weekend free-for-all – May 9-10, 2015

Olive with ribbbon2This 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.)

Book Recommendation of the Week: The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. I’m not going to spoil the story for you, but the descriptions of daily life in 1922 London are so vivid that I now feel like I have first-hand experience living in that time period. It’s won all kinds of awards, it’s fantastic, just read it.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,107 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    Has anyone here had a go at studying French and Spanish?

    I have to choose one for my college studies next semester and am unsure which one to take. Which is easier/more useful to learn?

      1. Laura*

        I’m British….currently doing exchange in Australia, but need to pick subjects for when I return.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          Oh then it really doesn’t matter. Maybe watch a couple French/Spanish films or telenovelas, get a feel for it and go with your gut. Whatever you’re more interested in is a good sign.

      2. the gold digger*

        I have studied both languages. Spanish is way easier than French – similar grammar but it’s so much easier to pronounce Spanish than French. Once you learn Spanish, though, French will be pretty easy. (And Italian and Portuguese.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          This. I took two years of Spanish in high school and two years of French in college. Spanish was definitely easier.

        2. Jen RO*

          Then you can try Romanian! :D
          (No, don’t really – the Slavic, Turkish etc influences make it harder than the other Romance languages.)

        3. Adam*

          I did it backwards. I studied French for years in high school, and now can’t remember a blessed word of it. In college I took one course of Spanish before I graduated as I was about to go backpacking through Latin America. Generally it was easy to pick-up but my French training got in the way as I often spoke Spanish with a French accent (which my professor LOVED to point out) and if I didn’t know a Spanish word I’d often substitute a French one hoping it’d be close enough. :P

          1. blackcat*

            I also learned French many years before learning Spanish, resulting in a strange accent when I speak Spanish that is midway between American and French, yet with strong Columbian influences (because that’s where I spent a semester in college). I’ve been told it’s truly strange by many native spanish speakers.

            1. ptrish*

              Ha, I do the same in French–I have a American/Senegalese accent that French-French speakers find bizarre.

          2. Jen RO*

            I learned French in school (7 years), then forgot everything. Some years later I learned Spanish (I’m now fluent), then took classes to remember my French (I’m now semi-fluent). I can’t tell you how many times I try to say a French word and a Spanish one comes out!

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Generally, French is considered more difficult than Spanish, largely because of the pronunciation. Career-wise, if you’re in the social services/helping professions, Spanish. If you’re looking for a more global career or plan on working in Western Africa, then French.

      Are you planning on actually learning it fluently? If you’re just taking the minimum required to graduate, just go with whatever interests you more. There’s no point in choosing the more “useful” language if you’re not going to become fluent. Choose the language you’ll get the better grades in.

      1. Paige Turner*

        Agreed. If you’re not in the US, I don’t think one is significantly more useful than the other, anyway.

      2. the gold digger*

        Didn’t see what you wrote until after I posted. :)

        A friend was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad. He learned French, but with an African accent. After he finished in Chad, he and another volunteer went to Paris. Every time they would speak French to each other, people would look around for the Africans and be really confused when they saw two white guys talking.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          Hah! That’s too funny. I’m kind of scared because I’m about to take 6 weeks of classes in Quebec and I’m worried it’ll ruin my accent. Oh well. =)

          1. the gold digger*

            I was traveling in France with a Belgian boyfriend. He pointed out that the people next to us were from Quebec. Even I could hear the difference once I started paying attention. :)

        2. DeLurkee*

          I studied Japanese for five years, became very fluent, and then found out from Japanese visitors that I speak it with a charming French accent. :S
          Thank you, my Japanese tutor who was of French nationality.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            My Glaswegian friend went to teach English in Thailand and had a class of thirty this kids who all spoke with the thickest Scottish accent.

    2. Paige Turner*

      I learned French, then later on took a few Spanish courses. As a native English speaker, I don’t think one is significantly easier than the other to learn (French grammar and pronunciation are slightly more complicated than Spanish). Spanish can be easier to learn because generally there are a lot more Spanish speakers around to practice with. One thing to consider is that because the US has lots of bilingual Spanish-English speakers, speaking French might be a little more impressive as a job skill if you can get to be proficient in speaking/writing, since it’s less common. If you live in an area with a really high amount of Spanish speakers, though, even moderate proficiency can be really helpful (especially in customer service or positions that interact with the general public). If you get really good at one of the two, the second one will be easier to pick up. Good luck :)

      1. the gold digger*

        I have gotten two jobs just because I speak Spanish -both jobs involved Latin America. When I lived in Miami, a recruiter asked why they should hire me when they could get so many native speakers. I pointed out that although my accent is not perfect, I have studied Spanish formally so not only do I read and write Spanish, I also speak proper Spanish. A lot of the people who learn it from their parents but don’t study it in school don’t necessarily speak proper Spanish and they don’t learn to read it.

      1. Jen RO*

        But why did you get that accent… why! (I mean, it sounds great, but it’s so difficult… and it’s probably even harder if you’re starting with English as a native language.)

          1. Jen RO*

            “You” as in the French people. “The accent” as in the one that no one can pronounce correctly :D The “r”s in particular…

    3. Sherm*

      I have been self-teaching French for about the last 5 years and have been enjoying it a lot! Learning it — any language, really — takes so much time, though. Despite near daily practice I’m nowhere near a pro. I have a cousin who has a PhD in Spanish and has lived in a Spanish speaking country for years, and she STILL says she does not speak as well as a local!

      So I agree with the previous poster who says just choose which language appeals to you the most if you just want to choose something for your courses. Classes won’t make you fluent.

      1. Marcela*

        Well, it’s very difficult to get to the local/native level. I’ve been in the US for 5 years. When I arrived I could decently write and speak English, now I can even work in a fully English environment, but I’m nowhere near what I would call a very good level.

      2. Jen RO*

        Depends on the classes – OP, I highly recommend taking classes in a foreign language institute, if you have access to one. I definitely became fluent in Spanish after 3 years in the Cervantes institute (and can still hold a conversation 10 years after those classes). The equivalent for French is the Institut Francais. Both have a presence in the UK.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      Yes I’m trying to learn some Spanish now not having learnt any at school and much prefer it to French and I’ve managed to pick up more Spanish independently in a few months than I did french learning at school.

      Whatever you decide check out coffee break Spanish or coffee break french on iTunes they’re great pod casts that have a great style of teaching and they are free!

    5. katamia*

      They’re about equally hard for native English speakers overall. French is much harder to spell, though–it has a TON of silent letters, which can be really hard for people who have spelling difficulties (not saying you do, but I’m a fantastic speller in English, learned how to read Devanagari in a week, and am now in the process of learning Chinese, and I STILL can’t spell to save my life in French). French also has more vocabulary in common with English than Spanish does. In general, if you’re in the US, Spanish is more useful unless you’re studying Africa or the Middle East–there are a lot of French speakers there, so knowing French would be helpful. (Or if you’re studying France, but I’m assuming you’re not otherwise you wouldn’t have asked this question, lol.)

      Are you more interested in French or Spanish/Latin American culture? Because as far as motivation goes, being interested in the culture makes a HUGE difference in how much you’re going to want to spend time memorizing vocab words, reading your textbooks, etc., and therefore in how well you learn the language. For native English speakers, there really isn’t a huge difference in difficulty. There are certain things that might be more difficult for certain people (like spelling) in one or the other, but it’s not really a significant difference IMO. They’re both significantly easier for native English speakers than, say, Arabic or Japanese.

      1. Clever Name*

        Heh. I’m a bad speller in English (my native tongue) but a good speller in French. (And Latin…)

    6. Not Fiona*

      Way more people in the world speak Spanish than French, no question. But being in Britain you may encounter more use for French.

    7. Spanissssh*

      That’s sort of an easy one–I can count on one hand the number of job postings requiring French but several seek Spanish speaking applicants.

      1. Katie*

        In the US, that’s true. But OP is British, where there is much more need for French than in the US.

    8. Elsajeni*

      I’m guessing you’re not in one of these fields or you would probably already have been advised this way by your professors, but: if you’re studying art history, archaeology, or certain other humanities fields, French (and/or German) will be more useful to you than Spanish because much of the scholarship in those fields is in those languages. Otherwise, I’d just pick based on what seems more interesting or easier to you.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I took French for fun, and once I got to the advanced French classes, there were a lot of international business majors in there, because they were required to take French through Advanced II. If a particular language is required for a major, though, you’d know it up front.

      2. Meadowsweet*

        seconding this
        I’d’ve found better French useful in many of my literature classes too

    9. NBF*

      Given that you’re currently studying abroad, you obviously have at least some inkling to see other parts of the world, so I would base your choice on what would be most useful to you in places you want to visit someday. College classes are not going to make you fluent or even be very helpful in employment prospects. But knowing a few phrases and basic grammar when you travel can be very helpful. So if you see yourself travelling to Spain or Central/South America then choose Spanish, or if its France, parts of Africa, or french Canada, then go with french. Or if you’re a south east Asia type of person, then flip a coin I guess.

    10. Editrix*

      They are replacing French with Spanish in UK primary schools because it’s easier, especially because of the spelling.
      If you don’t have a concrete future use in mind, why not just pick the place you are more likely to holiday in in the future?
      Obviously Spanish is more of a global language than French, which is currently dying as the language of diplomacy.
      It’s very hard to predict which languages will work for you in the future. I learnt German and Italian and became fluent, only to end up working for the UN, for which neither is any use.

    11. Artemesia*

      Imagine your future life. I speak German and tried to learn Italian but my heart is in Paris and how I wish I had learned French.

      If you live in the US you should study Spanish because it will be of practical value, perhaps professionally, but if you plan to spend a month in Paris each year for the rest of your life as I do well then think about French.

    12. AdjunctGal*

      I’m biased, but I was a Spanish major, and I have found it very useful over the years in various jobs.

    13. Nelle Jefe*

      I’ve studied both at different times of my life. Spanish is (in my experience) more useful if you are looking at jobs just within the US.

      If you have a desire to work internationally, French is pretty useful if you are in a field that could take you to Africa. Spanish is obviously great for most of Latin America. Either one probably works well in a lot of other international contexts (I’m better at Spanish, and it has come in handy while travelling in Jamaica and India, strangely enough; my smattering of very bad Russian was also useful in India). I have no idea about general European contexts — I’d expect both would be equally useful, outside of France and Spain.

      But it really depends on what you want to do with it, and where you live. They are pretty similar languages overall. I think it is probably more important that you know languages in addition to English than which languages you know. Even if you speak badly, it can be an enormous ice-breaker. If you are conversant in more than one language, the barrier is lower for you to learn other languages.

      So maybe you should learn both, is what I’m saying. I live in the southwestern US, and Spanish is by far the most practical language besides English I know, but I’ve also gotten huge returns for a minimal investment in learning a few things in Russian, Tohono O’odham, and Hindi. Learning languages isn’t just a matter of objective significance — it is also a way of showing respect to others. If you commit to using a language, even if you struggle and sound ridiculous, you will get to meet and befriend people you would have never otherwise have known. People will respect you for trying (for the most part — this is probably more true the more unusual the language is in your context). This can be an awesome way to network. So learn some Spanish, some French, maybe German, on pure academic principals. Also look around at your friends and contacts and see whether there are other languages you could learn that would put you into closer contact with people they know. Then start learning those languages to the best of your ability.

    14. ptrish*

      The pronunciation difficulties of French mostly refer to *Parisian* French, less so to the accent that French people outside of Paris have. And the French spoken in West Africa is pretty easy to understand–rolled Rs instead of the guttural R. I’m an American, native English speaker, and close to fluent in French, which I learned in college, in Paris, and in Senegal. It took 3-4 years, some of which was intensive study but some breaks in classes, to get to fluent, and I generally pick up languages quickly. I’m not sure how that would compare to Spanish.

      Honestly, if you’re just going to take a semester or two, I’d pick based on the instructor–I needed to learn French for my field (African history) so I didn’t quit, but a couple of instructors drove me close.

    15. Melissa*

      I’ve had a go at both. In the U.S., Spanish is both easier and more useful. (French is pretty easy too, but a lot of things are not pronounced the way they are spelled. In Spanish, once you learn the pronunciation rules, pretty much everything follows them. And conjugation is easier.)

  2. Treena Kravm*

    Any suggestions for fun stuff in New Orleans in a couple of weeks? I’m already planning on French Quarter, City Park, a couple of museums I’m interested in, but would love to hear suggestions.

    I’ve been trying to research this, but sort of at a a loss. I’m looking for a museum/tour to learn more about New Orleans voodoo, but I don’t want a campy theatrical thing, I want a more academic experience. I’ve read extensively on Haitian voodoo and want to compare/contrast. But I also don’t want it to all go over my husband’s head (who doesn’t know anything about voodoo).

    1. #81D8D0*

      I haven’t visited New Orleans since 2009, but just wandering the rebuilt downtown area was lots of fun.

      A streetcar ride down St. Charles Avenue at night is fun and romantic.

      The Camellia Grill was pretty awesome 25+ years ago. Although some people may object to certain aspects of the “Old South” ambience.

      Not a clue about Louisiana Vodoun. I’d leave it alone. I’m far from the most spiritual person you’d ever meet, and I simply don’t believe in most of this stuff – but there have been maybe three times in my life when I felt like I was in the presence of tangible, scary-ass evil. And one of those times was getting my cards read “for fun” at this skeevy dive off of NE Bourbon Street circa 1986. And it was like noon.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Oh, is it Vodoun in New Orleans as well? Everything I read the spelling was voodoo or vudoo, so I just assumed Vodoun was the Haitian spelling. I guess that’s a good screening tool to use while I continue my research.

        1. Cripes!Jinkies!*

          Vodoun is a more accurate “traditional” spelling, but the New Orleans flavor is almost always referred to as voodoo. Which is itself largely inaccurate; voodoo is a religious practice, and 99% of what you will encounter as “New Orleans VooDoo” is actually a hodgepodge of AfroCarib and Native American Folk magic– the appropriate term for which is HooDoo, also known as Conjure.

          It’s a pretty fascinating subject. If you want a lot more authentic, researched information, just google the Lucky Mojo Curio company, headed by Catherine Yronwode.

          1. Treena Kravm*

            So when I google the Lucky Mojo Curio company, all I get is a place in California, is that what you meant? Or is there another one in New Orleans? I added on “new orleans” to the search and it didn’t turn up anything else.

            1. Cripes!Jinkies!*

              It’s the place in California– sorry if I made you think it was a New Orleans business.

              The owner of that business is very knowledgeable and has several excellent books on the subject, if you are interested. Her stuff is also pretty exhaustively researched, not your typical New Age WooWoo fest. :)

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        The Camellia Grill is still AMAZING for breakfast. They have two locations now, the old one at the streetcar turnaround and a new one down in the quarter.

        Treena Kravm, it’s basically the best diner food ever. Not fancy, definitely not light, but solidly satisfying.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Can you help me understand how they’re different? From what I’ve read, I’m still not getting why it’s worth it.

        1. PurpleGerber*

          I did the cemetery tour and found it really interesting. The graves are all above ground because of the water level, there’s many family crypts, dating back generations, ornate statues, very gothic in general. The tour guide was great in explaining history/background on things. I would try not to go on a hot day as they’re paved in asphalt and it gets hot!!

      2. Solarbuggy*

        Keep in mind that the cemeteries have specific closing times & days! Same goes for government buildings/museums and religious landmarks!

    2. Noelle*

      The aquarium is pretty cool. They have sea otters, some sharks, and a lot of local animals (including a white alligator). I went a few years ago and it was one of the highlights of my trip.

    3. Jubilance*

      I was just in New Orleans for my mini-moon and I had a blast. In case you don’t have your lodging figured out yet, I highly recommend The Canal Street Inn – it’s a B&B on Canal Street about a mile from the French Quarter, and right on the Red streetcar line.

      For things to do, I think riding the Red & Green streetcar lines would be good, to get a view of the city. Also check out Congo Square on a Sunday if you can – during slavery the slaves would congregate there on their 1 day off and drum, and there are drum circles that still get together there. I liked the Aquarium so check that out too if it’s not on your list.

      1. PurpleGerber*

        If you’re interested in going outside New Orleans a bit, you could also look into a plantation tour or swamp boat tour?

        1. Treena Kravm*

          I was looking at those too, thinking about a swamp tour, but the plantation tours seem a little sketchy…The ones I looked at were all owned + operated by the descendants of the original owners? Am I just being an uptight Yankee or is that really gross?

          1. Lore*

            There was a feature in the New York Times earlier this year about a plantation that specifically addresses the history of slavery. It’s the Whitney something (and I’m on my phone so I can’t post the link but if you search NY Times and Whitney plantation you should get it).

          2. brightstar*

            Do you like beer? If you want to venture outside of NOLA there are a lot of breweries on the Northshore. There’s no official tour but a quick drive over the Causeway and you go to the Abita Brewery in Abita Springs (they have a tap room and restaurant) and in Covington is the Covington Brewery. In Mandeville (5 miles from Covington and closer to the Causeway) is Chafunkta Brewery and one at the Old Trail Head near Lake Ponchartrain.

          3. LD*

            It’s your call whether or not you feel comfortable. Those old plantations were built on the backs of slaves, and so I completely get that it’s not something you’d want to support. Another way to look at it is that it is history and there are other historical venues that memorialize events and times that were less than honorable or even downright evil. Personally, I would go. And depending upon my experience, I’d make a donation to a local organization that supports the disadvantaged or the rebuilding efforts. If you still feel too uncomfortable, that’s reason enough to find another activity. Hope you have a great experience!

          4. Stephanie*

            Eh, both. I think it’s gross when plantations and slavery are romanticized. I went to Mt. Vernon and rolled my eyes when the tour guide said Washington was “good to his slaves.” Another time, my mom and I were on a road trip and thought about visiting Monticello (we ended up not having time). The (white) docent was like “Oh, you ladies HAVE to see the newly restored slave quarters.” My mom was like “Er, I think we’re good.”

            That being said, I think it’s important to visit places like that and get an accurate picture of history. It’s impossible to ignore that a lot of Southern cities were built on slave labor.

            I went to the Museum of the Confederacy and was prepared for it to be terrible and insensitive and it was actually very well done.

            1. Treena Kravm*

              Yes! Thank you for articulating it when I couldn’t. It’s not that I want to shy away from the entire topic, but the few that I looked at boasted about how the current owner was a 6th generation descendent of the original owners. And while that’s nice and all, it’s sort of blech to be directly profiting from it. Thanks to LisaLee, I found this tour that seems much more something I’d be interested in financially supporting.


            2. fposte*

              The Charleston Museum does a really good job with that history, too. I went with a local friend who’d never been and she was really startled by how well done it was.

              So maybe check TripAdvisor to see whether it’s a place that does it reasonably well or if it’s a place that wants to live Gone with the Wind?

    4. BRR*

      Search for ghost tours. The world war 2 museum is supposed to be great. Have a hurricane at pat o Briens in the courtyard.

    5. CrazyCatLady*

      Audubon park, streetcar down St Charles, and a swamp tour (way more fascinating than it sounds). One of my favorite cities!

    6. Editrix*

      Brunch at the Court of the Two Sisters.
      Second vote for the cemeteries.
      Otherwise, you can spend hours just walking around listening to the music in the evening.

    7. Solarbuggy*

      Nola has excellent free walking tours! I highly recommend them. Just google “free walking tours New Orleans!” They’re free so all you pay is the tip to the tour guide.
      I visited the voodoo museum while I was in Nola. It was educational and had the option of touring a cemetery with the voodoo priestess who owns? The museum. Very cool and I’m sure your husband would not feel overwhelmed!

    8. brightstar*

      A side note on the WWII museum, it’s huge.

      You might want to look into going Uptown, it’s a short trolley ride from the Quarter. If you go on Oak or Maple Street there are some cool restaurants and bars.

      For other ideas of what’s going onwhile you’re in town, you might want to check out http://www.bestofneworleans.com

    9. Christina*

      I went there for the first time in January this year and was only there for a day, but I absolutely fell in love with it. You understand why the whole city is built on music and food. I wrote a post on my blog about my trip with some great places to eat and thing to do (and things not to do. Pat O’briens hurricanes? Basically red dye 40, sugar, and a killer hangover. Go for the show there but skip the drink.) I’ll put the link in a follow up comment so this didn’t get stuck in moderation.

      Not sure how long you’ll be there, but my suggestions would be these:
      -Eat. Everything. Especially oysters. And if they’re still in season, crawfish. And beignets (don’t wear black while eating these. And get a chicory coffee/cafe at pair to go with it). And Pimms Cups (I like mine with ginger beer vs lemonade).
      – Avoid Bourbon street. It’s touristy as hell, expensive, filled with drunk tourists, and just meh. Walk through it just to see it, but better to go to…
      – Faubourg Marigny. The locals version of Bourbon St. for music, food, and drinking. Go to the Spotted Cat or The Three Muses for a show (even better if The Shotgun Jazz Band is playing). Or just wander in and out of places. The great thing about the music scene is it’s EVERYWHERE and cheap–most places don’t have a cover, you just tip the band if you like them.
      – Magazine Street (for wandering, eating, drinking, shopping) and the Garden District (for beautiful houses) were two places I wish I had spent more time. Magazine Street is much more locals than the French Quarter, and very cool. And Casamentos is SO GOOD.
      – The cemeteries are cool, I went to the one where Marie LaVou is buried because my friend wanted to see it, but you don’t have to spend a lot of time or even go if you’re not interested. Personally I would have rather spent the time walking in the Garden District.
      – Just wander. It’s great to walk along the river, stop for half an hour to listen to a street musician, hang out in the park by the church (I forget the name but you can’t miss it). Check out the French market for amazing food there’s an oyster stand that’s awesome).
      – Have fun!!

    10. Awful Waffle*

      I visited about a year and a half ago for a work trip. The food is fantastic, but don’t try to eat anything semi-healthy because it’s not possible there. ;)

      I loved the Camelia Grill (as another poster mentioned) for lunch. I also recommend Criollo in Hotel Monteleone (sp?) for a nicer dinner. The turtle soup and duck is fantastic! Hotel Monteleone is the same place with the famous Carousel Bar. It’s in the French Quarter.

    11. Lillie Lane*

      Strongly recommend fitting in a Preservation Hall Jazz concert. You’ll never forget it. All the guys in the band are awesome.

    12. Laura Beth*

      Just a heads up on the St. Charles streetcar line (runs Uptown, is green) – they’re about to start some (MORE!!! arrrrrghhh) construction on part of the line in the middle, so you have to transfer to a bus for those blocks. So you’ll want to factor that in. There is a ton of construction going on Uptown right now as well, as they install new drainage systems, so if you drive up there, be prepared for detours.

      I highly recommend Magazine Street, agree that Bourbon St. is way, way overrated, and strongly suggest the beignets (I had to go gluten-free a few years ago, and really miss these). I really enjoy El Gato Negro on the edge of the Quarter for pineapple cilantro margaritas, followed by a walk by the river, but I am simple in my tastes :). Whatever you do, you should have an awesome time!!

