Why The French Lifestyle Isn't Overrated

Anyone determined to live well and has done research on the subject has undoubtedly come across books, blogs, and podcasts about the idealized French culture. Some critics turn up their noses at our French-obsessed culture, saying our beliefs that French women don't get fat, are always stylish, and hardly ever wear makeup are fiction. Even as a devoted Francophile, I completely understand and respect that viewpoint. It would be silly to idolize a country I've never been to and be steadfast in my belief that France is every cultured woman's dream. 

French Culture and Lifestyle

However, I still embrace my French obsession in a different way. In her book 30 Chic Days, author Fiona Ferris describes having an idealized version of a French Girl in her head who she knows in reality does not exist but is a trope that gives her confidence and a goal to aim for. This is where the truly magical effect of French obsession comes into play. By reading these blog posts or books about what makes French women special, we start trying to exhibit that quality in our own lives. Sure, French women are as deeply flawed as the rest of us, but the dream of the chic French Girl keeps us Francophiles moving toward our dreams, even if those dreams don't exist in reality. 

Rather than looking for the bad or the "overrated" in a cultural obsession, why not choose to see what wonderful outcomes a predilection brings?

Emphasis on good food

In the famed French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano writes about how French women eat bread, butter, and dessert—all without getting fat. Several other books, such as Anne Barone's Chic and Slim, discuss the same topic. While these books provide different outlooks and tips, the philosophy boils down to our French Girls eating high quality, nutritious food in small portions. Out with the rice cakes and in with the boule if you will. With the food revolution that's taking place—more farm-to-table and organic foods—embracing French food culture couldn't have come at a better time. With the French philosophy in mind when it comes to food, I've found I'm better able to enjoy my meals and am discovering new foods I like.

Capsule Wardrobe

Much like fine cuisine, capsule wardrobes have recently come into vogue with the rise of minimalism and French adoration. As Americans, we've often used clothes shopping as a way to cheer up a bad day. This consumerism isn't only bad for our wallets. With too many items of clothing to choose from we're creating decision fatigue and causing ourselves unneeded stress before the work day has even begun. When we limit the number of items in our wardrobe like a French Girl does, we're making our decision process easier. And, when we spend money on fewer articles of clothing, we can save up for highly quality purchases that can last through many seasons. Since adapting this philosophy, I've found that getting dressed really is a lot simpler and wearing a "uniform" of black pants and light colored tops suits my lifestyle and taste. 

Appreciation of art

I imagine it would be difficult to not appreciate art when you have Musée du Louvre in your capitol city. That being said, the abundance of art readily available to the French Girl provides her with numerous opportunities to "seek out the arts," as Francophile author Jennifer L. Scott would say. Those who are channeling the ideal French Girl lifestyle are often inspired to find more opportunities to see exhibits, productions, or performances. I take a certain amount of delight in going to the theatre because in my mind, I'm acting like a Parisienne. 

Good Manners

While the French might be known for being a bit cold, they have very strict standards for proper greetings and interactions while doing their daily shopping. Part of this has to do with the more formal language usage (tu vs. vous), but the rest is based on the idea that when going into someone's shop, you should act as if you're entering their home. After all, one's job is their livelihood. Since learning more about the French necessity of greeting shop owners with "Bonjour!" and a little friendly chit-chat, I've made strides to do the same whenever I speak to an employee at a store. For example, I always make sure to says hello and ask the baristas how they are when I'm at Starbucks. Often times, I think they're so used to asking, "Hi, how are you?" and hearing someone's order in response that they're taken aback at a genuine exchanged of pleasantries. It can actually be quite fun and lead to interesting conversations. 

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile because I am undoubtedly smitten with the French culture. After years of reading Francophile books and blogs, I'm excited to add my voice to the conversation. Moving forward, you can expect more French themed blog posts on Sarah Michelle and further discussion on how to embrace your inner French Girl. Share in the comments any French philosophies you live by!

