Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Recommendation: Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott,

Hello, lovely readers!

Many of us are celebrating holidays this month and we do a lot of gift giving. One of my all time favorite gifts to receive is a good book! So, today, I am going to share a little gem of a book with you all: a wonderful book that has changed my life! No joke! I've recommended this book (and its whole series) to my friends and family. I don't master the lessons written about in this small, yet powerful, New York Best Seller, of course, but I do try to implement them every day as much as I can and that alone, like you read above, has changed my life! Keep reading and you'll learn why, specially as I mention my two favorite parts towards the end. 

Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott, also the creator of The Daily Connoisseur blog and YouTube channel, talks about many things, but mainly, about the pleasure of living while honoring ourselves in ways we quite hadn't considered before. Ok, when I mentioned it had changed my life, please don't expect a philosophical or even self-help book. What this book reflects upon is the tasks of our everyday and how to embrace them and experience them beautifully, including what we consider the most mundane of tasks. Something, according to her, that she observed the French culture does a lot of. And, really, aren't our every day tasks, since is what we do the most, what is most important? 

Anyway, let's dive into a quick summary of the content of the book. 

This first part is about diet and exercise, it looks at the way French people look at these two important aspects of healthy living, concluding that they don't deprive themselves when it comes to eating. They enjoy their foods, their meals fully, with passion, making of each meal a ritual worthy of celebrating. Eating is one of the greatest gifts and pleasures in life, after all. Why not truly get to enjoy it? It's no secret Frenchwomen, not as a rule, but tend to not obsess about their weight or have weight issues, yet they like to indulge in foods many in our culture would cringe at: bread, butter, wine, cheese, croissants... Why is that? Could it be some psychological paradox? Maybe, when you allow yourself to indulge in these foods, you don't feel the need to overdo it after all!

The book also observes the way the French view exercise: more of a way of life than a chore. They walk everywhere, have many activities and are active all day. Exercise is just a given! Not all of us have the luxury of living in a pedestrian friendly city like the Parisians. But most of us do have many opportunities throughout the day to exercise: do lounges when cleaning the living room table, engage the abs when sweeping and mopping, consciously use the muscles of your arms when washing windows or scrubbing the bathroom, etc. Other ways can be parking farther away from places you go to, taking the stairs instead of the elevator (my personal favorite), choose walking whenever you get the chance. This way, exercising will slowly start to become a thing of everyday life rather than something you have to do.      

This second part has one of my favorite topics, a chapter titled: Liberate Yourself with the Ten Item Wardrobe. Oh, guys, let me tell  you that as I was reading these pages, it's as if Jennifer was talking directly to me. I briefly touched the subject in my Why I Started A Minimalist Lifestyle post. Has it happened to you that you're getting ready, about to get dressed, look at your closet and despite the fact that there are a lot of clothes in it, you still  think you have nothing to wear? It used to happen to me and it was something I'd hear (and still hear) from pretty much all of my friends. It never occurred to me that the reason might be because we just have too many items in our closets! Yes, I know, it sounds like a paradox but it's true (I'm thinking there are many paradoxes to learn from in the book). We have too many items because we tend to shop mindlessly, just for the sake of it, (you know it's true!), and after a while, we fall out of love with those clothes. But if you only had a few core items in there that you truly loved, each one of them, of good quality, you would enjoy wearing all of them and have no trouble choosing what to wear in the morning because you would love every item in it. Even though I haven't perfected having a capsule wardrobe, it already has been truly liberating for me!

This part also talks about a natural make up look, finding your own style and embracing it, taking care of your skin and the importance of looking presentable always. I have read some criticism to this part of the book, people saying it is shallow. But, I completely disagree. Jennifer doesn't encourage looking presentable in our every day to impress others, but rather, as a way to honor ourselves and life itself. Also, she advocates the natural make-up look! Looking presentable doesn't mean spending hours doing your make-up and hair and wearing extravagant, expensive clothing. Although she does encourage investing in quality pieces that will last for many years, she also encourages staying within your budget, and enhancing your natural beauty with a little bit of make-up and beautiful clothes. And, to be honest, even though I do believe it is important to embrace our natural beauty, I have to admit that I end up feeling so good after I spend maybe 10-15 minutes (really, I've no time for more than that) applying a natural make-up look and brushing my hair, maybe braiding it or doing a half pony tail- I just do, I feel more confident and end up tackling the day with a better attitude. I don't think it's shallow but rather, a matter of self respect, like we are sending our subconscious self the message that we deserve a little bit of time each day to look nice.  

