The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #17- Deprive Yourself Not

6:42 PM 12 Comments

Of pastries that is. When I first arrived in Paris I would regard the shop windows of the Patisseries with simultaneous longing and fear. The desserts looks so delicious- so tempting. What if I ate them and gained weight? Finally, I just succumbed and figured "when in Paris"... (I could always hit the gym when I got back to L.A.)

But then a miraculous thing happened. I wasn't gaining weight and I found I was really enjoying myself. I learned there is absolutely nothing wrong with having one gorgeous, decadent well made pastry or dessert a day, if that is what you desire.

The key factor (and this may sound strange) is to enjoy it. Every moment.

Enjoy it slowly. Enjoy it with an espresso. Enjoy it alone or with a friend… or even better yet- with a lover! But make sure that you by all means enjoy it thoroughly and in the present moment. No beating yourself up over it, s'il vous plaît .

Chocolate éclair? Divine, savor that delicious filling. Tarte aux fraises ? Fabulous, how do those seasonal berries taste? Don’t think about calories, or your thighs, or how you’ll have to put in an extra hour at the gym. That sort of thinking is rubbish (and so unsexy). What is the point?

Relish it with extreme pleasure, and eat slowly and mindfully. That way you are less likely to have two or three (and let's face it- we've all been there before).

And finally make sure that you are savoring a high quality dessert- Twinkies, Ho-hos and other inferior products do not count- in fact banish them from your repertoire. If a well made pastry (or chocolate) is not within your reach, you’ll simply have to go without- never settle.

Yes, one of the sweeter lessons I learned while living in Paris is not only are pastries and other sweet delights OK- but they are a necessary part of living a pleasurable existence. Deprive yourself not.

Won’t you stay tuned for #16?

The above picture was taken of me at some café in Paris (there were so many!). I’m not sure why I’m laughing with my head in hand here. I believe my afternoon tea companion kept stopping passers-by to take my picture and it all became a bit ridiculous. Even the waiter is looking the other way…

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 Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #18 Cultivate an Air of Mystery

9:17 PM 24 Comments

Last week my husband babysat while I went and treated myself to my first manicure/ pedicure in a long time. Being somewhat sleep deprived and feeling highly unglamorous, I was very much so looking forward to the experience. I did have a wonderful time (mani, pedi and 10 minute shoulder massage… heaven!) but the experience was hampered slightly by the woman in the chair next to me who was speaking loudly on her cell phone during my entire treatment. She shared lurid details about her date the night before, her status on match.com, the woe begotten details of her dwindling bank account and the fact that she hates her boss. Not only did she share these things with her friend on the other end of the phone, but also to me and an entire salon full of women.

That would never happen in France.

Living in Paris I never saw French women speaking loudly on a cell phone in public about their private life. They prefer to maintain an air of mystery. They might have a few confidants to whom they tell their innermost secrets to but I can assure you that this is not done on their cell phone in the nail salon. (In fact, it would be much more French to rapturously enjoy your manicure, pedicure and massage- not counteract the peaceful experience by stressing yourself out over your cell phone).

While people watching at a café in Paris (one of my favorite activities) I would always observe other French women in the café either alone reading or simply staring into space (probably thinking about the lurid details of their date the night before!), or, if they were sitting with a companion, speaking in hushed tones while drinking espresso. I loved imagining about the lives of these people- what they did for a living, what they were passionate about- what made them tick. Their air of mystery was so appealing.

I now avoid over-sharing about myself to people and if I need to vent to a girlfriend over the phone, I do it while walking the dog (Gatsby doesn’t mind, you know).

Along with not over-sharing cultivating a Mona Lisa smile is quite effective too. I haven’t gotten direct feedback on my quest to maintain an air of mystery but I do get a lot of curious smiles from strangers… maybe it’s working after all…

Won't you stay tuned for #17?

The above picture was taken of me (Mon Dieu I am young here!) in 2001 in the Jardin des Tuileries… It could be that the picture is rather grainy and taken almost ten years ago, but I think I look quite mysterious... non?

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 Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #19- Only Use the Best Things You Have

5:52 PM 21 Comments

I learned the hard way when Madame Chic questioned why I would wear a holey pair of faded sweatpants to bed. In France, it is de rigueur to use the best things you have on a daily basis. And why not? As it has been said before, life is short, why save your pretty pajamas (for example) for another night?

Living with Famille Chic I watched them all use the best things they had on a daily basis. We drank our wine out of crystal tumblers. We sat in their beautiful antique Louis XVI (-esque) chairs before each meal for our apéritif . They wore their nicest clothes every day (there was no changing into old Juicy Couture tracksuits once home like I am guilty of- the family was still dressed beautifully in their day clothes when we sat down for dinner). In short, they used the best things they had on a regular basis.

I will actually take it a step further by saying that they only owned the best things they had. For example, Madame Chic would never dream of hanging on to a garment that had passed its prime (like my holey sweatpants). Every article of clothing she owned was of a high quality and in top condition. They didn’t have two sets of wine glasses for dinner- it was crystal or nothing- and as for their home, they didn’t have one room for ‘everyday’ and one room for ‘special visitors’. In their minds- they were special enough.

Observing this way of being planted the seed of fine living into my impressionable young mind and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

I find the key is to look at everything you own with a critical eye. Hold your possessions to the highest of standards. Doing so can bring a specialness to the mundane and make life so much more interesting…

Won’t you stay tuned for number 18?

I have scanned all of my old photographs from Paris for this series and look forward to sharing them with you. Above, the Eiffel Tower is pictured.

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 Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #20 Snacking Is So Not Chic

4:29 PM 17 Comments

Mindless snacking that is. Trust me- there was no errant box of Cheez-its laying about by Madame Chic’s sofa (actually they didn’t have a sofa… but you get the idea)...

There are many things that are simply not done in France and mindless snacking is one of them. Of course there is nothing wrong with the occasional afternoon nutella crêpe or petite sandwich au jambon- (eaten with pleasure and only when one is truly hungry, of course). But overall, France is not a snacking culture. (And, for the record, I absolutely never saw any of Famille Chic snacking on anything between meals- ever. Isn’t that crazy?)

When I realized there were no snack foods chez Madame Chic, I must admit, I panicked. I was addicted to snacking. I don’t think there was a day in my life up until that point where I didn’t snack on something in between meals. What if I got hungry? What if my blood-sugar became low? These concerns, in the end, were unnecessary. I never found myself to be ‘starving’. I did find myself to be hungry, but that can actually be a wonderful sensation. I was so used to snacking, I never knew what hunger was. And being slightly hungry, I enjoyed my meals that much more.

I have two theories on why the French don’t snack. The first is that they tend to go from one really great meal to the next. Breakfast is good, lunch is good and dinner is definitely good. Why would they want to ruin their appetite by stuffing themselves with a semi-disgusting cracker in the interim?

My other theory is that snacking is not very chic. Have you ever watched someone mindlessly snacking? Sitting in front of the television with a bag of pretzels or a pint of ice cream- absentmindedly eating while not really paying attention? Perhaps crumbs falling down the front of their shirt? Or an errant drop of ice cream ruining their perfectly pressed skirt? No, snacking is the opposite of chic. And in Paris? That simply won’t do.

Won't you stay tuned for #19?

The print pictured above is a vintage Art Deco poster I acquired while in France of Roger La Grenouille Restaurant. I love how chic the diners in the restaurant look- all dressed to the nines and enjoying both the food and each other’s company. So quintessentially French... and you can be sure that none of these people would dream of mindlessly snacking before this fabulous meal...

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.