Sunday free-for-all – December 7, 2014

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

{ 849 comments… read them below }

  1. Mister Pickle*

    “Free! Free! Heaven or Hell it doesn’t matter! Free!”

    (… until January 5th, when I go back to work)

    1. Rebecca*

      I am drooling over the thought of being off work for weeks like that! I’m still hoping to manage 11 days in a row! Good for you!

      1. C Average*

        I’m only 818 days away from being eligible for my six-week sabbatical! And we’re allowed to spend all our unused PTO in conjunction with our sabbatical, so I’ll likely be out for about three months.

        (But alas, right now I am drooling over 11 days in a row.)

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Rebecca – may I ask you (and everyone else): what would you do with the time, if you had the next 4 weeks off?

        1. EduNerd (formerly EduStudent, but graduated)*

          4 weeks off sounds glorious…

          -Cook things I didn’t have time/energy to cook while working
          -See my family, and hopefully friends I hadn’t seen in a while (if they’re working, maybe over dinner/happy hour)
          -Actually start working on a couple side projects I’ve been wanting to start but don’t have the time to
          -Actually clean my apartment, thoroughly
          -Read books
          -Try out some new workouts and see if I like any of them better than my current pattern (run/bike/elliptical)

        2. Adonday Veeah*

          I’m getting 11 days off around the holidays, and I Just. Can’t. Wait. I am going in with no specific plan, but EduNerd’s bucket list sounds good to me and I might just make it my own. Well, except for that whole workout thing. That is just ridiculous. I’ll substitute extra naps.

          Congrats, Pickle. May the next month be merry and bright and filled with (your own damned) Junior Mints!

          1. Mister Pickle*

            Thanks Adonday!

            And you know I’d always share my Junior Mints with you if you have Need.

              1. Mister Pickle*

                As would you, I’m sure, Adonday. Z was so very much ahead of the times, writing YA before it was “cool” and everyone wanted to jump on the money bandwagon, and what she wrote was true to her beliefs – she wasn’t trying to be trendy. Oh well, probably not the right forum for this.

        3. Rebecca*

          If I had 4 weeks off in a row, I would do the following things:

          1. Go through every single thing I own, from clothing items to silverware, and pare down my life.
          2. Scrub the house from top to bottom.
          3. Travel to visit my daughter (she lives out of state)
          4. Attempt to walk 5-7 miles per day at least 5-6 days per week
          5. Visit my parents more frequently (they’re 80 and 79 years old)
          6. Volunteer at the local Salvation Army lunch program at least once per week
          7. Read an extra book
          8. And finally, get more organized!

        4. C Average*

          –search for a different job
          –run lots of miles
          –deep-clean our messy house
          –watch Law & Order reruns with my cat
          –make delicious comfort food for my family
          –work on my novel
          –check out all the miscellaneous weekday activities at my church

        5. Vancouver Reader*

          I probably have until the new year off, and I’d love to get sewing projects done, start some knitting projects, clean the house, do some Christmas baking, make some Christmas cards and send them out, but honestly, I’ll probably do the baking and send out 3 cards and that’ll be all I accomplish.

        6. Cath in Canada*


          I took a week off recently and wanted to do a lot of writing, but I was only just getting into a routine that worked for me towards the end of the week. Four weeks would be heaven!

        7. Toto in Kansas*

          I took 4 weeks off once to ride from the Midwest USA across Canada and to Alaska on a motorcycle. Wish I could do it again!

        8. Dry White Whine*

          I’ve got 19 Dec- 12 Jan off and your lists put me to shame. My plans are:
          1. Play as much Assassin’s Creed as I can
          2. Drink lots of wine
          3. Sleep
          4. If any time left over, play some more Assassin’s Creed


      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        I too am taking 11 days. With the bonus that with Christmas and NYD on a Thursday, it’s only costing me 5 days of PTO! I plan to do some freezer cooking, some crafting, some junk TV watching, and a lot of sleeping in. This is the moast time off I’ve ever taken in one stretch without there being a major trip involved, so I’m interested to see if by the end I’m refreshed and ready to get back, or wishing I could stretch it out more.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      My husband gets three solid weeks off at Christmas, and my work is having a plant shutdown that I’m going to extend by a couple days to get two full weeks. (I need the break.) I don’t get nearly the time off that my husband does (something like five weeks a year plus random off-days), but I am desperately counting down to my Two! Full! Weeks! TWO weeks! (Only ten more workdays!)

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      Catch up on many tv shows. Read many books. Go for a day trip or two. Have breakfast out. Volunteer extra shifts at my charity shop.

    4. Jen*

      I’m envious …. I haven’t had 2 days in a row off of work since early November. Looking forward to an entire weekend off later this month. (and yes, I work somewhere that’s open 7 days a week: a library). :)

      I like everyone’s suggestions here for the next time I have a chunk of time off!

    1. Jen RO*

      Polish as in nail polish? I hope so! *opens her feedly* (in French)
      And the RedditLacqueristas community on Reddit!

      I don’t really follow any beauty bloggers, but I am subscribed to MissMai’s YouTube channel: (in the hopes she makes more hooded eyes videos) and Julia Graf’s:

      1. Kate*

        Thanks! I have hooded eyes too so that is exciting. Pshiiit is my main reason for using Google Translate :) I need to start an RSS of nail blogs. A bunch I was looking at before stopped updating. I spend on a lot of time in polish groups on FB but like more pictures.

        1. Jen RO*

          I tried to follow Miss Mai’s tutorials and failed miserably (my eyes are hooded *and* down-turned, so they make everything harder, yay!)… but they really are nice and I am sure someone who is moderately skilled with makeup should be able to follow them.

        2. Paige Turner*

 (she has hooded lids too)

          I’ll stop here :)

    2. Sandrine (France)*

      Rikki Poynter (Beauty vlogger, recently also branched out to raise awareness about deaf and hard of hearing people… she has bold and interesting makeup looks haha)
      Sandrea26France (does most of her stuff in French but lives in the US and is married to an American military man)

      Would have some others but they’re also French sooooooo xD

    3. Takver*

      Veronica Gorgeois is an aesthetician with a lot of very knowledgeable videos about skin care and makeup from a “what’s good and bad for your skin” perspective.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Heh, my cats fight quite a lot, and I just think “yeah, if someone made me live in the same house as my sister for my whole life, we’d be taking swipes at each other off the back of the sofa too”

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        I’m not a cat person but I watched that like 3 times too because it was so stinking cute!

  2. Steve G*

    OK I’m more of a “dog person” than a “cat person,” but the video is hilarious:-).

    Trying to relax after another busy day…my job is ending during a merger/restructure and I am moving, within NYC, w/ no other job in sight, so times are kinda’ stressful, I have a couple of bucks in the bank, but I know having both job/residence be up in the air at the same time is a dangerous combo (especially in high price NYC)….just hope the universe has something better in store for me. Ironically, before all of this happened, I wrote a “wish list” that included lots of change, but of course, I thought the change would come in manageable chunks, not all at once…….

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s all converging for a reason. Trust that the answers/solutions are in plain sight and expect them to be there for you.

      Big scary jumps can work into the best changes in life.
      Keep us posted.

    2. Adonday Veeah*

      Ah, you challenged the Universe. That’ll teach ya! The Universe is a very literal creature!

      I’m excited for you to see how this will unfold. Right now, all bets are off and everything is possible! Please keep us posted on how this all comes down for you. I’ll be your cheering section. Every time I’ve stepped off the cliff like this I’ve never regretted it. As my dad used to tell me, “Get out there and bite life on the ass!”

    3. LoFlo*

      I was in a similar situation and the stars aligned for me. Had major home remodel planned, lost job, remodel got postponed due to contractor’s schedule, I kept job searching. Accepted a “dream” position that started during the remodel, oh but it required two weeks of training out of state. New job called and said they needed to defer my start date to January. In the end it all worked out. I made it a point to not stress out about the situation and just roll with it.

    4. Treena Kravm*

      If you’re really hoping to have your living situation be located based on the new job’s location, one option that is great if you can swing it is to put your stuff in storage and sublet or stay somewhere longer-term until the job is settled, then go about finding a place to live.

  3. Grumpy*

    I was out sick and I called my boss to ask to check on my supervisee for me because a lot was happening at the time, according to e-mails I’d seen. She told me to do it myself since I have e-mail at home. I should have come in and sneezed on her.

    1. cuppa*

      I once was at home sick and sent my boss a pretty abrupt e-mail. He told me when I got back that he was surprised I had written such a “terse e-mail”. I told him I wasn’t trying to offend anyone, just trying to send it before I threw up again. That got him to leave it alone….

  4. C Average*

    Does anyone else have crazy, frizzy hair and live in a damp climate? If so, have you figured out any way to make yourself look sort of together?

    I usually just let it be the big bad disaster it wants to be, because efforts to control it have proven time-consuming and ineffective. I prefer to have it long and either all one length or with long layers (bangs are out of the question). I’d love to find a product that defines the curls and controls the frizz (for most days) and a product that keeps it completely straight (for the rare days when I take the time to blow-dry and flat-iron it into submission).

    I generally walk or run to work. I’m willing to cover up with a hat for the trip, but staying indoors all day is definitely not an option.

    My hair does an awesome beachy-waves thing in the summer, but it’s a hot mess in the rainy season.

    1. acmx*

      I use Ouidad’s Climate Control gel* (sephora sells it). (I live in S FL) I just place a small amount throughout my hair and let it air dry.

      *There is a cut by trained stylists and a method to styling. I had this done; fantastic when he did it. I cannot duplicate it. I am no good with my hair.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yes, Ouidad Climate Control! And a good haircut. I finally– after 10 damn years– went to Devachan in NYC to get a haircut before I moved, and it was life-changing. I got a good curly cut and instruction on how to style it. I don’t do all of the steps, but I do most of them, and… I cheat by using a Ouidad product in my Deva regimen, but whatever. :)

        Devachan (aka DevaCurl) certifies stylists all over the country, so you can find someone who is well-versed in their method wherever you are. I found a guy before I moved. It can be pricey ($120 in NYC, $85 in an area with a much lower COL), but I have had my hair cut only twice since July and it still looks pretty good.

      2. summercamper*

        Ouidad’s Climate Control gel is ABSOLUTELY the stuff you need. It works for me everywhere – from the horrid dryness of Northern Michigan winters (wood stoves, everywhere) to my summer spent in the jungle, this stuff has been my go-to product. It is expensive, but very worth it. My mother buys me big bottles for Christmas every year.

          1. summercamper*

            Great! Just don’t use it if you happen to have Celiac disease… my sister, who is hardcore true going-to-the-hospital-if-she-eats-bread Celiac used this stuff while unaware that it contains wheat. Apparently it’s bad news if you have Celiac disease…

      3. C Average*

        I will definitely check out the Ouidad Climate Control Gel. That sounds like exactly what I’m after!

        I don’t think I want to mess with the cut. It’s long and all one length, and I like having the many updo options that offers to me. Ballet buns, Heidi braids, twists of various kinds.

        I’m mainly just looking for a means to control the frizz through the winter and actually get and keep it straight once in a while when I want to look a little more hip–other than that, I’m actually pretty happy with the big bad mop.

      4. Laura*

        I also want to give a shout out to the Climate Control gel and also to Ouidad’s Ultra Nourishing Cleansing Oil, which is a sulfate-free shampoo. Another awesome product is Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. You work it in when your hair is still dripping wet. Then I let my hair air dry. You’ll need to experiment with the amount. The downside is that my hair takes forever to dry but this product is one of the best I’ve found in taming my hair and I now use it almost exclusively.

    2. Natalie*

      I have many thoughts. I have ringlet curls if I wash and style right, or an insane frizzy white girl halfro if I don’t.

      Use a good quality non SLS shampoo and conditioner. If you blow dry, diffuser is a must. For a styling product, there’s a lot out there and any cream type product will probably be fine. For finishing, I like an oil or silicone product.

    3. Mal*

      Do you use any products in your hair now?
      I have really curly hair that sometimes frizzes in a humid climate.
      I would say to try some combination of the following:
      Extra conditioner
      Leave-in conditioner
      Curl creme
      Blow dry WITH a diffuser on COOL
      Anti humidity hairspray
      I use all of this every day. Takes about 5-10 minutes to style, it’s mostly about finding products that work best for your hair.
      I don’t usually wear hats, seems to aggravate the frizz ;)

      1. miki*

        Google diva cut, and the link has products as well. Finally happy with a cut, and no frizzy curls. Also, a tip not to use Terry/ regular cloth towels, but cotton shirt instead.

    4. Grand Mouse*

      Argan oil. Especially spray-on oil. Also not washing and blowing your hair every day will make it tamer. Putting protein in it, in the form of keratin, yogurt, or eggs will both smooth and straighten it. Argan oil also straightens my hair a bit. For defining curls, I like to use heavier oils. Just lightly smooth on a bit every day when your hair is damp, and/or do weekly leave-in treatments. Coconut oil is the best for curls, avocado is a good balance of smoothing and curls, and jojoba is supposed to be the closest to your hair’s natural oils.

      An apple cider vinegar rinse (with half water) does wonders too. OK to sum up, occasional protein treatments and ACV rinses, and daily lightweight oils and your hair will be soft and smooth. I even use a conditioner with argan oil in it! That’s enough for most days.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Plus on the ACV rinse—as I sit here now deep conditioning my hair with ACV and conditioner.

        1. C Average*

          Argan oil, coconut oil, leave-in treatments, jojoba, ACV rinses. Check.

          For all of the, um, food products you mention, how do you manage to use these without smelling like them?

          1. Waiting Patiently*

            The ACV is tricky it needs to be diluted- I just purchase an off brand that’s like 5% diluted– even then you have to rinse it out really well. I just asked my daughter to smell my hair and apparently, my hair still smells like vinegar. I rinsed my hair about an hour ago and followed up with olive oil, I ran out of coconut oil. So my hair may probably smell like a salad. Oh I’m sitting with honey on my face…smh the things we do for beauty.

            1. Grand Mouse*

              The smell does dissipate, don’t worry! For the other food products, just leave them in for like an hour, wash well, and follow with a nice-smelling shampoo or conditioner

      1. C Average*

        Hmmmm. Several have you have recommended this. I’ll give it a try!

        Do you brush or comb it before, during, or after showering? I’m thinking that might be something I need to tweak, too.

        1. summercamper*

          I comb it immediately after showering. I don’t even own a hairbrush – just a wide-toothed comb.

        2. Diet Coke Addict*

          This works shockingly well on my very thick, curly-wavy hair. I comb it with a wide-tooth comb while rinsing it in the shower, then maybe once after I get out, then dry with an old soft T-shirt and the frizz is probably 75% less than it is with a towel.

    5. C Average*

      Thanks, all! I will try some of this stuff. Ulta’s gonna love me after my next trip there.

      What do I do now, you ask? Well, let me tell you! I shower at night, using whatever shampoo/conditioner combo I picked up cheap at Gross-Out (Grocery Outlet). I leave some of the conditioner in. I go to bed with it wet and spread it out on the pillow so the curls will dry naturally. About half the time it looks awesome. The other half, I get all these flyaways and look like a disaster. What I really want is some damage control measures for the disaster days. Any suggestions?

      I have a blow dryer I’ve had since college. I use it once in a blue moon. I’m not even sure what a diffuser IS! When I take the time to blow dry it straight, it looks good when I leave the house but quickly goes frizzy. I will get and use a diffuser and some of the product recommended here to try to frizz-proof it.

      I will never have short hair again.(I got my head shaved once after losing a bet. NEVER AGAIN.) I am just not someone who will ever use a blow dryer every day, and short curly hair with no styling can go so, so wrong. At least when it’s long I can pull it back and make myself presentable. Plus I sometimes like doing elaborate, fun braided things with it.

      1. Natalie*

        A diffuser will probably help. It’s basically a claw thing you attach to the dryer than separates the curls as you dry.

        1. acmx*

          When I was slightly less lazy, I used mousse (Herbal Essence twist and curl or something) and flipped my hair upside down and scrunched, while drying using a diffuser.

      2. Waiting Patiently*

        Have you tried John Frieda products? I have kinky hair and in the past when I wanted to straighten my hair without chemicals, I use the frizz ease and the serum before flat ironing and it worked wonders on my hair.

        1. C Average*

          I have! I love Frizz Ease for the summer–it totally does the trick. It doesn’t seem robust enough to combat the effects of the Pacific Northwest rainy season.

      3. Observer*

        I’ve been wearing a wig for years (I’m Orthodox), but as a girl, my hair was a major mess – dry frizzy, flywaway etc. I finally got it cut short, but not too short. It was the best thing I ever did. I stopped blow drying it and minimized brushing. I also made sure that my hair was thoroughly dry before going to bed. The only thing was that I needed to get my hair cut every 6 weeks or so, and go to someone who is reasonably good. But, it was SOOO much less work than what I had been doing before, and there was just no comparison in how it looked.

        I’m not trying to convince you get a short cut. I’m just letting you know that there are other options than shaving (ouch!) and that you absolutely do NOT have to blow dry every day with a short cut.

        My daughter inherited the worst aspects of my hair. I told her that she was NOT getting a blow dryer… She’s had her hair long and short and everything in between. The mid length cuts were the most sensitive to the quality of the cut. And always, the mos important thing was the shampoo and conditioner she used. Pantene was what worked for her.

      4. Schuyler*

        Hey, my mom has worked at Grocery Outlet for about 20 years… and if/when I move home to Oregon, Winco and GO would be the bulk of my day to day grocery shopping. I don’t think there’s anything gross about them.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Personally, I tried pretending that it was not MY hair.
      That, of course, did not work out at all.

      After decades of looking around and trying all kinds of things and practically taking out a second mortgage to bankroll this, here’s where I landed: I quit using shampoo and hair care products entirely. I use an organic body wash ordinarily so I just use that on my hair. On days where I knew my hair just was not going to behave, I used Arbonne’s conditioner. Since I only needed a little, I would put it on one hand and rub both hands together, then run my hands through my hair.
      The only drawback I saw was that I had to use it a few times before I saw the full effect of it. I found it helpful NOT to blow dry my hair.

      I gave some to my aunt for her chemo hair- she could not believe the difference.

      I thought it was spendy, but a bottle lasts me for more than 6 months and I am not shelling out for a ton of other products.

      1. Helen*

        I got a keretin treatment for $300, I go once a year to get it. Worth every penny. Also buy a good shampoo, not the cheap stuff – I use Wella for dry course hair.

      2. C Average*

        Arbonne’s conditioner and organic body wash. Interesting. I might give that a go.

        Like you, I would prefer a minimalist approach both practically and financially.

        As to pretending it’s not my hair . . . I’m not sure it IS my hair. Some days I feel like it’s a sentient being that shares a life force with me and has its own mind. “I am going to be wonderful today! I am going to be evil today!”

        Once in a great while, I’ll think, “I’m just gonna chop it all off,” even though history has made me well aware this is a terrible idea. I’ll see someone with hair like mine in a really attractive style and I’ll think, “I could totally do that.” And then I make an appointment and then, without fail, my hair looks fantastic for days in a row and I wind up cancelling. And then–mwahahaha–it reverts to its wicked ways.

        My hair, my frenemy.

        1. catsAreCool*

          I have long curly hair, and I joke it’s a little like having a cat on my head. It does what it wants when it wants to, and the best way for me to get it to do what I want is to compromise and to spoil it (with conditioner and sometimes gel).

      3. summercamper*

        I’ve mentioned Ouidad before – in my opinion, it’s the best stuff in the world. Worth trying. It’s used by every woman in my family, and we have pretty much every variety of white-girl curls available.

        But if you can’t afford / don’t want to spend that much money on Ouidad, here’s an alternative that I’ve been using. It works when my hair is short (shoulder-length) but not if it is much longer.

        I gave up regular shampoo entirely. Most mornings I wet my hair down in the shower and slather it in Suave Naturals Conditioner (coconut is the best!). I let it sit while I shave my legs, then rinse it out, finger-combing it as I go.

        When I get out of the shower, I “wring” out as much as I can with my hands, then wrap it in a towel while I get dressed, brush my teeth, and eat a quick breakfast – 5 to 7 minutes. Then I unwrap my hair, do around four strokes with a wide-tooth comb, and then put in a quarter-sized dollop of Garnier Fructris Free and Clear gel. I use the Ouidad “rake and shake” method to get my curls started, then bend forward (so my hair is hanging freely in front of my face) and use my diffuser on my blowdryer to half-dry my hair. This takes two to three minutes, because I do it on high/hot – which people will tell you is horrible, but it works for me. I am an impatient person.

        Then I use my comb to give myself a part, and put in a bobby pin or two if I’m feeling fancy that day. Super-minimalist, can be accomplished with drugstore products.

        Once or twice a week, I shampoo and condition using the Loreal line of sulfate-free stuff intended specifically for curly hair. I can’t remember exactly what it is called, but it comes in a blue bottle and I buy it at Target. It’s pricier, but I only need a small amount – the two bottles have lasted me for around 5 months now.

        1. summercamper*

          Oh, more on the minimalist approach – for me, keeping my hair well-conditioned is the key to avoiding frizz, particularly in the “Einstein flap” zone. You know – those little frizzies you get on your temples? You have them, yes? My curly-haired sister and me call them Einstein Flaps.

          Anyways – oil protects your hair from frizz. You can get oil in your hair one of two ways – either by adding it (via daily conditioner, a deep-conditioning treatment every now and then, etc.) or by leaving in the stuff that is naturally there (by not using any shampoo/body wash/soap). Go overboard, and your hair will be greasy. But if you can find the right balance of oil for your hair, you can go a long ways without needing additional hair products.

          If you are willing to invest some time in the front end, a deep conditioning treatment might really help whip your hair back into frizz-free shape. You can go the fancy route with a $300 salon treatment, or you can hack it yourself with a drugstore conditioner, shower cap, and a dryer (heat towel in the dryer. Wrap around your conditioned and shower-caped hair. Let it sit while heating a second towel in the dryer. When towel 1 cools, swap with towel 2. Continue for 30 minutes, then rinse). As a midpoint option, Ouidad sells a deep-conditioning treatment that I swear by – it’s more expensive than a drugstore option, but it is better, too.

          1. C Average*

            OMG. Einstein flaps! YES. This is exactly what I have. Just having a name for them–especially a hilarious one–is going to help me hate them a little less.

    7. Another Lauren*

      I pretty much swear by the DevaCurl line of products. I never did the Deva Cut because I wanted the flexibility of wearing my hair straight sometimes, but when I go curly I use DevaCurl NoPoo, DevaCurl OneCondition, and the DevaCurl Ultra Hold Gel. I let my hair air dry, but if I need it dry right away I always use a diffuser attachment on my hair dryer. I wash my hair, condition it without rinsing all the conditioner out, then put the gel in while it is still pretty much sopping wet. Scrunch a little, then done (or blow dry).

      Also, especially while your curls are drying, DON’T TOUCH your hair (or let anyone else touch it) – the oils in our hands/fingers promote frizzyness.

      After taking this approach, my frizzy afro poofy hair pretty much looks like consistently soft shiny ringlets…love it!

      1. C Average*

        It’s interesting that you and so many of the others here are DevaCurl devotees. I bought the whole DevaCurl lineup a few years back and tried it for a few weeks, and . . . well, to be honest, it failed to change my life. I’m glad a product exists that so many curly-haired people love so much, though!

        If it matters, I am a white girl with hair that’s fairly soft with fairly loose curls. It’s only in afro territory when it’s short. My biggest problem area is the flyaways around my face.

        A question: does not touching your hair include not brushing or combing it? What do you do to keep it from tangling while it’s wet? (I’m thinking THIS may be the crux of my issues. I always brush it straight when it’s wet and then let it air-dry.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          The problem with the Deva products is that they are made to be used in pretty specific ways, so it can be tough to just buy and use without someone showing you the methods (this isn’t the case with the Ouidad climate control).

          I have hair that’s probably similar to yours. Mine is pretty coarse and heavy, hence my need for a good cut– I end up with Roseanne Rosannadanna hair pretty quickly. I don’t brush it. I also don’t comb it anymore, though I used to comb it ONLY IN THE SHOWER. Once the hair is dry, no touching! And if you’re using an actual brush, don’t. Comb only. :)

          Here’s what I do: I only wash my hair twice a week, maybe three if I go to yoga on a non-wash day (hot yoga, sweaty, gross). Shampoo with Deva No-Poo, condition with their conditioner. Before I used the Deva products, I would comb my hair out with the conditioner in it, let it sit for a minute, then rinse. IMMEDIATELY wrap the hair up in a microfiber towel (like Turbie Twist). Dry off the rest of me, then take off the Turbie Twist, apply Ouidad Climate Control, then back up in the Turbie Twist as I get ready (about 5 minutes). Take the towel off, run fingers through hair if needed. Apply DevaCurl Mist-er Right (lavender curl spray), then air dry or blow dry a little bit with a diffuser. When I blow-dry, I never get it bone dry– first, no time, and second, air drying is still the best. Most of the time I do a flip– bend forward, blow dry the hair in front of my face, and flip fast. After that, DO NOT TOUCH. NO TOUCHING. NO HANDS IN HAIR.

          If you still have flyaways, apply a little argan oil, but this is the only time you are allowed to touch your hair.

          1. Another Lauren*

            Agree with everything here except using deva in one specific way (not sure if that’s what you meant). I have to use Deva in a very specific way with a very specific set of the products, but that is going to be different from how others use the line. What I mean is that when I follow the Deva method exactly, I still get frizz and poof. But if I follow my method with the Deva products that work best for me, I have great curls. In my case, I don’t even dry my hair (not with a microfiber towel, not with a t-shirt, and DEFINITELY not with a cotton or terry cloth towel), I don’t use Set It Free, and if I use Mister Right the next day I still have to use a little gel to set it again…

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Thanks! :) I did mean that you have to use them in ways tailored to your individual hair type– sorry about that!

        2. Another Lauren*

          Yeah it’s crazy because what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for others. Even the Deva routine that my hairdresser suggested didn’t work for me, I had to experiment and customize it to what worked for my hair.

          I’m of mixed descent but I know women of different racial backgrounds – it works for some, not for others, so I think it might just be a matter of all curls being a little different.

          As far as touching goes…I was more referring to touching with your hands because the natural oils in human hands promotes frizz. That said, I NEVER brush my curls, wet or dry (I’ve heard brushing is bad for curls – I think it goes against the natural curl). I only ever use a wide-toothed comb, and only when I really need to (most times I can just get away with finger combing my hair while I’m conditioning it, but if it is really tangled I will comb it with the wide-toothed comb).

          I don’t know if not brushing and not touching will take care of all your frizz, but I’m guessing these are definitely two things that will help cut down on the frizz…

        3. acmx*

          A question: does not touching your hair include not brushing or combing it? What do you do to keep it from tangling while it’s wet? (I’m thinking THIS may be the crux of my issues. I always brush it straight when it’s wet and then let it air-dry.
          My hair sounds similar to yours, although it hasn’t been short in decades so I don’t know how it behaves then. I’m very casual with my hair… I have my hair in a towel to soak up some water, brush my hair through once after I shower, then put in the Climate Control and scrunch with a towel and then maybe with my hands. Air dry. I no longer blow dry my hair (laziness and I don’t seem to need to use it anymore with the CC gel).
          I also brush my hair out a bit before I shower to find any knots and to reduce the amount of hair that ends up in the drain.

    8. matcha123*

      I’ve started getting a straight perm that they do in Japan. There are various names that include: Japanese Hair Straightening, Thermal Reconditioning, Magic Straight (in Korea).

      After straightening the hair, the hair that has been straightened will stay straight forever. You’ll only need to apply treatment to the new hair that grows in.

      My hair is growing out now, and after straightening the out-growth with a flat-iron, I use hair spray which somewhat keeps it under control.

      My hair is somewhat curly, thinish and also straight. But it poofs out like an 80s rockstar in the humidity.

    9. Elizabeth*

      I’ve become a disciple of JessiCurl products. They work together to create curls and control the frizz. They aren’t cheap, but they aren’t as expensive as Deva or Ouidad.

    10. V. Meadowsweet*

      LUSH’s ‘Roots’ – it’s technically a scalp treatment, but I use it as an all-over hair mask and one go makes it significantly smoother and more likely to ringlet than frizz for about a week.

    11. catsAreCool*

      I use conditioner every day, towel dry it, and comb it with a hair pick. It would look better if I used gel on it (I use gel sometimes).

      When I get my hair cut, I ask for long, choppy layers.

      Works for me.

    12. Alder*

      Something nobody has mentioned is jojoba oil! I used it when my hair was long, and it made it less frizzy and curlier. Just a few drops as a leave-in, I would sort of rub it on my hands and then on most of my hair while it was drying. I bought mine at Trader Joe’s.

  5. Elizabeth West*

    Kitty video!!!! :D

    I have 59,235 words on Secret Book (my blog has a little progress meter on it). I’m hoping to be done before too long, by the middle of January at the latest. Arrrgggh. Then the research begins in earnest and I can go back and tweak, tweak, tweak.

    Learned first aid and CPR at work these past two weeks. I hope to hell I never have to use them, but if I do, I know how.

    I saw this this morning and totally thought of Jamie (check out EVA Air). :)

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      I have to start following your blog on a more regular basis. I learned first aid years ago, still have the little card that says I’m certified, but like you, I hope never to have to use it because I’m sure I’d just panic and forget even the basics.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They gave us a link to download the class materials and get back to the online stuff, so we can review frequently. But knowing what to do in a situation is actually the best way to lessen panic. It’s when you don’t know what to do that your’e more likely to freak out.

  6. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    Today I bought and wrapped secret santa gifts for:

    My work secret santa
    Hubby’s work secret santa
    My gift for #nzsecretsanta on Twitter
    Hubby’s gift for #nzsecretsanta on Twitter

    I actually kind of love secret santaing. It might be too late for this year, but next year can we have an AAM secret santa? I’m happy to facilitate!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Where in NZ are you? I have cousins and family in Palmerston North and Hastings. I’ve finally visited them too. Elizabeth, you really should go, and plan on spending a lot of time — there’s a lot to see. I need to start planning my next trip back.