Something else the book encourages is to get rid of clutter in our lives! This means our cars, our closets, our houses in general! Often times, we start gathering stuff and storing it away without realizing how much stuff we keep that we don't actually need! Or even want! A clutter free home is freedom. I touch on this also in my previous post about minimalism. 

While all the above topics are definitely important, it's time to talk about my favorite. The first one is: seeking out the arts! Let's be honest. Nowadays, between Netflix (which I have to confess I still love and indulge in every now and then. Sorry, Jen!), TV, social media, and so many other forms of entertainment, we might get into the habit of neglecting other forms of  and/or the arts like reading, writing, poetry, quality music or live performances (if we haven't completely neglecting them already). And because of it, we are missing so much wonder and beauty out of our lives! The arts simply provide something to our lives and hearts that other things, as great as they can be, will never do! Hardly ever will you get the chills you get when hearing a moving live soprano voice by watching a movie on Netflix (again, not completely shaming the portal, just trying to make a point we all must admit it's true). Wouldn't it be great if we started to seek the arts more? Maybe it's time to read that novel you've been meaning to or attend a ballet (my personal favorite live performance) for the first time! Begin to bring the wonder and awe the arts can provide in our lives. And, if you are an artist yourself, make your art! One of the reasons I started this blog (and currently writing a novel) is thanks to this wonderful and important message.

Another one of my favorite topics is in a section called How To Live Well. Here, Jennifer writes about how to live our best lives. For example, always using the best things we have rather than waiting for that special occasion to arrive and use them then. Have you ever found something that has been hidden away in your closet or in the back of a kitchen cabinet (depending on the item) only to realize that it's been years since you bought it, it's new and that special occasion you were saving it for just hasn't come yet? It used to happen to me all the time with clothes and even with household items, like plates, teacups, etc! I love beautiful teacups and had several of them but had never used them because of this: waiting for that special event to come. Clothes were another thing I had always saved for later, for something special.  But, Jennifer states that we shouldn't wait! Why wait? What are we waiting for exactly? You shouldn't reserve that dress or beautiful silk blouse (or elegant and pretty teacup or china) only for a special occasion. As the lyrics of  wise John Lennon state: Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. Your life is right now and it deserves the nice and beautiful things you have! Wear and use these special items everyday, or at least often, because every day is a special occasion! Let you and life itself, the fact that you are alive, be celebration enough! (Note: I am sighing as I write this because I feel so passionate about this, it's so true. And I didn't clearly see it before I read the book, although it had always been in the back of my mind. Thank you, Jennifer!). 

After all these lessons, Jennifer writes about learning to appreciate and truly love what you already have, which is crucial for living well and beautifully. Also, to indulge in the simple pleasures in life. Jennifer refers to one of the scenes in the movie Amélie, where the main character describes the small things that bring her joyful pleasure: sticking her fingers in a sack of beans, breaking the top of a crème brûlée with a spoon, throwing and watching pebbles bounce off from the water in a pond, etc. In today's rushing society, it's not easy to stop and pay attention to these simple pleasures, but we must do it, otherwise, we miss out on life itself! Pay attention to sensory input and try to take a pause in your day and do something you truly enjoy.

The main message from Lessons From Madame Chic is to live life passionately, however  and in whatever circumstances they may be. 

Obviously, this is a super short summary of all the wonderful content in the book. Jennifer L. Scott goes into much more detail about how to embrace these lessons in our own lives. Click here to get a copy of the book!

Image by Rico k from Pixabay
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

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