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Entries from January 2015

BON this and BONNE that: The fine art of well wishing in France!

French dog in Biarritz (c) Kristin Espinasse
The French art of well wishing in today's edition. Enjoy and thanks for sharing this post with a friend!

bon (boh(n) silent "n")

     good; right, correct

 Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Bonne fête, bonne journée, bonne promenade... bon appétit... les francais ont la manie de souhaiter les bonnes choses! Happy holiday, have a good day, enjoy your walk... or meal... the French are obsessed with well-wishing!

The following post was inspired by a comment I received: 

Hi Kristin, 

I was recently in France, and people wished me "bon courage" at the recent death of a family member there. Does this really mean "good luck"? This expression must have many meanings and uses. To my anglophone sensibilities, wishing someone good luck when a loved one passes away seems a bit odd and inappropriate. But I was wished "bon courage" with such heart felt emotion that I knew that this was an encouraging thing to wish me. Language is so interesting. Bette

Hi Bette,

I'm so sorry for your loss. You mentioned the bon courage expression meaning "good luck" and it seems this is true (though, for "good luck," the expression bonne chance also comes to my mind).

But back to bon courage: in addition to meaning "good luck," bon courage is also an expression of support, similar to "be strong" or even "take it easy." 

Bette, your note about the French language reminds me of the confusion I often felt when I first came to France, on discovering all the bonnes choses or "good" things the French were constantly wishing each other. I remember my surprise and embarrassment when complete strangers wished me bon appétit! while passing by the park bench, where I sat eating my lunch. 

This very personal acknowledgment by a stranger would be the beginning of a  budding insight into the French and their automatic courtesy. I leave you with several more examples of French well-wishing (which I've paired with some photos from the archives), and wish you, as my husband often wishes me when I set out to work: bonne édition! Enjoy this post! (or good luck writing today's post, as Jean-Marc said just this morning.)

Italian dog in Sauve, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon voyage... Photo taken in Sauve, Italy. Bon voyage is one of the more common courtesies you will hear the French wish each other. 

Bon voyage = Have a good trip!

Croatian dog (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon rétablissement is something the French wish each other when they are sick or healing. 

Bon rétablissment = Get well soon or speedy recovery!

French dog in Colmar, Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon essayage? One thing that amused me when I first came to France, was how the French were always well-wishing each other--everything from bon essayage to bon bricolage (I heard this last one at Castorama over the weekend.)

bon essayage! = happy trying-on!
bon bricolage = happy DIYing! (happy home improvement!) 

French dog in Serignan (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon jardinage. I dare you to go to une pépinière or nursery this time of year and not hear this well-wish at the checkout lane:

bon jardinage! = happy gardening! 

French dog and cats in Visan (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon débarras! Cats--and an imposter--in the town of Visan. Don't go getting the idea that all the wishes wished by the French are altruistic! From time to time you'll hear this one:

Bon débarras = good riddance! 

French dog in Gigondas (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bonne dégustation. A wish I often hear, living with a winemaker who loves to share his vin with friends, is this one:

bonne dégustation! = enjoy your drink!  

French dog in Seguret (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon reniflement? Just kidding, French dogs don't really wish this to each other... but one can't be sure about French perfumists, and their courtesies...

bon reniflement! = good sniffing! 

French dog in Seguret (c) Kristin Espinasse
By the way, today is Saturday--the perfect time to with you bon week-end!

Bon week-end = have a great weekend!

Mas de Martin dog (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bonne sieste! = "Have a good nap!" says this vineyard dog.

bonne sieste! = enjoy your nap!

French dog in Tulette, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Almost time to wish you bon au revoir. On second thought, they don't say that at all in France! So much sweeter to say "à la prochaine!" (until next time...)

Italian dog in Ventimillie (c) Kristin Espinasse
... and bonne continuation! I almost left out my favorite "bon(ne)" expression...

Bonne continuation! = I wish you all the best (also = Keep up the good work!)

   Reorder your favorite French products here:
    EMBRYOLISSE concentrated lait cream - customer reviews here.
    BIODERMA Makeup remover - see the reviews here
    AVENE thermal spring water - check out the reviews here
    KLORANE  dry shampoo - all hair types, adds volume - read the reviews here
    La ROCHE-POSAY Anthelios sunscreen - see the reviews reviews here

Other Favorite Dogs from Kristi archives! Don't miss them here:
Dog in Giens 
Dog in Spain - Amazing fur style!
Hiding dog... can you guess who this is?
Dog with motorcycle 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Choucroute + Winner announced


While my computer was in the shop being repaired, Jean-Marc and I rearranged our bedroom, and now I've got a desk with a view--and a working ordinateur, just in time to announce our latest winner (scroll to end of post)!  

la choucroute (shoo-kroot)

    : sauerkraut

la choucroute garni = sauerkraut with meat (smoked pork, frankfurters) and potatoes


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Pédaler dans la choucroute: Problème après problème dans la cuisine, Kristi avait l'impression de pedaler dans la choucroute au lieu d'avancer.

One problem after another in the kitchen, and Kristi felt like she was pedaling in the sauerkraut--or going nowhere fast!

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


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

A few days after I gave away my citrus zester I suddenly needed it more than oxygen! But last week while tornadoing through the house, armed with a copy of Zero Waste Home and on a mission to simplifier, the zesteur d'agrume seemed superfluous. After all, I had a vegetable peeler and a cheese grater, both capable of double-émploie according to the minimalist gurus. 

