Mesa Mules, etc.

Mesa Mule Happyolks-4

When I was in Vegas a few months ago for the Saveur Awards, I got a ride from the airport with a female cab driver with rose tinted aviators and a turquoise manicure. She sang along, shamelessly, to “I’ve Got You, Babe” as we zoomed along the desert highway and looked back just once in her rearview mirror to say “honey, if you can tell me who sings this… ride’s on me.” I drew a blank. She laughed. Really? I was so embarrassed. Sonny and Cher. I thought about that one year we went as Sonny and Cher to our Sadie Hawkins dance in 2005, I burned the song to a CD to play in the car and we sang it ourselves in the parking lot near the swimming pool at our High School.

The same song was playing yesterday when I stopped for breakfast at a cafe in San Luis Obispo. It was Saturday. Couples in workout gear moseyed in and woke up over coffee and acai bowls. Oh, California. A familiar scene and characters that Shaun and I could have lived out had we never left. I carry a Colorado driver’s license now and and am taking in the California coastline alone as a visitor. Campsites were full the two nights prior so I slept in the cab of my borrowed truck parked in a hotel lot away from the lights.  This was a whole new level of vagabonding. I had a hard time falling asleep and my mind began racing with questions of the legality of my makeshift homestead. Squinting with one eye open on my side, I googled “is sleeping in your car legal?” on my phone which led to a series of other searches for murder records in Pismo Beach, the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders within five miles of where I was parked. I closed my eyes, said a little prayer, and didn’t wake again until 5:54 am. I lunged over the console to the drivers seat and peeled out for the beach.

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They say we’re young and we don’t know, 
we won’t find out until we grow. 
Well I don’t know if all that’s true, 
You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you. 

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It’s funny how much has changed since we took turns with those lyrics in our costumes. Shaun and I started our relationship fighting the dogma that we were too young to “get it.” Truth is after all these years I don’t know if I’ve “gotten it” any more than I did then. We grow up. Time wears on our idealism, the ego plays its hand, we lose our perspective, we hurt each other intentionally and not. This is the human experience, in relationship, really. We try, we fail, we work, we regroup. I loved us then, I love us more now, despite the ways time has blemished our story. I’m sitting on a cliff watching the waves crash on the rocks in Half Moon Bay right now, journaling. A wise friend’s ashes were spread here many years ago… he was, and I think still probably is, Shaun’s and my fiercest cheerleader. I haven’t cried this hard in years. We haven’t always done it right, Hayden, but we’re still here. I wish you could see this love, now. I hope you’d be proud. 

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I drove to my brother’s place in silence later that night with the windows down. The sun was just beginning to retire and there was that sort of glow about the road that made my life feel oddly cinematic. I had gone back through When Women Were Birds over the course of the trip, transcribing passages to my journal and hashing them out in the mornings from my sleeping bag. It rested in the passenger seat atop musky beach towels, a half eaten loaf of bread, and a pile of seagull feathers I started collecting in Santa Monica. In the distance I could see a flight of birds moving up the coast along the road, I admired them for a few seconds until I realized they were flying straight toward me. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Yet was sudden. A single bird did not follow the the others and slammed into my windshield like a bullseye. I screamed and watched, horrified, in the rearview mirror as it bounced to the ground and other cars passed over her grave. I looked at the book and the feathers in the passenger seat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??!!? I felt like in accidentally killing the bird, I had betrayed every intimacy with Terry Tempest Williams’ words and thoughts on women and birds over the past month. It was hard not to to feel auspicious or look for symbology. Why did the bird stray from her friends? I have so many questions. I should write Ms. Williams a letter. Maybe it’s not time for it all to make sense yet…

They say we’re young and we don’t know, 
we won’t find out until we grow. 
Well I don’t know if all that’s true, 
You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you. 

I’m finally home in Denver. It feels right and good, I’m finding out, as I grow.

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Mesa Mule 

Inspired by the menu of a swanky bar in Los Angeles that friends Mike and Mel took us to a few weeks ago. I like a cocktail that’s a real kick in the pants, this one takes first prize.

