weekend free-for-all – March 26-27, 2016

Eve reclinesThis 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 no work and no school. 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 Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson. Class snobbery, English countryside, and the scandal of a young woman teaching Latin!

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

{ 940 comments… read them below }

  1. Fantasma*

    I’m considering which vehicle to buy and narrowed it down to a four-door hatchback (Mazda 3) and a small crossover (Mazda CX-5). I prefer the height of the crossover, but the hatchback gets better gas mileage and is cheaper. I test-drove both and can’t decide.

    If you chose between these types of vehicles, what swayed you in favor of one over the other?

    My commute is about 7 miles but I live in the Bay Area where things are really spread out and you end up sitting in traffic for hours sometimes. Things important to me: safety (all the airbags!), comfort, and low road noise. Usually it’s only me in the car but some of my friends don’t have cars so I regularly cram several others in to go to/from events.

    1. Car thoughts*

      You may find the CX5, which drives like a car, is more versatile and has better resale value.

      1. HardwoodFloors*

        I have owned a Mazda 3 hatchback for four years. I have been very happy with the gas mileage (almost 40 mpg consistantly). When someone in my family got a new car last year they looked at the CX-5 but bought a Subaru Forester because they felt the cargo area was smaller on the CX-5. About 4 people is the max capacity for the Madza 3 and only for a short distance, but I have been happy driving the Madza 3 to work. I have found the reliability of Madza good and I pick a car on price and frequency of repair records.

    2. Noah*

      If I could only have one car it would be the CX-5. I think it would be more versatile and it is not really any worse to park compared with the 3.

      On the flip side I own a Mazda 3 sedan and it is a blast to drive. I also own a Jeep for other sorts of fun. Not sure you can go wrong here. I chose the 3 because I already owned the Jeep and wanted a car with better gas mileage for my commute.

    3. periwinkle*

      Although I’m not admitting it to the salespeople, of course, I’m pretty much sold on getting a CX-5 to replace both our Honda Fit and Subaru WRX wagon. It has more cargo capacity than either and although it’s not nearly as much fun to drive as the turbo WRX it’s way more fun than the Fit. I thought about the 3 hatchback but the extra height of the CX-5 is a bonus for visibility and we can transport all six cats at once in an emergency.

    4. Come On Eileen*

      I’ll re-iterate my comment from a week or two back – I absolutely ADORE my CX-5. Best decision I ever made to purchase it. Tons of space, good (not great, but solid) gas mileage, sporty, fun to drive, feels luxurious. I didn’t test drive the hatchback so I can’t compare one to the other, but its hard to go wrong with the CX-5.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I had a 3 and it was a great little car – fun to drive, hauled a TON of stuff, easy to keep clean. The cost of tires was a bit much because they were lower profile and tended to wear a bit faster, but that wasn’t too big a deal. It was a trooper and I drove about 15K a year, primarily commute with some longer 3-5 hour highway stints across states.

      I do remember it being a bit louder than I thought was necessary on the highway, however. You may want to compare.

      5/5 Would buy again.

        1. cardiganed librarian*

          I thought I had commented earlier, but I guess it didn’t post. I was going to say that my 2011 3 is very noisy (though I adore it anyway – I just have to turn up the volume on the radio if I’m driving on the highway and someone is speaking softly). Considering it’s one of the most noticeable flaws, I’m not surprised it’s better in newer models.

          (But the newer ones don’t have the smile mine has! I always feel a bit happier when I walk up to my car after a day at work and see it beaming happily at me.)

    6. Fantasma*

      Thanks, everybody! I really like both options — it’s been tough to pick one. I’ll drive them both again but based on these comments I’m leaning more toward the CX-5.

    7. Honeybee*

      Oh man, it’s hilarious that I opened this post to this comment because I’ve spent the better part of the day doing car research.

      If it was me, I’d get the CX-5. In fact, one of the reasons I’m pretty much exclusively considering small crossovers is that I want the height and better visibility on the road.

      There’s also the new CX-3, which is smaller and less expensive than the CX-5 and I think has the fuel economy more akin to the Mazda3. But it’s new for this model year, so there aren’t any used ones yet.

    8. Nancypie*

      If the cx-5 is anything like my cx-9, definitely go with that. It drives so smooth, like a luxury car. It’s so comfortable, I love it! It’s 7 years old and feels brand new.

    9. Dangitmegan*

      I have a 2016 3 hatchback and I love it so much. I didn’t want an Suv, so I didn’t compare them. The gas milage is great. My 6’4 brother fits in the backseat comfortably, I can haul all sorts of things, and it’s fun to drive.

    10. CAA*

      I have a Mazda 3 that just turned 1 year old, and I love it. I’ve always just thought of a car as a way to get somewhere, but I really like driving this one. It feels sporty, hugs the road, and the sun roof is cool. On the open highway the gas mileage is better than our C-Max hybrid, though the C-Max beats the Mazda 3 in traffic. I took a quick look at the CX-5, but didn’t really consider it since we already had the C-Max and it’s almost that big.

      You can carry 4 average sized adults pretty comfortably (I’m short, so there’s a lot of leg room behind me when I’m driving.) 5 is too crowded for anything other than a short trip.

    11. Swoop*

      not quite the same – I debated between a CX-3 and Mazda3 hatchback – and ended up taking the Mazda3 partly because the CX-3 was new this model year and I wanted to give it a few to shake issues out :)
      I like it so far – it’s a little lower than I was used to (previously had a sedan) and definitely quieter. It’s sufficiently zippy and the cargo space is good for the size but the backseat leg space is not large, so that could be an issue if your cramming involves several above-average-height people.
      One thing I do notice is that the rear window and backseat windows feel unpleasantly small when backing up – I know there’s a rearview camera, but it’s nice to have a clear view when you’re doing those side checks.

      have fun with it when you do choose :)

    12. Rabbit*

      My S/O bought a white Mazda3 hatchback last year and we’re both very impressed with it. I had also gotten a new compact car one year previous, and his Mazda 3 was less expensive and a bit nicer than my Honda (which I still love). The Mazda feels quite luxe and has netted him unsolicited compliments from other drivers!

  2. Confused Publisher*

    Since the photo at the top seems to me to say ‘tell me all about it’, I’ll bite.
    We’ve just done a couple of days on the Isle of Wight, and in that entire time, everything we did and everywhere we went, the businesses were family-owned. The zoo, the farm shops, the restaurants and pubs, the cafes. Back on the mainland feeling so pleased about this…

    1. Tess McGill*

      Loooooved the Isle of Wight! My main focus was Osborne House and the Jimi Hendrix memorial. Just back from living in Hampshire for two years. The Isle is such a lovely place!

      1. Confused Publisher*

        Hampshire is such a big county that it’s got pretty much everything!
        Osborne House really does have stunning views, especially if you manage to go on a sunny day like we did.

      1. Confused Publisher*

        I promise this isn’t meant to sound creepy, but I know you’re an Anglophile, and I did wonder if this was somewhere your travels had taken you. This trip exemplified so much of what is most lovable about this country.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Not yet! :D

          I also was just reading the February issue of Dolls House and Miniature Scene (I get it at Barnes & Noble–is kind of like Waterstones) and realized that the Kensington Dolls House Festival is in May and I AM GOING TO MISS IT YET AGAIN. :{ Someday I’ll remember it soon enough to be in London at the right time. Along with everywhere else I want to go.

          Dammit, if I could find a way to just move, I would but there is no way unless I get married!

          1. Confused Publisher*

            I looked this up after your message, and there’s a winter event on the 3rd of December too if that helps with planning? :) (Dooooo iiiiittt!)

    1. Kay*

      I LOVED that book. One of my favorites of last year. it totally did a number on my brain, too.

      1. JaneB*

        Me too! Several friends got it for Christmas from me… Although was the gift of enjoyably scrambled brains seasonally appropriate??

    2. Anansi*

      What did you think of the last section? I liked the book a lot up until then, but the last chapter just felt completely random

  3. Mimmy*

    Wishing all those in AAM-land who celebrate a very Happy Easter. We’re spending it with my extended family tonight. I know that’s a little odd, but I guess the country club my parents are holding it isn’t open on Easter Sunday.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Happy Easter. I can finally eat chocolate from Sunday on.

      It has been a very odd week. Seeing Zavantem airport covered in debris, with its windows blown out was quite scary, especially since it’s an airport I use quite often.

    2. Audiophile*

      Happy Easter!

      I’m ready for my chocolate. I’ve been looking for those Russell Stover’s chocolate/marshmallow/caramel bunnies and eggs. I’m sure on Monday, I’ll be able to find a ton.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t, but happy Easter to you, Mimmy, and the rest of you who do! (And a happy Purim, Sunday, or what have you to the rest of you!)

  4. Shell*

    People who log their food intake: how do you log homemade food?

    With MyFitnessPal and the like, it’s really easy to scan the barcode of preprocessed food and input your intake as long as you weigh or measure the portions. But what if you make the food yourself? Say you’re making pasta sauce from scratch. Do you weigh each tomato, the exact amount of ground beef, every tablespoon of spice, the exact volume of red wine/olive oil, etc.? Do you then weigh out the exact portion of finished pasta sauce that you actually consume? (then add in the pasta itself, black pepper, etc…?)

    I know there’s a lot of preprogrammed homemade foods on MyFitnessPal, but the nature of homemade means that there’s huge variance between versions (how much or how little of soy sauce, swap one ingredient for another) so using other people’s homemade version doesn’t help much. But the idea of all that measuring and calculating to get the calories for one portion of the meal seems like a daunting and hopeless endeavour.

    I suppose if your meals are the “one chicken breast, two heads of broccoli” type it may be easier, but my meals are of the “cook a ton of ingredients in one dish with sauce/seasonings/etc, then eat samplings from multiple dishes on top of rice” variety. I can’t figure out how one would log their food with this way of eating. So far I haven’t bothered, but if there’s an easy way I’m all ears.

    1. Kay*

      MyFitnessPal has a section where you can create custom recipes. When I was using that a lot, I would take the time – not all that long, really, a few minutes – to create my recipes from scratch and log them. Then I could select the recipe from the bank and say how much I had of it. It wasn’t an exact science, but I tried to represent it in good faith and called that good enough.

      1. Shell*

        Oof. So it really is weigh the portions of all ingredients from a single recipe, then. And then once that individual recipe is named and inputted as “pasta sauce” (or whatever), select that next time and input the portion?

        I eyeball all the cooking I do, so there tends to be a lot of variance from batch to batch, and a lot of randomly made up one-offs (“oh, I have a bunch of leftover chives, I’ll throw that into the stirfry tonight”). Maybe I oughta stick to portion control (one bowl of tonight’s magic mixture) and forget about the exact calories, then…

        1. Setsuko*

          You don’t really need to weigh everything. I use MFP and jsut add: 1 carrot, 1 tin beans etc. There are generic values for most raw veggies etc. Don’t bother adding spices etc. the calories are negligible.

          Then you say how many servings the recipe typically makes. So instead of weighing out a portion for dinner, you just serve yourself 1/2 or 1/4 of what is there. Sometimes I’ll use a tiny carrot and sometimes a big one, but if I am making the recipe frequently, I figure that it evens out in the end. Same with the portions, sure you might serve yourself more than 1/2, but then if you use the leftovers for your next meal, you are getting slightly less calories, so it all works out.

          Generally I let myself make random changes to veggies, herbs and spices, if you are cooking a large batch this won’t add/take away many calories from a single portion. Just use your common sense and try not to get too creative with highly calorific foods: fats, meat, cheese etc.

          1. Anonnn*

            This is what I do too. And you’ll soon find that things like spices and some veggies are so calorically light that it’s not even with entering.

            And, frankly, if you’re using a recipe from anywhere on the web, MFP makes it incredibly easy to enter that site and just scrape the content for your own needs, with minimal editing from you. I’ve been using it for years this way, and honesty have never done a barcode.

        2. CMT*

          If your calorie deficit is small, or you’re trying to be super accurate, weighing is really important. I’ve found that it really doesn’t add that much time to making a recipe and it has made such a big difference for actually eating at a deficit.

    2. Rocket Scientist*

      I estimate based on all of the ingredients, as you suggested above. So, add up all of the calories from tomatoes, the beef, etc. (No need to count calories on small spices.)

      It is only time consuming once and then you’ll have an estimate for each recipe. It also seems less daunting the more times you do it.

    3. StudentPilot*

      This is why I stopped using that app. I got so…annoyed? Bored? With putting in so much info for my meals.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Same. I did eat much better and lost a ton of weight while I was using it, but it just wasn’t sustainable. (I was unemployed at the time, so logging every single thing was possible, but once I started grad school and got a job? No way I had time for that.)

    4. Setsuko*

      I really recommend taking the time to calculate the calories in recipes that you use regularly. I was shocked to find how few calories some of my dishes had and how many were in others. The range was from 150 (soup) to 950 (quiche) calories per serving. I was able to reduce my calories without giving up my favorite foods just by making the more calorific dishes a rarer treat, or having smaller portions.

      1. the gold digger*

        It’s really sad how many calories butter adds. :(

        PS Does anyone else get annoyed with the recipes that get shared on facebook with the claims that they are so, so good? It’s not hard to make something taste good if you put a lot of butter and sugar in it! Try making low-calories foods that are delicious and then we can talk.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, there’s no skill involved in just throwing extra butter, sugar, or cheese in a dish to make it more delicious; that’s why my go-to meal for lazy meal prep that gets no complaints from picky kids is pasta and broccoli with a ton of butter and cheese on it. Try that with actual spices and cooking technique, and then I’ll be impressed.

        2. Snazzy Hat*

          I get annoyed with “this is soooo good!” when my response is “I have none of those ingredients!”

        3. C Average*

          My current favorite make-it-delicious hack is adding Parmesan cheese rinds to light soups (like white bean and kale). Given the fact that the rind gets removed more of less intact from the soup before it’s served, it can’t add much calorically, but it adds so much depth of flavor.

    5. Jubilance*

      It’s a pain, but I weigh/measure everything and then set it up as a custom recipe, especially if it’s something I eat a lot. If it’s a one-off thing, i will add the individual ingredients.

    6. Christy*

      I’m on Weight Watchers, so I do something similar. I don’t bother to input spices, fruits, or most vegetables. I’ll calculate the total points value for each dish then estimate the percentage of the dish I ate–usually it’s 25% so I just divide the number by 4. That works well for me.

    7. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Do you have a search options where you can look up similar recipies?

      Fit bit has a ton of user entered data. It it’s a meal I eat a lot, like weekly, I’ll make a custom meal out of it. But otherwise I might use “Kassie’s Kurry” to estimate the calroies in my homemade curry and then just add the calories for rice. ^^

    8. Jill of All Trades*

      One other thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that you can search for and add a recipe from the internet to MFP. So if you google your magic sauce ingredients you’ll probably find something close enough. And as someone mentioned the spices and seasonings are quite negligible in calories, so if that’s all you’re tracking you don’t need to get extremely detailed. If you are also watching sodium then you will want to include how much soy sauce, salt, etc is used.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, if I feel ambitious and it doesn’t seem too tedious, I’ll add the ingredients from scratch. If I’m just not feeling up to the labor or the tedium, I’ll search MFP or the internet for something that seems close enough. I’ll sometimes add the real recipe later, when it doesn’t seem like such a chore.

    9. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I used to just wing it. I’d find a prelogged recipe that best fit what I was making. Even with that shortcut, it was a pain and I didn’t do it for very long.

    10. Amanda*

      Weighing everything is the best way to go, but there is no need to have the perfect be the enemy of the good. Maybe just do it for recipes you make regularly, but for something you make once I think approximating like others have described is fine.

      1. Betty (the other Betty)*

        I try to allow myself to be good with an estimate of serving size etc. Logging food even if the measurements aren’t perfect and aiming for a calorie goal that is reasonable works : I’m down 15 pounds since October, slow but relatively steady.

        For some recipes, I’ll figure out each ingredient as it goes into the recipe and add them up to get the total calories for the full recipe. Then weigh the final cooked food (deduct the weight of the pot or container) and figure out calories per gram, and make a note that I keep by the scale. Then I can just weigh my servings in grams and know that the calories I am logging are close to correct.

    11. skyline*

      As others have said, I entered recipes that I cooked regularly as custom meals. I also tended to repeat recipes a lot when I was actively dieting, so once they were entered, I got to use them over and over.

      By the way, one MFP trick that I used was logging my planned meals for the day in the morning or even the night before. It encouraged me to stick to the plan, and I always had a good sense of how much wiggle room I had.

      I’m now working on trying to maintain my weight loss without logging my meals in an app, since I really don’t want to use an app for the rest of my life. So far, things are going pretty well! I’ve gained a small amount back, but I’m still under my original goal weight and I don’t have to log every mouthful.

  5. Kay*

    Gardening people!

    I do not have much of a green thumb. I am not hopeless, either, and I usually manage to grow a variety of herbs and veggies in containers. But now we have a house with a yard and I want to do better. At the same time, I don’t profess to know or care much about soil ph, composting, pruning, mulching, or any of the niceties.

    In particular, I want to plant some fruit-bearing things. Raspberries, blackberries, currants. Things that I can plant at the base of the fence on the property line and will both obscure the fence and be useful. I have the chance to buy a number of northern-hardy fruit-bearing bushes at a local rec department sale and I am thinking of going for it.

    Am I being overly ambitious? Any tips for this kind of planting? Should I just go for it?

    1. danr*

      Go for it!!! Expect to lose some, but some should make it. Go to Google and find your hardiness zone. An easy search is ‘hardiness zone your state]. That tells you when it’s mostly safe to plant to avoid killing freezes or frost. Look up the name of the stuff you’re going to plant and read the recommendations. Most of it is digging a hole, putting in the plant, filling in the hole and giving it plenty of water when planting. But be careful afterwards not to water too much. Good luck, and keep us posted.

    2. Mike C.*

      My folks were huge gardeners and I have half a biology degree so here’s my biggest hint: whatever fruit bearing plants you buy, make sure to buy multiple cultivars. You’ll have much, much better harvests than if you plant a single variety. This is really as simple as buying two different apple trees, two different blueberry bushes, etc.

      As for your greater goals, it’s going to be a multi-year process that you build on and that’s perfectly ok. Look to your local municipalities and any college/universities with agricultural outreach programs for advice on native/invasive species and general gardening advice.

      What region are you living in?

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      Raspberries, currants — OK. Gooseberries, rhubarb, apples, pears, peaches (tricky), plums (also tricky) all can be done. Strawberries super easy. Blueberries are difficult and require certain kinds of soil. But, blackberries… no, for the love of Gawd, NO!

      I love blackberries. So when I saw them for sale at the garden centre, I thought they would be fun. They are not. They are hell. They spread like crazy once they are established. They have thorns on them like a rose, only sharper. Or maybe there’s just more of them. I can’t begin to say how many times I’ve bled because of those things. I have to wear two pairs of suede gardening gloves to cut them back/down because those thorns are that sharp. They have a tap root, which means that you have to dig halfway to hell to completely uproot them. I’ve been trying to get rid of them for years now. When they spread, they go up to 12′ of tendrils and when they hit the ground, they sprout roots and make a new plant, with a tap root. I’ll never get rid of them completely because they have spread into other plants I don’t want to dig out and destroy — like the currants.

      Raspberries spread, but they are easy to pull out. Not blackberries. Buy them at the supermarket, not the garden centre.

      Oh, and if you do get raspberries, get the ever bearing kind because you’ll get two crops’ worth, one in July and another smaller one in September, so long as the weather is OK.

      1. orchidsandtea*

        BLACKBERRIES: This is truth. I have seen them trying to take out a home’s foundation. And you can’t get rid of them. I’ve seen a team of firefighters going through the yard with machetes and flames to cut, burn, and uproot them. They just come back. They are some of the most invasive plants I’ve ever seen, on par with ivy and kudzu.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I didn’t try killing it with fire… but now I know that won’t help :(

          My current idea is to keep pulling up the little shoots. Eventually, it’s got to run out of steam and stop trying. Or at least I hope so.

        2. Shell*

          Yeah, around here I used to go pick wild blackberries with a friend (free! And there are tons!) and they grow along nature trails and abandoned lots like an everlasting thorny fence. We got poked so badly that the next time I brought along gardening shears and literally sheared our way through otherwise we never would’ve gotten out alive. My first experience of falling into a blackberry bush was…not pretty.

          (I don’t feel guilty about the shears because once in a while I do see them trimmed back significantly so I suppose the people responsible for maintaining the trails have to trim them once in a while lest they take over the trail.)

          1. Solidus Pilcrow*

            I grew up on a farm with wooded acreage that had wild blackberries. Let me tell you, when it came time for blackberry picking we got dressed in full battle gear! Heavy jeans, heavy denim shirt, heavy hat, heavy-duty gloves. Safety glasses/goggles probably would have been a good idea, too.

            As others have mentioned, blackberries and raspberries can be invasive. Also, be careful of currants if you have pine trees. They can carry a blight that gets passed on to the pines.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I wear the full battle gear too, but that’s because the blackberry patch where I pick also has wild roses (thorns), nettles, poison ivy, mosquitoes, and yellow jackets. And I’m not exaggerating, either. I add clippers and benedryl cream to my gear. Oh, but those blackberries taste good!

              1. Solidus Pilcrow*

                I believe you! I’m from Wisconsin where the unofficial state bird is the mosquito — Deep Woods OFF is your friend. Our blackberry patches tended to be so dense that ivy and nettles didn’t grow there, but we certainly had to be careful on the way to and back.

                We waited ’til we got home to tend our battle wounds and look ourselves over for ticks.

      2. SAHM*

        AGREED! We had a wild blackberry bush in the backyard growing up, it took over the majority of that section. Pros: Fresh Blackberries that as kids with small hands we could pick every August.
        Cons: Invasive as crazy. Mom was continually pulling small ones from the rest of the yard.
        After 30+ years the bush has died ( recently as in the last year or so) and you can actually see the fence. Of course it was there when they built the house and there are wild blackberries everywhere in that neighborhood so who knows how old that bush really was.
        If I had a quarter acre or more of land I would consider planting one in a specific spot and knowing I’d have to continually keep after it, but I have a nice suburban yard so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    4. LisaLee*

      Go for it! Raspberries are nice and fairly easy to grow (at least in the upper US). Strawberries can get pretty big depending on the type, but they stop bearing eventually.

      Personally, I really like mulberries, which are a big shrub/small tree sort of deal and are absolutely delicious. Eating too many can upset some people’s stomachs, though.

      1. TootsNYC*

        We were discussing mulberries here in the last couple of weeks. They’re incredibly delicious. But the ones I’ve seen are genuine trees, eventually. They weren’t “here we go ’round the mulberry bush…”

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        but they stop bearing eventually

        This is true, but that’s why they put out runners. I forget how long it takes before they stop producing but you can pull out the old plants and let the runners come up. There is some sort of ever bearing variety of strawberries, too.

        1. IT Squirrel*

          It’s a couple of years I believe – my dad has been taking runners from his strawberries since I was a kid, I’m not sure how many generations of great-great-great-great-great-grandfruit he’s on now but he still gets strawberries every year :)

    5. Thinking out loud*

      I live in Seattle. Around here, I would not plant blackberries in the ground – they are extremely hardy and invasive. I would plant them in a large pot. I don’t think raspberries are the same way, and I know blueberries are fine – we have a few in our yard.

      But in general, I think you should go for it.

      1. Mike C.*

        For the PNW, you need to make sure you’re planting Pacific Blackberry rather than Himalayan Blackberry. The former is native to the region and has superior berries while the latter is a listed invasive species. I cleared fields of that stuff with AmeriCorps.

        1. Headachey*

          Could you come do my backyard? I’d love to get a herd of goats for a couple days to eat them, but that’s way too expensive for us. I cleared about 60 sq. ft. last summer and barely made a dent – and I still have scars! The only good thing about them is that my dog likes to snack on them and it’s cute to see her delicately pulling the ripe berries off. Somehow she never gets scratched.

          1. Mike C.*

            So the best advice I can give is that you need to remove the stalks twice a year – they store a great deal of energy in their roots so you want as much of it spent as possible. A face mask and a large weed wacker will help you here.

            Hell, spraying them down with glyphosate is also a good first step.

        2. Artemesia*

          Himalayans are all over in the NW and are fairly tasteless and very seedy. We always called the small low to the ground ones ‘creepy crawlies’ (don’t know if it is regional or just my family) and they are really great eating. they have that intense blackberry flavor unlike the Himalayans which are sort of watery tasting.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            We got a thornless blackberry and planted it. Not only was it not invasive, it had no flavor. I called them blandberries. It’s died out since we quit watering it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I’d watch the size of the fruit. The smaller berries are a lot of work for… well, small amounts.
      I’d also watch the fruit bearing season, try not to pick a bunch of plants that all bear fruit at the same time. For example, have rhubarb in the spring and apples in the fall.

      It sounds like deer will not be able to get at them? The other big eater is birds, but you can put netting over the plants.
      Not to be discouraging but fruit trees require a schedule, they need spraying and fertilizing. And it’s to the point where you almost have to keep a calendar so you know what to do when. It’s not hard once you get set up and get in the swing of it, but it is a commitment if you want the fruit.

      Make sure you space out the plants, air and light are super important for healthy fruit.

      If you are going to take this on, find a small nursery near you where you can stop and ask for advice from time to time. It’s kind of like having a vet for your pet. You need somewhere to go when you have a question or ten.

    7. Stopping By*

      I suggest that you find out about Master Gardeners in your area. Master Gardeners work with the home gardener, give advice, classes, etc. They are affiliated with land-grant universities/USDA. Every area is different as far as what is easy, or not, to grow. Don’t count on your big box store to sell things that are best for your area, with the proper hardiness, etc. Trial and error is a time honored method, but you might spy a little on your neighbors, and if someone’s garden looks successful, ask for advice.

      If you want blackberries, plant a cultivar, like Marion berries, Tay berries, Boysenberry. They aren’t quite as vigorous. Give them something to climb on for easier harvesting.

      Tell us where you are for more tailored advice.

      1. TootsNYC*

        The USDA’s Extension Service is really useful too–Google will help you find one in your area.

    8. IT Squirrel*

      A suggestion for blackberries – I don’t know if you can get them where you are, but here in the UK we can get ‘cultivated’ varieties that are thorn-free which makes harvesting much less painful. It’s worth looking out for them especially if they are going to be anywhere near your house or entertaining areas (alternatively the prickly varieties would be good deterrent to anyone climbing over your fence if that’s what you are after!)

    9. E, F and G*

      Zone 3 (with a side of zone 4) here. If you are starting from scratch and like it I would suggest rhubarb as an option to start. It grows quickly, starts early and you can get more than one crop from it a year.

      I’ve always had raspberries thanks to those my father has kept on the south side of his garage. I agree that the ever growing kind is the better option. Also be prepared for a two to three year wait for those.

      Strawberries have been fun and mildly invasive. I can now find them growing around my carrots and a small patch seems to have appeared near a shrub out front (and I am loathe to remove garden fresh strawberries.) The first year I got one berry. The second year I got five. Then they started to grow in earnest.

      For a while I had what appeared to be a chokecherry bush shared from between the slats of the neighbours fence. Annoying to pit but made wonderful jam.

      Of course, there is the saskatoon berry bush out front (blueberries with a whole lot more seeds.) I can’t tell you how they grow since it was well established before I got in but assuming you get water early and warmth later it seems to produce large juicy berries.

      All this is to say that I’m not an expert at keeping plants alive so I’m assuming most of these are rather hardy. Raspberries are canes so they may not be the best option for obsuring the fence. Also, the thorns may wear away the paint or finish on a fence over time. My saskatoons are really bushy and the leaves are a gorgeous dark green to me but may be a little plain. The chokecherry bush was a good fence dweller and was fairly easily removed as well.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Rhubarb is great! However, it’s a plant that does not like to be moved/transplanted. If you plant it, make sure it’s for keeps. They also like basic soil, so do a soil analysis or add some lime for them.

    10. Gene*

      Don’t just start planting stuff.

      PLAN your garden, hardscape first. It sucks having to remove a good plant because you have to put in a drainage feature or retaining wall. Know where your sewer line or septic system/drainfield is. Then adapt the plan as needed over the years. In some cases, you have to have different cultivars or you won’t have any fruit (or a small yield). In others, you will need a male plant and a female plant.

      Talk with your local Master Gardeners or Coop service to find out what will be happy in your area. Some areas are rife with microclimates and what will grow well for your friend a mile away will fail to thrive in your yard.

  6. Audiophile*

    Does anyone have the fitbit Blaze? I haven’t seen it in action yet. I sold my Charge HR to someone at work and planned to buy the Blaze but wasn’t thrilled when I read the reviews.

    1. Noah*

      I just got one yesterday to replace my Charge. I like it so far, but still in the honeymoon phase.

      I like the text msg notifications and the ability to control music on the blaze. The phone call notifications work too, but I had that on the Charge.

      It is not a smartwatch like the Apple watch or some of the Android options. It is a really nice fitbit though. I like it better than the Charge. It is nice to set an alarm without using the app. Also you can setup various activities so you can tell it you are doing things like running, rowing, or hockey for active minutes. All without using the app.

      The fitstar thing seems dumb to me. I’m not one to look at my wrist the entire time I workout. I did track a run this morning using GPS and that was pretty cool. You have to take your phone with you, but I do that anyways for music. There are lots of apps for that though.

      1. Audiophile*

        I haven’t seen anything in the smartwatch arena that I was really impressed with. I have an Android phone, so Apple Watch is out and none of the Android Wear smartwatches impressed me.

        I couldn’t get the notifications to work on with my Charge HR. I have a Moto X Pure and I never got a notification to come through on the Charge.

        I may give the Blaze another look. Thanks!

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I actually *just* ordered an Asus ZenWatch 2 in gunmetal gray, after months of dithering and coveting. (It doesn’t do any exercise tracking, but since Audiophile mentioned Android Wear I thought I’d mention it.)

          1. Audiophile*

            I did see it on a recent trip to Best Buy, it is very nice. What made you buy that?

            I’m torn because I’ve had a few Fitbits and was pleased with them. The Blaze just looked unimpressive in person. (And by that I mean, in the box on the shelf at Best Buy.)

            I really want the fitness tracking aspect and Google Fit and Android Wear just aren’t there yet.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              A friend lent me a FitBit that she wasn’t using, and that made me realize that I really didn’t care that much about the fitness aspect, my phone’s activity counter is more than enough for me. (It’ll even do my heartrate if I put my finger over the flash, which doubles as a heartrate sensor! (Galaxy S5))

              I chose it because the reviews looked good, the price was right (the lack of fitness tracking probably helped keep the price down), and the gunmetal grey and silver mesh watchbands look a lot like the dress watches I prefer. I started looking into the Samsung Gear, but found that if I ever switched to a non-Samsung phone, I’d lose a lot of features, so I settled on Android Wear. I would have been happy with any voice-activated “OK Google” watch, I think, so this one was priced right ($200).

              1. Audiophile*

                Are you using Google Fit?

                If you know you don’t want the fitness aspect, then a Fitbit isn’t very useful for you.

                The Blaze and the Asus watch are the same price. A friend of mine had one of the Samsung Gear watches and just switched to the Charge HR.

                I’ll just ruminate on it some more. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Nope, I’m using Samsung’s S-Health, which came with the phone. It’s not bad, it does a decent step count, and also tells you “active minutes”, which I think is a better measure of activity. I’ll take a look at Google Fit, thanks.

  7. Liz*

    I wasn’t sure whether to ask this on the work-related open thread or this one, so I hope this is OK. If not, feel free to delete.

    I’m looking for a letter that I’m almost certain was published here. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but here are the parts I remember. The OP had just accepted a job (I believe it was a fellowship or some kind of grant-funded position) and found out that there were some unusual strings attached to the salary (stipend?). The majority of her paycheck had to be spent on housing, with none or very little of it going toward groceries, amenities, entertainment, etc. She was disappointed in this stipulation because it would mean that she would have to live in more expensive housing than necessary, outside of the community that she was meant to be working with, not to mention that she would have little money left over to for other necessities and pleasantries. Some of the commenters suggested that she look for housing where the rent was as all-inclusive as possible (including utilities, Internet, cable, gym, etc.).

    Does this ring a bell with anyone else? I’ve tried every keyword I could think of for this site’s search function, but maybe I’m misremembering the letter itself or where I read it.

