• One of my favourite places.
  • 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 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.

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. 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.
  • 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.


Everyday Hygge

Cleaning Lady?

July 13, 2008
Carmel by the Sea Hygge House

Every time my mother comes to visit me, she tells me I should get a cleaning lady. “Organization is your forte. Cleaning isn’t.” she’ll say. And she’s right.

My current flat is about 900 square feet, surrounded by gardens and the beach which means lots of dust, dirt and bugs – especially with dogs, cats and guests coming in and out. I’m also busy and just don’t have the time to keep up even though I feel I should be able to. And even before this flat I have, for years, debated about hiring someone to come in every three weeks to just give the place a good scrub down. But the guilt of not doing this myself, well, it’s stopped me.

But years ago I had a conversation with my friend Alicia who has a cleaning lady and she said to think of it hiring someone to clean not only helps you do what you do best, but helps someone else make a living. You contribute to someone else’s financial success so you have more time to concentrate on yours. I loved this way of thinking about it. Yet I still hesitated until last fall when I moved out of a very large flat and was stressed with all I had going on. I hired a couple to clean the place for the move out – the floors, the tiles, the oven, windows – everything. In two hours the made the place immaculate. Something I couldn’t have done and honestly, after moving 11 times in 7 years, I didn’t want to.

But I was convinced. They saved me so much time and energy and I helped their business. It was a win-win.

So now I’ll be looking into hiring someone to mostly scrub floors, washroom and kitchen once a month. The only thing is, I have no idea how to go about it (getting someone to clean an empty flat – easy peasy). I get nervous about someone having my key but then nervous about being home and in the way. Do I go through an agency, hire direct?

Who else has hired someone and what’s your advice?

  • Reply
    kathrynNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 4:52 AM

    i work from home too, and love having someone come once a month to clean. we found her by asking a neighbor for a recommendation.

    i don’t feel comfortable giving my key either, so i stay home and work in my office when she comes. my office is the only room she does not clean. so i occasionally pass a vacuum over that rug myself, which is so much more manageable when it is just one room to think about instead of the entire apartment.

  • Reply
    Rachel BinningtonNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 6:00 AM

    We have a cleaner come in every two to three weeks and it is a gift from the stars having her come in. I often work from my garden office if she comes whilst I am home or I leave keys for her to drop through the letter box when she is finished with a neighbour who is retired and home often. There are two of us and a dog and I work from home 2-3 days a week.

    The only room she doesn’t clean is my garden office.

    I found our cleaner through a good friend. I also had thought about going through an agency, but they required leaving keys with them and I really didn’t like that idea, so found Lucia instead by asking around all my friends and a few of our neighbours. I also posted an advert on Craigslist but didn’t get much response. It is a much more productive use of my time and has cut down on domestic spats.

    Good luck finding the perfect cleaner!

  • Reply
    LindaNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 8:26 AM

    Maybe Craig’s List would have people looking for work. I have a daughter in law who, with four children, one being a new born, really needs a cleaning lady. Wish I could afford to pay for one.

  • Reply
    jenNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    I had great luck finding someone by just asking people who lived in the area. There are benefits to going with an agency, but I preferred working with a small business.
    The first several times the woman came I was there. I wanted to see how things went and we had 2 dogs and 2 cats and I wanted to see how she got along with them. Fortunately, she was herself a pet owner and was great with our zoo. After several visits she had a key. Sometimes I was there and just moved around as she cleaned and sometimes I wasn’t.
    I suppose I got lucky, but in my thinking because she was a small business unto herself her name was on the line. I also had some people that I knew recommend her and they had experience with her as well.
    I suppose the best thing is to do what you are comfortable with. I also don’t see any problem with being there if that is what works for you. It worked with me on many occasions and I was able to get other things done- computer work, gardening, etc…
    Good luck on your search. It can be quite wonderful to have someone help out. Enjoy.

  • Reply
    CeliacChickNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 9:01 AM

    I’m in the same situation. My thing is that I don’t like the idea of someone being in my house looking in every nook and cranny. I don’t know why- it’s not like I have anything to hide. I am trying to get over it. I used to clean houses while I was in college…most people refer their cleaner if they are happy…so what I would do is start asking around. Then the person has a reputation to live up to and you feel more trust based on your friend/co-worker/acquaintance’s referral. Expect to pay more for a once a month cleaning. They have it figured out what they want to make hourly, so for once a month it will take them longer than let’s say twice a month. More dirt to clean.
    Also, I would hire someone that works for themselves. A cleaning business pays their workers peanuts, but a individual person is entrepreneurial and smart so I respect that. That is just my opinion though.
    One more thing…plan to pay more for occasional fridge and cupboard cleanings or extra projects. Some people throw those in hoping to milk the fee once and awhile. Unless you guys agree on that before hand then your cleaner will get a bit resentful if they haven’t learned to speak up. That’s when they just might raise their rates on you. So in the long run it is better to just pay extra from time to time.

  • Reply
    erinnNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 11:16 AM

    I hired someone from a recommendation by my massage therapist. He cleans for multiple therapists there and patients. I left a key for him for the first few weeks but now he has his own. I used to have him come every other week, but now he comes every 3 weeks (to cut down on cost) and it seems to be working out pretty well. I swiffer the floors and wipe down the sinks and toilets in between his visits. I do consider it a luxury to have a cleaning person but we would have to be in a serious financial situation for me to give it up.

