Celebrating today! + French for gentle, pleasant, sweet & Reader tips for a good relationship

French American marriage eglise church Marseilles wedding noces
Flying rice at our noces de mariage

Today, Jean-Marc and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. Help us mark the occasion by sharing your best tip for relationships in the comments below.

DOUX
(doo)
soft, sweet, gentle, pleasant, mellow

Practice your French Listening Skills. Click to hear Jean-Marc read in French and English:

Le mariage est comme le vin : doux, amer, intense, moelleux, acide ou plat. Mais un couple comme le nôtre sait apprécier toutes ces saveurs. Bon anniversaire de mariage, Chéri!
Marriage is like wine: sweet, bitter, intense, mellow, sour or flat. But a couple like ours knows how to appreciate all these flavors. Happy wedding anniversary, Honey!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

What makes you happy? I think it is a good and healthy habitude to ask the question. One thing that makes me heureuse is when a relationship is going well--especially after a conflict. Never do we feel more grateful than when we are back on track with someone we love. We know we must never prendre pour acquis, never take for granted those we share life with, but life itself can trip us up!  This reminds me of the verb trébucher - to cause to stumble.... 

There are snags in every day. Did you wake to a broken coffee machine, une panne? Or, having made it all the way to the post office (early, to avoid la foule) you realize you left your mask at home...Pulling your shirt up over your face won't cut it--il faut faire un demi-tour... Big or small it's sometimes these dérangements that leave us deranged! If we're not careful l'énervement can carry over onto our entourage.

Having weathered moods, BROODS, and 'tudes, I'd say it is by the grace of God we've made it this far.  (Jean-Marc might give credit to another entity!) And 27 years later, nous y voilà here we are. Hallelujah! (My husband might say Allez L'OM! Go team!)

I am tempted to rewrite these last paragraphs which sort of veered off track from the original plan. Or maybe it's time to trust that "this is all leading somewhere!" Oui! Whether in an essay or in a marriage, have faith your efforts are leading somewhere... Just keep on trucking, and believe in a good future! 

*    *    *
Jackie Jean-Marc Max Kristi June 2021
This summer with our daughter, Jackie (24) and our son, Max (26)

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Listen to Jean-Marc prounce these words, then check your comprehension via the list below

Click here for the audio clip

les noces = wedding, nuptials
une habitude
= custom, habit, practice
heureuse/heureux = happy
prendre pour acquis = to take for granted
trébucher = to stumble, trip
la foule = crowd, mob; multitude
faire un demi-tour = turn back, make a U-turn
la panne
= failure, breakdown, out-of-order
le dérangement = inconvenience, trouble, bother
l'énervement = irritation, annoyance, frayed nerves
l'entourage = family, relatives, relations
nous y voilà = here we are
Allez L'OM = go team (go Olympique de Marseille!)

Jean-Marc Kristi Jens Gary Lou at Le Vin Sobre cave wine shop La Ciotat France
Jean-Marc, Kristi, Jens, Gary and Lou at Le Vin Sobre Wine shop in La Ciotat. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for creating the sound files for this journal, and for organizing wine tastings, which began in 2007--these have led to a lot of friendships...which reminds me, please remember to submit your relationship tips in the comments, below. 
Mediterranean sea and Port of St Tropez France
End photo from St. Tropez, known for its popular fall braderie.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


A Beautiful Escape via the French word échapper belle

Mediterranean pebble Beach at Plage Mugel La Ciotat France
Today's story takes place in La Ciotat, not far from the beach. 

ECHAPPER BELLE

(ay-shap-ay bel)

    : to have a close call, a lucky escape; to let off the hook

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to the vocabulary list, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Is there a word in French or English for when you are avoiding your To-Do list... by shopping instead? And does going grocery shopping count? En milieu de semaine, there were a lot of things I could be doing instead of hanging out at the supermarket, such as:

  • applying for French citizenship (but it's so much easier to renew my titre de séjour every ten years!)
  • completing the colorectal kit offered by the French government when you turn 50 (as I did 3 winters ago...)
  • working on Mom's bureaucratic papers before she is deported!

Ah well, as Scarlett O'hara famously said, Après tout, demain est un autre jour! Today, there's Monoprix--France's grocery/clothing/home store all wrapped up into one! But before rushing over to les allées de tentation, better exercise un tantinet of delayed gratification and shop for food first.

Touch screen and french produce scale for weighing fruits  vegetables

In this supermarché you weigh the fruits and vegetables yourself, using une balance and its accompanying touch screen (with photos of all the produce). Searching the screen, I could not find the picture of the onions. But it was there a minute ago! It even reminded me I needed onions. So where was the picture now that I was back with my sack full of oignons? The universe was playing tricks again. I looked around hoping for a Good Samaritan. Finally, I marched over to the only other scale.

