Your Goodwill Ambassador

Ok, so recently I’ve been wasting untold hours browsing around the intrawebs enjoying this whole genre of home decoration-type blogs that feature something they’re calling ‘tablescaping.’ Now where I come from it’s known by a less fancy-schmancy name– it’s called ‘setting the dang table.’ But ooh gentle readers, it is fun to look at these blogs! It appeals to everything girly and decorator-ish and housewife-y in me! (And let’s be honest– I really don’t have all that much ‘housewife-y’ in me.) Here’s the gist of what these bloggers do: apparently they spend years scavenging antique stores and ebay and Hobby Lobby and thrift stores, etc., collecting all kinds of things like tons of different sets of dishes, vintage serving pieces, random artsy little trinkets and stuff like that. Then they set, arrange and decorate their dining room tables with a theme of some sort– holiday, springtime, black and white, afternoon tea… You get the picture. And speaking of pictures– they take about 40 frillion phototgraphs of their tablescape, from every possible angle and they post it on their blog.

(Stay with me here, it’s actually a lot more interesting than it sounds. And if you want to accuse me of needing to get a life, now would be an appropriate time.)

Of course I do understand that looking at untold pictures of some  stranger’s dining room table all tricked out like a circus pony may not exactly make your socks roll up and down. But if you happen to be an addict who wants to buy every set of dishes she sees an appreciator of antique silver and fine English china like myself, then occasionally perusing lovely photographs of beautifully set tables can be rather enjoyable.

OK, the truth is I really do have a thing about dishes. I love all kinds of them… soup tureens, serving pieces, elegant sets of formal china for 12 all the way down to purposely mismatched colorful everyday salad plates. My sister Carolyn is at least as hooked as I am, and sometimes when we talk about some wonderfully obscure English pattern from the 1930’s that we both discovered on eBay, I swear we almost get a little misty. I don’t actually *own* tons of dishes, though I will admit to having my share– lately I’ve been going with some solid colors like white square plates or Fiesta ware that I can then add all kinds of different salad plates to, and change things up. I did go through an extended period of collecting those vintage souvenir state plates, you know the ones with the gilt around the edges and all kinds of wonderfully cheesy representations of each state’s attractions? Yeah those. At first I only collected ones from the Southern states, but eventually I branched out to include a few from states I particularly like to visit……


Anyway, let me  give you a little taste. I’m gonna wait right here while you go check out a couple of links that will show you what I’m talking about. Now, DON’T get all swept away in the links at the bottom of their pages right now, because don’t forget I’m over here drumming my fingers and looking at my watch. (But seriously? When you have an hour or six you might want to click on a few…)

OK, here’s a GREAT one– her blog header is right underneath the link, isn’t it pretty?

SEE???!!! I wasn’t lying! OK, one more, another of my favorites:

As you can tell, these blogs aren’t just about tablescaping, they also have recipes and giveaways and do-it-yourself projects… aw, who am I kidding, it’s really ALL ABOUT THE DISHES!  dishesdishesdishes…. nom nom nom…. *falls down in a dead faint at the sheer beauty of all the DISHES*

Anyway. Here’s the thing– as much as I would happily hock Russ’ car and/or sell a kidney in order to acquire all of the myriad sets of dishes I covet, apparently we need that money for other things like, oh, I don’t know, food and shelter. So while I live vicariously through all of the pages of those lovely blogs, I also perked up and noticed that a lot of those tablescapers repeatedly talk about all of the great finds that they routinely come across at….. wait for it… GOODWILL STORES! See, if I’m being honest here, it’s not just about the possession, it’s about the hunt. Women, can you give me a high five on that? Anybody? *waiting with hand up in the air*   I know that technically men are supposed to be the hunter/gatherers, but I gotta tell you, at the risk of  perpetuating stereotypes here, most women I know do love a good bargain hunt.

