Bison and Campfires: Brodin Family Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

The Brodin family went glamping for the first time ever in July and it was a great success! Gavin, Benji, Hunter and I had such an extraordinary time having a true Yellowstone camping experience, but will all the creature comforts make this mama really happy! We saw Bison, antelope, geysers, and bubbling hot springs by day, and roasted s’mores by night, while stoking our wood stove for the night at UnderCanvas Yellowstone, gazing up at the star above. We can’t wait to go back again!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Gavin and I love nature. We hike almost every morning in the canyon near our house, connecting to nature and setting our intentions for the day. And, of course, my career is also based around nature, creating botanical art for my company Art Botanica. Nature is healing and vital for a healthy body and mind. So naturally, we want to instill these values in our children so they too can love and enjoy all the joys nature can bring.

Now, I must admit, when we told the boys we were whisking them off to Montana, turning off the technology, and playing Where’s Waldo looking for wildlife, they weren’t exactly thrilled. “But MOOOOOOOOM! Benji’s not finished building his house in Minecraft!” Was Hunter’s reply, as Benji stood beside him quiet and sullen. “It’s going to be amazing, you’ll see. We’re going to see really really BIG BISON!” I reply with a huge forced smile. Benji looked away and Hunter was staring down at the floor. They were not pumped.

And off we went to Montana.

We landed in Bozeman, rented a car, and hit the road, Big Sky style. We sang songs and made goofy videos, laughing and having a blast being super silly to pass the time away. And before we knew it we had arrived.

We turned down the long dirt driveway to UnderCanvas and a herd of cattle greeted us, crowding the narrow road. Baby calves were suckling their mamas and we rolled down the window to get a better look.  Benji and Hunter were enthralled. Nothing like baby animals to get the kids enrolled!  Of course, Gavin had to get out of the car to try to make contact with the cute wet-nosed calf, despite my strong debate-style lecture to attempt to get him to stay in the car.  Right away mama cow gave self-proclaimed Dr. Doolittle a confronting side-eye, and back to the can Gavin ran. I passed on saying the “I told you so!” but definitely thought about it, and sent it energetically in his direction and he laughed. You’d think he’d learn by now, but, uh, NOPE. Not yet.

Once we were able to navigate our way through the cattle we checked in and made our way to our stargazer tent, with an adjacent tee-pee for the kiddos. We settled in, bounced on the bed for a bit, and then ran down to the river for a quick cool-off. Kids were swimming and making mud pies on the riverside, as the parents were watching over sipping wine and beer solo-cup style. Benji and Hunter played in the smaller pooled water on a bank they called the “hot tub,” and they invited their new found friends into their posh hot tub club on the river lol.

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

That night after we tucked the boys into their cozy cots in their tee-pee, Gavin and I laid down and gazed up at the stars as we lay in our super comfy cozy bed. (This bed is RIDICULOUSLY comfy!) I’ve never seen so many glittering stars in my life. I grabbed Gavin’s hand and I asked him “How amazing?” He replied, “Yes, we are so lucky.” Moments like these, to me, are a testament that we are walking the right path, a sign we are aligned, and that always feels so good to acknowledge. Have you had those moments too? They are my favorite 🙂

Next morning we woke up early to drive into Yellowstone and tour the park. There is a lot of ground to cover in our 1-day tour of this expansive National Park, so we wanted to beat the crowd (which didn’t really happen) and we planned to do the main loop. Once we got past the traffic backup to the gate the front half of the park was pretty backed up, and several parking areas were traffic jams, but once we got past that it freed up most of the way. 

A few tips for Yellowstone with kids:

  1. There is practically no cell phone service, so bring other games and activities to keep the kids entertained because there is quite a bit of driving.
  2. Pick your top sites to visit but have back-ups in case the parking lots are full. 
  3. Bring lots of food and water. We stopped at the stores to get food in the main center complex near Old Faithful and it was a ZOO. 
  4. Plan out where the bathroom breaks (should) be. There aren’t many bathrooms fyi, and some are closed due to COVID.
  5. Old Faithful decided not to be as faithful when we went  and was 15 minutes late (the whole crowd thought it wasn’t going to happen at all because every minute felt like a hour staring a hole in the ground), so give yourself a good window of 1 hour here to park, get a spot early, and be prepared to maybe stay a bit later if the geyser is having a lazy day.
  6. Go with a full tank of gas, gas stations are sparse.
  7. You will see Bison more likely on the north side of the loop road where the open prairie is, so be patient. We started to think we were not going to see any towards the end of the day, but then they were right in the road!
Yellowstone National Park

Sites we saw that are not to be missed:

  1. Grand Prismatic Springs: A short 1 mile hike, some of it is uphill but kid-friendly, to a vista overlooking the massive and colorful prismatic springs.
  2. Old Faithful: no explanation needed
  3. Yellowstone Lake: It’s ginormous so keep driving and you’ll see plenty of stops for beach and picnic access.
  4. Lower and Upper Falls: This is the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone and these falls are mighty impressive! A approx. 2 mile trail to Inspiration Point is recommended as the views are stunning. Just note that the hike back up is a good grade uphill for a while, but our kids did it fine.

Grand Prismatic Springs

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Old Faithful

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

Lower Falls from Inspiration Point

Bison!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

After seeing the sites we got back to UnderCanvas just in time for the open bar/live music/smores roasting festivities. A glass of wine next to the campfire, listening to a local cowboy sing and strum his guitar was the best way to end the day, while Benji and Hunter played parachute with the other kids.

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

The next morning we decided to pop into The Grizzly and Wolf Rescue Center which was well worth it! We saw bears, wolves, eagles, and otters. This facility is gorgeous and the habitats were really top-notch. This was a great way for the kids to see the animals up close and learn more about them. Which animal was their favorite? The otters of course!

Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas
Trip to Yellowstone and UnderCanvas

I know they had a great time when Benji and Hunter still talk about this trip to this day, and when they set me straight when I mistakenly say  “Buffalo,” and they exclaim: “No! It’s Bison! Not Buffalo.” See, they did learn something!

So that sums up our Yellowstone trip. It certainly was one to remember!

If you have any other questions about our trip or the area feel free to hit me up in the comments below!

Read Next: Family Fun at Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

YEE-HAW: Family Fun at Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

Who’s looking to have an epic family vacation!? One where the kids forget they even have iPhones and tablets? (Is that even possible!?)

One where everyone gets to do what they want to do. One where every minute of FUN and time in nature is a prerequisite? Well, look no further than Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana! It’s the perfect family get-away.

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

In July Gavin, Benji, Hunter, and I jumped on a flight to Montana, which was a surprisingly quick flight from LA, and drove east to the big timber gates that welcome you to the Paws Up Resort. These kids were so excited for the week of cowboy festivities, they could barely sit still. We were welcomed with our very own Lexus to use for the duration of our stay, which would help us get to all the activities we had planned that were scattered across the 37,000 acres of pristine Big Sky countryside. Yes, you heard me right- THIRTY-SEVEN-THOUSAND acres. That’s a lotta land. And it’s breathtakingly gorgeous!

Having arrived later in the day we settled into our adorable Meadowview home and got ready for the cookout. As we opened the door to our ranch home, we were greeted by the soothing sounds of country music (George Strait for all you country fans out there). The boys dropped their bags and ran around the house like the Tasmanian devil, staking claims on bedrooms, free snacks and sodas, and anything else they could lay their claim on… “HOT TUB! HOT TUB!” Hunter exclaimed, “Mommy, can we go in right now?”

“No, boo. Later. It’s dinner time, and guess what!? They heard they have s’mores for dessert!” I responded.

That did the trick. Hunter and Benji got washed up and out the door we went.

The cookout was just as you would expect, and so much more. Live music, beef roasting over open flame fires (veggie options too), ax throwing, lasso-ing, and chuckwagon rides. Hunter and Gavin were pretty much obsessed with the ax-throwing. What’s with boys and weapons anyway? After watching them take turns again and again I stepped in and showed them how it was done 😉 By the end of the evening, the kids were knacked and passed out the minute we got home.

The next day was chock full of activities, starting with go-karts. Paws Up have its own go-kart course and it is no joke. I thought only the kiddos were going to race around, but of course, the biggest kid of them all, Gavin, had to jump in and blast everyone laughing the entire time. Big kids get to play too here!

Next on the list: horseback riding. Hunter got to ride the absolutely most adorable pony named Cookie. Look at that face. I just want to give her a big cuddle and sneak her home to my backyard. I mean she’s tiny- the perfect size pony for LA. Paws Up are known for its extensive equestrian program. You can go on trail rides, learn how to be a true wrangler, take a horse whispering course with mustangs, and even learn how to drive a chuck wagon! If you love horses and adventure then this is THE place. Check out all the equestrian activities.

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana
Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

The next day we rose early to grab some breakfast and hit the river. We signed out some fly rods, purchased a fishing permit, and tried our very best to cast a fly rod without hooking each other with the fly. It was a little dodgy, but we got the hang of it and looked pretty cool while doing it if I do say so myself. Benji and Hunter collected river rocks and tried to skim them across the water, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the current wasn’t in their favor. lol

Paws Up Dude Ranch in Montana

Later on, after lunch, we went to class 2 whitewater rafting, tiny tot-friendly style. The river was gorgeous and relaxing. We saw a bald eagle too, and there were just enough rapids to keep the kids excited, but not too many that would make me do the anxious mommy thing where I play the safety police telling everyone to “SIT DOWN on your BOTTOM! The entire time. This palace has really got their activity game down. Kudos.

More ideas on a family vacation: Yosemite & Sequoias RV Family Vacation.

Smokey Roasted Beets & Spicy Whipped Feta Recipes from Tulum

The food in Tulum was next level…. You may have read by blog post “40 and Fierce in Tulum,” when my fiancé Gavin surprised me for my big birthday, and I mentioned how amazingly magical Tulum is in every way. Including the food! Everything we had there was outstanding. When we got back home to LA I set out to recreate some of my most fav dishes we had at the hottest Tulum restaurants.

Roasted Beets & Spicy Whipped Feta

The first night in Tulum Gavin and I went to Meze. This spot is a Mediterranean dream! Dripping with candles and outdoor romantic garden decor, I felt like I was in the garden of Eden. The smokey aromas wafting from the open fire clay oven made my tummy rumble with pangs of hunger. 

I had a lovely glass of crisp cold rose, and G got a spicy marg (his go-to vacay cocktail of choice). We always ask the staff their fav’s to get the inside scoop. Our waiter recommended the spicy feta dip topped with figs, and also the salt encrusted fish. Holy sh*t was this food good. We ate everything in front of us until there was not a morsel left on plate, napkin, table, or fork!

Back at home with some ingredients to rectorate the spicy feta dip and I came out with something pretty darn close, if I do say so myself! Scroll down to get the recipe and try it out for yourself!

Roasted Beets & Spicy Whipped Feta

The other shining star, and the most sought after res in all of Tulum in the famous Hartwood. This sustainable farm-to-table experience is not to be missed, but book your table wayyyyy far in advance because it fills up quick. At Hartwood we ordered a bit of everything- a salad, a fish special, steak, which all were mouth-watering-ly divine, but the stand-out star was the fire-roasted BEETS with avocado-creama! It took me a bit to get the avo-crema down, but I figured it out and I am happy to share this deliciousness with you all.