    1. Torrance*

      So that the link doesn’t get caught in moderation, just search ‘My employer has restrictions on how I can spend my salary’. I think that’s what you’re looking for. :)

    2. Cristina in England*

      I wonder if the OP ever found an apartment with bundled Internet. I hope you are doing well, OP2!

  8. Packers Fan*

    Any advice for 1st time home-owners?

    My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home. We had the inspection last week and we close in April. Luckily there wasn’t anything big found in the inspection and the seller agreed to fix all the little things. We’re very excited but nervous at the same time. Any tips or recommendations for home ownership would be appreciated!

    1. danr*

      Ask the owners who they use for electricians and plumbers and heating/ac service if needed. These will be folks who know your house and will be eager to get a new customer. If you’re not local already, be sure to read the local newspapers. You’ll know what is going on and see the ads for service folks. You’ll meet some of your new neighbors since everyone is interested in seeing what the moving vans bring. Also, folks tend to share stories on where they lived before moving and why they chose to move to the neighborhood. They may know what you paid for your house… this is from public records and many newspapers publish the home sales with the names of the sellers and buyers.
      Good luck, and enjoy.

      1. Packers Fan*

        Thanks for the advice. We’ll definitely be asking who was used for service. I’m hoping they have a good landscaper they can recommend because the yard looks great and I don’t think my husband and I have the know how for that upkeep!

    2. NicoleK*

      1. Depending on your municipality, you maybe able to select your trash hauler. Call several haulers for a quote.
      2. Expect to be spending money the first couple of weeks in your new home. You may need to purchase a lawn mower, new household items because the current stuff won’t fit in your new place, and etc.
      3. You will have expenses that you didn’t as a renter. E.g. water bill, trash bill, home owners insurance, assessments, and etc

      1. Packers Fan*

        Good call on the shopping around for trash hauler. I’m not sure if we can do that here but I wouldn’t have even thought of it!

    3. Artemesia*

      Assume there will be a major expense you haven’t thought of in the first year. Something will leak. You will discover that they used toothpaste to spackle an enormous crack when you go to repaint. A major appliance will fail (in our first two years in our current place, we had to deal with a leak under the floor from the ice maker in the refrigerator that the idiot had installed using a plastic hose under marble flooring, as well as failed dishwasher and a failed nearly new microwave. This is the crap that happens when you are a homeowner. In our last place it was the air conditioning that went out soon after purchase. In our first home, the refrigerator died a week in.

      1. Packers Fan*

        Good to know. I’ll have my fingers crossed that the refrigerator goes, I’m not super fond of it!

        1. Artemesia*

          Oh then it will last for another 20 years. It is only things you love that stop working immediately. We bought a used refrigerator when we got married and that sucker did in fact last for 20 years. I bought an expensive installed microwave with fan for our new condo and it burned a hole through itself in a year and a half (just out of warranty of course.) Our excellent dishwasher only lasted two years (it was in the place when we bought it so not new but in great shape and it worked really well; the replacement doesn’t get dishes dry (apparently a consequence of energy saving design as it is basically the same as the one we replaced).

          1. Yetanotherjennifer*

            Our fuel oil provider offers a maintenance contract that is cheaper than the annual cleaning fee. I have no idea how they make money but I’m happy to subscribe.

        2. TootsNYC*

          There is some sort of maintenance service contract you can get; I don’t remember what the term is. But I know of people who’ve been glad they bought it. It might be annoying because you have to use their repair people, but it’s something to investigate.

          1. Artemesia*

            I have looked into appliance extended warranty contracts and the consensus of financial advisors is that they are virtually always a bad idea. You might with bad luck ‘win’ but most appliances last long enough that these expensive warranties are just gravy for the dealers – which is why they sell them. Same with cars.

      2. Bibliovore*

        In our coop in NYC we had the appliance trip crown failure. I suspected a few issues when there was nothing but a bottle a wine in the fridge,(needed to be replaced as soon as we moved in) and the washer and dryer were a lovely shade of harvest gold. (lasted 2 months) The stove had only one burner that worked (we didn’t think to turn on the stove during the inspection) and the oven was useless- I don’t think it ever got above 250 degrees. I was very excited to have our first dishwasher. Until it flooded and we discovered the pipes behind the sink were all rotted. and to replace the dishwasher we would have had to rip up the kitchen floor. Oh and only two windows could open the rest were painted/rusted shut. We did have an inspection. Obviously not good enough. It was ten years before the renovation and a stove that was used to cook rather than storage.

        1. Artemesia*

          I had a stove like that once. I ended up moving into the living room and putting a lamp in one of the burner holes and using the oven for storage. We were really really poor at the time. Had to cook on a hotplate and with an electric skillet till we could afford a stove.

          1. Artemesia*

            Oh and we didn’t have a TV so I glued a picture on the oven door so it looked like a very strange TV with a lamp on top.

      3. Honeybee*

        My current manager is having a nightmare of epic proportions with a house she moved into less than a year ago, and it has scared me off homebuying lol.

        1. Artemesia*

          The house with the toothpaste filling a crack around the entire living room ceiling (sort of an interesting tray ceiling) cost a friend nearly a million dollars.

      4. blackcat*

        A tree fell on my house three weeks after we closed.

        The damage wasn’t that bad, but oof. Three weeks! An entire tree! Downed power lines!

    4. periwinkle*

      1. Ask the current homeowner for the receipts for all the little things that get fixed. The house we bought last year was in great condition overall but the sellers (who had moved out 3 months prior) had replaced their old water heater… with a brand new one that was the wrong size and wasn’t even hooked up. Luckily the inspector caught that and I wrote it in as a fix-before-closing thing. Unfortunately I didn’t think to ask for the receipts; the new water heater is appropriately sized and works well but my husband suspects that the “new” heater is actually a used one. Live and learn.
      2. Ask your new neighbors for advice about repair services and the like. We knew the general area well enough (our apartment was just a couple miles from the house we chose) but need the scoop on things like plumbers and tree services. Several of the people living in our cul-de-sac have lived there since the houses were built in 1982 so they have a ton of useful info to give!
      3. Yeah, expect to spend a lot on things you didn’t need as a renter. You will soon memorize the layout of the closest home/hardware stores. You might have to replace the big appliances as well. We had to buy a washer & dryer (not included with the house). We’ve since replaced the fridge, dishwasher, and range hood/microwave. The stove is hanging in there… Lots of little things will be needed, too. Doormats. Tools. Light bulbs. We replaced every incandescent bulb with LEDs or halogen. We spent hundreds of dollars on freakin’ light bulbs. Good grief.
      4. And yet, it’s still the best money we’ve ever spent. It’s our house! If we want to paint the downstairs bathroom orange, we can! And did! (and not a subtle soft peachy color – it was Behr Joyful Orange)

      1. Packers Fan*

        I hadn’t even thought of the light bulbs but I’m sure that is something we’ll want to do. We also have a light fixture we’ll need to install so we’ll probably just update all the bulbs when we get that in. And hooray for orange! We toured a house that had bright orange walls and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the color.

        1. Lindsay J*

          If you have Amazon Prime, there has been a good deal on LED lightbulbs on Amazon. I’m not sure of the exact one – would have to ask my boyfriend since he’s the one buying them – but in the two months since we moved in we’ve replaced all of the light bulbs in the house (around 15 I think) with these.

    5. Cordelia Longfellow*

      Save up money for annual utilities and property tax payments. I’m in Canada and I own a condo rather than a house, but here the latter can easily cost $4000 a year in property taxes. Check to see what previous years have cost for your house, either from the seller or your municipality.

      I also second saving money for appliances or other unexpected costs. I’ve owned my flat for five years, but thanks to Murphy’s law, both my washer/dryer and my dishwasher died last year while I was living abroad going to school. I’m limping by without the dishwasher until I go back to work (next week, thank goodness!), but those kinds of costs can definitely wreck a regular budget.

      Even so, it is still awesome to own your own home. Congratulations!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Here in the US, every mortgage I’ve heard of includes an escrow account for property taxes. I’m not sure how common it is, but I’m sure it’s not that unusual. But if that’s not available, definitely put aside 1/12 of your property taxes every month into a separate savings account; that’s what my MIL does now that the house is paid off.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yeah, same – I think it’s so common as to be ubiquitous. I think the only way you’d need to save up and pay yourself is if you bought your house in cash.

        2. Cordelia Longfellow*

          That sounds very smart! I don’t know why we don’t have a similar program, beyond the fact that our property taxes vary from year to year based on property assessment values.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Here, they’re supposed to keep a cushion in order to pay the tax even if it increases, but in my part of the US, many localities have caps on how much your assessment can go up in one year. The amount going into the escrow account gets adjusted based on that, and since it’s an escrow account, it’s not like the bank can make money off of it. You get back anything left once the mortgage is paid off, I believe.

    6. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      Don’t change jobs or go buy a big ticket item before you close. Wait to buy furniture if you’re putting it on credit.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      It’s hard not to run out and buy everything for the new place. If you wait, you will find that you make less bad purchases. Buy exactly what you need as it comes up. What seems like a good idea at first glance, may turn out to be a poor idea in years to come. You can save money by making purchases slowly and deliberately.

      I think the first year in the house is your learning curve for the idiosyncrasies of the house itself. You may find that you spend money because you do not want to deal with a little quirky thing in the house- not all emergencies are actual emergencies. I could not work with a bathroom that had NO hooks, it was too annoying to walk in there and have no place to hang a robe or hang my good clothes while I changed. And there wasn’t a towel rod either, how did I not notice that before????

      Watch your heat and electric bills- hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

      Your neighbors can be a good source of information about what was done to the house by previous owners. Just something to keep in mind as you go along.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        This is so true. I found my closet almost completely unusable but never noticed the issues before we moved in.

      2. Lindsay J*

        We had the same thing with our bathroom. No toilet paper holder either. We chalked it up to the fact that we brought a house someone had flipped and not lived in after renovating, and that it must have been an oversight because we couldn’t imagine anyone being able to live with it for more than a couple days.

        1. Packers Fan*

          Our master bathroom doesn’t have a toilet paper holder either. It does have a built in magazine holder… I owe this to the fact that the house was built by a bachelor. My husband has thankfully already found a standing holder that will match everything else.

      3. Elsajeni*

        We had the same problem with our bathroom! No towel bar, one big hook on the wall, but (of course) it’s placed on the wall such that, if you do put a towel on it, you have to get fully out of the shower and shut the door before you can reach it. And it took almost a month before we worked out that the reason we were always slightly discombobulated in the kitchen was that there wasn’t any pantry space.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Oh, I forgot our very best idiosyncrasy — the switches in the guest bedroom and on the stairs were wired together, so you couldn’t turn on the light on the stairs unless the fan in the guest room was on first. (There was some other plumbing and wiring weirdness that suggest that a previous owner was a DIY “expert,” so we assume this switch was his handiwork.)

          1. Hlyssande*

            My friends’ house had some very similar electrical DIY weirdness.

            When they were putting a dimmer switch on the new light in the dining room, they discovered that somehow the oven circuit (oven on the far kitchen wall from the dining room) and the utility room light in the basement were also run through the same box. Magic!

          2. Lindsay J*

            Heh, ours isn’t as weird, but our dishwasher won’t work unless the light over the sink is on.

            One of the previous owners was definitely a DIY “expert” as well. The poorly-built monstrosity of a deck in the back yard is the biggest testament to their skills.

    8. IT Squirrel*

      Savings! You are probably already doing this to get your deposit together, but make sure you keep putting something away every month for the emergencies. You do not want your heating to fail in the middle of winter and not have money available to fix it… Do the same for any annual bills, put 1/12th of it aside every month so you are’t scraping to find it (also, it feels like annual bills roll around WAY quicker than every 12 months!)

    9. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Do not just blindly trust that escrowed funds will make it to their destination and on time. It’s worth a phone call the first time and especially if your mortgage gets sold.

      Every home repair will likely include blue words, serious questioning of the sanity of previous owners and an extra trip to Home Depot to return something you thought would work. And you will in turn leave behind repairs that will have future owners questioning your sanity. It is the circle of life in home ownership.

    10. No Longer Just a Lurker*

      Start an emergency fund as well as a household account fund – depending on your employer you can probably have some $$ go in there automatically through direct deposit (we can have our hit up to 3 different accounts which is nice).
      Also don’t buy everything you want (and think you need) right away. Take some time to figure out what you already have and what you would really use and then look for deals.

  9. Bibliovore*

    for anyone who remembers the Easter drama from last year. I declined to go to the Brother and Sister-in-law for the holiday as there are 3 chain smokers living in their house plus 4 cats and a dog. I end up sick for a week if I am there just a few hours. Sister-in-law refused to take no for an answer.

    This year I am doing Easter dinner for twelve. Pretty excited.

        1. Bibliovore*

          They are coming. I do like them, just not the smoking. They know they have to smoke outside. The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow so I won’t feel bad about that.

      1. JaneB*

        but there are five pointy fur-petals around it and only one fluffy one, so when the unsuspecting hand lands on the belly-lure and the flower closers around it, the results could be painful! (four feet, one set of teeth, one tail)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          My cats let me rub their fuzzy bellies (and it’s awesome!). Not for long, but they don’t scratch or bite. I keep forgetting that they’re outliers in the cat world.

  10. Kimberlee, Esq*

    Question for people from England, in particular, though I’d love to hear from people worldwide: Does British English have the phrase, or idea, of calling dibs? Do people say that they call dibs on something to claim it? Or is there another colloquialism that means the same thing?

    1. Jack the treacle eater*

      I’ve heard ‘dibs’ fairly frequently in British English as well. Whether it’s originally British or whether it’s imported via American films I don’t know.

      Elkay’s ‘Bagsy’ is very common, particularly at school. Slightly different, but for sharing something I’ve heard ‘twos up on that’.


    2. Cruciatus*

      Does this by chance have anything to do with The Talking Dead and the actor who plays Eugene discussing how he was mad at Abraham because he had called dibs? They spoke about it on Sunday’s episode and then said how it would air in the UK the next day–that’s why I ask! Probably totally off!

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        You are 100% correct! The bf and I were watching the Talking Dead and started into this whole discussion. We tried to google it, but I wasn’t finding exactly what we were looking for, but then I thought “Oh, the AAM Open Thread will definitely know this answer!”

    3. Snow*

      Yeah calling dibs would be understood and used here. In the north east we’d just say dibs on that (or as already mentioned bagsy that)

    4. Bags it*

      In NZ you “bags” it…. “I bags the front seat.” Coming from the States, it was a tough one to get used to.

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Alternative in the States for calling the front seat is to call shotgun. Only applies to cars and there are rules.

        1. SAHM*

          Idk of any rules on shotgun. It’s pretty much just dibs for the front passenger seat. At least where I grew up (SF Bay Area).

          1. Windchime*

            That’s the definition of calling shotgun in rural Washington state, too. Front passenger seat.

    5. TheLazyB*

      All through the north people would understand and use dibs and bagsy. I feel like probably dibs more these days, bagsy was more when I was growing up.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        And me from down south! Though you also hear about giving someone someone “first dibs” on something if you are offering them first refusal on it.

        Definitely bags and bagsy too.

  11. NicoleK*

    I am thinking of planning a trip to the Niagara Falls area and then heading up to Toronto. I would love recommendations on where to stay, what to do, best time to visit, and etc.

    1. Canadian University Reader*

      It’s been a while since I’ve been to Niagara Falls, so I don’t really have any recommendations for there. (But, I have heard that the Niagara-on-the-Lake area has some really nice hotels).
      In terms of Toronto, I would definitely recommend going to see the ROM, St. Lawrence Market, and the CN Tower.
      The Distillery District has a really great Christmas market. It goes from November 18 – December 18. It’s supposed to be one of the best in the world. I’m actually hoping to go to it this year.
      If you like going out to eat, there is both winterlicious and summerlicious, where you can try different foods from a price fix menu from some of the best restaurants in the city.

    2. BRR*

      I haven’t been but it’s on my list. I have bookmarked the sterling inn and spa in Canada for when I go.

    3. Colette*

      Niagara Falls is really, really touristy – think wax museums, bumper cars, etc. If you have a car and want to stay in a more relaxing environment, Niagara on the Lake is not too far. There are a lot of orchards and wineries in the area.

      The Hornblower (used to be Maid of the Mist) is well worth it. (I made my niece go on it last year even though she didn’t want to and she loved it.)

      I’ve done the behind the falls tour and found it underwhelming (but it’s been a while).

    4. Lindsay*

      I went in June and it was lovely. The Tower Hotel on the Canadian side of the falls was a beautiful boutique hotel with great views of the falls.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      There are a lot of nice hotels in Niagara-on-the-lake but they are kind of spendy. B&Bs do a booming business from what I’ve heard because they are way cheaper than hotels and in the same general area. It’s a small place and easy to walk around in. It’s quaint and pretty laid back but not cheap. NOTL is wine country, if that’s your thing. You can pay for bus tours so you can sample the wares which is safer than driving from place to place.

      As others have said, Niagara Falls is kind of touristy and somewhat tacky. The hotels there are much cheaper, unless you want to stay at the Hilton or Fallsview. There are more chain restaurants and stuff like that. The gardens are pretty in summer. It gets really crowded because it’s a big tourist destination. There are also casinos if that’s your thing.

      On the highway up to towards Toronto, there is the butterfly conservancy which I’ve never been to but have heard it’s great, if you’re OK with insects/butterflies. When you get to Hamilton, there is the Royal Botanical Garden (once again, if that’s your thing) http://www.rbg.ca/ They have an extensive collection of roses in summer and one of the gardens is a reclaimed quarry. I think there’s a tea house in there still. There’s also the Art Gallery of Hamilton http://www.artgalleryofhamilton.com/ which made the news a while back with an important acquisition. There’s also the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, if that’s your thing.

      When it comes to Toronto, geez, pick what you want to do. Kensington Market, Art Gallery of Ontario, Eaton Centre, Toronto Island (just avoid Hanlan’s Point, unless you’re OK with clothing optional beaches), Royal Ontario Museum, Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, Bata Shoe Museum, Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, high tea at the Royal York. Catch a show with rush tickets in the theatre district. Greek food on the Danforth. Casa Loma. Celebrity watch in Yorkville. Get gelato in Little Italy on a hot summer night. Take a walk through the Beaches and Kew Gardens.

      1. Can Anon*

        I have family there, possible restaurant recommendations: Greek food on the Danforth, Indian food on Gerrard (check out “you gotta eat here” for great local places), Barque smokehouse is super good, or the restaurant on top of the ROM is nice, so are fries at the restaurant in the ceramic museum across from the ROM. keg mansion is nice but spendy, also possibly haunted.
        LGBT village at Church and Jarvis.
        Ice cream from Kawartha Dairy. A day at the zoo is super fun.
        For cheap thrills go into the old city hall courthouse and look at the beautiful building.
        Union station is still chaos as of this morning.
        Niagara winery tours are fun on the way up.

    6. Engineer Girl*

      Niagara is tacky and touristy as all get out. I suggest you utilize that and try to find the tackiest souvenir possible. As a child I used to love going behind the falls. The flow varies, and it is better when the water is really going. That is when you get totally soaked through in spite of the rain gear. I also loved the Maid of the Mist. I liked the tram so I could look at the whirlpool. I’m a bit of a geology nut so YMMV. Niagara is known as the fruit basket of Ontario, so make sure you pick up goodies. They also specialize in ice wines.
      The Welland Canal bypasses Niagara Falls. All the freighters going from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic have to go through it. If you are into engineering things you may enjoy it. It takes around an hour for a freighter to go through a lock. There are good views from Lock 3 or Lock 7.

      In Toronto I’ve enjoyed Casa Loma and the secret stairs. You’ll recognize it because it has been used in many films and TV shows (X-Men, Murdoch Mysteries, etc.) I also enjoyed the Ontario Science Center. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is worth a visit. Make sure you head down to the lake!

    7. Jack K*

      The “Now Magazine Best of Toronto” guide is a go-to for up-to-date, on-trend restaurant/shopping/bar recs. Toronto is a food destination and the hottest places to be change frequently.

      Niagara region is beautiful in the summer. The theatre festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival, is very good and runs summer through fall. If you like plays, musicals, ballet, symphony, or opera, Toronto-Niagara-on-the-Lake-Stratford in the summer is an excellent route to taken.

      Niagara Falls proper/Clifton Hill is a one-day visit. Clifton Hill is a massive, gaudy amusement district of a variety you don’t see much any more (wax museums, haunted houses, arcades, crepes, gambling) designed mainly to get children to pester parents into overspending. The butterfly conservatory, bird conservatory, and magic theatre are the highlights of the tourist junk. Speaking of family destinations, Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto is one of the best roller coaster parks in the world.

      Summer is the best time to visit Toronto, unless you just get excited from seeing snow. There is just more going on during the summer in general.

  12. Aardvark*

    What’s the minimum amount of luggage you’ve (comfortably) traveled with? I’ve been eyeing some of those discount airlines (Wow Air, Norwegian Shuttle) and some of them allow you only 11 lb of carry-ons for free. I typically travel pretty light, but not that light! Anyone done it successfully? Or do you pretty much have to add on the baggage fee no matter what?

    1. Noah*

      I’ve done a backpack only on some of the ULCCs here in the US. They don’t care about weight though, just has to fit under the seat. Works best for casual times like beach or Vegas.

    2. Artemesia*

      I would not try to travel with that little. Most of the budget airlines in Europe charge for luggage but it isn’t much and the bag limit is usually 20 kg (44 pounds) which is way plenty for a trip of any length. We have traveled cross seasons for 3 mos with that weight.

      I can travel with a 22 inch US style carry on (too big for carry on on most European budget airlines) for weeks at a time and that is with OT meds, extra shoes, and a blood pressure thing. A basic travel wardrobe makes it possible to travel indefinitely on very little — but 11 pounds wouldn’t work for me for more than a weekend.

      1. Aardvark*

        Thanks! It sounds like we have similar packing habits, so that’s a good reality check.

        Wow! Air has a $48 charge for anything over 11 lb for transatlantic flights, which is a bit higher than the intra-Europe rates (I paid $10 or $15 for a checked bag on Vueling last year).

        1. Jack the treacle eater*

          Just tried cabin bags only for 5 days in Europe via Easy Jet. No weight limit but must not be too stuffed (risk of being bumped to hold if not enough locker room). 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm. Cut out as much as possible, packed underwear for 5 days (plus one day stopover before flying), 3 T-shirts, one spare shirt, one spare trousers, one spare fleece, camera, 2 x lenses, batteries, charger, travel adaptor, phone, memory cards, toiletries, meds, printouts of tickets etc., necessary cards, cash, some very small odds & ends. Probably came to around 6 – 7 kg (15 lb).

          In hindsight I could have got away without the spare fleece and trousers, fewer T shirts, and if a washing machine was available, less underwear and no spare shirt. That would probably cut down to 11 lb; but it did rain quite a lot and if I’d got soaked or muddy I’d have been glad of a change of clothes. Your cleanliness may vary.

          I haven’t flown transatlantic for a few years, but am I eight in thinking they limit the cabin bag weight as they pretty much expect you to have hold baggage?

          1. Aardvark*

            The checked bag fee is even more than the additional carry-on fee for Wow at least. I think they’re just super super budget. The weight/mass estimate is really helpful!

            1. Jack the treacle eater*

              We had another incentive because we spent the last day sightseeing with our bags (backpacks) and didn’t want to be weighed down, so we trimmed as much as possible for that reason. Seasoned travellers probably know all this, but as well as ‘what do we need’ we started thinking about smaller, lighter substitutions (simple example – hand toothbrush instead of electric, sample sizes of toiletries, etc.). You could also buy toiletries etc. when you’re there, then leave them there, though that might be self defeating as you’re shelling out in a different way.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I can’t speak for Wizz, but Norwegian (at least their short haul which we take several times a year between London and Stockholm) has been, in our experience, excellent. We have taken/usually take on board: a small wheelie suitcase, a largish duffle, one bag of roller skis, and a backpack each and no one has ever batted an eyelid. Last trip I had the entire wheelie packed with fleece + outdoor winter workout layers and coats and gear and it was heavier than normal – no problem, no weighing. Actually, their checked luggage fee is pretty reasonable.

      Now, when we flew EasyJet when they say ONE carry on they mean ONE carryon. I watched them force some poor guy to shove his sandwich into his backpack. Just be aware that some airlines are more lenient than others.

    4. Dan*

      IMHO, when it comes to traveling ultra light, I think women can have an advantage over men. I travel a bit, and typically will take one large suitcase for a month on the road. I’ve had women tell me that they travel with next to nothing. At some point, if you’re trying to be a minimalist, women’s clothing is typically smaller than men’s clothing. It also depends on what you’re doing — I can travel lighter, but if I do, then I’m doing laundry more often. If you’re just beach bumming, then you really don’t need much. It also depends on if you plan on “going out” or to more dressy restaurants.

      My typical laundry when I’m gone weighs about 25 lbs. I think you gotta plan to pay the fee no matter what.

    5. Honeybee*

      How long is the trip? I don’t know how much 11 lbs is, but I have a Vera Bradley Weekender bag that I could take on a trip for as many as 4-5 days if I packed smart.

    6. Engineer Girl*

      I always do carry on only but usually carry more than 11 lb. I’ve done 10 lb personal item for a 3 day wedding weekend but I usually take more. I had a 7 kg limit for my recent 5 week trip to South America but used my personal item to make weight limit. When I consolidated the 2 bags into 1 then it was around 25 lb. But I had my mountaineering/jungle trek/Galapagos cruise stuff with me. My normal consolidated bag weighs around 18 lb. I like to bring dress up stuff and outdoorsy gear.
      If you are really into spoofing the weight limit then you need a coat with a lot of pockets. Put the heavy stuff in the coat (jewelry, liquids, books, electronics).

    7. Treena*

      You can do 11 lbs if you don’t bring tech (laptop, intense camera, etc.), have minimal toiletries, are going to a warm place, and you only pack for a few days (either a 3 day trip, or 3 days worth of clothes with laundry planned). Not doable for me since I have heavy camera equipment, but it is doable. One fun thing I’ve seen is the luggage jacket. Not something I would every use for leisure travel, but I’m seriously contemplating it for flights where I’m moving and have to carry-on all the laptops, hard drives, and valuables, which is a serious pain in the rear.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have a lightweight trench coat from Scottevest.com that has 18 hidden pockets. It would easily hold an Ipad and I have on occasion used it to offload the really heavy stuff — to make plane weight. They make one for men called a ‘carry on coat’ which can hold a weekend’s worth of stuff. And they make a bunch of other hidden pocket travel clothes. If I were trying to get by with 11 pounds, my camera, adapter plugs, ipad and any books I was carrying and meds would go in the coat so that my bag only contained things like a change of clothes, underwear etc.

        The coat makes you look like a donkey if you load it fully, but for use around town when traveling during fall, winter or spring it is great. I almost never use a purse, just tuck the few things I need into the hidden pockets. With modest use it doesn’t look any different than an ordinary trench. There are also lightweight garments from Travelsmith, Magellan etc that have artful hidden pockets that can be used to avoid hauling a bag during the day. Figuring this out transformed my travel comfort. Now even on a day trip we just take one messenger bag for lunch, umbrella etc and my husband and I take turns carrying it.

    8. TheLazyB*

      The one thing I forgot when thinking I could totally get away with carry on only when flying recently was that my contact lens solution is totally bigger than you’re allowed to carry on so I HAD to have hold luggage. That was annoying.

      1. Treena*

        Contact lens solution is the bane of my existence. They sell the smaller bottles, but they are outrageously overpriced.

      2. Noah*

        Contact solution is exempt from the liquid limits in the US because it is medically required. You can bring a full bottle, you just have to declare it when you go through security. Not sure if the same is true internationally though.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Wow, I totally did not know this! I usually just buy the travel sized bottle (it lasts me about a week).

        2. Engineer Girl*

          There’s a way around that. You can buy the lens solution in 100 ml bottles. Just take several. Ironically, the rules don’t forbid taking multiples of any liquid. Just that it has to be in a 100 ml container.
          I like it that way. It’s a lot easier to keep things sterile with the smaller bottles.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        They got me on that one at Heathrow when I was going back. It was just a hair outside the limit! Coming over, I left it in my backpack and they didn’t even notice.

    9. Lindsay J*

      I did Germany for about a week last year with just a carry on and a messenger bag for a purse. (Not sure of the weight but the carry on fit under the seat). I usually travel this way, honestly, since I’m usually flying standby and don’t want to take the chance of a checked bag winding up on a flight that I don’t get on (or vice versa).

      It was fine. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere fancy so I didn’t have any dress clothes. I wore one pair of jeans and took another pair (I don’t wash my jeans after every wear even if at home). Ditto on bras. I took one pair of pajama clothes, enough shirts, socks, and underwear for every day, basic toiletries, and just the one pair of shoes I was wearing and I was good to go. And I wore my jacket onto the plane, too (it gets cold on the plane anyway).

      In my messenger bag I had my phone and tablet and chargers, my digital camera, aspirin, baby wipes, gloves, and hat. And a pair of running shorts, a shirt, and underwear (I always keep a change of clothes in my separate bag just in case something happens.)

  13. Noah*

    I fractured my wrist playing hockey yesterday. Should be fun to explain at work on Monday. Thankfully the cast doesn’t cover my elbow, so I can still type. Driving is challenging, especially with a manual transmission.

    Good part is it’ll heal and I have an excuse to do nothing but veg out and watch Daredevil on Netflix all day today. My dog and cat are both loving this much snuggle time on the couch.

  14. all aboard the anon train*

    My goal was always to put a down payment on a house or condo by 30 and now that 30 is coming in a few months and I’m nowhere near ready for that, so I’m pushing that goal to 35. But my problem is that I live in Boston and studio condos are going for minimum $400K (two bedrooms are at least $700K, though more range around $900K or $1M) in less than ideal parts of the city (think East Boston, Mattapan, Dorchester) and even houses the furthest out at the end of the commuter rail are going for minimum $500K for two bedrooms with a lot of work needed. I’ve talked to a few different realtors and they’ve all suggested that if I want to actually win a bid, I need at least a 20% down payment which is between $80K and $100K and…not at all feasible?

    The only thing even remotely in my price range is all the way out in the rural suburbs where I’d never want to live (I grew up there, I’m not going back because it’d make me miserable and I don’t want a 2+ hour commute to work). I’m kind of at the point of resigning myself to renting forever. I know a lot of my friends are in the same situation, and a few have lost out on houses because a developer came in and offered way more than the asking price.

    I’m really frustrated that the only way I’d be likely to own my own place is to move out to the middle of nowhere or a different state with lower real estate prices. I’m tired of living with roommates and I’ve scrimped and saved just to get almost $15K saved away, so getting a 20% down payment seems like a pipe dream.

    1. Aardvark*

      Ugh, you have my sympathies. I’ve idly started looking in a couple west coast cities (where I live and where I’m from) and …it’s not quite that insane, but it’s still disheartening. Who are these people who can just drop 700K on a house?! Where the heck did they come from?! And why have all the “starter homes” been redone with granite countertops, fancy tile, and marked up an additional 100K?!

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I know! I get really irritated when people tell me to just change my life or move to an area I have no interest in living or somehow implying that it’s my fault for not being able to drop $500K on a house in the area I grew up in.

        All I really want is a two bedroom (I’d be happy with one, though) with laundry in the building and enough counter space to hold two cookie sheets. It’s crazy that I can’t even find that in an apartment, let alone a house or condo.

      2. Honeybee*

        Ugh, me too. I just moved to Seattle 6-7 months ago and that’s one of the disheartening things – there are no real starter homes in this market. The “starter” homes are all upscale things that start around $600K. And there aren’t even that many of them – most of the houses around here are massive, 3500+ sq ft. properties that are insane. Around the corner from me they built a neighborhood of 5-6 BR houses that start at $900K. This is a town where the median household income is a little over $75,000 a year, so I don’t know who they think is buying those houses!

        1. Anon for this*

          We just bought a house in Seattle (renton) for 300, which I still don’t consider cheap, but is certainly lower than that. There are areas with smaller, cheaper housing available around, like white center, renton and near northgate/lake city. Even West Seattle is cheaper than 700,000. If you require the perfect neighborhood though, yeah, houses start at 700. Just carefully consider your options.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        So…my husband and I are in a “starter home” in that range (high 600s). And I’ll be honest about how we did it, because I think it’s insane that this is what it should take: I deployed for a year to a warzone in my 20s (as a civilian) so I didn’t have any expenses (gave up my apartment) and then parlayed all of that salary, overtime, hazard duty pay, etc into a down payment for a condo so I didn’t fritter it away. My husband also worked overseas through his government job which included a nice stipend and he doesn’t spend money on much anyway so he saved a lot that way. Also, his grandma put him through grad school and I had a fellowship to mine.

