Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dishes and Glasses and Linens, Oh My!

Where Oh Where To Put It All

When you love all things table as much as I do, you end up with lots of things that need storage space.  In planning our new home, we took all of our collections into consideration for built-in spaces as well as for deciding on antique furnishings.  Today's blog will be about the built-in areas I use for dish storage.

On the "cover" of my blog you see this cabinet.  It was from a convent in Dallas but we bought it in an antiques shop in Athens, Texas.  It's claim to fame was that it was in the opening sequence of the movie, Spy Kids II.  We had it in storage for many years until we built our current home.  Our daughter-in-law was the architect so she worked with us on building in several of our antique pieces.  This is off the kitchen, in what we call the "Butler's Pantry."  Ten sections are exclusively devoted to my collection of LuRay dishes from the the 1940's.  The top of the cabinet has sets of things like soup bowls, platters, and glasses that I use for large group dinners.  The bottom shelf has small appliances that I don't use on a daily basis.  Outlets were built into the floor of the shelf so the appliances can be used right there.  At the far end are three rods for my vintage 1930's - 1950's tablecloths which I change seasonally.  The drawers hold all kinds of things from all our appliance warranty books to one devoted to the daily making of iced tea.  The cabinets below the drawers have glassware, baby dishes, casserole dishes, etc.  I'm not generally in favor of altering an antique but in this case I knew it was here forever so I had our cabinetmaker redo the drawers so they would slide in and out smoothly and put roll-out shelves inside the lower cabinets.  

The major dish area is on the second floor and looks down into the kitchen.  Each of the two sides has 25 cubbies.  Some sets take up two cubbies and some cubbies have more than one small set.  Originally, this area was to be accessed from the kitchen by a rolling library ladder but when the framing was complete and I saw how high above the kitchen floor it was, I knew it would not be safe to climb up and down the ladder carrying dishes.  So, I asked her to rethink how to access it and she came up with the "mezzanine" idea.  Now, you ask, isn't it a pain in the petuty to get the dishes from the second floor to the kitchen and dining room, which is also on the first floor?  Well, yes, but not too bad because we have an elevator.  I have a tea cart parked at the end of the convent cabinet that I use to go up to the mezzanine and bring down dishes.
 It took me three weeks of solid work to transport and put away my dishes when we moved in.  (Thank goodness the two houses are only 7 miles apart!)  I tried to arrange the cubbies attractively, not just stack things by size.  In some cases I added glassware and/or salt & peppers, or mix and match soup bowls and salad plates, or English tea knife sets to compliment certain sets.  I asked the architect to make the inside of each cubby dark wood, rather than white paint, because I thought the wood would show off dishes, that are mostly light in color, better.
Another built in is the back of the banquette where my husband and I eat our meals.  I refer to it as a dish "credenza."  It holds six sets, which I change out fairly often, that I'm using on a daily basis at that time.   I generally do not move the whole set from its cubby, but rather the pieces I know I use all the time; for example, 2 dinner plates plus an extra to use as a small platter, 2 soup/cereal bowls, 2 salad/dessert plates, veggie bowls, and a gravy boat.
The first drawer in the credenza holds various salt & pepper sets, the second silverware, and the third, napkins.
The upper kitchen cabinets all have glass doors.  I knew with a separate pantry for storage, I could use the kitchen cabinets for pretty dish display space.  This one, to the left of the sink, has an antique set of white Johnson Bros with  gold rims, a new set from Pottery Barn, the beginnings of a set of mix and match Mexican motif, mostly Homer Laughlin, and the lower right is for wine glasses I'm using with the credenza dishes.
My 1930's - 40's Jadite takes up two cabinets.  I use the smallish oval platters often as a dinner plates.  I also have Jadite refrigerator storage containers that I actually use, like a water dispenser and a large, shallow, ribbed box that I use for citrus fruits.  My fridge also has glass so the Jadite tray full of citrus colors looks pretty through the door.
This cabinet, to the right of the sink, has my collection of glassware with colored rings and my Taylor, Smith, and Taylor "Vistosa."  It was made for only 4 years, 1939-1942, as a competitor for Homer Laughlin's Fiestaware.  Although they look quite a bit alike and are basically the same colors, Vistosa is easily recognized by its piecrust edges.  I also have several sets in this cabinet of English tea knife sets in their holders.  My favorite is the parrot in the upper left photo below.

      The cabinet to the left of my stove holds various serving pieces from extra glass veggie bowls, to artichoke plates, to toast racks and extra Jadite mugs as well as a new set of green & white transferware called "Timberlake Camp."
      These are all the built in dish storage areas in our home.  Another time I'll show you my furniture dish storage pieces and also where I store glassware, silverware, and linens.  Hope you're having fun with your dishes and making attractive tables for your family.  I still have as much fun playing house as I did when I was 9 and my Grandparents made an old chicken coop into my area.

