Gather, One Year Anniversary, Party

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.

Gather, Cary, NC

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!

 

 

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Food Photography & Photo Styling Work

Some photos I styled from a photo shoot a few months ago for Southern Season. What a joy it is to work on these projects.

Prop Styling by Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals Prop Styling by Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals Food Styling by Michelle Smith, Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Photo Styling by me, Michelle Smith, Photography by Lissa Gotwals

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How to Make A Succulent Wreath Class at Gather in Downtown Cary, this Saturday

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.

DIY Succulent Wreath Class at Gather in Cary, North Carolina

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.

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Recipe: Homemade Pizza with brussels sprouts, mushrooms & fontina

Fontina and Brussels Sprouts Pizza Recipe

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
Print
INGREDIENTS
  • Crust
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • tbsp honey
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Pizza toppings
  • frozen garlic cube (or 1 clove of garlic smashed)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mozzarella
  • handful of brussels sprouts
  • handful of mushrooms
Instructions
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a mixer.
  2. Add the oil and water and honey.
  3. Knead for at least five minutes.
  4. Remove from mixer, divide into 4 equal sized balls of dough.
  5. Cover with saran wrap
  6. Refrigerate until about 1 1/2 hours before you plan to make pizzas.
  7. Let sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Roll out, spread olive oil and crushed garlic on top.
  9. Top with cheeses.
  10. Top with vegetables.
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 475 on a pre-heated pizza stone.
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(iphone) Food Photography & Styling by me, Michelle Smith. I’m available for freelance, hire me for your next project. Contact me here.

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Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

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.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, 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.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

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.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

Their gift shop is filled with specialty artisan made items, vintage gifts and home decor pieces and their bookstore is well stocked.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

The coworking space includes a couple of conference rooms and private desks where members can work.

Cool Shop: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, Florida

What do you think? I spot a trend here, don’t you? Maybe I’m on to something with Gather after all … ;)

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Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe

Lemon Ricotta Beignets Recipe - Photo by Michelle Smith

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
Print
Author: From The Craft of Baking Cookbook
INGREDIENTS
  • Filling
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese, drained overnight
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Dough
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon purse vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • peanut oil, for frying
Instructions
  1. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the ricotta, sugar and lemon zest. Cover a plate with a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Drop 15 separate heaping teaspoonfuls of the ricotta mixture onto the plate. Freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, lemon zest, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, honey, butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into it. Using a rubber spatula, fold the two together. Then fold in the ricotta until well-combined.
  4. Transfer the dough to a 12×16 inch sheet of waxed paper. Place a second sheet of waxed paper on top, and roll out the dough into an 11×14 inch oval, about 1/4 inch thick. Set the dough, still between the sheets of waxed paper, on a baking sheet and freeze until it is firm enough to cut, about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the freezer and remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Dust the dough with flour and replace the waxed paper. Flop the dough over; remove and discard the top sheet of waxed paper. Now the dough is lessened from the paper and is easy to cut.
  6. Using a floured 2-inch round cutter or inverted drinking glass, cut out 30 rounds of dough. Line the baking sheet with a clean piece of waxed paper, place the rounds on the baking sheet, and put the sheet in the refrigerator to keep the dough cold as you work.
  7. Removing 4 rounds at a time to work with, sandwich 1 teaspoon of the ricotta mixture between 2 rounds of dough and pinch the edges together to seal them. With lightly floured hands roll each beignet into a ball. Repeat until all of the beignets are complete. (The beignets can be kept, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before frying.)
  8. Fill a heavy medium saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of oil and heat it over moderately high heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers 350F. Fry the beignets in batches of three, gently turning them over once with a slotted spoon, until dark golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer them with the slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Toss the warm beignets in the cinnamon-sugar and serve immediately.
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Recipe via The Craft of Baking. Food Photography & Styling by me, Michelle Smith. I’m available for freelance, hire me for your next project. Contact me here.

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The Power of Dreaming Big

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.

The Power of Dreaming Big

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.

