Just Do It

30 Apr

This seems a fitting subject for my first post in over 4 months, but it’s become such a theme in my life lately, I had to share.  So many things you hear over and over again until they have no meaning.  I’d like to take a moment to thank Nike for almost destroying this one when all it used to invoke in me were images of Michael Jordan sweating Gatorade, reminding me I haven’t worked out in a while.  And while there are rumors the slogan originated from the last words of a serial killer on death row, I think it’s really one of the most profound sentiments of all time.  Once you let yourself forget that you’ve heard it a million times and allow yourself to have that existential moment with it, it can be life changing.  It’s kind of like those posters in the 90s with all the tiny dots that somehow look like 3D dolphins once you’ve crossed your eyes and dropped enough tabs.  OK, I SEE IT.

I bet if you asked anyone who you view as successful they would agree.  Great ideas are great, but they are about .1% of anything.  Perseverance is everything else.  I remember hearing a bunch of people I know bitch about a mutual friend that had just made it big doing art that according to them “anyone could do.”  But isn’t that just the thing?  The fact is, he WAS doing it.  And they weren’t.  It seems so obvious but for some reason it just isn’t.

So this past month has been an experiment for me.  I MADE myself “just do it” with all the shit I had been sitting on for a really long time.  This wasn’t the perfect month for this experiment, but that was kind of the idea.  With my previous way of thinking, no month would be great.  I was as busy as ever this month, so instead of slowing down I took on more and made myself BUSIER, and I loved it. This blog is the final step to this life transformation for me.  I have a list of over 75 things I’ve been meaning to blog about.  Now it’s time to just effing do it.



**UPDATE** We Found That Doggy’s Family!

14 Nov

**UPDATE**  We Found That Doggy's Family!

After having her for 5 days, hanging found dog posters around our neighborhood, calling the Humane Society and posting on Craiglist daily, getting her checked for a microchip to no avail, etc., etc,. we finally found this little dog’s rightful owners! My husband, just on a whim, decided to walk to the bank that’s about 1/2 mile away on Tuesday to check for lost dog signs along the way, and HE FOUND ONE!! I couldn’t believe it. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about how badly these people really wanted her back. She wasn’t fixed so I was concerned that maybe she was a money maker rather than a pet. It happens a lot. I was really sad when they were coming to get her and nervous they wouldn’t look excited to have her back. But all those feelings were gone the second they were reunited! Tears of joy and wagging tails, and I knew she was going home with the right people. I love a happy ending!


Down and Out in Beverly Hills Chihuahua

10 Nov

Down and Out in Beverly Hills Chihuahua

My husband and I found this little girl in the bushes outside our house a couple days ago! She’s really well behaved, and she looks as though she definitely belonged to someone who loves her and took care of her. Her little nails look like they were trimmed not too long ago, so I don’t think she’s a stray. She’s such a sweetie, but we can’t keep her. I appreciate anyone who reposts this, we’re trying desperately to find her owners. I’ve already posted a few times on our local Craigslist and went knocking door to door around our neighborhood. No luck so far. Any help or advice is more than welcomed! ❤

Tips for Collecting Mismatched China

10 Nov

The task of collecting anything can be both fun and rewarding, coupling the love for the item and the thrill of the hunt.  I’ve been in combat with armies of blue-haired ladies on the smokey battlefields of estate sales to seek out and rescue my treasures.  Some of these “more experienced”, sensible shoe wearing, floral perfumed warriors will straight up take shit out of your hands!  As china collecting gets increasingly popular and competitive, along with these withered little adversaries on a mission for bargains, you’ll be finding more and more educated dealers and retailers out there getting into the mix.  These vipers will know the manufacturer, pattern, era, and going price on Ebay, Etsy, and in retail with just a glance, and they’re ready to strike!  I’m one of these vipers, so I know.  😉  Since it can be fine china Guerrilla warfare out there, it’s important to be able to recognize exactly what you’re looking for the moment you see it so you don’t go home empty handed, or with a carload of bubble-wrapped regrets.  There’s no fine china superstore with all patterns for sensible prices, if you lose out on something you love in person or in an online bidding war because you hesitated, who knows when or if you’ll ever see it again.

