How to say "a small matter" or "something trifle" in French
Peuchère or What Not to Say to a Disabled Person



Camping out in Sanary sur Mer (c) Kristin Espinasse
a couple of perruches, or parakeets, camped out in Sanary sur Mer


Today's word is yet another example of how I learn English from the French... 

bivouaquer (bee-vwack-ay)

    : to bivouac

un bivouac = an improvised camp site. An individual sleeping shelter under the stars (or more often rain clouds) made out of natural materials or very rudimentary supplies. (from Wiki Answers)

Question ...but just what does "to bivouac" mean?
Answer: to make a temporary encampment somewhere.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file
Bivouaquer, c'est s'installer sommairement dans un lieu naturel pour y manger ou dormir.
Bivouaquer... it means to settle oneself simply (in minimalist conditions) into a natural environment and then to eat (picnic) or to sleep there.

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

I thought today's word had nothing to do with the goings on around here at the moment. My plan was to feature the word--overheard yesterday at a picnic--and then post a few unrelated photos from Mom's visit. (I've promised to take some time away from posting and email, in order to spend as much time with Mom as possible).

Only, when I went to look up the word "bivouac", I learned it is the same in English. Zut! That means I have to find another word to share... On the other hand, maybe I am not the only one unfamiliar with this funny word bivouaquer, a verb that is alive and well in France (I must have heard it half a dozen times, yesterday, as the French are already talking about vacation plans, which, for some, will include roughing it, ie, bivouaquer.)

Meantime, life's not so rough for Mom at the moment. She is temporarily encamped--or en train de bivouaquer--in the room that was to be my office... (I've grown fond of this cozy corner of my bedroom and continue to write from here). Off to see what she is up to now....

Thank you for reading and for the encouraging and poignant comments you sent in, following last Friday's post. If there are slumps, doubts, victories, embarrassments, yearnings, and hi-falutin' aspirations in a writer's journey--your supportive comments even out the bumpy road, helping me to see the horizon in time to renew my commitment to simply settle down and write my heart out.



To comment, click here. I leave you now with a few snapshots from Week One with Mom...

Welcome party fan club (c) Kristin Espinasse
She made it--all the way from Mexico! Here is Mom's welcome party fan club. From left to right: 17-year-old Max, 4-year-old Smokey, Mom, Smokey's mom, Braise, and 15-year-old Jackie. I told Mom to get up off the paw-stained floor, but she was so happy to be surrounded by ALL her loved ones that she could have cared less about the dirt.

Some bivouac!  Mom loves her room, where she can see and hear all of the activity in the courtyard. At night she loves to watch the stars that twinkle over the Mediterranean Sea.

Mother Daughter chat
Mom's bags arrived 24 hours after she did. We shared my make-up and a chat before heading to Sanary sur Mer for lunch. That's Mama Braise, on the left. (A funny aside: Mom is wearing my red pajama pants. I wouldn't notice this until AFTER we finished lunch at the cafe and a stroll around Sanary. Her baggage arrived later that afternoon :-)

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les pointus (c) Kristin Espinasse
It's fun to walk along the port in Sanary sur Mer, where all the historic fishing boats "les pointus" are lined up. Many of the wooden boats have signs displaying the historic characteristics of the modest vessels, some nearly 100 years old.

Mom's purse. It looks like Jean-Marc's humble side kick, Mr Sacks, has competition!

Time for a siesta. But first, enjoy the fancy ironwork on this campanile.

L'artiste in Sanary (c) Kristin Espinasse
Me and Mom. "Just pretend it's my stand." Mom said, after a local artist offered Mom her seat for the photo. 

More photos coming soon. Meantime, I'm making the most of my time with Mom. This newsletter/blog may be a little sporadic in the coming weeks--as we slow down our day and celebrate.

  Capture plein écran 10052013 090729

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Enjoy your mom's visit and take some time off (but take lots of photos!!).
Happy American Mother's Day!

