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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

use your good stuff...



We were young, really young (well, I was actually younger since Dan is 7 years older than me;) and poor.... really poor. 
It was our first Christmas together and while I didn't expect anything expensive I certainly didn't expect the Christmas gifts that Dan gave me that year...

a sweater stone and an umbrella.

You did read the part about it being our "first" Christmas together, yes?!!
Now, to his defense- Dan had been listening to me as I really did need an umbrella and a sweater stone (that was back in the day when yuppie pullover sweaters were all the rage)... I just didn't necessarily want them as Christmas gifts ;) !  I pretended to be delighted, but I secretly had hoped for something a little more "special."    
The next Christmas Dan redeemed himself when he surprised me with a gorgeous Baccarat crystal vase for Christmas- an extravagant gift that we could ill afford at the time, but one that I loved!  It was the late 1980's and we were piece-mealing the remaining of our wedding Waterford Araglin crystal (do brides still get crystal glassware and sterling flatware these days?) and Baccarat Harmonie tumblers.  It is a beautiful vase and has a way of catching the light just so.
For years I used the vase only for display.  I viewed it as a "work of art" and would keep in on the coffee table in the living room and admire it always, but never use it.




By this point in our marriage we had moved to Dallas and were frequent shoppers at estate sales.  We found some wonderful, amazing, fabulous finds in those early years-  back before everyone and their best friend was into antiquing.  We would often come home with a great find and say
"Look at that... it has never, ever been used."
It always made me a bit sad- that the person had saved the piece for some special occasion that
 never came.
 
I can still remember the night I was sitting in the living room and I looked at the Baccarat vase and thought -
"  ohmygawd..........  someone is going to pick up this vase at MY estate sale and say.... 
'This vase was never, ever used.'  "

In that split second I decided I would use and enjoy the vase instead of just looking at it. 
The next day I purchased some white roses, and the vase has now been used for many years.  There are the obvious scratches from wear that immediately devalues the piece from a collectors point of view, but it feels much more comforting to know that at MY estate sale someone will pick up this vase and think....
"Wow, she must have really loved this piece!"

Life is short ....Use your good stuff !



(And, no- you can not get on a sign-up list for MY estate sale!    Oh sure,... like you weren't thinking that :) 




88 comments:

  1. Wonderful advice! Love your home and waiting to see the botanicals you hinted at on the wall in the barn room.

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  2. I totally agree. When I hit 50 many years ago, I looked at all the silver flatware and china patterns inherited or gifted and said why not enjoy all of this? I certainly wasn't getting any younger. So I use china and silver everyday and never stop appreciating the beauty of my Luxembourg flatware while remembering my grandmother who received them over her lifetime. Yes, they have developed a patina, but they are more beautiful and appreciated.

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  3. I totally agree and want nothing in my home that I do not touch once a year! Love reading you!

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  4. Amen, sister! At 63, I have had to deal with three estates of parents/aunt and I have thought that myself. Love your days. Fill them with beauty. Take the scratches and the oppsies. Remember the story.

    Men are usually so clueless about gift buying. My dear late MIL's husband had heard her. One Christimas he gave her new pillows and a bath robe. She took him in hand the next year, and he gave her a beautiful necklace and earrings. And then, from her stocking he produced the gift of all time: the emerald ring she had wanted as bride but they could not afford. She died days before the next Christmas. She wore that emerald every day. Naysayers said it was too "soft" for that. She replied, "You never know how many days you have left." So very telling and true.

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  5. Such sage advice Joan! Anything too precious to use is not worth having!

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  6. ...amen...use your good stuff indeed...and wear your red shoes...

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  7. Oh, I so agree! We just got out our Herend and Ginori china...received as wedding presents many years ago... that have been carefully packed in those quilted cases. And yes, we actually use them and are loving the "new look" around here!
    There is still a market for these kind of things, with new brides, but not the way it was a few years ago. I go to the Tabletop Show in NYC and there is a HUGE market for bridal china. Unfortunately, there are now so many knock-offs that it is very difficult for the original, authentic manufacturers.