With Sugarbaker & Toad, I’ve had the weighty task of putting together a collection to serve hundreds of people, with options of leeway to bend and cater to the style of different clients and events.  Putting together a small, private collection is far less daunting.  You have just one person and one taste to consider, and need far fewer items.  But, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably drawn to more than just one style.  This is where it can get confusing.

The term mismatched gives the impression of just throwing any old things together.  But while some of the charm of this style comes undoubtedly from looking “unfussy” and casual, there has to be a rhyme and a reason in order for it to look right, a method to the madness.  Items don’t have to be made for each other in order for the eye to pick it up and feel “these things go together,” just like we can put together clothes from all kinds of brands, eras, and styles, instead of wearing a head to toe uniform.  Mismatching china is the same in that you can put together an outfit that looks great, or one that would make Joan Rivers cough up a hairball.

Here are a few things to consider when you start building your collection.

As with anything else, over the years china has gone through different trends and fads, especially in the last 70 years or so.  In the time period before this, most bone china was manufactured and designed in England and Bavaria and was of the same elegant taste.  Starting in the 40’s and 50’s, china manufacturers started to delve into modern trends.  Weight, design, size and color are some of the ways in which china has morphed.

Below are examples of traditional English and Bavarian bone china.  As you can see, the patterns are delicate.  Pinks, greens and lighter shades are more common.  Darker and brighter colors like black and red are used sparingly, and what I would call “fall colors” are pretty minimal as well.  What you might not be able to tell from the picture below is how light weight they are.  Real fine china is thin as can be.  This is a good indicator when you’re on the hunt yourself.  Pick up the plate or teacup, if it’s super light, chances are it’s the good $tuff.

The plates above are a good example of mixing together patterns that are different, but don’t fight each other.  The bold is kept minimal, balancing the vast amounts of white and lighter colors.  When designing a table top, or a whole collection, you want to keep in mind balancing it so there’s just the right amount of tension, and nothing is overpowering or standing out like a sore thumb.

That’s not to say you can’t introduce really bold pieces to the subdued collection.  In fact, it looks great when you do.  Just make sure the piece is not contrasting in more than one area.  If the colors are bold, make sure that it matches the weight, size and general style of the rest.  Adding a plate that’s bolder + fatter + bigger + modern is going to make it stand out like Larry the Cable Guy in a vegan prayer circle.  Below are some great examples of bold pieces that work with the traditional, muted china.  They also just so happen to be some of my favorite plates!

The colors are bold, but the designs are intricate, delicate, and not cartoony.  Also, the plates themselves are very light weight.  These characteristics make them great contrast pieces.  They compliment rather than clash.  When I find pieces like these, I just have to have them.  Have you seen anything more dreamy??  Even if they didn’t do a lick of good with the collection, I would need to own them and stare at them and, in my weaker moments, pet them and ask them how their day is and if they love me as much as I love them.

Now, let’s get into some no-nos.  And I don’t mean to be degrading to these different styles, but with some knowledge, I think we can appreciate these things, and also see why they don’t belong in a fine china collection.

In the 1940s, Franciscan china was introduced and became popular.  It’s still very popular today.  The origin of Franciscan china is from a tile company that decided to spread out into the plate making business.  But that’s essentially what they are; tile.  Earthenware, ironstone, stoneware, call it what you like, THIS IS NOT FINE CHINA.  It’s bigger, bulkier, heavier and just, well, not china.


These are some examples of Earthenware and stoneware, which are basically pottery.  The top left is the most brazen example of this cardinal sin.  It’s called Desert Rose, and it is, or at least was, MAJORLY popular.  I’m under the impression it may have been some kind of entry gift into social security benefits because every old lady whose estate sale I’ve ever attended has left behind a minimum of 12 pieces of this portly tableware.  It’s EVERYWHERE.  Especially in Southern California and Arizona, where I do most of my collecting.  I know that it was popular nationwide, but possibly more so in this region because it has that south-westy vibe;  muted, fleshy pinks, and a handmade pottery feel.

As I said before, real fine china is ultra thin and light as air.  When I hold some of my better teacups up to my lips to sip tea, I feel as though I could bite right through them.  But while it feels that way, it’s actually quite the opposite.  Fine china has been vitrified, which means it’s glass through and through.  This not only makes it super strong, but if it does get chipped, it’s not porous inside.  Earthenware, though big and heavy, actually breaks and chips very easily.  And because on the inside it’s basically clay, it’s very porous.  If it does get a chip in the glaze, the insides will be susceptible to absorbing moisture and bacteria.  Pottery style dishes should never be used for food use once they have a chip in them, use them for decor only, or just toss them.

