Les Proches: loved ones in French + what brings satisfaction

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Today's Word: les proches (m/f pl)

    : loved ones, close family, close friends

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Qui n'est pas utile à soi-même ne peut être utile à ses amis et ses proches.
Who is not useful to oneself can not be useful to his friends and relatives.
(He who cannot help himself cannot help his friends or loved ones.)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The year is not over but now is a good and quiet time to think about 2019.  By the way this exercise was inspired by a letter to Jean-Marc, from Cousin Fred, who wrote:

I was excited to hear what an amazing year it has been for you - making pinot in Oregon, buying a beautiful boat, opening the shop and competing in an Ironman!  Oh, and co-writing a book with your wife....

Fred's letter made me realize what an eventful year it has been for my family: our daughter moved to Miami...our son was offered a sales internship in wine...my Mom came out of her grief and picked up her paintbrush again. 

I began to wonder about my own accomplishments in 2019? Well, I learned to make bread...and...(borrowed from Fred's list): I began a book. While these two things are good, maybe it's best to forget accomplishments and to reflect, instead, on what brought satisfaction this year? Here are some of those things:

First and foremost: hanging on: Hanging on brought satisfaction. This past year, just like every other year, brought with it the temptation to flee, to head for the hills as we say back home. Each year that goes by wherein I don't decamp (from relationships, from work, from sobriety) is a good year!

Next, bread. Learning to make something so basic, so essential, and so practical--and demystifying the process in the process of it all--is deeply satisfying!

Walking. An exercise began in 2017, after my sister, Heidi, suggested it as an antidote to the blahs--or le cafard. Walking every single day--and these days with my Mom--c'est très très satisfaisante.

Regular phone calls from loved ones--mes proches--are pure satisfaction.

Morning meditation (for the soul). Three or so years ago, we literally turned the page: to help cope with the bouleversement, I opened a devotional book, and Jean-Marc and I began reading a page every morning, followed by a prayer. This ritual, lasting under ten minutes, is often the most satisfying part of the day.

Our Dog. Smokey, our golden retriever, now lives with Mom in her studio (just below my bedroom) with no rules. He can jump on the bed, eat hot dogs, and nap beside the kitchen comptoir (in case any crumbs should fall). We share a garden and I am happy to see him all throughout the day, when he is not watching over and protecting the doyenne of our family.  

Gardening. The satisfaction is in all of the discoveries...the caper plant I thought had died, the strawberry bush that multiplied, the Morning Glory that materialized--d'ou viens-tu ma chere ipomée?  Where have you come from my dear Morning Glory? I don't remember planting you.

Diary. This past year I began journalling again. To sit with a blank book and jot down the gist of the day or a quote or a goal, a gratitude, a dare or a doodle... is worth the effort. It is so satisfying to read what we wrote years ago. 

I could go on (les poules! Collecting wild greens--mallow, mustard, dandelion--in the fields for my hens = satisfaction)...instead, here's to reflecting on what brought you satisfaction in 2019. I would love to know one or two things that come to mind. Write them in the comments below.

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Also,  pick up this year's French Country Diary -- a Francophile favorite!

tenir bon = hang in there
le pain = bread
la marche = walking
le cafard = the blahs, the blues
le coup de fil = telephone call
les proches = loved ones
l'âme = the soul
le bouleversement = upheaval
le toutou = doggy
le comptoir = counter
le doyen/la doyenne = elder
jardiner = to garden
journal intime = diary
la poule = hen, chicken

In How-to books:
Mastering French Vocabulary

Les proches
Les proches--that is one way to say loved ones. A loved one is also un être chèr and un bien-aimé, What do you call a loved one? More importantly: have you called a loved one lately?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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Levain: Giving bread its spark of life...in France or in The Wild West

Jean-marc on his way to work with this morning's loaf

Levain, in a figurative sense, is "what is able to excite, to brighten (feelings, ideas). Ce qui est capable d'exciter, d'aviver (les sentiments, les idées). This is exactly what I'm feeling today in writing about bread. I hope you enjoy the story and will share it with a bread lover. Listen to Jean-Marc, pictured with this morning's loaf, or miche, here:

soundfile--click here to listen

Plaine bookGift idea for a francophile and bread enthusiast, Apollonia Poilâne's book Poilâne: The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery

Today's word: le levain

    : sourdough starter, leaven

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Even if I am sitting here scratching my head, I think I'm beginning to understand this thing about pain. (If you pronounce the last word in that sentence correctly, not only does the phrase sort of rhyme, as only franglish can, but the meaning is much less dramatic.)

For we are talking about bread and not emotional turmoil...though this whole bread-making process has been full of the feels. 

Ever since I learned to bake the ultra-facile (no-knead) four-ingredient loaf--une miche so impressive, so beautiful it looks like it waltzed right on out of a Pôilane bakery in Paris....I've been itching to go to the next level in artisanal baking (passionate breadmakers are nodding as they read this. Vous comprenez bien ce sentiment)!