    1. Jen RO*

      Speaking of Secret Santa, I want to thank all the people who contributed suggestions last week (I don’t remember which thread it was in). I managed to get a present for my coworker! (And, during shopping for her, I also found some fun stuff for my boyfriend.)

    2. Lamington*

      I’m doing Reddit secret santa and signed up for the holiday card exchange. I’m rxcited and hope I got a good Santa. i put a lot of thought into mine :) Will love to do an AAM one too.

  7. Gene*

    Office kitty went home with the boss Friday. We’ll see how he integrates with his other two cats and two Airedale/Husky mix dogs. Odds are pretty good he’ll come to work most days.

    Now it’s time to start taming the gray tiger cat that’s hanging around.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      We moved the outside stray inside a few weeks ago, and now she’s starting to gain enough confidence that she thinks she can beat up my little siamese. They growl and hiss at each other, but are willing to share the same bed as long as the people are between them. I wish they would get along better. Like the new sisters in the video above.

  8. Natalie*

    A) I have my first real Christmas tree since high school this year and it’s awesome. It smells amazing. My bf and I have been listening to cheesy 90s Christmas songs and drinking sazeracs while I decorate it, which I highly recommend.

    B) jeans. I’m dying here, y’all. I’ve been looking for new jeans for a couple of years and my office recently switched to always casual, which means accelerating the search. The problem is that I have a short waist and short legs, but some butt, so I need a short front rise and long back rise. And I don’t think they’re jeans if they’re 25% spandex. Any recommendations?

    1. Stephanie*

      You sound like me, jeans-wise. I also like Gap. I’ve had some luck with Mom Jeans brands, despite not quite being in that demographic yet. I’ve had good luck with Kut from the Kloth. Lucky has a cut I like as well (I think it’s the Sofia cut). Also, find a tailor! Or learn to hem the pants yourself.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Seconding Kut. I tripped over a pair of these in a resale shop and they’re my new favorites.

    2. Dan*


      Can’t answer that because I’m a dude, but I’m going to ask anyway: How do y’all buy jeans? For us dudes, our jeans come sized in two ways: length and width. Makes it kinda easy, except for me, who is actually kinda tall and a little wide. There’s a lot of short fat guys (based on what’s there when I shop) but not many tall kinda fat guys. And “Big n’ tall” shirts just hang down to the floor.

      But anyway… how do y’all of the xx chromosome type buy jeans? My past experience with the matter indicates that there is one “size” thingy that you use to measure what fits you. But you all seem to come in different shapes and sizes, so I’m curious how this one size thingy takes care of all of your needs.

      1. acmx*

        “Tryall” and error. It doesn’t take care of our needs! Some jeans do come in length and width, usually higher end brands.

        1. catsAreCool*

          What makes it worse is that sizes in women’s jeans don’t necessarily mean much. A pair of jeans that fits perfectly may be marked as the same size as one that is way too small or way too big.

      2. Nina*

        There are so many styles: boot cut, boyfriend, relaxed, curvy, high waisted, flare…the list goes on. It’s best to go with what flatters your frame, but a lot of places only carry certain sizes so it takes some practice to find what brands and styles work on you. Jeans are iffy because denim doesn’t breathe well like other fabrics, and it has less give, so wearing a poorly fitting pair of jeans will be very uncomfortable.

        Also depends on what’s “in”. Flared jeans were huge in the 90s. Not so much anymore.

      3. Anx*

        Mostly through trying things on.

        One thing that’s very different is that men’s sizes are based on a measurement of their bodies in a very obvious way. Women’s sizes are determined more arbitarily. We say “I’m a size 4” but really we WEAR a size 4. And of course that 4 is sometimes a 6 or 8 and sometimes a 2 or 0 and sometimes nothing will fit in a particular style. I think since the numbers in women’s sizing are more removed from obvious waist measurements it contributes to body image issues, as your size becomes a value and not a simple measurement. Bizarre stuff.

        Also, I think this contributes to women shopping more. Men can pick up their clothes, order it online, or even have other family members purchase it.

        Women on the other hand must go on day long shopping trips to find the pants that fit them.

      4. nep*

        For jeans or any other kind of pants, in my experience the size means almost nothing. From brand to brand, style to style, the number I can wear fluctuates like crazy — 4 in one pair, 8 in another, 10 in another…

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          Yup. I HATE shopping. For anything. When I find a style/size that fits, I tend to take that info and buy online (ILY, Amazon). I’m a weird size; too tall for petites (legs and arms too long) but regular women’s sizes are usually too big around (I’m slim, no hips or butt to speak of), and I can’t shop in the juniors dept. (I’m over 50 and the styles just don’t work for me). Levis mid-rise skinny jeans or pants, size 4 regular. Other 4s have been too loose, but if I stick to mid-rise straight or skinny in the Levis brand the 4s usually work. Try finding a pair on the shelf though.

          I can also wear men’s 28/32s, but they are not that easy to find in stores, either. Sigh.

      5. Jen RO*

        OK, now I am kinda confused by the replies to this thread. Don’t women’s jeans in the US come in width/length measurements like Dan said? I usually just try to remember my two numbers and my preferred fit (so it would be somewhere between 27 and 29 width, depending on brand, 32-34 length, and bootcut or flared). I don’t remember the last time I saw a pair of jeans that came in other types of sizes.

        1. Stephanie*

          Depends. Higher-end brands (or brands aspiring to be higher-end) do come in 27, 28, etc.

          Women’s will be 0-12 (sometimes that extends to 16; depends on the line). I think a 0 corresponds to a 25, with each vanity size going up an inch (I think). You sometimes see jeans that say “12/31”.

          Length designation varies. I’ve seen a mix (12 waist x 31 length) or vaguer definitions of A (ankle), R (regular), L (long).

          It doesn’t make any sense. I think it stems from clothing manufacturers thinking women’s heads would explode if they actually knew their waist measurement.

          1. Mimmy*

            Okay….now you’ve got me wondering about pant lengths. My mom is convinced that if the pant leg doesn’t cover the top of the foot, they’re too short. She’s a former department store runway model, so I assume she knows what she’s talking about. But a part of me questions that. HELP!!

              1. Stephanie*

                Yeah, I think it depends what you’re wearing the pants with (heels? sneakers or flats?) and the cut. Tailors usually ask me what I’m wearing with the jeans and hem accordingly.

              2. cuppa*

                I just explained heel length and flat length jeans/pants to my husband the other day. He just stared at me like I was from Mars.

            1. CheeryO*

              My mom is a seamstress – you want them to just barely “break” against your shoes. You don’t want the fabric to be pooling, but there shouldn’t be a gap. And they shouldn’t drag when you’re walking, of course. It’s tricky, since the same pair of pants can look vastly different with heels vs. flats. You kinda have to just pick one and accept that they won’t be perfect any other way.

        2. matcha123*

          The US does “vanity sizing.” The first time I saw double-digit numbers was when I came to Japan and I was like “wtf is a 28??”

          I think that some European brands use “traditional”, old, US sizing for women’s clothing. Which means that at TopShop, a women’s 38??? is a UK 8???? and a US 6????

          For us, the smaller the number, the better. And the better it is for sales. That’s why you’ll see triple 000s at some places. Or maybe it’s just the GAP Japan that has triple and quadruple 0s?

          1. Jen RO*

            And “European” 38 can be a different thing depending on the country! But I think most stores have started to converge towards common sizing. In my experience (H&M and the like), an European 38 is an UK 10, which probably makes it an US 8.

            1. Jen RO*

              But my jeans are still 28/32, and not 38! (Well, OK, I know of one or two brands that use regular sizing, but they are rare.)

        3. Tris Prior*

          Part of the problem is that the width is the waist and the length is the leg length (obviously)… but nowhere in there are THIGHS accounted for. Or hips, or butt. You have to figure out whether the “curvy” cut or the “diva” cut or the “sweetheart” cut is the style that best corresponds to how you happen to be built.

          I also have am very longwaisted so low rise jeans = the waistband of the jeans does not clear my underwear. (Actually, sometimes even mid-rise jeans look obscene on me… or at least not work-friendly.)

          Basically, you try on every pair in the store that looks like it might fit, and then when you find one that works you buy as many as you can afford, for when they discontinue the one style that works for you and you have to start the whole process over. :P

          1. cuppa*

            Or you try and get the same jeans with the same name and style, but now they’ve switched to European sizing and now you have no idea what size you need….. sigh.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        Clothes shopping can involve crying at some point. I know shoe shopping does it for me. I can shop for two-three days and not find anything, reasonably priced, that I can get on my feet. It. is. so. discouraging.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          This would kill me! Usually if I get too frustrated trying to buy jeans (or pants in general), I end up in the shoe department, because I can always find a cute pair of shoes that fit and it assuages all the frustration. the theory is “don’t look at my 7 year old jeans, look instead at my faaaaabulous shoes!” I’m sorry that both clothes AND shoe shopping makes you cry.

        2. Hlyssande*

          I am definitely feeling your pain.

          Over the last two years I’ve developed bunions on both feet and am getting a tailor’s bunion on my right (at the pinky toe rather than big toe, sob). Finding shoes that don’t exacerbate this makes me want to cry forever. With a wide width, my heel is swimming. With a regular width, it’s too narrow in the ball of my foot which compresses the bunion region and makes walking very painful.


      7. Waiting Patiently*

        My daughter and I was talking about this the other day. Why do we have to go to the website size chart to figure out what it all means. Gap sizes are not the same as Old Navy which isn’t the same as Banana Republic and so forth…ugh. My best jean shopping experience was in high school in the 90s where the fad was wearing boy jeans! I had Levis in all colors and they actually fit.

          1. Waiting Patiently*

            For the longest time I had this one pair of boy jeans (senior year we decided we would be girly girls) and ‘what would become’ my fat girl jeans. Those two pair of jeans were the only jeans in my closet until I started working at my current job and casual Friday meant wearing cute jeans. So I have collected two drawer full of jeans some I like more than others. Some days I protest and wear a denim jacket.

      8. SaraV*

        Uggghhhh. I have the opposite problem compared to other ladies here. I’m 6′ with a 33-34″ inseam, and there are so many brands that think “long” = 32″ inseam. No. I also have to deal with having a non-existant waist, which has been a problem my whole life, plus adding on a few pounds. I live in a smaller town, so I was ecstatic to find a few years ago that Target had Merona jeans that fit and were long enough for me, and affordable! Now…they don’t carry those jeans anymore. :( I’m also not one to buy jeans without trying them on first, plus not too thrilled to pay $8-$10 in shipping and handling for internet orders.

        I’m thinking I may have to check out Lane Bryant when I go up to the “big city” next weekend. Hopefully, I’ll be in the right mindset to try things on.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I KNOW! I went shopping for Merona jeans to replace the ones getting worn and they weren’t at Target.

          I still wear my Medina, but I need to dye the jeans a darker color to look better for work.

          1. Observer*

            Merona is often only available at the Target web site, not in the stores, especially if you aren’t a “normal” size.

        2. littlemoose*

          Gap’s long inseams are 35″, and they have free shipping on orders over $50. /former employee

        3. Persephone Mulberry*

          Just a heads up, if you’ve never shopped there, that Lane Bryant pants all have RIDICULOUSLY long rises (the measure from crotch seam to top of waistband). Now I realize I’m even shorter-waisted than the average short person, but even their petite lengths (which are too short in the leg for me) come practically up to my braline.

          1. Windchime*

            I’ve found this to be true as well, and I am a tall person. On pants with a long rise, I always end up with the waist of the pants sliding down to where my waist actually is, and then I have this weird glob of empty fabric between my navel and my crotch. So annoying.

          2. SevenSixOne*

            Lane Bryant’s rises are ridiculous– I once had a pair of LB jeans that I could pull up to my armpits… and the crotch seam was still about two inches below my actual crotch. WHY

        4. V. Meadowsweet*

          and even if they’re long enough, everything else is just a little bit in the wrong place because the jeans are sized for someone who isn’t tall.
          I bought a pair of jeans from Long Tall Sally over the summer…such a difference. Spendy, but it’s been worth it. And they’re long enough! and there were some that were too long!

      9. BRR*

        I’m also a dude but one thing even with waist and inseam different brands fit differently. Levis and Gap fit around the wait but the pockets end up being way too tight and shallow. At the same time I want my jeans semi tight because while I’m overweight my legs are relatively thin. I’ve had good luck with calvin klein.

      10. Windchime*

        The stars have to be in perfect alignment for me to even TRY to buy jeans. I have to be emotionally optimistic, well hydrated, physically strong and have money in my pocket all at the same time or I don’t even bother.

        Then you go into a place where you think they might have jeans to fit, and you try on as many pairs as you can without breaking into tears. That’s how I do it anyway.

        I’m very tall (5’11”) but also kinda fat. The people who make jeans think that women who are kinda fat cannot possibly be taller than about 5’4″. So if I go to the women’s department (where they sell clothes for ladies of more generous proportions), I may be able to find jeans that fit around my waist and hips, but they will be way too short.

      11. Artemesia*

        I had a close friend for years who was about 5’3″ and curvy; I was 5’8″ and tall, although with wide hips, but not busty or fat. We took the same size. Of course, I had the issue of high water pants and she had to have things shortened, but it is just insane that women’s sizes require almost everyone not an exact size to get tailoring.

        It is better now that there are so many tall girls so there are pant sizes for tall, regular and short which helps. And some vendors e.g. Lands End have ‘tall sizes’. For year I got men’s small turtlenecks because women’s larges were fat in the body but short in body and arms. That works, but they are also designed for men’s shoulders. Recently I have found that I can get Lands End tall turtlenecks or down coats in Medium that are close through the body but long enough in arms and body.

        So yeah — women come in different shapes and the sizes don’t accommodate that very well so women end up searching till they find a brand that works and then when they do, odds are that the brand will change its sizing or use a new supplier and the jeans that fit in size 10 won’t fit anymore. (like the perfect lipstick color that always gets discontinued about when you discover it.)

      12. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t buy off the rack ever without trying stuff on. If it fits width-ways, it’s usually too short for me (I’m tall). So I just have to find a brand that fits, with a length that fits, and then buy those over and over.

    3. Nina*

      Torrid has some cute jeans, and they carry more short sizes than most places I know of. Their skinny jeans are quite comfortable, too.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh I like Torrid. I have a gorgeous Goth shirt I got there and I LOVE IT. Even though it’s too big now, I can’t get rid of it! I had a pair of beautiful black trousers I got there and they were too big and I finally had to let them go. :(

    4. Stephanie*

      Oh, I’d also give Goodwill or a similar type of thrift store a try. I think those places get a lot of the “untrendy” jeans nowadays, like the straight legs or boot cuts with higher rises (which is fine by me, as low-waisted skinny jeans are really unflattering on me) and you might have some more options.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. I got a great pair of jeans at a consignment shop for less than $20. Had to get them hemmed, but definitely worth it.

    5. sprinkles!*

      My favorite jeans are from the American Rag line from the juniors department at Macy’s. I can usually find them for less than $30, too. I’m on the short side and have very muscular legs so it’s difficult to find jeans.

    6. Another Lauren*

      I also have short waist, short legs, and a booty, and I like Gap jeans too. I usually do boot cut (I think they call it sexy boot or something) but they do have lots of different styles/cuts. I am way preggers right now and I also like their maternity jeans…

    7. Mister Pickle*

      I have no experience with this outfit, but I read about them the other day:

      I have no financial interest in them, I’m not trying to promote them, etc. I may try them myself, as alas my body has changed over time and the simple “height” and “width” parameters Dan mentions are proving insufficient. I gather this outfit take several sets of measurements and (I guess) has a variety of templates.

    8. Elizabeth*

      I’ve started buying Aura for Women by Lee. They have about 1% spandex, so there is some give, but not so much they stretch into a different shape by the end of the day. They were created for women who do physical work in them, not just as fashion wear.

      They are available on Amazon, but I would recommend finding some place that has them in stock to try them on. But then, I’m pretty well convinced that that is the case for jeans in general.

    9. C Average*

      Honestly, I’d just go to the Goodwill and try on a bunch of stuff. Different cuts, different brands, different sizes, etc. If you find jeans you love, buy ’em! If you don’t, you’ll at least maybe get a sense of which brands and cuts and sizes work the best for you, and then you can narrow your search when you start shopping for new jeans.

      I have a short waist, long legs, and not a whole lot of butt, and I’ve found my favorite jeans in–I kid you not–the boys’ section of the L.L. Bean catalog. Other members of my family have also done well with L.L. Bean. I know a lot of the stuff in their catalog is kind of ridiculous (but don’t knock the shearling flip-flops until you try ’em, folks), but their jeans are a conservative cut, insanely well-constructed, and very comfortable. I’m particularly in love with the flannel-lined ones for winter.

      I kind of think you have to figure out where you land on the aesthetics/comfort continuum.

      I have a couple high-end pairs of jeans that I know look amazing on me, but good God they are not fun to wear. They come out on date night and on occasions when I need to look like the hipster I’m patently not.

      I also have a couple of perfectly serviceable, blend-in-with-the-landscape jeans (see L.L. Bean boys’ section comments above). These are for everyday use. I’m much happier wearing these than I am in the high-end pairs.

      In my experience anything with a low rise, a “skinny” silhouette, elaborate pocket details, and many of the other hallmarks of “good” jeans just isn’t going to be that enjoyable to wear. They’re built for looks, not comfort.

    10. Blue_eyes*

      Try the brand Kut from the Kloth (they sell them at Nordstrom, not sure where else). I got my first pair last year and I really like them. I have a large waist size compared to my height and leg size and they are one of the only brands I’ve found that fit my waist while not being super baggy in the leg or way too long. They might work for you.

    11. LoFlo*

      I’ve had good luck with Lucky brand jeans. They are kind of spend-y but they hold their shape and fit short girls with curves.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Yes, I wear a 28″ inseam and Lucky’s short jeans fit me just about perfectly. Lucky has some good sales and their outlets are pretty good for jeans, too. They have very low or no spandex content in some of their jeans, so they keep their shape nicely and don’t wear out too quickly. Because they fit me so well, I’d rather buy one pair of $75 jeans than three pairs of $20 jeans that don’t fit me as well. Awesome stuff.

    12. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      I’ve had good luck with Loft curvy jeans … I have a short and defined waist, some butt, shorter legs (usually get an Short in Banana Republic or Loft if available). I have both the skinnies and the straight cut. I find the curvy jeans are more likely to stay where they are supposed to be without sliding down my hips and more likely to have a longer back rise (my Loft modern skinnies, by contrast, always have to be yanked up after the first two hours out of the wash). They are 2% spandex. My Nordstrom lady suggested Kut from the Kloth but they really slid down on me and stretched out, so if they don’t work for you, try Loft. I’ve also had decent luck with some Gap cuts. If you want premium jeans, try Paige Jeans — although I find them softer and stretchier than you may be looking for, and I find myself wearing my Loft jeans more often.

      1. Artemesia*

        Now that I don’t have the insanely skinny waist of my youth (skinny waist and wide hips are a nightmare to fit) I have found that Not Your Daughter’s Jeans are perfect. The rise is long enough that they sort of nip in (rather than muffin out) that little waist roll most old ladies have and they have a little bit of stretch which smooths things out. They are also not huge in the thighs which is a problem for me since while I have had wide hips I don’t have heavy thighs. It is one brand I can buy on line and virtually always have a perfect fit and they make cords as well as jeans in several colors. And they are good quality and wear forever. I wear them about 95% of the time now that I am retired — and when I was working I could wear black jeans or cords with a jacket and it was fine for the setting I was in. (they don’t have the ‘jean styling’ with grommets etc so they pass as slacks if they aren’t faded or worn. When I was working, I used procion dye to dye the black ones about once a year and could wear them for years before they wore out)

    13. littlemoose*

      If you try Gap’s jeans, the curvy fit (available in skinny and boot cut) may be what you want. The Long & Leans may also work for you. Both are online-only styles now but they have free shipping when you spend > $50 and free returns.

    14. Mimmy*

      Okay, I’m skimming through all the comments in this thread (and replied on a couple), and I am now convinced that pants shopping is the most frustrating activity in all of mankind, lol. All of the different sizes, lengths, cuts, etc etc etc just make my head spin. As I mentioned to Stephanie above, my mom is convinced that if the pant leg doesn’t cover the top of the foot, it’s too short, unless they’re capri pants. This goes for ALL types of pants, not just jeans. Is she right?

      I’m terrible with any sort of clothes shopping, which is why I tend to stick with simple pants and cotton shirts, much to some peoples’ chagrin. I just have a hard time knowing what clothing is supposed to look like on me. This is going to sound horrible, but I’ve never bothered looking at women’s magazines or asked any friends or family members to help me with this stuff. The stars of “What Not to Wear” would have a field day with me :)

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Here’s more than you wanted to know about pant lengths (link to follow to avoid moderation, I hope — if not, google “you look fab pant lengths”

      2. cuppa*

        I have reduced my pants collection to 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of work pants for this exact reason. Everything else is skirts. So much easier.

    15. Sunflower*

      I would recommend loft. I have short legs and a butt and they are the only (reasonable) priced jeans that fit my butt. I would also recommend jeans with some stretch in them. Jeans with no stretch are hard to pull off for anyone really. Seven and Buffalo are higher end jeans that I like

    16. Observer*

      LL Bean does good quality stuff, so I would expect their jeans to be good, too, if they fit. And they do have different cuts, so it might be worth looking at. I’d say the same for LandsEnd. The one advantage to LandsEnd is that I’ve found their size charts to be more useful, but they don’t have as good a selection as LLBean.

    17. Sidra*

      NYDJ works well for me, but I only own their “skinny” cut, so I can’t speak for bootleg, etc. I need a short front rise and longer back rise and find they work great.

    18. Lamington*

      I recomend nine west jeans, i was amazed how well they fit, considering how im between sizes at the moment. they have a bit spandex so they are not jeggings. i found a good pair at marshall’s.

    19. jean answer*

      I go to JC Penney’s and try to get their store brand, St. John’s Bay, or Levi’s. I am 5’10 and have a belly and muscular thighs. I also found that I can size up other women to see who else has my body type and if I like what they are wearing a great deal, I will try to ask them where they shop and what brand they are wearing. Most women are flattered to be told they look great and that you would like their advice on good brands. I discovered Chico’s this way. Also, they will be honest about what brands hold up in the wash and which ones do not (J.Jill frays and falls apart).

      1. skyline*

        I just bought my first pair of Eddie Bauer jeans (petite curvy fit), and I am totally in love with them. They don’t need hemming, and they don’t gap by two inches at my waist. Woo-hoo! (On a side note, it was definitely wise to order the petites online rather than settle for the short inseams in stores. The latter have longer rises, and when your problem is having a small waist relative to your hips, that usually means you end up with too much space fabric at the waist.

    20. soitgoes*

      You know how Old Navy’s jeans are always criticized for having an odd fit? That’s because they’re cut for small waists and big butts, especially the Sweetheart style. I’d recommend trying them on in a store to get your size and then ordering from the “petite” section online (the petites aren’t sold in stores). There are some really good discount codes floating around too.

    21. Burlington*

      I have similar jeans issues, and I super recommend checking out higher Juniors sizes. I have a short torso, so regular rise in women’s comes up to my belly button (or higher!) and digs into my tummy when I sit down. Super uncomfortable. I finally figured out the Junior’s size 17 jeans with low waist are totally perfect for me. It’s a somewhat hard size to find, but if you’re shopping online, it definitely can be done. My favorite brands are Angel, LEI, and Mossimo… all sell Size 17, and you can find a bunch others on Ebay! If you’re smaller or bigger than me, you can check out Sizes 15 or 19, or if you’re much smaller than me just check out the juniors sizes (odd numbers) near your women’s size.

    1. Tris Prior*

      *fistbump of solidarity* I too am done for the year and my last one was really good. Most years I’ve done shows every weekend right up until Christmas but this year I was pickier because a lot of them just weren’t that good (and a couple that were good were cancelled this year). I’m a little confused at all the weekend free time I have now, haha.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Our church had a bazaar yesterday, and I was on at 9:00 pm last night, so I could have posted something and been first, but I was too tired to think of anything at all. I was in charge of our baked potato bar (spud with lots of toppings, plus a beverage). I was jealous of the vendors who were sitting down, although I know you work hard too.

  9. Windchime*

    I finally finished weaving in all the ends and washing/drying both afghans that I knitted. One of them is soft and squishy and beautiful. The other one smells like a wet dog. It’s still slightly damp so I’m hoping it smells better when it’s dry. Maybe this is how wet wool smells? I hate the smell of wet dog so it was quite a shock to open the washer and be hit with that.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Yep, that’s just the wet wool smell. It will go away as it dries – but you may want to air out your house a bit. I usually hand wash wool to prevent accidental felting in the washer.

    2. CheeryO*

      I am in total awe of you for knitting two afghans. Can I ask how long it took, roughly? I’ve been working on a lap blanket on and off for a year, and even that has felt endless!

      1. Windchime*

        I got them both done in about a month, I think….maybe a little longer. I was motivated; I started the wool one in October and then only decided to do the acrylic one when the wool was finished. The acrylic one was super fast; it was done on big needles (13) and was straight garter stitch so it was basically brainless.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not as badly as I’d feared! Thursday night was pretty painful, but it’s been steadily getting better since then. And I’m starting to get some use back from the hand already. I’m actually typing this with both hands, although I can only do a little at a time.

      Lots of things take a lot longer when you only have one hand! And it’s hard to eat with my left hand. Earlier I was eating veggies and dip and somehow ended up with dip on my forehead.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s supposed to be a brain stimulating exercise to do things with your non-dominate hand. But I think the advocates of this meant for people to do this exercise by choice, not because they are forced to… sigh.

        May you continue to have a speedy recovery, Alison!

      2. Kay*

        Glad you’re doing (some) better! I am left handed and I don’t know how long you’ll be stuck eating that way, but I always keep in mind where I sit at a restaurant with a group so I don’t bump elbows with people.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          Also, as an ambidextrous feeder, I find I can shovel food into my mouth faster with two hands. This skill will come in handy down the road, I promise.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’m really glad I’m not the only person who does this. I’m a hot mess. I think I’m like 2-3 years from the point my husband has to Dustbust me regularly.

      3. Windchime*

        Hahah, I laughed out loud at the forehead dip. I’m glad that the worst of it seems to be over.

  10. Stephanie*

    So as regular commenters know, I’ve been out of work a while. And long-term unemployment’s resulted in a personal financial hit. I just started some part-time stopgap work and am trying to figure out how to best allot my paycheck. I’ve got some minor bills (like car insurance and gas, a tiny student loan payment). I live at home, so no housing expenses save for pitching in for groceries periodically.

    I’ve got a credit card I need to pay down (I had to rely on it a bit more after unemployment and my savings ran out… =/ ) and no savings. I’d like to chip away at the card and get something in savings (especially if I need to self-relocate). That being said, I don’t think I’ll be making enough (I don’t know my exact wage yet…which is a separate story) to aggressively pay down the card or aggressively save. Is it better to focus on one or the other?

    (APR on the card isn’t anything bad (and no annual fees and the payments are current) and interest on the savings account is small.)

    1. fposte*

      I’d say either card or split it. Sounds like the card operates as the emergency fund anyway, and you’re basically paying card interest on anything you put into cash as long as the credit card balance is there too.

      Sorry things are still tight. You’re due something better–fingers crossed for you.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Agreed. I’d pay down the card. It can be used for emergencies if you need to, but I’d put any extra to paying it off.

        CC debt sucks – I’m sorry!

    2. acmx*

      I think you should try for some savings. Even if you get a paid relocation, you’ll need probably need cash for turning on utilities, apartment fees and deposits.

      I’m glad you found stop-gap work.

    3. Dan*

      So I sorta kinda had this argument with my finance guy:
      Him: “You should put $200/mo into savings.”
      Me: “But my cc balance is like $20,000.”
      Him: “But what happens if/when you have an emergency, and you have nothing in the bank?”
      Me: “Fine, but for every $200/mo I don’t pay down my CC balance, I’ve got a bunch of money at 15% APR that I’m not paying down. It’s a zero-sum game here.”

      The short answer to your problem in your situation is that cash is king. If you were to default on your cc payments because you have no job, you’d still have the cash in the bank. If you’re carrying $10k at 15% APR (you say it’s not bad, so I assume it’s less than that), then your interest payments are about $1500/yr or $125/mo. You get into serious trouble when your minimum payments are $125/mo and the most you can swing is $150. You’ll never get out of debt that way. But if you’re paying $500/mo against a $125/mo minimum payment? Different story.

      1. BRR*

        Suze Orman agrees with your finance guy (not that I get all my finance advice from tv but I think she had a good point on this one). Credit card companies can cancel at any time and if you’re un/underemployed it might be hard to get a new one. So if an emergency pops up you don’t have the credit card to use and cash in the bank would be helpful then. Plus if you have 0 income you can use your savings to still hit your minimum payments as late fees are a huge part of your fico score.

    4. Nina*

      If you’re risking getting hit with late fees if you don’t pay the card, I would tackle that first. Otherwise, the balance will just increase and you’ll end up using your savings to pay it down.

      1. Stephanie*

        Oh, I’m definitely paying the card regardless. I have been the entire time. Just was asking to see if I should pay it down more aggressively since I have a (little) extra cash coming in.

        1. Nina*

          Glad to hear it. :)

          It depends on how much is owed on the card. If you’re paying the minimum and there’s a huge balance, for me, it would be worth it to pay off as much of the card as I could, especially if you’re doing temp work. Savings are definitely important, but I would rather have as much debt taken care of if possible.

