Do you use your  Good Things?

I have always preferred quality over quantity, and I love the feel of the more luxurious items I own - heavy silver cutlery, clothes made of silk, or fine Merino wool, good quality china, heavy damask napkins. I don't have masses of these things (far from it), but I've also always made a point of using these things in my day to day life. It occurred to me as I was up at my Dad's house, setting the table for Christmas a few weeks ago that most people have truckloads of "good things" that sit in cupboards, unused, for most of the year. Why is this?


One guy I worked with years ago was telling me that he was eating off cheap mismatched dinner plates, as his wife had decreed that that the nicer ones that they had (and they were by no means fine china) were for when they had their "proper" house in the distant future. When they had a baby, I was in charge of the office baby present, and part of the gift was a Bunnykins baby bowl. Apparently it was deemed too good to use, and was put on display.

There is something though, about quality objects that make everything feel a little more special - even the very ordinary. When I was married 12 years ago, we had a Wedding Registry, and after some thought I put no crystal glasses on the registry. It was expensive, we lived in a flat and had limited storage, and I felt it was unimportant - I needed saucepans more aged 25. So here I am years later, and I really do think that champagne tastes better out of a nice crystal flute. Glass just doesn't feel quite so special, and I still have no crystal glasses - it's far down the list of things we have to spend money on at this point in time. After some discussion with my Aunt (expert in all things to do with fine living) I had also at that time put a set of Villeroy and Boch china on the registry. It is for every day use, but we dress it up with the silver and nice water glasses when entertaining in a more celebratory manner. I'm still very happy with it, but part of me lusts after a nice set of Herend china. At the time of doing the registry our rational was that rather than splitting what we would end up with from our guests between the cheap everyday plates and expensive ones that wouldn't be used often (and therefore not getting a full set of anything), I should have a set in the middle price range for all purposes. And I still like my china, even more so now as everywhere you go, you are presented with the Plain White Plate, which has taken over Australia and is the default for both formal and informal entertaining.


When I set the Dining Table for Christmas, I pulled out all my parent's crystal glasses (we had just enough for one glass each as we had such a large crowd for dinner) and we had crystal vases with greenery in the centre of the table and on the mantlepieces etc. It felt a little more celebratory. At first I had hesitated about using the crystal thinking of the washing up, but if you're not going to use crystal at Christmas, when will you? As it was, we ended up doing them in the dishwasher (with the silver cutlery and china as well) on the gentle cycle with a couple of drops of normal dishwashing detergent in and they came out clean and sparkly and none the worse for wear.


I couldn't find the wine bottle coasters...they are somewhere in the back of a cupboard undiscovered
So I've been thinking about all those things we save for "best" - do you have things lurking in the back of your cupboards that you don't use? Do you use your things, or do you just not own it to start with (like some of my very practical friends who have decreed that it's not their lifestyle so they won't bother with it to start with)?

36 comments:

  1. I use all the good stuff all the time and I mix it with the crap stuff. I don't get the saving for good notion either. The table setting at your parent's looks good. Their wallpaper is lovely.

    Mr FF has much more expensive taste than me and has bought lots of spensive antiques in recent times.

    Every time I shove those antique silver candle holder whatsies on the table I notice how filthy they are and hope you aren't looking.

    Tonight I will drink my wine out of waterford crystal goblets from 1995 and think of you x

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    1. Mr FF is a man after my own heart. I was just in one of the better Antique shops in Adelaide, and noticed a beautiful set of Spode china from 1880, 75 pieces for $2000. That works out to around $26 a piece - it's hard to find new china for those prices, let alone antiques, so they don't necessarily end up more expensive.

      I have noticed your lovely antique silver candelabras, and have noticed that they don't sparkle sufficiently. It saddens me. But I will forgive you! I spent a couple of hours doing the silver as no one did it last year at my parent's so it was filthy- cutlery via the bi carb method, candelabras via elbow grease and silver polish. Exhausting xx

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    2. I knew you'd noticed. I might clean them tomorrow when Mum's up. I'm sad too but what can I say? I am busy.

      We want to do a special dinner for Mum so I will clean them. Maybe.

      Drinking my champagne out of those red waterford crystal flutes I got when I turned 40. Lovely. xx

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    3. Mr FF wants to know if you bought the Spode?