Christmas Bucket List

Anyone who has known me during the month of December knows I'm obsessed with Christmas. I love Christmas music, Christmas movies, Christmas decorations...really the list just goes on and on. Although I admittedly don't look forward to Christmas Day because it means the magic is over until next year. But the build up to December 25th? That's amazing, and to make it even more amazing, I came up with a Christmas Bucket List to hopefully complete before the season is over. 

Christmas Bucket List

Bryan has been absolutely amazing in helping me reach my bucket list goals. This past weekend we went to a Christmas tree farm and wandered around to admire the trees and general Christmas splendor. Saturday night was extra special as Bryan treated me to an early Christmas present. We went to dinner at Rachel's Cafe and Creperie (where we had our first date) and then went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Fulton Theatre. I've always found going to the theater special, and this was sincerely the best show I've ever seen—if you live near Lancaster, PA, you should definitely consider going!

Here are a few photos from this weekend's festivities:

Peppermint Affogato
Bryan
Styled Well: Ann Taylor Long Sleeve Shirt | Almay Red Lipstick 

Styled Well: Ann Taylor Long Sleeve Shirt | Almay Red Lipstick 

Do you have a Christmas bucket list or any must-dos? If so, share them in the comments. I'd love to add a few more to my list. 

Gift Guide: Office Secret Santa

Holiday shopping for family and friends can be a difficult task. How do you express how much someone means to you with an object? What's the proper monetary value to assign this affection? It's a sticky situation but also a very rewarding one. I love giving presents. I like putting thought into something I like my loved one with appreciate and seeing their face when they open the neatly wrapped package. Gift giving becomes even more complicated when you have to decide what to get for your coworkers. 

Gift Guide for Office Secret Santa

At my job, we're a close-knit team so instead of buying things for some of our coworkers and not others or spending heaps of money on everyone, we participate in Secret Santa. In theory this sounds simple, but what happens when you select a name from the hat that you don't know particularly well? Trying to stay within budget can be a difficult task, too. We're limited to a $25 budget, which I find to be the perfect middle for purchasing a quality gift without breaking the bank, and hopefully your office gives you an equally 

Instead of freaking out over what you could possibly get your coworker, I've come up with a guide of gifts that are sure to please anyone within your price point. With a few simple facts about your selected person, your gift will be both appreciated and meaningful. 

Cookbooks

Everyone has to eat! Even the worst cook can benefit from a beautifully designed cookbook with simple recipes. Whether you choose a celebrity chef's latest book, like Bobby Flay's new brunch book, or one within in a specific niche, you'll be able to tap into one of your coworker's interests. If your coworker is just learning the domestic arts, why not select a how-to cookbook that will teach them the basics? Alternatively, if you know your coworker loves doughnuts or street food, select a copy that caters to that genre. Bryan got a copy of The Food Lab for his birthday—he loves it and would definitely recommend it. At the very least, cookbooks can act as a lovely coffee table book. 

Pet Treats and Toys

If your office is anything like mine, it's full of pet people. Nearly all of us are pet lovers and our dogs come in to visit all the time. Like most parents, dog moms and dads are more than happy to receive presents for their pets because there's nothing better than seeing a wagging tail and getting sloppy kisses. One of Cloe's recent favorite treats was K9 Granola Factory's Peppermint Bark Donut—you can see her devouring it in this Instagram post. Needless to say, coming up with a gift basket of puppy treats is sure to be well-received. 

Coffee, Tea, or Hot Cocoa

No matter who you are, you have a preferred hot beverage. Whether your coworker is a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate drinker, it's pretty easy to find out if you spend a few days casually observing their morning rituals (nothing too creepy, of course!). After you find out their preferred drink, put together a sampling of different flavors and add a mug to drink their new treats out of. 

Any of these gifts can match up with the person you're Secret Santa for. With a little forethought and perhaps asking around to some colleagues, you're sure to put a smile on your coworker's face!