Christmas weekend free-for-all – December 24-25, 2016

img_5182This 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.)

Recommendation of the week: The House of the Spirits, by Isabelle Allende. One of my favorite books of all time, it’s an epic family and political saga with magical realism, love, and good and evil.

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

{ 707 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! This is my first year not traveling for the holidays since I went away to college – I had a baby a few months ago so my family has come to me this time. It was so nice not to deal with busy airports!

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I’ve been married for 15 years, and this is the first year my parents have come to us. Not traveling is really nice.

    2. Clever Name*

      We’re not traveling this year either, and it’s really nice. Our 10 year old is glad we get to have Christmas with our “big” tree. (As opposed to the mini tree we have at my parent’s cabin)

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        We might travel again in the future – but this year, when she hasn’t even had all her vaccines yet, we didn’t want to put her in the germ-laden environment of an airplane. Both our families live on the opposite coast, too, and not in hub cities (so it means a layover too).

        Good luck with your flight!

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I was swearing up and down last night this was the last year we stay at home and next year I wanted to be on a beach somewhere! But.. we dont have kids and live thousands of miles from family so, it seems sensible :)

  2. Paloma Pigeon*

    I have been combing through the internet looking at Wassail recipes but does anyone have one that they like? Planning a sort of Twelfth Night/Three Kings/What You Will/Epiphany thingy in a couple of weeks and we’re going to get drunk and plant a tree.

    1. Amadeo*

      My mother uses this one:

      2 quarts sweet cider
      1 3″ cinnamon stick
      1/2 cup light brown sugar
      6 cloves
      6 whole all spice
      2 1/4 cup orange juice (6 oranges)

      Simmer cider, spices, and sugar for 15 minutes, let stand 12 hours. Add orange juice and strain. Reheat and serve hot.

      (I know she doesn’t follow the 12 hour rule, she usually just dumps it all in together and simmers it and we dip out of the pot as desired – but you do you).

    2. Amry*

      A glug (or more) of Dr Pepper was our secret ingredient. It adds a little spice and a little fizz. Love the idea of your party!

  3. bassclefchick*

    Rum ball update! They don’t look very pretty (maybe I messed it up, somehow?), but darn they’re tasty! I’ll be honest and say a cup of rum made them way too strong for me. Next time I make them, I’ll use the full box of Nilla Wafers and only half a cup of rum. Thanks for the recipe, Alison! They were really easy to make and very yummy!

    1. miki*

      Yes, I did a half of cup of rum and still found it very strong, but my coworkers loved it!
      Thank you Alison and all others for tips on where to find rum in small bottles.

    2. Anon for this - regular poster*

      During a weekly work meeting, I thought one of my coworkers said “Rum Bowls.” I completely blame AaM for this! :) The person was actually using an abbreviation for the position, and talking about its goals. Ayyyeeee! Bowls? Who needs Rum Bowls????!

    3. Sorgatani*

      I used Allison’s recipe (dubbed “American-style”) and the fella made a batch of “Australian-style” rum balls, so we’ve been comparing the two.
      Texture-wise, the American style rum balls are a lot softer than we’re familiar with, and the hot weather has kept them very soft. I couldn’t find corn syrup, so I substituted sugar water. I used a Nutri-ninja to pulse the almonds (walnuts are a bit bitter for my preference) and it completely powdered them, so mixing was pretty easy. I’ve never made rum balls with wafers before, but they turned out nicely. We also used different types of rum. I used Substation 41 rum (bold flavour, sweet mouth-feel), and the other half used Malibu (coconut rum). Both sets of rum balls were rolled in coconut.
      Aussie rum balls use condensed milk, semi-sweet biscuits (we used milk arrowroot, but have known marie, and teddy biscuits to be used), cocoa and of course, rum. They require refrigeration.
      Flavour-wise, the American rum balls smell very rummy, and pack a wallop, but don’t hit as hard as the aroma does.
      The Aussie rum balls smell like coconut, and because it’s Malibu, the rum doesn’t hit until halfway through a mouthful. Both delicious, but because I’m the only driver, I cannot eat many rum balls.

      1. Ellen N.*

        I believe that it is easy to buy Lyle’s Golden Syrup in Australia. Not only does it work exactly the same as light corn syrup in recipes; it tastes much better. That’s one of my secret baking tricks. If the recipe calls for light corn syrup, substitute Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

    4. SharedDriveUser*

      I used 3 cups crushed ginger snaps, 3/4 C dark rum, and dark Karo instead of light. Yum yum yummy and can’t keep my SO out of them!!! Thanks, Alison, for reminding me of a favorite holiday treat!

  4. TeriJ*

    Happy Christmas Eve to those who celebrate!

    Does anyone know any quality wedding advice sites (or wedding planning sites in general)? My boyfriend and I are planned to get married within the year but are both clueless about how to go about navigating the process.

    1. KatieM*

      Congrats! Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride probably helped me and my husband the most during the planning process.

    2. bassclefchick*

      I agree with Offbeat Bride! I was an over 40 first time bride, so The Knot and the other “mainstream” sites didn’t really have anything to offer for me. But I felt right at home over at Offbeat! They are all about “you do you” and “let your geek flag fly”! Tardis card box? Yup! Don’t want to do favors? Cool! Harry Potter table themes? Awesome!

      The one thing I will tell you is – figure out your budget and stick to it, whether it’s $1,000 or $10,000. And if you don’t want to do something, then don’t! You don’t HAVE to do anything, it’s YOUR wedding. Honestly, we didn’t have favors and no one missed them.

      1. Overeducated*

        Yeah, there’s tons of stuff you can skip, which is very freeing. You don’t need favors, a dj, engagement photos, showers or bachelorette parties, any more alcohol than you are comfortable with and can afford, centerpieces, flowers, a professional wedding cake…the list goes on.

        You do probably need invitations, a venue with chairs, and an officiant though ;)

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          We didn’t have an officiant! My sister got ordained online to sign our certificate (American Marriage Ministries) but during the ceremony we just had friends do readings and sing songs, and then my husband and I read our vows to each other. Neither of us had a particular person who made an obvious officiant (like a minister or anything) and ultimately we felt that the people with the real power to declare us married were… ourselves.

          1. Natalie*

            Your sister was an officiant. :) That’s all you need, someone legally able to marry you (unless you’re in PA where they allow self-solemnizing weddings).

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Well, she was legally the officiant, yes. But she wasn’t one in the ceremony, only for the paperwork, which we signed later. (In the ceremony she was my maid of honor.)

          2. Reba*

            We did the same, and then had a relative (who also participated in the ceremony, but did not lead it in the way a minister or judge would) sign the paperwork after!

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yes skip things you don’t care about! And for things you can’t skip (or don’t want to), decide what you want to put effort into and let other people do the rest. I sewed my own veil and arranged our flowers with some of our relatives, but decided I didn’t care about table settings and so just let the venue coordinator do whatever was easiest.

    3. Small Creatures Such as We*


      And +1 on the recommendations for A Practical Wedding. I got a lot out of it. And I would have saved myself a lot of stress if I’d LISTENED to the book’s advice about taken a wedding magazine’s to-do list, circling the handful of items either of us cared about, then crossing everything else out *and not worrying about anything we crossed out!*

      Also, if you’re not utterly excited about planning every last detail of your wedding, then I highly recommend an all-inclusive venue. Not only did that handle most of the decoration / ceremony setup / catering /bar details, they had a list of recommended vendors; we loved the florist and cake bakery they recommended (we found our photographer on our own, but that was it).

    4. No, please*

      I was pretty clueless and couldn’t afford a planner, so we decided the location of the ceremony, a cavern, was the most important. We booked that first and went from there. The whole thing was really low key and was a lot easier than I expected. Congratulations!

    5. Anono-me*


      We got lots of good advice from Weddingbee. I also found it helpful to have a planning book (with folder pockets). Wedding Fairs were great for finding vendors.

      A suggestion – Right away get a dedicated wedding phone number and email, most vendors are great but a few are pushy and make multiple contacts.

    6. beetrootqueen*

      well its no longer current as it shut last year but I Thee Dread has some pretty cool stuff on it.

    7. Bouwer power*

      Try Fabulous insight for your ceremony itself.

      I just did the deed two weeks ago and we got what we wanted: small, intimate, nonreligious affair and EXCELLENT food.

      Make sure your day is about what YOU and your partner want. Those who ilookI’ve you will live it, no matter what.

    8. fposte*

      One of my favorite AAM comments ever was about weddings:

      “I cry during the chicken dance but that’s usually from shame.”
      —-Lily in NYC

  5. silverquill*

    Oh, I read The House of the Spirits when I was teen… I liked it but I think I’d appreciate it more if I read it again now :)

    Happy holidays, everybody :) This will be my first Christmas away from home, since I moved abroad: I’m excited to spend it with friends and that “Santa” brought me my residence permit, at last! The best Christmas present ever!

    1. 2horseygirls*

      The movie with Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons is one I still have on videotape, with all the trailer/promo copy disclaimers, from my Blockbuster Video days. I never realized it was based on a book — must read it!

  6. nowittynameideas*

    Merry Christmas everyone! I don’t celebrate the festival, but we’re planning to have a fun potluck party on the 25th. Super excited :-)

  7. Birthright!*

    Regular commenter changing my name in case this post is too identifying…

    I’m currently in Israel on a Birthright trip! It’s a culinary focused trip, so we’re learning tons about Israeli food and culture, and I am basically in heaven. I hope everyone else is having a wonderful holiday season too!

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      Please try to bring back recipes for anything you found really tasty, especially if it’s vegetarian. Thanks!

    2. New Bee*

      Have a great time! I’ve been to Israel twice and the food and hospitality cannot be beat. I hope you share details of your adventures in future OTs.

    3. Gaia*

      This may be an ignorant question and if so, I’m sorry, but what is a birthright trip? I tried the good ol’ Google but got some conflicting answers.

    4. Bluebell*

      It’s sufganiyot season! (Hanukkah donuts) tel Aviv has bakeries that do gourmet flavors but even the ones available everywhere are pretty good. Enjoy!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Nice write up and they did a nice job explaining what you do here. Love the pic.
      I was just thinking that we were getting to the time of year where you tell us how many hits your site has had and how many readers return to your site. I love watching those numbers go up, it gives me hope for the world that so many people are interested in doing things better.

      Thanks for all you do, Alison!

    2. Caledonia*

      This is great news because The Guardian’s careers pages are dire. I read one earlier this week about how you should be calling employers to discuss your application….

    3. EmmaLou*

      I was reading the titles of letters out to my husband and he said, “But did you hug your CEO at the Christmas party at Hooters … while wearing a racist costume?” (in which case we agreed… be very embarrassed.)

    4. Marcela*

      Yeah, I read the subtitle (?) and thought “wait, I know those stories!”. It was mostly great, congrats Alison. However, I was very, very annoyed with the last paragraph when they say your age. It’s not like my age is a secret, and actually I’m very happy to be older now, but why the hell do so many articles feel is important to say “the N years old” when it’s not relevant. If, for example now, they want to convey you have experience, aren’t other ways to express that?! And I have the feeling that most of this is directed to women. Even DH told me that, when I told him about my annoyance.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s just a standard thing newspapers do! My husband had the same reaction as you, but it’s pretty normal for them to print that for both men and women. I suppose I could have declined to answer when they asked me about that, but I’m fine with them including it.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        Yes, for example the New York Times religiously states how old every single person mentioned more than once in an article is (more or less). I don’t know if it’s a chicken or egg thing (i.e. if I developed this because of reading so much NYT) but I am no longer able to read any piece of writing at all – fiction, nonfiction, newspaper article, comic strip, really anything – without obsessively calculating how old everyone is during the time of any event described.

    5. Emily*

      “Some of the drama is very soap opera-ish. I have a real taste for the weird and so if I get a crazy letter, it goes straight to the top of my list.”

      That sounds like an invitation for fake letters TBH.

    6. Schmooples and the Binkie-Boo*

      Love this although it kind of makes it sound like your life was meaningless when your boyfriend wasn’t around!

  8. New Bee*

    Happy Holidays! We celebrate Christmas and Hannukah, so our plans include:
    –Watching Love Actually (a Christmas Eve tradition insisted on by my husband, even though he’s the Jewish half of our relationship–he loves that movie)
    –Chinese food tomorrow!
    –Tacos and FaceTime with family tonight; we always eat “nontraditional” (tacos, gumbo, barbecue) food on CE and have some wacky game or contest–there was a heated Robot dance battle a few years ago
    –Maybe try to wrangle our new baby into some interesting photos for Insta?

    What are your plans?

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      Happy holidays to you! I just got the whole chicken in the slow cooker. I usually roast it on a rack, but it’s kind of a pain. You have to turn the chicken three times, and I inevitably burn my hand on the hot rack. It’s just my husband, his mom, and me, so no need to go to too much trouble. I’m making mashed potatoes with shredded cheese and scallions, cornbread/sausage stuffing, green bean casserole (I know it gets a bad rap for being “lowbrow,” but I like it, so I don’t care!), and deviled eggs as sides. Last night, I made a cheesecake with an Oreo crumb crust. It’s chilling now, and I will make some whipped cream later on to serve with it. Tonight is our big dinner; tomorrow will be a sit-around-and-do-nothing day.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I make whole chickens all the time, and never turn them. If you want a crispy skin, make sure it’s patted dry, then put some melted butter over the whole thing and cook the first 15 minutes at 425, then lower to 350.

        1. Artemesia*

          If I want an actual whole chicken (instead of making chicken and dumplings or something with the chicken meat and broth) I roast it in the oven. Rub it all over with lemon, stick the squeezed lemon halves in the cavity along with as many black olives at it will hold and a couple of cloves of garlic and close the opening. coat the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and roast till done. It is fabulous — the olives and garlic and lemon infuse the meat and the chicken in crispy.

          1. Lore*

            That appetizer event sounds like my idea of a perfect holiday meal! Will have to try it.

            I’m heading to the SO’s this evening. I’m in charge of cake so gingerbread bundt is in the oven and wine chilling. I’m also bringing gifts and wine and fruit salad so a slightly complex subway journey but it will be worth it when we don’t have to leave the house tomorrow. Tonight is baked ziti and meatballs and the annual Christmas mix (SO makes a legendary one every year); tomorrow cake and presents for breakfast and then movies all afternoon and spiral ham for supper.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          I follow the recipe from America’s Test kitchen. You baste with butter three times and turn it because it takes the breast longer to cook than the legs/wings. That’s their justification, anyway.

      2. New Bee*

        Everything sounds really good! I wish I could have all of the food (prepared by someone else while I sit around in my breastmilk-scented PJs). And I have a feeling green bean casserole will make a hipstery comeback in a few years…

      3. danr*

        There’s this marvelous invention called barbeque tongs. [grin] Keeps the hands and arms away from the hot racks and pans.

      1. Artemesia*

        We do the appetizer crash on Christmas Eve at my daughters. She buys all the different frozen appetizers at Trader Joe’s (they have the best selection in our area, like 20 or 30 different options of which we do 10 or so, from dim sum, to wings, to mac and cheese balls to a tart with feta and tapenade to pigs in blankets to mozarella sticks etc etc etc) and we gorge on those and drink champagne and watch Galaxy Quest. Oh and everyone is given an ornament that symbolizes their year somehow.

        Tomorrow we do the more traditional Christmas dinner with honey baked ham and Christmas Crackers and this year my grandchild and I are making bread pudding that will be warm and done by dessert time. This is a great thing to cook with a small child; she could tear up the bread and sprinkle the raisons and break the eggs into the milk etc when she was 3. Some years they go out of town to in laws, and if that then we do a Christmas even at our place the week before. Most years we do stockings at our place that are opened before Christmas brunch or dinner with presents afterwards.

    2. Overeducated*

      Sounds fun! We are on the road right now to the in laws’. Not sure what we’ll do today besides just visiting, maybe play a board game or two after the toddler goes to sleep.

      Tomorrow I am going to make a big Christmas breakfast with my mother on law because that’s my family tradition. Eggs, bacon, sausage, bagels, lox, and maybe cinnamon rolls if time allows. In the afternoon we will be visiting another branch of the family for the kids to play and celebratING a birthday.

    3. Sparkly Librarian*

      My family gathers at my aunt’s for Xmas Eve; we eat roast beast sandwiches and open presents with about 25 people (we drew names at Thanksgiving, so each of us just had to buy one present). Santa visits after dinner for the littles. Then Xmas morning my parents and sister and I (and our partners) open stockings and other gifts and make brunch, and then go see a movie. We’re planning on Sing! Sometimes we have a second family dinner (smaller) on the 25th, but this year my wife and I are breaking off on our own and stopping by a Yule potluck and a Jewish Christmas party with Chinese food (and maybe leftover latkes).

    4. Bouwer power*

      I just got married two weeks ago and that’s my excuse to not cook this year for Christmas. This evening is a lyme ( this is how we say ‘hang out with friends’ in the Caribbean), and the huge Christmas breakfast and dinner at two different friends’ houses for the husband and myself. We’re atheists, so no religious affairs, but we always love spending time with loved ones for the season. And it’s warm! About 30C /86F.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Clean the house today/tonight so I don’t have to do it tomorrow (Sunday is typically my day).

      Watch Christmas shows all day in my PJs.

      Make some food. Ham slice, peas, Yorkshire puds. I just went out and got some mince pies from the British food truck for dessert (they saved me some, haha). Om nom nom—where have you been all my life, pies? I was definitely born in the wrong place.

      Continue bingeing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, most likely. I was up waaaaaay too late last night finishing Season 1. I tweeted at Rachel Bloom and she liked my tweet! #omg

      I called my auntie and mum in London just a little bit ago (mum’s visiting her sister). I have a few presents to open (even though I told my mum not to get me anything she always does).

      We’re supposed to have thunderstorms tomorrow, too. Last week they were calling for rain/snow but now saying 64 and stormy! Ooookay, thanks global warming!

    6. Newish Reader*

      I usually go to a family member’s house for dinner on Christmas Day, but she’s come down with whatever is going around and too sick to host dinner now. My first thought was this would be a year that I could hide at home watching movies in my pajamas, but then realized the rest of the family will be disappointed to not get together. So today was spent cleaning and shopping so I can host dinner tomorrow. Not the relaxing day I wanted, but there’s always another year for quiet.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      I took my daughter to see Sing this morning (really cute, but not as good as Moana), and now she’s off running around with one of her friends. Good — she can burn off some energy! She’s been staying up late and getting up early for the last few days. She does this every year as Christmas gets closer, and I did too when I was a kid. Our elf had her last hurrah today before she goes back to the North Pole with Santa tonight. She built a Jenga fort and hid inside it.

      Tonight we will drive around and look at Christmas lights, and my older daughter will have a slumber party with her sister tonight. This works out really well because I get a text when she falls asleep, so we know the coast is clear for Santa.

      Tomorrow my family is coming over and we’ll exchange presents and have lunch. Very low-key. I go all out for Thanksgiving and then spend most of December baking, so by the time Christmas gets here I am not up for doing anything too fancy.

      I hope those who celebrate has a lovely holiday!

    8. danr*

      We’re also a dual holiday marriage. We light the candles each night (when we remember). Sometimes we have a tree, and sometimes we don’t, but we do have a wreath for the door. We do make a nice dinner for the two of us for Christmas. We keep saying we’re going to make latkes but we haven’t made them yet.

      1. New Bee*

        I asked my husband if he wanted latkes, but he said not until the last night. I was too exhausted with the baby to do any decorating, so he put out our menorah, mini-tree, and all of the lights. He’s really into it this year since it’s baby’s first holidays, even though she won’t remember of course.

    9. tink*

      We soft celebrate both (and I don’t keep kosher), so ham dinner for Christmas Eve since that’s what my partner’s family did growing up and then ihop tomorrow night for pancake dinner (and a bigger tip than we’d leave on a non-holiday night for whichever person has to serve us, since they’re potentially missing out on family/friends time because of work). Calling both sets of parents too, and maybe finally getting out to see Moana.

  9. Tala*

    A huge THANK YOU to Alison and well, everyone here, for saving my life this year. And a merry christmas etc. to those who celebrate something special around this time of year.

  10. Lady Julian*

    Anybody set New Years’ Resolutions? If so, what do you set?

    I’m in my early 30s, and a few years back, after finishing college, graduate school, and finding my first good job, I started to set resolutions as a way to maintain some direction and forward motion in my life. I avoid the obvious resolutions (lose weight) and anything too vague (be kinder); I wanted really measurable things that I could tick off every year.

    One of my resolutions last year was to learn to make bread, and I think I did pretty okay on that. I make most of my own bread these days and hardly ever purchase it; we celebrated Christmas yesterday with a lasagna and ate bread tht I’m made. Now I’m working on this year’s resolutions. I’m thinking about things like trying a sourdough starter, learning to make cocktails, going solo camping, etc. I’ll also probably start following the traditional Christian calendar.

    1. Snow*

      I don’t normally do resolutions but this year, I am stealing one that a friend did last year which was to try a new restaurant every month. I went out with her a couple of times and it was nice to not go to the same places all the time and we have at least one new favourite.

      On a similar note I am going to try one new class at the gym every month because I always do the same thing and I might find something I like?

      1. Emmie*

        I love your recommendation to try something new every month! I never may New Years resolutions. I usually improve myself week to week. I might do that one this year. I also thought the idea of a theme for the year below was insightful.

    2. Caledonia*

      Goals for this year include:

      Graduating, obtaining a boyfriend and moving to the city instead of the small town I commute from. Oh, and go back to counselling.

    3. Tala*

      Usual – lose 50lbs, meet Mr. Right, land my dream job and have all my problems magic away :)

      A girl I follow on youtube picks a word for each year rather than a resolution, so it could be ‘change’ or ‘health’ etc and uses that word to drive her for the year. I’m leaning more toward that…now if only I could find a word to encompass the weight loss and love connection all in one!

      1. Temperance*

        One of my friends does that, but she’s very touchy-feely, so she chooses words like “intention”.

    4. Amadeo*

      I don’t usually because they end up being trivial and I don’t stick to them, but I think this coming year I may explore the idea of a side soaping business and sell my bath and body stuff. It’s going to take some work to do right, but it’s worth a shot. Side income is side income.

    5. Temperance*

      I tried last year and failed spectacularly due to a very unplanned illness that sort of threw my fitness and weight goals out the window.

      So THIS YEAR, I’m making the below efforts:

      * Lose weight
      * Start an exercise program, and stick with it
      * Learn new recipes / try one per week
      * Use my day planner to get more organized
      * Spend more time with my sister/niece/nephew, and less time with negative, bad relatives
      * Spend more time with friends

      1. Artemesia*

        The only thing that works for me on exercise is to have an actual class. I do one twice a week and it is a mile walk to and back and then an hour of weights, aerobics and stretches. There are a few women in my building and neighborhood who do it and we walk together. This commitment disciplines me as otherwise I would let it slide. Then I do the Canadian 10 minute workout the other mornings. I would suggest looking it up. It is so quick, it is age graded so you pick things appropriate to you and while it doesn’t affect weight, it really does make me feel more flexible and energetic. My husband just goes down to the gym and works out an hour a day 6 days a week — not going to happen with me.

        1. Temperance*

          That’s actually what works best for me, too. I’m really motivated this go-round – a gym is opening up a mile from my house with light traffic, and they have classes. I’ve tried the Planet Fitness thing and it didn’t work for me.

          I did a lot of physical therapy this year.

          1. Artemesia*

            Me too — hip, neck and then broken elbow — the broken elbow therapy really worked in that I have regained functional use of the arm — couldn’t do my hair, floss my teeth or button my blouse when I got out of the cast.

            1. Temperance*

              Oh my gosh, that sounds so rough! I just needed the help to regain my strength and balance after the ICU stay earlier this year. It was incredibly helpful.

              As a side note, after going through all of that, I am regularly grateful when I climb off the floor without issue.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I have to do my PT too–until I can have someone look at my shoulder (impingement syndrome), it’s the only thing that works. But when I stop doing it, it starts hurting again, so I’m just going over the same ground. I either need different therapy or something else. No surgery because I don’t have anyone to take care of me or help out.

    6. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am doing goals instead of resolutions. This year, I have finance goals (save X amount of money by 12/31/17, pay off X amount of debt) and income goals (I am a freelancer, so my income is variable; my goal is “make at least X dollars monthly”).

      1. Katie Goudie*

        I do goals too – broad ones like making a bunch of money that have many possible routes so I can’t get derailed to easily. I have them pinned up on my noticeboard so I don’t forget either.

    7. New Bee*

      Each year I try to pick a new hobby–in the past I’ve done nail art, knitting, and cooking. No clue what to pick this year. With a new baby I’m leaning toward making my own baby food (which I’ll probably do anyway) or couponing, which I’m not jazzed about.

      Scratch that, I’ve got it: I want to get into finance and investing. I have some money in a 403b but want to get more savvy about retirement planning before I turn 30.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m a pretty dedicated couponer and I love it, but I’m super cheap and I like brand name stuff.

        1. New Bee*

          How do you organize it? I clip coupons occasionally and always forget to use them before they expire or forget them at home!

          1. Chaordic One*

            Well, I don’t know how Temperance does it, but I use a “coupon wallet” that I bought during one of my rare trips to Target. I can’t find one on the Target website, but here’s a link to a similar one at Office Depot. The one I bought at Target is not colored.


            Other people probably have different ways that they organize their wallets, but I group the coupons into five groups: refrigerated foods, non-refrigerated foods, paper and cleaning products, medicine and cosmetics. Then I also have pockets for store coupons and sometimes for shopping lists. (Like for example I’ll have a list of the top 10 recommended moisturizers or bath soaps or things like that.)

          2. Temperance*

            I use a 3-ring binder that I filled with baseball card holders and I sort into like 20 different categories. These are good:

            I then have a smaller one (actually this one: that I carry in my purse. I have tabs for each store that I hit, and I make it a point to load it up weekly with what I want to carry around.

          3. Gadfly*

            I used to do this guy’s workshops and it does work (I’d have the an overflowing cart for like $35). The only problem being that coupons tend to be for certain things. Tons of cereal and toothpaste..


      2. Gala apple*

        I’ve been reading a lot of frugal and FI blogs (shoutout to whoever suggested Frugalwoods here!) and the different bloggers all recommend JL Colins a lot. Good luck!

        1. fposte*

          I like JL Collins too. Though I think my favorite thing on his blog was the hilarious guest post “They will kill you for your shoes,” about travel in Guatemala. I’ll put a link in followup.

      3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        Yay for the learning about retirement planning now! Are you thinking about traditional retirement or early retirement? FIRE bloggers write about financial independence and early retirement (hence the name), then there are great PF bloggers who write about investing for retirement in the more long term traditional approach. I do a little bit of both myself. MyMoneyBlog is a great resource (I still read it even though my investing foundation is pretty solid) if you’re curious about expanding your investing portfolio beyond the usual tax-advantaged accounts.

        1. Gala apple*

          Oh sweet thanks for the resources! For myself I’m working on paying off a car, then building my emergency fund, and then building retirement savings. Ideally I’d stop working when I have kids, but as I’m not dating anyone right now that’s likely aways off ;). But I would say more FI than anything else– I don’t like the meaning of “retirement”. I’m reading through the Frugalwoods back posts now. Doing their Ultra Frugal Month Challenge too! Are you doing that?

          1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

            Those are awesome goals! It’s a great idea to start that savings now well before you’re serious with anyone. I put off kids for a long time because I needed to be financially stable (having spent so long paying down debt), and I’m really grateful for the peace of mind it gives me now that we have one.

            I love the Frugalwoods, but I’m such an old hand at the frugality thing and knowing what fits into our lives and what doesn’t that challenges just don’t hold my attention. I do incorporate good ideas into my regular life for better long term effects :)

            I’m excited for you!

    8. katamia*

      This coming year, my focus is going to be on…I guess I’d call it setting up my normal, maybe? Between unemployment/underemployment and health issues, a lot of things I’ve wanted to do over the past few years haven’t happened. The biggest thing for next year is to get into a steady exercise groove–I’ve injured both my knees in the past and really need to exercise to keep my legs strong. I’ve gone to PT so often that there’s really nothing more they can teach me (and also PT exercises are incredibly boring/can only take you so far).

      I also want to improve my focus. I was diagnosed with ADD last year and have found that medication helps me, but there’s still a lot I don’t know, and I’m still not very good about making myself do things I really want to do, like practice my foreign language skills. I’m hoping that if I do more research (would love book/website recs, either ADD-centric or just general, for this if anyone knows any good ones) I can find ways to be better about making myself do things I already want to do. *sighs at language book she checked out of the library a couple weeks ago that she hasn’t touched even though she’s had time*

      1. Reba*

        I love the way you put that—setting up your normal.

        I’ve been going through lots of change over the past two or so years, too. I want to get settled and establish a new sort of baseline of things I do for fun and things that keep me healthy.

        Something I hope to do this year is (once we know where we’re going to live and get there) partner and I want to start hosting regular low-key dinner parties.

    9. Franzia Spritzer*

      Having just finished undergrad and grad school all in one big push, my goals are the obvious stuff like get a job, but the more personal stuff is rooted in resetting normalcy.

      * I shall open myself to receiving, accepting and maintaining abundant prosperity, without harming anybody or anything in the process, in any way; upon my own merit and efforts; close to home and heart; resulting from work I am passionate about. (Get a good job back on my home turf).

      * I shall stop drinking for a year. Not forever, just a year.

      * I shall keep track of the books I’ve read through the year so that I can set future reading goals.

      * I shall rekindle my relationship with some of my pre-college hobbies, and try new hobbies willingly and openly.

