weekend open thread – November 21-22, 2020

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Cobble Hill, by Cecily von Ziegesar. It’s about four families — including a former rock star, a school nurse, a renowned but struggling novelist, a performance artist, and their spouses — and how their lives intersect in unexpected ways. Not a lot happens but it’s fun.

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

{ 1,097 comments… read them below }

  1. Not A Manager*

    I started crocheting a large striped afghan and I’m many rows in. Due to a mix-up with the colors, I wish I had a stripe at the *bottom* of my afghan in a darker color. I know I can’t just crochet that on, because the stitches will be facing upside down. (I’m doing a pattern with puff stitches.)

    If I crochet a long separate stripe in the correct color, is there an invisible way to join the stripe to the rest of the afghan? My only experience joining crocheted pieces is inserting the hook into a stitch on each piece and then forming one stitch between them. This is very visible and makes a “box” around the pieces. It’s a nice way to finish afghans made from individual squares. But in this case I’d like my extra stripe to look like I started with that color and worked my way up, with no seam showing. If that’s possible.

    Or am I out of luck unless I do without the darker stripe or just start over?

    1. Bazza635*

      If you are on Instagram there is a post from a woman (Mariya) doing an invsible stitch joining granny squares, her handle is @lumilua_crafts. At June 23 on the third image she has a short video, it looks quite tedious but as you are only doing one row this maybe for you. https://www.instagram.com/p/CBvySNIhpbC/
      I hope this helps, happy crocheting.

    2. germank106*

      Noooo…., don’t start over. You have the right idea about making a separate strip and then joining it. There is an invisible join for crochet stitches. It’ s a bit hard to explain but here’s a link to the Youtube video that shows you how. https://youtu.be/Yq4qCUSfQek

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        There are so many tutorials on joining or seamless joining!
        Moogly is a good site for tutorials. I will put a link to joining methods in a reply.

    3. Tortally HareBrained*

      Could you make it work with a dark border as you finish? Then it would look intentionally different and could be joined once you finish.

    4. Tabby*

      I suspect you could sew it in with a yarn needle. That way, you could bury the joining thred in the design, and it won’t be seen.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Thank you all so much. After watching the linked videos, I completed my additional stripe and I’ll try to join it later today. I appreciate the advice.

  2. ..Kat..*

    Hey, Alison,
    I have been getting a big black box just above the “{N comments…read below or add one}” for the last few posts. It seems to be trying to play an ad video. Is this something that you want to happen?

  3. CeliacAndToddlers*

    Folks with Celiacs or significant gluten sensitivity – what are your go-to snacks and recipes?

    My mom has severe Celiac (no rice, no soy sauce, no bouillon cubes, we hate coconut aminos) and my son is, well, a toddler. I work full time and it’s a struggle to find snacks and foods that are safe for my mom but palatable for the rest of the family. We love Indian food (rice stays in the rice cooker!) and Mexican food in the slow cooker has been flavorful and safe (mmm corn tortillas). Brazilian cheese bread with tapioca flour has been a huge hit. In general, I’m hoping for recipes that aren’t a hot mess of substitutions that taste “just like” XYZ because honestly they almost never do. I’d rather find recipes that happen to be gluten free. Or, if you’ve found favorite condiments/sauces that are celiac friendly, those would be great too. Ortega taco sauces have been delicious as has the Tastefully Simple bacon pepper jam.

    Thanks so much from a tired mama!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I don’t have sensitivities, but I have some ideas of naturally gluten free stuff you might try. These are all things I’ve cooked at home, so I know what went into them.

      Middle Eastern food could be good for ideas. Hummus and tatziki (good for kids to dip veggies into), Greek salad, Shakshuka (eggs baked in a tomato-pepper sauce), meat and veggies on skewers (marinate with lemon juice and garlic). There’s a Turkish salad I love which is basically lightly sauteed grated carrots with yoghurt, lemon and spices. I do homemade falafels from dried chickpeas, and fry them in a pan rather than deep frying (les fuss). You need to soak the chickpeas 24 hours, drain, grind in a food processor with seasonings, and then let sit for an hour before frying, but they’re delicious, and can fill the place of a starch in a meal.

      On the Italian side, chicken marinated with lemon and black pepper and then grilled is delicious. Pork with milk is excellent, but maybe a harder sell for toddlers. If corn is okay, polenta makes a nice starch side dish, either soft, or fried. Maybe croquettes, if you leave off the breadcrumb coating.

      East Asian food in general is hard to do if you can’t have soy, miso, noodles or rice. However, there are a few dishes. In particular, in Japan they serve hamburger patties in either gravy or tomato sauce (ie, no bun). That’s kid friendly and gluten free as long a you don’t put breadcrumbs in the patties.

      On a grain note, one grain I quite like cooking with is Job’s tears (aka Coix seed). It looks and cooks up like a large barley grain, but is an entirely unrelated (and gluten free) option.

    2. WS*

      Any recipe that you use breadcrumbs in (meatloaf, hamburgers etc.) I use grated, drained zucchini. Holds everything together, mild taste, adds fibre, great texture!

    3. legalchef*

      I know no soy, and I know you said you hate coconut aminos, but what about tamari? I think that’s naturally gluten free.

      For snacks – corn muffins could work (or other muffins made w a cup for cup flour sub). Granola bars made with gluten free oats. Veggies and hummus or other dips.

      I have a close friend who has celiacs and she loves stuffed baked potatoes (could make a chili to stuff in it, or broccoli and cheese), stuffed peppers with a different grain instead of rice. They do make gluten free breadcrumbs. Also a lot of middle eastern food would be celiac-friendly, or Greek style food.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      One of my best friends has Celiac’s – we used to go out a lot for Peruvian food, mostly arepas.

      She also was a big fan of frozen papusas or tamales which she could eat up easily.

        1. Celiac here*

          Yes! Arepas are so good. Not authentic, I know, but my family’s fav weekend breakfast is arepas with ham, cheese, and fried eggs.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You might want to check out some of the pastas they are making now out of veggies. I am also enjoying riced cauliflower, you can find that in the frozen foods section. I find these “substitutes” actually satisfying- I don’t need to eat regular pasta or rice. I don’t feel “cheated”.

