Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Girls Trip to Nashville

Over Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for a long girls weekend with my best friends Megan and Kyla.

These gals were my roommates for 4.5 years in college, first in the women’s scholarship house, then out on our own. (They both took an extra semester and my first job was in our college town so that explains the extra half a year I got with them!) Megan and I were co-maids of honor in Kyla’s wedding, and even as we’ve all grown up and lead pretty different lives, their friendship continues to be one of the most important things I have.

A few years ago I got the idea that we should do a reunion trip every 5 years since we graduated college (May and December 2013), and it took no convincing to bring them on board with the idea. We chose Nashville because it was a new city to all of us and travel-wise it was about halfway for all of us.

We all got in on Saturday afternoon and stayed until Wednesday morning. We looked at a lot of options for where to stay, but finally settled on an AirBnB apartment that was across the street from Vanderbilt’s campus and right off of Music Row. We were so happy with it! It gave us the room to relax a bit each day, a kitchen so we could keep some snacks and drinks we picked up on a grocery store run and we even stayed in one night with pizza and a movie. The location was fantastic for the price and I was even able to do an emergency load of laundry for free (long story!). If you are planning a trip to Nashville and look at AirBnB, we highly recommend this one!

Our plan for the trip was to keep it pretty low-key. We wanted to explore the city, eat good food and just enjoy each other’s company without being on-the-go too much. We did some “Pinterest-planning” and thankfully we all still have quite a few of the same interests. I have a lot of pictures to share, so I decided to split up the trip by category instead of day-by-day.

Neighborhoods We Explored

Nashville has such a fun culture and so many little neighborhoods to explore!

12South
This was probably the neighborhood we heard about the most prior to our trip and now we know why. There are so many fun places to eat and boutiques to shop at, all varying in price, but all still staying true to the neighborhoods artsy, laid back culture. 12South is also home to MANY of the city’s fun murals! We walked about a mile to get here from our apartment and spent a good 5 or so hours exploring. Our favorite store was definitely White’s Mercantile, which is further down the street, so make sure you don’t miss it!

These stripes are on the side of the Draper James store, owned by Reese Witherspoon.

This place is on a side street right off of 12South, and was the perfect place for a stop when the heat got to be a bit much. They have a large, unique selection of beer, and we were all wishing that we could have taken a growler or two back home with us.

Hillsboro Village

This neighborhood was a bit closer to where we were staying and also home to a lot of fun food and shopping. We really enjoyed the store A Thousand Faces.

Downtown  // Broadway Street

Broadway Street in downtown Nashville is about as iconic as it gets. And it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, the place is always busy, but always has a pretty laid back vibe

The Gulch
If I lived in or around Nashville, I bet I would spend a lot of time in The Gulch. Just right near downtown, The Gulch has young and hip culture and a great mix of everything, but is still easy to get around in and feel comfortable at. It is also home to the Instagram famous “What Lifts You” mural, which were just right around the corner from where we took a workout class.

Vanderbilt
I don’t actually have much to share here, but since our apartment was right on the edge of Vanderbilt’s campus and the fact that it is also an arboretum, we decided to take a walk through part of campus. We didn’t make it over to see their stadium, but at that point pizza and getting off of our feet was calling our names. However, considering its location, I think Vanderbilt would be a fun place to go to college… and I say that as a Kansas State alum who thinks Manhattan is one of the best little places on earth 🙂

Fun Things We Did

Pedestrian Bridge

When we explored downtown during the day, we started on the other side of the Pedestrian Bridge that starts at Nissan Stadium (where the Tennessee Titans play) and crosses over the Cumberland River and ends just a block off of Broadway.

Yazoo Brewing
One of Megan’s friends from Wichita used to live in Nashville and recommended Yazoo as her “favorite brewery EVER.” So naturally, we went. We each got a DIY flight that allowed us to pick our 6 beers and spent the rainy afternoon chatting inside and working our way through some great brews. I don’t think any of us tried something that we didn’t like and we all loved the atmosphere of the brewery.

