The story behind "Katherine's Blooms".

This is my friend Katherine. 

We were roommates in Chicago for many years, with memories of fun late nights, and taking ourselves way too seriously in our 20's.  Both of us shared a love of music and movies, which besides the late nights was about all we spent our time doing in our apartment where we lived with 3 other friends in this gray stone on Roscoe. 

Through lots of sub par jobs, Katherine was looking for something exciting, which the temp jobs were just, well not. She would come to my classroom at Washington School often to use the internet to hunt for jobs, which is pretty hilarious to think about now. We had dial up in our apartment which we most likely broke downloading too much music from Napster.

I had a wise beyond her years student named Elise who helped me in my classroom at lunch. On the days Katherine would come (Elise's favorite days), she would share lots of stories of places she saw "Help Wanted" signs. "You know the pet shop on Howard? They're hiring!". She would also give Katherine advice about getting work so she wouldn't end up lazy on the couch like her uncle. It was classic. 

One day after yet another long Chicago Sunday brunch, (such a luxury to think about these days!) we walked into this amazing flower shop in Lincoln Park called "A New Leaf".  The immediate influx of oxygen from all of the fresh flowers drew you in, and made you never want to leave. There were several rooms opening up to a beautiful courtyard, and after about 1/2 hour of meandering, Katherine said, "I want to work here.". 

To me, it was simple. Go to the desk, and demand a job. To Katherine, it took some prodding to get her to tell the people that worked there her desires. That day, I at least convinced her to leave them her number. 

With several locations, lot's going on, this business didn't make the time to call Katherine back. However,  we would see her number still sitting up on the bulletin board whenever we would go in, and she would lament about still wanting to be there. One day, I had enough and I PHYSICALLY had to push her into the door to talk to them again. Um, I'm not joking. Guess, what? With no experience whatsoever, they gave her a job! Amongst many Art Institute students who also worked there, Katherine started a new path.

A path that then led her a few years later to work for Top Floral design company Renny and Reed in NYC on Park Ave, and finally to return to her hometown of Coronado California and join her best friend Kristy in opening their very own floral design business, Root 75.  This adorable shop on pretty much the cutest island in history, was also named the best of SD, NBD. 

When it was my turn to tie the knot, there was no question who I wanted to make my bouquet and whip up gorgeous creations.  I mean....? 

We didn't give her any specifications, just got her buckets and buckets of lush flowers and told her to go nuts. Which she obviously did. It was so fun to see her out there in the tent on what started out a foggy morning, spinning a web of color for my special day. 

When it came time to take a crack at my first floral, it was Katherine's creations that inspired me the most, and I wanted to be sure it was modern and fun.  Let's not belabor this any further... May I present... Katherine's Blooms! 

Happy Birthday To Me. #thisis40

Somehow this was ten years ago. My 30th birthday party. It was a John Hughes movies theme party, and yes, there are two Molly Ringwalds in the background, both from Pretty in Pink

I was Carolyn from Sixteen Candles, who cut off her hair in the back. (That's my hair attached to the necklace.) Costume parties forEVER.

I thought I had life pretty much figured out, but a LOT has changed from then to now. 

I guess what I am realizing is that turning 40 is happening. It's not a time that I consider sad in any way, but more of reflection of where I've been and where I'm going. One place I hope I will never go is a place that is too serious. Sometimes there is nothing so important as taking the time to be someone else for the night and be childish. 

Fast forward to three years later after the Sixteen Candles getup, and I found myself a partner in crime, who equally liked dressing up, and this time as Jersey Shore's Snooki and Pauly D.. We worked extra hard on our Cadillac logo, making the perfect backdrop for the photo booth. 

I have a new favorite Yoga Teacher who is quite intense with her positive motivation, but sometimes (most times), it's exactly what we all need. Her latest quote, is my new favorite. "You can't lead the cavalry, if you're worried about what you look like on the horse".  So true. 

I think I proved I wasn't worried, when I put on this hideous wig, as MaryLou Retton and Greg as Andre Agassi. 

