weekend free-for-all – December 9-10, 2017

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Prince Charles, by Sally Bedell Smith. This is the newest biography of Prince Charles and it’s fascinating and will make you more sympathetic to Charles than you probably were before. I’m now convinced that Charles and Camilla are perhaps the greatest love story of our time, which no one ever acknowledges but it is true.

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

{ 1,105 comments… read them below }

  1. Fiennes*

    IMO the “greatest love story of our time” might’ve had Charles sticking up for Camilla from the get-go, instead of passively accepting this creepy virgin-bride thing. It was the 1970s, not the dark ages, and he was an adult man. There was room to push back on this!

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      This is a really out of the blue comment. Is there any background to this?

      But I do agree with you. He should have pushed back. It would have saved everyone a whole lot of unhappiness and heartbreak. The only thing I can think of why The Firm pushed back at him was that they were still sensitive to the circumstances surrounding David and Wallis.

      1. Artemesia*

        But Camilla was not divorced. If he had gone for it when she was still single and being ‘ruled out’ by the palace because she was not a naive young virgin, he would have had the woman he loved and also not followed in his uncle’s footsteps.

    2. The Strand*

      I hear you, but I think those royals are born into an unbelievable amount of pressure to conform. He would only have to look at what happened to his aunt, when she went after the man of her dreams. For all her flaws it truly seems like Diana opened up the possibilities for her sons in their own lives.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, that’s my sense too from the book. This was a family where several other marriages had been refused with a great amount of drama, and the Wallis Simpson thing haunted all of them. And he had been raised to do his duty and conform to those rules — with tragic results in many ways. I don’t think you can say “he should have just pursued the woman he wanted” when you consider the immense amount of pressure he’d been under since becoming the first heir to the throne at age three.

        1. tigerStripes*

          It seems like it would have been kinder though if Charles had married someone who knew in advance that he was in love with someone else and was OK with it. It seems like Diana didn’t know beforehand.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yep, I agree with this. I like Camilla, and it’s easy to forget that a couple of object lessons in “marry for love, get exiled from the family” vs. “marry for duty, keep your standing and family relationships” would have pretty quickly presented themselves to Charles’s mind as he made his decisions.

        I feel awful for Diana, but I also believe that if she’d lived to see happier times she would have come to understand the predicament Charles was placed in. Imagine that alternate reality — Diana thrashing everything out with Charles, then getting some therapy, some more wisdom and experience in life, the distance of time, coming round with Dodi to have Christmas with Charles and Camilla and the boys?

        1. Sas*

          I would kind of have to agree. And, nothing against Aam’s opinion, but it takes out the responsibility Charles should have had respecting a woman. Period. There does not exist a world where (scratch that.) I was in a very long relationship with a mamma’s boy. There was absolutely nothing comical, hilarious, or anything of the relationship relatable to what is shown of ‘similar situations’ on tv or movies. It was something so abusive, and years later I am struggling to regain parts of me back. The reality is it’s a devastating relationship in which two people have a third party that forces themselves into the relationship seeking to destroy at any costs the woman he chose. Having been through that kind of situation with no money, Its very different but I don’t think any of it needs to be glorified. The story we hear is from the winners. But also I think it takes a woman incredibly intouch, not sure of their existence, to admit in their own lives they would truly sympathize with a Camilla. Parenthetically, I think your comment supposes things that no one knows, but maybe the two in the relationship.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m not arguing that there weren’t major ethical issues with the way Charles and Camilla proceeded while they were both married to other people! Of course there were. But they also waited decades to be able to be together and dealt with the public despising her for a long time. And to me, there is romance in the fact that he stood by someone who he’d fallen in love with decades earlier, ending up with her only once they were both wrinkled and grey.

            1. Artemesia*

              Charles was so badly raised, unloved and uncared for and such a disappointment to his ‘manly’ father that of course he was unconfident and immature and bullied into a ridiculously unsuitable marriage. Unfortunately the man who did try to provide support for him, Lord Mountbatten was hopeless out of step with the kind of marriage Charles clearly needed. I too find the fact that all these decades later he has remained loyal and in love with Camilla. And I understand why at that time in history he didn’t fee he could fight for her when they were both single.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Ugh, Prince Philip is the WORST. I am about to give up on The Crown because, you know what, I just don’t care about his motivations or whatever. He’s a filthy old racist and I’m perfectly fine not exploring all the many things that led him to become a filthy old racist.

                1. Lilo*

                  There is an episode in Season 2 that specifically covers some of his cruelty towards Charles. They do try to frame it in his own troubled childhood, but it is there.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I think also that Camilla has proven herself to be a good addition to the family–she took her lumps and just proceeded on and does the work without complaining. I loved Diana and was really sad when she died. I always wanted to meet her. I admired her for her humanitarian work and the way she tried to raise her sons to understand that not everyone had the privileges they had. I was sorry when her marriage ended, but I’m convinced it would not have worked out long-term even if Charles had remained faithful.

              One of my online friends lives in Yorkshire–she’s involved heavily in the breeding of rare British livestock and she has met Charles a couple of times at farm shows (jealous!). She said he is very nice. I’ve always approved of his environmentalism myself.

              1. Alice*

                Environmentalism is great, but he shouldn’t be writing black spider letters to ministers and other government officials and then hiding this lobbying on behalf of his pet causes from the press and the public.

            3. Stellaaaaa*

              I love stories where people find their way back to each other after a very long time. Like Norma and Ed on Twin Peaks. Or um Mila and Ashton.

            4. Lissa*

              I kind of agree (with Alison). I also find it weirdly cool that the one he really wanted was the not-conventionally attractive woman. I know that’s kind of messed up but I just hear so many people who seem convinced that looks are *everything* in contexts like these, and a guy would always be tempted by the beauty over the one he’s with…it’s just nice to know it’s not always that way.

              I also have a natural sympathy towards people, especially women, who get just eviscerated by the public and have people with no stake in their lives make absolutely horrific comments about them. See also Monica Lewinsky.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Ooh, yes indeed. I really admire Monica Lewinsky, which is not a sentence I would have thought I would ever say when I first heard about her.

              2. Emmie*

                I have great sympathy for her. I cannot imagine the world being aware of mistakes I made at 21 for the rest of my life. We’ve also ignored the massive power imbalance between her and the president.

        2. Jean (just Jean)*

          One consolation is that Will, Kate, Harry and now Meghan Markle also seem to be pretty well-grounded in surviving heartbreak, discussing life’s difficulties, and communicating with/existing among people not born into the peculiar opportunities and limitations of royal society. With all this, they honor and extend Diana’s example.

          My American skepticism about royalty is tempered by my father’s observation that it’s helpful to have a “first family” to rally the nation without also schlepping the (often polarizing) burden of politics. Everyone gets to be like a proud cousin without the attendant corrosion of “but they believe in THAT not THIS.”

          1. Ann O.*

            That was the explanation that made me finally understand why Great Britain and some other countries keep the monarchy. Now that I’m older and have lived through multiple failed revolutions and regime changes (reading in the news, not personally thank goodness!), I also better understand the importance of symbols that can unify a country.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                Me, too–I adore the Queen! I also loved Diana, and as much as I regret and deplore the tragedy and heartbreak of Diana’s life, what an amazing legacy she left in those 2 boys of hers. They are flat out awesome and amazing.

        3. Daisy*

          I don’t feel awful for Diana (I mean, in this regard)- she married someone she barely knew and didn’t love, and she was far freer to marry who she liked than Charles. I don’t see why Charles takes all the blame for their shared terrible choice. She could have married any random stockbroker and been very happy in an enormous house in the home counties

          1. Laura*

            She was shoved into it by both families with their hands behind her back, an 18 year-old virgin conned into thinking Charles was in love with her and had given up Camilla. She was cruelly disabused of both lies on her honeymoon.

          2. NicoleK*

            She did love him. The problem was that he didn’t love her and they were a poor match from the beginning.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think we can know whether she loved him or not, but we do know that they only had 12 dates before they got engaged. She didn’t exactly know him well.

              Regardless, I wouldn’t blame a 19-year-old for making a poor match. Charles certainly bore much more of the responsibility (being a lot further into adulthood), but I think we can see the tragedy in the factors that led him to make that choice.

              1. JamieS*

                12 dates? More than enough time for an 18-19 year old to believe themselves in love. I doubt she truly was in love but I think it’s very likely she thought she was at the time.

                Also I’m not sure what you mean by “in our time” since this was all put into motion decades before I was born but if it’s “a time a person alive today could have possibly been alive” I think King Edward and Wallis is a more compelling love story.

          3. Lilo*

            I think it’s a lot more complicated than made out to be. They were a terrible match for each other, but I think they both went into it having the best of intentions. I think both were told how they were supposed to be all of their lives and then dealing with the actual life together made them both miserable. I can’t even imagine how horrible it must be to be followed around by the press and have your life hounded after like that.

            Meghan must really really love Harry to be willing to put up with all that.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I remember reading of Diana saying she felt that there was something bigger. She could have married Charles in part because of the sense of something bigger.
              And what a life and impact she had. Here we are 20 years out and we still think of her and talk about her. Not many people get remembered worldwide to the degree she has. In spite this backstory with all it’s twists and turns, I do think she made some positive changes that touch millions of lives.
              One of my take-aways has been to think about how most of us do not have lives that are a straight arrow, grow up, have kids, change the world, pass on to the next life. Life is just not a straight line like that. While Diana’s life may have been needlessly complex in terms of preventable anguish, there are too many people who relate to her struggles. And there are too many people who relate to getting to a desirable position in life and then finding out they actually need something else.

              1. chi type*

                Of course she’d probably still be alive today…largely unknown but alive and maybe content with some grandkids…it’s interesting to think about!

          4. Parenthetically*

            Freer to marry than Charles was, sure, but certainly not completely free. A teenager, and gentry, and fundamentally insecure, and being pressed on all sides. They sold her a fairytale. I would have bought it at 19, absolutely.

          5. Observer*

            She was young and naive – and she convinced herself that she was in love. She also was lied to. By the time she found out that Charles had a mistress the engagement was already announced and her family made it clear to her that they would not support her backing out.

            Then he acted in a way that really shows that he never had any respect or liking for her – he married her because she was to young and naive to know what she was getting into, and he was sure that there was no “history” there.

            1. TL -*

              I don’t know all that much about Diana/Charles but it sounds like she was exceptionally difficult to live with as well. I’m not sure there’s a clear bad guy in that relationship.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I think she made choices that people make when they lack strong tools to deal with their predicaments. And what a predicament she was in. What is interesting is that these bad behaviors were laid out for the whole world to see and the world still loved her.

              2. Sas*

                That seems short sighted. Maybe you should look into what bad relationships are. Not what outsiders judge them to be.

      3. Optimistic Prime*

        I was thinking the same thing. There was also his great-uncle Edward VIII, who caused a national crisis by going after the woman he loved. The royal lineage in that period was a bit behind the rest of the world when it came to accepting new social mores.

    3. Laura*

      Absolutely, and Bedell Smith is notoriously anti-Diana to the point that she’s hard to take seriously for any remotely balanced view.

    4. Kali*

      I quite like Charles and Camilla, but, speaking as a Brit, I am bloody sick of the royal family, especially the way people KEEP bringing up Diana. The worst I remember seeing was a channel 4 documentary asking “will the media hound Kate to death the way they did Diana?”. The irony.

      1. Athena*

        That always gives me the biggest headache. Front cover of magazine: “HARRY ASKS MEDIA TO STOP HOUNDING MEGHAN.” Same front cover: “JUICY DETAILS ABOUT MEGHAN’S DIVORCE.”

        Like… come on, guys. As journos, we are FAR better than this.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        As an American in the UK I seriously don’t understand the obsession with Diana and all the dumb conspiracy stories. Let the woman rest in peace.

    5. Mm Hmm*

      I think it’s easier to see that today, & in the US, than it was then in the U.K. & more importantly as the heir to the throne. Look at the constraints Harry faces in marrying Meghan Markle, now, & how hard the palace worked to manage the news & info around William & Kate’s romance & engagement. Charles likely fought all he believed he could for Camilla back then, even if we find it insufficient.

    6. Coffee Cup*

      I’m really glad to see a more balanced view of this issue that goes beyond “Charles the evil prince” is starting to come to the forefront. I have always seen both Charles and Diana to be victims of their circumstances. Also, Camilla got married while Charles was overseas and before Diana was a thing, because they knew they would be refused. So I am sure by the time he got engaged, he was resigned to his fate… Too bad it took him so much time and heartbreak for so many people before he could say that Camilla was not negotiable, but it is important to remember that he did it while Diana was still alive. I am willing to think that he grew up enough to stand up to his family later than many because of the factors mentioned here… Charles as an insecure, indecisive man who let others lead him down the path he was “supposed to” follow, for sure. Charles as an evil man who set out to hurt a woman just for the heck of it? No.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have a hard time drumming up a pro-Camilla case. However, I am glad to see that there is an overall softening of attitude toward her. The past is the past and no one deserves to be permanently punished for mistakes real or perceived.
        Each time I look at them I tend to think their lives have taken a toll on them.

      2. Anion*

        Camilla won my heart the moment I read that her opening line, on meeting Charles, was, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-grandfather. So…how about it, then?”

        I have always been a fan of hers.

        But then, I have always loathed Diana, too. I won’t list my reasons, because it seems others are fans and that’s fine, but I could never stand her and still can’t. (I’m sorry she’s dead, of course, but I still never liked her.)

  2. Come On Eileen*

    Do any of you have a favorite holiday mocktail recipe you can share? I’m coming up on 4 years sober and have a few summertime mocktails that I like, but haven’t spent much time with winter drinks. I made one a few days ago that combined Apple cider, cranberry juice, and ginger ale, and it was really tasty. Need more ideas!

      1. Cristina in England*

        Heat up the apple cider and add a bag of wine mulling spices (mostly cinnamon, orange peel, clove, etc)

    1. Cristina in England*

      These thoughts are a little scattered, but:
      Maybe try to get some unusual sodas as bases for mocktails, like look up Fever Tree Ginger Beer (it actually tastes like ginger). You could make your own sodas too by making rosemary syrup and adding it to soda water/seltzer. You can get a lot of British cordial syrups on Amazon, look for Belvoir brand (also for adding to seltzer, or even just plain water as is more common here). I’ll try to find the rosemary syrup recipe and link in a reply.

      1. Bluebell*

        I was thinking you could make a tasty ginger syrup or cardamom syrup or even cranberry syrup and combine w seltzer and apple cider. Garnish with a few leftover cranberries for extra pizazz!

      2. Cristina in England*

        Rosemary syrups and drinks:

        Other mocktail recipes:

    2. Artemesia*

      Tis the season for mulled cider. You can also do a faux Moscow Mule with lime and non alcoholic ginger beer; put it in the copper mug and there you go. I have a close friend who is an alcoholic and we love Moscow mules and Dark and Stormies — I always keep non-alcoholic ginger beer on hand to make the virgin version for her.

    3. HannahS*

      Shirley Temples are good for all seasons, IMO! Ages ago, I had a version that replaced the grenadine with rose syrup, and the orange juice with…hmm I think lemon? It was fairly summery, though.

      1. Nerfmobile*

        What does orange juice have to do with a Shirley Temple? In my world, a Shirley Temple is 7-up and grenadine with a maraschino cherry.

        1. HannahS*

          Really? Whenever I have them they’re made with sprite, grenadine, and orange juice. After a quick google, it looks like the orange juice is a more modern addition.

    4. Temperance*

      My favorite holiday cocktail is a peppermint martini, which I think you could recreate wtith peppermint syrup and club soda.

    5. LCL*

      Eggnog with 7 up mixed in used to be mandatory for parties where there were non drinkers. Not sprite, it’s too sweet.

      I like coffee with a spoonful of good instant cocoa mixed in. Add some whipped cream and sprinkles, and I would pay money for that.

    6. Someone else*

      I like virgin mojitos more than pretty much ant soft drink. There’s mint in them, that counts as “holiday” right?

    7. Athena*

      I am LOVING virgin mojitos of late. I can’t remember exact quantities, but there are some excellent recipes online.

    8. Natalie*

      If you like sour flavor, a fruit shrub added to tonic water or club soda is delicious. Shrubs are basically equal parts fruit, sugar, and vinegar – make the fruit and sugar into a syrup (hot syrup if your impatient, cold syrup process if you can wait a few days), strain, and then add an equal part of vinegar. It should keep for about a year given the sugar and vinegar content.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        Seconding this – just a few drops of shrub can turn plain seltzer into something delightful.

        A lot of stores are selling bitters now, you could probably use any number of those plus seltzer/soda/tonic water for something tasty.

        1. Natalie*

          Oh yes, bitters and tonic water is great. You can also get tonic syrup to add to club soda if tonic water is too sweet. Fever Tree makes a “light” tonic water that simply has less sugar in it rather than having fake sugar.

          Although note that bitters do have an alcohol base, so they aren’t appropriate if you need to be 100% alcohol free because of allergy or whatever.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Alcohol free bitters do exist, I know because I have a friend in recovery who likes to make mocktails. They may be something of a specialty item.

    9. CarrotCake*

      Look up a Shrub. Be warned the concentrate smells like vinegar, but doesn’t taste like it at all. It was my go to when I was pregnant and somehow it didn’t bother my crazy sense of smell.

    10. lemonjelly*

      Just tried one I found on a pregnancy discussion group last week! Can’t find the link now, but it was pomegranate juice, cranberry juice (NOT cocktail, unsweetened), ginger beer, and fresh lime juice. Ingredients are in order of most to least, and I’ve been putting either a quarter or a half of a lime in each one. It is DELICIOUS, if you like tart/gingery/fizzy things that aren’t super sweet.

  3. Foreign Octopus*

    I’m so glad this is up!

    I need some advice for dealing with negative people.

    My brother stayed with me on Monday night and was so relentlessly negative about absolutely everything in his life that it’s taken me a few days to recover. I’ve tried to be positive in return, and even went so far as to tell him that he wasn’t allowed to be so negative while staying with me, but it didn’t work. I ended up being quite an ungracious host in the end (something I regret now, and have apologised for) but I’m seeing a pattern of the people I’m around lately to be negative.

    I understand that life sometimes throws you a curve ball. God only knows I’ve had my share but it seems that every time I spend time with my friends or family, I’m used as a dumping ground for all their negativity and it’s driving me up the wall. It’s never new problems each time, either. It’s always the same problem on a loop. I’ve tried throwing it back to them i.e. “yes, that sounds horrible. What are you going to do about it?” but they just keep complaining and complaining.

    I really need help and advice from you lovely people on how to deal with their negativity while not allowing it to affect me (unfortunately, I’m quite sensitive to other people’s emotions and it can really linger with me for days, which is frustrating).

    So help. Please!

    1. neverjaunty*

      When you told him he was “not allowed to be negative” were you any more specific? Or pointed it out when he was being a bummer? If you just sat and seethed until you couldn’t take it anymore, I can see why that would be a problem. Not that it’s your job to guide him gently to positivity or anything, but sometimes “Bro, enough about how much your job sucks, change of subject” can snap people out of it.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        No, I just said that he wasn’t allowed to be negative. I pointed it out when he was being a bummer. In hindsight, I probably should have been more specific.

        (It’s like you’ve read my mind. His job is a huge source of his complaints.)

    2. Coywolf*

      I may not be much help but I identified with your sensitivity. I’m also incredibly sensitive and someone’s complaints affect me. What has helped me may not be feasible for you but I’ll suggest it anyway… I started limiting my interactions with these people. This includes friends and family that I live with so it’s been hard but it has done me a lot of good. I noticed that I was making myself too available of a sympathetic ear so I started taking my lunch somewhere else or no longer going into my living room in the evenings where my mom and I would usually engage in our nightly negative chats! I feel like it has even helped these people not wallow in their complaints! I actually got that from this blog, Alison mentions that complaining about work only feeds into a negative environment and it’s true.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I like the idea of limiting my contact. I love my brother (obviously) but it’s just so draining. I’m honestly contemplating moving so I can get some physical distance between me and these people – not just for this reason, I’ve been considering it for a while and looking at options, but this last week has sort of encouraged me to move a little faster and to consider it more seriously.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          That’s what we did. There were obviously other factors in play, but one of the big bonuses to moving away from my in-laws was that it decreased the negativity and meddling in our lives. We went from 30 minutes to 11 hours to 26 hours. We love them, but we prefer to live them from a distance.

    3. Negative Nancy*

      Perhaps I am a little sensitive to this topic right now. But I have been dealing with a lot lately (death in the family, another family member diagnosed with cancer, mental illness crises – yes, plural – in my children, a car accident and the injuries and insurance problems that go with it all in the last six weeks) and I have been very frustrated when I try to talk things over with certain family members and friends. I keep getting the “why are you being so negative?” and “Can’t you just look on the bright side?” and “You should just start counting your blessings and it will get better!” Yesterday I asked someone in my husband’s family (someone I am close to) for help figuring out how I should prioritize time helping everyone in my family who all need so much support right now. I needed to process out loud, to talk things over as I think them through. And I tried to seek that help from someone not suffering in the middle of it. And she told me I should try and find my Christmas Spirit, because “this time of year no one should be sad.” and loaned me a CD of Christmas music!
      Sometimes people have a negative vibe and are talking about negative stuff because that’s what their life IS right now. When people are dealing with negative stuff, carrying heavy burdens, would it be too hard to be supportive instead of expecting them to constantly be chipper so you don’t have negativity in your life? If someone tried to tell me that I “wasn’t allowed to be negative” when I was around them, I’d probably flip my lid right now.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m so, so sorry, Nancy. That’s really difficult, and it sounds like you have a lot on your plate. As wonderful as Christmas music is, it’s not going to help in this situation.

        My advice, not knowing the parties involved, would be to a.) cling to your husband and handle this as a team, as much as that’s possible, b.) focus on helping your kids, to the extent that you can help, and c.) deal with the car accident and your health, because most people who care for others tend to neglect themselves when their needs are so important.

      2. Not very bright-sided*

        I want to echo this. I’m going through some work/money/friends stuff right now, and people who are relentlessly optimistic about what are to me genuine and unsolvable problems make me feel as though they’re not listening, or not taking me seriously. Even if a problem doesn’t *seem* serious, it can *feel* serious, and sometimes all we need is a listening ear.

        I also want to recommend Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided, which documents how positive thinking infected business, medicine/health, and religion in the United States over the past forty years or so. We’re prone as a society to believing that if we just “think positively,” the universe will dish out for us; and Ehrenreich shows where this (faulty) idea came from. I’ll put a link to the book in the comments.

        1. The Strand*

          I don’t always agree with her take, but I think it’s a really valuable perspective. ..as is awareness of the “just world”/”the secret” thinking some people cling to, eg cancer only happens to some people because they deserve it or were insufficiently cheerful. I think it was in AAM or a book I first read about a recently bereaved widower who was told after 3 weeks to cheer up because he was making his coworkers sad. Those people are awful.

      3. Tired*

        Seconding this, I had a breakdown after my sons birth left me permenantly disabled. It was part PTSD, part postnatal depression/psychosis but everyone pushed all the time for me to look on the bright side when what I needed was actual support/help fighting for the medical help I needed to recover. The general opinion was that my negativity would ruin my son’s life so I should hide the fact that I couldn’t lift him, walk anywhere, sleep, function as a human. The end result was that I had no one to talk to in my life any more. It’s been four years and I’m still fighting but I’ve seen two people I’m not related to in the last year socially.

        It can be hard to be the support for people if you’re suffering too. If they’re constantly bringing up the same thing ask them what they want- do they want help, or just to vent? If it’s the latter and you don’t have the spoons to deal with that anymore then tell them that

        1. LPUK*

          My sister had a job that made her completely miserable. For 15 months, I spent hours on the phone with her every week, giving her ideas on how to cope better/ care less with the sales figures pressure, trying to cheer her up, helping her think through coping strains and the. Finally encouraging her to start a job search, some weeks she would literally be sobbing down the phone to me. I found it very draining and impacting on my own work as she would call or pop round during the day ( I work at home ), in the end I realised that I was simply enabling her to stay in a job she hated, by providing enough of a release valve to enable her to cope with the shittiness, and for my sake and hers, I had to step away and let her feel the full weight, in order to get her to do something. So next time she phoned up sobbing I said ‘ you know what you have to do, and things won’t get better until you do it’ . I felt dreadful, and it was only because we had a strong relationship that I could do it… but within a couple of months she’d found a new job and given in her notice. She is much happier now!