      * I shall reasonable attempt to go hiking once a month, (we don’t have inclement weather here).

        1. Franzia Spritzer*

          Thanks for the reminder! I just went through it and added my books for the year. I haven’t updated since 2014 :-/

    10. Marillenbaum*

      I haven’t really made a resolution, but one thing I do is make a one-word theme for the year. Last year, it was “Onward”–I was feeling stuck, and I wanted to get to a new job and new city. This year, it’s “Deeper”; I’m in grad school now, and I want to make sure I’m really soaking up the experience.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t usually unless they’re small, but this year I want to lose some stubborn weight (somebody please take these mince pies away from me…..I can’t stop….), and GET SOMETHING PUBLISHED.

      All the Buzzfeed quizzes I’ve been taking say I’m getting married in 2017. Haahah okay. But last year they were all “SINGLE SINGLE SINGLE” and I did tell the universe to get on it, so that’s a little weird! 0_0

      1. New Bee*

        Please meet your future SO here and turn it into a book! I met my husband on a blog (not nearly as iconic as this one), and lately I’ve been picturing an AAM meet-cute. You could invite Alison to your wedding!

          1. New Bee*

            He had a blog (which included a picture), so our communication moved over there, then to email, then Facebook, phone, and Skype. It ended with me flyingl across the country to meet him (we were both in college at the time). Fortunately he wasn’t a deranged lunatic, and now here we are (together the better part of a decade, married with a kid). Funnily (sappily?) enough, we got engaged in the airport where we first “met” (in person).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I met my last bf in my chat room and that did not turn out well, so I think I will keep AAM and my love life separate! Kind of like not dating coworkers. I don’t want a repeat of that level of awkward.

      2. Sas*

        I need to be tied into this possible karma. Ohh, the same last year was true for me, and after many years your key word for the year, “change” is something that I could use also. Good and positive change though, not trash.

    12. C Average*

      In the past I’ve made and kept resolutions, and it’s something I enjoy doing.

      I’m really fascinated by Gretchen Rubin’s research about happiness and habits, and I’m particularly interested in her writing about what she calls “keystone habits”: habits that interlock with other parts of your life, so that a small change has ripple effects.

      With that in mind, I have just one resolution this year: No earbuds. I think I use music, podcasts, and audiobooks to escape from real life too much and to insulate myself from the world when I’m out in public. I also consume too much media, so this will effectively put me on a bit of a diet. I think disconnecting will make me more aware of the world around me and will force me to use the time I spent running, walking, riding transit, etc., more creatively.

      It’s not a new year’s resolution because it’s over a month old now, but after the election I made a pledge to myself to only consume media created by and/or centered around people of color, to the extent possible. (I made three exceptions: the New York Times, the Rachel Maddow Show, and this website, because they fill me with great joy and educate me in important ways.) All books, TV, movies, magazines, websites, etc., that I peruse regularly must fit these parameters. My reasons for adopting this resolution would fill a book, so I won’t go into those here. I have to say it’s been absolutely revelatory so far in many, many ways.

    13. Elkay*

      I’d like to get back into running this year. My plan is to make the most of the free gym at work and then when nicer weather comes run outside without triggering my asthma.

    14. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ive got a few this year around the theme of Stablilize and Grow, as I feel like we have had a ramp of good fortune through December to launch us well into 2017:

      a) Find a new flat that is larger where I can host gatherings of friends, family, and our kitties can move home to be with us. We are both finally in permanent roles which will make dealing with estate agents easier, and with cash to buy some furniture and maybe get the rest of our stuff shipped over from the US.

      b) Leverage all the benefits of my new job (strong progression and feedback, growth opportunities, relative calm, gym in the basement!) to get better at what I do, stabilize our finances, and get ready for the next level of my career

      c) Get healthy – this back problem is stable for now, but the nerve damage is not. So other than seeing the neurosurgeons in two months, it is also about working in the short term to lose weight (this is going to have to be mostly through diet because I can’t do much more than walk right now) and get stronger and fitter once my leg/foot is fixed.

      d) Go somewhere new. We seem to spend a lot of travel time going to his family or mine, with a few European city breaks. I want to go somewhere random and see new things this year, even if it means forsaking a trip home to the US

      e) Grow the money pot and the money tree! This includes growing our financial knowledge to try some ez options trading. Nothing too exotic!

    15. chickabiddy*

      I joined Weight Watchers online. I haven’t set a specific weight loss goal (I have a lot to lose to even get into the healthy range, let alone a socially acceptable size) but my resolution is to participate in good faith.

    16. Kristen*

      My goals for 2017 will be very much like 2016.
      1. Finish the CPA exam (I passed my first section in 2016). This was a goal in 2016 which I didn’t meet, but at least made progress on.
      2. Workout regularly and eat better. I know I’ll improve here, but currently, because of goal 1, it’s an uphill battle. I’ve realized just a little progress would be a huge improvement. So, instead of focusing on going to the gym 4 days a week, I’ll settle with 2 for right now and step it up after I’ve completed goal 1.
      3. Pay off my car loan by summer. I made awesome progress in 2016, so I’m happy with where I am.

      On solo-camping: I added a sort of goal in 2016 to book weekend camping trips for the summer, because if I don’t have a definite plan for those things, then it’s hard to schedule with other people and it doesn’t happen. So in the spring, I picked 4 random weekends over the summer to visit and camp at a different park in my state’s awesome park system. The first weekend I ended up going solo which I thought I’d love and I think I would have if I was backpacking. I went on a busy weekend in May and ended up feeling so lonesome, because everyone else was there with their families or friends. The hiking was very nice (except for a few loud hikers), but being at the campsite was lonely. I’m usually pretty content being alone, so I think going backpacking would have been better.

  11. LawCat*

    Meowy Catmas and Happy Mew Year!

    Please share your Christmas bad jokes and puns so I can drop them on the LawKitten :-D

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
      Santa Jaws.

      What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?

      Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?
      Because he had low elf esteem.

      Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
      A mince spy!

      The only other ones I know are dirty. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Why doesn’t Santa have any kids?
          He only comes once a year and it’s through the chimney.

          Why did the snowman smile?
          He could see the snowblower coming down the street.

          What do a train set and your wife’s boobs have in common?
          They were both made for kids but dads can’t help playing with them.


    2. Aealias*

      What goes, “Oh, oh, oh”?
      Santa walking backwards.

      What’s a mom’s favourite Christmas carol?
      Silent Night.

  12. Temperance*

    What are your hobbies?

    I’m always interested to know what other people are doing. I’m an extreme couponer and I love trivia.

    1. katamia*

      Video games, although I’m way behind on my list of games that I want to play. So maybe my hobby right now is buying games during Steam sales and then telling myself that one day I’ll play them.

      I like trivia, too. I’ve always wanted to try pub trivia and I actually know of a place not far from here, but I don’t know if I’d need to have a team already to participate, which I don’t have.

      I also really love spooky stuff. I’m kind of meh on a lot of horror books, but creepy/weird subreddits, movies, and TV shows are my favorite timesucks. (Doing an Evil Dead marathon while I work today, actually. :) )

      How did you get into couponing? I’ve always been intrigued by it.

      1. Myrin*

        Oh god I feel you on the Steam sales. I’m weak against those emails informing me that something on my wish list is on sale.

        1. katamia*

          I was hoping not to buy any more games this year, but Steam sent me EIGHT wish list sales emails yesterday, and I think this is a fight I’m going to lose. Luckily some of the things I want are so cheap that I could buy two or three and still spend under $20.

      2. Temperance*

        I bought a new laptop in September and the Steam sales are my weakness. My last laptop wasn’t up to snuff.

      3. SophieChotek*

        There is a pub trivia in my area; I was able to join another couple and a friend and they let me play with them. I have played three weeks with them and I enjoyed it, but we never really gelled. It would be a fun way to meet new people if there is a team that needs or is willing to take another/a new person.

    2. Hattie McDoogal*

      The hobbies that make me sound more interesting than I really am: Martial arts (BJJ/judo), astronomy, scuba diving. The hobbies that *really* take up most of my time: TV, reading, birdwatching, jigsaw puzzles.

    3. SophieChotek*

      The “usual” things —
      – reading (mostly fiction, but also non-fiction)
      – researching (random things, lot of history)
      – watching movies/TV
      – baking/cooking (when the mood hits me)
      – travel (when I can afford it)
      – organizing things (I like to keep things organized, though my mother says you would never know by looking at my kitchen counter)
      – playing board games (keep trying to start a gaming group)

    4. Lady Julian*

      Well, in keeping with the fact that last year’s resolution was learning to make yeast bread, one of my hobbies is making yeast bread. :)

      I also knit, run, and read. I’m a teacher, so technically some people would say I don’t have time for hobbies. After all, those papers aren’t going to grade themselves! But I really make it a point to spend some time doing “me” stuff on the weekends; I feel as though if I’m not an interesting person, if I don’t have a life outside of work, then I probably won’t be a very interesting teacher for my students, either.

      1. Phlox*

        +1 this work season for me was nutty and oi, was I boring to talk to, nothing else going on in my life besides work. So total props for making time for you.

    5. Lady Julian*

      Oh, and I cook/bake generally. I made a point to make Christmas cookies for some people in our community this year, and I really enjoyed that.

    6. Marillenbaum*

      I read, knit, and do crossword puzzles. Before I went back to school, I used to love trivia, but I haven’t been able to put together a team in my new city (and make it work with my study schedule).

      1. Gala apple*

        I just downloaded the geocaching app! Some commenters suggested it the other week. Do you do it yourself or with others?

    7. Gala apple*

      Reading (mostly fiction; the non-fiction i Che I out tends to not get read before it’s due back); learning (mostly podcasts).

      Also cooking, though I don’t know where the live between “for sustenance” and “for fun” is.

      I like antiquing, and I also like getting rid of things, so I tend not to buy too much/anything.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      My hobby is not finishing any of my hobbies. ;)

      –Reading (been doing more of this)
      –Dolls house miniatures (I have 7-8 houses and haven’t finished one, plus a ton of room boxes and stuff and books about it). This is the stuff I would have the most trouble getting rid of if I had to.
      –I used to love counted cross stitch but haven’t done it in a while.
      –Playing video games, PC and console (started console games when I was dating a gamer; waaaaay behind on this one)
      –Skating, but I quit due to injuries and being generally tired of it

      Things I would like to do, hopefully this year:
      –Finish a few dolls houses or room boxes. If they turn out nice, I could sell a couple maybe. Also, I have a great idea for a Sweeney Todd one and would like to try to make some dolls for it, not that I like them but just to see if I can. I have a ton of stuff in a box for this one. I even have tiny barber scissors and they move!
      –Finish some games before my old laptop dies (they won’t play on my current one)
      –Exercising. Not skating; just working out. I’ve been walking outside if it’s not too cold/icy.
      –Finish a cross stitch thingy. I have a Titanic travel poster one that’s about half done.
      –Was teaching myself to draw but got distracted by stuff, so I want to do more of that.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s almost like thinking about it is more fun than doing it. I fell down a rabbit hole of historical research for the dolls houses. But that’s okay; I have material in case I want to write a historical novel. I’d really like to take a crack at that sometime.

    9. nep*

      Photography. (Reminder here that I’ve got to get back to it.)
      Used to do calligraphy — it’s been ages. I did make most of my holiday cards.)

    10. And Peggy*

      I run and ride horses. in the wintertime I like to make quilts, although I haven’t made one in a couple years. Maybe I’ll do one this winter.

    11. Nye*

      Baking, especially elaborate cakes
      Food science
      Long-distance backpacking
      Weird museums/attractions

      Basically my life falls under three broad categories: biology, baking, backpacking.

    12. chickabiddy*

      I am not an “extreme” couponer, but I do a fair bit of couponing and sale stalking for toiletries, diapers, and feminine hygiene products so that I can donate a big box to a women’s shelter every few months.

  13. Asking anonymously*

    Just a tiny update–I posted about the mean drunk in last weeks weekend open thread.
    The person asked if I was upset with them, and acknowledged they acted crazily but don’t remember. I filled in the blanks, they said they didn’t remember but they apologized, and I forgave and weve moved on. Honestly I was expecting them to not care about it. I’m pleasantly surprised and actually respect the person more now.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Not to be a downer, but I hope the apology wasn’t just words. Some abusive people apologize in a sincere and convincing way when they think the victim might leave them. I’m not saying your friend is an abuser, just that actions count a lot more than words, so the real test will be what they do the next time they’re in a social drinking situation again.

      But unless and until it happens again, you can of course take them at their word. I’ve just seen too many people I love be too forgiving of abusive behavior, and suffer for it in the long run.

      1. Asking anonymously*

        Good piont. I don’t know if it matters but it’s a coworker and it wasn’t a super close relationship to begin wtih, but a decent and cordial one. i’d say we all get together like this 4-5x a year, so it’s easy to avoid seeing this situation ever again.

  14. Gene*

    Snowed all day yesterday, might last until tomorrow; so a white Christmas is possible for us.

    I was considering going to the mall just to people watch, but my cranky back, while much improved over yesterday, makes that seem a bad idea.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

      1. Sorgatani*

        Happy Hogswatch!
        Fella and I watched the first half of Hogfather yesterday, and are watching the second half today. It’s our holiday tradition ^^

        1. Artemesia*

          It rained here in Chicago all yesterday but after a really cold week with snow last week, it is now warm (in the high 30s and will be this week). It is however grey and ugly not that crisp cold and blue sky I love to see over the lake.

          1. New Bee*

            As a Chicago native who now lives in Cali, I love the description of 30s as warm! Sounds like what my mom would say. :-)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Happy Christmas to you!

      We’re supposed to get thunderstorms tomorrow. Hmm. Okay. That’s actually not so bad; I missed out on the last round, and I like storms if the power stays on.

  15. Yappy puppy help*

    Happy Holidays! Finally showed up to an open thread early enough to ask my question:
    Neighbors recently got a puppy and puppy is very yappy in their backyard which is directly facing our bedroom and study (where we spend the most time in the house). We’ve already spoken with them about a month ago re: puppy’s yappy-iness and they acknowledged/apologized. Said will try better in limiting puppy’s yappy-iness.

    Here we are 1 month later – puppy is still pretty yappy (albeit limited to maybe 2 hours every day total). On my end, I’m planning to get our windows replaced (something we were going to do anyways, but this accelerated it a little) to see if it helps cut down the noise.

    I’m not really sure what else to do since we’ve talked to them already and they acknowledged the problem? Or am I just too crotchety in my quest for silence when I’m home and trying to unwind from work? I just feel strange that I have to adjust how to be in my own home to mitigate the noise of the dog barking (i.e. drowning out the barks in music or wearing earplugs around in my own home). In my city, I can file an online noise complaint re: animal barking – but then the neighbors will know for sure it is us and I don’t want to risk damaging neighborly relations….help!

    1. Emmie*

      You’re not too crotchety. That’s annoying. I’d thank them for reducing the noise and ask them to do more. But I’m sure others have suggestions that might be better. I have upstairs neighbors who let their dogs on the balcony to bark at 8 am daily. I’m sure they do it to avoid taking the big huskies out for a morning bathroom walk. Makes my patio, and furniture unusable. EEEw. They are however moving.

      1. Allypopx*

        It takes awhile to train puppies, so it’s good there’s been progresss! If it’s been a month I’d talk to them again, acknowledge it’s getting better but that it’s still super distracting and ask if they’re still taking steps to reduce it (and if not, ask them to). Their tolerance might be higher than it for yours, so they might not know it hasn’t been addressed enough.

        But you’re not being crochety! My own dog barking drives me nuts. I can calm her down quickly but I hope she’s not barking when I’m gone and disturbing the neighbors.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      2 hours a day still seems like a lot to me. Are they just putting it outside and leaving it? That’s the reason it’s barking. They really need to stop doing that.

      My grown dog will sometimes start to bark when I put her out, but then I make her come in immediately. Our neighbors had the nerve to complain that she sometimes barks (BUNNIES!) when she goes out at dusk as they are putting their toddlers to bed, even though I stop her immediately, and tried to tell me she needed a bark collar. (Plus, she’s just one of 4 large dogs surrounding them, and I think they blame her when it’s others barking) But then leave their pom to yap outside for HOURS. I very politely made “Mmm” noises and then ignored them, because srlsy?

      1. katamia*

        I agree. We have a dog that barks a lot (seriously, I think it’s a hobby for her), so we make sure to limit her unsupervised time outside by taking her for more walks and having her doggy friends come over when they’re available to help tire her out. And when we do let her out unsupervised, we make sure someone’s right near the back door to start trying to get her in the second she starts barking, even though sometimes it takes a few minutes depending on what she’s barking at. I don’t know if OC would really be in a position to suggest doing thesr things to the neighbors, though.

    3. Meag L*

      TWO HOURS of total barking!! That is horrible. I have a barky dog and that would drive me insane.
      I’d talk to them and let them know. I’m assuming the dog is unsupervised when outside? Maybe you could find a way to suggest they supervise outside time, or leave pup inside if they are leaving? I’d want to know if my dogs annoyed my neighbours so I could make it better. Good luck!!!

    4. Anono-me*

      Who wants to listen to barking two hours a day. You are not being unreasonable. I say this as a dog person.

      It sounds like the puppy is barking because it is trying to communicate that it is unhappy about being left outside alone for so long. (Some dogs do enjoy barking for it’s own sake, but most use it to communicate.)

      As far as neighborhood relationships go, it doesn’t sound like these people are good neighbors, just less bad neighbors than they were last week.

      You may also want to consider contacting an animal advocacy group. They may have some suggestions too.

      Good luck with everything.

  16. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So, ever since Thursday night, every time I eat I get a horrible stomachache afterwards that lasts 1-2 hours. Not nausea, just like a dull pain. It goes away until the next time I eat. Last night I had four Saltines, thinking they were safe — nope, stomachache followed. The internet tells me this could be all kinds of things, including an ulcer (!). How long do I let this go on before seeing a doctor, factoring in that I assume xmas week will make this harder to get in somewhere?

    1. Allypopx*

      You can probably call the ER and ask the nurse on duty for advice (or your PCP). I think stomach issues are one of those nuanced things where small details can make the difference between “wait a couple days in case it’s indigestion” and “oh that sounds bad you should come get checked out immediately.”

      IANAD. I hope you don’t have to do a bunch of christmasy things while you’re feeling ill :(

    2. AcidMeFlux*

      You were just pretty sick for quite some time (with strep?) and on a lot of medication, right? I’ve had stomach upsets after coughs that lasted a while (it irritates my hiatal hernia). But if you really can’t eat, make an effort to see someone ASAP. Don’t wait for it to go away.

      1. Lore*

        When did you finish antibiotics? I’ve found that if I’m on them for more than five days, or have two courses close together, it messes up my digestive system for up to a month. Last time it was stomach pain and bloating and constipation that lasted a surprisingly long time.

        There is also a virus going around NYC that seems to involve a couple of days of intermittent pain followed by one day of severe pain and throwing up. Which could or could not be related. It might be worth a trip to urgent care if you have one you like.

        1. Emmie*

          Good points! I’d also check my milk and creamer expiration dates, and do the smell test. I’m ashamed to admit that it was the cause a few times for me. I also feel the way AaM does when I’m traveling, or stressed. Some cinnamon graham crackers, cinnamon gummy bears, or Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels help. So strange, huh?

        2. Melody Pond*

          Oh yeah, good point! This is why my mom always made me get on probiotics immediately after finishing a round of antibiotics. If you haven’t done that already, Alison, maybe grab some good quality probiotics from a health food store?

          But also, I’d still go see a doctor now.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Get it checked out sooner than later. Could be an infection.

      Easy ulcer test: orange juice or cola. Acidic drinks should make an ulcer really hurt.

    4. Laura*

      If your insurance or doctor’s office has a nurse’s advice line, call them ASAP (i.e. before Christmas Eve). Mine is really good about telling me when I should worry and when I shouldn’t. They’ve given me peace of mind a couple of times to just wait a few days before doing anything and it’s gone away. They’ve also told me go see someone now for one thing that turned out to be easy to take care of when caught quickly but could have become a major problem if I had waited a week.

    5. Chickaletta*

      Can you call your provider and speak to a nurse over the phone about your symptoms? They’d be the ones to give you informed advice about whether you need to be seen right away or if it can wait.

    6. Artemesia*

      I assume you tried prilosec or similar anti acids that last 12 or 24 hours which might be useful if it were an ulcer along with maalox or something like that. When you have a syndrome like this i.e. a pattern that is so definable, it is time to see a doctor. I had a kid who had a hereditary form of pancreatitis as a pre-schooler and the first half dozen times she had an attack, it was just brushed off as ‘kids get stomach aches’ until I finally had a hissy fit and pointed out the sequence of symptoms including pain so severe she couldn’t stand the elastic on her underpants and they did a couple of tests which immediately pinpointed the problem. Women get dismissed for ‘silly things’ like stomach aches, so be sure to lay out the pattern and its duration; anything that repeats like this is ‘something’. Not necessarily a serious something, but something.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      I was on a long round of antibiotics recently and I had symptoms like your afterwards. Someone told me that the antibiotics had also killed the good bugs in my stomach and to eat more yogurt and get a bottle of probiotics. That helped me with what I had. You might have the same so go to a trusted medical website and see if you can look up information on probiotics and see if that might be a possible solution.

      1. AnonAcademic*

        Seconding this. Probiotics and a bland diet won’t cause harm but they can help with these sorts of things. I had stomach pain so bad I started to worry it was my appendix, but the doctor ruled that out and said it was more likely a virus that had led to upsets in my gut bacteria (I’d had a few days of GI issues the days prior). After a few days on a BART-type bland diet and probiotics the problem resolved itself.

      2. Cristina in England*

        Yes antibiotics gave me chronic stomach pain after meals as well. I ordered something called Primal Defense Ultra soil based probiotics from Amazon and they really worked for me. I stopped taking them eventually and only take them when I have to have antibiotics. I really recommend them!

      3. Aurion*

        I’ve had symptoms like this without any antibiotics or other external triggers! And lasted like 3-4 weeks!

        Doctor is a good idea, Alison.

    8. Undine*

      I agree with calling a help line if you can. However, it could be minor. Advil does that to me. Dull ache with food. Almost a cramp. Also, some antibiotics can irritate the stomach. I had the opposite experience, when I first had this problem, they diagnosed it as GERD and that was a big deal somehow and would be ongoing. Then I figured out it was Advil, cut back, made sure to only take it on a full stomach, and I almost never have problems any more. I didn’t go the antacid route, but if you’re completely off the medication, you can try it. (Antacids have calcium/magnesium, which can interact with some medications.)

      Ulcers are now known to be caused (at least in part) by a bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics, so they are not the lifelong commitment they were when I was young.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I would not let this go much longer. I assume you have tried things like Pepto. Graphic alert: And am assuming your bowels are working correctly, no problems there. (Constipation can really mess us up.) Do you think you could be dehydrated? It’s so easy to drink anything but plain water during the holidays. It sounds like either allergy or gall bladder to me, but I’m not a doc.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree with what others have said. Set up appointment now (you can cancel later); if necessary go to ER or Urgent Care (if you cannot talk to a GP/NP, etc. on the phone.)

        My grandmother has had some issues like this — but she has had IBS much of her life/later got CDiff — so her doctors’ tend to lump this newer symptom in with this and shrug their shoulder at this point.

        Hope you feel better soon!

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        You can always make yourself some fresh ginger tea and see if that is soothing. Slices or chunks of ginger (you don’t need a lot, about 1″ chopped up should be more than enough), some honey and hot water.

        You might also try eating bland for a meal and see if that helps. Plain rice, for example. Sometimes when I’m hungry but feeling kind of ick, that’s what I do. One meal of nothing but starch isn’t going to kill me.

    10. chickabiddy*

      I am nowhere near a doctor but am only going off my own experience which makes me think it could be the beginning of gallbladder stuff (and that is one of the lovely things about being female and forties). The good news is that gallbladder is not inherently dangerous so waiting will not cause any harm except your own discomfort. IIRC gallbladder can only be diagnosed by ultrasound so that would factor into your choice of doctor.

      I hope that I am wrong and that it is something much more transient and possibly antibiotic-related that will go away quickly!

    11. danr*

      I agree with the others… make the appointment. My MIL suffered for a few months with what she called a ‘sour stomach’. Turned out to be a peptic ulcer, which is cured with antibiotics.

    12. Belle*

      If it would become a sharp pain in the lower right — then I would go to the ER in case it is your appendix. I had a similar feeling of dull pain but it got stronger. Went to the ER and found out my appendix was about to rupture. Wanted to mention just in case your pain ever feels like that.

    13. SharedDriveUser*

      Go now. This is not something to mess with. Could be something simple or very complex. However suffering pain is not a good choice! I ended up with celiac, my daughter with IBS, and my SO had a gall bladder issue…. none tragic or fatal but all requiring more than mint of chamomile tea.. Please, Alison, go to the doctor, pretty please!!!!

  17. Allypopx*

    Anyone else dreading family stuff tonight/tomorrow? I’m going to my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas Eve and I’m feeling really overwhelmed about it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m supposed to have the in-laws over on Monday night and I’m just not feeling it. I’m usually into the whole cooking and planning thing, but all I can think about is the fact that I don’t want to have to clean my house. I have multiple cats so it’s necessary.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yes. I like half of husband’s family but his step-dad is a touchy feely alcoholic, one step sister actively hates us, and I don’t like meals with groups due to food issues.

      I may actually just stay home. Christmas is supposed to be joyful, not dreadful.

      1. Allypopx*

        Agreed. Awkward forced family interaction is one thing but if you’re going to be actively miserable that’s not very Christmasy.

    3. jamlady*

      We’re celebrating with my family this weekend and the in-laws next weekend. My MIL is extremely toxic and my husband wasn’t speaking to her for most of this year. She guilted him into agreeing to spend next weekend with his family… Except they don’t do anything anymore. His extended family stopped inviting her to anything, my sister-in-law moved out to get away from her, and my FIL takes all the over time he can get to be out of the house as much as possible. I’m not even sure anyone is going to be there except her. And I’m 99% sure we’re going to drive 4 hours, spend 2 hours listening to his mother tell him how horrible she is and that everyone is constantly attacking her and that how dare anyone even mention the word therapy, and then we’ll drive 4 hours back because my husband will refuse to stay.

      Definitely overwhelmed.

      1. Artemesia*

        since you will be leaving in a funk anyway how about saying ‘Mom we want to have a nice time with you but we can’t if you are going to spend it criticizing — let’s talk about something else (introduce new topic)’ and then if she refuses, leave then. Maybe it makes the next time better? It did work in my family but the person was not as toxic as your MIL.

        Go equipped with topics of discussion; send her a book for Christmas and be prepared to discuss the book.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          Yes to all of this. Also gas up the car right before you get there so if you have to leave, you won’t have to stop and you can mentally move on along with the road miles.

          1. Natalie*

            This is such a great idea. It seems small, but being able to leave and just drive sounds awesome. Maybe throw some snacks in the car too. :)

            1. jamlady*

              Honestly these back-up plan talks are easing a lot of anxiety for me. I have GAD and planning is my therapy – I think I’ve been so frantic over the thought of heading out there that I haven’t even sat down to take a breath and just deal with it.

              She’s aware of the boundaries and I feel better about marching out the door now assuming she crosses a line and just taking a drive through the orange groves into the mountains. It should be gorgeous up there right now.

              Thanks guys!

      2. Temperance*

        Oh that sounds really awful. I have a mentally ill parent, too, although I’m at the opt out stage of things.

        1. jamlady*

          I’m sorry to hear that :(

          It’s mostly just hard knowing this is what my husband grew up with. My parents are the total opposite and I’m thankful they love him so much. But I wish his own mom could be that way too.

          1. Temperance*

            Please don’t take this as an insult, but in a lot of ways, it’s harder when other people have “good” families and we’re exposed to that.

            His mom won’t ever change … and if she does, it’s going to be too late. He was raised by a toxic person, so even if she becomes a good person, he’s not going to be able to deal with it/relate to her on that level. My experience has been that a person with that level of negativity attempting to change, or pretending to do so to get attention, is that you either get your hopes dashed over and over or you don’t give them a million chances.

            Your husband just needs to realize that and make arrangements accordingly. I mean this all in the nicest way possible. You sound like a really caring person.

      3. catsAreCool*

        jamlady, is there anything interesting that’s near the drive that you can look forward to going to before or after the MIL get together? Having *something* fun to do that would normally be farther than you’d want to drive might take some of the sting out of a long drive for this awfulness.

        Is there some way to mitigate the awfulness by maybe going to a movie or going out to eat together? Most people don’t talk much at a movie, and that can count towards time together.

        1. jamlady*

          Unfortunately she refuses to leave her bedroom. It’s… All terribly sad and toxic and exhausting. I have several mental illnesses myself and I try to remind myself that she wasn’t brought up in a supportive household like I was, but I can’t deal with how she treats my husband. It’s a huge trigger.

          I really really like the idea of having a plan b – we’re backpackers and there are some things nearby. We had a huge storm but I’m thinking that will only make the scenery better next weekend.

          We’ve laid out the boundaries very clearly and told her we’d leave if she crosses even one toe over the line. Maybe we’ll just head to the mountains and give her a second chance the next day if something happens. This is kind of the last chance she has. Like Temperance mentioned above, we’re perilously close to the forever opt-out stage. It’s just not worth it anymore.

          On a better note, Christmas tonight with my family was amazing! And tomorrow will be too :) I hope everyone on AAM has a wonderful holiday weekend too!

