Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Cornell Winner! And a Breakfast Bar (?)

It's time for another Tablescape Thursday with our hostess, Susan at Between Naps on the Porch!

Thank you to those of you who have left such generous and thoughtful comments for me during the past few weeks. I haven't had time to visit nearly as many of you as I'd like to lately. I hope you'll be patient and know I'll stop by when I can.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Maria of Chica Bella Crafts. She's the winner of the April Cornell napkin giveaway. I copied and pasted links to the Google profiles of everyone who left comments on my "Day into Evening" table with April Cornell post. If you missed it, you can see it HERE. I pasted the links twice for followers, and three times for e-mail subscribers. Then I numbered the list in a Word document and used an online random number generator to find the number that matched one of the links that led me to Maria's blog.

I was pleasantly surprised that Maria had done a post on table linens that featured April Cornell's designs (and kindly mentioned having discovered April Cornell through my post!). I'm so pleased that Maria won. If you haven't visited her blog, I hope you'll stop by and say hi.


I'm sharing a post I did not long after I began blogging last year. Since there are several newer followers since then, I hoped some of you might not have seen it. I hope you enjoy ....

It had rained here all night, so it was too wet to set a table for you outside. I've already "done" the dining room and breakfast nook ... so I decided to set a table that's not a table.

Here's the result, a breakfast bar ... well, a setting for breakfast ON the bar:

It was light outside ... around 7am, but a few candles always enhance the mood.

These are some of my favorite dishes, "Medici" by Myott/Staffordshire. They're very similar to a pattern by another English company, "Florentine" by Wedgwood. Wedgewood introduced "Florentine" in 1931, and it's still an active pattern. The primary difference is that the raised enameling in the center of "Florentine" depicts flowers, rather than fruit ... and it retails for $400 for a 5-piece place setting! I found 40 pieces of "Medici" at a local antique mall for $100 (after a bit of negotiating). A fire destroyed Myott's records and pattern books, so not much is known about dates, etc. of many of their patterns.

These dishes are definitely old, and there's some "crazing" (the slight crackle you can see in the glaze if you look closely), but I don't mind that they've been used and obviously loved. For me, it adds to the interest and reminds us that the pieces have a history.

The silverplated flatware is by Rogers. The pattern is: Starlight / Hostess / Claridge. I have no idea why it's listed under so many names, but I like the simplicity and the art deco influence.

You'll notice that the handles are longer-than-average on the forks and knives. That was popular during the 1930's and 40's. It's called the "viande" or "grille" style. It reflects deco styling; the idea was that it would be an ergonomic design well-suited to cutting and eating steak, etc. (viande is French for meat). It seems that grilling became popular during that era. I think it was primarily seen as being something new and stylish ... a marketing concept. I happen to like the proportions ... that's probably why long-handled iced tea spoons and seafood forks appeal to me visually.

The "placemat for two" is a hand-crocheted runner from an estate sale. It cost $1.

You can see some of the glassware I've been collecting in the background.

I had planned to use these vases for roses, but the rose garden took a beating during all the heavy rain. I looked around, and the marigolds were standing proudly. Somehow though, it seemed that single marigolds looked lonely in the containers. The daisies had also survived the rain intact, so I snipped a few of those. Actually, some of the ones pictured here were used in last week's tablescapes ... they're definitely durable flowers!

The "vases" are vintage frosted hunting horn-shaped pilsner glasses by Tiara. They were a Goodwill find at $.99 each. A well-known replacement service lists them for $13.99 each.

I decided to use tall sherbet/champagne glasses for juice. This is a Rock Sharpe pattern. I really like the sparkly stems. The water glass is from the mid 1950's. It's "Tempo" by Heisey. They're very nice quality (comparable to Fostoria). I found them at an estate sale (covered with dust on an outside table) priced at 3 for $2.50. It was the second day of the sale, so I offered $1 for the set ... offer accepted! I have a fairly large set of the same stem with an etched pattern -- that's how I knew they were Heisey when I spotted them at the sale.