And that next level is The Mama--aka pre-ferment, bread starter, sourdough starter...and maybe even pouliche, biga or levain (tsk tsk, I should know these meanings by now, but all my recent research is literally kneading my brain at the moment--or maybe low blood sugar is the culprit in which case a hunk of bread helps).

Back to the emotions--the thrill and excitement of a newbie boulangère (I should tell you at this point that each day I send Jean-Marc off to work at his wine shop/épicerie with a portion of just-baked bread wrapped in recycled paper)...but back to the thrill of homemade bread: what could be better than using biological or wild yeast instead of storebought--and always having it on hand? .....Or, in one's sleeping bag? This brings us to a little history.....

Immigrants, pioneers, and cowboys once slept with this sour-smelling lump of dough, that's just how precious it is (and would be out there beneath the stars, with nothing but la chaleur humaine to spark your next loaf into being). Live yeast is just that, something that must be kept vivant in order to use it in one's next loaf or pan de campo....once made by cowboys, using a skillet back then.

This is how I found myself dining with my own little 2-day old lump of levain. I wasn't certain the room temperature was hospitable enough for this experiment to work, and so the thought, Why not carry it like an unborn baby? Tucking the little glass jar into my housecoat, my (hopefully) growing bump and I shared 20 warm minutes. After lunch, I set it back on the counter (re it most people name theirs, I might call mine Ananas.... for that is the ingredient--pineapple juice--I used to jumpstart the process...the weird science of turning 3 tablespoons of flour and 2 of liquid into a bread starter that could feasibly live forever! (a San Francisco bakery claims its bread starter is 150 years old. It could outlive mankind...at which point it would die, for bread starter and man need each other to survive).

After carefully mixing Ananas, feeding her daily (a requirement as those growing yeast are famished)--all the while glued to YouTube videos on bread starter--I stumbled onto another breadmaking term, pâte fermentée, which seemed like the same idea as bread starter only much easier (you simply reserve a portion of the bread dough, or pâton, and use or in the next batch!

After this whirlwind week of trying to understand levain, I'm just now warming to the concept of pâte fermentée (pictured below-on top of Ananas....and something the historical Poilane bakery in Paris uses, taking a portion of dough from the previous loaf): this particular dough (added to bread dough) is used to give the bread a rustic flavor. 

Voilà, maintenant vous savez tout! That's what's cooking over here in my neck of the woods. And should you walk by our "cabin", you'd pick up a lovely yeasty scent--and quite a sight: a newbie bread baker puttering around her garden, wearing a bump beneath her housecoat. Just like my ancestors, those cowboys, I'm keeping this precious bundle alive.

     *    *    * 

Pain fermentee pouliche levain
The bottom jar is my three-day old starter, "Ananas", and on top, a visibly fermenting piece of dough--or pâton--from yesterday's bread making session (see top photo with Jean-Marc, for the final result). Don't miss the easy 4-ingredient bread recipe here

Bread Baking Kit Gift Set | Banneton Bread Proofing Basket | 2 Baguette Baking Pan | Bread Lame | 100% Flax Linen Couche Made in France | Dough Scraper | Dough Cutter

Le PARFAIT canning jars - A variety of sizes, for a variety of uses

le levain aka levain-mère, levain-chef = bread starter
le pain = bread
la miche = round loaf (in slang: buns, cheeks, one's derrière)
Vous comprenez bien ce sentiment =
you understand this feeling
la boulangère, le boulanger = baker
la chaleur humaine = human warmth
vivant = living
pan de campo = camp bread
le pâton = piece of dough
la pâte fermentée = fermented dough
Voilà, maintenant vous savez tout! = there, now you know everything

Homemade bread eggs peppercorns

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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une épluchure, les déchets, la poubelle: words in today's caper...involving compost

Purple basil coquelicots

Here is where a themed photo usually appears, above the word of the day. But you don't want to look at potato peelings do you? Enjoy, instead, a picture of our garden from springtime 2018. Strangely, all the red coquelicots, or poppies, did not return in 2019....

Today's Word: épluchure

    Une épluchure, c'est un morceau de peau d’un légume ou d’un fruit
    A peeling is a bit of skin from a vegetable or fruit
Exercises in French Phonics - A little gem of a book for French pronunciation. Order here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When we moved to La Ciotat two years ago, one of our first tasks was to find a place to recycle all of our kitchen scraps, or déchets de cuisine. But in the years since we began composting, rarely have we actually gotten to use the finished product! I can't remember collecting more than a few buckets, or seaux, of the "black gold" in all the time I have painstakingly set aside rotten tomatoes, épluchures, apple cores, coffee grounds, tea bags, even my husband's underpants and socks! De plus, I regularly go through the kitchen poubelle, plucking out orange peels and banana skins that sometimes end up there.

