Reader Q&A – Advice on Dishes

Reader Question: I have been looking at china patterns for our home. It can be a little overwhelming, so I was hoping to see what advice you may have. How many sets do you recommend? What parts of each place setting are necessary? I’m actually looking to replace our everyday dishes, since several pieces have been broken or chipped, in addition to have a set of china. Currently we own no china. We’ve been married for nearly five years, so I’m obviously not doing a registry and will just purchase as we can afford. Thank you!

Answer: It truly can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! As fun as it can be to have every piece made, it just isn’t that practical. For china I recommend a minimum of eight sets – more if you tend to entertain at the holidays, which is when the china will likely be used. For everyday dishes, 12 sets would be more ideal. Many everyday sets are sold as a set as opposed to individual pieces. The most common set includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bowl and coffee cup. These would be the most basic pieces you need. I enjoy having a bread plate and saucer for the coffee cup, as well. I’ve never found the need for both a dinner plate and a luncheon plate. For my china, I have the same pieces. Each year for my birthday or Christmas, I’ll accumulate more pieces, like a butter dish, serving bowl, etc. The ones I highly recommend would be a butter dish, two serving bowls, large platter and salt & pepper shakers. I have other pieces that I enjoy but don’t consider necessary, such as fruit bowls, asparagus dish, baking dishes for my everyday set, batter bowl, etc. My best advice is to get the type and amount of dishes that suit your lifestyle!

Making Every Day Special

My granny had a talent for making every day special. Even though I was 12 when she and my aunt built a new home to move into, I associate most of my childhood memories with her in her old home, which she and my pappy moved into when they were married.

It was a simple white frame home with well-loved wood floors. There were also three points of exit, which probably caused gray hairs for my granny when she was watching me. The home didn’t have central heat or AC, so windows were regularly open, and the smell of honeysuckle permeated the air. She was an avid pie maker, so it was a regular occurance to see a cocount meringue pie in the kitchen.

My granny always told me that she cooked simple meals. But they never felt simple. Even a sandwich lunch in the heat of summer was special there. She pulled out all of the stops, and, as a mom, I wonder where she found her energy. For sandwiches there were always multiple varieties of meats and cheese in the Brookshire’s deli bags. Variety never stopped there, as there were options for every topping I could think of. She’s usually have a cantelope or other ripe summer fruit that she had cut up earlier, and tomatoes were both a topping and a side, sprinkled with a bit of salt. While her favorite chips were Lays potato chips, those were never the only ones she had. Even in the absence of one of her homemade pies (which never lasted long), Little Debbie treats were there following the meal. She still made it an experience.

I was thinking about these meals recently. I think too often we add unneccesary pressure on ourselves. While I do not (and will not) ever think it’s acceptable to just grow lazy and do the bare minimum, I also don’t think it’s prudent to add extra work just to add the extra work. She never felt pressured to make seven-course meals. She knew how to keep things appropriate.

My granny made sandwiches special. She enjoyed doing more than throwing a piece of meat and cheese on a slice of bread. That’s where I find much of my motivation. The meal never cost much, but, even as a 31 year old, I remember those meals vividly.

To me, this sums up etiquette so well. It doesn’t have to cost much. It just has a way of making the ordinary special. Don’t let fear hold you back from making each day special. You don’t need to work yourself silly. Invite friends over for sandwiches. I can guarantee those memories will last.

My daughter, my mom and I are the next generations of my granny’s legacy.

 

Long Live the Guest Book

A few years ago I took a history walk from a local historian and our current mayor, John Sellers. Now, while John knows just about everything there is to know about Hopkins County, he actually speaks all over Texas and the USA. We were touring an old home on College Street, and this home was once the hub for many parties. He said that prior to the tour he was looking through an old guest book, and he came across his mother’s signature, signed with her maiden name. For some reason, this story left a major impression on me.

I think back to all of the parties and gatherings we’ve had at our home, and, while we do a great job of taking a group picture at every event, I couldn’t help but wonder what piece of history we may have missed. So, I started looking for guest books. I found dozens in the $100+ range. Most were designed for weddings, but I found this Guest Book: Illustrated Nature Edition for less than $15.
I absolutely love it! I’m doing my best to find another one that allowed for menus of parties, etc., which I thought would be too fun to look back on. One day I have a feeling the pendulum will swing the other way, and our grandkids will enjoy the hardcopy items of things the internet just can’t replace. I’ve purchased this book and have it in our entryway. If you visit, plan to sign. 🙂

 

{This post contains affiliate links, and we will receive compensation for purchases made through the links.}

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding

Before my granny passed away, she had given me over a dozen chocolate pie recipes. One today that I’m sharing with you is a tried and true favorite for when I make chocolate pudding (think, inside part of the pie).

2/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/4 c. cocoa powder

Mix those ingredients together. Add 1/4 c. milk to make a paste. Add in three egg yolks. Add additional 1 1/2 c. milk. Bring together over low heat, whisking constantly. Once fully thickened drop in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Enjoy!

***Bonus*** Omit the chocolate and add additional teaspoon of vanilla for vanilla pudding!

TWOsday Recipes

Hi, y’all! I hesitate to even call what I’m sharing today “recipes.” I wanted to share some easy go-to ideas for your events. Each recipe has only TWO ingredients!

First, my favorite sweet dip is what I call Marshmallow Fruit Dip. Simply combine a 7-ounce jar of marshmallow creme with an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese. Whip it together by hand or in a stand mixer. This is a hit with my kids! They love dipping grapes and strawberries into it.My next delicious duo is Chili-Cheese Dip. Combine an 8-ounce brick of cream cheese with a 10-ounce can of chili (no beans). Heat on the stove until the cheese has melted. Bake in a cast iron skillet in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips!

Another savory dip is the Classic Cheese Dip. For a 16-ounce brick of processed cheese (Velveeta), add two 10-ounce cans of tomatoes with chiles (Ro-Tel). I always just put mine in the crock pot. This is also perfect with Fritos or tortilla chips!

Finally, my last recipe is for making sugar molds! This is the easiest way to fancy up a tea party. Just add 1/2 teaspoon of water for every 1/2 cup of sugar. Blend both items in a food processor until all sugar is evenly wet. Spoon into mold, making sure to pack the sugar down well.

Invert onto a cookie sheet by placing the cookie sheet upside down on the mold and then turning both over. Gently remove the mold and let the sugar molds rest for at least 30 minutes.

Get these flower-shaped molds for only $1.99!


Or try the heart-shaped molds, if that’s more your style.
***Edited to add a new recipe!***

Lime-Sherbet Punch. Anyone else always pronounce it “sherbert?” I think it drives my husband crazy. Anyhow, I usually do a quart of slightly softened lime sherbet (but you can use raspberry or orange to change the color!) to a 2-liter of ginger ale. Now, we’re flexing on the two-ingredient rule, but if you’re having a 1950’s themed Christmas, add in some maraschino cheeries for color! Really, though, you only need the sherbet and the ginger ale.