Sunday, March 02, 2008

Roll out the Crate and Barrel

Nearly seven years ago my family and friends began showering me and the husband with lavish gifts in celebration of our upcoming nuptials. Any bride and groom can attest that one of the most fun parts of wedding preparations is creating the wedding registry. It is like being a kid again as you walk around the store creating a list that even Santa would shutter at. I was reluctant to share my bridal registry lessons for fear of offending those who were so generous in showing their love for us. The years taught us some very valuable lessons on shopping for the home and if we knew then what we know now we would have dropped a better part of our day and tax return on pots and pans. This is not meant to offend, but enlighten anyone who is registering or just making purchases for their home. We thought we choose wisely but made mistakes because we did not ask ourselves the following questions; will we use it, can we replace it, will we like it in 10 years, and will it last.

Lesson 1: Will we use it?
After purchasing our first home we had a “been there, done that” attitude around living on our own and what it took to make a home. Like many couples today we had a cornucopia of his and hers items that needed to be shuffled through and discarded to make way for the “ours” items. These discussions (arguments perhaps) present a great opportunity to understand each other’s personal style and how different we do simple things; just choosing which drawer should contain the flatware led to some discoveries on the interesting baggage we each brought from our own families. Compromise became a key component in registering to settle the conflicting viewpoints on everything from glasses to gadgets.

One thing we did not need to compromise on is our love of the kitchen and how it would be a focus of our registering and purchasing which came as both a blessing and a curse. We danced around Crate and Barrel registering for everything from oven mitts (useful and used), to corn on the cob dishes (useful but rarely used), to a fragile olive dish (useless). The wedding industry is built around getting couples to buy the impractical and we were victims of the machine. The useful versus useless debate is very subjective and as unique as each couple. One couple’s cappuccino maker (ours only comes out on Easter and Thanksgiving) may be another’s fondue pot (we have blood running through our chesse system). Wedding or no wedding, we are each guilty of buying things we really don’t need and experiencing purchaser’s remorse. Two of the more useful gifts we received were an electric toothbrush from my friend Jules which we are guaranteed to use at least twice a day and a world clock from my bridesmaid Jooli marking time-zones so we always know what time it is where all our friends are living.

Lesson 2: Can we replace it?
It is important to research a product’s longevity to ensure replacement parts are readily available and if not back up supplies are purchased and stored. Many people experience the half-finished china collection after a patter is discontinued. We were incredibly cognizant of this with choosing our china (useless for some, often used for us). I was drawn to the very classic Lenox Solitaire, a timeless pattern introduced in 1965. This pattern was a bit too boring for my flamboyant husband (a trait not discovered or revealed prior to the engagement) and we chose Lenox’s Landmark Platinum, introduced in 1998 after my sister informed me that it was among Macy*s top sellers (many thanks to Kristen working in the retail industry and Mom for making sure my set was complete!). Unfortunately the matching Lenox Landmark Crystal Glasses were not as favorably received by the public and the patter was retired in 2004 leaving me and the other owners bidding against each other on ebay in an effort to accumulate enough back up glasses to survive a lifetime. Our flatware is also off the market which is very unfortunate as we recently discovered we were missing a fork.

Dishes are often the culprit of the can we replace it dilemma and our everyday dishes gave us that issue. Officially dubbed “seasonal-ware” by Crate and Barrel and warned the pattern would be available for only a short time we decided to fill our cupboards with the blue and green mosaic dishes after I convinced my husband that I was not the kind of passionate Italian who would throw dishes around in a fight. However, I am one of those passionate Italians who frequently talks with her hands and accidentally smashes dishes so we did over-purchase to ensure years of enjoyment out of the dishes. Unfortunately we probably underestimated the power of my passionate hands tenfold and are hoping that Crate & Barrel re-introduces the patter soon or we will be left with the decision to replace all our dishes or pay their exorbitant retired piece replacement prices.

Lesson 3: Will we like it in ten years?
One of the interesting things about marriage is how some differences soften and couples create their own unique sense of style leading to some major changes to how the nest was filled and decorated early in the relationship. It is difficult to prepare for these changes as they naturally grow from years of marriage. We discovered long after saying “I do” that the color of our small appliances, white, was all wrong. It sounds like a minor change but we were suddenly surrounded by dozens upon dozens contraptions that did not fit into our new sleek black appliance motif. We are still replacing each of the stark white machines one by one and were quite happy we purchased our black Kitchen Aid mixer a couple of years after the wedding (frequently used, don’t know how we lived without it).

Oddly enough one of our bigger regrets with our bridal registry was choosing a comforter for our bed. The style is not the issue, the comforter is beautiful, it is just comforters are just so hard to take care of and do little in actually keeping a person warm when sleeping. The comforter is now in our guestroom and unfortunately is the preferred puking location for each of our dogs and the comforter spends more time at the dry cleaner then covering people. Down comforters are now the bed covering of choice allowing us to change our colors and styles through duvets as well as washing those duvets at home when the dogs throw up a wad of grass in bed.

