Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort: Correct me if I'm wrong

Garde manger
I am much more comfortable writing about my garde-manger than politics. (story of my pantry in the next edition of France Today...)

Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort
On this, the day we are to find out who will be the next president of the United States... I'm tempted to call in sick from work (or casually "forget" to post this week) because I am afraid to comment on world news, even if I sometimes do.

Recently I daydreamed about beginning a new column titled Correct Me If I am Wrong. For once, I could write freely about current affairs without hiding my ignorance.... Après tout, I don't know a lot about history or politics and only recently learned the spelling of Connecticut (I never heard the second c...and so omitted it), but this has not stopped me from pursuing the career of my dreams: writing. 

While writing publicly is a sure way to expose one's lack of worldly knowledge (worse, one's unconscious biases and prejudices) we reveal a lot about our minds via the interactions we have with others. I still remember the doctor who told me I was an intellectual plouc--a simpleton--all because I told him I had faith. I took his words seriously and wondered whether he was correct? I mean, he could be....

I often think about faith and ignorance and it always brings me back to the bottom line: nobody knows for sure what to believe when it comes to how we all got here in the first place. Not my ex-doctor, not me, not the sum total of humanity. Personne le sait! 

Meantime, plouc or not, if I am comfortable enough writing this blog it is because I also have faith in my readers who are my teachers. Spelling can be fixed, what is vital is to remain in a teachable spirit. Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort. 



le garde-manger = pantry
après tout = after all
le plouc = simple minded person
personne le sait = nobody knows
corrigez-moi si j'ai tort = correct me if I am wrong

amicalement = yours

Wooden boat
A peaceful image from here in La Ciotat. Take care and see you next week.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Le glas: The death knell rang today in France

Eglise church in st cyr le glas sonne en franceLe glas sonne dans toutes les églises de France en hommage aux trois victimes de l'attentat dans la basilique de Nice. (-Midi Libre) The death knell is ringing in all the churches of France in homage to the three victims of the attack in the basilica of Nice. (pictured: Catholic church in St. Cyr-sur-Mer)

*    *    *

Many of you woke to the news of France's latest, most horrific terrorist attack (the fourth in under 6 weeks). Two women and one man were knifed to death this morning in Nice, only a half-mile from the 2016 truck attack in the same Mediterranean city.

The French government immediately put the country under a plan vigipirate (anti-terrorist security alert), at its highest degree. This comes on the eve of the nation's second lockdown.

Adding to the shock are the details behind the murders (certain info will be left out): it took place in a church. One of the victims, an elderly woman, was praying when she was killed. The second woman, who fled, wounded, to a nearby business, died after asking medics for a favor:

Dites à mes enfants que je les aime. Tell my children I love them.

The tears France is shedding and the pain the world is feeling is echoed in le glas: the death knell began ringing at 3 pm this afternoon. Here, on the eve of le confinement, as we process the news, one can't help but ask, How could this tragedy have been avoided?

One answer might be: By keeping quiet! After all, if the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo hadn't drawn...and if the teacher, Samuel Paty, hadn't lectured, had President Macron not spoken out--in the name of freedom of expression--no one would have been offended and thus enraged. 

But we all know that isn't the answer, and that the answer isn't as simple as that.

While I am the last person to know the answer, I have a few questions. Is freedom of speech sans exception? Or, is it like the French grammar rule that states: there is an exception to every rule. If so, what is the exception? There must be an exception

Doves by the sea in la ciotat
To the victims in Nice: Restez en paix.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Rien qu'aujourd'hui (Only for Today): A "How To" for difficult times

Poppies and our wild gardenDuring 10 challenging years at two vineyards (before moving to this peaceful, postage-stamp garden where our wine memoir is underway), I kept a copy of today's mind-centering thoughts in my purse. In uncertain times, such words may be helpful to you, family, or friends.


Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, j’essaierai de vivre ma journée sans chercher à résoudre le problème de toute ma vie.

Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, je prendrai le plus grand soin de me comporter et d’agir de manière courtoise ; je ne critiquerai personne et je ne prétendrai corriger ou régenter qui que ce soit, excepté moi-même.

Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one. Aujourd’hui je serai heureux, rien qu’aujourd’hui, sur la certitude d’avoir été créé pour le bonheur, non seulement dans l’autre monde, mais également dans celui-ci.

Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, je me plierai aux circonstances, sans prétendre que celles-ci cèdent à tous mes désirs.

Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul. Rien qu’aujourd’hui je consacrerai dix minutes à une bonne lecture en me rappelant que, comme la nourriture est nécessaire à la vie du corps , de même la bonne lecture est nécessaire à la vie de l’âme.

Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, je ferai une bonne action et je n’en parlerai à personne.

Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, j’accomplirai au moins une chose que je n’ai pas du tout envie de faire, et si on m’offense, je ne le manifesterai pas.

Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, j’établirai un programme détaillé de ma journée. Je ne m’en acquitterai peut-être pas entièrement, mais je le rédigerai. Et je me garderai de deux calamités: la hâte et l’indécision.

Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, je croirai fermement – même si les circonstances attestent le contraire – que la Providence de Dieu s’occupe de moi comme si rien d’autre n’existait au monde.

Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life. Rien qu’aujourd’hui, je n’aurai aucune crainte. Et tout particulièrement, je n’aurai pas peur d’apprécier ce qui est beau et de croire à la bonté. Je suis en mesure de faire le bien pendant douze heures, ce qui ne saurait me décourager, comme si je me croyais obligé de le faire toute ma vie durant.

Note: My copy (the one in my purse) of "Just For Today" was a gift from A.A. The original text is from Le décalogue de la sérénité de saint Jean XXIII 

Jean-marc heidi doug kristi
New York, 2008. Jean-Marc, my sister Heidi, Doug, Kristi. Thank you very much for your words of sympathy following my brother-in-law, Doug's, passing.

Doves by the sea in la ciotat
This image (taken here in La Ciotat) always brings a peaceful feeling. Enjoy, take good care, and à bientôt.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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They don't have that in France! In Memory of my brother-in-law

My brother-in-law leaves us with countless memories of his generosity, big heart, and Tell It Like It Is character. In today's missive, a few French souvenirs, in memory of Doug.

Today's Word: inoubliable

1. unforgettable
2. never to be forgotten

Merci pour ces inoubliables moments en famille, Doug.
Thank you for these unforgettable family moments, Doug. Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the French

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

My brother-in-law passed away eleven days ago, Sunday. He was fifty-nine.

My sister is currently helping to write Doug's obituary. I wish I could be there with Heidi, in Denver, to help her find the words, to sit beside her as we rifled through old photos and said a lot of Remember That Time Whens....

One thing I'll always remember about my beau-frère was his no BS attitude. And when it came to his belle-soeur in France there was plenty of nonsense to call out! Take shower curtains for example. Years ago, when Doug and Heidi came to visit, Doug left a pool of water on our bathroom floor. It just wasn't like him - he was tidy, in an everything in its place way. And water’s place is in the tub. (An impossible feat to keep it there when your hostess has no shower curtain!)

As we mopped up the salle-de-bains, using thick square cloths (des serpillières gaufrées) and a broom, Doug offered to buy us a plastic curtain...and a decent mop, for crying out loud! I can still hear my brother-in-law's voice, a bit sarcastic, often blunt, it cut through the nonsense and revealed what it is we were hiding behind (certainly not drapes!).

“Kristi, why don’t you guys have a shower curtain?”
“Uh... they don’t have shower curtains in France.”
“What? You don't have shower curtains in France? Oh, come on!”

