After we got engaged I couldn’t wait to finally get to choose an everyday china pattern and register for gifts. (How in the world was that almost 30 years ago?) I didn’t need to choose fine china; I had inherited my mother’s Malden by Oxford, simple, rimmed in gold, and stunning.

I’m one of those who believes kitchen art begins with pretty dishes.

A spectacularly set table doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy and expensive, but with a little thought and intention – flowers and greenery plucked from your yard, handwritten place cards, a centerpiece created with found objects from your home – you can design a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to begin our life together, to open our home, and experiment with new-to-me recipes. We didn’t have Pinterest or the internet to mine ideas, but we had magazines and the traditions of our own families, plenty to get us started. 

I’ve always been drawn to color, and my first choice for everyday dishes was Villeroy & Boch’s Fruit Basket; predominately green and yellow, it was just so doggone happy. But it was also pricey for an everyday, and sensitive to gift-givers’ budgets, I ended up choosing Poppies on Blue, a popular-in-the-80s Lenox pattern.

We received all the place settings we registered for in addition to serving bowls and platters, the cream and sugar, and I think even the salt and pepper shakers. These were the dishes of our newlywed years, a part of countless meals shared with friends and family, and eventually with our own children. 

Right around the time the poppies began fading, my tastes began changing. With a move from South Carolina to Tennessee, I decided timing was perfect for buying new dishes; this time around, I went with a neutral. When I wanted a splash of color, I’d pick up festive placemats. My once-beloved Poppies on Blue was relegated to a box in the attic, waiting for my children to grow up and move into their own home, or the bigger dream, a heart-secret I’ve held close for all these years. 

Ten years later we moved to Georgia, and once again, I marked the occasion with a change in dishes (are you seeing a pattern?). Drawn back to color, I picked up some blue stoneware from Pier One. 

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a kitchen too big for me. It’s not just dishes over which I grow dizzy with affection, it’s all the things that live there—small appliances, big appliances, gadgets and gizmos, and the right glass for everything you drink. Truly, every beverage tastes better in a glass or cup designed with it specifically in mind. That drives my husband a little crazy, and with a small kitchen now, it’s a challenge to master. 

Recently, I enjoyed a girls weekend out of town, and we decided an Airbnb rental would accommodate the space and flexibility we wanted. With many options to choose from, we decided a small, three-bedroom near downtown was best. (If you aren’t familiar with Airbnb, think Uber for homes. Hosts can rent out a room or their entire house. Some people vacate homes they live in to accommodate out of town guests, though some are second homes used for rental income. In our case, I don’t think our host lived in our weekend rental; it wasn’t fancy or high end, but it was comfortable and had everything we could possibly need.)

Our first night there we planned a simple dinner–wine, cheese, fruit and the like, and we began rummaging through cabinets for the dishes we’d need. And then God winked—

The dishes were Poppies on Blue.

It was liking running into an old friend with whom I had shared a lot of life. What a delightful surprise, a sweet indication that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

And it didn’t stop there. I noticed a different but familiar pattern of dishes on the top shelf, so I dragged a chair over and climbed to the top to investigate. I couldn’t believe what I discovered: a set of Haviland china, the pattern, Rosalinde, my mother-in-law’s fine china. 

Incredible.

Telling, the depth of emotion those old dishes conjured, isn’t it? It tells me what happens in our homes, around our tables, is important. When we share a meal with our family or friends, it’s never just about the food, is it? A meal tethers us to one another long enough to make memories, build traditions, and know each other a little better than we did before. 

I’ve told you about my dishes, now tell me about yours? If you’re married, did you register for everyday? Fine china? Anything else? Are you still using a set you bought after graduation and still like? Do tell us all the details, and link pictures if you’re able. I’d love to hear the story of your dishes. 

Robin Dance / Posts / Blog
Southern as sugar-shocked tea and in a scandalous affair with her college sweetheart, Robin is mom to two in college with the third almost there. She believes the kitchen table is a sacred alter, first classroom, and safe refuge, where the currency is spoken in love and good food. She hates "cooking close" and shoe shopping (gasp!), loves snail mail and surcies, and finds holy communion where sand meets surf. She's also rumored to make the best apple pie in the world. In addition to writing at robindance.me, you'll find her at The Art of Simple, {in}courage and Deeper Story.
  • Carol Sumner

    My day to day choice for dishes was and continues to be Corelle. I started with a pattern of white with gold butterflies. A move to a new home brought me to buy a pattern with country blue trim and pink flowers (circa late 80’s, ha). After that, I went to a pattern with fruit around the edge. I have just recently began itching for something different. After a long look at the Corning website, I have decided on Watercolors.

