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 writing...is 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 working...is 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 writing...is NOT writing.
The only thing harder than running...is 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 love...is NOT loving.
The only thing harder than truth...is NOT the truth (untruth).
The only thing harder than listening...is NOT listening.
The only thing harder than giving...is NOT giving.
The only thing harder than caring...is 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 deciding...is 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 this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Gaga for Galets! Rock collecting: caillou, roche, gravier, pierre and other stones in French

Gravel petanque
Gravel is handy for a lot of things--including pétanque (boules)! Read on to learn about another benefit of rocks. (Pictured: family members, including André, who is measuring, at a picnic in Fuveau).

Today's Word: ramasser

    : to pick up, gather

Audio file: Click to hear Jean-Marc read the following French sentence:
Rockhounding, ou géologie amateur, est l'étude récréative et la collecte de roches, de pierres précieuses, de minéraux ou de fossiles de leurs environnements naturels. Les Rockhounds sont ceux qui ne peuvent pas passer devant un joli rocher sans le ramasser pour le regarder de plus près.

Rockhounding, or amateur geology, is the recreational study and collection of rocks, gems, minerals, or fossils from their natural environments. Rockhounds are the people who cannot pass by a pretty rock without picking it up for a closer look. -Rockhound Times

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Dropping another caillou into the palm of my hand, I think I can carry a few more stones if I balance things just so.... I reach to pick up another when our 11-year-old golden retriever lies down in the very spot where I'm collecting, rolls over, and wags his tail.

Really, Smokey? Are you a rock, too? Or maybe a rockhound?!

I give in to scratch his furry tummy. The pause gives me time to consider this new obsession with the stones, rocks, and minerals found in our front yard. There is even a word for it--rockhounding! Mom and I are currently gaga over galets! But it crosses my mind, as I deposit a palm-full of rocks to the bare landing near the kitchen door (a project Jules is working on), that I may be stealing Mom's joy?

Mais non! Mom's joy is contagious and she's always believed there is enough to go around, whether that is money or passion or rocks. She'll share it if she has it (just don't ask her to share her cookie. Everyone has their limits!)

Meantime, there are plenty of rocks in this yard for both of us, but, just in case, why not collect another color and work on another area of the yard? I notice a charcoal gray stone and begin to ramasser a neat little collection when, Aha! I think of my caper plant…This deep gray would really show it off! Feeling like a real nerd as I swap out beige rocks (leave those to Mom) and replace them with the gray ones, I remember back to when this folly began....

Moms rocks
Mom's rock stash from this morning...notice the birdfeed, too. Mom's always feeding the doves!

Two years ago after Mom moved to France we began working on this garden together. Jules suggested we upgrade the gravel (which was super sparse) with a nicer, smoother, rounded type of pebble ground covering. We never got around to it (laziness has its advantages). Entre temps, we began noticing the many different types of stones in our yard... especially when the spring flowers and weeds died back, revealing a bare floor. Though the floor was covered with pea gravel, another type of ground covering revealed itself via those larger, butterscotch-colored rocks Mom kept finding here and there. This home having been built in 1960, it's possible those were here before the pea gravel.

Thanks, Mom, for the back stairs project. We were tracking in a lot of dirt, before Jules began covering the ground with her butterscotch rocks! It's taken months, which makes it all the more a treasure to have. Cécile repaired some of the broken tiles on the last step.

As we pick up stones and sort them, there are the occasional little découvertes that make this pastime so fun and satisfying: from the discovery of objects (lots of shells) to the discovery of the benefits. Rock collecting is:

--an activity we can practice with family
--gets us outdoors, in the fresh air
--good exercise (Mom would add it is great for stretching!)
...keeps us in contact with nature and la terre
--gives us something to look for and bring back from vacation, besides tourist trap items

And I might add one more to this list--our recent interest in rocks has given me a topic to research and to write about today--and for that I am most grateful. Off now to find my Mom and our lovable rockhound....

ROCK ON! I leave you with a few photos of rocks, and thank you for any edits for today's story. So helpful.

le caillou = stone
le galet = pebble
ramasser = pick, gather
entre temps = in the meantime
les découvertes (f) = discoveries
gratuit = free, free of charge
la terre = earth

A stone restanque (rock wall) at our vineyard crumbled. We had it rebuilt before we sold and moved on.

Our new town, La Ciotat, became our rock! 

Kristi beach in italy
Vacation last year in Sicily, and a beach of smooth galets. It's a good thing rock-collecting hadn't yet become an obsession!

Serre Chevalier rocks
Boulders in Serre Chevalier.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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The French words are in the story (Some Assembly Required!)

