weekend free-for-all – April 25-26, 2020

all 6 cats

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 Inn at Lake Devine, by Elinor Lipman. A Jewish teenager in the ’60s begins a decades-long fixation on a Vermont inn and the family that runs it (including an anti-Semitic mother and two intriguing sons).

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

{ 1,614 comments… read them below }

  1. Official non-secrets act*

    I know it’s such a first world problem, but I do so miss being able to plan for the long term. Having fun things to look forward to used to be a great source of joy, be it a vacation or even a weekend at the cinema. Now I am just living life one day at a time and it’s a total drag.

    1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      I really love planning vacations. Deciding what to do, getting good deals, organizing gear and clothes, arranging meals, finding good maps. I would be starting to dream about now, normally. Yellowstone sounds amazing. But there isn’t much point when we don’t have even a general idea what the future will look like in a few months. Can’t find a great deal on plane tickets and plan around wherever they go. Just have to wait this mess out, however long it takes.

      Total drag.

      1. OtterB*

        Yep. Had a family vacation planned to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone at the end of July. I just canceled it this week. Maybe next year.

      2. AVP*

        ugh, same. Even if we do get a vacation in 2020, it’ll be planned at the last second and there goes half the fun!

    2. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I hear you. I am a planner and I’m still doing a bit of it but nothing substantial. More like, what activity to do on x day to pass the time. It’ll pass eventually and hopefully painlessly.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah. It’s like, how far out do I have to look before I can have something to look forward to?

      There’s a bunch of online stuff, but online stuff doesn’t actually give me a break from my regular things. I spent a lot of today at a virtual filk con, but yet I still had to cook all of my own meals, walk the dog, and do laundry. I usually build my year around which conventions I’m attending, and now it’s all nope, virtual, and ???, waiting to see when various states extend their no-gathering rules far enough that things still on the maybe list get cancelled.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I feel you, I’m a planner as well!

        Right now, I’m focusing that planning urge on a container garden. It helps some, but I’d still rather be planning my big wedding/honeymoon. (We’re doing a small backyard wedding now.)

    4. Julia*

      I get it. :( If you like books are games, those seem to still be released on schedule and digitally, so maybe mark some of your favorite authors’ new books or a new game on your calendar to look forward to?

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m looking forward to the annotated version of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” that’s coming out in, I believe, June.

        1. Julia*

          Awesome! I snagged a limited edition ice cream (jasmine milk tea) on our weekly (nerve-wracking) grocery trip last night that I look forward to eating on the balcony when we have the next nice day, and will place a giant Uniqlo order for the family with their new Pokémon shirts, including one for my kid niece so we can match. (She loved Pokémon now, yeah!)
          (I live in Japan, in case you are wondering where all that stuff can be bought.)

          1. allathian*

            I love jasmine tea, so jasmine milk tea ice cream sounds heavenly! Enjoy it when you can.

            1. Julia*

              Thank you! I had too much veggie carbonara for lunch (a rare treat here), so maybe not today.

    5. pugs for all*

      I agree so much with this. It is very difficult to have nothing specific to look forward to.

    6. PB*

      I hear you. Related, it’s really tough not having something to look forward to. In the past, during rough times, I could say, “Well, at least I have that vacation in ____ next month!” Now, the months just stretch on.

      I’ve channeled some of that energy into planning walking routes in my neighborhood, especially places where I can easily socially distance. I’ve lived here four years, and only just learned that there are ruins of a ghost town nearby! I plan to check them out on the next sunny day.

    7. LeahS*

      I am one of those people that really has to make myself do things in order to have fun doing them… I am an outgoing introvert I guess? I got a lot of anxiety beforehand. But all of this HAS really made me miss making plans! I feel your pain. I gotta go and live it up when this is all over I suppose.

      I can’t wait until you can plan your vacation or make weekend plans. It has hard to have a source of pure happiness taken away and I feel for you.

    8. LQ*

      I feel this a lot. I wasn’t even planning things that were THAT fun. No giant vacation of a lifetime things. Just brunch with a friend. Or dinner out. Or looking forward to the food trucks coming out in spring. Or the first farmers market. Or casual walk along the river with a friend.

      Nothing. Now it’s just endless nothing.

    9. C Average*

      My ex-mother-in-law, whom I miss, often says that people need three things in order to be happy: something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.

      As in so many things, she is right.

    10. Canuck girl*

      I hear you, 100%. Not a first world problem imo, nothing to be ashamed of that you’re missing. I miss not being able to plan outings for live shows, concerts, comedy clubs and dance clubs. Vacation planning is a given. I had a little self-indulgence getaway in January for one night and I am so grateful I splurged and did it…boutique hotel, spa, winery tour. I overspent and now regret nothing lol.

      1. allathian*

        I’m also very happy that we got to go see Bryan Adams in March, the last weekend before shelter-in-place. Now public gatherings of more than ten people are banned…

    11. Windchime*

      It’s hard, for sure. We do an annual family vacation every year with all 10 of us. It’s one of the only times that we know for sure we will all be together; usually we just rent a house at the beach and hang out for a couple of days. It’s at the end of August this year, and people are already wondering if we are going to have to cancel. I hope not, but I guess we’ll find out as time goes on.

    12. Pennalynn Lott*

      Last year, I planned out and made reservations for Memorial Day Weekend. The event I was planning everything around has been canceled. Hopefully I get a refund.

      I also paid for a 4-day weekend of summer camp for adults in mid-June. Pretty sure that won’t be happening, either. The prospect of sleeping in bunk beds a big room full of strangers suddenly doesn’t seem like a smart idea.

      I had wanted to plan travel for events I October and December but now I don’t know if they’ll be taking place or if it will be safe.

      I guess the good news is that I’m saving a few thousand dollars by not going anywhere.

    13. KristinaL*

      I’ve been thinking about planning things as far as figuring out what hotels are nearby, what route I’d take, where I’ll go when I get there. That would at least give me a head start later.

    14. Nessun*

      I hear you- I have a ton of vacation I have to take in July/August, and no way to plan for it – a month of time where u can’t figure out where to be or what to do…gonna and up with a lot of empty days to fill up later. It’s definitely a first world still-employed problem, but it’s frustrating to not be able to work out a plan and it makes the time less fun to contemplate.

    15. Rexish*

      I know!

      I need to apply my summer annual leave next week. I have 4 weeks for the summer but no desire to put them down anywhere.

    16. Alexandra Lynch*

      We were in the middle of a move and saying, “Okay, after we move, we can go to a jewelry store and look for the engagement ring,” and now…. yeah.

      Yes, we could order something I like online. It’s Not The Same, damnit. (sigh)

    17. matcha123*

      This has been my life for decades: Only living for day to day…not making long-term plans…
      And, no, it’s not fun.
      For me, I am glad that a lot more people get to experience this. It’s NOT fun at all, and in my case at least, it’s tied to money and not having the flexibility that comes with it. If more people understand how restrictive and crappy life is when you don’t have the freedom to move around, I would hope that once things get better that they would have more compassion for those around them that are struggling (not saying OP doesn’t).

      1. Upstater-ish*

        Yeah I was married to an alcoholic. I can’t get excited until the trip, event whatever is happening.

      2. call centre bee*

        I was trying to figure out why this thread seemed so foreign to me, lol. I’m poor, I don’t have things to look forward to whether there’s corona or not!

    18. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I miss not having to plan EVERYTHING! I feel bad for going to the store for one thing, so I try not to. Well, I finished painting my room yesterday and discovered that while I have 2 curtain rods for the 2 windows, they don’t match. I need to go to the store to 1 curtain rod (that matches either of the 2 I have), then the unneeded 3rd will be used in the next room up for painting which only has 1 window.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      It’s a gorgeous picture – so lovely that they all feel comfortable enough to sleep together!

  2. Free Meerkats*

    Mom is now in the skilled care facility. Unfortunately, the first hospital sent her phone back to her and the USPS has been sending it all over Central MO so we can’t call her right now. But my brother said she’s doing well.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Good news about your mom’s health–may that continue!
      Can you somehow get her another phone (prepaid plan, maybe?) for short-term use until her regular phone turns up?

    2. NoLongerYoung*

      Very glad to hear that the transition went as well as it could? And it sounds like you are home (although phone is lost…)

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      I will check this out tomorrow–too tired right now to be a good audience–but sight unseen I want to reciprocate by mentioning Randy Rainbow, satirist, singer & human encyclopedia of Broadway musicals. Please accept apologies if he’s too political for this blog and no offense if you delete my comment.
      Anyway, have a good evening. I’ll show myself out.

      1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

        I LOVE Randy!
        Do you know about Dustin & Genevieve? They do some amazing parodies. My very favorite is the Adele Hello parody, tho my daughters fab is Donut Drunk.
        They both have fantastic voices.
        The do some political parodies, but that is not their main focus.

      2. Quiet Liberal*

        Yes! I “discovered” Mr. Rainbow after I heard him interviewed by Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR. After that interview, I just had to look him up. Hilarious!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll throw a dance video back at you– “Phenom” by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Not my usual listen, but I really like what they did with the format. They did this with Zoom, and the dance moves across frames. Seriously.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I missed Phantom of the Opera last week but I watched Twelfth Night this afternoon. I saw The Royal Opera House has opera broadcasts on YouTube as well.

  3. Jaid*

    My low grade fever came back, along with a cough, so I finally got to get tested. It kinda reminded me of a Pap smear…

    In better news, Asian places have finally started to re-open in my neighborhood, so I can get my egg rolls. And before I hear about making my own… BWAHAHAHAHA. No. I will gladly pay someone else to do that for me.

    But it looks like I’m gonna have to start playing with the damn supermarket apps again…

    1. LeahS*

      EGG ROLL WIN!

      Let me know if you need help with the apps, I’m good at figuring that type of stuff out. Hope you feel better soon!

    2. LGC*

      Oh man, I’m so sorry! Both that the fever and cough came back, but also that you have to fight for a slot on the apps. The tough thing is that the slots seem to open up around 2-3 AM? Or even at a random time in the early morning? (I’m East Coast US, so I’m not sure if this would differ for you.)

      If they’ll let you change your order, I’d just fill the cart with stuff to placehold, and then do a last-minute change.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      I single-handedly got my favorite chinese restaurant to use UberEats because, frankly, I would rather not eat at all than not have the steamed duck buns (well, I asked nicely if they would do delivery and they agreed, but I’ll take the win).

      Seriously, they’re so good. Crispy duck in a fluffy lotus bun. I have quite literally lived on those and chocolate ice cream at times.

    4. Jaid*

      I’m in Philly, and my go-to store is ShopRite. I’m getting a delivery on Friday! I went online around 12 midnight and got the slot. I’m stocking up on seltzer, snacks and kitty litter (I already have fruits and veggies in the freezer). Fortunately, I got 50 bucks of cat food last week so my cat will be fine.

      And thanks, guys! I don’t feel horrible, other than a small cough and fatigue when I exert myself and my temp spikes. I can be at 97.6 in the morning and 99.3 after a tepid shower. :-(

      1. LGC*

        OH MAN

        I’m from Jersey (yes, I’m plague-infested, thanks for asking), so I’ve heard a ton about how bananas it is getting a slot for ShopRite. You got insanely lucky getting a slot!

        My local go-to is Stop & Shop (which I think goes by Giant in PA), and their service (Peapod) is…intense. I’ve gotten on at midnight and slots two weeks out are booked in my area. I did manage to snag a slot a few weeks ago. But I just ended up admitting defeat and hauling myself to the store on a weekly basis.

        1. Jaid*

          Giant, yes.

          I redid my order after realizing I’m going to need more fruits and veggies the week AFTER.

          1. Penny Parker*

            My son bought a lot of groceries yesterday with delivery from a delivery service (I am so looking forward to the corned beef brisket!) and we ordered from our local, family owned, grocery store. They have done so many things right that I don’t think I will go anywhere else even after this ends, and we have an Aldi’s across the street from the local store.

          2. TexasTeacher*

            Thing is, if a store doesn’t carry everything on your list, you end up going to multiple places, increasing the risk. So, for me, that means HEB in Texas is where I’m headed.

          3. Nye*

            We primarily do, but there are a few necessities that we just can’t get at our town’s General Store or the local produce place. But we shop locally when at all possible. Most of our small businesses are much safer than the supermarket (fewer people, curbside service, etc). Plus it’s nice to know we’re supporting family-owned businesses.

  4. Venus*

    How does your garden grow?

    I am worried about my tomato seedlings as one variety are pale and shriveling. Did I use too much light? I’ve turned it off more the past few days.

    We may finally stop getting snow. I may be able to work in the garden tomorrow without freezing. I’m feeling lucky!

    1. NeverNicky*

      It’s doing well. Here in the UK we’ve had a dry, warm and sunny spring (unheard of to have so fee April showers) so things are really taking off.

      I bought a number of perennials and some tomato plants from a local nursery doing online sales and the last of the perennials are going in today. I’m hardening off the tomato plants after repotting – I have one of each of three different varieties. One is already trying to flower.

      Herb seedlings are generally doing well although the mint and oregano are being slow to germinate.

      1. Batgirl*

        I know, how lovely is this unlikely weather? I even bought a special cheery umbrella, as is my pre-spring tradition.

    2. Hazy Days*

      My garden is a daily delight at the moment (I’m in the UK, in East Anglia). It’s full of scented billows of plants – cerinthe major, bluebells, stocks, and coronilla valentina below, ceanothus at eye level, and then the trees coming into leaf high above. It’s very much a woodland garden, and the light comes in at this low spring angle and lights up the leaves.

      I’ve been able to do plenty of very short weeding sessions, and while there’s plenty more to do, I can see the results.

      My seedlings are coming on – I found enough seed compost at the end of the garden, and scrounged up enough seed trays – and I’m germinating them in the boiler cupboard.

      My biggest problem at the moment (apart from ground elder) is that the labels have washed off two seed trays. I’ve deduced that one of them is the giant form of the species and one the usual small form – but I have no way of telling which should go at the back of a border and which at the front!

      1. NeverNicky*

        I’m in East Anglia too Hazy Days and your garden sounds delightful. We have a number of mature trees and the dappled shade from them is lovely.

        1. Hazy Days*

          Hasn’t it been lovely! What are your tomato varieties? I have heard of a couple of informal sources but don’t know if I’ll be able to get my preferred varieties.

          1. NeverNicky*

            I have one each of Marmande, Gardener’s Delight and Honeycomb. The nursery that I got them from had to stop deliveries as a staff member has Covid-19 but I think others are still open – I found info on social media. Our nearest places are closed but this still pretty close.

      2. Gilmore67*

        Yay for spring flowers!!

        I got some flowers from a friend last fall and they are coming up ! My first Primrose came up a couple of days ago and more more are coming.

        My lilies area all showing their little heads and I have more shoots coming up every year.

        I have a bunch of other stuff coming up and dang if I can remember what some are ! I have the little tags but failed to remember which plant is what ! I can’t wait to see them. Some I know some I don’t.

        Note to self: Make a diagram of of the garden and write which plant is what and/or put a little wooden stick right by the plant to identify it.

        No worries and who cares !! Flowers are coming up great !! Love them all !!

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Went for a walk today (my state is allowing that), and I was happy about seeing dandelions blooming, and someone who lives on a corner of my usual route planted tulips. Also, some of the trees have little green leaves finally. Spring has sprung!

      3. Wired Wolf*

        We have a small courtyard on one side of our building that we want to do something with–a neighbor bought a few plastic chairs and we’re currently in talks with the management about whether we can do anything (possibly trade upkeep of the space for a rent credit as that would add value to the property–they can advertise a “yard”).

        In the apartment we have chives, a few geranium cuttings in water, potted geraniums, a tiny abused pot of clover that has lasted way longer than it should, a Christmas cactus, two cannabis plants and I just planted an assortment of hot peppers. A friend has put forth the idea of grafting the hot pepper and cannabis plants… I tried to root some scallion ends, but didn’t label the container and I think my mom threw it out by mistake :(

    3. Retail not Retail*

      The grass in the yard is popping up and crowding out the weeds except for the clover. We mowed on tuesday morning and the dandelions are doing their thing.

      Work planting has ground to a halt as we have no money so we’re on weed containment and mowing and cleaning up gumballs. There’s just so many!

      1. Retail not Retail*

        I forgot about wild onions. They smell better than chameleon weed but I’m still traumatized by one day in July when the bags were full of weeds and baking in the sun and had wild onions mixed in.

        I couldn’t figure out why I was smelling them until I remembered I brought my shoes from yesterday inside.

        You’re not really gardening if you’re not filthy!

    4. Likethecity*

      Tomato and potato seedlings are doing well (potatoes are in a new “tower” contraption so I can see growth already) and onions have sprouted! I haven’t been able to get much else in because I was waiting for this weekend since we just passed our supposed last frost day…and now we’re having a cold front and severe thunderstorms today, along with rain and cold temperatures for the first few days of the coming week.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not a garden, but plant-y: I am sort of notoriously black-thumbed. Several years ago when my gran passed, I took an aloe plant from her windowsill as a remembrance. I gave a snip of it to my housemate’s mom – mine died, but hers thrived. She gave me back a snip of it a few months ago to try again and it’s just not doing well. It’s not growing, it’s kinda brownish and floppy.

      It is in a window where it gets lots of indirect light. Usually I spritz it a couple times with a spray bottle once a week because in the past I’ve overwatered – I haven’t even done that the last couple weeks because the internet suggested brown and floppy meant overwatering and it needed to dry out, but no change. Any other suggestions I might try, or is this one doomed too until quarantine lifts and I can take a third whack at not killing my gran’s plant?

      1. Likethecity*

        Hmmmm…from what I know about aloe plants, it still may be overwatered. I found an article on almanacdotcom that has a lot of good information. I didn’t try to link because I never get it to work correctly but if you go to that website and search for aloe vera, it’s the second article linked. Hope it helps!

      2. Natalie*

        I get what your thought process was but I don’t think spraying it with water was the right move. Dessert plants like dry air and won’t take up water from misting, at best it does nothing and at worst it damages them.

        Aloes also need an actual watering, just an infrequent one. If you want to try again, you want a container with holes in the bottom so excess water will drain out. Put it in the sink and water thoroughly maybe once a month (keep water off the leaves), then let it sit there to drain before you put it back in its usual spot.

      3. WellRed*

        Aloe? Water it like once a month. It’s a desert plant. Stop spraying it. Give it more direct sun.

      4. Ali G*

        What is it planted in? Succulents don’t do well in regular potting soil because it retains too much water. Also it needs to be in a solid pot – not terracotta because that also holds moisture. It definitely needs to be able to drain fully.

      5. Eponin*

        Also, since aloe is a succulent, try cactus/succulent soil. It drains better and doesn’t hold onto water as much as typical potting soil.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Last year I planted three peony roots and I’m happy to see two of the three growing. I want to buy a peony bush to replace the one that didn’t grow, but I can’t remember what color I planted last year and I didn’t save the packaging.

      Last year I demolished my large garden, because there was a ton of grass and weeds, as well as wild garlic and other things I didn’t want. I figured I’d just start over this year. Well, I had back surgery and now I can’t do anything with it. It’s kind of depressing to see some grass and weeds coming back and there’s nothing I can do about it since I’m not supposed to be doing anything like that yet. I could ask my husband to do it, but it’s a large area and he’s got other things he’s working on. As it is, he will need to do all the mowing and other yard work for the next couple months. I might check into hiring a landscaper to clean it up. Once that’s done, I don’t mind asking my husband to plant some things for me.

      The oregano, sage, and thyme in my raised bed are coming in like crazy. I planted them two years ago and they’re doing very well. I had planned to move them to the large garden I mentioned, but I guess that will need to wait, too.

      1. Anono-me*

        Can your husband dump the lawn clippings from the rest of the mowing over the the bare garden space? If he puts a thick enough layer down, it should help slow down weeds. (And actually it would probably be less work for him then bagging up the grass clippings for the compost collection.)

        Later when the time is right for you, you can just have a landscaper rototill it all together.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      Pale and shriveling seedlings may mean too much water. I’m very excited that the weather should allow for some weeding finally….although also a little sad that pulling weeds has become such a highlight!

    8. Jen Erik*

      My tomato seeds haven’t germinated, and I’m beginning to think they might not. Four of the comfrey have come up in the last couple of days (we thought we’d try and use them to make fertiliser) , so that’s good. The kale seedlings are doing well, I’m putting them out to harden up during the day, and I started potting on the cosmos seedlings yesterday. I bought two intersectional paeonies two years ago, to see if they’d be less work, and they’ve each got a single bud on them, so I’m overexcited about that. I cannot remember which I chose, so I can’t wait.

      The big project – retirement project moved forward to fill in the time – taking up the shady border and putting a path in – is looking really good – as NeverNicky says it’s been unbelievably good weather here in the UK, and it’s great for that kind of work.

    9. Anonymath*

      The passion fruit vines are still blooming like mad, and we’re in for a super crop once the fruit start falling. I think I read that they’re not supposed to grow well in my area, but that person must not have told my plants. Neighbors walking by our side fence keep stopping and pointing at the flowers and fruit.

      Our volunteer cherry tomato plant is not only blooming, but it apparently left seeds across the side yard, so I’m now getting seedlings popping up. We’ve moved a couple of wooden pallets against the fence there to provide something for them to grow on. We can’t grow regular planted tomatoes for anything, so I’m very pleased these volunteers are back for a third year.

      Some sort of caterpillar has found my collards, which are now mostly holes, but the kale is still going. I’m starting to see some butterflies at my dill plants, which I am letting go to flower now.

      1. Natalie*

        Bt is an effective, organic control for many caterpillars and pretty easy to find in a spray form.

          1. Clisby*

            Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used it in powder form to kill tomato/tobacco hornworms and tomato fruitworms. My understanding is that it doesn’t kill pollinators.

          2. Natalie*

            Expanding a little on Clisby’s comment, it’s a species of soil bacteria that is toxic to certain pest larvae but doesn’t affect other insects or animals or humans. (There is one variety that is bad for honeybees but nobody’s selling that one as organic pest control.) Bt has been used for a long time as an organic insecticide, before “organic” was even a distinct thing.

    10. FormerTheatreArtist*

      My pepper sprouts have yet to develop their first set of true leaves, but my tomatoes and nasturtiums are doing very well right next to them! Wondering if it is a smidge too cold or what. It is 5 different varieties of pepper, all with the same issue. I might end up buying pepper plants this year :(
      In other news, my new raised bed should be ready to fill up with soil today!

    11. Ali G*

      Ugh it’s been too cold here and I am having the hardest time hardening off my pepper plants. I just want to get them in the ground already!
      On the plus side, my chives transplanted fine and my milkweed sprouted. I’m hoping they bloom this year.
      I’m super excited that next Monday we are getting our front garden beds redone. Buh-bye overgrown azaleas!!

      1. Wired Wolf*

        Chives can survive anything. We left a pot outside by mistake when it was 30-something degrees and nothing happened.

    12. Emily*

      No garden for me (I live in an apartment with no outdoor space of my own), but my windowsill mint plant is, as always, doing fine. I’m also trying to regrow some green onions in a water glass, although I’m wondering if I should transfer them to a pot at some point (I have one that is currently unused).

    13. pancakes*

      I started my tomatoes too late but they’re doing surprisingly well. Alpine strawberries too. I’ve been using a blue and red LED grow light on days there’s no sun and they seem to like it a lot.

    14. Parenthetically*

      We have a million blossoms AND A TOMATO on our tomato plants! So wild to have such an early start. Carrots, radishes, peas, and beans are up, spinach and lettuce are doing okay, cucumbers haven’t shown their faces yet but we got them in a bit later. It’s such a joy to count the seedlings every day! It’s not warm enough yet for the jalapenos, basil, or tomatoes to really be going, but soon!

      1. Eponin*

        Yes! I have cherry tomatoes and early bigger ones starting too. Plus basil, spearmint, lavender, bee balm, thyme, echinacea, peppers and carrots. Also a pile of seeds planted. Waiting to see what will come up.

    15. orange toes*

      I damaged my two balcony citrus this winter. We generally have mild winters (around 0’C) and I leave them outside. This year I took them in over a cold spell (-12C). That was probably a bit thermal shocky for them. they’ve both dropped all their leaves, but the wood is still green. We’ve had an amazing warm & sunny spring, but no leaves yet. If anyone has citrus experience. (grapefruit and lemon)

    16. MechanicalPencil*

      I have what I think is a bunny stealing bites from ripe strawberries. But the few unmolested strawberries I’ve managed for myself have been divine. Not enough plants to feed my strawberry problem though.

      I have some itty bitty baby spaghetti squash that are adorable. Not to mention two cauliflower heads. And more romaine and spinach than I really know what to do with.

      Snails. Wtf. Need some diatomaceous earth or something to fend them off. Never saw them before and now I have them in some of my planters.