        I…think this is impractical. Basically the only way we were able to afford a “starter” house at this range was to take advantage of lucrative (but highly dangerous, in both our cases) opportunities.

        And we’re not ever leaving. This house took much of our savings and I don’t see a way we could reasonably afford a nicer place. We’re not too far outside the city, because neither one of us wanted a long commute, but what we got for our money is pretty pitiful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice house. But at about 2k square feet for a nondescript mid-century ranch, it pains me how much we spent. In the midwest, this would be a 200k house.

        So we’re going to make it work to raise kids here, and put an addition on if we need, but this is it for us. This is the house we’re going to grow old in and we’re viewing it that way. We’ll adjust it to fit our needs, or adjust our needs for it, but we’re not doing this again.

    2. Regina Phalange*

      If it makes you feel better I’m about to turn 35 and still live with a roommate. Don’t beat yourself up. Owning a house is a huge commitment and financial burden.

    3. Today's anon*

      Some of my work colleagues took loans out of their retirement account, which I think you can do at a pretty low interest rate so they could put down a down-payment. We’re in NYC so what you describe is pretty similar to what I see here in terms of costs.

    4. Student*

      If you have $15k saved up for a down payment, you are just nowhere near ready to buy a home in a financially responsible way. I’m sorry. Your job doesn’t pay you anywhere near enough to afford a house in the local area. You need to make a major career (life?) switch to live the life you’ve dreamed up in your head.

      You are going to need to pick one or more of these:
      Devote yourself to a major change in who you are and what you do – major career change to a better-paying field
      Or: make a major lifestyle change to save up for what you want (no idea if that’s even feasible; it may not be) – like living somewhere more affordable and taking the long commute for years to save up for the down payment on the type of house you want
      Or: change your dream to something realistic for your life as it is.

      Number one, I’d suggest moving to a more affordable city in a different state. The Boston, New York, DC major metropolitan areas on the east coast are out of your ability to achieve. LA, Seattle, San Francisco are also not going to be realistic for you. There are lots of other cities! Pick a medium-sized or small city. There’s no need to live someplace rural if you don’t want to. I live in an area with a population of ~250k. It’s a little city. Plenty of stuff, but not enough people to have bad traffic – everything is a 15 minute drive away. We’re a long but reasonable weekend drive to truly big cities like Seattle and Portland. There are very nice apartments for ~$1000 per month, very nice 3+ bedroom houses for ~300K, and smaller houses with 2 bedrooms for as low as ~124k, maybe down into the 60k range if you grab something from an auction or foreclosure. There is (and I don’t think I believe it, but maybe it’s real) a one-room studio condo up on Zillo for 8k (yes, eight).

      1. Honeybee*

        It’s not that I disagree with your advice on a theoretical level, but the moving advice isn’t always the most helpful. People want to live in cities like Boston and Seattle because they have really robust economies and job markets. For example, I work in tech, and the tech industry’s biggest outposts are in Seattle and San Francisco – expensive housing markets. Yes, I could theoretically move to Madison or Atlanta and the houses would be a lot cheaper, but I’d probably also get paid less and the robustness of my industry and my husband’s industry simply isn’t there.

        1. TL -*

          Part of the problem in Boston, too, is that they’re not doing a great job of zoning for affordable places to live when it comes to what’s being built.

        2. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          And that’s the ultimate tradeoff, and I think it is ultimately part of where you decide you want to live.

          If I moved to Boston/NYC/LA/etc., I would never expect to own my home, or even a condo. It’s just not feasible. But, in return, I get to live in a lively area with plenty to do, and no shortage of amenities.

    5. Temperance*

      My .02 – we did a 10% down payment instead of 20%. We’re paying less now per month than we did to rent, and with the rental market in my (expensive) suburb getting worse every day, we made the right choice. We’ve been saving a lot more money, too, building savings and paying down other debt.

      FWIW, though, I’m in the Philly suburbs and would have spent way less if we lived in the city (but we would have had to deal with shitty schools and a higher crime risk).

    6. NDQ*

      You don’t mention your income so it’s difficult to weigh in on your savings rate. Here are some ideas for you:

      1. Learn to save more each month. Read websites that can teach you how to save more than you may think you can. I used to live paycheck-to-paycheck and now I live really well on only a fraction of my take home.
      2. Learn how to take advantage of tax-deferred accounts.
      3. Get professional tax advice. Never leave money on the table.
      4. Since you have roommates, is there someone you would consider partnering with to buy a two-bedroom condo?
      5. Does your state or city have a first-time home buyer program? States that have these help get people into homes with a lower down-payment and lower interest rate.
      6. I have DC friends who invited their parents (with means) to help them buy a townhouse, they all treat the property as an investment and it has been a good move for all of them financially as it has increased in value.
      7. Set goals for how much you will save of each pay check, then find ways to increase that amount after a month or two. Look at your expenses and pare down every area. You will have to sacrifice.

      Dreams are great. I used to have the same dream of owning a home. Then I owned one. It takes time and money. Now I’m living a different dream, of landlord. It’s still time and money, but it’s money coming in and lots of tax benefits. It’s a much better dream for me and I’ll be able to retire early because of it.


      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I make a decent amount that I can definitely have enough for a down payment within 5 years, though it might be closer to 15% than 20%. I think I was so focused on paying down debt by 30 that I ignored saving more for a down payment, hence my decision to push my goal for buying a house to 35.

        Money from parents isn’t really an option, though it’d be nice if it was.

        1. Alston*

          So Boston and Cambridge both have programs to help middle income people buy their first home. You have to meet certain income requirements (and they all have different ones), but if you’re accepted you can buy a house for a lower price or with a lower down payment. You can only buy properties within the pool of properties, but there are some good ones in there, and it’d be yours. I have two friends who’ve bought through one of these programs, one has an AWESOME loft, and the others have a cute little row house.

    7. TL -*

      Have you looked into MA’s first time home buyer program? I know they have some assistance available on the down payment parts.

      Quincy has single family houses in the 400k range and it’s not way out in the rural suburbs. :) I imagine Medford and Somerville might have units in multifamilies that might be dropping in price now that the green line expansion is running into problems. But – it’s definitely a seller’s market right now and lots of people are having similar problems – or even if they have the down payment, they can’t get an offer accepted because the market is so hot. If you want to own in a popular neighborhood, you’ve got to pay the price. :(

      1. Alston*

        Also yeah, I stalk zillow, and I definetley see stuff for cheaper than you’re saying that are in the Boston area.

      2. blackcat*

        Also, if you work downtown, one option is living *right* next to a commuter rail stop a bit further out. They tend to be in squares where you get a more urban, less suburban feel even in towns like Belmont. And the commute would be less time-wise than trying to buy into the Medford/Somerville area that’s been screwed by the green line situation (the green line was going in for a reason!).

        I know folks by the West Medford stop (1 away from North Station) who paid $325k for a really nice 2 bed condo. Both have pretty easy commutes, but being bound to the train schedule is suboptimal.

    8. Dan*

      I live in metro DC, and am just a few years older than you, so I certainly feel your pain. Housing prices here are more or less what you are describing, so those numbers resonate with me.

      But I think you have to have a brutally honest conversation with yourself about what your priorities are, what you want, and what you really can afford. Because I really don’t think the downpayment is your problem, it’s what you make in relation to the COL in the area that is.

      First things first, you say you’re tired of roommates. If that’s the case, then rent your own studio or one bedroom. For some reason, I read your letter as suggesting that you want to go straight from a roommate situation to owning a two bedroom. (You skip over the costs of a one bedroom, and focus on the downpayment of a two bedroom.) If renting your own place is something that you literally can’t afford (as opposed to not having the budget for…) then you definitely can’t afford to own — downpayment or no downpayment. So you can solve your “tired of roommates” problem by renting your own place. Yes, it costs more, and limits your down payment savings, but if “tired of roommates” is your number one problem, then there’s a solution.

      Second, you suggested you may have made a mistake by paying off your loans early instead of saving for a down payment. Well, the reality is, if you had saved more for a down payment, then you’d presumably still have student loans right now. That debt would impact how much you can (or should) borrow for a house.

      Below, you suggest that in 5 years, you could probably have 15% saved up (of $400k?), which would be $60k. If you’ve got $15k now, then you’re saving about $9k/year. While I certainly respect that — I mean that — I think about buying a $500k place down in DC. With my finances, I should finally be saving $20k/yr towards a house, so double what you do. And a $500k place will probably be on the high end of the comfort range (not sure how much of a downpayment that I’m actually going to put down.) So, if we’re saving for a place that costs the same, I’m saving at double the rate that you are (living by myself), and *I* am going to have to think hard about buying a $500k place, then there’s no way that doing so would be feasible for you.

      Taking a SWAG, my guess is that you’re making about $80k?

      1. Christy*

        Oh! Dan makes a good point–you have to be able to afford the mortgage payments in addition to the down payment. We could probably scrounge up $100k for a down payment near DC, but we can’t afford to pay $3k/month on mortgage when our current rent is half that.

        If you’re used to paying $x in rent (and I’m assuming that’s a relatively low number if you have a roommate) and $y towards saving for the down payment, then you should see if the mortgage will be more than x+y or less than x+y. And then, are you comfortable committing to pay that mortgage (plus taxes, plus saving for things to break) every month for thirty years? For us, it’s not going to worth it for a while.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah and even the mortgage interest deduction is no guarantee. We had two mortgages for part of last year because we bought a house before selling the condo, and we found ourselves getting hit by the goddamned AMT at tax time. HULK SMASH

        2. Lindsay J*

          Plus association fees and assessments for condos and townhomes.

          We ultimately brought single family because the condo association fees would have cost more than our mortgage payment. And quite a few buildings we looked at had several thousands of dollars in “special assessments” every year on top of that.

    9. Short and Stout*

      I’m 29 and live in Cambridge, UK … the housing market here in South East England is similarly bonkers. I’m sorry that you can’t afford to live where you’ve decided to make your life; I certainly find it pretty tough too.

      I think one of the hardest things is that people 10 years older than me didn’t have this problem. Housing was affordable for them and now they are comfortably wealthy. I find this creates a pretty weird community us/them vibe that I don’t like.

      My solution is to look to move back to the North of England: progress so far has been minimal as the job market is nowhere near as buoyant … but I only need one job offer to move.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          But as a data point in support of Short and Stout’s suggestion, we bought our house 17 years ago for under $200K, and that was a stretch at the time, but we were confident that we would grow into it financially, and we did. Within a few years the appraisal had almost tripled, and there’s no way we would have been able to afford this house…then the bubble burst, and now it’s about 125% higher than what we paid. We probably could afford it at that price, but we wouldn’t be paying it off early like we are, which is a huge help towards paying the kid’s college tuition and towards our retirement.

          But real estate is always going to go up in the long term, so that’s true for every generation…as long as you stay in the house for decades rather than years. Of course, there’s always the question of the relative bumps and dips (for example, we got lucky with those), especially compared to the average salary in the area, but that’s a whole ‘nother thread.

    10. SophieChotek*

      Ugh. Sorry to hear that. I completely understand. I lived in Boston for several years and the real estate was unreal there.

      What about a house where you could rent half to college students? Some of my friends did that and got a house near Tufts and rented half to college/young professionsals/new profs moving to the area. I’m sure you’ve thought of that though.

    11. Engineer Girl*

      You mention 2 br. Have you thought about a studio? I’m a fan of Small House Big Style. It may be the only way in.

    12. Artemesia*

      While building wealth in a home has been a tradition in the US, it is not clear that is a wise strategy at the moment. We know people who are actually selling and moving to rentals and finding themselves financially ahead. Heck our condo in a big city that is paid for had a $1200 month building fee and that doesn’t include the parking which is another $165. We have friends renting similar spaces for about twice that. It also doesn’t include the property taxes which are about 9K a year.

      A house can be an anchor around your neck especially if you have to stretch to buy it.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        This is how I feel. I would never want to own a home anyway, but I live in DC, so I DEF do not want to buy here. I love the freedom of renting. Sure, you might pay less per month on a mortgage than on rent (though I’m not actually convinced of that), but if you buy a house and then find a year later that your foundation is crumbling, you’re on the hook for that. And for every broken appliance, every natural disaster… that seems way not worth the stress. I love my apartment, but if something went seriously wrong with the properly, I can dust my hands off and peace out. Heck, I’d even get my security deposit back. I view renting as paying not only for a place to live, but for the amenity of a concierge; it’s someone else’s job to fix the leak in my ceiling, or to call and pay for the plumber when there’s a problem.

        It also has the benefit of evening out monthly expenses… if something DOES go wrong, I don’t have to worry about having money set aside for repairs or anything, so I can see how it would be a better situation for lower-income people even if the monthly bill is marginally higher.

      2. Lindsay J*

        There is something to be said for stability, though.

        I’ve moved apartments pretty much every year since moving out of my parents’ house, often due to rent hikes. Moving is shitty and expensive and there always seems to be some excuse for them not to give you your security deposit back. And there’s always the chance that the next place you move to is going to come with the landlord or neighbors from hell. Or, if you stay put then there’s always the likelihood that at some point during the year your perfectly nice neighbors are going to move out and the neighbors from hell are going to move in.

        If you don’t have an adjustable rate mortgage then you pretty much know that you’re going to pay what you pay. Your landlord can’t decide that they no longer want dogs on the property and kick you out at the end of your lease. You know the landlord isn’t going to sell the property out from under you or decide that he wants to move his kids in instead.

        Plus, if you want to change something, you can change it; don’t want ugly beige walls? Paint them. Want a shelf there? Mount it? Want to upgrade your shower? Go ahead.

        And, right now our mortgage payment is less than I was paying for rent per month and we’re building equity. Long term, the values of property go up. And even if the value of this property doesn’t go up over time, ultimately we’re paying rent to ourselves vs to someone else and building equity.

        I think, at least for us, buying a house was just as much about emotion as it was about finances (not as in we went out and brought a house we couldn’t afford because we liked it because we made sure we stayed within our means, but in that if all things were considered being a home owner had emotional value to us even if it might not necessarily have financial value.)

        I tend to be more of an emotional person with my money in general, anyway, though. I’m pretty sure the reasonable/financially savy thing to do would be to live with my parents, never eat out or travel, not spend money on gadgets and makeup, etc, and pay off my student loans and then build wealth. But, honestly, none of us know how long we’ve got and it would suck to scrimp and save my entire life and then die before I felt I was able to afford to enjoy myself.

        1. Dan*

          I’ve been in the same rental since 2009, so being a renter isn’t an automatic move every year.

          Those of us who live in areas with insane housing prices are unlikely to be able to “comfortably” buy on a single income.

          Also, fwiw, out here, condos are a likely starter property, and come with many of the negatives you describe with renting. And it’s not renting that’s the problem, it’s living in tightly packed spaces.

          1. BBBizAnalyst*

            Ditto. I’ve been in the same rental for a couple of years now. My property management company has been quite flexible with changing the wall color/wallpaper so long as it’s done through their services. The amenities are great, the feel is modern, neighbors are quiet and it’s enough space to be alone but have an occasional guest or two stay overnight. I like the peace of mind of renting and don’t see myself owning. I’m also in one of the more booming cities in Texas and able to rent downtown so my commute is < 5 minutes. Home ownership/suburban life never appealed to me… and I'm not sure if it would be a wise investment like it were 30-40 years ago. I am fortunate enough to be in a role that pays well but I'd rather pay down my student loan balance (my only debt!) and travel rather than save for a downpayment. I guess it just depends on what its important to the individual…

            1. Kimberlee, Esq*

              Yeah, I’m sure that if I’d had more nightmarish experiences with renting, I might feel differently about home ownership. But the worst that’s happened to me is that I was evicted a couple times (when I was a kid, not as an adult) and I just keep imagining how much more awful it would be to be foreclosed on and evicted from something you’d saved for years to buy than it is to be evicted because you got 6 months behind on rent. And I live in DC, which is a very tenant-friendly rental market, so that helps… my old building did actually get bought out from under us, but the result was that the landlord bought us out of our lease and we got 2 months rent rebate on top of that, so it worked out extraordinarily well for us. Now we have an apartment that’s somehow dramatically cheaper than market for our area, in a building where some people have been here 8 years, so I feel absolutely no urgency to move or buy!

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, it’s definitely true that in a lot of places you can’t comfortably buy on a single income.

            One of the reasons I moved out of New Jersey was that I couldn’t envision us ever being able to buy a home there given the cost of property, the high property taxes, and the wages that I would be able to make there. And I know plenty of places – Boston like the OP, DC area, SF area, Vancouver, etc, are far worse.

            And condos do come with a lot of the same problems. In my eyes they’re kind of the worst of both worlds. You have to pay for a mortgage, you have to pay for everything inside that breaks, you have to pay an association fee which in this area at least is more than rent itself would be and is more than your mortgage would often be, you have to pay for special assessments if the roof is threatening to cave in etc, and you’re still living on top of people 24/7. My boyfriend initally wanted a condo or townhouse because we like to travel a lot and he didn’t want to be stuck at home mowing the lawn and raking leaves and cleaning the gutters instead, but after looking at the finances we decided that we were better off single family and pay for a bi-weekly yard service than getting a condo.

            However, I think tenants in condos are generally better behaved than renters. People are less likely to trash common areas because there’s the whole “pride in ownership” thing. People are less likely to come and go as often since it takes longer to buy and sell than it does to give notice to a landlord and move out. (Thought that does mean that if you do hate your neighbors you’re likely to be stuck with them longer, etc).

            I mostly just wrote this post because I’ve been seeing more and more of the sentiment of “you’re better off renting” lately, (definitely not just here) and most of the articles treat it as purely a financial decision when I think there is a lot more to the choice than just finances.

        2. Doriana Gray*

          And even if the value of this property doesn’t go up over time, ultimately we’re paying rent to ourselves vs to someone else and building equity.

          Actually, until you’ve paid your mortgage down to zero, you’re paying rent to your mortgage lender, not yourself. I used to work in the foreclosure industry at a law firm that represented the banks in foreclosure cases, and God help you if you got sick or laid off and couldn’t afford to pay your mortgage for whatever reason. You got 90 days to give them their money before they slapped you with a suit and started the proceedings to take their collateral back. Having to hire an attorney to defend yourself costs additional money you may not have. If you fall on hard times as a renter, you may be able to work something out with your landlord or, if worse comes to worse, move in with friends or relatives without the threat of a costly foreclosure proceeding hanging over your head.

          And I’m with Dan. I’ve lived in the same apartment for nearly five years now. I’m not moving every year. I’m also not paying to fix things that break, and I have the ability to paint my place however I want and to put up shelves if I need to. The only thing I couldn’t do is a full scale remodel, but I made sure to move into a unit where I didn’t mind the layout, so I wouldn’t have to do such things anyway.

          OP, you probably don’t want to hear this, but you may need to reconsider either your location regarding where you want to buy, or your homeownership plans if you absolutely want to stay in the nice part of your city. Renting would probably be better for your budget in the long run unless like Student said you get a better paying job (or partner up with someone who makes enough where you both can make the purchase).

          1. Lindsay J*

            True. I’ve just never had one of these sympathetic landlords.

            The second to last apartment complex I was in would put a three day notice to quit on my door if I didn’t pay by the 2nd day of the month and add three hundred dollars worth of fees on.

            They also tried to evict me because I had a dog in the middle of my lease unless I paid a $500 pet fee, $300 for every month the dog was there prior to that point, and $100 every month in the future the dog was there until I left (when the dog caused absolutely no trouble whatsoever). When I went to the office and produced the original lease documents showing that I had disclosed I had a dog at the time of moving in and that they had agreed that they were not charging pet fees of any type, they tried to say that since the management company had changed since the lease was signed I now had to pay. I finally had to explain to them that that was not how contracts worked – that I was upholding my end of the bargain and they had to hold up their end until the 1 year lease was up, at which point they could decide to charge whatever. My law school graduate boyfriend had to back me up on this.

            Then, when I found a new apartment in a new city, it was going to cost more for me to pay to break the lease than it would for me to pay rent for the next two months so I decided I would keep the apartment and just enjoy being able to take my time moving slowly.

            They keyed into my apartment for some bullshit reason (said they were looking for a leak in the walls or something like that), saw that I had moved my bed out, decided that I had abandoned my lease??, packaged up all the things I owned that were in the apartment, and threw it all away – close to $1000 worth of electronics, jewelry, things of sentimental value, etc.

            Apparently I had no real legal recourse. I could have sued for the value of the the items, but that would have meant tracking down receipts and things like that (that were mostly thrown out!)

            I went to the office and paid my rent for that month and asked if that cleared my balance. They said “yes”.

            I’ve since been sent a collection notice for $4,000 from there. And the “lease abandonment” shows up on my public record as an eviction apparently since I was rejected for the last apartment I applied for due to “previous eviction”.

            I had a friend who rented an apartment only to find it was infested with bedbugs when he went to move in (was not able to see the actual unit before getting the keys, just a demo unit) and had to fight and take legal action to be let out of the lease.

            Most of my landlords have been good ones, and generally I haven’t needed any extra accomodations. But being evicted can be pretty shitty, and I feel like is less likely to happen than being foreclosed on.

            1. Lindsay J*

              I don’t mean to say that renting isn’t good, or that renting isn’t the best option for a lot of people.

              I’ve just seen a lot of articles lately that have said that renting is better than buying, fullstop, and all of those articles have been based almost entirely on financial reasons when I don’t think choosing whether you want to buy or rent is purely a financial decision for most people.

        3. Tris Prior*

          If you don’t have an adjustable rate mortgage then you pretty much know that you’re going to pay what you pay.

          Just a cautionary take that this is not always true. The bank that held the mortgage on our condo went under, and our loan was sold to a loan servicing company based in India. This happened to coincide with a property tax increase in our city. The new servicer demanded that we have a huge cushion in escrow above and beyond what was needed for our property taxes. Cue instant $400/month jump in our payment due to “escrow shortage.” We were barely making the old payment due to a job loss, so we were really screwed.

          I had no idea that this was a thing that could happen; I’d bought with a fixed-rate loan and thought that would insulate us from big payment increases that we’d seen as renters. (as an added insult, the new servicer gave horrid customer service and repeatedly failed to pay our taxes out of escrow on time, and when I called to complain I got absolutely zero results. But that’s a different rant.)

          If we’d been renting and hit with a $400/month increase, we could’ve just not resigned the lease. It was a lot harder to unload the condo.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            I saw this happen a lot working at the firm. Banks would assign mortgages over to new lenders, sometimes without even telling the borrowers they were doing so, and then the new lender would jack up the rates. It was nuts.

    13. Tallyvoo*

      I used to want a house too, but then my husband and I moved to NYC so it will never happen. And I don’t want to own a condo, I would want a legitimate house, so it’s triply not happening.

      We asked our accountant if there were any ways other than owning property to lower our taxes and he said no, then asked why we didn’t own property. We told him we didn’t make enough money, and he said we could get a condo for $300K, so we’d only need $30K for a down payment, and surely we had that? When we laughed, he suggested our parents give us the money. We laughed again. My husband said his dad was more likely to ask him for cash than to give it to us, and I said the only way I’d get that kind of money from my parents would be if they died and I got it as an inheritance. His mind was blown. Yeah, pal, not all of us have parents flush with cash to just give us for a home.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Your accountant sounds…very out of touch for an accountant haha.

        I always assumed accountants were very frugal. That’s what my assumptions get me!

      2. K.*

        Is your accountant Mitt Romney? My God. My accountant is a friend so he wouldn’t say that stuff to me, but if he did, I’d find a new accountant. (Also, a $300K condo in/near NYC?)

    14. Lindsay J*

      Ugh, I totally feel you.

      This was one of the main reasons my ex and I moved from NJ to Texas; there was no way we were ever going to be able to afford a home in NJ, and we didn’t want to rent forever.

      My friends in the North East that have brought homes have done so with 0%-3% down, which is great for them that they qualified and I understand wanting a home that badly, but it feels like way too precarious a financial situation for me to ever be comfortable with.

      My current boyfriend and I just brought a nice home for a shade over $100K here in Houston. He was able to put 40% down because he lived with his parents for about a year prior to buying. We’re kind of in a suburb-y area. He really wanted a townhouse or condo downtown but – even though we could have afforded the mortgage on one of those by stretching our finances a lot more – the association fees made them out of reach, especially with the possibility of special assessments etc. I’m happy because now we have a yard where I can have a garden, and we’re like 15 minutes away from work. They’re currently building “affordable” “micro-condos” downtown that are going to be $375K for 700 sq feet (and I think there is like a 300 sq feet option for like $165K or something like that).

      So, I’m happy that we were able to afford to buy a home down here. But it does make me angry that moving to another state was pretty much my only option. And that having a duel income was pretty much the only way. And that for many people in my city that owning a home is still out of reach. My parents were able to buy a home when they were my age, and at the time my dad was the kitchen manager for a restaurant and my mom was a waitress and they had me and my younger brother was on the way. Heck, they were pretty much able to build their dream home. Nowadays two people in the same situation wouldn’t be able to afford anything and would probably barely be able to afford rent. And that sucks.

      And never mind people in cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, I hear Seattle is getting bad, etc. People in those cities need people to work in their retail stores, their Starbucks, restaurants, etc, but those employees have to either live hours away from their jobs, or live like 6 people to a 3 bedroom house to be able to afford to live. I mean look at that girl who worked at (I guess it was Yelp) and yeah she had some unrealistic expectations, but being able to afford to live on your own as an adult somewhat near you job shouldn’t be a pipe dream. And, I mean, I thought the American dream was pretty much that everyone was able to work themselves up from whatever circumstances they were born into to be able to afford their own patch of land, their two kids, three bedroom house, dog, and white picket fence, and that all seems like a pipe dream now a days.

      1. Tallyvoo*

        I have been scared off of owning a home at this point due to seeing so many friends lose so much money on them. My parents moved to a new house in my hometown and offered to give me the house I grew up in… but it would mean moving to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. I need the excitement of NYC more than I need property.

  15. Artemesia*

    My basil plant has lived happily and grown to quite a bush in a pot in a sunny window for the last two years. We head it so it doesn’t bolt and regularly use the basil in our cooking. And now suddenly it has just wilted; like a plant without enough water — but that isn’t it. I cut most of the branches off and seem to have one branch that is till healthy. Anyone know why this happens or does basil even if well tended eventually just die off?

    We have a communal herb garden on the pool deck in summer — but I like having basil at hand year round as well as rosemary.

    1. danr*

      Basil is an annual, so two years is very good. Either buy another plant or get some seeds. Our supermarket has basil plants in small pots all year.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Really? This makes me feel so much better about my tiny sad 18 month old basil plant.

      2. Artemesia*

        I know it is an annual but had had such good luck keeping it going as long as it didn’t bolt. Guess it is time to start over.

      3. Noah*

        I didn’t know it is an annual. I feel so much better now about them dying out every few years.

  16. Dress Question*


    I will have my Grad school graduation ceremony soon, and I wanted to know if it is okay for me not to wear high heels for my gown.

    I feel more comfortable wearing ballet flats.

    If it seems too unpolish, is there any other shoe option?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’ve seen all manner of shoes being worn for graduation – high heels, sandals, little diamante ones. You could wear a heeled shoe for a while (pictures, ceremony etc) and just take flats with you to swap when your feet hurt.
      Happy graduation!

    2. Aardvark*

      Pretty sure I wore flats for my grad school graduation (and tennis shoes for undergrad :) ) Chances are, unless you’re getting a degree in dance, no one except maybe your relatives are looking at your shoes.

    3. Cristina in England*

      I wore dressyish boots with my gown. You may be standing for quite some time so make sure you are comfortable.

    4. Student*

      Any shoe is fine for a grad school ceremony. Preferably one you are comfortable in, because you’ll have to walk up and down steps, ramps, bleachers, and maybe stand for a long while for part of it. When you are getting a graduate degree, it’s time to stop caring about other people judging your footwear. If you are really worried about snarky comments from your peers for some reason, just wear something that doesn’t attract much attention – probably a dark, neutral color of nearly any shoe type you want.

    5. Puffle*

      I wore smart flats for mine, mostly because I was scared of tripping and falling on the stage in my fancy heels in front of hundreds of people armed with cameras. At my ceremony, I spotted women wearing everything from stiletto heels to casual sandals with their gowns, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it

    6. NDQ*

      Go with comfort! You have to stand around, walk a lot, go up some stairs, walk across a stage, down the stairs, walk the length of the seating rows…some two hours later you stand around for pictures with the family. Then walk a half mile back to the parking lot.

      I have tons of pictures from that day and none of my feet. LOL


    7. Cordelia Longfellow*

      You do you! I couldn’t wear heels for my grad ceremonies because I have cerebral palsy and terrible balance. Nobody noticed or commented (and nor should they!), and I rocked my cute flats. My grad school ceremony did have a more strict dress code – I had to wear a white button-down shirt and black skirt or trousers – but didn’t dictate appropriate shoes (they may have specified black in colour, but they definitely didn’t require heels).

      Congratulations onyour graduation!

    8. Honeybee*

      I think you can wear whatever you want. I wore heels to mine but people had all manner of shoes on their feet, from nice dress shoes to Birkenstocks and sneakers.

    9. Dot Warner*

      I had 2 ceremonies for grad school graduation, one indoor and one outdoor. For the indoor ceremony, I wore flats. For the outdoor ceremony, I wore flip-flops (and I wasn’t the only one).

      Congrats on your degree!

    10. Dangerfield*

      Definitely wear flats! I’ve watched a lot of graduation ceremonies and you can always tell who is comfortable in their shoes and who isn’t.

  17. Mx*

    I always pictured I’d do some significant travel before going back to graduate school, after working jobs just to save money to travel, basically. But now I’m 5 years deep in a career I do kind of like with graduate school nowhere in sight, and rent a reasonably priced (but awesome) apartment in a very nice part of town. It is very hard, even with just a few accoutrements to imagine selling my stuff and coming back to try to find a similar apartment that will probably be $400 a month more and not as nice (thanks rent control!). Like, the apartment isn’t even really mine, why do I feel attachment to it?

    I’ve already got a working holiday visa lined up, I’m just too scared to use it.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      But Mx, if you’re happy, you’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to stay where you’re happy. Then later, when you actually want a break or an adventure, go for it.

    2. Treena*

      Are you getting close to the cut-off age for your visa? That would be my only reason for accelerating this plan. Otherwise, what’s wrong with working and saving while you enjoy your life? Maybe you can save enough where you don’t need to work. Are you able to sublet your place? As someone who is constantly seeking furnished apartments, it’s usually pretty easy to sublet for long chunks of time. You like your career but do you like your specific job enough to not want to quit? Is the vacation time decent? Can you ask for more vacation in lieu of raises?

    3. Artemesia*

      Life is short. The time to take risks is when you are young and finding a new apartment is a small risk. We are at the other end of life — the part where friends are dropping like flies including healthy 70 year olds that we thought would live to see 100. Stuff happens. I had a health scare recently and for a couple of weeks thought I might have 6 months or so to live; turned out to be not the worst thing. But while I was ‘dying’ I took stock and realized I have no bucket list. I have done over the course of my 40 plus year marriage what I wanted to do in life. We traveled abroad for 3 weeks almost every year and have been doing 3 month trips now that we are retired. A few regrets but not big ones. If I fall down the stairs tomorrow, I won’t feel I was cheated of any of life’s great pleasures or interesting moments.

      Travel is not always easy to do. You may have physical issues, or small kids or a career that won’t allow it easily. Get things like this while you can. And arrange your life so you do the things that are important to you.

  18. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The startling news of my weekend: All my life, I have thought the noisemakers you use on Purim are called graggas — pronounced gra-gahs. Yesterday someone here spelled it “graggers,” and I got curious and looked it up. It turns out graggers is correct. I texted my sister to see if she knew this, and she pointed out that our parents are from Boston and were pronouncing it with a Boston accent when we were kids, and I apparently just picked it up that way. So all along I’ve been randomly pronouncing this one word with a strong Boston accent and thinking it was correct.

    My mind is blown and I’ve been totally unable to adjust to this new information. I am going to continue insisting they are gra-gahs.

    1. Elle*

      I have done the same since my mother is from NYC (We live in OH). I still say “polka straight” instead of poker, like she used to say when describing my sister’s hair!