An elderly man with a hunched back stood weighing a small bag of abricots. Glancing into his chariot, I saw a dozen more bags of unweighed produce and a battered cane he had tossed inside. The Man Sans Canne looked so calm and peaceful as he took his time at the self-serve station. A flash of admiration erased any memory of The Onion Dilemma, and I quietly returned to the other scale (where, incredibly, the onion was back on the screen!). Leaving the produce department, I kicked myself for not having the courage to say something to the man, to this last bastion of le bon sens. Here was more than a man--here was an inspiration. I hope to be eating like him and solo shopping like him (my own cane tossed into my chariot) well into le trosième âge!

Studying my family's grocery list I saw "ice cream, raspberry jam, and another quatre-quart (kids love this rich, buttery poundcake for the 4 o'clock goûter. No more kids in the house, but Grandma loves this treat!). Having gotten some eggs I rounded the bend and.... Chariots of Fire! There he was in the dairy aisle! Alas, I missed a second chance to say something, anything, to The Man Sans Canne. Instead, I hurried off and, rounding the corner, the handle of my own chariot (a smaller, two-wheeled poussette de marché) slipped and the cart fell, its contents tumbling out.

(Ouf, the carton of 12 eggs was intact!)

"Vous avez échappé belle!" another shopper exclaimed. 

"Oh, oui!" I smiled, quickly making a mental note to share with you, dear reader, the wonderful French phrase which literally means "a beautiful escape". Echapper belle also means to be let off the hook, which reminds me of hooky.... We'll end with that: the reminder to play hooky de temps en temps. Why not play at the grocery store? It might lead to a beautiful escape and some meaningful encounters, too.  

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en milieu de semaine = midweek
un titre de séjour = residence permit (see la carte de séjour...)
Après tout, demain est un autre jour = after all, tomorrow is another day
les allées de tentation = aisles of temptation
un tantinet = a smidgeon, tad, wee bit
une balance = weighing scale
un abricot = apricot
le chariot = shopping cart, trolley
le bon sens = good sense, common sense
le troisième âge = later life, old age
le goûter = snack, afterschool snack, afternoon tea
la canne = cane
ouf! = phew!
échapper-belle
de temps en temps = from time to time, now and then, occasionally
Caddie grocery cart in french chariot
It's amusing, isn't it, to read a stranger's grocery list. And judging from the crossed out item, it looks like they finally found the onions, too! :-)

Highlights from the archives:
Review the five senses in French: la vue, l'ouïe...
Check out The Most difficult French words to pronounce (and add your own in the comments to that post)
A family vacation in Queyras (the French Alps), pictured below.

Queyras France Alps

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


How to say "shortcoming" or "vice" in French + recipe reminder: "La Tarte Tomate"

Street in la ciotat France climbing vine morning glory blossoms
"Take a new road each day," Mom says. Like that, I discovered this quaint, unfamiliar rue on my way to our little Baptist church here in La Ciotat. The vine-flanked ruelle was as peaceful as the photo, with neighbors chatting at a window sill and laundry fluttering in the breeze. 

TODAY'S WORD: un défaut (day-fo)

    : fault, flaw, shortcoming, vice

la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the French vocabulary in today's post:

Vocabulary List, click here to listen to the French


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Coucou! I love this two-syllable, cozy French greeting for "hello, hiya, hey there, salut"--all very warm ways to reconnect after a brief absence. How did your summer go? Did you thrive or just survive? (Or a combination of the two?)

Ah, c'est la vie! 

That is life indeed and, if you are new here, life or la vie quotidienne is the subject of these posts. Life and all of its joys and absurdities. Because family life is the heart of this journal, now is a good time to reintroduce you to our lovable (mostly--on a tous nos défauts!) cast of characters:

JULES: the matriarch of the family and my mom. Jules came to live with us here in La Ciotat 3 years ago. Time flies and so do her trusty friends: all the neighborhood birds who she feeds. 

JEAN-MARC: a.k.a. "Chief Grape", my French husband, who began two vineyards in Provence. He currently runs a wine shop ("Le Vin Sobre") when he is not plotting his next sport adventure, like a triathlon in Spain

MAX: our 26-year-old son, who had the nerve to choose a career in wine after we made the difficult decision to sell our vineyard! (Now he dreams of having vines of his own!) Meantime, he works near Aix-en-Provence and loves the wine business.

JACKIE: our 23-year-old daughter, born and raised in France and who felt the need to discover her American roots. She currently lives in Miami where she is trying to decide whether to return to Fashion design school, learn finance, move to a new state or return to France....

SMOKEY: our 12-year-old golden retriever who survived a two-dog attack as a puppy. Scars and all, he keeps on trucking--and caring for my Mom (a job he assumed 3 years ago) keeps him going.

EDIE: our 3-year-old chicken who bosses everybody around.

KRISTI: founder of French Word-A-Day.com, I grew up in Arizona, moved to France in 1992, and began this French word journal ten years later, as a way to carve out a place in my dream profession: writing. Thank you for reading and for keeping me employed!

YOU. Saperlipopette! I nearly left out a most important member of our French Word-a-Day family. YOU. It would mean a lot to all of us here if you would introduce yourself in the comments section below. What city do you call home? What's your favorite past-time? Are you old enough to remember WWII? Thank you. I look forward to reading your words and I thank you for reading mine as I gear up for a new year of postings. Bonne rentrée!

