• 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."



Carmel By The Sea Quirks

March 18, 2008

In December 2007 I took on a flat in the charming town, Carmel by the Sea California.Β  Although it began in the early 1900’s as an escape for San Francisco artist is sees more tourists visiting high-priced galleries instead. But there’s a reason why this small sea-side town keeps people coming – it’s accessible, it’s beautiful and it’s more than quirky.

Here are some of the things that make Carmel by the Sea what it is:

There are no street addresses. That’s right – no street addresses. Instead of being identified by government issued numbers, homes are identified either by their cottage name (which owners can choose) or by description (SW Corner of San Carlos and 5th, green house three down with the big red door). Explaining this to UPS or places that do not accept P.O. Box addresses can be challenging. It does, however, encourage one to know their streets, neighbours, houses and surroundings so they can explain how to get around town.

There are no street lights. At all. Which means it’s very, very dark, especially in winter. Not a little shady but pitch black. This affords the glory of seeing the stars and when the full moon is out, the town glows. But walking when dark can be daunting – so carry a flashlight.

If you’re 18 or under, there is a 10PM curfew. When I told a friend he replied in cheek, “It’s to keep those pesky kids of people’s lawns!” But, there are no lawns here – another law. It’s all Xerophytic Landscaping; natural landscaping that doesn’t require watering (although cactus and any other plants that could cause physical harm are highly discouraged!). It also helps to keep the town feeling like a forest and full of magic.

Except for Ocean Ave and a couple of streets around it which have shops, there are no sidewalks. Again to add to the forest feel (Carmel was the first city in California to employ a full-time Forrester) but also a reason why if you were certain high heels, you’ll need a permit! The city requires this because the uneven roads can be dangerous in towering shoes and they don’t want the liability.

It is very, very quiet. Living four blocks from the beach, I can still hear the waves crashing against the shore. Coming from Los Angeles, it took me awhile to realise it wasn’t the highway.

The town is only one square mile in size with 1 dog for every 3 humans. But you’ll never be bothered by dogs or their business – it’s very clean. Most people here believe that those who take their dogs out will be responsible (and they are). So much so that lots of restaurants (including gourmet) not only allow dogs, but have dogs menus.

Almost half the population is single but most visitors are couples. It’s about a 50/50 split between men and women although the average age is 54.

The city began as one of America’s first artist colonies (most of whom were women) and the names of famous artists in residence is long. However, most of those who founded the city couldn’t afford to live here today – the median home price is $1.8 million. If you include 17 Mile Drive in that, the median home price goes up to $8.4M!

The Forest Theatre still provides outside live theatre, however, because rent is so high the original movie theatre is no longer in operation. The only place to see movies now is in one of the local banks. There’s a Plasma TV with seats. However, they only play Doris Day or Clint Eastwood movies.

It doesn’t matter what night it is, the town will most likely be quiet and closed after 6PM. I’ve been asked a lot by tourists “what’s going on tonight?” If it’s Tuesday it’s locals night at the Cypress Hotel. Other than that don’t expect much. People come for the scenery not the scene.

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