      4. The Strand*

        I am sorry also Nancy. None of this makes you negative. One of my long time friends is having challenges with both her sons, and its incredibly draining, on its own. Perhaps you could challenge some of those “certain people” to consider their selfish behavior, if they are truly worth having “a talk” with. You know, sometimes having a tough talk has strengthened a few relationships. I can only say that I have jettisoned more of those shallow, “talk about happy things and don’t burden me” people from my regular day to day life and see them casually and invest in them less, and my more loyal and grounded friends more, for everything, including Christmas music and fluffy stuff. I sincerely hope that things ease for you and your family, especially your relative and kids. That’s good advice too, about making sure you give yourself a breather/checkup.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This; I had to accept that I simply cannot share with certain people on Facebook and IRL because they didn’t want to even listen to me when I was deep in a depressive episode and was suicidal. “Too much negativity; you need to stop whining and just do things to help yourself, bootstraps, bootstraps, fjwereklwhfkleklwe, etc.”

          On the bright side (tee hee!), I know now who offers a safe space for me and who doesn’t. I have friends on the internet who are safe, whereas most of my blood is not.

      5. Foreign Octopus*

        Hi Nancy. I’m so sorry that you’re having a hard time at the moment. It seems to me that when bad things happen, they all happen at once and I understand that it can get too much.

        Your situation seems different to my brother’s because he’s always been a negative person. It’s just more obvious now that he’s in my life more (previously he had a job that saw him travel the world and I saw him once every few years when we were in the same country). Every time I’ve interacted with him since he’s left that job has been on a negative note (this was three years ago) and it’s the same complaint time and time again, hence my frustration.

        I like to think that I’m a patient person but there’s only so much I can take and three years is, apparently, my limit. If he worked to solve his problems then I would have more sympathy for his situation, and if he came to me and asked me to help him think of something then I would be more than happy to do so. However, he seems to relish his negativity.

        So while I appreciate your point that we should have patience and kindness with people as we don’t know what they’re going through, in this case, his behaviour is a repetitive issue that I’m trying to learn how to deal with. After all, I’ve offered help and suggestions but, as I’ve discovered, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

        Since you’re not getting the support you need from your friends and family, have you thought about posting here? It’s why I chose to post here. I know that I’ll get wonderful support and advice from a great group of people.

        I really hope that things work out for you and I’m sending you good thoughts.

        1. Ann O.*

          I can relate to your problem but unfortunately I don’t have solutions. I have a friend who is determined to be a working actress. This is an incredibly difficult path. She is also incredibly talented. I believe in her talent and that she really may be one of the people who will succeed. But she is constantly negative about the fact that after a year of deciding to pursue this for real, she’s not yet paying her bills through acting. (and she’s been cast in some great roles in great productions, but she seems to be unrealistic about the amount of time/luck it can take to get to bills-paying-roles even living as we do in a major metro area that has bills-paying-roles in theater) She also has made some choices that from my POV were obvious poor ones about how to prioritize dayjob responsibilities vs. auditions that she tends to frame as her boss being unreasonable (and that have led her to some dayjob churn that cause her additional stress).

          I’m a semi-professional performer, so I understand how depressing and grinding it is to try and walk the path she’s doing. But after enough time, it is hard to keep being a sympathetic ear when someone seems to only want to view themselves as put upon by the fates.

          1. Rainy*

            Has she talked to anyone who has come up through acting the way she wants to about how long it took? And about how many people they knew doing the same thing who didn’t make it? I honestly think that she could use a dose of reality about the business–not to make her give up! but to make her a little more realistic about her projected timeframe for success.

      6. Rainy*

        There’s actually a big difference between being in a tough spot and needing to process about it and brainstorm to find possibilities, or just talk very honestly about how you feel, and someone who is a non-stop complainer about things they have the capacity to change but would rather complain about and bring you down about.

        Your relatives and friends are being insensitive, but it doesn’t read to me as the same situation at all with the OP.

      7. Not So NewReader*

        Negative Nancy, first let me say I am so sorry for your sadnesses and your griefs.

        In times of crisis, where the rain looks more like a monsoon, it’s important to be selective about who we talk to. The types of answers you are getting sound to me like they are coming from people who don’t know what you are talking about. They have not experienced such storms so they do not have tools, thoughts, skills to say something of value to you.

        Unfairly, it seems we have to look at the person in front of us and say to ourselves, “does this person have the skill set to tackle this type of situation?” These folks that you mention don’t have the skill set. Tricky part, I probably don’t either. My areas that I can reach would be talking about grief (it’s not just for funerals) and talking about how the people we think should help us probably won’t.

        The people we think should help us and don’t: There’s a million reasons why this happens. I think it is more to the point to skip the reasons why and start to look for people who CAN. Back to the oxygen mask analogy, if you need an oxygen mask you don’t take it apart to find out why it works, you just use the mask. As you go along you will meet random people who offer help. Perhaps it is something you can do yourself or perhaps you just say no thanks on general principle. Start saying yes to these people, go one situation at a time and ask yourself if you think letting the person in front of you help you with a minor thing will be an okay idea. If yes, let them. This is how we get to know new people and this is how we can very slowly but surely build a small group of people who actually add valuable support to our lives. Don’t worry about paying these people back. Your turn will come later. You may pay it forward or they may just be overjoyed to see that they have added something of value to your life. You are helping them make sense of their own chaos.

        I agree with the poster who mentioned talking here on Sundays. This could be a starting point for you to find new peeps who actually get what you are saying.

        Prioritizing your time. My wise friend had an answer to this that I will share. I have used it, to the best of my ability but I have not used it perfectly all the time.
        There is a pecking order to how we handle family problems and here is what he advised:
        1) Take care of yourself first and foremost. The hard reality is do not allow yourself to become a basket case that others have to stop what they are doing and take care of you. This means rest, good meals and hydration. It might also mean time to yourself, medical care and so on. Take care of you first so that you CAN continue on helping others.
        2) Take care of the beings that live with you. Beings includes pets. If your pet gets a contagious infection then your whole household could end up sick. Keep the beings who live with you as healthy as possible and keep them safe.
        3) Take care of the structure that houses you. If the rent/mortgage is not paid then you have no home. If the wiring is bad in your house then all of you could end up homeless or worse. Keep your immediates and yourself in a safe structure.
        4) IF you have any energy or brain capacity left after all this, take care of the family who does not live with you. I have gone situation by situation on this one. In some instances I chose caring for the elders. In other instances I chose caring for the people who were caring for the elders. In some settings I had to opt out because I was maxed out.
        5) And lastly, if we have anything left over to give, we should help our community. Most people I know can’t get past step four without needing some serious rest. Family stuff can get pretty intense.

        I hope this helps a tiny bit. I am sorry for all that you are going through.

      8. Elder Dog*

        Nancy, I suggest you also find a therapist to help you with sorting through this stuff. Therapists are very good at that, and they can help you find resources as well.
        Different people use therapists different ways, and you don’t just need someone to listen to you, but someone who can actually help. I suspect part of the problem with your friends/family calling you negative is they don’t know how to help, and that’s upsetting for them.
        A therapist can help, even if you don’t need the emotional support.

    4. Mephyle*

      The stereotype of men’s and women’s differences is that men want to fix things while women are able to listen with a sympathetic ear. It’s obviously not true: everybody wants to fix things when people vent to them. Or at least we want them to stop bringing everyone around them down with them when they become a broken record and aren’t open to taking steps to deal with their problems.
      It’s true that sometimes what people need is just to tell their story and feel that they’re being heard, but the listener gets frustrated because the sympathetic ear seems to just invite the complainer to keep going.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        The problem is, I’ve heard the story so much by now that I know it verbatim.

        I’ve been thinking and come to the thought that some of my annoyance also stems from how he treats me. It’s not bad, per se, it’s just indifferent. When he stayed with me, it was very much “I’m the man, I’ll make the decisions about dinner, and oh you don’t mind if I stay another night?” and the morning I woke up and went into the living room where he had slept, he hadn’t even straightened up. The blinds were still down, the chair was at an angle, the throw on the sofa was skewed, and the duvet was left on the floor. He’d also squeezed the toothpaste in the middle but that’s another thing entirely.

        I feel that with him, and with my friends who are similar, I’m often treated as something entirely secondary and it hurts.

        1. Rainy*

          Do you feel that you exist to be “the person complained to”, or that your place in the conversation could be filled by a Furby programmed to say “oh no!” and “yes, you are right!” at intervals?

          When I start feeling like that I know that it’s stopped being a friendship and started being a weird scripted encounter, and I take a step back.

        2. Cristina in England*

          I am the oldest sib so when my sister has stayed with me and done bad houseguesting, I told her immediately. You do not have to tolerate bad houseguests in your home. It sounds like you might need to enforce some boundaries, like not letting him stay with you? Could you only see him for dinner?

    5. The Strand*

      The way I interpreted this is that the people you’re affliated with are not going through a rough patch per se, which can last years, but habitual complainers who dump on you. You are not being sensitive if the people in question do nothing but spew complaints and garbage. They dump your problems at your feet but refuse to take advice or any action. I rather doubt that they are anything like “Negative Nancy,” (You dont sound unduly negative to me!) and that many of their issues stem from their bad behavior towards others, not the life miseries we all get visited with. If this is the case, you’re within your rights to demand space, and equal time. Equal time = you don’t just talk about their problems, you talk about your interests, you do things that are enjoyable. It sounds like your family member needs a stopwatch and for someone to say, “Enough! I love you, but we covered problem A, problem C, and person you hate F. Time to see a fun movie, go ice fishing, or window shopping (or other fun activity for you). ” Reward yourself and people you like and who are good to you with more fun shared times. You are worth it!

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        You’ve nailed it Strand. They are habitual complainers and refuse to take advice or do anything to change the status quo. I’m beginning to believe that some people just enjoy having something to complain about.

        I like your suggestion of putting a time limit on the complaining. I might try that on Tuesday (when I’m seeing him next).

        I think part of my frustration comes from 1. my own unwillingness to complain to people. My problems are my problems to such an extent that I rarely ask for help, which probably isn’t healthy. 2. My belief that mistakes are opportunities to learn something new. 3. I’m fully capable of changing my situation, no matter what it is.

        Now, admittedly, I haven’t had to deal with the stuff that Nancy up above has had to deal with and so I can’t speak to the difficulties of that but it does frustrate me that my brother, who is intelligent and moderately well-off, keeps complaining about the same thing over and over that is well within his power to change if only he had a little imagination.

        (And don’t think the irony of me complaining about complainers is lost on me either!)

        Thanks for your help, Strand!

    6. chi type*

      I think one issue is that some people are venters and some people are problem solvers (just look at the responses to this thread). It can be maddening for problem solvers when someone just wants to vent over and over just to let off steam. I am a problem solver (and it sounds like you are too) whereas my husband (and maybe your brother) is a venter and it drives me mad when he complains about the same work issues every day when he gets home but won’t ever take any of my suggestions to solve them.
      I finally had to put a time limit on his complaining. He can talk about his shitty co-worker for 5 minutes but then he has to stop and move on to other topics. That way he can get the release he needs and I can grit my teeth through a few minutes of complaining.
      At some point you have to stand up for your own sanity and lay down the law that you’re not a free therapist. There is a reason why people pay someone large sums to listen to them talk about their problems.
      Good Luck!

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I think you’re probably right. I am a problem solver (curse of being the middle child, I reckon, with two brothers who constantly seemed to need something solving).

        I’d suggest therapy to him but I’m not sure how well that would go over :/

        1. LCL*

          I didn’t know my ex husband had a sister! The only thing that would stop his negativity was refusing to engage. Which had the desired effect of stopping it, but also ended in divorce. He believed I didn’t care about him because I wouldn’t listen to a constant flow of negativity. He learned that from his family, sigh.

        2. chi type*

          Yeah, I think birth order has something to do with it. I’m the eldest, the responsible overachiever while my sister is the baby, the one who could always go crying to our parents and be comforted.
          I’m not without issues over this dynamic :P but overall it has served me well in life while my sister is still crying to my parents over her many problems.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Lots of good stuff here. I have a few random thoughts.

      I have come to believe that in times of crisis it’s our friends who bail us not our families. Part of that may be that family is too close to the person to be effective. A friendship is a step out from that and it changes the dynamic.

      I have been on both sides of the question, as most of us have or will probably be at some point. In times of my own crisis, I had family coming to me and telling me their problems. Uh, I am drowning here, can you wait a minute? No, apparently not. The last time this happened, I had to take a break in some relationships. I cannot be your mommy, because right now I need to be a good mommy to ME. In times of crisis the correct answer is to fix our own situation first. (Put your own oxygen mask on first. We see this same theme in First Aid training, where they tell you, “Do not allow yourself to become injured.” Why. Because then you can’t help the injured person AND other people who could help the injured person have to stop and help you.)

      Going the opposite way, I look at the folks who always seem to have some all consuming issue going on. It could be the same complaint over and over OR it could be just a long series of complaints about many things. For any number of reasons family members may not be able to break through the barriers there. It could be as simple as that the complainer will not allow any family member to be helpful. No matter the reason, I tend to believe by letting people dump on me, I am helping them to remain in their sub-par situation. Setting them free to find other people might be the correct choice in the long run. (I had a hard time wrapping my brain around this one.) Perhaps they will find someone to talk with who will successfully encourage them to do something to attain a better quality of life. Unwittingly, I may have gotten in the way of that process by allowing endless venting.

      So suggestions for you, OP:
      If it takes you three days to recoup from your sib’s visit this is now a quality of life issue for you. You are absorbing his misery. It would be good to start thinking about what you would like to do differently.
      I would have a problem with Sadsack over staying his visit time. This is just my angle of course, you will find your own. So I would work on limiting the visit to the time that was agreed on BEFORE he arrived.

      You can think about ways that you could refuse to let his negativity impact you. Oddly, there can be positive things such as you figure out he enjoys miniature golf or bowling or Other Thing, so you make a plan to include that activity in his visit time. In other words find ways to steer the visit. “Oh, bro, I am helping the local conservation group clear a hiking trail this weekend, you can join us. We will be dropping trees, skidding logs and such. You will have a great time this is a nice group of people.”
      People’s overall demeanor can change if they have an activity or are moving around a bit. The change may not last but at least you may have some good moments.

      And finally, it can be helpful to realize that for him to live on the plane you do is just too large a leap. (Insert picture of Grand Canyon here.) Be willing to recognize minor improvements even if the only reason for doing so is to protect your own sanity while sustaining this relationship. Telling them not to be negative won’t work because they are too far down into the black hole to realize there are options. You are better off going line item by line item. “Well that is too bad, how do you think you can ease that situation?” or “Well that certainly sounds unfair. I hate to see you treated that way. I hope you find a path a way from that situation.” You can also say big picture things such as, “Life should not be that hard. You deserve better.”

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      I’ve started saying, “I only want to hear each story once. I’ll tell you what I think and try to be helpful, but after that I need you to either solve the problem or just stop talking about it. Let me know if there’s a change in the situation.”

    9. Elder Dog*

      Tell your brother, other complaining people, to find a therapist. Be ready with a few recommendations for locating someone in their area (your medical doctor may be able to help with that) and if they insist on spouting to you, ask for the money you’d get if you were a therapist, so they don’t try to save money by refusing to leave you alone.
      Don’t invite your brother over, limit contact with with people who drain your resources and don’t offer anything back.

    10. boundaries*

      My mother is like that, she’s been complaining about the same variation of the same things all my life. My role seemed to be of suggesting various solutions that she never took and/or had objections to. What worked for me (via therapy) was to just not react so much. Now I just say something like “I’m so sorry this is so hard”, or “wow that sounds hard”, even though like you, there are ways around what she experiencing. It has not stopped everything altogether, but it has significantly reduced these painful conversations because she can’t get a “hook” in. The other person gets a (unconsciously mostly) reward when you are engaged in their problems so to speak. When you don’t take the hook, there is no reward. Your brother’s problems are sad but they are not yours to solve, especially if you’ve already tried to offer suggestions he has not taken; you can’t force him to decide to change (as hard and painful as that might be)

    11. Jackie*

      For those of us who were born extremely sensitive it’s not easy to be around negative people. Once you know that you are one of these sensitive people you can take steps to protect yourself. I agree, limit time with negative people. And then change the channel of your thoughts so you don’t dwell on the person who dumped on you. Wish them well and move on. And remember, they’re doing their best just as you are.

  4. Heather*

    Favorite show on Netflix? I just watched the first episode of Chef’s Table and found it intriguing. I’m a big foodie geek, and I’ve finished GBBO and Zumbo’s Just Desserts. What do you all like?

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I’m really happy that all the Star Treks are available on Netflix. That’s my comfort TV.

      However, I’m also about to start Alias Grace. I’ve just finished the book and I’m really looking forward to the miniseries.

      1. The Strand*

        A third Star Trek fan here! If you are younger and didn’t grow up with it, give The Next Generation a try, starting with season 2, if you like standalone episodes. If you prefer more serial TV try the pilot and then second season of Deep Space Nine. Babylon 5 is free streaming now on Go90, there are many ways to watch the good half of the first season and start it (my take, skip #3, #4, #7, #14, #15), so I recommend it for the SF fans who have never seen it.

        The Good Place and Person of Interest are both Netflix shows I am so, so glad I stuck with. They are not as they initially seem. West Wing is a great idea too.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I was lucky in the fact that I was raised by a Trekkie mother. Mum used to sit me in front of the TV when it was on so she could get 50 minutes of silence. Unfortunately, it did become a bit of an obsession of mine. I always joke that the morals I have, I learnt from Star Trek, not my parents.

          Star Trek: TNG is my favourite of all the Star Treks. I agree that the first season was a little painful to sit through. I think they really started hitting their stride in season three. For me, the Inner Light is the best Star Trek episode of all time, across all of canon (and yes, I’m including the City on the Edge of Forever here).

          Saying that however, I didn’t actually watch Deep Space Nine. I was born in 1990 and so the parents considered it a little too dark for me, whereas the standalone stories of TOS, Next Gen, and Voyager were a bit more palatable to my tiny developing mind. I’m looking forward to starting DS9 once I’ve finished rewatching Voyager.

          So glad that I’m coming across more and more Star Trek fans. They’re sadly lacking in my everyday life!

          (I’m also enough of a dork that I named my white cat Bones and got a small tattoo of the original Enterprise on my ankle. Sadly, the Enterprise D was a little too awkward for the position.)

            1. Anion*

              +1. Hubs and I LOVE DS9; he’s a Trekkie, but I’m not–DS9 was the one I could really get into and enjoy.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I love TOS and TNG the best. As a child, I watched TOS in reruns and the animated series also, and I would go outside and lie on the patio and imagine the Enterprise was coming to get me. :) When TNG started, I thought the first season was pretty damn rough, but I was determined to like it and I did. Some episodes are pretty cringey (the Scottish ghost in the candle, hahaha omg), but I love Data and Picard and Riker and Guinan and Lwaxana Troi and Barkley and Worf and Geordi (though he whined a lot) and Beverly and even Wesley. Yes, I like Wesley–fight me, LOL. And I f*cking adore Q. He’s probably one of my favorite characters.

            I started watching DS9, but after a season or so, I lost interest and haven’t watched any of the rest of it or subsequent series. And sorry, but I probably won’t; I have other priorities. But TOS and TNG will always have my deepest love.

        2. nonegiven*

          If you can find it, watch the movie, The Gathering before Babylon 5, it’s the real first episode and ties in to things later in the series.

    2. Wrench Turner*

      Just about anything with Anthony Bourdaine. Parts Unknown, No Reservations, Layover… I love his work.
      Also just about anything Star Trek.

      1. JenC*

        Seconding Longmire. The kind of show you might not look twice at but watch a couple episodes and you are totally enamored.

    3. Cristina in England*

      I mentioned this last week I think but The Good Place and Stranger Things are both fantastic, IMO

      1. Lady Jay*

        Netflix only has the first season of The Good Place, right? I ate that up in November and am now toying with getting an NBC subscription to watch Season 2. Thought I’d ask here to see if anyone has other ideas about finding The Good Place. (Ha! Pun intended.)

        1. Horizons*

          I bought Season 2 through Amazon. The episodes were available within a few hours of airing. I think it was about $20.

        2. Triplestep*

          I gave up on The Good Place after two episodes. Did it change significantly? I keep hearing people love it.

          Some shows take a while to find their footing. “Parks and Recreation” turned into a great show after it was re-tooled a bit; the first few episodes were cringe-inducing, and it ended up being a favorite show of mine.

          1. Lady Jay*

            I’ve only seen Season 1 but don’t think I’d say it changed as substantially as Parks & Rec did. I loved The Good Place because with all the terrible stuff going on in the real world, The Good Place was lighthearted, with bright colors, characters I (increasingly) liked. Nobody died (they were already all dead!). Much as I like Stranger Things and Arrested Development, those are too dark or (in the case of S4 of Arrested Development) too close to real life for me to relax with them. The Good Place was a nice break from the actual world.

        3. Emac*

          I don’t know if it’s still possible, but I watched the second season of the Good Place on the NBC website. I don’t have a subscription or any sort of cable company package.

      1. Artemesia*

        The West Wing was fabulous TV. We didn’t discover it till summer reruns and were immediately hooked. If you haven’t seen it, a treat is in store.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Have you listened to The West Wing Weekly podcast? I’m not a podcast person, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

          1. Book Lover*

            I had to stop last November. I might try again, but I suddenly found it terribly painful. I don’t see that changing any time soon, unfortunately. Such a shame.

    4. Fake old Converse shoes*

      The Crown! I’m trying very hard not to watch the entire second season in one go. Geez, I’m going to miss Claire Foy so much.

      1. Windchime*

        I re-watched season 1 of The Crown before they put the new season up. And I also vowed that I would not watch them all at once; however, I ended up watching 5 of them last night. Only a few more to go.

      2. Stacy*

        I’m going to miss Claire Foy too, but then I heard that Olivia Colman is up next and now I Can. Not. Wait!

          1. Stacy*

            RIGHT? I cannot believe how excited I am about casting news for a tv series, but here we are! Hurry up, Series 3!!!

      3. Athena*

        I told myself I’d ration the episodes, and I binged them while pulling an all nighter for an assignment. SUCH a good season. I want more. (And this is why I shouldn’t have binged them all, because I could still have more. Sigh.)

        Also, OP, I quite love Jane the Virgin. Very much recommend, but I maintain the first season was the best season.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      Big Family Booking Showdown! It’s hosted by Nadiya (a GBBO winner) and has families teaming up to cook their favorites for a cooking instructor and a Michelin-starred chef.

    6. Dead Quote Olympics*

      Not a series, but if the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi is still on Netflix, it’s a great food-related movie.

    7. Artemesia*

      We love the Great British Baking Show too and just started Grand Designs which is a British show about families building houses. We have just seen the first one where the family turns a broken down moldy old theater into a beautiful modern concrete home, while preserving the old theater facade (zoning preservation requirement). It was good and we are looking forward to more of those.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Kevin on Grand Designs does such a thorough job of appreciating each and every house, even the ones that come out looking like visitor centres at a tourist attraction (80% of them). I hope you get to see the one with the commercial glass that can go from clear to frosted with the flip of a switch—I must have seen that nearly a decade ago and I still remember it!

    8. Middle School Teacher*

      I’m reluctant to confess this, but I am glued to Riverdale right now. I missed Alias Grace on tv and it’s not on Canadian Netflix so I might see if it’s on the cbc website. I’ll watch anything GBBO or varieties, and I also have been rewatching the Star Treks!

      1. Chaordic One*

        I’ve watched Riverdale a couple of times when waiting for the revived version of Dynasty. Riverdale is so dark and creepy and I find it hard to get into it. It’s like Archie crossed with Twin Peaks. (Lately, I’ve been watching Empire instead.)

        OTOH, Dynasty is horrible, which is why I watch it. It’s so bad it’s good. It’s a train wreck of a show with some interesting variations and updates on the original. I just wonder if it will get cancelled before they reveal the new Alexis. I can’t imagine who they would get to play Alexis. Any thoughts?

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          And it doesn’t help that the actress who plays Betty’s mom was also on Twin Peaks!

          There’s nothing remotely edifying about Riverdale, it’s completely bonkers. I look at it as the tv equivalent of eating mall Chinese when I should be eating salad.

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        Honestly Riverdale is my not-so-guilty pleasure. Like it’s absolutely ridiculous and there’s no way I could ever argue otherwise, but I find it oddly appealing.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I just finished binge watching Riverdale and really enjoyed it! I was addicted to Archie books as a kid and I thought it was a really interesting take, kind of like what Once Upon A Time did for fairytale characters. I really haven’t liked any other version of Archie (there was a cheesy movie in the late 80s where the characters were adults, also a cartoon version or two).

      4. Temperance*

        I just started watching it now. I’m loving it, BTW.

        I’ve been loving the “Afterlife with Archie” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” horror comics, so Riverdale is excellent.

    9. Laurin Kelly*

      Not a series but an amazing documentary on a group of people taking their Master Sommelier examination. I learned so much about wine and wine tasting, and the breadth of knowledge needed to even attempt to take the test was absolutely fascinating.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        There’s a great documentary called Sour Grapes about a guy who conned a bunch of wealthy wine collectors out of loads of money. You might like that. I felt better about drinking cheap wine because I know I’m buying cheap wine!

