How to : Shop an Antiques Market.

I am {surprising to some} not really that great at DIY + crafty things but I do want to be sure that I share some "how to" when it comes to heirloom things over here on the blog. Most of the DIY-type concepts I'll share here are certainly things I've learned from other great people in my life, or learned along the way (probably the hard way).

vintage mounts
vintage quilt

Inspired by a recent trip to one of my favorite antique markets in town, Scott's Antiques, I decided to share some of my favorite tips for shopping an antique or vintage store. I draw so much of my inspiration from rummaging through old things and learning about their form and function. I never tire of it.

My love of "treasure hunting" most certainly came from my childhood trips driving from Florida to North Carolina to our cabin, listening to old-school country music in the backseat with my sister and stopping at roadside antique stores along the way. Looking back as an adult with three little kiddos, a dog, and a husband who likes to make efficient time on a trip, I am increasingly more impressed and thankful for these experiences we had growing up.

And just to clarify before we get into these tips, when I say "antique" store or market I most certainly am not referring to those nice ones that are styled with decorative pieces neatly hung on the walls. I'm talking about the ones where you can't bring your "big purse" inside for fear of knocking over a stack of mismatched china that is piled on top of a hutch. These are the kind of places where you have to hunt, dig and peek around for a find - I love these the most.

Here is what I've learned ....

1. SCHEDULE IT IN.

If it's not on my calendar it's not getting done so I like to make sure to schedule in time to go antiquing. This might seem a little extreme but I don't see it as a "shopping trip" (though my husband may disagree) but instead as a time for sourcing, gathering creative inspiration and design concepts. I think anyone, and especially those in a design, entreprenuerial or creative role, should schedule in time for things that help to inspire and refresh them.

My goal is to poke into a new shop, or maybe even go back to check out a shop I haven't been to in a while. I also make time when I'm traveling, whether for work or pleasure, to seek out a shop or two as it's always better to bring back an authentic souvenir than something from a tourist shop.

vintage southern flour bags

2. GATHER YOUR GO-TO'S.

I like to start by keeping a running list (but I'm a list maker) of shops I want to stop into in my own area. Whenever I stumble upon a new shop or learn about a new market date, I try to pencil it in and make time to stop in when I'm nearby. 

I was leaving a meeting the other day and a bit too early for carpool so I decided to take 20 minutes to stop in to an antique hardware store that I pass a few times a week but had never been inside. It was like the jewelry store of hardware stores, with thousands of vintage hooks, hinges and knobs, each sorted by likeness and displayed in glass display cases and cabinets. I didn't walk away with anything (yet) but I was kicking myself that I hadn't stopped in sooner. 

vintage bath hardware knobs
vintage bread loaf pans
vintage display case
vintage wooden handle utensils

3. WANDER OFF THE BEATEN PATH.

Much like good real estate, some of the most beautiful homes are on the main road. Once they go up for sale, they get a good deal of traffic and interest because people pass by and see the sign. But, if you were to head down the next side street you just may find a home that is just as beautiful, in the neighborhood you want to be in but without the traffic and for a better price.

Long way to say, get off the beaten path and explore a little bit to find some of the best shops. I love this advice for "highway" stores, you know the ones in little towns as you're traveling where you may see a store sign from the interstate or even a billboard. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 if you find that store and drive a half mile up the road, you'll find one or two more that are much better and a whole lot less picked over.

The same holds true for estate sales, the ones that aren't advertised that you happen upon always seem to have the best treasures, it just takes a little exploring and keeping your eyes open.

4. ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

I was most certainly a Girl Scout and this motto is one that I've found to be tried and true for any situation. Taking a little time to be prepared to shop vintage can help you score in a major way when the opportunity arises.

vintage cast iron pans

This is probably one of the most obvious tips but one I think most people forget. My single-best tip is to keep a running list on my phone of items that I'm looking for.

Right now my list includes a looking at textiles for a new design I'm working on, oversized vintage maps or flags to go over my dresser in the master bedroom, large white metal or ceramic pieces for the top cabinets in my kitchen, small to medium sized vintage landscape or portrait paintings, and sourcing vintage pieces for our vintage kitchen shop on the site, as well as for a client that is launching a new brand. It might seem a like a lot (and is probably more than most people) but keeping this list helps keep me laser focused and on a mission to spot some great pieces without getting too distracted, especially when I'm short on time. And, truth be told, this is really just my active list, I have another whole list of things that I love to look for or collect for one reason or another but #priorities.

Next to each item on my list I have a few notes about wall dimensions or space, and sometimes a few photos that I've taken so I can really visualize the space I am filling. I also keep a soft measuring tape in my purse so I can whip out a measurement at any given moment, which comes in handy so much more often than you'd think.

And finally, I like to do a little "pre-research" online on pieces I'm sourcing to see what else is out there and what price point range seems reasonable. This has saved me from overpaying and in being knowledgeable for negotiating, as well as in finding something truly unique. I might fall in love with something that seems unusual but in fact when I look online there are tons of the exact same piece.

