knowledge swap! share your expertise with people here

Are you good at something and willing to share that expertise with others here? Here’s what I propose for a change of pace:

1. In the comment section below, name something you’re really good at that you’d be willing to answer questions about. It could be Excel, or financial planning, or make-up recommendations, or resolving customer service problems, or anything else that you’re awesome at and willing to take questions on.

2. Ask questions of others, and answer the questions people ask of you.

3. Feel free to leave calls for expertise too — like “how do I get rid of hanging indents in Word?” or “how do I keep people from falling asleep in my presentations?”

If all goes well, then at the end of the day, you will have helped other people and been helped yourself.

{ 3,473 comments… read them below }

    1. Sailor Bee*

      I’m always so tempted by the ridiculous amount of savings couponers seem to get, but do you find that the time required is worth it? (Assuming you have the money to pay full price). What if you don’t have the room to store bulk purchases?

      1. Temperance*

        For me, I genuinely consider it a hobby. It is a time commitment, but I really love doing it.

        I have limited space to store things, so what I tend to do is donate extra stuff to a local foster care org, and I sent my sister care packages as well.

      2. Z*

        Also a couponer — you have to remember that the Infamous Coupon Show was mostly a lie. Stores bent their rules and some couponers misused the coupons (or used counterfeit coupons). Additionally, due to that Infamous Coupon Show, stores and manufacturers have really cracked down on abuses. I find, anymore, I can’t get much free before smartphone rebate apps (ibotta, Fetch, Checkout 51).

    2. Emily S.*

      What are your favorite sources for coupons?

      I already use coupons-dot-com, and RedPlum, coupon sherpa, and sometimes Lozo.

      Are there other good ones? I also use the store apps to get manufacturer coupons, which is nice.

      1. Temperance*

        I get most of mine from my free local paper! I’m really lucky in that the free paper near me has coupon inserts.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Have you tried sending emails to brands that you really love? I don’t coupon so much anymore but some of the best ones I ever got were from writing a note to companies about products I love, telling them I am a loyal customer, and asking for any other coupons they have. Free jumbo sizes of X, Y and Z products with no expiration date ever? Yes, please!

      2. Swagbucks girl*

        Have you tried swagbucks? It’s a site where you can use it as a search engine, or for on line shopping, etc. and you earn “swagbucks” which you can later redeem for real gift cards. I’ve been using swagbucks for four or five years and have earned $600, and I”m not that active with it. You can earn points just for printing and then more points for using coupons. I’ll often print extra coupons (get more points) for things I don’t use and leave those coupons for others to use in the store – when they redeem them I get more points and they get the savings. Win/win. I have a referral link, but it’s probably not ok to share here?

        1. Temperance*

          LOVE SWAGBUCKS. I’m on the team currently in the lead for this team challenge! Swagbucks is my “fun money”, so to speak. $50 – $75/month that I can guilt-free blow on random stuff.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      How do you keep a rein on coupon shopping to ensure that you’re buying things you actually need as opposed to stuff that has a great coupon? How flexible do you wind up being in terms of “I need X but Y is similar and has an offer”?

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Tell it, Sister. I am still trying to use up cleaning products that found their way into my utility closet 3 years ago because I just had to use a coupon!

      2. Temperance*

        This honestly took some practice! I definitely went overboard at first, but learned to rein it in. I also donate a lot to my local foster care org, so even if it’s something that I can’t use or don’t like, it will get used. (I primarily coupon personal care stuff and makeup.)

        I’m not as hardcore as some couponers are. I remember one woman on a coupon forum commenting about how she used baby formula as coffee creamer because she got it for free, even though she hated it. That’s too far for me. I’m always willing to try new brands, but I mostly stick to my favorites.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I wish I could share the face I’m making right now at the formula-as-creamer story. EWWWWW!

        2. Hills to Die on*

          Have you tried the buy-one-get-one free coupon with a buy-one-get-one-free sale? You get both for free. Those were always my favorite.

          Plus the ones where you combine the store and manufacturer coupons and end up making money on the product. Like if it was $0.79 item and you have a store coupon for $0.50 off and a manufacturer coupoon for $0.50 off, then you made $0.21 cents when you bought the item. I got way to excited about that stuff.

          1. Temperance*

            Um, yes, those are my favorite! That’s actually what got me into couponing. I had a very boring volunteer job manning the box office at a community theater, so I taught myself how to coupon then.

          2. Media Monkey*

            i am always so surprised when i see you can do that in the US (yes, we get those extreme couponing TV shows too). In the UK, T&Cs on coupons generally say that they cannot be used in conjunction with another offer.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Many places do that, but you have to know which ones will. I used to carry around a copy of the stores’ coupon policies in my coupon binder because sometimes the cashiers don’t realizes what is allowable and what isn’t.

        3. atalanta0jess*


          Formula is so gross and stinky. I cannot even imagine.

          (This is not formula shaming! I fed it to my baby, I think it’s great that it exists and is used for babies to eat. I just don’t think it smells good.)

          1. Temperance*

            Oh it smells TERRIBLE. I’ve fed many babies, some of them formula, and the sickly sweet milky smell is just Not For Me.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        When I was heavily into couponing, I started by writing my list first. I would use the sale flyers and put together meals for the week. Once I got that part figured out, then I would go to the coupon bin and start pulling out coupons.
        Once in a while I would buy several of something but not that often. The reduction in price would have to 75% or greater to get me to do that. I guess that was the big deciding factor I made for myself, if the savings was 75% or more then I could cut loose and buy a quantity.

        I think I was motivated by watching my parents. They were depression kids and really did not understand where to draw the line. What happened was we would have 10 bottles of ketchup and only one person used ketchup once or twice a month. It really made me think about how much money was tied up in stuff that was not being used. It’s not much different than throwing money in the garbage if you think about it.

        Other ways I drew my line was “how many of these will fit on the shelf in the cupboard?” This helped with paper goods because it’s so easy to get carried away. My husband was a diabetic so this also helped to limit what I bought. My last question was, “How much of this will I use in the next three months?” For just the two of us, 6 boxes of spaghetti was plenty.

        Of course I crunched the numbers for the year to see how I was doing. At that time we allotted approximately $2500 per year for food. I covered $1000 of that bill with coupons even though I had some kind of tough rules. I did this for probably the first 8 years we were married.

    4. saravonbam*

      What do I do if I don’t subscribe to newspapers and don’t receive the weekly coupon inserts like Red Plum and SmartSource? Whenever I browse Krazy Coupon Lady it seems like you need those manufacturer coupons and store-specific circulars to get the best deals. (I live in NYC so subscribing to a local newspaper would be pretty expensive.)

      1. KL*

        I’m not sure about smart source, but you can get red plum’s coupons online as well. They are about to move over to retailmenot-dot-com.

      2. Temperance*

        I typically get my coupons from the free local paper. There used to be a website where you could find which papers include coupon inserts. I’ll see if I can remember what it was!

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I also remember hearing about people who swing by the local recycling center and get a truckload of coupon inserts for free…I never did it but seemed like they were super happy about it.

      3. a-no*

        If you have preferred brands, often you can sign up for coupon emails directly from their website!
        I have a main email, then a ‘junk’ email which I use for store discounts etc etc so it doesn’t spam my main email.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        People around here buy the Sunday paper. So many people do this that stores have signs up that say, “limit 10 Sunday papers per customer.”

        I also asked a friend to save coupons for me. She got coupons on a regular basis from her paper. OMG, she gave me so. many. coupons. Back when I had to use a laundry mat, the place I went to had a coupon bin. You take what you will use and drop of what you don’t want.

    5. pmac*

      Do I have to print out the coupons I find online or does showing them on my phone work? Do you have any favorite apps?

      1. Temperance*

        It depends on the store, but generally, you need to print. I actually don’t use many apps, other than those for my local grocery stores.

    6. Snargulfuss*

      In my short bouts of couponing I’ve found that coupons are mostly for processed foods that I don’t buy a lot of. Is trying to coupon worth it if I’m mostly just buying produce, meat, and grains?

      1. Temperance*

        I primarily coupon for personal care products, but you can definitely save money on what you buy at the grocery store, just by shopping the circulars and buying what’s on sale.

      2. memyselfandi*

        Same here. I will find a coupon sometimes for a staple like olive oil , but I have to be careful to check that the coupon item isn’t more expensive than another brand of equal quality, even with the coupon. Also, I have found that when they are running coupons for pharmacy items such as ibuprofen or antibiotic cream, that the pharmacy chain is promoting their store brand for cheaper than the brand item with the coupon discount. Still, I always check the circulars and a few times a month I save a few cents , and a penny is a penny.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        Keep note of the store sales. There are different sales for Sunday through Tuesday that are way better than the rest of the week. That’s usually how I got the best deals on produce.

        I hope you don’t mind my chiming in, Temperance. I am just now realizing how much I miss couponing….

        1. Admin Amber*

          How do you get fresh produce and meat? I see coupons for bottled, boxed, canned items mostly. Do you just shop what is on sale that week for produce and meat? The TLC shows I have seen the people are buying a lot of packaged goods, but I rarely see fresh items in their cart.

          1. Temperance*

            There are some people who are excellent at getting “overages” (where the coupon is worth more than the price of an item, basically), and they use the overages to cover pay for produce and meat. I’m not quite that hardcore, so I tend to buy what I want, but I will stock up on meat at sales, for example.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      Oh hey there. I don’t understand exactly what it is that Salesforce does. Is there a short but explanatory version? I freely admit that it’s probably rooted in my paradigm–like if my profession was anywhere in a venn diagram with yours I might–but I have… no clue.

      1. Salesforce Admin*

        In the simplest terms, Salesforce is essentially a tool that allows companies to streamline data and processes internally and externally. . It can do pretty much (within limits) anything you want for it to do, depending on your company and industry. Your Salesforce experience is only as good as the implementation and processes you set in place for it, if that makes sense :)

        1. sometimeswhy*

          Is it specifically geared toward sales? Or can it apply to other customer-like relationships? If so, is there an example you can give of that sort of thing?

          1. Salesforce Admin*

            Sales is a great example of how it’s being used, but lots of non-profits use Salesforce, as well as higher education spaces. Another Salesforce use is as a self-service portal through something called Communities- companies use Communities to interact with their internal employees, clients, and vendors.

            1. H*

              Agreed, we use Salesforce for the homeless charity I work for, it is very adaptable. We’re currently working on a project to make it even more customised to our services (biggest thing I am currently losing sleep over, roll out is in July!)

            2. M-C*

              Excellent for nonprofits! You can keep track of members, donors, vendors, all kinds of contacts, grouping them, keeping decent notes and histories.. It’s a great help dealing with the volunteer turnover that’s pretty much inevitable.

          2. GG*

            We use Salesforce at my job in the capacity described by Salesforce Admin below, and also as a tool to aggregate logistics and data from conferences/events we attend/host (location, dates, registration status, email campaign- specs/deployment/status, etc.) We also use it to sync data from our email marketing campaigns in order to track leadgen and a plethora of other things. Hope this helps and doesn’t confuse you more!

          3. Lucky*

            I recently completed an implementation of a contract management system (Apttus) on the Salesforce platform. It’s pretty cool.

            1. Green Tea Lover*

              Hello! Fellow Apttus and Salesforce admin user here :) Thought I would say hi!

              Are you guys using it for contract management only, any CPQ?

          4. Admin 4 Life*

            We use salesforce to track contracts and agreements for a research university. It’s versatile enough to track contract costs, contacts, save pdf copies of those contracts, etc. so the whole company has access to the same data.

          5. H.C.*

            We’ve used Salesforce to streamline data collection processes in clinical trials (which extra useful with our field workers, since it makes sure they ask all the proper questions & get the proper samples from our study participants)

    2. PieInTheBlueSky*

      Is there a recommended best practice for what to do with old leads and opportunities in SF? For example, if we determine a lead is never going to lead to a sale, can we delete it from SF? How soon can it be deleted? Or should it be kept permanently in SF for data reporting purposes? We don’t use reports much today, but might in the future. Would deleting data like this skew the reports we create?

      1. Salesforce Admin*

        Without knowing about your company and industry needs, it depends :)

        For leads and opportunities being deleted, that’ll depend on your business processes- technology wise, they can be deleted ASAP. You could create a stage for the old opportunities or use one of the pre-existing stages. Something like closed-lost, or possibly archived. You wouldn’t be able to create stages for leads, but depending on your business needs, exporting the leads/opportunities as a backup might make sense if you decide that after a certain time period, they’re cluttering up the system.

        For your reports question: As with everything, it depends on how much historical data there is and how much you rely on it. If you really wanted a backup, you could use Data Loader or possibly reports to export those old leads or opportunities.

        1. PieInTheBlueSky*

          Thanks to you and Yep, me again for your replies! I’m on the admin side, so deleting anything makes me a bit nervous, but deletion is something our users requested to make their jobs easier. We could probably find a way to hide the old data, but it would probably require some user retraining or readjustment, and since we don’t even have full user adoption of SF yet, I think that anything that encourages user involvement is the best path for now.

        2. M-C*

          Keeping track of old leads that led nowhere can be a great time saver.. and avoid re-annoying them all over again.

      2. Yep, me again*

        We used to save them to a campaign and it removed them from the contact view, however, whatever you are using to draw in those leads needs to have parameters in place so you don’t get spambots or something like a person using fXXX you @ Something like that.

        1. Yep, me again*

          or you could go with what salesforce admin said. I was just an end-user and at first the company/marketing didn’t want us to delete leads ever, hence the campaign.

    3. Hearing Unchallenged*

      Hi Salesforce admin! Thank you for stopping by. Quick question (well, maybe not – you’d be the judge of that, haha!): Is there a way to connect Google AdWords to SFDC so you can see pay-per-click metrics in an SFDC report? AdWords has a SFDC > AdWords connector but I need it to work the other way around, from Adwords > SFDC. Could you point me to where I can research this?

      In return, I’m happy to answer any search engine marketing questions you may have.

      Thanks in advance!

      1. Salesforce Admin*

        Hmmm, off the top of my head, your best bet might be the AppExchange. Are you using Marketing Cloud?

        1. Hearing Unchallenged*

          AppExchange! Of course! Found the plugin I needed. Thank you so much!

          Also, you may answered this in part before, but is there a learning curve to Lightning?

          1. KatieK*

            Only 2x certified here to not as qualified to answer as OP but here’s my experience:

            From an admin standpoint: YES. There is more to customize and much of it works differently/unexpectedly if you’re used to working with Classic pages/layouts/apps

            From a user standpoint: There’s definitely an adjustment period, but as long as your implementation is good Lightning should actually be more intuitive for your users than Classic. One major upgrade for users is search, which IMO is much better in Lightning.

    4. Liz Lemon*

      oooh! how to i set my default to “show fewer updates” when i enter an opportunity/account. I hate having to scroll past it each time; it’s always such inane activity, like “Liz Lemon changed amount form $5 to $5.50”


    5. Trillion*

      I have much respect for you; SalesForce is a beast. I threatened to quit my job when they hinted that they wanted me to take on SalesForce responsibility (without any training).

    6. neutral nancy*

      Do you have recommendations on training/free resources one can use to get way up to speed on the new lightning workflows? I’m starting to feel lost and I don’t want to fall behind or be the one nagging my internal SF expert all the time!

    7. Rita*

      Maybe oddly specific but I couldn’t find this on google: do datetime calculations give results in hours? Days?

      1. Salesforce Admin*

        So sorry, I just saw this now! I actually do- the app my team and I are building uses NPSP quite a bit!

  1. UX Designer*

    I’m a UX Designer. I broke in to this role without any previous experience. Happy to answer questions for anyone looking to work in this field. It’s super #trendy right now and I have OPINIONS about all the of the classes, courses and bootcamps that are popping up.

      1. UX Designer*

        Personally I don’t think of the high-priced bootcamps are worth it for UX. The field is changing all the time. On the other hand, people who do a few online tutorials and call themselves “ux designers” aren’t legitimate either. The best thing you can do is spend time trying to get actual experience. Most cities have meet ups and professional groups that would be more helpful. Yes, there are some skills you can learn (certain programs, best practices, etc) but UX is a lot more about how you think. So prioritize activities, experiences and groups that make you think. Don’t shell out for expensive classes.

    1. Bekx*

      Oooo! Me! Me! Me!

      I have my masters in UX, but it seems like all the roles I’ve been applying to and the recruiter I’ve been talking to has all said I need experience. I’m currently working as a web/graphic designer & general marketingish stuff. Any tips?

      1. UX Designer*

        Yes, experience is key. Anyone can learn the programs, but UX is about how you think, not just what you know.

        My advice would be to take some time exploring portfolios of UX designers and thinking about how you can put a UX spin on the work you do. If you’re already designing web pages, you can speak a lot to WHY you made certain decisions and HOW those decisions affected the results (ie a button being blue vs red and how that affected clicks). You can also advocate for more user testing or research of your designs and work those in to the stories you tell about the pieces in your portfolio. Lastly, look up local meetups and groups. You can often find hackathon or pro-bono projects to help boost your portfolio. Good luck!

      2. Autumnheart*

        Web design is highly relevant (or, to be more accurate, UX is highly relevant to web design).

        Look for roles in agencies and corporations. The projects themselves will involve a lot of design strategy and planning for UX and usability before development, and it’s a good way to get experience in the architectural portion of site design as opposed to, say, small business websites. Having experience in different types of CMS programs will be helpful for landing those.

    2. Current ISD/ID*

      What kind of roles did you have before and how did yuo get into UX for the first time? I’m currently an e-learning ISD/ID and a lot of the postings I look at overlap with UX work. Any tips on how I can make my current role relevant for a move over?

        1. Current ISD/ID*

          Sure. I design and write e-learning training materials. So I’ll get something like a technical manual and turn it into a computer-based course teaching the material. It includes writing the actual content and also designing the way the course looks and interacts.

          1. UX Designer*

            It sounds like you’re doing both content strategy (the materials) and them some UX work with how the course looks and interacts. If you’re doing everything from scratch, then this would be a decent UX portfolio piece. But if you’re working in a specific framework then it’s a little less UX since you don’t have total control.

            As I’ve said to others, it’s really about how you think and showing that you can solve problems. Have you ever design a course, realized people were getting stuck somewhere and then found a solution to make it work better? That’s essentially UX and if you can showcase some of that, then you’ll have some UX work under your belt.

    3. Shaima*

      YES PLEASE!! I’ve worked as a project manager and in graphic design, web development and general communications – UX is like my dream field for a variety of reasons, and I know how to use the major relevant programs, but I don’t know how to blend my relevant experience into enough experience when everyone wants portfolios. What kind of roles do you recommend looking at for a “break in” position? What are the best ways to prove knowledge of the standard UX software choices when I haven’t ever actually been paid to use them?

      1. UX Designer*

        Having a portfolio really is key but learning how to talk about your process and results in UX-speak will be really helpful. UX is not just about skills or software but also about how you think. Spend some time looking up other UX portfolios to get an idea for how people are talking about their projects. You can likely rework some of your graphic/web dev projects to put a UX spin on them while still showcasing the actual work that you did.

        As I mentioned in a few other comments, getting involved with local meetups or groups will also be really helpful. You can look for pro-bono opportunities to help you get tangible items to showcase. You can also help friends and families with an UX work they might need on their websites. The more you can help show your thought process the more you’ll have a UX body of work. Even just sketching out flows or wireframes and including those images in your portfolio will help.

        1. Shaima*

          That’s really helpful – I can definitely rework most of my graphic/web projects. Thank you!!

    4. Breaking in?*

      I’m starting a PhD (in Rhetoric and Composition/Communication) this fall. UX research is my backup plan. Any suggestions for what I should do during/after grad school to make myself more marketable?

      1. UX Researcher*

        Hi! I’m a UX Researcher here, just out of grad school, with a job. In my experience, interviewers were most concerned about work experience, though education was a plus. If you can do internships every now and then, or volunteer UX research, that would help a lot in your job search later down the line.

        1. Breaking in?*

          Should I make a point to take research methods courses? Obviously most of my coursework will be in writing/teaching, but I’m wondering if I should seek out courses that lean a certain way.

          1. UX Researcher*

            I think so. Research methods was my favorite class. It definitely helps with UX, but it can also help you choose methods for your academic research, and it will give you a broader point of view which could come in handy when reviewing the work of other academics.

      2. Melody*

        I’m interested in going towards a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. How did you decide to go into it? Which program/school are you going to? Do you have any recommendations for which schools to look at? Did you get your Master’s and then decide to dive right into the PhD or did you spend a few years working? If the latter, what did you do? Thanks!

        1. ProfWannaBe*

          Michigan State is excellent for Rhetoric and Composition. Their PhDs have been getting great jobs at a high rate, unusually so for the job market. They get strong teaching experience in the WRAC program (Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures) and excellent other opportunities (including funding!) through the school’s Writing Center. Not my department, and not really my speed, but I’ve been very impressed by how well they do.

        2. ErinW*

          Case Western Reserve in Cleveland also has a terrific Rhet Comp program (they call it WHIT or Writing History and Theory), or they did when I was there getting my Lit degree approx. 10 years ago. Everyone I know in that program got tenure-track right out of the gate.

        3. Breaking in?*

          Hi, Melody! I’ve been teaching first-year writing for about seven years with a master’s degree. I love my work and know that in order to move up in this field, I would need a PhD.

          I’ll be at one of two schools in the Midwest. I applied to one because it was close to me; the other, because the professors in my master’s program suggested it. There are a range of different specialties within Rhetoric and Composition (e.g. feminist rhetorics, digital rhetorics, first-year writing), and so what I’d suggest you do is figure out whose work you like within the field, then go where those professors are. I applied to a couple programs (didn’t get in, sadly) because I’d really enjoyed some of the published essays of the professors at the programs; and I applied to another one because I was excited about some of the practical instructional design work that another professor was doing (got in to that one). Also, when you figure out who will write your recs, ask them for suggestions; they probably have a better sense of program reputation.

          I’m not sorry about taking a few years off; though I feel a little older to start this (early 30s), I also have a better sense of who I am as a teacher and what I want to do. Another good reason (sometimes) to take a few years off is that it gives you a chance to build up some experience to use in your application. While I’ve been out of school, I’ve published on some education blogs; I’ve done some course design; and I’ve gotten a graduate certificate in a related field. I think this helped make my application more successful, and it gives me a strong platform to stand on as I go back to higher education more formally. But if you feel like you’re going strong as you finish a bachelor’s/master’s, you can head straight into a program.

          One thing I would suggest is that if you can, take coursework in rhetoric and composition. I have a master’s degree in literature, which meant that when it came time to create a writing sample for the application, I had to write something completely new, without the benefit of a class. It was HARD! Taking coursework in the field, perhaps as part of a master’s program, will give you a writing sample if you decide to apply for a PhD subsequently, and it will also help you figure out if you’re interested in this work, and what “slice” of the work you’re interested in.

          Feel free to ask if you have more questions!

          1. Breaking in?*

            As far as specific programs: University of Oklahoma is good for first-year composition and religious rhetorics. University of Tennessee Knoxville has a strong program. If you’re interested in business or professional rhetorics at all, Iowa State University is good.

          2. Melody*

            Thanks! I’m currently a high school English teacher, but teach AP English Language & Comp. I am also in a Master’s program in English, where one of my focus areas is Rhetoric and Comp. I would like to teach college once I graduate with my MA, so it’s good to hear that there are still jobs out there.

    5. Junior Dev*

      How has your experience been with getting the people you work with to understand what you actually do? I’ve seen UX designers get treated like anything from front-end developers to graphic designers to project managers.

      1. UX Designer*

        This is my BIGGEST pet peeve. UX, UI and Dev are all very different roles and I’m extremely skeptical of someone who claims to be great at all three. We talk alot about be “T” shaped, meaning your know a lot about a lot things but you really go deep in one of two areas. I don’t code and I don’t do UI. Any job listing or company that tries to ask if I do those roles gets a pass from me because it shows that they don’t actually understand what it is that I do.

        In my experience, most clients want good UX but they don’t understand what that means. They respond better to pretty pictures (UI) but don’t understand how to look at wireframes (UX). I work at an agency that really values and promotes UX and we are very distinct from the creatives but we all work closely. I typically explain my job as being like the architect of a house. I make the blueprints, but I don’t build it or decorate it.

        1. Autumnheart*

          UX designs the house. Dev puts in the frame, wiring and plumbing. UI furnishes the house. You want nicer cabinets, you go to UI. You want to upgrade the plumbing, you go to Dev (and UI because you will probably need to replace some fixtures). You want to build an addition, you go to UX first and then Dev and UI.

          1. UX Designer*

            Great analogy. DO NOT LET DEV START YOUR ADDITION. You will end up with pipes in the middle of the room.

            1. Junior Dev*

              But it was the most optimal place for the pipes! And it let me use this cool new pipe-placing framework I read about on Hacker News!

    6. No Green No Haze*

      What was your previous field? How did you get from zero to competent to employable?

      1. UX Designer*

        I have a BA in Art History and I worked a number of marketing/creative internships in college. I really didn’t know what UX was when I applied to an entry level job. The biggest thing I’ve found in UX is that really isn’t about skill; anyone can learn mobile-first theory or how to use Omnigraffle. UX is really about how you think. You have to be analytical and logical while also being able to zoom out to the “big picture” before diving pack in to the finer details.

        I had a solid work history of internships but I nailed the interview skills test which was really like a solving a puzzle; I was asked to create fictional recommendations to get young people paying with PayPal in restaurants. I did some research, ID’d roadblocks and presented my suggestions as results of what I saw. That’s UX; it’s problem solving.

    7. Madame X*

      Are any of the bootcamps worth the money for people interested in working as a UX Designer?

      1. UX Designer*

        I personally don’t think they are worth the money. You are better off finding part time, after hours or weekend sessions that don’t break the bank. Quitting your job for a full time course is not worth it, in my opinion. Students come out with a portfolio of “projects” but the school assignments and not very impressive. You’re better off looking for hackathon, pro-bono or local opportunities to help build a portfolio. I’m not impressed with student projects as standalone pieces because they are so controlled. You want to find opportunities that give you the opportunity to drive and measure real results, which classroom projects do not.

      1. UX Designer*

        I have a BA in Art History and I worked a number of marketing/creative internships in college. I really didn’t know what UX was when I applied to an entry level job. The biggest thing I’ve found in UX is that really isn’t about skill; anyone can learn mobile-first theory or how to use Omnigraffle. UX is really about how you think. You have to be analytical and logical while also being able to zoom out to the “big picture” before diving pack in to the finer details.

        I had a solid work history of internships but I nailed the interview skills test which was really like a solving a puzzle; I was asked to create fictional recommendations to get young people paying with PayPal in restaurants. I did some research, ID’d roadblocks and presented my suggestions as results of what I saw. That’s UX; it’s problem solving.

        To be a good UX designer you have to be really good with attention to details BUT ALSO able to look at things super holistically as part of a system. Somedays I’m working through flows of how a user gets from A to B and other days it’s all about super nit-picky details. If you’re good at puzzles, organization and logic problems then you’ll be good!

    8. Bad Candidate*

      I’d be interested in how you got into it and what classes you had to take or would recommend.

      1. UX Designer*

        This really depends. UX and UI are very different roles, though a lot of places lump them together and it drives me crazy. Other people may not care as much but to me, UX is not about colors or fonts or pretty pictures. UI is much more in line with graphic and visual design. UX is much more functional and incorporates a lot more backend knowledge and research. This course leans much more UI but there are elements of UX in there. I would spend some time looking at job postings and deciding what role you want to have before diving in. There is often a lot of liberty taken with job titles and responsibilities so it will be helpful for you to get clear on what you actually want to focus on so you don’t become so broad in your skills that you can’t on any one area.

        1. Seeking an MS*

          Thanks. I really wasn’t clear on the distinction between UX and UI, so that’s helpful (as well as your response to Junior Dev above). I’m a technical writer who fell into developing e-learning, and Steve Krug’s “Don’t Me Think” is kind of my bible. If you’re familiar with the book, would you say it’s more about UI or UX? Or neither?

        2. Former Librarian*

          UX designer here (although my current role is, in theory, UI/UX/FED). I SUCK at UI. I’m not interested. I don’t freaking care what shade of blue you choose or if you use drop shadows as long as the end product is accessible. I’m decent at FED, but only because I’ve been doing it for 20 years. My passion and sweet spot is UX. I’d like to move on from my current position, but am finding it very hard to find something that isn’t “bleeding edge design + UX, maybe”. Honestly, I might have to physically move once my kids are done with school.

    9. AG*

      I am also a homegrown UX designer. I was hired to do graphic design work, but my then manager helped me pivot into UX because she thought I had potential. I absolutely love the work, but I’ve been learning a lot as I go. My company likes to say it values UX, but in reality, they make us cut a lot of corners and rush our process. As a result, I may be job hunting soon — and it’s the first time I’ll be searching as a UX designer. Any advice for someone who has over a year of “real world” experience, but at a company that isn’t doing things exactly right? I’m not sure what to include in my portfolio when I’m not super proud of the final product.

      1. Anon Marketer*

        Work in tech. Play UX designer sometimes, work with them a lot. Helped hire ours. The answer is two-fold here:

        Unfortunately work NOT making you cut corners is a myth or very, VERY rare. The best you can do is explain your thinking each time, and once they make that decision, it’s out of your hands. Sometimes the client/company cares more about their budget or what THEY think is right versus what actually is. Designer’s dilemma, unfortunately.

        Portfolio, you want to show your thinking process (such as case studies) to see where you got there. Our current UI/UX designer I helped hire had a mix of final product, wireframes, and mid-fi work with explanations for each. Also, if your client’s final product wasn’t your first choice, no reason you can’t show YOUR first choice. Portfolio is for your best work, not necessarily your CLIENT’S preferred work.

        Hope this helps!

    10. Technical Writer*

      I’m a technical writer who just finished my MS in Information Systems. My thesis involved designing for red-green color-blindness (inspired by my brother’s experience with deuteranopia). I’d love to hear your experience or opinions on that.

    11. UX Manager*

      Another UXer here – I have a mix of design, testing and research in my background, and over a decade of experience. I also do a lot of UX hiring, and I completely agree with everything UX Designer has said around making sure you show your thinking in your portfolio, not just shiny final products. Pretty is nice, but I’m way more interested in seeing how you got there and whether or not you involved any actual people.

      1. UX Manager*

        I would also say, if you’re currently in another role and looking to move into UX, see if there’s anything you can do around/within to your current role that would bring UX thinking to it, especially if it’s not something your company does more formally. Running some hallway usability testing on a product you’re working on, or spending some time talking to or observing users and bringing that knowledge back to your organization – there are tons of resources online around how to do those kinds of things, and I’m much more likely to hire people who have taken that kind of initiative in a real world environment than someone who took a six month UX “intensive” and made some shiny portfolio pieces.

    12. cleo*

      Ooh. This is well timed. I have a phone interview for a UX job on Monday and I don’t have a ton of UX experience.

      I’m currently a freelance front-end web designer/developer – I’m a generalist who does a little bit of everything (and before that I taught art and design for many years). I’ve done UX type things in most of my web projects and I enjoy it and I think I’m more suited to it than UI.

      This thread is very helpful. I was honestly shocked that I got my phone interview because I’ve never worked as a UX designer. I decided I’d apply partly to see how well my resume and portfolio did – and lo, they were good enough to get me a phone interview with HR.

    13. Anon Marketer*

      I’d like to move into this field. I’m a graphic/visual designer right now who’s not feeling super challenged and what UI/UX work I’ve done make my brain think in ways I enjoy. How can I break into the field?

    14. Designer in Progress*

      Question for you on internships. I’m newly graduated (as of last spring) and been working in my university town for a small company as marketing and graphic design, quickly becoming a department of one and doing what I can to improve our website, data systems, design rules, etc. I’m slowly trying to build up a portfolio and experience by taking on projects to gather information and fix issues for my employer (who has been very happy with my work) to help break into the UX/UI Design fields. I don’t have any internships under my belt since I skipped right into a marketing position, but thought about taking one up if I can. I don’t have any real world experience in the field since I’m mostly self taught and have a game design degree, so I feel my portfolio is still weak and my resume is missing experience. As a designer in the field, would aiming for an internship be taking a step backwards from where I’m at now, or should I keep doing what I am and see if I can get in somewhere as a junior designer later? I’ve been job searching for a while and been met with radio silence, so continuing my efforts to improve and switch over from marketing to UI or UX, if possible.

    15. UX Designer II Electric Boogaloo*

      Oh man, I rarely see other UXers on here!

      I completely second everything you said about UX design being a way of thinking. You mentioned a lot about being logical and analytical and looking at the big picture and that is soooo important. But also something I’ve noticed that UX designers sometimes skip out on is the empathy. A huge part of my job is figuring out the who, what, and why. Who are users are, what they want, and why they want it. Everyone usually manages who and what, but the why is often left dangling.

      Designing with empathy also means designing to be inclusive! A huge part of UX design is making things accessible and easy for everyone. This means I don’t design two gendered forms anymore, and if designing for a site where the users primarily speak a character based language (Hebrew, Mandarin, Korean to name a couple off the top of my head), I go right to left.

      This is my favourite part of UX design and why I love what I do – I get to use rational arguments and data (sweet, sweet testing data) to prove my points, but at the end of the day everything I do comes down to compassion. If I can design with compassion then I can design something useful.

      (I’m sure you know this original commenter! I’m just commenting for others who are interested in the role)

      PS: if you’re a bad public speaker/bad at presenting in general – work on this right now. I can sell snow to an eskimo if I’m confident in my work and honestly, this gets me further than anything else in my career. I can speak marketing, I can speak business, and I can speak dev. In a field where most of us like hiding behind our monitors, this has made me a resource on every single team I’ve been on.

      1. UX Researcher*

        I’d love to work on my public speaking skills. I agree, that is so important in this field. Do you have any book recommendations? Or just good old practice-makes-perfect?

