Guiding Thoughts

I made this graphic a few years back and it serves as guiding principles to what my business, Gather, represents. These are the things that I think are important:

  • Shop Local: Neighborhood mom & pop shops used to be the norm. There is something amazing about knowing the person behind the counter and them knowing the community that you live in. Their product assortment reflects local trends and buying patterns versus what someone forecasts from afar as a national perspective. The goods local shops stock and sell tell a lot about your neighbors and the community you actually live in and their tastes and values – that’s fascinating. When you support your local businesses you are creating dynamic neighborhoods which help raise the quality of life across the board. Thriving shops create thriving communities. Also, shop owners are the unseen/under praised cog in an important economic wheel, they need your shopping dollars to stay afloat and pay their grocery and mortgage bills. They can’t do it without you. Lastly the dollars you spend at your local shops goes back to your local government and infrastructure and community so you are investing in where you live.
  • Support Local Makers: Many of the same things above are true here. Your neighbors are talented, oftentimes making high quality goods for less than the labor hours they are charging. You can find more unique gifts that enrich the lives of the recipient and the maker by purchasing locally made goods. You are also enabling and encouraging someone’s dream and that’s pretty amazing.
  • Inspire & Create Community: This is a big one for me. I do believe in the “be the change you wish to see in the world” mentality and for me spotlighting and showing others the incredible, not-yet-seen or less talked about facets of the people & spaces around me is my passion. Spotlighting others so that they can then become more successful and then helping them find other like-minded individuals and connect them to others, is a privilege and a natural extension of who I am.
  • Work With Your Hands: There is something so deeply cathartic and fulfilling in working with your hands, something that, as many of us head toward lives that are dominated by technology, often gets neglected. I believe it is good for our souls and mind to use our hands to create things, whether that is food, stories, art, flower arrangements, fixing things and on and on. Our bodies were meant to be used and when you start using your hands more your mind becomes soothed as well.
  • Never Stop Learning: There are so many cool things in the world, from researching a type of furniture to a new skill, learning makes others more compassionate towards others and also just interesting (and interested) people.
  • Love Your Neighbors: I believe strongly in being kind to everyone, to choosing to include and listen to others and their struggles and triumphs. It’s easy to stay in our own lanes and heads, but when we love and reach out toward our neighbors incredible community is created. This one goes in tandem with the above as many of the other points do.
  • Elevate the Everyday: This is about appreciating what-is, and the simplicity and grace of our everyday lives. There is so much beauty surrounding us, how can we make the lens through which we see the world be more positive, hopeful and beautiful? It’s not about making magic out of thin air or being overly and impractically optimistic, it is about recognizing that diamonds come from coal and seeing the beauty in the life that you have and the world that you live in, it’s about creating and living a beautiful life, wherever you are and with whatever you have and striving to maintain that perspective.

How about you? Are you a business that has guiding principles? Do you have any as an individual? What are they and why?

Port of Raleigh – Modern Home & Design Store in Raleigh

I first met Ana Maria Munoz at my Gather shop in downtown Cary three or four years ago. I was behind the counter slinging coffee and she was a customer, it was Small Business Saturday and she carried one of the totes that we were handing out free in honor of the event. And while Ana Maria was warm and engaging, the thing I noticed most about her was her sense of personal style. She had an “otherness” about her wardrobe that didn’t feel like it was native to the area. It felt more European and urban than things I was used to seeing around here – in a good way.

Flash forward to now and Ana Maria is just about to celebrate the second anniversary of her own store, Port of Raleigh in downtown Raleigh. This Saturday too is Small Business Saturday so it seems fitting to post about her shop now, though I’ve been wanting to do so for a long time. The thing that sets her shop apart is the same thing that I noticed with her wardrobe, it is impeccably curated with a modern, European/traveled flair that is literally unlike anything in the Triangle area.