5. TRUST YOUR GUT.

At the end of the day, the old adage "one man's junk is another man's treasure" holds true. While I try to have my lists and do my homework, I am always open to finding something unexpected and fabulous that just catches my eye.

There are certainly times when you'll score a highly valuable piece for a super deal (read : thrift store and garage sale lucky breaks) and times when you'll fall head over heals for something that is absurdly overpriced but you just don't care because it's perfect in every way like your first love. And at the end of the day, that's OK. That's just a part of the hunt; part of the experience. And most of all, it is these finds that will keep you coming back time and time again.

vintage collection of clocks

 

 

A Southern Kitchen Bucket List.

As I sit here sifting through stacks of my Grandmother + Great Grandmother's handwritten recipe cards I think of all the years of thought, learning, trial and error, and love that went into each card.

handwritten recipe cards

I try to recreate recipes from the cards, some I've never had before and for all intents and purposes they turn out just fine. But what I don't know is if they really turn out the way that they are suppose to. I don't know the tips + tricks behind them and for me, spending time IN the kitchen with my Mom and Grandmother was the only true way for me to know the secrets BEHIND their recipes.

How Grandma perfected the tart flavor behind her Key Lime Pie and knowing that she hand-picked each key lime off the tree in her yard in Florida made all the difference. How Mom gets her Chicken and Dumpling broth so creamy that it truly melts in your mouth, after trying over and over to make this one for my own children I think I've finally gotten the hang of this favorite winter dish.

heirloom recipe

When I sit and think of how much I love to cook and bake, of the time I spend in the kitchen and around our family dinner table I still come to realize as I sift through these hand-written recipes that I still have so many holes in my kitchen skills.

I'm not talking about those Pinterest-worthy, ingredient laden, fancy recipes that we all love to pin. I'm talking about the basic recipes of a Southern kitchen. The ones that we grew up eating, made-from-scratch the way Grandma used to make them. If we don’t learn the fundamentals, the secrets and the subtle differences between a dash, a splash and a pinch, we will never be able to recreate a recipe in quite the same way as the dishes we grew up enjoying during our childhood. These heirloom(ed) recipes will be lost forever, along with the stories behind them.

I'm a hands-on learner so I have decided to create a big challenge for myself - a Southern Kitchen Bucket List, if you will. Getting back to the basics and tackling the simple things that I feel I should know how to master in my own kitchen, keeping these made-from-scratch secrets alive for yet another generation. I'm starting now because I know as the holidays grow closer and I try making some of my holiday favorites, I'll realize I have even more holes to learn. I'll be tackling some of these on my own, some from my family recipes, and some with the help of some of the best folks out there who are known for their craft. Take a peek ....

A Southern Kitchen Bucket List - pin it / share it / take the challenge for yourself!

A Southern Kitchen Bucket List - pin it / share it / take the challenge for yourself!

A Southern Kitchen Bucket List

  • Grits
  • Macaroni + Cheese
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • White Gravy
  • Jam + Jelly
  • Sweet Tea
  • Pie Crust
  • Homemade Butter
  • Chicken + Dumplings
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Day Pickles
  • Fried Chicken
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Skillet Cornbread
  • Greens
  • Pecan Pie
  • Chicken Salad
  • Pimento Cheese
  • Tomato Pie
  • Fried Okra
  • Pound Cake
  • Low Country Boil
  • Homemade Mayonnaise
  • Quiche

I'd love to challenge you to tackle these along with me at #heirloomed. Let me know if I'm missing anything and I'll continue to add to the list. I've already knocked out a few (hyperlinked above) so you can start there.

And, I challenge you to also pull out a few of your favorite family recipe card and get in the kitchen with your Mom or Grandma and have them TEACH you to make them, by hand and step-by-step.

Here we go - off to tackle the Southern skills, can't wait to share.

Southern Traditions + The Dove Hunt.

Late summer is one of my favorite seasons to spend time at the farm. The sunlight in the evening is just to die for when it sets over the field by the big lake or the pecan trees, the weather can be 70 degrees in the morning and mid-90's by afternoon (my dream) and of course, the annual Dove Hunt that marks the opening of dove season is always Labor Day weekend.

picking muscadines off the vine
picking muscadine grapes
bucket of muscadines and scuppernogs

This year we had so many of the kids out there for the weekend, many of them just old enough to really get into it for the first time. Their "Peepaw" loaded up the trailer with a few bales of hay and drove them around the trails and through the woods throughout the weekend, where they spotted some turkey, deer and even found a turtle.

The grape vines up front were loaded with muscadines and scuppernogs, deep purples and bright gold, and sweet as can be. So the kids loved pulling them off in handfuls and filling up buckets onto the trailer to snack on during the hunt.

my first dove hunt
kids running in the field
stand in the woods

While my excitement for a Dove Hunt might seem a little strange if you follow along here, or even know me in "real life" but it truly is one of my favorite events of the year. I'm not really a hunter but to me it marks such a fun Southern tradition that Shane's family loves taking part it. And, it's such a social event. Unlike deer hunting, everyone sits around one field, visible to everyone. There is no need to be quiet or to hide, and you can spend time walking around and talking to each little group of family + friends that have set up their little areas for the day.

dove hunt kids
kids in the field
generations at the hunt

I love that the kids get out there and have fun with ALL of their cousins, playing in the field and running around in their tiny camo clothes. It's the way childhood was intended, and the way a good tradition always begins. People often ask me about tradition, keeping them alive and starting them for your own family, but the single most important thing about a tradition is that it involves a span of generations taking part in the event. The young and the old, the past and the present, living in the moment and taking it all in so that it can continue into the next year, and hopefully onto the next generation.