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la rue = street, road
la ruelle = lane, narrow street, back alley
la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat
coucou = hey, hi there
salut = hi
c'est la vie = that's life
la vie quotidienne = daily life
on a tous nos défauts! = we all have our faults!
saperlipopette = goodness me! good heavens!
bonne rentrée = have a good fall (happy back-to-school, return from summer)
amicalement
= yours (way to sign off a French email or letter)

Tomato pie tarte tomate petunias

LA RECETTE DU JOUR: La Tarte Tomate
Visit the tasty recipe archives and discover this most delicious way to use some still-in-season tomatoes. Click here.

Tomato pie tarte tomate yellow and red  tomatoes
Click the recipe link above this photo for easy instructions on how to make a tomato tart.
Window in la ciotat
I leave you with a homey scene from La Ciotat, France. Prenez soin de vous et à bientôt!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


A few recent photos, "the best days of our lives", and a strange French word for hoarding

Grotte st marcel bidon ardeche pools cave underground
A grotte (La Grotte Saint-Marcel) we visited in Ardeche, on a recent getaway in a rented camping car.

Last month I didn't have the guts to tell you that I had planned on taking the entire summer off from faithfully updating this French word journal. Instead, I promised, "I'll check in with you in June..." Let that be a lesson that putting off the inevitable only takes the joy out of borrowed time!

This pause kind of feels like borrowed time, but now that I've confessed I'll own it: I will cherish this summer and all that's in it: my 74-year-old Mom, our 84-year-old dog (in human years), our seemingly 100-year-old chicken, my kids (grown now, but coming for a visit soon), and my husband, who somehow fell to the end of this list....

Speaking of years/age/time... I will share with you a favorite phrase I've begun repeating each day. I hope you will too, even if you don't feel it. "These are the best days of our lives!" I love singing this reminder to my Mom, who I am happy to report, is on DAY 11 of regular walking. You could say our late afternoon stroll is one of the blessings this summertime break is giving us. 

Another is good food!

"I feel like I am at The Ritz!" Mom says, every time I bring her lunch in bed. I am now taking the time to prepare a meal for Mom each day. I began this vacation by baking chocolate chip cookies, which we ate every day (until day 9 of our "challenge"). Since, we are enjoying (in the place of cookies) seasonal fruit: les cérises, les abricots, les pêches et les figues... As for lunch, we are having a lot of grilled and chilled items that can be saved in Tupperware and arranged colorfully on a plate the next day. I love having on hand grilled eggplant, grilled salmon, as well as potato salad, lentil salad, chickpeas, boiled eggs--and I have found some delicious cooked shrimp at Monoprix... Admittedly, crumbled feta ends up on just about everything! It all tastes delicious on a hot summer day, and the effort is minimal when you plan ahead. 

Apart from planning, I am clearing out. I have been sticking to a "7 things a day" goal for ridding our home of stuff or "le superflu." Even on days when motivation is at its lowest, I can still manage to clear 7 pieces of paper out of a pocket or a purse or a sack. Even a small receipt counts and it all adds up, doesn't it? I now realize that even if I cleared 7 things daily for the rest of my life I would never run out of le superflu (and we are not hoarders! This brings up an interesting (if useless) French word for today: la syllogomanie = compulsive accumulation). 

Speaking of superflu, that may be the theme of this petit sabbatique: identifying and eliminating the excess in my life in order to focus on and spend more time with the essential. I can assure you that this blog is an essential. And that makes you, dear reader, an essence--an indispensable quality of it. After all, I wouldn't be here writing today if it weren't for you. Merci beaucoup!

Amicalement,

Kristi

P.S.: my husband is back at the top of my list...after he almost got thrown out with the slow-cooker. Ouf!
For some juicy summer reading, click here to read our passionate vineyard story, in our memoir "The Lost Gardens".
 

IMG_1487
I'm also taking a break from social media, WhatsApp texts, email, and the rest... for a good rest. Take care and enjoy your July/August as well. Hugs from here, from Smokey and me. (My Mom, Jules, took this photo.)

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Update from Kristi + Rester dans les parages = to stick around

Dove  golden retriever  garden
One of these tourterelles landed on Smokey's back. You notice so much when you slow down.

Today's phrase: rester dans les parages

    : to stick around

Coucou, Dear Reader,

This journal has gone on break. I have many more French words and stories to share with you, so please stick around. I assure you I'm not going anywhere and, apparently, neither are my words which aren't flowing at the moment. I suppose I could get out my whip and make them fill this page but that is what I usually do. Meantime...

A break = to quit doing what you usually do.
Une pause = arrêter de faire ce qu'on fait d'habitude.

I will check in with you in June. In the meantime please take care and rester dans les parages. (les parages = vicinity). I wouldn't want to lose you or this wonderful job, which is all thanks to you and I appreciate that very much. 

Amicalement,

Kristi


IMG_1092
Mom was taking this picture when she noticed all the dots of light beneath the hat. The piercing rays were leaving a pattern on my face, splashes of light which looked to Mom like a kind of text or script...maybe even a few a paragraphs. It was serendipitous as we were trying to get an updated photo for my column.

