weekend free-for-all – August 25-26, 2018

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

Book recommendation of the week: Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan. I finally tried it, and it’s totally decadent and fun.

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

{ 1,408 comments… read them below }

  1. Serious Pillowfight*

    Our Danish exchange student is coming next week for the school year! He’s 16. Hubby and I have no kids. Any tips for helping a teenager thrive?

    1. HannahS*

      Not sure this is what you’re meaning, but I’d say, make your expectations clear to him. As in, do you want him to text you if he’s coming home past a particular time? Can he drink alcohol/smoke in your home? Can he bring friends over? Can he bring (ahem) friends over? Etc.

      Other than that, have a lot of food on hand. Teenage boys are like bottomless pits.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        I agree, they have hollow legs. Expect him to eat as much as your husband if not more (as opposed to a smaller portion because he is younger and probably smaller). Have snacks in and show him what he can help himself to if he’s hungry.

      2. Coffeelover*

        This is really good advice and will save you some awkward situations and arguments later on. Danish kids have a really liberal upbringing compared to the average North American, and he might assume you’d be okay with something you’re not. I live in Sweden and I know for example it’s normal for parents to allow a girl to spend the night with their teenage son.. Something few parents would allow in Canada.

        1. Coffeelover*

          It’s good for you guys to proactively think this stuff through too… What boundaries and expectations do you want to set for him.

          It’s not fair to retroactively be upset and assume he should have known better.

        2. Cat Herder*

          Make sure you know the law re drinking, smoking, dope, etc. In the US he is going to be underage.

      3. Specialk9*

        When I was a foreign students living with a paid host family (they took in exchange students to make ends meet) they chastised my college-athlete self for eating too much. They only took in girls because they wanted to pocket more of the food stipend. I felt so shamed, for years.

    2. Jemima Bond*

      I’d say (having been an exchange student although not for as long a period) make sure he has his own space and knows it’s ok to be there by myself or to come sit with you and your husband in the living room etc. Just so he’s not hanging around awkwardly wondering what is expected. Also run through the domestic stuff so he knows where to put laundry to be washed, what time you usually do meals, and what you’d like him to help out with e.g I’ll cook but it will be your job to stack the dishwasher, my husband will drop you off at school on his way to the office if you are ready to leave by 8am. This sort of things saves lots of awkwardness about things a teenager might be embarrassed to ask directly.

      I have to ask – if you haven’t got kids, what did you exchange for him?!?

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Also, his room will probably smell either strongly of Lynx or slightly like a hamster cage. It’s ok to either bang on the bathroom door if he’s been gelling his fringe for twenty minutes, or indeed to gently encourage showers/laundry if you think he’s letting it go a bit. The Mum way of asking whether he’s going to do something whilst making it clear he should do it, is polite enough: You’ll want to have a quick shower before we go/don’t forget to put your laundry in the basket, I’m putting a load on later.

        1. Ron McDon*

          Oh my word, I am dying laughing here! I have 18 and 13 year old boys, and the Lynx/hamster cage comment is spot on!!!

        2. Arjay*

          It took me way too long to realize that “gelling his fringe” wasn’t a euphemism for … something else. :)

        1. Jemima Bond*

          Lol genuine question though! When I was at school a foreign exchange was when you were matched up with someone from the country whose language you were learning, and they would come and stay with you and your family. They’d come in a group with other French (or whatever) students studying English. Then you’d go and stay with them and their family, as would your fellow pupils. It was literally a swap; you exchanged! But if Pillowfight is hosting a Danish boy and have no child going to Denmark to study Danish, in what sense is it an exchange?

          1. Artemesia*

            I was an exchange student in 1960 for a year; while the school exchanged me with a student, the families didn’t exchange kids. I lived with 3 families in Germany; he lived with a family in our town.

          2. Anona*

            I was an exchange student to the UK in the late 90s. It was more of a cultural exchange. My parents sent me away & paid a fee, but didn’t receive a student themselves.

          3. Serious Pillowfight*

            Ha ha, as others have said, it’s more of a cultural exchange. It’s not usually a tit-for-tat.

    3. Josie*

      If he wants to participate in afterschool activities/sports, let him. When I was an exchange student in the US, the school’s basketball coach wanted me to try out for the team, but my host family said absolutely not. They didn’t want want to spend time driving me to practices or games if I made the team. I also ended up turing down an invitation to a ski trip I really wanted to go on (and pay for myself), because their child (who didn’t like skiing) wasn’t going and it would be unfair if I got to go when she didn’t.

      In general, just be nice to him, and make it safe for him to ask questions if there’s anything he’s wondering about.

    4. Cristina in England*

      Try to learn about Danish cultural norms if you haven’t already. He will likely be much less forward than an American teenager and may not ask for things as directly as you might be used to. If you are familiar with the culture he is coming from you can minimise misunderstandings. Things that are rude to you won’t be rude to him, and the other way round, etc.

    5. Étudiante*

      I was an exchange student myself, at the age of 16, for a whole year.
      I had troubles with my first host family and then loved my second so I have really experienced both the lows and the highs of the program.
      I am going to type up a few things later or tomorrow when I’m back home and can use my computer.
      It can be a life-changing experience, wishing you all the best!

        1. Étudiante*

          I know I’m late to the game but I hope you’ll see it. So as I said I was an exchange student myself in high school for a year and then was a volunteer counselor for exchange students for 10 years. In my response I am using examples from my organisation that happened to other volunteers or my students (or to me…).
          (I didn’t have time to read all the comments so I will probably repeat some of the points already raised but I hope it will still be useful.)
          Hosting an exchange student can be a wonderful time for your family. Your student can become a true family member through this year. I have a friend who has a key to her host family’s home, just like their biological children. For me the closest friend I gained was one of my teachers whom I see regularly. I’m also in touch with my host mom and planning to see her (she has since moved away). So truely a life-changing experience.
          Before your ES arrives, I think the most important thing to do is to examine your family’s habits and try to see them a little through an outsider’s point of view. What makes you a family and how can you welcome a teenager into it? What will make you feel he is part of the family? What will make him feel they are a part of the family? Family activities? Helping out with housework? Family dinners? Him joining on your fishing trip and supporting the same football team? (These are all small things that can mean a lot to you but might not matter in other families. My home family is small and rarely dines together so I wasn’t really seeing the point in eating together.)
          Some ES come for the language, some for the culture, some for the freedom far away from their home families. All reasons can make for a very motivated student. I was very shy in the beginning and missed home – this doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy where I was, I just needed to warm up to the situation. Your ’strategy’ will need to be adapted to your kid so just be attentive.
          DOs – a few things that are good to discuss during the first couple of days
          – Where can the ES keep their luggage?
          – What are the obligatory family activities? (Dinner at 6 with everyone present? Church?)
          – Church (ES are usually required to attend with the host families – better to clear your expectations early on)
          – How can he call you? (usually first name basis but a friend of mine goes for mom/dad)
          – Does he need to call/message if he’s coming home later? Are sleepovers okay? What are the ground rules of him letting you know where he is?
          – Does he need to do his bed every morning? (Think of similar things that might be your pet peeves – maybe you didn’t even realise that there is this small thing that’ll make you go crazy if done in your home, like putting up their feet on the sofa etc.)
          – Does he need to do the dishes right away?
          – Can he serve himself from the fridge?
          – Are there any food rules? (no candy? )
          – Rules (laws in fact) on alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling – make sure to make him understand that these are taken very seriously (in a non-accustatory manner – I have seen parents freak out over this. It’s important to treat the ES as a partner
          – No driving – how flexible can you be in picking him up?
          If he is already conversational in English, your job in a way will be a lot easier because you getting to know him will go faster initially. It’s always a nice idea to help his vocabulary with post-its on objects or just going to a specialised store and pointing out niche things.
          The way we talk about race or sexuality in Europe can be quite different linguistically (as well), it’s good to explain this when it comes up (gender neutral expressions, politically incorrect words he might not be aware of.) Also, as English in not his first language, he might express his discontent in a much stronger or more hurtful way than he intends to – make sure you thing of conflict as a problem of language as well and teach certain rules in word choice.
          Usually programs require a certain grade level (not failing any subjects at least). US high schools offer a lot wider range of subjects and many sports activities that Danish (or in general European) schools don’t. In case this doesn’t case any logistical issues, encourage him to experiment and figure out what he’s interested in, maybe even in the long run. It’s quite common for European students to mention (even complain) that the US curriculum is too easy for them. (What this means and whether this is true or not is a discussion I don’t want to start or can/wish to contribute to as I have never studied in a US high school. I am just mentioning what our out-bound students said very often.) As going to school is just one part of the program, if this is what your ES says, turn it into an advantage because this lets him focus on his language skills more and leaves him with more freetime. Also,
          (MISSING) HOME
          Communication with home friends and family has never been easier. That’s not always an advantage.
          He might often say ’this is how we do it in Denmark.’ It’s not criticism (if it is, the ES is going agains the guidelines of the organization) but that’s his only frame of reference. He is there to change this but it’s quite a natural habit to keep comparing the two homes. Many students like when they can show how their home cultures work, that helps accepting a new culture and way of life.

          You will really need to do a lot of reflection throughout the program. In case you are facing difficulties, the ES organisation should have a counselor available. These should be people with svery specific experience, encourage also your student to meet them.
          Your habits and worldview will be challenged by a young foreigner. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand your horizon and make a change in a young man’s life.
          Looking forward to your updates and good luck!

          1. GermanGirl*

            Yes, the normal school curriculum can be too easy for some students. That is because at least in Germany highschool student exchange programs are marketed mostly to students attending university track schools (Gymnasium), so I guess honors or advanced placement students would be the equivalent to that in the US.

            I took AP Calculus (my math teacher had recommended it), AP Chemistry (I read the describtion of all the science classes when I visited my US high school counselor and this fit best with my level) and even AP English (the only friend I had made before school started took it and persuaded me to join), along with Spanisch 3 (mandated by my language obsessed school at home), US History (mandated by my exchange organization) and Theater Arts (just to take advantage of having something fun and different as a class).

            I dropped down to regular English and also dropped Theater Arts half way through the year, because AP English was just a bit too much work for me and I didn’t enjoy Theater Arts, but I was perfectly happy with AP Calculus and AP Chemistry.

    6. Red Reader*

      Question back: I’ve occasionally pondered hosting an exchange student; there’s a high school around the corner that’s a big magnet for them. But my household is unconventional – it’s me and my husband, plus two friends who might as well be my siblings. We have no kids and we’re all massive nerds (we all met at a gaming convention and have regular household D&D/Pathfinder nights). I’m also weird about houseguests, so I don’t know if it’s one of those things where I’d love it in theory but be crawling out of my skin after the first week. How did you decide?

      1. Hazelthyme*

        One way to test the waters might be to contact your local Rotary Club and ask if there are opportunities to help with their exchange program/interact with exchange students that DON’T require you to host for a full year. For example, they assign each exchange student a counselor who ISN’T their host parent, and whose job is to hang out/check in with them now and then (invite them over for dinner, go for a hike together, take them to a street festival) and basically be an adult in the host country they can talk to about cultural norms, issues or questions that come up with their host family, etc. They may also occasionally need temporary host families, who don’t commit for the full year but can be available for a week or 2 if there’s a gap in longer-term hosts’ availability.

      2. Serious Pillowfight*

        I actually was close friends with an exchange student when I myself was in high school so I knew a bit about the hosting process and how rewarding it was for everyone involved. We actually started out hosting military academy cadets three years ago, but we found it to be not very rewarding. They have a place to live (their dorm) and they are completely involved with their “shipmates” (by design), so we found we only heard from them rarely and only when they needed something.

        1. Serious Pillowfight*

          Re: being weird about houseguests, I actually would NEVER let a friend live with me after many bad experiences and ruined friendships. But I think knowing he’s a kid and he needs a nurturing environment and needs to focus on school will help the situation, because we won’t have the same expectations for him as we would with someone our age who is equal to us and needs to pull their own weight. He’s 16, so we won’t necessarily expect him to instantly know better in terms of being considerate and cleaning up after himself, etc. (Although of course we want that.)

        1. Quikaa1*

          That is incorrect. You may need to get a consent from natural parents, but we have had successful host parents who did not have kids at all in our AFS team.

    7. Sandy*

      I was an exchange student in high school! My tip: the first or second day is there, take him around the house and explain how everything works- shower, washer/dryer, microwave, etc.

      Some things will be the same and some won’t. I THOUGHT showers were completely intuitive until I was exchange student in Europe and the darn.thing.just.wouldn’t.work. Then I was too embarrassed to ask because I had already said I knew, and my host family couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t showered in a week…

      1. Tau*

        This is an excellent point. You would be surprised how different simple everyday things can be! (Windows. Door knobs, or rather the lack thereof. Light switches. Toilets. Etc.)

        1. fposte*

          Light bulbs! When I was studying in the UK my light bulb went out, and I scoffed indignantly when the porter asked me if I wanted him to replace it for me. And then it turned out it had a completely different base (which I now know is a bayonet mount), which I couldn’t see while the damn thing was still in place, so I had to sheepishly go back down and ask somebody to change a light bulb for me.

    8. Scandinavian in Scandinavia*

      If a four-letter-word crosses his lips on the beginning, please know that to many Danes, swearing is not a big deal. He might have to learn not to do that – also because swear words can seem less offensive in another language than your own.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Ha ha, thanks! My husband and I actually swear quite a bit ourselves, but we are going to cut it out around him.

        1. Specialk9*

          Btw, you might set your goal to a more realistic ‘try not to curse’. It took us a full year + to stop cursing, mostly (I accidentally cussed in front of my toddler today actually). Don’t expect miracles of yourself, and be kind if you mess up.

          Also, take it as an opportunity to talk about code switching and when cussing is ok (eg not ok in front of teachers at school, it’s ok with other teens so long as you avoid racial or gender based slurs, not ok in front of younger kids, avoid it around adults as a rule of thumb).

    9. Washi*

      I was an exchange student when I was 19, so a little older. With the family that I really liked, I appreciated that they invited me out outings 1-2 times per week, and generally were welcoming of me to spend time with them, but never pressured me to say yes. That was especially helpful in the beginning when I had no friends :)

      Also, I would recommend reading up on culture shock a little – basically people tend to be initially super happy and everything is new and fun, then you get overwhelmed and hate everything, then you adjust to the new normal (not necessarily that linearly though.) At 19 I’m not sure I always handled the middle stage with grace and if I had been 16, I definitely would not have. So it might help you to understand why he may sometimes seem grumpy or comparing everything to home.

    10. Sled dog mama*

      I was an exchange student at 17 and the #1 thing I wish my host family had done was tell me their expectations. Two weeks in they asked why I hated them because I never watched tv with them in the evening, um because you have a huge library of books I’ve never read and my family doesn’t watch tv so I didn’t know this was a thing

    11. Koala dreams*

      I have some experience as an exchange student for weeks, not a whole year. My advice would be to show him around the house and tell him how everything works. (laundry, shower, kitchen, garage etc) Give clear expections about what you expect from him. Encourage him to make local friends, and invite them to your house. Discuss what to have for breakfast, and be open to change it a little, teenagers often need a lot of food. Don’t be scared if he misses home. Maybe you can set up skype or something so you can introduce yourself to his parents and let him talk with them a couple of times a week. Be curious about his culture and show some interest if he wants to show you pictures or bake some typical food.

      1. Cat Herder*

        Don’t just talk about house rules: have them written down. I lived w a french family in Paris for four months: they were nice and explained everything, but it was so much info!

    12. Hazelthyme*

      Lots of good ideas on here! A few of my own, as a recent host mom and parent of an outbound exchange student:

      – Worth saying again: Talk about house rules and your expectations up front. Not only is this a teenager (= already likely to be pushing boundaries and figuring out how to behave), but he’s from another culture where some of the things he takes for granted will be different than you expect. Some topics you may want to address in the first few weeks:
      – Transportation: how will he get places? Can he use your car? A bicycle? Is there public transit available? Will you provide rides?
      – Socializing: Any rules for having friends over? Going out with friends? Telling you where he’s going? Curfews?
      – Drinking, smoking, & harder drugs.
      – Dating & sex: Can he have a girlfriend/boyfriend in the house when you’re not there? Can they stay overnight? Where’s the best place to buy condoms and such?
      – General house schedule, including any regular events you expect him to do with you, what times of day people come & go, etc.
      – Food: Can he help himself to anything in the house, or are some things off limits? Are there set mealtimes when you eat together as a family? Are there certain meals you prepare & eat together? Are there times when you DON’T prepare an official meal & everyone fends for themselves?

      – Especially at the beginning, invite him along on outings whenever you can, however ordinary. Your grocery stores, drug stores, etc. are probably different from the ones at home. Running next door to feed the neighbor’s cat/water their plants while they’re away is a chance to talk about what it means to be a good neighbor in your country/community.

      – Ask about his favorite foods, family traditions, etc. from back home. One of my favorite memories with my temporary son was watching a YouTube cooking video and trying to replicate his favorite Gujarati street food with common US ingredients.

      1. the other Junior Dev*

        Oh also make sure if he has a bicycle, he knows to lock it up (I know in a lot of countries bike theft is less common) and has lights, a helmet, etc.

      2. Serious Pillowfight*

        Thank you so much! Re: sex… I’m a bit torn on this. To be frank, I don’t mind too much if he has sex as long as he doesn’t get anyone pregnant or get an STD. But I suppose that’s the reason any parent would forbid it. Right now I’m leaning toward no members of the preferred romantic gender in his room with the door closed or when one of us isn’t home. Definitely no sleepovers. (I’m in the U.S….our Puritan founders’ values still ring deep! Ha.) As for doing drugs and alcohol, he could be sent home if the exchange student org learns about it. Also, I plan to tell him the drinking age is 21 and officials are VERY strict about it. Hopefully it won’t be an issue.

          1. Serious Pillowfight*

            Yikes…I’ll have to make sure I drive home how NOT OK it is here. Thanks for the warning.

            1. ..Kat..*

              Yes, if you are in the USA, this is a crime. You, the host family, could be arrested and charged.

              1. GermanGirl*

                That really depends on the organisation – some do very good prep courses (1-3 weeks even) and others just let the kids figure out stuff on their own.

                The organization that I went with as a 16 year old was the latter kind. No prep course or reading material or anything.

                Still, my exchange went pretty well. There were some misunderstandings of course, but I don’t think you can entirely avoid those. So if he’s doing/saying something you didn’t expect, ask clarifying questions before you move to accusations.

                My host family eventually got so used to my fairly good English that they were totally taken by surprise whenever I messed up at it.

                They: Are you excited about going to the homecoming ball?
                Me: (translating the question in my head excited => aufgeregt => nervous). No, why should I be?
                They: How can you not be excited about going to a ball?!

                They: How was the dance show?
                Me: It was funny.
                They: Oh, did somebody mess up?
                Me: No, where’d you get that idea?
                Turns out I should have said “It was fun to watch.” In German I would have said “mitreißend”.

                We had lots more misunderstandings of this type. Many didn’t get cleared up right away and if it’s about more serious things they can really put a strain on your relationship, so ask if you even suspect that something got mixed up in translation.

                Also, if he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet but wants to get one, get him started right away. Getting a license is much cheaper in the US than in Europe so it’s a huge benefit to him if he can get it in the US. I didn’t get around to asking about it until the second half of my stay and by then it was too late to complete the six month accompanied driving.

            2. CeeCee*

              While you are doing that please figure out how to let him know that if he finds himself in a situation where he/his ride/his friends are not safe to drive that he CAN call you, that you really want that, so that he isn’t making dangerous decisions because he is afraid to tap you in. Also, state law varies around providing alcohol to minors in home settings. Where I live *parents* can allow their minor children to drink in their home. Since his parents are not there to allow it you cannot offer the alcohol. Underage drinking with friends is not going to get you in trouble even if it may have repercussions for him.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I’ve hosted exchange students. I’m surprised the program isn’t providing more guidance. You shouldn’t be left to puzzle this stuff out.

          1. Serious Pillowfight*

            They’re providing plenty of guidance, but I wanted to ask the readers here because you all have such great advice!

        2. WellRed*

          He may be Danish, but he’s meeting American girls (or boys) whose parents likely have the same Puritan values ; ) Same with the drinking. He can’t buy it here or get served (easily. I am not naive). Neither can any friends he makes.

          1. jojobeans*

            Also, keep in mind that in Denmark, it’s average for teenagers to start having sex around age 14. Also, the definition of consent is different there. When I was there for a semester abroad in college, it was explained to us as essentially this: if a woman goes home with a man, for any reason, that is considered to be consent.

            One of my friends from the program actually had an issue with that. She was out with friends, got separated, missed the night bus, didn’t want to sit around alone for an hour in the middle of the night waiting for the next one so a Danish guy friend whom she had run into said she could come crash on the couch at his place instead.

            Guess what happened? She woke up in the middle of the night to find him pawing at her. She managed to get him to leave her alone and then left the next morning as soon as the trains started running again.

            So just keep that kind of thing in mind.

            1. Sandy*

              the average age of first intercourse in Denmark is 16 and the average age in the USA, as close as anyone can tell, is 17. We aren’t exactly talking amassive difference here.

              1. Scandinavian in Scandinavia*

                Consent should absolutely be explained clearly to him – e.g. by using the wonderful British tea-video. Consent is not required in DK

    13. Nana*

      Walk through everything…he may want to say he knows it all (teenager), but little things are different [lightbulbs]. Invite him to participate, but don’t push. Talk about your own teen years (just a bit, of course!).
      My family is still in touch with several of our exchange students (one Dane, several Japanese) and have visited back and forth. ENJOY

    14. Jane of all Trades*

      Oh how lovely! When I was about 16 a relative of mine hosted me in the US for a summer. They did such a wonderful job making me feel welcome, I moved here a few short years later and never looked back :)
      Things that helped me a lot:
      Space: they had a room ready for me, and had a card on the nightstand telling me they were happy to have me, and had included a basket with some snacks and toiletries. Nothing expensive, but so thoughtful, and made me feel so welcome.
      People: they had identified a few people in the neighborhood that I could potentially connect with (as they did not have kids my age). I didn’t bond with everybody, but it gave me a chance to meet some people in addition to the family I was staying with.
      Activities: they had thought of a few activities of things we could do for me to experience the country. Nothing “huge”, but more activities to experience US culture, including driving to a local attraction, dinner in the historic downtown area (we were in the suburbs) and day-to-day things like going to the pool, or a make-up workshop for a favorite make-up brand of my host (probably not so interesting to a boy, but you know what I mean).
      All of these things made for a wonderful, wonderful experience, and I am now so close to the family and love them dearly.
      Also, in addition to being from different cultures, at 16 you haven’t figured it all out yet – so I think you can also help the person thrive by telling them if their behavior doesn’t conform with expectations. In my case, coming from a less conservative culture than my host family, that included telling me when I was using language that they didn’t allow in their home, and when my dress style was not sufficiently conservative for church. So long as you bring it up in matter of fact – “this is something you might not know” – way, he probably will welcome you letting them know.
      I hope you guys have a lot of fun together!

    15. Louise*

      Just a little tip from a Dane: Please don’t think he is being impolite if he has a hard time saying “Please”. The word simply doesn’t exist in Danish and he may not even notice that he is not saying it! The closest phrase would be “if you would be so kind…”. Or if he wants someone to stand aside for example in a supermarked he may say something like “I am just gonna push you” or “if I just may push you…”. He is not being rude in Denmark, he is not physically going to touch a stranger, it is merely a “mental” push; by saying it out loud the other person will move.
      Other kind words or phrases you could tell him about may be appreciated :)

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Thank you so much! I didn’t know that about the word “please”! In my communications with him so far, he seems perfectly polite; I haven’t felt like anything is “off”…but I will keep that in mind if I feel like he seems rude at any point.

        1. Louise*

          Happy to help. If he’s used to speaking German it may not be a problem for him as they have the equivalent “bitte”.
          I hope all of you have a good experience! :)

      2. jojobeans*

        Hah, also Danes tend to be very direct. Another friend had an experience where she made dinner one night and when she asked how they liked it, they said it wasn’t very good. Not trying to be mean; just telling the truth! She thought it was hilarious and didn’t take offense at all, but it made a good lesson learned :P

      3. Specialk9*

        The ways language influences behavior and perception of the world is fascinating. It’s my favorite part about getting head-down in a language.

    16. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      Oooh I hope you have a wonderful year!

      I was an exchange student in the US… oh my god, 10 years ago, wow.

      I second everything that’s already been said – clear expectations, show him how everything works etc. For me, I always loved that my host family never treated me as a guest but as a fully fledged family member. I was supposed to do my chores but I was also just as clearly part of all their plans, holidays, they took me to the theatre or to the bookshop, they let me make my room my own including a trip to IKEA when my books became so numerous I needed a shelf etc etc (I know a lot of exchange students where that wasn’t the case and have always appreciated my host parents for how easily they made me part of their family).

      Also, and I realise everyone is different here, but keep an eye on how much time he spends on his phone/laptop, in touch with people at home. Obviously don’t forbid it, but for me it helped IMMENSELY especially at the beginning that my host family limited my screen time. It helped me arrive and become part of life in the US even in the first few weeks when I was really very miserably homesick. However, this was just before smartphones and internet on phones became a thing so might not be as easily done today.

    17. Coffee Cup*

      Food. Itis very important for an exchange student to feel like a member of your household and that you are willing to share your food with him on equal terms. Especially true for a young student with limited or no funds or liberty of movement to get food. I was an exchange student many moons ego with a big and quite well-off family. They would do a weekly shop on Sundays at the supermarket and get, like, four apples and two oranges for the entire family for a week. They would make comments about how much fruit I ate because I always took one apple every week… There was also a type of cereal I like I would put on the shopping list on Sunday if I was running out… Several times they checked how much was left and didn’t buy any if there was some (that would run out, say, by Wednesday). Some of it was cultural, but I had to live there and it made me feel very unwelcome. I was a bit older and had more independence than a 16-year-old, so I would buy apples and crackers and hide them in my room. It felt so hostile.

      Also, I lived there for a year and they never gave me a key. Don’t be like that family.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Good point. We are going to share all of our food with him. The organization gave us a booklet with tips and this, along with many others people have mentioned here, was among them. We will just ask that he lets us know if he uses the last of something.

      2. Khlovia*

        Ugh, that is awful! It is not supposed to be like that! Did you know how to contact the local representative of the exchange program? Even if you didn’t, they should have been checking up on you!

        It also sounds as though the exchange program neither screened the families very well nor provided any guidance to the host families.

        Sorry you had to deal with that.

        1. Coffee Cup*

          Thanks… I have good memories of my exchange year, and as a whole don’t regret having done it, but my (major, famous, usually competent) exchange program really didn’t (or doesn’t, it’s been ten years, so i don’t want to pass judgment) run very well in my host country. I was very young and didn’t have the conflict management or language skills to articulate my issues. Also a lot of it was psychological manipulation of a very troubled family that wasn’t necessarily directed at me. I agree that they had no business hosting, although I did like my host dad a lot and I sometimes get sad that I have decided that maintaining a relationship with them wasn’t worth it in the end.