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          Or just go out to a movie and leave her at home! If she’s got a TV or DVD player in her bedroom (and I bet she does), bring her a movie or TV show to watch.

          You might want to try leaving… but temporarily. She says something mean, tell her that that was uncalled for/not nice and then get up and tell her that you need to make some tea/you want to go hiking/were going to go to the movies/see another relative or friend in town. Stand up for each other to her. What’s she going to do stuck in her room? Get up and chase you bodily around the house? I doubt it. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve always known Husband to be really good at $ThisTask, it’s one of the things I appreciate the most about him. Honey, weren’t we going to go and see $SomethingElse? Let’s go now. Bye!” Leave her to her misery. Take his father somewhere instead.

          If it gets really bad, you can always go to a motel. Seems a shame to drive all that way only to turn around and drive back again because of a miserable old bat, even if she is his mother. Living well is the best revenge.

    4. Rachel*

      I was in the same position before I came back to my parents for christmas, I was absolutely dreading it, to the point of crying about the idea of coming back. This year is just such a weird christmas for all of us, it’s the first christmas since my Grandma died and she would normally be staying with us, and also my parents are in the process of preparing to divorce, so the atmosphere here is just a bit odd. However it has not actually been as bad as I thought it would be, so hopefully it’ll be the same for you!

    5. Temperance*

      I’ve dreaded it for the past several years. Last year, Booth was on call so we stayed home. This year, we’re just straight up opting out.

      My whole family is very hick and bigoted, as are my in-laws. I couldn’t sit through a dinner where people were talking about how God brought us Mike Pence, and other assorted bigoted statements that I won’t bring up. (This is not about different politics, but racism, sexism, and homophobia, to be clear.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I wouldn’t be able to get through that dinner without the words ‘moral monster’ escaping my lips. My extended family includes a lot of bigots and oddly enough my husband’s extended family includes some fundamentalists who are NOT bigots and while we disagree about many things political, we can respect and enjoy time with (and avoid talking politics with) These people are ‘pro-life’ but they also put their time and money where their mouth is taking in women who need support while pregnant and contributing to organizations that help single mothers so I can respect although not agree with their position.

        But we are lucky in that our children and their spouses and inlaws and most of our immediate extended family share our values.

        1. Temperance*

          That sounds really great. I have many friends who differ from me on religion and politics, and it’s very easy to discuss and respect our differences, or not talk about them at all. With my family and in-laws, I honestly try not to engage because it’s like arguing with a toddler, except children are adorable and stupid adults are not. ;) It’s been worse as of late because they feel like their views have been validated, so they’re all sharing whatever bigoted thing comes across their mind.

          My ILs have “asked” us to start supporting them, which is another reason for us opting out. My husband’s grandparents and his mom merged households, and they would like us to help with caregiving, chores, and money. (They don’t live near us, so it would be a considerable sacrifice to do this.) It’s very hard for me to be civil to them when they’ve made such an unreasonable request of their grandson, you know?

    6. Mimmy*

      I am, kinda, which is rare for me to say.

      I posted about a job rejection on Facebook, and a relative saw it and told my mom the other day. I think it’ll be fine, but I’m sure my relative will bring it up tomorrow, which will feel a bit awkward. She is a lovely, lovely person and she means well, but I’m slightly irked that she did that.

      Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom will ask me more about the job or chide me for posting that stuff on Facebook.

    7. Allypopx*

      Update: my boyfriend didn’t warn me we were showing up an hour early, abandoned me the whole night, and invited various relatives to plans we have for the spring without consulting me. So I’m spending my Christmas rather hurt and angry. But his sister is an angel and her fiancee has been the accessory at these for years so we hung out.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    So, this is likely going to be long. And hopefully it will make some sort of sense—I have a lot going on here.

    TLDR: I’m a mess right now.

    Anyone ever come to the realization that you don’t know who you are in the world? That happened to me yesterday while I was driving to a store to do some Christmas shopping and it brought me to tears. I was thinking about something—I don’t even remember what it was—and somehow my line of thinking brought me to the conclusion that I don’t know who I am anymore. I know who I want to be: I want to be someone who is healthy, eats right, and exercises. And I want to fit in, whether that be at work or with friends/making new friends.

    Some background: I’m a high achiever, always have been. Things have always come easy to me no matter what it is, except weight loss—I never got that under control until I had gastric bypass three years ago. I never had to study much in school. At work I always caught on super quick after one try. Worked my way up the ladder pretty fast. And when I set a goal, I met it every time. Once I get an idea in my head, I just put my all into it until I reach my goal, what whatever it is I want, etc. I just think to myself, “I want this. It’s going to happen.” It never enters into my mind that it won’t happen.

    I’m now at a point where I just feel lost in a lot of ways.

    When it comes to my friends, I’m not feeling it with my best friend anymore. We’ve been friends for 35+ years. She’s recently divorced and living on her own. I’ve realized we’re quite different: she loves bars, drinking and dancing, and has lots of friends; I’m a homebody, like to go out to dinner and do some shopping (although my “shopping” usually means buying what’s needed for the house, like groceries, etc.). I have really no real friends other than her, although I have a couple that live out of state and one in state that I just haven’t talked to much. I read a lot, hang with the cats and hubby, and watch TV. She reads and watches TV, too, but she’s someone who’s almost always doing something, which usually means something with friends and out of the house. Plus, she’s hanging on to one very toxic lifelong friend and I finally told her that if she’s going to continue to be friends with her after all said friend has done to her, I don’t want to hear anything about it. Don’t even mention her name to me. So, my dilemma in this area is that I always pine away for more friends, always grieved that I didn’t have a lot of friends (in school I was the tall, fat girl that everyone picked on), but when someone says, “hey let’s go do X,” I’m suddenly ready with an excuse as to why I can’t or don’t want to go. It’s weird. I don’t know if I just like being invited but don’t actually want to hang out. But then sometimes I’m hoping someone DOESN’T ask. So weird. I’m getting in my own way of making friends. I seem to want them, but I don’t want them.

    On to work. I worked for a bank for many years. I was there from the day it opened until the day it closed 12 years later. My identity was Dawn, Successful Banker and High Achiever. Then I went to another bank and HATED it. I became dawn, the miserable banker and it made me really lose confidence in my ability to make decisions. It really shot me down big time. I then went on to another bank, which I really like, but I’ve realized after two years that I still don’t feel like Dawn, Successful Banker and High Achiever. I feel more like Dawn, the banker, if that makes any sense. My team likes me and I think they’re awesome. Like the other people at the bank and I love my boss, but there’s always this feeling of not being one of them, like I was at that first bank. Back then I was all into everyone’s business and had no trouble inserting myself into things. I don’t mean I was nosy and annoying, just that in terms of the work I knew everything going on within the bank and was able to fit in with everyone, from the Board to the CEO to the tellers. Here? I still feel like an outsider. I think part of it is that so many people have been here for many years. My boss has been here 35 years. The woman who helped interview me and she’s now a peer: 21 years. This whole company is like that. People are welcoming and friendly, but I still feel like I’m the newbie.

    And now the exercise and diet. This has been an issue my whole life. I had weight loss surgery, lost 140 pounds and I’m now preparing for the tummy tuck and panniculectomy, which is on 02/27. I had a small re-gain, so now I’m working with a trainer and was doing awesome up until he took medical leave in September. I did OK on my own—not as good as I hoped but definitely not as bad as I thought. My diet has been an issue, too. Surgery is only two months away and I only have about 16 pounds I want to lose, but I cannot for the life of me get it together to work out consistently during the week (I see the trainer on Fridays) and to stop eating crap.

    So, the bottom line (FINALLY! LOL) that hopefully ties all this together is that I feel like the reason I can’t get it together in this area is because of how I’m feeling in those other two areas: work and friendships.

    Any suggestions? Observations? (Anyone still reading at this point? :) )

    1. Allypopx*

      I’m quite a bit younger than you so my perspective might not be terribly relevant to where you are in life right now (as a disclaimer) but as someone who is also a high achiever and has always had things come fairly naturally to me, I’ve found that when they don’t I get disheartened quite easily and find it hard to keep up with. I’m just now hitting a point where my natural metabolism is slowing down for the first time – I’ve never been terribly thin but I’ve always been fine with my weight and now I’m suddenly gaining and it’s crushing me. I can’t motivate myself to do anything about it (yet) because it feels very overwhelming. I also find that failure in one area of my life tends to make it harder to focus on other things I should be focusing on. I just never learned to wire my brain to deal with anything that doesn’t have a clear path to success (not that I don’t work hard, that sounds so spoiled, I just find meeting goals to be relatively easy. I’m on a tangent now).

      I also have a friend who just moved and describes trying to make friends in a very similar way – she wants friends but the idea of going out and doing things and meeting people makes her feel meh.

      I also think motivation is hard this time of year. So it’s much easier to get down when things are a struggle.

      I guess this is more commiseration than suggestion. My advice would be to focus on the one thing you have the most direct control over (probably the weight loss) and just try to achieve the crap out of that area of your life. Perhaps other success will follow.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I think your first paragraph describes me perfectly. Only in the last few years have things started to not go my way. And I don’t mean with everything, just certain things. For everyone else around me, this is Life. For me, it feels like a black cloud following me around. And it’s because of what you said: I never had to struggle or learn to deal with anything that didn’t have a clear path to success. I feel better that you put into words what I couldn’t. Thank you!

      2. TL -*

        I have friends who are like you, I think – they’re hard workers, but they definitely have the mentality that if you put Y in, you should always and without fail get X out. It varies in how extreme they feel it but it was definitely there. And as soon as putting in the effort did not get them the result they thought they should get, they got disheartened and felt like it was unfair or not worth their time or something.

        For instance, if they were taking a class, then going to all of the classes, plus doing all of the work, plus studying 5 hrs/week + 5 hours extra during a test week, should get them an A. They were willing to do all of that, very well, no complaining, but if they didn’t get an A, it was like the world had ended.

          1. TL -*

            Yeah. The longer it takes you to learn that life isn’t fair, the harder it is.

            For what it’s worth, all of my friends who are this way truly are lovely people.

    2. MommaCat*

      I went through a similar mental transition in the years after graduation; I’m in a much better place now, but one of the things that helped me get through the hard times was remembering that if I wasn’t failing sometimes, then I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough stuff. There’s also a quote from somewhere about how a lobster can’t grow a new shell until it gets really uncomfortable in its old skin and scrapes it off. So, maybe you’re (mentally, emotionally) growing. Looking back at when I was struggling and disillusioned, it’s also one of the times I grew the most as a person. I still have the feeling of, “Well, I made it through that, I can make it through this,” when things get tough again. I hope this helps!

    3. Mazzy*

      Hi Dawn. As per the surgery/weight thing, is there some sort of support or discussion group you could go to, even if one is far, that you could get to maybe once a month? I think that would be a good place to vent and meet people and maybe some people who want to just talk or write eachother and not always be out doing things that apparently don’t make you happy. I mean, it just sounds like you don’t want to be out “doing things.” That is fine, especially because from past posts it looks like you have a decent sized property and the grounds and garden to take care of. It’s not like you’re shut up in some tiny condo, never going outside.

      As per the friend, I highly advise against making any moves or cutting her out or whatever. Some friends are better than none unless they are toxic, and she is not. Do you really want to lose a lifelong friend because of a phase she is going through now, which may only be temporary? If you’re feeling stressed in the way you describe, loneliness may be one of the causes, and you definitely don’t want to be cutting people out or alienating them because you aren’t happy at the moment.

      Also, I’ve noticed in other people a negative feedback loop, or a positive one, where the people who have more friends sit and overanalyze their friendships less, leading to less of the thoughts you’re having, meaning you keep friends longer and have more friends. If you’re going to sit there and stew over every negative trait about your friends, you will quickly find yourself not wanting to talk to anymore. From the sound of it, your friend sounds nice. Maybe you can force yourself to go out to some event she invites you to that you don’t want to go to?

      As per work, I can offer sympathies. I’ve been through quite a few companies and had the one you described that you were at for 12 years. I was invited to lunch by someone every day. I was in everyone’s business as you described it, in a good way, we’d discuss stuff over lunch and sometimes I’d help them with things outside of my role when we got back to the office. And sometimes we’d to dinner or drinks. At my current job, I’m not on the same wavelength as the other people. They are all nice, but I find the occasional group lunches to be boring. The conversations are never as deep or meaningful to me as at my former company. I miss it to0. I also felt that I had more social respect at my last company. Because we were so close and talked about work at lunch, everyone saw how busy I was and how many problems I was handling. When I go to lunch at this job, they talk about superficial stuff like vacations and gym classes. Then we go back to the office and I have my RBF on because I’m stressed and handling alot, and some of them have lower level or easier roles, and I always feel like they don’t get what I’m dealing with, so I feel a bit left out.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’ve tried a few support groups, and I just can’t seem to find one I like. It’s either one or two people that dominate the discussion all night and no one steps in, or people go on about how they’re doing X or Y (that are a no-no in the bariatric post-op life) and they don’t care to change it and have no intention of trying to get back on track. The former is annoying and not super helpful, and the latter is kind of depressing. Support groups seem pretty limited around here since there aren’t a lot of bariatric surgeons.

        I don’t plan to cut my friend out of my life. There’s obviously much more going on than what I’ve written here, but a lot of her actions over the years towards Toxic Friend have caused me to slowly lose respect for her, which I only realized a few months ago. And even though she knows Toxic Friend is toxic, erodes her mental health (her words!), has no respect for her and throws her under the bus all the time, she still chooses to put a lot of time, effort and energy into it. In a nutshell, her and Toxic Friend have a co-dependent relationship. The last Incident was the last straw for me. That’s why I’ve told her I don’t want to hear anything about Toxic Friend or anything this friend might do to her. I obviously care about her, but I just feel we’re at a point where we don’t have much in common anymore and it’s tough for me to feel as though I don’t respect her, or trust her, all that much.

        And yes, I do focus a lot on the negative traits. As I was writing my first post I was thinking about how my other in-state friend makes me feel suffocated because I’ll text her and instead of texting me back, she’ll call. I hate the phone so this is, of course, why I don’t talk to her much. I know, that’s probably horrible but that’s how I feel. Probably because I once had a toxic friend who wanted to be on the phone for HOURS. After her, I wanted nothing to do with the phone.

        1. Mazzy*

          Oh I get your pain on the group think sometimes, I go to AA often and there are the same folks who always have to speak every single meeting. I’ve heard about one guy who is upset his wife has gotten unattractive (they are both getting quite old so I don’t know why fading looks is such a shocker) and her sex drive is lowering. I’ve heard some variation of this like five times in the past few months. I’ve also heard how another one does yoga now and she is so proud of herself because she is so not the type to do yoga. Then the one who is trying to get custody of her daughter back, or God forbid, any newcomers who are in a much more fragile state and going through things that actually have to do with the addiction (as opposed to rambling about whatever negative thing they are going through now, even if it isn’t really triggering the addiction) don’t get time to share.

          As per toxic friends, you’re mentioning a second “toxic” friend here. I’ve never had a toxic friend. I see the label getting used more as time moves on. Are you sure these people are absolutely toxic? Someone being needy or not giving as much as you do into a relationship doesn’t always mean toxic. And someone who acts selfishly now may be going through a phase and may be less self-centered in the future. I woud really only label someone as toxic if they gossiped very, very badly, or caused serious harm to other people. The occassional gossip or ruffling of feathers shouldn’t warrant the toxic label. Just throwing that out there. Sometimes I wonder if people cut off potential friends too soon because they view things in such an all or nothing light.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I get what you mean about toxic people. My best friend’s toxic friend is definitely exactly that. Trust me on that one. As for my former friend I labeled as toxic, she was a very mild version of toxic. We’re no longer friends because of it and I’ve heard from others that stayed friends with her that she hasn’t changed at all and they limit contact with her as much as possible.

    4. Chickaletta*

      You seem to be a real goal-oriented person, but you’re goals right now aren’t happening for you and I bet this is why you feel down. What if you came up with a new goal that was short-term and achievable to give yourself a boost? It could be whatever: visit a place nearby that you’ve always wanted to see, learn how to make a really good cocktail, reorganize a room in your house, make a will, read the Odyssey, whatever interest you… It might give you something to feel good about and something to focus on rather than the things that aren’t going very well right now.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, I’m thinking short-term would be easier for me and make me feel like I’m making progress. Not making a goal just makes me feel like I’m lazy, which makes me more lazy. It’s a vicious circle.

    5. StatsGuy*

      What struck me during and after reading your message is that you seem like a really nice person through your tone and general language. I think that’s something worth acknowledging in the first place, and to keep in mind at all times. This won’t magically solve problems with weight, work or friends, but it might make you realize that even though you struggle with some things (and who doesn’t really, we’re all imperfect humans), you are still a good person at the core.

      People in that way are often quite harsh with themselves: they empathize with the struggles of the ones they care about, but judge themselves harshly for their own problems, perceiving them as failures. But the moment you realize: “Hey, I’m someone imperfect, but also fundamentally good who just happens not to have everything figured out, and that’s ok.”, it helps a lot to maintain a sense of acceptance and identity, as a work in progress perhaps.

      This being said, because my life experience is different from yours, I don’t have advice for the specific aspects of your life that you mentioned and I don’t know if what I said will help or not. But whether the problem is losing weight, making friends or making any change in life, I think this can help to do it with more inner peace.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. I feel you.
      Okay, first off, the thing that grabs me is the weight loss. When I lost weight, I was not prepared for the HUGE AMOUNT of emotions that I would have to sort. And like you show here, emotions coming in from all directions, no reprieve. So one thing that you can tell yourself is “this is my sorting process”.

      Next. Make sure you are getting rest, vitamins and hydration. The lack of any one of those things causes the mind to wander around endlessly (a tired mind) and, in turn, gives some of the restlessness like you are talking about here.

      Friends. I am almost tempted to tell you to put this one on the back burner for a short bit. The reason I say that is that you seem to indicate you are not interested in putting the energy into friendships. Is something else chewing up your energy so you are just “not feeling it” when it comes to friends?
      Your current friend: I have tried pulling people away from toxic people. Many times that does not go so well. I think it is fine to say that you won’t talk about Toxic Person and see where that puts the two of you. Like other things you are mentioning here, this one is more of that wait and see.
      Job. Can you talk to your boss about adding responsibilities or taking on new stuff? Think about ways to inject something new or to shake up what you are already doing. Maybe it is time to move on to a different area of the financial field. You know your stuff, can you apply in a different setting?

      Season. Christmas/New Years can cause a lot of emotional junk to come to the surface. I have been feeling it myself and I don’t have as much going on as you do. You could opt to allow yourself to just feel peaceful for the next week in order to get through the holidays and tell yourself you will start to process this stuff in the new year. This might entail reminding yourself “No, not going to think about X until after January 1st.”

      We all need a sense of success. And that has nothing to do with being a high achiever. It’s a basic human need. We need to feel like we are contributing in a meaningful way to something/anything. Most of the things you are talking about here will involve effort that will give you a sense of success sometime in the future. What could you do today that would give you a sense of success today? (Anything is fair game. Because the turn around time is short, this is probably going to be a small thing.) I painted some chairs today. They have been set up and ready to paint for over a week. I painted them today. Took a little over an hour. My feeling of success is not from the actual painting. It’s from the fact that the paint will be dry soon and I will NO longer have chairs set up for painting! Gosh, they got annoying sitting there like that. (lol)

      I have had that “I don’t know me” feeling. I think that a good reply to it is to try some new things and see how you do with those new things. I was surprised to find out some of the things I was good at, it even surprised others around me. (sigh. Not too sure about those surprised people, haha.) You are describing an overall restlessness inside and it could be that you are just bored on top of these other things you are talking about.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I think “bored” is another good description for me right now. If I were putting more focus on my diet and exercise, I likely wouldn’t be as bored because it would occupy my thoughts.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh what fun diet and exercise. not. Do you do any handcrafts? Sometimes people use handcrafts as therapy, sort of a way to center their existence. I used handcrafts to fill my need to create, to make something. I liked it because it was down time from all. the. people. in life and it gave me a sense of success that I was not getting out of some of my relationships with others.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yeah, diet and exercise isn’t fun. I totally wish I was one of those bariatric patients that suddenly found out they LOVE LOVE LOVE to exercise. Didn’t happen for me, unfortunately. I like it well enough, but the three to four sets of three to five different exercises bore me–that’s part of the struggle, too.

            I do like cross stitch. I actually plan on working on one after my surgery. I have a whole bunch of cross stitch kits I haven’t even started.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              Maybe you just need to find the right kind(s) of exercise. Whether that’s studying martial arts, zumba, tap dancing (or other form of dance like salsa), bicycling, roller blading. There’s more ways to exercise than merely going to a gym and lifting weights.

              I also think that there’s nothing wrong with being a homebody/introvert who doesn’t want to go out to bars every weekend, even though that’s what’s “expected” or considered fun. Your friend enjoys that, you don’t. So long as she’s not putting you down for being a party pooper, doesn’t really matter. So long as she is willing to spend time with you in other ways that you can both agree on, I don’t see a problem.

              The problem with being young is that you don’t really know anything, so you assume and infer a lot. By the time you get to an age, you may begin to see how you went along with this, that or the other thing because you thought you were “supposed” to or it was what other people wanted of you. Maybe being a banker isn’t who you ever really were, it just felt good at the time to be learning new things, climbing that ladder to whatever you thought success should be (or had been told it was). Now that you’re sort of there, it’s no wonder you’re looking around asking if that’s all there is? There is no law that says you *have* to be passionate for your job. You can have a job, like the work, need the pay cheque and reserve your true passion for other things. They say the unexamined life is not worth living, and perhaps now is your time to do that examination and decide what to unpack from all areas of your life to move forward.

              If you want to get out of the house more, you can volunteer, or join a group or start one. Maybe what your town really needs is a Stitch n’ Bitch group, so you can all do your cross stitch/knitting/whatever in a group and collectively make the time to do it. But the catch is, you’re going to have to be the one to start it! Maybe you just need to make more of an effort with the people at work (unless you can’t because you’re their manager or something) — go out to lunch more often with them and learn who they are. Maybe you need to mentor some young people in some way and pass on the lessons you’ve learned. The exciting thing is, it’s all up to you to decide! If it doesn’t work out, try something else.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Being passionate about work is over played in my opinion. Passion comes and goes, and what does one do when the passion for their job gets up and leaves? You have to have commitment. Adding to this I think it’s important to do something that is a natural skill. We each have things that come easy to us. So combining the two a good choice for work is something that uses our natural talents and we feel we are able to commit to doing the work.

                I have been through some rough situations at some jobs and what carried me was that I knew my stuff and I committed to riding out the tough times. Was I passionate about the work? Heck no, but I did care about doing a good job and helping with fixing any problems that came up.

            2. Laura*

              If you’re the type of person who prefers exercising on your own to a group class, check out Discovering their videos a couple of years ago changed my mindset toward exercising completely. Their videos are all free on youtube, and their website has a good search function. They also have a free calendar so you can plan out your workouts in advance. Specifically take a look at their recent “for people who get bored easily” series where you don’t repeat any exercises but still get a thorough workout. I’ve really liked those lately. I watch the videos at the gym sometimes to use the weights I don’t have at home or sometimes just use their list of the exercises in the video to do it without the video itself.

              They do have some paid exercise plans that tell you which of their free videos to do each day, which I’ve liked because it saves me the time of selecting videos, but you definitely don’t need to use the paid programs and can just plan your free workouts yourself. Before buying one of the programs, try one (or all three) of their 5 day challenges. These mimic the style of the paid programs, so only buy a program if you like the style of the challenges.

              I’m in no way connected to fitness blender but have become a big fan over the years since they’ve helped me get into much better shape and actually enjoy exercising on a regular basis.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      You’ve been through a quite a few shifts recently. That can throw people off. It’s no wonder you’re feeling disconnected from your old self. One thing at a time. There’s no rush to handle it all at once.

      Don’t think of them as failures–they’re changes. You’re making readjustments and that takes time.

      I read this thing in Reader’s Digest a long time ago when I was a kid (yes, I read RD as a kid–I was weird) about this guy who got lost in the mountains or some such. He was injured and had to walk out and it was a long, long way, in brutal weather. At first, he was like, “I can’t do this. I’m gonna die up here.” But then he told himself he was going to take ten steps, and only concentrate on those ten. So he started walking. He kept telling himself, “Ten steps. Then ten steps more.” He did this over and over again, until he made it to where there was help.

      Every time I get in tough sh!t, I think of that guy. It helps me slow my brain down and helps me keep going. Ten steps. Ten steps more. Before I know it, I’m through.

      I don’t know if that will help, but there it is.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Actually, I’ve recently decided that I need to set small goals so I can chip away at the larger one, which is to get to my goal weight before surgery. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing person when it comes to goals and success, so it never actually occurred to me to set smaller goals. And I’m definitely an instant gratification-type person, which I think is what makes this harder, as weight loss and fitness take awhile.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I hear you on the instant gratification thing!

          I did find that the ten-steps story helped me when I got anxious about looming stuff–Oh this is too big, I can’t do all this, for example. Yes, I can. I can do ten steps. Some goals don’t break down easily, so it really does keep you from being overwhelmed.

    8. The RO-Cat*

      I read both the post and your replies. I don’t know if it suits you (it’s only my experience, so please neglect this if it doesn’t fit yours), but I was a high achiever as a kid, in school, too. That got turned upside down by depression, when I switched aaaaall the way to the other end – and posed myself some of the questions you seem to ask yourself. What helped me find balance was mindfulness meditation (therapy came first, helping me out of the dark; then there were light trances I got myself into by way of sound; finaly, MM). I’ve been practicing it (not so) regularly for the past… maybe 4-5 years?

      What it did was calm down, and then remove a lot of, the storm of unproductive thoughts. With that, I got able to choose which thought deserved my attention and which not. I find myself more at peace than I’ve ever been, way less irritable (I can now usually fall asleep with chatter and music around, which says a lot!) and less prone to kneejerk reactions. I lost a lot of old ambitions (that were useless, as I look upon them now) but the drive remained and I re-purposed it for goals that are close to my heart. My life didn’t get any easier – I still struggle to make a living, I still struggle with a lot of problems many people around me have, but it made life easier to live (I’m not sure I’m clear enough, but it’s after midnight here and I’m quite tired).

      Mind you, I’m a quite non-religious person, so the flavor of mindfulness meditation I chose is a bare-bones, scientifically-proven one, devoid of all spiritual fluff. But there are ways to practice MM for every taste out there – as long as it suits you (like anything else, some people do not “feel” MM – and that’s OK. Nothing is universal).

      1. fposte*

        My apologies, because I think I asked you this before–which was your particular MM jam, and is it in English? I’d prefer a non-fluffy one myself, and your descriptions have made me interested.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          Now, that’s a tough one! I’m an avid reader, I hoard information then I forget where I read a particular thing. My MM jam appeared as I read, so it’s not one “formal” flavor, but a particular mix. If I remember correctly I started with Psychcentral-dot-com, I read about it on bakadesuyo-dot-com and then… I guess a potpourri of other things, ending with an online MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program. Mainly for me it’s about observing thoughts without engaging in any, and then – if needed – choosing consciously which one deserves my attention. Tooting my horn: I got to clearing up my mind, no thoughts, just silence, and I can sustain this state for up to a full minute! (now, that’s only a by-product of MM, not its main focus, but the sensation is brilliant). In a reply to this I’ll post some links, maybe you’ll find something useful there.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            Online, free, MBSR program (accessible for first-timers, better if you already are somewhat familiar with MM):

            PsychCentral (good place for various reasons):

            The title says it all:

            Informative article:

            Google’s own approach to MM in the workplace:

            An interesting pop-science blog: (search for mindfulness, the results are interesting).

            The Two Minds concept:

            I’m sure I lost a lot of sources over time.

        2. The RO-Cat*

          PS: guided meditations were also useful for me, in the beginning. I used Headspace (the free part) and some things I looked up on Youtube or other websites. I don’t have links because I don’t use guided meditations anymore.

            1. The RO-Cat*

              You know, your question started a whole train of thought. I’ve been working lately towards a Romanian-language MBSR and I got stuck at explaining meditation and midfulness. I know what I do, I just can’t translate it in words (quite awkward for a trainer…). When trying to explain here what’s it all about, my ideas started taking shape. So, a good question at the right time!

      2. The Other Dawn*

        It’s something to think about. Thank you. I’m wondering if I would be able to do it, as I’m very much an instant gratification-type person. Although I’ve been hypnotized before and found it very relaxing. I agree that I wouldn’t want anything with religious or spiritual stuff.

    9. The dark trick*

      Sorry, no advice, but wanted to tell you’re not alone in how you feel and give you lots of Internet hugs.

    10. Kj*

      On the diet/exercise eating right thing, on thing that works for me is making my commute an active one-time could you bike to work? Or walk? Or take the bus part way and bike/walk after that? It can shake things up in a good way.

      On the high achieving end- I’ve noticed that high achievers are subject to feeling down on themselves when things cease to be easy. I’m wondering if you need to reframe who you are and how you learn/achieve. Maybe adopting a mantra about growth or trying as being enough? I’d also wonder if trying one thing new would help you-all maybe try one new thing every month and see how it makes you feel. If it feels true to you, keep doing it. If not, feel free to drop it.

      Last but not least, I’m wondering if counseling might be helpful. You’ve had a bunch of changes, both good and less good. Large weight loss alone can throw folks. Might be worth considering if talking to a professional could be helpful.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, I’ve thought about counseling, but me being me, I tend to think I should be able to suck it up and power through this by myself. I’ve always been that way. It’s very hard for me to ask for or accept help.