So in the spirit of frugality, yesterday I ventured out to the big honkin’ Goodwill store in Franklin, TN. It has been years since I’ve poked around in a thrift store, I usually skip straight to the antique malls, but after seeing all of the finds people were coming up with on those blogs, I decided I was going to start doing some digging around. I didn’t have a specific agenda, or anything I was really looking for, I just wanted to get a feel for it. I DID recently paint my kitchen in the kind of French/Italian/Mediterranean colors that I particularly love– I took it from two subtle shades of sage-y green into a much brighter combination of a soft yellowish-gold and that deep, middle-of-the-ocean Mediterranean blue that you see in French kitchens and also Mexican talavera tile. So I did kind of have my eye open for any dishes/vases/serving bowls that had that particular shade of blue in them that I could use as accent pieces.

It was fun! I made a beeline for the back of the store where I could see the shelves full of glassware and pots and pans, and started poking around. I was determined NOT to buy something just because it was cheap, but to only purchase something I knew I had a purpose for, and would actually use right now. I am not a compulsive shopper by any means, but I am kind of bad about seeing something marked way down and thinking, “Ooh, I might need that some time…” My challenge to myself was to BREAK that pattern– it’s all about the frugality, remember? (Plus, I’m going to have the Mother of All Garage Sales sometime this spring to get rid of years worth of stuff “I might need sometime” that I haven’t even unpacked from our move– FOUR YEARS AGO!) So after slooooooowly cruising down the three aisles, picking up a couple of things and putting them in my cart only to talk myself out of it and set them back down, I walked away with two, count ‘em TWO items. I won’t be using them to ‘scape my table, but I will be using them. I found a lovely little Mexican talavera pitcher that will be perfect as a vase on the small black table in my kitchen and a just-the-right-sized-because-my-other-one-is-too-small-to-hold-all-of-the-fruit-this-family-eats ‘Made in Italy’ bowl that will look great sitting out on my counter. They both have the color blue I was looking for, and I spent a grand total of… $7!! I couldn’t wait to get them home!

I filled the vase with two small bunches of flowers that Kroger had marked down to $1.99 each, and I filled the bowl with those little Cutie tangerines that were on special– that’s right, who’s the Queen of Frugal? ME! Here they are:

I did good!

OK, now I want to hear from you guys. Do you have any memorable Goodwill finds you want to share with the class? Do you identify with my obsession with dishes, or do you have some other kind of item that you collect or lust after? (With Russ, it’s vintage guitars but he ain’t gonna be finding any of those for 7 bucks at Goodwill!) Feel free to send me pictures and I’ll post them!


28 Responses

  1. Stribet Kat

    The ‘hunt’ is indeed satisfying and we occasionally comb through stores for Beanie Babies as they are still in vogue with my aspie son. Bonus was I learned how wonderfully washable they are too! Don’t know about your thrift stores but the ones around here have a distinctive musty aroma and it seems anything with fabric is want to capture it. Being a minimal investment (and my son not “bonding” with them yet) I tossed the new critters into a mesh laundry bag and hoped that I’d have more than a full lint trap at the end of the wash cycle. Happy times, clean and the menagerie continues to expand.

    In the “for me” department finds have included books and software…oh, my inner geek satisfied at bargain prices :)

    Such a fun post and now I’ve a couple new sites to gander. Looking forward to hearing about treasures others have discovered.

  2. Jen

    Love your $7 finds! We have a great Goodwill here but I haven’t been in awhile – now I want to go check it out!
    I love dishes too, though I refuse to display anything I *love* until my children actually believe that they can’t throw balls in the house- wonder if that day will ever come?

  3. ginnh

    About 7 years ago I decided I was in love with milk glass. I saw a lot of it at antique stores here in the Northeast but it was very expensive. I started going to yard sales or garage sales or tag sales – which ever fits the part of the country you live in – and I found most of the pieces cheap. I’ve not got a 10 piece setting and still love it. I even found the big platter and other serving pieces. By the way I get to see your hubby tomorrow night in Worcester! Yea for me.

  4. LindaB

    I have a thing for dishes too! I guess because they facilitate “eating”, a favorite hobby of mine. But I do like a beautifully set table. (The ones on those blogs you recommended are exquitite!) I buy a good set of basic stoneware in solid green or white, then put “print” dishes with them that have a touch of green or white on them that I’ve acquired at thrift shops or garage sales…….and sometimes Dollar Stores. And don’t forget Ebay! I use green solid color dishes because most flower patterned dishes have green leaves or stems on them, so it pulls them together. I also like to put clear glass dishes with them.