      I love, love, love spiralized veggies. So far I am mostly doing squash. I bought a spiralizer and I will do enough for two nights when I use it. They cook up really fast also. The flavor is different and I really notice the difference.

      I don’t use ketchup. But I used to get it for my husband. He said that the organic/natural ketchup was way better than the regular stuff. What I noticed is the organic ketchup is bright red, our regular ketchup looks burned comparatively. My husband was picky about some things and he was over the moon happy with the organic ketchup. As always, check the label, there are variations in brands.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        You might want to check out some of the pastas they are making now out of veggies. I am also enjoying riced cauliflower, you can find that in the frozen foods section. I find these “substitutes” actually satisfying- I don’t need to eat regular pasta or rice. I don’t feel “cheated”.

        I have celiac disease, and I second this. Zucchini noodles are great (I use them in homemade lo-mein dishes), and the cauliflower rice is actually better than regular rice IMO (and I still eat regular rice from time to time, so I can say that).

      2. Kirsten*

        I’m a big fan of both chickpea and red lentil pastas. Chickpea tastes pretty close to the real thing to me (and my kids love it). Red lentil has a slightly different taste and texture but I still think it’s really good. I use those in lieu of noodles quite a bit.

      3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

        I am allergic to wheat, soy, egg whites and a bunch of minor things as well. Oh, and I am pescatarian.
        My Eldest ordered this and it is fantastic! I’d been craving ramen/pho’ for ages and when this came they made it for me. Soooo good <3 <3
        MISO MASTER MISO CHICKPEA ORG 16OZ
        It has a heck of a long refrigerator life! Expensive, but you don't use much, and heck, totally worth it!

    6. Masquerade*

      I was diagnosed with celiac disease last year! Some things that have become my lunch go to’s include ‘sandwiches’ (tuna salad, egg salad, turkey, etc.) using corn tortillas instead of bread and quesadillas.

      For snacks, I enjoy chips and salsa, GF crackers and hummus, cottage cheese (can serve on top of tomato slices), and (slightly weird) GF cereal with peanut butter as a dip.

      Dinners: stuffed peppers, loaded nachos or french fries, salads, burgers with lettuce leaf wraps, cauliflower fried ‘rice’, ‘zoodles’, spaghetti squash, and recently, sweet potato gnocchi made with GF flour (excellent!). I’ve been pleasantly surprised with GF pasta too.

      Anything that calls for soy sauce can be substituted with tamari, and I’ve found GF bouillon on Amazon. I used to hate mustard, but have really developed a taste for it and all the different flavors.

      Does she have a separate allergy to rice? I don’t think it contains gluten or is commonly contaminated like oats. I eat a lot of brown rice to make sure I get whole grains for heart health (apparently its really common for celiacs not to get enough), so I hope your mom has another source of that she can have!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Rice is naturally gluten free unless it’s mixed with something in processing or contaminated on equipment. I have celiac disease and eat rice for the same reasons you do.

      2. ampersand*

        Tamari is fermented soybeans, just as an FYI (a couple of people have suggested it). I can’t eat soy or coconut and haven’t yet found a good sub for soy sauce, unfortunately!

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yes, but if it’s 100% soybean like most gluten free soy sauces I’ve seen are, and the person with celiac also has an intolerance for soy (like OP says her mother has), then they still can’t eat soy sauce.

        1. Masquerade*

          Huh, weird. The tamari available at my local grocery store is certified GF. Soybeans should be ok though unless one has an additional sensitivity, right? Traditional soy sauce has wheat added, I don’t think that is the case with tamari.

          1. ampersand*

            Some of us have gluten *and* soy intolerances/allergies, and while tamari is gluten-free, it’s not soy free as it’s made with soybeans. So those of us who can’t eat soy (me! also OP’s mom), can’t have tamari. :)

    7. Lcsa99*

      It seems like your looking more for meals, but since you did mention snacks… we just found a recipe for flourless fudge cookies that are really awesome and with no flour, you don’t need to substitute anything:

      2 1/2 c powdered sugar
      3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
      1/2 tsp salt
      4 cold large egg whites
      1/2 tsp vanilla extract
      1 bag chocolate chips

      1. Preheat oven to 350f and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment with cooking spray.
      2. In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
      3. Stir in egg white and vanilla, then add chocolate chips. For shinier cookies, rest dough at room temp for 20 minutes.
      4. Scoop tablespoon sized balls onto baking sheets and bake until set, 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        GF three ingredient peanut butter cookies:
        1 cup peanut butter
        1 cup sugar
        1 egg

        Mix together, ball up, bake at 350 for 10 minutes. (Also good with chocolate chips mixed in, if you don’t count your ingredients :) )

        They’re soft cookies, so you probably don’t want to make them too big.

        (For the non-GF or the GF who have an all purpose flour they like, you can do the same thing with one cup flour, one cup Nutella and one egg. )

      2. Morningstar*

        Another snack — “healthy oatmeal breakfast cookies” at the family fresh meals website. I double the cinnamon & vanilla and add a 3/4 cup of blueberries. These freeze well so I wrap them individually and eat them all week.

    8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      My mom used to mix up softened cream cheese with a bit of brown sugar and serve it with sliced apples for a nicer snack, for if we had guests or something. It’s really yummy and very easy to make.

    9. Parenthetically*

      I do ground flaxseed in meatballs and meatloaf and things like that instead of bread crumbs, which opens up a whole world of things — and my toddler LOVES meatballs of all kinds.