        On the commute, unfortunately I live about 15 miles from work and I’m in an area where it just wouldn’t be possible to do anything other than drive. I’m trying to work it out in my mind, and I’m coming up empty. Great suggestion though!

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I tend to think I should be able to suck it up and power through this by myself. I’ve always been that way. It’s very hard for me to ask for or accept help.

          Then help yourself. Start a journal and write stuff down. When was the first time someone laughed at you for being overweight? How did your parents and other family members treat you? Was your weight gain a reaction to something else? Why is it hard for you to ask for help/what happened (or didn’t happen) to make you feel that way? You don’t necessarily *need* a therapist if you can be brutally honest with yourself. You can unravel a lot of this stuff on your own. A therapist can be helpful — provided you find a good one — but sometimes seeing your thoughts and memories out of your head, in the real world can help you deal with them. Or bring up other ones that you had pushed down.

        2. KJ*

          I know about the desire to suck it up and get through without help- I’m a therapist with that tendency, which is kind of a bad combo. Paradoxically, therapy,from the right person, could help with that tendency. It has helped me somewhat, although I’m better than I was, I’m still not perfect. I would encourage you to be kind to yourself and part of being kind is knowing when to ask for help- if from a therapist, self-help group, or good friend.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Powering through: If you could have powered through it by now, you would have. You are saying you tend to be an overachiever and, indeed, you have done a lot of things with your life.

          I often think of that expression “no man is an island”. I tried being little miss independence and my hand got forced on that point. I found myself in a position where I had to reach out to other people for help. I learned that is not as horrible as it sounds.

          1) In order to be a good giver we have to learn to be a gracious recipient. I have learned some finer points of how to give in meaningful ways because of being on the receiving end.
          2) It’s unethical (my new opinion) to not allow others to pay us back for helping them. See, it cuts them off from saying thank you. And their need to say thank you is NOT LESS than my need to be “independent”. We have to allow others to say thanks or to give back. Perhaps they are doing a pay it forward thing, we should not interfere with their process.
          3) It will be my turn later. (It will be your turn later.) We go through spells where others take care of us, but then circumstances change yet again and it becomes our turn to help someone else. I learned that I could look for opportunities to pay it back or pay it forward.
          4) The more people we let into our lives the more our quality of life goes up. Not all friendships have to be close friends. Some relationships can be rock solid acquaintances. This can be neighbors who help in a pinch, or a coworker who seems savvy about some topics. Look around for thinking people to talk with and possibly brainstorm with. Some of the people who have really helped enrich my life are NOT close friends. They are just rock solid good people who are happy to enrich anyone’s life if allowed.

          Sucking it up works to a point and then it doesn’t work any more. Even vacuum cleaner bags have to be emptied sometimes. We can’t just suck things up endless, that is not a long term plan.

    11. Elkay*

      I don’t have any advice but I can totally empathise with not fitting in at work. My last place I was there for two years and when I started the majority had been there for more than ten. We then had a hiring freeze so when I left I was still the newest person there. It sucks to be that person.

    12. The Other Dawn*

      OK, so this is what I’m going to do.

      I’m going to work on the diet and exercise now, since surgery is two months from tomorrow and that’s the most pressing matter. I’m going to go back on the bariatric protein shakes at least twice a day. This will take all the focus off of food. I won’t have to think about it, prep it, or obsess over it. Don’t worry, I’ll get everything I need in terms of nutrition, as these shakes are specially formulated to be high quality meal replacements. I’ll probably eat one meal, which will be protein-heavy. Also, I joined the Nerd Fitness community and started a “daily battle blog” thread for myself. I’ve already started logging. Even though I’ve eaten crap for a few days, it’s helping to create the habit of being accountable. I’ll likely join in the next 4 week challenge they’re starting next week, too.

      I’m holding off on worrying about the friend situation. It’s just not pressing right now and I need time to really figure out what I’m looking for there. I thought I wanted to be a “joiner” and join a book club. I joined…and then never went. I just got cold feet, I guess. Once the commitment was there, I ran. So, once I’m done with the surgery and recovered, I’ll work on this one.

      Work is work. I have a great team (I’m the boss) and although I don’t feel like I’m “one of them” after two years, I’m OK with it. I actually do have people I talk to within the company, so it’s not like I’m a total loner. But I definitely don’t have the rapport that a couple of my team members have with other departments. My senior person just has that something special that people respond to. I had it in my first bank, she has it here. I think that’s what is hardest for me. She’s the way I was back then: she can come off as a hard ass, but she’s nice and people respect her for her no-nonsense ways. Actually, I sometimes feel like I can’t let myself be me in that way. I guess I feel like I’m still new, even though I’m not, and that people won’t like me. Anyway, I’ll work on it.

      Thanks for listening. I’ve just been a confused mess lately with no direction, and this is helping to refocus me.

  19. Sparkly Librarian*

    Who’s got a great big cherry nose?
    Sparkly’s got a great big cherry nose.
    Who coughs this way? *hack hack hack*

    3 guesses who’s sick on Christmas.

    1. JaneB*

      Awww, sympathy… make sure you let others do all the dull stuff, take naps, and make the most of seasonal hot drinks, toddys, punches etc…

    2. Mimmy*

      I’ve generally been pretty lucky – the only time I was sick on Christmas was when I was 11 years old. I think I had a really bad cold, and I remember being absolutely miserable that entire day :(

    3. Sparkly Librarian*

      [to the tune of “Joy to the World”]
      DAYQuil’s the best!
      It really works.
      My head will not exploooode.

      1. Mythical Beastie*

        Lol. I’m with you on the love of DayQuil. My kiddo came down with a fever and lost his voice yesterday, and today I’m not feeling great. Here’s to being sick on Christmas.

  20. Amber Rose*

    This year’s batch of Nanaimo bars turned out excellent, so I figured I’d share my recipe. No baking required!

    For the base:
    2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    4 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites (or one large egg)
    2.5-3 cups graham wafer crumb
    Optional 1 cup chopped nuts/coconut
    – Melt the chocolate and mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth. Add graham cracker crumbs until you have a wet, dense dough. Press into the bottom of a glass pan and chill until firm. I recommend putting parchment paper in the pan first, makes it easier to get them out.

    For the middle layer:
    1/2 cup butter
    4 tablespoons custard powder
    4 cups powdered sugar
    6 tablespoons milk
    1 tablespoon vanilla
    – Mix together all ingredients and mix until smooth and creamy (low setting on hand mixer). Spread over the bottom layer and chill until firm.

    For the top layer:
    6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
    4 tablespoons butter
    – Melt together and mix until smooth. Spread evenly over the top of your other layers. Chill until chocolate hardens and then cut into squares.

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      A belated thanks! Will save this for the next time I’m ready for sugar – round about Valentine’s Day. :)

  21. Today's anon*

    Does anyone know of a guide for freezing things? one of my accomplishments this year is that I am cooking a ton more but I live alone so sometimes end up cooking way too much for me (especially if I make something sweet, or my schedule changes and I am not home as much as I thought I would be). Any suggestions appreciated!

    1. Artemesia*

      My New Year’s resolution is to get my refrigerator under control. when we moved in here after downsizing and moving cities, I was committed to keeping only things we are actually eating in the refrigerator and to keep it spotless. Well 4 years later I have backslid and my freezer is full of stuff I will probably throw out because it is too old (refrigerator freezers really shouldn’t be used to store stuff for more than 3 mos tops — they don’t keep it cold enough for long term storage.)

      So out goes most of it. The key is to make things like pea soup, spaghetti sauce, chicken meat from a whole stewed chicken, lasagna, lentils etc and store in visible containers in portion sizes and then to commit when you make the stuff to using it within 2 weeks. So make the pea soup and have it for a day or two for dinner with sausage or ham and cornbread or whatever, and freeze a couple of portions and then use them within the next two weeks.

      For pastas, we don’t freeze, but we plan to use them in a day or two. Many pastas reheat well in the microwave. My husband makes the world’s best spaghetti carbonara; I never order it in a restaurant because usually they just dump alfredo sauce on spaghetti and throw in bacon and it is such a disappointment. So we have it for dinner and then either have it the day after the next again — or else I use the leftovers up as lunches.

      You can find lots of recipes for freezable stuff on line; the key is to decide that anything that goes into the freezer will be coming out after no later than a month. You can really save time and money cooking this way and really waste it if you let it languish. Same with meats you might buy and freeze for later; later needs to be later that month.

    2. danr*

      Depends on what you’re freezing, but you can certainly keep things frozen long past the guidelines. You just need to adjust some recipes for more flavor after you’ve defrosted and cook the item. The most important thing is to label and date the package. We freeze meat sauce, chicken parmesan cultlets – cooked, raw chicken breasts, raw steaks and pork chops… Butter and margarines also freeze well. I double bag fresh meats when I freeze them. The meat goes into a sandwich sized ziplock and then goes into a freezer ziplock that has the date and what it is and maybe the weight.

    3. New Bee*

      I freeze a lot (mostly soups, casseroles, meatballs), and when I started I googled “how to freeze X” and followed the guidelines (using ziploc bags, plastic wrap, and plastic tupperware). When I reheat I just add seasonings, and I haven’t had any problems, though I think “loose” foods like soup are more foolproof since the structure isn’t important and a bit of additional moisture doesn’t ruin it. What’s worked for me is to put everything I make in the fridge overnight before freezing it; it helps firm stuff up. I’ve also read that stuff with dairy in it isnt good for freezing, but I haven’t has that issue with lasagna, at least. You can always try to freeze a small portion of something (I started by saving small portions of the night’s dinner) and eating it the next week, then making a big batch if it works.

    4. Soupspoon McGee*

      A friend taught me to freeze things in a muffin tin, then pop out the frozen food and stack it in a ziplock bag. You’ll have individual portions that are easy to handle and thaw without worrying about the whole container of once-frozen chili turning green in the fridge.

  22. Turtle Candle*

    So in the “GPS tracker” thread I mentioned my ridiculous love of shapeshifter romance, and people asked for recs, but I didn’t want to derail too badly so I waited for the open thread. And now it is, so here they are–have some holiday shapeshifter romance recs!

    Some caveats:

    * My links all go to the Amazon ebook version of these books. Many of them are only available on Amazon, because they’re part of the Kindle Unlimited program (which is Amazon-exclusive), but some may be available elsewhere. Some are available in hardcopy too and some are ebook-only. Also I haven’t meticulously checked that I didn’t goof any of the links, so that’s why if any of them break.
    * Many of these are short novels or novellas, not full-length novels. (On the flip side, many of them are also pretty inexpensive–$2.99, or free to borrow for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)
    * Most of these are pretty sex-heavy; they almost always tread the line somewhere between the “spicy romance” and the “erotic romance” categories. (I haven’t listed anything that I think of as outright erotica–everything I list below has characterization and plot beyond Tab A and Slot B–but that’s such a very, very personal assessment that it’s entirely possible that you might pick one of these up and go “wow, this is basically porn!” So be aware.)
    * Unless otherwise noted, everything below focuses on heterosexual relationships (even the authors that write menage tend to do the ‘two men, both focusing on the woman instead of on each other’ thing). I wish that weren’t so, but sadly for this genre it largely is; I love shapeshifter romances with lesbian/bisexual woman leads and f/f relationships, but it’s hard to find IME. There’s more m/m out there than f/f (and lots of menage, but usually of the ‘two guys aren’t really into each other but are super into the woman’ kind, which isn’t at all the same thing), but the aesthetic is sufficiently different that it’s almost a different genre, and I have not read much of it. If anyone has GLBTQA+ shapeshifter romance recs, I would love to hear them.
    * There is a whole huuuuuge world of this stuff, so I’m absolutely going to be missing some gems. If there’s some author you think I’ve overlooked, please let me know!

    I mentioned Lumberjack Werebear in the thread that started this because that’s a title that tends to make people take notice–often in a “wait, is that seriously a book?” kind of way. It is, seriously, a book, by the extremely prolific TS Joyce: It’s the first of the Saw Bears series. Joyce writes very virile, strong men with “macho” type jobs who are nevertheless kind and loving to their partners (they aren’t so much the “macho asshole” trope). Most of her books are about werebears, but she has some werewolf series, a few books about dragons, and some that are a little more off the wall (I think one of her books features a gorilla. I’d suggest starting with either Lumberjack Werebear or Bear My Soul (the first book of her Fire Bears series): — but most of them can be more or less read as standalones. Joyce has a newish series about werewolves, if you prefer wolves to bears, but I haven’t read it as yet.

    Celia Kyle is another very popular author, primarily of big-cat shapeshifter books (mostly lions, sometimes tigers IIRC). The first book of her immensely popular Ridgeville series is He Ain’t Lion: (yes, titles in this genre skew heavily toward either dreadful puns or the extremely literal). Like Joyce’s, most of her books can be read as standalones if you want to bounce around. I’ve mostly just read Kyle’s werecat books, but she is apparently writing alien romances now too…..

    Zoe Chant has a really wide repertoire, ranging from the fluffy and domestic to stuff with a thriller/action bent to it. My favorite of her subseries is the “Gray’s Hollow Dragon Shifters” series, which starts with The Billionaire’ Dragon Shifter’s Mate:, which I found absolutely delightful in an id-fic kind of way. There’s also the wonderfully goofy “Fire & Rescue Shifters” series, starting with Firefighter Dragon: and continuing with a Firefighter Pegasus and Firefighter Griffin and I presume more to come. The series that starts with Honey for the Billionbear is fun comfort reading: And there are a bunch more.

    I haven’t read as much by the very popular Terry Bolryder (added amusement: say the name out loud), but I enjoyed “Polar Heat,” a fluffy series about a group of polar bear brothers who live in the Grand Caymans (there is a highly, highly amusing explanation of why polar bear brothers chose to live in the tropics) whose father is trying to arrange the perfect mates for each of them. Bolryder writes all kinds of stuff, not just werebears–one of their most popular series is “Awakened Dragons,” of which I’ve read one book, Onyx Dragon: (I have not read Bolryder’s “Bear-llionaire” set, but I have to give props for the title:

    Emma Holly is a classic, and tends to write longer (more usually novel-length) and plottier than the ones I’ve listed above (although not always). I’m particularly partial to her “Tales of the Demon World” series (starting with The Demon’s Daughter: and the “Hidden” series, which features all different kind of supernatural beings (first three available as a compilation here: Unlike most of the other authors listed above, Holly does include significant LGBT relationships in some of her books, which I really like to see.

    The “Black Dagger Brotherhood” series, by JR Ward! These are a bit of a divergence from me because they’re vampire-focused, not shapeshifter-focused, but still. Despite characters with hilariously on the nose names like “Rhage” and “Zsadist” I eat these up with a spoon. First book is Dark Lover:

    I hesitated whether to put Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs on this list, because they’re much more toward the urban/paranormal fantasy with a strong romance subplot end of things than the type of shapeshifter romance I list above. But I can’t resist, since I love them both. Ilona Andrews is best known for her (I should probably say ‘their’ actually–it’s a husband/wife writing team) Kate Daniels series, starting with Magic Bites (, but I also have a terrific soft spot for the “Novels of the Edge” series, starting with On the Edge: I have sadly not yet read any of her newer stuff. And Briggs won my heart for all time with her “Mercy Thompson” series, about a female werecoyote mechanic. That series starts with Moon Called (

    While, as I noted above, there is sadly not as much shapeshifter romance featuring lesbian and/or bisexual woman as I’d like, there is some! The “Garoul” series by Gill McKnight comes to mind; it begins with Goldenseal:, a kind of werewolf family saga featuring f/f relationships. (I’m not sure if all the books feature pairings of two women–I haven’t read them all yet–but it’s definitely a theme.) There’s also the “Kassandra Lyall, Preternatural Investigator” series by Winter Pennington, starting with Witch Wolf: — a kind of hard-boiled-cop-mystery-plus-paranormal with a strong lesbian romance element. And the very fluffy (IMHO) “Madison Wolves” series, about a female fox shifter and her alpha werewolf girlfriend, starting with Fox Run: — its quality is kind of uneven, but I did like the main character quite a lot.

    Other things people asked:

    * Someone, and now I can’t remember who, asked about how explicit these are and if there are any that I can recommend that are less, er, porny. The majority of the books above do have explicit sex scenes, usually of the ‘spicy romance’ variety but in some cases tilting more towards ‘erotic romance.’ (None of them are what I’d think of as outright porn, because they do all have characters and a plot–even if the plot is just “these two characters are super into each other! will they get together? spoiler alert: yes.” But they do mostly have a significant amount of on-page sex.) Some suggestions for things on the “tamer” end of the spectrum: from what I recall, Fox Run ( has a fair bit of sensuality and hinting at sex but no full-fledged on-page sex scenes. The Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews are also lighter on the sex than, say, the Lumberjack Werebear books.

    * Spy romances! I’m not an expert on these, but my coworker gave me the following titles: Black Ice by Anne Stuart and Kill and Tell by Linda Howard. In the historical spy romance genre, there’s The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood, Lord of Fire by Galen Foley, and The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne. (I confess the only one of these I’ve read is Bourne.)

    * For the person who asked about cyborg romances–I admit that I haven’t read much cyborg romance, but science fiction-flavored spicy romances are apparently big right now! (I feel like as a Mass Effect fan I should have been aware of this sooner.) I see that the Cyborg Heat (Lisa Lace) and Cyborg Sizzle (Cynthia Sax) series are doing well–do you have any particular recommendations? (And wow, there’s a bajillion alien romance books out there, often by people who also read shapeshifter romance…. clearly it is time for me to branch out, as a longtime SF fan!)

    Annnd that’s tl;dr it! If anyone has recs of their own, or follow-up questions, please let me know. (I’d especially love recs from anyone who has dipped their toe in the exciting new world of alien romances, or especially for shapeshifter/paranormal/fantasy romances featuring lesbian or bisexual woman protagonists.)

    1. jamlady*

      Kate Daniels is my second favorite series, but she is my favorite character. I read like 9 books on Mercy Thompson and finally got fed up lol

      Psy-changeling is my favorite series!!! Nalini Singh is adorable and I follow her on Facebook haha. I read her two other series but they’re meh (I’m not into vampires and the other isn’t sci-fi).

    2. beetrootqueen*

      i have been waiting for this post since that thread!! So happy to see you actually posted all of this stuff

    3. Finny*

      Spy romances I’ve quite liked (despite not liking romances at all) :
      Code Name: Nanny, Code Name: Princess, and Code Name: Baby by Christina Skye

    4. Garland Not Andrews*

      Have you checked out Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles? While they are not specifically a “Shapeshifter” themed series, there is a main character who is a werewolf. In general, very good stories.

      1. Garland Not Andrews*

        I should also add that her Urban Arcana series has several main characters who are werewolves. Also, very good, very readable stories.

  23. Hoarding Help*

    Does anyone have any success stories with helping a family member who is a semi-hoarder? Did you use a professional cleaning service? Help them yourselves? How long did it take? Can a regular therapist help with hoarding behaviors, or do you need to see someone special?

    1. anon for this*

      I am a semi hoarder and one thing I appreciate is when I get experience gifts rather than physical gifts. Take me to a movie rather than giving me a shirt. When I am trying to cull my possessions, it feels like I am throwing a part of the person who gave me the gift away when I need to get rid of something. Also, ask them what help they need and listen.

      1. Kristen*

        This is a great idea! My F(uture)MIL is somewhat of a hoarder too and we should be doing this with her. It’s not so much that she’s a hoarder, but she has multiples of different items, yet has difficulty getting rid of the multiples. Also, she has no grandkids yet and is already talking about all of the presents she’s going to buy them, so I’ve been mentally preparing myself to deal with that and encourage experience gifts instead. LOL, I’ll probably be asking about that here in a few years.

    2. fposte*

      Is the family member asking for help, and do people live with this person?

      Agreed with anon below that giving intangibles instead of tangibles is a good idea, but a lot is dependent on the will and habits of the person. If they’re not looking for help, what’s done will be temporary. If they are looking for help, a professional cleaner can help with the schmutzy stuff but not so much with the “I feel ready to trim my closets down but I don’t know where to start” stuff. (And I also agree to start with a regular therapist.)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Not hoard-y (okay, a little pack-ratty), but my mum is a therapist. You probably want someone who has experience dealing with hoarding even if they’re not a specialist. Ask them if they can refer if necessary. Same for the professional organizers/cleaners. They will need to be sensitive to the person or the whole thing will derail.

  24. katamia*

    Has anyone sold records online? My parents want me to sell their records (and are willing to give me a percentage of whatever I sell them for, so I’m motivated), but I’m feeling out of my depth here since I don’t know much about records. As far as I know, the records themselves all still play well (and either I or one of them will give them a listen before officially trying to sell them), but some of the covers are a little worn. Would a record with a worn cover still maybe fetch a decent price on eBay, or am I better off just taking them to a local record store and getting a smaller profit but possibly saving much more time? Obviously it would vary depending on what record it was (I have no idea if any of them are rare or anything), but just in general.

    1. beetrootqueen*

      depends what they are honestly. to ebay them you’d need to do a bit of research also work out how you’d send them etc

    2. SophieChotek*

      I’ve sold things here and there on eBay/Amazon/OfferUp /Craigsover the years. (Mostly eBay).

      As beetroot queen already said — I think the big thing is you have the time to research things — are the records rare/valuable? And once you’ve decided on a price — good pictures, good description with good keywords, are all really important to get your listing noticed.

      As records, they might be able to ship via media, but you need to calculate for price/cost to ship/weight, (including packaging). eBay will want all that when you list. If you don’t have tons of packaging materials/tape/bubble wrap, etc. laying around — then that is an investment. (I suppose that would have to come out of your parents’ profits.) eBay has free insertion fees, but will take a final precutting (referral fee) off final sale price (including postage). Paypal will also take a cut for someone to send money to you/your parents. I sold something on eBay once for $6.99 including shipping. By the time I had shipped the item and eBay and Paypal had taken their cuts, I walked off with $1.27. That’s an extreme example…but I do agree investment of time to research/write a good description/take good pictures/calculate postage/calculate what price I am willing to sell it for, etc. — takes time. That should factor into what percentage your parents’ should give you, IMO.

      If so — how rare/valuable? Do you want to try to just move the items (i.e. underprice so that they will definitely sell or perhaps two people will get into a bidding war) or price them more at “value” and hope 1 true collector will buy it.

      Sometimes it can honestly depend on the week — I listed a collectible chess set I had — the first time I listed it, no one bid. So I re-listed it, and the second time I had two people emailing me and begging me to end the listing early so that they could be sure to win. (This is allowed, per eBay’s rules).

      Places like HalfPrice Books or other used audio places will buy them from you for practically nothing, but it’s a way to get rid of them fast, if all they want to do is get rid of them.

    3. Audiophile*

      I sort of collect records. I have a bunch of records (Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, etc) and I’m thrilled when contemporary artists release their albums on vinyl (Regina Spektor, Brandi Carlile, Night Beds).

      I agree with everyone else, you can list them on ebay, but you’ll need to be willing to invest the time. I stopped selling on eBay because is I couldn’t ship the same day as the sale, it became a huge hassle.

      Find a record store in the area and see if they take them off your hands.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      Unless you’ve got something particularly rare or high value, I’d personally go with selling them directly to a store that deals in used records. You likely won’t get much per record, but you won’t have to fiddle with shipping, packaging, listing, researching, etc. The stuff the record store won’t take you can sell as a batch lot for cheap on Craigslist, or give away.

      If you Google you can find some guides as to the types of records that are worth more, but my impression is that most old vinyl is not worth very much.

      Keep in mind that listing on something like eBay will probably require photographing the records, and listing details of their quality, plus track listings, so a fair bit of work for a small amount of money in return.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Yeah this is a right hassle. We had 400+ cds to sell before we moved, some of which were unique imports, and we said screw it and just went to the used shop in town where they assessed the quality etc. Much faster than trying to sell online.

      Vinyl is having a resurgence at the moment and we DO collect vinyl for certain artists and have some high value limited editions. Here are some steps you may want to try before taking the whole lot to the used shop:

      1) Flip through the collection and pull anything that looks mint/still sealed. Some cover wear can still count as Good/Excellent
      2) Pull anything Beatles/Pink Floyd/Elvis etc related – collectors can pay a lot for those, its worth to check if those are unique issues, regardless of wear
      3) Is this a genre specific collection like jazz or classical? That can have an impact – if its genre specific I would go through the whole shebang as certain recordings can have high value.
      4) Next – you want to pull up the two sites that most used shops will use to check value:
      – discogs (also have a marketplace that may make more sense than eBay)
      – Popsike (this is vinyl specific and will show you how many auctions are on currently and highest price paid)
      5) Check the value of the records you have pulled and determine if you think you will get more by listing on eBay or just by dumping at the used shop. Used shop will likely pay nothing to $1 for most vinyl in fairly saleable condition. Must not have scratches etc. They will throw some back at you if they are not fit to sell. Take these then to the charity shop.

      If you can segment the collection in a few ways and break it down it can help to eliminate a lot of work!

      Hope this helps!

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        I forgot to add, there are specialty shops online that will sell vinyl record shipment boxes if you have something high value to mail.

    6. Pat Benetardis*

      My husband collects records. I think I would be hesitant to buy anything online (except from a dealer) because you want to see the condition of the record.

      He mostly buys them at flea markets, and a few times at record-specific yard sales. But how to figure on pricing is hard to say. He has paid $25 for something he really wanted in good condition, and $50 for someone’s entire collection (about 10 boxes worth).

    7. katamia*

      Thanks for all the responses! I’ll do an inventory to determine if they have any valuable ones, but it looks like I’ll just be off to the record store in the near future. I don’t have it in me to try to auction off every one of their records individually.

  25. Elkay*

    I’ve just booked next year’s vacation – two weeks in Japan! I’m really excited but the whole process stressed me out, not helped by my other half taking zero interest other than saying “Whatever you think”. I still need to pick hotels.

    1. Dan*

      Japan is cool, a couple of years ago my dad and I spent two weeks traveling around Korea and Japan. Later in 2017, I’m spending four days in Tokyo on my way elsewhere.

      Why did the process stress you out? Don’t worry about trying to make things “perfect” — they won’t be ;) Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have a lot of fun anyway. I do think one of the reasons people stress out about overseas travel is that they tell themselves it’s a trip of a life time and has to be “perfect”. But you cannot plan a perfect trip to somewhere you’ve never been, even with a travel agent. Just tell yourself it’s a familiarization trip so you know what you’re doing the next time you go back :)

      About your other half, be thankful ;) My aunt and uncle are like that, my aunt does all the planning and my uncle is like, “Whatever you want dear.” They’ve been to Antarctica, Safaris in Africa, traveled Australia, and cruised the south pacific. So, it’s not like he doesn’t care.

      I will say, for as much as you want this to be a team planning activity, be happy it’s not. When I was married, I would (well, still do) plan some logistically complex trips. I’d ask my ex for some high level input, and get it. But by the time I got flights and hotels planned, if she would have said, “Oh, I don’t like X”, I would have screamed. Trust me, your planning is much easier when you have free reign. Embrace it.

      1. Elkay*

        The stress was around the flight prices (wondering if it was a good deal). I’m pretty happy to go with the flow when we get there.

        1. Dan*

          Re: Good Deals

          There are some seasonality components involved, but one thing you can do is look at prices 30-60 days from now and when you booked. If they’re in the same ball park, then you’re good. If they’re way high, hold off.

          But really, the only question is, are you comfortable with what you paid? If so, then don’t worry too much. Sometimes prices go down, and sometimes they don’t. If you wait and they go up, you’re sunk.

          If prices really crater, you might be able to take advantage of that. You’ll have to pay a change fee to do it, which is at least $200. But if they drop by $500, you can get some money back, even if it’s in the form of a travel voucher.

    2. Artemesia*

      Accept that you are the family trip planner. I do all our trip planning too and actually enjoy it. I occasionally book special surprises for my husband, but generally I get what I want because I am doing the work. (there was the trip a few years ago where we had super tiny beds but fabulous views — he was pretty patient till Granada where our tiny apartment had a 45 inch bed but a terrace overlooking the Alhambra. I loved it; he was surly. Luckily the apartment in Madrid had a beautiful queen size bed and so it ended well. )

        1. Dan*

          If you feel stressed, then I think you need to talk to him. For me, I look at it like a puzzle or a challenge — how do I get to do the things I want to do and keep it under budget?

          Is this your first time planning an overseas trip? I’d suggest keeping it simple, and working on more complex stuff as you get more “practice”.

          You mentioned up thread that the stressful thing was flight prices — I don’t really think you can really share that burden, other than the cost itself.

          1. fposte*

            She might want somebody to share the burden of deciding it’s okay to spend that much money, though.

            If that’s the case, Elkay, is there a way you can loop him in at the ticket-buying stage? If you don’t mind admin, you can even explicitly give him his instructions in advance: “Honey, I’m going to come to you with prices for the tickets I’m looking at. Your job is to look serious for a second and then say ‘I think that sounds like a price we should buy at.’ There is no other answer allowable unless you want to take over the ticket booking.”

            1. Elkay*

              Yep, that’s exactly it. He did spend the rest of the evening checking out hotels for me. I’m super tight fisted so his job is to say “That amount of money is not too much to spend”. He’s better at big picture and working out that our last trip cost X so that was Y per night, flights are Z so price per night in a hotel is (Y-Z)/number of nights.

