1.17.2011

The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #3 Simple Pleasures



Do you remember the film Amélie? At the beginning of the film, the narrator introduces the characters by the simple pleasures that they take part in every day. For Amélie herself it was plunging her hands into the sack of grain at the market, skipping stones at the Canal St. Martin and breaking the top of the crème brulée with her spoon. For her father it was cleaning out his tool box and stripping wallpaper. For her mother, cleaning out her handbag and scrubbing the floor with her slippers were her tiny pleasures. And while Jean Pierre Jeunet’s characters’ likes were slightly eccentric and whimsical, they are a perfect showcase for how the French take pleasure from the simplest things in life.

Lately in our society it seems we suffer from what I call “Real Housewife” syndrome. It takes an awful lot to impress anymore. Parties, houses, cars- everything has to be bigger, better and more expensive. This way of life might be temporarily exciting but unfortunately also leads to a whole slew of other issues- debt, clutter and a strong sense of emptiness are just three maladies that come to mind. While living in Paris, I found French people’s regalement in the simplest of things to be incredibly refreshing.

Like the characters in Amélie, Famille Chic took pleasure out of the seemingly smallest of things. Madame Chic enjoyed listening to the morning radio show as she prepared breakfast (which, by the way, was at 5am every weekday). She took immense pleasure out of getting the strawberries perfectly symmetrical on her tarte aux fraises. She relished the morning phone call to her girlfriend where they discussed the week’s gossip (Madame Chic did not have a cell phone, she would sit in the hall next to their old fashioned telephone when speaking to her friend- it was a ritual). Monsieur Chic loved his pipe, his nightly slice of camembert- the ‘Roi du fromage’. And for vacations? Their summer house in Brittany provided endless pleasure.

Not only were Famille Chic’s pleasures simple, but also repetitive. They somehow found a way to enjoy the repetition of the seemingly mundane things of their daily life. Madame Chic’s attitude could easily have been, “Here I go again, preparing breakfast for the family- every day the same thing!” Or Monsieur Chic could have thought, “Camembert again for the cheese course? Where is the variety?” But they didn’t have negative attitudes towards these small life details and as a result, they got along very harmoniously as a family.

Having a ‘simple pleasures’ mindset can really set you up for a happy life. If you slow down and take pleasure in simple things, you are less likely to overspend- less shopping trips for unnecessary clothes, less pressure for that dream vacation you can’t really afford, or that car that is just out of your budget. It is not to suggest you become complacent with your life but to inherently appreciate the things that you already have. To reject the new materialism we talked about prior in the countdown.

The simple pleasures mindset also helps one cope with the mundane nature of everyday life. Tasks that one normally abhors such as washing the dishes or making the bed can become pleasurable if you choose to make them so. After all, you will have to do these tasks for the rest of your life, why not enjoy them?

And as for repetition… have you heard the phrase ‘variety is the spice of life?’ Well that could be true, but French people really find what they like and stick with it- the camembert for the cheese course every night, comes to mind. Or the champagne cocktail that Madame Bohemienne served before every one of her dinner parties. Famille Chic and Bohemienne didn’t mind repetition when it came to their favorite things. Monsieur Chic was a connoisseur of camembert cheese. Madame Bohemienne had a good thing going with her champagne cocktail (trust me, it was yummy), so why change it?

Talking about taking pleasure in the moment, one of my fondest memories of Madame Bohemienne was when she came home one hot afternoon in spring with a bouquet of flowers in one arm- her other arm outstretched- and proclaimed, “We are the luckiest people in the world to live in Paris!”.

Indeed.

I would love to know… what are your simple pleasures?

A very Parisian courtyard is pictured above


Won't you stay tuned for #2?


My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.


The Daily Connoisseur is now available on the Kindle.

23 comments:

Stephanie said...

This is my favorite in the series. What a wonderful post. You've given me ideas of how to enjoy everyday tasks. I think I can adapt to this way of thinking for even the most mundane chores. Merci!

CashmereLibrarian said...