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    4. PS The Hungarian to the Stars (Zsa Zsa) has the best Herend collection ever. Seriously. It would be one of the best in Australia. She gets sooo much stuff from her granny back in Budapest. If she didn't know where I lived or have a key to my home I'd let myself in and steal the lot. I long for everything in Herend and have so little....

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    5. Please clean your silver. I can't take the tarnish any more. I may have to avert my eyes when viewing your blog.
      You're very lucky you got some lovely crystal for your birthday. I shall have to start dropping hints in preparation for my 40th. Tell Mr FF I didn't buy the Spode. No where to store it until the reno's are complete. It was v. nice though. I am very jealous of Zsa Zsa's Herend collection. I remember that Pixie Skase had a fabulous collection, thanks to Christopher owning Hardy Bros Jewellers back in the 80's. Apparently she treated it like her own store, rather than the shareholders. No surprise there that a lot of the China ended up in her storerooms. xx

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  2. Hello there, Happy New Year! When we were first married we had a set of Denby for everyday, and our wedding china was/is Villeroy and Boch (Old Luxembourg). After a few years, and 2 kids, the Denby got very scratched, so we retired it and bought white Corelle plates and bowls for everyday. We use our V and B at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. However, now that our boys are older teenagers and will soon both be out of the house, I've been thinking that we'll move on from the white and perhaps use our V and B everyday.

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    1. Happy New Year Patricia! Children can be very hard on the china inventory. I've suffered a few breakages. Definitely get out the V&B - as it goes in the dishwasher no problem, and your boys are grown it should last you for years (and they still produce Old Luxembourg don't they? So replacing pieces wouldn't be a problem). xx

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  3. My mum has always used the 'good china and cutlery' for everyday so I do the same! Kids and all. Life is too short? xx

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    1. This is what I think too - the guy I worked with whose wife was waiting for the "proper house" to get out her china in could have ended up doing that for years. I think the Europeans are still very good about using their things and setting a proper table every night....and eating together. xx

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  4. Hello Heidi!... Lovely post and such a gorgeous photo of the Herend "red dragon"... I am so sentimental and love everything that requires hard work to 'keep up'... ie silver cuttlery/linen napkins and the like. Last year I bought proper silver serviette rings ... old ones and each one different... and had every family member's name engraved... so we each have our own and use the napkins for a couple of meals at least just like our grand-parents did!... Im always on the look out for little crystal bowls, salt pepper servers etc. I adore crystal glassware... Moser which is lead free!! As for Herend....My favourite is Rothchilds Birds... with the green border.... I think that at my age I deserve some dont you?!!

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    1. You definitely deserve some Herend....do you have the Rothschilds Birds then? I love their ones with the butterflies on them (think they made it originally for Queen Victoria?). Mr AV and I have matching silver napkin rings with our initial on them. We were lucky that his grandmother and her brother (who died in WW2) had our initials, so they were given to us after his grandmother died. I re-use our napkins for a few meals, just as my grandparents always did too. xx

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    2. No Heidi... no Herend yet... but maybe one day!! xx

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  5. I use my good stuff everyday - life's too short etc etc. I have only one dinner set (nothing really amazing but good and plain Pillyvuyt) and think that these luxuries (especially Champagne from crystal) are best enjoyed alone, with my husband or in small groups so should be used all the time! I burn my Diptyque candles all the time too, when I remember! On the same vein, I am happy for my children to wear their 'good clothes' all the time as they grow so fast... strangely enough though I didn't allow my firstborn to dribble all over some of the lovely Moulin Roty soft toys she was given at birth - too good - and nearly 5 years later they sit a bit dusty and unloved on her bookshelf. Happily the second has had open slather on her soft toys! Your dad's dining room looks lovely! Fiona

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    1. You probably find, as I do, that the good things last longer. I let my daughter wear her smocked party dresses when she likes, as I figure otherwise they don't get worn. Soon enough she'll be wanting to wear jeans all the time. Love a Diptyque candle (and they do last well, so I think are good value for money, despite being so expensive!) xx

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  6. Love this post as its all about my New Years resolution! To live smaller....but better. That includes using the good stuff everyday....! X

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    1. This is why I was thinking about it - there have been too many things in our house waiting until the extension is done to be used.....this year will see the change, and I agree - have less, but better. xx

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  7. Dear Heidi

    The Christmas table looks lovely. It's so much more festive to use the "best" things and somehow the food and wine seemes to taste better.