    10. CeliacAndToddlers*

      Oh my thank you so much for all these wonderful ideas!! To clarify a few things from my 3am insomnia post:

      – My mom was diagnosed very late with Celiacs and she is also a breast cancer survivor so her digestive system is a real roller coaster of reactivity.
      – Many gluten free products use brown rice or brown rice flour but she sensitive to rice (alas) and it means we spend a LOT more time reading labels even when things say gluten-free. Gluten free flours and breadcrumbs are particularly risky
      – She reacts to all forms of soy (including tamari, alas! This mama lived in China and misses stir fry something fierce!)
      – We end up eating a lot of cheese, though we’ve done zoodles recently that we’re pretty delicious
      – We tried bean pasta and… oof. Even covered in his favorite sauce kiddo won’t touch it. There’s something just… slightly gritty/off about it
      – Cauliflower tater tots are the stuff of nightmares

      Will run these ideas by her this week and see which ones she’s excited to experiment with. She’s traveled extensively and I know really misses being able to eat a variety of flavors. Where we live takeout options are pizza, Chinese, or burgers and so it’s pretty much cook or bust. We’ve tried a few different meal delivery kits but haven’t loved anything.

      1. Llellayena*

        My mom uses lentil pasta and her trick is to rinse the pasta after it’s cooked. Without that it tastes gritty and bean-y. But if you rinse it it’s not much different than whole grain pasta in texture.

        Also, roasted vegetables and roasted nuts (allergies permitting). Roasted carrots in particular come out of the oven sweet like candy. But cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes (boil a little before roasting), zucchini, peppers, asparagus are all fantastic roasted. Adding anything to them other than olive oil is optional. You can also roast garlic by the head and use the results as a spread on GF crackers. For roasted nuts, you can coat them in oil or butter and add any combo of herbs and spices you like. For a sweet base add sugar or brown sugar, for savory it can just be herbs or my mom’s done a great version with hoisin sauce (no clue if that’s GF, but you can use a sauce that works for you).

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In my year of testing if I was celiac, we cooked a lot of Asian stir frys without soy, and just let my husband put on some soy at table. Garlic, ginger, lemon grass, five spice, meat & veg. Just plan on it being brothy or thicken the sauce so much it doesn’t need rice. (Cornstarch, filé powder, arrowroot, mashed root veg, cassava/thickener)
        Tapioca was on my safe list and comes in different sizes at Asian markets. It works for sauce thickening as well as in sweet creamy puddings to satisfy toddler cravings.
        Bean sprouts are fun for kids too– I was a kid in the 70s when it was a fad, and mom let me grow them on the counter and eat them right out of the setup. Great fun. Mung beans is just one to try. Chia seeds work too–thus the chia pet. And they go in smoothies which are also fun for kids to make…not necessarily so much fun for the cleanup crew though. They stick.
        For a sweet snack try a variation on chocolate pretzels– dip anything in melted chocolate and let it harden on. Or make icing and use that. (Is corn ok? confectioners sugar can have corn starch)

      3. Not A Manager*

        Cauliflower tater tots might be horrid (I have not tried them), but homemade cauliflower crust pizza is really good. It’s not very hard to make. The pizza tastes less like a thin crust and more like pizza made on bread dough, but it’s quite good.

        Someone mentioned falafel – you can make falafel waffles using basically a falafel recipe, but you add oil to the batter before cooking, instead of frying the batter in oil.

        There are good recipes on the internet, but if you need links I can post some.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          I tried the cauliflower tots the other year while on a diet (not GF, just WW). They’re ok as a sub — I’m in the Upper Midwest and we here like to make tater tot hotdish. Definitely not the real thing, though.

      4. Diahann Carroll*

        Check out Pinterest for gluten and soy free recipes for your mom. They have a ton of really good recipes to try, and it’ll give you a starting point to know what ingredients to look for before you go grocery shopping – it’ll help you cut down on all the in-store label reading.

      5. cleo*

        I’ve had pretty good luck with Mrs Leepers GF pasta – it’s all corn and I like the texture. They have elbow macaroni for Mac and cheese.

      6. kt*

        For a recipe source, check out Nom Nom Paleo. All her recipes are gluten free and soy free and rice free. I think she managed a cassava-flour version of potstickers, but for sure her “dumpling filling” skillet-stirfry is one of our happy recipes when you want a certain set of Chinese-ish flavors. She may have also managed scallion pancakes with cassava dough and I may have eaten enough to almost make myself sick because I miss them so!

      7. Celiac here*

        Try the new Jovial cassava pastas. They’re pretty good and a good alternative if you can’t eat rice.

      8. Lizzo*

        GF pasta is tricky and there’s a wide variety of textures depending on the base ingredient. Keep trying different brands and see if you can find one your son likes. I’ve settled on the Banza chickpea pasta. (Not sure of additional ingredients.) They sell it at Costco.

    11. 00ff00Claire*

      If you are in the US, look into Enjoy Life foods. They are pretty toddler / young child friendly, and they are gluten free. On their website, you can filter by a few different allergens / intolerance ingredients. They have a few products that are rice free.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Enjoy Life snacks are so good, especially the snickerdoodle cookies. They sell them at CVS, and I used to buy them out.

    12. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      For a specific recipe, I love the “halal cart chicken” on Serious Eats. (It has seasoned rice as a side, but people who can’t eat rice can leave it off their plate easily, the main part of the recipe is the chicken and yogurt sauce.) I just eat mine out of a mixed bowl, but husband puts his in tortillas to eat as a wrap.

      1. Tegan*

        Second this – that’s one of my husband’s favorite recipes. He usually eats it with cauliflower rice, and I season it like the recipe says to do for “regular” rice.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I keep meaning to try that but putting it off because the regular rice is so good. It’s on the menu for Tuesday, so we’ll see if I manage this time :)

    13. Teatime is Goodtime*

      Oh man, I have so many ideas! Have you tried buckwheat? If not, try to find the stuff imported from russia or eastern europe because they roast it (we have roasted ourselves, but I find ours doesn’t come out as well) and it tastes fantastic. It cooks a little bit like couscous but with more flavor. My toddler inhales it. You can add anything: olive oil and cheese, spices, yoghurt and jam for a sweet version, etc. Greek yoghurt made it easier for my toddler to keep it on the spoon.

      What about sheet-pan roasted veggies? Good for a snack, especially if you do a spiced or herby greek yoghurt dip.