A close up of the etch/cutting on the Rock Sharpe stems. They're probably from the late 1930's. I paid $12 for ten at a local antique mall (after chatting with the dealer who was in her booth that day). They had been priced at $22, which was already a great price. Since I know she likes to negotiate, I figured it wouldn't hurt to offer less. Prices often depends on how much the dealers have invested in the pieces, whether the rent is due, if they're overstocked, etc. It definitely pays to be polite, and it's never a good idea to offer an insultingly low amount.
I think the simple lines of the sugar bowl and creamer have a deco influence. The're a 1970's pattern by Fostoria called "Transition." One of the pieces still had the original Fostoria label ... I removed it today just for you! I bought the set at a salvage store in Illinois for $4.

A closer view ...

And there you have it ... breakfast on the bar! Well ... minus the food ... what would you like me to serve?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Room Service, for Two!

Today we're in the coziest of the guest bedrooms. It's called the Blue Room (original, no?). I've set a table for two next to the windows and temporarily repurposed a circa 1950 Grundig entertainment center as a sideboard.

My neighbor gave it to me several years ago when she went into assisted living. She and her husband had brought it back from Germany in the 50s and, after numerous moves, she took pride in the fact that it didn't have a single scratch on it. It still works, by the way, shortwave radio and all. It now serves as a surface on which a lamp sits and a few decorative objects can be displayed. I think it's nice to always provide overnight guests with a horizontal surface to use while unpacking, dressing, and so on.

The champagne/tall sherbet glasses are Candlewick (1936-1984) by Imperial. It was one of Imperial's most popular patterns. While the Candlewick serving pieces appear delicate with their beaded rims, they must be amazingly durable. I see Candlewick pieces in almost every antique shop and mall, and they're generally in excellent condition. HERE's a link to an eBay guide on telling the difference between genuine Candlewick and imposters produced by other companies.

I love the simplicity of the beaded stems. They feel nice in the hand while reflecting light and color beautifully.

The old iron bed was my paternal grandfather's. When my father was a child, he recalls that my grandfather always kept a loaded revolver in a holster on the bedpost (at the head of the bed) with a shawl draped over it.

The shutters provide privacy and darken the room nicely for guests who sleep late.

My mother made the hand-stitched butterfly quilt when I was a child.

On the top shelf, simple sterling candleholders (estate sale, $5). A biscuit jar sits on the second shelf. The marks on the underside of the lid appear to be English (Jackie?). I'm not sure how old it is. It was a gift long ago from a former teacher of mine, who dabbled in antiques. She coached me in my one attempt at participating in a public speaking competition. I'm definitely not an orator, but I somehow won the contest. Obviously, she was an outstanding instructor!

On the third shelf is a Candlewick mayonnaise bowl and underplate. I grew up seeing it in our home, but I don't know how it ended up there. It probably belonged to one of my great-aunts. I wish I'd paid more attention to things like that. Believe it or not, there was a time I had almost zero interest in antiques/"old stuff."

Below that is a Lenox bowl. It's made in the USA. Many Lenox vases and other decorative items are made in China these days. I sometimes use it to hold flowers for a centerpiece. I think I paid around $6 for it at Goodwill. I remember the young woman at the checkout was horrified at the high price. I told her it was OK, that I liked it enough to pay that amount for it.

The china is Monroe (1983-2003) by Lenox. It's from the Presidential series. I consider it my "primary" set of company dishes. I haven't taken inventory lately, but I've added to the basic set through the years. There are 20+ place settings, with lots of serving pieces.

The azaleas are in bloom! There were only a few today, so I cut off just the very tips of branches and displayed them in a simple silverplated epergne. The little vases are detachable for filling and cleaning. It's normally displayed in the corner on the shelf where the mayo bowl is sitting (it visually fills the space better). I gave it a quick, much-needed polishing before I put it on today's table.

View from the chair on the right.

And from the left...