    We don't use our favourite china, crystal and silver every day, but when guests come to dinner or our family are staying, then I love to. Or sometimes just for special meals for the two of us. We have the Spode b/w Italian dinner set (also Spode Christmas tree set - used every year), Waterford crystal (a dear student friend started us off with three extra large goblets as a wedding present - he said they were for when he came to dinner. At the time I still wondered why 3, but on discovering the price, understood. And Kings Plate silverware (my parents' - some of the sterling pieces belonged to my grandparents).

    Our grand-daughters love pretty things and enjoy sitting at a nicely set table with flowers and candles. The older one specially likes flowers so I bought some lovely old china with hand painted flowers at an Op. Shop that we use for the girls. They're surprisingly careful. On Boxing Day we had guests and the girls (6 and 8) begged to help. My husband sent them out to our outdoor table with small hand painted Italian bowls of olives etc and they loved doing it. Everything was fine!

    Understand your love for Herend. Last year we went to their workshop and display rooms in a village in Hungary. They demonstrated making porcelain pieces and then hand painting. I bought a few things, little butter dishes, cream jug, etc, in the pattern used for Queen Victoria: flowers and butterflies. We also walked through their wonderful museum and then had coffee and pastries in the restaurant. Different place settings for each, all hand painted - a lovely way to enjoy such beautiful china.

    The Spode blue and white (also Christmas patttern)can be washed in a Miele dishwasher on gentle cycle with a gentle dishwasher liquid. The Miele and the Waterford people told me never/never to put crystal in a dishwasher as it will eventually turn cloudy instead of clear and sparkling. So my husband always washes by hand and I wipe, silver also.

    For outdoors we have a Portuguese setting which works well with handpainted rustic Italian platters and bowls from Deruta, Montelupo and Caltagirone bought on our travels (but shipped home - too big and heavy for hand luggage). Also we have a beautiful ornate Venetian mirror on the dining room wall, shipped home too. Have found these places pack very well and things arrived safely - but the shipping sharges ARE NOT CHEAP! Still, what can one do? In the old days we brought home some extraordinary objects (including Murano glass, an Alessi lemon squeezer and big French dolls) in hand luggage but those days are gone. Or almost, just remembered last year I brought home an Astier de Villatte jug and a John Derian glass saucer in my hand luggage. Our Paris landlord said he'd never seen people travel with so much baggage. He tried to get us to promise we wouldn't do it next time.

    Last June at Isle sur la Sorgue I found some more candle sticks, not very old, maybe about 60 or so, English silver plate, very tall and quite stylish, very well priced. We used these on the table this Christmas strung with huge crystal drops from old chandeliers - I collect them in French markets. So cheap and yet romantic. Our grand-daughters love them, they sparkle beautifully in candle light.

    Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. What a lovely comment Pamela, I've really enjoyed reading about your family meals. You are so like my Aunt (the one who advised me on my Wedding Registry) - she lives in Canberra too, and also has the Spode blue and white Italian for everyday!! My silver is Kings pattern as well. I love it, however haven't seen it for 3 years (it's in safekeeping elsewhere until we have no builders in the house), but I always used to get it out when we had people over - even if during the middle of the week for a casual meal. Everyone likes trying to work out the monograms on the handles (it's a mixed set, so they're all different). I won't put my Dad's crystal in the dishwasher again - he has a Miele too and I thought washing it on 45C with dishwashing liquid would be ok, but if they say no, then I probably shouldn't tempt fate. Nothing more depressing than ruined cloudy crystal. You sound like you travel in style - I hope you have some sort of lackey everywhere to go to help you with the baggage - it sounds awfully backbreaking otherwise!! xx

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    2. I also have the Spode Blue Italian and have always used it everyday. It is tough and we have never had a single breakage in 25 years. However, my children, who are all now in their 20's, consider it to be the most daggy old stuff and beg me not to leave it to them! I still love it......
      Also re the crystal in the dishwasher - perhaps it's ok in some areas and not in others due to water hardness? I live in Melbourne and there is no problem with crystal in the dishwasher here.

