Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Second-Hand Hospitality

I recently watched the New Zealand movie 'Second-Hand Wedding' after a friend told me she was thinking of me when she watched it and knew I would love it. It is the delightful tale of a mother who is looking forward to the day when her daughter marries and she is particularly relishing the role she will play in organizing the reception. This mother is prepared, well and truly prepared, for she is a garage sale devotee and has spent most of her Saturday mornings trailing round the local garage sales with her friend, newspaper and valuation book in tow. She can spot a dealer at 5o paces and knows a bargain when she spots one and her home is furnished with all manner of furniture and home wares from 1960's sideboards to his and her microwaves! She has an ever growing stockpile of hospitality supplies - picnic tables and chairs, china, candelabras, even cute little gnome place card holders that she thinks will look adorable on Cheryl's reception tables at the wedding. Of course there is one detail that has been overlooked - Cheryl does not share her mother's appreciation of all things kitsch and definitely does not want a 'second-hand wedding.'

It was really as it promised, a delicious slice of kiwi life and culture. It's a wonderful story too, with themes of family, friendship and forgiveness threaded through and a lovely ending. Also refreshingly - a comedy without crudity. If you are not from New Zealand some of the characters and humour may be lost on you but if you love to go to garage sales you will find much to amuse you - they are spot on! I recognized myself in the mother and my daughter was looking worried - 'Don't get any ideas mum' she pleaded as we watched the movie! That mother was quite wise you know, in her planning for the future and her stock piling of hospitality supplies. The only problems were her lack of consideration for the tastes of others and knowing when enough was enough! As the husband in the movie joked 'Cheryl's wedding will be the first time that anyone in the family has ever given something away!'

I am not planning a wedding at the moment but I do have little stockpiles of my own for the purposes of hospitality. The home should be a centre for hospitality and I love to host most of our family celebrations in our home. We have lots of room and we give lots of thought when doing home improvements of how we can better cater for our guests. Right down to what we serve food on - I don't want to serve our guests dinner on paper plates with plastic forks or offer them coffee in Styrofoam cups. Once upon a time when we had more than a couple of families over I simply did not have sufficient tableware to cater but over the last year I have been purposely extending our hospitality supplies. And I would love to show you what I have found, what I am still looking out for and where I found it - yes, you guessed right. Most of my catering supplies are found at garage sales.

Plates and Bowls and Dinner sets
I have several sets but the table ware I use each day and on almost every occasion are basic white plates. Food always presents well when served on white plates - that's why restaurants opt for white plates. Mine are square and match in with my large square table. I'm guessing the trend for square plates is over because I have been coming across stacks of square white dinner plates at many a garage sale in recent months! Thus I have been adding to my collection and now have a cupboard full. $2 for a stack of plates - that's cheaper than disposables and of course you get to use them again and again. I know you have to do the dishes but rope in the family and on bigger occasions we always find friends who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help with the washing up. I call it 'tea towel fellowship.'

I see whole dinner sets still in their boxes at garage sales all the time. My requirement is a minimum of an 8 place setting. This rose patterned set - never used, cost me $12. It is probably suited to occasions when the ratio of female guests is higher but my twin girls are now setting the table for family dinners and like to use the 'pretty china' as they call it. Which brings me to a point to ponder....

Lovely for ladies but.....

Would you serve these guys tea in china cups?
I cooked dinner for this mob of about 18 - it was a lot of fun!

Give the Man a Mug!... I know we ladies love our rose patterned china and dainty tea cups and these are the images that grace the covers of books on hospitality but have you considered what you serve men food and drinks on? This is when you need to have a variety of cups and plates in your cupboards. I think most men prefer to have their tea or coffee in something more masculine - so choose mugs with neutral patterns or opt for plain colours. My dear mother would always serve tea to the minister on his pastoral visits using her very best china. He was quite a big man and the dainty little tea cup just didn't seem right to my father who once famously brought in a mug of steaming hot tea, whipped the rose embellished tea cup from under the Pastor's nose just as he was about to take a sip and handed him a Liverpool Football mug and declared in his very broad Scouse accent ( a name for the Liverpool accent - think of how the Beatles spoke!) 'Give the man a mug!' Needless to say, my mother was not impressed but it is one of my funniest memories and one of my favourite sayings is 'Give the man a mug!'

I have found these cups and saucers to be wonderful to serve both tea and coffee in to both men and women. They feature landmarks of London, Paris, New York and Sydney and all our guests comment on them. They are not secondhand but were on special in a local kitchen store - I just wish I had bought two sets.

