Did you know I have some amazing SHOP and GIFT IDEA categories that are always readily accessible on the blog, including one called Books that Make Lovely Gifts? Today I am sharing a little book about refinement that’s a fun read and a fun gift for a friend.
Last year a friend recommended the book, Madame Chic, saying its premise tied in so much with what I was doing with DoSayGive. The subtitle of the book is “25 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris” so at first I thought it was a book about fashion, but it’s much more than that. In the book, published in 2011, the author reflects on her study abroad experience in the home of a Parisian family, focusing on the habits of the wife, whom she refers to as “Madame Chic.”
From the introduction: “She was a woman who knew what was important in life, and her family was the most important of all. She was the head of the household that lived so well. She made all of those delectable meals. She managed the intricacies of everyday life. She steered the ship.”
If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought she was writing about my late grandmother (who was the inspiration for this blog!). The way this “Madame Chic” always set a table, enjoyed preparing and serving her meals, took care of her appearance, and kept a tidy house all reminded me of how my grandmother lived her life (and my mother, too, for that matter): confidently, with high standards, and always with pleasure.
What I realized in reading this book is that the art of refinement, as my grandmother called this way of living, is not exclusive to the South. Having high standards for yourself and your family is actually something that many cultures cling to but, of course, the French do it quite well;).
Yes, many of the pointers in the book we’ve heard before about the French: how they don’t snack, how exercise is part of their daily routine and not worked into their schedule, how they always look effortlessly chic. But the author, Jennifer Scott, explores the why and how behind these traits, contrasting relatable things like her sloppy Old Navy pajama pants to Madame Chic’s elegant nightgowns. Side note: this “capsule wardrobe” trend in the U.S. is how most French women have always gone about their closets! Scott also broaches the subjects of carrying enjoyable, conversations, cultivating our minds (I appreciated her music suggestions), entertaining confidently, and, as my grandmother always said, putting on that “air of mystery” in our femininity.
Jennifer Scott’s follow-up book, At Home with Madame Chic, was released in 2014 and explores these topics even further, but with an emphasis on doing all these things with young children and a husband added to the mix! I love her premise about falling in love, and enjoying, your home no matter it’s shortcomings (i.e. always looking ahead to the bigger square footage and marble countertops does not for a happy person make!).
I love her “ten-minute tidy” tip and rule for children’s schedule: give them several afternoons of unscheduled time (i.e. no activities) where they can play, and imagine, and figure out who they really are. (You know I am all about that!). Her tips for working from home are sound. The mediation stuff is not really for me, but that’s just a little part of the book!
These books in no way makes you feel bad about yourself, but are uplifting in their advice to rise to the occasion and extract pleasure from even the most mundane things in life. They are fun and easy reads so I love to give them as friend gifts. Either one of these books would also make a thoughtful gift for someone starting a new chapter in their life, whether it’s graduating from college or getting married or even having her first baby!
Be sure to browse all my Books that Make Great Gifts category. Lots of coffee table books you see in fine boutiques, the latest cookbooks, and other bestsellers for men and women. Everything is linked to Amazon for easy ordering and, of course, the best price. Here is a sampling:
In my mind, if you can’t find anything else, a book is always a great gift in my mind!
Photo: Stephanie Drenka