Then, out of nowhere, I got an inkling to make lemon curd, or caillé de citron. Only, when the dual-purpose cheese grater slid across the surface of the lemon, returning zestless--and the vegetable peeler sent lemon skins rocketing across the comptoir and onto the floor, I realized what a folly it had been to giveaway the essential zesting tool! Imbécile! You could've used the extra saucepan, too. How dumb to give that away! (And don't get me started about the pronged scalp massager. No sooner did I ditch it, than Bruce, who sometimes comments here, shared this adorable video! leaving me no choice but to buy back the gadget--and the utensil and the pan--from the secondhand shop!)

Back to the Zester Setback: it was only the beginning of a cooking saga involving cops, robbers and flying horses! ...or horseflies, rather. I don't mean to exaggerate the troubles I experienced Monday, but, honestly, from the moment I set foot in the kitchen to cook--until the instant my detailed essay about the trial went POOF!--any and all of my morning's efforts were like pedaling in choucroute

Going Nowhere Fast
Ironically the story about the kitchen episode was titled "Persistence." And though I've spent the past 36 hours mourning the loss of my essay (and eating everything I managed to make that fateful day)....I shall now try to patch together my narrative. It may lack the passion of the first draft, penned when lemon zest was still stuck to my teeth (teeth do not make good alternative zesters either), but to give up now would be the ultimate passionless act! Allez, un peu de courage!

Perhaps adding titles to the following paragraphs will jog my memory and help to retrieve some of the content lost when Monday's opus disappeared into the internet's ether!

I should first tell you about the surreal moment that preceded my effort to make lemon curd. It took place just before the Zeste Episode, while gathering ingredients for the recipe. There were not enough eggs or sugar or lemons! May as well throw in the towel, I thought, when another voice echoed in my ears: That is perfectionism! Now let it go and IMPROVISE. You could use one less egg... add in honey for the missing sugar... and use that ugly lemon that you discounted! According to my Zero Waste bible, ugly fruit or FRUITS MOCHES are all the rage right now. In an effort to spare landfills of excess fruit, consumers are urged use a non-judgmental eye when selecting fruit: go for the two-legged carrots! the bruised apples! bent bananas!

I picked up the wrinkly, scarred lemon. Surely it held no juice? Why not just give up now! Then again, I could probably manage... The surreal moment lingered. It was that familiar instant between following through with something--or flaking out. It was simply a matter of choice.  Courageous? Or lazy? 

With the lemons now zested (half the peels ending up in the bowl) I forged ahead, and when my kitchen knife was too dull to quarter the lemon, I ripped the fruit apart!

Tossing all ingredients into the blender, I knew this was cheating (and not "creaming the butter"), and I worried the whirl of the blades might somehow upset the molecular energy of the mix.  

No use worrying about concepts you didn't even understand! Pouring the creamy yellow energetic mixture into a saucepan, I allowed for a meditative ten full minutes of stirring and, just as promised: thickened lemon curd! And only five setbacks so far (honey was a good substitute and the extra egg was not needed!)

Motivated by success , I decided to press on--and use that cabbage I'd had Jean-Marc buy for me, only to encounter obstacles 6, 7, and 8!

I have never seen a cabbage the size of a bowling ball, and if cutting lemons with a dull knife was impossible, this would be a miracle!

I tried sharpening the knife but even my aiguiseur was dull! Placing the knife over the cabbage, I'd have to sit on the handle to cut through the mass. But such acrobatics could end in a trip to ER. Another solution was needed.

As I stabbed at the cabbage a horsefly flew by. I recognized him from the bathroom, where he'd tortured me before my trial in the kitchen. Having managed to lock him into the medecine cabinet, I was eerily surprised by his escape from the mirrored prison!

Windows wide open now, I chased the giant red-eyed fly around the kitchen. GO! GET OUT! I shouted when a current of freezing air rushed into the kitchen. Closing the window in defeat, I chose to live with the pest and work in a warm room. 

Back to work. Now where was I? ...

Looking around the kitchen my eyes settled on the cat litter bag inside the sink. If a Japanese cook saw that, he'd have a heart attack. ANY meticulous cook would have a heart attack! But a little explanation might help:

There was no cat litter in the bag. The rectangular sack was a remnant from our kitty days. After the cats ran off I eventually gave away the litter box, toys and food. And then I discovered the plastic litter box liners. Not wanting to throw them away, I tried fitting them into our garbage can but they were the wrong size. However, if I lined the sink with them I could use the bags to catch garbage AND continue to analyze our garbage output (another Zero Waste Tip: know thy garbage).

Suddenly, I saw the folly of it all. The complete chaos in my minimalist kitchen. If someone walked in now (dare I say a reader! Or my Dad!) they would ... they would....

"Well just what would they do?! Unfriend you?" The little voice of reason was back. "Carry on, my child!"  

I returned to my cutting board to saw apart the giant cabbage, when a thrumming at the kitchen door rattled my heart. Who's there?!!

Next, I was hit over the head... with a dust pan!

As I jumped to the side the pan fell onto the counter and I swung around to find an empty kitchen. No bad guys. Still as can be, I tuned into a familiar sound. I looked up to see the stovetop hood shaking and understood what had happened: The baskets and antique wooden dustpan had tumbled off, helped forth by the vibrating fan!

So shaken, I was ready to throw in the towel. How much can a sensitive soul take?

"Kristi," the little voice was back. "No one is singling you out! Every cook has obstacles! Every kitchen is just like this!"

