Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eclectic Elements?

I'm thinking of changing my thrust a bit. How do you like "Eclectic Elements" as opposed to "Eclectic Entertaining"? I find myself posting about decorating, shopping, etc a little more than I thought. I'll still focus a lot on the entertaining, but the "elements" lets me cast a wider net.

I am also considering an "on eBay today" feature. My very first post was an eBay item and I might see if I can post a daily eBay item I like... it could be anything. What do you think?
So I need to hear from my few loyal readers. Post your thoughts.

(Thanks Mary-Laure for the inspiration to find this dear clip art from morguefile.com. It fits with my theme of considering a revision and also fits with my love of old things.)

Georgian glassware

I have a number of saved searches on eBay that I periodically check up on. One of my favorites is "Georgian" under the category of antiques/decorative arts/glass/stemware.

Even if I could find or afford a whole set of Georgian glassware, I wouldn't want it. I'm buying a glass or two at a time here and there and I like that my "set" isn't matched. I imagine a dinner party where I can use all my different glasses, some for wine, water or perhaps sherry (which is actually really a nice little beverage).

The listings for the pair of etched glasses and for the single rummer are two current favorites. Their price might climb out of my range. If so, I don't continue to bid. But sometimes I get lucky. Stick with it. Searching for these old pieces takes patience if you don't have a fortune to spend. But how it would be worth it!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Perfect Bones, part deux

OK. This Marc Jacobs china isn't as cheap as the pattern below, but isn't it just lovely? It makes me want to brush off my best Martha recipes and host a dinner party.

Marc, you are a genius.

Perfect Bones

If you have followed my blog at all, you have often heard me extol the virtues of plain white china. It can be found pretty cheap and gives you a lot of leeway in your tablescapes/linens/china/glassware.

My ideal white china is one that I discovered from a friend years ago (she wisely registered for it as her everyday china when she married). Wedgwood White is a beautiful plain white china with no adornments. It's not especially cheap, but for wedding china, it's not out of reach. It's dishwasher safe, but isn't big and bulky like stoneware is. I wish I had registered for this pattern also. I'll emphasize: if you only think you will get one set of wedding china, choose this one.

The real beauty of a pattern like this one is that you can use it in a breakfast room or a formal dining room. It can go with funky linens or monogrammed napkins. Formal or casual. Sterling or stainless. It makes no difference. The elegant lines of this china look good with it all.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I got one of these groovy little espresso pots, sometimes called moka pots, for Christmas and I really love it. They are fairly cheap. Go buy one.

Folk Rock!

Don't these plates look too hip? The folklore motif makes me think of those old fairy tales like The Bremen Town Musicians that my mother read to me when I was a child.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yummy invite!

I always love to get invitations to parties. Of course we all love to be included on a guest list, but I so relish opening the invitation and thinking about what it tells me about the host and party.

Black Eiffel has a great post today about just that. How clever would including red hots be? For that matter, how about a sweet box of message candies or custom M&M's?

I also love filling apothecary jars with seasonal candies. Right now, I have red hots, message hearts and big round chewable peppermints. In fall, it changes to candy corn and classic M&M's. You get the idea. (And no, my kids aren't diabetic now... they really don't eat that much of it. I do give sweets to my little one for using the potty, though! Those boys at 3 1/2 can use all the help they can get.)

Ultimately, however, candy appeals to everyone, so I love having it around. I think that's why I like the candy-gram idea so much. (I always say I'm going to throw a Valentine's Party, but I never do! Maybe this will inspire me for next year...)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Kitchen of My Dreams

I love subscribing to magazines. I get so many, I'm frequently guaranteed to have one in the mailbox. And one of my favorites is Southern Accents. That might sound strange coming from a girl who also loves Domino. And, I'll admit, a lot of the Southern Accents interiors are too traditional for me... but a lot of what Domino does is too edgy for me, so it balances out.

What I like about Southern Accents is their understanding of, well, Southern interiors. Most Southerners love antiques and regional architecture (we are fixated, sometimes), but modern style dictates that they be interpreted in a fresh light. When Southern Accents features designers that strike that balance, I'm in pure bliss.