Doves tourterelles
One more photo of the doves almost colliding. What do you think Smokey is thinking?

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


From huppes to rapaces--birds in our French garden, les oiseaux dans le sud de la France

seagul gabian moette goeland
Un gabian strutting across the table on our front porch. Read to the end for all the useful French words and expressions.

Today's Word: s'envoler

   : to fly away, to take flight; to take off, to be blown away

Hear Jean-Marc read the following in French and in English.
Si tu te sers de la liberté en échange d'autre chose, comme l'oiseau, elle s'envolera. If you use freedom in exchange for something else, like the bird, it will fly away. --Gao Xingjian (émigré to Paris, Nobel Prize for literature)


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Freedom is for the birds." That's a funny title for today's musing, given "for the birds" means anything from "worthless" to "not important". No wonder birdwatching is less popular these days than surfing the net or social etiquette or wearing the right dress (stuff I think about. More about that later).

Mysteriously, the moment I chose "birds" as the subject of today's post...the most exotic oiseau in Provence paid a visit to our garden! I had just sat down for a solo lunch on our front porch, which overlooks the wild garden when I recognized those white and black zebra wings and that impressive crest sur la tête. I'll never forget the first time I saw une huppe after it landed on our pétanque court back in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. Quelle curiosité! I have only seen a few over the years and had I been eating lunch inside I never would have seen this animal diurne as it alighted on the diagonal trunk of our pepper tree (in the opening photo, you see the weeping branches of the faux-poivrier).

Hoopoe_with_insect
A hoopoe. Trapped in its "bec" a potato bug (good for hoopoes bad for chickens??). By Artemy Voikhansky

(And now, a brief interlude in time to list some birds in our neighborhood, and where we see them)

le martinet = swift (seen in the air this time of year)
le rouge-gorge = robin redbreast (seen in our Judas tree)
le corbeau = crow, raven (the gigantic parasol pines across the street)
la pie = magpie (struts around yard, often seen in the mulberry tree, eating!)
la mésange = chickadee (hedges)
la hirondelle = swallow (in the air)
le flamant rose = flamingo (rare in our area, spotted on the seashore)
le pouillot fitis = willow warbler (not sure, but I hear they exist here...)
le merlin noire = merlin (parasol pines? Am I confusing them with those crows?)

Tourterelle dove

As I sit typing this post, I hear the familiar screech of a green perruche and am transported back to a few summers ago... Mom shouting for us to hurry outside--a bunch of parrots were flying around our palm tree, attracted to the bright orange dates growing there. How did these exotic creatures end up in the Land of the Mistral? Were they escapees from a neighboring villa? Fugitives from the zoo in Toulon? In the days that followed, I quizzed everyone from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who regularly ring our doorbell to the municipal meter maids (trained to spot freeloaders!). Thanks to these accidental informants, I learned a lot about la perruche à collier (Psittacula krameri), including a few things we immigrants have common…(more here).

Just last night, Mom, Smokey, and I were sitting beside the cherry tree surrounded by doves (two or three in Jules's lap) when Mom noted that what is usual to us (all the soft gray tourterelles in our garden) is spectacular to others. As natives of Arizona, living in The Sonoran Desert, we enjoyed the roadrunners, quail, and hummingbirds (which do not exist in France), but seagulls were something never seen before! These days they are ubiquitous in our seaside town. (The locals here call them "les gabians.")

Cormorant
Les cormorans

Speaking of birds by the sea, the cormorant is another species in our voisinage. I see the same couple every day, in one of the coves along the boardwalk. Ils sont là, tes amis! There are your friends! Jean-Marc always says, when we walk by. There is a certain comfort in seeing the same birds in the same place at the same time, every day.  

Of everyday birds we can count on pigeons! They left the boardwalk and moved into our yard after the first lockdown. Three confinements later, gone are the restaurants (and all the savory scraps along le trottoir...). Now all our doves (and our chicken) must share seeds with these economic migrants. Speaking of hungry birds this brings us to a sad parenthesis: birds of prey (les rapaces in French). I am certain they are what snatched up two more of our chickens in the last months. After learning owls (les hiboux or les chouettes) can swoop in and carry off a hen, I began to suspect Le Petit-Duc, whose evening cry à la metronome is unmistakable. On second thought, and after talking to a venerable paysanne who lives nearby, it had to be une buse (a buzzard or a hawk). 

That leaves us with the biggest bird in our garden, our hen, Edie. We are doing our best to protect her. As for protecting all the other birds in our neighborhood, they say it is important not to use pesticides--and if you want to attract more birds into your yard, keep a shallow bowl of water, food, and put out a few more birdhouses. I'm going to purchase some wooden nichoirs at the next chance. Tell me, what are your secrets to enjoying the presence of birds? What benefits have you experienced? My smartphone informs me I've spent less time on the internet last week. Isn't that freeing? Now if I only I could quit ruminating about what to wear for a few upcoming social events. After three lockdowns I'm more comfortable watching birds than dressing up. I wish, like the hoopoe, I could just wear zebra wings every day (and for fancy occasions une crête sur la tête).