  3. Paige Turner*

    I’m trying to bring healthier food to work for lunch- any suggestions on dishes/sides that I can make ahead and freeze that are made with fruits and/or veggies? Most of the freezer-friendly meals I can think of are mostly carbs and/or cheese like lasagna.

    1. Stephanie*

      I really like grain or bean salads, if you’re ok with cold food at lunch. I don’t know if those would freeze well, but you can make a large quantity at the beginning of the week. I’ll link to a salad cookbook I like in a reply. I also like lentil soups (I did burn myself out on lentils at one point, though).

      1. Paige Turner*

        I have burned myself on lentils many times :) Refrigerated, not frozen, food would be fine as long as it keeps for a few days. Thanks in advance for the link!

        1. Paige Turner*

          Ha I totally misread your comment…I have burned myself with lentils but fortunately am not burned out on them yet!

          1. Stephanie*

            Day 0: I buy a giant bag of lentils from the bulk bin and make a salad.
            Day 1: “These are delicious! And filling! And healthy! I feel so clean and refreshed, especially pairing this with a Fage! This must be what Deepak Chopra feels like!”
            Day 2: “Mmm, these are delicious. And wow, this salad holds up well in the fridge. I still feel clean and refreshed.”
            Day 3: “Still tasty, but maybe I should have squirted a little lemon juice on this to brighten it up.”
            Day 4: “Man, In-N-Out looked kind of good. It’s right by my job…and the food would be warm. Red meat’s high in B12. I’m sometimes anemic. I need B12. So a burger wouldn’t be that bad, right? And I had lentils the last three days, so it’s ok if I get a Double-Double today. No no, you’re on a budget. Just eat the lentils again.”
            Day 5: “Kill it. Kill it with fire.”
            Day 6: Half of salad gets dumped into the trash.

              1. Stephanie*

                There’s a red lentil soup I just kind of wing. I sautee onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in some olive oil (I add the garlic last so it doesn’t burn), throw in some cumin, coriander, and chilis (usually ancho since those are flavorful and not too spicy), add some chicken stock and the lentils and bring to a boil and then let simmer. I usually puree it and add lemon, salt, and pepper to taste.

                I’ve made this: http://traceymillerwellness.com/wellness/lentil-salad-with-maple-balsamic-vinaigrette/

                Also: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/12/french-lentil-salad.html

                And also: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/04/french-lentil-salad-with-goat-cheese-and-walnuts-from-my-paris-kitchen.html

                And I’ve made dal a few times.

                And if I’m just *really* lazy and/or broke, I’ve done this (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-dried-lentils-on-the-stovetop-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-116321) with whatever herbs happen to be in my fridge.

            1. Noelle*

              Oh God, I know that feeling. A bag of lentils expands into SO. MANY. LENTILS. Once I made soup and even when I froze half of it, I was still eating it for two weeks. Although I’ve had more success with just making plain lentils and then microwaving it with a piece of cheese on top. It’s sort of like a lentil burger, but lazier.

            2. Tris Prior*

              hahaha, I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has had this experience with lentils. SO. Many. Lentils.

              For me, Day 6 = Put the remaining onslaught of lentils into plastic containers and stick them in the freezer, because surely you’ll crave lentils again or be in need of an emergency meal after a late night. Forget about them for 6 months. Boyfriend tosses them after he realizes this is why we have nothing left to store food in..

            3. kd*

              When I cook dried beans, I either make half a bag or now I have found making the whole bag more time saving. I use a pressure cooker and then freeze half or more in whatever size containers I think would be handy. 1 cup, 2, cup, etc. Spoon the beans into the container, cover with the leftover juice from cooking and freeze. Leave some good head space or the liquid will expand and pop the top.
              This way I have enough for a couple of days and don’t get burned out on eating them everyday…works for me anyway. If I get to that crucial Day 4: In-N-Out stage I’m doomed.

      2. salad fingers*

        Yeah, I’m a big fan of frozen veggie curries and lentils. And soups — good, easy way to get your veggies.

        That said, I suck at bringing lunch to work consistently, so I’m all ears on this thread. My dream job would be one that serves its employees lunch, and lunch would be the Whole Foods salad bar, minus the inexplicably bland hot bar. I hate planning out my lunch (and the inexplicably bland hot bar at Whole Foods).

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh, the Whole Foods hot bar. Oh, the Whole Foods hot bar. I used to work next door to a Whole Foods and got many $12 bland meals from that hot bar. I don’t get why it’s so bland! The food all looks nice, it just tastes like nothing.

          1. salad fingers*

            Seriously. I work next to a Whole Foods now and I cannot tell you how many “never again” conversations coworkers and I have had about this. I suspect the blandness is to accommodate food allergies or salt concerns (?) but I know that I go easy on salt and fat and whatever else when I cook, and my black bean enchiladas somehow manage to not taste like weirdly diced tomato watery nothingness. And they’re not $12 either.

            Also I once found a looong peice of poultry twine in my vegetarian breakfast burrito (*yawn* what is this chewy, ropy texture? Oh! *pulls twine as long as my arm out of mouth and rest of breakfast burrito*) and was so skeeved out I didn’t go back for months. Love/hate relationship with close proximity to Whole Foods.

            1. Stephanie*

              My guess was just to appeal to as broad as a group as possible. I know plenty of people don’t like spicy food, find cilantro soapy, etc. But you can season things without it tasting like it’s full of ghost peppers.

              It’s like Chipotle. I am baffled how the advertising goes on and on about high-quality ingredients, yet the food is kind of bland and medicore. (Yeah. Gauntlet thrown.)

              1. salad fingers*

                Ashamed to say it but I think I like Chipotle. Seems wrong to admit when you live in a city so replete with tasty Mexican food, and I’ve only been there a couple of times, but it’s tasted pretty decent to me. I’ve always been a veggie when eating there though — is it the meat options there that are blah?

                1. Stephanie*

                  I don’t know what it is, just every combo I’ve gotten tastes like generic spicy. I don’t think it’s horrible and if I’m going to go for fast food, it makes me hate myself a tad less (because there’s a little bit of romaine) than going to a McDonald’s, but eh. But then I also live in an area where there are better burritos everywhere.

          2. Justine*

            I work at a Whole Foods and I bag my lunch because our food is so bland, even though I get a discount. A lot of it is due to not having enough salt or oil in an effort to make “healthy” dishes. :/

            1. salad fingers*

              Confirmation from inside — I feel validated, Justine. Do you guys get a great employee discount? Seems like that would be a huge perk.

              1. Justine*

                The discount starts at 20% and then they offer up to 30% based on a voluntary biometrics test. If you don’t smoke you get an additional 2%, and then if your BMI, cholesterol, etc. ratings are good you get 2% more until you get 30%. It is a huge perk, although I only buy certain things there that are of exceptional quality (like the meat and seafood, and some of the produce) and do the rest of my shopping elsewhere.

                I’m not sure how our food ends up so flavorless either. Not everything we make is low sodium, but sometime they recipes are just ehhh… I think a lot of the recipes are missing that extra something. Or the flavor degrades the longer the food sits out there. Many of our recipes are sent to us from corporate, and many people in corporate eat specific diets like raw veganism and seem to have tastebuds that are… um… off. One time they sent us a recipe for vegan mac n cheese made with whole wheat pasta, almond milk, vegan cheese, and grated cauliflower. It was horrifying. The customers hated it, all the cooks hated it (our cooks are fantastic but they can’t just cook whatever they want), but corporate said we *had* to have it available. So we made it. And threw it out when it didn’t sell. :/

                1. Neruda*

                  It’s interesting that you say that about the taste buds of the people in corporate. My friend became vegan about a year ago and will tell you her taste has totally changed. One day she told me she ate a plain baked sweet potato and said it was incredible. She says that when you take a lot of the ‘extras’ out of your diet even bland foods seem amazing. Good for her but I’m not turning vegan any time. I love cheese too much.

                2. fposte*

                  Wow, that’s really interesting that your discount gets greater if you meet health metrics.

                3. Stephanie*

                  I haven’t found a vegan mac and cheese yet that I like. Something about the texture of the vegan cheese is too off. I found an *ok* version at a vegan soul food place, but they put a ton of garlic in it to compensate. I love garlic (I have finished off a jar of pickled garlic before), but it was too much even for me.

                4. salad fingers*

                  I agree, fposte. How does this work in practice? Are tests are done in-house? How frequently? Is the traditional bmi test used, or the hip waist ratio one? Who has access to your info? Do people like this policy? A lot of things to ask my favorite pizza station guy when I see him next.

                5. Stephanie*

                  Yeah, the BMI as a criterion is interesting as it’s a crude metric. There are definitely ethnic disparities with BMI (black people are more likely to be overweight/obese using the formula and Asians are more likely to be underweight) and it isn’t in your favor at all if you’re muscular. My BMI says I should be in a hoveround, but I wear straight-sized clothing. Seems like body fat percentage might be a better measure.

                6. Justine*

                  I can’t seem to reply to comments that are further in this thread, so I’ll reply here.

                  Salad fingers:
                  Tests are done at our workplace by a third party once a year. (The discount is good for one year.) They use BMI and Waist to Hip ratio and go with whichever one is more favorable. They also do a blood test to see if you smoke, check your blood pressure, check your cholesterol and check your glucose levels (I think.)

                  I’m not sure who has access to the info. They do provide that information, I just forget because it’s been awhile and I personally don’t care that much (although I understand why someone would.)

                  Stephanie and salad fingers:

                  I haven’t really asked my co-workers what they think about it, but I did have a discussion about it with one and we agreed that using BMI is not a good measure of health. Because he is a very muscular guy who is also on the shorter side, his BMI measurement is not favorable and he can only get a 28% discount. Yet, many of the very short, slim women of asian descent get the full discount. I got the full discount, but only because my waist/height ratio was more favorable than my BMI. I am white, 5’5.5″ and weigh 150 pounds, but I am also very strong and fit.

                  When I first heard about the policy I felt weird about it, because in a roundabout way it’s punishing people who are unhealthy, and they may be unhealthy for reasons beyond their control. Well, I suppose it’s not punishing them if everyone starts with the same discount, I suppose, but I still feel weird about it.

                  Ultimately, it’s about Whole Foods promoting its philosophy that eating better will lead to better health, which is of course only partially true and depends on many other factors.

                  Incidentally, there are at least two employees here who are vegans that survived cancer, and attribute their surviving cancer to veganism.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            This makes me really appreciate the hot foods bar at our local natural foods co-op. They weigh your plate and charge by the ounce, no matter what you get from the bar. And the food is good and nicely-seasoned. I can usually eat for around $8 plus the cost of a Blue Sky stevia-sweetened soda (LOVE that, because I was using about 120 calories on a regular Blue Sky soda).

            We’re getting a Whole Foods pretty soon (it’s under construction right now just a few blocks from the co-op) but I’m not very excited about it because we already have overpriced natural foods. Now, if something cheaper and still good, such as Trader Joes, came in, then i’d be excited.

            1. Justine*

              That sounds lovely! Our hot bar is 8.99/lb but the only good thing they serve is fried chicken, and I don’t want to eat that day in and day out, hehe. I do wish I saw more local/smaller chain grocers around- they are so important :(

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          I’m in SF tech, so this is essentially what we get. We get to pick our lunch in the morning and then it’s delivered in the afternoon. It helps me make a healthy choice.

          I’m not sure if the huge amount of food delivery services like EatClub, Spoonrocket, Caviar, etc is a Bay Area thing or all over the country yet, but I recommend looking into it if it’s in your area. While I can and have made my own healthy lunches to bring, I’m more likely to stay with it when I can just go on a website in the morning and say, “the healthy tasty thing! Please bring it to me for lunch!”

    2. Treena Kravm*

      I don’t really try to bring “dishes,” but rather snacks. Cut up crudite/hummus and whole fruit along with cheese and crackers portioned out.

      1. Nashira*

        Add some crackers or pita bread, an ounce of cheese, and possibly some olives and hummus/crudite becomes a full meal. When my innards behave, this is my default lunch.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I do this for lunches. I make a batch of hummus each week (if you’re not making your own hummus you totally should. Very easy and you can make it hearthier) and divide it into small baby food containers. I bring in that and cucumbers for snacks

    3. danr*

      Buy different lettuces and some other salad fixings and make a salad every day using leftovers . I used a better balsamic vinegar as my dressing. Experiment a bit and you’ll never be bored and will be healthy.

    4. Justine*

      Right now I’m making vegetable and hummus wraps for lunch. I include a generous amount of hummus and avocado (to give the wrap enough fat and flavour), and then spinach or spring mix and thinly sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, or whatever veggies catch my fancy.

      To ensure they stay fresh, I mash the avocado with salt and lemon juice so it doesn’t brown, and I don’t slice the wraps ahead of time (which would expose the veggies to air and oxidize them more. Then I wrap them in seran wrap and put them in a ziploc bag.

      1. brightstar*

        I read this before going grocery shopping and plan on doing this during the week. Minus the avacado.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I sometimes throw an avocado and some sprouted wheat bread into my lunchbox and have avocado toast for lunch. Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning and kosher salt–mmm mmm. I don’t slice the avocado until I’m ready to eat it. Works great when I’m in a hurry in the morning and forgot to pack up leftovers.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Guacamole freezes like a dream. I make up a big batch and freeze it in quarter cup portions and eat it with table water crackers.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait, what? Does it? I am now in a routine of making three separate batches of guacamole each weekend, so that we have fresh guacamole each night (um, we have a taco obsession) because I hate the mushier texture of next-day guacamole. Talk to me about the texture after freezing and thawing — does it taste fresh? And how are you thawing — in fridge overnight, in microwave, something else? I need all the details on this.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Yeah, one of the first things I Googled was whether I could freeze it.

          Typically what I do is split it up and freeze it in quarter cup portions like I said. I try to use slightly wider shallower tupperware and spread it over the bottom so it defrosts faster and evenly. If you have a lump of guacamole, then you have a lump of ice and the center takes too long to soften while the outside goes gross.

          I take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before I want to eat it around 9pm, and bring it to work. By noon, it’s all soft but still ice cold. The outside darkens, so I give it a quick stir with a fork and it’s all good. If it stays cold, the texture isn’t affected. I imagine if you let it warm to fridge temperature it would be mushy.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          I don’t like what happens, texture-wise, when guac freezes. I’ve gotten very good at keeping it good in the fridge for a week (if it isn’t devoured faster).

          I put it in tupperware and then smooth the surface. Then I put lime juice on top. I cover this with plastic wrap, smoothing out any air bubbles and making sure there’s no guac exposed to air. This usually means the plastic wrap goes up the sides and overhangs the lip of the container. Finally I fix the lid in place.

          I rarely get any browning storing guacamole this way. It works for cut avocado halves, too.

          1. Coach Devie*

            I’m actually ready to try this. Guac never lasts long enough to store for me, but I am about to try pre-prepping meals for 4 days at a time and I love avocado and guac but I have this fear of the brown, so I always consume right away (thus I am careful to only make what I will eat in that sitting)

            I was thinking lime juice (should have same effect as lemons with fruit no? but taste better since lime is already used!) should work. Glad to read a first-hand account.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Yay! I will mention the plastic wrap is also key — with just lime, you’ll get a small amount of brown.

    6. Cath in Canada*

      I get up a bit early on Mondays and roast a select of veggies – some kind of squash, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower – and sometimes steam some broccoli or green beans. I do a different combination of four veggies, in a range of colours, each time. Minimal prep time: all you have to do is set timers to make sure everything gets cooked for the right amount of time, while you do other things. So start with the squash, then throw it in the oven and start preparing everything else. 10 minutes later throw the carrots in, 10 minutes after that throw the peppers in, then leave for 20 minutes. I divide it into four portions and take one per day to work. I microwave it at lunch time, and throw on some goat or hard cheese, pumpkin seeds, and a dash of soy and/or tabasco (I keep all the add-ons at work). The biggest hassle is the cooling down time between cooking it and portioning it out.

    7. misspiggy*

      Chilli is a good one, especially if you bulk out the beef with finely chopped mushrooms. It has beans, peppers and tomatoes (and the onion), plus I like to add tinned sweetcorn. Great microwaved and dumped on a toasted bagel.

      1. salad fingers*

        Love the variety of things people put chili on – bagel is a new one for me :-)

    8. Noelle*

      I make cauliflower fried “rice” a lot. It’s nice because you can add any vegetables you want, and flavor it with whatever you have on hand. There are a ton of recipes for it, but basically you just grate up cauliflower or put it in a food processor until it gets crumbly. I made it this weekend with peas, carrots, onions, peppers, and scrambled eggs and it was delicious. I haven’t frozen it (and cauliflower doesn’t hold up in the freezer for very long, unfortunately), but it lasts at least a week in the fridge.

      1. Sunflower*

        Second this! I just made this last week. Also if you cook with coconut oil it gives it amazing flavor.

        I’m experimenting a lot with trying to sub in caulflower for cabs. Some things have gone well, others not so much. This one is a winner though.

        1. Noelle*

          Yeah, I’ve been trying to cut down on carbs because my fiance can’t eat gluten. I like cauliflower as a substitute for rice, and as a pizza crust it’s tolerable but not really the same. In general I try to think of it as a tasty vegetable, and not as an actual viable substitute, and it’s less disappointing that way.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        I finally gave this a try earlier this week and was amazed at how good it was (I don’t care for raw cauliflower). I did it up fried rice style and the husband didn’t even realize it wasn’t real rice until I told him.

        1. Noelle*

          I had leftover cauliflower rice for lunch today. It reheats pretty well! Once the flavoring is absorbed I can’t really tell it’s not rice either.

    9. Sunflower*

      I enjoy egg white and avocado salad- no mayo. I eat edamame a lot as well.

    10. Judy*

      Not make ahead and freeze, but make ahead and refrigerate. I’ve been taking mason jar salads to work for the past few months. You can make them on Sunday and eat them all week. There are plenty of recipes around the internet, I’ve gotten quite a few from organizeyourselfskinny website.

    11. INTP*

      I like a warm, hearty lunch (prefer for lunch to be the largest meal of the day) so I like to make things like enchiladas or lasagna, but with a lot of veggies. Vegetarian Times has a recipe for Kale Lasagna Diavalo that I like, and you can add many types of veggies in addition to or instead of the kale. For enchiladas I like black bean filling with either mushrooms or butternut squash. There is also a recipe for quinoa eggplant parm casserole I really like on a blog called The Iron You (I add mozzarella on top but that’s optional). Then keep washed leafy greens or roasted veggies in your fridge every week, and you can quickly add more veggies on the side.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I do like something warm at lunch occasionally. I discovered that turkey meatballs are really satisfying. I’ll make em on the weekend, freeze out portions, and then eat them over salad or cooked veggies.

    12. LD*

      Google quinoa confetti salad. You’ll get lots of options. It’s a cold salad dish. The one’s I’ve tried use rice wine vinegar so it has a sweeter flavor. It’s delicious and the leftovers are great, too. It’s typically a side dish but would work as a main dish if you add chopped chicken.

    13. Jack K*

      Freezing is great for beans, lentils, and potatoes, but I find it damages the texture of fresh vegetables. Salads/crudites with a dressing packed separately, fresh fruits, leftover roast vegetables, blanched veggies, and refrigerator pickles are all quick to make and travel well. Refrigerator pickles are great, because unlike most leftovers, they taste better each time you eat them.

  4. Colleen*

    I agree with you, Alison, about “The Paying Guests.” It was a wonderfully vivid book. I enjoyed it immensely.

      1. AmyNYC*

        I think it may have been too built up by great review for me. I read it and kept thinking “this is the book everyone went CRAZY for?”

    1. Margali*

      I was disappointed by the book. The Little Stranger and Fingersmith were MUCH better, I thought. The Little Stranger was #2 on my list of favorite 3 books I read in 2014.

      1. brightstar*

        I loved Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith and I was disappointed in the Paying Guests as well. For some reason, the detail got to me and I felt like it slowed things down.

    2. Development professional*

      I really liked it too. Not at all what I was expecting, but in a good way. I found myself recounting parts of it to other people like it was a juicy TV drama, which I always take as a good sign!

  5. #81D8D0*

    I’m not sure who Elsa Peretti is, but I believe she’s helped me get my Mother’s Day thing happening this year. Although I note that she doesn’t work for free. Name link reveals details of my intrepid scheme. Fingers crossed, ’cause gift-giving around here tends to be hit-or-miss.

  6. Treena Kravm*

    What are some easy/simple resources to improve WordPress skills? It’s for a just-for-fun blog, but I want to gain some skills during the fun, and I’m maybe at a 101 level. I’m thinking of either an online MOOC-type thing or a book, but other types of resources are welcome =)

    1. Sweetheart of the Rodeo*

      I used lynda.com to learn WordPress, but I hate the interface. If you want to actually have fun, don’t use WordPress.

      1. Liane*

        I don’t find it difficult or troublesome, but I only use the interface for writing, updating & editing posts. I’m not involved in setting up the actual site.

      2. Treena Kravm*

        Do you mean you hate the interface of Lynda.com or WordPress? It’s too late to change WordPress, but I was thinking about paying for lynda because there are a couple of other things I want to learn too. I want to have fun with the writing/posting, but want to dig in a little in terms of WordPress, even if that part isn’t too fun.

        1. Sweetheart of the Rodeo*

          I like lynda.com quite a bit (and I work in online education-on-demand, so I’m picky). — I dislike WordPress. The process for uploading images is unnecessarily cumbersome and the formatting seems very finicky to me. I’m working on wordpress.com, with templates, rather than on the self-hosted version, so that might make a difference.

          1. Christina*

            I don’t upload pictures to WordPress, I use Flickr and then embed them in the html for the post. And I use a lot of pictures on my blog (I also use the .com version, which at this point is pretty silly since I pay for the “customization” option in wordpress, I should just get a domain and go self-hosted).

    2. Editrix*

      Make a test site, think of things you would like to be able to do (e.g. Add plu-ins, change the font). Google “WordPress how to x” and follow the instructions until it works. Rinse and repeat.

  7. Stephanie*

    Suggestions for things to do in San Francisco next weekend? I’ve done most of the touristy stuff already. I’m only visiting for the weekend, so I’d prefer not to do anything that would take up an entire day like a wine country tour.

    Also, reassure me here: I’m meeting up with a couple of college friends I haven’t seen in a few years and I’m anxious. Not because I don’t want to see them (I do!), I think I’m just nervous to be like “Hey! I’m…not doing a ton currently. I’m underemployed and living with my parents. Yay? Tell me about your exciting life.” On a rational level, I know no one will actually care. On an emotional level, it’s like “Ugh, I’m worried they will think less of me or turn me into a pity case.”

    1. Paige Turner*

      Things to do: Amoeba Records? Rent a bikeshare bike?
      Reassurance: if you figure out a solution to this one, let me know. I’m in the same boat.

    2. onnellinen*

      My mom and sisters went to SF last year, and took the ferry to Sausolito, rented bikes to ride to Tiburon, and then took the ferry back after lunch. I have no idea how far/long that is, but they had a great time.

