What I Found at Mrs. T’s Estate Sale

Not too long ago, I went to an estate sale in a sleepy little town about 15 minutes from my house. It was a glorious, sunny fall day. My friend and I threw caution to the wind and decided to go “sale-ing” and out to lunch when we were finished.

What treasures we found that day! My favorite sale was the one being held for a woman in her 90s who had recently passed away. Mrs. T. left lots of things behind. Furniture. Appliances. Clothing and tools. But I was most fascinated by her kitchen trinkets. These items had been collected over decades beginning with her days as a new bride in the 1940’s.

I quickly loaded a box full of what might seem to be random and common things found in one’s kitchen. A glass candy dish. An old tin cookie-cutter. A frosting knife. Several cookbooks. And my personal favorite––an old wooden rolling pin.


Kitchen gadgets and decades of love. What I found at Mrs. T's estate sale. {karenehman.com}I didn’t pay over $.50 for any of these items, But that day I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I needed a frosting knife and have been meaning to buy one. My rolling pin is over 25 years old and, although it still works fine, when my daughter is home baking with me, we have to share one. And I am always up for a new vintage cookbook. I find so many fabulous recipes within their pages. And so I squealed with delight to my friend as I loaded my box high with these culinary treasures.

But something in me also felt a little sad at leaving that day. Didn’t any of Mrs. T’s family members want these kitchen items? Had the candy dish at one time held bright colored treats for her grandchildren? Had she used the frosting knife on birthday cakes for her loved ones over the years? Had she baked pies from scratch with that old rolling pin for her family’s Thanksgiving each year? Didn’t anyone in her family want these items?

Three well-used cookbooks from my kitchen. One from the bank my Aunt Patty worked at when I got engaged. The top one my mom gave me when I got married {it is the same one she's had since 1960} and the third I found at a yard sale when I first had kids.
Three well-used cookbooks from my kitchen. One from the bank my Aunt Patty worked at when I got engaged. The top one my mom gave me when I got married {it is the same one she’s had since 1960} and the third I found at a yard sale when I first had kids.

When my sister-in-law passed away in October, I helped my niece and nephew to clean out her home. It took us several weekends and we all both laughed and cried at some of the items we found.

Cleaning out her kitchen cupboards brought back many memories for them. And for me. Seeing her springform pan that made her famous raspberry–white chocolate cheesecake so many times made us all choke up a bit. We found her cheese knife that was well-used over the years. {Ehmans have never met a cheese they didn’t love!} It made my heart smile to see both my niece and nephew delighted to repurpose so many tools and treasures from their mom’s kitchen. And they were so generous with me, giving me some of the items as well.

I wonder what it might be like someday when I am gone. What things from my kitchen will my children want? My big cast iron pan that fries eggs for my boys on so many Saturday mornings? My red soup kettle that has made so many homemade soups over the years? My pastry blender that forms the crust for my chocolate-pecan pie? My cookbooks, all stained and splattered from years of loving use? And I’m sure they’ll be a fight over my cheese board and knife! {my kids all have Ehman blood, you know!)

What treasured kitchen trinkets might your family want from your kitchen someday? An Heirloom Kitchen giveaway from karenehman.com
The giveaway. An heirloom Cookbook from Southern Living. {Pic of my husband’s family and antique kitchen gadgets not included, of course}

Today I want to give away in heirloom cookbook to one of you, along with a few of our family’s favorites recipes, handwritten on some recipe cards.

To be entered in the giveaway, simply tell me your most treasured kitchen item: Either one you now own or one that a loved one passed down to you.

The winner will be announced Monday.

In the meantime, whip up something for your loved ones this weekend. Whether it is a homemade pie for a sweet treat or a healthily main dish made with love.

Whether it is 1945 or 2015. Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven.

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  1. I love the old pot my mom used to cook beans especially. The handle is glued & wired together but I use it all the time. Love family cookware!

  2. My Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my mom and dad gave me for my birthday. They wrote a “recipe” that tells their love for me. Something I’ll treasure forvever.

  3. I love kitchen trinkets and have many favorites.One is my grandmother’s pyrex mixing bowls set.I remember helping her mix up different things in those bowls when I was a little girl. One of the things I treasure most is a recipe book that I wrote with my grannie, my mother,and aunts.It is an heirloom cookbook where you write the recipes in.It is a wonderful keepsake of their wonderful recipes.The cover of the book is very old fashion looking the heirloom look for sure and I love recipes especially from my grannie,my mother,great aunt,and aunts and other family members. My uncle makes the best pimento cheese that I have ever had. And I have
    finally got it mastered where I can make it too. I love anything that pertains to the kitchen especially those items that takes me back to the wonderful memories of my childhood days in East Tennessee.Those were the greatest times….

  4. My most treasured kitchen item is a ~1968 Wisconsin Electric Christmas cookie recipe book from which my dad made his cookies.

  5. A chef’s knife. I used to use whatever knife I found to chop things … imagine using a steak knife to slice an onion. One day my husband bought me a really great chef knife. It’s wonderful and I slice and dice all kinds of everything with it.

  6. I love all things kitchen but my favorite is an old walrus cookie jar I got as a shower gift in 1972 and passed on to my daughter at her wedding shower in 2010. Still miss it in my kitchen ;) but she loves it too!

  7. My most treasured item. It is hard to say. You see, I love to cook. A passion inspired by my mother from my childhood. I remember asking my mother to leave me her recipes/cookbooks in her will !! Not thinking through at the time, that she would no longer be here to give them to me. Well, I do have her cookbooks, well worn and with her handwriting on many of the pages, adjusting the recipe to suit our large family. I was one of 10 children. I am happy to say that I was with Mom when she passed. So, my most treasured item…time with my Mom, her handwriting and memories shared.