Kristi hens
Please consider following my Instagram account -- apart from the photos I post of our area in France, it is a good backup. Should this journal experience a glitch, you will always be informed of a new post via Instagram  

FRENCH VOCABULARY

s'envoler = to fly away
un oiseau = bird
sur la tête = on the head
une huppe = hoopoe bird
la pétanque = boules
quelle curiosité = what an oddity
diurne = diurnal, daytime
le bec = beak, bill
le faux-poivrier = "false pepper tree" (schinus molle)
la perruche = parrot
la tourterelle = turtledove
le voisinage = neighborhood
le trottoir = sidewalk, pavement
le rapace = bird of prey, raptor
un hibou = owl (can also mean "grouchy person"
la chouette = owl
le petit-duc scops = scops owl
le paysan, la paysanne = farmer, peasant
la buse = buzzard, hawk

pigeons in tree

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Arsenic in my omelette? Animal instincts + French vocabulary you won't find in a textbook (like the slang word for concierge...)

Irish cob horse in provence
A scene from Cousine Sabine's, where we enjoyed Sunday's "cousinade" or family reunion. The horse is an Irish cob.

Today's Word: un abreuvoir

: watering hole, drinking bowl, trough, birdbath, fountain

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read in French and in English

Study the sentence below, then click on the following sound file to hear the French and English
On peut conduire un cheval à l'abreuvoir, mais non le forcer à boire. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
I was in our chicken pen, refilling the water bowl and collecting the "oeuf du jour" when I had an inspiration: Go over and flip the straw bale! that inner voice whispered.

"Come here, Edie," I said to my chicken and the two of us headed over to a knee-high botte de paille. Ready? Flip! And there, on the underside of the humid mass, the potato bugs were teeming! Dozens of them! What a feast my little hen would have!

"Go on Edie! Eat! Bon appétit!

Edie approached the writhing wall of insects and cocked her head, left, right, left...and her pupils dilated as she moved in for a closer look. If you know chickens, you can picture my hen's jerking motions, which I feared would scare off the bugs. "Go on, Edie! before it's too late!" (If you know potato bugs, you'll recall their protective mechanism: these “roly polies” instantly curl in on themselves, making a repulsive hard shell barrier).

"Edie! What's the matter with you? Look at that live feast! A veritable bug buffet. "Eat, Edie, eat while you can!" But my chicken just stood there, her neck seesawing, her head jerking as her giant side eye followed the critters up and down the slithering wall. I had the urge to take her by the beak and lead her to the high protein lunch but the use of force would have been unkind, not to mention futile.

On peut conduire un cheval à l'abreuvoir, mais non le forcer à boire

It reminds me of the saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. (You can present somebody with an opportunity but you can't make them take it!) Clearly, Edie wasn't seizing this chance to swap out those bland pellets for some crunchy isopods!

Frustrated and disappointed, I left my cocotte to her own devices and went to check in on Mom, whose studio is across the driveway from the poulailler. Mom and a newly-groomed Smokey were in bed watching cat videos on Youtube. 

Giving my best impersonation of a stubborn, wide-eyed, head-jerking chicken, I recounted the story of the Supreme Potato Bug Festin that Edie refused. Mom and Smokey were amused and when I was done flapping my wings and pecking at thin air it suddenly hit me, another kind of folly: we act the same before our own Beloved's gifts (whether that be God, a loving family member, or friend). We fail to recognize the goods being set down before us--whether food, advice, or care. We think we know better. We go and eat soggy, day-old pellets instead.  

"See you later," I said to Mom and Smokey, leaving my beloveds and heading around the corner into the house for an afternoon nap. Before I fell to sleep I surfed the net and there is where I saw a serendipitous post from a permaculture site I follow. Can you believe they were talking about potato bugs? Quelle coïncidence! It turns out potato bugs or "cloportes" are excellent workers in the garden as they eat up heavy metals in the soil, such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and plomb de la terre which are dangerous to humans. 

La Sagesse de La Nature/Nature's Wisdom

Aha! If my hen turned her beak at my generous offering it was because her instincts were telling her Don't do it! Don't eat that! 

Yikes! If she had eaten those metal-charged crustaceans, would I then have arsenic in my omelette? Lead in my Eggs Benedict? Francium in my frittata?  Adding to the confusion, the internet says potato bugs are okay for hens to eat. What then, is the answer? If not to let my chick decide for herself, and trust her own animal instincts!

It all makes me think about the current times we are living in. So many of us are trying to lead our stubborn loved ones to the water. But we can't make them drink it! It is frustrating, unnerving, disappointing! As for me, I am glad my chicken did not drink the "water" I offered her. After all, what do I know? I would do better to entertain friends with my Jerky Hen Impression than to tell anyone what to do.

Bonne chance et bon courage. I'll be back next week with more French words. If you enjoy this letter, please share it with a friend.