Luckily we avoided registering for or purchasing any decorative items until well into our marriage, ensuring we developed a style of our own rather then regretting what we thought was art. Our home is filled with photos, maps, globes, local memorabilia and Snoopy art which reflect our personalities perfectly.

Lesson 4: Will it last?
Our first lesson in “will it last” was our foolish decision to register at Target; will it last long enough on the shelves for people to actually buy it. We were reluctant to register at the discount giant but thought their widespread popularity and coast-to-coast locations would lend to easier shopping for all our guests. What we did not realize was Target has a tendency of changing their merchandise several times a year, switching brands and colors with the seasons without informing those with registries that their items are no longer available. That, coupled with an unfriendly return policy requiring a gift receipt for any purchase over $10, left us unhappy and with three cappuccino makers.

My grandfather used to say “you buy cheap, you get cheap” and we were penny wise and pound foolish with a few important items ultimately leading to our trip for new cookware today. We love to cook and in our years together have managed to go through 1 set of inexpensive cookware and another set of middle-of-the-road pots and pans. Today we finally began our Le Creuset collection and the cost of our two old sets easily equaled the cost of the high-end cookware with a lifetime warranty. Although in hind-sight it would have been more cost-effective to buy better cookware I am actually glad we waited; with age and anniversaries came the confidence to be a little crazy with color.
It is hard to avoid strange impulses when given free-reign over a store with a scanner and almost impossible to know how your tastes will change. Sticking to timeless, functional and quality items assures that most things will continue to be enjoyed for years to come.


Stephen Stchur said...

Cast iron cookware is fantastic and a must-have for any serious cook.

However, I'd strongly encourage you to consider Lodge cast iron for skillets and grill pans as the quality is just as good as Le Creuset but much much cheaper (doesn't come in all the pretty colors).

But the quality is top notch -- even Alton Brown swears by it, and he is (or at least should be) every cook's hero.

booli said...

Awww...I'm so thrilled you and Wade still like the clock! :-)

Great registry advice! I wish I had this when I was a bride!

Colleen said...

As someone who is going through the registering process right now - this was definitely helpful... and hysterical as always!

NeeNee said...

I would still register for my quesadilla maker, it's a must have

Amy said...

I applaud you on the purchase of the Le Creuset - congrats!!! I use my 5 1/2 quart pot more than I ever thought I would and love it.

attorneyMedic said...

what the heck is a charging plate? i think we registered for that some 6 yrs ago when i got married, but i just dont know if i got it, because i dont know what it is.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Stephen (aka lousycook)- after you left your comment I went and checked out my cast iron skillet and it is a Lodge. The skillet is perfectly seasoned to make my Grandfather's meatball recipes and it's about all I use it for these days since anything cooked in it ends up tasting like meatballs.

And now there is another thing we can agree on; the husband and I adore Alton Brown and don't miss an episode of Good Eats.

LousyCook said...

Well look at that!

Seems we have more in common that I initially thought.

Did you see the Good Eats episode on Coffee? I'm sure you'd like that one.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

AttorneyMedic- We've used our charger plates 3 times in the past 7 years. I should have just registered for a Charger instead, although the gas mileage is worse then my jeep.

husband said...

...and for those of you still wondering, a "charger" is a plate you put below the plate you are actually eating off of.

I will miss our non-stick pots and pans, but the new ones give me an excuse to cook with more oil and butter!

Explosive Bombchelle said...

The Good Eats coffee episode is quite good. We are now looking forward to grill season so we can use our learnings from "Tender is the loin" and we are considering serving Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls from his episode "House of the Rising Bun" for Easter.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Colleen (and other kitchen geeks and brides to be)- I got quite a few emails in response to this post and a few swore by the book "Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen" as an incredible resource for registering and shopping. I have yet to purchase the book yet but sounds like it is a great reference for which kitchen gagets are really needed.

Cornish Gamehen said...

If the corn on the cob and olive dishes are used rarely, think out of the box and use them as a vessel for other objects. An olive dish is the perfect way to organize your poker chips. Think gambling is a deadly sin? Then place the corn on the cob holder atop your chest of drawers, it is now a home for your rosary beads while you sleep!

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Dammit! Lenox went and discontinued my china pattern. Bastards. Whole reason I went with Lenox is because they never discontinue anything. Grrrr...

HeidiBowar said...

I remember reading this a while ago and made a mental note to read it again before we went to register. We're registering in the next few weeks, so thank you for writing this! I can already tell it will be helpful! :)

Explosive Bombchelle said...


Good luck with the registering. My latest realization is how useless the full set of dishes/china is. I'm really not the kind of person who uses the tea cups and saucers. I should have stuck to dinner and lunch plates and left the saucers to people who throw tea parties.