Our youngest sister, Margaret (if you’ve read About Hazel, you know that we have a lot of sisters), likes to say coolly, “We do not pay retail.”
Well, we do pay retail occasionally. But we don’t like it. We are indefatigable bargain hunters. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes it’s not quite as fabulous as we might like (as in: shoot! they’ve only got three of these napkins that I love! I need at least six). But we’ve ended up with a nice array of tableware and linens suitable for any occasion–without paying astronomical prices.
When I go out for tea, I always want the tea room’s so-so china to be my bone china. I collect most anything with roses on it–and Royal Doulton on the underside. I’m told the reason aliens don’t land their flying saucer on my lawn is because I’ll go out and flip it over to find out where it was made.
So when I host a tea party, I get to use a lot of my pretty rose-patterned porcelain. But
if you find yourself with that so-so china, don’t stress. Ask your guests to bring their favorite place setting. I’ll bet you’ll find everyone has a tea cup and saucer that a grandmother or aunt gave her, and she’ll have a sweet story to tell about it too. You can also hit up an antiques store or eBay; that’s how I started. But I should warn you that, once you start, it’s hard to stop–collecting china’s worse than crack!
Our hostess for the tree-trimming tea party, Mary, has a whole set of Christmas Lenox, which she’ll happily show off for the season. It is lovely but a tad over my budget. I always prefer the fabulous at a discount.
There are some great deals on linens at antiques stores too. You can find four or six and sometimes as many as 12 matching damask napkins for a reasonable price. Incidentally, antique or vintage linens are, as a rule, far better made than many sold at high-end stores today. Napkins seem to be the best bet but tablecloths are plentiful too. Because tables tended to be smaller back in the day, if you’re looking to cover a 120-inch table, you’ll probably need a contemporary tablecloth, which can often be purchased at a nice discount at Ross, Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Why not take advantage of bargains when you can?
Don’t worry about old stains too much; lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide are miracle workers. Hairspray and toothpaste can be your friends too. Did you know you can polish your silver with toothpaste? And don’t get me started on the other things you can do with toothpaste! As I said, I prefer the fabulous at a discount….