    5. Revanche*

      I’d do both, carry on paying the card as you have been (assuming you were paying on time and maybe more than the minimum) and save the extra trickle of cash for a while so you have at least a small cushion in case of any emergency that can’t be put on the card. Then when you hit a comfortable minimum savings amount, split the extra between the card and cash savings to pay the one down and built the other up. It’s slow but when I was last in that position, having any amount of savings at all was a huge balm to my worrywart soul. It’s also a good way to remind yourself to think long term, not just short term.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with this. The idea is to eventually stop using the credit card so you can finish paying it off. And you can’t do that if you have no savings. It is a slow and painful process.
        One thing I have done here that helps a tiny bit, I take any unexpected monies and put them into the areas of concern. For example, let’s say I did not realize I would be getting so much back on taxes,that extra would go to my targeted concern. In your example, I would split the surprise money between my CC and my savings. I am not sure if this makes a significant for me, but I know I feel good about doing it.

      1. Stephanie*

        It was tempting, but I’m *so* close. I owe like $180 (my loan payments are less than $50/month).

        1. soitgoes*

          If your parents ask you what you want for Christmas/Hanukkah/winter present time, ask them to pay down the rest of that loan for you. It’s the sort of thing that my mom would be happy to “give” me.

    6. Csarndt*

      I’m a big fan of Suze Orman’s advice, and she would tell you to build your savings to 8 months of living expenses while paying a minimum on your card. The credit company can (and they have been) reducing your credit limit as you pay down your balance for people that are higher risk, like yourself. It’ll cost you more in the long run, but can save you short term by being able to cover smaller needs without payday loans and the like.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        This. You are currently in “financial crisis” and will be until you get full-time work. Cover your own ass first by getting a cushion built. Make minimum payments on the cc, and stop using it. You can worry about paying it down once you get your financial feet on the ground.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Seconded. I know that people will argue about how important it is to pay down the credit card, and yeah it’s true, but having a “cash cushion” will give you more options and flexibility. I’m no financial guru, but I know from experience that there is value in having cash available.

    7. C Average*

      Since it sounds like you have the ability to do a bit of both, I’d set a specific savings goal and work toward that and then, once you’ve achieved it, throw all your extra at the debt.

      (Giving credit where it’s due: This is a Dave Ramsey approach. The dude has some, uh, polarizing political ideas, but when I was in a low-paying job and struggling financially, I really benefited from his detailed, practical advice.)

      Say you want to have $1000 in the bank as an emergency fund. Keep paying the minimums on your cards and socking the rest in savings. When you hit that amount, stop putting money in savings and put everything toward the debt.

      This way you have an achievable goal to work toward, rather than an eternal slog toward something undefined.

    8. LoFlo*

      Can you transfer you credit card balance to new card with zero APR on balance transfers? Then do not charge anything until you have the card paid off. Put as much as you can into savings.

    9. Girasol*

      Consider the interest. You’re probably looking at 15 percent or so on credit and maybe 2 if you’re lucky with savings if you;re using a bank. If your loss to credit is bigger than your gain on saving, pay down the debt that’s a big leak in your financial bucket. There are easy to use financial calculators online that will calculate interest gain in saving and interest lost to debt, so you don’t have to guess to see the difference. You can model what it would look like if you did this or that with your available cash and feel more confident in your decision.

      Best financial advice ever: My dad told me “Subscribe to Morningstar. NOW!” when I was 30 or so. Subscribe to what, at $90 a year? How can that help my savings? But I did it. Now I’m looking at a safe retirement not from magic investment advice but from the simple financial basics that I learned from it: me, the financially clueless. If you can save anything, read Morningstar. Now you can get a lot of their info free online.

    10. Trixie*

      I feel your quandary. A lot depends on your CCbalance, and anticipated wages. Ultimately, I myself would lean towards 75% cc with the remainder in savings just to get rid of the darn balance. Plus part of the benefit for me of living with family is to have that cushion to pay off debt/pad savings/name your challenge here. For those looking at balance transfers for lower APR, make sure the balance transfer fee doesn’t negate whatever you’re saving. I’ve paid off personal debt twice and been ecstatic each time. This next time will be my biggest challenge yet but I know can do it.

    11. Treena Kravm*

      If I were you, I would aggressively save until I hit $1-3k in savings. Try to estimate how much cash you’ll need if you were to self-relocate for a job. Up to 3 month’s rent, any other moving expenses that can’t go on a card (tips for movers, utility fees etc). That’s how much you should try to get in the bank asap, otherwise you won’t be able to move for a job you do get! After that goal is met, I would split between the cc and the savings. You can always take the savings and make a big cc payment, but you can’t do the reverse.

  11. LAMM*

    Thank you to everyone who gave potluck ideas a couple of weeks ago! I was able to throw a few things together Wednesday before Thanksgiving, combined with a bunch of store bought snacks. It was a pain (and a lot of time/effort without extra compensation unfortunately) but the excitement and gratefulness of everyone when they saw all the food prepared for them made it worthwhile. Plus I have enough left over to bring in extra treats (store-bought) this week and next.

    Now the challenge is to get through the holidays in one piece!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Finally, I catch a post by you on not-a-work-thread, so I can say:

      Im gunna sing The Doom Song now! Doom doom doom doom doom, doom doom do DOOM, DOOOM doom do-doom, DOOM do-doom doom doooom, doom doom dooom, do-do-DOOOM! (6 months later) Doom doom doo doom doom, DOOMY-DOOMY-DOOM, doom do do DOOM, Do do DOOM, doomy-doomy-doomy, Doom doom doom

      (Invader Zim is my favorite cartoon ever. I bought the fancy box sets of it years back.)

  12. Is This Legal*

    What’s the best Western Movies you’ve seen?
    Personally I like the Legends of the Fall.

    1. Sail On, Sailor*

      My husband is a big fan of western movies, and his favorite one is “Shane.” He also likes “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “The Searchers.”

    2. Stephanie*

      Timely–I need to watch The Unforgiven and get it back to the library. Thanks for the reminder! :)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is going to sound really stupid, but I like Flaming Star a lot. Yes, with Elvis. I’m not typically a fan of Westerns. Also, there’s an old scary one called The Stalking Moon. It’s more psycho thriller in a Western setting.

      The remake of True Grit was also fabulous. Hollywood almost never gets remakes right but this one was terrific.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      _The Outlaw Josie Wales_
      _High Plains Drifter_
      _True Grit_ (with John Wayne) (I didn’t know there was a remake! It might be good, but I saw it with JW way back when, and that’s always going to be my #1)

      1. C Average*

        I am in the wrong generation, the wrong part of the country, and the wrong sociopolitical demographic for John Wayne, but man do I have a soft spot for him. When one of his movies is on TV, I cannot surf past it.

        I generally walk the same route to work every day, through several quiet neighborhoods. The people in one of the houses on my route have a life-size cardboard cutout of John Wayne that they put out on the porch when the weather is good. I SO want an excuse to get to know these people.

      2. Elsajeni*

        If you like to read Westerns — actually, even if you don’t, check out the novel True Grit. It’s solidly in the running for Best Book I’ve Ever Read. (For those who have seen one or both versions of the movie, the John Wayne one is based loosely on the book; the recent remake follows it much more closely.)

    5. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      High Noon. Both True Grit movies. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. All the Clint Eastwood westerns. Blazing Saddles.

      Did you know that John Wayne hated High Noon? He thought it was deeply unAmerican.

        1. Windchime*

          Yes, thank you. I was trying to remember the name of this and was headed off to Google when I saw your post. Great movie.

    6. Forrest Rhodes*

      If you’re in John Wayne mode, try these:
      Stagecoach (1939, I think): Wayne’s first really big role; it’s a classic, and so are the Monument Valley locations.
      Red River (DK the year, maybe early ’50s?): Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, John Ireland, a semi-historical look at one of the first big cattle drives north from Texas. The final two or three minutes are not all that satisfying, but the rest of the film’s great.
      Added thought: The John Ford/John Wayne trilogo: Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and I forget the title of the third.

    7. Trixie*

      While not a movie, I love AMC’s Hell on Wheels. Great period piece. And Longmire is kind of a modern day Western-feel to it.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          Deadwood is what I imagine the the real west was like. It is so, so good — but the first time I watched it, it took me the whole episode to get used to the level of swearing. And I’m a swearer myself. I do love the word “hoopleheads ” and use it all the time with the appropriate qualifiers depending on the company.

          1. Sophia*

            Yes, so so good but also so difficult to understand at first! Similarly – while not at all a Western, it is set during the Dustbowl era – Carnivale is a great show

    8. Chuchundra*

      This is a topic about which I have strong opinions.

      Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
      – Robert Redford. Paul Newman. Enough said.

      Harry Tracy, Desperado
      -Bruce Dern plays the last surviving member of The Wild Bunch as the 19th century comes to a close.

      True Grit (2010)
      – I love John Wayne, but this is by far the better version. Jeff Bridges is awesome and Roger Deakins cinematography is amazing.

      The Shootist
      – John Wayne’s last movie. A dying gunfighter has to decide how he wants to go out.

      She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
      -Classic John Wayne/John Ford

      I could go on like this for a long long time.

    9. Is This Legal*

      Come to think of it I haven’t watched Broke Back Mountain, some say it’s a good movie some say it’s uncomfortable, what do you think?

      1. Windchime*

        I love Brokeback Mountain. It’s a western and love story, all wrapped up into one. There is one scene that some people find uncomfortable, but that’s it. I cry every time I watch that movie because it’s basically a story of star-crossed lovers.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        That movie made me cry my eyes out. I own it, but I couldn’t watch it again after Heath Ledger died. I may be able to now, though; it’s definitely one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

      3. Nina*

        I think it’s an amazing film, and genuinely worth the hype it received. But even thought it’s about cowboys, I really don’t consider it to be a western. I always think of westerns as being more action oriented.

    10. soitgoes*

      I suppose it’s not technically a Western, but I really liked the Hatfields and McCoys miniseries that aired on the history channel a year or two ago. It was interesting to see an American period piece go full-on wackadoo…a fun contrast to the Downton hype and whatnot.

    11. ThursdaysGeek*

      Rustler’s Rhapsody. It’s a western and a comedy and the horse can do some excellent dressage. It’s my favorite, and it’s probably time to watch it again.

  13. fposte*

    Week 2 of surgical recovery suuuuucked–suddenly the nerve got massively annoyed and everything got worse. Which happens, and steroids are settling it down again, but I’m going to file for intermittent FMLA when I go back Monday so I can work short days for a while. Bah. I am annoyed to be reminded this is not under my control.

    1. Schmitt*

      Happened to me too – I was in the hospital for a week and everything was fiiiiine, came home, the week after that BAM. Maybe it just took that long for the good hospital painkillers to wear off.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ugh, I am sorry. Please try to focus on the options that are under your control (like FMLA, and getting work done) and let your recovery happen as it will (with your doc’s help, of course).

    3. C Average*

      I’m sorry! This sounds difficult. I hope you have good meds, a good PT, a helpful support system at home, and an understanding employer.

    4. fposte*

      Thanks, all. I think Schmitt is right about stuff just setting in. Now it’s time for it to set out again!

    5. Jamie*

      Just saw this – wishing you a speedy recovery. It’s nice that we don’t have to worry that you’ll get snookered on FMLA since you know more about it than anyone I know. :)

      And imo everything should be controllable so I totally get the angst.

  14. Anx*

    Does anyone have any recommendations on writing style guides that cover grammar with a focus on modern writing for internet communication? Most of mine are for academic writing or outdated business communications and I was thinking about freshening up my writing.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      I’m not sure if these are quite what you have in mind, but Eric Raymond wrote some stuff many years ago that is surprisingly relevant today:

      If you can look past the “hacker” affectation, it’s a surprisingly good ‘cultural guide’. The first link also has some grammar conventions that are at odds with Strunk & White – the “British” or “Logical” style of punctuation is very popular on the ‘net. Bonus, here’s an article from Slate:

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ooh that logical punctuation thing is really good; thanks for that. I have to remember that because I’m writing the POV of the British character in Secret Book all in UK English. I forgot about the punctuation–spellcheck didn’t catch that! It also explains really well why it makes more sense.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Heh. I’m sure it can all be traced back to a plot by Alan Turing to re-take the USA, starting with its grammar.

          (But seriously, if you’re a programmer, there are some grammar rules that make you “WTF?”)

    2. Liane*

      Chicago Manual of Style has a very large section on this. (I haven’t read it through–of course–but did skim it pretty well.) I would be surprised if the other big style manuals, like MLA Handbook, don’t cover this as well.

    3. bridget*

      Not exactly a “style guide” like MLA or Chicago, but I recently read Steven Pinker’s new book The Sense of Style, and highly recommend it. He focuses on a clear, readable, and interesting style that I think can be useful for any kind of writing.

      1. Anx*

        Oh I’m glad to see this!

        I saw that at my library and just didn’t know what to make of it (it always wasn’t actually available on the shelf).

        Do you think it would work for someone who isn’t really into grammar or English or writing, but also is concerned about appearing professional and learning to write a bit better?

  15. Revanche*

    I just realized that in the concession to my being incredibly gravid by Christmas, family traveling to see us instead of meeting in some mutually agreed upon destination, means I’ll have to host a big Christmas dinner. Their natural alternative is dining out at a ridiculously expensive restaurant and I’m not prepared to shell out for that when we’re staring down the barrel of New Mouth to Feed. Well crap. Not sure I win this round.
    Time to menu plan for a crowd – easy recipe suggestions are most welcome!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      We do buffet/small plates and I came upon hot roast beef sandwiches last year as a big hit. High quality roast beef from the good deli counter + beef au jus from the soup/stock section of the store in a crock pot. Very good fresh rolls, horseradish.

      Such a hit I’m doing it again this year although thinking about roasting a roast for it (which defeats the purpose of why I did that in first place.)

      With a few vegetable sides plus some apps like good cheese and cracker spread + either a shrimp or sushi tray, that makes a nice Christmas without much work. I love to cook but not on Christmas. Too much else to do.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Oh and P.S., although I would usually not assign work or meal parts to people coming to my house, Incredibly Gravid women should. Even if you employ my “I didn’t really cook a thing” strategy, it’s still expense and work to assemble. I still spend half a day and a couple hundred bucks my way.

      Hopefully you will get offers of help that you take up.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Totally agree with assigning the guests to cook in this case. I can’t imagine going to a really pregnant person’s house for a big holiday meal and expecting them to cook the dinner. You should be sitting around drinking non-alcoholic sparkling cider and eating Christmas cookies while ordering everyone around.

      2. Revanche*

        If there are actual offers of help I can rely on, I’m totally taking them. The problem with this particular crowd is while the offers may be verbalized, most won’t be reliable and they don’t see any big deal in taking forever to complete said offers to bring or make or pick up and if I’m not eating before 10 pm, it may be their heads you next find me chewing on like an angry Dreadnoughtus.
        I love the small plates idea! I bet there’s some kind of crock potty version of roast something that’ll be easy and take about 15 minutes to throw together. I last did a pulled pork like that.

        1. HMV*

          I know I’m super late and no one will probably read this, but I make a yummy roast in the crockpot. Just throw your roast in, sprinkle a packet of Italian dressing and a packet of au jus, a couple cans of beef broth and cook it for (I think) 8 hours on low. Basically I just cook it until it falls apart.

    3. CG*

      What about some sort of Mexican meal? Make some beans/chicken, put out other ingredients for fajitas, and let people make their fajitas with what they want. Not a super Christmasy meal, but super yummy!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Tacos are one of our standard Christmas meals! Everyone can choose what they like and it’s easy and low stress. For many years, we’d have Tacos and Socks, friends and kids would come over, the kids got filled socks and we all ate tacos.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      Could you reduce some of the work by buying deli platters and/or pre-made sides and/or desserts from your local grocery? It would still be way cheaper than eating at a fancy restaurant, and it would reduce your hosting stress a lot.

      1. Liane*

        There are some grocery chains that do whole holiday meals. I would check into that. Entree choices might be limited to ham or turkey. Most groceries in my area also offer *Big* frozen lasagnas (also a couple other entrees in similar size like chicken enchiladas). Make sure someone else gets those in & out of the oven though.
        Yes, buy the desserts, you can get very good pies, especially, from grocery bakeries or frozen foods section, and there are restaurants that sell pies.

        If any of my or others’ suggestions don’t work for your Big Holiday Meal, keep them in mind for other meals during the holiday, if people will be at your more than just the day.

        **And don’t forget to assign people to clean up, doing that is even worse stress than making the meal IMO.**

        And above all, congratulations on the soon to arrive little one!

        1. Revanche*

          Thanks, Liane! I am tempted to do paper plates but failing that, we are totally using the dishwasher for post-dinner washing up! (I know it’s a weird thing to “commit” to but we’re Asian. It horrifies the family when we use the machine for its actual purpose.)

          We’ll definitely have people around for more than one day, so picking up premade for the other days is likely a good way to go.

          1. Vancouver Reader*

            Oh my gosh, I thought it was just our family that didn’t use the dishwasher for what it was invented for, I didn’t realize it was common asian practice.

            Are there some dishes you can make ahead of time? I’ve got a lasagne in the freezer for that just in case I don’t have time to cook day, and I know there are make ahead mashed potatoes that can be done the day before. Sites like Bon Appetit I think, have entire menus which lay out how many days ahead you can make certain dishes. That might be helpful if you don’t think the relatives are reliable.

            1. Revanche*

              Here, from my anecdotal experience, it’s an ingrained Asian thing, definitely. Right up there with taking your shoes off when you come inside the house. Welcome aboard the “We’re WEIRD, but you’re not alone” train ;)

              More and more, this premade lasagna thing sounds good. Maybe we’ll just have to go for an eclectic spread of whatever main dishes can be premade/prebought and just reheated for serving!

    5. C Average*

      If they’re not vegetarians, you can’t go too far wrong with a pot roast or a similar variation on the Big Slab O’ Meat You Throw In The Crock Pot And Forget About theme. Pair that with a couple of veggie sides, a nice assortment of finger-food, and something home-baked (or home-baked-appearing if you squint at it just right) for dessert, and you’re good to go.

    6. Mister Pickle*

      Definitely use this as an opportunity to practice your delegation skills.

      A nice ham can be a great main course.

      I like CG’s idea of a Mexican spread, especially if you’ve got some space to lay stuff out: you could grill fajitas, and / or make pork carnitas or carne guisada in a slow-cooker, corn and wheat tortillas, misc cheeses, tomatoes, peppers, guacamole. There’s a nice ‘cornucopia’ effect in that there’s a lot of food, and a lot of different varieties of food.

      1. Windchime*

        Several times, my family has ordered big things of pre-cooked lasagna and spaghetti from Olive Garden. Someone has to run out and pick them up, but then you can just throw them in the oven and re-heat. Delegate the salad making to others. As others have said, you should be relaxing with your feet up at this point of your pregnancy.

      2. Revanche*

        I’ve been hankering after a big ham … It may be worth it to shell out for a big precooked spiral-cut so that I don’t have to worry about doing it right! A ham plus a roasty thing could go well with a small plates/assemble your own sandwiches themes.

    7. Artemesia*

      Big spiral cut ham (there are varieties that are not as expensive and just as good as the ones from the specialty store of hams) Big green salad assembled from pre bagged greens with some stuff like dried cranberries and nuts and seeds thrown on top (watch for nut allergies of course.) Mashed potatoes are dead easy to make — delegate the mashing — teen nephews may love doing it. Buy dinner rolls. Buy crudite tray for appetizers. Cheese and crackers and grapes for appetizers during cocktail hour.

      Brocoli dish. Steam as many brocoli florets as you need, toss in olive oil and dijon mustard misture (about 2 to one oil to mustard). It is easy and seems a bit fancy and doesn’t involve mushroom soup and onion rings ruining a vegetarble. Delegate someone to prep the brocoli florets.

      Buy desserts — cookies and pies or pies and ice cream.

      Delegate, table setting, potato mashing, etc etc.

      Merry Christmas

    8. EduNerd*

      If you do buy ingredients rather than premade food, you can decrease some of the expense through coupons. I use sites like – it has a getting started guide and a coupon database, and you can invest as much or as little time looking for deals as you want.

      1. Revanche*

        @Artemisia: Thanks for the broccoli prep – that sounds imminently doable!
        @cuppa: It sure sounds good to me, anyway.
        @EduNerd: We don’t get a lot of coupons for the non-brand stuff we buy but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for where coupons + brands make sense. Thanks for the link!

  16. en pointe*

    How honest should you be when you’re breaking up with someone and the reason isn’t particularly kind? I’ve decided to break up with my boyfriend, who is not going to see it coming. The reason, to put it bluntly, is that I’m bored. His primary interests are surfing, footy and getting high, which wouldn’t be a problem in isolation, but he’s just not much of a conversationalist either. He’s a good guy, but I’ve honestly just become bored. I’ve met so many guys recently with whom I’ve had amazing conversations, and it made me kind of sad that we don’t have that.

    I don’t know how honest to be in this situation. I don’t want to lie to him, and I owe him more than vagueness, but I’m worried the truth is a little harsh. I would really appreciate any advice please!

    1. en pointe*

      Also, I’m sorry – I feel like I come running to this forum every time I have a problem, but you all are way more sensible than anyone else I have access to, so thank you again, in advance!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        That was a big part of why I broke up with my last boyfriend – I was bored because we never seemed to do anything, he wasn’t a big traveller or big with the motivation and I couldn’t see myself getting my shit together while I was with him. I just said something along the lines of ‘we want different things’ (which was true). Good luck with it – it’s difficult but it sounds as if you’re doing it for a good reason.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You two do not share the same interests or goals. Nothing to be a shamed of here, at all. This happens with friendships, family members, coworkers- sometimes we figure out that we just don’t have that much in common. Just tell him that you were hoping there would be more shared interests/hobbies/etc. Tell him he’s a nice guy and you wish him nothing but the best.

      [Picture him telling you that he finds your quilt shows, book club and hang gliding group boring. It’s not really a slam against you. He is just not interested. Likewise for yourself now, you are not interested in the stuff that interests him. It’s better to have someone whose interests are similar to yours.]

    3. Minerva*

      Captain Awkward’s blog gives great advice for breaking up! And her stance is that in cases like this, being honest about the reason doesn’t really help anybody and that if you want to give an explanation, the best/kindest thing to do is to focus on your own feelings. “My feelings towards you have changed” – which is true, right? It’s perfectly valid that you’re bored by your boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean he objectively is boring – you’re just not right for each other, and I think it’s best to focus on that.

      1. The IT Manager*

        It seems kinder to me to tell him that you want someone with more common interests than the vague feelings have changed. But I admit the concern of giving feedback to job interviewees applies here. Will he try to talk you out of your decision? Do you want to have that conversation. For me to get to breakup point would mean that I am decided. I think before I speak and I’d put off the painful breakup talk for as long as possible.

        That said I don’t know that the problem is “he’s boring” rather it’s the fact that you lack common interests.

        1. en pointe*

          It’s not so much that we lack common interests, but that the ones I listed are his ONLY interests. I think that I place more value on good conversation then I used to, so it’s sort of developed into a problem. Hmm, so I guess that does come back to lacking common interests, in a way.

          Thanks for your thoughts.

    4. Felicia*

      In my opinion you don’t need to give a reason, and if you want to give one, “my feelings towards you have changed” and/or “we want different things” is accurate and enough. Whatever you say he’ll be hurt so it’s something tat you need to accept.

      1. en pointe*

        Yeah, you’re right. I guess I’ve been trying to find the magic thing to say that won’t hurt him, but I think I need to accept that it probably doesn’t exist and the suggestions here are probably the best thing I can do.

    5. C Average*

      If you told him the truth, do you think he would try to change? If he did try to change, would you be open to giving him another chance? Do you think these aspects of him would prevent him from successfully being in ANY relationship, or just this one?

      If you think he’d try to change to please you, I wouldn’t tell him. When someone breaks up with you and you know it’s because of something you can change, the inclination is to say, “But–but I can be interesting! I will be interesting! Give me another chance.”

      And, in my experience, these efforts seem pathetic and off-putting to the breaker-upper, rather than making her want to stay together after all.

      I do think it can be a kindness to clue someone in if he has fixable issues that will prevent him from ever finding love. If he needs to shower more often, if he dresses badly, if he interrupts people or mooches off his friends or needs a haircut, these are general problems worth mentioning. But if he’s just wrong FOR YOU, I don’t see anything helpful about cataloguing the ways he’s wrong for you.

      I don’t think you owe him more than vagueness. As much as people hate “we’ve grown apart,” “I need a change,” “it’s not you, it’s me,” etc., these phrases exist to save us from the truth. They’re the equivalent of workplace phrases like “I’m ready for a new challenge,” “it’s time for a change,” and other euphemisms for “I hate my job and want a different one instead.”

      1. en pointe*

        That is one of my concerns, in addition to hurting him, that he may try to argue. But I guess what I wasn’t thinking was that telling him the reasons would make him MORE likely to argue/ offer to change. I was thinking that being honest with him would be the kind thing, but as you said, cataloguing what’s wrong with someone (wrong for me, not inherently wrong) isn’t exactly a kindness. Thanks for your thoughts.

    6. Is This Legal*

      You don’t need to give a reason, as a man you have to learn to read between the lines. I learned this in high school.

        1. Is This Legal*

          As in she doesn’t need to give a reason, he should understand if she just says “lets go our separate ways.” Well unless she fears he might be a psycho.

    7. Mister Pickle*

      In this situation, the truth doesn’t sound all that harsh. I suspect the difficult part will be keeping your resolve: you’ve made up your mind, it’s over.

      It’s been many years since I’ve dealt with this kind of thing, but I recall that the ‘best’ break-ups tended to be a ‘break-up incident’ followed by random surprise late-night booty calls over the course of the next year.

    8. fposte*

      Strongly disagree on owing anybody a reason here. You owe him kindness and respectful treatment. Those are almost completely incompatible with statements about what you don’t like about him anymore anyway. I agree with phrasing offered above and the suggestion to check out Captain Awkward, but basically you’re going for “I’m sorry, it’s not working for me any more, and it’s over.”

    9. Sunflower*

      I’ve been here before and it’s really tough. It’s much easier to break up when your boyfriend is just a jerk. I would be focus on your own feelings and emotions since, well, that’s really the issue. There are some people out there who might think your bf’s interests are great. Unfortunately, that person is not you and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don’t think you owe him an explanation beyond ‘We want different things’. It’s the truth and in the same way you don’t want him to change for you, I doubt he wants you to change for him either. however, getting broken up with sucks regardless of the reason so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t react well.

      Be nice but firm. If he tries to talk you out of it just repeat ‘We want different things, this isn’t going to work out’ Ultimately you both deserve to be with someone who makes you happy and who is happy with you. I’ve found when one person isn’t happy, the other usually picks up on it and, by default, also becomes unhappy.

      1. en pointe*

        Thank you for this. You made me realise that I’ve been framing this as being about him, which isn’t even really all that fair. It really is about me and my feelings, and focusing on him is just going to be more likely to hurt him.

    10. Victoria, Please*

      Sorry about this, it is hard. 1) The sooner the better, straight up no chaser “We’re not right for each other and I would like to explore other activities and relationships.” 2) If it’s over, it’s OVER. Do not reach back out to him; if he reaches out to you be polite and nice but not available. 3) Be more careful next time, do not get involved unless you can see it being serious.

      Words I wish someone had said to me before I really crushed a couple of people who didn’t deserve it, back in the day. :-(

      Oh, and: If you want someone to commit, and he or she is hemming and hawing — 6 months, no more, then end it. There’s a big difference between “Let’s get married after I finish medical school 3 years from now,” and “Well, maybe we can think about it but I’m not sure, how about we talk about it again after medical school.” If you don’t know your mind after 6 months in a serious relationship…you know your mind, you’re just not willing to pony up and say it.

    11. Sidra*

      Maybe something like you’re looking for someone you have an emotional/mental connection with as well as physical.

      Honestly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation when you break up, but you could say something generic like, “I think we’ve just grown into different people with different goals.”

    12. Artemesia*

      I think it is a huge mistake to give reasons for breaking up. Reasons imply that if only he could change in some way you would want him back. But you don’t. The fact is that no one really breaks up for ‘reasons’ (well unless the reasons involve assault or other major issues like that); people break up for the perfectly good ‘reason’ that they don’t want to be with that person anymore. There is no terribly kind way to say ‘I don’t want to be with you.’

      I think the only things to be said in your circumstance are: “This just isn’t working for me any more; I don’t think we are a good fit for each other in the long term, so we need to go our separate ways.” No more reasons — not ‘you are boring’ or ‘I feel so alone when I am with you.” (that last one was mine) You can add ‘it is me not you’ — but really that is always the truth. The only reason you need to break up with someone is ‘I want to.’ And no explanation besides a gentle version of that will do anything but be painful and raise false hopes. It isn’t working for either of you and it is over. Nothing more detailed needs to be or should be said.

    13. catsAreCool*

      I’d probably just tell him that the relationship isn’t working for me.

      The way I figure it, if a guy is doing something that is annoying and will probably annoy other girlfriends of his, but it’s not a red flag, it might be a good thing to tell him.

      If a guy is doing something that’s a red flag (like flirting with the waitress in front of you, and then it turns out he has a wandering eye in general), it might be better not to tell him because then he’ll know to hide that flag.

      If a guy is doing something that annoys you but that other women might like, then I wouldn’t tell him.

    14. en pointe*

      Thank you to everyone who replied! I really appreciated hearing your thoughts, particularly the common theme that telling someone every reason why they’re wrong for you isn’t the kindness I had it in my mind as. It seems so obvious when I write it like that, but it really wasn’t obvious to me the way I was framing it before. Thank you!