Dove Hunt Kids
Daughters Dove Hunt
hayride at the farm
dove hunt
the next generation
turtle

Next year I vow to finally paint up a Dove Hunt sign for the stand in the field. And I'll be sure to include some pictures next year of the post-hunt feast of dove, our favorite ways to prepare them and more. Love to hear about your adventures and some of the traditions you most enjoy this time of year! #heirloomed

A Decade.

This Fall we are celebrating TEN YEARS in business. Because I think in "generational" terms, we'll call it A DECADE. I can hardly believe it.  I've been doing a lot of soul searching and getting back to the ethos of our brand to find exactly the right way to celebrate this milestone, and our celebration starts today.

Celebrating 10 years

What started as a hobby and a way to spend more time with my Grandmother, turned into this special place where we share stories, learn recipes, and truly design the next generation of heirlooms. As I always share, my Grandmother was a master seamstress and could entertain like no one else. We ate on china for holidays, she read aloud classic books to us like Little Women, and she baked holiday cookies for weeks upon weeks in preparation. Her inspiration is so present in our brand today and it makes me smile.

While some may know us as IceMilk Aprons and some as heirloomed, the path has been fairly straightforward as we haven't strayed from our roots - goods inspired by the past, for generations to enjoy. But what I was reminded of in between branding exercises and knee deep in business books (read : #biznerd #entrepreneurlife) was our MISSION : helping families to create tradition, learn artisanal skills, make memories, and share stories to keep these heirlooms alive for another generation. Or more simply - to keep heirlooms alive for another generation.

It's a simple statement but a lofty goal. As we shift from wedding registries that include fine china to those that instead have vacuum cleaners, move to "fast-fashion" trends and move towards microwaved TV meals instead of family supper it is a mission I'm driven by and passionate about each and every day. The thread of our mission can be seen in each and every detail that drives our business.

Over the next few months, you'll be seeing more and more of this mission. You'll see more content from us here on the blog and through our social media communities, and more frequent emails from us as we move this mission forward. You'll see some subtle changes, some new products and even some fresh collaborations.

But today I say a true and heartfelt THANK YOU. Thank you for letting me be an entrepreneur and live my passion, for allowing the roots of my family and my Grandmother's inspiration to shine, for supporting our small family business, and for cherishing these special heirlooms we are creating.

As we look forward to the next decade, we're asking that you take a quick moment to answer just 10 short questions as part of our survey. The feedback we receive will be instrumental in helping us to grow in the right direction. And, as part of the celebration and because we so value your feedback, each survey participant will be entered to win $500 to shop our site. Click to enter.

Most sincerely,

Ashley

The Splattered Recipe Card.

When I use the term heirloom it extends far beyond a tangible thing. Quite literally it is defined as a person or a thing that carries on some tradition or circumstance. It could be a vintage piece of jewelry, a family recipe or even a skill, like learning to sew. To me, the heirloom quality is the storied past, full of meaning, memories and craftsmanship.

As I often mention, I have been fortunate to have been passed down a big stack of my Grandmother and Great Grandmother's handwritten recipe cards. There are some I've never heard of and certainly never eaten, and some that are treasures I grew up enjoying around our table.

handwritten recipe cards

I love when someone says that they have "no recipe" because it means they cook from the heart, and from a learned skill that has been passed down to them. Terms like dash, pinch + splash give nod to the inclusion of an ingredient but hint at the secret fact that you must truly listen, learn and practice these family recipes to truly master them in your own kitchen one day.

To spend an entire day baking alongside your mother or grandmother, learning what they dough should feel like or how the cake should feel or when the sauce should boil, is the most invaluable time you will spend. Anyone who has ever tried to re-create their Grandmother's biscuits will know this to be true. And I guarantee you'll hear stories you've never heard before, as she recalls memories of making the same dish years ago, of when she learned to make it as a child.

Much like the stories that Native Americans pass down through their tribes, the details may change slightly over the years but at the heart of the tale, or recipe, is a storied past rich in history. It are these nuances that bring a well-loved, splattered, handwritten family recipe card to life.

To not take the time to celebrate and learn to make these treasured family recipes from scratch, the way they've always been made, marks the end of an heirloom. My challenge to you today is to pick one of your childhood favorites and learn to make it for yourself. It seems a simple challenge but it means this recipe will live on for another generation.

Love if you'd share your favorite handwritten recipe cards, your try at recreating a recipe or your time spent mastering this challenge with #heirloomed.

I'll be sharing a special new project with you that was inspired by this very notion, so stay tuned!