Family, Love Letters, Oregon

Love Letter: To My Family’s Flower Shop on its 30th Anniversary

When I was in high school, we hosted a young woman who was serving as an Oregon State FFA Officer at our house and she asked my Mom a lot of questions about our family-owned flower shop. To one of the questions, my Mom explained that outside of the holiday season, Valentine’s Day and the week of Mother’s Day, it was weddings and funerals that led the core of our floral business. At the time I remembered feeling a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable that my Mom said that, but the guest saw a bit of humor in my Mom’s matter-of-fact answer, and a few days later we received a thank you card that was signed off with “Wishing you many weddings and funerals.”

Looking back, now it makes me laugh and for some reason that story has always stuck with me. When you think about it, owning and working in a flower shop, really means that you get a front row seat to helping people commemorate and celebrate the milestones and memories that make up their story. From new babies, sweet sixteen’s, get well soon’s, high school proms, graduations, holidays, job promotions, break-ups — and yes, weddings and funerals — we get to be a part of it all. And in a small town, where we have generations of families, that carries even more significance.

This year we are celebrating my family’s flower and gift shop, Cottage Flowers, which my grandparents bought 30 years ago and now my Mom owns. I’ve always told people that I grew up in my family’s flower shop — that it was our home base more than any house we lived in ever was. Sure, that might be a bit of an unconventional way to grow up but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If anything, “the flower shop,” which is how we refer to it, is another member of our family.

So, to the flower shop, this love letter is for you:

I didn’t know the very first location on Main Street, but I do remember the location at the Plaza very well. I remember playing in the “silk garden” around the indoor gazebo where we were allowed to make a bit more of a mess. I remember holding tea parties with the glassware and stuffed animals, making Italian sodas when we had a cafe counter and the taste of the carbonated water when you accidentally chose it instead of regular water or Sprite. I remember “making arrangements” with the leftover stems in the trash, my hands going numb from filling water picks and when people camped outside the store for the newest Beanie Babies to arrive. I remember my mom’s back office where I spent every sick day away from school and that the dim back room where we cleaned flowers was scary.

I remember when we moved the store across town to the old armory when I was 10 (I think?) and the true labor of love it was to flip. I will forever remember having to climb along the rafters in the ceiling to thread some wiring for Grampy and being told to “pretend the spiders aren’t there.” I both loved and hated the Event Center that we opened for many years. I loved the big open space to play when it was empty and seeing so many weddings and parties come together there, but I also hated setting up tables that were much bigger than me and being woken up early on Saturday mornings because the wedding from the night before didn’t properly clean up and there would be anxious people waiting to set up for the next one. I can almost remember the exact amount of steps it took to get from the front counter to the back loading dock and can vividly remember the well-crafted process I had for washing hundreds of folding chairs with the pressure washer machine.

As I got older and officially started earning a paycheck, it’s where I learned how to count back change, talk professionally on the phone and that the customer is always right. It taught me how to problem solve, plan a project and manage my time. I remember the exact smell of Comet from cleaning buckets, the sound of the wire service when an order was coming through, the fastest way to clean roses without getting poked by a thorn, being pulled out of school to work on Valentine’s Day and judging people’s ribbon color choices for their prom corsage and boutonniere. Though after you’ve made a few dozen boring ones in a single day, the crazy ones are a welcome change.

The flower shop grew my curiosity and love for telling stories. Every time I wrote a card for someone who’s order I took over the phone, I wandered, how did the woman receiving flowers on her 50th wedding anniversary first meet her husband? Who will this new baby girl that is receiving balloons grow up to be? Why is he sending her an arrangement with a card that says he’s sorry?

It fueled my creativity in a way you couldn’t bottle up and recreate. Yes, I probably inherited the creative gene from my Mom and Grammy, but it also comes from countless hours of watching them work, criticize their own work and somehow make the customer happy on those Sunday afternoons when all that was left in the cooler is three colors of carnations.

It showed me what it means to be a part of a community and the reward of pouring back into your local economy. I mean, I understood the impact of “shopping local” before the hipsters even made a big deal about it.

It gave me examples of what strong, entrepreneurial women can be. I’ve seen them both succeed and take the loss, embrace change, make hard decisions and challenge themselves to see goals through to fruition. Even with their own careers, the men in my family have certainly always played an important role, but celebrating this anniversary is also a celebration of the two women who have put their heart and soul into building a successful business. 

There have been many characters over the years that have played a big part in the flower shop’s story. Whether they only worked for us for a short while or for over a decade, so many of our employees have become a part of our extended family. And to our customers who trust us with their memories, thank you for sharing your lives, challenging our creativity and of course, keeping our doors open.