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You see what I'm realizing is I am trying very hard to live in the moment. Making new memories is more important than any material thing I can buy, and "filling up my bookshelves" with those memories is the best thing I can do for myself and for my family. Going the extra mile to create those memories, even when 8 months pregnant like below... Always worth it. Even when the odds are against you, it's always worth the effort. 

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This is going to sound weird, but I'm also working hard on not living in the moment. Living in the moment is great when it's a moment worth remembering. But let's face it as a mom of two boys under four, there are some moments you just want to get through: piles of laundry, sweeping, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, Gad Zooks! If I lived in those moments and didn't use that time to dream up ideas for Leland gal, or new products, or how to add an addition to my kitchen in my imagination, I would have lost it a long time ago. We all need those moments too. 

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Do I sometimes spend those "off moments" relieving stress by shoving skinny pop in my mouth by the fist full staring out the kitchen window? Yes. Yes, I do. However, for the most part I've realized that managing stress when juggling it all is really done best by just doing something where you have no choice but to focus 100% on something else. This note, from my grandfather from my 21st birthday sums it up. 

 

Painting, yoga, zumba (see, I'm 40, and it shows now), tennis, golf, etc. It is the best way to then revisit your kids or your work with a fresh perspective because well... All work and no play... well you know the rest. If it worked for Cliffie, it works for me. 

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Do I need reading glasses to read my shampoo bottles now? Do I feel those aches and pains in the morning after a good round of tennis? Do I know I don't have the baby face I once did? Yes. All of these things are true, and yet deep down, I still feel 16 with more responsibility. Do I wish I was 16 again? Or even 30? Heck no. I'm right where I should be. I wouldn't trade a memory, mistake or even this GOD AWFUL perm in middle school for any of it. 

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To properly celebrate, I am excited to give you 40% off ALL outdoor pillows today only on the first day of my 40th year. ENJOY! Here is the link! 

Collaboration is Queen.

I am so fortunate to have attended two big name conferences with dynamic entrepreneurs, brands and bloggers.

I started brainstorming the creatives within the Grand Rapids region and quickly came up with more than 40 women. I realized, we can stay close to home and have an incredible collaborative conference right here and can embrace the Midwest talent.

I decided to have a few gals over for lunch to discuss and brainstorm on a beautiful, fall afternoon. 

Attending was Sara Visser of The GR Guide, and Alex Beaton of The Awesome Mitten. Both Michigan natives that have taken an idea, and built a huge following of Michiganders cheering them on, and wanting their curated advice on where to go, and what to do to have fun. I told them about my idea, of trying to get a group of midwestern entreprenuers together, and they were excited to get together and discuss. 

Sara and I met "online" when she started her first lifestyle blog called Project Soiree, and she featured us in a holiday gift guide in December of 2013. She was living right by my old neighborhood in Chicago, and took family trips up north, and I started to pay attention. That was the first of many features Sara did for Leland gal, and within a few years, she was venturing back home to Grand Rapids to be closer to family, and we got the chance to meet in person. When she got here, she saw a huge need for a way for people to find out what she calls "The 411 in the 616". What she does is exactly what we were looking for 6 years ago when we relocated here from Chicago.  The GR Guide has been going for about a year, and boy is she doing it well. It's not just because there was a need, it's because Sara makes killer imagery and seeks out the best there is to do! Here are a few little tidbits to get to know Sara a little better:

Favorite Fall Cocktail- Apple Cider Mimosas - A Fall brunch with this cocktail is always a hit!

Favorite Michigan Lookout in the Fall: Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - The views from this lookout are absolutely stunning in the summer and even better in the Fall. 

Current Netflix Binge: Gilmore Girls - I'm counting down the days until the new episodes are released on Netflix.

Favorite Apple Orchard to visit: Robinette's - I can't get enough of those donuts #obsessed

Favorite winery to visit: Shady Lane Cellars - My family and I always make this our first stop during our summer vacation up north. I'm a huge fan of their Rose. 

Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange and Michaela and Ashley of The Bloom Workshop - These girls are such an inspiration!

