kif-kif! + list of Arabic words you will hear when in France
Pictures of Grimaud + conjugation

une mare

Jules visits Serignan-du-Comptat (c) Kristin Espinasse
I didn't have the chance to run this by Mom and get her permission to post her photo... so I'm taking advantage of the fact that her computer is broken. She can kill me later (for the fabricated "rain dance" caption) when her laptop is repaired and she catches up on all the missed editions of French Word-A-Day. I know she misses the stories--and especially the comments, where she would send you her all caps LOVE! (Photo taken some time ago, in Sérignan-du-Comtat)

No photos off our flooded house to illustrate this edition, so how about a picture of Mom doing a rain dance? 

Speaking of the deluge, did you know that inundation is a defense strategy? The dutch used to flood land to hinder the Spanish army (see Hollandic Water Line). Meantime, Jean-Marc and I defended our own soggy turf here at home, trying to evacuate water flooding like an open dam into our kitchen and bathroom after Sunday morning's storm! Story follows. 

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.


une mare (mar)

  1. pond
  2. puddle
  3. backwater 

une mare entre les rochers = rock pool
une mare de sang = pool of blood

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

I woke up yesterday morning with the delicious realization that it was Sunday. Dimanche! No need to rush out of bed--except to let the dogs out... after-which I could return with a nice cup of kawa and a cozy view of the storm with its thunder claps and pouring rain--quel spectacle!

As I lingered au lit a few minutes longer I enjoyed the windy scene outside the open window. There was a lone bamboo playing coucou, or peek-a-boo, just beyond the window pane. Now I saw her, now I didn't. For a moment, I wondered if she could see me too? Just because one couldn't see eyeballs didn't mean a plant didn't have vision! Perhaps one day we will be amazed to learn that, all this time, plants have been observing us, too!

My eyes travelled past the playful reed where, beneath the dark sky, the rain poured down. It was pleasing to know that the flowers and vegetables in the garden were getting cups full to drink this morning. I could almost see the extra blossoms and the fattened fruit (just this week I'd discovered three melons growing in our permaculture garden! How to say hot-diggity in French?).

Bon, enough admiring the splendours of nature, it was time to let the dogs out before they rained down on the tiled floor. Our golden retriever, Braise (pronounced "brez" like "Pez"), had a couple accidents last month, but we no longer awaken to a flooded entryway as long as we stay one step ahead of the deluge.

Stepping into the front room I cast a look around, to verify there were no accidental puddles. That's when I noticed the water seeping in from the kitchen....

Ah, another leak! For a split second I believed I could sop up the wet floor on my own... (allowing Jean-Marc to sleep in for once). And then, little by little, the gravity of the situation hit me. Mon Dieu--we were being inundated! 

Approaching the kitchen, it sounded as though someone had left the tap running. I hurried in to shut it off... when I realized the water wasn't flowing from the robinet--it was rushing in from beneath the kitchen door! Looking down, I saw my new leopard-patterned flip-flops were submerged. I began to back out of the room as my brain stammered, "towels... towels...thick absorbent towels..."

By now the water had followed me to the end of the second room--reaching my feet as I stood there slack-jawed and frozen. When I watched the water engulf our dogs, who were lying at my feet, and observed how their golden coats now doubled as sponges--I sprang to action.

JEAN-MARCCCCCCCCCC!!!!!! The house is flooding!!!!

A second later and Jean-Marc was hopping forth, managing to pull on his pants en-route.

He hurried outside, running through the rain, around the side of the house to unclog the water duct. Meantime, I dashed back-n-forth, grabbing towels... only to learn that my efforts to soak up the flow were akin to "a drop in a bucket". After twisting dry the useless towels I grabbed a salad bowl from kitchen drying rack and tried to evacuate the water this way, splashing the water into the bowl.... but the water rushing in from the kitchen door discouraged my efforts. Then I had an inspiration: I could sweep the water out the opposite door!