        1. UX Designer II Electric Boogaloo*

          I actually was a theatre undergrad and then a journalist so I unfortunately can’t recommend any books as I did more of a trial by fire thing. But the same principles apply here. Tell a story, and tell it well.
          I use this manta for interviews and presentations. People want to believe you, they’re walking into that room hoping that you’re the solution to their problem. I find this majorly helps because if you assume everyone is on your side already, then all you have to do is keep them there.

          Before I start I usually warm the room ever so slightly. I smile, I make a light joke (‘Hi I’m Jane Eyre and I’m here to push boxes around, feel free to throw things if you hate it. I’m very good at ducking by now”) I make the joke about me so they know I don’t take myself too seriously. Then I usually try to just talk to them. I compliment people when they speak up (“you raise a good point, thanks for mentioning that”) I never dismiss anyone even if their ideas are bad and they should feel bad (“interesting thought! I appreciate the new perspective. I’ll definitely take that under consideration”) and I frame things in ways they’ll understand. I explain why I did things the way I did them, also in terms they understand. If you have personas or scenarios, lean on them. I’m basically Kristen Chenoweth in combat boots so if I don’t speak like I know what I’m talking about I would be torn to shreds.

          I also think all tech people could do with beefing up their soft skills. I develop relationships with the people who I present to. This doesn’t mean I we go out for drinks after work or anything, it just means I ask about their weekends, remember how many kids they have, ask if they’ve seen any good movies lately etc. People respond better to me than some of my colleagues because they feel like I’m a person instead of just a “ux designer”.

          I suffer from major imposter syndrome and other miscellaneous mental spiders, so I’m honestly faking it 99% of the time. But sometimes this is just a no go mentally. So then I’ll LARP my way through it. I usually default to Dana Scully. If Dana Scully was giving this presentation how would she do it? Then I do that.

  2. Librarian By Day*

    I’m actually looking to learn about Microsoft Access. If anyone has any good suggestions for resources, or can give me a good starting point to create a database, I’d be super happy! I need to create a database that has a form to enter in statistics from a program and then keep an archive of all those form entries.

    I have a lot of experience with public speaking, so I’m always willing to answer questions about presentations and engaging audiences.

    1. Brydon*

      I would LOVE to piggyback on to this as I need to create a database and forms and reports to run the secretary functions for a dog show. and I get started only to panic and go back to my excel method and data manipulation.

    2. TechServLib*

      How do you engage audiences with detailed technical presentations? I’m in technical services and submitting some conference proposals for things that are actually pretty innovative, but sound super dry when I describe them.

      1. Librarian By Day*

        Technical speeches always seem daunting! I do a lot of technology classes at my current library and used to do debate in undergrad (and I often competed in a speech event where you had to present critical communication theories to the audience and apply them to artifacts). What I’ve learned from those experiences is that there are three easy ways to make your presentation more engaging

        1) Be very excited about what you’re talking about! If you’re passionate about it and have a well-polished delivery, people are ALWAYS going to be more interested than if you’re reading off note cards and not making any eye contact.

        2) If you’re good at crowd control, make the presentation as interactive as possible. If you acknowledge that the topic is complex and a little dry and take a break every 10 minutes or so to answer a question or two, people seem to respond well to that.

        3) Metaphors! Using every day experiences or objects to explain how a new innovation works is something that’s soo easy to throw into a presentation but not a lot of people do it. I always remember webinars and conference sessions that go “well, we’re going to talk about X. Everyone’s familiar with Y, right? Here’s how X is exactly like Y.”

        Hope this helps. :)

      2. IL JimP*

        I’d like to hear LBD’s explanation too but what I found was that a lot of people’s downfall is putting too much information in their PowerPoints.

        I guess it would make a big difference in what the purpose of the presentation was for, is it for training or just presenting/persuading the audience? It also matters a lot who the audience is for the presentation.

        1. Librarian By Day*

          Yes! Powerpoint is WAY overused. And I don’t mean that in the “just put all your presentation information on Prezi instead” kind of way. Powerpoint should never be used as the speakers notes (never turn your back to look at the screen) and the audience shouldn’t be able to just read the slides and tune out the presentation.

          I like to use Powerpoint to break up my speech as I plan it – think of each slide as a paragraph and each slide should have the overall takeaway of the paragraph. (Also on a side note, don’t use clip art! Get on creative commons and search for vector art of whatever image you want. It looks way better bc it has a transparent background and better dpi.) You’re definitely right that it depends on the purpose of the presentation, but I think if you are training and you need to impart more information on the audience, then you should have a handout with more information – that gives the audience something tangible to hold and take away.

          1. IL JimP*

            That’s basically my best practice too, at this point I only put relevant (or fun depending on the audience) pictures in PowerPoint. If there is detailed/technical information that they need to take back with them, it’s best in a handout given on their way out (so they don’t read it while you’re speaking).

          2. tangerineRose*

            I’m more of a visual learner, so having the words on the screen would be helpful to me.

      3. FacilitationLearner*

        I’d love to get better at public speaking. I host a regular monthly meeting for 20-30 women, and at the last meeting during the opening remarks I felt like I was running out of air midway through my sentence! While I am fairly comfortable speaking in front of people, occasionally I find myself speaking too quickly or repeating the same sentiment in multiple ways.

        Beyond slowing myself down, do readers have tips about how to avoid and/or recover from a situation like that? What should I do to streamline my speech and make a really engaging message?

        1. Becky*

          One of the things that works best for me is just breathe. Most people won’t notice if you pause to take a breath. If you find yourself needing air in the middle of a sentence, just pause a moment and take a breath (at a natural pause). If you find yourself rushing, take a breath, re-center yourself and continue.
          If you are the type of person who finds themselves using filler “ums” and “uhs” take a breath instead. Most of your audience won’t notice a brief pause, but they will notice the fillers.

          When you find yourself repeating the same sentiment in multiple ways is it due to nervousness or are you picking up cues from the group that they aren’t grasping the point? If the former–take a breath and continue to the next point, if the latter maybe open up for discussion or questions about a point that doesn’t seem to be making it across properly?

          I’m not an expert public speaker, but I’ve been doing it most of my life and these are things that have worked for me. Others with more formal training and experience might have additional insight.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I second the advice to breathe. What I was taught was to take a breath at the beginning of each sentence. It was a natural pause (because you’ve just finished a sentence), ensures you have enough air to get through the next sentence, keeps you from rushing by enforcing a pause, and is generally invisible to the audience. It works particularly well when you’re reading from something pre-scripted, because you can see where the pause should go. But it works for off the cuff speaking too.

        2. IL JimP*

          I agree with Becky, the key is to make sure you take a breath after every session and don’t worry people don’t know what you’re going to say so if you screw up they’ll never no so just keep going.

          Make sure you are prepared for your presentation, but don’t write it word for word do an outline that way you still have some freedom in the moment and with the group you’re presenting in front of to add or take away things.

          1. IL JimP*

            Here’s how I generally outline a presentation – before even starting make sure you understand your topic, you know who your audience is and what you want to have happen at the end.

            Start with some sort of an opener, a short story to put the topic in context works best for me
            Then in the opening mention your 3 or 4 main points – don’t do more than that no one will be able to remember
            Then move on to the body of your presentation:
            Outline your 3-4 points with 2 or 3 things you need to say about each of them
            Use examples, metaphor or stories to really stick your points
            When you want to end you’re going to recap your 3 main points
            Lastly, have a call to action – what do you want people to do with the information you just shared?

        3. Screenwriter*

          Practice really does make perfect; the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Some useful things to remember are:
          1. Practice or at least go over your general remarks beforehand. Streamline it by asking yourself if you were talking to a class of teenagers, what would be too much? Go through it again, saying firmly to yourself “what if I cut this part?” Just use your natural humor, as though you were chatting with a good friend, rather than telling jokes.
          2. Take a drink of water before you start–sometimes simply having a dry mouth makes you swallow in the middle of a sentence and that can also make you nervous.
          3. The key is to get yourself to relax. As you get nervous, and anxious, your whole body “speeds up,” so whenever I feel nervous, I sit quietly and do some yoga breathing (slow inhale as you count slowly to 4, slow exhale as you count slowly to 4). If I can, I try to sit and “still my mind” for a minute. Amazingly, if you slow your body down physically, it truly slows down the anxiety.
          4. The minute you feel yourself speeding, again, as others say below, stop, and take a breath. Smile. Maybe bring that glass of water with you. Stop, smile, take a drink.
          5. If you DO stumble, swallow, run out of breath, JUST KEEP GOING. If you start apologizing or making fun of yourself, not only does it call attention to yourself, but it actually makes the audience feel MORE uncomfortable (like you’re asking THEM to calm you down). They want to hear what you have to say, that’s all. So just keep going. People will truly enjoy your speech more.
          6. Another easy trick is to address yourself to the friendliest, warmest person in the room, as though you’re having coffee with her. Slowly include other people as you look around, but have the home base of the friendly person.
          7. Remind yourself, you’re among friends, talking about things of mutual interest. Have fun!

      4. MerciMe*

        When in doubt, cut it out. Make yourself justify every word and every idea. Is it:
        1) relevant to your specific purpose in presenting? (Does it directly support your targeted knowledge transfer outcomes?)
        2) critical information your audience needs to understand and execute their role?
        3) Likely to be new or unknown to anyone in your audience?

        Don’t overcomplicate. Precision and clarity can work against each other – it’s a balancing act.

        Be concise; use plain language (the U.S. plain language guide is excellent); and use simple visuals (e.g. high-level image-based flow diagrams) to help your audience keep their place when you have to discuss something unavoidably complicated.

        1. MerciMe*

          And I know this doesn’t seem directly related to being engaging, but it’s a necessary basis to avoid drowning in the weeds, in my experience. Well-designed slides support both you and your audience, which improves your rapport with them.

          I also write a script for each slide, bold the key points, and print my speaking notes a couple days ahead. The printed copy goes on my desk and every time I notice it and have a few minutes, I pick it up and rehearse it mentally. This builds familiarity and lets you refine your speaking points.

          Rehearsing in front of someone also helps, especially if they intimidate you and will interrupt with questions. That’s when you really learn if your slides are supporting you, or if you’re having to adjust your natural thought-flow to accommodate concepts that are in a different logical order than the one that comes naturally to you. It will also pop out places where your natural ordering may not match your audience’s, so you can figure out what to do about that (change the slide or anticipate the question, usually).

    3. CRM & CIP*

      It was a long time ago, but I took an online class from Ed2Go…Intermediate Access…and it provided me with a lot of good information. I’m not a programmer, but I’ve created the equivalent of programs using Access queries. It was a good class, and just looking at their website, they have classes in the later versions of Access as well now.

    4. SittingDuck*

      I took an Access class with ONLC – its all online- you can do it from your house (I did it at my office because my company sponsored me to take it) I think it was 2 or 3 days and it got me off and running.

      We have a separate database that we connect to Access, and I was just looking to learn to write the queries, reports and forms we needed – but the course also taught me how to build a database from scratch.

      Its a ‘live’ class where the instructor is sharing their screen with you, and showing you things and then you can try them on your computer as well.

    5. sparty*

      In my experience, any time you want to design a new Access database is to start by designing everything out of the system on a whiteboard. Start with your raw data, and deciding which data fields are necessary and where they will be coming from (direct data entry, forms, excel, etc). Then define your relationships between tables. Then design your forms and queries based on those other items and build reports on those queries. Once this is all done, put your “whiteboard” into the system

      1. BF*

        People were always amazed at how long I spent drawing things on white boards and asking detailed questions about how their data was related and what information they wanted to get out of the database. But once that was clear in my mind, building the database was much easier and the users got better results.

    6. a-no*

      I used the Microsoft Access For Dummies book to get a better understanding for it. I personally HATE that program, it’s the bane of my existence (our set up was set up by a person who had never worked in an office and the stupidest things are password protected – I enter payables yet I can’t change between vendors without the controllers PW) but I like how clear the For Dummies books are (even though the name is a little rude)

    7. yo*

      I used the free 7 days at lynda dot com to binge on courses about the version of access my job uses – it was enough that I could rebuild our (relatively simple) database.

    8. machiamellie*

      So my local library offers free access to lynda dot com which has a lot of courses, including Access I believe. Check into whether your library does the same (this goes for any popular software out there).

    9. Yorick*

      Just in case there are Minnesota people here, you can take an Access class (or other computer classes) in person at the Science Museum.

    10. perpetuallytired*

      There are a few things you can do: go online and search for “microsoft access MOOC”. MOOCs are Massive open online courses that are offered at a University level but for free. Look through the syllabus and see which one fits your style.

      In terms of starting a database, figure out what fields you need! Take a few statistical data points/sets and try to organize it in the way that it will be most useful to you. You never know what fields you’ll really need until you actually start coding the data.

    11. Product Manager + Business Analyst*

      Depending on how complicated your form is, you might not really need Access. Something like Sharepoint or another service might be more scaleable and easier to manage down the line. Access is falling out of favor in terms of data management, and it’s much harder to future-proof.

      Not trying to actively discourage you from using Access, but you might consider exploring other options. If you want me to go into more detail let me know!

    12. zed 2 eh*

      I learned Access using this book: Access 2013 The Missing Manual, and online tutorials from youtube channel: PC Learning Zone. Once I did all the free courses, I purchased additional levels. This in the only time I have purchased online training and I was very satisfied with it.

      Using these resources I was able to build a database that meets our specific needs, reduced data entry time (what used to take 5-7 days per month now takes 1) and allowed us to capture and report on elements of the work that had never been documented or analyzed in a 20 year history of delivering the services.

      I have found Access to be easy to use and a huge improvement over the combination paper and excel system that was in place. I continue to build on to our database and automate more aspects of our invoicing, tracking and reporting tasks.

      I don’t use the database much in my role, I just do development and maintenance. I’ve been able to teach the two administrators how to use the database and we’re all really happy with our improved system.
      I’m not techy or in IT – but my specialty is small business administrative efficiencies, and I’m by far the most adventurous technically on our team (and I was the most horrified by the antiquated, inefficient system in place!), so that’s how it started.

      1. zed 2 eh*

        I should add – my IT friends do not encourage the use of Access. They also don’t encourage amateurs playing at databases. In in ideal situation, they’re probably right.
        Given my lack of ideal situations, and the specific constraints I encountered, it was the best solution available in the situation described above.
        I’m not commenting as to what is/isn’t appropriate in your situation, just sharing our experience.

    13. Beck*

      I’d actually recommend against using Access because there are so many great cloud-based alternatives. Access requires the data to be stored locally, which means you can’t access it from anywhere. There are a bunch of online databases that do the same thing (if not more) for really cheap, and they take care of storing and protecting all your data. Full disclosure, I work for one of them, but I won’t name which one specifically.

    14. Frankie*

      Honestly, I’d just sit down with Access and a mini version of your project and try to start by just playing around. That’s what I did on a job years ago. Form entries are incredibly easy to set up once you understand the basics. Then test it, rinse, repeat, and consult online tutorials when needed & to make sure you’re not overlooking anything critical. I bet you could do most of it by tinkering, testing and reading tutorials.

  3. Scrumtrillescent*

    I’m good at being a single parent of five kids while super poor. (Though we’re not super poor anymore. I’d describe us as only scarcely poor now.)

    I’m also good at dealing with angry customers calmly and confidently.

    I’m apparently not good at listing things I’m good at as a comment on the internet because this —> O_O is my face as I’m typing this.

    But I do like to help people, so…

    1. Salesforce Admin*

      How do you do it? It always baffles me when people are single parents and they do it all themselves- I just have me and I feel tired!

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        Ha ha, well…I’m not sure. I guess it’s the constant pressure of how dire the consequences will be if I phone it in as well as some pretty creative ways of minimizing work.

        For instance, if your kids’ school requires uniforms, and those uniforms are wrinkle free, your kids can sleep in their uniforms. Then you don’t have to launder pajamas, it takes far less time for them to get ready in the morning, and everybody gets to sleep a little longer. Win/win/win.

        There was a long period of time where everybody’s favorite dinner was “Hoppin’ John.” That might be a real food, but in our household, it was brown rice, black eyed peas, and cut up hot dogs. I do a lot of food-related things to keep costs down. I make huge pans of pumpkin, blueberry, banana, or applesauce bread every Sunday and that’s breakfast for everyone for the week. I hard boil three dozen eggs each week and the kids can either eat them with their breakfast or put them in their lunch. I buy 10 lbs of fruit a week and they can eat it any time they want.

        We have a freezer bag full of words each of us (who can write so far, which is four of the kids and me) has written down on card stock. We use these words for charades, drawing games, story telling games.

        We eat dinner together every night. We don’t have the TV on ever at all unless we are watching something together or if there’s something I have to attend to and I need them distracted. (Like taxes, or filling out disability forms for my autistic son, etc.) We do not have broadcast TV in the house so there’s no commercials ever, at any time.

        I am tired a lot. I tend to go to bed when the kids do. Not being attached to any TV shows helps with that. The few things I need to see, I’ll watch on my lunchbreak at work. (My coworkers might thing I’m a weirdo, because I take my lunch alone in the filing room with the lights off. There’s a window that lets sunlight in. I find it peaceful.)

        1. Winifred*

          You sound like a wonderful parent. Bless you for all you do. If you don’t already follow the Frugalwoods, they have excellent frugality tips for all, and lots for frugal parenting.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Thank you. <3 We're making it! My middle two daughters just competed in the school talent show singing John Denver, so I knew I got something right.

        2. Spooky*

          Hoppin’ John! It’s definitely a real food–my dad made it all the time when I was little! We used kielbasa instead of hot dogs, but yeah, same dish.

        3. Sweet T*

          You sound like an amazing parent and all around great person. Enjoy your breaks in the file room! I’m a mom of 2 and that sounds absolutely perfect!

          1. JessaB*

            We did it with cubed up bologna. So yeh you throw whatever cheap meat you had in it. Everyone’s house had a different meat in, whatever they had left over or was cheap at the store. Chuck on sale? They browned up the chuck and threw it in. Stew meat on sale? Lamb? If the gal down the block whose family hunted had venison left, we used that. We would get packages, cubed, ground, and plastic tubs of her killer awesome tomato sauce (they were Italian.) Right now my go to is similar, rice or noodles, throw whatever the heck is in the fridge at it and eat.

            But every culture has that dish. Hoppin John, stew, gumbo, stroganoff. IE grab a carb of some sort and toss protein on it in a big pot and let it cook.

          2. Scrumtrillescent*

            Murr! That’s so kind of you. I’m so glad I posted here, these are some of the nicest things people have said to me in, like, months!! I wish I could make you all a big plate of Hoppin’ John.

        4. Natalie*

          We have a freezer bag full of words each of us

          I was still in “food mode” at this point and was very confused/impressed. Your kids eat words!?

        5. Rossa*

          I truly hope you are joking about the kids sleeping in the pajamas and then going to school in their slept-in clothes! That’s good parenting? So unhyegenic. Ugh.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Nope, not joking. They take a bath, put on their school clothes, sleep in them, wake up, and go to school. Their sheets are changed once a week by the cleaning ladies.

            1. Brunch with Sylvia*

              Truth. I did the same thing as a single mom of 3. Park, library, dinner, bath, teeth, get dressed, bedtime stories. And everyone had a fitted sheet, one fluffy comforter, one pillow. Kids very easily made their beds in the morning even as preschoolers. Breakfast, teeth…go! Saved money and less laundry not buying pjs.

              1. Scrumtrillescent*

                Right? The amount of laundry that exists in my laundry even without pajamas is…obscene.

          2. emvic*

            “So you eat other people’s leftovers?” said the lady to the man in tattered rags “that’s so unhygienic!”. “Well” he replied “sure beats starving, m’lady”, with only the faintest sad smile on his gaunt face.

          3. atalanta0jess*

            Huh? How is it unhygienic? Is sleeping somehow…dirty? I legitimately cannot understand what would be unhygienic about this.

            I’m also pretty sure sleeping is like the cleanest thing my kid does in a 24 hour period. :D

            1. how is this a problem?*

              Yeah. We very strongly discourage our kids from sleeping in the clothes they wore to school – don’t want to bring all that grime to bed – but there’s nothing at all unhygienic about changing into clean clothes at night and hopping up ready for school in the morning. Sometimes the kids choose an intermediate solution, which is regular t-shirt and pajama pants, then just swap PJ pants for jeans in the morning.

              We started this because my kid hated dressing himself and our mornings were therefore hellish; he asked if he could please just change once and then sleep in his clothes and we were all YES PLEASE THIS SOUNDS AMAZING.

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      Those first two make sense together, as the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration from customers is similar to the ability to remain calm when saying no to a child who wants the expensive cereal. :)

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        Cook on Sundays. (Or whatever your day off is.) Make big, cheap meals that can be portioned out throughout the week. Some of our favorites are homemade chicken noodle soup, pot roast, spaghetti, chili mac, beef stroganoff, 15 bean soup, and rotisserie style chicken drumsticks. Pre-make your breakfast (see breads and boiled eggs above.) Take your lunch to work. If you have kids and qualify for the free lunch program, they’ll get free breakfast and lunch at school. Have your kids make their own lunches. This isn’t a money-frugal thing, but a time-frugal thing. Plus, you can all be in the kitchen together preparing the week’s meals together.

        Making your own laundry detergent is very inexpensive…like SO inexpensive when you compare it to store bought detergent. And, if you have kids, it’s pretty fun too because you get to microwave soap. I’ve used Dove soap before and it worked fine. Ymmv.

        If you have kids, something that changed my life was throwing away all of their colorful socks and buying them all the same socks. I have four close in age daughters and they all have white bobby socks. I have a son who is older and he has black no show socks. No more painstaking hours trying to find the mouse princess socks with the purple and pink stripes. NEVER AGAIN. If they come home from their dad’s with colorful socks, I have them give them back to him. This means that some of our white socks are at his house and we are not getting them back. I’ve made my peace with that.

        We pay for internet and own an Apple TV and have a Netflix subscription. No cable, no broadcast TV.

        If you have kids, find out if there are programs that ya’ll qualify for. We get a reduced membership at the Y and we get assistance with child care.

        My kids are 16, 10, 8, 7, and 5. They all take turns fixing dinner. They all have substantial chores. They all know how to sew and can do simple mending of their clothes. (The girls are in Girl Scouts. They saved up to buy their vests and they sew their own patches on.)

        I cut their hair myself. We don’t eat out a lot. I do pay for cleaning ladies to come once a week and do a deep clean, otherwise I would lose my mind. We have library cards. The kids pay their own fines if they accrue them. We have two dogs from the Humane Society. The kids are responsible for their care. My 16 year old is responsible for refilling his prescriptions and making doctor’s appointments for prescription refills. (And has been for about a year.)

        Not all of this is money-frugal, a lot of this is time-frugal, which is a limited resource in my house!!

        1. Just Jess*

          Damn that’s impressive. You’re raising kids who know how to cook, wash clothing, care for clothing, be responsible for their own health and finances, just stuff that’s going to serve them well while people in their 30’s can’t even handle that.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Thank you very much! I just…I have to do my part to limit the amount of grown up children sucking the energy out of people out there in the world. I was married to one! It was terrible! I made it out and now I’m going to make sure that our kids are not like that at all.

            1. Clippy*

              It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job on that front. Also even as someone with no kids, I really understand what you mean about time-frugality. There are a lot of things I could save money on, but choose not to because the time investment is too steep.

        2. Meg Murry*

          +1 to simplifiying socks!

          If your kids aren’t in the same size, or you want both black and white options, we swear by Hanes easy-sort socks, available at both Target and Amazon. Each kids socks get thrown in a small basket, they can easily grab 2 black or 2 white – no sorting for me.

          We only travel once or twice a year, and I’ve decided that’s a great time for everyone to get a fresh pack of underwear and socks. No matching or sorting last minute, just toss the new packs in the suitcase and go!

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Ohhhh, I like this! The combining of the socks and the vacations!!!!! I’m not certain, but the last three times I’ve been to walmart, they haven’t had the girls’ socks. (They aren’t the same size, but they’re “Meh, close enough.”) They *may* have stopped making them. And I’m kind of Chrissy Teigan ehhhhh face about it because I had planned to just keep adding on to that batch of socks forever!!!!

            1. Mel*

              I do the “vacation/trip? New undies and socks for everyone!” thing too. 1) I don’t have to do the last minute laundry scramble and 2) everyone gets ridiculously excited for new socks. We purge old socks and undies when we get back.

          2. Liss*

            My girls prefer that their socks don’t match, so I just buy a single brand and style and they get tossed in a single drawer. If their desires change, then they can be in charge of making things match.

            1. miss_chevious*

              That’s a big thing at my niece’s school, too — mismatched socks — so we got her a bunch of all the same style but different colors and she never sorts socks. It would be harder with more than one kid or younger kids, though, I think.

          3. LPop*

            Alternately, when vacationing I love to use that as an excuse to toss old socks/undies! I’ll bring the old pairs with me, wear them and throw them away as I go, so that it makes more room in the suitcase (and less lugging dirty socks/undies home)…then having to return home is brightened a little by the prospect of new socks/undies! It’s like a little “sorry your vacation had to end, but at least you don’t have to do as much laundry AND you get to wear new things!” pick-me-up. (And somehow it feels deliciously decadent to leave a trail of discarded underthings in my wake when I travel?)

            1. Not a Morning Person*

              I like this idea! It also reminded me of someone I knew who led bicycle tours. She told be about a regular participant who brought his oldest, worn-out clothes to wear on the week-long tour and left those sweaty, dirty items in the trash each day. By the end of the tour, he had one set of clean and newer clothing to wear home and an empty or almost empty suitcase.

        3. JessaB*

          If you have the money or can find one in a thrift store, a good one time buy that will save you loads in the long run is some kind of pressure cooker, instapot, crock pot or whatever. One of those long cookers that you can set and forget whilst you’re dealing with the rest of your life. They’re also amazing for making the cheapest cuts of meat tender (cheap meat is cheap because it’s tough or an unpopular cut.) Then make batches of stuff like suggested above.

          It’s hard. Because one of the reasons people with money don’t understand poor people is the why are you buying 10 buck shoes every few months when 50 buck shoes will last. It’s not about the money it’s about the CASH FLOW. You don’t have 50 bucks to spend on shoes.

          So advice to get a cooker is kind of on the “I get why a whole lot of people can’t.” I really wish one of the things charities would do is give one to people on their first intake. Soup, stew, all those things you can easily make in one in quantity. And you don’t need a working stove or anything – I don’t know why but in cheap housing the stove always seems to be the thing that doesn’t work right. I live in a decent place now and I wouldn’t bake because the oven is lousy. You’d think they’d require decent stoves, but my friend who is in Section 8 with a HUD voucher his stove is garbage too.

          But I have my mother’s pressure cooker. If I didn’t I could probably go to my local St Vincent dePaul (not affiliated except as them being the ONLY charity that ever did genuine good by me.) And as a charity customer if they had one at the thrift store they’d give it to me gratis. I’d go through the rep first though, not just walk in and she’d have them put it aside with a voucher. A lot of decent charities with thrift stores have programmes like that where they’ll give things to people in need. I also got mattresses from them.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Oh! You know my life!!! So, our apartment came with a built in microwave, four burner stove, and an oven. The microwave hasn’t worked in a little over a year. One of the burners on the stove hasn’t worked in two years. The heating element on the oven went out two years ago. We live in a fourplex that is owned by a family…it’s not like your normal apartment complex where there’s an office with people in it waiting to rent people apartments. We’re five buildings on a dead end road and only two of the buildings are owned by the people who own our building. I’ve never met the owners. My next door neighbor collects the rent and does the repairs. The family owns properties throughout our entire metropolitan area…probably 80 miles east to west and 60 miles north to south. So, he comes back to his house at the end of the day and just goes to sleep. And never fixes our stuff. Our garbage disposal has been leaking for two months. I once had to take cold showers for three months. BUT!!! We rent a three bedroom, two bathroom apartment for $724 a month. So we will stay here. For awhile! We do have a crock pot but it is just your standard-sized crock pot and now that the kids are all big (ish) it would be better to have a larger size but I can keep making it work with the one I have, just very carefully. The kids were all so little for so long, it is a completely new world having them be 16, 10, 8, 7, and 5 compared to just three years ago when they were 13, 7, 5, 4, and 2. The crock pot was fine back then. But they can eat so much now. They’re essentially always hungry. That’s where the fruit and eggs come in. They can eat those whenever they want.

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            Oh – the shoe thing! My husband grew up middle class while I grew up poor. It took him forever to convince me to stop getting $10 shoes. I had such a hard time switching when it seemed like a waste of money because we never even had an extra $10, let alone $50 to spend on name brand shoes. Just took so long for me to understand that they really do last much longer and are well worth the extra money.

            1. Scrumtrillescent*

              Yes! We are just at the beginning stages of being able to buy things that will last. (Well, I’m not sure that they make shoes that kids can’t wear out…at least not elementary-aged kids.) It’s an interesting process, choosing something that is made well and because it is made the way you like it instead of it was the cheapest version you could find. It is a relief to finally be here. I hope we get to stay here!

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            I am going to come back and read your comment when I have a hard day. Thank you.

            1. Jennifrer*

              Right there with L, Scrumtrillescent. Do you have a Venmo account? I’m speechless reading your comments and would love to help you, if only a bit.

              1. Scrumtrillescent*

                That is so kind of you! It has launched me into a moral quandary, though. Things really have gotten much better for us. We were living below the poverty line for years. Years! (We had really good health insurance though.) From the time I left my marriage, we lived six months in a shelter, I found out I was pregnant and did that gig alone. I got a job working for the Girl Scouts which was amazing but paid like ten dollars an hour and had no benefits. That whole…program lost grant funding and was eliminated right about my sixth month of pregnancy. I had a simultaneous temporary census gig that ended right around the same time. I went on some interviews but didn’t get anything because I was clearly very pregnant. I got the call from (my previous employer) the day after we came home from the hospital. I interviewed three days later and started working unloading freight for them later that month. I worked my way up to a technician but we were still living paycheck to paycheck. (But, again, the benefits were great!) I think I got my current position partly because of how known for customer service my former employer is, but also because of a lot of the advice from this site! I negotiated my salary. (I’m making twice what I was making before!) I printed out my previous annual reviews since I knew (my previous employer) wouldn’t provide me with a reference and that if they knew I was looking it would negatively impact my working situation there. I brought multiple letters of reference with me to my interview.

                So we are doing much better than we were before!! So I hesitate to take you up on your generosity because I know that there are people struggling so much more than we are! At the same time I worry that if I’m like “No, thanks, we’re fine over here!” that tomorrow my twelve year old minivan will turn to dust as I’m pulling out of the parking lot and blow away on the wind and I’ll be like “Great job, thinking you were doing well at life now, me.”

                So…may I think about it?

                1. Frankie Bergstein*

                  I am blown away. Seriously – reading this thread and your posts, I am just so floored. You’re an amazing mother (with responsible kiddos, a pet, and a very well-functioning clean household where folks eat really healthy and do extracurriculars like SING JOHN DENVER in a talent show), stellar employee who has advocated for herself and found ways to make it all work, and so good at managing time and energy and money — I am taking notes! I want to start cooking like you do on Sundays with big batches of things to last through the week.

                2. Jennifrer*

                  You may certainly think about it, and I know the feeling of “if I accept this kindness, will the world take something good from my life?”

                  I will do my best to remember to check back here for your response. Alison, if there’s an easy way for us to pass contact information safely here, would you kindly let me know?

              2. Scrumtrillescent*

                Dear Jennifrer, It wouldn’t let me reply to your more recent comment. I would love to be your friend! Here is my email address. I know this means that I may be contacted by Nigerian princes and people who want to sell me Rolex watches for cheap, but I think it would be worth it. :) :)

                Anyone else is welcome to email as well.

        4. JessaB*

          Time is just as important as money. Having your kids able to do means you don’t have to, which means you burn out slower. You have a little time to rest yourself and do even a minimum amount of self care. Which is VITAL. Even mental care like your kid doing their medications, means you don’t have to spend that thinking time. Doing all the emotional, memory labour is WORK. I am the memory keeper in my household because Mr B has legit memory problems. It’s WORK remembering all the appointments, and the we have to do this or that, or remind to ask his boss about x. So any work you don’t have to do yourself is a gift to you. AND a gift to them because they know how to do it. When they leave the house they’re going to know how to take care of themselves. That’s freedom for them.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            This is so true. Something that really bothered me when I was married (and makes me think that I will never be in another relationship and that I will eventually die alone, but I am OK with that.) (No, really, two of my friends and I are on Team Eventually Die Alone and we go to dinner once a month and we’re like “NEVER SETTLE”) was how TOTALLY OK my ex husband was with just sitting down and chilling while I was clearly still up and doing work. I think that a family should work until the work is done and then enjoy their down time together. And so as soon as the kids were two, they had chores and we work side by side until the work is done and then we have our down time. Sometimes it is together, sometimes it is not. But there is no sitting on the couch, zoned out in front of the TV, while one person shoulders all responsibility as well as a huge planet of resentment.

            1. Nic*

              You are teaching your kids such amazing lessons. I hope that they come to realize how fantastic you are. So many parents don’t parent seem to realize that they’re training small squiggly creatures to be humans, and preferably GOOD humans. You seem to.

              My parents raised me with a culture similar to yours, though the situations were different. Their raising ingrained the same types of values that you seem to be teaching your kids. It has served me VERY WELL, and until I was in my 30s I didn’t really understand what a brilliant gift they had given me.

              I hope your kids take to heart the lessons you’re sharing. So awesome of you!