Reason you are doing what you are doing with your blog: Grand Rapids has so many incredible local restaurants, boutiques and of course breweries (hello beer city). This city has a lot to offer and The GR Guide is focused on showcasing what makes Grand Rapids unique. I love exploring different restaurants, trying a new beer or talking to local businesses owners that are truly making a difference in this city.  

Alex Beaton created The Awesome Mitten 5 years ago, and has over 50,000 followers on Instagram, 70% of which are in the state of Michigan. In writing this blog post, I am realizing that her blog featured Leland gal in the same month in 2013, when Sara featured us! Here is the article from December of 2013, just after our first season.  Boy have we come a long way! Alex has taken this Michigan blog, and run with it, and has gone viral several times spreading the awesome of Michigan all over. What I realized mostly is that Alex is one smart cookie, and one who sees an opportunity and wants to take action, and quickly.  

Here are a few little tidbits to get to know Alex a little better: 

Favorite Fall Cocktail: Sazerac (Not really Fall-specific, but it's my Fall drink of choice!) 

Favorite Michigan Lookout in the fall: Pyramid Point

Current Netflix Binge: Gilmore Girls (again, because it's SO good)

Favorite Apple orchard to visit.: Spicer's!  

Favorite winery to visit: Can I pick two? I love going to The Secret Garden @ Brys Estates & L. Mawby

Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? How on earth could I pick just one?! I think I'm more excited to learn about new Michigan entrepreneurs (and meet them) & discover their amazing projects! 

Reason you are doing what you are doing with your site? Michigan has so much to offer and I feel like most residents only tap into a small portion of that. I want to help people discover things to do, and places to explore right in their own backyard (or a quick drive away) in every one of our glorious seasons! 

What we all have in common now is a bond to want to pull together something big to help Michigan businesses to ensure we all have our best foot forward with support and the resources that are right here within our reach. We will keep you posted on what comes from this little gathering on my porch! 

My own answers! 

Favorite Fall Cocktail: Any Bourbon + Apple Combo, to a point. Also had a bit of a crush on Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer. 

Favorite Michigan Lookout in the Fall: When I moved "up north" in high school, I was on the boys soccer team, which played in the fall. We drove all over the Upper Peninsula, and the top half of the lower peninsula and I will never forget that being the highlight (Pretty much sat on the bench)... Crisp blue skies, deep blue water paired with the reds and oranges of fall. 

Current Netflix Binge: Dexter. So dark, and yet so good. 

Favorite Apple orchard to visit.: Schwalliers! 

Favorite winery to visit: Chateau Fontaine all the way! 

Michigan Entrepreneurs you look up to/hope to meet when we pull this event off? All the entrepreneurs, big and small. 

Reason I am doing what I am doing with my brand: Initially, it was just to "make it" and have a successful company. What I can see now four years in, is a deep desire to bring my company full circle, and "make it" but with an intention to help give back and get back to my real passion of art education. If I could create opportunities to bring communities together to create art projects together, I will feel the ultimate form of success. Hoping to launch this as my public mission in 2017. 

 

Hayden Reis + Leland gal Collaboration!

Today, I am proud to launch our new exciting collaboration with the darling beach tote company out of Florida, Hayden Reis. Leland gal for Hayden Reis totes have a practical base of durable sailcloth to hold everything but the kitchen sink for a long day at the beach. Owner, Emily Stroud and I are firm believers in a few of the same things, a love of color, practicality, and durability. Did I mention these bags are super lightweight, with darling monogram options? When Emily created this line, no detail was left behind, and when we were asked if we wanted to create a Leland gal collaboration with Hayden Reis, we were only too happy to accept.

Anyone who has ever sat by the water on a sunny day and seen the magical sparkles, knows that it transports you to a relaxing place where you can completely let go. It is this exact feeling thatis the inspiration behind the fabric "Glittering Diamonds On The Water". This particular print was a natural fit for a bag that would likely be by your side when having this experience on or off the water. 

Eddie and Tommy were pumped to pose for a photo shoot on The Leelanau Peninsula to show of the bag that has become our beach staple this summer.

