Everyday Hygge

Healing Gifts

Last fall when my mum came to visit, she fell in-love with one of my skirts which she ended up wearing almost every day. She wore it above to the Getty Museum, she wore in during our walk through the Venice Canals, she wore it up on our trip to Solvang. She tried to wear it on the plane back home!

I kept it because for the past five or so years it’s been one of my favourites; something to wear when I need a pick me up or want to be really comfortable. I couldn’t part with it. They say those are the things that make the best gifts.

So when my mum had surgery a couple of months ago, I packaged up the skirt and wrote a note. It was called the “Happy Skirt” – something that we’d pass back and forth whenever one of us needed it to feel better. It was her turn. I can’t tell you how happy she was to have this skirt, to think of where she’d been in it before and where she’d go in it when she was better. It was the perfect healing gift for her.

While flowers are a nice thought and often appreciated there are downsides to sending them such as lots of people having the same idea (my mum had dozens of bouquets in her small room), being hard to manage or take home and inducing allergies (a lot of patients have heightened allergies right after surgery and sneezing can be really painful).

The average price of flowers sent to a hospital room is $35 and using that amount as a guideline, here are some flower-alternative get better gifts:

  1. One of the other benefits to giving my mum the skirt was that it was comfortable and easy to put on. Because of the type of surgery she had, pants or tight fitting things would be problematic, a skirt that buttons up entirely in the front isn’t. If you know the person well, clothes can sometimes be a good option if you think about what the problem is. If they’re having any kind of leg surgery, a new skirt is great as is nice, loose yoga pants.
  2. A maid service is another great way to help someone heal, especially if they are told to stay off their feet or not move their body. You can hire a one-time maid service from various companies or you can offer to go over and scrub some floors yourself. It’s especially nice if you can have it done before they come home from the hospital and then have a two week follow-up.
  3. Cooking can be challenging. Some people can’t get out, some people can’t stand and cook and some people have difficulties knowing what they’ll want to eat day to day as they adjust to being post-op. Consider a meal delivery service or coupons for local restaurants that delivery. Also think about doing a grocery run for them, stocking up their fridge with necessities so when they come home they have liquids and easy to digest food.
  4. Nothing makes you feel uglier than surgery; everything that goes into your body is going to affect your skin, your hair and you whole well being. A spa treatment gift certificate is fantastic whether it’s for a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a hair cut – anything that will help the person get back to normal quicker is always a good thing.
  5. Do a DVD/Magazine/Book run and have all that waiting for them at their house. If they’re into cooking, grab some unique and different cooking magazines. Do they love home? Stock up on all the latest. Pick some DVD’s to go with it and they can lay in bed and read and watch until their hearts content.
  6. If they have pets, consider a dog walking service or doggy day care gift certificate. It’s really hard to be bed ridden or fatigued and have to take Fido out for walks. Or consider donating your time for a couple of weeks to do some dog walking or cat sitting or bird feeding.
Everyday Hygge

Negotiating Technology

Amish settlements have become a cliché for refusing technology. Tens of thousands of people wear identical, plain, homemade clothing, cultivate their rich fields with horse-drawn machinery, and live in houses lacking that basic modern spirit called electricity. But the Amish do use such 20th-century consumer technologies as disposable diapers, in-line skates, and gas barbecue grills. Some might call this combination paradoxical, even contradictory. But it could also be called sophisticated, because the Amish have an elaborate system by which they evaluate the tools they use; their tentative, at times reluctant use of technology is more complex than a simple rejection or a whole-hearted embrace. What if modern Americans could possibly agree upon criteria for acceptance, as the Amish have? Might we find better ways to wield technological power, other than simply unleashing it and seeing what happens? What can we learn from a culture that habitually negotiates the rules for new tools? (via)

I often feel like a great contradiction; I have long been an advocate and avid user of technology (having been on every computer since the Commodore 64 & Apple ][) but at the same time have completely resisted so much of it – it took me years to get a cell phone. And although I’ve been online since 1988 and had a web page since 1995, I am really hesitant about spending lots of time reading other blogs and updating my own. I love connection and sharing information but still feel confused about Twitter and Facebook. I totally keep up to date on everything new media and tech because I both love and work in it but at the same time I read lots of books, garden and spend a great deal of time outdoors, disconnected.