Deborah Auclair

Happy Mother's Day this Sunday

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

I have been reading your blog for a few months, and look forward to new words and phrases, the reason the blog captured my attention in the first place...I want to improve my French. It was an unexpected pleasure to "meet" you and your family through your writing. I had wondered why there had been nothing in a few days...I am glad nothing has gone wrong. It is nice to know that your mother is visiting. Enjoy!
PS thank you for such a lovely and informative blog. It is wonderful to learn more about French life through your writings. It is a good diversion for this lawyer in Philadelphia! Thanks.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
So happy that you will be spending Mother's Day with Jules! Love the photo of Jules with the dogs and kids and the one of you two at the artist's stand. Have a great time together!!!


I love your Mom's style. The red pajama pants and high-top Converses look great together.


Hi Kristin, Wishing you and your Mom the best of Mother's Day and a wonderful Spring visit. Can't wait for more adventures. xoxo

Linda Casey

Well, its obvious you come from excellent stock. Mama Jules is a lady after my own heart ... I'm only just a tad bit envious .. honest

Donna Knight

Wow, your Mom's got style! Now we know where you got yours!
Love the red high tops and the way she expresses her style, even with pajama pants! Where did she find the fish handbag?
Thanks for sharing!

Peggy Wright

Enjoy Mother's Day with your mom. Just remember to tell us about your adventures with her later.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Happy Mother's Day to you, your mom and to Jean-Marc's mother,too. Have a wonderful visit with your mother. As always, she looks fabulous!! And thanks for sending photos and exploring a new word for us. (Your lunch at Sanary sur mer looks like a feast maybe for two persons).

Michael Winnick

My only contact with the word 'bivouac' was in the military and all these years I thought it was a military word. So, learned something new. Thanks.

What I would like to know is what the lunch dish was in Sanary sur Mer. And I guess the big fish was someones pocketbook?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the Mothers Day wishes! Happy fête des Mères to all mothers who are reading and to everyone who will celebrate their maman.

Michael, thanks for the info on bivouac. Mom mentioned the same: that it is associated with the military, wheras in France it is used by civilians, too :-)  Re the meal we ate: le loup de mer. Various translations are: catfish or sea bass or bar. Yes, the fish in the photo is a purse.

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Dang! My comment never got posted. I guess I'll try to recreate it.

I started with the military-thing for "bivouac," but that's been covered.

Then I said:

Kristin, I love all the photos, but especially the one of Jules in her window and the one of Jules being greeted by the four grandchildren.

You deserve some time off while your mom's here. We'll miss you, but we'll manage. Have fun.

Have a great visit, Jules!

Pat - Portland Oregon

You are truly blessed to have your mom in your life. My mom passed away when my kids were little, and I've always felt 'cheated' with that loss.

So, I say to you and to all who have their mom's with them "Enjoy every single moment with your Mothers!" Don't let 'work' get in the way :)

God bless you both. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy . . .

Pat Cargill

The Boy is mighty dashing/darling/delightful in Jules' straw hat, or is that one similar to her usual chapeau? Lovely seeing her surrounded by her adoring fans. Your lunch looks delicious, and the yummy-looking fish is enhanced by J's fish handbag! Between that, the red hightops, AND her wearing your red pj bottoms, she is -as EVER - "the cat's pyjamas"!!

From Random House word of the day: "It means 'a wonderful or remarkable person or thing'. But it nearly always implies stylishness and newness-..."

And that, ladies and gentlemen IS a description of our beautiful Kristin's Mom!

Happy Mothers Day to you both and to Belle-mere Espinasse, and to all mothers everywhere. Best wishes to the family for more good times with Jules and enjoy some time off, Kristin. Thanks for all the pictures.


What a joy it is to share in your visit. You both are simply glowing, and the energy can be felt all the way to Utah. It brings back memories of the times my Mom visited me in Dijon. I shared all sorts of pictures with her but at that time (not so long ago actually, 90-92) we didn't have either digital cameras or easy internet access.
As I can't do it with my own Mom, please give yours an extra hug for me on Mother's Day!
Best wishes.