        5. Speedy*

          I grew up as the only child of a single mom who worked long shifts in healthcare. She would wake me up before she left, and come home around 7:30 or 8 pm. Our circumstances had greatly improved by the time I was in high school, but I was still responsible for so much. I learned time-management, how to shop for cheap, and how to maintain a house. It made me navigate adulthood so much easier. Trust me, your kids will be well-equipped for life after they leave your home.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Would it be OK if I asked you a question? (OK, maybe some questions?) I don’t know many people who grew up in similar circumstances to my kids? You may totally say no.

            1. Frankie Bergstein*

              I hope it’s okay if I answer too! I grew up in a household that started out with limited resources but that changed over time. For my parents, time was ALWAYS extremely limited. I looked after my sister, did the household laundry, kept the house clean in the summers, cooked food sometimes, and did some of the emotional labor pieces for parents (the last bit wasn’t healthy, but the rest meant that I confidently know how to run a household). My Mom cooked a whole, whole lot, so I learned how to do that too. And our food repertoire was pretty inexpensive because we eat a lot of rice and beans then build off of that (add veggies, switch up beans for something else).

              I didn’t learn how to manage money well when I was growing up, except that my parents were pretty frugal and not materialistic, so I turned out like that too. But some of that is because things are different now — e.g., retirement planning for a millennial is a different beast than for a baby boomer.

              If I were to change anything about growing up, it wouldn’t be the household chores or anything. My parents were kind of stressed out and unhappy – that is putting it mildly – but that mood (if you will) is the only thing I’d change. I didn’t mind cooking/cleaning/laundry/sharing a room with my sister because it was all temporary as weird as that sounds – I left for school at 16.

              Anyway – I’m really resonating with your sharing how you do things!

              1. Scrumtrillescent*

                I’m the happiest I’ve ever been now. But there are times that I am stressed out, for sure. (Twice, within a week of paying off all of my debt, my van has required expensive repairs and I’ve had to max out all of my credit cards immediately again.) I’m sure my kids pick up on that. I have been unhappy, very unhappy, in the past. I have about five years of good counseling under my belt. (I just go back for the occasional tune ups now.) The kids are all in counseling because even though we’ve gotten to a more stable place, they still have to navigate a difficult relationship with their dad and I feel like they probably did not come out of such…dire circumstances as the ones we lived in just a few years ago…unscathed is probably too strong a word…but unaffected? Maybe?

                If you’re comfortable answering, I’d like to know how you knew your parents were kind of stressed out and unhappy. What contributed to the mood in your house? What could have changed it? (If anything?) Were there ever any breaks in the clouds? What did those look like? (If you had them.) If you don’t want to answer, I understand. These are very personal, intrusive questions. I don’t know what parts of what I am doing matter and which parts don’t and I want to put my energy into the parts that matter.

                1. SmallCog*

                  So much of what you say resonates with me. Stay at home mom for so many years, divorced from the sit around and play computer games while you frantically deal with kids man, who ended up with so. much. money. compared to us, stressful terrifying divorce during which I was worried all the time – and that negatively impacted the kids – but so much happier now. Kids doing well, pretty much, paying our bills, still a little too close to the edge but man, I’m fist-bumping you on Team Never Settle!

          2. miss_chevious*

            I wasn’t an only child, but I was one of two of a single mom and a latchkey kid from my second day of kindergarten, so I’m right there with you. It was a challenge sometimes, but it really fostered my independence and understanding of what my responsibilities are in life. These kids are going to be able to handle themselves as adults in awesome ways.

            1. Scrumtrillescent*

              Would it be OK if I asked you some questions around that? If I’m asking questions beyond what you’re comfortable answering, please do not feel pressured to answer.

              Up until I got my current job about 6 months ago, I spent over 7 years working a job that required Saturdays. It was also a super draining job and I would come home every single day feeling like I’d given every speck of anything I had to give. Because I have so many kids, I had to save up paid time off for illness. (Because illnesses would spread through our house very quickly. If one kid gets the flu, we’re all getting the flu and we could be down for a week or more.) We are only just now getting to the point where I could leave maybe my oldest two home alone if they were sick with something minor. My oldest is 16 but he has autism so it’s taking longer to get to independence for him.

              Because I had to (and still do, to be honest) save up my paid time off for illnesses, this means that I’ve missed a lot of holiday parties, chaperoning field trips, school programs, and school/community events. Extra curricular activities have been almost 0. (The girls are in Girl Scouts. My son didn’t want to do Boy Scouts or school sports. He was in band for a year and quit because he didn’t like it.) Did you have a similar experience growing up? If your parents had to miss things like performances or parties, did you understand? Or was it hurtful to you? Or do you not even remember whether they showed up or not at this point? For most of my kids, their whole lives up to this point (other than the six months at New Job) their only memories are of me working my previous job which kept me away from them a lot. I love the fact that with my new job that I get to see them so much more, but it also really drives home the point that I have missed out on a whole lot with them, and it is time that I can’t get back. I try not to think about that too much because I want to be a present parent and I don’t want to be paralyzed by guilt…but that thought sits stubbornly in the back of my mind.

              1. laylaaaaaaaah*

                If it helps, my Dad worked three jobs when I was a kid, and was basically only at the house to sleep and occasionally eat (but he’d more often than not take sandwiches to work with him). Once he was on a business trip that lasted MONTHS. My mum was stay at home, but my two sisters were usually ill, so I didn’t see either of my parents much, or get to spend much quality time with either of them.

                I think they both still carry a lot of baggage around it (my Dad sat me down and apologised to me for not being around much right before I left for college), but like… I don’t remember it much? What I remember is the times we /did/ spend together- Christmases and those birthdays Dad could make it to (those he couldn’t, I remember running around with friends, which is also a great set of memories), cuddling in bed when we were all sick, etc.

                tl;dr You sound like someone who’s trying her best to love her kids and raise them well. Trust me when I say your kids are picking up on both those things.

                1. Mimi Glitternaut*

                  “What I remember is the times we /did/ spend together”
                  THIS, about a zillion times. My mom worked her ass off, and there was a little while as a kid that I kind of resented her not being room mother or scout leader or whatever like my friends’ moms, but as an adult I remember Every. Single. Time. she came to school or did something special with me, and they are treasured memories.

                  Your kids sound really lucky to have a mom that cares so much, and I wish you all well.

              2. CM*

                I didn’t have this experience growing up, so this is secondhand. When I’ve talked to people I know who had parents who missed out on recitals, games, etc. because of work, some were upset about it at the time and others didn’t mind. But all say that as adults, they finally understand and are so appreciative of how hard their parent worked to support them. (This only applies when the work was not optional — I don’t hear the same thing from, say, kids of workaholic hedge fund managers.) So please, leave the paralyzing guilt behind. You had to prioritize and it sounds like you are doing an incredible job raising your family — and the time will come when your kids are grown and on their own, and then they’ll realize the full scope of everything you gave to them.

              3. General Ginger*

                Scrumtrillescent, I didn’t grow up in exactly these circumstances, but I hope you don’t mind me chiming in about my mother missing my school programs and events.

                When I was very young, I was raised by my grandparents, and my mother was working full time and also freelancing heavily, living separately from us during most of that time. I never resented her for missing all my events then, because I knew that she was working hard for our family, and the times I did have with her counted that much more.

                Our situation changed when I was in my teens; we were financially comfortable and she went from working part-time to being a SAHM. She didn’t attend most of my events, with the general rationale of “you don’t really need me to be there, do you?” — and that really, really stung.

                I think that when kids know you’re trying to do your best, and that you have to prioritize so much, and that you have to keep food on the table, they do appreciate it and understand it, and especially will as adults. There is a world of difference between knowing you have a parent who cares even if she can’t always be physically there, and just a parent who’s not there.

        6. Samata*

          I just want to say that I don’t know you but am so proud of you for 1) all you do and 2) how self-sufficient your kids are! This is probably an overshare but I teared up a little by the end of this comment.

          You also have some great tips for those of us without kids but also without a lot of extra time due to multiple jobs, family obligations, etc. Thank you!

          And that supply room bit sounds amazing. I need to find one of those to escape to also!

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Thank you, so, so much. No one speaks to me like this, ever. (Well, except for Mr. Rogers.) (But he says that to everyone.) My kids aren’t quite to the age where they understand or appreciate the work that goes into being a parent. So, thank you. This is wonderful, this helps me keep going, because sometimes it is very difficult!!!

            1. OhBehave*

              Parenting is not for the weak!
              Being both mom and dad is a daunting thought. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Letting kids be kids while they are also learning a ton of life skills is a balancing act to be sure. My kids are very well-equipped to be on their own. Our oldest just moved out and she’s doing well.
              I applaud the effort and determination you have in making sure your kids are going to be contributing members of their home. They will make sure their own children will do the same. Good Job, Mama!!!

            2. King Friday XIII*

              Seconding the above comment. I’m trying hard to raise a self-sufficient and empathetic preschooler, but it’s a ton of work, and there’s just one Princess Tuesday and two of us! I’m in awe of how much you love your kids and how hard you work for them. I hope things continue to get better for your family.

            3. SmallCog*

              If it’s any help, my kids DO tell me how much they appreciate me. They DO find the words, both for the things I taught them, for staying home and homeschooling them when I could, for teaching them about food and books and words, for getting a good job and rising to the challenges when we split up, for kicking a bad subsequent boyfriend ™ to the curb, for general badassery. There has been good therapy for the one leading the charge in this case, so you’re on the right track! (Also mine are about 7 or so years older than yours, as far as I can tell). The kids know, and they will in fact tell you eventually.

        7. Bob*

          I’ve never tried it (don’t have a library card) but there is a free service called Hoopla that lets you get digital content from your library system, including movies on an Apple TV.

    3. LizardBrain*

      How do you afford childcare for five kids? That always seems like a massive expense, especially for a single parent with only one income.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        We receive childcare assistance. We’re in the US and I think every state has some version of this through their Workforce Commission. We don’t qualify for any other type of government assistance, so I sometimes wonder if there are a lot of people out there who qualify for this resource but don’t know that they do. In our state, the program is called CCMS. Not every day care center accepts it, kind of like how not every doctor accepts Medicaid. I pay a portion each month and CCMS pays the rest. I’m almost positive that they negotiate a lower rate than what the other parents pay, but I’m not certain. If you know people who could benefit from this program, please spread the word. I found out about it by accident. In my state, there’s even a calculator where you can plug in the necessary info to see if you might qualify so you don’t waste your time applying for it if you wouldn’t qualify.

        1. she was a fast machine*

          I used to work for a Workforce Office and it was amazing how few people knew about the childcare assistance. It was a shame because there was no money to advertise it really but so many people in our community who could use it. I’m glad it’s helped you!

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Yes, it really is amazing. So many people don’t know about it because they don’t qualify for any other kind of assistance. Day care would be more money than I make, otherwise. It’s a wonderful program. It has profoundly changed my life.

    4. Katie*

      Any tips on getting kids clothes that don’t wear out or stain immediately? I don’t see my kids as more active or messy than others and yet I feel like they wear stuff out instantly unless it’s the iron-knee type uniform pants… and those seem magnetically attracted to oils that stain and seem to never come out. I see people talk about hand me downs and I feel like past toddlerhood, my kids stuff doesn’t last to be passed down.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        OH MY GOSH, SAME. My kids have to wear uniforms to school, so I do pretty much only get them the iron knee type uniform pants. And, I only get them the navy blue ones to boot! Because they can stain the khaki ones too easily. I only get polos they can’t stain…so we get navy blue and purple…and black…very deep forest green…that might be all. Ha ha. My girls play outside a lot and play pretty rough. They’ll get holes in the knees of leggings all day long, and nothing I say will deter them. (I have made them pay for replacement pants though.)

        I’ve noticed that higher quality clothes seem to resist stains better. My kids have been able to hand down quite a few Gymboree pieces. They’ve been able to hand down a few things from Children’s Place too. But like…those shelves of $3 shorts and t-shirts at Walmart are never able to be handed down. Same with the ones at Target. And I don’t really shop for the type of clothes that hold up well. Fortunately, people see how many kids I have and feel compelled to give me *their* hand me downs. Sometimes we pick up some nice pieces that way. Oh! And, also, sometimes hand me downs don’t work because of the size and the season. I try not to marry myself to the idea of hand me downs for that reason. Except for those school uniforms. I need those to last forever. So I get the darkest colors I can and sometimes will even get the boys’ ones so that they’ll be even tougher and last longer.

        1. Just Jess*

          I just google’d whether clothing for boys was tougher than girls’ clothing and was shocked to find out that that actually is a thing!

        2. sometimeswhy*

          I got a lot a lot a lot of hand-me downs too and was in the last wave of my social circle to have infants so I (we, really) didn’t have anyone to pass stuff along to. As things didn’t work because of seasons or size or style, I took the nicer items to consignment shops and got stuff on trade which ended up landing me some nice Gymboree and Children’s Place pieces. (And this was a couple decades ago; nice to hear they’re still making durable stuff.)

        3. OhBehave*

          I used to get a lot of my kids clothes at garage sales. There are tons of quality things to be had for pennies. I once outfitted my son for a summer by spending $11.00. I was pretty proud of that!

        4. King Friday XIII*

          You’re sooooo right about Gymboree! I find that buying secondhand means it’s already stood up to one kid so it’s less likely to wear out anyway. We’ve gotten a ton of clothes for our kid from our local Buy Nothing group – if you’re not familiar, check Facebook to see if there’s one in your area. Each one runs a bit differently but it’s all freely given stuff. We’ve gotten entirely garbage bags of clothes for our kid, she gets to pick out what she wants to keep and then we pass the rest along. People give away all kinds of stuff on there. I’ve gotten rid of craft supplies, helped give dolls to a kid who wanted some for Christmas, and picked up a leather coat for Queen Sara in that group as well. Between those and the half-price holiday sales at Value Village, we keep our kid in clothes without worrying too much, and we can cycle out when the seasons change.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Whaaaaaaat????? This sounds like the most Magical Facebook Group of all time. I’m going to look this up right now. Thank you!

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        See if you have a store called Crazy 8 in your area. It was a lifesaver when my kids were younger. If I remember correctly, they run a bit small but I think they go up to size 10 or 12.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        Always let them finish their angry rant. They’ve probably been talking to a recording or listening to hold music for awhile and have come to a rolling boil by the time they’ve got you on the phone. You absolutely do not deserve to be treated poorly, and I support you if you want to end a call if someone is using foul language or saying terrible things. From what I’ve seen, though, people at work would hang up on someone for cursing and then that person would call back 10x as angry. And that’s no good. So, I’ve spoken to people on the phone who told me they were going to come up to my work and throw something at me (but never like…follow me home and murder me. At that point, I’d call the police.) But, yeah, I kind of just let them get all the bad meanness out of their system, I keep a notepad close by so I can write down pertinent information so I can keep my questions to a minimum. I also write down questions that I’ll need to ask them on the piece of paper. (So I’ll draw a vertical line down the middle and put stuff they said on one side and stuff I need to ask on the other.) I make sure to take deep breaths, I make sure to not interrupt (unless they’re going to just yell forever and the call queue behind them is backing up, then I’ll say something like “In order to respect your time, may I ask you a few questions/start working on a resolution for you/get you to the right person?”

        The best advice I can give is to try to not get angry back. Some people are able to do that in a “Love everybody” type way. I am not that kind of person. But I am highly competitve. So I try to beat them at getting mad. As mad as they get, I try to get calm. Calmer. Kinder. It doesn’t read as condescending or “Bless your heart.” It’s just a challenge to me, from me. I’ve seen a lot of my coworkers try to be “right” with customers (i.e. the opposite of wrong) but when you’re screaming and cursing at someone, you can never be right. You’re automatically wrong. So they don’t need me to interrupt them or point out the mistakes they made that contributed to the position they’ve found themselves in. I can just quietly give them room to scream and be unreasonable and the fact that they’re wrong just kind of settles over the both of us. Eventually they run out of steam and they still need help and they don’t have anything to yell about anymore, so they have to listen to you.

        At my high-conflict job, I had to frequently give people unexpected bad news and give them options that they did not like. I then had to get them to choose one of the options so I could go on to my next customer (angry person) because we were judged (and our promotions and raises) were based on customer satisfaction and timeliness. Again, I would present what was happening like a problem that we were going to solve together. “Because of _____, as it turns out ________. This means the options we have to choose from are X, Y, and Z. I will help you with whichever of those options you’d prefer. If you’d like to know which one I’d choose if I were you, I’ll weigh in with my perspective. But if there’s one you’re leaning toward, let me know, and we’ll get it going for you.”

        Does that help?

        1. Star Nursery*

          Thanks for sharing your perspective when dealing with difficult callers and for the script response. I’m going to save this. I’m super impressed and your kids are blessed to have you raising them!

    5. Amelia*

      How do you keep calm when people get angry at you? I have an unfortunate tendency to burst into tears.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        When people get angry at me, I feel like I can’t breathe properly and my face gets hot and my brain kind of blanks out. So, what I do (in a work situation, I do handle life situations somewhat differently) is try to counteract the ways I know my body will react. I take slow deep breaths (without making it seem like I am deeply sighing at what the person is saying), I try to remain open to what they’re saying by listening intently and by making sure my body language communicates that I am open (not that I am opposing them or closed off to them or dismissing them). I make mental notes of points I need to address and I do my best to not interrupt them. (In most cases, I can let them vent at me. On the rare occasion, if they could really monologue at me for like…twelve minutes, I might gently call for a time out.)

        While they’re talking, I will make small, quite sounds that do not derail them but show that I am listening and that what they’re saying is impacting me. Once they’re finished, I try to thank them for sharing that with me (genuinely), I apologize for the experience that they’ve had (even if everything worked the exact way it’s supposed to, no one wants a customer to have an interaction with a company or product that is so negative it makes them want to scream at someone), and then I say “Would it be alright with you if I ask you a few questions, just to clarify a few things for myself, so I can best address your concerns and make sure we get the right resolution in place for you.” I always try to approach it as there’s this problem to solve and the customer and I are on a team to solve it. And the customer has been trying to solve it without me and is frustrated and they’re telling me about their experience before I arrived. They’re not mad at me. It isn’t personal. They’re telling me so I can help them.

        It’s totally understandable to want to burst into tears…it is not a normal human interaction for someone to meanly yell at you. It’s the bad kind of surprising, it’s an unkind way to treat a person, it’s embarrassing, and a whole lot of other things too! But, in jobs where having people yell at you is kind of par for the course (I worked at the Genius Bar for 8 years), you kind of figure out the ways to make that stop happening as fast as possible.

        Also, I’m weirdly and deeply competitive so when someone is losing their “shizz” I like to play a game where I will be super eerily calm. Like I will be even more calm than they are angry right then. And then it’s a contest. And I almost always win. So if you have a weird competitive streak, maybe try that?

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            I hope it helps! And that people will be surprisingly kind and that you won’t have to use it.

        1. pugsnbourbon*

          I am so, so impressed by everything you’ve written here. If you started a blog or wrote a book, dollars to doughnuts people would read it.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Thank you! I have thought about it before, but I’m not sure what kind of blog or book it would be. I live a very uncommon life. I am unsure of how relatable it is, what parts of my life people would be interested in, etc.

    6. AMT27*

      Wow. I don’t know how you do all of this, its really impressive. I’m a single parent to only two and most days it feels like I’m about to crack. I finished my degree a few months ago, while working full time with two kids, and whenever someone asked me how the only way I could ever explain it was you just have to, you don’t have a choice. Whenever I’m crazy busy ‘just keep swimming’ runs through my head constantly – and for me, that’s the key. Just keep moving and doing because if I stop doing all the things I might never manage to summon the energy to start again, its too daunting.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        Going to school while working and parenting is an enormous accomplishment! I’m proud of you!! That is really impressive and has probably had a hugely positive impact on all of your lives. It can feel daunting. I’ve tried to instill a love for the things that “fill my cup” in my kids. So we will hike at the nature center or go to the beach (The lake beach. It works.) or color or have a picnic. So, I’m getting my “me” time in while they’re having fun and we are spending time together, which is also nice.

  4. Goya de la Mancha*

    I’m good at napping and eating, happy to answer any questions on those!

    I jest ;) This is a great idea, look forward to reading everything!

    1. Kourei*

      I like to snooze with a warm platter of food balanced on my chest. The warmth helps me sleep, and it’s convenient to have something already prepared when I inevitably wake up hungry. Yesterday afternoon, I turned over in my sleep and spaghetti went everywhere. I tried to round up all 8 meatballs, but only located 7. I think there’s one way, way down between the couch cushions, but I’m too tired to look.

      Can you recommend a food that will stay warm for a 30 minute nap, but is less messy?

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        I think the more pressing matter is why are you only taking 30 minutes for your nap??

        1. sunshyne84*

          I was going to ask you how to take shorter naps… I don’t think what I do can even be considered a nap at up to 4 hours.

          1. NewJobWendy*

            Very seriously: get more sleep at night and have regular bed time / wake up that you stick to even on the weekend. Also ensure you are getting enough iron. Excessive tiredness can be a sign of anemia. I am a power-napper: 15 to 20 minutes is all I need to feel great. But I also get 8 hours of sleep every night.

          2. Goya de la Mancha*

            Think of it as 4 consecutive 1 hour naps :-D

            Otherwise, set an alarm and don’t snooze it when it goes off. You’ll be groggy at first and want to sleep more, but once you’re up and moving things will be easier.

            1. whingedrinking*

              As someone who struggles to get out of bed every single day, I recommend phone apps that use your step counter and won’t stop until you’ve walked a given number of steps, or setting an alarm – phone or alarm clock or whatever – and placing the device in another room. A combination of these two works best for me, because if I just use the step counter, I sometimes just shake my phone until it stops, and I tend to walk to the other room, turn off the alarm, and go back to bed. Also, make your bed as soon as you get out of it, and turn on a light as soon as you wake up.

            2. Lynn*

              And never go back to snoozing! I’ve never been much of a snoozer, but some days you need a little extra. That’s why I always set two alarms- one for when I’d like to get up, and one for 15 minutes later when I need to get up. Usually, the first alarm is fine, but if I turn it off and decide I really need more sleep, I have that backup alarm that has an actually useful length of extra sleep. Because you’re not getting useless, interrupted 2 minute bits of sleep like when you snooze, that extra 15 minutes is usually plenty to at least be able to wake up and start moving.

      2. ThatGirl*

        This is a very odd and hilarious mental image.

        Maybe put it in a microwaveable container with a lid?

      3. Kourei*

        I’ve been taking 30 minute naps because I don’t like the food to get too cold. But the microwave container idea made me realize: heat! and a lid! I’m gonna try a container with a lid, wrapped in an electric blanket. Fingers crossed for a long, tidy nap.

        Thank you both for your help!

    2. Buffy Summers*

      Can you advise on what you’ve found to be the best napping position? There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to each, for example I’ve found that napping on my side increases my drool output, but it seems to be the most restful for me. How would you recommend I overcome the drooling aspect of the side nap?

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Best nap position is horizontal, though I’ve managed a few decent ones in a semi-vertical position.

        Drool, alas, this seems to be an unavoidable consequence of a good nap. Other then duct taping your jaw closed or covering your pillow with a towel, I’ve got nothing.

      2. ErinW*

        I lay on my back lengthwise on the couch, slightly elevated against the arm, and nestle my head into the couch back. IT IS HEAVEN. Generally my Kindle is open on my chest because I was, in theory, reading.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Why are you terrible? Can’t calm your mind? Need noise/silence or light/dark? Can’t get comfy?

      2. Little Twelvetoes*

        I posted later about my knowledge in accounting and financial reporting for a local government’s share of a statewide pension system. Might I recommend a copy of a Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 68 for some light reading? Should put you out in three…two…one…zzzzzz…

      3. Anxa*


        For me the struggle is in the timing. How can I set my alarm for a 30 minute nap if I’m not sure I can fall asleep in 30 minutes at all? What if it takes me only 10 mins to fall asleep? But what if it takes 29?

        1. M-C*

          The point of napping is not just the actual sleeping, but the lying down and relaxing. To me, the fact that I know there’s an alarm and I can’t end up sleeping the entire afternoon away adds a whole lot to the relaxation. In fact I can feel perfectly fine after sleeping 5-10mn, even if I had 30mn to do it in, it’s not a waste.

          Sleeping is one of those autonomous nervous system things (like heartbeat or digestion) that’s best left unexamined. The more you scrutinize it and worry about it, the less it’s going to happen. Just putting attention on it interferes with its natural rhythm. So try to just chill..

          1. Lynn*

            Agreed! Don’t think of it as trying to sleep, think of it as laying down and resting for whatever length of time you have available. Even if you never actually fall asleep, you’ll still get a nice quiet rest.

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      You beat me to it!! :)

      How do you successfully nap with a jumpy animal? My dog freaks out when I move during and nap and won’t lay back down in a comfortable position.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Other then the golden rule that when your pet falls asleep on you – you. don’t. move.

        Offta I don’t have experience in this, I have to shove my 75lb lab off me when my extremities lose circulation.

    4. Chronie Accountant*

      Honestly, I’ve begun coffee napping. It’s the best thing ever. You basically chug a cup of coffee (which takes 20-30 min to really affect you) and then take a nap. When you wake up, you get both the energy of the caffeine and the nap. Literally how I get through busy season now, and how I got through working three jobs and being a full-time student. :)

      1. M-C*

        I have experimented with that too (I was boggled when I first read of the concept) and I can testify that it works really well. When the point of the nap is to make you more productive. Many of my naps are instead just ways to feel like I can enjoy myself more :-)

  5. Bekx*

    Photoshop & InDesign for sure!

    Since there’s 200 ways to do the same thing, if other people want to jump in and answer, go ahead.

      1. Bekx*

        Check and see if your library offers free access to They are the best.

        But honestly, I taught myself when I was 13ish just by playing around in the programs. For Photoshop, pick out something easy you want to learn how to do (for me, it was the rainbow eye thing that Photoshop 5 had on it’s box). I learned from and Livejournal, back in the day. Now, YouTube and are the best sources.

        What helps the most is to just get in there and play around with something. Don’t save it, just figure out how things interact. With Photoshop, really try to watch videos and read tutorials on Layers. Once you master Layers, you really are starting to understand Photoshop. For indesign, just play! That’s a much easier program than Photoshop, in my opinion. Create a fake newspaper or design a flyer!

        1. animaniactoo*

          In particular, I really really recommend Deke McClelland’s stuff. He’s very in-depth and does a lot of “I prefer this way, but some people prefer that way” stuff and with a major lean on “whatever works best for you, since this can be done several different ways”.

        2. Adlib*

          For a while my company had a subscription to for some departments. Might be something for people to look into at their company. I love that service!

          1. betty (the other betty)*

            Lots of public libraries have subscriptions that library card holders can use for free.

            1. Ornery PR*

              This is amazing! I just canceled my account because it was getting too pricey, and my library offers it. Thanks for the info!

        3. Zanar*

          Totally agree! I watched many tutorials but until I was working on my own project with my own photos, nothing really clicked for me. Then I went back online and found tutorials to show me how to do the specific thing I was lacking.

      2. Fuzzy pickles*

        Non destructive editing is your best friend in PS, if you ask me. Erase nothing and mask/ smart filter everything you can.

        1. Bekx*

          YES, exactly. The day I learned Layer Masks was a mindblowing day.

          My first step in Photoshop is ALWAYS ctrl+j (duplicate layer) and then I hide the original layer. You always want to have a backup.

          1. Fuzzy pickles*

            Exactly! I just taught an intern how to do this earlier this month. I wanted give her graphic design professor a good scolding because they spent five minutes on PS and he showed them only the eraser tool. Eraser isn’t a tool it’s a bucket of acid… professor’s a tool though.

          2. animaniactoo*

            Heh heh. For me, it was when layer masks were introduced. I remember one particular project that if I had just done it 6 months later after 3.0 was introduced, I could have done so much more work with it. But it was an amazing piece of photomerge work for prior to that!

        2. Technical Writer*

          I’m going to be contrary here, just to provide another point of view.

          Non-destructive editing is absolutely the standard in most professions. But, there are specific cases in which destructive editing is absolutely required, and my job is one of them!

          I take photographs of alpha and beta technology for documentation. These large, heavy pieces of equipment are often located in an R&D lab, where the background of any given photo may contain projects in multiple stages of development. In field testing, these pieces of equipment are on a customer site, and cannot give away any of the customer’s information. It is required that all background in these photos be erased before the photos are used for any documentation.

          1. Fuzzy Pickles*

            That’s interesting. My method would be to mask them non-destructively and export an image that was flattened so they couldn’t be plied apart by the end user but my master copy would remain adjustable.

            Of course, the above method is only effective if every party involved knows you only send the files in the Exports folder.

      3. she was a fast machine*

        For the love of god, don’t let yourself get too deep into downloading actions/psds: you need to learn how to do things and not JUST use the tools others have created. I’ve been in PS for about a decade or more and I’ve downloaded some resources(actions, in this case, which are like macros from word/excel) that followed a convoluted path to get somewhere that could have been done twice as easy if the maker had understood how the program worked. So TL;DR being, stick to physical or video tutorials and away from pre-made PSDs/actions until you’re confident in your skills.

      4. Tara2*

        Other people commented well on tutorials, and I agree with Lynda.

        However, I’d also suggest not just following tutorials for things and try to learn a bit by just using the tools, trying each option and see what changes in your image while you use them. It helped me gain a deeper understanding of what the tools do.

        For instance, if you are following a tutorial and it tells you to change the layers mode to Overlay, click on the other options too, and see what those look like as well.

    1. CDel*

      I second the call for good online tutorials! I am using the Adobe Suite much more for work now and I don’t have a resource in my office to answer questions. I’ve bought the For Dummies book but, apparently I need the For Absolute Idiots version instead.

    2. Shrugged*

      Ooo! I have an old photo (25+ years) that has been stored in a 90s self-sticking album. I recently retrieved it, intending to scan and have copies made for my kids. But when I got there, I found that all the blue had leached out of the sky, and the pink colors have faded, too. I went to touch it up in Lightroom, but it turns out my Lightroom license expired and I haven’t got enough money to renew it right now. My office provides Photoshop, and I can use it after hours for personal projects. I’m reasonably familiar with things like headswaps and layering photos, but can I touch the photo colors up there too?

      1. Bekx*

        Yes, absolutely!

        If you still have some color there, like the pinks:
        I’d create a Hue/Saturation layer adjustment mask (that’s the half black/half white circle in the layers palette). Click the “master” drop down and go to Magenta for pinks. Bring up the saturation a bit and see if that helps.

        To add in the blues I usually use curves. You’d make a new curves layer adjustment mask. Click the “RGB” drop down and change to blue. If you pull the diagonal line north-west, you will add more blue color. Don’t worry if this is adjusting everything in the photo, this is why we’re using an adjustment mask. Once the sky looks right (you may have to go into red and pull south-east) press ok and CLICK ON to the layer mask. It’s the white box that is now locked to your curves layer. Take the brush tool and make sure the color is set to black. Brush over the parts you don’t want to be blue (or, what I do, fill the entire thing with black and then switch to white and brush the sky back). This will ONLY affect the sky. Hopefully that makes some sense. If it doesn’t, look up a tutorial on curves and layer masks.

        There’s like 10 different ways to do this, I’m interested to see what others would suggest!

        1. animaniactoo*

          While it has a bad taste in the mouth for a lot of people, I am a huge huge huge fan of using “Selective Colors” as a layer mask filter. You need to change the bottom setting from the default of “relative” to “absolute” for best effect. It used to be relatively clunky at distinguishing color/how it added. But it’s come a long way and its ability to distinguish between faint areas of color can really help you push along different channels without having to interpret an RGB curve. Depending on the color composition, you might have the best effect at adding color into the “neutrals” for sky, while pumping more magenta into “magenta”

          I would also try playing with the Vibrance – Vibrance similarly pulls on the “fainter” colors to pump them up, and if there’s enough in there for it to get a read on, it could be a close-to-one-shot solution.

          1. she was a fast machine*


            I do a lot of unnatural colorings and selective color and vibrance are a godsend to help treat old images that often suffer from bizzare colors due to age.

    3. I am procrastinating currently*

      I upgraded my computer recently (hurrah!) and do not have a way to install my old Photoshop onto there (boo). Is there an older version of Photoshop that you would recommend that works well? I’m not even sure which CS version they’re up to. It’s still CS, right?

      1. T3k*

        Nope, they switched to CC (Creative Cloud) about 4 or so years ago. Basically, instead of the one high fee you paid for the suite/program, you now pay a small fee every month you want to use the program (s).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is why I can’t use it until I get a damn job. I can’t pay the stupid fee. Which isn’t that small.
          I do have Gimp, and I did use it to make my e-book cover with a lot of googling.

          1. Clippy*

            I’m currently using GIMP for some volunteer stuff I’ve been doing, and it’s not bad, if only because you can google most things you need to know how to do. I’m not a very advanced user though, more like a talented newbie, but it’s actually been kind of fun to learn by doing…

      2. she was a fast machine*

        Many people still use CS5 or CS6 which were the last two CS suites before they switched to CC. I personally really liked both of them, maybe even CS5 better, but I finally made myself get used to CC2018 when it got new features I really wanted.

      3. A Reader*

        Adobe actually said people can download Photoshop CS2 for free now. It’s definitely very outdated, but all the basics are there. I’m not sure where to find it (aside from being a pirate) but they were offering it, afaik for free for some reason. I would do a google query on Free Photoshop CS2 from Adobe and see what comes up. It was a couple years back when this was quietly announced.

    4. WellRed*

      How do you get rid of automatic text wrap in ID? I think somewhere along the way our templates got messed up and now I can’t fix it. It drives me crazy.

      1. Bekx*

        With absolutely nothing selected, go to window > text wrap and select the first option (no text wrap)

        1. WellRed*

          It’s not selected now. Whether it is selected or not, if I import a word doc, it comes in with wrap. If I jump text from one page to the next, it wraps the new block of text. I can turn off the wrap, but I don’t like doing it on every single thing, over and over. : /

          1. Bekx*

            Weird! Would you hate me if I recommend resetting your preferences? If you have a ton of preferences set, this will be a pain, but whenever something weird like this happens, it’s the first thing I try.