Beyond our kitchen door, steps lead out to a side yard, and there, beneath the kitchen window, against the house, is where we set up our bac à compost : an unsightly plastic cube (and free gift from the town hall). Only, after one full year of collecting scraps daily, with the aim of making mulch, I noticed the pile was not growing. In fact it seemed to be at a standstill.

I thought about a comment one of our harvesters made, years ago: "Never place your compost pile beside un arbre....or the tree will eat your compost!" That sounded like something right out of a sci-fi book!

Come to think of it....when we first moved to this bungalow, I could see right through the sparse hedge outside my kitchen window, right through to my neighbor's bedroom window, just meters away. These days, while sipping my coffee at the kitchen sink, I notice the house has disappeared behind that hedge, which has filled in and then some.

Did that hedge eat my compost? It was time to get to the bottom of things--the bottom of the compost pile--to find out what was happening! I asked Jean-Marc to help transfer the compost over to the potager, where sunflowers grew last summer.
Sunflowers and smokey golden retriever

The two of us began shoveling rotten grapes, potatoes, and other as-yet-decomposed food onto a tarp that we placed beside the composteur.

When we dug deep enough to see soil, or hummus, that is when I saw the network of roots! Like a fine web crawling through the soil, the tiny roots made it difficult to break up the mass. By the time we reached the bottom, with the help of a hoe, we saw the giant tube-like roots. They reminded me of a hose siphoning all of the goodness out of MY compost pile.

Later, still livid, I told the whole story to Mom. "Can you believe it. That hedge ate MY compost! It snuck its hose-like roots up into the bin from below and sucked it dry! Worse, all that black gold might have gone to that tree in the middle of the hedge-- the one the rats use to climb on top of our roof! Imagine, all that effort gone into feeding a useless tree!

Mom, amused by my compost caper, stopped laughing in time to correct me. "There is no such thing as a worthless tree."

Well, I can't argue with Mom! Meantime, and from here on out, I'm feeding my kitchen scraps directly to my vegetable garden -- nevermind how odd my husband's underwear looks scattered beside the sunflowers!

I leave you with a wonderful book I bought years ago and gave away to a friend. I need to get another copy. It is called Lasagna Gardening, and it is all about placing your épluchures directly in the garden. Try it! This book makes an excellent gift for a gardener, too

Lasagna gardening

déchets de cuisine = kitchen scraps
le seau = bucket
une épluchure = fruit or vegetable peeling
de plus = what's more
la poubelle = garbage
bac à compost = compost bin
un arbre = tree

Mirabel plum tree
Picture of a Mirabel prune tree growing near our compost. Perhaps it benefitted from the compost pile, too? I hope!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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A Milestone & letting go: lâcher prise

Writing desk. Flowers from Mom.
Writing desk. The orchids were a gift from Mom (pictured below).

Exercises in French Phonics - A little gem of a book for French pronunciation. Order here. 


Before this month comes to a close, help me celebrate un jalon. In October of 2002, I posted this journal's first mot du jour. It was a meaningful term at that: bosser

Looking back over 17 years of blogging from France, I should have a lot to talk to you about today. Instead, I'm sitting here staring at a blank page. And each time I try to begin a sentence, my Mom's whistling dispels the thought. (Jules is one floor below, outside on her patio, feeding the tourterelles.)

Rather than struggle, I'm going to relax and listen to the birds. I'm going to celebrate this milestone in the best way I know how, by letting go. (That is French for lâcher prise.) I will "see you" next week with many more French words and photos: my own way of whistling an ongoing tune about this French life.



coucou = hi there, yoo-hoo
un jalon
= a milestone
mot du jour = word of the day
bosser = to work
la tourterelle = turtledove
lâcher prise = to let go
le sifflement = whistling
amicalement = yours, sincerely, best wishes

Gift Idea: Scratch off World Map poster - I bought two for my family members who love to travel. I know they will enjoy scratching off all the places they've visited--and dreaming of future destinations. Order here.

My Mom  Jules
Jules, the whistler. Mom's melodious sifflement is a reminder to "lâcher prise." When I look at this picture, I see myself in 20 years--still blogging and sharing these French words, still listening to my Mom whistle from her studio. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
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♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

Le Frelon: hornets drove away our bees; Jean-Marc made honey

Sunflower bee provence
Yesterday, harvesting our first honey from La Ciotat, I saw a swarm of hornets in one of our abandoned hives. (Listen to Jean-Marc read in French, below.)

Today's Word: le frelon

    : hornet, Vespa

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc's sentence:
Hier, en récoltant notre premier miel de La Ciotat, j'ai vu un essaim de frelons dans une de nos  ruches abandonnée.

Gift Idea: Scratch off World Map poster - a great gift for your favorite adventurer to plan a trip on the world map wall poster then record their journey. Order here.

Exercises in French Phonics - A little gem of a book for French pronunciation. Order here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This morning I noticed giant wasps flying head-on into the bay window in our living room. Ce sont des kamikazes! I said to Jean-Marc, who was busy warming honeycombs on the stovetop, helping the miel to drip into the pan below. My husband had salvaged the honey from his abandoned ruches in our backyard.

