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?

The Women’s March

Women's March | Gather Goods Co
This past Saturday like millions of other women I participated in the Women’s March alongside my husband, my daughter, some friends and their young daughters. I marched here in Raleigh (a sister march to the larger one in Washington DC and the thousands of others happening around the world) and the crowd here in Raleigh was about 20,000 strong. It was the largest protest in American history and 1 in 100 Americans participated in some way. I walked in solidarity and it was affirming, powerful and beautiful. I may not have agreed with everyone around me 100%, but that is the point, that I walked alongside those who feel morally challenged in some way, like myself, and support that they have the right to be heard.

Women's March | Gather Goods Co

I was hesitant to go at first because I don’t like crowds and I was worried about counter protests. I thought ‘I have other ways of making my voice heard that don’t involve picketing’. Living here in the capital city of North Carolina we have been in the midst of a contentious political climate for the past few years. I am sure you have heard of the bathroom bill, not to mention many other challenging policies that have limited public schools among other things. I have watched dozens of teachers leave my daughter’s elementary school because classroom size limits were lifted causing already stretched resources and underpaid teachers to just move on to more supportive opportunities.

I’ve watched as many of my friends protested and picketed and created noise to protest, and thought ‘I don’t agree with these policies, but protesting is intense’. Then, as if all the other frustrating things weren’t enough, the then voted out (in a very tight race) Governor called secret midnight sessions to strip the incoming Governor of his power to make change and citizens the power to vote more fairly through redistricting, despite the general public having voted for this change. I know that that is somewhat typical but the values are atypical and I don’t share them. The politics obviously go much deeper than just this paragraph touches on but it feels like the ushering in of something much larger and more disturbing for democracy. It feels like a pivotal time, that just sitting idly by and voting for change isn’t enough and it took seeing this at a local level to recognize the need on a national level.

Women's March | Gather Goods Co

The very founding of our country is based on the right to peacefully express yourself. I believe it is our country’s duty and our duty as humans to walk beside others whose views may or may not be the same but accepting that they have rights and their own unique set of challenges. Brene Brown, whose words move me greatly had a great piece that you can see on her facebook page about her thoughts on the march. She, like me, is an introvert who was so moved to action she couldn’t not participate. She also shared this quote by Theodore Roosevelt “To stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public” meaning if we disagree with certain policies or values, it is our duty to make them known, especially if there is significant resistance to them. To those that felt resistance to the march, I hear you as well. I respectfully disagree that this was a negative blight or stain on our country more so than the tenor of the new administration. It is not at all about “an eye for an eye” instead an opposition to the priority and presentation of the values being ushered in.

Women's March | Gather Goods Co
I was so moved by the many expressions of love and encouragement. Here’s to a more positive and supportive environment and to being the change that you wish to see in the world.

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe

Soft Pretzel Recipe | Gather Goods Co

Today in Raleigh the weather is hovering around 65 degrees. This past weekend we were snowed in and school was cancelled for many days for my daughter. I’ve lived here in North Carolina for sixteen years now and the weather still surprises me. Growing up in Northern Virginia when it snowed it was more than just a dusting and you went to school and drove unless there were more than a few inches on the ground. Regardless, because it happens so rarely here it becomes an event and it’s fun to hunker down and treat it as the special occasion that it is.

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe | Gather Goods Co

In our house when we don’t have projects going on (and the busy holiday season has passed as well as peppermint bark production) we usually spend our spare time cooking. Many recipes are too time consuming to create on busy weeknights so weekends and snow days are perfect for them. So this weekend, as the snowflakes were falling, my husband got the urge to make homemade pretzels. They are really easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. We made both traditional shaped pretzels and also shaped them into rolls. My brother works in the restaurant industry and at one of the restaurants where he worked they served hot pretzel rolls and they were mind blowing. The rolls make delicious sandwiches when they are heated up with some ham and melted cheese as well.

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe | Gather Goods Co

We use Alton Brown’s recipe from the Food Network:

Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Ingredients
  • 1½ cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4½ cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • ⅔ cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt
Instructions
  1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  5. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Do you have a go-to recipe or family tradition when you are snowed in?

New Shirts in the Shop

Gather Goods Co Flower & Hands Shirt

A few years ago I had illustrator Mikaela of The Hungry Fox create a graphic for Gather to compliment our existing logo. I love the hands embracing and “gathering” plants. And, ever since I was a girl I’ve drawn floral and plant doodles on everything in a similar style. We’ve just printed the illustration onto these super pretty, very soft, heather t-shirts. All of us at the shop immediately claimed one for ourselves. The color is very pretty. You can find it online here or at the shop.

North Carolina Pullover | Gather Goods Co

I created this North Carolina graphic many moons ago when hand lettering was just reemerging and starting to take off as a trend. Since then, this design has become a staple in my line and has graced postcards and T-shirts and now this loose and comfy charcoal gray pullover.

North Carolina Pullover | Gather Goods Co

And isn’t Charity being the greatest sport by modeling for me? Sometimes I wonder how my employees perceive me as a boss. It is an honor to mentor, challenge and work alongside the lovely women that work for me and watch them grow and evolve. Who knows what ridiculous thing I was saying, also, this was back when I had full functionality of both of my hands, versus now, which one arm in a sling and recovering from a wrist break.

Gather Tee | Gather Goods Co

We also have Gather T-shirts if you want to wear your love for the shop literally on your sleeves.

Roar Feminist Shirt | Gather Goods Co

We have these new “Roar” t-shirts which are a subtle or not so subtle nod to feminism in our signature classic and understated style. We think they’re pretty punk rock. A portion of the proceeds from each sale of these shirts goes to The Global Fund for Women.

gathergoods_nc_landofthepines_sweatshirt-1_large gathergoods_raleigh_sweatshirt-1_large
And lastly, we have our popular “Land of the Pines” sweatshirt and “Raleigh” hoodie that I introduced to the shop last year. All of our apparel is very cozy and can be dressed up or dressed down depending on your mood. These are holiday favorites and make great gifts. I only have so much inventory of these in stock before the holidays roll around so if you had your eye on one you should snag them now if you’re planning on giving them as a present.