    17. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I made a big start on totally revamping the front garden and then I kind of ran out of steam. I’m going to make myself get back to it tomorrow. I have several shrubs that I want to dig up and get rid of, or move, but the thought of it is making me feel tired already! But I’m sick of the way the front yard looks and this is the most time I’ve had to work on it for ages.

      It’s been very sunny but a bit chilly and windy here so I have not planted anything out yet. I have a ton of little seedlings that I started indoors that are not getting enough light through the window so I might have to start a new round but put them outside. I also have some over-ambitious plans to grow lots of vegetables so I need to actually figure out where the plants can go.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        And, ugh, I was trying to harden off some courgettes that I started too early but I think I may have killed them. :( They are looking very unhappy today. I will leave them inside for a while and see if they recover.

    18. Belgian*

      My clematis is really shooting up and is now almost as tall as I am (167cm)! My blackberry bush is flowering all over so I’m expecting a good harvest.
      I also decided to take advantage of being home all the time and order some plants online to be delivered. I don’t have a car so it’s otherwise hard to buy bigger plants. So now I have a (small) apple tree, raspberry bush and blueberry bush, alongside strawberries and cherry tomatoes on my patio! It’s fun to see it so full of plants.
      I’ve also repotted all my indoor plants as they were all infested with larvae. I took advantage to split up some plants so that I now have 6 extra in my living room :-)

    19. LQ*

      Not a garden but I have a click grow thing and all the seed things for it are being gouged to up for $50/thing so it’s sitting empty. I think I’m going to try to spend a little time the evening trying to read up on what it would take to rig a solution to this without it being $100 to have 3 tiny little basil plants.

      1. Venus*

        Such a shame! You should be able to rig something up. You need seeds, water, light, and nutrients. None are $100! Good lighting can be expensive, but you can go outside this time of year in the northern half. Good luck!

    20. RagingADHD*

      Great! April 15 is our last frost date here, so I direct-sowed my cucumbers, tomatoes, & squash. Need to go water them today. I am trying Asian noodle aka yardlong beans this year, so I need to get the trellis up and plant those soon.

      The spinach, kale, chard, lettuce & bush beans I put in several weeks ago are all coming along nicely. We’ve already eaten some of the greens once or twice, and the first planting of beans looks like it will flower soon. Carrots are starting to poke up their tiny sprouts.

      Asparagus is nearly finished, and I need to use the hot-pepper spray for beetles again.

      In the front, my peony bush has flower buds for the first time, so I’m watching it every day. So excited, I looooooove peonies.

      The plum, pear, blackberry, blueberries, and peach all have good fruit set. Need to thin the plum & peach. No apples again this year, we may have to either replace one of them or get a third to help cross-pollinate.

      Big good news is that we spent a bit of our stimulus check on a massive load of mulch! The nursery is also a farmstand, so stayed open. I was able to pay over the phone and have it dumped, no contact (though I did go stand about 30 feet back and chat to the dump truck guy).

      So we will have a halfway presentable front yard for the first time in years. Goodbye weeds, can’t wait to smother you!

    21. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      My potatoes are finally poking through. I threw in some compost when I planted them and the compost was overly moist so I was a bit worried that it may have rotted the row of potatoes. Nope. Seems to have done some good!

      My older asparagus bed has enough for a side dish this week. Some serious sized shoots have emerged and the deer have left them alone. My new bed of asparagus is looking amazing, and I’m hoping that next year will bring enough to eat and pickle!

      I potted up all of my tomatoes and peppers last week and they all seem to love it! Lots of new growth already. I’m hoping to start hardening them off this week. I need my corner of the living room back.

    22. Vicky Austin*

      I planted zucchini, tomatoes, and peas this year. I grew the zucchini and tomatoes from seeds and planted them in pots this winter. Yesterday, I transplanted them to my garden and also planted the peas.

  5. Princess Zelda*

    My groceries this week cost nearly twice as much as they usually do, even accounting for the fact I bought enough to stay home for several weeks and I’m not eating out at all. I’ve been doing mostly okay, money-wise, but the store nearest me isn’t doing sales and was completely out of store brand anything. I had to buy a more expensive version of every single product, and I bought some near-substitutions of things they were completely out of.

    Has anyone else’s budget gone completely haywire? Are there any ways I’m not thinking of to try to save money on food? If not on food, is there something else I could be doing? I don’t quite have to dip into my f-off fund but I don’t want to get anywhere near that point.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I limit my grocery purchasing to about once month or slightly less. (I will get milk and fresh produce more often but only small amounts.) So I tend to buy more to avoid frequent trips–the reason why my latest shop on Thursday cost me $298 (plus another $100 from another store for cat food I hope lasts closer to two months).

    2. Not A Manager*

      Do you like cooking and futzing in the kitchen? I’ve been making homemade stuff, partly because inventory is iffy, and I don’t want to shop, and what else am I going to do with my time? But also I’m saving money. The key is not to choose projects that require you to buy a bunch of start-up stuff that you wouldn’t already have on hand, or need to buy for your daily cooking.

      I’m also doing almost all of my housecleaning with a 3% bleach solution in a spray bottle, or with vinegar and water.

      We’re also conserving toilet paper by using clean rags when possible. I wash them in hot with a splash of bleach. We repurposed some old table napkins to be “kitchen only” rags, and we use those instead of paper towels.

      1. Princess Zelda*

        I usually cook most of my own food because of food allergies, and I’m cooking even more now because I don’t want to be That Person who reads the ingredients on every single TV dinner, leaving germs all over the place. It was pretty hard finding most of the base ingredients, and a lot of things I would normally get were out, like plain tomato paste and plain beans. I can’t eat regular spaghetti sauce or most brands of canned beans because of the added spices, so instead of buying the ingredients to make things I know how to make I had to simultaneously shop and figure out what to make for the next while. It’s a problem I’m not sure how to solve.

        I have been doing water-and-vinegar for my cleaning as well! It’s a good all-purpose and my appliances are all so shiny now. :)

        1. 00ff00Claire*

          I’m not sure if this would help with saving money, but it might help with planning. Does your grocery store have Instacart? I have not used Instacart for shopping, but I have figured out that they only display items that are in stock. So you could theoretically browse the store on Instacart before going in person. Then you could see what is available and make a list based on that. It wouldn’t guarantee that what you put on your list would be there, but at least if you want to check out a new frozen food, you could Google the ingredients instead of having to stand there in the aisle. I haven’t actually used this method of making my shopping list yet because one of our local chains has a pretty robust To Go system and it’s worked for us so far. Their employees do the “shopping” and we just pick it up. However there are other stores that I’ll eventually need to go to and I’m going to use Instacart to at least preview the inventory and hopefully make my trip more efficient. I have to avoid certain ingredients as well so I’m not going to make the trip if they don’t have what I need showing up in stock on Instacart.

        2. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Does your store have dried beans? I never use canned beans – so much more expensive and have those added things you mention. That could help with the budget. Is this something which would help you?

          I don’t soak either and they pretty much cook themselves – we’re all home anyway so having it gently simmering for an hour and half or so isn’t problem. I then have a vat of beans in their cooking fluid in the fridge that I can use in different ways with different seasonings.

          There’s lots of recipes online – but I love Joe Yonan’s book ‘Cool Beans’. He’s the Food Editor for the Washington Post (and a vegetarian verging on vegan).

    3. anon for this*

      I was just thinking about this today when I went to the store. Normally we have the ability to shop multiple stores that specialize in different things or have different deals. Now, one trip rules them all. Whatever that store has is what I get for the week, regardless of price or preference. I can absorb the cost, but so many people just can’t and it must be terrible having to shop like this on a very limited budget.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        It’s challenging. We live in blizzard country so we are used to keeping a stocked pantry. Now in the plague times, we do curbside pickup/allow substitutions. Cause if you don’t allow substitutions you get 1/3 of your order or so. With subs you can get a lot closer, and most of the time I don’t care. 12oz can or 16oz? No big deal. But yesterday we picked up an order that was supposed to be a 1 or 2 lbs beef roast. The cheap ones, for the crock pot. So $15 max and likely less. We got 6lbs of beef tenderloin. $60 worth of beef tenderloin. Ouch. Well I’m glad I have freezer space and glad that we won’t have to buy beef for several weeks… but thank heavens the budget can stand it. It’s not the worst thing that could have befallen the grocery order what with packing plant closures.

        1. filosofickle*

          I’m impressed your tenderloin would only be 10/lb…it would be double that near me!

          Early on, several friends said this would be a good time to clean out their freezer. Not me! I’m holding fast to my freezer goods in case of future disruptions — as long as I can get fresh meat/veg, that’s what I’ll do for now.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I allow substitutions and I still only get half of what I ordered. It’s rough.

      2. Nita*

        Same thing. I’d say our food spending has gone up to 1.5 or 2 times what it usually is, because we go to one store, once in 3-4 weeks. Some things are just overpriced there, others have gone up in price. It would be a lot worse, but we’re in NYC and the schools hand out free lunch – first to the kids, and now to kids and adults. I think we’d go through our supplies and savings a lot faster without them, and would have to spend a lot more time jostling about in overcrowded stores.

    4. NoLongerYoung*

      Yes, mine went nuts. And, given the pending (soon) meat shortages, I guess it is okay. I had not done a Costco (regular) trip for 2 months, took a week-day off work, and stocked up for a big “make ahead” trip. In addition to meat and the makings for the 9 casseroles (lasagna from scratch and more), I also restocked sealer bags, t-shirts, vitamins, protein powder, coffee, and many many snacks, nuts, and other items I probably did not need.

      But if I truly do eat out of the deep freeze, with just a couple trips to the produce section over the next couple months, I will even it out again.

      I have been putting together care packagesfor the neighbor and another friend, so some of the costco size fresh stuff is being split out 2-3 ways. And I am not eating out. There was a time when that was the one thing hubs and I “did” together, and it was a big expense. So I’m still ahead.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I managed to spend over $700 at Costco last week. Partially that’s because I was buying some weird extra things (I spent about $60 on a battery pack that can jumpstart a car, in case mine sits so long that the battery runs down since I don’t want to call AAA during a pandemic, and I bought 3 new small rugs since my dog puked on my entryway rug and I also wanted a few more for dog beds in other places, and that sort of thing) but it’s also because I usually strategically buy things at various stores based on price, brand, and quantity and instead decided screw it, this is the only place I’m going and I will buy all the things.

      A lot of it will come out in the wash in my case since it was buying things I’ll use up in larger-than-usual quantities, but it was still a completely different size of number than I usually see at the grocery store.

      1. Alcott*

        FWIW, AAA is handling things pretty well right now, at least where I am in Los Angeles. I tried to do a grocery run a couple weeks ago when it was pouring rain (figuring it’s LA and everyone else will be hiding at home), but had a flat. AAA showed up, masked and gloved, I stood 6 feet back, and he didn’t make me sign any forms for the call. Also bonus, they showed up in about 10 minutes instead of the usual 60-90.

        1. filosofickle*

          I had to be towed two weeks ago, though through my insurance not AAA. He was not gloved or masked. The only acknowledgement of the situation was a text message saying that they could not drive me with the car to the shop. At one point I was standing too close and corrected myself, saying out loud “Oh, I’m not 6 feet.” He asked “Do you buy that?” and I assumed he meant did I think physical distancing was important or necessary. In retrospect, I wonder if he meant it more generally, like did I think this is a hoax.

    6. Square Root of Minus One*

      I thought the same as you, but your question prompted me to crunch the numbers on my accounts, and it appears my food spending remained incredibly stable. The Feb (normal month, remember?), March and April spending is within a margin of like €20 ($22).
      However, supermarket prices have gone wild. My average bill there is almost 50% more. No sales is a BIG factor, since I usually take advantage of some. So that could explain some of your inflation.
      But I don’t buy there a lot, and espacially very rarely buy prepared food, only raw product (flour, fruit, veggies ; no meat though). I usually favor a few organic, locally-owned places with locally-grown products: I find the food (aside from being better and healthier in my opinion), can be kept much longer and it’s a better deal for me when I don’t know exactly when I can have a big batch-cooking session. Those prices clearly haven’t increased that much, if they have at all. If anything, supermarket prices just seem to have caught up.
      Also, I don’t eat out at work anymore, so there’s about a third of the food budget right back in my pocket. But then, when I resume work on site, cooking at home as much as I do now won’t be sustainable (you can’t have a stew cook for hours or bread baking in the oven when you’re not here, obviously…).
      Big caveat: I don’t live in the USA, I live in Europe, and food prices have as little in common as gas prices between both areas.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      Glad it’s not just me! We’re spending nothing on gas or going out, but the grocery budget seems to have more than made up for it. The stores near me will not accept paper coupons anymore either, and they want everyone to use credit cards instead of cash to keep contact with the cashier limited. I get it, but there is currently nobody in my household with a job so we’re trying to be careful.

    8. Fikly*

      My food spending is up, but physical therapy and other things I do to keep my pain levels down being closed means this month I didn’t spend $1400. So I’m actually winning financially. Pain wise, not so much.

    9. Ranon*

      If there are ethnic groceries near you ours at least seem to be better stocked- I shopped at our (giant, very diversely stocked) hispanic grocery this week and they were so well stocked on dry legumes they actually had some on clearance, and no purchase limits in sight (good news for my family that goes through up to 6 lbs of dry beans a week when our other stores have a 3lb per trip limit) Some types of rice were low and pasta was very low but pretty much everything else was in stock and store brands were plentiful.

      1. filosofickle*

        In my area, the neighborhood & ethnic grocery stores have been the real winners. Weeks in the Safeway was still stripped bare, but we were finding eggs and beans easily at a small local shop.

      2. Senior Montoya*

        Wish I could. My favorite latinx grocery store is open, but the aisles are so narrow I don’t feel comfortable shopping there. Same with the local Vietnamese grocery.

    10. Overeducated*

      For the first two trips (over about a month) we spent a lot more, trying to anticipate everything we might run out of over two weeks instead of just getting what we needed right away. We’re also ok cooking vegetarian when meat is picked over, but our regular store has had limited and poor produce recently, so we’ve been spending extra on a produce box from a wholesale distributor that is selling direct to consumer right now.

      The good news is that yesterday’s grocery trip was almost normal. Still no flour after six weeks, but most other stuff was there (even toilet paper), and our total was about average for two weeks pre-pandemic. The supply issues we’re stuck with, as well as more expensive alternatives, but at least we’re getting better at planning and rolling with what’s available.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Several of the restaurants in our area that are still doing drive thru or curbside will sell you flour, sugar, butter even toilet paper. Look for somebody locally owned.

        1. Overeducated*

          That’s actually what I did yesterday! Picked up regular and rye flour from a local bakery, along with a couple cheddar scones for brunch. Definitely pricier but as we’re discussing, not a lot of alternatives.

    11. Alex*

      Prices were raised on a lot of basic items in my area, regardless of sales. Eggs and beans were two noticeable ones. I’m sure it will just get worse as food workers get sick and farms can’t harvest their crops. Brace yourself.

      Without knowing what you eat, it’s hard to know how you can save money. I find I save money by cooking in large batches rather than cooking a bunch of different things. Yes, this means I eat the same thing all week, and that doesn’t work for everyone, but it is just so much less expensive (and less time consuming) to cook one dish that serves six than six dishes that serve one. I freeze leftovers sometimes too, so I can swap out meals during the week occasionally.

      If you eat meat, try to stretch your meat by bulking your meat dishes up with rice, potatoes, oats, beans, or mushrooms (depending on exactly what you’re making). I try to get at least five meals out of a pound of meat.

      If you cook with broth, make your own with kitchen scraps–save peelings and trimmings from carrots, onions, celery, herbs, etc., by keeping them in the freezer, and then when you have a good amount, simmer those trimmings with some salt and peppercorns. Free broth!

    12. Rebecca*

      I noticed the least expensive items are always sold out now on grocery pickup online. Like, Great Value canned salmon is almost always not available, but the $7/can brand is. Plain oatmeal is almost always sold out. Frozen fruit, sold out. I’m not worried about meat since I live in a rural area and am able to obtain it otherwise, but things like pasta and butter sold out, eggs up to $3 a dozen, etc. I cook everything from scratch and make things like chili, or wraps, or salads, but it’s challenging getting basics without spending a ton. I worry about people who need to use WIC or SNAP benefits – this has to be difficult for them if the things they have to choose from are higher in price now.

      1. Skeeder Jones*

        In California, they gave extra SNAP benefits for April and May. I don’t know the amounts and I know it varies based on family size and whether they were already getting the max in benefits, but I had a few friends on FB that posted they got extra and the amounts were available online.

    13. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, we’ve had the same issue, though not as dramatically, the store brand stuff is still available here. But it’s hard to tell the stock piling impact from ‘fewer sales’ impact. My husband found a cereal he reaaaaallly likes BOGO, so we now have 12 of them. Before covid 19, he’d have bought 4 and assumed we’d hit a sale on them before we ran out.

      We are shifting what we buy some – less processed stuff, more components – but we’re trying to get the kid to make his own lunches, and he’s not up to anything more than ‘mix and heat’ yet, no chopping. We’ve bought some beans, but haven’t done much with them.

    14. Dan*

      When I check out at the grocery, yes, my bills are way up.

      But I’m trying to figure out how much of this is increased spend is a function of increased prices vs “changing” buying habits.

      It used to be that I’d shop once per week or once every two weeks, buy enough to “cook a meal” (which, for one, often lasts 3-4 meals), eat out a few times a week, and eat lunch at the company cafeteria. So the amount of food I needed to buy in any one trip is rather minimal.

      Now? WFH means eating lunches at home, eating almost all of my meals at home, not going out on the weekends, and getting takeout every once in awhile.

      At my favorite store, I always shop with the mini carts, which are more than enough space. Now? I’m jamming the mini cart full. My freezer is *stocked*. Some of this was a bit intentional, because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if the virus knocks out food production workers at any point in the supply chain, then gee, what does that mean wrt food on the shelf?

      At this point, I’m good for a bit, so my grocery bills shouldn’t be as bsd.

    15. J.B.*

      What are you buying and what kind of kitchen equipment do you have? Potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and beans (dried are cheapest but canned never too bad) are good things to base meals around. Even though eggs are hit or miss and more expensive than normal, they will be less than meat. Plain oatmeal can be flavored however you like, you can make granola or snacks out of that and nuts, etc. If you do eat meat bacon and sausage are great additions for flavor, with small amounts overall in a meal with lots of vegetables. Homemade pizza crust is pretty quick – although I can’t find bread flour there is usually all purpose or self rising (if you use self rising, leave salt out of any recipe.)

      Our grocery purchases have probably gone up by 50% overall. We are not eating out, and although we get takeout for variety it is probably less than when working.

      1. Princess Zelda*

        I generally eat what I think of as middle-class Americana but minus the meat — spaghetti, beans&cheese, teriyaki veg over rice, mac and cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, that kind of thing. I’m generally finding parts of what I need, but not all of it — I have cheese but no beans, pasta but no sauce, I can only find Expensive Gluten-Free Flour, etc. Eggs and dairy are plentiful here, since we’re close to a major national source. I bake a lot usually, and having no flour is stressing me out; I caved and bought a small bag of coconut flour and I’m hoping it substitutes correctly.

        I’m also having a lot of smoothies, since produce is relatively plentiful, being near a Major National Source — my poor blender is not used to working this hard!

        1. Susie*

          Coconut flour absorbs a LOT of liquid, so I don’t think it can be subbed straight. But I’ve used it in combination with almond flour and other nut flours in baking.

          Depending on what you want to bake, you might do better looking up a recipe for a similar item online that uses the type(s) of flour that you have. That way you benefit from others’ baking tests and not waste what you have.

        2. J.B.*

          The flour thing just feels odd. I never expected stores to run out of bread flour! I have pretty reliably found self rising flour and self rising cornmeal if everything else is out. If you can find cornmeal, consider trying cornbread-y stuff. OK so you can consider: cauliflower pizza crust (no idea what recipes are good but google suggests some things), tortilla espanola, you might be able to make something like chicken and dumplings using whatever flour substitutes in the bits of dough. Breakfast tacos can be made with meat or vegitarian, in our house the basics are hash browns or sweet potatoes and eggs. There are various Asian noodle dishes with peanut butter or sesame paste and lots of veggies in them.

    16. Belgian*

      It’s been on the news here that groceries have become more expensive because of all that’s going on. Grocery stores were not allowed to run promotions for a couple of weeks because of hoarders.

      1. Rebecca*

        I just saw a notice that a grocery store chain here in PA has stopped publishing weekly circulars because they can’t guarantee that items will be available, or enough will be available, if advertised.

    17. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Food prices are expected to rise :( especially meat. In my old days, I was a vegetarian and it looks like I may be one again. On the plus side, my local pizza place is having regular deals on their pizzas. I can buy 2 for 1 and freeze the second.

    18. AnonLurker Appa*

      Yes – we usually go to 3-4 different stores to get what we want at the right price, and now we are spending way more to get what we want at just 1-2 stores. It doesn’t help that the closest store is stocked well and is a natural foods coop so its expensive, but we can at least get what we are looking for.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        This has been my experience as well. I used to go to various stores throughout the week and now go once a week. My bill has just about doubled and we only added 2 college kids in the last 2 months.

    19. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      I keep a pretty deep pantry (pantry room in the basement actually). The few things I was caught short on I’ve been able to buy from amazon.

      My fav grocery store closed its bulk bins, which is understandable but it’s how I usually buy beans and lentils. I paid much more for garbanzo and black beans than I normally would but I didn’t have to go anywhere. That same store is selling 25lb bags of beans/rice/lentils/peas. I probably have enough green split peas to last me, um, forever?

      I was actually a bit surprised that my pasta supply was down so far. We don’t eat it very often but I’m pretty sure my youngest grabbed a bunch to take back with him to college when he was here recently. I now have 16 lbs of cut spaghetti pasta, which was what I could find on amazon for a reasonable price ($1/box). I also ordered some items thru amazon pantry and was able to get a couple of boxes of bow tie pasta for a normal price ($1.25/box).

      I’m sure youngest child will sweep thru again in two months and restock his apartment at college.

      I haven’t had to buy flour yet. I was able to find yeast a few weeks into this so I could mail some off to my oldest kid. (Both boys are in college and have, like so many, taken up baking during this pandemic).

      Things should stay interesting through the summer.

    20. Penny Parker*

      You may want to consider buying in bulk, real bulk not from a bin. Back in March I bought a 25 lb bag of gluten free oatmeal because I eat it every day and it is hard to get outside of the city (I am very rural; 100 mile trip to the city and back). I also bought a 25 lb bag of lentils because they are very versatile. Chickpeas are also quite versatile so they would make a good bean to purchase in a large bulk size bag. I find purchasing like that keeps my overall bill down.

    21. Dave the Corn Huckster*

      Walmart is out of spaghettios and local supermarkets are at $1.49. I just ordered 8 at Target for .99¢ This will be my excitement for tomorrow.

    22. CastIrony*

      I can only offer sympathy. Every time I go to the grocery store, I end up buying things I think I need and spend a hundred dollars. Thank goodness I do not go often!

    23. Amethystmoon*

      I’ve been going out every other week, and eating lots of leftovers. I tend to do things like make hot dishes, random stir fries, soups and stews that can be frozen. I’m only one person but rotate leftovers most of the time.

  6. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    For the record, this thread is NOT limited to fiction, any writing goes.
    For me it’s mostly been progress on my paper, and a new fanfiction idea because my brain likes to give me new ideas while I’m in the middle of something else.

    1. Hanna*

      I’ve written 1,5 pages of fanfiction! I’m so excited because it’s been ages since I last wrote something and the words just flew across the page, it was such a joy! Also dove into my computer and found some old drafts I had forgotten about, they were actually quite good. I am wondering if I should just post them somewhere as bits and pieces. I probably won’t finish them but maybe someone else would enjoy the ideas? (Eh, probably not.)
      Also have been taking notes for an original fic idea – it is quite exciting, I usually only get fanfiction ideas and maybe now I can begin something of my own!

      1. Blueberry*

        *cheers you on*

        FWIW, I really like finding “unfinished and discontinued” works on AO3 and reading about what authors planned to do with them. It’s like looking at a half built building and seeing inside the structure.

      2. Laura H.*

        *Also cheers you on*

        Unfinished stuff is fun but can also be vexing, but I do agree with blueberry!

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I’ve started walking again and that is the perfect time to consider plot and character developments. I wrote another chapter in a week after writing nothing for a long time. Stress doesn’t feed my imagination. I’m over my writer’s block, I hope!

    2. Square Root of Minus One*

      I’ve resumed writing this week. I am so happy. I’m fleshing out my characters, restructuring my story, thought more about the story I am interested in telling.
      It feels good, really :)

    3. A Tired Queer*

      I recently revisited an old plot bunny that’s been in hibernation for about 8 years. Woke it up and started feeding it with everything I’ve learned about story structure and character motivation since then, and now it’s happily hopping around! I missed being inspired to write, so this is delightful. It’s one thing that I can plan without having to worry about external cancellations!