      Mashed or oven potatoes are basically my favorite meal, barring pasta.

      Stuffed peppers. Big salads with lots of beans. I’ll write back if I think of more.

    14. Mr. Jingles*

      I love stuff made from potatoes! My favourite: 3-4 medium sized potatoes, cook, mash and let cool. Add about half a cup finely shredded cheese, an egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Add cornstarch by the tablespoon till an easily formable but still soft dough forms. Don’t add so much it gets crumbly! Stay on the rather soft side. Put a tablespoon of the dough in your hand, roll to a ball and then coat it in ground almonds or polenta, pat flat, it should be not much thicker than your thumb. Fry in some oil, not too hot, till its crispy brown or spray it thinly with oil, put it on a baking sheet and bake it in the oven till they’re nice and brown. They taste quite nice with some gravy or some fried eggs. Also nice with dips. You can even freeze them before cooking and then bake them later.

    15. violet04*

      The blog Iowa Girl Eats has all gluten free recipes. I recall seeing posts about favorite grocery store products as well. I believe she was diagnosed with celiac disease so she has to be strictly gluten free.

    16. Rebecca Stewart*

      My boyfriend had a Roux-en-Y bypass surgery, and so pasta is permanently off his list of food. When we have spaghetti bolognese or fettucini alfredo, he has zucchini that has been cut into chunks and seared in a bit of high-temp oil on an iron skillet until browned and soft, with the sauce poured over the top. He says that he prefers it to pasta, and a bowl of roasted zucchini with alfredo sauce, chicken chunks, some chopped bacon, and a few curls of Parmesan is certainly pretty.

    17. HBJ*

      At the risk of sounding all “but have you tried it this way?”, have you tried a variety of brands of coconut aminos? I bought coconut aminos and had never had them before. I loved them. The next time, I bought a different brand, it tasted quite different, I don’t like it, and I won’t be buying that brand again.

    18. Bobina*

      I love fishcakes and feel like they are a very underrated thing these days. I suspect store bought may have flour to bind, but they are pretty easy to make yourself and you can probably either do without the flour or use a substitute which would be fine. They do a Thai inspired prawn fishcake in supermarkets where I am which are great, with lemongrass and chili in them, so lots of flavour!

      But I think someone else suggested Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisines which I suspect might work well. Other than flatbreads, I think everything else I can think of from the region would be gluten free and not touch too heavily on the other forbidden items, so a good way to get delicious food with less stress! I live on couscous quite a lot in the summer.

      Also, sheet pan roasted vegetables. So versatile (dress them with a variety of herbs or spices and you have endless variation) and you can customize to make whatever you want.

    19. cleo*

      I have celiac and I have a few suggestions I haven’t seen yet.

      Quinoa. I don’t care for the flavor of this grain by itself but I love it in salads and pilafs. And they tend to make good leftovers.

      Bouillon substitutes. I like the Imagine brand of stock. I will also make my own stock and freeze it in 2 cup sized portions – in plastic bags or containers. I usually make stock from the bones of a whole roast chicken

      African cuisines. Teff is a gf grain used in Ethiopia
      n food. Injera is flatbread traditionally made from teff although it’s often made from wheat. My local Ethiopian restaurant will make teff injera if you request it a day in advance.

      I make a West African inspired peanut stew with spinach and sweet potatoes that’s like eating love in a bowl.

      Desserts. I’ve had good luck making traditionally gf recipes They usually require separating the eggs. I’ve made chocolate mousse and souffle. There’s a hazelnut Hungarian torte that I love. And every Christmas I make Germa n cinamon star cookies They’re messy and fussy to make but worth it because I get to roll out the dough and use my cookie cutters.

      I also want to say that it will get easier. I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago – the first 6 to 9 months were brutal. Having to restock my pantry and relearn how to feed myself was rough (as you know). But now that I have all of my systems in place, it’s pretty easy to eat well while following my diet without thinking too much about it.

    20. Batgirl*

      Go to glutenfreeonashoestring. I just made her flourless brownies and they’re the best I’ve ever had. Her stovetop mac and cheese (or mini cups) is a winner too. She’ll teach you how to keep pizza dough, pasta dough, pancake mix etc on hand for quick turnarounds. If youre in the US lucky you as so is she (I’m not). My pre-nicole staples were: homemade popcorn, great icecream (use meringue nests and chocolate chips for sundaes), tortilla chips with salsa or sour cream, Italian-made red lentil pasta (from Tk Maxx, my partner now prefers it to wheat pasta), frozen Daim cake and potato cakes (from ikea). Oatcake crackers from nairns, home made sauce/marinade for meats which come on sticks or bones (wings, legs, ribs, shish kebab). Good luck!

  4. The Morríghan*

    Are there any witch people here?
    Can you recommend any resources that are useful for someone wanting to get into witchcraft (not Wicca)? Specifically plants, their properties, their uses, and some spells? Folklore in the UK and history is also interesting to me.
    Apps, books, videos, and blogs, it’s all good.
    Thanks so much.

    1. Generic Name*

      When I was getting into spells and such (I’m not Wiccan, I’m more of a “kitchen witch”), I googled “metaphysical bookstore” in my town and I found a store that sells books, herbs, essential oils, tarot cards, etc.

      A good primer on the religious side of things is: Bucklands Complete Guide to Withcraft

      For spells, I like: Encyclopedia of Spells by Judika Illes

      I don’t have a recommendation for books on plants. I’m a biologist by trade, and I get frustrated by plant books for spells sometimes, because I like collecting my own supplies, and the books are often written on other continents or parts of the country, so they don’t feel very relevant. Plus, they often only give the common name, which is problematic since different plant species can share the same common name.

      Good luck on your journey!

    2. pancakes*

      I’m not much of a witch person, but Treadwell’s bookshop in London is great for this, and they’ve just published their first book of their own, on plants. Nice website and a nice shop to visit if you’re ever in the Bloomsbury area.