    2. Cristina in England*

      Hahahahaha, I love the thought of a little kid saying only one or two specific words in a thick Boston accent!

    3. Artemesia*

      LOL. so many experiences like this. I called those tops that snap onto sports cars ‘Tontos’ for years — till recently someone asked me what the heck I was talking about. It is ‘tonneau’ Apparently the first car I heard this about was French.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I spent my whole life calling sprinkles “jimmies,” and got made fun of for it in college. Someone even told me it derives from a derogatory term for Black people (it doesn’t).

        1. bassclefchick*

          I’m from the Midwest and have always called them jimmies. But then, where I’m from , it’s a BUBBLER. The water fountain is in the park. LOL

              1. Solidus Pilcrow*

                I’m from NW Wisconsin, and while I’ve heard the term, I’ve never called a drinking fountain a bubbler. It’s more an E Wisconsin thing. I first learned about bubblers in high school, and that was only because one of the teachers was from Sheboygan.

            1. the gold digger*

              My dad’s family is from Milwaukee and according to my mom, who is from N. Wisconsin and to whom I send the stuff about “If you’re from Wisconsin…”, he always used the term “bubbler.” I don’t remember his saying it, but maybe it sounded normal to me. I watched the video we made of him when he was in hospice and I was shocked at how strong his Wisconsin accent was – I hadn’t remembered him as having an accent at all!

              But yeah. “Bubbler” is definitely a Wisconsin thing.

              1. Elizabeth*

                Grew up in Milwaukee but live in New England now and we say bubbler and jimmies here, too. But soda, not pop.

              2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

                WOW – I never thought I would see someone on here mention using bubbler. I am from the HOME of the bubbler, and there are plenty on the streets, still in use, around the village.

                I think if you look the term up on those linguistic maps its really only around north shore Milwaukee and extending maybe up to Manitowoc in the north and a little bit west, but thats it. I certainly don’t remember hearing people say that in Madison when we lived there, or in Minneapolis.

                1. GreenTeaPot*

                  I definitely heard the term in Madison, but it may have been from a fellow native. I toned down my northern accent when I lived there.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            The Midwest was where I first heard the term “jimmies” for sprinkles (I’m from outside of Philly).

            1. Honeybee*

              That’s super interesting, because right outside of Philly is the first place I ever heard the term jimmies for sprinkles. I lived there for 2 years as a kid and that’s where I picked up that language.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                Yeah, regionalisms are strange. When I moved to the Midwest in middle school, dang near everyone called soda “pop.” I’d never heard that word in reference to soda outside of some movies and books – I’d never met anyone in real life from the east coast who said pop. And then I moved to Philly for college, and one of my classmates from Jersey called soda “pop.” My mind was blown. I always assumed soda was standard in our neck of the woods. (Jersey girl also said “gnarly” a lot, which I always thought was a California surfer thing.)

                1. Artemesia*

                  I grew up in the PNW and it was ‘pop’ there too but a Boston transplant neighbor of ours in Nashville called it ‘tonic.’ They kept a couple of cases of pop on their porch and would only give it to neighborhood kids if they called it tonic.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I grew up calling it pop, but when I moved to California, they called it soda. I adopted that and never went back. I have a habit of picking up words and speech patterns and other things–soda, crossing my sevens and Z’s like my German voice teacher did, and Britishisms have been creeping into my speech a lot lately.

              2. skyline*

                I also grew up outside Philly and used the terms “jimmies” and “sprinkles” interchangeably.

                I also have fond memories of eating hoagies, occasionally say “water” with a Philly accent (it just pops out!), and know what Mischief Night is.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  I miss hoagies from Pathmark, lol. I remember when we moved to the Midwest and went to order hoagies from a pizza place, and the picture showed us this thing that looked like Salisbury steak on a roll and we’re like, “WTF is that?!” Turns out our beloved hoagies are called subs in the Midwest, lol.

                  And many friends and family of mine pronounced water “wooder.” I, however, always pronounced water correctly and don’t know why.

          1. Cristina in England*

            Me too. I am from CT originally and I remember my friends arguing over what they were called, sprinkles or jimmies.

    5. Rebecca*

      When I was younger, our local radio station used to list all the deaths and funerals at the end of the local news. I always wondered why some people had “massive Christian burials” and others just had regular services. I thought they must have been really popular. Turns out, it was “Mass of Christian Burial” and they were Catholic, but the announcer just ran it all together.

      1. SaraV*

        90/94 is one of the interstate(s) that runs south out of downtown Chicago, but it’s mostly called the Dan Ryan Expressway. A family friend’s mother always wondered why they called it the Damn Ryan on the radio. Probably a more appropriate name for it.

    6. Cruciatus*

      Reminds me that I had no idea touche pas (don’t touch) wasn’t English until I was way old enough to have known better and I said it to a friend who was like “what the hell are you saying!?” My mom was a French professor and she would say it all the time to me, usually only in public. Apparently I touched a lot of things. It was the only really French thing she ever said to us so I just never realized it wasn’t English… Embarrasing.

      1. Clever Name*

        Ha ha! My best friend’s dad used to yell “Mach schnell!”, often when we were trying to leave the house. I only learned that it was German for “go faster” when I was an adult. Now I use it on my son. :)

        1. the gold digger*

          My dad said that, too! My grandmother’s first language was German, so I heard – and used – “Oy gevalt!” (And “schatzie.”)

          I didn’t know that was (also) a Jewish thing until I went to college and a Jewish friend asked me, “Why is a Catholic girl saying, ‘Oy gevalt!'” I just knew it as something my grandma said.

          I also thought everyone was going to get smacked on their hinder.

        2. Elizabeth*

          My father said that, too! We weren’t German but lived in Milwaukee. He also used Yiddish phrases he had picked up from people he met as a salesman.

      2. Kali*

        My mom majored in French and spent a lot of time in France and I grew up hearing “ça suffit” more than I want to admit. I think I knew it was French, but didn’t ever think about the literal translation until years later. I just knew that I should stop doing whatever I was doing when she said it.

      3. Kate*

        I have visions of my daughter in twenty years…

        We speak 99% English to her at home, but there are certain words from Arabic, Hebrew,and French and drift in all the time. Always the same words, and somehow, always the same words for very specific things.

        For example, it turns out that when I’m annoyed with her for something and want her to stop, I always use French. Not sure what that says about all those years of French immersion…

        One-off words are always Arabic. Yalla = let’s go or hurry up, depending on context. Habibti = female term of endearment, like honey or sweetie. Shwey shwey (that one transliterates funny) = either slow down or an instruction to be gentle, depending on context.

        Train is Hebrew (rakevet) but never car (mehonit) because mehonit is way too hard. Patience = savlanut.

        But everything else is English.

    7. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      My parents (and I) call the remote control the “tuner.” I have never met anyone who called it this before, and every time I say it someone goes “What are you talking about?” I don’t know if it’s regional, though I doubt it, and I think it may just be a My Familyism.

      1. Artemesia*

        In our family it is just ‘the power’; as in you have the power aren’t you going to mute the commercial.

        1. Lore*

          My SO calls them “the buttons.” As in “have you seen the buttons for the stereo?” In the room where he has a very elaborate entertainment system set up (2 DVDs, TV, stereo, VHS, digital TV tuner), the search for the appropriate buttons is more than comical.

      2. Tallyvoo*

        My dad still calls it the “black box” because the first remote we had was square and boxy.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve heard it around here from time to time–in fact, it’s part of the title of my book Tunerville,, in which a man invents a remote that will tune up ghosts. :) I refer to it as a tuner through the entire thing.

        (does that make me sound old?)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            When someone realizes how brilliant I am and publishes it. :P ;)

            Seriously, would you guys read that? I might have to make a poll on my blog or something. “Would you read this? Yes/No” Then I could put it in a query–“Three-quarters of people surveyed on random internet forums said they would buy this book!” ;)

    8. Mike C.*

      I always thought the dude in Lord of the Rings was named Aragon rather than Aragorn. Until I was in college when I saw the movies.

      ~*~mind blown~*~

      1. RL*

        The timing of your comment is uncanny. I’m in the middle of reading The Return of the King. I just had this same realization literally yesterday that there is a second r in Aragorn. How did I miss this the entire time???

    9. Dot Warner*

      My folks are New Yorkers, and for much of my childhood I didn’t realize that there’s no R on the end of the word “idea.” :)

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I lived on Long Island for the first year & a half of my life, then we moved to the other side of the state where my father grew up. I don’t think he would have given me the chance to think a soft drink was called “soder”.

        For the record, I don’t call it “pop” either, like the vast majority of people in WNY do (or “pahhhp”). It’s “soda”, but since my mother’s family is from the New Orleans & Gulf area, I understand that “coke” is not limited to one Coca-Cola product.

        “Could you grab me a coke?”
        “Sure, what kind?”
        “Sprite, please.”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “Could you grab me a coke?”
          “Sure, what kind?”
          “Sprite, please.”

          That’s how it is around here (Arkansas); ‘coke’ is the general term for soda. If you want a Coke, specifically, you have to say Coca Cola.

    10. Tallyvoo*

      Somehow I managed to learn how to correctly pronounce the word “wash” despite having a father who says “warsh” and a mother who says “woysh”.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I’m picturing a small child looking up the word “wash” in the dictionary because s/he knows the two pronunciations are too different to *both* be correct.

      2. DEJ*

        I was just coming here to post this one. Grew up saying ‘warsh’ and finally retrained myself to say ‘wash’ in college. Sometimes it slips back into my vocabulary though (old habits die hard!).

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I grew up saying “warsh” and all kinds of other southern rural pronunciations that I had to break myself of when I got old enough to notice. Eggs and legs pronounced “aigs” and “laigs”; siren pronounced “si-REEN”, just like “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”

      3. Yetanotherjennifer*

        My SD raised dad says warsh. Only one in rye family to do so and we have no idea where he got it. After going to school in Texas I still say fixin to and waitin on, as well as coke for soda and y’all.

    11. Arjay*

      Crullers, the long thin donuts? I thought they were “crullahs” for about 40 years of life! Go, Boston!

  19. AnotherFed*

    We’re thinking about getting another dog. Hadn’t planned on it, just saw a great one at a rescue event while we were out today and are thinking about adopting her. She’s got a great personality, would be a great match for at least one of our current dogs, has been at the shelter way too long, and is adorable. She’s a pit bull mix (and so is one of our others) and is clearly pretty energetic, both of which we know how to deal with, so there’s no real drawbacks except that three dogs isn’t 3X harder than one dog, it’s X^3 harder.

    So, any advice, thoughts, or are-you-freaking-crazy looks?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You sound ready. It’s unlikely you’ll regret it if you adopt her, because you’ll be too sidetracked by loving her. (Speaking as someone who didn’t want four cats in theory, but ended up wanting these particular four cats and can’t imagine being without any of them now.)

      You should bring her home today!

      1. AnotherFed*

        That’s probably pretty true, given that we don’t even regret the couch-eater (THREE couches to be exact) dog!

    2. SL #2*

      Do it! My friends hadn’t planned on adopting a cat until after their big vacation (which is this week, actually!) but they fell in love with a cat at PetSmart in January and couldn’t imagine leaving her there, so they brought her home the same day and decided they’d just board her for this week.

      And on my part, I’m still regretting leaving the cuddly 2 year old cat behind at one of those adoption events; he was exactly what I’m looking for. :(

      1. justsomeone*

        SL #2 that happened to us last year. Going on our honeymoon the second week of April, fell in love with a teeny gray kitty the day before St. Pat’s. Kitty came home with us…. he was just too cute.

    3. Trixie*

      I think when you’re in for the first two pets, the third isn’t really that much more in my mind. She sounds like a great match for your current crew. I think you should pick her up now too so she can spend the holiday playing with the family!

      1. Honeybee*

        Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Making the jump from one to two is a bigger difference, but three to four? You already know what you’re getting into.

    4. AnotherFed*

      Happy ending for the puppy – when we called to check the operating hours, another family had already adopted her!

    5. KR*

      I just adopted my first dog last week (Jerry the Portuguese Podengo) from a shelter. I wasn’t even planning on it. I went to the shelter and I walked by his kennel and I could see he looked anxious and thought maybe once he was out he would be more calm. I took him out for a walk and fell in love. He loves my roommate’s dog, is fine with my cat, loves car rides and walks, and I already can’t imagine my life without him.

  20. Elle*

    Has anyone else become a Fitbit nut? I just got one a few weeks ago and I’ve become obsessed with getting my 10,000 steps in!

    1. Roku*

      I don’t have a Fitbit, but info have a Garmin that counts my steps and I must hit the goal every time!

      When I first started wearing it it made me realize how little I moved. Sometimes only 2000 steps a day, ack!

    2. Rebecca*

      Count me in – I’ve had mine for nearly 2 years (will be 2 years next month). It motivates me to get moving. I recently exceeded 30,000 steps in one day for the first time, but most days I go just north of 15K steps. I’m hoping to do some trail hiking this year, so this is good training for me.

    3. Alice 2*

      5k so far today! Gotta catch up to my sister though, we’re doing a weekend challenge. It’s already almost 6pm.. Gotta go for a walk after dinner

    4. Shell*

      I did for the first three months, and then my enthusiasm waned as the weather got crappy (I got mine in September of last year). The weather is finally warming up again and I’m looking forward to using it again :)

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I have one, and I was completely obsessed with it for awhile. Then the holidays hit, I had to do some work travel, and so on, and so on. I need to get back into it.

    6. Engineer Girl*

      I’ve been enjoying mine. I like the sleep logging and the resting heart rate. I wore it to the dentist 2 months ago and you could tell the exact time he injected my mouth. The heart rate spiked by 50 BPM and stayed high the rest of the day. My dentist thought it was cool.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      I still can’t figure out how to work mine. I suspect my ex got me one from woot because there wasn’t a instruction manual (it just came in a clear baggie) and I learn by reading the best. He sent me a you tube link and it wasn’t helpful. I can’t have sound on my work computer and my smart phone cuts out videos all the time.

    8. Trixie*

      Is there a major difference between Fitbit and similar devices compares to pedometer? I still have a few of those around.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Depending on the model, yes. Mine does heart rate, elevation, calculates calories burned, etc.

  21. Intrepid*

    I graduated from grad school about 1-1.5 years ago, and my classmates and I did a pretty good job of scattering. I’d love to get back in touch, though– and I’ll be visiting a city where a bunch of them live in about a month! Would ya’ll find it weird/unwelcome if one of your college buddies said hi after a year of (mostly) silence? Any tips on making it less awkward?

    1. Lizzie*

      A year’s not too bad, I don’t think. People are job hunting, moving, adjusting and carrying on and probably expect the same of you. I’d just drop a line to say you’ll be in the area and would love to grab a cup of coffee and catch up.

      1. Intrepid*

        Thank you! That’s exactly what it was for me– a lot of furious job searching and short term contracts and… But I didn’t stay in contact much at all (with anyone, really, I’ve just been buried), and I’m probably more nervous than I should be about them taking my AWOL-itude badly. Mostly, I really wish I’d stayed in touch, but this year has been rough.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I wouldn’t find it weird if I liked this friend. I’ve reconnected with friends after over a decade of silence.

      1. Intrepid*

        Thank you! We were friends or at least buddies, and I’d be thrilled if they were in my city and dropped me a line, but I also feel bad about going dark for a year.

    3. Mike C.*

      No, not at all! I got a random text from a friend of mine like that just this past week and we started talking for over an hour. It was awesome!

    4. Honeybee*

      Nope. In fact, I have some friends from college that I haven’t talked to for years and I’d be delighted if any one of them was in my city and wanted to reconnect.

  22. Trixie*

    Looking at a used 4th generation iPod 32 gb for $30. Thinking potential MOther’s Day gift but I’m on a budget. At that cost, I figure she’ll get some use out of it before needing replacement. She wouldn’t use for anything else but music and while new ones are pretty, they’re either over kill or too easy to break/lose.

    1. Cordelia Longfellow*

      Awesome! I still use my iPod Classic (no touch, click wheel) 120gb all the time. It stores all of my music, and though I did recently get my first smartphone, the latter’s only 32gb. I don’t mind carrying both around. I think it sounds like a lovely gift!

      1. hermit crab*

        Wait, your ipod classic still holds a charge enough to be useful? I’m jealous! Mine only works when plugged in anymore, so it sort of defeats the purpose of an ipod. Makes for a decent backup drive, though!

  23. Trixie*

    Getting a late start but between today/tomorrow, getting my spring cleaning on. Still living in limbo for 4-5 years, it will be easier to purge/organize/donate what I’m clearly not using these days. It won’t be Konmari but I’ll feel so much better getting it started.

    1. NDQ*

      Good for you! I’m doing a bit of that this weekend, too. It feels good to clean up and get rid of stuff. Lately I’ve been focussing on items I’ve had for years that are mentally weighing me down. The thought of moving them out makes me feel lighter and happier.


  24. Temperance*

    Any other atheists out there with Christian families? Without fail, every year we remind our families that we do not celebrate Easter, and they act put out and hurt that we aren’t willing to drive 5+ hours round-trip on a work night for a holiday that we don’t celebrate.

    I went to Easter dinner 5 years ago for my great-grandmother, and I would do it again, but it’s so darn annoying that my evangelical family uses that as “proof” that I celebrate Easter. (Never mind that they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that “Good Friday” and “Easter Monday” are not paid days off at my historically Jewish firm.)

    1. Jack the treacle eater*

      Not religious, non-religious family, Methodist etc. in-laws, no-one gets put out or not, everyone sees significant holidays such as Easter as reasons for family to get together, no pressure. Easier for British families to do that, though, as Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays so not a school might for many people.

      Are they put out that you’re not celebrating Easter or that they’re not seeing you?

      1. Temperance*

        Honestly, it’s more of the former. My mother is quite put out that I’m not visiting her. She’s a difficult person, and it’s not about her desire to see me, but her desire for my attention and for me to visit.

    2. Christy*

      I think you might be better off taking the tack “I don’t celebrate Easter, parents, but I would be happy to have Easter dinner with you if only you weren’t 3 hours away and I didn’t have to work the next day.” I’d make it about the distance and the not-having-off rather than make it about faith–it’s a much easier conversation.

      1. Temperance*

        The only problem with that tactic is that it will cause my mother to start her “you should live up here again” campaign, which is even more annoying than badgering me about celebrating a religious holiday with her. ;)

        No joke – she has actually said that in response to me declining a visit with her.

        1. Christy*

          Honestly, my family does that to me, and I only live an hour away AND I come up for everything. Some families just don’t understand moving more than 20 minutes away. But the best part of living far away is that you can basically respond with “ok mom, gotta go, talk later!” and hang up the phone and be done with the campaign. Like, just ignore it.

          Now, my relationship with my family isn’t fraught, as it sounds like yours might be, so ymmv.

          1. Temperance*

            That’s exactly what I do. Plus, candidly, she is too lazy to drive here, so I don’t need to worry about her just showing up. ;)

    3. BRR*

      We don’t celebrate but tend to take part in events during holidays because that’s when our large families gather. Nobody uses it to say we’re religious though.

      1. Temperance*

        I would be open to having dinner with friends or with the family of a friend, but our families make it a point to either a.) evangelize, b.) complain about us not visiting enough, and c.) complain about our life choices.

    4. Lady Bug*

      We are atheist but we always spend Easter with my mom (who is catholic, but couldn’t care less that I’m not). I look at it as a day that we get to spend time together because we sometimes fail to for long periods in our otherwise busy lives. It sounds like your family is not understanding though, so it’s different for you.

      Do you see your family often otherwise? Maybe they are looking to spend time with you? Maybe you can see them a week or 2 before the holiday “for no reason”, then say “We can’t make Easter, but at least we saw you 2 weeks ago and had such a great time.”

      1. Temperance*

        The short answer is no, I do not see them very often. The longer answer is more complicated – my mother is mentally ill and difficult to deal with, and she has the opinion that children should be dutiful and visit their parents if they are selfish enough to move away.

        With the kind of person my mother is, I can tell you that she doesn’t actually want to see me, she wants me to give her attention, so that makes it even less pleasant.

        1. Lady Bug*

          Sounds like its a much bigger issue in general then, with some bonus guilt at Easter. I firmly believe that you don’t have to spend time with people who only try to bring you down, even if they are family. Shut off your phone and enjoy your totally regular non-holiday Sunday guilt free!

    5. Is it spring yet?*

      I don’t understand how eating dinner means you’re celebrating Easter. And I don’t know of any place that is closed on Good Friday or Easter Monday.

      1. Temperance*

        I grew up in a very conservative area, and our schools were closed on Good Friday and “Easter Monday”.

        The dinner is part of the observance in my family/for my in-laws. There’s praying involved, and a lot of Jesus talk.

      2. Dan*

        Generally getting together for a large(ish) family dinner (aka larger than the co-habbing family) typically means you’re celebrating something. Let’s face it, unless you’re attending something specifically billed as a family reunion, gatherings of extended family typically occur around some holiday, particularly if the gathering is of the “everybody is going to be there” variety.

        Bonus points if said holiday has a stereotypical food that is served.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Some family gatherings might be more secularized than others, though.

          My family celebrates Easter, in that we get together and eat a lot of food including ham. But, honestly, other than the gathering occurring on Easter it’s really no more religious than us getting together for the Superbowl – we don’t go to church, there’s really no talk about religion, etc. Heck, there’s not even easter baskets as everyone in the family is too old for that now. So, as an atheist, I don’t find it at all objectionable.

          If I showed up to dinner and my family tried to railroad me into going to church with them, or they preached to me about religion or my life choices or whatever, then I would find that objectionable and would not show up.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, we always celebrated Easter more secularly, too. We had a big family gathering with a huge Easter egg hunt for the kids, a big, late lunch with ham, deviled eggs, and lots of pies and cakes brought by the aunts. We never went to church or mentioned anything religious, even though Easter is a religious holiday.

    6. Clever Name*

      Atheist with Episcolalian parents (non-religious in laws). Both sets of parents know better than to pester is about religious celebrations. :) although, I let my son pester me into hiding eggs for him this year. I’ll make him dye eggs with me. ;)

    7. Mike C.*

      My in-laws celebrate the holiday (and have a few ministers there as well) but they’re the “our church grew 3,000 lbs of produce for the food bank last year” rather than “we’re going to look down on you for not being a believer” type of religious. So yeah, I lucked out in that department.

      I’m really sorry that your folks are being jerks like this. :(

      1. Temperance*

        I could totally get in on that celebration. ;)

        I’m spending the day stuffing myself with guilt-free chocolate from my MIL and watching Amish Haunting.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      My mum always asks me if I’m coming over for Easter, despite the fact that I don’t go to church any more, haven’t been able to take Good Friday off for years, and am 50 years old and don’t need a bunny basket, thank you. (Okay, I”ll take the bunny basket but I’m still not going to church, LOL.) It’s a six-hour round trip and very tiring; I’d rather save it for a bigger holiday.

    9. Marcela*

      Well, mine is not really an usable solution, it just came to us from sheer desperation. When my born again Catholic mother started to nag me that we were really celebrating Easter because we eat chocolate eggs (there is no dinner tradition in my country), something we have done all our life, even before she rediscovered her faith, we started eating meat on good friday, which is the worst thing you’d do as a Catholic. That was the end of the conversation.

  25. Anonymous Educator*

    Anyone else find “that’s what she said” sexist? I looked up “that’s what she said sexist” on Google, and even the feminist responses seem to criticize it mainly on being immature / overused instead of misogynistic. Maybe I’m oversensitive?

    1. AnotherFed*

      I don’t find it sexist, but I tend to associate it with teen/preteen boys trying to be cool, so it’s like Axe products – awful, overrated, and way overused, but that they usually grow out of.

      1. Dan*

        I’ve heard other people hate on Axe. What’s the deal? I don’t think of the scent as overpowering, but comparing to something like old spice, the stuff actually works for 24 hours. Old spice wears off by the end of the day. BTW, I’m just referring to the deodorant.

        1. LizB*

          When I hate on Axe, I’m talking about the body spray that is used to excess by many, many teenaged boys. It doesn’t actually cover up the smell of BO, just adds a layer of obnoxious artificial “manly” scent, and when you’re in class with/teaching a dozen guys who’ve slathered it on after PE, the cumulative effect is enough to choke a horse. I don’t even know if I’ve met anyone who uses Axe-brand deodorant, so it’s probably just fine. I know I’ve met people who use the body spray, because it is very noticeable, and not in a good way.

          1. E, F and G*

            I was actually rather glad when the projector broke at the showing of Deadpool I had gone to. It turns out that the only thing worse than sitting down beside somebody who has put on way too much axe body spray is sitting down beside somebody who has put on way too much body spray and combined the smell with way too much artificial butter.

        2. AnotherFed*

          Axe itself is probably not the problem, but teenaged boys tend to use way too much body spray and sometimes not enough soap. It’s an awful, artificial scent and my nephews (like many teenagers) put so much on you could taste it in the air after they left a room, and their bedroom smelled like a gym locker drenched in cheap cologne.

        3. Artemesia*

          We have a new doorman who is a young guy (most of ours are old), a black kid, and just super good at the job. We really want him to stick and make this a career. Alas, he uses Axe and I get a headache just walking through the lobby. That stuff is like car air freshener, over powering and icky. It lingers in our lobby long after this is finished with his shift. I am hoping some of the others take him in hand. I sure don’t want to embarrass him by having an old white lady whine at him — but I sure wish I didn’t have to live with it either. I think It is hard to give this kind of information /feedback — and age and racial differences make it more complicated and frought. Otherwise he is in the top 4 of our door crew.

        4. Temperance*

          My .02: the smell of that Old Spice stuff, not the deodorant, but the aftershave/cologne, is one of the worst smells known to mankind. It’s SO strong and stinky to me.

          Axe doesn’t actually smell that bad when it’s used correctly. 13-year-old boys don’t quite get that they shouldn’t bathe in it and that they need to wear deodorant, too. FWIW, 13-year-old girls and perfume also don’t work that well.

    2. Lady Bug*

      Nope, just immature humor, which I use all the time, signed 15 yr old boy trapped in the body of a 40 yr old woman.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        We’ve been watching reruns of The Office for the umpteenth time, so spotting opportunities for immature TWSS jokes is kind of our current family hobby. We’re doing it ironically, but, as my daughter always says, irony is a slippery slope, and pretty soon that thing that you’re doing ironically is an ingrained habit. But, yeah, immature forty-something here.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Our other family form of immature humor derived from watching The office is the “You’re a . . . ” joke. For example, Oscar was using PowerPoint to explain Michael’s budget to him, and Michael thought that PowerPoint could solve his budgeting problems. Oscar said, “Michael, it’s just a presentation tool”, to which Michael indignantly responded, “You’re a presentation tool!”

        We all realize it’s a low form of stupid humor, but we’re still not done having fun with it yet.

        1. Al Lo*

          We do that, but with “your mom.” “Your moms a presentation tool.” Never not funny, especially when you’re talking about your mother-in-law.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            We say “Yo mama” sometimes, too. The kids get a kick out of it when I make a joke of saying, “Yo mama’s a presentation tool” and then I’m like, “Oh, wait — that’s me!”

    3. Dan*

      Not everything that makes a distinction between groups is an “-ist” remark. For something to be “-ist”, it has to be either prejudicial, discriminatory, or some sort of put down.

      “That’s what she said”, in the urban dictionary sense, is not really even about women. It’s about the other guy. It’s something one kid says to another if the first kid says something innocent that could be alternately interpreted as a sexual reflexive put down.

    4. Clever Name*

      It’s juvenile to be sure. A family friend likes to say, “that’s what [wife’s name] said to me last night. :) my husband and I like to say “your mom”.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      Thanks for the input, you all. It’s always rubbed me the wrong way, but I guess the consensus seems to be that’s more puerile than sexist.

    6. Lindsay J*

      I can see how it would be misogynistic; it’s reinforcing the idea that women are basically just sex objects.

      However, something I really struggle with is finding a healthy balance between challenging language and assumptions that are genuinely harmful and hitting the point where it’s at best crazy-making and at worst counter-productive.

      By “crazy-making” I mean that I found that I had to quit hanging out in a corner of the internet – a Livejournal community – I used to frequent because I was too afraid to post or comment anymore because it felt like it was inevitable that I would offend someone no matter what I said. I remember the exact moment where I realized I needed to go: I wanted to post a picture of “moon blood [menstrual-blood] paintings”, but I couldn’t figure out whether or not to post a trigger warning: I knew that if I didn’t post a trigger warning, people would be upset because it’s blood smeared on a canvas which plenty of people could find upsetting or triggering for a variety of reasons. However, I also knew that if I did post a trigger warning there would be some people who would be upset because it would be contributing to the idea that menstrual blood was dirty or taboo and was something that should be hidden.

      And as for counter-productive, I kind of feel like it’s easier to get better reception if you tackle a few major issues at a time. I mean, it’s kind of hard, as a reasonable person, to have a problem with “hey, you shouldn’t call things you don’t like ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’. It’s offensive and there are much better ways to express your feelings.” However, I’ve seen arguements that the word “weak” is ableist and therefore offensive, and I think at that point people stop listening and just throw up their hands and say “Well I can’t say anything without it being offensive so whatever,” and go back to saying all the offensive things they used to say because kids these days are too sensitive or whatever. (Note, I’m not saying that that’s a good response, but it seems like a typical one to me.)

      Plus, I’d rather tackle issues that have more of an impact. Tell people to stop saying “That’s what she said,” and, best case scenario they’ll stop saying “that’s what she said.” Typical scenario – if they’re immature enough to be saying “That’s what she said,” to begin with then they’ll probably just laugh off the idea that it’s offensive and just keep saying it anyway.

      On the other hand, if you point out that, say, being a woman has a lot to do with how Hillary Clinton is perceived and portrayed in this election cycle and that she would not face some of the same criticisms if she were a man, and I think people are more willing to engage in a dialogue and it’s more likely to get people to examine their conscious and unconscious biases.

      Also, FWIW, I think some of the appeal of the “that’s what she said,” or “your mom” jokes (because, at least personally, I don’t usually find them to be actually humorous) comes from being a little bit offensive. I mean, it’s basically pointing out “haha, that sounds like you’re talking about sex,” and it’s generally used by age-groups and in contexts where sex is considered naughty. Indicating that it’s even worse because it’s being rude about women might just make the people inclined to use these jokes to do it more.

      Tl;dr : Yes, it’s a bit misogynistic. Probably not misogynistic enough or pervasive enough to be worth it to address.

      1. LCL*

        Yes, i always read it as totally sexist because it reduces women to sex objects. It’s a battle I don’t have to fight because I don’t have many innteractions with the demographic that uses it.

  26. nep*

    Blood test showed severe vitamin D deficiency. This was no surprise. Good to know and to start turning it around (hoping no irreparable damage done); bad that I’d put things off for so long.
    Not to attribute every single ailment / problem to this — but many of the things I’ve been experiencing for a while now are widely cited as symptoms of D deficiency.
    It will be interesting to watch the impact of finally normalising my levels. Ugh — I’m sorry, body, for demanding so much when I was not giving you what you need.
    Thanks to all for the insights, input on this last week.

      1. nep*

        Thank you.
        I know it will take time — feels good just to be moving in the right direction.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      I’m so glad you have the information you need! BTW, you can find BioTech Vitamin D in 50,000 units—which is awesome, since D is fat-soluble, you can take it once a week. (Source: my mother’s a physician and this is what she uses for her patients. Obviously run it past your own medical team, though!)

      1. nep*

        The physician who ordered the test prescribed 50,000IU/week for eight weeks then a daily dose after that.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          Rite Aid, under their store brand, carries 5,000IU D-3 gelcaps in a 365-day supply. I’m sure other drugstores do as well, but if you can’t find them at your regular place, or if the daily Rx is more expensive, go there.

      2. nep*

        What’s interesting is hearing/reading about D2 v D3. Apparently many in the medical industry are accustomed to prescribing D2, while D3 is said to be far more effective particularly in getting one’s levels up to normal. My doctor’s prescription was for D2; I’m going to ask why just to hear what she says. I’m going to go with D3.

        1. Book Lover*

          The d2 is what’s available as a prescription. It doesn’t make a difference at that dosing. In practice, I’ve found it works efficiently. Then you want to get otc d3 when the script is complete.

          1. nep*

            Thanks for this. I’ve heard and read that D3 is far more effective in getting levels back up. Is there some kind of debate around that?