Diy bricolage kristi
Putting the finishing touches on our new spinning composter...My excuse for not putting the finishing touches on today's post. But if you read through to the end you will pick up a lot of French vocabulary! Edits are always welcome in the comments section. Merci! 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Our new composteur rotatif arrived! It's a spinning contraption that'll transform kitchen scraps into garden compost within weeks...4? 6? 12?--on verra! I was surprised by the size of the package (picture a slim rectangular box), étonnant, given I'd ordered large barrel on a frame. Perhaps this delivery was for Jean-Marc? Had he ordered flat-screen TV?

Opening the cardboard colis I saw two stacks of long plastic panels and, beneath them, three large discs. D'accord! J'ai compris. The spinning tonneau and its frame were to be assembled entièrement! This flat puzzle was supposed to turn into a 3D moving entity! Looking at all the pieces--including a ton of nuts and bolts, I thought, Jean-Marc can put this thing together! He actually enjoys bricolage and is creative with it: witness his impressive sea urchin mop-spear--slapped together using my kitchen mop and stolen pieces from the silverware drawer, ie missing forks...).

On second thought, I'd better assemble it myself--or suffer a contraption-jalopy-of-sorts that might very well spit out screws and few prickly urchins (which reminds me: once this monster is built, I'd better let my husband know the compost rules: no animal proteins)!

Naivité and ignorance are necessary when diving into a DIY project or no one would persevere to the end. I opened the flimsy instructions pamphlet--more like a comic book comprised of squares: each square had an illustration of the next step. Only a handful of words involved. One of those words read "mark." I was to search for the panel with "the mark". Examining all the panels I may as well have been looking for The Mark of The Beast: hidden, elusive, deceptive.... 

Aha! Found it--an evil triangle no less! Why didn't the instructions indicate an "arrow," which is what this "mark" turned out to be? Ah well, no use arguing with a cartoon book! Onward!

The first step was awkward: balance (somehow!) the two giant disks three feet apart while attaching the panel (horizontally) to connect them. The rest of the assembly was straight forward: attach the remaining 6 panels in the same way. This would require a tournevis and some sort of outil to hold the bolts...

As for gathering the necessary tools: pas de problème! Gone were the days where I had to search in a messy, chaotic, storeroom. Last spring, during lockdown, my sister-in-law organized our cafoutche! Currently, I breezed in, selected a screwdriver and a wrench from the Wall of Tools, and whispered Merci, Merci, Cécile! once again on the way out of my She Cave. Admittedly, this composting tumbler is the first project I have gotten to.... (Though the She Cave is visited daily, as our dog food and chicken feed are now stored there.) 

Bon, back at the table on our front porch, it was hot and there was a ways to go... I grabbed the first screw and struggled to secure the bolt on the other side. 48 screws later my mind said SCREW IT! I'm done! My thumbs and my fingers were sore and I regretted working in the pretty top Mom had given me, when I should've worn an old T-shirt. But when my son suddenly arrived home from work, I had to keep going, if only to show off! Only, instead of noticing me, Max hurried in and out of the house, "I'm on my way to tennis! Love you, Mom!"

Mom? Don't you mean Brico-Mama? Queen of DIY? Did he even see my turning barrel contraption? It was almost done. But the mosquitos were now eating me alive, no thanks to all the sweat. 

I quickly assembled the frame and decided to leave the last screws (the ones I'd failed to put in first and now it was impossible to place them down deep in the barrel. Jean-Marc could help tomorrow....). I put down my tools and headed around the house to Mom's studio. I was going to say a grumpy goodnight and was in no mood to chat, so when Jules said she'd love to see my new composter, I explained:

"All that's left to do is lift the barrel and put screw it onto the frame. But I'm not going to do it now. I'm done! Too tired!"  

Mom was already following me back around the house, to the front porch. "Wow! I am so impressed!" she praised. "I am really proud of you! Look what you have done! You are a Marcus!" Mom said, referring to her family of beer-drinking builders and rebels.

I could almost taste a cold pression about now! Hélas, my beer drinking days are over. As for rebellion. Yes! This DIY project might be about that: a rebellion against the hamster wheel (even in France you can find yourself on one of those--always functioning in the same way, doing the same thing, day after day, year after year. Never testing the well of skills inside of you. Leaving others to do certain things for you. This composting tumbler project was a way to spin things around!

Mom, ever-willing to go for a spin, was already holding one end of the rotating barrel and I the other as we lifted it onto the frame in time for me to screw it into place. Those last two screws were almost impossible to tighten but Mom held on and as long as she did I didn't give up. 

Holy moly! The barrel was in place! It was revolving! But as it spun I saw a few holes here and there.... Oh no! Those last 8 screws were not extras after all.... I was ready to throw in the towel. Screw those screws! 

"I remember when your Dad built the storage shed..." Mom began.