    3. Brave Little Roaster*

      I haven’t read it yet but this sounds pretty good- Witch Hunt: A Traveler’s Guide to the Power and Persecution of the Witch

    4. Anon-a-Witch*

      Oh my gosh. I am getting some very strong “this is the universe telling you to pay attention” vibes because I am on the same path and was intending to post this very question here myself, including the “witchcraft not wicca” bit!

      Some resources that I’ve picked up so far that have been useful/interesting to me:
      -The book Practical Magic by Maggie Haseman, her website mumblesandthings(dot)com, AND her podcast Talk Witchcraft on spotify
      -Seeking Witchcraft podcast, I don’t love host and it’s a bit informal for my taste but touches on lots of basics
      -I’ve heard the Elder Hour podcast is good, I haven’t personally listened but I believe it’s more geared towards plants/herbs and their properties

      I’ll be looking forward to see what others suggest also :)

        1. The Morríghan*

          Oh and I was googling resources before and came across a blog by Emily Underworld, which has some great references on there (UK based)!

    5. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      I highly recommend any books by Scott Cunningham and get yourself a copy of Culpepper’s Color Herbal! Originally written in 1649 it has been updated for years. My copy is illustrated by Michael Stringer and it is GORGEOUS!
      This was one of the books that was needed for a magical gardening/herbal class that I had been planning on taking.
      Cunningham also has a very good book for solitary witches. Old stuff, but stands up.

    6. kt*

      Look up Juliet Diaz. I’ve listened to her podcast (joint with… someone whose name is escaping me, sorry!!) and she also wrote a book called Plant Witchery. She is more focused on ‘New World’ and indigenous perspectives, but she’s been thought-provoking for me.

      The Illustrated Herbiary is a beautiful small book that is a step in the direction you might like.

      Carolyn Elliott has been thought-provoking for me as well.

  5. Ellyfant*

    Had anyone experienced anything supernatural which simply cannot be explained by science? I saw on TV of a mother whose daughter died tragically in a drowning accident. The mother said even before her daughter was reported missing she had a nightmare that the daughter was dripping wet and called for help. It was different to any other nightmare she has experienced and she knew in her gut something terrible had occurred. Of course this could be a pure coincidence but I’ve heard other stories (and also personally experienced) which similarly defies logic. I am generally not someone who gives much credibility to all that woowoo stuff but I genuinely think there must be something spiritual out there that we just don’t understand. Curious to hear others’ thoughts!

    1. AGD*

      Cognitive scientist here. The big issue is that it’s tough to test in the lab, and before we have that, we can’t distinguish it from weird stuff that happens due to coincidence or how well the human brain does over-detection of patterns. (If that’s what’s going in here, for instance, the mother may never have remembered the dream or thought much of it except that reality matched and happened to back it up.) And even if we assumed very very stringently that nothing paranormal exists, weird stuff is going to occur thanks to numbers. A few psychologists get into psi phenomena and try to test them, but the risk is that they become laughingstocks in the research community, so you basically need tenure and well-designed studies to even try. I’d recommend a book called ‘Extraordinary Knowing’ by the late Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, in which she (a highly educated psychotherapist) has a stunningly improbable experience of someone figuring out information they couldn’t possibly have known or guessed, and then she embarks on a journey to ask ‘what would we need to do to test this scientifically, especially considering how much actual nonsense there is to sift through?’. The only book I own that leans over the edge of the paranormal.

      I think the best matches are things such as synasthesia and lucid dreaming. It’s not that science rejected the ideas; it’s that they needed to be demonstrated in accordance with a hypothesis for this to count as scientific knowledge rather than ‘as yet unproven’ or ‘not yet distinguishable from pseudoscience’. Stephen LaBerge finally figured out that while it is hard to prove awareness during dreaming, eye movements during dreams correspond to actual physical eyes. This meant that in order to demonstrate that he was lucid dreaming, LaBerge could make notes about how he would move his eyes in unusual ways once he gained awareness that he was in a dream. He did it, consistently and clearly, and this was the evidence that science needed. That was only a few decades ago. Maybe prescience has an element of the same thing, just awaiting a clever experiment. It benefits all scientists to want really watertight evidence, but to accept and build on that when it comes along. That’s what I really love about doing this for a living.

      On a personal level, I don’t believe for a second that we’ve figured out everything going on. And physics gets weird easily on the level of the very small, and thay’s far from figured out – though laypeople like to overuse terms such as ‘quantum physics’ or ‘entanglement’ in whatever ideas/conspiracy theories they come up with about the universe.

      (AGD is short for Amy G. Dala, which isn’t my name but is a pun on ‘amygdala’, because brains are fun.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I do believe there is an energy that goes out. The night the Titanic went down many, many people across the US dreamed of people in a large body of water, screaming for help. I had a family member who was one of these people. This same person dreamed of a person knocking on the door, when they answered the door in the dream the visitor was holding a child….. that dream happened around the time of the Lindberghs’ child’s disappearance.

      We don’t know what it is we don’t know. I think there’s a lot out there that we have yet to learn. These examples here I don’t think of as “good” or “bad”, I just think these things can happen from time to time.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree with this. On both the date of the Challenger explosion and 9/11, I was sleeping late and woke up suddenly feeling something was wrong, and went straight to the TV, completely outside my normal routine. Those feelings were strong enough before I saw the events that I remember them very clearly.

        AGD mentioned quantum entanglement, and I feel like we also talk about collective consciousness and inherited trauma, so maybe collective trauma manifests somehow in our atoms. Like the ripples on a pond when someone throws a rock into it.
        (I am obviously not a scientist)

      2. Cendol*

        Late to this, but I have always wondered about the energy thing. One night in college (2011), I was staying up late studying, after hanging out with friends. I think we had been playing cards and generally having a good time. It was sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. Eastern when I went back to my room. I was by myself, sitting up in bed, had just turned a page and was hit by a feeling of intense sadness and wrongness. I was puzzled but figured that was my cue to go the eff to sleep. The next day when I woke up, I read the news about the tsunami in Japan. Probably coincidence, but it’s always stuck with me.

