I am partial to giving and sending food gifts both at the holidays but also year round. They are a great item to have on hand for a housewarming present, a simple thank you, a birthday, a coworker gift, a boss, a white elephant, it goes on and on. They are also nice to have on hand in case you forgot someone or something they can easily be plucked from the spot where you keep them and given in a pinch and hopefully the person receiving is none the wiser. 😉
If, like me, you have a large family that participates in gift exchanging every year this is a good way to save on costs but also to mix and match a present that everyone is sure to enjoy. Who doesn’t like snacks and delicious food? I prefer curating and finding items that are delicious, beautifully packaged and made from really high quality products from talented food makers and in the Gather Goods Co online shop I’ve done the work for you by carrying the best of what’s out there. None of these gifts feel like the typical food basket that you could find in the mall or from a mail in catalog.
Here, I’ve rounded up the food gifts that I stock in the Gather Goods Co online shop that are perfect for gifting in-person or mailing to loved ones farther away and that all taste incredible. Many of these food items come packaged in sets of 3 so they can be divided between recipients if you prefer or just sent directly as a full set if you know someone who really loves peanut butter for instance. Highly recommend the peanut butter by the way!
And of course my husband Ben makes his seasonal peppermint bark which I cannot recommend enough. He makes it from the end of October-January and it is hands-down a customer favorite and our best selling product by far year round even though we only sell it for a few short months. People love getting it, stocking it up in the freezer (if you can resist saving it) and giving it. This is a popular corporate gift too.
If you know someone who enjoys cooking and DIYing things, I also carry DIY cooking kits which are always fun to get and make, especially for a family or a young couple that is still interested in trying new recipes vs reheating Trader Joe’s food in the whirlwind of a busy life. 😉
If you are looking for larger quantities of any of the food products than what you see on the website, get in touch. I can make it happen and even curate a ready-made assorted gift box with many of these items if you would prefer.
And of course, you can always shop in-person at our downtown Cary space by appointment or on open shopping days and there happens to be one this Saturday October 15th from 11am-4pm. Gather Studios is located at 417 Kildaire Farm Road in downtown Cary, North Carolina.
Do you prefer to shop in person versus online? Well I have great news for you. I’ve been remerchandising the Gather Goods Co gift shop area in our coworking space in downtown Cary adding in all the new products that I’ve gotten in.
We will be open for you to shop in-person THIS SATURDAY September 24th from 11am-4pm as well as some additional upcoming dates. So mark your calendars and see you soon!
In-Person Shopping Days at Gather Goods Co in Downtown Cary:
This Saturday September 24, 11am-4pm
Saturday October 15, 11am-4pm
Saturday November 5, 11am-4pm
Saturday December 3, 11am-4pm
Gather Goods Co is located at 417 Kildaire Farm Road in downtown Cary, North Carolina. There is space for about 5 cars in the parking lot but the better bet is parking in the FREE parking deck adjacent to the new library and downtown Cary park and walking a block and a half to our space. That deck is located at 315 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, NC 27511. There is also free parking in the lot across the street at the Cary Arts Center and along Academy Street, Faculty Avenue and Park Street. Downtown Cary is extremely walkable and fun to peruse so make a day of it and I’ll be happy to pass along additional recommendations for nearby things to do while you’re here!
Ceramic mugs are one of those things I can just never get enough of. They are such a beautiful object and really balance the form and function concept well. I am always in awe that such a small, functional, everyday object can take on such variety in presentation and yet still at its core be essentially the same thing by the hundreds of thousands of makers who have made them over thousands of years, actually many more thousands than that since the first ones (without handles) were discovered in 10,000 B.C.!
I love these creamy stoneware mugs with their reactive glaze and rim that looks like a perfectly over toasted marshmallow in a fire pit. These are the mugs to bring out and fill to the brim with creamy frothed milk or whipped cream while you sit around with a blanket wrapped around you.
Next up are these elegant green fluted stoneware mugs that remind me of sitting in a European cafe and people watching. This mug is both dainty and solid at the same time. I’m a sucker for anything in shades of green blue and this glaze has that perfect sea green quality to it.
Summer is the time of the year when I sit back and enjoy the fruits of my prior months gardening labors of planting seeds and building up the beds and installing drip irrigation, of planting, of weeding and just let whatever happens, happen. Not only is it too hot to actively do anything but it is also the time when my daughter is home from school and the schedule in general is looser. With a puppy at home too, my schedule overall has been limited for awhile before that and so I put away my active sitting in front of the computer time and just be more present in the moment: cooking, reading, sitting with the dog, carpooling to whatever camp or activity my teen has, whatever is required in the day to day.