            1. Book Lover*

              No, that is accurate, but it just isn’t an issue for mega-dosing. When you switch after the rx, go for D3. You can do what you prefer, of course, but in the past decade I’ve never had a patient fail to normalize on the 50k of D2.

    2. Tallyvoo*

      I have this as well! My doctor prescribed 20 minutes of sunlight with no sunscreen, to which I said nope because my translucent skin would be lobster red in 20 minutes. I have supplements, but I never remember to take them.

      1. nep*

        Do you recall what your number was?
        It’s well worth finding the best way for you to get your level up and maintain it. Countless functions in our bodies rely on adequate Vitamin D.

  27. Navy Blue*

    Any suggestions on how not to be such a ish-talker? It mostly involves coworkers and work related topics since it is 40+ hours of my life a week, but I see it slowly creep into my personal life too.

    I have come to realize that lately I’ve been somewhat of a negative nancy, a smack talking, grumpy pants person. This is not a path I can continue down on. Help me!

    For the last few days I’ve tried the “if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all” approach. I’ve also tried to say something positive after realizing I’ve been negative about something.

    I’m sure there’s a middle ground to all this. I definitely don’t want to be a lying ray of sunshine all the time either.

    1. NDQ*

      I work in a large government agency. Lots of people to see each day and there are both positive and negative people. My last agency was mostly negative people and every day I am grateful to be away from that. It’s so easy to get sucked into negative talk.

      My tactic at the new agency is to work hard and talk less. I greet people with a smile and try to listen more than I talk. When I speak up, many times it is to thank someone for whatever they did for me. I’ve been able to identify people who are mostly negative and spend less time with them. I seek out the people who make working there enjoyable.

      Seriously, I’d rather you be a lying ray of fake sunshine that spread negativity at work. That’s what starts to make a place toxic because it goes downhill from there. It’s contagious. People start to associate negativity with the workplace and then you feel it when you walk in the door.

      Good luck!

      1. Navy Blue*

        Great suggestions! Thanks!

        I’ve definitely gotten sucked into the negative recently. It’s easy that’s for sure.

        I’m in government too and I guess I associate the lying sunshine with people/management trying to sweep our problems under the rug. No! There are serious problems and we need to deal with them head on!

        Work hard. Talk less. Smile/warm greeting. Listen more. Thank people more. <– I like it. I can do more of all that.

    2. Weekend Warrior*

      It’s a good thing to check ourselves on. There’s the idea that many people have a “negativity bias”, i.e. negative thoughts or statements or observations seem true while positive ones are “a lying ray of sunshine”. :) Lot of studies on this phenomenon.

      I’m a “glass is half full person” by constant choice, but I do like the (Dilbert?) riposte…”half full of what?”

    3. TL -*

      If you find yourself being negative while talking to someone, try and force yourself to say “But [bright side/positive angle] at least!” and end the conversation there or change the subject. That’s what helps me – whatever it is, I have to find a bright side and end things there.

    4. justsomeone*

      Being thoughtful about what you say in general tends to help. I get on negative streaks sometimes so I’ve made it my personal mission to think one nice thing about every person I encounter/talk with throughout the day and to say at least one of them out loud each day. My company’s culture is very much a “look for ways to say yes” culture and I’ve taken that to heart and tried to be a “look for ways to be kind/positive” person.

    5. Clever Name*

      I think awareness is a first step. Also think about what your life is like in general. Are you genuinely unhappy, or do you just have a habit of focusing on the negative? If you notice you get caught up in bitch sessions with certain coworkers, distance yourself from them. Think before you speak. Consider if what you are about to say could be considered negative, and think about if it really needs to be expressed. Maybe even start a gratitude journal. Just list, say, 3 things you are grateful for.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Take a look at what could be driving the drivel. Maybe shut off the news a little more often. Or it could be people’s habits at work. Maybe a walk after dinner would help (less sitting more moving). Or maybe you have a big Negative Nancy in your personal life.

      It might involve more than one change to support the over all change.

    7. government escapee*

      First of all, I think it’s great that you have noticed this and want to do something to change it.

      The advice here is great. I just wanted to add that I don’t think that being optimistic/positive at work is inconsistent with wanting to tackle real problems and be honest about what needs to change. Actually, I think they are very congruent because in both cases you are trying to direct and apply a positive energy to change things. This is not the same as sitting around endlessly griping about things and doing nothing to change them, which in my experience of working in government is something a lot of people like to do. endlessly. If you can formulate some plans for tackling the issues and frame those as positive steps forward when you talk about them to others, I think this might be a way of reframing the situation and breaking out of the griping cycle.

      The other thing I would do is limit my time with the other gripers/downers. It can become a vicious cycle where each of you reinforces the other’s negative habit. At first it is comforting and pleasant because you offload on each other and feel better, but it ends up being a problem if neither of you does anything to change anything, and you forget how to interact without griping being the basis of it. I have worked in offices where this happened to the entire staff, and it is so destructive for everyone.

    8. Temperance*

      I had to break this habit, too. What I did was let other people start conversations and then join in, because I had to teach myself to be positive. It sounds silly, but it worked.

  28. nep*

    A quote comes to mind —
    ‘Before you speak, ask yourself — is it true, is it kind, is it necessary? Does it improve on the silence?’

    1. Is it spring yet?*

      Heard this years ago
      T is it truthful?
      H is it helpful?
      I is itimportant?
      N is it necessary?
      K is it kind?

    2. Navy Blue*

      Thanks! I will write this in the back of my notebook so I can peek at it if I feel my BP start to rise, hehe.

    3. Bruce H.*

      It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Homer’s brain: What the hell does that mean? Better say something or they’ll think you’re stupid.
        Homer, out loud: Takes one to know one!
        Homer’s brain: Swish!

    4. Grumpy*

      Chris Rock: Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me?

  29. Cristina in England*

    For late night iPhone and iPad users, a PSA. The new iOS update, 9.3, adds a feature called Night Shift, which turns down the blue tones on your screen because blue light at night disrupts sleep. Go to Settings>Display and brightness>Night Shift

        1. Cristina in England*

          My iPhone 4s won’t take the latest update, it will only go to 9.2.1, but if you have iOS 9.3 it should be in there.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      If you want something like that for other platforms (Windows, OSX, Android), I have been using the free OSX version of f.lux for a while and I like it.

      1. Cristina in England*

        I just downloaded that for my laptop since I love Night Shift so much on the iPad. I like it, but I wish they would just give the users what they keep asking for on the support forums and allow manual control of the bedtime/daytime schedule.

  30. Framing needlework*

    I’m looking for suggestions for getting a 3’x2′ needlework framed. It’s beyond my capabilities, and I want it done nicely. I need a professional who can handle blocking and framing, and I’m looking for suggestions of physical places in the Washington area or online businesses. I know it’s expensive to get this done professionally, but this is a work of art (imho) and it deserves the best. Thanks!

    1. LisaLee*

      I would look at quilting shops near you. Often they are able to handle this sort of thing since needlepoint by itself isn’t enough to build a business on.

    2. Elkay*

      Framing needlework is one of the areas where buy cheap buy twice is true. Experience of using a needlework shop that sent stuff out to be framed makes me say that. If you can find somewhere you can go in and speak to the person who’s going to do the work then do that even if it costs more.

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Is there a needlework shop around you (or quilt shop) that you can inquire at? Usually they have a lot of framed needlework around and can recommend where they send their display pieces or recommend others to do so.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      If you’re unable to find a good place locally and are willing to ship your art, there is an art gallery and framing shop near me (Minneapolis) that I know specializes in framing needlework: yourartsdesiremtka.com.

    5. Book Lover*

      I’ve generally gotten mine done at Michael’s, since a specialty store I used closed down. In a couple of different states, no issues. Is that doable for you? I think they are all over. Otherwise I’d look for small cross stitch, etc specialty stores, but they are more expensive and I haven’t seen that the work is better.

    6. GreenTeaPot*

      I just went to a frame shop and the owner worked with me to find something affordable.

  31. nep*

    Anyone else experiencing problems with this thread/site today? it’s being suuuuper slow for me…several times ‘page unresponsive’. Pretty sure it’s my computer, though.

    1. Rubyrose*

      No so much slow, but it keeps bouncing me back up to the top of the page. It keeps scrolling through Latest Events, SPONSORED CONTENT.

      I just went to Edge. Time to get an ad blocker – sorry Alison!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You totally have my blessing to do that — but also, if anyone else has this happen, I’d be grateful if you’d tell me what ad is playing in that above-comment-section ad box when it happens, because if I know that, I can get it removed.

        1. Rubyrose*

          The actual ad most of the time is for US Bank, but there has been a second one for some car company. Between the ads are various topics – NY Fashion Week, Superman/Batman airplane, movie premiers. They are all dated March 17 or before – one goes back to October.
          I think the timing on getting bounced back to the top corresponds to when someone else has posted another comment.

          Another problem (unrelated) that just started yesterday. While I’m typing, all of a sudden everything is being flagged by spellcheck, or at least I assume spellcheck (red underline). If I hit Cancel Reply to Comment and start fresh, everything is OK.

      2. nep*

        That’s one thing that’s different in this thread for me — all of a sudden I’ll hear an ad start playing. The page doesn’t bounce me up to the top; just can hear the ad. Couldn’t make out the audio (volume low) and — with the slowness of the page — unable to scroll up in time to see which ad.

        1. nep*

          Now in IE (was in Chrome) — things still slightly slow here but was worse in Chrome. Again, think it’s my very old laptop. Anyway, was able to scroll up when the ad came on — it was Lexus. This did not happen in the past — the ad coming on out of the blue in that box up top.

    2. Lindsay J*

      Yeah, I’m on my work computer and I’ve gotten the “page unresponsive” message and had either the tab or my whole browser close out on me several times.

      This is the message I get:

      Problem signature:
      Problem Event Name: AppHangB1
      Application Name: iexplore.exe
      Application Version: 11.0.9600.18205
      Application Timestamp: 56a1b6f6
      Hang Signature: 492d
      Hang Type: 131072
      OS Version: 6.1.7601.
      Locale ID: 1033
      Additional Hang Signature 1: 492d70e4856c370a12f49f29e7a37fc8
      Additional Hang Signature 2: 3cca
      Additional Hang Signature 3: 3ccadf2082ae082c097e0d7698731e1e
      Additional Hang Signature 4: 492d
      Additional Hang Signature 5: 492d70e4856c370a12f49f29e7a37fc8
      Additional Hang Signature 6: 3cca
      Additional Hang Signature 7: 3ccadf2082ae082c097e0d7698731e1e

      It’s IE 11. Haven’t noticed one specific ad it’s happening with.

    1. Hattie McDoogal*

      I’m not much for pranks myself, but I’ve mostly worked in restaurants, which can be non-stop prank wars. My favourite was when our sous chef was leaving, on his last day the chef somehow stole sous chef’s keys and put them in a large (like 20L) container, filled it up with water, and put it in the freezer. End of shift, sous chef goes to leave and his keys are frozen into the bottom of a huge block of ice. I thought that was a pretty good prank — annoying, but not hurtful or outright mean or dangerous (lots of kitchen pranks involve tricking people into eating/drinking stuff they otherwise wouldn’t).

    2. Dan*

      Coworker at my last job had an awkward boss. Somebody photoshopped the two of them of them together (nothing inappropriate, think one arm wrapped around the body with a Michael Jackson-style white glove. I mean it when I say it wasn’t inappropriate.) This was the photo that would never die.

      For coworker’s birthday, we got him a cake with the photo printed on the top. The rest of us thought it was a riot, coworker had no idea what was coming. Went off like a charm.

    3. Clever Name*

      My dad used to work on an Air Force base as a civilian. Somehow he became known for being an expert at catching flies. We went on vacation. When he returned to work, his desk was covered in plastic flies and the drawers were filled with them. Some 30 years later, I still have some of those flies (my 9 yo plays with them).

    4. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I once flipped everything on a coworkers desk from one side to the other, so basically a mirror image. She freaked out and called Security.

    5. AnotherFed*

      I used yarn and a very small friend to completely web in a roommate’s side of the room. We used all sorts of things as anchor points, and so while it was totally harmless (<5 minutes to find scissors and cut her way in), it was hilarious to see pieces of yarn tied to random things for weeks.

    6. Rubyrose*

      Coworker (Sally) went on a week’s vacation. Doug, a major practical joker, decided it was time to pay back Sally for a previous prank.

      Doug made up a new worker and the rest of us helped flesh out the details. This person’s name was something long that looked to be Indian, but when you sounded it out it was “messing with your mind.” We called him Messin for short. Messin had worked for the company at another location for several years and had just transferred to us. We cleared Sally’s desk (desktop, drawers, cube walls) of anything belonging to her and replaced them with Messin’s belongings, which told the story of who he was. He had a European wife and two children. He had a couple of knickknacks from India, along with a bamboo plant, a slinky, a half eaten package of Girl Scout cookies (crumbs on desktop). I think there was something soccer themed put on the wall. We had an actual Indian coworker put some detailed notes on a yellow legal pad in Hindi. Sally’s ergonomic keyboard was replaced with a standard one. We made a paper overlay with Messin’s full name that fit rather nicely over Sally’s actual nameplate.

      Knowing that Sally was periodically checking emails, I was elected to send her one on Thursday telling her that someone was using her desk and it wasn’t clear if it was just temporary, until she got back, or permanent. Had she been moved? We had just had some layoffs – was there something we didn’t know? She responded back that this was news to her and would I call her? I did not.

      The facilities management guy on Friday noticed the name plate; it took Doug’s quick intervention to calm him done. Sally’s manager, who worked on the other side of the quadrant, was brought in the setup. He agreed to make himself scare on Monday morning, when Sally would return.

      Sally comes in, sees the new nameplate and the total changeover in her cube. She immediately goes to a small conference room about 20 feet from her cube and sets up shop, trying to get in contact with her manager. Doug has seen Messin in the cafeteria. Messin sends up a muffin for Sally. This drags on for 1.5 hours, until Sally’s manager cannot avoid contact and longer. He takes her out to the nameplate and forces her to sound it out. After 30 seconds she gets it and immediately goes back to the conference room for about 30 minutes, to compose herself. It takes a while to remove all of Messin’s stuff and get hers back.

      Payback can be painful. The next time Doug was out for a couple of days, Sally individually saran-wrapped every single thing in Doug’s cube, from his monitors and chair down to his trinkets.

      Good times!

      1. Honeybee*

        I’m dying. I love pranks that require whole-team coordination.

        My team is in an open-plan office so we haven’t done many pranks, but we’re very much a pranking culture and we’re moving back to offices next months. People are already planning the pranks they’re going to do on each other.

        1. Rubyrose*

          Why wait? The above was done in an open environment.

          At same location as above – you know those replacement letter stickers you can get for your keyboard? We put GO HOME ADAM on his keyboard and just waited to see how long it would take him to see it. Took a day and a half.

          Also just remembered another Doug prank. Sally was short and had a special foot rest that she routinely used when she was sitting. Doug somehow rigged it so when Sally put just the right amount of pressure on the foot rest her computer screens would go off. Take the pressure off, screens came back on. She got flustered about this, for about 15 minutes. But before contacting IT or facilities management, she got on her hands and knees under her desktop and figured it out.

    7. Katie the Fed*

      I stole my husband’s phone one night and changed the locked screen picture to the scariest clown imaginable. When he grabbed his phone the next morning he freaked out :)

      I’m a jerk.

    8. Artemesia*

      Back in the 60s teaching high school. One of my colleagues who had traveled in Russia was invited to speak to a class of 4th graders. They misbehaved and the embarrassed teacher made them all write thank you notes. The big manila envelope arrived in our office (all the social studies teachers had desks in one large room as classrooms were used continuously so we didn’t have our own room) while our colleague JV was teaching. We carefully gathered up 5 sheets of lined school paper and drafted hilarious apologies from the kids and wove them in amongst the genuine letters. They referenced inappropriate behaviors between students going on in the back of the room, references to being sorry they were rude even if he was a commie etc etc. He totally swallowed it and began showing the letters to everyone and they were about to be published in a local teacher’s magazine before we stopped the train We totally had him.

    9. TootsNYC*

      We got a promotion mailing/sample with a light-activated noise-maker inside; it played some stupid song. Someone else (S)actually had it, and I borrowed it from her.

      I put it in someone’s (C’s) desk drawer.
      When it finally went off, she thought S had done it. and “complained” to me about it.

      Once I told her it was me, I put it back in S’s drawer. She thought C had done it.
      I’ve done that “noise-maker in the desk drawer” thing a couple of times.

    10. Dot Warner*

      I’m a petite female but I do a really good NYC male voice (think The Godfather but better enunciation). At my last job, I’d often use the voice to prank coworkers on the phone and convince them they had a new colleague from Brooklyn. Once, I used it on a telemarketer and convinced him he’d called Vinnie’s Pizza, where the pies were $3.14. The telemarketer never called back. :)

    11. ginger ale for all*

      My mother, who never ever plays pranks, did one on her work bestie in the eighties that I still think is genius. She worked in a Catholic hospital in a ward with terminally ill patients and people would send balloon bouquets and one place would put a lot of black ones in theirs to show that they came from that store. My mom thought it was poor taste to send black balloons to someone who was dying and she would take them out before giving them to the patients. But she hated for them to go to waste and so one day she tied them to her besties office chair. Bestie came down to the cafeteria shaken and talks about it with my mom and the nuns. Bestie also mentions that someone had also put Guatemalan worry dolls on her desk previously, which happened to be a vacation souvenir my mom put on her desk but forgot to mention later. My mom says nothing. Bestie goes back to work and my mom tells the nuns what she had done with no bad intentions. It just so happens that it had been fried chicken day that day so they all pick their bones clean and my mom dries them out a bit and a week later put them on besties desk. Bestie then comes down to the lunch bunch again with the news that someone must have placed a curse on her. My mom and the nuns finally confess.

    12. Colette*

      In 1999, high tech was booming, and my manager went on vacation for the month of August. Everyone on the team packed up our desks (moving labels everywhere). Then we doctored the org chart to take all of our names off it, wrote a fake note from our director that they needed to talk about staffing (we warned him), and went out for breakfast.

      Apparently his reaction was worth seeing.

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Hrm… that’s a somewhat difficult question. Can you speak and/or read French? I think that if you can’t recognise the signage, then you’re probably OK. Le Grand Colbert probably attracts a bunch of tourists because it’s famous, but there are tons of restaurants everywhere. I had a nice meal on a barge in the shadow of Notre Dame, but I can’t remember what it was called. Just pick a place that appeals to you and you’ll probably be fine. I tend to read menus before I go into a place and that helps me decide whether I want to eat there or not.

    2. Dan*

      Not Paris specific, but generally anywhere I go in the world that doesn’t have English menus is highly correlated with “not very touristy.” Things with English menus are highly correlated with “not many locals.”

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      You could try the spotted by locals(dot)com website and I’ve used tips from The Guardian website before as well (theguardian(dot)com/travel/paris

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Oh and if you’re into books, definitely head to Shakespeare and Company near the Notre Dame. It’s amazing (touristy though).

    4. Hummingbird*

      I liked Le Café du Marche. It’s not a far walk from the Eiffel Tower or from Les Invalides. My friend and I stumbled upon it looking for dinner; our hotel was maybe a quarter a mile if that from there. It was good. Our waiter didn’t speak English, but we were able to communicate enough to get exactly what we wanted. Food came out in a timely manner. Normally you don’t tip in France (or in quite a few European restaurants throughout the countries), but we left him the change (which is considered a good type, not the 18-20% here in the US).

      Please note that I went there in 2009, but I just googled it to see it was still there and it is.

    5. Treena*

      It’s really difficult to find a bad meal in Paris! But if you wander off the main boulevards even by 100 metres or so or spend some time exploring some more residential areas, you’ll find something! Are you looking for French restaurants only or any cuisine?

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Totally agree! We’ve eaten at neighborhood bistros and large touristy places; it’s all good. Street food is fun, too. My husband and I also buy sandwiches at bakeries, tear them apart and eat them in parks.

    6. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      Le Bouillon Chartier, near Grands Boulevards metro station (metro 8 or 9).
      A friend recommended this to me, tried it yesterday, it’s not crazy expensive, and it’s like a traditional “bistrot” .

      We had to wait 20 minutes for a table of 4 at about 1pm, but it was so nice *_* .

    7. Artemesia*

      On rue Caulaincourt in Montmartre to the west of the Lamarck Caulaincourt metro there is a small restaurant called Le Maquis. French friends took us there for lunch and it was really excellent. Not a fancy place just a typical small French spot.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I quite like Chez Clement near the Opera. And if you want to go to Angelina and there is a massive queue, bear in mind that they have the contract for a lot of the museum cafes.

    8. misspiggy*

      L’Estrapade, near the Pantheon, is lovely bistro. Small, so booking ahead is needed.

    9. Paris in Springtime*

      La Bottega Pastavino//L’Etage de Pastavino, 18 Rue de Buci, 6eme.
      Tiny Italian place above a deli – only a few tables and you’ll need reservations. We made them in the deli a couple of days in advance because I don’t like to call people.

      L’Avant Comptoir, 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 6th arr.; Métro: Odéon
      Yves Camdeborde’s hors d’oeuvres bar – small, kind of hidden

      Yoom, 20 rue des Martyrs, 75009
      Dim sum!

  32. Dan*

    I love my maintenance guy. I’ve lived in my apartment for several years, and generally been happy. But lately, I’ve been having to put in a lot of service requests for the HVAC unit. Our management staff on the property is very new, but the maintenance guy has been here for years. When I reported the latest issue to the new manager, I mentioned that I’ve been putting in a lot of service requests, hoping to have a “real” conversation with her about what to do, ultimately having a discussion about what it would take to replace the thing or bring in some sort of “expert”. Well, she just blows me off, saying “sometimes things happen that way.” Hmmm… but she sends the mechanic over to fix it.

    Maintenance guy walks in here, sticks some thermostat gadget in the vent, and opens up the utility closet. He looks at me and says, “I’m tired of fixing this crap, I don’t have time for this. You need a new unit.” He picks up the phone, talks to some dude, hangs up and says, “You’ll have a new one Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll stick a note on your door letting you know when.” So, it’s still broke for the moment, but right now it’s the two week “spring” where I run neither heat or AC constantly, so it won’t be too uncomfortable.

    Saved me a PITA conversation with the property manager, thank god.

  33. Tara R.*

    Sexual assault talk below:

    Just heard word that the same guy who has been around the girls’ washrooms and showers in first year dorms sexually assaulted someone on campus last night. A bunch of friends have offered me a place to stay for a bit so I can get out of dorms, but it would be a huge inconvenience to be off campus. Heading home for Easter, so I hope it will be dealt with in a couple days when I get back. If not I’ll have to weigh being scared while using the bathroom against temporarily uprooting my life. :(

    1. Jean*

      Whatever you do, be careful and take good care of yourself. Being temporarily uprooted may be less disruptive in the long run.
      I’m sending stay-safe vibes to you and your dorm mates.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Thanks to Elizabeth West for showing us what vibes look like.

    2. Puffle*

      That’s terrible :( So sorry to hear that, and I really hope that everything is dealt with soon.

      If nothing’s been resolved by the time you get back but you really don’t feel able to leave dorms, could you arrange with other dorm-mates to go to the bathroom in groups? I don’t know how your bathroom set-up works, but maybe two people could wait outside the door together whilst the third uses the bathroom.

      I know that having to stay elsewhere would be pretty disruptive, but living in fear of being assaulted every time you go to the bathroom is also disruptive (to say the very least), and it might be worth staying with a friend just for the peace of mind. Obviously it’s completely up to you, and I hope that all goes well whatever you decide.

    3. Allison Mary*

      Not that you asked for advice/suggestions, but when I was in college, I carried one of these around with me on my college campus, constantly:


      It would definitely alert everyone nearby that something was going on. It was recommended to me by a family member who’s a police officer. Though it’s so loud, you’d want to pull it, throw it on the ground, and try to run away immediately, not just because of the assault danger, but because it’s so loud that it will damage hearing if you’re exposed to it for too long.

    4. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Can you get the guy banned from the dorm? I went to a medium size school (12,000 student) and our dorm banned one non-resident who was harassing women. It worked pretty well!

  34. LizB*

    Lots of social engagements this weekend! Last night one of my friends had a Purim party, which I dragged my boyfriend to — I had fun, and he claims he had fun, but in retrospect I should have just let him stay home because he wasn’t into meeting new people and I felt bad leaving him sitting by himself when I tried to go talk to people or dance. My prediction that he would get along great with the party host and some associated friends was correct, but I should’ve just had them over for dinner at some point instead of making him come to the party. Bleh.

    Tonight, one of his coworkers invited us out for drinks and dancing for her birthday, and is apparently really excited to have me come? I’ve met this woman once, and she seems great, but I find it weird/funny that she was so adamant that she wanted to hang out with me. Maybe my boyfriend’s been talking me up at work? I’m excited, but I have no idea who will be there, if I’ll know any of them, or if I can dredge up any of my very rusty salsa-dancing knowledge from the depths of my memory. We’ll see how things go.

    Tomorrow, Easter lunch with some of my best friends, hosted by the friend’s mom who always has us over for Thanksgiving. Known quantities, guaranteed delicious food and probably some silly card games. A good way to round out the weekend.

    1. misspiggy*

      That sounds lovely. I adore a mix of new and familiar social happenings.

      Don’t beat yourself up, by the way – your boyfriend is a fully autonomous human being who appears to be able to handle being slightly out of his comfort zone, and he said he had fun. I mean, you’re not holding his cat or his grandmother hostage until he comes to parties with you, right?

  35. C Average*

    So I just HAVE to share this here. (I haven’t posted much, but I lurk a lot.)

    You know the #birdiesanders story that’s getting so much press? I was there, and it was freaking amazing!

    A friend and I decided to attend the Bernie Sanders rally yesterday at Portland’s Moda Center. She’s a diehard supporter; I’m a diehard Democrat who’s dithered between the pragmatic choice (Hillary, whose brains and experience I admire) and the moon-shot choice (Bernie, whose progressive agenda delights me and whose unapologetic leftie credentials make me want to cheer).

    We waited in line for about four hours, which was surprisingly fun–I wound up meeting a woman who knew my sister, of all the crazy things, and I made several other new friends. Then inside we enjoyed some amazing people-watching: everything from babies wearing Bernie buffs as tube dresses to old hippies in tie-dyed Bernie shirts. Then he started speaking, which was great–the crowd was totally into it.

    And then the bird thing happened. Oh, my gosh. The place came absolutely unglued. Such a fun, fun moment. I’m so happy that I got to be there to witness it!

      1. C Average*

        Well, it’s been interesting.

        First off, for background, my family’s life has become a little bit of a country song this year. Within one calendar year my stepkids’ mom’s house burned down (she and the kids barely got out in time); my stepkids’ mom had a psychotic break while driving the kids across town and nearly had an accident; my older stepdaughter developed an eating disorder (she’s in treatment and doing better now); we had our kitchen remodeled and it took three times as long as it was supposed to and we all existed in one room in the basement and it was totally like that line from Sartre about hell being other people; my sister got colon cancer (she’s receiving chemo and will have surgery in a few weeks and is kicking ass so far); and my husband’s sister got leukemia (outlook cloudy). The kids want to get a dog and I’m reluctant because, having been a country music lover for many years, I know it cannot possibly live, given prevailing trends.

        So there’s all that. It will be the material for many books.

        I completed a first draft of a novel and am revising it now. It’s actually not the novel I was planning to write, but it is damned good and I’m excited about it. It’s called “Distress” and it deals with (among other things) the financial crisis. The protagonist is the son of a Wall Street CEO. When he gets disowned by his asshole dad, he winds up going to work as an IT guy at Sallie Mae, where he discovers a technical glitch that makes it possible to permanently delete people’s records. He becomes a modern-day Robin Hood, making people’s student loan debt magically disappear. He’s a fun character and it’s a fun story. When I’m done revising I’ll seek an agent and get the whole publication ball rolling.

        I actually plan to go back to some kind of work in the fall, when my younger stepdaughter goes to middle school and there are fewer family driving demands. I’ve found that the kid-related responsibilities have all landed on me and it’s made me rather resentful, since they’re not my kids. Kid-raising is really thankless. I know other people enjoy it, and more power to ’em, but I’d rather work outside the home. I don’t know what I’m going to look for. I think I’d kind of like a low-key retail gig of some kind. No more offices, no more desks.

        In a couple weeks I’m driving down to Phoenix to stay for a month or so with my sister. I’ll see her through the last of the chemo, her surgery, and her post-op recovery. I’ll use the free time and the beautiful setting to complete my novel revisions.

        Life has been wacky, just wacky.

        I lurk here a lot! I seldom have anything to contribute, but I will always love this site and this community.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Thanks for the update! Yeah, life can sure come at you FAST, crap. It sounds like you have a good handle on all the chaos, though, I figured you would.
          I love the story line of your book. I’d buy that. (not joking) I just enjoy stories like that.
          I hope you don’t mind me saying, but try to avoid retail. Do something with all that creativity you have in you. Retail can get to be a pit, unless you are choosy and have a plan of some type.
          Good vibes to those around you with difficulties. May their paths be easier than what it appears right now.

    1. Honeybee*

      I was cracking up watching the video. I just started watching Portlandia last week so I immediately got why everyone thought it was so funny/amazing.

    2. StillHealing*

      I watch a video of it and loved how Bernie acknowledged and connected to the bird. Very special moment.

  36. Kassy*

    This may seem like it should be simple, but I’m feeling overwhelmed…. How do you buy a house?

    We are still in the “saving up for a down payment” part, but I have no idea what to do next!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Well, when you are ready, you start looking at houses and start looking for a place to get mortgage from. I got us preapproved first by accident, I had not really planned on that part. Then we went looking for houses. I did not use their number that they gave us. I reduced their amount of loan by 33% and we chose something in this lower price range.

      If you are saving for a down payment, I assume you have an idea of what you want to spend and can afford?

      Do you have any idea what features are important to you both? We wanted everything on one floor and a garage. I wanted an area for a dog run.

      Do you have an idea of where you would like to live- city or neighborhood?

      1. The IT Manager*

        Open houses. Around here they are on Sundays. It’s a great way to see what’s available and get an idea of what you like.

        Also pick a neighborhood to narrow down your options. How far from work, school, fun are you willing to live?

    2. periwinkle*

      Check with your bank/credit union – many of them offer free classes for prospective first-time homebuyers. My credit union regularly offers a 2-hour course (both in-person and online versions) that covers the preparation work (saving for the downpayment, prepping your credit) through the offer and closing paperwork. Real estate firms may also offer free classes (Redfin does, at least in the Seattle area).

      1. Honeybee*

        Thanks for the Redfin tip! I will definitely be looking that up (not the original requestor, but also interested.)

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Get pre-approved for financing when you’re ready to actually buy. And get approved for way more than you think you’ll actually need. When we bought our last house, I got us pre-approved for $400K, and my husband flipped out, saying that there is no way in hell that he would ever pay that much for a house. I told him I was aware of that, but that it’s better to be approved for more than you think you’ll need than to have to go back and get approved for more. We ended up finding a house for much less than that.

      Also, any bank you deal with will make you jump through a ridiculous number of hoops, no matter how good your credit is. My husband and I both have credit scores over 800, I’ve been at my job 11 years, he’s been at his job for over 20. Our joint bank account was originally the one he opened in the late 80’s. And, we got a loan from that bank when we bought our first house. This last time around, we decided to go through them again, since we had not had any problems, and because we had a history with them. And even with all that, after we got pre-approved for financing, we STILL had to provide proof of employment (copies of our paystubs) every 2 weeks until we were under contract.

    4. Artemesia*

      During this waiting period start going to open houses in what you think will be your price range (and a notch up and a notch down and free standing and condos) so that you have a clear idea of what is out there and what you find you really want. It really helps to have some idea of comparative values and what to expect. Also look at houses on line for the same reason. The more experience you have the better prepared you will be to identify your needs and wants.