"Really? Dad built those sheds?" How could I forget them, on either side of our trailer. They held whatever would not fit into a single-wide home--including, eventually, Dad. (Mom admits her own rebellion led to that. But we can't go back! We can only share our lessons with our children, helping them to persevere through the ups and downs of life.)

"And your rocking horse, do you remember?" 

"You built that?"

"Well, I had help," Mom said. "You always need a partner, a helper..." I looked up and saw Mom, tightening the last of those screws. It was finished! We stepped back to admire the amazing composting tumbler. "I'd leave it right there," Mom suggested.

On our outdoor dining table? Well, why not? At least until a few more family members could see it. Which reminds me, I now had a true appreciation for my husband's DIY projects. They may not be parfait, but the patience and perseverance involved--now that is perfection!

Thanks, Mom, for snapping the photo above, and for all the talents and wisdom you share. xoxo 


composteur rotatif = composting tumbler
on verra = we will see
étonnant = surprising
le colis = parcel, package
d'accord = OK
j'ai compris = I understand
le tonneau = barrel
le bricolage = DIY, home-improvement
le tournevis = screwdriver
l'outil (m) = tool
hélas = alas
la pression = beer-on-tap, draught beer
parfait = perfect
Mille mercis, Cécile, for cleaning up our cafoutche and creating these tool walls and more!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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A bilingual message from Jean-Marc + Un Petit Accident while preaching


This morning while out on a walk I took a tumble and slammed into the ground of uneven wooden planks. I gashed my knee (le genou), elbow (le coude), knuckles (les articulations des doigts), and the palm (la paume) of the opposite hand. Jean-Marc reached down to help and, after I recovered, I laughed and said, Pride comes before the fall! That'll teach me to walk and preach to my husband about why we have two ears to listen! 

Pride and falling are themes of The Lost Gardens--the memoir we are writing about our years on 2 vineyards in France. While Jean-Marc opens up and tells the story of what led up to his falling apart, my chapters focus on our relationship and the promise we made that would see us through those rollercoaster years. The most recent installment in our online memoir, Chapter 16, talks about a therapy we stumbled on in the garden. I leave you with a quote that will help any relationship, friendly or intimate, followed by a bilingual message from Jean-Marc. 


The chemist who can extract from his heart's elements, compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise, and forgiveness and compound them into one can create that atom which is called love. --Khalil Gibran

Audio File: Listen to the French translation, click here

Celui, par quelque alchimie sait extraire de son coeur, pour les refondre ensemble, compassion, respect, besoin, patience, regret, surprise et pardon crée cet atome qu'on appelle l'amour. 

A Bilingual Message from Jean-Marc:

At a time when I am about to reveal what was the most intense moment at the Mas des Brun, I wanted to say how much this effort of writing our memoir helps me to consolidate the delicate scar of the loss of this promised land.

It also allowed me to talk about taboo subjects such as my father's suicide or my bipolar tendencies which I now accept and control much better.

I am aware that the progress of our book is slow but it is a new exercise for us.

I wish you a great summer.

Take care of yourself.

Jean Marc

À l'heure où je suis sur le point de dévoiler ce qui a été le moment le plus intense au Mas des Brun, je voulais dire combien cet effort de mémoire m'aide à consolider la délicate cicatrice de la perte de cette terre promise.

Cela m'aura également permis de parler de sujets tabous tels que le suicide de mon père ou de mes tendances bipolaires que j'accepte et maîtrise maintenant bien mieux.

Je suis conscient que l'avancement de notre livre est lent mais c'est un exercice nouveau pour nous.

Je vous souhaite un bel été.

Prenez soin de vous.


Jean-marc kristi smokey mas des brun
Kristi writes: I'll never forget the day this picture was taken, at the lowest point in Jean-Marc's depression, 2016. You wouldn't know it from the photo, and neither did our overnight guests, who asked for a picture. Everyone smiled for the camera. 

To purchase The Lost Gardens and begin reading right away, click the link below:

Vines mas des brun

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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S'Emerveiller: Dolphins in The Bay of La Ciotat

Bay of la ciotat south of france
The breathtaking Bay of La Ciotat. Left: L'Ile Verte (The Green Island). Right: Le Bec de L'Aigle (Eagle's Beak).  Even more beauty and grace dwell beneath the surface of the sea...

Today's Word: s'émerveiller

    : to be amazed
    : to marvel at something

Soundfile: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following French:

Le bonheur pour une abeille ou un dauphin est d'exister, pour l'homme, de le savoir et de s'en émerveiller. The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it. --Jacques-Yves Cousteau

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Cetaceans in La Ciotat 🐬

After Jean-Marc and I pulled into our driveway, I hopped out of the car and hurried past the fast-approaching chickens (whenever they see me they think "TREATS!"). I was heading straight into Mom's place, to curl up at the end of Jules' bed, beside Smokey, and share with them an unforgettable rencontre.