    4. Laura H.*

      I updated but in the process went from “character 101” to “character 501” without any of the prerequisite stepping blocks.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been working on stuff for the screenplay class, although I got distracted by finishing up a new book trailer. The old one was so incredibly dumb. This one is much better — well, as good as it can be with my limited computer resources and knowledge. I really need to learn to use video editing software, but one thing at a time.

      I hired a voice-over actor I met when I went to Cardiff and he did a FANTASTIC job.

      https://youtu.be/iZTXzqWz6pY

    6. Nynaeve*

      So far, I haven’t had much energy for writing, but I have been going back through some of my old NaNo novels and Script Frenzy scripts to 1) remember what I even wrote, 2) see which, if any, spark inspiration for rewrites, and 3) flag potential revision issues.

      I also stumbled across a free webinar on revision while I was exploring different webinar platforms, so I watched that and found it helpful.

    7. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

      It occurred to me that I could fit a canon OTP into the sprawling AU I’ve been writing, so I started working on how they would get together given the changed circumstances, but then another character inserted himself into the narrative and the scope proceeded to go a little crazy; we’re now 12K words and three months in-story time into the story, and these two dingbats haven’t even held hands yet.

  7. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gaming thread! What’s everyone been playing this week?
    For the record, this is not limited to video games, any kind of game goes.
    I’ve been on a bit of an Igavania binge with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (loved it, though thank God for casual mode), Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles and the Castlevania game that is known as Circle of the Moon in the US (in Europe it’s simply called “Castlevania”, just to make things confusing). I really love metroidvanias in general so…

    1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

      Well, we finished new vegas, finally played through journey and now we’ve started The Council. Can’t say I like it much. The perks system is neat, but the main female character is supposed to be Georgian and yet is wearing a fully backless, strapless black leather gown, with boobs out to here. Every other character is male and dressed mostly accurately. It’s so distractingly silly. And the main character is a bit of a twit. I donno, I guess we’ll see.

      I’m debating buying the new final fantasy, but still undecided.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        If you mean the remake of FF7, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, although I can’t confirm anything for myself because Final Fantasy has never really been my thing.
        I’m also a bit on the fence about their decision to cut the game into multiple parts. I mean, I get it, game development comes with limitations, but they could at least put “part 1” or something in the title.

    2. Caterpie*

      I started The Long Dark, which has been interesting so far. It took me a while to figure out how to get my character from lurching 10 feet every few seconds and I don’t love the combat, but the story and art are hooking me in.

    3. FormerTheatreArtist*

      Animal Crossing ftw! Then back to Red Dead 2, once I get tired of island life.

      1. Nessun*

        It’s so confusing how I’m utterly annoyed to be doing nothing but digging clams, making bait, and fishing off the pier, and yet I dont want to stop!! (I want a marlin before they leave in 5 days!)

    4. Beancat*

      I’ve been playing pretty much nothing but Animal Crossing. It makes me happy and gives me things to do when everything else is kind of hard right now :) my friends, husband, and I all do a weekly D&D game over Roll20 which has helped fill that social needs bar!

    5. A Tired Queer*

      I finally installed Skyrim Special Edition with all the DLC and modded the bejeezus out of it. Forgot how much I loved this game until I got back into it! I wish I could figure out why my desktop, which can run SSE at high res with no hiccups, keeps barfing every time I try to play a Fallout game… But until then, there’s Skyrim.

    6. Cruciatus*

      Jackbox Games people, I need help! So I downloaded a few packs and followed the instructions to share the game remotely. I used my sister as a guinea pig and using Zoom she could see my screen but she wouldn’t hear it. The Jackbox Games instructions don’t say anything about this. What do I need to do? Do I need a mic? I hit “Share sound to others” in Zoom but that didn’t work. (Also, someone told me not to use Zoom so if you use another service that works well, please share!)

      Also, if my friends are playing on their phones will I see them or they see me? I’m assuming not, unless they also have a laptop with a web camera in front of them, right? I feel like this is supposed to be obvious based on the lack of instruction regarding it, but it’s not obvious to me!

      1. Nynaeve*

        I got you, fam!

        When you have the option to share your Zoom screen, make sure you select the screen with the game you want to play already started. In the lower left corner there will be a checkbox that says, “Share computer sound.” Check this box. But! You will also want to right-click on your speaker in your computer settings and choose “Open volume mixer” to adjust the sound. You’ll want to turn the volume on Jackbox Games almost all the way down because it defaults to LOUD.

        When I invite people to the game, I tell them that they should have two devices: 1) a laptop/computer/tablet with a webcam so they can see the screen and 2) a tablet or smartphone they can use to submit their answers. It’s possible that you may be able to toggle between screens on the phone, but that would cut into your response time, so I wouldn’t recommend it. (Side note: in the game settings, you can also select extended timer if you think people need more time to respond.)

        I hope this helps!

          1. Nynaeve*

            You’re welcome! I hope it works for you! (I should mention, in the volume mixer, there will be an option for Jackbox Games and for the game itself – it’s the volume for the game itself that you really want to turn down.)

            Which games are you going to play? I can recommend all the games in Party Packs 3 & 4, as well as Drawful 2, which is reliably hilarious. Trivia Murder Party is fun, but a little intense, and both Monster Seeking Monster and Survive the Internet work better with at least 4 people. Fibbage 3 and Quiplash 2 are probably the easiest to understand right out of the gate. If you’re playing with older relatives or people you don’t know as well, you can check the family-friendly option for several of them.

            Have a blast!

    7. Nicki Name*

      Dominion Online and FE3H. Also the play-by-post game that my new favorite Pathfinder Society character was trapped in has come back to life with a new GM, and I’m looking forward to getting her into a few VTT games, now that my weekend schedule is totally open.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Nil.

      My sleep is screwy, and when I don’t sleep I can’t write. All my creative energy is going toward trying to manage stress in constructive ways (with mixed results).

    9. Quake Johnson*

      Is anyone else feeling totally parched for new games? I’ve been looking forward to The Last of Us 2, Avengers, New Lego Stars and whatever WB Montreal and Rocksteady are making for literally YEARS.

    10. Katrianah (UK)*

      Working on my last class mount in WoW now my DK is 120 and can solo all the things. Forgot how much fun Blood is.
      Still puttering around in My Time at Portia, and poking around the season in Diablo 3 with my game husband

    11. Anonymath*

      Too much time in Disney Magic Kingdoms. I’m afraid that Disney parks are my happy place, and with them closed I’m a bit more anxious than normal, so I get my fix in the game.

    12. Annoyed admin*

      Final Fantasy Vii Remake! Very cool and engaging for the most part but drags at some parts – and no spoilers but they kind of upend expectations, story-wise, in a way I’m still processing…

    13. AnonEMoose*

      We played Pathfinder today with the other two members of our local gaming group, thanks to Google Hangout. My DH and I each run a campaign and take turns being the GM, so we both get to play, and not just run the game all the time. We had fun, and it was good to see and talk to both of the others.

    14. Quoth the Raven*

      Resident Evil 3, the remake, just to take a break from Red Dead Redemption for a weekend (I love that game with all my heart, but I’ve been playing it exclusively for over a year now).

      I wasn’t caring much for it at first, but it’s definitely growing on me now that I’ve had some practice with the controls, and I’m having fun with it.

    15. DarthVelma*

      The partner’s family dropped off some birthday stuff for him yesterday, including Mansions of Madness. We ran the first scenario twice last night. It was a lot of fun, but wow did we get our butts kicked. (Especially in game two where a) we were both inebriated, and b) I had THE worst luck with the dice.)

      It’s the first tabletop game we’ve done that required a companion app. I have to say, I was dubious about the whole app concept going in, but it turned out to be really well done.

    16. Nynaeve*

      As you can see from my detailed replies to Cruciatus, I’ve been playing a lot of Jackbox Games, lol. (Specifically, Party Packs 3 & 4 and Drawful 2.) Just this week, I’ve had 6 different gaming sessions and I have at least 1 more today. I played with my family, my friend Alix and her husband, my writing group, my middle school friend and her coworkers, my coworkers, and my regular game night group. Last week, I played with my college friends. Apparently I’m a regular Jackbox floozy – I’ll play with anyone! :-D

      I also started replaying Gone Home, which is an exploration mystery game. You come home to your family’s new house on a rainy midnight and it’s empty – you have to explore the rooms, find evidence, and piece together what happened.

    17. Smol Book Wizard*

      I started playing the lovely little game Kisima Ingitchuna (Never Alone) – it is a very pretty puzzle/jump/mechanism adventure themed off Alaska Native legends with input from their storytellers. I’m not great at it, but it scratches the same itch as Gris – aesthetically lovely, hard enough to be a challenge but not impossible, frequent save points to help me and my clumsy fingers.
      My favorite feature is that a lot of puzzles can only be solved by the girl and the fox alternating their talents!

    18. Amethystmoon*

      I downloaded Civ 6 finally, and that’s pretty good. Also am in a D&D 2e game on Fantasy Grounds, and also some other games on that system that rotate and have off weeks. My Star Trek group is currently stopping and deciding to play something else.

    19. The Rat-Catcher*

      I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion and Link’s Awakening this week, for video games. For board games, I’ve played Trouble and Sorry with my kids and Trivial Pursuit (both original and Harry Potter) for the adults. Apparently they’ve changed some of the Sorry cards since my last time playing. I drew a 2 and was all set to draw again and my kids were super confused as to why I just felt like I could take another turn.

  8. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

    Little background. I had been sick a long time, with two completely unrelated things. Two years ago I had double major surgery and almost a year before that I found out that I had significant food allergies, which I have had my ENTIRE life (what a revelation that I’m not a lazy flake – it was what the food was doing to my body!).
    I think that I’ve posted about both before.
    So I REALLY thought that 2020 was going to be a banner year. Fully recovered from the surgeries, finially got the hang of the food thing, etc. I started working part time and I’ve been doing projects at home like crazy.
    And then corona. I’m worried & scared. I’m a history buff- I know about plagues and it terrifies me that so many people are so blase about this. I miss my friends, I miss my family.
    But… I’m still doing projects. I’m excited about getting them done (even if doing them is NOT fun, like scrubbing the kitchen walls, ceiling & cupboards, haha!). And I feel better than I did for over 50 years (and I’m not salty about that at ALL -rolls eyes-).
    My projects aren’t just house related, I’m stitching (s l o w l y) and organizing my craft room/office and learning new skills for my Airbrush biz. So personal health is good and I’m kinda content and keeping busy. Most days.
    I’m really missing my Faire Friends & Family, tbough.
    Life is weird.

    1. Hazy Days*

      You say you’re a history buff and this is triggering your knowledge of past plagues and epidemics – would it be at all reassuring if I said that l and various friends and co-workers have probably had covid-19, and we’re fine. The people with health vulnerabilities have been sicker for longer, and the person who has major existing health problems has been definitely sicker for about four weeks now – but no-one has needed urgent care, everyone has been okay in their own beds, sofas and garden chairs, my disabled friend is making cheerful phone calls, etc. The main issue we’ve had is trying to re-start work too soon, but that’s now recognised as an issue and we’re avoiding it. It’s not great, but it’s fine.

    2. Fikly*

      I’m finding history of plagues reassuring, actually.

      In the history of humanity, we have eradicated exactly one contagious disease in humans. We have had vaccines for an extremely small amount of time. We have had sanitation for an extremely small amount of time. And yet here we are, over 7 billion of us, covering pretty much the entire planet.

        1. Fikly*

          Yup. There’s one other that was eradiated, but it didn’t infect humans. I forget what it was.

          1. Sleepless*

            Swine fever was eradicated in several countries in the 1960s, and James Herriott wrote that every vet in the UK should start his/her day by doing a happy dance and saying, “Yay, there’s no swine fever now!”

        2. Penny Parker*

          My mother was born with smallpox. The doctor slapped a quarantine sign on the house as soon as he was done with the delivery. This was the day after Black Friday. I grew up with stories of quarantine and plagues. I know several people who had parents die from tuberculosis; it left lasting trauma throughout the family line. I am also quite scared.

    3. Copenhagen*

      My outlook on this, as a historian, is that an epidemic/pandemic has never been taken more seriously in the history of the world than the one going in right now. We’ve never had better health care, we’ve never had better ways of communicating and collaborating internationally and we’ve never been more knowledgeable about diseases and how to treat them than we are now.

      There are a lot of people working their butts off to figure out how to treat and/or prevent COVID-19, and while they do not now exactly what they are dealing with since this is alle very new, I have the deepest confidence that they’re doing their absolute best based on the experiences and knowledge they’ve acquired through years of studies and long careers.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        yes all this!

        I actually find the history soothing, in a big picture way. Society didn’t collapse in 1918, so it probably won’t this time either. I worry about my family and friends, I feel sad for those who have suffered and died, but the world overall will probably keep going. And 1918 inspired Europe’s public health system – I *really* have hopes it will be the push to get the US started on that.

      2. London Calling*

        My thoughts exactly. If we have to have a pandemic then given the level of scientific and health knowledge we have world wide, we’re in the best possible place we can be. In 1665 we’d have been leaving whole households to die at home with guards posted outside to ensure that no-one got out.

    4. fposte*

      There’s a nice article on Slate right now about people’s experiences of life going back to normal after a pandemic; there are reports from people who lived through SARS in China, polio in the U.S., even the 1918 flu.

    5. AnonEMoose*

      I feel you…I was internally debating recently whether this is more like the Black Plague or the Sweating Sickness.

  9. Might be Spam*

    My landlord has been putting off repairing a wall in the bathroom since before Christmas. I think moisture is causing the paint to bubble. This is a recurring problem that has been fixed before. I think he needs to fix the wall tile or it will keep happening. His plan is to fix the drywall and not the tile. He said it would take several visits.

    Since he has been putting this repair off for so long anyway, is it reasonable to ask him to wait longer? He has several other properties that he takes care of and I am concerned about being exposed to COVID-19. The fact that I had to explain what a pandemic was worries me.

    I could use some scripts for talking to him. I don’t want him to feel like I am accusing him of anything. I would like to have the root cause of the problem to be fixed and my first priority is not getting sick.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am missing something here. If he has not fixed the leak, there isn’t any point to fixing the drywall. It will just get wet again.
      Maybe your inroad is to ask him to fix the leak, which suddenly makes the project bigger and maybe he would push it to the back burner for the moment?
      Here, my thinking is if you can’t get him to slow down because of Covid-19, maybe you can find another way to get him to slow down.
      Or perhaps you have to do video meetings and the background noise from the repair would interfere with your ability to hear/participate.
      Think about other reasons why now is a bad time for this project. If he isn’t hearing you about Covid-19, then you are wasting energy with that talking point. Perhaps there are other ways to get to the same result where he postpones the repair.

    2. Natalie*

      If some kind of water damage is happening, he should fix it although it isn’t clear that’s what he’s going to do. I don’t have script suggestions, but I have suggestions for you assuming he really does need to fix it. I know it’s really freaky to have someone in your home, but there are some simple things you can do to make this a very low risk encounter.

      Remember this virus is not airborne – it’s not going to migrate out of the room in which he’s working by itself and come find you. So first thing is being elsewhere, whether that’s another room of the apartment, in your car, or outside on a long walk, depending on what’s feasible for you. You don’t need to let him in – my husband (apt maintenance guy) talks to the tenants through their doors and then lets himself in after they’ve shut themselves in a bedroom.

      Second, he should wear a mask and sanitize the surfaces where he’s been working once he’s done. Ask him what he has to accomplish that. I would probably sanitize the room myself as well, just in case he missed something, but wait a couple of hours for his respiratory droplets to settle. And hit your doorknobs, light switches, etc while you’re at it. A standard dilute bleach solution or rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle would do the trick. If you don’t have anything like that and can’t get any he should provide something for you.

      If none of those things are an option – you’re in a small studio with no car, this is a multi-hour repair, neither of you have or can source bleach – you have a lot more standing to ask him to delay.

    3. bunniferous*

      Oooh, no bueno. He needs to fix the source of the moisture before he does anything else. There is probably mold or mildew behind that wall-and if there is not there will be-and THAT can be a health hazard (I work in the real estate field with foreclosure homes so not just pulling that out of my posterior.)

      There is no point in him fixing the drywall OR the tile before he does that.

    4. RC Rascal*

      Do you have an older bathroom with a window but without a bath fan? Per code in my area, it used to be OK not to have a bath fan as long as there is a window in the bathroom. The problem is that these bathrooms tend to have moisture issues. Also, are you sure it is drywall? Is it possible the bathroom walls are plaster? If so, that’s even more bubbling from moisture.

      The only real remedy is an installed, properly ventilated bath fan. Your landlord probably isn’t going to be willing to do this. They fix this by scraping off the bubbling, filling with joint compound, sanding, and painting. It will always come back. Keeping the window cracked does help, as long as you don’t live in an overly wet/humid climate.

      If you have room you can install a box fan and run it after your showers. Most of the bathrooms old enough to be built this way usually don’t have room for one, though.

      1. Natalie*

        A desiccant like Damprid can also help a bit, especially in a small enclosed room like a bathroom. Not a substitute for a bath fan, of course.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      As far as a script to use, can you ask him to explain what his steps will be to keep you and him safe during the repairs?

      Are there guidelines in your state you can refer to?

    6. Dancing Otter*

      I’ve been putting off calling my landlord about slow drains. They said five weeks ago that they were only going to be doing emergency maintenance. So maybe they wouldn’t do anything anyway, but I don’t know whether I would want to let them in even if they were willing.
      It’s not the end of the world to soak your feet in the shower, right? But it’s hard to clean the tub when the dirty water just sits there for twenty minutes until the dirt and soap scum settle out.

      1. Natalie*

        Please call them and let them know. They need to maintain their building, and often the only way they’ll know about something wrong is from a tenant reporting. Assuming they even need to enter your apartment – some drain issues can be fixed from the main clean out – you’re not putting yourself at risk unless you stand in the bathroom with them.

      2. RC Rascal*

        You can probably pull the hair clog out with a wire coat hanger. Use needle nose pliers to unwind a wire hanger and form a small eye loop in one end of the loose wire. Unscrew the circle piece at the top of the drain and pull out the plastic piece if you can. Fish the loop down the pipe and pull out the hair.

        Speaking as someone with a lot of hair who spent many years living in rentals with landlords who would not unclog the drains.

  10. Paralegal Part Deux*

    So, a little under a month ago, I had to send my sweet, 16 year old cat Sassy over the rainbow bridge. I have not been coping well at all – to the point my doctor put me on Xanax to calm my butt down. It’s like I feel like I’m overreacting with so much else going on, but I don’t know how else to handle it. I mean, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since she died, because she slept on me every night which was comforting to me. I can’t get used to her not being around and underfoot.

    Any suggestions on how to cope? I feel like I’ve lost a best friend. I’ve tried posting about it on FB, tried just letting myself feel her loss, but I feel stuck and not moving forward.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Maybe you did lose your best friend. Please be gentle with yourself. A month is not a pathologically long amount of time to mourn an important loss. And it’s a testament to Sassy and how important she was to you, that you can’t just “move past it” quickly.

      Additionally, we are all under incredible stress, and any loss or change can feel really magnified under the circumstances.

      After a month, I don’t think you need to worry about being stuck and not moving forward. Give yourself some time. Also, this might sound very “woo” and disregard if it doesn’t help – but you might try asking Sassy what she thinks. If she could tell you how best to mourn her loss, and how to move forward, what would she say?

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        It doesn’t sound “woo” at all, but I think, if she could tell me, she would tell me she is with me always, even if I can’t see her and to quit crying myself to sleep since she’s still here. I know that sounds nuts. My mom always said the two of us had a strong bond, and I think Sassy would have agreed.
        She was never far from my side when I was at home. She was my constant companion from the minute I got up to the minute I fell asleep. She was part ragdoll and so was very soft to pet. She felt like cashmere. It was a comfort to be able to pet her and tell her about my troubles.

        I guess it feels like longer given what all is going on in the world. I know I want another ragdoll in the future but feel like I’m trying to replace a family member just thinking about it.

        1. Astor*

          I’m so sorry that Sassy is no longer with you. Have you done anything to specifically mark her life and loss? I wonder if having something physical to be able to hold on to might help you right now. Is there anything that comes to mind that might be a comfort, Wether it’s a stone that has a nice heft to hold onto, a stuffed animal that you could hug while you imagine yourself talking to her, or a picture of something she always loved for you to look at? I’m even imagining a pillow made out of Sassy’s favourite blanket? Something that’s new, that’s about Sassy, and also about the things you loved about her.

          Sassy’s been with you for 16 years. That’s a long time and in addition to all the love you shared you also had your routines together. She’ll be with you in spirit for the rest of your life, but loss is really hard and change is really hard, and you’re dealing with both of them in the middle of a pandemic. Please be gentle with yourself for mourning.

        2. Not A Manager*

          Well, I’ve suffered different losses. For me, talking to the person I loved was very helpful. And listening to them, too. If it were me, I would get a very squishy stuffed animal. I like Gund myself. Let yourself regress. Cuddle something. Talk to Sassy. She’ll retreat slowly over time.

          I’m sorry for your loss.

          1. Paralegal Part Deux*

            I’m sorry for your losses, no matter when they were. I’ve lost my dad when I was 10 (he was Type I diabetic and had a heart attack), my uncle committed suicide when I was 15, and my great-grandmother died when I was 18. They were each hard, especially my uncle, and took a long time to get over. I had to be put on Prozac for a while since it was so much loss in such a short period of time.

            I haven’t lost a pet in years, and it just seems amplified for some reason. I’ve never had to be put on meds for a loss of a pet.

            1. Sam I Am*

              I think that losing your cat may be the “last straw” and not the cause of needing medical intervention all by its self, you know?
              My most recent animal-friend loss was not my direct pet, but that of friends and neighbors. She and I went for hundreds of walks together (just the 2 of us, she was my walking companion like no person could be), we always greeted each other when we met. Sadly her time was 2 weeks ago. It’s been hard on the family, so I don’t want to dump my sorrow on them, but I have shared a couple of my favorite stories of our times together with other friends and family. I could laugh a little, and I’ve been focusing on those memories. While she wasn’t my pet she was certainly my friend, and I have no doubt that your bond amplifies your grief at losing one of your best friends. Figure out who the right people are to share your happy stories with and tell them all about her.
              I’m so sorry you lost her.

    2. Ann Onny Muss*

      A month is not a long time. Then put a pandemic on top of it? No wonder you’re struggling. I’m glad you saw your doctor. And FWIW, I’ve never seen getting another dog or cat after losing one as replacements. Our furry family members are irreplaceable, but you can still open your heart to another kitty. Doesn’t have to be right now, but consider it after you’ve had time to process your grief. And lots of e-hugs from some rando on the internet.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “Our furry family members are irreplaceable, but you can still open your heart to another kitty. Doesn’t have to be right now” So much this!

        I’m sorry for your loss.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        We got a pair of cats when we lost our first old-timer about five years ago – they weren’t a replacement for him (impossible), but our remaining cat sucked at being alone but wasn’t interested in making new friends. The newbies are best buddies and were a presence to keep Grandpa from being lonely without having to interact much with the young whippersnappers (or be pounced on by unruly teenagers). Then, we lost Grandpa this year, and now we have two skittish, bonded, weird cats that no one but my Cat Whisperer of a spouse would have wanted.

        My spouse said, and I think it’s right, that they’re not a replacement for the special ones we lost, but they’re a bit of a distraction from the loss. And they’re the right cats for where we are in our life right now (less needy and attention-seeking than the other two).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that what you are actually grieving is bigger than your little friend. Grief has a way of snowballing. The mind can roll past griefs, current griefs and even worry about future griefs all up into one tight wad and it seems like we are grieving one particular loss. But we are actually grieving more losses.

      Do you cry? IF no, please start letting some tears seep out. If yes, be sure to continue, this is actually an investment in a better tomorrow/next week/next month. Crying causes a chemical reaction in the brain that helps to keep the brain healthy. A healthy brain is more apt to find coping tools. Punchline: It helps us to think.

      I do want to pick up on the bit about overreacting. Now, if *I* said that to you, you’d come through my computer monitor and pop me one in the nose. Why? Because it’s harsh. Please go easy on yourself. Instead of telling yourself you are overreacting (or you feel like you are overreacting), tell yourself that you respect your emotions and tell yourself to feel the feeling. Emotions are not like actions. Emotions don’t hurt anyone except for the person experiencing the emotion. You are entitled to feel whatever it is you feel.

