ce qu'ils sont malins! = Oh, they're clever!
Maman, s'il te plaît! = Mom, please!
les soldes = the sales
plus jamais = never again
J'ai appris la leçon = I learned the lesson
un casanier, une casanière = a homebody
voilà le hic = there's the problem 


 *Thanks, Maryn McKenna, for recommending the must-see French documentary "Our Children Will One Day Accuse Us" . Jean-Marc's eyes were glued to the screen, as he kept murmuring we have to show this to our kids! (so that they'll make informed food choices!)

Watch it here, now (if you are reading via email, simply click over to the French Word-A-Day blog, via this link). Do not miss this film about what French children are eating, even in those most pure "untouched" villages! Side note: the scenes in this film, of the French countryside are breathtaking.

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Susan and Kristi
The woman on the left, with the wine glass, can kill me on Thursday for posting this photo—taken 7 years ago (about as often as I see her). See ya on the 8th, Susan! Be there or be square! Elephant tears and all! To comment on any item in this edition, click here to reach the comments box.

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Bonnie L

Nous indeed a fabulous documentary, Kristin. For your readers that have Netflix, it is titled Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution.

Enjoy your mini-vacation! Would love to hear a trip report on that cruise.

Bonnie L


I can't understand why your friend Susan wouldn't give up the cruise on the Rhone to visit you in your new home and join in on the olive harvest. That's what I would rather do if it were me. Chacun a son gout they say.

Kathy Casey

Go and enjoy. Life is way too short to pass up opportunities with good friends


That's what best friends are for, to make last minute suggestions of adventure and good times. You wouldn't deny any of your loved ones, why would you deny yourself. Bon voyage!

Nancy Confrey

I second the comment above: no money could buy participating in an olive harvest and house warming. Chance of a lifetime for Susan! Anyone can take a boat trip on the Rhone...


Kristi, my wife and I just got back from a Rhône River cruise. We loved it and I'm sure you will too.

Bruce T. Paddock

Ummm … yeah. I'd take the cruise.

elizabeth knowly

Should stay with family and olives. Seems like someone is shirking responsibilities! Why did your friend wait til the 11th hour to talk to you about the cruise? Have her join YOU for olive harvesting...much more earthy and fun!

Suzanne Codi

Definitely a week's cruise with an old friend ( 7 years is a long time...) the olives will still be there next year, and maybe she can come help you then, or another time! Seize the opportunity, and good to do something for yourself without kids, dogs and hubby. Amusez-vous bien, je suis jalouse!!
Murphy's law that everything happens at once!!

Alyssa Ross Eppich

Feel no guilt, Kristin. I think you deserve this after the year you've been through!

K in OKC

Take time for your friend and yourself!!!! Life is short and the unexpected (both good and bad) are always just around the corner. As an American, who's heart seems to linger in the places I've been fortunate enough to have traveled, it seems some of us (mostly American women I am referring to) carry way too much guilt and responsibilities for others. Take care of yourself and the other will work out fine Cherish the time with your friend!!!!


Yes to the cruise ! Please send a postcard and some pics....



I see you are 'back in the saddle' - I for one view this post as another true turning point in your life. As we all know for more than a year you have been put through the ringer of life - I can't even begin to list the number of mountains you have crawled up and conquered in this past year. I would have to go back and review all of the trama that has knocked on your door to get a full picture of what you have been through and then again so much has not been documented here on your blog. Of course you went to all of those strange doctors when you first realized you had skin cancer - the life-changing scars all over your beautiful face....the mood changes you don't report on that affect all young people in their early and mid-forties (is that called the 'change of life.' This of course includes Jean-Marc. Not to mention two teenagers in the mist of changing into full-blown teenagers. The dogs, the vines -we just barely see the surface of your electric life.

Now we must admit you have been going through all of this plus you are whether you want to admit it or not right in the center of your mid-forties. I actually think you have just recently (like this week) started to accend out of your mid-life crisis - and the moment you step foot on that lovely cruise you will have ACCENDED (SP?) TOTALLY.