      And it is important to do this in a new area. We moved to a new city and got a bit skinned on the purchase because we didn’t have enough experience of the market. (plus we aren’t very good at real estate deals apparently)

      Closing on a house is fairly traumatic as the hidden costs are such a shock. Be sure you have a good realtor who can help you understand all that before the day. And be sure to hire a good independent inspector preferably one your friends have used or you have good references for. (when we sold our house the first buyers cancelled because of the ‘terrible inspection’ done by their pastor who was an inspector in his spare time. Every single terrible thing except one was bogus — the next buyer (we had two offers in two days, used a professional inspector (and we gave him the negative inspection since we were fixing the one terrible unknown problem and wanted to be super transparent) who said the pastor was nuts. e.g. he claimed the insulation was all installed backwards which was not true and the new inspector made clear was not true. He claimed the ‘back of the house was broken’ which was not true and the pro said was not true. He claimed the crawl space should have large vents — we had installed a very expensive sealed, carefully vented state of the art system which the new inspector said would prevent mold and dampness problems etc etc. So these people lost a cool house because of this inept inspector. The people who bought the house (at asking price) were thrilled. But you also don’t want someone in the bag for the seller or the bank — but someone you can trust to uncover problems. And make sure YOU test everything you can e.g. faucets, toilets, appliances etc etc.

    5. GiantPanda*

      I talked to some banks first. Here’s my income, here are my savings, what sort of house could I afford, what would the mortgage look like? They gave me sample calculations as well as information they’d need to actually approve one. One also had a checklist for things to consider when buying a house.
      All very helpful, and when I finally found the right place a year later there were no problems with financing it.

    6. Colette*

      Once I made the decision to seriously look, I wasn’t sure how to find a real estate agent. I solved that by going to open houses in the area I was considering.

    7. Nancypie*

      Make sure that when you’re doing cost estimating,my oh are taking into account property tax and insurance. Property tax is a substantial chunk of my mortgage payment.

    1. Kassy*

      Best: got a ton of baby clothes and diapers from a co-worker!

      Worst: yelled at my 2 year old today

    2. Doriana Gray*

      Best: I’m getting my own work now after two months of “training” in my new job. I put training in quotes because I worked in this division in the past during my company’s training program for five weeks, and most of what I was doing when I began here permanently was stuff I already learned how to do two years ago. The training wheels have come off and I get to do things from start to finish now, and even though the job can be stressful and overwhelming, I’m happy. I’m finally doing the job I was hired to do (thank God for the new assistant that just started Monday, whom I helped train – she took the assistant tasks away from me so I could focus on higher level work).

      Worst: I just realized that in order to do the things I want to do this year, I’m going to have to cut way back on my spending. I’ve done it before and managed to save up a decent chunk of change, but it sucks that the daily splurges I’ve become accustomed to will have to take a back seat to other things, possibly for a real long time.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I change my worst. I just woke up this morning deathly ill, and I really am contemplating jumping out of a window just so I can stop feeling like this (I’m spewing from both ends everywhere – ew) – but I don’t have the energy to move. I haven’t been this sick since I was a kid. I forgot how horrible it feels in your whole body to retch.

        I just wish whatever this is would hurry up and go away.

    3. SL #2*

      Best: …surprise 5-day weekend! (Friday-Tuesday, I’ll be back in the office on Wednesday).
      Worst: …the reason for the 5-day weekend (death in the family; viewing and wake is Monday and funeral is Tuesday). Granted, nearly all the planning is done, so now it’s just a lot of mental preparation.

    4. Panda Bandit*

      Best: Doesn’t happen until tomorrow but it’s a giant basket of candy with my name on it.

      Worst: Went on a 4 hour trip to the far-flung suburbs to pick up my bridesmaid dress. After I got back I was informed the store could have shipped it to me for free.

    5. NicoleK*

      Best of the week: Got great feedback from the person who trained me in my new role. She’s feels that I’m doing a great job.
      Worst of the week: I felt really down after I went through my Linkedin contacts. It seems that everyone is in some type of leadership role (manager, director, senior x) or works in an industry or sector that I’ve never been able to break into (county, state, federal, health care company, and etc). Or it only took someone 2 years to get to x while it took me three times as long to get to x. While I’ve had some success, it feels like I’ll never be as successful as my peers. Ugh. I know everyone has felt down about their career at some point in time.

    6. Elkay*

      Best: Very productive couple of days:
      Training walk for a sponsored walk I’m doing in June
      Made a tart from scratch for today’s dessert, it’s still currently in one piece but I did have to do some pastry patching so fingers crossed it holds
      Played some “retro” games in our new-ish games room (GameCube FTW)
      Laundry all done and put away

      Worst: Frustrations with New Boss, he’s not bad he’s just not Old Boss and doesn’t quite understand me and I fear is not interested in helping me to progress in my career.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Best: Four day weekend and unlimited chocolate.

        Worst: My washing machine is on the blink and the troubleshooting section in the manual is very unhelpful. Mind you, I have had my washing machine for about 10 years now and it has never given me any trouble before.

        1. danr*

          If the washing machine is a top loader there are two main problem areas. One is the transmission and motor to move the tub. The other is the electric or electronic controls. A good way to troubleshoot is to search Google for your brand of washer, the year and the word ”problems”.

    7. nep*

      Best — Today, a day off.
      Worst — A lot of things, but working through them. I think addressing the vitamin deficiency will help on many fronts.

    8. Carrie in Scotland*

      Best: It’s been sunny and warm outside some days, good times with good friends.

      Worst: Being rejected for two positions without even getting an interview :( maybe I’m meant to stay in admin support. sigh.

    9. Persephone Mulberry*

      Best: I participated in a pop-up art show yesterday, and while it wasn’t successful in terms of sales, I got tons of kudos for my work.

      Worst: I cut myself pretty badly making dinner on Monday. Hurts like nobody’s business.

    10. Mimmy*

      BEST: Early Easter with my relatives (mom’s side) last night. Going back up today to attend Easter Mass with my immediate family.

      WORST: Ohhh where do I begin?? My class… No results yet from my biopsy (will call Monday)… Here’s hoping this is a better week.

    11. danr*

      WORST: Spring allergies have started.
      BEST: Easter and Passover are separate this year. Being in a mixed marriage, it usually means two feasts on the same weekend, since we move the Seder to the weekend so everyone came come. So, Saturday is the Seder and Sunday is Easter dinner. But not this year.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      BEST: Got my roots done this weekend (finally) and we turned it into a style / fun day–my awesome stylist added pink hair streaks (non-permanent). I don’t want to wash them out! If you go to my blog to the About page, I uploaded a selfie LOL. They had the chalk but none for sale in the pink (only the tester), but they’re going to order some. I love this color thing. There is a person at work who has short on one side / long and colored on the other hair, and so I’m no longer worried about wearing streaks at work. If she can get away with it, so can I. ;)

      Also, I discovered that if I put that Kevin Murphy smoothing cream on wet hair and French braid and sleep on it, that I wake up with amazing curls that last all day. We went out to a team dinner that night for work and I got some attention from a very hot waiter. Heh heh. :)

      WORST: It keeps getting cold again. Bummer!

    13. LSP*

      Best: in Vegas all weekend having a great time with my husband!!!

      Worst: lost all my money :( I did win big the last time I was here though, so I guess it all evens out

      1. LSP*

        OOOMMMGGG whoever read this and sent me good vibes, you are the best!!!

        I just won all my money back and then some. I just had the roll of my life (craps!)!

    14. GreenTeaPot*

      Best: Finished a small project this week and making more progress on the big one, but the deadline on that one was extended. Also managing to workout more. Downloaded the Simonson book Allison recommends earlier in the week.

      Worst: Haven’t had much time to read it.

    15. LCL*

      Best-spent Thursday thru Sunday at Norwescon.
      Worst-having to board spotty dog all weekend. He did have a better time than last year- he’s not very stiff and he ate all his food.

  37. The Unkind Raven*

    I’m probably posting too late; I almost waited till next week. I’m really hoping for some reassurance, but I came here because you guys are an honest and caring crowd (I lurk, but I’ve never posted before).

    So I booked a trip to Paris and some surrounding areas for late summer, and despite the fact that we’ve lived in a post-9/11 world for fifteen years, I can’t shake the horror of these Belgian attacks. Mind you, I a.) booked this trip well after the Paris attacks, having watched that tragedy unfold, and it didn’t stop me from planning this trip, b.) live in New York and am in the city (usually Manhattan) often and c.) have traveled out of the country beforehand. I purchased travel insurance that covers terrorist events, but I can’t stop thinking about what happened in Belgium.

    I try to keep reminding myself that these events can happen anywhere (and that where I live it’s probably even likelier they can happen here), that I can’t allow these things to dictate how I live my life, that if I really felt unsafe before the trip I would cancel it, but I just don’t know why this is weighing so much on my mind. It’s an expensive trip, but that’s not it; I think it’s more like, I was super looking forward to it, and now it seems so fraught.

    I hope I don’t sound tone-deaf; I realize that the people in Brussels (and in other parts of Europe) are living in actual, day-to-day fear and anxiety right now, not to mention the tragedy that unfolded there. I think of them often, and I know what they are going through is absolutely horrific.

    I really never feel like this; I usually think more in terms of, well, yeah, bad stuff happens (and it’s happened RIGHT WHERE I LIVE), but does that mean I stop living my life? And I try to back that up; I go to plenty of shows and museums in New York, and I take public transportation, and I’m never fearful. The first time I went to Europe was in the spring of 2001 and I was 16 years old. So why does this hang on me now?

    I’m sorry if this is long and rambling; it’s a little late here. This has been weighing heavily on me, and I just really want someone to say, “You’re going to have a fantastic trip! Don’t worry!” Thank you in advance for any replies; they are much appreciated!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If we stop living our lives as we chose, then they win.

      You have fear because you are a thinking human being. You’re pretty normal in my books.

      Decide to go. Decide to use good judgement and a level head.

    2. Treena*

      You ARE going to have an amazing trip. It’s Paris!

      Two thoughts– Paris was already a target. It’s very unlikely that it will be a target twice. Terrorists like to spread their damage around, not contain it to one area. Second, by not going to Paris, you’re already letting terrorism dictate your life for you, which is the goal. So by going, you’re basically saying F that, which is a good thing! Have an amazing trip =)

    3. Undine*

      You’re going to have a fantastic trip! Don’t worry! ;)

      It’s natural to worry. One way to approach worry is don’t try to suppress it, just let yourself worry, feel how it feels in your body, and then find a way to offer yourself comfort & support – a personal “mantra” that gives you reassurance. If you can stop watching news reports, that may help a lot. I almost never watch video of anything, and especially not video of violence, and I find that those images have a huge power when I do see them, much more than hearing or reading something does. For me, I actually find it’s traumatic to see that stuff. So let yourself turn it off.

      They also say don’t try to “prove” nothing can happen, because you can’t prove a negative. But really, Brussels was just one moment in one place and overall, probably the most dangerous part of your trip will still be driving to the airport.

    4. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      Dear Raven,

      I live near Paris and let me tell you, you will have a fantastic trip. Some of us are living in fear, some are not, but the most important part is: we’re still living. So come enjoy life with us for a bit, enjoy that Eiffel Tower, that Arc de Triomphe, maybe that Louvre museum if you like those, and maybe some Notre Dame too. You’ll see plenty of interesting things and the best part is, now that you’re an adult you can do whatever you want however you want :) .

      Enjoy the super awesome trip :)

    5. Cordelia Longfellow*

      You are going to have a fabulous time, and don’t worry! I had a trip scheduled to Paris last year, which ended up being two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. There was an increased police/military presence, and at first it was a little disconcerting because they were all carrying assault rifles, but I felt totally safe travelling alone around the city. It is an amazing place, and it would be a shame for you to cancel your trip. Your feelings are totally understandable, but your personal level of risk is incredibly low – lower than so many things that we do on a daily basis. I do a fair bit of research on terrorism for work, and I was living in London during the 7/7/2005 bombing attack, so I’ve seen things from both sides. In an odd coincidence, I was living in London again last year for grad school, and my department was right next to the bus bombing site, and one of my school’s employees was killed in the attacks. I was there for the tenth anniversary memorial, and it was a somber rememberance of a tragedy, but also a reminder of resilience and community.

      I do hope you go on your trip, and it will be fantastic. If you’re travelling soon, I recommend packing extra layers – Paris can be very cold with the wind off the canal! It is an amazing place with wonderful people.

    6. Artemesia*

      I am heading for France in the fall: plan to be out of the country for 10 weeks of runup to the election. Bin laden has already won in America; he has accomplished pretty much what he hoped for in making us start wars that alienated the middle east, making us waste our resources on such wars, and enacted all sorts of draconian measures that make us all less free (including gathering virtually all of our personal communications. If he had a wish list for how he hoped we would respond to destabilize the world and our relations within it, we couldn’t have done better.

      Terror is about making us afraid and making us change our behavior. Terrorism will be with us for the rest of our lives — this is along term pattern that is not going to be stopped — we might diminish its impact but given the divisions already in the world, religious conflict, global warming — it is only going to get worse.

      I am not going to live my life in fear.

      And since we live in the most violent country in the western world (most of us) where going to the theater, the shopping mall, the church, chatting on the porch with our neighbor, going to a club or being in school may get us shot, it is hard to see travel as more risky. (over 30 years ago a random stranger went into my nephews grade school and opened fire on kids killing one and injuring several; about 25 years ago a child brought a gun in his backpack to middle school where my son was a student and it ‘went off’ in class and killed a little girl in the room. These were all nice neighborhoods and ‘safe schools’ )

      so I am off for France with a month of it in Paris. I traveled with my daughter when she was 12 in London when the IRA was bombing. The tube was shut down twice the week we were there because of bombs on tracks. I am not going to live in fear.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        *fist raise* Me either. Terrorism doesn’t make me scared; it makes me angry. I have friends and family in those places (whom I know, and whom I have yet to meet, I’m sure) and I would choose to be with them no matter what the risk. Leave my peeps alone!

    7. Jo*

      I live in a place where bombs go off regularly, and I wish I had advice for you but I don’t. The only thing that has worked for me is long-term exposure to fear (the law of diminishing returns applies to it) and becoming very, very good at denial. I’ve found that it’s actually easier to live in that type of environment long-term than it is to make a brief visit, so it makes sense that you would be more worried about a short trip than people who live there are on a daily basis, so don’t feel bad — you’re not being tone-deaf at all.

      I agree with what all the other commenters have said: don’t let fear win. The best thing to do is go on your vacation, have fun, and keep your worries shoved to the back of your brain most of the time. It also helps to occasionally let those worries out, acknowledge them, and then put them away again.

      It may be a bit morbid, but it also helps me to remind myself that I could just as easily die back home by wrapping my car around a tree on the way to work, or by stepping off a curb and getting hit by a bus. You have no way of knowing what is going to happen, so enjoy yourself while you can.

      Don’t rob yourself of a wonderful trip out of fear. It’s not worth it. Also: you’re going to have a fantastic time and nothing bad will happen :)

    8. Colette*

      I suspect part of your anxiety is coming from the location of the attacks – you can’t really avoid airports. I also think that by summer you will be less anxious. Live with the anxiety for a whole and see how you feel closer to the time.

    9. Katie the Fed*

      This is a tricky one because fear isn’t always logical. I’m sure you know on some level that the chances of something happening to you are infinitismally small. I mean, we have a much higher chance of getting gunned down in a random mass shooting here in the US probably (ugh).

      The truth is that nothing is completely safe. My husband rides the Metro to work every day and I worry about him on it. But I drive and I have a higher chance of being killed in an accident. Something could get you, regardless, so you just need to accept that the chances are low and you’d rather be having a great time than huddled home in fear.

      My grandma spent her entire life afraid of everything. She’s never been on a plane, frets about every single thing, etc. It’s not a good way to live. She’s so jealous of my trips, especially now that she’s so old and can’t do anything even if she wanted to. You don’t want to be regretting these choices decades from now.

      Go, have fun! You’ll have a wonderful time!

    10. Puffle*

      You’ll have a great time! Go out there and live your life. My advice: turn off the news reports and focus on all the amazing things you’re going to see and do.

      I’ve spent three years living in an area prone to devastating natural disasters, knowing every time I went to the beach or drove along the coast that if a major earthquake struck I would have less than five minutes to try to escape the inevitable tsunami. Did I still go to the beach and drive along the coast? Yes, and yes.

      Acknowledging my fears was a big step in learning to live with them. If I tried to suppress them totally, they just festered in the back of my mind, so every so often I thought through it all and tried to place it in some kind of context. It sounds morbid, but I relaxed when I realised that statistically I was much more likely to be hit by a car. I realised that refusing to go near the coast was like not crossing roads because I might be run over. Sure, shit happens, but there’s no way of predicting or controlling it, so in the meantime, live your life- and go to Paris!

    11. Dan*

      You’ll have a great time. If you want practical advice, stay away from political demonstrations or areas of heavy police activity.

      It seems as if there’s usually something going on in the world, it’s never stopped me, or even made my life more inconvenient than it already is.

      1. The Unkind Raven (OP)*

        Thank you everyone! I am so grateful for reassurances and advice and words of wisdom. To be clear, I am usually NOT afraid, which is why I feel so disconcerted that I do now; I’ve been to Europe several times, I’ve traveled on my own (I won’t for this upcoming trip, but I have), I live in a likely target area, etc, etc, etc. To sum up, I’m usually the one who just isn’t afraid. I can’t pinpoint the cause right now, and the fear is such a weird feeling for me.

        Also, I’m not canceling my trip! There was’t a threat of that, and I think I was unclear on that point – I would only cancel if there was a real reason to, close to the date I’m leaving. Barring that, I’m going.

        I think I just needed reassurances. Or to talk it out; because I’m so usually the person who isn’t afraid, I felt like I couldn’t voice that I was now, especially when I just don’t know why the fear hit this time. You guys helped with that; I do feel much better. Thank you so much!

        1. Harriet*

          I just wanted to say that sometimes fear like that can just hit you out of nowhere, and that’s ok. I also live in a high-risk area and have travelled extensively, including solo, and normally take this sort of thing in my stride. For some reason, after the Paris attacks I became pretty afraid, more so than after the London bombings (I’m in the UK). Never really figured out what was behind it, except that I was dealing with a general uptick in anxiety around that time.

          The fear passed though, and I have travelled quite a bit since with no problems and I’m sure the same will happen to you.

          1. The Unkind Raven (OP)*

            Thank you Harriet! You know, there was, as you say, a “general uptick in anxiety” in my life last week; work was tense with some contract issues/admin issues, nothing to do directly with me, but the feeling there was pretty heavy. I wondered if it influenced me a bit; maybe it did, more than I gave it credit for. I appreciate your responding!

  38. MsChanandlerBong*

    I’m so excited! I posted last week about how we weren’t able to qualify for a mortgage to buy a bank-owned foreclosure in our neighborhood. It turns out we weren’t meant to have that house because we were meant to have something better. Our landlord retired last year and bought an RV with the idea of living in it and just having the freedom to travel. We have a one-year lease right now, so after we didn’t get the foreclosure house, I asked her if she could share her plans for after our current term is up (she only gave us a one-year lease initially to make sure she didn’t hate the RV lifestyle). I explained that we weren’t able to get a mortgage right away because my husband has been out of work for several months and we don’t have the income/debt ratio we need. It turns out she loves living in an RV and not having to take care of a house during her retirement. She agreed to continue renting to us at the same rate (which is way below market) and then sell us the house as soon as we are able to obtain financing. I’m having her draw up a revised lease to extend our rental term to September 2017. That should give us enough time to pull up our credit scores and increase our income enough to qualify. If not, my MIL is willing to buy the house (she has excellent credit/income) and let us buy it from her when we finally do qualify.

    I love this house (especially the kitchen, which has tons of counter space and cabinets), and the only changes I’d make here are matters of preference (e.g. I’d like a stainless steel sink in the kitchen instead of the white one that’s there now; the white is easily marred). The foreclosure has no kitchen sink, counters, or cabinets, and the gas meter is missing, which the broker seemed to think we’d be responsible for replacing. Plus, we won’t have to move our stuff!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I remember your post–I think I suggested she might give you a longer lease now that she knows you’re good tenants. Glad this is going to work out for you!

    2. Elkay*

      As someone who bought the house they rented – it’s awesome, for all the reasons you list. Also once you buy it you can get going on making changes because you’ve already lived with the layout for a while so you know what’s going to work (unlike my parents who had a kitchen that was badly laid out for nearly 20 years because the house they bought didn’t have one so they had to have one put in as soon as they moved in).

  39. Treena*

    Warm places in the US during December?

    I currently live outside the US and have a few events in the US that I’d like to make it to if possible. Between Thanksgiving and a wedding at the very end of December in Florida is this big blob of time and I have no idea what to do with it.

    I’m looking for a place that is relatively inexpensive, has decent internet, no snow, no car required, and relatively accessible to Orlando, either by car or air. Open to tiny, hidden gems, but want a place that is either big enough to explore over a month or is a good base for weekend road trips while working full time (this isn’t a vacation).

    Places I’ve thought about and already want to visit:
    Miami, Puerto Rico, the Alabama Gulf coast, Savannah, maybe Arizona/New Mexico. Any advice/info appreciated

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Arizona and New Mexico get snow in the winter. People don’t think about this, but out west it is all about the elevation. If it is a low elevation it is warm. If it is high elevation it is cold. Some parts are warm in the winter (Phoenix) some are not (Flagstaff).
      If you are outside the US please look at the scale on the map. People don’t realize how far apart things are.

      1. Treena*

        I know cold/snow comes with high elevation =) I was thinking places like Tucson or Santa Fe, and by “no snow” I guess I meant no intense snow. Or at least a low chance of that happening. A few inches is no big deal, I just don’t have/want to buy snow boots + parkas for one month.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Tucson is very nice in winter, but it’s starting to get warmer there now. If you want snow, you can go up into the mountains. If you don’t it’s 70s F and very comfortable. I just told someone at work who might go there to see Biosphere 2 just north of Tucson–it’s pretty cool, especially if you’re nerdy about science. :)

          I second Engineer Girl’s recommendation about the map–it doesn’t look like it, but we’re huge. You can drive all day and never leave one state. And we don’t have fast, frequent, cheap trains like Europe does. :( Plan accordingly!

        2. Stephanie*

          Santa Fe will be cold in December. There are ski resorts up there! Tucson will be warm. If you’re going to go to Arizona and want warm winter, stay south of Sedona. Southern California will be warm, like LA or San Diego. I’ve heard good things about Palm Springs as well.

        3. Stephanie*

          Also, the warm parts of New Mexico, IMO , aren’t that exciting (like Southern NM). It’s a pretty sparsely populated state, so most of the population is in the north, where it’ll be cold. Southern NM is a lot of small towns and desert. There is White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns.

    2. Honeybee*

      The Alabama Gulf coast and Savannah are going to be very car required. The American South is generally not as well networked by public transit as other areas of the U.S. are (mostly large cities in the Northeast).

      Two suggestions are Atlanta and New Orleans. Atlanta – is really a car/driving city, but if you stay downtown and are patient and creative you can get to a lot of places in the city between cars and buses. It’s not super easy but it’s doable. It’s also about a 6-hour drive from Orlando. New Orleans is about an 8-hour drive to Orlando; I think it’s also mainly a driving city (car required) but if you stay downtown/in the most urban business districty part of it you may be able to get around without one.

      Both are good bases for weekend trips if you want to explore the American Southeast. From both, within the space of a few hours you can drive to the Alabama Gulf coast, to smaller cities in LA, MS, AL, TN, and GA (Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga and Tallahassee, which is in Florida) and to Gulf coast resort towns in the Florida panhandle (like Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City Beach)

      From Atlanta you could easily drive to Savannah, Augusta, Columbia, Charleston, Raleigh, and Charlotte. You could also St. Simon’s Island (a resort island in southern Georgia) and Hilton Head Island (ditto, but in South Carolina).

      From New Orleans, you could drive to Houston, Austin, and Dallas within a couple of hours.

      Most Northeastern cities will have a better public transit infrastructure that will allow you to get around more easily in the city center without a car. They’re also connected by the Northeast Corridor, meaning you can even go between cities without a car relatively easily from D.C. to Boston. Of course, the downside is that all of them get snow during the winter – although not necessarily that much between Thanksgiving and December (particularly on the southern end, like D.C.)

      If you’re going to do Arizona, you should probably think about staying in Phoenix or Tucson, especially for the purpose of getting to Orlando easily afterwards. You can drive to southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles), Las Vegas, northern Mexico and to New Mexico and western Texas from there. I have no idea what the public transit looks like in any of those places, though. (I do know that the transit in Albuquerque is not good.)

      1. Treena*

        Thanks! This is really good info. I want to stay out of the northeast because that’s where my family lives and I know I’ll already have had my fill of them over Thanksgiving–there’s a reason I live outside the US ;-) I’m not entirely opposed to needing a car, but would prefer to be in a neighborhood that had a grocery store in walking distance at least. I’m guessing that’s pretty much the only thing I’ll be doing mid-week anyways.

        New Orleans and Atlanta I had previously discounted, and maybe I shouldn’t have. I’ve been to New Orleans for a 1 week business trip, but that wasn’t nearly enough time. My general travel philosophy is to save “easy” destinations for the future when I can jump on a cheap, direct flight for a weekend trip, but Atlanta would probably require multiple weekend trips to do it justice.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        I disagree that you can drive from New Orleans to Austin, Houston, and Dallas in a couple of hours. It takes me about five hours to get to Houston from north Dallas and about four hours to get to Austin from north Dallas. Plus I am convinced that every major motorway in Texas has a major construction project going on for the past year or two. Adding distance from New Orleans makes me think that any drive is going to be a day long plus proposition.

        1. Kate*

          Agreed. I think from Dallas to New Orleans is about 7.5 hours. Not an impossible drive, but certainly more than a couple of hours. From New Orleans, you could go to the Mississippi gulf coast in a couple of hours…the water isn’t great, but there are casinos if you’re into that, and also great seafood restaurants.

      3. Stephanie*

        Transit in Phoenix isn’t great. If you stick to just downtown (and a couple of areas north) or around ASU, you’ll be fine, but it’s a car city. Tucson…not sure. It’s way more compact and there’s a light rail, but I’d imagine a car would help. I think it is a more bikeable city.

    3. Florida*

      I’ll give ideas for day trips from Orlando…If you like the beach, Daytona (less than an hour from Orlando) is very tourist-y. I would avoid that one. The Fort Myers/Cape Coral area is nice for beach places. It about 3-4 hours from Orlando. Actually that is a nice area to make your base for a month.

      If you like art the Morse Museum in Winter Park (Basically in Orlando) is excellent. It is all Tiffany art. There is also a Dali museum (45 minutes away) in St. Pete.

      If you like history. We have St. Augustine and Eatonville. Eatonville (Basically in Orlando) is very non-touristy. It’s a regular city. It’s the oldest African American incorporate city. A lot of Zora Neale Hurston’s work took place there. Actually, if you like history, Birmingham and Montgomery, AL are both interesting, but a little further than a day trip from Orlando.

      1. The IT Manager*

        St Augustine is amazing. IMO there’s at least a week or two of exploring to do especially if you don’t rush. I also love Key West. Downside: I don’t know for sure but these both might still be expensive.

  40. Katie the Fed*

    The yard adventures continues. I was so giddy at cherry blossom trees I went and bought a couple trees. Also getting a professional landscape assessment done for the front yard because I have no idea what I’m doing. Thinking some cherry blossoms, pink dogwoods, maybe a lilac or two. I want all the flowers! I’ve never had a yard before and am going crazy with possibilities!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Magnolias. Pink and white magnolias. I must make that happen in my front yard THIS year. I keep saying I will and then nothing happens.

    2. JJtheDoc*

      I love trees in the yard too. My top three picks: star magnolia (magnolia stellata) for its unusual flowers; citrus trees if you’re able to grow them, because they’re pretty much evergreen; and strawberry tree (same climate caveat) also evergreen, can be grown in a lawn and birds love the fruit. Enjoy!!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I would love to get rid of the remaining gumball monstrosity and put dogwoods and redbuds in my front yard. And I need a small tree in back–there is NO shade back there at all.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        BTW, I just discovered that if you sign up for a $10 membership at the Arbor Day foundation, they’ll send you 10 trees, including redbuds as an option.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Do know that the trees are seedlings, so perhaps a foot tall, plus roots. They are tiny!

    4. Jean*

      Good luck with your garden. Most important, have fun and enjoy it.

      1. Observe your yard for a while to see which parts are shady, partially shady, and sunny. Many plants have definite requirements and won’t thrive if they get too much or too little.

      2. +1 to the person who advised you to find a plant store or other source of gardening community and wisdom: local nurseries and garden supply stores; local branches of national organizations devoted to specific types of plants; possibly the the agricultural extension service of your state university. Also think about plant-related institutions aka tourist destinations because they also house botanical experts who may be happy to help members of the gardening public.

      3. Warning: here comes a long list of public gardens that might be helpful, depending on where they are relative to you (for considerations of ease of access and similarity of climate & other growing conditions): the Brooklyn Public Gardens, the Missouri Botanical Garden (in St. Louis); Botanical Gardens in the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Santa Fe, Tuscon, Tulsa, and too many California places for me to list here (there’s an entire article in Wikipedia); the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia and the National Arboretum in DC; Longwood Gardens in Delaware, but not far from Philadelphia; Brookside Gardens (in Maryland near DC); the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden…. (phew! gasps for breath).

      Apologies to the many U.S. gardens and all of the non-U.S. gardens I’ve omitted. Apologies also to the many historic homes and other settings that might include information and/or examples of how to garden in harmony with the surrounding environment and climate. I’m not apologizing to anyone who isn’t interested in gardening because I’m assuming that he/she/they simply decided to skip this thread completely. :-)

  41. Is it spring yet?*

    Used to leave in DC. The neighbor had a lilac. It was nice. We had a dogwood, azaleas and roses. But the most interesting was the pussy willow. Just stay away from peonies, they tend to attract ants.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I had a peony bush outside my window as a kid, and I don’t remember ants in the house. On the bush, yes, but I don’t remember any other problems with those kinds of ants. Red ants in the kitchen in the back of the house, yes, but never the black ants (which were the only kind I ever saw on the peony bush, which was in the front).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      There are some houses in this neighborhood with stunning yards. I feel bad because ours is so scrubby. I told the neighbors across the street we were looking forward to repaying the favor of having their pretty lawn to look at :)

      Peonies seem like a LOT of work. I want a lot of pretty without a lot of work :)

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Peonies seem like a LOT of work. I want a lot of pretty without a lot of work :)

        Nope, they’re not. All you have to do is pull the flower heads off after they drop their petals and then cut them down to the ground in the fall when they turn brown. If they have a lot of flowers and get too long/tall you may have to tie them up, or the blooms will just head for the ground because they are heavy. Frankly, the magnolia makes more mess than the peonies and mine keeps getting oyster scale.

        Saddest thing about them is that they don’t last long. They’re beautiful but most of what you see are the green leaves. But I guess you can say that about any flower — lilacs, for example. If you’re going to go with those, try getting a fancy variety. I have the plain ol’ well… lilac ones that I think are native (they at least spread themselves) and a double fancy white which blooms a bit later.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh, ok. I can handle that!

          I’m trying to do this methodically but it’s hard when I want all the plants, NOW!

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              And they like sun. You can move them, but it’s one of those fall tasks when they have turned brown. But, once they’re in their new location it may take them a bit to get established. They come up year after year and you can’t really plant anything over top of them like you can with bulbs (annual flowers, so long as you don’t dig deep). The only other thing they need is weeding because once those tubers are in there, they seem to be the place where all the seeds get stuck on top.

              Yes, the do attract ants but they’re not the bad kind of ants. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid ants but the ones you don’t want are the big black carpenter ones (or fire ants if you’re in the south). Red ants smell sweet and will bite but the little brown ones just seem to be ones that go to peonies, probably because the flower head has some sweet sap they like to eat. They don’t harm the flower or leaves.

        2. TootsNYC*

          We didn’t even do that much with our peonies!

          The thing I like about peony bushes is that the bushes are so pretty on their own.

  42. Doriana Gray*

    I just finished watching Goosebumps with Jack Black, and it was really cute. I can’t wait until my niece comes back to town for a visit so I can watch it with her – I think she’ll like it. And now I kind of want to re-read the entire series again since it was such a large part of my childhood and yet, I barely remember the stories. Same with Fear Street.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I LOVED the Goosebumps books. I’d love to re-read a couple too. A friend of mine is a journalist and she interviewed Ann M. Martin (who wrote the Babysitters Club) and got me a signed BSC book. It was surprisingly still very enjoyable to read even though the books are obviously geared toward kids and are on the simple side in terms of narrative.

      I always especially loved the Choose your Own Adventure Goosebumps. So great.