Some people will still try to sell you on stoneware being “fine china,” don’t buy it.  It’s a great thing to collect on it’s own, Fiestaware is highly collectable, it’s worth a lot of money and comes in really fun colors.  If you do collect it, I know great places to find it and I will give you first dibs on all of it.  😉  Cool as it may be, this stuff does not play well with fine china.  Remember it breaks all 4 rules of contrast (size, weight, color, and style) instead of the allowable 1.

Kathie Winkle designs are another rule breaking bunch I see people trying to mix with fine china, and it doesn’t work.  Although her designs were made to “mix and match” with themselves, they don’t look right with traditional fine china.  Their lines are too boldly geometric and cartoony, and they have a common theme of those “fall colors” that are rarely found as a substantial element in fine china.  If it’s a color shag carpeting came in, Kathie Winkle loved it.  But mustard yellow trapezoids will fight delicate pink flowers, and they will always win.  This is another thing I think is cool to collect separately, especially if retro is your thing.  It doesn’t get more retro than Kathie Winkle.  These are the kind of dinnerware that can be really fun to play with if you have a food blog, for example.  They catch the eye and give the immediate impression of retro.  But that’s part of the reason you can’t place them with fine china and expect them to jive, turkey.


When piecing together your collection, another thing to consider is the shift of plate size over the last 50 years.  Below is a dinner plate from the 1930’s sitting on top of a modern dinner plate.  The antique dinner plate reads almost like a salad plate in today’s standards!  This explains a lot, doesn’t it?  (Oink)  I’ll take that as a yes.


Traditionally dinner plates used to average around 7-9 inches.  Modern dinner plates are around 10-12.  This matters if you’re planning on stacking your dishes for presentation.  This is my favorite look for fine china.  I’ve attached a couple examples of stacked or piled table settings below.  I love this look not only because it’s gorgeous, but also because it takes up less space on the table.  Beautiful and functional.  It’s also a great way to play with the patterns and show off your design skills.

In this venture, SIZE MATTERS.  You don’t want a salad plate to be so big it covers up the lovely design of the dinner plate, or so small it looks like you stole it from the Barbie Dream House in desperation to complete the table when an extra guest showed up last minute.  Sizes should be cohesive in order for the eye to read that they belong together.

If you don’t plan to pile your collection at any time, you won’t need to pay as much attention to size while you’re collecting.  It’s ok to put varying sized plates at place settings on the same table.  Just try not to have one set that sticks out so much because of it’s size.  The guest seated at that setting may wonder if this was your subtle hint you noticed how many shrimp appetizers they powered through before dinner.

The more you shop around, the more you’ll learn about fine china and what really tickles your fancy.  For this reason, build your collection slowly, know that you can’t just go out and put it together in a week.  Collections take time, and should be a true labor of love.  It will show in the end result.  If you find that one plate you just can’t live without, it can be a good cornerstone for you to build your collection around.  It’s ok to be picky about colors and styles if you’re not sure if they’ll go.  Generally, if I’m not sure, I skip it.  Stick with a color scheme.  Pick 1 or 2 main colors to focus the collection on and make sure each piece you buy either contains them, or truly compliments them.  Put down the 6 pound Native American clay disk of a plate and keep an eye out for that really thin stuff, unless you’re also shopping for cute stepping stones for your garden.  Take a ruler shopping with you.  I also find it helps to bring a list of what I have, and what I’m most in need of.  This will keep you focused so you end up with a complete collection instead of 42 bread plates because they were soooooo preeeeeettyyyy!  With 42 bread plates you’ll only be about to show off the collection when you throw a dinner party for your Cabbage Patch Kids.

Oh, and one more major pet peeve before I go.  Never, ever, under any circumstance, are saucers to be used as plates!  Please and thank you.


Fugly Functionality

2 Oct

Fugly Functionality

Sorry to my Nike Free Runs, you were “cute” and all, but I’m over you.  After a 4 year, shallow, codependent relationship based on looks and not substance, I finally dumped the Frees and got new running shoes.  Good bow legged flat footed limping Lord, what a difference.