    3. Too weird for names*

      The night before 9/11 my youngest sister and I had dreams on the same night that taken separately were just weird, but together were borderline prophetic. Especially since we both came to the breakfast table saying “I had the weirdest dream last night!!!” My dream was of a plane, flying low and trailing smoke – similar to how a crop duster does but it was a big, commercial airliner type plane. It was so low people were in the streets, running and covering their heads protectively. Her dream was she was in a city and all of a sudden buildings just started collapsing around her. She said people were screaming, crying, and getting crushed.
      To this day, we think its weird that we had dreams that when discussed at the breakfast table the morning of 9/11 felt like we were discussing things that were going to happen just hours later. My mom is convinced that we were psychic on that day.

      1. Not Australian*

        I had something similar on a different occasion, only it was a flying Tube Train that hit a tall building. (Dreams, right?)

      2. ampersand*

        I experienced something similar regarding 9/11 but don’t talk about it much because I’m aware that it sounds kinda ridiculous and Nostradamus-like. (Also: yay, there are others!)

      3. bkanon*

        A few days before 9/11, I had a massive urge to donate blood. I’m not a good candidate, I clot too quickly to fill a bag, and I’ve known that for years. But I still felt this push to try and donate.

      4. Nita*

        Two weeks before 9/11, I was shopping next to the Twins, and I walked into the plaza and sat on a bench, looking up and thinking that I’ve got to say goodbye to them – I’ll probably never come back here again. They were fixtures of my school days and I didn’t think much of these feelings. I was about to go away to college and it made sense that I’d be too busy to run around my school neighborhood whenever I felt like it. But now, that seems so strange…

    4. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is a Lovely Shade of Blue*

      Not experienced anything myself, but I’ve spent the last year at work listening to many podcasts about the supernatural and paranormal. Absolutely, there is much more out there than science can explain. Although I do think it has a partial explanation – everything is, ultimately, energy, so it makes sense that after our bodies die, that energy goes somewhere. And does stuff.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Science can’t explain it yet, you mean. ;) I think at some point it will.

        This is sorta why the ghost tuner in my book works. The tuner opens portals, and the ghosts suck up enough extra energy from that and their surroundings when they come through to manifest in a physical, albeit not entirely solid, form. Drawing energy is an accepted explanation for paranormal phenomena in ghost hunting circles, including inexplicable battery drains.

        In the book, they only have a few minutes to go back. Since many of them don’t, the big controversy, besides “OMG they actually exist,” is “Now what do we do with them?”

        I totally believe they exist. I’ve had too many weird experiences not to. I even dedicated the book to the one I grew up with.

    5. Ali G*

      I have 2:
      I was in college and home for spring break. I was having a lazy day, still in my PJs watching TV. All of a sudden, I was like, I need to get dressed! I had this feeling an emergency was coming and I needed to be ready. So I got up, got dressed and then my mom called. She’d hit a deer on her way home from work and was freaking out. I had to drive out to her and follow her home because she was really shaken up.
      Second: When I first started dating my husband, he was in my condo and for some reason my driver’s license was sitting on the table. He looked at it and discovered my middle name. I have a family nickname that is a combo of my first and middle name that was given to me by my grandfather. He was dead for many years, and my dad is the only living person who is allowed to use that name. My husband looked at my license and blurted out the nickname. I like to think of it as a message that it was OK to like this one.

    6. Mr. Jingles*

      I finished school as an adult since I dropped out as a kid. One of my teachers had given me his keys to our art room to finish an art project. The art room was in the cellar, which was a modernised WW2 Bunker beneath the school building which was build around 1940. (Yes I was alone at night in the cellar of a former Nazi-building in Germany that was repurposed as a school for adult education) I lived in a rented room on the school grounds as many pupils did since it was cheap. So I stood there sculpturing with my back to the storage room near the middle of the night. Nobody was there but me, nobody could have gotten into there without passing me and the storage room was a solid cement box without any opening besides the heavy fire proof door right behind me which was closed.
      Inside was nothing but clay, materials for pottery like wooden tablets to put your projects on, some tools, old rags and stuff. No air vents, nothing to hide behind or under. The art room was eerily silent and I’ve always loved that. The walls where so thick you couldn’t hear anything from outside and I really enjoyed the peace. But that evening, in the deserted school, I suddenly heard someone rummaging in that storage room right behind me. I heard soft bangs against the door as if someone was accidentally hitting it while searching for something, dulled tud’s as if someone was shifting the clay, rustling as if someone was shifting around in the boxes with pottery tools. I was frozen in shock. It wasn’t possible at all! The room was small, completely enclosed, I was alone on the deserted campus at 11 pm and he doors were closed. I turned around and the door was still closed. I could still clearly hear someone rummaging in there though. In a 2×3 meter bunker surrounded by earth with no windows where I had just moments before taken my clay from and knew it had been empty. I carefully wrapped my art project as silently as possible but nothing would have made me go in there and putting it back in the wetbox so I left it on the table. Then I got out of the art room and locked the door behind me. I wasn’t feeling better though. I hurried out of the cellar, double locking every door between me and that storeroom and hid myself in my room.
      I have no idea what it was and the memory still gives me the creeps. I really like to believe it was just me being tired imagining things but I wasn’t tired that day at all, I’ve never experienced anything even remotely strange ever before or after and till that day was strictly a non-believer. That gave me doubts though.

    7. pancakes*

      Something like this happened to my parents (well, mom & stepdad) on the day of their wedding, when I was 4 or 5. She had a very bad feeling about driving to the office of the Justice of the Peace who was to marry them, and insisted my stepfather take an indirect route to get there. As a result they avoided a car wreck that happened just as they would’ve been passing through. My feelings on this sort of thing are aligned with what Not So New Reader says in their last paragraph — these things happen from time to time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My wise friend had a pearl of wisdom on this stuff. He said we are supposed to be intuitive. It’s necessary for our survival. How many times do we hear stories of elephants fleeing and the residents know a quake is coming. I remember a tornado here. We NEVER get tornados, but we got one. I remember running to my neighbor’s basement, because I don’t have a basement. It struck me, as I ran next door, that there were NO animals anywhere. NO birds chirping, no squirrels, chipmunks, cats, nothing ANYWHERE. They all knew. Then the sky turned this eerie yellow and *I* knew. The animals got the memo about an hour before I did. Animals have intuition and unlike us they are not afraid to act accordingly.

