• 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."


Cookery French Life

French Yoghurt Cake

January 26, 2007

Blueberry Lemon Cake

There are days when there’s a certain feeling in the air that reminds me of France. Perhaps it’s the brisk air outside, the neighbours wood burning fireplace that’s going or the fact that Amelie has been playing in the background all morning. Whatever it is, there’s a little joie de vivre happening today which has lead me to crave something baked right out of the oven and a little bit French.

Since packing up and boarding a plane aren’t viable options today, I settled instead on baking a traditional French yoghurt cake whilst playing some Carla Bruni to keep me in tune.

Let it be noted that I am not a baker; nine times out of ten I somehow fumble through a recipe and chalk the outcome to “experience” rather than a gastronomic treat. I keep returning to baking because there’s something about the basic process that soothes me.

I do not own a blender, a processor, fancy knives or dishware, so every recipe I own must be basic and simple. The ingredient lists always come from the local grocer rather than an exotic food mart and the names of the recipes themselves are always pronounceable. I’ll never be a fantastic baker but that doesn’t matter. There’s something so sweet to me to have the sun shining, the wind ruffling the curtains, music playing in the background and a little black cat at my feet that makes all the measuring, folding and cleanup worthwhile.

French Yoghurt Cake
Recipe serves about 8 normal people are two very piggy ones

– 1 1/2 cups/200G all-purpose flour
– 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
– pinch of fine sea salt
– 3 large (and fresh) eggs
– 1 cup/200g sugar
– 1/2 cup/125ml plain, full-fat yogurt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 8 tablespoons/125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
– 3 ounces/90g bitter chocolate, preferably Lindt 64%, melted in a double boiler, then cool
– Confectioner’s sugar, optional

1. Butter and flour one 9 1/2-inch/24cm round cake pan. Preheat the over to 375F/190C

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until they are light and pale yellow. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the eggs and sugar, whisking to incorporate them. Fold in the yogurt and vanilla, then the melted butter.

4. Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan. Fold the melted chocolate into the remaining batter until it is thoroughly combined. Pour the chocolate batter on top of the plan batter that is already in the cake pan and run a knife through the batter several times to make a marble pattern.

5. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven until it is slightly mounded and your finger leaves a very slight impression when you touch the top of it, about 25min.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 15minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Serve when it is fully cool. If you like, dust the top with confectioner’s Sugar.

  • Reply
    aNo Gravatar
    January 30, 2007 at 9:22 PM

    Is this gluten-free?

    Alex Responds: No it’s not but you can substitute a gluten-free flour mix for the regular flour (as I did), and I use Chocolove Chocolate because it’s gluten free and I use a greek yoghurt that is also gluten-free.

  • Reply
    shaunaNo Gravatar
    February 2, 2007 at 9:00 PM

    It looks so delicious, my dear. I’m so glad you baked.

    I’ve been so ensonced in finishing the book that I haven’t had the chance to comment on the new site yet. I love it. I’ve been coming back every day to see how you are.


  • Reply
    Hygge HouseNo Gravatar
    May 12, 2008 at 3:08 PM

    I need to note that I wrote and made this cake before I discovered I can’t eat gluten. So I’m going to have to play around with making it gluten-free!

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