The daffodils have been beautiful this year, but they're finished blooming now. The hostas are rapidly emerging, and their leaves are unfurling. As you probably know, daffodils and hostas make good companions, with hosta leaves concealing the spent daffodil foliage as it feeds the bulbs to prepare them for next years blossoms.

The flatware is King Cedric, introduced by Oneida in 1933. There's a 1949 version of the same pattern in sterling. I mix the plated and sterling pieces and honestly can't tell the difference without turning it over to read the description.

The pieces below have special meaning for me. Their value is strictly sentimental. The dinner plate was my maternal grandmother's, and I remember seeing it displayed in her kitchen. The Lord's Supper tray is a Goofus glass piece (early 20th Century pressed, decorated glass) that belonged to my paternal grandparents. When I was a child, I assumed it had been clear, and someone (my grandmother or my father's sister) had painted it gold. You can read about Goofus glass HERE and see some stunning examples of it HERE.

More azaleas on the "sideboard."

The water glasses are Fostoria Heritage (1979 - 1982). They're from an estate sale (of a former US Congressman from West Tennessee). The tall champagne flutes are an unknown pattern from a consignment shop).

I think it's thoughtful to provide a chair, even a small one like this, for guests. It's nice to have a place to sit while putting on/taking off shoes. Or sipping a nice cup of afternoon tea or coffee.

The cups and dessert plates are waiting to be used after dinner.

The Monroe creamer and sugar, with a Fostoria Colony double light candleholder in the background.

I really like the shape of these cups, as well as the cream background color and the gold decoration on the handles and base.

This heavy crystal decanter's a recent purchase from an "upscale resale" shop. It was only $10. It had a slight rough spot on the edge of the rim, but I smoothed it with a file (from a beauty supply store). I don't think anyone would ever be the wiser. The silverplated covered vegetable dish came from an estate sale ($5 on day 2). The extra-tall etched wine glasses were a Goodwill find at $1.99 each.

Closer view:

Blue time (for Gollum!).

Both tablecloths were purchased at closing time on the last day of an estate sale. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how little I paid for an armful of beautiful vintage table linens that day!

End of day ...

My grandfather's one of the commissioners photographed on the steps of the County courthouse. I remember seeing him walking to his car dressed in a suit and tie on his way to hospital board meetings, never without a hat (tilted slightly ... just so). "A fly wouldn't light on him!" I used to hear said (of him) when I was a child. Is that a Southern expression? I'm not sure, since Southern is all I really know.

Candles are lit ...

The made-in-Italy glass charger plates are from a local junk store. $2 for four.

Silverplated coffee pot from an estate sale.

Silver and azaleas ...

The "dangles" of the lampshade are showing, upper right ...

Time for coffee. Perhaps Dr. Wentworth is in the Blue Room tonight. Eloise will be in to clear the dishes. And then ....

It's time for Tablescape Thursday with Susan of Between Naps on the Porch! Stop by and see what Susan and her talented tablescaping friends have been doing this week. Click HERE or on the image below.

Today, April 14 , 2010, is the last day to leave a comment on "Day into Evening Table, with April Cornell Giveaway" to have a chance to win a bundle of four beautiful April Cornell blueberry napkins. Click HERE to see that post. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Remember Dixie

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dixie Virginia Carter (May 25, 1939 – April 10, 2010), American film, television, and stage actress, best-known for her role in the sitcom Designing Women (1986–1993). What a treasure the world has lost.

I had the good fortune of meeting her ten years ago when she delivered the keynote address at the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival’s Governor’s luncheon. Our former governor was unable to attend due to the death threats he was receiving for having suggested that Tennessee might benefit from increased revenue generated through the establishment of a state income tax. We didn’t care; we had Dixie Carter!

Dixie Carter arrived late. There had been much discussion in town of whether or not she would ride in an open car during the Festival parade that morning. We’d finally learned that her fair skin might have been adversely affected by the bright sunshine. She rushed into the room looking trim and beautiful in a sleeveless white sheath dress. She stepped to the microphone and, like the nice Southern lady she was, apologized profusely for having kept us waiting. She went on to explain, “Well, I know y’all heard I didn’t want to get sunburned today, but I looked so PALE in this white dress that I decided to use some of that fake tanning cream. Well, it took forever, and that’s why I’m late!”