    10. Kristen*

      I binged Dark last week. It was good. It’s a little similar to Stranger Things, but German. It can be hard to follow bc of the many characters and keeping them straight from each other and themselves in different time periods. (I don’t think that spoils much, but if it did I’m sorry.)

      1. last seen reading*

        I really enjoyed Dark too. The only thing I would say is that while all the promotional stuff emphasized the similarities to Stranger Things, I just really didn’t see the resemblance(although they were certainly correct that I ended up liking both). It’s more like a science fiction-y version of the Killing,

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Stranger Things, natch. Also Black Mirror (new eps coming soon, wheee!), Orange is the New Black, and right now I’m watching Luther. Idris Elba, yum. :D

      I don’t think the latest season of Broadchurch is on it yet. But that’s another one I like.

    12. Heather*

      Lots of great suggestions! I did start Stranger Things as hubby watched it and wants me to. And I love most things Trek (though I faded out on series post DS9).

    13. Parenthetically*

      I absolutely adore Cooked, if you haven’t seen that. It’s incredible — the camera-work, the deep dive into what makes cooking so fundamental and so fraught — well worth a watch.

      We really liked Master of None, Kimmy Schmidt, and Stranger Things, obviously!

    14. D.W.*

      As soon as a new Chef’s Table season is out I watch it immediately. I also binged watched Season 4 of the GBBO (finished Thursday). Now, I’m catching up on Broadchurch.

    15. Anion*

      Here’s one a little different: I’ve been watching this historical(ish–the way they gave up on historical accuracy re hairstyles and such after the first or second season is pretty amusing) drama called “When Calls the Heart.” It’s a Hallmark show, and it’s *very* Hallmark-y; it’s kind of cheesy, kind of syrupy, fairly light, and the characters are religious (but not overbearingly so, just in a historically accurate way). The “humor” tends to be of the “isn’t this character adorable” variety. It’s *wholesome,* in other words. But sometimes, I have to admit, there’s something soothing about watching good people do good things in the face of life’s troubles, and knowing that everything will work out just fine.

      It’s not my usual kind of thing at all; I clicked it on a whim one day because I needed to wash the dishes and had finished Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so I just saw it was a series and gave it a try. But I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would, despite its flaws, and actually have fun sometimes marveling at how the women in this hardscrabble mining/sawmill town all have time for perfect blowouts (again, especially after the first season where they were much more accurate re hair and makeup).

      So if you’re looking for something not mentally taxing, but surprisingly engaging and touching (it’s made my eyes sting more than once, which again, is very unusual for me)…give it a go.

    16. peggy*

      My wife and I are watching OITNB & Stranger Things together (she doesn’t enjoy binge watching so it takes us forever to watch a season of something). On the side, I’m watching Drop Dead Diva which is totally cheesy but a good “background noise” show (you don’t have to catch every minute of it to keep up, entertaining, not annoying). I’ve watched most of the cooking and food related shows already, and I LOVED Love and Easy and Master of None but there’s only 2 short seasons for each of those shows. Last year I watched Pretty Little Liars (OMG I am too old for that show but was so hooked.) I started Riverdale but couldn’t get into it.

  5. neverjaunty*

    Alison, your book recommendations are always a reminder to me that intelligent, cool people can have WAY different tastes in reading!

    (As the saying goes, it’d be a funny old world if we were all alike)

  6. Wrench Turner*

    Last night my friends drove 3hrs down here to pick us up and drove 2 hrs more to see a really fun concert on the shore. The group is called Here Come the Mummies and they are this jazz/funk/rock group of anonymous studio musicians dressed like mummies and they are all SUPER GOOD! It was such a great time and I cannot recommend them enough.

    This morning after cooking everyone breakfast I ran next door to finish fixing the neighbors’ furnace. They’ve been without heat for a week while I waited for the part to ship in after also installing a new house thermostat. Saved them about $500 in repair bills – I’m not charging them for the parts either.

      1. Wrench Turner*

        I grabbed a multigrain baguette from the grocery store and cut it on a steep angle to make stretched out medallions of french toast. Also sweet Italian sausage where I cut in half lengthwise and flattened them out (mostly so they cook faster and thoroughly) and scrambled eggs with too much (never too much) cheese and Old Bay.
        I hate doing a lot of dishes so I made the toast first, put it in the oven to keep warm, then in the same pan fried the sausage (also in the oven to keep warm) and with the grease still from the sausage fried the eggs. The bowl I had the egg mix for the toast in I just added more eggs for scrambling so just used 1 pan and 1 bowl for everything.

    1. Anion*

      Speaking as someone who went without heat for several days once when the boiler went out…you’re a hero, sir or ma’am. A GD hero.

  7. Namast'ay in Bed*

    I got engaged last night! The proposal was completely unexpected (we had discussed marriage so it was the when, not the if that surprised me) and amazing. It’s been a ton of fun sharing the good news with our friends and family!

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Ah! What fantastic news and a great way to end 2017. Congratulations!



      *Marching band of happiness*

  8. RoseRed*

    Reaching out to the anxiety/mental illness tribe: how do you balance coping skills and working towards change?

    Background: I’m struggling with severe anxiety right now related to being in an undesirable situation, which I’m trying to change. It’s just that…well, I feel like I spend so much of my day trying to use coping skills to manage my anxiety related to the situation that I’m in that I don’t have time or spoons left to do the work needed to get out of it afterwards. It makes me feel kind of stuck and discouraged.

    Possible related info:
    -I am working on seeing a therapist for the anxiety, but have been rehabbing a work injury which involved PT appointments most days of the week. Now that’s over and I’m hoping to get professional help as well as asking all of you. :-)
    -The undesirable situation does not involve abuse or any physical danger, so this is not something where I need to get out immediately or my safety is at risk. It relates to my job, but I didn’t want to go too much into it because I know this thread is not for work related conversations.

    Anybody have suggestions for how to manage this?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Make tiny goals that you can work towards each day. I tend to get overwhelmed when I feel like there’s too much to do and I have no idea where to start and then I think that I need to DO ALL THE THINGS and that makes me more overwhelmed and I end up not doing anything. Giving myself small tasks to complete and acknowledging that I made progress helps me tackle big projects.

      1. Gingerblue*

        Yes, this. I’m also feeling overwhelmed right now, and I share the tendency to wind up doing nothing when it’s all too much, but giving myself one concrete, doable goal per day to accomplish has helped immensely.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And if there is something that needs a bigger effort, see if you can arrange time off and maybe even a “job hunt coach “ (even if it’s a friend to read your resume).

    2. Red*

      I have similar problems, and I would really suggest talking to a psychiatrist as well. They can prescribe medications to lessen the anxiety so you have less to cope with, and thus can work more on actually fixing the problem. It was a huge help for me when I was dealing with my PTSD symptoms, and I think it would be applicable to your situation, as well. They don’t have to be benzodiazepines either – my husband takes Prozac every day and it helps greatly.

    3. Emac*

      I can definitely relate to this. I agree with the other suggestions and would add trying to be kind to yourself when you aren’t able to do anything but cope. It’s taken me awhile to be able to do this, but I find that I have more ability to work towards changing things when I’m not trying to cope AND beating myself up for not doing more than that, if that make sense. Like if I have two spoons for the day, I can use one of them to practice coping skills and one to doing a small thing that will help me make changes in my life, whereas in the past one spoon would go towards coping and one would be used by the mental energy I was expending railing against myself and how little the steps I take to actually change things are and how I should be able to do so much more and just get on with it, etc.

    4. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I know you want to address your anxiety so it will go away, but it’s ok to just focus on coping and save the fixing for later. This is a temporary situation. You’re working towards resolving the problem and trying to free up time to see a therapist. Those are worthy tasks. Its ok to focus on soothing right now and rest-up for when you will confront the beast.

  9. Myrin*

    Warning for medical stuff and bodily functions!

    Goodness gracious, I’ve had the worst night. It’s now six p.m. here and I’m finally feeling better after almost 24 hours of vomiting and diarrhoea! I haven’t felt this shitty – pardon the pun – in a long, long time.

    Very strangely, I had a very mild version of this back in September on the day I went to an Indian restaurant with other participants of a conference I was at at the time. And now the day before yesterday, I gave a talk at my alma mater and the lecturer took me out to eat afterwards – to an Indian restaurant! I actually think that this is just a weird coincidence – after all, wouldn’t I have had a reaction immediately afterwards, not just more than a day later? Also, I ate something completely different both times and I doubt I’m reacting weirdly to some general “Indian food” flavour. Or is this actually a thing?

    Anyway, I’m feeling marginally better – everything still hurts and I continue slinking through the flat like a grandma because I’m somehow too heavy for my own body but good god, at least I don’t constantly feel like throwing up bile (UGH!!!) anymore!

    1. Cristina in England*

      I caught a 24 hour vomiting bug on the night I went out to a newish sushi restaurant, and couldn’t eat sushi for years afterwards (loved it before that). Your body may remember the first incident no matter the cause, and now is protecting you.

      Or maybe you’re reacting to a specific spice. Did you eat a lot of Indian foods before getting sick the first time?

    2. Artemesia*

      You may never be able to eat Indian food again; the body remembers. Norovirus is easily transmitted; it could have been a doornob at the conference center or a hand shake, or it could have been a food handler at the restaurant. Although this bug usually passes its acute miseries in about 24 hours, the active germ is in your body for at least a couple of weeks, so if you are not scrupulous about hand washing you will be passing it to anyone whose hand you shake or on future door nobs and railings. (we ride the bus a lot and the first thing we do on arrival at a restaurant or home is to wash our hands) The level of illness you had suggests norovirus or similar bug not a reaction to a food (except a food with germs in it) If the food handler was still carrying the germ it could easily have been passed to you that way. It is really vicious. Last time we had it was literally about 38 years ago when my then 9 mos old daughter caught it on a plane trip and was sick that night for about 2 hours. She bounced back immediately and then every member of the family and the family we were visiting and the family we visited next when everyone was ‘well’ got it. And we were all much sicker than the baby had been.

    3. Ron McDon*

      Could it be that you are sensitive/allergic to something used in Indian food, that you aren’t aware of?

      I try to eat really healthily most of the time, which is low fat food generally. I find that when I eat a meal in a restaurant which is high in fat, I have a ‘runny tummy’ the next day, almost as though it’s too much for my body to process.

      I know yours sounds a more extreme reaction, more like nirovirus or food poisoning, but the fact it has happened after eating Indian food both times makes me wonder if it is a sensitivity to a particular ingredient?

    4. The Strand*

      It could also be a food additive or ingredient, like maybe you can’t tolerate fenugreek or a red dye used in South Asian cooking. I have trouble with paneer, but never made the connection with cottage cheese until I was older (which I love but can’t digest well…thank you Lactaid!!!). Hormones can also impact food tolerances, I never knew how much until “the change” started.

      1. Rainy*

        I’m allergic to turmeric and have not eaten Indian food since discovering it–probably 15 years at this point.

      1. Artemesia*

        This kind of reaction is not likely a food allergy though; it is classic food poisoning or norovirus.

    5. Temperance*

      It could very well be norovirus. Are the restaurants part of the same chain/owned by the same family?

      I’ve gotten food poisoning a few times, and like, that’s how it happens.

    6. Cruciatus*

      I can just say I sympathize. The Monday after Thanksgiving (after I had had 5 days off!) I puked all night (and everything else). I had to go to work since I was opening that day (since everyone else took that Monday off), but I was able to get out of there by 9am. But I also felt very old! I even commented that I was walking like an old person and I was exhausted to move 10 feet. The last time I threw up was Monday (at work! Worst nightmare!), but I didn’t get to work again until Thursday. I have never taken that much sick time in a row in my life! I was just…unable to leave the house, we’ll say. I didn’t have a fever. And I was actually super hungry but just afraid to eat. I only started to feel better when I ate real food again (but I think I was getting better at that point anyway). I assumed it was caused by something I ate, though my family ate most of the same things and no one had the same response. I didn’t really go anywhere either all that time so unless this thing just sat dormant in me for 5 days waiting for me to go back to work I have no idea where it came from. The last time this happened to me was 2010, and I only remember that specifically because it was when I came back from The Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. I think I ate some bad Sbarro pizza at a truck stop on the way home (I am very thankful it was on the way home and not the other way around). I’m glad you’re feeling better! I never get sick and was like “I’m never going to feel healthy again!” and, of course, I did…

      So, that doesn’t help you with how it happened, but you’re not alone in feeling miserable lately! I was sore for about 2 days–felt like I had done an ab workout (which in a weird way I guess I had).

    7. paul*

      my oldest is getting over this :/ hit last night after dinner.

      I’m crossing my fingers that no one else in the house gets it!

      He’s currently showing some signs of life and is asking about going to see buffalo (there’s a herd in a state park about 1.5 hours away…maybe after lunch so he can nap in the car).

  10. Rookie Manager*

    I’m not feeling Christmas this year. Normally I love Christmas, but this year that love is gone. My parents sent a christmas card a week ago and I still haven’t opened it. Last night I cried in the supermarket and said I didn’t see the point of having a tree this year (last year we had 3). I’ve decorated the mantal but that’s it.

    My partner is out for the day (that’s what he said, didn’t leave till gone 3pm) and I’d planned to make his present today and I’ve done nothing. He also said he didn-t care either way but maybe I should put up a small tree as it would help me feel Christmassy. This has annoyed me more and I think it is because I will do all the putting up and taking down myself.

    I want to be excited but I’m not. My fear is that this is so unlike me that maybe I’m depressed. Maybe I just need to watch Elf or something.

    1. Elkay*

      I had this last year. I recommend watching Elf and putting the tree up. It’s a bit fake it until you make it. I can’t offer any advice on whether or not you’re depressed but you have my sympathy because it sucks to not be excited about something you want to be excited about.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I feel like I’m missing background, but is there any way you can get away? Being physically removed from the spot where you Should Do The Things can really help.

      For the tree, borrowing from Hax–figure out what makes you happy re decor and such, regardless of your spouse’s input, and do that. (And be grateful that, unlike that letter, your spouse didn’t respond to your lack of interest with “but if you don’t do all that stuff I don’t care about, then it doesn’t feel like Christmas.”)

      1. Rookie Manager*

        I’m going to go and look that up. He’s not explicitly said he wants me to create Christmas but keeps asking questions like ‘where should we put the tree’ and ‘when are you going to do the decorations’ and ‘we(you) should write the cards this weekend’.

        No way to get away before Christmas but we are going to my family for the actual Christmas week so that should be good.

    3. Woman of a Certain Age*

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. Christmas is full of unrealistic expectations and it’s a lot of work. Luckily I’m not cooking a Christmas dinner which means that I can concentrate on trying to find appropriate presents for my family. If I have the energy I might get a small tree put up. I definitely do not have the energy to put up lights on the outside of the house like I have in some past years (although some people say that the Christmas lights are easier than the tree and if they have to decide between the two they pick the Christmas lights on the house).

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Thanks, I know I can get carried away with All The Things sometimes which makes for a higher potential for failure.

        While I’m not in my house for the day itself I expect to be heavily involved in the baking/cooking. However I can follow someone else’s plan rather than do all the thinking myself.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. Maybe you just need to take a year off. Sometimes it can get a bit much.

      Maybe you should do something silly and fun. Go ice skating? Watch crappy movies in your pyjamas?

      It sounds as though you need some TLC right now so treat yourself and if you still feel like this in January, maybe go to your doctor and chat with them.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Maybe you just need to take a year off.

        This could be a good idea. Re-establish your baseline, like you missed the tree but not the baking, or vice versa.

        1. Rookie Manager*

          Well I have spent the day watching Christmas films in my pjs! Which has helped me have a good laugh and a good cry.

          A year off sounds wonderful, but slightly unattainable. A Christmas-lite could be an excellent idea though.

    5. Artemesia*

      It is kind of depressing when it is all on you to make Christmas and your husband doesn’t care or doesn’t help. Maybe bag it this year. Plan a weekend away, or at a cabin in a park, or a weekend in a luxury hotel suite with spa. Or do something easy and festive e.g. buy a decorated small live tree from one of the floral catalogues so you don’t have to do anything. Great if you have some where to plant it in the spring. I have a little advent tree that sits on a drum of drawers with ornaments and one year when we didn’t have access to our Christmas stuff, we just used this as our tree. We probably wouldn’t put the tree up if we didn’t have grandchildren who will be here for Christmas dinner (and who helped us decorate it last week.)

    6. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’m adjusting my expectations accordingly about Christmas and mainly doing it for me and the kid. It’s 50/50 whether the spouse will join in (a few years back he forgot about Christmas entirely), and this year his brother will be visiting – last time BIL visited, also at Christmas, he said a lot of mildly insulting things to me for no reason I could fathom. I’m planning on holing up in the kitchen (“Oh, I’d love to socialize with you, BIL, but I’m just so busy cooking!”) with a lot of mulled wine.

    7. Half-Caf Latte*

      I have a date to catch up with an old friend and watch The Christmas Prince on Netflix. Twitter has been abuzz about how cheesy/awful/cringeworthy/wonderful it is, so we intend to make hot cocoa and wear fuzzy socks and indulge.

      One of the things that makes it “feel” like Christmas for me is getting involved in local holiday charity. If you’re able to give to Toys for tots, or volunteer to wrap gifts at a nursing home, or cook a meal for the Ronald McDonald house, maybe that would help? For me, the opportunity to brighten Christmas for others is honestly a highlight of the season.

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      This is the third year in a row I haven’t “Felt like Christmas” and I think its this weird downtime at the beginning of the month after we’ve all been inundated with holiday sales forever by now. Holiday fatigue maybe? Weight of expectations that can never be met and traditions that seem kinda boring by now? I also have to get things wrapped and shipped for family super early and its exhausting to deal with. However, I know if we didn’t do something at least I would feel sad on the day so I part fake it and then pick up/reject things as needed per year depending on the situation. Usually on the day we do enjoy it and have a good time.

      This year I feel like making cookies (that’s a first in a loooonngg time) to give away to friends and neighbors, but I don’t feel like changing the Christmas menu from last year. I feel like giving presents this year, but I didn’t last year (and warned everyone) other than to Other Half and parents. Still up in the air about a tree right now – we usually get a small table sized thing and I toss on one string of lights because Im not paying the prices here for a real big tree, I don’t know where to throw it out, and then you have to deal with all of the stuff for the tree and where to store it not Christmas. If you want a tree then get (and decorate) the size you feel for you!

      But yeah, take care of you – I guard my time jealously (no, I don’t want to go to the third office party!) and make sure I still get to the gym. I don’t let planning overtake the days, but I will put on the holiday music channel online when I am cooking dinner. Just little bits here and there!

    9. Anion*

      I never feel Xmassy until we watch the South Park Xmas episodes (especially the singing one). So it might just be that you do need to watch or do something–whatever that is–that makes *you* feel it

    10. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’ve been feeling kind of meh about Christmas for a few years now. I think I’m just tired of all the crass commercialization and spend spend spend! message. I still like having a few decorations up but I haven’t put up a proper tree for a few years now. Maybe just getting out a few favorite things and going for minimalist decorations would work?

      A few years ago there was a local shop that had all sorts of interesting glass ornaments, so I started buying myself one or two every year. Since I don’t have pets or kids that can break them I can buy whatever fragile stuff I want to. Last year I made my collection into a sort of garland for the mantle, this year I might just hang them all in the window. Or I might get a few branches from the garden and hang them on that, like a sort of Charlie Brown tree.

    11. Arjay*

      My technique is to only do the things I absolutely must do and the things I really enjoy doing.

      In the first category is gifts for the in-laws. I amazoned all that stuff last night, paid the ridiculous gift wrap fees, and am shipping it all to them directly. Done.

      I put up the tree – the artificial pre-lit tree – because the lights make me happy. That’s probably as decorated as it’s going to get, and I’m perfectly happy with that.

      I don’t have much family around any more, so I really enjoy being able to give to others. We “adopted” a couple of seniors in local nursing homes to make sure they have Christmas gifts. I bought a bunch of stuff I thought was fun for the toy drive at work.

      And I’m taking Friday off work to go see the new Star Wars movie with my sweetie.

      So do the stuff that makes you feel good and let the “shoulds” go.

  11. Kat*

    Anyone getting time off over the festive/holiday period? Fun plans you’d like to share? (Define ‘fun’ however you choose!)

    I have two weeks off, most of which I used holidays for (our office is closed four days so if you want longer you take it out of your days for the year). My last work day this year is 22 December and I cannot wait to sit at my mum’s for days on end, eating things and watching TV and going for a run now and then. I feel it’s been a difficult year in some ways (personally, I mean…) and I am starting to get pretty tired, so the break will be welcome, even though I have no specific plans. I might try to kick-start my writing so in the new year I am feeling more positive about that.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      I get three weeks off so I hear you. My grandma died in September and this will be the first big Christmas without her (she was into the giant family Christmas) so that will be weird, but I’m looking forward to sleeping in and maybe organizing my house a bit. Spending time with my dog, catching up on reading, and a friend who moved to Paris three years ago is coming here for a few weeks so I’m really looking forward to seeing her. I’m going to Europe for spring break so I’m saving my pennies otherwise!

      1. Kat*

        I’m sorry about your grandma. I can sympathise. It sounds like you have good things lined up, though!

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          Thanks :) it will be hard on my mom, most of all, but we’re a huge family (like, rent a hall for Christmas because no one’s house is big enough hug family) so lots of support there.

    2. Rainy*

      I’m taking off almost two weeks–my last day is the 20th and then I’m not back until the 2nd. Instead of doing a big Christmas dinner we have decided to do a serious of a hearty appetizer category for which I am somewhat famous, so I’m going to do some old standards, attempt to refine a new recipe I found a while back that didn’t go over super well, and possibly create a new recipe. My fiance is understandably pretty stoked about this. We just got our Christmas tree and will decorate it tomorrow probably and start getting the house all festive so I will have gorgeous surroundings in which to sit on my ass. I plan to do a bunch of reading, sleep in a lot, cook, go to yoga, paint, and maybe do some quilting.

        1. Rainy*

          That sounds amazing. We have been somewhat deficient on the snow front here (in the mountains no less!) this year and I’m not super thrilled.

      1. Rainy*

        Oh god, “series”–I can’t even blame autocorrect, that was just insufficient coffee, pure and simple.

      2. Kat*

        That all sounds great! I will miss my yoga class over Christmas but plan to try to do some at home. Just got back into cross-stitch too, so that’s my other plan to chill.

    3. Elkay*

      I’m off for nearly two weeks. We’ll see some family but mainly chill out just the two of us, play games, watch TV and eat shameful amounts of food.

    4. Alex the Alchemist*

      I’m off for at least two weeks, perhaps three, depending on when I’m getting trained for my new job in the new year. I’m going to see the Nutcracker Ballet with my mom and aunt, and my dad is taking my partner and me to see the new Thor movie (it’s a tradition for the three of us to see Marvel movies together). I’m also going to be home in time to see my high school choir have their winter concert!

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m off until Jan. 2nd! Last week was crazy wrapping things up for the year and I stayed late last night, so it doesn’t really feel like I’ve started vacation yet. I did put up the tree and lights today, so that’s getting me in the holiday mood, I plan to spend quality (napping) time with my elderly cats, baking, and super cleaning my kitchen. I’m looking forward to doing as little as possible.

      1. Kat*

        Sounds great! I haven’t got my tree up yet… not sure I can be bothered this year, but maybe I need to do it anyway. How many cats do you have?

    6. Triplestep*

      I am working on Christmas, but wait … that’s a good thing!

      I am Jewish and Christmas is just another day off; I typically use part of the day to catch up on work, but when I take time off for Jewish holidays I have to use PTO. I recently began working on a Hospital campus, and (since it’s a 24 hour operation) holidays and PTO are all wrapped up into one number of days off that each employ starts with. This is true for exempt, non-healthcare employees like me, too. So this year, I’ll actually go to my open workplace on Christmas, get “credit” for working, and can apply that day off to one I really want to take.

      I am really looking forward to spending some sustained time at my desk getting stuff done without interruptions, and my husband may come with me to volunteer in the hospital if they allow him.

    7. Liane*

      Already got one of our “annual events” done last week–marching in the city holiday parade with the 501st and Rebel Legions. College Son and I were Jedi Knight and Pilot, all accessorized with garland, Santa hats, and Christmas lights!
      We are being slow, for us, to decorate, just doing bits at a time. The tree is up, but bare, for example.
      Tonight, me and College Kids will be in our church’s drive through Nativity. These are vignettes set up around the parking lot. There will be soup and other good food to keep us warm between shifts. Then I sing in Christmas cantata next Sunday, and here.
      No other firm plans except seeing The Last Jedi.

