• 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."


Everyday Hygge

Healing Gifts

March 18, 2009
Healing Gifts

Last fall when my mum came to visit, she fell in-love with one of my skirts which she ended up wearing almost every day. She wore it above to the Getty Museum, she wore in during our walk through the Venice Canals, she wore it up on our trip to Solvang. She tried to wear it on the plane back home!

I kept it because for the past five or so years it’s been one of my favourites; something to wear when I need a pick me up or want to be really comfortable. I couldn’t part with it. They say those are the things that make the best gifts.

So when my mum had surgery a couple of months ago, I packaged up the skirt and wrote a note. It was called the “Happy Skirt” – something that we’d pass back and forth whenever one of us needed it to feel better. It was her turn. I can’t tell you how happy she was to have this skirt, to think of where she’d been in it before and where she’d go in it when she was better. It was the perfect healing gift for her.

While flowers are a nice thought and often appreciated there are downsides to sending them such as lots of people having the same idea (my mum had dozens of bouquets in her small room), being hard to manage or take home and inducing allergies (a lot of patients have heightened allergies right after surgery and sneezing can be really painful).

The average price of flowers sent to a hospital room is $35 and using that amount as a guideline, here are some flower-alternative get better gifts:

  1. One of the other benefits to giving my mum the skirt was that it was comfortable and easy to put on. Because of the type of surgery she had, pants or tight fitting things would be problematic, a skirt that buttons up entirely in the front isn’t. If you know the person well, clothes can sometimes be a good option if you think about what the problem is. If they’re having any kind of leg surgery, a new skirt is great as is nice, loose yoga pants.
  2. A maid service is another great way to help someone heal, especially if they are told to stay off their feet or not move their body. You can hire a one-time maid service from various companies or you can offer to go over and scrub some floors yourself. It’s especially nice if you can have it done before they come home from the hospital and then have a two week follow-up.
  3. Cooking can be challenging. Some people can’t get out, some people can’t stand and cook and some people have difficulties knowing what they’ll want to eat day to day as they adjust to being post-op. Consider a meal delivery service or coupons for local restaurants that delivery. Also think about doing a grocery run for them, stocking up their fridge with necessities so when they come home they have liquids and easy to digest food.
  4. Nothing makes you feel uglier than surgery; everything that goes into your body is going to affect your skin, your hair and you whole well being. A spa treatment gift certificate is fantastic whether it’s for a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a hair cut – anything that will help the person get back to normal quicker is always a good thing.
  5. Do a DVD/Magazine/Book run and have all that waiting for them at their house. If they’re into cooking, grab some unique and different cooking magazines. Do they love home? Stock up on all the latest. Pick some DVD’s to go with it and they can lay in bed and read and watch until their hearts content.
  6. If they have pets, consider a dog walking service or doggy day care gift certificate. It’s really hard to be bed ridden or fatigued and have to take Fido out for walks. Or consider donating your time for a couple of weeks to do some dog walking or cat sitting or bird feeding.
  • Reply
    madelynNo Gravatar
    March 18, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    Your Mom looks completely beautiful
    in that pretty skirt:)

    This article was timely and thoughtful
    and I am passing it along to my dear friend:)

  • Reply
    JayneNo Gravatar
    March 18, 2009 at 11:22 PM

    What lovely ideas and you are spot on when you point out that other gifts can actually be of much more benefit than flowers. I know that when I’ve been ill just the offer of help with grocery shopping was a fantastic bonus.
    Lovely photo by the way. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    yasmineNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 7:40 AM

    what a beautiful idea, alex!
    i remember seeing this photo when you posted it to flickr, and smiling because your mum looked like a little girl twirling around. =)

    love the alternative ideas for gift-giving!

  • Reply
    MckenzieNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 9:45 AM


    I love your article. These are all fabulous things to help someone who has undergone surgery. Trust me, I know. It’s also nice, if one is capable, just to go and visit the person and sit with them. Sometimes nothing is better than just having a friend nearby.


  • Reply
    SuzynNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    My husband, who has spent more than his fair share of time in a sick bed, believes that laughter is the best medicine. When dear friends of ours were in a car accident and had to undergo weeks of painful physical therapy, we took them the complete first season of I Love Lucy on DVD (and also home-made cookies!).

  • Reply
    ellenNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    What a creative, sweet gesture with the Happy Skirt!

    Great ideas, Alex! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    ShannonNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 7:08 PM

    These are all such thoughtful gestures. You should really publish a small book on this topic with your suggestions. I would buy it! Very good, very kind.

  • Reply
    katrinaNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 at 8:03 PM

    Oh my goodness! Your photograph of your mum is simply priceless…you can totally see why it is the happy skirt!

    When one of my BFFs had her baby last summer and instead of a typical baby shower, we all gave money for dinners at Dinner A Fare ( She and her husband were able to choose 20 meals with the money, that they stored in their freezer. This was her third, and she said it was the nicest gift she’s ever been given, and it lasted several months.

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