The thought cheered me, and I looked back over at the cat litter bag/sink garbage can. Well, maybe not just like this. :-)


I've almost pieced together the story I lost Monday, but a few episodes are missing: I ended up turning the cabbage into two dishes! 1) sauerkraut and 2) sautéed cabbage with apples and onions. Had another setback with the sauerkraut, when a host of ants showed up while I was elbows deep (defenseless) in a bowl of chopped cabbage. Mixing and squeezing the ribbons of chou, I could no longer tell the difference between the caraway seeds (kraut flavoring), or the ants. But by this time, a fermented ant was no big deal!

Bon appétit when you eat chez Kristi ;-)

To leave a comment, click here. Thanks in advance!


Provence & French Alps Tours - Two regions of France in one affordable tour. Majestic mountains, Provence colors. Wine tastings, Michelin Star cuisine.

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

un agrume = citrus fruit
double-emploi = multipurpose ('double'purpose)
le lait caillé de citron = lemon curd
imbécile = idiot
allez! = come on!
un peu de courage = be brave!
un aiguiseur = knife sharpner

Happy to announce the winner of Benjamin Houy's book, Upgrade Your French.... the book goes to Paul, who wrote:

I like to read your blog twice a week. I am taking French classes and really enjoy your posts. Jean-Marc's readings are very helpful with pronunciation.

Thank you, Paul. I will contact you soon. Félicitations!

Smokey homemade sauerkraut

 Fermenting sauerkraut. How long will it take? Do you like choucroute? Comment here.


What today's story first looked like... before all was lost.


The lemon curd turned out lovely and thick! Find out what I used it for when you look at my photo gallery here!

If you enjoy these words and stories, thank you for forwarding this post to a friend!

To comment on this post, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

French Word-a-day: Coucou & Catastrophes!

Today's Word: coucou! (koo-koo)

    : hi there.

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's expression. The first words in the example sentence are: "Coucou c'est nous..." Can you make out the rest of the sentence?

A DaY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse
"Lost in the Shuffle"

Coucou les amis et amies!

If today's format looks slightly off, you should see the wildhaired woman behind it! "I AM A WRITER!" she repeats, "and must learn to work under every kind of circumstance." Today's CIRCONSTANCE is this: computer APOCALYpSE. Not one ORDINATEUR in the Espinasse household works--not mine, not Jean-Marc's, not Jackie's--not Smokey's!!! 

Is it something in the water? L'eau d'Armageddon!

Given the technical snag, or PEPIN, I am moved to try something called "moblogging." Mobile blogging is an option my blog provider offers and it (finger's crossed!) works like this: 

From my Smartphone or iPad, I type my post into an email, then send it off to a secret private SUPERHERO address which automatically posts the contents to my blog. Next, my blog post is SYNDICATED, or picked up by a third party (my listserver), who then distributes it to my FAITHFUL (still with me?) subscribers.

All this would be fine and dandy if I were writing you but a simple love letter each week. But it's all those bells and whistles that accompany these BILLETS DOUX (love letters) that slow things down--"bells" like the soundfiles (technical GONGS) that accompany these posts and whistles such as sponsors (insert cat whistle here and be sure to have a look at the pretty girls listed below!)

Composing these posts is not, as you can see, a straighforward thing. But neither is love. (Will you still love me if today's post is a formatting nightmare? Remember, the chaos is TEMPORAIRE!)

Cross your fingers with me now, and pray that today's post goes out... Ending up in your inbox in one piece!

Love and pantoufles,
P.S. For those few are grumbling, "Enough! This blog is sinking quickly!" I encourage you to jump ship now! (And for the rest of you DEARHEARTS who are joining me on the bow of this Titanic letter, let us continue, cheek to cheek now, sailing off into shimmering horizon.....)

Pantoufles = Slippers. (Nothing to do with love, except for the lightness one feels)


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Faire bisquer + Should this blog close-up shop?

N-Cotignac-dress shop

The sign in the lower left reads:  A VENDRE (For Sale). After I posted a question on Friday ("Should I post once-  or twice-weekly"), one reader commented that this blog might as well close up shop! The suggestion got me all riled up--which isn't such a bad place to be, when you're sitting on the fence over where you need to be....


"faire bisquer"

   : to get somebody riled, to wind them up

Ever heard the children's taunt: "Bis-que, bis-que, ra-ge!"? Listen to Jean-Marc read the French, below (please check back to the blog for the sound file).

Bis-que, bis-que, ra-ge! Ces mots sont utilisé pour se vanter de quelque chose devant un interlocuteur et le faire bisquer.
Bis-que, bis-que, ra-ge! These words are used to boast about something in front of someone, to get a rise out of them.

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

No story today. Just a nostalgic look back in time. And a very BIG thank you for your warm and thoughtful and generous words following Friday's post. I was especially touched by your gratitude and humility. If only you knew how often your words have moved me!  

Vendange2004 008
The  photos that accompany today's post were inspired by another reader's comment. Michele wrote in to say that she's followed this blog since 8/9/2004!  Thank you, Michèle. Here are some snapshots from that time period....

 Mattieu's 2 ans 002 

In 2004, our kids were 6 and 8 and this blog was about to turn 2! 

Nice & Serre Chevalier 004

I began taking photos to illustrate these posts....

  Nice & Serre Chevalier 029

Do you remember some of them?

Vendange2004 004

 2004. We were living in the Medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens. I wrote more about this period in my book Blossoming in Provence

Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs

In 2004 Smokey was but a twinkle in his mother's eye (she herself but une étincelle in our family's eyes)


I had recently left my job at a local vineyard (not this one, above), to follow my dream of writing (recounted in great detail, here). I never imagined our family would begin our own vineyard--making my newfound writing time a tug-o'-war between the keyboard and all the vineyard support (my husband needed me more than ever).

