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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pretty little Milkmaid

Last year about this time, I mentioned to my friend, C, that I had seen the most adorable little butter dish in my Country Living magazine.  It was shaped like a little doll.

 I said it was in the Anthropologie catalog so it must be expensive.

Fast forward a few months and Whitaker was born.  After he was born, C gave me this HUGE box.  Inside the box is a smaller box containing the little yellow Milkmaid butter dish.

I was beyond touched, thrilled and so excited.  She told me that she tried to get me the red one, but it was out of stock.  It became a cherished item in my house, and like many cherished (and fragile) items, I did not know what to do with her.  I mean, if you  use her, you run the risk of chipping, or worse, breaking her!  

But, if you don't use her, what's the point of having her?  I mean, of course she looks adorable just sitting around, but in order for people to see her, I have to have her out!  

I did have her sit around for a while, but then I started using her for her intended purpose.  I slapped some butter under her skirt and we've used her for months.  The children were all instructed that she was a precious item and that they MUST be careful with her.  

That is until last Sunday.  Last Sunday, it was just me, Maggie & Whitaker.  I was feeding Whitaker in his high chair and while my back was turned, the go-go gadget arms that only a baby possesses managed to reach the little milkmaid and knock her from the kitchen island onto the floor.  

The carnage was awful.  

I was devastated.  I know she was just a thing, but she represented so much.  In the back of my mind, I imagined that I was going to give this butter dish to Whitaker's wife when she had her first baby.  I'd tell her all about where the dish came from, the importance of C in my life, and how important friendships are once you become mother.   I picked up every piece off the floor and set the pieces to soak in hot water to get the butter off.  I then ran to the computer and went to to see if I could buy a replacement.  They were no longer in the catalog.  I google searched every tag that could remotely relate to the dish and still nothing.  I looked at ebay,, every non-traditional auction site online.  I even searched craigslist in various large cities in other states.  NOTHING!

With little hope left, I went back to and zipped off an email to customer service:

I received a yellow Milkmaid Butter Dish as a gift after I had my last baby.    My son accidentally knocked it off the counter and broke it. Not only is it my most favorite kitchen accessory, it holds great sentimental value and I desperately want to replace it.  Can you help???


Jennifer Schwalm

Monday morning, around 7:30, I check my email and there in my box is a reply:

Hello Jennifer,

Thank you for your interest in the Milkmaid Butter Dish. This item is currently available. You may place your order by contacting us at 1-800-309-2500. Please refer to item number 973751. Quantities are very limited; to ensure that you receive this item you will want to order as soon as possible. 

If you require additional assistance or have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Please include this email with your reply.

Amber Hart 

7:45 AM, I was on the phone with Anthropologie and I ordered TWO new dishes.  One Yellow and one Red!

Thursday, the UPS man showed up at the door with a big box with Anthropologie on the return address.  I knew as soon as the UPS man handed me the big box, something was broken.  You could hear the tinkling of broken porcelain that easily.  I gingerly opened the box and found two smaller boxes inside.  The first box was the yellow Milkmaid.  She was intact.  The obvious conclusion was that the red one was broken.  I still held out a little hope that maybe it wasn't really broken - maybe the packaging wasn't as good and the top was clanking against the bottom.  

 As soon as I opened the lid, I could see the bottom dish was shattered.
 I gingerly pulled it out to see that it was broken in many pieces.

 But the top portion was perfect!  The little milkmaid was in perfect health!

I called Anthropologie's customer service line and explained to the representative what had happened.  She immediately issued a refund and when I asked how I was to ship the broken item back, she said, "Oh, no.  We don't expect it to be returned.  We cannot have broken porcelain going through the mail."    She then proceeded to give me the phone numbers for stores across the country that still had the milkmaid in red in stock.  I could call them and ask them to ship a new one if I so desired.

Since the lid to the little lady was still in perfect condition, I figured I could find a replacement bottom until I remembered to go to the store and buy some porcelain repair glue to see if I could glue the bottom back together.  

I have a small collection of red transfer ware plates that I had started collecting back when I was just out of college and living on my own in a little three level townhouse in Seven Fields.  Blue transfer ware has always been popular, and since I love red, it seemed a natural choice for a "grown up" collection.  Just as I started collecting the red transfer ware, Country Living  magazine featured a huge article on transfer ware in general and the red became a new collectors item.  After that I could rarely get my hands on a saucer for under $20 - prior, I had been picking up actual dinner plates for under that price.  Thus, my collecting of vintage red transfer ware ended.  I still occasionally pick up a new piece at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, but the vintage stuff is out of my price range. 

So, I had a pair of these vintage saucers in the cupboard that I use as serving pieces at different functions.  

I pulled it out and placed the little red milkmaid on top and voilĂ !

It didn't match up perfectly, but it will work for now.

So now I have two beautiful little ladies to hold my butter.

 The lady in red.
 And her pretty little yellow friend.  

They now sit on top of the refrigerator and I won't make the mistake of leaving them anywhere that could be in reach of Mr. Whitaker.  

The broken pieces are in a box in the closet, waiting for me to remember to pick up some epoxy to fix them.  Although my yellow lady is not the original, I will still be able to look at her and be reminded of my friend C. her thoughtfulness, and the friendship we share,  how our friendship has enriched my life an continues to do so every day and how something as simple as a butter dish can be so much more.  I can eventually pass down the "healthy" yellow milkmaid to Whit's wife, and I'll put the original one back together and continue to cherish the memory it holds for me.