    I registered for and received most of my Noritake China in the Misty pattern when we married in l983.. About 12 years later, I found a special friend, Fran, who also had the Misty pattern. It is white with a white raised pattern on the edge and trimmed in silver. She had not acquired a full set as I had, and when they moved out of the country for mission work, she gave me hers. I only intended to keep it until they returned to the states. They did come home after 6 years away, but she told me just to keep it. She died earlier this year from cancer and I think of her often, but always when I pull out the china. I am thankful to have hers.

    My

    May 3rd, 2017 15:15
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    • Robin Dance
      http://robindance.me

      I had NO idea there were so many patterns of Corelle! I just looked at their site and realized there collection was much more extensive than I knew. It’s sturdy and always a good choice, isn’t it?

      And your story about Fran…how beautiful. I know your fine china means all the more because it brings to mind a special friend, and I hope you have opportunity to use it often. 🙂

      May 4th, 2017 9:45
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  • Janet Cannon

    I registered for the Noritake pattern, Trudy 38 years ago. I received 10 place settings and all my serving pieces. I still have it and use it on occasion. It’s been through many moves and I haven’t lost a piece yet. I also had my mother’s china that has been passed on to my daughter.

    I now use solid white or ivory plates and buy different salad plates for a pop of color. I love dishes and have to be disciplined not to keep adding to my collection. I love to set a pretty table to make people feel special when they are guests in our home. And I find it fun!

    May 3rd, 2017 16:32
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    • Robin Dance
      http://robindance.me

      Janet,

      Yet another, relatively neutral pattern. Simple, but so pretty. My philosophy is I’d rather break a piece of my china by using it, not by dropping a box, ya know? But FANTASTIC that you’ve yet to lose a pice after all that time!

      This is what I find: some people delight in setting a pretty table and the work of it is pure joy; others, it is hard, hard work and they aren’t comfortable doing it. Both are fine. I LOVE it when I walk in to someone’s home and they’ve gone to “all that trouble.” BUT, if I go over to a friend’s home and we’re schlepping it on paper plates, that’s good, too, if her heart is hospitable. Does that make sense? Beautiful presentation is always icing, but a warm atmosphere is best :).

      May 4th, 2017 9:49
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  • Bailey
    http://Bailey

    I didn’t get china until my second marriage. My everyday, I inherited from his mother who had passed away shortly before our marriage. It is cherries and their blossoms in spring.

    But Platters! Oh my, I love platters! I want a new platter each time I enter an art craft store! pottery and art glass and metal works.

    I love to place special food and cheese and dips in sections, then in a second platter, add celery, pita bread. I love platters because they are a group feast! A group conversations as we gather to eat.

    And then there are the special recipes! Later…

    May 3rd, 2017 16:57
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    • Robin Dance
      http://robindance.me

      Bailey,

      What is it about the word “platter” I love? Maybe it’s because of what you say–they’re intended for a group feast, a place of gathering :). Your enthusiasm makes my mouth water!! 🙂

      May 4th, 2017 9:50
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  • Krista
    http://www.welcometomarriedlife.com

    The dishes that conjure the most memories for me are mottled gray, black and white stoneware in a paisley pattern that we had when I was growing up. When we moved when I was 12 my mother bought new stuff too, Corelle in a fruit pattern (it was the 90’s afterall!) that still gets use. But she has just a couple of small dessert dishes left of that set and when I see them (or in pictures) I remember sitting around the table in the house I grew up in with friends and family.

    May 3rd, 2017 20:02
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    • Robin Dance
      http://robindance.me

      Krista,

      Your comment reminded me of my grandmother’s everyday. They were white with pink roses around the edge. My sister has some of those dishes, and every time I see them, I go back to those earliest childhood memories. Thank you for inspiring that memory!! I totally understand what you mean :).