  17. nep*

    For those of you who are single with no children — how much have you got in savings? How much do you shoot for keeping in that rainy-day fund?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Not much currently – I’ve taken not one but 2 holidays this year and both included stays in Europe. I try to save the equivalent of $200 a month (I’m in the UK) but that doesn’t always work out depending on various factors. My rainy day fund would cover a short burst of rain rather than a rainy season.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think the rule of thumb is 6-9 months of pay? But this assumes you are able to pay all your bills at your current rate of pay.

    3. Sourire*

      In terms of the actual “emergency fund” don’t touch this ever unless in cases of job loss or other catastrophe account, 6 months living expenses (mortgage, car payment/insurance, utilities and food). I hope to add more to this soon but buying the house a year ago and all the stuff that goes with it (particularly it being by first house) depleted a lot of my savings. Discretionary savings for stuff like vacations, shopping is actually about equal to my emergency fund right now but will be less soon as I have quite a few projects I want to do around the house and am taking a vacation in January. The actual vacation is paid off, but not the expenses I will encounter during the trip, which somehow always seem to be almost as much as the cruise fare/flights!

      I have money taken out of my paycheck automatically and put into the discretionary savings which I think is probably the best/easiest way to save if you can swing it. You never see the money so you don’t miss it and you get used to your paycheck just being a certain amount/living within those means.

      1. Sourire*

        *Note – I have a very steady, unionized job and am not likely to lose it, or if I was the writing would be on the wall for a VERY long time and I would have a chance to prepare. I would probably aim for more in the true emergency fund if I didn’t feel I had so much job security. I also work a job where I can pick up overtime pretty much whenever I like, so that helps me feel more financially secure as well.

        1. SherryD*

          Not directed at you, Sourire, but a reminder to everyone that even people with very secure jobs could end up needing an emergency fund. What if your union goes on strike or gets locked out for an extended period? What if you get sick/injured and can’t work? What if you’re healthy, but you want to take time away from work to care for an ill relative? I’m not trying to fearmonger — just a reminder that s–t can happen to anyone! Emergency funds FTW.

      2. Girasol*

        When I was laid off the average time out of work for the unemployed was over six months, and of course, “average” means that half the unemployed workers waited longer yet. I was lucky enough to come in under six months but many of my layoff-mates – really good people – waited a year. What got me employed was finally, after all the “OMG, I’m laid off in a downturn! What do I do now??” panic, settling down and interviewing calmly like somebody who’s worth hiring instead of someone desperate to do anything to get next month’s rent paid. How much you need saved is enough to pay bills, buy groceries, get interview clothes, repair a car, and be confident enough in your financial situation to interview as though you could afford to take the job or leave it. I learned that my confidence needs a year’s worth at least. How about yours?

    4. sprinkles!*

      Around $10,000. I had more but unexpectedly had to purchase a new vehicle this year. Next year I’m really going to buckle down though because I’m saving for a down payment on a house.

    5. matcha123*

      I have no money in savings.
      It makes me really anxious, sad, scared and more. Since living in Japan, I’ve heard that keeping the equivalent of your age in savings (ie, 1 year = 1,000$).

      I’ve been paying off my loan and helping my family stay afloat for the past 8 years…and my salary has fallen since I’ve come to Japan. I just don’t want to think about anything :(

    6. esra*

      I’m aiming for 6k in emergency savings (which would keep me going for about three months), the rest is going into saving for a house down payment.

      People say like, 6 months, but that feels impossible.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        I’ve got three months worth of funding in my emergency account. I’m slowly putting aside for 6, and it’s difficult. This year, I experienced a job loss and the need to buy a vehicle. The concept of 9 months of savings is mind boggling.

    7. LoFlo*

      We are DINKS in our mid 50’s. Let’s just say that if we wanted to walk away from our corporate jobs and have a jobs with no benefits or freelance, we could and still have our retirement paid for. We can’t afford to quit working just yet, but we can afford to be very choosy about what we want to do for work until we retire.

      1. Sidra*

        My husband and I (also DINKS, age 28) want to be you when we’re older :)

        Any tips for how you got there? Both our careers are on track, but we really struggle with whether or not we should save, or splurge on enjoying life, or what a happy medium looks like. I feel like I’ll regret it if I wait to travel (I haven’t traveled much yet) or if I skimp on things, but I know I need to budget better if I want to meet my goals. Both our parents are terrible examples or I’d ask them too!

        1. fposte*

          Google William Bernstein If You Can. It’s a 99 cent Kindle pamphlet (12 pages long, so it’s really doable) that’s often available free on Bernstein’s own website, and it’s a great place to start without getting overwhelmed. He’s part of the Boglehead community, which has one of the best, most helpful, least biased finance resources on the net in its extensive free wiki.

          This is too big a topic for just a quick answer, but that’s where I’d start. It’s a fabulous and trustworthy overview to begin thinking about what you need to consider–and avoid.

        2. AKB*

          Look at Mr. Money Moustache’s blog. It might be on the extreme side, but definitely has some interesting ideas.

        3. Mister Pickle*

          I’m not sure there’s an acronym for my family: Mostly Single Income but Sometimes Dual Income w Two Kids. My wife and I are both mid-50s and even with both kids in college, we could “retire” today – it wouldn’t be very efficient, though.

          If there’s a “trick” to it it’s really two things:

          1. Get that 401k up and running as soon as possible with a maximum contribution, and
          2. Try to live a lifestyle that is somewhat less than you might be able to afford. Ie, do you really _need_ that diamond pinky ring?

          I don’t mean live like monks, just: spend money wisely, look for value, don’t “keep up with the Joneses”. If you end the month with “spare” money, move it into savings.

          If there’s one thing I wish I’d done better, it would be upgrading our house every so often. Then again, people sometimes get burned playing that game, so maybe it’s all for the best.

    8. fposte*

      When I was younger, I shot for 3 months’ living expenses. Now that I’m older and have built things up, I actually keep less money in savings because I have more places to grab it from at short notice if need be.

    9. Sunflower*

      I am 26 and i lived at home for 2 years out of college and saved a lot. I saved about 9 grand and since moving out a year ago, I dipped into the savings and spend 1 grand of it. I barely make enough money to pay my bills so I think I did pretty good in the past year only spending that much. I feel comfortable with that saved up- however I don’t have a 401k or anything for my real future. I am focused on finding a new job that affords me real savings but I think it depends on your lifestyle. I’ve gotten pretty used to only eating out once in a blue moon, living in a small apartment and not spending much on clothes. I feel okay with my savings but ultimately, I’d like to keep my savings as my savings for an emergency fund and put a couple thousand in my bank account to have just in case. and of course, start a 401k ASAP

    10. Sidra*

      I have $3-6K in savings at any given time, much less than I should given my age (28) and household income, but I have a lot of student debt and am renovating my house. I also am trying to prioritize my health and enjoyment of life since I haven’t at ALL in the past, so I spend a lot on food/gym/travel.

      I would like to start contributing to retirement savings to the tune of $300/mo and get at least $30k in cash savings, but it’s gonna be a long road.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think this varies wildly by age. In your 20s, you might not have a ton in savings. Hopefully by your 40s and up, you have significantly more, and certainly near retirement, you’d be screwed if you had an amount that was perfectly reasonable at 25. So I’m not sure that just the # helps here — you need to put it in context with life stage.

      1. fposte*

        Though I do think that if you’ve been able to put money away “savings” means different things when you’re older–you might be relying on the ability to withdraw your Roth contributions or cash in I Bonds or something rather than tying up a larger amount of money in an actual savings account.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Very true. When I was in my early 20s, I celebrated having $1000 in savings by splurging and buying a Sony discman (which tells you that I am no longer anywhere near 20).

        I define ‘an emergency’ as not having money in savings for when life happens. Car breaks down? Need glasses?Big bill due? If you have savings those are no big deal — if you don’t, those can be emergencies.

    12. soitgoes*

      I keep a base of $1,000 in there at all times. Whenever I get it up to $2,000, I put the extra 1k toward my student loans.

    13. skyline*

      Mid-30s, here. I have about 80% of my annual salary in cash savings. That includes a dedicated emergency fund, as well as long-term savings for goals like future downpayments and next car and as short-term savings for things like vacations. It doesn’t include my retirement savings, some of which I could access in a true emergency, though I sincerely hope it never comes to that.

      I got pink slips (later retracted; oh, the joys of working for public agencies) two years in a row during the recession. More than anything, that experience made me serious about saving. It took time, and I’ve been lucky enough to have steady employment despite a couple scares, but it can be done. I had very little saved up when the recession hit, as I had just finished up grad school at the time.

    14. HR Manager*

      I am an avid saver because I’m a financial control freak. Starting worklife in a financial services company that sold 401k plans also helped, because our message of save early for retirement was imbedded in our business. It’s dipped a bit, spending on a big renovation on my house, and taking time to travel and enjoy myself, after opting for a package with a re-org’ing company. Well worth the dip in my savings to relax and enjoy, and I’m grateful to be able to do that while I am can still get around.

      If I really had to tough it out with no income now, I can probably hang in there, living frugally, for a few years.

    15. Anon to provide real figures*

      I’m in my mid-30’s. I don’t have separate accounts for emergency/general savings. I opened a savings account in March and started the account with $10,000 from checking so I wouldn’t have all my cash sitting in one account. I started adding $250 each pay period via auto-transfer, then when I got a cost of living raise around July I decided to use that to increase the amount I transfer to $275. There is currently $15,327 in that account; I think this will be a little less than half my net pay for the year. I’m trying to keep it that way–I had a huge vet bill a month or so ago when my cat almost died, and I’m trying hard to tamp down the feeling that I need to transfer money from the savings into checking. My goal is to have $30,000 in that account by December 31, 2016, at which time I want reevaluate things and set a new goal. I’ll (hopefully) be done with my graduate degree earlier that month, so I won’t have to be worried about expenses related to that any longer, but I do have a large amount of debt from my undergraduate degree so I’ll have to take into account whether to increase payments to that, savings, or what.

      I feel like I’ve been aggressive in adding to that account, but maybe it’s just having been more disciplined than I usually am about that. Once I get to a certain point in my checking account I will probably make a lump transfer to savings. That’s the next thing I’m trying to do to adjust my finances–I think I keep a lot more in checking than I really need to, but it makes me feel safer, though I think it’s quite possible I would spend less if I didn’t have it in that account. Though I know the money is savings is still accessible, it feel like there’s this personal barrier to me using it, and I don’t want to get into the habit of feeling like I can go to my savings just because I want to buy Thing X, or go on vacation, etc. and don’t want to take from checking.

      In addition I have a Roth IRA and a 403(b) which I contribute to; in total those accounts have about $84,000. I opened the Roth for the 2008 tax year and contribute the maximum to my Roth each year and will continue to do so as long as possible. I currently contribute the minimum required to max out my university’s contribution to the 403(b), but I plan to increase my contribution by 2%. I’m hoping to have twice my gross pay in those accounts (combined) by the end of next year.

  18. Carrie in Scotland*

    This seems silly but…I am planning on moving from my small, insular city to a bigger, more exciting one around next summertime.

    I have my own flat where I live now (mortgaged). I’ve had someone round recently (I’ll get around to having more estate agents come by at some point) to give me an idea of what my flat would sell for, so I have an idea of my budget for buying in the other city.

    But how do you actually do it? Do I put my flat up for sale and then look at flats/jobs in the other city? Do I sell and then rent and try and get a job and then buy somewhere?

    In the meantime I am very much enjoying looking at flats on property websites, and in particular the floorplans. I’m fascinated by layouts.

    1. nep*

      That fascinates me too. I look at flats on line when I’m not even in the market — just to look at layouts and design.
      Others will have better advice than I could offer. Best of luck to you.

    2. Csarndt*

      In the US, you would have trouble getting a new mortgage in the new city without a new job. I’d look for the new job first, then rent or buy a new home in the new city and rent or sell the old home based on housing markets and your personal financials.

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        I second this. The location of your new place of work may be a huge factor in where you eventually want to live. And renting allows you to sample the neighborhoods and talk to residents before you commit.

    3. Cristina in England*

      I would do this:

      -Obsessively look for jobs and flats there at the same time. You want to familiarize yourself with the housing market there, and you want to know what kinds of jobs come up there. Find out what the main employers are. Are there universities? Industries?

      -Visit the new city, even if you’ve been before. Get a feel for affordable neighborhoods. Check out the bus lines, where the supermarkets are, post office etc, or whatever else you need near you. Some neighborhoods are well-connected for everything, it seems, and some require a car
      -Start clearing out stuff you don’t need. Give away old clothes, kitchenware, etc. If you do this now it will be less painful later on

      -Risk-averse people like me would want to have a job lined up, then hopefully would be able to move quickly (renting out flat if you want to), having prepared for that. If you are renting out your flat, you’ll either need to be close enough to visit if you’re managing it yourself, or you could pay countrywide or someone else some extortionate fee to manage it. If you have a trustworthy friend or relative, you could get him or her to help you. Someone will need a physical presence there to show it to tenants.

      Zoopla’s sold prices are an endless source of fascination for me. Good luck!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I will not rent out my flat. Purely because in the almost 10 years I’ve been here the roof has been needing work to it several times, I’ve had damp and mould issues and a membrane between the walls put in. I just don’t trust there not to be any further work on it, so I want to sell it out.

        The city where I’m going is 150 miles away and roughly takes a bit less than 3 hrs to get to – so I can and have gone for a day trip.

        I know the area where I want to live (but could do some more investigating).

        Those who have been following me on recent open threads – definitely the last one – know I’m doing a 30 things before I’m 30 and one of those things is definitely going through my stuff!

    4. The IT Manager*

      Some people (in US) try to sell and but at the same time so that when they find a buyer for old house they’re ready to purchase. They make new purchase contingent on sale of old house. Not terribly uncommon although I’ve never done it so I don’t know specifics. Recommend you ask real estate agents about this.

      Move first and rent in new city to get lay of the land when you put your old flat up on the market. This may mean a year long rental, but you can get to know new town before buying.

      Sell first and then start looking for new place in new town ASAP. If you buy this way, you still might need a few months of temporary housing before you can move into new home but it’s not a year long rental.

    5. fposte*

      Oh, the best part of moving is the window-shopping! The worst part is the moving. Are you staying in Scotland? I know the real estate laws are different in England so you’ll want to make sure you’re clear on that if you’re border-crossing.

      I would check with the bank and an estate agent about what’s recommended, but in general people do try to synchronize the selling of their old place with the buying of the new; it’s nerve-wracking but less so than moving twice in quick succession.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’m staying in Scotland – there are tons of differences between England & Scotland – I’d miss my free prescriptions for a start! And eye tests too.

        Another thing is I have a cat, so am not sure about the renting. I think, maybe, my dad and his wife might look after her for a while if needed but I’d miss her :(

    6. Alice*

      I like Christina in England’s advice!
      I would say,
      1) Find Job, 2) Rent TempFlat in Newtown/Put OldFlat on market, then 3) buy. The primary focus being renting in the area to get a feel for the neighborhoods. Know which places you want to be close to, what the morning traffic to work is like, learning shortcuts and fast routes to/from work, that you really can’t stand the train driving by at night, that late-night Chinese Take-away, etc. Also, it lengthens your window of time to shop for something permanent. If you are renting in the area (say on a month-to-month lease), you have time to shop around. If you know you want to be in Hipsterhood, you can wait out your time in Yuppietown until something opens up in HH, rather than settling for Wannabe Quarter because something was available.
      Granted this is contingent on affording the overlap in rent and mortgage payments until the old flat is sold.
      Good Luck!

  19. Apollo Warbucks*

    I’ve got some family that have recently moved in the UK, one to a bigger place in the same city and the other to a new city. Both sold their places first and either stayed with family or rented before buying somewhere else. It gave them a budget to work with and more flexibility not being in a chain. Unless you know your new city really well it might be worth renting to get an idea of the area in case you end up somewhere you don’t like

  20. Kay*

    OMG, I’m so excited! My husband and I got a dog! We had been talking about getting one in the spring (so he can kind of clean up the backyard and prepare), but circumstances (not-so-nice ones) brought him to us sooner. He’s a black chihuahua mix and I’m teaching him to sit and he kind of fetches his toys. We were worried he’d bark non-stop because I also have a chinchilla, but he’s shown no interest in the chinchilla cage other than a passing sniff. I have wanted a dog for like 3ish years!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Congratulations!!! Doggies are THE BEST. So glad he’s not going after the chinchilla, and it sounds like you rescued him from a bad situation, so many kudos to you!

      Something no one tells you when you first get a dog: you will be exhausted. You’ll be all, “But… it’s not a newborn! Why am I tired?”, but I promise it will pass. I nodded off at my desk at 2pm every day for the first two months I had my buddy. It’s an adjustment.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yeeeeeah… excellent point. I was up 5 times with the buddy last night (he’s having a bad case of the itchies– combo of weird weather and anxiety, and he wakes me up whenever he has a lick-fest). Mama is sleepy.

      1. Kay*

        Thanks, it wasn’t really *his* bad situation… He belonged to my uncle who passed away less than a month ago and my grandparents wanted someone in the family to take him. We wanted to wait until spring because of some things we needed to accomplish, but sometimes time has a way of rushing you along… I don’t mind except our backyard has weeds taller than he is, so I guess we need to do something about that sometime soon.

        Thanks for the warning about tiredness. I have been pretty tired lately, but I thought it was because I was getting over a head cold. I guess it could be the dog too.

    2. Sunflower*

      Yay i love dogs!!! I don’t have the money or time to care for a dog but i adore my neighbors and will babysit them anytime.

    3. LizH*

      Congratulations. I miss mine so badly. Had to put her down about a month ago. Eventually I will get another. Enjoy him, and am so glad he found a good home with you. They give so much love, I know you will be so blessed by having him in your life.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      Oh fun, congrats! My husband really wants a dog and I’ve said we can get one when he gets a job (we’re both underemployed at the moment). Enjoy your new friend!

  21. FD*

    Soooooo starting on some preplanning (like 1.5 years out right now) for a prospective honeymoon. We’re interested in going to Colorado. Any suggestions? We don’t ski, and it’d be in the late spring or summer; it’s more that I think it’s a beautiful area.

    1. Kay*

      Are you a “connected” type person? As a kid, we spent a week a year for several years in Creede. At the time, they had these duplexes, but the place is in a valley, so there was no tv unless you rented somewhere with satellite, no cell reception (although this was in the late 90’s-early 2000’s so that could be better now).

      However, the views are phenomenal, and I remember going into town and it feeling very quaint with little shops and candy stores and things. We also got a lot of quality family time in, did some hiking (much to my own chagrin because I’m not much of a hiker). We brought games and puzzles and really got to spend time talking in ways that don’t happen when you’re all hustle and bustle.

      1. FD*

        TBH I think we’d both shrivel up and die with no internet. We love each other, but we both have a strong need for private time and usually putz around on the internet during it.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If you’re into classical music at all, there’s a wonderful festival in Aspen every summer. I think we went in late June. There are concerts and events all day and every night. I went almost 20 years ago, so I’m sure things are slightly different, but we did day trips (Continental Divide, up the mountain, hikes, etc.) and went to outdoor concerts in the evenings. The music is pretty accessible– there’s stuff for serious aficionados but also the more “popular” stuff– and the location is gorgeous.

      1. BRR*

        The aspen music festival is the most prestigious in the country. If you’re into it, definitely a place to go.

    3. Samantha*

      Southwest Colorado is amazing (I lived there briefly), and summer is the best time to visit. Crested Butte, Ouray, Telluride, Lake City – all great.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      I know you specifically said Colorado, but if you’re open for alternatives: learning to SCUBA dive in the Virgin Islands is a real good time that I would recommend to anyone.

    5. Finny*

      I’d say Colorado Springs, myself, but I grew up there. If you’re at all interested in Renaissance Fairs, there is an excellent one in Larkspur on weekends in June and July, and sometimes August, each year. That’s just a short drive north of the Springs on I-25.

      If you’re wanting something spa-like, there is Glenwood Springs. And of course lots of attractions all over the place.

      And yes, Colorado is beautiful. I still miss the mountains; I got married nearly eight years ago and moved up to Calgary, Alberta. Still mountains, but a couple hours away rather than the maybe half an hour from where I grew up.

    6. Clever Name*

      I’m assuming you’re thinking mountains (half of the state is plains, after all!). You don’t ski, but would you be okay with it still being snowy? Spring is our snowiest time of year, and in the snowier parts of the state, snow can hang around through May. April and May are considered the mud season, and hotels are generally cheaper. However, shops and restaurants may be closed. If you want to be assured of summer weather, July or August is best. The windflowers are phenomenal.

      What is your budget? Places like Aspen and Breckenridge can be expensive. Estes Park is cute, and it’s at the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you want amore authentic mountain town experience, Grand Lake is at the west entrance. Cortez is a pretty cute town in the SW part of the state. It is near some Indian reservations and has more of a “southwest” feel. Mesa Verde is near there and is simply amazing. Pagoda Springs is another cute town. Kinda hippie, in a good way they have natural hot springs.

      Colorado is a pretty amazing place. I am thankful every single day that I live here, and I’m just in the Denver ‘burbs

      1. Mal*

        Estes Park is one of my favorite places in Colorado! Not as much of a ski resort area as Breckenridge or Aspen so it’s a bit more inexpensive and you can spend lots of time in the Rockies hiking and driving! I’d say don’t go before mid June(snow and or cold would be likely) I went in August and it was great! Warm but very cool in the upper mountains.
        Also, check out sites like Groupon or Living Social for lodging, that’s where I found one for a 3 night stay!

    7. ReadingRachael*

      I absolutely love the mesas in western Colorado. My grandparents live in Grand Junction, and we spend a lot of time up on the mesas when we visit. Land’s End is a particular favorite, since my great grandfather was part of the WPA crew that built the road and vistor’s center up there. There’s a great day hike an hour or two into the mountains from GJ to Hanging Lake, which is pretty steep but so beautiful. Glenwood Springs is really nice for hot springs pools, and spas, although I’ve never done the spa thing, just gone to the hot pools.

    8. Blue_eyes*

      Boulder is really nice and not too far from Denver so it’s easy to fly in. We visited Denver and Boulder last year in early March and it was a really nice time of year. It was in the 60s or 70s during the day in Denver/Boulder, but we went up into the mountains to go snow shoeing too, so we got to experience tee-shirt weather and snow sports. Even if you don’t ski, snow shoeing is a great way to get out into the mountains – if you can walk, you can learn to snow shoe in about 5 mins.

      1. Clever Name*

        Just a note, the weather can be great in March. It can also be a blizzard. No exaggeration. My point is don’t count on one type of weather in the spring. Well except maybe snow. March is the snowiest month.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Oh yes! I should have mentioned this – We arrived in Denver on a Friday and it was snowing (not exactly a snow storm, but not pleasant to drive in), and by the next day it was 75 degrees in the sun. Certainly no guarantee of warmth in Colorado in March.

    9. Cath in Canada*

      When I was growing up my family specialised in going to ski resorts in the summer – the accommodation’s usually quite reasonable, and can take the chair lift to the top and then hike down!I spent a great week in Winter Park one summer in my late teens. We went horseback riding and hiking every day, and I loved the concrete “luge” track (it’s basically a tea tray on wheels, with a brake, in a small concrete half-pipe.

      1. Erin*

        That’s the Alpine Slide! So much fun. We took our 2 year old and 5 year old on it for the first time this year.

    10. Erin*

      Native Coloradan here! Any of the mountain towns are gorgeous in the summer. Steamboat Springs, Vail, Breckenridge and Aspen are some of my favorites. A summer drive over Trail Ridge Road is a favorite thing we do every year. Rocky Mountain National Park has gorgeous scenery and hiking. The Ritz Carlton in Beaver Creek is very posh and would be a great place to be pampered on your honeymoon. I love their spa treatments. Have fun planning!

    11. Ms. Anonymity*

      We visited Estes Park which was beautiful and also the hot springs in Steamboat Springs. Both areas were amazingly beautiful.

  22. ProductiveDyslexic*

    Top Three Favo(u)rite Christmas Songs or Carols

    (1) Christmas Unicorn, Sufjan Stevens from Silver and Gold, 2012

    (2) Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer, Perry Como

    (3) O Little Town of Bethlehem, Belle and Sebastian, from a live Christmas John Peel session in 2002

    1. Crow*

      Good King Wenceslas and O Come O Come Emmanuel are my two fave classics. I have an enormous soft spot for O Come All Ye Faithful, as sung by Twisted Sister, cheesy as it may be. The rest of that cd is ok, but nothing else really stands out.

      I’ve been getting into blues music within the past six months, so a happy treat was finding an excellent blues Christmas song on my wife’s Elvis Chistmas cd! I think it’s Merry Christmas, Baby. That dude really had musical chops, once you dig past the hype.

    2. LadyB*

      I’ll play, having just got back from the supermarket where every tacky Christmas tune known to man has been looped, at volume, through the store’s tannoy.

      1. Fairy Tale of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty McCall (Christmas doesn’t start in my house until this has been on the radio)
      2. Silent Night – but has to be sung in German by choirboys
      3. The Little Drummer Boy – Frank Sinatra and David Bowie, what a combination!

      1. Rebecca*

        I love Mannheim Steamroller! That’s about all I listen to around Christmas. I’ve heard snippets of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, and suspect I’d like that too.

    3. C Average*

      “The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen” from the Twisted Christmas album (with which I’ve infected my Jewish stepchildren–if there’s a hell, we’re ALL going).

      “O Holy Night” by Nat King Cole.

      Any rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

    4. Cruciatus*

      1) BNL & Sarah McLachlan’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” It’s not allowed to be Christmas until I hear it.

      2) “Snoopy’s Christmas” (sometimes Snoopy vs. the Red Baron) “Christmas bells, those Christmas bells…”

      3) Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon.” I went to one of their concerts and they had 3 women sing the song and it wasn’t the same. They need to travel with a choir of children just for this song.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, God, I love Snoopy vs. the Red Baron!

        I’m a former chorus singer, so I really adore choral Christmas music. I’ll cheat and count the Britten Ceremony of Carols as one; there’s also this amazing 20th-century setting of “I Sing of a Maiden” by the Robert Shaw Chorale that presumably for some rights reason didn’t get transferred onto the CD or MP3 versions that I haul out the vinyl for.

    5. kas*

      It’s hard to pick just three but my favourites are:

      1. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Tamia
      2. Let It Snow – Boyz II Men
      3. Christmas Only Once A Year – Chaka Khan

      I really love R&B Christmas songs so that’s mostly what I listen to this time of year. I also love a few Christmas songs by Xscape, Mariah Carey and N’Sync.

      1. Stephanie*

        +1 to the R&B Christmas songs.

        I also like Let it Snow by Boyz II Men, All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey (I loathed it when I worked holiday retail, but it’s grown on me now), and Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt.

    6. Tris Prior*

      1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – especially any version that has an eastern or bellydance-ish arrangement (Loreena McKennitt’s is a favorite, and Annie Lennox also has a version that is pretty badass)

      2. Carol of the Bells (by pretty much anyone)

      3. Welcome Christmas (from The Grinch, but especially the version by Love Spirals Downwards. If you like ethereal/goth music you should check out the Excelsis holiday albums. Good stuff.)

      Honorable Mention: The Messiah. hey, I was a choir nerd in high school…

    7. Finny*

      I can’t pick just three-I love Christmas music!

      Good King Wenceslas
      Christmas Shoes
      Christmas Carol
      Christmas in the Trenches by John McDermott (and any of his other war-related stuff)
      Bellau Wood by Garth Brooks
      The Gift by Aselin Debison
      Little Drummer Boy by the Vienna Boys Choir
      Raffi’s entire Christmas album
      The Mysterious Toy (or The Magical Toy, I can’t remember which) by the Irish Rovers
      Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by the Irish Rovers
      Christmas at Ground Zero

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I didn’t realise until last year that Oh Little Town of Bethlehem is sung to a different tune in America than in the UK.

        Other favourite Christmas music is the first part of Messiah (“For unto us a child is born” for a vocal workout), Bach’s Christmas Oratorium (“Jauchzet Frohlocket” especially) and Wizzard’s I wish it could be Christmas everyday.

    8. Carrie in Scotland*

      I have four songs I love equally:

      Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’
      The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl ‘Fairytale of New York’
      Jona Lewie ‘The Cavalry’
      Chris De Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’

    9. Elkay*

      1. Last Christmas – Wham! Especially good if you can watch the video
      2. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

      Then pretty much every other Christmas song, I really like Christmas music.

    10. Windchime*

      My linked comment is in moderation. Right now, my favorite is “Mary, Did You Know” by Pentatonix. Absolutely gorgeous.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Pentatonix! Someone at work showed up the video on youtube of their ‘through the ages’ song – it was amazing!

  23. NewDoc*

    Curious what different people have done in terms of combining bank/financial things with marriage? I know there’s a range of options, and while we will definitely combine some things, I’ve also been told that, as we are both doctors, it’s best to keep some things separate in the event of malpractice suits — not sure how important that is as there’s also malpractice insurance, etc.

    1. FD*

      Girlfriend and I are planning on not merging ours, mostly because we use separate budgeting and tracking systems, and neither of us would be comfortable converting to the other.

      Part of that is probably colored by us having been roommates before we were dating, so we’re used to handling shared finances seperately.

    2. RandomName*

      My husband and I merged everything. It was just easier that way. We’re both accountants and my husband keeps track of our personal finances in QuickBooks. I use a credit card that we pay off in full each month, and then I download my statement in Excel and categorize the expenses. It’s nice to see where all our money went at the end of the year.

      One of my friends, also and accountant, keeps everything separate from her husband. They have one joint bank account that they each contribute to to pay joint bills like the mortgage, utilities, etc. She felt that he was too irresponsible with money to have access to everything and he didn’t like the idea of having an allowance for personal expenses, so the way they do things works for them.

      1. RandomName*

        I should also mention, that my husband and I didn’t see the need for a prenup, because we both were making the same amount of money when we got married, both have masters, both have CPAs, and brought similar assets into the marriage. But if I had married someone who didn’t bring in similar assets and have the same earning potential, I probably would have consulted an attorney about what to keep separate.