Of course you didn't have time in your post today to give all of the details regarding how this 'trip' has come about, but I hope you will keep us in the loop over the next two weeks.

Stop planting lettuce and beets right now and get on down to the beauty shop and have your nails repaired. Buy some new make-up, purfume and cruise clothes. This is a once in a life-time opportunity for my little 'farm-girl.'

Take a whole box of business cards on the cruise. Better yet, why don't you arrange to give a little talk and sell a few cases of books to pay for your new outfits.

Sleep in every morning - as as you watch the coastline pass by your bed you can write to all of us sharing all of the wonderful details of a trip of a lifetime that most of us will never have the chance to experience.

TAKE YOUR VIDEO CAMERA...AND MAKE L-O-N-G movies of conversations you and Susan share ... you will treasure these movies in ten years.

O.k I will stop ranting - I know you will listen to all of your friends here on the comments box, it is a known and proven fact that your children always hear the truth clearer from someone other than their mother. Thank God all of your friends here love you as much as I do.




Of course you should go!

As mothers, it is innate to always think of everybody else and all the chores first.

You won't regret this, you will come back refreshed and with a new outlook on life and feel better about all that you do. And that makes everything better!

Sue Jean

My husband and I spent a few days in Condrieu in a hotel overlooking the Rhône. We loved standing on our balcony waving back at the passengers on the cruise boats as they went past. They were clearly having a great time.

Take the cruise, you've earned it! Shirking your duties indeed!


River cruise!!! You can pick olives, next year and the next, etc... It isn't often we get invited to do something so special last minute and with a dear friend. Pack 2 bags- one with your clothes for the cruise and the other with your guilt and negative feelings about leaving for a week. Take the first bag with you and leave that second one at home! You are a great wife and mother and have had an incredibly stressful year ( moving, etc...). Go enjoy yourself , relax and do post some pics of what is sure to be a grand adventure!!

Vivian Langley

Bon Voyage

Mary Keates

next year there will be grapes... Friends are a more delicate vintage



DON'T FEEL guilty!!!! GO !!! You Moms (and we wives) can often spread ourselves too thin! You deserve time to connect with special friends without interruption!!! Bon voyage!!!


I'm with your mom! Go on the cruise! And if your husband wants you to go, well, then what's the problem? You will have a great time and 7 days is really a very short time. Don't feel guilty. Go!


So glad you found and liked the film - it is indeed very thought-provoking. (And I'm with the commenters who say, go on the cruise. After all the disruption, and all you do for your family, you deserve some time taking care of yourself. A la bonheur!)


It is nice to have difficult choices about fun things to do. I wish I were deciding between a cruise on the Rhone and olive picking! I too am wary of decisions "au pied levé." On the other hand, I sometimes find myself stuck in "analysis paralysis." Can anyone suggest a French equivalent for "analysis paralysis"?

I hope somehow we get reports and photos of both the cruise and the olive harvest. We may need J-M's help here...

Lin Powell

I would have stayed home, but what I SHOULD have done is go one the cruise and had fun without guilt. And that is what I think you should do. It has been a stressful year for you and you more than deserve a bit of "me time" with your friend. The trick is to go with a free heart and enjoy yourself and come back refreshed. The olives will get picked and there will be plenty of other chores you will have to do when you get home. Good luck.

Marilynn Gottlieb

Stay home and pick olives! You are needed! It will not happen without you. Kidding...every other comment has given you the answer.

Debbie Ambrous -

Go on the cruise and enjoy being with your friend. There will be many more harvests. Take lots of pictures and share with us. Looking forward to your next story.
Debbie Ambrous

Diane Young

Get on that boat and give yourself a wonderful time with your best friend. That far outweighs olive picking. Friends are the greatest treasure. Bon voyage. Can't wait to see the pictures. If anybody deserves a week off, it's you, cherie.

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)

Carpe Diem! Enjoy & Bon voyage.