Amicalement,

Kristi
P.S. Some trivia: did you know "cloporte", or potato bug, the subject of today's story, is also French slang for "caretaker"? Cloporte means "concierge" in French! It is fun to think we have hundreds of concierges in our garden :-)

P.S.S. Please consider following my Instagram account -- apart from the photos I post of our area in France, it is a good backup. Should this newsletter experience a glitch, you will always be informed of a new post via Instagram 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un abreuvoir = trough, watering hole
l'oeuf du jour = egg of the day
la botte = bundle (also "boot", see post)
la paille = straw (paille expressions, here)
boire = to drink
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop
le festin = feast, banquette (see post here)
la cocotte = chick, chook, in French child speak (see "baby talk" post)
le plomb = lead
la terre = earth, soil
bonne chance = good luck
bon courage = be brave
amicalement = kind wishes

Sainfoin fleur flowers
In front of Cousin Sabine's, a field of pink "sainfoin": a plant of the meadows which was formerly cultivated as fodder. Une plante des prairies qui était autrefois cultivée comme fourrage. Below, after one of Cousin Sabine's relatives hung it there decades ago, an old mailbox disappears into a venerable plane tree.

plane platane tree swallows mailbox

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


What does “Féerique” mean in French? + compare translations of our bilingual book synopsis

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
Photo of me and Jean-Marc in 1991. Today, enjoy an extended sound file in French as Jean-Marc summarizes our story. Now that our vineyard memoir is written, we have arrived at a critical step: finding an agent and then a publisher for the hardcopy edition. Your help is vital! Please study the following synopsis in English and in French, and help answer the questions that follow.

Today’s Word: féerique

-magical, stellar, enchanting, fairy tale

The Lost Gardens is the story of a man who pursues his dream of making the ultimate Bandol wine. After experiencing the harvest at his uncle’s vineyard in the world-renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Jean-Marc Espinasse makes a life-changing decision. He quits his job as an accountant in the cosmopolitan city of Marseille, and moves his young family, including his American wife, to an isolated domaine in the windy, inhospitable Rhone Valley. There begins an unbridled pursuit of his wine fantasy, which takes him on a whirlwind of bipolar ups and downs.

In a take-turns husband/wife narrative, Jean-Marc chronicles his battle with a longtime mood disorder, aggravated by a mysterious family tragedy, and his painful struggle as he comes up against a never-ending string of obstacles at the vineyard--from a near-death accident in his wine cellar, and again on his tractor, to the ultimate threat of a lawsuit which leads to his final breakdown and loss of the winery. In her chapters, Kristi shares her determination to stay sober on two consecutive vineyards, her own struggles with anxiety, and her escape into blogging and gardening. Throughout the story, she considers the mystery of love as she analyses her difficult relationship with her soulmate, from its fairytale beginning in the South of France to a total breakdown of the heart when the love is lost, somewhere among the wine and the vines.

With the vineyard and gardens slipping away, the couple has nowhere to turn but to each other. Through the storm there emerges a story of faith, hope, and love, and what it means to stay committed in the darkest moments.

Audio recording: Click here to listen to the book synopsis in French

The Lost Gardens est l'histoire d'un homme qui poursuit son rêve d'élaborer le nec plus ultra des vins de Bandol. Après une vendange chez son oncle, dans le célèbre vignoble de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Jean-Marc Espinasse a une révélation. Il quitte son emploi de comptable dans la ville cosmopolite de Marseille et installe sa jeune famille, y compris sa femme américaine, dans un domaine isolé de la Vallée du Rhône, venteuse et inhospitalière. C'est là que commence la poursuite effrénée de son rêve de vigneron, qui l'entraîne dans un tourbillon de hauts et de bas bipolaires.

Dans un récit à tour de rôle, Jean-Marc raconte son combat contre ses troubles de l'humeur de longue date, aggravés par une mystérieuse tragédie familiale, et sa lutte douloureuse contre une série interminable d'obstacles au vignoble - d'un accident qui frôle la mort dans son chai, et un autre sur son tracteur ou la menace ultime d'un procès qui le mène à sa dépression finale et à la perte du vignoble. Dans ses chapitres, Kristi parle de sa détermination à rester sobre dans deux vignobles consécutifs, de ses propres luttes contre l'anxiété et de son mode d'évasion dans le blogging et le jardinage. Tout au long de l'histoire, elle se penche sur le mystère de l'amour en analysant la relation difficile qu'elle entretient avec son âme sœur, depuis son arrivée féerique dans le sud de la France jusqu'à son désespoir lorsque l'amour se perd, quelque part parmi le vin et les vignes.

Avec ces jardins qui leur échappent, le couple n'a plus qu'à se tourner l'un vers l'autre. À travers la tempête émerge une histoire de foi, d'espoir et d'amour et de ce que rester engagé signifie dans les moments les plus sombres.

QUESTIONS

1. An important question that publishers will want to know is this: What other books out there on the market resemble our story? In reading the synopsis above, does our account bring to mind anything else you have ever read with a similar theme? Please name those books in the comments section.

2. Does the English-to-French translation reflect the subtleties within the text? Do you have any suggestions or corrections?