Happy Noshing! xxk

Roasted Beets

Ingredients

For the beets:

  • 4-5 large beets
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the avo-crema

  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded (leave the seeds in if you want a hotter sauce)
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chile lime salt (I used the Trader Joes one)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

  2. Fill a baking dish 2" with water and add basil, honey, and scrubbed beets. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 45 min or until beets are fork tender.

  3. While beets are cooking in the oven make the avo-crema. Combine the avocado, sour cream, olive oil, and jalapeno in the blender. Blend on high, turning off to the scrape down the sides as needed, and blending until smooth and creamy. 

  4. Once the beets are tender, remove from the oven and pat dry. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the beet skin with your fingers or peeler. Cut beets into wedges.

  5. On a serving platter spoon avo-crema on the plate. Place the beets on the crema, drizzle with olive oil and dust with salt, pepper, and lime chili salt, and serve.

Spicy Whipped Feta

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword spicy whipped feta

Ingredients

For the Fig Marsala Sauce

  • 1 cup dried Mission figs (Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Mission Figlets or Sun-Maid California Mission Figs)
  • 2 tbsp fig spread
  • 1/2 cup red cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp balsamic glaze (optional)

For the Feta Dip

  • 8 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 oz light cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 jalapeno (chopped and de-seeded, for extra kick add a few seeds to the blender when mixing)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried golden figs
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts (optional)
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • Pita bread, toast points, or crackers

Instructions

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the chopped figs, red cooking wine, balsamic glaze and fig spread. Bring to a boil while stirring, then reduce heat and simmer until the mixture becomes thick and syrup-like. Remove from the heat and let cool.

  2. Next, place the feta and cream cheese into the bowl of a food processor or high powered blender. Mix thoroughly, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, then add the honey, lemon zest, jalapeno, and olive oil. Blend until smooth and whipped.

  3. Place feta dip in a shallow bowl, spoon fig sauce on top, and sprinkle with chopped mint, pine nuts, and cracked black pepper. Serve with crackers, pita, or crisps of your choice.

Read Next: 40 & Fierce in Tulum

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure Extraordinaire

Costa Rica is a Nature Immersion Adventure.

Costa Rica stole my heart and turned it green, with deep love of its bountiful and vibrant nature. A true untouched gem in many ways, the raw beauty of its jungle landscape, towering volcano, and vast ocean vistas, inspired me down to my core. Gavin and I were blessed with the kindest hospitality, epic culinary experiences, and exhilarating excursions with our #highvibecrew. From soaring through the clouds high above the rainforest canopy on a zip line to galloping the beaches on horseback, Costa Rica was a true adventure, and one I’ll never forget.

Ask Gavin about how I like to travel and I think you may get a sarcastic comment along with a roll of the eyes because I tend to ‘pack it in’ a little… Ok, ok, not just a little but A LOT… Our vacation schedule usually leaves us a bit more tired than when we started due to the fast-paced nature of a Kelley-designed trip. My zest for life runs hot and I crave to try so much of what this beautiful planet has to offer. I thrive on it. Thank goodness I have a partner who accepts and understands me, and in turn, I get to make sure we have downtime too. Relationships are always about balance, compromise, and communication, right!?

If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation you can choose any one of these spots we visited and settle in for a week or longer, as they all were epic! Or if you’re a bit crazy like me go ahead and do it all- just one word of caution- driving here takes much longer than WAZE will tell you, so a good amount of time is spent driving between locations, but the countryside is breathtaking. Add a karaoke-loving bestie  Caroline (@howcarolinecarolines) and these car treks become another memory-making event! I think we perfected “I’m a Genie in a Bottle” and other 90’s pop hits!

Our first stop on the Costa Rican journey was Volcano Arenal. Deep in the lush rainforest, we stayed at the Nayara Tented Camp. This tent was the most luxurious glamping experience I have ever had. The sprawling room had a beautiful four-poster bed with a cloud-like mattress that beckoned you to linger and stare at the enormous volcano on the horizon just beyond our door. The lux bathroom had a clawfoot tub perfect for bubble baths with bubbly and an outdoor rain shower. But the very best surprise was the private plunge pool on our deck that was naturally heated by hot springs and twinkled in vibrant colorful shades of glowing lights at night. Gavin and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the spring-fed waters our first night, our bodies soothed by the healing mineral waters (and the wine ;))

The next morning we rose early to the sun rising up over the verdant green volcano. We had breakfast in our room and then took a little tour of the grounds. There were hot springs everywhere, a pool with a swim-up bar, and SLOTHS! Yes, sloths! This property has 8 native sloths and we were lucky enough to meet one on our tour. I named him Merle. We watched him precariously balancing on a tiny tree branch way up high, and he never made a move. Merle and I would not vacation well together haha.

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

That night we visited the Tabacon Hot Springs Resort with our crew. I have never seen such an expanse of hot springs, complete with waterfalls and little stone paths that went in every direction. It was a mystical fairyland of rising steam and rushing mineral waters. Such a unique experience and exactly the relaxing experience we all needed at the end of a long eventful day.

Up bright and early we departed Arenal and headed to the Pacific coast. We drove up and down and all around windy roads alllll the way to Casa Chameleon at Las Catalinas. We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and immediately whisked upstairs right away for a special ceviche cooking experience with their amazing renowned Chef Jose. I can not say enough about this unique cooking demonstration. Chef Jose was such a delight, a robust storyteller, true artisan of food, advocate for protection of the seas, and a down-right great guy. Gavin and I not only learned how to make amazing ceviche from the best, but we also learned about the history of this culinary delight (and one of my absolute favorites), and made a new friend. It doesn’t get any better than that. But it actually did! The view at Sentido Norte restaurant is ridiculous, perched high on the cliffside with panoramic 360-degree views of the ocean. Absolutely stunning! Like ‘pinch me” I’m dreaming. Oh, take me back to Casa Chameleon!