Located in a new construction building in downtown Raleigh with big glass windows, pops of her signature industrial yellow on the walls, and polished concrete floors, Port of Raleigh is steps away from Poole’s (the best mac and cheese you’ll ever try) and the convention center. Inside you’ll find modern home goods, most of which are imported, think Japanese paper products and Danish metal accessories, but also goods from right here. She fosters and sells the work of a local furniture design company Flitch Furniture, and regularly features the work of local makers and NC State design school students in her First Friday events, all within the lens of modern home goods.

Recently her shop was featured on the very popular design blog, designmilk, and rightfully so. I have been fortunate to travel abroad to many countries as well as cities around the U.S. and my favorite pastime is exploring the shops. I am fascinated by how others merchandise their goods, the products they feature, the trends and patterns, the colors and layout of the shop. It is an absolute passion, nay obsession, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Ana Maria’s point of view is dictated by having lived in multiple countries herself and also having been well traveled and that perspective comes through in her merchandise mix and is her brand’s “north star”. In my opinion, Port of Raleigh is just as good as the best that I have seen, that it is here in the Triangle, NC area portends good things for this region. Lucky as that makes us, if we are even luckier she will find a way to share her perspective on apparel and fashion as well in the future – but understanding shop ownership the way I do, that is a big ask and a lot of pressure for an already overworked shop owner. 😉

You can shop in person at Port of Raleigh Wed-Sat from 11am-7pm& Sun 12pm-5pm, at her online shop, and you can follow her on instagram. Expect to see her adorable daughter Hazel sweeping the front entry, her husband, towering above them both, adjusting window displays and of course Ana Maria and her merchandise picks.

Port of Raleigh is located at 416 S McDowell Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.

Photography by Michelle Smith for Gather Goods Co.

Apple-Double Cherry Pie Recipe & Gratitude

My family’s Thanksgiving traditions are very Rockwellian. We gather at my parent’s house with lots of family, prepare foods together from scratch (though my Mom & Grandmother typically did the lion’s share of the work) and sit at the formal dining table that is pre-set with my Mom’s table setting handiwork that she prepared weeks in advance: foraged branches, seasonal decor, candles, fine china. Of course, there’s always a touch of a mother-daughter meltdown a la Lady Bird in there too. 😉

My Grandmother passed away last year and this will be the first without her there. She was always in charge of the apple pie, a perfectly sweet concoction in an of-course handmade crust. Though she really fostered my love of cooking by making lots of things, this became her of-late specialty. Even as her health was failing, as she was getting shots in her damaged eyes weekly, as her rheumatoid arthritis was flaring, and a myriad of other things, she would putter around in the kitchen making her apple pie and cleaning the dishes.

Apple-Double Cherry Pie Recipe | Gather Goods by Michelle Smith

Obviously, my Grandmother meant a lot to me and had a big impact on my own perspectives. Namely, despite my own challenges and tribulations, I find it more important to stay focused on others and their challenges versus my own, and on continuing to pursue the things that I love despite obstacles, these are a few of the more significant things that I learned from her.

That said, I have been in a deep retreat mode for awhile ever since I broke my wrist, one year ago, yesterday. I have actually pulled back from many things in an effort to regroup and heal from intense burnout. I could see it coming for a few years prior when my head and my heart were in direct stalemate with each other but I chose to keep powering through. When you own a business oftentimes there is a direct correlation between how much work you put forth and how much success you see. It took me breaking my wrist quite badly in two places (the bone actually punctured and went totally through my muscles and nerves like a die-punch – gross) and a resulting medical diagnosis of permanent chronic pain and nerve damage to actually slow me down to a stop. But the trauma of the diagnosis isn’t the story, it’s the leaning in to myself that is. It’s in being true to oneself, it’s in reclaiming and finding yourself and taking the time needed to do that.

Apple-Double Cherry Pie Recipe | Gather Goods by Michelle Smith

And it has taken longer than I expected but I have been feeling a great shift like an iceberg that is slowly melting. And as that iceberg melts I start to rediscover myself again, parts that have been frozen for awhile: my love of cooking, of gardening, of seeking higher truths. All small things, but all very big things to me. I have, as of yet, not taken any pictures with my “real” camera since the wrist break. For half-a-year it was too heavy for me to lift or support, or even hold because of the bend it required in my wrist and then for the other half I was moving into a new home. Not taking pictures with my “real” camera is a big thing for me since I have had a camera in hand for as long as I can remember and live to document everything around me. I suppose now that everyone has a phone camera, the larger becomes more obsolete – but for me it is an extension of myself. I of course never stopped taking photos on my camera phone, thank goodness.

