• It's a Southern California fall day like this that makes me miss my Topanga house in the mountains. You can see more photos on the blog.
  • This time last year I took my first road trip up California's 395 through the eastern Sierra mountains. I went on to Mammoth, Truckee and Yosemite.

It was epic.

The highlights for me were Bodie (Check out my highlights for "ghost town"), Mammoth (reminded me of the Canadian Rockies), and seeing the Donner Party Memorial/area.

It's a super hard state to live in, but it sure is beautiful. (PS: I made a Spotify playlist for just the drive:
  • I posted this in stories but  got so many comments I had to post it here.

I'd read an article which said how common an electric kettle is in the UK/AU but not in America. 
This was so interesting to me because my kettle is probably my most used appliance. But when I stay in homes here I can never find one.

A lot of Americans told me they use their microwave for hot water or they have a stove top.

And @astridpiepschyk explained it had to do with voltage. "Most Americans don’t own an electric kettle because the electricity voltage is too low to power a kettle effectively. In Australia, UK the voyage is 240, but in America it’s 110, and not very effective in boiling an electric kettle. It works, but takes a long time. This is why stove kettles are much more common." So what started as a post about how I love my half shelf for teacups in my 1930s cupboards turned into a great cultural and scientific conversation.

This is why I love Instagram 😀
  • Ten years ago I moved to Philadelphia to build Anthropologies first Social Media, Content and Community programs.

It was a dream come true for two reasons. One I loved the company and two I was moving in July which meant I'd have an east coast fall.

It did not disappoint.

I spent every weekend out in nature with rosy cheeks, drinking hot apple cider. All this time later, that fall is still one of my favourite s and I miss it every year.

PS: the last photo is my old garage on my one acre property in Chestnut Hill. I had an 18th century stone home which I loved. I don't think I ever really wrote about this place because i never really settled in. Something I wish I'd done but I was just so consumed with work.

Pps: I've done a fall clothes clean out and am posting things for sale at @hyggehouseshop this week
  • I like taking photos at Disneyland that don't look like Disneyland.
  • This is my aunt on my french fathers side. During WWII, she got tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium to recover.

To pass time, she and her other young female friends would doll up, take photos and send them plus letters to soldiers to flirt with. Some they knew, some they didn't. Like old-fashioned Bumble. 😀
She was incredibly smart, witty, and fierce. In this photo she was full of possibilities and hope.

She married soon after to an abusive alcoholic, had four sons and quickly got trapped by circumstance and the era.

She was my favourite family member even though I didn't see her that often. I have one hand written letter from her and this photo which are the few family things I have.

I loved her because she always listened to me - patiently and sincerely. She saw who I really was and was so kind about it and oddly relatable. She gave me direction without advice. She laughed often, was direct when needed and sometimes acted soft. She was the only one who ever called me sweetie (my family nickname at the time was Chuck! and my family never used soft names with each other. So sweetie felt so amazingly special). I had 5 other aunts but I called her just "Aunty" as she defined them all. It was only to her that I felt a connection, unconditional love and a sense of family.

Her situation was always pitiful and dire,  but she never acted like a victim. When I saw her on her deathbed she was so small, weak and wilted from a hard life. But somehow she had always given me courage and strength, as if to say to be the possibilities she couldn't be.

Recently I hung out with my two young adult nieces and they both just called me "Aunty." Not Aunty Alex or Alex. Just Aunty.

It made me feel so special and like we have formed the same bonds that I had with my own Aunty. And that I was now being to them what she was to me. 
But more importantly, they helped me change my idea of her - the one that she never accomplished something. 
Because she did. 
She taught me how to be a good Aunty - one of my favourite things to be. That's her legacy which I think is really beautiful.

Well, that and dressing up when you feel poorly. 😀
  • The @ojaivalleyinn is one of my favourite places either for a day trip or an overnight. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I always go when I need supreme rest and healing because I really really get that here. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There's something so magic and calming about Ojai and this place taps into it so perfectly. And they have the best massages.

My recs? Avoid weekends and holidays. It's insane and the spa isn't as relaxing because it's just so overcrowded.