          1. Coffee Cup*

            This is part of the reason why I stopped volunteering after I came back. I also didn’t agree with the theatrics of my program. This could out it, but the aura of mystery they tried to create with not telling candidates even which country they went to (or God forbid share any anecdotes, because for some reason high school kids aren’t capable of understanding their personal experience will be different). I also took part in one student selection procedure knowing that at least one chapter (my host country) didn’t have the same courtesy towards the students regarding their host families…

            I am a big proponent of student exchange, but it isn’t always perfect…

    18. OtterB*

      You may get this from the sponsoring organization, but if you have friends / neighbors / relatives with kids in the local high school, ask either the parents or the kids about “what should someone from another culture know about your school.” Also, if you know about his interests (music, sports, art, etc.), if you can help him find groups that participate in those activities. School-based extracurriculars are good, but out-of-school groups with a broader age span might also help him make connections he will enjoy.

      1. GermanGirl*

        Oh yes, and if he is into sports and would enjoy joining a school team, find out when the tryouts are at the high school and take him there (or if he arrives after the tryouts, talk to the coach about a late tryout).

        I’d have enjoyed marching band but my host family didn’t know (and I didn’t know that tryouts were even before school started, so I didn’t ask about it) and I arrived too late to try out.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yes! We often had exchange students on our soccer team in high school! One year I think 10% of the team were exchange students from Europe.

    19. Belle di Vedremo*

      What fun!
      A couple general thoughts:

      Cross-cultural stuff can be unexpected. We don’t even think about a lot of things, and then discover other cultures do them differently. Helps a lot to find it interesting rather than troublesome.

      Alcohol: European teens have often been drinking for years, so being clear up front about the law (and the implications for the exchange program, and for you as his hosts) is important. Even if the exchange co tells them, it’ll seem different to hear it from actual humans you’re living with. A rule that has been helpful for others is that if you’re somewhere with people who are drunk and want out (even if you’ve had a drink yourself), call home and we’ll come get you no questions asked that night.

      Independence: what’s a comfortable amount of info about where he is, how long he’ll be gone, and when he’ll be home? And, what’s a comfortable amount of info about where YOU are, when you’ll be home, etc? How much are you willing to drive him around/vs asking him to take public transportation/vs asking others (kids?) for rides? Will you expect him to honor your preferences for lights out/quiet time etc? Can he raid the fridge at 3am? Or whenever he wants? How much notice do you need before he brings friends home? How much notice before inviting them to dinner/asking if he can have dinner out?

      Facial cues: my experience with Scandinavians is that their range of facial expressions is generally smaller than is common in the US. He’ll likely be reading your face earlier than you expect, and you might be slow to read his. It’s not that he won’t show much on his face, but that a lot of humor, etc, comes with a straight face and a twinkle in the eye rather than a sly grin.

      WiFi etc: are you going to restrict access at all, restrict access to porn, etc etc? Are you providing a phone or is he getting a sim card for his phone for use here? How will you agree to manage data for the household plan?

      Start stricter, and relax rules as it seems right to do so. It’s harder to reinstate them.

      Be clear about how you run your home. Eg, don’t talk to anyone before coffee has been consumed. Don’t talk with the TV on/it’s fine to chat through the entire show. Please wear a robe/towel between the shower and the bedroom. Etc.

      Have fun!

    20. WellRed*

      You’ve gotten so many amazing suggestions. I am excited for you to learn a bit about Danish culture ( I think they are supposed to be the happiest nation?) My only suggestion: if you like 80s John Cusack movies, may I recommend Better off Dead ; )

    21. Anono-me*

      Please make sure he knows about calling 911 and best practices for interaction with law enforcement in the USA. (Most European countries have a different number to call for emergencies. I have been told by European friends that it is typical to get out of the car and approach the patrol car if pulled over.) If you have voip, make sure your number and address are registered with local emergency services.

      If your exchange student is a person of color and your household is not ; maybe consider having someone in your community who is a person of color discuss best practices for interaction with law enforcement and in other situations.

      If your exchange student practices a religion, please make sure he knows where and how he can do so.

      Free grazing food is very important. Please make sure he knows where stuff for snacks, sandwiches and food to offer his guests is kept.

    22. Roja*

      We just welcomed our 18 y/o Spanish exchange student a week ago! It’s been great thus far, which is a relief after last year’s disaster. But he is neat and tidy and doesn’t appear to have a hollow leg yet–so don’t necessarily assume yours will be typical. I would say be prepared to do a lot of emotional labor the first few weeks especially if making sure he feels included in tasks and conversations. Hope you have a good year together!!

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Care to share details of the disaster? Not that I expect my experience to be that way, but good to hear about what can go wrong.

        1. Roja*

          It’s difficult to know what to say. We were her second host family. She didn’t want to engage in any way with us–would not talk, wouldn’t go places, nothing, despite our best and kindest efforts to draw her in/ask if she was homesick/etc etc etc. Got worse and more hostile the farther on we went into the year. Eventually she asked for another transfer and we were only too thrilled to have her go. She got sent home two months later for telling her next host family how disgusting she thought Americans were and for being generally nasty. We never could figure out why she had come if she didn’t want to.

          It’s just so great now having a student who really wants to do things and interact. We love hosting this time! We love having guests so it’s just fantastic all around.

    23. SRRPNW*

      Don’t know whether it is the same in Denmark, but we had an Icelandic exchange au pair, and she didn’t understand our sheets/blankets situation. They just had bottom sheets, topped with a duvet with washable cover. So when she pulled back the blanket she thought the top sheet was the bottom sheet (didn’t even think of looking for a bottom sheet) and that we were missing the cover for the blanket. Didn’t take long for us all to figure that one out, and we all got a laugh out of it, but just be aware.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I had to go look up videos on how to make a bed, to see what you were talking about. I’m also used to the duvet with cover, and I still remember the confusion when my Dad explained to me how they used to make the bed when he was little, with the top sheet.

    24. Sami*

      Understand that the first few days or weeks he may be extra tired. Even if he speaks English, having that be the only language he hears and speaks can be an exhausting experience.

    25. Quikaa1*

      I volunteer with a high school exchange (AFS) and went as a teen.. we find that doing a second “orientation” to your house and asking and answering questions a week or so after arrival helps (most of the time the kids are so excited and tired they only absorb a part of what you say in the first few days). Often the kid on the papers is not the kid you get (often their application papers were written a year before and kids and their interests change). Also work with them to schedule a “fun” class for them in school (art, music, sports, drama etc) as this will help them meet people with similar interests and these classes often allow more time to chat. Don’t worry about grades so much in the first weeks, they will catch up as they learn the system. Do make sure that they get top marks for paying attention, trying hard, etc.
      Often Scandinavian kids speak what seems to be fairly good English, but they can misunderstand some of the slang and sayings or have trouble if multiple people are speaking plus they can get headaches and overload from speaking English all the time so don’t assume they don’t need some assistance (like speaking slower and one at a time).
      Make sure both you and the student has a contact at the placing organization you both can talk to if help is needed (at AFS we assign a volunteer liaison who meets with the kid and family at least once per month and makes sure all is well and helps sort things out if there are issues – usually most issues are due to miscommunications and different expectations. If there is a bigger problem, the liaison can bring in experienced support staff to help before a small issue becomes a small issue)- acting as this volunteer liaison is a great way to meet the kids and see if you are interested in hosting or if you have limited time, but want to have some of the exchange experience.
      Hope you have a great year.

      1. NewFriend*

        Show interest in his culture- food, customs etc. When you’re an ES, everything is new and you’re bad at things you were good at before. It’s like being 5 years old all over again. Even ordinary tasks are excruciatingly difficult. Having the chance to be an expert on something is a breath of fresh air. In contrast, declining to learn from your student makes that person less willing to learn from you.

    26. Jenno*

      So many good comments already, so I’ll try not to duplicate. I was an AFS student in Norway and have spent time in Denmark as well.
      My first host family had no kids, but they were both music teachers and liked their teenage students, so they thought they were prepared to host a teenager 24/7. It didn’t work out well, once the novelty wore off and we started to relax around each other. Teenagers, especially ones whose brains are tired from processing a foreign language all day and coping other unexpectedly new things, can be snappish, attitudinal, petulant, etc. — just like teens who aren’t doing those things. Leave a lot of room for this teen to be a teen and don’t get upset at every display of negative emotion. You’ll wear yourselves and him out too quickly. Figure out where your line is and let him know when he’s crossing it, but otherwise let some of the eye-rolling and door-slamming pass unacknowledged.
      Nudity – Europeans are much freer about showing their bodies. If you go to the pool or the beach, he might expect to change on-site (and by that I mean on the pool deck or on the beach), so let him know that Americans put their bathing suits on at home or in a locker room, not in public. And we generally don’t go in the sauna nude either. If he sees you in the altogether, he’ll be way less embarrassed than you are — soap advertisements in Denmark show breasts.
      It’s common when you have guests to offer them choices at meals or with activities, but choice can be a minefield for an exchange student when you don’t know what options you have to pick from. I’m not saying don’t offer choices or be accommodating, but instead to model the routine so that he develops a baseline. For example, in the beginning, instead of saying “What would you like for breakfast?” (Danish breakfast looks like lunch to Americans.) Say, “This is what we typically have for breakfast on weekends/weekdays/whatever.” After you’ve been through the routine once or twice, and he’s had a chance to see what the options are, then it’s easier for him to choose. Kind of goes in with spelling out expectations which lots of people have mentioned, but I remember in the beginning feeling like I just wanted people to do what they normally do and let me watch and get the hang of it, rather than ask me what I wanted to do, because I mostly wanted to do whatever they would do. He’s come here to learn our ways–don’t be shy about showing them.
      Celebrate the holidays intentionally — even if you’re not normally a Halloween person (for example), buy some decorations and give out candy. Have Thanksgiving dinner with alllll the trimmings, and so on. This is his one shot to experience these things, and they’re the kind of thing people at home will ask about. Holidays are deep in cultural meaning, so live them to the fullest this year.
      It generally takes about three months until you feel like he’s always been there. The closeness will grow; feed it but know you can’t force it.

      1. Barbara*

        I live in Europe and never saw anyone changing at the site in pools. It would be considered gross unless you are a small child.
        Maybe in Norway as they are known to be less prudish than the average.

        1. GermanGirl*

          You haven’t?

          People wrap a towel around themselves and change unter that all the time at public outdoor pools or at lakes in Germany. And in certain areas (for example at the lakes around Berlin) or at private pools they’ll even skip the towel. Also a lot of people just swim naked in the lakes around Berlin.

          I definitely had to get used to how not ok nakedness was in the US.

          My host family even bought new underwear for me because they thought mine was too skimpy, but they didn’t actually say that, just we got some new underwear for you. Well, after trying the new stuff for a couple of days I continued wearing my old underwear because I liked it better and I didn’t know why I should wear the other kind and they were quite put out.

    27. Serious Pillowfight*

      I honestly cannot thank all of you enough for these thoughtful and excellent tips. I have read every single response. I plan to respond individually to everyone!

    28. Specialk9*

      In general, expect an exchange student to be mentally wiped out by 6 – 8 pm. Working in a foreign language and culture is really taxing, even if one’s language skills are high.

      Living abroad has general trends as the year goes along. The first month or so, everything is awesome!!! They’re still pro-new environment for the first 3 months. 3-6 months, the novelty is gone, they focus on the downsides of the culture, and homesickness really kicks in hard. 6-9 months they start to come to a place of balance.

      Oh, and my personal experience was that Europeans find US bread creepy as heck, with the preservatives. You might buy bakery fresh sliced bread and freeze it, so it’s less of a shock. (Unless you live right next to a bakery, which I saw a lot in Europe even in suburbs, but rarely in the US except downtown.)

      1. Ms Cappuccino*

        Oh yes we like our fresh bread. Another option is making the bread if you have the inclination (easy with a bread maker).

  2. Jemima Bond*

    This week I bought a second hand car (my previous was uneconomic to repair) and it’s nothing posh, a nine-year old Mazda 6, but will get a good wash and brush up later today (I’m currently awaiting my bacon roll and coffee in bed, bless my OH!). OH has discovered via YouTube the wonderful world of car “detailing” (cars I’ve had before I’ve just washed…very occasionally) and now we have an array of products and instructions.
    Any good car cleaning tips or comments on Mazdas are very welcome! Or indeed accounts of your own wheels – what do AMM commenters drive?

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I feel like I could lose some hours watching those videos. Not sure if I should thank you or not.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I recently discovered detailing clay and it has changed my life. Ok not really but I did get some marks off hubby’s truck that have been there for years.
      The thing that really changed my cleaning to detailing my own car was cleaning on the inside, detailing slime to get the dirt out of the little cracks where rags can’t get, that was an amazing change.
      I love mazdas I think they are really cute.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        OH ordered some clay and it’s great stuff! The slime is a new one on me – might have to check that out.

        1. Artemesia*

          I once sideswiped the garage and ran a strip of plaster and paint down the side of my newish car — it looked like a $500 to a 1000 repair. I went on line and saw a video on using claybar and went out and spent about $30 on a kit with the claybar and polish and applicator etc. The car was like new when I was finished; lots of elbow grease.

    3. LilySparrow*

      I just got a seven year old Toyota Highlander. I got a good price on it because it was a trade-in. My mechanic gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up, but apparently the prior owner used it as their dog/hunting/ATV vehicle, because it was **FILTHY**.

      The dealership did their standard detailing, but that just took off the top layer.

      I will follow this thread with interest. I’m already excited learning about the slime.

      I used a vinyl repair kit on a tear in the armrest, a glass-chip repair kit on the windshield, and just ordered a paint touch-up kit for some scratches.

      1. LCL*

        I have a large SUV. It was a low mileage repo from the boonies of Idaho. I suspect its history was similar to yours. I can tell the detailer took the front seats out to do the clean and detail. The way the front seats fit with the front differential, there are a lot of nooks and crannies that can’t be reached with a rag or vacuum. It’s still a dogmobile with me.

        1. Auntie Social*

          Our “new” SUV may have been a crime scene—there was a HUGE blood stain in the cargo area, and possible buyers would pop the hatch, take one look at the stain, close it and go. I got a great deal and just used a lot of hydrogen peroxide and enzyme detergent. It runs great, there was less than 10k miles on it—heck, even if I’d had to replace the carpet it was a great deal. The old SUV is now the wienermobile!!

    4. King Friday XIII*

      Queen Sara drives a Mazda 3 that we’ve had for a couple of years now and loves it. It’s sporty but super-reliable at the same time. Maybe I should learn more cleaning tricks – Princess Tuesday is a dedicated granola fan, and so our backseat is basically an oat farm despite my best efforts so far. XD

    5. anon24*

      I detail cars as a hobby after doing it professionally for 2 years. If it wasn’t so dependent on the economy I would have opened my own business. If you go back to the “share your knowledge” open thread I have a bunch of tips posted. Any questions you have in particular? (Also, I’m usually scanning the weekend thread so if you have questions in the future I’ll probably see them)

      1. Jemima Bond*

        What are your best tips for cleaning alloy wheels? On this car they haven’t really been looked after and there are some stubborn marks/dirt. We’ve used car shampoo and a brush and cloth but the brush is a flat one not a cylindrical wheel brush – I think we need one. We also used a bit of the clay after we’d done the paintwork, which helped, but I think my next step will be to take it to a jet wash for the benefit of high pressure water. What say you?

        1. anon24*

          I’m really not a fan of the cylindrical wheel brushes. They don’t get into the corners and I usually end up throwing mine in disgust. Smaller is better for wheel brushes, mine is barely bigger than a toothbrush. Using soap meant for the paint of the car doesn’t usually work well because those soaps are generally an alkaline, which isn’t great for the brake dust and grease. Best advice would be to get an acid based wheel cleaner, take it somewhere with a pressure washer, soak the wheels in cleaner, hand brush them (wear gloves!), and pressure wash it off. (Make sure to rinse well). When I detailed professionally I used straight acid and it worked amazing.

    6. Someone Else*

      Not sure if you meant it literally, but since you asked for tips: don’t use brushes. Use microfiber cloths.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Not even for wheels? The guy on the YouTube videos used a cylindrical brush thing to get in between the gaps. We didn’t use a brush on the paintwork; just microfibre cloths as you say.

    7. LilySparrow*

      In case anyone else was searching for anon24’s prior knowledge sharing about auto detailing, the link is in my username here.

      You can also look up the thread from March 22, 2018 and search the page for “auto detailer”.

  3. Cristina in England*

    I am back from my holiday from hell and we are back in a good place, spirit-wise, though it got pretty dark!

  4. LDN Layabout*

    Travel/travel planning nerds: I am about to score my best ever flight coup and while I have to wait (for a gift card to activate), I am very excited.

    Honestly for me at least 50% out of a trip’s enjoyment for me is the planning. Scouring tripadvisor and google maps, checking third party hotel site prices vs. the hotel’s website (pro-tip: if you’re the friend group travel booker and you stay in fairly nice places, using hotels.com where you get the average of your last 10 nights as a voucher for your next booking is really useful) and making custom google maps for each trip with food/attractions/places to stay (before anyone asks, yes, Virgo).

    This is also the biggest trip I’ll have done for a while (Road trip in IN/TN/MS/LA, followed by some solo travel in Chicago and Boston) so there’s a lot of space for travel ‘wins’.

    What are some of people’s best travel wins/scores?

    1. Blue*

      I don’t really have any major deals I’m proud of (though I did just buy a ticket to Europe that’s cheaper than my last ticket to California, so I’m pretty excited about that!), but for me, the most satisfying part of trip planning is finding the more obscure things to do. My favorite activities are pretty much always niche things that I found only after a lot of internet research, so I’m generally excited to spend a lot of time digging in and finding all the options. Enjoy your trip!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        The digging is always a fun part :) I tend to be like that re: food choices, since I enjoy getting people together and trying new things on trips.

      2. BeenThere*

        We always go where the locals go, eat what the locals eat, etc. I love doing things that are not in the travel brochures!

        1. Anonymosity*

          That’s why I like to deliberately get lost in London. I always find some really out-of-the-way thing and it’s fun. It’s also very easy to get unlost; all you have to do is find a tube station and look at the map. :)

    2. Reba*

      I also love planning! And I love the things that work out that you couldn’t really have planned for. I of course get the thrill of the deal, but in the past couple years I have also released myself from trying so hard to get the cheapest possible thing and researching it to the bone.

      I highly recommend visiting the Whitney Plantation, about an hour outside NOLA.

      Are you somehow getting from IN to TN without going through KY? ;) I have recs for the latter as it’s my home state!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Yes! There’s a difference now, for me at least, between best deal and best deal for me (for example; this flight I’m booking will hopefully get me a first class seat, for the same price I paid several years ago for a premium economy ticket).

        It was in the plans! Both myself and my road trip buddy wanted to do a plantation but also not to do one where everything gets…glossed over. Hence, Whitney.

        I think we’re mostly going to be driving through it on this trip unfortunately, although we may stop in Bowling Green on the Nashville to Indy leg of the trip…It was on the list before, but then we decided weather-wise we were a month too early to do the Smokeys so we extended further south instead (Indy->Memphis->NOLA->Nashville->Indy)

    3. fposte*

      Funny, I love the planning but for me it’s not the budget but the schedule (I’ve kept somewhere my modular charts for my first trip to London) that I love geeking out on. I should make sure always to travel with somebody like you.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Oh the schedule is coming too XD Including trying to go via as many scenic byways/parkways as time allows.

        I’ve been really lucky that all the friends I’ve chosen to travel with are either planners or appreciate having a planner in the group. I do know people who are very ‘let’s not plan until we get there!’ which is fine and they seem to have a lovely time and if I every traveled anywhere without having accommodation prebooked I would be having a heart attack.

        1. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

          Same here! I’m fine not planning out activities but I need to know where I will sleep at night, and I need to know it before the trip starts.

        2. jojobeans*

          Oh god yes, me too. I love traveling but I struggle with anxiety, and I find that planning everything out (for the most part, at least) really helps keep the anxiety at bay. Things like activities can be flexible but I really have to know where I’ll be spending each night at the very least.

          I once traveled with a friend who created a spreadsheet of activities, routes, locations/hotels, etc. I personally don’t go quite that far, but I was totally happy to travel with someone who did :D

          And if you do want a bit of flexibility in your extended travels, it’s also possible to only book a few days in advance as you go. As long as I know where I’ll be staying tonight and preferably tomorrow, that gives you the flexibility to maybe stay in one place a bit longer or cut down on another stop.

    4. BeenThere*

      We recently went to Europe. The tickets had been advertised at about $1300 a piece for weeks. It was getting to the point where I needed to make a decision so one Tuesday morning I looked them up again and they were $600! You know I jumped on those babies!!

      1. LDN Layabout*

        That’s a really good price. It’s always so satisfying when you know you’re getting a bargain.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Best airfares I’ve ever scored were: a roundtrip LAX – London for about $180 or so – in 2001. Then a United mistake fare, roundtrip Chicago – London in 2008 for $110 each.

      More recently I sit and watch for deals come up on the travel blogs and in February scored £2100 for two people Qatar business class Stockholm-Singapore roundtrip. That trip is happening in November and we are planning now as it is an extensive three-week trip across five countries, involving hauling my parents around Stockholm for five days in the end, two day stop over in Doha, and a beginners tour of SE Asia. I can’t tell you how many hotels I have looked at in the last three weeks and reviews on trip advisor but… we are getting there!.

      I have to say that the hotels.com perk is HUGE though, and I wish I had twigged to it sooner. Other Half was business traveling extensively last winter and spring and my god we could have had four free nights had I been paying attention. For Europe often the best prices are out of Stockholm, but the hotel in the airport is very expensive (fly in the night before and stay over) – to have a cache of “free” nights we could use there would be awesome. Or say in Los Angeles where everything is expensive but everything is also listed as redeemable on the website. Sure the room may not be the best but who cares if you are staying at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica for free?! Also – I just can’t be bothered to figure out the ins and outs of every hotel rewards program, especially as Other Half usually ends up having to stay in some crap business hotel of no international chain when he is on site.

      What I love about travel planning is learning all sorts of either a) the local customs or b) that there are people truly passionate about very niche topics in this world. Did you know there is a guy who has an entire blog solely about his trip reports on the different luxury and non-luxury bus lines between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur? Thanks to his photos and tips we decided to ditch the “romantic” idea of sleeping with our luggage on the overnight train and switch to a more comfortable luxury bus, which we would have never EVER considered in Europe (these are like airplane seats and you get a meal and a stewardess and everything!).

      Travel and travel planning tends to always remind me that as much as there are different cultures around the world we are all more alike than you would think at first glance.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Those are some deals! I’m getting a multicity First Class round trip for the US for the same price I paid for premium economy several years back which is exciting (and probably the last time I’ll be able to afford first class, but I’m going to enjoy it).

        Your trip sounds really amazing and at least you’ve discovered Hotels.com now! I’m using it as a mini-upgrade for myself when I go to one of the more expensive cities (Boston).

        I love sites like that! I assume you’re aware of seat61.com? It’s probably my favourite ever travel website find and it’s opened the door to so many fun trips (high speed Paris to Barcelona, the Russian sleeper carriage between Budapest and Belgrade…)

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          Oh well done on that ticket! There was a Qatar flash sale on Tuesday – London to Kuala Lumpur return for £798 business (yeah, you read that right!). We couldn’t have afforded to take that on, but I like to remind myself that deals are always out there. Best blogs are Head for Points (UK based) and then God Save the Points and One Mile at a Time. Finally I also check the FlyerTalk Premium Deals thread a few times a day to see what is new. Some of those people are insane, but they also have really good tips on how to get great fares.

          Seat61 is awesome! He lays everything out so clearly. My parents are using it to plan the SailRail from Dublin to London (they are coming to watch the cats for us while we are away) and sometimes I like to look at random routes on occasion like a little mini holiday at lunch :) To do the Trans Siberian and then a ferry to Japan would be amazing, although a guy at work did the train in Peru I think that goes along a mountain for three days and THAT looked incredible too. “sigh” too much to see and not enough time/money.

    6. Anonymosity*

      I was just really proud of myself for planning my day trip to Scotland in 2014 on the Caledonian Sleeper. I used the Seat 61 website to plan the train trip. I also found a share-a-tour company (invernesstours dot com) to take me to Loch Ness so I wouldn’t have to deal with riding the bus, since the loch is fourteen miles outside the city of Inverness. I highly recommend Inverness Tours; they were very easy to deal with by email. The tour guide picked me up at the station and he was wonderful.

      Not only did the trip go smoothly, but going to Loch Ness and sleeping on a train were two separate bucket list items. And I managed to get them into one trip! :)

    7. Nye*

      Earlier this year I found nonstop tickets from the East Coast to Hong Kong for <$1K. It was work travel, but I was pretty stoked – especially because nonstop meant 16 hours of travel time instead of 30 hours (including, on many other itineraries, 8+ hours layover in Beijing).

  5. Anonicat*

    My fellow Australians…what a week. At work we weren’t even pretending to not have the political liveblogs open all the time.

    “Not ineligible” are my new favourite weasel words.

    1. Drop Bear*

      Another fun round of leadership spills! I’ve tied myself in knots trying to explain it to my US based friends – our systems are so different in some ways. I now know how my SO felt trying to explain cricket to me when I arrived here. :)

    2. Anono-me*

      It is normally common for Ambulance Crews and other medical professionals ask “Who is the current President/Prime Minister/Fearless Leader?” as part of their assessment of patients. Apparently, according to a BBC news article, Australian Ambulance Crews have stopped asking it.

      As weird and frustrating as it must be to Australian people; It is wonderful to see of the power of democracy and how the transfer of power in Australia is happening with drama, but not bloodshed.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Heh. When I was hit by a car (in the US) they asked me “who’s the president? I don’t need to know what to you think of him, just his name.”

      2. Drop Bear*

        My daughter is an emergency department doctor and a common response to that question in Australia is often, ‘that [insert expletive commonly used in Australia but shocking in most other countries]’. As she says, they may not be wrong, but it doesn’t really help in the assessment!

        1. Anonicat*

          My friend said that during the Abbott government a patient replied, “Whatshisname…big ears.” They accepted that as orientated.

      3. Drop Bear*

        It’s not actually a transfer of power – we still have the same government, all that has changed is who is the leader of the party that forms the government. It is probably most similar to the party with the majority in the US HOR selecting a new majority leader – it doesn’t change which party has the majority and thus (technically) the power in the House. The drama comes from watching the party implode and break into factions that backstab each other – having sworn on everything they hold dear the day before that they would NEVER be disloyal to the leader. It can also of course change the policy direction of the government – if the faction who wins the leadership for their ‘person’ is more/less right/left wing than the faction that previously had the leadership position. Clear as mud? Let me tell you about cricket now….!