    8. paul*

      We’re doing a family thing in northern NM in late January. Dad’s got a ton of points at a hotel chain so we’re all (3 families) staying for free for 4 days cause it’s off season, and so the rooms are available for fewer points.

      Sleds, hot coco, snowball fights. Ougghta be good. Maybe show the kids some elk, maybe head a little out of the way to a place I know and look to find them bighorn. They’ve been on a real kick about wild sheep lately, no idea why.

  12. heckofabecca*

    Hello! Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I hope you’re doing well!

    So I bought a pretty hefty container of ricotta cheese last night to make a fake-out lasagna (just mix pasta & sauce and glob ricotta on top—easy peasy), so now I’ve got a ton of ricotta left over… Anyone got suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Horizons*

      Skinnytaste has a delicious chocolate chip muffin that uses ricotta as its base. Google the site and ricotta and it should be easy to find tge recipe.

    2. KV*

      Warm it up a little, stir in some good olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings… you will not regret it!

    3. Turtlewings*

      Stuffed shells! Buy jumbo pasta shells, fill with a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, and a beaten egg, pour tomato sauce of your choice over it all, and bake. (Make sure the shells are all covered in sauce, and put some underneath them in the casserole dish, or they get really hard when baked.)

    4. Rainy*

      Ricotta pancakes. Raviolis (or raviolo al uovo!). Scrambled eggs with ricotta. Quiche.

      Honestly, when I have leftover ricotta I just put it in everything and pretty soon I don’t have ricotta anymore.

    5. Alex the Alchemist*

      I make lasagna bites by putting ricotta and sauce inside won ton wrappers, closing them, and baking them. Super good, so long as you’re not sick of lasagna yet or anything.

    6. Starryemma*

      Ooh- garlic & greens pizza with ricotta!

      If you can either make or buy pizza dough, season with spices or some pesto, top with mozzarella and bake at 450 ~10-15 min. While it’s baking, saute a few handfuls of greens (like kale, chard, or arugula) with 6+ cloves minced garlic, until wilted. When crust is done, top with the greens, spoonfuls of ricotta, salt, pepper, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. So very tasty!

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        Cannoli dip.

        Drain ricotta in cheesecloth ( coffee filters in a colander work well too, put a small plate on top and then weight down with a can).

        Mix drained ricotta and a small tub of mascarpone cheese, add a smidge of vanilla. Fold in lightly sweetened whipped cream.

        Add mini chocolate chips when ready to serve (not before, they will sog and be unpleasant).

        Serve with broken up waffle bowls, pizzele crackers, or cannoli shells (many bakeries sell empty ones) to your adoring fans.

    7. Cambridge Comma*

      Spinach and ricotta pizza.
      Or google this: La Crostata morbida al cacao con ricotta e mascarpone

    8. Elf*

      Best mac’n’cheese:
      Make the roux sauce base (any homemade mac’n’cheese recipe will tell you how) but make sure to add in nutmeg and fresh ground pepper.
      At the cheese adding stage add 1 part ricotta and 1 part good (freshly grated) parmesan) about a cup of each unless you’re making barely any/a huge amount

  13. Junior Dev*

    Mental health thread! How are you doing? What are you struggling with? What are you proud of?

    I’m proud of riding my bike to work on Thursday, and of seeing a friend for lunch yesterday.

    I’m struggling with sleep. I keep staying up late online. I think it’s a way to avoid dealing with my feelings.

    I want to set up some sort of evening routine to avoid this.

    How are you doing?

    1. AnonAndOn*

      Your accomplishments are great, Junior Dev!

      I was grateful to get out of the house yesterday for a brief temp assignment. I hadn’t been out of the apartment (save to check the mail, and even that was sporadic) in two weeks prior to yesterday. Though it’s cold outside, being dressed and having a reason for getting out of bed felt good. It gave me a sense of purpose. I find that once I’m out and about it’s easier to keep active that day.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Yay! I definitely know how you feel about having a reason to go out, I was unemployed for about a month and now I’m working a temp job and even though I’m not making enough money to live on I still feel much better having something to do.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with sleep stuff. But you could also feel proud of having the insight to realise you’re avoiding your feelings. That sounds like a big step to me. Not everyone has that awareness.

      What’s going well: enjoying the build-up to Christmas instead of spending it in a suicidal depression, and feeling able to be social and not just want to hide away.

      I’m proud of being enthusiastic about cooking again after months and months of being so anxious I could barely make myself a sandwich without crying or having a panic attack.

      I’m struggling with the prospect of my work Christmas party. I don’t like crowds and busy events but I want to go. Last year was fun. So I think I’ll brave it. But it’s causing some anxiety.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Oh, congratulations on cooking! I can relate to that. I’ve been managing it by batch cooking when I have the energy and sticking stuff in the freezer to heat up when I don’t. But that in itself requires planning energy I don’t always have.

        Could you commit yourself to something like dropping by the Christmas party for an hour, then leaving? You can always stay longer if you feel like it in the moment.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Thanks! Congratulations on your achievements – I agree with the person who said they’re great.

          I suppose I could leave after an hour – I don’t want to, but knowing I *can* might be helpful thank you!

    3. Anon for this*

      I’m proud of *nailing* my classes in this new STEM degree after a rough transition last year. I’m proud of all my plants and my beautiful living situation. I’m proud that my mental health is being managed with medication and therapy.

      I’m struggling with my mom’s cancer, tension among my sisters, a long-distance relationship, and the stress of catching up on the work/applications I’m missing because of cancer, plus finding an unusual internship/real job this summer.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Congratulations on your classes! I’ve been thinking of going back to school for computer science but the math and science classes intimidate me (I know I like programming as a job already).

        I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I hope you can cut yourself some slack for not doing everything perfectly during this difficult time.

        1. Anon for this*

          Thank you! If it makes any difference, I was one of those “I’m bad at math” girls all through elementary school/high school/college. And I’m 99% sure I have a math-based learning disability (dyscalculia). I figured when I went back to school I’d try it for as long as I could, and if I really hit a wall I’d know that I couldn’t do it. It never happened! I bet you’d do great if/when you get over the mental block. It’s all one step at a time, and you already do the job :)

          And thanks for the support re: my mom. I hope you are cutting yourself the same slack too :)

        2. Red*

          You can do it!! And if you need help, I’m working on my bachelor’s degree in mathematics, so I can totally help if you post some questions in the open thread.

      2. Red*

        I’m working on a STEM degree also, so *high five* for that :) It can be a huge mental challenge to do this with a mental illness, and especially to do well in it!!

    4. Kat*

      Hello! I’m proud of signing up to a meet-up for the new year to try to make some new friends, and going to my friend’s birthday next weekend even though she’s the only one I’ll know. Anxiety situations both of them!

      I am struggling with the lack of energy and the current PMS-related depression. Taking my vitamin D and trying to get outside to keep myself feeling OK, but I’m tired a lot.

      I know what you mean about staying up online. Do you like to read books? I have started trying to read for half an hour before I go to sleep to try to wean myself off the online thing. I actually love reading but I find when I am feeling anxious I will put that aside to refresh webpages. (Apologies if you didn’t want a suggestion for this! I just recognised it.)

      1. Kat*

        I sounded much more positive a few hours ago. I feel a bit low now. But I managed to do some yoga, so that’s something.

    5. Foreign Octopus*

      I’m struggling with some financial issues at the moment. It really hit me this week that I’m just not earning enough to save. I’m covering my bills and I’m pleased and grateful that I can do that and buy myself a book every now and then, but I’m just not making enough money to save anything. I’m feeling a little stuck but I’m looking at ways to increase my income so hopefully I can start putting some money away.

      I’m proud of filling up my freezer with batch cooked meals. There’s something really satisfying about seeing a freezer full of Tupperware and knowing I don’t have to cook for the next month.

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Batch meals sounds so nice. Unfortunately I tend to eat my way through them in a 1/4 or less of the intended time frame if I’m not doing well. Or sometime even if I am doing well but it’s something really good I need to work on that.

      2. Traveling Teacher*

        @Foreign Octopus: Go you with the freezer meals–That’s awesome!

        Only suggesting the following blog because I love it, but you’re free to disregard: If you’re looking for more creative solutions for how to save, you can check out the Frugalwoods blog. I love her suggestions for how to live frugally but still with joy and generosity. She’s all about the mindset of how you approach saving, and I find it to be a lot easier to feel like I’m choosing to save money rather than depriving myself after reading her blogs (because it’s not really a choice for me to be frugal at the moment!)

    6. Red*

      I have a suggestion for the computer thing – get some sort of app to turn down the blue light coming from your screen. Blue light can tell your brain to stay awake, and makes it harder to think “ok, it’s bedtime now”. It’s also a nice visual signal that it’s time to get moving on that evening routine. I was really surprised at how much of a difference it made for me.

      I thought I was doing quite well, but then my best friend told me I seemed manic and delusional and it was time for a psychiatrist visit. It’s very probable I’ll be going on one of the atypical antipsychotics, which I am not looking forward to after a bad experience with Seroquel. I know they aren’t all like that, but still. I am displeased.

    7. Roseberriesmaybe*

      Thank you for this thread as always, Junior Dev. My anxiety has been very bad the past two days. A close relative has not been well, and on Friday I was told about an other medical issue that has emerged. I’m feeling upset because I’m misguidedly trying to help/protect her, but that means I’m being overbearing (like carrying bags, taking her arm when there’s crowds around etc) and getting too anxious too quickly. She says “Don’t do anything for me I can do myself”…But I don’t know what she can do, or what she’s fit for. I want to protect her from feeling sick but I can’t
      Whoa this was a lot…

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        That’s hard, is she normally good about admitting when she needs help? Can you talk to her about it so you are able to help her when she really needs it but you aren’t putting too much on yourself?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Make it your habit to say, “you want help with that?” first. This can feel really awkward initially. But it’s a good habit to develop because you will use it over and over for the rest of your life.
        One thing I have seen is that people can be pretty awesome, they tend to tell me exactly the type of help they need and not let me burn out helping them. People can also instruct me in things I know nothing about and get us both through some “stuff”.

        Oddly, when someone asks you if you want help with something, say yes. This will help you to get into the swing of how this goes and it will help you to have a higher awareness of which types of assistance are of value and when.

    8. Beaded Librarian*

      I finally got into a new provider to get back on my ADD meds. Hadn’t been taking them due to it being SO difficult to get into my previous provider without having to rearrange work schedule and I’d convinced myself I was staying on top of it. Until a month and a half ago realized I was really struggling. Been back on meds for three days now and over all feel SO much better and more productive. Now to deal with the chaos in my house that I let build up and is still causing some energy drain.

    9. Shrunken Hippo*

      I’m struggling with setting up times to be with friends because while I only have to job hunt they are working full time. I don’t hold that against them but it is hard to work myself up to even texting them when I’m having a bad day because I feel like I’m bothering them (even though they have told many many times that I am not!).

      I’m proud of myself this week for going to the doctor to get a note to help me get financial assistance and for standing up for myself and fully describing my physical pain. Thankfully my doctor was awesome and never hinted that it was all in my mind and she is referring me to a pain specialist. Fibromyalgia does run in my family and would fit in with my depression and anxiety so there’s a chance I might actually get a diagnosis and pain management plan! After years of doctors dismissing my pain as only a manifestation of my mental illness, having even one say they believe me is such a great feeling.

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Good luck! It’s so good when medical providers really listen to you and don’t just brush off problems or concerns.

    10. Tau*

      I think my mental health is acting up. There are the small signs such as the fact that my flat is even more of a mess than usual and I’m having a lot more trouble going to bed than usual, but there’s also the fact that I started crying when I got home from work yesterday. I… don’t know. I think the trigger was the super-short-notice Secret Santa, since I definitely started getting snappish after that was announced, so I guess I may be feeling stressed and overwhelmed?

      (I usually never comment on this thread because alexithymia makes this stuff so hard to figure out, usually my answer to “how are you feeling” is “??? invalid request no data available” but I figure bursting into tears is pretty clear empirical evidence that things are not looking great.)

      On the plus side! My choir had a concert today, and although for a bit I was worried I’d end up skipping it (and although I stressed A LOT about a bunch of the stuff surrounding it) I went and had tons of fun. Here’s hoping the current high lasts for a few days… long enough to work out what to do for the Secret Santa at least, ha.

    11. Alex the Alchemist*

      Hello! I’m proud of being almost done with my first semester of my Master’s program and feeling pretty un-anxious about my assignments (only three left, due by next Friday, and I have outlines/drafts for all of them)!

      I’m struggling with sleep, too, but I figure I’ll do a lot better once I get to my parents’ house for the holidays (they live in the middle of nowhere and have very cuddly animals).

    12. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

      Oh boy… I was doing good this week. Really good – taking my dog out for walks when I’d rather just curl up inside all day, making progress on a book I want to get out to publishers in 2018 (I mean it this time), keeping the house and me clean – and then I have a meltdown today in Walgreens. Not a full on screaming one but one where I just sat down on the floor and rocked back and forth until it passed. It took a good five minutes but I felt so much better after that and I don’t remember sitting down on the floor. I think it was a combo of too little sleep (I’ve only gotten a total of 10 hours sleep in the past two days) and over stimulation. I was at a very cramped Hallmark store, before that was the Dollar Store, and then a restaurant for breakfast with very loud children happy to meet Santa.

      Right now, I’m hiding down in my crafting cave (my side of our big basement) and watching plan with me videos on YouTube. I can feel my anxiety level going down to the point where I think I’ll be able to do actual work soon, but we’ll see. I’m giving myself a big pass today if I don’t do anything.

    13. anon4this*

      I’m still struggling. New psychiatrist has given me a different antidepressant (no 8 over 9 years) He thinks I have treatment resistant severe depression and he has given me a cocktail of drugs, 3 in the morning and a different 3 at night. For the first time in years I feel calm yet energised and I am actually getting things done. But I’m not sure that I can stay on the drug that has made the most difference because it causes involuntary tremors in my hands, to the extent that I can’t use a touch screen because my fingers swerve to the wrong key, my handwriting is barely readable, I can’t hold a mug of coffee without spilling it, and I can’t crochet, even though I am now mentally well enough to want to get back to it. So not only am I taking 2 sleeping medications to deal with the insomnia caused by the wonder drug, I’m also taking beta blockers to lessen the tremors in my hands it causes. But they are still there, just less noticeable. I’m devastated that I might have to give up the one drug that has changed my mental state, or give up the one activity that I truly love.

      1. Anonorama*

        Yikes, that is hard. I’ve been there with balancing side effects of meds and I know how frustrating it can be. Not a solution for all of it but you might be able to turn on the accessibility mode on your tablet and that could help with some of the inadvertent button pressing. Hope you and your doc can figure out something to balance out everything.

    14. ashamed*

      I have posted her before but I am keeping anon for this post. I struggle with anxiety. I commute to and from work on the train. The fare system on our trains is a card that you load money onto and before you go up to the platform and get on the train you have to tap your card on a reader. The card deducts the fare from the train. You have the option of setting up a default trip or tapping when you get on and again when you get off. There are readers all over the station. They are not gates, they are just in spots all over the stations and near the stairs up to the platform. My anxiety goes overboard when I think I cannot find my card so I always keep it in the same part of my wallet in the same part of my bag. I also tap my card more than once to make sure it took and the fare was deducted. If you have already tapped you get a message saying so and a red or orange light. Last week one day I was trying to get my card out because I had more than one bag and it is winter so I have a thick coat. I took a long time to find my card. I get that. But after I tapped once I waited until it cleared and tapped again. There was a line of people waiting to use the ready and one of them yelled “PEOPLE HAVE TRAINS TO CATCH”. I was so embarrassed I almost cried because people clapped when she said it and everyone was looking at me. It was all I could do not to cry on the train ride home. When I went to work the next day and when I went home I went to the far ends of the station where there was hardly any people and no lines at the readers. It made me miss both my trains and have to wait to take the next one. I wasn’t late or anything but it still sucked. Then the day after when I was going home I was stopped by a transit employee who said there have been multiple complaints from people about me not having my card ready and tapping three or four times and blocking the reader, which is not allowed when there is a line. I tried to complain about the women who yelled at me but since she didn’t threaten me or be violent and she was right about me breaking the rules nothing was done and the transit employees told me I cannot continue to block the reader when it is rush hour and people have trains to catch. I can’t see my therapist to next week. So to answer your question I am doing badly. Even with my meds. My anxiety has gone overboard and I see the women who yelled at me every day the at the station and I wonder who else is mad at me. I don’t want to upset people but I can’t help and I am trying my best. I hope everyone else is doing well and wish you all well.

      1. Cristina in England*

        That sounds so stressful, I’m so sorry she yelled at you.

        Maybe there is a way of making it less stressful by making your card easier to get to. I’ve seen some people with ‘transit mittens’ that have a pocket on the back for a transit card. Or maybe you could get a lanyard and put it on when you leave to get your train?

        1. Beaded Librarian*

          I like the lanyard suggestion if that would work, it should then be even easier to access and know that it’s there.
          I’m wondering how long does it take the screen to clear? Is most of the time that it takes you at the reader getting your card out? Also what happens if you scan again BEFORE it clears does it get an error or will it show it has already been scanned? I ask this because we use similar card readers to clock in at work and we don’t need to let the screen clear for the next person or I believe if you don’t get your card away fast enough. If you don’t it just tells you it has already scanned.

        2. ashamed*

          I had an laynard before but the anxiety at the thought of losing it was making me sick. I have been working with my therapist on not being so afraid of losing my card. When you first tap it makes a sound and there is a green light. You have to wait for the screen to clear so if you tap again or a new card taps there is an error message. I know it is illogical but I am so scared of getting a citation for not paying my fare and even when I know I have paid because I have tapped several times I still get nervous whenever the fare inspectors come around. I have been working with my therapist and am on meds for not being anxious about this and other things but I can’t bring myself to get on the train unless I have tapped more than once. My therapist thought I could have ocd but this is my only repetitive behavior and I don’t meet the other criteria and the specialists I was sent to said I didn’t have it and she agreed. I realize not having my card ready and blocking the ready and hogging it during rush hour is against the rules and holds other people up. I am working on it but I can’t help it. Still thanks for your kindess and trying to help me.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            What about getting a separate card holder that you keep in a more accessible place, like your coat pocket? I have also seen wrist wallets, usually aimed at runners, that are basically stretchy wrist bands with a zipper compartment that you could keep your card in so it’s always accessible. You could keep it with your keys so that you always put it on when you leave for work. If your card readers are like the ones here you won’t have to take the card out of the wallet, it can be read through the fabric. That way it’s right on your arm and you don’t have to fish it out of your bag, but it’s in a secure holder and it won’t get lost.

            If nothing else I think it would help if you don’t get in line for the reader until you have your card accessible. We have a similar system here and although I wouldn’t yell at you or think about it later, it would annoy me in the moment if you waited until you were at the card reader to start getting your card out.

      2. Someone else*

        I don’t know if this will work with the readers in your city. If you try it, obviously, test it out during a slow time. But where I live, I’ve found I don’t need to take my card out for the tap to register. I can tap my whole wallet and it chimes the successful tap sound. If yours work that way too, it might help with some of the “finding card” anxiety that you don’t actually need to remove it? This works best with a smallerish wallet though that’s not too thick. I’ve also had a friend basically slide her purse on the card reader but that too, was a very small bag, with no other stuff in it but a wallet that could block the signal. (and of course if you have one of those RFID blocking wallets it’s definitely work work)

      3. Anonacademic*

        I think there are simple ways to reduce your frustration and anxiety here. How about keeping your card on a lanyard around your neck or clipped to the outside of your bag? Could you make a point to locate it before approaching the reader? Can you tap the card once while taking a photo of it, and then double check the photo instead of the card reader? I totally sympathize with how travel related anxiety/compulsions are at odds with transit that needs to run efficiently to leave on time. For me, I have a set routine I stick to (where I wait for the train, what seats I prefer, etc) and I mentally congratulate myself when I do it calmly instead of panicking over something not worth it. After enough successful calm completions of the routine I find I’m more confident and calm when something does go wrong (like major train delays). But if I start each commute steeled for frustration and conflict that anticipation anxiety makes it harder to think and act. Instead I check each routine element off like a list and its almost meditative somehow (like when I get my favorite seat, I feel like I “earned” it by being calm and focused during my seat search).

      4. ashamed*

        I would like to thank everyone who offered suggestions. I tried a lanyard before but it made my anxiety worse because I kept on thinking it would fall off. A clip om my bag would be the same. I get anxious if it is not inside my bag, inside a pouch and inside a wallet. My anxiety goes overboard if my pass is not secure. Our readers are not that good here and would not be able to be scanned through most bags and wallets and they actually have to be taken out which is why I was told there is a rule about having your card out and ready. A picture would not work because the scan happens so fast it that no one could take a photo. I might try a video but that would require both hands and I would have to put my bag down and that would make the delay even more. I am trying to work on this but I wish she had not yelled at me. It really made things bad. I appreciate all the help here.

        1. TL -*

          Can you add in time to your commute so you can have the time to go down to the far end of the stations? If you’re not at a point where you can change your ritual, and it sounds like there are machines that are less busy, that’s the kindest to both yourself and the other commuters.

    15. Junior Dev*

      I wrote this and then I spent a long time being lethargic and depressed. I went to a Meetup after convincing myself to get out of bed. I’m now trying to convince myself to go in to the gym instead of driving home and getting right back in bed.

      I think the cold weather is making me want to hibernate.

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Junior Dev, Completely understand, today started out good then I took a longer than intended nap after driving around for a while and have been bumming around on the internet. Trying to convince myself to get on my bike on the trainer and go for a ride. And I’m already tight by the bike.

    16. Anonorama*

      Something set me off yesterday and I had a crying jag thinking about the end of my marriage and missing my soon-to-be-ex. Haven’t had one of those in a few months. I slept in today and then went out for a while, did some aimless driving and shopping and got a nice lunch. This week was pretty decent before although, although I am feeling seriously overwhelmed.

      I’m in the midst of finals and prepping for the GRE so I am feeling 0% holiday spirit – not that I’m a big Christmas person anyway. I need to figure out something nice to do on Solstice unconnected with family traditions; something new for me alone.

  14. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m heading to California later this month; I’m travelling alone ) but i’ll be staying with family in Los angeles. I’ll most likely rent a car and spend time w the kids and all,but any ideas on what I can or should do solo? I’m kind of nervous but also really excited to be travelling anywhere by myself. I really want to take an overnight trip somewhere anddosomething fun and interesting.
    Any suggestions?

    1. CAA*

      Easy overnights from LA could be San Diego or Santa Barbara. If you’d like mountains or deserts instead of coastal cities, there’s also Palm Springs, Big Bear or Idyllwild.

      It’s hard to know what to recommend that you’d find fun. What kinds of activities do you enjoy? Do you want more outdoors or indoors ideas? How do you feel about cold vs warm weather?

      1. Aphrodite*

        Do not come north: Santa Barbara, Ventura, etc. San Diego probably isn’t good either right now. I really don’t know what to recommend because there are so many fires everywhere and according to the fire officials they expect burning for a couple of weeks if not more. It’s a day-by-day situation here now.

        1. CAA*

          I’m in San Diego. It’s completely fine to visit here. If you’re coming from L.A, you’ll be on the 5, which is not affected by the Lilac fire. You may smell smoke as you come through north county, especially if the Santa Ana winds kick up again and blow it that direction, but the flames are miles east of there.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Thanks everyone for the recommendations!

        CAA, I thought about it. I guess i’m pretty boring. There’s not a whole lot I liket o do alone, I’m more of the type to just enjoy the company of the person I”m with and be OK with almost anything.

        But I do like to eat at different places, shopping, driving…ok I dn’t know how this will be received here but I REALLY want to try weed there lol.

        1. CAA*

          Well I don’t mind at all if you want to try weed, but I am about the least likely person to be able to help you find it. I do know we won’t have recreational marijuana stores until Jan 2018, so you will need to find another source.

          I posted below about the Getty Villa, and I still recommend that whether you go alone or with someone else. You mentioned spending time with kids, and if one of them enjoys art and tranquility and is old enough to appreciate some one-on-one time with you, that would be a good place for that sort of outing. It’s not a place for small children or those who are bored by art.

          If you like driving and shopping, then I think Palm Springs is probably your best bet for an overnight. The drive out to the desert is interesting and allows you to see some of the varied terrain and climates we have. Once out there, it’s pleasant to hang out by the pool or shop along the main drags and there are plenty of good restaurants. The tram up Mt San Jacinto is also fun since you start in the desert and end in a mountain forest.

    2. Veronica*

      The Huntington Gardens in San Marino (near Pasadena) has fantastic themed gardens (like the Japanese garden and the cactus garden). It also has beautiful displays of art and rare books. Totally worth a visit!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      The coastal highway is lovely, and pretty unique; I liked Santa Barbara. I haven’t seen Palm Springs, and would like to.

      1. KR*

        Palm springs is pretty, and so is the high desert and Joshua tree if you think you would like desert.