      May 4th, 2017 9:52
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  • Kimberly O’Donoghue

    I’ve been married for 32 years this year. When I went to register for China, I could hear the words ringing in my ear from my mother in law to chose a classic all white, goes with everything. Well needless to say the lady at the store told me that was just downright boring and my young twenty something was crushing on the Lenox Amethyst with its mauvey pink flowers along the platinum rim. Yes mauve was very much in style in the 80’s. Under pressure from the store clerk, I veered from my mother in law’s advice and chose the pink flowery pattern. Now let me tell you, I love that China and always pull it on for dinner parties, holidays, and special occasions. It will always hold a special place in my heart, BUT if my mother in law were still alive, I would have to tell her how dreadfully sorry I am that I did not listen to her sage advice. Every time I pull it out, I think how lovely an all white pattern would have been. Moral of the story, listen to your mother in law about china😌

    May 3rd, 2017 20:31
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    • Robin Dance
      http://robindance.me

      Kimberly,

      Forgive me if I laughed out loud when I read your comment? 🙂 Isn’t it interesting how personal taste changes, evolves, over the years? Think about how neutral current decor/decorating is (thanks, Joanna Gaines and a gazillion decor bloggers!). I wonder how many years it will take for there to be a shift back to COLOR? What goes around, always seems to come back around…eventually :).

      May 4th, 2017 9:54
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  • Linda

    I have many dishes that bring sweet memories when I use them. I have my great grandmother’s 50th wedding anniversary China with its soft white plates trimmed in gold with pale pink roses in the middle. My favorite is a platter from my Granny’s everyday dishes from the early 1930s. I love the spray of blue, yellow, and pink flowers in the middle. I’ve come across a few more pieces in recent years at antique sales and Goodwill. Love these finds! Then I have some pieces of pale yellow dishes with a bouquet of yellow bells that were my mother-in-laws which keep her memory close. I love my dishes,, but more importantly I love the memories they evoke of people who loved me and served many a good meal at their tables.

    May 5th, 2017 9:18
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  • Beth W

    Robin,

    God has ways of letting us know we are where He wants us. I had the same kind of “wink” a few years ago. I quit a full time job to care for my aging dad. I was helping dad eat lunch one day. Another man at the table said “you will get stars in your crown for this”. I was awed by his comment and knew it was from God.

    When I married my husband had plain black dishes. We used those for a number of years till I tired of them. We went to Walmart and got colorful dishes. They have a swirling pattern with reddish-orange then baby blue, white, blue, brown, green, shade of blue, tan, yellow, white, green & salmon. Interesting pattern. I enjoy colors as they remind me of rainbows & God’s redemptive love!

    Blessings:)

    May 6th, 2017 17:14
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  • Darlene Overton

    First of all, I want to tell you how happy I am to see this post. Dishes are one of my very favorite things, and though my friends know this about me, they don’t really share my enthusiasm, so I don’t get to gush about them with a dish-loving community. So I am so thankful to read your post!!

    Growing up my mother and her mother always used Correll. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for those dishes but when it came time for me to choose my own I wanted something different.

    For my wedding in 1990, I registered for fine china, figuring I would just go buy everyday dishes at Walmart or something, and I did. My fine china is Carthage by Noritake. IWe received 10 place settings for our wedding and by the time our first Christmas rolled around we had almost all of the serving pieces. Eventually I bought the coffee pot and the soup bowls because I knew that when the children came along, buying china would not be a priority. It is not at all the pattern I would choose now, but I still love those dishes and how they represent who I was in those precious days.

    My pattern is very floral and feminine so it doesn’t really work for Christmas but I use them for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and luncheons with girlfriends. And since I have 10 place settings, I use my teacup and saucers for myself when I want a cup of tea.

    For everyday I use Italian Countryside by Mikasa. It is white with detailed columns around the edge. I have enjoyed them for over 10 years. The next time I have the money and mindset to change, though, I think it’s going to be Fiesta. We’ll see…

    I could go on about my crystal and flatware too, because like I said, it’s my favorite subject, but I’ll save that for another time.

    Thank you for the opportunity to gush about these things with someone who shares in the same joy!

    Table settings forever!!

    May 7th, 2017 13:51
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