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  8. I totally agree...and the part about not signing up...had me smiling. :) I also wanted to tell you "thanks" for the jar inspiration from your kitchen. I actually found an amazing deal at our ReStore. I already had one. Imagine my husband when I said..."What if I buy four more?" ;) k.

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  9. Hello Joan, I think your Baccarat vase is beautiful either as a sculptural object or as a vase, so indeed you did get a lot of use out of it.

    I do like to use and see my objects; on the other hand, restrained use of some things allows you to make an occasion special, or a guest more honored.
    --Road to Parnassus

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  10. YES< I'm already there with your thoughts have been for many years now!We use to keep our crystal under the bed when we were first married in the original boxes.To keep them safe from earthquakes!Well, for years I never used them cause it was just too hard to pull out and put back!Now they are in a glass cabinet at the ready!I use my MOTHERS good silver for everyday and yes it goes in the dishwasher........nothing has happened to it yet its been about 7 years.......ENJOY IT!You cannot take it with you.............so use it!I agree 100% with you!

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  11. I wasn't thinking about your estate sale, I was realizing I better go around and tell hubby the value of my stuff for my estate sale... omygawd.

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  12. I agree completely. The vase is lovely and should be used, as should my china, crystal and silver. Great advice!

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  13. much older sister SusanMarch 6, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Joanie, I don't know why but this post brought a tear to my eye. I use to love only 'prefect things' but now that I am older (much older) I love the things that have been gently used and loved.

    Thinking of our Aunt Cappy and all her pretty things.

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  14. Thank you for your post. Such a timely post for me. I recently inherited a beautiful set of dishes that were my grandmother's. She died 5 years ago and since then my mother has had the same dishes. She just recently moved and decided that she didn't use them in all that time, so she would pass them along to me.

    I am going to take them out of the boxes and begin to use them. They will remind me of my grandmother for sure and that life is for living - chips, cracks and all!

    Thank you for your post. You truly have a gift. Thank you for sharing it.

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  15. I came to the same conclusion some time back. Wear your good clothes, use the silver, cook dinner and serve it on the good plates. Otherwise, what's the point?? Good advice indeed!

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  16. Nice post. My mother-in-law used her sterling flatware every day. It goes to say that she did not have a dishwasher. I have too many *nice* things - sterling and crystal and china - that I inherited and rarely if ever use. We will be downsizing soon with no extra storage space (minimal closets, tiny kitchen, no attic and no basement and no garage!) and no room for a china or display cabinet. (It sounds like assisted living - but it's just our mountain cabin!) I'm trying to figure out what to do with what I have. My sons and their wives are not that interested and don't have the space, either. I gave my grandmother's china to my niece, who now lives close to where her great-grandmother lived. She was thrilled. I have three sets (!) of sterling flatware - and I never received any as a bride (deliberately didn't register for it). I will leave those to my children, but meanwhile I really need to purge. But it's hard, though there's no point in keeping things just because they were from the family or may be valuable. I'm thinking ebay or etsy. Silver coffee/tea service, anyone? I want to keep only the things that are special to me (for sentiment or beauty) and that I have room to appreciate. No use storing things under beds where they never see the light of day. On another note, what's a sweater stone?

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  17. Ha, I was just about to ask ;) I love the vase, it does seem real pretty when the light hits it, and yes, I agree, we must use what we currently have, because you just never know.

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  18. I loved your post and the story of your first Christmas. And especially had a chuckle about your estate sale. One of my "much older" sisters recently gave me one of her hand made quilts. It is safely wrapped. I think I will put it on my bed :) Best Regards, Wenda

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  19. Yes, by all means we must use our stuff! What are we saving it for? Our kids won't want it...they have their own stuff. Your vase is gorgeous...bet it looks even better with flowers! ;)

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  20. YES! I love the love wearings on pieces...my favorite part actually! Kinda how I much appreciate smile lines to botox faces!! Life is here to be LIVED.Things enjoyed. Great story of your first Christmas!