        1. CAA*

          Sun Valley is a not far from Hollywood. If you have any interest in seeing that, you can park at the Hollywood & Highland mall and then walk out to Hollywood Blvd. The Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater are right there. The Dolby Theater (where the Oscars are given out) is also there and does backstage tours. “The Last Jedi” is showing at the Chinese and El Cap theaters this month, both of which are old style cinemas with elaborate decor. You can also see the Hollywood sign from the back viewing area at the mall.

          For a more cultural day trip, the Getty Villa in Malibu is just gorgeous. I can wander around there and just enjoy the views and the art for hours. It is a Roman villa perched on a hill above the ocean and filled with Greek and Roman art. You should check the weather before heading there though. I wouldn’t go if there were a red flag fire warning or a heavy rainstorm on the way. The Getty Center is inland and also great, but it’s currently too close to the Skirball fire for a visit.

    4. Sam Foster*

      If this is your first visit to California keep in mind it is a REALLY big state and can take a surprisingly long time to get places.

      That being said, I’d suggest an overnight on Catalina.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        It would be my second, the first time husband and I flew in to LA/Sun Valley, drove to Vegas, did the Coastalhighway drive, and drive to Sanfrancisco and toured the golden gate bridge. I don’t mind doing San Fran/PCH again though.

  15. Half-Caf Latte*

    The talk of dips on yesterday’s thread inspired me to make my aunt’s holiday dip.

    Chipped dried beef, cream cheese, sour cream, dehydrated onions, and walnuts, mixed and heated. Sprinkle finely chopped red and green peppers for festive-ness. Serve hot with triscuts.

    What are your best “weird” party foods? Old family recipes that are delicious/nostalgic but get Looks when you try to describe what’s in them.

    1. The Strand*

      But does it taste good? That’s what I want to know! Sounds like it could be!

      I just have to say, I was shocked how good jelly, bbq and cocktail smokies taste. Shocked, simply shocked!

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        I served it at a party tonight and it was a big hit! I was reluctant to say it’s delicious because maybe it’s just my conditioned tastebuds, but now that other people liked it- yes, soooo tasty!

    2. Rainy*

      That sounds delicious! I may try it.

      My fiance is addicted to a dip that his HS gf’s grandmother always made, cream cheese with chopped olives on triscuits. It’s honestly a little weird but it tastes fine.

      My mother is pretty much the worst cook alive so we have no old family recipes. I learned to cook as an adult. :) I think the one of my recipes that people give me looks about the most is the pineapple casserole for holidays. It’s delicious, but pineapple and cheddar with a crumb topping sounds pretty weird to most people apparently.

      1. Pharmgirl88*

        Would you mind sharing the recipe for the pineapple casserole? I love pineapple on pizza, and this casserole sounds interesting!

          1. Rainy*

            So the way I do it is like this:

            2 cans crushed pineapple, drained, liquid reserved
            6 TBS flour
            1/3 c brown sugar
            2 c shredded cheddar cheese

            Butter a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the pineapple, flour, and brown sugar together well. Moisten with a little reserved pineapple juice if needed. Stir in shredded cheddar. Put the pineapple mixture in the baking dish and make the crumble topping by stirring a stick of melted butter into a cup of crushed Ritz crackers. Pour the crumble topping over the pineapple and smooth. Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes until warmed through. Remove the foil and finish for 10-15 minutes or until Ritz crumble is toasted.

            Serve it forth. :)

    3. Red Reader*

      If you mix together a bottle of Russian (or Catalina) salad dressing, a jar of apricot preserves, and a box (both packets) of onion soup mix, you get a remarkably tasty sweet and sour sauce that’s good on chicken, pork or meatballs. I ate it the first time just to be nice, because it sounded vile. Now it’s one of my favorites.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Mmm. I have one similar to that with cream cheese, onions, dried beef, and Worcestershire sauce that I stole from an ex’s friend’s wife. When I take it somewhere, I always make enough so that I can eat the leftovers. :)

    5. HannahS*

      Vegetarian chopped liver. One of my Israeli relatives makes it and it’s honestly so good. It’s based on caramelized onions, hard boiled eggs, and I think walnuts. It looks pretty gross. Well, it looks like real chopped liver, which looks pretty gross.

      1. Ann O.*

        I love vegetarian chopped liver, but for some reason it’s never occurred to me to look up a recipe.

    6. Parenthetically*

      Frogeye salad — a box of acini di pepe, plus a bunch of canned pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, mini marshmallows, and cool whip. Ooh! My mom used to make a chipped beef appetizer — chipped beef, spread with cream cheese, rolled around a dill pickle, sliced into rounds. And I mentioned this in the Open Thread, but I could eat that Jimmy Dean sausage/Ro-Tel/Velveeta dip with a spoon. With one of those big fat straws they use for bubble tea. I could bathe in it. Yummmmm.

    7. peggy*

      Pepper jelly dip isn’t THAT weird but when you say the ingredients, it doesn’t sound good. But it’s freaking magical.

      A jar of hot pepper jelly, tons of chopped scallions, toasted chopped pecans, shredded white cheddar cheese, mixed together and poured over a base of plain cream cheese – always served with wheat thins!

  16. Anon for this*

    Thanks to everyone who commented last week on dealing with school + grad school applications + mom’s cancer. My mother’s mastectomy went well: the preliminary exam suggests the cancer hadn’t spread yet and she’s bouncing back pretty well. I also decided to take a couple of incompletes this semester. I’ll finish three of my classes on time and submit the other work by the end of the winter break. The grad school I’m applying to has also been supportive, so I’m delaying my application until I can take the GRE properly; hopefully, they are true to their word and it won’t affect my competitiveness. It’s been really good to make these decisions–I’ve started sleeping again and plugging away at a much more manageable workload while still being able to help my mom out. She’s not going to be thrilled that I’m not finishing on time on her account, but them’s the breaks.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m so glad you’ve been able to make decisions that feel helpful and that everything feels more manageable. Internet hugs if at all welcome.

    2. Anion*

      That is wonderful news! I’m so, so happy to hear it!

      (I didn’t comment on your thread because I didn’t have any advice to give, but I’m so pleased it’s working out and that the cancer hasn’t spread–that is fantastic!!)

  17. nep*

    Off to the event I mentioned last week — the event itself embodies a couple of my greatest passions and I am honoured that my friend asked me to participate/help out. Issue was / is: I’ll do most anything not to drive in the dark and especially in this area; it will be dark by the time we finish. But I’m determined not to let my fears govern my life and make me miss out on important and satisfying interactions.
    Topped up the gas, wiper fluid, oil, and air (tires) in the van. Off I go. Que sera sera.

    1. Not That Jane*

      I’ve been in similar situations with anxiety (e.g. taking my 9-month-old on the train for the first time, I was a nervous wreck). So I have an inkling how tough this is, and this random internet stranger is proud of you. :)

    2. Beaded Librarian*

      I understand. I dislike driving in the dark in areas I don’t know. I feel like I have trouble seeing the white lines/side of the road unless they are very freshly painted and that makes me very uncomfortable

    3. nep*

      Thanks, all. It was brilliant and gratifying and much-needed soul food and interaction with people I hold in great esteem for their generosity, dedication, and relentless hard work. Everything went perfectly. (Some overnight/mid-morning snow made the drive extra interesting.) Back safe and sound and happy. Didn’t even have to break into my emergency dark chocolate during the drive.
      Appreciate your insights and support.

  18. Caledonia*

    I moved house (well flats).

    I don’t think much of the previous owners cleanliness, the fridge stank until I washed it all out. The freezer still smells (it was unplugged).

    I don’t think I am going to be able to fit a catflap to the back door, my across the hall neighbour said that there have been break ins before now (mainy windows) and there are about a bajillion cats around. As long as I fit one on my door, if it does something to insurance then it’s my problem, surely? As long as I don’t leave my keys in the door.

    (Cats commonly go outdoors in the UK)

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Is it your back door rather than a communal one? If so, it surely only affects your insurance. And you’ve just made me realise I never thought to tell my insurer we fitted a catflap.

      As to the other cats, is a microchip catflap an option? We have a Sureflap and it’s great.

      Sorry to hear about the fridge and freezer.

        1. Caledonia*

          *Sorry communal back door. If I got a flap in my own flat door, that would only impact my insurance?

          Anyway the guy across the hall works from home so he let’s his own cat in and out, so maybe mine will come in too….


          He also mentioned something about foxes.

          1. Bagpuss*

            which floor are you on? would a flap in a window work? It’s more expensive as you’d need to get a glazier to fit it, but it might be an option. And then try the micro-chip option to keep other cats out.
            For communal door you’d probabl need the permission of the freeholder or the management company (or all of the other owners, if it is a small block. )

    2. Marzipan*

      I have a microchip catflap for my cat that keeps out other cats (he kept getting upset by them coming in). It only opens for him, basically, by reading the chip in his neck, so would that be an option?

      Stick an open tub of bicarb with a wedge of lemon in it in the freezer; it’ll help absorb the smell.

    3. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I’m in the US, my cats are allowed out (not that they’re going out right now, it’s cold). An option is to only let them out when you’re home. Sounds like that may be somewhat uncommon for you, but it would solve the cat flap problems.

  19. Caterpillar*

    I’m trying to find the right words to tell my long-distance boyfriend that I’m struggling with depression and have no idea how to cope or what to do next.

    I don’t want to burden him because sometimes it feels like all I do is complain, and he’s military and about to head overseas, so is pretty stressed… but I don’t know who else to talk to about it. :/

    1. The Strand*

      Look around for a solid military family/spouse online community where girlfriends are welcome. You are not alone.

      While you can pick your words carefully, in telling him you’re having a tough time, I just want to encourage you not to feel like you can’t burden him with anything because of his world and deployment. I have been there during my husband’s service, and ultimately hiding everything increases your stress and can make him feel more helpless when, inevitably, he learns how hard things are going all at one time, either by phone, letter or in person. My husband suggests you try to parse out bad with good if talking to a deployed person, but not everything at once (eg over several emails or Skype sessions), and leaven with plenty of good stuff. Measure out what you share, over several contacts, let the infornation sink in. Try not to end anything on a negative note. Meanwhile does his unit have a family support group that is local? Unmarried guys often don’t know, so you can check Facebook and Google.

      1. KR*

        Agree with this. Your boyfriend may be stressed about deploying but you don’t have to treat him like glass because of it, believe me. My husband got plenty of texts and emails on deployment that were straight complaining – the deployment curse hit and pretty much as soon as he moved in roaches invaded my house, my cat got troubling vet news, and his truck had multiple mechanical problems. In turn he complained at me about deployment and what have you and it was a good time. Your boyfriend will probably want to know because he wants to be there for you and just because his job requires him to travel and camp out and play with guns doesn’t mean you have to do more emotional labor so you don’t worry him. We’re all here for you.

      2. TootsNYC*

        When I hit a serious depression a few years ago, I knew my mom was worried So i started calling her on my 25-minute walk home from therapy each night. I’d report how the session went, and think out loud about it. I know it made her far less worried because she could hear that I was actively working on it.So, maybe it’s good to line up a therapist first, and then you tell your BF about the calendar item first, “I’m going to start seeing a therapist next week. I’m having a tough time with depression, and so I’m going to get help.”

        And then you check in regularly, specifically about that. Let him know what is happening in therapy, so he hears that something is being done. Lots of people (guys tend to get this worse) feel that they need to FIX! Things for those they love. So hearing that YOU are fixing things will lessen that pressure for him.

        But hiding things from him won’t create greater intimacy!

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      So I just did a Google search and these popped up. I don’t know if they’ll be of any use but maybe one of them has scripts of how to talk to your partner about your depression.


      That being said, Strand knows more about this and their advice seems spot on.

      Good luck with what you’re going through and know that you’re not alone. The AAM community is always here to help!

    3. Kuododi*

      At one point in my life working as a mental health counselor I served a year contract with the military providing services to service members as well as family members. One of the benefits you might be eligible for is free short term counseling with a licensed provider called a Military Family Life Consultant. The service is short term, designed to help with stress management and coping skills around deployment. Contact your base Family Program who would be able to help you access that service. Additionally there are Family Readiness Groups at many bases which can be a great source of support and understanding from other loved ones dealing with deployment stress, worry and adjustment issues. It’s been ages since I worked for the military so they might have changed their policies about unmarried partners accessing the Military Family Life Consultant program. I saw another poster recommended Military One Source. They are also an excellent source for support and resources. Consider this my upvote!!!

  20. Gerenuk*

    I’m buying a house, and the lawyers have a mobile service for signing everything at closing–basically you don’t have to go to the lawyers offices, they’ll meet you wherever is convenient for you–your work, home, coffee shop, etc. (With obvious safety related restrictions–they won’t meet in your car in a dark alley).

    Part of me wants to take advantage of this and come up with somewhere unique to sign, like the zoo or amusement park or the top of the CN tower. How cool would it be to say that Kiko the giraffe was a witness for signing the papers buying my house.

    If you could come up with a unique place to do a house purchase closing, where would you sign?

    1. Anono-me*

      This is brilliant. Recently a relative with very limited mobility had to struggle up 1 and 1/2 flights of stairs to close on a new home (moving into one with universal design). They were out of commission for a few days after that.
      (Everyone assumed the closing location would be in an accessible building. The closing firm said it was an exempt historic building. I think it is bs, but the relative didn’t want to pursue it.)

    2. periwinkle*

      Kerry Park in Seattle, aka the vantage point for the iconic Seattle city photo (Space Needle in the foreground, Mount Rainier in the background). It would have been symbolic of our decision to move out here and put down roots.

      Instead, we signed all our paperwork in a small office in a grungy strip mall. Not quite so romantic or symbolic, but we got to keep the pen.

    3. msroboto*

      I have bought / sold / refinanced houses and the most convenient was when we refinanced and the lawyer came here.
      I wouldn’t overthink this. Meet somewhere convenient. If you have never done this before you need to concentrate on the paperwork and what you are signing. This is probably one of the biggest things you will ever buy.
      Then go see Kiko and have some popcorn or something. Or you could do what we did go to the local store and buy a shovel so we could properly shovel the snow so we could move in the next day. Good times (we still have the shovels).

      1. Gerenuk*

        I’m almost certainly just going to do the signing somewhere convenient but boring, but the idea of doing it somewhere interesting is fun to think about.

        Its not my first time buying a house, but the last time was very different. Where that house was (small town New England), everyone (buyers, sellers, realtors, lawyers, etc.) all meet to do the signing as one big group, and while the lawyers are doing the paperwork and preparing the cheques for the people who leave with money, everyone else just sits around a chats.

  21. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

    Just wanted to thank everyone for responding to my comment from last week. I think just talking (well, typing) about it helped a lot. Had to cancel my trip because I destroyed my bad knee and I don’t feel comfortable doing a lot of sightseeing on it, but I’m going to visit my parents (and dog! :) ) instead, and I think being elsewhere, even if it’s not the elsewhere I originally wanted to be, will help a lot.

  22. Moving Out*

    My husband and I have to move out of NYC soon but we can’t agree where to live. He’s sick of the city because he’s been here his whole life; there are things about it that annoy me, but in an ideal world I’d stay.
    We can’t afford most of the places we like, so are pretty much down to 2 options: He wants to move to Austin, but I think it’s too suburban and also hate heat and driving. I proposed Philly, and he thinks it’s too similar to NYC (which is what I like about it).
    Any tips to on how to compromise on a BIG decision?

    1. Dear liza dear liza*

      I’d start with brainstorming what qualities each of you need in your next location. Talk through the deal breakers vs. would-like-to-haves with each other. Once you develop a core list of MUSTS, like 4 or five total, then figure out which locations fit the bill. But don’t even bring up specific cities until you have the core values settled.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I moved from NYC to Minnesota. I was petrified.
        Plusses- I am a city person and wanted to move to Philly and discovered that Minneapolis has all the urban charms that I needed- good food, good music, great theatre, great museums, great libraries, great bookstores, diversity (not as much as NYC and Philly ) education, excellent healthcare, easy to get around (if you drive) not horrible to get around (if you don’t drive) Cost of living…money goes a lot farther here. A variety of places to live- by the river, by a lake, by fields of corn (thats where I live, actually in St. Paul, an not suburban) Good jobs.

        Minuses- I think you heard about the winter. Yes it is cold. No it is not horrific. Things that make it bearable. Smart wool. L.L.Bean. Gas fireplaces. Mulled cider. Mittens. Dogs. Cars with seat warmers. Summer and fall are heavenly.

            1. Parenthetically*

              YES. I live in a mid-south city and the incompetence of the city re: snow/ice removal seems to know no bounds. But in places where it happens all the time, they actually know what to do and how to do it well. HUGE difference.

    2. Helpful*

      Come up with a list of things you DO agree on, and start there. You’ll be in a more positive frame of mind and may come up with a surprising compromise.

    3. Temperance*

      So, this is probably going to be my unpopular opinion, but you’re already compromising by agreeing to leave a city that you love. Does he have any actual reasons or an actual job offer, or is he just bored of the city?

      Philly and Austin are very different. I like New York much more than Philly, but I think Philly is much more of a good city (and not as expensive) as Austin. I think your husband, as a lifelong New Yorker, would have much more of a culture shock in Texas. Because, sure, Austin is cool or whatever, but it’s still Texas.

    4. The Strand*

      Tl;dr… try Houston, San Antonio, KCMO, ATL.

      Inner loop Houston is a better choice for people used to big East and west coast cities than Austin. Austin’s infrastructure and economy is as not as well set up for the influx of misguided people who think the rest of Texas is crap and Austin is the promised land. Husband and I are both Northerners and many of our long time Midwestern and East Coast friends suffer from this delusion, just like people who suggest Ann Arbor is a singular gem in a rusting glove (er, mitten).

      *All* of Texas is unbelievably hot, football and BBQ mad, friendly, car oriented, future oriented (expansion minded). You don’t escape this in Austin, where the traffic is appalling, and the competition for creative jobs is often fierce, while those same jobs exist often with better quality of life, due to affordability, in the other three big cities. A friend of mine who did film and TV school said his classmates who went to Austin were still competing for scraps >5 years after graduating. He moved into inner loop Houston, picked up lots of work and is doing better than 98% of people in the field. Austin is a victim of its own success.

      One other big thing. A Latino filmmaker and artist once told me that Austin was a deeply segregated city, very angry to hear northern Anglo journalists describe it as being a “liberal, enlightened” city. That unfortunately has been born out in data. If diversity of multiple kinds is valuable to you, understand that this is a very controversial issue for Austin specifically. Houston and Dallas are very different, but very diverse places. I also think San Antonio is an overlooked gem in many ways. So is Kansas City – completely off the map for many East Coasters – Atlanta has much of what NYC has, and a great transit system.

      Try the websites like Best Places and Find Your Spot and fill them out together.

      1. Ad Astra*

        KC native here! It’s a fantastic city and is going through a cultural renaissance. Great urban living options (though the mass transit is…not as comprehensive as NYC, but they’re trying, so a car is necessary if you live outside the urban core), excellent food, and a fantastic coffee scene.

      2. TL -*

        Austin is easily the most segregated of the Texas cities – I’ve lived in San Antonio, Houston, and Austin, and Austin was the only place where I consistently noticed it.
        (Also agree with you about Houston, but want to point out that inner loop means inside the 610 loop road.)

      3. paul*

        Austin traffic is awful, but I’m not sure inner loop Houston is better. Both are horrifying. Less so than NYC though.

        Austin is pseudo-diverse and kind of borders on hipster hell to me, despite the fantastic food and the nearby hiking and camping. You can see all economic and social and racial groups on sixth street bar hopping but the neighborhoods are very enclavish for the most part. I’m sure there’s exceptions, but that’s been the bulk of my experience there. I might rather live in Midland, and that’s saying something.

        I’m really fond of NM–it’s got issues (economy is frankly weak) but it’s less rabidly conservative than TX or OK, and not as pricey as CO.

        1. TL -*

          The cities in NM are less rabidly conservative than rural/small town Texas but rural/small town New Mexico is more isolated and often more conservative (in my experience) than small town/rural Texas.
          The major cities in Texas are all varying shades of blue.

      4. ATL native*

        This is a great and thoughtful assessment of city reputations vs. reality–thank you! However, I have to disagree strongly about Atlanta’s “great” transit system. I know this is ancient and no one will see it, but I couldn’t let it pass unremarked. It’s fine if you want to go somewhere along 2 main tracks during business hours. If you need a bus or want to travel on the weekend/holiday? Forget it.

        I say that as a person who supports public transportation. I recently attempted to take the bus a couple miles to the train station. I waited 40 minutes through 2 scheduled bus pickup times and eventually had to just call a Lyft. The MARTA app was worse than useless, and there wasn’t even any traffic to blame.

    5. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      Have you considered Charlotte? It’s a lovely smaller city, gets all the seasons for the most part (minus copious snow, but sometimes it does snow a bit) and has a bit of everything (museums, sports teams, dining, etc.). It also has a decent airport.

    6. BRR*

      Did you bring up Philly suburbs vs center city? If you lived in the suburbs I could be more what He wants but a short jaunt to downtown.

      1. BRR*

        Better advice is probably pick a different city. I feel like something else might check your boxes. Maybe Portland or Seattle?

    7. Cristina in England*

      I realized about a decade ago that I didn’t mind living in a smaller town, but I did want to be in the centre of it. Or more accurately, in the centre of a neighbourhood. Where I am right now, I live 4 miles outside of the city centre/downtown, but I am a 5-10 minute walk to my doctor, dentist, major grocery store, library, post office, my kids’ school and preschool, cafes, fish and chip shop, you name it. This is my ideal situation.

      Think about your everyday life. What makes you really happy about where you live? Is it the vibrant cultural scene? Restaurants? Having everything nearby? And what is driving the move for your husband? Does he want more space, quieter streets, warmer air?

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      Philly requires as much driving as 99.9% of all other locations in the US. I know they have something of a subway system there, but there’s no real point in using it. I used it once to get to the train station during a snow storm and then had to take a bunch of pricey cabs to get where I actually wanted to go.

      I think I’ve responded to this train of thought from you before and I apologize for being repetitive but maybe it’ll be helpful haha! I thiiiiiiiiiiiiiink you need to come to reluctant terms with the fact that wherever you move to, you will have to drive. You already live in the only city in the US where you can realistically go about living your entire life without a car. I’d consider cities with temperate weather and a smaller population. That way you’ll have an easier time dealing with traffic.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Move to Des Moines where the driving is easy because the roads are well laid out and the traffic is light.

    9. Half-Caf Latte*

      Where in NYC are you? Have you spent time here in Philly, or can you make some time?

      Philly, even Center City, is not at all like Manhattan. But maybe it’s more like the boroughs? (Disclaimer – Philly is my hometown – I’m not much for NY). Philly is very much a city of neighborhoods. You’ll get a very different vibe living in Fairmount Park vs. University City vs. Bellavista vs. Fishtown vs. Society Hill vs. Chestnut Hill vs. Manayunk, and the list goes on.

      Another commenter said you need a car in Philly. For a select few neighborhoods, sure, but plenty of people get around fine with SEPTA, supplement with cabs/uber occasionally. Most of our friends have small children, and that seems to be the big driver of car ownership.

      Anyway, compromise: What were the places you did like and can’t afford, and what did you like about them? Are drastic options to live there off the table, like a roommate? Full disclosure- having a roommate would NOT work for my spouse and me, but a surprisingly high number of our friends had roommates for varying lengths of time after marriage.

      If you can’t come to a mutual agreement, is there a way to negotiate perks for the less-satisfied spouse? If you go to a car-dependent city, can you get a house that has transit/gym/grocery/etc convenient for you? Or an annual vacation to a preferred climate/atmosphere? Friends of mine moved from Midtown Manhattan to nowheresville for a substantial pay increase, and they use some of that coin to fund fun travel all over.

    10. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Any thoughts on Chicagoland? Its a larger city but the neighborhood networks make it feel much smaller than it is. Not sure I would want to be out in the suburbs again (it was fine when we lived there and my job was out there) and depends on your life stage, but near north side along the lake or Evanston aren’t bad – feel like little villages but still accessible to the city via Metra. Its also pretty easy to get out into the countryside for activities and the like.

      But I agree, try some of those website but also think about what are absolute dealbreakers for each of you and see what you can compromise around those.

    11. Treefrog*

      As a native New Yorker who lived in Austin for 6 years: don’t do it of you dislike suburbia and HEAT. It is brutally hot a good 7 months/year – and not esp. nice the other 5 months. An incredibly self-conscious place, charmed by its own preciousness. And compared to NY, it is indeed suburban.

    12. NY native*

      Has he ever actually lived outside of NYC? Or spent an extended amount of time in another city?