    3. Is This Legal*

      Full disclosure: I’m an accountant – we both have our salaries go into joint account and also have direct deposit $350 to our respective non-joint accounts. I do whatever I want with that $350 no questions asked and she does the same. I’ve saved up $3000 so far in that account. That’s the money I use to buy her presents, flowers, wine etc.

    4. BRR*

      Right now we have a big income disparity so everything is still separate. We just write checks to each other whenever something warrants it like the insurance bill. Our plan when fiance gets living wage job is to live off one income for some time and split the other check in half and we each put it in savings. I think it’s important to always have a stash of money the other one can’t get to. You also need to do what’s comfortable for you as a couple.

    5. LoFlo*

      In our 20+ year relationship we have kept everything separate. We split the bills by each being responsible for different expenses. We made paying down debt our priority before lavish vacations, major home improvements, new cars, etc. but we still took road trips, and had our hobbies.

    6. Elsajeni*

      We’ve been married for 5 years and just opened our first joint account this year. I think we would have been happy to keep our accounts split forever, if we were both still bringing in an income; currently, though, I’m working and my husband is a house-spouse, so I wanted my salary to go into an account he’d have access to so that he could take care of household errands. What we have currently is one joint savings account, one joint checking account, and separate personal checking accounts; my paycheck automatically gets split between the joint accounts, and small stuff (birthday money, tiny stock dividends, his residual checks from acting, etc.) goes into the personal accounts. We might split off the savings into various different accounts at some point, but we’d probably still keep them as joint accounts — that would just be separating, like, “Really Serious Emergency Savings” from “Short-Term Frivolity Savings.”

    7. Samantha*

      When my husband and I were engaged and living together, we kept our finances separate and I gave him a set amount per month toward living expenses. When we got married we combined everything. We still each have one credit card of our own, which comes in handy when buying each other gifts or other surprises. On the other hand, my parents have always kept their finances separate. I think it’s different for each couple – whatever works best for you!

    8. Sunflower*

      From what I’ve heard, people try to keep them separate for the first couple years or keep them separate and open a joint account for bills and expenses. Everyone I’ve spoken to says they do that for the first couple years and then ultimately end up joining accounts because it’s just easier. I think it really depends on a number of factors- how much of an income disparity is there? are you a spender or saver? is your spouse?

      When I get married(if ever) I plan on keeping it separate to start off and then seeing how it goes from there. Depends on the person I marry and their lifestyle. I think it’s really important to discuss it with your partner before you marry though. Considering you work in a profession that opens your up to lawsuits more than the average person, I would maybe talk to a lawyer to make sure both of your assets are protected.

    9. Finny*

      The husband and myself keep e everything separate, as I had to watch, as a kid, when my mother was ruined in my parents’ divorce because they combined everything and he lied on taxes and to the judge, after robbing two banks, saying he made no money so there was no child support or anything.

      So we keep everything separate. Right now I am working and he is not, so I send him money each check to pay the bills that are in his name.

      Also, we are in Canada, and each have to file our own taxes, though some stuff like the disability tax credit can cross over.

    10. Mal*

      I think it depends on a lot of factors, some of them even the state you marry. California is a community property state so if you don’t write a prenup, after you say I Do, what’s his is yours and vice versa. I’m from California and when I hear of friends talking about keeping their finances separate I have to roll my eyes because if they divorced tomorrow, it doesn’t matter what’s in their separate bank accounts, they’d still split 50/50.
      My husband and I combined our accounts when we got engaged because we were moving halfway across the country so that he could attend college full time and I could work full time. I was also only 22 and he was 28 so it just made sense since his savings and credit were better than mine.
      Today we still have one bank account and one joint credit card. It works for us because we’re open about what we spend. Or I should say, neither of us is an extreme spender or saver so there isn’t money tension.
      In your case NewDoc, I’d consult both a lawyer and your malpractice insurance carrier to gather their opinions and experience.

      1. Judy*

        I thought community property was only what was obtained during the marriage? If you brought $100k into the marriage, and kept it in a separate account, and he brought $10k into the marriage and kept in it a separate account, it would be yours in case of divorce. Community property’s opposite is separate property. And community property is divided 50-50 rather than “divided equitably”.

    11. Treena Kravm*

      When we first stared dating, we did the % split system. (If you make 60% of the money, you pay 60% of the joint expenses) because we had a huge income disparity. We still have one, but it’s much less pronounced. We transitioned to joint everything (separate retirement accounts) once we moved across the country together, but since then, we’ve opened up a separate checking account just for my husband. We have very different spending habits and if I want something, I’ll just buy it. But my husband never wants something for less than $100, he only wants $500-2,000 items, and feels too guilty spending that much in one go. So the checking account functions as his savings for his big-ticket items.

      Definitely don’t know about the malpractice, so you should talk to a lawyer about that one. But you can still have it be “joint” if you have two accounts with the same amount, one for each of you, with the understanding that it’s still both your money, but just legally it has to be one or the others.

    12. Elkay*

      We were/are fairly even in terms of wages and after we got married we combined everything for a few reasons. Partly because we were already sharing a credit card and a joint account and the constant transferring of funds was a pain to track. Partly because we had very different ways of spending, I was sick and tired of not being able to go on trips/activities because he didn’t have the cash but couldn’t work out where the money had gone. By pooling resources it meant he frittered money away less but it was done on the agreement that I would be in charge of tracking finances because he found it beyond dull and tedious. The one huge bonus to this was when he then I got made redundant when the other was working we already had the view of it being “our” money so you didn’t feel that you were taking out of either person’s savings if we needed it.

    13. cuppa*

      We’ve been together ten years and don’t merge finances. We each pay certain bills and then one of us writes a check to make up the difference at the end of the month. It works for us because I like a certain amount of autonomy with my finances and I brought some student loan debt into the relationship. Also, he has an expensive hobby, so it works that we are both able to keep our autonomy.
      I will add that we are both pretty careful with our money and have good credit scores, which makes this viable.

      1. cuppa*

        Also, we have added each other’s name to our bank accounts to make things easier to handle if something happens to one of us. Big things like homes and cars are also in both of our names.

  24. Not So NewReader*

    I think checking with an expert would be best- as you say because of malpractice suits.

    However, just a general comment here- my husband and I combined very little. We had joint ownership of the house and joint mortgage. Our bank accounts were linked to each other but the accounts were in individual names. We had separate checking and charge accounts- 30 years ago people remarked on that, like we were not totally committed or something. Now, you hear less commentary. I think it is a good way to have some sense of individuality and still be part of a couple. It gives each person their own space.

    While you are doing all this, make sure you designate beneficiaries as you go along. It’s too hard to remember to do it later on, but it’s important to do this step.

  25. Another Lauren*

    We decided to keep Christmas low-key this year and just spend the day at my parents’ home. It will be 6 adults and one toddler. Any suggestions for fun Christmas-Day activities, including at least a couple that would keep a two year-old engaged?

    1. Another Lauren*

      Also, I’m 7 months pregnant and my parents are in their mid-60s so flag football may not be an option!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Take a cue from My People (i.e., Jewish ones)– go to the movies! :) You could also do a movie marathon at home. Get in the car and drive around and look at the lights. I’m not great with toddler activities, I’m afraid, but adults can have a cookie-baking party (competition?), play Monopoly, that kind of thing. If there’s a good hiking/walking area nearby, take a good long walk.

    2. nep*

      Like the idea of driving or walking around at night to look at all the decorations, if it’s not icy enough to make it hazardous…Even riding my bike home from work these days when it’s dark-ish — so pretty.
      We always played cards on Christmas. From hearts to penny poker (betting small change). Can be fun.
      Are there cooking enthusiasts among the adults? Could cook something together or in teams.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      We’ve developed a holiday tradition of………… Pawn Stars.

      Crazy, right? But it works. It seems to be the one show that everyone is interested in watching (ages 20 to late 60’s at our holidays). It’s interactive because we talk about the show while the episode is going on + educational.

      And Chumley!

      We’ve tried other shows. I ran Downton Abbey for my mother-in-law for a few eps, but people go silent during scripted shows.

      I might try Top Chef this year and see if people like that. (But there’s no Chumley!)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        As a trivia buff, I find Pawn Stars SO AWESOME. What a great idea. Definitely interactive! I need to get my boyfriend interested in that show. And when it’s over, you can be a huge hit at parties with all the stuff you learn!

      2. Rebecca*

        Ah, The Old Man! I love him. My favorite episodes are when they look at old cars, or someone has military or other historical items to pawn.

      3. Another Lauren*

        I kind of love this idea. It could totally be interactive and it’s appropriate for everyone. Maybe we can even do prizes for people with the most correct guesses of the final agreed-upon price…

      4. Omne*

        I used to watch it the first couple of seasons then gave up. The items and trivia were interesting but then they started to do more and more of the scripted fake stuff and it got annoying. I listened to Chumley in an earlier interview and he sounds perfectly normal and reasonably intelligent, nothing like the character on the show.
        Then the scripted arguments, misunderstandings etc. just got out of hand. I wish they had just stuck with the original format instead of becoming cartoonish.

    4. matcha123*

      Does everyone get along relatively well?

      I don’t think you really need to spend every waking minute with each other doing something.

      Watching some movies on the couch, going for walks outside, playing some board games, etc. are all options. With a 2 year old, you can put on their favorite movie and play it on repeat. They can watch the same thing 10 times in a row without feeling bored. While the kid is engrossed in Frozen, the adults can cook the food or chit-chat.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      When I was a kid, I looooved it when the adults around me would turn on an old, old movie and watch it with me. They would explain stuff. Sometimes, I would nod off-no one cared- it was a cozy, comforting thing for me.

      1. C Average*

        This sounds really lovely.

        A tangent: I am fascinated by words that have no English equivalent and express concepts that don’t really exist in our culture (my favorite is Japan’s “gambatte”).

        I recently learned a Danish word, “hygge,” which roughly translates to home and warmth and coziness. It PERFECTLY expresses the kind of atmosphere you describe, which is something I also experienced as a child and loved.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, me too! Welsh “hiraeth,” Finnish “sisu”; there’s a Swedish one I just forgot about the importance of getting along and staying in the middle, I think. I didn’t know gambatte–that’s an interesting one.

        2. matcha123*

          I use or hear “gambatte” sooo many times per week, I can’t even count!

          I’ll give you two of my faves:

          “Bimyou”. It expresses something that’s “slightly” something or the other. So, kind of like “so-so”.
          “How was lunch?” “Bimyou”
          “How’s your boyfriend?” “Bimyou”

          The other is “tashikani”. I means “certainly”. But usually in agreement with someone. I use it a lot.

    6. fposte*

      We always had some outside time on Christmas, either going for a walk in the neighborhood or heading to the local forest preserve. I know with a toddler you might not make it far, but a little spin outdoors can be a nice way to break up the day and shake things loose a little before the marathon sitting and lying around.

      1. Alice*


        For a 2 yr old, I would say 2 trips outside, morning and afternoon. Even if its to see the same decorations, wonderful change of pace from the over-excitement or under-excitement inside. I kind of see it as resetting a lot of interests. (that toy he played with for an hour, and now has no interest in? might be interesting for another hour upon return).
        Is there a spare bedroom that can be converted to a quiet playroom, in case the tot gets a little bonkers from sensory overload?

        For combined activities, perhaps Pictionary? If the adults are drawing too, the kid can draw on their own paper. And, if the mood strikes use the tot’s drawing as a round. “What did little Wakeen draw? I see a car. Did you draw a car, Wakeen?” Its very participatory, everyone is doing the essentially same thing, not just adults do A, while tot does B.

        Of course impromptu dance parties are fun, some fun music the little one can do the butt-wiggle to. Rockin’ around the christmas tree, anyone?(Again, every one can participate, except Great-aunt Belinda because of her knees). Oh! a tradition in my family when we were young is to dance around the Christmas tree (Norwegian side, not sure if strictly Norwegian). Everyone holds hands and walks/dances around the tree while singing carols. For us it was a precursor to opening presents.

        Oh! and of course let him play with the present wrappings, or let him open Granddad’s present. Or make him into the Bow tree (after bows are removed from presents, they are then stuck to one person, naturally)

        “Cooking” is fun too. Wakeen can make his own salad (not to be eaten, let alone touched, by others), -next- to Uncle Bob, while he is making the real salad for dinner. Lettuce, green beans, edemame, sliced red peppers, sliced carrots, sliced radishes to be thrown in (or out of) a bowl. Whether he eats it or not, isn’t important. Its an activity. Plus side, he might actually nibble on something he discovers he likes.
        I say salad or something similar because its a dry mess, easily picked up. Unlike flour or liquids. (source: experience)

        I feel like many of my suggestions are basically finding tot versions of what the adults are doing, and necessitate kid-friendly adults being willing participants. I know my suggestions are very kid-centric, but that’s the side I know best.

        Have fun!

    7. Sunflower*

      As long a weather permits, I’d suggest doing something outside like looking at decorations. Or if there is a small parade in town- going to big parades in large cities are a lot of work so I’d stick to a small town one. I also enjoy watching Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows. Maybe do the outside stuff early to tire the two-year old out? I would also suggest some easy craft activities ?

    8. Samantha*

      Pinterest has some great “busy activities” for toddlers. Just simple little tasks that require their focus and keep them occupied.

  26. AvonLady Barksdale*

    It has been an unbelievably crappy weekend. For those of you who read my insanely long story last week about my bf’s stepmother cancelling Christmas so she could “get away from it all”, there’s an update: my bf actually called his dad and said, “Hey, this sucks, what’s up?” and I was SO proud of him. It’s a hard thing to do. His dad seemed receptive and understanding, but he said, “Oh, we’re not sure we’re going, it was just an idea.” This? BS. A whole load of it. His dad had said to ME that this was their plan. I firmly believe bf’s dad wants so badly to keep the peace that he will say anything to make himself look better. But whatever, benefit of the doubt. Dad said he would talk to SM and see if they could change plans and go a day later or something. Then he called my bf and left a voice mail (!) saying, “Sorry, reservations are made, can’t do Christmas.” They are coming to our area in two weeks to take us to a show (bf doesn’t want to go) and his dad offered to stay in the area overnight to spend more time with us. I am hugely irritated by this, because I think it’s a crappy concession, but I will do whatever bf wants. We’re supposed to throw a party the day after this show, so I’m going to be pretty busy, and I don’t want to subject my bf to his father and stepmother by himself– and I don’t want her in my house, especially as I’m setting up for company. Again, I will do whatever my bf wants to do, and I will support him, but I do not appreciate his dad blowing smoke up his ass.

    Besides that, my grandparents have been in town and are leaving today. I love my grandparents. We have always been very close. But my grandmother is a very difficult woman, and she’s become ten times worse. She has some anxiety issues that she refuses to address and hates to be out of her comfort zone, and it manifests in terrible rudeness. She was rude to me, rude to my boyfriend, and, so much worse, incredibly rude to the waitstaff at every restaurant we went to. She has a very limited diet and will not try anything she deems “weird”, but instead of nodding and listening, she grimaces and makes terrible “ugh” noises when, say, a waiter describes a special that is not to her liking. We went to two excellent restaurants in town where I knew the staff would bend over backwards for her, and she treated them abominably. My grandparents are the ones who taught me to always be kind and friendly to waitstaff! I was embarrassed. At least my grandfather and I are good tippers, but man. In addition to all of the mealtime crap, she was downright mean to me when I was telling her about the Christmas situation (“So? What difference does it make? Why do you even care? What do you want ME to do about it?”) and about a few other things, and after we dropped them off at their hotel last night, I cried the whole way home. So this weekend started off great– we actually had a lovely time the first night they were here– and ended up miserable.

    BUT– I start my new job tomorrow (yay!) and my best friend got engaged yesterday (yay!) so I’m hoping the week ahead gets much better. Thanks for the vent, my peoples.

    1. matcha123*

      I am a firm believer in Ask Prudence’s advice that children should be the ones to confront their parents about issues. Props to your bf for doing that.

      Sometimes it might be better to decide if it’s all worth it to pacify parents or relatives or if it’s better to just start your own traditions.

      Good luck!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This so sucks. I hope you make it a point to get together with some of the delightful people in your life over the holidays. This would make me want to cancel all holidays, frankly. What a drain.

      Hopefully, your bf has pushed the envelop with his dad and his dad is beginning to get the message. At least his dad is willing to stay overnight- I hope your bf does not let him off the hook for that, by telling him “never mind, skip it”.

      Your grandma, I am so sorry. I have seen really wonderful people become sour grapes in their old age and it is sort of my guidebook “what not to do when I am old”. There are medications out that that effect some folks in an adverse manner -such as making them miserable people to be around. And some folks just having chronic constipation is enough to turn their personality into someone I don’t want to know. There’s lots of reasons why this nastiness happens.
      Her reaction to your concerns right now, is NOT her. Please hang on to that. (you have shown how she is not herself in so many ways in your post here.) It’s hard because words sting, sometimes more than a physical punch. So now you have two sadnesses the original problem plus grandma really cannot keep up any more like she used to. Stark.Harsh. Awful stuff to deal with.
      Be deliberate, build something into your holidays that you and your bf can actually enjoy together- you guys so need a reprieve/rest-bit from this stuff.

    3. CLT*

      I read your post last week about Christmas, and again this week, and I wanted to share a different perspective with you. As people age, their relationship with Christmas sometimes changes, and as their children become adults, those relationships change as well. While your boyfriend’s father may have set Christmas aside for his children when they were young, he has no obligation do this now that they are adults. He wants to have the holiday away with his wife, to honor her need to get away from it all at this time. This is an appropriate decision on his part. Perhaps if your boyfriend wants a special Christmas, he should be working on creating his own adult traditions with you, instead of using the holiday as a way to make his father choose him over his wife.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        With respect, I do not believe that it is appropriate to change the traditions of a family without some kind of warning or conversation. Absolutely, traditions change, but some consideration for the feelings of a child, adult or not, would be appreciated.

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          Except… well, it doesn’t look like that conversation is going to happen in this particular family. So the best way to proceed, imo, is to do what CLT suggests, and move on. It hurts. It sucks. It shouldn’t be this way. But it’s what is. Both of you would benefit from stopping beating your heads against the brick wall that is your in-laws.

          I’m sorry you’re going through this.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Thank you. And you’re absolutely right. My venting here is more about it “just sucking” than anything else.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      You know what? People are disappointing.

      Oddly, this POV comforts the husband and I because we can, mostly without fail, count on each other. When someone in our life pulls a stupid trick, we look at each other and shrug and say “People are disappointing”.

      I hope you and BF weather the holidays and make traditions of your own. (And give grandma a Xanax next visit! :-) )

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Ugh, yes. I don’t advocate drugging people, of course, but a few years ago I told my grandfather that I wish he would put some Lexapro in her tea.

        Wakeen, you will appreciate this one: I was just looking at my dog, who is curled up next to me on the sofa, and thinking about how much I love his squishy face, and… he farted. Badly. Sigh.

    5. Observer*

      It sounds to me like Dad is either the victim of abuse, in which case you should have some sympathy for him, or her is not a nice person, even though he presents that way at first. In that case, support your BF, but if you can try to help him see that he needs to lower expectations because Dad is never going to come through.

      1. catsAreCool*

        If there’s some way some of this can start seeming funny at some point, or at least “Oh well, that’s just how his dad is”, that could help. At least, it tends to help me when I accept that someone is/does stuff in a way I (and many others) find irritating and then try to expect the person to act that way and decide how to deal with it.

    6. Artemesia*

      So no Christmas but a disruptive visit for a show? If I were you I would not be so accommodating. I would ask BF to let them know that this earlier date won’t work for you two because of your other plans and to reschedule. And frankly — grownups probably need to learn to not make such a big deal about the precise day of a celebration. What happens when you want to visit your family on Christmas or want to be home with the kids? The important thing is not keeping things the way they were when you were 6 years old, but getting a chance to spends some quality time with your close relatives from time to time. Maybe it is time to burn the old footie pajamas and create some new traditions all around. Maybe it is time for him to let his folks take that cruise or whatever and find a weekend in February for a relaxed get together. Things change.

  27. RandomName*

    People who make photobooks regularly, what’s your favorite site and why? How long do they usually take to make from start to finish?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t make them, but my MIL makes great ones of our family trips, ones that we actually look through every year and show to other family and friends when they come over, and she uses Shutterfly.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      I recently made one as a gift through Shutterfly. I liked the template and the way you could have it place pictures and then go back and tweak it (or just rip the whole thing apart). You don’t have to use a template, but it was really helpful to solve the “I have all these pics and no idea how to make them look good) issue. I was pretty happy with how it came out and they constantly have coupons, but I have friends who swear by Blurb having even better quality, so I think I’ll try that for the next project that I’m willing to splurge a bit on.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      I used Picaboo to make a photo book to use as our wedding guest book and to make our wedding album. It takes a little while to get used to (as does any new tool), but it works fairly well. They have a feature that will take the pictures you want to use and make them into an album for you (as in, it does all the initial layout work for you and then you can just tweak and edit). They almost always have some kind of sale going on, so look around and never order without using a promo code. You can also make holiday cards, photo calendars, and lots of other things with Picaboo. When I made my wedding album it took about 8-10 hours of work, but I chose the layouts and customized each page, and it was a long book, about 90 pages. If you used the auto-create feature and had a shorter book you could do it in under 2 hours probably.

  28. matcha123*

    I’ve been on various forums more this year. I used them a lot in university and then kind of drifted away when I moved overseas.

    First thing I have been really fed up with are people saying that Halloween and Christmas are “for kids.” If you’re not interested in the event, that’s fine. I’m not going to pressure someone into something they dislike just because I enjoy it. But, please, please, please don’t say “I don’t do Halloween because it’s for kids” or “Giving presents is only for kids.” Anyone can participate! And if you don’t want to, that’s fine!

    I also found out over the past few weeks that some people consider Santa to be a christian figure. This is…I don’t know. Something that is a shock. I never really “knew” Santa because my mom’s very christian friend’s kids told me when I was maybe 4? And I’ve only heard FOX news types rail against Santa.

    But recently, though probably not so recently for others, I’ve found out that people tell their kids that Santa only goes to the homes of Christians and NOT the the homes of kids of their religion. WTH?
    If someone doesn’t want to tell their kid about Santa, that’s fine. But telling them that Santa discriminates by religion? I can’t get on board with that. Please do not tell your kids that Santa doesn’t come to your house because you are not christian. It is times like this when I am happier to be in Japan where people don’t tell their kids things like that. *shakes head*

    1. ProductiveDyslexic*

      Topical. Today (6th Dec) is Saint Nicholas day: so yes, he is definitely a Christian figure. Noted for giving secret gifts and miraculously bringing pickled boys back from the dead.

      1. matcha123*

        I’ve heard of the man, but didn’t know there was any special day for him. But, I’ve heard he was from Germany? And recently I read he was originally from Turkey?

        Hopefully he’ll bring me a batch of kimchi this month :9

        1. fposte*

          He’s from Myra–Greece then, Turkey now. The name wanders through various countries in different forms after that, but it’s the Dutch “Sinterklaas” that seems to be the source of the English “Santa Claus.” Maybe somebody from the UK can help on this, but in my youth “Santa Claus” was US while “Father Christmas” was UK; I think Santa’s picked up a lot of the UK franchise since then.

          1. Erin*

            My husband is English. He called Santa Father Christmas growing up, and my in laws still use the term. However, from the prevelance of American TV and movies, any Brit would understand what Santa Claus means.

        2. Jen RO*

          In Romania (and probably other countries too), you leave your (clean! this is important!) shoes at the door and Old Nicholas fills them with presents during the night between the 5th and 6th. This is one tradition I like! Kids usually get sweets and oranges, but this year I got maki and expensive beef – what can I say, my boyfriend knows me.

          (As a note, Old Nicholas and Santa Claus are seen as two different people here, I found out that they are the same person at age 20+.)

    2. Jazzy Red*

      My parents were good Christians, and we had presents from Santa and church every Christmas (well, we had church every Sunday for that matter). I think it’s terrible to tell kids that Santa won’t come to their homes because they’re not Christian, or religious enough. The world is hard enough, we don’t need to make things like that up for them.

      Santa is kind of a conglomeration of St. Nicolaus (a real Christian), Father Christmas, and Old Man Winter, plus pagan figures for the winter season. The most popular ideas of Santa came from the advertising world, cartoonists, and Clemen’s “The Night Before Christmas”. I love everything about Christmas, except the greed. Once again, my family is doing regifting and making gifts (there are no children right now). Decorating, food, being together and church do it for us.

      1. matcha123*

        For me, the topic of Santa and what he represents has been a very…I don’t know, strange thing for me.

        I’ve only ever heard that Santa is a non-religious figure that takes away from the “true” meaning of Christmas. To hear that people see Santa as a religious figure is like someone telling me that the color I know as blue is actually purple.

        1. kas*

          I should’ve read the comments first, basically said the same thing below. Santa is a non-religous figure in my family, that’s what I was raised to believe. This is quite strange to me as well, did not know people saw him as a religious figure.

        2. fposte*

          I think the color spectrum is actually a good way of looking at it. If you’re in some traditions of Christianity, Santa is a populist/folkloric distraction from the religious meaning of the holiday; if you’re in some traditions of Christianity, Santa is part of the holiday; if you’re not in any traditions of Christianity, Santa is either something you’ve picked up because of choice or inevitability, or it’s something other people do–but he’s still absolutely a Christmas figure, so even if some Christians exclude him he’s still deeply tied to the Christian holiday.

          I’m trying to come up with an analogy. Maybe something like the fact that not all Christians make the sign of the cross doesn’t mean it’s a secular sign that non-Christians wish to make?

          1. Blue_eyes*

            I think you articulated this very well fposte. It all depends on where you’re standing. I was going to leave a separate comment, but I think you’ve said exactly what I wanted to say, but more clearly.

    3. Lore*

      It’s not that Santa discriminates, really. It’s just that Christmas as a whole is not a thing if you’re raised in another religion, and Santa is part of Christmas. We didn’t have a tree, or go to church, or go to CCD or Sunday school, and that was just the thing that was. I was way more jealous of the tree than Santa–my family has a very pragmatic gift-giving approach anyway and I was in college before I realized how very many presents go under that tree in a lot of families. (I think when we were really little my parents did stockings rather than trying to explain the whole thing but once we got old enough to understand our own heritage and religious traditions, it’s not like we were expecting Santa to come and then heartbroken when he didn’t show!)

      1. matcha123*

        Thanks for your reply.

        I had always been under the assumption that Santa was a Western figure and a part of Western civilization and culture, rather than a representation of a religion.

        If anyone is interested, in Japan, Christmas Eve is for lovers and people eat KFC and on Christmas morning Santa brings one present and puts it next to the kid’s pillow. From what I gather, only Santa brings a present! And just one for the kid.

        1. Felicia*

          Nope, Santa is a representative of Christmas, and not everyone in Western civilization celebrate Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas (like me), then no Santa. But you’re still going to hear about it from school and television.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That is a very much a reflection of how dominant Christianity is in the U.S. For those of us who aren’t Christian, the idea that Santa is just a Western figure is and not one specifically associated with a Christian holiday … well, a perspective you can really only have if you’ve been part of the dominant cultural group. From outside it, that statement sounds fairly bizarre!

    4. Felicia*

      What are people of other religions supposed to tell their kids? I am Jewish so Santa never came to my house, but I learned about Santa from the millions of Christmas movies and Christmas specials, and from my Christian friends and from school where Santa is a big presence. Any kid growing up in North America is going to hear about Santa constantly, so obviously the “why doesn’t Santa come to my house?” question is going to come up. I remember my sister asking it when she was little, I’m sure i did too. My parents went with “Santa isn’t real, he’s just a made up story for people who celebrate Christmas.” Which I guess is better, but kids who are allowed to watch television and who go to public school are going to know what Santa is regardless of their upbrining.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I don’t even remember having the conversation with my parents, I just somehow knew that Santa didn’t come to our house because we’re Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas. It wasn’t sad or anything. I grew up believing that being Jewish made me different in a special way, not that it made me miss out. Santa is part of Christmas and its trappings, so I always associated him (the Coca-Cola fat guy with the white beard, not the kid-pickling St. Nicholas) with Christian beliefs and traditions.

        matcha, I get exactly what you’re saying and I appreciate it and think you’re very kind and inclusive, but I want you to know that not having Santa is not a hardship! I never minded, nor did many of my friends. :)

        1. matcha123*

          Thank you for the kind reply :)

          I certainly don’t think that anyone without a Santa felt deprived. I guess I had always assumed that Santa was a thing that was largely North American with roots in Europe. Similar to Halloween? so, I was surprised at the strong reaction some had to the figure.

          After browsing the internets, I came across a number of sites created by persons of various religions that explained in more depth why they do not do a Santa thing. I guess I’d always thought of myself as knowledgeable about race and religion, but can now see that I have a bit more to learn.

          I also never really had a Santa, and never felt bad about not having him come. But my mom loved Santa and really wanted to keep the “magic” alive for my sister. And together we planned out a number of things to give her an exciting Christmas morning. The last time I was home for Christmas and New Year’s years ago, “Santa” still left presents under the tree for all of us. The tooth fairy also made a number of appearances for my sister, too. Not me, though. haha!

    5. kas*

      Wow, I was raised Christian and we never believed in Santa. I think my family thought Santa took away from the “true meaning” of Christmas so while all of the other kids were writing their lists to send to Santa and leaving out milk and cookies, I was handing my list to my parents.

      I did not know people were telling children that Santa only goes to Christian homes though, wow. I didn’t even know Christians “believed” in Santa. None of my other Christian friends grew up believing in him.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But Santa wouldn’t go to the homes of people not celebrating xmas. That’s not offensive. I mean, if someone is saying it in the same sort of way they’d express concern that non-Christians will go to hell, then sure, that’s a problem …. but I assume people are explaining to kids that Santa doesn’t go to Jewish homes, for instance, because he doesn’t. We don’t want him there, any more than you’d want Elijah the prophet coming to your house on Passover. Not our thing, not our holiday, not our symbol. It’s not mean or rude to explain that.

