• 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Simplicity in action.

May 22, 2008

I’ve always believed in living simply, in living well and in not overly complicating any aspect. Since I held this belief for so long I didn’t realise that I had, over the past year, actually shyed away from it. Because my life, at the moment, is anything but simple and I am living anything but the ideas I actually believe in. Any task I’ve taken on, I’ve made it more and more complicated without any idea why.

A great example is that I have been craving an actual vacation; one place, no internet, no business, no people. Just a simple cottage to kick back for a few days. I found the perfect place but then I thought, why not go camping? So then I looked into all the gear, the spots, trying to figure out how to get it into a small car and how to deal with the dog. After a few days of just thinking about it, I was exhausted – how did one simple trip to relieve me of my stresses turn into a stressful trip? Why did I do that?

I think it’s so easy for us to think we’re living and being one way when the truth is that we’re not. How many of us have read books, intellectually taken in those beliefs on how to make our lives better but have not actually implemented change? How many blogs have we read that give us 400 million ideas and yet we haven’t done even one but keep reading for more and more ideas? How many of us have said our styles are X but then a quick glance around our homes reveal our style is actually Y. How many things have we added onto our lives without really enjoying what’s right there? How many of us are disconnected?

Raises hand.

This web site is also a great example; I wanted to add a lot of functionality that people were asking for but integrate it in a simple, seamless way. However, my new design and gadgets just went too far. There were too many patterns, links, colours, images. It overwhelmed me but did I stop? Nope.

Although I’ve been known for my simple design and knowing when to pull back on any project, I unleashed a monster with this site. The values that are Hygge (cosy, simple, easy) were not reflected in the design (dark, complicated, busy). When I looked at it last night I realised the path my design had taken was as if I was wandering beautiful, simple Chateauxs in France and then wandered into the crazy, over-the-top architecture in Brugge and was left wondering what the hell happened! This wasn’t the right path but it’s where I ended up without thinking.

So I started thinking. Thinking about my values, my beliefs, this site’s purpose, what I’ve done in the past that’s worked. I remembered my favourite Antoine de Sant-Exupery quote that I always used to use as guideline for design:

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Then it hit me; these words are just true for design, but for life. And so with several large cups of tea and a good soundtrack, I began a new design of pure simplicity and then bringing that into my life, connecting my beliefs with reality once again.

So I rented that cabin that had everything on 800 acres in the middle of nowhere – just drive up and be! I finished up a few work projects and turned a few down. I went through my wardrobe and got a batch ready for eBay. I deleted old files, old images from my computer. I bought The Art of Simple Cooking and let go of all the guilt I had for not wanting to cook elaborate meals that I don’t actually like. I donated a lot of my art supplies because I am actually not crafty and don’t really enjoy all that and feeling like I should. I got rid of excess dog toys and then I did something else – napped. And napped. This alone was huge for a girl who runs on 4 hours of sleep a night (if she’s lucky).

Slowly (and that’s the way to do this) I’m easing back into myself; merging my long-held ideas with my actual living self. The disconnect is getting smaller.

  • Reply
    KerstinNo Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 2:25 PM

    Love the new look! And attitude 🙂 Although I do not know how you survive on 4 hours sleep every night, really? Did you know that you have this in common with Margaret Thatcher?

    I love simplicity but rarely achieve it for myself, I just have too many things that I like surrounding myself with. Mind you, I am quite good at de-cluttering, which I do every time I move (and therefore often!)

    Have you ever heard of Susan Saranka’s “The Not So Big House”? We discovered her when we almost built our own home and I love her philosophy and approach to house/home design, and life even. She also wrote a great book about “The Not So Big Life”. Here are her links (I hope they work as I am unable to preview them in this comment):

    Susan Saranka

    The Not So Big House

    The Not So Big Life

  • Reply
    jeanNo Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 2:34 PM

    Good for you! Have fun in your cabin with your pup, simple cooking and days filled with cozy nothings.

    PS. I like the new design which I agree better reflects the ideas of simplicity, coziness and ease. While I will miss the pretty photography that you featured in your headers, I think that a shorter masthead is preferable so that readers can go right to the content instead of scrolling for a bit to get past the image. Just my unsolicited 2 cents.

  • Reply
    cillaNo Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    I’m sure a lot of people feel this way, almost everybody! I can relate with everything you wrote about feeling disconnected. It’s so wonderful that you got rid of the unnecessary things. It reminded me of money and stuff, having so much stuff makes you feel like you don’t have to time to do a lot of things since you can’t use everything. I grew up with a hoarder, simple is definitely better!