For rooms, avoid the ones above Libby's Market/Pub (I think they are the original rooms). They're just louder & smaller. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I've had a suite with a patio, bedroom and fireplace down by the spa that was heaven and I've had a larger room by the main restaurant (I can't remember that buildings name) and both were amazing. This past room was in the Topa building which is their main building and it was really lovely (and had a balcony overlooking the golf course). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I've  been here with girlfriends, alone, on retreats with work and loved all the experiences. I know a lot of people who come here with kids (@couldihavethat has a recent post in IG and her blog on why it's great for families) and it's also totally dog friendly (@ScoutStCharming has been). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I  paid for my room 😀 and received zero things for free. So not am ad, just sharing what I love.
  • I found hope in Hope thanks to nature and my nieces.
  • The bridge next door and the buildings in the park across the street burned down in the Woolley Fire. But the Old Place still stands which makes me so happy. It's my favourite place in LA and I have missed hanging out here. It's nice to be back.
  • Possibilities.
  • "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains." Happy 200th birthday, Walt Whitman


Danish Life

What Hygge Really Looks Like

December 25, 2017
What Hygge Really Looks Like

When I began this blog back in 2004, no one outside of Denmark really used the word ‘hygge’ and there definitely wasn’t blogs, articles, books and twitter handles dedicated to it. And my memory might not serve me well but I don’t think there were a lot of images being used to show it either. I think that was part because hygge really is a feeling and not a thing. Danes know this, people who want to sell it do not.

Now, it seems like every magazine or blog post has something to do with hygge. I’ve seen “top 10 hygge food” lists, hygge hair, how to buy a hygge living room and so on. The images are always the same – overly styled, sort of hipster, fluffy this, cup of coffee.

That highly styled, store-bought image? That’s not hygge.

What hygge really looks like is in the image above. It’s my mother on the right with my great aunt who lives in a care facility just outside of Copenhagen. Her little room isn’t fancy, styled, or magazine worthy. When we visited, we had the traditional Danish visit with coffee and a little sweet. Coffee was just the cheap kind from the home, housed in a plastic purple carafe and we had it in paper cups and the sweets weren’t home made but individually wrapped in plastic from a shop.

The room wasn’t prepped before we came so things were here and there but the basic tea light candles were lit of course, little plants were in the window and art collected over the years was all around. There was no designer furniture (you can see my mum sitting on a hospital bed) or dozens of pillows plumped up against perfectly white walls. It was a functional room with a few personal items that reflected my great aunt and made it feel like her home.

My two second cousins were also in this tiny room and for a few hours we snakke snakke snakke (chatted) and as we did, nurses and fellow residents came in and out. And each time someone came in, saw us all huddled around, drinking coffee and laughing, they would say “Det er så hyggeligt” (this is so cosy). Hygge must have been said a dozen times over the course of the visit.

No one wished they were somewhere else, no one wished they had something more than what was there. In those moments there was no worry, just joy.

And that’s what real hygge is – a simple moment that feels so special, cosy, relaxing, loving or happy that you just need to call it out. It’s not about being fancy, or styled, or being in the best circumstances, or having the right things. It’s literally about being present enough to see how great a moment is, and give that moment a name – hygge.

I’m not against beautiful images and styled things at all. I love to both see these and take them but I am against all the sites, articles and posts selling the concept of hygge as if it’s something you can just buy and do and you’re done. It’s not a “lifestyle” as so many non-Danish posts try to make it out to be. It’s not one thing you can check off your list and your life is better. And it’s not always picture perfect.

Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present. It can happen several times a day, anywhere, anytime – all it takes is you. Nothing else.

I share this because I don’t like seeing comments from people who are looking for some kind of life fix and literally buy into a concept when they don’t need to. That is so the opposite of what hygge is and how Danes live. Thinking that hygge looks a certain way or can be gained by following 10 steps or buying 3 key items sets a person up for failure, I think. Like if they don’t do x,y and z they aren’t living the right “hygge” life. But Hygge is a little bit like Dorothy’s ruby slippers – you already have the ability to live well. You just need to take a moment to recognise it. That’s all.

So if you ever need a reminder that hygge is really simple and can be found in any circumstance, just look at this photo. It’s not the best photo ever, it’s not the prettiest, these are not people who have it all, but they’re people who were enjoying each other and the moment so much, that everyone could name it.