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          The most confusing part is knowing which vegetable to ironically put on your doorstep to represent the losing leader/hopeful. Onions for Abbott, potatoes for Dutton, but the average Australian can’t afford to put out a gold brick for Turnbull….

    3. Tinkle*

      Even checking the blogs between meetings, I couldn’t keep up! When someone said ScoMo was in, I was shocked – was still back expecting Dutton!

  6. Bumble of nerves*

    So I started trying Bumble about two months ago and posted here a few times with various frustrations. Not much has happened that’s worth mentioning (standard swipe/match/chat/meet, but so far no connections formed).

    But the other night as I was swiping, a guy I knew from high school came up. This was probably the first boy I had a crush on (oh so long ago). If this was a rom-com, I would’ve swiped right, we’d have connected, met up, gotten into hijinks and then live happily ever after.

    Of course, this isn’t a rom-com, so I didn’t do that and none of the other stuff happened. I sort of knew he was living in this city (we have a number of mutual friends) and last time we caught up was about 5 years ago (with some of the said mutual friends) . It was kind of fun to indulge the fantasy for a bit but realistically I know it’s not something that’s going to happen.

    1. Kali*

      I made out with my high school crush when we were in our early 20s,just to indulge that fantasy. It was not good.

      1. Anonymosity*

        I can’t think of any of my past crushes whom I would want to make out with now, except for the fictional one.

    2. Clever Name*

      I came across 2 former coworkers on Bumble, and I swiped left. Both were good guys I enjoyed working with, but had no romantic interest in them at all.

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        I ran across one of the guys in my HR department. I can’t tell you how fast I blocked. Nope. No no. No.

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          Uh. To clarify since I’m also friends with people in HR, so it’s certainly not anti-HR feelings. He goes by say Robert at work, but was listed as Bobby. And his entire profile was something to the effect of “just buzzing around to see what’s out there” complete with a bee emoji. I feel I know too much now, particularly since I strive to keep work and personal very separate.

    3. wingmaster*

      Not romantic, but I had my first Bumble BFF “date” yesterday. It went ok..we watched Crazy Rich Asians, and that was it. We’ve probably talked for 5 minutes before and after the movie. We could’ve discussed more about the movie. Movies as the first date is weird…

      1. Tinder user*

        I just joined tinder to look for other women to talk to/meet/etc. (im female). For some reason I keep finding couples and men in my feed. I checked my settings 8 million times. Pretty annoying.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          As a bi girl who’s had this problem before, there’s an app called Her that was better for that. It’s very glitchy, but you don’t get people constantly badgering you for threesomes the way you get on Tinder…

    4. AK*

      Found my roommate on Tinder a few years ago and thought it would be funny to “super like” him, so he got a notification whether he even saw me on there or not. It took me foreeeeeever to convince him that I’d done it as a joke and that I wasn’t harboring some secret love for him. I really wasn’t, I just thought it would’ve been a funny “haha, you too?” kind of thing and that we were similar and close enough that he’d see it the same way, he definitely didn’t.

  7. Babel*

    For people who teach/take language courses: how do you determine what level you should enrol in (assuming there isn’t an assessment at the point of enrolling)?

    Also, if you feel like you’re between levels, would it be better to go with higher to push yourself, or lower so you’d still get some practice without getting discouraged?

    1. Jo*

      Talk to one of the instructors if you can, or ask if the enrollment office can provide you with an e-mail address if no-one is around between the end of one course and the start of the next round. No teacher wants to teach students who’re either in over their heads or bored out of their minds, so they’ll be happy to offer advice based.

      As for the level in general: I think it depends on your learning situation. If you know you’ll be able (and motivated) to invest a few hours a week outside the course to prepare and review, a higher level can be rewarding. In that case also ask your teacher at the end of each lesson what topic/materials you’ll be covering next time so you can prepare at home.

      If you’re doing the course to get back into a language and as a stimulating hobby but you won’t have the time to diligently prepare every lesson, go for the lower level. It sucks all the fun out of a language course if you start falling behind after a few weeks and you can’t keep up. You can always do the lower-level course and then move on to the higher one afterwards, with a solid foundation to build on.

    2. Ruth (UK)*

      Personally, I prefer to go lower if I’m between levels. I have taken a number of language classes over the last few years including Arabic starting at beginner level and French starting at not-quite-beginner level. For the French I read the level descriptions and decided to go with the lower option of the two I thought I seemed to be between, as I have no deadline on my learning so I thought it better to end up reviewing things I might already know rather than be confused at a higher level

    3. Washi*

      I guess I’ll be the odd one out and say that I tend to see on the side of going higher. I tend to learn faster than average in language classes, and going into a lower level would only lead to me wanting to poke my eyeballs out in frustration with the slow pace, whereas at a higher level, I can feel challenged to catch up. But I think it depends on your aptitude! If I had to take a chemistry class, I would definitely go lower since I always struggled with that.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Ah I’m the opposite! I feel nervous and easily embarrassed when language learning, despite having learned various languages at various levels over the years. I prefer to keep it ‘safe’ and below my level and/or at a very comfortable pace. Conversely, if it was chemistry (to take your example) I’d feel more confident to have a go above my level and catch up (I’ve always found maths/science subjects to be my stronger points). I recently did an advanced Microsoft Excel course which I knew was above my level as I figured I could take away enough to do a bit of self-study afterwards and finish with more to take away than had I done the more basic one (this turned out to be true for me in this case). I guess people feel differently about different types of subjects etc

      2. ainomiaka*

        I am with you. I will generally get to the level of people around me in a language class-so if I was going lower I would be way more likely to not rise much. Whereas higher I would learn. But everyone is different.

      3. Julianne (also a teacher)*

        I’ve found that the same is true for me; I like having more proficient classmates/peers because it causes me to push myself. (Language learning is also an area where I have very little fear of making mistakes, which is definitely not true of all learning areas for me.) When I did Spanish immersion (as an adult), I had far lower proficiency than anyone else in the immersion program, having only Duolingo lessons before I went. But all the other American participants wanted to use Spanish 100% of the time, so that forced me to jump in and just do it.

      4. Julia*

        I’m a really good language learner and I usually go lower nonetheless, because I don’t want to miss out on anything essential if I skip half a level. Filling in the gaps later can be really tough, as is getting rid of fossilized errors. But this also really depends on the class pace and classmates – if it’s suuuuuper slow and no one else ever speaks up, I’d react the same way you would.

    4. Koala dreams*

      In addition to talking to the teacher, ask to see what books and other materials they use. Looking through the books can get you an idea what level is suitable. If you still find you are at the wrong level when the course starts, take to the teacher right away. Sometimes you can switch class or the teacher can give you additional material suitable for you level.

      I used to prefer going to a slightly higher level, since I like studying language and I had time to put in extra hours in the evenings and in the weekend. The challenge made it more fun. Now when I’m busy with work and chores and also want to have free time to meet friends, I would prefer a lower level course. You never learn exact the same thing in different courses, so even if you took a similar course a couple of years ago, you will learn new material simply because the book has changed, or you’ll have another teacher, or the other students ask different questions than last time.

    5. Shrunken Hippo*

      For me it comes down to how much time I have to devote to it. If I have tons of time to spend practicing and going to tutorials and looking things up then I go higher, but if I know I’m not going to be able to do that I go lower.

    6. Amey*

      Thanks so much for this question! I am in exactly the same quandary myself and don’t have an opportunity to talk to a teacher beforehand. I’m signing up for an evening language class and do want to be challenged but I have a lot of other commitments (work, young children, an art I’m trying to make a second career in) so probably not realistic to assume I’ll be able to do lots of extra work if I’m a bit behind. I also want to make sure I really understand the different rules – I’m doing some Duolingo now and noticing some things that I clearly never actually understood in school. So, I’m going lower, thanks!

  8. Atlantis*

    I’ve been following this blog for almost a year now, and though I’m still only halfway through my Master’s program, I have found so much useful info for when I start applying for jobs. I’m actually taking a Lab Management class this semester, and I’m really looking forward to seeing if anything I’ve learned here will show up in this class, or if anything in class contradicts anything that Alison has said.

    1. Crylo Ren*

      I started an MBA program and the program’s “career advisors” gave quite a lot of advice that contradicted AAM and other workplace norms. Mostly along the lines of “oh sure, it is TOTALLY OK to to follow up on your resume in person, to call multiple times a day, and to drop off donuts with your resume! Hiring managers LOVE gumption!”

      1. AK*

        Same, I’m pretty sure I’ve learned more real life practices from Shark Tank and AAM than I got out of my MBA and management concentration.

    2. Nesprin*

      Lab science is definitely different than many office jobs though being professional is transcends boundaries. E.g. the ways decisions get made etc are often different from office work, and the de jure/on paper hierarchy is often not the real way decisions get made.

    3. NPF*

      Interesting how another post further down was removed for violating the non-weekend work and school rules but this one has been allowed to stay up.

      1. pm pop star*

        Why is it “interesting”? Alison has said she doesn’t see every post and she’s not online every hour of the day.

  9. Hawaii Honeymooner*

    Who wants to vicariously help us plan our Hawaii vacation? :D

    Constraints: late November/ early December. Two to three weeks. Budget isn’t super tight– we’ll aim for middle of the road hotels. Two space nerds in okay physical shape; we’ll do up to a six mile day hike, probably, and aren’t into surfing. We’re planning for stargazing from Mauna Kea, Pearl Harbor, whale watching, and the Lanai cat sanctuary.

    So now we have over a week of unplanned time to enjoy in beautiful, tropical paradise. We’re thinking mostly Maui and the Big Island? Everything I research looks amazing! How do I decide?? Also, should we look for non-resorty hotels, or is pretty much every hotel called a “resort”? We’ve never stayed in a resort, and they sound expensive, but I haven’t really researched it.

    AAM Commentators, what’s your favorite part of Hawaii?

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Much vicarious excitement! While I can’t give you tips on Hawaii, I’d say the best way to travel is how you enjoy travelling. Then it’s a case of finding that on the Islands.

      e.g. if you enjoy hiking and aren’t really resort people, pick out your top spots and see if there’s a one week rental that works as a home base. If those types of rentals are out of budget, then you go to your second favourite accommodation type, but the starting point should be what you to do :)

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Big Island vacation almost 20 years ago. Loved it; would do again.

      Kona side is sunny, Hilo side is rainy. The parks on the latter side are beautiful and fascinating–bring a raincoat and sturdy shoes. Don’t wait for the weather to clear to do anything. (Our first afternoon we drove around in the Hilo sunshine, as our preschooler had fallen asleep–then learned that Hilo sunshine is incredibly rare and we should have woken her and gotten out of the car.) Also recommend the Mauna Kea visit. (Spouse went; my asthma ruled me out and daughter’s age ruled her out.)

      In Hilo we stayed at a lovely inn with animals, tucked into the rainforest. In Kona at the King Kamehameha, paying the small upgrade for ocean view. Both were great. I don’t care about many “resort” amenities, and you should definitely be able to find quiet inns, B and Bs, beachfront hotels that don’t have resort fees, etc.

    3. Lucky to be fine*

      Don’t plan now, wait until the floods die down…

      Big Island is still underwater and parts of Maui were on fire as of yesterday.

      Don’t do anything until it is known what kind of damage we are looking at here.

      1. Lilo*

        Hugs from a Floridian who has lived through her fair share of hurricanes.

        For someone planning a trip months off, though, I wouldn’t worry. The touristy areas always bounce back the fastest because the government knows they need the money coming in.

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      My favorite part was the food!

      I literally ate at a Foodland for several dinners – different poke bowls plus different pies (chocolate cream was a favorite) made a very satisfying dinner.

      Native Hawaiian food is worth trying – unfortunately as a Midwesterner American, I did find poi and lau-lau difficult to enjoy… and I consider myself pretty open food wise. However, the Asian/Hawaiian fusion food was amazing – I love poke, fried rice at breakfast (seriously, why can’t I get this in Boston??), kalua pig is pretty good but not awe inspiring, cream pies.

      I would agree that to pick a place you’d like to be and settle there for a bit – up to a week. Traveling all the time is taxing and I wouldn’t sacrifice having a relaxing time over “seeing more.”

      But seriously, get the supermarket poke. And have fried rice with eggs and sausage for breakfast.

    5. CAA*

      In Maui, you can probably find a condo to rent in Kihei. We did this years before there was an AirBnB, and I’m sure it’s even easier now. We’ve since stayed with friends in their Ka’anapali timeshare a couple of times, but I really liked Kihei best for its central location and less “resort-y” vibe.

      On the big island we did a road trip one year. Stayed 2 nights in Volcano Village, 2 in Hilo, 2 in Waimea and 2 in Kona. It was a nice way to see most of the island, but with the hurricane flooding and Kilauea erupting, I’m not sure how practical it would be this year. I’m sure the Kona area will be open and glad to have tourism, but I think you’ll have to wait and see if it makes sense to leave the west side of the island or not. For things to do aside from the observatory, there’s Kona Joe’s coffee plantation, a honey farm and a vanilla grower. I also really enjoyed the 3 National Historic sites along the west coast. We drove to all of them on a weekday during the school year and it was pretty much just us and some sea turtles on the beaches.

      1. Another Lauren*

        Came here just to say this about the Kihei condos! I loved staying there.

        My only other tip about Maui is to take a small bottle of white vinegar with you if you go to the beach in Hana, because I got stung by some jellies there and it’s a long drive back to anywhere with a first aid kit.

    6. chi chan*

      Good for you. You could try snorkeling with a guide. You may be able to find an experience on airbnb or through the internet. Snorkeling can be relatively simple even if its your first time.

      1. Jen*

        Snorkeling can be very simple. If you aren’t used to ocean swimming you may not realize – the salt means you can kind of just float easily. The biggest things with snorkeling are to keep your breath steady and to know how to clear your mouthpiece if it gets full of water (exhale hard). Practice that a couple times and you are good to go.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Although if you’re not a strong swimmer, or aren’t used to ocean swimming, I’d still recommend either a guide or just paddling around at the edge of the beach. Ocean swimming has tides and undertows that can be very dangerous if you’re not used to them.

    7. Jen*

      On the Big Island, if you are a good swimmer, check out this bay near the Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Park (yes, I had to copy paste that). There is a little reef then the water deepens out to about 80 feet but it is very very calm, like swimming in a bathtub (I only recommend this if you are a good swimmer). When I was there the bay was full of spinner dolphins and you could watch them swim and spin around before breaking through the surface for those little jumps they do. You can park at the National Park and walk.

      If it is open, I would highly recommend the Kilauea Iki trail in Volcano National Park (get an annual National Park pass). It is a 4 mileish hike (not hard though but gets hot) that takes you over a solid lava lake from an eruption from 50 years ago and is very cool, plus goes by the lava tube, which always is nuts for parking.

      On Oahu I recommend Hanauma Bay state park, where you can rent snorkles and snorkel in this amazing circular bay.

    8. Arya Parya*

      On the Big Island I stayed at the Kona Seaside Hotel. Not really fancy, but perfectly fine.

      The Volcano National Park is great. You can do hikes with a guide/ranger for free. You might want to spend a night near there, because it’s not really near Kona. Mauna Kea is beautiful for a sunset and then stargazing. You need a 4×4 to get to the top.

      On Maui I really enjoyed the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park. There are some hikes you can do in the Park. The sunrise there is beautiful, but really busy.

      And I second all the snorkeling suggestions.

      1. Crylo Ren*

        Seconding the Volcano National Park on the Big Island if it reopens by the time you get there! Go at night, the glowing crater is stunning in darkness. Bring warm clothing, it gets cold up the mountain. You can explore the Thurston lava tube at night, too. Bring good flashlights as you’ll need to navigate a quick forest walk to get to the tube entrance, but the tube itself is lighted.

        And enjoy all of the various fusion food! I grew up in Oahu and the food is one of the things I miss the most.

    9. Lady Kelvin*

      I live on Hawaii. Oahu to be precise. The big island is a great visit, you can probably see everything you want in 4-5 days. Remember Volcano National Park is closed and probably will be in November/December because the volcano is erupting and won’t stop anytime soon. Maui is also nice. You can do the road to Hana and have some great views of the volcano and scenery. I’d give Maui about 3-4 days. Maui will also be the most expensive place you visit. If you are staying in a hotel (yes they are almost all resorts) it’ll cost you $3-400 a night. Oahu has tons more to do than Waikiki, but hats where you’ll probably be based because that’s where most of the hotels are. I can recommend hiking Diamond Head, which will only take you about 2 hours, Pearl Harbor, the Aloha Swap Meet, snorkeling in Haunauma Bay, a day trip to the north shore, a drive around the island (2-3 hour trip), hiking makapuu point. For food, if you like raw fish the sushi and poke is rivals Japan. There is some Hawaiin food, but really we have just about any kind of Asian cuisine you could possibly want, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai. If you like historical sites the Byodo Temple is a Japanese style buddist temple and of course Iolani Palace is a must see. I’d recommend a few days in Oahu at the beginning or end of your trip because it is such a lovely place. The Holiday Inn Waikiki is a great inexpensive hotel on Oahu and right across from the beach.

    10. Nacho*

      Travel company employee here. Whatever you do, make sure you get a name brand hotel like a Hyatt or a Hilton. Half of my day is spent working with people who skimped on their hotel, or just decided to be adventurous and try something new, and got burned by a “queen bed” consisting of a box with a sofa cushion on top of it, or mold covered walls, or “self-service cleaning”.

      That’s all I have to say.

    11. Mia W.*

      Put me in with the Kihei folks. It’s more chill than staying up the Ka’anapali coast.

      Generally, what I recommend for first time visitors to the state, is to take at least 4 days per island. (If you plan to stay on Lanai, rather than just day trip from Maui, that can be done in less nights.) 5 to 6 days is better. On Maui, Oahu, Kauai, or Lanai, stay in one place your whole time there, and drive around the island. If you stay somewhere sort of central, like Kihei in Maui, most things are about an hour away, two hours max.

      That does not work on the Big Island! I’ve done something similar to CAA’s road trip, and that was pretty great. That’s the only island I’ve used a guide book for, in part because you have to drive a lot. I used “Hawaii the Big Island Revealed”. The Big Island has few enough businesses that it covers most of the restaurants and hotels.

      Generally, you will need to rent a car. If you are in Honolulu, you can get around to the local sites including Pearl Harbor using Lyft, and you caaaaan do that a bit in Maui but it’s not easy.

      Don’t be afraid to stay at a local hotel or do Air BnB. I’ve generally stayed at whatever hotel (and yeah, a lot of them are called resorts!) was cheap and didn’t have awful reviews on Trip Advisor. Lots of places like that will have stuff like grills you can use and loaner boogie boards and the like. It sounds like you aren’t going to spend a ton of time in your hotels based on your description of the activities you want to do, so you might not need a full service resort.

      If you think you want to snorkel (and plan to go to the beach on your own), just buy a cheap snorkel at Costco. (If you plan on only going on one or two guided trips, they’ll have gear for you.)

      Have a great trip!

    12. GermanGirl*

      I spent a week on Maui 15 years ago. Here are the best parts:

      Guided snorkeling trip: A short session in the hotel pool to practice with the snorkeling gear, then out on a boat for a couple of hours. They also had food and drink on the boat and we went to a couple different spots. I prefer to bring my own snorkel and mask because that’s the equipment I’ve practiced with and I know exactly who besides me has used it.

      Sunrise bike trip down Haleakalā: We did this quite early in our trip so I had massive jet lag which was a plus here because I was awake anyway when they came to pick us up in the middle of the night. They drove us up the mountain in a bus and after viewing the sunrise they gave us bikes and we rode all the way down to the beach, stopping at a restaurant for breakfast.

      Also, just spending time at the beach with boogie boards was nice. If I ever go again, I’m going to give surfing a shot.

    13. Jules the First*

      We did Big Island four years ago and I loved it. We did Mauna Kea with Arnotts Lodge, which was the cheapest way to do it by a long shot, but rather unexpectedly for this space nerd, the highlight of the trip was a four hour guided kayak and surf trip to Kealakekua Bay, which has something to do with Captain Cook and is a gorgeous marine reserve that is only accessible by tour – we went with Adventures in Paradise, it was about $200 total for the two of us, and it was an unforgettable experience with some stunning scenery and beautiful wildlife (and I hate snorkelling).

    14. Shannon*

      I just spent the last half hour on the Lanai cat sanctuary website. You think my SO will mind changing our honeymoon plans to going there and only there?

    1. Teapot PM*

      Whoops, didn’t realise. Saw “free for all” and thought it meant so! Should have paid closer attention.

      I can’t see a way to remove my post so I’ll have to just hang my head in shame until it’s done for me. Thanks!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        The open thread (two posts down) is for all the work questions. You could re-post this there, or wait for next week’s one.

  10. Villanelle*

    I feel I am addicted to eating chocolate and I no longer enjoy eating it…but I can’t stop. I think I need to go cold turkey. I also like desserts and cakes but I can portion those better. I will need something to replace chocolate – I don’t know what though. (I don’t like nuts or bananas or granola type bars)
    Any advice/comiseration/I have been there and I know the way out?

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Turn into a chocolate snob. Get reaaaally, offensively, annoyingly, pretentiously, neurotically, picky about the type of chocolate you’ll eat. Fake it till you make it. Once you’ll only have chocolate from that one shop that you have to drive across town, climb a mountain, fight a dragon, and then answer the seller’s riddle for, you find you eat less.

      1. Anonerson*

        Seconding this! This approach really helped me when I was trying to cut back on partaking in the plentiful baked goods in my office.

      2. fposte*

        Another vote for this approach. Also observe your response actively while you’re eating it: is it enjoyable enough to be worth it even in that second and third mouthful, not just in getting to it? Is it ambrosial, or is it kind of chalky and gritty and you’re accustomed to overlooking that in the frenzy of the fat and sugar hit? When it’s all gone, do you think “That was well worth it” or do you think “Bleah”?

        If you have analytical tendencies this is kind of fun anyway–you start realizing the difference between stuff that really makes you happy and stuff that just fills your mouth. It doesn’t even have to be good stuff vs. bad stuff–I don’t like a lot of high end chocolate because I’m not a fan of dark, for instance–it’s about figuring out what stuff gives you the best per-ounce enjoyment rate.

      3. Anonymosity*

        This has helped me cut down on it too. I only eat European chocolate now and I’m not even tempted by nasty old Hershey bars in the checkout line. Even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have lost their charm.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      Do you enjoy dried fruit? It’s still something you should only have in small amounts, but it’s still an upgrade from chocolate.

    3. Kali*

      I’ve found that drastic ally cutting down on sugar also removes a lot of the chocolate. Is it actually the chocolate itself you want to wean yourself off or is it the excess sugar/fat that goes with it? If the latter, 80% dark chocolate and some dried fruit works for me, if I’m low sugar otherwise.

      1. Villanelle*

        The chocolate is no longer enjoyable I just eat because I have to – so that would be the sugar…

        1. Indie*

          Depends if you just want a different sugar source or to nix the sugar:

          Sugar- Medjool dates were my go to when I couldn’t eat anything processed. I thought dates were tough and stringy but the fat medjool kind are like juicy candies.
          -Maple syrup. Mixed with nut butter, oil and salt on top of popcorn.
          -Haagan Daz salted caramel/Dulce de leche ice cream.
          -cranachan with lots of honey
          -eton mess.

          Low/no Sugar- So fat tends to be more satiating than carbs or sugar. If you’re trying to kick sugar cravings (or are having sleepy post-carb crashes), then lowering your sugars, white carbs and grains while upping fats might help while you’re kicking the habit.
          -full fat Greek yoghurt and berries
          – strawberries/peaches and cream
          -apple slices and nut butter
          -cheese and ham board
          -smoked salmon cream cheese roll ups
          – guac or hummus with crudites
          – 100 pc cocoa with whole milk/cream (this will taste super weird at first but it gets good)
          – avocado stacks (stack it with whatever and top with a poached egg)
          – creamy salad dressings.

          1. fposte*

            Is this a different kind of Eton mess than the ones I know and make? Even if you don’t add sugar to the whipped cream, the meringues are super-sugary.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          Well, for me, i find that chocolate give me energy and endorphins when I’m not getting them from exercise, so I exercise more. Also, maybe some coffee would so the trick.

    4. nep*

      When I ate chocolate (always at least 72 percent, usually higher) regularly, I thought I could never give it up. But when I just didn’t buy it and it was not part of my daily habits, I was surprised how relatively easy it was to forgo it. While I would think of it and want it once in a while, in time that just faded.
      A friend once sent me a 100 percent bar from a shop in Belgium. It was an amazing experience eating that (could take it only in small doses, dissolved slowly in the mouth), and it showed me how much we really are after the sugar when we eat our “diluted” chocolate bars. Night and day.
      I feel that when I eat well–making sure I get necessary nutrients–I don’t think of eating chocolate. (Esp magnesium–do you get enough magnesium?)

      1. Tau*

        I’ve definitely found that with sugar in general, the more I eat it the more I want it. The effect fades rapidly – after a few days I tend to be more “eh, I guess candy would be nice?” than actually craving it – but getting to that point is pretty painful.

          1. fposte*

            I find it’s truer for me with chocolate than with anything else, and I suspect the caffeine plays a role there.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think chocolate can be quite addictive. And it can get to the point where a person gives up food almost entirely. (I know this for a reason….sigh.)
      Chocolate can be a stimulate. Make sure you are eating enough protein to get through your day. Develop a plan for one or more substitutes for chocolate. My substitute was watermelon. Other people might chose a different fruit.
      Load up on water. Sugar is like salt in that it pulls water away from our systems. I have seen different formulas, the formula I use it to divide my body weight by 2, and that resulting number is the number of ounces of water I should drink per day. I don’t always hit it, but each day is a clean slate to start over.
      I ate a lot of whole foods, mostly raw veggies. A chocolate diet means your body is probably missing vitamins and minerals it needs. When our nutrition levels go low so does our will power. You might like a drink with electrolytes in it. You might like smoothies. The more nutrition you get into your body the easier it will be to decide NO on the chocolate.

      To launch myself, I decided that I would not bring chocolate anything home with me and I would not bring it to work. This really narrowed my opportunities to have large amounts of chocolate. And I would tell myself, “oh, yeah, right. I no longer eat chocolate at work or at home.” This was just an affirmation to help me along.

      I will always love chocolate but I do not miss the misery of eating it when I no longer enjoyed it or wanted it. I can only describe the feeling as I felt hollowed out on the inside. It was awful. Now that I am on the other side of it I see how the chocolate messed up my digestive track and caused mood swings etc. I don’t miss that stuff.

    6. LilySparrow*

      I go through rounds of sugar/chocolate cravings, and I always have to remind myself of the things that help.

      How are your iron levels? Low iron can trigger sugar cravings, and they’re super, super common. Particularly if you are a person who bleeds every month. Even if you’re not, try a multivitamin that contains iron formulated for your age and biology.