3. What new words did you learn today via our text? We hope this bilingual edition has been as helpful to you as it has been to us. Thank you very much for your help with our book!

For more about our story and/or to purchase the current online edition, click here.

Our farmhouse as Mas des Brun

Jean-Marc and Kristi Espinasse
Photo of Jean-Marc and me by Suzanne Delperdang Willis Land. The "Real Men Drive Tractors" was a gift from our friends Chris and George. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone who may be interested in our story. 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Wish us luck (Souhaitez-nous bonne chance)! + Putting the cart before the horse (la charrue avant les boeufs)...

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“Do not send a letter... we don’t live there any more.” This beautiful calligraphy by Joy Fairclough, captures the beauty and romance of what many imagine to be life on a French vineyard. Jean-Marc and I share the true blood, sweat, and tears reality in our memoir, The Lost Gardens which we have just finished writing. Fêtons çela!

Today's word: un ouvrage

    : book, work, publication

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and in English:

Nous sommes heureux de vous annoncer que, après deux ans de travail, nous avons terminé notre ouvrage, The Lost Gardens. We are happy to tell you that, after two years of work, we have finished our book, The Lost Gardens.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On April 12, just before noon, after two full years of effort and dedication, my husband and I posted the very last chapter of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. And just like that, ça y est, we finished a book--un livre, a tome, a memoir, a work, un ouvrage--if not a magnum opus. (Just putting that last term in for the fun of it, reminding my serious self to do things for the fun of it--pour le plaisir de le faire. Not that writing this book was a pleasure...).

Ce n'est pas si simple que ça
Years ago at Karen Fawcett's (creator of "Bonjour Paris" one of the first websites on France) I remember sitting on the floor beside the prolific author Cara Black, who had, by that time, written a half-dozen books in her Aimée Leduc series, set in Paris. We were gathered around a coffee table, seated on couches, fauteuils, or assis par terre. I turned to Cara and said, regarding a new book she had begun: "It must be easy for you....I mean, you have written so many!"
 
I will never forget her response: "The next book is no easier to write than the first." 

What a lesson this was, and it has encouraged me many times since. Whether writing this blog post or a magazine column or a book, I still struggle, still sweat it out--partly because I am still putting the cart before the horse which seems to be the way I operate in life, writing being no exception. More than letters and words, I tend to invert entire passages so that after laboring for a while I realize I've gotten it all backward (les choses sont un peu à l'envers). I can't seem, from the get-go, to present an idea, an essay, a story, in its logical order. But that doesn't keep me from writing--it only keeps me from a smooth delivery.

When things get choppy, I take a break and pace around the house or the yard or the neighborhood or the town. "You are writing!" I remind myself. "You are still writing. If it were easy everyone would be doing it!" It helps so much to remember that the struggle is part of the process. And while it does not get easier to write, it is a skill that builds, a discipline that strengthens. Writing is an effort that feels good in the end. 

If writing this book was a struggle for me, for my husband it was a calculated risk. Jean-Marc admits in the last chapter that he feared writing this vineyard memoir would “stir the bad sediments in our common barrel”.... 

I had better leave you with that pour le moment. It is time now to contact a literary agent (ouf! And not a divorce lawyer!). Meantime, the next challenge is to compose a short review of our finished book and this step is most difficult. How to distill this dual-narrative--this story of our vineyard and the story of our marriage--into a few gripping paragraphs...in time to wow a publisher?
 
Souhaitez-nous bonne chance. Wish us good luck!
 
*   *  *
 The online edition is available for purchase. Read it this weekend and enjoy dozens of meaningful photos!


FRENCH VOCABULARY
un ouvrage = a work, a book
fêtons çela! = let's celebrate 
ça y est = there you have it
un livre = a book
pour le plaisir de le faire = for the fun of it
ce n’est pas si simple que ça = it’s not so easy as that
le fauteuil= chair
assis par terre = seated on the ground 
les choses sont un peu à l'envers = things are a little backwards 
ouf! = phew!

REVERSE DICTIONARY
to put the cart before the horsemettre la charrue avant les bœufs
 
BYE FOR NOW
I leave you with an article published in our local La Ciotat magazine.  You will find today’s word “ouvrage” somewhere in the text... 

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Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


Demain il fera jour: A reminder not to take work (life, everything) too seriously + Escapade to Porquerolles Island

Bike rental on porquerolles island France
If today's word is too easy for you, détrompez-vous. Think again. This letter has a lot more to offer when you read to the end.

Today's Word: la plage
1. beach
2. track of music
3. time span, range

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and English

Porquerolles, ses plages de sable fin, ses eaux turquoise et transparentes. C’est un véritable paradis à quelques minutes de la presqu’île de Giens en bateau. -Hyères Tourisme Porquerolles, its fine sandy beaches, its turquoise and transparent waters. It is a real paradise, a few minutes away from the Giens peninsula by boat.
 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sand, Pétanque, Sea urchins and a "Be Here Now" mindset

Lundi dernier, on my husband’s 54th birthday, we boarded une navette and cruised over to the island of Porquerolles. It was the week before France's 3rd confinement and this 3-day getaway was like a large breath of liberté before lockdown.

