hat
Danish Life, Fashion & Beauty, French Life

Hat’s off On!

Today’s agenda consisted of running errands around town on foot in blustery, cold, misty weather. Having worked this morning I was pressed for time in getting things done and didn’t want to take the time to wash and fuss with my hair. The solution for warmth, style and manageability was a hat. Luckily, I’ve about a dozen of them.

From woolly caps to structured hats, I’m literally covered for every outing. And no matter if it’s summer or winter, I find a reason to wear a hat and, more often than not, that gets comments. And today was no exception.

About half a dozen women commented on my hat (not the one shown above – that’s about 6 years old). Each time they say the same: they love the hat, they wish they wore them more or could pull it off. The last part always gets me. There’s this idea I’ve found across America that women feel they can’t really wear hats – that they’re theatrical, not appropriate, or young. Unless they’re baseball caps or visor, I don’t really see many women here wearing them.

When I’m wearing a hat in Europe, however, my hats aren’t a conversational piece at all as everyone there seems to wear one and I just blend right in. Maybe it’s because women there tend to be more pedestrian oriented than their American counterparts; when you’re out in weather especially, you need something that is warm, that keeps your hair from flying all over and styled. In America, more women drive from place to place and a hat becomes less a necessity and more of a fashion accessory. And it seems as though that’s a style that doesn’t seem to be in fashion.

I wish it was as I have quite a few hats that I like to wear depending on the outfit, the weather, and the need. I’ve dressy ones, casual ones, practical and fun.My ginourmous sun hat that borderlines obnoxious but I wear it to the beach or out to a casual summer lunch when the rays are harsh or I’m feeling dramatic amongst my girlfriends. I have a simple sun hat for walks about town and a more practical sun blocker for longer walks during the day. I have so many woolly caps for warmth and bad hair days and a couple of pretty rain caps for an evening out.

There’s hope, however, as over the years I’ve been seeing more hats in shops from Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, JCrew and on Etsy.

So perhaps hats will start trending more stateside because they’re not just pretty, they’re practical.

PS: I’m still trying to find the best way to store my hats. Wool ones go in bins but my harder ones that need to keep their shape need boxes and I’m still searching for those elusive round bins. Any ideas?

alexthegirl-home-06
Green Living, Holidays

Buying Handmade

I’ve written a lot how I am not a huge gift giver as I much prefer to give the gift of time to friends (a trip, a spa, a fancy dinner out…) or the unexpected gift. But when I do buy, I tend to lean towards handmade, unique, specially crafted goods whether they come from a chain store, a local shop or Etsy. So when I read the “Buy Handmade” Pledge for the holidays, I thought it was a great idea.

I have a lot of favourite items on Etsy, Decor8, Poppytalk Handmade, and Sew Green also have fantastic handmade lists. There are a lot of great stores that do handmade on a bigger scale like:

  • Anthropologie (a lot of the home goods and jewelery are artisan made and quite a few done by charitable organizations).
  • Branch Home (a lot of recycled and handmade items. I’m partial to these.)
  • Shabby Chic (her furniture is artisan, not the Target Line),
  • Whole Foods (they have handmade products from Africa that range from jewellery to home goods),
  • Mothology

Another thought is to donate money or time to a charity in someone’s name – a great gift for the person who has everything.

There’s so many fantastic ways to buy handmade or locally – what are yours?

blomsterhuset
Everyday Hygge

Brick & Mortar

Growing up I didn’t have access to malls, big supermarkets or mass retailers and so there would be frequent trips into town with my mum. We’d stop at the butcher (who knew what kind of cuts we liked and, when money was tight would add a few pieces of salami for us, no charge), the fish market (actually, we’d go down to the docks and buy it off the boat), the five & dime type store (for buttons, thread, or a magazine). There was a high-end womens retailer that my mum would go in, if only to pet and dream about the pretty things and a toy shop where I’d do the same.

More often than not, we’d see our neighbours in these shops or the shop owners would be our friends whose children I’d go to school with or whose husbands my father would do business with. We were all connected which meant we were generally friendly, helpful and dependent on one another.

Over the years my moving and the change modern shopping has held me back from shopping as locally as I did as a child. I found online shopping so much easier since I don’t like malls and bargain hunting. And once in America, where supermarkets and giant retailers were taking over, the need to go from shop to shop – and person to person – seemed like a hassle.

But several years ago, when I was sick of complaining about the lack of service at Home Depot and the practices of Walmart, I began to change my habits and went old school.

Brick & Mortar

My current neighbourhood in Philadelphia, which has been around since the 1700’s and pretty much unchanged since the 1800’s, operates in the old-fashioned local way. In the 60’s, the community saw its businesses closing and the landscape starting to slowly change so residents and business owners worked hard together to save their local shops, to save their friends businesses, to save that connection that was being replaced by anonymous shopping.

Now, we have a butcher, a baker, and yes, a candlestick maker. There’s also a cheese shop, an organic dry cleaner, a camera store, a paint shop – all small, private and locally owned. And busy.