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          Now that is interesting. I was taught (maybe by a Christmas special or something) that Santa did (had the potential to) visit the homes of all the good kids in the world. I remember a cartoon of him delivering gifts to every continent in the spirit of promoting generosity and family.

          Dominant culture awkward offence maybe? :/

          1. Felicia*

            I think I learned that as a Christmas special, but as a Jewish kid, I knew from experience it wasn’t true because Santa never came to my house. One of the many ways television makes things confusing for kids :)

    6. Diet Coke Addict*

      It isn’t that Santa is a religious figure–he isn’t–but he is descended from historical representations of St. Nicholas, who was absolutely a Christian figure, and what’s more, he’s associated with a Christian holiday. What is a Muslim family supposed to tell their kid–they can either say that Santa isn’t real (and run the risk of their kids telling everyone at school that “Santa’s not real,” which can be an upsetting day for 5-year-olds or whatever) or they can say that Santa doesn’t visit them because they’re not Christian.

      Santa by himself is not a religious figure, but he’s part of a larger Western mythos surrounding Christmas very specifically, but because Christmas is celebrated in a secular fashion by large portions of America, he’s developed a secular, commercialized feeling. That is what super-religious Fox-“news-“commentators are referring to, the fact that he overemphasizes the commercial aspects of Christmas rather than the religious ones. (And Christmas itself wasn’t considered a popular custom by the very earliest of white settlers, the Puritan groups, because it was too closely associated with Catholicism and decadence! The more things change the more they stay the same, etc.)

      1. Felicia*

        Yes this! What I wanted to say but much better put. Santa is a symbol of Christmas, which is a religious holiday. If you are not Christian you usually (though not always) don’t celebrate Christmas, not even in a secular way. I used to have an “people who don’t celebrate Christmas party” on Christmas day with some Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other Jewish friends, and one year we compared notes and in all those families “why doesn’t Santa come to my house” was a question that came up.

        1. matcha123*

          It’s interesting that you mention Buddhists and Muslims because in my area of Southeast Michigan, with a large Muslim population, Santa visits some of the Muslim schools. And in Japan and other Asian countries, Santa is a non-religious Christmas figure.

          I’m not trying to argue what you’re saying. But explain the way Santa has been presented to me, which is why I was surprised at what I read :)

      2. Artemesia*

        Life is confusing for little kids. My grandchild is not yet 5 but came to her Mom and said ‘Santa isn’t real is he.’ She said ‘Who told you that?’ and kiddo said ‘My brain told me.’ Mom said ‘Well you are right’ and the child said ‘WHAT?’ and was totally horrified by the news. Since then she has explained to me that the Santa that rides on the Christmas train (one El car in Chicago) is the ‘real Santa.’ Reality is pretty fluid for kids this age. But she does know that Jews don’t do Christmas but have Channukah this time of year.

    7. LoFlo*

      I am a recovering Catholic who is now agnostic. However, I have come to think of Santa as a metaphor for kindness and giving. Even though I don’t get rah-rah about Christmas, I quietly donate to local charities that make sure kids and families have a nice Christmas, because ya know it is important for them.

    8. Colette*

      I think it makes sense for people who aren’t Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas to tell their kids that Santa doesn’t come to their house – Santa is part of Christmas.

      However, I hate the idea that only kids get presents, because it robs the kids of the idea of making/buying presents for others and makes Christmas all about getting stuff. (The same thing applies if only kids get birthday cards/gifts.)

      I take my niece shopping every year for her mom’s present, and she starts thinking about what she wants to get months in advance.

    9. The IT Manager*

      I think that Americans of Christian cultures celebrate Christmas to include Santa Clause. And the ones who are religious know that Santa Clause is not part of the religion because they know “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And the ones who are not religious still have a tree and Santa so they know its not religious either. So then we all say, Santa has nothing to do with religion not even realizing that Christmas has its origins in Christian celebrations so non-Christian cultures don’t celebrate it no matter how hard it is not to celebrate it in America.

      Another example of cultural confusion. I’m from Louisiana. Someone once asked, probably just after I moved away for the first time, if I went to Mardi Gras. I rather confusingly said it’s a holiday that happens, you don’t go it, but we did get out of school for it. I suppose the questioner meant go to the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, but I didn’t understand that because going to Mardi Gras was as foreign a concept to me as going to Christmas or any other date on the calendar. American non-Christians may not celebrate Christmas but obviously they know it exist and probably get time off work for it.

    10. catsAreCool*

      I’m Christian and was brought up Christian, and we didn’t particularly think of Santa Claus as being religious. We knew Santa Claus was pretend (but having Christmas stockings was fun). For that matter, Christmas trees aren’t exactly religious.

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          I can say (from growing up in a Christian house) that trees, Santa and stockings were taught to me as secular concepts.

          This is in contrast to the manger display, going to church and a story book on the birth of Jesus. They had a big split in terms of associated meanings.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            They’re all part of Christmas though. Some of them have a particularly religious meaning and others are symbols of parts of the holiday that aren’t particularly spiritual, but they’re all part of Christmas, which is a Christian holiday and thus are things that most people of other faiths don’t partake in.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I am super confused by this. Santa is a part of Christmas, and so religions that don’t celebrate Christmas (like me — I’m Jewish) don’t have Santa. Santa might not be a religious/spiritual symbol, but he’s certainly a Christmas symbol, and Christmas is a religious holiday. It’s not bad for Jewish kids to understand they don’t have Santa; that’s normal. We can handle it :) It’s actually weirder when people try to push Santa on us. (Not speaking for every single Jew, of course, but generally.)

      As a commenter here pointed out last year (very well, I thought), Christians don’t have to think about how religious their holiday and its symbols is – it can be considered kind of secular or universal simply because it has the privilege of dominance. But trust me, for those who don’t celebrate it, it’s not secular and it’s not universal, and we don’t use its symbols. Please be careful about recognizing that, since not tends to irritate/offend/exasperate (depending on who you’re talking to) those of us who are in the non-Christian minority in the U.S.

      1. matcha123*

        I’ll reply here, though I don’t know if people will read or not.

        I think that people are going off on something that I’m not really talking about. My main point is not that someone should or shouldn’t believe in Santa. My point is that people shouldn’t be telling their kids that Santa is skipping their homes because they’re not members of a certain religion.

        As I mentioned, Santa’s identity was outed to me at like 4. I certainly don’t feel bad for not having the illusion of Santa for a longer time and I don’t think that kids “need” a Santa or not. But, someone who tells their kids that Santa doesn’t visit because they’re not a certain religion sounds like the type of person that would say that Santa doesn’t go to the home of blacks or the poor.

        I don’t really care whether or not someone is interested in Santa. If they don’t want to do anything with Santa, and don’t believe, rather than telling kids they’re being skipped because they’re not Christian, I don’t understand why they can’t just say it’s because he’s not real?

        It seems that a lot of replies were reading into something that I wasn’t trying to push.

        Apparently the Santa issue is something bigger than I imagined. And I feel like I have to again reiterate that I’m not interested in pushing anything on anyone. I’m not interested in telling people to get trees or anything because I really don’t care.
        I can take in the points about how Christmas related festivities don’t ring the same tune to everyone. I also think it’s important for people to understand that there are huge numbers of people for which Santa is nothing more than an American or Western holiday figure with no religious connotations.

        tl;dr I am not invested in getting people to believe in Santa and put up Christmas trees. However, if you don’t believe, just say you don’t believe to your kid. Don’t tell them that Santa is up their discriminating against them for religious reasons.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But to (many) Jews, explaining to kids that Santa isn’t part of our traditions isn’t saying that Santa is “discriminating for religious reasons.” It’s just saying “this isn’t ours.” And trust me, as a former Jewish kid, this wasn’t a big deal. We got it. When you’re not raised with Santa to begin with, your feelings aren’t terribly hurt when this is explained. I think you’re seeing this through the lens of someone who’s (I’m assuming) part of the U.S.’s dominant religious/cultural group and therefore attaches more significance to this, and not quite seeing it from the perspective of someone who isn’t.

          1. quick reply*

            I’m replying at lunch from my work computer, so please excuse the sudden name change for this post.

            I understand the point that you are trying to make, but as I wrote earlier, I think that you are arguing against a point that I’m not trying to make.
            “Santa doesn’t visit Jews.”
            “Santa has roots in Christianity, and since we aren’t Christian, we don’t do Santa.”

            To me, the above phrases are totally different. The first one is divisive, and discriminatory.
            The second explains simply the reason why a family doesn’t involve themselves with Santa. The first phrase, for me, is an issue. The second isn’t.

            Perhaps you are trying to say that based on the way you were raised and the community you live in, both phrases carry the same meaning and weight. That’s the only kind of argument I’m trying to make.
            I get the feeling that based on experiences you and other posters have had in the past with overzealous people pushing Santa on you “for the kids,” that you feel like you are once again being dragged into an annoying argument. Which, is not what I’m looking for.

            I hope that I’m not coming off as disrespectful. And, again, it’s possible that of the two example sentences I gave, you feel that both are acceptable based on the way you were raised.

            For the other shock, I was expressing my shock that Santa is seen as a religious figure by such a large portion of Americans. I’m not looking to convince you or anyone else that he is or isn’t. I just find the differing views in such a figure to be interesting. While, you and others, who are more serious about your religion may see it as obvious that Santa is tied to Christianity and by extension something that you don’t celebrate, so it’s obvious (to you) that XYZ, I wasn’t raised that way. I’m not making any argument about that. I don’t see one as right and the other wrong.

            I’m just surprised that this isn’t something I’d heard about earlier. Which, again, given the diverse college town I was raised in, was something that I expected to come across at some point. Since I grew up with people who came from all over the world and of various religious backgrounds, hearing “There’s no Halloween or Thanksgiving in my country,” carried the same meaning as “There’s no Santa in my country.” The kids I grew up with who were from overseas or who had parents from overseas saw American holidays, such as the Fourth of July or Halloween as American holidays and not religious ones.

            I understand that you were not raised in the same way. I was hoping to express my surprise in a way that wasn’t offensive or judgmental. For you and others, Santa and by extension Christmas are strictly religious holidays that you don’t want pushed on you and I am not looking to push anything onto anyone. For myself and apparently others, Santa and such have never carried a religious meaning so it’s new to us that others have been brought up that way. Not saying one is right or wrong because I don’t believe that.

            I hope that clarifies a bit? And now I’m off to finish my lunch :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m actually not religious at all (which I don’t think matters here, but I wanted to set the record straight on that).

              I think ultimately when you’re in a dominant group (in this case Christmas celebrators), you’re not well-served by arguing with people outside that group about the right way for them to relate to/experience the traditions and practices of said group, and are usually better off deferring to them on that :)

              1. quick reply*

                I feel like such a rebel at work.

                I have no intent to tell anyone how to do anything with their religion or how they should or shouldn’t interact with other religions. However, it seems like my replies aren’t being interpreted in the way I intended and that’s probably an issue on my part. (My bad writing.) I don’t identify as a religious person and definitely do not participate in any mainstream religions.

                I repeat, that I am not looking to touch or do anything with anyone’s religion or force anything upon them. I apologize if I came off that way. It was never my intent to create bad feelings between people.
                Thanks to everyone for the civil replies. It was nice not to break into a cold sweat when clicking open the link.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Late to the party, but – my wife and I just saw a television commercial for an organization called Catholics Come Home that featured Santa and Baby Jesus in a manger. We’re both Catholic and we were both like “WTF was that?!“. This was during part 2 of The Red Tent on the Lifetime channel. As if it couldn’t get any stranger.

    12. soitgoes*

      I’m going to piggy-back off Alison’s comment and paraphrase what another commenter here said recently about holidays and time off and whatnot:

      Christmas and Santa are secular in the sense that Christians and atheists/agnostics can pick and choose which aspects of the Americanized Christmas they’d like to participate in. But it’s still very much religious, as people who practice other religions cannot incorporate these things into their lives. Would you get a menora just for kicks?

      1. matcha123*

        I wasn’t talking about whether or not people should or shouldn’t participate in Christmas. I was trying to say that it’s weird to tell a kid that Santa isn’t coming because you’re the wrong religion, implying that by simply switching religions Santa will come pay a visit; rather than just telling your kid “we don’t believe” or “we see Santa as a religious figure of a religion we don’t celebrate.”

        Don’t tell the kids your religion doesn’t have a Santa or he doesn’t visit people of your religion. Just say “We don’t believe.” That’s the thing that was shocking to me.

        I don’t really understand what you mean by “people who practice other religions cannot incorporate these things,” but I will just leave it at that. Please understand that while some major religions are very strict about how you should interact with things that originate in other religions, other religions don’t have such strict rules.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But why is it shocking? To plenty of us who don’t celebrate xmas, it doesn’t feel particularly shocking. I think you’re probably coming to this from a viewpoint rooted in being part of the dominant religious culture in the U.S., and aren’t quite seeing the perspective of those who aren’t.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “Christmas and Santa are secular in the sense that Christians and atheists/agnostics can pick and choose which aspects of the Americanized Christmas they’d like to participate in. But it’s still very much religious, as people who practice other religions cannot incorporate these things into their lives. Would you get a menora just for kicks?”

        Actually, in China which is not a Christian country at all, you’ll see a lot of Santas – it’s kind of a goofy aspect of American/western culture they’ve adopted. And it’s really, really weird.

    13. Formerly Bee*

      Well, Christmas is a Christian holiday. I’m not sure what you want non-Christian people to do.

      “Santa only goes to the Christian kids” is also a convenient way to avoid your child telling Christian children that Santa isn’t real.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        I’m confused! I was raised with Christian holidays and was taught that Santa was not part of “real Christmas” at all. My parents said he was a character that non-Christian people grafted onto Christmas. For the purpose of celebrating gift giving and such. :/

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          I think the difference is in lumping together two distinct groups of “non-Christians”–the first being those who practice no particular religion but do participate in secular Christmas (i.e., a tree, stockings, Santa Claus, lights) and the second being people who practice other religions–Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and many others–who do not celebrate Christmas in any way. In America, a dominant-Christian community, I think the former category is much more prevalent than the latter, leading to the confusion here. And on top of that there are many if not most Christian people who celebrate religious Christmas as well as Santa Claus, which of course would explain the phenomenon of “Santa Claus at the nativity” scenes.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            It also helps to remember that most atheists/agnostics in the USA were raised Christian or whose families are Christian, even if their parents were not. We grew up celebrating Christmas in one form or another so for some of us it’s as much family tradition as it is religious. But we still need to remember that is IS largely religious. You can secularize it all you want but it’s right in the name: CHRISTmas.

    14. HR Manager*

      If there are any questions about Santa and a traditional Christian celebration of Xmas, one should go to Japan, Hong Kong and other decidedly non-Christian majority cultures around Xmas and see what’s there. Hint: lots of Xmas celebrations and decorations, including Santa, but very little reference to Christianity (i.e., nativity sets).

      At the end of the day – you make Xmas what you want it to be. Christian, non-Christian, Santa, reindoor-only, the Sound of Music, magical snowmen, or creepy elf-on-a-shelf. Xmas has indeed expanded beyond its original Christian roots, and it’s hard-pressed for anyone to say what’s a right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday.

    15. C Average*

      This whole conversation is really interesting to me.

      I was raised Protestant (Lutheran as a kid, Presbyterian from college onward) and now go to the Quaker church, and we kind of lump Santa in with vaguely holidayish stuff (snowflakes, gingerbread people, holly, Christmas trees). We see him as harmless and non-denominational. I suppose we’re vaguely aware on some level that the actual St. Nicholas was a Christian figure, but that doesn’t really play into how or if we experience Santa Claus.

      I’m married to a Jewish man and my stepkids have been raised Jewish, although their mother is Christian.To them, winter holiday stuff is divided quite neatly into Jewish and Not Jewish. I don’t think they have a really good sense of what’s Christian and what’s not within the Not Jewish category; they just know it’s Not Jewish. Menorah? Jewish. Challah? Jewish. Hanukkah? Jewish. Santa? Not Jewish. Christmas trees? Not Jewish.

      Now, this isn’t to say they don’t enjoy experiencing some of the Not Jewish stuff (often in a detached and ironic way). They shamelessly sing Christmas carols, explaining, “Yeah, the Christians have better songs than we do.” They watch Christmas specials on TV because they enjoy them. And they’re thrilled to have days off from school, regardless of the reason, season, etc.

      Upshot: Santa is not explicitly claimed by Christians as Christian. He IS explicitly claimed as not Not Jewish by Jews.

  29. C Average*

    I am planning the MOST FUN thing, y’all.

    On January 10th, my husband and I are hosting a Twelfth Night party (yeah, it’s a few days late, but no one’s coming to a party on a Tuesday night). We’re all going to actually read “Twelfth Night” (the Shakespeare play) out loud. We’ve sent out the invites and all our friends who are attending have chosen roles. We’re going to have a dinner break for fabulous food, and there’ll be lots of good sipping alcohol (think good wine, whiskey, cognac, scotch) and munchies available all evening. We’ve encouraged people to wear outrageous clothes and use interesting accents, if they’re so inclined.

    I am a huge Shakespeare buff and have wanted to do this for years, but was afraid no one would want to do something this geeky. Over the past year, I’ve been throwing the idea out to various friends and have found that they actually dug it. So we’re going ahead and doing it.

      1. C Average*

        Whatever’s left when everyone else has chosen! My main role will be hosting the party: keeping the drinks filled, keeping the fire stoked, making sure everyone has a script, etc. I’d love to be Viola, though, and if someone doesn’t speak up soon I may just nab the role, hosting duties be damned.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          You are the hostess. You choose first. Think of it like getting to sit at the head of the table. :)

    1. LoFlo*

      Twelfth Night is a huge event in New Orleans. Twelfth Night is the first day of Carnival, which of course ends in Mardi Gras.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      OMG! That is so awesome! I want to come!!! I was in a production of Twelfth Night when I was 15 and a MAJOR Shakespeare buff. I played Orsino. I was reading a ton of scholarly work on the plays and thought I was so super cool with all of my double entendres and veiled sex talk that no one else got (or so I thought, in my teenage arrogance). SO MUCH BAWDY in that play. What a great idea, and I wish I had enough theater geek friends to pull it off myself.

    3. Clerica*

      Oh, I want to come! If I suggested that to anyone I know, they’d give me that pitying look you give someone who just lost their last marble.

      1. C Average*

        I figured this is what would happen, actually. It took me a solid year to sound people out, one by one: “So I have this kind of crazy idea . . . it’s the geekiest thing in the world, but I think it’d be kind of fun . . . ” Then I’d run it by them. And they all surprised me by saying, “Yes! You have to invite me if you do this.”

  30. Cruciatus*

    Does anyone have any gift ideas recently or from years’ past that you’re particularly proud of (or one that you received and loved and didn’t expect)?

    It might be because it’s 40° with no snow on the ground and the sun is shining, but I’m having trouble coming up with Christmas gift ideas (and a trip to the mall won’t be happening.) It’s hard because I don’t know what people already have or what they want. I need ideas for:

    Siblings, girl 11, boy 13. They are both good kids, read a lot–so I’m getting each of them an entire book series (used so it was a good price). But I need just that one other little thing that’s neat/cool at or under $10-15. She loves stuffed animals but, I mean, she has SOOOO many already. They are getting popculture meme t-shirts from their parents so that idea’s out. I’m trying to think outside the box a bit. Last year I got her a sloth wall decal and he got a Dr. Who Tardis blanket. They both loved them. They will like whatever they get but I’d love to come up with that one extra thing. Any ideas?

    The other problem is my sister. She has money so she buys whatever she wants when she wants it. I saw another Kingdom Hearts game is coming out but I can’t remember if she has a Playstation 4. I’m thinking just a gift certificate to Game Stop for her so she can buy what she wants. She enjoys traveling and I saw this scratch off world map at that might be kind of neat, but I don’t know if she’d actually put it on her wall. She could give my mom a list now and still have purchased everything on it by Christmas. She eats out a lot and doesn’t really utilize her kitchen so gadgets wouldn’t make much practical sense. But she likes everything and has varied interests so she should be easy in theory, but then you realize she already has it.

    1. C Average*

      When I was dating my now-husband, I bought a gift for him and his kids that is still one of our favorite things in the house.

      We all fancy ourselves funny people, and we are all fans of the terrible, corny joke. I bought us a gong (a small tabletop-sized one) so that we could gong each other when the occasion called for it. It has spurred thousands of jokes and provided great entertainment for everyone. Several of our friends have been inspired to purchase gongs for their own households.

      It’s also handy for summoning the kids to dinner when they’re outside or downstairs, or getting everyone’s attention when we host a large gathering.

      I now believe that every house should have a gong.

      I got it at a music supply store. I think it was about $40.

    2. Lola*

      Maybe the 11 yr oldwould enjoy making her own stuffed animal with a craft kit? My aunty always gave me some kind of craft kit when I was around that age & I always enjoyed them.

      1. Lore*

        For creative/crafty kids, art supplies are always appreciated. For bookish kids–what about a pack of book plates (I remember getting ones when I was a kid that could be decorated as well as having a space to put my name?). Or cool bookends? For your sister, what about little travel stuff: sample size toiletries or the little pots and jars to put TSA approved amounts in; good sunscreen or current adaptor plugs or a passport wallet?

    3. Colette*

      I always like to give games for kids. Straw or Fluxx are both good (and inexpensive). My almost eleven year old niece loves kittens in a blender as well. (The game – no actual kittens are harmed.)

    4. Sunflower*

      If there’s one thing i love, it’s when someone remembers something special or important to me and integrates it into my gift. When i was a kid, I was obsessed with Peanuts cartoons and I’ve secretly been waiting for someone to get me some great vintage Peanuts stuff. Or some special edition of a book that I love. These might be things that younger kids might not necessarily appreciate now, but in 10 years when the stuff is still saved, they really will. I recently found an old Peanuts necklace that my grandmother had my name inscribed on and I wear it just because it’s so special and I love that my mother saved it.

      For your sister, I have a friend who has everything so I’ve tried to find things that she would like but wouldn’t necessarily think to go out and buy herself. Something little that intergrates something she really likes but she wouldn’t search out to try to buy. Think non-practical items. Usually these things are funny, cute little gifts. Check ebay or etsy. There is a ton of stuff on there.

      1. C Average*

        This made me remember a gift I’ve given my father pretty much every year since I was in junior high or thereabouts.

        My dad and I used to love The Far Side comic, and every year I’d get him the page-a-day calendar. I’d not only buy it, but I’d open it and read the whole thing and write him notes on the pages. Sometimes it was just an “I love you, Dad” or a “happy Friday!” Other times it was a comment on the comic, especially if it had something to do with a family inside joke or a topic that interested him.

        The calendar went out of production some years back, and I’ve bought other page-a-day calendars, but it’s just not the same.

        This year, it occurred to me that I could find a past-year Far Side calendar with days of the week that aligned with 2015. I found a new-in-the-box 1998 calendar on ebay (for an obscene amount of money) and bought it, and I’m going through it writing my dad notes.

        I am 100% confident this gift is going to blow his mind.

      2. Diet Coke Addict*

        Etsy is terrific for stuff like that. My dad’s favourite plane is P-38 Lightning, but over the years we’ve pretty much given him all the books/DVDs/models of it he could ever want. This year I searched on Etsy–and I found a big print of the blueprints for the plane. I’m going to frame it nicely and I’m totally confident he’ll LOVE it.

    5. Persephone Mulberry*

      I would start trolling and/or the Mighty Girl Gift Guide (Google it, it’s the first link that comes up) for inspiration for the two teen/tweens. The MGGG will have ideas that work equally well for the boy – for the 13+ crowd there’s a lot of puzzle/strategy game stuff that’s quite gender neutral.

      I like the map idea – What about getting it framed as well? That might prompt her to hang it. Or something more “experience” based? Tickets to a show? Skydiving? Worst case scenario, pair a gift card with something homemade -fudge, cookies – so it’s both practical and thoughtful.

      1. C Average*

        Yes! ThinkGeek has so much great stuff.

        One of the most commented-upon items we have in our house is our collection of these:

        Everyone in the family has one, and we use them all the time and love them! They’re great conversation pieces, and if you use them, your lunch will NEVER get stolen from the office fridge.

    6. LizH*

      Big hit with bf’s family was ornaments. His nephews were older then 11 and 13 when we met. Stumped for gift ideas, so I tried to find ornaments related to their interests. That way, when they go out on their own, they will have a head start on ornaments. I did not buy any ornaments until the first year I bought a house. For example, one of his nephews played and loves soccer. I found him a glass soccer ball ornament. Another had a motorcycle, and I found him a glass motorcycle ornament. Matter of fact bf told me a few weeks that getting the ornament from me is one of the things they like best about my gifts.

    7. catsAreCool*

      For adults, I like to give gift cards or do something where we go shopping together and (with a price limit) pick our own gifts. If possible, I like the “no gifts for adults” because adults are so much harder to shop for (in my experience).

    8. soitgoes*

      Magic Sticks from Powerocks are great gifts for adults. They’re cellphone rechargers. Basically standalone secondary batteries that you attach to your phone to extend its battery life.

    9. Vancouver Reader*

      I’m an awful aunt; even when my nephews were young, I’d resort to sending them a WWF gift package which included a stuffed toy and adoption papers. Not what most kids would want, but as they were the offspring of environmentally friendly/conscious parents, they were appreciative of the gift.

      1. Clever Name*

        Wait. This isn’t what all nieces and nephews want from their aunts? I got a stuffed narwhal with adoption kit for my newborn niece.

      2. Stephanie*

        I got stock from an aunt when I was 8, which really confused me then, but I am very appreciative of it now.

  31. Mimmy*

    LOL love the video of your cats Alison!!

    So….who’s excited for Homeland tonight??!! I was ready to throw something at the TV when, after the last episode, the next one was in two weeks (tonight). FINALLY time to see what happens!

    1. kas*

      I AM! I was so excited to watch it last week only to find out I have to wait another week. I can’t wait though!

    2. Cool Beans*

      I am!! The last 2 episodes have been really great! I’m interested to know more about Carrie’s new insider (forgot his name).

  32. Mimmy*

    A couple other odds & ends:

    -Never got to see my friend, but I did talk to her on Friday. She sounded okay, but it was so good to finally talk to her. Don’t want to say too much, just to protect her privacy.

    -First class of my certificate program is in its final two weeks and I am SO over it!!! Love the course content, but the professor is….less than stellar. Nice guy, but scattered. Right now, we’re working on the final papers, due in a week. Already registered for the next class, which starts in late January.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      15 minute spurts. You can do anything for 15 minutes, right? Take 15 minutes and tidy up the kitchen, then… watch TV or have a drink or talk to a friend or whatever you’d rather be doing. Later on, another 15 minutes. I like to watch TV and beloved DVDs, so I sometimes put on a show or something on Netflix and, say, straighten my drawers while I’m doing that. It’s important to note that you don’t have to do everything at once. For instance, I clean the bathrooms on Friday, but I do the floors on Monday. I’ve heard great things about Flylady but I can’t personally recommend her.

    2. Trixie*

      I like to tackle small thing during commercials. Keeps me from sitting down for too long while getting stuff done. Many times I keep at it if I’m not into show/news program or just like it in the background.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      For me, if I sit down as soon as I come back from work then I’m less likely to do chores. So I come in and do something – hoover, clean, tidy, hang up clothes – whatever it is, as soon as I come home. That way when I sit down I know I’ve done it.

  33. Cool Beans*

    Just moved (thank you for everyone’s advice on these threads before!) and now get to decorate the apartment! However, I feel overwhelmed.

    2 questions:

    1. How do I be more decisive and less overwhelemed (so many options!)
    2. What are your favorite places to shop for home decor? I’m in NYC :)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Unlimited budget? Jonathan Adler. :) Please note that I do not own a single piece from Jonathan Adler, I just like to dream. I find decorating really, really tough, because I like everything! And all the colors! And how cool is that! But then I see prices and I cringe. But my biggest tip is that you don’t have to buy everything at once. See a piece you like? Get it. See another 6 months later? Get it. Don’t decorate just to decorate, decorate with stuff you find and like.

      Pick a color scheme of sorts and do some window shopping. Go to street fairs, especially in Soho and Nolita. Don’t forget about Bed Bath and Beyond or Pier 1. The Target at East River Plaza (116th and Pleasant, east of 1st Ave) is huge and well laid-out, and you can get a taxi/car service/bus to take you home.

      There are a couple of places on 14th St (bet 5th and 6th, maybe?) that sell used furniture and decor. The Village is your best bet for fun pieces in good shops, and it doesn’t take long to walk around. Good luck and have fun!!!

    2. Lore*

      Sadly there’s very little overlap between “things that are affordable” and “things that are uniquely New York.” Which means I get a lot of stuff at IKEA and Target. If you have money to spend, the furniture/antiques stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn is a lot smaller and pricier than it used to be but still has some beautiful things, as does the Brooklyn Flea and all the holiday craft markets that pop up around now. And if that flea market in the parking garage in Chelsea still exists, they have cool stuff.

    3. AmyNYC*

      I’ve had good luck at flea markets and second hand stores. In NYC, look at Artists and Fleas at Chelsea Market, Brooklyn Flea, and HousingWorks. Pearl River Mart has a fun and different selection of lights and chochkies, as well as Asian snacks – rice snack mix and gummy everything!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I shop just about anywhere, no particular place. I don’t go for trendy things but I do like things that are unique and look like the style will last a while.