At that moment in time (newly arrived in France, living in the countryside of St. Maximin), I believed it was true. After all, there wasn’t un rideau de douche in any of the homes I'd visited so far. I never saw them for sale at our tiny quincaillerie, but you could find dainty curtains (les brise-bise) at the hardware store. And they were nowhere to be found at our supermarché, (which, incredibly, began selling Halloween costumes one year!). It seemed to be yet another commodité moderne the French hadn't yet discovered--such as tumble dryers or drive-thru banking or one-hour dry cleaning...remind me to tell you about my beau-frère’s run-in with the sassy lavandière who refused to press more than 3 of his shirts. Doug was perplexed: “I guess they don’t have a business mentality in France either!”

There began a decades-long joke between my beau-frère and me. The ribbing always ended with some encouragement: “Kristi, I am sure France has (such and such). Go find it!”

Apart from Doug’s skill at calling out people’s BS, my brother-in-law was an excellent chef. He went all out on Thanksgiving (best turkey and stuffing bar none!) and his Christmas dinner was Michelin-star superb. But the simple fare, eaten casually around the kitchen island, in our pajamas, made me feel truly home again! We Froggies (as Doug called us) relished these American brunches which Heidi and Doug prepared as a team, serving up sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and waffles--and Mimosas and Bloody Marys too.

Doug's smoked ribs were another quelque chose you could not find in France! “You could make this, Kristi! Don’t give me that BS that you don’t have BBQs in France!”

“Well, we don’t have Green Eggs ® in France!”
“No, you probably don’t!” Doug smiled, proud of his new cooker.

The last time I saw my brother-in-law we were having breakfast together at Pancake House in Denver. This newly-forged tradition was a chance to reunite with The Froggies, Payne, Reagan (my niece and nephew), and Heidi (even after le divorce, the two were committed to family). Catching up over coffee and stacks of buttermilk pancakes, I told Doug about our recent predicament: "We keep getting locked out of Heidi's house," I laughed.

"You need an extra set of keys!" Doug said, offering to take we Froggies to the hardware store after breakfast. There at the quincaillerie, waiting for the key to be copied, my brother-in-law snickered. I'll bet they don't have Hide-A-Keys in France either!

I snickered back before a wave of nostalgia hit. Looking over at Doug, I saw his tired face, his baseball cap pulled low over his brow. He was not doing well. (In addition to sharing jokes about France, my brother-in-law and I shared the “Better Off Sober” etiquette…). Remembering all of my brother-in-law's caring gestures over the years, as well as his growing struggles, I didn't want our visit to end without due appreciation.

"That’s so like you to take care of these nagging details!" I blurted, waving the shiny new key in the air. "Thank you...for everything."

"Yah, well, if I didn’t do it you guys wouldn’t!" Doug laughed, before hugging us goodbye for the very last time....

* * *

Comfort Food. This morning I wanted to make meatloaf when I realized one ingredient was missing: Worcestershire sauce. In all the years I’ve been in France I have never bought a bottle. I am, finally, on my way out to search for it now. In a quincallerie? Beside the dainty curtains? Well, maybe not... I've gotta look harder!)

Thank you, Doug, for this and for your generous heart. PS, I know what you’re thinking: “Meatloaf? Oh, I get it: now you’re going to tell me they don’t have steak in France!”

Jean-marc heidi doug kristi
New York 2008 Jean-Marc, my sister Heidi, Doug, me.

At the Pancake House in 2018, with Reagan, Jackie, and Payne.

= unforgettable, never to be forgotten
le beau-frère
= brother-in-law
la belle soeur
= sister-in-law
la salle-de-bains= bathroom
les serpillières gaufrées
= waffled cloths for washing floors
le rideau de douche
= shower curtain
la quincaillerie
= hardware store
le brise-bise
= half curtains (pictured here)
le supermarché
= supermarket
la commodité moderne
= modern convenience
la lavandière
= washerwoman
quelque chose
= something

une étiquette = label

Years ago. I'll never forget Doug demonstrating how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword! "Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions."--Wikipedia

Max doug jackie
Max and Jackie will miss their Uncle Doug, who took them to sports events and spoiled them with fun times--memories they will always have.

