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The Blog

The daily, and somewhat random, musings from Ben. From the journeys, to the vlogs, to the behind-the-scenes-into-the-world moments.

Filtering by Category: blog

A HotelTonight Pool Party in Brooklyn

Ben Ashby

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If you follow me you know I love using HotelTonight. A few weeks ago we were invited to attend their pool party in Brooklyn and the Williamsburg Hotel. The views of Manhattan across the East River were just perfect. The food and music was splendid. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday in July. I thought I’d share a few of the images I took that day. If you’re hunting for hotels I highly recommend HotelTonight.

The American Made Box

Ben Ashby

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Over the years we've worked with so many amazing makers and American made businesses...and have come to so deeply appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each and every product. We were brain storming a way we could further support those makers beyond simply sharing their stories on our website and social...and the idea of doing a seasonal box was born. Each season we're creating a special designed box filled with maker made goods. We thought this would be a good way to help introduce you to why we love them so much. Each season the box will be totally different from the previous. The summer box ships July 7 and will be filled with five items that were all created by hand in the US. Pre-orders are available now. Each season will be limited to one hundred boxes. You can also test the waters with our more affordable mini box that features two products we know you'll love!

The combined retail value of the products included is over $75. You'll be saving over 30%.

What is in the box will remain a surprise until you receive it. The photos are just a sample of what could be included (several of the items in these photos will be included, but we're not saying which ones!)

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Terrain & Table Dinner

Ben Ashby

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Sometimes you encounter moments that seem like narratives out of story books or ideas from a distant land. The idea of having a dinner atop a hill in the Catskills with the Delaware River in the distance and Pennsylvania rising from its southern shore seems far fetched and impossible, but The Farmhouse Project brought that fantasy to life with their first Terrain and Table dinner this past weekend in Calicoon, New York.

The idea of the dinner is simple…a community coming together to share a meal. The event comes to life in the details. From a beautiful setting, to locally sourced foods the dinner left no detail perfected. A table for seventy fits perfectly to scale with the orchards that line the hillside around the gathering.

The table quickly felt like a cozy setting as friends were made and food was served. Locals and visitors mingled and made friends as they shared stories of the growing popularity of the western Catskills region, the revival of small towns, and a love of the nature and scenery that surrounded.

The Farmhouse Project will be hosting a series of these dinners this summer and autumn seasons in the western Catskills area. The next one takes place on the original Woodstock grounds.

The Farmhouse Project

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First Day of Summer

Ben Ashby

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I have a lot of thoughts about life. I am convinced that the majority of them are based on country songs. Perhaps the inspiration came from Tammy or Dolly or Loretta singing about times gone by, singing about powerful spirits, singing about living life loud and confidently. Perhaps it came from the modern anthems of Carrie or Miranda or Martina or Faith. Singing about the feeling strong and empowered and standing your ground. Perhaps its a mix of southern experiences, a close proximity to Nashville, and the ability to relate to the songs on the radio.

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I do know that life is bested lived with the windows down, on back roads and along countrysides, and with a decent amount of sweet tea. Not too much or you’ll get the dialetus, not too many biscuits and gravy or you’ll get too fat…but just enough to keep your veins well lubricated with lard and sugar and old fashioned sweetness. Life is intended to be spent outdoors. Life is supposed to be spent acknowledging and celebrating the different seasons, the clouds, the sun, and yes even the rain. The rainy seasons prepare us for the sunny summers ahead. Today on this first day of summer I am thankful for those rainy seasons, I am thankful for rain coats, rubber boots, and the occasional splashing in puddles and mud.

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Perhaps we all don’t drive classic pick-ups with a coon dog or beagle running circles in the back. Perhaps we all don’t have grand old oaks or front porch to swing upon. We do all however all have old mason jars we can catch fire flies in, we all have glasses to feel with ice and lemonade, we all have the ability to take a stroll in nature. No matter where we are….sometimes it is necessary to put on Sugarland, sing Settlin just as loud as we can and to celebrate summer all season long.