She didn’t talk much about her career that day. She spoke of growing up in rural West Tennessee, of her beloved Daddy living with her in California, of the passing of her brother, of how deeply upset she had been by the divorce from her daughters’ father (concerned for the impact it might have on them). We laughed and cried, enjoying being in the palm of this spellbinding lady’s tiny hand.

Afterward there was a long line of people waiting to speak with her. I thought, “Why not?” and waited near the end of the line. As it turned out, the line moved quickly. Until I stood before her, telling her how much I was enjoying her then-current television series, Family Law on CBS. She claimed to recognize my name. I think she was being kind, but we did have a mutual friend. She might have spoken of me to Ms. Dixie.

Dixie warmed to the topic, placing her wrists on my shoulders and smiling up at me. She said she was enjoying playing attorney Randi King, a woman who served jail time for the murder of her abusive husband. She said, “She’s so different from ME or from anyone I’ve ever played.” I told her I loved the chemistry between her and Randi’s 25-year-old Latin paralegal Andres Diaz, played by Ricky Martin look-alike Cristian de la Fuente (Dixie was 60 at the time!). She laughed and said, “While we’re having our love scenes, I just look up in that young man’s mouth and, do you know, he doesn’t have a single filling in his head!”

By then, I’m sure the people behind me were becoming impatient. Suddenly she announced, “I’m so sorry, y’all, but I HAVE to go to the bathroom! I didn’t have time when I got here, ‘cause I was running late.” She smiled, waved, shook another hand or two, and off she went. Someone behind me said, “Well, Bill, I thought she was gonna kiss you!” I smile when I think of that. I sort of wish she had …

I saw her a few other times at the first and second season opening events at the performing arts center in Huntingdon, Tennessee, named in her honor. Her husband, Hal Holbrook, was there as well. He seemed every bit as kind and gracious as she was. The theater in her Center is named in his honor. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, creator of Designing Women, was there one night. It was a treat seeing the person who created those memorable characters and provided so many of the wise and hilarious lines they spoke. I remember having a slightly surreal feeling watching Dixie and Hal looking through the glass at their old stage costumes, displayed next to photographs of themselves in Mark Twain Tonight and Streetcar Named Desire.

I had my picture made with her at the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Governor’s Awards in the Arts in 2007. Her home town of Huntingdon won an award that night in honor of their admirable work in creating a performing arts (and academic enrichment) center in rural Tennessee. She actually lived outside Huntingdon in McLemoresville, population 259 in the 2000 census, but Huntingdon High School was her alma mater.

I’m so pleased that she received an Emmy nomination for her guest role on Desperate Housewives in 2007. Why she wasn’t nominated for her signature role as Julia Sugarbaker on DW, well, I’ll never know.

In case you haven’t seen it for a while, here’s her most famous “Terminator” speech. Watch and enjoy … and remember.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hundred Dollar Table Challenge!

It's time for another Tablescape Thursday with Susan of Between Naps on the Porch! Check out all the wonderful tablescapes HERE!

I thought it might be fun to set a table for six, limiting myself to items that cost a total of around $100. That total would include china, crystal, flatware, table linens, fresh flowers, candles, and candle holders. The courses to be served would include soup, salad, main course, and dessert. Stemware would be for wine and water (or iced tea, the "house wine" of the South).

The plan was not to actually go out shopping for new items. I decided to use mostly things I'd purchased previously, but hadn't yet used for a table post. I'm fairly certain only the placemats, water glasses, and chargers are being repeated.

I arranged the flowers and set the table the night before. The first photograph below was taken mid-morning.

The cream soup bowls with underplates are vintage Theodore Haviland (made in America). I found a set of eight on eBay. The minimum bid was $10. I bid the $10, and there were no other takers. Since I'm using only six of them today, I'll list the cost at $7.50.