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  21. Look how much more beautiful it is with water in it! It was most definitely made to be used. Lovely blog :)

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  22. ps...not only are we missing out when we do not choose to use our precious things...we are denying honor to the gifted people who made these special pieces...they did not create and labor to have their handiwork hidden away... for no artist paints...and then hopes that his work will never be seen...(wonder what treasures the farmer's wife had...other than her house)...

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  23. what a great and true lesson! I always use the good stuff..but I'm 50+...I waited until now..I hope the youngsters heed!

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  24. oh joanie what a timely post. this past sunday i went to my dear friend doris' estate sale. what a day. what a mix of emotions. it was heartbreaking and yet soothing. i cannot believe that i walked away with what can only be described as treasures. and yes - use your good stuff. she did and lived a *well-lived* beautiful life.

    your vase is beyond lovely. xo

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  25. I'd love to shop your estate sale, but I hope that doesn't come anytime soon.

    I didn't register for fine china, silver, or crystal. (That was 5 years ago now.) I knew that between my grandmothers and mother I had plenty to chose from in a few years. Last year I inherited my grandmother's china and Christmas china. I made room in my kitchen cabinets for the china so that I would use it on a regular basis, but I haven't yet. I think I'll have to use them sometime soon.

    I also inherited my great-grandmother's crystal. I love drinking sangria out of them. It feels so fun and fancy to use them and it makes me think of a woman I never met.

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  26. Hi Joan,
    We always use and live in our home. Even handmade pillow cases from my mother in law that many have saved, we have used and worn out. Who more important than my family..why leave for others to enjoy. And wait for your estate sale! I'd much rather you share now! The half foot of snow expected last evening in Ohio ended up about one inch. This weekend in the fifties!! Sara, Ohio

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  27. I so agree. No matter what the price, they are still just "things"!

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  28. Great words of wisdom. I think everything looks better with a little pataina, scratches, wear and tear. It says that we've lived life to the fullest.

    Jan ~ Kentucky

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  29. I just had this conversation with my mom last weekend; I've decided to break out my sterling silver flatware and start USING it -- every day. It's been languishing in a drawer of my buffet for the last 22 years, only making sporadic appearances for a holiday dinner. What is the point of having beautiful things if you don't use them?
    Great post, Joan!
    xo Heidi

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  30. I learned that lesson a while ago. I am purging everything I don't use and love. I always loved the look of a "traditional" décor room with lots of beautiful displayed "treasures". As I'm maturing(now 53) I am loving the "less is more" décor. I do not want to waste my time having "stuff" to clean all the time just for the sake of display. I'm not a minimalist, but only want a couple of pieces in each room that I really love. This saves time and money! Love your blog and am always blown away at what you create!
    Casey

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  31. That's a great story Joan. I agree that we need to use our 'good' things. There's really no point in saving them for a special occasion. Every day we're alive is a special occasion! Pamela

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  32. Yes, yes, yes....I've had my lovely crystal and china in storage for the last three years due to moving out of our home state. We have returned home and they will be some of the first pieces that I use. Your home is so beautiful and welcoming. Cheri

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  33. Joan,
    Glad to know that Dan redeemed himself with his gift of the Baccarat vase! It looks so lovely with those white tulips in it. I received a sweatshirt and a cookbook our first year! Tell Dan that we now have Lil' Red-a tractor minus the scoop but with a box cutter!

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  34. Since I am way older than you I won't even bE here for the sale:( I do agree, though, to USE your good things. I try to use everything!!! What a beautiful vase. And BTW, I never got anything for several years at Christmas, that I can recall. We really had no money at all. We are blessed 45 years later!!! XO, Pinky

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  35. Amen!! What's the point of having good stuff that's only for show? I learned from my mother that fine things are to be used and enjoyed, and I have carried the tradition into our family ... teaching my husband the lesson. (His mother is one that puts things away for special occasions, which almost never come.) Good dishes, silver flatware, and crystal glasses have a wonderful way of making everyone happy.

    Now that I think of it, I have no idea what I received as my first Christmas gift after our marriage. I should go ask my husband ... I know he will remember.