Les frelons asiatique--invading killer hornets (they eat honey bees!) must've smelled something cooking and were desperately trying to reach the honey. We had shut the sliding glass doors moments before, after two hornets dashed inside. Our son Max, who was getting ready for work, grabbed a pair of chaussures began to shoo the wasps away, before swatting them dead. 

Whether shoes or spatulas (Mom's preferred method, she regularly kills the giant frelons who live outside her studio, at the side of our house. Jules has watched the hornets gradually kill the bees who live here), it is important to eradicate the bee predators, who made it into the country accidentally (hidden in Chinese pottery destined for the Lot, in southwest France).

Jean-Marc was in for a surprise when he finally opened up one of his hives and found un essaim, or hornet's nest inside! It was time to dismantle the little bee houses, once and for all. As unfortunate as this was, the bees left behind a farewell present: about one liter of golden miel!

Jean-Marc gathered the honeycombs and brought them into the house. Using all our pans he began extracting the honey, using a system he came up with back when he began beekeeping back in 2012. Oh, no! I thought, This is going to be messy! I leave you with a colorful story from when we lived on the vineyard in Saint Cécile-les-Vignes. Enjoy and thank you for reading!

The Control Freak & The Honey Harvest

This is not how I imagined it to be, waking up on what might have been a relaxing samedi. My plan was to stroll into the newly clean and orderly kitchen, make a cup of coffee in the calcaire-free coffee maker, and enjoy the morning ritual from this side of smudge-free windows. The coffee... the view... what more could a reformed slacker wish or do?

So much for four weeks of spring cleaning! And the house had been coming together so nicely... My eyes locked onto the offender, my stubble-faced soul mate. There he stood at the kitchen table, surrounded by every pot and pan in our nicked and handles-bent collection. Even the oven's roasting pan had been brought out... 

All in the name of honey!

ruche honeycomb beekeeping
                          One of those sticky frames pulled from the ruche.

It appeared to be bottling time. After three years of misses, Jean-Marc now had a hit! The amateur beekeeper had finally struck liquid gold!


"Oui!" he answered, oblivious to the mess. Jean-Marc continued to hum along to a favorite song. As he hummed he scraped the sides of the sticky wooden cadres. For this, he used our biggest kitchen knife which was now encrusted with beeswax!

Le gâteau de miel! There seemed to be more of it than the honey... and whether more or less both conspired to make one great sticky mess! The shambles continued all the way over to the kitchen sink, where a host of jam, pickle, and tomato jars were draining. But were they sterile enough to hold honey? My eyes returned to the suspicious surfaces and to the floor... where golden droplets glistened in the morning sun. 

I wasn't the only one staring goggle-eyed at the sticky drops of honey across the kitchen floor: Smokey and Braise, who stood outside, noses-flattened against the kitchen window, were already drawing up a Whose-is-Whose proprietorial map. I could almost hear Braise:

"Son, I'll take the sticky sector beneath the table. You get to lick up the floor by the sink."

"Oh no you don't!" This plan, real or imagined, would not see the light of day... not if I had it my way! I felt the remnants of a stubborn will... as it welled up from within me.... 

I looked over at the honey maker. Presently he was licking his fingers

"But you can't do this that way!" I cried. There had to be a more orderly and sterile system for bottling honey! 

"Laisse-moi faire!" Jean-Marc was calm, but firm in his suggestion. 

"But I..."

"Let me handle this!" he repeated.

I looked over at Braise and Smokey, who by now were drooling beneath their window-smashed noses. 

"Laisse-le faire! Laisse-le faire!" The dogs seemed to urge, all the while their eyes shined... as brightly as those glistening honey-drops which fell glop-glop-glop spot after spot.

The next morning I dragged my feet into the kitchen. On the stove were two great casseroles. I lifted the lids... 

Just as Jean-Marc had promised, the sticky process had worked itself out, thanks to a little heat! There, in the pan, was a perfect waxen disk. Below it, pure honey!

As I stared at the miracle of miel—and the perfect order that had arisen from chaos—the words from the song that Jean-Marc had hummed the day before came to mind. As I hummed, I thought about the control freak inside of me and how, in order to break free, one might chance to be wild—wild as honey....

You can go there if you please
Wild honey
And if you go there, go with me
Wild honey

You can do just what you please
Wild honey
Yeah, just blowing in the breeze
Wild honey
Wild, wild, wild...


                   "Mon Coeur"/"My Love" Do you see the big heart in the center?.... 

Here is that honeycomb-turned-"lid" that I found in the pan, on top of the pure honey. 


le samedi = Saturday
calcaire = chalky, hard water deposit
la ruche = bee hive
oui = yes
le cadre = frame
la cire = wax
le gâteau de miel = honeycomb
laisse-moi faire = let me handle this
laisse-le faire = let him handle this
le miel = honey

Try Mastering French Vocabulary with Audio MP3

Jean-marc honey from garden in la ciotat
Photo of Jean-Marc holding his first pot of 2019 honey was taken this morning, here in our garden in La Ciotat. The honey is delicious and the picture of our last sunflower of the season, is a good souvenir.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

Orageux: Stormy Night and visit chez le podologue

Chair in field
Chapter 9 of our vineyard memoir is online now. Mike, reading along from South Africa, writes: "For me, quite the most enjoyable chapter so far, because it gives insight into your personal migration over the years."