When it comes to making coffee - you cannot go past a plunger or French Press as they are also known. I confess a number of glass plungers have met their doom on the tiles after being dropped and therefore a stainless steel plunger was added to the collection. I bought a glass insert for yet another dropped plunger and could not believe it when I went to a garage sale the very next day and saw a 12 cup capacity plunger for $5. I snapped it up. I use it whenever we have people round for coffee. An espresso machine would be nice one day but most people I know who own machines also have plungers or stove top coffee pots. They confess to using their plungers on most occasions - they are so convenient!

In winter I boil water for tea in this enamel kettle which sits on the Stanley stove top. I actually believe that tea tastes better when the water comes out of this kettle. Notice the tea light holders - an inexpensive finishing touch for your hospitality efforts and you will find a tonne to choose from at garage sales and in discount stores. I keep a big box of tea light candles in my drawer where I store table linen.

I also have a variety of tea pots - one for traditional teas and another Asian inspired tea set for green teas. I also serve chai tea in this pot which I boil up in a pan on the stove before transferring to the tea pot. The aroma of the spices fills my home - it is just heavenly!

I'm also adding to my collection of glassware from the garage sales. I love these vintage inspired plates - another of my $2 stacks. I want more of these green goblets - they are my absolute favourite!

Other home hospitality supplies I find at garage sales include cloth napkins, tray cloths and tablecloths. Look out for hand stitched ones. My pretty cream tablecloth with matching napkins was just $2! I reserve the white damask napkins, another garage sale find, for special occasions and have discovered that with small children, dark coloured tablecloths are the way to go!

For parties a punchbowl is perfect. Don' t go out and buy a new one. I have seen so many at garage sales which is where of course, I found mine complete with all its cups for $5. My favourite new idea for a non- alcoholic punch bowl drink comes from Janelle at 'Comfy in the Kitchen' where I guest posted a few weeks ago. Lemonade and frozen berries - so simple and so spectacular - forget ginger ale and bottles of fizzy yellow soda drinks full of additives which seem to be poured into punch bowls at functions! I'm planning this for my next girl's party!

Now a punch bowl is one of those items you use once in a while. The appliances I use everyday such as my electric jug and toaster were all bought at garage sales as were most of the small appliances in my home. I make sourdough bread by hand but my five dollar bread maker comes into its own for a quick batch of pizza dough. It has a 45 minute dough cycle which I use virtually every day - homemade pizzas are regular fare in this house. In New Zealand I had a wonderful gourmet pizza at the home of friends - Stilton cheese and pear. Definitely one to try out on our guests at our next party - so glad I bought that breadmaker. Best $5 I ever spent! I still dream of the Kitchen Aid but my $5 Breville processor has been whipping up batches of soup and pesto for the past year. If the motor goes I'll find a replacement at another garage sale!

Working through the list - and onto the serving dishes. Now I did not buy all my kitchenware at garage sales or I would miss out on another favourite pursuit called 'browsing kitchen shops' - which I can do online but it is even better for real. I've found great buys there too - often heavily discounted such as my Maxwell and Williams Olive design bowl and matching platters. Think big, think medium and think small. Big platters for all those slices of gourmet pizza. Big bowls which can be for hot pasta or double as a salad bowl. Medium for the smaller batch of mini quiches and small for the dips and sauces. Ramekins are perfect and so versatile - use them for your dipping sauces or make individual self saucing puddings. I also use them as individual serving dishes for desserts for our widowed neighbour. She cannot possibly finish a whole pie or dessert by herself so my daughter often sets aside a portion of one of her special desserts to take over the road. If we know she has company we take a couple more. I'm not in need of any more serving dishes at the moment but when I need some more or if there are any breakages I'll be checking out the garage sales first.

I am serious when I say I could cater a wedding and find everything I needed for the big day at garage sales which is why I so enjoyed the movie Second-Hand wedding and why my daughter is getting very worried! The day after we watched the movie we went to a garage sale. It was an estate sale and everything including the kitchen sink was for sale. There were gazebos, picnic tables, chairs, plates, platters, glassware, linen, candles, microwaves - everything except for the gnomes I quipped later to a friend. My husband thought it was hilarious when I asked him if the scene reminded him of anything. My daughter was 'No mum' when I held up a rather tacky bunch of silk roses. 'You don't think I'm seriously going to buy them do you?' I asked her as we left with my only purchase - a lamp with a huge and hideous 70's mustard yellow shade but a very shabby chic stand which I assured my daughter would be transformed with a new pleated cream shade from Target, which I hasten to add I noticed when watching the coverage of the Royal wedding that the Queen has inside Buckingham palace. Cream and pleated but probably not from Target!