I'm not terribly good about simple pleasures--I like variety--but several that come to mind are:

Having a cup of coffee in bed with my husband before we get up to face the day

Ironing my pillowcases weekly, having sprayed them with lavender water

Friday night martinis!

CashmereLibrarian said...

PS: hello to baby girl! I bet she's getting big!

Fiona said...

Lovely, J.

I look forward to a glass of crisp, sparkling mineral water after work, and maybe a few slices of cheese on crackers or a tiny bowl of olives. Paired with a half-hour read before I start dinner I'm in 'simple pleasure' heaven.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Such rapture to read this post....
bless you for writing this...
I find joy in so many simple things...
when are you going to write these ideas and thoughts as a book?

lady jicky said...

I love to walk around my garden dead-heading my roses.
Some people complain about gardening but I find it very calming and I know when I remove the old heads - I shall be gifted with more blooms soon :)

Paris Pastry said...

I can't tell you how much I love your Top 20. I've read each and every one, and I'm looking forward to see what's on your number 1 and 2. I think you should publish your lessons learned in Paris in a small pocket book!

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

This is one of my favorites of your posts in this series. It is the simple things that make it all worthwhile! Looking forward to your next post!

Deborah said...

That first sip of coffee in the morning. I never get tired of it.

steppingmywaytobliss said...

This series is so wonderful...all your posts become favorites. My simple pleasures:
Coffee or tea while I catch up on news and blogs in the mornings.

Popcorn, apple and sharp cheddar slices during a movie at home.

Walking my dog first thing in the AM--even before the coffee.

Finding beauty in my surroundings no matter where I may be.

Fixing My Thoughts said...

I concur! I hope you will publish a book containing this series. I will buy it and reading/owning it will become one of my simple pleasures. Much of my life is based on enjoying simple pleasures! Small rituals are very comforting I think. They are the "spoonful of sugar" to "make the medicine of life go down." Bess

Kristi said...

I was thinking the same thing -- this is all terrific material for a nonfiction book. You can do it! I know it would be wonderful. Also, off topic, have you joined sisters in crime for your novel? I'd like to talk to you more off list about it, as I've recently just finished my first novel and to my surprise, it was a mystery, too ... mammaitaliana23@gmail.com
But love this post, love this series. Also, have you posted the family's daily diet? I'm always fascinated by that ... Kristi

Shelley said...

Lovely post. Talk about stepping off the merry-go-round! I love finding new ways to wear my clothes, scarves and jewellery (the same old ones); finding recipes that we really like from the most inexpensive ingredients; sitting in front of the fire (a gas fire, not wood, sadly, but better than none) reading; watching the same films over and over - at intervals. This has been an excellent series. I'm only sorry it was a list of 10 instead of 100! Then again, I'm sure I'll enjoy reading those 10 over and over again...

Gina said...

Mine is the most simple of pleasures -- taking time to stretch before getting out of bed in the morning.

Deborah said...

Actually, interesting about Mme B's champagne cocktails. I recently had six co-workers over for dinner and served Kir Royale as my cocktail. They were such a hit I decided to make them my signature cocktail whenever I have guests over. Very elegant without being pretentious.

Zénaide said...

Mmmmm... sticking my hand in the thick, warm dish soap foam I make washing my french press each morning.

The way sunlight dapples down through the leaves of a tree. Fresh snow that glitters like diamonds in the morning light. The smell fresh herbs leave on one's fingertips. Life is good!

Rebekah said...

Ironing my napkins with a spritz of lavender water.

Tidying up a closet and reordering the clothes in a defined arrangement.

Freshly mown lawn.

Rereading Pride and Prejudice.

Friday champagne.

Vicki said...

I love the shadows created in the afternoon by the ferns all over the garden, the sound of ice in a glass and to hear 'mum' when I'm in a shop and it's not my child but that I do have children, fresh white sheets, picking roses from my garden....can't stop looking at them in the vase!
Loving these blogs!xx

The Daily Connoisseur said...