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

Fueled on ceviche, we capped off the day with an exhilarating horseback ride down the beaches and through the woods. Gavin and I are avid horse riders, and we had the absolute best guide who granted us permission to gallop flat out like crazies down the wave-kissed sandy coastline. Nothing compares to touring a country on the back of a horse!

Our next stop along the adventure was in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had a wonderful stay at the Koora Hotel, in an apartment-style villa so the whole gang could stay together. The villa had 2 story windows looking out on the cloud forest. What’s a cloud forest you ask? Well, it’s’ exactly as you may suspect- our hotel was perched on a hillside on top of the cloud-covered rainforest just like a Care Bear land (yes I’m a child of the 80’s)! Koora hotel offered so many nature activities, as it is situated right at the gate to the RESERVA AGUTI Nature Preserve. They hooked us up with a night nature hike lead by the fearless and knowledgeable Victor. Once the sunset and the night cast its darkness, Victor equipped us with flashlights to venture into the preserve’s inky abyss. We learned about so many things unique to this cloud forest area and discussed the ongoing preservation and rehabilitation of many endangered species of native trees. We saw an abundance of frogs, stick bugs, millipedes, and even a tarantula (from a safe distance)! The tour left me in wonder about how alive this planet is!

Next on this list of bucket list items was zip lining at Selvatura Adventure Park! I could barely contain my excitement and butterflies. Careening at an extremely fast speed tethered to a cable 1000’s of feet in the air is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you wanna know what it feels to soar like a bird high, like really high, above the treetops then this is a must-do! 

Costa Rica Nature Immersion Adventure

The next day we headed back to San Jose to get a little taste of the capital before we took off early the next morning. Not knowing what to expect, San Jose really surprised me with its culture, colors, flavors, and history. We stayed at an eclectic historical PINK Airbnb that was covered in art. The lovely couple who hosted us was so amazing, greeting us on arrival, telling us all the hot spots to check out, and even welcoming us on a private tour of their art gallery.

That evening we walked a few blocks over to the trendy Barrio Escalante district. As we explored, Tamalin (who’s secret superpower is to find the best hidden gems) found a funky little spot with music, beckoning us to come inside. We wandered in and met the lovely and charming Oscar Toribio of Toribio Donato, a local high-end sustainable fashion line. He showed us around his studio and super chic lounge- restaurant, DOMA, just recently opened. This place, the clothes, and the decor were to die for. A must-go when in San Jose!

That night we dined on delicious fare at Isolina. Their menu consisted of inventive fusion dishes including seafood lasagna and an amazing wedge salad, but the best discovery was their fabulous wine cellar. The sommelier showed us top vintages from all around the world and we bought a few bottles to take home, just too good to pass up. Absolutely the best for vino and upscale dining in San Jose!

As we departed early the next morning I peered out the plane window to see the vast green jungle that reached as far as the eye could see. In many ways, it looked like the moss art murals I create! “Wow”, I thought, “such a vibrant country so full of life in every way.” Travel and nature are so inspiring to me both in my work at Art Botanica, but also spiritually. They remind me to really live with purpose and intention. This immersion into the Costa Rican jungle, and really connecting with it, was a gift. I’m in awe of its complex harmony and its astounding beauty. I am thankful for all the beautiful humans we met along the way who shared their little slice of heaven, and for my crew of adventuring friends whom I love making memories with, and finally thanks to my love Gavin Brodin for choosing to journey with me all around the world! Everything’s better with you my love.

Read Next: Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

San Luis Obispo

Mid-coast California is often overlooked when it comes to Cali travel. Of course the major cities have the most draw, as do the beaches of the OC, Yosemite, and NorCal. I am here to tell you that there is a secret gem in this gorgeous diverse state- San Luis Obispo (aka SLO)! If you haven’t been you must give it a try. From the interior wineries of Paso Robles, to the stunning shores of Moonstone Beach, there is so much to see and do, making it the perfect for a romantic weekend away.

Our adventure began on Friday, driving up from LA. Gavin and I stayed our first night in Solvang, a small charming Danish town that is right on the way, making it the perfect overnight stop.  We stayed at The Landsby, in a charming and spacious suite with a balcony overlooking the communal fire pit area. Wanting to stretch our legs we took a stroll around the sleepy town and it was as if we were transported to Denmark, complete with windmills and tudor style architecture everywhere you looked. We completed the evening and ordered room service from the hotel restaurant Mad and Vin and boy was it good! My two fav dishes were the glazed crisp brussels and the rich and creamy Bucatini & Roasted Mushrooms. So divine!

In the morning we discovered a great local coffee spot, Good Seed Coffee, (try the blue moon latte, it’s delicious!) and we dined on traditional danish pancakes at Paula’s Pancake House. Bellies full and systems caffeinated and ready to go, we jumped into the car to head the rest of the way to the coast. The drive was beautifully peaceful, winding through the expansive grassy hills of the countryside. The green and gold rolling hills reminded me of the giant moss murals I created for Art Botanica. When I travel and spend time in nature I gain inspiration for my artwork and come up with new ideas and designs. There is something about experiencing a new place that really gets my creative juices flowing.

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure: Cambria Coastline and SLO Wine and Falconry Experience

The temperatures cooled when we reached the wind-swept coastline, and we arrived at the darling Cambria Beach Lodge. I jumped out of the car and climbed the stairs to the lobby to check-in. “How cute is this place!?” I thought. Simple, joyful, chill surfer vibes abound, and a warm welcoming staff. They even had doggie-bagged breakfast and coffee in the morning to take with you to the beach. Such a great find! And the rooms didn’t disappoint.  They were cozy, comfy, and well-stocked with local goodies and surf wax in case you were heading out to hit the waves. Gavin and I decided to take a stroll on the beach and discovered a raised wooden walkway that meandered through the dunes and ended up on a cliff bluff, where we enjoyed the golden sunset hour.