Over the past two years I’ve had a really hard time trying to put all of this into words and accurately describe (or even catch up) to how I’m feeling about technology as more of it’s created and incorporated at crazy speeds. Because it’s not going away and really, I don’t want it to. It’s just trying to figure how to be a part of it instead of swept up in it.

With the addition of Twitter, RSS Feeds, and Facebook, I’ve found myself receiving the same bits of information several times over. For example, I used to just subscribe to a blogs feed and access their info that way. But if that person is on Twitter, they’ll also tweet about their new post and link to it. If they’re on Facebook, chances are their Twitter hits their Facebook profile and I’ll get an update there, too. LinkedIn now offers the same. So instead of getting one piece of information one way, I’m getting the same information 3 or 4 different ways which results in an overload.

But what happens if you then remove that person from your Twitter feed? Will they think you aren’t their friend? This has happened to me. People have equated my Twitter removal with a friend removal even though in real life I did a lot more and gave much more support than just clicking “follow” on Twitter. So once you incorporate technology, removing it becomes really hard because of social and sometime business consequences.

A lot of my work is in new media so if I’m not Twittering up a storm or talking about the same things as everyone else or Diggining’ every post, it can seem as though I have no idea about these things. The truth is, I do and almost always know about them from the beginning before main stream thanks to all my geek friends who build the stuff and I get to test it out. But there comes a point where I ask myself, in my personal life, do I need this? How much value does it have to me? How much value does it have to my readers? Am I overloading us both? Am being redundant? Am I just saying whats already said to several mediums just to stay relevant, but not even really being relevant?

Now lets add in the iPhone of which I have had for a couple of years. After my 4 year old more than basic cell phone died I decided to get an iPhone so I wouldn’t have to worry about upgrading for a long time and liked the idea of music/phone. But when people see mine, they think I’m insane. You only have three apps? they ask. Do you need helping knowing about apps? No, I’ll tell them. I’m actually up on a lot of apps, I know what’s out there, I know what’s being built it’s just that my needs don’t require them. I don’t want to be able to do everything all the time on my phone. It used to be if I didn’t have my computer with me, people understood not getting an email right away or me checking out their Flickr or their new MySpace page. But then laptops came to be and so vacationing got really hard. Now with the iPhone, every minute, every day, everywhere you can access every thing.

There’s no reason to miss an email, an update, a YouTube video, or everything you friend ate that day. In fact, I feel like all this technology and access has prevented us from doing more and instead made us monitor more. How much of your day is just catching up on what other people are (uselessly) doing? How much of your information intake is actually propelling you to a better life? How much is just a big time suck but you feel like you just have to keep up with your friends, comment on their status, read that popular blog post or contribute your own for fear of being irrelevant, seeming unhip or worse, out of touch.

I feel the need to reiterate that I love technology and am thankful for the web; it’s provided me a fantastic career and I’ve met the most amazing friends and counterparts because of it. There are so many amazing communities and sites out there from technology to health to home and travel that I have found more than useful, inspirational and just plain fun. But even though so much of my life is incorporated into new media and technology, I don’t want my life to be 100% about it. I don’t want to know that much about everyone or feel obligated to comment on every post or fear that not Digging will make me look stupid as will bailing out on this years SXSW. It’s so easy to get caught up in technology and make some things seem bigger and more important than they are instead of really thinking about each bit of technology’s use to each of us and finding whats really important to us as individuals and making all of that work.

Reading how the Amish use technology really struck a chord with me because I feel like I am constantly negotiating and choosing what to use and how it works for me. Yet I often feel like an outcast for doing so or worse, a really bad friend because I didn’t update as much as my counterparts or I didn’t acknowledge every single status update of every single friend.

