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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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Wanderlust

Santa Barbara, California

August 30, 2016
Belmond El Encancto Hotel, Santa Barbara California

As a true vagabond, I’ve never lived anywhere longer than a year in my entire adult life – with one exception. I spent two and a half years in dreamy little cottage in Santa Barbara and if you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful, charming and totally relaxing sea-side town, you’ll understand why.

Often compared to the French Riviera because of it’s climate and high-end residents, Santa Barbara is far more relaxed and down to earth. Flip flops are literally the norm as is dining outside, meeting friends for a drink in the Funk Zone and surfing or Stand Up Boarding before breakfast.

My favourite jaunts happen to be in Summerland (the quaintest Victorian Sea Side spot and home to my favourite secret beach) and Montecito (where Oprah and her millionaire friends have the best estates). But Santa Barbara’s downtown is filled with walkable gems from the beach, to wineries, to coffee houses, to history, to the best food ever. Honestly, with the exception of a few European towns I’ve yet to live somewhere where the food is as good as it is in Santa Barbara.

And one of my favourite things about this city? How dog friendly it is! From beaches to restaurants to hotels, your canine BFF is welcomed almost everywhere you are.

Stay

Santa Barbara has a wide arrange of hotels from inexpensive inns to rehabbed cool retro motels to luxury hotels. Where you stay depends on budget, location and what you want out of your trip. I’ve stayed in a lot of Santa Barbara hotels for either staycations, celebrations or now going back as a traveller. Below are my top 3 picks.

Four Seasons Resort Santa Barbara
Four Seasons Resort Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Santa Barbara: One of my all-time favourite stays anywhere. Worth it for a night, a weekend or longer if you’re lucky. The rooms, the spa, the food, service and location are all perfection. See my full review and photos here.

San Ysidro Ranch: Not technically in Santa Barbara but close enough. I celebrated a birthday weekend here in one of the loveliest cottages I’ve ever stayed in. I’d say this is in my top 5 hotels and experiences – just like everyone else with a hotel list. It was destroyed by the Montecito mudslides and closed for a year but I’m happy to report that it reopened in the Spring of 2019. I highly recommend a visit not only because it’s beautiful, but it deserves the help to get back on its feet. Read my full review and see my photos here.

San Ysidro Ranch Cottage on Hygge House
San Ysidro Cottage

Bacara Resort and Spa: After a lengthy renovation, this hotel is a great resort with access to one of the best pools with a view and beach. Upgrade to a larger room with a fireplace for true comfort and cosiness.

Belmond Elencanto: This had been on my list of places to stay and finally in February 2019 I was able to cross it off my list. I had one of the deluxe rooms with a balcony and fireplace which did not disappoint. The views, the rooms, the grounds and the service were top notch. I’ve eaten here a lot and I have to be honest and say that’s been consistently disappointing (we had afternoon tea on which was a real let down and awkward, our room service had mix-ups and our breakfast came out cold). But I loved the room and the overall vibe so recommend it.


Explore

There’s a lot to do in Santa Barbara. As a local, I was never bored. From hikes, to bike trails, to shops to museums to the beach, there’s always something to do and always a reason to come back.

Santa Barbara Courthouse: Free with beautiful 360 views of the city if you climb the tower (or if you’re here in summer, catch an outdoor flick in the gardens). The Santa Barbara Bowl is the best place to catch a concert in the summer.

Butterfly Beach & Hammonds Beach: They’re connected with different ways to access them. Butterfly beach is always more crowded but can be easily accessed from across the Four Seasons Santa Barbara. Hammond’s Beach requires a little walk down a rail and parking is at the end of San Ysidro Road. (Updated to add that the new Rosewood Miramar Hotel is now on Hammond’s Beach so there’s easier access but it’s also more crowded).

Hammonds Beach
Butterfly Beach

Arroyo Burro State Beach (or Hendry’s as it’s known to locals) is an off-leash dog beach complete with dog-wash station to help get rid of all the sand before you get in your car. There’s a trail that goes from the beach up to Douglas State Preserve Park which is one of my favourites for walking the dog.

Horseback Riding on the beach: This was on my buck list and my two-hour ride did not disappoint. I went with Los Padres Outfitters and highly recommend them whether you’re a first-time rider or totally seasoned.