      Start with a list of what you absolutely need. Frankly, the extras fill in by themselves as you go along. So figure out what you have to have and figure out what types of styles you like. Also figure out your budget. This will help control the impulse buying and will help with some frustration.
      Also measure the spaces that you want to put stuff- know how high your ceilings are. If you decide you want a bench under a particular window. measure how high the sill is and wide the window is- and so on. All this measuring stuff seems like a hassle but as you measure you might start picturing particular styles or type of furniture in the spaces.
      Also make note of the width of your doorways. A family member order a sofa that would not fit through the front door. They ended up taking out a picture window so they could get the sofa into the house. It happens.

    5. Ms. Anonymity*

      I love shopping at thrift stores, yardsales, and Goodwill. You can find some really unique pieces sometimes.

    6. VintageLydia USA*

      My entire house is: IKEA, Target, and craigslist. I went with a mid century modern theme since 1)it’s pretty popular right now and easy to find and 2)IKEA, being a Scandinavian company, already had loads of mid-century looking stuff and even if a particular item isn’t MCM-inspired, it usually wouldn’t look out of place next to something that was. Also my home is late 1950’s with smaller rooms (big for the era, small compared to modern great rooms with giant vaulted ceilings) so the scale of furniture works better.

  34. A Teacher*

    I just wanted to say thank you Alison and everyone that posted on the Wednesday thread about craziest happenings at work parties, etc… That day really sucked because my 14 year old mini schnauzer mix finally told me it was time with her actions to let her go. I was in terrible shape at work and spent most of my lunch and prep period crying in my classroom. Reading the comments actually made me laugh and made it possible for me to get through the day. I took off Thursday and my little angel passed peacefully in my arms at my vet. She was my first foster fail (I foster dogs for a rescue) of 45 foster dogs I’ve had in the past few years. Her “family” dumped her at the kill shelter the day after Christmas a few years ago, they got a new puppy and didn’t want an old dog. I ended up fostering and she was truly loved here. About 9 months ago she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and given 2 months to live, she outlived that prognosis by 7 months. I know many on here are pet people from what they’ve posted in the past, so I know you’ve probably been through the loss of a pet, very hard but at the same time I know she’s no longer suffering and I know I was able to give her a good life the last few years. So thank you for helping me get through Wednesday, with the crazy stories, even though you had no clue you did.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is so hard and painful, but you can take some comfort in knowing that her last years were happy and comfortable with you and that you didn’t let her suffer in indignity in her last days. You have done a wonderful thing.

      I’m sorry.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, Teacher, I’m so sorry. It’s amazing the hole they leave when they go. It sounds like she was a very fortunate foster dog indeed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. That is it, they leave a hole when they go.
        No life is ever wasted though. Every dog I have had has taught me something about myself, about dogs and about life in general. Interestingly, each dog had a different lesson. And what we see and learn because of our pets, is something we get to keep forever.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am so sorry. A lucky dog and a lucky you, no doubt. Thank you for saving her and for listening to her when she let you know it was time.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      I’m sorry to hear about this. It is never easy. I am happy to read that you held her at the end – I like to think this is becoming more and more common.

    5. Stephanie*

      Sorry for your loss. She sounded like she had really good last few years. My aunt always adopts older dogs as well.

    6. Adonday Veeah*

      There is a special place in heaven for people who foster abandoned pets. You are an angel. I’m sorry you’re hurting.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        I think there is also a “special place” for people who dump old dogs because they got a new puppy.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I just saw another one in the news today. The dog saved the family from a fire and they dropped him off.
          I don’t get it.

          But I guess some people would not “get” why I would carry my old dog across ice so he could get to go potty. Those last months, although very sad, were very rich. I saw some beautiful things with him. So it goes.

    7. Mimmy*

      I confess that I’m not much of a pet person (though we do have a cat), but I completely get that many people consider pets to be like family. Sending you healing hugs.

    8. Trixie*

      Such a comfort that she found her way back to a loving home. Those good vibes may have added those additional months at the end. I don’t think we can ask for anything more for our furry friends.

    9. LizH*

      So sorry to hear that. It is so hard to lose a per. Just recently went through it myself, and still have days where I cry. The positive is that you gave her the best life possible while you could for as long as you could.

    10. Stars and violets*

      I am so sorry for your loss.
      I had a rescue dog which had been dumped by his previous owners. No idea why but it was their loss because he was the greatest. He died of old age a few years ago and I still miss him.

  35. The IT Manager*

    Long Hair! This is an update to a previous open thread from back in the summer or fall – it was still hot and humid then.

    I’ve always had short hair. My styles often looked cute (not sexy), but I decided to try growing my hair to try something different. I confess I also have in mind the generalization that men prefer long hair, and I am currently single and might like to change that. That said I do not believe long hair looks as good on me and the shorter styles. My hair in straight – no body – and just mostly lays flat except for those bits that go fly away and make it look less than sleek. And its a general pain in the ass. I had planned to keep growing my hair out through the winter just to see what happens and what’s it like, but if I wasn’t happier by the start of the hot season next spring, I was cutting it.

    Well, an interesting thing happened. It took at least 9 month (may be longer), but I got through the difficult period of growing it out. The difficult period started when I had to fight my hair’s natural inclination to style itself into a mullet because the ends flipped up. I kept fighting flippy ends for months on end. Now my hair is past my shoulder and although the ends still flip up, I don’t bother fighting them because it doesn’t look bad. It was some more long months in coming, but my former bangs are long enough to stay up in a ponytail so for sports I can just use a pony tail and not have to worry about extra headbands for the short hairs that wanted to fly in my face.

    It still takes more time to style than short hair and I actually have to think about and carry headbands or ponytail bands so it’s still really less efficient and more hassle than short styles, but … it took long and painful months to get to this stage. I am not sure knowing that it takes 9 months or more to be somewhat manageable that I would ever grow it out again after I cut it short. It’s been an interesting experience.

    IMO though this is one area where men have it lucky (like shoes – no high heels). They can have no, short, or long hair and it doesn’t matter.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I used to always have short hair too, and now that mine is long, I find it pull it back 90% of the time. Which is silly, but it drives me crazy being down.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Me too!

        Media/society/something made me think that long hair offers all these options for styles. I doesn’t work that way for me.

        1. Graciosa*

          Ditto. When my hair was long, I put it up all the time for work. I had decorative clips attached to hair nets that made it look like the decoration was above a bun without requiring me to actually pin the bun.

          The irony was that the overall visual effect of long hair that is put up or pulled back is pretty much the same as short hair. When I figured that out and cut it, my time to dry and style my hair dropped to under 3 minutes a day.

          I think long hair is one of those things that was – for me – better in theory than in practice. Hopefully you’ll have a better experience, but if not, this is easy to change.

          Just don’t get trapped worrying about your sunk costs (“But it took nine months to grow out!”) if you ever get to that point. That time has passed either way, so you might as well have a style you will enjoy in the future, whatever it happens to be.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I have long hair (have since high school) and I used to wear it up all the time, until I got this really great layered cut recently. Now I wear it down most days at work and up at home and when I’m sleeping.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I have been growing my hair out for over a year from a short pixie, and only in the last month or so have people started commenting “hey, your hair’s getting long!” (I’ve finally gotten it to a past-my-chin bob). I’m going to keep going until it’s at least long enough to ponytail (shoulder length-ish), but I don’t know how much farther than that, because like you I have fine hair that tends to go flat if there’s length weighing it down. And in a year I’ll probably be bored with the length and cut it off again.

      I wish my hair grew faster.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      … men have it lucky … They can have no, short, or long hair and it doesn’t matter.

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by that? I know a number of men who are losing their hair – and they are not happy about it. I’ve been personally comfortable with having long hair for most of my life – but many parents (my own and other’s), cops, teachers, DMV personnel, managers, even women I’ve wanted to date have had various “issues” with it. Not to make a big deal out of it, but – hair really does matter to men.

  36. Sevda*

    What are some of your favorite home decorating blogs/websites? I’ll be moving into my first “real” apartment next month, and a girl can only search so many iterations of “studio apartment decorating ideas” on Pintrest!

    1. kas*

      I would like to know as well, I’ve searched everything I can think of on Pinterest for room ideas. I used to browse the HGTV website so that’s what I’m going to use next.

    2. Sunflower*

      i like advicefromatwentysomething blog. search the apartment tag. Some stuff is pricey but a lot of it is reasonably priced.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      If I can give you some unsolicited advice – the biggest enemy when living is small places is having too much stuff. Look for items that are multi-purpose and wait a little while to accumulate all your grown-up stuff :) If you need or want some kitchen recommendations let me know.

      Congratulations on your new place!

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Honestly studio apartments are where things like day beds shine. I like the ones from IKEA because they usually have drawers for storage underneath (so not only is it a couch AND bed, but it’s either a dresser or linen closet, too. Three things in one piece of furniture–they also pull out either with a trundle for non-romantic overnight guests, or expand into a full size bed if you prefer that either for yourself or for more amorous pursuits.) When I first moved out I got a coffee table with hidden storage AND a leaf (we didn’t have room for a dining table so the leaf meant we could realistically eat off the coffee table when we had guests, all limber enough to sit on cushions on the floor.) We had no kitchen storage so pantry items were put in a bookcase with doors (IKEA Billy and Besta series… I think you can see the theme here.)

        But the most important thing to do is MINIMIZE. Either get a storage unit (or accommodating friends/family with extra attic/basement storage space) for the extras you know you’d want in the future but don’t have space for right now, or toss and donate as much as you possibly can. Follow the one-in-one-out rule. Clean out your pantry/fridge on a regular basis, stock from the back and pull older food/supplies to the front. Basically, the fewer items you have, the less you need furniture and bins to organize and store those items, and the less furniture you have, the more spacious your home looks.

    4. soitgoes*

      I just moved into a new studio apartment! It sounds strange, but it helped me a lot to look at the home furnishings sections of sites like ModCloth and Urban Outfitters, just to see what was considered cool right now. Once you see something you like, it’s easy to run a google search for something similar. My favorite finds were the Better Homes and Gardens curtains in the Calista print from Walmart (it’s surprisingly difficult to find nice curtains – you’d think that there would be a million nice fabrics, but nope!) and a purple bistro set for my balcony by Mainstays, also from Walmart.

      Oh, go to the Wayfair site and search “basics 3 piece dining set.” They have these cute kitchen islands with leaves that pop up to make a table, with stools that tuck underneath. Great for extra counter space, creating a division between the “kitchen” and your “living room,” and also good for kitchen furniture that’s easy to tuck out of the way.

    5. Emme*

      Apartment therapy helped me a ton when I was looking into decorating my first place. It certainly skews towards one certain aesthetic, but its generally a good place to start. And check out their annual small/cool contest for small space living tips. Otherwise, I read manhattan-nest, and while they tend to do more renovations, I thought the way they transformed their old apartment in Brooklyn was fantastic. Well worth searching old posts for it. I also read both Little Green Notebook (although I think the quality has dropped off significantly- again, check back through the archives for ideas & clever DIYs) and Style by Emily Henderson.

    6. Jillociraptor*

      Seconding Apartment Therapy — the Small Spaces contest is cool on its own, but it’s also great to be able to filter designs for roughly your square footage.

      Also Houzz. You can search by style, colors, room, etc.

  37. Almond*

    I’m thinking about moving.

    I live in the south. I was born and raised here and I’ve always wanted to leave, because frankly, I hate it. I’m planning to go to graduate school. Coincidentally, grad school looks like my best shot at getting out of here.

    Any advice on looking at out-of-state schools?

    1. BRR*

      Look at the program, not the school. In grad school you’re so specialized it really doesn’t matter about the school. I picked a grad school that I would have never gone to for undergrad because it didn’t matter about the rest of the school. Also try to find places where you can get an assistantship.

    2. Jubilance*

      I agree – look at the program first, but be realistic with yourself about what type of environment you can live in long-term. If you’re a big city person, you probably will go stir crazy in a tiny Midwest town for grad school, no matter how great the program is. Keep in mind that this may be your “forever” place after school, and seriously evaluate the location. Also see if schools will provide visits – after I was accepted into PhD programs, each school paid for me to visit their campus, meet with professors/current students so I could evaluate if I wanted to spend 5+yrs of my life there.

    3. Emme*

      DO IT! I also moved out of state for grad school, and its the best thing I could have done. My advice- just look online! Tons of schools offer admissions blogs, do webinars and host chat sessions to attract candidates who can’t always travel for open houses.

  38. Katie the Fed*

    Married folks – can you tell me some traditions or other things you do to keep things sweet and interesting? Like, my husband and I have waffles every Saturday morning and catch up on the week’s Comedy Central offerings. We also pledge to try one new restaurant every month.

    What traditions/practices do other people have?

    1. Sabrina*

      Every Christmas we buy a new ornament usually with the year on it. Most Saturdays we have lunch out.

    2. danr*

      We try to go out to eat every Friday. Experiment until you find a couple or three (or four) restaurants where you like the food and the service is good. Become a regular, tip well and you’ll be able to count on a relaxing end to the week.

    3. Clever Name*

      Before we had a kid, we’d go out to eat and then browse a bookstore every weekend. Now we try to have date nights where we get a babysitter. We watch movies after our son goes to bed.

    4. DaBlonde*

      My husband and I have implemented a “Naked Curfew”.
      We realized that we would often sit at our computers, reading forums or playing games until we were exhausted, then we would fall into bed and go to sleep.
      We talked about wanting to spend more quality time together and came up with the idea of a ten o’clock naked curfew. We don’t need to go to sleep, but the clothes come off at ten, so we had better be in our rooms.
      We usually put a tv show on in our bedroom and give each other back rubs while discussing our day and plans for the week. Sometimes the back rubs lead to other things, sometimes they don’t, but we always enjoy the relaxing touch and the time together.

      1. cuppa*

        This is a great idea!! We have “jammy time”, but we might need to make it “naked time”. :)

      2. the gold digger*


        Me [sharing this cool idea with my husband]: We should do this!
        Engineer husband: We can consider it. But you like to go to bed much earlier, and that probably wasn’t the case for the couple in that story.
        Me: It is not about the bedtime!

    5. Elkay*

      You got used to calling him your husband yet?

      My husband doesn’t really do tradition but I’ve tried sneaking some in for Christmas. Christmas Eve we always watch The Muppet Christmas Carol when we get home from work, and we always have takeout pizza for dinner. At some point in the run up to Christmas we make cookies together – I’m horrible to be around when I bake but I try to be nice during this!

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We have a weekly taco night and we LOVE it. Like crazy love it. Like when we’re traveling, we talk wistfully about how many days until we’re home and can have taco night.

      We’ve also put a lot of effort into creating an amazing bed (okay, this was more my doing, but he’s now on board) — W hotel mattress, the most luxurious bedding I could find, etc. It’s the most comfortable place in the house, and as with taco night, we discuss its wonders extensively when we’re away from home and yearn to return to it.

      We’re really into watching movies together, and we’ve created a movie list on Google Doc that we both update and add suggestions to, as well as notes about why think the other might like it. (This is mainly him; he’s a movie savant.) It’s organized by weird categories, and it’s an excellent resource when we can’t decide what to watch. (I’ve recently added a section called The Canon — the movies that we particularly like watching and re-watching with each other.)

        1. danr*

          Nothing wrong with that… we also have a list of movies that we watch over and over. We’ve both come to like films that we wouldn’t have touched before we met.

    7. chewbecca*

      I know I’m late with this, but my fiance and I have lots of little traditions that I love.

      – Every Sunday he gives me one of his t-shirts to sleep in for the week.
      – I scratch his back while he’s doing dishes (because he always beats me to it)
      – I get home before he does, but I always wait for him to get home to change out of my work clothes.
      – I’m not sure this is really a tradition so much, but I always try to thank him after he does something for me, whether it be opening my car door or paying for dinner. He does so much for me, I never want him to feel like I take him for granted.

  39. Sunflower*

    So i love hard boiled egg whites but hate the yolk. Anyone have suggestions on what I can make with the yolk? I hate throwing things out!

    1. fposte*

      Cookies! There are nice old-school cookie recipes that use cooked yolk. I just Googled “hard boiled egg yolk cookies” and found a ton.

    2. Stephanie*

      Ice cream! If you keep the yolks raw, that is. You can make ice cream without a ice cream maker (it’s just a bit more annoying).

      Aside from that, chop them up for salads?

    3. Jen RO*

      Home made mayo, though it can be a bit tricky. My mum makes it by hand, I just use the food processor and one of the accessories.

  40. Tris Prior*

    Ideas for dealing with a houseguest who always finds fault with how clean my apartment is, no matter how much time I spend feverishly scrubbing before she arrives? I just found out she’s passing through town right before Christmas and Boyfriend said she could stay a night with us. (She is more his friend than mine.)

    Asking her to stay in a hotel is not an option, as she’ll be bringing her dog.

    As an added bonus, we recently moved to an apartment that’s much crappier than our last even when sparkling clean. :(

    1. C Average*

      How does she, ah, express her displeasure? Comments? Passive-aggressive tidying up to be “helpful?” Recommendations for a good cleaning service in your area?

      This would bug me to no end. As far as I’m concerned, when the accommodations are free, the only proper responses are “thank you for having us” or “thanks for offering–we’ll stay in a hotel.”

      How I’d deal would depend a lot on how the criticism was delivered, though.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Comments, mostly. “You didn’t clean ____ enough.” “There’s dirt on your kitchen floor/cat hair on the couch/dust on your bookshelf.”

        1. C Average*

          I don’t think I would’ve been able to remain civil and to keep hosting this person.

          I would be sorely tempted to say something like this: “You know, this is not a hotel. We don’t have a housekeeping staff. This is our home, and we keep it according to the standards we’re comfortable with. Your constant jabs at me about the cleanliness are just uncalled for. It makes it really unpleasant for me when you come to stay. Next time you’re in town, it might be better for everyone if you stayed in a hotel.”

          Or even, “Here’s the thing. We love having your dog here. He’s friendly and he seems really at home and happy here, and it’s always a treat for us to visit with him. But you and your constant sniping about the housekeeping bum me out! Next time, I’m thinking you should probably stay in a hotel. You’re welcome to drop off Rover here, though. He’s a wonderful guest.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Why not ask BF to speak to her about this. He could say, “Well, as you recall, our house is not House Beautiful. We were concerned that you did not feel comfortable here because of dust/hair/whatnot. We would love to have you, but we are concerned if it is the right choice for you.”
          Or something say something like that anyway. See what she says.

          I try to match the level that people use with me. It would be very hard for me not to hand her a broom or a dust cloth. But in all honesty, since she is your BFs friend, I really feel that it is up to him to draw the line with her.

          1. Tris Prior*

            Yeah, I already told him to warn her that our new apartment is rather shitty and has issues with things like hot water not staying hot for long. Maybe she will decide not to stay, hahaha.

            What sucks is that she is a GREAT hostess herself and frequently puts us up when we are in her city. Feeling some pressure to reciprocate. But, you know… why is it always the person with the girl parts who is held responsible for the condition of a house?!?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This is a person that is probably a nervous wreck on the inside- has to have things perfect and so on. Yet she is making herself into the very person she fears.

              I think you can simply tell her “You are a great hostess. I cannot match you. I am who I am. If you stay here, you will need to be able to accept that. You are welcome to stay but your critical comments must leave, now.”

        3. Diane*

          I think it depends on whether she’s clueless (just unfiltered and means nothing by it) or knowingly rude.

          I have a friend who admits she has no filter and who has given me permission to tell her when she oversteps, so I can be direct with her, and nobody’s feelings are hurt. If she comments on something, it’s genuinely an observation, not a criticism. (“Your ivy is growing onto your porch. Do you want me to pull it?”)

          If she’s proven to be an ass in other ways, I’d look at her like she was a lunatic and hand her a broom, while sneaking tufts of cat hair into her suitcase. And she would not be invited back.

          1. Tris Prior*

            It is true that she absolutely has no filter and speaks her mind, always. She’s like Cordelia from Buffy, except without the wealth and shallowness. “Tact is just not saying stuff that’s true.”

      1. Tris Prior*

        I’m actually sort of leaning toward putting him totally in charge of cleaning and when she complains to me (as I am female of COURSE all cleaning is my responsibility) that something’s not clean enough, pointing to him and telling her to take it up with him if she is unhappy….

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know, it’s so vile of her to say that I’d still be tempted just to hand her the bleach bottle and say “We want you to be happy and we know only you could meet your standards. Let us know when you’re through.”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Personally, I’d tell your BF not to invite her to stay with you guys again. Nobody is coming into my home who is going to make me feel bad about it or myself. That’s beyond rude.

      Your other option is to joking-but-not-quite-jokingly say there’s a Best Western down the street that she might prefer, or that she’s welcome to clean herself. She can absolutely stay at a hotel with the dog – sounds like she doesn’t want to be bothered to figure that out.

      I’ll caveat that with this – we have company from the midwest at times, and they have bigger places. A couple of them have commented on how much stuff/clutter there is (not in a mean way though – just light teasing). I point out that in a 960-square foot place, there’s only so much space. People who live in the sprawling homes of middle America don’t quite appreciate the unique challenges of city condo living.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      That’s awful. Some thoughts:
      1) Don’t bother cleaning (or at least don’t clean extra for her). Then you’ll have less reason to resent her criticism.
      2) When she criticizes, DON’T RESPOND TO THE ACTUAL CRITICISM. Because that’s not the issue, and you don’t want to let it be the issue. Don’t give excuses or explanations.
      3) If you’re not comfortable calling her out, say nothing. Nothing is fine. Actually, saying nothing to jerk comments can be really, really satisfying. Bonus is that this works for however she phrases things — even if she phrases it as a question.
      4) Comments like “Why would you say something like that to me?” have served me well in situations of out-of-left-field criticism.
      5) Ask your boyfriend to call her out when she makes her comments. Similarly, not making explanations or excuses, just asking why she thinks it’s okay to visit someone’s house and insult them.
      6) If you do call her out, and she back pedals and makes excuses for her statements, consider yourself to have won and don’t make further comments until she insults you again. Often, even if people are defensive in the moment, they still change their behavior.

    4. fposte*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t want her there. (And there are hotels that take dogs, so that’s bogus.) And I sure as hell wouldn’t feverishly scrub for somebody like that–if she’s going to be displeased whatever I do, I’ll save my time for better efforts than trying to please her.

      If I could do it with genuine humor and not just passive aggressiveness, I might razz her about what she expects at these prices and ask her if she wants her money back.

    5. Diet Coke Addict*

      “Well, I suppose you get what you pay for, don’t you?”

      Dogs can stay perfectly well in hotels–I think there’s a couple hotel chains that offer that specifically as a point for travellers. I’d be telling my boyfriend that she would not be staying with us or that he would be cleaning for her, but there’s no way I’d waste my time cleaning for someone who was going to give me grief about it and wasn’t my mother.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        Hand her a broom (or washcloth or spraybottle) and tell her to have fun? Seriously, that’s very impolite to criticise the cleanliness of your home like that.

        1. Clever Name*

          This is what I would do. “Yes, it is hard to keep the place clean with a full time job. Thank you so much for offering to help”. “Well, I wasn’t offering to help….” “Oh, you weren’t? So you were just criticizing me then. I see”

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        La Quinta. All locations allow dogs, and they’re usually not super expensive. (Kimpton hotels too, but they’re fewer and further between.) I would even offer to split it with her, because NO ONE comes into my house and criticizes my cleaning. My mother thinks she can, but I can also hand her a Swiffer cloth and tell her to get to work if she has an issue.

    6. Sherm*

      I would say “Well, if my place isn’t your cup of tea, I know there are some hotels in the area that accept dogs.” She might leave (yay!) but probably she’d say something like “Oh, no, no, no, this is fine.” Then, for a dose of satisfaction, you could say “I’m glad that you like my place.”

    7. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Wait — she brings a DOG into your house and complains about the level of cleanliness? What’s the level of cleanliness when she leaves (as I look around at my vacuumed-every-day floors that can’t withstand the onslaught of a double-coated dog and so are never totally clean for more than half an hour)? A houseguest complaining about the free accommodations for her and a pet? How about giving her a copy of Miss Manners with stickies marking appropriate passages as a reverse hostess gift? Because she’s doing everything backwards. She should arrive bearing substantial hostess gifts, thank you every twenty minutes, and she should be scrubbing your place on her hands and knees before she leaves.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        God, yes, my family members with dogs, even my CLEAN family members with dogs, leave behind so much dog hair and smelly blankets and pillows and just general dog mess it’s absolutely ridiculous. It cemeted just how much I prefer cats to dogs. Not that cats are perfectly clean (cat hair and litter kinda suck) but at least they generally don’t permeate every upholstered surface with general “cat” smell.

    8. CLT*

      That can be truly annoying, but you might try assuming best intent. In this case, that would mean that she thinks she is being helpful by telling you something you might have missed, or perhaps she has a socialization issue that causes her to state observations without any particular intent or to think it is appropriate to be corrective. You could respond by saying, “You are right, thanks for letting me know,” or “Yes, this is how we live.” And then let it go.

    9. soitgoes*

      Oh, is my mother staying with you? idk, tell her that unless she wants to clean if for you, she needs to deal.

    10. Mephyle*

      My advice is don’t take it personally, which means don’t take it like you would from someone who only finds fault when fault is actually present. You know she’s going to do this, so don’t scrub feverishly, just clean to your own personal standards, like you would for your other potential guests. Keep a private list (mentally, or written down in a secret place) of critical things she says. Give yourself bonus points for any that are •new; •clever; •stupid; •particularly hurtful; or whatever other interesting criteria you like. Detach your emotions from her criticism, and observe her like an anthropologist.

  41. Sandrine (France)*

    I found BF’s Christmas present (sorta) through Twitter today. Someone was selling tickets to a show we wanted to see but were “oh crap, no monies OMG” when they were being sold. Today the organisers of the show retweeted someone who has another commitment coming up so I got two tickets! This is so important to BF I’m quite happy. I had to tell him of course, just in case he’d try to buy other tickets, but yayyyyyyyyyy!

    Then, I have a “cold from heck” , as I like to call it. Can barely sleep, obviously can’t breathe, cough all the time… had to force myself to go through some light grocery shopping today and boy do I hope for things to be resolved (somehow) by tomorrow since LittleSis is coming from from Japan for a few days! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    Oh, and if I have ONE Youtuber to recommend this week, it would be Chris Thompson from channel “Supdaily06” . This guy makes “opinion” videos everyday and while you could think “oh no, another brainless hunk” he’s actually open minded and just amazing. His recent video about bullying had me in tears.

    Enough for today *cough cough* I guess *cough cough* bye bye :P

  42. cuppa*

    I just wanted to share that the episode of the Brady Bunch where the kids build the card house and Marcia wears her bracelet was on in my market this morning. :)

    1. HR Manager*

      It was a all Tiger’s fault! I have most episodes of Brady Bunch memorized. They were dueling over the stamps to trade in for something they wanted – the boys wanted a boat, and the girls wanted a sewing machine.

  43. cuppa*

    I hope Elizabeth West is around….
    I bought a pair of ice skates because I enjoy skating and it helps get through the winter. When I rented, I usually ended up with hockey skates and didn’t realize that figure skates would be that much harder to skate in until I fell on my face repeatedly from tripping on the toe pick. It was a little discouraging! Any tips or help?

    1. Elizabeth West*


      I know this is counter-intuitive, but knees bent slightly and back straight and upright is the way to go. Keep your shoulders back and square. If you put your arms out in front of you, that helps keep you upright. You don’t want to lean too far forward, or your weight will go over the toe picks and you’ll end up catching them. You want that weight mostly in the middle of the blade. When stroking, push with the inside edge of the blade at an angle, NOT with the toe pick.

      This link has a good explanation of posture, etc. at the beginning. Look for videos too.

      If you really want to do this a lot, you can sign up for Learn to Skate basic skills lessons. The first set of lessons will teach you proper posture, stroking, how to fall, etc. Most rinks have a program–just ask them about it. It’s usually about eight weeks and you will learn stuff that is easy to practice on public sessions.

      Yay for taking up skating! (I had a really good practice today–skated I See Fire twice and it went okay both times, so I’m in a good mood about it right now!)

      1. cuppa*

        THANK YOU! I think you’re exactly on (I knew you would!) — I lean too far forward and my weight goes over the toe pick. I can’t wait to try again!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Everybody makes that mistake, especially adults. I still do it because I don’t work on my core enough (need to get back on the Pilates train). And you’re welcome! :)

  44. LolaK*

    Any advice for resetting a negative mindset to a more positive one? The last few weeks have been hectic/overwhelming (making me feel disconnected from everyone/everything) with no sign of relief until after the Holidays. I know there is no benefit to dwelling on the negative but I can’t seem to pull myself out (and no time for therapy right now).

    1. Clever Name*

      For me, I have to catch myself when I notice negative thoughts and consciously say, “no, that’s not me” or something. Surround yourself with things and people that make you feel good. Give yourself permission to say no to things that are upsetting and stressful. Watch favorite movies. Reread beloved books. Decide that the holidays bring you happiness. Take joy when looking at holiday decorations or listening to music. I firmly believe that winter holidays involving lights and food (and family, if that’s a positive for you) have a purpose in making a cold and dark season seem a little less old and dark.

      1. LolaK*

        Thank you-yea if I nip the negative thought right when it happens it will probably be easier to manage.

    2. Sherm*

      Writing a gratitude list might be helpful. Think about how some stressors really have some positive connotations. For example, if you’re thinking “Man, I have to buy presents for a ton of relatives,” you can remind yourself you are lucky to have family in your life. Volunteering can help. (Some places over the holidays actually get more volunteers than they need, since lots of people have time off from work and are moved by the holidays to volunteer. So you might want to volunteer earlier this month if you can, while a lot of people are still working.)

      1. LolaK*

        Thanks! I used to have an alarm set on my phone for a gratitude list-I am going to have to start that up again.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Hey you guys! If anyone is still here – let’s talk presents!

      1. Best present you’re giving this year.
      2. Best present(s) you’ve gotten in the past
      3. What you recommend as a great gift.