Marcia Douglas

Would bivouac be the same as primitive backpacking, which I've done my share of in my younger years. You two look so happy hanging together. Wishing you both a very Happy Mother's Day this weekend. I am excited to spend tomorrow with my daughter at a dressage horse show in southern Indiana. She's a trainer at a dressage farm near here and she's had a tentative job offer at a farm somewhere in Germany! Crossing my fingers for her!


Please wear a wide brim hat in that strong sun (like your smart Mom)

Ed Beardsley

Hello, Kristin, I'M new to this, as I subscribed only a couple of weeks ago, thnks to prompting from my Jacksonville FL friend Diane Young. Enjoying your word-a-day v, v much. Iwanted also to tell you abount my daughter Eleanor Berdsley, who is NPR's go-toperson from Paris and Frnce. Her email is , and I'm hoping that you two might meet. I forwarded to her your a recent word-a-day colume, along with the subscribing email. Hope she takes me up on this. She lives in the 15th arrondisement on 41 rue Sebastien Mercier, so maybe you two can meet.

Great job you're doing for Frnco-Amer. relations! Ed Beardsley

Ed Beardsley

Kristin sorry but I left out Ellie Beardsley's email. Maybe your set-up scratched it. If possible let me know what you need that i've not supplied, and I'll send Best wishes


Love your writing. Reading both your books back to back. So moving, so inspiring and I so wish I were living in the South of France.
Thank you !
La Jolla, CA

Lynn at Southern Fried French

Hi there Jules!
I see you are a free spirit as ever. The great tennis shoes, the red pajamas, the rakish hat--and that wonderful fishy purse. You go, Girl! Y'all have fun, and Happy Mother's Day to you both.

Gwyn Ganjeau

love Love LOVE the photos! love seeing you and jules together. love the purse!!! love the love.

happy mother's day to all!!

(oh, Kristin, i prefer to think you write your heart 'in'... :)





OHMIGOSH, vous etes tellement adorable, vous deux! Bonne Fete des Mere to both of you dear mothers!! xoxox

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Well, you picked one of my favorite words...again! When I speak to American students about my book, ALAN'S LETTERS (which you so kindly let me mention last May) the vocabulary word I am most frequently asked about is "Bivouac"; but when I speak to French students, the question is never asked. Alan used it frequently in his WWII letters home, but we don't use it here in the same context as vacations...could it be we like our comfort too much? By the way- love the red pj's- a great match for that necklace!


I so enjoy your posts Kristin and wish I was there with you. I miss Sanary and Bandol so much having spent five years of my youth in Toulon. Perhaps someday I will make it back there. Much love to you and your mom. Enjoy your visit and Mother's Day.

N Vandenberg, San Antonio, Texas

I laughed when I saw her on the floor with all the kids and dogs - the relief of being out of the plane and having the journey finished is wonderful. There is nothing like family time - enjoy! One business note - I sent for the Carla Bruni CD you recommended and it is delightful. Love it. thank you for your lovely posts and good taste in music.

Anne Hamada

Hi Kristin! Oh, those photos, and your truly beautiful mother (red pajama pants notwithstanding!) You made me sooo homesick for France...I'm stuck here in Chicago looking at gorgeous pictures of where I'd RATHER be!

You're very lucky to have your mom there, esp. on Mother's Day. Enjoy une grande fete and drink a glass of vin blanc pour moi. With fond regards,
Anne Hamada (remember Robin, the British cocker? I was with him, Linda and Abigail last July. Such a lovely visit we had.)

Bill Facker

Kristin et JULES ... ENJOY, ENJOY, ENJOY !!


Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Have a wonderful Mother's Day Kristin! You are so lucky to be hanging out with your mom. Embrace this time....and take lots of photos.

I love Jules style --- she's classy and kind of hippie at the same time!

Thanks so much for sharing some of your life.

The best to you & your mom!


Oh glad your mom is there. I love it when she visits you. This year mothers day will be very bittersweet for me, the first without my mom. Savor it.