That time Doug and Heidi brought Grandma Audrey to France! And treated us to dinner at Le Louis XV and a stay at l'Hôtel de Paris!
Doug heidi grandma kristi jimmy
Old photos, wonderful memories. We are still digging through pictures--bye for now....

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Le rivage: Mother-Daughter adventure in Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Tree in beaulieu-sur-mer market square
A giant arbre (a Banyan tree?) in the market square of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, near Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Today's Word: le rivage

    : shore, bank, coastline

Click to listen to Jean-Marc read the French example sentence:

Tu ne traversera jamais l'océan si tu as peur de perdre de vue le rivage.
You will never cross the ocean if you are afraid of losing sight of the shore.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
At a sandy cove in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, my daughter and I left our rented transats to wade out through the warm waters of La Baie des Fourmis. Noticing the sea was murky and the views (a thick curtain of yachts) were moyenne….I began to have doubts about our mother-daughter getaway.

We could have had this same beachy experience in our own seaside town--where the Mediterranean is clearer and there are fewer ships. This negative voice was quickly muffled by splashing. "So happy to be here with you," Jackie said, swimming beside me. "Now if only we could meet up with Crevette!"

"Petite Crevette" is Jackie's friend from fashion school. Incredibly, PC was here too, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat! Only it would be a little tricky getting to her...given she was employed on a private yacht far out in the bay.

I admit I wanted my daughter (briefly with us in France from Florida) all to myself--and had gone to certain lengths (traveling two hours down the coast) to be alone with her, juste nous deux! But when I put myself into Jackie’s shoes, I knew we had to do whatever it took to reunite with her copine.

Scanning the horizon, we wondered which luxury craft PC worked on? And what were the various means we could employ to get there? Swimming? Paddleboard? Kayak? That Woman Over There's raft? Jackie became so desperate she was about to hitchhike a passing boat. The little garbage-collection vessel was currently navigating very close to the sandy rive. I feared my daughter would hop right on!

As the boat puttered past, a giant sign along the shore came into view: LOCATION DE JET SKI. Having lived in Miami for the past year, Jackie had a few opportunities to ride a scooter des mers and felt confident she could make it out to the yacht, reaching Petite Crevette in style!

(Ouf! What a relief when the rental guy said all the jet skis had been taken.) “That leaves paddle boats!” Jackie hinted…

Several concerns came to mind:
Cost (40 euros--you could fly Marseilles-Rome via a lowcost carrier!)
Sun (worst time of day for exposure)
Hydration (see note below…)
And just how far? Well, we’d soon find out!

Paddle boat with slide
I didn't get a photo of our pédalo, so here's a picture of a typical paddle boat on the river in Quinson.

“Mom, will you help me pedal the boat?” Hearing my daughter’s voice erased my fears, replacing them with a rare taste for adventure! Now was the chance to make this weekend stand out in our memories forever! To turn our trip around from its murky-watered beginnings to a dazzling ending. 

Yikes, I hoped this wouldn’t be the end! Securing our lifejackets we stepped onto the little two-seater boat. Next, we set our menthes à l'eau's (drinks ordered before our last-minute plan) in the drink holders, hoping they'd keep us hydrated for the two hour aller-retour.

Allez, full speed ahead! After 15 minutes pedaling the two-man pédalo we were soaked and exhausted. No wonder our own town doesn't rent out paddle boats--because they are not easy to pedal on the sea! 

Just as we began to slow down, another pédalo came into view when a couple of Italians started racing beside us…. Jackie sped up, accepting the challenge! Our smiling and laughing adversaires--a grandfather/grandson duo--distracted us from our pain and we advanced another ten minutes in time to wave ciao! to the winning team.

We were three-quarters of the way, now, and Jackie could just barely see her friend, Petite Crevette (who did indeed look like a tiny shrimp from this distance). Soon we recognized PC’s long, strawberry blond hair and heard her familiar voice cheering us on. It was just the push we needed to make it over the finish line!