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    3. Not sure why it's supposed to turn cloudy but after having been told by the Waterford and Miele people I figured I wouldn't take the risk. Don't know if I could even replace our Waterford glasses these days - and if it were possible, would probably cost a bomb. We love the Spode b and w too and it is tough, the only breakage was when DIL dropped a plate on the tiled kitchen floor years ago (no problem in those days as we were easily able to replace it at DJs) - she was hugely embarassed and has never broken another thing ever since, nor have the girls. She likes it but not really her taste I think.

      In regard to luggage, for check-in we usually start a trip quite respectably with just two trusty old Samsonite oysters (v.strong and secure) plus a large zip up nylon bag. Plus our Samsonite cabin bags. During the last trip we behaved v. badly and bought two more large bags. You're so right, it is difficult to travel by train with too many bags! But in Italy at stations like Milan there are unofficial porters (official porters are like hen's teeth) with trolleys who are looking for people just like us. Husband is always happy to pay to get us into a taxi to our hotel. The hotel porter then takes care of the bags. French railways more difficult but some TGV stations have self service trolleys. As we're no longer young and I walk with a stick it's getting more difficult so we sometimes resort to car transfers (with driver) between cities, eg from Antibes to Aix en Provence rather than taking the train. Costs more but is more relaxing and avoids breaking the old backs. We should have lived in another era when people travelled with trunks and there were porters and lackeys everywhere!

      We both love travel, places with beautiful natural scenery and historic and cultural interest, galleries, museums, great architecture and gardens, etc. In particular: Provence and the Cote d'Azur, Tuscany, Venice, Italian lakes, Sicily, Paris, Vienna etc. But shopping is also a fun part of travel, especially the brocantes and markets. My husband less so, but he enjoys clothes and shoe shopping in Milan, and buying books and art materials - so at least one of the new bags was just for him. There are always lots of prezzies for the family, especially for the little girls. But on my next trip alone I'm definitely just taking one suitcase on good rollers.

      Best wishes, Pamela

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    4. Kate - you're lucky to have the Melbourne water....I really do miss it now that I'm in Adelaide. Maybe your children will embrace the Spode once they're older? Although I was very sad to hear that quite a lot of adult children don't want their parent's antiques as they prefer a more modern style (I like to mix it up a bit, so I embrace the antiques and hand me downs). xx

      Pamela - I agree, part of travel is the buying of items that you use and enjoy and remember your trip on your return. I bought a mirrored drinks tray in London last time I was there. I didn't pick it up before purchase (just pointed and said I'll take that), and it weighed a tonne!! I literally staggered back on the tube to the hotel. As I bought it on day 1 of a 12 day trip with multiple stops, I was cursing our suitcase weight after that! Lesson learnt for the next time! xx

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    5. Dear Pamela, Your travels sound absolutely superb! Please take me with you and I will carry the bags everywhere for you and your husband. I am not all that young but I have been doing weight lifting exercise classes to improve bone density and I promise you I now have muscles!

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  8. Yes, ours gets used regularly yet it always results in half a days hand washing the next day. Worth it though as each time it all gets used it becomes even more infused with happy memories of family and friends and conviviality. Scored a Wedgwood dinner set for our wedding which we keep adding to....celebratory day when we bought the sugar box in the shop on Regent Street in London....still coveting the soup tureen! Your Christmas table looked superb. Rx

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    1. How lucky you are to have a beautiful Wedgwood dinner service! Do you know, I was thinking about all the weddings we've attended since ours, and every single one of them had white Maxwell Williams style plates on their registry - no one had a proper dinner service (and a few had Riedel glasses, but no crystal, only one with crystal that I can recall). That would equal around 50 or so weddings over the past 12 years. So surprising. Soup tureens make good centrepieces as well when not used for soup - you definitely need that one! xx

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    2. The soup tureen would look magnificent filled with a heady assortment of fleurs! One day. Amazing more brides and grooms don't covet a real dinner set....I loved every minute of pouring over the pattern books and deciding on ours although my husband took it upon himself to join in so I had to compromise and we ended up with something a little more masculine than one festooned with flowers (which would have been my choice)! Rx

