Archive for March, 2012

At my mom’s house last week, I was finally able to unpack and inventory all of the teacups that I’ve been gathering for the weddin’. Rather perversely, my entire house would fit into the living room of the St. Louis house. Suburban sprawl has to be good for something—it certainly is good for spreading out 100+ teacups and saucers. I don’t have an exact count, partly because the cats quickly started developing a rather unhealthy level of interest in the sound that bone china makes as it clatters against the floor.

Fortunately, china that has made it through the rigors of thrift store handling stands up pretty well to feline frolic. We lost a few minor pieces before I packed everything up again; it was fun, though, to have the floor laid out like an enormous mad tea party.

Darwin, though, was confused—and perhaps a little concerned about the advancing lines of the teacup invasion.

After two years of seeming rather abstract, the wedding is finally becoming a reality. We visited the venue—a chapel perched on the bluffs above the Mississippi—and listened to the absolutely arresting organ that will be played at our ceremony. We talked about food and flowers. I bought some tea and clotted cream. I’m more than a little wary of shelf-stable dairy products; before we invest in clotted cream for the wedding tea I’m going to try out this little jar that I bought at World Market. Well, I’m trying to try it. I just can’t get over the fact that it’s cream. In a jar. On a shelf.

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This cat makes me laugh. She runs around the house, trilling to no one in particular. She chats so much that I have taken to calling her Meowice rather than Alice. While her sister stays slender and retains a slightly shy, wild look, Meowice grows plumper and stretches herself across doorways and stairs like a fat, furry threshold.

All of a sudden, it seems to be spring here. All the snow is gone; it’s raining. Who knows how long this will last—my trees, thick with glossy white buds, seem to think it’s here to stay. I opened the windows yesterday and vaccummed up two full canisters of fluff, crumbled up popcorn (the dog likes to chew it but not eat it), and the green fuzz that my basement carpeting has never ceased to shed.

Meowice popped out from under the bed to make sure that it was safe to resume her legs-in-the-air, dead cockroach pose in the middle of the hallway.

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The thing about using vintage dishes and silver is that one becomes rapidly aware of the particularities and peculiar functions of the individual pieces. I don’t know that I ever really considered the existence of fruit bowls before this endeavor began. Once again, this forms an odd intersection with the process of registering for my own china; I think that I’m going to skip the fruit bowls. Much as I like fruit, I think I can make do. Or I could just go buy a couple dozen for fifty cents each.

Yesterday, after pounding at my keyboard all morning and sending off some writing, I took my thrift store wandering—flanerie? in a Prius?—a bit further out of my usual in-town circuit. For whatever reason, Madison is thick with thrift stores—and they’re generally really good. I don’t quite understand it. You’d think that the fact that everyone here seems to want blue mason jars and milk glass would mean that such things would be scarce, but they’re everywhere.

Usually, I ignore the bins of flatware in thrift stores. It mostly seems to be cheap, sharp spoons that were stolen from dining halls or Old Country Buffet. Yesterday, though, a silver-plate pie server caught my eye. I started digging, and came up with 61 pieces of silver-plate.

A lot of it is odd—sugar shells, berry spoons, cold meat forks, butter knives. The teaspoons and forks will be making an appearance at the wedding tea, which led me to my contemplation of the proper use of silver. Can one eat cake with a dinner fork? Well, one certainly can—but should one?

The thought would have probably shocked my grandmother, whose impossibly varied set of Tiffany silver winks at me from beneath blue felt wrappers. The proper occasion for her tiny, three-pronged forks has never arisen in our house, though I suppose it has something to do with the fact that they are probably meant to pry some unwilling creature from a shell, and tofu seldom fights back.

Silver-plate is an odd thing. Is it trash, or is it treasure? As I was piling my finds on the counter to pay for them—twenty-five cents a piece—an odd little man with a jeweler’s loupe started to dig through them, studying the hallmarks and tossing them down again.

The scale of my wedding-related thrift purchases—ten teacups at a time, twenty dessert plates—tends to raise some interest among that kind of person. You can feel the anxiety rising around you as he peers suspiciously into your cart full of teacups, convinced that you’re on to something great. If you step away for a moment, he reaches in the cart and shifts the plates, looking for maker’s marks.

While I have come across bits of Wedgwood, Limoges, and sterling in my thrift shop scavenging, it’s mostly—from the reseller’s point of view—pretty unremarkable.

But it’s funny what you’ll find.  A few weeks ago, I lifted the lid of a pretty unremarkable looking box and found an impressively large set of “Eternally Yours”—my other grandmother’s pattern. It even has the cold meat forks.

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on with the wedding madness

Currently, my table looks to be set for about 100. Not that I ever sit there, anyway. But why? After seeing all kinds of tempting images on Pinterest (the wedding planning rabbit hole),  I was kind of disappointed when it seemed like using vintage china for our wedding reception tea was going to be an unneccesary hassle. Then, when our catering plans had to change, our source of institutional china disappeared.

I would not say that I was disappointed. For the last month or so, I’ve been collecting orphaned plates from thrift stores. It’s a funny thing, really, to be registering for my own wedding china—agonizing over the decision between this teacup and that teacup, a platinum band or something more daring—as I debate whether $1.50 is too much for a salad plate that someone else probably chose for their own wedding forty or sixty or eighty years ago.

I have cake plates, luncheon plates, teacups, saucers, spoons, and forks. I have no idea how this is all going to come together right now. I’ve always been a trial-and-error home decorator—I figure out what I think looks right by bringing things home and coming to love them… or not. This wedding assemblage is harder because I can’t quite see what it all will look like right now—I am surrounded by teacups wrapped in paper and vintage silver-plate packed away in worn wooden chests. Ricky went on some plate scavenging missions with me and could not understand how I was determining which plates would do and which would not. I’m not even sure that I really know. I’m just mixing and matching and hoping that it all shakes out in the end.

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