What is heirloom china? It is a treasured part of our life stories. Recently, my friend Karen shared with me that she had inherited her aunt’s china and needed help coming up with ideas for setting a pretty table. I embraced the opportunity. It would be fun because I’ve always loved setting tables and even more so to spend this time with my friend. Helping her enjoy an heirloom from her aunt, Carolyn Landis Charles Wenger was a bonus.
What is Heirloom China?
Karen’s dishes belonged to a dear aunt who used this china every holiday and special occasion. Karen has special Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving memories of passing dishes around the table to familiar faces. As I thought about this past year and how we were robbed of so many special occasions, I couldn’t wait to share this story. I counted it a privilege to share the legacy of this hand-me-down china. We designed 5 similar settings for 5 different occasions. I hope you’ll consider setting a pretty table with your grandmother’s fine china for either Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or just a special breakfast in bed.
Pass the Peas, in my Heirloom China, Please!
There is great value in handing a dish around the table to your family. We used to do it every Sunday at either my mom-in-love or her mother’s house. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate enough, the effort that was put into those Sunday meals. There’s the planning, the shopping, the preparing, the presentation and then the clean up.
Valentine’s Day – 1
As new homemakers, it can seem overwhelming to do ALL of this for one meal. But the more we do it, the easier it becomes. You may be saying it’s just too much trouble to pour up the fried okra or field peas or mashed potatoes into a pretty bowl to put on the buffet or the table itself. Why not just serve from the stove? My answer is because of the connection, the memory and the interaction around the table. It is priceless. Now that we are older and our children live in cities away from us, I cherish those times even more.
Do you feel closer to your family or those who prepared the meal when you sit around a table and pass the food? Isn’t it a sweet part of the meal experience? It isn’t something we do for every meal, but holidays are made all the more special with this tradition.
I can’t help but laugh at one of Karen’s stories about a lidded bowl that was part of their meal experience. There was a certain bowl that was reserved by her aunt as the “English Pea” bowl. While Karen loved her aunt and the meals she shared at her table, she hated English Peas; so, when that bowl reached her, it was quickly passed on to the next person. But now, decades later, the bowl has been lovingly passed to her for keeps. She can choose what she wants to serve from that bowl and giggle at the thought that there will be no English Peas passed at her table. What a treasure! There’s more to this story, I’ll share below.
As I photographed her china, the cup and saucers seem to capture my focus. The sweet pattern, the delicate handles from which pinkies raise, the thin rims for warm tea sips and the saucers for any dribbles down the side made me want to put the kettle on. The original dish designers thought of everything, don’t you think? Having tea with a friend is an experience. I would even go so far as to say an emotional experience.
Tea Time with Heirloom Tea Cups and Saucers
2 – Tea Time
It’s been a while since I visited a tea room or served it from a teapot with cups, saucers and sugar cubes. But, funny thing is that I remember one time in particular like it was yesterday. We were in a tea room at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. My mom and sister in-loves and a few friends took a trip through England and Scotland. One day we decided to skip a museum tour and just sit in a tea room and enjoy the experience. And oh my, was it worth it! Tea and scones inside the cool walls of an ancient castle was a memory I won’t soon forget. In fact it’s one of my very favorite memories of all time. The teacups weren’t as pretty as Karen’s, but the experience of sharing it with friends and family was incredible.
Karen’s pretty tea cups will soon be enjoyed by lots of ladies in Foley, AL. Her aunt also had a luncheon set included in this collection that is perfect for tea time. She found a local tea room, the Copper Kettle Tea Bar, who is interested in purchasing these. It is endearing to Karen that these dishes will be enjoyed by ladies and gents who love to go to tea. I’ve been to this tea room several times. We both look forward to going together soon and enjoying tea with her grandmother’s china in a place that is special to us both. It is a fun place to meet a friend and share a cup of goodness. Next time you stop in, ask to be served with Karen’s Grandmother’s china.
From English Peas and Teas to Mother’s Day Treats
3 – Mother’s Day
Our next table was set for four to gather in honor of all mom’s. We added spring placemats, dessert compotes filled with chocolates and beautiful platters and bowls to be filled with all of her favorite dishes. We added my collection of small dessert glasses for a personal touch to each place setting.
These small glasses are perfect for port or individual desserts. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I like to make trifles or add favorite candies. My dad would have loved banana pudding in one of these on Father’s Day, perhaps. Although, he would have asked for seconds and maybe even thirds!
Celebrating Grandfather’s 85th Birthday
Birthdays – 4
Karen recently discovered through old photo albums that this china was originally owned by her grandmother. She found pictures of a party for her grandfather’s 85th birthday where the china is on the table as part of the celebration. She is the beautiful lady presenting him with the cake.
Finding these pictures brought back all kinds of wonderful memories. Having this china will bring these thoughts to mind now every time she uses it with her own family. Hopefully, as she passes it to her daughter someday, there will be more memories added to the value of this collection. This is the definition at its core of heirloom china. It’s all about the memories around the dinner table. Or perhaps on a tray in bed..
Breakfast in Bed – 5
One final setting with Karen’s treasured china is for a special breakfast in bed. It can be set to celebrate an anniversary, a birthday or just to say “I love you.” Another special way to use our china is when a family member is feeling under the weather. Set a lovely tray with hot chicken soup and a simple bud vase to cheer. Of all of our settings that fun day of playing around the table, this was Karen’s favorite.
Gifted China is Heirloom China
At the end of our heirloom china playtime, we sat down to enjoy a slice of cheesecake together. She had also brought the wedding cake server from her mom and dad’s wedding with her. It has played a part in many gatherings as well. She used it at her reception and then her daughter used it when she married. I counted it a blessing to serve our dessert on my own gifted china when we sat down to enjoy each other’s company.
Engraved with JLC PAK 6-27-70
Philip Andrew King and Judy Landis Charles – June 27, 1970
Jacob and Tiffany Palmer
Packing Up the Heirloom China
And then the sweetest part of the day. As she packed up all of her grandmother/aunt’s heirloom china, she left a bowl out. She decided to give me a piece of this treasured collection. From now on, at any of my family gatherings where we get to pass the peas, I’ll get to use the “English Pea” bowl. I love it! It will be a gift I cherish forever! This bowl has been part of my sweet friend’s life and family for generations and now it’s part of mine. What a blessing! Thank you, Karen, for being such a blessing in my life! I hope others gain a new love for heirloom china after seeing how treasured yours has been in your life.
How do you use your china these days?