      I’m sure your friends will be too thrilled to see you to think any less of your current situation! Besides, not doing a ton means time to do things like travel to SF for a visit… Have fun!

    3. Treena Kravm*

      My favorite thing to do in SF is just hang out in a park, usually Golden Gate or Dolores. If you could rent a car, maybe Half Moon Bay? It’s really close and gorgeous. Have you checked those free stuff-to-do sites? http://sf.funcheap.com/

    4. TheLazyB*

      Second thing: it took me, like 10-15 years after uni to realise that really, no one cares about your day job. (Or if they do, in a judgy way, they’re not worth worrying about.) You’d be well within your rights to say ‘this is my weekend off, i don’t wanna think about work!’ anyway :) if anyone makes weird faces about living with your parents (unlikely) just tell them you’re living there so you can save more/you get on well with them and have no reason to move yet/another bland boring reason, then move the convo on :)

      Have fun!

    5. Sunflower*

      I’ll also be in San Fran! I’ve not done the toursity stuff so that’s what I’ll be doing. Sunday is bay to breakers which is the huge bike ride and also a giant drinking day so beware of that.

      As far as work, just say ‘oh you know, just working, living, nothing new’. is there anything exciting that you are doing? New activties or hobbies? If so, turn the conversation to that and people will be more excited to talk about that

    6. Revanche*

      I always love doing a morning at the Ferry Building for the farmers market, Saturday up til 2 pm I think. I know it’s touristy and I LIVE here for goodness’ sake but it’s still so bright and cheery with the gorgeous flowers and piles of fresh produce. There are also some fantastic food trucks.

      From there you could walk up to Coit Tower if you feel like getting some walking and altitude in or you could hit the Exploratorium which has moved to the Embarcadero.

      Golden Gate Park is always lovely if you want a day outdoors.

      If you’re really more about food (I am!) then I suggest the Mission District. Lots of good food to try and there’s a decent amount of walking and looking at things you can do in that area. North Beach is good for Italian and there’s a great bookstore thereabouts.

      The ferry that onnellinen suggests is always a nice ride on a pretty day.

      As far as your friends, good ones will understand that you’re between things right now and not dwell on it if you ask them not to. If you won’t find it depressing, my strategy tends to be asking them to fill me in on their stuff instead.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I also live here and completely love the Ferry Building. We have an Exploratorium membership — their new location has a pretty good restaurant and bar in the back, making it a killer all-day destination.

        In addition to everything everyone else has mentioned, I recommend Musée Mecanique. It’s pretty much the only reason to hit Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s THE BEST.

        It’s a warehouse full of working coin-op amusements throughout the ages. Player pianos, coin-op bands, tableaux, strength machines, pinball, video games … I love it! Admission is free; it pays for itself with the machines. I feel SO RICH being able to get five bucks’ worth of quarters and spend it however I want. It’s exactly what, as a child, I imagined adulthood would be like.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      On Sunday, go to the San Rafael Farmers Market (at the Civic Center), much less touristy and much larger than the Ferry Building one. You don’t have to buy actual produce—there’s plenty of just good food there, including some amazing liege Belgian waffles (if you get them, get them with Nutella and whipped cream). It’s supposed to be the third-largest farmers market in California (though I don’t know what the top two are).

      If you’re up in Marin, check out the Marin Mammal Center as well. An amazing educational hospital, not a zoo or entertainment place.

      I don’t know if this counts as touristy, but it’s always fun to get pedal-boating at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

      If you’re looking for less-well-known museums, check out the Disney Family Museum in the Presidio or the Cartoon Art Museum in SOMA.

      If you’re looking for some less-well-known restaurants with amazing food, check out Matterhorn Swiss Restaurant in Russian Hill or L’osteria del Forno in North Beach.

      And walking up and down Clement St is always fun (and that area is not touristy at all).

      1. onnellinen*

        Oooh, the cartoon art museum – good call! I went to a wedding reception there once, and it was awesome.

    8. Cristina in England*

      If they’re even semi-decent friends, they’ll be more concerned that you seem unhappy with your living and working situation than what that situation actually is. If you are unhappy with it (as opposed to just unhappy with telling people about it) then maybe they might have some helpful input. If you’re happy about it, on the other hand, that will come through as well. Old friends will be able to read the subtext of what you’re saying.

    9. Margali*

      Hyde Street Pier is really interesting — $5 and you can walk on board several historic ships moored there, and they have signs and iPhone audiotours.

  8. Steve G*

    Wow I logged on right at the beginning………….Does anyone else have Mother’s Day anxiety? My mom/aunts are all lovely, but my 88yo grandma is always a pain. You can’t bring her out because even when she was younger she complains about everything in restuarants and monopolizes the waiter (I’ve had them roll their eyes to me when she wasn’t looking) and every visit is the same – she tries to force feed me unhealthy food repeatedly and I go on a long description of how I health healthy, blah blah blah, and she says my diet is ridiculous and then offers me chocolate again, then she tells me I make so much money, what I am doing with it (I never made “a lot” of $$), which gets old pretty quick, then she wants gossip about the family and complains about the life decisions of many relatives, and rehashes the same BS, like “have you spoken to xyz aunt.” Oh, you mean the one that did many not great things and then removed herself from our 1/2 of the family (not even on my grandma’s side) 6 years ago? Nope, this wasn’t the month that she suddenly became a new person. Nope, this isn’t the month that my paycheck-to-paycheck sister got a 6 figure job. Nope, this isn’t the month that my divorcee sister got over her ex and started dating. Yes, I know she needs to do that but we don’t need to discuss for the 100th time and you don’t need the details of her dating life anyway.

    Her cheapness (at this stage in her life especially) always and has always surprised me, it is always getting to new lows. She lives in a high income area, so it does hurt her social life. People can’t identify with the cheapness, and it is almost rude in certain situations/with certain people to monopolize the conversation talking about money so much. People who made well into the 6-figures and are enjoying their retirement don’t want to waste time/energy talking about where to get 50 cents off on a can of tomatoes. It is so bad that when she was in the hospital she asked people to bag all of the food/tasteless bread-wrapped-in-plastic type stuff when they visited. Guess what? People didn’t want to visit anymore. Hoarding stuff from a restaurant is bad enough, but from the hospital? A little much.

    I am extra nervous because she doesn’t know I am unemployed and would be scandalized if she knew and would never shut up an about it, and would keep calling me with career advice from the 70s. I usually talk about work when I go there so we stay clear of gossiping about other people, but now that I don’t work….the last time I was there she kept talking about how we need to like do an intervention to my sister and make her get a new BF, new apartment, new job, and go back to school. My sister is a normal person, yes she needs a better job, but it is very far from intervention phase. It doesn’t make me feel great talking about my sister like that. And it also rubs me the wrong way when my grandma is so so so darn cheap but is going to leave money to relatives who are really bad with money, and I am not getting anything, even though she knows I am one of the only people in our family who saves, I put a lot into an IRA, stock account, and 401K. I’m probably the only person who would save it for the future for the family and not blow it on myself.

    This all sounds horrible, but it is true!

    1. Stephanie*

      Ugh, hang in there. Being told I need to show gumption over bad eggs sounds like my idea of hell.

    2. Treena Kravm*

      So, not to sound harsh, but why do you even spend time with this woman? Is there some sort of group Mother’s Day event that you can’t get out of?

      1. Steve G*

        I have to stop my grandma’s even if it’s not the main event of the day! You made me laugh though when you said “this woman.” I turned out pretty well considering this is the stock I come from. Sofia Petrillo without the jokes.

    3. #81D8D0*

      So she was born in 1927? It can be difficult to wrap one’s head around the worldview of someone who was born back then. Not that all people in their late 80’s are cheap (or whatever). But my mom and dad were born in that era, and – life was very different back then.

      Have you tried asking her about things in the past? Where did she grow up? Where did she go to school? What was it like? Yeah, sometimes you end up with “when I was your age yadda yadda”. But sometimes you’ll hear some interesting stories.

      1. Steve G*

        I wish she liked talking about the past but whenever I ask a question she either doesn’t remember or asks “why do you want to know?” Not like my other grandparents. Ironically, she is the youngest person in my grandparents’ generation, so I never thought of 1927 as super old, but I guess it is now!

    4. Cristina in England*

      I would check out these Captain Awkward posts for help on how to cope with your grandmother (linked in a reply to this):

      1. Cristina in England*

        Dealing with highly difficult people (spoiler: they won’t change)

        Visits with highly difficult people:

        And I hope this isn’t insensitive to link to, but one day maybe this will come in handy (the death of a difficult grandparent):

        1. Steve G*

          I didn’t know Captain Awkward was an actual thing until you gave me these links.

          The sad part is that I totally see my grandma in the one about the mean grandma, without ever realizing it was mean (because I don’t think she aims to be mean)…especially the part about withholding birthday money. I stopped cashing birthday/Christmas checks from here about 4 yrs ago and she never noticed. I was sick of her complaining after every single holiday that so and so didn’t send a thank you note. I don’t think you need to send someone a thank you note for Christmas presents! I felt like she didn’t really want to be giving the money, so the only way to not take it without making drama was to take the card with the check then not shred it. Again, this sounds horrible written out, but it’s just one of those things I do automatically now!

          1. Steve G*

            I meant “then not CASH it” or “then shred it” in the 2nd to last sentence.

          2. LD*

            “Thank you” notes are a big thing with many people, especially older people. It is really a HUGE thing if the presents are sent through the mail versus being hand-delivered and opened on Christmas Day. How do they know you received them? I am sad that they are going by the wayside. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, as is your grandmother.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Thank you for posting the links. I’m going to read the first one now. My husband and I went no-contact with his father and stepmother a little more than a year ago, but his dad occasionally calls him shouting about something or other, so I’m interested in reading about how to handle that sort of thing.

    5. Ruffingit*

      I think this is one instance where you can lie like a rug and just pretend you’re still employed. She doesn’t need to know you’re not. So just make up some stories along the lines of things you’ve previously discussed about work. Also, keep the visit as short as possible. If she offers you chocolate, just take it. It’s easier than trying to explain healthy eating and going through that whole thing that she doesn’t respect anyway. Just accept it and toss it later or whatever. Basically, do everything possible to make this easy on yourself.

    6. VintageLydia USA*

      Oh goodness I can relate about people harping about a sibling’s perceived lack of success (only it’s our mother. I call her out on it but she is who she is.) He makes roughly $10/hr but he saves a TON of money. He’ll be one of those guys who always worked at or near minimum wage but you find out when he dies he’s a secret millionaire or whatever. He just a bought a decent house in a working class neighborhood, he has a ton of hobbies and friends, and he’s just generally a pretty happy dude. But he doesn’t have a degree and likely never will have one, and therefore will likely never get a “real” (::eyeroll::) job, and he’s never had a girlfriend. These last points override all the other points about him being happy with his current life and able to EASILY support the lifestyle he wants despite his relatively low income.

      Meanwhile, he’s being compared to me who’s material “success” in life is due to marrying a guy who makes 6 figures. I don’t have a degree, I don’t have a paying job (SAHM), and until very recently had WAY more debt, but I got lucky (Mr. Vintage was making less than me when we married and his current career is something he more or less accidentally fell into.)

      It sucks. It really sucks. I just make sure my brother knows I have no problem with his lifestyle, and in fact very proud of him.

      1. Steve G*

        I know I know……today I got into reviewing my older sisters’ resume, and I knew she had a lot of hard mental health/addiction jobs, but it gave me pause when I saw that she also did a bunch of courses she never mentioned, including a 350-hour night course of alcoholism, I was like wow, that’s a lot of hours (over a year of night school) that you only mentioned a few times in passing and I forgot about. Yeah, her current job doesn’t paid a lot, but she’s also expert in a lot of mental illnesses and addictions and knows how to deal with both, very different categories of people, and after reading her resume today, I was like, yeah…you should be making more than me in my finance type analytical jobs…..in my family though, she totally isn’t seen as a success, which is kind of sad, now that I write about it here.

    7. Jazzy Red*

      Well, cheer up Steve, you grandma isn’t going to live much longer, and then you’ll never have to put up with another visit with her.

      I was with you until the end of your post when you started complaining that she wasn’t planning to leave her money to you. If that’s the only motivation for your visits, do both of yourselves a favor and stop seeing her.

      1. Lizh*

        Your response to Steves’ comment is coming across as rather harsh in tone. Maybe I can relate so well to what he is saying because I was in a very similiar situation with my mother. She lived through some bad times, and I get that, truly. Every Christmas I had to hear about how expensive Christmas was, and how much money she was spending on Christmas. One year, after listening to that diatribe, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas. My answer was nothing, and that is exactly what I got from her, nothing! Suited me fine. A gift should be a gift from the heart, and not accompanied by a lecture .

        1. steve g*

          I know I said I was NOT getting money, so why would it be a reason for a visit?! My point is that she grills me on how much money I make and what I’m doing it, at the same time I know she has a couple million in cash, which she said a few times I’m not getting (thank you for working that into the conversation). Meanwhile she’s leaving it to a relative or two who are notoriously bad with money. Also I don’t have an issue with thank you cards, it just is getting old now that two weeks after 70 percent of holidays since I was a kid involve her complaining about someone not giving a thank you card. My sisters bday is jan 9th, and she’s witheld presents for not giving a thank you card yet (two weeks after the date) for christmas. I’m talking about checks for not very substantial amounts given in person in lieu of a present.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        That seems unnecessarily harsh, Jazzy Red.

        I’ve been in a similar situation where a relative willed their money to the irresponsible cousins “because they need it more.” Well, they need it more because they were spendthrifts who racked up crazy debt just to have the latest/newest whatever, and literally have never saved so much as a penny. The cousins who had learned our grandparents’ lessons of working hard and saving got stiffed, while the irresponsible druggy/alcoholics got rewarded. It can be a tad painful. Yes, everyone gets to spend their money however they want, including grandparents, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when they choose to reward bad behavior.

        Also, I didn’t even remotely get the idea that Steve’s only motivation for visiting was to get her money.

        1. fposte*

          I think if Steve was that keen on her money, in fact, he wouldn’t be leaving years of birthday checks uncashed.

        2. Steve G*

          Not sure if you’ll see this, but thanks for the comment. I posted here to commiserate about family issues and you seem to get it. Yeah, I am totally not visiting my grandma for money or whatever, we have ups and downs and recently it’s been a lot of downs, however, I have to say, maybe you guys sent out good vibes or something, but she was more pleasant tonight than she’s been in a loonnngg time, and she even was giving me some new (used but nice) furniture/lamps for my new, half-empty apartment.

          I would never be the type to visit someone to get an inheritance, but I lived with my grandparents for 3 years of 4 1/2 of college and I know how they saved those millions by the hundred, and I’ve seen how less responsible relatives wasted past inheritances, and I really don’t want the same to happen here.

          As per alchys, druggies, I have no proof, but I think that my relative that recently blew 75K and doesn’t know where it went may fall in this category. I mean, they live in the Midwest…the COL is not that high out there….and when a must-have kitchen appliance broke recently, they waited 6 months to replaced it, citing no money. Um….you don’t even have a few hundred left two years after receiving 75K cash on top of your other $$$?


      3. catsAreCool*

        Steve G knows he isn’t getting anything from her, and he still puts up with her, and she sounds really tough to deal with. I don’t think he’s being mercenary here.

        1. steve g*

          Tiz true. I was more kvetching about verbal behavior but since someone mentioned any possible inheritance….I do think I should get one. I make out well so don’t care, but if there was money up for grabs, I think I should get one, precisely because I’d be good at maintaining a fund for future family needs. I don’t need a cent of it. I’d keep it in the stock market for college funds, to help other people with retirements, etc. I have a particular relative who has a pension, lives in a cheap rural area, has gotten two big inheritances, but doesn’t remember where the last 75k went. No home inprovements, no new clothes, no fabulous vacations, but 75k…poof! just sayin’!

    8. LD*

      Has she always been this critical? If so, it’s just more of the same and you need to do what you can to remind yourself that it is her typical behavior and attitude and has nothing to do with you or your success. Also, as we age, we all get more like who we have always been. It might help to think about agreeing with her on a few of her complaints. Not the ones about other people, but the ones about how “expensive” things are. So when she complains about how much dinner costs, you can respond, “Yes, good restaurants are more expensive!” and ask her, “How much did you used to pay for dinner when you went out with Granddad?” Or when she complains about your family member, you can say “I know you are worried, but I think they are managing their own life just fine. They are happy and we should be happy for them.” If you’ve already tried some of the agreement tactics, and asked her about her experience, then that may not be worth the effort. Just know that you are not alone in having difficult relatives.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t know if this helps Steve, but years ago I saw a short article in Forbes that stated most family fortunes are lost by one of two ways. First way is apathy. No one tends to the money, and it more or less blows away in the wind. The second way money is lost is by careless spending. This article provided some consolation to me for what I see going on around me.

      I hope your visit with your grandma went okay. It’s admirable that you still keep trying with her. These are the type of things that we get paid back for later in life. I can promise you that you will get this returned to you later on in some form and when you need it. I never really believed this stuff until I saw it with my own eyes. No, the people who should pay us back are not the people who pay us back. It’s different people, the ones who owe us can’t pay us back sometimes. And somehow that is okay.

      1. Steve G*

        Hi, not sure if you’ll see this, but I’ll have to look that article up. That is exactly what I don’t want to happen. My grandma has her quirks and bad sides and her comments can be insulting but she is deep down a good person and this is exactly what I don’t want to happen, that the money she saved by being cheap (+ those years coinciding with the stock market going up) gets wasted frivolously. I know that I could manage it properly, but she isn’t making the decision on how to split it logically.

        That relative who squandered the 75K recently…..there are no repercussions for that in my family…everyone is afraid to say anything. I think it is disrespectful to the deceased.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree with you, that it feels disrespectful to the deceased’s life long efforts.
          I would guess it was Forbes around 2007. The article was very short and did not expand much more than what I have here. But in an odd way it comforted me to know that what I was seeing was not a one-off but rather something that happened to many families.
          I am not sure how to prevent it or even if that is possible. My only hope is that it happens for a reason and I just don’t see it.

  9. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I’m half puzzled, half amused.

    My friend Nancy went through her share of bad men. But apparently, there is one she has decided to stay friends with. She dated him for a bit, he called it quits because she’s not quite from “his culture” (same religion, but different city of origin from same country or something) , she finds someone else, other guy dumps her like a hot potato, and she still talks to Cactus guy (I call him cactus guy because of very very rude reasons) .

    Cactus guy will talk to her for a bit, take her out, manage to sleep with her, be absent for a bit, she will lament it, and it will happen again. I’ve seen the cycle a few times. And each time, something is added: one time, she realized she does love him, another time, he said he was raised to actually want a woman from his area, blah de blah, and the circle began anew. She was really, really pissed at him and for me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back: I was done with hearing about Cactus guy.

    Did the lamenting about him stop ? Not quite, but things seemed to calm down. He wouldn’t talk to her that much, blah de blah… and then one day, all of a sudden, she sees him and he “tries” again. You can imagine how pissed I was.

    Oh well, you might say…

    But nope! Two days ago, Nancy asks me for a favor. Guys, get this: Cactus guy is trying to become a driver’s license examiner, and he needs two “students” to help him out otherwise he won’t get the job. I tell her nope, not going to do it, if I see him, I’ll hurt him, so NO. I’m NOT responsible for his mess, if he doesn’t have friends to do it well, so be it. Actions have consequences and all that. And I’ll admit I was very firm in my refusal xD.

    You know what ? I think Nancy is pissed at me for refusing… and I’m amused by it like you wouldn’t imagine :P .

    (and at the same time, I feel like I’m 15 again. No, lady, when I tell you I’m not going to do it, don’t ask the question 15 different ways in hopes I change my mind xD )

    1. Revanche*

      Shaking my head. Apparently she thinks you need to validate her choice to keep seeing and being used by this guy. I’m with you, we’re past that stage of life.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          She needs to spend some time over at http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/ But she won’t. You’re just going to have to reinforce that boundary about not wanting to hear her complain. Being supportive is not about listening to the same stuff over and over and over again, hoping things change.

        2. catsAreCool*

          I don’t think it’s mean to say no to this type of thing. It’s maddening to deal with someone who keeps falling for and getting mistreated by the same person over and over and over again.

    2. what???*

      Just wondering why you care so much about your friend’s dating life?? If she wants to date a jerk, so be it. Why all the energy into a friend’s choices?

      1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        Oh the thing is, I only “care” because she talks about it so much. She’s very much interested in my own dating life, though I’ve made it clear that my choices aren’t up for discussion, and especially not in the way she’d like to discuss them.

        I’ve tried to do the “empowerment” talk. Basically, I don’t give a flying duck about who she dates or how, as long as she doesn’t keep coming back to me to complain about certain choices. I’ll use a lame comparison cause my brain is rather fried by now.

        Say you’re allergic to peanuts, just like me. You tell me and I sympathize with you because ouch, that can hurt. You eat peanut once, get sick, complain about the allergy. Repeat a few more times. After a while, when you complain about the allergy while eating more peanuts I’ll just tell you to shuddup about it, and tell you it’s about time you stopped eating them (yeah, sometimes, I just snap, I’ll admit it). And with what she did recently, basically she knows we’re both allergic to peanuts, but not only is she still eating them, now she wants to spread peanut butter on me, too! So noooooooooopes.

        Sorry for the lame analogy. I’m preparing for a video game stream and my brain just exploded a little :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I think your reaction is perfectly normal. I’d be sick of hearing her bitch about Cactus Guy too (now I am DYING to know why you call him that ha ha ha). I’d be all, “Nancy, shit or get off the pot!”

          I went through this with a friend who would call me up and whinge about her SO—but she had a zillion reasons why she couldn’t leave him. I tried to help, to make suggestions, or help her work out what she needed to do, but she always shot it down. Finally I told her I can’t do this any more–it’s up to you to make up your mind. If you’re unhappy, you have to make a decision to do something about it. If you need my support, I’m here, or any ideas. But I’m not going to listen to you complain about it because I can’t stand seeing you unhappy when it’s in your power to change it.

          She finally met someone else and got out of there, but now I never hear from her. Guess I was only a foul-weather friend. :P

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            “Cactus guy” because he’s a prick? That’s my official guess. :-)

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I so agree. At some point allowing people to vent morphs into enabling their situation to stay alive.
            We were never meant to be dumps for another person. Each of us is responsible for how our lives play out and the choices we make along the way. EW’s story here is about a person that seems to be a friend but really is not. Her friend was looking for someone to dump all her stories on, when Elizabeth said no more stories, the friend disappeared.

            Watch out for these people. As a parallel example, I had some friends from high school. My father pointed out that I always called them and they never called me. (Thanks a lot, Dad.) So as an experiment I stopped calling. They never called. I moved on to find real friends. It’s been well over 30 years and they still have not called. I am not surprised.

            Friendship is a two way street- there is a give and a take. There is a compassionate understanding between friends and it seems that she has lost hers and yours is maxed out. Yep, that means changes are going to be coming up soon.