Mary Catherine Pace

It's all about that fishy handbag! Everyone will want one!


Our dear Kristi,
These wonderful pictures brighten each and every day! Your and your beautiful mom have such a loving bond;one that reaches clear across the Atlantic and wraps itself around our hearts,too.
How blessed you are and how blessed we are to share this with both of you.
Natalia XO


Enjoy every second with your Mom - what an extra special Mothers Day for you both

Karen from Phoenix

Hi Kristi and Jules,

Love, love the pictures. Happy Mother's Day to you both. Wish I was there giving you both a big hug!


Jan  Hersh

Over the years of reading this blog I feel as if I sort of know you and your mom. I know we all would get along famously if we ever met in person! Happy Mother's day to both of you!

Kathleen from Connecticut

Happy Mother's Day to you and Jules...enjoy and do something outrageous. Love her vetements and the way that she expresses herself. You both have great style.

Enjoy your time together and it is so wonderful to have such a great relationship with your Mom.


Judy Wambold

Kristin-Que vous ayez de la chance d'avoir votre mère avec vous et votre famille!Jules me semble d'être'une femme qui a beaucoup d'esprit! Joyeuse Fêtes de Mères.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Delighted you have shared a few scenes with us; love Jules’ purse and perch to star watch!

Happy Mother’s Day! May joy and laughter flow between you and your mom blessing everyone in your presence!


Kristin - Just finished reading 'Blossoming in Provence' and loved it! When it came in the mail yesterday and I cracked it open, I was thrilled to see your acknowledgement of someone I have the pleasure of working with - Tami Dever (TLC Graphics). She does all of the graphic design gratuit for the church she attends (and I work for) like the bulletins, logos, etc. Elle est tres creative! A wise ecrivain (much like you) popped into my head while reading some of last week's comments - Solomon. He had some divinely inspired conseils for dealing with certain types of people in Proverbs 23:9. BTW - see how good my Frenglish is since I've started readin your work???


It's wonderful that this year Jules is there, just in time for US Mother's Day on May 12 and in two more weeks, la Fête des Mères.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to you both, belles dames!

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Dear Kristin,

Thank you for sharing your lovely photos. So happy the family is all together again. Of course Braise and Smokey were all over Jules- those adorable attention hogs!

Jules-hope you and Kristin have some wild fun while your together. Looks like the party has already started! You both look beautiful and so relaxed. Here's to joy and renewal during your time together.

Sending my love and hugs. I'm with you in spirit! Happy Mother's Day once again.


Diane Young

Dear Kristi,
You're probably in bed by now but Happy Mothers Day to you and Jules, who always lights up our lives. Love the photos. You are sweet to share them with your mama there. Know La Famille Espinasse will have a great visit with Jules. Your house is so beautiful. Dormez bien.

Maria Cochrane

Just look at all thé commenta!! You are well-loved for WHO You are, just as You are- warts and all as my mom user To say. I loved thé photo Of You and your mom, face to face with her In Your red jammie Pants.
Just continue to be Kristin. You do that very well and our heavenly dad is pleased !!

Sandy Maberly

So happy to see everyone together once again. Jules looks right at home, especially behind that canvas with a brush in her hand. Perhaps she needs her own "petit coin" chez toi, so she can really get to work on her latest creation! Thanks for the pictures, as always. Enjoy your visit, Jules!

Jeff Cwiok

Just saw your column "le Dernier Mot", on page 106 of 'France Today' magazine. Felicitations!
looking good.
Jeff C.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

I just bought two DVD's through your Amazon link, so they need to thank you!
:) Happy Belated Mother's Day!!

shoe collection

I'm amazed when I see mothers wearing high heels. If your kids run off you can't run after them.

Betty Doolittle Tuininga

So happy to see you enjoying each others company. You have such a special relationship mother and daughter, Your visits are quite precious and well they should be.

Jules I love the red Converse. I used to have a pair of red Hawaiian print Converse hightops. Now you could see those babies coming a mile away. Love to you

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