I've been doing some reading from a very special author named Jennifer L. Scott. She's a wife, a mother of three, and she works from home and makes home her life's work. Her first book, Lessons From Madame Chic, 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, is her one of three which focus on beautiful living. When I think of "chic" I think of something far beyond what I can attain in my everyday life or in my occasional fancy-going-to-an-event days. But Jennifer makes me think differently about the term chic. It is more than French style and fashion, but instead it is a refined quality of gracefulness, manners, and good taste. To me, that sounds like a way of life, something I want in my everyday, at-home life. We all try to look our best and be on our best behavior when we are in public, but isn't it just as important to be at our best every day, and to enjoy our lives and our homes and our loved ones every day? This is the message that Jennifer Scott has for us: take joy in every single thing that you do each and every day. Do everything with purpose, take your time, see the beauty in it.
I started the Madame Chic books out of order so the first book I read was At Home With Madame Chic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and just knew that my daughter and daughters-in-law would love it too since they are at the same stage in life as Jennifer. They are all young wives and mothers at home with small children. It is a rewarding time of life, but also a very busy, high-energy time that can often leave a young woman feeling far less than chic by the end of her full days. In this book, Jennifer gives her readers tips to make the days more organized and less chaotic, more beautiful and less mundane. Many ideas she learned directly from her Parisian host family whom she nicknames The Chics, but she also learned from Marla Cilley (aka: Fly Lady) and Emilie Barnes, two authors that I read and was encouraged by back when I was a young mom at home. (Sandra reminded me in the comments about Alexandra Stoddard's books which I also read and loved.)
Today I was reading chapter 2 from the first book, Lessons From Madame Chic, which is entitled: Deprive Yourself Not. To quote Jennifer, "I have never consistently eaten better, nor enjoyed my food more, than when I lived in Paris with Famille Chic. This was a family who, gastronomically speaking, led a rather enviable existence. Breakfast consisted of toasted tartines with real butter and homemade jam, among other delights. Lunch was leftovers from the previous evening... or a quiche and salad. A typical weeknight meal would be something like leek soup, followed by roast chicken with braised endive and new potatoes, followed by a salad, followed by a strawberry tart and finally the cheese course." Now that sounds like some dining that I'd totally love to experience day in and day out, wouldn't you? By the way, all of the meals were prepared by Madame Chic herself!
Dining on such delicious foods was never followed by the comments, "I wonder how many calories we consumed at this meal?" Never! That would not be chic. But instead, the diners' appetites were deeply satisfied not only by the thoughtfully prepared meal served to them, but also by the intentional experience of eating together on the best dinnerware with cloth napkins, and taking pleasure in the relaxed conversations of the family at the table. (Very chic!) Jennifer lets us know that she did not gain weight while she was in France even though they ate very well.
Think of the difference in a typical American breakfast: driving through Starbucks and grabbing a bagel and a coffee and eating it on-the-fly as you scramble off to work or to an appointment because you are running late. Compare it to Jennifer's Parisian breakfast: an early morning breakfast prepared just for you to enjoy, taken at the less formal kitchen table, sipping a cup (or bowl in France) of tea or coffee with a slice of last night's strawberry tart and a bowl of fruit over yogurt while the radio plays in the background. I know how I'd rather start my day!
Jennifer tells us further in this chapter that snacking happened rarely so when it was time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, everyone was hungry and ready to experience the meal of the day. She gives us a tip on how to dine well and she calls it The Delicacy Technique. "Think about how you would eat a delicacy if it was placed in front of you. You wouldn't mindlessly jam it into your mouth while you simultaneously check your iPhone, would you? You would bring the food to your mouth slowly, taste and savor it. You would discuss it. You would enjoy. Just imagine if you did this with everything you ate. If you treated mealtime as sacred--no matter what the circumstances."
Let me say that I occasionally eat in front of the computer or TV, particularly at noon if Hubby isn't here to eat with me. When there were children at home, I never did this. We all sat at the table, said our blessing and enjoyed our lunch as a family. I don't want to become a distracted diner. I want to be an engaged eater of delicacies, even if the delicacy before me is a grilled cheese sandwich! Honestly, if you think of the amount and varieties of foods we have to eat on a daily basis in America, we should be always grateful and mindful of the true delicacies of foods we have compared to so many who have so little.
I'm sure I will have many other tidbits to share with you from this book, but I wanted to give you a taste of something delicious to read and experience. I shared my book, At Home With Madame Chic, with OnlyDaughter and yesterday we were discussing it. She told me, "Mom, I think this little book is going to change my life." Now that's a testimony for you! She is excited to share it with other young mothers.