How I Gather

Bringing people together around a table is our greatest passion in life and we believe food is one of the most powerful tools for connection. In our series, How I Gather we go behind the scenes with our favorite foodies to see how they do it. See All

If you’re familiar with designer Jenni Kayne’s cloud-like cashmere sweaters, cozy calfskin mules, or handmade ceramic dishes, then you know: no one does simple, effortless luxury quite like JK does.

So when I got the invitation to join a few women in the mountains of Santa Ynez for a wellness retreat to launch Jenni’s new book, Pacific Natural, well – it didn’t matter that my schedule was packed with other commitments, I cleared my calendar and booked my plane ticket.

I arrived in the morning at Folded Hills Ranch and had a total pinch-me moment when I caught sight of the beautiful, white-on-white farmhouse against the rolling hills and green pastures with horses, llamas, and goats. I jumped in the shower, then wrapped up in my linen Jenni Kayne robe, shearling slippers, and gazed out at the view with my favorite candle burning nearby. It was Jenni’s world, and I was happily living in it.

Once the other gals arrived, we headed to the farmstead for a flower arranging class taught by the incredible Sarah Winward. Yep, I was already freaking out. I’ve been a huge admirer of Sarah’s work for ages, having ogled it in magazines from Martha Stewart to Kinfolk, so to have her up close and personal sharing her approach to floral design was pretty amazing. Of course, she made it look easy, and the biggest takeaway for me was that she creates her arrangements inspired by the natural direction that the flowers and branches are growing.

This organic approach to living was the first of many go-with-the-flow “aha moments” that I experienced throughout the trip.

We each got to grab armfuls of the most beautiful blooms, from huge garden roses to blossoming spring branches, then created our own arrangements to take back to our rooms.

Okay, let’s talk about the food for a sec, shall we? Throughout the retreat, I ate some of the most vibrant, seasonal, farm fresh meals of my life, and even though I feasted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I felt light and bright the entire time. Yet another reminder that when you eat the rainbow with fresh organic produce, your body thanks you for it.

The first night’s dinner was prepared by the culinary team at Botanica, a restaurant in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood that is currently top of my “must visit” list. Have you ever seen a crudité this stunning?

After sleeping like a queen between my perfectly rumpled linen sheets, it was time to rise and shine with a foam rolling session led by none other than “The Body Whisperer” herself, Lauren Roxburgh. There’s a reason she’s earned the nickname – we stretched, rolled, meditated and deep-breathed into the longest, leanest version of ourselves. This is actually a new habit that’s stuck with me ever since I’ve gotten back to Austin. I ordered Lauren’s roller and signed up for her video subscription, and you guys: I don’t think I’ve ever felt leaner, stronger, and more relaxed. I’m visiting Lauren when I’m in LA next month, so can’t wait to share lots more with y’all about her game-changing approach to wellness.

Next up was crafting with the women behind Women’s Heritage, an organization that’s all about bringing women together to resurrect the arts and the crafts of the past. We made crafts from Jenni’s book like bath salts and body oil infused with herbs and essential oils. I’ve got to admit that I’d recently felt a little “over” crafting and DIY’ing anything… until I got my hands on the ideas in Jenni’s book and was reminded of how beautiful it can be to make something with your own hands, using ingredients from nature. My desire to create was reawakened, and I’m excited to craft my way through her book with my kids this summer.

The most adorable piglets were running around the farmstand, and of course Jenni was determined to find one to cuddle. Mission accomplished.

We gathered under the oak trees for a beautiful springtime lunch prepared by Lori Stern, a new girl crush of mine who basically cooked us all my favorite things in one spread. Roasted sides of wild salmon showered with herbs, carrots with dandelion chimichurri, preserved lemon couscous with fried capers, kale caesar with heirloom tomatoes and garlic-roasted chickpeas… I just wanted to keep eating all afternoon.

And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get better, I met this skincare angel Kristina Holey.

Bringing together her deep scientific understanding of the skin with a natural, holistic approach, Kristina didn’t seem to mind answering my barrage of questions about skincare, products, and wellness in general. I felt like I got a masterclass while she applied her beautiful products then treated me to my first ever lymphatic facial massage. I walked out of there with a major glow and a sampling of her customized skincare recommendations which I’ve been using religiously ever since. My skin has never looked better.

Jenni is the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to the best of the best in wellness practitioners, so getting the chance to experience all her favorites firsthand was such an incredible experience.

One of the most special parts of the retreat was that every meal’s tabletop was inspired by a page from Jenni’s book, brought to life. From the flowers to the place settings to the menus, we got to taste firsthand the beauty of her refined, natural aesthetic. I felt inspired at every turn to bring more of this earthy elegance into my own entertaining, and I came home itching to throw a dinner party, STAT.

Our final dinner was a real highlight of the retreat…

We gathered on the grassy lawn in front of the main farmhouse for sunset wine and conversation (Folded Hills has their own incredible wine that you can buy right here – my favorite was a tie between the August White and the Lilly Rosé.) The scene was nothing short of breathtaking, with a gorgeous table set agains the rolling hills and big sky.

Jenni introduced our guest for the evening, renowned sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel. You can read a lot more about our conversation here — I was literally taking notes. We talked, laughed, enjoyed the most incredible food, and tried not to think about the fact that we had to leave this fantasy world the next day.

I’m so grateful for this experience – it’s amazing how just a couple of days completely surrounded by nature, visual inspiration, and incredible women can totally refresh the soul. I hadn’t realized how badly I needed a few days unplugged and away from the office to reset, and I’ve been bringing some of these little wellness moments, from foam rolling to facial massage, into my day-to-day life since I got back. And of course, I’ve got Jenni’s book planted firmly on my coffee table so I can treat myself to a little escape to the Pacific whenever I need it.

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