      Chocolate also contains magnesium, which can get low if your regular diet isn’t great. The multivitamin should help, and/or you can take a calcium/magnesium supplement (obviously, you’ll want to check if there are interactions with any medication you may take.) I usually see the cravings ease after a few days of resuming the multivitamins or supplements. A cal-mag supplement at night can also help you sleep better.

      Look at what time of day or other circumstances when you eat the most. Try to mix up the pattern by planning a healthy snack at that time, getting the chocolate out of proximity, and/or choosing a conflicting habit to cultivate. For example, strong sugar-free peppermints or breath mints leave a minty taste in your mouth for a long time, and smelling peppermint throughout the day has been shown to reduce mindless calories by a significant amount. (Like 2,800 calories a week, if I remember the study right).

      Go to bed earlier. Night snacking is the hardest time to make good choices, and sleep deprivation makes you hungrier and have more sugar/caffeine cravings.

      If you can’t bring yourself to eliminate your chocolate stash entirely just yet, make it hard to get to. Like instead of keeping it your handy desk drawer, maybe keep it in the credenza on the other side of the room. Or in your locker, or in a bag in the coat closet, or something. Or at home, keep it in the garage. If you have to get up and walk there every time you want one piece, you will wind up eating a lot less without the mental struggle.

      I’m a big believer in minimizing how much you rely on willpower. Deciding not to do something or getting emotional about it tires your brain out, and when the decision fatigue sets in you’re going to give up and make even more bad choices.

      Make the good choices ahead of time when you’re not stressed, and then work on your biology, schedule, and your environment to support those choices.

      1. Tau*

        Low iron can trigger sugar cravings, and they’re super, super common.

        OK, now I know why my personal sugar limit that had been working very well since the start of the year crashed and burned under major sugar cravings this past month.

    7. SarahKay*

      The time I quit chocolate (and stayed off it for nearly three years!) I was helped immensely by a friend trying to tempt me to fail. I’m not good at willpower against myself, but I can be stubborn as anything if it’s to win a competition against someone else.
      Obviously this is very much YMMV, know-yourself sort of advice, but I guess more general advice would be to look at where you’ve succeeded at similar things in the past, and if there was a common denominator.
      I’d been in a similar place to you, just eating loads of chocolate and not really enjoying it and the three year break got rid of a lot of bad habits around it. I do eat chocolate again now, but much more in moderation.
      Good luck!

  11. Kali*

    My ex and I got back together and it’s going well. Time apart and reevaluation has helped us be more open and honest with each other, and, tbh, the fact that we’ve tried to be apart but failed satisfies my desire for romance.

    Some drama though. BF was best man for his friends, Mr A and Mrs A. Mrs A has a birthday coming up, so he asked if I could be his plus one, assuming it was just a formality. Mrs A said no, she thought I’d been rude to her and didn’t want me around. I accept that I can sometimes make a poor impression, and I’m happy to make a heartfelt apology, but neither BF nor I can think of anything egregious enough that she’d risk a friendship with BF over, and Mr A says there wasn’t anything, it’s just a ‘personality conflict’.

    BF is furious and considering never talking to Mrs A again, despite having considered himself their ‘adopted son’ for most of his 20s (we are all late 20s/early 30s). I am… Less mad. We’re pretty sure this isn’t about me, it’s about Mrs A. There’s only one other woman in the friend group, Mrs B, who’s married to Mr B, who no one really likes. I suspect that Mrs A wants to control the people around her, especially those important to her, like BF. She’s invited a single friend of hers to the birthday dinner, which BF suspects is a set-up for him. That would fit my theory, if she wants him to date a pre-existing friend of hers rather than an unknown.

    At the moment, I’ve suggested that BF point out that I’m going to be around for a while, that he loves Mrs A but the shunning isn’t cool, and that, while I’m not going to her birthday party, she will need to get used to the idea of me being around in general. I’ve also suggested that, if he go – which I think he should, because he doesn’t see his friends as much since leaving for uni – he should not call out the shunning, so as to give Mrs A a way to gracefully back down later, but should enlist his prospective date in choosing my Christmas gift.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Your plan sounds delightful, but depends on the third party in this setup, and how she feels about it. Still, he can go this once and say “OK, your birthday is a special day for you, but in the future, she IS my plus one,” or just not go. Up to him. Not everyone has to be friends with everyone else, but you should be polite to your friends’ SO’s.

      1. Kali*

        I completely accept that we’re not going to be best friends, and that’s okay…as you say, that’s a totally normal situation. But this kind of excessive reaction really makes me feel like there’s something going on that fundamentally has nothing to do with me.

    2. Kali*

      Oh, to expand on the “no other women in the friendship group” – Mr C and Ms C have been together for 7 years, but Mrs A used to bully Ms C at school, and the Cs are not really close to Mr and Mrs A. They’re not invited to birthday parties either, though they were at the wedding, and they’re close to BF. Mr D is also not allowed plus ones, because he used to bring random tinder dates, though he now has a full time girlfriend who has made the cut.

      1. WellRed*

        Mrs. A sounds delightful. Your attitude and your boyfriend’s is spot on. Soon enough, there will be more of upu nit welcome at her table than are welcome.

      2. KayEss*

        This kind of sounds like a circle of friends with waaaaaay more drama than it’s worth forcing yourself into. Do you actually want to hang out with any of these people that much, or is it just about the formality of being accepted into the group as BF’s partner?

        I’d let it go for a while–be warm and polite to Mrs. A if you encounter each other, but otherwise prioritize your time with this group strengthening your friendships with the people you actually like and who like you–and just let it be shown that you aren’t going anywhere. If she’s as close to BF as you say, she might just be having some weird feelings about the two of you breaking up and getting back together, and not want to deal with those at her own birthday party. Leave her a graceful out, like you said, but otherwise I wouldn’t burn too many brain circuits on what’s going on behind the scenes.

    3. foolofgrace*

      but should enlist his prospective date in choosing my Christmas gift.

      I assume you’re being sarcastic, because it’s not cool to take your frustrations out on the poor hapless intended-to-be-date. She probably has no idea of the context here.

      1. Kali*

        I think you might be picturing something other than what I meant here? It is a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, but I don’t see how asking for gift ideas would be a hostile action.

        1. foolofgrace*

          I think it’s just the way it was phrased made it seem like that to me. Certainly asking for tips might be fine, and one way to let the “date” know that he is unavailable.

    4. Agnodike*

      It sounds like there’s kind of a lot going on here. Your boyfriend considered himself the “adopted son” of a couple the same age that he is, the female half of which seems to have some trouble getting along with the partners of her male friends and maybe wants to set your boyfriend up with someone else? Yikes. This sounds like just generally a dysfunctional dynamic; in your shoes, I’d want to steer as clear as possible and save my shared boyfriend-and-his-pals hangouts for when he’s spending time with a different group of friends.

    5. Jane of all Trades*

      Honestly, while this may not be your favorite opinion, it looks like Mrs. A doesn’t like you a lot, and therefore does not want for you to attend her birthday party. I think that should be her choice. Some of my friends have partners who I am not crazy about, especially if there is a possibility for drama. Obviously it is not my place to tell them who they should or shouldn’t date, and I am nice to their partners whenever we interact, but I would not love to have them at my birthday party.
      The mature thing to do would be to accept that, and be civil to Mrs. A in the future, knowing that you will never be best friends, and that’s ok.

      1. Operational Chaos*

        This. No one sounds particularly mature in this, but a woman is allowed to decide her own guests list and the OP is the on again off again girlfriend.

        It’s her birthday, you don’t have a right to it. Let it go and focus on celebrations that aren’t focused on a specific person.

        1. Kali*

          Um, I know? That’s why I’m not going and don’t expect to? And why the plan IS to be civil?

          I’m quite surprised that you’re both repeating my own plan back to me as if it’s new.

    6. Beatrice*

      I think I know this friend group, lol.

      My Mrs. A enjoyed being the queen bee/mother hen to of a group of male friends, and then deciding which of their girlfriends made the cut. She preferred that the guys stayed clueless and bumbling and immature so they needed her input on things, and she disliked most of the women. (To be fair, some of them really needed help and/or a good smack upside the head, but it was a lot of drama all the time.)

      My husband and I were a few years older than most of the rest of the friend group. Mr. Beatrice tolerated her for the sake of hanging out with his friends. I found the entire friend group annoying and mostly let Mr. Beatrice hang out with them by himself, but joined for things like kids’ parties and weddings and things we hosted. The last straw for me was a party I agreed to go to, where she got drunk and cried and begged me to explain why I hated her so much. (I was civil to her, at a minimum, every single time we met, and usually was very nice; I definitely did not exude hatred. The harshest thing was that I didn’t cooperate with being mothered…I’m perfectly capable of managing my life without that kind of input, especially from someone five years my junior and with less life experience.)

      Mr. Beatrice and I host an annual cookout, and one of the highlights is a signature cocktail I make a big batch of every year. She asked me for the recipe for the cocktail (it’s my own twist on a regionally popular drink). Then she started a bunch of drama that led to a bunch of divisions within the friend group. Then she hosted her own competing cookout on the same date, where she served the same concoction and invited a bunch of the same people. We hang out with that bunch WAY less now, thankfully.

    7. Kali*

      Looking at the comments, it seems I haven’t made it clear that I have no particular interest in attending this specific party, or of integrating myself into the group. I’m annoyed because boyfriend is upset. I suspect Mrs A might be trying to force him to choose between us, which is unnecessary, imo. It sounds paradoxical, since I brought it up, but I’m annoyed to have to spend time/energy on not letting this become a huge drama.

      1. valentine*

        You don’t have to. You can let it be his circus. He is not the rejected party and he holds the cards. He can mitigate his own upset or seek comfort from someone who isn’t you. I think A is probably like Beatrice’s A: She sees you as a threat and wants to slot in someone who isn’t.

      2. Jersey's mom*

        Nope, you’re being dragged in via triangulation. Even though the issue is between the two of them, you have been indirectly involved. You want your BFF to be happy, and he’s upset with Mrs AS requirements. Maybe the best thing is for you and BFF to drag this out on a conversation twixt you two to discuss how you each feel and how you both want to act on those feelings going forward.

        It’s ultimately his call on how he wants to handle this, and he appears torn – “faaaamily”, vs dissing my BFF. And it sounds like his angst is driving you crazy (and I can absolutely understand why!)

        You might find some scripts and inspiration on captainawkward .com She answers questions about interpersonal relationships. Her blog has a lot of posts on handling faaaamily issues.

        There’s so many different ways he can choose to handle this from straight out no-contact to BFF visiting Mrs A with a discussion about boundaries, to flat out arguments (which would probably result in an ex-relationship, unless Mrs A thrives on arguments.). I think you both can find the right place on this spectrum with the Captain. Good luck. I am also dealing with crazy family and I know how draining this can be on a daily basis.

        Best of luck and I hope your stress level remains below nuclear!

    8. neverjaunty*

      I accept that I can sometimes make a poor impression

      OK, but were you in fact rude to Mrs. A? What did you do that made a ‘poor impression’?

      You may not intend it as such, but the post as coming across kind of glossing over why Mrs. A acted this way and coming up with a lot of reasons that’s she’s the villain of the piece and needs to STFU and make nice. And… maybe she is, in fact, a jealous horrible person who’s blowing something minor out of proportion.

      But the thing is, she’s already told you that she finds whatever-it-is-you-did so egregious that she doesn’t want you at her birthday. And she gets to decide that; she doesn’t need your agreement or Boyfriend’s that what you did was objectively so awful that she is allowed to be done with you, or that she is excused from accepting an apology.

      Has Boyfriend actually talked to Mrs. A about what happened, rather than using Mr. A as a go-between?

      1. Kali*

        Yes, he has. There was no such event.

        I have spent a lot of time questioning myself, because my mother spent 18 years telling me that no one liked me or wanted me around, and that if they said otherwise, they were lying. But… From the handful of times we’ve been around each other, it’s drastically unlikely that I did something so terrible that I don’t remember or notice it, BF didn’t remember or notice, and Mr A wouldn’t share. Mr A loves making obnoxious remarks to get a reaction and causing conflict, and he loves BF. There’s no way he’d be discreet if I did something that bad.

        I mentioned making a poor impression because, while I come across as confident, I can be quite shy. This has lead a few people, in the past, to assume I don’t like them. That’s normally resolved by an open conversation. It’s also not happened for a few years, so, again, it seems unlikely that that’s the case and also that neither BF or Mr A noticed and that Mrs A couldn’t describe it. I’m still happy to make a heartfelt apology if we figure out what I did, but so far the list is “didn’t finish every bite at dinner” and “accidentally burst a balloon at the wedding and made a child cry”.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “that Mr. A wouldn’t share” – is your boyfriend actually getting any of this directly from Mrs. A? It sounds like some and maybe all of this information about Mrs. A’s feelings is coming through Mr. A, who loves pointless conflict and frankly sounds like a complete ass.

          1. Kali*

            The first bit came from Mrs A, when he asked her about the plus one. Since then, he’s checked in with Mr A, but nothing else has actually happened.

            Wanted to blow off some steam at first, but now bored enough to relax about it. On reflection, it’s not that big a deal.

  12. Lcsa99*

    TLDR: Should we be concerned that one of our cats has been giving off guttural growls when playing with certain toys?

    So we’ve been having an unusual…issue with one of our cats. Honestly I am not sure it actually is an issue, but because I haven’t seen it before, I’d like to know if it’s something we should be worried about.

    So for background, we have two cats, both just over 3 years old. One cat is generally a sweetheart, but can be a little aloof. He likes having his own space; he likes to be petted a particular way; he only likes attention when he comes for it. Our other cat is a little more rambunctious. He loves attention any time he can get it. He has to play with everything in sight. He has to be the first to eat (even if the other cat made it to the bowl first). He also likes to play with his “brother” when his brother has no interest. So occasionally they will tussle a little, Sweetheart will give off small growls or an occasional hiss. Nothing serious, and we always just separate them – lock Playful in the bedroom for a short time out and then they are fine again. Most of the time both cats will be sitting on either side of the door waiting for the other to come back. So they are mostly good.

    But sometimes when Sweetheart gets his paws on certain toys, he’s given off these deep guttural growls that are both a little unnerving and a little funny since he’s usually so quiet and sweet. We have one of those feather-on-a-string-on-a-stick toys, and sometimes when he gets a good grip on it, he’ll start growling. These are very different from his “I don’t want to play” growls. I don’t know if he’s just warning his brother away because he is so used to Playful always getting first dibs, or if it’s something else. And last night we woke up to him growling again. Apparently he had managed to get into a bag of toys we left out, and pulled out one of his balls (it’s a plush ball with feathers sticking out. I assume it has catnip). Playful doesn’t usually care much for those, so we consider them all to be Sweetheart’s. But for some reason he was growling until I put Playful in the bedroom while Sweetheart was in the living room with his toy.  

    Is this something we should be concerned about, or is he just trying to get a few things he can have just to himself? It could also have something to do with the feathers themselves – we moved in October and found out (thanks to Sweetheart) that there was a nest attached to the bottom of our window A/C. He was obsessed with it and managed to pull some feathers inside until we had the nest removed. Is there something we should be doing differently?

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Kitteh just wants to murder a bird or two. It’s their instinct after all – let him growl at the feathers.

      1. Cat Herder*

        Yup. We like to think our sweet kitties are domesticated. But deep down they are fierce hunters.

    2. Rezia*

      Our cat is also generally sweet and friendly. Very occasionally, when he has a mouthful of feathers, he will growl if we try to tug it away (gently of course) during play. I think it’s just instinct kicking in. I just wait until he drops it and resume play.

    3. OhGee*

      My gentler cat does this, too, with one particular toy-on-a-stick. He loves bugs and small objects, and this toy looks like a caterpillar. He growls and pants when he plays with it, and even carries it around as if he has captured real prey! It doesn’t worry me at all – cats are hunters, and domesticated cats ‘ instincts can come out in surprising ways.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Normal. It’s instinct. Bit of territorial marking type behavior.
      Assuming the 2 cats generally get along, there will likely be one who’s dominant over the other. This can be obvious, or very subtle. As long as both cats are happy and healthy, and no one is getting injured, this dynamic isn’t a problem.

      Get more feather toys since they’re so popular :)

    5. Cringing 24/7*

      Our calico will do that whenever she finds a ball of hair we missed picking up from brushing (or if she manages to steal it away before we can throw it out). I think it’s just a territorial thing that says, “THIS is my FAVORITE things right now and no one else can have it!” Once we take it away, she goes completely back to normal.

    6. mreasy*

      My totally lazy snuggleface does the same thing with a “mouse” on a string toy. He’s caught it, and is warning you & the other cat not to try to steal his prey!

  13. valentine*

    How can I get restaurants to consistently cook meat well done on delivery orders? I’ve gone so far as to note that burnt is preferable to rare, but they still rarely cook them through.

    1. Lcsa99*

      I don’t think you can. Many chefs just have a block when it comes to “overcooking” meat. I am like you and would rather it be burnt than have any pink. Assuming it’s something like steak you can ask them to butterfly it – which makes the meat thinner and more of it gets cooked through. Other than that it’s just trial and error. Keep trying restaurants until you find one that cooks it the way you like.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      My first thought was that medium rare steak is the food of the gods and you should just become more flexible/embrace a better temperature preference but that’s probably not helpful.

      I guess the other options would be:
      1) Order something other than beef (and to a lesser extent pork or fish) – I’ve never of chicken not being well done
      2) Find a place that meets your preferences and become a regular – they are more likely to make things how you like them, especially if you also tip well (if you are in a place with a tipping culture)

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        You could also branch out from the block of meat type order that will be more likely to be underdone by your preferences. Stews, curries, stir fries (with very small pieces of meat), soups will have well-done meat almost by default…

    3. Justme, The OG*

      Restaurants will always undercook meat. They can slap it on the grill for a few more minutes if it’s sent back but anything over cooked has to be thrown away. In short, you can’t.

    4. Minta*

      One last attempt at making clear what you want would be to specify the temperature to which you want the center of the meat cooked, in addition to the qualitative description (something like, “*very* well-done, minimum 160F internal temperature). Still might not work, because it may be a case that they understand what you want but refuse to do it (or they may feel micromanaged by the request).

      I have found that the super hot grill or griddle will sometimes char the outside to the point that maybe an inexperienced or rushed cook might assume it’s way more done inside than it is. I’ve had this sort of trouble when ordering medium. Just guessing what is happening. That’s why I think the temperature check might help if the cook agrees to do it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You could say it up front when you order, “I want it my steak well done. I can’t eat it if it’s not cooked all the way through, so I will have to send it back for more time on the grill if it’s even a little pink.” Say that before the staff person takes the order to the kitchen. Then if it is pink, send it back.

        1. Dr. Anonymous*

          This issue is so fraught for some reason that I think you will have to train them. Call them afterwards and tell them every time that you wanted it cooked a bit more until the time comes that you can order and start saying, “I’m the guy who always asks for meat really well done,” and they all know who you are. They’ll get it eventually. This does kind of preclude overseeing from multiple places, though.

    6. LuJessMin*

      Be careful what you wish for – one time I told the waiter I wanted my steak well-done, burn it if you must. It came out a charcoal brick.

    7. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I prefer medium rare in general, sometimes rare. My husband’s family likes well done. Restaurants are not reliable though – I sometimes tell them I want it somewhere in between still alive and cremated.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      I use to like steak well but then I got some medium high aquality filet and it helped me transition to medium and medium well. I’m a much happy steak consumer now. At home I like to make a juicy well but so many restaurants just can’t do it.

      1. LuJessMin*

        I had gone to a charity event where dinner wasn’t served until 8 pm and by that time I was starving. The steak was served medium and it was delicious. I order my steaks medium well now, they come out a bit medium and I’m happy.

        My dad like his steaks very, very, rare – basically warm on each side was good for him.

    9. fposte*

      In my area, you’re lucky if you get the food at all when it’s delivery. My guess also is that chefs may consciously undercook delivery orders even more to allow for some additional “cooking” as it roams leisurely around town in somebody’s insulated pack.

      If there’s a particular restaurant where you know you can get stuff cooked to your liking when you’re in there, I’d try reaching out to the restaurant when you order in addition to sending the message via the delivery service.

      1. valentine*

        When starving, this wouldn’t occur to me. It would also feel like failure/being a doormat/defeating my purpose. I can’t convert; the pink can get me thisclose to vomiting. I can’t eat roast beef because of this. Sometimes I just crave a burger/steak and I don’t see what’s in it for a chef who refuses my request, unless the delivery service is eating the refund.

        1. WS*

          You can also chop it in half and put it in the microwave for a minute or so to get rid of the undercooked bit. I also have texture problems with undercooked steak and this really helps me.

        2. fposte*

          I doubt it’s refusing the request so much as churning out the delivery food ASAP. IME, you can get food delivered or you can get food reliably customized, but not both.

    10. Persimmons*

      When we ordered food like this for a relative, we specified why (autoimmune disease) and stressed that anything underdone would be returned for her safety.

      If you’re doing it out of preference instead of necessity, my personal style is to use really casual terms and sometimes even throw in some salty language and jokes. As a server, I noticed that people who made their requests clear without coming across as a “can I speak to your manager” type tended to get what they wanted from the kitchen because they made it obvious that they weren’t just looking for reasons to complain. So, something like “Hey, I can’t stress enough how much underdone meat grosses me out. Please really cook the shit out of it, I’m not kidding.” Open the box before the delivery person leaves. When you finally get it the way you want it, exclaim happily about it in front of them and tip memorably. Do that once, and you’re golden.

  14. Loopy*

    Bakers! I need tips! Next weekend I want to take on what is (for me) an ambitious baking project. I want to try and make a three layer extreme chocolate salted caramel cake. I have all the recipes I want, hand picked. It includes two different salted caramel recipes (one goes into the frosting the other gets drizzled over the cake like a ganache), the salted caramel butter cream frosting and the actual chocolate cake recipe. I’m excited because I want to try and make it really gorgeous and theres no event- so zero pressure or time constraint.

    My questions are: are any of the things safe to make the night before to keep me from getting overwhelmed? Can the frosting be stored without consistency/texture issues the next day? Will un frosted cake dry out? Or should I just make it a one day project for best taste/texture?

    Also this will be my first attempt at smoothing out the frosting and doing some nice decorations with it around the top. Any advice on the best brand of tool I should buy for a beginner? I don’t even know what the “frosting smoother” is technically called, or which cake decorating tips will give me the lookI want.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      The frosting smoother is called a bench scraper and I use one. It’s wonderful! And you can use it for other things, too. But first you want to spread and smooth the frosting with an offset icing spatula (just Google that). Good luck!

      1. Loopy*

        So wait, frosting a cake is a two step process? Like get the frosting mostly in place and even, just not perfectly smooth, then smooth out for that final look? (such a beginner!)

        1. The Other Dawn*

          It depends how smooth you want the frosting. Sometimes the spatula doesn’t get it quite where.you want it, either because of the consistency of the frosting or the size of the cake. The bench scraper isn’t a necessity but it’s really nice to have. Much faster for the sides of the cake when you have a rotating cake table!

    2. Red Reader*

      Buttercream can usually be made the day before with no problem, just take it out of the fridge an hour or two before you want to use it so it can come to room temp and maybe give it another whizz with the beaters.

      The cake would also be fine overnight in my experience, let it cool thoroughly and then cover it. I don’t even fridge it for just one night if it isn’t frosted. (But if it’s not thoroughly cooled before you cover it, it might end up sticky. Condensation, I think, but I’m not a good chemist to know for sure :) )

      The frosting smoother is an angled spatula, I believe :) good luck!!

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks! I’m debating whether to do the cake or frosting the night before. Hmmmm. I think the frosting because it includes it’s *own* caramel recipe. Thanks again!

        1. Red Reader*

          A couple years ago I did cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. I did the cupcakes on Wednesday and Thursday, the frosting (chocolate buttercream) on Friday, and assembled everything at the venue on Saturday, and she still randomly out of the blue raves about them two years later :) so clearly the storage time didn’t hurt anything :)

          1. Loopy*

            Thanks! This makes me feel better about spreading it out. I want this to be a fun long weekend activity where I’m not super exhausted!

      2. Little bean*

        This sounds so fun! I love baking and haven’t had time lately due to “life” situations. Let us know how it goes!

    3. Lcsa99*

      I think you can probably make most of it the night before if you wanted. Definitely the cake – I’ve even made cake the week before and just wrapped it well and threw it in the freezer. For the caramel I think you’d be ok, you will probably just need to warm it up so its pourable.

      For decorating, it depends how crazy you wanna go with the tools. The basic would be any sized offset spatula. Last year I also got a rotating cake table and icing smoother and that made a huge difference in how easy it was. I can post a link to it shortly.

      This sounds incredible btw. I am dying for the recipe.

        1. Loopy*

          Thanks! It’s in my Amazon cart now! I was going to run out and look but you did the work for me! I’m thinking I’ll do the frosting ahead of time because I want to do a three layer cake so I’ll need a lot and it requires it’s own caramel sauce which will make it a two step process.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      One trick with making the cake ahead is to brush on a simple syrup (equal parts by volume water and sugar heated just until the sugar dissolves, you can also flavor the syrup, I usually do vanilla) just before frosting. I do this even when I’m frosting immediately (upon cooling) since it helps the cake retain moisture longer.
      When I started baking it took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t probably creaming my butter and sugar most of the time, your butter really has to be room temperature and you have to let it cream for a lot longer than you think. If your cake includes this step it really makes a huge difference to the final texture of the cake, the better you cream the butter and sugar the finer your texture will be.
      Happy Baking!!!! Your project sounds delicious!

      1. Loopy*

        Thank you- both of these tips are wonderful!!! How much of the simple syrup to you use? Basically is it better to be a little heavy handed or err on the light side with it? I’m often so bad at judging things without exact measurements (makes me a better baker than a cook!)

      2. Lcsa99*

        I bet in this case you could brush it with some of the caramel instead of simple syrup. Do it when the caramel is still very hot and liquid gold.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          Hmm… that sound delicious but the consistency might make spreading the caramel difficult.
          For how much I don’t actually measure just brush it on with a pastry brush but I’m guessing a couple of tablespoons per layer, you don’t want it soaking just barely damp

    5. ThatGirl*

      Hi, I work for a major baking supply company.

      The buttercream will be fine for a few days ahead, just cover tightly, refrigerate and let it come to room temp & rewhip before using.

      The cake you can make ahead but I’d wrap individual layers in plastic and again let warm before stacking/decorating.

      There are lots of tools and spatulas out there, maybe watch a few tutorials. Wilton has some good icing combs for smoothing or textured looks. I would be glad to answer tip questions.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Star tip. The salted caramel looks like it might be a closed tip, but I’d get an open tip, it’s more versatile.

          If you think you’ll be doing more decorating, a set of tips would be cheaper than individuals. Get one off Amazon or somewhere that has pastry bags and couplers with the tips, and you’ll have plenty to play with. Just use the largest star tip (the zig zag one) for this project and it’ll look great.