Merci, Mike! For all of us, the pursuit of a dream, whether life in France or a satisfying relationship, involves an emotional migration of the ego and soul. This message is at the heart of our book, available here.


    : stormy, tempestuous

AUDIO: Listen to Jean-Marc read his sentence in French

L'épisode Méditerranéen en cours dans le sud de la France a provoqué un temps orageux hier soir sur La Ciotat.The Mediterranean episode underway in the south of France caused stormy weather last night on La Ciotat.

Mediterranean episode = a particular meteorological phenomenon around the Mediterranean (Wikipedia)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When we heard the storms were coming Mom suggested we cancel her appointment chez le podologue. But because her big toe--her gros orteil--was in pain again (that ingrown toenail!) I didn't want to put off the rendez-vous. It'll be okay, I assured Mom. We don't have too far to drive....

We left our one umbrella behind, in favor of wide-brimmed hats, and we borrowed Max's bagnole, which works pretty well despite le frein à main, which is broken...

Driving along the front de mer, the sky ahead of us darkened. "Oh, Kristi, this is exciting!" Mom said. "We should get out more often!"

Exciting? No, this was nerve-racking! My hands gripped the steering wheel as I navigated the wet roads. "Look at all the people that are out walking along the beachfront," I said to my copilot. Interesting how some people hurried inside before a storm... while others ventured out to watch it. That was the difference between Mom and me! 

A thin white line pierced the horizon and a moment later, a crackle and BOOM! Lightning and thunder. The car windows began to fog over so I turned on my A/C full blast, hoping the cold air would clear the glass. As Mom and I wiped the windows with our hands, the bumper-to-bumper line up came into view with its tunnel of red brake lights. The police were redirecting traffic away from the seafront as giant waves sent sand flying from the beach onto the boardwalk, inches away from the vehicles!

I ditched the plan to leave Mom at the corner closest to the foot doctor's. Deep puddles had formed everywhere and I didn't trust the other drivers, what with the reduced visibility. "Let's stick together!" I said. "We'll park and walk the 3 blocks."

Finally, we descended into the underground parking lot, where Mom got out of the car to help guide me into a narrow parking slot. Next, we headed up the ramp, single file, and right out into the storm.

WHOAH! The rain was pouring down. It felt like buckets of it were hitting us and, within thirty seconds, I was entirely soaked through! My floppy sunhat, I learned, was not waterproof, and my hair (just washed and blown dry back at home) was sticking to my head as a river ran down my back.

Mom's hat was waterproof, and her cool new coat, silver like her gorgeous hair--a 7-dollar brocante find (the coat, not Mom's hair) kept her dry. It was her slippery chaussures that were failing her. Flip flops--the only shoes she could wear with that painful ongle incarné

"Maybe I should take off my shoes?"

And go barefoot in this déluge? No way. I laced my arm through Mom's and pulled her close as we walked on, leaning in to the buildings as the cars whipped by on our other side. Rivulets of rain water took up half of the narrow trottoir.  Every so often, in addition to the torrent of rain hitting us, we had to walk beneath a fountain of water flooding off the rooftops. There was no way around the additional downpour, given the cars were inches away.

What a relief to finally turn off that busy road!  Another block and we hurried into the podiatrist's office, where we peeled off our wet coats and hats. The young foot doctor, Mélinée, was Armenian, and as she cared for Mom's feet, she shared about the cuisine of her ancestors. She asked, Had we ever tried dolmas (rice, pine nuts, and herbs wrapped in grape leaves)? As we chatted, Mom began to relax, and we both were warmed at last, as though seated beside the communal oven. 

I leave you with a picture of my mom, Jules. The snapshot was taken at our former vineyard near Bandol.

le/la podologue = podiatrist, foot doctor
le gros orteil = big toe
la bagnole = slang for "car"
le frein à main = parking brake
la chaussure = shoe
l'ongle incarné = ingrown toenail
la brocante = second-hand shop
le trottoir = sidewalk

le déluge = flood, downpour

Mom as mas des brun

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

Art and Contretemps, and a walk with writer Catherine Berry


My dear friend Tessa is organizing more art escapades in France, check them out here. Her colorful flyer, above, sets the tone for today's topic: art.