Cambria Beach

After our leisurely evening on the beach we headed into downtown Cambria to dine at the Black Cat Bistro. This cute little bistro had delicious food and a great wine list. They even had one of Gavin’s favorites- Kosta Browne 2014 Pinot Noir, making it an extra special evening! Gavin loves his Pinot Noir, and so do I!

On Sunday we drove back inland to Paso Robles to have a falconry experience at Viva Vega Vineyards. Wait- what is a falcon experience you ask??? I had no idea either but I booked in on Airbnb experiences and I knew it had something to do with with birds of prey…. We arrived early and met Anita and her daughter, both lifelong falconers. They told us all about the extensive training it takes to be a falconer, and learned about the sport for falconry. Anita owns a number of hawks she trained herself. They even take them hunting, and these birds fly a mile high up into the sky and take cues from their handler. Their bond to their handlers is so strong! It is truly amazing how animals and humans can connect and communicate! Gavin and I got to fly one of the falcons and also hold and pet their eagle owl, Jack. He was my fav. I mean look at that face! 

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure

Following the falcon experience we sat down to taste the Viva Vega wines, and they were superb! Larry and his wife April opened numerous bottles for us to try and told us stories of life on the vineyard- the drought years, the good years, and the fires. They told us about their dedication to raise the grapes organically and naturally and they age their wine for 30 months or more! It sure is a labor of love, and you can definitely taste the love in their wines. We left with a case and some new favorites- their Malbec and Zin blend. 

So next time you are looking for a California weekend getaway, be sure to try the mid-coast! So much to do and see, yet peaceful, slow, and nature-centric. And be sure to give Jack a kiss on his cute lil beak for me!

Mid-Coast Cali Adventure

Read Next: Palm Springs and DesertX and Modernism Week

Palm Springs and DesertX and Modernism Week

Gavin and I love art and design! After all, we are designers and artists by day, and we have deep passion for what we do. We are always looking for new inspiration and ideas, and one of the very best ways to get creativity flowing is to go experience other art! 

In April we took a weekend trip to Palm Springs to visit the DesertX installations and tour the homes featured at Modernism Week. We saw so much in 2 days and we left brewing with new ideas we can’t wait to create, but even more importantly we gained new perspectives on issues that transcend visual stimulation.

Our trip began on Friday, wrapping up the work week early to make the drive out and hopefully miss that potentially awful PS traffic. We arrived and checked into The Rowan Palm Springs, one of my favorite downtown spots to stay in PS. The location here is prime, right in the heart of everything. I also love the High Bar rooftop at the Rowan, the perfect spot to grab a spicy marg and dip into the sparking pool to escape those soaring desert temperatures after sweating our way through the art tours.

Upon arrival, Gavin and I threw our bags down and jumped back into the car to hit up some of the DesertX spots. The first installation we saw was called “Never Forget” by Nicholas Galanin.  Reminiscent of the Hollywood sign, these massive 3 story tall letters that spelled out INDIAN LAND stood tall, reaching to the bright blue sky, casting long shadows from the blazing midday sun onto the desertscape below. I was shocked by their sheer size, which also seemed to reinforce the blaring message it conveyed which to me is that we must never forget that this land we call America is not really ours. It belongs to all of us and none of us. We are here to share, cohabitate, and collaborate. We are here to tread lightly on this land and nourish it. And we must learn for those who called this land their home before we removed them to call it our own. We must never forget who was here before.

Palm Springs and DesertX

Next stop on the DesertX tour was The Wishing Well by Serge Attukwei Clottey.  From far away these canary yellow cubes looked like a cross between hay bales and something straight outta of Minecraft (as Hunter and Benji would agree)! It’s funny how we filter things through our own perspectives. What do you see?  As Gavin and I approached I noticed that these giant yellow cubes were made out of a quilt work of yellow plastic squares, all intricately stitched together. I opened my DesertX app to read about this creation. As it turned out this yellow plastic comes from the iconic yellow Kufuor containers that are used to transport water between villages in Ghana. They are symbolic of life. In countries where water is not abundant, these containers are the life force. It really struck a chord. Humbled, Gavin and I acknowledged how privileged and fortunate we are to have access to all the resources that make our life abundant. We are so blessed.

The Wishing Well

The sun was low on the horizon as we drove back to The Rowan to grab a shower before dinner. We luckily were given a spa suite room, which had a beautiful blue-tiled walk-in steam shower and tub. As I let the water run down my face I thought about the art we experienced, and how art is such an impactful way to convey messages, thoughts, perspectives, and emotions. Art is powerful! Gavin and I both create art and design to make an impact and that is where our passion comes from. When I am creating moss art for Art Botanica, my desire is to offer something that brings peace and connection to nature.

Palm Springs and DesertX

That evening we had a delightful dinner at Workshop Kitchen, a trendy, edgy-industrial vibey spot known for its creative cuisine. The food here was spectacular. We started with a farm beet and citrus salad that complex flavors were strongly influenced by an aromatic blend of fresh herbs. We also tried the doro wat chicken, braised in a robust ethipoian sauce, meat so tender it melted right off the bone. Gavin and I both agreed this was a memorable meal for the books. We will be back soon!