"Mom, you won't believe what Jean-Marc and I saw this morning! We were motoring through the bay of La Ciotat--advancing so slowly I could have swum faster than the boat! Oh, there must be a word for that kind of slow boating…" as I searched for a term Mom answered, as quick as a contestant on Family Feud:


"Trawling!" I said, impressed Mom knew the word. In return, I received an eye roll from Jules, who never ceases to be amazed at how I underestimate her knowledge in a particular area (like Mediterranean saltwater boat angling? Hmmm.)

La pêche à la traîne

That's it, he was trawling...or doing la pêche à la traîne, as he calls it, using his new fishing pole. And this time I was in charge of steering la barquette, via the long wooden lever, le gouvernail, on the back of the boat. I was aiming straight for Ile Verte, just as Jean-Marc instructed me to do...when something up ahead jumped out of the water!

The next time it leaped I clearly saw an aileron. Les requins ont les ailerons. Sharks have fins, I thought. Jean-Marc who was busy placing his leurre on his pole dropped his equipment when he realized we were in the rare company of les dauphins !

There were two and they were leaping out of the water par-ci par-là. Even swimming under our boat! Finally, the pair swam côte-à-côte,  porpoising along the sparkling surface of the sea. It was magical, rare and beautiful! Un vrai spectacle!

"Why didn't you dive in? Mom questioned, "The dolphins would have swum with you!"

Eh oui! Pourquoi je ne l'ai pas fait? All I can say is, bonne question! Maybe I was afraid that when they saw me, they'd think "TREATS!" 

I leave you with a video of the dolphins we saw. Wait until the very end, where you will see them jump out of the water at least three times. To view the video, click the center of the image below. If you can't view it here, see it on my Instagram page.


s'émerveiller = to be amazed, spellbound, struck 
la rencontre = encounter
la barquette = small boat, little boat
le gouvernail = rudder, tiller
Île Verte = The Green Island
un aileron = fin
le requin = shark
le leurre = bait, lure
le dauphin = dolphin
par-ci par-là = here and there
côte-à-côte = side by side
la bonne question = good question
Pourquoi je ne l'ai pas fait? = why didn't I do it?
The two dolphins we saw very near our boat. In the background, the hills near the seaside towns of Les Lecques and St Cyr-sur-Mer.

Max wakeboarding bay of la ciotat
Our son Max, wakeboarding in the Bay of La Ciotat.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

La Poubelle: How God handles the competition: A funny message from The Almighty

Smokey golden retriever at the pond
"I don't care if I am an artist or not, what worries me is writing good stories. Besides, when I start taking myself for an artist - which can happen to me in a moment of madness - I start to write any which way and I have to throw everything in the trash the next day. I am a craftsman, not an artist." -Harlan Coben. French translation and sound file below.

Today's Word: la poubelle

    : trash can, garbage can, bin

Sound file: hear Jean-Marc read the following French:
Je me fiche d'être ou non un artiste, ce qui me préoccupe, c'est d'écrire de bonnes histoires. D'ailleurs, quand je commence à me prendre pour un artiste - ce qui peut m'arriver dans un moment d'égarement -, je me mets à écrire n'importe comment et il faut tout jeter à la poubelle le lendemain. Je suis un artisan, pas un artiste. -Harlan Coben

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"How God handles the competition: A funny message from The Almighty"

When I saw Mom heading to her butterfly chair, our golden retriever Smokey trailing behind her, I hurried outside to catch up with the colorful duo. They were headed over to the pepper tree, which also shades our little pond. Mom wore her purple muumuu--what a find at the friperie!--and Smokey sported a feathery train: a wake of turtledoves dragging along behind him, as jittery as a bride. 

"Mom," I said, hurrying over. "The latest episode of Charles Stanley was great! It's on listening to God."

As Mom tossed pockets full of seeds to her precious birds, I briefed her on the various ways to hear the Almighty, Le Tout Puissant (through His Word, through circumstances, through prayer, through people...) then shared highlights from the half-hour sermon, including the pastor's recipe for prayer, as he suggested here:

"Don't start by asking for everything you want. Start by listening. Say this simple prayer:

Heavenly Father, I need to listen to you….I'm gonna be quiet and I just want you to speak to my heart, and help me to listen carefully so that I can do exactly what you want me to do."

"Mom! I got down on my knees and began to listen. I tuned in, straining to hear any words at all from Above. I heard a lot of distracting thoughts but began to visualize my soul as a boat, a craft moving towards the Message on the horizon. I began to see any distracting thoughts as flotsam.