And they called it, hygge.

  • Reply
    LindaNo Gravatar
    July 31, 2017 at 6:10 PM

    thank you for writing this! It’s easy to slip into thinking if you just have this that or the other your life will be perfect. When in reality your one sentence sums it up perfectly “Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present.” Just try to live an intentional life. Stay present. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

  • Reply
    LesleyNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 1:56 AM

    Exactly: living in the moment. Difficult to remember sometimes!

  • Reply
    JessicaNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 3:54 AM

    Wonderful post. As someone who has recently learnt about the word “Hygge” since it’s pretty much everywhere at the moment, this is refreshing to read. It seems whenever something new is found they always find a way to box and sell it to the masses. But this type of thing can’t be sold.

  • Reply
    Kim DuhaimeNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Yes, yes and yes! I chose hygge as one of my “words for the year”, and I have not bought a single item or changed anything in my home to try to attain it… I’ve just relaxed into enjoying things as they are with the ones I love. I’ve come to realize that hygge is a value that I hold dear, that it comes from the heart, and that it functions as a guide that helps me to make choices from moment to moment about how I want to live. Thanks for writing about the true spirit of hygge. I love that photo of your mum and her sister… it’s beautiful and so are they ♥ (and I love your mom’s outfit)

    • PamNo Gravatar
      August 1, 2017 at 9:30 AM

      Me too! But until this article I wasn’t able to clearly define it.

  • Reply
    Kim McMannNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 10:55 AM

    Yes, this is what I initially thought “hygge” meant when I came across it. But then, a quick internet search brought up all that hipster stuff and I was a little disappointed. I am so glad to see this and realize that yes, I did get it… it is what I thought! And like so many things, it’s now being commercialized into something to sell, rather than really understood! Thank you!!

  • Reply
    SunnyNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 11:32 AM

    Alex, I just love this! I saw the two women and the pleasant decor and never saw the hospital bed until you brought it up. I love that people came and went and enjoyed being there. that is hygge as I’m beginning to understand it!

  • Reply
    NathalieNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 4:44 PM

    Thank you for saying everything I always thought my whole life! Living in the moment, surrounded by those you love and things you love. What could be better? 🙂

  • Reply
    Anders NorgaardNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 5:18 PM

    Det er da hyggeligt al laese om det,

  • Reply
    Anne GoldmanNo Gravatar
    August 1, 2017 at 8:29 PM

    I have had many similar hyggelige moments over the years. Thanks for making it clearer.

  • Reply
    CourtneyNo Gravatar
    August 2, 2017 at 12:43 AM

    Thanks for reminding us to live in the moment.

  • Reply
    LJNo Gravatar
    August 5, 2017 at 3:51 PM

    Absolutely. But this is the United States, the land of opportunity and commerce. It isn’t surprising that a philosophy of life, a certain way of living would absolutely be “hijacked” and turned into something saleable, marketable. Sad but true.

    Keep writing, Alex. 🙂

  • Reply
    MarieNo Gravatar
    August 13, 2017 at 10:59 AM

    I keep coming back to this to read and re-read it. We are in the middle of renovations right now, and I have spent so many hours pouring over decor styles trying to find the “right” look, and have been nothing but frustrated because I’ve stopped thinking about what I want and more what everyone else is saying things should look like. Thanks for the reminder of what hygge actually is, and the reminder that my home doesn’t need to look like a magazine picture. ♥

  • Reply
    HendrikaNo Gravatar
    August 17, 2017 at 4:04 PM

    Exactly!!! Thank you for writing this piece about hygge. I, as a Dutch Denmark lover, am not into the styled up version. Hygge can be felt with the heart, not bought or prepped. It’s all in the connection between people. I also wrote a small piece about it. Hygge is in you and in the moment. Wishing you lots of hygge stunder med snak og søde mennesker.

  • Reply
    KarenNo Gravatar
    September 2, 2017 at 3:10 PM

    Love this piece very much. Thank you for showing us an understanding of true hygge and that it is rooted in being in the present moment!

  • Reply
    Rebecca KirbyNo Gravatar
    September 4, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    Brilliant. So refreshingly honest.