      2. Anna*

        Because as Nancy’s friend, she’s hearing about it and having to be around and help pick up the pieces when Cactus Guy’s doucheyness raises its head inevitably. It gets said frequently enough I’d think it was obvious: People’s choices affect others as well as themselves.

  10. danr*

    I have a question for the DC area folks. We’ve been invited to a wedding this September in the area at a fancy mansion and the request is for “Cocktail attire”. What would this be on the male side?

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I believe for men cocktail attire is usually a suit, though generally not black. I’d think you’d be all right with a coloured suit (i.e., gray, brown, blue, not like…electric purple) and a shirt that goes. I’d wear a tie if I were you, since it’s a fancy mansion-type affair, and dress shoes.

      1. danr*

        Does a barbeque dinner at waterside make any difference? it sounds as if I’ll be in traditional wedding guest dress. I think for the women it’s a warning not to wear spike heels.

        1. Noelle*

          Can I just say, I really hate barbecue at weddings? Maybe it’s because I’m a slob and can’t eat barbecue in civilized company, and maybe it’s because I come from an area where a barbecue is super casual. It just always seems weird to me to dress up in a cocktail dress and then be expected to eat ribs with my bare hands.

        2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          Eh, I suppose if there’s a chance it’s on the more-casual side you can always ditch the tie. Frankly, I hate the “cocktail attire” thing as it means wildly different things to different people .

          I also have to concur–BBQ at a wedding that isn’t already super-casual is just asking for disaster. To me, BBQ is casual fare, and dress is according. I don’t want to eat anything saucy, drippy, or using my fingers when I’m wearing my Nice Clothes.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yep, seconding suit and dress shoes. For the record, if you only have a black suit, feel free to wear it. No point buying a whole new suit.

    3. Noah*

      Dark, tailored suit. Have some fun with accessories. You don’t want to look like you just came from the office, but you don’t to wear a tuxedo either. I would wear a tie, but if you find yourself as the only one it is easy enough to ditch it in the car.

    4. danr*

      Thanks for confirming our guesses. Talking it over, we think it’s really a strong hight for the friends of the grooms.

  11. Sunflower*

    Like Stephanie I’ll also be in San Fran next weekend! I’ve been a few times but haven’t seen any of the tourists sights so i’ll take any good suggestions whether they be touristy or not! I’ll have all Saturday to explore on my own so will take all suggestions as well as things to stay away from.

    Also- how reliable is the BART? I will be taking it from the mission to SFO early Monday morning. My flight leaves at 8am. Suggestions on what time i should plan to get on at and should i anticipate delays?

    1. Revanche*

      I gave Stephanie a list above so I won’t repeat those. I haven’t done the Alcatraz tour yet but I’m told by a well traveled friend that doing it with the informational headset thingy is actually really neat.

      BART is generally reliable though not as cheap as you’d expect for public transit to get to SFO. Barring unfortunate weirdness like a strike or someone throwing themselves on the tracks, you could catch it as early as 5am if you want to get to the airport by or before 6 am.

      1. Nancypie*

        I was in SF for one day and wasn’t sure if I should visit Alcatraz, since it would take up so much time. I loved it!

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I just went to Alcatraz for the first time as part of our Employee Volunteer Program. We got to work in the gardens that the prisoners used to keep up. It was really interesting!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      BART is almost always on time (but, yes, expensive, as is CalTrain). I don’t know how close you like to cut airport arrivals. I generally like to arrive at least 90 minutes early, even if I’ve checked in online, so if you’re coming from 16th and Mission, you can take the 5:46 AM BART to get to the airport by 6:13 AM. There’s also a 6:01 AM one arriving at 6:28 AM. Also, consider which terminal you’re flying out of. The BART train goes directly into the international terminal. You may have to take a shuttle (or do a lot of walking) to get to another terminal.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Alcatraz tours book up very quickly, so you may not be able to get tickets for next week, but the audio tour is pretty good.

      Definitely see the sun set over Land’s End. Eat a breakfast at Art’s Cafe in the Inner Sunset. Drive, bike, or take the bus up to Twin Peaks during the day to get an amazing view of… everything. Grab some macarons at Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley. Visit an Off the Grid (Presidio picnic or Fort Mason). See the bison paddock in Golden Gate Park. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

      Have a blast!

    4. Grace*

      Angel Island (state park) beyond Alcatraz is very cool. You can take the ferry there. There is the restored Immigration Station (it was the Ellis Island of the West). Great walks, bike rides, good eats, some times music.
      Have a good trip.

    5. Occasional BART rider*

      You’ve probably heard this before, but (really, like any big city) especially in the area around the bart stops in the mission, and especially in the evening, do be aware of your surroundings and be careful of your possessions. That aside, there are also some rather large hills in the vicinity, and if you were carrying heavy luggage, I’d suggest avoiding the trek and taking an uber if possible (even if it’s only to get to the bart station).

    6. Connie-Lynne*

      Yep, BART is super-reliable but it is very slow. Also, it’s kind of wacky, depending on time of day and direction, sometimes you have to go to Millbrae, then one stop to San Bruno, then transfer to an airport-bound train, then trek across the entire dang airport.

      Also it costs way more than public transit should cost.

  12. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    While I was away at a conference this week, learned that my dad has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I was planning a trip to visit my parents next week that I’ll bump up by a few days, but everything still seems kind of unreal. I’m still not sure how I made it through two straight days of trade show and some uninterrupted time with my boss without losing it at him.

    My mom is a cancer alumna herself (15+ years in remission from breast cancer), so we are no strangers to cancer in this family, and I am lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive husband and in-laws and many friends, but I have a feeling that the next few months are going to be dreadfully hard.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m really sorry to hear that former diet coke addict. I hope that there is something they can do for him and that you have a good few days with your parents when you see them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Me, too. I hope this is something that they caught in time. Please know my thoughts are with you and yours.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this. That’s the kind of cancer my dad had. My understanding is that there have been major advances in treatment since he had it and the prognosis is much, much better than it used to be.

      Cancer sucks.

    3. fposte*

      I’m so sorry, Former Diet Coke Addict. I know what you mean about how unreal the world gets. Good luck to you and your family for the months ahead.

  13. Carla*

    I’ve come to dread Fridays, Mondays, long weekends, and holidays at work because of the question “what are your plans?” My office is a very friendly office. People love to talk about their kids, their pets, their birthday parties they’re planning, their weekend getaway, their travel plans, etc etc. I don’t have much of a social life, I live with my family, I have very few friends, I don’t do much travelling. I usually spend my weekends at home watching movies and browsing blogs. Sometimes I;’ll catch a movie with my boyfriend, I’ll go to church with the family and that’s about it. Then I will drive my parents around for groceries and other errands. My life is very boring especially for a 20 something but I don’t necessarily want people at work to know that but I’m sure they’ve figured that out by now. I know I should find an interesting hobby and make some friends. But that’s harder said than done when you’ve been sort of a hermit your whole life and never cultivated friendships and hobbies because of being teased and being shy. Making friends and finding hobbies is a lot easier when you’re still a college kid. I think I’ve earned a reputation at work as sort of an antisocial recluse. People always say you should talk to people about themselves when you can’t think of much to say. So I will ask people about themselves but when they ask about me, I don’t have much to say and I’ve even had to lie on the spot so I don’t seem lame but then I feel even more lame. Like recently, I took a few days off work around my birthday . Then the decided to cut a cake before my vacation and of course people were asking what my plans were for my birthday. I made up something about going to spend the weekend partying in a nearby town. I think i totally sounded like i was making it up as I went. Ughhh kind of embarrassing. Or when I took another few days off of work because i wanted to help a family member in their job search. When people asked what my plans were, I just said I was planning to spend the time at home just relaxing, I got a lot of disappointed and odd looks. Made me feel really lame. Now I am afraid to take another few days off unless I have plans to go off somewhere exciting and fun! My family and I aren’t big into holidays so the answer to what are you doing for Christmas or Easter is usually – uhh nothing really. So do I need to come up with some better lies?
    I know this thread is for non work related questions but I think this question would fit in both threads. And any advice would apply outside of work as well.

    1. Revanche*

      I’ve always been like this, partly because I was always working and partly because I don’t really get out and do things. If that’s your jam, don’t mind their need for you to have new and exciting things to do, people are weird about needing others to do what they’re doing as some kind of validation. I find they were the same about kids when I didn’t want them.

      Only advice I’d offer is to be positive about it when you tell them you’re not up to anything. My answer used to be: if I can manage it, I’m going to sleep all weekend AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS!!
      If nothing else, my sheer enthusiasm would shut them up. There was very obviously no pity invited in that kind of delivery. Also, I bet at least a few will be envious when they realize you can do anything you want and choose to relax anytime you want on your weekends while they’re committed to their merry go round of obligations. I would. ;)

      1. Cristina in England*

        Yes, this!! Something like “I’m really looking forward to spending time with my family/catching up on my reading/getting some fresh air/walking the dog”. The key is the “really looking forward to” part, not whatever comes next. Just be who you are and own your choices!

      2. Hlyssande*

        That’s the best part of adulting, isn’t it? I CAN EAT CAKE FOR BREAKFAST AND SLEEP ALL DAY IF I WANT TO.

        (except for when the cat demands food and snuggles)

    2. danr*

      Just tell folks that you’re saving… for retirement, to buy a house, a new car, whatever. Don’t invent stuff. If you’re going to curl up with a good book or watch a couple of movies, just say so. Or, find someone at work who shares your interests and hang out together.

    3. Steve G*

      No need for lies, if you are happy with your life, don’t apologize for it. Also, staying home doesn’t = doing nothing, remind your coworkers of that. I’ve been home a lot recently doing the (small NYC) garden, setting up my aquarium, working on home improvements, and cooking. Nothing to apologize about. Actually, I’ve had more in-depth conversations with people about taking care of the house than about my world travels (which a lot of people don’t relate to).

      My only question is whether you are happy with your lifestyle, because if you are at the point of needing to lie, I think you aren’t. Is there any possibility of moving out? If not, can you travel anywhere alone for weekend? I have travelled with people and alone since I was 18, but it is easier for me since I’m in the NE corridor and can pop between lots of cities. Travelling is definitely something to do in your 20s. Also, you don’t need a burdensome/expensive hobby. You can take the train to your closest city and spend a day walking around/sightseeing alone, or you can join a class at the gym (sounds intimidating, but you’ll realize that the same people show up routinely, and they aren’t paying attention to how you exercise).

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Agreed, lying is weird. Most people just look forward to weekends no matter what and most coworkers get excited like everyone for time off even if it’s puttering around the home all weekend.

    4. Noah*

      I’m with you, I actually enjoy a quiet weekend at home. I once took a week of vacation time and did nothing but stay at home, spend time by the pool at my apartment complex, and go to a few movies in the middle of the day by myself. In that case I didn’t really tell anyone at work that I was staying at home, just that I had a relaxing week doing nothing and sitting by the pool.

      Sorry, not the best of advice, but you’re not a loser for wanting to spend time alone or at home.

    5. Treena Kravm*

      I can’t figure out which problem is the real problem. Do you genuinely want to do more things in life? Is the judgement you anticipate from your co-workers a reflection of you wanting to change? Or are you trying to figure out how discuss your life with co-workers?

      First things first, stop lying! That’s SO unnecessary and so bizarrely weird for your co-workers to hear. I don’t care how boring you thinkg you are, it’s not worth lying. Having dinner with my family, going out to eat, Joe and I saw The Avengers, a quiet night in–all of those are phrases that no one should be raising an eyebrow at. Those are normal, nice things to do in your free time! Practice sounding enthused when you talk about your “boring” life. If you’re excited about going to a movie and dinner, it’s going to come off as exciting. Your co-workers are probably reacting to the anxiety you’re projecting, not the actual activity you’re discussing. In terms of vacation, try calling it a staycation, that’s the term people use and it seems more celebratory than “nothing” or “relaxing.” Another trick is that if you do end up sharing something that you think is “boring,” just laugh it off and joke about how you’re such a homebody, or even calling yourself boring will lead people to say something like “Oh no, that sounds lovely!”

      If you actually want to do something a little more exciting, try doing a day trip to somewhere less than an hour away, or even spend the day at the park. Something simple and easy. Good luck!

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For the record, I’d categorize it as work-related but since people have already started responding I don’t want to bump it off. So I guess just consider this a general (and feeble) reminder that if it’s about work, it goes on the Friday thread. Thanks!

    7. random person*

      I think there’s nothing to be embarrassed about in saying you’re spending time with your family! Don’t think of it in terms of “still at home with my parents,” think of it as “adult who’s friends with my parents,” and it’s totally different.

    8. The IT Manager*

      Are you sure they’re judging you? I wonder if that’s coming from your own head because you think you should be doing more.

      I personally am pretty boring – don’t go out much – but I am fine with it. My weekend plans are usually chores, reading, or watching some sports (usually in TV). I don’t mind sharing that. I don’t feel the need to lie about it.

      1. Girasol*

        I’m with you – no one is judging. People are mostly fishing for the opportunity to tell you what they’re looking forward to. I don’t get out much either, having a long commute and needing weekends just to catch up on chores and rest. I’ve found a groan and “Yardwork!” or “Housework!” to be satisfactory answers. They’ll groan and say “Know what you mean!” and go on to tell me about their chores and what else they’ll do this weekend. Nothing weird about that.

      2. Katie*

        Yes, I agree that this is likely much more in your head than you think. People really don’t care that you’re having a laid-back weekend at home, and I think they just ask the question as conversation fodder- they really don’t care that much what you’re doing, whether it’s skydiving or working on a puzzle. Nor do I think they’re saying to themselves “my, that’s five weekends in a row that Carla is relaxing and going to church. Time to get a hobby!”.

        To be honest, your thought pattern sounds a lot like mine when I’ve hit low points with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If approaching weekends cause you stress because you’re worried about talking about them with coworkers, that’s not a normal thought pattern! This is worth talking with someone about.

        Do you work in a younger office? Because most people I know spend most of their weekends doing the same things you do. It’s only the recently-out-of-college crowd that seems to have a string of “interesting” things to do. Most people don’t have endless strings of concert tickets, unicycle riding, and weekends away. If you’re happy with your weekend plans, that’s all you need to worry about.

      3. INTP*

        I don’t know, I’ve been flat-out told by coworkers that I should party more due to my age and singleness. The concept of a young single person without an exciting social life is odd and sad to some people, for whatever reason. But I do find that most people will get used to it if you tell them every single weekend what you’re doing and calmly withstand the recommendations that you go clubbing or whatever. As people get to know me they tend to realize how much of an introvert I am realize that my lack of a social life is not a sign that I am depressed or lonely or a sociopath, it just makes sense for me.

    9. LD*

      Second what everyone else has already said…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with your current plans, unless you are feeling like you WANT something else. As others have already eloquently said, most people are just making conversation and when they ask, it’s how you respond. And as long as you don’t sound embarrassed or upset about your plans, then they won’t wonder either. You can always say something like, “Oh the usual, hanging with family…catching up on my reading….yardwork….” Whatever! Then follow that with, “What about you? Doing anything fun this weekend?” That’s all you really need and sometimes it’s just that people are asking in hopes that you’ll ask back so they can tell you what their plans are. It can even be just that it’s a conventional topic that doesn’t mean much. Think about the “How are you?” question, followed by the conventional response “Fine. How are you?” Just recognizing that not everything is a serious question can be helpful. Maybe they are just making casual conversation. You don’t need to entertain them with exciting stories. Just be friendly and smile at them when you respond, “Not much; how about you?”

    10. INTP*

      I can identify with this. A fun social life is just not really a need I have. I can be perfectly happy without it and usually genuinely prefer to spend my weekends relaxing at home, taking walks outside, and doing chores. I have found lying useful when I worked in a hyperextroverted work culture and it was not acceptable to be unavailable for things like happy hour or weekend barhopping unless you had social plans (gym classes etc did not count). However, most of the time I find that if you just tell the truth about what you did for the weekend eventually people get used to it, learn to accept that you’re happy the way you are, and stop getting that pained look on their faces or digging for more information because they’re sure you’re doing fun social stuff that you aren’t telling them about. It doesn’t have to be detailed, just “Oh, I relaxed at home with Netflix and spent time with family.” The fact that you are telling obvious lies or evading questions, to be honest, might be compounding the problem because people are curious about what you aren’t telling them (not that they have a right to the info, but sometimes people are inappropriate when they’re curious).

      1. INTP*

        Also, even your “boring” weekends might involve some common ground that you can chat with coworkers about. Mention a movie you watched, a show you got into, a recipe you made, etc. You’ll find that a lot of people are doing that stuff too, they just aren’t talking about it.

    11. catsAreCool*

      I tend to say either “Taking it easy”, “Catching up on stuff”, “Spending time with family”, “Not much”. I’m kind of reclusive too and always have been. I think some of this gets easier as you get into your late 30’s though. People become more appreciative of “Taking it easy” as an answer.

      1. Ella*

        This. When I ask people if they have weekend plans, I am just being polite and making conversation. I don’t really care that much nor do I judge their response if it’s not some exciting adventure. Just say “taking it easy, how about you?” And then move on.

  14. Sherm*

    Speaking of books, anyone feel like there’s a book out there that would absolutely transform your life for the better, but you just haven’t found it yet?

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Probably, but when you try to guess it, or someone tells you it’ll transform you, it almost never does.

    2. MJ*

      Books transform my life all the time. Carolyn Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit transformed me. Dance of Anger (Harriet Lerner) transformed me (taught me about boundaries). Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth transformed me. Antifragile (Nassim Taleb) transformed my leadership style. Dance of the Dissident Daughter (Sue Monk Kidd) gave me permission to change.

      Right now I am reading a number of books about treating immune disorders with food, exercise, stress relief, and gut repair, and they are helping me transform my health. Learning to cook and eat healthy foods (when I have never really cooked much at all) is an exercise in mindfulness that is life-changing. I read a cookbook today (Nom Nom Paleo), and I actually enjoyed it. This is a first!

      I think transformation comes in bits and pieces, and I credit books with much of the impetus. I am never happier than when I find my next read.

      1. saro*

        I’m interested in the books about curing the anti immune disorders, if you don’t mind sharing.

    3. Sweetheart of the Rodeo*

      I’ve mentioned it before, but if you have even the slightest leaning toward Buddhism/meditation and mindfulness as an approach to transformation, self-awareness and being a better human, Phillip Moffit’s Emotional Chaos to Clarity is an amazing book.

      1. Windchime*

        That sounds good to me. I’ve read a handful of books by the Dalai Lama and always feel better afterwards because he just breaks things down in such a simple, reasonable manner. I’m going to give this one a try.

  15. Amber Rose*

    Today I would like to share the ridiculous and embarassing tale of how I injured my leg, and then ask a question.

    To start with, I joined a Japanese sword fighting class (iaido) and, if anyone has any interest, I HIGHLY recommend it. I’ve never had so much fun.

    There’s a lot of emphasis on etiquette and, as newbies, it is our honor to mop the floors prior to starting. Following that there’s a somewhat complex ritual sitting in seiza, on your knees. I sat down too fast and gave myself a muscle spasm. Go me! No big deal, I stretched it out and we started training.

    Turns out we got a little too excited with the mopping. The concrete floor at the far side was still wet. I moved to swing, and my feet slid out from under me. In a sad effort to not impale myself on my own sword, I twisted. On my already sore leg. One eternal, horrifying “oh shit” moment later there was a pop, then the pain started.

    I tore a muscle in my thigh. My leg is now mostly useless while it heals. -_-

    Question: does anyone know how long it will take a torn muscle to heal? It’s been 6 days and that muscle still can’t bear weight. I can’t get an answer out of my doctor. He just said, as long as it takes.

    1. Revanche*

      Oh no! I’m glad you did avoid impaling yourself though. I don’t know, honestly, I’ve hurt myself a lot of times and muscle healing has always been a weird thing. I don’t think it’s as straightforward as bone healing :/

      1. Amber Rose*

        I am glad about that too! Even though they’re only wooden, they can still hurt.

    2. Noah*

      It really depends on how bad it is. It took 2 weeks to be able to walk normally and 2 months to fully heal the one time I had a really bad strain in my thigh. The popping sounds means it is likely a bad strain, so I would expect it to take 6-8 weeks to fully heal.

        1. misspiggy*

          Ice! And anti-inflammatories. Gentle, frequent movement is a good idea, so as long as you take things carefully you won’t be out of action all that time.

        2. rp*

          Get physical therapy! I had a bad ankle sprain and it was still sore 2 MONTHS afterward. Like sore enough I went back to the doctor, they got me on PT. That helped quickly and immensely.

          1. rp*

            Also to one up your ridiculous injury story–I sprained that ankle, going down a set of stairs in the hospital, on my way to a 1 year post op/anniversary appointment of the time I broke BOTH arms falling off a pogo stick.

            1. salad fingers*

              Ooooh no. Can I ask — did you find this as funny in the moment as you do (or as I think you do?) in retrospect?

              1. rp*

                So funny. I started cracking jokes as soon as they gave me pain killers. Plus it’s just such a good story–“oh you broke a leg skiing? I broke 8 things over two arms on a pogo stick”

                We were also on the way to go take a Segway tour, the running joke that I broke my arms to get out of said tour.

                Most of the time it’s funny, sometimes though I see people doing things (walking on stilts, jumping up on those giant crossfit boxes, etc) and I cringe/my arms sympathy hurt. I judge a lot of things now based on whether or not I could break my arms doing it.

          2. Amber Rose*

            I can’t afford it. It’s like $130 per appointment, and I live paycheck to paycheck as it is.

            A month earlier and I would’ve been in physio anyway for the car accident I was in. :/

            1. rp*

              Ooof, ok that is steep. Here’s a link to the exercises like the ones they had me do in physio https://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How-to-Ankle-Sprain-Strengthening-Exercises.aspx The first 3 exercises are really where it’s at on that list–other things you can do—towel scrunches. stretch a towel out on the floor, put your feet on it, use your toes to scrunch it forward until you get to the end. Repeat.

              Going into physio definitley helped, but I had to do stuff like this twice a day on my own and that made a big impact as well. Good luck.

          3. Sunshine Brite*

            Oo, this gives me hope. I’m at like over 2 months now with this sprained ankle and the soonest they could get me into PT is Tuesday.

            1. Windchime*

              Sprained ankles are the worst. I sprained my left ankle in early September 2014. It was just now starting to feel normal and then I twisted it again by missing the bottom garage step. This time is a much less severe sprain, but it’s back to being swollen and stiff again. Sprains take forever to heal.

              1. Sunshine Brite*

                Oh I know, I’m trying to give it the time needed and just now starting to add in a pilates/yoga mix video that I do to stay on track with my challenge group.

          4. Hlyssande*

            I should do the same for the ankle I sprained in March (walking across a flat street). It’s finally not painful to walk on but I’m sure I could have used the PT to get it going much earlier.

            Sadly, they need a $35 copay for every single visit, and I honestly can’t afford it.

    3. Gene*

      Yeah, muscle strains heal on their own schedule

      I once was off work for a week because I strained my back picking up one of the cats to get her off the counter.