Window at shakespeare

I managed to publish French Word-A-Day and write right through it all--experiencing some glorious moments! A book with Simon and Schuster...


And a chance to speak at Shakespeare and Company in Paris!


I kept writing -- through births and deaths and health upsets


And when it all gets to be too much, I lie down and let your encouraging words nudge me, bringing me back to life and gently setting me back on track. 

Merci beaucoup pour tout!


Kristi driving ape truck

As to whether or not I should close up shop, or end this blog--you can't get rid of me that easily! Meantime, thanks so much for reading and for the encouraging words you've sent me!

I would love to know when you began reading French Word-A-Day? I started the website in October 2002, and moved began posting in blog format in 2004. Thanks for commenting here, and see you in  few days...

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Tordre + Favorite words and win this book!

Today's snapshot was taken during our mother-daughter trip to Milan. The modern sculpture wonderfully illustrates today's verb! Also, help me answer the question "Should this journal go out once or twice per week?" Comment here, and enter to win today's giveaway, details below.


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


    : to twist, to wring, to contort

se tordre = to sprain
se tordre de rire = to laugh so hard your stomach hurts
se tordre la cheville = to twist one's ankle
se tordre de douleur = to writhe in pain

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc
Download MP3 or listen to Wav

Deux fois par semaine, Kristi va chez le kiné qui lui tord le bras afin qu'il revienne droit.
Twice a week, Kristi goes to the physical therapist who twists her arm so that it will straighten.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
"Twist My Arm"

Two days a week the local kiné tortures me. "Aïe!"

"Ça fait mal?" The young, bearded man says, more as a distraction than a question. And, as I respond, he gains more ground--twisting my arm a few more centimeters. Le diable! Aïe! Aïe! Aïe

It's been two months since the freak accident I had, hours before boarding my flight. I still shake my head at how a ten-second mishap can lead to a season of rehabilitation. Even more amazing is how lucky I was to s'en sortir with no more than a dislocated coude instead of broken bones. 

My elbow is back in place, but things are still crooked when the kiné releases his grip during our third séance. Pushing both arms before me, level with my shoulders, one arm meets the horizon in a straight line while the other, held parallel to the first, is still bent.

"Do you think this will ever straighten out?" I ask Vincent The Torturer.

"It will never be as it was before," he says. "But only you will notice any difference."

Different? Will it be off by half an inch? An inch? Forever slightly akimbo? The kiné's next question hushes my mind.

"Is there anything you cannot do with your arm now?" 

True! There is nothing I can't do now that I could do before! Looking down at my bare arm it was no worse for the wear... if a little puny. Time to lift some weights, or I'm headed for bingo wings!

Which reminds me. Yes! There is still something I cannot do... 




Upgrade-your-frencBenjamin Houy of, is giving away a copy of his book! He writes:

I am passionate about learning languages and wrote a guide to help French learners learn French in a fun and effective way. It's called Upgrade Your French: The Ultimate Guide to Learning French on Your Own, and I believe it could be useful for your readers.

 ENTER TO WIN: Help me to answer a question that's been on my mind lately: Should I send out this French word journal once or twice per week?

COMMENT HERE and help Kristi decide how often to write!

The backyard kitchen garden in January. It looks sleepy but it's rumbling underneath (I've been planting seeds!). In the foreground, out of frame, is the permaculture garden, as wild as a jungle. Smokey thinks he's Tarzan. And, when I'm done with these rehabilitation sessons, I'll fly beside him like Jane!

See Tarzan and Jane's Make a French Yogurt Cake video

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Le dechet, la poubelle and how France has taught me to go green!

Strawberries and permaculture garden in France.

Some of the garbage we produce becomes plant food. Just look at this backyard strawberry in January! Vive le compost! As for the rest of the waste, we are working on it! Read on....


le déchet (day-shay)

    : garbage, waste, rubbish

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc
Download MP3 or Wave File

Le meilleur déchet, c'est celui que l'on ne produit pas.
The best kind of garbage is that which is not produced. 
                            -"déchet" entry from French Wikipedia

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

I am hunched over our kitchen sink tossing the contents of our trash bag from one side of the évier to the other. Chicken bones, cheese wrappers, orange peels, a pair of shoes with holes in the sole, coffee capsules (la honte!)....

Up close and personal, our poubelle is easily under examination. Now to figure out how to quit making so much trash! If rummaging through the garbage seems extreme, you should have seen me reading. Burning through the Zero Waste Home ebook left me hungry for more. So I read every post on Béa's Zero Waste blog, which made me even more affamé! (At which point I devoured all the readers' comments, at the end of each blog post.) 

Saperlipopette! What's come over me? If not regret for decades of wasteful living! But guilt only ads to all the heaps of trash, and besides, the author of  Zero Waste Home would not have us feeling bad about ourselves--or trying to attempt the impossible (zero waste IS an impossibility, but we can all further reduce our consumption). 

