Time for change

There are two reasons why I’ve hesitated in writing this post for so long. One, I’m not a huge fan of these big cliche posts where people go on about the changes that need to happen in there lives and two, I wasn’t entirely clear what the change was that needed to happen to help me fall in-love again with this space and online sharing in general.

Since 1995 I’ve had a blog and HyggeHouse.com since 2002. As you can imagine, I’ve seen all the changes that have happened to the online communities. And honestly, I’ve felt really lost in the space and frankly saddened by a lot of the direction that sharing/creating has taken.

I recognize that I will sound like a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn, so I think an explanation is needed. It used to be that it was hard to share online – there wasn’t the ease producing a blog. WordPress and Blogger were in their infancy and unless you could code and design and had the money for hosting, you were kind of out of luck. So those who really loved sharing and connecting worked through all the challenges. The content and concepts were just that important to get out.

Over the past few years, blogging has become an industry. I’ve seen so many bloggers who had a POV change their whole voice because they basically just became cheap ad agencies for brands. And having worked on the brand side of things, I’ve seen the blogger greed and lack of return and wondering how this industry will survive if it’s just ad after ad after ad.

Instead of talking about life and helping each other discover new things or talk about ideas, we are selling to each other or feeling like we have to be like those we see “making it” (and feeling like a failure if we aren’t). It’s the online Martha Stewart syndrome for a new generation.

The sad thing is, having known a lot of these well known bloggers on a personal and business side, I can tell you only 1% are really making it financially or are happy personally. “Professionally blogging” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When you have to hustle all the time, don’t really control your own content because it’s dictated by brands, your work is all from home and isolated and your life is as small as the paycheques, it can’t be that great. But the need to keep up appearances to keep generating ad revenue puts the writer – and reader – in a vicious cycle.

Hygge House has never had a goal of monetization. I don’t want to ever do sponsored posts or advertising – it’s just not my thing. I hesitate a lot in even doing posts in which I recommend stuff because I don’t want to come across as shelling things. But I do because 1. I’m asked a lot about what my favorites are and 2. it’s part of sharing and 3. it’s all stuff I have bought and am not asked to mention.

The goal of this blog has always been to talk about the concept of hygge and really living. I mean, it’s in the tag line for a reason – live well, live simply, live hygge. I feel like the art of living – of enjoying small moments, making coffee a verb, of enjoying home and not having a fear of missing out – has vanished from online blogs. How do we live well and observe everything around us without having a brand attached to it or feeling like we’ll get it in a box delivered to us?

I realize I will contradict that paragraph above at some point because I do love things. When I go home to Denmark I bring back candle holders or a dress to remind me of my travels or a moment. I love linens and can’t stop collecting tea cups or tea. I’m not going to have a home filled with nothing. It’s just that I want a life filled with more than things. I want it filled with experience, love, friends, joy, success and even failure. And I feel like that’s the kind of storytelling I’ve tried to do and what people connect to. I’ve just forgotten how for awhile which is why it’s been so quiet here.

Part of that reason is because I think I’ve been focusing too much on what I think is wrong with blogging and being frustrated by it. Paying too much attention to what you don’t like always prevents one from paying attention to what they do. And also, 2013 was the most brutal year on record for me. I moved in spring and put all my things in storage. So I didn’t have a hygge home. I struggled with where I should live, I struggled with what I should do, I struggled in so many ways last year that the hyggeness was just completely gone.

The old quote from Henry David Thoreau ”How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” kept ringing in my ears and it felt completely inauthentic to be writing about a way of living that I myself was not.

I think when a person is unhappy, there is both a sense of confusion and a sense of direction in which to go. The hard part is being strong enough, brave enough or clear enough to move in that direction. Because confusion is so powerful that it can make one feel like they know nothing at all.

But I think we always know what’s right for us. We just don’t always know how to make it real.

Currently, I’m in a very little New York hotel room. My initial reaction when I got in at midnight last night to my room was “I can’t believe it’s so small. Where is the desk? This is not the Four Seasons!”

But this morning when I woke up and rolled over right next to a big window, I saw this view:

Chelsea, NYC on HyggeHouse.com

It was so hygge to me. That unexplainable charm. Being cosy in a little bed in front of a big window – hygge. Walking through Chelsea to get coffee and seeing all the old buildings – hygge. Bundling up with a scarf – hygge. Coffee as a verb? Very hygge.

The stark difference of NY’s spring time versus the perpetual blue skies and perfect whether of Los Angeles was what I needed to snap me out of being complacent with life. Hygge is not about that – it’s about fully participating in it and recognizing all the small moments instead of focusing on the once in awhile big blasts.