Horseback riding with Los Padres Outfitters

Old Mission Santa Barbara: One of the historic sites to see whilst in town. As a fan of the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, I was especially moved to see the plaque here dedicated to the heroine of the book. The rose garden right across is the perfect place for a picnic.

Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens: Free and dog friendly. A cool and beautiful place that’s easy to walk around with also a little history thrown in.

Eat

One of the things I miss the most about Santa Barbara? The food. From the local hole in the wall joints to the cream of the crop restaurants, Santa Barbara has the best food around. Sometimes I’ll drive back up just for sushi – it’s that good.

Sushi: Sakana is a  small Montecito Sushi spot was my regular go to and I never miss a chance to eat here when I’m in town. If you can’t make it to Montecito, Arigato Sushi on State Street is a close second (and caters to larger parties)

Mexican: Cava is always a good place for a treat or celebration. The food and service is the best and the menu truly exceptional. The atmosphere is charming – grab an outdoor seat if you can. If that’s not within your budget, Los Arroyos – both downtown and in Montecito – have the best budget Mexican food and it’s a true locally run, family owned business. My favourite? The ceviche!

Vegan: Olivers is a newcomer in Montecito that’s getting lots of buzz. The food is absolutely incredible regardless if you’re vegan or not. I ate here for the first time in February 2019 and can honestly say it was one of the best meals. But I don’t know if it was because it was a Sunday or they’re fairly new but we were seated at 8PM for our 7PM reservation. The food took over an hour to get so we ate around 9. And the decor inside is kind of weird/doesn’t make sense. But, if you have the time and you can sit outside, I’d totally go.

Family/Locals: Really great food, atmosphere and prices, these have been my staple restaurants to go to with family and friends. Arnoldi’s is a long-time classic local place with bocce courts out back. Opal’s menu and the atmosphere is fantastic and Trattoria Victoria is a classic local Italian restaurant that I’ve gone back to time and time again. For breakfast, Jeannines can’t be beaten. I love the Montecito location but their downtown one has the most seating and easy access. And if you have food allergies like gluten, Savoy has the best options from gluten free toast and sandwiches. It’s also a tea lovers paradise.

Backyard Bowls has several locations and is a great, cheap, healthy way to have breakfast with their different types of breakfast bowls and smoothies (with gluten free options). My favourite is the warm Quinoa bowl.

Coffee: My go-to for coffee is the French Press. With two locations in Santa Barbara (my favourite is on Anacapa) they’re able to keep you caffeinated whilst you walk around. For me, an additional benefit is that they have gluten-free food options. Another local favourite is the Handlebar Cafe – a favourite amongst cyclists and locals. With lots of shaded outdoor spots and right smack downtown, this is a good place to cool off with an Iced Latte.

Juice: There’s a lot of juice options in Santa Barbara but the best is the local Juice Ranch. It’s all organic, made in house, and really, really good. The Little Miss Sunshine is the perfect morning perk up if coffee isn’t your thing.

Drinking: The Lounge at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara is a classic and local favourite but if you need something hipper, closer to downtown or want a lot of options, The Funk Zone is where you want to be. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company for beer and the Santa Barbara Wine Collective for, well, wine are my regular stops.

Shop

Botanik in Summerland featured on Hygge House
Botanik in Summerland

Shopping here is really good because there are a lot of local stores and not just the same ones you see in every city. My local favourites for home/gifts are Pierre La Fond Upstairs (Montecito), Botanik (Summerland), Porch (Carpenteria) and Heritage Goods (Carpenteria).

For clothing Wendy Foster, Jenni Kayne and the Montecito Country Mart which houses Calypso and James Pearse.

Montecito Country Mart on Hygge House
Montecito Country Mart
Montecito California Shopping
Montecito California Shopping (Jenni Kaye is here)
Montecito
  • Reply
    DianaNo Gravatar
    May 1, 2019 at 2:11 AM

    Hey!

    I just wanted to let you know that when you click on your friends designed Fancy restaurant, Cadiz, it takes you to a strip club website….

    Just thought you might want to check the hyperlink!

    • alex at hygge houseNo Gravatar
      May 6, 2019 at 10:58 PM

      Oh my gosh thank you! He closed the restaurant down last year and I hadn’t updated the article/link. Thanks!

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