On second thought, we weren’t fini yet, only half-way through our sea adventure. But for the time being, before pedaling all the way back to shore, we were having a very good rest--and one spectacular reunion (see video below)! Jackie and Petite Crevette, having jumped into the water to meet half-way and embrace, were now swimming beside the little paddle boat, chatting a million kilometers a minute.  

Where there's a will there's a way. Merci, ma fille. Thanks to you I lounged in our boat, sipping my menthe à l'eau, enjoying the scene that would forever be etched in our memories--all because we got up off those sunchairs and ventured out beyond murky waters.

P.S.: As for the 40 euros? Worth. Every. Centime. Mais bien sûr!


un arbre = tree
le rivage= shore
le transat = sunbed
La Baie des Fourmis = bay of ants
moyen = average
petite crevette = little shrimp
juste nous deux = just the two of us
un copain/une copine = friend, pal

la rive = shore
scooter des mers = personal watercraft, jetski
ouf! = phew!
aller-retour = roundtrip
menthe  l'eau = a drink made of water and mint syrup
le pédalo = paddle boat
Allez = let’s go
la ligne d'arrivée = the finish line

un centime = cent, penny

mais bien sûr = but of course

I leave you with a short clip of Jackie and Petite Crevette's reunion. (Warning: this is every day street French, somewhat colorful...) Can you hear what the girls are saying? Here are some of the phrases:

Oh! C'est énorme!
(Oh, This is incredible!)

Comment ça va grosse folle?!
(How are you, you crazy girl!)

Putain! Ca fait combien de temps depuis qu'on s'est vu!
(&#%!@?! How long's it been since we've seen each other?)

I admit, the next words I have difficulty hearing/understanding, no matter how many times I liste to the clip. Here are some possibilities:

On se retrouve (or en se retrouvant) là..avec le pédalo le bateau...
We find ourselves here... with the paddle boat and the boat....

Help understanding French at - if you, like me, have any difficulty hearing/understanding spoken French, give David Tolman's French listening program a try. David has taught French online for 20 years, from his office here in France. Click here to access one of David's lessons and be sure to sign up for his helpful emails.
Mkt_FWaD_fleuriste02a (1)
Jackie in beaulieu sur mer
To read about a previous trip to Beaulieu--and learn the French word for dreamcatcher, click here.

Villa in beaulieu sur mer cap ferrat
Villa in Beaulieu sur Mer / St Jean Cap Ferrat area

Architecture along the sea in Beaulieu sur Mer
Baie des fourmis
Nightime in Beaulieu

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

A story lost (but not forgotten): In Memory of Harry Rabinowitz

Seaside in Bandol France pine treeYears ago I had dinner at a friend's in Bandol and wrote about the musical evening--but never posted the story (it needed work). I found the written draft this morning and reencountered one of the characters from that night: Harry Rabinowitz. Today's column is in memory of the endearing British composer and conductor who was born in South Africa and died in France.

Today's French word: savoir (verb)

    : to know, be aware of

Listen to Jean-Marc read the quote below in French/English:
Le Coeur, seul sait le Pourquoi. Only the Heart knows the Why. --Kâlî Ferry.

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

Sometimes I would have a glass of wine before going to a dinner party, but that was years ago. Last night I discovered an activity just as relaxing: picking an aromatic bouquet for my hosts. Gathering fragrant fenouil, blossoming purple basilic, flowering mint, leafy green l'estragon, and lavande--its blossoms only slightly fading, I stopped to inhale the floral medley. A nagging doubt coursed through my mind: Is this a weird gift? Is it appropriate? Is it enough? Honestly, I think Cynthia and Ian would appreciate the country bouquet. But what about the other guests? Maybe they would show up with designer bouquets?

And there went my familiar train of thought--one that always ended with the strong desire to cancel everything and camp out at home in my pajamas (this time with a wilting poignée des fleurs!).

The familiar bout of doubt quickly passed and soon I was chatting with "Didier," as Cynthia and Ian prepared smoked salmon canapés and served wine at their kitchen comptoir overlooking the sparkling Gulf of Bandol. As the sun disappeared beyond the Mediterranean, guests gathered to listen to the expressive oenophile tell the story of how he came to love wine. Didier said:
"I was eight years old. It was a typical Sunday lunch in France except that, this time, my father said to my mother, "Would you like me to go out and buy a bottle of wine?