 

The other day I strolled up to main street, walked into a local cafe for a coffee, and then as I sat outside and sipped it, watched the town wake up. As the clock struck 9AM, the store doors began to open and one by one the owners came out to sweep their store fronts. next, then the locals started to come through those doors as the shopkeepers greeted them by name.

“Hullo Ms. McCormick – got that cheese in.”

“Did you get caught out in that storm last night, Teddy?”

“Isn’t this a gorgeous morning? I need a bigger regular today to go out in it!”

Sitting there, taking it all in, I could have sworn I was in a movie. It had been far too long since I’d been in this kind of environment, the kind where shops really knew your name and your dollar made a difference because the owner didn’t just sell you cold cuts, he was also your neighbour, a tax payer, a potential employer. Maybe even a friend. And that’s worth an extra dollar to me or an extra ten minutes out of my day.

Now, I’ve a healthy balance between supporting my local shops (not just financially but personally connecting and recommending) and shopping mass retailers (Amazon is still really easy for me to get products that can be harder to find or I don’t feel like lugging home). I shop at Whole Foods, a mass retailer of food, but buy the local product within it as much as possible. But Saturdays I buy from the local farmers market in Rittenhouse Square.

I’m more often than not a middle ground kind of girl; looking at all my options and doing what’s best for me, my community and my pocketbook. Sometimes that’s supporting my local shop, sometimes it’s ordering online. Balancing my needs with that of my community. Which isn’t too hard when you get find what works, especially when you consider the benefits all around.

 

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Everyday Hygge

Real Fall

I have always been a fall kind of girl which is why, come every September since 2004 when I moved to Los Angeles, I’d start to crave a road trip out east. While so many dream of seeing Paris in the spring time, I always wanted to see the east coast in Fall.

And this year I was finally able to do that thanks to my move to Pennsylvania. Scarfs and woolly throws finally made sense once again and my camera had lots of reasons to click.

Standing in my yard, watching the squirrels prepare for winter (and listening to them crack and dump chestnuts onto the ground below), watching leaves literally fall for hours and hiking with my dog, Jack, in golden colours – well, it’s been amazing, comforting, inspiring… beautiful. Each day seems different which is something that I didn’t like about living in perfect year round weather (she says before winter comes – I’m not a huge winter lover) and being aware of that difference has helped me to feel more inline with the week and somehow relax against its rhythms.

I find myself looking for places to escape to each weekend; a train trip to see the foliage, a park to walk through the leaves, pumpkin patches, cafe’s with apple cider, nurseries, puddles to jump in. And during the week, I just take it all in.

Pink of Perfection has a great little post on cosying up for fall and This is Glamorous has some inspiring images, too. I think am going to try to do each one of them. What about you? Any fall favourites you have (outside of Halloween) that you love to do? And if you’re fall-challenged like I was, how do you deal with 80F/25C weather when sweaters are popping up everywhere?

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Philadelphia Home on HyggeHouse.com
My Hygge House

My Philadelphia Historic Stone Home

In 2009 Anthropologie asked me to join them and lead their brand new social media and online content efforts. A dream job called for a dream house, and this late 1700’s stone home in Chestnut Hill was it.

earth day
Green Living

Earth Day

Looking back at how I was raised and how the household was run, I can say that we were extraordinarily eco-friendly and self-sufficient although we never would have called ourselves that. There was no green movement then and those who talked about doing good things for the earth were thought of as hippies or granola girls, both of which were easily cast as crazy, out there, or of making no sense.

My mother was raised in a relatively well to do family that had a nice home, private school, and fancy clothes. My father was raised by a relatively poor family that struggled and lacked most regular things. However, both of them generally lived with the idea of having a self-sustaining garden, of buying local (and knowing all your local sellers from produce to meat to clothing), of buying only what you needed from food to housewares, of living within your means, thrifting, bartering, of recycling and re-purposing.

We actually never ate granola but we did eat seasonally because we bought directly from the butcher, the fish shop and the local farmers. My mother made a lot of my clothes when I was younger, we resoled our shoes until they were completely gone and my father darned our socks with dental floss. At the same time my mother bought a few expensive Danish teak pieces for our living room from a well-known store, my father did a yearly shop at a gentlemen’s store for his high-quality and expensive suits and cost wasn’t spared when it came to entertaining guests either for an intimate brunch or a big night time summer party. We were a one family car – even when we lived out in the country (my mother biked with me) and when I was old enough to bike I had to go through several hand me downs before I got my first brand new one. We gardened together, we built and revamped houses together, we camped together and we went to elegant dinners together. We participated in every range of life depending on what our needs were. It was about working with our means and our lifestyle. It wasn’t a movement, it wasn’t extra effort, it wasn’t hard or something deserving of a brownie badge. It was just basic, every day living.

I think the biggest misconception is that the eco-movement is that – a movement. Something that only some people are doing, something that doesn’t have to be done. Something that only those with money or without children can do. Something that is for them, not us. Something that takes energy or time when the truth is, it’s just about conscious living. About being respectful of yourself and your environment which then leads naturally to being aware and respectful of the total environment.