    4. Katie the Fed*

      Now, for my actual advice for you –

      First of all, your Vitamin D levels may be out of whack because of the changing of the seasons, less light, etc. Try to go for a walk in the daylight and consider Vitamin D supplements. Exercise and light can make a big difference.

      Second – I really, strongly recommend volunteering when you’re down and/or overwhelmed. It really gets you out of your head and makes you remember that there are people a lot worse off. There are a lot of things you can do – my husband and I go to a soup kitchen and assist. I love it and I think it’s a great way to improve your spirits.

      If you can’t deal with people, maybe something with animals?

      1. LolaK*

        Sometimes I do feel that it is easier to connect with animals. Exercise is something that definitely got moved to the back burner recently!

    5. C Average*

      One easy thing you can do is turn off the news, if that’s part of what’s bringing you down.

      The news is kind of a bummer right now and, honestly, no matter which side of which issue you’re on, it starts to feel like just a lot of yelling. I just kind of opted out of the whole news cycle, and it’s made me feel less tense and more hopeful about the world.

      I’ll check in next year, when the dust has settled, and see if anyone has moved past the yelling stage. I am going to enjoy my holiday season and make it a safe, warm, happy space for my family. I don’t care if that makes me a shallow, politically apathetic person.

      1. fposte*

        This is *such* a good bit of advice, and I think people should hear it more often; there’s so much good research about what it does to your worldview to hear only the worst stuff over and over again. I’ll also suggest paying close attention to what you get from social media, because a lot of people find that depressing too, and unplugging from that for a while if it’s not enhancing your life.

        And there’s a lot to be said for the classics of move the body, turn off the screens, go to bed at a decent hour.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Makes sense. I usually check the news online, only click on a few articles, and figure I know as much as I feel like knowing for now.

      2. LolaK*

        I have become a bit of a news junkie lately and most of it has been extremely negative. It has been difficult to get away from it especially since I live in NYC and have to see/hear it everywhere!

  45. Gift ideas-Geeky*

    My son is 24, lives on his own (apt) and has a job as a computer programmer. I’m looking for some gift ideas for him for Christmas. He is impossible to buy for because he gives no ideas for what he wants (I don’t need anything) most of his interests are beyond my comprehension (he attended Otakon in Maryland and PAX East in Boston this year) so I’m looking for any suggestions on things someone with those interests may actually like to receive.

    It seems like there may be people in his demographic on this site that may have some suggestions so I’ll give it a shot.

    1. The Maple Teacup*

      How about a HOTAS gaming stick? HOTAS translates to mean Hands On Throttle-And-Stick. Its a device typically used for flight-fighting simulation games and whatnot. Perhaps a gaming keyboard would work too. Since he went to PAX, your son might like you to donate to Child’s Play. Its a charity started by Penny Arcade that donates toys, games and books to patients in children’s hospitals. I’m sure he’d be thrilled if a bunch of kids got copies of Lego Star Wars.

      This is information from a gamer who buys presents for a gamer boyfriend. :)

      1. Gift ideas-Geeky*

        Thank you. I’ll look at all of those. Hard to say about the donation thing but that is a good idea as well.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Does he have a Kindle or an iPad mini? Does he cook? Can he cook? Is he interested in learning? I can recommend a bazillion things related to cooking or travel if he’s into either of those :)

      1. Gift ideas-Geeky*

        I know he likes to bake and I think he dabbles with coooking. He does not have a kindle or IPad that I know of.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          OK – here are my thoughts.

          1. iPad or Kindle. iPad is more versitile but depends on your budget.
          2. Set of stainless steel cookware
          3. Blender
          4. Popcorn popper
          5. Nice coffee maker/bean grinder/beans if he’s a coffee drinker. Some nerdy mugs to go with.
          6. Beer brewing kit

        2. Celeste*

          Get him one of those brownie pans that is made so that every piece will have edges. Some are a solid piece, some have an insert. They’re really neat!

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Unless they tell me specifically what they want, I do mostly clothes and food for my young adult sons (who sound a lot like your son).

      Son #2 likes hot sauce. I just bought him “Blair’s Mini Death Hot Sauce 4-Pack” over at Amazon and I’m shopping the different Molecular Gastronomy Kits there to pick up one of those as his main gift. The kit is a gamble because he isn’t much inclined to cooking, but he does love chemistry. We’ve geeked out over Wylie Dufresne on Top Chef so…. hopefully I’m not throwing the $100 away.

      Mostly, though, food and clothes unless one of them says something very specific they need.

      1. Gift ideas-Geeky*

        We bought him hot sauces last year, he does like those. I’ll have to look at the one you referenced at Amazon. I’m glad to hear it isn’t just my son who doesn’t give a lot of specific details.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Anything high on the Scoville scale will impress him and it’ll be something to talk about when he opens the gift — ghost pepper, scorpion, the “fun” ones.

          I just bought Son #1 some “Better Call Saul” gear over at Amazon. (this thread is coinciding with my holiday shopping for the kids so, posting as I find them!) I also got a retro, distressed, Aquaman tee for Son #2.

    4. the gold digger*

      Can’t speak as a parent or as a 24 year old, but I can tell you what I would love for my husband’s parents to give him.

      1. Not a donation in his name to the save the manatee foundation, even though it comes with a poster of a manatee.
      2. Not a potted tropical plant.
      3. Not a framed photograph of themselves, unsmiling, with the option of two frames.

      I would like them to say, “Because we expect you to drop everything and fly to our place, along with renting a car, any time we have medical problems, we would like to buy your plane ticket and pay for your rental car the next time you visit.”

      Tickets to a concert or a play would be nice, too. Events, not things.

    5. HR Manager*

      So he’s an anime/manga fan – can you tell if he likes certain series of shows or manga that you can buy for him? Or get him a subscription on Crunchyroll or something (it’s an anime,J-, K-, C-drama streaming site). Plus any gadget – he’ll probably appreciate that.

  46. Cath in Canada*

    Slow cooker recommendations!

    I’d like to buy my husband a slow cooker for Christmas, but have no idea about brands / features / other considerations. Any recommendations?

    (I feel a bit weird about getting him a gift that I’ll end up benefitting from, but he loves cooking and has specifically mentioned that he’d like a slow cooker a few times now. So it’s not quite a bowling-ball-with-holes-drilled-for-my-fingers, honest!)

    1. Samantha*

      I have a CrockPot brand slow cooker with 4 heat settings and a warm option that I love. In fact, I’m getting ready to make beef stew in it for tonight! Make sure you get a large enough one that a good size roast will fit inside (with room for veggies). I used to have a small slow cooker and it was pretty useless, even for just cooking for two. Some have delayed turn on settings as well as automatic shut off feature for safety. Hope that helps!

      1. Trixie*

        We have a larger unit and seriously tempted to downsize. I think larger units can be worked around if planned out properly but pretty sure I’m going to come home one day to a cute, smaller unit. Hopefully the original will still be on the premises.

    2. Gene*

      Removable crock so it can be washed in sink or dishwasher.

      Actual crockery for cooking vessel, I’ve found that the metal ones that rely on a thermostat to maintain a constant low temperature don’t work as well. I went through several and finally found an actual Rival Crock-Pot from the 70s.

      1. Celeste*

        I agree with this, and because I’m lazy, I will also recommend a box of Crock Pot Liners. Find them with the foil and plastic wraps in the grocery. They are basically oven roasting bags with the opening on top. Store them inside the empty crock pot between uses so you don’t forget you have them.

    3. anon in tejas*

      I actually have two which are different sized. The first is smaller, and more usable for just the two of us. The large one I use primarily for stocks/cooking recipes that cannot be scaled down (i.e. my turkey chili recipe).

      The first one is a high/low/off setting and I have it hooked up to a light timer (so that I can use the timer). The other one is larger, digital settings with high/low/warm/off with a build in timer.

      I started out with the smaller one, and bought the larger one once I realized that I would use it more often for stocks/etc.

  47. Cruciatus*

    OK, this just came up… So we have a well and have been using a chlorinator for maybe a decade or so (no, the well water is not safe to drink on its own). Someone has come out and suggested a UV light filter to purify the water, but if we do that, we pretty much have to get a water softener. Our water (which we don’t quite believe) was tested at an 18, and hard water starts to be considered “very hard” at 10. Like I said, we don’t quite believe it’s THAT hard, but OK. Anyway, my mom just came to me concerned because of the regeneration part of the water softener. Since we have a well, we don’t know really how much water we have and to hear that it can use up to 25 gallons to flush the system out is kind of horrifying. How often does it need to do that? And so that water is just gone? It doesn’t flush it back into the system or something? That’s a lot of wasted water in my (and my mom’s) opinion. Are we missing something?

    Are there other, better options? Should we just get another chlorinator at this point? While softer water may be better for pipes and appliances, it is not useful if there is no water to be had (not to mention the expense of getting it all set up).

    1. reader*

      Have had a 2 water softeners for 31 years with a well. Yes the water is discharged when the system regenerates. Not sure how much that is. But have never had any problems. 25 gallons wouldn’t be more then a long shower. You just don’t want to be using large quantities of water while the regeneration cycle is running as you could end up dumping all the salt and have to run it again. This why they are programmed to recharge at 2 am. You set how often the system recharges based upon your normal usage. My system has a 12 day cycle and I have recharging every 4 days (this was for family of 5) . I can’t change the salt level with this one but could my first one allowed that.

      Cost wasn’t too bad for me. 2004 – $750 for the system and 160 for small parts and labor. On going cost is the salt for the brine tank. How much you use will depend on how often the regeneration cycle runs.

      As far as your hard water issue – if you have adequate water pressure at the farthest point then you don’t really have a problem. If my system is set too low there will be a build up in the pipes and the pressure to the master bath gets lower. And because it uses salt anyone with high blood pressure should only use the water for cooking and cleaning and bottled water for drinking.

      How much water you have depends on your well and pump. As long as they are adequate you should have no problems. You should have a tank that holds some water – this allows you to start using water while the pump starts working on filling it back up. You don’t have to wait for the water to flow like you would with a hand pump.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am getting my second Culligan system. There are cheaper systems out there, but by the time I pay someone to install it, program it, etc, I am not sure if I would save that much.
      However, my new system will measure my water usage and only flush the system after I have used X amount of water. (Where X is a number that is calculated on the basis of the hardness of the original water.) This will hopefully be a good savings on water as we are going on metered water here. My old system flushed every Thursday, whether we used that much water or not. Yes, this water is just gone, it is pulling the minerals away and dumping them out of your system. No, it can’t recycle that because of the heavy mineral content.
      I also put in a drinking water system in the kitchen. It has not worked in a while and I really miss it. It will be good to get these systems replaced.

      Hard water does a lot of weird stuff, like it is hard to get dishes, especially glasses clean. Laundry becomes a miserable process, but preferable to say, cleaning the shower/tub. A little joke there- you can’t get the tub really clean if you have hard water. Toilets are another story- parts inside the tank get all corroded or covered with minerals. And eventually if you have metal water lines they get narrower because they are loaded up with stuff.

      Not a fan of chlorine. I doubt you need a second chlorinator- it only gets rid of bacteria and does nothing for the minerals that make your water hard.

      Water hardness and lack of water are actually two separate problems. If you are worried about your well, you could get that checked by someone who has a good reputation. I can choose to shut my water softener system off. So in your case, if you knew your well was starting to run low, you could turn off the softener until the water level came back up again.
      It might be a good idea to investigate your well a little bit and know what you have. I just recently learned that rock wells do run low after a bit and you have to drill a new well.

      In terms of priority, I would make sure I had a good water supply first and then worry about the hardness of the water. You will catch some savings with the softener- you will use less soap for washing and you will spend less time rinsing things off. I know my skin feels cleaner when I shower with the softer water.

  48. EvilQueenRegina*

    Anyone got any tips on how to close the door on a pointless crush? On the one hand, this person and I have just so much in common. On the other, there are lots of reasons why it wouldn’t work. We don’t live in the same country. From what I know I’m not his physical type. And he chose to disappear off the face of the earth at exactly the time I needed him. I know all this. But the feelings haven’t completely gone away.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Trying that now. :\ I’m just doing my best to pretend he doesn’t exist. Grrrrr.

      All I can say is try to find something else to think about, be it a project or another person (someone you can actually be with is better, though many times that’s easier said than done). Or, given your screen name, you could just throw a curse. ;) If you do, I need one too!

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Dark Curse to forget him, or borrow Ingrid’s Curse of Shattered Sight so you see his flaws?

    2. Tara*

      Silly high school question (and probably late enough that no one will see it), but how do you communicate to someone that you’re not interested in them when they haven’t actually expressed interest in you?

      I keep ending up in these situations where I make friends with someone who I like a lot, we hang out a fair bit, and I’m pretty sure they’re interested in me romantically– but they don’t say anything for so long that when they finally do and I have to turn them down, I feel like I’m a terrible person who’s been leading them on. Is there a nice, gentle way of indicating you’re not into someone before it gets to that point? This is almost always with girls, if that’s relevant.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Keep busy. Tell yourself if he is fresh in your memories that is because he represents something that is missing out of your life. That is fine- we all have things missing out of our lives. So use that as motivation to go fill up your days a little more. And you have a great excuse to go try New Thing that you have been wanting to check out and just have not had time for it.

    4. Sunflower*

      Keep yourself open to other people romantically. One of the reasons it’s so hard to let this stuff go is because they’re the only person present. Now is the best time to start going on dates, ask to be fixed up or just put yourself out there. Eventually you’ll find someone who you click with and this guy will hopefully fade away

  49. random name that I just picked*

    Thank you to everyone who gave me advice at a recent Sunday free for all. I had posted that a relative left my parent’s home in the middle of the night after Thanksgiving without saying goodbye or leaving a note. It turns out that she wanted to pick her dogs up at the boarding facility as soon as they opened because she was missing them so much.

    I was overly freaked out by it and my parents were too because another relative left at 4 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving years ago and refused to speak to my parents for well over a year after that due to an argument after Thanksgiving dinner. Their relationship is still rocky years later but all parties are fine with trying to forget what all that had happened that one night. A lot of dirty laundry was aired then and red flags that had been waving for years were finally set on fire. I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything nuclear again but I love all the parties involved and hated the thought that there would be another feud since the last one is still sending ripples around in the family.

    The odd thing that I cannot get my head around is that the relative who left this time knew what had happened years ago and knew how devastated my parents were over it. Years ago, my father even called the local priest because my mother refused to get out of bed for weeks after that. I just would have thought the relative that left this holiday would have been a bit more sensitive about it and perhaps left a note or called at a reasonable hour or something to let us know she was okay and things were fine. She is the one relative who I had always admired for having a clear head upon her shoulders and it is a bit disheartening to find out that she has faults along with her qualities.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Glad she is okay, anyway. I hope it was made clear to her how worrisome that was–not because of the earlier feud, but because nobody knew if something had happened to her.

    2. fposte*

      I’m really glad your aunt’s okay.

      I agree that she should have left a note and I understand that it’s distressing that your parents were upset. But it sounds like they’re inclined to overreact a little, so there may be some history there (like whatever kept them from calling her, for instance) that has reduced your aunt’s motivation in prioritizing keeping them calm. This one might be knitted a little deeper into the family fabric than a simple one-off question of insufficient sensitivity.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, you’re right. That is weird.
      But you are also right about people who seem level-headed and then actually aren’t. Hopefully, at some point in the future you can express to her that she scared you and you don’t want to lose her out of your life. Appeal to her at the most basic level and, hopefully, she won’t do that again.

  50. Jen RO*

    My younger tomcat is:
    1. In heat, so meowing all night.
    2. Having some kidney problems, so can’t be neutered just yet.
    3. Eating bits of plastic and puking them!

    I am frustrated because of my lack of sleep (of course, the bedroom is the perfect place for 3 AM “looking for mate” type meows), worried for him (I thought he was perfectly healthy until the doctor insisted on blood tests before neutering- we are now on day 3 of a 30-day diet), worried about the upcoming neutering (I can’t get the risks of anesthesia out of my head), and angry at him for being so goddamn stupid and eating plastic!

    …And then he lays down on my desk and goes to sleep and he’s the most adorable thing in the world, so I can’t stay angry for long…

  51. Katie the Fed*

    Hey you guys! If anyone is still here – let’s talk presents!

    1. Best present you’re giving this year.
    2. Best present(s) you’ve gotten in the past
    3. What you recommend as a great gift.


    1. Elizabeth West*

      1. Best giving present: I’m giving my dad a CD of the Riverdance music that I bought at the show. He won’t mind if I open it and rip it before I give it to him. :D

      2. Best got present: Anything that shows the giver actually gets me (or actually listens to me when I say “I want this!” This is not something that happens to me, usually. So I have to say gift cards, specifically Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I wouldn’t sneeze at an Ulta gift card, however, especially if I could use it to get a facial. :)

      3. Recommendations: depends on the person. I say ASK them what they want. Surprises are for kids–most adults don’t want you to surprise them. They want you to get them something they like.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Best present I’ve gotten in years. Four or five years ago, when things were very tight (hello economic collapse) and I wouldn’t spend a penny on myself, my family got me a Roku and a year of Netflix. And then the next year, they gave me another year of Netflix.

      I can’t recall ever getting a surprise gift, no hinting or thoughts of it at all on my end, that gave (still gives) me so much happiness nearly every day of the year.

      It might have been the same year that friends of ours gave my husband his first Kindle. He’s a huge readers and he had no idea he’d enjoy a Kindle. He would have never ever bought it for himself and the joy that it’s given him, again, nearly every day, makes it such a rare, bulls eye gift.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      1. Some years I have a great inspiration, but this has not been one of them. That said, I’m excited to give my sister a Deadpool cardigan (Deadpool being a comic character we both like, but that she likes particularly).
      2. One year my mother asked my dad, in front of me, what he was getting me. He said, “Something she’s been wanting for a long time.” I could not think of what he might be talking about. Turned out it was a portable typewriter. And it really was something I’d been wanting forever , but it was one of those things I’d said in a kind of “I’d like to visit Japan someday” way. I hadn’t even considered it was something someone could or would actually buy for me. What really blew me away about the gift was that it showed how much he’d been paying attention. He’d been paying even more attention to what I wanted than I had.
      3. I like to buy people reference books for things they’re interested in — an attractive book that they can just grab off the shelf or flip through but that they don’t have to commit to reading cover to cover. Even if they don’t refer to it ever, I think most people like having books around that represent their interests.

    4. tea drinker*

      1. A stack of pre-teen Tiger Beat type magazines for my ten year old niece. Supposedly she hates to read and has to read for x minutes per day when she is not in school according to her school district. I think the articles on One Direction will make reading fun. Especially since I get the vibe that she doesn’t usually get these kind of magazines.

      2. Best present I have gotten in the past – believe it or not – a double funeral plot. When I was a kid, my great grandmother and I would plan our dream funerals together. The funeral plot is right next to hers. I was having a health crisis at the time and I was waiting on test results to see if I had a brain tumor or MS or something else and y parents cheered me up by giving me the funeral plot. I know it sounds weird but it was nice to know that they knew me well enough to know what I had been wanting for a long time and that even the worst wouldn’t be all that bad – they would be there for me.

      3. What I would recommend as a great gift – why not a preplanned date night? A gift certificate for a good restaurant and a gift certificate for a movie, bowling, whatever.

    5. Trixie*

      Recommended gifts:

      garmin or navigational device
      magazine subscriptions
      year of amazon prime (streaming PLUS shipping; but not for Apple TV owners)
      quality spice/seasoning sets with coffee grinder

    6. Anonymous Because of Gift Disclosure*

      1. A weekly planner which is customized with photos for every week and month, plus covers. More than 70 family pictures are included, and the cost was less than $30 at blurb. The recipient will love it.

      2. A photo book (with custom text) of a family trip – really special.

      3. Anything really personal – the thought and care mean so much more than any tchotchke.

    7. BRR*

      1) I’m getting my nieces and nephew a chemistry set. They live in a pretty rural area and it’s everything you would stereotype it as so we try to get them arts stuff and books. I loved my chemistry set as a kid and their aunt is studying chemistry so they can do it with her.

      2) I got a 3ds this year, I’ve wanted one for a long time it’s awesome.

      3) For kids I love doing krazy straws with their name (search custom krazy straw). I got my soon to be mother in law an electric kettle she loves.

    8. Schuyler*

      I’ll contribute, even though I’m a week late!

      1. I think this may be a toss-up. It may be my mom’s birthday gift; her birthday is Wednesday. I bought her a glass bowl in the shape of a flower that I bought when I was in Italy a couple months ago, and I think she’ll like it a lot.

      I also bought my best friend a cookbook from the cooking school I used to go to regularly out in the suburbs. I thought it would be something different and fun; I’ve sent her photos of some of the stuff we’ve made in the past, and this is the first cookbook the owner has created, so she had a big VIP party where she signed the book and all. But the real reason this may be the best gift is that I don’t know if she’ll really have much in the way of gifts this year. She has a low income; she lives with her mom and between her income and her mom’s SSI they have a hard time making ends meet. Her mother also kicked my friend’s husband out of the house a couple of weeks ago, so she’s been having a tough time, and I’m hoping that having something fun to unwrap will brighten up the day.

      2. The best gift I’ve gotten was from my mom. 3-5 years ago she sent me a cookbook that belonged to my grandma and great-grandma. I think it may well have belonged to family earlier than that, because the cookbook is in German. My grandma didn’t speak German (beyond maybe a few words), and I’m pretty sure my great-grandma wasn’t fluent–if she spoke German at all. There are notes in the book in German from those who used it before. It needs to be re-bound or something, but I keep forgetting about that and don’t know where to look for getting it repaired.

      3. I think I’m a pretty bad gift-giver, so I have no idea. But I’m hoping to take notes on others’ suggestions!

  52. Tara*

    Let’s see if this ends up in the right spot this time!

    Silly high school question (and probably late enough that no one will see it), but how do you communicate to someone that you’re not interested in them when they haven’t actually expressed interest in you?

    I keep ending up in these situations where I make friends with someone who I like a lot, we hang out a fair bit, and I’m pretty sure they’re interested in me romantically– but they don’t say anything for so long that when they finally do and I have to turn them down, I feel like I’m a terrible person who’s been leading them on. Is there a nice, gentle way of indicating you’re not into someone before it gets to that point? This is almost always with girls, if that’s relevant.

    1. Sunflower*

      Usually telling them about people you’re interested in romantically is a good way to indicate you aren’t interested in them in that way. Even just dropping it into conversation slightly like ‘Well I’m seeing someone who does x and y’.

    2. Clever Name*

      I don’t think there really is a way to head things off at the pass because saying something like, “I’m not into you that way” a week after meeting someone (or whenever) and before they’ve expressed romantic interest in you. Saying something would seem a bit weird.

      I hesitate to suggest that you examine your behavior to avoid sending the wrong message, because that puts the onus on you and not on them. I guess make sure you aren’t acting flirty towards people you aren’t interested in if you’re unintentionally flirting? Sometimes someone will have a crush on you and you’ve done absolutely nothing to encourage them. It happens.

      1. Tara*

        Yeah, I’m a bit concerned that I might be sending… mixed signals. I’m naturally a pretty touchy-feely person, to the point where people usually assume I’m dating whichever one of my friends they see me with. I should definitely work on toning that down with these new friendships.

    3. Christy*

      Are you straight? Or are you gay/bi? Because if you’re straight, I would drop mentions of that into conversations every so often as a reminder for the other person who has a crush on you. If you’re not straight, I might say something just as like a personal policy that you don’t date friends. But honestly, your friends who do this are doing this to themselves. You are not leading them on. If they particularly wanted to date you, they should have asked you on a date.

  53. nep*

    Welcome to the Affordable Care Act. Was just talking to my health insurance expert about my options. My premium doubles as of this month. Scraping by to pay the current rate, so yeah…this should be interesting.

    1. soitgoes*

      Pretty much. I make a good amount of money on paper, but after my rent, student loans, and other bills, I cannot afford insurance. It’s not about budgeting, since my budget worked before the ACA came into effect. It’s really lousy to have a new bill inflicted upon you without there being any increase in your income.

      1. nep*

        I have paid for health insurance for so many years now that I don’t want to have a gap and have something happen during that gap. Wouldn’t want to burden my family members like that; heaven knows they’d do what they could to help.
        I am healthy and fit — I take care of myself. Haven’t needed any kind of medical care in decades. I wish I could still get a relatively inexpensive plan just to cover in the case of serious illness or accident. But my understanding is that such policies are no longer an option; we’ve got to pay for all the bells and whistles.

        1. soitgoes*

          I would love to have insurance. It’s just not possible for me until I pay off my student loans. To be honest, I think the ACA is going to be dismantled within the next few years, and it’ll start after people see how the income tax returns shake out in April. The government admitted that it needs people in my demographic (healthy people in their late 20s who will pay into the system without using it) to pad coffers for people who need healthcare. That’s borderline criminal, as we’re saddled with the highest student loan debt in history, coupled with the least career security. Our pitiful (and needed) paychecks shouldn’t be someone else’s safety nets when we’re forced to live with our parents until 30.

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      Is your “expert” employed by the insurance company? I’d advise shopping on the exchange; there are plenty of stories about people who were told they had -no choice- but to take a 2x premium only to find something cheaper on the exchange.

      1. Burlington*

        This. There are incredibly cheap options on every exchange I’ve ever seen. There are so many plans out there that brokers and other “experts” tend to look at a narrow band of either plans that are LIKE your old plans, like being in the same network or from the same carrier, or are generally popular plans. There are plenty of high-deductible plans that you can opt to use an HSA with as well, those are super cheap per month.

  54. C Average*

    One of my favorite writing books is Stephen King’s “On Writing,” but I haven’t read anything else he’s ever written. Are any of you Stephen King fans? Where should I start?

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Are you more of a short-story person, or novel-length person? For short stories, I loved his recent collection Full Dark, No Stars, and thought it was just fantastic. For novels, you can’t go wrong with the classics–The Shining and Pet Sematary are probably my favourite “classic” King novels. I didn’t particulary care for The Stand and I never got into the Dark Tower books, but they have some rabid fans out there. His newer stuff is quite different from his older stuff, too–Mr Mercedes came out this year (or last year, I can’t recall) and is more of a hardboiled-mystery than a paranormal horror/thriller novel, and 11/22/63 is a sort of time-travel-y, not-particularly-horror-y thing.

      I really, really enjoyed The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is a novella or very short novel, which tends to get overlooked by King enthusiasts in favour of his meatier stuff, but it’s a deeply creepy little book.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Salem’s Lot. Start with Salem’s Lot. Classic vampire story; if you want him to scare you, it will do the job. Vampires weren’t always romantic, you know. >:)

      If you just want to sample him without the nightmares, go with The Dead Zone first. That one will rip your heart out. It was my very first Stephen King, and I cried at the end. Then you can work your way through the rest. For short stories, Full Dark No Stars is good, but I always tell people they need to read Skeleton Crew. The story “The Monkey” will freak you out. 0_0

      Now I want to read through all my old King books! But Revival is on the coffee table, so new one first. :)

    3. Finny*

      I’d say Eyes of the Dragon, I believe it’s called. A fantasy he wrote. Or The Colorado Kid, a short mystery novel (that is the basis for the TV show Haven).

    4. Jazzy Red*

      I love almost every book of King’s that I ever read, but The Stand is the best. I also like It, Carrie, The Firestarter, and Misery.

      1. Jen RO*

        I missed this question when it was posted, but definitely The Stand (if you are not intimidated by its size!).

  55. Sheep*

    Another question about Christmas present… for the boyfriend. It shouldn’t be so hard, because I know what he likes etc. But as most adults (he’s in his 30s), he buys the things he wants… He’s a musician and photographer, so could buy something related to that, but what!?! Any amazing ideas out there?

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Does he have a smart phone? You could get him a kit of cool lenses for his phone. That way he can take better quality photos even when he doesn’t have his “real” camera with him.

      Other idea: Does he have anything that needs to be replaced? My husband has a bunch of sweatshirts from high school that he still wears, but they’re kind of ratty and make him look younger than he is. I just bought him a new, nicer sweatshirt that, while still casual, is more stylish and (obviously) not worn out. He probably wouldn’t have prioritized buying a new sweatshirt for himself since he has some, but I think he’ll use and appreciate it.

  56. No So Paula Deen*

    I was wondering if anyone has any good & easy holiday recipes that I can make as a gift for my coworkers? Do you all typically give holiday presents/do a food thing, or do you just avoid it all together? My manager wants us to take our owner out for lunch for his Christmas present, which is a bit odd to me – but I’m a recent(ish) grad , 7 months into my first office job, so it’s my first office holiday experience. What bugs me most is that she invited the 3 people in our department and her friend in another department but excluded the other 3 people that we work with & sit by on a daily basis. I just feel like if we are neglecting to follow the gifts flow downward rule, than we can at least follow the open invite rule (especially since it would have only been 3 more people.) Or she could have made the lunch a thing for our department only! Tying this back into the holiday recipe question, I need a cute food gift that would work for 11 office employees + 20 manufacturing employees that is easy enough for someone who sometimes uses ice cream as a milk substitute…I’m still mastering the whole cooking thing, haha. I’m hoping if I make something for everyone it will somehow make it be less awkward when only half of us leave the office to go to lunch next week (we rarely take a lunch break so it will be obvious.)

    1. tea drinker*

      If you have an office Keurig machine, why not splash out for some indulgent k-cups for everyone? They have coffee, tea, cider, hot chocolate, etc.. I only saw this because everyone seems to bring food to our office at this time of year and most of my office is on a diet, or is vegan or is Jewish, or is a Muslim, etc. It is tough to find healthy things that most people will eat in my office. We are drowning in candy and cookies right now.

      1. Stephanie*

        I like this idea! Or you could bring in some good coffee beans or tea or restock the office supplies (with filters, stirrers, etc). If there’s no coffee pot or hot water kettle, you could buy the office one (a decent one doesn’t have to cost a fortune).