My mother said, "Why not?" and when my father returned with a modest bottle of red I watched as their eyes lit up like fireworks. I said to myself then and there, I want to serve people wine and make them this happy!" 45 years later, Didier has a shop in Cotignac and continues his love of sharing wine with those who enjoy it. 

Cynthia and Ian's other guests were as warm and... familiar! Yes! We had met Mitzi and Harry before--at Diana and Neil's home in Portland and again in Provence, where I would never forget Harry's question: "Why do you write?"

Pourquoi j'écris? What an honor he would ask! I remember facing the South African conductor, and wanting to give the true answer. I can't remember ever answering, but the question has stayed with me ever since.

"Well, why do you compose?" Our host, Ian, started up, putting Harry on the spot this time. And I smiled, thinking, now that was the perfect answer! I turned to Harry, waiting to hear what might be instructions from a musical genius. 

Instead, Harry threw his head back and laughed, and the joy in his eyes spoke volumes. There at the dinner table, we finished the mouth-watering Osso-Bucco, cheese, and dessert and were treated to an impromptu concert by the famous conductor.

As Harry played The Man I Love, Mitzi sang the words to it and to the following classics: Someone To Watch Over Me, The Sunny Side of the Street, I'm Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter and Ain't Misbehavin'.

The piano seat was still warm when Didier stole it, to play La Bohème. And surprise surprise, Jean-Marc began to sing....

Je vous parle d'un temps
Que les moins de vingt ans
Ne peuvent pas connaître Montmartre...

The evening was filled with such delights and unexpected moments, but the biggest surprise came the next morning, as I lie in bed savoring the evening. I couldn't resist googling Harry, and that is when I learned that the young-looking man sitting next to me at the dinner party will turn 100 years old in March....

Post note: My story left off right there, and Harry was never to read it. He passed away six months later. According to Wikipedia: Harry Rabinowitz reached 100 years of age on 26 March 2016. He died on 22 June 2016 at his home in Lacoste, Vaucluse, France. Rabinowitz continued to play the piano every day until his death.

I often think of Harry's meaningful question. Why do you write? I have never been able to answer this exactly. But, today, on reading the lyrics of the songs sung that night, I have felt moved by the lines, moved by the work of men and women who sat down and quieted themselves in time to find the words. A very good reason in and of itself to write!

I realize, too, that I write to remember. I'm glad I wrote down the story of Dinner at Cynthia and Ian's, or else I would have forgotten the details of that night. But Harry, if you are listening, somehow, somewhere, I would never have forgotten you! Thank you for your question.

We may never know the exact or true answer as to why we do what we aspire to do...but the many possibilities--the Whys--are enough to keep our dreams alive.

savoir = to know
le fenouil = fennel
le basilic = basil
l'estragon (m) = tarragon
la lavande = lavender
une poignée = handful, fistful
une fleur = flower
le comptoir = counter, bar
Pourquoi j'écris? = why do I write?

Strangers in bandol france palm trees beach sea mediterranean french
A quiet scene along a cove in Bandol, west of Marseilles, Cassis, La Ciotat....

Merci beaucoup to my friend, Cynthia and Ian, for the memories of that special night with Harry and friends. Thanks also for your help, recently, in voting as an expat and this reminder to American citizens who live outside the US to vote

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

A Marriage Secret? + A Tribute to Mon Epoux

Ecrins national park alps
For this special edition, all the French vocabulary is featured in the story (the sound file returns next week). Picture taken last month at Ecrins National Park in the Alps.

Today Jean-Marc and I celebrate 26 years of marriage. I had not planned to write un hommage (and was due to update you on a mother-daughter périple)... when I realized il ne faut pas manquer cette chance!

