To Laurel, with love.

It has been a really long time since we did a blog post. Things have been crazy and for that I am sorry. I knew before we left that our road trip to Laurel would be something different and would be great to document. But now, back in my own living room I struggle to really find the words I need to tell you about our experience. 

We went to Laurel with basically no expectations. We had no idea what to anticipate. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I could have never predicted what it was really like. 

I bet this is where you’re expecting me to start talking about Ben & Erin and HGTV. Well, about that I’ll say very little. Except this: 

Ben and Erin are truly just as wonderful in real life. They are kind, humble, and hard working. I give them and all the families from the series so much credit for throwing themselves into the crazy spotlight of national television to help bring attention and value to the small town that they love. We are more than honored to work with all the partners and team at Laurel Mercantile Co.

But here is the thing, that town… is FILLED with amazing stories and people. The excitement and dedication they have for Laurel is palpable. They pop up all over in the most unassuming and casual way. They’re throwing everything into their passions to make Laurel shine. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I am going to tell you about my experiences with some of them. 

Joseph & Jamie of Sweet Somethings - 

www.sweetsomethingsbakery.com

I am so glad that I found Sweet Somethings Bed & Breakfast before anyone else snatched up the reservation. The 16 ft ceilings, brick walls, and original hardwood flooring are just the type of character that I can’t resist. However, the best part about the B&B is definitely the owners. Joseph & Jamie are so fun to talk to! They have such love for their family, town, and businesses. Like many people we met, they’re incredibly hard working. Owning a bakery seems glamorous but I know the long hours and hard work it takes to get things to taste like Jamie can! Steve ate the entire box of cookies they gave us himself. It was so great to get a glimpse into how they work together to make all of their Laurel businesses and projects come together in such a beautiful way. 

Adam & Lily Trest of Adam Trest Home

www.adamtrest.com

Adam’s textiles had caught my eye on instagram long before I visited Laurel. I made sure to seek out the store when we got into town. Like many of the shops in Laurel, their beautiful storefront seemed to serve two purposes. To showcase their style and as a really great spot to hang out and talk with your friends. We were lucky enough to have a great long talk during our visit. I’m pretty picky ( like really picky ) about prints that I’d actually be willing to use in my own home. For me, Adam & Lily’s really shine. They bring the heritage and landmarks of Laurel into their design work in such a natural and timeless way. They even carry a bee print textile. You know from my own work how much I love bees!

Michael Foster ( honorary Laurel resident and kick butt tintype expert )

michaelnfoster.com

Michael lives outside of Laurel but I think its a safe bet to say if you asked anyone he’s got an honorary citizenship there. He is insanely talented in Tintype and Amber Plate Photography and is the most chill guy to talk with. His passion and knowledge of historic photography is remarkable and he always takes his time with the people he photographs. He says that the stories and characters behind each of his photos are his favorite thing about the process. It was clear that if he could spend all his days talking and taking photos of everyone he finds interesting it. would make him very happy. We think that’s pretty fantastic. 

 

Alyson - Manager of Laurel Mercantile

Alyson is awesome. She was immediately welcoming and makes you feel at home. She gave recommendations for places to eat ( gf in small towns can be a challenge ) and greeted us like an old friend every time we saw her.  If I didn’t live 1,000 miles away I would probably follow her around her until she agreed to be best friends or called the police, lol. Just kidding, I usually hide in my own house most days but if I did venture out to talk to someone Alyson would be at the top of the list. From all I could tell, she works insanely hard to make sure the whole Laurel team have their bases covered and things go smoothly. She's just one of those people who makes you feel like part of the team from the instant you show up. 

Their are so many other amazing people doing big things in Laurel, too. Like the fantastic new Guild & Gentry, Laurel Leaf, and Lee’s Coffee & Tea. It really is like stepping into a great novel. Except the “characters” are real and so much better than could ever be made up. They partner with each other and work together. It seems that they all have a quiet understanding that doing so is how they’ll all help to give Laurel the comeback that it deserves. The main thing I experienced with all of them is that they are inclusive. They want everyone to join in and work together. They get people excited to take on new projects and challenges. At the end, I think that's one of the more important things to remember. We're all just same. We dream, live our daily lives, and fight to have those dreams come true. Working together makes those dreams a lot closer to reality than trying to go it alone. So get out there and collaborate. We're not each other's competition or source of entertainment. We are each other's greatest allies if we put in the hard work and allow it to be so.

We absolutely love our own little home town in New York. But now, there is a special spot  dedicated to Laurel in our hearts as well. 

 

 

Weekend Adventure: Lamberton Conservatory

Let me start this post by saying that admission for this place is the best $3 I've ever spent. 

After winter storm Stella brought her wrath down on Rochester everyone has been pretty cooped up for the better part of a week. I needed some warm air, sun, and flowers to keep me going. Short of a plane ticket south, this is the best way I could think to spend my morning. Besides, I figured that a bunch of you North-Easterners were probably feeling the same way. I've snapped some photos to share with this post in hopes of brightening everyone up a bit! For my southern friends, we are envious. Also, I bet at least half of us are booking flights to come visit you right now. We apologize in advance for the tourist mayhem this causes. We're cold and crazy. Please forgive us.

 I found this image on the Lamberton Conservatory website. Look at all those fancy clothes!