Recently, on a lazy Sunday I made an apple cherry pie recipe that I had found in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens. I was out of butter so used lard instead (yes, my husband keeps frozen lard on hand) and I even went so far as to make a lattice pattern on it. As the pie was being prepared, the light in the kitchen was perfect and I recognized it as a photo moment. I improvised with my camera phone (my real camera having run out of charge long ago) and starting shooting like I did before, when I had time, when I wasn’t preoccupied with shop ownership.

Apple-Double Cherry Pie Recipe | Gather Goods by Michelle Smith

This Thanksgiving I will be making my own version of apple pie in honor of my Grandmother, this one that is a little tart and a little sweet and filled with apples and cherries and an amazing crust, similar to hers, but different. Inspired by her but with my stamp on it, and my daughter will be helping me make it. I am so thankful for lazy Sunday’s, for slowing down, for having a phone with a camera on it, for reclaiming old things, and for essentially being the same, despite great shifts.

Apple-Double Cherry Pie Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
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Ingredients
  • 2 cups frozen pitted tart cherries
  • 2 cups frozen pitted dark sweet cherries
  • Pie Crust recipe (see below)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups thinly sliced, peeled baking apples
  • milk
  • sugar
Instructions
  1. Thaw cherries, overnight or in a microwave. Preheat oven to 450. Drain cherries saving ¼ cup of the juice. Make your pie crust: on a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough into a 12-inch circle with a rolling pin. Line a 9-inch pie plate with your round pastry circle.
  2. Combine sugar, cornstarch and cayenne in an extra large bowl. Add apples, cherries and reserved juice, tossing gently to coat. Fill pie pastry with the mixture of fruit. Trim the pastry 1 inch beyond the pie plate rim and fold the pastry back over the rim.
  3. Roll out the reserved half of the pastry to about ⅛" thick. Cut into long strips if you want to make a woven lattice pattern. Weave the dough strips so that they make a basket weave type pattern, up and down and over and under each other. If you want to decorate the edges of the pie you can use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Place a baking sheet lined with foil below the pie in the oven to catch any spills.
  4. Bake, uncovered for fifteen minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes up to an hour and 30 minutes or unitl the pie filling is bubbly and pastry is golden but not brown. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

The pie crust recipe I used was this one, by Ina Garten for Food Network, only I substituted lard for butter – and trust me it’s worth it. 😉

The Apple-Double Cherry Pie recipe came from Better Homes & Gardens

Meditations on Stillness & Hope

There are times when the world feels like a hard-edged place and it is challenging to catch your breath and reflect and absorb it all. I feel like right now we are living in such a time. And while I think there are some people who are bolstered by this type of environment, to be an activist, to create change, to shout from the rooftops that the world is not right and justice needs to be served, for me, and I sense many others, I really thrive in a place of less reaction and more contemplation.

Sunset

I have taken to wearing the same simple outfit everyday: jeans, a v-neck t-shirt, no makeup for the past year or two. It is only recently that I’ve recognized that this is my armour. That the predictability, the comfort, the autonomy of such clothing choices make me feel secure and more able to face the world that we live in currently. So I am a turtle tucking my head deep into my shell to reflect intensely on my core values, to realign them and make sure they are true, to make sure they are not being drowned out by all the other noise surrounding us and my clothes help with that as obscure as that seems.

Wooden Bench in Garden

It is hard to not react and to find the time to meditate deeply when the world seems to be spinning faster and in an ever more off-kilter direction. It is jarring to slow down and pause because spinning can feel like a natural rhythm once you’ve been doing it for awhile. To stop, to step off a spinning carousel, onto solid ground, still feels wobbly for awhile. We get used to the pace we allow ourselves, to the amount of content we absorb, to the expectations we and others set on ourselves to be “productive”. And we live in a culture where “hustle” is often lauded and feels like the mantra of the moment.