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    3. Which one did you end up choosing? My mum has a fairly simple Wedgwood creamy white with small gold vine leaves and gold rims.... I always think that if I were to choose a set I'd go all out with something interesting and multi coloured. I did my wedding registry with my Maid of Honour - my husband was totally disinterested, he came for 5 minutes, coincidentally developed a headache requiring coffee and disappeared. The presents were all a surprise to him (and I remember him opening them saying - Oh great, another plate)!! xx

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  9. Cornucopia...which is predominantly banded in navy, cream and gold with accent plates based on the 'horn of plenty'....I have a friend who subsequently built a whole set only using the accent design and bought it all as seconds from Wedgwood in the UK and had it shipped.....for a fraction of the price. She's promised to give me the link. Glad my husband helped choose as his sense of ownership means that he does the time at the kitchen sink! Rx

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  10. Hello Heidi

    Loving the comment stream on this post. I adore china. We have a set of Spode Blue Italian in blue and white which I adore and I think is fitting for a farmhouse too. I use it a lot. If we use it I get The Farmchildren their special plates they were given at Christenings etc also and we just all go for it. All the china goes in the dishwasher. No probs so far. The only issue I have with the Spode is it is no longer made in the UK but in China. The quality has changed and as my set is English I scour eBay for replacement pieces and extras. Doesn't bother me if they are second hand!

    I am currently coveting a Royal Copenhagen set which is very traditional but you can also buy a modern take on the design where someone has taken individual elements of the original pattern and made new pieces. It all mixes and matches and looks gorgeous. My brother-in-law and his uberbabe Danish girlfriend live in Copenhagen so whenever we visit I get some. At this rate though it will take years.....

    My crystal is Royal Doulton (working up to Waterford! One day.....). The Farmer thinks wine tastes better out of crystal and so I have to wash it a lot!


    Best go and wake sleeping jet lagged kids. Kids did well on the flights to NYC but not doing well on the jet lag front!

    T
    X


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  11. Hi T! I didn't realise Spode had changed their manufacture to China, but it figures, as everything seems to be made there these days. I scour eBay for replacements of my V&B set as well - we've only had a few pieces break, but as they handily discontinued the set one year after we were married replacements are as rare as hen's teeth.
    How lucky are you to have a brother in Copenhagen. I'm desperate to go there....the Danes have such a great Design ethos, I'm pretty confident I'd fill up a suitcase full of Georg Jensen quite happily.
    Good luck with the jetlag..... that's what put me off travel with children for good - taking a 21 month old to New York and having him jet lagged for 9 days was not fun. Especially as Mr AV was there for work, so I was the one that had to get up at 2am and do playdough etc to keep him occupied and quiet.
    Enjoy your time - can't wait to see your photos xx

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  12. No crystal or silver in this household, but I am a fan of enjoying my possessions to the max. I cannot stand sharp cutlery that almost cuts your mouth and fingers when you hold/use it :S

    We have two sets of the Robert Welch Radford Bright Cutlery and use them both every day and special occasions...
    I just love how solid they feel.

    B

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    1. Our stainless is very heavy as well - I chose it because it feels substantial when you hold it, just as you did with yours. xx

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  13. Just like the king and queens day! i wish i was born at that era....

    Andre
    ________________
    25 black napkins

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    1. Me too Andre - life was more glamorous (well, for the rich anyway....!) x

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  14. Its funny bc I got married late-r in life and so when I was 30 I had an epiphany. I realised I was subconsciously waiting to get married before I committed to nice plates. I rarely used to eat at home anyway but even my mug was a boring mug. Even my friends said why waste money on porcelain when I would get them eventually but I never thought I would get married so every year since that moment I just bought myself a few bits and bobs. I love my set now though everything is of a different design and I must say I love using it every time and makes me smile. White plates have its purpose but there has been too much of it. Imagine an archaeological dig of an average suburban house...? Boring!

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    1. I am very conscious for my sisters in law, and my younger sister who are now in their mid 30's and unmarried that they have not had that big "occasion" where you get a mass of nice home things. So I give them china or good kitchen equipment for their homes, and they love it. I think it seems like a slightly frivolous thing to go out and buy en masse when you're on your own. Your right though, in 300 years time, an archeologist is going to look up in frustration and say, "Just more broken Maxwell and Williams plates - how dull". xx

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