Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's time again for Tablescape Thursday with Susan of Between Naps on the Porch!

This week's table is neither bold nor colorful. There are six place settings on a table that's literally scaled back (I removed the leaf). I was in a quietly reflective mood as I selected a vintage, soft, cream-colored Quaker Lace tablecloth. I was thinking of long-ago meals. Of tables set by ladies using their "Sunday best" china, crystal, flatware, and linens.

It's often said that the Golden Age of Hollywood began with "talkies" and continued through the early 1960s. During much the same era, something similar was happening with American glass, silver, and china companies. The best of them were creating beautiful, timeless products for American homes. There was a growing middle class of consumers clamoring for their products. Bridal registries became popular.

What those brides so lovingly selected is often available today at estate sales, in antiques shops, and on eBay. Many of the designs have become classics -- as beautiful today as when they were first produced.

The china is by Lenox. It's identified only as H2. The pattern was introduced in 1911. It looks very similar to patterns still in production today.

The clear glass salad plates are Canterbury (1939-1955) by Duncan & Miller.

The silverplated flatware is Triumph (1941) by International Silver. The napkins are vintage.

The glassware is American (1915-1982) by Fostoria. Sometimes it's referred to as Early American. When I was a child, many of my mother's friends and relatives used American whenever they served company meals. I thought it was Fostoria's only pattern.

Below is the "tall water" glass. I often re-purpose older glassware. Since most dinners today have only one wine served throughout, this is a good size to use as a wine glass.

Below is the "low water" glass. I like it better then the "iced beverage," because it has a slightly longer stem and a graceful shape.

The small glass below is a sort of cousin of American. It's called American Lady. It features the cubist-patterned foot and stem, with a smooth, blown-glass bowl. For those who prefer colorful glassware, Fostoria also produced the pattern with a purple (amethyst) bowl -- those are stunning! The ones I'm using were marketed as champagne glasses, but I'd use them to serve a nice liqueur with dessert.

The Quaker Lace Company of Philadelphia was regarded for over a century as the producer of America’s most desirable lace goods. The success of Quaker Lace depended in part on their ability to meet their middle-class customers’ desires for both luxury and durability.

In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson asked Lenox to produce the White House's china service in lieu of previously chosen French made patterns. He was trying to fulfill a Congressional mandate of 1826 stipulating that everything used in the White House should be domestically produced. Previous Presidents had been unable to find domestic china deemed suitable to serve honored guests at the White House table, and they remained dependent on foreign-made tableware. Woodrow Wilson broke this precedent by ordering a 1700-piece tableware set from Lenox at a cost of $16,000. Since that time, Lenox has produced tableware for Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush.

I've combined several different china patterns today. The creamer and sugar bowl are Claridge by Theodore Haviland. The pair of two-light candleholders is Duncan & Miller's Canterbury.

Many of the American products I'm showing you today were strongly influenced by European designs. To add extra interest and color contrast, I included the Bavarian butter pat plates just before I took the pictures. I've used them as iced tea spoon rests before. It's always a problem to know what to do with an iced beverage spoon after using it. Rules of etiquette say flatware can't ever touch the table/tablecloth after being used.

I once saw iced tea spoons placed above the plate at a banquet in an elegant hotel. Is it "proper?" I don't know, but I like the look, and it saves space horizontally at each place setting.

A closer view. I like the flowing, flame-shaped design of the candleholders.

A late 1800's French Haviland teapot. It's marked "CFH" on the bottom -- for Charles Field Haviland. Charles was the nephew of David Haviland, founder of the Haviland china dynasty. Charles Haviland was in business in Limoges, France, from 1859 until 1881. The European influences are obvious throughout all the "made in USA" products I'm showing you today. As Martha Stewart says (speaking specifically of the British), "They've taught us so much about gracious living."

I have Fostoria American salad plates but, to be honest, I think it looks more interesting to mix in a less "energetic" glassware pattern. Because of its popularity and long production run, there's a tremendous amount of American available. Most pieces (other than large serving pieces and rare items) are widely available at moderate prices.