Tossing the chicken bones back into the garbage (and chucking the orange peels into our compost bowl beside the sink... while still debating about the shoes and the coffee capsules), I am disheartened yet reminded just how far I've come--this, thanks to living in Europe. When you live in France you are automatically waste conscious.  Here are three ecological practices you'll find in the Héxagone. (Please add more from your own observations):

The first thing I noticed when I moved into a French home was the absence of a garbage disposal. Just where did the fruit and vegetable peels go? And where did we empty our plates? Watching my host family scrape parts of their plates into a bowl and the other part in the trash, I must have hesitated when my turn came to cover the dry contents of the garbage with the saucy remains of my boeuf bourgignon (and, here, another difference comes to mind: there is much less left on a French plate when it comes time to empty it! The French even coined a verb: saucer = to sop up the sauce on the plate, with bread. Smaller portions, sympathy for the cook, and a respect for food leave little room for waste--even if modern day France is changing in all three regards).

"How much tidier it was to empty it down the drain!" I must have thought, back then. And I remember putting "garbage disposal" on my wish list as a new bride. Thankfully we never got around to getting one, and I gradually adapted to all the trash processing. The day I began my own garden, bingo! BLACK GOLD!, I could appreciate what all that compost was for! (Now if I could only find a way to use the chicken bones and mussel shells in the garden, without attracting our resident sangliers!)

Another memory of my host family is my French mom's way of doing laundry. She had one of those handy étendoirs which she kept in la salle de bains or near the fireplace, depending. Because we lived in Lille, in the freezing north, it took forever to dry clothes "the old-fashioned way." Oftentimes, my pants were still damp when returned to my room. I wondered if the undry clothes would grow mold within the neat and tidy pile in which they were delivered? Best to trust my French laundress and be very grateful! After doing my own laundry and cooking for years, it was a luxury to once again be logé, nourri, et blanchi

When I moved to France for good, in 1992, Jean-Marc and I bought a clothes dryer following the birth of our two children. It helped with all those little baby outfits. But when le sèche-linge broke down, by the time Jackie and Max were 7 and 9, we never bothered to fix it, and naturally returned to our clothesline for a two-in-one check-off: laundry dried (check), a meditative moment outdoors (check!) 

Before I had the chance to work for myself here at home (thank you so much for reading my blog posts!) I worked in three professional offices. The one thing the engineering company, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Swedish-owned vineyard had in common was a lights off policy. With enough natural light streaming into the offices, there was no need further brighten the room, except if a bathroom didn't have a big window, or when we worked till closing (many office workers are still in the bureau at 7 p.m. or "after dark" in winter.)

From bring your-own-bag to the supermarket to those timed light-switches in French bathrooms (that often go off, leaving you in the dark to search for papier toilette)... I could go on about French ecological habitudes, except that to do so would take away from another precious resource of yours and mine: precious time!

Thank you for taking 10 minutes out of your day (more, when you take the time to comment!) each time you read one of these posts. I appreciate this very much! I join you in trying to find a better balance in life--one way being to eliminate the superflux! I leave you with the following quote by a famous Polish composer (and partner to Georges Sand. I wonder if his words influenced her writing?):

"Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." -Frédéric Chopin

La dernière chose, c'est la simplicité. Après avoir joué une immense quantités de notes et de notes, c'est la simplicité qui sort avec tout son charme, comme le dernier sceau de l'art.



vive! = long live!
un évier = sink, kitchen sink, wet bar
la honte! = for shame!
la poubelle = trash can, waste bin
affamé(e) = hungry, starving 
saperlipopette = my goodness! see blog entry
le sanglier = wild boar, wild hog
la salle de bains = bathroom
le sèche-linge =
l'Héxagone (m) = synonym for France
une habitude = habit

Wish to speak French fluently? 30-Day French will teach you everything you need to know to speak French on your next trip to France with 30 lessons based on real-life conversations. Click here.

  Kristi in the forest garden

I have been trying to simplify my life since the day I moved to France. Twenty-two years later, and it sometimes feels like I am only beginning.  But when I stop and look around I begin to see the bones of authenticity. And even as my home is cleared... I want to be outside, nearer and nearer to the birds.

Pictured above: the permaculture garden I am building while my husband continues to plant his vineyard. See more pictures in this gallery--and a short clip of Smokey!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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♥ $25    
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To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Se battre, Freedom of Speech and Je suis Charlie

Je suis Charlie

Photo taken in Aix-en-Provence yesterday, by my son Max. Thank you for your help, the other day. Your notes led to three good housing possibilities!

se battre

    : to fight

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following quote
Download MP3 or wav

Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu'à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire. (translation and attribution at the end of this post)

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

Un Peu Perdue

Forgive me if the following essay is chaotic, but my mind is all over the place--which may explain why I got lost last night, on the way to pick up my 17-year-old from school... along a road I've traveled dozens of times before.

The unexpected foray into la nuit left me as anxious as I am now, typing these words to you. My thoughts chatter on just as they did while circling the unfamilar neighborhood: what if I'm losing my mind? What if I can't form thoughtful sentences? What if I annoy, offend, or bore somebody with my words, words that may be ignorant, hasty, indulgent, or simply come across the wrong way, perpetuating an even greater misunderstanding? Therein lies the risk in self-expression: le malentendu: misunderstanding.

(And now, a long and apprehensive pause at my keyboard. What to say next?)

I found my daughter. Sitting on a darkend curb across from the closed gates of her lycée.  She must have been waiting an hour after her bus never came ("The roads are blocked. People are gathering all the way from the town of Six Fours to Toulon, " Jackie explained). After 10 journalists and at least 4 police were killed yesterday, in Paris, French President Holland had declaired it a day of deuil

*    *    *

I first learned about Wednesday's tragedy on Facebook, via the now iconic placard: Je suis Charlie. The words were creepy at the time (was is some new horror film?), but I had not yet learned of the horrible attack at Charlie Hebdo.

