~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #144
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Recently a good friend of mine who is learning French as well, and inspires me with her advanced abilities, asked how my learning was progressing. Disappointed even to say it out loud, I stated I haven’t been studying regularly. And while that is entirely true, I find myself playing with the little bit of the language I do know unconsciously throughout my days and in conversations and activities spent with those who know the language.
I continue to share and be enticed by French-themed posts, articles and books, and have shared much of what I find on my Twitter feed, but it became glaringly apparent that I haven’t written a Francophile post/episode in quite some time.
However, as my recent daily schedule has shifted ever-so-slightly to make time for a special individual in my life, I am even more appreciative of the simply luxurious approach to living. In fact, it is the approach I write about here on TSLL and share on the podcast that enable me to let go, appreciate, and savor the everyday moments and unexpected extraordinary moments in the ordinary routine. The realization of the approach of letting go of the unnecessary and focusing on the necessary being the key to easily flexing with life has inspired me to ardently protect and cultivate further these aspects, many of which are inspired by what I appreciate about the French, and some would argue western-European culture.
1. Depend on flavors from herbs, spices and ordinary cooking staples to enhance the flavor of food
After a recent conversation with an acquaintance from Belgium, I was reminded of the flavorful approach the French and other European countries take to cooking. First of all, they cook, they play with the food and the flavors and they don’t bury their food in thick, sugar-laden sauces. The simple sautéing of garlic and shallots in olive oil to provide a flavorful aromatic base or finishing with lemon to maximize the flavor. How about adding some thyme or rosemary and don’t forget the salt and pepper while you are cooking.
2. Discover the pleasure of thoughtful conversation; let go of small talk
Part of being a good conversationalist is caring about what your fellow-converser is saying. Secondly, it requires of both to let go of where the conversation might lead. This is not easy for goal-driven, busy Americans. We want to accomplish something, complete it and move on. However, deeper, more intimate relationships cannot be built on demand. Slow down, relax and let the conversation flow naturally. Forget looking at the clock and just enjoy the moment.
3. Cook at home unless a restaurant can do it better
Stock and prepare a kitchen that lends itself well to cooking whatever may be in the refrigerator on any given night. Make sure your Épicerie is properly stocked and the necessary cooking utensils are at the ready. Then, begin to experiment. Initially, this can be intimating, but with advice from those who know how, observation and practice, you will be whipping up delicious, simple, satiating meals Monday through Sunday if you so desire. (Learn more about how to become a cook in your kitchen here and here.)
4. Reexamine your diet. Eat flavorful, satiating food rather than empty calories.
Eating well involves an appreciation of the food your are eating as well as respecting your body. We shouldn’t have to swear off the delicious in order to tend to our cholesterol, etc. Moderation is the key and that requires of each of us knowledge about how the foods we eat affect our bodies. While eating is necessary, doing so mindlessly shouldn’t be part of our approach. For example, reduce the soda intake and increase the fruit and vegetable consumption.
5. Savor a glass of wine with a home cooked meal, any day of the week
To complement, not to cloud. Wine with dinner, a beautifully thoughtful dinner carefully prepared and presented deserves a savory partner in the form of a glass of wine. Sip, nibble, slow down and savor the culinary moment in front of you.
6. Reduce refined sugar
White sugar, white flour, packaged, processed foods with additives. In other words, know what you are putting into your body and what those ingredients do to you body. (Read more here about my January – one month resolution to reduce or eliminate refined sugar.)
7. Think for yourself
Have an opinion grounded in fact. Take the time to be aware of the world around you and refrain from rash assumptions. Being tactful in your approach and being aware of your audience reduces the need to be politically correct. Rather be honest, thoughtful and open to discussion.
8. Fall in love with daily rituals
From my morning ritual breakfast of steel oats to my Friday evening unwind that begins with a long walk with the boys, cultivating daily, even weekly and monthly rituals gives us something to look forward to regularly. As someone who loves to step into the kitchen and prepare a meal, this daily ritual is something I enjoy beyond measure. Maybe for you it is your weekly yoga class or sitting down with the newspaper or a new magazine. Whatever your rituals are, protect them and cherish them.
9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
In #11 below, skincare will be discussed and part of an effective skincare routine is drinking water. Keep the consumption of alcohol and sugar drinks low and making water your drink of choice.
Sit down for meals, set the table, turn off the television, converse, slow down. Add some flowers to the table to make it inviting even when not in use. Create a space that beckons to guests, asking them to sit down and enjoy a memorable moment.