        He went on to explain, that we need to pay attention so we learn when we are on target and when we are just over-worrying. I know that I get a certain feeling inside me. It’s a calm feeling in these sense that it is strong, not wishy-washy. It usually comes with a thought of “I don’t care what others think, I am stopping everything and doing this right now!” The other thing my friend encouraged is to remember the times our intuition got it right. What did we feel, what was going on when we thought x was going to happen before it happened. Pay attention to the times we are right so we can recognize an accurate intuitive moment again in the future.

        And my friend went on to explain, most of what people call intuition is not intuition. We take in so much information that we cannot process it all. Sometimes we are able to draw conclusions from facts that only register subconsciously. Very little of what we call intuition is pure intuition.

        I started packing about an hour before I got the call my mother died. My husband could not get over it, “But you actually pulled out the suitcases and started putting clothes in them…..” My mother had been terminal for years, but this one day I pulled out the luggage and started packing it. Sometimes things go like this.

        Kudos to your mom for having faith in her own intuition. I hope your step-dad realized how lucky he was.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s wild about you packing suitcases!

          My own vaguely supernatural experiences have little to do with intuition, more to do with very specific (though mundane and useless!) experiences of deja vu, and one memorable encounter with a doppelgänger of my older self while riding a merry-go-round in childhood. Weird stuff, but nothing actionable.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            Yeah, I’ve had a number of dreams over the years that lead to feelings of deja vu. Usually they were conversations with a specific person, and then in the days/weeks following, I actually had that conversation about that topic. It is a really odd feeling, but I generally keep it to myself because it’s just weird to be like “oh, I dreamed about this and I know what you’ll say next”.

        2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          A friend used to write a “mommy blog” and she had a very similar thing to say about intuition. People would say to her that she could anticipate or understand what her infant child was needed or was trying to communicate because of “women’s intuition”. My friend wrote that it was nothing to do with intuition, but rather she was picking up subtle information and adding it to her background knowledge gained from being the primary caretaker for the kid. I think this is the right way to look at it.

        3. Blackcat*

          So I’ve heard the theory multiple times that animals are more in-tune with electromagnetic changes around them. Some animals are provably so (like a certain type of rodent that aligns tunnels underground perfectly with the earth’s magnetic field), but, in theory, many animals could sense it. Big storms have significant EM changes in the atmosphere, so that explains that.

          It’s also a thing that animals often sense earthquakes up to about a minute before they strike. People have suspected it’s similar, but no sufficient EM activity precedes earthquakes that we’ve detected.

          But it’s totally a thing, and I have it. I’m generally not aware of it consciously, but every time there was an earthquake that hit when I was asleep growing up, I’d wake up 30 seconds or so WIDE AWAKE before the shaking hit. My parents house sits right on top of a pretty active fault, so this happened at least a few times a year (with like 3.0s, so tiny earthquakes). The one time I experience an east-coast earthquake, I didn’t feel any shaking, but I did ask everyone around me “Was there just an earthquake.” Everyone thought I was imagining things until they heard about it on the news.

          I don’t view this as some special ability per se, but rather I’m slightly more tuned into things that are more common among our animal relatives.

          I am totally clueless about tornadoes though. As a true-born Californian, when I lived in an area that gets tornadoes, I sat by my living room window thinking “wow, that’s some strong wind!” while my apartment *was hit by a tornado.* I only knew when my coworker called to ask if I was okay because she saw on the news it went right through my neighborhood.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yikes!

            My friend in Santa Cruz said that her friend’s cat freaked out and ran into a closet right before the 1989 Loma Prieta quake hit.

    8. Solar*

      I’ve had dreams of loved ones drowning, or being in a car accident, or whatever. Next day, they’re totally fine. So I don’t tell anyone about the dream, because it was just a dream.

      There are 7 billion people on this planet, most of them having dreams. We only hear about the ones that coincidentally match reality.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I enjoy tales of spooky coincidences…but I really do think that they are just coincidences. I too have had many scary dreams or days where I was unusually worried about a loved one…and they turned out to be just fine.

      2. Nita*

        I had recurring dreams of a loved one dying, or going missing. I was away from home and thought it’s just my homesickness talking. And then, on one of my trips home, he had a medical emergency and had to be rushed to surgery. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been home to see something is wrong, but as it was, he recovered completely. In hindsight, there were many signs. My conscious mind was brushing them off, but my subconscious was blaring an alarm every night.

        I also had recurring dreams of another person in the family going missing. They stopped when the last dream took an unexpected turn. These dreams were not literal warnings either, apparently they were a way for my mind to work through some old baggage and lay it to rest.

      3. Southern Academic*

        I actually had somebody *tell* me when they had this kind of a dream about me. Like, she reached out the morning after and said, “So I pay attention to the supernatural and I had this dream about you . . . . ”

        I am a confirmed skeptic but was already stressed for some personal/professional reasons and it freaked me out a lot.

        People have weird dreams.

        Probably best not to go around telling them to other people. :)

      4. Rocky*

        One time I was backpacking in Indonesia. I went to bed at my usual time of abut 9.30 (very active days so I was sleeping lots). I woke up at midnight and sat bolt upright, with the thought “Auntie Kathleen is dead” (she was 94, but hale and hearty). Then went back to sleep. When I got back to Australia my mother said to me I have some sad news and I said “Oh I know, Auntie Kathleen died!”. I don’t know which of us was more surprised.

      5. Roci*

        I agree. I often wake up from ominous dreams, getting weird impulses to say goodbye to places or people, and so on. None of these things have come true.