          2. Elkay*

            Oh I do talk to him and no, not our first overseas trip, I don’t think we’ve ever had a vacation in our own country! fpost nailed it, it’s the sharing of the spending a large amount of money that I needed. It wasn’t that we hadn’t discussed it in advance I just needed a bit of moral support to push the button.

    3. Wandering not lost*

      There’s nothing like your first time in Japan. You will love it! Of all the places I’ve visited, it’s still my favorite destination in the world. It can also be surprisingly affordable. There’s a fun book called “Pretty Good Number One” that offers additional cultural/food info that you wouldn’t find in guide books. I also highly recommend renting a pocket wifi while you’re there. The process for renting/returning is very easy, and it’ll help you navigate much easier.

        1. Wandering not lost*

          You’ve also probably found it already, but is a fantastic resource and very comprehensive.

      1. Perpetua*

        I second the recommendation for a pocket WiFi, it was worth every penny (and more, because it isn’t actually that expensive).

        1. Wandering not lost*

          Yup. I’m in Japan now, and my rental is roughly $3 a day. Plus, they’ll deliver it to your accommodation, and all you have to do is drop it in the mailbox (in their pre-paid envelope) when you’re done. Best of all, it works everywhere in Japan. I took it to Koyasan a few days ago, and it worked just as well as in Tokyo.

            1. Wandering not lost*

              There are a lot of companies, but I’ve always had good luck with Global Advanced Communications. I’ve actually never used anyone else. You’ll see that they offer a few varieties of WiFi (plus iPhones and other gadgets), and I rent the one that’s not the fastest and not the slowest. This time, I had some issues with the first WiFi I received (that had never happened before), and they sent me a new one right away. I believe that they also have a location in Narita — other companies do too — but they ship to your accommodation for free, so I always choose that option.

              1. Wandering not lost*

                Note: Your rate with them would be higher since the rental time would be shorter. However, it’s still inexpensive and TOTALLY worth it since it will help you navigate Japan’s many nameless streets!

          1. Perpetua*

            Koyasan was one of my favorite places! I spent two weeks this year in Japan, and although everything was pretty great, Koyasan and Miyajima are some of my favourite memories. :)

            1. Wandering not lost*

              Yay!!!! I liked Miyajima too, but I didn’t spend the night. Koyasan was probably my favorite place too. I did spend a couple of nights there in one of the temples. It was beautiful. And cold!!!

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        This is super helpful – Im hoping to get to Japan this year or next but despite having studied some Japanese in college, it seems daunting! Will check up the book now…

        1. Wandering not lost*

          One thing I did, just for fun, was learn katakana and hiragana using flashcards I’d bought on Amazon. There are also tons of apps that offer very intuitive instruction and ways to quiz yourself. Just knowing the characters and their respective sounds was an added plus for recognizing words like “Nozomi” on the train platform, and “tsukemen” at the restaurant vending machine, or train station names in Japanese. Not necessary, per se, but handy. I mention this because you might already have knowledge of both or would benefit from brushing up. I’d love to learn kanji, but that looks intimidating!

        2. acmx*

          I think wandering not lost is referencing the website japan-guide dot com. It is an awesome site. I used it and Fodor’s forums when I planned my trip to Japan.

          1. Wandering not lost*

            Yes!!! I didn’t post the actual URL because I didn’t want it to get flagged for moderation. It’s such a helpful resource that covers EVERYTHING. I’ve also found the TripAdvisor forums to be so useful too. Especially for a place like Tokyo, reading the answers to people’s (common) questions is helpful, as well as being able to post your own questions and getting quick, fantastic feedback. Kinda like here! :-)

            1. Wandering not lost*

              But that book, “Pretty Good Number One” covers a lot of interesting cultural and social stuff through the eyes of a visitor. Plus, it’s a fun and interesting read. It’s technically a food memoir, but it also gives so much context about every day life in Japan that would be advantageous for a tourist to know in advance.

            2. acmx*

              Whoops, I missed that you read an actual book, too. Might read “Pretty Good Number One”…..

              I wish every country I wants to visit had such a comprehensive guide as Japan!

              1. Wandering not lost*

                I think the book would be especially nice to read if you’ve already visited, as you have. It’ll remind you of all the stuff that makes Japan such a special destination, and you’ll feel like you’re there all over again!

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        Seconding the pocket wifi rental.

        I went to Japan for the first time earlier this year and loved it! It was a feast for the eyes (and the palate, of course).

    4. Churner*

      I’m a complete lurker here normally, but I had to reply to this!

      So one of my hobbies is maximizing credit card points for free vacations. Have you looked at the Chase Hyatt credit card? When you spend $1000 in three months you get two free nights at any Hyatt in the world. One of the best redemptions is the Park Hyatt Tokyo. I’m not sure of your plans, but both you and your SO could sign up and get four free nights at one of the nicest Hyatt properties in the world.

      I know this sounds like an ad, but I love traveling for free and maybe this would be something you’re interested in? My hubby and I used ours at an all-inclusive in Caboose and it could not have been easier! And for FREE! Lol.

      1. Elkay*

        I’m not US based and we don’t have so many corporate linked cards (mine are all cashback) but I might check it out, thanks for the head’s up.

    5. Knit Pixie*

      If I may plug: Route Inns and Sun-Route Inns are nice and inexpensive, if you stay at one you can pick up one of their nationwide books with all of their locations and phone numbers.

      Before embarking on vacation I put the number of Japan Branch into my phone. They have 24 hour English support which was a life saver. When our plans changed mid – trip they were able to get the hotel we were staying at to transfer our reservation to a sister property at no charge.

      Could be if you plan to just stay in the Kwanto (Tokyo) area there would be enough English speakers to assist you that you’d be fine, but even in mega – sized Osaka, it can be challenging to find English support.

      In our case were headed from Sapporo across to Aomori on a last minute ferry.

      The agent assured us she would change our reservation again if we wound up stranded in Hakodate for the night… Driving from Hokkaido back to Kyushu without a guide made for a crazy week, this wasn’t even the half of it.

      There is a possibility we could’ve navigated it alone, I am so glad we did not have to.

      Keep in mind many ATMs close at night and keep weird hours (especially on Holidays), and many places do not take credit cards. Make sure your bank doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Post office ATMs and many convenience store ATMs have English menus.

      Good luck!

  26. Stephanie*

    I mentioned upthread I play the cello. So I picked it back up this semester in grad school. (My university has offerings for non majors.) It was fun picking it back up, if it was a bit frustrating realizing how much my skills had atrophied.

    I participated in the non major recital, which was a bit terrifying, although I think I acquitted myself decently.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Congrats. Sounds fun.
      I played in HS. Sometimes I’d like to play again–but I was never that great anyway. But it’s a beautiful instrument.

    2. Phlox*

      With you on that! Bach’s suite 1 prelude was always my angsty/sad go-to in high school – playing through it always let me process and feel better by the end. After the election and hearing my grandfather was in the hospital in the same week, I picked it back up and oi, my technique had gone out the window. But forever grateful my housemates were okay with me playing badly at 1130pm, I needed it.

    3. fposte*

      Oh, that’s brilliant–cello is my favorite instrument. Music is such a great thing to get back to, and I also think you’re very smart to do something non-program related regularly in grad school. What did you play for the recital?

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I love the cello! It’s on my list of top five favorite instruments (clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and piano are the others).

  27. Stephanie*

    I need to get new winter boots. The ones I have aren’t quite suitable (the wide shaft results in snow getting in them). Recommendations? I do a fair amount of walking (and walk to campus regularly). Would prefer a pair that doesn’t look like I’m about to walk on the moon, but I’ll take function over fashion.

    1. beetrootqueen*

      if you rae looking for cheap and indestructable try some steel toed rigger boots. they are cheap leather, fleecy lined with steel toes and will survive anything nature throws at you

    2. Lady Kelvin*

      I bought a pair of L.L. Bean boots this year and my husband bought some last year. They are waterproof, and very warm. They sell out early so you probably can’t get their boots for winter this year, I bought mine in August when it was 115 degrees outside. But I just wore the for a week of skiing in the Italian Alps and my feet were dry and toasty.

    3. Marcela*

      I had a lot of luck with a pair of knee high Keen boots several years ago. They had a thick sole, so I could not feel the cold, but they didn’t look like snow boots at all. They had a wedge heel, probably 2″ high, and I wore them in winter in Boston with dresses, all day and no pain.

    4. Cristina in England*

      Do you have any particular needs for your feet? I never found a pair of winter boots that didn’t give me foot pain until I found Fitflop boots. I love them. So comfy and warm enough but we only have mild winters here.

    5. Sandy*

      So I asked a similar question last week and got a ton of great responses! I wound up going with some waterproof Uggs. They are great so far.

    6. Natalie*

      I have Sorels that look cute, not like giant space boots. They’ve recently started a “women’s” like which are still warm and comfortable.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      I finally found a pair of Bearpaw boots at Nordstrom Rack. I looked and looked, and went through a few different pairs. I tried the knock-off Uggs from Target, “sweater” boots I found on sale at Kohl’s, and a couple different other ones. These Bearpaws are definitely the best ones by far. They are super toasty warm. They’re a tad hard to slide on, because they’ve got some structure to them, but I’ve worn them quite a few times now and they’re breaking in pretty nicely.

  28. sumasi*

    Fun question: What is the worst Christmas good you have had? And who made it? For me my grandma’s fruit cake with nuts. She nearly killed me one year due to that. Any time I see fruit cake now I stay away from it.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Nothing too exciting.
      One year I just had a terrible cold. All I could literally do the entire school vacation (this was back in grade school) was sit on the sofa with kleenexes and cough, sneeze, and be stuffed up.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Oops. Sorry I misunderstood your query.
        (Although a cold wasn’t a fun gift).

        I got toilet bowl cleaner once.
        and I am a pretty good housekeeper–you might come over and think my place is messy (stacks of magazines) but you would never be afraid to use my bathroom because it looks dirty.

    2. Celestial navigation*

      I have a friend who goes all-out baking Christmas cookies. She’ll make 10 different kinds and they are beautiful- and yet they all taste the same: a weird, spicy sawdust, with hints of wet dog?

      When I get my yearly tin, I thank her graciously and then dump the whole thing in the garbage.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Had a friend that did that too — she tried so hard, and would spend money sending me cookies in the mail (and not packing them well)– but she honestly had no idea how to cook/bake. I could tell just by looking at them that they were underdone and doughy…or they were so overdone that they arrived in plastic bags reduced to crumbs.

      2. Mazzy*

        Oh my, that sounds crazy! I would love to see what they look like. Cookies aren’t that hard to make, you have to try pretty hard to mess them up. Maybe she’s trying to make gluten free ones with almond flour and cocunut butter instead of traditional ingredients?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      More Thanksgiving than Christmas, but green bean casserole makes me want to puke. I like green beans, just not covered with snot and crunchies. Urp.

      Also, soggy stuffing or watery mashed potatoes. BLEAH.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Have you ever had it made with fresh green beans, instead of canned?

        I absolutely hated it until someone made it with fresh green beans. It was…delicious.

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        oh green bean casserole – I really hate it! I even tried with fresh and it just wasn’t happening. Now I just steam some beans and toss with lemon and sea salt – better tasting and less calories!

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        You would not enjoy my MIL’s mashed potatoes. One year, we went to her house for Thanksgiving. We told her we would eat at 1:30, but we’d get to her house around 11:30 to set up and finish cooking some items. I kid you not, she already had the potatoes cooking when we got there, and she was STILL COOKING THEM at 1:30. We didn’t sit down to dinner until after 2:00, and I am sure you can imagine how bad the mashed potatoes were after they had been cooked for over two hours. She doesn’t drain things well, either, so it was a tasteless, watery mess.

        I don’t have the heart to tell her she’s a terrible cook, but it’s hard not to say anything. She always marvels over how good my cooking is, and I want to tell her, “All you have to do is follow the directions!” She refuses to follow a recipe, so nothing she makes ever tastes the same twice (which is sometimes a good thing). I love to cook, but I am not an expert; I just find a recipe and follow it.

    4. Lillie Lane*

      We made Christmas pudding from a couple original early Victorian recipes once. It was disgusting. The dog loved it, though.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      One set of elderly relatives always bought Christmas cookies at the Lutheran church sale the first week of December. That is all well and good, but by the time we got to the family part at their house usually around the 30th), we always got the crappy leftover, stale cookies that had been put out at every other event up until then. You would always take one to be polite and then make sure to hide it in a crumpled used napkin at the end of dinner and dispose of when “helping to clear the plates”

      Used to drive my mom and aunt nuts because it was the cheapskate/hoarder (great) aunt who was the driver behind most of this and would give the better cookies to her own family.

    6. Nic*

      Once in college my boyfriend and I were visiting my mom. She had pneumonia, but was still trying to do things up right. She burned the turkey, and felt terrible about it (and in general). We told her it didn’t matter (because it didn’t), and that she should probably go take a nap. She gave us money, and we found an IHOP that was open.

      Food was terrible, but it makes a great story. She recovered, and shudders at the memory.

      1. Nic*

        Oh! Another was when my vegetarian aunt made tofu “meatloaf” for Christmas dinner. This was both over 20 years ago when meat alternatives were not as plentiful, and in backwoods Louisiana, where they still aren’t.

        I couldn’t bring myself to even taste it, it looked and smelled atrocious.

    7. chickabiddy*

      I suppose this is not Christmas-specific food but it was on Christmas. We were at my father’s and he had ordered trays of hot food from a nearby deli. My aunt and I were setting things up in the kitchen. We knew that one tray was chicken and one was shrimp, but we couldn’t tell which was which, even after tasting them.

    8. MsChanandlerBong*

      The worst Christmas food I ever had was fish and pierogi cooked by my mother-in-law. I love the woman to death, but she is an awful cook, second only to my best friend (who once gave me food poisoning with the hamburgers she made from “manager’s special” meat). The fish was burned beyond recognition, and the pierogi dough was still raw.

    9. Sami*

      I’m still squeamish about this memory: One year for Christmas my aunt (who cannot cook meat to save her life) put out a crockpot with applesauce and little sausages in it. ::shudder::

    1. Rebecca*

      Thanks – bookmarking this! I listen to mostly audio books on my .mp3 but like to mix it up with podcasts like RadioLab so I feel like I’m learning something!

  29. Lady Kelvin*

    So I’m pretty certain I have oral thrush, but since it’s the holidays and I am in Germany and not home I can’t even call the doctor to find out what is wrong and how to treat it. Does anyone have any experience with it? I’m pretty sure I got it from the stress of travelling and job searching. I’m brushing my teeth twice a day, flossing every day and since I noticed the problem on my gums this morning I’ve been rinsing with a warm saline solution a couple of times a day. Any other suggestions? It doesn’t really hurt but it looks really weird.

    Also, I may be able to call the doctor on Monday to get advice but I won’t be home until after the new year, so should I be trying to find a place here to get medical attention? We’re near a military base so I could see an American doctor maybe, but my in-laws all speak German so seeing a German doctor would be fine too.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not an emergency and it’s not likely to hurt you to wait a week or two–on the other hand, I doubt it’ll be a complicated doctor’s visit if it starts to spread by Monday and you want to get it dealt with. I don’t know if Germans have the equivalent of convenient care (Myrin? What do you guys do for walk-in medical needs?), but if so, that’s where I’d go. If it’s that visible, it’s likely to be a quick look and getting you some antifungal gel.

      I think saltwater rinses are the thing, and be ready to dump your old toothbrush once you get treated.

      1. Myrin*

        On a regular day, any doctor will usually take emergencies as long as you don’t just show up but call ahead of time and ask if you can drop by. But naturally people are more comfortable doing this with their regular doctor who already knows them – and vice versa. The person to go to for throat stuff is a HNO-Arzt but a regular physician might well know what to do, too. If you in-laws have either of those, they may want to call and ask if they can bring you in.

        However, I prefaced that with “on a regular day” because we have a federal holiday today and tomorrow so doctors will be closed on Monday. You can either go to the emergency department (“Notaufnahme”) at the nearest hospital (where it might take some time for you to actually get to see a doctor) or google “[Your city/Landkreis/general area] HNO Notdienst” which should give you a list of doctors who are open during the holidays for emergency cases.

        I hope you’ll get better soon!

    2. Ismis*

      I would go to the pharmacist and ask them first if the doctors are closed. I’ve always found them super helpful and you probably don’t need much German – just open your mouth :)

      On second thoughts, maybe bring your in-laws just in case…

      If the nearest one is closed, there should be a list on the door pointing you to the nearest 24 hour one. I’m not sure about Christmas opening times though.

    3. LadyKelvin*

      Thanks veveryone, it seems the salt water rinse, etc is jeep in thing’s in control and maybe improving, so I just going to keep on doing that and monitoring it to make sure it doesn’t get worse. I appreciate all the advice and the information that I shouldn’t be panicking over it :)

    4. ..Kat..*

      If it is thrush, I would expect it to be on your tongue as well. Do you have a white coating on your tongue that does not come off with brushing?

      Thrush is a fungal infection. People who get thrush usually are immunocompromised. For example, someone who has AIDS, someone receiving chemotherapy, etc. Generally, it takes at least two weeks of antifungal medication to get rid of it. With thrush, that would be a liquid that you swish and swallow several times a day. If it is thrush and you don’t get treatment, it can spread down your esophagus. It is pretty unpleasant.

      I would recommend going to a minor emergency center (this is what we call them in the USA). Sometimes they are available at pharmacies where you can see a nurse practitioner or a physicians assistant. Going to an emergency room would be overkill and very expensive.

      FWIW, I am a RN.

    5. Anonymous for this*

      You’ll just want to make sure it isn’t tonsillar exudate, which could be strep throat. That should be treated right away in case of developing into scarlet fever.

    6. Clever Name*

      Gentian violet is used to treat thrush when breastfed babies get it. Warning, it stains everything it touches a deep purple, so be really careful if you decide to go this route. I don’t know how pleasant it is to put in your mouth. I’ve only used it on nasal sores.

  30. L Dub*

    Does anyone else regularly get sinus infections, like 2-3 times a year? Has anyone found any ways to prevent these stupid things?

    My face hurts so freaking much that I want to bang my face into a brick wall. Sometimes doing the face steam thing helps the sinus pressure at least a little bit, but I’d rather avoid this problem completely if I could.


    1. Artemesia*

      I love the neti pot when I get this which I do after colds and sometimes from allergies. If allergies are complicating your situation consider using flucatizone spray once a day. It is a steroid spray that can be used long term (doesn’t rebound like decongestants do) and really helps when you have low level year round allergies such as pets, molds, house dust etc.

      When I get a cold and sinus infection I use a spray like Afrin once or twice to dry up the sinuses and then use the neti pot to rinse them out (be sure to use distilled water or boiled water not tap water; depending on where you live in the country getting tap water up your nose can actually be lethal because of amoeba that eat your brain). Heat, steam (in winter having a humidifier in the bedroom helps), and saline rinses all help as do routine use of antihistamines if you have allergies.)

      1. fposte*

        To expand a little, neti pot water needs to be boiled for a full five minutes, so you can’t just pour straight out of your kettle. (And I would say it doesn’t depend on where you live any more, given that kids are getting N. fowlerii from Minnesota lakes :-(.)

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I use the flucatizone spray for allergies, and love it! You need to use it every day, and it takes a few days to kick in, but it really helps my assorted allergies.

        With the neti pot, I find the pouring type awkward to use, but have found ones that are either squeeze bottles or battery powered. You can buy mixes for the saline solution, but you can also make your own – it’s basically non-iodized salt at a bit of baking soda to adjust the pH.

    2. Stephanie*

      I used to when I lived in Phoenix (and I’m in Phoenix now visiting my parents…and have a sinus infection–I think the dry and dusty climate doesn’t agree with me). What helped me a lot was getting a humidifier, using a Neti pot regularly, and drinking lots of tea. Basically anything you can do to keep your sinuses from drying out. A doctor can give you a steroids if it’s persistent (although I’m not crazy about the side effects from steroids).

    3. Temperance*

      For me, secondhand or thirdhand smoke exposure is what typically causes these. So when I avoid the smokers in my life, I’m healthier.

      I take a ton of showers when I do get an infection, because steam helps. I also try to sleep as much as possible, and take sudafed when I’m awake.

    4. Sandy*

      I’ve had a similar issue for the past two years. I can’t say anything has really helped, but I can tell you one of the suggestions that didn’t: a Neti Pot.

      People kept recommending it so I tried it. It sort of seemed to work for. A bit, and then I somehow managed to introduce some weird fungus into my sinuses from it. Took AGES to get rid of and a few rounds of antifungals… SO not worth it.

    5. Jubilance*

      I had a recurring sinus infection over 2 years that was THE WORST so I’m a sinus expert now.

      Prevention – keeping the heat at a lower setting (it dries out the air) plus using a humidifer in both the living room & my bedroom; using saline nose spray when I start to feel dry in my sinuses; drinking lots of fluids, both hot & cold.

      When you’ve got a sinus infection – use the Neti pot a minimum of twice of day, it really helps clear things out; Mucinex to help break up the mucus and encourage it to come out; taking pseudoephrine on a schedule (the stuff the sell OTC doesn’t work on me, I need the good stuff that you have to show your license for); steamy showers, plus all the stuff in the prevention category. Oh and Advil or Tylenol will also help with the pain as well.

    6. HannahS*

      Oof sorry! I very luckily stopped getting them when I finished puberty. I think my skull changed shape. Anyway, I always found antihistamines like Claritin helpful.

    7. fposte*

      I get sinusitis which hurts like hell, but these days I can usually reverse it before it swells everything shut and turns into an infection.

      What helps for me:

      Neti pot
      Microwaveable eye compress, which helps stuff drain (that’s particularly helpful for pressure with me)
      As soon as I feel that telltale ache, I take an NSAID and use Afrin to shrink the swelling down and keep the drainage open, and I’ll keep on both of those for a max of three days (you shouldn’t take Afrin longer, and I can’t tolerate NSAIDs longer).

    8. The dark trick*

      I used to get ear & sinus infections multiple times a year. Turns out, they were caused by out of control allergies. Once I found something that kept my allergies at bay, the sinus and ear infections stopped.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        This – I had issues with dust in the desert. Prevention is key.

        In winter – you need a humidifier to keep some things moist. If the neti pot isnt doable then I recommend a NeilMed sinus washer. So much easier! Can get it at Walgreens, etc.

        1. Woman of a Certain Age*

          I have a cousin who seemingly could not get over a bad cold. For months and months her nose ran and ran. Since she didn’t have a fever her doctor diagnosed allergies, but she had a hard time figuring out to just what. OTC allergy medicines would control the symptoms when her nose started running and once in control, she would go for days with no problems. After a lot of trial and error she figured out…

          She was allergic to Kleenex! (not just kleenex but also any other kind of paper tissue and/or toilet paper when it came into contact with her sinuses).

    9. Chaordic One*

      I don’t know if this could be part of your problem, but I had turbinator reduction surgery, as well as surgery to correct a deviated septum (probably caused by getting a broken nose as a child). Since the surgery I have had substantially fewer infections and when I do get one, it doesn’t last nearly as long as before.

      Not as radical as surgery, the advice about neti pots is good. If you find them hard to use, you can try the “NeilMed” sinus rinse kit which uses a plastic bottle from which you can squirt the saline solution up into your nose. (It’s a bit easier than using a neti pot.) Finally, I’ve had very good results using “Flonase” brand nasal spray.

    10. Dynamic Beige*

      I had a sinus infection for ~5 years but I didn’t know that that’s what it was, it came on so slowly and I never had them as kid. I kept trying to get help and no one figured it out. Finally taking antibiotics was life changing but after the first round, it came back with a vengeance and then I understood what people meant about sinus pain. All that time and it had never hurt like that.

      Eventually after a lot of trial and error and taking way more antibiotics than anyone really should, I learned that a lot of the reason why I get them is due to too much sugar in my diet/candida and too much stress — these are the triggers. I’ve had to alter my diet a lot to try and heal. I’m not perfect at it and I still have a long way to go but I’m much better than I was 10 years ago. Yes, I have been dealing with this for over a decade.

      So I would say, if you get them 2-3 times a year, can you remember what’s going on during those times? Are the seasons changing or are you going through a lot of stuff? Have you had an allergy test done? You can also get food sensitivity testing done, for me that was one of the things that confirmed what I was thinking was going on.

    11. Laura*

      I also get regular sinus infections. The thing that helped prevent them the most was moving to a tropical climate. Obviously that’s not something everyone can do. But that helped me learn that I need to use humidifiers religiously when in a non-tropical climate. They make a huge difference.

      I also keep sudafed with me pretty much all the time just in case sinus pressure starts. Sudafed helps relieve the pressure for me but usually doesn’t get rid of it completely.

      I also learned the hard way that antibiotics don’t do a thing for my sinus infections.

  31. Maxwell Edison*

    Just got done making spiced nuts. Messed up and overdid the toasting of the nuts a bit, but they still taste fine. Going to make chocolate mint brownies in a bit, and tomorrow for Christmas dinner will be beef Wellington, mashed potatoes, Vichy carrots, and gingerbread cake.

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Were the nuts a Nigella recipe? Cause she has a spiced nut mix recipe I have been dying to try and keep forgetting every year! :)

  32. SophieChotek*

    Krumkake Update.
    recipe #2 was much better.
    still having difficultly getting them paper thin.
    But the taste was improved and they were definitely less thick in recipe #2.
    Next year I will experiment some more.
    I think the (new) neighbors appreciated them, though.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Christmas morning I will make Scandinavian waffles — they are very thin and light (and have heavy cream in the batter) and we serve them with more (whipped) heavy cream and fresh fruit.
      Then we have Norwegian meatballs with gravy, home-made mashed potatoes for dinner.

      1. fposte*

        Those waffles sound wonderful–I’d love to know the recipe! On the Scandinavian front, I think I will break out the aebleskiver pan on Boxing Day; I found a new recipe that looks a ton better than the one I’ve used before, so I’m keen to try again.

        BTW, the aebleskiver plan came from watching the wonderful Christmas QI episode. If you’re not a QI watcher and have Scandi-leanings, Sandi Toksvig as host includes some delightful tidbits.

        1. SophieChotek*

          (I’ve never made aebleskiver — I might need to get that pan now too.)

          The recipe —
          So when I decided I wanted to make these, I re-searched recipes. I checked out 5-6 Scandinavian Recipe books and read/compared all the waffle recipes side by side — see what the common ingredients were, what spices (etc.) seemed to be different (or regional), any differences in prep/cooking/baking suggestions. [This is what I usually do when I want to try a new dish.] Then I either pick whichever recipe sounds the best, or do some mix-up of all the recipes together, or try different recipes and take notes until I find the one I like.

          I don’t remember which book I got this recipe but here goes:

          2 cups of all purpose flour
          1.25 cups water
          2 cups heavy cream
          3 tablespoons sugar
          2 teaspoons vanilla extract
          3.5 teaspoons baking powder
          zest of lemon (optional) – I usually don’t because I don’t have lemons lying around
          Makes: approx. 15-18 waffles

          Whisk flour, water, and .25 cup of whipping cream (unwrapped). Add sugar, vanilla, baking powder, and lemon zest (if desired) and beat until smooth.

          In a separate bowl, whip remaining cream until it hold stiff peaks and gentle fold into the batter.

          Preheat waffle iron. (Lightly grease iron. If you are making a lot and the waffles seems to start sticking apply more spray.) When iron is hot spoon 1/3 cup batter onto service. Close waffle iron and cook until brown on both size. (My iron has a light that turns green when the waffles are done. If you want them browner leave them a few more seconds. Generally when the waffles stop steaming/only steam a little they are done.)

          [I’ve found it’s okay to make the batter the right before and let it sit in the fridge. It saves me time Christmas morning, but honestly, this batter is fast to whip up anyway.)

          Serve with:
          Whipped cream (lightly sweetened, IMO, but that’s all to taste)
          Fresh berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, lingonberries, etc.)
          and/or raspberry sauce (which I make the night before — boiling several pints of fresh rasperries with some sugar and lemon juice until it makes a thick sauce)

          [the waffle maker is heart-shaped. Link to Amazon to follow. It really does work better in this thinner waffle. The first year before we got these special waffles, we used a “regular” waffle iron, and it was okay, but didn’t have the crispy texture.]

          Enjoy! Let me know if you make them — =)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Tomorrow I will either make a loaf of banana bread, or banana oatmeal cookies. I have two bananas that are about to go bad. The cookies are great for breakfast, even though they have a metric ton of sugar in them. :)

  33. anon for this*

    I celebrated Christmas with my new boyfriend and the gift disparity was really off. I don’t make a lot of money so I give within my budget. My family and I exchange a handful of gifts each year. It’s low key. He and his family celebrate in a big way with lots of presents. My trunk was completely filled. I felt awkward and awful over the difference. They said to not worry about this and that they find real joy in giving. I will never be to get to their level and I am not going to ask them to go to mine. So how can I bridge this difference in the future? I need to work on my reaction of being overwhelmed and just relax and roll with it but how? Has anyone dealt with something like this before?

    1. SophieChotek*

      I would take them at face value– they love to give and can afford to.

      Meaningful and genuine thank-you notes go a long way.

      Also, if it’s something you use a lot/really love — maybe not o everything, but later in the year — a quick note, or a selfie with it — “hey I am wearing/using the X you gave me and still loving it” might be appreciated.

      If you are a cook or baker, perhaps later on you could invite then for a home-cooked meal or just drop by with some cookies (or bring them when you visit)?