I finally went to one of those places that uses machines to measure your stance, your stride, weight distribution, if you pronate, etc.  You’re recorded while you run on the treadmill which is reviewed in slow-mo, and then they test you in several pairs of shoes while you run outside.  Also taken into consideration is how much you run and in what conditions.  I run indoor/outdoor, HIIT, have really high arches and pronate a little with my right foot.  They came back with several options for me, all of which were butt fuggin ugly, but felt GREAT when I ran in them. I ended up loving the Nike LunarGlide 5 the most because they felt the lightest and softest of the bunch.  I went with the least visually upsetting color they came in, and went home really excited for my first real run.

These things are awesome!  Total game changers.  Not only did the run feel amazing, but my shins, knees and hips (which normally give me problems) were all fine both during and after my run.  I can’t believe I wasted so much time with the Nike Free Runs, serves me right for being superficial.  I’m obsessed with my new LunarGlides!  Even with their face only a mother could love.


7 Generations in the Making

30 Sep



It seems fitting that my first real post on here is about the true beginnings of Sugarbaker & Toad.  The women pictured in this photograph are where it all started.  The baby in front is my Great Grandmother Hattie Shannon, surrounded by her mother Florabelle, Grandmother Sarah, and Great Grandmother Urania.  (That’s my ~ ready? ~ Great Great Great Great Grandmother!)  Each woman was a collector with exceptional taste, and each passed down her treasures, mother to daughter, every generation for the last 200 years.  The Sugarbaker & Toad collection that we use for rental starts with my Great Grandmother Hattie and her wedding china from the late 1800s, though some of the pieces, although acquired later, are even older.

Hattie continued collecting through her life, and so did her daughter, my Grandmother, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s daughter, my mother, Debbie.  I come from a long line of fine china aficionados!  I inherited the entire lot of china a few years ago before my own wedding, and used them that day for the first time as a mismatched ensemble.  My mom made handmade napkins that coordinated with each setting, and the tables were stunning.  After photos from my wedding went up on a popular wedding blog, I was getting several emails a day about the china asking if it was for sale.  I definitely couldn’t part with any of the pieces  and allow them to leave our family, but the idea of renting them out seemed like an obvious thing to consider.

I definitely had a tough time deciding if I could really use these plates as rentals when I first had the idea for the business.  They’re so special to my family and me, irreplaceable for their sentimental value alone, and most are impossible to buy again even if we tried.  Still, the idea for the business sounded so awesome, at the time there was no one else in California (possibly even in the US, I searched) who rented mismatched china, and I knew people would love it.  I asked my mom what she thought I should do, and we talked about it for a while.

My Grandma Dorothy lived until 2006, just shy of her 101st birthday.  She was very proud that she lived independently in her own apartment, and did so until her last day.  My mom remembered that in the last few years of her life, my Grandma took out her special occasion china and began using it everyday.  “It’s a shame to keep such beautiful things tucked away, I’d rather enjoy them.”  So she did.

This is what put things into perspective for us.  We realized that both Dorothy and Hattie would probably think it was a shame to have such treasures tucked away in a box, and they’d probably get a kick out of their cherished hobby turning into a family business.  But more importantly, we believe they’d be positively delighted to know their beloved collection was regularly giving joy to other people on special days in their lives.

I was so fortunate to inherit this extensive and rare assemblage, and I’m excited to share it with others.  I’m so proud that each piece is special, and through continuing to expand the collection myself, I make sure to keep it that way.  There is no running to the thrift store to pick up “bulk”.  ALTHOUGH, sometimes you luck out and find amazing things in the most unlikely places.  One of our teacups my mother picked up at the Good Will just because she thought it was beautiful and unique and could tell it was old, only to get home and find out that it was Sevres, some of the oldest and most valuable china there is!  Most of what we carry is antique or vintage, but there are still manufacturers making gorgeous patterns today in keeping with Old English bone china standards.  When we do buy new, it is from top of the line companies like Royal Albert and Wedgwood.

I know today the entire Sugarbaker & Toad collection would still make these ladies proud.  And looking at these dishes daily, holding them in my hands, keeps me cognizant that it’s not just the tangible things we pass down through our families.  Sometimes these beautiful objects and heirlooms can be happy reminders of the important things, like values and character, that got passed down as well.


Testing Un, Deux, Trois

29 Sep

Testing Un, Deux, Trois

I’m new! (the china’s old)