CONTRETEMPS (con-truh-tahn) noun, masculine
    : mishap, mischance
    : hitch; delay, inconvenience
    : syncopation (music)

  arriver à contretemps = to arrive at the wrong moment
  jouer à contretemps = to play out of time

Click here, listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence

Nos destinées et nos volontés jouent presque toujours à contretemps. Our destinies and our wishes are almost always out of step. --André Maurois

Thank you to Joan Link for her help in translating today's quote.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The French word "contretemps" means, among other things, "a note played against the beat". I wonder whether that is why art means more and more to us lately, enough to dare us to put meaningless obligations aside in order to pursue creative activity, and so make a swift turn, marching to another drum beat: our own.

Break apart the word "contretemps" and you get "against time" which explains why artists find it difficult to practice their art. Who's got "temps" to sit quietly, waiting for the muse? And so we must make it (time and art): we shove a few things aside, allow the dust to build up, let the cat eat dog food, don't care about our hair... wear holes in our socks and dive into design when and where we can. If the muse is present, great!, if not, then ainsi soit-il! Nothing's stopping us now.

Contretemps: Part Deux...
As commitments creep in, and you feel like your plate is too full, duty dripping over at the sides, you might be tempted to invent a contretemps in order to excuse yourself from the whirlwind. Who wants to be in a crowded, cacophonic room, when one's own soul-centering sofa beckons? A reading lamp with a warm golden hue dancing beneath the dusty lampshade, a pile of favorite books, a jam jar full of colorful felt markers and a sketchbook by one's side... music musing in the background. When's the last time you were there, in that cozy chair?

Contretemps: Intermezzo
(We'll now take a break in the midst of this dilemma, its theme having to do, we think, with "art 'against time' or 'time against art'"--whether that be the art of writing, of painting, of singing... or simply the art of living...)

Contretemps: Conclusion
My Mom sent me an inspiring arty video the other day. "For Jackie and Max," her note said. I clicked open the link and found myself carried away by a quirky Canadian creator: a filmmaker, in all due respect. And I *do* respect the dues and bad days that an artist pays to get to such freedom. For isn't that the end result
of art
: when the viewer (reader, or listener) is liberated, from time and space? Off we fly, if not contre le vent, then, somehow, "contre temps" and time's constraints.

Contretemps: to play out of time
This post was written in 2008. I'd like to add a section on art and conversation. This past summer I had the pleasure of spending a few creative hours with the writer Catherine Berry. During a stroll along the promenade here in La Ciotat, we talked about writing, sharing the ups, downs, misunderstandings, risks, fears, joys, freedoms and priviledge of expression. 

Many thanks to Catherine for her story about her visit, and for the photo, below. Read the story at Catherine's blog, But You Are in France, Madame.

And please check out her wonderful and relateable memoir, available in paperback (click here) or ebook.

But you are in France

Kristi espinasse and catherine berry la ciotat
Me and Catherine Berry. 

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Fournisseur: Photos from the Grand Opening of Jean-Marc's wineshop!

Inauguration window shop hours le vin sobre jean-marc espinasse la ciotat

On Thursday, October 10, my friends, suppliers and other guests came to the official opening of Le Vin Sobre La Ciotat. (See the French translation and listen to Jean-Marc read his words, below)


Today's Word: le fournisseur

    : supplier, provider

Click here to listen to the example sentence in French:

Le Jeudi 10 Octobre, mes amis, les fournisseurs et d'autres invités sont venus à l'inauguration officielle du Vin Sobre La Ciotat.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This story is dedicated to our longtime friend Pascale Gauthier-Keogh, who could not be at the grand opening, but who helped enormously in getting the word out about our new wine shop. Merci, Pascale!

Here in La Ciotat there was quite a turnout for the inauguration of Jean-Marc's new wine shop, Le Vin Sobre. I drove to our cave à vin with friends Julie and Dan, visiting from Nice, and we arrived early enough to see the fournisseurs setting up. Our friend Lionel Alphand of Brasserie Alphand was already serving his beer-on-tap in front of the shop, and inside we met Stéphane from Maison Matthieu, busy preparing cured bonite (a kind of tuna) and said bonjour to Olivier from La Cave à jambon.

Olivier la cave a jambon la ciotat le vin sobre jean-marc espinasse
Olivier from La cave a Jambon
Lionel brasserie alphand le vin sobre la ciotat jean-marc espinasse
The wonderful Lionel Alphand, center, and our friends outside the wine shop

Another guest arrived and quietly introduced himself. Anthony Stagliano, from the service de la communication de la Ville de Ciotat, took photos and video clips throughout the event and made the extraordinary (and extraordinarily helpful!) video of the night's celebration, and we are so grateful! Merci à Anthony ainsi que La Ville de La Ciotat!

Friends began arriving, as well as vignerons and those representing our favorite wineries. Fanny was here from La Mascaronne! And there was Eric from Château de Pibarnon and also Jean-Christophe from Domaine du Paternel as well as Harry from Domaine de La Mongestine, where our son Max is currently completing his work-study.

inauguration vin sobre la ciotat max espinasse
our son Max and friends Marianne and Michel, and Nicolas

Christophe, Jean-Marc's shop assistant, who worked day and night to get thousands of bottles and stock into place, and most of the associates were present at this grand opening, including fondateur Fabrice Dammann who began the Vin Sobre Wine shops (there are now four, including ours) almost 20 years ago.