  8. My most favorite item is a cookbook my grandmother gave me when I got married. It’s all her best family recipes written in her handwriting. I will treasure it for years to come!!

  9. Such wonderful memories in all of the comments. My favorite thing in the kitchen would be a cup and saucer my Grandmother used every day. Not a china teacup; but a large shortish round cup made for coffee. There is wear on the pieces where there was once color and I just think of the times she lifted it and drank from it.
    Another thing would be my cookbooks of all ages. I can sit and read them like novels; especially the church or community ones with recipes that were used over and over again by several generations. Each one has a story to tell.

  10. I love Estate Sales as well, but I often have the same feeling as you described! My most treasured item is a cookbook filled with family recipes.

  11. My most treasured items are the kitchen aprons that my mother made ….she is a beautiful seamstress and makes the best pie crust…but I can keep and TREASURE the hand made kitchen apron…

  12. My favorite kitchen tool is a 2 cup tin measuring cup that was my grandmother’s. I grew up working beside her in the kitchen and it was always there for solids as well as liquids. If my house was on fire,I would grab this first.

  13. My first cake i baked was with my grandma when she came to live with us when i was five. Well she baked & i helped make the eastet lamb cake. I had so much fun using jellie beans to decorate. She then invited me to help every saturday when she created sonething & she’d share he most intimate thoughts as shef share what she drempt the night b4 and ask what i drempt so she can try to understand me more by interpreting them. She died the following yr & my mom inherited said mold, later passed to me. I think back to how intentional my grandma was at trying to learn about my deep feelings & sharing hets even though i was only 5. She loved me enough to not determine if ahe felt i earned to receive her deep thoughts & i now compare that to our Lord, with his unconditional love & his thoughts & adice shared with us through his word. I can cherish my relationship with God as intentipnal as my grandmas love was cuz He taught her to love first.

  14. I have 2 kitchen gadgets that I love. One is a spatula that will scrape the bowl clean and a small spatula that serves pieces of cakes and brownies.

  15. I can totally relate to your article today!! I too treasure the well used kitchen items from family. When my husband and I go antiquing, kitchen gadgets and old cookbooks are what I gravitate to! I have so many well loved items and cookbooks. When I look through an old cookbook I wonder what recipes were the favorites of that family, how many holiday or birthday recipes were used. And, if I’m lucky, I find small treasures within the pages…such as handwritten notes or articles cut out from very old magazines stuck in the pages. One of my favorite heirlooms is an old notebook with handwritten recipes from my great grandmother on my mother’s side…all the way back to 1903 when she was first married! I love to look at the recipes written in her own hand, such as homemade cough syrup or a cake recipe from her own mother in law. There are notes in the margins on many of the pages as to who gave her the recipe…her mother in law, a neighbor, Mrs. so and so’s cake recipe. And, at the very back of the notebook: a handwritten (in pencil) homework assignment about Paul Revere….written by my grandmother as a little girl! I also have an old wooden rolling pin and hand crank pasta maker from my other grandmother from the 1930’s. When a neighbor’s home was being torn down after the passing of the husband and wife, my mother & I went into the house to walk around, fondly remembering them. I walked thru the kitchen and in the cupboard were some items, I grabbed an old tin cookie cutter to remember her by. These are the treasures I love!!

  16. My favorite kitchen item is my two sided grill/skillet that I can use on top of two of the burners on my stove. Because we have a small apartment kitchen, space is valuable and it takes up so little of it. We love making quesadillas on the grill side and eggs and bacon on the skillet side. Yum! :)

  17. Dear Karen,
    My favorite utensil is a tin Bromwell’s Measuring–Sifter Guaranteed. Pat. no. 1,753.995. It still has its ‘handle with the little red knob. It belonged to my grandmother who used to sit out on the cellar door and pluck chickens after she had run after them and sit and watch the Windmill turn when she wanted to look up. It should never be washed. I wish more of my kitchen utensils bore that label or anything else in my kitchen for that matter. When I use it I can remember my grandmother who was a little petite lady and she could out run a chicken (free range of course) and getting eggs from the hen house and praying before going in that there were no snakes in the nests. My kids have no idea what it is like to have never lived on a farm with cows and growing cotton and vegetables in the 1/2 acre garden and shucking peas. This is something that takes me back to my childhood and I wish I could have had my children with me when we lived on that farm. Wow, that was really living.

  18. A cookbook my mom gave to each of her daughters before a drunk driver took her from us. Another cookbook from my days in nurses’ training. Cookie cutters I used with my children and now with my grandchildren.

  19. What a great post! My brother had a cutting board engraved with one of our grandma’s handwritten recipes. It is my favorite kitchen treasure!

  20. I have an old wooden rolling pin with one handle broken off but love the memories…it belonged to my great-grandmother….I also have a green handled fork that my grandmother always used & which I always use now….it doesn’t match any other of our silverware, but that is ok…I love that fork….special memories.

  21. I have a few Pyrex bowls that I inherited from my Mamaw….and a tulip Fire King bowl….and one of her biscuit cutters! Oh, how I loved that woman! She passed a way in 2011, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday!

  22. Rosette Irons. Every Christmas, my Polish grandma would spends hours over hot oil making flat after flat of these dainty delicacies for friends and neighbors. I’ve seen it posted that they are Swedish, but I had been told they were Norwegian, as was my grandpa. Who knew milk, sugar, and flour could turn into something so dreamy? When she passed away, it was a gift to my heart to receive these. And guess what my granddaughter wanted this year? Yep, I found her a set of antique ones….

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