The ferry was almost empty. We huddled at the back of the shuttle, enjoying the open-air seating with the other passengers, some dressed in shorts, some in sundresses, all of us wearing masks. Within 15 minutes we arrived in Paradise. Like the other two islands in the Îles d'Hyères, Porquerolles is known for its crystal clear, turquoise waters and fine sandy plages. There are few cars on the island (only those needed by the local businesses), bikes are the way to get around.

"I prefer to walk," I said to Jean-Marc, as we headed past some bike rental shops and made our way to La Plage d'Argent, a 25-minute marche from town. The scent of eucalyptus filled the salty air as we passed fields of wildflowers, a vineyard, and an impressive community garden full of potager beds! "Maybe we should move here?" I challenged Jean-Marc.
"Pourquoi pas!" said he, kiddingly. We would probably get island fever after the first month. Et puis tout se sait sur une petite île! On a little island, there are no secrets!

Donkeys on porquerolles island
The donkeys are slightly camouflaged. Can you see them, left of center?


"Regarde! Il y a des ânes." There were a trio of donkeys in the maquis. A sign posted nearby said that these animals help débroussailler, or clear away of the dry undergrowth which could lead to fires. "We could have used those!" I said to Jean-Marc, remembering the yearly visits by the police to our vineyard, threatening une amende if we didn't get our property cleared before the heat of summertime.

This reminded me: the last chapter of our vineyard memoir was due tomorrow! I also had a blog post to create and send out in 3 days... and a sinking feeling told me today was the deadline for my France Today article on Cairns (or rock stacking in France). I knew when Jean-Marc planned this escapade, that it would fall right in the middle of a week of deadlines--but this trip was his birthday present. I began to sweat over this decision to put everything off until our return, when a little voice within piped up....

Aujourd-hui, c'est aujourd'hui!  Today is today!

Everything in life needs a balance, especially for those who are self-employed and pressuring themselves to stay on top, to not slip or fall behind. If there is one life lesson that I cannot seem to learn it is this: Keep it in the day! A chaque jour suffit sa peine. Be here now! L'instant présent! Or, as Jean-Marc's Mom always said, Demain il fera jour.

Tomorrow is indeed another day! I reached into my bag, grabbed an apple and began eating. I never eat when walking. And I am never late with work. And I never play pétanque (but would, by the end of our périple). 

Ironically "nevers" don't exist on Never Never Island. Et heureusement! I took another bite of my apple and caught up to Jean-Marc, who was heading down to the beach. Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! I said. Happy Birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire! Thank you for this getaway, ce dépaysement! With that, we set down our only beach towel (having forgotten to pack another), and kicked off our shoes. Feet in the sand, I unpacked our picnic: last night's omelet tasted delicious on the beach, along with bites of poutargue (a sliceable mound of dried fish eggs--we're addicted!), an avocado, cheese and the main course: les oursins! Jean-Marc put on his wetsuit and headed out to the rocky edge of the beach where he found the urchins among a lot of seaweed (an astuce learned from a friend. Normally they're found clinging to rocks). 

Our stomachs full we shared the beach towel for an afternoon nap. The next two days were rebelote--or much the same: long leisurely walks to the beach, a simple, delicious casse-croute (and more oursins) followed by un roupillon. It was a wonderful birthday celebration, and a good break all around. And when thoughts of work returned throughout our stay, so did my belle-mère's wise words about keeping it in the day:

Demain il fera jour.

 

Porquerolles
More photos on my Instagram

FRENCH VOCABULARY
détrompez-vous! = think again
lundi dernier
= last Monday
la navette = shuttle, ferry boat, water bus

le confinement = quarantine
la plage = beach
la liberté
= freedom
la marche = walk
pourquoi pas? = why  not
le potager = vegetable patch, kitchen garden
tout se sait = there are no secrets
regarde! = look
un âne = donkey
le maquis = scrubland, shrubland, brush
débroussailler = to clear (dry grasses)
une amende = ticket, fine
une escapade = getaway, break, trip, escape
A chaque jour suffit sa peine = Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
demain il fera jour = tomorrow is another day
le périple = journey, trek
et heureusement = and thank God for that!
le dépaysement = change of scenery
un oursin = sea urchin
une astuce = tip, trick, hack
rebelote = same thing again
le casse-croûte = snack
le roupillon = nap, siesta
la belle-mère = mother-in-law

 

IMG_0705
Domaine de l'ile - one of 3 vineyards on this island full of character. See more photos of this paradise:
https://www.french-word-a-day.com/2013/04/what-to-do-on-porquerolles-island-que-faire-sur-l%C3%AEle-de-porquerolles.html

IMG_0702
Jean-Marc and his urchins cutters or coupe-oursins, and on the right urchins on the half shell.

More stories: The last time we went to Porquerolles, our kids had a wild party at the house, click here

Read about the creative "mop spear" Jean-Marc invented while on the island: more here


IMG_0727


Kristi and Jean-Marc
Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! Bye for now and remember to enjoy the day by living in l'instant présent.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!