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  36. Ok, so I was thinking I'd like to have first dibs ... LOL! I have a friend who passed away a few years ago in a tragic car accident, who used to say: "Never save your party pants." I'm so glad that she lived by that motto, although she was far to young to leave us, she enjoyed every minute of the life that she lived.
    Great post Joan, and valuable advice!
    xo
    A

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  37. I WAS thinking that - and actually hope to be listed as sole heir to your estate! :) LOVE your house and what fills it!

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  38. I was thinking it! Haha, I can only imagine the treasures in your home- everything so perfectly taken care of and loved.

    I love that you started using the vase, such a sweet gift!

    My husband and I have a similar story- he gave me a Martha Stewart cookbook out first Christmas. In his defense he knows I love her, but in mine I dont cook and I HATE cookbooks. Needless to say he made up for it the year after, much like Dan did :)

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  39. Beautiful piece about your beautiful piece...and a good bit of philosophy to remember.

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  40. Sweet story and beautiful vase....love the sentiment behind it. As I have gotten older i have understood the importance of enjoying what we have, really using all the "good stuff".....and taking pleasure in using it. I do that more and more and I get so much enjoyment out of it!

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  41. I had to laugh...for our first Christmas, my husband gave me a GE canister vacuum cleaner, and I was thrilled! It was exactly what I wanted and needed. I agree about using what you have. I used to think I was saving things for my kids, but they already have their own "stuff" and have no use for mine. So, except for a few sentimental keepsakes, if I can't use it myself, right now, I'll pass it along to someone who can.
    PS - are you sure about that waiting list? :-)

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  42. I have the biggest smile on my face right now. thank you.

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  43. Look at how many of us responded with notations of 'my mother hoards blah, blah, blah'. My mother always tells my daughter that her collection of Belleek china goes to her.... when she goes. Hmmm.
    I think that the generation who came out of the depression kept 'things' locked away as special collections. But I'm certain that the collection of Belleek will be more than items to dust once they are passed down to my daughter.

    Spring is on the way my friend, fill that pretty vase with wonderful blooms.

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  44. When we were married, my mother-in-law gave us 12 crystal goblets that she HAD to have when she was married in 1935. They still had their Tiffin stickers on them, never once used. We have had them since 1972 and are down to 9. We use the "good stuff" all of the time: if we're not worth it, who is?

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  45. My treasures are my treasures, and I try to use them as often as possible. For years (decades) they were kept packed, but not anymore. I want my kids and now grandchildren to see them, and hopefully want them, one day when I'm not here and remember seeing it at Grammy's house, and remember eating off of it, or picking flowers out of the garden for it. When memories are attached to items, they become real.

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  46. Hi Joan. Can you please explain what a sweater stone is???? :)

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  47. That is very good advice - and I also was wondering what a 'sweater stone' is !!

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  48. Joan,
    Early in our marriage I read the book by Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life and her advice mirrored what you are saying. If you don't use your "good stuff" for everyday life you're missing out on making life special for yourself and those you live with and love. Such a beautiful vase.
    What's a sweater stone?
    Karen

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  49. Steph, Patricia & Karen- a sweater stone is a tool similar to a pumice stone that is used to remove pilling and renew the finish of sweaters. Now they make electric ones, but this was prior to that!

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  50. Loved, loved,loved this post and you are so very right. I have come to the same thinking but you put is so poetically.

    Carolyn

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  51. Love this story and totally concur! In fact, some of the good things that are not my personal taste, I have recently sold as we don't have any children to inherit them -- so might as well enjoy the profits of some good things! NB

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  52. I LOVE this post.
    I got given a china dinner set that was my nanas when she died. It is ANCIENT haha, and its been out of the box and used because otherwise it would be in a cupboard somewhere wrapped in newspaper. I don't remember ever seeing it come out of the china cabinet as a child, so I use it every chance I get so it has love.

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  53. I totally agree! My friends always wonder why I don't use paper plates and napkins when they come over, but I want to use the stuff that is pretty and makes each day feel like an occasion! I also burn all my candles! It kind of drives me crazy to go in a house and see candles that are dusty and never been burned! Life is short and every day should be a special occasion! Use your stuff!

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  54. That's so true and told so well.