  43. SL #2*

    What’s everyone’s skin care routines? I’m in my early 20s and mid-20s are approaching faster than I’d like… I want to get into the habit of good skincare sooner rather than later. Right now, I use Neutrogena’s grapefruit acne cleanser twice a week, Cerave foaming cleanser the other days, Olay moisturizers (day cream with SPF 15 and an anti-wrinkle night cream), and a variety of Glamglow and Tony Moly sheet masks for when I need a bit of extra pampering.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I…sometimes wash my face with an exfoliating scrub. If I think about it I use an Olay night cream. And if I think about it I use a BB cream during days. I’m really bad about this. You sound like you have a much better routine than me!

      1. SL #2*

        Haha, it was forced neccesity; I have a very oily t-zone and suuuuper dry cheeks, so the routine developed out of me trying to keep all of it under control at the same time.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve gotten really into Korean skin care and I’m loving it. It’s many steps because part of the philosophy is about layering products, each of which has a really specific purpose, but if you find this kind of thing fun, it could be something to check out. There are good introductory guides here:




      1. SL #2*

        Yes! I’m all about the K-beauty skincare products; I loooooove Tony Moly, Skinfood, and Face Shop. I have some Nature’s Republic samples but I haven’t tried them yet.

    3. Allison Mary*

      I’m all about DIY.

      Every so often, I do a sugar scrub on my face made up of 50% white sugar and 50% vegetable glycerine. I massage that into my skin until my skin feels warm and good, like the bloodflow has definitely increased. Then I rinse it all off, which is a pain to get all the sugar granules off. After this point, my skin feels jaw-droppingly smooth and soft.

      Then I pour a small amount of a very high-quality jojoba oil into my hands, rub my hands together to get it warm, and massage that into my skin thoroughly. This part, basically feels like heaven on earth.

      Then I get a clean wash cloth, run it under water as hot as I can stand, wring most of the water out, and set the hot/warm washcloth on my face to “steam” my face. I wait until the wash cloth isn’t warm anymore, and then I do it one more time. Then I just barely wipe away some of the excess oil, and I’m done.

      Once my face cools down/dries from the wash cloth steam, it feels mind blowingly smooth, soft, and moisturized. I usually do this at night, and the next morning, my skin is just freakin’ glowing.

      1. Allison Mary*

        Oh, and I do the part with just the jojoba oil every morning after I get out of the shower. It’s called an “oil cleanse”. I don’t even use soap on my face anymore, and my skin is soooooo happy.

        1. SL #2*

          Yeah, oil cleansing is a big thing now! My hesitation is that I have an oily t-zone as it is… using oil seems counter-intuitive?

          1. Snow*

            I oil cleanse and I did have an oily t-zone but not anymore – apparently oil cleansing is good for for oily skin because your skin feels moisturised/isn’t dried out by products so your skin doesn’t produce oil – it can take a little while to balance out though I switched to it when off work for a week and had a few greasy days but it really helped long term

            1. SL #2*

              Good to know! I have a couple samples of Josie Maran’s cleansing oil from Sephora that I haven’t used… maybe I’ll try it out soon.

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        My mom has developed more and more skin allergies as shes aged and she SWEARS by honey. Wets face, slathers on some from a jar from Trader Joes (its organic or something – I have a jar in the cupboard in the bathroom) and then washes it off. Makes your skin feel smooth and fresh! She also was using olive oil for a while on her face too but now uses something a local person makes that is fabulous.

    4. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      I am lazy, and very, very fortunate. Although I had other issues in middle school/high school with my life, it was never acne (knock on wood).

      Then I turned 25, and my skin turned to crap, of course! Prior to that, I used nothing. Rinsed my face with warm water, wiped with washcloth, done.

      Now, I simply wash once daily with Simple’s skin wash stuff. If I wear makeup, I remove it with their makeup remover. I have really, really sensitive skin, and it’s the only one that hasn’t made things worse.

      I have to add a moisturizer with SPF soon, particularly if I find a job in a southern state, but right now…it’s not as budget friendly as I would like. So, I use regular sunscreen and cheap moisturizer as needed.

      1. No Longer Just a Lurker*

        Aveno makes a great daily moisturizer with sunscreen that is very reasonably priced

    5. K.*

      I’m all about exfoliating. Daytime: Aveeno exfoliating face wash, tea tree oil as a toner, Aveeno moisturizer with SPF 30, BB cream makeup. Night: Aveeno exfoliating face wash & RoC night cream. I also use a Salux cloth head to toe once a week – you can get them for less than $10 on Amazon. They’re really stiff washcloths used in Korean spas. The first time you use one, you will be either delighted or horrified by how much dead skin comes off of you. I also try to get facials once a quarter, although I had to curtail that in the last year.

      Really, I think the most important thing to do is wear sunscreen. I wear sunscreen year-round. Also never ever go to sleep without taking off your makeup.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I’m bad–I use soap. But I follow it up with Olay with sunscreen during the day and use Pond’s in the little tub at night. Don’t have the cash for a big elaborate routine or retinol, etc. Oh, and I stay out of the sun, and my moisturizer goes on my neck as well as my face. The rest is good genes–no one in my family looks their ages. ;)

      1. SL #2*

        Olay w/sunscreen is one of those things that’s so simple and easy to find, but so effective.

    7. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I have a Clarisonic – worth it!
      I use a heavy cream moisturizing facial cleanser. My brand is YesTo Carrots. I like it since it’s moisture and cleaning in one go and I forget to moisturize otherwise.

  44. catsAreCool*

    Favorite travel tips? Especially related to airplane, hotel?

    I like to bring 1 extra shirt, just in case I spill something or need to stay a day longer than expected.

    I also make a detailed list of everything I plan to take.

    What are your favorite travel tips?


    1. Jen RO*

      Probably not applicable outside the EU, but I always take both my passport and national ID card. EU citizens don’t need a passport to travel inside the EU, but I take both and leave one at the hotel. This way, I can have ID on me, and I also have a backup in case my bag gets stolen or lost. Having to navigate embassies while on holiday to get temporary ID issued is not my idea of fun, so I try to avoid it as much as possible.

      I’m a naturally cold person, so I always bring a cardigan with me when I am out and about, even if it means I have to carry it for days without needing it. Simply having it there brings me comfort. (I hate hate hate being cold.)

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      My travel tips are:

      1. Don’t check bags if possible.
      2. Don’t have a connecting flight if possible.
      3. If you can wear flip-flops, do so. Makes security check easier. Also, when your feet expand on the plane, it won’t be as uncomfortable.

      1. the gold digger*

        But if you do wear flip flops (or sandals), please 1. make sure your feet are not nasty and 2. do not place your feet on the armrest ahead of you, ie, where I am sitting, as I do not want to see your bare feet or have to accommodate them by shifting my arm. :)

        (I am speaking to the woman with the nasty, stinky feet who propped them up on my armrest for an entire flight.)

    3. Jo*

      Don’t bring a huge, heavy carry-on (or worse: two huge, heavy carry-ons), especially ones that have to actually be carried, like a backpack or duffel. Either check a bag, or pack *very* lightly. Those new hard-shell small carry-on suitcases that glide alongside you instead of having to be pulled behind you are ideal.

      Always carry on a small amount of toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on.

      Bring socks for the plane if you wear sandals/flip-flops on board.

      Get a credit card with no international transaction fees if you plan to travel internationally. Those add up very quickly.

      Keep two copies of all relevant documents, preferably in two separate places (visas, flight itineraries, etc.).

      DO NOT LOSE your luggage tags (the ones they give you for checked bags to track them). I’ve been there and it’s a huge pain.

      Sometimes getting a hotel for long overnight layovers on a long journey is worth it. TripAdvisor is your friend.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes on transit hotels for long overnight layovers. There are some destinations that often have 7-8 hour layovers and you want to rest for it. I stayed at a really goofy one in Dar Es Salaam for that very reason. Good sleep though!

    4. Rubyrose*

      Luggage tags – get ones that don’t match your luggage, that stand out, so it is easier to spot your bag on the airport carosel. Think wild colors. I got some shiny silver holiday wrapping paper and put it on one side of a clear tag. It stands out and reflects the light.

      In many, but not alll, states you can buy those airline sized individual liquor bottles at your local liquor store for cheap (as compared to buying on the plane). They go through TSA just fine. Get through security, buy your favorite soft drink, drink a bit off the top, then add the contents of the entire liquor bottle. Those long waits waiting to board just became easier to endure.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh! Related luggage tips: you can also just (tightly) tie a piece of colorful yarn or ribbon around the handles to make your bag easier to spot. I’ve also seen people use masking tape, but it seems to me that that would come off rather easily.

        And put a card with the luggage tag info INSIDE each bag, in case the luggage tag gets ripped off.

        For me, I almost always bring my laptop, so I have my laptop bag (Targus backpack) stocked with charger/network/USB/HDMI cables, each in its own ziplock bag, plus a travel power strip and adapters. All I have to do is drop the laptop in there and I’m ready.

        1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          Use multi-colored neon plastic zip-ties around your luggage handles to make it easy to spot!

          They don’t get caught or rip off, and I have never seen anyone else using them. They make it easy to find your luggage.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I do this–I have this crazy shrimp-pink piece of seam binding that looks like lace, and it ties very tightly to the handle of whatever bag I’m taking. So many people have similar bags, but I never mistake anyone else’s for mine. :)

      2. Noah*

        Just don’t try to drink your own liquor onboard the aircraft. That’s a violation of federal regulations.

    5. Christy*

      If I’m staying somewhere I can do laundry, I pack very light. Not as relevant to you, I’m afraid, but it’s my favorite tip/tactic.

      I also being a travel pillow for the flight. It’s an indulgence but quite nice.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Always take more socks than you are likely to need (e.g. 3 pairs of clean socks for a 2 night stay), and a pair of nail scissors for taking the plastic kimble tags off new clothes if you buy any. I also have a pair of those foldable ballet flats/pilates slippers which are ideal for going to the hotel bar or breakfast in the morning without having to put on outdoor shoes.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      – Scan and email a copy of your passport to yourself.
      – Get a small powerstrip with USB ports to give you convenient access to electricity in the hotel room.
      – You can’t have enough extra camera batteries or power banks
      – zippy bags are worth their weight in gold

      1. nep*

        Oh, the ziploc bags — priceless during travel, indeed.
        And seconding scan and email to yourself important documents.

    7. LizB*

      If you like to read on planes and have a long flight coming up, get a basic e-reader. You can have dozens of books instantly at your disposal without adding tons of weight to your luggage!

    8. Puffle*

      My tips:

      1. Always buy a drink and a snack to bring on the plane (obviously buy the drink after you’ve cleared security). I’ve had one too many flights where they’ve been stingy with the refreshments/ the food has been inedible.

      2. Bring a jacket or sweater to wear on the flight, even if you’re flying from, say, Florida to to Puerto Rico. Planes get so cold!

      3. Bring a little bottle of liquid detergent/ stain remover. I always manage to spill some kind of sauce or drink down my favourite outfit when I’m on holiday, and finding laundry supplies isn’t always easy.

      4. Always always have all of your medication in your carry-on, if you take any. If your hold luggage is lost/ sent to Antarctica/ eaten by snakes, it’s awful trying to find replacement medicine (especially in a foreign country)

      1. Artemesia*

        I’ve always got granola bars in my messenger bag and an empty water bottle that I fill after security. If we are flying cross country we take a picnic for the plane but even internationally where there are meals, you never know when service will be slow or nonexistent. Or even out and about where you need to grab a quick bite and there isn’t food available. Carrot sticks and sliced up apples also travel pretty well and are a relief from sugary fatty food.

      2. Sunflower*

        I always bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill up at the water fountain once you get through security.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      My favorite tips:

      1. Put a set of underwear, socks, and an extra shirt in your carry-on. I also fly in leggings so I’ll have something to sleep in if I get stuck (happened in Atlanta coming back from UK in 2014 and I had no leggings so that’s when I amended this rule). In fact, you should pack your carry-on as though you are only using it–pretend your main bag is just for backup. Yes, it will have your clothes, but everything you really need should be with you. Never ever put valuables or medication in your checked bag.

      2. If you’re still getting your period, make sure you have some supplies in that carry-on too. Because if it can show up on travel day, it will. :P

      3. Get a sturdy plastic spork from the camping supply section at Walmart and keep in your purse in case of interesting street food. :)

      4. If you’re visiting a city, get lost on purpose at least once. It’s fun. London is good for this because you never know what you’ll run across, but you can find your way back easily.

      5. I don’t stay in hotels much, but in most places, you can ask them not to change out towels, etc. until after you leave so they stay out of your room. You can use the same towels for a couple of days.

      6. If you have a connecting flight, make sure you allow a couple of hours in between. Sitting at the airport for a while is better than missing your flight.

      7. Don’t overplan! It’s fine to book a couple of things ahead of time, but leave room to just jump on a train, bus, etc. and be spontaneous. :)

    10. Lindsay J*

      In my personal item bag I always have:

      a spare outfit (usually a t-shirt and running shorts) in case my main luggage gets lost or I get spilled on at the airport or on the plane


      baby wipes or makeup remover wipes – just something that I can use to freshen up a bit if I’m stuck sitting around

      My passport card as a spare form of identification in case my wallet gets lost or stolen

      About $300 cash in case my wallet gets lost or stolen, I find myself in a position where I need a cash bribe, etc.

      I plan travel to and from destinations and hotels ahead of time, and book them ahead of time that way I have a rough outline of my trip and I print copies of the confirmation pages. I like booking through Priceline as I get very good prices on hotels sometimes, and a lot of properties have a “pay later” and generous cancellation policies. Other people swear by collecting miles and points, but I pay for travel myself so infrequently (boyfriend usually uses aforementioned miles and points and I pay him back) that the instant savings for me is worth it. Other than when I’m traveling/where I’m staying I don’t like to plan too much. I’d much rather drive/walk around and explore wherever catches my eye.

      If you’re trying to travel for cheap and will have a rental car, be aware of whether the hotel charges for parking and how much per night. I’ve seen as much as $50 per night. If you’re in a destination where you can walk to most of the attractions it might be best to just find a hotel with an airport shuttle and forgo the rental car altogether. Also, if you’re trying to travel for cheap, often times a hotel with free breakfast can be found for the same price or cheaper than a hotel that doesn’t offer it and that knocks out one meal a day you need to buy.

      I generally don’t check bags because I’m generally traveling standby and don’t want my luggage to make a plane that I don’t get on, or vice versa. However, if they offer at the gate I will gate-check my stuff so I don’t have to worry about finding space in the overhead bin/trying to awkwardly shove it up there, etc.

      My Bose Quiet Comfort headphones were a great investment.

      Umm, don’t decide that instead of getting a hotel you’re going to hang out at the Cologne train station until your 3 am train to Amsterdam. It’s cold, you have to pay for the bathroom, and it’s full of hobos who will take up all the sitting areas and negotiate with eachother which sex acts they will do in exchange for cheap booze. And the security people, who were all over the place earlier in the day to tell you you weren’t allowed to sit on the floor will be nowhere in site when another traveler starts to harass you.

      Plane is cold. Bring a jacket.

      Don’t be a jerk and try to pretend to have a first/business/econ+ seat when you do not. Most likely someone else actually belongs in that seat and will kick you out. If not, the flight attendants have manifests and will know you don’t belong there and will kick you out.

      A portable charger is amazing to have. I have one that gives me like 3 full charges on my phone. Very nice when you’re in a crappy airport with no power outlets/on a transcon with no in-seat power.

      No adviseable, but if you’re really in a bind you can book an Uber through the app with a maxed out credit/debit card. You will get to where you need to go and the app will later inform you you need to provide valid payment information.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        You’re so right about the free breakfast–I stayed in a B&B for the first time in Cardiff (loved it!) and we got a huge breakfast that kept me going almost until afternoon. Plus it was very lovely and cheery and I had some wonderful conversations with my fellow lodgers. :)

        And wandering around Westminster looking for a place to zap my phone made me realize I really did need a portable charger. I got one from Anker that was featured in a Buzzfeed article and I LOVE it.

    11. Mephyle*

      A small bar of laundry soap is more compact and neater to pack than laundry soap in powder form.

  45. Little Teapot*

    Hi all! I am doing my SDI Open Water Scuba course this week! To 18 meters. I am equal parts excited and terrified. Anyone a diver? Any hints?

    1. Treena*

      Following since I’ll be doing this in the next few months as well! Are you going to be sitting in a classroom or are you doing the e-learning for all the book stuff?

      1. Little Teapot*

        E-learning – doing it as we speak! It’s very intensive and overwhelming and information over-load. I am 100% sure I have not retained all the information! They get very specific which is great but I won’t remember it all. :(

    2. TL -*

      Just stay calm and you’ll always be okay! The instructors will be around if anything happens but the only important thing is to keep breathing and stay calm!

    3. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I’m a rescue diver. So I did open water > advance open water > rescue diver with heartsaver medical training.

      I love it! The training will give you all you need to get started, but you won’t really get comfortable until you have dove a few times.

      Do you leave near reefs or shallow dive spots or will you have to do more off shore ship wreck type diving? Coral diving is the best learning diving IMO. You can stay under for an hour at 10 meters/30 feet and get really comfortable in your gear.

    4. Gene*

      One rule, never wait until you feel the need to equalize your ears to equalize your ears; it’s like drinking while running or riding long distances, if you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s too late.. Do it early and often; as you dive, you’ll learn how your particular body works and what works best for you.

  46. Treena*

    Best cities to visit in South America?
    I’m limiting myself to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru because I want a cheap flight and no visa fees.

    Related to my post above, I’m looking to stay in one city for a month while working. I just realized that I have to stay out of the US for 330 days/year if I want to keep my insurance exemptions. SO! Switching gears to just outside the US. Open to Central America/Caribbean but the internet has to be super reliable.

    1. blackcat*

      I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around Ecuador and I’d recommend Otavalo. “City” enough to have everything you need in a small walking radius but still feels like a small town. Speaking Spanish makes life easier, but it’s enough of a city that people running businesses often speak some English. There’s great hiking and a few companies that will take you on tours (I do not recommend hiking alone as many trails are not well maintained/marked). Mid range to nicer hostels will have wifi internet, which might be slow but enough for many work purposes.

      It’s about 2 hours by bus outside of Quito. Watch for pickpockets on buses. And chickens. I once endured a nasty chicken bite on a bus.

    2. Lore*

      I really loved Ecuador in general, and Cuenca in particular, but I was only there for a few days (and was using public internet cafes) so I can’t speak to how much there would be to do there over the course of a month. But it’s a very beautiful city, with lots of interesting art and cultural activities, certainly more than we could see in three days. (If you do go, I highly recommend the Panama hat factory tour–surprisingly fascinating!) I liked Quito as well but was really more passing through it as a start-and-end-point for a trip around Ecuador and the Galapagos so didn’t spend much time there.

      Outside of Quito, Ecuador did not seem to have a lot of English speakers (though this was about 6 years ago) so definitely brush up your Spanish. One plus to traveling there between time in the US is that their currency is the US dollar so it makes planning your spending easy. Also, the inter-city bus system is comprehensive and excellent, if a little terrifying with the combination of large vehicles and narrow mountain roads, and intercity flights are fairly inexpensive as well. And I will also note that the entire country, from roadside gas stations to museums to working factories, had far and away the cleanest public restrooms I’ve ever seen. It was an unexpected delight of the trip.

    3. Amy UK*

      Colombia is my favourite country in the world! You could easily spend a year there and not see everything. Cartagena is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and there are some lovely day trips to pristine beaches you could do (or longer trips, to the San Blas are amazing). Bogota is much nicer than its reputation would suggest, if you stay in La Candelaria then it’s very colonial and pleasant (obviously keep aware of your surroundings, but I never felt particularly threatened there). Popayan is a nice and quiet little town. Medellin is also nice and has all the city amenities you could want, and lots of lovely little countryside towns dotted around nearby (Guatape is a must visit).

      Peru- there’s so much touristy stuff to see that you shouldn’t miss- Machu Picchu and the Nazca lines were amazing, of course- but I didn’t find many of the towns that captivating or interesting. Lima is lovely though- if I had to settle in South America, it would be there. Plenty of town amenities, a park full of lovely cats to stroke, and loads to see and do.

      Ecuador – Otavalo is a cute little town to stay in. Amazing markets, and just generally really nice and peaceful.

      Central America- Guatemala seems to be high on the travelling entrepreneur radar at the moment. The towns around Lake Atitlan are nice and chilled out, but also gringo central. Antigua is lovely and has everything you could want in a nice, compact town but again- gringo central. I don’t remember having any issues with internet when we were there, but we were in hostels not trying to get it installed in a flat.

  47. Elkay*

    Amazon Prime books. Has anyone managed to find any good books in the Prime borrowing library? I’ve been reading Prime freebies to try and get out of my police/mystery habit but I hadn’t realised how poor the quality of writing was until I read a book I’d borrowed from the real library and it was so much better. I’m a total cheapskate when it comes to books, I’d rather borrow from the library than buy books and I have price alerts set on Kindle books which is how I fell down the bad book hole of Amazon Prime.

    1. Rob Lowe can't read*

      When I first got my Kindle (back in early 2012), there seemed to be a decent rotation of popular titles available. I borrowed all three Hunger Games books that way, as well as one of the fast food exposes. (Fast Food Nation? Supersize Me? I honestly can’t recall the title.) I think I borrowed 4 or 5 books in as many months. But for the most part, I found it was a lot of stuff that didn’t really catch my interest, and I haven’t used it in years. Public libraries FTW!

    2. Nicole*

      I haven’t really come across much worth reading via Prime and went back to reading real books from my library. My poor Kindle is gathering dust, unfortunately. Many libraries do allow you to borrow a digital copy but I found it very difficult to ever get my hands on a title I wanted so I gave up. That was awhile ago so maybe it’s worth looking into again.

      1. Artemesia*

        I almost entirely download books for free from the library for my Nook. It saves me hundreds of dollars a year. I also donate to the local library earmarked for ebooks since I make such use of this.

      2. hermit crab*

        Check to see if you can get books from beyond just your local library! For example, in the DC area a bunch of the local municipalities’ libraries have reciprocal membership arrangements with each other; I think anyone who lives in PA can sign up for borrowing privileges with the (awesome) Free Library of Philadelphia; etc.

    3. Teapot Coordinator*

      My county library system uses an app, Axis360 on Kindle for digital books to check out. I love it. They don’t have all books like they likely would in paper, but the selection is still in the thousands and I still check out paper books if there’s something I really want to read!

    4. Noah*

      I have Kindle Unlimited and it has lots more books available compared with Prime. I have been amazed at how poorly edited some of the books are though.

      1. Hellanon*

        I think it’s mostly self-published crap. I cancelled my Kindle Unlimited subscription after a few months because it seemed to be all these random titles and no actual books – dreadful stuff. Now I just wish they’d figure out that if they used their algorithm to advertise books I might actually read when I open my kindle, I might actually buy them (if anyone knows my taste in books it’s Amazon) but no: self-pubbed Christian romances, ffs. I guess it saves me a lot of money?

    5. Emily*

      When you talk about books borrowed from the real library, I’m not sure if you’re referring to paper books or Kindle books. If it’s the former, you should see if your library has a digital downloads program – mine does, and I like it a lot.

      1. Elkay*

        It doesn’t do Kindle downloads, I think there’s DRM issues in the UK for Kindle lending, so it’s actual books from the library, which is fine but my Kindle is much handier for travelling.

    6. No Longer Just a Lurker*

      They just released all the Harry Potter books on Kindle Unlimited.
      The Lizzy Gardner series is pretty good as is the She Can series but those probably fall into the police/mystery/suspense category.

  48. anon for this one*

    To the wise and experienced commentariat,

    I seem to have found myself becoming everyone’s confidant. In some ways it’s nice to be trusted, but I am starting to burn out. My work involves dealing with distressed clients, so I use up a lot of my listening energy there. Now I find I am doing similar things in my personal life, as family, friends, and colleagues seem to be coming to me for support more and more. I don’t know how I ended up in the role of supportive listener because I was pretty hardnosed and unsympathetic when I was younger, but I guess the bumps and bruises of life have changed me (which is a good thing overall).

    I don’t want people to stop confiding in me altogether, because this is part of a good intimate relationship. I also don’t have any problem asking them to reciprocate and listen to me if I need support. What I do want is for the balance of these relationships to shift a little so that as well as supporting and listening to each other, we are also having fun together. I feel like I have forgotten what that is like. I don’t know what to suggest we do that would bring that element back into these relationships, and I worry that asking people to do lighthearted things with me is going to sound like I don’t care about their distress.

    I do feel I need to do something as I am starting to stop caring about other people’s problems, which is a sure sign of impending burnout.

    I have a therapist and am working on the deeper reasons behind all of this, so I am not looking for that kind of input, more some practical suggestions, or shared experiences.

    1. Colette*

      Do you try to solve things for them? If so, can you be sympathetic without fixing? In other words, limit your response to things like “wow, that sounds hard, what are you going to do?”

      1. anon for this one*

        I don’t give advice (when not at work) and use active listening a lot. I am finding however that doing this is draining in itself. which makes sense – I have seen studies that suggest people who empathise in such situations report lower mood and energy levels than people who give advice…

        1. Colette*

          Then redirection is probably your next step, particularly if it’s the same issues over and over. But you can also say something like “I understand you are going through a hard time, and I’m happy to listen for five minutes, but then I need to focus on something else so that I can recharge” – ok, my wording isn’t great, but the idea is that you support them but then you get what you need, too.

        2. TootsNYC*

          are you doing “work” with them?

          You work with distressed people–so you’re doing active listening with them. Are you really just taking your work home with you? It may be more that than any deep-seated thing. It might just be a habit.

          Maybe building a repertoire of a new set of conscious ways to react when people start confiding would be helpful. Some stock phrases.

    2. Rubyrose*

      I like putting them on the spot to fix their own stuff (what are you going to do?) My concern would be that asking an open ended question of them would just encourage them to go deeper into the issue.

      How about just saying hey, today I’m not up for problem solving, could we just have fun?

    3. Christy*

      Ideas: pottery painting, trampoline park, see theatre, exercise together, paint night. All friend activities that allow for talking (except theatre).

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Act like my mother and give bad advice and then get snippy when the person doesn’t take it? :)

      I kid, I kid.

      Can you just re-steer the conversation. “Oh this is all so depressing – let’s talk about something more pleasant! did you see the new episode of Better Call Saul?”

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you chuckle, I was with a group of friends and we were talking about how we handle stuff like this. Another woman and I were firm to almost belligerent about putting our foot down, “I am NOT your dump. You cannot drop your load of stuff off on me* so that you can continue doing what you are doing.” Other people in our group were totally shocked. Well this is what happens when you reach you maximum capacity. You learn to hold people accountable for the parts of their lives they CAN do something about and you start insisting that they not chew up your time with “venting”.

      Personally, I will say this: If you wait for someone to take an interest in you the way you do with others, you will wait a very long time. Cut out chunks of time each day where you invest in you, do something to build yourself up. This can be jogging, soaking in a hot tub, learning a new skill, etc, it can be whatever YOU want. Don’t allow yourself to be drained and drained and drained. Look at what is happening and see where you want to change things. It could be that you decide no phone calls after 10 pm. Or it could be that you want to take a course in something and you need blocks of time each week to complete that course. Set boundaries with people. They will still confide in you, I promise. We have a culture of talking about anything and everything. You can put these boundaries in place and never notice a change in how people are behaving toward you.

      * What was that song? “Take a load off Fanny”. (or it is Annie? Can’t tell.) But this is what the song is about. “… and put your load right on me….”

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh, I have a similar problem — I sometimes feel really burned out on giving advice about job-related stuff for friends. I have no problem doing a five-minute conversation about something going on with their job, but after spending my whole week giving advice to other people about work stuff (not just here, but in other work too), I don’t want to spend our whole lunch on it … and these conversations are never just five minutes. They tend to be me saying “it sounds like you need to do X” and then 45 minutes of them giving more detail, at the end of which I’m still saying “yeah, it sounds like you need to do X.”

      I’ve actually said at times “I’m burned out on work stuff” but I feel selfish saying it. I wish I had a better solution.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I think you get a pass though – this is your job, after all. I wouldn’t want to, like, make PowerPoint slides for friends in my spare time. I don’t suppose you could say something like “oh, you know – I do work advice ALL day, I’d love to talk about something else!”

        Or send them to the Friday open thread? :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I just feel so … callous about it! I think because people are stressed and anxious about the thing they want to discuss, and it feels rude to be all “nah, let’s talk about Lamar Odom instead.”

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          I wouldn’t want to, like, make PowerPoint slides for friends in my spare time.

          Uh-oh. I think I have to stop doing this kind of thing. :/

        3. Rubyrose*

          I’m in IT, software, but people think I know everything under the sun about hardware issues and that I want to spend all of my spare time giving them individual training sessions on Word and Excel. I limit those conversations to close family and close friends.

      2. anon for this one*

        I can relate to this (although the main issue which prompted me to comment was not work-related). I think this happens to anyone in an advice or service-related job; doctors get asked about weird rashes at parties, attorneys are asked to give free legal advice, etc. I am in one of those kinds of jobs too and actually I don’t find it too hard to draw a boundary there the way I do with personal listening. The way I look at it is that the other person is being selfish, not me: they are looking for my professional input without being prepared to pay for it, and they are not recognising my need for downtime from being a professional. I think it’s perfectly fair to say something like “Hey, I was dealing with something similar all morning and I need some downtime – we can talk about this for 5-10 minutes but then I’m going to need to move on, but if you want to call me at the office we can do that too.” I think it’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes rehashing the problem endlessly doesn’t help the person and a half hour lunch talking about Lamar Odom might actually be more relaxing for them in the end as well as you!

        1. anon for this one*

          I should clarify, by saying “you can call me at the office” I mean “you can become an actual client if this is a big thing” not that I am inviting the person to continue the discussion for free after lunch! That may not work for you depending on how you work your consulting gig, but it has been good for me (especially when the friend has a problem which lies slightly outside my expertise, but I have a colleague who could advise).

    7. Dynamic Beige*

      One of the things that I suggest to people who are having a bad time with something is that they get a journal and write about it. I have purchased journals for people as a gift (birthday/Xmas) with that suggestion and just say that I’ve found it helps me to write this stuff down and get it out. Whether they do it or not is up to them.

      There are limits to what any one person can do/endure/listen to. Another thing I’ve done is say something along the lines of “You know, it seems like this is a reoccurring problem for you. Have you ever considered getting therapy to help you cope with this issue?” Because I am not a therapist and I don’t play one on TV, there’s only so much help I can give. If someone you know has been to a therapist and really got the help they needed, getting a few of those cards to keep in your desk would be useful. I’ve found that bringing out the “T” word tends to put people on their back foot and you’re essentially calling them out on whether or not they really want to work on the problem or complain about it.

      I’ve also found that the ones who want to dump, it’s a one-way street. When you’re the one who’s in trouble or need an ear, they are always “busy.” Or they brush it off with some sort of “you’ve told me this before” kind of comment and then bring it right back to themselves. So what the others have said. Let that phone go to voicemail. Don’t respond to an e-mail right away or reply right back to a text. If Sad Sally comes into your office with her tale of woe (again), give her a minute or two then decide that you need to go to the bathroom, or photocopy something, or a drink of water/make yourself some tea. There’s a meeting you forgot about, or an urgent e-mail just came in from Big Boss and you have to do __________ right now! Eventually they will stop coming around because you aren’t giving them the chance to get what they want — temporary release of all that pent-up stuff.

      I bought a book recently called Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents which put a whole new spin on this kind of thing for me. Basically, the author says that there are externalisers and internalisers. People who internalise will be self-reflective, try and learn why they are the way they are and look for ways to improve. Externalisers go the other way, looking for some kind of external validation or experience to “fill them up.” Because the book was more about dealing with parents, there were a lot of advice around how to detach and look at situations objectively. Internalisers think they can fix things, they try to fix things. But when you step back and really look at other people, are their complaints something they really want to solve? Or is it part of a larger story they tell themselves? If someone doesn’t believe they deserve to be happy, they will never be happy. If they think that they are always the victim, they will interpret everything through that lens. None of it has anything to do with you, only them. When you give up the idea that it’s your “job” or “role” to help them, that maybe they just want to be miserable, then you can let go of the distress you feel. Anyway, it was a very interesting read and I found myself nodding at far too many parts.

