Shutterbug in French
to cradle in French + garden photo

en panne

Flax flowers

Never stop receiving these words and photos (this one, with flax flowers, taken in the back yard)

Today's word reminds me we need a Plan B! Recently I've learned that French Word-A-Day is not delivering to all subscribers. Rather than panic (changing mail carriers), I'll continue sending out these posts via Feedburner. But before we lose each other, please take a moment to connect with me here, via Twitter where I may update you au cas où, or in the event....  

panne (pan)

    : breakdown, failure

tomber en panne = break down (car)
une panne d'éléctricité = power failure
une panne sèche = out of gas
avoir une panne d'oreiller = ("a pillow breakdown") to oversleep

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (and today's word and the phrase tomber en panneDownload MP3 or Wav file

Que faire en cas de panne ? 6 consignes pour préserver votre vie et celle de vos passagers si vous devez vous arrêtez sur la bande d'arrêt d'urgence. What to do in case your car breaks down? 6 instructions to save your life and those of your passengers if you have to stop on the emergency lane.

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

Wearing her Panama hat and her Mexican poncho, Jules inhaled the fresh pine air and wiggled her toes, seemingly oblivious to the exhaust fumes trailing up from the road below. Not two days after she arrived in France, Mom was barefoot on the shoulder of the highway! She may have been shoeless and stranded after my car broke down, but she was smiling bright.

I sat down beside Mom, beneath a shady umbrella pine, and we waited as cars whizzed by. "Here, hold this." I handed over my purse as a makeshift écritoire. Fishing out some old receipts, I scribbled "EN PANNE" across the flimsy paper. Next I colored in the ballpoint letters and tucked the notes on my car's front and back windows, sous les essuie-glaces.

"Lucky for us Max was home and is now coming to the rescue," I chirped, mirroring Mom's  attitude. She was in such a good mood--even after loosing a shoe (her sandal broke back at the pépinière, as we tromped up and down rows of apricot and cherry trees, eventually coming to our senses and choosing a specimen that would fit in my small Citroën).

Mom and the Papyrus 

Shooting the breeze as we waited, I thanked Mom for the tall, leafy papyrus, which was recovered from the passenger seat and now stranded beside us, here on the bande d'arrêt d'urgence. "I've got another pair of sandals for you!" I added, remembering my collection--all gifts from mon beau-père John, who sends them along with Mom each time she comes to visit from her home in Mexico.

When my son arrived, I argued when he got into my car and tried to start it. "I wouldn't do that if I were you! There is a really strange odor... What if the car explodes?!

Max brushed me off and got into my car and--amazingly--drove off! I watched as the car lurched forward and back, all the way up the road. 

"What is he doing?!" 

"He is taking care of things," Mom announced. "He's 19 years old. His friends' cars must break down all the time, Honey. He knows what he is doing."

Five minutes later Max was running back to us, sans voiture. "I found a parking space opposite the mechanic's."

"He's just saved you a hundred dollar tow fee," Max's grandmother pointed out. "Smart kid!"

Normally, when my son's street smarts kick in, I remind him he gets his brains from me (nevermind I was last in my class to graduate). But this time it was normal to give credit to the bright-eyed grand-mère who stood clasping her hands in admiration.

Looking at my son (who finishes high school this week) I had to admit, "You get those brains from Grandma Jules!"

Max won't be graduating last in his class, because he's madly studying for the baccalauréat. Wish him luck! He'll need to pass this high school exam to make it into a university.

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 Son Max, his grand-mère Jules, and the papyrus she gave us. The sign above the tip of Mom's hat is serendipidous. It reads Merci. Thanks Max!

My beautiful maman. Plates full of salad and jam jars filled will water, we're enjoying every moment together, Mom and I! Those are Jean-Marc's muddy docksiders in the background--beside another bouquet of his vineyard wildflowers.


tomber en carafe = slang for to break down on the side of the road
une écritoire = writing tablet
en panne = broken down
un essuie-glace = windshield wiper
la pépinière = plant nursery
bande d'arrêt d'urgence = emergency lane
le beau-père = stepfather, father-in-law

Jean-marc and vines

In other happenings, Jean-Marc scored when a wine nursery gave him a couple dozen orphans! These Tibouren vines are an ancient variety primary grown in Provence. See the babies, above, with their waxy red "hats". The shoots will soon break through the wax and leaves will appear. Presto, a grape is born!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Barb Friedman

Your mother is beautiful! Enjoy her visit.