  • Reply
    MonikaNo Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 8:46 PM

    Susanka’s books are great but a bit unrealistic to follow for someone who lives (and breathes at times) in the American corporate culture. Between cell phones, faxes, Skype, email, texting, etc., how do we actually de-clutter our brain from constant distractions and interaction with technology? I suppose we can turn off all the devices and start daydreaming but then we risk a chance of not accomplishing much professionally. Ah, the modern curse.

  • Reply
    Hygge HouseNo Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 9:10 PM

    One of my brain declutter’s is a common one – no TV. I don’t have a radio, I don’t read magazines except for a few foreign ones when I travel and I generally don’t surf the web or read blogs. For me, those are huge, time sucking, original thought taking-away, and dummy-down things. I’m a really visual person so the less I see, the better I am professionally and also, just happier. I can sit in front of a TV for hours but then up feeling like crap, so I just avoid it.

    I have an iPhone but I’m good about turning it off from 10PM to 10AM. The more quiet space I have, the better off I am and it’s sometimes hard to do this because I do travel a lot, I do work of film sets packed with people and I do have a lot of professional ambition. But every bit totally helps. I don’t think it hinders us professionally, I think it can really help (especially if you’re in a creative field).

  • Reply
    Ellen P.No Gravatar
    May 22, 2008 at 9:34 PM

    I love this post!!! What an inspiration.

  • Reply
    LorissaNo Gravatar
    May 23, 2008 at 1:16 AM

    Yes, simplicity. This is just what I need myself. Simplicity and focus. Funny how simplifying life can actually be somewhat difficult at times. I’m on my own new mission to do just this though starting with decluttering the apartment.

    I love that quote by Antoine de Sant-Exupery. One of my absolute faves and one I try to live by with my designing as well.

  • Reply
    Tracy D.No Gravatar
    May 23, 2008 at 1:46 PM

    I felt instantly calm and happy when I saw the new design. Subtle and pretty. Good work!

  • Reply
    Hygge HouseNo Gravatar
    May 23, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    Thanks everyone for the lovely comments. Made all the coding at 3AM and hair pulling more worth it 🙂 Everything just feels lighter all around.

  • Reply
    Greta WilliamsNo Gravatar
    May 25, 2008 at 5:32 PM

    I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and have been emailing its link en masse to my friends. You speak from the heart of so many overworked and overconsumerized persons living today. In our attempts to make our lives ‘convenienced’, we have complicated it with fast food high blood pressure and stylized Gap t-shirts.

    Thank you for reminding our souls that simplicity is what it truly craves. I have tried to incorporate the simplicity theme into my life these past few years. Yet I continue to find it very difficult to embrace “white space” in my life. If there is available time, then it must be filled with productivity. so.not.true! Sitting back and seeing the refreshing plainness of empty time is a new habit that can be difficult to form; but rewardingly appreciated.

    Thank you for a new term in my life: hygge. My friends remind me when I’m getting too overburdened, “Are you living the hygge principle?”

    And daily, I am doing better. Giving things away. Reusing and repurposing what I have. Delighting in small symbols of joy and happiness that occur in my life daily. And saying no – to myself and to The Joneses – to the things I don’t need. Because in the end, there is so very LITTLE that we actually ‘need’.

    I can’t think of anything that will free us from the world’s pressures of busyness and solidly tie us to our true inner core than that: little is needed; much is to be enjoyed.


  • Reply
    MonikaNo Gravatar
    May 27, 2008 at 6:28 PM

    Here’s food for thought:

    When I attended Waldorf School (creativity is one of its big philosophies), my teachers often told us that “TV destroys brain power”. I’ve never forgotten that.

    I watch maybe 2 hours of TV total per week. I wish it was less than that. I usually watch 1 DVD per week in addition to it.

    My boyfriend on the other hand spends about the average of 15-20 hours (!) a week on TV watching. It is a main cause for our arguments. Does anyone have any suggestions how to make him change?

  • Reply
    JohannaNo Gravatar
    May 29, 2008 at 1:24 AM

    Monika, I don’t think you can change anyone and often when one gets criticized for doing something there is a knee jerk reaction to do it even more. But maybe you could suggest doing other things together instead, like taking up a mutual hobby or just going for a walk?

  • Reply
    JenniferNo Gravatar
    June 13, 2008 at 10:29 PM

    I hear ya on the craft thing….I am a highly creative person, but mostly in music. For awhile I wanted in on anything artistic, “crafty”, etc. I thought I had to be good or interested in all these things to be creative. Those art supplies are still sitting in a drawer. Off to the local school they go…..simplify,simplify!

Leave a Reply