I like the idea of being ‘sophisticated’ for choosing technology instead of a drone doing everything out of fear or greed. And I like the idea of really learning how to incorporate technology that I really do love and really think has great benefits into a world that still needs to have boundaries and breathing space and conversation instead of just giving personal updates.

I’d be curious to know how others navigate the technological waters; do you love getting several of the same updates? Do you feel pressured to comment on others status or follow their every move? Are you Blackberry free? Do you spend too much time surfing the web or do you have a great online/offline balance? Are you really connecting online? Has technology made your life better or harder to keep up with? Do you embrace every bit of technology and see the benefits personally/professionally in doing so or have you seen more benefits in being selective?

Everyday Hygge

Life After Domino

Jack and I reading the last issue of Domino. What will we do without it?

My parents never subscribed to any magazines while I was growing up and I honestly don’t think I could have told you what one was until I saw my first National Geographic about age 8. But when I hit 15 I discovered Vogue and my magazine obsession began. Fashion magazines were my main indulgence until my early twenties; I learned Italian through Italian Vogue, I feel in-love with the 16 series in New Zealand and then, in America, found InStyle.

But when I got my first real home – the kind where I bought furniture and knew I’d be around awhile – my magazine interests changed to decor magazines. Back issues of American Victoria, Country Living, Elle Decor, House and Garden along with the English magazines Country Home and Country Living, my French staples Marie Claire Maison, Marie Claire Idees, and Maisons Cote Sud and my Danish loves Boligliv, Isabella’s.

There came a point, however, a few years ago when I was so tired of magazines; the same old, same old. So I stopped getting them and last fall recycled dozens and dozens of them.

But one magazine I have really liked – and was even going to subscribe to this year – was Domino. I couldn’t tell you one person who didn’t like it. In fact, when I went to the newsstand today, the two men that run it said, “You know it’s the last issue, right?”

“Yes,” I said, “It’s a sad day.”

They couldn’t understand why it was stopping publication since it was their best-selling magazine. They told me how much they both enjoyed reading it (big, tall, scruffy men reading Domino. Loved it!) and didn’t know what they would read in its place.

Neither could I.

One of my favourite features was the fact they included paint colour names for most of their stories. I also loved how they combined fashion with home, frugal items with luxury ones, were young and fresh but had lots of traditional ideas, too. It was a great mix of ideas that I often find lacking in other magazines which focus one just one idea (modern, country living, arty etc.).

So with Domino gone, what are you reading now? Are there any magazines you can replace it with? Web sites that are filling the void?

Everyday Hygge


How Often Should I Wash My Dog?
I wash mine about once every 3-4 weeks depending on what he’s been up to and I do it in the tub. He’s actually really good about it and so happy after. I use the No. 17 Shampoo from Isle of Dogs. Expensive but totally worth it – Jacks fur has never been so soft and his skin never better.

Grand Canyon by Train
I love train travel and this looks like such a great adventure. Parlour class anyone?

Kiki in Paris
I am so, so, so enamoured with the photographs, the girl, the doll, the everything. I have looked at it often. I found it after I bought my own Jess Brown Doll and fell in-love.

Nancy Drew – The Movie
I was surprised how much I loved this movie! It was smart, it was funny, it was charming. I think if you have a young daughter this would be the perfect movie to watch with her.

The White House Website
At exactly noon yesterday, the new White House website was revealed. I was so inspired by the new design and the access to information that I spent over an hour clicking around. I had never done that with the old site. I love how the President’s executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review. Talk about transparency and participation. Plus, it’s just great web design.

Pam Garrison’s Coffee Filter Garland:
So beautiful, so easy!

Everyday Hygge

Waves of Change

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I’ve been receiving a lot of emails and comments over the past couple of months asking where the updates are, if I’m OK, what’s going to be happening to Hygge House? And I haven’t had a full concept of where I was going to give anyone any answers. I had ideas but nothing was forming into something solid and, if you’ve been reading any of my sites for any length of time, you’ll know that I don’t really like to talk about ideas – I like action.