11. Master a skincare routine
Last month I shared with you eight of my favorite skincare products. Some items are inexpensive and some are an investment. However, the attention we pay to our skin is not a vain task. It is a task modeling respect for ourselves and the visage and therefore, the woman we present to the world. Figuring out the skincare routine that will work best for your skin and age will take time and will in some aspects be an ever evolving process, but most items you discover that work for you, will work for you throughout your lifetime. Go, explore and then, pamper yourself each day.
12. Embrace the capsule approach to style
Less is more and simple, well curated style speaks volumes, beautiful, powerful volumes, about the woman wearing the clothes. Learn more about the capsule wardrobe approach here.
13. Reserve social media for what inspires you
The reason I follow the Instagram accounts I do is to tap into inspiration, beauty and a reminder of all that is full of goodness, diversity and unexpected magnificence in simplicity that surrounds us each day. Rarely do the accounts I follow include selfies, but rather city and nature scapes, a creative fashion combination, books, museum exhibits and vignettes of my favorite places around the world. Why not share with the world what inspires you and never know who will be moved.
Last Monday morning I woke up to sunshine and blue skies in Bend, Oregon. The birds were beginning to chirp and the snow was gradually melting. I looked outside and I just smiled. Sometimes, we get in our own way of savoring the gift that is life. In all of its simplicity, for some reason we think it has to be hard, and if it’s not, we make it so by over-analyzing, doubting, sabotaging and over-extending ourselves.
Life and how we exist in it is simple, and it begins with being present, savoring the everyday, listening to yourself and adjusting to let go of what doesn’t serve you and seek out what does and how you can contribute positively to the world. The everydays are the best part. And while it is a grand and necessary task to set goals, set them and then focus on what can be done today, allowing the unexpected to occur and dance with the days as they unfold.
15. Savor a piece of dark chocolate regularly
Whenever I share my daily ritual of eating a dark chocolate truffle with a cup of hot tea each evening I do not partake in dessert, some nod their head and contemplate adding it to their routine and others chuckle at its either decadence or simplicity. Either way, I love this daily ritual and have been incorporating into my life since near the blog’s commencement. The powers of dark chocolate are subtle, yet powerful and the flavor is magnificent.
16. Keep your Sundays sacred
Speaking of rituals, one of my favorite rituals takes place on Sunday (last week it took place on Monday due to my schedule, but I made sure to savor it all the same – see below). The Sunday newspapers arrive (three in total), the hot tea is poured after a long walk with the boys and a croissant is often part of the moment as well. Hours can pass before I’ve made it through all of the intriguing articles.
No matter how you prefer to spend your Sunday, protect, guard it and remember that doing so is an investment in the quality of your life and specifically in the kicking off of the week to come, ensuring it has its best chance possible to be a week to enjoy.
~The New Essentials of French Cooking via The New York Times~
17. Think critically
A few years ago I shared a post inspired by a book titled The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction . And in sharing and in teaching rhetoric in my second job that isn’t blogging, I continue to be more convinced that the thinking life is the best way to live. Taking in all that we are exposed to can be overwhelming, but knowing how to do so effectively will enable us to live well. By applying the tools of rhetoric established by Aristotle to examine any piece of information that we come across, we can make sure we are not being led around by the nose and are indeed thinking for ourselves.
America is a self-help culture, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to grow (see #19), not believing we are enough or not accepting ourselves for who we are in this moment, right now, is not easy for many of us. After all, if we could just lose those last few pounds, if we could just earn a slightly larger paycheck, if we could just fix our relationship status, focusing entirely, constantly on these “small” changes robs us of the now. And who you are right now, however flawed, is a beautiful thing.
19. Invest in Intellectual Wealth
Make learning one of your favorite pastimes. Whether it is learning how to skate ski (as I did this winter season for the first time), learning how the three branches of the U.S. government work regarding checks and balances, or learning how to cook Sole Meunière. Tickle your mind and follow your curiosity and you will always find youth to be alive within you.
20. Quality over Quantity in all things
The following 19 ways to incorporate the French culture into your everyday life, at their core, involve appreciating the experience and allowing what works well to exist without the excess. Quality, quality, quality. Above all else quality. And what works well for you may not be what works well for someone else, so what each of us chooses to invest in will indeed be different. But if your goal is to build a life that enables you to enjoy the everyday, and not constantly be dreaming about tomorrow, then your tomorrows need not to be worried about for you are ensuring now, today, in this moment, that they will be magnificent as well.
~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY FROM THE ARCHIVES:
~The French Way: How to Create a Luxurious Everyday Life (podcast #23)