Je suis charlie

As my husband, friends, and family began changing their Facebook profiles and banners to the black-n-white pancarte JE SUIS CHARLIE, news of the killings filtered into my head.

What began to worry me was the numbness: while everyone else was beating their chests in outrage, or dissolving into an ocean of tears at vigils all over the world, I was staring at my computer screen, taking in all the images and their meaning.

Just what did this all mean? And what was wrong with me? Where were my tears? Had I become a press zombie? So accustomed to reading all the horrific headlines that this one did not surprise me?

Or was I no more than an ignorant whiff of dust--naive at the very least! (or "at most"? I'm losing the sense of words, even as I type them!)

Stick together: solidarity

Soon, others' words helped me to process any locked up emotions. Ed Klinenberg's thoughts in particular:

This cowardly, horrible attack on a team of very creative French writers and artists is an attack on everyone in the world who values freedoms of all kinds, including freedom of speech, freedom to express one's thoughts, freedom to criticize society, freedom to publish, freedom to debate, freedom to associate with everyone, and other freedoms that I am too shaken up to think of at this moment! Je Suis Charlie! Vous Etes Charlie Aussi si vous etes une personne qui pense! Nous sommes tous Charlie! I strongly protest this dastardly attack on civilization. I stand with everyone who understands that we must all stand in solidarity for democracy and freedom and against demagogues who would all too gladly prefer to tell us what to think, how to act, and what to fear. The men who brought machine guns into this magazine office and slaughtered an entire team of thoughtful social critics are thugs pure and simple, and I eagerly wait for the announcement that the French police have caught them and any accomplices they may have so that all of them may be held accountable under French law for their horrible actions today in Paris.

While Ed's post helped me to process my emotions, another friend's Facebook post got my feelings so awakened they came kicking and screaming to life!

It was 6 a.m. Thursday morning when I saw that my friend--a gentle and enthusiastic supporter of my blog--posted an article on the top of my Facebook page. The article's subtitle stated that Muslims supported the attack at Charlie Hebdo.

But this was not so! Not the Muslims that I know!

I hurried to delete the update that was now the titre de séjour of my own FB page--only to learn the post was undeletable! Something about the link (to the original article) being broken meant that FB was unable to delete it. Undeterred, I hit the delete button until by index finger went raw.

Next I discovered the "Hide this post" button and began pounding that one.

But it was too late now. One hour later and another of my FB friends was now awake in France. A fifteen-year-old Muslim girl, a generous supporter of mine on Facebook. I knew she would be checking her friends' updates at this very moment, before school started--ready to encourage all her amies.

I am one such lucky amie. Every time I post a photo my young friend "likes" it.  I have been deeply touched by her attention, when she must have better things to do than to support a woman three times her age--from a completely different background and faith! 

Only, faith had never been an issue between us until this fateful day! What if she thinks that I endorse the article that was posted on my FB page?! And even if she knows me well enough, it hurt knowing she would see the images associated with the article. For just as it hurts me to see caricatures of Jesus--pictures of my savior holding a can of soda pop or wearing a political suit--it must hurt her to see the Muhammad cartoons.

"But you are naive! "A doctor once told me, at once belittling my faith and trying to bed me during a consultation for la grippe.  As I looked away in disbelief, my eyes caught on a volume in his medical library: Kama Sutra. The book was as displaced as his comment, which has bothered me to this day:

"Faith was created for the little people. Les ignorants." he said, handing me my bill dismissively, after I'd dismissed him. I ran right home to my ailing husband (who was being treated for exhaustion and depression by the same doctor)... and I never said a word.

Never say a word. It is easier, safer, and less complicated to be silent than to journal or blog or express one's feelings. See, I told you at the opening of this essay that it might be chaotic, as all over the place as my thoughts. Just how we ended up in the doctor's office together is beyond me. But so was the FB post I was trying so desperately to hide from my young friend. More than beyond me, it was out of my control.

All that was left was to have faith (and you didn't need to be a Christian or a Muslim for that). Have faith in humanity. Have faith that a misunderstanding will lead to conversation -- to a greater understanding of one another.

I may be "a little people" as my ex-doctor said--or prude or slow-witted or scared enough to tremble like a leaf at the thought of who might be unhappily reading. But none of this will shake my faith. And no journalist will have died in vain! Because no matter what it is I have to say--how little, how trite, how banal, how bright!, I have the right to say it in France today. 

And chances are, if you are reading this, you too have the gift of free speech. With this comes a great responsibility: may we all choose our words with kindness and sensitivity. And if we choose them flippantly, as we are apt to do--because we are tired or lonely or scared or dissatisfied or bored or hurting--may we take the time to slow down and reconsider the truth in our hearts.



P.S. I have left out so many things: The part about how I never cared for satire (but have since opened my heart and am trying to understand it in relation to FREE SPEECH),  and,  most important, how one unwanted comment (that post I'd tried so desperately to delete), led me to the following understanding: in trying to erase another's words, I was inadvertantly erasing one's freedom of speech. The following quote thoughtfully expresses this idea: 

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

(words attributed to Voltaire, and belonging to Evelyn Beatrice Hall.)


  Biker in Italy
"Self expression in Italy" to end this post on a light note. Thank you very much for reading my journal. Without you, my own self-expression would be all bottled up. I am grateful and so thankful to be able to write in this journal and to share my perspective via photos.

If know of someone who might like to read today's post, thank you very much for forwarding it.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

logé, nourri, blanchi & Max is coming to Portland!