I am, once again, overwhelmed by all of your kind and supportive comments. Thank you so much. Many of you have mentioned that this series of posts would make a great book and I’m happy to report that a book is in the works. I could elaborate for ages on each of these topics- and will in the book. I will give you all updates soon.

Stephanie- You are so welcome- thank you for your feedback. It is the mundane chores that tend to drag us down but yet we always have to do them and they will never go away- so we might as well enjoy them! xx

Cashmere- Girl- Friday night martinis sound good! I hope you and your family are well. Baby is amazing- she is already six months old- beautiful and curious. It’s the best time of my life xx

Fiona- I love hearing the small details of people’s lives- thank you for sharing these with us. I love all of your simple pleasures xx

Hostess- Thank you so much- you’ve been so supportive! I find joy in your blog ☺ And yes a book is coming xx

Lady Jicky- If I was lucky enough to have a garden I would love dead-heading my roses too! I find cooking very meditative and try to find cleaning up the same xx

Paris Pastry- Thank you very much! I can’t believe the countdown is almost over- it went by so fast. I hope you enjoy 2 and 1 just as much xx

Lisa- The simple things do make life worthwhile, I agree. Our lives are all composed of the simplest things- we sometimes lose sight of them ( I know I do). Hope you are well xx

Deborah- I normally have green tea in the morning and coffee in the afternoon but as I’m nursing baby I’m not having either for now… I will definitely look forward to that first sip as soon as I’m ready! xx

Bliss-Your popcorn ritual sounds delicious… I’m noticing a trend with people and their coffee as their simple pleasure- there is something so alluring about that welcoming cup with its hot, steamy beverage in it isn’t there? Xx

Bess- Thank you so much for your support! The book is on its way : ) xx

Kristi- Hello! I’ve missed you and your wonderful blog. I’ve been so busy with baby and writing I don’t get to read blogs like I used to. I will email you- I’d love to discuss sisters in crime and congratulations on your mystery novel! I would love to hear about it. Thanks for your request- I will do a post on Famille Chic’s daily diet in the next couple of months xx

Shelley- Thank you so much. I love that you find new ways to love the clothes you already have. We all could do that and then we’d spend much less money on clothes just to fill a void. Xx

Gina- I’ve heard that stretching first thing in the morning is one of the most important things you can do for your health. What a great simple pleasure… xx

Deborah- Kir and Kir Royale are my absolute favorite aperitifs. They are so elegant and (I think) whimsical… xx

Zenaide- I love your simple pleasure- beautifully written. Thank you for sharing them with us xx

Rebekah- Mmmmm… lavender water and champagne- you can’t go wrong! There is something very satisfying about tidying up and reorganizing- whether it be a drawer, a closet or a handbag… xx

Vicki- Thank you so much and I love your simple pleasures xx

Charlene said...

This is such a great post--really makes me think about all the little pleasures in my life. So glad you're working on a book of all your observations and ideas. Your top 20 has just been fabulous!

Lacey said...

Again, a fantastic post. I agree with your readers who have suggested that you should turn these posts into a book. As a side note, thank you for your movie recommendations. I recently watched Coco Avant Chanel and wondered what other French films I could watch....I am definitely going to watch Amelie next!

I LOVE Kir Royale cocktails! Definitely a pleasure. I also love my coffee, being home alone and turning up my music a little louder than usual (often listening to my 80s music...haha), flower bouquets, watching Mad Men and my British TV shows (Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served and The Old Guys) .... and in the summer - evening boat rides on the lake by my in-laws cottage.

Oshiya said...

This is so true. Some people said I live a boring life playing classical music on harp and reading books... and I was like, "It's not boring if I'm happy." I've just got the file Amelie. Probably will find the time to watch it soon.

Beth - In My World... said...

"Amelie" is one of mu all-time favorite movies. In following with her simple pleasures, I am trying to follow her lead as you suggest herein. My simple pleasures are spending time savoring my favorite blogs, a glass of wine as I prepare dinner, and reading a least a chapter of a favorite book before bed. Bliss!

 
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