    I too like salad plates…….a lot! I think it’s because salads have the most potential to be really eye pleasing, and a beautiful plate only makes them more so! That, and they are small compared to big honkin’ dinner plates and less expensive, so we can have lots of them without having to take out an insurance policy on them. I think I have too many.

    (I hear you snoring, Jonny! Stop it! Act like you’re interested!)

    My sister has worked at J.C. Pennys forever and she does displays for them. And many times they have one place setting left of various fine china and stoneware patterns that are discontinued. She buys it at a big discount and now she has 16 place settings of 16 different patterns, but all with a touch of midnight blue on them. And when we eat there, she takes them all down and we get to pick the one we like best to eat from. I think that’s a cool idea, and not just because it’s MY sister. And the kids love picking their favorite!

    I have several thrifty “finds” that I particularly like. I’ll try to get them together and take a picture. I know you all are breathless with anticipation! (Hey! I hear a whole bunch of snoring now! Cut it out!)

  5. LindaB

    BTW, LOVE LOVE LOVE your little sunflower adorned pitcher with fresh sunflowers in it!

  6. wendmark

    Okay here is me a “guy”, weighing in. I too like the thrift stores, however, I am more like Russ, in that I too look for the guitars and music stuff. but, occassionally find others things too. I agree only get the stuff you can really use thereby justifying the piece! I will leave the frilly stuff, nick-nack stuff to Wendy. She does like a good bargain though but, like you Tori she wants to justify having it and not just be a someday piece!

    Can I make a plug for my favorite thriftstore? *I am imagining heads all nodding at this point*. Okay then I will. If you have a Teen Challenge Thriftstore near you become a patron there and you help to fund an organization that helps folks (men and women, young and older) find Christ and find a Christ based solution for overcoming alcohol and drug dependency. What a great cause. I have become friends with so many men who are seeking to turn their lives around. Their store is right across the street from where I work (I mean who wouldn’t take any excuse they could to take a break from the DMV, right?). Anyway, so anyway I am there almost everyday talking with the guys and occassionally finding something really cool!

    So I say be thrifty and spruce up your house at the same time you support great causes. Tori, it’s so amazing what you come up with to get this group to talking. You are good Girl!!!!!
    Blessings to all us Bloomrs!

  7. Stribet Kat

    Enjoying the loving descriptions of folks favorite finds. I admittedly visited here a couple of times ‘extra’ just take in the happy flowers and the sunshine Tori’s photo captured (snowing here). Those tangerines are a perfect compliment to that bowl (got that texture and colour thing rocking)!

    Teen Challenge…Yea! Always wonderful when you can treat yourself and champion a great cause :)

  8. Karen

    Ok seriously, that is a unique shade of blue but I like it! I’m such a sucker for pretty dishes. In this little area, we don’t have a Goodwill store but there are several antique stores & various thrift stores. If I come across something with this color in it, chances are I will think of you & I’ll probably post a picture on twitter asking if you are interested. Don’t worry…I don’t get out much so it won’t happen often.
    Also, I won’t lie, those links make you want to just look & look & look. It took me forever to get back to you. Sorry. Hope you take some “tablescape” pictures soon.
    Love ya lady,

  9. meb

    Bowls, bowls, bowls. I love to collect bowls. My grandmother did too, so I think I come by this genetically.

    The only problem is storing all the bowls. Eventually there comes a point when there just isn’t any more room. And now with the possibility of moving coming up, the thought of packing all of them makes me want to just curl up in the corner.

    My best Goodwill find has been a Mamma Ro salt & pepper shaker in my favorite shade of red. 1.50 for the pair, when they normally retail for $65. (yikes!) – of course that includes a butter dish too :-)

    Do let us know when you plan to have the yard sale. I’m sure we’d all find things we just “have to have” to add to our collections as well.


    Girl – are you late on the Goodwill thang, or what? I have been hittin those Salvation Army stores forEVER! Plus, I find great clothes – really nice suits for church – jeans – I mean, name brand stuff! I kinda stay away from the underwear table, tho! When I get to the level of wearing used underwear – i have bigger problems than buying panties – and probably dont’ even have any on at that point!

    So, w/ that being said – I have seeeeeriously found some nice, REALLY GREAT THINGS – at the Rocky Mount, NC Sal. Army store – me & my girls call it Sal’s now. They can have some good furniture, too. Ya just have to know what to look for – and how to look beyond the clutter.

    ps — Stribet – LOVE YOUR CAT! I HAVE 5!
    Jonny – howr ya feelin these days? Too early for ya this morning, or still down? Prayin for ya!

  11. LindaB

    “exquitite”???? LOL Sorry! I meant “exquisite”.

  12. rodB

    When does football start? ;) Nice dishes…and stuff…

  13. delightedabroad

    Well, I know what you describe, Tori, though this special ‘need’ is not quite as strong in me than in you (according to your post): I’m already satisfied with cups – ok, BIG cups :-) I have taken a picture of my favourite ones and provided that I get help from my husband I can email it to you.

  14. anna

    old portrets, paintings, old armchairs candles and candle sticks and of course dishes….you name it…i have one room that looks exactly like those blogs…and like a museum….but i feel whole everytime i spend time there….helps me be ME. but i also realised sth….pictures look better than the real thing…try this> take a picture of your favourite corner and put it on your desktop ….you’ll be delighted…it’s like those magasine photos…but the real thing doesn’t look all that spectacular…sooo, don’t spenbd too much money to have a house like that…it’s like Hollywood…then you end up with a lot of things to sell just like Tori…well…enough rambling

  15. bettyrwoodward

    I love the vase. I love bargains! Very rarely buy things at their full price.

  16. GRITSinNC

    Sheesh, haven’t been here in so long I couldn’t remember my password and thought I had chosen one I could remember but I put in bunches of variations of what I thought it was and finally had to give up and re-register. Wrote the dang password down this time.

    Anyhow, Tori, I have dropped by to read from time to time but didn’t have time to comment. I want to tell you again how much I enjoy your writing style & subject matters…so very entertaining.

    Now on to tablescapes and thrift shopping. I hate the word “tablescape” because of that woman on the Food Network (I MIGHT watch a bit of her recipes occassionally but I leave when the tablescape starts). Like where you come from, I just “set the table” and having gotten old & decrepit and downsized, I don’t even do that anymore.

    I love thrift shopping though. About 5 years ago I moved to this little town outside the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and all we have is what they call PTA thrift (yes, the proceeds go to the PTA). I haven’t found much of anything the times I’ve been. But when I lived in the Raleigh area, I frequented Good Will stores and Disabled American Vets (my fav) thrift stores regularly. As Delivered said, I’ve found some great clothing bargains there. My thing with dishes was old bowls & platters…chips and all (usually “flowerdy” of course). I think it started when my grandmother died and I got a little bit of her old stuff.

    One of my most satisfying finds was curtains for my current bathroom. I had exactly in my mind what I wanted but couldn’t find any…nothing fancy, just the old-timey off-white semi-sheer ruffled curtains with tie backs. Was having work done on my car at my daughter’s in High Point and there was a Good Will across the street and we went just to look around and voila! I found exactly what I wanted…$1.50 or $2.00, I forget. I’ve had other good buys but can’t recall them now, besides I don’t want to write a boring book for ya’ll.

    Tori, your finds are great! Really classy looking and a real deal! I’d love to go to your yard sale, except that I have more stuff than I can fit in here now. BTW, you DO know that as soon as you get rid of something you need it, right? I’ve downsized twice and if I could, I’d go back & reclaim some of my things. :o)

  17. Tanya Sykes

    LOVE, this post Tori. Thanks for giving me yet another way to get sucked into the computer screen for 768 hours at a time.

    PS Invite me to your yard sale or ELSE!




  19. Tanya Sykes

    ALSO, why can I not figure out how to change my avatar to a photo instead of the androgynous, grey, hairless one I now have?

  20. delightedabroad

    Thank you, Tanya Sykes, for asking !!! I was also wondering how this is to be done and I couldn’t tell when my hubby asked about that :-)

  21. delightedabroad

    I thought it might be some VIP-thing…

  22. delightedabroad

    So you, Tanya, have a good chance :-)

  23. GRITSinNC

    DELIVERED! Good to “see/hear” you too! We should take a drive sometime…you go west and I go east until we meet headon.
    :o) See ya later, fellow Tar Heel (except I’m Wolfpack red in sports…wish us luck tonight tee hee).