          If you mess up piping, you can lift the bad part off with the tip of your offset spatula. It’ll leave a rough spot, but just pipe over it. You can also practice piping on a cookie sheet or wax paper and just scrape the frosting bag into the bag when you’re done.

        2. ThatGirl*

          The first one looks like a ruffle tip, second like a star. You can definitely get a basic/beginner tip set and some practice instructions for under $10, usually comes with a few bags as well. A 1M or 2D are both classics.

          Here’s a video on various borders: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kGxGZv6yExA

    6. Not My Money*

      A chilled cake is easier to frost/decorate. Not chilled frosting but the cake itself. And look up crumb coat – always a good first step. Oh, a level your layers (cut off any domes for a stable stack).

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I had to run out earlier and couldn’t write everything I wanted to write. Yes, you can make these things ahead of time. Just make sure everything is wrapped really well.

      Does the frosting have an all-butter base, or is it a shortening-based frosting? If it’s all butter, you’ll need to leave plenty of time for it to come back up to room temp before you can do anything with it. And if it’s really hot out, it may run. If it’s shortening-based, you really don’t even need to refrigerate it as long as it’s just overnight and it’s not scorching hot outside; I’ve done this many times.

      Don’t cut into the cake until you’re ready to frost it. That will help it stay moist. AS someone else said, you can brush it with a simply syrup to help it retain moisture.

      I mentioned the tools already, but I also second a rotating cake table. Not a necessity, but it’s really nice to have. It makes life so much easier.

      And finally, making a cake from scratch, start to finish, is very very time-consuming depending how big it is and how much decoration it will have. Unless you really don’t mind taking your time or don’t need to have it ready at a certain time, I wouldn’t do it all in a day; it’s exhausting. I generally do it over three days since I usually need the cake on a Saturday and I work during the week. I usually make the frosting one day, cake the next, and then decorate the final day.

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks so much! This is a no-pressure just-for-me project! I’ve baked amateur desserts with a lot of success but I’ve never tried my hand at stepping into the world or really polished desserts. So this is a total first attempt in that sense!

        I’m thinking of doing a massive amount of butter cream Saturday night and then baking the cakes Sunday morning and then frosting Sunday afternoon. The decorating will just be trying to get a very prettily, neat frosted cake with basic piping around the top and some chocolate curls. I was thinking of doing a caramel drizzle between butter cream and piping but now I’m not convinced it’s necessary.

        Overall, I’m hoping decorating will most just be me trying to get my frosting technique right!

    8. Kuododi*

      I have absolutely no answers for you except to say I am having a full body shiver thinking about your magnificent cake!!! You’ve managed to encorporate three of the best things in the world to eat. (Chocolate, salt, and caramel…if you could figure out how to work in some bacon then I am pretty sure that would be perfection!!!! Wink!). I think I am in love with your cake!!!

      1. Loopy*

        *hopefully* it’ll be magnificent. I have to say I can see how a sprinkle of crumbled bacon around the top edge would work but….

        I’m a vegetarian. So no bacon on my cake! :P

    9. Celestina Warbeck*

      Sounds delicious! One tip that might be helpful is if you make your frosting ahead of time, when you store it, use plastic wrap and have it touch the frosting and then use the container lid or whatever on top of that. It’ll help prevent the dried out “skin” in the frosting. I also find a large and a small offset spatula handy for frosting large cakes.

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks. I’ve seen that if you refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes,you can use plastic wrap without messing up the frosting? I still worry about that- my brain naturally goes NOOOOO WE CAN USE PLASTIC WRAP.

  15. Sera*

    The other day I read a quote that was something along the lines of “The reason I stopped initiating contact with you isn’t because you matter less to me now, but because I’ve finally realised I don’t matter as much to you”.

    That’s how I’m feeling about one of my long-term friends. We used to message constantly (on top of phone calls and meeting up in person) and over the past few years it’s growing less and less frequent. Yeah, we’ve both grown up and grown apart, it happens. I think it just took me longer to accept it than it should have.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Friends for a reason, a season or a life time. I have found this expression to be very helpful for getting to a peaceful place. The life time friends are very rare.
      I am sorry.

    2. WellRed*

      I am in similar place with a friend, though I know she still loves and adores me. Other people and stuff, though, have risen higher up for her.

    3. Zona the Great*

      I’m the one who stopped responding so much to my former BFF. I honestly stopped enjoying her. She changed so much that I couldn’t pretend to like her anymore. I eventually ended it with her saying I couldn’t get past some things (she became a fundamentalist Christian and started praying her son’s autism away instead of getting him any help).

      Things do change. Friends drift. Usually not so dramatically as my relationship.

    4. Waiting for the Sun*

      It is hard – been on both ends of that situation. If it helps, think of ways you may have changed, too, and interests that she didn’t share.
      Friendships can be trickier to end than romance. If a friend didn’t do anything wrong, but you just don’t especially enjoy socializing with them anymore, hard to make a clean break.

    5. Ja'am*

      I’m dealing with this, and have in the past. The last “real talk” I had with this friend, I told her what I felt like, how I felt like she wasn’t making an effort to keep in touch with me. She basically told me that I will not be a priority in her life. So sometimes these suspicions are true and real. She said that she still wanted this to work, but has also since continued to not make an effort, so I’m basically done trying to make this work myself and have actually been thinking about sending her a message telling her so. I don’t want to burn bridges, but I also don’t want someone “in my life” who’s not actually in my life. I’ve done and sacrificed too much for people who don’t care.

      If people act like they don’t care, they don’t. If she cared enough to even spend 5 seconds to send me a “hey” text EVER, she would have; she doesn’t, and I’m done with people pretending to care who treat me like this.

      I DO think you should talk to the person first. I think it’s much more worth it (if it’s worth it to you) to get to the heart of the problem with communication instead of letting the friendship fizzle out due to what might be able to be solved by talking through it.

      Good luck!

    6. Drifting Away*

      I’m being that friend right now, due to long-term eldercare. It’s hard because I want to make sure people know I miss them and want their company, but I also can’t really make clear how all-consuming this is without oversharing the medical issues of a very private person.

      So, my advice is to leave the door open, but not put in more effort (assuming this is about just drifting away and not an actual act that you can’t forgive). Circumstances change, and they may drift back into your life.

    7. The New Wanderer*

      I had a very long term friendship end, pretty mutually – I kind of think I gave up first, but she might think she did and not be wrong either. Kind of a combination of she didn’t need me much anymore, I made some mistakes that hurt the friendship, and ultimately neither of us was the kind of person we wanted the other to be, to stay friends.

      However, other friends that I was previously close to kind of drift in and out of my life, and it’s mostly okay. I don’t like being ghosted but I also give up after one unanswered attempted contact, so it’s entirely possible that I seem like the ghoster. I feel like other people are better friends to my friends than I am, so that’s who I think they should spend most of their time with. If and when they’re interested in seeing me, I’m almost always available. That’s the way I made peace with it after spending most of my teens and 20s clinging So Hard to every friendship – I just don’t feel up to investing the time anymore.

  16. This Sucks*

    Never in a million years did I think I’d be writing this: I’ve found bed bugs in my house.

    My husband was complaining of being itchy during the night for a few days. He started noticing what looked like mosquito bites on his arms. He then had three days straight where the itching was pretty bad. This was a span of about a week, total. At first we thought maybe he developed some kind of allergy or hives or something. We never thought “bed bugs” since I wasn’t itching and didn’t have any marks on me.

    Last week he decided to go look for bed bugs and…he found some. There were a few telltale spots on my side of the bed, but they were definitely concentrated on his side. He tends to keep a pile of clothing on the floor next to/under the bed (been trying to get him to break that habits for 25+ years to no avail), so I’m thinking that might be why it was worse on his side. Needless to say, we were both in shock.

    So, we’ve sprayed the mattress and the platform (it’s plastic) multiple times; set traps (sticky strips and attractant traps) and there’s nothing in them after about four days; washed and then dried everything on high heat; trashed all clothing that was on the floor in the bedroom; washed and dried everything we had in bins under the bed and also bought new bins; and checked everywhere else in the house for evidence of bed bugs and found nothing. We thoroughly vacuumed the room and the bed itself. We sprayed again a few times and then left the doors closed. We’re sleeping in another room.

    My question is this: is there anything else I should do? It seems as though we caught this before it because a very big infestation. When we discovered them we found some live bugs and shells, but it wasn’t a lot. It’s been about a week since discovery. I bought a mattress encasement and a new covering for the bed base. I also bought encasements for the pillows. We tossed his pillows and kept mine, as there is no evidence at all that mine were affected. Plus mine already have a covering that is supposed to act as a barrier; it’s very tightly woven and looks just like the encasements I bought.

    Another question: how the heck do I get past this feeling that my bedroom is “safe” again? I think that’s the hardest part for us. My logical mind tells me that I’ve done a lot to mitigate this, but I can’t help but feeling this will pop up again soon. We think we may know where these came from, but of course we can never be sure.

    1. Loopy*

      Disclaimer: I’m biased.

      If you have the money, I would hire a professional just for the peace of mind: knowing they are gone 100% and getting tips for the future if you do ever see more. I say this as a child who’s grown up with the family business being extermination (bias) I’m not in the business but I’m always shocked at how thorough my dad is when he talks about his work (they also do a lot of bed bug work) and it’s nice to have someone to follow up with if you aren’t sure it’s 100% solved.

      For me, sometimes it worth handing off the issue to a professional more for mental reasons /anxiety than I actually absolutely need professional help.

      Also, definitely don’t feel bad, bed bugs happen a lot.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I am really sorry to tell you this – but spraying doesn’t do crap for bedbugs. If you are in a multifamily building, you need to call the management. And I’m really sorry, because it will cost, but you need to call a professional. Don’t skimp either. There are a lot of fly-by-night exterminators. Get one who specializes in bedbugs.

      If you are trying to do this on your own, read up. There are steps you need to be taking like:

      1) Either:
      A) Bagging up the mattress and the box spring in a special airtight bag before you drag them through the rest of the house, and then putting them on the curb.
      B) Getting a really good mattress encasement and sealing the mattress and box spring FOREVER. The mattress will still be full of bedbugs and eggs, and you will be sleeping on them, but eventually they will die off.

      2) Bagging up every single soft thing in that bedroom in an airtight plastic bag: clothes, pillows, bedding, stuffed animals, EVERYTHING and then putting it in the dryer, on the highest heat setting, for a bare minimum an hour (kills the eggs). Anything you can’t dry on high heat, try putting the sealed bag in a (very) hot car in the summer for several days.

      3) Using a high-heat steamer (you can rent one, a clothes steamer won’t do), to thoroughly steam the bedframe and the rest of the room. Bedbugs will harbor in baseboards, the back of dresser drawers, picture frames, outlet plates… Read up on bedbugs and make a list so you get every corner. You have to go slow and do multiple passes. You have to move furniture.

      4) Dust the baseboards, outlet plates, bedframe, etc. with one of the anti-bedbug powders.

      Plan on a whole weekend to do the cleaning. When you are done:

      1) Put “climb-ups” on your bed.

      2) Move your bed a foot from any wall or curtain or furniture on all sides and make sure no bedclothes ever touch the ground. You have to leave the bugs with no way to climb up.

      3) Bag your new mattress and box spring in a bedbug-proof liner (easy to find online) and make sure it doesn’t rip.

      If the bedbugs have spread to other rooms, they could be in armchairs or sofas, but if you caught it early, they may still be in just the bedroom. Still, it doesn’t hurt to put climb-ups on all of the furniture around the house/apartment. If you missed any bugs or eggs, and they can’t get on your bed anymore, they will look for other places to get a blood meal. They live for months. If they get past the bedroom, it gets ugly.

      Also, I’m really sorry, because I know you are freaking out horribly right now. You CAN get rid of them. It will one day be a bad memory.

      1. This Sucks*

        We’re in a house, so at least I don’t need to worry about getting them from another apartment or unit.

        We’re pretty confident that they didn’t get beyond the bedroom but we can never be sure of course.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I will echo the need for a professional. You won’t get rid of them just by spraying.

      I sympathize; when I had bed bugs, it was the most stressful thing I had ever experienced, for various reasons. First, I had to move everything in my apartment to the middle– I lived in a studio. I had to wash and dry everything I owned, which cost me several hundred dollars and more time in the laundromat than I thought possible. I felt like I couldn’t tell my friends because bed bugs spread so easily and everyone in New York is terrified of them (the episode of 30 Rock where Jack has them IS REAL), so I felt entirely alone. Then the exterminator came three times, and after his first visit, I came home to find all of my furniture upended so he could thoroughly spray.

      But all I can say is that with time, I got ok with being in my space again. In my case, I had no choice (again, studio apartment). I had to let go and put my trust in the professional who helped me get rid of the little jerks, which is another reason to call in a professional. The weirdest thing I did was keep some of the “bomb” residue on my bookcase; it made me feel better to see evidence that there was stuff in my home designed to keep the bedbugs at bay. I just looked at the bookcase, and those little white dust marks are still there. It’s been over 10 years since I had bedbugs.

      I wish you luck! Just know that you will be fine.

      1. This Sucks*

        I definitely haven’t told anyone at all. Luckily we have company rarely so I at least don’t have to worry about people coming over and getting them.

    4. Fellow Traveler*

      We have battled bed bugs off and on for three years. It is stressful, but it is definitely not a statement about your level of cleanliness.
      Get a professional bed bug exterminator, preferably one with a really long (like one year) guarantee. They are trained at detection and looking for signs of bed bugs. Some even have dogs that can scent bed bugs. They will search everywhere. It is expensive, but bed bugs isn’t something you can solve yourself. Believe me, we’ve tried. We have tried both organic, non toxic exterminator and chemical treatments. The latter works better.
      Bed bugs travel where there are people. I have found bed bugs in the living room and on my jackets. They are also very hardy. When we first started finding bed bugs, I would capture them and seal them in a jar to show the exterminator. They lasted months. No food, no air. As one exterminator put it, “When there is no food source, they sit around playing cards and hanging out with each other until youcome back.” Encasements just trap colonies to breed in the mattress, and they will get out. Most exterminators advise against encasements until after treatment.
      Also, the only way to know if they are still there is to sleep in the bed. All exterminators that I have had say you have to go back to sleeping in the room because a) sleeping in other beds increases risk of spreading, and b) you need to lure them out in order for them to get to the insecticide.
      Anyhow, good luck. Bed bugs definitely can cause a lot of anxiety and shame. There is a lot of paranoia about it. We couldn’t have people over because people tend to freak out when they know, and we worried about it spreading. The exterminator was the only thing that helped us feel fully confident that things were back to normal. Also, remind yourself, that having bed bugs is not a reflection on your household skills. They are just persistent critters. When the earth ends, it will just be cockroaches and bed bugs.

    5. Jess*

      I am so sorry you are dealing with this- we just found bedbugs as well, and like you it isn’t a big infestation but very emotionally draining ant time consuming. Along with the other advice, we have been caulking in any cracks we can find and using diatomaceous earth (it dries them out and is an abrasive, but is generally not an issue for people, just try not to inhale or get it on your skin) on the floor and the mattress.
      One really important thing- as much as it sucks, all our research says you should NOT sleep in another part of your house because you run the risk of them following you (they are specifically attracted to you when you’re sleeping) there and infesting areas that previously weren’t affected. We have been sleeping on an air bed in our room and haven’t been getting bit for the last week. Every morning we shower before going anywhere else in the house and run our bedding through the drier on the highest setting.
      Good luck, and I feel your pain!

      1. Reba*

        Yes, I really want to flag the diatomaceous earth!!!!

        This as well as HarvestKaleSlaw’s steps are what we used and WE WON. I consulted with a “green” exterminator who sprayed our mattress with wintergreen oil to treat it. We did not have to get rid of the mattress or any furniture.

        The sprays that consumers can buy don’t work. Diatomaceous earth does. (You may even find them dead on your floor from it, which is grim but very satisfying when you are going a little crazy).

        Get into a system with heat drying, either in a dryer or hot car for several hours, your bedding and laundry, then bagging what’s clean. If you are consistent about this it is not too burdensome.

    6. This Sucks*

      Thanks for all the suggestions and the sympathy.

      I guess what we have going for us is that it seems to be a very small infestation caught early. I’ve checked everywhere in the house and I’m not finding anything else. We checked all the house furniture and vacuumed it all–nothing found and no bites. All our bedding and clothing has been through the highest heat setting on the dryer for an hour and we’re keeping it in the family room away from the bedroom. Also, we have a Sleep Number bed, so we were able to unzip the actual mattress and see inside, and there’s nothing there. It seems as though the bugs only made it under the mattress cover we had on there, which isn’t an encasement, and under the “box spring” cover (it’s not a real box spring–it’s a molded plastic platform).

      But even after all this and not seeing anything in the traps…I’m still not comfortable and thinking of calling an exterminator anyway. I haven’t a clue as to what it will cost, but hopefully it isn’t too bad since we just had to have a new roof put on.

      Something I thought of today is to throw away my luggage, which is in the closet, so I’ll have to do all that clothing, too. (UGH wish I’d thought of this earlier!) Even though I’m pretty sure the bugs didn’t come from a very recent hotel stay (beginning of the month, we checked the mattress and bedding the minute we got into the room), I can’t be sure, and I’m just not comfortable using the luggage now; all I can think is, “What if??”

      1. Lore*

        Generally the bedbug inspection visit isn’t too expensive—for a house maybe $75 or $100? (It was $550 for my entire apt building a few years back.) And the good exterminators deduct that from the cost of the full service if you need it. They can tell the difference between an active infestation and one that’s already controlled. The price of the full service depends on how many rooms need treating but it is pretty pricey.

      2. Jane of all Trades*

        Thankfully I haven’t had bedbugs myself (living in constant fear, because they often occur where I live), but I had a scare once and therefore had to research the issue — I have not seen people comment on the life cycle of bed bugs. As far as I can tell it can be very possible that there are eggs or larvae left in your house, and you will therefore need to repeat the cleaning process a couple of times so that you can get rid of the bed bugs that will hatch from eggs you may have missed. My understanding is that this complicates the extermination process, so for peace of mind and effectiveness of getting rid of them it may be better to consult a professional exterminator.
        Good luck, hopefully you caught it so early and managed to get rid of them all.

      3. Fellow Traveller*

        If there are bedbugs in your luggage, the exterminator should be able to treat it. Or if you live somewhere brutally hot, you can put the luggage outside and the heat should kill them.
        But yes, most exterminators will charge a minimal fee to just inspect (sometimes with the dog, though once I a while dogs will give false alerts for treats). I think our inspection was $150.
        Treatment of our whole house was a little over $1000 (3 bedrooms, basement, living room). Some places don’t inspect, they will just treat, so make sure to call around.
        Incidentally I read somewhere that bedbugs are becoming more common because the treatments that they used to use is not considered as safe anymore, so they use weaker treatment options.
        Good luck! I hope you get it resolved soon!

    7. kit*

      People can get really …dramatic? about bed bugs because of that icky unsafe feeling, but I wanted to reassure you that one bed bug infestation doesn’t have to be a recurring nightmare. We got bed bugs a few years ago and after one visit from an exterminator and putting all the fabric from the bedroom through a hot dryer cycle, we never saw one again. Honestly we had a much more trying time with a flea infestation.

    8. Megan*

      When we got them, we were told we needed to sleep in the bed after they sprayed in order to be, basically, the cheese in the mousetrap. So you may want to move back to your room.

      1. This Sucks*

        We plan on doing so tomorrow night. We bought the ClimbUps someone mentioned, as well as the Diatomaceous earth. They’ll be arriving tomorrow (for some reason, those ClimbUps aren’t sold in the stores around here) and we’ll be putting them in place and putting the earth down. I also got my new mattress encasement and base cover (Sleep Number bed). Once all that is in place, we’re going back to the room. I’ve been checking for any more evidence that I might have missed and can’t find anything, so let’s hope all is well tomorrow night!

        Be the “cheese in the mousetrap”…yeah, that’s mentally tough, but I get why it has to be done.

  17. NYCWeasel*

    I’m trying to shift when I do my household chores from dedicating essentially a full weekend day to trying to do an hour or so every day, but I’m running into a mental block. Any suggestions?

    Back story: If I put in about 4-6 hours a week, our house looks great. The trouble is two-fold: First, that length of time feels oppressive before I get started. I often end up losing at least a full day from procrastinating, etc. (surfing the web, reading, napping). Second, since weekends are my main blocks of free time, we’re often booked up with obligations. I’ve noticed I do far less procrastinating when everything is in good shape, because it seems less daunting. But as soon as I’m away for 2-3 weekends, it feels like the house will NEVER be clean again, and I become terrible at getting motivated.

    I’m at work/commuting around 10-12 hours a day, so it’s a significant block of time, and I’m trying to get back in shape by ideally working out 5 days a week. I have a kiddo, but he’s an older teen, so he’s pretty much self sufficient. (He helps me fully with the chores every week, so that’s not an issue.) Most nights I’m home by 6:30, and I’m usually awake until 10:30 or 11, so even if I put an hour towards chores and an hour towards working out, I still have time to relax.

    On the weeknights where I have someone swinging by, I have no problem spending a small block of time cleaning things up. The problem is that as soon as I start thinking that I am going to try to do this more consistently,I feel absolutely exhausted and put upon. Logically I know this is all in my head—as soon as I get started I feel satisfied and happier. I’m just having trouble with the very first step. Any suggestions?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I feel you. My husband and I had a cleaning lady for several years and we got super lazy. We stopped using that service to save money and it was hard going back. We divided up the chores and can power through on a Saturday morning in a little less than 2 hours. Our son is 4.5 and his job is to clean his room, dust, clean toilets and showers/bathtub. We tried doing a little at a time but could never keep up with it. Sometimes we’ll do a little on Friday night, so Saturday goes faster. As it is, my son is usually up by 7am, so we get an early start.

      The laundry is the one thing I do want to be better about doing every day.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      There is an expression in planning budgets that goes, “Pay yourself first.” This means put money in your savings before you do anything else.

      I had been thinking about that and realized I could do that with my own labor. I could some mindless tasks before I go to work and “work for myself first”. This just makes so much sense to me. Why would I work my tail off for someone and then not work my tail off for me? I deserve to have my own work done.
      So far so good. It’s nice to come home and realize, “oh yeah, I cleaned X up this morning or I straightened Y out before I left.” I feel a sense of accomplishment instead of being overwhelmed.

      1. Trixie*

        I this is why I make my bed every morning. It’s done for the day and so calming to come home to.

        I pickup daily but tend to spend more time on Thursday nights so I’m enjoying weekends more. I make a night of by splurging on dinner (in some way) and crank music or movie in background for couple hours. This helps make the most of weekend starting Friday’s at 5pm.

        1. NYWeasel*

          I’ve started the daily bed making and I usually try to add in putting away clothes, etc, so that’s gotten easier to manage.

    3. WellRed*

      That seems like a lot of time to spend each week. Are you sure it’s necessary? On top of your already long days? When I procrastinate cleaning, I’ll do the old, get up and just clean for 30 minutes and see how much I get done. Sometimes it motivates me to do more.

      1. NYCWeasel*

        It takes me about 2 hours each week to clean 2 full bathrooms, and then 2 hours for dusting/vacuuming/straightening the rest of the house. Sometimes I throw in a deep cleaning project like cleaning the fridge which bumps it to 6. We moved a few years ago to a bigger house, but my chores actually take less time here than they did in the smaller place!

        I like the idea of just starting. I think that’s my biggest hurdle. I think I might need to do something like change into my cleaning clothes before I leave work. The distance from my car to my room is the most dangerous for completely losing steam!

        1. Dr. Anonymous*

          If you’re spending an hour cleaning each bathroom, also try one of Don Aslett’s books.maybe having nifty new tools or techniques will make it all a little more fun. Written down how long each job takes, and try to beat your best time.

          1. NYWeasel*

            It’s an interesting suggestion—I sometimes do a light cleaning schedule (ie no dusting, quick wipe downs) which I can finish in about 2 hours, but I can’t settle for that weekly because things start to look grimy and nasty if I’m not cleaning them regularly. I’d love to come across some clear specifics to do the deeper cleaning faster.

            1. Dr. Anonymous*

              I really do recommend Don Aslett’s cleaning books, then. Back in the day I read “Is there Life After Housework?” but it looks like “500 Terrific Ideas for Cleaning Everything” is more recent. He has a Web site now that mostly sells cleaning supplies. He goes over principles of cleaning faster, letting the solution do the work, choosing appropriate products and tools (probably some more up to date stuff on the Web site), and I found it sped me up back in the day. I will freely admit that these days I clean my bathroom with my wallet, though, as I currently have more money than time.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              I tend to alternate light and deep clean. So one week the bathroom gets a basic clean (sink, toilet, rinse the floor), the next week I also scrub down the shower and clean the floor more thoroughly and wash the mildew off of the shampoo bottles. A deep clean takes about 20 minutes, but I can basically just spray the room down to rinse. If you staggered deep clean an quick clean for different areas of the house, or did things like the fridge on quick clean weekends, it could cut down the amount of time on one day.

              The other thing I like to do is to do the tidying on Friday evening (or Thursday if I’m out somewhere on Friday). So a quick swing through the apartment to put away books, empty garbage bins, collect stray mugs, get the laundry basket ready to go. Then on Saturday it’s a matter of only doing the cleaning parts.

        2. Indie*

          – It’s mentally easier to clean a clean-ish house: Use the fly lady tips of the daily cleaning your sink first thing, making your bed as you get up and using a spare mesh sponge + cheap shower gel to once over the shower tiles while you’re in there. This should make after-work cleaning in these areas look less daunting.
          – If six hours is your current record, break it. Set a timer and try to get it done in less time (which is probably what happens when you’re expecting company). It’s a good workout to be on the clock.
          -Set your TV to switch itself off at a set time and your stereo to come on with lively active ‘time to clean’ music. Have an easy overall/tabard/outsized tee/apron in a handy place to just throw on and get started quickly in your work clothes.
          – Save time elsewhere. Have a meal going in the slow cooker/in the pizza guys delivery bag for the day you do the big tidy up, while you set yourself up a tidy and relaxing restaurant-style space.
          – Bribe yourself. X time cleaning = X time on guilty pleasure.
          – Cleaning loves company. Have a cleaning buddy (repay the favour at their place or rope in your son) in one room while you do another. Try to beat each other’s time. Loser treats to takeout.

        3. LCL*

          Just two people live in the house? Both grown and well past potty training? And two bathrooms? Surely that is a once a month chore, not once a week.

      2. foolofgrace*

        I have to trick myself sometimes. If there’s a sink load of dishes (no dishwasher), I tell myself I just have to wash SOME of them. Once I get started I generally do them all (but not always).

    4. Koala dreams*

      Try music or an audio book. Podcasts are also great. If you need to move around, you can get wirless earphones with great phones. When I find something interesting to listen too, I do a few minutes extra just because I want to know what happens next.