      Just a thought…

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My inlaws could spend at levels we could not. I tried to focus on thoughtfulness, how much the gift matched the particular person. I shopped all year, going to clearance sales, going out of business sales and I could even find brand new stuff at tag sales. Some years my family made out super well, as I found $300 of stuff for about $30. I set an amount limit for each person and stuck to that limit. My excitement would kick into gear when I found a bargain that was really unique and/or extremely well matched. One year I was super excited about finding glass pens and scented inks for about $15 a set. This was about 75% off. So some people got these for Christmas. That was fun.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      The last thing decent people want is to think their gift made you feel uncomfortable and guilty. Do them the kindness of trying to appreciate the gift without negative feelings. Think of what you want from them if the positions were reserved. Probably the answer is not that you would want them to give you more stuff to balance the equation.

      Regardless, a gift that shows you’ve been paying attention to someone is always the best gift — whether it’s cheap or expensive.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        Chiming in on that last sentence: Some of the presents I’ve been happiest about receiving have been small things – a $10 video game, a coffee mug, a stuffed animal – but they all meant something special to me and the giver knew this.

      2. Nic*

        I third the last sentence there. I often make (paint ornaments or crochet something ,for example) the gifts I give, and pick out what to do based on what I know about the person. If you can’t spend money, you may still be able to spend time.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, I got gifts my first year with Farm Boy and was not expecting it. They were very small ones, but it was strange and I didn’t have anything for them. It made me feel very included.

      They wouldn’t bother if they didn’t really want to. They sound really nice. I would not worry about keeping up; just do what you can do and I’m sure it will be appreciated.

    5. Oryx*

      I had the exact same thing happen to me last year and my sister had her first year with her BF

      Some people just really like giving gifts — it’s one of the “love languages” so it could be that. I would take them at their word but I know that awkward feeling well

  34. Audiophile*

    I was super late with my Christmas shopping this year. I bought one Starbucks gift card a few weeks ago and that was it. Finally, on Thursday I went by Kohl’s and bought $240 in gift cards for my siblings. That was it’s own headache, apparently there’s a limit to gift card sales, which neither I or the cashier were aware of. I wound up calling customer support and they explained but couldn’t say for sure what the limit was. I assume this is to prevent fraud, but since the gift cards are nonrefundable and there’s cameras all over, I’m not sure how much fraud could take place.

    Today, the outer glass pane on the oven came off again and slid down my leg this time, leaving two nice welts. The glass has been a problem for years, it’ll stay on for a few months and fall off. Somehow it hasn’t broken. Great way to start Christmas Eve.

    My siblings were discussing what kind of cookies to leave for Santa, I suggested giving him the pan of coconut chocolate chip cookies that no one else is eating. And added that he could take some back to Mrs. Claus and the elves. Middle sister said this doesn’t happen because where would he put them in the sleigh, etc. I had a little too much fun keeping this story going.

    1. Gaia*

      The fraud they are worried about is credit card fraud. I was a victim of this. Someone stole my credit card and used it to buy a ton of gift cards. They then sell those gift cards for a portion of what they are worth. It is actually a pretty huge scam.

      Irritating, though, when you’re legit just trying to buy them as gifts.

      1. Audiophile*

        I figured it was that. Wouldn’t reporting it as fraud make the gift card unusable?

        For instance, I added money to a Metro Card, forgot a few weeks later that I had done that and reported it as fraud. A few months later, I found a Metro Card in my purse and went to use it only for it not to work. Reporting it as fraud made it inactive and unusable.

        1. fposte*

          Often they’re selling the gift cards immediately, so the thieves make their money just fine. And sometimes it takes a while for people to report the fraud, and the cards have been used in the mean time.

        2. Gaia*

          Probably, but I doubt the thief cares. They resell them almost immediately and well before the cardholder discovered the fraud. And if the gift card is already used then the store is out, too.

      2. SophieChotek*

        That makes sense.

        Because of this — several places near me will only let you pay with gifts cards in cash or with a debit card. That is a pain in itself, IMO — mainly because I never carry enough cash and I don’t carry my debit card either. So I have to think ahead as to whereto I want to buy a gift card.

        Sorry to hear about the hassle — and about your leg!

  35. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!!! We are keeping it super casual tonight, especially since I worked at my retail job today (holy last-minute shoppers! But most people were very nice and patient). I’m making empanadas, and my bf wants to do a trial run of mulled wine. We still have half a cheesecake left.

    Tomorrow we are going to his dad and stepmom’s. Oy vey. We were invited for Christmas lunch. It will just be the four of us. I was asked to make potato latkes, but I was also asked to bring my own ingredients, including potatoes. For some reason, this gets me all riled up because it just feels so petty and weird. Potatoes. Sigh.

    1. Gala apple*

      I know what you mean; I also don’t like being dictated too. And I’ve never made latkes myself; though of course I’m considered the resident expert. Hope it goes well!

    2. another Jewish person*

      I may be totally off but it feels to me like you’re this exotic Jewish person, who doesn’t celebrate the “regular” holiday, but is so reign that they wouldn’t even know what kind of potato to get. “We want to include you and your traditions but they are so foreign to us that we will just throw our hands in the air and let you do all the work, how are we even supposed to know what potatoes to get, god only knows what you eat”. (I have felt this at time when I am the token Jewish person).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I’ve felt this too many a time! Rarely with latkes, though, since usually I invite people over and take care of everything myself. :) It mostly rankles because his stepmother is the least hospitable person I have ever met and this is one more example of how she refuses to make even the slightest bit of effort to do something nice for us, her guests. Bf’s dad asked for the latkes because he loves them so much (this will be my 6th Christmas with them), but y’all can’t even buy me a potato and a damn onion? This is the same family who expects gifts but never asks us what we want. I usually end up with body lotion or something. I’m also looking forward to a whole afternoon during which no one will ask me how my new job is going, how I’m doing, how my hobbies are going, how my family is, etc.

        For context: I am not allowed to bring a dish to any gathering. Not because the stepmother wants to do everything herself (which is what I do– I am forever, to my detriment, telling people not to bring anything because I don’t want anyone to go to any trouble. And honestly, I should let my friends bring fruit plates and stuff), but because when people compliment other women’s dishes, she pouts. Yet we are always expected to shell out money for groceries in the name of “fairness” or something.

        1. chickabiddy*

          This is clearly much bigger than potatoes, but I just wanted to say that I have never made latkes and I wouldn’t know what kind of potato to get. I know that my potato salad works much better with russets than anything else, so I might think that someone else might have a preference. But I would ask and go to the store, not tell you to bring your own!

  36. Sunshine Brite*

    Sigh, supporting a friend from a distance with a recent, sudden, traumatic loss of a family member to suicide. Any tips? Sorry for anyone who’s been there.

    1. Another Lauren*

      My been-there-done-that recs: don’t try to make it okay, since it won’t be. Let your friend know you’re thinking of her, but don’t press for details. If she calls, try your best to be able to answer (assuming you’re not driving or something). Same for texts, emails, etc. I think it’s common for people to shy away from their friend, just out of sheer awkwardness, but that can read like knowing someone who killed themselves is a shameful thing in and of itself. I don’t actually know if that makes sense, but it’s certainly what I thought at the time.

    2. Nic*

      Let your friend know that you are there for them, and that there are no expectations that you have for them. If they want to talk, you’re there. If they want to be silent but with you on skype so as not to be alone, you’re there. If they need food, you’re there (order delivery online). Whatever you are able to do to be available, let them know.

      Realize that in a state like that, thinking is often difficult. Don’t give too many choices, if you are trying to coax a person to come out of that locked in state. “Would you like something to drink?” can actually be difficult. “I’m going to get you something to drink, would you prefer water or tea?” is much more manageable. I know that specific example doesn’t apply, but I hope the knowledge helps.

      My heart hurts for your friend and friend’s family.

  37. Anon For This*

    I am 31 years old and yesterday I saw a picture of my father for the first time.

    My father is not a good man. He abused my mother and we left when I was 2. For years after he tried to find us and threatened that if he ever did he would take me away and she’d never see me again. His parents came to my grandparents’ house once and tried to kidnap me from the front yard. I knew I never wanted anything to do with him and I never really thought much about him. I didn’t even know his full name.

    Yesterday, my mother texted me a picture of a mugshot that was taken a few months ago. No context, no mention that it was my father. I must have stared at it for a few minutes in confusion before I recognized my eyes and my mouth. When I asked she confirmed it was him.

    I cannot stop thinking about this. I see his face when I close my eyes. I dreamed of him for the first time in my life last night. I was at peace with not having him in my life – my life was better for it but now it feels like it has been intruded upon. I don’t know why she thought I’d want to see his picture. I know out of fear she keeps track of his whereabouts but I’ve never expressed any interest in this.

    I really wish she hadn’t sent it to me. I wish I didn’t know that I look so much like him.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Pictures make it a bit too real, don’t they?
      Have you tried asking her why now or why all of the sudden?

      Just as good people can have bad kids, bad people can have good kids. There is no correlation. You are still a good person, no matter what your parent has done.
      You might be interested in googling children of well-known criminals and reading their stories. I have done this (no clue why) and found it to be inspiring in some cases.
      The similarities end with looks, I think you know that deep down and are a little shocked at the moment.

      I am sorry you are having this upset and I hope something happens that gives you a peaceful feeling.

      1. Anon For This*

        Thank you for your kind words. I did not ask her because we have a very complicated relationship and asking why she did this would just go down a guilt trail I couldn’t handle right now. That’s a whole other story.

        I try to remember that I am not him but I have struggled with that. Whenever I do something that hurts someone or I act selfishly or cruelly I have a moment of fear that this is him in me. I know that isn’t true and that we all act badly sometimes and that doesn’t make us bad people but it is hard to remember. Seeing how physically similar we are was like that blowing up in my face. I had all kinds of thoughts like maybe I was more like him than I realize, etc. I just keep reminding myself today that I am good person. When I am unkind I feel bad. I would never be physically violent. I am not him. I am me.

    2. Victoria, Please*

      Wow, AFT. That is a really shocking thing to have happen, right out of the blue like this at the holidays no less. I hope you and your mom can talk about it and come to some sort of peace with it, and why on earth she decided to do it.


    3. Kj*

      Sorry, that sucks. Hugs if you want them. I wonder if your mom was trying to get support for her own feelings about seeing a picture of her ex. Obviously the way she did it was horrible, but she might be reaching out for help.

      I work with kids go have escaped DV situations. Kids have a wide variety of reactions to reminders of the abusive parent. Just about any way you react is ‘normal’ because there isn’t a normal reaction to an abnormal and stressful situation. Be kind to yourself. Seek support when you need it. Give yourself time to recover and do the things you love to do. Self care is important now.

      1. Anon For This*

        Thanks. It is especially hard because I’m having a hard time explaining to anyone why it is upsetting me so much. Most people just brush it off or think I should be thrilled to know what he looks like. It is hard to explain how seeing his image feels like he has invaded my secure life. I don’t remember his violence, but I will always know the echos of it: the constant moving, the fear my mother experienced whenever he contacted our family, trying to explain to schools and teachers (and later, the federal government when I got my passport) the mix and match documentation with differing surnames.

        I think what makes me most sad is that I try to believe the best in people and I always hoped in a small way that he had changed over the years. I still didn’t want him in my life, but I hoped maybe he had gotten help. Nope, his mugshot was for an arrest for domestic violence.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You’re right that a some stuff just escapes some people, they just don’t get it. Keep going because you will find a couple people who get it and they will talk with you. You don’t need a ton of people but you do need a few intelligent, thinking folks to talk with.

          Just on the little you say here, it is so clear that you are not him. AT. ALL. He would not find The Best Blog on the net and write in to talk with people about his concerns. But you did. And he would not be concerned about his life choices, but you ARE.

          Two points to ponder.
          It might be a good idea for you to learn about grief. Grief is not just for funerals. Here you have a number of griefs all stemming from your parents’ stories. It might feel supportive to learn about all the things that cause us to grieve; the symptoms of grief and the stages of grief. So for instance you could be grieving that this dude was a bad dad and a bad husband. Worse he continues to make these bad choices after all these years. I don’t know what tugs at your heart strings the most, I am just making some examples to show how there are many aspects to this story that will cause a person to grieve.

          Second. Sometimes stuff that happens in life, it hits us and weighs on us a manner that we need to do something. And the activity can be anything that resonates with you. Maybe some therapy, talk time would help. Oddly, maybe reaching out and helping someone else would help. When we help others it can help us feel empowered. Decide to take back your power. Some people need to go even bigger they get super involved in a volunteer effort and spend most of their lives with that group. Other people decide to work in a related field to help people. Only you know what makes the most sense in your setting. So maybe mull over what you would like to do

          My story is much tamer than yours. However, it was enough of a story that I decided to live my life in direct opposition of all the choices my mother made. And for the most part I have. I never climbed Mount Everest nor have I ever tried to negotiate world peace. Not only have I not done anything big, I have screwed up here and there and probably will make some more mistakes as I go along. But there are small things that I have done, hopefully I have enriched some people’s lives as they have enriched mine. I live in direction opposition to what my mother stood for. Likewise yourself, decide to carve out a very different life from the way your father lived. Reaffirm that decision daily if you want to.

          And read. Never stop reading. We have to get new ideas into our heads from somewhere. Keep looking around at different things.

  38. Mela*

    Merry Christmas to all! My gift this year was the realization that my mother-in-law is on her way to hoarding–yay!

    She’s definitely not on the TV-show level yet, but it’s getting there. Certain things are impeccably clean, the things she uses and the bathroom for instance. But she collects things, and they sit on shelves and have literally 1/4 inch of a dust on them. High-up shelves, picture frames, all caked in dust. My husband’s allergies are really bad, so he freaked out on her and she got a wake-up call. We brought 3 carry-on suitcases with us, and they have to each be in a different room because they can’t all fit in one room together.

    I know part of the issue is that she’s lonely. She hasn’t had anyone over her house since last Christmas, so we got her to promise to invite her friends and grandkids over. We think that’ll help a bit. Another big issue is that she’s living in a “furnished” apartment, ie full of the belongings of the owner’s dead parents. She feels uncomfortable moving their belongings or throwing them out. We’re trying to convince her to at least ask if she can donate these items or move them to the giant storage area upstairs. We’re also trying to convince her to digitize her pictures and we’ll get her one of those electronic photo frames. Anything else that might help?

    I know we can’t “convince” her of anything she doesn’t want to do, but we only see her once every 1-2 years, so I feel too guilty just throwing up my hands and giving up, as her close-by children have done. Anyone have any tips for this process?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe help her call the owner and help her with that conversation? That seems to be the biggest barrier right there, from what you say here.

      1. Mela*

        I don’t think we can help too much, aside from giving her scripts to help her figure out what she’ll say. The owner is her friend, and she knew the dead people, so I think it’s less “don’t want to piss off the owner” but more of her hoarding tendencies coming out because she has fond memories of these people.

      1. Mela*

        I think the issue is that she gets out *too* much. She works 5-6 days/week, doing physical labor. From what I’ve heard, she goes out to dinner 3-4 times/week, has a weekly art class, etc. So I think she comes home exhausted and plops, leaving everything to another day.

    2. fposte*

      So you describe the not-cleaning, but what’s the hoarding part? What’s stuffing those rooms too full for a suitcase aside from the landlord’s crap–is she buying, did she move in with too much stuff, is she taking everybody’s leftovers?

      It depends on what the answers are, but if she’s really hoarding, the photos are likely to be the least of the problem; the challenge is to keep new stuff from coming in the house.

      1. Mela*

        Basically thousands of tchotchkes. A mix of hers and theirs. I’m laying in her bedroom now, and she has 2 large and 2 small bureaus, all with drawers filled and with the surfaces covered in carefully displayed stuff. a walk in closet filled with clothes, plus an installed bar on the side of one entire wall with more clothes hanging. She uses an armchair for a nightstand and it has Christmas books, old cookie tins, and other stuff displayed so there’s no surface area to put anything else. I kid you not when there is not a single cleared flat surface bigger than a piece of copy paper in this house. My husband and I wear glasses, we literally have to put them on the floor at night because there is no space large enough in the bedroom for them. Everything is covered in stuff, even the top of the tv. She has random little tables in awkward spots to hold things like candles or more picture frames.

        Things I’ve found in her house: she re-assembled the wrapping of a Christmas gift I gave her in 2010 and has it as display as a “Christmas decoration.” No, it’s not that pretty/nice. She keeps the printed cards that come when we send flowers for Mother’s day etc., lots of dead flower arrangements, deflated mylar balloons, she seems allergic to throwing away mail and finished candles. I’ve found multiple “candle graveyards,” a huge box of old catalogues going back to 2014. I peeked into some drawers, and there are at least two big bureau drawers of mail.

        I don’t think she’s technically a real hoarder, in that she feels the need to have a lot of junk around her and will replace it if we get rid of it (she’s emotionally fine with getting rid of some stuff), I just think she gets overwhelmed with organizing and she’s fallen into the trap of just shoving things into closets/drawers when people come over to get them out of the way, and it’s gotten waaay out of control. I also think she genuinely likes being surrounded by things because she lost almost all of her belongings 8 years ago (loong story, but I just realized she’s not over that). I think the display of the stuff makes her happy. For instance, her dresser on top has multiple little jewelry boxes (all empty) and one of those big wooden boxes. She has her jewelry laid out on the surface of the bureau, *next* to the jewelry containers…This house has dozens of drawers and cabinets etc. and I think this is only becoming noticeable now because they’re full, so stuff can’t be hidden anymore.

        I have to stop myself now, because every time I find some new horror, I gasp her name and she knows that’s me judging her, so I have to work on that. But how do you provide the perspective that the situation is bad without making her feel bad? It’s such a fine line and I feel like I’m failing in that regard. She gets the cleanliness because that’s a point of personal pride with her and the dust is bothering her son, so she’s busy cleaning. But I’ll notice some spot cleared and I’ll congratulate her on getting rid of more stuff and it’ll eventually come out that she just moved it somewhere we can’t see it, to make room for cleaning.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not a doctor, but that sounds pretty real hoardery to me–this is somebody who feels bad throwing stuff out if it might have the slightest possibility of re-use and who loves to have all her things around her. It also sounds like it’s a particularly bad combination with this living space, and that it could become actively unsafe fast there.

          I also think that if you help get by, say, clearing out the closet, the closet will get filled up again. If she genuinely wants not to keep acquiring catalogs for her archive, a professional organizer who can give her behavioral supports might be useful. But I think really a therapist is something to consider here.

        2. Today's anon*

          “she’s fallen into the trap of just shoving things into closets/drawers when people come over to get them out of the way, and it’s gotten waaay out of control.” added to your comment above that she goes out a lot – I wonder if she’s depressed? to me, it reads that way.

          In any case, maybe the better conversation starter is about how she is feeling or that you are worried about how she is feeling rather than about the stuff. [I’m also not a doctor, but have experience with depression]

          1. Mela*

            She’s definitely depressed, or something. Long story short, she was a domestic violence victim, but since it never got physical, she has never categorized it that way in her head. Her GP in the 70’s recommended a psychiatrist for unrelated, situational depression and she said “she wasn’t that type of person.” Later when she was in her 40’s she was feeling suicidal but not sad, so she went to the doctor and again was recommended therapy and she said no, but this time the GP prescribed Prozac and she was fine (it was pre-menopause). So she’s fine taking psychiatrist meds, but not actually seeing someone? I really don’t get this attitude, because one of her daughters is seriously mentally ill because of her Dad and Mom is super supportive of the therapist, meds, behavior change, etc., but she somehow thinks that she personally doesn’t need a therapist. My husband and I are her therapist, which I know is unhealthy, but we’ll be talking about normal things, she’ll get a sad thought, tell me some sad story that I’ve heard 20 times at this point, and it feels cruel to cut her off. I think I need to use those interactions as a plug for therapy.

            I feel all this pressure because her two daughters resent her for this and aren’t compassionate at all (for good enough reasons that I don’t judge them for it). So at this point, I think her son and I are the only ones she’ll listen to about anything.

            As far as hoarding, I really think she’s right at the tipping point. She was fine getting rid of the catalogues, and anything as a matter of fact that wasn’t given to her or had a “memory” attached to it. So far, she’s been okay-ish with putting the dead people’s stuff in storage, and no problem with getting rid of things like candles. We cleared off a shelf and put only a few things back up and she said she thinks it looks nicer, it”s nicer to have extra space, etc. So I’m hoping that will inspire her to continue.

            I hesitate at getting a professional (organizer) involved because I think she can only handle one, and I would prefer that be the therapist. Her son/my husband was just like this but I coached him through it and he loves our new, free-of-crap lifestyle, and that’s been his angle when he talks to her about this. I don’t know if she’ll react the same way, because she was definitely more abused than he was, but I think it’s worth a shot trying before we get serious about it. Right now, the dust is the only issue, everything else is safe, there are big enough walkways for her to get through, and she’s not a small person. So when we come back in 6 months I think we’ll re-evaluate, but for now, I think we

            1. Temperance*

              I’m going to pipe in here as the child of a mentally ill parent. My mom is able to unload on people much like your MIL does, and she makes people feel bad for her because she’s able to hide her part in everything when she’s talking. She’s always the victim, never the aggressor. Not knowing your MIL’s background, that’s something to keep in mind. There’s a reason why her local kids aren’t interested in fixing her.

              1. Cryptic Critter*

                Something not mentioned is she’s visually become tone-deaf to how her place actually looks. Like how people can actually become nose-blind to odors? It’s easy to fall into work, home, flop and “mean” to get to it. I had a friend go this route and in a fit of pushiness I got her to let me go in and REALLY clean, tote up all the unnecessaries we got a storage unit an just try it for a few weeks. I’m no expert, but her problem was she couldn’t make decisions/was too exhausted to make decisions. It worked for a year and got cluttered again, at that point we had the “therapy” talk because she was tired of being shameful about things and profoundly unhappy living/being like that.

                It’s a process, and she has good days and bad, but is willing to to keep plugging at it. There is no magic cure for it but if your MIL is open to change? Even a little that’s a start. Now once every six months we look at what she uses versus what she just thinks she might and we donate what she hasn’t used for the last year (or even taken out of the packaging) sigh.

                One thing that helps both of us is she picks a day and we go thru my stuff. Everyone see’s what you don’t and she gets to ask me the “hard” questions. LOL! Turns out she’s a whiz at combining wardrobe items I would never think to wear together and saves me quite a penny. It also helps her cause by reversing the roles she gets more into the mindset cause it’s always easier to deal with someone else’s stuff than your own. There are no attachments.

                Maybe if you and her son organize a “cleaning party” due to his asthma? As a gift to her? She can tell you all the stories about why she is attached to different things? I’ve heard that taking pictures of things, putting them in an album then donating the item helps.

                1. Temperance*

                  The only issue I can see with the “cleaning party” idea is that it could be very dangerous for him, or at the very least, will have negative health consequences.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      Another big issue is that she’s living in a “furnished” apartment, ie full of the belongings of the owner’s dead parents.

      So this is not her apartment, but a level of a house or something?

      I don’t know if she/the family can afford it, but it sounds like she should be in one of those active seniors’ communities or sharing a house with other women of a similar age. If she’s already got a problem with collecting stuff, having to deal with other people’s stuff is not a good idea. Also, moving might help her release some of that.

  39. Anon for Today*

    Guys, I entered a photography contest a week or so ago and am super excited about it! One of the award categories is most voted/fan favorite, which I am way behind in (apparently the contest started accepting entries in April). Would you all help me out by following my entry links and voting for my photos? I would really appreciate it! Thank you all in advance! Links to follow since they’ll probably get stuck in moderation.

    1. The dark trick*

      Just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who took a few minutes to vote for my entries. I really appreciate it!

  40. Sorgatani*

    As it turns out, my mum did manage to find an oven to replace her doorless one, and had it installed. A relief, especially at this time of year. Mum was, however, disappointed that I am not going to do the potatoes, which she suggested I do when I called to ask her if she had the oven sorted out, and I (perhaps foolishly?) took as a suggestion rather than a request.
    Instead, I bought tabouleh and potato salad from the supermarket, and I’ll be decorating a pavlova for dessert. I’ve never decorated a pavlova before, so it will have strawberries, kiwifruits, mango, blueberry and passionfruit on top. And whipped cream, lots of whipped cream.

    I have also (in addition to the rum balls mentioned up-thread) made a “Cowboy Cake”, at the fella’s request. The name is derived from a suggestively-named cocktail, but being realistic? It is a Bailey’s chocolate mud cake, with white chocolate butterscotch schnapps buttercream frosting. We haven’t tried the cake itself yet, but I’ve made it in the past with Bailey’s ganache on top, because that’s what is in the recipe. The buttercream is delicious, so we have high hopes for the cake.

    Baileys mud cake, I found the recipe on a blog called “citrus and candy”, but I do not think the blog is running any more. Other sites have the recipe, and can be found easily enough by googling, and they also credit citrus and candy. I have a photo of the ingredients list on my phone, and another of the instructions, because I enjoy making this cake. It is quite easy and rewarding to make. And I know how to make ganache now, which makes me feel more fancy and grown up than I really am.

  41. Natalie*

    For Christmas I got myself a haircut, an undercut but left most of my hair longish. These pictures don’t totally do it justice since I was trying to crop my face out. But I love it! My only regret is not thinking to have my stylist to a Christmas tree design.

  42. Codependent*


    It has recently been brought to my attention that I have a highly codependent personality…too much of my world revolves around what my husband does and doesn’t do, should and shouldn’t do. This past week I read a book (Codependent No More by Melanie Beattie) and it was terrifying and enlightening and scary and wonderful to suddenly have a name to put to my thoughts and feelings.

    My husband threw me a curveball that wasn’t really a curveball because I saw it coming a mile away and I still feel smacked in the face. Its empowering to KNOW that my reaction isn’t reasonable or rational and at least I had the insight to remove myself from the conversation without spewing my negative thought spiral all over him undeservedly, but damn, this is hard. Knowing is half the battle, but the battle is still raging.

    How many more metaphors can I mix into this post?

    I am planning to pursue therapy after the holidays, but for right now I just had to get all of this out so that I can get through the next couple days with a smile on my face, and you all are the safest anonymous crowd I know. So thanks for letting me spew.

    If anyone else has been in my shoes and you have other good online or book resources to share, I would love them.

    1. Nic*

      I haven’t been in your shoes, but I’ve had a similar sudden realization that caused some deep soul searching.

      That’s fantastic that you are going to pursue therapy! You are right, knowing is half the battle, and your therapist will arm you with the tools you need to succeed in the rest of it.

      Best of luck going forward! Remember that in all progress forward there are some back-slides. Don’t get upset at yourself, just pick up and move forward. And keep us updated :)

  43. Uyulala*

    Does anyone have a friend or family member who if you give a wrapped present to that person then they give it to their child or dog to open? If so, do you find that as rude as I do?

    It’s like they are saying that they won’t like it, so they aren’t going to enjoy opening it themselves. And that they know you didn’t give them anything nice, so it is okay if it gets broken or something tears while the child/pet opens the gift. Actually, I suppose it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling thing then since you know not to get them anything expensive or fragile.

    1. Irish Em*

      That is something I have never come across before, and hope never to come across in the future. I don’t know about others, but I’d find it the height of rudeness >:(

    2. katamia*

      I’ve never come across this, but your interpretation (that they know they won’t like it) would never have occurred to me. Kids like unwrapping things, and people like to watch dogs poke at things. I’d find it strange but not rude unless there were something else in their mannerism that made me think they were being dismissive.

      1. fposte*

        The kids I could see; however, having somebody put my present down for the dog to tear apart would make me give a big side-eye on several fronts, including the dog’s training and welfare (will it be as amusing when the pup swallows the chocolates?). I had blessedly missed that this is a thing, and I hope it un-things quickly.

        1. katamia*

          Yeah, I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea. My brain just wouldn’t jump automatically to “rude.” It would go to “Oh, that’s a little weird” or “Uh, are you sure you want to do that?” depending on the situation.

        2. Chaordic One*

          I agree with you. I can certainly understand letting a child do you a favor of unwrapping a present meant for you because they do love to open packages.

          But letting a dog do so? I imagine the dog would probably enjoy doing so, also, but I would really be worried about the dog accidentally damaging the gift. It really seems kind of irresponsible, if not rude.

        3. chickabiddy*

          Yeah, I would not just hand over a present to an animal or a child who is still young enough to think that unwrapping someone else’s present is fun. But I’m pretty sure that when my daughter was much younger, I probably let her take off a bow or pull at the paper. I didn’t realize that it could be offensive and now I feel badly.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Can you say something?
      “hmm. Now I am scared to give you a gift. If child or dog hurts themselves on my gift, that would just be so upsetting.”

      I think if they can be bold enough to give their kid/dog my gift to open, then I can be bold enough to say something.

      It would cause me to rethink what I am giving them. Their present might turn into a unwrapped tray of cookies next year or similar. If you can’t find a way through this one, then perhaps there is a bigger issue in the background that is more concerning. BTDT. I had a family member who managed to break my gifts year after year. When I came down from the ceiling, my real issue was not the gifts.

      1. Uyulala*

        I’ve commented before to the person that has her dog “help”. It’s been brushed off as either “it will be fine” or “she likes to do this”. This is a couple without children but I expect if they do end up having them that they will be Those Parents whose child runs wild and they will either think it is just cute or that all children act that way.

        It’s a bit tougher when it is someone giving it to a child since you don’t really want to criticize the parent in front of the child. There’s usually less risk of damage to things with the child “helping” but it still gives the appearance that the parent thinks you are giving them a kid’s gift.