  24. jonny

    OK, I’ve missed something. Has Tanya Said it! here before?? I thought she was a first time Say it!-er… But, instead of the ‘Welcome Tanya,’ and anna, although I think I’ve seen anna’s name before, Tanya gets a VIP reception from delighted!! I’ll have to google her later, or click into her name since it’s green. If she’s connected with Candy Christmas in any way, sorry to bring her name up again LB, then I’m probably in trouble if she’s read some of the older posts = /

    And GRITS, WELCOME BACK!!! Glad you were able to re-registered!! Actually, I really like the way your name reads now! Better than the previous version, IMO. OK, gotta disappear for awhile, but hope to be back and Say some more soon! Oh, and thanks D for the prayers for my health!! Much appreciated. I’m not out of the woods yet, tho, but finally seen to be getting better!


  25. jonny

    OK, Tanya’s been here before! I believe she had that cool pic, and story, with the photo of her dad, his reading glasses, and a Bible of his!!

  26. rachelbaker

    Welcome back Grits. Its great to see so many other people posting too. Tori’s quest for world domination seems to be progressing well.

    In England we call them ‘charity shops’ and there are a few in most towns. Some of my friends had been getting great bargains recently, mainly clothes, books and toys, so on Thursday morning I had an urge to go shopping (and that was before I even read your blog). However I quickly abandoned my adventure when I worked out that pushchairs (strollers to you) and charity shops just don’t mix. There just isn’t enough room. You can only apologise for knocking things off shelves (or knocking entire shelves over), running over people’s toes or just being in the way a certain number of times before you go mad. So charity shops were left for a child free time (if it should ever happen) and I went to my favourite cafe for a pot of tea and a sausage and egg butty :-)

    So while I am unable to satisfy my bargain hunting urge on the high street I have to resort to the next best thing – ebay!!! Two weeks ago my husband shared with me his ebay and paypal passwords – ooo, I’m going to have to be careful or he may live to regret it. My best purchase so far – someone’s huge collection of damlation related merchandise – yes, really. You see my little girl has decided that for her 4th birthday in July she wants a dalmatian party. That’s great but 101 dalmatians isn’t popular at the moment so favours and prizes are hard to come by. Not any more! I am going to wrecklessly split up the multitude of models, toys, badges coming my way at a ridiculously low price, and send little children home with lots of goodies. Also included in the collection are things that are going to be great for birthday presents for Beth – even a lunchbox – what more could a dalmatian mad little girl who starts school in September ask for? Who said Kids birthdays had to be expensive?

    By the way, I like your purchases, they go so well with the view from your window.

  27. auburn60

    I love pretty tables,lace tablecloths,vintage china,etc. One of my favorite sites is ‘Replacements’ where I can type in any description of china and get SOMETHING to look at. I love the idea of setting a table according to what holiday is rolling around. That’s probably why I don’t have any Christmas dishes–every year I start the search again and can’t make up my mind. I like too many patterns! I started a pattern for each of my girls when they were little and they get some pieces of it every Christmas.By the time they are on their own they should have a whole set of Christmas china for their tables.
    I found a cute ‘snowman’ teapot and cups at Goodwill this year and had to add it to all the other snowmen in my kitchen for Christmas. I’ve found the Habitat for Humanity thrift stores have good stuff,too.
    I have 2 sets of china in boxes in the basement that I have lugged through 2 moves…neither box has moved in 13 years. That, plus the 2 sets displayed in the china cabinet. And I think I’ve mentioned the communion plates that I use as charger plates that came from a small church my grandparents started.
    I also love stemware…goblets,wine glasses,etc. In all kinds of colors. I really hope I inherit my mother-in-law’s china cabinet cause I’m running out of space.
    Hey rodB-it’s possible to like football AND dishes! :)

  28. » “Old House Dreams” | babybloomr

    […] about to expose you to has the potential to be HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!! (Perhaps even more so than my foray into the world of tablescaping –yeah, sorry about that LindaB; maybe there’s a ‘Scaper’s Anonymous group […]

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