A Little Bit of Kindness Can Go A Long Way in a Kia Niro PHEV

They say little bit of kindness can go a long way.  As it turns out if you are driving a 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) you can go even further on less. Right before we shut things down for the holidays Kia Motors America invited Jillian from Hello Splendid and I to take a “Choose Your Own Adventure” road trip from L.A. to San Francisco and we had the most amazing time spreading kindness all over California together.

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Solvang CA

As exciting as this adventurous opportunity was on its own, this would also be a very meaningful trip for the two of us to take together. Just 39 weeks prior Jillian received some very life changing news.  Before this, we had been talking about “one day soon” taking a road trip together. I’ll tell you that I leave a lot less for “one day soon” now. Our plans for the trip and so many more things would be put on hold as all concentration had to be forth to fight this new diagnosis in the months following. It felt like the world was simultaneously spinning and standing still for everyone. When we talked 36 weeks ago, it was decided as soon as it was possible we would ABSOLUTELY be taking that road trip we had talked about. It was a promise of something to hold on to, something to hope for. So much happened in the weeks that followed but on December 13 we finally were able to set out on that road trip together.

Day Made. (Ps I love you @hellosplendidblog )#thenewkia

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As it is with a choose your own adventure type trip we got to choose the adventure!! We had a starting time/location, a generous budget at our disposal and an ending time/location- that was it! There were a few other teams traversing the roads with us and given the same parameters. A list of bonus points would be granted and tallied once we reached the predetermined destination. Before we arrived, Jillian and I had talked about how we would structure this adventure. One of the biggest themes we wanted to incorporate was kindness. Kindness is something we both feel strongly about making time for no matter the day or agenda. Countless times we have both given and received kindness in different forms the last year and it was the best way we could imagine to theme our trip.

kindness kit Collage

As we prepped for the trip, Jillian shopped for supplies to include in our “kindness kits” and I started planning our route. Trip planning and finding unique destinations is one of my favorite things to do. I especially enjoy catering each trip to the interests and likes of those taking it. Jillian let me keep the itineraries a secret until literally the moment we were on the road. I love surprises but I’d totally be lying if I said I didn’t have butterflies in my tummy wondering if she would like what I had chosen.

After a brief product presentation and run down on the Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid, charging stations, and lunch, we had a fantastic send of from Charles Phoenix a master of road trip Americana! His energy totally set the stage for road trip excitement! We didn’t have to worry about where we would be recharging on the road as there were plenty of level 1 and 2 charging stations in between our starting point and end destination. Whether you’re at home or on the road, rest assured you’ll find a power source anywhere you can plug into the electric grid. And with Kia’s UVO eco App, you can schedule charge times at home and find public charging stations.

But first…. Target! We needed a few more supplies for a very important stop that would come later. On our way in and out of the store we made it a mission to return all the stray carts in the parking lot. It’s such a simple thing to do and costs nothing. It made at least one employee’s job easier that day and the organized side of my heart was fulfilled. Kindness mission #1 : CHECK!

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid roadtrip Target

It was time to get on the road before we hit too much of L.A. traffic. Even with the best of planning, we definitely saw our fair share of traffic but we had plenty of great conversation and music to keep us going. Every road trip needs its soundtrack and  the Harman/Kardon Premium Sound System delivered crisp sound for all our playlist favorites. The Clari-Fi™ technology restores compressed tracks for noticeable clarity. The music wasn’t fading but after a few hours on the road we were . We made one stop for coffee and hustled towards our evening resting stop. We drove over mountains and watched the sun set. When it became dark we could smell the smoke from the California fires inside the Niro. Our conversations became more serious as we thought about those who had lost so much. We traveled a bit further the smell of smoke dissipated as we entered the Danish streets of Solvang, California, a location that has since become one of my favorite locations in the U.S.

