Photos by Lissa Gotwals
I’m a big fan of soups in the fall and winter. My husband not as much, but I think they are growing on him, especially, with soups as good as this one that is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I tend to be hyper focused during the day when I’m working and usually want something quick and easy for lunch. Soup is great because even after reheating it doesn’t lose its essence like a lot of other leftovers tend to do. This soup, a Thai staple, is also great when you are sick because the spiciness of the chili helps clear your sinuses.
|Spicy Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Recipe, Tom Kha Gai|
This past summer my friend Amanda and I were out for a drive on a business errand. On the way back, a little under an hour from being back home, I noticed a sign on the highway for a spot I had seen a picture of and had saved as something to check out at a later date. I’m a sucker for a long rambling drive into parts unknown and happening upon new and notable things along the way.
So I asked Amanda, the driver, if she would take a slight detour from our errand and check out this unknown spot with me. It turned out to be a great discovery and with the right person – I love it when that happens! Both of us are absolutely smitten with gardens and plants and outdoor spaces and just being in them without much of an agenda. We are both the same type of introverted, slightly loner, creatives who soak up spaces that pique the imaginations of our inner world. And anything that is slightly overgrown, feels unspoiled and a little like a secret garden that we just happened upon, is even better.
This is what it felt like when we found Cedar Creek Gallery in Creedmoor, North Carolina. The grounds were landscaped but slightly wild, obviously planted with intention years ago but left slightly neglected for a while and allowed to grow out naturally in a beautiful way. Small wooden barns covered in ivy and lush green leaves, wild and native flowers, and bulbs intermixed with a picnic table, small sculptures and even a porch swing.
When I was in high school I would go on treks by myself a lot. There was a nearby graveyard that I would walk through often. It wasn’t spooky, but it was quiet and isolated and scenic and I could be alone with my thoughts. Near to the graveyard was a large tree in a great big field, just far enough from civilization that I could again, escape into my head, and on separate occasions I would go here too to ponder and just be. The grounds of Cedar Creek Gallery feel like the kind of place I could spend hours like that if I lived closer. The slightly hippie vibe of the space appeals to me as well. I think that too comes from growing up in the valley of a nearby mountain where barefooted, musical, and artistic people were plenty.
While I was distinctly more taken with the grounds on this first trip, the actual gallery features a large number of fine art crafts and pottery and is worth a look. Dotted on the grounds are kilns and ovens, pottery and glass making studios that are occupied by working artists.
Near the parking lot is a plant nursery with rows of plants in flats for purchase. This weekend they host their annual pottery and glass festival with pottery, wood turning and fiber dying demonstrations. For me though, being there with no one around except my friend, quietly discovering alongside each other, it was perfect.
iphone images by me, Michelle Smith
It’s been a big year with so much forward propelling movement that I’ve hardly had time to pause, let alone blog. That said, I’ve learned a lot, built a lot, and connected with countless fabulous individuals through Gather, my gift shop/coffee shop/coworking hybrid space in downtown Cary, North Carolina. The pop-up retail space at Gather expanded into a full-time shop,the majority of which is filled with gift products and goods made by North Carolina makers, but also including great products from other regions too. The pop-up coffee portion also morphed into a full-time facet of the shop as well that I brought in-house. Gather now has over thirteen coworkers, the majority of which are women, who utilize the space as a communal office away from home, and the space has curated and hosted dozens of classes in the past year to over 100 attendees. In addition, the space and back patio garden has been rented out for a number of baby showers, parties and other gatherings.
It’s a lot to manage and daily I am contemplating the benefits versus the risks, especially since I foresee at least a few more years of having to hustle hard. I am quite passionate about the space and what it means to the community and entrepreneurs like myself, but it is challenging work and not for the faint of heart.
This Friday, August 29th from 5pm-9pm, I am hosting a one year anniversary to celebrate the space. There will be free beer and wine from my soon to be downtown Cary neighbors, Pharmacy Bottle and Beverage, free chair massages by two of our private studio coworkers who have a massage practice in one of our private studios, BBQ by the food truck The Humble Pig, and 20% off everything in the shop. If you are local to the Triangle, North Carolina area I hope you can attend!