Dierks Bentley’s Whisky Row

Our first night (Saturday) we went out on Broadway and ended up spending the whole time at Dierks Bentley’s new bar. (Megan and I are huge Dierks fans!) The first level had a live country cover band and the other three floors, which includes the rooftop had a mix of live DJ’s and non-live music of all genre’s. For what is most likely their busiest night of the week, I felt like this bar was still manageable crowd-wise and clean enough all things considered. Don’t get me wrong, it was still packed, but you can tell when a bar puts a bit of thought into its flow and crowd control.

LA Jackson’s 
One night after dinner in The Gulch, our plan was hop around to a few rooftop bars in the area, but loved our first stop at LA Jackson’s, which is atop the Thompson Nashville Hotel, so we parked it there for the night. It had great views and a fun drink menu.

Country Music Hall of Fame

This museum was definitely worth the price tag (around $24)! We spent about 3 hours here, which was a sufficient time for someone like me who likes to read most of the signage. Right now it has temporary exhibits on Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain and one for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together. My understanding is these rotate out for various artists throughout the year. The rest of the museum has a variety of permanent and other rotating exhibits that focus on different era’s and milestones of country music.

Grand Ole Opry

I was so, so happy that Megan and Kyla were both up for making a visit to the Grand Ole Opry a part of our trip! We went on Tuesday, our last night, and it ended up being a great way to round out our vacation. We had tickets on the upper deck and off to one of the sides, but the whole experience is still very intimate that we didn’t mind at all. On the bill for our night was Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay, Carly Pearce, Chris Janson, Connie Miller and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers. It was a fun lineup and except for Carly Pearce, this was the first time I’ve seen any of these artists live. One note to anyone using this post to help plan a trip of their own… the Opry House is a little bit of a drive outside of central Nashville. It’s not too bad at all, but when everything else is really close together, just make sure you plan for this.

Parthethon

This is the recreation of the temple in Greece that is dedicated to the goddess Athena, that resides in Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, and now includes an art museum. We didn’t make time to visit the museum, but we did snap a few pictures and Megan (who is a certified yoga teacher in her spare time) couldn’t pass up the opportunity had to “stop, drop and yoga.” 🙂

Pure Barre and Shakti Yoga
If you had told me back when we were in college that we would actively seek to add a workout or two into vacation, I wouldn’t have believed you. Not that we didn’t enjoy exercising back then, but there was definitely a time when the words “vacation” and “exercise” did NOT go together. Megan went solo to a hot yoga class one morning (just a bit intense for us other two amateurs lol) and then we all headed to a 7 AM Pure Barre class together another morning.

Food

Barcelona Wine Bar
Spanish small plates, paella, cocktails & wine are offered in an intimate, late-night setting.
This is where we ate on our first night and it was sooooo good. I’m a sucker for good tapas, and both the mood and the service at this place was top notch. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit though, that I JUST realized that there are THREE locations near me in the DC/NOVA area. There was nothing that we ordered that we didn’t like, but we LOVED the Spiced Beef Empanadas, the Jamon and Manchego Croquetas and the Smoked Pork Belly!

Frothy Monkey
Food + Coffee + Wine
We had breakfast at the 12South location on our first full day. They have a great menu and we passed on the bakery items, but it all looked great. We got here a bit early and are thankful that we missed the big brunch/lunch crowd.

Adele’s
Farm-to-fork restaurant with a cool vibe offering New American dishes, cocktails & patio seating.
I am pretty sure without even confirming with the other girls that this was our FAVORITE meal of the trip! Adele’s is located in The Gulch, has a great atmosphere and also great service. It was a bit more on the spendy side but worth every bite! I usually take pictures of my food when I travel, but never actually share them with anyone or on the blog… but I had to this time! The presentation was great and I want to give you a peek at just how yummy the food is. And though they aren’t pictured here, you can bet that we also enjoyed fun cocktails, a summer squash salad as an app and shared TWO desserts.

My scallops entree.

Megan and Kyla both got the steak.

Fido
This converted pet shop features gourmet espresso drinks, elevated food & a funky coffeehouse vibe.
We stopped here for breakfast in the Hillsboro Village. I can’t remember what the other two girls had, but my chorizo, eggs and hashbrowns with tortillas was AWESOME!