I ran and got our biggest broom and went to work. "Braise! Smokey! Là-bas!" First, I swept the dogs into the family room (conveniently up a level, on dry ground).

I was busy with all the water-sweeping when suddenly my hair stood on end. That is when I noticed that my husband's telephone charger was plugged in. My eyes traced the cord, the other end of which was now meeting the trickle of water which flowed out from the kitchen.

This was it. Electrocution! My fears of electric shock returned as I tried to stay calm. Jean-Marc appeared in time to shut off the mains, assuring me of the impossibility of an electrical accident, "And anyway," he said, " you would not be harmed because everything is up to standard." I still don't quite believe that things would automatically shut off, if the wires touched the water, but there was no time to argue--we were now up to our ankles in rainwater!

"C'est une mare!" Jean-Marc cried, stepping into the pool of water. My husband grabbed a second kind of broom (one with a wide wiper-blade on the end--a favorite of mine for mopping the floor and perfect for our mission!). Jean-Marc hurried to the kitchen. Ça y est, his efforts outside had worked and the water no longer rushed into the house like an open dam! 

Jean-Marc began sweeping the water out of the kitchen to the dining room, where I rerouted the flow--with the help of my broom--out the front door! We worked like this for the next hour, relaxing into our effort, buoyed now by our growing bantering.

"And I had been wondering if you were going to help me clean the floors today," I laughed.

Jean-Marc laughed at my jokes and listened as I pointed out all the positives:

"Good thing we don't have moquette! Can you imagine what a disaster wall-to-wall carpet would be? And thank heavens this happened on the weekend. What if it was a hectic school morning?"

 All the teasing and joking waned as we grew exhausted from the chore of evacuting what amounted to hundreds of liters of water. I began to wonder what I would have done if Jean-Marc hadn't been there? Worse, what if both of us had been away--as we were last weekend? What would the kids have done? And what if my belle-mère was the one house-sitting? 

"What would an elderly woman do under the circumstances?" I asked Jean-Marc. "Who would she call?"

"Les pompiers," Jean-Marc answered. "But the firemen wouldn't come for a little job like this."

"But this would be a big job--an impossibility for an older woman," I argued. "What would she do?"

"Call family and friends," Jean-Marc answered, sweeping the last of the water out the front door.

I couldn't help thinking of the future.... But any fears were immediately replaced by thankfulness. How lucky I am to have Jean-Marc. But what about those who are all alone?

That afternoon, yesterday, that is, we went and visited my belle-mère. What a hectic week it must have been for her after moving to a new apartment. Even though we helped with her move (Jean-Marc and his brother, Jacques, painting her new apartment and putting down new floors, their sister, Cécile, packing their mom's boxes, and me helping clean up her old apartment in Marseilles), my mother-in-law is on her own. After our flood, which revealed my own weaknesses, how much more I think about my belle-mère's challenges.

"You know," my mother-in-law said, as we walked arm and arm back to her apartment, having enjoyed an ice-cream on the beach, "I have seen a lot of lonely people in my life. As a nurse-on-call, I visited many households and I looked Loneliness in the eye. I am happy to say that I am not a lonely person. What a horrible thing that is."

I trust my belle-mère means what she says but, just in case, we are now only a stone's throw away.

"Quite a storm last night," my mother-in-law says, handing me her apartment key as we arrive home.

"Oh, those thunder claps! J'ai sauté du lit!" She chuckles. 

"Me too, I leapt up from bed when the thunder struck too!" I laugh as I help my mother-in-law into her apartment. I watch her walk to her room, to turn off the blaring radio she's left on in her absence. And I'm suddenly filled with a mixture of relief and gratitude--to finally live so close that we hear the same thunder and see the same rain.

...And given how loud she plays her radio... if I listened closely enough, I could probably hear Charles Aznavour from just across the gulf of La Ciotat, where my mother-in-law will tune into her favorite golden oldies program, and let her thoughts drift back to the comfort of the past....

