Finding Comfort in Children’s Graphic Novels of Quiet Adventure. For Adults, Teens and Kids Alike

Cari is one of the studio tenants at Gather. She has an MFA in poetry and teaches comic book classes at NC State as well as in her studio office at Gather through her business Bee Loud Comic Studio. Though she really loves doing this work in person, and has created special accommodations to make sure the experience is super cozy and comfortable for people of all stripes (she has a passion for helping those on the spectrum), she is currently doing remote classes until we can be back to the space.

At Gather, she has created a little library outside her office door where she leaves out graphic novels to lend out to readers. My daughter has benefited from this as well as countless others. I asked her to recommend some comforting choices for people to check out at home. Here is her response:

“Michelle recently asked me to recommend a few graphic novels that we can find comfort in during our current time. I thought this was a great idea, and there are so many amazing books! And, honestly, so many different ways to find comfort. 

Books directed at children are in some ways predictable: there won’t be a surprise amount of violence, but they are, also like children themselves, unpredictable in their boundless imagination, sense of wonder, penchant for wild adventure and curiosity in the face of beauty. 

These books are balm for uncertainty. They are reminders of community, family, friendship, and that part of your heart that can always grow to hold more love. In this time where we are all becoming more aware of neighbors, strangers, even our friends, our relatives, and their lives, these stories grow even more warm, delightful, and relevant. 

Anything and Everything by Katie O’Neill @strangelykatie : Aquicorn Cove, The Tea Dragon Festival Series.  

The stories are all inclusive, featuring a wide cast of characters representing and normalizing differences in race, physical abilities, and LGBTQ+ families. I cannot think of another author of gentle adventures for all ages that includes casual depictions of wheelchair use and sign-language. I love these books. I feel seen reading these books. I can imagine myself as a character in these pages, which is a rare comfort itself.

Want some more gentle adventures? Try Hilda, Sea Sirens, Anne of Green Gables, The Prince and the Dressmaker.


Moomin has been a phenomenon in the Scandinavian countries for decades, but was only recently translated into English. There are parks dedicated to the characters, and toys, and lines of home goods. There is good reason for all this love. These characters are mischievous, but also cozy, kind and human. They are the embodiment of Hygge (hoo-gah, the mood of being cozy), and perfect imperfection. Reading this collection of comic strips, you’ll laugh and you’ll sigh, but you’ll also find yourself asking big questions of philosophy and life.  

Want some more thoughtful laughs from comic strips? Try Pippi Longstocking: The Strongest in the World, Anna and Frogga: Completely Bubu, Calvin and Hobbes. 

This Was Our Pact 

Friendship is a journey, not an object one owns, and this book reminds me of all the journeys with all the friends I’ve grown alongside over the years. This adventurous book that starts with young friends riding bikes is filled with beautifully illustrated night skies, gorgeous water, fish made of stars, unexpected reflections, and of course, talking bears. The story is at once fanciful and realistic, and the journey unfolds like a daydream – a daydream I find myself revisiting over and over again with time.

Want more fantastical journeys? Try Poppy and the Lost Lagoon, Pilu of the Woods, Amulet.

On Photography

I am a compulsive photo documentarian, the extent to which I rarely show on here. If you know me in real life though, then you know that it’s an intrinsic part of who I am, and a big part of how I see and interpret the world around me. I have been taking photographs like this since I was a kid.

I remember finding the photography books in the library across the street from my house and the images were so striking, so moving. I would photocopy these images and tack them to my own wall – documentary style black and white pictures of street scenes and people. In fashion magazines it was the portraiture that I was drawn to.

I would take my film to be developed at the second floor shop down the street and like magic I would wait and see what came of those shots. I learned about different types of film processing. My first job was at a one-hour photo shop. I would see professional photographers and think what a magical and illusive job that must be. I would drive into the countryside and take pictures of fields and tractors and textures. I would stick my lens in the face of everyone I knew.

Funny enough, many of my friends went to school for photography, one even used a picture that I had taken on his camera in his portfolio. I wasn’t sure how this made me feel. Anyway, I never got the technical learning skills. Instead of going to school for photography, I went for graphic and web design because it felt more practical, it felt like something I could get a job in. It is ironic that I work as a photo stylist and do so much photography now considering that but I think it is that same internal flame that never went out and the desire to keep doing it, practicing it, and just an innate need to photograph that took me from here to there. I am still learning and refining everyday. It never gets old.

Everyday I am taking photos, when I see the light just so, or an expression on a person’s face, or an environment that moves me I take a picture and when on the rare occasion that I don’t have a camera on me, I feel regretful that I’ve missed that moment and instinctively bring my hands up to “frame the shot”, a little salute to what could be. This is a long essay to say that maybe I will share more here, and I’ve probably said it before but the sheer quantity is staggering and I have always struggled with the idea of things not having a purpose, for frivolity or marks or observation that is shown to others without clear intent. I also take a lot of personal shots of people and friends and family and those feel private but beautiful. But, I also recognize that by hoarding many of these images it’s not really inspiring anyone else but myself. So I’ll try to share more here for no other purpose than to possibly inspire, to possibly offer up my point of view, to just “put it out there”, because really, why not?

My New Favorite Taco Recipe, and Bonus! It’s Vegan

I have found my new favorite taco recipe. It’s super simple and tastes amazing. It also happens to be vegan. I first spotted this recipe on Pinterest and when we had some cauliflower from our weekly farm delivery I decided to give it a try. I did a few things differently than the original recipe and my version is below.