  44. MsChanandlerBong*

    My computer is driving me crazy, and I am hoping someone here can help. The problem started about a month ago. When I am using my laptop, the mouse randomly doesn’t work properly. It works fine for a while, and then it’s really hard to drag around the screen. Plus it clicks on things without me clicking; I have closed out so many tabs by mistake because I was scrolling and accidentally scrolled over the X in the upper right corner–the mouse took it upon itself to click the X.

    I have also been having problems with Microsoft Word not responding (same with Excel) and 100% disk usage issues. In task manager, the process responsible for the high disk usage was Microsoft Compatibility Telemetry. I disabled it in task scheduler, but then it showed up in my task manager multiple times. I finally got everything disabled, but I continue to have problems. The disk usage issue seems better, but the Word/Excel issues and mouse issue persist.

    I ran a virus scan that turned up an “archive bomb.” However, I looked up the name of the file, and I read several articles that stated AVG sometimes labels normal files as archive bombs. In any case, I quarantined it and removed it. I also ran a malware scan. I had a bunch of potentially unwanted programs (PUPs), which I quarantined, but no trojans, worms, etc. The computer is less than two years old, and I would like to get at least another year out of it. We just got back on our feet financially, and I want to focus on building up our emergency fund before I spend money on a new laptop. Any suggestions? I will be having dinner soon, but I will check in later tonight and tomorrow so I can respond to any questions. Oh, it’s a Dell Inspiron 15 with Windows 10 64-bit, 4GB of memory, 230GB of free space on the hard drive, and an Intel i3 processor. The processor speed is crappy (1.90 GHz), but the computer was fine for my needs up until I started having problems.

    1. Rebecca*

      A year ago, I had Windows 10 problems. A lot of them! One of the things was the screen scrolled to the bottom, and I couldn’t control it, and the mouse wouldn’t work correctly. I couldn’t use the home group function, and I couldn’t download apps from the store or access the ones I had downloaded. I have a Dell desktop, purchased with Win10 in mid 2015. I was ready to take my desktop out to the field and pound it with a baseball bat, ala Office Space. After I uninstalled Dropbox, all the problems ended, and I’ve had no problems since. I have no idea why this worked. I had tried everything I knew how to do, looked online, contacted Dell, did factory resets, etc. I stumbled upon the Dropbox hint on a forum and tried it out of desperation, and it worked.

      The random mouse clicks closing programs almost sound like you might have recorded some sort of keystroke macro?

      Anyway, I hope this helps.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I’m going to try getting rid of Dropbox. I use it for work, but I can work out something else if getting rid of it solves the problem. Come to think of it, this all started when I started a full-time contract last month. I had to install Skype to communicate with the client, and the computer has been funny ever since. I uninstalled Skype when the contract was over, but I still have problems, so I guess it wasn’t Skype-related.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Is this an optical or mechanical mouse? The first thing I’d try is to swap out a mouse that works on another computer. Once you know it’s the computer, not the mouse…that’s going to be really hard to diagnose. Have you tried using restore points or restoring backups from before this happened? If you can’t do that, is it worth the time for you to reformat the computer and reinstall everything?

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        It’s the mouse/trackpad on the laptop. I have not restored anything, as I have been working non-stop for the past month. I thought about reinstalling Windows, but the walk-through said to set aside six hours to do everything, and I literally did not have six hours available to tie up the computer with non-work stuff. I am going to get rid of Dropbox as suggested above and see if it helps. I *do* use Dropbox for work (I work from home, and I have to save my assignments in Dropbox and save/sync regularly in case there’s an emergency and an admin has to step in and finish something), but I’ll see if we can work out something else for file sharing (if getting rid of Dropbox solves the problem).

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Actually, that sounds like a voltage issue. I saw something very similar with a cheap third-party power adapter that I got for my Surface Pro. Have you switched power adapters recently? Does this happen when you plug in a mouse? Does this happen when it’s plugged in and on battery power? If you answered yes to #2 or 3, it could be a hardware issue, but first try to rule out a driver issue (as copy run start said) or software (Dropbox) conflict, because otherwise you’re basically going to have to find or buy a spare trackpad and then open up the laptop and replace it yourself, and that’s kind of a last resort, depending on the model.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            YES! I have switched adapters recently. I bought the adapter in July as a back-up, and then I found that my cat had chewed the old one, so I started using the new one. The timing is right, too. How would I figure out if it’s the problem you described–see if the problem occurs when the computer is unplugged? The computer is almost always plugged in, unless I take it into the bedroom for an hour or so. The charge doesn’t last very long, so I only have it unplugged for a little over an hour a day, max.

          2. MsChanandlerBong*

            Just checked my order history, and it’s a Dell adapter, not a no-name brand or anything. Not sure if that matters.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Could be; Dell could source parts from some overseas supplier that made a bad part. Or the cat chewed the replacement, but it’s not really visible. We had a cat do that to a monitor cable. O.O

              I’d say try it for an hour without the adapter, see if you experience the pointer problem at all; if the adapter is the issue, it should never occur when you’re unplugged. And if it seems that the adapter is the issue, price out a replacement and see if you want to try one. If you can find a place that has free returns on non-defective merchandise, that would be ideal.

              If that’s not it, price out a replacement track pad for your computer, and see if there are any videos about replacing it. There’s a good chance it’s just unplugging a cable and plugging the new one in — the difficult part will probably be opening it up to expose the track pad.

              1. MsChanandlerBong*

                I have unplugged the computer a few times, and I haven’t experienced the issue at all when it is unplugged. I’m mad that I paid $26 for a new adapter. I avoided the $7 precisely because I worried that there would be problems!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Are you using the mouse on the laptop or did you add a wired or wireless mouse? If yes, does your mouse need new batteries? I have a- I guess you call it a thumb ball mouse here- and when it acts up randomly like you describe here, I have to turn it upside down to drop the ball out. I clean the ball and the pocket with rubbing alcohol and that fixes it. I hate those built in mouse pads, they always seem to jump all over, so I attach a mouse to the laptops.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        It’s the mouse/trackpad that are on the laptop. It’s hard to tell if it’s a real mouse issue, though, as it goes away when I reboot and my computer isn’t having the disk usage/not responding problems. When it acts up is when those other issues are also acting up.

    4. ..Kat..*

      When I had some computer problems I couldn’t solve, I gave in and used one of those rent-a-nerd type companies. I think it was Rent a Geek (or something like that). I looked on Angie’s List to find a reliable company. Was well worth the money. I would try other people’s suggestions first- they are free!

      Very first thing though: back up any files you don’t want to loose.

      1. ..Kat..*

        Oh, and run the defrag program on your computer to free up space. This could solve many of your problems.

    5. copy run start*

      Download and run a malware scan with Malwarebytes — this is a really good malware removal program. It should catch anything that AVG might have missed. The free version won’t run automatically like anti-virus, but maybe set a reminder for yourself to run it once a week. You may want to download it and restart your computer in Safe Mode to run it as an added measure. Microsoft has made this more complicated than it used to be, but a Google should turn up the right steps to take to get into Safe Mode.

      Is the trackpad clean? Sometimes a little gunk or film can screw them up and it’s hard to tell or feel. You might also want to force it to check for a new trackpad driver in case there’s a newer version. You can repair your Office install via Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program > (highlight Office in the list) > Change > Repair to see if that helps with Word and Excel.

      You can try reseting your PC to fix trouble with your Windows install if all else fails. (Settings > Update & Security > Reset) However, I’d recommend just doing a wipe and reinstall since you have had some malware issues.

      Good luck!

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I will look for a new driver. Thank you! I already have Malwarebytes, and it didn’t detect anything bad. Just those PUPs.

  45. Gaia*

    Well my pharmacist definitely thinks I am an alcoholic now.

    I had to pick up a prescription for muscle relaxers because I have an upcoming trip 10+ hour plane ride and sitting for that long will definitely irritate my lower back injury and shoulder injury from when my car was totaled last fall. I’ve only ever taken muscle relaxers before right after the accident and I was also taking opioid pain medication then. Well, I couldn’t remember if the alcohol restriction was for one or both so…I asked!

    Me: “Uhm, so can I drink while taking these”
    Pharmacist: —-long pause— “well, I understand if you need to, but you should probably try not to”
    Me: —absolutely horrified— “uhm thanks. Bye”

    I guess I’ll never be going back there lol

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. How unprofessional.
      I picked up a script one time and the pharmacist asked me if I was packing.
      I should have reported it.

    2. Ismis*

      Maybe he just means because it’s Christmas? I got antibiotics once and asked the doctor if I could drink and explained that I was home on a trip and catching up with lots of friends. He just looked at me and said “take them in the morning”.

      1. Anon For This*

        See my doctor I wouldn’t think twice about because he knows me well enough to know that I don’t drink often. Those questions or forms that ask how many drinks you have per week? I always cross out week and put year. We’ve joked about how it took me two years to drink a small bottle of tequila. But the pharmacist doesn’t know me as well and clearly (by her tone and mannerism) made a snap judgement.

        1. Gaia*

          ^ Gaia who hasn’t been drinking but was just distracted when she forgot to change her name back from an anonymous post :)

        2. Ruffingit*

          I’d say he’s the one in the wrong here not you. pharmacists should not be judgmental. It’s a perfectly reasonable question for this time of year especially.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Ha, I should do that next time. I have liquor in my house that has been there for probably six years. I opened the vodka, but only to use it as a deodorizing spray on my skating costumes.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Im on Valium right now as a muscle relaxer for back issues too and ho boy, DONT drink with that, or any other muscle relaxer really. I felt like I was having an out of body experience and that I was about to stop breathing. In fact, it says I cannot drive while taking this stuff never mind the drinking!

      A friend related a story of he and his brother taking a load of valium and then drinking to “make themselves invisible” Apparently it was a think here in the UK a few years ago.

      1. Natalie*

        Oof, yeah – Valium is a benzo and they should never be combined with alcohol. They CNS sedative effects of the two drugs can combine incredibly dangerously!

  46. Aurion*

    So every Christmas, I get nostalgic. I sense I’m not alone in that.

    Back when I was in school, I had a friend. We had very little in common, hell, we talked mostly about school subjects, but even though we always talked about school we also talked a lot. He helped me through a really dark time by not giving up on me, by not letting me spiral. Some people who knew what happened treated me with kid gloves. People who didn’t know just worried why I changed so much. He just…didn’t let me give up, reminded me about deadlines I didn’t care about, and expected me to succeed. I’m not sure why that approach worked better than anyone else’s. Maybe it was because it reminded me that life had to go on. Whatever the reason, his approach worked, and I probably would’ve failed a lot more classes without him. It was still all about work and school, but I shared with him when I succeeded in my first job interview, and he told me about his applying to med school. We never went out for coffee or anything, but we’d talk 2-4 hours about homework, and he was the one who offered to come over when my roommate’s boyfriend’s drunken outbursts were scaring me.

    We lost touch after he graduated (a year ahead of me); he called me once just before he moved, but I never got his new phone number or email. He has a Facebook he hasn’t touched in years, though I think his friends/family still leave messages for him there. And pretty much every year around this time, I wonder how he’s doing, because he still remains one of the best people I’ve met, even years later. I had suspected we’d lose touch because we were tethered by schoolwork only, and I had wanted to write a more proper goodbye before he moved. Ultimately I didn’t because I was a basketcase then with not-great boundaries, and I didn’t want it to be weird. Some days I think that was a mistake.

    So I’m thinking about writing him a message via Facebook. I’ve no idea if he’d read it, or if it’s a good idea. I’ve no idea if I’d be relapsing into my not-great boundary days. But some days I think that if he hadn’t moved, and was still around after I got my head together and grew up a little, I would’ve been a far better friend to him instead of just the reverse.

    Regret is a very bittersweet thing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Write it. Post it. Go for it. It’s a fantastic idea.
      His family will tell him that it is there. go for it. Let us know if you did it.

      1. Aurion*

        If I do it’d be a private message, which I doubt his family will be able to see. I have left a few public happy birthdays over the years, to no response (unsurprisingly, happy birthdays don’t require much response).

        Still thinking this over.

        1. The dark trick*

          Just remember, if you do it as a private message and you’re not friends with him on Facebook, it won’t make it to his inbox but his other/filtered/spam folder and he may not see it, resulting in no response. So, I would recommend at least posting on his wall, if you’re able, a simple “hey, check your messages.”

          1. Aurion*

            I just checked, apparently we are Facebook friends. So private message would work, I think? I guess the only question is whether writing a short hello would be a good idea, and whether he would see it (no one knows).

            I’m overthinking this…

              1. Aurion*

                After spending probably far too long deliberating the wording, I did send him a private message on Facebook (with my phone number and email, hence why I really wanted the private message part). I’ve no idea if it’d reach him, since looking at his lack of Facebook activity he is definitely not a Facebook person. But it’s the only avenue I have, so here’s to hoping.

                I feel a little better, but still pretty sad. People, reach out to the ones that matter. It’s so, so hard to pick it back up afterwards.

                Thanks, all of you, for the kind responses.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Also, since he’s an MD, you could also find out where he works by Googling his name with Dr. title. Not saying you should stalk the guy, but sending a note to his office or dropping it by yourself if he works close by would be another avenue too.

                  I just strongly believe in connecting with those who helped us make it through our life circumstances at any given time and letting them know they did some good. We hear so much about the negative stuff, it’s nice to know when you’ve been there for someone.

                2. Aurion*

                  Unfortunately, he moved to the other side of the country for his med degree. Thinking about timelines, he probably would’ve finished residency maybe a year or two ago, so it’s anyone’s guess where he is now. He might have stayed on the other side of the country as it’s a busy metropolitan area so there are more job opportunities, and it’s probably where his professional network is strongest. But regardless, sending a note to his office from across the country will probably be in the creepy category (I feel like there’s an AAM letter potential in there). He got tagged in one of his friend’s wedding photo, and it looks like he’s doing well, so I’m happy about that at least.

                  I think about him a lot during the holidays, and these last two days I keep remembering these little things we did for each other (well, more him for me than the reverse) during our school years. Everything from an extra hand in the labs to pep talk phone calls before exams to calls on Christmas and birthdays like clockwork (seriously. He was better at it than my parents and my sibling), and there were some big moments in the mix too. Thinking about it makes me cry, in a good way. We didn’t have a single interest in common back then, we never so much as grabbed lunch together, but we were pretty close–I think–despite that.

                  If he replies and we manage to keep in touch again, it would make my entire year. (I feel like there is a decent chance he would reply, if he ever sees the message.)

  47. Karyn*

    So my second job is at Sephora, and I’m opening up this thread for open season on all your makeup/skincare questions! If anyone wants to know anything, ask away! My expertise is in skin but, as I own 123 lipsticks (no, not exaggerating), I can answer makeup questions too!

    1. The dark trick*

      No questions, just stopping by to say that if I worked at Sephora, I seriously would be so broke.

      1. Karyn*

        Believe me… My collection of things is disgusting. I get SO MUCH free stuff and I have still spent $2,000 or something ridiculous like that. Granted a lot of it is gifts for people, treats for friends, etc. But STILL.

    2. leah*

      Do you have any recommendations for getting rid of chicken pox scars (big indents in the skin)? Not sure if any product would be strong enough for that or if I need to have a procedure done. These scars are from 25 years ago so they are not new…

    3. Gaia*

      All I want is a foundation that STAYS PUT. I’ve tried expensive and cheap and everything in between and 4 hours into my work day it is all coming off. I use primers, I’ve tried it without. UGH. I feel like it is just climbing off my face.

    4. NicoleK*

      I live in the upper midwest where winters are tough on the skin. Do you have recommendations for dry, cracked, flaky hands?

    5. Temperance*

      Can you recommend any good products to help with clogged/enlarged pores? I’ve been fighting this battle for years, and Biore strips help, but they don’t help wtih the ginormous pore situation.

    6. Stephanie*

      What would you recommend to keep makeup looking decent when it’s hot or humid out? It always feels like it’s running off my face in those cases.

    7. Marcela*

      Can you recommend a foundation for very oily skin with good coverage, for sunspots? I think I would like to hide my sunspots a bit more, since they cover a big piece of my cheeks, but when I tried to get matched in sephora, the makeup artist didn’t understand I wanted to hide them a bit, not cover myself with a mask. He used some heavy and thick makeup, and I just had to remove it as soon as I got home. The other time, I got recommended Estee Lauder’s Daily Wear, which is not cheap, and well, the match lasted less than a season because I got slightly more olive every summer, so I only used the foundation four times? I’ve tried other cheaper foundations, but they didn’t last, not even hours, with my oily skin.

    8. Cheryl Blossom*

      Ohhh! I’d love a good recommendation for a daily mosturizer or primer with an spf of at least 30. I’m super duper fair so I also avoid anything with colour/ foundation in it since it looks super unnatural on me.

      Also anything to help with blackheads- I’ve had them forever and mostly try to come to terms with that as a reality. Otherwise I have combo skin leaning towards dry with a few occasional blemishes mostly due to monthly hormones

      1. Marcela*

        If you can get it from Amazon, I swear for my Biore perfect milk sfp50 pa4+. It works perfectly as a primer for my oily skin, under makeup, and it’s light and do not leave a white cast over my my latina olive skin. It’s also chemical _and_ physical sunscreen. The only problem is that it works better for oily skin, since it’s alcohol based, but Biore has another (this time only chemical) sunscreen for normal and dry skins. I just don’t remember the name now. This sunscreen is the only I could keep using every day, several times a day. And I tried most of the drugstore brands in the US, plus most European drugstore ones.

    9. Rob Lowe can't read*

      What do you (or any other makeup-wearing commenters) recommend wearing if I want to look put together but don’t have time to put on full makeup (i.e. foundation, blush, etc.). I am #blessed with pretty good skin (normal, rarely blemished, etc.), and I effectively start my workday at 6:30, so taking the time to put on makeup in the morning is not a priority. But at the same time, I want to look awake and professional and put together. I do wear mascara daily, but right now that’s it.

    10. Lluviata*

      Is there a lipstick/lip stain/lip pencil that I can put on in the morning and it will stay for 12+ hours without reapplying or touch ups? I’ve tried various things and the paint kind worked best, but would start to flake and wear off after a few hours.
      I think it’s crazy that I can put on mascara once in the morning and that looks great all day, but I can’t find anything for my lips!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Coincidentally, I bought my husband a wood splitting ax, so I have one handy under the Christmas tree if I need to break it out for some reason. (I got a lot of weird looks from the men in the store when I bought it. A few moved out of my way, and one asked me if I was making the next Friday the 13th movie as I left the store. Is it really that weird to buy an ax? It wasn’t like I had it swung over my shoulder as I walked around the store.)

  48. Lucky*

    I don’t know if this is allowed here, but it’s worth a try: I’m organizing a pet food pantry for a low-income area of Chicago, and scrambling a bit due to being out of town for the holidays. I know there are a lot of animal lovers here so if you would like to buy a bag of cat food for a hungry cat, please visit our Amazon wishlist here:


    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      This is lovely – Boy used to volunteer at PAWS when we lived in Chicago, but not every kitty gets to be as lucky to live there!

      1. Lucky*

        Thanks so much! I wasn’t really expecting to get any responses so it was a pleasant surprise. The program is called Pets for Life and provides assistance with vet care, spay/neuter, and supplies to residents of North Lawndale/Little Village, an area which is a vet “desert” and where over a third of the residents are below the poverty line. It was started by the Humane Society of the United States several years ago, but they had budget cuts and chose to end the program as of end of 2016. Fortunately my small, shoestring animal rescue has been given the chance to take it over, but we have to scale down a lot since we don’t have anywhere near the resources of HSUS. I am calling pet stores to try to get food donations but didn’t have much time due to the holidays, thus the wish list. You can tell I’m excited about it. Thanks again!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          You’re welcome! How difficult is it to set up something like this on Amazon? I ask because I volunteer with a local cat rescue and I think this is something I’d like to do for them. I’d probably post the link on my blog. We’re a very small group, don’t have a shelter (it’s a network of foster homes) and food, of course, is always the biggest need.

          1. Lucky*

            It’s super easy. You can just set up an Amazon account for your rescue (or use your own) and then select Create Wish List (it’s one of the menu items). When you click on items instead of Add to Cart choose Add to List. Meow Mix was the cheapest dry cat food option I could find, followed by Purina. Good luck!

  49. chickabiddy*

    Cell phones. I hate talking on my cell phone and I hate texting on it even more. And I also hate the expectation that I must be immediately available at all times because I own a cell phone. I am not a complete luddite and do appreciate that messages such as “lunch will be at Chinese Buffet instead of Burger Place” or “my tire is flat and it’s fifteen degrees out so can you pick me up” can be relayed immediately, and certainly phone numbers and addresses are easier to retrieve from a text than a voicemail. But for most things, I vastly prefer a call to my home phone or, better yet, an email. I work at home and am on the computer a lot, so chances are good that I’ll respond to an email fairly quickly. Also, because I work at home, when I am out and not available by home phone or email, then I’m probably driving or actually busy and it isn’t a good time to chat. I cannot seem to convey this to certain relatives and I do not know if I am justified in being annoyed.

    Also, yes, I am middle-aged/old and I know it. But while my younger relatives may snicker at me behind my back, they are not the main culprits in this. The problem people are around my age or older.

    1. Rebecca*

      I am with you on that respect. I have a Tracfone smartphone for my convenience, and I love the features, like the alarm clock, calendar reminders, ability to access the internet when I need it, keeping track of my FitBit, things like that, and I love being able to get informational and important texts when I’m out and about. I don’t use it to keep in constant contact and make phone calls that can easily be made from home while I’m at the grocery store or driving down the road. I just roll my eyes when I encounter all those people at the grocery store yapping away, or meandering along scrolling on their phones. Sometimes I wish stores would have phone jamming to force people to just look up and do what they need to do in an expedient manner!

      Rant over…totally get this…and I am also 50+ and remember the days of being lucky to have a CB radio when you traveled :)

      1. chickabiddy*

        Yes, I have a way nicer phone than I would have bought on my own, with more features than I need/want, thanks to a very kind friend who passed it along when she upgraded, but just because it can do things doesn’t mean I want to!

    2. cell phones*

      You are building this as if people are doing something on purpose to piss you off, but I don’t think that is correct. They are doing what feels “better” for them, and you can do that too. If you don’t want to answer the cell phone or return the text, don’t. Unless the people you are talking about are really close people in your life (like a spouse who might know and remember your basic schedule and preferences), I think setting it up as purposely malignant is a waste of energy as it will just make you upset (as you are). I mean, these other people could also say you don’t respect their favorite way of communicating. I don’t think it’s an age thing, it’s more of a boundary thing. Each party is free to do whatever they like.

      1. chickabiddy*

        I do not think it is “on purpose to piss [me] off,” exactly, but I have made my preferences clear on numerous occasions so while it is likely not malicious, it is, IMO, thoughtless. And while not a spouse, they are fairly close relations .

        I also understand the point that I’m not respecting their favorite way of communicating, and it’s a fair point in some cases. However, it doesn’t take any more effort to call my home line than it does to call my cell phone, and I’m fairly sure that they have e-mail on their phones so I don’t think that’s a great deal more difficult than texting either.

    3. Temperance*

      I’m in my early thirties, and I hate cell phone culture. I like having access to text and data when I need it, but I hate cell phone calls. Email me! I answer emails faster.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I hate cell phones, too. And you are right, it’s not the younger people. It’s people my own age or older. I said to my beloved aunt who wanted my cell number, “I don’t answer my cell. It does not work in my area. I do not have voice mail because I cannot get calls at home.”
      She insisted on having my cell number. okay.

      Weeks later she was in total shock telling me that I do not answer my phone and I do not have voice mail. (????) I said “Which part of ‘ I don’t use my cell and I do not have VM’ confused you?”

      I hate, hate, hate asking people to repeat themselves and then they get mad because I don’t understand them. Happily, younger people are VERY patient about this. It’s the people my own age who get snippy.

      1. LCL*

        I am asking this sincerely, with no sarcasm intended or implied. Why do you have a cell if you can’t get coverage, don’t use voicemail, and don’t want to use it? Why spend the money?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s almost like you have to have a cell, I don’t know how to describe it. I do get into areas that have cell coverage almost on a daily basis. I guess if I could enjoy it, then it would be a non-issue. I buy the cheapest plans I can find. That probably does not help matters.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’m 51 and I love the hell out of my cellphone. I don’t like texting for longer conversations because I have trouble typing with thumbs, so I will annoy you and call if it looks like we need a longer discussion. But I love having a phone with me when I’m traveling. I love being able to tweet stuff and FB stuff and look stuff up on Google (soooo much easier in London than the A-Z; that print gets smaller every year haha). The only thing I don’t do on my phone is read or watch TV. I have a tablet for reading and two TVs for watching.

      My mum has a cell phone but she NEVER uses it. I think she only has it in case she was out and needed to call 911. Not sure she even would. My dad (just turned 80) has one and he does use it, but it’s a flip phone. At Thanksgiving, I gave him my smartphone and let him play with my Instagram feed. He scrolled for a solid ten minutes. :) We think he would love a smartphone but he probably wouldn’t spend the money.

    6. Frustrated Optimist*

      I have a landline which I much prefer for several reasons, one of which is sound quality. If someone calls me on my cell and I’m out, I may or may not answer. If it’s someone I know I will want to have a longer conversation with, I may well call them from my landline once I get home.

      If a longer-conversation-person calls me on my cell phone when I’m home, I will answer the cell phone call quickly then ask if I may call them back from my landline. (Again, sound quality, etc.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The sound quality is beyond terrible. Sound quality was much better decades ago with landlines. I don’t know why there is not a bigger push for better sound quality.

        1. Frustrated Optimist*

          I have had that same thought — why is no one complaining that cell phones still have that “tin can” sound?! But you know, so much of communication is now done through texting. Maybe the sound quality just isn’t as relevant as it used to be…

  50. KAZ2Y5*

    Just want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to anyone (like me) who is reading this at work! I’m used to working on holidays (medical field!) but this year has really gotten me down. I think I’m just worn down and haven’t been able to really take a day or two to relax in way too long. Just wanted to commiserate with all the other holiday workers.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I no longer work on holidays, but I used to when I worked at the psych hospital so I get where you’re coming from. It’s rough. Maybe take some extra vacation days in January and give yourself a four or five day weekend to hang at home and pamper yourself. Sounds like you need and deserve it! ❤️️

    2. copy run start*

      Cheers from this week’s on call tech! Not quite the same situation as yours since I’m not physically at work, just remoting in when needed, but I really wish I was fully off this long weekend.

    1. copy run start*

      BEST: Some kinds words and encouragement from someone I look up to this week.

      WORST: Couple bizarre issues at work that put my brain through the wringer.

    2. nep*

      Best: Dancing with my toddler niece on Christmas Eve. Divine.
      Also, feeling like a million bucks some 12 days into cutting added sugar.

    3. Elkay*

      Best: Christmas and nearly two weeks off work
      Worst: Main oven is making bad noises, hoping it will survive the day.

    4. LadyKelvin*

      Best: we have had a great Christmas and ski trip with my inlaws.

      Worst: this morning, before we even started opening gifts my MIL ask my husband if he would say Merry Christmas to his sister (who is verbally and emotionally abusive and we no longer speak to) and when he said no, she still hasn’t gotten help for her mental problems I don’t want to speak to her, his mom started crying and he gave in just to make her happy. Last night his sister texted one of his brothers that are with us to ask if “[husband] still hates me.” It’s just frustrating to try to set boundaries and then be guilty into breaking them because who wants to be responsible for making mom cry on Christmas.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      BEST: Nothing exciting; I got some Amazon gift cards for Christmas, so I can buy my shows. Yay, I won’t miss Doctor Who, even if I have to watch it a day later than everybody else!

      WORST: Losing my job is a very frustrating and distracting thing to happen right now when I need to do revisions. I’m finding it hard to concentrate. Rawr. I wish it could have waited until I was done!

    6. Trixie*

      Best: Received a raise for taking on additional duties at work. Stunned because I started in Feb and it’s been a solid roller coaster of success/failure, includes a major issue just a week ago.
      Worst: Holidays are not my favorite time of year. As an atheist who is already close to my family, it’s difficult when my entire community just shuts down. In previous years, I at least had a network of folks who like to hike or do something which was really nice.

  51. Today's anon*

    I started fostering three 8 week old kittens. They are adorable! They’re all eating regular food but one in particular still wants to nurse. I think it’s more about comfort because he is eating normally. Any ideas on how to break the habit? They were brought in as strays as the shelter so I don’t know what happened to the mother or when they were separated (I imagine the mother was not brought in or they would have kept them together, unless she was sick). I had forgotten how energetic kittens can be!

    1. Cookie D'oh*

      Check out kittenlady dot org. She’s got a ton of videos and info about foster kitens. If you’re on Instagram she posts lots of cute pics and videos @kittenxlady. Also on Instagram @myfosterkittens and @myfosterkittensfaq have resources.

      Good luck with the kittens!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it will taper off on its own. It’s not super unusual for that age — eight weeks is still very young and they were probably weaned very recently — so I wouldn’t worry about it too much as long as he’s eating normally.

  52. AvonLady Barksdale*

    My poor doggy has been relegated to the Cone of Shame. He has a history of paw issues, and late last week he started licking his back left paw during his walk. We couldn’t find any cuts or signs of infection– I figured he was cold and dry, so I applied lotion every day, but yesterday it got pretty bad and he refused to put weight on his back left leg. My bud always injures himself during holidays when the vet is closed, go figure. But our local independent pet store stayed open yesterday until 8, and we got him a soft cone, some anti-bacterial salve, and some yummy cow ears. He’s handling everything like a (pissed off, disgruntled) champ, but I feel so bad for my boo. He woke me up at 1:30am and convinced me to sleep in the guest bed with him, and this morning we managed to walk 1.7 miles before his paw started bothering him again. He is now back on the guest bed, snoring, head in cone again. I’m working on making a vet appointment for Tuesday morning. In the meantime, please send some healing vibes for my buddy’s poor pawses!