            (Windows) Start InDesign, and then press Shift+Ctrl+Alt. Click Yes when asked if you want to delete preference files.
            (Mac OS) While pressing Shift+Option+Command+Control, start InDesign. Click Yes when asked if you want to delete preference files.

            You have to do this while the loading screen pops up, not after.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Even before that, I would suggest checking the “Normal” style sheet, and seeing what’s listed there.

              Also – is it just when importing text from a word doc? If so, I would suggest making sure to transition the text through some form of a simple text editor that will strip all the formatting out of it before you import into ID.

    5. Thlayli*

      can you use photoshop to blow up a photo and make it look less pixelated? Does it have some sort of smoothing function? And is it any good?

      I have a photo that was shrunk to be emailed to me and I would love to print it out ~ A4 size but it’s too poor quality.

      1. Bekx*

        Not..really. If it’s already pixelated, you’re asking photoshop to create pixels that weren’t there to make it larger and well, that won’t work.

        Any chance you can ask the original sender to send you the file larger? If they can upload it on dropbox or wetransfer or something, then you’ll have a better quality photo.

      2. she was a fast machine*

        There are ways that will make it just look really smooth and blurry at a technically larger size, but once you’re increasing size that much(from what it sounds like you’re saying you have something that’s less than 1k pixels in size) there’s not much you can do to salvage it.

      3. Thlayli*

        Ok thanks. It looks ok in 6×4, a bit pixelated in 5×9, and I’m sure a 12×8 would look awful. It’s an old pic so no chance of the original anyway.

    6. Bee's Knees*

      Something I’ve found useful with Photoshop is to take some time in the afternoon when my work isn’t busy is to play with it. With their knowledge, I’ve Photoshopped several coworkers’ faces onto glamour shots from the internet, with mixed results. I have to use Photoshop almost daily, and I’d say 80-90% of the photos I get are old, or discolored, or both, and often grainy as well. While that does not require me to know how to paste someone’s face to a photo of a lady with hair that matches her poodles, it did help me learn to adjust the color levels, as well as the brightness and sharpness of the photos. Plus, it adds some levity that my job sorely needs some days.

    7. Ms. Pear*

      The earlier comments about preferences reminded me of an issue I’m having. Every time my computer updates, all my InDesign preferences disappear and have to be reset. Any suggestions on how to keep that from happening??

    1. Butch Cassidy*

      What are the best first things to learn for folks who want to start really digging into what Excel can do?

      I learned how to use it for mathematical formulas when I took Stats in college, but I regularly work with really complex sheets built by others and I want to be able to make the magic happen myself.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          +1 if you regularly have to analyze huge tables of data to find some semblance of meaning in them.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Doing lookups is incredibly useful if you’re dealing with multiple sheets in one workbook. It’s a simple way to reflect the same data on multiple sheets. I’ve only used vlookups, but I know there have been folks here who recommend hlookups too.

        Countif also comes in handy for a lot of basic calculations.

        And I’ve found that pivot tables and conditional formatting always impress people.

        1. paul*

          Have you run into pivots getting clunky when they get larger, think like from a 5 or 10k rows and a dozen +columns? They work well for me for smaller datasets but once it gets large…I can’t tell if I’m doing something wrong or if it’s just the wrong tool for that type of job. I dn’t have access at home and it brings my work computer to its knees so I’ve never been able to give it a whirl.

          1. Q without U*

            Presuming that it’s the dataset that has thousands of rows, and not the pivot itself (cause that would definitely be unwieldy!), I do not have any trouble making a pivot off of a large dataset. I have made pivots with datasets of over 500K+ rows and dozens of columns without any performance issues.

          2. Not In US*

            I find pivot tables that you update monthly with new data attached to the existing data can get clunky and sometimes lose it’s mind (think thousands of rows in the data). I’m finding that if you re-select the full data set instead of just changing the formula to add the extra rows, it seems to work better and be less likely to fail. I also work with work books with multiple pivot tables sometimes with multiple data sets in them all in the thousands of rows for data and so the workbook itself can sometimes fail. I version everything so it’s just a manner of starting one month over rather than from scratch.

            1. Q without U*

              Don’t know if you’ve tried this, but if you convert the dataset into a table and name the table, you should not need to repoint the pivot after adding or deleting rows. Where it says “Select table or range”, just type in whatever you named your table.

              1. Samata*

                Oh this is a great tip! Thank you. Pivot tables changed my life once…but this might have just taken it to the next level.

          3. Karen P*

            Good afternoon Paul,
            Large datasets are always going to involve large file size, and a pivot will increase that significantly, since your sheet functionally stores the dataset twice. However, formatting (number formats, colors, typeset, alignment, borders, etc.) is a huge cause of inflated file size.

            Formatting (especially conditional formatting!) is an “expensive” form of data for Excel to store, and you can often cut your file size in half by ensuring that Excel stores fewer formatting instructions. Unless you’re very careful about how you build and maintain your dataset, your file is likely storing one set of formatting instructions for every cell in your table: super expensive. If the file is becoming cumbersome, try discarding all of your formatting and adding it back in groups instead. In other words, tell Excel to format an entire column as a percent, and entire row in bold, or the entire sheet in your chosen font. Rather than 10K formatting rules, it’ll hold only a handful. Don’t worry about the formatting on your pivot or summary tab, since it probably isn’t the culprit.
            If you want to give this a try, duplicate your dataset worksheet (tab) in case you don’t like the results. On one or the other, select the entire sheet (Ctrl+A *2, or the arrow in the top left corner), and from your Home ribbon choose Clear > Clear Formats. Then, go back and add in critical formatting, setting rules for entire datasheets, rows, and columns wherever possible. Some cell-specific formatting won’t hurt, especially in your header rows, but if you were holding independent formatting instructions for every cell in your dataset, this would significantly reduce your file size.
            Hope this helps!

        2. Q without U*

          Definitely agree about lookups! In fact, I will ask any candidate whose resume indicates that they’re an Excel “expert” to explain how a lookup works. I think it takes far more than that to be an expert – I certainly don’t think I am – but that’s a pretty good measure of whether they’re grossly exaggerating their skill level.

          1. Anna*

            I’m a bit confused by this. Do you ask your job candidate “how do lookups in spreadsheets work?”? Cause the (un-exciting) answer would be “you use the lookup function, give a cell and it returns the value”. Is that the answer you are looking for or is there more to lookups than I realize?

            1. sparty*

              I have a short excel test that I give that has real life examples of things my employee would do. It’s not a pass/fail, but more of a how much training would you require if hired.

            2. Q without U*

              Nope, that’s basically what I’m looking for, hopefully expanded with a bit more detail about telling it what value to look for and what range to look in. You would be surprised at the number of blank (or panicked) looks I’ve gotten from people who declared themselves Excel experts.

        3. Little Twelvetoes*

          Definitely look into switching to INDEX() with MATCH() nested inside for the row and or column. It is much more flexible than VLOOKUP() and HLOOKUP() as you can search any column or row of the array, not just the first.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I’m glad I stopped to read replies before jumping in with this. +100 to INDEX/MATCH rather than VLOOKUP. You have to get used to writing the formula basically “backwards” – telling it where to find the answer before you give it the question, more or less, it goes from VLOOKUP’s “look for X value in Y range and return corresponding value from column Z” to “in Z column, look for X value in Y range and return the corresponding value” – but once you make the brain switch to that, it’s so flexible. I have found precisely one case where I couldn’t use INDEX/MATCH and had to use VLOOKUP instead (and it was an enormous pain anyway, so when I figured out that VLOOKUP would work I wasn’t going to argue).

          2. Another Sara*

            Here’s an optimization tip for those using a lot of INDEX/MATCH/OFFSET formulas: the more calculations your cells are doing, the slower your spreadsheet will be. Doing INDEX + MATCH + OFFSET in 50,000 cells is going to be a lot slower than (say) using MATCH to get column/row numbers and then using only VLOOKUP/HLOOKUP/INDEX in the cells, referencing your predetermined column/row numbers. For small stuff or spreadsheets you don’t refresh often, this doesn’t matter, but if you’re working on a big spreadsheet (think projecting 30 years of monthly financial transactions) and notice it takes a long time to calculate, this is definitely something to look at.

            Another way to do lookups is to turn your source tables into actual Excel tables. Then, you can refer to columns by name. Google “Excel Table References” for more details. Super handy, and makes your formulas infinitely more readable. Tables don’t always work for every situation, but when they do, they are fantastic!

          3. Vauxhall Prefect*

            I was going to say something similar before finding your comment. It can be less intuitive, but INDEX/MATCH gives you a lot of flexibility.

            The one caveat I have is that I’ll normally use VLOOKUP (or H) in cases where I expect a wide range of other people to look at the workbook. INDEX/MATCH can be a bit harder to follow through for somebody else who needs to understand how the workbook works. In most cases I’ve found it much easier to get a non-expert Excel user to understand what the lookup does versus the INDEX/MATCH.

      2. sparty*

        Learn how to use match when using lookups. It’s much more flexible than typing in a column/row number. Also, very useful instead of a lookup is the offset function. The offset can lookup a specific location based on a reference number and a # of rows/columns away from that reference. Another useful tool for the offset function is using Named Ranges in a pivot table. Rather than having to update the size of your target range when updating data for a pivot table, put a named range of “Data” in the name manager and use the formula =offset(top left corner cell of your data range,0,0,CountA(column that has a data piece in every cell),CountA(row that has a data piece in every cell)). What the CountA does is counts cells that are populated, this defines the size of your array to use in the pivot table.

        1. sparty*

          Once you have the offset set-up right, your pivot tables will always be the size of your data source. If you add 3 more rows it will adjust the pivot next time you refresh without having the change the range.

        2. Linyarri*

          I agree using Index/Match is much more flexible than the Lookup options. However, it can be a bit more confusing. If you have the time try it, after you do it a few times it is easy.
          In this case VFB37 is in Column C & I want to find what is in column F on the Same row

      3. Koko*

        I’m very much a learn-by-doing kind of person, so honestly, the way I got so good at Excel was by assuming that there was a fast and easy way to do everything I want to do, and then googling to find it.

        Any time you’re doing something in Excel that seems repetitive or tedious, or you need to rearrange the data in a predictable way and you’re doing it manually, that’s when you stop and Google, “Excel truncate after specific character” or “excel paste horizontal data vertically” or “Excel copy only visible cells” or “Excel return zero if #N/A error” or “Excel pivot chart two Y axes” or “Excel statistical significance between group values” …you get the idea.

        There is an extremely high likelihood that there’s a way to automate what you’re trying to do, and along the way you will amass a lot of skill and familiarity with functions, pivot charts and tables, and eventually you’ll get brave enough to feel comfortable trying out macros.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          “I’m very much a learn-by-doing kind of person, so honestly, the way I got so good at Excel was by assuming that there was a fast and easy way to do everything I want to do, and then googling to find it.”

          This. I think only once (once!) was I trying to do something that Excel just couldn’t do. Otherwise, there’s a solution to nearly anything you want to accomplish, and it’s likely there’s a forum post somewhere out there where other people have already solved that problem.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Amen! My whole team thinks I’m an Excel witch, but it’s really more that I’m good at googling to find solutions for common problems and then tweaking those solutions to be applicable in other uses. Stackexchange and the Excel Forum are your friends.

      4. NoMoreMrFixit*

        Input formatting. Being able to define pick lists or upper/lower limits on values in cells is a God-sent blessing.

        Vlookups cannot get enough praise in my opinion. And while it’s been years since I did anything with macros and VBA, mastering that subject is worth the effort if you plan on working with Excel as a major part of your day.

      5. Jadelyn*

        In roughly this order: lookups (I recommend index/match rather than vlookup, but it’s good to understand both), pivots and slicers, and macros.

        If you’ve got access to complex sheets that other people have built, save a copy of the file somewhere well away from the original so you don’t run the risk of saving over anything, then use that as a base-point! Start tinkering – look at the formulas in the complex bits, google to see what they’re doing. Open up the VBA console and see if there are any macros at play. It’s often easier to start with something that’s already built and experiment with changing bits of it to see what each piece does, than to learn to build from scratch.

        That’s how I learned VBA – I recorded a couple of macros for things I regularly did, then went into the console and looked at the code it generated. Then started reading up on the functions it was using and getting acquainted with the syntax. I eventually was able to clean up the clunky code that the macro recorder generated into a nice sleek script that I’ve been able to repurpose and tweak for various other things since then.

      6. PNW*

        I manage a small team of data analysts and we use pivot tables/charts all the time. Personally, I use Vlookup quite a bit, too, when I am matching up data sets without sql.

    2. Ruthven Murgatroyd*

      I don’t have a working copy of Excel; how similar is it to Google Sheets? If I learn one well, will I be prepared to use the other?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s pretty similar. Sheets doesn’t have all of the same capabilities outright, but there are plenty of extensions you can get for Chrome that will fix that.

        For example, sorting by cell color isn’t a default option in Sheets, but you can get an add-on that will let you do it.

    3. Morning Glory*

      Is there any way to create a drop-list in excel that allows you to select multiple choices (select all that apply) instead of single-selection?

      1. sparty*

        Build your list of items you want in the drop down on a new tab labled “Lists”, go to the cell you want the drop down window and click Data, Data Validation down arrow, Data Validation, under Settings tab select “Any Value” and choose “List, go to the source and find the data list you had put together on your “Lists” tab.

        1. Morning Glory*

          Thanks for your response! That seems to only allow me to select one option from the drop down list. When you do it, you’re able to select more than one from the list?

        2. sparty*

          sorry, I misread, there can only be one answer in a cell, so no. But, you could use a series of check boxes. You need the developer ribbon, then Insert, Checkbox.

    4. Ashie*

      What’s the deal with VBA? I’m pretty confident with Excel but I feel like there’s a whole extra level of usefulness I could get out of it if I understood what that is and how it works.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I hope someone else jumps in and answers this because it’s a little above my current level.

      2. Trill*

        Visual Basics for Applications is Microsoft’s macro programming language. It’s useful for performingly tasks that would be repetitive and time consuming to do by hand. So long as you can logically define what you want the program to do (if x do a, if y do b), VBA can get it done for you. All you really need to make use of VBA is a general idea of key syntax and a bit of google-fu to make full use of Stack Overflow.

      3. Bored IT Guy*

        VBA can be used to do a lot of useful stuff. It is, at its heart, a programming language (relatively easy to use) that can be very versatile.

        A few examples of things that I’ve used VBA within Excel to accomplish:
        – Take user input to generate a formatted email in Outlook, complete with recipients, subject already filled in
        – Allow Excel to be used as a front-end to an Access database
        – Automate splitting up a report – When it comes in, all vendors are on one big list – created VBA code to automatically split the list out so each vendor is on their own tab
        – Use a user selection in a drop-down to edit a config file so that an application can connect to different servers
        – Interactive bingo sheet to be used on conference calls :)
        – Update a table with new information from a separate sheet, re-draw all graphs based on that data

      4. Excel Slayer*

        It can do… nearly everything you can think of except for getting you a cup of tea. My most recent thing I made for someone was spitting out an email using a template based on a line they’d just put in the spreadsheet, but seriously it can do SO MUCH. Anything as tiny as automatically saving, to pretty big programming projects.

      5. Linyarri*

        +1 on Stack Overflow.
        If you want to check it out I would suggest opening up the Developer ribbon and using the record button, then do some stuff in excel, stop the record, go into the macro and look at what it did.
        One simple use for VBA is to run the formulas vice putting the formula in cells. I do this on large sheets that take a long time to open/close due to the formulas.

      6. Jadelyn*

        VBA lets you automate things. Any repetitive task you have in Excel, VBA can automate for you. And because it’s Office-suite-wide, you can use it to make Excel interact with Word and Outlook as well.

        Some of the things I’ve used macros for:
        – Cleanup of a really ugly, really basic SQL query report that used to come out of our old HR system so that it was usable and visually acceptable. Deleting columns, rearranging columns, resizing columns and rows, formatting data in certain areas, etc.
        – Checking if a certain cell was filled in – I’d made an Excel based timesheet (our time system shut off without warning so we needed an alternative for a few days) that would let people put their hours in and then it would calculate things like overtime. When they sent the completed sheets back to me, I wanted to check and make sure that they weren’t sending me blank data and I didn’t want to have to scroll through the sheet to check since I didn’t have time to do that for almost 300 people. So I made a quick macro and linked it to a keyboard shortcut so I could open each timesheet, hit alt-shift-k or whatever I bound it to, and have it either pop up a warning or do nothing. If it did nothing, I knew the sheet was good to go, and could save it into the processing folder.
        – In that same timesheet file, I set up one-click “send to supervisor for approval” and “send to HR for payroll” buttons that employees and managers could click to forward completed sheets on.
        – Once I had all the sheets, I made a macro that would scour all the files in the processing folder, pull out data from specific spots on each sheet, and put the results into a single sheet for me that was formatted so that our payroll system would accept it as a single upload, rather than having to hand-key each single entry.
        – I created another automated data-cleanup script for a different report (this one out of SurveyMonkey), then pinned it to a button so that I could distribute that spreadsheet and let other people process this data for themselves rather than having to rely on me to do it – all they had to do was add the SurveyMonkey sheet to the cleanup file, click the appropriate button, and voila, clean data ready to go.

        1. Erin*

          Jadelyn, I am a payroll person, too, and I want to try to make a VBA program to take the 130 or so excel timesheets (all based on the same basic template) and summarize them into a neat set of columns with, like, names, hours of private lesson time, hours of class time, hours of administrative time, and the date(s) each function happened.

          Would you be willing to share your tool, if possible, as a jumping off point for me? I started looking into VBA and I get the basics, but this feels like such a huge project that I’m utterly overwhelmed. I work for a non-profit school, so it’s not like I have millions of hours to devote to this.

          If not, I understand and appreciate any help you can share. :) Thanks!

      7. Another Sara*

        +1000 to VBA and to the macro recorder in particular. You can automate so much, so easily, without having to understand the code at all. With a little bit more effort, you can start to understand and optimize the generated code, and soon you will be writing your own code from scratch! I’ve been programming in VBA for 13 years, and in C++/C# for 10, and I still use the macro recorder to quickly get syntax for stuff I can’t remember or mock up a quick skeleton of something I want to automate. Your non-VBA-using coworkers will think you are some kind of wizard.

        Some VBA tips:
        – Echoing Linyarri: If there is something you do often, try turning on the macro recorder while you do it. For example, opening a source spreadsheet, copying a range of values, and pasting it in a report spreadsheet. Open the VBA editor and step through your new macro to watch what it’s doing. See if there are small things you can tweak to make it open a different sheet, copy a different range, or paste into a different spot. Ta-da, you’ve just automated your data entry process!
        – The macro recorder does things “mechanically”. For example, if you want to take the value from one cell and put it in another, the recorder will do “Select cell A1. Copy selection. Select cell B1. Paste values.” A simpler bit of code will just say “Set the value of Cell B1 to the value of Cell A1”.
        – Going back and forth between VBA memory and Excel memory is slow. Reading and updating a big table of values one cell at a time is much slower than reading the entire table into a VBA array, processing it in memory, and then writing the whole array back out.
        – Google everything. If you can do it manually, you can do it programmatically.

      8. echidna*

        The two guidelines I use for whether or not to use VBA: Do I need to do the same thing to many files? Do I need to do the same thing many times on one file? If yes, then use VBA.

        Some things I’ve used VBA on:
        -Outfitting a sheet with checkboxes so the user could toggle individual or grouped items on or off and have subtotals on the same sheet and other sheets auto-update accordingly
        -Creating a UserForm (love these) that allows the user to input multiple files and adjust a few settings/options to compile information on several files into one master report
        -Delete unnecessary information from large spreadsheets based on a complicated hierarchy of conditions

        I personally don’t like using the record button, just because I think it can get confusing to read if you’re trying to learn from it, and it will also often choose the least efficient way to do something. But if it works for you, by all means use it to learn!

        Just a few tips I use constantly when I develop in VBA.
        Put “Option Explicit” in the header before you start writing your macro. This will force you to dimension all of your variables before you use them – very important for preventing mistakes.
        Put these two lines at the top of your macro – they will dramatically reduce the runtime:
        Application.ScreenUpdating = False
        Application.Calculation = xlCalculationManual
        Excel can find the last used Row and last used Column on a file, using:
        .UsedRange.Rows.Count and .UsedRange.Columns.Count

    5. pmac*

      What’s a quick way to compare two columns for duplicates? Right now, I use a conditional formatting method that takes me a while.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’d do a custom sort on column 1 and then column 2 so that you can view them side by side.

      2. Positive Reframer*

        When I do that I add a column and use the =match formula.

        I’m usually using that to see if there are duplicates on a new sheet i.e. sometimes there’s crossover between days but I just want the ones that weren’t included yesterday, so I match today’s column to yesterday’s column and delete everything that’s not a N/A.

      3. Koko*

        Assuming your columns are A and B with header row, use this in C2, fill down, and then sort by column C.


        All your values in col B that don’t appear in col A will be labeled “Unique” in column C and clustered together at the beginning or end of list depending on sort direction, and all duplicates will be clustered together at the other end with their value repeated in column C, giving you a list of duplicate values.

        This will find all duplicates for removal. If you’re actually trying to find all uniques, add a column D with the inverse formula pasted in D2 and filled down:


        That will allow you to sort by column D to cluster all the unique values in column A to add to the unique values from column B.

      4. Linyarri*

        I have a similar problem where I need to find duplicates based off of multiple items in a row. I use an empty column to create a unique code by concatenating the cells in the row, then run a COUNTA in another column to find duplicates in the column with the unique code. The column with the unique code is the tough one.

        1. Haakon*

          Why is it the tough one if I may ask, if you’re already familiar with concatenation – or am I missing something?

          1. Linyarri*

            It depends on what you are concatenating. If I concatenate: 8396 2002 110 and 8396 200 2110 they both come up as 83962002110. I need them to look different. So I either force each column to use 4 digits when concatenating or put a character between them. So it comes out as:
            839620020110 and 839602002110
            8396-2002-110 and 8396-200-2110
            This way they do not register as duplicates when I run the countA

      5. Abe Froman*

        If you use Google sheets, there is a UNIQUE function that will return all of your unique values.

    6. Goya de la Mancha*

      Is there a way to create a dynamic sort macro?

      I have monthly documents that consist of the same “template” starting off for each worksheet/day. I have to sort it always the same way to finish the work (column C then E), but Tuesday may only have 5 lines to sort where Monday had 34.

      1. Q without U*

        I don’t quite understand your question. If you’re sorting by column, how do the number of rows come into it?
        Writing a macro to sort by column is quite straightforward, but I think I missing some nuances here.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          There’s more to the document then just those 5/34 rows, so I can’t sort the whole thing by the columns, which would mess up the other rows. So on Monday I had to sort rows 9-43 by column c then e, on Tuesdays it was rows 15-20 that had to be sorted by c, then e.

          I’m thinking it’s not possible, but figured it was worth a shot in the dark! Our company likes to not purchase the software necessary to make our lives easier, so I’ve had to become very good at finding band-aid programs/work arounds to make my own life easier.

          1. Q without U*

            Got it. Is there any easy way to identify which rows need to be sorted? Perhaps something in an adjacent column?

            1. Goya de la Mancha*

              The adjacent columns all have something in them, but they aren’t always the same per row or day. It’s mostly account codes and titles. The information I receive is a daily dump of data that I have to input. It doesn’t come to me organized so I have to sort for the higher ups reading. So I type it all in and then manually sort (not a huge deal – but meh, lazy) and Excel doesn’t remember my sort preference like it remembers that I always want to print 2 copies for this particular document.

              “B” “C” “D” “E” “F”
              AA-X-000- 2 -00000- 001 Llama wrangling (insert more row info here)
              AB-Z-000- 1 -00000- 505 Llama grooming/braiding (insert more row info here)
              AA-X-000- 2 -00000- 002 Llama care education (insert more row info here)

                1. Q without U*

                  There probably is a way to do what you’re hoping with VBA, but it’s not jumping out at me. All of the straightforward solutions have to do with having some consistent way to identify a row that needs to be sorted.

          2. Vauxhall Prefect*

            I think you could probably do this through setting up a couple of reference cells somewhere on your spreadsheet. Say it could be one cell giving the first row of the data you want to sort this time, and another cell giving the last row of the data you want to sort.

            That way you can have a go at writing or recording a macro where you select a range of data and then only sort that data within your table. Then you’ll want to modify the macro so the range of data that it selects and sorts is based on the first row / last row values selected above. There would be a little bit of mucking about it setting that up depending on how much vba you know, but would be relatively straightforward.

            From then on you should just be able to update the first row and last row cells each day you want to do this, then run the macro and you’ll get that selection sorted the way you want.

      2. Tea-Toddler*

        This can definitely be done, but it requires VBA scripting–the record macro option won’t do it alone. Try googling something like “Excel VBA select all used range”. What you’ll eventually want the script to do is (1) select all the used cells in the worksheet, (2) format that range of cells as a table, (3) sort by whichever column you need. The full script should only be 7-8 lines.

      3. EngrEbby*

        Daily macro user here! I have to resize labels for work and needed to find a way to get it done quickly whether I had a half sheet or 20 sheets to print. Macros get it done in one click.

        For Excel 2010:
        You can record a macro of yourself doing that task from the Developer tab (if the tab is not visible, go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon > Main Tabs > Developer). Go to Developer > Record Macro.

        When you hit record, you’ll get a prompt to:
        1. Name the macro
        2. Assign a shortcut key (optional)
        3. Where to save it. Save in the ‘personal macro workbook’ if you want the macro to run in any excel file on your computer; the other options let you store in the active workbook or a new one.
        4. Description is also optional.

        Hit OK and perform your task as usual. Once finished don’t forget to go back to the Developer toolbar and click Stop Recording. After that you can either add an icon to the Quick Access Toolbar (File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar > Choose Commands From > Macros) or use the shortcut key. I added my macro with a smiley face icon and placed it next to the save icon on my quick access toolbar so I could resize and save in two clicks and be done with it. :)

        1. FedLiz*

          If you ever get a new computer or IT re-images your machine or something, make sure your personal workbook is copied over. It’s devastating to lose all of your macros in one fell swoop.

      4. Linyarri*

        What you are talking about sounds like it can be done. It depends on what is occurring above and below those rows. If you have a pattern you can macro it.
        If the data you need to sort has a header above it and at least one column is completely filled out w/blank lines at the end. that would work. You can use “find” to get the row for the header, then loop to find the next blank cell and use that as the last row. Put the range into a variable and use the variable to sort.
        Sorry, it is easier for me to do then to explain.

    7. Rock Prof*

      We use excel for a lot of simple plotting in the classes I teach. We’re a microsoft campus, so they should generally have access but some of them still only use google sheets. Can one make simple scatter plots with data that has two different lists of x and y values (x1, y1 and also x2, y2)? Like, you can use different x-ranges for data sets in excel pretty easily, but I haven’t been able to find something easy and not super-kloogey that works in google sheets consistently.

    8. HyacinthB*

      Just came here to say…. I love love love Excel! If people only knew how much easier their lives could be with more of it!!!

    9. Allison*

      In what applications are pivot tables useful? I know how to make them, I just can’t figure out why I’d want to. And every time people talk about expertise they bring up pivot tables and I try them out again and I still don’t understand!

      1. Positive Reframer*

        I use them multiple times a day to easily summarize data. If you have a good database system that can pull reports then you might find it less useful.

        If you ever find yourself sorting columns or using countif statements (there are probably other tells but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head) then you might find them useful. You can do counts and sums and display things by percentages and create calculated fields to do weighted averages and all sorts of wonderful data crunching things.

        1. Allison*

          I work in a wet lab so I don’t have any sort of database at all, just lots and lots of excel files with various data and graphs from experiments on them. I only really need averages and standard deviations most of the time (I find Excel’s stats tools difficult to organize) so maybe pivot tables are just not for me! Every time someone raves about them I feel like I’m missing out!

      2. Koko*

        I use them almost daily for ad hoc financial reports to generate crosstabs from a list of transactions that summarize the revenue in different ways, number of transactions and sum of transaction value, by source, by payment type, by transaction level, by month or day, etc.

        I also use them frequently to almost instantly answer questions like “of this list of customer addresses, how many are in each US state?”

        1. P2P All Day*

          What is a good resource online to learn more about setting up and using pivot tables? I have typically found super simple samples that I’m not able to translate into something I could actually use. I’d be more interested in samples that are not salesly (it’s seems all I find relate to profit/loss statements).

          1. Koko*

            I’m not sure of any specific resources I can recommend, but I will say that I intuitively grokked pivot tables when I first discovered them because my educational background is in social sciences, and “pivot tables” is just a fancy word for “cross tabs.” So, I would think that any basic resource that explains cross-tabs would probably be very helpful for learning pivot tables.

            Basically, you drag your independent variables (that you want to group data by), like gender or income or age, into the Rows area. Drag the dependent variable (data you want to understand/summarize), like marital happiness or job satisfaction, into the “values” area to create columns. You can then use the Field Settings to change whether you want it to display the count, sum, average, etc for that dependent variable, by the groups outlined in the Rows area. You can also use the Field Settings to have all of the above displayed as percentages of a row or column instead of raw numbers.

            One tip, when you’re setting up a pivot table unless you’re working on a really slow computer, always check the box that says something like “add this to the data model” – it has to be done up front and can’t be edited later, but it gives you the ability to include “unique count” instead of just count. You may or may not end up needing unique counts but if RAM isn’t an issue it’s better to set yourself up in advance to have it available if you do need.

    10. Bee Boo*

      I’ve spent all morning struggling with excel/office 365– maybe you can help! I have a document created in excel– it’s pretty basic– just text and numbers to help us track some communications, no formulas. However, everytime I upload it to office 365 One Drive to share with the rest of our staff, when we then open it one One Drive, on the first tab it says “Excel can’t download this shape” in a big white box that covers up all of our data. I have no idea what shape its talk about, or how to remove this image. based on googling the problem, I tried removing all XML from the document, but my excel says there is no XML present.

      1. Linyarri*

        The only thing I can think of is that if you did a cut/paste from a website it might have some things you can’t see (tiny objects, empty text boxes)
        You can get rid of ALL objects by pressing Control G, select “special”, choose “Objects”, select OK. Once Excel selects all the objects, hit delete. If there are no objects you will get a popup window telling you this.
        Hopefully someone else has had this same problem and can provide better guidance.

    11. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Since there are a lot of people in this thread wanting to learn more, I wanted to share a resource I’ve found really valuable over the years: (link in my username). He always presents new techniques and ideas in a work-applicable context, which is great, and there are also a ton of free templates on offer too. Sign up for his mailing list, as well!

    12. Vauxhall Prefect*

      Don’t mean to hijack, but I wanted to add an Excel tip and this is the most active Excel place. :)

      One thing I’ve had a lot of success at in Excel is making templates of anything that I think could be useful in multiple places. Taking a bit more time around making the first complicated spreadsheet can be well worth it if you can use that work again and again. It’s a great feeling when somebody is describing a problem to you and you can not only help, but have a ready made solution that will fix things with just some brief time spent tinkering!

      Some examples:
      – I used to spend a lot of time needing to bring in data from one workbook into another. I’ve got a workbook where you have a control sheet and input things like the location of the file you’re looking for, where the data is in it, where you want the data, and a few other options. Once set up it basically reduces any data import exercise to a little initial set up and then a click of a button. Great for any regular reporting where you gather data from a few places! (I’ve got basically the same thing for exporting data.)
      – Often if you’re dealing with a lot of data you’ll want to run formulas on each row, but don’t want to leave the formulas in since that will slow down your workbook. So I have another macro where you can quickly create or remove formulas to update a workbook and then look it down again safely.
      – Using the above and some other things I have some templates for creating dashboards in Excel. Where you select a bunch of things to toggle and get a whole bunch of interesting charts updated. Excel isn’t great at this kind of thing, so you need to be strict with how much data you’re using to make it work nicely. But it’s great at showing different parts of the business what can be done and then getting them to help you convince IT to make a better solution that uses something other than Excel and gives even more options.

      Got a little long there. But just wanted to share since making some of those things has been a real time saver to me a lot of the time. And it gets people really excited when you’re able to fix some monotonous work for them super quickly!

    13. Positive Reframer*

      Does anyone have a good resource for mastering all of the potential of Power Query/ Get & Transform

      I have a huge data set that I need to do a lot of tweaking to, reapplying the same formatting, formulas, etc to different segments of the data every week. I think its possible to do it with Get & Transform, or at least a good chunk of it and it would be amazing to have any part of this process automatedish and a little less prone to human error. I have some concept of databases and SQL but more on a elementary theoretical basis than a practical can actually do something with it basis.

      At its essence I think this is something that would commonly be done with a database program but that isn’t an option in this case. (Hopefully in the next few years, fingers crossed) but for now I want to see if I can trim a few hours off of the overtime it takes to deal with this. Brains over brawn and all that.

    1. Thoughts*

      What’s the best resource for learning? Online/in person/on the job, etc?
      I have learned a fair amount without training but that obviously leaves a lot to be desired!

      1. it_guy*

        For specific problems, check and Also, check SQLPass for local one day free training events (SQLSaturday)

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        There’s a site I’ve used called vtc (that I’ll link to) but you can down load Microsoft’s SQL Server Express Edition for free and there are a couple of sample databases (NorthWind and Adventure works) and lots of online tutorials use them.

        The study guides for the formal exams are very good but fairly technical and I found them heavy reading but I learnt a lot from them.

      3. Windchime*

        Also, any books by Itzik Ben-Gan. I’ve actually taken a couple of classes from him and he is an excellent teacher. I own several of his books, and I particularly recommend T-SQL Fundamentals and T-SQL Querying.