When he was 9

Housed, fed, and bleached. Our son, Max, is looking for two of those things in Portland, Oregon. For the third, let's see if he can find a better translation  in today's story, which he wrote in French and in English. (Photo taken 10 years ago, when Max was 9... and already helping us care for our vines.)


"logé, nourri, blanchi"

    : housed, fed, and laundered

Note: you often hear this expression in a sarcastic way (where one person's doing all the work while another has got it made in the shade). Have any more thoughts about this expression? Share here in the comments. 

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read Max's sentence (taken from today's story): 
Download MP3 or Wav

Mais je ne pense pas que ce soit à la portée de tous d’avoir un gosse français de 19 ans qui doit être logé, nourri et blanchi pendant deux mois.

But I don't think it's possible for everyone to have a 19 year old kid who needs room, bord, and laundry to be done!



(Today's story is written in French and English by my son Max. Enjoy! The English translation follows, below.)

Salut tout le monde, comment vous vous sentez aujourd’hui ?

Je suis Maxime le fils de Kristi !

Je me présente, j’ai dix-neuf ans et j’étudie le commerce à l’international à Aix en Provence où j’ai un petit studio de vingt m2. Pendant les vacances d’été (de début Juin à fin Juillet) je dois effectuer un stage pour me lancer un petit peu dans le monde du travail dans le domaine du commerce bien sur. J’ai trouvé ce stage à Portland, et oui quelqu’un a bien voulu me supporter pendant deux mois (ils ne savent pas dans quoi ils se lancent !). L’entreprise si courageuse s’appelle Smith Tea, c’est une entreprise qui fabrique et commercialise du thé, pour les amateurs de thé je vous conseille d’en goûter c’est de la très bonne qualité !

J’ai trouvé un stage c’est très bien, j’ai le billet d’avion en poche, c’est encore mieux mais où vais-je dormir, je ne sais pas ! D’accord j’ai fait l’armée mais je ne vais pas faire le « survivor » il faut bien que je dorme sous un toit. Mais je ne pense pas que ce soit à la portée de tous d’avoir un gosse français de 19 ans qui doit être logé, nourri et blanchi pendant deux mois. Surtout que je vais surement avoir de la visite, ma petite sœur va venir me voir, ma copine également qui va essayer de trouver un travail à Portland (si vous connaissez quelqu’un au passage !) donc il me faut un endroit ou je ne dérangerais personne et ou je puisse avoir un peu d’intimité, un petit studio de vingt-cinq – trente m2 ou plus bien évidemment serait l’idéal ! Comme je travaillerais ici, Northwest Thurman Street, Portland, on m’a recommandé de resté aux alentours de ces endroits là ; Inner Sud-Est (du 1er au 30e) Inner Nord-Est, Inner Nord-Ouest, ou Inner Sud-Ouest Portland. 

Voilà voilà, je vous serais très reconnaissant si vous me trouvez un petit endroit pour mon séjour, qui est loin d’être des vacances…

Bonne année à tous, meilleur vœux, la santé et tout ça tout ça…

PS : je n’aurais pas ma caisse, je serais donc à pied, donc le plus proche du métro/bus ou tramway (si ça existe à Portland) serait le mieux !

Maintenant que je vous ai écrit l’histoire, je vais la traduire… Ma mère ne corrigera pas les fautes ; on laissera comme ça.


Now that I wrote you the story of the day, I’m going to translate it. My mom will not correct the mistakes; we will leave it that way.

Hey everybody, how are you felling today?

I’m Max, Kristi’s son!

I introduce myself, I’m 19 year old and I study international marketing in Aix en Provence where I have a little studio of 20 square meters. During the summer vacation (from the beginning of June to the end of July) I have to do an internship to have a try in the business world in the domain of the marketing of course. I found this internship in Portland, yah someone accepted to support me for two months (they don’t know what they are up to!). The courageous company is named Smith Tea, it’s a company which produces and sells tea, and for the tea lovers I advise you to taste some, its real good quality!

I found an internship, good point, I have the airplane bill, even better but where will I sleep? I don’t know! Ok I went to the air force but I’m not a survivor I have to sleep underneath a roof! But I know that not anybody can have a 19year old French child who has to be fed, housed and laundered during two mouths. Especially that I would surely have some visit, my little sister will come and see me just and so will my French girlfriend who is trying to find some work in Portland (if you know someone by the way!) so I have to find a place where I will not bother anyone and have a little bit of privacy, a little guesthouse of 25-30 square meters would be perfect! Because I’m going to work there, Northwest Thurman Street, Portland, we recommended me to stay around these places, Inner SE (from 1st. to 30th) Inner NE, Inner NW or Inner SW Portland.

Well that’s all, I would be very grateful if you can find me a little place to stay for my trip, which is far from being some vacation..

Happy New Year everybody, best wishes, health and all that go with it…

PS: I’ll have no car, so I will only have my legs, so closer it is to the subway/bus or tramway (if it exists in Portland) the better!


If you enjoyed Max's bilingual letter, let him know here in the comment box. And thanks for your understanding regarding any grammar and spelling errors. Max is looking forward to improving his English while in the U.S.!


July ceremony

Some photos related to today's story, (photos and text added by Max's mom): Max after his recensement militaire

Max and jackie

With his sister, Jackie, after one of their first grape harvests. Ten years later and they are looking to escape France ("France is so old", Jackie says) --for the excitement of America! 


With his lovely girlfriend, Mathilde. She's from La Ciotat. They met in high school.