      Also, try smaller steps. I prefer the 5 minute method, but some people prefer the pomodoro method. Tell yourself that you’ll try cleaning for five minutes (set a timer) and if it feels too exhausting you’ll quit after those 5 minutes. If it feels good after five minutes, great, keep cleaning. If it feels exhausting, quit for today and make another try with 5 minutes tomorrow. You’ll be amazed what a difference 5 minutes of cleaning a day can make, and hopefully you’ll learn that your fears of being exhausted are just that, fears. Not reality.

      In my case, I’m not good with cleaning so often I just quit after 5 minutes. It’s still worth it, though. Every 5 minutes adds up.

      Can you and your family clean together? It’s more fun to do things together, and you can have music and maybe celebrate by hanging out or drinking tea together afterwards.

      1. CTT*

        Seconding the smaller steps! If I have trouble getting started, I’ll queue up two songs I really like and say “I will do as much cleaning as I can during these songs.” Sometimes I’ll do more, sometimes I’ll stop once the song does, depending on my mood and how much there is to do. It sounds like you want to do more than 5-10 minutes, but I would imagine you could adjust it accordingly with a podcast or similar.

        I also have reminders in my phone for one chore a day (Monday is swiffering, Tuesday is the kitchen, etc.) which helps keep me to a schedule while also keeping things from getting overwhelming.

    5. Sandra Dee*

      Check out the FlyLady website, they also have an app. Basically, the theory is to break things down into 15 min tasks during the week, therefore you are not spending your entire weekend cleaning. And it provides validation that it doesn’t have to be perfect, but doing something is better than nothing. She also breaks down areas of the home into zones, and each week has a zone focus, so that by the end of the month, you will have done some more detailed cleaning in the zone areas, and have cleaned your entire house. I do not follow it religiously, but it does give me motivation to do what I can, when I can, and forgive myself when it doesn’t all get done.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Unfuck Your Habitat (UFYH) is in a similar vein. The core of the UFYH method is 20/10s: you work in 20 minute blocks with 10 minute breaks, and do two or three of these sets a day. The UFYH app doesn’t specify when you “have” to work on stuff, but does give daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal to-do checklists that I find really helpful.

        (link in reply)

        1. NYWeasel*

          I think the 10 min breaks would likely throw me off again—they’d become 20 minute…30 minute…oh forget it I’m done breaks. But I will check out how they bucket stuff!

      2. NYWeasel*

        I remember looking at FlyLady a while back and feeling like it was too much, but I will check it out again. I feel like I need deadlines or something to get moving.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I hear ya on the deadline thing. That’s how I am. Unless I have company coming, like not just my best friend, I just can’t get myself to do it. But when company is coming? It’s an all-out, multi-day cleaning spectacular (I have many cats and a large house, and don’t tend to do ANY deep cleaning until I really have to, which is for, like, holidays…). It’s absolutely exhausting and time-consuming, but my house feels so clean and sparkley when we’re done. I always tell myself we’re going to keep up with it and we just don’t. We’ll keep up on vacuuming, dishes and cat waste/puke removal, but dusting and stuff like that falls by the wayside.

        2. Persimmons*

          I looked at FlyLady years ago and her mantra is shining your sink. My sink is porcelain, not stainless. It doesn’t “shine”. I got annoyed with her right off the bat for not even getting that right, so I switched to UFYH. My cleaning feels are not rational.

          1. LJay*

            I just couldn’t get into all the lingo she used on her site. And all the damn emails. And the extremely over-the-top reaction she had to someone emailing her and telling her her website was too cluttered was my last straw.

            I switched to UFYH and haven’t looked back.

    6. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I hated this as a kid, but my mom would do “10 minutes a room” You set a timer for 10 minutes and accomplish as much as you can in that time frame. It’s great because usually if you get started, it’s easier to continue, but even doing that 10 minutes makes a big difference so when you do get to the weekend, there’s less to do. As an adult, I use it now rather frequently because it gets me up and started. Even if after the 10 minutes, I stop, at least I did *something*.

      1. NYWeasel*

        Yeah, I really think it’s the getting started part that is the problem, not the cleaning itself.

      2. A bit of a saga*

        Yes! I do this too. My kid is super motivated to see if we can ‘beat the clock’ and I am, too. Maybe a bit silly but it works for us

    7. Reba*

      Ok, I see “we” and “our home”…. where are the other household members in this?!

      Totally feel you on the overwhelming mess vicious cycle.

      1. NYWeasel*

        My husband does all the cooking, yard work and laundry, I clean the interiors, and my son helps both of us out. No one is slacking!

      1. NYWeasel*

        Nope, it’s a shared burden across all the family members except the critters. They are lazy as all get out!

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Here’s what I would do in your position: first, take a day off from work to deep clean. If it’s possible, don’t do it on a designated holiday. As in, leave Labor Day as it is, take off another day. Make a checklist and do a deep clean. Just give yourself time to get into all the nooks and crannies, plus breaks. I usually put on podcasts or listen to Netflix through my phone and get cracking. The last time I did this (too long ago– I prefer to handle things when my partner leaves town for the weekend, because while he’s very helpful, this is MY thing and he gets in my dang way), I listened to the entire BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries and just scrubbed away.

      From there, with this very clean house, figure out a couple of chores that you want done every day. For example, every night after dinner, the kitchen gets tackled: dishes done, counters and tables wiped down, floor swept (this is easier if you have a very lightweight vacuum or an electric broom). This should take you 20 minutes max, and frankly, give this task to your son.

      Then designate a room/area/thing that you will do on each night of the week. For example, bathroom 1 on Monday, bathroom 2 on Tuesday, vacuuming on Wednesday, dusting on Thursday. Spend 40 minutes MAX on this. Set a timer if you have to. Identify the pieces that are most important to you. For me, in the bathroom it’s the counters and the toilets, which I can clean really well in about 20 minutes. The shower floor, I only do every month or so. That kind of thing. You can dust the living room one week, the bedrooms the next. Unless you live in a construction zone, this will be enough to keep things looking fairly dust-free.

      The other thing I would recommend is to allow certain things to slide. I clean the bathrooms every other week; it’s just two of us, we’re pretty neat, and things really don’t get gross in two weeks. I clean the kitchen regularly enough and clean up after myself enough that it doesn’t really need a deep clean on a weekly basis. I don’t deep clean the fridge that often because I wipe it down every week before I put groceries in it (we also don’t spill much, I guess that’s a lucky thing).

      I use cleaning as my podcast time or my thinking time. I also consider it exercise! :) But I have also learned that I do not have to hold myself to my grandmother’s no-lint-anywhere-ever standard, and if it goes for a day, it’s ok.

      1. NYWeasel*

        First of all, props for the P&P suggestion!

        I struggle with keeping a balanced approach. If I’m going to take time to clean, I want the house to be clean, but I’m also good letting things slide. Like, TOO good, lol. And then it becomes harder to get started the next time!

    9. LilySparrow*

      There’s a fun YouTube channel called Clutterbug about cleaning & organizing strategies. She has a couple about her “dirty thirty”, speed cleaning, and a very funny parody of other “deep cleaning” videos.

    10. Kimberlee, Ranavain*

      So, this is my advice, in part because I did it recently and now it’s my hammer where all problems are nails, but I recommend a robot vacuum if one would work in your space! I got one because I realized that, while I had been considering for *years* getting a housekeeper, to the point of doing trial runs with various services, a robot vacuum would cost the same as like 2 or 3 sessions with a housekeeper. So we got one, and it’s great! There are problems, like it gets stuck under the couch sometimes, and we have a shag rug in the living room that it’s surprisingly good with even tho robot vacuums don’t like plush carpeting at all, but overall it’s really nice. They’re advertised to not replace regular vacuuming totally, but in my case, we vacuum far less than we probably should anyway, so it’s not a time saver so much as it is ensuring our place is cleaner/less dusty in general. But in your case, depending on specifics, you could probably drop to doing a full vacuum once every two weeks, or even once a month, which would save you time in your regular cleaning!

      A bonus for us: we have been keeping things generally more tidy, because you can’t have stuff all over the floor when there’s a robot vacuum! So it’s been a nice push for us to be tidier in general, which is great.

      1. LJay*

        Yes! Ours has helped with both of these as well!

        Our dog sheds a ton and the Roomba is great for keeping the hair under control. And we can’t leave stuff on the ground or the Roomba will either eat it or it will get stuck and not clean.

    11. Amey*

      Have you looked at TOMM (The Organised Mum Method but the mum bit isn’t important – it’s the role of the blog it’s linked to.) The idea is that you do 15 minutes basic daily jobs (one loaf of laundry, make your bed, clean the toilet and then one other thing in the bathroom that you rotate each day, very quick tidy of main living space), then 30 minutes in an assigned room that stays the same each week (e.g. Monday = living room, Tuesday = bedrooms, Wednesday = hall and stairs etc). You do 30 minutes, as much as you can, then stop. If you don’t manage to get something done, it’s okay because you’re back focusing on that room in a week. Then on a Friday you have a rotating Friday Focus where you spend your 30 minutes on deep cleaning jobs for one of those room. The idea is that you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning and while I do still clean on the weekends, I’ve found this method really helpful – I’ve tried many of the suggestions above and none of them stuck for me. There’s an active Facebook group as well.

    12. Owler*

      I am a cleaning procrastinator. My husband has suggested that since I know I don’t really start until later Saturday, why not just embrace it and do something fun before cleaning? I’m not sure my Midwestern upbringing will let me do fun before chores, but it’s worth considering.

      Also +1 to the suggestions for podcasts whole cleaning, and a starting timer of 5 or 15minutes. I’m even teaching my kid the 15min rule of just starting and being with stopping after a set time.

  18. Just eat the damn avocado*

    I remember a time people only posted photos of food if it was exciting or exceptionally well-presented or from a famous place etc. These days it’s like people just /have/ to share everything they’re eating. Unless it’s a food-tracking blog (I think some people use these for accountability when they’re trying to lose weight or eat healthy etc.) it gets real dull real quick. Not all avocados are worth photographing.

    (Yeah yeah I can just scroll past, and that was fine when it was just a few here and there, but seriously, it’s getting out of hand.)

    1. UtOh!*

      Have you heard of mukbangs? They are like a train wreck with food, horrifying yet you can’t pull your eyes away. I’ll let you figure out what it is!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah. The rule is that twitter, pintrest and instagram are for the food pics. Food pics only go on facebook if it’s an interesting tourist-destination or some other kind of otherwise-noteworthy event.

    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I had this exact same thought this week as I watched a woman take a photo of a plum and then a peach she was about to eat. Neither looked like exceptional specimens or anything but – can’t you just put food in your mouth?

    3. Windchime*

      I have a cousin who posts a picture of her dinner every night. These aren’t fancy dinners; I’ve seen pics of a boiled hotdog and some coleslaw.

  19. Loopy*

    Okay, I’ve debated on posting about this but I think its worth a second post from me this weekend: hair health.

    I feel like my naturally curly hair is getting thinner/less voluminous. So instead of blowing my bank account on products to pump it up, I kind of just wanted to see if there anyway to first ensure it’s as healthy as possible. After my initial Googling, I stopped using a towel to dry (currently using t-shirts), I only wear it pulled back for work outs or my volunteering (have to), I rinse in cold water, and I use sulfate free products.

    Beyond that I got overwhelmed by where to go next. Vitamins? hair masks? Anyone especially well versed in having super healthy, strong hair? I know it may not help my actual issue, but I feel like it’s an important place to start.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I will follow this thread! I have baby fine, wavy hair – a real bad combo, it’s both fragile and frizzy at turns.

      I have heard that Biotin supplements help as well as using a non-cotton pillowcase (silk or satin so it doesn’t “grab” your hair).

      Also, I just read in a magazine (interview with a dermatologist) that the active ingredients in dandruff shampoos are antioxidants that improve both scalp and hair health – so I have been using Head and Shoulders Classic Clean shampoo and conditioner. I don’t have dandruff but my hair seems to look better. If there were sulfate free dandruff shampoos, I would be very interested in that.

      1. Loopy*

        I’ve read that too! But I’ve also read so much about sulfates being bad that I’m hesitant to try a brand with sulfates. It just seems like there are way too many options!

      2. Julia*

        Fine and wavy hair means I have hair dressers telling me off for “not taking care” of my hair all the time. Ugh.

        In my case, my thyroid is a bit of an issue, so if your hair falls or breaks more easily, get that checked out. I’d be careful with biotin as it can break some people out.

        Putting on an old-fashioned night cap to bed so the hair doesn’t rub and spread has been helpful, but I can’t stand it during the summer.

    2. Washi*

      Following! I also have curly hair and don’t take care of it like I should. What shampoo do you use? Everyone raves about devacurl but I just can’t get over how expensive it is

      1. Anonymosity*

        It’s INSANE how expensive it is. I gave the trial sizes at Ulta a go (even those are expensive!) and I loooove the scent. But although my backyard is big, it does not contain a money tree.

      2. Loopy*

        I don’t have a shampoo I love yet, sadly. I’m trying out some coconut curl stuff I picked up because I love the scent and it doesn’t have sulfates. But I’m not sure it’s doing anything yet. And yeah,I can’t afford devacurl stuff either!!!

    3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Did you try a “no poo” haircare regimen? I started using one a year ago (the Deva Curl one, but there are others), and after the first three gross weeks of lank, weird hair, it has done wonders.

      1. Thinningandfrizzy*

        Same situation/problem. I started using deva products and a microfiber towel a year ago, and I can’t really say I’ve seen any difference.

      2. Loopy*

        I’ve decreased my shampooing to three days a week (not in a row) but I’m way too nervous to try a “no poo” option! I’ve heard mixed reviews on them.

      3. Gala*

        For those that are nervous going completely without shampoo, I’ve been alternating a “no-poo” shampoo and a normal one, and it works pretty well (wash twice a week, once with normal shampoo and once with the no-sulfate one)

    4. Minta*

      Sounds like the internal approach might be the next thing to try, i.e., diet and a vitamin (start simple, with just a multi that contains biotin and/or whatever your research suggests would be best for you overall). You’re already sulfate-free and not using terry cloth. Are you shampooing less often and minimizing heat styling? Those are 2 other external, no-cost things you can do.

      1. Loopy*

        Yeah I’m thinking along the same lines. I don’t do any heat styling, so that’s good. I’m wondering if there a specific super vitamin that’s really good for hair.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      A few things come to mind:

      1. Where are you on your journey toward the change of life and/or your hair going gray? The incoming gray and white hair may have a different texture and less volume than before.

      2. How is your stress level? I’m recently out of a very, very stressful period in my life and, like magic, the amount of hair I’m losing in the shower every morning has decreased.

      3. How is your nutrition? Dr. Google has many suggestions on what foods your hair likes best.

      4. Does your care regimen include wearing a scarf/cap while you sleep, skipping shampoo entirely, using a leave-in moisturizer like shea butter? These have been helpful for me, anyway.

      1. Loopy*

        1. Not going gray yet!

        2.I was stressed maybe three weeks ago and earlier but it’s been steadily going down lately!

        3. I know I’ve been eating healthier in general (so many fruits and veggies!) but didn’t know there are hair specific foods! Will look into that!

        4. I use a leave in conditioner every day- the brand is shea moisture. Never heard of the cap while you sleep though I’d heard of the silk pillow! Thanks!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I massage my scalp when I shampoo. I also try to brush my hair upside down (head aimed to the floor).
      I quit all hair care products and use organic body wash on my hair. I did find a spray organic oil for hair that I use on humid days to keep it from being unruly. I also use it in the dead of winter.
      Hydration and good foods do show in my hair. I find that I need to use a little healthy oil with some meals, too. I am not wowed by my hair, might be some bias there because I do get compliments. I stay with this routine because my hair is predictable, I don’t have any surprise bad hair days.

      1. Loopy*

        I’ve never considered a oil spray for my hair! I don’t hydrate nearly enough so that’s something to improve on, thanks!

    7. LilySparrow*

      How is your health overall? Any minor symptoms or “off” feelings that could be creeping up on you?

      Fatigue, lethargy, brain fog, always cold or hot, heart palpitations, unexplained weight gain or loss, very dry skin, brittle nails, stuff you might consider an annoyance instead of a medical issue by itself?

      Is it only the hair on your head? How are your eyebrows? Any thinning at the outside edges, or do they seem to be getting shorter?

      I ask because there are several common hormone or autoimmune issues that can affect your hair, and sometimes the other symptoms can be subtle or easily explained away by other factors. Most of them are not dangerous and very easily treatable, but if you see a pattern it could be good to mention it to your doctor and get a full workup. The earlier you catch them, the better off you are.

      1. Loopy*

        Fortunately, nothing else is off, I’m exercising and eating well and feeling good. I looked up how much hair shedding is normal I think I’m within range of what to expect in general. I just don’t know why I feel my hair has less oomph than when I was younger!

    8. Shrunken Hippo*

      Hair can be a great sign of health so I’d suggest looking at changes in your lifestyle that happened around the time you noticed your hair wasn’t doing so well. Was there extra stress? A dramatic change? Any change in diet? The best thing you can do for your hair is to make sure you eat well and exercise, which doesn’t sound that helpful, but it’s the way our bodies operate the best. I found my hair was starting to look a bot gross around the same time I was starting to feel really fatigued all the time. Turns out I am anemic and once I switched up my diet a bit and started taking supplements my hair got better again.

      1. Loopy*

        So for about a month I’ve actually been exercising 4 times a week, eating much better and I guess the hair change isn’t a drastic sudden change, but more of a huh- change like when I look at a picture of 22 year old loops with this massive head of curls, and today loopy, it’s not that my hair looks bad or concerning on it’s own, it’s just so much less BIG than it used to be.

        It may not be as big of a problem as I’m making it sound, I’m just missing giant mass of curls!

    9. WS*

      If your hair is thinning a lot, get a thyroid check next time you’re at the doctor. Even a very slight case of hypothyroid can have noticeable effects on your hair.

      Vitamins that can help: vitamin E, zinc and silica. These are all usually pretty cheap.

    10. Grits McGee*

      This is what’s worked for me:
      1. Length- biotin or B complex vitamins. Before I started taking biotin, the farthest down my hair would grow is about an inch past my shoulders. My hair is currently down to my hips (yay mermaid hair!). If you have issues with nails breaking or peeling, b complex will help with that as well.

      2. Volume- my hair started noticeably thinning at the temples, and the only thing that’s helped so far is Nioxin Night Rescue. (About $20 for 3 months worth on Amazon.) My hair isn’t thicker than it was before it started thinning, but it is back to normal.

      Hope this helps!

    11. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’ve been using the Loreal Elvive line of shampoo etc and it seems to help. It’s a drugstore brand so not expensive.

    12. Persimmons*

      My issues were solved partially with thyroid meds and partially with Viviscal supplements. It will take at least 3-4 months to notice a difference with either of them.

      Unfortunately, some of it is just aging.

  20. Anon for this*

    I got a text from an unknown number to “check [partner’s name]’s phone. Ask him why he’s contacting other women.”

    My partner and I have never had any interest in checking each other’s phones. I don’t have any reason to doubt him. But this is such a strange text I can’t help wonder.

    Do I ignore? Surreptitiously check his texts?

    1. After Houts*

      Talk to him? Do not snoop! If you genuinely believe there’s nothing to worry about, ignoring it might work, but if there is the chance that it would fester in your mind and end up hurting your relationship I wouldn’t go that route.

      Show him the message, ask him what’s up, and see what he says. Then you can decide.

      1. Anon for this*

        A small paranoid part of me wonders, if he is cheating then me talking to him about it will let him erase whatever incriminating evidence there is.

        I want to ignore it but it’s just such a strange message to receive.

        1. After Houts*

          If you don’t trust him, your relationship is going to struggle no matter what you do. And it sounds like you don’t trust him completely, if you think there is a chance he is cheating. So ignoring it is just going mean you keep wondering, doubting, looking st every little thing to see if it could be evidence of his cheating, and never being sure.

          But if you snoop, he can’t trust you either.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            If you don’t trust him, your relationship is going to struggle no matter what you do.

            This. If I received this text, I think I would show it to my husband as a heads up that someone with both our cell numbers is sending me weird anonymous texts to try and cause trouble.

            This is why anonymous messages are such a bad idea. There is no context to indicate this is a someone whose judgment you trust. No context for what the contacting other women thing is. For example, this morning my husband has talked to our daughter (re challenge A) and his sister (re unrelated challenge B) and one of his subordinates (re unrelated challenge C). He’s totally messaging other women!!! When I’m right there in the room! Or sometimes when I’m not!

          2. Lissa*

            I don’t know if I agree with this overall! I mean, it sounds good and makes sense, but realistically I think that even couples who trust each other and never would be suspicious would at least have a small niggling “but what if” feeling getting a text like that. Considering how many stories there are out there of people who did trust their partner “100%” and then something awful came out… it’s not like having a little “but what if…” means the relationship will struggle.

            Personally I think you should talk to him and see how he reacts. If my partner showed me a text like that about me, I’d immediately show him my phone the one time just as a “see, this person is on about nothing”, but I know not all people are like that – there are lots of reactions he might have that would be normal, like a genuine WTF. But if he gets angry at you or tries to turn it around then that’s a red flag IMO.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              But I 100% do trust my husband and if I got this message my thought would be “some A-hole is kying to cause drama” not “Well he might be!”

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yeah, if my SO went “hey, so this just came in,” I’d be like “well, that’s weird,” but I’d pull up my phone, open the messaging app, show him, scroll through a bit and be like, “so… here’s my messages… pretty sure you know everyone on there.”

              I mean, I expect to be trusted, but it’s also polite to give people good cause to trust you.

              1. Lissa*

                Yup agree! I mean for those people who say that they honestly would not have even a tiny peep of doubt/worry, more power to you, but I don’t think that having a tiny question if you could be fooling yourself means it’s a relationship problem. Some people are just like that. I can’t turn my brain off from questioning everything, no matter how much I don’t want to.

                I’m mainly saying this because I so often see the idea that any ping of jealousy/worry means the relationship isn’t solid, and I can’t agree with that personally.

                1. Washi*

                  Same. I have never worried about my husband cheating and if I got that text, I would think that most likely it was a wrong number, since I also can’t think of anyone who would send something like that. BUT I would still definitely show him the text, he’d probably pull out his phone and give me 30 seconds of reassurance, and then we’d go about our lives. I think it’s totally fine to need that on rare occasions, as long as it is rare.

                2. Observer*

                  The problem here is not a “tiny peep of worry” or a “ping of jealousy”. The OP considering taking trust busting measures – and says that it’s because they think it’s likely that their partner would use the warning to destroy incriminating evidence. Basically going from “I trust him completely” to “He’s so untrustworthy that I have to snoop on him to make sure he’s not really cheating on me.” That’s not a reasonable response when you really have a trusting relationship.

    2. Lcsa99*

      Ignore it. Whoever it is is just trying to stir up trouble. Why send a message anonymously? It’s a little cowardly.

      If you’re concerned about your relationship it should be a separate matter. If you’ve had no concerns until now, don’t let some stranger cause trouble.

      1. Photographer*

        It’s not like an anonymous letter— OP has the phone number. Why not call this mystery number and ask what’s up?

      2. Courageous cat*

        I don’t agree with this at all. Sending the message anonymously has nothing to do with it. People do shady things, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, I certainly wouldn’t write it off either.

    3. HannahS*

      Talk to him, in the context of “I got this freaky text, do you know who could have sent it?” Don’t check his phone. How would you feel if your partner did something that showed he didn’t trust you based on an anonymous text?

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      First thought: that person got the wrong number. Especially if your partner has a really common name.

      Second thought: act as if the person got the wrong number! Say to your partner, “I just got the weirdest text. What’s up with that?”

      Third thought: My partner texts other women all the time, for all kinds of reasons. I can totally imagine a scenario where one of his friends or colleagues starts dating some jackhole who decides it’s ok to text me something like that. (He has some friends who don’t have the best judgment in the world.)

      Basically, if you have absolutely no other reason to believe your relationship is on the rocks, then handle this as if it’s someone being weird. Don’t immediately jump to blaming your partner. And yes, talk to him.

      1. Thursday Next*

        This is really good advice. I think you have to base your response on your existing relationship with him. If it’s good, assume it’s still good! Share this with your partner as you’d share any bizarre occurrence, and go from there.

      2. LCL*

        I got a sweet loving text message from a coworker on accident. He texted me again immediately to say that wasn’t for me, I replied back that I knew that, and we have never spoken of it again. Text programs make it really easy to send texts to an unintended recipient.

    5. Lady Jay*

      Maybe spam? I’ve been getting the occasional text (as in, two in the last month) from an unknown number, telling me somebody has complimented me online & I should click on the text to learn more!! Feels very spammy to me; perhaps your unknown number is the same?

    6. Zona the Great*

      I’m going to admit something embarrassing: I’ve fought the urge to do this to an ex live-in BF who turned out to be married the entire time. When I get to a very low point I desperately want to send a similar message to his wife. Never followed through. Just a thought. But perhaps a weaker or angrier person might have done it.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Telling a woman the truth about her husband’s infidelity (or vice-versa) is a kindness at the end of the day. No one likes being made a fool of, and that sort of thing will probably come out eventually, so better to help rip the bandaid off. However, it needs to be a specific and more-or-less provable accusation. “Ask him why he’s talking to others?” That’s way too vague to be worth anything but trouble.

        1. London Calling*

          *Telling a woman the truth about her husband’s infidelity (or vice-versa) is a kindness at the end of the day. No one likes being made a fool of, and that sort of thing will probably come out eventually, so better to help rip the bandaid off*

          A kindness? really? not only have you (generic you, not you you) detonated a landmine under someone’s life, you get to walk away dusting your hands having told someone that you knew and she didn’t – and not only does she have to cope with the knowledge that her husband/partner has made a fool of her, but now she looks an even bigger one to whoever did know. Finding out about infidelity is brutalising enough emotionally, now the betrayed partner also has to cope with that additional pain.

          It’s not for other people to decide that ‘the bandaid needs to be ripped off.’ A woman might know her partner is unfaithful, she might suspect, she might be dealing with it in her own way and not ready to confront the reality yet. I have always wondered about the motivations of people who do what you are recommending – inflicting pain on someone who has done nothing to them under the guise of ‘you ought to know,’ just to make themselves feel better while they feed off someone else’s anguish.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            It’s the cheater that detonated the landmine when they decided to bang someone else. I always wonder at the people who are like “there’d be no trouble here if you all would just participate in helping me lie – it’s not what I’m doing that’s truly harmful, it’s letting the truth get out that’ll ruin everything!”

            1.) There’s very rarely complete bliss in ignorance. Usually the person is feeling like they’re a little crazy because of course they trust their spouse, but there’s just an instinct that something’s off. Plus, you can’t cheat without a host of other lies explaining where you were and what you were up to and why those weird credit card charges exist, etc. so the betrayed spouse is constantly having to ignore their common sense and actively kill their gut instincts – that’s not bliss.