It is not glamorous, the weeds have certainly overtaken, but it is a conscious choice to focus on more simplicity, to allow this moment to be good enough, to just watch the bunnies in the yard as the multiply and eat the fruit from my trees, to pick the tomatoes I can before the squirrels get to them, to walk the dog, to be available when my daughter wants a listening ear, to be present in what is versus what could be achieved instead in regards to a productivity output and measurement. To allow what might look to others as visible neglect but instead a more conscious choice to focus on other things and give those things the space they need. We can’t do it all after all. If we choose everything, we choose nothing. Every action requires a sacrifice of something else. I am acutely aware of the privilege of being able to carve out a business where I can have this flexibility even if it feels difficult to manage my own needs at times with my child’s as well. This balancing act of self vs others is I know, the common parenting plight for everyone, regardless of circumstance.
I do greatly value this presence at this time in my daughter’s life though I also know it comes with a short timeframe, only a handful more years before she is off to college. This looming timeframe allows this liminal, lazy, challenging but quieter time to be more acceptable, even if it is hard to know I could be doing and accomplishing other things too. These challenging teenage years remind me of those early newborn years where life shifts and you just have to accept it, there is a tension, but also a beauty in how fragile it is.
One thing that I love doing to fill my days with more beauty and focus on the season I’m in is to create flower arrangements from the flowers that are blooming in my yard. Like my mother before me, I have a cabinet dedicated to table linens and vases and hosting supplies and I enjoy pulling out the right vase for the right arrangement, sometimes an old jam jar, sometimes something a little fancier.
In that spirit I wanted to highlight these beautiful colorful glass vases that I have recently added to the Gather Goods Co online shop. They are on the smaller side, meaning perfect for a few stems versus a larger arrangement but come in a variety of colors and shapes and are great to have on hand to make a table or just your entryway more beautiful as you walk through it each day on your way out the door.
I love howthese glass vases come in such unusual shapes and feel both retro and modern at the same time.
What are your days looking like these days? What are you choosing to fill them with and what are you letting go? What small acts of intention are bringing more presence and beauty to each of these choices you are making?
I recently came across this student artwork by Hayden M. Hall of Richmond, Virginia and thought it perfectly encapsulates the moment we are living in. You can see more on her instagram @connectionisnotsecure.
We are a family of homebodies who are perfectly content to stay home almost all the time reading, working in the garden, cooking, playing games. We live in a location where we can walk to almost everything and we really appreciate that. Still, we love to explore the larger world around us whether that is through nature walks or taking in new places that are less nearby. Now that we are 2/3rd’s fully vaccinated (my daughter is almost fully vaccinated herself), we are starting to embark on day-trips where we don’t necessarily have to spend the night but can still see new things. I had been wanting to check out a variety of gardens inWinston-Salem, NC, which is a little under two hours from us in the Raleigh, NC area so on a day that was overcast and temperate we jumped on the chance to take a daytrip/road trip.
Our first stop was the Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, NC a few miles outside of Winston-Salem. It is a garden that is still developing but already has a significant amount of plantings on their 7 acres of land located right in the downtown. The sidewalk leading into the garden is landscaped with an abundance of plants and the parking lot is surrounded by a wall of espaliered ginkgo trees which creates the effect of picture frames looking into the grounds.
I loved this combination of evergreen huecera and grasses in repurposed shipping pallets.
Next, we stopped for lunch in the Reynolda Village Shops & Gardens which is an enclave of shops that were once part of the estate of the R.J. Reynolds family. While there we got a hot, made to order doughnut from Dough Joe’s which was decorated like a cozy home with leather couches and perfectly karate chopped pillows (perhaps a nod to their name), gallery walls of vintage art and lots of pendants overhead and natural light streaming in from their windows. We just happened upon it and I think the best trips are the ones where you uncover naturally unique finds just through exploring the place and asking locals if you get the opportunity.
Because we were unaware at the time that the shops connected to the museum and grounds that we were planning to see later we got in our car and drove next to SECCA(The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art) which is just up the road. Next time, we will just walk from the shops (if we go there again for lunch) to the Reynolda gardens and museum that are all on the same property which is also part of the Wake Forest University campus. At SECCA we walked through a surrealist exhibit that mimicked being underwater alongside moveable swimming puppets.