This kitchen is about as close to my perfect kitchen as I've found. There are a few small changes I would make, but not many. One would be the fixture over the breakfast table. The one pictured is a little too Pottery Barn ca. 1998 for me. If I could afford the splurge, I might invest in something like this one, also featured in the same Southern Accents issue. I like that it's traditional (brass) and modern (cubist).

The other great thing I love about this kitchen are all the really affordable ideas that abound. I'm not too sure, but the flooring looks like commercial tile. These from Mannington are a fine example. They are cheap and extremely durable. The island is stainless and can be found at any kitchen supply store for a few hundred dollars.

So what does all this have to do with entertaining? A lot, actually. I believe that your interior spaces say a lot about who you are what you are trying to say to your guests. The whole thing also fits with my perspective that you can find great thrifty (read: cheap) items for most of what you use but need to splurge on strategic items.

I apologize for the scan... I couldn't find a photo online.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tea Anyone?

This auction is closing fast, but isn't this tea pot lovely? It's called caneware and Wedgwood is the maker. I haven't bought any caneware yet, but the current bid of about $37 looks like a deal to me. (Factor in shipping from England, though, and your price climbs a bit).

This is the kind of item that's an investment piece. It's a classic teapot and has timeless appeal. You will never be sorry you picked it up. Silver tea services get all the praise, but how many of us will use one with any frequency? This is a teapot that you will pull out every time a neighbor stops over for tea.

And isn't the sheaf of wheat on top just divine?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Steal

You know...if you ever inherit stuff from someone, be careful what you get rid of. At a time when you are feeling grief or pain or are simply overwhelmed you might find yourself impulsively getting rid of things you will later regret chunking/donating/giving away to neighbors.

When I was in my early 20's, I found myself the owner of the set of vintage Adams CalyxWare in the Regent pattern pictured above. And I have to be honest... I didn't appreciate it. I thought it was ugly and I just didn't get it. The color combination of the pale green with the hand painted purple and gold flowers was unappealing. Most of the pieces had crazing and the whole set was generally "uncool" to me. I had a lot of growing up to do.

Fortunately, I didn't sell the set at a garage sale.

I now see pieces in antique stores for about $10 a piece (the price of these bowls on eBay). However, I just came home with 6 dinners and 6 salads I found locally for $25 for the lot. THAT'S ABOUT $2 A PIECE... a huge bargain!

(Sidebar: There are a lot of antique malls here in the Franklin area and many of the booth operators don't know what they have. Many are uneducated about antiques and vintage pieces and they misprice their stuff. A 10 x 10 booth is fairly cheap to rent and housewives and wannabes often jump in as small business owners. A lot of the stuff is junk, but sometimes they get lucky. If you ever come to Middle Tennessee, e- mail me. I can tell you where to find a bargain. I can also show you where the good stuff from the trained collectors is.)

In any case, when sifting through your grandmother's belongings or your great aunt's hope chest, be very careful what you dispose of. You never know when you might wise up and treasure some of the things she held on to. Even if it's something that doesn't have a lot of commercial value or is something you don't think you'll ever like. New things are great and I love a lot of contemporary stuff, but not only does old stuff have more character, your guests will love hearing about how your Aunt Monte lugged that china back from Europe in the 1920's.

The moral: save it if you can. Legacies can't be replaced. I'm glad I held on.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is It Too Soon to Begin Planning a Garden Party?

I can't remember the design mag that featured Picwoody's flatware, billed as "the disposable cutlery of the future". It was probably Domino, but I can't say for certain. Isn't it cool, though?

I've always wanted to have a flower swap party where everyone brings a pot or two of their favorite herb/flower/plant. Maybe the favors could be these Guy Wolff pots for potting their cuttings. I have two Guy Wolff pots and I'm just crazy over them. His web site doesn't do the pots justice, but I found one on Smith and Hawken's site that looks great.

Wouldn't the wooden flatware be a great fit for this little party?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tray Chic!

