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  • 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: http://bit.ly/mountainroad).
  • 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˜€
 #hyggehouse
  • 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

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Holidays

Love Notes

December 16, 2010
Letter Writing on Hygge House. Photo by Annie Spratt

When I left home at eighteen I had two suitcases – one filled with clothes and the other filled with books and stationary. My fountain pens, inks, cards, envelopes and other bits were more important to me than anything else because that’s how I communicated with people – by mail.

In every country I lived, in all my travels, I wrote to friends and family. I wrote thank you cards, ‘just moved’ announcements (lots of them!), thinking of you notes, holiday and birthday wishes and more often than not, simple love notes.

Christmas cards, however, were always my favourite to write. I’d have stocked up on the perfect cards, turned on the holiday tunes, picked up my favourite pen and then would sit down to write. I took this time to really reflect upon my friendships and write that down for them whether it was thinking about something we’d done together, that’d they’d accomplished on their own, on any major changes that came (first year as a mum, as a married person or alone). I know it sounds cheesy but as I wrote these letters, I’d smile. To be able to sit down, think about and acknowledge friends and mail it off, well, I couldn’t think of a nicer gift.

I used to average sending about 150 cards a holiday season, each having a personalized note. Going through my address book was as joyful to me as a good, dishy mag. But over the years, people would move and I’d lose contact, or people just didn’t give addresses anymore because of email & facebook. And those are the same reasons why I used to go from receiving cards during the holiday to receiving only three last year.

And I’ll confess, that broke my heart a little because there is, I think, nothing sweeter than a note, a piece of mail, of knowing that someone took the time to think of you, write it down, and put it to post. A note from a friend and a cup of tea was the perfect break in the day. And truthfully, writing them was, too.

But somehow we’ve become a culture of, ‘that’s too much effort’ to put pen to paper. Technology has changed what ‘connecting’ means – and from what I’ve seen if often means being reminded by a social networking site that it’s a friend’s birthday and that an electronic ‘Happy Birthday’ note will suffice because we’re all so busy.

But I think sometimes ‘busy’ is just a polite for ‘lazy’ and that the things that matter to you should always find a way into your (address) book. Your friends should mean more to you than “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Birthday” on their Facebook wall. Even if only once a year you can write someone, do it. Take the time to write a love note to your friend, your family, the person that helped you this year. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll write you back.

I know I would.

  • Reply
    MeganNo Gravatar
    December 16, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Hooray, I am so happy you’re back and am going to pretend it was my recent comment that spurred it, ha ha. Happy holidays.

  • Reply
    RachelNo Gravatar
    December 16, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    Hello Alex,

    I’m coming out of lurkdom.
    I found you via frenchtoastgirl and I have been folllowing you for years.

    Thanks for everything.

    Happy Holidays
    Alex

  • Reply
    StephanieNo Gravatar
    December 17, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    Dear Alex,

    I’ve been a big fan of Hygge House ever since you opened it, and I’m so happy to see an update, especially one on one of my favorite topics! I’m not a big fan of “the holidays” but I love writing letters and notes and communicating through the mail. However, your talking about how you’d write personalized notes talking about the year has evoked a nostalgic response in me and I almost wish I had had time to write meaningful New Year’s cards, at least. Writing letters is a great way to celebrate the time you’ve shared with someone else and to keep in contact through these hectic times. I will now try to remember to put people’s birthdays in my address book and over the weekend I will endeavor to write a few letters. Thank you for yet another cosy, insightful post.

    Sincerely yours,
    Stephanie

  • Reply
    BeckyNo Gravatar
    December 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    I actually run a site dedicated to letters and connecting with the written word (http://goingpostal.lunsh.net/). Stephanie (above) and I write letters to each other, as a matter of fact, and we both definitely appreciate this post. This year I’ve sent out a bunch of cards and only received some back, but it’s worth it anyway. Taking the time to slow down and pen out a card or a letter is infinitely more rewarding than sending a twitter message.

  • Reply
    Jane AnnNo Gravatar
    January 5, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Alex,

    Amen!

  • Reply
    Jess BNo Gravatar
    February 6, 2018 at 11:06 AM

    In going through a very stressful time in my life, I was in search for some positive energy when I discovered your site. After reading only a few posts, I’ve already found so many things I want to try in an effort to bring Hygge into my life. The charm, coziness and connection to the things that are actually important in life that you speak of makes me so happy. I can’t wait to read more of your posts and start incorporating some of these ideas into my life. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    MarieNo Gravatar
    October 14, 2018 at 3:43 PM

    I feel so badly for my children and others their age. In my closet, I have a chest full of letters and cards written from friends and family while I was off living my life. Can you believe that my college friends and I even wrote letters during Christmas break?? I would have bet my house that my brother never wrote to me while I was in Basic Training (not his style)…but…there they were, 4-5 of them wishing me well and giving me news of home. There are letters and funny cards from people I forgot I knew as well. This trunk of treasure will never be known to many in modern life… Facebook and email are instant…but the written word can be savored forever.

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