I would have liked to have composed a list of 26 Things (God knows that would be a colorful one!)… but I think I just need to start from here, and work with what I have--and that would be this growing appreciation. I may not always feel that or realize that (or even want to admit that)... but the truth is:

That my life is better because of him
That my heart is larger from loving him
That my soul is stretched forgiving him
That my mind is calmed in union with him

We may not always be better, loving, forgiving, or united with one another--but our hearts have somehow kept us on track. On second thought, The Grace of God has kept us on track. (I can’t speak for Jean-Marc here. But he might agree that une force mystérieuse has kept us together. Qu’est-ce que t’en dis, Chéri?)

My favorite question for married couples is, “C’est quoi votre secret?” More than the answer, I love how this question causes two people to look into each other’s eyes and suddenly light up. There is that unmistakable smile of appreciation. And it is better late than never. Mieux vaut tard que jamais.

I think if somebody were to ask me our secret I finally have the answer: During difficult times, just hold on. And, as often as possible, se regarder dans les souriez.

K and jm marriage
Hands squeezed tightly 26 years ago, and still holding on today. To follow our intimate story of love on two vineyards, read along as we write our memoir, The Lost Gardens.

un hommage = a tribute
un périple = journey
il ne faut pas manquer cette chance! = mustn't miss this chance
mon époux = my husband
une force mystérieuse = a mysterious force
qu’est-ce que t’en dis? = what do you have to say about that
mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
se regarder dans les yeux = look each other in the eyes
et souriez = and smile

Park ecrins alps
Ecrins National Park, in the Alps, one of the many French destinations I have had the pleasure to visit. Thank you, Jean-Marc! Happy Anniversary, Chéri!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

An update from Kristi + Bienvenue, Sourire, Faire La Gueule

Jackie party le vin sobre
Our daughter, Jackie (center, at her father's wine shop) reunited with her closest friends during her recent visit. 

to those who have just signed on to this French word journal. And a warm welcome back to longtime readers. Heureuse de vous retrouver! To get the most out of this language blog, be sure to read beyond the featured word--to the personal column about our life in France. Most of the useful vocabulary happens there!

A link to a delicious tomato tart recipe follows when you read to the end of this post. Speaking of French food, check out The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux Samantha Vérant's delicious novel! Order it here.

Today's word: sourire

   : to smile

Click here to listen to the French Example Sentence

Sourire mobilise 15 muscles, mais faire la gueule en sollicite 40. Reposez-vous : souriez !
Smiling mobilizes 15 muscles, but frowning requires 40. Rest: smile!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Coucou! It's so good to be back after un petit congé sabbatique. I'm not quite sure it is over yet, this personal break, but I am cracking the whip this morning, trying to get back in the saddle of reporting to you weekly from France. Stick with me in the coming months and we are going to collect hundreds more words and phrases and so challenge our brains. Couldn't we all use a new challenge ces temps-ci ?

Tomorrow is my daughter's 23rd anniversaire and she will celebrate in Miami, Florida--having flown home yesterday, landing safely after flying near l'ouragan. Ouf! I am grateful for the 4 weeks we spent together, and I thank you, dear reader, for having patienté, having waited patiently for this blog to resume.

Jackie and I made the most of our time together and I'll soon share one of our memorable périples with you (hint: c'est un truc de ouf!). For now, I am easing back into a work schedule: writing once per week for this blog, twice a month for our wine life memoir, The Lost Gardens (the next chapter goes out tomorrow), and brainstorming most of the time. It is this last bit that wears me down--this think-think-thinking all the time. I now understand that an overactive mind is not a bad thing: not if you regularly do a vidange, an emptying. (Like emptying some of it on paper!)