  • Reply
    CarolynNo Gravatar
    September 20, 2017 at 10:55 AM

    Ugh, leave it to western culture (or totally lack thereof) to take something so simple and commercialize it until it spins out of control, and completely mucks up and distorts the truth. Everything you said…spot on. I’m not even a Dane, but I appreciate being PRESENT! My motto has been “present over perfect” (after reading a book of the same title), and it’s so refreshing and liberating to be just that. I have experienced lovely hygge moments and I look forward to more as they naturally unfold. Thank you for the reminder, as we are completely bombarded with the “rules of hygge”, that it is in fact not that; not a lifestyle. As soon as there are rules to something, it almost becomes a game of sorts – like who can “win” or who can do it the best. RUBBISH!

  • Reply
    RachaelNo Gravatar
    November 9, 2017 at 1:24 PM

    This is such a beautiful and realistic article! I’m so happy you wrote it. As a non-Dane, I first thought, “Ooh, if I buy nice candles and play music and read and have x, y, z, I can be happy.” And you’re 1000% right. Last night was a perfect hygge night and I was wearing ratty PJs making dinner and my dad was relaxing in his recliner and our house was messy from our animals, but when my mom came home and we all sat and ate dinner I was filled with the most pure joy as if no moment could be better. I’d like to think this is hygge. This is fantastic and I’m totally guilty of ‘stylizing’ my comfort, so even though I’ll continue to do style photos, it’s nice to see the separation between what’s staged and what’s plain real life moments.

  • Reply
    Ann SlezewickNo Gravatar
    November 9, 2017 at 4:23 PM

    hygge-not sure how to pronounce it, but I say huggies….It sounds like it’s warm memories. Simple and perhaps unplanned.

  • Reply
    Jean C.No Gravatar
    November 10, 2017 at 12:25 PM

    I loved this post. It is heartfelt and pure. And it reminds me that buying coziness and well-being and comfort isn’t possible if you’re brain is cluttered with ill-will, regrets, anger and so on. So beautifully said. Each phrase is repeatable. Thank you for sharing this personal glimpse into what is a precious gift from another culture.

  • Reply
    JesseNo Gravatar
    November 12, 2017 at 9:51 PM

    Hygge seems almost synonymous with gratitude. I’m I wrong? I just started looking into this after reading a book cover

  • Reply
    LauraNo Gravatar
    December 16, 2017 at 8:57 AM

    What a lovely description and photo describing “Hygge”! I’d never heard of it until this year, then suddenly heard it everywhere. I love that you used a photo from a scene in a nursing home to depict it. Your description reminded me of when I’d visit my 100-year-old grandmother in Cincinnati, Ohio, and her room too was so hyggeligt. We’d have tea in the few china cups she’d brought with her when she moved into the care facility and just sit and enjoy each other’s company. Thank you for sharing. Loved reading in your story how the residents and nurses would comment on how hyggeligt it was. I feel I really know what “Hygge” is now:)

  • Reply
    JillNo Gravatar
    December 29, 2017 at 1:08 AM

    I have enjoyed your photos, imagery, comments and resources to help create that “hygge” comfort in my home. Not changing much thus far, yet explaining to one son, some of the items out are what warms my heart, not what Western philosophy, magazines & television portray. I hope to utilize more personal items & restore or transform them into usable, items that reflect meaning and warmth in my heart, home, friends & family. It can be turning a meaningful photo into a breathtaking memory, with deep sensory perception of loved ones. Buying a photo to hang, is not nearly as meaningful as creating a collage or corner with charm & personal connections. Second hand items I picked up years ago, still bring joy to me and can be transformed into that warm “hygge” atmosphere. Creativity can rekindle and refine lost & forgotten treasures! Thank you for all you share, and may you always be encouraged to do so and blessed by the beauty of the gifts you share from your heart.Wishing you and all your readers an awesome “hygge” journey in 2018!