The next morning we grabbed a nourishing breakfast from Juniper Table located in the lobby of the Rowan and then set out to tour two of the featured homes of Modernism Week, in a new development called Desert Palisades. The two homes we toured were designed by the renowned architects  Kappe and Lockyer. These works of art took indoor-outdoor living to a new level. Their simple modernist design blended into the rocky desert surroundings, and the expansive windows and sliding glass walls literally had you feeling like you were outside when you were in. Gavin and I have plans to build our own home starting next year, and these masterpieces gave us a vision of what we want to create, a home that blends with its surroundings and celebrates nature.

By midday Sunday it was time to hit the road to head back to LA. On the drive back we wrote down all the ideas we had swirling in our head. Gavin and I are strong believers that writing our visions and dreams down help to kick start the manifesting process. I felt more deeply grounded into my own moss artwork creations and the message I seek to convey through my art. Gavin and I excitedly discussed all the ideas for a future home in the hills, and all the love that will be infused into our masterpiece we will one day call our home. Sometimes big things come in short lil’ weekend packages and Palm Springs always delivers!

Read Next: San Miguel de Allende

CDMX: Museums And Pujol Omakase Tacos

Mexico City

Gavin, the #highvibecrew, and I recently returned from a whirlwind weekend in Mexico City, a beautiful blur of art, food, and culture! I was blown away by this gorgeous gem of a city. We made sure to hit up all the hot spots such as Museo Jumex and Kurimanzutto for contemporary art, and Pujol for the internationally acclaimed Omakase Taco experience. We left CDMX with our bellies full, our minds churning with creativity, and our hearts shining in love with Mexico City.

Our first stop in CDMX the evening we arrived was at our hotel Condesa df, located in the chic and hip La Condesa neighborhood. This 1928 hotel had an unforgettable vibe from the bright colors to the historic architectural facade. The traditional white stone exterior playfully contrasted with the simple modern design aesthetic of the interior. The lobby was drenched in an ultra saturated teal green, accented with natural leather and wood woven chairs, triggering memories of my earlier years in NYC when I lived in Soho. The suite was super simple, yet lux, with the it’s crowning glory being the sprawling balcony set amongst the treetops. Which I must mention now- one of the most fascinating things about CDMX was ALL THE TREES! For such a dense and populated city, Mexico City is literally a forest, with trees everywhere. It really blew me away- thinking how all these trees were planned and planted many many years ago, and what an energetic and physical implication they have. Mexico may be ahead of the US in this regard..?

CDMX: MUSEUMS AND PUJOL OMAKASE TACOS

After we settled into our hotel we headed out to meet the #highvibecrew (our travel contention of friends) at Catamundi Wine Bar. The food here was delicious and the wine selection easily rivaled notable sommelier spots in CA. Gavin loved Pinot Noir, so he was in heaven with the wine list! Everything we ordered was phenomenal, but the star was the soft shell crab tacos. Encrusted in a light and crisp charcoal batter, the crab literally melted in your mouth with a complex flavor explosion- a little salty, and savory with a hint of sweet to balance it out.  We were serenaded by the smooth sounds of street musicians to lull us fully into a food coma by the end of the evening. (Insider tip: ask for a seat in the back garden bar- that’s the cutest spot)

The next morning we rose early to sounds of birds chirping on our city balcony, as the sun began trickling in through our wispy linen curtains. We woke early to ensure we had ample time to make it to each and every one of our planned destinations. We had a quick bite and on-point robust cappuccino in the Condesa df restaurant. Fueled on haverous rancheros and caffeine, we set off to our first art destinations- Kurimanzutto and Museo Jumex. I’ll let the art do the talking:

Mexico City

Following the morning art immersion we set out for a late lunch at Pujol. When I say “lunch” I mean this lightly- Pujol’s Omakase tacos were full-on culinary immersions into a new world of flavor experiences. And it was one of the BEST meals I have had in my 40 years on this earth. I love food much in the way I love art. I love the presentation, the colors and the sensory experience. I love the emotions and excitement that arises. They both had the ability to ground me in the present moment- which is a healing experience all in itself. Culinary arts is a form of art, and if you love both as much as I do make a reservation at Pujol! (Insider tip: reservations here fill up fast. Book early, and new spots open daily on Opentable so refresh often if you are having trouble securing a spot!)

Our final morning in CDMX we decided on a leisurely Sunday brunch at Contramar. This seafood-heavy spot is the place to be and be seen for brunch. We noshed on oysters, ceviche, and a whole roasted fish large enough to feed everyone all on its own. (Insider tip: Even if you can’t get a reservation, if you show ups when they open at 11am, you will very likely score a table.)

If reading this is making your mouth salivate and your creative juices flow, then you are meant to visit CDMX, one of my favorite cities for culture, gastronomy, art and design!

CDMX: MUSEUMS AND PUJOL OMAKASE TACOS

Read Next: San Miguel De Allende

San Miguel De Allende

Gavin and recently returned from a romantic weekend wandering the charming cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende. Along our journey, we discovered the most beautiful and unique art galleries and dined on rooftops while looking down on the vibrant rainbow of colors that make up the old world cityscape. If you are seeking a full immersion into old-world Mexican culture then San Miguel de Allende is your next must-go destination!

Gavin and I stayed at the infamous Matilda hotel , right in the heart of downtown. This super classy (with a little side of funk) boutique hotel is blessed with an interior courtyard to die for, complete with a botanical encrusted infinity edge pool, and pop art mural made for the perfect photo opp. 

Our room was cute and quaint, and the best part was its expansive balcony overlooking the glistening pool waters below. Service here was top notch -you know the kind- when they welcome you everywhere by name and memorize the way you like your skinny+spicy marg. After we settled into our room we set out on the town to grab a bite to eat.