You never know when you will get to see Susan
again. Time with friends is precious. You have had quite a year of challenges. Go recharge your batteries with Susan and come back to your family refreshed.

Dorothy in RI

Hurrah for Jules' comments!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Will Jules be my mom too? She's wonderful and so optimistic. You are so lucky to have her in your life.

Life is brief: go on the cruise, have a blast then come back and show us the photos and write about your adventures!!

Stay well!


My thought was the rhone cruise, for sure. I was surprised at the comments about choosing the olive picking! A cruise is such total relaxation and olive picking is work, although delightful "work." Please go and have a great time on the cruise!!!!


Bonjour Kristin: I think you should take the opportunity and go with Susan on the croisière. And since JM also encourages you to, what's the hic? You can always pendre la crémaillère après and have Susan over.
Kristin, I can relate to your today's story, for I often make decisions, au pied levé. And the way you describe it is so funny. I love reading about your daily life.
Ta fidèle lectrice.

joie in carmel,ca

Come now, there is only one answer here....the cruise. Like others have said, "life is short", the "olives will be there next year". Take some time for yourself and put everything of the last year out of your mind and spend some time with that friend you see every few years. I bet she is someone that when you get together you feel like no time has passed and you are so close you feel like you saw her just last week. Those friends are special. Have a wonderful trip.


Always Carpe Diem. The olives will grow again next year and you can pick them then. Your friend might not do another Rhone cruise. The choice is clear my dear.

Linda Porter Vandal

Seize the day!(or the cruise as the case may be)So happy your Mom got to spend time with you and your family,I now you mean the world to her, she is special not to mention beautiful inside and out!


Our dear Kristin,
Another wonderful post (and picture!)
I lack words (I think all of us fortunate members of the FWAD family do) to tell you how much we look forward to each new post!
Well, if you go (even with your hubby's encouragement)you will feel tinges of guilt. If you don't go,you will be sorry to miss such a great adventure with your best friend. A two edged sword situation here,to be sure.
You're the only one who can decide. Exclude all the what-ifs.Follow your heart.
(Mine has never betrayed me yet).
Love, Natalia XO


Have a blast, Kristin!!


YOU GO GIRL! You never know what the future holds and good friends are treasures. This is one week out of your life and the world will not stop revolving because you are not picking olives....You will return refreshed and ready to face whatever comes next ....ENJOY!!

Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Bon voyage, Kristin. Enjoy every second with your dear friend! Bises.

Bill Facker

Wherever dear friends congregate is "the place to be" .. it is in the heart, not the physical location .. have a wonderful visit, Kristin.

Deborah Carter

I agree with Natalia. It seems that as mothers and wives, we spend years putting our own needs, or desires, second to those in our family. In a situation like this, it's hard to go on the trip without feeling a little guilty, for what we perceive as "shirking our responsibilities". But stay behind, and do what we feel is our responsibility, and feel depressed and resentful for having had to pass up a wonderful opportunity. Do what your heart tells you is best, but if you have the encouragement of JM, I'd certainly go, and leave the guilts behind! After all, you are not going to truly make the most of the time, if you go while still feeling guilty! As mothers and wives, we don't have as much to give to others if our tank is on reserve. Fill it up, and come back refreshed and carefree and able to give again freely. You've had a lot to contend with lately and you are important too! The house warming party can be postponed until your return, and I'm sure the olive picking will still get done without you! Enjoy yourself, and give your companionship freely to your friend! Deborah, Melbourne, Australia

june furey

Kristin, so wonderful that Jules has said it all for us, who love and wish only the best for you. There will be many other olive harvests, but this trip will be one of a lifetime. Enjoy, June Gold Coast

Bernie Lamach

Take the trip ! We just returned from a Arles to Lyon Viking cruise and enjoyed it very much ( except for the 36deg F temp in Lyon )
All else went great !

Joan Gracie


You must go on the cruise!! We do not see enough of our best friends and there will be more olive harvests in the future. This will be a very special time for both of you.

