Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Size really does matter

There is a drawer in my mother’s refrigerator stuffed to overflowing with little packets of condiments. She gets them with every dinner served in her retirement community, and she squirrels them away.

I add to the cache with every visit. When I stop to get us sandwiches, I can’t resist adding a few of everything to my order. I just can't be sure she'll have, or be able to find, the exact condiment needed. Silly me. By now, she must have gallons of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and relish, all in single-serve packets.

On the other end of the spectrum are the colossal boxes, bottles, jars, and cans sold by membership-only warehouse clubs. Often, like potato chips, you can’t have just one. Products are packaged in pairs and cartons and, quite possibly, pallets.

I’ve walked those warehouse aisles with my husband, begging him not to stock up. Who can lift a gallon of liquid laundry detergent without spill or sprain? Won’t 88 ounces of ketchup (five-and-a-half pounds) pass the expiration date well before the two-pack bottles are used up? Am I the only person who can barely get a hand around the 1.5-liter-bottle of mouthwash?

Another place size matters is restaurants. Some feature “small plate” menus, with the idea being to order more and different things to share. It’s an approach that doesn’t work well for me. It's hard to share generously while still getting enough of the tasty parts and, with multiple plates, any sense of portion control goes out the window.

Other restaurants equate volume with quality, figuring an overfilled plate makes for happy customers. But more isn’t always more. If it’s not truly and amazingly delicious, less is more appropriate.

Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks. Some sizes are too small. Some too big. What I want  is something that’s just right – in size and volume – to suit the specific occasion. It matters. It really does matter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What kind of person are you?

There are no bumper stickers on my car. No tattoos on my body. I don’t wave flags indicating my heritage or wear jewelry with religious symbols.

I never gave my non-identification a thought until I received a gift that signals exactly the type of person I am: a cat person.

Actually, I am both a cat and dog person, but the gift in question was a handbag embroidered with cats. It was cute. Cats are cute. And so I stuffed my wallet, keys, and smartphone in my new handbag without hesitation.

Then the comments began. My running buddy immediately noticed the bag and claimed she loved it. Her husband, well known for his animosity toward cats, responded that he hated it. I gave little notice to either comment.

It wasn’t until I visited a new local restaurant that I began to recognize the conversation-starting capability of this handbag. My first visit prompted the hostess to ask about the bag and my cats, and then she told me about her cats. Several weeks later, when I walked into the restaurant a second time, she remembered me. More precisely, she remembered my handbag…and a fellow cat-lover.

I found another kindred spirit in the elevator of my mother’s independent living community. The woman wanted to know where she could buy a similar handbag and was disappointed when I couldn’t name a store. But in the minute or so we traveled vertically together, I learned she was a member of the community's Cat Lovers Club and had probably met my mother at a recent meeting.

The cat connection happened again last week on vacation. I walked into a store in Cape May, and one of the shopkeepers remarked about my cat bag. It wasn’t even the woman at the register, but a young man at the back of the store. He used it as entree into a broader discussion encompassing cats, handbags, vacations, home towns, and the weather. He was so friendly I felt bad about trying to escape back to the beach.

The power of pets to connect people is clear to me. Or maybe it’s handbags. I used to have an embroidered one from Ten Thousand Villages that got its share of comments, too. Either way, it’s nice to carry around such a convenient conversation starter. These days it works so much better than “How about those Phillies?”