• 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 πŸ˜€
  • 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.
  • 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. πŸ˜€
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. πŸ˜€
  • The @ojaivalleyinn is one of my favourite places either for a day trip or an overnight. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
I always go when I need supreme rest and healing because I really really get that here. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € 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). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I  paid for my room πŸ˜€ 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.
  • 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
  • Spring is always the most alive after the darkest and rainiest of winters. #hyggehouse
  • "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." C. S. Lewis. Or, as the Secret Sisters sang, "Tomorrow will be kinder."


Danish Life

Open Windows

January 20, 2008
Open Windows on Hygge House. Photo by eduard-militaru-133851

Walking around at night in Amsterdam you appreciate the enormous windows on the front of every building. You can see inside most of them, and see Dutch people eating their dinner, or reading a book on the sofa. Someone told me that the reason they have no curtains on their windows is religious and/or cultural: they are not doing anything that they are ashamed to have the whole world see. I wonder too, if this Dutch tendency is why the prostitutes in the red light district also stand in windows. Caterina Fake

This trend is also true for Denmark and to a large extent, France. I grew up where curtains were either non-existent or used merely for decor but never to keep people from seeing in.

There is a certain sense of community that grows when you can see lights, activity and people inside homes/buildings. I love walking the streets of Paris and seeing people eat supper or walking in a little town in Denmark and see someone playing piano. I also confess to loving the ability to see how people decorate!

However, living in American cities such as Seattle, Nasvhille, Santa Monica, Austin and having been to many homes throughout the country, it has been my experience to note that most often curtains are hung and drawn leaving the outside world, the views and the people – blocked out. For me, it really affects how I feel about a neighbourhood when I can never see anyone or anything.

I adore curtains but for aesthetic reasons. I love fabrics and having the pool around the windows onto the floor. But I very seldom ever have them closed – even when I lived ground level beside a main walkway and side walk. Weather is probably the only thing that’ll make me close them – to keep the heat/cold out.

In Carmel by the Sea the multi-million dollar homes very seldom have curtains and if they do, like mine they’re never closed. People want to soak in the view and the sun here and it’s been great to peak around the streets and see all the amazing interiors. I only have curtains in the office/bedroom and kitchen here but the living room is wide open. And I like it that way.

Curtains I adore: Anthropologie and the Carlisile Drapes from Pottery Barn are a classic (and inexpensive) staple.


  • Reply
    JohannaNo Gravatar
    January 26, 2008 at 1:04 PM

    It’s the same here in Sweden, I don’t know anyone who use heavy curtains and people seldom have their blinds down during daytime. We want all precious light we can get! When I have lived on the ground floor I usually feel a little uncomfortable at first having all those people being able to look inside, but after a while I just forget about it.

  • Reply
    LesleyNo Gravatar
    January 28, 2008 at 2:19 PM

    My husband is Danish, and I sure wish he had picked up that whole not minding if the windows were open thing. He used to be worse when we lived in apartments, but still when he gets home from work he comes and pulls down the blinds in the living room. It drives me batty. I need light. I love light! His parents curtains can’t even close so he certainly didn’t learn it from them. Oh well, we’ve been married nine years and I’m slowly wearing him down.

  • Reply
    JodiNo Gravatar
    January 28, 2008 at 9:06 PM

    My husband and I live in Vancouver’s West End. We’ve had a grund floor apartment for 6 1/2 years and my husband is always commenting that everyone likes to look in our Windows! He is from Mexico where people live behind huge cement walls and have bars on their windows. (For safety). It’s funny how differently we all live in different parts of the world. I love walking through the West end at night and looking in everyone elses windows!

  • Reply
    RebeccaNo Gravatar
    August 9, 2008 at 4:38 PM

    I love your blog. I’m learning so much from it– thank you. I read this post about curtains and as an American, I find these remarks interesting and in some ways amusing (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). I love being able to see the life going on in people’s homes, but with my own home, especially during dinnertime, I always feel a little sense of relief when I pull down the shades. It makes me feel as though I can shut out the world and my family can have its own little corner that’s none of anybody’s business. I feel a little like a zoo animal eating dinner with the windows open. But it seems my thinking is the opposite of the cultural thinking you describe.

    I wonder if some of this comes from living in a society I perceive as so large and so– disparate?– that it becomes very comforting to shut it out and have privacy. I love where I live, and I’m very happy being American, but maybe living in a smaller, more uniform, more predictable society gives people a different sense of their relationship with the public eye.

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