Also at SECCA were a couple of Art-O-Mats. Art-O-Mat’s were started about thirty years ago by Winston-Salem native Clark Whittington who takes decommissioned cigarette vending machines and collaborates with artists to create tiny pieces of art that you can purchase from the machine. There are currently over 100 machines at locations around the country.
Just beyond SECCA is the Reynolda House Museum of American Art and Reynolda Gardens. The “house” is a sprawling mansion that was the former home of tobacco magnate RJ Reynolds and his wife Katharine Smith Reynolds and later one of their grown children. The house was built in 1917 around the dawn of the Arts & Craft Movement / Art Deco period so there are lots of beautiful light fixtures, pieces of furniture and wallpaper evocative of that era. When I was in design school I fell in love with that time period and it’s usage of poster design, wallpapers, fonts, beautiful ornate objects, feminine muses, and the philosophies and patterns of William Morris (he famously said “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”) so I especially loved seeing them in a period appropriate home. My own style is heavily influenced by this time period.
Because the owners were obviously obscenely wealthy in the roaring twenties when cigarette smoking was especially glamorous there are quite a few ostentatious touches, especially the game rooms and bar in the basement. Apparently, guests would roller skate between the bowling alley, the shooting gallery, the billiards room, the bar, etc. and on particularly wild parties the indoor pool would have macaws on display inside bird cages at the edge of the pool. Today the estate houses a collection of modern art inside and in a newly created gallery attached to the house.
On the grounds just beyond the house is Reynolda Gardens a 134 acre garden currently filled with blooming roses and punctuated by dark painted structures and supports and a greenhouse (which was currently closed).
Since I made the trek to Winston-Salem for the gardens there were still more that I wanted to check out. In Bethabara Park you can see the ruins of one of the first European settlements of North Carolina. On the grounds is also the Bethabara Community Gardens which was started in 1759 and is the oldest known and documented community garden in the country and beside that is the first medicinal garden ever planted in America as well.
There are lots of fun things to check out in downtown Winston Salem but on this trip we were only able to check out the bookstore Bookmarks (which was recommended by Jennings of Parker & Otis in Durham who I just happened to run into while she was on her own away trip here). I love this cute little alley behind the shop and like how it brings multiple businesses together with an outdoor gathering spot.
Last stop before driving home for the evening was the gardens at Old Salem. Typically, the buildings here are filled with reenactors but we were able to walk around free of that and the added tourists by going after hours. We walked around looking at old buildings and trudging through the garden spaces we could find.
It is worth nothing that Old Salem participates in the International Coalition of Sites of Conscious. As per their website: “A Site of Conscience is a place of memory – such as a historic site, place-based museum or memorial – that prevents erasure from happening in order to ensure a more just and humane future. Not only do Sites of Conscience provide safe spaces to remember and preserve even the most traumatic memories, but they enable their visitors to make connections between the past and related contemporary human rights issues.”
In a few hours we were back home and ready for sleeping in our own beds.
After many years of having one-on-one conversations with others that I’ve wanted to share, I’ve finally started a podcast. You might remember a few years back I recorded one conversation from a talk I had with another business owner, well this time there will be more than that.
I aim to release these once a month though sometimes there may be more content than that. You can listen anywhere you stream podcasts just search for “Gather Voices“.
The first episode is a zoom conversation (so there may be blips and some noises here and there!) with Preeti Waas of Cheeni Raleigh. I hope you enjoy it! You can listen to it below (or wherever you find podcasts).
The space is beautiful, serene, cozy and has lots of light. It feels like a home but is instead an inspirational shared office space/building/community space. The location is great as well as the other studio tenants within the space.
Please let me know if you are interested and I can share more details. There are also a few “open coworking” options for those looking for a more flexible, casual space that doesn’t require a private office.
Masks are required in the common areas. There is also lots of beautiful outdoor space to enjoy and work in as well.
If you know someone who might be looking for space or may be interested in Gather Goods Co’s offerings can you share this post with them? I would really appreciate it!
Last year I reached out to some farmers to see if they wanted to help me turn the back space into a community garden. It was a vision I’ve had for a long time. Growing up there was a business nearby that sold cut flowers from their farmland and I have fond memories of visiting it and dreaming about owning a business like that one day. I also grew up with grandmothers and extended family members (not to mention my own mother) who were extensive home gardeners. I have vivid memories of the columbine’s blooming at my grandmother’s house or the path filled with daffodils next to the walkway at my great-grandmother’s and the smell of muscadine grapes as we sat on her screen porch for family meals. At my own home we had apple trees and a big garden in our yard. I was given my own garden early on where I took an interest in herbs and the magical qualities that plants have for healing.