La pluie ne cesse de tomber
Viens plus près ma mie
Si l'orage te fait trembler
Viens plus prés ma mie

*    *    *

To respond to today's story, or to comment on any item in this edition, please click here to join the conversation.

A soggy Mr. Sacks (c) Kristin Espinasse
Though the water rose to our ankles, Mr. Sacks was up to his buckle in rainwater!

Poor Mr. Sacks! Jean-Marc's beloved sacoche was rescued, though some of his contents didn't fare to well. (Jean-Marc tells me my passport is a little soggy. I wonder if it will still work at airport immigration?) 

French Vocabulary

le dimanche = Sunday

le kawa = coffee 

le lit = bed

coucou = peek-a-boo (also means "hi!")

bon = O.K. 

quel spectacle! = what a show!

Mon Dieu! = My Goodness

le robinet = tap, faucet

là-bas! = (move) over there!

la belle-mère = mother-in-law (can also mean step-mother)

La pluie ne cesse de tomber /Viens plus prés ma mie/Si l'orage te fait trembler Viens plus prés ma mie
The rain won't stop falling, come closer my dear/ if the storm makes you tremble / come closer my dear

Beekeeper Jean-Marc (c) Kristin Espinasse
In other news: first batch of honey here at Mas des Brun! Jean-Marc had the pleasure of making honey when we lived at the vineyard in Ste. Cécile, and he is now delighted to bottle his first batch of local honey from the hills of St. Cyr-sur-Mer. 

However, those were no honey bees that were buzzing above the ceiling of our family room (just beneath our daughter's bedroom! The droning grew louder and louder this week until, on Saturday, Jean-Marc intervened--donning his bee suit with built in mask and arming himself with a can of guêpicide. Now there are no more guêpes, or wasps, freeloading here at home. 

For Science buffs...
And speaking of wasps, they're not all bad. Did you read about the wasps that live in our figs, ripening them? Happy to report that this year's harvest is delicious (and every wasp made it out... well before we sank our teeth into the fruit. Don't miss the story, here--but first you have to promise you will still eat figs when you are done! Promise?)

Gladiator (c) Kristin Espinasse
What a week, between a wasp invasion, a move, and an inundation. Is it okay to fancy oneself a ... a... (well just what would you call this flying woman pictured above? Surely not a gladiator?) Photo taken at Parc Astérix, in Paris. 

Jackie and Michèle-France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whatever she is, she has nothing on these dearies. That's our daughter Jackie (7 years ago...) and my belle-mère, Michèle-France. Though its an out-dated photo, one of the girls has not changed one iota. The other is enjoying day 4 of fashion school. Wish her luck! Our turn now to wish every one bonne rentrée, or happy back-to-school (or back-to-work, if that is the case). 

Comments welcome here. 

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


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Sherry Sidner

Thank you for your wonderful posts teaching us the beautiful language of French! I'm 64yrs young and just beginning to learn French. What a challenge... very slow for moi!! Your stories make the language come to life and make learning so much more fun.

Bisous, Sherry

Felipe Adan Lerma

first story i've read here in awhile, and brought back many memories of our own family going through similar in galveston and austin (texas), though without much of the charm in your story ;-) enjoyed it much, and glad ya'll came out well :-)

Rose Chandler Johnson

Oh la la! Vous avez de la chance bien sur...avec son mari. Merci beaucoup pour cette histoire.

Tom Southall  USA

Wow! Sounds MUCH worse than a recent experience of mine. Your good spirit and bonhomie in the face of it all is inspiring. (Bonhomie is probably not quite the right word but it pleases me to use it anyway!) Tom


I miss Jules-- as I'm sure everyone else does. Please pass along our greetings! And glad your flood wasn't any worse than it was-- yes, tile floors are a blessing whenever there are water problems... Carpet, besides being a disaster in a disaster, is just plain unhealthy! I'm sure your belle mere finds great comfort in being "a stone's throw" away from you all, too. I know I love having my family all around me. :) Never a dull moment!