"Do you know what flotsam is?" Mom interrupted.

Of course I knew what flotsam was! Was this not MY visualization?

Mom proceeded to point out the pepper blossoms floating on the surface of the pond beside us: "Flotsam!" Mom shared.

I nodded patiently, eager to get on with my story. "So Mom, listen. I knelt there like that in silent prayer, wading through the flotsam, heading toward the Almighty on the horizon, the closer I got the more I could hear the message--until it was loud and clear! Do you want to know what I heard?"

"Yes. Tell me!" Mom was on the edge of her papillon chair.


Mom lit up. "Really?" she said, emptying the birdseed from her purple muumuu pockets in order to give me her undivided attention. As the turtle doves and Smokey settled at our feet, some eating, others sleeping, I told Jules the rest of the story, as I am telling it to you now, dear reader....

"Mom, after I heard the message, I headed downstairs to make your favorite cake. Passing by the end table, I noticed a carte de visite. A pink business card. It read masseur kinésithérapeute."

My brain imputed the data: Calling card...masseuse....

I knew better than to get all paranoid. After all, it wasn't as if this was a massage therapist. It looks like she's a kind of physical therapist, I reassured myself. She's working on Jean-Marc's injured knee. Still, I kept noticing the pretty pink paper, the elegant typography, her English (??) name, and my thoughts (Why the need for a card when there's internet?). Internet... Suddenly I was tempted to google her.

This suspicious circumstance was interrupted by a message from The Above:


Just as I stood wondering if this was truly Providence guiding me (the pastor said God speaks through scripture, prayer, and circumstances...), The Almighty radioed in again, this time with instructions!:


Jette-le dans la poubelle? This felt sort of wrong. Who am I to destroy my husband's papers? Besides, what if he asks about the card's whereabouts? (Would he? Would he dare!)

I soldiered on past the card, only to hurry back and pick it up again, and there I heard Le Tout Puissant once more:


I paused a brief moment when another thought, this time my own, surfaced: Who am I not to listen to the Almighty? And without the slightest feeling of guilt or wrongdoing, I chucked it! Je l'ai balancé! How easy it is to eliminate the competition (real or imagined...) when you listen to Le Tout Puissant, God Almighty!

Post note: After I finished sharing the story with Mom, who was now laughing, and I along with her, I heard a final command:

"Write that story!" It was Mom guiding me this time.  And I listened to her!

1994 marriage town hall kristi jean-marc
I hope my husband has as much fun reading today's post as I had writing it ;-) Happy 26th anniversary to us tomorrow, July 4th.Photo taken on our wedding day, July 4, 1994. Our church ceremony (photo here) was two months later, in September.

la friperie = thrift store
la carte de visite = business card, calling card
masseur kinésithérapeute = physiotherapist
je l'ai balancé = I chucked it, tossed it
la poubelle = garbage can
cheri = dear

Irises (gone to seed), bougainvillea, and sunflowers in our garden. Thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Words on Love and an "au pif" recipe

Smokey peppercorn tree
Our golden retriever, Smokey, enjoying shade under the peppercorn tree. Today's entry begins with the French version of Love Is Patient, Love is Kind and ends with a recipe (the two sections have nothing to do with each other but are, like today's recipe, au pif (spontaneous). 

L'amour est patient, il est plein de bonté;
l'amour n'est pas envieux; l'amour ne se vante pas,
il ne s'enfle pas d'orgueil, il ne fait rien de malhonnête,
il ne cherche pas son intérêt, il ne s'irrite pas, il ne soupçonne pas le mal,
il ne se réjouit pas de l'injustice, mais il se réjouit de la vérité;
il pardonne tout, il croit tout, il espère tout, il supporte tout.
L'amour ne meurt jamais. 
   (1 Corinthiens 13:4-5)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read Love is Patient in French

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

(If you find a better English version--a better match with the French--thanks for sharing it in the comments box)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Paring tomatoes at the kitchen sink, I thought to google "recette salade lentilles." But with my hands dripping le jus de tomate, I didn't want to reach for my smartphone and begin typing.That's when an inspiration came to mind:

The recipe is whatever you desire….

Voyons... Just what did I desire? And, equally as important, what ingredients were on hand? I suddenly remembered some boiled eggs in the fridge….and pickles (which go well with des œufs durs…).

"It would be nice to have some salmon," I said to Mom.

"I've got some left over...from the salad you brought over yesterday," Jules offered. Parfait

Too bad we were out of onions… Attends une minute! There’s one, hiding under a branch of drying peppercorns on the buffet….