      1. KarenT*

        If it makes you feel any better I sprained my wrist straightening my sofa cushions. I showed up to work all bandaged up and everyone wanted an epic story. I was like yeah…cleaning.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I once coughed so hard I broke a rib.

          I literally got beat up by my cold.

          1. Seal*

            I partially torn the bicep tendon in my shoulder vacuuming a couple of years ago. Had to go to the emergency room because I couldn’t raise my arm. Took forever to heal and now I have a bit of a bum shoulder.

          2. Just Ducky*

            I’ve broken two ribs.

            One: I was way too excited about Christmas when I was 5, ran around, fell on the hearth.

            Two: Coughing fit in a Target parking lot.

      2. Hlyssande*

        Sprained my ankle badly in March walking across a flat street.

        Strained my back reading in bed propped at an apparently unhappy angle. Could barely walk for the next week.

        I think a lot of us understand completely! :D

    4. Cath in Canada*

      Ouch! Hope you recover soon and can get back to the fun stuff.

      I hurt my knees in university when I decided to try fencing. It was soooooooo much fun until I realized where the pain was coming from (I was also in the badminton squad at that point (never made the actual team!), and badminton also involves a lot of knee lunges, so it was probably the combo that got me). Not as exciting a story, though!

      1. Amber Rose*

        I love badminton and fencing too. Though I think I’d have to put on a lot more muscle to survive both together. :D

    5. Noelle*

      Ugh, that’s terrible! But it’s good you’re letting it heal. My dad is a crazy sports player, and he once snapped a muscle in his thigh. He kept right on going, didn’t see a doctor for almost a year, and by that time it had rolled up and atrophied. I think his doctor said that if he’d had it fixed, it probably would have taken about 2 months to fully heal. But it very largely depends on how fast you heal, how bad the tear is, what muscle it is, etc.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Ahhh! That’s terrifying. No offense.

        No, my teacher won’t allow it. I got smacked with a staff on Wednesday (lightly, in a joking way, but still) and lectured for pushing my luck when I started hurting. I’m only allowed to practice my swings for now, since my arms work fine.

        Its not bad enough to need surgery, only ice and time. I’m just impatient.

        1. Noelle*

          Yeah, it was pretty traumatizing for me to watch. My dad is a weird guy – stub a toe or get a cold, you’d think the world had ended. Tear a leg muscle, no problem!

        2. Sunshine Brite*

          Oh geez, don’t push it! Trust me, I’ve played through injuries and it’s affected my overall healing abilities and often got worse.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          That’s the worst part–waiting. I hurt my knee about two years ago, falling on it, and it took FOREVER to heal. Two weeks before I was supposed to leave for London, it popped in my sleep (I have no idea what the hell I did!) and I could barely walk again. Grr. Luckily, it healed up in time for me to walk there, but I had to use my brace part of the time.

          I skated today for the first time in a month, what with the knee crap and being gone. Ugh. We have a show on May 30 and I can barely jump!

          1. Hlyssande*

            My healing ankle has done the same thing multiple times while I was sleeping! So frustrating.

    6. Sunshine Brite*

      I tore my hamstring in college and it took 6-8 weeks.

      Rest, Ice 20 mins on – at least 20 off in between, compression, elevation. Stay off it when you can.

    7. fposte*

      Oh, ow. I think it’s harder to tear the big thick muscles but they take longer to heal when you do. I think the time also depends on the extent of the tear, which may be why the doctor didn’t want to predict.

    8. LD*

      OOH! I feel your pain. I was off my feet for 8 days for an ankle sprain. Yes, it was a very bad sprain. I was wearing boots and they think that kept me from breaking my ankle. I was warned it would take months to get well. It’s now over a year and I still get the occasional nerve tingle. I saw a physical therapist for exercise to help me get stronger and that really did help. Depending upon when you were injured, it may take several days before the doctor can really evaluate your condition. When I went in the day I sprained my ankle, I was told it was too inflamed and swollen to tell how badly it was hurt, even with x-rays. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t tell them where it hurt the worst, and they didn’t want to make me move it around. I had to come back for further evaluation a couple of days later. It’s been a long road. I was also warned that I am now at higher risk for re-injury. Take of yourself and don’t rush your recovery. The better you take care, the better your outcome and the less chance for re-injury. I wish you well!

  16. Gene*

    Headed to the other coast for a conference in Greenville, SC on Monday – airport shuttle will be here at 0230 for an 0600 flight. I won’t get home until the wee hours of Friday night.

    It’s selfish, but I’m really looking forward to time by myself; away from work, away from home, just – away. Even though the days and evenings have stuff going on, it will be relaxing.

    1. danr*

      Bring rain gear… you might get some of the wind and rain from Tropical Storm Ana. There are no warnings for Greenville but looking at the weather map, it’s close to some of the rain bands.

    2. Liz in a Library*

      If you’re going to be anywhere near downtown, it’s actually a really lovely area. Beautiful park next to the river, and nice little coffee shops and such.

      1. Gene*

        Directly downtown, 200 block N Main; seems to be where all the festival stuff happens.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I completely understand. I’m leaving on Tuesday for 10 days of work travel. Although I’m dreading the work part — software testing with a bunch of needy, clueless, high maintenance users — I’m looking forward to having some time to myself, including an entire weekend! I’m going to try and schedule a couple of spa treatments, and then hole up in my hotel room with Netflix for the rest of the weekend.

      I do miss my husband and kids when I’m gone, but it is nice to have alone time. If I could figure out a way to get out of dinner with colleagues more than once during the week, I’d actually look forward to it!

      Enjoy the down time!

    4. Phyllis*

      Soby’s for dinner if you’re downtown. Grill Marks is a terrific burger joint that just opened up on Main Street–try one of their adult milkshakes. And definitely try to get to Falls Park.

  17. Cath in Canada*

    Well, thanks for remembering that it’s Mother’s Day weekend, kitty, but a dead mouse in my new shoe would not have been my first choice of gift.

    Sigh… mouse safely disposed of, shoes sanitized, kitty praised and given a treat. But ewwwww. At least they don’t do this very often – maybe four or five times between the two of them, in seven years.

    1. skyline*

      Eek. That is not something I would want to find unexpectedly when putting my shoes on!

      (The first year I had my cats, they gifted me with a flea infestation on Mother’s Day. I was not amused. They now have to tolerate regular flea treatments despite being indoor only cats.)

    2. really*

      Better then the vole my daughter’s dog decided to eat today. I will not be happy if the dog throws up on my rug later.

    3. Sharon in NZ*

      One of our cats peed on me in bed this morning. I think I’d have preferred the mouse in my shoe!

  18. Have The Town*

    Hi everyone, long time lurker here! I’ve just booked to go on a tour of the Game of Thrones locations with my friend and I am wildly excited! Has anyone else ever done any of these kinds of tours? I did a tour of Ramsay Street when I was on holiday in Australia and it was glorious!

    1. BRR*

      ive done the sex and the city tour in New York. It was corny but lots fun. The best part is for the price it’s a good deal to be driven around the city for 3 hours and you get a cupcake.

    2. Lamington*

      I did a Walking Jack the Ripper tour in London and it was way cool. It started at night and the guide was so knowleadgable of the sites and besides the creepiness it was quite a historical lesson.

      1. Have The Town*

        Oh, I would love to do that tour! Will have to look it up next time I’m going to be in London.

  19. Carrie in Scotland*

    For anyone who likes gritty crime drama I highly recommend the French TV series Spiral. It’s got subtitles but oh my word, it is worth it. It follows lawyers and a team of police and, well – nothing is simple (hence the English name of ‘spiral’).

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I will check this out! Though more due to my desire to improve my french than my love of gritty crime dramas if I’m to be honest.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’m renting them from my local library but am in the UK which probably doesn’t help you much.

  20. Windchime*

    The weather here in Seattle is gorgeous this weekend. I went flower shopping and went kind of crazy; looks like I’ll be working on planting my pots today. I might go to Costco later and look at their hanging baskets; $20 gets you a pretty nice, full basket of flowers there.

    1. Trixie*

      My Costco also had beautiful potted jasmine plants, so tempted. I had great luck with a few flower containers from Aldi’s.

  21. Revanche*

    Random bits: Cuddling a sleeping baby right now and I’m convinced ze has a specific sleeping scent much like the smell dogs give off when they’re sleeping deeply. Of course saying the beastie is sleeping always sends a signal to hir to wake up and yell at me. Never fails.

    Things have gotten a lot better in the past several weeks, thanks to having help during the day now. I am, however, terrified about ever having to parent solo for more than a few hours. My physical health simply can’t handle it. Husband is wonderful but he can’t always be shackled to us. Or can he?? Hmmm…

    Mother’s Day has been fraught for me for the last many years, since we lost Mom after a long illness. I usually pretend it’s not happening but apparently I have to take notice of it this year, at least a little. Hoping tomorrow won’t feel extra sad.
    There will be donuts! I like donuts.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Empathy hugs. I try not to think about Mothers Day either but it’s hard with so many people asking me how I am, and media being full of nothing else.

      Hug that baby and be happy tomorrow.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      I promise I’m not being snarky, just genuinely curious: Why disguise the gender of the baby?

      1. Revanche*

        :) Appreciate the clarification cause someone *was* seriously snarky about it. A few reasons. I blog about some seriously personal things at times, I remained pseudonymous so that I can be honest about my thoughts w/o hurting my family. It’s my compromise: I can talk about my life, but I can’t reveal their identities without their permission. Since I’m not going to ask them permission and reveal the existence of the blog, I keep it pseudonymous. Same goes for the kid. I can always choose to share more information later, when I’ve thought about it. I can’t choose to unshare.
        And in hindsight, it’s sort of been nice not having gender-related speculation or assumptions when I talk about hir. Ze’s a kid and that’s all that’s important, generally.

  22. NBF*

    Has anybody visited Costa Rica, Columbia or Venezuela and had a great experience they’d like to share.

    I’m really close to pulling the trigger and booking a trip that would be two weeks in Costa Rica and two weeks in Venezuela with a 2-3 day stop over in Bogota in between.

    Costa Rica would be really exciting. I’m more nervous about Venezuela and Columbia though. Venezuela would be on a tour, not solo, and its been a big dream of mine for awhile to hike in Roraima and visit Angel falls, but the lack of stability of the country worries me. Bogota would be only a couple days but on my own. The city sounds great in the day time, but I’ve heard bad things about crime there.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Oh my gosh, do it!! I haven’t been to those areas, but it sounds amazing! I know tons of people who love love Costa Rica, and Venezuela with a tour will be fine. Tours very rarely have issues. I would do some more research on Bogota, but if you’re taking all the precautions, you should be fine.

    2. Jader*

      The hands down best vacation I’ve ever had was in Costa Rica. We rented a car and drove to Manuel Antonio. People everywhere were so nice, we had no problem feeling totally safe. The best part was an atv tour to a hidden waterfall. Afterwards we drove back ourselves and hiked in, it was amazing! It started raining and it happened so fast parts of the road flooded out and the river we were swimming in rose a number of feet in minutes. Definitely an adventure vacation versus a relaxation vacation.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Mine too–we used to have a client in Costa Rica at Exjob and she kept telling me how I needed to come visit. ALso we had one in Puerto Rico who told me the same thing.

    3. BRR*

      I honeymooned in Costa Rica and loved it. I’d be worried about Venezuela as well but a little more comfortable in Colombia.

      Costa Rica was awesome. Everybody was super nice, spoke English, and most took the dollar. We went to arsenal and it was just absolute perfection. I would read into traveling during the green (rainy) season between June and November if that’s when the tour is. We fly into Liberia over San Jose and saved a fortune. Then it was a 3 hour drive. We didn’t drive and I’m very thankful because there are no signs and we would have definitely thought we were lost during the 30 min we were on a dirt road which was the right way. The northwest wasn’t very lush but once we got more towards the middle it was green as far as the eye can see.

      Let me know if you have any specific questions? I can’t wait to go back.

      1. Nancypie*

        I honeymooned there as well. Loved Arenal and the hot springs. Another highlight was white water rafting; it was very exciting!

    4. the gold digger*

      Not sure about Venezuela these days. I went there for work years ago but the news I have seen in the past few years is that it has kind of gone to hell in a handbasket.

    5. AmyNYC*

      This was originally said about Savannah, but it fits here, “Bogota is like a beautifully women with a dirty face.”
      Colombia is not as scary as you think. Bogota is a big city and that has its own dangers, but the people are friendly and the touristy areas are generally safe. Don’t wave your new iPhone around, but be smart and you’ll be fine.
      If you can, get outside of Bogota – I was visiting family so I can’t suggest any travel stuff, but the countryside is beautiful and very varied. There’s some national parks on the outskirts of the city.

  23. Mimmy*

    So I’m nearing the home stretch with this horrible semester at school. My fall class wasn’t great either, but it was miles better than this one. I’ve been collaborating with a classmate on the final project, and we are both absolutely miserable :( Our professor will disappear from the Discussion Boards for long stretches–which is fine except that she just went 3 weeks without posting new reading assignments. Now, she’s cramming 3-4 weeks of readings into two weeks. Luckily, she’s giving us pretty much free reign on which articles to read and discuss (choice of 2 or 3–I forget–among a slew of articles posted).

    What upsets me is that while her skills as an online professor are greatly lacking, she is a really lovely woman–very passionate, funny, and sometimes engaging. I think she’s just very overwhelmed with teaching two online classes plus her outside work as a researcher and writer.

    Two more classes to go to earn this certificate – I just hope they’re better than the first two classes :/

    1. LisaLee*

      Ugh, I feel your pain. I’m taking an online class right now where it takes the professor three weeks and multiple prods from me to respond to a simple email (or grade assignments, etc, etc). I’m mostly taking the class for self-improvement/interest so I don’t need a good grade, but I’m still *this* close to complaining to the chair of the department.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Ugh, I feel your pain. I did my MBA through an online program, and I really enjoyed the online format, except for one class, for this very reason. The instructor was terrible about returning assignments in a timely fashion — he would hold onto them for at least a week before returning them. It was so frustrating, because each class in the program was only 8 weeks long. So if you have to wait a week or more to find out that you’re not doing well in the class, that doesn’t leave much time left to course-correct before the class ends.

      I ended up complaining to my faculty adviser. For the amount of money you had to shell out for each class (about $700), I didn’t expect the instructors to be at my beck and call, but I did expect them to respond to questions and grade assignments in a timely fashion.

      Hang in there!

      1. #81D8D0*

        I am totally with you on this. Both of my kids are in college, and (esp at my son’s school) they have all of this web-based stuff in place to allow you to track your grades etc – but the profs / TAs are extremely lazy about updating the information. Which makes it almost worse than useless.

        Actually, several of their high school teachers were the same way. And it was a Real Problem because a teacher would (say) let everything collect dust for 3 weeks – and then update the scores and surprise! What was once a B is now a D. And no, they didn’t tell the kids what they scored on assignments in advance.

        Grrr …

  24. Nancie*

    My mattress is at the end of its life… And I just bought a sleep number bed with a flex frame to replace it. There’s a return policy on the mattress, but not the frame.

    Please tell me I’m not going to regret this?

    1. Amber Rose*

      I can’t see the future… but no. No you won’t.

      I dropped a tiny fortune on a king size, pocket coil bed with a fancy set of bedding and memory foam pillows and I would literally just stay in bed all the time if I could. I’m there right now actually. :D

      1. Nancie*

        Hee. I won’t deny, I’d love a bed that I feel that way about.

        Since the frame is made by someplace other than Sleep Number, I guess that I’d be able to get a different mattress for it, if I need to.

    2. MJ*

      Perhaps the frame works with other mattresses?
      We have a bed we love (European-style slat bed: each side has its own set of slightly curved, slightly rotating). The mattress should really be replaced now, but we brought the bed from overseas and they don’t make this mattress size in the US! Silly oversight from us.

      1. Nancie*

        Oh no! Do you have an Original Mattress Factory near you? They make custom size mattresses. My folks had one made for an odd-size antique bed.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I very seldom hear of anyone having a broken mattress frame. It’s only been 100 year old frames and kids have been jumping on the mattress. Normal use should not be a problem. You can check maybe there is a one year warranty on the frame and they did not mention that. Or you can ask what to do if something goes wrong with the frame. Maybe just checking it over really well, will help ease your mind.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Everyone I know who has a sleep number bed raves about how amazing it is. I’d love to get one, but our mattress still has a few good years left in it. It’s a significant investment, but everyone says it’s well worth the money.

      It would be nice to have. Normally, I like a softer mattress, and my husband does too. We have one of those memory foam mattress pad things, and most of the time I love it. But sometimes, like when I’m sick and sleeping a lot, my back starts to hurt and it would be nice to be able to firm up the mattress a bit.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I don’t rave. But mainly, they don’t mention that if you like it harder and he likes it softer, and you tend to sleep close together, that the person with the harder side will have a slopey mattress, always feeling like I’m falling over to the other side. I’ll go back to standard when this wears out, but it is sturdy.

        1. Development professional*

          I got a sleep number too, and found that it took getting used to, but now I’m very happy with it. The key was actually adding an extra mattress topper on my side, which reduced the motion transfer of the air mattress.

          But OP, if you end up not liking it and returning the mattress, I bet you could sell the frame on craigslist or similar pretty easily. Because it’s just hard plastic (not like a regular box spring) I would expect that people would be more willing to buy one used, esp. if it’s practically new. I totally agree, though, that the fact you can’t return it elevates your risk in their “no risk” purchase proposition.

  25. TheLazyB*

    Been wanting to ask this for a while. Loads of your handles on here make me curious. Anyone want to share where they came from?

    I’m also curious – for those who use their real first names, are you still happy with that, or do you wish you’d used something else?

      1. Nan*

        Didn’t Alison once complain that people kept stealing the made-up names she used in questions? I wanted to use one once but felt guilty when I remembered that :->

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Yes she did, but by that time I’d already been using it for a while. I did feel bad for not thinking it might be a problem.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Nah, don’t feel bad. It does mean that I have to retire the name from columns or it’ll sound like I’m writing about a specific commenter, but so be it.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Where’s yours from? You can’t ask and not share! ;p

      Mine is name + location, which is original enough. I do sometimes post under a different name to be anon. I usually use the handle ‘tartan belle’ on other forums but…*shrugs* I quite like being under my own name but hopefully not being (completely) identifiable at the same time.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I use my real name here.

      I have 2 other aliases with origins rooted in a complex (and silly) imaginary world I invented when I was 13. I use them on most forums and chat boards that I’ve been on since then.

      Thing is, I have made a ton of friends online since I was 13. Some of them I’ve met offline. Almost all know everything about me. I’ve started to feel silly not just having my name out there from the start. I tack my middle name on to distinguish me from the apparently billion other Ambers. :)

      1. P*

        You must be aware of the other, fairly high profile Amber Rose? Lol – she’s beautiful but not everybody’s cup of tea.

        I’m just picturing her now sitting in an office chair in a skimpy outfit and sunglasses, posting to Ask a Manager, and the visual is cracking me up.

          1. P*

            Ah. Well, she’s mostly famous for her attachment to Kanye, so I wouldn’t be too ashamed about that! I personally like him and his music but I know that’s quite an unpopular opinion.

            1. Audiophile*

              Isn’t she now known for her connection to Wiz Khalifa? I guess Kanye came first.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Mine just came to me when I tried to come up with a completely anonymous name to really speak my mind about things, instead of having to hold back. On most forums I use my first name, my last initial, and a number, and I have used it for decades across many different forums, so a lot of people know that it’s really me. (It’s a pretty uncommon first name, too.) So I just came up with mine on the spur of the moment when looking to start an alias that had nothing to do with my real name, although it was probably influenced by the fact that I wanted to use it to rather stridently (but civilly) argue with people. I just didn’t want a potential employer to make the connection to me in that context.

    4. Sunflower*

      A sunflower was the avatar I picked to go with my computer log-in account on my laptop. It’s kind of happy and cheery. I’d used it on other sites too. I have a bit of a unique name and i liked to stay anonymous so I’m happy sticking with it!

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Yes! If you google my first name and the state I live in (California!), my LinkedIn is the first hit…ugh. My parents really wanted me to be a special snowflake!

        1. chump with a degree*

          Ha, Treena you are local to me, and my name is more unusual. I never use my real name.

    5. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I used to use my first initial, last name as all one word (ex. bsmith) but that was the prefix to my work email and I had revealed enough details about situations at my job that I got paranoid of being found out by coworkers.

      I’m not creative about making up user names, so Jamie suggested one for me: Mallory from Family Ties. She said she pictured me looking like her, which was kind of uncanny, because when that show was on, everyone used to say that I looked like her. So I went by just Mallory for awhile.

      I added on the Janis Ian when another commenter started using Mallory. I took it from Mean Girls, and then fposte enlightened me about the REAL Janis Ian, so now I like it even more. (I should pretend that I was on to that reference all along, but no . . . )

    6. Cath in Canada*

      Real first name. No regrets, but I will confess to being one of the “anon for this one!” people if there’s something I want to say that’s a higher security risk :)

    7. Natalie*

      Real name. I do kind of wish I had picked a fake one, or used the typical handle I use elsewhere, mostly because people occasionally show up with the same name and its disorienting. Was I sleep-commenting?

    8. Victoria, Please*

      My name is Victoria, but people are always calling me Vicki after being introduced. No one is allowed to call me that except a very small group of family members. I also get called Virginia, Veronica, Vanessa, and Valerie. So I smile and say, “It’s Victoria, please.”

      1. TheLazyB*

        That must drive you mad. I always try to take people’s cues as to what name they want, or just ask if I’m not sure. But I used to work with someone who was introduced to me as (anonymised) Christine, but I used to hear people calling her Chris, so I said ‘which do you prefer?’ and she said either. Which doesn’t help :) (Incidentally I think if she’d said ‘both, it doesn’t matter’ that would have been fine – it just sounded from what she said like there was a ‘right’ answer and she didn’t want to tell me!)

      2. katamia*

        LOL. My mother’s name is Virginia, but she goes by Ginny, so she doesn’t get Victoria, Veronica, etc. very often. She gets Jenny often enough that she doesn’t bother correcting most people, though.

    9. Graciosa*

      Mine is from a fairy tale, Graciosa and Percinet in the Red Fairy Book (Andrew Lang). It can be hard to find names for web sites or logins that are original and memorable, so I’m pretty happy with it.

      I will admit, however, that from the perspective of an actual adult, I am completely unimpressed with the behavior of fairy tale Graciosa in the story. She mostly wrings her hands and wishes that Percinet would save her – which he does – repeatedly! – without ever taking even the most rudimentary steps to take care of herself. She also keeps returning to an abuser so – not exactly a role model.

      Basically, I just liked the name.

    10. Mimmy*

      I used to use variations of my real first name, but got paranoid since I’m relatively open about my situation and career woes, so Jamie suggested Mimmy and another Hello Kitty-related name (which I forget) since she felt I was sweet like them. But in hindsight, when I wanted a new name, I wish I’d remembered who it was from Glee that Jamie said I reminded her of (similar to Mallory Janis Ian above).