      Also understand that the times we have here, exasperate our sense of pain and our sense of loss. So this can work into, “Gosh, I miss my little buddy and what a rotten time to have a loss like this one!” Acknowledge the feeling. The more we push feelings under the carpet the bigger the feelings get. Look the feeling in the eye and say, “Yeah, this so very sucks.” Acknowledgement is a powerful tool, and we don’t even realize how important it is to acknowledge our own emotions.

      I have a suggestion. It’s a difficult suggestion but I had success with it. When my husband passed, I could not shake off the feeling that he was in the next room and I should go check on him. So I got my courage up, and I walked from room to room. In each room I said out loud to myself, “nope, he’s not in this room”. Once I finished all the rooms, I sat down and cried.
      It worked. I stopped thinking, “Oh I have to run and check on him!”. I felt like I had reclaimed space in my brain so I could function better. It also helped with some jumpy-ness I was having. Like I said, this exercise is not for everyone, but for some people it might be a supportive investment.

      1. BeadsNotBees*

        I have nothing much to add, I just wanted to say this is a very thoughtful, helpful comment for dealing with loss.

        And I agree, let yourself cry. Sometimes when I know I have some emotions bottled up, I’ll listen to a poignant song or watch one of my favorite sad movies to give me a catalyst for a sob session.

      2. Sam I Am*

        It’s generous to share this technique for grieving, it’s quite personal.
        I bet it’s quite useful, too, which is why I want to express my gratitude.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I find it odd that we can talk about sex, childbirth and a whole slew of subjects that were no-no’s when I was growing up, but we STILL don’t do that great a job talking about grief and loss. Part of the problem I think is not being able to find the words for what is inside our heads. Another problem is fear. But there are other things that make this complicated, too.
          I am proud of how far we have come as a society, we can talk about DV, abuse, and many other topics. This tells me that we can learn to talk about grief, also.
          Things can be personal in terms that pain can run deep and each person can have their own experiences. But personal is not the same as private. I don’t think many people get through life without experiencing some deep pain along the way. I think that we (society) need to stop pretending that life is peaches and cream for everyone, because that’s not true and crying is not abnormal.
          I love the expression “be a soft place to land” because this is what we CAN do, especially now.

    4. Julia*

      My childhood cat who I also had for around 16 years passed in 2012, around this time of the year. I still got misty-eyed remembering her, and I got misty-eyed reading your post. Losing her was awful, and I still can’t look at photos of her without crying because I loved her so much.
      Sassy was not just a cat, she was your family. Would you feel like you were overreacting over the death of a human family member? Would you tell a friend to get over it sooner? I bet you wouldn’t. If you live alone, Sassy was probably the companion you needed during lockdown, and now you don’t have that anymore.
      I agree with the other posters that holding something and crying it out might be a good idea. Can you talk to a friend on the phone? Please be kind to yourself.

    5. Copenhagen*

      I had to say goodbye to my furry friend of eight years in early february. It sucked (it still does!) and I’m still missing her like crazy. Losing a pet is so incredibly tough.

      What helped me was to get a new cat. I know that’s not for everyone, but it really helped me. I didn’t grieve less over the loss of my first cat or miss her less, but slowly bonding with the new cat and having him around gave me a lot of comfort and joy to help balance out the grief. It added good to my life in a time where there was a lot of bad.

      I thought a lot about how to go about it when the first cat got sick so I didn’t impulse-adopt a new cat. It was a very thought through decision. So I’m on no way advocating for impulse-shopping for pets! But it might be worth considering.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        I also lost Trooper my animal friend last week. He was a 16 year old standard schnauzer who had been my hearing dog. We were incredibly bonded and I will always miss him. My impulse is to get a new friend. One doesn’t replace the other, but they can sure distract you. Puppy, kitten or… If your not up for a commitment maybe a foster, or maybe there’s a dog nearby who needs walked or a cat who needs cuddled and or brushed. We still have several dogs in the house (Mom’s and Roomies’ as well as one who claims me) but the Trooper shaped hole is huge.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Right. One doesn’t replace another, but it’s a distraction, and you have a new friend to love.

        2. A New Normal*

          Fostering’s a great idea right now, if you (general you) are up for it. It’s kitten season, TNR’s been put on hold in many areas so it’s likely to be an extra-large season, and with a lot of shelters and rescues partially closed the need’s never been greater. Fostering’s a great way to channel some of the aimless energy grief can bring and love on some animals that dearly need it without feeling like you’re replacing your companion. If you can take a mama cat and kittens (or are up for bottle feeding orphan kittens!) you can literally save lives and enjoy the cuteness of kittens without the 15+ year commitment.

      2. Windchime*

        When I lost my cat of 19 years, I was so sad and bereft without him. I keep thinking I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He was so smart and curious and loving and I just missed him so bad. I was determined not to get another cat. But after 4 months, a little kitten made his way into my arms. He didn’t replace Patches, because nobody could. But I grew to love him for the creature that he is and it did help me to heal from losing my old friend.

      3. Relly*

        A month after we lost Bella, I realized I needed another cat. I hated myself when I realized it. I already had two other cats, and the thought of “replacing” Bella made me want to vomit. But I also felt like there was this hole I just couldn’t fill.

        And then I went to a shelter and stumbled upon this beautiful special needs cat, one that had been neglected and abused, one that wanted desperately to be a snuggly lapcat but was terrified. I knew she was going to be a project, that she was going to require a lot of patience and a lot of love and might take months or even years to come around, that I would have to earn every drop of her love and trust. And suddenly I realized that that was exactly what I needed — a place to put my energy, someone who needed to heal as badly as I did, someone who needed everything I had to give.

        We took her home that day, and watching her blossom has been magical.

        If and when you think you are ready for another cat, don’t worry about too soon, don’t worry about what other people will think. You’ll know when it’s time.

    6. A Tired Queer*

      Oh my friend, I’m so sorry for your loss. Like others have said: a month is not long at all to mourn a friend of 16 years. It feels longer than that because the month of March took about 3 months to get through, with all the stress and exacerbating factors. What a terrible time to have to say goodbye! Be sad and remember fondly, tell stories and accept comfort. Grieve at your own pace, and eventually the pain will ease. Don’t rush it. Just allow it. We all love you and wish you the best.

    7. pancakes*

      Writing an obituary for her could be helpful. It was helpful for me when I was going through that with my dog because it shifted my focus to my happiest memories of him. I didn’t do it right away, I think I waited a month or so, but it did help somehow.

    8. Josie*

      I’m so sorry. Losing a pet is so difficult in the best of times. Grief lasts longer than we want. It took me months to sleep well after I lost my kitty who slept with me. Give yourself a break, take one breath at a time, it’s so hard to lose someone you love.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      First of all, don’t feel bad about grieving for your pet. Because they are family members to many of us. Also, these are strange times, and it’s not unusual to transfer and feel all that anxiety and stress mixed with the grief. Hugs.
      When you’re ready, I hope you’ll consider adopting another furry who needs all the love you gave Sassy and give them an obviously kind pet parent.

    10. RC Rascal*

      I had to put my 19 year old cat down in November. He was the love of my life. I adopted him after college as a kitten and we were very strongly bonded. I cried every day for the first three months. Now I probably cry 1-2 times a week. I completely know how your feel.

      About a month ago I adopted a new cat from the local shelter. She is an adult. I got her right before our stay at home order went into effect. (Neighboring state had one in and we have been following them so I knew it was coming). Shelter discounted her greatly; they were having a hard time getting adopters. I figured if I was going to be stuck at home it was a good opportunity to settle in a new cat. Sometimes you have to look on the sunny side.

      She doesn’t replace him but she is helping me cope better with the quarantine.

    11. Alice*

      Sassy and Trouper both sound like wonderful creatures who are much missed.
      The comments and suggestions are also wonderful. What a great commenter community this is.

    12. Maisel*

      How would you feel about getting a very soft blanket or pillow with her photo on it? Very sorry for your loss.

    13. NoLongerYoung*

      I’m sending a hug. Others have given you great advice. Do cry, and do NOT expect that you “should” be at any specific mental/ emotional milestone in your grief. My experience is that there is no “normal” and frankly, the harder I loved the more tears (rivers of memories), AND the longer it took. You had that beloved companion far longer than many marriages last. Be gentle. My first cat was so beloved, in such a lonely time of my life, that I mourned for four months. And this is a difficult time in general (understatement). Sending you the warmest thoughts.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        … longer than many marriages last.
        Oh boy, you nailed that one.
        I had not thought of this but now that I see it, it really helps to describe just how hard it can be to lose a pet.

    14. Not the same*

      Removed. I’m very sorry for your loss, but I can’t let you post minimizing others’ suffering like this. – Alison

    15. Relly*

      You aren’t overreacting. You’re grieving. You are in pain. I’m so sorry for your loss.

      Please don’t minimize it by comparing it to what else is going on in the world. Yes, the world is in a horrible place — something that affects you as much as everyone else. You’re dealing with a global pandemic [I]and[/I] you just lost a beloved family member; no wonder you’re struggling!

      I don’t know what you believe per se but when I lost Bella I decided that she was currently charming the socks off various angels and getting her cuddle quotient from them.

    16. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and it hits really close to home. We lost our 16-year-old cat in January, and are suffering similar issues. He was just flat-out special – people who hated cats liked him, and he was friendly, and always in someone’s lap, and had more personality than the two we still have combined. It’s also been tough because our kids (younger than the cat) are devastated, and we’ve had a hard time managing our own grief and helping them process theirs. He also slept on me at night, and I have trouble sleeping now without him. He also would have loved this whole everyone’s-at-home thing and totally would have assumed it was to provide him with better pampering and service.

      And this grief does bleed into everything else and amplify things that would not normally have been a big deal. I can’t leave for hours a day and instead am staring at his bed and toys, etc., which my spouse is not ready to get rid of yet (plus, we have two other cats who shared some of the items).

      We talk about him a lot. The kids like to hear and share stories about him over and over. We’ve made it okay for anyone to burst into tears if they need to, and it’s not unusually to have someone randomly announce, “I miss Cat.” or “It sure would be nice to have a purr-ball in my lap right now.” We have his ashes (along with those of his companion, who we lost about five years ago), and one of the kids talks to them sometimes.

  11. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Anything to help with back pain? It’s usually around the mid back so I’m not sure if it’s pregnancy related or not. I’ve msgd my pcp as well, waiting to hear back from her. It’s usually not an issue when I’m lying in bed or walking (what little I do), just when I sit at my desk. I have an office chair – i figure before buying a back cushion or back brace or something, if there’s anything safe I can do that doesn’t cost $ just yet. When I’m sitting, my instinct is to lie down but I don’t like to do that.

    On another note, I am so desperate for a massage, I got table/chair massages regularly before pregnancy and was so excited to get prenatal massages but alas.

    1. It’s All Good*

      KT tape made a world of difference with my back pain during pregnancy. I hope you find something that works for you.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Walking more might actually be helpful to you. Give it a try for a few days if you can, and if your doc says it’s okay. I get a lot of back pain, and I find that walking and stretching are really the best preventatives.

    3. Astor*

      Back pain is hard, boo. I do want to suggest making your own lumbar support with materials you have at home. My usual method is to take a towel and roll it into what seems like the right shape, wrap it in a scarf/wrap to keep it from unraveling, and then use the ends of the scarf to secure it to my chair. It took me a few days of adjustment to figure out how it’s most comfortable, and then needs to be adjusted every week or so.

      I have chronic back issues but mine aren’t pregnancy related so I worry I’ll give terrible advice. But the diy lumber support is definitely worth doing. Especially because you want to lean *backwards* at your desk instead of leaning forward, and the back support will help you do that.

      Good luck!

      1. Caterpie*

        ^ this. I’m not pregnant either but lower back support in my desk chair was a game changer for me. I kind of plump and squish a small decorative pillow between the chair and my lower back and try to sit up straight with my back against the pillow.

    4. misspiggy*

      I’m guessing the Relaxin is kicking in, making your ligaments looser and your joints less able to cope with strain. This makes you hypermobile, which is how I am. I’d say lie down if you feel the urge, or sit propped in bed with your laptop, rather than sitting in a chair. Sitting isn’t good when your back is under pressure.

      Your doctor might be able to advise on lumbar support wedges that you can buy to make sitting easier, or refer you to physio for exercises to strengthen the muscles that are having to do more work because the joints aren’t providing as much support. I second the advice to walk around as much as possible.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t answer here, but do check to make sure the bowels are working consistently. Two or three bowels movements a day is good. If you suspect this may be a problem, you can increase your water intake. If that doesn’t help you can try a little organic apple juice not from concentrate.

      I know if I don’t drink enough or if the bowels are sluggish my back will tell me all about it until I do something.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Oh didn’t even think of that. Lack of bm is a common issue in pregnancy from what I’ve read and my Dr has told me.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Two or 3 is a lot. That can be normal for some folks, but it would be abnormally fast motility for others. Its not a goal.

        One a day, even one every other day is perfectly fine as long as you’re not uncomfortable or straining. There’s a really wide range of normal.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Right, I’ve always read 3x a day to 3x a week is normal, what makes it concerning is the amount of comfort and consistency.

    6. FormerTheatreArtist*

      Also pregnant right now and a maternity support belt has been very helpful for me, both with back pain and a pain from my muscles stretching neat my ribs in the front. I ordered one off the internet right before the shutdowns started, and it is covered by my FSA.

    7. rkz*

      Also pregnant, but my back pain is in my lower back so not sure if I have helpful advice, just commiseration. I am 30 weeks and recently switched to sitting on an exercise ball…its the only way I can confortably sit at my desk to work for any length of time.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Warm up a towel – straight out of the clothes dryer is ideal, but oven/microwave is good, too, as long as you’re careful – and put it where your back hurts. Gentler than a heating pad, and easier to shape than a hot water bottle.
      Or you might find that cold helps more. My doctor recommended putting a damp towel (hand towel or kitchen, not a bath sheet) in a big freezer bag, and freezing it. No dripping from melting ice!
      Hot or cold, don’t leave it on TOO long, but unlike heating pads or ice packs, you can’t really burn yourself or get frostbite before the towel reverts to room temperature.

    9. Old Biddy*

      Kaiser used to send people to a group physical therapy session/class if they came in with mild back pain. they recommended several types of simple stretches which have been helpful for me.

      cat cow pose
      hamstring stretches
      front of thigh stretches (grab foot behind you and extend, or face away from a bed and place one foot on bed, then bend the other leg so you feel a stretch)
      lying down and pressing your spine into the floor or mattresss

    10. RagingADHD*

      Hamstring stretch! Even if it’s just standing with your heel on the floor in front. Do those multiple times a day.

      Also, if you’re sitting a lot, stretch your arms/shoulders forward and then open out to stretch your chest, clasp your hands behind your back. You could be slouching in your chair and overworking the mid-back that way.

      Check your sleeping position, too. I kept my head elevated a lot when I was pg, and whenever I do that too much I get backaches.

      Sitting is forward flexion with bent knees, so basically you want to do the opposite as much as you can – open up & stretch in the opposite direction multiple times during the day.

    11. Penny Parker*

      Purchase a thera cane and this book and it will help you a lot:
      The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, 2nd Edition Paperback – August 1, 2004
      by Clair Davies

  12. Anonymouse*

    Book thread: What is everybody reading?

    I’m just about to finish reading “À rebours” (“Against the Grain”) by Joris-Karl Huysmans. It’s a 1884 French novel about a bored, neurotic Parisian aesthete who tires of society and Paris, and decides to decamp to an isolated villa with only books and his hobbies to entertain him. He has almost no human interactions, and — as the kids say — shit gets weird. It would be almost the perfect book to read in lockdown except there are a million and a half references to obscure French writers and Christian theologians that I’m having to constantly google.

    1. Scarlet Magnolias*

      This is the book that helped (not that he needed much help falling off the path) corrupt Dorian Gray!

    2. NeverNicky*

      I’ve just finished Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (I think it might be called Eight Perfect Murders in the US).

      Bookseller Malcolm Kershaw wrote a blog listing the books he felt had eight perfect murder plots … and now somebody appears to be using that list to commit their own murders.

      Part a celebration of the crime genre, part mystery, part rumination on loss, identity and truth, it is clever without being show-offy and – like the best mysteries – plays by the rules.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        There must be a lot of AAM readers in my library district. I put that on my hold list this morning, and there was already a 4 month wait. I hope everybody reads fast and returns it early.

    3. Retail not Retail*

      I read two books about work – one fiction and one non-. The non-fiction one was engaging but calling the political analysis half-baked would be too generous. So I won’t name it.

      But! The fiction! The protagonist reminded me of some of the bizarre and in the wrong advice seekers. It’s called The Room and it’s by Jonas Karlsson. It’s pretty short and a little surreal. Our protag is convinced he is the best worker there and lays our his work schedule in excruciating detail and compares himself to his coworkers who do wasteful things like talk to each other and distasteful things like wear blue jackets. Some people say it has something to say about conformity but our protag is clearly the one desiring it, not rebelling against it.

      In other book news, if things start opening I’ve got some book hauling to do. I have 24 city library books (not the max by one), 10 university books, and 10 town books which will all be due. There are quite a few unread for the crime of being boring or not right but I’ve got 3 left that look good.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Tor gave away the Murderbot novellas for free this week (new novel coming out in a couple weeks), so I finally read those. I also read the second of John Scalzi’s Lock In series and really enjoyed that. I just started The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates last night and I’m not sure I’m liking the writing style, but I’m not giving up on it yet, and I’m waiting for a couple books by Siddhartha Mukherjee to come to the top of my library list. :)

      1. TimeCat*

        I struggled with The Water Dancer, though I did finish it. It’s an oddly detached novel.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I gave up on it, the writing style just grated on me too much. I read “Docile” last night instead, which was interesting in several ways, though I don’t remember wherever I got the recommendation from disclosing that it involved a lot of really graphic (REALLY GRAPHIC) sex scenes that almost all had force, coercion, and other consent issues, and I don’t know that I would have gotten it from the library if I had known that up front.

      2. schnauzerfan*

        Have you read Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome? It’s a short (144 page) prequel to Locked In. I have the Audible version and loved it… The Locked In series is one of my favorite Scalzi works.

    5. Just a Guy in a Cube*

      Mieville’s October, about the Russian Revolution, which I know little about, so I’m very much enjoying.
      The Best American Essays, edited by Rebecca Solnit, which has a few absolute gems but in general is not what it says on the tin.
      Amatka, by Karen Tidbek, for a virtual book club, which is so new that I can only say that the early weirdness has me very intrigued.

      1. Just a Guy in A Cube*

        Also I am looking to support my local bookstore soon, and I definitely want some Ross Gay poems, but I’m trying to find a few other books to get excited about. I adored Confessions of the Fox recently, will probably include Jemisin’s new novel, and don’t want to get bogged down in something huge. Suggestions?

    6. Liane*

      After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals by Donald R. Prothero. Author says it is aimed at laypeople and non-paleontologist scientists; I think it’s giving my Zoology BS a workout, so this might not be a good choice for readers without a strong science background. Don’t get me wrong–it is very interesting & I like it, just not light reading. It was about $3 for Kindle.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        I really have enjoyed it, but yes, you do want to have a good strong science background.

    7. Stinson*

      I just read Dear Mr. M, a Dutch book by Herman Koch, translated into English. Really enjoyed it. I read his book The Dinner last year and that was good too.

    8. Jonah*

      I’m reading Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. It’s for a new book club I just joined for fans of a podcast. I wasn’t super excited about it because I don’t generally enjoy books about a straight romance unfolding. They’re often too rife with gender stereotypes and flat female characters. However I’ve really enjoyed it. It feels cozy and sweet, and the characters are realistic. There’s consent! And male-female platonic friendships! And NPR! And it’s set in Maine which is my favorite place in the world. It’s been an excellent distraction, and I highly recommend it.

      1. Kate Daniels*

        I loved that book! I think it was also one of Alison’s book recs of the week a few months ago.

    9. GoryDetails*

      Several in progress, as usual – I like to switch up moods and genres.

      The Wildest Place on Earth by John Hanson Mitchell is a mix of garden history, labyrinths, and the author’s own patch of wilderness in which he’s been attempting to construct a garden – with many nods to Pan along the way. [Much of the book’s setting is relatively local to me, with references to delightful spots such as the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA – it has its own walking labyrinth *and* a statue of Pan, along with historical and literary interest. It’s… not open just at present, but I plan to visit it again when it’s possible.] It’s making me want to include a walking labyrinth – perhaps just a bark-mulch path, perhaps flagstones with herbs between them – in my long-neglected side yard.

      We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is a YA novel about an unhappy gay teen who’s been abducted by aliens, who apparently want him to decide whether to allow the Earth to be destroyed or to take one simple act that will save it. He’s so miserable that he’s pretty much decided to let it burn, but that may change… [I’m enjoying the story though the bullying sections are pretty rough to read. I’m not quite sure whether the aliens are real or some kind of psychotic reaction on our hero’s part, though I rather hope it’s the former.]

      The Summer We All Ran Away by Cassandra Parkin also features a tormented teen, but the tone’s quite different: a young runaway who’s clearly fleeing some kind of abusive background stumbles upon an isolated mansion that’s inhabited by a trio of squatters, a middle-aged man and woman and a feisty young Goth-style girl. The story unfolds in multiple viewpoints and alternating timestreams, as we find out who owned the house, why it’s been abandoned for so long, and how the different characters wound up there. Charming and haunting.

      1. Anonymouse*

        Apparently based on a real jeweled tortoise!

        From the notes: “This episode is based on Montesquiou’s gold-plated and jewel-encrusted tortoise. Edmond de Goncourt in a diary entry for 14 June 1882 calls it a ‘walking bibelot’, and one of the poems in Montesquiou’s collection ‘Les Hortensias bleus’ (‘Blue Hydrangeas’) mentions the unhappy creature.”

    10. Teacher Lady*

      I just got Alisha Rai’s new book (Girl Gone Viral), and I dig it so far. Also reading The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.

    11. Tomacco*

      I’m re-reading the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian and have just started #4 ‘Mauritius Command’. I love these books so much.

    12. PhyllisB*

      Just finished Viola Shipman’s book The Recipe Box. Loved it!! Can’t wait to try some of the recipes!! Right before that, I read Alison’s book Ask a Manager. I’ve had it for over a year. I won it on Goodreads, and put it in a safe place to read later. Well, got caught up in library books and…found it last week, and was thrilled!! Now I wish I could share it with one of y’all.

    13. dinoweeds*

      I’m a huge fantasy reader so I’ve been trying to branch out. My favorite recent read is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – I loved the humanity of all of the characters and the plot was amazing. My least favorite read was The Supper Club by Lara Williams, which Alison actually recommended on here at some point. The protagonist is this extremely depressed woman with a very traumatic history that was detailed in the book – to the point that I think there should have been trigger warnings somewhere in the description. After I finished that I said screw it and went back to fantasy books since that’s my happy place. I am now reading through all of Brian Sanderson’s novels and am currently reading Warbreaker. I’m not very far in to it yet but I absolutely LOVE the world he built and the characters.

    14. Koala dreams*

      I’m reading The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey. I thought it was going to be a thriller, but it’s not. It’s a tale of four days in the life of a priest in a small village in late 15th century England, after a man drowned in the river next to the village. A lot of thoughts about religion, which I thought I wouldn’t be interested in, but somehow I am, and even though not much is happening the book is still a page turner.

    15. Belgian*

      I finished up Circe by Madeline Miller, which I ended up enjoying but took a couple of chapters to get going for me. The only reason I picked it up again after the first 2 chapters was all the recommendations I saw.

      Now I’m reading Among Others by Jo Walton (which I think was recommended here?) which I think is really good!

    16. PhyllisB*

      Has anyone read Inventing The Abbots by Sue Miller? I’m kind of mehh usually on short stories and when I got this book at a library sale (for 25 cents!!) I didn’t realize it was short stories. I liked the title story, the second one started off okay, then just…ended. Not sure if I want to read more. Any thoughts?

    17. Overeducated*

      I’m reading “The Game” by Neil Strauss. It’s about pick up artists and it’s totally ridiculous – i figure it will be too embarrassing to read on public transit so may as well do it now.

    18. Sam I Am*

      The BFG by Roald Dahl!

      It slipped past my reading in my youth somehow, there was a copy lying around the house and I realized I needed to switch it up to something light for a few days.

      I love it.

    19. Elizabeth West*

      Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of [You-Know-Who] and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior. I’m only at the beginning, but it goes into how Missouri (Sarah lives here) is a bellwether for the country, and how both the state and the country’s deep corruption got started and continues. She’s an authoritarian scholar who, with screenwriter Andrea Chalupa, does the podcast Gaslit Nation. They’ve been called alarmist, but they’ve been spot on most of the time about what’s been happening, mostly because authoritarian regimes are very predictable.