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Solvang CA

We were in love with the town right away. We arrived to our hotel, The Landsby, about 7PM. The hotel staff was lovely and made a ton of recommendations for places to eat and visit during our stay. They were kind and welcomed us genuinely. We took our things to the room and were in love with every detail, from the llama artwork on the walls to the tiny lavender sachets reading “good night” placed on each of our beds. We were so enamored with every detail here. I promise to do a full post just on the Landsby itself soon.

The Landsby hotel Solvang CA

One challenge we had arriving to Solvang later in the evening was that the town begins to close down around 8-9 pm. This left us with just a few options for dining but those that were open were welcoming and warm. We walked to dinner at a location nearby our hotel thinking we might enjoy a little stroll after. When we stepped out after dinner the temperature had dropped dramatically. Instead of walking, we hopped back into our Kia Niro PHEV and toured this adorable storybook city listening to Christmas music just in awe and grateful for this time together.

Solvang CA flag

As we were driving and noticing the adorable shops and just FALLING IN LOVE with every shop and street in the city we noticed something else. There were a record number of fire trucks also parked along the road and completely filling one parking lot adjacent to our hotel. Many of the men and women helping to keep the residents and landscape secure during this time were also making Solvang their safe space for the evening. This gave us another moment of kindness inspiration.

delivering kindness kits on our roadtrip

We didn’t know exactly when or where our Kindness Kits would come into play during our trip but we knew that if you prepare the opportunity will present itself. The next morning we left a few items of support to those serving all year long.

Delivering Kindness to firemen in California

After that we were off in search of a traditional Danish breakfast. It’s funny to be a transitioning vegetarian in a Danish community- sausage or some form of meat is offered always. There were definitely options but we in search of the traditional æbleskiver.

Danish æbleskiver in Solvang

Aebleskiver are round pastries, like pancakes formed in a sphere.  In Denmark, æbleskiver are common at Christmas and over the days leading up to it. In December, they are often served with gløgg, Scandinavian mulled wine. In Norway, warm waffles have much of the same function as æbleskiver in Denmark.

Shoe store in Solvang CA

We walked by a few shops and so many that we wanted to visit. We decided at breakfast that we would scrap a few other things on the agenda in order to stay as long as possible in Solvang. We were already planning a trip back. Before we left we did a little photo shoot with our matching Dinosaur costumes because when you have a friend that has a matching costume the only question is “Will it fit in my carry on?” (more Dinosaur photos coming soon!)

dinosaur costume at the Landsby

The staff at the Landsby had been so nice to us that we made sure to leave them a handwritten note of thanks. I can’t wait for my next stay here!

Thank you notes hotel

We had several more hours of driving ahead of us so it was time to get on the road. Our next stop was one we were both very excited about. The last several months had given us plenty to catch up on and as with most road trips there were several stretches of highway for miles.

Kia Niro PHEV

Due to the route we chose to save time we didn’t have a ton of ocean front views but we waved as we drove by. Jillian lives just steps away from the ocean in CA so we were most excited about seeing parts of California that neither of us had discovered.  We definitely did make note of several places we want to stop on our next trip.

Our next stop took us to Oakland, right across the bridge from San Francisco. We both have a friend who is near and dear to our heart, Brandi from Mama Knows It All.  Even though it was moving week for her she was able to get away and meet up for a quick visit. Little did she know that we had a surprise for her too. (Remember that Target run we took ?)

Gifts for a friend

These items may seem like an unusual combination but have a meaning. Together they represent trusted friends who: travel through life with you even when the outcome is uncertain, genuinely celebrate your wins, believe in your gifting, show up at just the right times, and offer their gifts to you making life even sweeter. Simple gifts and time together, no matter how short, are treasured.

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid

We attempted to recharge the Kia Niro PHEV while we refueled on donuts and coffee and found it so easy to locate charging stations anywhere on your route. You can check for available charging stations right from the dashboard in your car or from the Chargepoint app. We weren’t far from our next stop in San Francisco. This night we would be staying at Hotel Zeppelin.