I love a play on words. I can't help it.

The MacBeth Collection has a great line of sap buckets, trays, bins and other entertaining essentials. Some of the patterns are a little cheesy, but a lot of their stuff has kind of a Palm Beachy retro look.

I like the tray above, but I want it covered in the brown cane pattern on the clipboard. It reminds me of that Lulu DK fabric that came out a while back. Still so fresh.

I also love the disposable place mats! When I see a little Lacoste alligator, I get the warm fuzzies for my youth back in the 80's! And with two boys and a husband, I like that I can just toss them in the trash when they get a little to used.

I guess I'm really into the preppy thing right now.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Anchors Away!

I love this post about anchors over at Black Eiffel and it reminded me of something I found online a while back. I, too, am currently infatuated with anchors. They are so preppy and remind me of the 80's.

I found these plates by Sarah Cihat and would love to have a set. What she does is so cool. She buys plates from thrift stores and gives them new life by reglazing and refiring the plates... and adding a hip new image. The original design is visible under the glaze, though, just adding to the cool factor.
The ultimate recycling!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cool Organizing

The Coterie currently has a post about organizing folders/notebooks. I found these aluminum ones and would love to have a bunch of them.

I have to admit, that when someone comments on something like a lined drawer or groovy organized recipe file of mine, I take a great deal of sick pleasure.

If I can only buy one, I will use it to maintain an entertaining file. I'll include a rundown of each event (date, etc.) , recipes I used, guests and a few photos. I imagine that my grandchildren will gain a lot of insight into my mind when they find that notebook.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Not only would I love a set of custom Leontine Linens napkins, hand engraved napkin rings from Bob Rosser would also be divine. When you look at those hideous machine-etched one dimensional monograms that most jewelry stores produce, you can see how amazing Mr. Rosser's work really is.

For me, napkins and/or rings are definitely a place to splurge. I would rather use the simplest plain white china to cut corners.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Baby Shower or Christening Brunch

I was inspired by Design Mom's post about vintage toys. I love old toys and I have a little vignette of old toys in my playroom (get it? playroom? toys?). The toys go back as far as the 20's and include dolls and little cast iron (I think) military figures.

It's a great way to use and enjoy some of those old toys that belonged to your parents or grandparents. You wouldn't let your kids play with an antique doll, but it doesn't serve a purpose in a closet either. By decorating with them, they live again and remind us of our loved ones who came before. If you didn't inherit any old toys, find what you like on eBay or at antique stores. I don't think any of my old toys is especially valuable, but they were family pieces, so they are valuable to me. Look around and ask parents or grandparents if they still have a favorite toy from their childhood. They will be flattered that you want to preserve a part of their past.

At Overton's baptism brunch a few years ago, I pulled out all of those antique toys to place in the center of the dining table. I'll look for a photo of what I did and will try to post later. It really seemed appropriate for a brunch about celebrating a new life.

The blocks on eBay are so sweet and can easily be found at antiques malls and would be great to scatter on a table. The tin soldiers would make a great purchase for a boy-themed shower or brunch. The paper mache lamb is pricey on eBay, but if you are lucky enough to find one in the attic, pull it out!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Watch out June Cleaver

I love the idea of entertaining with an apron on over my outfit. A cute apron, though, like these over at Etsy. June Cleaver never had anything this cute.

Don't you just love the lace at the hem of the one with birds? You need to be sure to wear your pearls with the ruffled apron. The last one is a kit and you will have to make the apron yourself, but isn't it sweet in a different way?

Don't cook in these. Keep them nice for the party!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Green Day

Tara over at An Imagined Reality has a great post about planning a green wedding, but I've always said that what applies to a wedding can apply to other events.

I just love tiered birthday cakes. Why should weddings be the only event where you get tiered cake? I just choose a smaller size, naturally, but sometimes my inspiration comes from wedding mags like MSL Weddings. (She's still the gold standard, isn't she?). Cakes with height are so grand...all birthdays deserve one.