Too Boots
Offbeat chain serving cornmeal-crusted pizzas with quirky Cajun toppings in a kid-friendly space.
We had pizza delivered here for our movie night in (watched The Greatest Showman!) and I loved their unique topping combos. Not sure if it was a random one-time perk, but our delivery was free! Can’t beat that.

Biscuit Love
Bright, spacious offshoot of a food truck known for locally sourced Southern breakfast & lunch fare.
This place was easily the most recommended place to eat at in Nashville on Pinterest and now I can confirm that there is a reason why! It was SO GOOD and I’m sad that I can’t become a regular. We went pretty early on a week day because it was right around the corner from the Pure Barre studio in The Gulch, but otherwise I would recommend getting there early and mentally prepare that you are probably going to have to wait awhile (luckily Nashville does have 2 locations). And I couldn’t review this place without RAVING about the “Chronic Bacon,” which is spicy AND sweet. To clarify, my first job out of college was working for the Kansas Pork Association, so I have tried A LOT of different bacon dishes, and this hands down is my new favorite.

Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar
This bright ice cream parlor offers cones, sundaes & old-school sodas plus espresso drinks.
Two words: Espresso Milkshake…. i.e. a milkshake made with any flavor of ice cream they have with two shots of espresso added. I’m not really a milkshake girl normally, but I was 100% behind this afternoon snack. I got mine with my favorite ice cream, butter pecan, and have zero regrets.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
I probably should have left this off the list, but for the three of us it is somewhat a comical part of our trip. The short of it is that it was the last day of our trip to we were worn out, it was raining, we had all become pretty hangry in the span of about 10 minutes and we were on Broadway where most places have live music acts all day every day, which is normally great except that it was SO LOUD and just all a little more than we could handle. As we walked by Margaritaville, I practically yelled at the other two ahead of me to stop and come back because while there was live music, the volume was much more manageable. (My younger self is cracking up at this right now). To be fair, the food wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t anything special, except that it did the job. So my advice is to swing by for a fun margarita menu and skip the food… unless you are hangry and need to eat in quiet.

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If you have made it this far, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions about visiting Nashville. We had a wonderful time and filled our tanks with a much needed reunion and best friend time. And as for Nashville, I definitely plan to go back someday!

Friendship, Washington D.C.

BFF Plus Nathan DC Adventure

It’s almost August. It’s almost August. It’s almost August.

That’s been my mantra for more than two months now, and IT IS FINALLY AUGUST.
Life has been pretty darn busy since the beginning of May, and for the most part I thrive stress and being busy, but if I’m being honest, I could not wait for August to get here.

But as I always say, even if it takes me longer than it should, its important to me catch up on the blog and use it as my journal.

In mid-June Megan and Kyla, my college roommates and best friends came to visit me in DC, oh and Kyla’s husband Nathan too. Oh and don’t feel too bad for Nathan… he’s been dealing with the three of us girls together for years.

We’ve been planning for this trip almost since I made the move to the east coast and I was so excited to share my new home with three of my favorite people.

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They were supposed to come in late on a Thursday night, but had a few delays so by the time they arrived and we made it to bed it was well after 1 am.

I opted not to carry around my nice camera. I have visited most of the places on our schedule before so I decided just using my phone this time around would work fine.

Friday: Mt Vernon, National Smithsonian of American History, hopped around in Chinatown for drinks and dinner
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Saturday: Renwick Gallery, White House and Eisenhower Executive Building, National Mall and all of the monuments, dinner at Café Berlin

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I’ve had multiple people rave to me about the Renwick Gallery and this was one of the few things that I insisted we visit because I hadn’t had a chance yet. I’m so glad we did, it was SO COOL!

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Cafe Berlin is probably my favorite restaurant in DC!

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Sunday: National Cathedral, food truck brunch event, Arlington Cemetery

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Monday: U.S. Capitol tour, lunch at Union Station, U.S. Botanical Gardens, National Smithsonian of Natural History, National Art Gallery, Senate Gallery at the Capitol, dinner at Tupelo Honey.