On the main square we stumbled upon a local spot, Cen Tro, that was packed with locals singing along to the sounds of ranchera (traditional Mexican cowboy music that dated back to the revolution). Intrigued by the palpable energy of the crowd, we grabbed a table and ordered some margaritas and tacos. This was one of the effing best margaritas I have ever had! So authentic and perfectly balanced with spice, a touch of sweet, and rimmed with tajine. Gavin and I smiled with joy as we watched everyone in the bar soulfully sing along with each and every song while cheering and clinking their beers. 

The next day we wandered out in no particular direction to find some of the galleries and shops that we had heard so much about. (Insider tip: I love the old cobblestone streets, but they are not easy on the feet! No heels here ladies- just comfy flats.) We stumbled upon a lighting shop that was so specular it should be called a gallery. Intricate gold chandeliers hung from every spot in the ceiling. And the golden light casts beautiful light and shadows across every surface.

The next amazing discovery is the Bovine Concept Store, part store, part gallery. Their black and white motif was striking and edgy. The art work that graced the walls was complete, colorful, and definitely caused a moment of pause. Every detail was meticulously placed and balanced. It was simply a fascinating place. Gavin and I gathered so many design ideas here we had to start writing them all down! And although we didn’t dine at their adjoining restaurant, Bovine, we had received many recommendations that it is the go-to place for wood fired steaks.

After a full day of walking we were famished. We headed over to Quince Rooftop (http://quincerooftop.com) for a sunset dinner with #highvibecrew. Perched high above the city, we watched the sun sink down into the clouds, tuning them rich  hues of gold, pink and purple, blending into the colorful casita rooftops. We dined on Peruvian nikkei and truffle tuna sashimi, porteno ceviche, and chimichurri hamachi nigiri. Every bite was a flavorful explosion. Soon the sunset colors faded, the sky darkened to an ink black and millions of twinkling stars came out to shine down on us. What a special night of birds-eye beauty, culinary delights, and great conversations with friends.

40 & Fierce in Tulum

Last month something amazing happened. On my 40th birthday my love, Gavin, flew down 25 of my closest friends to Tulum Mexico to surprise the sh*t outta me! We celebrated all week long and it was the absolute, hands down, the best week of my life!

Even though words can’t begin to describe the love-full experience that was the celebration of my 40th year around the sun, I feel compelled to express my gratitude and offer a little window into the heart-exploding experience. This celebration was so much more than just my birthday, but it was a culmination and full expression of all the love that is abundant in my life today. It hasn’t always been this way. Not too long ago there was a time where life felt consistently challenging and mundane. I felt as if I were surviving, rather than thriving.  But I made the decision that it wasn’t the life I chose, so I set out to do the inner work, as challenging and seemingly slow progress as it was, and here I am today! A new woman living a dream. I can confidently say I manifested the life that IS my vision board!

Kelley’s surprise birthday party in Tulu

My life partner and fiancé Gavin, who loves me unconditionally and shows it in every way possible and every single day, family and friends who I love and adore, and my son Hunter and stepsons Benji and Ryley who are blessings in my life, so many heart-opening experiences and connections every single day, and a growing art career where I get to truly be my creative self. I love it all so much my heart feels like it is about to burst!

The weeks leading up to the trip Gavin did his very best (and he did a great job!) of throwing me off the trail. I knew we were going away for my birthday, and I had a guess it was Mexico, but that’s all I could figure out. Gavin said all sorts of things to make me think we were going somewhere else, and also acted at one point like all the plans were falling apart due to COVID cancellations lol.  All my friends were of course in on it, and they all had asked me “Hey, what are we doing for your birthday? Can I plan something for when you get back from your trip?” I asked Gavin- “Hey love, I’m so excited for our trip, BUTTTT, did you happen to plan anything with my friends!? They are all asking me about it…” He dismissively said, “sure we can arrange something the following week”. Little did I know what was about to happen…..

I packed my bags with “warm weather” attire and off we went to the airport. We landed in Cancun and got in a shuttle and a few hours later we reached the mystery destination: Tulum! We checked into Nest Tulum, a super cute boho-chic boutique hotel right on the beach. The attentive staff took our bags and whisked us down a lush jungle path to our villa. The room was absolutely adorable, complete with a clawfoot tub on an elevated loft level, overlooking the ocean. So romantic and dreamy.

The next day Gavin and I woke up bright and early and headed out to an eco-excursion arranged by Nest Tulum.  We drove down a bumpy unpaved road to meet our captain and guide, Pedro. We jumped into his boat to take a private tour of the Reserva de la Biósfera Sian Ka’an. This eco-tour was spectacular, filled to the brim with wildlife sightings. In 3 hours we saw alligators, manatees, dolphins, stingrays, sea turtles, and so many beautiful birds. It’s a must do!

Famished from the eventful day, we dined at Meze that evening, the new hotspot and an Aegean open-flame restaurant owned by the guys at Grupo Gitano. The food was spectacular. Two of my favorite dishes that tantalized my tastebuds were the Tyrokafteri (spicy feta spread with caramelized fig) and the salt- encrusted catch of the day, which is cracked-opened and served in a beautiful table-side experience… As I was sipping on my Rose, Gavin was asking me about fishing, as he has never been before, and something he really wants to try. Since it was a leisurely vacation dinner I went on and on about all the different kinds of fishing I have tried over my 40 years. I told him about deep sea fishing for tuna, fly fishing for salmon in Alaska, bass fishing on the lakes in Florida, and ice fishing on the frozen lakes of Ontario. Mid-story, he said we had to go back to make the happy hour at our hotel. “Why the rush? I asked. He just took my hand and whisked me into a taxi as I kept explaining how you can cut into 6” thick ice to set a line.