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10 Summertime Musts

  1. Visit the farmers market

  2. Visit at least one roadside stand. Know where your food comes from.

  3. Swim in a lake, a stream, or a creek.

  4. Ride around in at least one old pick up truck. Preferably ‘86 or older model.

  5. Have a snow cone. Its a must.

  6. Listen to Fleetwood Mac, CCR, and Alabama weekly from May to late August.

  7. Enjoy as many glasses of sweet tea as you can muster. Add springs of mint.

  8. Visit the Bourbon Trail. Know where your summer cocktails come from.

  9. Catch a dozen fireflies. Release them after.

  10. Go to a walk up Dairy Freeze. Have a cone or three.

A Special Issue

Ben Ashby

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I did something...for me. A million years ago I had a really cool job that like kept me insanely busy and happy and like alive. But I didn’t know what the hell I was doing...like I was 21 and didn’t have a clue. Flying by the seat of my pants was an understatement. But it was a really cool time. During those years I learned more about myself, about society, and humanity than I really realized I could. But then it was just too much, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how to do it. And I stopped. I gave up. And I crawled into a hole and I was pretty okay with never coming out. I hated everything about makers, and small towns, and American made, and everything I had once loved so deeply and profoundly. But it opened a new chapter for me...one as one of the original “instagrammers” (that’s an old school word) and life became about adventures and travel and living authentic. And that was amazing. But then with the rise of influencer culture it got really hard, and I like hated it. Nothing was authentic. Everything was controlled by agencies in cities with staff that had never even attempted to live authentic other than protesting for oak milk at their favorite over priced coffee shop (yes, I know that statement is ironic, #liveauthentic). So I stepped away, I went to work for someone else...and the past year has been the greatest form of therapy I could imagine. I got to slowly dip my toe back into that maker/American made/small town/little things world. I got to resurround myself with those people I loved so much in the beginning....but I got to take my new world with me. I got to come back to life after learning every single lesson that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Sometimes you can’t go around it....you gotta go through it. Back in December I came to Kentucky for Christmas and I decided I was going to do a special 1000 copy issue of folk. It would only be available in small businesses and online. I would save my pennies to make it happen and I would know exactly where every single dollar went and I would do so much of it myself. It was the final step in my self prescribed therapy. It’s available now. I’ll post a link in my story. ❤️

ORDER HERE

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A Fresh Strawberry Cake

Ben Ashby

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I love a good boxed cake mix, but I always want to add something to it. This recipe is one of my favorites. It transforms a standard white cake mix into the perfect light and fluffy early summer treat! This cake is best served cold. It ensures the whipped cream icing is fluffy and smooth.

RECIPE:

1 Boxed white cake mix + the ingredients called for on the cake mix. Substitute the water for milk.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 quart finely chopped strawberries

1 cup strawberry jam or preserves (do not use jelly)

Mint for garnish

Follow directions on the cake mix. I use three eight inch cake rounds. Allow baked cakes to cool overnight. Cut tops to ensure each layer is level. Place first layer on cake stand. Add a thin layer of the strawberry jam or preserves. Add middle layer of cake. Add strawberry jam or preserves. Place top layer on cake. Allow to chill while whipped cream is made.

In a mixing bowl add sifted powdered sugar, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla. Whip until fluffy with semi stick peaks. Do not over beat. You will make butter. Gently fold in your finely chopped strawberries.

Ice cake with the strawberry whipped cream. You will have enough cream to do a very generous coating of whipped cream. This cake is intended to be heavy on the icing. Allow to chill and garnish with fresh mint. Serve chilled.

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A Tour of my Studio

Ben Ashby

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Everyone deserves a space to create in. A place to call their own. A place to be creative. A place to foster a spirit and a positive energy that inspires us, encourages us, and excites us. Over the years I have had sudo-creative spaces, a building downtown, an office at the house, and its current home in an old coal house that was built by my great grandparents down on our farm. Over the coming months I will finally be creating a dedicated space to work and create in.  The space is currently used for storage but will soon have shiplap walls, a boatload of windows, stained concrete floors, and a yet-to-be-determined ceiling and filled with all of my collections of antiques, family pieces, photography props, and pieces of art made by friends. Packing in my current office has started, a yard sale is coming, and construction will soon begin.

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Before that I wanted to share a tour of my current coal house space…which is where I do the bulk of my shooting. The spaces is constantly evolving and is more of a set space than it is a space I actually use for anything.  

