when i moved to new york in my early twenties, one of the first things i did was head to the market to stock my cupboards. i didn’t imagine making big meals in my holly hobbie sized kitchen, but i always need to be able to bake. i began at the closest d’agostino’s with my rolling granny cart and started shopping. to my great frustration, they did not have C&H sugar, only dominos. i am very brand loyal so i did not buy brown or white sugar that day. over the next few weeks, i went to nearly every d’ag and gristedes on the island of manhattan in search of my sugar. i even tried the fancy balducci’s and citarellas. finally, someone explained to me that there was no california & hawaii sugar in new york and if i wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, i was going to have to work with dominos. i was crushed. it is generally not easy for me to change course… when i like something, i stick with it. i have been using the same deodorant (secret, powder fresh), brushing with the same toothpaste (crest with the sparkles, not the stripes) and moisturizing with the same lotion (eucerin intensive care) for decades. (PLEASE do not tell me if any of these brands are building up weird electrodes or minerals in me - i have had enough changes lately!)
i figure that if i don’t have to make new decisions all the time, my brain will have more room to do other things… so there are a lot of items i don’t vary: tank tops (fruit of the loom, men’s small - medium when i’m pregnant), toilet paper (quilted northern), paper towels (bounty - the quicker picker-upper!) ironically, i have moved a lot in my adult life, which has put a strain on my brand loyalty. when we were relocating to amsterdam, i was so worried that there would only be that scratchy pink TP like they have in paris, that i did a massive costco toilet paper run and had loads of quilted northern included in our container shipment. unfortunately, the thick american rolls did not fit on the slim dutch holders and for months i had to have the toilet paper sitting on the floor, which i did not like one bit. further, it turns out the dutch have lovely, soft, white toilet paper anyway.
there were, of course, some american items that could not be found in the netherlands, even at the super expensive, black market, ex-pat grocer. i had to import liquid vanilla and parmesan couscous on the regular. one time, i brought back a suitcase full of my near east parmesan couscous without securing it all in zip lock bags and had about a billion little grains spill out when i was unpacking. not the best mess to deal with when you are already jet-lagged… good thing i LOVE my vacuum (miele canister, NOT upright.) so the new packaging on the near east couscous recently really flapped me. at first, i could’t find the couscous in the market at all. then i found the near east rice and the PLAIN couscous with the crazy new box design, but not the parmesan - which is the only good one. just like in new york, i began schlepping around to all the boulder markets (safeway, ideal, the big whole foods, king soopers) looking for my couscous to no avail. don’t ask me why i didn’t just google it - i always seem to sleuth by foot (or car!) i really didn’t know what i was going to do about my easy FIVE minute meal (just brown aidell’s chicken apple sausages while the couscous is setting and presto! you have dinner.)
near east parmesan cous cous - original packaging
near east parmesan cous cous - NEW packaging
and then i got to california and was visiting my friend lauren and she had a whole stash of the parmesan couscous (with the new packaging.) i was beside myself. i still don’t know why i couldn’t find it in boulder - maybe they did some market research and figured out the parm flavor has too many calories for the boulders? i may just have to start importing it again from the golden state…
sometimes when i move somewhere new, i find a local product that i like better than what i was using. i thought skippy peanut butter was pretty great, until i tried the dutch calve. this is PERFECT peanut butter. it isn’t sweet like skippy, but it doesn’t separate and get all oily like “healthy” american peanut butter. so now i have to go to this dutch website (holland’s best) and have calve sent to boulder. luckily, i can also get the pannekoeken (pancake) mix on the same website. dutch pancakes have the taste of french crepes, but they are thicker. you can make savory ones with ham and cheese or traditional sweet ones… they are outrageous.
other times, i worry that my intense loyalty will prevent me from recognizing that some products just don’t work for me anymore. when i was in my early twenties i knew a mother in her forties who was so pretty, but she was still wearing very eighties turquoise eye liner and frosty, hot pink lipstick. i figure she was a lot like me and thought she had her make up routine sorted out for life… i HAVE been wearing the same lip gloss (laura mercier, rose) for nearly TWENTY years i am a bit embarrassed to reveal. i often think about that mother, but when i go to sephora, i can’t help but grab the same color.
and sometimes my brand loyalty is challenged by one of my other driving forces: my laziness. i have been wearing low-top, lace-up converse sneakers since high school. i used to have them in a multitude of colors, but over the years i culled it down to just the grey. i never thought about changing it up and imagined myself wearing them as a grandma. but then my son got into skateboarding and gave me black and grey checkered vans for my birthday two years ago. i have to say, i put those vans away and forgot about them for nearly a year, until we got hank. potty training hank meant i had to go in the back yard a lot. i think i spent more time in the backyard with hank the first few months we had him, than i had the entire six years i’d been in the house. since he moved in during december, i had to put shoes on to go outside. bending over and tying my shoes multiple times a day was getting really tiring and then i remembered the vans. they are actually half a size too big so they are super easy to slip on. i don’t have to bend over at all. they did necessitate me getting a whole new set of socks, because the vans are cut lower than the converse and there is nothing sillier than three inches of sock poking out of the top of the van. but i have managed that… i did not really have a prior sock loyalty… i can be a little flexible.
high school graduation… in my red converse
i am hoping i can exercise this flexibility in the wake of truly distressing news. berkeley’s body time (formerly body shop) closed PERMANENTLY the month before i arrived last summer. body time makes perfume oils and scented lotions and shampoos and soaps. i have been wearing their china rain oil for at least THIRTY-FIVE years (save a short period sophomore year of college when i flirted with anaiis anaiis.) i am certainly not unique in choosing this scent… i think half the girls at berkeley high were wearing it as well. i may be unique in that i am STILL wearing it all these many years later. i think it just always reminded me of home and where i come from. each summer i stop in to the shop on shattuck and smell the cucumber and the tea rose and the pikaki and buy a new bottle of the china rain. the last ten years i have been bringing my children with me and it has become a sweet ritual. last summer my son noticed a “for lease” sign in the window as we were driving by. i assumed body time had just moved to a new location (they had moved once before when their rent got too high) and i was not overly concerned. but when i tried to find their new address, i learned that they were completely closed. i am a bit heartbroken. my mother, in her true, stiff upper lip, midwestern fashion, thinks i am being super dramatic… but this is how i’ve SMELLED for most of my life. i have about a quarter of a bottle left so i have a few months to sort this out… hopefully, it will go as smoothly as the sneakers and the peanut butter.
* i DID find a replacement oil: paris rain from beyond scents. it is very close, but of course, not exactly the same. the customer service team at beyond scents was very helpful and sweet about directing me to the best match - they knew all about the tragic closing of body time and how i must be suffering.