Sunset over Railroad Tracks

I am ever so slowly getting used to a less fast pace where solid and not spinning ground feels comfortable but I find myself trying to fight it still – I am so used to spinning these past few years yet also deeply craving a break, a pause, a reprieve. I prefer the long, quiet in-between spaces, the time to create without expectation, but it really does take awhile to remember that this is where the good stuff lies. That out of stillness come the breakthroughs and the epiphanies that can’t be scheduled and fit into preordained time frames or occurrences. Overall, I respect the seasonality of life, and I have faith in its profoundly recurring nature even if my build, then retreat, then torture, then contemplate method is predictable.

Pile of Autumn Leaves

I have been meditating on stillness, on subtlety, on optimism, on grace overall in a world whose own values seem muddied. I recently listened to a podcast with writer Junot Diaz. He was talking about an essay he wrote called “Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Hearing him describe the philosophies and perspective that went into his piece, was moving and a point of view that I wish I heard more often. He said a lot of powerful things but this statement really resonated with me: “Society gives us a lot of prompts and a lot of encouragements to be reactive, emotionally reactive. In this, we have received tremendous tutelage. So the ability to do what our societies seem incapable and unwilling to do is important. It’s incumbent upon us to be reflective, to be complex, to be subtle, to be nuanced, to take our time in societies which are none of these things and which encourage none of these things…”

Yes, yes to all of this, yes.

Leanne Ford Interiors

Leanne Ford, Domino Magazine | Gather Goods Co

I had not been familiar with Leanne Ford before seeing this recent feature in Domino Magazine. Apparently she has a new HGTV show and her philosophy is to paint everything white, one I can get behind. We don’t get cable but my daughter discovered The Property Brothers while at my parent’s house and now we have a Sunday ritual of watching an HGTV show from our computer and making homemade pizza. She wants to go into business together when she grows up and call ourselves “The Property Sisters”, let’s see how long she thinks that idea is cool. 😉

Leanne Ford, Domino Magazine | Gather Goods Co

I’m an avid interior design lover. Growing up my mom studied interior design and used our home as her playground. Though I was never a fan of her aesthetic it allowed me to imagine what I would instead do myself and I remember being very struck by pieces of furniture we had in the house and wallpaper too. Her style veered more toward the decorative and I would always imagine paring down to the more essential and and less saturated. I would say that is still my aesthetic to this day.

Leanne Ford, Domino Magazine | Gather Goods Co

So when I happened upon these spaces that Leanne has designed with lots of white, warm wood and pops of black I found them especially appealing. I can’t wait to dig into her aesthetic and catch her program one weekend night soon.

Leanne Ford, Domino Magazine | Gather Goods Co

Photographs by Nicole Franzen for Domino Magazine. Below are more images of her work from her website:

Curb Appeal, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Collected Housewares, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Collected Housewares, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Relaxed Living Room, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Old Locker Storage, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Eclectic Dining Room, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Relaxed Living Room, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co Collected Items, Leanne Ford | Gather Goods Co

Rose & Caro / House of Plants

I am always on the hunt for sources of inspiration that combine plants and interior design and highlight both through beautiful photographs. Recently I happened upon the book House of Plants, which you can find in the Gather Goods shop here. The book was written by two girls who run a company called Ro Co in North London.

I love that the interiors showcased in the book are both clean and collected, a look that is harder than it seems to achieve. This entryway storage shelf shown here embodies a feeling of controlled clutter, which I feel like is the most many of us can hope for in our homes. I’m lucky to see a semi uncluttered house maybe once a week with a tween in the house who likes to make her own collections out of everything she picks up.

Ro & Co embraces air plants, terrariums and all things green and makes plant crafts and displays in their conservatory/studio.

 

The book is dotted with sweet illustrations like this one that was in the front and back end papers of the book.

Flower Crowns, House of Plants | Gather Goods Co

And how pretty are these flower crowns?