The coffee pot below is Theodore Haviland's Concorde, made in America. All Haviland china had been produced in Limoges, France, prior to 1936. Operations were moved back to Europe in 1958.

Some trivia for you -- although the backstamp says "Theodore Haviland New York," Haviland was produced in America (using Haviland's porcelain formula, molds, decals, etc.) by Shenango Pottery of New Castle, Pennsylvania.

A closer view of the tablecloth and the flatware:

The coffee pot below is also Theodore Haviland. The pattern is Gotham (1945-1958). I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it coordinates with the Lenox china.

Claridge (New York) is very similar to Gotham. They're the same shape, but Gotham has a gold band vs. Claridge's gold line.

I felt that a simple centerpiece (with a tiny footprint) would be all this compressed table for six required. I cut a handful of lantana, and used a vintage etched glass budvase. It has a weighted sterling silver base.

I thought you might enjoy a look upward ...

Is this table old-fashioned? I think so. Traditional? Absolutely!

Un-cool? Perhaps -- I sort of hope so!
It's been a long time since I tried to be hip, or cool, or modern. That was when I was young and foolish -- and hadn't developed an appreciation of the timeless qualities of things cherished by previous generations.

Candlelight and Fosteria's American pattern make agreeable dinner companions. I added a mayonnaise bowl and underplate after I'd already begun taking photographs. The little red spots in the bowl are fallen lantana petals.

The only new items on the table are the tall Mikasa salt and pepper shakers and the inexpensive crystal tealight holders. Otherwise, it could have been a table set by our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, teachers, family friends ...

Does any of it remind you of a special person in your life or bring back memories from childhood?

Maybe I'll do a better flower arrangement for you next time ...

Or perhaps I'll fill this Canterbury bowl with fruit ...

Or floating candles ...

Thank you for joining me today. I hope you'll visit Susan and all her talented participants for the 101st Tablescape Thursday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Playing King & Queen of the Castle!

Today's post is dedicated to Anita of Far Above Rubies. The multi-talented Anita sets beautiful tables! I particularly enjoy it when she uses her Franciscan "Ivy" dishes, the pattern used on "I Love Lucy" throughout the entire run of the ever-popular 1950s show. I thought of Anita, because I'm using ivy patterned dishes today (not the same ones though). Anita often refers to living next door to her mother, who shares Anita's interest in setting lovely tables. In fact, Anita's mom often lends beautiful items from her china, silver, and glassware collections to Anita for tablescape posts.

I wrote a little story for today's post. It's about a mother and daughter. The daughter's name is Anita, and I'm certain the resemblance stops there. I have no doubt that Anita of Far Above Rubies is far sweeter to her mom than the inquisitive young lady you're about to meet.

Read on. I hope you enjoy:

"King and Queen"

Just as Emily was putting the finishing touches on her table, she heard a little tap-tap at the mudroom door. Anita entered, as usual, without waiting to be invited. “What’s all this, Mom?” she asked, as her eyes focused on the table in the sunroom.

“Well, what does it look like? I’m just setting a simple table for two for your daddy and me.” “Simple?” Anita exclaimed. “And where’d you get these dishes? Have you been shopping again?”

“No, I haven’t been shopping – this time. I was cleaning out the guest room closet and found them in a box on the top shelf.

They were my mama’s. Pope Gosser ‘American Ivy.’ She got them when she married in the late 40s. She loved them -- used them every single day for years.

Quite a few of the serving pieces are still in good shape, but most of the dinner plates were chipped or broken, or the gold was rubbed off from all those years of hand-washing and drying. “

“Why’d you drag out all that old silver? Nobody uses silver anymore – too much trouble to polish it!”

“Well I still like silver and, as you can see, I didn’t polish it. A little tarnish here and there gives it character,” Emily laughed.

“Why are you sitting so far apart? Did you and Dad have a fight or something?”

“No, Miss Smarty Pants, we did not have a fight!

Once in a while, we used to sit at opposite ends of this long table. It was before you were born. We thought it was fun to imagine we’d be rich someday and have a maid serving us dinner.”