Jean-Marc called me over to meet the mayor of La Ciotat, Patrick Boré, who had arrived with several people from the mairie. Next, Jean Marc gave a touching speech before opening a giant 3-liter bottle of Billecart Salmon champagne for everyone.
As guests sipped bubbly, including me (sparking water) a reporter from La Provence who was taking notes turned to me ...
and posed a question that everybody's been asking...

D'ou viens le nom Le Vin Sobre? Just where did the shop name come from?

I thought about just how many times a day we get asked this question and it is time to set the record straight, or
mettre les choses au clair...

No, it has nothing to do with one of us being abstinent (as those of you reading our memoir-in-progress have guessed), it is, according to Le Vin Sobre founder, Fabrice, simply an amusing play on the words vin et sobre, wine and sober. 

I find it endlessly amusing, too!  This humorous and ironic twist--this vin, this sobre, could be the story of our lives.


l'inauguration = grand opening, unveiling
le vin sobre = (literally) the sober wine
le cave à vin =wine cellar (also used for wine shop)
ainsi que = as well as
la mairie = town hall, city hall
abstinent = teetotaler, non-drinker
d'ou viens = where does it come from?
mettre les choses au clair = to set the record straight


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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S'emballer: Jean-Marc's heart after the 2019 Ironman Barcelona

2019 Ironman Barcelona Jean-Marc Espinasse
In between these letters, you can follow colorful updates on my Instagram @kristinespinasse

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Today's Word: s'emballer

    : to race, to bolt, to soar, to rocket

=> s'emballer also means to get carried away, to lose control of yourself

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following update, click here
À 28 kilomètres de la ligne d'arrivée de l'Ironman Barcelona, mon cœur a commencé à s'emballer et j'ai senti dès fourmillements dans les pieds, les mains et le cou. J'ai alterné marche et course ensuite et lorsque j'ai ressenti une pointe au mollet à 14 kms de la  "finish line" j'ai décidé d'abandonner.

At 28 kilometers from the finish line of the Ironman Barcelona, ​​my heart began to race and I felt tingling in the feet, hands and neck. I alternated walking and running next, and when I felt a stab to the calf 14 kms from the "finish line" I decided to give up.

  By Kristi Espinasse

My Ironman is sleeping after a challenging 24-hour day, Sunday, in which he pushed his 52-year-old body to its limit. Twenty-eight kilometers shy of the Ironman Barcelona finish line, after swimming, biking and now running... Jean-Marc's heart began protesting. Next, he had les fourmillements--"crawling ant" sensation in his feet, hands, and le cou. At that point, he began walking to the finish line...when his mollet began to shoot with pain.

His first words when he called me were, "Je vais bien. Ne t'inquiète pas..."

I wasn't the only one concerned! My Dad, over in Idaho, was also tracking Jean-Marc--via the Ironman app. When Dad's watch dinged, shortly after he'd gone to sleep, he realized the race had begun. Jean-Marc had dived into the Mediterranean Sea in Calella, Spain, and this immense physical épreuve--among men half his age..and a few older--was on.


Dad's watch continued to ding throughout the night, alerting him (and my belle-mère?) to Jean-Marc's progress. By the next morning when the sun rose in Idaho, Jean-Marc had finished the biking and was now running. But my Dad became concerned when Jean-Marc fell off the radar and could no longer be tracked...had Jean-Marc had an accident?


Meantime here in La Ciotat, my phone was dinging as well. It dinged when I went out to feed the chickens their breakfast, dinged after I made our daily bread, and dinged on my way to church...and dinged when I returned home and when I took my nap. I was amazed to check my husband's progress thanks to each alert. It was incredible to think that while the rest of us were going about our day, waking, eating, gardening, sleeping, Jean-Marc was carefully meting out his energy reserves on what would be for him a 12-hour course.

I was thankful our son Max had driven across the border with his Dad to help out with the equipment and cheer him on in person. Speaking of Max, this is the reason Jean-Marc had called so late at night....

"Everything thing is ok," my husband assured me. 

My sleepy brain tried to process Jean-Marc's words. Why was he calling? What had happened? Last I checked he was 2 hours from the finish line. Where was Max? 

Max was fine (indeed he'd had a thrilling day following his dad, cheering him on, photographing him, and enjoying the Spanish seaside town. He too was receiving those dings, or notifications... while he ate ribs, spoke in Spanish to the locals, and even managed a little spa time during the 12 hours that his father advanced toward the finish line....

But he was currently unaware of his father's injury. "Call Max and tell him I will meet him back at the hotel."
Jean-Marc's voice was level and I knew not to ask too many questions, but to get the message to Max asap. 
When next I heard back from the two, they were already on the road, for the 4.5-hour drive home (with Max at the wheel).