Your mother is beautiful! And I know exactly what you'll look like when you're her age.


Bonne Chance Max!

Adeline Richarson Reunion Island

Yes, both Barb & Vicky are right : you have the loveliest mum and you 'll always be lovely! Very very lucky girl! Enjoy summertime together!

Good luck to Max, such a handsome and clever boy will pass his baccalauréat... les doigts dans le nez!

And... I love the flax flowers. They would perfectly match your mom's top.

Cindy McDonald

Chere Kristin please give Jules my regards and tell her I will be living vicariously through her as she enjoys her time in 'paradis'. Bonnes aventures à vous deux...XO


Bonjour, chère Kristin et Jules!

Jules, it is plain to see you are in your "element." You've done magnificently giving your girls wings-- now you can enjoy watching them soar! And yet, you are still teaching your daughter learn to do the same with her fledglings. As mother of only boys, I do know that feeling of having your son come to your rescue with more "smarts" than you thought he could possibly have. It is both humbling and exhilarating!

Je vous souhaite à tous une excellente visite!

Annette Heath

Yes, Jules is indeed beautiful...and such a wise lady. Bravo Max! I hate to admit it, but so often a man can solve a problem that women struggle with.

Once again I have been hunched over my computer listening to Jean Marc's French reading for today's post....again and again and again. I think I am becoming addicted to hearing his sexy voice speak French so beautifully.

Have a divine vacation Jules!

Jim Burress

I'm curious -- how do Jules and the grandchildren communicate? Does Jules know French, or do the kids know English?


Jules is such a beautiful person! She always looks genuinely happy, serene. Kristin, you're blessed with a beautiful (and very wise) mother and a handsome and smart son.

Rina Rao.

All the Best Max.
Yes Kristin, you will look like your mother, later. My Regards to her and hullo to your daughter.
Love, Rina.


Bonjour Kristie,
So happy to see Jules here with you. What a lovely relationship. Best to Max for his bac. He looks like a perfect mix of you and Jean Marc, his physical features, that is. Would love to see you this summer.

Vivian Langley

Please, I am not into all of the above and need to continue receiving you as I am now. Will be devistated if I can no longer enjoy your journies in life. Happy your Mother is once again with you. Vivian

Gail Shatsky

You have a beautiful family!


I want to second Gail's comment. Every single one of your family that you've posted pics of is astoundingly beautiful, and of course, including yourself!


Enjoyable post, comme toujours. However, I refuse to learn to Tweet, so this is really just to let you know, that I do not wish to be lost in the shuffle. So far, no interruption in service.

Also, I have always admired Jules' style. The pastel print shirt is lovely. Mexican? American? French?

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

So glad to see Jules is in for her summer visit. Your love for her comes through in your posts. Lovely. They do grow up - the boy is becoming the man. As always, enjoyed the glimpse into your life and family. Hope you have a wonderful summer.


Love this blog! Merci beaucoup! Max spitting image of grandmere who is lovely! Love Jules' attitude and outlook on things! Bonne chance, Max!

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

Good morning from La Nouvelle Orleans. Love all the photos and of course the rich dialogue and French lessons. I have had no interruption in service so I am letting you know here as I do not Tweet. Happy that Jules is there to visit. She must be loving the new mas ... all the gardens and the budding vineyard. I have been searching here for any Bandol wines but so far have found only the rose' ... so there is much to look forward to. Keep up the writing and photography, Kristin, and bonne chance to Chief Grape and the new vineyard. (Quick language question: If chance is feminine then the expression should be bonne chance. Correct?) I despair of ever learning to read and write French much less speaking it! I do so look forward to your posts. Keep them coming. Priscilla


I see the spirit of Maya Angelou coming out through Jules' eyes. If you enjoy cooking, and not just southern, check out ML's "Hallelujah! the welcome table"

catharine ewart-touzot

how fortunate you are to have your mother to come and visit..hope your time together allows you to do all the things you enjoy doing together.


Love seeing this photo of lovely Jules and reading about your adventures together! Sending you both a big hug!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin and Jules! Enjoy your visit together! You will have many more adventures during her visit I'm sure! Good luck to Max...I'm sure he will do fine! I remember breaking down in Belgium and all I knew how to say to a passerby was "ma voiture ne marche pas".

Vance Anderson-Inks

Please give your dear mother a hug for me. I tried to organize being there while she was, but keep hitting bumps in the road. She is such fun and I really need a dose of her good humor. Can't wait to see what you two get "into" this trip.

Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

Oh, I love it when Jules visits! And I love Spring/Summer pics of you all dining beneath a tree. Enjoy the visit!

Karen from Phoenix

Have a wonderful time Jules with Kristi and family. I just love to see your beautiful face!!


Diane Young

At last - Jules est arrive. She brings beauty and joy with her, n'est-ce pas? Have a wonderful visit and a great tour a Paris. Max is in my prayers for a good exam report. And JM is always busy; a jewel of a mari. I have no problem with email and don't tweet or twitter or whatever so don't quit the email, cherie.

ron axium

I have a constructive suggestion. I cant read all the french vocabulary in your word-a-day blog because the accented characters come out as gobboly gook and I dont know what word I am reading. The only way I can get a true text is by reading the archives where the letters come out clearly. I dont know what would fix it except a word document. I love word-a-day!!!!!

ron axium
[email protected]

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

what is pépinerie ?

The French accents read fine in both the e-mail and the web page for the blog, for me. I hope Ron can work with his electronic devices to read more than unaccented English words.

I do not tweet, either. If I notice missing editions, I will let you know. There are more social networks out there than I have yet mastered.

Joan Linneman

I'm with Vivian, Barbara, and Sarah... Following a blog that arrives by email is as high-tech as I want to venture. Thanks for sending it, and please don't abandon those of us who like the status quo. :)
Joan L.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristin,

I join the others who are excited about your mom's visit. Beautiful Jules seems to have a tremendous joie de vivre. She is such an inspiration~ Best of luck to Max.....I hope his path takes him to exciting new places. glad that Jean-Marc's baby vines are thriving! A pat on the head to braise and Smokey. It sounded like one of them was talking to JM while he was recording the word of the day!


Our dear Kristi,
Your lovely Jules is absolutely beautiful!
(and like mother,like daughter!)
What a joyful visit you al will have!
Today certainly was Max to the rescue!
It's hard to believe he is so grown up. I remember that adorable picture of you holding him as a newborn!
We wish him happiness and congratulations!
Kristi,your tour of Paris sounds like heaven!We'll be with you in spirit and look forward to your wonderful photographs and descriptions!(PS Those Morning Glories are
THANK YOU for wrapping us in hugs!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Dear Kristi!

Grateful your gorgeous mama is there with you! Jules knows how to live graciously in the present. What a gift! Enjoy every minute of her visit.

Max has grown into such a handsome young man. I send good thoughts his way for the passing of his exam.

Can you remember…were we not just a few years older than Max is now when we met at college? You have grown even lovelier than you were back then. The years have been good to us, for here we are still a part of each others lives.


Marianne Rankin

Kristin, I don't have Twitter, so can't use that to respond. But I'm still getting the FWAD e-mails, fortunately.

This story is a good example of idiomatic French expressions, many of which wouldn't be in a textbook, so I'm glad to have them.

I'm pleased that Jules is able to visit again. She goes so well with the flow, and is a good sport in ups and downs.

I wish Max the very best of luck on the baccalaureat. Please keep us posted on his plans.

Ellen from B.H.

Ah, La Belle Jules! Would that we could all be so graceful and open and beautiful as we mature! She is my role model.

Enjoyed today's story, and the expression "tomber en carafe," which you say means "to break down by the side of the road." I found myself smiling at that one. Could it be that this refers to breaking down "accidentally on purpose" near a roadside café for a carafe of wine?


So pleased to have your lovely Mom back in the picture again...she brings a little extra joie de vivre into the mix.And I think as Max gets older he looks more like you ...Enjoy your precious time with your Mom..

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I am so happy your wonderful mom is with you. I really like her attitude on life, family ---- why hasn't she started a blog too? She's funny & bright -- a mature view of life --- love it!

Good luck to Max! Kristin, you are so blessed to have such interesting and cute family members.

I don't "do" Twitter either. Please ensure email is your main method of communication.

Have fun & enjoy your mom!

Be well.

Chris Allin

Just read Laurel Zucherman's Paris Weblog. Great interview Kristin! So nice how much you appreciate your " faithful readers". So happy to be
one !

Brenda Prowse

So happy that you are spending time with your mother, chère Kristin!


Max is the spitting image of his beautiful Mum.....and Jules is an inspiration to all us vieilles demoiselles......Love these vignettes, as vibrant and heart-stopping as the exquisite blue wax flowers....Thank you!!

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