    That's why I have my good dishes displayed on open bookshelves in my music room. When I moved from a large home to a cottage I realized I had beautiful dishes that I had hardly ever used because I stored them in a cupboard; how sad it was.

    Good reminder.

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  55. Loved this Joan!!!! I need to show this post to my mother, who thinks that if an item is worth something, we can't touch it, let alone use it!!! :)

    Loved your message in tiny font at the end of your post too!!!


    Have a wonderful day!

    Jessica

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  56. That is a great story - I'm glad you are using your vase. I have used my bridal registry silverware about two times, but when I got my grandmother's much loved silverware, I polished it up and use it every time I have company. I love the patina. My mom said they used it all the time when she was growing up.

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  57. Great advice! When we registered for fine china, we added two cereal bowls so that when we want to we can have special breakfasts together with the good stuff. Silly but always fun for us.

    Jenny
    Www.simcoestreet.blogspot.com

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  58. You are so right Joan! I have come to realise this more and more over the years. Loved the mention of 'wedding gifts'.......I would love to know what emphasis the modern young couple put on their list? My children are early 20's sand we haven't got to that stage yet, but it will be interesting to see!

    Have a lovely day.....

    Sophia

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  59. I am guilty as charged.....I do not use enough of my good things, even on special occasions! It's really a form of hoarding or materialism in a way.....not wanting anything to become damaged or lost puts more emphasis on the "thing" than on the joy of the thing.......good thoughts....

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  60. I remember watching Oprah one day (long ago) and she mentioned something of the same effect. And I thought the same thing - why not use the good stuff? And since then I try and do the same thing. Why put things on a shelf only to bring them out once in a while. Life is too short. :)

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  61. Joan, Dan, and Ella: So true...to everything you said! (including those early gifts!) Cindy

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  62. I agree wholeheartedly...who are you saving it for? Company? Who is more important, your family or some strangers who probably won't care anyway?
    Use the good stuff....everyday....and smile.
    Terri

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    1. Exactly! My grandmother always told me to treat family as company and company as family.

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  63. love this :) i just found your blog and absolutely LOVE it. like you, i moved to nh a few years ago (to a tiny town) from southern california and adore the change of pace. it's so nice to see other people blogging about it too!!

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  64. Writer Joan Didion was once asked if it was true she used her good silver everyday and she replied, "Every day is all there is." So true!

    I use all my pretty things every day and my nieces love coming over and having breakfast on 'the good stuff'. About 5 years ago we inherited a set of china from my husband's grandmother and my nieces were SHOCKED that I used it at Christmas 'because Great-Grandma only used it on special occasions' and I said, having you guys here is a special occasion!

    I don't have children, so last Christmas asked my nieces and nephews who wanted what so I could make a list. They think they're getting it when I'm gone but they're actually getting it when they set up housekeeping on their own!

    Wendy

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  65. About 4 years ago I came to the same conclusion. About 25 years ago, I bought my beautiful china. I loved them so much, but they were rarely used. For one thing, I was afraid they would get broken, and another, I thought they needed to be washed by hand. Naturally over the years, we used them less and less. Then the awakening. I thought one of these days my son will be asking his sister how much he should mark them and she will no doubt reply, "Oh I don't know, put $20 for the whole set." After I moved all the dishes to the forefront of the cabinets, I told my daughter what I was doing and she remarked, "Mom, I don't remember those dishes." How sad. So now we use them every day and they go straight in the dishwasher. No regrets!

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  66. Seeing the picture of your vase on the table with the sun shining through it reminded me of a something that happened at my mom's house. She, too, has a vase that looks very much like yours. It sat on an antique coffee table that belonged to my grandfather. The house had skylights and when the sun would shine, the vase made beautiful rainbows around the room. One day my mother walked by the living room to see smoke rising from the coffee table top. It seems the sun was hitting the vase in just the right spot and its rays were burning a hole in the wood of the coffee table top. Today the hole remains as a reminder of the power of the sun and the value of a very beautiful crystal vase.

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    1. "Today the hole remains as a reminder of the power of the sun and the value of a very beautiful crystal vase."

      Pure poetry!