        Totally late to this conversation, so I hope someone will stumble across this and find it useful.

    2. KatieK*

      I learned basics & pronciples through Khan Academy, which I can’t revommend highly enough!!

      then to learn a specific environment you’d want to practice there—MySQL is most common as far as I know (I personally mostly write in Redshift though) so find a course on what you specifically need. Then practice.

    3. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Any good resources for someone who has a reasonably good grasp on SQL reporting (but hasn’t done it for a couple of years) and is about to start doing some database migration stuff?

      1. Aardvark*

        StackOverflow, user groups/forums for your source and destination systems are good places to start. I have some advice though, if you are interested?

        Before you begin:
        * Assume it will take 5x/long as you think it will.
        * Clean your data in the source system as much as possible.
        * Find a colleague who can be your sanity checker–someone you trust to tell you if something looks weird, who is reasonably detail oriented, and who has a slightly different perspective than you.
        * Set up clear expectations for how long you are responsible for the data after it’s loaded into the new system.
        * Get a feel for the scope and type of data you’re moving, before you start. Moving 100s of integer values is going to be a way different project than migrating free-form text from a system that uses Microsoft text encodings to UTF-8. The more complex the project, the longer it will take.
        * Know the constraints of the source and destination systems–whether they are case-sensitive, or have any quirks.

        While you’re planning:
        * Be very clear on the differences in data structure between the old system and the new system. Make sure your end users know the differences too.
        * Map out your field transformations in advance — create a document that has:
        The source field
        The destination field
        The transformation for each row
        Where that transformation will take place (on export from the source system, in the ETL tool, by hand, on load into the destination system, etc.)
        Source field type (integer or variable-length character, etc.)
        Destination field type
        * If you have control over field names, try to make them consistent and sensical.
        * If you will be matching or de-duplicating rows, be clear on the acceptable threshold, the match rules, and so on. Be careful about punctuation in strings and case.
        * Come up with some tests and acceptance criteria ahead of time with your stakeholders so you know when you’ve hit your target.

        As you do it:
        * Test each step with as representative a set of rows you can find. Find the longest and shortest strings, for instance, or the minimum and maximum values. Validate keys if needed–make sure you don’t have any weird orphan values.
        * Be prepared to encounter strange characters, invalid values, and so on. Note how you fix each of these situations so you can handle them consistently and cleanly.
        * Use a local or non-production database to test stuff out, if possible.
        * If you can, put the old key value in a field on the new record (at least for temporarily) so you can easily find it in case you have to clean something up.
        * Keep stakeholders up-to-date on the general status of the project. They’ll be nicer if you hit a snag and the project is delayed and may be able to offer assistance.

        1. Aardvark*

          Also–diagrams and checklists are your friends! ER diagrams of the source and destination systems can be helpful, putting together a flowchart for the process, creating a checklist for each step. If you’re using a tool, make sure to save your work, if you’re using scripts save them along with notes about how they fit together, if you’re brute forcing it in Excel, carefully document each step so you can repeat/undo if needed.
          And beware of leading zeroes.

        2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          Sorry for the late reply, but thank you so much!! I’ll be bookmarking this :o)

  6. ThatOneRedhead*

    I need some help with deciding whether to move to a bigger house or to finish my basement for more space. Anybody have ideas about how to make the decision? (Or – how do I pick a contractor?)

    1. Current ISD/ID*

      Do you have a specific need for space (an extra bedroom or room for a pool table), or just generally wanting some more? What needs doing in the basement the way it is currently? I’m a hobbyist carpenter and I’ve been renovating my 200 year old house for the past six years.

      1. ThatOneRedhead*

        The biggest driver is an extra bedroom and a little more living space. The areas are framed out, and the bathroom is roughed in, but it’s open beyond that.

    2. EMW*

      As someone who needs to redo their deck – seconding the how do you find a good contractor question

      1. Emily S.*

        Have you heard of Angie’s List? It’s a website where you can look at reviews for all sorts of contractors/handymen/plumbers/etc. (member-only, but they I think they do free trials). Several of my friends swear by it as a source for finding companies to work on a house.

        1. EMW*

          I hadn’t wanted to pay for a service to do this…but maybe that’s my issue! I have used next door to find lawn care services but there weren’t any contractors in my area.

          1. Emily S.*

            My friends say it’s worth it. They’ve had good experiences. I also used a friend’s membership to find a moving company, and was happy with the one I picked.

          2. Koko*

            It may vary in your area but any time I didn’t have a personal recommendation from a friend I checked Yelp, and I’ve always been happy with the companies I found that way.

        2. Liz Lemon*

          I’m pretty sure angie’s list is free now! At least it was when we found our contractor 6 months ago…

        3. M-C*

          Keep in mind though that the recommendations aren’t necessarily accurate. My friend got a roofer through there, had a really hard time getting the project done, and worse had to endure some pretty threatening stuff in the process. She’d love to post that as feedback on Angie’s but she won’t – it’d be all too easy to figure out who she is, and as she says ‘he knows where I live’…

      2. Ashley*

        Ask friends for recommendation and go to home shows where you can meet them in person. If you found a good roofer and need a electrical, ask your roofer. They may know someone from other projects or be able to tell you who to avoid.
        Contractors can be hard to work with because they can be terrible about showing up when they said they would. Make sure to get a written quote and ask for a copy of their insurance.

        1. straws*

          Seconding asking other contractors. My husband’s line of work has him in contact with numerous contractors, and they all know the reputations of other contractors in the area – the good and the bad! If you find 1 person you trust, you can branch out your recommendations from there.

        2. OhNo*

          Thirding the asking other contractors bit. My dad’s a contractor, and has been for most of my life, and anytime someone needs something done he knows exactly who to call to get it done well.

          That said, like tends to attract like in the home repair and improvement business. Make sure you only ask contractors whose work and professionalism you like for recommendations, otherwise you’re likely to get more of whatever irritated you about working with them.

      3. Work Wardrobe*

        Yelp reviews might be a place to start. Also, ask people you know, or rove the neighborhood — and if you see work being done, ask the homeowner!

    3. Emily S.*

      Renovation can be a great way to add value to your home, and also make it more functional. Here are some links for tips on finishing a basement from the folks at This Old House (one of my favorite shows; they also have a magazine and a great website):

      “Read This Before You Finish Your Basement”

      Video – how to insulate a basement

      Video – how to frame out basement walls

    4. Kuododi*

      I’ve not had to hire anyone in awhile however I have had good luck with Angie’s List as a source of info for vetted contractors. Best wishes!!!

    5. Colette*

      1. What are you missing in your current house? (Bathrooms are more expensive to add to basements if you don’t have roughed-in plumbing; an office is easier. Bedrooms require windows of a certain size.)
      2. How do you see your space needs changing over the next 10 – 15 years?
      3. How would you pay for the renovations? Can you afford to renovate (keeping in mind that the cost will be higher than you estimate.)
      4. Would you prefer to live with the upheaval of moving, or the upheaval of living in a construction zone for a couple of months?

      1. Ashley*

        Also invite a real estate agent to discuss what you could get for your house as is. Compare this to online searches for homes that better fit your space needs and see how the math works.

    6. Z*

      Any way you can go on that TV show “Love it or List it”? Actually, watching the show might help you in thinking about this…

    7. a-no*

      I currently work at a restoration company and so I can help with the contractor thing. Make sure they have a history (a quick google search of the company should hit some results), check them on the BB website/local accredited boards, and make sure you are asking questions.
      I’d put a fair amount of stock into reviews you should find online, I’m always a little wary when someone says they’ve been doing it for 10 years but the company doesn’t turn up anywhere on the internet. Get more than one quote so you know if you are getting a fair price, if it seems like the quote is outrageously high or low – it probably is. But that’s within reason as it likely will cost more than you think it will so make sure you are getting a couple quotes for a benchmark unless you are familiar with construction.
      Also Ashley’s advice is spot on! Ask the trade you like for another contact and ask your friend group for recommendations. And always check that they are insured (ask for a copy)

      1. Koko*

        Somewhat tangential but related question for you. I’m in the process of scoping out a geothermal HVAC installation. I’m doing my due diligence by bringing out multiple companies to submit proposals, showing the proposals to some knowledgeable third parties for opinions, etc. But the process has been very slow, with a lot of contractors not responding so I had to widen my net and contact more, or they get back to me and can’t come by for a week or two.

        So I still have one more contractor coming tomorrow and one coming next week, but the first one who was super responsive came by three weeks ago already, and in the intervening time some of the other folks I’ve talked to have given me new ideas that are very different from the original plan I discussed with the first guy. I understand that putting together proposals takes a decent amount of time which I was to be respectful of, but I know they also have a better chance of winning my business if they’re able to compete apples-to-apples against other contractors with a similar plan, not a completely different one. How obnoxious is it to go back to the first guy and ask him to draw up another proposal option to see what his price would be for that other type of plan? Or, how many times can I do that without being too obnoxious? Should I wait until the last contractor has come and go back to him with a second/final request, or should I be initiating conversation with him now about these new ideas I’m considering to allow him time to start on the work, even if that means I might have more requests/questions next week?

        1. OhNo*

          Waiting to ask means the first guy might be too busy when you get back around to him again, especially for any kind of work that has seasonal ups and downs (basically all home repair/improvement work picks up in the summer, usually by a lot). Usually your best bet is going to be to reach out to him now, mention that you’ve been getting other quotes with some additions, and ask if you can get a revised estimate in X weeks with those add-ons. That way he can build the time into his workflow (or tell you that he can’t do it).

          Also, I’d say maximum of one revision on an estimate unless you have 100% decided that you’re going to use that person. Like you said, those take a lot of time, and they’re often done completely for free just in the hope of selling a job. Once you’re sure who you want to work with, you’ll have more leeway to ask for revisions because the contractor will know that you’re a sure source of income.

        2. writelhd*

          I work in energy efficient buildings. What are the other folks telling you about instead of geothermal, and why?

          I would agree, try to keep your revision requests to one. It is definitely fine and fair to reach back out and say “hey, I am getting this recommendation from my other bidders and it makes sense to me so I want to see if you’d give me a comparison on that too”, but try to contain all the information in one request instead of sending a bunch of “oh, ahd this too!” things during the process.

          I’d also say try not to go too much purely on price–you’re likely to get what you pay for, unless prices are hugely disparate. Go for the person who seems the most professional and knowledgeable.

          1. Lala*

            This. My mother is a general contractor, and she tends to quote higher than other people for a lot of jobs because she’s very realistic about the costs, and won’t underbid just to get a job. Her jobs usually come in pretty close to the estimate (unless the homeowner makes lots of changes while the job is underway, but then she makes sure they know how changes will affect the price). Talk to the contractors. Ask lots of questions, and make sure they listen to you and understand what you want, and hopefully they’ll have ideas about how to do things, too. If they don’t listen to you, that’s a huge red flag.

            My mom’s about to take over a job that she bid for a year ago and didn’t get because the people went with someone cheaper who sucked, and now that they realized they made a mistake, they’ve got to have someone else finish/fix the job the cheap builder did. And it’s going to cost them so much more than what my mom originally estimated because now some things have to be ripped out and redone because the first contractor screwed things up.

    8. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Lists are your friend.
      Make a list of what you want in your home. Do a must haves (4 bed, 3 bath, open concept, etc…), a would love (X school district, large fenced in backyard, walk in pantry), and a deal breakers (no bathtub, electric stove, etc…).
      Look at some houses. Maybe look at some fixer uppers and ask your realtor for some recommendation for a contractor – they usually have some pretty good connections. That is actually how we found our builder.

      Talk to those contractor and determine the costs of the reno vs a new home. Also look at what the renovation will do to the value of your home. You probably won’t get your $ back but if your basement is a legal one (daylight or walkout or can be converted to one of those) you will recoup a decent amount. But a lot of that comes down to what you are looking to add to the basement. A bedroom, bath, and family/play room would be a pretty decent resale bump (although the cost for a bathroom if the plumbing isn’t already partially there will be very expensive). One thing that really was a big deal for me was the laundry area – if it is in the basement set it up nice with some cabinets, a rack to hang clean clothes one, and a nice big laundry sink. Make it look like a room vs a couple of machines in a basement.

      Living in home during renovations is a pain in the ass so add that to your list. If you have asthma or dust & mold allergies you will have issues if dry wall and cement cutting are involved. If you have OCD that requires a clean home…don’t renovate. My MIL had a mini-breakdown and moved to Florida (3 weeks) and our house (4 weeks and counting) for several months during her latest reno.

      1. Bored IT Guy*

        I would add value-rating to your lists

        For example:
        # of closets – 5 is the best, 1 is the worst
        Schools: School A is 5, School B is 4, etc
        Must haves: If it has it, 5 points, if not, 0 points (or completely discard depending on what it is)

        At the end, add up all your values for each option, and that one is probably the winner

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          That’s a great idea. Also forgot to add that take whatever estimate you have for renovations and add 25% to both the cost and the time. Our builder told he he could do 2 of the big 3 – cost, quality, or speed – can’t have all 3. If you want good quality quickly it will cost more. If you want good quality at a decent cost you will have to wait (we built during a very down time and got extremely luck in terms of cost and quality – but went over schedule by almost a month).

    9. HyacinthB*

      If it’s just space that’s the issue, I would stay put. Lots of reasons, but the #1 being that the bigger houses are becoming less appealing to the younger demographic who will be the homebuyers of tomorrow. Also, you presumably already have equity, are established in the neighborhood… lots of reasons to stay. I can’t think of too many to go. Take your time in picking a contractor and ask for references. But start with asking friends who had similar work done who they used and how satisfied they were.

    10. SophieChotek*

      There is that new app that supposedly lets users rate contractors/repair people. (Darn forgot the name; I keep seeing the ad on TV all the time.)

      Ask friends who have recently had work done (and been satisfied).

      You might also see if there are local awards — for instance, my parents are building a house right now and part of the way they chose their contractors/builders was because the contractor they chose received several industry awards as “best contractor” from other local contractors. So far, they’ve been really pleased with his work…but even with awards, etc., some of his people have made some mistakes — but the good thing is, the contractor has paid to have them all fixed. (Which one would think would be a no-brainer, but…)…Sometimes I think industry awards don’t mean anything, but other times I think they do…

    11. Shrugged*

      (Creds: I’m an architect licensed in California)
      (Disclosure: We don’t have a lot of basements in California)

      Depending on where you live, you may have to get a permit to finish your basement, particularly if you’re making it into living space when it wasn’t before. Local governments care about how much livable space a house has – it’s how they collect the right property taxes. So I’d start by checking with your local building department to see what they require. If you’re in the US, you can try your local City or County government’s website. If they do require a permit, find out what you’ll have to submit, and what kind of licensed people (contractor, architect, engineers) have to sign your submittal documents. If a permit’s required, I strongly suggest getting one – the resale value of a space with permits is much higher than the cost of the permits and inspections.

      Then I’d get several consultations from contractors. Listen to them when they talk about the process – that’s more important than coming back with the cheapest quote. Things to listen for:
      Are they paying attention to what you want, or telling you what their vision is?
      How clear are they on details, or are they just telling you “I’m going to make it look amazing?’
      Do they have references for similar projects you can go look at and/or talk to other homeowners they’ve worked with?
      Have they done similar projects in your town?
      What do they really know about working with your local building department? Does that match what you learned?
      Do they recommend you get an engineer or architect, and why or why not?
      If your basement is prone to flooding, how do they recommend you handle that?
      Is the contractor licensed? Do a check on their contractor’s license (usually available on the state licensing board website) to see if they have any complaints filed against them and to confirm the license number.
      How quickly do they get their quote back to you? A week or two is reasonable, but shorter than that and you start to wonder what they didn’t include. Longer than that… well, this is their best foot forward to get new work – it’s an interview.
      Will they do any drawings you need for the permit, or is that on you, or do you have to hire someone?

      Definitely interview a few contractors! And as I said, don’t judge their quote based (only) on price – you get what you pay for.

      1. Koko*

        I’m going to semi repeat myself in case you don’t see where I ask this of another pro above –

        Basically, what is an appropriate amount of back and forth to have with a contractor providing free estimates/proposals? Since the first guy came out, others who came after him have given me new ideas and I’d like to see what the first guy 1) thinks of their viability and 2) would charge if he designed something similar. The first guy was actually my favorite from an industry experience/communicativeness/demeanor standpoint, so I want to give him a chance to still win even if I decide I prefer this alternate approach another contractor suggested. So I want to be respectful of his time and not annoy him by having him drawing up a new proposal on demand every week. How many revisions/updates is it appropriate to ask for, and is it better to save them up to request all at once or to stay in dialogue with him and talk through new ideas as they come to me?

        1. Shrugged*

          I’d call up the first contractor and just talk to him about it, particularly since you liked him. Most contractors are happy to talk shop and ideas, and you can bounce your new ideas off of him. You could decide after that conversation whether to ask for a revision immediately or wait for further ideas.

          On a project this size, most contractors would expect to revise a quote once, after you’ve had time to review it item-by-item. So he wouldn’t find it weird for you to ask for a revision, particularly after a discussion like the one above. Two revisions starts to get a little dicier, particularly if they’re both drastically different. And I definitely wouldn’t go more than that. I’d recommend one to change the major parts of the scope and a second to revise any small items you’d like to change.

    12. cookie monster*

      Know that, if you plan to sell your house in the future, a finished basement is NOT considered square footage in appraisals or to investors (those that buy loans, Fannie Mae for example). Nothing down there is counted in the room count either; and bedrooms in the basement may not pass muster if someone is trying to do a pickier loan program (like FHA) which would require a window that can be climbed out of etc.
      A finished basement may certainly help you sell the house as it will be more attractive to buyers but it will not likely do anything (or will do very little) to your homes resale value.
      I have this discussion almost monthly with angry buyers/sellers and relators (I’m an underwriter among other things)

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I’m not sure that is universally true…I have a full, finished basement with a walk-out and all bedrooms are legal. Its more a “lower level” than a true basement so maybe that is different. I’m in Michigan and all of the houses we looked at included the room in the basement/lower level on the MLS unless it was a older home without egress windows. There were a few that specified “above grade” if the SF looked low for the pictures and those were usually home with a more traditional basement vs a daylight or walk-out.

        1. cookie monster*

          MLS is different than appraisal standards though-on MLS, you certainly can ;ist those things-they are listed on appraisals too…but not listed as living area and in room count form a property appraised value and investor stand point.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          This is definitely not universally true. I just pulled the tax appraisers property card up online for our house and it has all rooms counted. We have 1 bed and a bath in our basement (4bd/3ba total) and all rooms are accounted for. It also has the other finished basement rooms listed.

          1. Cookie Monster*

            But again-neither MLS or you tax assessment/tax card have anything to do with a professional real estate appraisal-these are different things. the MLS and the tax assessment are NOT held to USPAP standards, which all professional real estate appraisals are held to-you guys are comparing apples to bananas here. This is why I end up having this conversation with realtors and buyers/sellers all the time-because the lack of understanding of the difference between a professional appraisal and a tax assessment/Zillow/realtor listing price/CMA etc.
            Trust me on this, they are different and have different standards.

            1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I’m going to have to assume appraisers here don’t go by those standards then because our appraiser also counted the rooms in our basement and total finished square footage. We literally bought this house last month so this stuff is fresh in my mind.

    13. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      We just moved into our bigger house (as opposed to finishing the basement). We knew what we would need to do to get the basement to where we wanted it and had a few estimates. Then we looked at what houses were going for that were already finished how we would want it or at least finished to the point that we wouldn’t have to hire anyone (for us this means that it just needs paint or minor cosmetic changes like different light fixtures). It was cheaper for us to just buy the house already finished.

      Another thing to consider: Is your basement DRY? If it’s not, it can be a sizable chunk of money to get it that way. Also, the deciding factor for us was that there were things that we were just never going to be happy with on the main level and no amount of extra space in the basement was going to fix what was essentially a layout/space issue with the bedrooms unless we put the bedrooms in the basement – which we weren’t willing to do.

  7. Transit Whisperer*

    Data analyst here, so SQL, python, Tableau, and some SAS knowledge here. Learning more about cloud computing and big data tools. Happy to talk about my experience.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Which of those is the most useful for an analytics career, preferably in supply chain consulting? I know SQL and SAP, looking at picking up an additional technical certification, would love to work with (or at!) SAS. I have an MBA, BA in Econ, but I had a web dev career before the MBA – javascript, a little Java, 10+ years out of date.

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        I’d recommend more of the open source tools like R, python, and MySQL over something like SAS. There are a ton of free resources online for all of these–Coursera has some nice intro to python courses, for example.

      2. Brett*

        Start picking up working with amazon web services. Tableau and apache superset and both getting used a lot for the BI dashboards aspect. hadoop and spark will be useful in the long run. Working knowledge of scala (which you can pick up from your java knowledge) will be helpful too along with R and python.

        1. Transit Whisperer*

          Ditto on AWS. They’re offering a new certification called ‘Cloud Practitioner’ that’s a good starter, especially if you’re not a software developer. They even have free training modules on their website.

    2. The Golden Case*

      Hello! I am trying to break into our Data Analyst job series at my company. Can you recommend resources or things to be learning that would help beef up my candidacy?

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        For free resources–Coursera has some great options for python and SQL. Hacker rank and code academy offer some fun practice exercises as well.

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        I took an R class a few years ago, but never used it. I never did any modeling, so I didn’t need it.

      2. Product person*

        I’m very good with R, and will be happy to answer any questions. In my city, you’ll find many more data analytics jobs asking for R than SAS.

        As for the question, “Can you recommend resources or things to be learning that would help beef up my candidacy?” –> the best source will be your own company or any company hiring where you’d like to work.

        The requirements can really differ from company to company and role to role; generic advice won’t get you far because I’ve been in roles where I needed Python and Spark, and others where R Studio and SQL were a must. See if you can find someone on your company to ask questions about what kinds of skills are preferred there.

        1. Tuckerman*

          I did one semester of R coursework, but it’s been awhile.
          For work, I want to write a function (I think) to create an exam schedule based off of the dates of the previous semester’s exams (e.g., The Fall Psych exam 1 is 17 weeks after the Summer Psych exam 1). Some conditions are needed (e.g., if the exam was before spring break, multiple by x, else, multiply by y). Ideally, I would enter a vector containing exam dates (spring psych exam dates), and have it return a vector containing dates (summer psych exam dates). I’ve written non-function code, but that relies on so much hard coding, and I have to write code for each course. Any suggestions? Here’s an example of what I’ve done:
          fallsemesterlater <- 7*17
          springsemesterlater <- ifelse(fall18 < "10/20/2018", 7*18, 7*19)
          exam <- c("Exam1", "Exam2", "Final")
          summer18 <- dates(c("06/13/2018", "07/18/2018", "08/15/2018"))
          fall18 <- c(summer18 + fallsemesterlater)
          spring19 <- c(fall18 + springsemesterlater)
          PsychExams <- data.frame(exam,spring19, summer18, fall18)
          PsychExams$summerday <- weekdays(as.Date(PsychExams$summer18))
          PsychExams$fallday <- weekdays(as.Date(PsychExams$fall18))
          PsychExams$springday <- weekdays(as.Date(PsychExams$spring19))
          PsychExams <- PsychExams[c(1,3,5,4,6,2,7)]
          exam summer18 summerday fall18 fallday spring19 springday
          1 Exam1 06/13/18 Wednesday 10/10/18 Wednesday 02/13/19 Wednesday
          2 Exam2 07/18/18 Wednesday 11/14/18 Wednesday 03/27/19 Wednesday
          3 Final 08/15/18 Wednesday 12/12/18 Wednesday 04/24/19 Wednesday

          1. Product person*

            Tuckerman, there’s tons you could to do to simplify your work (as you know, even creating a function to take the original set of dates and producing as output the new set of dates). If you want to learn more about functions, this is a good page to check:

            But as a first step to considerably reduce the work, I’d suggest the following:

            1) Have a generic folder that you’ll use to store both the input and output of your work. So, instead of PsychExams, you’d have something like OldExameCalendar and NewExamCalendar as the generic name. Overwrite these files with generic names with the new data, so the names don’t have to change in your code.

            2) Have the dates from the previous exams for the class imported as a file that also has a generic name (e.g., OldExamCalendar). You can import that file using
            OldExamCalendar <- read.csv("~/OldExamCalendar.csv")
            (You may need to add a path there, such as ./Downloads/OldExamCalendar.csv)

            3) Adjust your code so it always reference the generic name:
            NewExamCalendar$summerday <- weekdays(as.Date(NewExamCalendar$summer18))

            4) Save the results also in a a csv file with a generic name:
            write.table(NewExamCalencar, "NewExamCalendar.csv", sep=",")

            5) Rename NewExamCalendar.csv to the appropriate name (e.g., PsychExams.csv).

            Now you can create the schedule for the next course without having to change your code, you just need to overwrite the input file OldExamCalendar with the CSV file for the next course.

            (I hope this made sense; the website is freezing as I try to write the comment, and because I can't see the whole instructions in the comment box they may be hard to follow — let me know if you have any questions!)

            so that you can just copy and paste your code without having to change names like PsychExams to MathExams etc.

            1. Tuckerman*

              Thanks so much for taking the time to respond so thoroughly! I definitely sensed that I needed to simplify this! Thanks for the suggestions and the website. Very helpful.

    3. arn*

      I’m thinking about taking a Codeacademy intensive in data analysis which includes SQL training. Do you have any insight on these kinds of online courses and where they can take you? I work in nonprofits, but a lot of positions I’ve been interested in the past involve research and data analysis, and I’m hoping to gain some skills in databases to make myself more marketable. What’s a good way to get experience after gaining some knowledge?

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        I did a few courses through Coursera and Linux Academy. These are generally fine for getting a handle of the basics (SELECT statements, WHERE clauses, JOINs, etc.), but often there’s no replacement for on-the-job training. I was fortunate to find an entry-level job that gave me the time and space to learn these skills over time. That said, there are plenty of free datasets that you can download and work with in your spare time. (For example, check out the Million Song Dataset.)

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m a baby data scientist, largely self-taught. I’m looking for a more efficient way to document my exploratory analysis. Right now, my workflow is poke data in R/Python/SQL session, if something useful happened then copy/paste command to a text file, repeat. I’m pretty sure that’s not optimal. Any suggestions?

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        You might try something like Github. Store your queries locally, then commit changes with commentary when something works. I have my git repo organized by project. This has the added advantage of being able to share with other users, so if a colleague has a similar question, you can link to the repo instead of emailing scripts back and forth.

      2. epi*

        You may want to look into Jupyter Notebook (multiple languages) or knitr for R.

        Jupyter notebooks run in your browser and display the pretty output in line with your code. After running your code, you can share the output as a report or with live code. It’s easy to update just a line or two and reload the output within a Jupyter notebook, rather than re-running an entire report.

        knitr is an R package that helps you write the results of your analysis directly to a report. You can write un-parsed R code to the report if you want, or just save the pretty report as a companion to the code. Makes it easy to update everything your report if you change just one parameter, rather than going in and replacing every number or every plot.

    5. Meg*

      Oooh I LOVE Tableau. I got to use the highly-anticipated viz-within-a-tooltip feature for the first time today, and it was so exciting.

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        Maybe unfortunately, but my role has shifted away from data viz and Tableau, so I’m missing out on a lot of the new features.

      2. Tableau Wizard*

        I cant wait to play with this feature, but I have to wait until my org does an across the board update to the current version!

    6. einahpets*

      Any resources (books / blogs / websites) you’d recommend for an introduction into data visualization?

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        Sadly, most of my data viz knowledge came from messing around in Tableau until something worked. :)

      2. Tableau Wizard*

        Tufte has a good set of books, and I think Tableau put out a web series in the last year about some best practices. There’s also a book called “The Big Book of Dashboards” that’s pretty good.

      3. Syren*

        Data Viz Resources: Stephen Few has several good books. Start with Show Me the Numbers. He also has a blog that he just handed over as he retired called perpetual edge. I have a list of my top 20 favorite blog posts of his that I share when people ask for informational interviews. Data Points by Nathan Yau – I believe it was his thesis at Stanford that he turned into a great data viz book. He talks a little bit more about charts that are automated and move like in the Hans Rosling’s Ted Talk. There is also data viz Ted Talk. I also like the book communicating data with tableau by Jones.

      4. nom*

        Stephanie Evergreen’s work is super accessible, and a lot of the content on her blog is useful for day-to-day stuff.

        If you want to go deep, Edward Tufte FTW.

        (My background is health research & evaluation.)

      5. KTZee*

        The American Evaluation Association (AEA) has a lot of good resources about data visualization. Membership is not ridiculously expensive and gets you access to webinars and “coffee breaks” and other informal/virtual training sessions. And their annual conference has an orientation towards skill-building, including workshops in the days leading up to the conference. (I’m a member but not on staff or anything!)

    7. LQ*

      I desperately need help in…how do I even search for the right thing on this! I need to find some kind of a …thinking about data in a new way that isn’t tables and rows and columns but events streaming and search for management dummies who just need to make sure we are thinking about it right so we can hire the right people and be on the right path…class.

      Can pay. Will travel. Cannot find.

      Everything seems to be very technical and in the weeds and I need more of a high level primer on it.

        1. LQ*

          That is sort of the example. We are looking to modernize our system and this includes from what I can tell updating from a table based structure (which I get) to an event streaming data architecture and I don’t even know how you find what you need in that on a big scale. I can understand finding A single thing (search) but how do you make sense of the mass of data? I don’t want to do the wrong thing and push the architecture toward “well just make it come out the other side for us in a relational database that we can understand” if that’s not the right thing simply because I don’t understand it. So I want a class or something about understanding the new way of thinking about data that isn’t tables.

          1. Aardvark*

            You might start looking at some AWS tools like Kinesis data streams. You can use kinesis firehose to load stuff into whatever destinations you’d like–files, rdbms, etc. The files can be read using…Athena I think? I don’t have much experience with that. But that might get you started on what to look for.

            1. LQ*

              That’s where we are aiming I’m fairly sure, but everything I’m finding is way too technical for me. And we’ll bring someone in to do the work, I just need to know enough so that we bring in the right person. It’s a little chicken and the eggey to me right now. I need a data person so that I can learn to talk about data in the right way so that I can get a good data person.

              I may look into our AWS contract and see if they know someone who does trainings though…that might be good. Thank you!

    8. Zidy*

      So, my VP is trying to get SAS for our company and wrangled a couple SAS passes to the conference next month in Denver for me and one of my fellow analyst. If you’ve been, any tips for it? Or do you have any tips for getting started with SAS or could point me at resources that would help me get a feel for what SAS does? I’ve never worked with SAS and really feel like I’m going blind to this thing.

      1. Q without U*

        SAS has a bunch of free trials up on their website, but it really depends on what your company is hoping to use it for. I can tell you that the online SAS community ( is pretty active and you’ll probably get some really helpful answers once you identify what products you’re asking about.

      2. RealNameHere*

        I worked at a company that uses SAS heavily (Pharmaceutical R&D), but didn’t work with it directly until my last 5 or 6 years there. Different than most programming languages, but enjoyable.

        There’s a book, “The Little SAS Book: A Primer”, that is VERY helpful when you’re starting out. It explains basics (data step, etc.) in simple language. I’m not sure which edition is current, but here’s a link to a free downloadable version of the 3rd edition:

        You may want to try BetterWorldBooks for newer editions. If you’re not familiar with the site, they have excellent prices on used books and always-free shipping – recommended! Prices start at $3.98.
        (Also, check out SAS Learning Edition, also available at BetterWorldBooks. I believe it is a “light”/student version of the software).

      3. RealNameHere*

        I worked with SAS for about 5 years. It’s different than any other programming language that I’ve encountered so far – but fun.

        The book “The Little SAS Book: A Primer” by Delwiche and Slaughter is good to start with and covers basics like the data step, etc. BetterWorldBooks has multiple editions (used) starting @ $3.98 with free shipping.

        You can also download the 3rd edition PDF for free here:

        BetterWorldBooks also has the “SAS Learning Edition”, which I believe is a “light”/student version of the software. (SAS is *very* expensive).

    9. Sweet uncertainty*

      Oh, just what I was looking for!

      I’m a non-profit professional looking to transition into Data Analysis (I’ve been on a lot of Database and data related projects and my job and found that type of work speaks to me most). Besides it being a small part of my job now (I use exel a ton, helped develop Salesforce for our team, and was on a database development project where I helped write requirements and did a lot of testing), I have ZERO experience in analysis. I recently enrolled in a Graduate Certificate program in Business Data Analysis to help me gain the skills I need to make this transition (I feel like trying to teach myself R, SQL, would be useful but not the best way to get a job in the end).

      I won’t be looking for a job for another 10 months or so until I’ve finished my program. I’m trying to choose my one elective now and have NO idea what is the most useful skill to learn to be the most “marketable” once I’m looking for a job. I also just started the program, so I’m not entirely sure what more specifically I see myself doing within the field yet. My options are courses in Data Visualization (where I’ll learn Tableau), Forecasting Methods (where I’ll learn more in depth R and SQL, and we’ll cover Regression, Time series analysis and Markov Processes), or Research Methods in Marketing (where I’ll learn about designing research studies and how to use SPSS).

      Any insights?

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        Thinking of transitioning toward this field, too – where is your certificate program based?

        1. Sweet uncertainty*

          Chicago! Loyola’s program is the one I’m doing. It’s perf because all the credits count towards a Masters in Information Systems Management as well.

      2. epi*

        I’m also located in Chicago. I can’t really tell you what would be most marketable since I’m an epidemiologist, but I can recommend some resources.

        Chicago actually has pretty active data science and developer communities, often organized on Meetup. Particularly since you are coming from non-profits, you may find Chicago City Data User Group a good way to meet people and see what backgrounds people interesting to you have. It’s an excellent group and is for anyone interested in using the city’s open data for the public good. If you explore on Meetup, you will also be able to see what groups organized around a specific language or tool overlap with the more general interest groups that speak to you.