Diane Stanley

Oui, qu'est-ce que nous ferions sans nos merveilleux maris? Merci pour ta belle histoire (de la mare), qui nous rappelle que nos maris, qui nous aident, sont vraiment un cadeau de Dieu pour nous, leurs femmes. C'est aussi un moment de réfléchir au sujet des femmes qui n'ont pas d'aide, qui sont seules à ce moment, ou veuves.


So sad you had "le deluge." I hope you are bleaching everything in the aftermath. I had noticed the waterline on the door in your first pictures of your new home & had hoped then that this fate wouldn't befall you.
I know what it is like to have to handle this all alone. My husband was in the hospital on New Years Eve for emergency surgery, when I came home exhausted to a burst water heater involving carpet. Try & get a plumber on NYE. I handled it all by myself, but I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Angels must have been assisting me with every backbreaking load of carpet & padding. Amazing what we can accomplish when we need to.

david macdiarmid

Bon jour Kristen,flooding is becoming a fairly regular occurance living on the northern edge of Europe,i think the experts call it global warming.
I am sure that Jean-Marc will find a way of capturing the water before it enters the kitchen next time.
Your la belle mere has moved to La Ciotat,don't be surprised if you pop in one day and she has "forever polida" by the wonderful Moussu T blaring on her radio,not quite golden oldie but fun happy music.Slainte David

N, San Antonio, Texas

Hope Jules is back on line soon - sure she misses your stories. We are doing rain dances here also trying to end our dry spell. Thanks for sharing your storm story. How wonderful to have your own honey bees and have natural honey. Enjoy and thanks again.

Kristin Espinasse

Sherry, so cheered by your note. Thank you!
Tom, sorry for your recent misadventure. Re the word *bonhomie*--I like this one too!
Alisa and N., I appreciate your note to Mom. She will be delighted to see it! She is in bed, sick with a cold... and no computer to distract her. 

Betty, I am so sorry you had to go through both of those trials! Re the water line, I never saw it. Will have to dig through the photos... Is the bleach just for aesthetics or is there a sanitary element to tackle here?

David, Yikes! I had not thought about global warming. Our kitchen (and the bath behind it) backs up to a wall of dirt, beyond which the vegetable garden meets with the hill just after... Yes, Jean-Marc will be devising a plan. Meantime, we needed to keep those waterways clear. (My fault for planting flowers in the area--I had not realized I had blocked part of the evacuation pathway....) Off now to google forever polida...

Marianne Rankin

I have been widowed much longer than married, and, of course, some women have always lived alone. More than once, I had to remove a couple of inches from 1,000 square feet of basement, an exhausting endeavor. I eventually arranged to have a couple of square yards outside the house covered with concrete, to prevent seepage through the ground. I also got extensions for the downspouts to channel the water away from the walls farther into the yard. These methods worked, and were far less expensive than a sump pump.

There have been numerous times in my present house where I bewailed the absence of a basement, but at least now, I can't have a flooded basement!

I'm glad you were able to clear the water out without real damage.

gwyn ganjeau

Kristin, what a story! I am endlessly inspired by how you move through those 'challenging' moments and experiences and transform them into something that informs the bigger picture in your life. you illustrate for us how a pain-in-the-keester occurance can lead to appreciation and gratitude for something on a larger scale. that's just how you live your life. beautiful.

Diane Young

Apres le deluge, n'est-ce pas? Jean-Marc is a real treasure as is your abiity to soldier on when these catastrophes strike. I just dropped my flood insurance because I'm no longer in a flood zone, so I do pray fervently for the drainage pond behind the house to do its job. Where I live, if there has been a flood in the past 100 years, the mtge co. required flood insurance. They have redrawn and updated the map so my little neighborhood is no longer in a flood zone. So long as the hurricanes stay away, I guess we'll be o.k. I pray you will be, too. Great to have your belle-mere nearby now.

drev sine

What a great way to learn the French Language and understandings of the French lifestyle
.love it! Merci!

Nancy Reynolds

I'd love to read a story about Jackie going to fashion school.