    11. The Other Dawn*

      Mine came about because I commented using my name, Dawn, and then saw another Dawn on here. I didn’t want to be confused with anyone else, so The Other Dawn is what I went with. I kind of wish I’d thought of something more creative, but that’s not my strong suit.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        The Other Dawn reads as kind of poetically evocative to me: the other night, the other day, the other dawn . . . maybe it has a hint of wistful remembrance of something that happened on that other dawn . . .

    12. OfficePrincess*

      My counterpart in our Midwest office is sometimes referred to as the “(thing we do) queen”. My boss has joked that since I caught on so quickly and am almost as good as her that it makes me the princess. This was around the time I stated commenting more, so I rolled with it.

    13. Sandrine (France)*

      I started as Sandrine (real name) and then added the country after a big discussion about the audience here xD.

      And today, since I’ve had a new computer for a few days, I had to type in the info again when commenting so I decided to use my full current online nickname (SandrineSmiles) that I’m pretty much using everywhere :) .

    14. Stephanie*

      It’s just my first name. Ha. I’m not creative in that regard. I do wish I had thought of something more clever. I noticed a few other Stephanies commenting, so that’s when I added an avatar (which was a tiny photo of me and then was the Muppet).

    15. Lindsay J*

      I’ve got no problem using my first name – and last initial, too!

      Honestly, my full name is so common that unless you put a lot of extra info (my home town, birth year, alma mater, etc) nothing about me comes up in the first 10 pages of Google search for my name.

      I do give a lot of information about my work history here that could be used to track me down I guess. But I don’t say anything on here I wouldn’t stand by if questioned about in “real life”. I never really say anything (I don’t think) that could be construed as acting as a representative of any of my employers. I don’t use my employer’s names. And I’m pretty much a peon so the likelihood of anything I say causing controversy is smaller than if I were someone with significant power within/over an organization.

      I also didn’t want to use any of my regular online handles here because I don’t want them connected with my work history. For example, my Reddit username has a lot about me that I don’t mind being out there, but that I wouldn’t necessarily want connected with my work persona.

    16. Lamington*

      I am a fan of Community Channel in YouTube and Natalie Tran has promised forever she would bake lamingtons for a video. So it is a private joke with her fans.

    17. the gold digger*

      My name is from my blog name and that name was given to me by my husband’s parents. Except I left out the rest of the name, which is “Catholic bitch who won’t get a job.” The “ho” is implied – so really, it should be “Gold-digging Catholic ho who won’t get a job.”

    18. danr*

      Every once in awhile I think of changing and using a variation of my old CB handle. But, I’ve been online and participating in email discussion lists almost since they started and never used a handle, so why start now?

    19. Noah*

      I don’t use my real first name, but it is my middle name and what everyone calls me anyways. Sometimes I regret using a real name, but if I used my standard online username it would link up way too many places. I will also do the “anonymous for this” sometimes because I’ve shared this site with many from my professional circles and don’t always want stuff to come back to me.

    20. Buggy Crispino*

      I used to use my real first name, but there were several Steves already here. I think it was very early this year that someone suggested those of us with common names pick something else, or ask other commenters for suggestions. “Buggy Crispino” is one of my favorite comic strip characters that (I believe) was never even seen. He’s from a strip called “One Big Happy” by Rick Detorie and he’s a sort of unwanted love interest to one of the main children characters named Ruthie. The situations in the strip and just his name in general always cracked me up.

      Oddly enough, I have been commenting here way less than I used to. In fact I even had a dream recently that Alison and Evil HR Lady were hosting a meet and greet of all the commenters here (at Alison’s “house” which was an old 747 airplane that Alison’s husband thought was really funny to take off on a flight without telling anyone what was going on). Anyway, in my dream, every time I joined in someone’s conversation or made any kind of comments, someone would look at me and say “now, who are you again? I just can’t seem to remember ever seeing you before.”

      1. salad fingers*

        Okay, this is awesome and makes me wonder if anyone else has/remembers AAM dreams.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I remember you as Steve, but only because of your cat avatar. I’m glad when people change their name, they keep their looks (and vice versa).

    21. Trixie*

      Kind of my alter ego, started when a former colleague/friend used it on me. Lost in Space tribute, no doubt.

    22. Blue_eyes*

      Mine is the beginning of an email address I use. And, yes, I do have blue eyes. I use this handle on some other sites as well. Using even my first name would make me paranoid, even though it’s a common enough name.

      1. Oh anon*

        When I created it, I was living in Ohio, so “OH” and wanted to stay anonymous, but I wasn’t particularly creative at the time.

    23. Grey*

      I will paint my picture
      Paint myself in blue and red and black and grey
      All of the beautiful colors are very very meaningful
      Grey is my favorite color
      I felt so symbolic yesterday
      If I knew Picasso
      I would buy myself a grey guitar and play

    24. Ann Furthermore*

      I stole mine from my sister, when she once said that if she ever wrote her memoirs, her pen name would be Ann Furthermore.

    25. saro*

      Just a variation of one of my names. I keep wanting to change to ‘Theon Greyjoy’s Lifecoach’ but I don’t like Theon’ss character in GoT.

    26. Colette*

      I use my real first name. I don’t regret it, but there have been a couple of times where I’ve held back from saying something because I’ve referred people to this site and was afraid they might recognize me.

    27. salad fingers*

      Fun! We’ve asked this before on an open thread, I think. I went by whatever name came to mind until Alison asked everyone to stick to one. The most recent one I had used was salad fingers, which came to mind as I was ungracefully trying to eat a salad and write a comment. It’s also a reference to a delightfully creepy animated series.

      I honestly don’t know if I ever used the same username here twice before Alison requested we do so. I tend toward internet anonymity (even used a random nonsense name to sign up for uber, which means I get stupid confused every time a driver is like, “Are you Ensalata Phelanges?”) so it was initially an unnatural move. I really enjoy having a composite picture of the commenters here though, so I like this setup.

    28. Nashira*

      Nashira is the name of Gamma Capricorni. I picked it off a list of star names ages ago, and almost identify better with it than my legal first name.

    29. Jean*

      Jean is my middle name but unlike Noah (see above) it’s not something people call me in the physical world. I wanted something easy to remember.

    30. Merry and Bright*

      I began by using my middle name but then saw another commenter was already using it. I then changed it but that was too similar to someone else’s. Then last winter when it was very grey and gloomy here, I heard the song “White Christmas” on the radio and decided to take my next name from the line “may your days be merry and bright” because it seemed nice and cheerful for the weather.

      I have a couple of other names I use sometimes if I want to go undercover for something. I know a family member and my best friend read AAM sometimes so it can spare my blushes a bit. But I try to remember not to switch mid-thread since Alison raised this a while back.

      1. TheLazyB*

        Oh dear, I thought it was from ‘one finger one thumb keep moving’. White Christmas makes way more sense!!

        1. Swedish Tekanna*

          Ha ha! I can hear the words from “one finger” going round my head and I can see how the words merry and bright might fit somehow!

          1. Swedish Tekanna*

            I pressed submit too soon but meant to add about my user name. I am from the UK, not Sweden. But I am a big tea drinker and my sister bought me a large teapot from Ikea for my birthday last year, and I found out that tekanna is the Swedish word for teapot so it seemed appropriate for the teapot themes on AAM.

          2. TheLazyB*

            One finger one thumb keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving, one finger one thumb keep moving, we’ll all be merry and bright :)

            1. fposte*

              I learned it as “happy and gay.” I wonder if this is one of those Hokey Pokey/Hokey Cokey things?

              Some of my most glorious moments in youth were singing “One Finger One Thumb” at camp in a roomful of young women all singing at the top of their lungs and stomping on the wooden floor in unison. An excellent cacophony.

              1. TheLazyB*

                You know what? I just realised my 3 y o does not know that song. I learned it from my grandad. Time to pass it down the generations :)

                I just googled – I’m guessing the merry and bright/happy and gay thing is a Brit/US thing, but each variant adds in different thing. Wow.

                In fact right now I want my son’s friends to learn it too so that we can do it at his birthday party next month! *wanders off deep in thought*

    31. Jen RO*

      Many years ago (almost 20!) when I first started using the internet and I was hanging out in IRC groups with foreign folk, I figured that they wouldn’t be able to ever say my real name correctly (and I knew that it would irk me even if they were virtually strangers), so I went with a nickname that made sense to me and was easy to say*.

      *What I never considered was the fact that “J” is pronounced completely differently in Romanian, so I ended up getting a lot of friends who said my “new” name in a way I hated!

      I added the RO because “Romania” was too in-your-face for me, but I wanted to have a way to indicate that I am not American like the majority of the commenters.

    32. Fish Microwaver*

      I chose mine after reading that microwaving fish in the office is the most egregious thing one can do.

    33. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m loving all of these reasons, I’m glad you asked the question LazyB! :)

        1. Jaune Desprez*

          I suspect it’s a reference to Flora Poste, the heroine of Stella Gibbons’ perfect novel, Cold Comfort Farm.

            1. Jaune Desprez*

              If you’re not familiar with it, it helps to know that Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of the “loam and love child” novels that were popular at the time, most of which featured rural characters living in a primal, earthy, and generally disgusting way. Flora Poste is an avatar of the forces of civility and order who comes to show her Sussex relatives that their lives don’t have to be brutish, nasty, and short.

              1. fposte*

                Yup. And she signs herself “F. Poste.” I’ve used it for a while online to remind myself to maintain civil behavior, though it doesn’t always work.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Hmm. I thought it was working out well for you. Maybe you have excessively high standards. ;)

    34. Aussie Teacher*

      I just went with the obvious – country and profession. I tell people about this site all. the. time. though so I’m pretty paranoid that everyone will know it’s me…

    35. Jaune Desprez*

      My handle is the short name for Desprez a Fleur Jaune, an antique climbing rose I used to grow back when I lived in a warm and humid part of the U.S. where it could flourish. It bloomed eleven months of the year and smelled like heaven.

      The other name I considered was Mme. Alfred Carriere, but Madame Alfred is a practically thornless variety, and I am not a rose without a thorn.

        1. TheLazyB*

          As long as they’re with a smile and not beating yourselves up, that’s fine by me :)

    36. Windchime*

      This is the online name that I have been using in various places for around 15 years. I originally chose it because the guy I was dating at the time gave me a gift of some windchimes for my birthday.

      I don’t usually use my real name in online communities because it’s an uncommon spelling and I don’t want to be identified.

    37. Come On Eileen*

      I’m a huge 80s nerd and Come On Eileen is just an amazingly awesome and classic song from the best decade ever. Though I will admit that I love the Save Ferris version just as much ad the original.

    38. ThursdaysGeek*

      My older sister does a good Wednesday (from the Addam’s Family), so I’m Thursday. Plus I’m a computer geek.

    39. Meadowsweet*

      mine’s the flower associated with my Celtic zodiac tree, as determined by a wander through a long-gone website :)
      I used to put V. in front (for another flower), but I clear cookies on close and got tired of typing it :)

  26. Noelle*

    Guys, wedding planning is THE WORST. I keep expecting it to get easier or more fun, but mostly I’m just kind of dragging myself through it. I feel bad that I am just not excited at all about the wedding. I’m excited to be married, and the honeymoon part seems pretty cool, but the whole wedding thing is just a hot mess. I guess the worst thing is that no one really talks to me about anything else any more. What kind of flowers are you going to have? What kind of cake will there be? Did you get your wedding dress? What’s the “mood” of the reception? Ugh, I just don’t care! If I weren’t Catholic, I would elope. Is there a Catholic way to elope? Is there a way to get people to talk to me like I’m a person, and not like my life revolves around floral arrangements?

    1. Amber Rose*

      “It’s a secret. But I promise it will be great. Have you seen the new Avengers movie?”

      Or whatever preferred change of topic.

      Honestly I didn’t even have flowers at my wedding. I made center pieces for the tables myself (I decimated the dollar store, it was great) and that was the sum of my decorations. Precisely because I don’t give a crap about floral arrangements. I think I told people that too, and they stopped asking me, so maybe blunt honesty will work?

      1. Noelle*

        The blunt honesty hasn’t worked, but I’ll definitely try the secret line! Honestly, the biggest issue is my older sister, who is insanely excited I’m finally getting married (I’m pretty sure my family thought I’d be single forever, I didn’t really date until this relationship, which started when I was 27). I’m glad she’s excited, but there’s only so much I can take. I think I might try giving her assignments to keep her busy. She can pick the flowers!

        1. Hlyssande*

          Yes, give her assignments if she cares so much! I’ve heard that it’s a great way to get the overbearing relatives off your back when you just don’t care about a thing.

      2. Noah*

        My sister had Dollar Tree centerpieces too. Here’s were a mix of candles and photos of the couple. If you stick with a few colors (her’s were black, silver, and some stuff was glass/crystal) it looks cohesive. She did all the photos in black & white too.

    2. Florida*

      About a year or two ago, a couple at my church got married during the regular weekly mass. The normal congregation was there for mass. The couple must have had a few extra people there but not enough to notice.
      I assume they had a reception for their family and friends but I don’t know.
      They didn’t elope, it was planned, but they decided to get married during the weekly mass instead of a having their own wedding mass. I’ve been catholic my whole life and that’s the only time I showed up for church and was suddenly at a wedding. It was very nice. Low key. I liked it.

      1. TheLazyB*

        I love that and was brought up Catholic and have never heard of it! Lovely.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My inlaws had a service with just a best man and MOH. It was a Catholic service. I think they just scheduled a wedding and did not send out any invites.
      I so wanted to do this, I do not get a lot out of big flashy weddings. But family member insisted on church wedding with a bunch of people. Both of us were miserable. It was a lot of work and it was nothing we wanted. We went through it anyway. Like you are illustrating here, someone got going on the color ribbon I was using and I just about lost it. I said something to the effect of “It does not matter what color I use, we will still be legally married. No one cares about the ribbon!” oh, boy.

      I thought that this worry about detail was myopic and teetering on disrespectful. There is stuff that is important in a marriage, but the flashiness of the ceremony seemed so superficial to me. We are committing our lives to each other and all this person could think of was the color ribbon we would use. Am shaking my head.

      My opinion is have the service you want, not what someone else dictates by pitching a hissy fit until they get their way. All you need is an officiant and two witnesses.

      1. Noelle*

        So far we are at the point where we’ve booked some things, but could get out of it if we really wanted to. I kind of want to get out of it and do something (much, much) smaller. Weddings seem to bring out the worst in everyone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. I saw some really bad behaviors all around. My husband and I never talked about our wedding day. We had done it to please other people and they were not that pleased. It felt like a show to us- it wasn’t us.

          We could have had a quiet wedding then later had a large cookout for other people. That would have been “us” and would have been a blast.

          1. Noelle*

            That sounds like a lot more fun. And I’m kind of shocked how little control I have over stuff. My family is going to be annoying no matter what I do, people I’m making special accommodations for don’t care, and I know it’s just going to be a pain. I don’t understand why people can’t at least pretend to be happy or care about what we might want.

    4. Clever Name*

      My mom did most of the heavy lifting in terms of planning my wedding, and it was glorious. I got married in my hometown, where my parents still live and I was living several states away. It really was great. Thanks Mom!!

      1. Noelle*

        That’s so nice! Unfortunately, that’s one of the things that’s bumming me out most of all about this wedding, my mom is being awful about it. She’s turning into this massive ball of judgement and meanness, even though she’s also said she doesn’t want anything to do with this wedding and she just wants to show up for the day and then leave. For someone who wants nothing to do with it she sure has a lot of mean opinions! This isn’t anything new, but my mom is just never happy or excited about anything in my life and the older I get, the more it bothers me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Reason number 237 to do as you would like. She is proving to you, that if you do as she likes, she still won’t like it. That can eat at you for a bit. Then you can decide, “Enough!” and just live your life according to your best judgement, realizing that she has decided no matter what you do, she will find a negative to say. This can mean freedom, if you think about it. You can do as you wish, because all your actions will provoke the same type of response.

          My father did not want much to do with my wedding, either. (Long story.) But he did not inject his opinion on anything. And he did give us money to do as we wished. Later, I found out that it was a substantial part of what little savings he had left. At first I was upset with him, but time has been kind on that one.

          1. Noelle*

            I’m pretty much ignoring her at this point, but it does hurt when I hear other people talking about their moms. I’ve just never had a good relationship with her and even though I’ve accepted that it doesn’t make it easy. I’m lucky that at least my father is very excited and happy for me (and he’s pretty much the only reason my mom is even invited at this point).

        2. Clever Name*

          Im sorry. That’s really rough. :( i got married really young, and both my mother and I have changed over the years. I’m not sure planning a wedding with her would be as easy now as it was then.

          1. Noelle*

            My mom has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. When I was a kid she had a really bad temper and that has mostly stopped, but now she just creates drama and snarks about everything. So she’s calmer but overall, kind of meaner, I guess? Some people were talking upthread about the difficult relationships they’d had with their mothers and a lot of it really resonated with me.

    5. the gold digger*

      You can elope if you are Catholic. Go to the JP and then you just need to have your marriage blessed later. That was an option I had gotten my (Catholic) mom to agree to so I could prevent having to invite my husband’s parents, who, as I feared, did create drama.

      But before we decided to have an actual wedding – I didn’t care about having a wedding, I just wanted to be married – my mom said that as long as we would include her in the religious part, she was OK with our eloping. My husband’s parents would rather eat ground glass than attend a religious ceremony (because they are full of those STUPID PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN GOD), so there would have been no drama.

      I still wish Primo and I had gone with that option. Having his parents at our house for nine days (do not let anyone stay with you during your wedding), dealing with their being drunk every night, dealing with their requirements (Primo had to set up the stereo in the living room for them because they were sooo bored), worrying that we would be stuck with his mom for six months after she fell down the stairs (had she broken her hip? no – whew), worrying they wouldn’t leave because Doris (Primo’s mom) had lost her wallet one night – fell out of her purse at a restaurant and she didn’t notice because she was drunk – and hence lost her ID, and then having Doris accuse me for the past six years that I had stolen her watch (I don’t wear a watch and if I wanted one, I could buy my own), for which we scoured the house a few times, only for her to tell us a few months ago that guess what! It had fallen into the pocket of the sweater she had been wearing was way too much work and drama.

      I forgot how that sentence started! Anyhow – elope and marry a rich orphan. That is my advice to everyone.

      1. Noelle*

        Oh God, your in-laws stayed with you for nine days? That sounds horrific, especially when you’re also worrying about wedding stuff. For me, the nightmare would be if it was my mom staying, but I still can’t even imagine. I guess I’m at the point where I feel like the ONLY thing anyone should say about my wedding is “I’m so happy for you.” Even if it’s a lie. ESPECIALLY if it’s a lie.

    6. Sunflower*

      i totally get what you mean by ‘no one talks to me about anything else’. i was just in my sister’s wedding and it felt that way for me around our mutual friends. i noticed it was the only thing they talked to her about. Maybe try ‘ahh it’s so stressful, i don’t even want to think about it. let’s talk about something else!’. i like Amber Rose’s suggestion a lot also. Will keep people from asking a ton.

      Also I wasn’t aware receptions had ‘moods’ LOL I thought the mood was fun

      1. Noelle*

        I didn’t know about moods either! Or that there are a million different shades of white and no other color is acceptable. You would not imagine the drama that ensued when I went to a wedding store and asked to try on a light blue dress. “No! It doesn’t come in white and even if you like it you’ll just be disappointed it doesn’t come in white!” Or, maybe, I could just wear a blue dress? I’m definitely going to try Amber Rose’s suggestion, because I’ve been doing the stressful line and it hasn’t worked. Mostly because people are then like, “oh, maybe I can help. Let me show you a thousand pinterest ideas!” Not helping!!!

    7. Thinking out loud*

      My husband is Catholic and I am not. My mother was pretty clear that she would not go to my wedding if it was in a church, so we had a small wedding at his church (not a full mass) with about a dozen friends and took them out to Indian food (with the priest!) afterwards. We also had a “big wedding” that family and friends came to, but we both enjoyed the Catholic wedding much more – I kind of wish that’s all we had done.

      1. Noelle*

        The big wedding just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’d honestly rather do it with just my fiance (hence why eloping appeals to me). Although a dozen people at a restaurant (preferably Thai!) would definitely be more my style!

    8. blackcat*

      One of my catholic friends and her husband just made plans with the priest, not telling anyone. I’m not sure exactly how the ceremony went down (it was not a public mass), but they were quite happy. All they needed was the priest who understood my friends’ social anxiety. I know they spent a lot of time talking to the priest before the wedding (I guess doing premarital counseling?), so I bet it was easier given that they had that relationship.

      1. Noelle*

        My priest has not been very responsive at all. In fact I’m still not 100% sure we have a date yet because he hasn’t talked to me in weeks and he still hasn’t put it on the calendar. Apparently he’s trying to get some archdiocese position and be a bigwig in the church, and doesn’t have time for silly stuff like sacraments. Maybe what I need to do is find a different church.

  27. Nobody*

    Looking for BBQ advice…

    I recently moved to the South, and people around here love to barbeque. I didn’t eat much BBQ before I moved here, but I’ve discovered that I really enjoy good BBQ, and I’d like to try my hand at it. There are so many choices, though, and I’m overwhelmed! Grill or smoker? Gas, charcoal, or electric?

    I’m willing to spend up to $1200 for something that’s worth the money, but I’m afraid if I spend a bunch of money on a Big Green Egg, I’ll end up wishing I bought a gas grill, instead. I see a lot of ads for cheap grills, some under $100, and I know they’re not high quality, but I’m wondering if I should start with something cheap to see if I like cooking BBQ anywhere near as much as I like eating it before I make a big investment. On the other hand, I don’t want to waste my money on a piece of junk that will give me poor results.

    Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. TL -*

      Charcoal and I’d say get a grill before a smoker, though it really depends on what kinds of bbq you want – brisket really requires a smoker.

      The meat and technique matters more than the equipment, so I’d make sure you like the process before spending a lot of money. Plus, you’ll still get delicious food.

      1. Nobody*

        I’d really like to cook pulled pork and ribs, but it would be nice to be able to make a quick dinner, like burgers or chicken breasts. I have friends who swear by electric smokers, but I’ve read that you get better flavor from charcoal. The Pit Barrel Cooker is highly recommended by some web sites, and it’s relatively cheap ($300), but it looks more labor-intensive than an electric smoker. Neither of these looks great for grilling a few chicken breasts. Maybe I’m just trying to get too much out of one appliance.

        1. LisaLee*

          I recall Alton Brown (of the Good Eats show on Food Network) had an episode about building your own smoker from hardware store materials for cheap. It didn’t look too hard to do, but I’ve always lived in cities so I’ve never had the space to try it.

        2. TL -*

          Are you looking for flavor or convenience first? If flavor, get charcoal and be prepared to invest time – bbq, good bbq, is not quick. If you’re more interested in convenience, get electric, but be aware you probably won’t be able to quite get the flavors you’re thinking of. Is your love of bbq coming from friends’ food or restaurants? If the former, what do they use? If the latter, they’re probably using wood or charcoal and lots of time.