      1. anon for this one*

        Thank you all for your helpful comments (and I am super honored to have you comment personally on my thread, Alison!). I think the key point is that I am worried that if I set boundaries with people they won’t want to be my friend anymore (or won’t confide in me again, so our relationship will become superficial). I think that is something to take to my therapist. I could also use being more focused on self-care – I am a lot better than I used to be, but still could do more to nurture myself, so I’m going to work on that. Thank you all :)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          But if she’s only your friend because you act supportive towards her… is she really your friend? Does she really know and care who you are? If the only way you think you deserve friends is by giving away pieces of yourself until there isn’t any more or behaving in this way, is it a real friendship? If you set boundaries and they don’t want to be your friend any more, then they weren’t really your friend to begin with.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, talking about what is the definition of friendship here. If someone is only a friend for what you can give them, that is not a friend. That is a user.

            Friends enrich our lives.

            When I started setting boundaries, I started slowly. I decided not to add more drains to my life. Then I decided to pick the most chronic offenders and deal with those situations. I also did some soul searching on why I had allowed this to happen. One of my answers was because I want people to take care of me, too. Well, how about ME taking care of me? That changed the whole game.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “essentially calling them out on whether or not they really want to work on the problem or complain about it.”

        I think this is a good point. I’ve used that approach when it seems like continuing to be a sympathetic listener is akin to enabling their self-destructive behavior. I have a friend who is miserable in her job and just complains nonstop, until I finally started challenging her to make changes. Then she balked. Well, either fix it or learn to accept it, but we cannot keep having the same discussion!

    8. Sunflower*

      If someone is coming to me consistently with the same problem, I advise them to consult a professional aka a therapist. There have been times(esp when its related to dating) where I’ve had to say ‘I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this and I understand where you’re coming from but I can’t help you with this/I can’t fix this for you and I think you’d have a ton of success talking to a therapist’.

      Sometimes we just want to vent because we want to know it’s okay to have problems or be upset about things. I’ve had a lot of success reading self-help books/online communities so recommending a good one might be a good idea.

      I also think you have a good segway to say ‘Wow that sucks- wanna see a movie/go to dinner/show to try to take your mind off things?’ Friendships should be give and take and it’s selfish for someone to not reciprocate by providing support to you and/or doing enjoyable activities.

      FWIW I’m not sure there is anything deeper going on behind the scenes. What you’re dealing with sounds like a pretty normal response to being saddled with other people’s problems.

  49. nep*

    Anyone use a rebounder / mini-trampoline? Not for high-intensity jumping, aerobics…more just the steady bouncing that’s said to be really good for the lymph system.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, my doc was trying to get me to use one to help the lymphatics to drain. I have a poor sense of balance so I have an over stuffed chair near me while I try this. If I crash it won’t hurt too much. ;) I haven’t “gotten air” yet. My feet only go up off the trampoline a little bit if at all. So I can’t speak to any results so far. I really feel that I should try to do this in earnest, if for no other reason than to help develop a better sense of balance. That will only be an investment for me as I age.

      1. nep*

        My understanding is bouncing even without the feet leaving the rebounder is beneficial.
        I have read and heard so much about the benefits…I’ll get on the thing once in a blue moon but I’ve yet to make it a regular habit for a good stretch of time, which of course is necessary to assess any impact.
        All the best

      1. nep*

        Just simple bouncing is said to be good for the lymphatic system and even bones. Worth looking into. I’ve had one for a long time — finally going to use it on a regular basis for a while to see whether any impact.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I walk and of course, jumping in skating — this could make my legs stronger too. :) I think I might try and get one with the thingy you hold onto. I’m clumsy!

    2. Sammie*

      I use a rebounder a few times a week. I do a 20 minute routine I found on YouTube. I love it. I think I’m wired for this type of workout as I also love the high-intensity interval stuff!

    3. catsAreCool*

      I tried a mini trampoline once years ago. It gave me a headache. Something about the bouncing, I guess.

  50. Katie the Fed*

    Is anyone here on Weight Watchers? I did it years ago and liked it enough, and found it pretty easy to use. However, I signed back up a couple weeks ago and their new program is just…really frustrating. I spent my first week obsessing about food and being so frustrated because I was constantly going over. So I did the math in MyFitnessPal and I was only eating 1100-1300 calories a day on the plan. ACK. I can’t work like that. That’s a one-way ticket to crazy town.

    Anyone else stayed on it successfully? My plan B is to set a target range for MFP and just use that – like 1500-1600 a day. I’d lose more slowly but I probably wouldn’t stab someone in the process.

    1. Rubyrose*

      I was successfully on WW for a while (lost 35 lbs), got off track, but when the new plan came out I thought I would use the opportunity to get back on board. My immediate frustration was when their new recipe builder did not work. My old recipes were partially out there, meaning not all ingredients transferred. I could not edit them, to add back the items that were lost. I tried entering from scratch, to no avail. I already had enough on my plate (ha!) at the time – I did not need the added frustration of dealing with their technical services, who had proven their incompetence to me in the past. So I told myself to just wait, give them some time to hopefully make things right, and then try again. It’s past time to try again.

      I have read comments from others on WW message boards about the problems with the new system. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to trying again.

    2. Sandra Dee*

      I have been on the new program since early Feb. I had done WW before, about 10 years ago, and was successful. I will say the first month was frustrating, but things have been better this month. I was having s hard time adjusting to eating more, I was practically starving myself prior to this, therefore my body was in starvation mode and saving every calorie for later. I am also 10 years older, and way closer to 50, which is a tough pill to swallow, and the scale is moving slower, but it is moving. I am in the middle of a 14 week at work program, so we shall see how the remaining weeks go, and I will probably continue, because I need the accountability.

      Good luck on your journey.

    3. nep*

      No experience with WW – Just to say, good that you recognise that slower is better. Eating 1100-1300 calories a day — for most people — is a ticket not only to crazy town but to regaining weight.
      How much are you looking to lose?
      Better to focus on eating real food, no processed stuff, than obsess about every calorie going into your system. Just my experience / 2 cents.
      Remember the importance adequate sleep and strength training.
      All the best to you and keep us posted.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing with nep, about the calories. That is scary low calories. And if you have a job or do anything physical that cannot possibly be enough calories to sustain a body through the day. I would expect people to get stabby because they are low on fuel/energy. Tired people get cranky.

        1800 calories seemed to make sense to me- I learned this by watching my husband follow his diabetic plan. When I lost weight, I did it by watching ingredients. I could eat it if it was a whole food. I had a very physical job back then and being hungry was NOT an option. I did find that certain whole foods did not help me– because of my particular setting- so I did further modifications as I learned this stuff.

        1. nep*

          Indeed — we’re using more calories than that just lying on the couch. If something’s not sustainable, it’s not sustainable.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is probably because I’m short, but I did 1200 calories a day on MFP a couple of years ago and it actually wasn’t too bad (and I lost 15 pounds pretty easily with it). But I’m 5’3″ and I’m sure that has something to do with it. I’m quite jealous of tall people who get to eat more.

          1. nep*

            My basal metabolic rate is around 1300-1400 — of course, varies according to how physically active I am. So I could see these numbers being a target range for some. Also I think for some people the experience of controlling eating and losing weight can help one be more mindful about what they eat for the longer run, which might help keep the weight off. I’d say in general, though, that level of restriction is likely to backfire for many.
            Thanks for the input — interesting to know.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            I could *probably* get used to it. But…ugh. I just want to eat what I want (and as much of it!) and be thin! Is that to much to ask? (ha, I know)

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Unfortunately, this: “Better to focus on eating real food, no processed stuff, than obsess about every calorie going into your system” just doesn’t work for me. I eat really healthfully, but I DO have to restrict calories pretty much in order to lose weight. I just can’t do the 1100-1300 a day; that’s too few and unsustainable. So basically I do need a target calorie range, but it can’t be that low. If I’m eating 2000ish, I’m gaining, even with exercise. It’s true; I’ve tracked it.

        Maybe I’ll try MFP for a target of 1600 or so, because WW is frustrating the crap out of me.

        1. nep*

          Interesting. I see. Everyone is unique in how s/he manages weight, that’s for sure. I guess I wanted to stress the idea of eating in a way that can be sustainable and not an ongoing state of restriction. Thanks for the feedback. Wishing you all the best.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Thanks :/

            I just get frustrated. Like, all of the advice like “cut out fruit juice! Have a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal instead of a bagel!” – I’m already there. That stuff is great for people who don’t know much about nutrition but there’s not excessive calories or bad choices left for me to cut out, so now it comes down to slashing amounts. And that sucks.

            1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

              I find the first two weeks to be hardest – so I take slow ramp approach. The first week I ate normally and logged. I discovered I was eating around 3000 cals a day. Then I cut it down to 2500 calories and kept it a close to that until I felt satisfied at that amount. Then I ramped it down to 2000 and now I’m feeling satisfied and losing weight.

              I also don’t obsess about measuring and sometimes I guess at calories (although I try to over guess). For me, ease of use and convenience is important if I am going to stick with the plan.

              Good luck! Focus on your wins! Celebrate small victories. Eat mindfully and try to go as slow as you can! Remember you are more than your weight!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My weight loss journey took almost 20 years. I started when I was 17. In those days everyone was super skinny so I felt really fat. What I learned in the last leg of my weight loss was incredible. There was so much holding me back from losing weight. For example, fragrances trigger weight retention for me. I eliminated fragrances and many of my chemical cleaners. I went back to losing weight again. I was amazed by how many things I had to tweak that had NOTHING to do with food, in order to keep the weight loss going.
          I will say that for the last part of my weight loss, I pretty much did not think about weight. I felt pretty crappy. And I just wanted to feel better. Ironically, the weight I lost during that period was just incidental to me, I was so focused on feeling better. If I had to gain 300 pounds to feel better, I would have done that instead. It’s been about 20 years and pretty much I control the weight by focusing on it as a quality of life issue. I don’t want to be dragging myself through the day and barely getting from one day to the next. No way.
          Weight loss is a tough, tough thing. And even though I finally reached a reasonable size, I will have to watch for the rest of my life. The doctor said, when you feel your clothes getting snug it’s time to tighten up the food intake- meaning I should watch what I am eating and how much.
          My heart goes out to anyone wrestling with this stuff because it’s not easy at all.

        3. Algae*

          When I started MFP, it was around 1400 calories/day, but it kept getting less and less and less…until I was at 1250 calories a day. And then I was OBSESSING. And I hate to go over the limit, so that wasn’t good, either. It got to the point that I would get the message that said I hadn’t ate enough and I’d be really happy to get that message. So I was losing weight, but going completely nuts about what I was eating and having half portions. That got to be a little scary, actually.

          And then, something came up and I gave myself permission to not track for a week and never went back. When I stopped tracking, it really seemed to help me mentally. I regained the weight and need to do something about that, but the idea of starting to track my eating again scares me.

    4. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I would use a variety of calculators to get estimates for you. I think the Med Center and Mayo clinics have estimates out there.

      When I was younger, I did sparkpeople and they estimated I eat only 1800 calories a day even though I was super active. I fell off the bandwagon.

      I am a 5’8 294 lb women with light activity now and I’m losing weight at 2000 calories a day.

  51. Christy*

    Yes, and right now I’m frustrated too. Are you eating enough vegetables? That, I think, has been my problem recently. You have to really eat a lot of fruits and vegetables in order to be satisfied. Also, definitely try adding protein–it’s very low SP-value.

    Also! You have to change everything about how you’re eating, IMO, not just make your usual foods slightly healthier. This has been a struggle.

    Do you have a good leader? My leader in Bethesda (Elyse) is great and I highly recommend her. I can’t remember if you’re in MD or VA, and I think it’s VA.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’m doing the online tools. I’m eating lots of veggies but I should probably try to increase. And I have to get used to protein being allowed – it’s going to be a LOT of lean chicken and fish, I think.

      I’m going to try to give it a solid month before I decide if I’m going to stay with it. I was on it for a couple weeks and then went out of town and found it damn near impossible to do if I wasn’t cooking everything myself.

  52. Katie the Fed*

    OK, one final question before I try to go back to sleep:

    What are the ethics of using a day laborer? Since we’re new to having a yard, we’re learning some things. One of the things is that several neighbors have a guy who they pay $12/hr to do all kinds of landscaping stuff. Nothing skilled, but weeding and mulching and trimming hedges, things like that. He doesn’t have tools so they have to supply those.

    I was a little surprised to hear this because it sounds dodgy as hell. I mean, let’s be honest here – there’s a reason this guy (and there are many like him) are charging $12/hr paid in cash, right? But on the other hand – I could use some help of that nature, but those prices seem exploitatively low – I would think $20/hour would be more appropriate. So…what do I do? Where could I hire for some assistance on this stuff without doing something legally/ethically questionable?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      We have a lot of people around here that do this type of work. You provide the tools and they bring their lunch. I have very strong feelings about this- pay them $15 per hour. If they are doing things that involve heights or nasty messes then be sure to pay them extra. Make sure they take morning breaks and afternoon breaks. And have them take an unpaid half hour lunch. Keep bottled water on hand for them.

      It’s all legally questionable. But you can find handy-man ads in the classified under situations wanted. Or you can use your grapevine and find a student or other person who is looking to pick up some extra cash. You will get all kinds of stories. Some people just do this “pick up” work to get themselves out of a bind, then they stop doing it once the car is repaired or the medical bill is paid off or whatever. Other people spend their lives doing this kind of work. Differences in people, I guess.

      My friend employs people who are down on their luck. It’s one of her ways of giving back to society by taking care of individuals. This allows her to put money in people’s pockets without making them feel like they are charity cases. So my friend has people who garden, paint, clean, do windows etc. She is very pleasant and usually pretty happy with whatever people do for her. If you are a picky person this may or may not go well for you.

      My friend believes that our systems fail people on a regular basis. She believes it is up to each of us to do what we can to help other people. Legal? probably not. Ethical? Yeah, I think she’s right.

      She picks people who are known to her friends. That is how she screens out people who have bad intentions.

    2. the gold digger*

      $12/hour for unskilled labor does not seem low to me! I don’t think there is an ethical problem with the pay.

      For me, the issue is, what happens if he is injured on your property? Will your homeowners insurance cover it? I would want someone bonded and insured if he’s going to be working on my property because I am paranoid.

      There are undoubtedly legit landscaping companies that do it right. It might be interesting to call around and get some quotations.

      (We were horrified to learn that the guy we hired – a licensed contractor – did not have workers comp on his employee. We didn’t learn this until after the guy was done rebuilding the second-floor balcony. You would think “carpenter ants” would be a good thing in wood, but you would be wrong. Also, you cannot just tear down a rotting balcony. You have to replace it – our stupid city building code says you cannot have a second-floor door that opens to nowhere. Goodbye, $2,000.)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Ah that’s a good point too. I’ll get some quotes or look for an Angie’s List deal for X hours at X price or something. I’d feel better about it.

    3. Massachuset*

      In terms of the ethics of this, here’s my thinking: it’s fine to pay people a living wage in cash for work they do for you regularly but at less than half time and not file any paperwork. According to the IRS if you pay a household employee (which includes yard work) more than $1900 per tax year in cash, you are meant to give them either a W2 or 1099 based on whether they are an employee or a contractor. If you consider them an employee and you are paying their SS, medicare, and employment tax, that feels very fair to them though incredibly expensive for you as an individual. If you consider them a contractor, but are paying them a small amount (like an amount that seems like a reasonable wage after taxes, but not before taxes), it seems unfair to file paperwork that may increase the likelihood that the IRS will require them to pay more complicated taxes and at a higher amount than others (assuming they aren’t filing anything now and don’t intend to). I grew up in Texas where this is a very common practice, and I think there’s definitely a difference between a mutually beneficial work agreement (where you pay a good wage in cash for good work done and they make enough to live ok but without needing to file paperwork) and an exploitative work agreement (where you pay a poor wage for good work done and they don’t make enough to live on but don’t file paperwork).

      As you say, it’s easiest to hire a yard work company to do this for you and avoid these questions.

    4. Artemesia*

      Any time you are hiring people you are putting money into their pockets and into the economy. If you think the rate is exploitive pay a little more or give a bonus when the work is done but just by hiring them at all you are making some family’s life better.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Well, that’s a good way to look at it. And I’m saving my back. $15/hour to save my back is much cheaper than the Chiro.

    5. Dan*

      Are you asking about the ethics of employing someone who is here without documentation, and therefore doesn’t have the legal right to work in the US? We all have to come to terms with which laws we will break or aid others in breaking.

      If that person comes to you and offers to do work at wages above the US/State/Local minimum wage, then I’d pay them their asking rate and not worry about it. Work is worth what two people agree on, and I hardly find it exploitative to pay someone a rate above minimum wage when they asked for it voluntarily.

      On the tax end, this is where I’m going to diverge from many. I’m ok in doing whatever to help someone legally avoid paying taxes. However, I’m not a fan of helping people avoid taxes they “should” be paying. My federal tax bill this year was $16,000. That’s a lot, no matter how you shake it. If I’m paying that kind of money, I believe that others should pay “their share.” Whatever that is. That means I’d 1099 them if the law requires it. (Nonwithstanding that undocumented immigrants are likely using a fake SSN.)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Well, day laborers may very well be able to work here legally – doesn’t necessarily mean illegal. But yeah, I’m guessing people aren’t exactly checking their documentation (I wouldn’t even know what to do look for). So some aspect of this is probably dodgy – either the taxes or the immigration or something.

        Probably I’ll just go with hiring a company and trusting that they’re handling it.

    6. FatBigot*

      Do you have anything equivalent to the UK’s Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations? If your laborer was using your lawnmower and the blade came loose and injured him, would you be liable? Or does your insurance cover that?

  53. where the wild things are*

    I’m asking for a friend (and going slightly anon).

    My friend has been having her period for 30-odd days straight and all the dr’s she’s seen have no idea what to do. The last dr she saw a day or 2 ago said “sometimes this just happens”, which is incredibly unhelpful. We live in a smaller city in Scotland and the only endocrinologists are private (fee paying) and a 100+ miles away. My friend has neither the money or time to do this.

    I guess I’m just asking for some sort of way to escalate this as I don’t think my friend’s dr’s are taking it seriously/are being helpful. Any advice on what to say?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ugh this is frustrating. I think women get our concerns blown off more by doctors, too (I was told I’m just tired for years before getting my thyroid diagnosed).

      I think maybe your friend does one more visit and says “No, this doesn’t sometimes just happen. I want you to focus on figuring out what’s going on with me so we can treat it.”

      Otherwise, I think she goes to another doctor or a private one. This isn’t something I’d be comfortable messing around with. Sometimes the extra money/effort are well worth it.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I think she has seen all the dr’s in her practice or almost – I think 5. Over here (am not sure what it’s like in the US) your dr’s practice is based on where you live by postcode (zipcode?) and if she moved practices, she’d have to re-register which takes time (a few weeks for all the paperwork to be sorted out). That said, there’s at least 3 others, incl my own that probably serve where she lives.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I think this is worth taking the time. On the off chance I have a condition that could indicate the Big C, I’d get it checked out ASAP.

      2. Carrie in Scotland*

        To add: my friend is not from the UK but mainland Europe and went she went home, home for Christmas, she was checked out by a dr. They can actually do something but it’s the time (& she doesn’t want to live there) factor – she is applying for PhD’s and the treatment takes months.

        1. TL -*

          Has she told that to her doctor? Can she go in with a list of concerns and proposed tests and treatments and be really annoying?
          Sometimes that’ll get you what you want (it sounds awful but you gotta do what you gotta do).
          And I’m with Katie. This needs to be followed up on, if only to rule out cancer and a few other big diseases.

        2. Cristina in England*

          Can she ask her GP to refer her for a hospital appointment because of the info she got from her home doctor?

    2. Lore*

      I had a similar situation. The first thing my dr recommended was switching my birth control pills, then trying a continuous pill (hormones all the time and no “break” of placebo to trigger a period, and when that didn’t work, taking a 3-month break from the pill if I was able to do so.

      But he also did an endometrial biopsy (that kind of ongoing bleeding can, though rarely, be a sign of endometrial cancer) and sent me for a sonogram, which diagnosed fibroids. (If your friend has been diagnosed with fibroids already, then the dr may be right–that is a thing that happens commonly as a symptom of fibroids.) They did a D&C and I chose to get a procedure called a uterine ablation–but that’s only an option if you don’t ever plan to become pregnant (I’m in my mid 40s so that ship had already sailed!) I ended up going off the pill entirely after the procedure for a variety of reasons, and between the two I’ve had no further issues.

      Short version: if she’s not on any kind of hormonal birth control and/or not perimenopausal, get checked for fibroids. If on birth control, pressure dr to start trying different formulations.

    3. Observer*

      She should start with what Lore said – don’t ASK – INSIST. 30 days is most definitely NOT something to brush off.

      If she still can’t get an answer, then she needs to see a Reprodutive Endocrinologist – regular ones are as likely to fail as an OB.

      1. Observer*

        From reading the other comments, it looks like she probably hasn’t seen a Gyno. If that’s the case, she needs to do that IMMEDIATELY. I was wondering why a halfway decent Gyno would not have looked at that. Now, I know, apparently.

        Lot of luck, in any case.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      Something like this happened to a friend of mine when she was either peri- or in menopause. It turned out she had fibroids and required an emergency hysterectomy. She had tried other things because she didn’t want to lose her uterus but in the end, the fibroids were too bad. She became anemic due to blood loss. But then again, this did go on for a year (er… not the bleeding, but the way-too long periods)

      If her doctors are treating this like it’s no big deal — well it is to *her* and she needs to find someone who will do more than just poo-pooh her and send her on her way with a pat on her head. Is there a somewhat larger place nearby that might have some different doctors?

    5. Artemesia*

      Can she be insistent about getting another opinion within the system. Every dang thing that has been ‘oh sometimes this just happens’ has proven to be something. My daughter had terrible abdominal pain as a small child and once they ruled out appendix it was ‘oh gets get stomach aches’. It was clearly a syndrome — fever, vomiting if she ate and pain. That isn’t just ‘a belly ache, kids get them.’ when I finally got aggressive they finally did some tests and it turned out she had a heriditary form of pancreatitis that was VERY painful and that we were able to deal with with a restrictive diet; she out grew it at age 12 or so — but the diet kept symptoms at bay until then. My thyroid same thing; getting old of course you are tired; blood tests come back and I have zip thyroid. A grandchild had a condition that was blown off for about two years before they finally did the tests that allowed them to treat it properly.

      She needs to push hard. This is NOT normal and it is at least possible there is a serious underlying cause. At least there needs to be follow up testing both of hormone levels and for things like cancer. She needs to get pushy. Hope it works.

    6. Thinking out loud*

      Yeah, my first response was that this is fibroids or polyps too. (I’m having surgery to have a polyp removed next month.) I don’t know much about how your medical system works, but your friend needs to push to be seen by a specialist. Bleeding for 30 days is not normal.

      1. misspiggy*

        Just to add that if you see a GP and say, I want an urgent-as-possible referral to a gynaecologist, it should be impossible for them to refuse unless there is a clear clinical reason to say no. Sometimes people from other countries don’t realise that the average NHS patient has to be quite proactive in getting the care they need via GPs.

        If the GP really is terrible, encourage her to go to an urgent care clinic/walk in centre. She should explain that the symptoms just got a lot more distressing (eg can’t handle the faintness or the pain) and that she tried that morning and couldn’t get an appointment with her GP. Then she should end up seeing someone sensible who will refer her straight to hospital if something urgent is amiss, give any immediate treatment needed, and/or give her a letter recommending referral action by her GP. Then there would be a clear course of action for the GP, who would have to be very unusually negligent not to follow it.

        1. Cristina in England*

          When I lived in Glasgow every single thing I went in for was “come back if it is still happening in two weeks”. My current GP is much more responsive, and I wish I could take her wish me should I move out of this post code.

    7. Elkay*

      I hate to suggest this but if she’s seen very doctor in her practice, go to A&E. My one has a GP on staff.

    8. Book Lover*

      Depends on her age, but they should add least be able to give her progesterone to stop the bleeding until she gets to a gynecologist. I wouldn’t recommend an endocrinologist for this. They should also be able to order a transvaginal ultrasound.

  54. MomAnon*

    I have a teenaged transgender child (biologically female). Clothes are always an issue, and now she needs an outfit for a school dance. So – dress pants and a nice top. Where to go to shop? The pants have to be juniors because men’s pants don’t fit over hips or are way too baggy, and the shirt can be either, I think. This is very difficult because she does not want to communicate the issue to sales clerks, etc. and after a few tries every shopping trip turns pretty tense between us. Thanks for any advice!

      1. Nashira*

        Yeah there’s this too. Buying clothes while trans is super hard. Buying clothes while someone keeps misgendering you or asking why you can’t just dress like the wrong gender for this event is, officially, THE WORST.

        Why no I’m not currently getting crap for refusing to wear a dress to a sibling-in-law’s wedding why do you ask.

        1. Shopping Helper*

          Wow, I didn’t get ANYTHING from AnonMom’s post to indicate that she was arguing with her kid over what to wear.

          1. Nashira*

            Insisting that pants must come from the juniors/wrong department can be a way of arguing with gender presentation. Wearing women’s pants when you’re not a woman can cause dysphoria, and yeah I’m gonna side with “find more solutions than ‘just wear these they fit off the rack'” every time. Wearing women’s pants causes me significant dysphoria and it is freaking awful, but my cis relatives don’t understand. I don’t wish that on anyone.

            1. MomAnon*

              We’ve tried men’s pants (jeans and shorts) and they didn’t fit even close to well because of hips and stuff – the legs were drowning). So the child went back to juniors department (plain, straight legged stuff , like from Gap) Since you’ve had experience with this (and I have not prior to recently), would you consider providing me some store recommendations or brands for dressier options? It’s fine if you can’t stand me and the words I use, but you’d be helping out a kid…

              1. Nashira*

                I was brusque because I was short on time, and honestly – I’m being pressured in RL to wear the wrong clothes and it’s awful, and the people doing it have no idea it’s awful or that they’re even pressuring me. It wasn’t clear at first that it was your kid’s choice, and it being their choice makes allllll the difference honestly. If I had known that, I would’ve phrased it differently. I’m sorry for being so harsh.

                Finding clothes really is awful, whether you’re the trans person or their companion. My husband’s watched me cry after nothing has worked, and administered a lot of medicinal trips to the bookstore to help me feel like myself again.

                That’s why I dug up those style blogs, so you could benefit from the experience (with pics!) of other people in a similar position, see where they shop, and get some keywords your kid can use for hunting down a style they enjoy. Like, my big watchword is “dapper”.

                It also does get easier once you can find the brands that work, btw. I bought a shirt without trying it on yesterday because after spending hours previously trying stuff on, I knew that brand in that size was right, and it fits well today. Getting to this point was really stressful and I won’t hide that, but now that I’m*here*, it’s good

                Also… Have you looked into a support group for parents of trans kids? I don’t know of any, since I began transitioning as an adult, but I know it helps me to have places to talk to trans people about what I’m going through. Would it help you to have other parents in the same place, so you have that strong reminder that neither you nor your family nor your child(ren) are alone?

      2. Treena*

        Hey, transitions are different for everyone, and a lot of trans people transition with clothes before pronouns/names. Let’s assume that if Mom is asking for shopping advice, she’s gendering her own kid properly.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes. Your child sees himself as a “him”, and to call them something else is to disrespect and invalidate the identity they’re trying to present to the world. I know that may not be how you see them now, since you have seen them as a little girl for so long, but this is an issue that can cause an irreparable rift between transgendered children and their parents.

        The sales clerks shouldn’t have to know about their gender, they should take the clothes selected and try to make them (or something similar, if they have suggestions for the same look in a different cut) fit the person who wants to purchase them.

      4. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        I think Merely’s response is a little harsh, but yeah. If your child knows he is male, then talk to him about it. I know that your post here does not reflect the way you talk to your child, but start referring to him as he exclusively (as in, including when you post to places to talk to people about your situation) and then maybe in your hear it will be better.

        The good news is: you don’t seem to hate your child and you want to go good. That’s a good start. Not every transgender person is lucky to have a supportive family.

        Now, what you can do is probably tell the clerks yourself about the situation, even if you don’t yell across the stores. Using language like “My son here needs X and Y” … “he just happens to be transgender and we want to find suitable/comfortable stuff for him” , things like that.

        If your son notices that you make an effort about language when talking to other people about him, maybe it will be less tense :) .

        Now, I understand it can be hard and frustrating, and rest assured that it’s okay. You can do it and I’m pretty sure you can handle this just fine :)

        1. Nashira*

          No, please don’t out the kid as trans. That can actually be very dangerous and traumatic, since it’s like painting a target on your kid. However, treating the kid as their gender is a good idea! I mean, some people are smaller than others – I have a cis guy uncle who’s 5’4″. It’s possible to find stuff that fits without outing.

    1. Nashira*

      Take your kid to the boy’s and men’s sections at someplace like JC Penney’s and see what works. I’m AFAB nonbinary and primarily wear men’s clothing. There are a number of different fits available now, in shirts and pants, so it’s become much simpler to find clothing to fit. If necessary, drop a few bucks to get it tailored so they have something they feel really good in. If they bind their breasts, using something like a GC2B binder or even a mash em flat sports bra (all praise to GC2B!) then boys or mens dress shirts become even simpler. If they don’t, they need to fit their shoulders and bust then have the waist tailored. Just measure their neck and sleeve length before you go.

      It’s also been my experience at JCP that the clerks don’t care, even when I use the dressing room on the men’s side, which helps remove a decent chunk of the dysphoria inducing interactions. There’s also usually stuff on sale, including nice accessories (ties, suspenders, pocket squares), so it’s easy to put together a dapper outfit on a budget.

    2. Treena*

      First, know that all teenagers get tense shopping for clothes with Mom, and don’t want to tell the clerk why they’re having Feelings. So don’t feel like this is exclusively a transgender issue (obviously it’s more complex and difficult to navigate than a cis teenage girl arguing with Mom, but I just want to put your mind at ease a bit, if possible).

      From what you’ve written, I can’t picture what she wants to wear on top. A nice top like a tank with lace or a button-up or something else entirely? If it’s not decided and that’s one of the issues, take a look at Pinterest or shop a bit online to get an idea of what is available, especially at stores you have access to. Maybe turn it into a fun? activity you can do together on the couch with some treats and then you’ll have a solid idea of the direction you should be heading towards.

      If it were me, I would shop for the pieces separately. Just go into the juniors section and ask for dress pants, without mentioning the dance. That should make it more simple and not bring up questions about the lack of a dress. If she’s having issues with being assertive with saying “no” to a clerk, but is comfortable saying no to you, maybe come up with a signal or code phrase, that way you can veto it and the clerk will definitely listen to you because you have the $$.

      Also, is she/you open to tailoring if it’s in the budget? It might make her feel good to buy men’s pants and tailor the bagginess away, because they can still feel more masculine than women’s dress pants. It might be helpful to develop a relationship with a tailor that can help out with these big events in the future.

      Wanted to wear tuxedo pants and a dressy tank to a wedding at 15 and Mom flipped out

      1. MomAnon*

        Thanks for the advice. I’m fine with tailoring the outfit and assumed I’d have to. I assume the top will be a men’s dress shirt (using binder) but we’ll see when we go shopping. I’m basically fine with any outfit that meets the dress code for the event, just want to be as prepared for the shopping trip as possible to minimize the angst and irritation.

    3. Shopping Helper*

      What is their height/weight or typical clothing size? That might help narrow down where to look.

      How old are they? My trans teen is 15 and prefers to shop with their friends – it becomes an adventure or a treasure hunt instead of an ordeal.

      1. MomAnon*

        5’2″ and 120 lbs. does not want to shop with friends – more of an ordeal because everyone is suggesting things…it’s go with me, have me bring things home, online or nothing. Unless it’s t-shirt shopping at Hot Topic :)

    4. Kate*

      Depending on the state of your finances, you might consider identifying a store that has a generous return policy (Costco comes to mind), taking her to identify some options, buying a whole selection, let her try them on at home, and the return whatever she doesn’t prefer.

    5. Nashira*

      Here’s some links that talk about finding masculine clothing for people who aren’t traditionally man shaped:


      http://www.qwearfashion.com/ is generally about fashion, and has a lot of photos of different masculine styles for your kid to flip through. If they can find something that looks right to them, then it’s easier to shop for it.

      http://www.dapperq.com/2013/10/store-guide-our-list-of-best-places-to-shop/ D