Downton Abbey on a Shoestring

The new season of “Downton Abbey” on PBS has started.  According to USA Today, 10.2 million people watched the premiere. Media experts everywhere are pondering why Americans are so enthralled with this soap-opera saga of an aristocratic British family and their servants. 

We KNOW why everyone in Irvine is watching this show.  It’s lawn envy!

Just look at the gorgeous expanse of green lawn surrounding the manor.  Does the Earl of Grantham get an insert in his water bill every month asking him to “Replace your lawn with drought-resistant native plants?” No! Did the Earl of Grantham have to pay $300 to the sprinkler repairman to fix his sprinkler valves? No! In fact, the Earl of Grantham has never even seen a lawn sprinkler! Because at Downton Abbey, water falls miraculously from the sky! All the time!

The other reason is that we all have a fantasy of living in a place like Downton Abbey.  In spite of your zero-lot-line house with its two potted succulents on the patio, you too can create the Downton Abbey ambiance.  And you don’t need to be as rich as the Crawleys  – just visit the thrift shop, where you’ll find:

  • Silver.  We have beautiful silver trays and goblets, along with a silver butter dish and silver-trimmed bowls and coasters.
  • Crystal.  We have a Waterford bowl and a Waterford desk clock that would fit in perfectly at Downton, along with other crystal bowls and a decanter.
  • Glassware.  We have wine glasses, martini glasses, and champagne glasses.  Just what you need for that after-dinner sherry, or to help you keep a stiff upper lip in the face of life’s dramas.
  • Jewelry.  We have a fantastic selection of vintage-style costume jewelry.
  • Sweaters,  scarves, and gloves.  You can dress up in these and pretend you’re at Downton Abbey in the winter!
  • Picture frames.  We have lots of silver and gold-toned picture frames for your family portraits.
  • Needlework.  Although the times are changing at Downton, upper-class girls would still be expected to do needlework.  We have embroidery hoops, cross-stitch patterns, and a huge assortment of needlework books.
  • Stationery.  No one at Downton Abbey sends email.  They pour out their hopes and dreams in hand-written letters.  (Of course, they had cheaper postage back then.)

And if you just want to invite your friends over to watch the show, we have fondue pots, cake pans, and coffeepots to help you stay up until 10 pm.

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Add high-end sparkle to your holiday table for pennies

Remember the china department at Bullock’s? The crystal displays at Robinson’s? The sterling silver serving trays at Bullocks Wilshire?

I spent hours in these department stores when I was growing up, looking at china and crystal patterns, especially the holiday dishes.  My ambition was to have a set of china for each holiday  – Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving!

Most of the year, I’m content with my casual microwave-safe dishes.  But when the holiday season comes, I want something more – the tradition, the elegance, the sparkle of fine china, crystal, and silver.  And where can we find these things, now that we no longer have Bullock’s and Robinson’s?

The Assistance League of Irvine thrift shop! We always have a selection of crystal and glassware, silver, and china.  Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for something to fill in with what you already have, we have lovely pieces that would be perfect for your holiday table.  Especially if you need serving dishes, platters, vases, or candlesticks, the thrift shop is the place to look.

We, regretfully, don’t have a tea room like Bullock’s Wilshire did, but you’ll probably save enough shopping with us to go out to dinner somewhere else.

Lorren-Home-Trends-RCR-Laurus-Crystal-Vase-11*Check out tips on how to clean your crystal:

  • It’s important to always use just-warm water, not hot. And never rinse with cold water. Extreme temperatures can cause cracks or breakage.
  • Instead of using the vinegar and water rinse solution above, you can also try a splash or two of ammonia in warm water. This also helps fight cloudiness and spotting on your glassware.
  • Only wash crystal and delicate glass that is first at room temperature and don’t fill with liquid or beverages until the pieces have returned to room temperature after cleaning.
  • Allowing to air dry encourages calcium, mineral deposits and hard water buildup that can eventually cause the glass to become cloudy. Always dry with a soft, clean cloth.