I often buy vintage table linens at estate sales. Usually the damask napkins are luncheon size, but these are the larger ones. They'd been starched and ironed with nice crisp folds. The best part is that a set of six had been reduced to only $3 on the second day of the sale.

I mixed and matched vintage silverplated flatware. The dinner forks, knives, teaspoons, and soup/place spoons are all the same pattern. I added iced tea spoons, salad forks, and butter spreaders in other patterns. The service for six came from an estate sale. It was stored in a wonderful old leatherette case. The silverware itself was blackened with tarnish, but appeared unused (I didn't find a scratch on it anywhere). I polished it gently, leaving some of the tarnish here and there to highlight details of the design. Most of the odd pieces were dug from $1 boxes at local antique malls. They have a softer look, a patina of tiny, fine scratches from years of use and frequent polishing. It often gives old silver a look similar to that of pewter.

A closer view of the dinner and salad forks. You can see the clear salad plate here, between the soup bowl's underplate and the dinner plate. It has a stylized, etched laurel design. I frequently purchase clear glass plates at estate sales and thrift stores. I pay less attention to the design than to the clarity of the glass and their overall condition. They're great for buffets and parties, (so much nicer than using plastic I think) and, when they're purchased inexpensively, I don't hesitate to put them in the dishwasher.

A few months ago, I was a guest at a dinner party where the hostess served crème de menthe parfaits. I hadn't thought of that particular dessert in years, but I used to love ordering it in a favorite restaurant. They were so pretty, and so refreshing at the end of a meal. Since then I've kept an eye out for vintage parfait glasses. I found these at Goodwill for only forty-nine cents apiece. The underplates were also from GW. A stack of 8 was bundled together and priced at only $2.99. They were probably intended for use with matching cups, but I thought they worked well with the parfait glasses. Iced tea spoons are "parfait" for getting every little bit of goodness all the way to the very bottom of the glass.

I found a dozen or so of these tall crystal candleholders at Goodwill one day. They were only ninety-nine cents each, but the red price stickers were the featured color that week, so they cost half that. Most still had their original manufacturer's stickers as well, made by International Silver Company.

A better view of the candleholders. The candles came from Walgreen's after-Christmas sale. They were regularly 2 for $1 ... but they were 80% off!

Don't you love free flowers? I took a walk through the garden with secateurs in hand. I learned the word, secateurs, from Coty of Styling by Coty Farquhar and Styling Gardens by Coty Farquhar. Sounds so much nicer than plain ol' garden shears, doesn't it? I returned with redbud, dogwood, forsythia, cherry blossoms, daffodils, yellow rose of Texas, hellebores, fern fronds, a white hyacinth for fragrance, and a tulip or two for an extra touch of color. There are also some small white flowers in the arrangement that remind me of lily of the valley, except that they're taller and the foliage is similar to daffodils'. Perhaps some of you can help me identify it.

The placemats came from Dollar Tree. The gold-rimmed plates with the pink and yellow roses are by Homer Laughlin. I bought six dinner plates, six bread plates, a platter, and assorted other pieces for $2 at a local charity thrift shop. The lady who runs the shop said a woman had donated them earlier that day. She said she'd set up housekeeping with them in the 1940s, and now it was time for someone else to enjoy them.

The afternoon sun is providing a rosy glow ...

A closer view of the dogwood and hellebores.

I tried it first without the silverplated chargers, but the extra layer seemed necessary somehow. I like the way the mirror-like shine reflects the flowers and other colors surrounding them.

The taller glasses came from Goodwill, regularly ninety-nine cents each (but purchased for 50% off). I've used the Fostoria Puritan water glasses on previous tables. I found eight of them, some with original Fostoria stickers attached, at an indoor flea market. The set was priced at $20, with an extra 20% off. Puritan is a clean-lined, mid-century design that mixes well with almost any type of stemware and china.

Later afternoon now ...

The garden's really taking on the look of spring quickly now. Isn't it a wonderful time of year?