Julie Farrar

Qeulle catastrophe! My wet-dry vacuum is one of my best friends. We don't live anywhere near a flood zone, but the grading of our property has degraded over time that when we have a heavy rain the water races down the sidewalks straight under our basement door or seeps through the stone wall into a certain corner of our basement. When we do whole house renovations soon, I will make sure that's at the top of the list for improvements. So sorry about Mr. Sacks. I mourn a box of books that got wet in my basement. Tell Jules we miss her.

Herm inPhoenix, AZ

Quel dommage!

It’s a small world……. As I’m reading you blog, my cell phone gave me a ‘“Severe Alert” warning. Flash floods ii your area!’ Pas de problème, I’m on high ground away from any washes

For those not familiar with Arizona, we have washes that fill up quickly when it rains since there isn’t a lot of vegetation to hold back the water and the rocky ground doesn’t absorb the water fast enough. There is also a flood problem in the areas where wild fires have burned.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Your story flooded me with tears. xoxo

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Oh my dear, what a drastic Sunday morning! You and Jean-Marc literally made a "clean sweep" of it. I don't think bleaching is necessary unless a septic system overflowed or was somehow involved. The ice cream cone on the beach with your sweet mother-in-law is exactly what was needed to restore calm to your Sunday. It is wonderful that she lives close to you now and that she has such a loving and attentive family. Please tell your mother that I hope she is soon feeling well again. Best wishes for all.


Kristen, I read that poor Braise is getting a little leaky. If there is nothing else wrong (for example, an infection), you might try evening primrose oil. I have four golden retrievers. The oldest is 14, and she started having geriatric accidents in the house a few months ago. A friend suggested that I try evening primrose oil capsules. I started giving her two a day with meals, and her accidents have completely stopped! I've tried both 1000 mg and 500 mg, and they seem to work equally well. Bonne chance!


La vie c'est bon. You seem to be enjoying and coping whatever life brings you more than ever. And poor Mr. Sacks! Well, at least is isn't wine like my Ms. Sacks (leather backpack) that is 35yrs. old.




Thank you for your posts, very descriptive. Your Jean-Marc is a treasure, jumping out of bed and into the deluge to stop the inundation. Keep up the posts, I love reading them and trying to improve my french at the same time.

Fred Lovett

I don't want to ruin your party but a guy called Clive Backster has proved with the aid of a lie detector that plants can sense when they are being threatened by people. - Google it. You may have to give up gardening! It is true.

It is so seldom I comment that I don't really want to be negative on such a positive newsletter but I believe this.

I rely on you for my regular dose of positivity'

Karen from Phoenix

We have had quite a flood of rain today here in Phoenix. And as Herm said it doesn't soak in fast enough. Some highways were closed and you should see some parking lots. There is a little "river". The pool even got pretty full, but nothing in the house. YAY!!!

Faye Stelly- Lafayette, La.

Love your relationship avec votre belle-mère....elle est chanceuse de vous avoir pour une belle-fille!

MJH DesignArts

What an amazing week--filled with love. So many different kinds of love--thank you for reminding me.

Harry Duckworth

Dear Kristen, your reference to plants possibly being able to see immediately brought to mind a new (published 2012) book I read a few months ago: "What Plants Know" by Daniel Chamovitz, in which he presents a convincing scientific argument that plants do, indeed, have "senses" that are comparable in effect to those we humans have. The publishers are Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It's absorbing reading.

As to your main subject - the inundation - I do empathise with you, as I have a repeated problem of rain-water runoff invading my basement in a big way. It's a challenge but your energy and that of Jean-Marc in dealing with your own intruder has given me courage to try to solve my problem permanently.

PS I hope that you won't mind being badgered by a fusspot but the past tense of "spring" is "sprang (into action)" and that of "sink" is "sank (our teeth into the fruit)"

Kristin Espinasse

Fred, thats fascinating. I enjoyed googling it and reading about Cleve Backsters experiments

Harry, thanks for the book recommendation. I will check it out! Sorry about your basement. See Julies note, above, about the wet-dry vacuum--this seems like a good solution. And many thanks for the corrections--always helpful and appreciated.