I am a big believer that nature heals and that we all need safe, sacred and beautiful spaces to retreat to. I think as the spaces around us become more developed, as our anxieties rise, we need this even more so. A few years ago I experienced severe burn-out and I took a year long sabbatical from Gather Goods Co, during that time, thinking I might just open up that flower farm, I worked part-time at a greenhouse and I experienced first hand the deep and powerful healing properties of plants and the value in being outdoors no matter the weather.
With that in mind, I sourced a space for the new version of Gather where I could bring a community garden to it as well as a shared office space, where I could collaborate with others who had this desire and interest (and were maybe looking for land to work) and create a second level to the serene and intentionally nurturing space that is Gather Goods Co. – I am thrilled to have this young farmer collective making this space useful and special and over time I know it will become a truly inspiring and restful space that will benefit the community not just in being a spot to visit but also in benefitting those facing food scarcity and local food pantries.
If you are local and looking to get involved, let me know. For many months now this collective has been working the back space there and slowly growing it and they weren’t yet ready for volunteers, now they are. This year we are hoping to share more behind-the-scenes goings-on. They provided me with this blog recap to learn more about what they’ve been up to this past year:
Gather Garden Update from the farmers: In the heat of NC summer an opportunity arose. A message from Gather Good’s founder, Michelle, found its way to us via a garden listserv and after many calls and with excitement the team formed. We had a team of six members willing to put time and energy into the garden space. Between the team, we have several years of different types of farming experience (traditional, permaculture, indoor, native landscaping) ~ Devin, Jenna, Steven, Mia, Michael and Helena were taking on this new adventure. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Gather Garden Crew!
I’ve been enamored with farming since I was a teen. I set out on a path to pursue farming as a lifestyle that would bring me closer to the earth. I’ve been able to engage that lifestyle through both paid and volunteer opportunities. Before COVID-19 I was pursuing hands on education through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a program that facilitates work trade opportunities with organic farms. I was only on the road for 9 months before COVID-19 set in but the experience I gained was invaluable. Since I’ve resettled in NC, I’ve continued to further my knowledge of agriculture and explore the intricacies surrounding food and broader food systems.
I feel whole when I get to interact naturally with this treasure of a planet I am on. Playing in the dirt sparked for me in 2016 when I created a garden at my childhood home and soon after found myself in community with earth centering individuals and teachings that I cherish to this day. I advocate for eating fresh/local as it is a testament to the well being of my physical body, mind and spirit. Supporting all those doing healing work and doing my part to give back in this reciprocal relationship of life and love with Mother Earth is a responsibility and an honour. Sharing tools on emotional intelligence, dismantling white supremacy and taking small steps to homesteading all in community are deep values of mine. My bunny, Carter, cherished relationships with chosen family, birds, the community garden in East Raleigh I have the pleasure to play in, trees and water keep me sane. Favorite veggies: brussel sprouts and mushrooms!
My name is Michael, I first got introduced to farming/gardening through my passion for healing. It became obvious to me that growing your own food and medicine is the best thing you could do to heal yourself, your community, and the Earth. That journey started in 2014, since then I have apprenticed and worked at many farms and gardens learning as much as I could directly from the awesome farmers and communities themselves. Now I still grow my own food but have moved more into growing native and medicinal plants. I am currently trying to increase the diversity of the native ecosystem in our beautiful state by starting a Native plant nursery. As well as working at the Well Fed Community Garden to help increase the biodiversity in their pollinator garden and in their landscape bordering their food production. Build the soil, plant something, and heal all!!
Helena Boehling loves people, music, art, and nature! She is currently finishing her bachelors degree at NCSU in Middle Grades Education and Spanish. Her talents include finding free items everywhere she goes and making a meal with random ingredients. Her favorite plant is the Venus fly trap – only found in the Carolinas (:
Steven is a mathematician and musician. His background in gardening stems from volunteer experiences and is always grateful for a chance to get his hands in the dirt. He is passionate about regenerative farming practices, including composting and chemical-free growing. His favorite foods are tomatoes and beets (boiled!)
Mia is currently finishing her Associates in Arts degree at Wake Tech. Her inspiration and ardent love for gardening comes from grandpa Frank who taught her the importance of clean eating and getting your hands dirty. She enjoys yoga, cooking, sun soaking on local hikes, and scouting for vintage pieces at her favorite thrift stores. Her favorite flower is the sunflower.