Recipe for a single cocktail. Increase quantities as necessary for your guests.

  • 2 oz (1 shot) tequila reposado 
  • 4 oz (2 shots) ginger beer 
  • 4 oz guava juice 
  • 4-6 round slivers of fresh jalapeño
  • ice 


In a cocktail shaker combine liquids, a few slivers of jalapeño, and a few cubes of ice. Shake. Pour over glass filled with ice. Garnish with more jalapeño.

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  1. Heather

    Beautiful. I felt as though I was right there with you in Cali. The drink is a stunner.


  2. Ashley

    Just a few short weeks until I’ll be joining you, and I have a feeling it’s going to feel so very right. And I’m sure this drink will make things slightly more right. Yum. :)


  3. thyme

    I loved reading this. I recently had a week in San Francisco by myself. I am at the stage when the kids have just become old enough to travel independently of them. It is so emotional and fulfilling and conflicting at the same time. I had a week of wandering up and down Hwy 1…along. Bliss.


  4. Elizabeth

    I think about that song a lot. Mostly because I’m madly in love and we frequently have that us against the world kind of feeling. I thought I’d have things pretty figured out by this point in my life, but I’m increasingly fine with not knowing, or thinking I know, at least. This post was so captivating––real and visceral and beautifully told.


  5. Emma

    Your words get me every time Kelsey. I feel like I was there with you in your truck xx


  6. ami@naivecookcooks

    Beautiful stunning pictures!


  7. sara forte

    Ok, that is kind of a crazy story. A bird hitting you whilst reading that book?! Sort of nuts. Also love the image of you and Shaun dressed as Sonny and Cher :) The drink sounds great. So fiercely wish we were neighbors.


  8. WSAKE

    your writitng is so very wonderful… thank you again for yet an other wonderful story…


  9. Kathryn

    Oh your stories Kelsey. The way you tell them is so captivating. Also, I’m a total sucker for a hit of chilli in my booze.


  10. kw

    Wow your posts are so introspective…I love your blog

    So, I don’t want to in any way imply that I know the meaning of your bird incident…but I wanted to say the exact same thing happened to me a couple months ago. Driving, Watching the bird, Beautiful, and then…..why is that bird come straight for my car, I cannot get out of the way in time. Crash, Bird feathers….Crying…What does it mean…so very familiar…Mine was a hawk so it was a big crash.

    This is what I got from my incident…not saying it is what yours “means”…and that is, it is time to let go trust more…to let go of control.

    Don’t know if that is your deal…but I have noticed the continued progression of letting go more since that happened.

    I wish you well and absolutely look forward to your creative food posts!


  11. @700words

    Such beautiful, captivating writing. And such a truthful account of a real relationship through the years


  12. holly

    Your writing is lovely + engaging + thought-provoking, per usual.

    I am queen of “WHAT DOES IT MEAN?” in looking to the universe for signs + meaning + life. But I am slowly learning that maybe everything doesn’t have to mean something, which is perhaps that is due to my personal struggle with anxiety (and the anxiousness brought on upon needing to find meaning). Lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe we can just laugh at the irony of situations or be grateful in those moments that we still have our life or remember we are part of a much larger world, and just be happy with that.

    Maybe that’s often the meaning that’s most important? Who knows? Just some thoughts on a Thursday morning where I am highly overcaffeinated 😉


  13. holly

    P.S. Also, these drinks are completely up my alley. Tequila, ginger beer AND jalapeno? SOLD.


  14. Clare

    Can’t wait to read that book. Thank you for telling your story… I think, sometimes, life likes to snap you open slightly more when you least expect it. To witness the beauty of a flock of birds soaring in your life-movie to witnessing the brevity of ones’ death adds to the beauty. Impermanence is a lesson that keeps teaching itself and I think that’s just how it should be. Take care, Kelsey, and thank you for yet more beautiful writing. :)


  15. Terri

    I followed the twitter link to this article but left it unread until a less busy time. I did the same with a piece from Vela. When I came back two hours later, I read this thinking it was the Vela piece. Then the recipe came and I realized where I was, and in my brain I slow-clapped it out for your talent.