        In general, SQL will serve you well in a lot of different roles. IMO it is also better to get more in depth with a language you know and make sure it will really stick after graduation than to take a semester each and barely get past the frustration phase with multiple languages.

        Finally if you haven’t already, sign up for some job alerts from Indeed and Glassdoor and just read them when you get some free time every day. Many jobs will accept any one or two of a laundry list of languages, but the specific options will depend on the industry. You will start to get a sense of what is out there and what languages are always in the mix at positions that interest you.

  8. JokeyJules*

    i’ve got some experience with event coordination (both as my job and for my workplace). Happy to answer questions/bounce ideas!

    1. hermit crab*

      Do you have any recommendations for people who get roped into event coordination because they know about the topic of the event? (e.g., I’m a teapot expert, so people assume I can organize a two-day teapot training workshop from scratch) I guess I’m asking if you can recommend any good resources for the basics.

      1. JokeyJules*

        Some staff members are asked to do that in my company.
        there are likely websites or articles you can print out, to accompany your own personal expertise. I’m not familiar with doing a two-day training, but presentations and workshops i’ve facilitated or helped coordinate included a good amount of discussion. This of course only works after some introduction of the general topic, and then a subtopic.
        So it would go like this:
        1. general use/history of teapots dating back to 54651658463521 BC
        a. Who used it first?! A discussion (and then summary of subtopic before segue into next topic)
        2. handles (techniques, design differentials)
        a. aethetics vs practical use (a discussion and summary)
        3. spouts

        I could go on.

        If it were a training, however, recently a colleague did a training by breaking up chapters and having groups of attendees present. It was very engaging for the audience.

        When in doubt, snacks galore.

        1. hermit crab*

          Unfortunately, I work under federal contracts that don’t allow us to provide snacks! :(

          Do you have any recommendations for the timing of pre-event activities? e.g., how many weeks in advance to finalize the agenda, to send invitations, to ope registration, etc. I have checklists that I’ve sort of pulled out of thin air, but I have no idea how grounded in reality they are, or what I’m missing.

          1. Not a Real Giraffe*

            So much of this will depend on the type of the event, the location, the audience, etc. For example, if this is an event that involves hotel accommodations (especially if you’re involved in helping arrange hotel stays), registration might need to be open earlier than if it’s for an event that is held locally and which people will just travel to on the day-of. A lot of this will also depend on who your event partners are and how likely they are to stick to a plan or want to change things at the last minute :)

          2. JokeyJules*

            For invites and registration, if it’s an all-day thing or longer, i like to do a month or three weeks, gives people enough time to clear their day. if it’s a few hours, 2 weeks, one hour, one or two weeks.
            if you are just facilitating the event, have your plans done 2 weeks out so you can stop worrying about it. materials printed or emailed out 3 days ahead of time.

            How many items would be on your agenda?

            1. hermit crab*

              Thanks, that’s helpful! A typical event is a 1-day workshop with a mix of expert speakers (with time for full-group discussion/Q&A) and structured discussions or exercises in breakout groups, for maybe 30-50 participants total. Our partners tend to have their agenda/speaker “wish list” decided in advance, and we get brought in to deal with the logistics.

              1. Ally A*

                I might be too late, but my job involves organizing a LOT of trainings/workshops. Varies between 1 hour workshops and 5 day professional development courses.
                As for timing, we set our schedule in the winter for summer trainings because we work with teachers who’s calendars fill up fast. Depending on your audience (are they usually super busy, hard to get on their calendars? are these required trainings that they will attend no matter when they are offered?), I would recommend 6 weeks out having at least the save the date (including start & end times)/topic set and then 3-4 weeks before the event to open registration. I like to have the agenda set and any materials set 2 weeks before, but you could push that to 1 week. I do a one week email to everyone who’s registered with all the specifics (location, parking, agenda, food – if offered, accommodation requests, CEU process, etc.) as well as a follow up email with a program evaluation and thank you. If there’s a PPT or other presentation, I like to send it out in the follow up email as well.

                I’d say the one thing to keep in mind is accessibility – is your location accessible, and if it isn’t, is that clearly communicated to the people attending? Do you have a process for accommodations if requested? Are your materials available in multiple forms?

    2. Amber T*

      What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an event coordinator? When I was in college, it was a path I was looking into, and every once in a while I see a job posting and I think, that looks like so much fun! But I feel like someone actually does event coordinating would kick me in the shins for being really naive about that (event coordinating was part of a friend’s previous job, and it was her least favorite part of it).

      Also, can you spell coordination (or similar words) correctly on the first try, or do you have to retype if a half dozen times like me?

      1. DC*

        I think the difference is that just because it was part of your friend’s job doesn’t mean she liked it, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t, or that others would “kick you in the shins” for it. You’re not naive to think it’s fun.

        I work with academics/think tanks a lot, and one of the big challenges can just be getting people who don’t think with an “events brain” to acknowledge the benefits of some things you’re suggesting (little things from tablecloths on a lunch table *eye roll* to the formatting of the agenda to give people breaks at specific times. You just need to be able to advocate for things logically.

        If you’re interested, see if there’s a way to volunteer or get a part-time job to try it out and learn the ropes. Early event planning is a lot of the grunt work, so be prepared to do that while watching and learning.

      2. JokeyJules*

        With my office, my struggle is getting a decision out of those who make the real decisions.
        “Do you want A or B? Both are great, everyone will like them exactly the same, I just need you to decide, because you are expensing this” is somehow not convincing enough for anyone. Another is getting the venue on board with the various food restrictions my office has. It’s frustrating for me how much they don’t take certain things seriously. I know it can be a lot of different things to juggle, but that is part of your job, just like remembering that literally one of my 150 guests keeps a kosher diet is part of my job. Also, I just need the nuts for the salad on the side and I know that’s not the most ridiculous thing you’ve been asked to do.
        I like planning and coordinating things in general, so planning it is fun. But when people complain about the (FREE!!!! OF NO EFFORT OR COST TO YOU) food, rather than uttering a thank you, that really bugs me.

        Also, I prefer to copy and paste.

        1. ErinW*

          The decision thing is what makes me hate event planning. My boss will just be like, “Also order some food,” but the few times I made a unilateral decision I heard that it was not the right kind of food for the event, or that she had been looking forward to X item being there and was disappointed even though she never specifically mentioned X. It takes me forever to pin her down on what she wants, and I can’t tell you how many emails I have sent to our caterers that say “Apologies for lateness! Can we please order…”

          For people who are event planners, how do you get people to make decisions? Do you have to do the toddler thing (i.e., “We can do chicken, or we can do beef. Which one of those two do you want?”) or do you just pester every day? Or do you just go ahead and make plans, and pick them apart if someone changes their mind?

          1. JokeyJules*

            I try to get an idea of the feel of the event, and that will help decide the food.
            Like for the corporate holiday party, the meal was much more formal.
            for a training, an assortment of great gourmet sandwiches with salad and assorted chips as sides
            I provide 2-3 options, and then tell them when they need to be ordered by (go by the catering company rules, or just a week ahead of time). Remind them, and then on that day, ask them their decision. if they haven’t decided, say something like “my choice would be X, should I just go with that or did you want Y or Z instead?”

      3. Not a Real Giraffe*

        For me, one of the biggest challenges is trying to find a balance between “this is the plan that we are sticking to” and “we have to be flexible because nothing ever goes exactly to plan.” In the early stages of my career, it was hard to figure out where to expend energy on coming up with a Plan B weeks in advance, and where to rely on my ability to come up with alternatives in the moment. Right now, I’m struggling with a boss who wants to pre-plan any possible thing that could go wrong on any number of fronts, and my instinct is that this is not a good use of our time.

        1. JokeyJules*

          i’m with you on that one!
          Spent 6 weeks planning every small detail for our holiday party…. then it snowed.
          Planning for “what if someone has an allergy we don’t know about?!” or needs a hotel, etc are easy to sort out, even in the moment. But planning for things that likely cannot happen really clouds your focus when planning the events that actually WILL happen.

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      How do you come up with an annual optional after-work event that’s new and unique without being too niche that it alienates people that just want to hang out and talk to people?

      1. JokeyJules*

        Depends on your location!
        for our holiday party we did TopGolf, which is very similar to bowling except that it’s a driving range. It was great. bowling is also great. In north/central new jersey another contender was hatchet throwing (google it, EXTREMELY fun).
        Those wine and paint parties are fun. The activity is easygoing so you can just hang out and chat but it’s still an activity. Other options are renting a box at a sporting event, depending on funds available and how you think your group will get along with that sort of energy

        1. Naptime Enthusiast*

          So I should have mentioned, our organization is 500+ people…. :)

          We usually have 2 large events per year, one late summer and one late winter. We’ve done the BBQ tent at a minor leagues sports team and that’s always fun, during the winter we’ve been renting out a D&B for a few hours and giving out unlimited cards which was wildly popular in year 1, but now it’s getting stale for people. I guess they used to host a dinner dance in the past but that sounds to me like all the work of a wedding without the open bar, and I have to be on my best behavior because Grandboss is around!

          1. JokeyJules*

            depending on your turnout, maybe rent a few movies out with snacks?
            500 a lot of people to plan for!
            maybe a nearby theme park?

    4. PartyPooper*

      How do you deal with a vendor screwing things up for you (late, slow food service, insufficient space) when you’ve seemed to do your due diligence in vendor-selection? As the assigned coordinator for an activity (not as my main job), I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been royally screwed by a vendor and then it reflects negatively on me. If an established/highly rated venue says they can host 100 people (for example), am I wrong to take them at their word? And/or is it unfair that things that are not really in the coordinator’s control gets blamed on them?

      1. JokeyJules*

        what do you mean by due diligence exactly? I look for what the real problems were in a negative review and the valuable highlights in a positive review. I don’t care that the chicken was sooooo good that it made up for them showing up an hour late, and i dont care that the veggies were “too salty for my taste” if it means all the food showed up as ordered and advertised.
        this is a thing where you have to roll with the punches and get creative. it isn’t wrong to take someone at their word when they are accredited for good service, but i try to thoroughly confirm (in email and through phone) 1 or 2 times leading up to the event to ensure we are totally on the same page and to try to get an idea of if an issue might pop up.
        They might be honest, or not. But you tried and did your homework.
        and yes. it is deeply unfair. I confirmed with the caterer that there were to be NO tree nuts in ANY of the food at the event, 3 different times, with the head of catering and other staff.
        Guess what was sprinkled overtop 4 different items. Effing almonds. it’s hard to explain to someone that they can have bread and mashed potatoes while everyone else enjoys all of the other food and they not direct their frustrations towards you.

      2. DC*

        Unfortunately, being blamed for these kinds of things just go with the job. There’s a before and an after that can help mitigate it though:

        1. For new vendors, do something for proof: Sites? Go on a site visit. Caterer? Have them do a tasting. Photographer? Ask for a portfolio. Those types of things. Do that piece of due diligence up front.

        2. After, if you get screwed, make sure you do not pay for being screwed. Not enough food?/it was bad/delayed/not marked with allergen information? Do. Not. Pay. Full. Price. I am all about paying good people for good things, but if a caterer screws you, make sure you get money back, a credit, a discount, etc. That softens the blow for the higher ups, when you are helping hold vendors accountable and they can see that.

        That said, treat your good vendors well, and hold on to them. Tip, use their services often, send holiday gifts, etc.

  9. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Oof. I’m struggling to think of what I can offer advice/expertise on.

    I’m good at research, reading a map and finding affordable (and awesome!) places to stay on vacation. I’m also pretty good at baking. Except cakes.

    1. Lady Register*

      Ooo! Looking for a fun place for a babymoon in winter in the US. Preferably east of the Mississippi :).

        1. Lady Register*

          I love hot springs, yummy food, and being cozy by the fire. Husband is military so we can’t always travel too far from base. So NC, VA, GA, and SC would probably be the best states.

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            Oooohhh, I love South Carolina. And Savannah. A few summers ago, we stayed about an hour outside Savannah (Beaufort, SC) in a little condo right on the water. Watched dolphins every morning. It was FANTASTIC. Charleston is also a great city.

          2. SCanonibrarian*

            Asheville, NC! cute city, Biltmore House is really cool, there are local vineyards and lots of excellent food, and many many bed and breakfasts at most price points. (i live just south of there across the border in SC)

            If you don’t mind a higher level of ‘kitsch’ then check out Helen, GA. It’s a little German themed vacation town up in the mountains. Lots of nice rental houses with hot tubs. ;)

          3. Sarah in Boston*

            Try Hot Springs, AR. I’ve been twice and absolutely loved it. And “taking the waters” on Bathhouse Row is divine.

          4. Kuododi*

            If Ga is possible and y’all like cabin in the woods kind of vacation. …look into Forrest Hills in Dahlonega GA. It’s a Honeymoon, anniversary couples kind of resort. DH and I had our honeymoon back after our wedding. (Mid 90’s) It was a beautiful little cabin in the North GA mountains, hot tub in bedroom, fireplace in living room, kitchenette to prepare food, in the lodge there’s buffet breakfast and dinner all you can eat country cooking. Our package came with couples massage, one hour guided horseback riding with picnic lunch. Firewood was delivered to front porch every morning. Also Metro Atlanta is about 45 min away as the crow flies so a day trip for sight seeing is realistic. Cost was very reasonable and there were a number of different packages to choose from. DH and I are coming on our 25th anniversary next year and are looking at going back for a special trip. Just Google Forrest Hills Dahlonega GA and you should be able to get the website. Enjoy!!!!

          5. Marni*

            The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, VA is a great getaway!!! They have a year-round outdoor pool heated by the town’s natural hot springs (and actual/natural hot spring pools), a great spa, great food (with outdoor fire pits for s’mores), and tons of outdoor activities… I go there every year for a long weekend and haven’t run out of things to do!

    2. Reba*

      We have things in common! Travel planning is both something I’m good at/ enjoy and something that can take me waaaaayyyy too long (for that reason). I just baked some baller choc chip cookies last night while my spouse did baguettes!

      What are your favorite travel research sites?

      1. Curious Cat*

        +1 would like to know any great travel research sites! Do you use Airbnb? Hotels? How do you find excellent prices for foreign countries? (Planning a trip to Japan soon)

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          I use Airbnb, Flipkey (rarely), VRBO, and Homeaway. The latter two are owned by the same company so there’s a ton of overlap. But I stumble upon enough differences periodically that I check them independently.

          As far as finding affordable prices….I’m flexible. Traveling 20-30 minutes to get to the main city/attraction/whatever does not bother me. Why? I’m not at home. I’m getting to see the locale *anyway*. In a foreign country it might require a little more research about transit, safety, or whate-have-you.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I am starting to research affordable and awesome places to stay in Europe for a possible 2019 vacation. How fast do places change? How do you find good deals? (Besides obvious ones…but hey, lay those on me too). The two cities I am most interested in are Vienna and London. (last time I stayed in London, I had a friend; last time I stayed in Vienna I picked a hotel that was too far away from the center and honestly wasn’t that cheap, when i consider how far from center it was).

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        I’d say you have a pretty good chunk of time for 2019. My general rule is about 3 months out. Inside that, things can change rapidly.

        I would definitely check out Airbnb. I found some amazing places in Glasgow that were stupid cheap and in fantastic locations. (I have friend who with family over there so I ran them by him first.)

      2. Discordia Angel Jones*

        If you’re dead set on London, definitely check out Airbnbs! Hotels are pretty much ALL expensive, or really horrible if they’re cheap.

        I live in Richmond, London, and if you are happy to stay a little out of the city (although Kew Gardens is in Richmond! You should go there!), it has great transport links, is pretty, and is probably cheaper to stay in than central central London.

    4. Mimmy*

      What kind of research are you good at? I love research, and would even love to incorporate that into a job, but I admit that I’m as good at it as I’d like to think, lol.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        All of it!

        Or at least, all the stuff I’m interested in. Skincare. Genealogy (my last name was changed, and we had no record of what it had been previously…or even where we came from; I found it and the boat they came over in last year!). History. Finding cheaper alternatives.

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          Oh! I love genealogy!!!!!!! I get a kick out of saying I like to do research in my spare time, and it’s so, so true! I have some branches of my family meticulously researched back to the 1600s (thank you excellently kept Catholic Church records!) Of course, there’s also the branch were they seemingly lied about Every. Damn. Thing. and I’m banging my head on a big Polish brick wall. And ‘Yay You!!!’ on the name and immigration discovery! I bet that felt amazing!!

    5. CynicallySweet7*

      Do you know how to halve a recipe when baking? I found a couple of different measurements in places, but none of them come out right

      1. Reba*

        Would also appreciate tips here.

        IME it just doesn’t always work! Particularly with the chemistry of rising agents, they don’t scale exactly linearly. I have had better success going up than down.

      2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Best way? Kitchen scale. No lie, that is the number one thing that has improved my baking. You don’t need to spend a ton – quite a few on Amazon under $20. And even $10.

        Otherwise, I’d just make the whole batch. Divide it up and freeze the other portion.

      3. Merula*

        Seconding the baking scale. Chemical leavening virtually always works linearly; it’s the yeast that can sometimes get finicky.

        If your baking recipe is using baking powder, baking soda or cream of tartar, straight-up dividing by two (by weight) should work without any other changes.

        If your baking recipe is using yeast, see if you can find a similar recipe with the scale you want and tweak it, or tweak the ratios of the first recipe based on the second if they’re similar methods.

        Some things just don’t work well in very small amounts. Brioche dough, caramels, meringue cookies come immediately to mind.

      4. Poppy Weasel*

        Yeah, halving can be tough. I have a fraction calculator on my phone that helps me when I need to half or double a weirdo amount of something.

        Bake the whole batch and take the rest into your coworkers.

      5. Rookie Manager*

        True story.

        A while back my partner asked why I never baked just for the two of us. I explained there was always too much and either it went to waste or we got fat. He innocently asked if I could maybe just half the recipe. “Don’t be silly, I always at least double them! I’m from a big family.”

        However, when scaling recipies up or down the ingredients should stay in EXACTLY the same proportions (baking is science not art) the temperature and cooking times might need to be adjusted.

    6. How to pick?*

      Do you have any tips for picking a destination? My husband and I want to go on an international trip in November (we’re in CA), and we want someplace warm but not a beach vacation. We probably only have a week to 10 days. I’ve been thinking about South America but I’m not sure how to pick a specific destination! I know it all depends on what kind of trip we want, but any tips on how to narrow it down?

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        I’d start with what’s important to you. You want warm, but not beach. What else is important? Cost? Food? Culture? History? Exchange rate? Ease of transport? Vaccinations?

        I’d come up with a list of what ideal looks like. That will give you a jumping off point.

    7. the gold digger*

      The Food52 baking group on facebook is great for learning baking technique. Stella Parks, who wrote the new cookbook, “Bravetart,” will answer questions in the comments. She helped a friend of mine through her pie crust recipe. And today, she wrote a post in Food52 about why blondie brownies can be raw in the middle.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        I LOVE Stella. Was a huge fan of her blog. I’ve actually reached out to her a couple times on email and she’s been super helpful.

        I also tweeted a picture of sugar cookies I made from her recipe. She replied that they looked great.

        I was insufferable for days.

    8. laylaaaaaaaah*

      What a coincidence, I’m good at cakes but terrible at everything else! What’s your favourite bread recipe? I need to get into more savoury stuff, but my efforts so far have largely been a letdown.

      1. Anion*

        I have an excellent bread recipe, if you like. I “invented” it myself, after learning what the different ingredients in bread do–and then discovered it’s a pretty well-known recipe. :-) But I’m still proud of myself.

        The basic recipe is:

        500g bread flour (if you have access to super-high-protein bread flour, use it)
        300ml water (I sometimes do a little cider or white wine, a little milk, and water combined–maybe 50ml of the first two [25 each] and the rest water, but plain water is fine)
        25g salt
        25g sugar
        2 1/4 tsp yeast (instant is fine, just mix the dry yeast with the other dry ingredients before adding water)
        a scant 1/3C veg oil, olive oil, or melted butter
        1 egg

        mix the dry, pour in the water, mix until the dough is lumpy. Add the oil, mix a little, add the egg, and mix/knead until it’s a smooth dough. You will need to add more flour as you go, until the dough is sticky (sticky = moist = soft) enough to cling to your hands but dry enough that it comes off pretty easily. It’s hard to describe the texture it should be, really, just…it should stick but not be impossible to remove, if that makes sense.

        Coat the inside of a bowl with oil or butter, plop your dough ball into it, cover, let it rise until doubled in size. Then knead it again and shape it into a loaf, or rolls in a pan, or mini-loaves. Let those proof until doubled in size, and bake at about 400F for: 20-25 min for mini-loaves; 30-40 min for rolls in a pan (touching); or 40-50 min for a loaf. This bread will NOT sound hollow when you tap the bottom, so I usually take its temperature (should be at least 205F) and/or see if the thermometer is gooey when brought out.

        As soon as you take it out of the oven, rub a stick or blob of cold butter over the top.

        This is a very, very soft, very tasty bread. And it’s very forgiving–I have on occasion underproofed or overproofed and it was still delicious and the texture was fine. I used to make this at least 2x a week and my family devoured it like wolves.

        Tip if you use regular dry yeast that needs to be proofed: a lot of recipes tell you to proof the yeast in the full measure of water with a little sugar added. This never works for me. I proof the yeast in about 75ml of the liquid mixture with a heaping spoonful of flour and a little sugar (mix the yeast with the flour and sugar before adding the water). That works. The water should be between 100-110F, maybe 115 at the hottest, in general.

        1. Anion*

          Oh! I forgot to mention slashing the tops! Do this with a sharp blade dipped in butter so it slides easily, because this dough will *always* be sticky.

          Also, it should make 8 rolls or 8 mini-loaves. Knead the dough into a roll, cut that in half, cut each half in half, then cut each of those halves in half.

          1. laylaaaaaah*

            Oh my gosh, this is so helpful and thorough! I’m going to give it a go this weekend, thank you so much!

  10. Butch Cassidy*

    What are the best first things to learn for folks who want to start really digging into what Excel can do?

    I learned how to use it for mathematical formulas when I took Stats in college, but I regularly work with really complex sheets built by others and I want to be able to make the magic happen myself.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Pivot Tables are my favorite – but they require an understanding of data quality.
      Knowing general file structure helps when you need to follow formulas (C:\\directory1\directory2\file.xls)

    2. Em from CT*

      For me, the best tool I ever learned was the COUNTIFS and SUMIFS formulas. Basically, they let you count (or sum) only data that meets multiple criteria. So in practice I use this in my multi-year budgeting spreadsheet: if I want to know (for example) how many units we want to install in Region A in 2017 and how many units we want to install in Region B in 2018—as long as I’ve laid out the data in appropriately named ranges—I can essentially tell Excel to “Sum up Number of Units where Region = A and Install Year = 2017,” etc. etc. etc.

      What this leads to is a self-updating spreadsheet. If I have scheduled all of Region A for installation in 2017, but suddenly it turns out that there’s a schedule delay and I have to push the install to 2018, I can change my Install Year field—and all my formulas will update as appropriate.

      1. paul*

        I *always* have to look up the syntax for those, every damn time, but they’re very useful. Seconding this!

        1. SarahKay*

          Thirding this. Life got *so* much easier when we moved to Excel 2007 and suddenly all my horrible long workaround solutions in Excel 2003 could be replaced by Sumifs.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          Start a cookbook! aka cheat sheet

          Include syntax, snippets, and instructions for formulas you use often. Add helpful hints, etc. Every time you have to look something about Excel up online, copy it into your cookbook.

  11. Hellanon*

    Jewelry & gems! Although I am no longer in that biz, I spent most of my career in it and am happy to answer questions about the industry or about individual gemstones.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      So genuine question that’s been running around the back of my head for a while — lab-created gemstones seem too good to be true. Are there drawbacks to them? (I mean, aside from lacking the cachet of “this is a rock ripped out of the ground”)

      1. LizB*

        I second this question, but specifically for lab-created opals. They’re so pretty! Is there a big downside to having one of them in a piece of jewelry instead of a natural opal?

        1. Hellanon*

          To a trained eye they look a bit different, but in jewelry they’ll be a bit more durable as they are not prone to the cracking/crazing/destabilizing you can get with mined opals. Also, lots more look for the money – fine natural opals are $$$.

      2. TechServLib*

        Oooh I’ve been lusting over some lab-created sapphires and wondering this very thing! To my uneducated eyes, they’re cheaper, have less flaws, and more colors than natural sapphires. Is there something I’m missing?

      3. Mike C.*

        They aren’t so much “too good to be true” as much as “DeBeers is a literal cartel and they’ve been ripping people off for decades”.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Well yes. But that still doesn’t mean that lab-created gems can’t have drawbacks that get lost in the fanfare of “cheaper! no flaws! better colors!”

        2. Hellanon*

          DeBeers is only for diamonds, and even there things have changed a lot. There’s no DeBeers for colored stones, which are subject to all sorts of vagaries in their markets, supplies, and mining technologies. Colored stones are by & large much more, well, “artisanal” and it’s a lot easier to lose money mining them. Otoh, there are new gems and new versions of old ones coming onto the market all the time, and the colored stone industry will never not be interesting.

      4. Positive Reframer*

        It depends. For many gems the lab created versions are made using almost the same processes and materials as nature, they are the same and will have the same qualities. The lower cost comes from being able to control to a degree the quality and size of the stones. One of the benefits I like is that factories/labs where they are created are more likely to have and abide by healthy labor conditions.

        Chatham is one company that has developed processes for several different gem stones their website has some interesting info on lab created stones.

        In addition to man made (lab created) real stones there are also various degrees of synthetics. They usually don’t have the same make up and characteristics. These are great for pieces that are more costume than heirloom.

        Also did you know you can get a diamond made of a someone’s ashes?

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Ooh, good to know there’s a distinction between lab-created-but-real and synthetic.

          1. Hellanon*

            Weelll… when jewelry people use the term “synthetic” they mean lab-grown but essentially the same. So, synthetic diamonds are carbon forced into the cubic crystal structure – same hardness, same light refracting properties, but really different growth patterns & sometimes different trace element chemistry. CZ, moissanite, “zircon” etc are different materials entirely, with different properties. Syn sapphire, syn ruby, syn emerald have the same crystal structure & basic chemical composition, different trace element chemistry & growth patterns, and often different crystal habits – in other words, very much the same to test & look at on a macro level but interestingly different on a finer level. My contention is that the cutters always, always know whether the rough is mined or lab-grown, but once the stone is cut & in a parcel with 4000 of its brothers & sisters, good luck telling things apart without a microscope and possibly Major MassSpec from NCIS.

        2. Jadelyn*

          I’m just going to say, I’m scanning the thread and I misread “ashes”.

          There was one too many “s”‘s, if you get my drift.

          Butt diamonds!

        3. Hellanon*

          Chatham, yes – Tom has been trying to get the syn diamonds thing going for 30 years. The tech on that is finally “here” in a commercially viable way. If I”m not mistaken,he was trying to refine the old Russian flux-growth methods (which Carroll essentially invented for emeralds, and which killed him) but most of what’s on the market now is chemical-vapor deposition technology – the carbon is laid down in layers. *Much* harder to tell apart when close to flawless because the growth disturbances aren’t there.

      5. Hellanon*

        There are no drawbacks. One big advantage is that they are typically cleaner (fewer inclusions/fractures) and so can be more durable (and prettier, if you prefer the look of perfection). They are also less expensive, frequently by enormous amounts, because the growth process is so much more predictable than finding things in mines will ever be. The real problem lies in the opportunity they provide for fraud: as long as people know what they are buying they should buy what fits their budget & taste.

        Having said that, I’m referring here to synthetics – lab-grown stones that are otherwise essentially identical – not fakes like CZ, moissanite, etc. Those are in no way similar to natural gems & should not be sold as synthetics, as their properties (durability, etc) & value basis are so different.

    2. Anonanonanon*

      Ooh! I have been wondering about wedding bands. Pave bands seem popular, but do they actually last?

      1. Hellanon*

        The micropave bands that are so popular (and halo settings in similar configurations) can be pretty delicate. The issue is that the stones are so tiny that the beads of metal holding them need to be pretty tiny as well. If it’s something you are looking to wear everyday there are styles that should be more durable. Or if you are not hard on things – I bash my jewelry to bits – I don’t know how, but I think I am careless with my hands – you should be fine if you buy something well-made.

    3. curly sue*

      Do you know anything about the new(ish) industry in Life Gems (the diamonds supposedly compressed from cremains)? Are they a scam, or can reasonable-quality gemstones actually be made that way?

        1. Hellanon*

          Bah, quality…can you make diamonds out of ashes? Certainly; we are carbon-based life forms, diamonds are carbon: extract the carbon, apply enough heat/pressure, and yes, diamonds. The quality is a bit of another question. These guys have been around for something on the order of 20 years; they will work with your undertaker (or your vet) to take delivery of an appropriate amount of cremains. Personally, I’d rather have an elaborate reliquary, but it seems there is a demand…

    4. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I have a platinum and diamond wedding band (heirloom), but my engagement ring is white gold. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but I can tell the difference. Every time I get prices on resetting my engagement ring in the platinum it’s always beyond my budget. Is there somewhere I should be checking to see when the platinum prices are down?

      1. Frank Doyle*

        Ha! This question is funny to me because I currently wear four rings on a daily basis: one is silver, one is white gold, one is platinum, and one is titanium. It’d be nice if they all matched, and I can totally see the difference, but it doesn’t bother me at all!

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Hey me too – with the exception that the ring I thought was silver turned out to be white gold (and antique, apparently). But my engagement ring is platinum and wedding band is titanium. I don’t mind the color differences but I can definitely tell, esp the titanium because it’s a thicker band so the gray tint is more noticeable.

      2. Positive Reframer*

        Have you looked at getting your white gold re-plated more often? That might help at least and would likely be less expensive, it applies a microscopic layer of usually rhodium (which is in the platinum family) and would help it be more of a true white.

        Also look into palladium as a less expensive but much closer in color option. If I recall correctly (been a few years) platinum is more difficult to work with for the jeweler so the price could be more related to the cost of the labor rather than the raw material.

        1. Anna*

          yeah, a couple of my friends wanted a platinum-colored wedding band, and decided to go with palladium which looks similar, but is less expensive.

        2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

          I do that. The place where my husband got my ring offers the re-plating at no cost. There’s still a bit of a difference but not enough for me to break the bank right now.

    5. Too much jewelry*

      Ooh. I have a bunch of jewelry from my ex-husband’s late mother. She had TONS and he and his sister both already have all the sentimental pieces, so none of what I have has any sentimental value and they wouldn’t want it back. (Except the family heirloom engagement ring. I’m keeping that for my kids, I guess? Would anyone want to give an engagement ring from a very civil divorce to their fiancee? No idea.) I don’t wear much jewelry so I was thinking of trying to sell it. It’s mostly gold with amethysts and a few pearls. Is it likely to be worth much of anything? How do I find a reputable place to sell it? I’m wary of the big yellow side of the highway signs yelling “WE BUY GOLD!”

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Try to find somewhere that will sell on consignment, especially if it isn’t urgent to liquidate them. When you sell to a “We Buy Gold” place they are going to pay you based on the weight of the precious metals that you have, generally stones will count against you (especially things like amethysts which are cheap to get) and if they are planning to melt them down (likely) then they may give you an even lower figure because they have to pay to remove the stones.

      2. SarahKay*

        Engagement ring from divorce – in the UK Prince William gave Kate his mother’s (Princess Di’s) engagement ring when they got engaged. Granted, that got more complicated because Diana is dead, but still, it clearly does happen.

        1. Too much jewelry*

          Oh, I didn’t know that. That makes me feel much less weird about holding onto it for my kids. It really is beautiful.

          1. Anonanonanon*

            They also have the option of resetting the stone, which can save a lot of money over a new one.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        The few examples I have seen of rings from marriages that ended in divorce, the ring was given to a female descendant of the couple for her own use. Kind of appropriate because the grandparents were her biological grandparents even though they split later. This was done in the spirit of “each kid gets one special thing” so girl 1 got the ring, boy 1 got grandfather’s toy train (or whatever) girl 2 was given something else of very high emotional/ family history value… and so on.

        The times that this worked best is when the parent did it BEFORE they died or laid it out in a will and told the children what was in the will. So the kids had it kind of drilled into their heads, Sue gets the ring, Bob gets the train, and Jane gets grandma’s hutch. You may be able to do something like this.

        OTH, you could sell it and get something everyone would enjoy right now.

    6. Salamander*

      Very cool! I’m wondering…is it possible to get actual moldavite anymore? I’m seeing a lot of stuff that I’m suspecting is lab-created, and I want to get a piece of the real thing. Doesn’t have to be gemstone-quality or suitable for jewelry. Just something rough but pretty for my rockhound collection!

      1. Fishsticks*

        Check on ebay! My mom is a geologist and buys SO many rocks on ebay at a fraction of the cost. The only thing I’d advise if you don’t know too much about rocks, is to check the reviews of the seller and make sure the pictures aren’t too distorted or don’t have a proper scale.

      2. Anna*

        As a material scientist, just wanted to chime in to say – lab-made means the material is exactly the same. The structure of a gem sourced from some mountain is recreated exactly in the lab – minus impurities and irregularities like inclusions.
        You probably have your own reasons to prefer one over the other, but just wanted to put that out there.

        1. Salamander*

          Thanks! I am just emotionally attached to getting a real piece of something that actually came from a meteor impact. I know I’m being weird about it, lol!

      3. Hellanon*

        Mineral shows & eBay are probably your best bet. I doubt anyone is lab-growing moldavite, although they may be trying to pass garden-variety green glass off that way. What you’ll see with the real deal is that textured surface on the rough material, and then inside, the gas bubbles will look flattened/distorted, not perfectly round.