The Power of Dreaming Big

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.

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Behind the Scenes: Potluck at Gather

One of the things I love about Gather, and a part of what attracted me to the space in the first place, is the enclosed patio in the back. When I first saw the space though, the garden was totally covered over in weeds. My friends and family spent many weekends helping me clear it out and planting new plants, and my husband built the three picnic tables that span the space. Here are some photos that my friends Brett & Jessica took at a potluck I hosted in July full of local makers, Gather coworkers, friends and creative entrepreneurs:

Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica

Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica

One of my favorite things in the world is enjoying a home cooked meal with friends and this space is a natural extension of that. Ultimately, I would like to create a community garden in the space, build up the garden beds and host more dinners, parties and events there.

Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica

I can’t wait for the weather to warm up again so I can start hosting more outside events in the space. I’m not a huge fan of traditional networking events, but something happens when a meal is shared: people loosen up, and laugh and learn more about each other, then naturally organic business connections (and friendships) are made.

Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica

I think many creative entrepreneurs (myself included) are shy, homebodies, who don’t love the traditional suit and tie style of networking, but real life, in person connections are very important to a thriving business. I created Gather with this premise, a space where creative entrepreneurs could work, hang out, and become better business owners, that is organic and warm, comfortable and caters to their niche business needs.

Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica   Potluck at Gather, Cary, NC - Photo by Brett & Jessica

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Brand to Watch: Dram Apothecary, Colorado

Dram Apothecary is a Colorado company that makes bitters, syrups and teas from plant-based ingredients. The owner Shae Whitney’s background includes food science, herbalism and botany. There are a couple of companies in North Carolina who make bitters that we stock at Gather and I use them to flavor the teas lattes that we serve to make really unique drinks.

Dram Apothecary
Bitters are typically used in mixed alcohol drinks but can also be used to make your own soda, juice or in cooking recipes.

Dram Apothecary

Located in a sleepy downtown, one Yelp reviewer notes that the only other business open in the same town as Dram Apothecary is the post office which has very limited hours.

Dram Apothecary

Dram Apothecary Dram Apothecary

I just ordered some syrups and can’t wait to try them in some new recipes!

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Behind the Scenes: My Food & Prop Styling Work for Southern Season

This past Tuesday I had the pleasure of doing some more prop & food styling for my client Southern Season. I thought it would be fun to show some behind the scenes iphone pics from the last shoot. You can see some of the final images here.

Behind the Scenes of Prop Styling

For this shoot that I worked on last year, I sourced tables, linens, fabrics, bowls, florals, backdrops and a ton of other props sitting just out of frame in these pictures, in shopping carts.

For this particular shoot we were trying to convey a look that was American, modern, just a touch masculine and a little bit rustic. I made sure to pick pieces that I felt evoked that story without being too over the top: a wide wooden plank top table, rich blues, greens, and teals, marble, aluminum, green and white flowers, denim, burlap and ticking stripes.

Behind the Scenes of Prop Styling

I then arranged those pieces so they became a small cohesive environment that looked like a realistic table setting in the final picture. I actually made a half dozen or so on the fly environments like the ones above and below.

Behind the Scenes of Prop Styling
I take a lot of informal pictures like these with my iphone so that I can get a feel for what the layout, colors, etc. look like through the eye of a camera but they are not composed thoughtfully and are more like a quick sketch. I can’t wait to show you behind the scenes pics and final photos from the shoot I just worked on. Stay tuned for those in the coming weeks.

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Product Love: Copper & Brass Watering Cans

It all started with this instagram post from Design Love Fest:

Copper Watering Can, Instagram by DesignLoveFest

How adorable is this copper watering can? I am now on the hunt for one in my thrifting adventures. If you’d rather skip the chase, I scouted out a few below:

Copper & Brass Watering Cans

1. Copper Watering Can from Amazon 2. Brass Watering Can from Amazon 3. Hammered Copper Watering Can from Terrain 4. Polished Copper Watering Can from Terrain

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