What Americans can learn from the French lifestyle

There seems to be a special way the French do life. (Handout/TNS)
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There seems to be a special way the French do life. (Handout/TNS)

When Dan and I were in France last, we had the delightful experience of having dinner at the home of one of my favorite French lifestyle bloggers and authors, Sharon Santoni. It was a truly magical evening, because Sharon is a delightful person. So when her new book was released, “My French Country Home,” I asked if Sharon would consider including Nell Hill’s on her American book tour. Guess what? She said yes!

I asked Sharon to share with us a bit about her newest work, and how she lives graciously despite her busy schedule.

Mary Carol: There seems to be a special way the French do life, different than we do here in the United States. What can we Americans learn from the French lifestyle, to make our lives richer and more beautiful?

Sharon: Although I know many people in the States live rich and fulfilling lives, I have noticed that here in France we put more importance on our food and the time we spend eating it. It's not only about the food itself and the importance of fresh ingredients, but also taking the time to enjoy even a simple snack. In the same way, we don't drink coffees or sodas on the go. If we want a coffee, then it is worth taking a couple of minutes to sit down and enjoy the coffee, before moving on.

Mary Carol: Dan and I, and our friends, had the most wonderful evening with you and your husband during our visit to your home in Normandy. Before we knew it, it was midnight! What is the secret to making guests feel so welcomed, and making a dinner party so enjoyable, you lose track of time?

Sharon: We so enjoyed hosting you all that evening. We loved meeting your friends, and they had such interesting stuff to talk about. I really hope you'll come back soon! I don't know that my husband and I have a secret to making guests feel welcome, unless it is that we enjoy it so much. We love to cook and entertain, and when our guests are as much fun as you, then the evening simply isn't long enough.

Mary Carol: My sister-in-law Deanna receives your My Stylish French Box, and absolutely loves it. Can you tell us how you got started with this gift subscription, and what your inspiration is for each box of treasures?

Sharon: I feel like the subscription box has been a natural continuation of the pleasure I have in sharing my photos and stories on the blog. The boxes are quarterly, and every three months I put together a small collection of eight high-quality items, as if I were going to gift a friend. We try to follow seasonal themes, and in each box there is a small antique item. We combine objects for the home, beautiful candles, a French cosmetic brand, or maybe a textile. The boxes always smell divine, and we pride ourselves on the care we put into our packing, with satin ribbon and white tissue paper.

Mary Carol: Tell us about your brocante tours. What treasures do you find there, and why did you start inviting guests to join you?

Sharon: I started inviting guests to join me, because they asked to come! The tours are generally five nights and six days, in Normandy, Paris or Provence. We eat well, we get off the beaten track, we see beautiful homes and we have a lot of fun. My clients are mainly ladies, often traveling alone for the first time, and my aim is to give them a unique and authentic experience of France.

Mary Carol: I have found that writing about your life, home and friends in a blog and books can be a very satisfying, exhausting (and even scary) process. What do you love about the process, and what is difficult for you? How does your husband feel about it all?

Sharon: I could never have started or maintained the blog, the books and all the rest without the support and encouragement of my family, and my husband in particular. He is my rock! I've always tried to tread that fine line of sharing the best of French living, without getting too personal. I think this is because when I started, I still had children at home and I didn't want to invade their privacy. Today I love to share my gardens, my dogs and some aspects of my home, but I'm still more comfortable keeping some elements private.

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This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com