Here is Steve, mugging for the camera. Well, he’s guarding my new favourite Christmas mug, which I got for all of 35¢ at the thrift shop the other day.
I already had a collection of Christmas mugs (most of them hand-me-downs), so I really didn’t need another one. As a rule I avoid buying knick-knacky things – they’re fun to get as presents, but I’m not going to spend money on them; I’m trying to have less “stuff” in my house, not more. But there was something that struck my fancy about this mug.
I picked it up, cupped it in my hand, turned it around a few times, put it back on the shelf (between the other two Christmas mugs identical to one I have at home), walked a couple of steps away, turned around, and went back to pick it up again. Repeat process a few times… There was no price tag on it, but finally I decided to just do it. As it turned out, it cost even less than I had expected, so, bonus.
I’m not quite sure what it is about this mug that makes me like it so much. It’s the cheerful, bright yet not-kitschy colours that got my attention at first, I think. The design isn’t exactly high art or great taste, but the Frosty is kind of cute in a folksy sort of way.
But the real selling feature was the shape and size, and the feel of the handle. I like mugs that I can fully wrap both my hands around, and the size of the handle loop makes a big difference. I don’t have huge hands, but I like getting three of my fingers crooked through the handle at once, for full support of the hot cup, and a lot of mugs have handles too small for that. The other thing that matters is the thickness and shape of the handle – not too thick (again, crooking my fingers around it) or too thin (in which case it feels too flimsy to hold that full heavy mug of hot tea), and it needs to be nicely rounded so it doesn’t cut into your fingers.
On the last count, my own homemade pottery mugs (e.g. the one in the front of the picture) actually fall down. I pulled the handles (which is a vaguely indecent-looking process in which you hook your index finger around a stubby sausage of clay, gently squeeze down on top with your thumb, and pull it out into a longer, flatter shape), and me being not the most expert of potters, they have high ridges that are a tiny bit uncomfortable on the hand. Another thing I don’t like as much about my own mugs is the thickness, or rather lack thereof – I’d like them to have a bit more heft. I’m going to have to see if I can remedy those issues next time I make it back to my long-neglected pottery shop.
The other thing that matters is the shape of the mug itself. I like mugs to be fairly straight-sided, or at least not too narrow at the bottom – they have to be sturdy, so as not to tip over and inundate my computer, lap, or plate of sandwiches with a flood of hot tea. And then there’s the rim. The feel of the lip of the cup against my, well, lip is really important. I know a lot of people like a thin cup lip curving outward, but my preference is for a fairly thick, round edge. What I really don’t like is mugs that curve in at the top – how can you sip hot liquid from something like that? As for the material, ceramic or thick glass are the only options for good mugs. Not metal – definitely not metal! And plastic is only tolerable in travel mugs (which are in a category all by themselves).
The funny thing is that some of my favourite mugs are my most ordinary ones. Not the one-of-a-kind artisanal hand-thrown pottery from my own shop, or fancy gold-rimmed designer porcelain. No, the simple set of cobalt blue mugs with white speckles, which I got as hand-me-downs quite a long time ago and then found more of in a thrift shop a few months ago.
They’re plain, straight-sided, and fairly heavy. The lip is thick, round and smooth, the better to sip you with, my dear (tea). The handle is round, and rounded (not attached in that half-heart shape that even my handmade mugs have because it’s the easiest way to attach handles), which makes it perfect for sticking three of my fingers through (with the pinky wrapped underneath) and then cupping my other hand around the belly of the mug, absorbing its warmth as I stare out the window at the cold grey winter’s day, musing on the vagaries of life.
Tea is, of course, the elixir of life, but the right mug to drink it out of makes a difference, don’t you think?
Life, the Universe, and Favourite Mugs. What’s your preference?