Eggs, salmon, onion, and how about those concombres I bought last night, while visiting Cynthia at her corner épicerie

Any crumbs and seeds on my planche à pain are automatically added to whatever salad I'm making--lentil salad is no exception! Allez hop! In they go! (Mom wrinkles her nose at this crummy ingredient. But I have no problem with days old miettes - and will add them to a recipe here...if only to give you a good vocabulary word. Miette--un mot chouette!)

Some olive oil, mustard, and the white truffle vinegar (we're lucky to have a supply of this élixir. Jean-Marc stocks it at his shop!)....

Salt, pepper, and voilà!  The only other ingredient is time. But hunger knows not patience. Alors souvenez-vous

The recipe is whatever you desire
Using ingredients you have “sous la main”
Hunger knows not patience
Mange quand tu as faim!


la recette = recipe
la salade = salad
la lentille = lentil
le jus de tomate = tomato juice
voyons = let’s see
parfait = perfect
attends une minute! = wait a minute!
une épicerie = grocer, grocery
le concombre = cucumber
la planche à pain = breadboard
allez hop! = off you go!
une miette = crumb
choutte = nice, neat, good
le frigo = fridge 
sous la main = on hand
Mange (manger) = eat
tu as faim = you are hungry
alors = so then
souvenez-vous = remember

Kristin espinasse garden bouquet
In our garden. Photo by Jules. Thank you very much for reading today's au pif--spontaneous--post. I have been working on a story about some dolphins, and will hopefully share the rencontre chanceuse in the next post. Have a lovely weekend. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Papillonner: Mom's butterfly chair + a fluttery French verb for you today

Smokey in the papillon chairSmokey in the butterfly chair, or la chaise papillon. Papillon--it is a favorite French word but did you know there is a fluttery verb to go with it? Perfect for today's story, about Mom's favorite fauteuil....

Today's Word: Papillonner

    : to flit around, flutter about

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence:
Ne te laisse pas distraire par les événements extérieurs ! Prends le temps d'apprendre quelque chose de bon et cesse de papillonner! Don't be distracted by outside events! Take the time to learn something good and stop fluttering! --Marcus Aurelius

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Now this is the best spot!" Mom swears, as she settles into her portable garden chair and takes in her surroundings.

"Come over here, Kristi! You've got to see the view from here. This is the best spot!"

My mind is aflutter. Mom! You said that last time. And the time before! Instead of voicing such thoughts, I accept the invitation to sit down and experience Jules's new garden digs--make that her latest garden digs: the new location for her favorite chaise.

The chair is a Mariposa, meaning "butterfly," which hints at its shape. Here in France, it's called a fauteuil or chaise papillon. A gift from granddaughter, Jackie, I wouldn't have picked this particular model, but have since grown to admire it, having noticed how much Mom uses it. The easy chair with its canvas sling and folding metal frame was conceived in Buenos Aires in the late 30s. A description of the chair's design calls it "Nature meets art." Perfect for Jules!

Papillonner: aller de-ci de-la = to go here and there

Mom drags her butterfly chair all over the jardin, parking it according to her mood. If she is blue, the Papillon is stationed behind the house, where Mom will cloud-gaze alone or stare at The Narrow Gate (a "door" of blue sky amidst the distant parasol pines).

Jules's big blue chair sat for a tired while beneath the giant cedar tree, where she mourned her husband, John, and it languished, for a time, in the far corner of the yard, where Mom cried over the loss of her little dog, Breezy, buried back home in Mexico).

Up and down, a butterfly among the flowers 

Comme un vrai papillon, like a real butterfly the chair lands in various places, taking nectar, nourishment, and hope from nature's gentle surroundings. When Mom is happy, she totes her easy chair to the front yard, and reads beside the pond, after which her big blue papillon might flutter over to the blossoming hedge of laurier rose, where she listens to French tourists walk along the trottoir just outside. (It is a good way to practice her Français!)

No matter where her chair goes, our faithful golden retriever, Smokey, follows, as do her birds--a dozen tourterelles and, since covid, all the pigeons who no longer feed at the restaurants down the street.

"Look up at the sky, Kristi! See the passage between those two giant parasol pines? That's The Narrow Gate!" (and a meaningful scene for Mom to contemplate).

"Yes. Yes, Mom, I see it!" I sound annoyed but I am only tempering Mom's enthusiasm. She is so excited about THIS spot and about THAT detail.

"Did you see the way the sun is lighting up that one sunflower? Now THIS is the best spot!" Mom insists. "Come stand over here, beside my chair. The sun is now falling on the little patch of onions! Look at the shimmer of light! You've got to see the view from here...."

Mom doesn't know it, but she is a light. And a joy to see, moving her butterfly chair from tree to tree. Beautiful, comme un papillon qui butine.