    7. ginger ale for all*

      My fiancé surprised me with the wrong size engagement for me and it is a set with a wedding ring as well. They have an inscription inside. How long will it take to get them resized? Although they do not fit the ring finger, they do fit my middle finger and I have been wearing the engagement one for weeks, I love it so much and I don’t know how long I could wait with it off of my finger (plus the ensuing questions that it would bring about).

      1. Positive Reframer*

        If you go to an independent jeweler it might be able to be done within a day, if you go through a mall store (important if the you want to keep the warranty from one) then you could expect a week or more since they have to ship it off site, wait for it to get to the top of the queue and then send it back. It will probably have to be re-engraved.

        As for the questions just saying its at the jeweler will satisfy any reasonable person.

    8. Amelia*

      How does resizing actually work? Are the rings being stretched or material added? How does that not affect the ring? And for down sizing is material removed?

      1. Positive Reframer*

        For down sizing material is removed (and no, you don’t generally get to keep it) then the ring is reshaped and soldered together. For upsizing it can depend. IF you are going up a little bit then some places will stretch out the ring but that can cause issues and wouldn’t recommend it unless its a half size or less. Usually material is added. The ring is cut and then a piece of material is added and the two joins are soldered.

        One important consideration: When you change the diameter of a circle you change its circumference. If you have stones set along the side of the ring and change the size up or down that can effect the relationship of the stones to their setting. Sometimes that restricts what is possible (or at least not prohibitively expensive) on different styles of rings if you are larger, or even more so smaller than average.

        1. Hellanon*

          All these points are excellent ones. A good jeweler will, moreover, take the time to explain all this to you.

      2. Sal*

        I second this question. My ex had my family heirloom engagement ring resized a bit smaller to fit my finger. We (obviously) broke up and I would like to resize it back up to fit on a different finger. But it seems so skinny I don’t know if there is enough metal?! I’m assuming they would not have downsized it and kept an extra bit of metal (although I have no idea where he took it or if it was a reputable place), but I’d like to understand how this works.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          If you are concerned about the thinness either in width or depth you might look into doing a half shank replacement (it will be pricey since they are adding half a ring’s worth of material.) A place where you can talk to the jeweler in person would be a good option as they should be able to tell you if things are a risk. If they can’t or won’t tell you what method will be used or in general answer your questions find someone else. Independent jewelers can sometimes have connections with pawn shops or antique places so if there’s one of those you trust or frequent those can be a resource to find a reputable professional in your area.

    9. LK03*

      Thanks for offering! (And Alison, thanks for a super-cool idea for a post.)

      Here’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while. I have a birthstone ring that I inherited from my grandmother: it’s a square-cut orange topaz in a pinkish-gold setting (no idea whether that’s 14K gold or what) that probably dates from the late 1930s when my grandparents were dating. I love to wear this ring (and it fits snugly, so it’s safe) — but I worry that it’s more valuable than I realize, and maybe I shouldn’t wear it?

      I’m sort of afraid of appraisers (I know this is dumb) since I don’t know anything about jewelry, and I don’t even know how much getting an appraisal would cost. I guess I’m hoping the answer is that the ring is only worth a couple hundred dollars at most, but that means that if the appraisal is expensive, maybe it’s not actually worth getting one! Grrr.

      Any advice? Should I just suck it up and get the thing appraised? How do I find an appraiser who is reputable? I don’t imagine I would sell the ring (unless it was worth, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars or something, but I really doubt that).

      1. Hellanon*

        Arrgghh! Wear your jewelry, especially if you love it!

        Ahem. You can get it appraised (the American Gem Society can recommend someone near you) or at least get the stone identified if you need the documentation, or you can do a bit of cross-shopping at an estate jeweler or auction house. If it’s a Brazilian imperial topaz, yes, it’s worth some money, certainly, but really, wearing it sounds like it brings you joy – I would keep doing exactly that. (Most standard appraisals will be replacement cost, meaning what it would cost to buy one just like it; if something happened to it and you wouldn’t replace it, you might ask for a fair-market or auction-value appraisal, get a sense of what it would be worth if you sold it.)

        1. LK03*

          Arrgghh! Wear your jewelry, especially if you love it!

          Ha, that’s mostly how I feel…and I love that I have the same birthstone as my grandma had.

          Thanks so much for the suggestions. These look like some things I could actually try to do. And in the meantime, I will keep wearing the ring. ;)

    10. Emmie*

      I’d like to buy a pair of diamond earrings, and a gold necklace. I have no experience buying jewelry. I’ve heard that there is a markup on the items. How should I negotiate the price down? What’s a realistic discount to negotiate?

      1. Positive Reframer*

        In most stores the markup starts at 3x cost. Do some research on exactly what is and isn’t important to you. For diamond earrings for example an exact match in color isn’t as important since no one is going to see them side by side while they are on.

        Find someone who is willing to listen to you and isn’t continuously trying to up-sell you or tell you what you need. (Also no jewelry purchased at retail prices is an “investment”)

        With gold chains, do you care if it is gold filled (which ironically means it isn’t filled with gold) or do you want solid gold? Some style of chains are easy to repair if broken, other’s are doomed to the scrap pile.

      2. Hellanon*

        Shop around a bit, get a sense of what the market price is for exactly what you want. Look online – Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, well-know companies (not ebay) – and do some apples-apples comparisons. Then shop the independent jewelers in your area, get recs from friends – what you want to find is someplace where you feel comfortable taking your business & where you can can feel pleased with your purchase. Keep in mind two things: a) markup is what keeps the lights on in a business and b) someone who’s willing to negotiate down has raised their prices in order to be able to do so. Much more worthwhile to spend the time to figure out what a reasonable price is and then to buy something you love from someone you like. That way, you are happy with more than the price – you actually like your jewelry.

      3. Emmie*

        Thank you, Positive Reframer and Hellanon. I really appreciate your expertise. I’ve seen discount jewelers and wonder how great those places are.

    11. Michaela*

      How do I care for my everyday earrings? (A pair of wee diamond studs, and a pair of freshwater pearl studs.)

      1. Hellanon*

        The diamonds can go into 409 or an ammonia-based cleaner – soak for a bit then use a soft toothbrush to gently clean out the back of the setting. Rinse well & dry. The pearls only need a gentle wipe – never put pearls into any kind of cleaner.

    12. ALPA*

      Obviously you can’t be sure without a picture, but my engagement ring is an heirloom in my husband’s family. Everyone keeps telling me it’s a citrine or yellow sapphire. It’s 90 years old – so I guess which of those stones would last longer?

      1. Anonanonanon*

        Sapphire is more durable than citrine but I believe both are known to be durable stones. Sapphire is a 9 on the Mohs scale. I believe citrine is a 7. If you really want to know what the stone is, a jeweler or appraiser could probably tell you. Do you ever take it to a jeweler to be cleaned?

        1. ALPA*

          Yes! The jeweler I take it to for cleaning told me it was “probably” a yellow sapphire.

          1. Hellanon*

            Oy. It could also be a synthetic yellow sapphire, which are pretty common in vintage pieces. OIf it’s a “hot” intense yellow it’s very likely synthetic; the natural ones from that era tend to be a softer color. If you want to get it appraised properly, call the American Gem Society and ask them to rec someone reliable near you. Sounds pretty – I love yellow sapphire!

    13. Princess Scrivener*

      Hellanon, tell me about morganite. We had some issues with a diamond 30-year-anniversary band, so we made the *#$%@s swap it out for 3 lesser-value rings, and I absolutely love this morganite stone (set in rose gold) in one of them! The jeweler said most of the ring’s value is from the metal and smaller diamonds, but I’m so so obsessed with it. Thank you!

      1. Hellanon*

        Morganite is lovely stuff & the prices on better quality stones (more pink, more color overall) have been going up. It’s kin to aquamarine so pretty durable/wearable, and that color is just luscious. As far as the relative value – your jeweler is probably right, the ring might cost more to replace than the morganite stone, but for my money that’s not really the question, you know? And last time I priced nice morganite it was similar to aquamarine in $$ per carat.

    14. Alston*

      Is blue zircon hard enough for an engagement ring? I love the colors you can get with it, but wonder about durability.

      1. Hellanon*

        Hard no on that. Blue zircon tends to be brittle (it’s usually heated, which causes the brittleness) and will chip/abrade along the facet junctions in a ring that’s worn every day. You can get the same color in blue topaz and, bear with me, treated blue diamond, both of which are really reasonable in price. (Treated diamonds have had their color adjusted artificially but are otherwise natural diamonds – I am not talking here about CZs or synthetic diamonds. )

    15. NewJobWendy*

      I make historical costumes. What are some good online sources for low-quality gemstones that can either be sewn on to fabric, or put in settings that can be sewn on?

      1. Hellanon*

        Couple thoughts – bead shows as a place to start and then check out a company called Rio Grande out of Albuquerque. They sell stones and findings and may have what you want. There’s also a company called CJS Sales in New York that I think may have what you are looking for (they keep sending me emails, although I haven’t shopped there).

      2. This Daydreamer*

        I know this is several months later, but I would highly recommend Fire Mountain Gems. Especially check out the promo beads. And if you’re on the east coast, both Intergalactic Bead Shows (despite the unfortunate acronym) and Intergem (AKA International Gem and Jewelry Shows) have great selections. The latter show is a real experience – you can find strands for a dollar or less and pieces that are likely worth more than every house you will ever live in. It’s amazing.

    16. she was a fast machine*

      I just started wearing my deceased mother’s antique wedding band as my own wedding band, and it’s a gold band, I’m not sure of the quality, but it was resized larger at one point in my mom’s life and I’m concerned that the inside part of the ring is thinner and narrower than the rest of the ring(presumably from being worn and the resizing). I had all of the prongs retipped and it brought back to round before I started wearing it, but I’m worried I’ll have to get the back half of the band replaced sooner rather than later. About how much does that kind of thing cost? Does the cost of the diamonds factor into that price at all or is it just a matter of the metal? FWIW, it was an engagement band and a guard that were soldered together when my parents were married.

      1. Hellanon*

        How lovely! And when it’s from someone you cared for, that’s really all that’s important… you may need to get the ring reshanked. This is when a jeweler replaces the back half of the ring. You’ll want someone who knows what they are doing – if you have friends you can get a recommendation from, that’s the best way to go. I couldn’t begin to estimate the cost… but a jeweler should be able to give you a thorough estimate and describe exactly what they are doing before you leave your ring. And really, it’s more a question of labor than anything else.

        1. she was a fast machine*

          I really appreciated the jeweler we took it to for the retipping and rounding so I will probably check with them and see what their advice is.

    17. Newlywed*

      My engagement ring is 10k gold w/ filagree setting with a small antique authentic russian alexandrite stone (it was hard to find – he had to have the ring designed and stone set by a jeweler in a neighboring state because there weren’t any jewelers in our area that carried the stone). I love it, inclusions and all, but I am wondering how to best care for it and clean it? I usually take it off if I’m doing chores or tasks where it might get dinged. I also haven’t been able to find a jeweler who will resize the band…the jewelers I’ve gone to have said that since they cannot replace the stone, they will not resize it because they cannot guarantee no damages. The band fits for now, but eventually I will want it resized to be a little smaller. It’s such a beautiful ring and makes me feel like a queen…it’s petite and dainty, but the color changes from deep blue/purple to brilliant green, and I love it so much more than a diamond.

      1. Hellanon*

        Alexandrite is the actual best – it is just so beautiful & rare.

        To take care of it, a bit of gentle cleaner & a soft brush – the alex is super durable but you’ll want to be careful with the setting – soak it for a bit and rinse thoroughly in warm water from the tap. The toothbrush is helpful if there is stuff stuck to the back of the stone. Brush *carefully* though. With the sizing, your best bet will be to get it to a jeweler who has access to a laser torch – it’s the only way to work on the ring without heating up the stone. If the ring itself is fairly delicate & it’s not so big it’s uncomfortable, you might look at just getting a second gold band to wear on the other side of your engagement ring, sort of as a keeper ring. It’ll prevent the alex from coming off your finger without all the worry of having someone work on an antique ring.

    18. Dryroasted*

      This literally makes my day Hellanon! I have been wondering who to ask and this is perfect timing! I inherited a ring from my grandmother and I love it. Makes me think of her every time I wear it. I want to design a ring as a kind if memorial to my dad, who passed away a few years ago. We loved talking about gemstones together.
      I have a local jeweler that I have used for some repairs but I am not sure if they are a good choice for this. I am thinking some combination of emerald, yellow sapphire and possibly green or greenish blue tourmaline. This would be a ring that I wore often. I am hoping to design it myself. Do those gemstones sound like a good idea? Any advice? Should I try to buy my own gemstones and take them to jeweler or should I have the jeweler source them? I am super excited about hearing your advice and thank you!

      1. Hellanon*

        The best way to do this would be to work with a store that does custom design- certainly talk to your regular jeweler, but shop around a bit as well, and see if your friends have recommendations. I used to do this kind of work, and it always seemed to work the best when I could get a variety of different stones in for the customer to see & then let the ring evolve from the stones – so, you’d start with the basic idea of the ring, identify the stones that will make it come to life, and then have the ring made.

        One thing you might do first is try on a bunch of different ring styles, figure out what basic layout of stones & metal fits well, is comfortable, feels “right” on your hand. Try different configurations (cocktail rings, 3-stone rings in various shapes, modern styles) and make note of the styles that you could be happy wearing. Take a picture. Then get a good jeweler to help you source the stones, and your ring will come together really well. (And buy good quality stones! That’s the best determination of happiness – the stones should have lots of color, great liveliness, and be symmetrical in their shape & faceting. They don’t have to be the most expensive color but you should like it, and it should be even and clear.) Bulgari and Marina B do great work with mixing colors – check out Google images for a glimpse.

        Good luck! Sounds like a lovely idea, and a good designer will bring it to life beautifully.

        1. Dryroasted*

          Thank you so much! I will check out those designers. I have a screenshot of an antique ring that I like but I have not tried one on. Good idea! Is tourmaline hard enough and durable enough for an everyday ring?

          1. Hellanon*

            Mostly yes, if you are not too hard on your jewelry. It will abrade faster than the yellow sapphire but then so will an emerald. Mention to the designer that it’s something you want to wear everyday & there are things they can do to help minimize wear & tear. But also, consider not worrying to hard about getting tiny dings on the facet junctions – you won’t be able to see them without a loupe, in 10 years if they are really scratched up you can get the stones repolished, the sapphire will be fine regardless… I am a huge fan of wearing one’s jewelry, although not to garden, I will add!

    19. Just Write*

      I have a ring that I call “the ring of seven grandmothers” just because it’s an awesome name – technically I am the seventh, and I’m not even a mother yet, much less a grandmother, but it’s still a stonking cool piece of family history. I hardly ever wear it because I’m terrified to lose or damage it. But I’d love to.

      It’s rose gold, very thin and delicate, and set with seven little half-pearls – two of which are fake, I am told, because they were replaced a couple of grandmothers ago when we were much poorer. I would love to get them re-replaced with real pearls, and I would also love to get it resized like a LOT – it only just fits my little finger. I have big hands even for 2018, and the hands of my two-hundred-years-ago grandmother who had it first must have been incredibly delicate.

      What kind of options are available to me? I understand it has been resized once before already and that’s why it’s now so thin and delicate. It could also use a good clean, but I know enough not to put pearls in any kind of strong cleaner, and I’d be so miserable if I was the one this ring ended with.

      1. Hellanon*

        You’re going to need someone who works in estate jewelry & has access to a laser welder. From what you are saying, the whole shank may need replacing; what we used to do with these kinds of things sometimes was to treat the top of the ring as if it were a gemstone and “set” it onto a whole new ring. That way the jeweler could support the delicate antique mountings from the sides and back and create something that fit the customer’s hand without trying to reshape the part that held the stones. But find someone who knows what they are doing – those little half pearls won’t stand up to any kind of heat.

  12. a good crafter*

    I’m super good at knitting and crochet if anyone needs a new hobby and has questions. (It actually comes up at work decently often in conversations, and actually reading patterns can be a good way to explain coding examples like loops.)

    1. Bekx*

      What’s your favorite low-budget yarn? I’m a crocheter myself and so far I like Jo-Ann’s Deborah Norville yarn and Hobby Lobby’s I Love This Yarn for acrylics. Just curious what other people like to use that’s cheap and soft.

      1. CRM & CIP*

        I use Red Heart Super Saver…not that it is soft when I USE it, but after washing, it softens up pretty nicely.

        But not the ombres…the solid colors.

      2. KHB*

        I’ve only worked with it a little, but so far I’m impressed with Woolike yarn sold at Michael’s. It’s not remotely like wool, IMO, but it’s soft and cheap and comes in great colors.

      3. medium of ballpoint*

        Seconding Hobby Lobby yarn. There’s a lot about HL’s business practices I don’t like, but I can’t deny their yarn is quality for the price.

      4. Doe-Eyed*

        Not the OP but I LOVE KnitPicks stuff – it’s a little nicer than Michael’s/Joann’s stuff but still really cheap for gifty type projects.

        1. alannaofdoom*

          Yes! Knitpicks has some great values across the board. Also their interchangeable needle sets are good quality and a great investment if you can afford it. Definitely helped tame my needle chaos.

      5. Z*

        I love Lion Brand Homespun yarn. It’s super soft and comes in all sorts of pretty colors. I’ve used it for multiple projects. Also, I bought Lion Brand Amazing yarn on Amazon a few months ago since it came up as an add-on deal and it was really pretty and also very soft – I ended up making a baby blanket with it.

      6. Travelling Circus*

        My current favourite is Caron Simply Soft. (We don’t have Hobby Lobby in Canada, but one of these days I’m going to do some cross-border shopping and pick up some ILTY!)

      7. a good crafter*

        I agree with all the above comments, but I find it depends on the type of project too. If I’m doing stuffed animals, I tend to go with your basic acryllics (Red Heart Super Saver, Caron Simply Soft). My best recommendation for keeping it cheap is to keep your yarn! I very rarely have to actually buy yarn for projects, because I keep enough colors on hand from past projects that I can start up and complete a project without every going to the store.
        I live in a one bedroom apartment and just got a drawer unit to put in my closet that is dedicated to yarns. Once in a while I go through and clear out colors that are duplicates or that I don’t think I’ll use again (though that has bitten me before).

        But if you’re looking to make clothing items, it might be worth spending a little more on a blend like the Caron Cake yarns for some variety (they’re 80% acrylic and 20% wool). I used the Tea Cake variety when I made myself a blanket not too long ago.

      8. BetsCounts*

        Caron Simply Soft is the best! I find Red Heart to be too coarse when working- I see upthread that it softens after washing but I don’t want to be holding rough yarn while a project is in progress- knitting & crocheting is supposed to be fun!
        +5 for KnitPicks!

      9. Garland not Andrews*

        I like the Caron Soft for knitting. Not for crochet because it tends to split.

    2. TechServLib*

      What are your favorite easy/medium level knitting projects? I want to get back into knitting but I can’t think of anything to make that is both useful and feasible For example, sweaters are useful, but too difficult/long term of a project for me. I have boxes of scraps of cable designs that I enjoyed doing (cables are like a really fun puzzle to me!), but they’re not doing anybody any good.

      1. Lehigh*

        Seconding this! I love to crochet or knit while watching TV, chatting with people, etc. but I don’t know how many more scarves my friend group can handle…but I’m concerned that anything with too much counting will make it impossible to multi-task!

        1. a good crafter*

          My new favorite thing in the world is C2C (corner to corner) blankets. No counting involved! They’re pretty hard to mess up. I never wanted to make a blanket because I hated counting and how slow it was, but now I’ve used C2C to make a baby blanket for my nephew, a toddler blanket for my niece, and a full sized blanket for myself, all while watching TV. The great thing is you can also use cross stitch patterns and color changes to put words or images into them. (And since a lot of tutorials forget to mention this – you don’t have to only do squares. To do a rectangle, you just increase at one end and decrease at the other once you get as far as you want the short end to be.)

          1. Emily*

            Ooh, this is a neat concept! I’ve only ever crocheted small things (a few amigurumi and an in-progress chalk bag for my boyfriend), but this looks incredibly doable.

      2. Nea*

        Sounds to me like you’ve already got a box full of Assemble Into Blanket. That’s my “keep my hands busy” project: Blanket squares.

        If that doesn’t seem useful enough, there are charities that take scarves of all kinds.

      3. NotThatGardner*

        hats & cowls are great small projects that can be anywhere from easy to hard depending on the pattern!

      4. Doe-Eyed*

        Socks! They seem daunting but once you do a few they’re not and you can put all kinds of crazy cables and patterns onto them.

      5. The Ginger Ginger*

        I hope it’s okay if I jump in on this thread too, because I LOVE talking about knitting and crochet.
        Are your cable scraps in similar weights of yarn? You could seam those puppies together for a lap blanket, or make a scarf.

        Hats, Fingerless mitts, scarves, all good for beginners. I can also recommend the Easy Blanket Sweater by the Mama in a Stitch blog. You knit a cozy square (so simple) and seam a couple arm holes to get a wearable cocoon sweater. And since your knitting with 2 strands it knits up way fast and is super cushy.

      6. knitcrazybooknut*

        Log Cabin Blankets. I started with the Mason Dixon pattern. I get two complimentary color Caron Acrylic Pounders. I start with one, and knit the pattern until I am done with it. Then I join the other color until I’ve gone all the way around the other square. Then I attach every extension I have to make the longest circular needle ever and pick up around the entire thing, and start knitting all around. You have to remember to start purling every other round or it doesn’t stay in garter stitch. Once you’re done, you have a four foot ish by four foot ish blanket that any kid is going to love, and the hardest part of the job was pushing the thing along the circular needles toward the end. My favorite for knitting while watching tv.

        1. BetsCounts*

          I **love** the mason Dixon log cabin pattern. I actually printed it out and laminated it because I make it so often.
          I also really like potholders- but only for knitting, not crochet.

      7. Anonyme*

        Tin Can Knits has the Sinple Collection, free knitting patterns with detailed tutorials and instructions. Everything fron cowls to sweaters.

      8. Stan*

        My mom was the queen of potholders and dishrags. They were great for using up scraps of yarn, plus, they wear out, so people could always use more.

      9. Caramel & Cheddar*

        On Ravelry there’s a pattern called the “Gap-tastic Cowl” that I always use as a beginner project whenever I teach someone how to knit (yes, I teach them how to knit in the round before learning to knit flat!). It only requires knit and purls, can become fairly mindless if you’re looking for something to do in front of the TV, and the finished product is both useful and pretty. I’ve probably made three or four, and could probably make another three or four without getting sick of it.

      10. Aealias*

        If you like doing cables, mittens and fingerless gloves. Short, quick and cableful!

        I love making soft toys, they so quickly start to look like something that I find them immediately rewarding. Also, shaping requires some complicated stitching and counting, which is fun for me. I get bored if I have to do the same thing for long.

        Doll’s clothes are the bomb for that. Quick, with some quite complicated shaping and stitches. Also, I can’t seem to buy fashion doll clothes without a doll attached, anymore, so making clothes helps keep anthropomorphic hunks of plastic from taking over the world!

    3. RJ*

      What’s your favorite go-to source for patterns/new stitches for knitting? I’ve been using Ravelry, but I’m willing to pay for a good comprehensive book that will help me master more complicated stuff. Also, any advice on how to choose good yarn would be great. Yarn stores are so overwhelming!

      1. NotThatGardner*

        yarn stores can be overwhelming, but most of the people who work in them are pretty friendly – i definitely recommend talking to them! also looking on ravelry “yarn ideas” tab on a pattern you want to buy yarn for — it gives lots of sugestions in all sorts of budget ranges.

      2. Louise*

        PurlSoho is a great site! It has a good combination of free and paid patterns, and has a lot of really great tutorials!

      3. a good crafter*

        There are a lot of really great resources online, I’d search Knitting Stitch Dictionary and you’ll find great sites like this:

        A lot of time then have good suggestions on what to use the stitch in also.

        For physical books, I’ve also enjoyed Nicky Epstein’s series Knitting On The Edge, Knitting Over the Edge, etc. for cool stitches to try. They should have it at Barnes & Noble or your local library if you want to flip through it.

      4. a good crafter*

        For new stitches, look up Knitting Stitch Dictionaries. Vogue has a nice one I can’t seem to link to here. Also for physical books, I’d suggest visiting your local book store or especially at your library and flip through their craft section. You can see which books have interesting patterns or guides that appeal to you.

    4. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

      What’s the best way to get started? I’ve bought books and watched videos and I just get so confused and end up quitting.

      1. Murphy*

        Not the OP, but find a local yarn store that offers beginner’s classes. Having a person there to answer questions can be a lot more helpful. Also a lot of them offer pattern help if you buy your supplies there, so it can be really helpful to make a connection there.

      2. Nea*

        I used the videos on and just started with a few square dishcloths. They’re simple, useful, and it’s not too cosmically horrible if the first few are ugly.

      3. Petty Editor*

        Bhooked crochet is AMAZING. Nerdigurumi too. Some wonderful tutorials that’ll get you into fancy looking projects in no time. Try the braided hairpin lace scarf, it’s a knock out!

      4. a good crafter*

        What kind of things do you want to make? Personally I think Crochet is easier, more versatile, and definitely easier to fix mistakes, and honestly I think it’s more fun. But if you’re more interested in clothing, knitting could be more interesting to you.

        I agree that having someone teach you can be good if you’re not finding tutorials working for you. I second the suggestion of seeing if there’s a beginners class at your local store, or looking for a knitting group and see if someone there can get you over that initial learning curve.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Not the OP so apologies if I get this a little off, but my impression is that both knit/crochet patterns and coding involve creating subroutines that are nested into/called out in the basic overall framework.

        For example:
        Pattern 1 involves a sequence of knit, purl, k2t, yo, etc and gets repeated for X rows.
        Pattern 2 involves a different sequence of stitches and gets repeated for Y rows.

        Overall Pattern is:
        Cast on 60 st, kn for 4 rows
        Pattern 1 in color A
        Pattern 2 in color B
        Pattern 1 in color B
        Pattern 2 in color A
        Kn for 4 rows
        Cast off.

      2. a good crafter*

        I don’t know if you’re serious, but I’m going to take it as such :)

        Variables are symbols that stand for values in code. So where at the start of a pattern they might say K2Tog = Knit Two Together, a variable in code would say NameOfProduct = “Knitter’s guide to the Apocalypse”. Then instead of putting in Knit Two Together in each line of the pattern, they can use the more concise K2Tog and know the reader understands what it means because they defined it. Same where we can put NameOfProduct other places in the code and know what it means, or change its value in one place and have that carry through to the rest of the program. (If a pattern said K2Tog here now means Purl two together, you’d mentally change what it means every time you see it show up in the code. That’s basically what the computer does with variables.)

        For loops are loops where you need to do something a set amount of times. In a pattern you’d see this as something like *K2, P1 Rep from * 5 times. In computer code:
        for (i=1; i 5)
        { K2, P3 }
        Where in a pattern it would look like *P3. K3. Rep from * to last 5 sts. So no discreet number of times it needs to be done, just do it over and over until an end condition.

        Functions are a set of code that can be called over and over to be repeated instead of typing it out over and over. So in a pattern they might define a type of specialized stitch at the start like a SpStit where you have to do three steps like decrease once, increase twice, then decrease again. So they’ve made it up special and instead of putting all the steps in the pattern they would just write:
        K2, P1, SpStit, K1, P2

        In computer code it would look like this:
        void SpecialStitch()
        { Dec1, Inc2, Dec }
        then in the main body of the program it would be called for example:
        K2; P1; SpecialStitch(); K1; P2;
        But in a real program what is in there could do any number of complicated sets of instructions that happen over and over. It could define the equivalent of a pattern of a row, then you could call:
        So that again you’re not typing things out over and over.

        I probably spent way too much time on this.

        1. a good crafter*

          I actually had a teacher in high school who used this analogy. He handed us a knitting pattern and said, “I bet this looks like gibberish to you.”

          I was like, “No, actually, I can read it like english it’s so clear.” Not so much the rest of the class, but the point was still made in an interesting way :P

        2. Windchime*

          I love your explanation, and it never occurred to me that this might be the reason that so many of the women I know who write code are also knitters. And why knitting patterns are, to me, like plain English–they really are a lot like reading code!

    5. Tuckerman*

      I want to learn how to knit to make a baby blanket for a friend. I’ve found lots of beginner tutorials, but I’m curious about types of yarn. I’d like to do the blanket in washable soft wool. Would that work for a blanket? And, do you have any recommendations for a place to buy this kind of yarn?

      1. Doe-Eyed*

        General rule of thumb is to at least aim for superwash wool if you insist on doing wool because it’ll need a lot of washing. Other people say to stick to acrylics or cottons because some babies can have wool allergies.

      2. Murphy*

        I made my daughter’s baby blanket out of washable wool (specifically Cascade 220 Superwash) and it worked out well. Not the softest, but reasonably soft, and the washable part was key for me. I bought mine online because I wanted a good color selection and I was familiar enough with the yarn that I didn’t need to feel it before I bought it. I’d try to find a local yarn store and tell them what you’re looking for.

      3. The Ginger Ginger*

        You’ll want superwash wool. It’s laundry safe, which is super important for babies (so I hear). You can order online if you don’t have a local yarn store or craft store. Webs (America’s Yarn Store) is literally at yarn(dot)com, but google around a bit to see what deals you can find elsewhere. There’s usually a sale somewhere. You can also order online from places like Michaels or Joann. Actually if you have a Michaels near your, they will have a huge selection of “baby” yarn. They don’t always have specialty yarn, but baby yarn? Yeah. The one near me is like 25% baby yarn. Even if you don’t find something you like in sotre, you can go in and look at brands and touch the yarn to get a general idea of what you’d like to work with.

        1. NotThatGardner*

          FWIW, webs has great customer service & often has really great sales, so if you are ok ordering online (not feeling the yarn) they are a great way to go. when i see a great deal on webs, i will often look up the yarn on ravelry to see how others liked it before buying!

      4. a good crafter*

        I agree with everyone on the risks of the wool blanket. But I did end up using an 80% acrylic, 20% wool yarn to make a baby blanket for my nephew, and he loves it. I used the Caron Cakes yarn, which has great colors.

        If you haven’t picked a pattern, I highly recommend doing a Corner 2 Corner blanket (it’s crochet, not knitting, but crochet is better for this and stuffed animals):

        The great thing is you can use cross stitch patterns to pick colors and embed images or words into the blanket.

    6. LizB*

      I started crocheting a scarf and messed it up real badly (it’s an infinity scarf and somehow several rows in I got it twisted around and turned it into a mobius strip), but didn’t realize until it was almost done. If I unravel the whole thing and start over, will that ruin my yarn?

      1. Nea*

        It depends on the yarn, but mobius scarves are also a thing and they’re beautiful. When in doubt, repeat the crafter’s mantra: I meant to do that. I think it looks cool.

        1. LizB*

          I know the yarn was wool (or mostly wool?), worsted weight. I was trying to go with that mindset, but unfortunately the way it twists in on itself makes it too short and not wide enough to actually be a good scarf. :( Normally I’m very much in the “there are no mistakes, just different artistic directions” camp but I actually want this to keep my neck warm.

      2. The Ginger Ginger*

        It depends on how sturdy your yarn is, but usually you should be okay to frog the whole thing (pull it all out). Just try to wind it into a ball as you unravel or you will be drowning in knots. It may look a little kinked as you go, but it shouldn’t be problem to rework it. And once you wash/block it, it will be fine.

        The only issue is if the yarn is super delicate it some way. Then you’ll need to be very gentle as you unravel.

        1. Grad Student*

          What is blocking and how do you do it? I’ve seen it suggested when I’ve googled how to unstretch sweaters, but when I try it I feel like I’m just smushing fabric around to no effect.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            You have to be using actual wool to block something. Acrylic will not block. Full stop, end of sentence. So determine your fabric type first.

            If what you’ve got is actual wool, then you can block it. Get it wet. Blot it dry – don’t wring it out, just squeeze it until it’s pretty damp. Now lay out a towel, put the item on the towel, put another towel over it. Squish it. Do this until the towels and the item don’t squeeze much water out. (Yes, you use lots of towels.)

            Now you’re ready for actual blocking. Lay your item out on a towel. Pull it out to the measurements or shape you want it to be. Let it dry. Keep everyone and everything away from it.

            It will dry into the shape it should be. It will stay in this shape until it gets wet again.

            If it’s lace, there’s a whole ‘nother level of blocking, and you’ll need to google the heck out of those techniques. But wool only! You need to be sure you’re dealing with wool.

            Good luck!

            1. Ihmmy*

              ehhh, you can block acrylic. Just not as effectively as non synthetic yarns, and a lot more carefully. Mostly to help curling edges and straighten a few pieces, not to fix a full moebius muckup.

            2. The Ginger Ginger*

              You can (and should, if possible) block anything; acrylic just won’t behave like wool once it’s blocked. Wool will bloom, acrylic definitely doesn’t.

              To block, you can go the wet blocking route – which is put it in water, roll it in a towel and press out the water, then lay it flat in the shape you want (and pin it depending on whether it stays put or not). Or you can go the speed blocking route which I highly recommend. Lay flat (and pin in place if needed) then take a nice garment steamer and steam that puppy! You can press the steamer head right to the fabric. Give it a quick going over (avoiding ribbing and things that are supposed to curl like rolled collars or hems) then immediately unpin. It’ll be slightly damp, but not wet. Keep it layed out to dry if it’s very heavy or lay it over a chair or something if it won’t stretch out. Works like a dream and is SO much faster.

              1. Grad Student*

                Thank you all! Is wool expected to shrink when you wash it, or are you always expanding the size/shape when you block an item?