“And why are you using that ratty old lace thing?”

“It is not ‘ratty!’ It’s just old. It was Mama’s mama’s only lace tablecloth. I love it because of the holes and the stains. It’s earned every single one of them. Besides, it’s perfect for something like this – no need to worry about messing it up. I cut ivy and Vinca minor to decorate on the table. And the crepe myrtle in the centerpiece is shedding already. “

“OK, that makes sense. I hate to sound negative, but should I be worried? There are two decanters of rosé and two bottles of white on the table! Unless that’s pink Kool-Aid, I have to ask -- are you and Dad alcoholics now or something?”

“No, silly, I’m going to chill the white for later. That sweet young couple next door is coming over. I just wanted an excuse to use the silver champagne buckets. Your daddy’s going to feed their dog while they’re on vacation, and they’re coming over to bring the key and the instructions.

Before you ask, there are two coffee carafes, because there’s regular after-dinner coffee for me and decaf for your daddy. His doctor told him to cut back on caffeine.”

“What are you serving?”

“It’s a one-dish meal. I’m making Mama’s famous chicken casserole, and I’ll keep it warm in the chafing dish. We’ll have a salad first, and I’ve made Cousin Clevie’s lemon icebox pie for dessert.”

Cousin Clevie?”

“Yes, Mama’s cousin, Clevie Delilah from Louisville, sent all of us the recipe years ago. She always wrote little notes on the recipe cards. This one said, ‘This is the pie I ate a whole one by myself. Nearly laid myself out, too!’ You know it has to be good, with a recommendation like that!”

“How can you and Dad see each other over those flowers and candles?” You even put the flowers up on a little pedestal!”

“Honey,” Emily said smiling, “after 35 years together, your daddy and I both know what the other looks like. It’s been established! It’ll be nice. I’ll put on some soft, relaxing instrumental music.”

“How will you hear each other, sitting so far away?” “Anita, you’ll understand someday. It’s called ‘companionable silence.’ When you’ve been married to someone for 35 years, you’ve used up all your best material. It’s a pleasure to just relax and enjoy the quiet companionship. I know it’s a foreign concept to you at this point in your life.”

“Hey, I’m quiet sometimes. I often suffer in silence!” Emily gave her one of those “I’m your mother; don’t try to kid me” looks, and they both burst into mirthful laughter.

“Well, it’s pretty. I do like those dishes. Wait, two gravy boats? Are you putting gravy on the casserole?”

“No, honey, it’s for the salad dressing. It’s the same principle as putting inexpensive wine in pretty decanters to make it look more festive. I’ll put bottled balsamic vinaigrette for the salads in the gravy boats, and your daddy will think it’s homemade!”

“I know it’ll look nice when you light the candles. I sort of wish I didn’t already have dinner plans.”

“You run along. This is a table for two, remember? I’ll have you and Clint over for dinner one night next week. We’ll use Aunt Sally’s dishes. They were in the closet too! This is her wedding crystal, Fostoria ‘Laurel.’ It’ll be yours someday.”

“Bye, Mom. Love you!” And, with a quick hug and a kiss on her mother’s cheek, she was out the door …

Emily returned to the task at hand. It was almost time to put the casserole in the oven.

She began singing softly to herself, thinking of Adam and what he'll say when he sees the seating arrangement. He'll know I'm playing "King and Queen of the Castle."

It'll be like when we were newlyweds.

She felt tears of happiness welling up as she whispered, "Only better."

Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. It's her 100th consecutive Tablescape Thursday! Happy anniversary, Susan! Thank you for the inspiration, the endless array of "eye candy," the creativity, and the camaraderie your delightful meme always provides!

My table this week began with a suggestion from Susan. I told her my new/old set of ivy dishes was missing a few dinner plates. I was thinking in terms of mixing & matching. She asked, "Why don't you just set a table for two?" And so I did!

Thank you, Susan, and thank you to everyone who visits and takes a moment to leave a comment. I appreciate you more than I can say!

Warmest regards,