So I had been waiting until I had not just an action plan but actual personal movement before getting back to online life. I wanted to be clear about my purpose here rather than just post online for the sake of it (something I think is a danger to anyone with a blog, especially if, like me, you’ve had a site for over 10 years!). I spent a good deal of December and most of this month changing a lot of my sites and working on new ideas, seeing what was working, what was feeling right, and what should and should not stick.

I also had a lot of quiet, private time in which some days I did nothing or I did things solely for my enjoyment and that was really good. That solitude that I desperately needed helped quiet all of the things that had created too much noise and confusion. Then when I was ready I came out of hibernation and spent a lot of time talking with friends, going out to new venues and testing new waters. During this time I began to have an inkling of the direction I wanted to go but it wasn’t really until this week that I began walking confidently in it and today I was finally moved to say something about it.

Like so many of you – American or not, Republican or Democratic, Religious or Atheist – I was truly inspired and motivated by Obama’s inaugural speech. The past couple of months of reflection combined with his speech of action, determination, compassion and hope helped me to succintly say what I needed to be clear on and do:

Be of Service.

I know that phrase has been tossed around but I actually first wrote those words in my journal when I was 9 years old and from that moment on I began the act of volunteering. I taught swimming to young, underprivileged children, at 12 I taught horseback riding to mentally and physically handicapped children. In my late teens and early twenties I worked in senior housing and answered phones at womens clinics. I even volunteered with Obama before the election because I couldn’t vote and needed to do more than just talk about wanting change – I wanted to help make it happen.

I’ve also been a huge believer in financially giving back to people I was personally invested in or bigger ideas I believed in – even when I had very little money to give. Years ago I read the book, “The 10 Percent Solution” which really changed my views on giving and began donating at least 10% of my income. When online ads became available I started running them, giving all the income from Google Adsense and Amazon to charities (this site gave away $647 last year to charities listed on the right sidebar- thank you!).

In addition to physically volunteering and donating money, I’ve worked hard to create sites that encouraged others to do instead of just thinking about doing. And I have over 47,000 emails from people who have shared their stories of exactly what they did! I have always been so proud of all of that – even if I’ve been quiet about it. Service isn’t about being loud, it’s just simple about doing.

But last year, well, last year was hard. There were a lot of things going on that I had to deal with and it seems like one thing kept coming after another without a break inbetween. I know so many people who had a bad 2008 so I know I’m not alone but I can say it was the worst year I’ve ever had because it was the first year I can remember that I wasn’t of service. I was so wrapped up in things that were happening only in my own world that I didn’t do anything for anyone else. Oh sure, I gave the 10% but that doesn’t count so much in my books because I didn’t give of myself.

My time spent being quiet here was time reflecting on what is it that I believe in and need to do so that I can be useful to both myself and to others both in real life and on the web. I have been thinking so long and hard about this – especially about what to do on the web – because I don’t want to be a bad habit for internet surfers. I don’t want to waste your time. I don’t want you to come here and go away without feeling changed, inspired or able. I don’t want to tack up more decorating ideas that just stay ideas, rehash magazine images that stay just dreams or talk about me in a way that isn’t useful to you.

And although I love frivolity and feel that sharing just regular things and loves are important (I’m a sucker for a pretty photograph and home idea any day and I love the help we give each other (like the chalkboard – thanks!)), I don’t want to be 100% about that. The concept of Hygge House is more about lifestyle than things yet I feel as though I have sometimes not been successful at reflecting that. That’s often when I remove posts; if I feel they are too much about me, too pitiful, or just down right useless I think we should both be spared having to read them. We all need to be selective about what goes into our brains and make sure what goes in is either beneficial or joyful. We shouldn’t settle for anything less because I don’t want you to be blase about life – mine or yours. I don’t want our life to be just about pretty pictures on the web or you coveting ideas – I want our life to be amazing. Full-on rock star amazing.

Don’t you?

I think you do because when I wrote the post “Living Well isn’t just about Organic Fruit” the response was overwhelming. But I’ve often wondered since then how many live by what we were inspired by? Did it really change us or was it just rhetoric? It’s like Obama’s speech today – a speech that changed not just a nation but the world. A speech that filled so many of us with pride and hope and courage. I just don’t want something as amazing as his speech and vision to go to waste. I want to live up to the feelings I had when I hear it, just as I hope people in a smaller way live up to the comments they felt after what I wrote.