Most importantly, I truly believe the flower shop is why my family is so close. Sure, mixing business with family can be challenging and definitely not for everyone, but for us it somehow works.

Thank you for the random skills I hardly use like making bows, and the practical lessons I use everyday in my own chosen career. Thank you for showing me what hard work and empathy look like. Thank you for teaching me that love, heartbreak, hope and kindness come in all shapes and sizes.

And thank you, for the privilege of that front row seat.

Love, Mandy

P.S. I found a folder of photos from the flower shop I took my first Christmas home after I got my DSLR camera in 2015, and I don’t think I’ve ever shared until now. So here is a little behind the scenes!

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Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Today I am sharing about one of the highlights of my trip to Thailand that was really unique for my family.

My Grammy started her flower shop, Cottage Flowers, 28 years ago, and has since passed the business on to my mom. I have always said that growing up in a flower shop made for a pretty interesting childhood and really it is the main place that I call home. So when I read about Bangkok’s 24-hour flower market I knew that had to be on our must-see list.

By the way, curious about how this trip came to be or what else we saw? Below are my other two travel journal blog posts from this trip that I have posted so far:

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market

The flower market was AMAZING and we spent almost an entire morning walking around it.

I can’t really say whether or not every traveler would love it, but if you love farmer’s markets, flowers or produce in any way I would highly recommend it. Plus it seemed to have less of a tourist vibe and I don’t actually remember seeing any other tourists there. I read that the best time to go to see a lot of the market busy in action is early in the morning that we weren’t quite that motivated.

The market is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok, and also has quite a bit of produce.  I am not going to try to guess how big it is but the wholesale part of the market takes up a large warehouse and some alleys, while the retail stores were in various sizes of stalls lining the outer part of the market along the street. It was really fun for us to walk through and point out the things that were different from how we care for and design with the flowers, and what things were exactly the same. And we couldn’t get over the cheap prices! It was one thing for us to know what a baht converts to in U.S. dollars, but it put things into a different perspective when you applied it to flowers and arrangements.

I took SO many pictures that morning, so it is a miracle that I was able to narrow it down to even this many.

My Grampy and Grammy.

Main entrance.

These were really cool arrangements made of really little (about the size of a penny or dime) flowers. When we were inspecting them a Thai women who was designing one gave us one of the flowers.

Growing up one of reoccurring chores at the flower shop is to refill water picks (for the end of flowers when they are being wrapped and not put into a vase.) Our look a bit different in the U.S. so the women let me take a video. Plus she was so fast!

I didn’t the picture I wanted to in time, but all of those flowers are balance on a trolley cart and we watched this man that was almost shorter than the stack pull it along with it basically resting on this back.

The chili peppers were so pretty!


Part of the vegetable market.

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Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip!

Cheers!

Creativity and Organization

Office Décor for Spring and Summer

Friends, it is FINALLY spring!

I feel a bit silly saying that considering that we have had spring weather here for two weeks or so now and then had a cold front come through on the actual first of day of spring.
Thank you, Mother Nature.

Anyway, for as much as I loved my winter décor in my office, I have been anxious to finally change it out to bright colors for spring and summer. For a while, I considered splitting the seasons as I did for fall and winter, but these two seasons always running together and considering how much travel I will have over the next few months, it just made more sense.

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See my Fall decorations HERE.
And my Winter decorations HERE.

Fall is my favorite season overall, but my love for flowers, sunshine, summer nights and all things warm weather related knows no end. The first day that it was 70 degrees here, I was so happy, and if my mother didn’t already know that the change of the season make me a little loopy then she probably would have thought I was on something.

Once again, I was happy with how everything came together and turned out. My co-workers are still amused that I put so much effort into this, but I think they are starting to understand that I need my office space to be put together and cheery for me to feel comfortable and productive. And I’ve said it before, but creative projects like this is a therapy outlet for me. Now if only my wallet would feel the same way!

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This display sits on top of my bookshelf. The glass terrarium is the same one from Michael’s that I bought for my winter display. I was really struggling with how I could use it again for these seasons until I was actually back at the store in the aisle I had first found it and was reminded of what a terrarium actually is. After picking out the layers to fill it with I ended up planning the rest of the decorations and flowers for the wreath around the rich color scheme. The turquoise chalkboard sign was a find from the $3 dollar bins at the Target and the purple lantern was another random find at Michael’s that was just too cute not to add.

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This display sits on one corner of my U-shaped desk. The flowers are all silks leftover from the one I used in the burlap wreath. The little tin is actually from my evergreen tree (or branch?) that I bought for my winter décor from Trader Joes. The “fleurs” basket and bottles were on my must-have list when I was planning my decorations out and I found them on a sale at Michaels! I am really excited for the wheat display and plan on keeping that out year-round. The wheat bouquet are just silks from Michaels, but the kernels are from our supplies here at the office and I layered each of the six U.S. wheat classes in the vase.