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Tuesday: Holocaust Memorial Museum, lunch at Laughing Man Tavern.

Tuesday was a partial day as they were headed out on an early evening flight. Except they didn’t quite make home because of weather and a missed connection, so they spent an extra 24 in St. Louis and made the most of it by visiting the zoo.

I definitely had major #FOMO (fear of missing out).

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Funny side story: While we were on the Metro this really big family gets on and this little girl that’s maybe 4 years old is being drug on by an older sibling as she’s yelling “this is not our train” over and over. The Mom looks at the map on the wall and says “I am pretty sure that we are going the right direction,” but after I offer to help, I had to tell her that they were going in the opposite direction from where they needed to be and then offered step by step directions to get to the particular museum they were interested it.

We realized after the family got off, that the little girl, had indeed been right about the train.

Trust me, it was more chaotic and hysterical than I could possibly describe via writing.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and I am so happy that they were able to visit me.

Check back later this week for more updates from my summer!

Cheers.

Kansas

Long Weekend in Kansas

This past weekend I flew to Kansas for a long, fun-filled weekend.
If I’m being honest, after having K-State season football tickets for 6 years, I just couldn’t imagine NOT going to a game at all. So when I discovered I had Columbus Day off (Thank you Christopher!) and found reasonably priced airline tickets, I decided to make a visit to my second home.

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Megan.

I’m actually surprised that I haven’t been as tired this past week because I really couldn’t have fit more in a little more than 72 hours. I flew in late to Wichita on Friday night and was picked up by my bestie/college roommate Megan. We got up early and road tripped to Manhattan on Saturday, and spent the morning hanging out with Leah and having lunch and coffee at my favorite study place, Bluestem.

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Megan and Leah.

The afternoon was filled with tailgating and catching up with lots of friends. All of my main group of friends in college have gone a lot of different directions, but almost all of us were in town. It is so refreshing to be reminded of the value of those friendships and memories, but equally exciting to see how well everyone is doing now.

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Brandi.

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The game itself was crazy. I was prepared for disappointment, and while the ending was indeed just that, the Cats reminded everyone to never disregard them too quickly. Regardless of the ending, I was still so excited to be back in one of my favorite places on earth. And on such a beautiful day! Seriously, fall sunsets in Kansas are simply gorgeous.

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The family.

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My view from inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
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The game with Cary and Nathan.

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On Sunday I went to breakfast with a few more friends and then Megan and I headed out to Ellinwood, KS to visit our other bestie/roommate, Kyla. While her husband Nathan had been able to make it to Manhattan for the game, she had to stay behind for a school function (she’s a music teacher.) Overall, we traveled over 380 miles that weekend, but nothing was stopping me from including Kyla in my visit. We eventually realized that it was almost a year (a week later) than Megan and I had made similar trip out to see Kyla for my birthday.

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Megan and Kyla.

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We returned to Wichita that evening, and spent Monday relaxing and setting up some things in Megan’s new duplex before my flight left in the late afternoon.

Sometimes surrounding yourself with your favorite people, places and things is just good for the soul. Thanks to everyone for such a great weekend!

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Megan’s pup Luna.

 Cheers!

Friendship, Kansas

Throwback: Two Weddings and…Two Weeks

With wedding season officially in full swing I couldn’t help but reminisce about last year’s season. On this very day last year I was on my way down to Southeast Kansas to kick off two of my busiest weeks, ever! I was honored to stand by two of my best friends, Kyla and Leah in their weddings…which happened to be on back-to-back weekends. It’s kind of hard to imagine that was all a year ago now!

Since I wasn’t regularly blogging at the time, I figured why not do a little throwback!

I said those two weeks were busy, but if I’m being honest, it was the entire first half of 2014. My Pinterest account got daily attention and together my friend Megan and I became bridal shower and bachelorette party hosting pro’s.  There were dress fittings, accessories to keep track of and 10 different hairstyles to plan, practice for and do. For Leah’s wedding there was an invitation to design and +10,000 songs on my iTunes to sort down to one playlist; while for Kyla’s there was an {awesome} speech to write and flowers for my mom and I to put together.