To all who have taken the time to comment--thank you for your encouraging words!

Kristin Espinasse

Gus, Your note made my day! Hi to Paulette and hope to see you two in France again soon.

Kristin Espinasse

Kathy, thanks for the evening primrose tip. Great to know it worked!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Great story and photos. I esp love how you describe your mother-in-law ---- and take such good care of her. I too would love to hear about Fashion School and Jackie's adventures! I also miss your mom! Stay well!

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Chere Kristi,

Wow, what a Sunday! Happy that your home wasn't badly damaged. Bravo to you and JM for being such a great team! We must never take our wonderful spouses for granted!

So glad that Michele-France is happily settled in her new place. How comforting (for all of you) to know that you can help her whenever she needs you. I hope she meets some wonderful people and enjoys herself there.

Looking forward to your next post and wishing you, JM and the kids a happy fall season. That's great that Jackie is enjoying fashion school--sounds right up her alley. What is Max doing this year in school?

All my best,

Joanne Ablan

Ooo, là, là! J'ai survécu un grand tremblement de terre en 1989 et
une incendie qui a détruite tout le voisinage en 1991. Au présent
je me prépare pour une inondation a niveau d'une Tsunami!! Je crois
qu'il soit le prochain désastre. Merci beaucoup pour votre l'histoire
qui me serve d'avertissement. Vous avez de bonne chance à se marier à un homme qui a du respect pour votre crainte d'électrocu-
tion. Je voudrais aussi lire une histoire de votre jeune fashionista.
Que vous soyez gentille pour me donner l'occasion de pratiquer le
français avec mes nombreuses fautes des grammaire et d'usage.
Joanne, Carmel, CA, USA

Sandy Maberly

Never a dull moment at your house! So glad that your flood was just a minor inconvenience. Luckily, you are able to look back and have a good laugh at life's little disasters!

I'm sure that your belle mere is delighted to have her loved ones so much closer. She's such a dear. Speaking of....hope Jules is soon feeling much better and that Jackie is having the time of her life with her fashion studies. Really exciting news about your honey harvest. I know how much you enjoy your bees!


Another great post Kristi...Like Sherry (top of page)I am also an oldie (70's) trying to learn French and you have helped so much !! I was recently in France (last month) Visited the magical Avignon (danced on the bridge!)And a side trip to Arles (to sit and have coffee at Van Goghs cafe!) Two special things on my bucket list. Would have loved to catch up with you while down that way...but on a pretty tight schedule as we were heading to Paris (my favorite city )after that ...I too experienced a house flood many yrs ago in Canada along with the whole neighborhood...It was buckets and shovels/brooms for most of the night for all of us...just another life experience to look back on one day.....Best wishes to Jules....miss her little entries.
Enjoy the last of your summer...its been a bon one hasn't it !


These lyrics bring tears to my eye as well as the sensitivity you show in your writing.
La pluie ne cesse de tomber /Viens plus prés ma mie/Si l'orage te fait trembler Viens plus prés ma mie
Who wrote the song? Do you know?

Kristin Espinasse

Jan, thank you, and the words are by Charles Aznavour.

Teresa Wilson

Bonjour Kristin,

I am a new follower and a recent retiree(comment ca se dit en francais?) J'etais enseignante de francais-depuis 37 ans! Your blog is fantastique et vous etes epatante! I will follow avec de la joie et de l'anticipation.

Marie-T (Teresa)

Ps The old French teacher in me is wondering--should "pres" in the beautiful song have an "accent grave" au lieu d'accent "aigu"?

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Teresa, So happy to know you are reading, and thank you very much for the helpful correction. I will fix it at the next chance.

Adrienne Johnson

on the off chance that you are subscribing to these comments, Mr. Sine would you please contact moi thru facebook pour un reunion,

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