Just time to show you one more item I find at garage sales that I use all the time for storage and cleaning up clutter in the home but especially for purposes of hospitality when my kitchen becomes a base of operations and I have to deliver food to people - whether it is a pot of soup for a potluck dinner or a meal for a new mother I cannot do without my basket - should make that plural - baskets. I'm going to share some more ideas for ministry in a basket in a future post.

What are your best garage and thrifting finds for purposes of hospitality? What was your best find? Do share!

With Love and Joy,


A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

Ann I am green with envy! How I loved my garage sales! I used to live where there was a minimum of 40 a weekend all minutes drive from one another! Now here rurally we have one or 2 a year and mainly then farm machinery:(
My best buys....hmmmmm?? been many,but a white corningware bake dish with glass lid,and a trolley suitcase both for the grand sum $4!
How I wish if just for a moment to live in the "burbs"again just for my saturday sales!

Erin said...

Love this post:) so long since I've found a good garage sale treasure. I too have a beautiful pink rose dinner set from a garage sale; complete with 8 piece setting, plates, bowls, tea cups/saucers, teapot, milk jug etc all for $12!!!
I've really been wanting to start a tablecloth collection.
I may be hosting a pre-wedding DVD night, looking for wedding DVDs adding this to the list. also looking for chick-flicks to watch with my daughter:)
would so love to go garage sale-ing with you:)

Camille said...

Your posts are full of practical insight and helpful tips Ann. I had never heard of *second hand wedding* before...but it sounds like a great idea! :) All your garage sale finds are wonderful. And I agree...I like to serve my guests on *real* plates, not paper. :) Had to laugh at the *give the man a mug* comment...too funny.

A number of years ago our neighbours had a garage sale and I found out a day ahead. I just felt *compelled* to go! I woke up early and was it ever a blessing to go to that garage sale!! A hide-away bed/couch (barely used and people we knew), a kids slide, a drop-leaf solid wood table I use for when we have too many over for our table, a little table and chairs set for little people, patterns and a cosy coup car for the yard...what a *find*! Provisions directly from the LORD! Sadly, no square plates...LOL! ;-)

Many blessings,

Renata said...

Hi Ann
Firstly let me apologise for missing your last couple of posts (I'm going to enjoy catching up on them now as I have time between NAPLAN for Zai & Ellie's work). Thank you for this post - it made me want to come & visit you - what lovely dinnerware you have - I agree with your twins - I love the rose set & would use it for everyday also!
That DVD sounds fantastic - I hadn't heard of it but will ask at the library if they can get it in.
I hope you have a wonderful day

Niki Jones said...

Ann, I absolutely love sitting down with a cuppa & reading your posts. I too have recently been adding to my collection. Whilst I was in bali recently my most favourite purchase was a set of red bamboo woven serving baskets, one for dinner & sweet plates, one for napkins & one for the knives & forks etc. I love them & they making getting everything to the table easy & stylish.
I'm gonna try rent the DVD.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post of yours Ann. Loving all the details. Amazingly I'm having a garage sale this Saturday. Had one two weeks ago at a friends but did not sell as much as I would like (actually bought more LOL)I didn't advertise my things as well. So one more time. I have not been to many myself but there are some good bargains to be had. Recently we bought a fantastic tabletennis table in excellent condition, such a blessing.I too love kitchen things and have to hold myself back. We don't have a lot of storage so I have to be careful but I do love good finds. I'm very inspired and only recently thinking I must get around and have a little look at some more local garage sales.
Angela K

Joolz said...

Hi Ann

I made the Dana's Cupcakes and they were real winners! They rose just the right amount and were moist and fluffy and the frosting was lovely too! Definitely thowing out all other choc cake recipes!

Cheers - Joolz

Finding Joy said...

Just had to share with you - I made Dana's chocolate cake , put raspberry jam and whipped cream in the middle and icing on top and took it to work. Everyone loved it. I brought a 1/4 home and my son has taken it to share with his girlfriend. It was so moist. THANKYOU for sharing this recipe.

Ps I love second hand shopping, so much fun.

Carmen at Old House Homestead said...

LOVE your ideas! Wow...now I'm hungry! It's almost bedtime here, though...I'll just have to use the preggo excuse. *wink*


Anonymous said...

You can cater my wedding.. and I'm been serious! <3
Your amazing Ann. You truly are!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin