weekend free-for-all – January 26-27, 2019

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: The Awkward Age, by Francesca Segal, about a merged family that merges in unplanned ways.

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

{ 1,240 comments… read them below }

  1. anony mouse*

    I’m experimenting with using Amazon as little as possible, to mixed results. Partly because I hate their business model and ethics, but also because they’re increasingly populated by random sellers and the quality of the goods is just not consistent.
    I’m buying more from Target — ordering online and then picking up at my local store is working out. But there are things that I can only find on Amazon, so while I wish I could just entirely ditch Amazon, I’m just too lazy.

    1. Asenath*

      I like the delivery to the door, which I get with Amazon but not most of my local stores. Relevant factors are that I hate actual shopping, I don’t have a car, so trips to many stores are time-consuming, and its mid-winter here. I swear when I retire, I’ll stay in my apartment from November to May, and have everything delivered. I suspect that’s not practical, but I can still dream.

        1. Asenath*

          Not here (ie, eastern Canada). In fact, Target had a notoriously disastrous failure when they attempted to expand into Canada, so they no longer exist here as far as I know. I should have been specific and said I was thinking of stores in general that might supply things I need fairly frequently – eg, discount stores, department stores, maybe hardware stores etc. Not groceries – some of the groceries and at least one of the food stores large enough to be called a supermarket do deliver. A lot of the others do allow me to order online and pick up in-store, but that means I still have to get to the store. A few of them (not, I think, Target-equivalents) have both options, but with some items only available in store and others online. For all its faults, Amazon is convenient.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            I remember seeing Target when I visited Toronto. I’m in NYC and I *LOVE* Target… so I’m not sure why it failed so badly–it’s so popular here in the US. I did get the sense that Walmart seems ot be more popular in Canada (and I actually loved going to walmart there as well). Is it really more popular?

            1. curly sue*

              The Target in my area of Eastern Canada was… interesting. I’m not sure why, based on that location, Target is so popular in the US! A huge percentage of the shelves were empty, the things they did have were the same things we could get elsewhere, and the old K-Mart (I think it was) that they moved into was cavernous, almost entirely free of staff, and had the general vibe that a hellmouth was going to open nearby at any given moment. It was distinctly uncomfortable and I never did go back.

              1. Asenath*

                Yes, same here. Moved into old K-mart (not a bad thing in my opinion, I rather liked K-mart and it was in a big box shopping area that was reasonably accessible for me and very popular for everyone else. So they should have had lots of potential customers – but the store was nearly empty, certainly there were none of the good bargains I’ve heard about in the US Target, and I went there once and never again.

                We do have Walmart – in fact there’s one not far from where our local Target failed. I’m not a big Walmart fan, but I do go there once in a long, long time, when I need something I can’t get nearer home. They’ve recently done a massive makeover, apparently in an attempt to challenge the supermarkets, with far more food and less everything else. Some people seem to like the new layout, but I generally went there for housewares and pet supplies, so the change didn’t mean much to me. And there are several nicer supermarkets much nearer my home. Maybe when Costco makes its much-heralded move to the other end of the city, people who don’t want to go that far will switch to Walmart.

              2. Kate*

                There was a fascinating article in Canadian Business magazine at one point about how and why Target failed in Canada. It had a lot to with supply chain management but it’s worth a full read.

                1. Asenath*

                  Thanks for the reference. It is fascinating – and their problems may have been more extreme in the less central locations like mine. The article points out that when they realized how bad things were, they tried for a while to salvage the stores that seemed a bit more likely to succeed, in Ontario. It didn’t work, though. Like many Canadians, I’ve visited the US and have family there, and so knew Target, and expected a lot more of Target Canada than I ever got. But right from the beginning, it sounds like they had really unrealistic deadlines, massive technical problems, and not that much knowledge of the Canadian competition.

              3. Observer*

                Well, that was one of the problems with the whole Canada implementation. What you describe was apparently typical of most of the Canada stores, whereas it’s TOTALLY not typical of the US stores.

            2. Observer*

              The short version of a long story is that they didn’t do their homework. They also put in way more money than they could reasonably recoup in a reasonable amount of time, and made financial commitments that made it extremely difficult for them to make the changes that could have allowed the to succeed. And lastly, planning and execution was poor, leading to stores that were not providing a good shopping experience.

    2. acmx*

      This pretty much sums up how I feel! They’re ever greedier. I also use Target as a replacement for Barnes and Noble (they just annoy me now) plus used books sites.

    3. What the What*

      Amazon is a life saver for our family and it helps me avoid the horror that is Walmart. We live in a small town with very limited shopping options. We live an hour away from a good sized US city (700k). It’s ridiculous but I drive an hour one way just to go to Trader Joe’s to avoid Walmart and to get quality, inexpensive and interesting food at half the cost in some instances. (And seriously, have you tried TJ’s chimichurri rice?!?! Yum.) The Walmart in our town is the busiest in the state (per Walmart) and is really pricey. They know they can charge higher prices because there are very limited shopping options here. So Amazon really fills in a lot of local shopping gaps for us.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Walmart has been very successful in driving businesses out here. We are watching national chains leave on a regular basis. For decades I avoided Walmart and now there just are not a lot of choices.

    4. Ann*

      I try, but often ordering from somewhere like Target gets me a more expensive, but worse, product. I have switched all of my pet stuff over to Chewy (similar prices and they also have a reoccurring delivery option). I try to get as much from Costco, too, but the types of things they carry are often limited.

    5. Rebecca*

      I use Amazon because I too live in a rural area with few shopping options. We have one Walmart super store in our entire county, and only 3 grocery stores (two of the same nameplate) and a Save A Lot. That’s it. Nameplate stores are notoriously high priced, unless you can get something on sale or with a coupon, then it’s “buy 3 at this price” and if you just need one, you pay regular price. I too have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to stores most people consider ubiquitous, like Target, Trader Joes, Wegman’s, etc.

      Another trend I’ve noticed is that Walmart and the Nameplate stores here have closed normal checkouts and converted them to self checkouts. I loathe self checkouts. If I have one thing, maybe, but a whole cart full of stuff? No. I really feel we should get a discount for having to use those things. I don’t like feeling like a criminal, as the staff in charge of watching has to look for shoplifting, I guess, I can’t use coupons without the store clerk reviewing them and actually ok’ing them on the screen, so no thanks. I can’t even use the 50% off bakery coupon they stick to day old bread, and it’s their own coupon!

      While I don’t buy everything from Amazon, I do use it as resource because I rarely have an entire Saturday to run around to 3 counties trying to find one thing at a store in a mall that may or may not be open, or the item may or may not be in stock. For me, it’s a time thing.

      1. Emily*

        The self-checkout thing sounds annoying! I actually really like self-checkouts sometimes, but I wouldn’t choose to use them if I had a ton of items or if I was buying something that necessitated the help of a store clerk (coupons, alcohol, etc.).

      2. Lychee*

        In my country some grocery stores have mobile scanners or apps for your phone so you can scan groceries as you gather them and pack them in bags immediately. That saves loads of time at checkout, which I love! Scanning a full cart at the checkout does seem tiresome though.

      3. Asenath*

        I hate and despise self-checkouts. I’ve tried them once or twice in different stores, and find it a hassle – it’s so much easier to use a real checkout. And I find myself cursing them and wondering why I am providing free labour to . One store I do shop in regularly has them, and I invariably choose the real checkout instead. So far, no place I’ve visited has chosen to have only self-checkouts, although some make them a lot more obvious than the real checkouts.

      4. Windchime*

        I hate self-checkouts. What’s next; I’m going to have to stock the shelves and sweep the store? Are you going to make me trim my own produce and decorate my own cake? Seriously. Just open another damn check stand if the lines are too long; don’t force customers to ring up their own order. I notice that my local Target was remodeled and they’ve now installed a bunch of self-checkout stations. No. I don’t work at Target and I”m not going to ring up my own stuff.

      5. Gatomon*

        This. I’m in the only big town in a rural area of the US and Amazon is a lifesaver. While we have stores representing most of the large chains, they are much smaller and lack the selection you would expect. Oftentimes they bring in a product, it doesn’t sell and they drop it.

        Living here was really frustrating until Amazon started to expand. Things are getting better as the population expands, but even when large retailers come here, the stores are small and lack the selection bigger places get. I know Amazon is rolling out tons of features for city dwellers, but I think it’s the rural areas that really keep them afloat.

      6. Maya Elena*

        That’s funny because I have the exact opposite feeling about self checkouts, especially if they provide ones with enough space for large purchases. When I’m with a small child and can’t do that myself, it’s good to go to a person. But often it is slow and not well-done, and the lines are long.

      7. Indie*

        Oh my people! Self checkouts are the work of the devil and it tends to go like this:

        * Stands in line at the only staffed checkout, fuming at the line*
        * Staff member who has deliberately been kept off the tills to nag customers approaches me*
        “Hi! There are self checkouts if you don’t want to wait”
        “Thank you but I hate them. I don’t suppose you could open another till, could you?”
        “No, I am on self-checkout duty unfortunately. I have to be free to help people towards them and help with any errors at the self checkouts. Do you want to use them?
        “No thank you, I will wait”
        * Considers asking staff member why she wants to be put out of a job, but know already she already knows this and despises the system as much as I do*
        *Sole operating checkout breaks down and the operator is trying to attract the attention of non existent supervisors to help fix it*
        *Feel torn between walking out and using self checkouts*
        *Puts a lightweight, but necessary item on the self checkout scale (tampons, pens, gum etc) and receives an ‘no item on scale’ error message. Or in the case of a kitchen knife or bottle of wine, a ‘age ID and staff member required’ message. Alert light goes on for a staff member to help.
        *Looks over to the self-checkout helper but she is in an argument with a customer who is offended at being told to check herself out*
        *Walks out empty handed and incredibly late*

        I don’t mind machines being used to replace people! I get that this will happen in the course of progress and the sooner we adjust to inevitable improvements the better. But the machines are not ready! If RobotJoe can’t identify a box of tampons or is likely to let 12 year olds walk out of stores with knives and booze, then maybe, just maybe RobotJoe isn’t up to the job?

        Apparently the amount of shoplifting has skyrocketed and I am kind of on the side of the shoplifters there..

        1. Works in IT*

          Oh, you forgot “non shoplifting gets in a fistfight with a shoplifting customer”! Having to work self checkouts was awful.

    6. Rebecca*

      Another resource I found is “Brandless”. I’ve ordered several shipments now and am pleased with my selections.

    7. Newbie*

      I’ve done similar. I live right around the corner from a Target, a hardware store, and a craft store, plus I’m right next to a city, so it’s actually quite easy and often more convenient for me to go to the store than to order off of Amazon. However, my parents, who live a hour away from basically any stores, still use Amazon heavily and I don’t blame them at all. My system wouldn’t work for them.

    8. WellRed*

      So funny you posted this today. I read yesterday about how Amazon is testing out delivery robots. What happens when no body has a job anymore because Amazon drove out all the smaller businesses, then stopped hiring people, itself, and now nobody has money to buy Amazon products? (this doesn’t even get into the loss of sales tax revenue). Also, while I love to convenience of having stuff delivered, sometimes I want to try on the pants or browse through the book.

      1. Asenath*

        Then Amazon will go out of business! (If there are no other businesses and so much unemployment no one can buy from Amazon).

        I read a lot, but once I tried e-books, I rarely bought a “real” one, and go by descriptions or recommendations. I rarely use neither bookstores nor libraries any more.

        Buying clothes can be tough. It’s worse because I live in a small city and there’s not much selection here that fits (and perhaps I’m a bit picky with fabric and style). When I find an online source that works (not Amazon, usually; I don’t find that they have much clothing I like, although I can get my really comfy shoes there), I’ll stick to it for a while. Don’t get me started on those little charts that don’t give a really accurate description of fit.

      2. Kimmybear*

        I’ve heard the argument that automated registers/delivery robots actually don’t reduce the number of jobs but change the kind. Instead of checkers at the register you have mechanics and tech support fixing the registers. Economists can theorize but I would be interested to see the actual numbers.

        1. Ann O.*

          I buy the general argument because you can see it over transitions in history.

          But what I worry about more specifically is the loss of jobs that don’t require higher education. I expect handiwork and the trades to always be around, but there’s not a 1 to 1 exchange between check out clerk or delivery person and robot designers and software engineers.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I think the problem with this is that you take a number of low skilled jobs, and replace it with a couple of trained jobs (cashier vs mechanics), leaving the low skilled employers without a job. What I suspect is that the niche taken by jobs like cashiers and other retail staff will end up being filled by people doing gig-economy jobs without even the protection of minimum wage, overtime or unemployment insurance (which only go to employees).

          1. Asenath*

            Living in an area in which there have been massive economic upheavals, it doesn’t always happen like that. Some of the unemployed move to an area that still has employment in something they do. Some re-train (we did have some assistance with that). Some retired early, admittedly without much in the way of pensions. The ones I felt most sympathy for were the middle-aged – too old to find it easy to re-train or find a new job, not old enough (or otherwise unable) to retire, and quite often with children at the expensive age, at or near the point of needing post-secondary training themselves, and of course also unable to find the now non-existent unskilled or semi-skilled jobs, which was often the traditional solution for late teenaged children of families in economic difficulties . I think that group took the biggest hit. The economy shifts, and people do what they can to get buy – but it’s often different things for different people.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Loss of sales tax revenues?
        Nah. They fixed that with the Wayfair act being tossed out last summer.

        Now a lot of online retailers are collecting sales tax for states they don’t operate in. California sent out “LOL PAY US starting in April” notices.

        This is just business evolving. Computers can’t do their jobs completely independent, humans have to be there to fill in their gaps.

        Amazon still needs humans to wrangle the robots.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Also this theory also happened when we created factories to build products instead of people on assembly lines putting caps on toothpaste bottles.

        Higher efficiency does make certain jobs obsolete but they create new ones.

        Grocery stores offer delivery now in response. New jobs.

    9. Works in IT*

      I use Amazon because I live in a beach resorty area that caters to tourists, which means there are no stores that sell the specialty fabrics I need for my needlework projects anywhere near me. I tried ordering them from Michael’s, but Michael’s and AC Moore don’t carry big enough pieces, so ordering them off Amazon is my only option. I also use Amazon to order books because I had a Bad Experience ordering books from Barnes and Noble, which I do not care to repeat ever again.

        1. Works in IT*

          Pretty sure I’ve told people of it before. A book arrived, two weeks late after I’d given up on it and had them give me a refund, in a package with a hole torn in it that was so big you could drop the book out of the package through it.

          Never again.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            For Christmas, one of my friends sent me a big box of expensive art books. Some of them had retail prices of $50 and $75 printed on the inside, so they were not cheap in any way, shape, or form. He had wrapped them all individually with paper and ribbon. The package was marked delivered on a Friday, but it wasn’t delivered. They told me to see if it showed up Saturday because sometimes packages are marked as delivered when they are not. Monday, the package finally shows up at 9:00 at night. It has a big hole in the top of the box. Every expensive art book had been unwrapped and the wrapping paper/ribbons discarded. There were six books in the box, and four of them were damaged–ripped dust jackets, splotches of dirt on them, etc. I was so disappointed and angry. The other people I exchange with had given me gift cards, so I was so excited to be able to open a couple packages, and then somebody opened them and threw all the wrapping away! Then USPS denied my friend’s insurance claim. I can’t figure out if a USPS inspector opened them all up and threw them back in the box or if the package was misdelivered on Friday, the person who received the package thought they hit the jackpot, and then they dumped the box in our yard when they realized it was just a bunch of books.

        2. thestik*

          While I didn’t have a nightmare experience with Barnes and Noble online, I was befuddled by their use of DHL (which in my experience is super slow). I think if they used a different carrier, things wouldn’t appear quite as dysfunctional.

    10. SignalLost*

      As a former Amazon FC worker, I really enjoy the defensiveness brought out whenever anyone says they’re considering using Amazon less. I know how the sausage is made and I won’t shop there. If they’re the only option, I do without.

      1. Observer*

        Not everyone has the option of doing without. I agree that it shouldn’t be that way, but it’s a reality.

        1. TL -*

          I mean, we survived without Amazon for eons. I do try really hard to minimize my use of Amazon – I’ll buy from other online retailers, I try really hard to buy in person when I can (I hate waiting for shipping) – and I probably make 1-3 online orders from Amazon a year. When I move back to the States, I’m going to try really hard to make that zero.

          It costs more money, sure, but it’s all stuff that’s nice to have, so sometimes I just have less of it.

          1. Observer*

            The landscape is different than it was. Businesses ran without computers for eons, too, but no reasonable person thinks that a business today can survive without computers. etc.

            While it’s true that for some people and some things it’s a matter of “nice to have” that’s not universally true. Read the comments on this conversation alone to see for how many people Amazon has become the place to get things they need, because they can’t get it otherwise.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We has nightmare deliveries from Target when we tried awhile back :( They kept packing breakable items with literally no packing material. Such a strange experience!

      1. Mary Connell*

        Yes. Similar experience. Half of a large order of non perishable food and household items from Target were so badly packed that they were unusable. It was a nightmare trying to get it taken care of by phone, and I finally gave up and went to the nearest store — a long, long drive, and spent a long time at the customer service desk. Ridiculous experience, and I don’t plan to order from them again.

    12. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Yeah, I use Amazon as little as possible too. Then again, I don’t buy a lot online in general. That said though, I do find Amazon handy as a sort of Google for products, just to see if something exists and what it is officially called.
      Also, you know something is going to be pretty damn hard to find if even Amazon doesn’t carry it on any of their sites.

    13. Need a Beach*

      I got fed up with Amazon because of the unwanted substitutions and shady counterfeit-looking products, so when the employee rights issues came to light I had a bit of a head start.

      In my experience, once you find an online source for a category of product and have an established customer history, you can get away with asking if they would be willing to carry other related products, and it sometimes works (but not always). I’ve also had luck with having a couple of small locally-owned businesses order things for me they don’t normally carry–my local pet store actually started stocking several kinds of grain-free food after I asked about it for an allergic cat.

    14. Nita*

      Yeah, I’ve had so many bad experiences with Amazon that I’ll only use them if I get an Amazon gift card. Amazon has too many random vendors whose quality is nobody’s problem. And shipping issues. Sure, I’ve always gotten a refund, but actually getting what I ordered is hit and miss.

      I’d much rather deal with Walmart or Target. The price is often the same or a bit more, and I’m pretty sure I’ll actually get what I need, when I need it. Even EBay is better on quality and promptness.

    15. MissDisplaced*

      I feel sort of neutral about Amazon in general.
      I am a Prime member and end up buying a lot. Why? Because I simply can’t find the things I want in any of the stores! I live in an area populated by Walmarts, Targets, Home Depot, Petco, Lowe’s etc., but they never have what I need. So much easier to order online from Amazon exactly what I want. Case in point: foam tubing. None of the hardware stores had this stuff. But I found exactly what I needed on Amazon for $4.00 + $2.00 shipping. Ditto with specialty pet food and a cat urine medicine.

      I do not buy groceries on Amazon though. In general the thought of buying food/groceries online turns me off. I need to see/smell/look at first.

    16. Artemesia*

      I live in a big city with lots of shopping options — but it is still harder and harder to find what you want in stores. And mail order stuff is so reliable from Amazon and takes so long and is so unreliable from other stores. I do get stuff from Macys, Nordstrom and Landsend on line and do shop at Target when I can, but we still do get a lot from Amazon. The worst are those Chinese firms that sell appealing items on the internet and then you get them maybe or maybe not months later. I ordered a couple of things for my grandkids for Christmas in October and one has arrived mid January and the other is ‘we are shipping’ and has been for weeks. the thing that did come is clearly inferior, has no instructions and was thrown in a plastic bag randomly although in the ad on line it showed a nice box with pictures of the assembled toys. But yeah — Amazon is destroying the country along with Walmart — so we are trying to greatly limit what we get from them and never books except Ebooks and even there we mostly use the library.

      1. Nita*

        I’ve had very good experiences with Chinese sellers that are on EBay. I’ve only ordered clothes a few times because I’m sure returns would be a pain, but the stuff I did order was the right size and shipping time was OK (it can take weeks, but the sellers are up front about that). And I’ve gotten a lot of amazing craft supplies from China – again, usually a long shipping time, but awesome quality.

    17. Neatly Annie*

      I’m in a city in the UK, so obviously different shops available, but I have stopped using Amazon without any difficulties. I’m intrigued by what people in the US are saying about the difficulties buying the goods they sell through other means.

      1. acmx*

        Some examples that I went to Amzn for: phone and case that’s not carried by our mobile companies (I think our big electronic store was out of stock), a clock that’s easy for elderly people to read, a non ticking analog clock.

        I use Amazon to search for what I need and then try to find it with another company but I’m not always successful.

        1. Neatly Annie*

          That’s really interesting – thanks for sharing the examples. I did a trial ‘shop’ for the clock (clocks?) and found what I think you’re describing at the second place I tried, a UK department store that I get a lot of regular household items from. There’s a branch near my work, so I often check it out online and then go in person to verify the size and design standard. My sister lives more rurally and tends to spend a day in town, shopping in the department stores, having lunch out, maybe seeing a film. It’s interesting to compare shopping options across the pond!

          1. acmx*

            The clock for elderly people (maybe just dementia) is digital and has solid numbers versus the numbers made up of short lines, has ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’, ‘night’ and spell out words instead of abbreviated.

            I think I could have found a silent clock outside of Amazon. I tried my go to places and wasn’t successful so I caved. I had bought one at Target that people said was silent and it wasn’t. That was another reason I went with Amazon, lots of reviews saying it was quiet. (it’s for the bathroom. I needed one I could read while in the shower but I didn’t want a high end one).

        2. TL -*

          I wonder how much of it is the options that Amazon gives us, rather than the necessity of having that particular option, though.

          Like, once you’ve been on Amazon and you’ve seen all 50 thousand options and you can pick the one that fits your desires/needs the absolute best, you’re unlikely to think, “aw, this’ll do” about another option in the same price range. Whereas before, you were much more likely to divide your list into necessities and nice to haves and sacrifice on the nice-to-haves.

      2. KR*

        The US is large and has many rural areas – I need to drive 45 minutes to reach a Wal-Mart, Marshalls, and a big name home improvement store and an hour and a half to reach Target, Trader Joe’s, a mall with clothes stores, ect. There are some local options but in general because of how spread out everything is here Amazon is the best option for a lot of people.

        1. Anne Jessup*

          Ditto. We live 70 miles from a Walmart, no Target within 85 miles. 2 small grocery stores, a hardware store. No clothing other than ranchwear or touristy stuff. Amazon divery is appreciated in rural small towns.

      3. Gatomon*

        The US is incredibly large and not very densely populated, for the most part. I don’t think you can really compare any area in Europe to the US. For example, the population density per square mile of Alaska is 1 person. Wyoming is 6, Montana is 7, even Oregon is only 41 people per square mile (and I bet that’s heavily skewed by the coast). It’s our infamous “flyover country” that struggles, not say, people who live in the suburbs of Chicago. But the people who live in these areas want and need to buy things just like everyone else.

    18. Observer*

      I get you on Amazon. I also try to avoid them.

      Three are a few things that I have found useful when I do wind up with Amazon.

      1. Buy brand names. I don’t necessarily mean high end brands. But if you know that you are buying brand X teapots, you know what you are getting, whereas if you buy “a” teapot, you have no idea what you’re going to get if you don’t really know the seller.

      2. The same item is often sold by multiple sellers. Try to use the same sellers as much as possible – you’ll get to know their stuff that way.

      3. Check reviews. Amazon does do a lot of work on getting rid of fake reviews, and there are sites that evaluate reviews and / or provide some good advice on spotting fake reviews. (eg if there are a bunch of positive reviews within a couple of days, they are most likely fake.)

    19. Madge*

      I’m another rural resident. The closest big-ish city (pop 50,000) is over an hour away. My town has big retail corridor for the area, but selection and availability is low. I remember when JC Penney was being more fashion forward and I’d see cute things in the national ads, but my local Penney’s never stocked them. Just last weekend I needed a specialty cable so I could install a new hard drive in my laptop. None of the likely stores in my area stocked it, so I ordered from Amazon.

      I don’t so much as try to avoid Amazon as I try to get what I need locally first. Even if I buy something from Staples, they staff the store with local people so I’m supporting the local economy on some level. But we don’t have any superstores and errand day gets exhausting when I have to make 8-10 stops to get everything I need. I have a Prime account and I try to get my money’s worth out of the services that we can use. I don’t have any smart speakers, and I’ve cancelled all my subscribe and saves because they end up costing me more with surprise shipments than they save.

    20. Jasnah*

      I don’t support Amazon’s business model and ethics but I don’t see how to beat the convenience. If I need a good llama brush, I can schlep to 4 tiny local specialty stores and gamble on their selection (plus the expense and hassle of visiting multiple stores). Or I can go to Big Box Super Store where the employees have no idea what makes a good llama brush, and I can pick up milk on the way, but it still takes time to go there.

      Or I can go to Amazon, read reviews for different llama brushes until I find the kind I want, buy it from a seller with good reviews, and it comes to my house. I don’t have to even wear pants to get it. Plus they have a huge selection of ebooks which is invaluable when you can’t easily get English books locally.

      Honestly if I stopped using Amazon out of protest, I would suffer more than they would. I can’t make them do better, but it does make my life easier.

  2. Quake Johnson*

    Watched Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary and uh…wtf.

    I don’t know what was worse, the shambolic organization process, the blatant fraud, or all these entitled rich people reverting to savagery after briefly being inconvenienced.

    Made for great viewing tho. Schadenfreude on multiple levels.

    1. Helpppp*

      Check out the Hulu one too, they’re both great in different ways. I was really intrigued by how much I’m way out of touch with Instagram culture… I’ve never really used it, so I’m amazed how much it can affect the world.

      It is worth noting that not everyone was rich… Lots of the tickets were only $500, which is too good to be true (literally) for flights, accommodation, and a music fest in the Bahamas.

      And finally – Why is Pablo Escobar a person who they admire enough to advertise about?! He killed people!

      1. catsaway*

        Yeah, some of the attendees interviewed clearly acted like jerks but I’d say that arriving at a vacation spot in a remote area only to find out that your access to food, water, bathrooms and shelter was extremely limited/nonexistent is more than a minor inconvenience.

        I’ve never understood that mentality about Pablo Escobar, but so many people seem to have it. My thought is that you should replace “Pablo Escobar” with “Osama binLaden” and see how whatever your talking about stands (like most Americans would be offended if someone organized a party in Osama binLaden’s compound or whatever).

        1. Quake Johnson*

          I mean, the tents had mattresses. That’s already more luxurious than any camping trip I’ve ever been on.

          Sure, I think they had every right to be upset about having the wool pulled over there eyes, but it was no reason for people to be hoarding all the pillows or toilet paper. Or that one guy who *gleefully* recounted how he and his friends trashed the tents around because they didn’t want neighbours.

          Obviously it was bad but they could have just all hung out and bunkered down for ONE evening until they went home the next day, but they inexplicably turned into cave people because they weren’t being given caviar and champagne.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            My guess would be that drugs and alcohol played a role in some of the bad behavior, given that a lot of people go to music festivals specifically for the party scene.

            1. Femme d'Afrique*

              The guy who basically bragged about trashing the surrounding tents (and peeing on mattresses, WTF??) really startled me. He seemed weirdly proud of that too. Any sympathy I had for him dissolved immediately.

              1. Overeducated*

                That was the point at which my husband said “this is why we don’t have to feel sorry for these people.”

          2. catsaway*

            There were air mattresses, once the attendees brought them to their tents.
            Look, some of the people interviewed were clearly rich jerks, and obviously people love the schadenfreude of watching rich people get scammed.
            But even though I like camping, if I paid for a glamping experience in a foreign country only to arrive there to find out that I’d be sleeping in a FEMA tent with an air mattress I had to haul there myself and the food, water, bathroom and transportation situation was sketchy, to say the least, I wouldn’t be happy. And the fact that people we in an isolated island of a foreign country probably made people panic more – if I booked a hotel in NYC only to arrive and find out that it was a scam within 30 minutes I could book another hotel and get there myself, however if I arrive at a small Bahamian island late in the day to find out that the hotel I booked was a scam but other hotels are much more difficult to find and I don’t have access to transportation I’d definitely panic.

            1. fposte*

              Right. I think they were probably a crowd that could afford to lose the money more than some other people, but they still got royally screwed. And even among the youthful and well-heeled there are people with health conditions that could make camping on a gravel lot at the edge of a steep bank a problem.

          3. Helpppp*

            That guy was such a jerk! Seriously, how did he expect that to sound? I can understand panicking when you are stranded in a foreign country with no clear food/water and so on when there was supposed to be a whole festival (I think that almost makes it worse – it’d be one thing if I knew it was coming, but a screw up that bad makes you wonder what could possibly happen next), but WHY would you pee on tents?

          4. Jasnah*

            I agree, they went totally overboard. Plus honestly I was shocked at the privilege and naivete of some of the attendees–would you board a plane to a foreign country when your host has not given you any reliable information about where you are staying? And doesn’t respond to your emails? That screams sketchy to me. Made me think “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

      2. HBucket*

        Thanks for doing that homework, @Helpppp… I either missed it in the Netflix one or it wasn’t there and I was curious about the prices. And with you 100% on the Pablo Escobar thing.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yes…I had the thoughts about Pablo Escobar.

        It’s also like how people idolize the mafia. I mean, I get the fascination aspect, but I struggle with the admiration.

    2. HBucket*

      WTF indeed! Such a comment on (at least sectors of) our society! The entitled who just *had* to be there and be seen, Billy and his crew – each of them hanging on even though it was likely going to be a bust… but what if it wasn’t? It would make their names in the industry… so they hung on and watched it implode!

      I have to admit that my jaw was to the floor during a couple of scenes!

      Great documentary, though!

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I watched both of them and just boggled at the audacity of the dude who ‘organized’ it. Especially his actions when he was on bail.

      1. fposte*

        I thought that was wild, and also kind of interesting. To me it seemed like he originally did plan, more or less, to run the Fyre Festival–that wasn’t an outright plan to scam. But between desperation and having found out how easy it was to scam people, he decided just to straight up rook them going forward.

        1. LawBee*

          I don’t think he ever had any intention of running a true festival – where I think he “went wrong” in his scam was being just a little TOO organized so that he was forced at the end to pretend that it was actually happening. Scam artists gotta scam.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, interesting–you think he was scamming from the start? Do you think the same of Magnesis (which is a name that sounds like rebranded milk of magnesia to me)? I could see that–that initially he decided he liked the trappings of wealth and the money it got him next to, and then he realized there was more ROI on emails.

      2. Thursday Next*

        At first I thought he was brash and arrogant, but I really questioned his mental health by the end. (I’m not trying to diagnose—or disparage.) The act of staying there until the bitter end, just to bask in the last few moments before the event’s failure would be obvious, struck me as extremely disconnected from the reality.

        1. fposte*

          I thought that or drugs. Even when things were going well, in his television appearances and so on where people were talking about his charisma, I thought that his motormouthed vagueness was super offputting.

          1. Thursday Next*

            I never found him charismatic. But maybe I’m too old? Which made it all the more surprising to me when the guy said he was ready to perform oral sex in exchange for water, as he seemed to be older than most of the others who were under the spell.

            1. fposte*

              I think that he drew people who were susceptible and peeled off people who weren’t, like the pilot. So yoga guy and Andy were nice enough people, but they were exactly the kind of person not to intervene when wrongdoing was happening.

              1. Jasnah*

                This is exactly what I thought. People who could be manipulated, or couldn’t get/do better, stayed. Anyone who had the strength to dissent was out.

            2. Helpppp*

              I’ve been watching a lot of shows on cults lately, and it reminded me a lot of them. I think people got sucked into the idea of the festival and his cult of personality… so a cult in a way, heh.

    4. pugs for all*

      Yes, it was a riveting documentary. My husband and I watched it and by talking about it at dinner inspired our 15 year old to watch it. It created some great discussions about social media, blame and accountability.

      I definitely want to see the Hulu one too.

    5. Lilysparrow*

      It reminded me of a very interesting essay by CS Lewis called, IIRC, “The Inner Ring.”

      His theory was that the human craving to be an “insider” runs deeper than any other drive. The healthy version results in belonging and intimacy.

      The unhealthy version leads people to do ridiculous, dangerous, or downright evil things. And makes them vulnerable to an unbelievable degree of manipulation.

      Billy may not have read it, but he certainly understood the principle.

    6. kz*

      The Netflix and Hulu ones were both fascinating in different ways! I obviously felt bad for some of the folks who paid to attend, but I was most angry about the bahamian workers who were exploited and will never get paid for their labor.

      1. Thursday Next*

        At least the restaurant owner’s GoFundMe campaign was extremely successful as a result of the documentary. I was so sad on her behalf.

        1. fposte*

          I was so glad to see that, and I was glad the documentary included her. While nobody should have been defrauded, she and the other island people were the ones who really were hurt by the effects.

        2. Quake Johnson*

          The only person who conducted any sort of business with integrity in the whole process. I’m glad the GoFundMe can help her.

        3. Mimmy*

          She was the one I felt the worst for. I didn’t realize a GoFundMe was set up for her (if it was mentioned in the documentary, I missed it). Glad it is helping her.

          1. KR*

            I want to say she ended up making far more on the GoFundMe than she was out from the festival. Which is awesome because had the festival been successful it should have been a money maker for her.

    7. Jane of All Trades*

      I watched it and realized that the Fyre Festival guy was also the person who ran Magnises. I had considered joining that in NYC when I was trying to broaden my social circle, but ended up concluding that it was a little too expensive and superficial for my taste. Two years or so later they started having a bunch of problems when his schemes started to snowball. Bullet dodged.

      1. Quake Johnson*

        I felt so bad for that guy. First off, for his so called friend to say “yeah we’ll just send iur gay gut to do that,” like, how demeaning.

        And then he was in so deep he INTENDED TO DO IT.

        Plus at the end he said he gave away his clothes and only “escaped” by jumping into a passing vehicle. Poor fella seemed so traumatized.

      2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

        Yes! It was so crazy to me that he agreed to do it! None of what had gone wrong was his fault, and you don’t actually need to be attracted to men to provide that particular service. I would’ve told that guy he was welcome to do it himself.

      3. Karen from Finance*

        Yes! To me this was the most effed up part of all. The poor guy.

        And then I got to thinking about the guts it took for that guy to recount that on the world’s biggest streaming platform, in such a matter-of-fact way. I feel both very sorry and a big admiration for the guy.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m just starting this now. Con artists are boring on their own because I see them from a mile away but I’m reeled in by trying to understand the people who are conned.

    9. KR*

      I work in a remote team and the whole time I was thinking that this project was incredibly mismanaged and that’s partially why they didn’t succeed.

      They had all of the finances going through one guy who happened to be in charge of everything (fishy much?).
      They didn’t listen to the advice of anyone who wasn’t 100% optimistic and going along with whatever Billy said, including the guy who said the island they chose literally could not support the waste facilities for the festival.
      They seemed to be endlessly travelling back and forth to the island. If you’re doing a big project like that they should have had a project manager on the ground there who was local or knew the area extremely well and arranged (at most) monthly check-in trips and have the whole team on the ground for the three weeks leading up to the festival. Like they’re all using top of the line equipment and software the whole time – use that to decrease your travel costs!!
      And Jesus you do not need to be using private jets and living the “island life” WHILE YOU ARE PLANNING IT.
      And they should have figured out what is possible before making their advertisements promising so much.
      Just so much messed up and I don’t even run festivals for a living!!

  3. Anonicat*

    I wanted to pop in and say thanks to all the ladies who answered my question about what birth control they were using to improve period pain. I ended up going with a pill rather than a mirena, and it’s working really well!

    1. Lucy*

      I’m glad it’s working out for you!

      If you find it difficult to remember to take it or refill it, I recommend an app called Medisafe which reminds you about both.

  4. Marion Ravenwood*

    Just popping on to say thanks to everyone who gave me jewellery decluttering recommendations here two weeks ago! I’ve taken some photos and sent them to a friend who does a lot of cosplay/LARPing to see if she wants any. If she does, then she can have it. If not, I’ll keep the photos to look back on stuff and then give it to charity.

  5. Jaid*

    Good dark o’clock, y’all, insomnia strikes again. I’m thinking of making chili in the IP and deciding if I want to put beans in there or not. I also have some frozen meatballs and… yeah, I’ll just grab the vodka sauce, some onion and garlic, and dried mushrooms out of the pantry for that.
    Hmmm, I also got an eggplant to deal with.
    Nothing fried though. I can’t fry to save my life.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      If you put beans in that chili, you will not be able to call it chili if you are in Texas.

      If you want it to be Wisconsin chili, not only does it take beans, it also takes macaroni.

      I don’t even know how to begin to justify macaroni in chili, so I won’t.

      1. fposte*

        Cincinnati chili has spaghetti. What else along with the chili depends on what you’re ordering on the two-way to five-way scale. Cincinnati chili is definitely its own thing.

        1. greenthumb*

          Hmm. Thanks! This may explain why “chili spaghetti” is a thing in the 50th state, someone visited and saw a way to have even more starch. We normally eat our chili over rice but one local chain does chili on a bed of spaghetti.

        2. pentamom*

          Cincinnati Chili is soooo good. You just have to tell yourself it’s a different thing from, and isn’t trying be, “authentic” chili the way it’s made in other places. Once you do that, you realize that it’s absolutely wonderful stuff.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        Do you mean that if I come to Texas, I can go into a restaurant, order chili, and know that it won’t come infested with those damned beans? If so, yowza! I never eat chili because I absolutely hate those beans! Now all I just need to find a beanless burrito.

        Have I mentioned that I. Hate. Beans?

    2. Jaid*

      Well, I made the chili using the fake ground beef, two cups bone broth, a can of tomato paste, a can of tomato sauce, a can of tomato/green chilies and a can of kidney beans. Salt, pepper, cumin, ground coriander, lemongrass powder, garlic powder. Onion and garlic. Brown and cook for 25 minutes in the Instant Pot at high pressure. I thought it tasted delicious with crackers and shredded cheese, so I’ve got my lunch covered for tomorrow.

      I also cooked scrapple (set off the fire alarm with the last piece of it though, whew!) and an oatmeal/teff/ground flaxseed porridge with coconut milk, dates, turmeric, ground coriander and cinnamon. That’ll be my breakfast.

      I still have an eggplant to cook and some chicken gizzards. Right now, I’ve got them brining in the leftover olive juice from my big-assed jar of green olives. I figure it’s like pickle brining, and the gizzards fit in the jar!

  6. Lemonwhirl*

    Request for plant-based recipes that are delicious!

    For the last two years, I’ve been on an extremely low-fat plant-based diet for health reason. No meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. I hesitate to use the word vegan, because I’m in no way ethical about it, but it’s a convenient label to quickly explain what I don’t eat, so I will use it in this post. My husband and son eat everything, and I cook for them nearly every night.

    I’ve been making a vegan dish on Sundays, and it’s been fairly hit or miss. The biggest hit has been vegetable jambalaya (and I think it was a hit because I used regular Worcestershire sauce). I’m looking for decadent and delicious vegan recipes that aren’t just re-creations of things vegans can’t eat. Whenever I google for amazing vegan recipes, it all comes back with “You won’t believe this isn’t meat!” type recipes. It doesn’t make sense to make them meat-replacement-type meals because they can and do eat meat and dairy all the time.

    Thanks in advance for the help! I would really like to increase the vegan meals to twice a week, but need to find a repertoire of maybe 5 or 6 meals that they’d like so they don’t get burnt out on vegan jambalaya.

    1. Jaid*

      African peanut stew, curries, kimchi soup, loaded baked sweet potato with vegan cheese (store bought or made at home with nutritional yeast).

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Thank you! African peanut stew sounds intriguing. I’m going to check that one out for sure.

        Loaded sweet potatoes could work – I’d love them anyway. Although here is my hot take on vegan cheese – it’s made of empty promises and the tears of children. :D The omnivores can eat regular cheese and I have a reminder now to try nutritional yeast, which I still haven’t gotten around to trying yet. (I live in a rural area, so nutritional yeast is an exotic ingredient to me. :))

    2. chi chan*

      Try indian vegetable and grain based recipes. Spinach (palak), bharta( of many different veges), and daal and haleem without meat.

      1. Julia*

        Seconding this. I grew up eating South Indian food (yeah, my real name is not Julia), and it’s always amazed me how Indians can make absolutely delicious meals out of just vegetables and rice/bread. Chapatis (flatbread) are easy to make or buy. To go with those, find recipes for bhindi masala (okra with sauces), aloo palak (potato & spinach curry), aloo matar (potato & pea curry), chana masala (chickpea curry)… the list really does go on and on.

        Or you can pair any of these with rice. In addition, rasam and sambar (rich soups) also go really well with rice. And, of course, daal (lentil curry) is essential rice combo. Lentils will help make you regular, fill you up, and – if prepared properly – satisfy you!

        I’m no health enthusiast; I’m just eternally grateful that I grew up eating super-healthy-but-also-delicious food by accident of birth. I ended up loving meat and dairy when I grew up, but if I had to cut them out entirely, this is pretty much what I’d do.

        1. Julia*

          Oh and FYI, I am using the North Indian names for some of these dishes because they are more widely known than the regional names I grew up with, but the recipes are similar.

        2. Parenthetically*

          SERIOUSLY! We are very much dairy and meat eaters, but there are so many veg-based Indian dishes that will blow your mind with flavor.

        3. Lemonwhirl*

          Thank you for the great suggestions. I spent 6 weeks in Malaysia last year and absolutely loved the Indian food I had there, especially aloo gobi. I love having more ideas to try out.

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        Thank you for the names! I love daals and will check out the other suggestions. I primarily eat daals and curries for all three meals of the day. (I’m a little bit of a weirdo where I’d pretty much eat the same thing every day for a few months at least.)

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Indian food is excellent for your needs! I’m vegetarian, myself. I suggest http://www.mamtaskitchen.com. Mamta Gupta created this site – I found it when I was looking for good Indian home cooking. The things I were finding were either festival faffy or a bit flat. This site has never let me down – some are more complex than others but it’s good solid family fare.

          Also – Madha Jaffrey is still a classic.

          You mention veg jambalaya. I also love making veg efouffee. The creole spice mix makes all the difference – so amazing.
          It makes a lot and you really need to reduce the salt – I’d put about 1/4 of what they say.

          I make it this way all the time:
          Makes 2 large portions

          6T butter
          3T flour
          one small onion
          1/4 green bell pepper
          a couple of large cloves of garlic
          a rib of celery
          (the proportions of the veg is not critical – and sometimes I don’t
          have celery and it works out fine, although it is better with celery)
          2T spice mix (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
          1.5-2 veg andouille sausage (can omit)
          butternut squash – this is great in it
          veg of choice!
          1-1.5 cups water

          Melt butter over high low light and when foaming add flour – stir to make roux (it won’t be a very thick roux, don’t worry). Let roux get golden on a high low light (or even low medium) stirring often. Chop and add the veggies or chop the veggies in advance if you don’t want to have to keep an eye on the roux. Add veggies and cook on same light until soft. Add spice mix and stir in (mmm smells good). Add veg / protein and stir. Add water, turn heat to low medium. The water should just cover it. Err on the side of too little as you can always add more water. As it cooking it should simmer a little, but no more. Simmer uncovered

          This cooks in twenty mins, but the longer it cooks the better – I think because the holy trinity melts into the sauce. You will be adding water no matter what so keep an eye on it and keep stirring.

    3. Anonyby*

      I make a pumpkin chili that I loooove. It was inspired by a meat recipe (I’ll reply to myself with the link), but I prefer making veg chilis if I’m making chili from scratch (nothing I’ve made ever came close to how much I love my favorite canned chili). This recipe is for a 4qt or larger slow cooker (I have a 5qt that I use). I find it to be apologetically veggie but it does satisfy the chili itch for this meat eater! (And I find most veg “chilis” to be more of a spiced stew than a chili.)

      -1 tablespoon olive oil
      -chopped onion to taste (medium yellow is my preferred)
      -3 Tbsp chili seasoning* or favorite chili powder
      -a peeled & chopped cooking pumpkin or butternut squash (or one of those packages of pre-chopped butternut squash)
      -1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      -2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
      -1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
      -1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
      -4 cups low-sodium veggie stock or water

      In a saucepan, heat oil over medium-high and cook onions until they turn translucent. Add chili seasoning and cook for another 3o seconds to let the spices bloom. Place in a slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients and cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with your favorite chili toppings.

      Here’s the suggested chili seasoning from the original recipe. I’m still working on my own chili powder to mimic the one my family bought growing up that’s now out of business. This makes a lot more than one recipe’s worth of seasoning blend!

      -2 Tbsp ground chile powder (suggested: ancho chile powder)
      -1 Tbsp ground cumin
      -1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
      -1 Tbsp garlic powder (optional)
      -2 tsp chipotle chile powder (optional)

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Wow – this looks great. Thanks so much for taking the time to type it up for me. I even know a place where I can get pumpkin. Can’t wait to try this one out!

    4. Lena Clare*

      Lots of vegetable Asian dishes are very often vegan because they’re use of dairy is much less. I really like Sweet potato and chickpea curry with rice or chapati bread (and you can make chapati bread yourself).

      Mezze/tapas with veg e.g. green bean stew, fried green peppers, stuffed olives, different types of hummus, bread with tomatoes and/or parsley and garlic dip, patatas bravas.

      This is not quite what you’re looking for because they originate in meat but I don’t like the taste of it and am not trying to recreate it, it’s just these were quick and simple alternatives to cook –
      I made a cottage pie with green lentils which was good, and a spag “bol” with mushrooms blitzed up in the blender and then crushed walnuts added at the end.

      1. Anonyby*

        It’s not quite vegan as-is, but I do like making my own variant of the veggie tater casserole Disney made for one of their Carsland food places (it’s pretty much a themed veg cottage pie). My version I really up the veggies in it–a whole chopped onion, a whole bell pepper, one or two full zucchinis & squashes. If you use vegan mashed potatoes and vegan sausage crumbles, and omit the cheese, then it would be vegan too. The recipe uses a combination of bulgur wheat and veg sausage crumbles to get the texture of the filling right.

        Actually, my BFF and I made it together the first time using my way of measuring veggies instead of following the exact amounts… and it was AWESOME. And then when she went to Carsland the first time and had the original, she was rather disappointed with it! All the veg really added to the flavor of ours.

        1. Lemonwhirl*

          Thank you – if I could find the right crumbles, I would totally try this. I’m in Ireland and we just don’t have the same array of vegetarian meat substitutes as in the US. (I’m from the US and used to eat Morningstar farms sausages for breakfast and wasn’t even vegetarian back then!) Most of the meat substitutes here are Quorn brand, which are made from mushrooms. And I can’t do mushrooms, not even tarted up as something else. The very thought of them freaks me out. :)

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        I am intrigued by the idea of green bean stew and a mezze/tapas night. My kid loooooooves olives. And I love patatas braves. Thank you!!!

    5. hope is hopeful*

      I just made a recipe with a bunch of veggies, tomatoes and chickpeas – it was from “Deliciously Ella” (she has a website with recipes) and it was divine.

    6. Kate*

      Two recommendations:

      -there is a chickpea, sweet potato and spinach recipe from The Kitchn that I adore.

      -Vegetarian Vietnam by Cameron Stauch was written by the husband of a colleague. It’s really great and so far it’s been hugely satisfying, meat or no meat (and I come from cow country)

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Thanks for both tips. funny enough, I lean on The Kitchn for cooking techniques all the time, like for roasting the turkey breast at Christmas, but it never occurred to me to look for vegan/veg recipes there!

    7. Elle*

      Moroccan style chickpea stew:
      Onion, bell pepper, ras el hanout paste, .5 preserved lemon (or zest and juice of fresh), tin chickpeas, 1 – 2 tins tomato, 1 sweet potato.

      Chop everything up.

      Either layer in slow cooker in order given, or fry onion in the spice paste, then add other ingredients in a large pot, and cook in oven or on stove top until sweet potato is tender.

      Serve with cous cous, pitta and yogurt.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      Some vegan dishes I like as a thorough omnivore…

      – Chickpea stew. A basic one I do has sauteed onions, celery, chickpeas, diced tomatoes (canned is fine), spinach (frozen is fine), with Indian spices (cumin, coriander, a bit of cinnamon and cloves, garlic). It’s good with rice, or couscous, but you could also have it with crusty bread.

      – Thai green vegetable curry. Some Thai curry pastes are vegetarian. You sautee the curry paste in a bit of oil, add coconut milk and blend well, and when it bubbles, add your vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, eggplant, baby corn, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms). Cook until tender, add lime juice and fresh basil or cilantro. If you’re not completely vegan, add a dash of fish sauce at the end. Serve with rice. The coconut milk makes it rich (but not particularly low fat).

      – palak mushroom. There are Indian recipes for the spinach gravy, which can be made without dairy. It’s basically a pureed spinach sauce with onions and tomatoes and lots of spices, in which you cook mushrooms. Very flavourful and decadent.

      – vegetarian hot pot. The hot pot itself is a broth (as simple as a bit of seaweed, or a basic vegetable broth, or hot and spicy) on a burner in the centre of the table. You cook fresh ingredients in it, dip them in sauce, and then cook noodles (ramen or udon) in the flavourful broth left behind at the end. For ingredients – various types of tofu, tofu skin (fresh or the deep fried kind), cabbage, bok choy, baby corn, carrot, daikon, green beans or snow peas, tomatoes, squash, all sorts of mushrooms. For the dipping sauce, you can mix to taste from soy sauce, rice vinegar (black is particularly good), sesame oil, finely chopped scallions, diced garlic, and fermented bean paste.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        My husband loves Thai food, so I’m not sure why I haven’t tried veg Thai yet – thanks for the reminder. Also love the idea of a hot pot. When I was in Malaysia, we went to a steamboat restaurant, which is the same thing. It was such fun to cook our own food.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I really liked these tacos, which were a nice collision of styles that worked well together: http://www.bakednewengland.com/2014/11/thai-chickpea-tacos.html

      From your library I’d advise Six Seasons a New Way With Vegetables, and the various Moosewood and ethnic vegetarian cookbooks. It can take a bit to find a cookbook writer who’s in tune with you.

      My go to veggie-intense meal is bruschetta. Get some good sourdough, brush with olive oil (I put a garlic clove and some red pepper and salt in a bowl of olive oil a few hours before I’m going to make this), bake in a medium oven until it’s like Texas toast (so closer to toast than the completely hard disk of traditional bruschetta), and top with a variety of vegetables:
      chopped fresh tomatoes with basil
      chopped roast beets with basil
      avocado with a bunch of spices
      in cold weather I make my own sun-dried tomatoes in a slow oven
      white bean spread
      berries with balsamic
      ask the internet
      you can also have cheese and sliced ham or sausage, to allow a variety of meat levels

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        The tacos look fantastic. My kid might be the only one in the world who does not like peanut butter, but he doesn’t have to put the sauce on. Or I could make separate sauce for him. (He loves sriracha sauce though!)

        I like the assemble-your-own Bruschetta meal too.

    10. Zena*

      I don’t know if you realise, but Worcestershire sauce is not vegan, or even vegetarian! It contains anchovies. I know you said you’re not “ethically” vegan but thought you might like to know since you don’t eat fish for health reasons.

      1. NeverNicky*

        However, if you are in the UK you can get Henderson’s Relish, which is very similar to Worcestershire sauce but without anchovies. Easy to obtain to Yorkshire (if you don’t know what it is or don’t use it – you’re not a proper Tyke) and by mail order…

        Cut Sean Bean and he probably bleeds Hendo’s…

        1. Zena*

          Oh yeah that stuff is so good! I got addicted to the crisps when I went to Sheffield for a week last year -sadly they don’t seem to sell it anywhere down south, an absolute travesty!

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        Thanks for the warning. I only twigged it when the recipe called for vegan Worcestershire sauce, which made me read the label to see why such a thing was necessary. The “for health reasons” part of my diet is about cholesterol, so fish aren’t a too much of a concern (I’ve just never liked fish).
        The funny thing is, my Worchestershire-sauce-jambalaya is so flavourful – it’s like another dimension over my regular every day food, which makes thing a lot about what makes something flavourful and how I can get what I’m missing by eliminating most fat and oil from my diet.

    11. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I make mujadara (there are a few ways to spell it), which is a rice and lentil pilaf of sorts with caramelized onions and lots of good spices. I usually serve it with a whole roasted cauliflower (put trimmed cauliflower head in a cast iron pan, rub with oil, roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, sprinkle with sea salt and a little olive oil, back in the oven for 40 minutes) and a tahini sauce. It’s a nice break from the curries and stews I do.

      I also like to make noodle bowls. I toss tofu and some kind of vegetable (broccoli or brussels sprouts) with olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, sriracha, garlic, rice vinegar, ginger, whatever else I have. I roast the vegetables and serve over noodles. Best if you put soy sauce, black vinegar (or balsamic), and sesame oil in the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes I also saute some mushrooms with miso and add that to the bowls.

    12. Llellayena*

      Oh this is my complaint about ANY alternate-diet recipes. All the gluten free cookbooks are recreations of gluten based items (especially desserts). Vegetarian or vegan are recreating spaghetti and “meat”balls. Can’t they just put out cookbooks that collect recipes that work with normal ingredients? I don’t keep gluten free flour in the house for the 2 times a year I’m hosting, I just want to serve a good dessert.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I have the same complaint! I enjoy eating vegetarian meals sometimes, and I just find it annoying that everything is basically “pretend you eat meat, except you don’t eat meat.” Can we not embrace that vegetables are delicious even if they aren’t pretending to be meat?? It’s okay to like lentils and tofu for their own sake.

        Despite being a meat-eater, it’s honestly a bit of a turn-off when vegetarian meals are advertised as being meatlike or tasting the same as meat… maybe it’s because I’m a meat-eater? I can eat meat any time I want, so when I want to eat a vegetarian meal, it’s because I’m interested in something different.

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        My son got me a vegan baking cook book for Christmas last year. It was a sweet idea, but the recipes are so much work (and have ingredients that are so hard for me to get) and the stuff never tastes as good as “fully loaded” baked goods. He’s bummed that I don’t want to use “his” cookbook, but he agrees that it’s way more fun to try the stuff we see on Nailed It. :)

    13. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I’m also not a huge fan of meat substitutes or vegan cheese, and while I’m not vegan I do try to rotate plenty of plant based meals into the menu plan for the general health benefits of eating less meat and dairy. I’ve generally had the most success by starting with a dairy free “regular” dish, leaving out the meat and adding extra vegetables. Adding legumes or whole grains can also be tasty. My favorites are:
      Stew made with vegetable broth, plenty of extra vegetables, and maybe quinoa or cranberry beans.
      Cottage pie using lentils, carrots, and parsnips.
      Sloppy joes made with mushrooms and lentils.
      Chili with a few different kinds of beans and barley or bulgar.
      Pasta with a tomato sauce full of zucchini and eggplant.
      “Tuna” salad style wraps using chickpeas or navy beans, and avocado or hummus instead of mayo.
      Black bean tacos.

    14. epi*

      I highly recommend bean soups. They sound way too simple to be great but they light up the same place in my lizard brain as, like, mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. I made a fantastic one last weekend that was just great northern beans, carrots, onions, and celery, spinach, and dill. I used no-chicken Better Than Bouillon and it came out super comforting.

      I also like roasting up all the root vegetables I have, then making a big pot of braised greens. Or making black beans and rice– my husband makes a more Caribbean style and I make more of a southwestern version. Again really simple but it’s one of those foods I will have seconds and thirds of.

      Some of my favorite recipes lately come from Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry. It’s an awesome book fusing foods from the American South, Caribbean, and Africa. The greens I like to make come from that book. I thought I would have to really work to come up with a recipe for good vegan greens, but as soon as I tried this recipe, the search was over.

      1. Overeducated*

        I was going to comment with a recommendation for Afro-Vegan too! Great cookbook, great flavors.

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        Thanks so much for the recommendations – and the reminder that black beans a rice is a thing that my husband used to enjoy. I will check out that cookbook!

      3. ceiswyn*

        I was coming here to suggest rice and peas (where ‘peas’ actually means kidney beans). Rice, kidney beans, coconut milk, ginger, thyme, cumin, simmer it all together for half an hour, job’s a good’un.

        Goes very nicely with a side of sweetcorn, IMO.

    15. Jane*

      Does your family eat tofu? This is my favorite tofu recipe–it is so easy and good, and you can pair it with a lot of things:

      Mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey (or agave or maple syrup), 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger.

      Slice a block of tofu into about 10-12 pieces (I cut once lengthwise, and then 4-5 times the other way to make rectangles). Arrange on towels and squeeze out water. Place on parchment paper or silicone mat on a cookie sheet. Brush with the marinade and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven, flip the pieces, brush with more marinade, and bake another 30 minutes.

      I usually serve with rice and green beans that I steam briefly, and then saute for a few minutes, and in the last minute of saute I add a mixture that is about the same as the above marinade, except I also add some chili sauce.

      Another fave of mine is red lentil butternut squash soup with coconut milk. Saute carrots, onions, celery, garlic, ginger in a little olive oil. Add some curry paste and and spices to taste (I use cumin and coriander usually) stir. Add about a cup of red lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, and cubed butternut squash (I use frozen usually). Simmer until the lentils are soft. Blend with a stick blender. Stir in a can of light coconut milk, some chopped cilantro, and some fresh squeezed lime juice. This is a recipe I sort of made up so I don’t have measurements, but you get the idea!

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        My family does eat tofu, but we jokingly call it “space protein” because that’s what it took to get my son to try it when he was younger. That recipe sounds yum. So does the soup one. Thanks so much!

      2. Editor*

        If you are using natural sweeteners, check out thyme honey. It is great in non-dessert dishes because of the herbal overtones. I use it in a lot of chicken dishes that call for honey, but also in vegetarian dishes. Thyme honey was originally Greek, but if your local store doesn’t carry it, it can be ordered online.

        And… cashew chili is another chili variation worth checking out.

    16. JediSquirrel*

      Try the Minimalist Baker website. All recipes are ten ingredients or less and most can be made in a half hour.

    17. Not All*

      The mushroom wellington from WaPo: https://www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/roasted-portobello-mushroom-pecan-and-chestnut-wellington/14984/?utm_term=.a37d56c0d838
      This is one of my favorites! (don’t miss the step about rolling out the puff pastry dough though…otherwise the ratio gets weird)

      Things I change:
      -I usually don’t bother finding big portabellas…I use whatever mushroom looks good from my Asian market (typically some big trumpet-type that they call “kings” but aren’t king boletes) or even just regular button
      -I think it needs gravy so I use stock to make a quick sauce with a roux & dash of marsala wine

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        I bet my husband would love this. I don’t eat mushrooms, but would make a separate one for me with lentils instead of mushrooms. :) Thank you!

    18. Works in IT*

      I’ve got an incredibly low effort dish I occasionally make when I know I’ll be running around lots. Put lentils to soak in water with your preferred mix of flavorings (I use curry powder, garlic powder, and onion powder) before work. When you get home, transfer pot to stove and cook the lentils, and eat with fruit.

      I don’t eat it all the time but it is a useful, minimal effort thing, and a lot of vegan recipes I have seen are… complicated.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        I love the idea of soaking the lentils in spices and water all day. I usually used tinned lentils, because I’m lazy about soaking, but it never occurred to me to spice them while they soak.
        Thank you!

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m a fan of historic cookery… you can find some good ideas looking through medeival Lenten recipes…at that point it was no animal meat or fats, no eggs, no dairy products. So if you weed out the fish recipes you’re all set. (Do make sure to have fun learning about royalty-soothing medieval decisions like the idea that hippos were fish because they lived in the water.)
      Historic recipes are often measureless, like the way some of our grammas taught us. One book with well tested conversions to modern is “Take a Thousand Eggs or More” by Cindy Renfrow…and she has one delicious vegan dessert as a sample on her webpage. Assuming you like pears…some people don’t. ;)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Here are some other URLs for you to peek at —

        If this idea flips your lid, a good place to start is Cariadoc and Elizabeth’s Recipes… their “Miscellany” is a general guide for medieval re-enactors, and the recipe section is not strictly vegetarian…but a fair number of the “vegetable” section is entirely vegan. In some recipes the substitution to convert is obvious — like vegetable broth instead of beef or chicken, or olive oil for lard. And it lists many many sources available elsewhere.

        Another resource, search for “Lent” in godecookery.com.
        One sample result…another desert I like. :) http://www.godecookery.com/goderec/grec60.htm

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        Holy cow – I love this idea. My kid hates vegan food….or at least he says he hates vegan food. But he loves history, especially Horrible Histories. So if I can spin dinner as something historical, he might be more willing to try it without complaining about its vegan-ness.

    20. neverjaunty*

      Recommend picking up the VEGANOMICON – great recipes that don’t have a lot of hard to find ingredients.

    21. HannahS*

      I un-intentionally eat a lot vegetarian and vegan food (because I’m cheap, a bit lazy about keeping kosher, and concerned with refrigeration for packed lunches), and I LOVE tofu, so I eat a lot of East Asian food. Some of my favourite dishes are Pad Prik King on coconut rice with tofu instead of chicken and stir fried tofu and broccoli with rice.

      I also eat a lot of bean-based soups and stews, especially in this weather. Potato-leek soup with white kidney beans is great, and a nice meal with salad and bread. Tomato-lentil soup is nice, although I’ve had too much of it lately. Three-sisters soup (green bean, squash, hominy) is something I first encountered at Indigenous events and it’s SO GOOD and insanely easy to make if you go the wildly inauthentic route of using a box of broth, frozen squash chunks, and cans of black beans and hominy.
      There’s always the simple English classic of baked beans on a baked potato in a pinch, which can come with cheese or sour cream for your family, and a side salad to offset the sugary beans–although if you’re looking after your health carefully you may wish to have homemade navy beans stewed in tomato sauce hanging out in the freezer instead of using canned.
      I realize that a lot of these things are long-cooking, but I’m cooking for one and make one or two things on Sunday that last all week, so a lot of this is make-ahead.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Thanks for the suggestions, especially the Pad Prik King, which is a new one for me. I love coconut rice though. And I loooove a good make-ahead recipe.

    22. Competent Commenter*

      One thought: I wouldn’t worry about serving “can’t believe it’s not meat” recipes to them even though they eat meat. It would save you from having to make two meals that evening if you could find something you all like. I had a couple of crossover hits that my husband would eat when I was a vegetarian and he wasn’t, and he’s a very picky eater. I personally can’t bear cooking two dinners, and especially hate cooking meat when I don’t eat it! But you sound more patient than me. :)

      1. DreamingOfCheeseburgers*

        It isn’t too much extra effort to bake a couple of chicken breasts for the meat eaters along with whatever you are making for yourself – or to cook both beans and taco meat (which i did anyhow before I went vegan because I like beans.) Or to cook a hamburger along with your black bean sloppy joes (which is just subbing beans for the ground meat.) You don’t really need to cook two separate meals – just add in a small side of meat/shrimp/chicken.

      2. Lemonwhirl*

        I cook all my meals at the weekend and freeze them in individual portions. So I’m technically only cooking one meal a night – theirs on most days, ours if it’s a vegan day.
        It’s maybe a weird-seeming system, but it works for us. I always tell them that they are lucky that I enjoy cooking. (I really do. Otherwise, I think the system would’ve changed a long time ago – either them eating more vegan-ly with me or them cooking for themselves!)

    23. Anna*

      In my experience the key to making great, satisfying vegetarian or vegan meals for omnivores is adding sufficient fat. Something I often great people say is that they just don’t feel full or satisfied after eating vegetarian food or if they don’t eat meat with a meal. Some of this is psychological, I think, but it can also be in part because meat naturally has a fair amount of fat in it and the fat adds richness and contributes to a feeling of satiety. So with some of the “miss” recipes you’ve tried, consider whether adding a bit more fat in the form of olive or other oils, coconut milk, avocado, nuts, etc might make them more satisfying for your omnivores.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Yes, I’ve been thinking about this a lot too, but more along the flavorfulness side than the satiety side. I eat super-low-fat, as part of my diet (on a typical day, I try to keep fat to under 15%). I think I’m going to have splurge a little bit more on fat when I cook for all three of us, or maybe have ways that they can add fat into theirs.

    24. DreamingOfCheeseburgers*

      I have also recently gone vegan and am struggling (and very happy for this thread!)

      So far, I have one new good vegan recipe – that both I and my non-vegan husband both like very much. It is “Orange Cauliflower” and is a mashup of two different recipes – Orange Sesame Tofu Stir Fry and Vegan Sticky Sesame Cauliflower. I basically sub the cauliflower (with out the sauce) for the Tofu. I will reply with links to the two recipes plus a bonus link to Southwest Quinoa Salad which I’ve been making for years as a side dish – and everyone loves it.

      I think some of my problems with the adjustment is that I am unfamiliar with Indian and other south Asian cuisine so I really don’t feel comfortable trying to cook it. Another issue is that I also cook very low salt (for doctor prescribed health reasons) and a lot of dishes I try just don’t taste that great made without the salt. I am trying out a salt-free soy sauce alternative today and if it turns out good, I’ll post a reply with the recipe tomorrow.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Thank you so much. The tofu stir fry looks fantastic!

        My brother is also vegan and low-salt. He struggles as well and eats A LOT of quinoa, from what I can gather.

    25. Pie is my Religion*

      Check out Eats Well With Others, a food blog with great recipes, many plant based and non-dairy.

    26. Lemonwhirl*

      Holy cow! These responses are an embarrassment of riches – thank you all so much. I am going to go through them carefully tomorrow and make a list and do some googling.

      Y’all are the best. :)

    27. Nita*

      I’ve made an eggplant dish that tastes rather “meaty” a few times. You cut an eggplant into roughly 3″ ribbons and stew it with carrots, garlic, tomato sauce and potatoes. Not too much water, just make sure you have 2-3 cups to start and add more as it boils off. You can add other veggies too, though I really don’t recommend purple cabbage – the resulting color is not appetizing.

    28. Ktelzbeth*

      I don’t know if it is a difference between the internet and published cookbooks, but I have quite a collection of vegetarian cookbooks and would say that the vast majority of the recipes are not trying to be meat. If you have a library nearby, they may have some good cookbooks. Two I use fairly commonly at home are Vegetarian Times Low Fat and Fast and VT LF&F Asian. I can cook a long elaborate meal, but life doesn’t always let me. A quick peek at the Vegetarian Times website shows a number of recipes as well, most of which don’t look like they’re trying to emulate meat.

      I don’t actually have a recipe for it, but a quick meal I whip together (it’ll only work for you if your soy sauce alternative is decent) is to saute some shredded carrots, then crumble in tofu with soy sauce to taste. Continue sauteing or stir frying until heated through and drizzle with sesame oil. It doesn’t take much sesame oil to make a huge taste difference.

      I’m not going to type out the whole recipe, but I have a white chili recipe with white beans (obviously) and fresh fennel. This looks kind of similar: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/white-bean-fennel-soup/ but mine doesn’t have the tomatoes.

      1. Lemonwhirl*

        Yes, it could be that google is just giving me the impression that the world is forever clamouring for “tastes like meat” vegan recipes. Thanks for the reminder to try old-school books. The stir fry sounds great – and we all love the taste of sesame oil.

    29. Elizabeth West*

      Ooh, bookmarking this because while I have no interest in going vegan, I’ve been trying to eat healthier.

        1. Editor*

          Make baked sweet potatoes, then split them and fill with your favorite spiced black beans. Fast and filling.

    30. Akcipitrokulo*

      Diced carrots, onions, mushrooms and sliced olives. Stir fry with garlic and ginger. Stuff into a pita bread.

      It’s filling and really good!

    31. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

      Less gourmet than other suggestions here: thaw a package of tater tots in the fridge. Skillet-fry with whatever you want: mushrooms, tofu, tomatoes, spinach, lback beans, squash, leftovers, etc. (I prefer the results with an iron skillet.) Can be wrapped in flatbreads. Can also be done with pre-made sweet potato hashbrowns, if you can find them.

      Brown rice in a slow cooker is a wonderful, wonderful thing, IMO. I like to make a large batch and cook with it throughout the week. (Always thoroughly reheat, as there is a small chance of listeria with stored cooked rice.)

      Liquid Smoke is vegan and adds a nice dimension to cooking, IMO.

    32. Lucy*

      The Bootstrap Cook is now vegan, so the website has A LOT of recipes tagged vegan. There is also an emphasis on frugal cooking, including being frugal with your time and/or fuel, both of which help when you’re making something new.

    33. Perplexed*

      Check out Hetty McKinnon’s cookbook Neighborhood. A friend gave it to me a year ago and it has become a true family friend. I cook a recipe from her collection once or twice a week and we all, but especially my vegan daughter and vegetarian self, are in heaven when eating her meals. Some of the dishes are vegan, some vegetarian (some of which can be made vegan easily), and sometimes we (well, some of us) eat a side of salmon or tofu with them.

      Happy cooking,

    34. zaracat*

      For dessert, my go-to cake for people with food restrictions – it’s low in sugar and suitable for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free – is castagnaccio, a dense Italian cake made with nothing but chestnut flour and water (some versions add a little olive oil), topped with rosemary, raisins, and walnuts or pine nuts; although it is traditionally served with ricotta and honey you can easily use something else like non-dairy yoghurt plus fruit.

  7. Helpppp*

    Does anyone have advice (and ideally a book recommendation as well) on dealing with perfectionism? Particularly the “It’s not that I expect myself to be perfect, I just don’t see how I set my standards for myself too high” kind. Thanks!

    1. Lena Clare*

      I got a lot out of “Perfect Daughters”, but it is geared towards the adult daughters of alcoholics so you may not feel this is appropriate for you.

    2. Feliz*

      Not really advice but: “perfect is the enemy of good.” I saw it in a work presentation a long time ago and it really just stuck with me.

      I’m not a perfectionist but I live with someone who can be and I think there are two things to consider:
      1 – Is “good enough” actually ok for this task/process/whatever? What will it being perfect actually achieve? My partner responds well when I ask this question (generally I ask it genuinely, but occasionally somewhat snarkily because I’m human)
      2 – Is incremental improvement actually a better move, vs trying to be perfect today? (I apply this a lot to my own sports & hobbies). Striving to be a little bit better every day means you don’t have to be perfect, you can keep improving.

    3. Parenthetically*

      One of my favorite sayings is “the only thing better than good is good enough.”

      I think for people who struggle with the mindset of “I’m not a perfectionist, I just think my standards are RIGHT to be this high,” deliberately and systematically experimenting with doing a task at 90% of your standard, or even if you’re feeling brave 50% of your standard and then sitting with the results for awhile can be really freeing.

      I’d also recommend really exploring your personality and motivations — what happens, in your mind, if you don’t reach the standards you’ve set? Do you feel angry, fearful, irritated when you can’t reach your goals? Do you absolutely ignore or denigrate all opportunities/activities/goals you don’t think you’ll be able to attain perfectly? Does smashing goals make you feel powerful? Do you find your value in doing things “correctly” or “properly” but can’t quite put your finger on WHY your way of doing things is the “correct” way (just that, in your mind, it absolutely, definitely IS)? There are lots of different kinds of perfectionists and I think figuring out which one you are can go a long way to helping you adjust your mindset. I like the Enneagram you can use just about any self-awareness/self-evaluation tool as long as it’s systematic and thorough as part of this process.

      1. Roberta Plant*

        This was great; so thought provoking. Can you please expand on the Enneagram (if you see this)? Thank you.

        1. Parenthetically*

          It’s a way of looking at personality, like other systems, but this one particularly focuses on motivations and areas for growth, and I like it because it doesn’t say “You’re like this and not like that” but rather “All these characteristics are just tools we’ve learned to use for various reasons, but they’re all accessible to us, and in fact it’s important for us to grow toward characteristics that seem foreign to us and to become the most healthy, integrated version of ourselves possible.” It’s been a very helpful tool for me in figuring out why I do things and how I can change/grow/develop as a person.

    4. Anon attorney*

      I don’t have any book recs (so will be interested in this thread) but I have found it helpful to intentionally do something I’m not very good at but genuinely enjoy. In my case it’s dancing, and part of the purpose is to say to myself *no, you don’t have to do that routine perfectly, nobody here expects it, just feel the music and enjoy*. I won’t say I have got that down perfectly (haha) but I’m working on it.

  8. Lena Clare*

    I’m watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the first time, on Netflix. I have always maintained that out of the ones I’ve watched (all of them now) that ST Voyager is the best.

    Unpopular opinion – I still this. Captain Janeway was the best ;)

    I just can’t get into DS9.

    If you enjoy watching Star Trek, which is your favourite?

    I’m enjoying the new series…up to a point. I do not like the original ST references to Spock, although I like the original. I just want them to make a new series of Star Trek with its own characters independent of Spock and Kirk et al.

    1. Elle*

      I love DS9 – it’s far and away my favourite.

      I’m currently watching voyager, and I think Janeway is amazing. I also loved the early scene where she’s told something will take two days, she says she wants it in 24 hours, and is firmly told she’ll have it in two days!

      I agree about the new series – Starfleet must be massive, why did Burnham have to be spock’s foster sister?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Next Generation for me. I disliked the first few episodes when they first aired… but for simple reason that I wanted to watch TV at that time and that’s what was airing in the group TV room, I kept watching.
        And by the time we got to a rerun of the first season, we realized that the “problem” was that there was a TON of character history we simply didn’t know yet.
        Things like the way the captain acted like an idiot with the doctor? We just didn’t realize for a while that the two had been friends for a long time before getting on the ship.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      DS9 is my favorite Star Trek. But Babylon 5 is my favorite space show. I’m actually getting ready to do a rewatch – a lot of the show themes seem relevant to the current day, even though the show aired in the mid 1990s.

      1. Llellayena*

        Oh I second this. I’ve got a set of B5 dvds that I’ve watched so often I wore out season 4 and had to re-purchase it! DS9 is my favorite ST because they really get deep into exploring and developing the alien societies. Voyager is great but they’re never in the area long enough to get in depth with any society not on the ship. And I love the character development in DS9, especially with Worf, Odo and Dax (the Dax actress for the last season was shaky, but the written character development was well done). Oh and Dukat as a love to hate/hate to love bad guy is awesome.

      2. LawBee*

        Babylon 5 is the best scripted show I’ve ever seen. B5, Farscape (Aeryn Sun forever), and maybe SG1 for the fun factor – those would be my desert island sci-fi shows.

    3. Recovering Journalist...*

      Next Generation: I liked the entire cast

      (And, well, not really Star Trek, but the movie “Galaxy Quest” is a hoot for any true Star Trek fan, imho.)

      1. Auntie Social*

        Oh, I looooove Galaxy Quest! All household repairs around here are preceded by “I’ll get one of my boys up here with a can of WD-40.”

    4. Lcsa99*

      The original will always be #1 in my heart. My mother recorded them from when they first aired on TV so we had it on VHS with all the old commercials and everything. I know its cheesy but it’s awesome.

      1. curly sue*

        I’m going to be That Pedant, but it had to have been reruns in the 1980s, because home video recorders didn’t exist in the 1960s when TOS was first airing. There are some fascinating stories from Star Trek fandom at the time about methods fan groups took to preserve the first-run episodes as they aired. At least one club (I think in California?) would have members take polaroids of episodes as they aired, and then reconstructed episode plots on chart paper with the photos taped to them. Anyone who wanted references from particular episodes for fanfic writing purposes could book time to go and view the episode charts.

        /digression, but I love the stories from older fandom and the lengths they went to in order to get their hands on resources we take for granted today.

        (And on topic, DS9 all the way. Kira is my favourite Trek character of all time.)

    5. SemiRetired*

      DS9 became one of my favs. It’s spotty in the first couple of seasons so hang in there if you’re binging. Or just skip to season 4 or 5. (You could also skip all the ferengi episodes, imho….grand nagus makes my skin crawl.)

      1. Llellayena*

        Aww, I think the grand nagus is awesome! Not a good fit for our society but a great representation of the Ferengi.

    6. foolofgrace*

      Voyager. And for all the years that show ran, Kate Mulgrew was in almost every episode. I think she said she was pretty burned out by the end,

    7. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I can only watch the original, personally. The others are just not the same.

    8. BeanCat*

      I think each Star Trek series has different things to offer so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I can never choose between Kirk and Picard because my argument is they were different captains at different points in Starfleet history – Kirk was more brash and exploratory when they needed that, and Picard was more diplomatic during the period where that was important.

      I do overall enjoy the production value on ST:TNG more, but there’s something charming I love about the practical effects of the Original Series.

    9. Foreign Octopus*

      Definitely ST: TNG. Picard is definitely my captain, but I also love Janeway.

      As for DS9, I think the story arc in the last few seasons was really, really interesting and certainly darker in tone than any of the other Star Treks, which I think will make the series stand out for you. I struggled with the first season as well.

      ST: Discovery – the first season was a mess. It wasn’t Star Trek in my opinion; it was just a sci-fi show with Star Trek stamped on it but I’ve watched the two episodes of season two that have been released and they must have listened to fan feedback because it’s a breath of fresh air. It really feels like a return to TOS. I still think they would have been better off setting it as a sequel post TNG, VOY, and DS9. By setting it as a prequel, they’ve really tied their hands and, honestly, I feel that Spock’s story has been told in as much detail as they can without overegging the pudding.

      1. Qosanchia*

        I may have to give Discovery another go, then. I was bothered by the end of the first episode, when the solution was, “Violence is the only language they understand!” and then subsequent episodes never walked that back, or did anything more than justify Burnham’s decision, so I lost steam somewhere around episode 5 or 6.
        I think the only Star Trek I’ve directly engaged with is Voyager, which may explain why it’s my favorite, and I think I’m alone in my social circle in thinking Janeway is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve been going through TOS on Hulu with some friends, and it has not changed my estimation. I do love the TNG I’ve seen, and I definitely respect Picard, but Janeway is my captain.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Honestly, I was going to give season two of Discovery a miss as well but my older brother said that it was a return to the past (literally as Christopher Pike makes a very welcomed appearance). There’s definitely a story arc building but it’s a return to what Star Trek is: exploration, moral quandaries over the Prime Directive, strong leadership, and team work.

    10. All Hail Queen Sally*

      TNG will always be my favorite. I am old enough to actually remember watching the original on TV in the 1960’s with my dad (who got me into my love of SF). My mother was scandalized by the skimpy outfits the women wore on that show. I can even remember some of the “disagreements” my parents had about that show.

    11. All Hail Queen Sally*

      So what does everyone think of The Orville? I absolutely love it. I love Galaxy Quest too–I am a big fan of parodies.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I’m only a lukewarm Seth McFarlane fan, so I did not expect to enjoy The Orville as much as I do.

      2. Gatomon*

        Couldn’t stand The Orville, unfortunately. I gave up after the second or third episode. My initial impression was McFarlane foisting his Star Trek fantasies onto us, and I found his attempts at social commentary poorly executed. A show can be wholesome and thought provoking like Trek, or it can be biting and in-your-face like Family Guy or South Park, but not both.

        I loved Galaxy Quest and am eternally sad that Alan Rickman is no longer with us.

    12. LawBee*

      I loved DS9, never watched any of the other series, but I’ve seen all the movies with the original cast (no Picard etc) and the 2009 reboots. I’m enjoying Discovery very much!

    13. AnonymousNurse*

      I think TNG is my favorite, but Voyager is a close second. I’m working through the dark bits of DS9 right now and tbh I didn’t expect it to get that dark. I had to take a break when I got to season 6 the other day. But, in it’s defense, it has a great storyline that the other Star Treks can’t match.
      I really enjoyed how much the later 3 treks (TNG, DS9, and Voyager) interacted with each other. I like that I’ve seen Troi and Barclay in Voyager, and Riker and Picard in DS9. I especially enjoyed the Tribble episode in DS9.

    14. Lena Clare*

      I’m only in series 1 of DS9. I’m watching it because SO many people have told me that the writing and character development are better in DS9… so I will persevere!

      But I’m not really enjoying it and so far I don’t get the hype about it.

      I’m looking forward to the ‘dark’ storylines people mention.

      1. Melody Pond*

        I haven’t watched DS9 in a little bit, but it is my second favorite after TNG. As I recall, the first couple seasons in DS9 are pretty “meh” – which I think is common for most shows. It seems like they all really start to find their voices around season 3.

        In fact, I think the last time I re-watched DS9, I just started with season 3, episode 1, which might be worth doing in your case. You’d be missing maybe a little bit in terms of plot, but you’d get the gist of it. Those 22-24 episode long seasons are a long thing to sit through if you’re not really enjoying them.

      2. DCR*

        DS9 picks up a lot in the later seasons. Try season 2 at least before giving up.

        DS9 and Voyager are tied for my favorites. Both have good character development, which I love, and the different settings (station vs. ship) impacts the types of stories they can tell.

      3. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

        I think you’ll be really glad you hung in there, I was! DS9’s one of my favorites (TNG’s the other one) because it really rewards long-term watching, especially the Dominion War and all the later Cardassian ones. But you have to get through the bumpiness of the initial seasons first. And really, are ANY of the Star Treks completely free of silly episodes?

    15. Mrs. Fenris*

      I LOVED TNG when it was on. But when I go back and watch it now…I dunno. The dialogue is a lot more stilted than I remembered, and 2019 me can totally understand why Marina Sirtis got thoroughly sick of being “the chick.” Bless Gene Roddenberry and his sexist 60s heart. :-)

      But at the time…wow. I was in graduate school, and we planned our weekends around TNG. I have told my kids that no matter how impatiently they wait for the next season of something to come out on Netflix, nothing will ever, ever compare to the agonizing summer of 1991 after Riker said, “Mr. Worf…fire.”

      I didn’t stick with DS9 after the first three seasons, but I wish I had. Maybe now is a good time to go back and watch it.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I couldn’t imagine having to wait that long for a resolution!! That has to be one of the best cliff hangers in TV history.

    16. MissDisplaced*

      Original Star Trek because you can’t

      But Doctor Who is my favorite over ST any day!
      Forth Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor, Seventh Doctor and forever Sarah Jane Smith.

    17. Chaordic One*

      I have to agree about Janeway. Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal of a female leader was very well done and holds up well. (Mulgrew was not the first choice for the role. It had originally been cast with Geneviève Bujold playing the part, but Bujold left the role after only a few days saying that that the filming schedule was too demanding.) I know we judge female leaders harshly, but Mulgrew’s dark hair and comparatively deep voice gave her portrayal a bit of added depth and credibility as a leader.

      In my mind I keep comparing Mulgrew’s Janeway to Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal of Dr. Who and Mulgrew compares very favorably.

    18. Koala dreams*

      Star Trek Voyager will always hold a special place in my heart since I saw it growing up (I’m a millenial). Captain Janeway was great!

    19. J9*

      Love TOS and TNG..,because without them there would have been no Enterprise, which is my fave version.

      And on the sci-fi thread, shout out to Battlestar Gallactica (2004-2009) series. Absolutely fantastic series.

    20. The Person from the Resume*

      I first watched the original series so it’s my nostalgia favorite. But DS9 is probably my favorite overall. I do think the first is kind of rough, though, and it doesn’t get into the flow until later seasons. It really goes out on top build on a very complex political and military plot. I will admit, though, I find Klingons pretty boring and DS9’s placing them in the center of the plots was annoying.

      TNG never excited me. Voyager was built on lots of bad decisions in the show and behind the scenes. Enterprise got better but took too long to get there.

      I recommend you stick it out through season 2 or maybe just jump into it skipping the early seasons as they were finding their footing.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I just started watching discovery. And I know this is a bit get off my lawn, but I am frustrated with the need to include Sarek (and Amanda and Spock). I’m tired of them rebooting my favorite characters into characters I don’t recognize when they just could’ve created new ones easily. And did Michael Berman need to be a human raised to be Vulcan fish out of water? Why couldn’t she have “just” been human? Those bits seem really unnecessary.

    21. AcademiaNut*

      TNG is my favourite series overall, but nothing beats the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad for characters (and Spock is my favourite character overall). The problem I had with DS9 is that it aired when I was moving a lot during university, and the more serialized plots made it hard to keep up with, so I never saw it in sequence or in its entirety.

      I’m not a fan of the Abrams reboots. They were perfectly acceptable sci-fi action-adventure shows, but not really Star Trek. I haven’t seen the new show, but have no real desire to.

      One of the things I like about the more classic Trek is that it’s shows about people who are full adults – they’ve mostly figured out their place in the world, and are trained professionals midway through a career – and they’re generally decent people who care about doing the right thing. Origin stories and gritty reboots seem out of place. Also, recasting Spock/Kirk/McCoy in particular just doesn’t work for me – they actors are so much a part of the characters they played.

    22. Gatomon*

      Voyager is my favorite, followed closely by the TOS. I couldn’t get into DS9 either, I think I gave up around season 2 or 3. I heard it gets better but I just couldn’t plunge forward. I’ve watched all the other series and I think I caught all of the movies as well.

      I feel like Trek is really hung up on Kirk, Spock and Picard. When Trek is really great to me is when we see the tension between the Federation’s ideals and the predicament of the day. I think Discovery really nailed that drama in the first season (waiting for season 2 to finish before binging), but I wish we could move past the early Federation/TNG points in time. Sometimes its better to NOT tell origin stories (Caprica, I’m looking at you…) and let the imagination of the fans fill it in.

    23. Elizabeth West*

      The Original Series and The Next Generation are my favorites. I watched about half of DS9 and then ended up bailing. No reason in particular; I just got tired.

    24. Chip*

      I’m a long-time comic book fan – I remember when they were only 30¢. I mention this because people always assume if you’re into comics, you’re also into science fiction. Not true in my case.

      It wasn’t until recently that I finally got into Star Trek, the original series.

      Let me ask this about the DVDs. Am I correct in my understanding that the original DVDs – the ones issued around 1999-2000, the ones that come with two episodes on one disc – are the original episodes as broadcast, and all subsequent offerings (the season collections, and the complete collections) have been edited or “tweaked?”

    25. Lena Clare*

      I’m kinda getting into it now… I’ve missed quite a m few episodes out however, but don’t think I’ve missed much in terms of future plotlines.

  9. The Other Dawn*

    Update on my back pain issues if anyone cares to know. :)

    I had the first half of the radio frequency ablation on Thursday. They did four levels of the lumbar area on the left side. Right side will be done on February 4.

    So, it was not horrible at all! Honestly, the most pain was from the needle insertion and that was basically like getting a regular shot or blood drawn. They placed a grounding pad on my right side so I don’t get electrocuted. They do use electricity after all! After needle insertion the doctor then stimulated each nerve to make sure the needle was placed in the right spot. First he made the nerve vibrate and then made it twitch, which felt weird. No pain at all, though. Then he started burning the lesion on the nerve. I didn’t feel that at all on the first two nerves and had no idea he had even done it until he said, “OK, same thing. Tell me when you feel the nerve vibrating,” which meant he’d moved onto the next one. The third I felt a little, but it was hardly anything. The fourth, which was at the L1, felt like pressure. It wasn’t painful, though. I’d say it was 20 minutes from the time I got on the table to the time I got up. After I got up I lost my balance for a couple seconds, but it might have been the head rush after laying on my stomach.

    Afterwards, my toes tingled for about 15 minutes. We left and went to get food–I couldn’t eat for four hours beforehand so food was my first priority. Well, that’s when the pain set it. If anyone has had cortisone shots, you know the pain I mean. It was mostly my left butt cheek and the upper thigh in back, but oh man! I had a hard time sitting through dinner and of course my husband decides to get two large beers and takes forever to drink them! In his defense, I could have said I needed to leave or gotten up to walk around, but I didn’t. We got home and I was just counting the hours until I could legitimately go up to bed (being in bed too long makes my back hurt more). At 9pm I took a half an oxy, some Tylenol and went to bed.

    I felt much better yesterday. I was able to sit at my desk ALL DAY with minimal pain! Actually, the pain last night was in my legs, because I sat much longer than usual. I felt pretty good today and was able to lay in bed longer than usual. Normally I need to get up within about 10-15 minutes of waking up, otherwise the pain starts. Today I was laying there for about an hour. Of course, my mind was racing about an upcoming phone interview so I was preoccupied and not thinking about my back.

    TLDR: Seems like the RFA was a success!

    1. Myrin*

      Oh, I’ve been waiting for this. I’m so, so glad to hear that not only did the procedure go over extremely well but that it’s actually made a noticeable difference! Yay!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, that is really good news! And now you’ve piqued my interest–I might start digging around to see who does ablations near me.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        From what I understand they can do it in all regions of the spine. I wish it could be done for the sciatic nerve since that’s where the other pain comes from, but then I’d lose function of my leg, which wouldn’t be good. :)

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks, everyone! It was SO NICE to be able to sit and watch TV for a few hours yesterday. I haven’t done that in awhile. I’ve avoided watching TV for hours on end and going to the movies, but today I’m going to the movies with a friend. And last night I didn’t take any oxy or Percocet before bed. I stuck to Tylenol PM and slept until 6:45 today. That doesn’t sound late, but the last couple weeks I’ve been waking up about 4 am and not being able to get back to sleep, even with having taken something before bedtime.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She is determined to make friends with Lucy (also pictured), who is very cranky these days but will accept Sophie sleeping right by her because Sophie is well-mannered. She actually appears to be a social genius; she’s figured out exactly how to act with each cat to make each one friends with her.

      1. gonnaBeAnnon*

        I was thinking that Lucy looks very tolerant in that photo. Glad Sophie has such social skills!

      2. Myrin*

        I was about to ask about them! That’s so funny to hear, that she actually tailors her approach to each of the other cats – I’ve never heard of something like this before!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! It’s impressive. She’s very smart! She knows Lucy doesn’t want to play and so she’s very calm and respectful around her. I think Lucy misses having Sam sleep right by her, and Sophie is inching closer and closer to that spot. But she’s very playful with Olive, who likes it despite randomly hissing and growling while they play (which Sophie rightly just ignores). She’s wary with Eve (as she should be, because Eve lunges) but Sophie is finding little ways to bond with her (she initiated play with her yesterday and Eve was DELIGHTED). And then with Wallace, she has nothing to figure out; it’s constant chasing and wrestling. (And nursing. He is still nursing.)

            1. Windchime*

              Wallace is almost as big as his mama! I think it’s cute that he is always the one on the attack and she is indulgently waiting for him to “surprise” her. Very cute.

  10. Ann*

    Does anybody advice for freezer / pantry organization? I live alone, which means I end up freezing lots of leftovers (or meal components like bags of chicken stock). However once they go into the freezer, it’s like an endless void. I was thinking about buying some containers (I know Costco sells a fridge/freezer pack) so I could organize within the freezer, but I’m not sure whether this would actually help or just frustrate me when things don’t fit in the proper place.

    For the pantry, how do people like to store things that come in large bags, like rice? It’s annoying to have to deal with a huge bag when I just need a cup or two, but I’m not sure what sort of container works best. I’m also curious how people like to store other dry/bulk goods like flour, oats, etc. I’ve lived enough places with bug or mice problems that I’m a little wary of just keeping them in their original bags (though I don’t have an issue with either currently)

    Finally, does anybody have advice for cleaning a (ceramic) electric stove top? I feel like no matter how much I scrub I can’t get the burnt on food off.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If you are not sure about how best to organize the fridge, you could start with cardboard boxes. You can label the boxes with black marker to show the category. I am sure you could probably find some boxes at the grocery store and they would just give them to you. This would allow you a test run to see what you think.

      Retailers and restaurants mostly just use cardboard boxes, you don’t see many plastic or wire organizers in their freezers. I tried this myself with the cardboard boxes but I think my freezer is just too small. It was too annoying for me. You might land on having a container for the smaller items that are easy to forget. Or you could decide that you want something for frequently used items so you don’t have to dig each time.

      I do love organizers so it’s always tempting to buy some for the freezer but I know for me this is probably a poor idea.

      1. Ann*

        That’s a great idea! I like the idea of being able to test out different sizes and see what works, too.

      2. The Messy Headed Momma*

        Mason jars for the pantry! You can even buy lids that have spouts. If it’s an ingredient I don’t use all the time, I tape a copy of the basic cooking directions to the jar.

      3. Parenthetically*

        Containers within the freezer is a VERY VERY good idea and served me well for many years that I lived alone.

      4. MissDisplaced*

        Try hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s for the boxes because they’re “bin” type boxes usually to hold the carded items. Much similar to the plastic bins for fridge organization.
        I’d also try going to a Dollar Tree and buying some cheap plastic baskets/bins first.

    2. Madge*

      Freezer: I have a side by side fridge so my freezer is long and narrow. Each shelf holds a category of food: veg, protein, fruit, starch, and misc for leftovers and ice cream. Each shelf also has a plastic freezer bin to hold bagged food. This organization system doesn’t last long, I tend to shove stuff wherever it will fit, but it helps.

      I cannot stress this enough: label, label, label. I can’t tell you how many mystery frozens I have. And how many times I’ve defrosted something only to find it wasn’t what I thought and doesn’t fit my plan. A freezer inventory is also very handy and easy to create and maintain.

      Pantry: I use a combination of plastic rubber maid tubs with red lids and mason jars to store my pantry foods. The tubs seem pretty heavy duty and so far have held up to mice invasions.

    3. Auntie Social*

      Keep a grease board index of what’s in the freezer and when it went in. I waste a lot less and plan more meals around what we already have. I’m ashamed to tell you the age of some things I discovered when I did my last clean-out.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes – the day I discovered I can use the side of my white chest freezer as a whiteboard was glorious.

    4. BRR*

      For the freezer, my goal is just to get everything in there and close the door. Mine is simply not big enough.

      For the pantry, I use some of those airtight containers where you press a button in the lid to seal it.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I do the same for my rice, flour, sugar, etc. I use similar containers to this: https://www.oxo.com/10-piece-pop-container-set-white.html but there’s a lot of similar brands, and as far as I can tell, they’re all about the same.

        A bag of rice may be too much to fit into one of those containers, so what I do is fill it up, then store the bag of rice somewhere out of the way. As I use up rice in the container, I refill from the “mother” bag of rice. (or just use multiple containers–that works too)

        I’ve labeled mine by just sticking a piece of tape on them and writing on it with marker, but you could go fancy and get actual labels. ;)

    5. Asenath*

      I used to have a chest freezer, and did a lot of cooking in bulk and freezing. I had vaguely thought I wasn’t doing as well as I had been with organizing and inventory. When I moved to a smaller place I didn’t bring the freezer, and when I emptied it realized just how much ancient food I had wasted! So now I just have the smaller fridge freezer, which is easier to keep on top of. I am still struggling with my tendency to pick up bargains I will freeze for later or cook up too much of a recipe so that I have 10 or so servings to store. I always put bulk food like rice, pasta and dry cat food in plastic containers as soon as they are open. I have some made by the same company (I waited for sales) that stack nicely. I use dollar store containers for none-food items.

    6. Catherine*

      I keep my rice in an airtight plastic bin with a spout on top. It holds a few kilos and has measuring marks up the side. You can probably get these on Amazon in Western countries.

    7. Ali G*

      I keep a Google Sheet on my Google Drive that lists everything in my freezer. It’s helpful for meal planning, and also if I am in the store I can bring it up on my phone and see what I have (so if something is on super sale, I know if it is a good idea to stock up).
      I use mason jars and glass jars with snap close tops for dry goods in the pantry.
      I’ve used fridge/freezer bins with some success. It all depends on the type of stuff you have and how much room you have.

    8. HBucket*

      I store all my dry goods in the pantry in glass or really heavy duty containers (WM has some from BH&G that vacuum seal). We live near the woods so sometimes have mouse visitors… I only let them eat my quinoa once!! I recycle large jars and use them for rice and beans, etc.

      If you crack the nut about the freezer organization, let me know! I am trying to do better about working through what’s in my freezer but…..

    9. WellRed*

      Can I piggyback on this and ask if anyone has tried one of those vacuum sealer things? It would save so much room in the freezer and hopefully cut down on freezerburn but I wonder if they do work and if they are easy to use?

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes they work, yes they are easy to use. I don’t find they save room in the freezer (they can’t really suck air out of a steak!) and look a bit messy, but if you have bins or boxes holding like items together they can work really well. I used to use mine to store individual meals I’d make on a weekend and it worked great. A bit wasteful, though you can re-use the bags even if they get smaller each time!

      2. GoryDetails*

        Re vacuum sealer things: I have a Food Saver that I’ve used for years, and really like. It’s easy to use, does seem to keep the foods in good condition, and helps motivate me to buy in bulk and repackage in convenient-for-me sizes. The one I have has a fairly small counter footprint, another plus for me… I do re-use *some* of the freezer bags, if they were large enough to still be useful; I prop them open, with a small dish inside to keep them from shifting around, and put them in the dishwasher. But I make sure to only use those bags for the same kind of food next time; I wouldn’t put cooked stew in a bag that had previously contained raw chicken, even after the washing cycle. And past a certain point the bags have to be discarded. There are reusable vacuum-seal containers that might be more “green”, and I’ve used some of those for things like soup or stew, but for chicken pieces or pork ribs I prefer the bags.

      3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        And, I have found that my vacuum-sealed bags get less freezer burn than the freezer ziplocks. I like the quality of the meat at Costco. (For the money, the grade of meat is outstanding…) Since I live almost alone (Mom with me right now), I “have” to freeze some, or I’m eating pork chops for a week. (which is not good). I also do this for my bulk cooking…

    10. Wulfgar*

      I use baking soda to clean my stove top. It’s non-abrasive and can set as a paste to loosen grease and food spills.

      1. Enough*

        I may try that. Nothing else really works except for the cleaner made specifically for these cook tops. And the scraper is needed for anything that spills on the burners (I actually use my paint scraper).

      2. Lilysparrow*

        Yes, sprinkle baking soda and spritz or drip enough white vinegar to make a paste. Let it fizz and sit on the gunk for a few minutes. It will come off nicely.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      I really suck at organization, especially in the freezer. But I try to be diligent about using my Food Saver to vacuum seal meats and then label them. Much less waste from freezer burn.

      For the pantry I’ve bought some of those Rubbermaid Brilliance containers, which I use for flour and sugar. I need one for rice, but haven’t bought it yet. They’re good, but they aren’t cheap. And another vote for large mason jars.

    12. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Freezer: Labeling is key for us. If something goes into a leftovers container, I go old-school and write the contents and date with a sharpie marker on a length of masking tape. Since one of our regional emergency risks is power outages, though, we try not to rely on the freezer too much.

      Pantry: I’ve learned about myself that I’m very “out of sight, out of mind.” If something isn’t out on a shelf where I can see it, it’ll slip my mind as something I have on hand. But I don’t want to look at half-empty sacks of rice and beans and flours and pasta held closed with twist-ties. (Also that would make my kitchen a mouse’s paradise.) So we use old quart-size mason jars and the Rubbermaid type containers that are large enough to hold a family-size box of cereal.

      Stove top: Never had any luck until I tried a dedicated cleaner like Cerama Bryte. Scrubbing with water, soapy water, or ammonia wasn’t ever enough.

    13. Parenthetically*

      Freezer: utilize existing infrastructure to keep track of what’s in there — your wall calendar if you have one to plan out days to use up what you’ve put in, a white board where you automatically write down everything you put in, your iCal or Google Calendar, a spreadsheet if you’re often using things like that, etc. Use bins, boxes, dividers, etc. and only put Category A food in the Category A box.

      Pantry: Large lidded containers at Costco/Sam’s. Tupperware from the thrift store. Mason jars.

      General Using-Food tips: meal plan in some way. We take 20 minutes on a Saturday to write a list of meals for the week (sometimes we assign days and sometimes we just say “here are 4 or 5 dinners we want to eat this week”) — and we shop the freezer and pantry before we shop at the grocery store. I never ever start to think about what’s for dinner this week without looking to see what’s in the freezer. This is absolutely critical for us in avoiding waste. As an example, this last week we used up the last of the frozen leftover dressing and gravy from Christmas with some chicken thighs we had in the freezer too. We had to shell out zero dollars for that meal and we didn’t waste the dressing and gravy!

      Ceramic stove top: razor blade! All the way.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Same (or similar, anyway) regarding food planning. It kind of kills us to throw food away — and avoiding food waste is one of the easiest ways to economize — so we hit the leftovers hard before they have time to spoil or get freezer-burned.

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        This shopping what ya got bit is what we do too. I have a good idea what we have in there (we buy meat in bulk every six months or so), and through the week I think through our work/life schedule, whats in the fridge, and how I can combine that with whats in the freezer, trying to do at least one meal from frozen leftovers. I then build the rest of my shopping list around what we need.

        It can take some time to get used to this approach, but once you get the hang of it, its not real hard. Also, every few months we WILL go through the freezer and toss things that haven’t made the cut or rediscover a bag of frozen berries or something. This usually happens when we need to defrost the thing (NEVER buy a Smeg fridge!)

        Also, I like to cook beans from scratch, then portion into 1C ziplocks, freeze flat, and then arrange like they are books in a library :) My mom does something similar with homemade broth.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, it took awhile to get used to this method but now it’s just standard for us and doesn’t take much time at all. Mr Brackets and I meal plan together, so he’ll stand in the kitchen and look through fridge and cupboards and freezer and then suggest meals based on those things while I write a shopping list and meal list.

          We do a similar thing with freezer cleanout every few months because freezer entropy is almost inevitable, but we just think of it as part of normal kitchen chores and it never gets horribly bad, and only takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes to set right — and then we inevitably discover something we’d forgotten about and get to make something fun with that!

      3. Lucy*

        “Shop the freezer” is brilliant general advice.

        But here we’re nervous about Brexit so feeling a slight tendency towards stockpiling. Best case, most of our food will suddenly have import tariffs applied and the currency exchange will further increase prices; worst case, food will temporarily be scarce.

        So there’s a complicated cycle of “use it but replace with a fresher equivalent plus a bit more”. And being grateful we can afford to do so.

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          Note: Im in the UK and definitely have my little Brexit cupboard space too. I usually get a packet of dried beans/lentils/canned tuna/canned tomatoes on the weekly shop to add to it, and will make a special run to the butcher in mid March to top up the meat in the freezer. At that point we would probably switch to more veg-based meals with meat as a flavoring (in a way) rather than meat based meals with veg on the side. My Indian cookbooks are standing by! :)

          (Although let’s hope it really, really doesn’t come to that and I can instead just donate my extra stuff or we become vegetarians for a few months)

    14. Competent Commenter*

      I feel your pain. I have a side by side fridge and the freezer is really narrow. I searched until I found some largish clear plastic bins that essentially fill the entire space between one shelf and the next. I can take them out and reorganize them on my countertop instead of with the freezer door open, and it’s easier to find things in them the same way–there’s no “back of the shelf” issue since the whole thing comes out.

      To maximize the space in those bins, I try to freeze things flat when I can. If I buy a lot of ground turkey at Costco, for example, I’ll freeze a couple of pounds individually in ziploc bags, flattening them so they fill the entire bag, maybe a third of an inch thick. That way I can basically “file” them in the bins. And my bins aren’t perfectly fitting the space, so in the 1-2 inches on the sides of them I can file more turkey or some skinny boxes of frozen food. I also make my own chicken stock with rotisseries chicken carcasses, and I freeze that in breast milk storage bags. They rock! Much easier to use than a regular ziploc, you can freeze one cup of liquid at a time for easy use later, once you run them under hot water for maybe 20 seconds the contents pop right out…a total game changer. I store split pea soup in them, too. While they’re not going to be as flat as my turkey ziploc bags (not if I want one cup in each), they do still file nicely in my bins, especially if I put some head down, some head up, as they taper at the top.

      On cleaning the stove top: when we moved into our current home, the glass stove top (hopefully same as what you mean?) was a mess, and we have a galley kitchen that opens right at the front door, so it’s literally the first thing you see when you open the front door. Why?? Anyway, I could not get this awful burned stuff off that was left by the previous owner until I used a razor blade. Just be sure to use it at the right angle so you’re not scratching it. Then I bought soft scrub to clean it as needed when it’s too greasy to just wipe down with a soapy counter sponge. I don’t generally buy products like that but in this case it’s what I needed, and I’m still on the same bottle after 3 years, so I don’t feel too bad.

      Lastly, on things like rice: I use a Trader Joe’s seasonal popcorn metal container and shove my very large bags of rice in there. Usually when the bag is new I have to pour off some into my smaller plastic cupboard container that I use daily, and then it fits.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I used to have a galley kitchen inside my front door too and shoot it was so motivating to keep my damn kitchen clean. So annoying but it really made me wash the dishes more faithfully.

    15. Weegie*

      Stove top: if you still can’t shift the baked-on stuff after trying baking soda and vinegar, make up a thick paste of biological washing powder and water, spread it on top of the gunk, leave it for a while, then scrape off with some kind of sharp-bladed implement. The idea is that the biologicals eat into the baked-on stuff, loosening it up enough so that it can be removed. I had some success with this on a stove that hadn’t been cleaned in two years by previous tenants (!)

    16. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

      When I batch cook, I label individual, stackable containers, “#x of n” (scotch tape and a Sharpie work well for these labels). Containers of the same food are stacked together and I always use #1 first and work my way numerically to n. It’s somewhat of a nuisance when I occasionally have to poke around for the third pesto container, but well worth the effort because poking around an organized freezer doesn’t take very long.

      1. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

        I hope that comment was clear, but if not, further explanation: I don’t lose things to the bottomless freezer void because I don’t make more of any item until I’ve eaten n items. I keep track of specific n’s in my head, but a white board would do as well.

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          I really like this idea – then you KNOW if you are on 4/6 but have grabbed 6/6 there is another one floating about in the void… somewhere.

    17. Koala dreams*

      I like the endless void thing, then I get a happy surprise when I look into the freezer and find a frozen meal I forget about or some ingredients that I’m missing. My freezer came with shelves from the start, I like to have ready meals on one shelf and ingredients on another shelf. If you need to buy shelves, make sure that they fit in your freezer, there are so many different brands and sizes out there.

      I just store the pantry things in the original boxes, but I see a lot of people buying glass or plastic containers at places like IKEA, those containers come with easy to open lids, and since they are clear it’s really easy to see what’s inside. Usually one litre is good for rice, cereals, flour and oats. Don’t know what that would be in US measurements. One thing I do remove the package from is eggs, I hate not seeing how many eggs are left. I actually bought a fancy ceramic egg “plate”, but I guess it would work equally well to just remove the upper part of the regular box.

      Avoid round containers, they take up a lot of space. Boxes are better.

    18. Artemesia*

      Since a neglected case of pantry moths morphed into a major disaster that required endless cleaning, spraying and discarding of food, I have used sealed containers for grain products. Larvae often arrive in such products and this keeps it from infecting other things. The tiny larvae are very ingenious. I once found a large white magotty thing in the center of an Oreo — luckily I had pulled it apart like a 6 year old — it had somehow got into the closed package, tiny as it was. The plastic containers with spring tops make it easy to see the product and protect it. You can cut the cooking instructions out of the bag or box and toss it in the top.

      I have always been able to get stuff off the stove top with those red scrubbers designed not to mar glass tops and the special white cleaning fluids sold for the purpose. The key is always getting it up right away. If it is really tough I leave the stuff on for awhile with the wetted red thing on it — but mostly it is elbow grease.

    19. NMFTG*

      I keep a magnetic list pad on my freezer, and I list everything I put in my freezer (but not where).

      If I put in three seperate portions of sheperd’s pie, it’s «shepherd pie x3» etc.

      I cross out anything I take out and empty, or write a new number for anything with more left. When the list sheet gets messy, I tear it off and copy to a current one.

      It does not help me identify where something is, but it helps me to know I have it somewhere in there….

  11. Lcsa99*

    So for something that might be fun, why don’t we all go ahead and ask the ridiculous questions that come to mind? The one I thought of the other day – how does pepto bismal know which of the 5 symptoms its treating? *singing* “nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea!” They all start around the same general area, and upset stomach and nausea can arguably be the same, but they are different symptoms! So what ridiculous questions have come to your mind?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My simplistic understanding is that pepsin, in the Pepto coats everything. So it’s a scatter-gun approach but effective. Since it is all digestive track symptoms, it seems to make sense that if the stomach is having issues the bowels could be having issues also and so on. I get a natural product with pepsin in it and it works every single time.
      I do know that I will spend the rest of my life figuring out my own ridiculous questions. I love stuff like this. So I will be reading with high interest here.
      I want to know why they can’t make a bathroom sink drain plug that works. Why do the stoppers fail in such a short time and how do we prevent that?

    2. TL -*

      Every time I watch a coming competition show, I think of what a treasure trove of data it could be if someone analyzed them linking for trends on race/gender and elimination, especially ones that have blinded and unblinded judging.

      1. fposte*

        Add audience voting to that–racial bias is apparently a known problem with Britain’s Strictly Come Dancing.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I did an unofficial analysis of Cutthroat Kitchen, and while I didn’t find any groundbreaking statistics, I did discover that just about every time there’s two men and two women, at least one man would immediately label the other man as “my biggest opponent” and promptly get defeated by a woman. It’s pretty hilarious, actually.

        1. Lcsa99*

          Ha that’s funny. My husband has a theory with Chopped that especially in the entree round, if they are down to two men and a woman and it’s close, they will chop the woman. “When in doubt chop the chick”

    3. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      Similar to your question, lcsa99, I always wondered when you took over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen… how does the medicine magically know where to go?

      1. Asenath*

        When I was a child, I though aspirin was only good for headaches. Actually, that belief lasted surprisingly long. I think I was experiencing my first period pain, and when my mother suggested aspirin, I asked her what good that would do? I didn’t have a headache! She told me aspirin travels all over the body, and I guess she was right, because it helped.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I believe (could be wrong) that it doesn’t actually go to the pain. It just stops sensors in the brain from registering the pain.

        1. Mrs. Fenris*

          That’s how opioids (narcotics) work, but not the OTC ibuprofen type drugs (the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories).

      3. Mrs. Fenris*

        It doesn’t go to a specific spot. Pain is largely caused by chemicals called prostaglandins that are released by the ouchy spot as part of its healing process. Ibuprofen is absorbed from your digestive tract into the bloodstream and inhibits the body’s release of prostaglandins, everywhere they are being produced-including the ones that are part of your blood clotting or your stomach functioning normally. That’s why some people get stomach upset, and why people with blood clotting issues can’t take some of the drugs in that class like aspirin.

      1. Myrin*

        That is an absolutely delightful question I’ve never thought about before but now definitely need to know the answer to!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        oooo– INTERESTING. I bet penguins have pretty good muscles for all that diving they do. I read some where that they are actually stinky. Maybe someone here as done one of those Antarctic trips where you walk among the penguins.

        1. Max Kitty*

          I don’t know about the penguins themselves (didn’t get near enough to do a sniff test) but their areas are slathered in guano and stink to high heaven. So pungent that you can smell the island from the ship well offshore. We cruised on a zodiac near the shore of an island with tens of thousands of penguins (didn’t even go on shore), and when we got back to our ship we couldn’t stand the smell of ourselves.

          Unless they are extremely fat penguins, I would guess that their stomachs wouldn’t jiggle. The ones we saw seemed pretty sleek.

        2. Hooptido*

          I’ve been to Antarctica and, yes, penguins are incredibly stinky. The snow/ice around them is covered with gray/pink fecal slime. It looks and smells exactly like you would imagine digested fish would.

      3. KR*

        I asked a relative who worked with penguins and she said they are mostly muscle but it depends how fat the penguin is!

      4. fposte*

        I know penguins, like seals and whales, have a blubber layer, but I have no idea how solid blubber is. So I think you’d hit fat, but I don’t know if it would jiggle.

      5. Marion Ravenwood*

        A few years ago, I did one of those ‘meet the penguins’ experiences at London Zoo. I did not slap the penguins, but from stroking their chests they felt pretty solid under there! As fposte says though I imagine it’s mainly blubber to help them keep afloat. These were Humboldt penguins so quite small, so I can’t say if this would also be true for a king or emperor penguin (though I imagine they would need more blubber as insulation from the cold).

    4. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      Another one: With “smart” everything these days, why hasn’t anyone invented a better umbrella yet? It’s 2019 and the best thing to protect from rain is still some awkward stick that easily inverts and becomes useless in a 5 mile per hour wind?

      1. Myrin*

        Speaking of umbrellas, why are they round instead of an oval with the stick closer to one side? You need to carry an umbrella either to the left or to the right of your body and inevitably, the arm on the opposite side becomes soaking wet as soon as it rains more than moderately. Even if you hold it directly in front of your body, that leaves any kind of backpack or the back of your coat or similar to get all soggy. I assume it’s mostly a balance thing but awoighöeriwag, I hate it!

          1. Chip*

            Awoighöeriwag is the name of a German faction that once tried to discredit the name of Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm, thought by many to be the greatest name in German Baroque music.

            They failed. The name of Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm remains forever unbesmirched.

            1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

              That’s the problem I have with expensive umbrellas. I’m sure they do work better, but I’m every bit as likely to leave it on the train and give a stranger an expensive souvenir.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          This is why I like the clear ‘dome’-style umbrellas that go over your shoulders and upper body (something like this: https://www.brolliesgalore.co.uk/fulton-birdcage-clear-dome-umbrella-black-trim-c2x12783728). The shape means they’re not as susceptible to win and keep all of your upper body dry. That said, I prefer the totally clear ones to those with patterns as I find that for some reason with the patterned ones things look further away than they are.

          Also, awoighöeriwag needs to become the new official AAM angry phrase.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I have actually pondered creating an umbrella like this. I know that there is something like this already but it isn’t quite what I have in mind.

      2. DrTheLiz*

        They have invented a better umbrella! They now make umbrellas with “vents” that let wind through without letting the rain in. I’ve had one for years, and it’s inverted once (in a gale) and is still fine. It’s also got fibreglass ribs instead of metal ones, which means it can be put away wet.

        https://www.fultonumbrellas.com/mens/walking-umbrellas/manual/252/stormshield-black/ is the model I have, and I’ve also got a smaller one that I carry around. Best present I’d got in years.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I’m not sure if it’s ridiculous, but when I was in the elevator at work the other day, for some reason I started wonder how they install elevators. Not in new construction, but when they’re replacing one. Do they wheel it in fully assembled? Do they assemble it in the shaft, piece by piece? If so, where do they start?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My friend built a special use elevator so there are differences in type of elevators and that would be a factor also. He basically had a box on top of a car lift. It worked for his application.
        But after listening to him, I would guess that yes, they have to bring it in in pieces. For new, I would think they would start with the floor and the panel that has all the wiring. Then the cable for the lift somewhere along the lines. But as they get the “guts” in place they can probably install more and more walls then the ceiling. To start the process replacing an elevator, I picture them bringing the current elevator to the basement or starting floor. Then they take the walls out to deal with the technical stuff- disconnect the old, bring in the new.

        Some of these elevators scare me. I got into one in Chicago one time that went so fn fast. Nothing prepared me for that.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Have you ever wondered h I w they’re tested? When I first moved to Connecticut, we went to Lake Compounce theme park and I was fascinated by a very tall very skinny building in an office park in a then-rural area. It’s a test tower for Otis Elevator. I found a decent picture online, and I’ll put it in my next comment.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I actually don’t live too far from there. I see it when I attend an annual seminar over in that direction, too. Impressive to see.

    6. Plain Jane*

      When did “ask” become a noun? All of the sudden, you don’t have an important request, you have a “big ask”.

      1. Myrin*

        I honestly thought it was exclusively a Tumblr thing for the longest time because on there, the messages you send to another user via askbox are called “asks”. I’m not in an English-speaking country so I was not just a little surprised when I learned on here that it’s actually something people say IRL!

        1. Plain Jane*

          I’m in the U.S. and the last few years I see and hear it increasingly, mostly in work settings.

      2. Lilysparrow*

        I heard it as a noun in sales-training/copywriting jargon decades ago, but only in that context. I’ve only heard it in the mainstream for a few years.

    7. tangerineRose*

      Why are backpacks set up so that the zippers are in the back? Maybe I’m just too untrusting, but if I’m wearing a backpack, couldn’t someone just walk up behind me and try to help themselves to my stuff? I mean, I’d probably notice, but still…

      1. Myrin*

        As a frequent backpack wearer (see above for whining about my wet backpack because of symmetrical umbrellas) I understand the problem (even though if I’m somewhere where I’m honestly concerned this could happen, like a crowded underground, I usually just pull it around to my front) but I don’t quite get the alternative – where else would the zippers be? The backpack is by definition on your back and since the zippers need to open it, they have to be there, too. I’m so intrigued by this – I feel like I’m imagining something very different from what you’re talking about!

        1. tangerineRose*

          Since I usually take the backpack off of my back before I get something out of it, how about putting the zippers on the side of the backpack that is next to my back when I’m wearing it? It might be a little awkward sometimes because that’s where the straps are, but I think there might be ways to deal with it.

          1. Lychee*

            This does exist! It’s called an anti-theft backpack, I think several brands have a version. The reviews I have seen do indeed complain that the zipper is difficult to access though.

      2. Jane of All Trades*

        I’ve seen it happen exactly as you describe. A couple was walking arm-in-arm, he was wearing a backpack, somebody else came up from behind and opened the backpack and helped himself to its contents. They absolutely did not notice it. Never put your valuables on top in your backpack. Mine has inside compartments, so if I do have to put the wallet in the backpack i put it in the inside compartment and put other things on top.

        1. Hooptido*

          When I lived in Asia, thieves carried razors and would slit the bottoms of knapsacks carried by tourists on crowded buses and trains.

        2. Marion Ravenwood*

          Something similar happened to a school friend of mine on a trip to Rome. A gang of kids opened her backpack, took out her wallet, swiped all her cash out of it and then handed it back to her saying ‘you dropped this’. We didn’t notice until we got back to the hotel and she was absolutely devastated. It’s part of the reason now, when I travel, I wear a cross-body bag on my front and with any front zips turned towards me.

        3. Artemesia*

          A backpack is a pickpocket’s buffet. When I spent a summer in Florence I knew two women in an Italian class I was taking who both had wallets stolen from backpacks in the market the same day — they were not together. In Europe pickpocketing is organized crime, they are very good at it and I know several people who had cards taken and as much as 20K charged on them within two hours of the theft. It is very skillful and systematic.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When businesses advertise “finer foods” I wonder … finer than what? Finer than my high school cafeteria doesn’t deserve much bragging.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Oh man, this brings back memories. I once had a music teacher who went absolutely ballistic once over the Food Emporium jingle. (Food Emporium is a now-defunct upscale NYC-area supermarket.) A part of their jingle went, “Someone got the message that people like things better / Even when they’re shopping for the simple things.” This guy started screaming in the middle of class. “Better than what? Better than WHAT??” It was a little scary. (I was cursed with really high-strung music teachers, maybe part of the reason I went running away screaming from music as soon as high school ended…sigh.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I just “failed beverage control “.. it’s a good thing I’m just drinking water.

        2. Koala dreams*

          Haha, I can empathize with the teacher. I always wonder the same thing when people talk about better, nicer, bigger and so on without comparing it to anything else.

        3. Chip*

          I remember this from Food Emporium’s early commercials: their tagline was “If we don’t have it, it doesn’t exist!”

    9. Sparkly Librarian*

      This sort of thing is where I get most of my (self-initiated) reference questions!

      Often I find myself wondering “How do you pee in a _______________?” (Fill in the blank with hoopskirt/suit of armor/non-unionized job/etc.)

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        As a girl who went to prom in the early 80s, I can answer the first one: with a bit of strategy. Back up to the toilet and lift everything as far as you need to, maybe over your head. The hoop will bend enough to fit inside the stall. Pick up the crinoline separately and keep it gathered under your armpits. It’s still very awkward. I guess back in the day, that’s what ladies-in-waiting did.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Actually, your best bet is to hike the hoop and straddle the toilet, facing the back. /former Rainbow girl

          (I can change out of a hoop dress into PJs in a Smart car without flashing anyone.)

      2. Anono-me*

        Actually, when I toured fancy museum in not to far away big city I learned a different answer to how did a lady in olden days go in a ginormous complicated dress.

        Sometimes, the high muckety ladies would have one lady lift up the skirts and another lady hold a narrow little chamber pot in the useful location.

        One of the pieces on display at the museum is a beautiful fancy gravy boat shaped piece of china. The tour guide said it had been donated by a family that had had it for generations. The museum was very happy to have it. At the time of the donation one of the older family members commented that it was odd that the family didn’t have any other pieces of china in that same pattern. The museum person had to explain that it was a fancy chamber pot. The family had been using it as a gravy boat at all their formal meals for years.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My father took my mother to France in the early fifties and one of the destinations was and antiques auction. She came home with a soup tureen without a lid, and according to my dad everybody else was giggling because it’s actually a commode. Just to be on the safe side, it’s been a planter ever since.

      3. JKP*

        I just saw a youtube video the other day about peeing in old styles of dress:

        What I thought was absolutely fascinating was that they wore drawers that were split open, so they didn’t actually have to pull underwear down or anything and they sat on the toilet or chamberpot backwards. Basically just squat and pee. I think that’s the struggle modern women have with historical style clothes: we’re trying to mess with underwear under those hoop skirts and trying to sit on toilets the proper way.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          In drama school we had a unit on folks dance in Shakespearean times. I still get the giggles when I think about the dance teacher, in her very proper British accent, cautioning us ladies not to lift our feet too high lest we tip our farthingales “and show your knickers, WHICH YOU HAVE NOT GOT.”

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If you’re ever running a history Costume event, and you plan to rent portable toilets, and do you expect to have people in hoop skirts, consider renting an extra handicap accessible portalet. So much more manageable in hoops!

        3. Artemesia*

          I once owned a bunch of clothing of my grandmother’s and her MIL’s my great grandmother. My grandmother died in the epidemic in 1918 — so this stuff would now be at least 100 years old. Their underwear involved long petipants type pants, but they were split in the middle with a lot of cloth overlap. Given the layers of peticoats and long skirts etc, there was no way anyone would be pulling down underwear to pee — and of course they didn’t use elastic — things were hooked and buttoned to make it even more difficult — so the split crotch was probably a necessity.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I may not be remembering this correctly because it was on my first trip to Britain, waaaaay back in 198*cough*, On that first visit, my auntie and her then-husband took me to Hampton Court. We were told that the ladies would just squat and poo wherever under those big wide 17th century skirts with the panniers (side hoops). I guess they had servants following them around to clean it up? x__x

        1. PetticoatsandPincushions*

          One of my favorite things about history is the concept of privacy, and how the idea has changed so much. It the 17th century (and many other times and places, but this is just an example), privacy was something you gave other people. Maybe you and your whole family lived in a one room house because you were peasants- when your parents closed the bed curtains, they weren’t going to worry about keeping it down to preserve their privacy, they knew everyone else would ignore them in order to create a mutual privacy shield. Relieving oneself was the same, there are lots of stories about courtiers just squatting to pee in the middle of a group, and the polite thing was essentially to pretend it wasn’t happening. You see that concept in traditional Japanese architecture too- those gorgeous paper walls are NOT soundproof obviously, but you sure as heck are going to act like they are!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This was a point in Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children books (Clan of the Cave Bear, et al). The Clan were crammed into a cave all together but they avoided looking into each other’s hearths. The mammoth hunters in their lodges did that too, though they had it a bit harder because they used verbal speech, which the Clan did not, so they could overhear conversations and sometimes jumped in. When Ayla and Jondalar got back to his people, the Zelandoni, she discovered they erected partitions in their cave, which was much bigger anyway. You could still hear but it was more like the Japanese paper screens.

            I know these books were fiction, but the amount of research Auel did to recreate this Paleolithic world in such immense detail was staggering. Most of the culture is extrapolated even in scholarly works (as obviously, without a TARDIS, we can’t know), but it makes total sense that people would do it that way.

            I would love to write historical fiction like this. Think how fun the research would be! I had fun doing it for Secret Book, even though I ended up chucking it (pending a rewrite someday) because my original premise was incredibly stupid. I’ll probably start with Victorian times; I love all their ornate crap and even own some. :)

            Oh hey, I just had an idea while typing this comment . . . *makes a note* hee hee hee heeeeee . . .

    10. HannahS*

      How do we know that older English words like “playeth” or “goeth” (plays, goes) were pronounced in two syllables, like play-eth and go-eth? Is it possible that they were pronounced the way a person with a lisp would pronounce “plays” or “goes,” like playth or goeth?

      1. Lilysparrow*

        I can’t think of any specific instances of those type of words, but I do know that we base a lot of our understanding of archaic pronunciation on rhyming verse from different time periods.

        If you know two words are supposed to rhyme that don’t rhyme now, you can figure out what changed (with enough other points of reference).

      2. Someone Else*

        Partially we know this because the concept of standardized spelling is a relatively recent concept in English. So a lot of the ways we can follow shifts in pronounciation are shifts in spelling. Think of how there are different accents in different areas and thus different pronounciations. We already know that’s true; it’s still true. But if you go back far enough you see all those areas who currently pronounce things differently than each other also spelling those words differently. So it’s pretty clear that the spelling matches the pronounciation of the area at the time. You can also track when everyone starts spelling certain words differently suggesting a shift in the overall pronunciation.
        The concept of standardized spelling makes this sort of thing more difficult to track now, except now we have alphabets meant specifically to indicate pronunciation and academics whose whole job is to track this sort of thing, but if you’re looking at, say, 1200s or 1400s, pretty much just look at the spelling.

    11. Chip*

      I’ve always wondered why most currencies are in units and sub-units. Dollars and cents, pounds and pence, etc. There are some currencies that don’t have sub-units, like the Japanese yen, so prices are numerically higher – something that costs a few dollars will cost hundreds of yen. (A single yen is equivalent to 9/10 of one U.S. cent.)

      1. Japananon*

        Actually Japanese yen does have a sub unit! 1/100 is called “sen”, 1/1000 is called “rin”. Both are rarely used in every day life, but for example my water bill is calculated based on usage to the “sen”.

  12. TL -*

    I’ve been back from vacation for two weeks and my cat – for whom independence is a city in Missouri – has just now stopped obviously following me from room to room and is instead pretending we just happened to end up in the same room for the third time in a row.
    She’s also finally starting to go outside again during her outdoor time.

    I dream of getting her a pet goat to bond with – she clearly craves the closeness of an unhealthily codependent relationship.

    1. Not All*

      I’ve never understood why people talk about cats as being “aloof”…I’ve never known one that wasn’t affectionate! (And since I haven’t had fewer than 3 cats in almost 30 years, and an average of 7-10 with fosters….it’s a lot of cats!)

      One of mine would always run out & kill me a mouse or rat the second he saw me come back from a long trip. He was a mighty hunter in his younger days & since we lived on acreage I was rarely home for more than about 10 minutes before he’d be dropping a dead mouse on me while purring up a storm. I don’t know if he worried that I didn’t eat when he couldn’t see me or what? At least he made sure they were dead before he brought them to me!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I have 11 cats and, yeah, several of them are quite aloof. A couple want affection on their terms only, while another couple don’t care all that much for it. They’ll deal with it, but they don’t seek it out.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Your cat kills rats? How big were the rats? Just curious. Am also wondering if you rent said cat.

        1. Not All*

          He did in his youth! He’s about 16 or 17 yrs old now & getting a bit too arthritic for much hunting (plus I had to move into town so he’s forced to be indoor-only rather than having the pet door). When we lived in southern California, he would kill the huge adult grove rats. I swear, some of them were nearly as big as he was! He was a killing machine on basically any rodent. Was also one of the only cats I ever had who killed moles when I was in the Pacific Northwest…you wouldn’t believe how many people tried to buy him from me there lol Interestingly, he never showed any interest in killing anything other than rodents…totally ignores birds & reptiles.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Wow, put him with other cats and let him teach them how to do that. (Or at least back when he was interested in doing that.) I know rats can get surprisingly large. We found a dead one that was 13 inches tip to tip. I got a feeling that is not really large.

      3. Need a Beach*

        I’ve had ones that are very selective about affection–like wanting to leg-rub but not liking to be picked up. But I agree that I’ve never owned or fostered one that completely shunned contact. I do hope when I’m older and retired to foster more difficult cats, so maybe I will see it then.

      4. Jackers*

        We have two cats that just use us for food and shelter. They tolerate a little loving but will escape as soon as the opportunity presents. :(

      5. Venus*

        In my opinion (experience?) the ‘aloof’ aspect is related to how cats are treated as kittens, compared to how we interact with puppies. Not that they are the same animals with the same personalities, but think about it: many cats are rescued off the streets whereas dogs are almost never left outdoors on their own (and if they are then there is a big effort to catch them and find them a home). Puppies are well socialised when young, because they are always in a home.

        Kittens are often trapped as strays or ferals, and are taken indoors to be tamed and rehomed. Those that are lucky enough to be found before 6 weeks are typically quite friendly, especially if they are in a home where the humans make an effort to socialise them (touch them, cuddle them, play with them, feed them by hand, have visitors come over). Kittens who aren’t around humans before 6 weeks need more work to socialise, and those socialised between 6-14 weeks have an increasing skittishness around humans. After about 14 weeks… it’s a lot of work to socialise a kitten, and they are almost always a bit unsure around humans (they usually become friendly with ‘their’ human, but are scared of strangers and can be more aloof).

        If anyone has ever been around bottle babies then it’s pretty clear that aloofness is about their rearing, as very young orphans have a lot of confidence around humans and are typically much more loving.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        If they’re socialized as kittens, I think that makes a difference, but it’s also personality. But even Pig, when she was younger, would come to me when I sat outside on the patio chair and put her feet up on me begging to be picked up for lap time.

      7. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

        “You don’t need to leave the territory to get food, Not All! There’s plenty right here! See?”

      1. Anonyby*

        (Looks at the ball of grey fluff that’s been laying on my nine of the last twelve hours) …nope, don’t know what that’s like at all.


      1. TL -*

        hahaha as nice as a goat would be, in reality I’m probably going to get her another cat or a puppy to bond with when I move back to the states. (I’d prefer a puppy but I’m not sure how she would get along with a dog.)

    2. DCR*

      My cats are almost always in the same room as me when I’m at room, to the extent that one of them will always follow me to the kitchen when I leave the family room to get a snack. One is often sitting on my lap with the other close by on the couch/floor/etc.

      I’ve never gotten the aloof things people say about cats. But then I guess I also very much encourage them to be my shadows when they are kittens.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I agree with the person above who said “aloof” cats are a product of their socialization.

      Our senior kitty was definitely aloof when he joined our family as a 10 year old. We’ve had him for about five years now and he’s gradually become more chatty and “dependent” over time. Currently he is on my ottoman rolled up as close to my leg as possible without actually being on me.

      Juvenile kitty was a five month old rescue when we got him. He’s about two and a half now. He was chatty and social from the beginning and we’ve blatantly ecouraged him. He’s missing **his** human (who has been hospitalized for a week) and sleeping on things that smell like his human, which is frankly adorable. He also jumps up on things that are roughly eye level and complains at me about where his human has gone.

  13. BeanCat*

    My better half and I got a new mattress…it’s 8:30 am and we’re awake but neither of us wants to get up yet! It’s heaven.

    1. Ali G*

      What kind? We are upgrading to a King this year. My bother loves his Casper, but looking for other recommendations!

      1. Reba*

        We have an all-latex mattress. It’s three layers that came in separate boxes, shrink wrapped, and we assembled it with the mattress cover at home. It weighs one gazillion pounds and was pretty spendy, but we LOVE IT. I dislike memory foam and this is foamily supportive but without clingy, creepy, memory foam sensations. I would recommend them to anyone. Supposed to last more or less forever. The company we bought from, Spindle, has some videos on their website that show characteristics of the different materials.

        1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

          Bookmarking. I had thought of a Talay latex topper but the bed is already too high. This looks great for when I can swing it!

      2. BeanCat*

        We got just a Bob’s Discount, lol. It’s our first real mattress. But we did end up getting a memory foam, which we love! Thanks!

      3. Artemesia*

        We replaced an expensive mattress that was a total turkey — very quickly had humps and valleys — with a king size Casper and have been very happy with it. It was a little too hard for us — we both have arthritic hips– the company provided a thin foam topper and that was perfect — the combo is very comfortable and has been good for several years now. It was a lot cheaper than the one it replaced and is a lot better.

  14. Rebecca*

    Every day I feel better about things. This week, I felt like I could exhale, put my shield down, and stand down from high alert. If I were an artist, I’d draw a picture of myself in a full suit of armor, with my sword sheathed, helmet off, and shield on the ground being balanced by my left hand, with my right hand on my hip as I survey the land in front of me, looking straight ahead.

    I’m still navigating through all my name changes. I never realized how many places have my name, how many ways/requirements there are to change it, etc. It ranges from the simple “oh, just call us and we’ll take care of it” to “fill out this form, submit new driver’s license and court documents” to “ya gotta come in and do everything again (license)”. Thankfully I can scan things and email them in some cases. I don’t like sending this stuff through the mail. I kept the list of address changes from when I moved back in with my Mom, so that’s helping me to hit all the important stuff. All my online stuff is organized in a recipe box, so I’ll sit down one of these snowy afternoons and start doing those. Oh, and I forgot to add the last 4 digits of my credit card to two documents for one of my credit cards, so I have to see if somehow I can modify the .pdf. If not, I’ll have to rescan on Monday with a post it note on them!!

    The important things are done – social security card and driver’s license. I have a dentist appt on Monday afternoon, so I’ll take care of that in person. Stopping by my car insurance agent that day, too, and getting 1 passport photo taken so I can get in the mail to be updated.

    I’ve been trying to take care of things for Mom. I felt bad for her this past week, it was cold and icy, so she couldn’t get out, so I made a point to take her to the store Thursday night so she could pick up a few things (I’m still not trusted to purchase the correct items :P ) It’s going to snow again on Tuesday and then get fairly cold on Wednesday, highs 10F and lows below 0F. My walking around outside and hiking have come to a halt. I need to replace the sharp posts on my Stabilicers, so that’s on the list for this weekend.

    On a sadder note, we lost my Uncle to old age and Parkinson’s disease. He was my last living uncle, married to Dad’s remaining sister. The viewing was last night and the funeral is today. We can’t go up into the cemetery due to the ice and snow but I’m taking Mom to the service and to the meal afterward.

    Last night I chatted with my cousins and we all had good memories of him. It was good to see them, and it seems like the older I get, I don’t see my relatives enough outside of funeral homes :( I think I’m going to try to change that, maybe try to arrange a dinner every few months or something locally we can do just to get together for a few hours.

    Hope everyone is well! Onward!!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very sorry about your uncle. It’s so good to see your progress. What a journey for you, jeepers. Congrats on getting so much name change done.

    2. Loopy*

      Condolences on the loss of your uncle. I was so enamored with your description up above I couldn’t help but comment. It’s such a wonderful way of describing your mindset! So happy to keep following along with your progress!

    3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      You continue to be a wonderful inspiration. I know the road has been rough… I don’t know if it is any help, but your attitude, perseverance, and thoughtful pragmatism, have been such a help. Thank you and keep posting the updates.

      I, too, took mom to the store midweek, blowing an entire evening. Think poking through walmart with a list at toddler speed, arguing with her that we “do” have that item at home. Then she ran out of two items yesterday (which “I” have) and wanted me to take her last night. Friday night at Walmart – I made the mistake (I was tired) of saying “I’d rather commit Hari Kari than go to Walmart on a Friday night.” The previously sunny mood vanished. I did make it up to her by taking her to Costco (later) instead. 20 minutes before closing is always the better time for me to go there. And shared my costco iron and allergy tablets (under the guise of “I need to use these up before they become outdated). Honest, why not share these items, instead of her buying a 30 day, spendy supply each month just to prove her independence? Sigh.

      1. Rebecca*

        :) I think your Mom and my Mom are related! She buys a few things at a time, and on this trip bought cans of kidney beans with no added salt (???) among a few other things, but when we got home, she said she had too many kidney beans to begin with. Ugh. Plus, I buy things for both of us, she won’t eat/use them, instead buying more and then things go to waste.

        I’m glad the updates are helpful. It makes me feel good to write them. I can look back and see the progress I’ve made, and it’s really amazing to me that I am here now, most of this behind me. And I’m just so relieved and grateful.

        1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

          Yes… and it is proof to the rest of us that we can make it to the other side. I’d love to change my name but am so beleaguered and overloaded right now that I’m just not up for it. I’ll revisit it later. But completely get why it would be so great…

    4. Woodswoman*

      I’m sorry to hear about your uncle, I’m sure that’s hard for you and your mom.

      I continue to appreciate your inspiring updates, and am grateful that you share how you’re doing. You rock!

  15. BunnyWatsonToo*

    Does anyone use Consumer Cellular? My current grandfathered phone plan, with a major carrier, is reasonable for my monthly usage (usually < 1GB data). Unfortunately my phone is beginning to have issues; if I get a new phone, I have to upgrade plans and double my cost. I live in a rural area where Sprint and T-Mobile are nonexistent, but Verizon and AT&T have coverage. Consumer Cellular sounds like a possibility if it’s reliable.

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I have a bone to pick with Consumer Cellular. For a long time, they ran a commercial with two obnoxious elderly people who said, “Remember when we had to go to the LIBRARY to look things up?” They said “library” so derisively, as if it were a horrible place. F Consumer Cellular. (Okay, I’ll stop now)

      1. fposte*

        Makes me think of that moment in It’s a Wonderful Life, where Mary’s terrible alternative existence is closing up the library.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Boy, it’s not our grandmother’s library now, is it? You’re right though, they tapped that stereotype in that movie. Never really thought about that. I thought that she was lonely because she did not have anyone around, not because of her job. OTH, no one was doing well in their alternative existence there.

          1. fposte*

            Clarence yells it out, when George presses him, like he’s breaking the news that she’s biting the heads off of chickens for a living. Most librarians I know find it so OTT as to be kind of enjoyable.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I’m not familiar with Consumer Cellular, but you may want to look into Republic Wireless. I’ve used them for a couple of years and been super happy with my service and my $12 a month bill. They piggyback on bigger companies’ networks, but I’m not sure which ones. You can check on their website whether or not your area has coverage, but wherever coverage isn’t available you can still place calls over wi-fi. Between my home wi-fi and guest wi-fi basically everywhere else, I’m not sure I’ve ever placed a call that was through the actual network.

    3. HBucket*

      The MIL has consumer cellular. It is a reasonable price if you really don’t use it a lot. It really depends on your data usage though. Maybe check out your month to month usage over the last year and see if they have one that would work for you. She doesn’t have issues getting a signal in rural (ish) PA.

    4. Hellanon*

      Eh, they sold my 85 year old, non-tech friendly parents two smart phones without data plans. What’s the purpose of that? Couldn’t they have suggested flip phones? Now *I* have to unwind the whole thing and get them properly set up with a real cell phone provider…

    5. SignalLost*

      You may want to try Credo; I’ve used them for several years with no issues, and I’m pretty sure they’re leasing lines from Verizon so they say they cover 99% of the country. They are a progressive activist company, so if that’s not your cup of tea, they won’t be a good option.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Seconding the Credo suggestion; they’re a great bunch of people to have on your side. Years (more like decades) ago when phone users had separate companies for long-distance calling, I was with Credo, then known as Working Assets. I loved having the ability to designate 1% of my total annual bill for nonprofit organizations whose work I supported.
        As good, if not better, was that fact that for a few years, every monthly bill also included a coupon good for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream—the cashier at my local Stater Bros. always noticed it, and I did a lot of grocery-store testimonials for Working Assets.
        A few years ago I was forced to switch from Credo because of ATT (ugh) and its Universal system … long story, I needed phone service, they insisted on including the long-distance, we argued, they said “no long distance, no service,” I lost.
        Up to today, confirming my dinosaur status, I’ve successfully avoided having a cell phone at all—I just don’t wan’t the electronic leash!—but can see that soon I’ll have to conform, partly because of nagging from kids. When I do grit my teeth and take that step, Credo is the first place I’ll contact.
        TL;DR: Agreed. Credo is a great suggestion.

    6. Gatomon*

      Cricket runs on AT&T’s network and I’ve been happy with their service – $30 for 2GB of data and unlimited calls and text. If they are available in your area I’d check them out.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Secodning Cricket! Sometimes I have trouble with the website, but the people in store are always super helpful.

        I have their LG X Charge phone which I really like and it was only $99 . . . cheaper if you’re switching. And I really like that there’s no overage fees if you go over the data limit for your plan — they just put you on the really low speed. I also have the 2 gb plab for $30.

    7. Sarah*

      I use Verizon prepaid, which is much cheaper than Verizon postpaid (their standard billing). They don’t advertise the fact that their prepaid service is much cheaper (esp for someone with low data usage!). The only real difference is you pay your bill the beginning of the billing cycle instead of the end of the cycle. I just do auto-pay. The only other difference I’ve noticed is that when calling prepaid customer service, it’s a little harder to get a human being on the phone, but once you do the customer service is just as good. Oh, and I got a brand new iphone SE for a very low price! Not an option with postpaid Verizon! It’s crazy how much cheaper a service it is, while still using the Verizon network.

    8. Free Meerkats*

      Don’t buy your phone from the cellular company. Buy one that’s compatible with your carrier somewhere else and put your SIM into it.

  16. GhostWriter*

    Tax question!

    I posted here a few months ago about how I was helping my parents clean out their attic, and giving my brother any money I made selling his old toys on eBay. I just got a Form 1099K from Paypal that says I received a total of $1,600 payments over about 50 transactions. The actual profit was a lot less than $1,600 (after postage and packaging costs, as well as eBay fees and PayPal fees), and I gave the profit to my brother, so I definitely don’t want to pay taxes on it! PayPal says they send this information to the IRS. Is it something they’ll ignore since it’s not a huge amount of money?

    I read online that you do not have to pay taxes on occasional “garage sale” type transactions where you are selling personal items at a loss. My first thought was to include the 1099k form with my other tax forms with a note on it about how I was cleaning out my house this year and selling personal items on eBay at a loss. I really wanted to start doing my taxes online this year instead of doing it all longhand on paper copies though.

    1. HBucket*

      You might be able to include it in the cost of handling the estate… If you use the online forms, it asks a lot of questions to direct you.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      1099k isn’t about your profit, it’s about your cash coming in. You need to claim the costs in your deductions. They sent it to the IRS and you do owe taxes on the money received.

      You get audited and you’re going to get hit with interest. They don’t ignore it. The threshold is $600 before they send a 1099. You’re taking a risk ignoring it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They don’t read notes at the tax form end. So please don’t use that route if you want to talk to them about it.

      You have to pay and then plead your case to avoid interest charges. Interest charges are not waived if you are given a relief.

    4. Madge*

      Next time you do this, hold onto a bit more of that profit for the taxes. Hopefully your brother will reimburse you for any taxes you owe on these sales. I think the garage sale rule doesn’t apply for sales through a third party like eBay, and $1600 is way more than that limit would be. There’s sure to be some reliable advice on this on the tax prep blogs for H&R Block or Turbo Tax. But in general, if you get income you need to report it on your taxes. It’s possible you can offset this income so you’re not taxed on the full amount, but it still needs to be counted. And since the form is in your name, you are liable for the taxes. Your brother can’t take the 1099k and incorporate it into his taxes.

      1. GhostWriter*

        The IRS website has a little section about online auction sales that says you’re not supposed to pay taxes on personal items sold at a loss.

        Didn’t see anything about this on the TurboTax blog, but there was a post about it on the TurboTax forum. It said you can enter the amount under miscellaneous income as “1099-K Personal Property Sales” and then put the same amount (but negative) as “1099-K Cost of Personal Property” to zero it out. That way you’re acknowledging the 1099 form but not paying taxes on money that doesn’t need to be reported.

        So I guess I’ll try filing with TurboTax this year (and not sell anything on eBay for other people!). Sounds like they simplify things a lot. :)

        1. SophieChotek*

          I had heard, (it sounds like wrongly, based on OP’s post) that sales on eBay/similar sites were not taxable if it was under a certain amount. The certain amount must be a lot lower than I realized.

          Also one wonders if this could fall under the rules of sufficient to create a “nexus”; though these are for businesses that sell on the internet; so maybe it is different for individual sellers.


          Will be watching this as I also sold a few things on Ebay this year– just cleaning out garage/childhood toys, etc. too.

          1. Not that kind of CPA*

            That’s correct for sales taxes. However, OP is referencing income taxes.

            Many states have occasional sales exemptions from sales tax for infrequent personal events such a as garage sales, etc.

          2. GhostWriter*

            The instructions for the form say you’re only supposed to get it if you got over $20,000 worth of payments and over 200 transactions, so I’m not sure why my payments were reported at all. (The only exceptions I could find were for Massachusetts and Vermont, but I don’t live in either of those states.)

            1. Kristen*

              That’s what I found too and assumed you lived in one of those two states. I would try to reach out to Paypal and see if it’s possible to have them correct the 1099-K filing. Not sure how easy it is to deal with a company that size though, but it does sound like it’s their responsibility to make that correction.

              1. GhostWriter*

                I saw some message board posts about it, and people who called PayPal were directed to call the IRS or talk to a tax professional, so they really don’t care.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I did not know this. It’s pretty ridiculous! You’re not a business doing this on a regular basis.
      Seems like only the huge companies get off without paying taxes and put that on the little guy.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Companies pay taxes too. As an accountant for businesses, I’ve paid them.

        The structure of the tax system is a total maze and full of misconceptions because corporations funnel taxes through their shareholders personal income. If you have an LLC or partnership, you pay estimated taxes every quarter.

        Yes there are loopholes that the top 1% abuse.

        1099s aren’t new. However I think the issue here is not knowing that Paypal and other apps that use the Merchant Services channels have to send 1099s to anyone who isn’t a registered corporation due to the taxation laws.

        Yes, the tax man is after anyone who utilizes the main highways to collect money from others. It’s why you get asked why you’re sending money so if it’s just because Kid needs 1000 for spending money, Venmo isn’t going to then send them a 1099 later but if you sell your car and you get 1500 sent to you, you’ll need to pay all applicable taxes. You can still be shady and ask people to mark it as a gift but that’s what an auditor will look for if your taxes ever get flagged.

      2. Natalie*

        You pay taxes on income, it doesn’t matter if it’s something you only do occasionally. Income producing hobbies, gambling winnings, stock dividends, side work – it’s all taxable.

    6. Not that kind of CPA*

      Best course of action-if you have someone preparing your taxes, bring this up. Unless all the toys were acquired for free, the amount taxable is likely less than $1,600.

      There are some funky rules involved with gifting and taxes which are important here. Typically one pays tax on the gain, or difference between the proceeds less the cost (basis). In gifting, that basis is generally what the giver paid. So if mom paid $10 and you sold it for $12, you’re taxed on the gain of $2. And maybe even at a special long term gains rate. (Note that generally personal losses are not allowed to offset income. When people have a garage sale, they generally sell items for far less than they paid….but you can’t claim a loss.)

      So the big question for you is – what’s the basis? And whose income is it really? Your situation is complicated in that you sold the toys on behalf of your brother. The 1099k is tied to you. If you don’t report it, you will likely get a letter in some time identifying the amount. I dont know if you can assume his basis or if it becomes $0 and you’re forced to report the entire gain.

      In the least I think you need to report the $1,600 of proceeds and do your best to figure out the correct gain (if any)

    7. Christy*

      Talk to a professional. The IRS doesn’t ignore stuff and they have systems that automatically check for underreported income (and since you got a 1099 they’ll know that you earned it if you don’t report it yourself). Basically IRS auto-compares what companies like your employer and eBay say you’ve earned against what you say in your tax return that you’ve earned. You may be able to deduct the expenses associated.

      Or you could just say, you know what, the time I’d spend tabulating that and the money I’d spend on an accountant isn’t worth the, say, $400 I’d pay in taxes on it (at a 25% rate). I’m not advising that (or anything really) but it is an option.

    8. nonegiven*

      You can probably find a list of invoices on eBay for everything you sold. Probably all the fees, too. Do you have records of what you spent on shipping supplies, postage, transportation, etc.? Records of what you paid back to other people whose thing you sold, (your brother, parents, etc?) You’ll need an accountant, probably, to keep from paying any tax on it.

      I think selling your own very old personal items would be a capital gain or loss. Selling for other people is more like a business or hobby.

  17. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    Has anyone else in the NYC area been approached by random people who ask “Can I ask you a question?” They always seem to be in and around major train stations. I can never stop because I’m usually in a rush to switch trains, and when I say “Sorry, no” and keep moving away from them, they accuse me of being racist (they’re usually black and I’m white). It’s not racial in any way; I wouldn’t have cared if they were black, white, or Martians. I just want to get home. What question are they so desperate to ask people?

    1. Elle*

      Not from NYC (or even america), but I bet it’s some variant of “have you let our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ into your heart, or are you planning to burn in hell?”

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        There is a lot of evangelizing in NYC train stations, so perhaps you’re right. I identify as more or less agnostic, so if that’s the case, I’m not going to feel bad about not stopping.

    2. Agent J*

      It could be anything from people asking for money to lost tourists asking for directions. If they’re hostile after the fact, I’m going to assume it’s the former (at least that’s what my experience is).

      As a fellow city dweller (different city), don’t feel bad. Just keep it moving like you have been. They probably say the same thing to people all day long. I don’t think it has a lot to do with race; more like trying to get your attention or take out their frustrations on you.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Thanks. I’m pretty confident from these folks’ strident body language that they’re not asking for directions. Usually I can tell the desperation in their face if they’re lost, and in that case I try to help even if I am in a hurry. :-)

    3. LGC*

      I get that a lot…without the racism part (I’m black). Honestly, a lot of it is…marketing, if I remember correctly. It’s really interesting – in the same vein as Amway or Herbalife, there’s a lot of shady marketing companies that’ll recruit minorities to do direct selling. (And by that, I mean – I’ve lost hours reading the Devil Corp site.)

      This isn’t everyone – I’ve been electioneered to multiple times at work. (I would love to vote for the city councilman, he sounds great, but I don’t even live in the city.) Or there’s petition signers. But there’s a lot of people trying to sell you stuff.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, “can I ask you a question” is a shitty marketing technique to take advantage of social norms in order to get an “in” to give you a sales/religion pitch you don’t want. Continue to ignore them.

      2. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Yup. I assumed they were trying to sell something, which is why I never bother stopping.

    4. BRR*

      I figure they’re trying to ask me to join something that will cost money (or somehow will lead to my money). I’ve found that if people are asking for directions, they usually just lead with the question.

    5. SignalLost*

      I have Resting Competent Face. I get asked that a lot, and it’s usually just directions. I get asked that when I’m visibly a tourist, in fact, as well as when I’m not.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Hahahahaha I have this as well! I’ve been asked for directions in places where there is no universe in which I should be the person asked for directions.

      2. Thursday Next*

        I must as well. I do stop when asked. If it’s a solicitation or proselytizing, I just say “no thank you” and move on.

      3. fposte*

        I think I have Resting Safe Face. I’ve had three different people who don’t share languages with me drop a kid or a piece of luggage with me for a minute.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Wow! Sometimes when I’m at a touristy kind of place, a stranger with a family will ask me to take their picture. I’m not sure if I look safe or if people don’t worry so much about their cameras.

      4. LGC*

        Oh my god I’m not alone!

        I get that a lot myself. Just because I’m tall and skinny doesn’t mean I’m a signpost.

        (On the top line, I’ve just been asked to buy candy while waiting for the train. And then the kids got ON the train and are working the car I’m on.)

    6. Lychee*

      Here they usually trap students coming out of the university library and try to get them to sign up to monthly donations to various charities, by guilting them with questions like ‘Do you care that kids are dying of cancer?’. I can never understand why they would go to the university, since most people they will encounter there won’t have any money to spare to give something away every month. Using collecting bins and asking for change might be different, but this I don’t understand…

    7. fposte*

      In my experience, “Can I ask you a question?” people are going to hit you up for your soul or your money. People who need directions are “Excuse me” or “Hey, do you know how to get to . . . ?”

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m in Seattle and get it everywhere. Sometimes it’s an obvious homeless person but most of the time they need directions.

      I always respond but I’m never in a hurry.

    9. Harriet J*

      I commute to/from NYC and agree with other commentators – its usually a request for money.
      If they needed directions, they would start with “Excuse me, where is ——?” rather than “Can I ask you a question?”
      Since they often approach when I’m by myself, I respond in Russian, which usually drives them away in frustration.
      One dedicated man hung around for several minutes while I bought a smoothie, trying to convince me that I needed to give him money for medicine. I responded with all my college phrases “where is the bus station?”, “do you want ice cream?” and my favorite Russian phrase “I am a spy.”
      Sometimes they’ve already heard me speak in English and I can’t fake that I don’t understand them. If they say they need money to get home or for food, I direct them to NJ Transit desk or Traveler’s Aide, explaining that these organization can assist them.

      1. LPUK*

        I always say, in perfect English , “I’m sorry but I don’t speak English” – it confuses them for just long enough for me to get away!

    10. Texan In Exile*

      In the book “Paper Moon,” someone’s teaching someone else (the Tatum O’Neal character? Whatever happened to her?) how to run a con.

      The first thing you do is get the person to engage with you and to get the person to say yes. So you ask, “May I ask you a question?” because the answer to that, if there is going to be an answer, is usually, “yes.”

      What I learned from that is not to engage. Ignore the questioner and don’t even answer, “No,” because you are just opening the door to more engagement.

    11. Lilysparrow*

      IME, people with the strident body language on NY streets were either panhandling or collecting signatures on a petition.

      There was one guy who always panhandled in a 3-piece suit. I think he was usually in Penn Station.

    12. Need a Beach*

      You could always try “You just did” instead of “No” as you move away. Hopefully they freeze for a second in confusion while you make your getaway.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Haha, I like that.

        Sometimes it amuses them when they approach me with a breezy “Hi!” and I respond with a breezy “Bye!” and keep walking past.

        But one person a couple of months ago literally blocked my space and refused to accept no for an answer. It was a little frightening. And counter-productive for him, because there were literally 5,000 other people passing by on the street that he could have bothered.

    13. Tris Prior*

      I’m in Chicago and 99 times out of 100, they are asking for money. I also have gotten accused of being racist, had really horrible profanity screamed at me, and, this past week, was told I voted for someone whom I most certainly did NOT vote for (trying to keep this apolitical per site rules, haha). All because I never carry cash on me.

    14. Applesauced*

      If it’s a pair or few young adults in Union Square – they’re offering a free haircut (I’ve never stopped, but assume there will be some crazy mark up for services if you go for the “free” haircut)

  18. Agent J*

    Just got back from a wonderful trip to Paris and London—and I’m ready to plan my next trip! I started seriously investing in international travel a couple years ago and it has made a positive difference in my happiness and personal fulfillment.

    For all my travelers, how do you choose new travel destinations? I’ve been visiting various countries where I have family and friends but I’ll be getting to the end of my list soon.

    Or, what are your favorite travel destinations?

    1. BRR*

      I started with looking at where my airport flew directly. Then I nailed it down to cities with things I wanted to do and weather. Then I looked at flight and hotel prices. This may not work forever but I haven’t done much international travel so it was nice being able to have so many options.

    2. HBucket*

      I love London… though i haven’t been in years. We went to Spain this year… it was heavenly! Italy is on the radar.
      We are trying to do more international travel too, although also working in a lot of domestic in between. So many places to see!

      We start with: Where haven’t we been? Do we want to go there? Then how hard is it to get there? And how expensive is it to get there? And finish with how expensive is it to visit (hotels, food, etc.)? (We also often start the list with where do we have family and friends, although that’s not a deal breaker if we don’t.)

      Enjoy your travel!!

    3. Minerva McGonagall*

      I make a list of places I want to go based on what’s in my life. England/Scotland has obviously been on forever because of Harry Potter. I love history so I love going to historical site/monuments. I was never super big into going to Italy until I played Assassin’s Creed 2 and now I really want to go to Florence.

      Favorite place in the world is Dublin, Ireland! Love the people, culture, and excitement of the city. Also, the food is AMAZING and of such great variety. Can’t wait to go back!

    4. Miss Smilla*

      When I have specific dates but no destination yet, I use flymeanywhere.com because it gives me the available destinations from my chosen airport in order of price.
      Prague-Vienna-Budapest can be done in two weeks.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      We go where the flight sales are OR there is a big event we are attending and then build trips around those places. Last year’s Big Trip to Asia was the result of a really good sale we took advantage of. We also went to Antigua last year on miles – and we only ended up there because a) it was cheap on miles b) I knew they had great beaches and c) I found availability on our dates. In 2017 we drove down the central California coast we hadn’t seen before attending a long-planned concert.

      This year we are headed to major golf tournaments and are now building a trip around GA and the Carolinas. Later in the year I want to go on an organized swimming holiday, probably to Oman because it looked cool + affordable. Sometime before April we will do a long weekend somewhere in Europe, probably Florence. Although given the choice between Nice and Florence the Other Half was thrilled with the latter – the Assassins Creed tie up now makes sense for his enthusiasm!

      I would love to go to Vietnam and Laos though – maybe next year. Usually we find travel destinations too due to magazine or blog articles, or a friend has been and makes a recommendation, etc.

      1. Pippa*

        Seconding the Oman recommendation, although not so much for affordability – there are some v high end resorts if you want that sort of thing.

        Also Ecuador – pretty easy to do budget travel, gorgeous scenery (your choice of mountains, jungle, or coast!) and plenty of historical and cultural offerings.

        Australia’s a favourite too. Long flight times from nearly anywhere, but definitely worth it! Melbourne is lots of fun, Brisbane is more laid back, and the beaches are amazing. I’m not usually a beach fan, but apart from the heavily crowded ones near Sydney and on the Gold Coast, there are many heavenly miles of peaceful sand and sea.

    6. Not A Manager*

      We’ve loved all of our trips to major European cities. If you’re looking further afield, Japan is wonderful, and very navigable for non-Japanese speakers/readers. If I could only pick one city, I would pick Kyoto, but you can’t go wrong in Tokyo either. Another trip we loved was New Zealand. IMO the cities themselves are not that interesting, so I would only plan to go if you’re willing to rent a car and drive on the left side of the road.

    7. Asenath*

      I hadn’t been able to travel outside the country (and not much for fun inside the country) for decades. It occurred to me that I could actually manage a big trip, that the horribly lengthy flight wasn’t going to get shorter (or me more resilient) as I aged, so out of several contenders, I picked out the one that was the furthest, that I had never been to, and which had always fascinated me with its exotic scenery and wildlife. I went to Australia (and then a friend said “Once you’ve gone that far, New Zealand isn’t much further”, so I spent a week there too). I had a fabulous time. Of course, as with every trip I’ve ever enjoyed, I could easily have spent months more there, but I still managed to see and enjoy a LOT in a bit under 6 weeks.

      The plane trip to get there (and back, of course) is not fun, though.

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      I generally start with places that are linked to my interests and things I enjoy doing – so anywhere with good food, nice bars, museums/art galleries, interesting history, ideally a nice central park to run in or nearby walking/hiking trails – and places that are easy to get around on foot or by public transport. (This combination means I go on a lot of city breaks rather than beach trips.) Then I look at where I’d like to go that I haven’t been that fits that description, how easy it is to get to – including which airports I can fly from/airlines I can fly with – and how expensive it is. I live in London, so it’s quite easy and affordable for me to hop over to Europe for a few days two or three times a year.

      I also follow a lot of travel bloggers on Instagram and Twitter, which provides a lot of my inspiration, and like to read those ‘top 10 trending destinations for 2019’-type articles (though again this also depends on whether they fit with my interests mentioned above).

      In terms of my favourite places, I adore Australia – particularly Melbourne and Tasmania – and New Zealand, specifically Wellington and the area around Kaikoura on the South Island. I’ve been to both countries twice and would happily move there tomorrow if circumstances allowed – they both tick all my boxes. I also really loved Vietnam because it was such a diverse country in terms of the landscapes etc as we travelled through it, and Bolivia because it was so different to anywhere I’d ever been before.

    9. HannahS*

      For within Canada/US destinations:
      -Can I get relatively cheap flights + accommodation?
      -I hate driving, so is a walkable city? Are there cool neighbourhoods to poke around in?
      -Does it have an interesting history and/or good museums and galleries?
      -Is it tourist friendly? Will I feel safe here?
      -Can I reasonably spend three days there without running out of things to do?

      Trans-Atlantic destinations:
      -How much does this cost relative to how much I want to go and how much time I have? I did a whirlwind week in Ireland based on a cheap flight I found, but I’m saving time and money for a longer trip to Japan in 2020.
      -Does it have an interesting history and/or good museums and galleries?
      -If this is a nature-based destination (ex. Scottish Highlands) are there good bus tours for a single woman who doesn’t want to be the only person over 20 and under 60?
      -When I look into the Jewish history of this place, is there anything left or that has been rebuilt? Am I going to be devastated and angry? What has been the response of the government and populace post-Holocaust?
      -Is this a place where I will feel safe as a woman traveling alone, as a Jew, and as a holder of an Israeli passport?
      -Is it tourist friendly and walkable?

    10. DCR*

      I love nature and wildlife, so I pick based on what I want to see. I have a running list of places I would love to visit, and if I run out of ideas I would just watch some nature documentaries.

  19. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Mom: “Hey, I met one of your ex classmates at the petrol station! Can I give her your number so you two can talk?”
    Me: *remembers her and her friends bulling me for not having a sex life at age 13*
    Mom: …
    Me: “No.”

    1. HBucket*

      I’m with you… but then I don’t keep in touch with many of my school chums… even the ones I liked. It was a long time ago.

    2. annakarina1*

      Ugh, no. Sorry that happened to you.

      I got a Facebook message from a girl I barely remembered for high school. She said she remembered me fondly even though we weren’t really friends and how we used to draw fashion models together. It was a nice sentiment, but I didn’t answer because high school was nearly twenty years ago for me and I just don’t care to have any reminders of it.

    3. ElspethGC*

      Parents seem to have very odd ideas of who we were actually friends with at school. My mum was friends with this other girl’s mum, and she seemed to just…presume that because they were friends, we were also friends? We weren’t. I literally never spoke to her. But every so often, it would just be “How’s X doing? Do you how she did in her exams?” No, mum. No, I don’t.

      1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Mom wanted me to befriend one of her work contact’s daughter. I tried, but she was a compulsive liar desperate to become popular. One week she “had” anorexia, the next wouldn’t stop bragging about her wild sex life with her (nonexistent) boyfriend, and so on. I stopped talking to her when she started drinking to the point of having seizures at the nearby park.

        1. ElspethGC*

          Yiiikes. Nah, it wasn’t that bad for me, the girl was perfectly nice whenever we had to make small talk because our mums were chatting – we just didn’t really have anything in common and weren’t in any of the same classes or social circles.

          There was a compulsive liar at my school, though, but my mum knew all about it because she had tried to convince us, aged 10 when I was being picked me up from this girl’s house, that she lived in a castle. She also told us all that because she was Russian (she really was, that wasn’t a lie, she spoke Russian with her parents at home) it meant she was the lost princess Anastasia. Aged 13 in the early 2000s. Ok, girl. She went to a different sixth form (aged 16-18) and a friend texted me going “You were at school with D, right? Does she really have an older brother who lives in Beijing and is a billionaire?” (Spoilers: she didn’t.) Her lies were mostly harmless, though. Just living a fantasy life under the delusion that we all believed her when she came out with these outrageous things.

    4. Asenath*

      I don’t have any contact with anyone I knew in high school. When I first left home, and it became obvious that I was drifting away from people from my home town, I got a bit of pushback, which I ignored. It’s not that school was all that terrible – more boring – but I didn’t have the kind of friendship with any of them that lasted. And now, well, it’s been decades since school, and almost as long since the last of my family moved out of the old home town, removing the last reason I might have had for visiting there. If I met any of my ex-schoolmates now, I don’t suppose we’d even recognize each other.

    5. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      Mom: “But you were so happy back then!”
      Me: “Mom, those were the worst years of my life. I would only go back there to set it on fire.”

      1. Asenath*

        I don’t think my mother was under any illusions about how much I liked school, and I’ve certainly had worse times since. But I have no particular interest in looking back – or even read about or watching shows on Life in High School, all of which seem to verge on fantasy to me. But then, I doubt the high school I went to would make good TV!

    6. Lily Evans*

      But she probably had a really amazing business opportunity for you where for a small payment of $500 you too could start your own small business working from home!

  20. Foreign Octopus*

    I need help resolving an issue that is really frustrating me.

    I live with my parents currently. Situation = parents go back and forth from the UK to Spain, and also travel around Europe, so it’s a house-share/sitting situation. Currently, as it’s winter, for three months we’ve been living on top of each other (if I’d known this when they’d asked me to move in to look after the house and pets, I wouldn’t have agreed). The status quo is going to last at least another month, maybe two.

    Overall, it’s more or less okay, although I’m seriously missing my independence and the ability to just move around my own space without tripping over parents. Also, as I work from home, I don’t like them knowing how much or how little I work as there are always comments about it in comparison with my brother who works more. I’m not able to move out until October as I’ve been using this time to pay down some debts and I’ve run through my savings: in hindsight, not the best thing to do, but I moved in on the understanding that the max time they would be in the house would be for two weeks at a time. Obviously, this is there house so they can do what they want.

    The issue is to do with our pets. I have a cat that I adopted from an animal shelter two years ago: she’s skittish and not well-socialised with other animals. When I moved in, they were between dogs. They have since bought a very energetic puppy who throws love at anything and everything she sees: she’s gorgeous and funny but very much a puppy who is three times my cat’s weight.

    To prevent my cat from being squashed/traumatised by her, we agreed to keep the top floor of the house dog free during the day by shutting off the dividing door. They have been very, very lax about seeing that. The puppy will interrupt me during lessons, bark at my cat, chase her outside and off the property. They say that she’s only playing and it’s all a game that my cat loves. I argue that she’s my cat and I get to decide whether or not the puppy can be around her. I’ve spoken to them a number of times about making sure the door is shut but nothing works. My mother’s solution is to have my bedroom door constantly closed so that the puppy can’t get at my cat, but I argue that’s unfair to my cat as it restricts her movements and that the puppy should be trained not to chase.

    What can I do? I’ve got seven more months of this and it’s driving me insane.

    1. Not Alison*

      Sorry to say it but if you are living in your parent’s house and not paying rent, then they get to do what they want in it and you get to just suck it up.

      Is there anywhere else you can move to? Maybe their house in Spain? Any relatives? Any friends? Whenever you bring an animal with you, there are always more issues than if you just need a place for yourself.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’m already at their house in Spain. And the pet issue wasn’t an issue when I moved as their dog had just died and they weren’t planning on getting another for a year or so, at which point I would have been gone.

        And I can’t really move out as the whole reason for me being here is to look after the house and their cornucopia of animals (pets, stray cats, a dog they rescued who’s on his last legs) whilst they’re away.

        1. Not Alison*

          Oh, this puts an entirely different spin on it. If you are helping your parents out by looking after their animals, then you are doing them a favor and your mom should be a little more cooperative to you.

          Dealing with moms who want it their own way and too bad so sad for you are a whole nother problem – sorry I don’t have any good ideas to help resolve the “mom” problem.

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            That’s okay. I think I just need to vent a little as well as look for actionable things. Thanks :)

            1. valentine*

              they get to do what they want in it and you get to just suck it up
              Gross. You don’t have to tolerate mistreatment. Are they…pushing you out? They’re running roughshod over you the way their dog is with your cat. I don’t think they’d keep a baby gate closed, either, and what bothers me most is your mom’s happy for you to be shut up in your room. I really hate the framing that houses belong to adults and children, regardless of age, get, yet are begrudged, the smallest spaces, with little to no privacy, quiet, or fresh air.

              Can you be in their UK place while they’re in Spain and vice versa? (Can’t take the cat back and forth?) I don’t suppose they’d sign a contract agreeing to paying you(r rent elsewhere plus hazard pay) if they surpass the two weeks.

              I hope your moving out means the pet-sitting also ends in October, because you deserve better.

        2. Not A Manager*

          “I can’t really move out as the whole reason for me being here is to look after the house and their cornucopia of animals.”

          Well, there you go. “Mom, I can’t have my cat bullied and traumatized by the dog. The only condition under which I can stay here and care for your home and your animals is if you consistently keep the dog door closed. Otherwise you’ll need to make other arrangements, because I’ll have to move out.”

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      How big is the puppy? Could you put a pet gate or other obstacle in the doorway that’s short enough to step over (so there’s no excuse to move it and leave it open) but still tall enough to block the puppy?

      Close the cat in with you in whatever room you’re working from during the day? That does limit the cat’s space, but at least she wouldn’t be isolated.

      Maybe you could suggest that the puppy go to a doggy daycare a couple of days a week? It’d be great socialization and give everyone a break.

      Depending on your relationship with them, you could gently point out that remembering to keep a door closed is a very small price to pay for free long term house/pet sitting, especially since they broke the original agreement in a couple of ways.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’ve actually suggested a puppy gate because she’s got a long body and she hurls herself down the stairs (no self-preservation) but that was shot down.

        I do keep her with me when I work but I also leave the house to do a number of things and when I get back, she’s always cowering under the bed with the dog barking at her. It’s getting to the point where I feel I can’t even take a walk without worrying about her now.

        I think I will have to remind them, thanks.

        1. Annie Moose*

          What if you purchased a puppy gate yourself? Do you think they would be okay with you putting it up, or would they take it down?

        2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

          We have a baby gate we used, with the walk-through latching system, so you “can” (if you have any hand strength at all) squeeze it to get through.
          search on “Walk through baby gate”
          My only caveat is, ours has the spinner disks that anchor it to the doorway. Buy the pads from Amazon (or wherever) because ours removed the paint from the doorway. (I had it spun so hard to anchor).

          This is also super helpful for me, because when there are guests, workmen, or people coming in and out of the front door, I can isolate the “run wild run free” doggie from going out the front door and into the street. Second, the “grand dogs” that visit are NOT beloved by the “on her last legs” dog I have, and this lets her be on one side of the gate and them on the other…. she is much happier.

          Sorry you are going through this…. I understand compromises because of finances. It sucks.

        3. dawbs*

          If you get 2 gates. It doesn’t matter. B one at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom. Si pup can’t get to the top snd tumble down.

          Also eliminated “whoops, she just got by me” problems

    3. Crooked Bird*

      Ugh, that sounds awful. Constant comparisons with your brother? WTF? Do you *have* to have seven more months of this? I saw where you said you have to… but you have to because of THEIR need for pet-sitting. What if they took responsibility for their own need for pet-sitting? Could you afford an apartment, maybe a shared one? If you suggested moving out because the situation is driving you crazy, and you were serious about it, might they straighten up?
      I’m all for filial gratitude and I’m glad you’re helping your parents, but honestly the comparisons to your brother combined with the disregard for your animal’s needs (when there’s a very easy fix you’ve asked for) drive them far enough down in my eyes that I’d say no, maybe don’t be so generous with them till they can make some changes and respect you more.

    4. KR*

      Oh my God try this gate: Carlson Extra Wide Walk Through Pet Gate with Small Pet Door https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000JJDI0G/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apap_98ISfnPTwhdYf

      It has a kitty door in it that we just tie open all the time. We don’t let the dogs upstairs unsupervised because one of them likes to have accidents. We put this on the top of the stairs and it’s so easy. We just pulled the gate closed behind us when we’re going up and down stairs but the cat can still go through the cat door. Also because our dogs are very large and don’t generally force themselves into places they aren’t allowed we didn’t have to screw it into the wall. This might not work if the puppy is very large or small, but it’s a thought. I love this because we can lock the dogs out but the cat still has free reign of the whole house.

      1. KR*

        I just saw your parents weren’t a fan of the gate idea. I was really apprehensive about it too because I’m used to baby gates that are, by design, a pain in the butt to get around. This one is so easy to go through.

    5. SemiRetired*

      Put a lock on the door and don’t give them a key to it. It seems like overstepping to lock away part of their own house, but, they rather overstepped by adopting a puppy that you would be responsible for without consulting you, too. If they can unilaterally change their arrangement with you, why can’t you change yours with them?

      1. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

        I don’t have a suggestion for your pet problem, but can offer my experience with parents who constantly compared me to my siblings: “Mmm.” After awhile, that’s the only thing thing I said when I was told that my sibs worked longer hours, had better jobs, were better in general, because defending myself to unreasonable people was impossible. Answering all comparisons with a disinterested, “Mmm” shut down the conversation.
        Of course, when I was diagnosed with a disabling chronic illness, my past “deficits” were reinterpreted as symptoms of the illness and therefore forgiven. Those discussions also received, “Mmm”s.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like no one is training this pup. I feel bad for the pup in the story also.

      So it appears that you cannot get your parents to understand that your cat does not think being bullied by the dog is “fun”.

      Get a dog training book that deals with how to train a dog to interact with other animals. Show it to them. If they will not look at it, read sections out loud to them. Not kidding, sometimes we have to do what we have to do.

      Get a cheap spritzer. Squirt the dog with water (NOT in the face) when you catch it bothering your cat. Say NO sharply. In other words, you begin to train the dog, yourself. You can tell your folks that if there is not human intervention here you are going to end up with a vet bill that you do not need right now. Tell them what your intervention plan will be such as the spritzer of water. When they start in on “Oh but….” No buts. The cat needs the human beings around it to advocate for it, period.

      The details of your set up may mean this next idea does not work. I would put the cat in my room before I left for the day. I would let her out once I came back and had time to supervise the cat. My thought here is the parents sound like they are just going to keep doing what they are doing, so you may have to change what you are doing.

      I tend to agree with the poster above who commented about the comparisons to your bro and the cat issue. I am not wowed by your parents behavior. I will say this, my wise friend told me, “When people give us something they usually start to believe they own a part of us.” This would explain why your parents feel they have the right to comment about how much you work. So while it’s not right, it does not surprise me. People can “buy” parts of us. And this is a solid example of how it happens.

      Over the long haul, I would say try not to “kill” your parents over this. Focus on your plan to get out on your own. You say you have seven more months? So this will not go on forever, even though it feels like it will. Give your kitty places where she can successfully get away from the dog. This could be high shelves or boxes with small openings. Start correcting the dog if you have not started already. It’s a pup, so you know you have to say the same thing 10,000 times then they finally get it. Animals are a lot of work.

    7. Anono-me*

      Can you get one of those baby/pet gates with the small cat pass through and put it on your bedroom door. That way kitty will be able to roam upstairs and have your whole bedroom for a safe space if Mom forgets to keep him down stairs.

      You may also want to look at creating some high safe spaces in various other locations of the house, in case your scared kitty can not get away to the bedroom. (IKEA used to have this cool rattan thing. It looks like a huge flower or plant and mounts on the wall and behind it are a series of shelves/climbing ledges about 6 or 7 inches wide. I have also seen people wrap a 2×6 in carpet or twine and secure that at an angle.)

      If your cat has her claws, and puppy scares her bad enough, puppy could get clawed in the face. Usually it is the nose, which seems pretty painful and definitely can be messy. However a vet tec friend of mine says that she sees way more dogs get clawed in the eye by a cat sibling than most people would think. Maybe expressing concern about your mom’s puppy rather than your cat will carry more weight.

      Long term, the fact that this is a pet problem your mom could easily solve, the comments about your work, the fact that they unilaterally changed the house sitting plan; all mean I think that you should consider not staying until October if possible.

      Good luck.

    8. Koala dreams*

      Can you move out? I understand that it can be expensive, but I think it would make more sense for you to move and out and do pet walking jobs in your spare time to pay for it, than keep on being a pet-sitter for your parents who don’t respect your work and have questionable ideas about pets. If you are a pet walker you don’t have to see how the family treats their pet all the time you aren’t there, and you don’t have to listen to rude comments when you work. Good luck!

    9. Venus*

      For the times your parents are cohabitating with you (the other times you will have more control):
      I would suggest having your cat in your room, and closing the door so the puppy can’t get in. Cats can do well even in small spaces, provided they have ways to entertain themselves. I would suggest something under the windowsill so that the cat can see out, and if the cat is used to being outdoors then is there a way to have the cat go outdoors from the window? (I have seen wooden ‘ladders’ for cats in apartments)

      This may not seem ideal, because we are used to thinking that animals need a lot of space, but I think it will be healthier to be in one room rather than worried all the time about being chased.

    10. PetticoatsandPincushions*

      Baby gate? You can get the kind with a built in swinging door so you don’t even need to step over it, and then it just exists as a perpetual divider.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Baby gate for your door? Maybe with something solid next to the door for the cat to jump ftom/to on his way over it?

    12. Foreign Octopus*

      Thank you for all the advice and the sympathy. The situation is one of those that’s long burn so sometimes it feels like it overwhelms me; most of the time, the arrangement works out well but because they’ve been here for longer due to bad weather, there’s no outlet for me – I decompress by being completely alone and having them in the house makes that difficult.

      October is when the arrangement will come to an end. I’m leaving the country and moving abroad with my cat, as planned, and this period has been to pay down my last debts and save up money for the move so leaving now would be financially difficult.

      One thing I’d like to make clear is that my parents’ puppy is very, very well-loved. They dote on her and are beginning to train her but it’s slow going and they don’t consider her presence in my room to be an urgent matter, which is why they’re lax in dealing with it.

      Thanks again for all the advice!

    13. rogue axolotl*

      It sounds like the larger issue is the fact that your parents don’t seem to have made the adjustment to treating you with as much respect as they would another adult roommate. But for the short term, is there any way you could block the entrance to your room so that the cat can come and go but the puppy can’t? When I had a cat, his powers of escaping a room far exceeded those of the dogs. That way your cat can take refuge in your room when necessary, but isn’t trapped in there.

    14. EmmaUK*

      I haven’t read through all the replies so excuse me if someone else made this suggestion; but I recommend that you put a child gate across the door. That’s so in your face that your folks would be hard pressed to claim that they just forgot to close it

  21. Blue Eagle*

    Just signed up for an Elderhostel (although they changed their name to Road Scholar and lowered the age for participants from the age 55 it used to be) trip to do horseback-riding in the Ozarks.

    Any ideas of good things to sightsee in the Missouri Ozarks while I’m there.

  22. Jessen*

    I finally, at 30 years old, bought myself an actual chair. Not my computer chair, not cheap little folding chairs, and actual “sitting around and reading” chair. I feel so very adult right now. I have decided to arbitrarily award myself 50 adulting points.

    1. HBucket*

      LOL I just about live my waking hours in my big girl chair! It’s so comfortable. I have to remember to flip the cushion so it doesn’t get all worn down on one spot since I tend to lean to one side… with my laptop on the arm.

      1. Jessen*

        I honestly tend to spend most of my time in my computer chair (which also functions as my “dining” chair). I’ve been embarking on a massive cleaning and organization project and part of the reward has been getting myself nice things to put in the spaces that I’m cleaning random junk out of.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Same feeling I had when buying my first mattress a few years ago lol

      I “stole” my chair from my mom’s house and she bought my couch so I’ve got a long time until I get to that adult level.

      1. Jessen*

        That’s actually part of the plan too! I have a lot of furniture that’s from when I was a kid. I’m not going to get rid of it, because it’s perfectly nice wooden furniture, but I’m going to be going after it with paint/stain to make it over in my own style.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’m absolutely too lazy and uncreative for that adventure! But I’m sure it’ll look beautiful when you’re finished.

    3. Asenath*

      I don’t have much furniture and tend to go for minimal, cheap and practical, but I adore my power recliner. It was probably the most expensive piece of furniture I ever bought (not counting computers), but is so comfortable.

    4. Even Steven*

      Gold stars to you, Jessen! But caution – chairs are the gateway drug to all manner of adulting….when you find yourself researching the best lawn mower (hey, it could happen) you know you’ve crossed to the dark side!

      Enjoy your awesome throne! (written from my carefully curated and selected loveseat. I know how to party!) :)

      1. Jessen*

        Probably not for a while! Given the housing prices around here the most green stuff I’m ever going to get to take care of is a houseplant in the window. Lawns are for fancy rich folk.

    5. TL -*

      My parents gifted me a brand new Yaris for high school graduation (and the title for college graduation) and it’s what I’m still driving. Thus, I have never bought a car and I’m a month away from 30!

      But my car still drives and is exactly what I want in a car – small, gas efficient, surprising amount of room with the backseat down – so despite the growing number of comments, I don’t think I’ll be buying a new one any time soon.

  23. LGC*

    Man, I missed the running thread last week! (I finally was able to locate it on Monday – the discussion was pretty interesting – especially the side thread about safety, because I get that a lot!)

    Anyway. Last weekend was interesting. I did a long run and a half marathon (Fred Lebow, which is…something). This wasn’t intentional, since everyone just assumed Lebow would be cancelled because of an expected blizzard (which fizzled out, thankfully).

    Training is…all right – because last weekend was weird, I ended up doing a lot more mileage than I wanted to at this point.

    How’ve you guys been?

    1. Emily*

      I went for a run on Thursday and conditions were…not great. My path alternated between mostly clear, fluffy snow, and snow that was actually slush underneath; running through it soaked my shoes and splashed my lower legs! I had a good time and even saw a bunch of deer, but went a shorter distance than normal. I’m curious to see what it will be like when I go running on Sunday!

      I want to slightly increase my distance (current normal distance is roughly 5 or 6 miles twice a week) but I noticed a little bit of knee pain post-run last week, so I’m trying to be mindful of that and not push too hard for the time being. I basically stopped distance running for months around this time last year because I was having some knee issues, and I really don’t want that to happen again.

      1. LGC*

        I’ve actually had similar issues – and you’re on base with thinking that it might be you ramping up too quickly. (In my case, I panicked and stopped almost entirely for a month and a half. That gave me a chance to heal, but it was probably way too much time.)

        You might want to try – if you’re able – running 4 miles 3 times a week. Or three miles four times a week. That way the load is a bit more spread out.

        It also sounds like you’re running trails – which can be harder than road (since you’re balancing more). Adding snow to that makes it even more difficult. (But I’m not going to lie, running through snow can be fun!)

        1. Emily*

          My path is actually mostly paved (except for when I dip into the nearby park) – I’m lucky enough to live near a canal with a walking/biking path alongside! That said, I actually like running along well-maintained dirt/gravel paths because the ground is less hard.

          The idea of adding another run to my week is a good one. I would have to think about how/if I could fit that in with all my other activities, though. If I decide to commit to a half marathon (there’s one in April I’m eyeing, but I’m not ready to sign up yet), I’m sure I will spread out my training more.

          1. LGC*

            That said, I actually like running along well-maintained dirt/gravel paths because the ground is less hard.

            I don’t blame you – a good soft trail is excellent! (There’s one around where I live. It’s great at times, although after it rains it’s a little messy.)

            The idea of adding another run to my week is a good one. I would have to think about how/if I could fit that in with all my other activities, though. If I decide to commit to a half marathon (there’s one in April I’m eyeing, but I’m not ready to sign up yet), I’m sure I will spread out my training more.

            In general, you might have to space out if you’re ramping up to a half marathon anyway – just so you’re not loading everything into one or two runs per week. I know that before I got more serious, I’d feel fine the next day to run if I ran three miles the previous day, but if I’d run six to eight I’d need ~48 hours to recover.

            Good luck if you do decide to run it, though!

    2. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I’m thrilled that my knee is back to 100%, but my actual runs have been so-so. I’m really looking forward to the NYC Half on March 17 but haven’t been jazzed about training for it. My first long run last week felt like it was pulling teeth. But after being outside just now, I found myself looking forward to my long run tomorrow – an emotion I haven’t felt much lately.

      For awhile I was wondering if not being able to run the full marathon I was planning to do in November broke me somehow. But I think every year I go through a period of time when I just don’t really feel it. Better weather will help. It looks like I’m naturally going to get a breather later this week, because three consecutive brutally cold days are being forecast Wednesday-Friday as of now, and I don’t run when it’s <20 F outside. As for you, LGC, good going on Fred Lebow!

      1. LGC*

        It was an experience! I was actually running it because it was my friend’s 50th birthday the day of the race. It went well – he was only off his goal by a minute, which was not bad considering it was…not great last weekend. (Well, it wasn’t bad, but it was wet enough that I had to take my glasses off after the first lap.)

        I’m glad that your knee problems have cleared up, though! And that you have an excuse to take a break!

        Also, did you see the new course for NYC Half? Basically, they added on in Prospect Park and took off from Central Park. I’m…surprisingly on the fence about it. It should be a faster finish, but I appreciated that the really big stuff was done early (the bridge and FDR). I think overall it’s a faster course, but…man, even though Central Park is a pain to race in, it is nice scenery. Prospect Park is nice too, though.

        1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

          Huh, wow! I didn’t realize the course changed. I’m of two minds about it. I’ve never been a big fan of Central Park for some reason, so it’s OK with me if they direct some of the race out of it. On the other, I injured my knee last fall probably as a result of the long run I did in Prospect Park — and aggravated it in the Brooklyn Half, which again ran through Prospect — so I’m not that keen to see it again. Guess we will see.

          1. LGC*

            Sounds like an issue with the hills, then! I haven’t looked hard at the elevation, but for what it’s worth most of my friends doing it are happy with the changes. So I think it should have less of that? There’s a hairpin turn in Prospect Park which I just don’t like the looks of (especially early on, when there’s more of a crunch). I think they reduced the amount of elevation gain overall, though – I think that the 2018 course was more per mile than the NYC Marathon (which is notoriously hilly).

            1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

              It’s been a long-standing debate between NYC-area runners: which park is worse. I’ve always found Prospect Park more severe hill-wise than Central Park. But while the hills in Prospect are steeper, at least to me, there are fewer hills overall (you seem to get breaks from the hills in Prospect while Central is just relentless with rolling hills)… so I think it ends up being about a wash. I’ve been very careful about where I run, but sad to say, I’ll definitely risk injury for this race.

    3. Marion Ravenwood*

      No running this week for me. I was supposed to do parkrun yesterday, but had signed up to do pre-event setup as well and for various reasons I didn’t get back to the start line in time to run. Oh well.

      Well done on your half LGC!

      1. A bit of a saga*

        I’m two weeks out from the first half marathon of the season. I did a good session in heavy rain this morning so happy with my efforts. As I wrote a couple of weeks back I have struggled a bit with motivation but took the advice to ease up and give myself some space and that seems to have worked. Now I just need to stay focused the next week or so and then hopefully do a good race.

        1. LGC*

          Good luck to both of you! (And thanks!) Marion, that sucks that you didn’t get a chance to run this week – it’s pretty difficult to both volunteer for an event and actually run it.

          As I wrote a couple of weeks back I have struggled a bit with motivation but took the advice to ease up and give myself some space and that seems to have worked. Now I just need to stay focused the next week or so and then hopefully do a good race.

          That’s basically something I’ve learned myself – back in November, I was exhausted because I was seriously burned out. I’m glad that giving yourself a bit of time to relax has helped!

          (And I’m pretty sure you’ll do great at your race!)

    4. gecko*

      The cold weather and a bad week has put me in a BIG downswing in how often I’m running. So I’m trying some HIIT (the 7-minute workouts) to see if I can do more intense bodyweight training to improve my leg & core strength and to keep up the habit of getting in workout clothes during the week. Of course I’m not actually sure if HIIT is good for actually building muscle or just for weightloss, which I’m not looking for; but at least it’s something to do during the winter when I don’t want to leave my apartment :D

      1. LGC*

        If I remember correctly, HIIT should build strength, since you’re working really hard in short bursts.

        It’s actually really good that you’re 1) sticking to a fitness routine and 2) doing some cross training, though! I’ll be the first to admit I’m terrible at the latter (which is even more embarrassing because I have a gym right down the block from me).

  24. annakarina1*

    I had a really nice date with a guy this week! We met at a Starbucks (connected online) and talked for an hour and a half, and had similar nerdy interests in sci-fi, fantasy, martial arts, cult TV shows, and the like. I liked him, though he reminded me so much of my ex, who I became great friends with (dated for one year, friends for five years afterwards). Similar looks and tastes in things. The guy is really into me and very enthusiastic, texting me and sending me music videos, while I just want to take it slowly to see if I like him more, though part of me is leaning more towards potential friend just because he is a lot like my ex and I don’t want to feel like I’m dating him again.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Eh I wouldn’t pigeon-hole him just yet. He has the qualities you like about your ex, right? I would keep an open mind about this before you friend-zone this guy.

      1. annakarina1*

        Thanks, we just set up a second date for next week. So I’ll give him more of a chance and be more open-minded.

        1. valentine*

          I think it’s weird enough to drop him. If not, tell him to cut back the contact and set him to do not disturb.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        I agree that you shouldn’t friend zone him yet just because of resemblance to an ex. I think you should give it a bit more getting to know because personality differences may come out as you get to know him better. But if that feeling remains then go with it.

  25. Anna*

    Taking some steps to tackle my social anxiety. In recent years a lot of my close friends have moved away or gotten married/had children and I’ve begun to feel somewhat isolated despite living in a major city. And being in my 30s there just aren’t as many opportunities to meet new people as there was during school/university etc.

    So this year I decided to try and get out a bit more and get outside my comfort zone a bit. I joined a bunch of MeetUp groups and signed up for some classes I found interesting. So far I’ve only gone to one MeetUp event (and most of the classes don’t start until February), and while I didn’t form any instant bonds with people there I had fun and wasn’t as anxious as I thought I’d be. I think a lot of the time it helps to remember that the people there aren’t out to judge (or at least most of them aren’t) other people, and are there to socialise/have fun. I wouldn’t say one event cured me of my social anxiety but definitely made me want to go out more.

    Wish me luck!

    1. Daphne*

      Good work Anna! I’ve registered on Meetup but haven’t gone to anything yet. Most are in the next city 25 miles away and I tend to work evenings and miss them. I did take the plunge and join a dating site, now I’ve been seeing someone for a couple of months!

      You’re right – one event won’t cure all but each time will get progressively easier!

  26. pugs for all*

    Just wanted to let the poster from last week with the 11 year with suicidal ideation know I’ve been thinking about them. Hope you, your son and the rest of your family had a good week.

      1. HarrietJ*

        Glad to hear it. Sending your son and your family healing thoughts. It’s a long and difficult journey, and there will be lots of bumps along the way. Take good care of yourself so you can take care of him.

        1. Regular Going Anon*

          I’m so moved; thank you.

          I finally got myself to my doctor this week, and Lo and Behold, there were things he come do to help me. I’m feeling much better today. I have to remind myself to get to the doctor quicker next time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        So very glad to hear that things are getting better. May they continue to get better. Each setting is unique this makes it harder to know what the answers are. What helps one family is useless to the next family. The best thing to do is what you are doing, pay attention to your gut feelings and seek the inputs of trustworthy people.
        This is the best anyone can do.

        Warm thoughts going out to you and yours.

        1. Regular Going Anon*

          Thank you, NSNR. I’m always grateful for your steadying and compassionate comments.

      3. It's a fish, Al*

        So very glad to hear things are going well. Though I know your situation has absolutely nothing to do with mine, it gives me hope for my own 11 year old son.

        I take great pleasure in every happy day, because I know that not every day is good. It makes them so very precious.

        1. Regular Going Anon*

          I’m trying to do the same—appreciate the good moments. And try to teach him not to get too bogged down by the bad ones.

          All the best to you and your kiddo.

  27. Minerva McGonagall*

    Bakers, what are you baking this weekend?

    I’m making a NY cheesecake for a party tonight with two sauces – raspberry lemon and blueberry lime.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I’ve done a pumpkin bread (a riff on Smitten Kitchen’s but with less sugar and whole wheat flour) and a nice flaxseedy toasting bread already and I may make some brownies to go with our Australia day expat dinner tonight!

    2. Emily*

      That sounds great, especially with the sauces!

      I don’t have any current baking plans, but I’m tempted by the newest recipe (plush coconut cake) on Smitten Kitchen. Last weekend, I made eggnog cinnamon rolls (which were delicious, although I thought the eggnog flavor was pretty subtle), and the weekend before, I made chocolate cinnamon pecan babka (also delicious).

      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        Thank you! The blueberry lime is a new try but it’s an adaptation of the raspberry. My town does a blueberry baking contest over the summer and if the sauce goes well I might enter!

    3. gecko*

      Just made a maple cake to be topped with maple buttercream and toasted walnuts. The buttercream is French I think so has sugar syrup dropped into yolks, and I’m not sure how long I want it sitting outside of the fridge…

      Plus, now I have 1,000,000 egg whites left and I’ve gotta use them somehow. Any ideas? I think I’ll make some meringue cookies, but other than that I’m not sure.

          1. gecko*

            Ahh, both of those are really good calls. I’ve never made any of those baked goods before so it’ll be fun to try.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Macaroons, which are also hilariously easy unlike their French cousins, or angel food cake? Also I second Pavlova!

      2. Lucy*

        Egg whites freeze beautifully – around three at a time, whisk them very slightly then put into a plastic freezer bag (baggie?) and get as much air out as possible.

        Defrost at room temperature before using.

    4. ElspethGC*

      Not this weekend but a couple of weekends ago – cardamom and mango no-bake cheesecake from Nadiya Hussain’s cookbook (winner of the 2015 GBBO). So damn good, plus super quick. We did it in the morning before heading off to lunch with family, and it went down very well.

    5. Kate Daniels*

      The polar vortex is coming here in a few days, so I want to make some treats to accompany hot chocolate so I stay happy and cozy. I just cleared out my pantry and saw that I have a jar of M&Ms I’d like to use up, so I’ll be making M&M cookies or bars!

    6. Lilysparrow*

      I made a Mary Berry all-in-one chocolate cake, with a chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream frosting for my daughter’s birthday cake.
      Eight party guests, eight ginormous slices, no leftovers.

      Except the frosting. It made a huge bucket of frosting, and now I have to figure out what to put it on. Or freeze it maybe.

    7. Lady Alys*

      I’m finally making some khachipuri from an old Gourmet magazine recipe. It took me a while to find cheese that could work in the recipe. (One benefit of moving to a much larger urban area is more interesting grocery stores!)

    8. Lucy*

      Scones: some cherry, some sultana.

      One of us has a half-birthday this week so I shall also be making a half-cake but probably not until Tuesday and flavour pending. Possibly spiced apple.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I made pizza skulls for dinner.

      They look more impressive than they actually are, hah. I got a skull-shaped muffin tin for Christmas, lined each divot with pizza dough, filled them with pizza toppings and folded the extra over to bake them, a la calzones. But they look really cool when turned out of the tin :)

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is a crepes weekend! So not “baking” but definitely messing around with flour. Enjoy!

    11. Lizabeth*

      Chocolate buttermilk Cookies and banana bread with chocolate chips and walnuts from the Red Truck Bakery cookbook. awesome cookbook!

  28. Crooked Bird*

    So I’ve been over in the Dear Prudence comment section today where everyone’s responding to this:
    A VP of an electronics company “jokingly” encouraged a Facebook friend to sexually assault the sleeping drunk woman sitting next to him on a plane. Prudie encouraged the woman who saw it to report it to his employer.
    Lots of commenters weighing in on Ruining His Life, police states, and debating whether it’s right to “get him fired.”
    So I’m curious. I’m not much in the working world, I’m just a fiction author & stay-at-home mom. But I’d lay money that male VPs don’t get fired (anywhere hear automatically as people seem to be assuming) for making rape jokes on FB. Y’all know more about this than me, though; am I right?
    Also, should she report it?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just a request to keep this work-free since it’s the non-work thread, although if you want to talk about the work aspects of it, it also got discussed on the work open thread yesterday!

      1. Crooked Bird*

        I’m sorry! I’m somewhat new and didn’t realize the distinction. I’ll be more aware next time!

  29. The Babiest Babyface*

    Mom’s funeral is today. (You were all so kind last week; I’m sorry I didn’t respond to anyone.) I finally got home on Tuesday, classes be damned. Getting to spend this time with all of my siblings has been really good for me. They’re all feeling the same way about, the pre-grief during this whole two year process has really left them with a sense of closure and acceptance about it. A lot of the people I’ve talked to seem like they want me to feel worse than I do, but at least my family is okay with how I’m processing things.

    It feels awful to say, but we’re all getting along with Dad now that he’s not directing all of his anger at us. Better us than Mom, though. I hope he can channel all that rage into something productive.

    Thank you all for your kind words last week. I told Dad about some of the comments and he really appreciated them as well.

    1. Thursday Next*

      I’m so glad that you’ve been able to connect with your siblings, and see a different side of your father.

      My condolences and thoughts are with you.

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Thank you for the update. Warmest thoughts continue to be with you. Closure, but there’s still a big hole in your life now. Glad you spent time with the siblings. Encourage your dad to do a grief support group?

      1. The Babiest Babyface*

        He actually was in a bit of a grief support group, just on Facebook but it was something. He got kicked out for posting something about, “where are all the rich widows? I married for love the first time and I’d like another go at it.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      That’s pretty cool about your dad appreciating some of the comments. Good for him for finding something positive there. And good for you for bringing it into his life.

      Maybe he will mellow out. My father did after my mother died. I think it really makes them think about life and about what is actually important and what is not important.
      Glad things settled in a relatively peaceful place for you and your fam.

  30. That's Not My Job*

    I have a friend who had a baby this week and last week when I was talking to her, she mentioned her mother was coming to stay with them. I asked when she was coming, considering the due date was in two weeks at that point. She replied with a date 10 days after the due date. This blew me away, for some reason I always believed having family around for the birth was essential to help with… Things? After that conversation I started thinking about what is essential and the only thing I could come up with was one friend’s mom took care of the dog and brought back a baby blanket for him to get used to the smell. Not really a moms-only job.

    What did you do when pregnant? Are there things you wished you had family around for? Reasons you wished they weren’t? Did mom actually listen or do you have to lie about the due date?

    My goal this year is to practice setting boundaries with my family so that I can be more comfortable becoming a parent – any anecdotes on this topic welcome.

    1. Thursday Next*

      My mother is spectacularly unhelpful—she asked me, when my baby was 3 days old, she asked why I “still looked pregnant.”

      I had spent a long time before and during my pregnancy reconciling my ideas of whi I wished my mother was, and who she actually is, as well as my fears about being like her, so this did not destroy me as I would have feared a year or two earlier. FWIW, I found it easier to set boundaries with her, because now I was also Mom and I had more than myself on the line.

      Practical tips from my experience: babies come when they will; my first was three weeks early. So be prepared! I must have had some sense of the early arrival, because I had the crib and changing station set up, and my hospital bag packed, a week before then.

      Since I realized my mother would be unhelpful (she was also pushing infant formula, despite my intent to breastfeed), I lined up a nighttime baby nurse for the first week. She was GREAT. She taught me so much, like how to bathe my baby, and she was really great in coaching me through nursing those first difficult days when he had trouble latching on. It was comforting having an experienced person around, who didn’t bring any interpersonal baggage or outdated information to the table.

      At night, my husband and I would sleep, and when the baby woke up, she’d bring him to me to nurse, then take care of him. So I at least got some three-hour blocks of sleep in that first week after I was still exhausted from giving birth. If it’s financially feasible, I do recommend it.

      I think some people arrange for family help when their partner’s vacation/parental leave is up, so that might’ve been your friend’s reasoning.

      Best newborn advice I got: sleep when the baby sleeps. Don’t use that time for housework—you can cook and clean when the baby is awake (or let things get messy and order takeout!).

    2. Book Lover*

      I guess it depends on the situation. I am single so I was very grateful to have help from the start and in retrospect for the first baby should have asked for even more.

    3. Amy*

      We actually set a rule that no family could come visit until the baby was at least a week old. All of our family lives out of state, so a visit wouldn’t be a “drop in and meet the baby and leave a casserole,” it would have been “let us stay with you and be in your space 24/7.” It went over like a lead balloon but they respected our wishes. Though I knew my mom would be helpful – and she was, once she arrived – we wanted that first week to be just us, learning how to care for the baby and bonding as a family of three. I am still immensely glad we did that. We were sleep-deprived, stressed out over breastfeeding difficulties/baby weight loss, and really in no place to be dealing with visitors no matter how helpful. By the end of week one we had our feet under us and visitors were welcome.

    4. Lilysparrow*

      The best way I can describe having a newborn to someone who’s never experienced it, is it’s like you and your partner passing a stomach virus back and forth for like, three to eight weeks.

      You’re not going to die. But nobody’s sleeping. Everything is covered in body fluids. You’re exhausted and feel like crap. You’re semi-delerious and lose track of day and night. And you have to take turns making sure each other have sufficient liquid & calorie intake to stay alive.

      Ordinary life maintenance gets back-burnered. You can make it without help, but the more help you have, the more civilized everything will be, and the less buried you’ll be when you start coming out of the fog.

      My folks were much older when my kids were born and lived far away, so having Mom to help wasn’t really an option. I do wish I had had someone who could help with meals and laundry the first few weeks, because my husband only had a week’s PTO, there was zero sleep, and we had nursing problems.

      When #2 was born, my first was under 2 y.o, so we planned for my in-laws to come the week of my due date and babysit her. They got snowed in at home and arrived just before dinner, we wound up heading to the hospital at 2am the same night.

      I was so glad they were there so #1 could just sleep through and then wake up with her favorite people.

      It was lovely to have hot food and a clean kitchen & clean clothes for a couple of weeks while we were wrecked. And it was great for #1 to have some extra attention to get her through the shock of not being the center of the universe anymore.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I think it’s going to vary widely based on your personality, the mom’s personality, and how the relationship is overall. There’s going to be a lot of “my mom was wonderful, so glad she came” all the way down to “omg, I want to never see her again, she ruined everything”, and everything in between. Do what makes sense for your situation.

    6. Kj*

      My mom was present when I gave birth. Not every mom is helpful in that situation, but I did it because I love my husband, but he sucks with crisis and medical crap and hates seeing me in pain and my mom is a nurse who is good with crisis and medical stuff. I was glad I had them both. The husband just held my hand. My mom talked to the medical staff and helped me figure out what was actually going on. My parents stuck around for a week after the birth. They took care of my pets, made sure I ate, took the baby while my husband and I napped and all-around made sure the house was running and I wasn’t too tired. My mom was super-helpful. My dad was useful for errands and the like. My parents are good about boundaries though- thanks to loads of family therapy when I was a teen. My husband’s parents came three weeks after my due date (two weeks after I gave birth) and they were nice, but less helpful, as they aren’t as good with kids. But they were still able to hold the baby while I slept.

    7. Knitter*

      For my first, I asked my parents to visit a month after the baby was born. If I remember correctly, their visit aligned with my husband going back to work. For my second, my mom stayed with us for a few weeks around my due date to help with the older child. Both times, we had family/friends visit early on as long as they brought food. After their baby was born, one of our friends set up a meal train for food/cleaning to set the boundary that meeting the baby wasn’t free =) My first was a VERY easy baby. He took naps on a schedule, he spaced out his eating during the day and was in general up for whatever. Between me and my husband, we had it under control. My second…was not easy. Add a toddler into that and it was really helpful to have someone who would take either child and change their diaper as soon as it was dirty. Or just hold the baby so I could take a long shower or cook so I felt like me again.

      So, in deciding whether or not you want family around, especially staying with you, I’d think about:
      1. Will they expect you to entertain them or will they help around the house? If the first, absolutely not.
      2. Are there other babies/young children in the family? How are the family members around them? Do they show they understand the new AAP guidelines? Recommendations have changed SO MUCH in the last decade or so. Will a family member comply with new safety guidelines? I had a family member who put my infant daughter to sleep on her stomach on a very soft bed. She was so proud she got the baby to sleep. I lost my sh*t. My mom saw my son with a runny nose and made a lot of passive aggressive comments about needing to take him to the doctor, but the recommendation now is several weeks of a runny nose. My and my husband’s parenting decisions should not be questioned unless there is a real safety concern (which is NOT “he’ll be cold”). We know our kid best and know what works for our family.
      3. Will they guilt trip you in ANY way? you don’t need that. You know they want to hold the baby, but it’s your baby. If you need the dishes done and you also want some cuddle with your baby, then your family member needs to respect that…and do the dishes. Once when my older child was an infant, I breast fed him for a good hour, then went to take a shower and left him with my mom. He started crying and my mom brought him in to the bathroom making passive aggressive comments about how hungry he was. He was not hungry (or if he was, he could have waited 10 minutes) and I needed a shower (it had been days).

      So if you don’t think your family will be helpful/stress-free, then I’d suggest the following:
      1. freezer meals. I doubled recipes in the weeks leading up to #2 being born and froze half.
      2. if you breastfeed, some sort of breast feeding support group or lactation consultant (check to see what your insurance covers). I went to a new mom’s group and it helped soooo much.
      3. Someone to help clean/do laundry (which could be your partner if you have one)

      One note: I was very comfortable breastfeeding in public as long as I had my cover. So when visitors came over, I was happy to breastfeed and continue in the conversation. I think if I breastfed separately, I would have felt really isolated. That said, one of our friends was really good about communicating around feeding times and when we could come over/needed to leave.

    8. Parenthetically*

      My mother arrived the day we came home from the hospital and stayed a month, and I was so, so grateful she was there. I’d been dangerously ill the last month of my pregnancy and had a terrifying emergency c-section, so I was very weak in addition to not being allowed to lift anything heavier than the baby. I also had terrible postpartum anxiety. My mother is a low-key, calm, practical, helpful, uncritical person in stressful times. She made us breakfast every morning, cleaned our house, changed a million diapers, shushed and held and rocked and sang to our son, calmed me down when I was panicky, helped when she was needed and was very happy to sit and read a book when she wasn’t. I don’t know what we would have done without her. She was an essential calm, experienced adult in a house with two freaking-out new parents.

      The key thing is: is your parent going to be a source of calm in a stressful transition, or a source of added stress? If the former, take advantage of that, IMO! If the latter, set boundaries ASAP.

    9. Ainomiaka*

      I can answer this as my son is two weeks now. My mom lives in town so hasn’t stayed with us, but has been by a lot. She has been actually more helpful than I was afraid of. Partly because he wants to be held all the time and sleep all day/be up all night, holding him so my husband and I can eat/shower/use the bathroom is really valuable. Or, just go out on an excursion to pick up baby wipes(not exciting, but seeing something other than my living room walls is valuable). She also brought food a couple of times and has shifted laundry a few times. My dad came to stay with us and did similar things and walked the dog.
      None of these require blood relations, it’s true. But super helpful.

    10. Catherine from Canada*

      I’m going to answer from the grandmom perspective. What I did and why.
      (My mother was conspicuously absent for the birth and recovery of all six of my children. Doesn’t like to share the spotlight, shall we say.)
      After a birth, there are two main needs: household support and baby care. I chose to provide household support and leave baby care to the new parents. Baby care can be scary to a new parent, but the best way to learn and get over being scared is to just do it.
      When my first grandchild was born, to my oldest daughter, I drove an hour every day for a month to visit and help. I spent the morning, washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, did laundry, did errands and so on and then went home. Deliberately did nothing that involved the baby except offer advice.
      They had only been married for nine months at that point, my son-in-laws’ mother was/is an Extremely Dominating Woman so he tended to defer to me too much, and my daughter tends to take the easy way out on things. I could clearly see that if I stayed over, or helped with the baby, I’d be inserting myself into a family that had not fully formed yet. They needed the time and space to find their own family, not have me form it for them. That grandchild is almost 17, my daughter has not yet forgiven me, does not understand why I didn’t do “what all her friends’ mothers did” (come and live there for a month).
      My second daughter had her first just over a year ago. They had been together for nearly five years. She is bi-polar, has PTSD and anxiety but was on low doses of all meds because of the pregnancy and was having a really hard time. I went to her city two weeks before baby was born, and stayed for nearly a month after baby was born, she came to stay with us when baby was 2 months old. I still did mostly support work only but give feedings and take on night duty when the sleep deprivation was starting to seriously threaten her mental health. (Oldest daughter is mad at me for this too.)
      In my view, I gave them both the support they needed. Not what they _wanted_, but what they and the child needed.

      1. Thursday Next*

        I think you seem very attentive to your individual children’s different needs, and took a thoughtful approach each time.

        I have seen some of my friends get upset or resentful when their parents aren’t helpful in the particular way/quantity they’d like. I keep my mouth shut! Nobody is entitled to their parents’ unpaid labor. I think it helps not to have those expectations.

        As I said above, my mother was really unhelpful in every way, so I just didn’t want her around. (This is a woman who made me stay in bed and miss school, while she told me every one of her menstrual horror stories, when I got my first period at 11. Extrapolate from that…)

        My father is much better, and is helpful with babies and kids, and this has been especially good as my kids have gotten older. They have good relationships with both my parents, but none of it is about childcare or any kind of assistance, and I’m okay with that.

    11. Lucy*

      I was very aware that I was a mammal perinatally. I had a lot of very primal feelings and logic didn’t come into it much.

      It physically hurt to be apart from the baby, even to have him in the arms of someone trusted and only ten feet away. In the early days there are lots of biological processes going on which protect both baby and mother, and lots of well-intended “help” interferes with that process.

      Ideally the mother needs to be resting nearly all day for days if not weeks. What this looks like varies hugely socially but it’s very common to band round a new mother so she can literally sleep it off with her newborn in arms’ reach.

      Some people “help” by invading the inevitably untidy home, and holding the baby for the one hour he sleeps “so mom can catch up” ie make them refreshments, do laundry, clean the bathroom, etc. As soon as baby needs feeding or changing, they “leave you to it” and swan off into the sunset.

      An actual helpful friend brings food that can be eaten with one hand, makes a hot drink for mom and puts it in a thermal flask so she can actually drunk it hot, whilst rocking the baby so mom can have a shower for more than thirty seconds, or even take him for a walk so she can get an hour’s sleep. An actual helpful friend tells mom she’s doing wonderfully and means it. A totally amazing friend takes the laundry with her and brings it back the next day dry and folded, with a chilled homemade lasagne and a tin of fresh brownies.

      Can you tell I had the “help” and not the actual help? I do my best to be the friend I needed!

    12. That's Not My Job*

      Wow thanks for all your stories, this is super helpful! This is a topic that I don’t often allow myself to dwell on because it’s too scary/painful/awkward but after reading through these, I’m formulating a future plan of potentially just giving family a date they are allowed to fly in on rather than the due date. Due dates are so inaccurate it wouldn’t be that weird to keep it a secret anyway, right?

      My mother, as you might have guessed, would definitely fall in the unhelpful category. She was never the touchy feely nurturing type, and I gave up on telling her my problems long ago. She might be good with a newborn, but not for my stress level so hearing it’s not unusual to make her wait is encouraging. We definitely have time to save up for a cleaning service and/or a night nurse and putting away for that would probably provide a good mile marker for me. It’s so great to know I’m not the only one, I definitely need to prepare more boundaries for when I have children old enough to understand the things that come out of Grandma’s mouth, but knowing that I have options is giving me confidence that I can get there eventually!

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Re: due dates, yes they are an estimate within a range, and it’s not at all unusual for Baby to arrive +/- 2 weeks of the guesstimate.

        If the situation with your relatives is such that you want to be judicious about the information you share, I’d think of it as being vague instead of secretive. IME, framing something as “keeping a secret” tends to add a strange energy to a situation, and difficult people can often pick up that energy and use it to generate more stress.

        People with a benign interest in your due date will want to plan things like whether to send wintery or summery baby clothes, when would be appropriate to plan a shower, when you might need meals, etc. They don’t actually need to know a specific day. So saying things like “the end of March” or “around Thanksgiving” is useful on that level, without being overly granular.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I couldn’t agree more with “vague” rather than “secretive” and the energy secrecy adds. My midwives joked that it should be “guess month” rather than “due date,” and I think that gives a good script. “Oh, you know how babies are — should be sometime around the end of the summer, but babies come when they want to!” Breezy and vague should be the tone to aim for.

    13. IntoTheSarchasm*

      We didn’t really have much help other than my MIL driving ng me to one week appt. to get staples out from Cesarean. She had too many health problems to help much and my mom had a alcohol problem and was 200 miles away. Hubs had to go right back to work so I just had a little talk with myself and realized that I knew people that could barely keep themselves safe and sound who managed to keep a baby alive so I could do it too! Had a happy content baby (overdue, nine pounds 5 ounces and pretty unflappable for an infant) so that made it easier and I was 30 so a little more confident than I was when I was younger. Don’t remember that hard parts too much. It is different for everyone but don’t let anyone be there if they aren’t truly helping and ask for help if you need it.

    14. Nita*

      No, unless you’ve recently lived with your parents and know each other’s routine, they’re sort of guests in your home. And hosting guests right after coming from the hospital is stressful. For example, my parents seem to think I need help holding the baby. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that I need help cooking, and doing dishes. And I feel a little… entitled, I guess… asking for that. And anyway, if they tried to cook they wouldn’t know where anything is! And not everyone is comfortable nursing non-stop in front of family, or dealing with getting a handle on various postpartum leakage with family around.

      One big exception when having one’s parents visit ASAP is a lifesaver: taking care of older kids.

      1. Nita*

        Oh, and about boundaries. My mom showed up in the delivery room when my oldest was to be born. I hadn’t asked her not to come only because it didn’t occur to me she’d run over uninvited. The nurses never asked if it’s OK for her to come in (or even, if she’s actually my mom). I was in a great mood and didn’t feel like trying to get her to leave, but one, I didn’t feel comfortable with her there and two, she started looking nauseous halfway through and I kept wondering if the nurse would have to drop everything and tend to her.

        If you think you might get some unwanted visitors, do something in advance to head them off. Don’t tell them when you’re going to the hospital, or fudge your due date, or something.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Or instruct the information desk not to give out any information about whether you’re there or where you are. And tell the nurses not to let anyone in the birthing room!

          That completely stinks that they let her barge in. Totally inappropriate even if you didn’t give instructions.

    15. Anonomo*

      Ive had both- I lived with my mom with my first pregnancy and across the country for my last. I was VERY ANNOYED when I lived with her, she has boundary issues and back then I wasnt comfortable asserting my needs and also had no clue what was helpful until after the fact. When I had my last, I really wished she was around those first weeks, mostly because it was hell dealing with the older kids and a newborn. But then she came for a month and I really wished she would just leave already lol.
      From my perspective, if you have any anxiety about having family around it will be amplified during any transition phase your in, and its better to look back and wish they were there than to look back and only remember the anxiety and skyrocketing blood pressure.

    16. Lemonwhirl*

      My husband is self-employed, and he had a regular trade show that he went to every year at the same time. Our first (and as it turns out, only :)) baby was due 9 days before that trade show. I asked my parents to come help out 5 days after the due date, figuring that they would be helpful while my husband was away. I figured (so naively) that the baby was sure to be there before my parents.

      Nope. I ended up going into the hospital a few hours after my parents arrived because my water broke. But the kid still wasn’t coming out. SO after two nights in the hospital, I was induced and my kid was born. The next day, my husband left for 5 nights to go to the trade show.

      It was unusually cold here and my parents were afraid of driving because the roads were icy and we live at the top of a steep hill. the public health nurse wasn’t doing visits, so the hospital refused to release me and my son until he had the heel prick test on the fourth day. (They were concerned that if I left the hospital, I would not be able to come back back.) SO I spent 4 days in the hospital, with a newborn, completely alone. Not the best days ever.

      When I got home, my parents were….not entirely helpful and I was WAY too hormonal to deal with my mom. In retrospect, the better option would’ve been to have my husband skip the trade show and have my parents come visit when my kids was 1 or 2 months old – after we’d gotten our feet underneath us.

      This is all a long-winded way of saying that you don’t really know how things are going to turn out. Knowing your own boundaries and learning how to be flexible and roll with life (something I am STILL not great at) are key skills.

    17. My Brain is Exploding*

      I had great luck with both my parents (who came earlier) and in laws. If they are willing and able to take care of YOU (which also means your family and other kids) while you take care of the baby (and answering your questions and maybe making some recommendations without taking over), then you should be fine. I had never been around babies much and was happy to have my mom there. She came after my husband went back to work, which would well for us. You’ll be fine because you are thinking this through ahead of time!

  31. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I watched the entire A&E docu-series they did with Erik Menendez last night before bed. It was such an intense look into the whole case.

    So naturally Hulu is recommending more true crime documentaries. So you can guess what my Saturday morning is.

    1. Plain Jane*

      I watched Surviving R. Kelly last week. I’m really glad I did, because it’s an important story, but ugh, I wanted to take a shower for like a year after

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I can’t bring myself to watch. When he’s rotting in jail I’ll be able to. I can’t watch things as they’re still happening:(

      2. Quake Johnson*

        I don’t know how I never heard about his marriage to Aaliyah before. That disgusted me to no end.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          OMG…this connection and then the public knowledge about Drake going down the R Kelly path, just is too much for my mind to wrap around right now.

          I was too young when Aaliyah passed away, so the more I learn, the more devastating her story gets.

  32. Diana Barry*

    Happy Weekend Everyone! Need your kind advice on a 40th wedding anniversary gift for family friends. They are close friends with my parents, and I am good friends with one of their daughters. I won’t be able to make it to their surprise party, being thrown by their children, but still want to give a gift for my parents to give from me. I’ve googled around and the only useful bit I found was to give dvds of movies from 1979, nothing else beyond that, and tbh even that is not great because I only recognize a few titles. What do you think?

    1. Not A Manager*

      How about a nice double picture frame? They can put a wedding pic on one side, and an anniversary pic on the other side.

    2. LawBee*

      Ask their daughter what they want. My parents are coming up on their 50th and they don’t want STUFF – they want experiences. So gift cards to nice restaurants, or to the local theater company tend to go over big with them.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        40 years is traditionally Ruby, so either something red, or wrapped up in red paper/gift bag/ribbons?

        Ruby port or red wine perhaps?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Anniversary gifts should be commemorative tokens in general. They’ve built a life together for 40years, they just need a warm fuzzy token. So an engraved item, perhaps a picture frame is great. I’m also a fan of gift certificates as mentioned for a nice restaurant to encourage them to have a lovely night out.

      Focus on the card and your warmest note of congratulations!

    4. Not All*

      I agree with LawBee…I don’t know anyone who had longer anniversaries who wanted more STUFF. Especially not engraved stuff they were going to have to find a place to display and wouldn’t even donate well. Try to find out from someone they know if there is something they actually want. Otherwise go with consumables like treat food/drink. For a couple I knew who couldn’t drink alcohol anymore (medication change), I made up a basket of fancy non-alcoholic beverages I knew they would never splurge on themselves & found a recipe book on mocktails.

    5. Parenthetically*

      Agreed with the general consensus that folks who’ve made a life together for that long don’t need more “stuff.”

      For non-stuff gifts I go for a couple categories: consumable or experience-based. In this case, I’d go for something consumable, maybe fitting with a theme? Maybe they went to Hawaii on their honeymoon so you get them some lovely Hawaiian-made artisanal chocolates, or you go in together with your folks on a bottle of 1979 vintage something or other. But probably the most meaningful gift you could give them would be a letter full of memories you have of them, their relationship, things you look back fondly on. That’s something they’d be able to cherish without having to find a place to display.

    6. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      A bottle of champagne and mini red velvet cake? Wine bottled in 1979 and a red scented candle? I agree with everyone else that they probably don’t want “stuff” and are throwing a party just to be able to celebrate with everyone. Since you can’t make it, something like a card with a heartfelt note in it would probably be appreciated. You could send it with a dozen homemade cookies or something like that if you want it to feel more gifty.

  33. Cell Phone Novice*

    I’m that rare millennial who has only ever had a landline. I’m not entirely sure I want a cell phone, but I have some life circumstances that mean it’s a switch I probably need to make this year. Since I’ve never had one before, I have a lot of questions, and I would appreciate any insight any of you might have.

    1. I’m thinking about Ting because I like their only pay for what you use/you can set limits on your account approach. Have any of you used them? What was your experience?

    2. Ting’s service is on either a GSM or CDMA network. Aside from asking around for what has good coverage near me, is there anything else I should consider when choosing one or the other?

    3. I’m pretty sure I don’t want an iPhone. Is Samsung basically the only good choice for non-Apple phones? How do I know which phone to choose? (For example, it looks like the differences in the specs for the S9, S9+, and Note9 are size and battery, and I have no idea how to judge which options are better for me.)

    4. I’m sure I’ll end up using my phone more than I think I will, but considering that I plan to use it somewhat minimally, how long can I expect the phone itself to last?

    5. How many texts and how much data do you use in a month?

    6. What do I need to know that I haven’t thought to ask about?

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can give!

    1. Crooked Bird*

      I don’t have advice but just wanted to give a solidarity shout-out as a fellow Millenial who has only ever had a landline. (Though I only recently found out I was a Millenial. I’m 38. Apparently they’re stretching it back all the way through the 80s??) Glad I’m not the only one!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Right? I always identified as Gen X but then the last few years I’ve been told they rolled it back to 1981. I was already on the cusp.

        I don’t like avocado toast. End scene.

        1. valentine*

          When considering an alleged-pay-as-you-go $x minimum plan, find out the minimum refill fee is, in case it’s much higher/you can never pay just $x and refills are nonrefundable.

      2. Cell Phone Novice*

        High-five fellow landline using millennial depending on who’s drawing the generational lines!

      3. Natalie*

        It’s always included most of the 80s – the name comes from people coming of age around the turn of the millennium, not being born after it or something.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Samsung is not the only Android available. I have an LG. It’s basic. You’ll want just a no bells or whistles phone, you can get them as iphones or androids.

      I have unlimited plans but only average 2000 texts, 100 minutes of calls and low data use because I don’t stream videos but I do use Google Maps sometimes. Pay as you go is great, my aunts all use those services!

      My phones last for 5 years often but using them a lot, the batteries are designed to live about 2 years.

    3. KR*

      Most phone plans are unlimited nowadays as far as texts ( I’m not familiar with Ting). People just expect unlimited from their phone companies and it doesn’t cost that much to transmit the data. Even if you don’t text that much people will text you assuming you text so if you got a limited text option be aware of that. You can get a Samsung, but I’ve also heard good things about the Google pixel phones and some phones Motorola and LG put out. The cheaper the phone, the less time you can expect it to last, generally. Phones for me generally lasts between two or three years before the software updates makes them laggy and slow, but I’m a heavy user. My biggest advice is to spring for a case. It might seem like a rip-off to spend $50 on a case right after you buy a phone, but after buying my latest phone I got a LifeProof case and it is still in like-new condition despite many drops, versus my old phone I broke the screen barely a year after I got it and spent most of my time with it with a semi broken screen.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I have two different budget model Motorola phones and they are pretty good for the price. One is a first generation Moto G, the other a second generation Moto E. I bought the G to use as a burner phone when I travelled a couple of years ago but I now use it as a backup surfing device in the house. The E was my main phone until I bought a OnePlus X, which is also a pretty good budget phone (though several years old and hard to find now). Samsung is definitely not the only option!

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Do you live in the U.S.? If so, another pay-for-what-you-use option to consider is Google Fi. They have a number of non-Samsung phones available (everything from a $200 Moto G6 to a $649 Pixel 3). You pay for only the data you use, and it uses a combination of Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular, so the coverage is good. If you travel abroad, you use whatever networks are available in that country, and you pay the exact same amount for data there.

      how long can I expect the phone itself to last?

      Every major phone out today uses lithium ion for its battery, so no matter how well you take care of the battery, it will start to hold less and less of a charge over time. Some people like to upgrade every two years just to have the newest thing, but if you want to hold on to your phone as long as you can, it can probably be useful up to 4-5 years. Just keep in mind that you may not be getting security updates after 3 years.

      How many texts and how much data do you use in a month?

      I don’t know how many texts, because I get unlimited texting with Google Fi. Data I use about 1-3 GB per month.

      What do I need to know that I haven’t thought to ask about?

      It’s okay to make mistakes? At one time or another, I’ve been with Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. Some people swear by certain carriers and hate others. My spouse and I have also had a good mix of various iPhone and Android phones. You’re never stuck with something. Many plans don’t have contracts. Even if you have a contract, it can end. If you don’t like your phone, you can get a better phone next time. Honestly, if you are willing to get a top-of-the-line phone, they’re all pretty amazing (Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone XS, Pixel 3). Lower-end phones are usually pretty decent for basic things. Their cameras are usually fine but nothing amazing.

      1. Dan*

        Technically speaking, only data is “pay for what you use” with Google Fi. Unlimited talk and text (the only choice for that) is going to set you back $20. Ting’s entry point is a $6 line fee.

    5. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Depending on what you’re willing to spend, I have a Motorola and I’m very happy with that. Didn’t cost too much, either.

    6. WellRed*

      I am planning to sig up with ting. I actually used their IM to ask them a bunch of questions about how it works and what to expect, etc. I found it helpful and very customer oriented.

    7. Reba*

      I have used Ting, it is pretty good! Look at the coverage map. I used to always lose it for a stretch of the drive between home and where my family lives, and it would sometimes be annoying to get everything acting as it should when I was back in range.

      I currently have Google Fi, which is pretty similar in concept but more limited in devices. I have the Pixel 3 — which is definitely a high-end phone — and tho sometimes I miss ye olde iPhone, I’m really happy with it! I didn’t think having the great camera would be that important to me, but I’m loving it. Battery life is pretty awesome. I always kept my previous iPhones (cheaper models) for what felt like a zillion years (compared to the replacing schedule the big providers are on), even though I don’t use cases, I’m just not that heavy of a user.

      If you spend a lot of time in wifi-covered areas, your bill can be very very low.

    8. Need a Beach*

      Ting uses Sprint’s CDMA and T-Mobile’s GSM, so if you don’t get connectivity from those brands in your area, Ting won’t work either.

      I have T-Mobile, and my phone is basically a brick. I talked to local first responders while stranded during a blizzard last year, and they told me that if you want a cell that works around here, AT&T is your only choice.

      So, I suggest working backwards from availability, because otherwise you might be choosing options you don’t actually have.

      1. Cell Phone Novice*

        Yes, checking to make sure they really get good service here is a definite must! According to the maps, the only minimal issue is that the data coverage around my parents’ house on one of them is 3G and not 4G, but I’d be on wifi at their place anyway.

    9. LCL*

      I have had good luck with Motorola and LG phones. I just ‘upgraded’ to a Motorola Moto G6, which is a cheapie but does the job. Modern phones are obsolete in 3-4 years for two reasons. The software has so many upgrades that performance drops, and phones now have a sealed design so you can’t replace the battery when its performance degrades. Since you aren’t a heavy user of apps yet, go for the model that has the best battery life.

    10. Alex*

      I use Ting. It’s……80% good.

      The good: CHEAP. Oh so cheap. And the customer service is top notch. Also, you can call Canada for no extra charge (which may or may not matter to you.)

      The bad: Coverage is so-so. Also, I’ve had trouble using it internationally, even though you are supposed to be able to use it internationally.

    11. Dan*

      When I got my first smart phone (only 5 years ago!) I used Ting for exactly the reasons you do. A year or so ago, I switched to Google Fi and am happy with the switch.

      1. I used Ting for a year or so. As a “low use” person, it’s great. I managed to keep my bill to $13 for 11 out of 12 months. I used Google Voice to manage my texts, so I didn’t have to pay Ting’s text fee. I talk very little on the phone (either land line at work, or skype with family) so easily stayed in the small talk bucket. I found it hard to use *no* minutes though — but that’s because I don’t have a land line at home. With a lot of discipline, I could keep my data under 100 MB per month. My issue with Ting’s data is that going from the small bucket to the medium bucket is a pretty steep jump. I can stay under 500 MB without too much effort, but 100 MB is *work*. These days, my current phone eats up a bit of data for reasons I don’t quite understand, but it would be near impossible for me to stay under 100 MB now.

      If your phone is going to be “for emergency use only”, Ting is going to be great. If you actually become a “normal” phone user, Ting isn’t going to be quite so cheap. My guess, if you keep your landline: Small bucket for voice, small bucket for texts (unless your friends will text you a ton, but in that case, the medium bucket is only $2 more) and medium bucket for data, unless you are super disciplined. That’s going to set you back $22-$24.

      2. Your phone is likely going to dictate the band, so double check that. Things may have changed in the last few years, but it used to be that most phones in the US were locked to a specific carrier and therefore band. I go with unlocked multi band phones for a few reasons.

      3. No, there are plenty of options.

      4. That’s a tricky one. Phones can last years, although the battery life will start to suffer sooner rather than later.

      5. This is really personal — I understand why you ask that, but you’ll get responses from power users (which will be “tons” and therefore Ting isn’t appropriate) to “almost never”.

      My suggestion is to buy a cheap phone (a couple of hundred dollars, if that) use it for awhile, and decide what you like/don’t like about it. Then upgrade once you have a personal feel for what you need or want. Do you want a bigger phone? Smaller phone? Longer battery? Better camera? High end smart phones are close to $1,000 and there’s no sense spending that kind of money if you aren’t going to take advantage of what they have to offer.

      As a service, I switched to Google Fi after a year of Ting, for a few reasons. 1) To keep my Ting bill super low, I had to jury rig a couple of things: Google Voice for texts, and watch my data like a hawk. TBH, this gets really annoying after awhile. I absolutely hated the significant jump in price between the small and medium data buckets. 2) I travel overseas every year, and Google Fi’s international plan is awesome. I don’t miss Ting: I just use my phone like a normal person, and my bills are around $25/mo

    12. leukothea*

      I just got my first smart phone less than a year ago. In addition to the things other people have said, I recommend finding a friend who can give you a half hour tutorial on how to use it. Some parts are obvious, but some things completely eluded me until I had someone there to show me in person.

      For instance, I knew there was some way to capture a screenshot as an image file, because I’ve seen many other people posting screenshots… yet for the life of me I couldn’t find how to do it. I am a smart woman! I have a master’s degree! But I just couldn’t figure this out and it was killing me. I pressed every button, scrolled through every setting — nothing. Could all those people on the internet have owned a camera in order to take a photo of their smart phone screen?!?? Surely not??

      Turns out I had to press the “down volume” and “power off” buttons at the same time, and it would take a screenshot. THERE IS NO WAY for anyone to figure that out, but someone showed me in 5 seconds. :-P

    13. Slartibartfast*

      Is this the cat equivalent of bringing the wife flowers when she’s returning from a trip? I’ve always gone with whichever phone is cheapest/free with the plan. Currently I have a Droid Moto. My only complaint is there’s no headphone jack.

    14. AcademiaNut*

      I’m a fairly minimalist cell phone user – I use it mostly for texting, bus schedules and translations and the occasional map.

      There are tons of options for Android phones – I have a lower end Asus phone (Zenphone 2 lazer) that I’ve had for about three years now – it cost me about 140 USD unlocked. I looked for reviews of Android phones that were good value for the money – I don’t need to play 3D games, for example, and a basic camera is fine. More expensive phones will be faster, have better screens and fancier cameras. The phone still works fine, but the operating system gradually gets more bloated so it’s started slowing down a bit. Get a sturdy cover and a screen protector so it won’t crack when you drop it.

      I’m not in the US, so I can’t advise on networks, but I buy 1.2 gigabytes of data every two months (the minimum for pay as you go) , and don’t come close to using it up. I use wifi at home, but not elsewhere. I pay 3 USD a month for this, which I’m pretty sure is not possible in the US.

      If you travel internationally, make sure your phone is compatible with foreign networks. Most of the world outside of Canada/US uses GSM, so a CDMA phone is much less useful overseas.

    15. Current Ting User*

      I use Ting, and on the off chance you want to use a referral code, here it is: https://ztkcfi15pm3.ting.com/.

      I really like it because I am a low-volume user, in the lowest category for both minutes and texts. If you want to set up alerts for any of the categories so you won’t go over, it’s really easy. You can also set up a cut-off for maximum usage. I rarely use data because of wifi, so that’s not an issue.

      I’ve bought several phones from Ting without problems. I prefer Motorola to Samsung because Samsung has tons of bloatware that suck up the memory. I don’t have games apps, but I have a ton of small apps that I use for practical reasons, so I got a Motorola phone with 32 memory. 16 on Samsung was just not workable. I only got a new phone because I needed more memory, but even the medium-cost phones last years.

      The support desk is responsive, and lots of FAQs are available on their sites.

      If you haven’t used data before, turn off data on your account (via the website) before you turn on the phone. Years ago, when I got my first phone with data, I didn’t realize how to switch the phone settings (on the phone, not the website) to use wifi, and my first data bill was sizable after the phone downloaded updates all night. Since then, I haven’t had a single problem.

    16. Adjunct Gal*

      I’ve had Ting and we loved it. We only switched to Wing because they were offering cash back to Ting users, and if we end up using less data, we get a discounted rate for the month.

  34. Karath*

    Here’s my little not-really-a-dilemma but still kind of. I have tickets to a hot Broadway show later this year. My bff is supposed to go with me but I am honestly anticipating her backing out. She lives on the other side of the country, but mostly it’s because she’s bailed on a few plans we had over the past couple of years. I’m not hanging my enjoyment of this trip on her, is what I’m saying. If she can make it, that would be great but I have contingency plans in place.

    If she doesn’t go, my friend CG is on board. That’s great – it happened very organically, and I’d be thrilled to hang with her for a weekend. HOWEVER, I have another close friend, JJ, who loves the show as well, and who would love to see it, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be very hurt that I didn’t ask her. The thing is, she cannot handle big cities. She can’t even really handle medium-sized cities. Every time we’ve done a city-based day, we’ve had to go home or back to the hotel three hours in because her anxiety flares up and prevents her from doing anything. It’s awful for her, because I know she misses out on things she wants to do.

    But also – I don’t want to spend my NYC weekend in a hotel room, or constantly looking for bathrooms because her anxiety flareups impact her digestive system. I don’t want to spend my infrequent vacation time in caretaker mode. I don’t mind doing that normally, I love JJ very much, but not for this trip. I just want to enjoy it with someone who is also enjoying it. Right now this is all hypothetical, because it’s entirely possible that bff will be able to come.

    1. KR*

      Sorry this is hard. You are not obligated to ask JJ to go with you even if you think she might be hurt if you didn’t ask. If she asks why you didn’t ask her, you can honestly tell her that the last time you guys took a trip to the city she didn’t seem to have a good time. I have certain things that stress me out and give me anxiety to do and my good friends have figured out what those things are over the years and don’t ask me to do them.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Your friend knows what happened the last time you traveled together. I would really hope that even if her feelings are hurt, she could generate the reason that she wasn’t invited without having to ask you. But if she does ask you, or if she acts hurt, I think an honest answer is the kindest approach. You DO like her, and you DO like being with her, but it’s better for everyone if that’s not in a big city.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      JJ has to self soothe on this one. Don’t focus on her feelings until they’ve actually manifests. I know it’s natural for you to worry and know her emotional tendencies but to save yourself grief, there has to be a little detachment there!

    4. Annie Moose*

      I think the truth would work pretty well here–you originally planned to go with BFF, so you only got two tickets, and then when that didn’t work out, CG ended up going instead.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Agreed. And if this is potntially last minute and JJ isn’t in same city (?) that’s also a valid excuse. She doesn’t need to know CG knew she might be a last-minute fill-in.

    5. WellRed*

      Sorry, if you won’t enjoy an activity or trip to the point you get ill and also ruin it for others, you don’t get to feel hurt when you are not invited the next time.

    6. Lilysparrow*

      #1 Don’t bring up the trip to her, or in groups where she is. Discussing activities in front of people who aren’t invited is rude and asking for trouble.

      #2 If she brings it up to you from seeing it on Facebook or something, and asks why you didn’t invite her, you can simply say, “But you’re always miserable in big cities.”

      #3 If you don’t bring it up, and she doesn’t bring it up, then you don’t have to do anything about how she may or may not feel. Because even if someone is a good friend, managing their unspoken unreasonable (possible) feelings is both impossible and not your job.

    7. HannahS*

      You never owe anyone an invitation to come on a trip with you just because they’d like to come. It’s not like a wedding where people who are close to you might expect to be part of your bridal (or groom-al) party and be crushed because oh, actually, they realize that they see the friendship as closer than you do and it intersects with all kinds of cultural baggage around emotionally charged things that are expected to only happen once, like weddings. This is a trip that you have planned with your best friend. If she bails, you have someone else on board who wants to go. If JJ asks you why you didn’t invite her, say, “BFF and I planned the trip together, and CG offered to be backup.” Understand that when JJ has hurt feelings over this, it’s because of unreasonable expectations, an unrealistic assessment of herself, and her own anxious thoughts that you don’t really like her and want to be her friend. You can and should be kind and matter-of-fact, but JJ has to deal with her own feelings. It’s not good for your friendship (and ultimately won’t make her better) for you to enter into big cycles of reassurance and guilt with her.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yes, JJ doesn’t have a contractual Right Of First Refusal when it comes to any activities you do. You chose to do something with CG – you’re allowed to do things with people without running it by JJ.

    8. Nita*

      But… what would JJ expect to happen if you do invite her? She gets to feel warm fuzzies because she gets an invitation, but neither of you actually sees the show because she can’t handle it? And the point of that is? I’d just tell her someone else got the ticket, and leave it at that.

    9. LGC*

      First of all, enjoy the trip, no matter who goes with you!

      I’m guessing that CG and JJ know each other, since they’re both close friends of yours. So JJ might find out regardless. If she’s hurt…I’d probably modify LilySparrow’s wording a little bit. I’d err more towards saying that you were worried about her in large cities – and this is pretty accurate and reasonable! And honestly, as a guy that spends a lot of time in New York, Midtown Manhattan especially can be overwhelming to many people! (I mean, I avoid it like the plague myself.)

      Also, a lot of Broadway shows tour! I’m not sure which show you’re going to see or how far from New York you are (you have a hotel room, so I’m guessing it’s at least some distance), but would you mind seeing it with JJ (and possibly CG) once it does go on tour?

  35. Amy*

    Having a lot of feelings about babies today. Last night I gathered up a bunch of baby stuff to get rid of now that my two-year-old is potty trained and no longer using a high chair. I thought I would be hanging on to it all for a second child this summer – if things had gone according to plan I would be pregnant right now. However, after a major health scare this fall, we decided that not only was my body not ready to handle a pregnancy right now, we should probably hold off for a few years in order to preserve my health (until I’m finished with grad school and have a less unpredictable schedule, and when my husband and I will have shorter commutes). There were pros and cons to this decision, and though I think we made the right choice, it still doesn’t sit well with me. It’s hard watching the moms with kids my child’s age all having their second babies when it’s something I want so much, but just can’t make happen right now.

    So: I’m going to try to donate or sell the bulky baby items that I probably won’t need or will want to replace for the next child. Ikea changing table, diaper genie, ugly highchair, infant car seat that expires in two years. We’re keeping the easily stored things (clothes, blankets, toys) and big ticket stuff (stroller, swing). Hopefully I can get these items to a mother in need (if anyone in the SF Bay Area has ideas for charities, please let me know!). But seeing it all in a big pile in my living room is bumming me out.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Of course it’s bumming you out. I hope you’re able to move it out quickly. My children have a large age gap between them, and there are upsides to that as well. Best wishes for your continued good health!

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      You have to do what’s right for you even if it’s different from everyone else in your social circle. You have a perfect right to make your own decisions! But yes, I remember that funny feeling of “wow, all the other mothers are pregnant” when spouse and I were nowhere near the stage of expecting #2. It’s bittersweet for sure. The silver lining is that at least we live in a time and place in which we are able to make these choices.

      Try searching online for kid-related charities, or asking at preschools or child care facilities? Or see if your items can be used by any faith-related organizations and/or shelters for families facing DV or homelessness? I was happy to find a “community closet” to donate a lot of baby gear. I shed a few tears but was glad that others would be able to use our former stuff (clothing and washable baby toys, used but clean and without stains or holes). Bonus: we gained back a few cubic feet of precious living space. A few years later, Freecycle helped me give another stack of outgrown children’s clothing to a young parent seeking that particular size range.

    3. SAHM*

      You can donate it to the Valley Pregnancy Center, they help new moms who need assistance. They’re near Stoneridge mall.

    4. Overeducated*

      Right there with you. My kid is four and the next crop of babies started around 2. We also weren’t in a good place in our lives then. It’s tough waiting, especially if you were one of a closely spaced bunch like I was, since I know my kid won’t have the same kind of childhood I did. It’s also tough being asked “so when is Kid getting a little brother or sister?” by random people. OTOH, the extra time to just enjoy #1’s growth has been a delight and much less chaotic, so that’s a blessing ibmn its way too.

      I am hoping for #2 to come along soon, but storing all the baby clothes, crib, and stroller in the meantime and through moves is making me crazy…that closet would be USABLE for my current kid if I didn’t need to keep all that! Give away as much as you can afford to replace! Getting it out of sigh will help, I’m sure.

  36. Lulubell*

    Has anyone ever used Rogaine for hair loss, and did it work? I’m a 42 year old woman and I believe my hair is thinning – down my part and right at the front of my head – almost like a reverse widows peak. I think this is noticeable only to me at this point, but I’ve been noticing it for about a year, and really want to do something before it gets worse. I looked at Rogaine reviews on Amazon and some were positive but some said they lost more hair before it started working. I’m terrified of that. I would love any first- hand accounts, or any other insights. FWIW, I’m otherwise healthy to my knowledge – my bloodwork last year was great, I eat well and exercise, take a multivitamin, don’t drink at all, am a healthy weight, etc. I’m sure this is just aging but I am not ready for it! :(

      1. Lulubell*

        Not yet. I brought it up with my PCP last year and she brushed it off saying it was just aging, and my bloodwork came back fine, so that seemed to support it. I am due for my annual again now, so I will push harder this time.

    1. fposte*

      Agree with NSNW that it’s worth checking with a doctor–hyperthyroidism can lead to hair loss, and your PCP should be able to get that checked with no bother.

      I don’t know about the losing before the regaining with Rogaine, but be aware that you don’t just use Rogaine to fix the situation and then stop it, because your hair will just go back where it was; you stay on Rogaine if you want to preserve the results.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They prescribe spironolactone for women’s hair loss like that as well. Perhaps if you mention it to the doc they’ll be accepting of it since it’s just a lowkey diuretic that is used for abnormal hair growth on your face as well.

    3. HannahS*

      Yep, I tried it. It definitely works. The hair that you get with it tends to be finer and lighter than your regular hair, but some people find that it’s good for filling in thinning areas. I gave up because I found it greasy and unpleasant to have in my hair and I’d have to wash my hair every morning which dried out my skin and hair, and it’s something that stops working when you stop using it (which makes sense, but the idea of using it forever irked me). I started showing male-pattern baldness at about 18, which sucks, but I decided to let it happen, and if it gets to the point that I’m obviously bald, I’ll probably buzz it and either wear a wig or hats/scarves. So definitely YMMV. But what I learned is that you can lose a lot of hair before it becomes noticeable to others–more than half. I did start with lots of thick hair, and even though I’m down to about a third of I started with, I still don’t look abnormal. I don’t have nice hair anymore, but I don’t look bald, or even balding.

    4. Thursday Next*

      I saw a dermatologist and endocrinologist before starting Rogaine on their advice.

      My experience: I use the men’s formula; the women’s smells weird and gave me headaches.

      When I use it, it’s only once, nightly.

      I don’t use it at night if I’ve washed my hair that day.

      Even with this limited use, the result I’ve seen is the most important one I wanted: the hair loss stopped. Yes, there’s an increase in shedding the first two weeks, which is alarming, but it levels off.

      I’ve stopped using it a couple of times, and eventually I lose hair at a faster pace.

    5. Slartibartfast*

      My aunt has clip in hair extensions because of female pattern baldness (it’s a thing). She’s had them for decades. My mom only discovered this when they went on a trip and shared a hotel room, they’re that natural looking. I certainly would never had guessed! So there’s options. If you have a good hairdresser or salon, ask them for advice. This is one of those things that a lot of people deal with, but it’s hidden so nobody knows.

  37. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    I want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to that feeling when you find some music that is just the perfect mood for what you’re writing. For me lately I’ve been listening to Sennek’s “A Matter of Time” and Tourist LeMC’s “Horizon” and “Spiegel” ft. Raymond van het Groenewoud lately (links in reply). Also, that video for “Horizon” is just the cutest.

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I’m stalled out again, unfortunately. My novel is really going in fits and starts. I REALLY admire people who can write every day. When I’m inspired, I’m really inspired, but when I don’t have it in me I physically cannot write. Weird, I know.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Oof, I used to be the same. I’ve found that taking fifteen minutes a day really helps. And I’ll write anything: what my cat did that day, or pulling three random words out of a hat and writing a short thing based on those (I ended up with a great villain from a short drabble that will never see the light of day based on “Horror movie”, “Darcy from Pride and Prejudice” and “Dogs”). Now I find that around my usual writing time I start getting more ideas.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I finished the first draft of my first original piece. I’m so glad that I’ve actually finished it but I’m well aware that there is a lot of work ahead of me to bang it into shape.

      The only thing I finished writing before his was a long piece of Doctor Who fan fiction that taught me so much about writing and how to finish things, but I’m now in untested waters so any advice about how to begin the editing process and straightening the plot out, and anything else you can think of, I would appreciate it.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Ah, fanfiction. It can be so underrated…
        As far as dialogue goes, I’d suggest you read those out loud to see if they sound weird. In fact it may be useful to read the entire thing out loud (or have your computer read that to you if you wrote on one). You’ll also catch more spelling/grammatical errors that way.
        Make sure your plot is coherent. For example, did a character randomly stumble upon an object/receive a power five pages after mentioning how handy that would be? Unless they were explicitly looking for it, that is too much of a coincidence (and even if they were still looking for it that’s still a massive coincidence).
        Also make sure your subplots are actually resolved. Does Sabrina Warbleworth mention she’s joining the main character because she wants to find a cure for her sick child? Make sure it is mentioned again.
        The hardest part for me is “kill your darlings”. It’s entirely possible you have Wakeen’s family history dating back 300 years or so, but this is unlikely to be relevant to the plot. Unless you’re going for a Herman Melville style, you don’t need five chapters detailing the intricacies of your MacGuffin. Any subplots you can’t/don’t want to resolve (although this could be given a pass if you plan on resolving them in the sequel if you’re writing one)? Cut. Anything that bloats work for no good reason needs to go.
        Elizabeth West, if I recall correctly you’ve published a book? Do you have any advice here?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          OH I WISH I HAD

          But no, I haven’t published any novels. Just that short story thing I did myself. *crosses fingers and toes because she has a couple of queries out for Tunerville, again*

          A.N. O’Nyme’s advice is very good. My best advice would be to walk away from it for a little bit. Let it sit. A couple of weeks to a month is ideal. Then when you go back to it, you’ll be looking at it with fresh eyes. I re-read it and make lots of notes while I do. And don’t be afraid to chuck something or rewrite it entirely. For an entertaining primer, google “Chuck Wendig Here’s How to Finish Your Revision You Filthy Animal.”

          Also, I used fanfic the exact same way–it helped me finish something and get back into long-form storytelling.

    3. Have dragon, will quest in exchange for hummus*

      I got a few webcomic short story ideas I banged out that I gotta turn into concrete storylines.

      I had this weird dream that I turned into a few story ideas. In my dream, found out the nearest city to me was a 2-hour walk away from my small town, parallel to Amtrak train tracks. Being the walker in need of weight loss that I am, I said “Yeah!”

      Turns out that was just wishful thinking, and it’s actually a 4-hour walk through farmland with no Amtrak or bus or anything :( Oh well… But the incongruity between travel expectations and realities was definitely a theme.

      I tend to listen to a lot of Celtic music when I do creative stuff, or try and listen to YouTube movie analysis videos to see how other people did their stuff. Kyle Kallgren, Nightmare Masterclass, and Renegade Cut are my favorites. Can get a bit distracting to listen to content while making content though. Tried this video series a while back earlier and will probably do it again; Alan Watts mixed with lo-fi hip hop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwjwPhtyz4c

    4. OyHiOh*

      I’m on hiatus while dealing with spousal medical crisis. I’m starting to feel some of my creative moxie coming back so I might possibly be capable of writing and dealing with medical crisis this week. Had a fantastic two hours a day habit going before all of this happened.

      Music. :-) I’m working on a romantic comedy right now. Musical selection varied between Scott Joplin, Bach fugues, and Mendelson’s Songs Without Words. I can’t write with lyrics, my brain gets caught up in the vocals, instead of paying attention to the dialogue I’m trying to write.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Being lazy about revision. My Atomic Scribbler is open but I’m just dipping in and out. For some asshole reason, I like to end chapters with characters falling asleep, LOL.

      I like Book 2, a lot. I think Book 3 will be even more fun, but I have no clue how long it will be until I get to that. The conlang is going to be the toughest part–the story is pretty much all there, however. I hope to hell y’all get to read these at some point (CONFLAB IT UNIVERSE I AIN’T GETTING ANY YOUNGER HURRY THE FUDGE UP).

  38. Loopy*

    I had a super stressful week but found Friday afternoon/night baking projects have been really helpful in switching off from my weekday worries and transitioning into the weekend! I also like having things to post on my baking Instagram over the weekend. It could become a really healthy happy routine for me!!

    If I do decide to keep up the baking semi-regularly does anyone had tips for buying pretty good quality ingredients without emptying my bank account? I’m fine on the basics: flour, sugars, butter, eggs- I cant get those pretty cheap. But it’s all the fun stuff- extracts, and specialty baking equipment I may need to start getting smart about.

    In other news, I’m just… shocked at how happy and positive I am after the week I had and the three weeks ahead I’m facing. But I have to admit I’m SO pleased with my latest two baking projects it just washed all the stress away.

    1. Anonyme*

      Equipment wise, check antique stores semi-regularly. I got a gorgeous marble rolling pin at a local antique store, and they have a huge number of shaped cookie cutters. I have also seen some fancy bundt pans, a range of cast iron shapes and sizes, as well as various hand grinders, and things to imprint designs into baked goods.

      1. Loopy*

        Interesting pans and cookie cutters sound so fun! I’ll have to keep an eye out for antique stores.

    2. gecko*

      For equipment—I’d say just be clear about what you really need. So don’t get a piece of equipment for just one project.

      Thrift stores also sometimes have kitchen tools, but that’s of course a crapshoot. And there’s always asking for stuff as gifts :)

      Extracts end up being pantry staples in my opinion. Vanilla extract runs out fast, but something like orange or almond extract will be in your pantry….forever. So again I think it’s a matter of buying stuff you won’t just use once.

      1. Loopy*

        Er… I’m so bad at this. I get so excited for a project and whoops. I just bought chocolate molds for example. I think I need to commit to finding a time I’ll use it at least on a regular basis. Like making chocolates as xmas gifts and committing to doing that as tradition. I’m thinking of trying to tie certain types of baking to seasons to help make sure I buy things with a plan to at least use them a few times annually.

    3. Lady Alys*

      Some libraries have things like fancy cake pans that you can check out. I also had good luck at restaurant supply stores for things like bench knives and food-safe flour bins/rising buckets.

      1. Loopy*

        I have never heard of a library having baking equipment but omg a lending library for cookware/bakeware sounds amazing. I will also try to get away from my just-check-Amazon habit too.

        1. Lady Alys*

          Libraries are wonderful places :-)

          (Not a librarian, as so many here are, but I’ve served on a library board.)

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The good thing is that when you buy extracts, you buy them in a quantity that lasts you for quite a few rounds of baking! So try to think about a bottle in terms of how much you’re going to use it. It sounds absurd when you think “This tiny thing for $12!?” then you realize it’s a 1/8 of a teaspoon for a batch and it lasts you twenty batches. [math of course is not for real, it’s not even a proper estimate, just for example!]

      You can also find a cheap version to try a recipe out first to see if you even like it. Then up the quality of ingredients if you’re going to put it into a regular rotation. I wouldn’t experiment with high quality ingredients with most things!

      Look for sales. Look at a variety of different stores. I get my cheap ones at the bargain stores and then if I like it, I go get the good stuff at the higher quality locations.

      You can get gently used older edition equipment at consignment shops. Also again, it’s something to save for and acknowledge that you will get a lot of use out of it and the money will be well spent.

      1. Loopy*

        I need to get better about this. I always think I want to know a recipe’s full potential so I DO buy the good stuff first. I think, well what if I don’t like it because I used the crappy chocolate? I guess its something I need to be more realistic on but I’ve heard a lot of places that quality of ingredient really matters so I’ve gotten angsty about using imitation stuff and the like.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Rule of thumb is: the fewer ingredients the nicer they have to be. So for french silk pie (5 ingredients), get the nice chocolate and butter. For chocolate fruit cake (15 ingredients, most of them flavorful) get the cheap stuff, nobody’ll notice.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Make it a life habit to check the clearance tables at any grocery store you walk into. Over time you will have gathered a decent collection, but the trick is to check regularly and allow a little extra in your food budget so you can grab good stuff when you see it. I have seen all kinds of flours, favorings, etc over the years.

      1. Loopy*

        I wish my grocery stores had a clearance table! I’ve seen them at ones I dont go to regularly but none of mine have gotten to that trend!

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Remember that the ‘sell by” date on extracts is often so the *package * still looks it’s best on the shelf–it’s one thing you’re safe to buy in bulk. Just keep it in a not-hot place and the Costco sizevsnil k a will do fine.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Oh boy… I think I need a new phone. This is happening consistently now even after a reboot. That last sentence should have been that the Costco size would survive fine.

        1. Loopy*

          This is super good to know about extracts. I get so nervous around sell by dates when others are eating my baked goods. I never want to be that person who gets others sick!

  39. Swantastic*

    I was diagnosed this week with Raynaud’s disease. Anyone else have or advice? Tips on staying warm?

    1. Not All*

      I was diagnosed with it in high school (so several decades ago). My doctor recommends an aspirin a day in winter (talk to yours before starting obviously). I wear SmartWool socks always or the Costco equivalent, pre-warm my bed with an electric blanket, and have a pile of cats on my feet on the couch lol

      I do find that it makes a big difference how much I move so I make a point of getting up at least once an hour at work and getting the blood flowing by running up & down the stairs for a couple minutes. I started doing that when I injured my back but noticed it helps with the circulation as well.

    2. Sutemi*

      For me, a baby aspirin 4-5 times a week greatly reduces my Raynaud’s symptoms.
      If you are a cyclist, then bar mitts for your handlebars greatly extend the cold weather biking season.

    3. Not A Manager*

      For me, it’s very important not to get my hands or feet wet or even damp in chilly weather.

    4. Reba*

      Glove liners! Glove liners. Silk or poly, and buy decent gloves one size up. The layering makes a huge difference for me. That is, light gloves with a liner are better than heavy duty mittens alone.
      Smartwool socks for life and sheepskin booties for slippers.

    5. Colder*

      An electric blanket on my ice cold feet at bedtime has helped the most for me. Also wool socks and Crocs with the fuzzy inside for walking around my house. A pair of thin gloves when digging in the freezer also helps. My doc also said to avoid coming in from outside and blasting your hands with hot water. Hot water is bad, warm water is OK, I believe. And I don’t know if this is totally true, but a podiatrist told me that your brain/body can’t tell the difference between cold hands and feet so keeping your feet warm can help with cold hands. I use a space heater and fingerless gloves at work to help with both. Oh, and mittens for outdoors, not gloves. They make giant fluffy socks called Heat Holders I believe but the electric blanket works better for me. And if you wear slippers inside, they also make some with battery packs to heat your feet up. They are pricey but they work pretty well when I’m visiting someone with a much colder house than mine.

    6. EN*

      I just bought some rechargable heated insoles to wear in my boots. They have a charging cable just like a phone so you can plug them in when you take your shoes off and have them ready for the next time you’re headed out.

    7. Jules the First*

      Hands or feet or both?

      Fingerless gloves help keep your hands warmer and maintain circulation in your fingers without affecting dexterity. I like ones with a thumb rather than just a thumb opening. I keep a pair in my handbag, a pair in my desk, and a pair next to the fridge. I hate wearing socks so I use the same principle on my feet – legwarmers keep my feet toasty – but plenty of other people use slippers or socks.

      I have silk liner gloves with touchscreen fingers that I wear inside my outdoor mittens so I don’t go straight from mittens to no mittens – I find the total temperature difference matters less than the speed of temperature change.

      If I’m out hiking or skiing for the day, I’ll throw a couple of snap and go handwarmers in my bag in case things get chillier. I also have real sheepskin liners for my winter riding boots which is the warmest my feet have ever been.

      Layers are great, as are hot water bottles (warm up the sheets before you slide in or thaw your toes after an outdoor walk), and if you ever get the chance, underfloor heating :)

    8. DrTheLiz*

      My Grandma had this! She got mittens and those little clicky hand heater pads, then put the heat pad in the mitten. (Also works for socks if you’re just on a sofa).

    9. Alex*

      Good slippers. Try to avoid getting your hands/feet cold in the first place–don’t ever walk around barefoot! For very cold days, I have those foot warmer insoles to wear in my shoes. I keep a small heating pad at work in case of an attack, although for me it is usually worse at night. I also got myself a heated mattress pad so my feet never have to be cold when I get into bed. I turn it on about a half hour before bed so it is toasty when I get in, and then I read or watch TV for a while before turning it off and going to sleep.

    10. Chaordic One*

      Wearing sweaters helps. I use thermal insoles in my shoes. They’re not heated insoles, but they are supposed to provide a barrier between your feet and the cold ground as well as to reflect your body’s heat back to your feet. They seem to work well for me.

      Although I haven’t actually used them I’m seriously considering buying a heated keyboard and mouse for use with my computers. If you work in an office I would think that most workplaces would provide these for you as a reasonable accommodation.

  40. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Friend had her baby 5 weeks early. We’re excited the baby’s here–and we want to visit as soon as our friend is ready–but what’s the best thing to do now/expect? (I’ve never been around premature babies before, though I’ve held full-term 3-week-olds and 8-week-olds before).

    Oddly, it’s also her first child. What causes premature births in 1st time pregnancies? I’ve heard of 1st pregnancies being overdue, but never premature…

    1. Enough*

      There are all sorts of reasons. Stress, infections, structural issues. Sister in law had 3 kids and they were all early. The last was at 29 1/2 weeks. But all turned out well. He turned 29 in December and has 2 kids if his own.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Any pregnancy can be premature.

      You don’t hold preemies usually. They often in incubators and you can sometimes but a hand in but it’s rare for anyone who isn’t a parent to be allowed around them because they are in NICU.

      My friend had preemie twins and they were in NICU for 4 months.

    3. Lilysparrow*

      Did the baby come home already? They may be back & forth to the hospital for a while if Baby needs extra time.

      Offering to bring healthy hot meals they can eat on the go, drive them back & forth, run errands or do laundry would all be great if they are playing NICU tag right now.

    4. Knitter*

      My friend recently gave birth to her 1st 6 weeks early. The baby spent just under two weeks in the hospital. They were told by the doctor not to let anyone visit until at least the original due date. Even then, I wouldn’t expect to hold the baby. My friend had to feed on a much more regular schedule, so she had very little time anything other than that.

      I think a few things that might be helpful now would be sending over premie clothes (because she wouldn’t have bought any…) and pre-made food. Also, maybe occasional text messages to ask how she’s doing without being pushy about meeting the baby.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      When my son was born early all but one of the women I met in hospital were first time mothers. I would guess that it might even be most common in a first pregnancy as subsequent ones would be more monitored.
      If the premature birth was unexpected it can be quite traumatic; many mothers find it hard to celebrate their child’s birthday because of the memories. I knew my son would be premature 4 months in advance and I was born at 34 weeks myself but there were still moments. They are so little and fragile.
      Your friend may not be able to have visitors because of infection risk to the baby.
      Preemies may have trouble eating so she might be getting even less sleep than you’d expect with a newborn.
      Preemie size clothes and diapers might be a nice gift.
      If you visit don’t focus on how tiny the baby is (there’s only so many times you want to hear that he’s ‘like a little doll’).
      Expect the baby to be sleepier — mine slept all the time until his due date. It’s a worry rather than a good thing as you have to keep waking them up to make sure they eat enough.
      Bring healthy hearty food that can be eaten one handed. Also some unhealthy stuff too.

    6. Anona*

      If you visit, keep it brief (like a half hour or less) unless they indicate otherwise. I had a baby 5 months ago and it was so hard having longer visits, unless they were doing chores and didn’t need to be entertained.
      If the baby still needs to stay in the hospital, they’re probably driving back and forth a bunch, so bringing them dinner or giving them a gift card for food or gas would probably be appreciated.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      Actually, from observation, the first one is often premature. I think it’s just more complications the first time around.

    8. Namey McNameface*

      My first baby came a month early. There was no known reason for it, and my second baby came on time. Just one of those things I guess.

      It’s likely parents are fanatic about hygiene, so make sure you wash your hands as soon as you arrive at their place. After having my firstborn in special care nursery – where everyone had to scrub themselves up to their elbows – it drove me crazy no one bothered to wash hands before handling baby the moment we got home.

      Keep your visits brief (max half hour) unless parents specify otherwise. Only hold baby if they say yes. First time parents go a bit crazy about warding off germs and when your firstborn is a preemie you tend to be even more hypervigilent.

      Side note, my friend once let me hold her 2 month prem baby. I was scared shitless I might break her. Baby was smaller than my daughter’s doll and honestly looked like she would snap if mishandled!

    9. swingbattabatta*

      My firstborn was six weeks early because I got sick, and they forcibly evicted her so I wouldn’t… ya know… die. There can be all sorts of causes. If the baby isn’t in the NICU, then just act the way you would with any other baby. Be helpful, don’t stay too long, etc etc. If the baby is in the NICU, you cannot go unless you are healthy, and visits will be much, much shorter.

      Ask your friend what she needs! Snacks, errands, preemie clothes, etc etc. We were so, so unprepared (nothing in our house was ready yet), and my husband really needed someone to hang with me and help me out while he got things ready at home.

    10. JayneRayne*

      Mine was 5 weeks early. The culprit? Severe pre-eclampsia. Baby was a champ and avoided the NICU, so I got to bring her home when I was discharged. Other than the fact that she was super tiny, she was just like any other newborn. If friend is up for visitors, just ask what they need. We ended up needing newborn onsies/sleepers and preemie size diapers, so visitors who brought those were given first dibs on holding the little. We also insisted that anyone visiting had to be up to date on both their flu and TDap vaccines. Congratulations to your friend!

      PS: If they’re not up for visitors, ask about ordering them food to be delivered. Not having to worry about meals is the best!

    11. deesse877*

      One thing you can do is be aware that other people can be weird about preemies sometimes. If the baby doesn’t look cute yet (skinny, wrinkly), or if there was a dramatic medical intervention, some will either just behave awkwardly, or actually assume the child is disabled (like CP or intellectual disability) and be cold or standoffish on that basis. So just being vocally real happy, and excited to hold the baby and so on can help. I hope this isn’t your friends’ situation, but if it is, just be super overt about the happy feels. Friends of mine had a very…ET-looking preemie, and it was just devastating to them that people were not welcoming their child.

    12. Kate R. Pillar*

      My first also was early by almost exactly 5 weeks. No rhyme or reason, just happened as a total surprise. Our daughter had to stay in hospital for 15 days, and I was pumping, hormonal, constantly driving to and fro and exhausted and missing her. Visits would have mostly stressed me out, because our apartment was in chaos – neither of us had the strength to do much in terms of household maintenance. By day 8 or so, we did get it together enough for our closest friends and the midwife to visit, because with both of them there was no expectation of the house being perfect, and we did not have to shop (friends brought cake, midwife expected no sustenance).
      Most helpful during that time were friends who brought easily-prepared meals, and who picked up (from our list) the small odds and ends that were still missing from our nursery, because we had planned on having at least two more weeks to prepare (thankfully, we had already made it to IKEA two days before her unplanned arrival!).
      Preemie clothes may be needed or not – our daughter already fit in the smallest regular newborn clothing when she was born.

    13. LawBee*

      Get your shots! Get alllllllll your shots. Preemies are super susceptible. And don’t be surprised or hurt if your friend doesn’t allow visitors for a long time. Enjoy the pictures and then when baby’s immune system is up to it, enjoy baby.

  41. Be the Change*

    I don’t *think* this is work-related, it’s certainly not for me: Can someone explain why the Coast Guard is not part of the Department of Defense, when they ARE in fact a military branch? (They are Homeland Security and previously Department of Transportation.)

    My sibling is CG and was thoroughly pissed off at USAA for being douchebags to the Coast Guard during this shutdown while they were falling all over themselves to help DoD branches during a past shutdown scare. So I wondered what the history is behind that categorization.

    Obviously if this is work-related or too touchy, please remove or stop the convo Alison!!

      1. Not All*

        Really? Because I had an AWFUL experience with them and consider them the absolute dregs of the insurance industry. They market themselves well, but they sure treat divorcees like shit.

        1. Pippa*

          Oh I’m sorry to hear that! I’ve had them for years and am divorced and they’ve been fantastic. (Maybe it helped that I was the original member, not my spouse?) I guess no big company is without its shortcomings. :-(

    1. Enough*

      Don’t know but the WIKI page is interesting. Apparently it was in Treasury before Transportation. I suspect it was political. My dad’s first job was with the FAA on loan from the Coast Guard (1960). Then he was with the Coast Guard and finally just FAA.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Coast Guard in house is “Homeland Security” during war time it transfers to Navy control.

      Long story short is, it’s budgetary bullsht.

    3. OyHiOh*

      Short version is, because the Coast Guard performs law enforcement functions (many CG’s attend federal law enforcement training academies), they have to be separate from “the military” due to Constitutional controls.

        1. Government Mule*

          Yes, Navy ships doing drug interdictions must have a CG officer aboard to handle the law enforcement aspects.

    4. Penguin*

      The CG was originally created to go after pirates (who were having a MAJOR impact on the newly-formed USA and its cash flows) in the 18th century. If I recall rightly, the military was busy dealing with the repercussions of secession, what with the British Empire being somewhat reluctant to let one of their major colonies wander off on their own, and when the Treasury Secretary asked for help to protect shipping the Defense Secretary was all “Sorry, can’t help” so Treasury went and created their own organization to… encourage various piratical groups to leave American ships the heck alone.

      I can’t speak to more modern aspects, but I’d imagine that starting point has had a lot to do with the CG being handled differently from the DoD groups- different authorities, different resources available, differences in oversight, applicable laws, etc. all probably affected how things worked out to where they are now.

    5. Be the Change*

      Interesting, all that. The current effect is that the CG is the ugly duckling and will never be a swan.

      USAA, last time a shutdown threatened military paychecks, but did not stop paychecks, was all “$6000 loans, no questions asked, no credit checks, we got ya backs, soldiers and sailors!” … this time when the Coast Guard was actually not paid, USAA refused help to anyone with less than a certain very good credit score, which of course then dinged people again because a credit check was run. (Maybe Wilbur Ross and USAA CEO had brunch?) The $15 million that USAA then gifted to Coast Guard relief was too little, too late.

      My sib is so angry that they’re taking their money out of USAA.

  42. The Other Dawn*

    H&R Block tax program question. I know I can ask them, but I figured I’d ask here first in case someone knows.

    I got a schedule K-1 (Beneficiary’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.) from my sister for my dad’s estate, which was settled last year. I know it’s supposed to go on my taxes. I’m using H&R Block’s tax pro review software. It tells me there are three types of K-1s: Estate, LLC/partnership and S corp. It then tells me where it should go in the program, but when I go there, the only options are LLC/partnership or S corp. Any ideas as to where it goes? Is it a glitch in the program? Or can I pick one of those two options?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would reach out to H&R support. You may need another version (is pro the highest tier they offer? A lot of those services require you to buy up with Schedule Ks or other specialty forms so I’m suspecting an Estate Schedule K is in a buy up option…)

      Miscategorizing can lead to an audit flag.

    2. Enough*

      Been awhile but I believe income on it gets put with the same types of income/deductions on your tax form. So add capital gains to yours, and interest income to yours, etc. It’s kind of like getting a 1099 from investments.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks. I noticed that there is something on the back of the form that tells me which lines and schedules to use for the numbers provided, but there’s no way of designating that within the program. I’ll have to call.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Solidarity fist bumps. HR block program is currently messing up my state return and thinks I owe money, when in reality it’s missing the amount that was withheld and is reported on my w2. I’m still pending some forms, so for now I’ve made a note and will revisit it later. There is supposed to be an update Feb 1, so currently hoping that fixes it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yeah I think there’s something weird going on with the program. The correct K-1 is now there, but my itemized deductions are about 12k less than last year and I can’t figure out why since the numbers that tie into it are slightly higher than last year.

    5. nonegiven*

      When I got a K-1 from closing and distributing a trust we had to file a schedule D and a schedule E

  43. LuJessMin*

    Two things – one good, one not so good
    1) Government is open! My sister can get paid! Yay!
    2) I need to listen to my instincts when it comes to selling on eBay. I sold a perfectly nice wall clock to a diva who kept asking questions, telling me to pack it carefully (if anything, I overpack), and now she wants to return it because in her words “it doesn’t match my description.” I knew I should have cancelled the sale after the third message. Oh, well.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh at least she wants to return it. That kind of person tends to scam you, “It’s broken! Refund meeeeee, I’ll charge back” And you never get it back.

    2. WellRed*

      I had someone keeping asking me a gazillion questions about a pair of vintage school desks I was selling on FB marketplace. Like, he wanted to know how many inched between the seat and the desk. I had to send pictures, and more pictures. Then he realized I was two hours away and hinted around about me driving them up there. I didn’t respond to his last message and sold them later to a lovely woman who wanted them, no questions, no hassle, full price and she drove an hour to meet me. I had a feeling the other guy would nickel and dime me over the price.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I had something similar with craigslist. I was selling a mattress and had posted multiple photos and a detailed description. Two people contacted me – one asked question and after question. After I answered the first question, I said, “You can come look at it if you want,” and stopped answering questions.

        The other came to the house, looked at the mattress, said, “I’ll take it. Here’s the money,” (about $50, I think) took it, and left.

        I am not going to tie myself in knots for $50! I just wanted it out of the house.

    3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Yes. I had a bad experience selling an expensive vintage toy – warned it was in the box, not tested (electronic) and priced accordingly. The shipping was outrageous (it was heavy and awkward). I had to do a full refund (which meant I was out the $60 for the shipping to him). I elected not to have it returned and asked him to sell it for the parts. To his credit, he did refund me the money he got for selling it to the local hobby group for the parts. It was $60. I broke even.
      Now, I am more careful about my language.
      But they are super clear that if it “doesn’t match the description” even if you’ve checked “no refunds/returns” they can force you to take the return and do the refund. “Doesn’t match the description” seems to be the item folks pick when they want a refund. (I have “no returns accepted” checked on all of mine… I’m not a store).

    4. Nita*

      Can you do that – cancel a paid-for sale because you think the buyer is sketchy? I’ve only found out a buyer is a problem after shipping, but curious what the options are if I’m getting that impression in advance.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I had a terrible experience with my first sale on Poshmark. The buyer, in her one star reveiw, said the shoes were ‘broken’ – literally the word she used. Obviously they weren’t broken. She also kept the shoes when she could have returned them no questions asked, Poshmark policy.

        Poshmark, at least at that time, would not let sellers contest a buyer’s review – no arbitration, whatever the buyer says stands. Yet they charge a commission. This is not craigslist. I immediately closed my account – horribly to pay a commission and get zero protection from outright lies. You could see from the photos the shoes weren’t broken, as I pointed out to them. I got a ridiculous ‘we know it’s disappointing’ when I remonstrated with the policy.

        I’ve sold a few things on Tradsey and it’s pretty good.

    5. Mrs. Fenris*

      I sold a set of vintage books on Amazon once. They belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It was a 10-volume set that was printed in the 30s. My listing said “Volumes 5 and 9 are missing. Some damage to covers due to age.” The publication date was already in the listing, as Amazon does, and I confirmed that it was the date for my set.

      About a month after I shipped them, I got an email from the buyer: “I was just wondering if you had volume 5? Also I thought this was the edition from the 50s.” That wouldn’t have bugged me much, but she had CC’d it to Amazon as a complaint. My reply: “As stated in the listing, volumes 5 and 9 are missing. The listing also gives the publication date as 1937. I have attached a link to the original listing below. I apologize for any confusion.” Come on, dummy, read the listing!

  44. Sam Sepiol*

    Just to say thank you to everyone who commented last week on my post about random bar guy who kissed my cheek after I had the audacity to make eye contact with him. I only replied to one or two comments but read and appreciated them all. The support, and the fact no one minimised it, meant a lot <3

  45. Stephanie*

    Suggestions for somewhere to take a short (5-6 days) vacation in the late winter/early spring? I live in the Midwest, so somewhere warm would be appreciated. Live near large international airport that’s a Delta hub, so can easily fly most places in North America (maybe South America?) Western Europe. Prefer cities to explore (versus like a week-long camping trip). Will probably be traveling alone (I’m female). Unfortunately, I only speak English, so somewhere that is English-speaking or where I can stumble along with a guide book.

    1. Max Kitty*

      If you want to go as far as Europe for such a short trip, maybe Amsterdam. I roamed all over by myself while my husband was at a conference and really enjoyed it. Had no troubles getting around or with language. It won’t be warm, but spring is tulip season.

      Charleston, SC
      New Orleans
      San Diego
      San Juan, Puerto Rico