    20. Bluebell*

      Yesterday I sped through The Other Woman by Sandie Jones. Decent thriller with a twist I saw coming, but a fun read. In a completely different direction, I’ve just started Spying on the South- a journalist follows Frederick Law Olmsteads travels through the South. Lots of nuance, and it’s fairly depressing about the US economic system. If I need to take a break, Searching for Sylvie Lee is next.

    21. CelestialEngine*

      Just finished rereading an old favourite series, Sabriel by Garth Nix. It’s YA fantasy. I find rereading books so comforting in times of stress!

  13. Cute Li'l UFO*

    I was very concerned this morning that I broke my wrist on Easter. I’ve learned in recent years to not face health problems with denial but while washing my hair the pain was undeniable. I did some heavy lifting in the week before I started wrapping it

    A quick trip to urgent care, and a few x-rays later a fracture has been ruled out. Hooray! I have a better splint and one that is much easier to put on vs. an ace bandage. It’s likely that it’s a bone bruise and I’m glad I was validated in my decision to go in. I’ve only ever broken my tailbone and since I’m a graphic designer (and still working) the last thing I want to do is lasting damage to my hands.

    Wow, bone bruises hurt and I’ve been in a couple ugly fights that didn’t hurt half as bad.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Bodies are dumb, this is a known fact.

      My sister breaks bones, i strain tendons/muscles. Both are terrible, but I’m dealing with a 4 and a half year old hip injury.

      To which I say yay take care of your wrist and oh man I’ve never bruised a bone. Again. Bodies are dumb.

    2. Bookslinger in My Free Time*

      Smashed my hand with my older-than-me sewing machine a few weeks ago- it’s a flip-top, and the catch didn’t hold. I was in tears, and I went through labor without crying- twice. Could have sworn I had broken my (main) hand at the base of my thumb right above the wrist. Had my mom drive me to the ER- nope, just a bone bruise. It is still kind of tingly if I hit it just right, but it finally doesn’t hurt. Bone bruises are the WORST.

    3. Eponin*

      Bone bruises are the worst. And they take longer to heal than an actual break, which sucks. Glad you got it checked out!

    4. RagingADHD*

      Ooof. I had a bone bruise on top of my foot about 5 years ago. Took a good 6 months or more to stop hurting, and the mark appears to be permanent.

      Best wishes that yours heals better & faster.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh my gaw, they so do. I had a bone bruise in my foot once and walking was torture for a while. I hope your wrist heals quickly!

  14. Paperdill*

    Part of my husband’s work involves guest-speaking at a lot of industry gatherings. He is almost always presented with a bottle of red wine as thanks, which is a very lovely gesture. Unfortunately, neither he or I like red wine, so it usually gets passed on to our friends or family.
    Why do you think people give him red wine?
    IME, people tend to prefer white, if they have a preference. Why would red be the go-to as a thank you gift?

    1. Claritza*

      I don’t know but I read a book in the sixties written by a nonsmoker public speaker who said he was nearly always given fancy ashtrays.

      1. TechWorker*

        +1 – I’m not 100% sure it’s true that ‘if people have a preference it tends to be white’ – in my friendship group it’s definitely the opposite. I didn’t ‘like’ red wine until I was 22ish (drinking age is 18 here) but now I definitely prefer it. And agree cheap white wine is awful.

        (I’ve always described my taste in wine as ‘anything but Chardonnay’)

        1. Lady Jay*

          Oh, see I disagree. For the cheapest wines, a sweet white is the best bet (dry white, not so much, but the sugars cover a multitude of sins). With red, I need to get at minimum a 5-7 dollar bottle at Trader Joe’s for it to be worth drinking.

          I’m poor, so right now, I’m drinking a lot of sweet whites.

          1. Lady Jay*

            Also, though, I mostly eat vegetarian, and I haven’t yet found a red that goes well with fresh salads or egg dishes. :shrug emoji:

          2. TechWorker*

            Maybe it’s just that I dislike sweet wine in general? :) I’ve never had a red that was undrinkable but definitely had to give up on corner shop bottle of white once cos it was so bad (I think I forgot that £6 at the corner shop == about £3/4 equivalent at the supermarket :p)

            1. Lady Jay*

              That’s legit. I’d agree with you that even whites can be too sweet, and that sweet doesn’t cover *all* sins (miss me on those pink zins, for instance). Right now, I’m having luck with the $3/bottle moscato at Aldi’s, which is medium sweet but still tastes like wine, not like soda.

              (Also, reds need to be dryer than whites to be good. Nothing sweeter than a merlot is worth it, and very dry reds are better, IMO, than very dry whites.)

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          My friend group leans heavily red as well. Of 20ish people I can think of (30s – 50, middle class):
          4 like white. All female if that makes any difference
          2 admit to liking sweet wines – one just because that’s what he likes (blackberry, etc), and one almost apologetically. The rest… are pretty vocal about not drinking sweet wines.
          This has been fairly consistent since we hit our mid-20s and started to be able to afford better wines; before then, sweet was common, but people weren’t drinking it for the *taste*.

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        Oh man, I completely disagree. I need $20 red wine but adore that terrible boxed white they serve at nail places, hah. I like my white to taste like apple juice, and my red to taste like earth.
        To be fair, a big part of the expensive taste in reds is tannins contributing to migraines, so cheap red is a no go.

        I always default to red when gifting as well. I guess I always thought of it as more “formal” but I don’t know where that belief came from.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Where on earth do you live that they give you wine in your nails saloon?? Packing my boxes now…

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Haha, New England, but also when I lived in Florida they served it as well. I mean honestly whats the point of a nail appointment without wine?? HHA

    2. misspiggy*

      I guess because white wine is assumed to be a women’s drink, red wine is what men get.

      1. WS*

        This is what I was going to say. Neither of my parents like red wine, yet that’s what people give my dad. My mum gets white wine and/or something bubbly.

      2. Dan*

        Is that true? I’ve never heard that before (and I live in Virginia wine country…) I’m super picky about my reds. That is, I find a lot of them to not be very good, although that’s not a hard and fast rule. If one wants to get me a bottle of wine without asking my preference first, one a random bottle of white is far more likely to be preferable to me.

    3. matcha123*

      First time hearing that people prefer white, I’ve always preferred red. If if were going to give the gift of alcohol, I would give red…as it is way superior to white.

      1. curly sue*

        I used to quite like red wine, but then I started getting migraines from the tannins. Now I can only drink white.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          I get migraines from tannins but have good luck with AoC French wines (with a particular preference from Cote du Rhone) because they have standards for what can be added to the wine and seem to be much lower tannin.

    4. Alex*

      That’s funny–almost everyone I know prefers red (including myself).

      But generally agree that some people view white wine as “girly” and that may be part of it.

    5. Jonah*

      I agree with everyone who spoke to the gendered issues with wine. When I gift wine, I usually pick something unusual like a local muscadine or blackberry wine and include a recipe they can use it for. Blackberry wine cake is incredible, and it gives them something to try with it if they’re not a drinker.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        My dad loves blackberry and muscadine and other fruity wines. I’ll have to hunt up a blackberry wine cake recipe for my mom, I bet they’d like it.

    6. The pest, Ramona*

      I always thought that people who don’t really like wine prefer white (as I once did), but those who are more experienced with wife prefer reds. I know the more wine tasting I did (California girl here, LOTS of wineries) the more I prefer reds. The only white wine I buy nowadays are dessert wines.

    7. lazy intellectual*

      For me it’s seasonal. I prefer full-bodied red wines during the fall/winter, and crisp white wines during the spring/summer.

      The only reason I can give behind the gifts is that red wine can be seen as fancier??? It’s traditionally paired with very decadent food, like steak, so maybe that’s where people are going with that?

      1. PhyllisB*

        I don’t drink anymore, but when I did, I preferred chardonnays. Would drink pino grios (I know that’s spelled wrong.) My husband preferred reds. I think a lot of people consider reds more high class than whites, but that’s definitely not true.There are good wines in both. OP, most liquor stores will allow swaps if it’s something they carry in stock. Just pay the difference if what you pick out is more expensive.

    8. filosofickle*

      I prefer white and am nearly always gifted red.

      I live an hour from Napa/Sonoma, and pseudo wine snobs have decided that white isn’t as sophisticated as red. Not true wine folks, mind you, they know that great wine comes from all grapes. But there’s been a massive movement towards “Oh I Only Drink Reds” (similar to “I never drink merlot / chardonnay / whatever we think is out of fashion currently.) If I polled people I know in the Bay Area who drink wine, I’d bet a solid 75% would say they prefer or only drink red. And, agreeing with other posters, there is more good inexpensive red in the world unless you like sweet wine.

      It is shifting, though. Among my friends (mostly women, 40s) many have developed allergies and headaches to reds and have had to lay off.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, as a migraine-prone person, I avoid red wines. I mostly drink chardonnay; I don’t give a rats-ass if other people see that as unsophisticated or out of style. I also drink Coors light when I have beer, and I get plenty of flak for that but again….don’t care.

    9. Scarlet Magnolias*

      I don’t know, I like white, so I either regift the red, make sangria with it or use it in cooking

    10. A bit of a saga*

      It’s true that if it’s for a professional occasion I always gift red (and also mostly receive it, I can only think of one time I got a white wine and that was from someone from a region where they are famous for their white wine). If I’m giving wine privately then it depends on the time of the year/the person I’m gifting. I never thought about the gender bias but it’s probably true now that I’m thinking about it.

    11. Fellow Traveler*

      I work in theatre and I don’t drink, but I’ve been the recipient of many a bottle of red wine for opening night. We have a whole shelf of “Opening Night Wine” in my basement.
      I did have a director once who, knowing I didn’t drink gave me a hunk of cheese for opening night. That was pretty awesome.

    12. Sip, Sip...*

      According to yougov, 69 percent of Americans prefer red wine, although most of those people also like white and rosė.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I feel like rose is a safe one. No one doesn’t like rose, at least secretly lol. But I wonder if it’s seen as too “girly” for gifting to a man.

        1. allathian*

          If white’s girly, rose is even more so! Pink champagne/cava is very popular here for hen nights.

    13. allathian*

      I’ve never thought about it before, but from reading the comments above I think it’s a gendered thing. When I’m gifted wine it’s almost always white or bubbly. My husband almost always gets red wine.
      I like both, but I find that white wine can be drunk as it is, but for red, food is a must, and red meat at that. I’m a flexi-eater and can go for weeks without eating any meat, but red wine demands it. I haven’t found a vegetarian dish yet that would go well with red wine, especially as I prefer the kind of tannin-rich reds that tingle your tongue.
      I don’t like sweet white wines very much, the drier the better!

    14. Ted Mosby*

      At least in the US, red is more popular. But equally importantly, red wine can sit in shift bag all day and then be opened immediately. Handing someone room temp white wine always feels weird to me.

    15. Bluesboy*

      Everyone seems to be talking about which people prefer, but i think it’s much simpler.

      When you take a bottle to someone’s house, most of the time if it’s white, you can’t drink it because it needs to be chilled. Red you can open straight away! If it needs to breathe, still you can drink the bottle the host has already opened, and then yours is ready to drink!

      So people have the habit of bringing red, which then translates into red also in different contexts (for example in your case).

      1. PhyllisB*

        Actually, reds do need to be chilled just a bit to taste their best. I never knew that until I went to wine tastings and really learned a lot. I don’t really like reds (well, I don’t drink anymore, but in the past) but discovered that I could drink them if chilled briefly. The person who ran the wine tastings said 30 minutes before serving take the whites out of fridge and put the reds in. That is perfect for both.

  15. Aphrodite*

    Tonight (Friday) I spent watching Carol Burnett videos on YouTube, both bloopers and regular sketches. I feel 100 percent different. Laughter is truly the best medicine.

    And her show was so good! That dental skit, the Went with the Wind one, and many more. Genuinely funny.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The Cinderella one is brilliant too.

      The other show I love watching clips for is Wayne and Shuster, and old Canadian sketch comedy show. Look for Shakespeare Baseball, Rinse the Blood of My Toga (Julius Caesar as as film noir), the Mark of Zero, Star Schtick (Star Trek Parody), and of course the Question Time sketch.

      The original Muppet show is excellent for mood elevation too.

      1. fposte*

        We used to perform Rinse the Blood Off My Toga at camp, and my Canadian father fondly remembered Shakespearian Baseball.

      2. tiasp*

        I didn’t know you could find wayne and shuster on youtube! Yay! I still sing their sign off song (as much of it as I remember … “I see by the clock on the wall, that it’s time to bid you one and all . . .”)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That is one of my favorite things on earth. It never fails to make me fall over laughing.

    2. Retail not Retail*

      My favorite one is the one where her husband is cheating on her and she’s listening to a radio call-in show and realizes the person calling in is her husband’s girlfriend. It escalates and cracks me up.

    3. LNLN*

      My favorite skit was the one where Tim Conway is playing Carol’s husband and they have to give their dog a shot, but Conway accidentally gets the injection. Then another couple comes over for dinner and throughout the evening Conway starts acting more and more like a dog. So silly and so funny!

    4. Marcy*

      Please find the elephant story. It is a Tim Conway outtake. And make sure you watch all the way through to the end.

      1. Paradiddler*

        Omg, the elephant! This is the best, our favorite. I think I wet my pants the first time we saw it, years ago. I don’t want to give it away, but the sound he does is hilarious.

    5. Cat Furniture*

      Google “carol burnett cowboy dance” – John Byner was so good in this. Listen to the very last line. Those of us of a certain age will get it.

    6. SpellingBee*

      I can also highly recommend getting her memoirs as an audiobook – she reads it, and there are also portions read by others from the show. Wonderfully funny.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I love the “Mama’s Family” skits where Vickie Lawrence plays plays the part of Carol’s character’s (Eunice’s) mother. There’s a skit where Vickie started ad-libbing criticisms of Eunice. Carol was caught off guard and broke character and started laughing. She (Carol) had her head turned away from the audience so they wouldn’t see. Then Vickie cracks, “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

      Last night (Friday) I watched an old movie on YouTube from 1972 called “Pete ‘n’ Tilley” that starred Carol Burnett and Walter Matthau as a star-crossed married couple and it was surprisingly good.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I used to watch the Mama’s Family sitcom because I loved Vicki Lawrence as Thelma on Carol’s show. Every once in a while, Carol would show up as Eunice for added hilarity.

  16. Not a pandemic novel*

    I have a dilemma.

    Like many of you, I’m out of work because of the virus.

    Unlike many of you, I’m not baking, working on a new skill or doing that great as a teacher/hairstylish/[insert occupation you temporarily took upon because of the pandemic].

    But I’m thinking of what I miss and like the most… and outside my current pretty okay life (love my job, family and all), my only regret is failing at looking for a publisher for a completed novel.

    I’ve tried querying and I don’t expect it to be easy but I give up way too fast. I believe in my work, I do think I have a cool novel and I’m a good writer. Yet, I get discouraged because I always think “why me?”.

    For someone who claims to be a good writer, I’m not being very clear here… I guess my question would be “how do you learn to believe in yourself when the odds are against you?”

    1. Hazy Days*

      I have a novel which never got picked up – the consensus from agents was along the lines of ‘well-written, not going to sell’ – so I do sympathise. I decided to self-publish it, at which point I could entirely see what they meant ;-)

      I think that keeping up your self-belief is one of the hardest parts of writing, one that remains a continual problem, and one that needs to be addressed like any other skill.

      I’m actively trying to seek out opportunities to get some small praise as I go along, and I’ve made that a writing goal / task in itself. Things I’ve done (I’m a poet) include
      – reading at local open-mics
      – sharing work with friends and family
      – forming a poet’s group which meets weekly
      – creating a chapbook of works by our group
      – sharing work on Instagram (not really my vibe I think)

      I also set myself a number of submissions to reach, and told myself I’d get no success before that.

      I still alternate between ‘this work is terrible’ and ‘this work is great’, but that’s fine.

      Does that help?

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        It does help!

        And by the way, just getting feedback from a publisher/agent is huge, so kuddos to you. Plus, “well written” in the important part of the statement.

        Out of curiosity, how many queries did/do you send?

        And what’s your genre of choice?

    2. Square Root of Minus One*

      I have wondered too and I usually to try to keep to the stances below.
      “Why me?” – “Why not?”
      “how do you learn to believe in yourself when the odds are against you?” – “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will do it for you”
      That’s how I look at it, no guarantee it works for you, it does for me, reasonably. I see lucky people, so I believe luck can happen to me.
      I think most of Alison’s advice on applications applies here*. Send it, then proceed as if you won’t be selected. Three possible outcomes : you don’t hear anything (which is the same outcome as if you don’t do anything), or you get an answer to “Why not” (which might sting, but honestly, just for some time, just like an application), or you get a positive answer.
      So… yeah, why not?

      Also. “Unlike many of you, I’m not baking, working on a new skill”… I don’t believe there are THAT many people who can do that in such times, honestly. Mostly a lucky minority you hear through an echo chamber. You write. That’s a lot already.

      (*Pun not intended, but I’ll leave it.)

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        I think I’m doing the “proceed as if you won’t be selected” part okay. And it’s funny, because I don’t make such a big deal of the application process when I’m looking for new clients (freelancer here!). I’m not scared of bad feedback either. I mean, sure, it could sting but I’m realistic and I *know* feedback on art is always subjective so it’s not like it’s going to destroy my confidence.

        So what’s my problem? Huh. I’m wondering myself as I’m typing that. I think I just hate competition and I see getting published as a competitive because it’s a highly competitive field (sorry for all the “competition/competitive”, too late and too tired for synonyms). I’ve always carved myself a niche rather than competing with others.

        (Thank you for your input, you’re helping me reframe my problem!)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “how do you learn to believe in yourself when the odds are against you?”

      If others don’t believe in me then that is one type of problem.
      But if I don’t believe in me, that is a whole new layer. You completed this book, because you believe in you. And that’s the facts on that one.

      I think self-doubt is useful, we can use it to sharpen what we are doing. We can question our methods and build stronger methods in some way. There’s a difference between momentary doubt and generally believing in one’s self.
      I think that any longer term project has moments or even weeks/months of near or total despair. It took me 20 years to get my bachelor’s degree. It took me a similar time frame to lose the excess weight I carried. If we stay on something long enough we can eventually make it a reality in some form. The trick is to keep trying.

      Sometimes I take a “rest” from chasing a particular goal. I get tired of all the defeat. It’s a normal human need to want to feel success. That’s healthy. As you go along working on getting your book published, you could decide to get your sense of success from somewhere else for the moment. This is a two part approach, rest plus working on a smaller thing to give you back your sense of having some accomplishment. Example, and it’s okay if you laugh out loud. I painted my utility cupboard. I have lived here 28 years, it needed painting when I moved in. I painted it last month. I am tickled pink about this. I go over and look at it every so often. It’s a sense of accomplishment, when there isn’t too much else going on to get that sense of accomplishment. Likewise for yourself, in order to ease yourself through this longer term project, you might need to do some smaller things to keep yourself buoyed up.

      Forgive yourself when you accuse yourself of “slacking” and circle back to your project and give it the best you got.

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        Oh, thank you so much for your wise words!

        I can relate to this sense of accomplishment, this is exactly what I strive for when I write. I love it when a story or just a blog post expresses just what I wanted to convey.

        I’ve just copied your last sentence to my notebook because this is actually super motivational in an achievable kind of motivational.

        And congrats on painting your cupboard! Just curious… what prompted you to do it? Pandemic time or it just felt right?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Am laughing, yeah, it sat there for 28 years, why rush now, right? ha!
          It was a time filler due to fill voids from the pandemic. I really did not want to do this job. There was a hole in the sheet rock at the back of the cupboard that had to be patched. Everything had to be sorted and some of it was pretty dusty so I had to clean some of the contents. (Do you see this project getting bigger and bigger?)
          I had to wash/scrub the cupboard and let it air dry. Because the original paint was dark, it took an extra coat of paint. (Are we there yet? Heck NO!) I had bought special hooks and hangers to put stuff and I wanted to change the layout of how I stored things. My main complaint was if I took one thing out, then 5 other things fell out with the one thing I wanted. This meant standing there and figuring out how to make the cupboard work in a reasonable manner.
          There were other small tasks, one was I had bought a cordless screw driver. I decided to learn to use it for this project. So that was an additional chunk of time also.
          It took me just over a week to do this, with working on it daily.
          I do have some supplies here to do various small tasks. So I am targeting tasks that I have already purchased supplies for. I like to do tag sales (I miss tag sales!!) and that is how I got all the hangers/holders for the cupboard. This particular cupboard was the only cupboard/closet in the house that has not had work done on it.
          I have such a huge feeling of success that I am reluctant to say how huge. It’s ridiculously disproportionate to the size and meaningfulness of the project. LOL. I can only conclude that we can go into a state of feeling an emotional/psychological starvation from lack of success. We have to go create success to fill the hole.

    4. knead me seymour*

      As someone who works in the publishing industry, I would just say that trying to get a novel traditionally published is an extremely punishing and non-rewarding experience, so don’t beat yourself up too much for being discouraged by it. It is genuinely very discouraging. And as you probably know, there are tons of good novels, even great novels, that either can’t find a publisher or don’t sell well because it’s a very fickle and luck-based industry. Not being able to find a publisher doesn’t mean your novel isn’t good.

      I think it’s worth really examining what you’re hoping to get out of being published. If it’s having your work read and appreciated by others, you might find it more rewarding to submit short pieces to contests, magazines or websites, or join a writing group. If you feel particularly strongly about this particular novel, you could consider making it available online, or self-publishing (or perhaps leaning more heavily toward querying indie publishers). I’d only really dig into the traditional publishing route if you’re determined to have a career as a writer, and expect to write at least a handful of novels before you can get your first one picked up by an agent. And it doesn’t hurt to have some published stories and a solid social media following. It’s a numbers game, in the end, because having a good novel is just the starting point. To be published, you have to have a good novel on the right topic at the right place and right time.

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        Thank you for the reality check.

        This is exactly what I suspected and it’s both encouraging and discouraging (in a good way, your input is valuable!)

        If the traditional route doesn’t work, I’ll probably make it available on my blog. I have a decent following… and it’s better in my mind to have even just a couple of readers enjoy it than leave it in a drawer.

        I would like to try for a career as a writer, hence why I’m stubbornly going the “traditional way”. I’m already making a living out of making sure sentences have verbs and proper punctuation and I love my job… dedicating more time to fiction is my dream.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is basically what I did. My book got close but didn’t quite make the hurdle; although I was vehemently opposed to self-publishing for various reasons, I eventually did it, just to get it out there. And so I would stop messing with it, lol. I don’t make a hell of a lot from it (seriously, my March royalties were $11.18) but doing it has forced me to learn some new skills.

          I still want to publish traditionally. It took some time to accept this book was not going to be the one. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; it’s more like dating a good guy I get along well with but I’m probably not going to marry.

          It absolutely will not happen if you don’t try, but keep writing. Keep working and practicing and reading. If you don’t have a writer’s group, you might look for one; feedback is good.

        2. knead me seymour*

          Sorry if my message sounded a bit harsh! For me, it is helpful to know that it’s not you, it’s just the process, but unfortunately the process really sucks. I think persistence usually is rewarded, but it’s often a lot of toil for a relatively small return, so it’s easier if you set your expectations accordingly. Best of luck to you!

    5. Koala dreams*

      Many popular authors have had their books refused many times before they succeeded. Maybe you are one of them.

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        I would love being one of them! :-D

        I don’t mind rejections at all. I’m not young and naive enough to believe my work would be considered by the first set of eyes reading it.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I decided when I started writing my first novel that I didn’t have to believe in myself. I could just keep doing the thing, and then it would be true.

      You don’t have to believe in a specific outcome. Just do the thing, and then there you are, doing it.

      1. Not a pandemic novel*

        This was my mindset when I was completing the work ;-) That part was “easy” in a way. I can believe in myself enough to write… marketing myself in another story.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I know, but it’s still just work to be done.

          You can make a to-do list, write a query (write it as if it’s fiction if you want to!), send them off, etc.

          I’m not saying don’t have feelings or be numb. That’s awful. I’m saying belief is optional. If the lack of it is an obstacle for you, you can remove that obstacle by considering that it is irrelevant anyway.

          When you are querying, you are in exactly the same boat as every other author who is querying. Only the terrible, delusional ones believe in themselves unconditionally. Most of them feel exactly the same as you. They just found a self-hack to circumvent those derailing emotions and get it done.

          That’s all this is – a self-hack.

          Believing in yourself doesn’t make a publisher choose your book. It doesn’t make the book more marketable, or a better fit for their catalogue. It doesn’t add or remove any themes or characters that the editor finds charming or triggering. It doesn’t improve your story structure or your prose.

          For some people, working up an emotional belief in themselves helps them take action. For others, or at different times, the process of working up those emotions just wastes energy.

          The query you dont believe in can be just as effective as the one you do. Sometimes more effective, because you can look at it in a businesslike way.

          Querying isn’t creative. It isn’t art. It’s business, and being dispassionate about it can be very helpful.

          For what it’s worth, I chose not to query because my experiences in theater taught me it’s far more productive and often easier to find your own audience than run around trying to please gatekeepers. I indiepub, which means constant marketing.

          But honestly, it’s a lot easier to convince a bunch of people to invest a few bucks each in my books, than convince one person to invest their professional reputation and many thousand dollars.

    7. Not A Girl Boss*

      I was just listening to Jocko Podcast episode 226 and they talked about this a lot. I can’t do it justice, but the tl;Dr is that if you have something to say and don’t put it out there, it’s unethical – because what if it would really speak to people? So basically, the value and the fulfillment is in putting it out there, not people’s reaction to it. Don’t let fear of a negative reaction hold you back. Because the worst thing that can happen is that people don’t care. But the worst thing that can happen from not putting it out there is that the world misses something important.

      1. Hazy Days*

        I don’t follow how that works with writing and publication – surely the whole point is you want to put it out there for readers and it’s not being picked up?

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          OP is nervous to put it out to publishers because of fear of rejection. The point is that the honor is in trying.

    8. HQB*

      For a bit of a different take on this, what if you remove the self-confidence issue from the equation completely? You don’t have to believe in yourself to query, any more than you have to believe in yourself to brush your teeth or clean out your closet; you just have to do it. So can you decide to do it, regardless of external responses or how discouraged you are? You could set it up as a weekly thing, e.g. ‘Every Sunday I spend 20 minutes updating my list of agents to query, log any responses from the past week in a spreadsheet, and query the next agent on my list.’

    9. Nynaeve*

      A part of your “why me?” question that I haven’t seen addressed yet is: “How can I convince the agents/publishers that they should pick me?”

      The core of every pitch is “the same, but different.” The same: you want to point out that there’s a built-in audience for the type of book you’ve written. What are the books (ideally, successful books) that are similar to what you’ve written? What type of reader would gravitate toward your book? The type who likes pulse-pounding thrillers? Quirky YA romances? Evocative historical fiction with slow-burn drama? Imagine a reader comes up to a bookseller or librarian and says, “I like ______ (author) or ______ (book), but I’ve read them all and am looking for something new.” What would you fill in for those blanks that would make the bookseller or librarian (reasonably) say, “Oh, you should check out Not a pandemic novel!”

      The different: what makes your book stand apart from the pack? A plot twist? An unusual setting? A character that’s markedly different from the stock type for the genre? A thought-provoking theme? An unexpected tone? An unusual structure? This is your hook you use to interest someone in your book over someone else’s.

      Hope that helps!

  17. Anon for this*

    Anyone have suggestions where to find cute pretty summer sandals for my little girl nieces? My usual go-to shops (Mini Boden, Garnet Hill) have been disappointing this season. Many thanks!

    1. Ranon*

      Janie and Jack do cute and pretty a lot. J Crew’s Crew Cuts line might be another place to check.

    2. Book Lover*

      Those are my usual stores – and I love tea collection also. They always have some cute sandals and shoes so maybe worth checking out.

    3. Call me St. Vincent*

      Highly recommend Salt Water sandals which they sell at Zappos! I especially love the patent leather or gold ones. They hold up really well, are comfortable, waterproof and adorable!

  18. Natalie*

    My being pregnant came up in another thread some weeks ago (I think; what is time right now) so brief update – now we have a baby! She was a little earlier than expected but everyone is fine. We’ve been back home about a week and are doing about as well as I imagine anyone with their first baby does.

    1. Natalie*

      And my PSA – don’t skip your necessary medical care because of the pandemic. I delivered when I did because we caught an unexpected and severe pregnancy complication during my last prenatal. If your covid anxiety has grown to the point where you cannot go outside to see a doctor, your first call should be someone who can help you with that.

      1. Sleepless*

        Congratulations! And yes, it’s amazing what can go on without you being aware of it. I had pre-eclampsia and I felt completely fine.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Oh hooray!

      And an EXCELLENT PSA — one of the reasons my state is reopening some medical offices/procedures starting Monday is because they’ve seen an uptick in more-urgent presentations at ERs due to people being overly-conscientious about staying home.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Mazel tov! wishing you health, happiness, and sleep!
      Thanks also for the PSA. This may be the push I needed to get back to at least scheduling appointments to address some non-urgent medical matters.

    4. fposte*

      Congratulations! I’m happy that that the early was just a bit of surprise and everybody’s back home and doing well.

    5. J.B.*

      Congratulations! Having a new little person is wild for sure. I am glad you are home and safe.

    6. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Congrats! If you don’t mind sharing, how many weeks were you when you delivered and what was the complication?

      1. Natalie*

        I say this with kindness, genuinely – I’m not sure how that information would be helpful to you. A stranger’s pregnancy outcome isn’t going to tell you anything about your own pregnancy, but it sure can become a focus for one’s anxiety. I’m assuming you’re seeing your care provider regularly and getting the recommended screenings; that should tell you what you need to know.

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

      Congratulations! If you went to a maternity, were you allowed to bring someone or you delivered on your own? My (second) cousin is seven months pregnant and told me her Ob/Gyn is only attending to the most serious cases, no plus ones allowed even for routine procedures. She’s worried of delivering the baby without her boyfriend’s support.

      1. Natalie*

        Clinic and hospital is different. Our clinics aren’t allowing family members at appointments (except parents of course), but tbh my prenatals were so boring I never asked my husband to come to anything except the ultrasound. He just had to pick me up at the clinic to go to the hospital.

        Our hospital system is allowing one support person per laboring mother, and as far as I can tell this is pretty universal across the US at the moment. (I know some NY hospitals initially banned all birth support but they got smacked down by their state health board.) Labor/delivery and postpartum is completely different than a checkup, they rely on the birth support person to help care for the mother and baby.

    8. Wandering*

      Congratulations! Great to hear that everyone is fine, and doing well.
      Thanks for letting us know – and for your PSA.

  19. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    My farmers market was supposed to open for the season Saturday and … just isn’t. They announced this on Friday, after assuring everyone for a while now that that things were on schedule and they had a plan. I didn’t find out until late tonight when I went to check their website for operating hours, because they mostly were only communicating on Facebook rather than their website and I don’t do Facebook.

    I’m so frustrated. I did my last big Costco run a week ago that was supposed to last me 2-3 weeks, but did it with the idea that I’d be buying fresh vegetables at the farmers market starting this weekend going through fall. Now I have zero fresh veggies and no farmers market. (I have frozen broccoli and frozen orange juice, and that’s basically it for fruits and veggies unless you count potatoes or canned tomato products.) The next weekday I can grocery shop is probably next Friday, because I would have needed to have gone this Friday morning bright and early and didn’t because there was supposed to be a farmers market on Saturday. I can’t go Monday-Thursday due to work schedules.

    I didn’t join a CSA this year because I didn’t want to have to drive someplace every week when I could walk to the market, and now I’m just so frustrated. They’re muttering about maybe opening next weekend, but I no longer believe a word of it.

    I know I will, in fact, be fine without fresh veggies for a week, but I’m just so tired of all of this.

    1. Sarah*

      Reach out to the farmers you shop from at the market. If they have produce ready to go, they’ll want to move it. Perhaps you can arrange for delivery or contact-free pick up. I know when our market was closed, we (as farmers) had to figure out a strategy real quick. We’ve started offering contactless delivery, and it’s taken off in a huge way.

    2. Ali G*

      Our farmer’s market has gone 100% online pre-order and pickup. Some of the vendors are doing preset boxes and others are doing custom orders. I haven’t done it yet, but it seems to be working. Is it possible to suggest something like that?

      1. Ktelzbeth*

        Our Farmers’ Market is supposed to have gone online for ordering with drive through pick up, but trying to order sends me into a link loop. You know–the first click here sends you to a second page with another click here that sends you to a third page with a click here that sends you back to the first.

      2. Jackalopete*

        Our market is opening up today but in the meantime I bought a bunch of super expensive popsicles from one of the market stalls for delivery this week. Because I can’t do almost any of the things in my life right now that I want to, but I can buy expensive popsicles! You have no idea how excited I’ve been about them!

    3. Reba*

      That’s frustrating!

      You might find a CSA that has gone to delivery in your area. That’s what we are doing. Our farmer’s markets are open, with limitations, but I don’t wanna go.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        All of the local CSAs are sold out now. That’s basically normal for late April around here – there’s always more demand for CSAs than slots. I thought about signing up in March when they still had openings, but decided I’d rather not commit to driving each week when there’s a farmers market within walking distance. (In normal years, there are farmers market days twice a week within walking distance of me all summer, so I wheel a little folding shopping cart to the market for produce, dairy, and eggs once or twice a week, and only drive to a regular store for pantry staples about once a month. I don’t eat meat and rarely buy bread/baked goods, but those are usually available at the farmers market too. I pretty much just buy flour, dried beans/pasta, spices, and cheese at the store in the summer in a normal year.)

        Oh well. It’ll be a pretty boring week or two until I got to Costco again the first week of May, but I’ll live.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      A couple of the farmers who usually do the market in my area have, as it turns out, FB pages. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that they would, but they do. And some of them have started putting together boxes. The deal seems to be that you call ahead, tell them what you want from what they have. They charge via credit card and then you drive out and pick it up. Another farmer has started partnering with a local dairy and bakery and they’re doing a similar thing. I am debating doing this. It’s a good 40 minute drive, but it’s not like I have anything better to do and it would be an opportunity for me to charge the battery in the car.

      Maybe there’s something similar in your area?

      There are also CSA boxes, but the ones around here have waiting lists.

    5. OhBehave*

      Our farmer’s market set up a drive thru pick up. The organizers set up an online market with all the vendors. It’s hugely successful. Maybe yours could do that too. You can look at it herehttps://www.localomline.co/bloomingtonilmarket.

  20. MistOrMister*

    Has anyone done things for their pets lately? I screwed down the windowsill seat attachments so I don’t have to worry about mine falling when they jump up. And I re-carpeted two of the cat trees (can someone please come up with a good scratching material that lasts forever so I don’t have to risk life and limb with an Xacto knife? Please and thank you!)

    I would absolutely love to put up a catwalk, but I am noy handy enough. Granted, I could probably google/youtube my way through it but handy projects always take 500 times longer than I ecpect they woulf and involve so much of me cursing the screwdriver’s great ancestors that it just isn’t worth the effort, usually.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      The temperature has finally hit its spring stride so we can have windows open and the heat off.

      We have a tension rod with a sheer curtain in our back doorway. Tuck it into the frame on either side and the bugs stay out but the dog can easily come and go as well as stick her head out (she has a doggy door anyway). She also lays in front of it.

      This isn’t new, it’s seasonal, but she is so spoiled.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Elder Statesdog is elderly and arthritic and having some vision issues and her paws slip more than they used to, so we put nonslip carpet treads on the (hardwood) stairs and a motion activated LED light strip so she can see better and has better traction. My husband’s stupid cat has peed on several of her favorite pillows (he doesn’t clean the cat box enough) so I have replacements on order. In the meantime, if the pillow she wants to lay in is occupied, she has been laying down on it anyway, occasionally right on the Junior Ambassador, which is really funny. (I hear a “wha… oh, come ON, really??” noise and when I look, the pillow is full of two snuggled or otherwise overlapping dogs.)

    3. Liane*

      A new harness for Bear the very furry & adorable Lab mix* for our 4th “doggoversary” last month. He likes this one MUCH better because we decided to take it off at night. Bear isn’t at all happy about his new comb. It is not at all like being scratched, he says, so stop saying it is.

      *Lab, shepherd, something that drools a lot

      1. Anono-me*

        Have you tried a grooming blade? They look like a hacksaw blade that is bent in a teardrop shape. They also look “mean”, but every pet we ever had loved it so much that they would come running at the sight of it. (And a few of the neighbor pets. )

    4. A Tired Queer*

      My kitty got diagnosed with congestive heart failure in January and has been doing very well on her meds, but lately she hasn’t wanted to eat them. We’ve been just putting them in her food, but we discovered on Monday that she’d just nosed her morning dose aside and eaten around it. A mad scramble around the kitchen produced the unexpected and hilarious result: this dumb feline loves the taste of tofu sour cream! So that’s our new strategy: glue the pills to a treat with sour cream and watch her go, none the wiser!

      1. RC Rascal*

        My kitty had congestive heart failure. He took lots of pills, the best way for us was to just put it down his throat. At diagnosis he was supposed to live 6 months. He lived another 2 1/2 years.

        I wish you luck with your kitty.

    5. Trixie*

      I’ve been thinking about something like Magic Mesh or magnetic screen panels/doors to the backyard area. I take my senior kitty out 2-3 times a day for his “constitutionals” but screens might make it easier to just sit and enjoy, or come back in when he’s ready. He doesn’t usually stay out long if not accompanied. I’m giving him more treats and the more calorie-dense, the better. At 17 years old, it’s a challenge keeping his weight up. I found a cute cardboard cat house at Aldi’s and he uses it all the time. I’m thinking of a second one to place elsewhere, may the study/office where I’m working.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I tried the mesh screens with the magnets up top. They did not work at all and I had to take them back. It’s been so long I forget what the issue was, but I remember being very disappointed. Hopefully they work better if you end up getting them!

        I’d love to be able to let my cats have the run of the yard but they’ll jump the fence and go who knows where. I live right off a busy main road, so they have to be indoor only.

    6. MechanicalPencil*

      I got a little plastic kiddie pool. I’m not sure who of my bunch will actually wind up using it, but it was cheap and I can use it for wintering plants indoors if it doesn’t pan out. There’s several enrichment activities in which a large containing item would be handy if the whole body of water idea flops. (bobbing for hot dog bites/apple chunks; plastic ball pit balls/sheets/scrap paper or cardboard for snuffling through to find a treat…).

    7. JobHunter*

      If your cats like sisal, you can replace the shredded lengths of rope easily using a heavy scissors and fencing staples. (My scratching post is made of a heavy wood core, like a fence post, with a heavy base.) I replace the shredded bits every 6 months or so with heavy use.

    8. Smol Book Wizard*

      I’m living with my brother for now, so I had to leave some of the poodle’s toys behind. I bought her a new Kong this week because sometimes she really gets into gnawing, and her other toys aren’t really designed for such. Anyone who gives their dogs Kongs, what are your tips for fillers that aren’t terribly messy?

  21. Hazy Days*

    Some American cooking questions!

    My aunt in the US gave me the wonderful gift of a subscription to the New York Times cookery app. I’m having such fun cooking madly (for one – so much adjusting of quantities is going on!). However, I have some queries I’m hoping you can help with.

    What is a skillet? I think it might be a cast iron frying pan – perhaps the type of thing Le Creuset would make.

    What are canned chipotles and what can be substituted?

    US recipes for sponge cakes incline towards using baking soda to give an additional rise, whereas the traditional UK recipes use baking powder. I find baking soda gives an unpleasant bitter taste (on the plus side, I now know what the bitter taste I don’t like in some US and US inspired baking is).
    Am I unusually sensitive to the soda taste, is the soda taste there to balance the extra sweetness of the US cupcake toppings and vice-versa, or is the soda taste delicious if you’ve grown up with it? Please answer my soda curiosity!

    1. Blueberry*

      Yay cooking!

      A skillet is a lighter pan than a cast iron pan, often made out of steel, with sloping instead of straight sides. Sometimes it has a nonstick coating.

      Canned chipotles are a kind of hot pepper. They are made from ripe jalapenos which are smoked and then canned in a hot pepper sauce called ‘adobo’. What can be substituted depends on what peppers you have available — my usual substitution (since I can never seem to keep chipotles around) is a teaspoonful each of aleppo pepper and water for each chipotle. It won’t be as smoky but should be fruity and spicy enough.

      Hm. I’m not familiar with sponge cake recipes that use baking soda instead of baking powder unless they also include an acidic ingredient to neutralize the baking soda, which, if it’s not neutralized, indeed does have the bitter taste. I would recommend just substituting in baking powder, since you like it better and both will make the cake rise.

      Email me a cupcake! ;)

      1. Hazy Days*

        Thank you! So a skillet is just a heavy bottomed frying pan? Do you not use the term frying pan?

        1. Natalie*

          We do, I think US recipe writers just prefer “skillet”. Maybe because it’s one word? There’s probably regional variation but I’m in the upper Midwest and IME “frying pan” is the more commonly used in people’s homes.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            North East here. People around me usually say, “frying pan”. If they mean a cast iron pan then they would say, “cast iron frying pan”.

            Just an impression but to me, “skillet” is an old word that my grandmother would use. (She was born in 1880.) She also used words like, veranda and stoop. Now, I hear front porch and back porch, instead.

            Recipes and sewing instructions. Some of the terms can be really confusing.

            1. fposte*

              Hah, I say “stoop.” But mostly because what I have couldn’t really be called a front porch.

              Another old-fashioned term for skillets is “spider.” Apparently it stems from the time when pans would have legs so they could stand in the fire for a while.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Spider. I never heard that one, but it makes sense.

                Every time I hear “stoop”I think of my grandmother. ;)
                I always thought veranda sounded rich. Impressions kids get- ha!

              2. PhyllisB*

                I know I said I was getting off but had to answer this. A spider is a sectioned skillet (frying pan) that’s used to make cornbread. Can also use it for scones. If you’ve ever seen a shortbread pan it looks similar but these are made of cast iron.

          2. PhyllisB*

            In the South, it’s a frying pan. About the baking soda: I don’t for sure about the recipe you’re using, and I’m not a pastry chef, just a Southern cook, but most recipes that use baking soda have an acid with them: Lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk. The baking soda and acid together give the rising action I believe. If it’s bitter I wonder if you’re adding too much or not mixing it in correctly? The only time I’ve ever got bitter is when I was in a hurry and didn’t whisk it with my dry ingredients enough. I can’t imagine a sponge cake having any of these ingredients. I’m getting ready for bed now (long day) but tomorrow I’ll dig through my cookbooks and see if I can find some answers for you. Until you get a good answer (whether from me or someone else) I wouldn’t substitute baking powder; you might not get good results.

          3. Amethystmoon*

            Also in upper Midwest, and frying pan is the one I have heard more often. Skillet is the one I see in cookbooks, though.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          To me, a skillet and a frying pan are the same thing. It could be any kind of material, including cast iron.

          1. Reba*

            Yeah, same! Skillet can be cast iron, stainless, nonstick….

            In my house we have a high sided cast iron skillet I inherited from my gran. (Btw what they say about vintage being better than new is really true!) I looked it up and the model is a “chicken fryer” — so we call it that because it’s delightful, not because we ever cook chicken in it.

            Glad you are enjoying the recipes, Hazy!

          2. HBJ*

            Agreed. I consider them the same thing. I’m not a professional chef, but I can cook pretty well. I only use cast iron skillets, so any differentiation with types of skillets that should be used for a recipe is completely ignored by me.

          3. Clisby*

            Same here. A skillet has sides that are slightly slanted out, rather than straight-up. The material they’re made of is irrelevant. A saute pan, in contrast, has sides that go straight up. I don’t mean you can’t saute stuff in a skillet – I do it all the time.

          4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            To me, any cooking pot that is relatively wide with short sides is a skillet. I know there are technically differences but I use frying pan or skillet interchangeably for this type of pan regardless of the material it’s made of.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I understand that American recipes typically call for “all purpose flour” which is equivalent to our plain flour. You could try using self-raising flour and ignoring the additional raising agent; or using our baking powder instead of bicarb.

      I only use bicarb where it’s needed to balance spices (especially ground ginger).

      I have also been converting US recipes this week! Last week (week before?) someone kindly shared the Doubletree cookie recipe, but it needed A LOT of conversion and scaling to be useful. We enjoyed them last night, and I will tweak a little more before I add it to my recipe folder – some proportions were wildly odd, and the texture slightly odd, so I think there must be a difference in the expected moisture content of certain dry ingredients, or the chunk size of chocolate chips, etc, which is affecting the alchemy.

      1. Hazy Days*

        Maybe I’ll do a comparison bake over the weekend subbing self-raising flour in one, and see what difference it makes.

    3. WS*

      Not from the US, but if there’s baking soda in the recipe, there should be an acidic ingredient (lemon, yoghurt, etc.) for it to react with in order to work properly. This should also cancel out the weird taste. Personally I’m much more sensitive to too much baking powder!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes! If you can taste the baking soda, IMO, the recipe hasn’t balanced properly, acid/base-wise.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. Soda is for buttermilk biscuits/pancakes, etc. It should *not* be used in, say, standard chocolate-chip cookies. You’ll taste it and also get the weird foamy/mushrooming sensation in your mouth when you bite down on it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Canned jalapeños are a good sub, but just a note that chipotles have a smoky flavor, so whatever you’re making will not come out quite the same. I don’t know if smoked peppers are a thing in Europe?

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          You could add smoked Spanish paprika, maybe? Not as intense as chipotles but it would add some smoky flavour.

        2. MistOrMister*

          I had a whole reply about the difference in chipotles and jalapenos and the smoke and spice level but for some reason it would NOT post even though I tried a bunch of times. So I gave up and just suggested the jalapenos. :)

    4. Hazy Days*

      WELL – this discussion of the soda and the acid is very interesting. The originals have buttermilk, but that’s hard to source in the UK so I’ve followed instructions to acidify milk with lemon juice. I wonder if that affects it – but then, I can taste baking soda in certain US cupcakes and muffins, which presumably were made with buttermilk correctly?

      This is an extract of the NYT Black Forest Cake ingredients list:
      1 cup/240 milliliters buttermilk
      3 cups/385 grams all-purpose flour
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      3/4 teaspoon baking soda

      1. Pharmgirl*

        That seems like a lot of baking powder! Baking powder does having baking soda in it, so maybe that’s why you’re getting more of the bitter taste?

      2. Natalie*

        US tablespoons and teaspoons are slightly smaller than UK, if you didn’t convert those you might have added a little too much of each.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Nice catch. There are conversion charts on line. Or you can DIY by dividing by 1.201.

          Or maybe your aunt can send you US measuring cups and spoons.

          1. Natalie*

            I used to have this Irish baking book where the author had helpfully provided conversions for US, UK imperial, and metric for both measurements and temps (I remember “gas 7” as a temperature, still don’t really know what it meant).

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              For a while, gas ovens (in at least the UK) didn’t have temperatures marked on the controls, but standardised levels. I’m millennial and have never had to deal with this, but older recipes will say e.g. “preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4” – that was an example from a crumbling book on my shelf with a copyright of 1992. I assume they were not thermostatically controlled?

              I have a vague idea that GM1 is very low, meringue temperature, most baking is GM3-4, and bread 7-8. But I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with a recipe that ONLY had the gas mark mentioned.

              1. Batgirl*

                I use gas mark 6/7 for lasagne or wedges, gas mark 5 to bake a cake. GM1 is only good for keeping a dinner warm.

              2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                My oven (approximately 12 years old) only has gas marks. I have a chart that I ripped out from some cooking magazine or other taped on the inside of one of my cabinets that lists conversions between F-C-Gas Mark, plus other stuff. Very useful! (My oven sucks though… it doesn’t heat up evenly but I think that’s just the fault of this particular one.)

      3. HBJ*

        Milk and lemon juice is an extremely common substitute for buttermilk here. No one I know buys buttermilk because it’s used so seldom. I’d never use a whole bottle before it went bad.

      4. Pieforbreakfast*

        It’s a common suggestion but lemon juice + milk just equals curdled milk, not buttermilk. I’ve found a better substitution is plain yogurt + milk or sour cream + milk, 2:1 ratio.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Honestly, I’d say just don’t do buttermilk recipes unless you have buttermilk. There’s lots of other recipes out there.

      5. Fikly*

        Ignorant American here – what’s the deal with the lack of buttermilk in the UK?

        It’s a natural byproduct of making butter, and my understanding is that there has been, and still is, quite a lot of butter production in the UK, so where is the buttermilk going?

        1. Child of 70s smallholders*

          There are 2 types of butter, lactic and sweet. Lactic butter involves letting the milk naturally sour before churning. The butter comes together very quickly and you are left with buttermilk. Sweet butter is made from fresh milk. Takes ages to churn and leaves behind skim milk with a greasy mouth feel. Most UK butter is sweet butter (like Anchor) rather than lactic (like Lurpak). The only buttermilk recipes I’ve seen are US imports. I don’t know what we do with the liquid left over.

          1. Fikly*

            Aha! That makes sense! Thank you!

            I had noticed the difference in butter taste when I lived in the UK, but I hadn’t realized there was a different process for making it, I guess I thought it was maybe due to the cows eating different things or something like that.

          2. NotClaire*

            I’ve noticed a lot of things have skimmed milk or skimmed milk powder as an ingredient – I’ve always assumed that’s coz it was left over after selling the cream (didn’t know about the butter thing).

    5. AcademiaNut*

      Baking powder contains baking soda – it’s a combination of sodium bicarbonate (a base) and cream of tartar (an acid). If the recipe just calls for baking soda, it should have an acidic ingredient in it. Keep in mind that self-rising flour is not really a thing in the US. So if you’re using it, you’re getting extra baking soda, which will make things bitter (and possibly rise too much).

      Canned chipotles will probably refer to chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotles are a smoked, dried jalapeno pepper; they’re often canned with a tomato based sauce. You can substitute some vinegar based hot sauce (which will give you spicy but not smoky). If you’ve got liquid smoke, add a drop or two of that, or add some smoked paprika. There are a variety of chipotle based hot sauces – I know Tabasco makes one. That works for the flavour, and keeps for ages.

      Skillet is mostly just a frying pan. An electric skillet is a large, often square, electrically heated frying pan.

      1. Hazy Days*

        Thank you – I’m getting some good ideas about the chipotles now. Smoked paprika I have.

        I’m not using SR flour on this, so the explanation isn’t double raising agent. I wonder if buttermilk is necessary?

        1. Hazy Days*

          I mean that substituting milk + lemon juice isn’t properly balancing the soda in the way buttermilk does. I could try hunting down buttermilk as my next project…

          1. Natalie*

            Are you using enough acid? You want about a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of milk. You could also try cream of tartar (1 1/2 US tsp per cup milk, mixed in w your dry ingredients) or plain yogurt (pick a brand with a thinner texture, no Greek yogurt).

          2. Dancing Otter*

            Buttermilk is available here in powdered form. Not all groceries stock it, but King Arthur Flour sells it from their website. Would they ship to you? Or you could check your baking supply vendors.
            I like the powdered form because it genuinely is good for baking, but it’s shelf stable. (When I buy fresh buttermilk, I always seem to throw half of it away.) While the powder can go in with the dry ingredients, you obviously have to add more liquid to the recipe; or just reconstitute it first, and follow the recipe directions.
            I have also seen recipes that call for the dry form as a flour enhancer; it’s supposed to add protein, I think.

            1. saf*

              Buttermilk freezes. I freeze it in 1/4 cup ice cubes, store in a zip bag in the freezer. The texture suffers, so don’t plan to drink it after freezing, but it still bakes properly.

            1. Runaway Shinobi*

              Sainsbury’s and Waitrose both sell it as well. Look near the cream, sour cream, creme fraiche sections. I think it’s St Ivel brand.

      2. Fikly*

        Self rising flour is a thing in the US, but it’s regional – I believe it’s localized to the South.

        But for US recipes, it’s generally safe to assume that if the recipe doesn’t say self rising, it’s regular (all purpose) flour.

        1. pancakes*

          We have self-rising flour in the northeast. It’s not something I buy but I do see it in shops.

          1. Natalie*

            I’ve bought it in the Midwest, too. Not recently, but I don’t recall it being hard to find.

        2. Clisby*

          I was about to reply to this: “Keep in mind that self-rising flour is not really a thing in the US.”
          And my reply was: “WHAT???”
          It’s extremely common where I live (SC). But you’re correct that you should use self-rising flour only when the recipe calls for it (or you’re on your own pal!)

          1. Parenthetically*

            It’s definitely less of a thing here than in the UK and Australia, but it’s far far more common in the South. It was and is available where I grew up (mountain west), but it wasn’t until I moved to Kentucky that it seemed ubiquitous.

          2. RagingADHD*

            When I lived up North, srf did seem less common in stores. Down here in the South, there’s multiple brands in every store (under normal circumstances).

      3. Parenthetically*

        You might also see if you can order chipotle POWDER which, while not identical, is probably the closest flavor-wise, and which obviously is easier to keep around — once you open the can of chipotles and use the single chipotle from it, you have to freeze the rest.

      4. Imtheone*

        Self rising flour is standard in Southern cooking in the US, but less common elsewhere.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      skillet

      I guess there’s a lot of different answers here. So fun! Personally I’d call my non-stick, slope-sided frying pan a frying pan, while I tend to call my cast-iron pans skillets. Except for my round flat one, which I call a griddle or comal.

      What are canned chipotles and what can be substituted?

      Chipotles are smoke-dried jalapeno peppers. When they’re canned you usually find them in adobo sauce, which is a flavoured, vinegary tomato sauce.

      1. WellRed*

        Interesting. I don’t find adobo sauce vinegary at all. I love chipotle sauces but can never find the perfect one because I don’t like vinegary sauces (though I love vinegar).

    7. Whiskey on the rocks*

      Many brands make their soda with aluminum which causes that metallic taste. In my area Rumford is one brand that makes an aluminum free version. Also make sure to sieve your soda; it tends to clump and that will leave a very bitter pocket in whatever you’re baking.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Baking soda doesn’t ever have aluminum in it because it is pure bicarbonate of soda. Baking powder does sometimes have aluminum sulfate in it — but aluminum-free baking powder is definitely way better.

        1. Whiskey on the rocks*

          I came back to say I’m an idiot with covid brain as it just now occurred to me that I mixed them up

    8. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Something to remember is that baking soda / bicarb immediately starts working as a rising agent as soon as it hits the wet ingredients, so you want it to go into the oven asap after adding. Baking powder is triggered by heat.

    9. PhyllisB*

      Hazy Days, I hope you see this, I didn’t mean to be so late getting back to you. I see the baking powder/baking soda question has been thoroughly explained (and do read that link to the article on the difference. It’s very informative.)
      I did some cookbook research and this is basically what I read (and thought, but wanted to be sure) sponge cakes get their leavening mostly from air, which is usually beaten egg whites. Some cakes do call for whole eggs that you beat until they are really thick and lemon colored. You can overbeat egg whites but not whole eggs. Always go a little longer than you think they need.
      I looked at a lot of recipes and did not see a single sponge cake that called for both baking soda and baking powder. About the excerpt you printed; was it billed as a sponge cake? Black Forest cake is usually pretty dense. And I agree with someone else; that is a lot of baking powder and baking soda. No wonder it tasted bitter. Just as a side note, try to find a cookbook (or you might can find a chart on the internet to print off) that shows American vs. British units of measure.
      Thanks to you and this question, I just discovered I have a cookbook with such a chart in the front. It even shows what a dash, a wineglass, and butter the size of an egg is (very old recipes used to use measurements like this) Also oven temps. When I see British recipes and they say something like gas mark 4 I’m like whaaa? If you’re interested, the book I’m referencing is King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion 2003 edition. I don’t know how I missed this before. However, I’m sure other cookbooks will have this info or some of the other readers will help you. Good luck with your cooking; it’s fun to try new things and new techniques. As and I’m sure you see, there’s plenty of folks ready and eager to assist.

    10. CastIrony*

      I don’t usually taste the baking soda, but it is because I have been in the US all my life. I have read on Pinterest that the US has sweeter sweets than the UK in general, though.

  22. MistOrMister*

    A skillet is generally any frying pan. It doesn’t have to be cast iron, although there is certainly nothing wrong if it is.

    Canned chipotles are canned chipotle peppers. I don’t bother looking for them because I never know where they are on the store. I usually just used the mild version of canned diced jalapenos in their place. It won’t give you the intended flavor profile for the recipe though…chipotles are smoked jalapenos, so you get different flavor from them and I believe they’re spicier.

    Baking soda and powder are both to get air into your baked goods/help them rise. According to this article baking soda needs liquid plys acid to activate and baking powder has acid included so only needs liquid. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bonappetit.com/story/baking-powder-vs-baking-soda-difference/amp. I am pretty sure American recipes that call for baking soda instead of powder do so solely based on what works for leavening. I never knew what the difference between the two was, so I always wondered why recipes called for on vs the other. It’s not a taste thing for us though….not as far as I can tell. Ideally we don’t taste it in the finished product.

  23. Misty*

    Coffee guy roommate found a new place and moves out June 1st.
    So just one more month of chaos, and then I hope things will be better.
    Keep your fingers crossed for me!

  24. Retail not Retail*

    Regionalism question. If you don’t live in the south, don’t have relatives here, or are a recent transplant (define that how you wish), have you heard of a sinus cocktail shot?

    I got one Wednesday and my mom was like oh good, about time, this has been kicking your butt since before the shutdown. Then I was idly googling it and just got stuff from my city. So i took it out. Just southern stuff! Including transplants saying they’d never heard of it but it helps with crud/allergies that morph into an infection. It’s steroids and a decongestant and an antihistamine.

    Anyway! I never thought of it as regional! Some people say it’s the humidity/high pollen/cotton but who knows. Sure does help when you’re at the end of your rope.

    (Also got reminded COGIC is regional.)

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Oh! My mom was an EMT in the 80s, never further south than LA or annapolis however you consider the south. We’ve been here 25 years and she was like… you’re right. Didn’t hear of it until we moved here.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I’ve lived in the US South for 45 years with allergies since early childhood and I have never heard of this.

      I’m a firm believer in not overmedicating – knowing the cause and targeting the treatment to it – and I am kinda stunned at this concept.

    3. Nervous Nellie*

      I have not heard of this either, but am intrigued. My horrible spring allergies started this week. How long does the shot last? Would it get you through an allergy season or just a week or two? Very curious!

    4. Reba*

      I’m perplexed! It sounds like things you can get at the drugstore… why get it in shot form?

      Anyway, yes, never heard of it till today!

      1. fposte*

        I wasn’t sure if RNR meant “shot” as in “needle injection” or “shot” as in “alcohol shot.”

        1. Reba*

          These are injections! I’m now learning that lots of clinics will give all sorts of “wellness injections.”

          I am reminded of how in some places I’ve lived people really love treatment by IV. Once I was pretty unwell, ended up spending several hours in a clinic… I know there are good reasons for different dosage deliveries but I was so peeved later to realize that for some of the treatment I was given, I could have taken some tylenol and spent much of that time in my own bed.

          1. Reba*

            Sorry, that wasn’t meant to sounds judgey about the sinus treatment. Just that I am finding it online on menus of things that are, um, less evidence-based and more instagram-model based?

            1. Retail not Retail*

              Yeah it wasn’t until I was idly googling that I saw it had less than savory connotations.

              I just said look, we did antibiotics, we did OTC stuff, I don’t want to do another round of antibiotics. I didn’t like ask for it, and I haven’t had one in ages – the smokies weren’t that bad compared to the delta for my allergies I guess!

              1. Reba*

                Sounds like the steroids are the real MVP here! I’ve always had seasonal allergies, often pretty gnarly, but I don’t believe I’ve ever had steroids as a treatment.

                1. MysteryFan*

                  Steroid injections are the “last resort” treatment for seasonal allergies where I used to live in Texas. We have Ash Juniper trees that local’s call “cedar” and lots of people are very sensitive. Cedar Fever is a well-known ailment during the January or so season, just after the first frost. In my experience Drs are reluctant to give steroids until you’ve tried all the “regular” treatments, antihistamines, decongestants etc. I know some folks who would LOVE to get one of the Sinus Cocktail shots!

    5. schnauzerfan*

      Never heard of it. Lived all my life in South Dakota other than 15 months in Baton Rouge.

    6. Bookslinger in My Free Time*

      Midwesterner with high pollen rural areas- never heard of it being called a “sinus cocktail shot”, but it sounds similar to the cocktail I get every January-March for the URIs inevitably caused by my asthma & allergies remembering they hate it when I breathe. Steroids (a lot- I feel great for two weeks after finishing the course because I take a daily inhaled steroid and they work really well together), antibiotics (because by the time I have symptoms it’s gone bacterial or about to), and decongestants. I do not take allergy meds anymore unless I am having serious issues- I can’t function on them as they ALL make me drowsy/foggy.

    7. ThatGirl*

      COGIC = church of god in Christ? I’ve seen that in the Midwest, though the churches themselves may not be as common.

    8. Clisby*

      I do live in the south, and have for all but about 9 of my 66 years, and have never heard of this.

    9. Atchafalaya*

      I’m in north MS and sinus cocktail shots are very common here and are wonderful! Hope you feel better soon.

    10. Generic Name*

      Never heard of it. From the Midwest, live in TX for a while, and am now settled in the Rocky Mountain region.

    1. Selmarie*

      Yes! Although, sadly, season 3 is not available in the US yet (I keep checking, though). Enjoy!

  25. Chocolate Teapot*

    In the continuing saga of my broken washing machine, I am feeling more positive this week after having discovered a small self-service laundrette tucked away on a back street!

    Still no idea of when I will be able to buy a new machine, but at least my towels can dry more quickly!

    1. Trixie*

      For a long time, I used a neighborhood laundromat and I did enjoy the Sunday morning routine. Laundry, cleaning the car, maybe groceries. My Saturday routine was similar with St Vinnie’s thrift store, then bagel stop before heading home for morning cooking shoes. My apartment at that time had lovely morning light. Good memories!

      My next apartment had facilities on site so that was convenient but such a small number of machines for the complex. I’ve been in my current place for a few years and it’s a luxury to have units in the house, being able to run a load any time. The dryer gave out finally and due to repair costs, they replaced both with newer washer/dryer. That was an exciting day for this renter! I love keep the space clean, uncluttered, and organized. It’s not pretty but I keep curtains to separate off the kitchen. Helps trap heat in summer and cold in winter.

    2. Clisby*

      My favorite laundromat experience was in the mid-80s, when I moved to Charleston, SC to attend the local college for a BS in computer science. My apartment had no washer/dryer, so just about every Sunday I took my laundry down to the local city marina, which had both laundry facilities and a restaurant, and did my laundry while I ate breakfast and read the New York Times.

  26. email issues*

    I seem to write offensive emails. Not the kind using profanity but just an underhanded snark or entitled attitude. I have been working on the attitude for a long time, and now it mostly comes out when I am stressed for some reason, which is not an excuse. I can see it later, after the recipient has pointed it out, or I am in a better place. I realized just yesterday that this is how my mother talks to me, so that’s interesting but not that useful. I think because of our current situation, my email communication has increased even to friends who I normally mostly interact in face to face meetings, and we’re all stressed on some level, it’s worse, and the smoothing things over dinner that might have happened in other times is not happening. Any tips of how to look at my communication more critically? I really don’t want to hurt anyone.

    1. Misty*

      If possible, writing your emails out and then send them at another time once you’re in a different emotional state. I also do not check my school email if I’m stressed because then I’m more likely to email back something that sounds like I am panicky if that makes sense. What’s really helped me is to just not reply to people unless I absolutely have to and then reply at a time when I’m well rested/had eaten/generally feel okay.

      I’m really bad at email and stuff like that. I refuse to text anyone or give out my number and try to limit the number of people who email me (which of course is not always possible)

      1. Washi*

        I agree. I think at least at first, you’ll have better luck noticing the feeling than noticing the snark. Sort of similarly, when I notice that I am feeling a certain kind of irritable anxiety (especially if I’m having imaginary arguments with people in my head) then I try not to make any decisions until I’m in a better state.

      2. PhyllisB*

        My husband is an instructor at our college workforce center and he has to go back tomorrow; students return May 4. Their instruction is all hands-on, cannot be taught online, and there are state requirements on how many hours of hands-on they get before they are considered complete.
        Anyway, he got the definite message today about return so he sent texts to all his students and VERY PLAINLY told them to respond by email so he would know they saw it and could ask questions if they had them.
        He told me, “I bet every single one them text back.” And sure enough, they did. I got so tickled, he was sitting at the kitchen table with his roster muttering, “I’m failing your ass. YOU just got an F-. ….” Of course, he’s not really going to fail them, but he is going to give them a stern lecture in FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS when class resumes.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I’m confused why he didn’t email them first if he wanted an email response though? I mean, I get it, following instructions, but it’s a pretty natural response to reply in the medium one received the initial communication.

          1. Washi*

            Maybe he did both? I can see why just emailing might not work if he knows this is a population that doesn’t really check email. But yeah, I think a text that says “please check your email for an important announcement!” might have resulted in more people following instructions.

    2. Kathenus*

      If you have a friend or colleague that can review them and give feedback first, that can help you begin to learn what parts of your writing style now are being viewed as offensive. Then hopefully you can start using the feedback to word things differently, and the review won’t be needed.

      I had a boss once who had a really, really bad way with emails and he offended so many people with his wording. I had known him professionally long before we worked together so he began sending some of the ones on sensitive (not confidential) topics to me to look at first to recommend changes so that they didn’t have an unintended effect of pissing everyone off. Unfortunately he didn’t do well with the learning to change his style part, and eventually just sent them straight out to people.

      But if you really do want to change this, a second set of eyes can be very helpful. I do this with my managers right now for emails to my team on certain topics, because they can sometimes catch wording that might be problematic and help with not stirring up something unintentionally. Good luck.

    3. LGC*

      First of all, I have to ask…are you hitting send immediately after you write the message? If so…don’t. If you need to make it easier, don’t even put the addressee in the To, CC, or BCC fields so you won’t be able to send it. I’ve had that problem at work, and…it’s a simple fix, but it’s one that takes some discipline.

      You sound like you want to improve, so…look at what you’ve done in the past and look for specific ways that you come off as being snarky or having an entitled attitude. (It gets a bit easier as you go along!) If you feel like you have to respond immediately, please don’t feel that way. The beauty of email is that you can continue the conversation whenever you want.

      (If you’re talking about group chats, that’s a bit trickier. But it’s also easier to hang back and not say anything at first than it is in real life.)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If you are using Outlook (and possibly other apps), putting an unresolved recipient in the To field will prevent it from being sent.

        So I put “notyet” or “donotsend” in the To field and only remove it when I’m actually ready to go.

        1. LGC*

          I wish I knew this five years ago! I’ll definitely try that trick in the future at work.

          Also, I tried it in Gmail right now and this works. So that’s another option.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Good to know!

            I often send emails with multiple recipients so I’m less likely to muck that up if I can organise them at the same time as composing the email.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Short term: Compose, and then come back later to see if there’s snark.
      Long term: Develop an ’email voice’ that is distinct from your in person tone.

      I noticed a couple of decades ago that because text ‘flattens’ the communication, removing all the vocal tones and facial expressions, my joking emails were being misunderstood. So I started being more direct and earnest in text – I may describe something funny, but I never use sarcasm without a /s, and I usually don’t use it at all. I’m still warm and friendly, but no ‘joking negatives’, and limited references / in-jokes. Turns out, when we’re not in front of them, people can forget the in-jokes.

      The turning point for that last was when someone got offended by a Princess Bride reference, and thought I was calling them a rat. I’d watched the movie with them at least three times, I thought they knew Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS) were a reference to surprises, not personal characteristics.

    5. Dan*

      I used to be really bad about this… that is, sending off emails that got construed in ways that I didn’t intent, and I always thought, how the f am I supposed to know how X number of people could interpret that?

      I don’t email much socially anymore (which I realize is the focus of your question), but I think some of my work lessons could be relevant:

      1. Keep emails as objectively focused/task-oriented as possible. If I think somebody messed something up, I’m very careful about the wording. “Could you explain the reasoning behind X a little more?” (Not, “I think you’re wrong about X…”)

      2. My team will pass emails around for tone editing. I’m the subject matter expert on my team, so when another team screws something up, I’m the one to figure it out. But I’m not the project manager, nor the team liason. So my bosses and I will go back and forth to balance technical correctness/tone management.

      3. If I have to deal with something really sticky, or I know a topic could get really hung up in an email, I’ll jump to the phone pretty fast. Yes, I realize lots of people aren’t “phone” people and may prefer email, but there’s a time and place for everything. If an email exchange is too risky/too inefficient for sorting something out, then it *will* be a phone call… especially if the phone can sort out in 15 minutes what could take days (and pissed off people) to resolve over email.

      Again, I realize my email advice is more work focused, but perhaps the takeaway is the same? Some topics are fine for email, some aren’t.

    6. Not A Girl Boss*

      I think it comes down to the intent and mindset when writing the email. Rather than forcing yourself to try to censure/hide your “true feelings” can you focus on understanding where those “true feelings” are coming from and work to correct that?

      -What triggers the snark to come out? How did the email you received make you feel, to cause you to respond with snark?
      -How do these friends make you feel?
      -Do you write these emails to prove you’re right and they’re wrong, or to improve your relationship?
      -Are you thinking strategically or tactically? As my dad used to say, you’re right but you’re not correct. (Because being right has a cost).
      -What are you gaining by communicating in this way? What are you losing in return?
      -Is this just your brand of humor? Does your humor not work with your friends? Or is it just that it’s lost over text? Perhaps you need to add more emojis etc to convey the emotion more?

  27. laundry question*

    How safe do you think it is to send laundry out? I feel conflicted.

    I don’t feel safe going to the laundromat closest to me, and staying there, so have been washing a few essentials by hands but that does seem practical for things like towels and bed linens (I don’t have an outdoors, so don’t think I could dry them in my apartment without getting them musty). Others in my building are sending their laundry to a slightly further place that does pick-up and delivery. I guess I could leave the laundry alone for a few days after getting it back? how are you handling things?

    1. Ranon*

      I think if you are in an abundance of caution mode you could let it sit for a day or two but the overall risk seems incredibly low unless you are in the habit of rubbing your face all over every piece of clean laundry the instant you receive it- and even then it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for that to be the way you catch anything besides lint. I would go for it, it sounds like a good solution.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        The small self-service laundrette I discovered (see above) says its cycles are all under an hour in duration. Also, the social distancing rules state there should be no more 3 people in the laundrette at any one time, and masks/bandanas should be worn.

        Even though lower temperatures are more environmentally friendly, I opted for a higher wash temperature and also took a pair of rubber gloves to load and unload the machine.

    2. Natalie*

      Remember, people and their breathing are far and away the biggest vector, not stuff. If this wash & fold is already delivering to your building, sending your laundry to them doesn’t add to the number of people out and about. It’s also very unlikely to raise your risk. So win-win IMO.

    3. 00ff00Claire*

      The latest research I’ve seen says the virus only lives two days on cloth. So if you want to do it and can leave the items for a few days, sounds like it would be fine!

    4. Old and Don’t Care*

      I’ve been going to the laundromat. (My dryer is broken, so I’ve been bring my wet clothes there and drying them.). They limit the number of people in the building, you can’t stay in the building while your clothes wash or dry, nor can you fold them there. I’m not concerned about being in the uncrowded, hot, humid building for five minutes so that’s what I do. It is making me reprioritize getting a new dryer though.

    5. MostCake*

      You’d be surprised what you can dry on an indoor drying rack, the kind that collapses and has a bunch of rungs. Years ago I lived in a small flat that had access to one mangy coin washer and dryer for 12 apartments. I dreaded laundry and was always utilizing a scary and not very clean laundromat nearby plus a full service laundry that was wonderful but very expensive. Finally I invested in a portable washer on wheels that I could hook up to my bathroom sink, including the drain hose, when it wasn’t stored in the linen closest next to the bathroom. It was a Haier brand as I recall and cost about $400. Best money I ever spent. I was able to wash everything in it, although in small batches, for example if I changed my king-sized bed sheets, I would wash one sheet + one pillowcase at a time. Then I would fold whatever it was neatly and appropriately and utilize the drying rack which was set up in my bedroom. I was very surprised that towels dried quickly and were soft, not stiff. Something big like a flat sheet, I would have to flip the folds a couple of times until it dried through, maybe it would take 24 hours total. Eventually I also got a portable dryer, which needed to be vented, but I just put a nylon stocking over the vent to contain the lint and didn’t run it during high outdoor temperatures. That’s the setup up I had for about four years and while I wouldn’t give up the laundry room I have in my home now, I still feel nostalgic for my laundry set up because the relief it gave me from laundry services and dirty public laundromats was amazing freeing.

      Sorry if I segued into the portable W/D setup that may not be feasible for you… I got carried away! So again, I recommend a drying rack, they are not expensive and work well, just be sure to flip or adjust things as needed to dry through and not get marks from the rack rods.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Anything that minimizes contact and/or people getting together in the same place is helpful.

      So laundry delivery, especially contactless dropoff, is going to be safer for you and for the workers and other patrons, than going to do laundry in person. I don’t know what their folding system is like, but presumably it’s going from the hot dryer into a bag relatively quickly, with only one person touching it.

      There are no recorded instances of anyone contracting the virus from packaging or other items, but if that’s a concern for you, the laundry is going to be much lower risk than items on a shop shelf that have been handled or possibly sneezed on by multiple people.

      Altogether, it seems like a very good option if you can afford it.

  28. anon for this*

    It’s petty of me but I feel like the pandemic is ruining my chances of ever finding someone to settle down with. I prefer dating women, but I live in a place where we wouldn’t be able to legally marry, so I don’t date women anymore.

    I have a hard time in the local dating market as it is because I’m mixed race (considered good enough for fun but not for anything serious) and over thirty, when most men my age are aiming for women 7-10 years younger than them.