      I grew up in the NY suburbs, went to college and grad school in Baltimore, I moved back to the suburbs and then into the city when I was 23. I did a lot of research on like 15 other cities when I was looking for GA positions and I realized none of them had what I was looking for and it made more sense to just move home with my parents while I looked for a job in NYC.

      There were a lot of frivolous things I hated about living in Baltimore but many of them were more important to quality of life than others. I couldn’t find the shampoo and conditioner I used anywhere and the absence of decent pizza, bagels, and Chinese food was frustrating. But more annoying was the almost complete lack of public transportation, the terrible traffic, the area’s inability to handle snow, and just the general layout of the area.

    13. Moving Out*

      If anyone’s still reading this…. We both liked Brookline Mass, Portland Ore, South Congress in Austin, park Slope in Brooklyn – we want a “streetcar suburb” (a quiet-ish walkable neighborhood with easy connections to the city’s business district). Unfortunately, so does everyone else, so a lot of places that fit the bill (Boston, Brooklyn, Portland, Seattle, San Fran) are out of our budget.
      He wants to leave New York because he’s never lived anywhere else (born, raised, college, now) and wants more access to outdoorsy stuff (backpacking, specifically) – which rules out Chicago.
      I’m at a large company with many locations, so we’re looking at places I can transfer – Charlotte and Raleigh have come up a few times, Minneapolis is kind of a dark horse (I’ve been there once and it was nice – and I visited in the winter!), Austin I liked ok but is just SO different (not to mention far) from everything I know, Denver seems interesting but it’s getting pricey fast, Philly seems like the easiest (but not exciting) option.

  23. Cookie tester*

    Fun question- do you have any funny or embarrassing stories that happened during the Christmas season?

    1. Turtlewings*

      A few years ago, we were dipping pretzel sticks in chocolate as one of our Christmas Baking projects. My dad came by and caught the dog licking a pretzel at the edge of the table. Took the pretzel away but held onto it while getting into a long conversation with us. Several minutes later, we got to see his priceless expression when he realized he had just absent-mindedly taken a bite out of the dog-licked pretzel.

    2. Red Reader*

      This one is Thanksgiving, but a few years ago I set pies on the counter to cool and ran out to the corner store for something super fast. I was gone like ten minutes. Came home and my dog had gotten one of the pies down and licked the pumpkin custard clean out of the shell, with not a tooth mark in the pastry.

      1. nonegiven*

        Mom made a pumpkin pie and left it on the table to cool. We went out for something. When we got back home there was a kitty paw print, less than a quarter inch deep, in the middle of the pie. Mom scooped out just around the paw print, smoothed out the pie, and said, “just don’t tell.”

    3. Frosty the Snowman*

      When my sister and I were in our teens we were given the job of making the table centrepiece for Christmas. We made a Christmas garden and opened a box of tampons and fluffed them out to look like snowmen and used the blue removal strings as scarves round their necks. We thought it was pretty funny and we still laugh about it even though we have children the age we were then.

    4. Brunch with Sylvia*

      Got our minivan stuck in a snow bank at SILs country house. I was moving the van so as not to get blocked in and allow us to make an early get-away. It was embarrassing to get stuck but also it was just so obvious to everyone what I was trying to do…

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I don’t know how long ago this was now, but we were headed to my aunt and uncles place for Christmas and taking the airport shuttle an hour north to our hometown. Some guy got on and was riding the whole way with us in a crumpled santa suit, and explained that he was going to surprise his sister who he hadn’t seen in 15 years. Uh, this guy didn’t seem like someone you would want showing up randomly at your door if you had an estranged relationship with him. Anyway, he practiced out what he was going to say when she opened the door in a “Ho…Ho….HO” manner that was a) really creepy and b) guaranteed she would call the police on him. My mom listened politely and asked questions as she tends to do,but all the answers made it sound like it was a really bad idea. When we arrived at my aunts place he started trying out his Ho act on her too and introduced himself around to the rest of the family. Bizarre, but not totally out of character for people from our hometown.

      We were dropped off first so we didn’t find out what happened, but to this day we still quote “Ho…Ho..HO” to each other and wonder what happened to that guy.

  24. KV*

    I guess this 2 am headache has some benefits, because I’m actually awake for a Free-for-all!

    First of all, thank you everyone who gave me advice and commiseration a few months back about applying for my spouse to immigrate. I submitted the petition a few weeks back and received the confirmation email & letter that it was accepted. Yay, the first step is finished! Now to wait with a vague sense of dread for until I hear more from the government. The incoming extreme vetting stuff where you list every social media account you’ve ever had is so stressful… Hard not to worry that having strong leftist political views will be a problem in the current climate.

    But that’s all for the future. Thanks again everyone who told me I could do it on my own. I will reply to this post with kitty pics as thanks!

    1. Tedious Cat*

      The Ref, if you don’t mind watching something with Kevin Spacey in it. He and Judy Davis play a dysfunctional couple being held hostage on Christmas Eve by a cat burglar played by Denis Leary. Dark but hilarious, and I’m someone who finds most holiday movies too hawkish. It, Christmas Vacation, and Elf (not on Netflix) are my go-tos.

      1. Anion*

        We watch this every year; it’s one of our absolute favorites. Half the lines from it have become regular quotes in our house. (Especially, “She’s a f—ing b—, Lloyd.”)

        I could seriously recite almost the whole movie from memory.

  25. Bibliovore*

    Just checking. Have a little “stuff that shall not be named” to do this weekend. Taking it easy. The sun is shining. Planning an Instant Pot meal. There will be napping with the doggie and reading of the new Ellen Hart mystery novel.

  26. Anonyme*

    It just came out that my grandpa had another kid with someone other than my grandma. My grandparents had been together since they were teens (15 and 18) and have both been dead a few years, so the answers can only come from the oldest sibling in the family, who met the other brother years ago and apparently didn’t tell anyone. Also, Other Brother has the same name as one of the other siblings…What skeletons are in your family closet?

    1. KV*

      Nobody told me until I was about sixteen that my uncle died before I was born because of AIDS, and that he was an openly gay man in the 1980s. Didn’t even know my dad had a brother until I was twelve or thirteen.

      1. TL -*

        My gay uncle also died of (aids-related) cancer when I was really little. It was never hidden but I still don’t know very much about him.

    2. Temperance*

      My cousin’s mother is a hot mess. She had 5 children with 3 or 4 different men, starting at a young age, and she introduced my cousin to meth as a teen (and also tried to hook him up with her cellie while she was in prison … you can’t make this shit up).

      My cousin had an older brother, Donnie. It was a family secret that my uncle had been paying child support for my cousin’s older brother Donnie, even though he was sure that the kid wasn’t his (and my cousin was raised thinking that this was his half-brother).. Donnie looked identical to, and had the same name as, a guy down the road, who took an interest in the kid and bought him gifts and whatnot. My cousin’s mother didn’t file the child support request until my cousin was 2 or 3, and my uncle wasn’t allowed to be present for the paternity test, so the whole family thinks that she brought my cousin instead of Donnie to be tested.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      Oh my lord!

      In my family, I know that there’s a skeleton but I don’t know the details. My paternal grandfather did something and my dad knows but he’s keeping quiet until Granddad dies.

    4. HannahS*

      One of my great aunts had an abortion as a teenager. Illegally, of course, but her father took her to a doctor who would do it safely. It’s not really a secret; my mom told me after I once said, “Thank G-d Auntie Em never had children.” Her life is kind of a sad story; she’s been seriously mentally ill from childhood, like, “has a fluid relationship with reality” kind of ill. She’s paranoid and abusive, unfortunately, and I made that comment when I was old enough to realize it. After a broken hip a few years ago, she was judged by a hospital panel to be mentally incompetent, and now that she’s in a nursing home where anti-psychotics are slipped into her coffee, she’s actually in the best health of her life.

    5. CAA*

      One of my uncles was recently discovered to be a half-uncle via DNA ancestry testing. Apparently my grandfather knew that uncle wasn’t his child, but he never told anyone until he was dying and the person he told continued to keep the secret. Uncle found out because he and a sister both did the 23andMe thing and came back as half-sibs.

      1. LCL*

        The day after my mom’s estate closes I’m going to 23 and me. My parents were over 25 when they married, dad was a rambling man before their marriage, so I’m pretty sure there are half sibs out there somewhere.

    6. Isobel*

      My great-great-grandfather tried to fake his own death (pile of clothes on a beach like Reggie Perrin sort of thing). But when his wife tried to claim his life insurance the insurance investigators discovered he was alive and well. And he turns up on the next census with another “wife”. We know some of this from my grandfather but also from local newspapers from the time.

    7. JanetM*

      I was in my teens before I learned that my paternal grandfather had not, in fact, died before I was born — my grandmother had obtained a divorce because he was an abusive alcoholic. I was in my 20s before I learned that my grandmother was also an alcoholic, and that the “accident” where her car went into the canal had been a suicide attempt. Somewhere in there I also learned that my father’s half-brother was a military deserter.

      I was in my 30s before I learned that my uncle had originally been engaged to mother, and jilted her for her sister.

    8. Anonynony*

      Found out only after she died (at age 86) that my aunt had a child when she was 16 (in the 1940s). The sad part is that while the child was adopted, she contacted my aunt and wanted a relationship with her but my aunt did not. Ironically, my aunt had no other biological children but did adopt a boy and a girl. My cousin did reach out to my (adopted) cousin after my aunt died and they are now in touch on a regular basis.

      1. Anonynony*

        Oh, forgot to add this all came out as a result of Ancestry DNA, otherwise no one would have known since my aunt never told anyone.

      2. Artemesia*

        I can imagine in this situation no wanting my adopted children to be aware that there was a biological child.

    9. Closet of Skeletons*

      One of my uncles was briefly married, she got pregnant, but before the baby was born she ran off…to shack up with another aunt (uncles’s sister, not her own sister!). Apparently they wanted a kid, and that was their solution?

      An ancestor ran off with her former manager at a candy factory, leaving behind her four young children and husband.

      Another relative accidentally killed her mother.

      Basically, you gotta watch out for the ladies in my family. You can never tell what’s going to happen around us…

    10. Cristina in England*

      Well. I haven’t told my kids their father is my second husband (no kids from first marriage). They’re too little to know what that even means now. I don’t want it to become a skeleton so I will have to tell them someday but I worry about it because my mother told me when I was too young to understand that she had previously been widowed, and it led me to very wrong conclusions. I thought she was saying that my own father had died and come back to life.

    11. Semi-anon*

      I don’t know if this was a skeleton, but I had found out as a teen or pre-teen that one of my grandmothers was my grandfather’s second wife. His first wife had been killed by a drunk driver. No kids in that marriage. A couple of years ago, Aunt and I had a very in-depth talk about her childhood and that of her sibling, my Parent, and I found out a WHOLE bunch about my grandmother. Namely, that she wasn’t the smiling gammy I remember, who recited poetry to us and played games (she died when I was very young, maybe five or so). Instead, she was a very snobbish and critical person who also seemed to be deeply unhappy. Knowing these things helped me understand Parent better and some of the stuff they pulled on me (and on their other sibling) that was very similar. And also why Aunt and Parent are so close–they both survived some major shit.

    12. Parenthetically*

      My mother discovered when she was in high school (I believe) that her mother had been married before she met my grandfather. Found the marriage license or the divorce papers or something. Also, my grandfather carried PTSD about his service (he lied about his age to get into the Navy) for the rest of his life, and burned all of his military paraphernalia the second he could. No one knows more than the one story he told everyone, about being mistaken for his brother (also a navy man) when he was on R&R in Hawaii. Everything else is lost to history, since that whole generation is gone now.

    13. Elizabeth*

      My maternal grandmother was married 3 times (my mom & her younger sister were the result of the third marriage) and my maternal grandfather was married twice. Given that my mom was born in 1940, there was a lot of local scandal & gossip associated with it.

      My grandmother’s birth family were all moonshiners during Prohibition & into the Great Depression, in SE Oklahoma. They ran a series of stills hidden around the strip mine pits. When the revenuers got to close, the male adult in the household of whichever family was most deeply in debt/in danger of losing their farm, would deliberately get caught with a still & plead to illegal production & distribution of alcohol. They’d serve a few months to a year in the federal prison about 30 miles from where the family lived, and the wife & kids would go live with various other members of the extended family. We learned about all of this from one of my mom’s cousins who was enough older than her to have actually experienced it, just as I was about to go off to college.

      After one of my husband’s maternal cousins did some geneology work on her paternal family, we found out that her grandfather & his brothers bought moonshine from SE OK and transported it to souther Kansas. It is likely that they were buying from my family.

      1. nonegiven*

        My uncle did 2 years probation for tending a still. His mother was divorced and he was the oldest of her 10 kids.

    14. Meghan*

      My mom told me that her grandfather went to prison for murdering her brother. This was in Italy in the 20s, I think? In a very small down. Grandpa and his brothers had to go live with other relatives. I was almost named after my fratricidal great-grandpa because mom liked the feminine version of his name, but in the end she thought better of it. I didn’t find all this out until I was in my 30s.

    15. ThatGirl*

      My aunt is a deeply closeted lesbian and nobody ever talks about it. She doesn’t even really acknowledge it. Makes me a little sad.

      We found out a few years ago my husband’s great grandfather was an honest to god Capone mobster who went to prison after participating in a torture/murder. His grandma never talked about it.

      1. Temperance*

        One of my great uncles is like that. It’s honestly very confusing, because I have other gay family members, and no one cares.

        1. ThatGirl*

          In my mom’s family, it makes sense, my grandpa was awful. And she’s deeply religious so I’m sure she’s kinda sublimated it. But it’s still a bit sad to me.

    16. Shay*

      When I was a teenager my mother told me she had gotten pregnant in high school and had an abortion. Apparently everyone knew about it and it was very shameful for her at the time. I knew she was a troubled teen and that there was some big secret from her past that she wouldn’t tell us “until we were older” so it didn’t shock me when I found out, but it was still very strange to think that I could have had a half-sibling out there if she had chosen to carry to term.

    17. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      As part of the extended family, a great aunt who married in, emigrated from Germany in the 30s as a young child. Our hometown had one of the three pro-Nazi German American Bund groups operating in the state and her father was very prevalent in this local chapter – out parading around town with swastika flags and the like. Sometime during the war, due to depression and other mental illness, he hung himself in the family home and left the family destitute. She latched on to my great-uncle in high school (our family was quite well off and a known name in town) and essentially stalked the guy until he gave in and married her (including following him out to military training camp in the early 50s).

      She’s pretty insane now and very manipulative and obsessed with money, which probably isn’t a surprise. The family had to intervene and force them to get a divorce a few years back when she was starting to get abusive towards my great uncle. Now she drives around town spying on everyone. Probably a good thing they didn’t have any children.

    18. Clever Name*

      My uncle, now gone, lived with the same man for over 30 years, but never came out to family. The worst part is that the whole family is very liberal and being gay is accepted.

      My great great (great?) grandfather was a bigamist. He was a railroad man and had two families, one on each end of the line.

    19. EvilQueenRegina*

      My dad once was telling his gran about this party he’d been to where they’d been playing Spin the Bottle (this was when he was in his teens) and he’d been hoping the bottle would land on this person called Jean. When he mentioned the name, his gran said “That’s your cousin.” Dad couldn’t understand how that could be at the time, but he never saw her again and thought no more of it. Years later, his sister said “Of course, you know our grandmother was married before and had a son from that marriage?” Turned out this Jean person was the daughter of that son!

      On the other side of the family, we’re now not sure how many siblings Grandad had. As far as we were concerned, we thought there was Grandad Robb, Jon (half sibling from his mother’s first marriage), Sansa (full sibling) and Bran (adopted sibling), but another relative mentioned that there were two possible other sisters Arya and Myrcella. Some relatives can remember an Auntie Arya, but had always thought she was just a relative with the courtesy title of aunt rather than a real aunt. No one has admitted to knowing Myrcella, but Sansa left something to her in her will, so it sounds like she exists.

    20. Bluebell*

      I learned things about both grandmothers after they passed away. A cousin told me that my maternal grandmother had married a dentist before she married my grandfather. Then on ancestry.com i found out that my paternal grandmother divorced her husband after my aunt was born and then remarried him before my father was born.

    21. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      My mother just casually mentioned last year that her grandfather was an orphan and was raised in a charity children’s home, and that is why they send them money every year. I never realized either thing until she gave me one of the cheesy calendars the charity sends out to their donors last Christmas. One of these days I am going to do some research and find out more about this.

      Also, my sister-in-law has had multiple kids with multiple men and has been in and out of jail most of her life. For a while she and one of her sons, who is about the same age as my nephew, were living with my sister and we had high hopes that they would settle down. But alas, she got a small windfall (tax refund) and left, and they have hardly seen her since (she’s been back in jail a few times). I don’t think my brother-in-law has even met most of the kids, which is sad because his sister and her kids are his only living relatives now.

  27. Mallows*

    I hope this isn’t too political. I don’t mean it to be.

    I’ve been thinking lately about how the US got to the point where the main 2 political sides seem to be inhabiting entirely different planets. I mean there is NO common ground, at least it seems to me there isn’t. My best friend and I diverge wildly and I find the people she supports to be almost universally reprehensible and she probably feels the same about me. Yet we love each other and back each other up and support each other and are (were?) reasonably bright, open-minded people.

    I don’t have a question, really. Just wondering if the polarization will ever get better, and how, or if it even *should* get better.

    1. Temperance*

      I have friends with varying political beliefs. However, none of them supports racism, homophobia, or sexism. Even my right-leaning friends support gay rights, for example.

      I grew up in a very, very conservative church that espoused hateful beliefs, so I was raised in a very us v. them climate. Granted, I’m now very much a “them” over an “us”.

      1. nonegiven*

        There may be more polarization on the news than there is next door. The vast majority are somewhere in the middle.

          1. nonegiven*

            My mom is convinced the media used their influence to get the nominations to turn out the way they did. I’m not sure she’s wrong.

            I thought it would end up Sanders vs Cruz and most likely Sanders elected, up until the conventions.

    2. Lissa*

      I am honestly so, so torn about this. I’m Canadian, not American, and considered pretty moderate/left here, whereas I’d be probably *very* left in the States, but many of my friends are muuuuch more extreme about this than me to the point that I’m quiet about the fact that I don’t hate our PM, for instance.

      The party line I hear is “don’t tolerate any form of bigotry, why should we have to try to find common ground with discriminatory jerks”, and to some degree that hasn’t changed. I remember hearing about people not wanting racist friends or people around them as a kid. But, I think the definitions of bigotry have expanded quite a bit since then, some in ways I’m not totally comfortable with, so it feels like there can often be *no* discussion or debate once one side declares a certain thing “evil” and so things get more divided. IE I have friends who think being friends with a police officer would be reason to be excised from the social group, that type of thing.

      And, I understand not having a tolerance for bigotry in your life, but when that expands to mean “I won’t associate or debate with 50% of the country because they are too evil and don’t’ deserve it” I’m just not sure what the end outcome will be, because unless everyone suddenly wakes up with their mind changed it doesn’t seem like it’ll get better.

      I don’t think any individual person should have to be friends with or associate with everyone, but I think choosing to do so shouldn’t be as criticized as it is, and that there isn’t as big, bright line around what views are too far to want to be around them. I for sure have things where like, if you think that I won’t want to be your friend, but those things may be slightly different than someone else’s.

      I will also politely debate with anyone and as a moderate have been screamed at by people on both sides, so now I’m kind of afraid to. Me being willing to engage doesn’t mean I want to be that person’s best friend, either.

      1. Ann O.*

        I am in the exact same position and with the exact same concern about this part “And, I understand not having a tolerance for bigotry in your life, but when that expands to mean “I won’t associate or debate with 50% of the country because they are too evil and don’t’ deserve it” I’m just not sure what the end outcome will be, because unless everyone suddenly wakes up with their mind changed it doesn’t seem like it’ll get better.”

        1. nonegiven*

          I know some people were scared to death of one, so they voted for the other, but I’ll bet a bunch threw up their hands and stayed home, voted third party, or flipped a coin.

    3. copy run start*

      I think our government is like a large company with a toxic culture. The change has to start at the top* and would likely involve a mass turnover throughout all ranks to really change how it operates. I’m pretty skeptical that it can happen with our “decentralized HR system,” especially since we are so conditioned to expect things to be this way. and react accordingly with every election. I think we’d need a large majority of people who decided not to vote for any candidate of any party who engages/endorses in this behavior along with a large number of candidates nationwide who didn’t participate in the fighting. One or two people here or there isn’t enough demonstrate to the politicians that they need to change.

      I admit to being a pessimist, but I wonder if this is just the trade off for having a democracy that lasts this long.

      *Not trying to jab at the current president/administration in case this is taken that way — this decline in civility predates them by decades. Also I don’t want to start a debate on when/who started it, which side is worse, etc. etc.

      1. nonegiven*

        I’m in the US and I run an IRC chat for a non political fandom. I had a guy from Central America and a guy from Europe get into it over the US election.

    4. NicoleK*

      Nope. Not going to get better. A sexual predator will likely get elected as Senator. That tells you all you need to know.

      1. nep*

        Well a guy who laughs, jokes, and brags about sexually assaulting women is in the White House so there you go.

    5. J.B.*

      I think there are a lot of different threads coming together with populist strains(in Europe too) and technology picking up it’s pace in a way we can’t handle yet. You can very easily see only perspectives you agree with and need to seek out alternatives. Groups that were never heard before can be heard, and people can organize to respond in comment sectors or report en masse. Either of those can have negative and positive applications.

    6. Enough*

      I had hoped the parties might unite in at least some areas. That the election would finally wake them up to the fact that voters meant it when they said they didn’t want the same-old-same-old any more.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t see that happening anytime soon, since one party seems to have abandoned all attempts to even conceal their single-minded and eye-twitchingly insane devotion to systematically killing us and picking our bones clean. But I wonder, when we’re all dead, who’s going to cook their dinners? Maybe they’ll starve. /yay

        There are a few moderate heads in that bunch, but they lack spines, so I don’t foresee any change coming from that quarter. We’re just going to have to even things out as best we can by flipping seats. It’s already happening on the local level. I’m not giving up just yet. But between this and the madness that is Brexit, I’m kinda exhausted already.

        I really hope 2018 is better in many ways. Even personally for me would help–I feel like if the things I want would move forward, that would give me a shot of energy and my warrior spirit will be renewed. In fact, that’s gonna be my Christmas wish.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is getting pretty political, so this is probably not the place for this discussion. (I don’t want my no-politics rule to end up just meaning “no politics from the side I disagree with,” which is what will happen if I don’t cut this off.) Sorry about that.

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I feel like part of the answer is that politics has been so reduced to soundbites that the entire process and institution has become akin to a sports game. People understand “us vs them” – its easy, you can get people behind a story like that with a few points, its what a lot of less-informed voters may know. Sports games, for the most part, have conclusive definitive endings – there is no opportunity for grey area (unless we are talking about hockey or soccer). Once you move into a definite outlook, it can be hard to move and adopt a grey area position. That would require critical thinking and the need to find out more, which a lot of voters aren’t inclined to do, or to “research” using echo-chamber sources that just support the us v them narrative some more.

  28. Laurin Kelly*

    Now that I’m in the process of finishing up self-edits on my 3rd book and getting it out to beta readers, I’ve decided that my next book will be a sequel to Under the Knife! Tentatively titled “Under the Knife: Food Truck Edition”, the premise is that there will be a UTK limited spin off series competition that concentrates on food trucks, and Nate is the production company’s ideal candidate as a former competitor who also has a successful food truck business.

    On the emotional side it will deal with Nate wanting to further solidify his relationship with Zachary by proposing marriage, healing the rift between Zachary and his father, and giving Carmen a love interest leading to her own happily ever after.

  29. Be the Change*

    From the TMI department, if I had known I would develop food poisoning at night, I would not have done crossfit in the afternoon. My entire body from head to feet hurts like a mofo due to dehydration and lack of replenishment, and I can’t take ibu yet. No idea what I got into…my husband is fine, thank goodness.

    1. nep*

      Not being alarmist — just something to watch / know about if you don’t already. Look up rhabdomyolysis. Not to say this is what’s going on with you, but it’s a good thing to be aware of.
      This brings up a question I’ve got for people who go to Crossfit boxes: Do trainers there talk about rhabdomyolysis?

      1. Be the Change*

        I’m fine, nep. :-) just ate something I apparently shouldn’t.

        Yes, they talk about rhabdo and other safety issues at the boxes I’ve been to. Not incessantly, but they don’t want people getting hurt. Some boxes, which are toxic, think that getting visits from Uncle Pukie etc is a point of pride. I won’t go to places like that.