Almost two decades ago I said adieu to a non-valorisant job at a vineyard and began working independently as a writer. To all who follow this journal, actively or passively, whether to learn French or to learn about life in France, thank you for reading and for le boulot you have given me these past 18 years. I appreciate it more than ever.



bienvenue = welcome
heureuse de vous retrouver = welcome back (happy to see you again)
coucou = hello
un congé sabbatique = a sabbatical
ces temps-ci = these days
un anniversaire = birthday
un ouragan = hurricane
ouf! = whew!
patienter = to wait patiently
un périple = journey, excursion
un truc de ouf = a crazy thing
le carnet = notebook
une vidange = an emptying, draining, an oil change
le boulot = job
amicalement = yours (see other ways to sign-off a letter or email)
Tomato in paris cavist
Strange to see tomatoes for sale at a Paris wine shop! Photo taken in 2015, when visiting Jackie in Paris, where she was an intern for an haute couture designer.

Tomato tart recipe
La tarte tomate. One request my daughter had while home in France was to enjoy my homemade tomato tart. I made several for her! She ate the last one at the airport in Amsterdam, packed with love for her long journey home to Miami. For the recipe, click here and scroll down the page.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Exciting News! An update from my Staycation

Painting watercolor artist tours vacations in south of France Tessa Baker
Bonjour from La Ciotat where I am checking in from my staycation to share the good news of Jackie's arrival tomorrow, Wednesday. We are thrilled to see our daughter who we have not hugged since before this pandemic began. We thank you for keeping Jackie in your thoughts and prayers as she navigates 3 airports, traveling from Florida to Paris and onto Marseilles.

Also, I'd like to highly recommend my friend Tessa's painting excursions in Provence. Many readers here have enjoyed these relaxing and creative getaways and have returned several times. 

Today's Word: le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage.

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.

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

(story written in 2012)

If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. And, I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"


The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraicher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 


Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.


French Vocabulary

le maraîcher = produce guy

la politesse
= good manners

quelle horreur! = how embarrasing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well

Hats (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats and lopsided benches add charm on the île de Ré. 


Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whimsical windows and a cool Vespa on l'île de Ré.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

L'Oisiveté: Thoughts on Work, Love, and Writing

Eight Months in Provence
If you've ever dreamed of living in France, it is not too late! Diane Covington-Carter proved that in her delightful memoir, "Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad, 30 Years Late." Covington-Carter headed off to Provence at age fifty and discovered that wisdom and maturity made her "Junior Year Abroad" not, after all, thirty years late. But rather, right on time. A great summer read! Order here.

Today's Word: l'oisivité

L'oisiveté rend à la fin le travail difficile
Idleness makes work difficult in the end.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The only thing harder than not writing. Now there is a thought that has been on my mind all summer, as I try to decide just when to take a break from this 18-year-old blog--this ongoing chronicle of our life in France.

What will happen if I don't write for a fortnight? A month? A year? At worst I would implode. At best I would lose the hang of things, lose ground, making this colossal effort of expression even harder. And we all know:  

The only thing harder than NOT working, or, as the French saying goes: L'oisiveté rend à la fin le travail difficile. Idleness makes work difficult in the end.

Difficile...this brings me to a few lines that poured out of somewhere and into my thoughts while out on a walk this morning. I hope they make sense to you, as they made sense to me at the time (oftentimes what makes crystal clear, lightening bright sense to me while out on a walk--after two cups of coffee--makes no sense to me later on). Here are those initial thoughts, and the ideas that followed:

The only thing harder than NOT writing.
The only thing harder than NOT running.

For just as the runner begins to get agitated/disturbed because he has not run, the writer suffers the words he has not expressed. This last thought brought me beyond writing:

The only thing harder than NOT loving.
The only thing harder than NOT the truth (untruth).
The only thing harder than NOT listening.
The only thing harder than NOT giving.
The only thing harder than NOT caring.

...because these NOTS will eventually form KNOTS, stemming the flow of life and love....

I leave you now and invite you to share a few "The only thing harder than.... is NOT...." in the comments. I look forward to reading your words and will be back sometime in the next month...I just have to decide when!

(The only thing harder than NOT deciding.) 

Wherever you are on your path, I hope these words help.



Kristi Annie
Relaxing with family. Thank you, Cousin Sabine, for the photo at Cousin Audrey's. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.