Hotel Zeppelin The Den

Hotel Zeppelin gameroom

It wasn’t long before all the teams had arrived together at the hotel. It was such a fun reunion with all the other road trip teams who has been out traveling as well. We got to see pictures of the different roadside attractions, share stories of adventures and ways that kindness was shared. It was an amazing thing to see that although we have lots of choices in the route we take there is joy in every journey and the people who share it with you.

The next morning Clarissa, Jillian, and I loaded our suitcases back into a Kia Niro PHEV and headed out to the airport to return to our homes spread literally across the nation. We all agreed what a wonderful experience it had been and we started planning for our next trip(s) together in 2018.

Airport friends

What were some of the best trips you took this year? Any special road trips planned for 2018?

*As is common, all travel, accommodations, and budget for this trip was provided for by our host, Kia Motors America. All opinions and storytelling are the sole expression of the author. 

Belmond El Encanto : A Luxurious Santa Barbara Escape

Belmond El Encanto property view

Santa Barbara has long been called the American Riviera. With its subtropical temperatures and proximity to coast, it’s easy to see why everyone who visits is so enchanted with the location, especially when staying at the Belmond El Encanto. In Spanish, Encanto quite literally means “enchantment” or “glamour“. Nestled right in the neighborhood mountains, overlooking the dazzling waters of the Pacific Ocean the Belmond El Encanto is Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort. With a longstanding history of being a landmark for inspiration, relaxation, and romance, the property is steeped with tales of tranquil offerings to Hollywood elite and beyond. The Belmond El Encanto has hosted former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Golden age celebrities such as Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Hedy Lamarr, and today has become the go-to destination for many celebrity artists. I’m honored to say I’ve now added my name to it’s guest list as well. It could be the perfect hideaway for your next luxury escape too.

Arriving at the Blemond El Encanto Kia Motors America

Luxury vehicles line the drive at the El Encanto (pictured here : Kia Optima, Cadenza, Stinger and K900)

As soon as you arrive on property the staff graciously anticipates your every request. As the porter escorted me to my bungalow, he shared the unique history of the resort with me. Everything here has meaning and was designed with thoughtfulness of the overall experience. I love learning interesting facts and special stories that are only told by those who know a property best. Curious about something? Just ask the staff, they are incredibly knowledgeable and always happy to share.

Belmond El Encanto bungalow exterior

Opening to guests for the first time in 1918, the property has exchanged hands a more than a few times in its history. Belmond reopened the hotel in March 2013 following an extensive seven-year, $134 million dollar meticulous renovation to bring back glamour, restore original architectural elements and updating with the modern luxe detailing that you experience today.

Rooms Made for Relaxation

Belmond el Encanto bungalow

92 luxuriously designed bungalows and suites are situated among acres of lush gardens and landscaping. In the air the scent of lavender and eucalyptus sweeps over you as you walk along the pathways to your reserved hideaway. There are two distinct styles of early Santa Barbara architecture present here – California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival. Each bungalow interior is decorated with works of art reflecting the Santa Barbara landscape.  As a landmark property much of the architecture styling has remained the same but the interior comforts of plush beds, heated floors, wi-fi access, push button gas fireplaces, controlled lighting, private terraces, waterfall showers and over-sized tubs have not been overlooked. The cottages provide a more than accommodating space for master bedroom and living room space. The in-room welcoming of a fruit plate and bottle of wine was a lovely surprise.

Belmond El EnCanto Welcome

Gardens, Pool and Spa

El Encanto Belmond Lily pond

Courtesy of Belmond El Encanto

The gardens are as welcoming as the rooms themselves and you might find yourself torn between where to spend the majority of your time. Signs along the walkways subtly direct you to your chosen spot of interest: a historic 1928 wishing well, serene waterfall, or a historic lily pond perfectly positioned under a wisteria lined arbor. Any choice is a good choice here and all make the perfect backdrop for memorable photos you’ll treasure forever.(insider tip: the lily pond is home to an adorable family of turtles.)