                1. The Ginger Ginger*

                  It’s pretty much always going to grow when it’s blocked. And once it dries, it’ll be bigger than it was pre-blocking. How much it grows will really depend on your yarn. It’s why I always block my swatch (even though swatching isn’t the most fun thing ever.)

      3. Positive Reframer*

        Most yarns are fine, but things with hairs that stick out (think furry or fuzzy) can cause more headache than just starting over. Some of the loosely twisted yarns might get weird too. Either way what you have now is unusable so it can either take up useless space or you can give it a try and see what happens.

        Crocheting seems to be more forgiving of weak spots in yarn than knitting as there are more loops in the same area and one broken loop won’t cause a run along the length of the whole thing.

      4. CV*

        I would say that make sure you wind it loosely into a ball. If you do it really tightly, then the yard gets all stretched out and your next finished product will be weird as the yarn relaxes back to its original length.

      5. BetsCounts*

        Your yarn should be fine, especially if it’s used for crochet. I wouldn’t use ripped out yarn by itself in a stockinette pattern since it’s so flat, but for crocheting it should be fine. I’ve heard that after you undo the project, you can wrap it into long loops, get it soaking wet, and then hang it to dry with weights pulling on it that removes the ‘bends’, but I don’t usually bother- I’ll just double up with another yarn or do a busier stitch.

        1. Windchime*

          I’ve actually done this. I frogged (unknitted) a sweater and the yarn was super kinky. It was a wool/alpaca blend so i definitely wanted to save it for another project. I wound it into balls as I frogged it, then wound it back onto my yarn swift. I tied it off at several points, and then removed it from the swift and soaked it for a couple of hours. Once it dried, it was not perfectly smooth but it was way less curly and kinky. Then I just twisted it into hanks and it’s ready for next time.

      6. Gingerblue*

        One other option you might want to consider, especially if the yarn doesn’t frog nicely: I’ve seen super cute infinity scarves which are a flat strip (like a normal scarf) with buttons at one end and holes at the other so it can be joined into a loop. If you cut and seamed what you have, it would be really easy to convert it to something like that.

    7. Ashie*

      I picked up crocheting last year and I really enjoy it but I’m feeling a little constrained by the types of things I can make with crochet. I’d love to learn how to knit but I haven’t found a tutorial that works well for me (admittedly I haven’t looked very hard, though). Any suggestions?

      1. NotThatGardner*

        youtube has a ton, but truthfully if you can find a local knit night or your yarn store, they might offer decently priced classes.

        1. Ashie*

          Yeah, that’s probably the way to go. I need the feedback on what I’m doing right or wrong. Thanks!

      2. Positive Reframer*

        How are you feeling constrained by crochet? In general crochet has much more range than knitting (although it isn’t as good for some things like socks).

        What types of things do you want to make?

        1. Ashie*

          I’m tired of hats and scarves. I’ll never wear a poncho or a granny square vest so I’m not sure what else that leaves as far as clothing. I feel like socks and sweaters are better done with knitting.

          1. Positive Reframer*

            Dresses and slippers might be another option, there are tons of types of vests that aren’t granny square. There’s also a big resurgence in the last couple years for crocheted swim suits and crop top/bralettes if that floats your boat. Swim suit coverups are more around my comfort level as far as actually wearing. Many of those will be best in a thin cotton yarn or cotton thread. House coats and cardigans work well in crochet and I have made a couple of crocheted sweaters I think their success is more tied to the yarn you use than the fact that its crochet. You can use crochet to upgrade mass produced items to make them unique whether its frilly socks or a new yoke for a top or trim for a collar or sleeves.

            There are some really cute crochet purses and shoes but that’s starting to stray from the realm of clothing just a bit.

            Have you checked out Ravelry? Or joined some groups on Facebook? Or found some creators to follow on Instagram? There is so much diversity in the crochet community I have far more inspiration than I have time or material to act upon.

          2. Lynn*

            There are so many beautiful crochet garments! You can try slip stitch or tunisian crochet if you want a look that’s more like knitting, but standard crochet also makes some beautiful work.
            Try checking out patterns on Ravelry, and you can also just browse Pinterest to see examples of crochet garments (though Rav is better as you won’t have the things where people have mixed up crochet and knitting)

      3. Proofin' Amy*

        You might also want to look into Tunisian crochet, which kind of splits the difference between knitting and crocheting. You use crochet hooks with a cable and a stopper at the end. Instead of pulling all your loops through, you leave them on the cable and pick them up on the way back.

    8. Rock Prof*

      Wow, I never thought of how something like ‘*k4, p4 repeat between * to last four stitches, k4’ would relate to for or while loops, but that would be such a cool analogy. Or, defining stitch terms before giving a pattern is like declaring variables! This is fun!
      (‘cool’ and ‘fun’ are also very relative here)

    9. 42*

      I recently started knitting again after like a 30 year hiatus. I’m finishing up a linen stitch scarf (knit lengthwise).

      I’ve never blocked anything before, and I will be blocking this once it’s finished. I’m going to use my Shark handheld steamer. I used many different yarn scraps for this. Most are acrylic (I think), some are wool/acrylic blends. I’ve read horror stories of ‘killing’ acrylic when in the blocking stage. I’m also reluctant to wash it in the machine because I’ve read that can kill it too?

      I want to get the uneven bumps out, basically, and to ‘puff up’ the stitches and even them out. What is you experience with steam blocking? Thank you!

      1. Positive Reframer*

        I like steam blocking and for something that benefits from being drapey rather than structured killing it (but not melting it) can be a good thing. I had a shawl that practically stood up by itself and was made with old cheap acrylic after several trips through the wash and dryer it was amazingly soft and supple (I also did the conditioner thing but that only got it so far).

        You could cover it with a light cotton towel to insulate it from some of the heat.

      2. CV*

        Wet blocking might be a better choice.
        Steam blocking can work absolutely beautifully on acrylic, but remember that steam is forever. You can’t re-block if you do steam, but you can re-block if you wet block.

    10. Becky*

      I can’t seem to purl to save my life even though I’ve watched a number of tutorials I still can’t seem to get it right. Any advice on learning how to purl properly?

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Part of my issues with purling are tied to how I throw my yarn (Continental style, needles do all the work)

        1. Gingerblue*

          Same here. When I switched from English to Continental, knitting was easy but purling took so much longer to get.

      2. a good crafter*

        It took me a while to get Purl right. For a while I was always twisting my stitches.

        Positive Reframer is right that it largely depends on how you hold your yarn. But I’ve found that even when I got my purl stitches right, I have to pull them way tighter than the knitting to avoid uneven looking stitches, bumpy looking rows, and gaps on the purl side of the yarn.

    11. Christy*

      I’m new at knitting and have only made scarves at this point. I bought a ton of wool when I was in Iceland (where they are apparently known for their wool). Unfortunately I didn’t really do it well – I have 2 skeins of gorgeous multi-colored wool; 1 sort of similar one; 3 of maroon; 3 of teal; 3 of purple, and 3 of bright pink. Obviously these can’t all be used in one project. I was trying to buy ones where they were all from the same batch, and couldn’t find more than 3 of a kind.

      What are your favorite places or books for patterns, especially for beginners? I was thinking of making a fairly crazy blanket with the teal/purple/pink maybe, fingerless gloves with the multi colored wool, and maybe another scarf with the maroon. Or any suggestions of how to use those types of wool? I can buy other types of wool to add to it here in the states (maybe for a striped pattern or something).

      Oh – and any suggestions for resources for knitting Christmas Stockings?

      Oh and any suggestions for how to make scratchy yarn less scratchy? The teal, purple, and pink is sort of rough.
      (I don’t know anyone else who knits – my mom taught me but is still learning herself) Thank you!!

      1. tusky*

        I recommended Knitty (website) above. Public libraries also usually have a decent selection of knitting pattern books. I have come to prefer borrowing over buying pattern books, because I can try out a much wider array of books and pick up a book even if I’m only interested in one pattern in it.

      2. Gingerblue*

        Are you on Ravelry ( If not, start there–it’s an enormous online database of patterns/yarns/projects/etc., ferociously well cross-indexed, and provided with social forums as well. You can search for your exact yarn and see what other people have made out of it, or you can search for all patterns written for that thickness yarn, and a lot of the pattern entries will have downloadable patterns, either free or for sale online. Others will point you to physical books. If you want more of one of your colors, you may have luck finding another user to sell you some–a lot of people catalogue and photograph their yarn stash, and mark balls they don’t want any more for sell or trade. You can also search by category–so there’s a Christmas stocking category in the database that will pull up all Christms stocking patterns, and then you can narrow that down further by how much yarn they require or what thickness of yarn or whether there’s a free pattern or not. Ravelry is totally amazing and is the reason knitting stuck for me as a hobby after I got back into it some years ago.

        Icelandic yarns do tend to be on the scratchier side. I’d lean towards projects that don’t go next to skin. But conditioning the yarn can also help–either a dedicated wool wash with lanolin in it or just a cheap human hair conditioner can work to tame some of the scratch.

      3. NotThatGardner*

        try ravelry! you can even search the yarn you have or something similar to find pattern recommendations.

      4. A Cataloger*

        Icelandic yarn is amazing! Unfortunately if you purchased Lopi, it will tend to be scratchier than merino or other super soft wools. The Icelandic sheep has a double coat, a rougher outer and softer inner. Most of the knitting yarn cards the two together before spinning, but this combo is what makes the yarn super waterproof, very, very warm, and durable.

        Washing (after knitting) should help, it will remove the grease and other residue from the spinning process and allow the yarn to bloom properly. Use a good quality wool wash (not woolite, their formula has been adjusted over the years to work better with the synthetic fibers most of our delicates are now made with). You can try a gentle conditioner (wool is a protein the same as our hair)

    12. Extra Vitamins*

      Can you recommend a good video or other source to figure out “provisional cast on”? I can’t seem to get it.

      1. wireknitter*

        I found at least three different methods for provisional cast on. I tried all of them and went with what worked best for me. Watch several videos and then just try them.

    13. Anxa*


      I’m trying to replicate a family stocking pattern for my niece and I have the stocking. It’s actually knit flat (at least for the leg part) where the the design is. I’m at a loss as to whether use strand, intarsia, duplicate for parts of this.

      So there’s a reindeer on a plain background. It’s ALMOST good for intarsia, but there is also a border around the deer, which also serves as the antlers. So imagine a white background, a tan deer, and a black border/antlers. I have never done intarsia before and I really don’t know if I can do it. I don’t want to strand knit because that seems like a tension nightmare.

      I’m thinking of doing intarsia for the tan deer parts, then doing a duplicate stitch around the borders. But maybe I can pull off true intarsia.

      I wish I could link a picture, but do think it’s viable to us intarsia as a border on the deer?

      1. valc2323*

        If my mental picture of what you’re doing is right, I think you can totally do intarsia, you’re just going to end up with at least five balls of yarn going at once, maybe six or seven at some points. Black/white/tan/white/black in that order. Are you going top down or bottom up?

    1. LeRainDrop*

      When artifacts are enclosed behind glass, does the museum ever fill that container with a particular balance of gases?

      1. MuseumChick*

        Nope. The most important thing is keep the temperature consistent as fluctuations will harm objects over time.

    2. Reba*

      What database does your institution use? I only have direct experience with one, and it was rather less than awesome.

      Currently I’m affiliated with a place that is (as my colleague says) a Blanche DuBois institution–they depend on the kindness of strangers! The lack of acquisition budget is a bit surprising since this is a large museum and one of the most-visited in the country! Anyway are there helpful guidelines about managing the collection and thinking about its future direction at such a place? Or does every institution have to kind of figure it out for themselves?

      1. MuseumChick*

        I would start with the book: Managing Previously Unmanaged Collections, the Museum Registration Manual 5.0 and sign up for the museum listserv if you haven’t already. There is also a website called connecting to collections that is really helpful.

      2. Displaced Midwesterner*

        Hope no one minds if I chime in, as another museum person. I’ve only worked in and around art museums, where The Museum System (TMS) is the most commonly used database, in my experience. (I’ve actually never encountered Past Perfect, and I’m in my fifth museum.) My own institution uses a different program (Mimsy XG), which is fine, but the interface is a little more dated. I’ve also seen smaller institutionsuse FileMaker Pro, but building and maintaining a database that way when there are specialized programs available always seemed like a massive waste of staff time to me.

        1. MuseumChick*

          I think Past Perfect is more common in history museums, or at least that has been my experience. I’ve never worked with the TMS but know of it. Do you like it? I’m curious for an inside perspective.

          1. Displaced Midwesterner*

            I really miss TMS now that I’m working with Mimsy XG, but it’s a little hard for me to untangle my preference for TMS from 1) the manuals and support that my last institution had in place and 2) some of the advantages that it has due to the size of its user base/support staff, compared to a program like Mimsy XG, since so many job postings ask for experience with TMS instead of other systems.

            One thing that I really loved, since I work on material that’s not from Europe or North America, is that I could use Unicode in lots of places in TMS to capture names, inscriptions, etc. TMS seemed to export things to the web a little more seamlessly, too. But I’m not positive how much of my fondness is due to the sleek interface (the version of Mimsy XG that I’m using now won’t allow me to drag and drop information or right-click to copy and paste information, which drives me nuts) or what TMS itself can support, and how much is due to the amazing work that people in technology or collections management did to set it up for the rest of us.

    3. Annie Moose*

      This is a massive question, I’m aware, but how do you decide what goes on display? My understanding is that museums can have quite enormous collections that aren’t on display, so how do you determine if something is “worthy” or not?

      Of course it’d be easy with famous things (naturally the British Museum is going to put the Rosetta Stone on display!), but with smaller, less “important”, “domestic” stuff, what criteria do you use?

      1. MuseumChick*

        Great question! Yes, typically a museum will have 1 – 2% of their collection on display at any given time.

        Really, the criteria comes down to ideas for exhibits. But there are a number of very important questions museums have to ask, not the least of which is: Is this object safe to put on display? The most common way museum objects are damaged are through handling. Then you have the elements, such as sun light. No object should be permanently on display. Things like the Mona Lisa for example, that the public expects to see are very expensive to keep on display. The Mona Lisa is kept behind bullet proof, UV protect, temperature and humidity controlled glass.

      2. MuseumChick*

        I swear I wrote out an answer to tho this! Looks like it got eaten, lol.

        Silver lining, this gave me more time to think about my answer. You’re question is excellent on. Museums typically have between 1 – 2% of their collection on display at any given time. The decision about what is “worthy” is a great topic of discussion int he field. For some background, in the 1960s – 70s there was a movement in the field called “The New Social History” very basically it was the idea that history is more than old, rich, white, dead men. It’s also imporant to note that most museum professionals understand/agree that it is impossible to be neutral/not political. Every time a museum decided to same this object instead of that object or display this instead of that, it is an inherently political act.

        That being said, choosing what to put on display often just comes down to your ideas for exhibits! But there are a number of questions that the museum has to ask. The one I deal with most is: Is this object safe to put on display? That is, will it be harmed by being on display? The elements such as sun light and human error will damage objects. That is why no object should be on display permanently. The rare exceptions on pieces like the Mona Lisa. It is kept behind bullet proof, climate controlled glass that is constantly monitored.

        And again, a lot of this comes down to the mission of the museum. What is appropriate to display in one museum is not appropriate of another.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Thanks for the insight! Something I hadn’t realized is the idea of not keeping objects on permanent display–never really thought of that aspect before.

    4. SophieChotek*

      Will museums take “anything”? Or will the take things and secretly throw them away (without telling the donor)? Or are they obligated to store things indefinitely once they have them? I remember a few museums lately have sold portions of their collections to raise money. (A Japanese museum did late last year and raised millions; a US museum got a lot of bad press recently for same thing.)

      1. Reba*

        I love the image of curators furtively stuffing things in the dumpster by night…

        Deaccessioning (as it’s called) can be controversial, but it is something museums have to do. We know that artworks can be converted into money, but we also believe they have a value beyond money and so the money bit is uncomfortable! The ethics guidelines American museums are sorta bound by balance that by saying the sale of collections must be used for future acquisitions or the direct care of collections.

        Some objects are also restricted by the terms of a gift (a private collector might donate something with the condition that it always be displayed, for example). It also really depends on the value/fame of the stuff, I think–no paper is going to write about the deaccessioning of some obscure things that are never exhibited, but when places go to offload Norman Rockwells people will notice.

        An interesting case where this came to the fore a few years ago was in Detroit, when the city was in financial management and the managers considered selling off the museum’s excellent collection to raise city operating funds. That got a big old Nope.

        Hoping MuseumChick will be able to speak from more experience on this question!

      2. MuseumChick*

        My answer is going to be the “best practices” answer so YMMV from museum to museum.

        1) Museums will only take things that 1) Meet their mission 2) They can care for 3) They don’t already have examples of in their collection.

        2) When removing objects form the collection it goes through what is a called a deaccession process. A collections committee consisting of 3 -7 people will look over the objects and determine they they will be deaccession. The criteria for removing objects includes: Not meeting the mission, in such bad condition it cannot be cared for, and better examples are in the collection.

        3) If an object is deaccessioned the museum will first try to find another museum to take it. If they cannot they can sell it, if they cannot sell it they can throw it away.

        The selling stuff to keep a museum open issue is HUGE in the field. According to best practices when objects are sold (after the whole process I layed out above) the money can only be used for collections care.

      3. Overeducated*

        Most museums have a collections policy that defines their scope. They will generally not take anything outside that scope. They also tend to avoid things they dont get full legal rights to (nobody likes gifts with strings) or things with dubious documentation indicating potentially illegal origins (e.g. look up the Hobby Lobby antiquities case). Ideally they should also refuse donations they lack the expertise or facilities to care for but that’s more an ethics issue.

        The way I was taught about deaccessioning was that there has to be a strict wall between collections and operating funds/endowment. It is widely considered unethical in the US to deaccession objects to raise money for anything other than collections. I am curious whether there are different codes of ethics in other countries, and wonder if Museum Chick knows!

        1. MuseumChick*

          Excellent answer that touches on a lot of the finer points of deaccession. Generally, “best practices” pretty stable across most countries. The full legal rights issues has gotten a number of museums in some hot water over time. That’s why so many are so strict about it now. But smaller museums where its mostly volunteer run and people are not really trained for these things, it still happens a lot. Someone’s best friend’s sister has an awesome collection of X and Y! They put it on “permeate loan”(DANGER DANGER DANGER) it because the primary display until 10 years later then the lender gets mad at the museum for some reason and takes everything back.

      4. Anna*

        reminds me of my hometown’s natural history museum. A some points, there were locked doors behind which they have storage and do active research, but you could peek through windows here and there. We saw this large storage room, just filled with sooo many stuffed crocodiles and preserved ostrich skeletons (how many of the same thing can you really use in an exhibit?). I was wondering too how they will get rid of them.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Really what they need to do (and this all takes a lot of time) is determine how much they have of each objects, is it 10 studded crocodiles and 17 ostrich skeletons? Then, does this fit the mission? If not, they should get rid of all of them. If it does fit the mission, they should pick the three best example to keep. Adter the deaccession processed laied out above, they should contact museums that may be able to take them. If they are unable to find anyone to take them then they can sell them.

    5. Earthwalker*

      Art or natural history? If art, can you help me figure out what to do with 19th century shellacked paper posters glued to silk-covered wood frames? The silk is deteriorating so they’re about to fall off the wood frames, and the shellac is yellowing. It’s a lovely set of botanical prints from a seed seller in France. I should be doing something to save them but I don’t know what.

      1. Reba*

        If they are shellac, alcohol will remove it. *IF* they are just shellac, and *IF* the prints below wouldn’t also dissolve, neither of which you know for sure.

        If it were me, I wouldn’t take them to a conservator since they are not highly valuable. I’d just cut off the excess silk (leaving it where adhered to the print) and reframe under UV protective glazing, acid free mat and all that — that will help stop the discoloration.

        They sound lovely!

      2. MuseumChick*

        Oh boy, you probably won’t like my answer. It sounds like it needs a professional conservator to look at it.

        1. Earthwalker*

          I was afraid of that. Out here in the middle of nowhere that’s a tall order, but maybe I can take them to a city when I go. Meanwhile, I like Reba’s suggestion of how to give them at least some protection. Thank you both!

    6. As Close As Breakfast*

      Are records of who donated items kept? Or kept for a long time? My great-grandmother donated some items to a large and still existing museum sometime back in the 40s or 50s. (Side note – She was a pretty badass lady. She was a public health nurse in the 1910s and 20s. For several years she worked out in the Dakotas where she would go out alone on horseback with nothing but supplies and a gun, to provide medical services to the isolated native populations.) She was given several Native American artifacts and gifts from the populations she served as a nurse. Family lore had it that she had donated them, but no one knew to what museum! I finally found a newspaper article that mentioned the donation and where it was made. I’ve been wanting to contact them to see if I could find out more, maybe even see pictures of the items, but I’ve been kind of nervous to do it. Is this something that would be totally out of line? Who would I contact? Would the information even still exist? Any advise?

      1. MuseumChick*

        This is a yes and no answer. (Real quick side note, your GGM does should super badass!) Today, records are kept forever if you have someone who knows what they are doing running the show. But it is surprisingly common for even larger places to have, or had, people who were not really trained to manage a collection in charge. This of course leads to records being lost. There is a great example of a rare Egyptian artifact being uses as a BIKE RACK by a museum because they didn’t know what it was until an visit scholar lost their mind at seeing it. Digging back through the records all they were able to find as a receipt that read something like “Donated by Mr. Smith” and an address.

        I would call them and see! Just be really nice and and say something like “We have been trying to find the museum my GGM, (Name) donated a bunch of (artifacts) to in the 1940s – 50s. Would you be able to check your records? I know it being so long ago its a long shot!” Also, if the records are digitized they may not have the staff to dig through them. Just be very understanding and polite. Most museum professionals love doing stuff like that but often don’t have the time.

        Also, to answer a question you didn’t ask….if they do have your GGM stuff…if you want to see it please contact them over a month in advanced and don’t be offended if they can’t find it. Even when museums are well managed objects go missing, often just misplaced/their location not correctly recorded VERY rarely stolen by a disgruntled staff member/volunteer.

      2. MuseumChick*

        As for who to contact, first check the museum website. They have list a contact for questions related to the collection. They they don’t just call the main phone number and explain what you are looking for. They will probably director to someone with the title of Curator or Collections Manager or Registrar.

        You may want to also make it clear that you are not looking to ask for the objects back, you just want to know what museum they are in. It’s rare but sometimes the decedents of people think they can just call up a museum and get their ancestors stuff back.

        Depending on what Native artifacts she donated some may have been given back to the tribe (There is a law about this called NAGPRA, I don’t work with a lot of Native artifacts so I can’t speak to the specifics but wanted to mention it). And, if the mission of the museum has changed in the years since she donated stuff it may have been deaccessioned. But I think its still worth calling! Just know there are a lot of factors at play here.

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          Thank you so much MuseumChick! You’ve given me the motivation to finally reach out! I don’t know why I’ve hesitated, I guess I was just worried I’d be totally out of left field in asking? Like, there’s no obvious ‘Click here to find out about items your ancestors donated decades ago!!’ on the website so I feared I’d be out of line in asking. Thank you for the directions and knowledge (including the anecdote about the Egyptian artifact being used as a bike rack! Headdesk!), it helps me know what to ask, who to ask, and what the outcomes may be. Knowledge is power!! And I’ll also make sure to make VERY CLEAR I’m just looking for information and not trying to get the items back! That’s such a ludicrous thing, it never would have even occurred to me to make it clear that’s not what I’m after! Wow, people constantly amaze, right? Best case senerio, I just want to know what they were, maybe see a picture if possible. The museum is on the opposite coast of the US from where I live, so even it they still had the items and they were on display or something, I may never actually get to see them in person! I just want some interesting info to add to the family tree!

          1. MuseumChick*

            I’m so happy! It’s really rare but I’ve had it happen a handful of time when people call up wanting something back. It’s just so awkward! Museums can be really intimidating to people in the man-behind-the-curtain kind of way. Unless you work in one, no one really knows what goes on behind the scenes at a museum. So I can understand why you have hesitated. There are of course exceptions to the “give stuff back” thing. A museum in Austria got into a PR nightmare a few years ago. Let me put it this way, you never want the news story about your museum to be “Museum Refuse to Return Painting to Holocaust Survivor” (The painting was Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Klimt. Her neice had escaped Austria during the war, the Nazi’s stole the painting and placed it in an Austrian museum. Really interesting story, the woman eventually got her family’s painting back!)

            You honestly sound like someone museums like to work with. You are not overstepping at all!

    7. saffytaffy*

      Hi MuseumChick. I work in a medical library and this wonderful opportunity to manage a historical collection just happened to fall in my lap about a year ago. I’ve been working blind since then, because I have no experience in archiving and no one to consult with. I’m glad to see I haven’t done anything too egregious so far. :) Your advice here is so appreciated. Thank you very much.

      1. MuseumChick*

        How cool! Honestly, the best thing you can do in start reaching out to the community. Archive and museums are like second cousins, related, but different. Museum-L (museum Listserv) is a great resource to ask questions, people in the community are generally really happy to help and offer advice. Look into joining professional archivist FB groups. I would also get a copy of the MRM5 (Museum Registrar Manual 5) its more broad but there is some excellent information in there.

        A few crash-course points: Don’t wear gloves when handling paper documents. I know, I know people always were gloves on TV. But in reality it depends on the material you are handling. Gloves can snag on paper and reduce your dexterity increasing the chance of damage. So no gloves.

        Second, budget for archival boxes. They are expensive. Gaylord Archival where everyone get’s their collection care material.

        Third, very important, be consistent in how your catalog material. Don’t label something a “document” that is way too broad. If you have a collections management software such as Past Perfect that I mentioned above it comes with a lexicon. Keep your descriptions of material consistent as well.

        Fourth, location, location, location. If nothing else keep good records of where everything is located. If you don’t have time to write a good description you can always come back to it later but you have to be able to find it. Keep the locations easy to understand but specific Building:Room:Shelving Unit #: Self #: Container

        Fifth, coming from a museum background I would number everything. But I’m not an archivist so I actually don’t know if that is something they do! Generally, the object ID number should be formatted as Year.Accession.Object. So, 2018.1.1 is the first object of the first accession that entered into the collection in 2018. If you have something that is in multiple parts, lets say a cover has come off a book, you would mark the main part of the object as 2018.1.1a and the secondary part of 2018.1.1b

        If you do mark the material in your archive do not use a pen. Any marking should be permeant but also reversible.

        I hope this helps!

  13. Communications Guru*

    I am a senior director of PR/ communications, ask me anything about communicating to your internal audiences, boss or important constituents.

    1. DC*

      As a comms director, what do you look for when hiring? I’m about to have a Master’s in Comms, but don’t want to instantly leave the events job I like. What are things I should try and add in the next chunk of time so I can be considered for comms jobs in the future?

      1. Curious Cat*

        I have a follow-up Q for you DC: I’m also in comms/PR. I’m a recent grad with a BA, but I’ve always been told by mentors that I don’t need to get a Master’s in this field. Since you’re finishing up one, what made you decide to get a Master’s and do you think it will help your career? (I don’t want to return to school now, but would consider it 5 years down the road if a Master’s could help)

        1. DC*

          Sure! So my BA was in IR/PoliSci, and I ended up NOT using it at all, but in a job where I got to pitch in on events/comms, and realized I LOVED it but didn’t know enough. So when an events job opened at a university, it gave me the chance to do work I liked when gaining comms experience, and they paid for my Master’s. I went back to school to actually learn all the things I didn’t know because I had never studied it before.

          Could I have just gotten an entry-level job and learned? Probably. But I feel really confident in the foundation of my knowledge now, so that was a huge help. Plus, my school was big on hands-on courses, so I walked out with skills and a portfolio I wouldn’t have gotten in the same time frame in a job.

          1. Curious Cat*

            Ah, understood! Thanks for explaining more. If I went back to school it would probably be for public health (I work in health comm), so it’s nice to hear that you found a great base in getting a Master’s and you were able to just tune and develop your skills in comm. Thanks!

            1. DC*

              Anytime! I’d use the Master’s to demonstrate a desire to shift into a field, using it to pivot to something new, if that makes sense.

        2. H.C.*

          I’m also a PR person who got a PR master’s; for me, it was useful since I was pivoting my career from journalism (which was showing signs of tanking in the early-aughts) right after I finished my undergrad. Also, I got in a reputable program with lots of career & mentorship support, so it opened a good amount of doors for opportunities even when I was doing the grad program fulltime.

      2. Communications Guru*

        DC – a deep understanding of strategic planning and an ability to relate your objectives to the business objectives. This is KEY to building respect with the C-suite and avoiding the “fluffy” reputation of PR/communications that it sometimes has. Your writing must be spectacular and you need a solid knowledge of AP style. Being able to pitch stories to journalists is a huge plus!

        1. DC*

          It’s reassuring to know that the buttloads of space my photographic memory used for AP style after reading the guide will likely come in handy some day. Thank you!!

    2. Super stressed*

      Similar question to DC! I’m currently in an IT project management/internal communications role. I’d really love to work for a digital communications-type agency. Am I out of my mind for thinking the skills I have in my current role would transfer well (I realize this may be difficult to answer without knowing the full details of my job)? What do you look for in candidate writing samples, besides the obvious good grammar?

      1. Communications Guru*

        Oohh… good question. It very well may transfer, but you need to prove it. Use measurables when you write your resume/cover letter. Digital comms is often about metrics and using data to reach your objectives. Good writing samples will include elements of creativity, a good voice, flow… when I look at writing samples I like to see more “formal” samples as well as informal/creative pieces.

    3. SophieChotek*

      How have you successfully made good relationships with national/international media?
      I’ve read that you should have things to offer media (even if they don’t need one’s product, etc.) i.e. a “white paper” with interesting facts, etc.
      My company only creates expensive chocolate tea pots…we don’t write white papers or do surveys, etc. My company wants me to get great PR for them to get more visibility with potential customers…(but doesn’t want to pay for ads in magazines, etc.)

      1. LDP*

        I spent the early part of my career in PR and had to do A LOT of pitching, and there’s a few things I learned (some of them the hard way!). First, reporters have very little time, so it’s best to get right to the point. It also helps if you can find a reporter at a publication who would be interested in your product. For example, if there’s a reporter at a local paper who covers chocolate tea pots, pitch to them. Is there anything you could give them that would give them the “edge” on the story, like a tour of the chocolate tea pot factory, or an interview with someone higher up in the company who normally wouldn’t talk to the press? Maybe look up some of the silly holidays surrounding chocolate tea pots and try pitching near those. The best thing I’ve learned is that you just have to keep pitching your company and building a relationship with a reporter. It also never hurts if you can write your own press release to distribute when you have a new chocolate tea pot launching or when you’re having an event that you think could be interesting. This is all just my two cents from my four years in PR, maybe others with more experience could chime in here as well!

      2. Communications Guru*

        National and international media is hard. Period. I often connect via Twitter and make sure you do your research and read the things this journalist has written in the past! Do your homework. It also helps to offer “exclusives” – interviews that you aren’t offering anyone else, or first dibs on embargoed material, etc. Sometimes you can hook them if you can relate your tea pot to a current event or something related to their publication or beat.

      3. Catty Hack*

        Speaking as a journalist, I would reiterate the advice on learning roughly what people write about but would add it’s worth trying to get as large a sample as possible rather than going “Hey, catty covered chocolate teapots once. I’ll mail her 1,000 times because she’s clearly interested”. A bugbear of mine is the number of emails I have to reply to/clear out my inbox (delete based on workload) because I covered a chocolate teapot story because it was a slow day and I had nothing better/the reporter who usually covers chocolate teapots was out etc. I probably wouldn’t frown at a PR who emailed me once but please don’t be one of the ones who emails 24 times, calls another 10 times and then acts shocked when I say thanks but no thanks because they really liked that one article I wrote that one time.

        The exclusives is a good one as well. Some publications couldn’t care less for them but most would snap your hand off if you say you have an exclusive for them. But please make sure it is a true exclusive and not an exclusive with a catch – for example, I’ve had people tell me I’ve got an exclusive on something, only to find out a competitor was given a similar-but-with-a-very-small-tweak piece. Sure, it may get one piece published, but I’m unlikely to come back to you again.

        The other thing I would add is that it’s almost certainly worth getting to know what the press cycle is like on a publication. As a general rule, the closer you get to the print deadline, the ‘bigger’ the story needs to be. If you call me early in the morning/near the start of a press cycle while I’m still busy putting my pitch list together, I’m much more likely to be open to hearing a pitch and will be much chattier and able to talk. If you call me later, you’ll be pulling me away from something else and I’ll be behaving accordingly. If you call me right on top of deadline, you better believe you have better have something worth stopping press for or I’m hanging up!! Ditto applies to ‘slow periods’ and culturally significant events – on my patch, stories tend to dry up over the summer and I’m always thankful to a PR who can lend a hand with a juicy exclusive during these periods. However, if you call me in the middle of that speech/event that everybody is trying to cover, I’ll be hanging up asap andd writing you off as having no news sense whatsoever.

    4. Shishimai*

      I need to learn to better turn “hey interesting presentation!” into “hey, I can DO that.” I’m happy to learn on my own, and am actually studying rhetoric at the moment in attempt to raise my persuasion game. Is there anything else I can do to up my game?

      I strongly suspect there’s other influences at play here: we’re all very busy, and I’m a specialist trying to get the (excellent, skilled, very busy) generalists in my department to pick up some of my specialized area, because one Teapot Integrity Specialist cannot cover meaningfully 30 different Teapot Development Teams.

    5. H.C.*

      Also in PR here too (in a senior specialist, occasional team/project lead role); how and when did you figure out that you wanted to go into the management side, what were the pros (asides from better pay, of course) and cons of that shift?