          If money isn’t an issue, I would start with a small grill and move on up to a smoker when you’ve gotten more practice. The small grill will also be helpful for throwing on a steak or chicken at the end of the day.

          1. Nobody*

            Well, I’m looking to have my cake and eat it, too! It would be nice to find something that offers flavor and convenience, but maybe that’s not feasible. I have a friend with an electric smoker, and he makes amazing chicken and ribs, but I also love pulled pork from restaurants that use charcoal or wood.

            Maybe I’m just expecting too much from one product and need to resign myself to getting a separate grill and smoker, but I don’t want to buy both simultaneously (if I end up losing interest quickly, I’d rather have one appliance I never use than two), so that brings me back to which I should start with. Decisions!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*


        Spot-on advice. Charcoal gives the best flavor! Can’t say it emphatically enough :-) And you need a grill for the basics before adding on a smoker later.

    2. Wrench Turner*

      Put a pork shoulder in a slow cooker with my easy scratch BBQ sauce:
      1.5 c ketchup
      3 large tbs brown sugar
      2tbs molassas
      2tbs sesame oil
      2tbs soy sauce
      2tbs worchestershire sauce
      2tbs apple cider vinegar
      2 tbs chipotle with adobo
      1fine minced onion
      3 fine minced jalapenos
      large hunk fine minced ginger
      When that’s done, take it out and shred it up. Take the sauce and reduce in a pan by 1/2. Toss in the pork. It’s not “authentic’ anything but delicious.

      1. BRR*

        This was going to be my suggestion. I do it with chuck roast and chicken too. But chicken in a slow cooker is a challenge (I use mostly thighs and about 4 hours).

    3. Gene*

      Just remember that grilling and barbecueing are two very different things, and you probably want a grill and a pit/smoker. I personally have no problem with gas grills, but the pit/smoker really needs to be wood, pellet, or hardwood charcoal fired. Electric can work, and it’s better than propane.

    4. Oh anon*

      Charcoal with woodchips (applewood, mesquite, hickory, etc). You could get something like a Brinkmann Smoke’N Grill Charcoal Smoker, that way you can “grill” (quick & high temp) or “smoke” (low & slow).

    5. Judy*

      We enjoy charcoal the most, but bought a gas grill after the kids were born. Charcoal adds a good 20-30 minutes to your cooking time, while gas is ready in an instant. Every so often on the weekends we will use the charcoal grill, but on weeknights, it’s all cooking with gas.

      It probably depends if you’re cooking to get food on the table or cooking for a hobby.

    6. Elizabeth*

      We have a Traeger pellet grill/smoker that I am devoted to. It makes amazing slow-smoked BBQ (divine pulled pork) and awesome tandoori-style chicken. About the only thing that we can’t make it do is produce a properly grilled steak. We’ve debated getting a small gas grill for that purpose.

    7. Artemesia*

      When we bought our first house in the south it had a gas grill on the deck. We later bought a webber for smoking but the gas grill is so super convenient that we prefer that. The first couple of months I don’t think we used the stove; we would grill something every night — just walk out the back door and grill meat and veggies. We went through two built in gas grills in the 25 years we lived in that house.

      With charcoal you have to mess with the mess, wait for the coals to get just right yadda yadda. The results are better and if you want to smoke things (we smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, then you need a charcoal grill with smoker capacity (e.g. lid large enough to contain the smoke at least.)

      I think of BBQ as things cooked in BBQ sauce often slow cooked in the crock pot — or ribs parboiled and then grilled at the end with sauce. Grilling can include BBQ e.g. BBQ chicken or ribs but grilling out is not BBQ.

      I would start with a decent gas grill for its super convenience and add a charcoal grill later. A good enough charcoal grill is not terribly expensive.

      1. LD*

        I was hoping someone would make the point that BBQ is not grilling out. And for traditional southerners, BBQ is a noun, not a verb. Southerners don’t barbecue; they eat barbecue and “cook out.” Cooking out means using the grill outside to cook burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steaks, pork chops, or whatever on a grill, whether charcoal, gas, or electric. Barbecue is most often a slow-cooked, pit-cooked, or slow-roasted meat, typically pork or beef and it is also not usually cooked on a grill but in a pit-cooker (like a large custom oil drum with a grilling rack) or a real pit in the ground. Things are changing, but it still grates on my ears when I hear “barbecue” used as a verb. That ain’t right.

        1. nona*


          To me, barbecue is specifically pulled pork (could be from a slow cooker) and vinegar sauce.

          It’s all good, of course!

          And now y’all know where I live.

    8. Pennalynn Lott*

      Boyfriend bought a ginormous “oil drum” smoker for $400 two years ago. He has used it exactly twice. And the 2nd time I made him roll it out to the far end of the backyard (versus in the driveway next to the back porch) because I didn’t want the inside of the house to smell like a smokehouse. The smell gets into EVERYTHING. It actually turned me off of barbecue, which is something I used to love.

      He has had two electric smokers, and I can’t tell the difference in taste between electric or the big wood smoker. The electric ones keep breaking, though, so there’s that. (Though perhaps you’d take better care of yours, and clean it after each use. And maybe unplug it and put a cover on it when not in use).

      We also have a big gas grill, and it gets a ton of use. Chicken, steak, pork chops, burgers, veggies, peaches, apples. I highly recommend using a non-stick grill mat. It keeps the food from sticking to the grill; it keeps little pieces from falling through; and clean up is a breeze. (No more layers and layers of gummy burnt stuff on the grill).

  28. Brett*

    I am seriously considering returning to school to pursue my PhD. I could probably land a fellowship (had a half dozen publications and 3.9 for my MS from a top 10 school and a 170/167/6.0 (or 800/710/6.0 old scale) GRE. But a fellowship is not enough to maintain two households and my wife’s job is 3 hrs away from the closest PhD granting program in my field.
    When I did my masters degree, it looked to me like being too far away from school was the kiss of death for PhD candidates. Have others had experience with a PhD with that much travel distance to campus? Is it as low completion percentage as it anecdotally seemed to me?

    1. BRR*

      I know a lot of grad students and it would depends how often you’d have to be on campus. I would say that distance is huge especially with a lot of graduate classes at night to facilitate working students. Unless you particularly enjoy driving this will be flat out tortuous to do. 6 hours round trip for school. That’s 25% of a day traveling.

    2. fposte*

      I’m presuming you’re not talking any degree where you’d need to do lab work.

      I think it’s doable in the dissertation phase, but it’s really tough to do during the coursework years. The people I know who’ve done coursework at a distance like that do stay overnight on campus for part of the week. The other challenge is if you’re in a field where it’s advised that you take part in funded research you’ll need to be available for that.

      What is it you’re hoping to do with a PhD?

    3. Brett*

      My field is geography. While there is tons of lab work it is simple to do remotely. Eventual goal would be a tenure track position. There are several geography programs near me and there is such a geographer shortage that they all are hiring. Just none of them offer a phd. I’ve prepped and taught a handful of grad level courses as an adjunct already locally, though no big general survey classes.

      1. fposte*

        Okay, it sounds doable. But I would repeat the notion that it’s close to impossible to do coursework without staying overnight closer than 3 hours away. Also, even with geography programs near you hiring, it’s important to maintain enough visibility and contact during the dissertation phase that you have access to the networking and other opportunities that are a large part of the value of the degree.

    4. Artemesia*

      There is a big difference in the marketability of a PhD taken in residence that involves lab work or involvement in social science research projects at a top school and commuter degrees. PhDs are not about completing credit hours and writing a thesis; they are about engagement in the research of the department you study within. If your hope is a tenure track position where you study and how you study is critical to getting a job. And there are few of these jobs available.

      If you already have a job and the PhD would somehow enhance your career there, then it matters less. A PhD is rarely a door to career opportunities if it is not a prestigious degree from an intensive program.

    5. Artemesia*

      There is a big difference in the marketability of a PhD taken in residence that involves lab work or involvement in social science research projects at a top school and commuter degrees. PhDs are not about completing credit hours and writing a thesis; they are about engagement in the research of the department you study within. If your hope is a tenure track position where you study and how you study is critical to getting a job. And there are few of these jobs available.

      If you already have a job and the PhD would somehow enhance your career there, then it matters less. A PhD is rarely a door to career opportunities if it is not a prestigious degree from an intensive program.

  29. skyline*

    Earlier this week, I finally got fed up with my attempts to clean my cats’ stainless steel water fountain. The slime factor has been getting higher and higher, despite regular cleaning; the pump was increasingly flaky; and there were permanent hard water stains. So I went out to a new-to-me pet store and bought a new ceramic one, which is the Drinkwell Avalon. The water sound is a little louder than my previous one, so it’s like having a Zen Garden water feature in my apartment. (It doesn’t bother me, but I am sure it would drive some people up the wall.) One of my cats really likes it, while the other has ignored it–at least while I’ve been watching.

    …I may have also accidentally walked out of the store with a Lollycadoodle cat cave. I couldn’t resist! It was so cute! Both cats hopped into it within 5 minutes of it entering the apartment, but they have ignored it ever since. I bet they’ll come around with a bit more time.

    1. Trixie*

      I try to clean my water fountain almost monthly, wiping it down while soaking the motor in white vinegar. I’ve also been using bottled spring water.

      1. Bangs not Fringe*

        I also use bottled spring water. That’s what we (the humans) drink and when I noticed how stinky the cat water in our new apartment was getting after just a day, never mind the film and grime, I switched them over. They drink a lot more now and tend to sneak less water from my cups which I appreciate. We don’t have a fancy fountain though… just one of those gravity waterers.

    2. Windchime*

      I bought one of those fountains but it was loud and the cat was afraid of it. I recently noticed that he loves to drink water out of my glass that is sitting on a table, so now he has his own coffee cup on the floor with water in it. I change out to a fresh cup and fresh filtered water (from the fridge) daily and it really seems that he is drinking more water now.

    3. GOG11*

      I rearrange my cats’ trees and beds whenever I vacuum. The new location tends to renew their interest for a bit whenever I do it. That might help them rediscover it.

  30. Sunflower*

    So I’ve been watching a lot of HBO shows on demand- I decided to start with some with short seasons. I finished Tell Me You Love Me and How to Make it In America. I loved both of them and am so mad they canceled after Season 1 and 2. Tell Me you Love Me was unlike any show I’ve ever seen and i heard the writers and network couldn’t come to an agreement over season 2- so bummed. I’ve heard rumors they might do a HTMIIA season 3 and I’m so excited. What are your favorite shows that were canceled too soon?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      There was a whole bunch of programmes I got into a few years ago and it just seemed everytime I liked something it would get cancelled.

      I now wait awhile before committing myself – I’d really like to watch The Affair because I love Maura Tierney but I’ll have to wait until it’s on DVD (as I don’t have the channel that’s got the rights to show it over here).

      The last thing I got into that was cancelled after 1 season was Betrayal. I really enjoyed it but missed the final episode.

    2. katamia*

      Odyssey 5. What irritates me about that one is that they could have wrapped things up (or at least given some satisfactory answers) if they’d just had a couple more episodes. Wonderfalls. Jack of All Trades. The Mindy Project if Hulu doesn’t wind up saving it (I know it got three seasons, but I have this bizarre love for it that I can’t explain and really need more of it).

    3. Dang*

      I also loved TMYLM!! I read somewhere that the writers didn’t know where to go with it, which to me is crazy because I thought th character development was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

    4. Noah*

      Kings on NBC. I don’t think it even made it through all of season 1 in the original timeslot before it was moved to a horrible time and the rest of the episodes burned through. From what I heard though it was really expensive and the rating were really poor. Not a good combo.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I still miss Six Feet Under. It was my favorite show of all time. It didn’t really end too soon — it went for 5 seasons — but it was such a great show. It is also an HBO series, and since it was 5 seasons, it is definitely a time commitment, but totally worth it. Alan Ball, the guy who created it, was also the creative mind behind True Blood, and wrote the movie American Beauty. So if you liked either one of those, you’ll probably enjoy Six Feet Under.

    6. Grey*

      Ever since FOX cancelled Justice in 2006, I’ve stopped watching new TV shows. That way I’m not disappointed if they’re canceled too early. Nowadays you can pick up just about any show from its first season (DVDs, Netflix, etc.), so I usually wait until a series has its finale before I’ll start watching. Or, I’ll wait until it’s gone at least 4 or 5 seasons.

      I’m currently enjoying Season 3 of FX’s Justified and Season 2 of NBC’s Parenthood, both of which aired their final episodes this year.

      1. Jen RO*

        I was sure I’d find this somewhere. (The weird thing is, I kinda get why it was canceled. It took me two tries to get into it, at first it bored me…)

        1. Claire (Scotland)*

          It’s definitely not for everyone.

          But as to why it got cancelled, I’ll spare you the rant I have on that one. It takes too long to type out ;)

          1. Jen RO*

            The thing is, when I rewatch it I always love it from the first episode! In my case, it was probably a gut reaction to the space opera (I don’t like the genre, in general). I was the same with BSG – forced to watch the pilot, bored to tears, loved it a few years later.

    7. Burkleigh*

      Pushing Daisies. It aired 2007-2009 but I just recently discovered it…and binge-watched all two seasons. There should have been many more!

  31. ZSD*

    In Friday’s thread, I stated that I was moving from SoCal to DC and asked about work culture differences. (Thanks for all the responses!) Now, I’d like to ask for non-work-related advice! Any general advice for people living in the Beltway for the first time?
    Also, what do you think about neighborhoods/suburbs to live in? My realtor has suggested Bethesda, Arlington, Alexandria, Petworth, Brightwood Park, and Columbia Heights. I think we’re nixing Brightwood Park because it just doesn’t seem to have much going on, but what do people think of the other options I’ve listed? Oh, we’ve also thought about Silver Spring.
    My husband and I are both in our 30s, and we don’t have any kids. Which of these neighborhoods/suburbs might be a good fit?

    1. katamia*

      I don’t know much about the DC neighborhoods, but I grew up in Silver Spring and am still there fairly often. If you look in Silver Spring, check out the Metro stops (train and bus) if you’re going to be using public transportation, especially if you’re going to be working or frequently going into DC. (Although the buses here are terrible–they don’t come often enough, so they get filled up, and then they have to skip stops. Ugh, I hate the buses here so much.)

      Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring (Silver Spring is unincorporated, so a decent chunk of the county is “Silver Spring” beyond just downtown; I’m not sure how far afield you’ve been considering) both have decent restaurants and stuff, although Bethesda is fancier than much of Silver Spring. Are there specific hobbies or kinds of stores that you definitely want to be close to or anything like that? Anything you really don’t want to be near?

      1. ZSD*

        We’d like to be near public transportation and ethnic restaurants. I can’t think of anything we particularly want to avoid, other than violent crime, obviously.

        1. katamia*

          Definitely try to find something near the Red Line (subway line that runs from Silver Spring through DC to Bethesda/Rockville) if you go with Bethesda or Silver Spring, then. Like I said, the buses are terrible and it’s really better not to depend on them if you can avoid it. The trains aren’t perfect, but they’re much more consistent than the buses, or at least the Red Line is.

          I haven’t spent as much time in Bethesda (though there’s a Japanese restaurant we used to go to occasionally), but Silver Spring and the surrounding areas (Silver Spring is so big and so vague that you might wind up going to lots of other places, too–we’re close enough to both Prince George’s and Howard Counties that we’ve gone there to eat out as well) have a lot of ethnic restaurants–Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Central/South American are big in the Silver Spring area, along with Indian and Middle Eastern to a lesser extent. (Although most of the Indian restaurants in and around the Silver Spring area are not very good IMO.)

          I’d say Silver Spring probably has more violent crime than Bethesda, but I’ve never felt unsafe in either my part of Silver Spring or downtown Silver Spring. But then we might have different “feeling unsafe” thresholds, too.

          1. Sophia in the DMV*

            I live in Silver Spring, on the other side of the line, right near the Glenmont station. I love Silver Spring – especially downtown SS. I would say Bethesda is a lot more expensive than SS.

        2. saro*

          I LOVED living in Glover Park. Buses ran regularly and it was a wonderful, safe area. My cousin lived in Shirlington and liked it.

    2. Stephanie*

      Where’s your office? Traffic is pretty bad there. Metro’s an option if that works, but it can get expensive if you’re commuting from or near the termini (plus the crowding). Are you trying to buy or rent? Will you have a car? Do you mind taking buses?

      Also, I noticed realtors got creative with what was considered “Bethesda” or “Silver Spring.” I was way north in what was definitely Rockville labeled “North Bethesda.” And I agree with katamia that a lot of eastern Montgomery County is called Silver Spring.

      1. ZSD*

        my office is a bit south of the Dupont Circle metro stop. I definitely plan to take public transit to work. either metro or bus is fine. We’re going to rent; my contract is just for two years. We will have one car.

        1. Stephanie*

          If you don’t mind the bus, my friend lives in Glover Park (just north of Georgetown) and I loved that area.

            1. Stephanie*

              I also loved living in Shaw (lots of Ethiopian there), although I don’t know if it’s very affordable (relatively speaking) anymore. But it’s a quick bus ride to Dupont (or you could walk it even).

              There was a lot of development going on in Brookland as well as the area around the NY Ave Metro (I forget the neighborhood name, but I refuse to call it NoMa) when I left. You could also try around Union Station.

              1. Kate M*

                I live in Shaw! It’s great. I mean, house prices are going to be insane anywhere in DC. But honestly, the benefits of living actually in DC (vs. Maryland or Virginia) are so worth it to me. (Granted, I just rent right now, but still). Shaw is a great neighborhood. The Waterfront area is really up and coming too. NoMa is another one that’s really getting popular. Petworth would probably be good, although it seems a little far up for me. But I would definitely recommend the closest you can afford to the main areas of DC.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      I’m in my late 20s and most of my DC friends either live in Columbia Heights or Arlington. We lived in Arlington and really liked it. I’ve lived near both the Rosslyn and Courthouse metros, and we spent a lot of time in Clarendon. That whole area is nice. It’s pretty white bread–google the Arlington Rap which makes loving mockery of the number of Starbucks–but has lots of restaurants, lots of apartment buildings, lots of amenities (gyms, groceries, etc.), and easy transit.

      If you’re okay with being a bit further out on the Metro, you might look at Rockville too. Rockville Town Center is pretty nice, with shops, movie theater, lots of fairs/concerts, etc. and a bit more convenient if you drive than somewhere in DC proper.

    4. Christy*

      If your office is near Dupont Circle, then you really want to live on the red line. I don’t know why, with your office on the red line, you would choose to live in Virginia. Would you prefer to live downtown or in a suburb? Dupont Circle used to be a really hip area that a lot of young people ended up settling in, so there from my understanding are lots of thirtysomethings, often with kids. Silver Spring is a great area, and there are lots of apartments near the metro there. There’s also a ton of ethnic restaurants in the vicinity. Oh and fwiw I don’t find the buses bad at all–my girlfriend and I commute by bus every day and they’re fairly reliable. (We’re in Chevy Chase, which is between Bethesda and Silver Spring.) I commute slightly off-peak, which may help, but I’ve almost never had a problem. Certainly not what katamia is saying.

      Generally speaking, Bethesda is more upper class than Silver Spring. I personally can’t really stand the people who frequent downtown Bethesda, and I much prefer the crowd in downtown Silver Spring. Silver Spring is also more diverse than Bethesda, I’d say.

      1. ZSD*

        Thank you for the thorough response! I think your advice to try hard to live near the red line is good.

        1. Christy*

          You’re welcome! And also, Logan Circle is really hip and would be walking distance for you. (If you’re thinking living in the District.)

    5. JC*

      I am married in my 30s without kids, and my husband and I live in a condo in Adams Morgan near the border with Columbia Heights. Do you have strong feelings on living in a house vs. a condo? On living in the city vs. outside of the city? On needing to drive places vs. wanting to not have to drive much? I think where you should live depends a lot on those factors, especially since the neighborhoods/towns you’ve named are pretty different. I’m a city person through and through, and I enjoy living in DC itself even though I work in Arlington. I don’t plan on having kids and so I’m fine with living in a condo, and I hate to drive and thus don’t own a car. If you found owning a house more appealing, living in the close-in burbs or in a neighborhood farther from Dupont would be more practical. If you were looking at Columbia Heights, depending on where in the Dupont area you’re working, the 16th Street bus line can be a great commuting option (those buses run more frequently than the Metro does!). Many of my friends who want to still be in the city but who also want more space because they’re having kids are looking into buying houses in Petworth. All in all, I’d say take a trip and visit these places, because they are pretty different from one another. Good luck!

    6. Noelle*

      I lived in Arlington (Pentagon City) for 5 years and loved it. It’s so close to the city, but it also has a kind of a small town feel. It’s extremely safe and close to everything. I also lived in Columbia Heights for a while and it was pretty sketchy. This was eight years ago and it’s been built up a lot, but I still wouldn’t live there unless I was close to the metro. Same with Petworth.

  32. Natalie*

    I put in an offer on a house. AAAAAAH.

    Also, so much name signing. Good god.

    1. mdv*

      I feel your pain! I once had to sign my name 40 separate times to title 8 state-owned vehicles on a single trip (35 of them over the whole summer)… My name is 27 letters long, and I had to sign that plus “on behalf of my department name” every single time. Whew!

    2. danr*

      Well, when you close, the seller will have about a half hour of signing before your turn.

    3. D*

      I hope you get it!! Good luck!

      I just went back and forth and eventually had one accepted last week. I was terribly unproductive at work all week being stressed about negotiations and then excited about the house. Ugh. But also yay!

  33. Cruciatus*

    Oh, so many…The Middleman, Ben & Kate, Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23, Awake, Terriers, 10 Things I Hate About You, Joan of Arcadia, and my TV heartache probably all started with the cancellation of My So-Called Life.

  34. skyline*

    A friend unexpectedly got tickets to the Symphony tonight, and invited me to join her. Woo-hoo! I haven’t been an event like this in ages and am not sure what to wear. Is a dress (not super formal, it’s a jersey in a dark floral), ballet flats, and a white denim jacket okay? I could also wear the dress with a light cardigan or a linen blazer.

    1. BRR*

      It partially depends on how full or part time the symphony is. I as a man would wear a dress button down and dress pants. Hopefully that might help. I wouldn’t wear denim.

    2. Christy*

      Too late for you, but your outfit sounds perfect. I would go in jeans and a nice top, though, so I lean informal.

    3. skyline*

      I ended up wearing my dress with the linen blazer. There was a huge range of formality in people’s attire, but I was safely in the middle. (Also at the same level as my friends, which helped avoid awkwardness.)

      (It’s a pretty part-time symphony.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I find that most local events like that are a mix of formal/casual. Those who like to dress up do, and those who don’t, don’t.

        I wore a dress to Albert Hall, but it was a sweater dress and I had leggings on underneath it because it was cold. Basically what I wore on the airplane, with a cute polka-dot scarf I got at Primark. Lots of people were very casual. It was the movie concert, though, not a classical thing with the Queen in attendance.