It wasn't the first time I thought: This is crazy. He is overdoing it--once again squeezing a mountain of activity into the space of a day! Driving almost 5 hours home after midnight and after an all-day triathlon! He has not slept in 24 hours. Why don't they just stay one more night and get some sleep?

Because that's Jean-Marc, and I am learning to let him be, all the while keeping a watchful eye on this Ironman.

"But I am not an Ironman," I did not finish the triathlon, Jean-Marc replied, as he cracked open our bedroom door at 3:03 am, having arrived safely home.

"Yes, you are! As far as we (your family) are concerned, you are a Finisher. And we are so proud of you! Tellement fier de toi!"

*    *    *

I am still editing this post, but will pause now to make lunch for our Ironman, who is up and walking around now. If you see any coquilles, or typos--or simply want to congratulate Jean-Marc--thank you for using the comments box below.

For those reading our memoir, you will be familiar by now by Jean-Marc's drive. Indeed it's driven us from town to town, project to project, where he's raced after his dreams 24/7. It caused a fair amount of tension in our relationship, something I am writing about (8 chapters have now been posted). Let's give Jean-Marc the rest of this week to finish his latest chapter. He needs a little rest for now. Click here to read about our memoir-in-progress.

les fourmillements = tingling
le cou = neck
le mollet = calf
je vais bien = I'm okay
ne t'inquiète pas = do not worry
une épreuve = test
la belle-mère = stepmother
tellement = so very
fier de toi = proud of you




Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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A lost phone and a found skill: Max's foray into juggling

Max juggling tassels
Learn and listen to this sentence in French, below: Juggling is an exercise of skill that consists in its strictest sense of throwing, catching and relaunching objects in the air. It can be a game, a sport, an art or a religious rite.

Today's Word: lancer

    : to throw, toss, launch 

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French

La jonglerie est un exercice d'adresse qui consiste dans son sens le plus strict à lancer, rattraper et relancer de manière continue des objets en l’air. Elle peut être un jeu, un sport, un art ou encore un rite religieux. --Wikipedia.fr
by Kristi Espinasse

The other night I was treated to an impromptu juggling performance, after our son returned from Montpellier. Max is home for 3 weeks for his internship at Domaine de la Mongestine, and will return to the university every month to complete his final year of business school. Having found a short-term rental to share with his pals, Cameron and Souhail (also completing une année en alternance) the classmates are getting used to homework again after a year away from classes. And in their downtime, they have found a few ways to décompresser, or chill out (besides les boîtes de nuits!)...
Watching Max jongler was impressive. "Bravo! When did you learn to do that?"
"After mon portable went missing. Ten days without a phone...on s'ennuie!  Voilà -- I learned something new!"

Nodding my head in appreciation, I studied the juggler's equipment: All you needed were three small balls and you were in business! You could carry them in your backpack, and always have a form of entertainment handy--or a way to earn some cash for a starving student!


"Hey, by the way, where did you get those pompoms?" 
"They fell off the Souhail's pillow..." (aha! I guess Souhail ended up on the couch). "...so Cameron collected the pompons and began juggling. That's how I learned...by watching Cameron's technique!" 
"That is so cool, Max! But are you sure you all didn't help that pillow to lose a few more tassels?"
"Haha. We came up with a second use, too... Each night after dinner, we each tossed a pompon. Whoever made a basket did not have to do dishes!"

Gosh, now I really wanted my own set of these ever-amusing and useful pompons. I don't think any of our pillows have tassels on them, so the first trick will be to look at all the objects in our house... with fresh eyes!  Maybe some wine corks would work? We've got plenty of those!

     *    *    * 
I'll take this opportunity to remind you that Jean-Marc has opened his wine shop here in La Ciotat. It is so easy to access. Simply exit the freeway in La Ciotat, take the first right and you're there--at Le Vin Sobre wineshop If Max is in, he'll share his pompons with you. There is also a puzzle you can help finish and next time I stop in I am dropping off a guitar. And there are books! This should make the shop even cozier, so stop in and enjoy a glass of wine.

Jean-marc reading words in a french life
Jean-Marc, pretending to read Words in a French Life , in stock now! :-)

Jackie Jean Marc Max Kristi at Vin Sobre Wine shop La Ciotat
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une boîte de nuit = nightclub
en alternance = work/study training program  
décompresser = relax, chill out
une boîte de nuit = nightclub, club
on s'ennuie = one gets bored
jongler = to juggle
un portable = cell phone, mobile phone
un pompon = pompom, tassel
In this contemporary version from Paulist Productions, Barnaby ekes out a bare existence juggling in the street for coins. He is broken-hearted over the death of his wife and best friend. Barnaby drifts aimlessly until he stays in a small community where he is treated kindly. As Christmas approaches, all are making special gifts for the Lord. Click here to view The Juggler of Notre Dame

Another ball game Max (second on left) loves: pétanque. Photo taken at our former vineyard, Mas des Brun. That's Jackie on the right. Wish her luck, she passes her bartending exam in Miami next week!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice