About Kimbesa

I love dishes, and I continue to haunt thrift stores, estate sales, and other places where vintage china, dinnerware and glassware are to be found.

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For our UK customers

Halloween – Bones of a Table Setting

Halloween is near, and it’s time to raid the cupboards for some dishes to use as the “bones” of your table setting, whether for a dinner, a party, or a casual snack.

Halloween tablewareThe bulk of your table setting - the plates, cups and bowls - can be as close as your kitchen.

One of our dinnerware patterns is the graphic, black and white City Lines or City Block by Corelle. It’s dinnerware we use every day.

This pattern was introduced about 10 years ago, and is still available. We like it for its versatility and clean lines.

Black, white, or black and white can be the basic color palette of many table settings.

In addition to new Corelle dinnerware in this pattern, we have found pieces in the secondary marketplace that are like new.

I found some bread plates recently, for example. You just cannot beat the price, and they looked like they'd never been used, and never visited the dish washer (in a good way, no dullness to the finish).

We’ve also added plain white Corelle to our collection, which mixes with it just fine for a lot of different event or menu needs. (If you're searching online, try Winter Frost White.)

At our house, the white and black dinnerware set is an easy starting place for a casual Halloween color palette.  Black or white are a fine basis for Halloween, and we have plenty of pieces and piece types, to use them for our Halloween snacks.

The bright white stands out on the traditional orange and black tablecloth. They will work with just about any special Halloween pieces we can conjure up, whether any ghosts visit us that night or not.

Witches and goblins, vampires and zombies - any of these visitors can bring some extra dark colors to the table setting, and to the party, too.

Wicked Cool Tableware Accents

Mix and match works great for a Halloween party.

The basic table setting morphs into Halloween style with my favorite Poultrygeist mug (which has made an appearance for many years on this blog around October 31).

Blue glass pumpkin Halloween accentThis year includes another special piece: a glass candy dish in cobalt blue, pumpkin shaped. Sorry, I don’t have one for every guest to take home, but this one will fit nicely into the centerpiece.

By planning for Halloween all year round, I continue to add more pieces to my dinnerware collection as the opportunities arise.

Meanwhile, the dinnerware that lives in the kitchen all year round can come out to play for Halloween, or any other special dates, just about any time.


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Confessions of a Dish Flipper

vintage Mikasa chinaI'm a dish flipper, no doubt about it. Dinnerware is my weakness. My collection of plates, glasses and mugs has outgrown the kitchen cabinet space, moved into other rooms, and headed off toward the hoarders end of the spectrum.

Since you’re here, you know that I've been writing about, and for a few years selling, vintage dinnerware online.

After a few years, a Facebook friend, who is also in the dish business, put up a private photo challenge group. Photo of the week, various topics, usually esoteric, like” love” or “trust,” vs. a tangible, like “bridge” or “boat.”

The weekly challenge was to illustrate the concept, and post a photo.

It became a running joke, not long after I put up the jazz mug for “music” (shown below).

After the first one, I threw down the gauntlet (for better or worse) and said I could satisfy all the challenges with a photo of dinnerware or glassware. Like the one in this photo.

The challenge word was “paisley” and I submitted this picture of a salad plate in the vintage Oriental Charm pattern by Mikasa, from the late 1970s. (Yes, they put paisley on dishes in the heyday of Rock ‘n Roll.)

Normal people don't flip the dishes in a restaurant or at a party, to look at the maker's marks on the back.

I don't think it's weird, but it IS to other people. I can tell by the way they react.

It was a fun challenge. My large library of dinnerware photos came in handy, for a complete dish nerd like me...

Are you curious enough to flip your dishes?

vintage dish collectionHere's the Jazz mug, along with a champagne glass to illustrate “smoke.”

Then there were the Michigan cooler glasses, for a travel theme. And the 1973 mug to help illustrate a class reunion page on Facebook.

And of course, I flip while shopping, if I don't know the pattern and maker already.

If you’re into dishes, you already know that many dinnerware patterns include the manufacturer name, and the country of manufacture, on the mark underneath. Some include the pattern name as well. Glassware is more challenging, as most pieces are not marked.

Finding more of that special pattern you collect, or something new and unexpected, all part of the thrill of the hunt. And it continues when you use the pieces you bring home.

Loving dinnerware, that’s no challenge.


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Warm Dinnerware for Cool Entertaining

Vintage dinnerware mixes with new china just fine, when it comes to setting your table for the fall season.

fall dinnerware vintage newHomecoming by Noritake is one of my favorite vintage patterns, and the new pumpkin plate by Better Homes & Gardens works so well with it.

I could bring in some colorful leaves, to add to a table setting in the fall, to go along with dinnerware sets that have the colors and motifs of the season.

Autumn color palettes and motifs are the ideal ingredients for a beautiful, seasonal table setting.

Bold and warm fall colors are popular, and the height of the season is a good time to add to your dinnerware collection, to make sure that you have everything you'll need for the menu you are planning, the number of guests, and the holiday dinners coming soon!

New or vintage, the colors you need are out there. Start with rustic reds, burnished oranges, muted greens, golden yellows or earthy browns -- whether in solid colors, or decorated with fall motifs like leaves and pumpkins -- are perfect.

The beautiful colors of fall flowers, trees and other natural objects can inspire your dinnerware, glassware and other table setting elements

Make Your Fall Dinnerware Set Pop With Style

Warm tones in dinnerware sets create the basis for an autumn theme table setting. Keep it subtle with more brown tones, like cream, ivory and gold. Or add splashes of red, orange or yellow to make it sassy.

Give your fall dinnerware set a retro vibe with Little Hoot dinnerware by Rachael Ray in charming fall colors. Look for the owl. He's is cute, too!

Just made for mix and match, Fiesta dinnerware in Scarlet by Homer Laughlin coordinates with more of the same, or with other Fiesta colors like Paprika, Tangerine, Sunflower, or Ivory -- even Lemongrass and Chocolate, depending on the table setting you want to create. Fiesta can go modern or retro, as you wish.

When you have your dinnerware sets, you’ll be ready to enjoy beautiful fall dinnerware sets all season long.

Vintage Noritake Homecoming BHG pumpkin plate



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A Weakness for Pickle Dishes

green glass pickle dish

When I see a glass pickle dish on the shelf, in a thrift store or perhaps at a sale, I have to look at it. I'm three-quarters of the way to buying it before I even pick it up.

I love these things, because I love to use them to serve pickles – for holiday parties, buffet dinners and other celebrations through the year.

Pickles take me back to times gone by. We would always have a relish tray for special events. Besides pickles, these would include some combination of deviled eggs, carrot and celery sticks, olives, radishes or other finger foods.

Aunt Gertie liked pickled watermelon rind, and the only time I remember having that is when she was coming, or brought it.

There is a candied sweet pickle mix that we get in a jar at the grocery store, or sometimes in the deli. It has small gherkins and chunk sweet pickles, cauliflower, red bell pepper and small onions, too. We like the Sechler’s brand, which is local in the Midwest and available online.

The pickle dishes that attract my attention are often vintage, though there are some new examples, made and sold to reflect subtle changes in our holiday menus, which as all olive dishes.

Dishes made for nuts, mints and candy are a cousin to the pickle dishes I’m partial to. (And I like those, too.)

I’ve got both china and glass pickle dishes, but the glass ones catch my eye quickly, whenever I’m out shopping.

What To Look For In Glass Pickle Dishes

I presume all glass has a defect, if it’s coming from a secondary marketplace, such as an estate sale or thrift store. Until proved otherwise.

So I carefully look it over and feel all over. I want to find any chips or cracks, and not cut myself. I may or may not purchase an imperfect piece, but I want to know its condition before I decide.

I also favor the retro examples. I determine this by color, shape and size.

The pickle dish in this picture, which I have yet to identify, is among those, because of the color of the glass, and the over-the-top oval shape, it’s almost a boat.

At 9 inches long, it could also be used for celery.

The indents around the sides are intended to be leaves, because of the creases in the center of each, vs. flower petals or thumbprints, which would not have this detail.

I’ve found other examples in the secondary markets, but those sellers did not know the pattern name or a maker, either. It’s not marked, one of the ongoing challenges of glassware.

When I round up all my pickle dishes – round, square, oval and rectangular – I’ll display them. It makes quite a collection.

And I’ll continue to rescue them when I see them in my travels. (We all know what happens to items that stay on the thrift store shelf too long.)

So much better to bring them home, enjoy looking at them in the light, and using them when the occasion calls for some favorite pickles on the side.


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Time to Enjoy a Halloween Table Setting

Halloween dishes and candy

Whether you’re serving candy corn or pizza, some colorful dishes can bring sparkle to your table for Halloween, and for parties on the day or the weekend after.

It’s also an opportunity, once again, to play with mix and match table setting ideas.

Here I’ve brought in my very favorite Poultrygeist mug. He turns up around here in the strangest places, and not just on Halloween. Could there really be a ghost in the china?

The glass compote is vintage, in the King’s Crown or Thumbprint pattern, made by Indiana, Wright, US Glass and others. This example is plain clear glass, but there are pieces in this type and pattern in colors, applied gold edges, and ruby flash as well.

The mixed candy corn and pumpkins give it lots of color, and the open shape makes it easy to grab some as you pass by.

The ghost and pumpkin tea light holder is by Partylite. He’s got some soot, as well as some chips, but not too much to keep him from retaining his charm and usefulness.

He was so sweet, I had to rescue him from the thrift store. Maybe someone else would have, but we know that bad things happen to the stuff that stays on the shelf too long.

The pumpkin plate is new, from the Better Homes & Gardens line. These can be had at major department stores that carry that product in their housewares sections.

This size is handy for desserts or salads, and they make a larger one, too, if you need it for other dishes, or to use as a charger or serving plate.

Besides these examples, I’ve written about Halloween dinnerware before:

 Halloween Dinnerware Tips

Poultrygeist Returns

Classic Black and Orange

Halloween has turned out to be an eclectic holiday, second only to Christmas as the most-decorated-for event of the year.

Your table setting can be quirky and even eccentric for October 31, and many of the dishes can do double duty for Thanksgiving and other special dinners.



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Are Downton Abbey Dishes Your Style?

Why I won’t have a Downton Abbey dinnerware set, but you might want to.

I like mixing my collection of vintage dinnerware and glassware, to create different table settings. That doesn’t mean I don’t use classic china dishes, just that my party style is eclectic.

Elegant china Noritake Sakura patternOne important element of an authentic Downton Abbey table is that all the china match. Each place setting would have all the right pieces to serve any menu, literally from soup bowls to nut dishes.

And the ware would be made from bone china, not just ordinary porcelain.

Any glassware, flatware and other pieces would be in patterns and materials that complement the dishes: crystal, silver, gold and linen.

While I can appreciate the beauty of these fancy dishes, when it comes to what I own and use, it’d go another way.

That’s why I won’t have a set that’s true to the Downton Abbey era.

Planning for the Downton Abbey Look

If you want to create a table setting for a party or special event, using the Downton look as your theme, here are some tips to get you started:

Check the “traditional” box in your searches. Some fine china patterns in this category have sleek shapes, others are more ornate, but they all are classic and elegant. Bone china, embossed details, intricate shapes, and gold or platinum rims, are all elements used in traditional dinnerware designs that can help you create this style.

Two of the dinnerware patterns that appear on the Downton Abbey series – Stafford White (at the Abbey) and Blue Italian (at Crawley House), both by Spode – can be starting points if you’re beginning your collection.

The Stafford White pattern is the newest of these, as it came onto the market around 1990. The “newer” version of Blue Italian dates from the early 1960s. Blue and white transferware like this, and the Spode company itself, have far older histories, in harmony with the 1912 to 1920s Downton era.

Another recent dinnerware design, Sakura by Noritake, also has the right traditional look, though it is a more modern shape. The pattern dates from the late 1960s through the 1970s.  It’s the kind of dinnerware the present-day residents of the Abbey might use.

Consider the pieces you’ll need to serve your menu and decorate your table. You will want to choose a pattern that is made in lots of piece types, so that you can set a full table of matching place settings and serving pieces for lots of different menus.

I see pieces with the right “antique look” in my travels, and they get snapped up quickly, probably by people with a permanent shopping list that has Downton Abbey party among the most wanted items.

That list isn’t limited to dinnerware, but includes glassware, table linens, napkin rings, candle sticks and any other items that can be used to create the right look on a tea table, buffet or centerpiece.

Collect samples to build your look. I suggest paint chips for color samples. For design ideas, try photos of candidate dinnerware, glassware and accessories from the web or magazines, single pieces that you buy to consider, and pieces from your existing collection.

A test arrangement on your buffet can help your ideas blossom, as you experiment and decide what to purchase in quantity for your complete set. It might take time to build your ideal, especially if you’re searching in secondary marketplaces, but the results will be worth it if Downton is your style.

For example, a wonderful flatware pattern called Vintage, by International Silver, is lavish and beautiful. It dates from the early 1900s. The pieces have an antique look and feel, with detailed grapes and vines on the fronts and backs of the pieces, even onto the bowl. Some teaspoons and salad forks in this pattern will contribute to your special table setting.

Elegant silver dessert fork

On to the Party

While I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, finding those special pieces, and using my cherished dinnerware, a full matched set is not on my list. Even so, it’s possible to create a charming style for a viewing party, when the time comes.

I’ll be using my Summer Chintz by Johnson Brothers, along with silverplate teaspoons and dessert forks, a fancy china 3-tier serving tray, and my best vintage white table cloth and napkins. Not all authentic to the time, but my table setting will convey the special look and feel to make my guests comfortable, as we enjoy our tea, TV, and the next chapter of the Downton Abbey saga.

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Federal Glass Vintage Mugs and Tumblers

Federal Glass was the maker of eye-catching, now vintage glassware, still fairly easy to find in secondary marketplaces.

I especially notice the drinking glasses, tumblers and coffee mugs that I see in my travels. Thrift stores often have long rows of glass items, displayed on open shelves.

Federal glass vintage tumblers mugs

Look for colorful clear tumblers or vibrant glass coffee mugs, and just check the bottom for the mark.

Most of the glassware you will see is not marked. But Federal often is. The mark is a capital F inside a shield. It can be large or small, in the bottom center, or elsewhere on the underside of the piece.

I like the glasses and mugs because they are easy to show on a window sill or curio shelf, handy to use for juice or coffee, and small to store in a box when I swap my collection on display. (I like to have pieces where I can look at them, but they won’t all fit my space at the same time.)

The 1975 Boston Red Sox commemorative coffee mug is just one example of a classy Federal mug. Bright red on white glass.

The Florida mug has an orange coating applied over white glass, then further decorated with detailed line art in black.

The orange juice glasses have a charming two-color pattern. I also have a mold-blown carafe that matches these, but is not marked, as well as slightly larger juice glasses with a modified version of the design, made by Anchor Hocking.

Federal orange juice glassesLike lots of other vintage glassware, these pieces are fun to mix and match, to create your own special breakfast set.

Federal also made other glassware piece types associated with the kitchen, too, like mixing bowls and batter bowls. One of popular reference books by Gene Florence includes pages of examples. Depending on the purpose for your collection, there are more choices to fill out a vintage-style kitchen or retro home decorating theme.

If you get far into the world of Federal, be sure and do some research on the pieces and patterns. For example, Federal’s Windsor pattern was only made by them in clear glass, but when the company closed, Indiana Glass purchased some of the molds, and made pieces in blue, green and other colors.

Federal Glass operated in Columbus, Ohio, from 1900 to around 1979. Eighty years of manufacturing means there are lots of beautiful Federal pieces out there to help you make a unique collection of charming vintage glass.


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