Thursday, June 7, 2007

This Old House, Part 5 (I Think)

I had intended to show some pictures of the work in progress, but Blogger doesn't want to let me post pictures right now. I'll try again later.

We now have one upper cabinet and drawers at the bottom of the two base cabinets either side of the sink cabinet. I moved my pots and pans last night to get a sense of where the other drawers should go. I need to talk to Bill today about these things, but it is going to be so much easier to get to the heavy equipment than when I had to sit down on the floor and dig to the back of the cabinet under the old counter-top range. I also won't have to scrub the rust off my cast iron skillets which were damaged when the cleaning lady used too much cleaning fluid and it dropped onto the things below.

I'm trying to figure out what else will be moving where to make up for the fact that I no longer have room for the cd cabinet which held our liquid flavorings. I need to put rarely used items in less accessible places and oft-needed items close by.

Then I need to convince my husband that we only need a maximum of two of most kitchen tools and only one will do in many cases. If you can't find something, ask, don't buy another one. I think we have six or so sets of plastic dry measuring cups. Do you have any idea how much room that takes up? I'm going to do a big cull on Tupperware that's gotten yucky. That also takes up much too much space. I put many of our coffee mugs away last year and an amazing number have grown to replace them. It's hard to avoid the accumulation of coffee cups as keep-sakes and gifts. My current favorite happens to be one of the "Trail of the Painted Ponies" over-sized mugs, which I confess I bought for myself.

My own sin in all of this is that I've got a thing for dishes. Our everyday dishes are plain white Correlle, which I've owned for more than 30 years. Contrary to advertising, it isn't unbreakable. When it does break, it shatters terribly, just like glass. But it does put up with a tremendous amount of abuse. Len really likes the divided grill plates to keep the different parts of his meal from mixing together. I could easily give them up.

We have a pretty set of dishes which have a sun, moon, and stars motif. This grew from Len's collection of moons with faces or figures on them. This is an "informal" set of dishes, but we have 4-piece place settings for 16 in it, plus some serving pieces. It gets used most often during the Christmas holidays, but I'd like to start using the it for everyday, getting rid of the Correlle.

I have a huge set of Noritake china in the Adagio pattern. I have place settings for 24 people (in case, god forbid, I ever have that many people at the Thanksgiving table again), and cups, saucers, and dessert plates for 36. Early E-bay was very good to me, since the pattern was discontinued before Len and I got married. I scored a great find at a flea market where I paid $225 for 11 place settings (adding to my original 8) plus some serving pieces about 10 or 12 years ago. At the time, the same china would have cost me almost $1200 from Replacements, Ltd. The only pieces I'm missing that I really want are the tea and coffee pots, but they are so very expensive that I can't justify the purchase. It would be nice to have the salt and pepper shakers and the candle sticks, but I have a lot of cobalt glass items which look just smashing with the dishes so they aren't a necessity. I've never liked the matching etched glassware, so that's not an obsession. The Noritake is not kept in the kitchen, since I use it so rarely, so I don't have to find a place for it in the new configuration.

I have been collecting pieces of a Stangl pattern called "Country Garden." Stangl was made in New Jersey until mid-century and my mother used it for her every-day dishes. She had two patterns: Thistle and Fruit. My sister took up the Thistle and I had no interest in the stuff until I ran across "Country Garden" which uses different flowers for different pieces. It's pottery, with carved designs which were then hand painted, so every one is slightly different. It is much easier to find on the East coast than out here, but I've had a lot of luck and E-bay has made things easier (though shipping costs have soared from the early days.) I particularly like the snack or luncheon plates which have a spot to hold a cup (or soft-drink can.) It's a very cheerful pattern and I like to use it when I eat outdoors in my garden. When I had a garden. I'll have one again soon. Really.

I also have a collection of milk glass in a pattern called Orange Blossom. That started when I discovered them in a snack set that had a triangular plate. Snack sets were very popular in the fifties, as near as I can tell, and I just love them. I'd probably have a room filled with them if I could get away with it, but I can't. I'm certain the cups were originally intended to hold punch, but I use them for tea parties and dessert, where it is quite convenient to be able to hold your food and balance your cup in one hand and eat with the other. If it weren't for the stack of dishes that would result, I'd use them for most of our big parties because they'd be ideal for the finger-food I usually serve.

After Christmas, I picked up some pieces of a Lenox pattern with holly on it. (I am the queen of after-season, discontinued, and scratch and dent shopping.) I think I was first attracted by the cups and saucers which can also hold cookies or cake--kind of like a smaller version of my snack sets. We always do Christmas brunch at home with our friends Karen and Michael, and these dishes will be perfect for that.

Finally, I have some serving pieces of Aynsley china called "Cottage Garden." This is bone china, far more delicate than the Stangl. It has flowers and butterflies on it. It's very pretty and I couldn't resist it. I'd like to find a snack set in the pattern, but the closest I've come is an Asian knock-off which is similar. I've got four plates and cups in that. I have a fantasy of locating the pieces I need for a breakfast in bed set of this pattern just for me. Unfortunately, it's really hard to come by, even on E-bay. I did get a beautiful cake plate and a cheese & cracker server last winter when everyone must have been out celebrating rather than bidding.

So storing the china is a big issue. I'm thinking of getting rid of some of my less used things, like the Duncan "Caribbean" glassware I tried collecting for a while. The problem is, we live in southern California and glass breaks when the earth shakes. I just can't bring myself to use pieces that are worth as much as this glassware sells for. It stays wrapped up and out of sight. I've got two tiny liquor stems in Blue Caribbean. According to one of the collector books, they're worth about $250 each. I may just take the stuff to an E-bay seller and put the money to some other use.

Less stuff. That's the answer.

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