  • Reply
    jeannineNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 6:19 PM

    I don’t have a magical cleaning person, but i do dream of one. With 2 kids, a full time job (which is 1 hour away), a dog, and a husband; i don’t find the time, the energy, or the desire to clean the way i would like to. I try to be patient with myself and get to it when i get to it. I do keep the house relatively clean; however there is some dust gathering on the door jams and the ceiling fans that i just don’t get around to.
    So, all the best to you my friend… may your floors be scrubbed like a dream. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    BeccaNo Gravatar
    July 15, 2008 at 10:14 PM

    I’m a cleaning lady! (Well, only for this summer.) I actually don’t have much to add, but I will say that from the cleaning perspective the owner staying in the home isn’t too big of a deal either way. You shouldn’t feel like you have to be there, plenty of cleaners clean homes and have the keys and that’s that, it’s a profession and it’s part of it. I totally understand, though, being uncomfortable. You could try staying during the cleaning, and then see if you feel in the way or if your time would be better spent elsewhere. Also, I work through an agency, and my boss pays us a pretty decent wage. It totally depends. Good luck.

  • Reply
    MichelleNo Gravatar
    July 16, 2008 at 5:27 AM

    The best thing I ever did for myself was hire a cleaning person. I am fairly obsessed with a clean house and used to spend part of every weekend doing cleaning. It caused stress on my part and tension with my husband (he was never able to read my mind and do jobs exactly as I wanted him to πŸ™‚ ), so I finally decided spending the money for a weekly cleaning person would be a good investment in me and in my marriage. I found Elena through recommendations from friends and she works for herself so I felt good about supporting a local woman trying to make a living. My husband and I both work so there is no way for us to be home when she is here, so she does have her own key. I’ve employed her for 3 years and she has never missed a day. I give her 2 weeks paid vacation a year that she can take whenever she needs/wants it and I give her a large bonus at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Elena has freed me up to do the things I enjoy rather than obsessing about vacuuming floors and cleaning bathrooms. The money I pay her is well spent and I’d much rather cut back on manicures or new clothes in exchange for Elena. Good luck finding someone to suit your needs.

  • Reply
    Hygge HouseNo Gravatar
    July 16, 2008 at 1:02 PM

    Wow thanks for all your input, everyone! I think this is something I’m certainly going to budget for and look into doing.

  • Reply
    StaceyNo Gravatar
    July 16, 2008 at 1:30 PM

    I have an amazing cleaning lady that was a recommendation from a friend. She has been cleaning for my friend for over 17 years in Santa Monica. If you are interested in getting her name, email me and I will pass it along. p.s. I love your website!

  • Reply
    debbie baileyNo Gravatar
    July 16, 2008 at 6:49 PM

    I’ve had cleaners since the birth of our second child (he’s now 25). I’ve had the same ones for eighteen years, and they’ve become friends. They bring us cookies at Christmas and I give them a big, fat bonus. We also invite each other to showers and weddings. I’m usually there when they clean. That’s how we’ve gotten to know each other. If I’m not, they know where the key is. Works for me but only after trust was built.

  • Reply
    LizNo Gravatar
    July 18, 2008 at 1:53 PM

    I used to live within a block of a college campus in an old neighborhood. I found a college student who came to my house once a month (it was close enough for her to walk). Not only did she clean well, she also played with Mabel (my dog), so when I came home the house smelled fresh and clean and Mabel was happy. Since we moved I’ve been wrangling my own dust bunnies, but oh how I miss having someone to clean.

  • Reply
    NatalieNo Gravatar
    July 18, 2008 at 7:17 PM

    At the beginning of your post you mentioned dust, dirt, and bugs. I have a new apartment that I’ve lived in for about 2.5 months now and it was everything I’ve wanted for years until the bugs started showing up. I know they’re mostly harmless but I’m terrified of them (mainly because they just pop out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of me). So, now I don’t feel comfortable in my own home anymore which really bugs me (pardon the pun) and I really want to fix that. Do you have any tips for bug control or do they not bother you at all? Thanks in advance.

  • Reply
    Hygge HouseNo Gravatar
    July 18, 2008 at 10:12 PM

    Hey Natalie,

    I have a friend who is in the exact position as you and she’s moving out because her landlord won’t do anything. Generally, bugs don’t bug me. Spiders are a natural part so I’m not really annoyed with them. If they’re fruit flies then that’s my fault and I do what I can to get rid of them – same with months. I’ve had a friend who was infested with bed bugs and had to have that taken care of that would freak the bejesus out of me! But there’s a lot of info on the web on organic ways to get rid of pests and which ones are harmful.

    The ones I refer to are just the general, non-scary, pain ones likes flies or bugs that come in from the garden. If they’re not doing harm, I don’t worry.

    I did live in a flat that had termites (which occurs in 80% of homes in Santa Monica CA) and my landlord sprayed and got rid of them (from what we could see). I was actually more worried about the spray and what that could do to me. The terminator said that since the whole building wasn’t treated that they were still there, eating away the building. That creeped me out a little but figured since I couldn’t see them any more, I’d just get over it πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    JenniferNo Gravatar
    February 11, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    Dear Alex,

    Would love to read your tips on how your organize your home and keep belongings to a minimum. I am baffled by your wardrobe organization. That program to lay out your clothes visually is amazing!


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