  30. Lissa*

    Any advice/experience dealing with someone who tells “tall tales”? My good friend’s new boyfriend seemed like a cool person at first but I am starting to doubt everything he says. He has SO many Outrageous Stories and I know we’re supposed to always believe things people tell us and “maybe it could’ve happened” but I just don’t buy it. Not only does he always have an “appropriate” story to tell in every circumstance about something that totally happened to him, he’s also dropped several stories where…well, if they happened the way he had it would’ve been in the news. According to him, he played with a world champion soccer team at the age of 12 because he was *so* fantastic, was involved in a horrific incident involving multiple fatalities and him killing someone in self defense when he was 10, saved his girlfriend’s life from a horse, had a mom who was a secret agent who got injured on the job so he had to drive to the store as a kid (wearing her high heels to reach the pedals!) etc. These are some of the more outrageous ones but he’s also met tons of celebrities, has various stories of fights he won, and so on.

    The thing is it’s making me not believe anything he says ever, which makes some interactions exceedingly difficult. He’s supposedly got an illness that will kill him within 10 years, and I can’t help being skeptical of it now. And, it’s pretty difficult to swallow when someone else tells a (true) thing about their own health and he has had the same thing, but worse! I can try to smile and nod for his “hero” stories, but his “victim” stories at times feel offensive because he will tell them after someone else tells a (true) thing that happened to them, but is of course much less dramatic (being, you know, true).

    1. Temperance*

      Have you talked to your friend about this? I obviously don’t know any of the parties in the situation, but I’ve seen abusive men use lies about having a fatal illness to manipulate. He sounds really mentally unstable from the description here, and I think I’d worry about your friend’s safety.

      I mean, there’s clearly something up with this dude because none of those things would ever happened. To start, a child wearing someone else’s high heels wouldn’t be able to drive. I’m an adult woman who actually wears heels in my appropriate size, and I have a difficult time driving with them on.

      Because I have a bitchy side, I might be tempted to ask for more details, or to ask how it was to deal with the media storm for it.

      1. Lissa*

        I asked her about it at first after one of his more ridiculous stories and she sort of shrugged it off. I think she thinks the stuff like “played on champion adult soccer team as a kid” is just exaggeration, and he had a traumatic childhood and a terminal illness! So didn’t seem super receptive to hearing negative stuff, but I also don’t think she believes everything he says either, but pretends to. and she definitely believes the illness.

        Yeah am not going to lie, I googled the violent incident just to make sure I wasn’t the one being the asshole and found no sign of it, so. I have really been tempted to try to catch him in a lie when he goes off like this but not sure it’s a good idea.

    2. Dr. KMnO4*

      I had a coworker like that. Mostly I listened to his BS, rolled my eyes internally, and didn’t trust him to tell the truth about anything. Probably his most (only?) redeeming quality was that he was pretty easy-going. He’d tease people but he was fine with being teased in return. One time, after several ridiculous stories, he said, “My ears are finely-tuned bullsh*t detectors”. The opening was too much to resist, so I replied, “Then why don’t they go off every time you open your mouth?”. He took it well and we both laughed about it. I was hoping he’d take the hint, but no such luck. If I’d known him socially instead of through work I would have been more straightforward.

      Oh, and, I don’t think we always have to believe things people tell us. I mean, it’s certainly good to have an open mind the first time you meet someone, but if they are full of it you don’t have to always give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean, people doubting everything they say is a natural consequence of telling ridiculously and blatantly untrue stories. If he wants to be believed he should stop lying. You could try not really reacting to his nonsense, just say, “Huh”, or, “Interesting” and then change the subject.

      1. Lissa*

        Part of this is…weird, because I often am skeptical of things people tell me. It’s just a thing in how my brain works. I had a friend get *really* angry at me for doubting another friend’s story about something that happened to them and now I mostly keep my mouth shut. Nobody wants to be the asshole who accused someone of lying about a terminal illness and was wrong, right?

        I feel like my BS detector goes off pretty often and while I’ve never known to have a false positive, it’s often things that aren’t provable where I know my opinion will only cast me in a bad light so I stay quiet. In a case like this though, it’s just so blatant I have a really hard time being around it. tl:dr I disbelieve people a lot, know I’m kind of an asshole for it, and have learned it’s better to keep such thoughts to myself.

        1. TL -*

          I’m not super skeptical but I tend to have a good sense of timelines/remember stories and I do notice when people’s stories don’t line up. I don’t usually call people out on discrepancies but I have a pretty good bs detector because of it.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            I’m the same. The person I talked about below was able to put some of her more plausible stories past me initially because we hadn’t known each other long, but had I known her as long as some of her friends had, yes I would have spotted the inconsistencies.

          2. Lissa*

            Yes, that’s me! I remember stories and little details people tell me, and I notice when things don’t add up.

            1. TL -*

              Yeah. It makes me really hard to lie to if we have any kind of relationship – even if you don’t have a tell, I’m probably going to notice.

    3. Someone else*

      I had a friend who a very long time ago dated someone who seemed just too cool, and at the time all the cool stories were interesting enough to put this person on a pedestal, but also plausible enough that even when they piled up no one questioned it. They broke up shortly thereafter but remained friends-ish. A VERY long time later the stories continued but were suddenly much less plausible and it eventually came out that nearly all of it had been very much embellished. They were never complete fabrications, but it was more like…story A they were adjacent to a particularly cool thing that happened rather than being directly involved…or story B they did have an interaction they claimed to but it was much less interesting or fortuitous than presented. When we found out everyone felt sort of dumb for not being at least slightly suspicious earlier on. I guess I don’t have any advice because the guy you’re dealing with seems much much worse, but I’d probably just smile and nod and ignore most of what he says unless it has a direct impact on you in the moment. (Like for example if you calls you claiming sort of of emergency and needing literal help, believe it until proven otherwise, but if he claims he once beat up Chuck Norris, I’d try to let it go in one ear and out the other.)

      1. Rookie Manager*

        I’ve had a couple of friends like this amd have been known to blurt out “Wait! Are you talking about last Saturday night? That’s not how it happened!” When you weren’t actually there it is easier to listen to the story as a form of entertaining fiction rather than a retelling of facts.

        Watch the film Big Fish (or the new stage show, haven’t seen it yet) to see the kernal of truth thing.

    4. Serious Sam*

      We had one of these at my first workplace. Really all you can do is trust NOTHING they say, and enjoy the entertainment value as their web of lies gets more and more complicated: “You won the 56th Tour de France on July 20th 1969? But last week you said you were landing on the moon that day! ” Pretend to believe every word, and ask for more detail all the time.

      Of course, if you have the brass neck, you can try feeding them lies you have made up, because they will not be able to remember every lie and told-as-true story. They will wind up being in both the British Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines at the liberation of the Falklands in 1982, that sort of thing.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh this sounds just like a classmate I had in grad school. Everybody thought he was soooo cool, and I did too at first, but over time, his stories got more and more elaborate.

      So I did some googling on some of the more newsworthy ones, and it was ALL bullshit. We had a conversation after class once and I said I wanted to read a book he supposedly wrote and asked him its title. When presented with this demand for evidence, *POOF!* he withdrew and stopped talking to me altogether. Just like the sociopathic narcissist he was.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I once inadvertently exposed someone for telling a tall tale – I went to St Andrews, and Prince William was the year below me. I’d mentioned that to a friend once, and she’d said “Oh, a friend of mine used to teach there and always used to see William walk past his office going to his classes!” When I asked who that was, she said “Apollo Warbucks in Canadian Studies”. Um…St Andrews didn’t have a Canadian Studies department so not sure what this guy was on about!

    6. Ramona Flowers*

      “I know we’re supposed to always believe things people tell us”

      Nah. We are just supposed to believe they are a truth for that person.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I just thought of one from music school–I was casual friends with this girl who one day told me this long elaborate tale of a boyfriend who was really in the Mafia but he was nice to her, and he bought her diamonds and took her on a plane to Paris.

        There is no way in hell this girl was dating a rich Mafioso. I listened and nodded and thought, Boy, that must have been a nice dream. But I didn’t have the heart to call her on it.

    7. EvilQueenRegina*

      This reminds me of one of my ex’s friends. With Fiona it took me a while to notice because at the start she did sound plausible, and then as time went on I’d start thinking “How has she had time to fit all that in?” Later, people would tell me that before I knew her she’d tell a different version of the tales, and over time I did start to pick up on her contradicting herself too (i.e. a date with a guy who supposedly didn’t work because he had “other sources of income”, and then the next week he was “trying to get time off work” to go to a St Patrick’s day party with her). In time, it really escalated. She had supposedly dated this guy, dumped him for his best friend, first guy killed himself, second guy killed himself a couple of years later leaving her custody of his daughter whose mother had gone missing, leading to a custody battle with his sister. She’d cheated on both of them with some older guy, then kissed someone else who turned out to be his son. At some point she also claimed to have dated Jack White of the White Stripes.

      I have sometimes wondered if Fiona DID remember all her lies. The one that particularly had me wondering was the time she claimed to be dating “Colin”, the flatmate of the two dead exes. What I didn’t know at the time was that two years earlier, she had claimed this Colin was also dead of an overdose. When she first told me about the date, she’d said “Don’t tell Philomena” (one of our friends who was mid-breakup, and I thought she was trying to be tactful by not bragging about her new man. Now I realise it was because Philomena was the most likely person to remember Colin was supposed to be dead. In the end, Fiona did tell Philomena anyway, and Philomena thought something seemed off but it was a long time before she figured out what it was.)

      Once I did know he was meant to be dead, I thought about it and realised that when Fiona first mentioned the date, she had tested the water and only told those of us who either were the least likely to remember that, or who wouldn’t have known in the first place. Then she decided to take the risk with Philomena anyway. With two other friends, she avoided the name Colin altogether and referred to him only by his nickname of Fizz, because they would have definitely remembered it. It was pure luck that no one mentioned his real name in front of them!

    8. Managing to get by*

      What would happen if you just casually say, after one of his stories, “yeah, I don’t believe that”?

    9. Natalie*

      Bleh, this guy sounds obnoxious. You might try just not engaging with his stories – make some vague mouth noises (“hmmm”, “huh”) and then just change the subject.

  31. What have I done?*

    A fantastic career opportunity came about, and since things have been awful at work, I applied- and got it! But now partner and I have to move six hours to the new place. Partner was very supportive of my applying, but now that it’s time to leave our community (where we’ve been for 20 years)…well, it’s rough.

    I think we’re both grieving a bit, but for me, the sadness is tempered by Fantastic Future Job. Partner doesn’t have that. In fact, he’ll have to start job hunting after the move.

    I promise there is a non-work related part: anyone have advice on helping a “trailing spouse” adjust to the move?

    1. Bibliovore*

      Me, I have been the trailing spouse and most recently acquired one when I got an incredible job.
      Set aside money to “go back home” to visit with friends and walk the “old neighborhood” If you can afford it have a guest room for people to visit you. Be patient with the trailing spouse’s job hunt. Don’t pile up “home chores” because she isn’t working, resentments will grow. Don’t work all the time. I was at work at the cool new job and would get a 4:00 phone call every day asking when I was coming home. Explore the new setting together. Help with finding the new grocery store, new dry cleaner, new dentist. See if you new employer can help with the trailing spouse’s job hunt.

    2. Fishing Rick*

      I am a trailing spouse right now – 3 time zones from where I had lived my whole life (35+ Years) before. I can say it is hard – and I was fortunate to not need a new job. We’ve been here about 6 months and now is when the loneliness is really setting in. I think Biblio’s suggestions are really good. Also listen carefully to the negative comments – DH always seems confused that I’m sad when I mention I like our new house and neighborhood. Like it can’t be both. I know it will improve but it’s slow and hard.

      Best luck

    3. Treefrog*

      I love bed for new “fantastic oppty.” job 7 months ago. S.O. Came with me, leaving place he’d been – and likes – for 25 years (tho kept house, so still a foothold in Old City. Just remember that it’s HARD. For both people. Starting a new job is hard. Moving is hard. Relationships I often hard. All three together very hard. Make some kind of rule – to yourself and ideally together – that you won’t judge anything (job, new place, relationship) for at least 6 months.

  32. Probanon*

    I have a bit of a squicky question: anytime I’m in the bathroom, I hear other women wipe like once and then get up and go. Is that normal? Is everyone an expert aimer or are they walking around with with a little wetness? I wipe 2-3 times minimum. Sorry, I literally have no one else to ask this.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I don’t pay attention to other women’s wiping habits (that’s TMI for me), but I do notice when I hear them leave the bathroom without washing their hands. Gross.

    2. HannahS*

      Lol! Well, we’re all shaped differently, and I’d imagine that some women just have less tissue than others in the line of fire, as it were, and I guess it also depends on how much a person splays their legs while on the toilet. It also depends on how much hair you have; it’s easier to wipe fluid off bare skin/short hair. Probably also depends on what else is going on down there; like if there’s discharge or blood.

    3. copy run start*

      I wipe until it’s dry/clean whether thats once or 80,000 times, and I always hit the front and the back regardless… I like to feel fresh.

      I’m more worried about those who don’t wash their hands though.

    4. Mela*

      To add extra squickiness…
      First, I’d imagine multiple wipes would be necessary because of urine droplets clinging to pubic hair. I wax everything off and depending on the cycle in the waxing (in the beginning and just after it starts to grow out), excessive wiping would make a mess. Public toilet paper is really low quality, and if I physically wiped (as in dragged the tp where it needed to go) I would get bits of tp stuck all over the place. So now I just do a little shake and one or two pats. Yea it’s not 100% dry sometimes, but it’s much better than having to pick white bits out blech.

      1. Bobstinacy*

        This is what I was going to say – I try not to wipe too aggressively because picking tiny shreds of toilet paper off is super gross.

    5. Turtlewings*

      I usually only need to wipe once, maybe twice if it’s just an ordinary “number one.” I’m actually finding it hard to imagine why you’d need more. I guess it’s like HannahS said, everyone is shaped differently, sits differently, etc.

    6. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m so glad U asked, I thought these questions were not allowed lol. I blame the whole “spare a square” thing…like I never got how a square is supposed to help??? I wipe until it’s clean.

    7. Cristina in England*

      I usually wipe once for a pee, but I probably use as much toilet paper as someone who wipes twice.

    8. nep*

      Mostly thorough patting, with maybe one or two wipes — always front to back, of course. Agree with others — depends on what’s down there (shape, hair…).

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I read some where that when kidneys are not working so well pee sprays out and around more as opposed to being in a steady stream. I am sure there are many factors here. Some people may just use a great big glob of paper, too.

    10. Pat Benetardis*

      How can you possibly know by sound how much they’re wiping? Or are judging by rips? Everyone’s routine is different.

  33. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Fiancé and I went to the annual holiday orkway party last night. Wedding prep chatting.

    Speaking of which—we have a “hold” on the venue (since Nov 25th) but the venue isn’t giving us a written contract yet (busy with holiday parties) so if we don’t hear anything, our planner’s calling them next week.

    I’ve been waking up 5x/night, and worrying about this venue (only one in our price range since I’m not involving my parents for reasons). I’ve lost 5 lbs in the past 3 weeks bc I’ve Google Calendared and been so busy.

    Anyone with “good wedding venue/vendor” outcomes? Or ideas to relax? I’m baking cookies this afternoon but the stress. Just. Won’t. Leave. :/

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Let your wedding be something you enjoy. What would it take for the wedding to be enjoyable for you?

      Honestly, I wanted to elope. But noooo. I ended up with a small wedding of about 25 people. In my mind it was too big.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I could not agree more with this. Perfect question.

        A former student of mine just eloped last week and I am so happy and proud! They couldn’t afford a big wedding, her parents wouldn’t have helped, and they just wanted to BE married rather than have a big fuss. So they went to the courthouse on a Monday morning and texted their parents and friends after. Sometimes it’s just the right choice.

        1. Artemesia*

          We eloped with my husband’s brothers and a friend of mine to a nearby town; it solved family issued (his family very Catholic, me divorced, my parents still not over me not being their dream daughter) It was great.

    2. Book Lover*

      This is supposed to be a symbol of your love, right? Joining your families, etc. Does it make any sense to let it make you so stressed that you are sleeping poorly and losing weight? If it is getting to you, you probably need to rethink – either find someone else to do all the work or rethink whether you want a wedding or just to be married. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding your post, but this just sounds miserable and not worth it.

    3. misspiggy*

      It’s going to be OK. Worst case scenario, you do a town hall wedding and have a group meal at a restaurant, plus potentially a house party at a later date, right? And you’ll be married and it will be lovely. Or, you get the venue you want and it’ll be awesome, and you’ll be married and it will be lovely.

      I totally sympathise though – I am Very Bad at dealing with uncertainty.

      1. Red*

        If it helps in any way, my husband and I had a city hall wedding with us, the judge, and 10 guests (which was still more than we had in mind) and most of us went out for lunch after. We may or may not have a house party to celebrate our first anniversary. It was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t have asked for better. No matter how it all goes down, at the end of the day, you and your fiance will be married and that’s the important part.

      2. Carmen Sandiego JD*

        Thanks–and thanks all. I think my anxiety’s mainly due to lack of uncertainty re: this venue. Once that’s squared away, it’d be so much simpler for all the other parts to fall into place *knock on wood.* On the upside, the gown’s been ordered (excellent sale deal), and 2 of 3 bridesmaids have already gotten their gowns. And I have a budget-friendly planner who’s willing and able to advocate for me and fiance’s timetable needs.

        I’m also reading, knitting, and keeping myself busy on non-planning things….and hopefully getting into the Xmas spirit…O.o lol

  34. anonynice*

    I tend to wipe more than once out of sheer paranoia, but I can definitely get it all taken care of in one wipe if it’s just #1

  35. One of Santa's elves*

    How can I deal with playing uncomfortable-for-me games?

    A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were at a get-together with his friends. We played charades. Since they all have crude senses of humor, we had to act out things like “a dog humping its favorite toy”, “inserting in a tampon”, “sloppy dicks”, and “an expensive dildo.” I played along with it all.. I didn’t want to be an old fogey. I know that everyone’s playing and there is no judgment, but damn it! I felt so uncomfortable!

    How do I deal with the discomfort if I’m put in this situation again? haha

    1. Someone else*

      If it were me, next time before the game is selected I might just call it out in advance. “Hey, can we play a less ‘blue’ version of (game) this time?” If anyone seems to even remotely balk, rather than worrying they think you’re an old fogey, you might even diffuse the tension by just saying “I’m kind of an old fogey”. If you say it before they can think it, it might make them less likely to think you’re being an actual stick in the mud because you’re willing to joke on yourself. The key is remaining lighthearted. It depends a bit on the audience, but that’s what I’d do.

    2. Red Reader*

      Oh, god, dying of secondhand embarrassment for you :( I don’t have any polite recommendations — my response would probably just have been a flat “no.” (But I don’t play things like Cards Against Humanity either, on account of my comfort zone doesn’t include raunch or crudity or off-color humor of that nature most of the time, which is sort of a joke among my friend circle in and of itself — “Red’s sense of humor was shot off during the war” and the like. I don’t think my husband would even take me to a gathering of people who thought the kind of thing you describe was funny, because the disconnect would be so dramatic.)

    3. Annie Mouse*

      I haven’t got any tips but you’re not alone, I’m exactly the same!! Ended up in a similar position a few weeks ago and just had to go with it!

    4. Rainy*

      I wouldn’t do it–if it’s the occasional dirty charade, whatever, that’s amusing, but when it’s relentless it stops being fun. Just say “hey, can we keep it PG, I have more fun that way”. Maybe suggest more normal charades stuff like book/movie/tv show titles or something, or else take a fun game that isn’t going to be as easily hacked to be gross, like Codewords (SHAMELESS PLUG, I LOVE THIS GAME).

      Also, if you haven’t told your husband, TELL HIM. If these are his friends, he has a responsibility to either tone their shit the fuck down or release you from the responsibility to hang out with them. This honestly shouldn’t be on you at all.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. My husband would have said something. The best way seemed to be for him to say something off to one side, well before the situation presented itself. He did this with some pot smokers, he just said, “It’s not a preachy thing, just she’s not into it.” Never had to revisit that conversation again.

      2. Emily*

        Ooh, are you talking about Codenames? I love it too! And it’s best (imo) with 6+ people, which is both a blessing and a curse (it accommodates large groups better than a lot of board games, but I don’t have gatherings large enough to play it nearly as often as I’d like!).

        (If Codewords is an actual game different than the one I’m thinking of, feel free to ignore my comment. :P )

        1. Rainy*

          Nope, that’s the one–I was very insufficiently caffeinated yesterday. ;)

          It’s so much fun–I agree, it’s better with 6+ but it’s so well crafted. So much fun!

    5. Lissa*

      This is hard. I think you absolutely can bow out or say something, but I get that it isn’t easy especially when you’re the newcomer (you might not be but I wondered because you said your husband’s friends, not yours). Do you otherwise like these people or do you find them exhausting/immature/rude? If the latter I would suggest you talk to your husband and explain to him you have nothing against his friends but they’re not “your” people, and don’t feel you have to always make an appearance, or go to things like a movie out where it’s less likely to turn into dirty charades.

      If you do like them you CAN say something, but I’ll be honest and say I wouldn’t. If it’s more fun for them all to play that way I wouldn’t want to be the reason they couldn’t unless I was closer to them. Rather than try to get them to change how they play charades, I’d probably try to sit out and say “charades isn’t really my game.” or whatnot. Maybe suggest a different style of game if that’s ever an option.

      I mean, I actually do like Cards Against Humanity and enjoy some off colour jokes but constant crude charades is *not* my sense of humour at all and I’d find it really wearing and annoying so I feel ya!

    6. nep*

      Ooh boy — if it got to things like that, I could not possibly continue to play. I hope I would be able to say ‘this just isn’t my thing’ (I guess it would depend on my relationship with the people, but that’s what I should be able to say). I would be hugely uncomfortable with that. I certainly would have to forgo any such occasions again if I thought that was going to be the “entertainment”. Call me an old fogey — don’t care.

    7. Emily*

      I don’t have a great suggestion for you, but I understand the feeling – I (internally) groan whenever people bring out Cards Against Humanity.

      If it’s a group of people you know semi-well, you might have some luck asking politely to play a different game, but if you’re the newcomer/outsider, it might be easier just to suck it up. I’m not sure what’s best.

    8. Parenthetically*

      EGADS. My face right now. Not cool.

      “Oh you know me, I’m just an old fogey, get off my lawn, etc. Indulge me, and let’s keep it PG this time.”

    9. kas*

      A few of my friends would love this version of charades. They often play crazy games and I have no problem saying no when they ask me to participate. There’s usually always other people around and I know way too much about their bedroom activities. I’m not one to be open/share personal stories, especially if I don’t know everyone playing. I always sit off to the side and watch or use my phone. It’s always awkward and they always beg me to play but I refuse.

      I would probably excuse myself the next time and pretend to go to the washroom or make a call. When you come back, maybe just sit off to the side and say you’ll watch? I’ve also said I’m not feeling well to get out of games.

  36. Nervous Accountant*

    Ok im feeling super crappy bc It took me 20 minutes to park in a tight spot on the left side of a one way street while it was snowing hard. There were tears and angry text msgs (my husband was supposed to drop me but changed his mind at the last minute) but I finally managed to park it.

    I just feel like whenever I struggle at parking, I’m perpetuating that stereotype that women can’t drive or park. I am super slow and super careful when I back out just bc I don’t want to damage someone’s car (or uhhh hit anyone). I end up parking well, it just takes me a long time to do it sometimes.

    I got my license 2.5 years ago, is this going to get better? :-/

    1. Red*

      It does get better! In fact, you’re already a great driver for being so careful – I was a reckless idiot when I first had my license, because my train of thought was “well, I got my license, so I must be pretty decent at this”. Once you realize you’re struggling, it can only go up from there!!

    2. atexit8*

      I still stink at parallel-side parking. But I don’t live in the city.

      When I park in a parking lot, I do the pull ahead method. In other words, two spots are empty and I go the spot where I can just head out instead of backing out.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m fabulous at parking, usually, but I LOVE to pull through. I hate backing out because I have a smaller car and everybody else drives a bus, so I end up backing blind and that freaks me out.

    3. Rocky the Lemur*

      This is a skill and muscle memory matters. Like serving a tennis ball, or knitting, or anything else. So like any skill, you’ve got to learn to do it well the first time. Not just drivers ed learnings. Take some leaf bags or other cars and go to a parking lot and practice practice practice. It’s all about knowing when to turn the wheel, feeling comfortable with your own car, and letting your reflexes take over. If I think too hard, I’m a disaster. If I relax, and can pull forward again, reset my line, it’s almost always easy! If you have to parallel park regularly, it’s well worth learning to do it well. And then you bust those stereotypes. I’m also secretly stoked when I bust out a one point parallel parking job downtown and own it like a GIRL!

      1. Anonynony*

        Do whatever you need to make yourself comfortable. How about practicing a bit or just be fine taking your time and being careful…the alternative is where people get in trouble.

    4. Enough*

      Parallel parking on the left is no easy feat. They never teach or test for that. I’m pretty good at parallel parking and I would have a hard time doing it on the left.