This simple re-discovery of something I used to live so well, helped me to feel confident in the direction that I and HyggeHouse.com need to go.

There’s been an idea brewing for about a year and I’ve even been vocal about it with close friends, but I’ve just been keeping it idea. But this trip and the inspiration I’ve been getting from friends who are doing some incredible things, was enough to snap me out of dreaming and into reality and also into the habit of living. Not observing, not going through the motions, not thinking hygge, but living it again.

I cannot promise to update this frequently because I’ve never been one to share daily or even weekly. But I am working on finding my voice and online purpose again and sharing what I learn and love in the honest way I always have. There will still be no sponsored posts or advertising on this blog, so that’s not going to change. What will, will hopefully just be in the volume of sharing stories and connecting with you once again.

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam

This past August I made my way to Amsterdam for the first time. It was a quick weekend trip where I spent half of it in one of my new favourite hotels and the other half at a friend’s who was living right on one of the canals.

For a city I had never had the desire to visit, I came away from it completely smitten. Perhaps it was because the weather was picture perfect or because the city was in pure celebration mode (400 years of the canals and 100th anniversary of the symphony). Whatever it was, I was inspired, relaxed and very content during the trip.

I’ve written about all my favourite things to do, see and eat in Amsterdam on my travel site, as well I’ve pinned (and mapped) them all on Pinterest. If you’ve been and have any favourite things to add, I’d love to know them!

A house of possibilities

In 2009, I got offered a dream gig for one of my favourite companies in a city that I had always dreamed about visiting – Philadelphia. Despite not knowing anything really about the city, I had somehow known that I was meant to live there.

I remember my first day in Philadelphia, my first drive to Chestnut Hill, the first time I saw my house that was everything I’d wanted in a dream home (historic, stone, fireplace, big windows, garden). I’d arrived at the end of summer and then fall hit – the colours of the trees, the crispness of the air, girls in tights. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. I began to think out all of the things I could do and who I’d be. It was heaven.

On my first fall weekend I began what would become a regular occurrence – a drive out into the country side. I’d spend all day getting lost on country roads and visiting historic landmarks. One day I’d been out since sunrise and when the sun began to set I knew it was time to get home. And on my way back to the city is when I first saw the feral home above and fell instantly in love.

I’d parked on the road and walked up the drive over over-grown bushes and trees. The house was so simple, so old, and so broken but I loved it. It seemed like it once had this amazing life full of stories and could be that once again. It seemed like we needed each other and I began the investigation into its history and availability.

I turned up nothing.

My first winter in Philadelphia was harsh, so much so that my home out in Chestnut Hill had become too much with my commute and weather and, like people in olden times, I took a rental house in the city to make my commute a little easier. But now I was in a city, with harsh weather, constantly snowed in and Christmas was coming up. I was feeling lonely and bare and so I made a trek out to see the house – I felt she’d be feeling the same. And she was.

Feral Home by HyggeHouse.com

That winter was one of the most brutal on records so the relief of spring couldn’t come sooner. My trips to the country had become less frequent for the 70 work weeks and demands of the job were keeping me busy and Sunday’s all I could do was collapse or grab a coffee from downtown. But then I remembered that those drives were both a comfort and an inspiration and it was time to pay a visit to the house.

Feral Home on HyggeHouse.com

The sun was out, the temperatures were up and the leaves were on the tree. When I saw the house, she looked hopeful. Green suited us both and I thought earnestly again about taking her on. Spring just seemed to be full of possibilities.

But Summer came and things for me had transitioned. Things were hard; I was missing California, I was missing my friends, I was missing coffee as a verb. So I made a very conflicted decision to leave a city that I’d grown to love so much and decided to return back to the West Coast. Before I could leave, I had to say good-bye to the house. She was in full-bloom, living large and surrounded by gorgeousness. I wanted the same thing, and so I said good-bye.

Feral Home by HyggeHouse.com

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking maybe I would return to Philadelphia when I knew I could be more settled. When I swayed more Amish than tech and when the bright light of the LA sun would be far less flattering then the soft light of the east. And I thought maybe I’d come back for that house and together we’d rebuild ourselves.

This past weekend, I was in Philly. Part visiting, part work, part still thinking about returning. I hadn’t been able to comfortably settle in California knowing what else was out there and feeling like it might actually be better. The back and forth wondering if I should stay and what if’s always seemed to sort of keep me stuck. After all, indecisiveness is never anyone’s friend.

However, after a few days and a couple of conversations in the city, I realised that while I do want to move back at some point, right now I need to stay in Santa Monica, California. That right now, my family, my friends, my work are there and being there isn’t a bad thing from which to escape. It’s actually a really, really good thing that makes so much sense and is something worth returning home to to settle in.