  • Reply
    Debbie Pinkham-SaltNo Gravatar
    January 10, 2018 at 2:33 AM

    “Hygge” reminds me so much of my Life of 30 years in the French West Indies.I had many Parisian Friends and one-Veronique whom I’ll never forget always said to me “You have to make your own private garden”.I think that saying is kind of like “Hygge” because it’s a concept,a feeling/life experience.I found a link about your Blog via Traders Point Creamery (whom I’m working with) and I could not but help but engrossing myself into “Hygge”.How delightful! I had wanted to locate to Topanga Canyon as a young 20 year old but circumstances changed and I ended up in the West Indies fulfilling many dreams I had about sailing.I love your style-I love your new place and that white desk-I know I have seen that somewhere and I’d wanted it but no more room right now although it is pretty and practical.I love everything about the new house-where do I start? Lavender, Rosemary,Meyer Lemon trees,that custom wallpaper that reminds me of Dalla Horses.Your Back Garden reminds me so much of Provence-in so much as the builder used locally sourced material and also the rock that became part of the front room which flows with the home.I’d never heard of a Wedgewood Cooker but it certainly is a stout looking one! I have a Design and Sign Firm in the West Indies,love designing,doing logos,ad-campaigns.No wonder I found “Hygge House” so interesting.

  • Reply
    CarolyneNo Gravatar
    January 12, 2018 at 5:13 PM

    THIS is why I like to come visit your blog~! Thank you so very much for your words. Lovely
    Family, making precious Memories, and recognizing the Joy of each Moment.♥

  • Reply
    Katie MartellNo Gravatar
    January 17, 2018 at 3:17 PM

    We were in Copenhagen several years ago and stayed in a very hygge bed and breakfast. We had a great time and found the Danish people to b3 very welcoming to foreigners. Looking forward to going back!

  • Reply
    AngieNo Gravatar
    January 29, 2018 at 11:19 PM

    I just want to say thank you for this great commentary! Wonderful!

  • Reply
    Martin WardNo Gravatar
    February 1, 2018 at 3:34 PM

    Finally, a word for those best moments in life! I have valued hygge when it happened but oddly never had a word to describe it or thought much about trying to attain or facilitate that state of being. Hygge always seemed too perfect to create intentionally. Being present, not dwelling on the past or the future, and just appreciating and rejoicing in the moment is undervalued in this world. I am now trying to create the atmosphere in my home where hygge can be more frequently and readily achieved It is certainly not something that can’t be forced or obtained since it flows out of a person at least as much as it comes in. I do believe though that environment plays a vital role in removing barriers to hygge and by providing comforts that help ease the transition into hygge moments. It is a fascinating subject to ponder and attaining a more hygge friendly atmosphere is a very worthwhile pursuit. I plan to enjoy the journey and the many (and hopefully increasingly frequent) hygge moments along the way.

  • Reply
    Caitlin KellyNo Gravatar
    February 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM

    I love this — the first thing I noticed was the institutional bed and thought…hmmm. This is real life!

    Thanks for your candor and passion. (and snakke! What a great word)

    I’m linking to this post in my blog, so you might find some followbacks.

  • Reply
    PattiNo Gravatar
    April 8, 2018 at 9:55 PM

    You are a gifted writer. How beautifully you describe hygge. What a beautiful feeling and awareness of that feeling in special moments. A reminder that there is so much to be thankful for and how many moments in each day are we aware of these?
    Thankful to teaching me a new word(week, more than a word).

  • Reply
    MarthaNo Gravatar
    October 26, 2018 at 4:23 PM

    I just Googled “hygge” to make sure I was spelling it correctly and came across your website. It’s lovely and I appreciate the way you’ve defined what hygge means! I am hosting a little candle exchange in my home for mom friends and wanted to make sure I’m capturing the word correctly, and I love that you said it’s a feeling. Helps me focus on the good company of our little gathering, and not just the fact that we’re going to purchase and exchange candles.

  • Reply
    LeahNo Gravatar
    November 10, 2018 at 9:54 PM

    Thanks for a beautiful definition of hygge. I have a friend who to me embodies this feeling – she lives so purposefully and I always feel this type of feeling around her. I want to give her a book about it but I don’t want to pick the wrong one and have it be that wrong focus you talk about above. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Reply
    S.No Gravatar
    February 24, 2019 at 2:20 AM

    I googled “hygge definition” and am so glad this is the article I read. I just learned a word for my soul.

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