tribute to reader Gus + Bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An
même pas peur!

la panne

Blue bicycle (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo taken last summer in Alsace. Maybe you, too, need more peaceful thoughts today? Read on, in today's story. First, here's a calming wish from a reader, who wrote to another reader in response to the latest post: 

Happy Birthday from England Gus. Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the gentle night to you. —Hank Sweet

Thank you Hank, and everyone who wrote in wishing Gus a happy 88th. Gus must be away celebrating, for he hasn't seen his messages yet... which means there is still time to leave one here, in Gus's message box! (Gus has received 237 messages so far. If you've left a message but do not see it, scroll to the last message and look for the link to "more comments")

la panne (pan)

    : breakdown, 

être en panne = to be stopped, broken down; penniless
la panne d'inspiration = lack of inspiration
tomber en panne = to break down (car, machine)
le coup de la panne = the broken down car trick (or how to pretend you are stranded, to get a date to kiss you!)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce some of the expressions above, as well as the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Avec ma première fiancée, je lui ai fait le coup de la panne.
With my first girlfriend, I played the "stalled car trick". 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

The Year of Positive Thinking

My son is transferring fritters from his plate to mine, as we sit at the table picking at dinner. "Je ne les aime pas trop," he admits. "Désolé, Maman."

"That's okay. They're not very good," I agree. I must have put too much water into the mix, and that is why the fritters flopped.

"The problem with your mom is that she is not consistent," I say, more to myself than to Max, as he gets up to empty his plate, back into the frying pan. Maybe the dogs will eat them?

"Do you want some chocolate pudding?" Max asks, holding the fridge door ajar.

"Yes..." Yes... that's my problem. Inconsistency! One day I'm making this, another other day I'm making that, from lettuce smoothies to deep fried panisses. I made an extra effort this time, after Max returned from his friend's house, full of praise for the cook....

"Putain. Ed's grandma can cook!"

"Don't say putain!" I complain, taking another stab at a cardboard fritter.

"Désolé." Max glides by, stopping to kiss me on the forehead, before disappearing to his room with his dessert.


Putain. I look around the house. The stove top is glopped with chickpea batter. I'm not a good cook!

I stare at bare walls. And I need to learn to decorate!

My mind begins to reel until, still after still, the negativity gains momentum...

I'm not making progress.... I still haven't gotten anything done... Cobwebs on the ceiling... I can't see a thing... am no good at dusting... JUST LOOK AT THE TOILET RINGS! 

For someone who has experienced a degree of success in her work life... it's pathetic how she fails at her thought life! 


I am spared another round in the thought arena when the telephone rings. It is my daughter, who is spending the week at her friend Manu's. 

"And what are you up to?" Jackie asks, when it is my turn to update.

"Well, I was thinking of going for a walk... but I need some motivation to get moving!"

Silence on the other end of the line tells me my girl is thoughtfully considering my dilemma.

"You could go out and collect wildflowers..." she suggests.


Wildflowers. What a beautiful thought! Just the idea of wildflowers is enough change my train of thinking. I follow Jackie's suggestion and before long, I'm on a dirt path surrounded by mauve-colored fleurs sauvages. Mediterranean heather is carpeting the forest floor in January!  I gather a modest bouquet, to put in a small vase. I set the flowers on my nightstand. The next time I find my thoughts wandering, I might bring them back to this exquisite focal point, a point of departure for a more positive thought journey. 


Do you consider yourself a positive person, only to catch yourself thinking self-defeating thoughts? Any tips on keeping the mind in line?

My mom has a wonderful technique to keep the negative thoughts out before they even enter in: she puts a "watchman" at the gate of her mind. She ended up firing the first watchman (who she decided was a wimp), exchanging him for two big burly bouncers! Now when a self-defeating thought saunters up like the devil, the burly bouncers at the door to her beautiful mind take care of the unwanted guest!

Between my mother and my daughter, there are enough ideas to make this, finally, The Year of Positive Thinking!

What about you? You coming along too? 

Comments welcome here, in the comments box.


je ne les aime pas trop = I don't like them that much

désolé, Maman = sorry, Mom

la panisse = traditional southern French (or Ligurian?) fritter made of chickpea flour, water, salt and a little oil, fried in more oil.

putain = caution, offensive word! (suffice it to say it's much stronger than "damn"!) Though it is true you will hear this word, spoken by young and old, as a language learner like me, and a non-native, you might want to avoid practicing it!

la fleur sauvage = wildflower


Santons and cards beside the Provençal Christmas tree.

I had such a happy visit with the Dawson-Taylor's, who bought our village house in St. Maximin 15 years ago...  Kate, David, and daughter Amanda have kept in touch and we enjoy a treasured friendship, despite the years that pass between visits. I made the super easy fool proof yogurt cake, taking some of your suggestions (I stole a lemon from the lemon tree and grated it into the sugar this time. So good!) I used a Bundt pan, for a change, and filled in the center with candy. Click here to see the recipe and video.

I hope to upload a short home movie taken in Italy. Sign up to our YouTube channel to be alerted to the lastest video.

In Alba, Italy last week.

Did you enjoy this post? Thanks for sharing French Word-A-Day with a friend, classmate, teacher or anyone who loves France!

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