Butterfly chair in garden
Mom's butterfly chair beneath the weeping pepper tree. Mille mercis to Jackie for this gift.


le papillon = butterfly
le fauteuil = chair, easy chair
la chaise = chair
le jardin = garden, yard
laurier rose = oleander
le trottoir
= pavement, sidewalk
la tourterelle = turtledove
butiner = gather pollen, gather nectar
comme un papillon qui butine = like a butterfly gathering nectar

Mom setting the scene
Mom, in her Jack Daniel's T-shirt (the one she swiped from Max). Thanks, Mom, for helping Smokey to pose for today's photo to illustrate this post.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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L'Oubli: Two accidental versions of the same story (on forgetfulness)

Cat in nyons
Ah...L'oubli! When is forgetfulness a good thing? In today's unusual edition all vocabulary is at the end. We'll restructure things next week!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While in the kitchen I noticed steam rising from the countertop. Approaching the messy comptoir for a closer look, I recognized the Starbucks souvenir mug (Vail edition) I'd purchased while visiting our daughter, Jackie, last year. I never did use la grande tasse for its intended purpose (it's too heavy; I prefer somewhere between dainty teacup and bol, which the French love for their café au lait). But all is not lost (even if my memory is, we'll get to that in a minute....) I regularly put the giant cup to use, mostly to measure out dried couscous: one Starbucks mug couscous plus one Starbucks mug hot water…. Feeds 6.

Recently I've found a second use for the mug: lentils! I've been sprouting the dry légumes like crazy ever since my belle-soeur Cécile showed me the simplicity of sprouting beans: no special equipment necessary. But, after forgetting the sprouted lentils in the mug last week, it was time to toss them out...so I and set the large cup on the counter as a physical reminder to feed the sprouts to our hens.

Only now there was steam rising out of the giant mug! What the...? Staring at the cloud rushing out of the mug, I noticed another cup beside it, on the counter. It held a cold café au lait...Putting two and two together, I realized I'd put the wrong cup in the microwave!

Oh no! Not again! It was one more oubli in a streak of forgetfulness. Just this past week I had left some bread in the 450f oven. Forgetting about it completely, I headed out for a long walk. This near-disaster was curtailed when, remembering, I hurried home from my walk only to learn I'd forgotten to put the bread in the oven first place!

The bread now in the oven and my phone's timer set to the highest volume, I hurried out of the house to resume my morning exercise, oblivious to the fact I'd left the door wide open and the keys dangling from the keyhole (something clear-headed Kristi would never do, not after coming face-to-face with a cambrioleur)!

Voyons, what other forgetfulness encounters have I run into? Run into...reminds me of running into people and the fear of not remembering names. I've set up systems for this. Just the other day in church I pulled out my smartphone, went to "contacts", and discreetly as possible reviewed the list of church members (there are only 12 of us). Turns out I knew the names all along… Why second-guess myself when I would do better to have faith!

Speaking of la foi, I will end with a quote I read this morning from Corrie Ten Boom (a Dutch Christian watchmaker and author of The Hiding Place), which hints at why such forgetfulness happens in the first place:

"If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” Indeed, if we weren't so distracted by everything around us, we might recall what is essential.

Post Note:  Like those steaming hot sprouts found on my counter...I just discovered a previous draft (from May 29) of today's story (written June 1st)!! I'm going ahead and posting both stories--we'll worry about all the edits later. I've got to eat lunch now and rest my mind! 



This morning I headed out for a walk, certain to have finally chosen the right direction. It's all about balance, I reminded myself, stepping past the garbage which needed emptying. La poubelle could wait. So could Jean-Marc's chapter, which needed editing. And there was an item I needed to return to the store…. Ça peut attendre! Why does everything feel like it has a deadline? Why all the rushing all the time?

The best way to begin this day is by clearing my mind and getting some exercise. Well, that was my mantra as I picked up speed along on the trottoir. I was a mile into my walk, when I saw a green parrot fly over. Magnifique ! This reminded me to say a prayer….

Dear God. Please clear my mind. (Deep breath. Exhale…) Make room so i may hear your voice above all "else".

All else being the deluge of information filling my head. It's the fault of overcuriosity (too much information-seeking, internet surfing, social media, email, too many demands of family who swear they don't make demands but they do!)

Dear God. Please clear my mind. Make room so I may hear your voice above all "else". I repeated the prayer until…. Mon Dieu! A response came! Here is what God said....


Oh my God! I totally forgot about the bread I had put into the oven...at 450degrees…. A while before I left for my walk.

Oh no! Not again! Forgetfulness! There was no time to scold myself for yet another oubli--not when the bread was about to catch fire (would it? What is the next stage after complete carbonization?).

I grabbed my smartphone from my backpack and called Max and he did not answer.

I called Mom. She answered!