Father's Day 2013

Grilling By the Pool for 22

Our Father's Day celebration, being in Texas in June, is always by the pool.  We generally have our party on Saturday so the guests can have their own family's Father's Day celebration on Sunday.   For the past seven or eight years the menu has been the same - steak and tail.  Guess it just seemed like a "manly" menu.  To go with that, we always grill fresh veggies from the garden.  This year it was corn-on-the-cob and zucchini, both green and gold.   Cold sliced tomatoes from the garden, undressed except for salt and freshly ground pepper, was also on the menu as was 7 layer dip for everyone to snack on while the grilling was in progress.
Since we were serving 22, I used four round tables with 5 chairs at two of them and 6 at the other two.  The base layer was a navy to-the-floor cloth with square vintage 1940's toppers from my collection.

Each topper was different but all had the same bold primary colors on a white background.

The next layer was bright orange, round, woven place mats which kept the look tropical, casual and fun. 
The plates are made of a heavy-duty plastic, great for poolside, and in the same tropical primary colors as the toppers.

Napkins matched the base cloth and were held by antique red Bakelite rings.  As you can see, they were not exactly alike.  Some had flat edges, some rounded.  Some were wider than others and they were slightly different shades of red.  But, that's the appeal of antique tableware!  My brother, who was with us for a few days before the party, is always asking to help so I put him to work applying the rings while he watched the US Open on TV.
Iced tea glasses were also plastic.  One can find pool-side plastic tableware that is much prettier and more stylish now than in the past when it was very plain and functional only.

The silverware I used was the set I keep at the pool.  It is stainless with white plastic handles that have decorative embellishments.  It looks nice with both new and antique dishes, won't get rusty like some antique flatware might, won't break if dropped on the stone floor, and goes in the dishwasher.   I used plain white ramekins for the drawn butter for the lobster tails.
For our corn-on-the-cob, I used antique Bakelite corn holders.  I have a large collection in all shapes and colors.

Each table had a set of vintage red salt and pepper shakers.  The most appropriate one being the lobster claws that at one time were a souvenir of some one's trip to Maine.

I made the centerpieces out of sand buckets, metal fish, and different colors and sizes of pinwheels, all from the local craft store.

For the food buffet, I used the table that stays on the covered patio area between parties but moved it to the back so the round tables could all be grouped in the middle.  I covered it with a rectangular vintage 50's cloth with a Mexican theme.  Since most of the vintage 30's - 50's cloths are square, rectangular ones are harder to find.  Snap them up if you see one!  The larger they are, the more expensive they generally are.  If you are planning to actually use them, don't buy vintage tablecloths with large light yellow stains or with any damage.  They are not worth the cost because the old stains can sometimes be lightened but generally won't come out entirely.  Damaged cloths, even if it is only a small hole, will just get bigger every time it's washed.

I used all the Dad's gifts as the centerpiece for the buffet table along with a beautiful bowl of flowers from the florist and put the food platters on the front edge.
To keep with my color theme, the florist used bright orange roses and tulips with blue hydrangeas in a round, navy blue bowl.
One of the other wives was kind enough to bring pies made with pecans from their trees in the Fredricksburg area and vanilla ice cream.  I used a navy blue dessert plate in one of four mix-and-match patterns that go with the dinner plates.
Our view of the pool complete with vintage European beach chairs that I got at Canton's "First Monday" fair years ago, with new fabric.

Recipe for 7 Layer Dip

(Note: this is an old recipe, popular many years ago.  I don't know why some dishes go out of style.  If they were great then, they're still great now!)

1-10 oz can Rotel tomatoes, drained & liquid reserved
1 1/2 cans refried beans
1-16 oz container guacamole
3-8 oz containers sour cream
1 packet taco seasoning
1-8 oz bag shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1-2.25 oz can sliced black olives, drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, all of white and some green
Tortilla chips for serving

     Reserve 1/4 cup of drained Rotel tomatoes.  Blend remaining tomatoes and their juice with beans in a medium bowl.
     Spread bean mixture on the bottom of clear glass 9"X13" cake pan or trifle bowl.
     Spread on guacamole next, bringing everything to the edges so each layer shows through the glass.
     Blend together the sour cream and taco seasoning and spread on top of guacamole.
     Top with a layer of the shredded cheese.
     Sprinkle on top, the olive slices, green onions, and reserved 1/4 cup diced Rotel tomatoes.
     Chill before serving.  (Making a day ahead is just fine.)