So I am getting back to being of service and this will spill out into many different forms, some of which have already been going on. I’m excited, energised and hopeful about 2009 and beyond. I’m also excited, energised and hopeful about our community, our friendships, our ability to connect here and beyond despite whatever situation we’re in.

Because we all have challenges. It doesn’t matter what they are; a challenge is a challenge that can be overwhelming or scary. But I think if we step outside ourselves, if we do something to be useful to someone else, if we change our own lives, if we make our dreams real, if we start reaching big, if we let go of 2008 (!!), the fear, the snark, the ‘can’t’, the selfishness, the pity, and break out into something BIG and BOLD this year, I think our challenges will become our triumphs.

So with that, I give you my pledge that in between decor posts and ideas, loves and links that I will share useful information about truly being hygge – how to live well not just in our own homes but out in life. How to help others, how to look outside ourselves, how to do instead of just think. And I would like to propose that if you have a blog, that at least 10% of your blog posts do the same. That we all give back and give to each other and that this is the year we stop putting wishes on the web or in books and start making them real. That we think big and make everything the best we can, not just for ourselves, but for each other.

Because we can. And we will.

Decor Ideas

Magnetic Chalkboard Wall

One of the things I love about my flat, despite in being a small one-bedroom, is that there is a good-size hallway and entrance inside. I love having this space to separate the public living areas with the private bedroom in the back.

It’s very narrow, however, so a lot of things – like furniture – just won’t fit but since it’s the first thing when you come in something has got to be here. Currently there’s just three pieces of artwork hanging and one ginourmous floor to ceiling framed Pottery Barn mirror. It’s kind of generic, not-fun and definitely doesn’t reflect set the tone for coming into my home.

I’ve been wanting to use chalkboard paint on the wall ever since I it done at the amazing Front Hotel in Copenhagen (pictured above) where guests (including myself!) left notes and drawings. And then when I saw another great example but with magnetic primer, I was smitten with the idea.

For one wall in my little entrance (where the arrows are pointing in the photos below), I am thinking of giving it a go. This way I can have an easy art-gallery by using magnets to hang up lots of art instead of expensive frames (no more leveling!) and friends can leave colourful notes and doodles. I think it’s a great art statement, fun and practical without being pretentious! Perfect!

I am a little nervous about a huge black wall feeling over-powering or making the area really dark. I’m also concerned about finding a good magnetic primer or paint as it seems like a lot of them require 6 coats and even then have challenges with magnetizing (Rustoleoms is said to have very poor magnetization even after 6 coats) or primers having a rough texture.

Other concerns include being able to easily paint it white before I move out since I’m a renter and easily cleaning the walls without chalkboard residue sticking, finding a good low VOC chalkboard paint (although I think Benjamin Moore’s Chalkboard Paint can be made low VOC).

Apartment Therapy has a good thread on this where others talk about the same concerns but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of answers in there yet so it’s more Googling for me unless anyone has any ideas, suggestions or feedback (always appreciated!).

Malibu Hike
Everyday Hygge


Photochrom Travel Views of Denmark
Then and now photos. Amazing

apparently nothing
I can’t get enough of Lorissa’s designs and photos and her newly redesigned photoblog is no exception. She’s just so talented and I draw such inspiration from her, technical and otherwise.

My BFF on Access Hollywood
My most amazing friend and celebrity stylist, Jessica Tingley is on Access Hollywood! I love her!

Beautiful photo blog from Sweden

Making it Lovely » My Organized Closet
Love. It.

Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake with Vegan Frosting
This is one of the first cakes in a long time that I’ve made and it was easy, amazing, and eaten within an hour. Gluten-eating people will even love it!

Just say no to IE!
I don’t like Internet Explorer and have chosen to not design for it either.

leigh dameron photography
Beautiful, charming photography and stories.