I found this image on the Lamberton Conservatory website. Look at all those fancy clothes!

Lamberton Conservatory was built in 1911 in homage to Alexander B. Lamberton by his relatives. Lamberton was the President of the Parks Board from 1902 - 1915. The addition of the conservatory during his presidency further boosted Highland Park's already nationally renown horticulture status. It also gives me a warm and cozy place to be with nature in the dead of Rochester's winter. So thank you for that, too Mr. Lamberton. 

I had never been to the Conservatory before today. Living so much closer to downtown makes amazing places like this so much more accessible during day-to-day life. I'm quite happy to be close to it. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived, but I wasn't disappointed. 

It might sound crazy, but being close to living plants and nature makes me calmer, happier and an overall better human. There is something intangible but incredibly good for the soul near nature. I've felt stressed out and disconnected since the weather got bad this week. Sitting in the conservatory gardens while listening to the waterfalls and watching the quail wobble around the cobblestone paths totally cured me of those feelings. Leaving, I felt like I could breath again for the first time in awhile. It didn't even phase me that I was walking past giant snow banks on my way back to the car. I was lighter and I was happy. 

Believe it or not, there is science to back up the feeling of "peace" and "wholeness" I felt after spending time in the garden. There are many studies that have shown that gardening and spending time in nature can significantly improve your physical and mental well-being. From Alzheimer's and depression, to heart disease and cancer, there are correlations between time spent near nature and risk reduction. So, for those of you who are close to Rochester and dreaming of spring, I highly suggest grabbing three dollars and heading over to the Lamberton Conservatory at Highland Park this weekend. It is beautiful, peaceful, and good for you! Not bad for only 12 quarters! Tell Lucky, the wonderful and rather pampered queen duck that I say hi. 

 This is Lucky the Duck. She is the self-proclaimed Queen of Lamberton Conservatory. She pushed my leg out of the way. It was impeding her preferred route to the pond. She's fabulous... and knows it. 

This is Lucky the Duck. She is the self-proclaimed Queen of Lamberton Conservatory. She pushed my leg out of the way. It was impeding her preferred route to the pond. She's fabulous... and knows it. 

For more information about hours and directions: http://www2.monroecounty.gov/parks-conservatory

Weekend Adventure: The Eastman Museum

There is no doubt that the history of George Eastman and the Kodak Company are deeply engrained in Rochester. Ghosts of its former glory are scattered throughout the city if you take a second to look for them. Nowhere is that more evident than the Eastman Kodak Museum. Built at the estate of George Eastman, it is a tribute and continued educational effort in honor of the ground-breaking life's work of Eastman himself. 

 Exterior of Main Home

Driving down East Ave in Rochester is always a treat for me. No matter how many times I slowly creep down the street the beautiful architecture and giant estate homes draw me in. There is so much history and you can just feel it in every hand-carved arch and hand-laid brick. I've been meaning to visit the Eastman Museum for years. Driving by on my way to other places, I would make a mental note to stop. Finally, when I saw the Dutch Connection event coming to a close this weekend it was the final push to get me there. 

Each year from fall to early spring, George Eastman would fill his estate with various varieties of dutch flowers rotating them as the winter progressed into spring. The Dutch Connection event recreates his annual indoor flower garden from his original 100 year old order. Unfortunately, almost all of the species from his original list are now extinct. They've been replaced with varieties of tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and amaryllis bulbs; freesia corms; and clivia, begonia, primrose, and azalea. I can imagine it was his way of bringing life into the dark and sometimes long Rochester winters. I certainly felt cheerier after spending time amongst the tulips. There is so much beauty to this idea. I truly believe that having living plants around your home are good for the soul.

 The potent and intoxicating smell of the blooms hit our noses the second we started down the main corridor into the Eastman estate from the museum entrance. It smelled like spring and it was wonderful. It was almost as if two worlds were combining down the long stretch of hallway. The natural world of fragrant floral blooms and the ritzy upper-class world that a poor boy from Waterville, NY had built for himself.

What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are. - George Eastman

Although the flowers themselves were beautiful, the entire estate was just as noteworthy and inspiring. Each tiny little detail was deliberate and crafted. The rooms transported me back in time. The architecture, textiles, wallpaper, carvings, and antique furnishings set the stage for life 100 years ago. They're also an amazing inspiration to pull into my ceramic work. 

It is funny to say, but I have some SERIOUS bathroom envy after visiting this amazing home. I also have a lot more inspiration for my own personal master suite face-lift that will eventually happen. 

Apart from the actual home, There are multiple gallery spaces within the attached museum full of vintage photo equipment, sensational remnants of the past, and a greater explanation and understanding for the craft and dedication of Eastman.

In the end, George Eastman donated more than $100 million to educational and arts institutions, public parks, hospitals, dental clinics, and charitable organizations around the world. He was a strong advocate for arts education as well as healthcare. He knew that if public appreciation for the arts continued alongside medical advancement that his company would continue long after his death and the entire Rochester community would benefit. At it's peak Eastman - Kodak employed 145,300 people. The peak for Rochester employment was in 1982 with a payroll of 60,400. Knowing how history has played out since is a little bitter-sweet but I think that it is safe to say his impact has certainly far surpassed his death.