Once we got back he led me to the beach bar and as I walked down the stairs I noticed the bar was empty. Suddenly as I turned the corner a crowd of people jumped up and yelled “SURPRISE!!!!” and I threw my purse onto the ledge in complete shock! Twenty-five of my closest friends were there to surprise me. The video speaks for itself:

The following days were filled with so much joy and connection. My friend Tamalin had meticulously arranged absolutely every minute detail to make the week super special. We all rented bikes and group-biked into town. What a site that was! We sipped Aperol Spritzes on the beach. Every day! Tamalin and Gavin hosted a wedding-worthy birthday dinner celebration with decor that deserves a feature in Harper’s Bazaar. The best part of this night was when every single person at the table stood up and told me how much I mean to them. Tears were flowing down my face the entire time. My friend Lovisa even serenaded me with a song she wrote!

NEST Tulum of the Namron Group couldn’t have hosted us with any more love, care, and attention. Their service is beyond. They knew everyone’s name, memorized each and every favorite customized cocktail and had one waiting the minute we sipped the last drop. They treated us like family. I will never forget our stay there and I will surely return soon.

Thursday we relocated to the NEST’s sister property La Valise Tulum, also managed by Namron Group, just a few doors down. We checked in and went upstairs to the master suite. I stepped into the room and my jaw hit the floor. This was the most amazingly gorgeous room I had ever seen…  The very best part is that the bed was on a track and wheels so you could roll it out onto the ocean front balcony to sleep under the stars!!!  Take a look for yourself: (VIDEO). 

Thursday night we secured some very-hard-to-score reservations at Hartwood. Although the food had been spot on this entire trip, this meal took everything up another notch- if that was even possible. The giant fire roasted beet was the size of my head and sat on a bed of luxurious creamy avo-crema- divine! I also must note that this is a truly fully sustainable restaurant- running on 100% solar, cooking on open flames with sustainably sourced fish, meats and veggies, which holds an extra special  place in my heart.

We finished off the night with dancing at Gitano’s– picture a cool, hip vibe in the middle of the jungle with a music set of a super talented and eclectic DJ. This was the hot spot to be. We explored the meandering indoor-outdoor spaces that seemed to connect through little passageways, leading to more secret nooks, all dimly lit with candles and hanging tree lights. The energy was palpable and you couldn’t help but to dance to beats that infiltrated the moody jungle surroundings. It was as if nature and music collided and merged to make this tribal celebratory dance experience. What a special night!

Before I knew it the week commenced and we said our goodbyes at the airport. Our bodies and feet were exhausted, but our hearts were full and glowing. You could see it in everyone’s eyes and smiles. This week had not only touched my heart deeply, but also had moved each and everyone who attended. It had been a transformative experience for all of us because we shared so much love and connection. This week will never be forgotten and will go on to live in our memories, our souls, our stories, and in our relationships. So much gratitude. So much Love.

CREDITS:
Travel and Event Producer: Savoir Agency   | @savoiragency
Event Decor: Corrie in Color  | @corrie.in.color
Floral Designer: Vanessa Jaimes  | @vanessajaimesfloraldesign
Event Rentals: Rental Bloom  | @rebel.bloomrentals
Venue: Nest Tulum  | @nesttulum 
Photography: Lili Breton Photography  | @lilibretonphoto
Videographer: Andrew Grace  | @andrew_grace

Calling in the One — Intimate Relationship Manifestation

A dear friend of mine shared this simple, yet powerful, exercise with me 2 years ago and it literally changed the entire trajectory of my life.

At the time I was a single mama, working like crazy, trying to keep afloat. I had a comfortable life- a cute little apartment, a great group of like-minded friends, and a budding art career, but my life was tough. I was doing everythingggggg and I was tired and lonely. Sometimes I would long for a romantic partner to share my life with, but I didn’t do well there too much because a part of me was resolved that it may not happen that way for me. I thought I was dealt a different set of cards.

She was right. Why was I picking and choosing what I thought my manifesting powers had control over? And what did I really want? 

She told me to do 2 writing exercises to set my intentions for attracting a romantic partner, and I’ll share these below. I diligently did the exercises, and read them daily following my morning meditation and gratitude practice.

A few short months later I received an email from a dating agency called Level saying that I had a match. What was interesting is that I hadn’t reached out to this agency in quite some time, but they wrote me saying they had found “the guy” for me! (I love that they match people based on values that they deduce from a thorough questioner.) I was very busy building my Burning Man art installation at the time and hadn’t been looking to date, but here, at the most unexpected moment, my future hubby landed right in my inbox!

And the rest is history. My present day fiance is the handsome, loving, passionate, generous, and dedicated man who was in that email. When I read back over my manifestation writings that my friend had given to me I realize that EVERY quality I put in there is embodied in my fiance. He is THAT guy I wrote about and longed for. And the only thing that was holding me back from meeting him was MYSELF!

Steps to Call In the One

  1. MEDITATE:
    Sit in stillness for 5 to 10 minutes to ask the universe for guidance. Simply breathe deeply and say: “Where will you have me go? What will you have me do? What will you have me say? and to whom? I ask for guidance and am ready to receive.”
  2. JOURNAL:
    Next, get out a pen and paper and write down EVERY SIGNLE DETAIL of what your ideal partner looks like. And I just don’t mean the physical, but be sure to include that as well. How does this personal treat you? What actions do they take? What values do they have? How do they view the world? What are their interests? How do they touch you? What do you see in their eyes? and so on. Write down everything and you can always go back and add more if needed. The goal is to make it emotional moving. When you read this journal entry in the future you should feel emotions- butterflies in the tummy, excitement, joy…
  3. MEDITATE, READ IT DAILY, VISUALIZE:
    Now integrate this into your daily practice. Meditate and ask for guidance, then read you “The One” journal entry, then close your eyes and feel what this person feel like, what it feels like to be with them, and then call them in.