• 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."


Green Living

Home Keeping

November 14, 2006
San Francisco Flat on


In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

From the United States Government Indoor Air Quality Web site (which is a fantastic resource).

Indoor air quality is something I’m concerned with and try really hard to work at keeping healthy but has been really challenging for me – especially with my new 1941 home.

I’m not a Martha Stewart cleaner nor do I have a lot of time (or desire) to clean every single day but the challenges that I face with my home (keeping mold at bay, humidity, lack of fresh air, dust, chemicals from paint, rennovations and 70 years of living) have to be dealt with. The question was how do I keep the home clean without adding to the indoor pollution problem, breaking the bank or having to mix my own cleaners.

For me, the book Organic Living has been extraordinarily helpful. I thought I knew how to keep a green home (plants – check. green cleaning products – check) but this book taught me so much more than just the basics of “clean with a green cleaner!” It explained how everything in the home worked and how to maintain it in a way that wasn’t preachy, intimidating or too “natural” if that makes sense (you now, how some green books tell you to chant? Not this one). From the inside out, I’ve been learning how to keep the home clean and healthy in easy, practical ways and I really think I can tell the difference of the indoor air quality.

What has worked for me has been what the book said were “musts” – a rubber broom and a hand held steamer. I was incredibly skeptical about this however, after using both for a couple of weeks, I don’t think I could be without either (I found both from QVC which allowed me to try and return should they not have worked at all). With 1000sf of hardwood floors and a humidity problem thanks to 95F/32C weather ten months of the year, mold is an issue as is dust from having to keep windows closed so often. The broom has kept my floors clean without damage and the steamer has gotten rid of small amounts of mold that had grown around the toilet and the caulking. It’s also helped get rid of baked on dirt that had accumulated over the years in my window sills – something cleaners couldn’t do no matter how hard I scrubbed.

When I discovered there was a huge chigger and flea problem (thanks to an untamed yard and cats that were adoring my drive) my first reaction was to grab a bottle of Raid and kill everything off. My cat, who had never had fleas all of a sudden was scratching so bad she developed bald spots. Flea powder, right? But the book suggested otherwise and thanks to that, I learned great green alternatives on how to fix everything. Although this part took a lot of patience and hard work, it paid off. The yard was taken care of in a way that other vegetation was not destroyed, the neighbourhood cats wouldn’t be harmed by ingesting anything and wouldn’t have to worry about walking through the yard and bringing the chemicals in via shoes. Inside, I sanitised every bit of cloth (thank god for slip covered everything!), washed the floors with the rubber broom and sprayed a natural deterrent on my window screens. Twice a day, I went through my cats coat with a small flea comb removing a few by hand. By repeating the deep cleaning every two weeks, taking care of the outside and in, the problem is gone without sacrificing health.

Another lifesaver for me has been the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Dozens of friends recommended it and after seeing reviews on Sears, Eopinion and Amazon, I felt I had to give it a go. I’d been so disappointed with hoovers of the past as they always broke down or made you handle all the dust somehow. I was nervous about spending so much on yet another vacuum (did you know they’re the most often replaced appliance? Averaging a new purchase every four years?) but this one has been fantastic. For someone with a pet, allergies and hardwood floors – it gets everything! And for the men, you will love the transformer style as it goes from floor to ceiling hose. This has been helping to keep dust and bugs at bay because it really sucks up everything and gets into the cracks of the floors and cushion covers.

I’ve never been a fan of bleach so with the recent purchase of a new washer I was happy to discover it had its own hot water tank which allowed me to get dingy whites incredibly bright without using any chemicals whatsoever. When I had a small tea cloth that I didn’t want to throw in, I boiled hot water, put the cloth in and let it simmer for an hour and got the same results. I’ve also never been a fan of dishwashers and this book has so much great information on how they work and, if you choose to use one, how to do it in a way you’re not baking more chemical gunk into your dishes. Nothing is said in a preachy “you’re going to go to hell if you don’t!” way but it just informs, gives you alternatives, and lets you be on your happy green way.

You might be asking how does purchasing these things not break that bank? I believe that by keeping the indoor air quality green, I’m keeping myself healthy which will save me on healthcare (trips to the doctor, hospital, pills etc). Most of these things are also just one time investments; the washer whilst expensive is energy efficient saving money on both water and electric bills. I also don’t have to buy extra products to get things clean. The hoover does so many different things that I don’t need to buy other products and with a 20 year warranty I know I’m not going to replace it in four more years. There is a value to going green and keeping your home healthy.

So, perhaps some organic cleaning takes a bit more elbow grease once in awhile and there might be an initial investment but the effects on your health – and home – are worth it.

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