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The coal house was originally my playhouse as kid. It had dark walls, no light, no windows, a coal stained floor, and a whole lotta wasps. Over the years I begged for electric and lights to be added, I scrubbed the floors and I played in it every summer. When I was in high school a friend let me borrow her copy of Seasons at Seven Gates Farm and I was totally smitten by the wash house in the book. I instantly knew I had to have a space like that, and that my coal house would become just that. After endlessly power washing the floors and walls I was able to get rid of the years of dirt and coal dust. I white washed the old wooden walls. Because the walls were so dry and old they immediately soaked up the paint and gave the perfect white washed look. The floors are still an issue because of the dust that remains. I will often times add a fresh coat of paint before shooting the space for magazines or the website. When I first did the space I tented the ceiling with yards of green fabric to give a more shabby chic look, I never really liked the look because it sucked all the light from the space.

Last year before shooting a set of photos for Where Women COOK I redid the ceiling with white fabric and have never looked back. The space is now filled with a mix of antique pieces from my family and pieces I’ve found at local auctions and estate sales, along with shelves from IKEA. 

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The new space will be a larger version of the coal house, one that will hopefully be more permanent and not constantly in influx with photos and such. The coal house will remain as a photo area, and perhaps a potting shed for the day I will actually have a garden again.  

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My Favorite Sources

The coal house is filled with pieces I’ve collected over the years. For antiques I rely on family pieces and hunting at local estate sales, yard sales, and flea markets. The green Hoosier cabinet base was a $40 score last summer at a yard sale in the neighboring town. The wooden boot rack was a gift from Jennifer Lanne. Her paintings are typically hanging in the space too. The antique dress is probably my favorite piece in the building. It was my grandmothers. I found it in the garage and knew I had to find a way to use it. The cross that hangs on it was a gift from Laurie Meseroll. Some of my favorite sources for new things are Woolrich, Schoolhouse Electric, and Makers Market. Yes, the galvanized shelves are from IKEA.

If you like the style of my studio and would like to checkout some of the makers included in these photos browse this list:







A Stop at Luckett's Spring Market

Ben Ashby

I haven’t been to a market or a barn sale in what feels like forever. I make an annual trip to The Strawberry Patch down in Hartsville, TN but I haven’t been to any others in years. Last week I knew I’d be driving from New York to Kentucky and I was really craving a different route. Something a bit more southbound than my usual PA/WV trek. While hunting for alternate routes I noticed that The Fruit Tea Chicks were doing a market in Virginia that same weekend. I also knew that I had been wanting to visit Luckett’s Spring Market for nearly a decade. I pulled up my map and quickly realized it was just a few minutes off interstate 81. I was sold, I would soon be getting my fruit tea and seeing a market I’d been so eager to visit.

When I arrived I had thought the market was going to be a small one. I would be in and out in an hour. I was stopping for fruit tea, to photograph the market, and to see Farmhouse Frocks. Simple. Easy. Fast. Three hours later I was forcing myself to head out after only covering a small section of this massive market. I am not one to give compliments, so when I say that you need to visit this market if you’re hunting for really cool antique and vintage pieces…add it to your list.

I only had a chance to take a few photos, but they are shared below. I loved that this is one of those markets/shows that you go to experience. It is a full day activity. Beyond the dozens of vendors of antique, handmade, vintage, and American made, there is a vast selection of food, there are lots of activities for all ages, and a mix of musical performances. I cannot wait to go back next year. || — Luckett’s Spring Market

5 Tips for a Successful Experience

  1. Prepare for the sun and heat. Bring sun screen and prepare to stay hydrated. It is hot and sunny and you’re not going to want to rush through all the treasure hunting. Luckily there are many hydration options, but don’t forget the sunscreen at home.

  2. Come with cash. It is true that most vendors accept credit cards now, but cash for the most part is easier and allows you to better keep track of your spending.

  3. Arrive in the right vehicle. While you think you may only be coming to get fruit tea and a bar of soap, you will end up buying a hoosier cabinet and you will need a way to bring it home.

  4. Sunday is often the best day to shop. The final day of a show, especially if it is a Sunday is typically a slower day and a day vendors are willing to make good deals on pieces they don’t want to take back home.

  5. Don’t rush. This is a marathon. You have dozens of vendors to checkout. Don’t spend all your money in the first booth you visit. Know that you’ll likely find things you love or need in many more booths to come.