    I hate online dating, which I’ve been doing for the past year, because so many men want girlfriend-level ongoing emotional support before we even meet and I don’t want to invest like that until we’ve met and I’ve verified attraction. I had planned that this was the year I’d really put myself out there actively, go to singles mixers, go to matchmaking services, and get this stupid thing over with, but now all of that is off the table thanks to the stupid pandemic.

    1. matcha123*

      Hello mixed person!
      Are you open to moving out of your area?
      I am in my mid-30s and well, I haven’t really considered that I’d be too “old” for men my own age? Really I am pretty picky?, but I know that that will make it harder for me to find a partner…plus I never thought that I would get married or have a partner, so I feel prepared.
      I don’t know how helpful that is, but, if you are secure in yourself then you can hold out. I know a lot of guys would see me as a fun ####, but i filter them out and concentrate on things that I enjoy.

      1. anon for this*

        I live in the biggest and most diverse city in my country, so I think moving would make things worse (I’ve found from experience that being in locations with fewer mixed race people invites more scrutiny and criticism of my generally existing).

        I’ve generally expected since I was a teenager that I probably wouldn’t get married for various emotional reasons, and a lot of them are still valid now that I’m older–I’m just so tired of doing everything myself all the time and wish I had a partner to split the load with or pick up some slack sometime. But of course, screening for a roommate is even harder than trying to find a partner!

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          I’m confused. If you don’t plan on marrying anyway, why not date a woman?

      2. AcademiaNut*

        There’s a subset of guys who, when they hit their mid to late 30s, decide that they’re ready to settle down and have a family, and then go after women ten years younger, who still have enough fertile years left to have a couple of kids.

        1. matcha123*

          Hmm…I suppose that’s true, but I guess none of those guys would have been interested in me in the first place. And when I was in my late teens and early 20s and approached by men in their 40s and above, they all seemed to be creepy and the type of guys that expected to impress young, ‘dumb’ girls.
          They usually said things like how women ‘these days’ don’t know how to treat a man, disparaged ‘hook-up culture’ and some things about how ‘American’ women were crap (they often assumed I was a foreigner).

          So, I guess I can understand, maybe, the frustration, but a man who is going to go after someone more than 10 years younger is not someone I’d want to partner with.
          Plus, their fertility is also suspect….and I don’t want kids, either…

        2. Lonely Aussie*

          or because the women their own age aren’t going to put up with their crap. So many of my girlfriends in their early/mid twenties were getting with older men who treated them like crap because they lacked the life experience to realize that good relationships don’t work like that.

    2. lazy intellectual*

      omg same here. I had been inactive in the dating scene for the past couple of years due because I was too preoccupied with other stressors in my life (finding a place to live, finding a new job, etc.). This year was the first time a bunch of free time and energy was freed up for me to dedicate to dating, going to social events, etc, aaaand now this.

    3. P peace*

      There is someone out there for everyone. All of us. Keep doing what you can. You are doing it right, by the way, on the point of being careful.

    4. P peace*

      There is someone out there for everyone. All of us. Keep doing what you can. You are doing it right, by the way, on the point of being careful.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Pandemics never last.
      Plan what you want to do after the pandemic. Making a list might help.
      Think “delay”, not “cancellation”.
      Sending you good thoughts!

      1. anon for this*

        A lot of what I’m reading predicts that it will be over a year before we can live “normally” again. It’s hard not to feel like that’s valuable time slipping away from me. I went to a matchmaking consultant at the start of the year and they warned me that at my age (31) my range of choices is narrowing, and will continue to do so.

        1. Bob*

          I…suspect from some of your comments youre in a part of the world where age is a huge factor in this. Which sucks. For many of us in the ‘Western’ world, being single or dating in your 30s and 40s isnt that unusual. You can find websites geared towards specific age ranges, and that particular piece of advice would be considered very out of date.

          For you and where you are though – its hard to tell. But you have my sympathies either way. Personally I would continue online dating but be even more vigilant about the rules you’ve already put in place i.e. no emotional support until you get to meet them. I’d just focus on using this as an extended get-to-know-you period, maybe some virtual dates if you really want.

          But once this is all over, by all means put yourself out there. But try not to beat yourself up if you dont find anyone either, I feel you on how frustrating it is always having to do everything alone, but I always say I’d rather be (mostly) happy alone than miserable and partnered.

        2. Generic Name*

          I know it feels hopeless. I started online dating at 38 after my divorce. I have a teenage son. I feel like the cards were stacked against me given my age and the perceived baggage. I met my amazing fiancé online. He’s my age, never married & no kids, and he loves my son as his own. I hear you on the men your age wanting younger women, but there are men out there who don’t want that. I promise you, there is someone out there for you.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      Honestly, if you prefer women and aren’t making progress with men… why stick to men? Ok, so it’s not legal *now* but it might be legal a few years later, or you could move somewhere else, or figure out some sort of civil union in your home country. I mean, since your dance card isn’t exactly booked up at the moment, why narrow your options?

    7. Sam I Am*

      Sounds like you’re working on it but have to pause due to the pandemic. Everyone else has to as well, so you aren’t missing anything, if that makes sense? Everyone is in the same boat?

      Once you’re able to socialize again, in addition to the effort you’ll be putting in to finding the right partner for you, put in the effort to live the life you want to live. I know, you want a life with a partner, but… a great thought experiment is “If I knew that I would find the perfect partner ten years from now, what would I do in the mean time?” Make sure you’re putting equal effort into those things as you do finding a partner, and you will not look back with regret, come what may. You’ll be giving YOURSELF that “girlfriend-level support” in the mean time, doing what’s important to you.

      Good luck!

  29. CoffeeforLife*

    I’m officially out of dinner ideas. I don’t mind that I’m the default cook, but I *hate* that I’m the menu planner. Yes, this has led to many, many arguments and his answer is he would rather eat cold, canned soup than talk food planning. I do not want canned soup be it hot or cold, thus I plan dinner.

    Please help. Food ideas and recipe links greatly appreciated.

    1. Beancat*

      Ooooh I love cooking but also hate being our primary meal planner. Before I throw anything your way, are there any limitations? I just made something tasty last night for example but it required a lot of prep and might not be feasible for people who are busy.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        I don’t eat beef but everything else goes! I made a pork Wellington (Alton Brown’s, but changed out the filling) that looks fussy but pretty easy.

        1. Beancat*

          Oooh! Last night I made a chicken kiev that might be good.

          https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/236703/chef-johns-chicken-kiev/

          The basic outline is that you’re going to mush garlic and salt into a paste, mush butter and parsley into it, and then refrigerate it. You’ll then put the butter roll into flattened chicken filets and roll them tight, then freeze them to help them solidify. After they do, you’ll roll them in flour, egg, and panko. Fry for a minute or two, then bake, and enjoy! :)

          1. CoffeeforLife*

            Sounds yummy! I like a lot of chef John’s recipes- his meat sauce/lasagna is really good (I sub out the ground beef for a different meat)

        2. HQB*

          Some ideas:

          The New York Times has a dish called Western Beef and Rice that’s excellent with any ground meat, not just beef.

          Pad thai

          Stir fry and rice

          Roast chicken, then chicken salad or chicken tacos with leftovers the next day, then simmer the carcass and make chicken vegetable soup (rice or noodles optional) the third day.

          White chili made with turkey or chicken

          Keto taco casserole

          Croques monsieurs

          Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk

          Chicken kiev or chicken piccata

          Oven-roasted meat + veggie kebabs

          Sheet pan sausage and veggies

          1. HQB*

            And I just realized you may be looking more for meal planning approaches than for recipes (although I will add quiche, Indian butter chicken, an easy curry, breakfast burritos, and Mark Bittman’s customizable soups). In that case, I would make a long list of meals, one per index card, that you like. Then go through to pick the next X meals based on however you usually do meal-planning (e.g.
            with overlapping ingredient lists if you are trying to meal plan based on using up ingredients or leftovers, or maximizing variety, etc.).

            In terms of finding variety, you might want to think about what you ate before lockdown. Not what you cooked, but what you eat – did you get tacos or BBQ for lunch from a food truck? Track down some taco or BBQ recipes that look similar. Did you go out for Sichuan food once a week? Look up some easy Sichuan stir fries.

            If you have room in your freezer, you can cook double batches and then freeze them. When you have 7 dinners in your freezer, take a week off of meal planning and just eat the frozen meals.

            And regarding the boyfriend issue – have you explicitly told him you understand that *for himself* he would rather eat canned soup than planned meals, but you are asking for his help as a *favor to you*? If that helps, great; if not, is that kind of selfishness something you see other places in the relationship, where he helps you or does something for you only if it’s something he would do for himself anyway?

    2. Fikly*

      I haven’t tried this (I’m the kind of person who eats the same thing, every day) but a lot of the services that send ingredients that you cook into a meal have rotating meals every week or month, and lots of different options.

      Maybe you could browse their websites and get some inspiration there, and then make your own versions?

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      I did a full inventory of my freezer and pantry and made a list of dinners and sides that could be made with what we had. It is now my family’s responsibility to tell me what they want for dinner. If they don’t, they simply get the next item on the list. That’s how we ended up with hot dogs and rice a roni last night!

      1. Sam I Am*

        Sounds like some work to organize up front but also sounds like it eliminates loads of emotional labor down the line. Great idea.

    4. AnotherDefaultCook*

      What I did is typed up a list of all the meals we both like well enough for me to make. Once I got them all on paper, I arranged them by categories: beef, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, pasta, other. Whatever categories make sense for you.

      Now when I go to meal plan I can just look at that list and pick.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        I’ve been keeping a list of our meals and bookmarking recipes but I think the mental load of being responsible for all the meals all the time is just getting to me. It’s small, but why do I have the burden of deciding what everyone eats, and then fretting if they like it/it hits the spot, etc.. I have a difficult time detaching emotions from meals because its part of my need to nurture. Blerg.

        1. PX*

          Ooof. On this, I might try working on detaching a bit more. Not sure how many you are cooking for and if they are fussy eaters but one common approach I’ve seen is that if the other person has no interest in contributing to the work, they don’t get to comment on the end result. Basically the only thing they get to say is “thank you for cooking” and doing the washing up.

          That way if you aren’t in the mood to cook, he can eat his cold tinned soup and you can eat whatever snack/cheat food you enjoy?

        2. Generic Name*

          What if you gave yourself permission to only cook foods you like and want to eat? I mean can your husband really complain about what you cook if he won’t tell you what he wants to eat? Seems fair to me. But honestly, as I said below, maybe him eating nothing but cold soup for a while will make him suddenly be able to come up with meals he’d like to eat.

          1. Ali G*

            I second this. I am the sole meal planner/prepper too and it does get annoying when my husband can’t even spend 10 minutes to tell me something he would want to eat for dinner this week.
            One thing I do is plan “fend for yourself nights.” There is usually enough leftovers around so I plan to not cook or do anything 1-2 times per week. I tell my husband ahead of time which days those will be (I had a HUGE thing at work this past Tuesday, so I cooked Sunday and Monday and Tuesday were FFYN). It gives me a couple nights where I don’t have to worry what we are eating and when.
            It’s OK to take a break! No one is going to starve.

          2. Hi there*

            This frees me up when I do it, too. If your audience is unappreciative, why not eat all your favorite foods? Also, easy foods for the win these days. In case it helps here is what we have planned for dinners so far this week:

            Sunday—lasagna
            Monday—burgers and tots (The adults are having veggie burgers I made today)
            Tuesday—pancakes, fruit, and bacon
            Wednesday—grilled chicken and spinach salad (weather permitting) or split pea soup from freezer, ham on the side, and rosemary focaccia
            Thursday—pizza takeout (usually this is Friday but our place is so busy we switched days)
            Friday—wedding anniversary so leaving it a bit up in the air.

      2. schnauzerfan*

        We do something similar. We have a recipe notebook, everything in the notebook everyone in the house will eat. When we are in our normal buy for the next 14 days or so mode we pull out recipes for that many meals and make sure we have the ingredients. Then we just grab a recipe and “tonight it’s the chicken” If someone doesn’t want chicken they should say so before preparations begin and be prepared to fix whatever it is they do want, or to order the pizza.

        It’s tougher now because one can end up with shortages or surpluses, and takeout is less optimal, but it works for us.

        A lot of our meals are crock pots or or otherwise fix ahead.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This isn’t new food ideas, but is a way to minimize effort on meal planning at least, after an initial effort outlay.

      I did what I call the “Deck of Dinners” – we’re all gamers in my house, so I gamified my meal planning. :) Took a stack of index cards and wrote a meal on each one, as well as a basic ingredient list for each – not the full recipe, just a general list – I used to do things like “Oh, I’ll make sloppy joes for Wednesday,” and then forget to buy buns because I don’t eat my sloppy joes on buns (I put the meat mixture on tater tots!), so now the sloppy joes card includes the buns in its ingredient list. I basically left the stack of cards on the table for a week and every time something came to mind, went over and wrote down (at least a title). I believe I also asked my friends on Facebook what their most commonly made dinners were and snagged a few of those. I ended up with about 30 cards, plus one that says “order pizza” and one that says “heat up a frozen meal”. A couple of them are things like “soup and sandwiches” or “breakfast for dinner” too, they’re not all big involved productions :)

      I’ve fallen off it a bit now because of pandemic and shopping limitations, but in normal times, every Saturday morning, I pull (or have my boys pull) 3-5 cards at random from the deck, and then arrange them for the week to fit our schedule. If something just doesn’t fit or appeal, I can put it back and draw something else, or if I want to try something new, I can work it in manually and draw fewer cards. Then I use the ingredient lists to make my shopping list, though I shop my cupboards first and have a specific space to which I move canned/pantry goods that will be used that week (like, say, the can of Manwich for the sloppy joes). Then anything I don’t already have gets added to the shopping list. (The menu schedule goes on a whiteboard in my kitchen which also includes things like, on Tuesday, take out a pound of ground beef from the freezer to defrost for the sloppy joes on Wednesday.)

      I keep them in a plastic card organizer in my kitchen – after I pull a week’s batch, those cards go into a separate section of the organizer and don’t get shuffled back into the deck to potentially be pulled again until after I pull the following week’s batch, if that makes sense. That way, in theory, we would never have one meal twice within a two week time frame unless we do it on purpose. (Which does happen, my boys like sloppy joes and sketti pie, and I indulge them because both are damn easy to make :) )

      Sketti pie: cook about half a pound of spaghetti, broken in half, per package instructions. Toss it with two beaten eggs and most of a bag of shredded Italian blend cheese. Mix in some garlic and Italian seasoning. (I’ve also mixed in pesto, pepperoni/other pizza toppings, whatever sounds good.) Put in a 8×8 baking dish, top with the rest of the cheese, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Good plain or with sauce. Makes pretty good leftovers and doubles easily, but doesn’t freeze and reheat quite as well as one might expect it to. Also a good use for leftover pasta, and it doesn’t have to be spaghetti, I’ve done this with other types of pasta as well.

      1. GoryDetails*

        I love the idea of gamifying the meal-planning! I’ve wanted an app that would do that for me, but while there are lots of meal-planning programs out there, I haven’t seen any that have the right mix of tweakable-random/colorful-images/easy-to-use that I’m looking for. [Hmmm… a new project to tackle during shelter-at-home, and another way to put off all the to-do items I’ve been neglecting! Win-win!]

        Semi-seriously: I’m attracted to the “eat the rainbow” images out there, showing colorful fruits and veggies (and sometimes including meats) in rainbow configurations, very appealing and tempting. I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into the random meal-planning. But looking at what I actually *do*, I find that I make a big batch of a single-dish item – soup, casserole, stew, roast, whatever – and then eat that for two or three meals in a row, freezing any excess for later. Last night I ate leftover elbow-macaroni-with-butter-and-pepper-and-salt, which was very tasty, I enjoyed it – but it’s beige and veggie-free and not the sort of thing I’d have put on a random-meal-generator app. [The day before, I had roasted cauliflower with curry and red pepper flakes, which was all-veggie and very tasty, so over the course of a week my diet balances out, kinda-sorta. Still, I’m thinking I wouldn’t really use a balanced-meal planner…]

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I actually got the idea as a way to streamline the grocery shopping part of things. Before, I was just winging it, which in theory meant I could shop what was on sale but in reality meant I was just buying whatever sounded good, and I grocery shop in the mornings and pick up lunch on my way home, that’s my Saturday routine. And then I would end up going “Oh, diced tomatoes are on sale, I should pick up a couple cans, it’s not like they’ll go bad and I use them a lot,” and then get home going “Dammit, I forgot the buns, and WHY DO I HAVE TWO DOZEN CANS OF DICED TOMATOES IN HERE??” And the culmination was when I cleaned out my food storage and ended up throwing out literally four garbage bags of stuff that I’d bought because “I use it a lot” that just got shoved to the back of the storage shelves or stashed in the garage and forgotten about until it was literally years out of date. Like, “this cake mix is the store brand for a store that I haven’t shopped at since before we moved into this house in 2015” kind of thing. It was really kind of embarrassing and I was super mad at myself.

          So planning a strict menu, shopping to fit the menu, and ONLY shopping off the list keeps my pantry stash and my grocery budget under way better control than they used to be.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I so very much understand what you are saying. I have about ten cans of lentils and NO plan to use them up. sigh. And this is not the first, nor the second time this has happened. I always think of the expression, “It’s not a bargain if you do not use it.”

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Husband regularly goes “Well, at least you’re better than your dad.” Though dad’s thing is more that he likes to buy cheap or free things, whether or not anyone wants to use them, and then he insists on using them, whether or not they are actually useable. He once bought a bag of oranges that were in the produce clearance section. Peeled the first one and took a bite, and announced that this was the worst orange he’d ever eaten. Turns out they were mislabeled Meyer Lemons. He ate them. All. Plain. So’s to not waste the money he spent on them. (My mom offered to find a recipe and make lemon bars or something actually edible, but at that point he was all PRINCIPLE!!! and she just rolled her eyes at him.)

              When my parents moved 5 years ago, my mom told my dad that no, he was absolutely NOT moving the venison they found stashed in the bottom corner of the giant chest freezer at the old house to the freezer at the new house. He was ticked, because such a waste!! The venison came from a deer that died in our backyard (which is a whole STORY, because we lived in the middle of a subdivision in suburbia*). When I was 13. I turned 35 the year they moved.

              *Short version: We never did figure out why he was in suburbia at all, but neighbor saw him on our front yard and scared him into our backyard, which was fenced on three sides. He, being a 12-point buck, ducked his head to keep his antlers out of the apple tree branches and crashed headlong into the fencepost that was behind the trees. Bent the fence post over almost to the ground. So my folks got woken up at 7am by the neighbor banging on their front door and informing them that they probably wanted to call the DNR to come out and issue them a roadkill tag for the deer that had just broken his neck in the backyard, and if we didn’t want the antlers let him know.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I so understand what this is…. I have seen it before. Maybe our parents are distantly related? (joking) lol. I can feel this weakness in my genes. And this is why I see your system as being of high value (at least to me). In my early years on my own, I taught myself to make everything into a numbers game. Slowly, I got the hang of how many rolls of paper towels and tp, etc. we’d use per week. What I did not rope in was the “new stuff I will try some day”.
                Currently, I have been trying to figure out where I could create a space to put these things to try so they do not get buried in the back of the cupboard. Progress is slow.

                Twelve pointer, eh? wow. I bet hunters were totally green with envy. Around here if there is a 12 pointer, everyone who hunts knows about the animal, they all tell each other and talk about it. Personally, I don’t have much interest in hunting, but I do know this is a big deal.

          2. it's time*

            HA HA HA I finally put away all the groceries that were lying around in the kitchen still in bags and I had over 30 cans of oranges because at some point in the last year I only had 1 can when I needed 2 and apparently I’ve been buying them on sale every time ever since!

            I also organized one cupboard which includes my spices because I could never find some of them. The oldest thing I threw out had a BB date of 2003. We moved into this house in 2004. On the plus side, I’m a packrat/borderline hoarder and it was a good easy win on getting rid of stuff, so that should carry over as I throw away more and more non kitchen things.

            Also all the sympathy in the world about the meal planning. I hate it and I don’t enjoy cooking and no one else does it. Few things make me more rage filled than someone asking what’s for dinner (especially if that someone has been home/watching TV all day and I have been out/busy) or people walking up and saying ANYTHING while I am cooking. Objectively, I suppose it’s reasonable for them to want to know what I’m making but I don’t care if you want to know what’s cooking THEN COOK SOMETHING!!!!

      2. Avasarala*

        Oh this is great!
        We do something similar but with popsicle sticks. Different recipe ideas on a stick in a magnetic box attached to the white board. Pull out a stick and pop it on that day of the week. The recipes are saved in a group chat on our phones.

    6. Natalie*

      Maybe this wouldn’t help, since you’d still have to plan dinner for yourself, but what if you ate different dinners? He can eat soup (hot or cold, his call) and you can eat whatever you feel like making, without having to take his diet into account at all. Sometimes I found that part of solo meal planning to be the most taxing.

    7. Jdc*

      Also hate this. Perhaps my planned menu this week could help. Tonight is meatball subs and I have leftovers from spaghetti night.

      Tomorrow is taco bar.
      Monday will be chicken piccata.
      Tuesday something Italian
      Wednesday home made pizza
      Thursday pork chops with veggies
      Friday is date night so steaks.

      1. Kathenus*

        Wow, I want to become your friend so you invite me over for dinner! I’m envious of your dinner week!

        1. JDC*

          Aww thanks. I enjoy cooking although am running out of steam lately. Luckily steak nigh is husband cooking.

    8. Kathenus*

      I’m not a big cook, but I do really well with ‘doctoring’ pre-made stuff into really good meals. A few favorite, easy meal ideas below:
      – Pasta alfredo – I use jarred sauce, add black and green olives, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and chicken (or any combo of these that I have at home)
      – Spaghetti and meat sauce – jarred sauce, add black and green olives, artichoke hearts, browned ground beef
      – Shepherd’s pie – can of mixed veggies, jar of gravy, browned ground beef, Worcestershire sauce (or other preferred seasoning) – mix together in casserole dish, heat and eat mashed potatoes from the store, heat and then spread over the mixture with a spatula, sprinkle shredded cheese on top, bake until hot. Can also do this with shredded chicken and chicken gravy for a change of pace
      – Baked chicken – I bake chicken in a pyrex/corning container and use chicken broth in the bottom – makes for really juicy chicken. Also I love tarragon, so using tarragon as a seasoning for baked chicken takes it up to a higher level for me
      – Scrambled eggs with stuff – I can’t make an omelet to save my life, but I love doing basic scrambled eggs with various stuff tossed in. An unusual favorite for me that I came upon – sugar snap peas, black olives, cheese and if I have pre-cooked sausage crumbles in the freezer some of those
      – English muffin pizza – split and toast an English muffin, then add pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and any other desired toppings, and bake
      – Tuna melt – tuna salad however you prefer (mine is pretty simple, dill relish, celery, onion, and sometimes a little lite mayo) – on a toasted English muffin, topped with a slice of cheddar
      – Nachos – dice up veggies/toppings (I tend to use carrots, sugar snap peas, black and/or green olives, tomato), sometimes adding ground beef or chicken, but more often than not just the veggies. Take an oven safe plate, put a layer of chips, the diced toppings, shredded cheese, and then another layer of chips/toppings/cheese, and bake for about 7-8 minutes. Serve with salsa, sour cream and diced avocado or guacamole – makes a great dinner. I did this for each person for a small Super Bowl party with neighbors and they loved it.

    9. Elf*

      I’ve found the NY Times Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter to be amazing for that. I’ve gotten a lot of new recipes over the last 1.5 years I’ve been reading it (I never cook all five of their recipes, but having ~2 ideas a week taken care of makes a giant difference). I don’t look at it so much now, because after this long its gotten a touch repetitive, but I’m still using the recipes, I just saved them onto my computer as I used them in folders labelled with the protein source.

      Right now since everything is different I’m working from a list I put together of all the meals we have stuff for in the house, since I’m trying to use stuff up/not shop plus shortages.

      Tell me what you have in your house and I might have some good recipes

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Thanks! Does the NYTimes newsletter come with the subscription? He has one for the paper (online).

        For proteins we have loads of beans, chicken breast, thighs, thick pork chops, ground chicken/pork, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, sausage, bacon, shrimp, salmon…

        Veggies are frozen: kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, green beans, butternut squash, cauliflower rice

        Fresh: onions, garlic, cabbage, potatoes, fennel, celery, carrots, asparagus, cilantro, parsley

        Lots of canned tomatoes, rice, pasta

    10. Ali G*

      Here’s my easy turkey meatloaf:
      1/2 of a medium zuke grated
      1/4 of white or yellow onion, grated (liquid too)
      1 egg
      ~1/4 cup no sugar added ketchup, divided
      salt, pepper, oregano, other seasonings you like/have on hand
      1-1.5 lb ground turkey
      Almond flour (or any flour you use)

      Grat