Her post also inspired me to start thinking about heirloom seeds. Visit Seedsavers to purchase some. In bundles, they would make lovely eco-friendly favors that could brighten lives and the planet. You could choose your seeds based on your flowers or menu. A Southern supper could feature heirloom tomatoes as the seed gift. A menu with a chilled melon soup could feature cantaloupes as the seed gift. Or you could give seeds of your wedding flowers.
Love the blog, Tara!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Be Mine

I know, I know. I'm encouraging the big retailers who push to start selling seasonal wares earlier and earlier, but I can't help it. I also know that Valentine's Day is a made up "holiday" (perhaps "observance" is better? "Holiday" ties it too closely to Christmas and Veterans' Day...legitimate holidays).

However, I love Valentine's Day. I'll admit it. And shouldn't we celebrate love a little more anyway? I still love to pick out Valentine cards and goodies for my husband and two boys.

These cards from Hammermill Press inspire me to host a Valentine's party and have me brainstorming the invitations.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I love pencils

I tend to write in pencil all the time. I have to use pens for bills and a few other things, but I really prefer pencil. And I've taken to using all one kind of pencil. I found that all those different designs and random heights didn't fit the decor of my home. So now I keep a couple of julep cups in places I like to write and I fill them with Dixon Tri-Conderogas. They are cheap and I buy boxes of them at Wal-Mart.

I just decided to see what SeeJaneWork.com had and there are two great choices: the Office Basics Pencil and Kate Spade's Favorite Solid Pencils. It's a little thing, but I think those small details finish off a space and make it nice for guests when they stroll past your desk.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Old Paris pots de cremes

This auction is closing soon, but I really fell in love with these pots de cremes when I saw them. They aren't cheap, though. If it wasn't right after Christmas, I would probably bid on these. I'm a big advocate of using cheap solid white dinnerware (think Barefoot Contessa) with expensive accents. This set would give so much punch. I think I remember seeing a similar set, but in salmon pink, in Martha Stewart Living a few years ago.
I also love the grass green Old Paris porcelain. It works in spring/summer or at Christmastime.

cool place card holders

I snapped these hand made horn place card holders at the Arbor Antique Mall here in Franklin. This booth has lots of cool stuff. I don't usually do place cards, but I would love to have these for the buffet table, labeling different dishes. I would probably use them for place card holders, though... perhaps at Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Day brunch

I had a brunch for 25 on New Year's Day and everything went great. Daytime entertaining is a great way to cut costs since there is little, if any, alcohol. (There was a Tennessee football game on, so I did invest in some local Yazoo beer for my hubby to serve along with Bloody Marys, but there weren't a lot of takers, so I only made one pitcher).

The menu consisted of ham, black-eyed peas (with a penny in the pot for good luck, of course), turnip greens and cornbread. Dessert was a recipe from my new Lee Bros. cookbook - fig preserve cake with walnuts. Yummy! The $20 ham was the most expensive part.

I sprang for 3 boxes of pub glasses from Linens and Things the day before the party. They were only $10 a box and the boxes are small, so they will store easily. I hate being in my mid-thirties and using Solo cups and this seemed like a greener and much more finished option. They are naturally great for water, tea and lemonade, but I also served the Bloody Marys in them.

My other bulk entertaining investment was a collection of Vernon Kilns plates like this one on eBay. A few years back, I picked up a collection of 14 Vernon Kilns state plates for $10 at a yard sale. I suppose they were cheap because the seller thought nobody would want to hang those state plates on the wall... but I saw them as a way to stretch my Spode transferware plates. So I have 11 Spode plates and 14 Vernon Kilns plates for a total of 25. If I go over that, I always have my trusty Williams-Sonoma white buffet plates. Guests go crazy for the state plates, though. People hunt through the stack to search for their home state or the place where they went to school.

My advice is to keep your eyes peeled as you shop. Bulk items are nice to keep around when you can find them. I think events look much more finished and the upfront expense can be minimal. My glasses were about $.91 each and the state plates were only $.71 each. You can see that with thrifty shopping, you will pay for the items after a few parties and you will keep stuff out of the landfill.