Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lessons from Madame Chic? Oui, Merci!

With Christmas just around the corner (two weeks?! really?!?!) you might be looking for just the perfect little something for a friend or sister. Well, let me tell you, I think I have just the thing!

So I've probably mentioned here before that I'm a bit of a Francophile.  I took French for several years -- through high school and three years in college.  I've been to France twice.  My love for "le fromage" is what stands between me and a true plant-based diet. Okay, that and my love for fro yo.

Anyway, I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.  This past spring, before we left Washington, one of my friends recommended the book Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, by Jennifer L. Scott, and so I bought it.

What a fun little book!! It's light reading, but has some good stuff in it -- a sort of how-to book for getting a more out of your life, with a French twist.  For me, it wasn't so much of an eye-opener as a "Preach it, sister!" kind of reaction. 

For example, Scott says that "exercise is a part of life, not a chore." Uh-huh!!  (Along these lines, did anyone else see this article last week?)  Another lesson: "Look Presentable Always." Okay, I don't follow this one to a T -- just this morning, I raced the girls to their watersports class in my sweaty, disgusting, post-workout loveliness -- but I also don't believe in living in my yoga pants.  She advocates seeking out the arts, and cultivating your mind by, for instance, watching less TV and reading more (and not just People magazine or US Weekly). Here's another great chapter title: "Find Simple Pleasures."  Yes, yes, YES!! 

Okay, I don't want to spoil it by telling you everything that's in this book, but I found it so refreshing to read that there was another person in the world who thought we should (for instance) listen to more classical music and reinstate manners in our daily lives.  Here's one great, big idea I loved -- ignore the cell phone when with family and friends.  I have, on several occasions, felt stung when I'm with friends, trying to have a good, meaningful conversation, and they can't ignore their phones.  Of course, I remind myself that it's not the personal affront it feels like but rather our culture these days.  But I felt like I'd found a kindred spirit when I read Scott's words and thought, It doesn't have to be like this!! Put the phones down!!

There was still plenty in this book to challenge me.  Take, for instance, the chapters "Clutter is So Not Chic" and "Liberate Yourself with the Ten-Item Wardrobe".  I feel like "Simplify" has become my word for the year 2013 -- I've pared down and gotten rid of so much this year, and taken time to focus on what truly matters to me.  This was kind of forced on me since we downsized by over 400 square feet (and a garage) with our move to Hawaii.  But it was something I felt very drawn to before we knew we were moving here.  Reducing the clutter, the chaos... focusing on the simple pleasures.  This little journey actually deserves its own post, so I'll save that for another day.  These chapters in Lessons are some of what I read -- and re-read in the months since -- to motivate me -- and they were undoubtably the most fun.

This is a great book to read and give to the kind of friend you can have good conversations with.  For instance, I would love to discuss the chapter "Cultivate an Air of Mystery" with someone.  I tend towards oversharing.  I mean, hello, I grew up where one of the first questions you were supposed to ask in a conversation translates, more or less, to, "How are your bowels today?"  I wonder how important this "air of mystery" is versus what I personally think is better -- openness and accessibility.  (Though I really don't need to know about your bowels, thank you!)

So whether you're going to go down to the bookstore, or just click over to Amazon, trust me, you're going to want this book.  Give yourself a little gift of fun... and give another copy to a friend or sister.  (Or brother -- these principles aren't for girls only.)  Whoever receives it is sure to say, "Merci!"


  1. Thank you for this fun and wonderful recommendation! I am a total Francophile too. I added it to my Amazon wishlist and might get it for my sister!

  2. Joy ~

    "Lessons" sound like a fun must-read before my next trip to France. Luv ideas applicable to living well anywhere and everywhere.


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