Last night I read Jennifer L. Scott’s delightful Lessons from Madame Chic, a lifestyle book inspired by her study abroad program in Paris during which, in addition to her university studies, she was tutored by Madame Chic, her host mother, in the art of all things French. Like Jennifer, I studied abroad in Paris in college, where I lived with an equally chic host family. Jennifer’s experience in Paris is my own. In fact, if one were to change a few details (children, arrondisement, country retreat), our host families would look nearly identical. I found myself nodding along with almost everything she mentioned.
At the moment, I am working on Jennifer’s next book At Home with Madame Chic, the follow up to Lessons that shares Jennifer’s tips about creating your best and chic-est home. It comes out in October and is, not coincidentally, also delightful.
Several of the early chapters of Lessons from Madame Chic really struck a chord with me. Many of these focus on how important food and presentation (clothing, beauty, etc.) are to the French. While in France, I adopted many of the French routines: a multi-course meal each night, dressing my best both in and outside the home, taking time to stop and enjoy the arts and culture around me. My host family took the time to introduce me to each quotidian aspect of their lives, and I felt myself grow calmer and more self-assured every day. I’ve kept a few reminders of my Parisian life since I returned to the U.S.: I walk nearly everywhere– upwards of three miles a day– and I still often eat a Parisian breakfast of baguette tartine (bread with butter and jam), coffee, and a mini financier at Eric Kayser when I have the time. Unfortunately, some poor habits have resurfaced as well; I’ve indulged in the American pastime of snacking, and have been prone to leaving my apartment in some less-than-inspired looks. In Paris I curled my hair, did my makeup, made sure that my outfit looked presentable, even in wintertime. I often wore jeans in the winter (because it was truly too cold for skirts), but paired them with one of my beloved and stylish winter coats.
Last week at work I found myself looking particularly bedraggled. In my defense, I also had a cold, but I had been feeling distinctly un-put together for several weeks. I missed my coiffed hair, my morning tea, my perfectly chosen outfits– my French-ness — all abandoned in the mad rush out of the door every morning.
After reading Lessons from Madame Chic, I was inspired to recommit myself to the Parisian habits I miss. So this morning I awoke early, curled my hair, put on makeup and a nice dress, and had my baguette tartine, raspberries, and a cup of tea while reading at the dining room table. And I felt like a student of Madame Chic once again.