      1. Rocky the Lemur*

        I missed that it was on the left! Yikes! That probably isn’t worth practicing! You got in, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how ugly the journey to success was!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I hate parallel parking and I have driven for decades. Since I avoid it, I have never gotten that great at it.
      Maybe you can find some videos on You Tube and listen to several explanations of how to do it. Something like this I would want more than one person’s perspective because everyone instructs just a little differently.

    6. Book Lover*

      I am impressed you can do it at all. I got a car with bird’s eye view cameras and that is nice and you can actually get self park included (autopilot).

    7. paul*

      I’ve been driving 18 years and still can’t parallel park worth a damn. Sorry :( I think some people just struggle with it.

      If there’s like, 2x my car length I can manage well but otherwise yeah, I’m taking a while.

    1. Merci Dee*

      It snowed last night for me, too! I live in central Alabama, so snow is a big deal down here – snow in early December is absolutely unheard of. I got about 2 inches, and my parents got 4 inches (they’re about 30 minutes north of me). Thankfully, nothing stuck to the roads in my neighborhood, so we escaped some of the accident that happened in the northeastern part of the state.

      As my daughter said, it was a pre-Christmas miracle.

  37. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    This is going to sound strange, but how does one flirt or seduce people?

    My wife was my first real relationship, and it was awesome at first, but she badly broke her leg and her dad died this year, so we have not been intimate since April. Now, we’re showing more affection and both want to be…together…again, but she wants and needs to feel flirted with and sexy.

    Honestly, I think after all those months of running the household and taking care of her, we forgot how to be seductive or flirty! I was never good at it in the first place, describing my attempts to flirt as, “um, uh…you’re cute…do you like ice cream…I wrote bad poetry for you…” Her favorite thing is when someone does something unexpected for her or gives a gift, but money is tight. Does anyone have ideas? Sorry if this post is TMI.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I’m not big on the whole romance thing. I find romantic gestures awkward and clunky and I feel like I have to give the right reaction.

      For me, I would love a home cooked dinner with the table done up properly (table cloth, nice cutlery, low lighting (fairy lights scream romance to me, I don’t know why) – and don’t forget dessert) where we could just talk and laugh and spend time together. Conversation is the highest form of intimacy in my opinion. After dinner, if her leg is able to bear her weight properly, maybe a walk around whatever the nicest nature area you have near you (if weather permits). If not, how about some dancing in the living room or the kitchen? It doesn’t have to be Casanova level seductive. It can be awkward and cute, just as long as the effort is made.

      If you can shoo her out of the house for the day to prepare, that’d work better.

      That would work for me.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, this is me too. I also LOVE cooking with my husband — we end up doing a lot of casual “oh excuse me” type touching as we do various things, and chatting, and “ooh taste this, what does it need” and it just feels really connected.

        Bottom line, be a student of your wife. What lights her up? What gets her talking excitedly? I think what makes people good at flirting is that they’re good at observation — they SEE people, respond to them, read their responses in turn. You know your wife better than anyone. Remember to really SEE her.

    2. KatieKate*

      Leave her little notes (dirty and cute) in unexpected places (her pockets, her shoes, the butter dish)!

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      What can you make or write for her? Goofy riddles? A heartfelt poem, even if it’s not Shakespeare? Morning coffee in bed? a pencil holder?

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        There’s a nice one from Dante.

        “In that book which is my memory,
        On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
        Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life.'”

        I’ve always thought that was incredibly romantic.

      2. Rainy*

        Fiance brings me coffee in bed every morning because I am a morning zombie. It makes me feel loved.

        He also really obviously checks me out at home (he’s subtler in public), which makes me feel desired and makes me laugh at the same time, which is pretty much a great combo of emotions imo.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Haha, I do this to my husband all the time. Sometimes I’ll even poke my head into the shower while he’s in there and whistle at him. It makes him blush, which is my FAVORITE.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I like when my husband is close and snuggly WITHOUT an expectation for sex. I don’t want him to go through the pretend motions of cuddling and then expect that it’s going to end somewhere :) Build closeness for the sake of it and the rest will follow.

      1. Mela*

        Yea # 1 advice is to have 15-20 minutes of snuggle time…no tv, no sexpectations, just snuggles and cuddles and talking. If it turns into sex, great. If not, you got your 20 minutes of bonding time and that will help later on down the road.

    5. LCL*

      Basically Netflix and chill, but with some prep. Set up one of her favorite movies that she hasn’t seen in a while, serve refreshments of something she really likes, and see what happens.

    6. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Ive never written poetry to my husband, but I got a huge amount of mileage out of a pack of heart stickers. It was Valentine’s Day and I was unemployed, but I wanted to do something. I bought a pack of heart stickers that did’t have any words and started sticking them on unexpected places for him to find as he went about his day. I stretched it out over about two weeks and some of them took longer to find. He really loved it, and since there were no words, I was able to say exactly what he wanted to hear.

    7. Closet of Skeletons*

      Do you check her out when it’s just he two of you? That can go a long way. Husband asked me to take off various articles of clothing one by one ( for context: a few months after the baby was born, was really hating on my post-baby bod) but in a really fun, sexy way, admiring me with each removal. That was fun :)

      Think of something she loves and that you normally wouldn’t like to do, and then do it, no complaints! Example: husband hates to dance, but he set up a “dance floor” with a fun playlist and a sidebar with my favorite refreshments after a grueling week at work. Was wonderful, and it made me feel so loved that he’d dance with me even though he usually moans and complains about it.

    8. QualityControlFreak*

      Okay maybe I’m seriously lame but this seems like a perfect time for one of those homemade coupon books. You know the type of coupons; good for one massage, breakfast in bed, one scented bubble bath, that kind of thing. Don’t forget to include a wild card (the recipient’s choice) – all the better if it’s a little racy (like, I don’t know, one fantasy fulfilled?). Make her a nice dinner, give her the book, and see where it leads. And have fun! Fun is the point after all. ;)

    9. LibbyG*

      Here’s one of my faves: when she gets in the shower, put a couple towels in the dryer. Then get them to her the second the water shuts off. Throw in an awkward comment about how sexy she looks soaking wet.

    10. nep*

      Does she like massage? If yes, a nice massage — again with no expectations for sex — can be divine. And might help things along.

    11. bluesboy*

      I like dancing at home with my wife. Just as simple as a romantic song coming on the radio, getting up, going over to her and starting a slow dance and a little kiss. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere, it’s just about being intimate. It’s also spontaneous, which a lot of people like.

      In the end, it all depends on your wife (and in this case how her leg is doing!) But I would be looking for something that leads to a kiss. From there if you feel she is in the mood you go for it, and if not, you have still had a moment of quiet intimacy that helps her to feel desired, which I think is really important.

    12. Anion*

      Well, if we’re going into TMI territory…

      The one thing that gets me going more than anything else is the idea that my husband WANTS me RIGHT NOW. It’s *passion.* I’m not that into cuddling as foreplay or anything like that; I’m not a fan of the stereotypical candlelight-dinner-type “romance.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my thing.) Your wife might not be the same, of course, but have you tried just grabbing her and kissing her like your life depends on it?

      It doesn’t even have to go anywhere. You can just drop that kind of kiss on her, smile, and walk away to go do whatever you were doing/let her get on with whatever she was doing–make clear that it’s not an opening move, just a big sexxory kiss given because she’s a sexxory woman, if you know what I mean. You could follow it up with a, “You just look so sexy/hot/adorable, sorry,” or “I love you,” if you like or if you think she wants or needs that sort of thing.

      Try doing that a couple of times on random (non-consecutive) days, and see if maybe it turns her thoughts back to the “My husband is a big hunky stud of a man/my wife is a red hot lady” type area. (Sorry, I’m not clear on which is the case, don’t mean to offend.)

      It sounds like maybe you just need something to break the ice, so to speak.

  38. Can't Sit Still*

    It’s official. I have a cold sore on my right eyelid. I’m taking 3 grams of Valtrex daily for a week. I’m really panicking about it showing up on my eyeball next time, because there will be a next time. I guess at least it’s not shingles, which was the other possibility.

    I’ve been dealing with cold sores my whole life, and getting one in my eye has always been my biggest fear. I can’t use any of the usual OTC treatments near my eye, so it’s pretty painful as well.

    Any advice? Commiseration?

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      That sucks. All I can suggest is making sure you follow dr’s recommendations. If you wear contacts, probably stick to glasses for a while. If you don’t wear contacts, definitely discuss your history with the eye doctor if you ever consider it.

      I don’t have a ton of experience with herpes viruses, don’t know if there anything you can do to help suppress it. Good luck though.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Ask your doctor about taking Valtrex daily. I get terrible fever blisters on my lip and not only do they look bad, they hurt. My doctor started me on daily Valtrex and it works. So maybe to avoid getting them in your eye next time, talk about maintenance doses with your doctor.

      1. Red Reader*

        Yeah, my doc told me that if I feel it necessary or if I find myself in a position where a cold sore is likely, I can take a maintenance dose – sun is a trigger for mine, so every time I go to Disneyworld I come home with a cold sore, but I’ve always forgotten to take the meds with me, so now I have a prescription bottle in my vacation bag so I can start taking the maintenance dose before I leave and hopefully ward it off.

    3. Red Reader*

      I get cold sores in two general areas — around my mouth, and specifically on the outer corner of my right eye. I have in the past used Abreva on the ones by my eye, VERY CAREFULLY, but it’s probably not recommended. When cold sores pop up, the medication (valtrex is the most common, I think mine is acyclovir) usually knocks it down pretty quick. Another thing you can try is loading up on l-lysine — I take 2000 mg four times a day, when I have an active cold sore, with doc’s approval. (That’s like, eight times the normal dose, I think – hence, doc’s approval.)

      If it helps any — I’ve been getting the ones by my eye for over fifteen years now, and never had it spread to my eyeball.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      I can commiserate. I just got over one on my lip about a week ago, and I hadn’t had one in so long my valtrex was expired (and so was my tube of abreva). I agree with Red Reader, l-lysine has been amazing for me. My trigger is stress, and also if I fight off a cold, it’s like my body goes “no cold? Then have a cold sore hahahahaha” which is worse, I’d rather have the cold. And also pms, so if I’m careful to avoid stress in the week leading up to shark week, I can usually avoid them.

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I’ve heard that camomile tea bags are good for pink eye. Maybe they’d work for a cold sore as well. I’d check with a nurse just to be sure, but the warm compress may be soothing. Or if something cold would feel better you could use chilled spoons or cucumber slices.

    6. Mischa*

      My mom used to get large, painful cold sores frequently, and then she started taking a papaya enzyme. The frequency of the sores immediately lessened, and if she did get one, it was nowhere as severe as before. Might be worth a shot!

  39. Mischa*

    Momentarily avoiding studying for law school finals to ask a financial question/general financial advice.

    I don’t normally do New Years resolutions, but this year I want to get my finances in order. I’m in law school, and living on a ridiculously tight budget. Thankfully I have a half ride to my school, but I don’t have much to live on. I did okay living within my means at first (no going to the bars, eating cheap but healthy meals, no unnecessary expenditures), but I slipped towards the end of the semester (such as going to a coffee shop to study instead of the library — it adds up so, so fast).

    I’ve tried things like YNAB but I am terrible at sticking to them. For people who live on very little, what works for you? The old fashioned envelope method? Apps like YNAB? Any other general life advice? I have excellent credit and very little personal debt (dog had to have emergency surgery right before school), so thankfully I’m not in too precarious of a situation. I just would like to improve my ability to handle my day-to-day finances a bit more responsibly.

    1. LeeGull*

      Read (because I’m sure that’s what you want to do while studying for finals!) “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin – it will seriously change the way you think about money and you will WANT to save! I use an Excel spreadsheet to track our income and outflow each month, but really any system that works for you is the best one. Envelope method when you’re stressed and know you’ll make poor choices? Do it. Spreadsheet because it’s cheap and easy? Go for it. YNAB because it organizes it for you? Perfect. If it works for you, it’s the right one.

    2. KatieKate*

      I think it depends on your financial goals. Are you saving for something particular? If not, I would pick something, even if it’s paying of your debt as fast as possible. Figure out what you “pay yourself” in savings/debt and pay that first every month. They make sure you have budgets for things you slip on–coffee shops, etc. You can use that, and then it’s gone.

    3. Simone R*

      Honestly, I don’t track anything, because whenever I do I end up feeling very guilty about any spending and then overspending to make up for it. I’ve found that since my budget/lifestyle has basically been the same for years, I basically spend the same every month without trying that hard. Can you take a longer term view of your finances? Most months I’ll have one spendy week for whatever reason (finals, stress, etc) but since I’ll adjust the next week it evens out. Not very specific advice but its what works for me!

      If you have excellent credit and little debt, you’re probably doing something right! If you want to start tracking a little more it may be helpful to have a specific goal to aim for, not just “spend less.”

      1. Mischa*

        I managed to pay off about $20,000 of debt in 2.5 years (car, credit card, small student loan) so I’m good at doing big monster pay offs (which will come in handy when I start paying off student loans), but my ability to responsibly manage my day-to-day finances isn’t great. But I agree, I think I need to establish a more specific goal first.

        1. Simone R*

          Yeah, for me, while I buy myself a decent amount of “treats”, I would feel very deprived if I cut any of them out! I live basically at the lowest spending level possible while feeling happy, so every time I try to budget tighter it doesn’t stick. I’ve finally gotten to the point that I’ve realized I’m still doing ok even though I’m spending $15 on coffee/week and that’s worth it for me for the enjoyment I get out of it, and I’m still meeting my larger savings goals.

    4. atexit8*

      Maybe switch to cash only or debit card only for smaller purchases.
      Set aside $X for that month.

      Leave credit card purchases for things you may need to return.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      For me, I do something similar to Simone R. In addition to 401(k) and FSA contributions, we do 5 automatic transfers every month from our primary checking account into 5 other accounts. Everything that’s left is spending money. However, that doesn’t work for everyone.

      You should read Michelle Singletary’s columns and chats in the Washington Post. In particular, look up “21-Day Financial Fast”, an idea of hers to spend nothing that is not absolutely necessary for 21 days. It can help you realize where your impulse spending is going, even if you don’t have much. It’s also a good way to make yourself look for cheap or free alternatives, like going to the library instead of a coffee shop. (She sells a book about it, but she discusses it a lot in her live chats.)

    6. Turtlewings*

      Really the only thing you can do is have a realistic grasp on how much money you have, and stay within it. Make a spreadsheet with all your bills & necessary expenses on it, add that up, subtract it from your income. What’s left is what you have to spend on groceries, coffee shops, whatever you want. I’ve always found having a definite budget freeing rather than confining. I don’t have to worry “can I really afford this?” because I already know. (And, obviously, if I know the answer is NO, I don’t do it!)

    7. Traveling Teacher*

      Look up Uber Frugal Month with Frugalwoods! I think the next official one starts in January (totally free, and really cool to do with a bunch of other online people), but you can sign up to do it anytime. You basically cut out any spending that isn’t 100 percent necessary for the month, see how much you save over one month of spending on basically nothing but the bare necessities, and then make some choices about what you value putting back in to your budget. There are so many things that I realized I was spending on through a simple lack of planning that saved me a boatload once I did Uber Frugal Month. But you do you, :)

    8. Ramona Flowers*

      I have to spend very little as a lot of my money is going on debt repayment right now.

      I found it helped to focus on what TO do rather than what not to do. And to really think before you spend money. Is this really necessary? Is it worth it? In a month will I regret not sitting in this coffee shop or will I regret not having the money?

      Don’t make it easy to spend. Don’t keep your cards somewhere easy to get to. Don’t have things like Apple Pay set up so you can’t pay with your phone.

    9. NDQ*

      What are your goals for the future? How do you want to work/live? It’s easier to make the every day financial decisions once you have a plan.

      My “retirement” income will be from apartment rental income. I own one building now and I’m looking for the next purchase. Once I made my plan, my spending and saving decisions all became easy. I’m still working a full-time job and stashing away as much as I can.

      Track your spending for several weeks and see where the money goes. Make coffee at home, eat meals you make, and for those item you must buy, find the least expensive option.

      Good luck with finals!!

    10. Natalie*

      When you say your terrible at sticking to apps, what precisely do you mean? Do you just forget to update things? Or do you keep it updated but still go over budget?

      1. Ad Astra*

        Both, actually. I just do not remember to enter purchases and expenses and when I do remember, I go over budget then feel guilty.

        1. Mischa*

          Ah, dang it. I used another name for anonymity earlier in the thread and forgot to change it. It’s Mischa.

        2. Natalie*

          This sounds similar to me when I started budgeting for real. From what you’ve said, you’re not in a budget crisis so you can take some time to develop habits and techniques that actually work for you.

          I would start with just tracking. When my husband and I first started using YNAB, we spent like normal and just adjusted our budget categories as needed. It took us probably 6 months to really internalize how zero-based budgeting works and build the habit of entering all of our transactions. We didn’t try to make any changes during that time at all. Then, once we were habituated to it, we started making small changes where we’d wanted to.

    11. Gaia*

      I am grateful I’m not in that situation any longer but I was for a long (long, long, long) time and I found that a few things worked best for me.

      First, set a realistic budget. I don’t drink coffee but I do like going to the movies and if I completely cut that out I would do okay for awhile but then feel deprived and end up spending way too much (kind of out of self-spite, I guess?)

      Check that budget and adjust often. When i started, I had to do this daily. At the end of each day I’d figure what (if anything) I’d spent and then adjust my numbers to see what was left.

      Find little things to cut. I cut out home internet because I had a great library system where I could access wifi close to home and data on my cell. That may not be an option for you, but I bet there is something that can go or be reduced. But see point one: don’t go into full deprivation it rarely works.

      Finally, find little ways you might be able to earn a little more money. Sell things online. Resell text books, etc…

      And, for when you aren’t living so tight and are ready to save I found a good tip for getting started. Start with a small amount (say $20) and increase it by a small amount each payday having it automatically pulled from checking to savings. You rarely notice the difference between $20 and $25 or $50 and $60, etc and it helps – over time – add up to quite a bit. Once you’ve reached your max amount you can save, you just stay steady at that amount. It helped me transition from a “I have no money – how can I save?” mindset to a “Save first, spend second” mindset.

    12. Starryemma*

      I use goodbudget, a budgeting app- I use the free version. If you’re in law school, do you get a loan disbursement all at once for the semester? If so, one thing to consider would be dividing it up into monthly or biweekly segments, kind of like pay checks, and go from there. I’d build in some “fun” money every month if you can, for a movie, or the occasional coffee. It helps me to know that I have $x for these two weeks for food, gas, or random expenses. It’s not perfect, and some months I overspend, but overall it helps me keep the reigns on.

      We’re paying down some credit card debt now, so I’ve been sticking to our budget as best I can.

      And I’d go into it knowing that as you move closer to exams you’ll spend more, just cuz you’re tired and busy studying. So if you can, try to allocate more $$ for that time. Like if you get $10k a semester or some and it’s 4 months long, do $2k for the first two months, and $3k for the last two, to allocate for more easy meals, more coffee, etc. Or something like that.

      I kinda do that- some times I just know I’m gonna be spending more, and try to plan accordingly.

  40. Crafty Christmas*

    I’m a fairly crafty person and enjoy doing crafty gifts for my friends and family for Christmas. In years past, I have made no-sew blankets themed for the receiver (my father got one with his favorite football team’s colors, my stepmother got one with horses since she’s a rider, etc), liquor with modified labels (Angry Orchard relabeled as Angry NAME for my sister, etc), hand-painted wine glasses, and the like. But I’m feeling a bit stumped this year and having a hard time thinking of ideas. Any thoughts of fun crafty gifts you guys have made/received in years past?

    1. HannahS*

      Basic knitted accessories like headbands or hats are my go-to, along with baking of favourite cookies and cakes.

      1. Emily*

        This is what I was going to say! If you know how to knit or crochet, there are some pretty easy things that you can make. One year my friend crocheted me a simple neckwarmer/scarf – I really appreciated it not only for the utility, but also because she did a good job of choosing a yarn that I would like.

        1. HannahS*

          For sure! The only thing is, it’s getting a little close to the date to start making multiple accessories now. I’m knitting a headband for my mom (for Chanukah, which is this week) and it’s going to be a squeeze to get it done. Unless you do like, arm knitting or something. I saw a friend bang out an infinity scarf in something like fifteen minutes.

    2. anon24*

      I make soap and candles every year for my mom, MIL, and grandmother. Candy for my husband’s grandfather. And I’m currently sitting on my floor surrounded by jewelry making supplies because my mom loves handmade jewelry.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      If you’re handy with a sewing machine, I’ve been making lined cases that will fit sunglasses or cell phones. I made up the specific design I use but there are plenty of DIY blogs out there with free tutorials.

      Or pillow cases with themed fabric? Involves a bit of investment in finding the right fabric if you don’t already have, say, four bins of fabric at hand…

      In the no-sew or minimal hand-sewing vein, there are a ton of fleece craft projects out there, with scarves, cowls, and mittens being good for the season.

    4. Beaded Librarian*

      I’ve made various beaded ornaments for family for years now, I always tweak them slightly.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I have to make stuff this year and am having the same problem. Since I have 2482451564514145 bins of craft stuff I’ve been hoarding, I should be able to come up with something for everybody except the little kids (I bought the baby great-nephew a toy smartphone today). Some things I have thought of (and need to get off my butt and do!):

      –Placemats (rectangles of fabric sandwiched over a layer of batting)
      –I found a DIY online about how to make envelope pillow covers and I have some pillow forms, so pillows
      –Rice bags you can warm in the microwave and lay on sore muscles (this would be great for my dad)
      –I had some thin, edged fleece remnants (think airline blanket weight), so I thought I’d applique or embroider initials on them and give them as travel blankets

      I have all this stretch velvet from making skating costumes, but I have no idea what I can do with it. More googling shall commence.

      1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

        I’ve done pillow cases a number of times and gotten very good feedback on them. The people with collections love them, because it speaks to their favorite thing without being yet /another/ figurine. And there are so many fabulous fabrics out there! I usually use a 2 –
        3″ solid color satin for the opening edge with piping in between.

          1. Anion*

            How’s the satin pillowcase working? I’ve bought two for my Faerie (who turned 13 on Friday, waah!) for Xmas, because she has gorgeous long thick hair that gets matted AF when she sleeps–even if we braid it, she gets tangled above the braid, although not badly. I’ve heard the satin helps a lot, because there’s no snagging/resistance when turning in one’s sleep, but to hear that it actually works would be nice.

    6. Parenthetically*

      Olive oil and sugar make a dynamite body scrub — scent as you like with oils or whatnot (just not cinnamon or other “hot” oils). It’s really easy to scent epsom salts too.

      A few years ago I made library bags (just little tote bags) for my nieces and nephews out of clothes from thrift stores — blue jeans cut up and sewn together in uneven, wonky strips made a CRAZY sturdy bag that looked cool to boot.

      1. Anion*

        Oooh, yeah. No cinnamon oil! I once tried a perfume from Black Phoenix that had cinnamon oil in it–the second I put it on I started burning so badly I had to run to the sink to wash it off, and I had a bright red mark where I’d applied it for like three days.

    7. Traveling Teacher*

      If you’re running short on time or have unexpected people to make for, a great thing to pull together quickly are homemade packs/jars/kits.

      One year, I made a bunch of hot chocolate kits (basically just good chocolate, plus a bottle of milk. My recipe is a ratio of 300g 70percent chocolate to one liter of milk, so about 75g chocolate for one cup. Heat (don’t boil!) the milk, then stir in the appropriate amount of chocolate. Serve with whipped cream and die of happiness! Our milk here is shelf-stable for 3 months, though, :) UHT has that as a benefit… For my immediate family, I added really fun stuff, like cool sprinkles, fancy whipped cream, flavoring syrups… ) I found a really really good deal on chocolate leading up to Christmas and had some jars lying around. It was very inexpensive when I was first out of university, too :)

      I’ve also done cookie kits with all the dry ingredients pre-mixed in a jar, hot chocolate spoons (slightly more labor-intensive), and cocktail/mocktail kits.

      One year, someone made me really cool drink charms, using different local bear caps with a hole drilled in them and a bit of coiled wire to secure them around a wine glass, :) If you have the right stuff lying around, it would cost practically nothing to make!

    8. TootsNYC*

      I used the computer to print out personalized stationery for the folks on my staff. I printed on blank correspondence cards.

      Then I did it for my daughter but I added a quote that n the bottom.

      And just now I’m remembering that as a teen I drew fruits (banana, apple, strawberry, etc.) on plain stationery as a gift. Those were about the only things I could draw.

      And I bought a hemmed by football and made infinity scarves for people (I make them thinner and shorter than most of the commercial ones).

  41. Drama Llama*

    If you could only read one fiction and one non fiction for the rest of your life, which books would you choose?