I most likely won’t have a home run on solar panels. I won’t be buying an electric car and I’m not raising chickens. I don’t sew or thrift, I’m not vegan and can’t imagine giving up fish or eggs.  But I’m conscious of the way I live, where I shop, what comes into my home and what goes out. And, as the saying goes, a waterfall begins with only one drop and look what comes from that.

So, in honour of Earth Day I bring to you my favourite links, tips and ideas:

If I could offer a few ways to start I would say the biggest difference can come from cleaning your home using organic and natural cleaners. This is so easy and mainstream now that there’s no reason not to (and here’s a list of my favourites). I think this is especially crucial if you have children, pets, elders or any one with breathing problems living under your roof. Don’t put bleach down the drain – there are safer alternatives. There are easier, more natural ways to clean floors. If you can’t afford to buy organic paint, at least clean the walls in an eco-friendly way.

The second is organic food. I have no idea why so many people have issues with this and think it’s elitist. Putting chemicals, antibiotics and hormones into food is a relatively new thing in human food. If you look at all the diseases and health issues that are plaguing people at an alarming rate, don’t you think there’s some kind of connection? Prevention, to me, is far cheaper than correction. If you can’t make the switch completely, at least make sure your dairy and meat is hormone and antibiotic free, especially if you have children. Then move to fruits and veggies. This can be tricky in a lot of parts of the US and the world and even trickier if you have a family. But consider the long-term benefits and then also re-think your eating. If people went for hundreds of years without processed food, maybe you can, too. Fresh when you can, organic when possible, and the simpler the better for your budget, your waistline and the environment (no good can come from a 5lb of jar of pickles from Wal Mart).

The third is awareness of your usage of things from water (brushing teeth, showering, washing you face, dishes) to electricity (do you need to run the AC all the time or the heater. Can you turn off more lights or put in new lightbulbs?) to garbage (if you’re throwing out a lot of food every week, rethink your buying/eating habits). It’s amazing how just being aware of what you use can change not only your environmental impact but your pocket book, too. Instead of running the heat in my flat when it’s cold, I run a small electric heater. My gas bill has gone down by more than half and my electric bill hasn’t gone up at all.

There are so many other little things you can do – from making sure you recycle at home, consume the food you buy (don’t over buy), think twice before buying something you don’t need, get to know your local shops and boutiques, think about your environment and then move those thoughts to your community.

What not to do on Earth Day
Great article from Treehugger on tips and ideas of what you shouldn’t do.

Boho Magazine
Printed on recycled paper with lots of fantastic (but never preachy) eco-friendly information from lifestyle to fashion to activism. I really enjoyed the feel of this new magazine, both in holding it and in reading it. It’s refreshing to see something eco-friendly and stylish without lacking substance but without being too granola-y. It’s smart, it’s fun, and it’s totally worth buying. They even have a blog.

Kelly LaPlante interview on Design Sponge
I have the pleasure of knowing Kelly and what I love about her is how genuine, laid back and incredibly brilliant she is about the eco-living lifestyle. Her enthusiasm for life is infectious as are her designs. She’s someone who walks the walk and didn’t jump on board to be cool but because that’s just how she rolls.

Guerrilla Gardening
I love the idea of Guerrilla gardening and may or may not have participated in throwing seed bombs into empty lots. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do, check out the Plant a Billion site. I’ve often wondered if we greened more urban space – especially in poor inner city areas – would that have a positive effect? If gardens were put in, trees that bloomed in spring were planted, if kids could smell grass just after it’s been cut, if people lived in beautiful areas would it change their habits and thinking? Well, let’s start with each planting a tree for $1 and see.

Energy Efficient Home:
Post I wrote on ways the government can help you make your home efficient from free audits to low or no interest loans for new AC’s and natural lawns.

Wash Clothes the old Fashioned Way
With the exception of towels and bedding, I really don’t use a washer and dryer. I prefer to hand wash most things which is great for the environment and fantastic for my clothes. I’m really good at getting whites, white without bleach.

Moving Green
Moving in no fun but a few ideas and tips can make it cheaper and easier on the environment (and hopefully you).

Tonic Mail Stopper (formerly Green Dimes)
I signed up with this service when it first came out and I am happy to report it’s effective in eliminating junk mail for me. This is huge considering how many trees are used to produce materials that most people throw away (not recycle).

Craigslist and Freecycle
I have had a lot of success with Craigslist in selling furniture or items I no longer needed. It’s free to post and you’re almost sure to get a response. It’s a great place to look for items you might need, too. Freecycle was great when I had a million magazines to get rid of. A local art organisation came and picked them up!

Recycling at Staples
These stored are abound in the US and make e-recycling easy. From computers to cartridges to cell phones and batteries, by bringing in your goods you do good for the environment and your piggy bank (they give you an in-store discount!)

For even more you can read my Eco-Living Posts, visit my favourite Green Links, or see some of my favourite Green Products to buy. And if you have any favourite links or ideas, I’d love to hear them!