El Encanto Belmond Santa Barbara Wishing Well

If the pool or spa are more your interest, you’ll be delighted at what you find. The zero-edge saline pool is positioned to look out over the ocean and city for a spectacular view. The full-service, on property spa offers an array of treatments over seven rooms including a couples room to relax and unwind together. The Spa also offers relaxation lounge, showers, steam rooms and private lockers.

El Encanto Belmond Santa Barbara pool

Courtsey of Belmond El Encanto

Be certain to take advantage of the complimentary sunglass cleaning and Evian cooling mist service before returning to your room. Ending the evening with glass of Californian wine in hand, watching the sun dip below the horizon, is the perfect way to remember this luxurious escape whether visiting for a solo retreat or relaxation with ones you love.

Enchantment at the Belmond El Encanto

To book your stay visit the Belmond El Encanto online or see more on instagram and twitter.

Address: 800 Alvarado Pl, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, United States
Phone: +1 805-845-5800

Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation. My host for this stay was Kia Motors America as part of the Kia Santa Barbara Experience #KiaSBExp







The 2017 Kia Sportage is going to ROCK you! #DiscoverSportage

Music has this uncanny ability to take a few familiar chords and instantly transport you to another place and time or solidify a new memory forever. This month, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to San Diego to discover the new 2017 Kia Sportage to create a soundtrack of epic new memories.


Our tour began at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.  I walked into a suite that had already set the stage for rockstar status.

Hard Rock Hotel Sam Diego

That evening we took pedicabs through the Gaslamp District, arriving for dinner on the rooftop and great music from several live bands.

Pedicab San Diego


While we may have wanted to rock and roll all night, our next gig was scheduled bright and early the next day. Even rock stars need a few hours of beauty sleep. We met for a presentation covering the impressive design and performance features of the 2017 Kia Sportage we would be driving.
(Check out all that the new 2017 Kia Sportage offers here). We each picked a band member aka drive partner and headed out on tour.


As we approached the Sportage we would be driving, there were a few elements of this vehicle that really stood out and made me take notice.
Kia Sportage lights

Kia Sportage Ice Cube Lights

I love a multi-tone interior.

2017 Kia Sportage interior

It was a really fun drive with plenty of twists and turns right in the beginning. The Kia Sportage handled every curve with ease.
Kia Sportage turns

2017 Kia Sportage handles with ease

We also had plenty of musical fun on this drive. I mean, what’s a road trip without a great playlist…..? You can checkout my playlist selection for this drive on Spotify – with 100 of the best rock songs spanning the decades you’ll be set to drive wherever the road may take you. 😉

Halfway through our drive we stopped for some “Sweet Cherry Pie”at Julian Pie Company and it was soooooo good!  (okay, so really the flavor I chose was boysenberry/apple pie but you see where I was going with that one, right??? ) 
Julian Pie Company

We said “Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie” and headed out for a little off roading in Borrego Springs. AMAZING art here. If you have never visited, put it on your bucket list. While we were there this guy stopped us to compare trunk space. He was pretty impressed with what we had going on. Sportage Trunk Space (1)

2017 Kia Sportage SX SX Turbo 2WD

2017 Kia Sportage SX

We had driven all types of terrain that day but we couldn’t let the band break up just yet. That night we had a farewell show of karaoke accompanied by a live band. Kia made rockstars of everyone this trip. It was a performance of epic proportions, I assure you.


Whether we are talking music, cars or friends, always ALWAYS surround yourself with those who choose to stand out rather than fit in. They are the ones reinventing and innovating. They are the ones with a great story to tell and the ones you’ll most certainly want to be part of. Kia has chosen to do just that and it’s one storyline I’m paying close attention to.

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.”- John Denver