Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What We Could Learn From the French




Today's blog is a little wordier than usual, but if you can deal with my writing, I think everyone can get a little something out of it. I hope to not be too preachy, but to inspire you all a little. This is a fresh start.  New thinking and new habits are what it is all about.

 I always have a case of the blahs come January. Luckily, I got a bit of a kick from one of my favorite columns,  At Home  by writer Marni Jameson, in our local San Jose Mercury News. She wrote about a new book, "Lessons from Madame Chic, the Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris." Her article was intriguing and funny and from her I found the author, Jennifer L. Scott's blog called The Daily Connoisseur, which had her 20 tips for living like the French. Being a Francophile, I couldn't wait to read all the tips. They were just the inspiration I needed after the excess of the holidays.


No laptops here. The cafe at Jardin du Luxembourg. via Telegraph.uk


Scott's tips explain that quality of life is what the French value most.  They know how to enjoy each meal and each day and live in the moment. That's something we could all work at here in the states as we race through our days to the next task. That's part of the problem we're racing instead of taking it all in and being present.

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We need to bring it people! We need to be our best each day. To do so we need to have less and do less. Take time with your life and be content with all you have. Eat your breakfast on your nice china, and enjoy your coffee at home. Being with and enjoying each other is what matters. Most important, she states in her blog, is to fall in love with the rituals of everyday! Make each experience count, whether it's going to the grocery or washing a dish. If you care about how it is done, you will make the experience enjoyable and not a task.

Okay, I admit shopping here would be more enjoyable than Safeway.

 The French believe they deserve to live well and do so. This is not about how much money they have, but about their attitude and cherishing each day. We Americans fail at this miserably. That means not picking up fast food because it's easier, but instead taking the time to enjoy the process of creating dinner with your family and eating together. Why are we racing to get the food on the table? Is it so we can park ourselves on the couch in front of the tube? For the French, the family meal IS the evening and after they enjoy others, listen to music and read books. We are sold the idea of convenience meals and the faster and quicker you can get it down, with the least amount of work, the better. Sadder yet, we glue ourselves to tacky reality shows with people like the Kardashians and waste precious hours of our lives watching garbage instead of reading a book or spending real quality time with people we love.


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 I also love how Ms. Scott's tips emphasize that even the wealthy in France live with very little. They have only what they need and buy the best quality items they can afford and use them every day. We super consumers could bring more calm to our lives by bringing into our homes only what we really love and use often. The French use their china and good flatware everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And why not? Ever eat a nice dinner on paper plates? Sure it's easy, but something about that just seems wrong unless you are at a picnic.  Same with chipped, old or mismatched dishes you are using daily while your good stuff gathers cobwebs in cupboards.  We never use our best china. Paper plates and napkins are bought by the caseload, so we can eat quick and throw it all in the trash. We are even taught from a young age to keep our best clothes in the closet for another time and wear your sweats and jeans most days. Why have it if you never use it?  Live your best life and enjoy it. Imagine how less cluttered all our homes would be if we actually kept only our best!


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 The Daily Connoisseur blog shows that living modestly is actually living better. The French have small homes and spend their money not on huge mortgages, and remodeling jobs, but instead on good meals, travel, and the occasional fine thing. They truly do live up to the, "less is more," mantra. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be the American way. We have a Costco mentality here. Buy in bulk, get bigger, cheaper and store it up!  We admire huge cars, massive homes and more stuff. The more we have, the more we have to maintain and the less time we spend with our families and doing what we really love.


In this new year, I will try to embrace some of the lessons of French living and live a life that appreciates each day and those in it with me. I'm going to buy less and spend time and money on fun experiences with those I love. I hope to read more books, play more games with my kids, host more dinners, and watch less television. I want to use my best things each day and purge my closet and house of things we don't cherish or use often.  And when I'm tired and am tempted to make another run to High-Tech Burrito, I'll remind myself that I am helping my boys appreciate what really matters in life - good food, good times and being in the moment with each other. I wish that they will give that gift to their families one day too.

Carpe Diem and Happy 2012!!

Kim:)


9 comments :

  1. Kim, love your essay. I only touch on these important life moments and then always wish for more. So I will step it up another "notch" and possibly before too long we'll be living for those moments and people - making memories each day.
    I do enjoy using my crystal everyday - the only time one broke was during a fancy event. And the china is in a handy kitchen cupboard for adding in at anytime. My sister in law says, "If we don't use it and some of it is lost to breakage then when will I ever be able to replace it all?"
    Cheers!

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    1. Linda, Thanks so much. So funny about your sister-in-law . I have used regular china and glasses with the kids since they were very small and have only had a few ever broken anyway . Sure beats using melamine or whatever! :)

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  2. Great post Kim and the photos set it off beautifully. Your thoughts on Jennifer's book are fabulous!

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    1. Thanks so much Fiona. I'm thrilled you stopped by. I adore your blog. :)

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  3. This is a wonderful post and I do believe it is so true...I think life is so precious that to not enjoy it to the fullest is just such a shame...The French really do seem to have it figured out...I love living simply and beautifully....simultaneously. I enjoy luxury items like my Goyard bag...but I use it every single day and enjoy it as well. Your choice of photos to go along with this post are perfect! My friend that moved to live in France for three years with her family (now back in CA) will always ask for a proper cup for her coffee when we meet at a cafe. If you don't ask, they assume you are on the run and put it in a paper cup...
    xo annie

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    1. Thanks Annie! I am with you on the nice bags. I think that if you buy a nice one like your Goyard, you can use it for so many years and still love it! My dear friend Kim, who has lived in France a few times says they will spend what we consider a fortune on a bag, but then use it every single day for many, many years.

      So glad you liked the post and photos. They make me want to go there now.

      Love the proper cups! They give them to you at Peets here if you request and it just makes it taste so much better! And everyone around always looks jealous and asks how I got a real cup!

      Kim :)

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  4. Hi Kim it's Jennifer Scott, author of Lessons from Madame Chic. I am so happy you enjoyed the book- thank you for writing such a great piece on it! I have mentioned you and your blog on my weekend post on The Daily Connoisseur. Here is the link:

    http://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com/2012/01/groom-like-parisian-and-other-weekend.html

    And thanks again for the support- happy new year to you! Jennifer Scott

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  5. Thanks so much Jennifer! I love your blog and I hope everyone checks it out. Your blog inspires me each time I visit.

    I'm thrilled you mentioned my post!

    Kim:)

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  6. Great post Kim - found you via Jennifer's blog!

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