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  67. I love using all my good stuff. Your vase is beautiful and you are smart to enjoy it every day.
    Best...Victoria

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  68. My mother use to say and do the very same thing. Now that she is gone, I treasure many of the lovely pieces she passed down to me. I use them daily in my own home and they bring a smile to my face while thinking of her!

    Have a great weekend~
    Jo

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  69. That's a beautiful post, and I could not agree more!

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  70. Stellar advice! Use what you love and enjoy it while you have it, for we never know when something might get broken or lost. My MIL gave me this advice early on. I've always remembered her words when indeed I or someone else accidentally broke a favorite piece. Enjoy and use the good stuff..........Sarah

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  71. Absolutely agree. When our house was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago the only items I was able to salvage was my sterling, crystal and china (they were all so well packaged that nothing floated/broke in the 11ft of water)...everything else I owned perished. So I accepted it as a sign to enjoy what little I have and now we use all these "delicate" treasures every single day..snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. And when they're gone, they're gone..but well loved and enjoyed to the fullest!

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  72. From the number of comments, it seems you hit a nerve. I could not agree more. Indeed some brides do aspire to own nice crystal, china and silver. My oldest daughter was married last summer and we had the most fun looking at china and crystal. Once she had a few patterns in mind, she and the groom to be made the final decisions. I was fortunate to have 16 place setting of Tiffany sterling so she was the recipient of 8 place settings. There will be a day that she will be glad that she made the choices when her friends and family generously gifted the items for her wedding.

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  73. my Mother in law gave me a beautiful set of sterling flatware and Fostoria crystal water goblets years ago that had been wedding gifts to her. I asked my husband if he remembered them, and he swore he had never seen them before. She too was waiting for that special occasion that never came. She is so delighted every holiday and party when she comes over and sees the table set with all the fine pieces. So few people do that kind of entertaining these days, it is truly a shame. I think a peanut butter sandwich would taste so much better served on a china plate!

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  74. What a lovely post and the responses have made me smile. I too love Alexzandra Stoddard and her belief that you should use what you have and not "save it" for good. BWT: I am giggling at the folks who don't know what a sweater stone is! (It's used lke pumice for your feet or elbows-its to take off pilling-others might use a shaver) I realize I am old and from the midwest where we learned about these things from grandma.

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  75. Joan I have been collecting crystal and silver since I was 16. I use all my good "stuff" and have thoroughly enjoyed my good china for as long as I can remember. I am one of those people who actually enjoys cleaning silver...lol...I still do the hot water starch for my napkins. My daughter who is newly married also loves the starched napkins except in her case she brings them over to Mom to have them done.

    Love to read your blogs and so glad you are back "on-air". Well done.

    Luv Lillian

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  76. My sister-in-law gave me an exquisite vase similar to yours. I used it, but one day, after washing and drying it, it disappeared. It took me a few days to find it (in my small home). A beautiful crystal objet de arte appeared on my mantle. I loved it! My husband had placed the vase upside down and the light caught all the good angles and I loved it. So, when there are no flowers, that beautiful vase becomes a crystal prism on my mantle.

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  77. Thank you for such an informative site. I have gained so much from reading
    and listening to your heart as you share the how and why of your design
    choices. Your home is truly a work of passion and love. debi

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  78. Know I'm way late to this (just happily discovered your blog last week and have been devouring it ever since) but this reminds me of a book we used to read to our girls called "Rabbits New Rug". Rabbit was a popular and fun loving fellow until he acquired a much longed for new rug. Having been a frequent entertainer in the past he invited all of his friends over to see his treasure but was afraid to serve any food or drinks in fear of something soiling it. When his friends arrived he asked them not to walk on the rug but to stand along the walls to admire it. After a few weeks he saw less and less of his friends and spent a large part of his time making sure his rug was in pristine condition. He eventually became very lonely and decided to throw a big party. His friends were wary but when they arrived they were greeted with plenty of refreshments and no admonishments regarding the rug. As expected the rug was christened with crumbs and drips but everyone left happy and satisfied (especially Rabbit).
    Teresa

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    1. Teresa- love that story! Thank you for sharing it.

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