My last morning in Philadelphia, I went for one of my drives out in the country. It was almost 4 years to the day in which I’d first taken the drive and had first seen the house. I was wondering how I’d feel about seeing her again now that I had made my decision not to come back for her.

When I drove up to see her, she was gone.

Feral Home on HyggeHouse.com

She was no longer waiting, either. There had been a decision to move on. I totally understood.

It was a lovely four years thinking about that house and all its possibilities. Actually, it’s was lovely just thinking about mine. But even better was coming to a coming to a decision and moving forward on that instead of being stuck in the past, in a dream, and missing out on the real possibilities right in front of me.

Copenhagen Scene

If a city could feel both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time to me, it would be Copenhagen. I know the city so well from so much time spent there yet I’ve despite all the connections, I’ve never lived there. And while I run a site called, Hygge House, and am half-Danish, truthfully, there’s a lot to Danish life and life in Copenhagen that still feels completely foreign to me. What makes sense? The cycling everywhere and in every day clothes (including dresses), coffee, candles, hygge, white walls, city parks, babies in prams, being able to walk everywhere, cosy weather. What doesn’t? Teak furniture, the food (although it’s getting better), the weather in winter, the cost of living, sometimes the attitudes (feels stuck). I know I both romanticize and am harsh on the city (and country) all at once.

This past trip was the most different one I’ve taken. Usually in the city with family and usually in a hotel, I instead rented an AirBNB in the Vesterboro neighbourhood. It’s an area I wasn’t very familiar with, and instead of a few days I had a week. I also went with someone who had never been to Copenhagen but was also working in the city, so it was really interesting to see their point of view and see Copenhagen in fresher ways. I also met up with friends who were starting new businesses (that make literally hygge candles!) or were in school so again, different points of view were heard and seen. I also spent a lot of time by myself just walking the streets and having coffee like a verb. So while I don’t think I could move to Copenhagen, I think I fell for it more than I ever have and even felt like I was even just a little bit at home.

Below is the AirBnB rental in the charming Vesterboro neighbourhood. I’d highly recommend this rental as it gives you a really good understanding of what it’d be like to live in a little flat in Copenhagen. It’s up a lot of stairs without a lift so if that’s an issue or is having a small washroom with no tub, then this might not be the best fit. But for what I needed during this week, it was perfect and oh so charming. White floors are my new thing!

Vesterboro in Copenhagen. Image from HyggeHouse.com

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Packing for Summer Travels

Next week I am headed home to Denmark and, as I do with every trip, began planning about a week ago to make sure I have the right gear and clothes for the trip.

My thought process behind deciding what to bring was to ask myself will it:

  1. help me look like a local
  2. work for two weeks (wash easy, not wrinkle, hold up)
  3. be comfortable (especially during a 10hr flight with layovers!)
  4. work for summer (as I’ve almost always only gone back during winter for my birthday)
  5. go from day to night events and casual and fancy ones, too.

If it’s not yes to all those questions, it doesn’t get packed. And this helps me to always pack a carry on and also to make sure I have room for all the gear I own (15″ macbook pro laptop, DSLR camera, phone + its cables/chargers). The one area I overpack? Shoes. If you’re feet aren’t comfortable, no trip can be comfortable! I tend to not worry too much about weight as I fly business class and, on British Airways at least, they’re a lot more generous and forgiving of weight in that class.

I’ve had my tried and true bags that I have travelled with forever but for this trip, I purchased two new ones. One is the ‘Catalina Bag‘ by Lo and Sons which I discovered via SF Girl By Bay’s blog and it looks like it’ll be a fantastic bag -very roomy with still having some good structure. I also purchased a new bag for my camera. I’ve been debating about a ‘Bowery Bag‘ by Ona Bags but I wasn’t sure about the weight of it or having room for my DSLR and wallet/phone (I might change my mind on this… I debate!).

So if you’re curious to see what I’m packing for my trip, click through my individual pins below or visit my Pinterest Board, Packing For Summer In Europe. And if you want to learn about my in-flight beauty routine, read my post on what products I use here.

  • Universal Wrap from
  • Camper Right Nina -
  • fluxus nomad scarf.
  • My trusted Orla Kiel
  • Basic white shirt
  • It's hard to see but
  • These Toms don't hav
  • Packing cubes make a
  • I never belt this. I
  • Perfect summer jacke
  • The Catalina bag is
  • Great bag for my DSL
  • This Bailey 44 Dress
  • Favourite summer dre
  • Apparel creative
  • #Anthropologie #Litt
  • Gentle Souls Gabby s
  • For a fun date night
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