Happy Spring!

Cheers.

So There's That Series

So There’s That: Vol. 8

 {Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife.}

1. Resident of Virginia

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So this finally happened, and my new driver’s license is on its way in the mail. All I can say is that since the Virginia standard plates are so boring, it’s a good thing I have that purple frame to help spruce it up.


2. Window Garden

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When I moved out here from Kansas I got rid of the three little plants I had, but knew that I would want to eventually replace them.
I may have went a little overboard (you can stop rolling your eyes at me mom)…but I’m so excited!
This time I got some mint and basil, and have already started to use them!


3. Spring/Summer Silk Arrangement

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Last fall I got this cute butter crock at an antique store in Kansas and designed a silk fall/winter arrangement to go in it that also went along with my normal living room décor. Since my move I had been dragging my feet to replace and update it. I already had the red daisies, wheat and some of the sunflowers from a different decoration that I didn’t put up in my new place, and the rest I picked up at Michaels. Because the flowers were smaller, this one was a lot more difficult and the wheat was a pain to work with because it sheds easily. But I was extremely happy with the final result. It even reminds me a bit of Kansas!


4. Shut Up and Dance

Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” is definitely my jam this summer, so this video,  compiling dozens of infamous movie dance scenes with this song, just makes my dancer heart happy. It was fun to see how many of the movies I could name.


5. Mondays

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Last week I shared this meme from my co-worker on Instagram. This is usually how I feel about Mondays. Later that day I read this article, “What Successful People Do On Monday Mornings.” Pretty general, but solid advice. All things that I could definitely work on.


6. Gilmore Girls Reunion

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Twitter: @thelaurengraham

To know me, is to know how much I love Gilmore Girls. I grew up watching (and re-watching) it with my mom and sister, and really think it was something that helped us grow closer together…and vicariously become a little too sassy for our own good. Soon after I left for college, my mom got both Janci and I our own full series set, just so the three of us wouldn’t have to share the set that was being left at home.

Anyway this last weekend there was a Gilmore Girls ATX Festival Reunion Panel featuring almost the entire regular cast. As a true fangirl I watched the entire 45 minute video and spent most it shamelessly freaking out a little. If you don’t care for Gilmore Girls, we can’t be friends I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but if you’re fan I suggest busting out the popcorn! Now to decide which of my favorite episodes to go back and watch…


7. National Gallery of Art

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Since my move, I’ve been dying to get to the museums. I’ve previously been to a few of them during my trips to D.C. as a student, but those visits were always rushed and in my mind, museums are not really group activities. These museums are HUGE, so I’m pretty excited that I now the chance to go at my own pace, see what I want to see and come back if I want to. I know…major nerd alert. Anyway, this past weekend I went to the National Gallery of Art, which is just one of many art galleries/museums here in D.C. It was great, but after three hours, I had to give up and resolve to come back another day. There was just too much to see!

So There’s That

( Linking up with Momfessionals, A Little Bit of Everything Blog, and Grace and Love Blog. )

Creativity and Organization

It’s In My Genes

A few weeks ago I spent my birthday weekend in Ellinwood, Kansas with my best friends Megan and Kyla. To pass the afternoon we visited a few adorable little antique shops where I found these treasures below. I knew immediately that I wanted to use the crock to hold a silk arrangement that I could change out seasonally.

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Growing up in a flower shop, you pick up on some rather unique skills. Call it a curse if you will, but I can’t look at any room or decoration and not try to make a project out of it. I spent about $30 to buy these silks at Hobby Lobby. Since they go really well with my living room colors and decor, my plan is that I will be able to leave them out from mid-October through January, because they encompass fall, Thanksgiving AND the holidays. For the base, I used a white styrofoam ball to secure everything.

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While I was making it, I started to think about how natural this creative part of me comes. My family has owned Cottage Flowers now for 26 years, first my grandma and now my mom. It’s a part of almost every memory I have. The flower shop is where I grew up.

I have chosen to spend my career in agriculture. I think what farmers do is honorable and I will never bore of learning more, and sharing that with others. But I do think that what my family does is important too. No, it might not bear a lot of responsibility, like feeding the world does, but it does make people happy. A little touch of decor makes every home a little warmer and a bouquet of flowers can make one’s day a little bit brighter.

When I’m talking with my farmers I like to share that I too come from a family business.
We’ve had setbacks and seen growth, and we have customers that depend on us.
Their kids were driving tractors, while I was cleaning flowers.
We are a family, just like them.
So I too am proud, proud to be a 3rd generation florist.

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And let’s be honest, I’m pretty excited to showoff the final product.

I guess the holiday season has officially arrived!