It is my distinct honor to be a part of Emily's collaboration line at Hayden Reis.  Several of the other collaboration partnerships are with other women whom I have long since admired. Two of which are fellow features in Design her that I finally got to meet in person this year at The Southern CEmily McCarthy and Michigan native,  Mandy Rye of Waiting on Martha

As a mom to these two precious boys, it is exciting to show them that hard work and collaboration with other people can make you stronger and build lasting friendships. Creating this bag was such a fun experience and I and look forward to other people enjoying both Leland gal and Hayden Reis as a fierce partnership by wearing our brands in style.  These bags are limited edition, get them while you can right here!

ABC (Always Be Creating)

When my blog posts first started gaining momentum, I truly believed I would be able to schedule myself to write more on a weekly, or even monthly basis, but the truth is, that felt way too contrived. Every time it came up on my calendar, I felt a tightness instead of the free flowing of the good story telling of my favorite posts. The truth is, like any creative, I have to take advantage of these moments when they happen, as you can't plan them.

While I have spent hours making my studio into this beautiful space, where I complete most of my work, it is almost never where the good ideas start. Today, this idea came with Eddie in the jumper on my right, and Tommy watching Madagascar on my left (why yes, I do like to move it move it). Ferociously jotting down notes on leftover receipts or on top of layers of scribble Tommy has put on every page of my once neat and tidy journal.

 

This blog post highlights periods of time, when I just could not get enough of making, (read: obsessing) and how each one of these projects has helped bring me to where I am today.  Anyone else grappling with the creative/entrepreneurial gene knows what I'm talking about.

Around age 6, I convinced my best buddy we were going to hit it big time by making and selling these kinds of hair clips. The owner of Fishtown Candy Company took pity on us, and allowed us to sell our wares at her shop. We would make up any excuse to come and see if we sold any, but inevitably spent all of our earnings before leaving the shop.

Next came the friendship bracelets. These definitely took too long to mass produce, but there was always a work in progress tied to the back of the headrest in the car to get in what I could, didn't want to waste any time not making something.

Then came the introduction of fimo clay. There were books showing how easy it was to make intricate designs like these. Despite our best efforts, ours usually ended up looking more like this.  Except, I'd say at least 70% of the time, they were on the darker side from being almost burned in the oven, which of course we did totally unsupervised.

Then there was that Christmas during middle school that I made everyone their own handmade "wave machines". In my mind, they looked like this: In reality, they were complete with leaky packages and the scent of mineral spirits and inevitably flammable. (Mine did not have a motorized mechanism either.)

That same Christmas I went on a big tie dye kick. Because what grown up didn't want a tie dye T-shirt for Christmas? Since it was the 80's, my brother was happy to accept most of them to take to college, whereupon they all promptly turned all of his clothes pink.

Now this next hobby really taught me some things about profit margins. Hilarious (and embarrassing) as it was, I lived off of selling hemp necklaces for an entire summer in college. I made them by the car load, and more than anything, I loved creating the color combinations of the African glass beads I bought in bulk.

Fast forward to wedding season, and my then obsession. Mosaics. I couldn't get enough of adding hints of mirror that would glimmer as you walked by. I learned while teaching my students in Evanston, and went wild. After all of the gifts I made, I took a few commissions and realized this love was not going to pay the bills, but still one of my favorite past times.

Then a few Christmases ago, exactly one year before Leland gal began, money was pretty tight and we made everyone felt pillows. My husband was thrilled to be participating in this activity while we soared through the first few seasons of Mad Men (pre kids).

My family was always very patient, and always supported the messes I made, and the endeavors I attempted, no matter how ridiculous. Each and every one of these obsessions taught me considerable lessons about making a product whether I sold it or not. Some lessons were financial and some had safety hazards. Others taught me about an overall completed product composition, what colors worked well together, and the importance of contrast when trying to make certain parts stand out. Each and every one of these projects has lead me to my latest obsession turned passion which you all give me permission to continue creating, Leland gal.

The fact is, when you are a maker, non makers always want to know "How many hours did it take you to make that?" As though your artwork is equal to an hourly rate. 

The fact of the matter is, after spending my entire life span making, the answer is "A lifetime".