I am glad your generous husband is encouraging you - go and enjoy!


Hi Krisitin, I love reading your posts and that you share your precious life with so many. Your experiences and thoughts resonate with so many of us mothers, wives, daughters, friends. I find it amazing that others are so liberal with their opinions of "what's right" and "what you ought to do". So I am myself going to take the liberty to tell you what I think! Firstly: I love your mum, she seems so generous and loving and what I aspire to. Secondly, friends are so precious especially when you are approaching the "middle age years" and you are a mother of teenagers and, like most of us in the same boat, are finding it difficult to squeeze them in; dont underestimate their importance. Thirdly, please go and enjoy yourself and your precious time with Susan, because you have indeed had a challenging year and as your mum states we dont even know most of it. I have to say, I love love love my family but the most relaxing time I have ever had was on holidays in Bali with my two best friends, no family/kids allowed. It was bliss and I cherish the memories of it.

Jacqueline Satterlee

Merci pour ce film...j'ai appris beaucoup de choses... Des choses qu'il faut changer!

mary paulson

Kristin,listen to your hubby! He is a wise man.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristi,
I love Jule's comments! The cruise will be fun and recharge your batteries! We're taking a cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest next year! A side trip to Prague too! Can't wait!
Scary video too! I had to switch to a version with subtitles.
Enjoy your weekend!

Olga Brown

Hi Kristi,
I think you should take that cruise with your friend!
As for that video, don't you think everything that happened to you: your new place, new garden, new life has happened for a reason? I think so. Now you and Jean-Marc should show us an example of how to do business in healthy style: no sulfate spraying on grapes, no any cemicals use, just what our grandparents used and the Mother Nature gives us.

I wish you all the best,
Olga Brown.

Marilyn Wheless

That blouse you have on in the picture with Susan.........I would love to have one just like it! What brand? Thanks, Marilyn

Martine NYC

Like the others, I say "Follow your heart. It knows for sure."
I can also say, from the other side, that I have lost several good female friends I had thought I would know forever because they got swallowed up by marriages and children and (probably unconsciously) dumped me. One had 12 brothers and sisters-in-law with all of their kids. Imagine the guilt that must have produced in her. Still, I wish she had once said, "I can't go to the (35th baby shower in a row). I need to go see my friend." She didn't, so our lives are different and unconnected now.
If you tend your friendship, it will grow. You beautifully tend to your family and we see how well they do!
Above all, enjoy!


I hope you are shopping and packing for your cruise! I agree with everyone, and your mom, who is encouraging you to go. Friendships must be nurtured, and taking a trip like this is a wonderful way to do it. You will make lifetime memories. Bon Voyage!


I would have been in the same quandry as you. That is why it is such a blessing to have a wonderful mama to give you direction in difficult times and a husband who encourages you to do something a little special for your hard-working, loving, conscientious self!

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Bon voyage. After all the work you've been doing, what with changing your life and all, you deserve a girls' week. If you dock in Dijon, let me know! I have just installed my new phone.

Kitty Wilson

Ahhhh -- no contest: enjoy the Rhone cruise to the utter ~nth, Kristin! FOR all of us, too -- trust that the change of scene and pace, the freedom simply to BE, the blessed time with Susan, all those sweet perks will bring you home renewed!!

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

Sorry to be a pain, but could you lead me to the post where you explained why you moved. I was not reading this past summer and I am wondering about the winery and the life you left behind and why.

Pamela in Tacoma, WA

Kristin, I just returned from a week-long cruise up the Rhone waterways to Lyon with my sister and enjoyed every moment - except the Mistral wind in Arles! You will not regret this holiday with Susan. Sometimes spontaneity results in true blessings.

Ron Cann

I haven't been following for a while. You have become very good at engaging your audience.
Nice blog!
Ron Cann

Ginette Mazloum

Allez en croisière, les olives seront encore là l'année prochaine. L'amitié est plus importante. Have fun.

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