            2.) The “Affairs make me a better partner” lie is, well, a lie. If someone’s cheating, that’s time, attention and money going into that affair – away from the couple. Also, they’re at risk for STDs.

            3.) The affair will probably come out anyway, and then the betrayed partner will feel even more betrayed. That’s more of their life lost, possibly job opportunities or cross-country moves given up for the marriage that was a lie and is now over, child-bearing decisions that they would not have made had they known the truth, marital assets dissipated or hidden by the cheating spouse because they had the time to set things up first. If the betrayed spouse ends up having their life savings stolen, getting a permanent STD, giving up a career that they’ll never be quite able to regain, all because you were too much of a coward to tell them the truth, I don’t think they’ll thank you for the consideration of “well you would have been humiliated if I told you I knew.”

            4.) It’s incredibly condescending to decide that a grown adult is better off being deceived than they are knowing the truth. A person deserves the right to make informed decisions about their lives. Saying “well they probably know on some level” is crap. If they know, then telling them does no harm. If they don’t know, telling them gives them the right to take control of their life and make an informed decision.

          2. Persimmons*

            Yes, it’s a kindness to tell someone they’re at risk of catching a disease that can kill them.

          3. Been there*

            No. The cheater set the bomb, not the person who gave the info. At s minimum the cheated on partner has a right to know if their health is at risk (stds).

          4. Lehigh*

            I would 100% rather live my life knowing the truth about my closest people than being lied to. If my husband were cheating, it would be terrible. But it would be terrible partly because he was LYING TO ME. Everyone else playing along with the facade does me no favors.

            I really think I’m in the majority on this.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      My friend met a woman whose hobby was calling wives and telling them that she was having a fling with their husband.

      Did you google the number? Sometimes you can find things online.

      My thought is present a united front with this outsider until you see solid reason not to. So this means, “Hon, have you ticked anyone off lately?” And then discuss the situation.

    8. Cringing 24/7*

      I think it’s vague enough to ignore, if you and your partner have a trusting relationship. I mean, “contacting other women” sounds like something MEANT to stir up trouble because A) it presumes that being in contact with a member of the opposite sex is an untrustworthy thing and B) if this was someone who was actually IN a relationship with your partner, and they wanted you to know, you’d think they’d be apologetic or at least specific.
      My first thought is that it’s just someone who dislikes him or mistrusts him.

    9. LilySparrow*

      Talk to your husband, but do not reply to the text.

      There is a known phishing technique where spammers will do targeted or mass texts to try to get a response. It’s like those Nigerian “help me ship this gold boullion” scams.

      If your partner has a common name, they could have caught you by luck. I regularly get robocalls asking if “Paul” is home. I’m sure between the people who are really named Paul, and the people who reply saying “Paul who?” they manage to get a lot of people on the hook.

    10. Anon for this*

      I tried calling the number and they didn’t pick up. I texted back asking who is this. Then got a lengthier response with details of partner hitting on other women including while I was pregnant and just after the death of our baby. The last text said sorry but I should know because he has a reputation at work for being a loser who hits on women.

      It’s too specific for me to ignore now and I can’t bring myself to talk to my partner about it.

      1. Theodoric of York*

        Oops. Replied before I saw this. Definitely look at your finances. Don’t confront your partner. Go to the “Chump Lady” blog for more information.

        Again, this anonymous person accuses your partner of hitting on women, not having sex with them. If this turns out to be true, it’s up to you to decide if this is a deal-breaker.

        Remember, however, that your informant is not trustworthy. Since it’s work-related, maybe there are people who work around your partner that you can trust to tell you the truth.

      2. Operational Chaos*

        If they’re willing to respond back to some degree like you’re describing, tell them to prove it. I would assume they have screen caps of texts. That would go a lot further towards giving you a path to take than a nebulous whisper about his behavior.

      3. Melody Pond*

        Oh, I’m so sorry.

        I know intellectually that snooping isn’t okay… but realistically, if I were in your shoes at this point, I would probably be looking for an opportunity to glance through his phone really quick. I wouldn’t go overboard – maybe just phone and email, or phone and Facebook. Just two big places where potentially illicit communication could be happening. If you don’t find anything there, don’t obsess and keep searching more and more places. But whether you find anything or not, the next step should probably be to talk to him about it. Or at least talk to a counselor who can help you decide what to do next.

        1. Melody Pond*

          Also… thought of some additional things I wanted to add, kind of devil’s advocate to my last post.

          So far, it sounds like this anonymous person texting you is only accusing your partner of hitting on/flirting with other people. And – is that truly intolerable for you, as long as it’s not going any further than that?

          Just – monogamy is really hard to pull off perfectly (I’m assuming you are in a monogamous relationship, please correct me if I’m off). Monogamy is not an agreement that you’ll never be attracted to other people again, or that you’ll never want to have sex with someone else again – it’s an agreement that despite the fact that you likely will have desires for other people, you’ll choose not to act on them.

          If you and your partner haven’t already clearly negotiated where the bounds of your flavor of monogamy lie, this might be a good time to get clear on that. I’d suggest keeping in mind that *some* level of adventure is usually needed in a monogamous relationship – is it permissible for both of you to crush on other people from afar, but not to flirt? Or is it okay to flirt, as long as you both come home and tell each other about it in whatever way would feel safe for both of you? How do you both want each other to deal with your inevitable attraction to other people?

          Of course, this conversation should probably happen after you talk to your partner about these text messages – because that’s probably going to need to happen, sooner or later.

          1. neverjaunty*

            The devil doesn’t need more advocates. And people suffering emotional pain from the thought their partner may be cheating on them in a particularly crappy way don’t need advice about how monogamy is tough and maybe now’s the time to think outside the box.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Agreed. Monogamy is not that complicated – and neither is professional behavior at work.

              1. LCL*

                Monogamy may not be complicated, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life. We can’t all be as good at this advice stuff as Alison. And we will never know how our posts will be taken by some reader with a similar problem to OPs.

      4. LilySparrow*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a very messed-up and cruel individual. Whether or not your husband is a flirt (and surely you would know if that’s consistent with his character), what kind of sicko pushes these buttons in an anonymous text?

        If they won’t identify themselves they are trolling you. Even if it’s true or partially true, they aren’t helping you. This is a troll who is tormenting you for some twisted satisfaction of their own. That satisfaction may be some smug sense of self-righteousness, but it still has nothing to do with your well-being.

        Your best bet is probably to ask your husband if there’s anyone at work who might be unstable or have a grudge against him.

        1. Courageous cat*

          These replies are so strange to me and I can’t put my finger on it. Why are we so eager to ignore this person? Not many people text things like this to ‘stir up trouble’ or ‘troll’. Like, that’s just not something people do on a regular basis. I can only imagine most people I know texting something like this if it were true, or had some degree of truth to it.

          Take it with a grain of salt, but also don’t ignore it just because it sounds like something you don’t want to hear. That doesn’t make it less potentially true.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s come up here in a work context re the anonymous note left on someone’s desk. (In one case, it turned out that the person leaving Tic Tacs thought of them as candy, and had no idea that her coworkers were wondering who was sending them a message about their bad breath.) When notes are anonymous, there is no context to how seriously one takes the issuer, and thus no framework for how seriously one should take the accusation.

            Is this someone who lives for drama, or someone reliable, prudent, and thoughtful? (Anonymous notes don’t suggest the latter qualities in their authors.) What does the author think they know? (Plenty of people interpret “being in the presence of persons of the opposite sex” as evidence of seething hormones that doubtless expel the clothes from everyone’s bodies at the first opportunity.)

            The reason to ignore anonymous notes is not that the information is something we hate to hear, but that they lack the context of feedback that we take seriously.

          2. LilySparrow*

            If you re-read my comment, you’ll see I didn’t reccommend she ignore it. I did recommend that she prioritize the person she knows and loves over an anonymous stranger goading her about **losing a baby.**

            Even if the texter is telling the truth in part or in whole, this is not a trustworthy person, not a person of good character who cares about her.

            I think she should follow up with her husband, because you can’t let something this emotionally intense fester. But I think she is better off doing it in a way that is constructive instead of destructive. It would be foolhardy to take a sledgehammer to an otherwise happy marriage on the word of an anonymous coward.

            And if their marriage is going though a hard time (as often happens after a horrible loss), and he’s flirting with others or looking for emotional intimacy elsewhere, attacking their own intimacy isn’t going to make it better.

      5. MindOverMoneyChick*

        Strong recommendation to check out the Chumplady website that deals with infidelity. One of the notable things I’ve seen over there is there are a ton of chumps (lingo for victims of infidelity) that clearly saw things were going wrong , felt uneasy etc. But other really did totally trust their spouses, and were shocked when it all came out. You can trust and be wrong. You can trust until evidence comes up that says maybe there’s room for doubt. Then the prudent thing is to check it out.

        Chumplady does advocate telling if you know someone is being cheated on for all the reasons traffic_spiral spelled out so well. Chumplady would probably advocate checking out his phone. But if you don’t want to do that and want to have a conversation with him, read over there first. That way if he gives you BS answers you will be better able to spot them.

        Also FYI my parents were once trolled in this manner, but with a written letter. My dad is one of the best people I know, his integrity shows in everything he does, but I had slight niggle doubts once they got this letter. (so did my mom, and these 2 have the most rock solid relationship of anyone I know) Because hey, sometimes we’re wrong about people. Then my parents found out about 2 other couples in their group that got similar letters. That put my mind at ease that it was trolling. So could well be trolling, but to protect yourself, check out Chumplady.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          You can trust until evidence comes up that says maybe there’s room for doubt.

          The problem with anonymous tips is that they don’t count as “evidence” of infidelity. They count as evidence that someone, somewhere, thinks they would benefit if you suspected your spouse of infidelity, but it will only pay off for them if you don’t know Anonymous is the source.

      6. Observer*

        You need to get a name.

        Also, yes, look at your finances, but unless someone is willing to actually put a name to the accusations, this could really easily be someone who your husband has ticked off and is trying to get him into trouble. The specificity does not mean it’s true, it just means that someone knows you guys.

        Also, now that you have specifics, you can start looking at what you know and see how / if it actually matches with what you know. Like, if you know any of his work mates, you might have a sense of how they actually see your husband.

        1. Nita*

          True. Presumably the details and timing are something that friends and coworkers would be aware of. And the “reputation at work” thing sounds like it’s coming from a coworker. My husband worked in a very messed-up office for a few years, and if something like that happened there I wouldn’t give the accusations a second thought. Just too many crazies in that office, and for a while we were both slightly paranoid about him sharing and personal info or bringing in family pictures – not sure what we thought would happen, but nothing good.

      7. Not a Mere Device*

        I wouldn’t assume this person is telling the truth, or that they actually work with your husband: it’s possible this is someone you know (or that you and your husband both know) outside of work, who wants to stir up trouble. It sounds like the only specifics are things that your friends would have been aware of, rather than “I saw him trying to pick up women at the Marriott Bar when he was in New York for the International Widget Conference.” The continued refusal of the other person to identify themself also suggests that–“this is Fergus from your D&D group” is checkable in a way that “this is Fergus, from accounting,” might not be, because you know who your friends are. “Fergus from D&D” would be someone you could talk to in person, or ask for his phone number if you don’t already have it.

        That doesn’t prove that the person who sent those texts is lying to you, but I think it makes them less plausible.

      8. Owler*

        I’m sorry, this sounds like an awful situation to be in. If it were me, I wouldn’t say anything to my partner until I could get my head around my options. What do you want to do if it’s true? If it’s false (but it sounds like you dont think so) or *exaggerated*, why would someone choose to text something like this?

        It sounds like the additional texts are giving you reason to suspect it’s true. Give yourself permission to take a day off, be by yourself, and really think about what YOU want YOUR future to look like. You have that power, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

      9. Lehigh*

        What if you show him the text and ask to see his phone? If he hands it over, you get to look and you’re not “snooping.” If not…well, see how the conversation goes, I guess.

        My husband and I have an open-phone, open-email policy with each other. I’m assuming you don’t have that in place, or snooping wouldn’t be a concern. But you can tell him what’s bothering you and see if he’ll give you access on the spot.

        I’m guessing you know better than I do if this is something that he would do under normal circumstances. Like, would he never hand it over on principle? Or does it seem like something he’d be willing to give you to put your mind at ease?

    11. Theodoric of York*

      The whole “if you trust him, don’t worry, and you can’t trust him, then you should break up” thing is nonsense. Even in the most solid relationships, there is room for doubt. That said, don’t snoop. You’ll most likely regret it. Also, you’ll notice that the message doesn’t actually accuse your partner of anything.

      If you have doubts, just start checking your finances. You should be doing this anyway to be a good partner.

      1. Operational Chaos*

        Having doubt isn’t the same as losing trust, that’s what most people are likely referring to.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        Personally I am saying if you trust him so little that your first thought is “sneak and snoop” then yeah the relationship needs to end. Many of us a chiming in to day we would talk to him about it is blowing the trust we have earned by peeping. Frankly that level of trust’s needed in a healthy relationship.

    12. Stellaaaaa*

      I admit I’ve sent texts like that before. People deserve to know if their partners are cheating on them. Speaking the truth isn’t wrong. Covering for a liar is.

      1. WS*

        One of my co-workers used to send these kind of texts and she and her group of friends thought it was hilarious. I have no idea why, it just seemed cruel to me.

    13. Observer*

      If you really have no reason to doubt him, why would you consider blowing up all trust by sneaking around to see if you can find incriminating evidence? According to you ALL you have is a single text from an unknown number. That’s a really flimsy basis on which to base taking the nuclear option in a relationship.

      1. Observer*

        I sent this before I saw your reply. Nevertheless, you still don’t really have any proof. You don’t even have something solid, just someone bringing up some really hard memories.

  21. WellRed*

    My cell phone contract has ended and I am dreading the process of a new plan. I want to keep my device and have been with Sprint since day 1. Unfortunately, being a longtime customer usually results in worse deals, but switching carriers seems like such a hassle. Also, a friend might go in on a family plan. Any advice welcome.

    1. Red Reader*

      Do you actually need to change your plan? Most of the carriers will just let you stay on the same plan and go month to month, if you’re not wanting to change plans or get a new phone.

      1. WellRed*

        That’s what I am hoping, but I can’t look on their website. It keeps telling me to call. Grrr.

    2. Thursday Next*

      Doesn’t your plan just go to month-to-month at the end of the contract, at your current rate?

      Or is it that you’re looking to get a new phone, which locks you into a new contract?

      1. WellRed*

        They’ve actullay started charging me more, which I assumed was a late fee, but the next bill us higher. I can’t access bill online to see what, exactly, they ate charging for, plus the phone should be paid for, so that should come iff the bill.

        1. Observer*

          Go into a store and tell them to straighten this out or you’re going to another carrier. The idea that you can’t access a detailed bill on line is garbage – I don’t think ANY other carrier does this, even the low cost MVNOs.

          Switching plans is actually quite easy. Your only problem may wind up being your phone, which may not work on the other networks. However, depending on the phone you have / need, it still might be cheaper to buy a new phone and switch networks.

          Some useful links in the reply.

          1. Observer*

            List of Sprint based MVNO’s


            Cell phone comparison plans

            NerdWallet plan comparison

            Wirefly plan comparison. This one is more like WhistleOut in that it lets you enter your parameters and gives you plans.

            They also do phones.

            So does WhistleOut.

            The bottom line is that if you are willing to put in a bit of time, you can fine a good alternative that you can switch to if Sprint won’t help you. When you are dealing in person, decent salespeople know when you are ready to walk and they’ll do their best to clear up issues. And if they can’t be bothered, you don’t have to be stuck over-paying.

    3. HeatherB*

      We switched to T-Mobile and I seriously love them! It wasn’t as much of an event as I thought and we ended up saving almost $100/month (we’re on a family plan). Plus you get unlimited data and text – even while traveling out of the country. The store we went to had a lot of young workers but they were super knowledgeable. We even got a $300 gift card (one of those credit cards you can use anywhere) for switching. Totally worth spending an hour to change carriers – just make sure you have your passwords for your old carrier handy.

      1. Handy Nickname*

        I’ve had t-mobile from the beginning and wouldn’t consider switching. Right now, I pay $80/month for unlimited text and data. My parents are on a super old grandfathered plan- originally 700-minutes a month and no text, but t-mobile consolidated plans, and now they have unlimited text and data plus 4gb of high-speed data a month and unlimited slower speeds after that (zero overage charges) for $45/month for the first line + $10/ month for up to four additional lines.

        Coverage is prolly not as good as Verizon, but the only places I’ve had trouble was driving through middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin. They give you like 20 mb of piggybacking off another carriers data though, so I was fine for a few hours even then. Oh and target. Reception is spotty in all targets but no other stores for some reason ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        I don’t even have WiFi in my house – I live alone and can use my phone, tablet, and stream Netflix on my tv all off my phone’s hotspot with no overages or lag.

        Their customer service is the real reason I stay though. Every t-mobile store I’ve been in, every employee I talked to. I bought a new phone from them, got off my family plan, changed my number, had them help me out with “dummy” questions, figuring out settings on my phone. They are always gracious, and eager help, ask questions to figure out the root of the problem, and never talk down to me (my dad pulls out his old acer slidey-keyboard phone every time he sees t-mobile people just because they’re always genuinely impressed and think it’s pretty cool that he still has it). They are fantastic.

        1. AnonymousCelebrity*

          Agree 100%. I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile and I’m so glad I did. Great customer service, good coverage (I must admit I don’t travel to rural areas, so I’ve never encountered a problem), great prices. Their store employees know their stuff. Last time I went in there to replace a phone (five years old!), they didn’t try to up-sell me, which I really appreciated. Porting the number over was a breeze. I recommend them to everyone I know who’s not happy with their current carrier.

        2. Persimmons*

          I had T-Mobile and the coverage in my area is absolute crap. I live on the outskirts of a city with about 750k people and commute to a similarly-sized city nearby. Not a single bar of coverage to be found in my home, car, or workplace.

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you want to stay with Sprint, you should seriously look at their retention deals. It’s best to talk to a retention specialist right off – slickdeals.net and fatwallet.com used to have good specific posts about what to say.

      I used to have Sprint because of the awesome deals (thx Slickdeals!) but then I got tired of the poor signal quality and bad reception despite living in metrowest Boston. If you have Comcast as your home cable, their deals are decent and use the Verizon network. That’s what I switched to.

    5. Fulana del Tal*

      I had Sprint for years but like you my rate kept going up. I finally changed when I went on vacation and had almost zero coverage but my sister with T-mobile had full bars. I switched to t-mobile. It was easy, you can keep your device and number. You just need to account password/pin. I pay $90 for two phones/unlimited everything but with sprint I was paying over $90 just for me.

    6. Kimberlee, Ranavain*

      I highly recommend Ting! It uses Sprint’s network so you can probably use your current device (they have a checker on their website you can use to verify). They don’t have plans; they just charge you based on what you use each month, and the more minutes/texts/data you use, the smaller the per-unit cost is on each. So there’s no hassle trying to figure out how many minutes you tend to use, no overpaying if you didn’t use as much data or whatever this month as you usually do, no trying to predict how your usage might change. It’s just all straightforward and cheap! We used to pay around $150 a month for 3 lines on AT&T, and now we’re around $65 a month, and we pretty freely use data and whatnot. It’s wonderful not to have to worry about any of it! And there are no contracts. Can’t recommend it enough.

      1. Alex*

        Second Ting! Especially if you are already using the Sprint network, because that is one of the networks from which they buy their service. So it is basically the same, except a lot cheaper.

        My bill is usually $20. MAYBE $23 if I used a lot of stuff that month.

        Before signing up, ask your friends if they use Ting, because there are referral bonuses.

    7. Aurora Leigh*

      I really like Cricket! It uses AT&T’s network. I have unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 1gb high speed data (throttles down if I go over, so so overage fee) for $30/month. $35\month will get you 5gb data, but I am mostly on WiFi, so I’m happy with my plan.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      Cricket! It’s cheaper by far and works well everywhere I have travelled. Actually we noticed that our service was better than Verizon/Sprint when we went to NC for the 4th. Everyone else was slowed down by overcorwding I guess. We switched from Verizon and are never going back. 2 phones unlimited talk/text/data $80 per month.

  22. Red Reader*

    Crafty types – what are you working on these days?

    I just last night finished knitting an Imagine When wrap for a friend who’s household is expecting, and this morning whipped out a pair of matching baby socks from the leftover yarn. Probably going to dig out some other leftovers and do a couple more pairs – baby is due in about three weeks, and my husband will be up visiting them next weekend so I can send them with him. I have a couple other projects on needles, but of course I’m pondering what I can start next :) I like to have a fresh project for vacation, and we’re leaving for our first anniversary vacation two weeks from today. I might do another Imagine When for me; I really like the pattern and it’s both complicated enough to not be boring and simple enough to need minimal notes.

    1. Jen*

      I am crocheting a frilly silly pink blanket for my future niece. I should be done this weekend and then I will make something more practical for her.

    2. NeverNicky*

      I’ve just finished a cross stitch piece (Acorn by Bent Creek). I’ve cast on a blanket for my cousin’s expected baby and today more yarn for a knitted bunny for him arrived (vacuum packed flat, which was cool). My mindless project is some crochet bunting … I’m trying to keep to one project at a time per craft!

    3. CatCat*

      I make soap. I decided to do an experiment this week in making my own melt and pour base from scratch. There are basically 3 ways to make soap: cold process, hot process, and melt and pour. Cold process and hot process are done totally from scratch while melt and pour usually uses a commercial pre-made soap base that you melt down and pour into molds, but you can make the base from scratch instead of a commercial product. All these methods have pros and cons. I usually do hot process and so I did that in order to make my own melt and pour soap base. It totally worked except that the bottoms of the soaps seeped a good amount of oil and/or glycerin or both (EXCEPT for the one that I added salt to). I think I could maybe stop this from happening by reducing the amount of glycerin I used to make the base. I rinsed them off and they were fine. The lather very nicely and I like them, but they “sweat,” which is to say they attract water because of the high amount of glycerine in them (this is typical of melt and pour soap). It was a fun experiment and maybe I’ll try again in the future!

    4. wingmaster*

      Got a lot of cool patches. Just need to find the right denim jacket at the thrift store to sew them on!

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Does *thinking* about working on a cross stitch kit I started more than 10 years ago count?? I can’t seem to get myself to pull it out again. Probably because of my dang back problems. I just can’t sit for that long anymore.

    6. Clumsy Ninja*

      I have a simple cross stitch project going – that’s my “fast” project, except that I almost never work on it, so….but it’ll get finished fast when the kiddo music lessons start up again.

      I have a perpetual crocheted afghan project going – that’s the mindless and easily portable project (done in pieces, then crocheted together).

      I have a graphed afghan (crochet) going that got too big to be portable and too hot to work on until later fall.

      I have a small graphed afghan (crochet) going that is part of a crochet-along with a particular designer. That one is my main current project and is on a deadline….

    7. OhGee*

      I just finished the binding for a baby quilt, and I’m giving it to the baby in question tomorrow for her 1st birthday (it was meant to be a gift when she was born, but I got sidelined last year). I’m also knitting a quilt for my sister for Christmas, sewing a dress I want to wear to a wedding in a few weeks, and planning a quilt for some friends who just got married. Hopefully I’ll stay on schedule with these three so I can move on to other projects!

    8. Jemima Bond*

      Getting ahead on making some tasteful Christmas bunting for a friend (the fabric range is Winterfold by Dashwood Fabrics if anyone is into that sort of thing). Also cutting pieces for a quilt that will be a wedding present on NYE – hexagons with triangles in between, the hexies being various purpley prints/patterns/batiks and the triangles being black/coloured batiks.

    9. Anonymosity*

      I DESPERATELY need to go through my craft and sewing stuff to see what I can bear to part with. If I have to move, I really don’t want to haul it all with me and/or end up putting it in storage. And I also want to incorporate some craft time each week so I can actually finish something, LOL. Preferably a doll’s house or two. I think once it’s all said and done, that this is the craft that will survive the purge, because I haven’t begun to explore all I want to do with it.

    10. Middle School Teacher*

      I am doing a cross-stitch with flowers etc that says “I like big books and I cannot lie”. I’m trying to decide if I want to put it in my classroom.

    11. HannahS*

      I’m knitting a Harvest cardigan. Its made out of yarn I bought for a failed Andi Satturlund project (Salal). Her patterns are charming and widely acclaimed but, to me, weirdly written and unintuitive. I’m mad I spent time and money on it in the first place so I figured a nice, easy, free pattern would make me feel better. It’s working, I’m happy to report.

    12. Windchime*

      I go through phases where all I want to do is knit. I recently ended one of those phases and am now re-obsessed with quilting. I’ve been making little flannel blankets for the local Childrens’ hospital and have made some little quilt tops out of scraps. A few days ago, I dug out a sampler quilt kit that I bought over 10 years ago (?!?) and I’ve been having a blast stitching up all the different blocks. So for now, the blue linen sweater I’ve been knitting has been set aside in favor of the quilt block piecing.

    13. Aphrodite*

      Last Sunday a HomeGoods store opened in our town. I have seen this chain talked about on Apartment Therapy but when I read about this store opening I thought I might drive out just to look around. I had no intention of going anywhere near it on opening day. Yesterday, however, after a grocery run and a hair appointment I decided to drop out there.

      The store is medium-large (though dinky by comparison to its next door neighbor, Home Depot) and bright and clean and it proved to be interesting for an occasional visit. They had a lot of Halloween and autumn stuff out and while I picked up and put back a dozen or so items I only ended up with three things, one of which is a small sculpture of two haunted houses, kind of made of plywood and glued onto a plywood base, rectangle in shape. It’s all a kind of bland neutral color but I spent some time thinking about it before putting it in my cart.

      What I decided to do is to paint it and make it much more realistic. The trees will be a shiny black, the broken fence imperfectly weathered white, the ghost white, the bats matte black, the gravestones gray with RIP painted on them. The houses will be painted too but I am not sure what colors. Then I will create some sort of walkway to the front doors, and brush white glue on the ground before sprinkling it with dirt and tiny stones all around. I may even glue some old dried and now dead flora around to make it eerier. Finally, I plan to glue some of these putka pods ( https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1455462655 ) around. These things are tiny and will work perfectly. I may even cut a couple tiny section of cheesecloth, stain them with tea, and tear, then drape them over the gravestones. Fun project!

    14. Environmental Compliance*

      I just finished a dragon for my sister, working on a set of fingerless gloves for her as well to go with a hat I finished, a knit quilt is somewhere on the needles in there too, and I have a lace scarf for my aunt on the needles. I also will be knitting my best friend’s wedding shawl whenever the yarn gets in. It’ll be peacock themed and goooorgeous!

      I also have a sweater half completed and the toes of a pair of socks done somewhere. Probably should stop casting on projects….