  16. April

    Woman, you are a hell of a writer. I could smell the sea air and eucalyptus. Thank you for that.
    It seems you’re a heck of a cocktail maker to boot. Sign me up.


  17. Courtney

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has those “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN” moments in life. I find I’m having them increasingly more often as I struggle with the “what to do next” decision in my life. I’m going to have to order tTerry Tempest Williams’ book soon and maybe enjoy it with one of these lovely boozey drinks. Thanks for another lovely post :)


  18. Abbe@This is How I Cook

    I’ve had birds do that. Totally made me feel like a murderer. Sometimes I think we are so busy looking for meaning, we forget to live in the moment. And though you seem to be doing a lot of pondering, you are living quite well. At least judging by this incredible libation.


  19. imen

    hi kelsey…love this… beautiful words and pictures; welcome to your new home.
    and my goodness, the cocktail … piquant… like your storytelling.


  20. Colette (Coco)

    This is what every Friday night needs to celebrate the w/end!
    Love the jalapeno and the story.


  21. buckiddo

    So lovely, both visually and otherwise.


  22. Kelly Robison

    We’re lovers of the Moscow Mule, so I look forward to trying the Mesa Mule! Hiding in the closet is a case of Rocky Mountain Soda Co. Golden Ginger Beer… just begging to be used!


  23. Meg

    Beautiful – the drink and the words. Thank you so much for sharing…


  24. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Thanks for your beautiful words. So pleased I stumbled across this story, your page, and now I have Sonny & Cher (happily) in my head.
    Heidi xo


  25. Johanna

    I just discovered your blog and I love your stories. Thank you!


  26. Kasey

    Do any of us every really ‘get it’? If we do, I look forward to the day. In the meantime, like you, I’ll just keep on growin’ :)


  27. Angy

    “Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Becuase something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.” Jonathan Carroll – The Ghost In Love


  28. Kristin

    Just discovered mules on a recent road trip with my BFFs drinking in Happy Hours (because the price is right and the portions and selections are better in my opinion). Between 4-7 is the ideal time to eat anyway so I’ve been told. Anyways, love the recipe, can’t wait to try it and am so glad I found you. Keep inspiring us with your thoughtful words! :-)


  29. tara

    these are our sip of choice tonight, and I cannot wait.

    cheers and hip hip to finding out.


  30. Happy Hour: Mesa Mules | HYPEFEAST

    […] Via (Happy Yolks) […]

  31. Society South » spice up cocktail hour

    […] my mouth feel like it’s on fire. So, what better way to wash down all that spice than with a Jalapeno Cocktail? Who’s with me? This recipe makes a single cocktail, so you can adjust the amount of heat to suit […]

  32. Belinda Chen

    Beautiful,good luck to you ,thanks :)


  33. Gourmet Creations



  34. Chris

    My first visit here and I am impressed by your recipes but surprised also to read such beautifully told stories.


  35. Vi Vian

    This sounds really interesting. I am not much of a cocktail person butthis intrigues me! Great blog!


  36. Gourmet Creations



  37. Terry Covington

    I am probably twice your age, and still constantly ask, “What does it mean?” I have had more of those moments than I would care to remember with animals, including, sadly, a deer and a beautiful pileated woodpecker. I don’t have any words of wisdom. I hope I am wiser now than when I was younger, but sometimes I just think I have more questions; and maybe that’s part of the purpose behind it all. Maybe we are supposed to question more as we get older. Is that a form of rebellion? I don’t know — maybe rebellion is the way to go. I just discovered your blog today, through a link on Naturally Ella, and have sat enthralled and read several entries at once. I want to thank you and Shaun for your beautiful creations here. I want to say I am glad that so many women in their 20s and 30s, including my own three daughters, have such wisdom and care so much about the world. I want to say how your writing transports one, how immediate it is, and what a capacity for love I see in you.


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