For instance, I added in a bag of roasted corn from Trader Joe’s that I had in the freezer and swapped out black beans for kidney beans because it is what we had in the pantry. I also opted not to char my tortillas and used lemon instead of lime because that is what we had on hand. If you’d like to see the original recipe, you can find it here.

Roasted Cauliflower, Sweet Potato and Corn Tacos


  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 bag of frozen corn
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprikia
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • corn tortillas
  • cilantro for garnish

Chipotle Lime Crema

  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprkia
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Mashed Avocado

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Combine your cauliflower florets and diced sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Swirl in the olive oil and season with chili powder, cumin, paprkia, garlic powder, oregano and salt. Squeeze in lemon juice (or lime if you have it) on top of it. Combine. Then add the veggies to your baking sheet arranged in a single layer.
  • Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring halfway. After that, add the kindney beans to the pan and add a little more salt. Cook for 5 additional minutes, then take out of oven and set aside.
  • Make the crema: add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and combine. Set aside.
  • Mash your avocado with the lemon juice and salt.
  • Put a base layer of the mashed avocado on your tortilla, followed by the roasted veggies and then top with the cashew lime crema. Garnish with some cilantro on top.

The next time that I make this recipe (which I think will become a weekly staple – it’s that good!) I will triple it so that I can make the filling ahead of time and freeze it. It would make a perfect grab and go meal. I don’t know about you but despite the fact that I love to cook, I can be a lazy eater. These pre-made are a perfect solution, and so healthy.

This was also my first time using a cream made from nuts versus dairy (our attempt at trying a month of vegan got stalled – ha!) and it was amazing. I will definitely be using this method again and experimenting with other things like maybe a cupcake frosting? Anyway, I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

A Simple Way to Press Flowers

Last summer I happened upon a simple and fast way to press flowers. Since pansies are on their way out for the season, I decided to preserve a few as dried flowers for future projects. You can of course press them in a book and wait over time for them to flatten, or you can also use a preservative called silica gel. Here’s an easy way for you to dry them with what you have on hand at home:

  • First, you should pick them in the morning when they are at their plumpest and prettiest because they haven’t been zapped of moisture throughout the day as the sun gets brighter.
  • Then cut off the stem at the base of the flower so it sits flat.
  • After that take two sheets of paper towels and arrange the flowers laying face up between them.
  • Then, place the paper towel sheets (with flowers in between them) on top of a plate. The moisture from the flowers will leach out onto the paper towels and you are creating a place for that moisture to be absorbed.
  • After you have done this you are going to want to stack another plate on top of the other plate with the paper towels with flowers in them in between.
  • Lastly, put another heavier bowl on top of this stack and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds depending on your microwave. Microwaves differ but you can periodically check to see how it is doing.
  • Once you are done you’ll have a flat (though smaller) pressed flower that you have preserved which you can use for new art creations.

What do you think, will you try this technique out at home? How would you use the flowers once they are preserved? You can of course use this technique for any flower or foliage. If you do experiment with this method, I’d love to see the results!

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

Checking in with Carley Summers & Her Cozy Home

Last fall I met Carley Summers on a panel at Highpoint Market where we were both speaking about styling and photography tips. Carley travels the world photographing homes for clients but is based in Greenville, North Carolina. She’s created a cozy home that she photographs beautifully. I recently touched based and asked her to briefly answer a few questions on what she is up to currently and how she creates a cozy home.

What makes a cozy home: Making a home cozy includes layers, textures, and placement of things that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to mean big knitted blankets, and perfect comfy settings. 

How do you make your house a sanctuary: I create special sitting areas where the light in my home hits just right. It gives me a sense of peace and calm. 

How does living in rural North Carolina influence your work/perspective: Life is slower here, which I like! There is a way of life in eastern NC that lends itself to a design that is easy, but I enjoy bringing in my own influence of travel and design into it. 

What are things you are doing at home these days to nourish yourself: I am working on personal home projects, and searching for pieces for my clients as well! I am also taking time in the mornings to pray, and really search this time for my why and why there is such a huge pause in my life and the world around me. 

Do you have a schedule, are you sticking to it: Waking up at 8, having coffee, checking emails, then house work is keeping busy and on a schedule. Also, since I can’t work with my clients, and employees, I am setting up calls each day to keep things running in my business. 

What is on your schedule: There is a lot strategizing going on, and I am working on a personal project that needs a lot of attention, which helps! Also, virtual calls with my clients and touching base with their needs each day.

Do you have any book/tv/movie/podcast/music recommendations: Right now I am reading the book of Acts. It’s helping me realize all that I can do and serve others from the comfort of my own home. I am also watching A LOT of chopped, instead of pointless tv to inspire me with home meals. Also cleaning my home to French jazz music has become a little joy during the days. 

Images via Carley’s instagram account here,

Notes of Encouragement

For many of us, this time of enforced social distancing and quiet (or maybe less quiet with kids underfoot) time at home feels uncertain and overwhelming as we await what it means for our jobs, our bills, our food, our schools, the economy, ourselves, our loved ones, the world at large. Despite the fear, there are also SO many undercurrents of amazing things happening all around us, people working together to help one another. Things may feel uncertain right now but this too shall pass, it always does. It might be hard now and in the future but there are many, many, many people focused on helping. How inspiring that collectively we are sharing a common perspective? How many times has that ever happened before? How can we as individuals, as businesses, as organizations use this time for good? Here’s some art I created a few years ago that I intended to make into cards and prints but never did, it feels appropriate today.