The soup bowls and dinner plates have in common gold rims and pink roses. Obviously they're far from being a perfect match, but I find that interesting. What about you? Do you like mixing patterns within a place setting?

Time for a disclaimer. I would NEVER use such a large centerpiece for an actual dinner party. This is for fun ... and for drama. But it's too high, too wide, and the container is inappropriate. This arrangement would work well in an entry hall or on a sideboard. If this table were intended for a meal with friends, I'd also remove at least half the candles, particularly the ones between the place settings and near the corners of the table.

On second thought, if the guests disliked one another intensely .... ;) Never mind, who would want to host (or attend) a dinner party under those circumstances?

View from above. Usually I line up the flatware approximately 1-1.5 inches from the edge of the table. Since this table has curved edges and the placemats have angled corners, I arranged the flatware more informally. Which do you prefer: handles lined up like little soldiers or arranged in a graceful curve?

Below, two views from the kitchen pass through window.

I purchased the candleholder on the right (a pair actually) at an "upscale resale" shop for $2 the day the table was set. I couldn't resist adding them (along with $2 toward going over budget for this challenge!).

I could hardly wait to light the candles and see if I liked the overall look.

Sometime, if you're really bored, try keeping this many candles straight while you're taking photographs! I NEED some candle "stick em," but it's not in the budget for today!

I like the way all the flickering flames are reflected in the china and glassware.

I'm ready for my parfait now!

Additional views of the table by candlelight ... as evening approaches ...

There's still time for an early evening stroll through the garden.

Homer Laughlin plates (dinner, bread, platter), $2, charity thrift store
Theodore Haviland cream soup bowls/underplates, $7.50, eBay
Placemats, $6, Dollar Tree
Damask Napkins, $3, estate sale
Silverplated flatware, service for six (original box), $20, estate sale
Mix-and-match vintage silverplated flatware, $18, antique mall
Fostoria “Puritan” iced beverage glasses, $16, indoor flea market
Wine glasses, $3, Goodwill
Vintage glass salad plates, $3, Goodwill
Vintage glass saucers, $3, Goodwill
Vintage parfait glasses, $3, Goodwill
International Silver glass candleholders, $5.00, Goodwill
Candles, Walgreens (after Christmas sale), $1 (ten cents ea.)
Metal urn, $5, antique mall
Sub-total, $95.50
2 additional candleholders, resale shop, $2
2 candles $0.10
Garden flowers, free
Sub-total $97.60
6 silverplated chargers, estate sale, $8
Mikasa salt and pepper shakers, junk store, $2
Grand total, $107.60

OK, I went over budget, but not by much. I could have left off the chargers and the new candleholders ... or the salt an pepper shakers. But why? My primary goal was to set an attractive table for you today. I hope I accomplished that.

I like the fact that this "challenge" table includes names like Theodore Haviland, Homer Laughlin, Fostoria, and International Silver. It demonstrates that good quality vintage tabletop items can be acquired without spending a great deal of money. If I can do it, YOU can do it!

A few suggestions:

1. Decide what you like, and learn all you can about it. Research manufacturers and patterns online and in books. You don't even have to buy the books. Most libraries have reference books on vintage/antique china, crystal, and silver.

2. Shop often to get the best prices (and not necessarily when you're looking for something in particular).

3. Go to estate sales if you have them in your area. Get to know the staff members. Go (or go back) on the second to get the very best prices. Having said that, if you see it, love it, and the price is at all reasonable, buy it the first day! The worst kind of buyer's remorse is "the one that got away." Years of enjoyment vs. saving a few dollars on an item ....

4. Be friendly when you visit thrift stores and resale shops. It costs nothing to be pleasant. Staff members tend to remember the really nice customers and the really NOT nice ones. It goes without saying which of those customers will be provided with the friendliest service, the best advice, and the best prices on negotiable items.

5. Be creative; ignore the rules; have fun; mix old and new, elegant and simple, heirlooms and thrifted items. USE the good stuff. Otherwise, why have it? Celebrate life, love, and friendship ... as often as possible!