That haircut! (Earlier, while editing this blog post, I took a break and gave Max a trim after he requested some help.  It was the first time I've ever used a tondeuse or shaver. (photo of Max helping his Dad buy my birthday present: the little grapefruit tree came with one fruit... and produced one more fruit this year. Sorry to go off topic.)

Max and me

The photo my son uses for his Facebook banner. 

See you next time and many thanks for keeping Max in mind. If you know of any tips for Portland, please include them here in the comments section.

These stories continue... in images! Check out the gallery here, and hit the "follow" button to join me! 

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

faire du leche-vitrines


Lots of new vocabulary today, and part two of our story from the fashion capital of the world!


faire du lèche-vitrines

    : to go window shopping

AUDIO FILE: listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence
Download MP3 or Wav file

Dans la luxueuse Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Jackie et Kristi ont fait du lèche-vitrines.
In the luxurious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Jackie and Kristi window-shopped.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse

For part one of this story, click here

Though a direct train from Toulon to Milan now exists, Jackie and I took the trusty SNCF. Jean-Marc did not want us to miss our connection in Ventimille, so he drove us over the border to catch our Italian train. Three hours later (including a visual feast of the sea and countryside outside the train window) and my daughter and I were in the capital of Lombardy--home of the Milan Cathedral and the world's fashion capital!

As we rolled our bags out of the station, I opened my Uber phone app--the ride-sharing icon I'd downloaded earlier--to hail a car. Only we were out of luck. It turns out the low-priced service is as unwelcome by Italian cabbies as it is here in France.

Noticing a line up of travelers on the curb-side, we easily hailed a cab the old-fashioned way. Fourteen euros later and we were delivered to our rental apartment.

Andrea, the man who owned the one-bedroom flat, was standing in front of the three-story building, welcoming us with a warm smile and open arms which reached for our bags. But Jackie and I insisted on carrying our own, and we rolled our valises beyond the iron gate, across the cobbled stones, and into one of the stairwells issuing from the courtyard we'd just rumbled over.


 The apartment was nickel--clean as a whistle. There was a kitchenette with brightly painted tiles in apple green, and the walls above the sink were decorated with still life paintings. The bedroom had twin beds with elegant lampshades covering a porcelain base carved with little angels. 

As charming as the apartment was, Jackie and I picked up our steps on the 8-minute walk to the metro... the graffiti-lined streets (peopled only with clusters of young men in hoods) made us uneasy. To be fair, we would be wearing hoods too if only our coats had them! (And if only my daughter had on her doudoune, instead of a heavy sweater! How many times had I warned her to bring a warm coat?)

Nagging her the entire way, I finally gave up. This was a mother-daughter weekend, a time to cherish one another and not rip each other apart! The warmth of the underground was a relief and I followed my street-smart tough-skinned daughter farther down into les entrailles of the Italian subway where we caught the metro to the fashion district.

Céline, Georgio Armani, Chanel, Valentino--I can't remember all the designer shops we passed--passing being the key word! It was much wiser to enjoy some window shopping--what the French call faire du lèche-vitrines (literally "window licking")--than to enter those stores. Not that we would be comfortable entering anyway. (I remember being in Paris with Jackie, when I finally assured her it was okay for the two of us to go into a certain fancy and very famous boutique--only to be chided by a saleslady after my daughter lingered too closely at one of the displays. Ill at ease we quickly left the store. And I left behind, at that upscale store, a little bit of my daughter's trust.)

But by the time we got the to luxurious Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, for more window-licking, our ears were about to fall off like icicles. Stepping into Stefanel, we were warmly welcomed. "Most items in the store are 30-50 percent off," the saleslady said, inviting us in. Noticing a stack of wool bonnets, I quickly decided what my Milan souvenir would be: a warm hat! 

And it was indeed chanceuse to have a well-made cap when we left the gallery and hurried along the snowy streets beyond. But, reaching up from time to time to scratch my forehead, I longed for the simple ski hat I'd left behind.

Allez-maman! Come on Mom, let's go! I held on to my daughter's arm as we threaded in and out of the shops, forgetting my scratchy ahead, I was now caught up in the moment instead. 

To leave a comment, click here.

P.S. We easily hailed an Uber car once we were away from the strain station. And we used Uber to get back and forth from our rental apartment to the city center. For as little as $7 per ride, taking an Uber pop cost only $4 more than two metro tickets. I highly recommend this ride-share service. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments box (I know Uber has had some bad publicity), but, if you are like many of us who have actually used the service in France (and now in Milan!) I feel certain you will rave about it too.

Get your Uber discount here!
Get 10 off your first Uber ride when you use this promo code  When you use this promo code, I will get credit too--and I definitely want to use Uber next time I travel. All you do is open the Uber app and, presto!, your location pops up on the map (you don't even have to know what street you are on). Next, you will see which cars are available (I chose a 13 euro ride in an Uber pop, over a 38 euro ride in a sedan for our transport back to the train station). The ride fee is charged to your credit card (no exchange of cash. Perfect!) Click here to try Uber and get 10 off your first ride.

And no perks here (for you or for me), but you can click here to see the apartment my daughter and I rented. Don't hesitate to contact Andrea, the owner.



la valise = suitcase
nikel = spotless, spick and span

la doudoune = padded jacket
les entrailles = bowels 
le bonnet = ski hat
chanceux, chanceuse = lucky
allez, maman!  = come on, Mom

Jackie dress

In the cabine d'essayage with my daughter. I will treasure this image forever and am so grateful for the weekend we spent together. If you missed the pictures from our trip, please see them here, in this gallery

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.