    15. Nita*

      Finishing up my first quilt! I’m hoping to have it done in a couple of weeks, which is perfect because I want to give it to one of the kids this fall. (I knit a blanket for the other one. That was so much faster.) It’s definitely a learning experience, especially since I’m working by hand with just the basic supplies. Things keep not going as planned, but sometimes in a good way, and I think I’ll try this again sometime.

  23. Environmental Compliance*

    We’re buying our first home!!

    Right now we’re working with a realtor (recommended to me by someone from work). Our budget is $100-$200k. Very doable for our area, especially since we don’t want a huge house (no kids, no kids planned for, would like entertaining space & a nice lot). We’ve found homes around $130k that we really like.

    Our realtor has told us that we should go for more of an investment than the $135k home (that I’ve fallen in love with), which has great space, a really nice lot, the homes by it are all $100-$250k, and it’s perfect for both of our commutes. He instead sent us a $897k home that is hideous and nothing of what we’re looking for.

    Thoughts on the realtor, & thoughts on setting up a showing separately from him for the house we really like?

    1. Red Reader*

      Oh, gad, if he’s that thoroughly ignoring what you want and your price range – because, ok, I could see sending you something 10-20k above if it hit all your needs and wants and was just amazing and perfect, but to more than QUADRUPLE your max is just absurd even if it was perfect – ditch the realtor posthaste.

    2. WellRed*

      Not only a new realtor but if he works for someone, give them a heads up. That’s outrageous.

    3. SpellingBee*

      Find another realtor. He’s pushing something that’s over 4 times your maximum budget! A GOOD realtor will work with you within your budget to find what YOU want. If you’ve signed a contract with him (becoming more common these days even with a buyer’s agent), just stick to your guns and tell him what you want to see. If he won’t show it to you, complain to his broker.

      Congratulations, by the way, on buying your first house! It’s an exciting step.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        No contract! I did email him back about a day and a half ago right after he sent it to us to ask if he meant to send us that house, and he finally responded back a few minutes ago to say he had not meant to send us that house listing…and followed it up by homes well within our range. So maybe it was an error, maybe he was feeling it out…I dunno. But it was really odd timing on his end. And the area isn’t exactly known for nearly million dollar homes.

        We’re so excited!!

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, that’s so out there that it probably was an accident. 250k and it might have been him pushing, but people with 100-200k budgets definitely can’t afford 800k.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Well, the worst part of the timing is that we had approval from our bank to get up to $900k. He had just reviewed that letter earlier that day after we viewed a house, and then we got sent the almost $900k home. We just don’t feel the need to have that much space or spend all of our salaries on a home for 30 years.

        2. LilySparrow*

          Oh, I didn’t see this before I replied. That’s better.

          But if he’s disorganized and slow to respond, that’s still not great. Keep an eye on him.

        3. King Friday XIII*

          I mean, it’s SO out of sync it may well have been an error, but taking DAYS to reply to your email is not great either. Aside from this one listing email, what do you think of the realtor? General like/dislike? I suspect you’d be more understanding if you liked him, which may be enough reason to move on.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            He’s….okay, I guess? I kinda get the feeling that he just doesn’t know what to do with us. We’re pretty clear on what we like/don’t like/are willing to work with versus not, and he oscillates between sending us stuff that needs way too much work and stuff that is pretty much brand new construction (neither of which we want to deal with). We did our own research before settling on a budget, and we’re willing to listen to new ideas/suggestions, but there’s no reason we can’t get what we want for within our (very wide) budget.

            He’s not rude, he’s a nice guy, but there’s just something about him that I can’t quite put my finger on. The first house we looked at was cute enough, but the kitchen was awful and the house felt claustrophobic and dark. It was also really close to a creek and very flat, so we checked it on our insurance, and the house was deemed to be high risk of floods. Realtor told us he had “documentation” that it wasn’t, so we should really consider the home. Well, we don’t like the house, and the insurance will deem it a flood risk, and I never got to see that documentation. Something just feels weird to me.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Plus, he had managed to send the absurd home to me 3 times, in 3 separate emails, which just felt really weird to me. His initial response was “well, I don’t know what I sent you”, which…..what?

    4. Dr. Anonymous*

      That is ridiculous. My father sold residential real estate for almost 30 years and I’m pretty sure this behavior is just outrageous. Ask him to explain himself or just dump him.

      1. SpellingBee*

        Agreed – also would be curious if this house he’s pushing is one of his own listings. You can look it up on Zillow to find out who the listing agent or office is, and also how long it’s been on the market.

    5. msroboto*

      Yeah that’s crazy. I would expect most realtors to try to show you something perhaps a little above your range. Perhaps up to 225K. You might be able to make an offer that would get accepted for a bit above your budget. Almost 900K umm NOOO.

      Time for a new realtor.

    6. Merci Dee*

      If you’ve fallen in love with the $135k house, do what you need to do to see it.

      Also… ditch your realtor. As mentioned above, it’s one thing to go $10k or so over your budget, but going from your $200k budget to $900k is beyond insane. Unless maybe he’d meant that one listing for someone else and sent it to you by mistake?

    7. fposte*

      Holy hell. I live in an area that sounds like yours, and if a realtor showed me an $800k house, I’d put a foot in his butt.

      If you haven’t signed anything, move to another realtor, in another brokerage entirely.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Maybe he got confused and thought they were trying to buy a two-car garage in California.

        1. fposte*

          Seriously. I mean, the whole freaking point of living in BFE is not to have to spend a country’s GDP on my GD house.

    8. LilySparrow*

      That is one seriously terrible realtor. Yes, go around him!

      If you have a contract with him and are required to have him negotiate the deal, then go see the house on your own and inform him if you want to make an offer. If not, just fire him.

      I can see pushing someone to stretch their budget a little, but quadruple your top end?

      Are you sure he meant to send that listing to you instead of another client? That’s flaming ridiculous.

    9. Kuododi*

      Your realtor is a twerp and is trying to sweet talk y’all into a bigger sale to bump up the commission. (Actually I am thinking about other names however I will refrain from using that particular vocabulary.). My parents had to explain to my sister when she applied for a home loan to buy a condo after her divorce. She qualified for 100-150 K and was panicking bc she didn’t know how she would budget the payments for a loan that big. Mom and Dad explained to her that just bc she qualified for a huge loan didn’t mean she had to actually borrow a huge amount of money. Long story short….little sister calmed down, opted to borrow something around 45-50K and bought a lovely one br condo which was perfect for her needs as a newly.divorced person parenting a rescue dog. Good luck!!!

    10. ..Kat..*

      Every single time my husband and I have bought a house, the realtors pushed us to buy more bedrooms and square footage than we said we wanted. The realtors said we needed more rooms and square footage because it would resell better and increase in value better. Once we put our foot down and said we wanted what we said we wanted, we were buying a house to live in (not to resell), and we would switch realtors if they insisted on showing us what we did not want, they became good realtors and showed us what we wanted. I think many just are in the mindset to upsell (which gets them a bigger commission).

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yeah, this guy keeps pushing “but better investment!” at us, which, okay, whatever, but we don’t want 4 bedrooms. We don’t need 3,000 sq ft. We want a small house with decent land. It’s just us, we don’t want kids, and we want to travel and do other things than pay a mortgage. I don’t care what we have the potential to afford, we want to be able to support ourselves off one salary. Not that we expect something to happen, but it’s more logical to get what we need, not the biggest thing we see. Plus more bedrooms and bathrooms mean more house to clean, and I hate cleaning houses. And we’d have to heat it.

    11. Lemonworld*

      Adding my two cents – sounds like you need a new realtor. Don’t let ANYONE pressure you to buy outside your budget, even if they say that your salaries can support a bigger “investment”.
      In 2002, we were pressured by a mortgage broker, who said that we could afford so much more house than our $275,000 budget (big spendy urban area but our budget covered plenty of nice houses in decent areas). He kept saying that we could afford $400,000-$450,000. But we knew what we wanted – although we could afford a house that expensive, we would be working exclusively to have the house. We wanted to have hobbies and travel and have a life outside of the house. He even tried selling us adjustable rate mortgages and told us not to worry, we’d be able to refinance at the end of the term.
      We found a lovely $272,000 house AND a completely different mortgage broker who didn’t hassle us. In late 2002, I lost my job, and we were still able to afford our mortgage, just like we’d planned. If we’d had the more expensive house, I don’t know what we’d’ve done.
      When the economy collapsed and the mortgage crisis was revealed, I wasn’t at all surprised.

  24. Monty's Mom*

    Need book recommendations, please! I’ve just finished “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik, which was recommended here at some point, and I really enjoyed that, although I don’t typically love fantasy/science fiction. I have very much enjoyed the Robert Crais series with Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, and I also have loved Sara Donati’s “Into the Wilderness” series. I love a good series, since I can make them last awhile, but good stand-alones are great too. Headed to the library later this morning, so hoping to be armed with a list when I go!

    1. Overeducated*

      Have you read N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy that just won its 3rd consecutive Hugo award? It is in the fantasy/sci fi genre but I think it’s a particularly well done series, so depends what you’re in the mood for.

      1. Hera Syndulla*

        Oh, yes. The Broken Earth Trilogy is wonderful! 3 Hugo’s in a row is well deserved!

        Last I heard, they are going to make a television series out of it. I hope they do her books justice.

    2. Jen*

      I haven’t read it get, but my friend said novik’s new book, Spinning Silver, was good. I found Uprooted to be similar in style.to the Robin McKinley books I read as a teenager (Spindle’s End, the Blue Sword) so if you liked that you might like those.

      I will always recommend The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The writing style is what makes the book for me. Quentin is a very flawed and so very identifiable main character.

      To toss a totally random one out: Slaughterhouse Five. If you haven’t read it, it is weird and deeply moving and brilliant. The Dresden firebombing scene alone makes the book worth reading.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I enjoyed Uprooted too! It was nice to have a standalone fantasy book.

      Since you love a good series, if you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters – they’re silly but good fun.

      The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – it has an edge of fantasy to it but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

      The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – oh my god, this book was so good I couldn’t read another one for a while after it as I was still marinating.

      Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – it’s sort of a collection of short stories about the different paths the families of two sisters took. Very, very interesting.

      Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – nonfiction and so readable. I’ve never whipped through a nonfiction book like I did this one.

      The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker – it’s just been adapted into a TV series with Patrick Dempsey.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          If you liked the Bone Clocks, read Mitchell’s Slade House. Not a sequel, but it does take place in the same universe. It’s a quick and fun read.

    4. alex*

      The Tana French books (“Dublin Murder Squad” is the title and it’s up to 6 books, I believe– a series but can be read stand-alone) are good detective-thrillers! And try Margaret Atwood’s 3-book series that starts with “Oryx and Crake” if you can get down with some insightful, post-apocalyptic bleakness. Also I recommend Gillian Flynn’s books and everything by Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess; those are stand-alones, also containing some darker themes (though Jenny Lawson is laughing in the dark). I need some new reading for Fall so will be checking this thread! Maybe I should look into something lighter but still by a clever lady…. :)

    5. Monty's Mom*

      Thanks, all! I’m hoping for even more responses, but the library opens in 5 minutes, so I’m headed out! These should be a good start!

      1. Villanelle*

        I just finished “The Lido”and “An American Marriage” – both very different but great.

    6. Book Lover*

      Well, her Spinning Silver is extraordinary. I would highly recommend. I am still thinking about it and will reread this week I think.

    7. neverjaunty*

      Also recommend the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, starting with Midnight Riot.

    8. Celestina Warbeck*

      I liked Uprooted, I just finished Spinning Silver by the same author and I think I liked it even more. Another book I enjoyed this year was The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, it’s a dark fantasy but also set partially in “the real world”.

      1. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo*

        Funny, I don’t remember leaving this comment :P

        (I’m seconding Spinning Silver and the Hazel Wood. Those two, Uprooted, and T. Kingfisher’s duology of the Clockwork Boys/The Wonder Engine are hands down my favorite reads so far this year.)

    9. ..Kat..*

      Dennis Lehane books. Some are a series – recommend reading those in order.

      Also, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Scottoline, Karen Slaughter, Elizabeth George . Alafair Burke. Linwood Barclay.nevada Barr. Jan Burke. Linda Castillo. Micheal Connolly.

      All mysteries. Most have series and non-series books.

      1. LCL*

        …be warned that Lehane can be really, really bleak. Like, now that I’ve finished the book I may as well kill myself bleak. He’s a fantastic writer, though.

        1. Monty's Mom*

          Oh yeah, I’ve read most of Lehane, and he IS bleak! I think I’ll re-read him at some point, but I’m trying to stay lighter currently as I’ve got enough problems in real life! Reading is my escape, so I need it to be happier right now. When my real life is going well, I can get into the darker stuff.

      2. Monty's Mom*

        Thanks, ..Kat..! I’ve read most of these authors but there are a couple on your list that are new to me!

    10. Aurélia*

      Does anyone else like Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mysteries? First one is “The Cold Dish”. I really wish that the TV show was more like the books!

      Also, Carl Hiaasen! His books are kinda-sorta serialized, but more so he has recurring characters. Always satisfying reads, I just re-read “Skinny Dip” and just smile while reading it. The only thing is that he fictionalizes a lot of the abuses of the diminishing Florida wilderness, and for how bad it is in his novels, one can only imagine how horrible it is IRL.

  25. Anon and spotted*

    Over past seversl years, I have developed pink skin patches on torso. They seem to be increasing. I am pretty sure it’s vitiglio. So far, no issues until this week when I noticed small, faint patch on my Face! I don’t want it to get worse, I don’t want more spots. Googling didn’t reveal much help. Help?!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You need to see a dermatologist. Being pretty sure it’s vitiligo doesn’t mean that it is; skin patches could be anything from that to eczema to fungus. You need a diagnosis and treatment, which I’m afraid you’re not going to get here (or on Google).

      1. jolene*

        Eczema almost certainly if it’s pink, and you may have to go through multiple dermatologists to find something that works, so start ASAP. Meanwhile, moisturise well. It won’t cure it but it won’t hurt.

        1. Spotted and anon*

          Hmm, I thought eczema was scaly or bumpy and itchy? Whatever this is, I hope it gets diagnosed quickly.

    2. LilySparrow*

      Definitely see your GP and possibly a dermatologist if they refer you.

      My husband has vitiligo. It’s autoimmune, so it’s more a systemic thing than a dermatology thing.

      Anything autoimmune is often accompanied by inflammation, so we try to eat healthy and take supplements like turmeric and fish oil to keep him from having joint & muscle aches or other inflammation problems.

      But our doctors have told him that there are no serious long-term health risks, and not much to be done for treatment other than healthy-lifestyle management and making sure to protect the spots from the sun.

      The aggressive treatments available for autoimmune issues come with a lot of risks and side effects, so they’re usually only used for very painful, debilitating, or life-threatening conditions.

      But as others said, don’t assume – get it checked!

      If it is vitiligo, I know that can be distressing. But the “not painful, dangerous, or contagious” part is good news. I hope everything works out well for you.

      1. Spotted and anon*

        Thanks. I have two autoimmune disorders which also is why I suspect vitiglio. I am calling the doc Monday.

        1. Persimmons*

          My husband has autoimmune problems and also has psoriasis that was initially misdiagnosed as eczema. I cannot stress enough to NOT do UV therapy if it is recommended to you. It works great…but only as long as you do it. My husband went for several years and was cleared up nicely–then had to miss two appointments and within a week his skin was a wreck again. Worst of all, the UV light really accelerated his aging. He is now easily mistaken for 10+ years older than he is.

  26. Overeducated*

    Cooking thread! What are your favorite ways to eat late summer produce? Looking for inspiration – I’m making extra shopping trips and paying a premium at the farmer’s market lately, these perfect tomatoes etc. won’t be around much longer!

    1. Monty's Mom*

      We like to grill summer squash, either right on the grill or in a grill pan, depending on preference. Just marinate in Italian dressing for a bit and you’re good to go. And another good use for tomatoes is BATs – bacon, avocado, and tomato sandwiches.

      1. Overeducated*

        We did BLTs this week – delicious! I am the only A fan in my house, but i did have avocado and tomato toast for one of my lunches.

        Maybe I need a grill pan. I feel like I’m underappreciating squash this year but i can’t think of that many preparations. Grilled squash with chermoula or tzatziki sounds good.

    2. char*

      Probably my favorite way to have tomatoes is what my stepmom does: she slices them, sprinkles them with balsamic vinegar and (I think) olive oil, puts fresh basil on top, and grills them. Absolutely delicious.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I love stuffing 8-ball squash with tomato sauce and eggs. I got a recipe on The Kitchn. It’s a major staple for us in the summer. I make a lot of salads with just tomatoes, raw corn, red onions, lime juice, etc. And tomato sandwiches, and even tomato pie. With other veggies, don’t forget you can freeze things like corn (on or off the cob; I prefer to cut it off and freeze the raw kernels) or butter beans.

      I love it when the summer stuff comes in, but after a while it’s a drain on my inspiration and my budget. I shop at the farmer’s market year-round for my veggies, and with the peaches and tomatoes and muscadine grapes, my wallet takes such a hit!

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Fresh salsa with garden tomatoes. I also grow jalapenos so I throw those in, too. I grew cilantro, but it didn’t grow back after cutting some for salsa. Not quite sure what happened there.

      I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all my jalapenos and I’ve decided to try making pineapple jalapeno jelly, which I’ll probably do later or tomorrow. I made poppers with goat cheese last year, but I want something that will last awhile. Plus I won’t have to spend big bucks on a jar at a specialty shop. :)

      1. Overeducated*

        Ooh, earlier this summer i made a pineapple jalapeno salsa from Cook’s Illustrated that i liked so much i made 4 batches. I recommend it! Salsa is awesome, I don’t mind it as much with supermarket winter tomatoes though.

    5. Bluebell*

      Gazpacho and zucchini “noodles ” with a fresh tomato and basil sauce. I’m also making refrigerator pickles with the cucumbers in our weekly produce delivery.

    6. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I’ve been making a lot of vegetable fritters lately – easy way to use up beets, zucchini, carrots, etc – pretty much anything laying around the house. Requires a food processor, though, to shred the veg, but if I make them with a spicy dipping sauce they are great for lunches for the week.

      I also like making “stacks” with them – lay down one fritter, throw a bunch of cut up tomatoes on top, maybe a layer of spinach, and then drizzle some sort of dressing or oil/vinegar bit on top.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I know this sounds weird, but when I was little my grandfather would eat tomatoes in a bowl of milk or cream with sugar sprinkled on them, as if they were strawberries or something like that.

    8. Cat Herder*

      Tomato jam: you can can it or freeze it for longer keeping



      Roast or grill veggies, toss w pesto and pasta. Leftovers of this = pasta salad.

    9. WS*

      I like to halve and roast tomatoes then freeze them to make stews/pasta sauce/soup in winter when I will really appreciate the taste. Just cut a whole lot of tomatoes in half (or quarters if they’re really big), put them cut-side up on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, bake until they’re dark brown in places and collapsed but not yet burned. You can also put herbs on the tray under the tomatoes but I don’t usually since I don’t know exactly what I will be making with each batch.

    10. Jersey's mom*

      Eggplant sliced about 1/2 to 1 inch thick, sprayed with Pam (or very lightly brushed with olive oil) and grilled on both sides for a minute on a charcoal grill. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar on slices, sprinkle with feta cheese.

  27. Koala dreams*

    It’s august and the days are getting shorter. What do you do to keep your heart happy in autumn? I was in a very bad mood last year from October to December, and only started to recover in January, and I really, really don’t want a repeat. How can I prepare myself mentally for the upcoming autumn and winter?

    1. WellRed*

      Tough one. Autumn actually makes.my heart happy. Cozying up at home with a book, making chilis and soup, fall colors, crisp air. Do you have seasonal affective disorder? Maybe one of those lights would help.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Making soup I could get into. I love soups, and it’s cheaper to make them myself (and I can put in extra carrots, my favourite).

    2. Anonerson*

      I’ve been in the same boat lately. I don’t want summer to end! I love autumn, but I dread the winter and that tends to overshadow my enjoyment of fall. I’ve been ramping up my exercise a bit and trying to establish a workout routine that I can carry into the colder months, since I tend to hibernate through the winter and that probably doesn’t help my mood. I’m also planning on switching out my light bulbs for daylight-style ones to mimic natural light. If it’s specifically the shorter days that bother you, this might help! Also, if you drink tea or coffee, you could look at the colder weather as an excuse to find new blends of hot drinks to try.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Hibernate, yes that’s a good word for it. This summer has been so long, it’s been great, but now it seems to be ending. I’m also planning on exercising, I’ve been swimming in the summer, I can keep doing that indoors when it gets cold outside.

    3. Reba*

      You could get into hygge! Slightly joking but also serious. Coziness as a way of reframing the winter months as a nice retreat, not a depressing trap. Are there rituals you could get into that would ease the transition or help you enjoy the changes?

    4. Penguin*

      I’m so glad you asked this! Now it’ll stay in my head and I can remember what I suggested and follow it myself. :)

      I find light makes a big difference and that I need to make a real effort to get direct sunlight every. Failing that, I put “warm” light bulbs in the room(s) I spend the most time in after dark; a pure white doesn’t help me, but bulbs that give a slightly yellowish light do.

      Bright colors (if you like them) may also help; posters, wall hangings, a colorful quilt draped over a couch… these can all “brighten” a mood, and remind that even if it’s bleak outside it doesn’t have to be bleak inside.

      Making a conscious choice to increase warmth and other (positive) tactile things can also help; if you like fuzzy blankets, put aside some time to snuggle up in one; if chocolate makes you happy, choose to have a bit regularly; if friendly human contact boosts you, reach out to friends to [insert chosen activity here].

      Be self-caring; maybe start thinking about the things that reliably help you to feel better (foods, scents, sounds, sensations, etc.) and write them down somewhere, so that you can pick things from that list to do when you need a self-boost.

    5. London Calling*

      I prep. Not in the real prepper sense (I have a largeish supermarket five minutes walk away) but I make food for the freezer, make sure I have cans in the cupboard so that if the weather is bad or I’m unwell or I just don’t fancy going out I have the makings for meals, and I also make fruit liqueurs. I read somewhere that stocking up and preserving is an atavistic response to the changing of the season to ensure that the family has enough to eat. I sort out my reading for the coming months, and I also get obsessed with buying cosy throws and making sure my flat will be warm.

      I love autumn. I can feel the difference in the mornings and after the very hot weather we had earlier in the month in the UK the change is more than welcome.

    6. Dr. Anonymous*

      Light therapy (A small, cheap LED therapy light from Amazon in my case) every morning starting in August and going through February. The winter blues come early for me.

        1. Dr. Anonymous*

          Mines is not made anymore, but the Varilux Happylight portable looks similar. The brighter, the better. It sits on my desk and shines in my face my first 30 minutes at work in the morning. It is not magic, but it certainly helps me.

    7. Prof_Murph*

      I highly recommend a light box and incorporating it into your morning routine. It’s made a huge difference in my seasonal affective disorder. I’m not a morning person at all, and using the light box has made it so much easier to get up. Basically, I set the alarm for 30 mins before usual. When it goes off, I simply get up from the bed and move to the couch, switch on the lightbox, and read for 30 mins. After that, I feel ready to get up and face the day. My sleep is also a lot more regular. Wirecutter has some good recommendations for light boxes.

  28. Anon for now*

    Happy weekend! posting under a different name because, well, read on…
    So I got a call a couple days ago from Child Protective Services. Someone filed a neglect complaint regarding our oldest child (6.5 years old) and they needed to schedule a home visit to investigate. I was in so much shock that I didn’t really ask questions, and just scheduled the home visit. What I can tell is my daughter said something during summer camp. This may or may not be related to her cutting her hand while trying to make breakfast (I was in the other room tending to our baby and she, as she often does, got her own breakfast. Only this time, instead of toast, she wanted a bagel and cut her hand trying to slice the bagel. Not deeply, just enough to need a bandaid) I do also remember there was one time when she came home from camp and said, “This lady was asking me questions about how you guys punish me.” I thought it weird at the time, but didn’t follow up. Anyhow, I have very little information except that they are coming on Monday. I was too addled to even get the person’s name or a case number. My daughter, who was with me when I got the phone call, is now freaked out that we’ll be separated and she says she can’t remember what happened.
    So part of me is like, we’re good parents, albeit a little free range. This should be fine- we’ll clear everything up quickly. Another part of me is wonders if I should be more concerned that CPS will be looking for reasons to write us up. Like we just moved, our house really isn’t baby proofed, but we don’t have guns or a pool or anything that requires extra protective measures. My husband is really freaked out (he basically wants to bubble wrap both kids this weekend so no one gets any cuts or bumps or bruises. And he wants to cut his hair so he looks nice for the visit.) I don’t want to be paranoid, and I’m in general very unapologetic about my parenting style. But should I be more careful?
    I know agencies vary indifferent regions, but does anyone have any experience with this? What should I do to be prepared for this visit, or should I just go about business as usual? Also- do I confront the camp for calling CPS? On the one hand it’s annoying, but on the other hand, they are just doing their job, and I appreciate that because it’s really a wonderful camp.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. WellRed*

      Be extra careful around this visit. This sickens me. A woman had someone report her for letting her 8 year old walk the dog around the block and ahe could see her practically the whole time. Meanwhile, in Maine, two young girls murdered by their parents and guardians, despite multiple reports to authorities.

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        Yeah, I’m chiming in here to say, lawyer up. Don’t trust that it will work out ok; too easy to get an investigator with a massive chip.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      Check out the resources from Lenore Skenazy at letgrow(dot)org. She’s the defacto leader of the free range “movement”. I know this is scary. Make sure you know your rights and the laws of your state as well.

      1. Lemon Danish*

        Sorry, that sounded a bit abrupt!

        Basically it’s their job to report concerns, and they can’t pick and choose whether to do that. Confronting them is kind of pointless.

        You’ll be fine. Try not to worry.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Right. And confronting them is just going to come across as a parent who has good reasons to be worried about CPS.

        2. Washi*

          I agree. As mandated reporters, they are legally required to make a report if they learn of anything concerning. Sometimes people think “you should make sure it’s true before you say anything” but it’s really the job of CPS to check if something is true – camp staff are not trained to make those judgment calls.

          Also, if your daughter is 6.5 she may have made a joke or said something meaning to be silly about knives or punishment or whatever, that she doesn’t even remember, but that gave rise to the concern, and it may be just an awful misunderstanding

    3. Thursday Next*

      I wouldn’t call the camp to complain—they’re mandated reporters, and this is what they’re required to do, report (not assess). While your situation isn’t going to result in a CPS case, other reports would, and those kids need mandated reporters who aren’t dissuaded from reporting.

      My MIL got a visit from CPS when my husband, then 10, went to the ER for a head injury he got by somersaulting into a dresser. It’s just what they’re required to do.

    4. matcha123*

      Most likely nothing will happen. They will see that she cut herself, that it was an accident and be on their way.
      I also think you need to talk to your daughter about safety and that if she needs to use a knife, she has to be supervised by an adult.