Gather is located at 111 West Chatham Street, downtown Cary, NC 27511. And if you can’t make it to the party Gather is open every Tues. 10am-6pm, Wed-Fri. 10am-3pm, Sat. 9am-6pm & Sun. 1pm-5pm. You can also follow along on Instagram or Facebook as those pages get updated daily with Gather news. Hope to see you there!
I’m really excited about this upcoming class at Gather on Saturday. It finally feels like Spring here in North Carolina and I am definitely in gardening mode. In the class on Saturday you will make and take home this DIY Succulent Wreath full of over 30 different succulents. Not only do these plants look gorgeous but they are super easy to maintain. This wreath just needs to be spritzed with water twice a week to stay looking so green and lovely.
I think this would be really fun to take this class with your Mom or give her the finished piece for her gift. Space is limited. Register and see the list of other upcoming food, craft, gardening and business classes at Gather here. Hope you can join me!
PS – tonight I am teaching a class on product photography. There are a few spots available for that too. You can sign up for that class here.
Brussels sprouts have become my new food obsession. I was a little late to the party, just not having been exposed to them, I guess. About a year ago, I had them as a side at a BBQ restaurant, and from that point on I was a convert. They taste a little meaty and have a unique flavor that you’ll probably either like or not. I could eat vegetables all day, fruit on the other hand is a chore for me.
Yesterday, because of sleet, my husband and daughter were home a little earlier than usual so they whipped up this pizza. It was great, one of the best homemade pizzas we’ve ever made.
|Recipe: Homemade Pizza with brussels sprouts, mushrooms & fontina|
The Oxford Exchange is a 24,000 square foot coffee & tea shop/restaurant/bookstore/gift shop/interior design studio & coworking hybrid space located in Tampa, Florida.
The restaurant focuses on simple meals using seasonal and local ingredients. It has expansive white diamond patterned brick walls, black and white checkered floor tiles and an abundance of tropical plants.
In addition to the restaurant, The Oxford Exchange houses both a tea bar & a separate coffee bar with rich architectural details that harken to a more glamorous era, like many modern commercial spaces these days.
Their gift shop is filled with specialty artisan made items, vintage gifts and home decor pieces and their bookstore is well stocked.
The coworking space includes a couple of conference rooms and private desks where members can work.
What do you think? I spot a trend here, don’t you? Maybe I’m on to something with Gather after all … ;)
This past Sunday my husband decided to whip up these Lemon Ricotta Beignets, which are basically fried dough with ricotta in the center and cinnamon sugar on the outside. They didn’t look pretty but they sure were good. Here’s the recipe for making at home:
|Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe|
What do you think of the law of attraction? I believe that when you put your ideas, thoughts and visions out there in a place where others can see them, more connections begin to naturally happen with those things that you are inclined towards. As one of my Gather coworkers mentioned, it’s as though you are giving voice to your ideas, which may have otherwise been buried in our subconscious. It’s allowing others (and yourself) to see and react and interact with those ideas, which can be a really powerful and affirming thing in your life. Gather has been a great example in my life of that theory in practice.
Recently, I decided to sit down and write out a list of my wildest dreams, something that at times in the past few years, I felt unable to even imagine. In part because I was (and am) living out a dream I’ve long had, I felt like what more can there be to dream for? Owning a space like Gather has been something I dreamt about and imagined when I was young but was never sure how all those pieces would fit together – it’s sort of amazing how they did. And I am grateful and content living them out now but I also know that in order to grow I do need new dreams too. The other part that was blocking me from imaging big things was the fact that I’ve just been too overwhelmed with tasks and the business of running a business, and even parenthood to feel like I had room in my head for more expansive thoughts.
But, I had a moment of clarity a few days ago when I realized that a lot of things I used to write and journal about when I was an angst-ridden teen, when all I did was dream about the future, had strangely come true. How just writing these ideas many, many years ago helped form a roadmap in my mind of what I wanted and didn’t. And I thought about what it could mean if I allowed myself to dream in that way now. So, I took the time to make a list full of pie in the sky dreams, many of which I have no idea how they could ever happen. And you know what’s crazy? The very next day, one of those wild, outlandish ideas I had written out started to become a reality. A conversation led itself directly into an opportunity that was on my list. How strange, amazing and beautiful such “coincidences” are. If only I allowed myself more time to appreciate and cultivate such thoughts and not write them off as just foolish ramblings, imagine how much more fulfilling life could continue to be.