Garden Intention & Plan (recap):
We realized fast during a distanced outdoor gathering on a beautiful late afternoon in June that all of us have the desire to nurture a deep relationship with the earth and to feed others, especially those in need, with healthy and fueling produce. Our idea for the garden space takes a permaculture and community-oriented approach and appeals to the triple bottom line ~ planet, people, and profit ~ framework. Our intention and plan for the garden is as follows:
June 2020 Plan (recap)
– Companion planting for vegetable production: we intend to use the majority of the space where the beds are to grow fruit/vegetable produce alongside native plants and herbs by following companion planting guidelines. Companion planting is a permaculture technique that provides pest control, pollination, and maximum utilization of space. It is friendly to the environment and increases crop productivity, all while being aesthetically interesting. Our plan for the vegetable production is to give back to the people directly involved. This could include volunteers at the garden, produce for meals at Gather events, and donating to local food shelters.
– Cut flowers: we intend to dedicate an area of the space for growing flowers. Besides encouraging the presence of pollinators, cut flowers are an easy way to make money for the amount of work being put in. Our thoughts are to donate it to local nonprofits working to provide food security to our communities and to help cover garden costs. A positive bottom line is an important aspect of sustainability.
– Compost: any permaculture project involves composting. Composting is a way to address the problems of soil health and the overuse of landfills. It provides free, nutritious soil for planting. Our plan involves a compost pile with a possibility of educational materials for community members to learn about composting!
I want to take a moment to share some gratitude to the elements and the thousands upon thousands of life forms in the soil that produce and grow miracles every moment. A big thanks to Michelle and Gather for lending your trust and resources to (essentially) a bunch of strangers to share in the abundance behind your shop. To our team for coming together during such a hard year, encouraging one another and pushing ourselves, even on the really tough days. During a global pandemic, social and racial justice uprisings and political unrest, we all deserve a moment of rest and encouragement: Deep breath in ~ give yourself a squeeze and words of encouragement ~ you are doing great and you matter.
Continued thanks and blessings to those who have gifted the garden whether in thought, monetarily or in items. In 2020 with so much gratitude we received:
~$100 from Jennifer Flowers
~$10 from Nicole Gulotta
~$25 from Debby and Michael Lim
~Cat litter boxes – which we have used for making soil YAY! – and gloves from Erica and Shawn Dolan
~Bamboo sticks, trays, plants, and table/storage unity from Heather and Paul Dezzutto
In the coming blog posts we will share what happened at Gather Garden in 2020 and provide updates of what 2021 holds! I feel as if I can smell the growth of spring these days, soon approaching.
Want to get involved? I believe strongly in community participation and giving of time, energy, passing on resources and connections. Some items we could use as donations: Spade shovel (multiple), digging fork, hard rake, trowel (a few), 5 gallon bucket, tomato cages, small enclosure to hold tools and protect from the rain.
This year (2021) we hope to open up to the neighbors and community more. Want to get dirty in the soil with us? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, we look forward to connecting with you!
If you’re looking for a fun food activity to do at home and are okay with being a little “extra” then this DIY Conversation Heart Candy Recipe is worth trying. Next time, I go about this I think I will try the effect with sugar cookies instead, still, this was a fun weekend project. Below is the recipe my husband and I pulled together from various sources online before trying our own hand at it:
2 lbsconfectioner's sugar (though you might need even more)
food coloring pens
optional flavor extracts (peppermint or almond)
Whisk the gelatin, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt with 1/2 cup boiling water until the gelatin dissolves.
Start beating in the confectioner's sugar some at a time until a soft sticky dough forms. Have some extra powdered sugar (as much as 1-2 cups or maybe more) handy, and start kneading the dough together, adding extra sugar as needed.
Knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
Divide the dough (using a bench scraper or chefs knife) into as many pieces as the number of colors you want to end up with.
Working with one piece at a time (cover the others in plastic wrap), add 2-3 drops of food coloring and knead until the color is evenly distributed and nicely pastel colored. You can also add a drop or two of extract flavoring before this kneading step.
Take a piece of parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray. Roll out each piece of colored dough until it's maybe 1/8 – 1/4" thick, and then cut out hearts (of whatever size you like). I found it easiest to take the rolled out dough and place directly onto the parchment and then cut out the shapes, removing the excess dough around the hearts. This way, you don't have to transfer cut hearts from one surface to another, a process which can render the surfaces imperfectly smooth.
Take the dough trimmings and re-roll as many times as you need to keep cutting out more hearts.
You can imprint messages into each heart at this stage with small letters. Otherwise, leave them out to dry at room temperature overnight before writing messages onto them with food decorating pens.