I say all of this not to gripe, but because I want to remember every bit of it.
Yes it was busy, but it was also such a special couple of months.
Both of these girls had been my roommates through college. We finished our growing up together; laughing, crying and supporting each other through accomplishments, mistakes, challenges, change and milestones. They are both so unique, and inspire me with their strength, friendship and compassion. I witnessed both of their love stories and was so happy to share in this part of their lives.

I teased these girls (who are both great friends with each other) for the circles they had me turning in, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. There are so many little anecdotes, jokes and memories, that I have with them and the great group of friends we have, that shared in it all. And in a lot of ways, since the last of us had also just graduated, it was the end of an era.

To Nathan and Kyla, and Leah and Ryan,
Wishing you both a Happy First Anniversary!
Love you!

Friendship, Kansas

Home is Where the Heart Is

I’ve been somewhat lazy this week when it came to writing about my recent trip to Kansas, but I was struggling with coming up with something to say other than that it was fabulous and then recounting all of the details.

I mean it was fabulous. The weekends/vacation time was stuffed full with my favorite foods, places, activities and people. And my work days on wheat tour were fruitful. I was able to take what I already knew from my K-State days working for the grain science department and learn so much more about wheat as a crop, and now have a very hands-on experience to reference back to. And even though I lived in Kansas for six years, it was great to travel and see the state in that way. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over those wide open spaces. If you are interested in learning a bit more about what exactly “wheat tour” is then you can read my summary here http://bit.ly/1JudR6Q (scroll to the second story) or join all of the cool kids and look back at the action on Twitter by searching the hashtag #wheattour15.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures I took on the tour. You can see more here: on.fb.me/1cx9b5P

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It was a very surreal experience being back in Kansas after moving away two months ago. During those two months in DC it seemed as if my life back in Kansas was years and years ago, but when I landed back in Manhattan it felt like I had never left, as if I had just driven to Wichita or KC for the weekend.

I think I struggled earlier this week with what to say about the trip, because I was still processing it all. But now that I’ve unpacked my bags and settled back in at work, there are a few things that my trip back to Kansas showed me.

I really am one of the lucky ones. The years I spent in Kansas were so full of all the things that we deserve to have in life, and revisiting some of those memories was a true testament to that. And the people…my people, man I’ll just say this, they are pretty darn great. But being there, especially on wheat tour, also reminded me why I left. I wanted to do more for agriculture and I wanted to do more for myself. I know now that I would have been selling myself, my past experiences and my passion for agriculture short if I had decided to not step it up and take on the next challenge.

Unfortunately for my family back in Oregon, this trip also confirmed something that has been on my mind for a while. I’m not really big on making too many assumptions about long term plans or where I see myself in “XX amount of years,” but when that time comes someday, Kansas wouldn’t be such a bad place to land back in. Oregon, you and my mountains better step up the campaign game NOW.

It was great to see you Kansas, I’ll be back soon!

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With Megan at the Bogner Wedding!
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Pretty bummed that I won’t be cheering on the ‘Cats here this fall. But I definitely had to check out the new construction during my morning run!
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Soul Sistas….and Luna, who I guess can join the club.

 

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Hanging out with this guy is always a crazy time.

 

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The main four. I’m so glad that Nathan and Kyla were able to join us in Wichita.
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Kyle and Mega. Or essentially…TROUBLE.
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Enjoyed my first weekend with Leah, who helped me indulge in all of my Manhattan favorites. It was also good to see Ryan, Brandi, Jancey, Logan and the IGP team in the Hat!
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The Bogner wedding was fabulous, right down to the purple cotton candy martini’s. We were big fans.
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This guy is just about as good as they come. I am so thankful that my work trip allowed me to be back in Kansas to help celebrate his wedding!
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At the wedding I overheard Emily telling someone…”If it’s going to rain on a wedding, it might as well be on a farmer’s wedding.” Blaine-o you definitely married the right girl!
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Mr. Kellan belongs to my old roommates Cam and Audrianna, who are the first of my close college friends to have kids. This little guy is always so happy and I’m so thankful I could set aside time to sneak in a few Auntie Amanda snuggles.
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!