"Mom, I need you to get your keys and go into the house and get the bread out of the oven. Be careful when you open the oven door! The mitts are in the top right drawer!"

I hurried the one mile home, running the last few blocks only to find Mom watering the garden….

"Did you get the bread?"

Mom carefully weighed her words. "You must have left it on the stovetop, Darling."

Notice Mom didn't say "forgot" ie you forgot to put it in the oven…. I hurried into the kitchen to see with my own eyes the uncooked loaf. There it was!

Placing the loaf in the oven, I quickly set my smartphone's timer to 30 minutes and upped the volume just to be sure. Hurrying out of the house to resume my walk, I unwittingly left the keys in the door and left the door wide open. (Mom gently informed me of the forgotten door when I returned from my walk.)

"I keep forgetting things. What is wrong with me?" I said to Mom.

"Kristi relax. You just need to quit policing all of us."

Policing? What did this have to do with forgetfulness? Besides, any apparent bossiness was something I was working on!

Sensing my defensiveness, Mom began to backpedal. "Well, as for me, what helps is gratitude and dying to self (that die-to-self business may sound bizarre, Dear Reader, but what Mom means by dying to self is squashing the ego). Mom began pulling weeds, to illustrate such soul-cleaning.

"I know!" I growled, putting on garden gloves and helping with the garden chores. "I know! I'm the one that gave you those books. From Francois Fénelon to Thomas A. Kempis I know all about dying to self! I read it first!"

Mom overlooked my meltdown, with this next, barely concealed strategy: "I'm not saying you need to do those things, I was only saying *I* need to do those things."

Harrumph! We continued the tug-o-war in the garden until... a clump of seedlings caught my attention:

"Hey, I should thin these zucchini don't you think?"

"Good idea!! Don't throw those out...I'll replant them over here!" Mom offered.

Ten minutes later we stood back to admire our join effort and a new row of zucchini, which Mom artfully interspersed white alliums and strawberries. Brilliant!

The hot topic of forgetfulness was but a distant memory--and so was whatever it was we were arguing about :-)


le comptoir = counter, bar
la grande tasse = big cup, mug
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law (can also mean stepsister) 
un oubli= oversight, forgetfulness
cambrioleur = burglar

Smokey snoozing
Smokey snoozing in the garden. I'm off for a bite to eat and a snooze, too. It's good for the brain! I hope you enjoyed and were not too confused (like me....) over two versions of the same story. And please don't worry about my memory. Like all of you, I have the world on my mind! Today's edition was reckless (I did not check and recheck my text as many times as usual). If you catch any typos or would like to edit my French, my English, or my grammar in either language--your help is most welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Two brothers at Aldi and riots in France

The Green Island
L'Ile Verte. The green island, here in La Ciotat, for a peaceful image to begin today's post.

Today's Word: chercher ses mots*

    : to be at a loss for words

*I settled on this "word of the day" following the struggle in writing a story in these sad, scary, and emotionally-charged times. Thank you for reading with open hearts.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the parking lot at Aldi I was loading our groceries, Mom's, then mine, into our car, when I saw two familiar faces. It was the funny duo behind us in the checkout line. Turning to the brothers (who were twins?), I smiled:

Je voulais vous remercier pour votre bonne humeur. Ça fait du bien--surtout en ce moment. I hope they understood my French, and my appreciation for their funny commentary back in line, when they were snapping each other's face masks and reminding one another to keep at a safe distance from the next customer. They were regular Laurel and Hardys in the age of coronavirus!

The short, gray-haired men, so full of antics back in the store, suddenly grew shy, in a French version of Aw, Shucks! "Well," one of the guys offered, you've got to have a sense of humor in times like these!"

"C'est sûr!" I agreed, adding, "Are you from La Ciotat?"


"My mom and I are from Arizona," I shared.

The men grew thoughtful. "A lot of upheaval in the US right now..." one of the brothers reflected.

"Here in France, too..." I said, mentioning the riots breaking out in Paris and beyond.

"Non!" The brothers replied, in a possible misunderstanding (were they unaware of the émeutes?).

"Non!" They affirmed. "We are not racist!"

I think the brothers were referring to themselves--or possibly to our region? Either way, they echoed the feelings or beliefs or ideals of many.

Our conversation ended in awkward silence, one that lingered. Later that day the brothers' words returned to mind. "We are not racist." I understood what they meant. I believe they were sincere. I know I am too! My last thought came as a surprise: But is that enough? Is it enough not to be racist?


Je voulais vous remercier = I wanted to thank you
bonne humeur = good humor
ça fait du bien = it does one good
surtout en ce moment = especially at this time
une émeute = uprising, riot

The coast in la ciotat
I leave you with a peaceful image taken here in La Ciotat. Thank you for reading.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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