• 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.
  • "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


Everyday Hygge


April 23, 2008

I love gardens, especially secret ones like this. Whilst in London last month I met up with a friend in Chelsea and this was her secret garden, can you imagine? It was across her building and locked for just her buildings use and, had it not been raining so much, we would have used it too. Everyone, especially city dwellers, need some nature. And this rings especially true for me.

Growing up my family always had a potager which if basically just “kitchen garden” in French. The portager is meant to be useful (you grow vegetables to cook with) and beautiful (they grow up trellises or have beautiful flowers incorporated). Whatever the case, they’re always defined, raised beds which makes gardening so much easier (less weeds, easier to maintain, you can walk around it without stomping on something).

My family moved a lot – sometimes we owned, sometimes we rented. Sometimes we were out in the country, sometimes in an urban setting. But whatever the case, each spring my father built the potager and my mother sewed it and I ate it all come summer (and this is what they almost always looked it).

I do not have a green thumb, the desire to study botany nor have I ever really had the patience to lay out a kitchen garden. But I do love gardens and the refuge they can provide from a sometimes hectic life or a really ugly view of the next flat. That’s why I’ve always kept a simple garden – even if it’s just a couple of containers outside my front step.

garden kit

This is my gardening kit; an easy to find, one stop shop for all my flowering needs. The most important thing? My Felco Classic Pruner For Smaller Hands #F-6. I have very tiny hands and these make cutting a breeze whether it’s pruning trees or snipping roses. I’ve had them for about 7 years now and they’re still like brand new (the green ones came with the basket (a kit from Anthropologie) and I couldn’t tell you how they work – they just look awfully pretty where they are).

Years ago I read Paul Hawken’s book, Growing a Business and have since always bought the best tools I could afford so that I only have to buy once and can withstand the terrible disregard I generally put them through. When I had a yard I kept forgetting my shovel out in the ice storm and rain yet that $45 shovel worked perfectly come spring whilst my neighbours $10 special – in the shed – did not. So although I first balked at the cost of my pruners, I smile now every time I use them.

Also in this kit are gloves although truthfully, I don’t wear them much. I’ve bought fancy pairs and a cheap pair are currently in the basket but I often find them more trouble then they’re worth. I don’t mind dirty hands and have no manicure to protect. Also in the kit are a couple of kinds of floral tape (green and brown), twine, silver containers for transporting, and the trowel and shovel. I also use the best organic (local) soil I can get for potting. It’s these basic tools have given me blooms like these:

Most of the time, my plants are in containers since I a. move a lot and b. usually don’t have a yard. And when I did have a yard in Austin, Texas, I actually kept a lot of plants in containers instead of putting them in the ground. This is because ground in Austin is extraordinarily rocky and the soil isn’t very good. So I planted huge shrubs and a couple of trees and mixed in a few smaller bushes and pretty flowers in containers. I made sure that all the plants were native (I asked my local green gardener) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them surviving the heat and drought.

When I lived in Seattle Washington, things were a little bit easier since anything and everything seems to grow there. I had a very small balcony which I put a lot of containers on to give me privacy from the building across and the parking lot below.

When I looked outside the kitchen, dining or living room, that’s what I saw. It looked anything but urban. And I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed this garden. Hawks, racoons, and blue jays all showed up all the time. It was some kind of nature party.

There are three things I like in my garden: green hedges (Japanese Box Hedges are my favourite – they are so hard to kill), flowers that I can cut and arrange for indoors and flowers that smell amazing like jasmin and gardenias. I’m not a huge rose fan – if a property has them fine but I don’t grow them. I like a simple garden but a full one. That’s the beauty of nature – no plants ever clash. Somehow the colours work and the styles all mesh which is especially important when you have no idea what you’re doing (like me) and just throw containers together. Perhaps one day I’ll learn the scientific names or built the portager, but for now, I’ll keep gardening this way. It’s simple, it works and the pay off is always more than expected.

Great links:

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