    4. class factotum*

      It is Done to wear jeans and a Packers sweatshirt to the theatre in Milwaukee. I spent a few years being appalled and trying to fight the trend, wearing a nice cocktail dress and heels, but finally got tired of

      1. trying to navigate slushy, icy sidewalks in heels
      2. getting salty slush on nice shoes
      3. being so damn cold, even inside (unlike Chicago, MKE does not heat public spaces to within an inch of their lives), that I had to wear my coat anyhow, so nobody even saw my pretty dresses

      That’s what I said screw it and wore jeans and boots instead. Now I get it. (But I don’t have a Packers sweatshirt, so I have to wear just a nice cashmere sweater. Over a t-shirt. Over a camisole.)

  35. ZSD*

    Test test – I’ve had my post eaten twice, so I’m checking if it’s a problem with the content of my post or with the site in general.

    1. ZSD*

      Okay, I guess it’s the content (or length?) of the post. Alison, any insight? Thanks.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sometimes the spam filter just thinks something is spam when it’s not. When I see it, I release it; it’s generally pretty fast.

  36. Wrench Turner*

    Taking my career in a new direction, so I signed up for a series of auto mechanic classes at the local Community College. 20 years in one field, and coming in swinging to another. Kinda freakin’ out.

    This time, however, I’m paying for it class-at-a-time so no (more) crazy student debt.

    1. SherryD*

      Good luck, and have fun! I know some mechanics, and as an outsider looking in, it seems like a great job: interesting work, flexible hours (lots of shops have people working evenings, weekends, and sometimes even nights), and good pay. Oh, and job security – it’s not like cars are going to stop breaking down anytime soon!

  37. definitely anon for this*

    In honor(?) of Mother’s day weekend, I’m wondering if anyone else here has a complicated relationship with their mom.

    I was physically and emotionally abused by my mom. She was, by turns, distant / detached or overly, saccharine-sweetly, unnaturally, scarily affectionate. Volatile.

    After I moved out (aged 17) and she and my dad got divorced, she became an alcoholic – has been arrested several times, and not “just” for DUIs.

    Long story short, she’s toxic and I’ve been distancing myself and I’m really distraught about this especially as Mother’s day approaches.

    Is anyone else in this boat, so to speak? How do you cope? What has your journey been?

    1. Similar boat*

      I love and support the many mothers that raised me when mine didn’t. I also call my dad and wish him happy mother’s day.

    2. Anonforthis*

      I had a difficult relationship with my mother. She was an alcoholic most of my life and she and I didn’t get along for many, many reasons. We reconciled a bit during her last hospital stay, but then she passed away. That was 7 years ago. After she died, I cried a bit, but I cannot say that I remember her fondly or miss her often. I have come to accept that this is the way it is and that no amount of wishing it were different will help.

      I am sorry your mom treats you like this; it is possible to recover, but I found I had to allow myself to feel the way I felt and not feel guilty about not feeling more (if that made sense).

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        My mother died of cancer when I was a teenager. I woke up one day a year later and I was happy. This may be the only time in my life I ever woke up happy (that I can recall) and I immediately asked myself why because A, B, C though J that all sucked. The answer came to me from some part of my brain — “you’re better off without her” in those exact words and I immediately beat myself up over that. It took another year before I could admit it to myself without feeling guilty and another year after that before I could say it out loud and not feel guilty. The guilt now comes in trying to explain to other people. Not guilt in the sense that “I’m being disloyal! I’m telling things to people outside the family!” I’ve done enough of that for a few lifetimes and I’m over it, but more that I just don’t like talking about it. It seems that most people I know seem to have amazing relationships with their mothers so telling my truth just makes everything awkward and uncomfortable — it’s so contrary to what we are conditioned to expect to hear people say about their mothers. People can’t help, there’s nothing that can be changed and hearing “Oh, I’m sure she loved you” when I never felt it just doesn’t help — it’s not going to get me my childhood back, or a childhood. I wish there was a magic phrase that could get them to stop. It was only a couple of years ago that I found out that that she was probably a Narcissist. I say probably because I am not a psychiatrist and I don’t play one on TV but it’s the only thing I’ve read that fits and while she went to therapy once, she never talked about it. Even then, that’s not exactly a diagnosis you would brag about and in the mid-70’s no one used that term. So I spent years wondering WTF was up with our family dynamic (or lack thereof) — way too many years. I’ve never been in a place where I could afford therapy so I did what I could on my own and stumbling over that was the final piece. I read a book earlier this year called If You Had Controlling Parents which pretty much summed up a lot of what I went through with her. It’s funny how so many books will give you ideas on how to manage difficult people including what to consider when your parents get into poor health/are dying but I’ve never read one that had a “what if you’re just figuring this out and everyone is dead?” chapter.

        Days like today suck because no matter what, there are messages all over the place for weeks leading up to it about showing your mother how much you love her (even worse, it was her birthday a couple of days ago, nothing like having that double stress of Mother’s Day and birthday on the same day). I have so longed for a mother at many points in my life — just not the woman who gave birth to me — and that’s sad. Both of my parents totally sucked in their own special ways. It really does a number on you when you know by the age of 5 that you can’t trust either of your parents and you’re essentially on your own emotionally.

    3. Camellia*

      Been there, survived it, have the scars to prove. After wrestling with the same thing for years worsened by those who would say, ‘ but she’s your Moooooooom!’ it finally occurred to me one day that abuse was abuse, whoever inflicted it. If this was a spouse people would be telling me to GET OUT as fast as I could and NEVER GO BACK.

      You do not have to go back. You do not have to call. You do not have to do or be anything to this woman ever again. Nothing that she has inflicted upon you was or is your fault. The only reason you feel guilty is because this abuser has conditioned you to feel that way.

      Once this really sunk in to me I was able to start distance myself from her. If she called and started to be unpleasant – sorry, can’t talk, gotta run. Sorry, busy with work, can’t visit.

      However, I will be honest – I was not able to be completely finished with her, guilt free, until my daughter was born. Suddenly I looked at her and realized that what I was not able to do 100% for myself I could do for her. I could and would protect her from this abuser. When my mother died two years later I was guilt free.

      It can be a long journey but worth it to be safe, protected, and free of abuse. That is your goal and your right. I wish you strength for the struggle.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Coping: Be a good mom to myself.

      That sounds weird, but make sure you get yourself the things you need. I don’t mean go to the store and buy a ton of stuff. I mean if you feel you need further education, or cooking lessons or a better hair dresser, get out there and get this stuff for yourself. There is only one thing more suckier than having a sucky childhood. And that is perpetuating the “hungers” as adult by neglecting your own self. Take care of you. Do not allow that sense of deprivation to continue on in your adult life. Do what you can, as you can to get what it is you want/need. Make a commitment to do this.

      As a secondary thing, be on the watch for an older woman to be friends with. Does not have to be a lot older, ten years is enough. Just someone who is real, down to earth and consistent. Does not have to be a replacement mom, just someone who offers stability. This rock of Gibraltar person could be an aunt, an inlaw, or an older neighbor or anyone. I have a friend (male) who ended up being besties with his elderly neighbor. He shoveled her snow, she made him pies and gave advice and told good stories. It worked for both of them. It seems that nature abhors a vacuum, keep in mind that someone may walk into your life that will start (notice I said “start”) to fill in your gaps. Be willing to let that person do that for you.

      1. anon for this one too*

        I appreciate this thread. Drug addicted, abusive sociopath mother. Years of therapy. For the most part she is out of my life. I honor the women who “mother” me. Who listen to me at odd hours, who taught me to coo, to take care of myself. Sinead O’Connor has a great song….”this is to mother you”

      2. Anon here*

        Also to let myself know that I didn’t learn a lot of the more usual social skills that others have because of my childhood and I can give myself permission to learn them now (middle-aged) and make mistakes and not be so hard on myself. It is hard because some are so basic that people expect you to have them by now but … I don’t.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is beautiful.
          Yes, give yourself the gentleness that you deserve to have. This is one really good way of doing that.

    5. Oh anon*

      My parents are horrible, toxic people and therefore, I currently have no contact with them. I was recently on reddit’s raised by narcissists and came across this: “Toxics don’t get a vote on this one. They don’t have an inherent right to your forgiveness; they don’t get to erase their actions. You can neither forgive nor forget. You can say ‘No. You did these things to me, and you’re not sorry, and you’re not changing, and I don’t want you anymore.'”

      1. the gold digger*

        Amen. I am very very lucky to have had good parents. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I met my husband’s parents. They are toxic. I just don’t have anything to do with them. I have not been to visit for over four years and will go to their funerals only to make sure they are dead. (And to support my husband.)

        Years ago, if someone had told me she has nothing to do with her parents, I would have wondered about her, only because I had had no experience with toxic, mean, alcoholic people. Now I have no doubt. I trust people I know when they tell me about the toxic people in their lives.

        1. definitely anon for this*

          Thank you all so much for chiming in. It’s a weird place to be in, because there is SO MUCH weirdness and craziness that I haven’t opened up to many people. I do have some older women in my life who have stepped into a motherly role – my MIL, an aunt in law, a mentor from high school – but I’m always afraid to acknowledge them in any way that could get back to her. I think part of the problem is that I haven’t actually gone NC or very low contact; I just avoid her as much as possible. I’ll hopefully be starting therapy soon and I think that will be very helpful.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            You don’t have to acknowledge these folks in any particular way. I do recommend acting like a sponge and soaking up everything they offer. People read that as “thank you”.

            When I help someone and I see them working with my advice/thoughts that is my thank you. Even if they don’t use my ideas but use my ideas to get their own ideas, I still feel thanked. You have probably SHOWN thank you in a dozen ways and you have no idea that you did this. I am guessing this is the case because it sounds like these people had/have ongoing involvement in your life. That means they are taking an interest and see you progressing in spite of all the suckiness you are experiencing
            Time will be kind to you. There is hope.

  38. Temporarily Anonymous*

    Regular commenter, but I keep referring people to this site and I don’t want to give my identity away –

    I have a week of vacation coming up (before Labor Day, so my week will be ten days off) and I’m looking for vacation ideas. I’ve already done what I think of as the basics in Europe and Asia, but I like going to new places. Have passport (and credit card) – will travel! ;-) I have enough money saved to pay for an impulse trip to an exotic destination, so that’s not really an issue.

    So far, I’ve considered locations like –

    New Caledonia,
    Easter Island,
    Galapagos Islands, and
    Canary Islands.

    Any comments or suggestions? Any place I don’t go is likely to be added to my bucket list, and I do make regular progress on crossing things off. ;-)

    1. Treena Kravm*

      I recently went to Icelend and it was magical. My husband and I drove the Ring Road and went around the entire country in 14 days. 10 day is cutting it close for the Ring Road, but doable. You could also stay in Reykjavik and then fly to Akureryi (the big city in the north and a must-see) and do day trips from those two locations.

      We did hot springs, went to the top of Eyjafjallajökull (the volcano that erupted a while back and shut down airports), went to the Arctic Circle (more north than the mainland), hiked all over, saw waterfalls, ate lobster. If you’re into intense camping/hiking, then you can go to the interior and it’s supposed to be wonderful. Ok I need to stop now because I want to go back now.

      1. Temporarily Anonymous*

        It sounds lovely – especially the hot springs (I love a good spa!).

    2. BRR*

      I’ve also heard Iceland is awesome (and I think it’s still semi affordable). What type of vacation do you like?

      I’ve also heard amazing things about New Zealand. I’m not sure by your post if you’ve been but my husbands favorite place on earth is Cambodia. Alaska would be nice during that time. I also always advocate for Costa Rica but not at that time (rainy season).

      1. Temporarily Anonymous*

        New Zealand is essentially a required stop on the way to some of the islands I was considering, so I may be able to make it to both destinations. Costa Rica sounds interesting too – any recommendations for a better time?

        1. NZ Muse*

          With 10 days total and coming from the US I don’t think you would get much out of NZ as a stop enroute to somewhere else :(

          I adore Iceland (similar to NZ in many ways!) and I think that would be a good time of year to visit there. Ditto Australia (depending on what parts?)

        2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          Yup, seconding NZ Muse. 10 days is kind of a minimum to do New Zealand, and even then I usually tell people 7-10 days for the north island and two weeks for the south island.

    3. Lamington*

      I usually have an open schedule and look for deals. I saw in Budget Travel site a great deal to go to Fiji and Auckland for 6-7 days. Maybe you can get inspiration there.

    4. Sunshine Brite*

      I think the Galapagos is booked out pretty far in advance usually and might not fit logistically with an impulse trip.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      My stepdaughter went to Iceland on a school trip in 2013, and had an absolutely fantastic time. It was organized by one of the science teachers at her school, so they got to do all kinds of interesting neat stuff…they saw the volcano that disrupted air traffic in 2010, they went to a geo-thermal power plant, all kinds of cool stuff.

    6. Kitchenalia*

      I think Iceland sounds fabulous (I want to go there too).

      I’m not sure 10 days is enough time for Australia. Being a local and from experience, we are *such* a long way from the United States and the travel here and back is a bit of a killer. If you planned to visit, say, Sydney and then planned a couple of side trips that would be doable.

    7. Development professional*

      If you’re traveling in the summer, the lake district of Finland/Sweden is incredible. The best time to go is around the summer equinox, when you get very very long days and there are all kinds of fun festivals and events around it. Although it’s technically Europe, it’s not a spot that tons of Americans make it to when doing the “basics” in Europe. Flights to Helsinki are pretty reasonable.

  39. The Other Dawn*

    I’m looking for gardening ideas. I’m not a gardener so it has to be something easy to take care of. Over time I’d like to be more of a gardener, but right now I need to start small. And I’m a plant killer. (I bought myself one tomato plant and some perennials for the garden area; I’ll see how I do with those.)

    The area I want to work on is in my blog post (http://itjustdawned.blogspot.com/2015/05/spring-has-sprung.html#.VU6aP45VhBc). I want to keep it looking kind of wild-ish, like something you would see in a meadow, or the edge of the woods. I’m thinking some Queen Anne’s Lace might look nice.

    Any suggestions?

    Also, has anyone ever had luck with those boxes of wildflower mix? You basically just shake it all around, water it, and watch it grow. At least, that’s the idea. My sister gave me a box and I’m wondering if flowers actually grow. It’s called Bird & Butterfly Wildflower Blend.

    1. Steve G*

      I’ve been gardening since I’m 12….I don’t like those mixes because sometimes nothing comes up at all, or too many big flowers come up in a clump and then you need to transplant, which means extra watering + knowing how much to space certain plants…so they aren’t low maintenance.

      If you want to keep the meadow look, you should strategically place wild grasses and perennial flowers that are going to come up year after year (as long as you don’t turn over the soil and bury/rip them out!). The most natural looking hearty perennial I know if the salvia Sylvester, it usually comes up in a thick clump about 18″ across with many many purplish/blue flowers, and they can withstand temperature fluctuations (I’ve had them outside when it went close to 50 degrees here and its fine). I also like (Montauk) daisies, though they are more of a bush and never really go away in the winter, which may be fine with you. I also have 3′ tall yellow daisies that die but come up again the next year, but I can’t find the official name for them. Mums are also good and come back year after year, and bloom almost all summer, so they definitely aren’t only a fall flower, like one would think. I also love cytisus flowers. They don’t die in the winter, just the flowers do. They can grow as high as 4′ and have 100s of small extremely bright flowers on them. I also like what I think is called tickseed, that comes back every year as well, its a small bush about 14″ across, with lots of small yellow flowers.

      Those were my recommendations for “low maintenance” since they come back year after year. Zinnias and sunflower aren’t “perennials” per se, but a small # will come back the next year on their own.

      I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. A side gardening rant, don’t plant mint in the garden, I’d do it in a big pot if you really want it. Mint grows like a weed and can take over huge areas. I had a type of mint take over part of one of the gardens at my parents and it was like excavation work to dig out the deep, thick roots. Much thicker than a regular “weed.” Not worth it!

      1. Steve G*

        I dissed “wild flower” mixes (for novices), but my neighbor did have a type of seed-on-a-biodegradable-strip thing I helped him plant, and it was great for doing borders.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I have a “meadow” area on either side of the barn and I’m thinking I just might dump the box back there and see what happens. If they grow in clumps back there it won’t matter. It will just look like they’re supposed to be there.

          1. Artemesia*

            My mother collected seeds from plants in her garden — can’t remember now what they were, but they were blue and kind of on spears. She had a big jar and one day scattered them out the window of the car as they drove past some ravines in Washington state. For several years the hills were alive with these lovely flowers.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks so much! I believe I have the salvia Slyvestre – I just looked it up and the plants I have look like that, although they’re not very big at all. Maybe it’s a variation.

        Something I’ve discovered I have: onions! UGH!! I had those at the old house and it was a pain in the ass. They were everywhere! I now know i have them in the garden where all the flowers are. I think they’re scallions, actually, but don’t want to eat them just in case they’re not scallions. I’d love to find a way to get rid of those. Any ideas?

        1. Steve G*

          Urgh, 1/2 of the time I spent doing my new garden in NYC was pulling out onion grass……I have no words of wisdom, maybe others do. I never use chemicals so I’m not about to suggest any type of weed killer

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Keeping digging the onions out, if they are blended in with other stuff. Keep in mind that those onions may have been put there on purpose to deter deer/rabbits/others. A friend put in a boarder of onions/garlic on her herb garden and presto! no more bunny problem.

          It looks like you live in an area with critters. That is why I say this.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Ah, I didn’t think of that. It’s possible. Considering they’re only in the garden, that would make sense. I haven’t found them anywhere else.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Since I know next to nothing about gardening, I haven’t a clue. I did some research online, and haven’t made a conclusion as to whether it’s wild garlic or wild onion. I’ll try and post a picture on my blog a little later and then link to it. Maybe someone here can tell me.

        3. fposte*

          I suspect what you’re thinking of as salvia sylvestris isn’t; there are a lot of plants with blue spikes, and it’s early for salvia. It could be ajuga, which is a popular low plant with low blue spikes, or even catmint.

          For the wilder/informal area, you might check with people in your area to find popular passalong plants. Those are generally hardy spreaders that are happy in that locality; what you mostly have to keep an eye on is getting stuff that spreads too enthusiastically. I don’t know what your soil’s like–around here it’s very clayey and on the alkaline side–but you could check out oxeye daisies, which are cheerful and polite spreaders, and coneflowers, which are a classic prairie summer flower. I’ll also put in a link to High Country Gardens, because they have a lot of plans that thrive in informal settings with little care.

          1. fposte*

            Okay, I take it back–I just went for a walk, and plenty of other people’s salvia was out blooming.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Your place is gorgeous, btw.

      If you are interested in something similar to Queen Anne, you might like garden heliotrope- also called valerian. It’s the natural version of Valium, people used to use the roots for calming. It gets a lovely white cluster of flowers that turn a little pink. The best part- it smells like vanilla- it smells so good.

      The pond area looks kind of large. I would suggest doing large swaths of x or y, as opposed to one plant of this and one plant of that. It’s much easier to maintain if you do this. Pick something you like and get 3 or 5 of it. I use odd numbers because it forces me to put things in various shapes rather than straight rows.

      You can go with things like black eyed Susans, that will fill in quickly for you. There are also various daisies to think about.

      Hydrangea shrubs would look nice on your property- there are different varieties that grow to different heights. They would do well as a cluster by themselves in an area that you wanted to fill in.

      Keep an eye on your local ads, lots of non-profits are having plant sales now. I like to buy plants this way because the plants are donated by people who live locally. The plants usually have a very high survival rate because they are already used to the locale. If you go to these plants sales you will meet a lot of plant people who can answer questions for you. Sometimes you can get some real bargains. I bought a tray of vinca (myrtle) for $2. I would have paid $20 for it retail.

      I worked in a nursery for almost a decade- we never had much luck with wildflower blends and did not recommend them to people. Maybe they are better now? I don’t know. I think your best bet is to ask a neighbor for a clump of what ever you would like.

      Because of the size of your place, I would try to keep things simple. This would mean a cluster of this over here and a cluster of that over there. Think about painting a picture, a group of red somethings here, a group of pink other things over there and so on. It will be a lot easier to keep track of. I put stuff in the ground and then forget I have planted it. I have lost a lot of money that way. Keep a binder with pics helps to remind you of what you have where.

      A tidbit I picked up in the biz was to spend no more than 5% of the value of your home on your landscaping. Anything above that you will not get back if you decide to sell. I found this advice really helped me to keep my costs under control here. I am quicker to use plants people give me rather than run out and buy something. I also dig stuff up and divide it- this helps with costs a lot, too.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks for all the tips! And the compliment. That’s a really big reason why we chose this house. Well, why *I* chose this house. My husband chose it because it has a garage and was built in 1735. We looked at it last year around this time and everything was in bloom. The brook is what got me most, though. So beautiful!

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think that’s enough to tell from, because a lot of alliums are going to look like that before the flowering stage. But given where you found them and how dense it sounds like they are, I think wild onion is a likely guess. (It looks like “wild onion” and “wild garlic” are pretty approximate terms, species-wise, so I wouldn’t worry about that aspect.)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It looks like chives to me, but chives come in a bigger and thicker clump.

        Please post a pic when it flowers. Flowers can be the tell-tale.

        Chives have a purple flower that is similar to the flower on a clover.

        Allium is going to be a flower on the end of a tall stem. It is shaped like a ball, but it is actually a cluster of tiny little flowers. Allium comes in many colors. I was trying to grow some royal blue colored ones here but it is too cold.

        I really suspect that they were planted there to keep the critters out. I know you want to rip them out, but I think waiting until next season might be a good plan. See how this season goes first.

    3. Jen RO*

      No advice (I am dreadful with plants, and also too lazy to bother) but your yard looks absolutely amazing.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks! Lucky for me it came like that. Unfortunately the peak of the season for those pretty pink trees was literally yesterday! I went out today and half the petals have already fallen off. :(

    4. Clever Name*

      Find out what hardiness zone you are in. I agree with the seed mixes. And those gardens that have a wild look actually do take some work. I also agree with mixing ornamental grasses in with flowers for a more natural look. Find a good nursery. They tend to have more knowledgable staff and plants appropriate for your area compared to big box garden centers. Talking to local gardeners can be a huge help. And the USDA hardiness zone isn’t everything; our average last frost date was 3 weeks ago, but I’m sitting here looking at snow on the ground. :/

  40. Nervous Accountant*

    Something I’ve ALWAYS been curious about and just never got around to asking….(I hope this isnt’ considered work related).

    First off, I love how intelligent and thoughtful this community is. That’s what drew me to this site nearly 3 years ago, and I tell you, so much of my knowledge now just comes from reading the posts and comments over the years.

    But I’ve always wondered….HOW do most people here have time to respond and write long posts? Especially during the open threads? I’m lucky enough to be able to catch up on AAM throughout the day but its such a pain in the butt posting anything from my phone..I know everyone is on a diff time zone or has different schedules, but I have a typical 9-5 office job and I could never log on to my work computer and post here (open plan, + too paranoid). and not just the quantity of comments, but the quality too….I wish I could write such thoughtful or engaging replies, if I just had the time…..