    1. JHS*

      It could be an allergy or he stepped on something that made his paw itchy. That has happened to my doggie several times. One time he stepped in poison ivy, the other was some sort of pollen. We just usually give him a shower/bath and lotion the paws. Also sometimes a benedryl overnight too.

      1. JHS*

        Also if it gets raw from licking, he has gotten this antihistamine powder stuff at the vet, which we put on him. You can’t really go wrong with benedryl anyway, so worth a shot. I think the dosage is a miligram per pound, so my 46 lb dog will get 1 or 2 tablets depending on how bad it is. My vet is fairly anti-cone, so fortunately he’s never gotten one.

  53. The Other Dawn*

    Hubby is working today, so I’m surfing the ‘net and enjoying my homemade iced mocha latte while The Golden Girls plays on the TV in the background. I’ll be headed to my sister’s house in a few hours, which means I have time to clean–in-laws are coming for dinner tomorrow. Just can’t seem to motivate myself to do it. I know I should, as I have multiple cats and cleaning is necessary whenever someone comes over, plus I don’t want to be stuck doing it all tomorrow while trying to cook. It’s not as if the house is that bad. It’s mainly just straightening up, cleaning a few surfaces and doing dishes, but I’m not feeling it. I was going to bake some brownies, too, but that hasn’t happened yet. This seems to be me this year: unmotivated.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I started small by emptying the waste baskets, which led to one round of dishes. I also brought all the litter in from the door step. Fed Ex guy dropped it all at my front door and blocked it, so had to go all the way around the house from the back to get it. Four 40 lb bags. I’m guessing it was a different driver, because it’s usually dropped at the back door and doesn’t block my door. That then led me to lint-brush the spare loveseat. Tons of cat hair! Then I lint-brushed the dining room chair cushions. Feel better now, like I accomplished something. Oh, and I took the ham out of the freezer.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. I did a quick clean last night because I didn’t want to do it today, all except dishes. Now trying to motivate myself to get up and make some banana bread. (Don’t wanna dirty the sink I just cleaned!)

  54. nep*

    A friend got me ‘pinch me therapy dough’. I’d never heard of it. What a great idea. And the company helps vets and soldiers with each purchase. Anyone here use ‘pinch me’ dough?

  55. Overeducated*

    I got an Instant Pot! Strategy of putting it on Amazon wishlist in case anyone was feeling generous worked! :D

    Favorite recipes to recommend?

    1. Colleen McGuigan*

      There is a whole Facebook group dedicated to the Instant Pot. “Instant Pot Community” Lots of suggestions there.

      1. Overeducated*

        I know there is tons on the Internet, but I need some help filtering :) my experience with slow cookers is thaT the most popular recipes are not necessarily the most tasty or interesting.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I gave Boyfriend an Instant Pot for the holidays, and have been a member of the “Instant Pot Community” Facebook group since the end of October. It really is a great resource. They have an amazing set of files to help get newbies started.

          He just opened his gift today, so it’ll be a few weeks until we have any “favorite” recipes. But the very first thing we’re going to try is soft-boiled eggs, to be used in Paleo Scotch Eggs. :-)

    2. periwinkle*

      There are tons of resources out there for InstantPot enthusiasts! I’m partial to the Pressure Cooking Today site, especially as they do a lot of Asian recipes (and I don’t mean “Asian”, but actual adaptations of Korean and Chinese dishes). They wisely assumed that a lot of IPs would be unwrapped today so…

      I tend to use my IP mainly for batches of spaghetti sauce or beef stew. For some reason I’ve never gotten good results from the saute function so I still use a skillet for browning beef and sauteing onions before adding them to the pot.

      1. Overeducated*

        Thanks for the link. I like that it has a “how to concert recipes” entry, one of my big hopes is that it will help me cook some dishes I already like but faster.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I had to google this. That’s cool.

      One of the best things I ever bought myself was a NordicWare Multi-pot. It goes in the microwave and cooks rice like nobody’s business. It’s just a little plastic pot but sooooo cool. Always comes out perfect. I did quinoa in it once, and it worked–just took a little longer. Imma make wild rice today I think.

      I don’t want to post a link but they have it on Amazon if you want to check it out. I got mine at Walmart off a clearance rack.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Enough friends of ours were raving about theirs that I got one for my wife, who expressed interest in one, so I’m going to be checking this thread and sending her links! (I have a rule never to get her kitchen stuff unless she asks for it, and then get her something non-food-related too, like a gift card for a spa.)

    5. Al Lo*

      I got one, too, and we promptly unpackaged it to make the mashed potatoes. I was going to ask this same question, so I’m glad to see the recommendations.

  56. MsChanandlerBong*

    I have a baking dilemma. Three times in the past week, my baked items have come out flat as pancakes. The cornbread has baking powder in it, so I briefly thought maybe my baking power had been inactivated somehow, but the cheesecake does NOT have baking powder in it, so even if the baking powder is old, that wouldn’t make the cheesecake come out flat. I did not mix either dish too thoroughly; in fact, I didn’t even use my mixer for the cornbread. I mixed the dry ingredients, made a well, and then just stirred until everything was wet. Both dishes use eggs, but I am not sure if that could be the culprit. The eggs I got *are* a little older (I just bought them on 12/20 and didn’t check the date; they are sell by 12/23), but I don’t know if that would cause this problem. I also live at a high altitude, so I briefly considered that it might be that, but I have made both the cornbread and cheesecake here before without them falling flat.

    Last week, the power went out several times. When it came back on, the fridge next to the stove no longer worked, and the breaker was in the OFF position. When my husband tried to flip it back over, it sparked, so we had the handyman check it. He told our landlord to call an electrician, so we are waiting on that. The stove still works, but I am wondering if something happened to it so that the temperature is off. Again, I don’t know if that would cause this type of problem. It’s so weird to me because these are recipes I have used for years. I have never had either item come out this way.

    Any ideas?

    1. enough*

      Yes, your oven temperature could be off. I found a cake blog where they baked 5 cakes at different temperatures and show/talk about the differences. And we’re taking about differences of 25 degrees. The eggs are probably alright. I use “old” eggs all the time.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thank you! I am going to buy a thermometer on Amazon to check and see if it’s off. If it is, we’ll let the landlord know (the appliances came with the house, so she owns them).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Before I got to your second paragraph I thought, this sounds like the oven is not coming up to temp.

      I assume your stove is electric? It should be on its own circuit. Are both the top and bottom elements working like they should?

      It could be that power outage damaged it some how. I have had some scary stuff here with low power and this causes furnace motors and fridge motors to burn out and become useless. Maybe something similar happened to your stove? I would mention it to the electrician when he comes. He should be familiar with problems people in your area are having because of the outages and he would be able to narrow your stove problem down quickly.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Yes, it’s electric. Everything looks okay, but that doesn’t mean it’s working properly. I am going to order a thermometer to check the oven temp. If it’s off, I will tell the landlord. She is trying to get the electric company to pay for a replacement fridge because we got an email the day of the outages saying the problem was caused by equipment failure on their end. She called her homeowners’ insurance company, but they told her to pursue the matter with the electric company.

    3. Cookie D'oh*

      I agree with the others about an oven temp issue. You can buy an oven thermometer to check the actual temperature compared to where the dial is set. I got mine from Bed, Bath and Beyond a while back.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I just ordered one from Amazon. It even had a 15% off coupon (I am a frugal shopper, so I actually shouted, “15% off?! Merry Christmas to me!” as if someone had given me diamond earrings). It will be here on Friday.

    4. LCL*

      Wild guess, your building or unit has a part out condition somewhere. In the US, electric ranges generally are wired at 240V-they use both hots. If one hot is out, the stove will see 120V, so it will heat up, but not at full power. If your landlord allows you to do so, you can call the power company and tell them you had a power issue last week, and now think your stove is part out, so could they please check your connections at the service entry. Usually the power company will check their gear for free. The downside of having them come out is, worst case there is dangerous damage and everyone is cut for safety.

      In the meantime, since there may be a claim associated with this, check all your personal electronics for proper function.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thank you! All of our electronics work fine. It’s just the fridge that is out (and we don’t know yet whether the fridge itself is broken or if the surge blew out an outlet; the idiot who built this house put in a huge fridge and THEN put in the counters. There’s no way to pull out the fridge to check the plug in a different outlet.). It’s a single-family, so at least we don’t have to worry about other units.

  57. fposte*

    Late addition–I just discovered that @rhodri has a hilarious Twitter tradition of photos of the sleeping arrangements people are shoehorned into when visiting family over the holiday (#duvetknowitschristmas). He’s set a collection of them to music as well. They are weepingly funny.

    1. fposte*

      Whoops, my apologies–I thought that the Storify collection had music, but it’s just a collection. So don’t frown at your speakers.

  58. Victoria, Please*

    Does anyone have a recc for a cordless stick vacuum? I really want one but am afraid of getting a disappointment.

    1. Reba*

      I have a Dyson and it’s amazing (mostly used on hard surfaces, some rugs). It was a gift; the cost is extravagant and I don’t know if I could have justified buying it for myself. My sister has a Shark model she likes pretty well. My aunt is a home tester for Hoover and likes their LinX series because of the slick design–but it was she who gave us the Dyson, which she thinks is a bit more powerful.

      I know consumer reports has covered recent vacuums so you could take a look at that too. I hope you get something you like!

      1. SophieChotek*

        My mom has a Dyson and it really does seem to be pretty good. I love watching it fill up with dirt. (Sort of. Makes me feel like I am getting cleaning done).

        But we had a cheap ($50 on sale at Target) Dirt Devil that wasn’t too bad either…though it didn’t seem to be as good as the Dyson, which was several hundred.

    2. Natalie*

      I don’t own any of their vacuum recommendations specifically, but I’ve had good luck with Sweet Home’s reviews.

    3. Al Lo*

      We have a Dyson V6 that we basically use instead of a broom. Our main vacuum is a Roomba, but the Dyson is great for small messes, weird spaces, and so on. Ours was a factory refurb, so it was about $1oo less than retail, which made it a lot more attractive. I love it. My sister has it and didn’t love it as much — it doesn’t have a super long charge (about 20 minutes or slightly less), so in her larger house or as her main vacuum, it didn’t last long enough. In our smaller apartment, being a spot-cleaning machine, I’ve never had it run out of charge on me.

  59. Dynamic Beige*

    Question for dog people:

    My neighbours have a dog that is some sort of mutt, she’s one of the few dogs I am OK with. She’s really smart in that she barks at just about everyone’s car except mine and will quiet down if she hears me tell her to stop. If I go outside to put out the garbage or what-have-you and she’s there, I will give her some scritchies. In a way, I kind of feel sorry for her, she seems lonely a lot. She’s a real tail-wags-the-dog type. Anyway, it’s gotten to the point that if she sees me outside, she has this different bark that’s half yelp and I know she wants me to come over and pat her, which I’m usually OK with doing if I have the time.

    All this is to say that I would like to get her a present. But, first of all, I’m not really super friendly with the neighbours across the street so I don’t know how they would take it. Given what I do know of them, I don’t think they would really care that much. Is that weird or wrong for someone to buy your dog something? I don’t know. Also, I don’t really know what dogs like. I see these giant rawhide bone things at the pet store when I’m there for my cats — there is so much more dog stuff than cat stuff — they must be good or there wouldn’t be so many of them. Or are real bones from a butcher better? I don’t know.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Cautionary tales?

    1. rubyrose*

      Ahhhh, that pooch would love a gift from you. If a neighbor that I didn’t know well came to me with a gift for my dog and your story about your relationship with my dog I would be so happy.

      Yes, those rawhide bones would be great.

    2. The dark trick*

      I have two puppers and people have given them gifts before, which is always super sweet. Please stay away from rawhide. I know lots of people give them to their dogs, but it can cause problems by getting suck in the digestive system. Additionally, some dogs are more distructive than others and you have to be careful what kinds of toys they play with, unsupervised, for example, mine destroy most toys within a few minutes and then will try to eat them, including tennis balls or rope, both which can cause digestive issues. I would also caution about giving a dog food related treats without consulting the owner. There are lots of dogs with allergies or other health related issues that restrict what they can eat. Honestly, I know you said you don’t know the owners well, but I’d ask them first before giving their dog anything beyond loving pets. That said, if they’re any kind of half way decent dog owner, they’ll be thrilled and let you know what’s safe for their doggy.

    3. Mags*

      Not weird in the least! But I’m seconding The dark trick. Definitely ask the owners what is okay for their dog before giving her anything, rawhide and real bones can be dangerous. Honestly, she probably enjoys your pettings as much as she would any treat.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with the words of caution here, but I also want to say that I would LOVE a present for my pupper. He sits in the front yard sometimes (it’s fenced in) and he has his “people” too. I’ve exchanged barely three words with some of them, but they always say hi to the pooch. A gift for him would never be weird unless it was something super expensive. But a rope toy or a cow ear? My heart would melt.

    5. Natalie*

      I don’t think it’s weird. A couple of people in our neighborhood know my dog better than they know me and I think it’s neat.

      If for whatever reason you don’t want to ask them ahead of time, tough rubber toys (like Kongs) are fairly safe.

    6. KJ*

      No to the real bone- they can shatter and choke a dog. Rawhide is usually safe for all dogs. I’d buy one and ask the neighbors if it is ok to give to her. I don’t think it is weird to buy a dog a present but I have 9 pets at the moment, so I might be too far gone on the “pet insanity” scale.

    7. JHS*

      Toys by Kong are almost always nice treats for dogs. They make all kinds of nice stuff, which are good for different levels of chewing. That’s very kind of you to think of the dog! I agree with the other commenters who suggested staying away from food/treat related things and rawhides, as some people are very specific about what their dog eats or plays with. The benefit of most Kong toys is you can put your own treats in there, so the owners can decide what they’re comfortable with.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I am on the side of no rawhide. It peels off in layers and sometimes they can choke. I have had two dogs choke on them.
      You could give the dog a beef bone. Or you could get little dog biscuits to give the dog.
      Kong toys are great, nice and durable.

      Definitely ask the owner’s permission. If they are normal dog owners they would be thrilled.

  60. Office Mercenary*

    I’m not sure if this counts as more work-related or more fashion-related, but here goes: for Xmas, my parents gave me an IOU for a new purse of my choice. I’m job hunting and I’d like to get something sharp-looking for interviews. My question for the commentariat: do designer knockoffs come across as tacky? I found a few purses that are basically the same as popular, expensive designs, but without the logo. They’re comparable in design to a lot of the purses I found on the Coporette blog but I don’t know if they’ll look tacky to someone who knows these very recognizable brands. Or am I overthinking this?

    1. rubyrose*

      You might be overthinking this.

      Now, if you are in an industry that is fashion-related, you probably want to be more careful. But if you are not, I would not worry about it.

    2. Mags*

      In all honestly… yeah, I personally find them tacky. But I don’t expect many people walk into Kohls realizing the bag they’re looking at is actually a copy of a designer bag, and I can’t imagine holding it against anyone ever, let alone in a hiring situation. An actual fake, yes. Have you looked at outlet stores?

    3. BRR*

      To me it depends on the purse. If it’s something really characteristic like the LV pattern or burberry plaid then I find it tacky but I think most purse designs aren’t unique enough to only be identified as from an expensive brand.

      1. Office Mercenary*

        Some of the satchels are pretty nondescript, but others look pretty similar to, say, Tory Burch’s central medallion design. Michael Kors is so minimalist that a lot of non-designer items arguable resemble his designs, but several of these go a step further and have a circular metal logo hanging from the strap, like this purse:

        I’m applying to a range of places and I doubt anyone at, say, a non-profit would care if I carried a cheap purse. On the other hand, I’m applying to consulting companies where my interview may well earn enough to buy the real thing, and I don’t want to project, consciously or unconsciously, poor taste or amateurism. I look much younger than my age and don’t want to give any more reasons for people to think I’m new to the working world, which people already assume all the time.

        1. Stephanie*

          The second’s obviously a knockoff of the first, but it’s not as egregious as bad LV print.

          Unless you’re applying to like a fashion or makeup company where they notice that stuff, I think as long as you look polished and put together (and the bag doesn’t look like it’s about to fall apart), you should be fine.

    4. Stephanie*

      Overthinking it a bit. I agree that a lot of the clear knockoffs of like Burberry plaid or Coach Cs can look tacky. There are also some issues with child labor around those knockoffs sometimes. Plus, for interviews, I think a plain leather bag would be better since it would be more understated.

      If you’re looking for a better quality bag, but can’t drop $500, what if you try something in the price range of Fossil? I find you can find a good quality bag in the $100-200 range. If you live near a big department store, you could see the selection around that price point.

      You could also try consignment stores or outlets, if you’re looking for something cheaper.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I really like those bags, and I think something like that is the way to go. When you get into patterns and logos, I feel like it sometimes distracts from the outfit and the person, as those who actually care about designer purses are looking at your purse and not you as a person. I’d go for a solid color in something without a logo.

  61. Pennalynn Lott*

    Grrrr. Every year we do a Dirty Santa gift exchange at my next door neighbor’s house. We started doing it years ago when kids got married and grand-kids started appearing, and it was getting too expensive to buy everyone individual gifts.

    So, since we’re not doing individual gifts, the whole idea of Dirty Santa is to bring something that you’d love to receive. Except my next-door neighbor keeps bringing gag gifts. Last year it was her deceased father’s ancient Rolodex, complete with yellowed cards, and this year it was a twin-pack of “Huntsman Toilet Paper.” One roll was a camouflage print, the other was a bright Safety Orange color. Neighbor laughed her ass off, to the point of crying, when her sister was the one who ended up with it. Her sister doesn’t have much money, so if I hadn’t given Sister some real gifts, the only thing she would have gotten for xmas was that d*mned toilet paper. :-(

    I talked to Neighbor last year, but she’d already started drinking for the day (she does a lot of that nowadays, sadly), so I guess it didn’t stick. I’ll try and enlist other people next year. Maybe if enough of us talk to her *while she’s sober*, then she won’t bring something sucky to the party.

    And I’m thinking about maybe adding a “White Elephant” gift exchange, where we all bring gag gifts that cost $5 or less. Then Neighbor could still get her prankster kicks, but with people who are expecting it (and can therefore appreciate it).

  62. Jennifer*

    Congratulations on such a great article in the Guardian! Well deserved praise, indeed! I’m sure you’ll have a huge influx of new readers. Yeah for you!

    1. Mimmy*

      Ugh I know. I opened my Facebook and the first post I see was from a friend who said he had died. I’m like OMG! Sure, celebrities die all throughout the years, but there was something different about this year. I can think of 5 singers alone who I grew up with on MTV. Loved dancing to George Michael’s music.

    2. Woman of a Certain Age*

      The latest news says it was from heart failure.

      I really did like him back in the day and the reviews that I’ve read of his latest stuff were all pretty positive, although they didn’t get much airplay.

  63. Maxwell Edison*

    Sorry to kvetch, but I have nowhere else I can vent about this.

    So for Christmas, Mr. Edison apparently had it in his head that we were going to give each other uber-practical gifts tied to some home projects we’re planning. How he got this idea, I have no idea. The nice part of me wants to believe he’s sincere and that he misinterpreted my request to rein in our spending as a request to buy mostly uber-practical things. The not-so-nice part of me believes that he really wanted to buy himself some uber-practical things (he’s done that sort of thing before, and also, he didn’t blink an eye when he received fun gifts only from me). So I opened up one fun gift (Lego Yellow Submarine!) and one gift that’s the equivalent of a bandsaw, which left me saying, “Uh, OK.”

    In the past I’ve just sucked it up and moved on, but menopause has left me less willing to do so, and I pulled him aside later and told him how much my feelings were hurt that he got me a bandsaw when all I wanted was some books and things off my wish list (because of orthodontic and other bills I haven’t done any “treat yourself” purchases in forever). He apologized and tried to make amends by getting me a game he knew I wanted; however, the game wasn’t available for my type of computer so he got me something that was “almost like the one you want” and that I am not remotely interested in. I asked him how hard it would be to simply say, “Hey, the game you wanted isn’t available for your computer, is there something else you’d like?” Apparently that never occurred to him. By this time I was in tears (thanks, menopause) and distracted myself by eating a lot of high-calorie things and drinking a lot of wine.

    Part of me feels like a selfish bitch and the other part of me just wants a couple presents that would mean something to me and that I’d enjoy.

    At least he didn’t forget Christmas altogether, like he did a couple years ago.

    On the bright side, the Christmas dinner I made turned out really nice.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I so get the tears. Some folks just don’t understand all the thinking that goes into Christmas shopping.
      My husband had an issue with NOT being able to tell me I bought the wrong thing. It required me to spend days of asking if the torque wrench was the right one. Between me crying and him not saying what was wrong we were not having fun at Christmas.

      What we landed on is we set an amount to spend on each other. Then we went shopping together. Yes, this meant no surprises. But the good news was there were no *surprises*, like your band saw or his wrong torque wrench. We would stop and have lunch together some where, which was also nice. We would wait for Christmas to actually use the gifts, no using the gifts before Christmas day. Then some Christmases we would actually set up the gift and get to use it. So it was a lot of switching around of what we had been doing. Eventually, he got into cooking Christmas dinner with me. He discovered he actually LIKED baking. So that was fun.

      Maybe you can switch things up a bit so that the holiday is enjoyable for you? Once I resolved that my guy was not ever going to “get” this concept of how gifting/budgeting works and we changed what we were doing things were okay. (Not perfect, but they were actually okay.)

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I think gift-giving between partners/spouses is often very fraught with many undercurrents. “He/she should know me well enough to know what I want.” I spent $100 and he only spent $25.” “Why the hell would he get me this when I clearly won’t use it??” “Doesn’t he know by now that I hate green and love purple?”

      It’s tough, I know. I’ve had all these thoughts.

      On the one hand, I feel that my husband should know me, and I should know him, well enough after 21 years of marriage to be able to pick out a gift that is likely something the other will like. I wouldn’t in a million years expect him to know that I want X item, Y model # with ABC features because he isn’t the one using the item and it’s something that’s unique to me. But I would expect him to at least know that I’m partial to X item. On the other hand, neither one of us is a mind reader, so if he gets me something that makes me think “he doesn’t know me at all!!”, I just roll with it. I typically don’t say anything, unless it’s so mindbogglingly out in left field that it would be a total waste of money for him if I didn’t exchange it for something I’ll use. But that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t let it hurt my feelings. He tried.

      –What we do is we each make a big list and/or send links to items we want/like. And we’re specific if it’s something that needs to be specific. We then shop from it. for each other. We don’t pick up every item, but it helps with ideas and to minimize the “WTF??” facial expressions on Christmas.
      –We listen to conversations we have with others and with each other throughout the year. Lots of times I get ideas when he’s in the driveway working on his car and complaining that whatever job he’s doing would be so much easier if he had *insert special tool.* And he usually remembers when I say, “Gee I need a new rubber spatula at some point because mine is gouged.” Obviously, this can be hit or miss, but we’re getting pretty good at this after so many years.

      One thing we haven’t done, and I think it’s time, is to set a budget for each other. Many (many!) times I find I outspend him. Usually because I just love to give Christmas gifts. And also because I make twice as much in salary as he does. He needs to do more careful planning that I do usually. This year, though, he outspent me and I felt bad that I didn’t spend as much on him. So, yeah, I think next year we’re setting a budget.

      I don’t blame you for being upset at all, BUT he tried and think you need to give him credit for that. My husband has done that a few times, too. He’s picked up something similar thinking that it will still work/I’ll like it/whatever, and it misses the mark. In his mind, he tried, he thought I’d still like it, and he produced a gift. So I give him credit for that and try to make it work. I don’t say anything unless it’s truly something that has to be exactly what I asked for or wanted.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I totally blew right over the whole bandsaw thing. Yeah, I’d be upset with that, too. Not sure what he was thinking with that. I think if it’s something that seems to be pretty clearly something that’s more for him, it’s OK to call him out on that.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      It makes me think of Love Actually where Emma Thompson’s character is expecting to get jewelry because she saw the receipt or something (maybe she found it by mistake? haven’t seen that movie in a while), but when she unwraps the box, it’s a CD.

      I totally understand your disappointment. And while I understand that your husband thought he was doing something good… he failed to see it was more like he was buying something for himself. You wanted something that showed he was thinking of you, what you like and wanted, not something that should be considered an item budgeted under household expenses.

  64. Dan*

    You don’t say much about what the “normal” dynamics are regarding your spending and what not, but assuming you manage the finances and DH is mostly out of the loop… you really can’t say in one breath, “Hey, we need to cut our spending back” and in the other, “now buy me what I want for Xmas.” Absent further clarification, I can certainly see how he did what he did, and I wouldn’t be phased with the “fun” imbalance in the gift giving. (I’d be puzzled more than anything, ’cause, uh, we’re supposed to be cutting back.) I grew up in a family where finances were tight, and got plenty of clothes for Xmas, so practical gifts are something that doesn’t phase me. I’m not kidding — my mother would give us underwear as gifts. (No male child is ever excited to open up underwear, but of all of the things that scarred me from my childhood, that’s not one of them.)

    Sometimes, I just feel like gift giving amongst adults is weird. My ex didn’t work while we were married, and so Xmas gifts were awkward as hell. I mean, she didn’t “get” me anything for Xmas. While she may have procured it, I definitely paid it for it myself. Most of the time, I really didn’t want to buy anything (we took serious trips abroad, that was what I considered a splurge) but she’d get pissed and say I “had” to get something.

    I’m also not sure what you really communicated ahead of time about any of this, but the computer game thing was him *trying* to get you something you might have liked, short of “I need my wife to tell me exactly what to buy, because I can’t figure it out on my own.”

    Part of me thinks wonders what’s up at your place, because you’ve been married for umpteen years and your husband doesn’t know what to get you for Xmas? The other part of me thinks you need to communicate more.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Am chuckling. My husband did not know what to get me either. He was a super geeky guy. I tend to be more artsy-craftsy. We dovetailed well from a stand point of life skills, but gifting was down right baffling. He could not pick out feet for my sewing machine no more than I could pick out the right torque wrench. We learned to laugh at ourselves. And we would get excited when we actually understood what the other one wanted. “Oh you want THIS sewing machine foot to make X, Y and Z? Is that how that works?” We had a few ah-ha moments because of these conversations.

      The world has grown so complex and there are so many choices out there. It is now possible to bring home the wrong coffee maker. We did not use to have this problem. Products did not use to vary so much, nor did they have so many different features.

      This actually sounds like a problem with layers to it. OP could have a separate budgeting issue going on, most couples do. And that can be worked on also.

      Like you are saying here, Dan, my husband grew up in a family where he got underwear and socks for Christmas. At age 40. sigh. Taking a look at how our spouses’ families handle Christmas can give us some understanding of what is happening in our marriages and why. And there is an additional layer of complexity if the paychecks are wildly different between two partners that can be a huge deal and is worthy of serious discussion on what to do about that. Yes, it’s a problem if partners cannot have that discussion or cannot stick to an agreement.

      My suggestion for OP, is to break this story into smaller parts and see if you can gain inroads that way. Like Dan is saying this could be part of a larger problem that needs to be dealt with or it could be that for the most part your marriage is good and it’s just a Christmas time issue. Either way, marriages are a lot of work and this is one good example of why.

    2. Nao Nao*

      Well….okay it is fair that they made an agreement about cutting back on spending. But if he’s going to spend, say 150$ on a bandsaw, she is saying she would rather receive 150$ worth of gifts she likes, and feels are *for her* only, not for the ‘greater good’ of the household.

      Gift giving is something a lot of men seem to struggle to understand instinctively, as many women do (or more probably, were taught at their mothers’ knees). Women want to feel loved, cherished, cared for, and above all, *known*. They want their husband to give a gift that *no other person on earth* could really give them. That’s why if you take someone for a lavish cruise or trip, they still would like a token gift for Christmas. Because that little book that was a favorite in grade school, that framed print she sighed over and couldn’t afford, that pair of cute boots she passed up and is kicking herself over, that subscription to a meal-delivery service because she’s trying to eat clean and isn’t a great cook, or whatever—that’s the thought that counts.
      The “thought” is “I acknowledge you, in all your quirks, loves and hates, taste, and desires. You are real to me. You are worth time, effort, and money.” The thought is not “I did it.” or “I spent 200$, babe” or “I already got you 5000$ worth of stuff, come on.”
      Gifts are a symbol of your relationship. That’s why generic or useful gifts can be so hurtful. When someone’s family is low on cash, useful gifts *are* the right symbol. It shows that you are aware you need underpants more than you need a specialty LEGO brick kits. When you’re older and more financially stable, useful gifts are….not as welcome.
      My philosophy on gifts (and everyone I know says I have an unusual talent for giving just the right thing) is this:
      Give them something they likely can’t, or won’t buy for themselves
      Give them something *they* want. Not what you think they should have or what you would want in their shoes. What they WANT.

  65. Be the Change*

    Shout-out to fposte — thanks for telling me about Barkeepers Friend a couple of weeks ago! Oh my goodness, that stuff is like magic! My husband is laughing at me because I’m polishing everything in sight, but he’s also enjoying the sparkly clean glasses, plates, and especially this set of beautiful copper serving vessels we have from India.

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