        Sometimes we get information that triggers our subconscious, allowing the ancient parts of our brain to parse threats and patterns we can’t logically explain. This is why intuition is sometimes correct. But humans are programmed to recognize patterns, it’s a survival mechanism. Sometimes those patterns are misfires, but we don’t remember those because they don’t provide helpful information that can contribute to our survival.

    9. Wishing You Well*

      Yes, over the years I’ve experienced strong premonitions 3 times before they came true. Each one struck for about a second each but the feeling was very strong as though the premonition was already true in that second. Then the predicted event came true minutes to weeks later. It’s really uncomfortable thinking there’s more than our 5 senses out there. It’s also uncomfortable knowing people won’t believe me. These premonitions aren’t of any use since I can’t change their outcomes and they haven’t revealed any winning lottery numbers so far.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sometimes just knowing what is coming up next gives us a second to steel ourselves in preparation for hearing the bad news. And we may need that additional second.

        It’s really not relevant if others believe us. The most important thing is that we believe our own selves. If you think of intuition as necessary for survival this makes more sense. It gave you a moment to prepare yourself. It wasn’t meant for others’ benefit.

        When the first tower fell, I was at work and in my boss’ office. My big boss said, “Well the second tower is going to fall also.” My first thought was, “HOW COLD!”. My second thought was, “I have a moment to prepare for this event.” If I had been at home alone, I would never have figured out that the second tower would fall also. I am just not good at figuring that stuff out. I know I would have been so gutted watching this alone. So instead of a premonition, I had an actual warning from another person. Sometimes the best we get is a few minutes warning, no matter what form that warning takes. We aren’t supposed to fix it, we are just supposed to realize this is what will happen.

    10. oranges & lemons*

      The night before my father died of a heart attack, we watched a movie where a man the same age and with the same first name dies of a heart attack. I don’t think this falls in the “can’t be explained by science” category but it was definitely spooky.

    11. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I don’t think this qualifies as unexplainable but it was a little bit creepy in hindsight.

      I used to like to drive overnight when I lived in the desert and would go to see my parents in the next state, because you get an awesome view of the stars most of the way and there’s hardly ever anyone else on the road. The route was a US interstate highway with the lanes in each direction separated by a strip of land.

      On this occasion I had been driving in the left lane for a while, I guess just because there was nobody else around and I wasn’t very disciplined about it. I had the sudden thought that you’re supposed to stay on the right unless you’re passing someone, so I changed lanes. A few seconds later I went around a bend in the road and someone was driving full speed on the wrong side of the highway. If I hadn’t changed lanes we would have collided head on at 70+ miles per hour and would almost certainly be dead. Perhaps I saw their headlights in the distance without registering it and noticed they were too close, but it was certainly lucky.

    12. allathian*

      Something’s happened to me a couple of times that I really can’t explain. About 20 years ago I went with a friend to a local pizza place for some pizza. I’m usually calm to the point of phlegmatic, but as we were sipping our beers, and they were making our pizzas, I got antsy to the point that I got up and started pacing the room, I just couldn’t sit still. This never happens to me normally, so something weird was going on, I just didn’t know what. But as they brought our pizzas to us, I insisted that we get them as takeout instead. I lived only a few blocks away, so we ate pizza and talked. After she left, I switched on the late news and learned that somebody had walked in with a sawn-off shotgun and shot the place to pieces that night. Luckily nobody was hurt, but if I hadn’t got so antsy, we would probably still have been at that restaurant when it happened.

      Another time I was coming home from a late shift and took a long way around instead of the shortcut I usually took. The next morning I found out that a young woman had been raped on the footpath that I avoided that time, although I usually went that way without any qualms and I never normally felt threatened or afraid being outdoors alone after dark..

      I really can’t explain those two. There’s also the time when I was supposed to go shopping to the mall, but felt too tired to go. That night, a homemade bomb exploded in that mall killing several people and injuring several more. This was just a coincidence, because I don’t particularly enjoy shopping and avoid it at the least excuse.

    13. Nita*

      I’ve got lots of stories. They can maybe be explained, but still, they are so odd. For example, sometimes I get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels like fear, except I know I’m not actually afraid of anything. Usually within a very short time something bad happens, but unfortunately I never know how bad or what exactly. It’s usually been relatively harmless stuff like a nasty fight with my husband, or a kid getting sick but recovering, but once this came just before a family member landed in hospital and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to prevent what my intuition is worried about. The only thing I can do is be extra patient and not snap at my husband, in case my gut is telling me that we’re both extra short-tempered that day.

      And then there were the mugs. My mother-in-law died of cancer about eight months after her diagnosis. As you can imagine it was a painful few months. We had two big mugs she’d given me and my husband. We were using those all the time. So the week after she died, within a few days of each other, both mugs cracked while I was pouring tea into them. I was just pouring it as usual, and suddenly there would be hot water all over the counter. Tea is our comfort drink, so it felt almost like our grief had gathered in these mugs, and broken them to pieces.

    14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      IMO: confirmation bias accounts for most of these. In your example of the mother on TV – i.e. how many other mothers/loved ones in general are confronted with the horrific news that the person has died, but had no nightmare or premonition etc?

      Similarly, I’ve had dreams about things like car crashes, plane crashes, nuclear fallout etc – all very vivid and realistic – but none of them correlate to an actual event, yet there are no doubt numerous people out there having these type of dreams, that occasionally do correlate to a real event.

      Those are the ones that make it to TV / information being spread in general, because the many millions of “Captain dddd dreamed of a plane crash but then it didn’t materialize” are almost by definition, not noteworthy.

      Having said that, I think there are genuinely some “supernatural” phenomena which do have a scientific explanation, not in the sense of “oh, UFOs can be explained away as weather balloons” or whatever, but rather that they are explainable (and will be in the future) by application of the scientific method, but are just currently not known, so get perceived as mysterious. There are examples of this throughout history, of course, and it’s kind of intellectually arrogant (I’m saying this as a general remark about humanity, not about you OP!) to assume that ‘we’ have achieved peak science and therefore anything currently unexplained is ipso facto ‘unexplainable’.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, this makes a lot of sense. There are several nightmarish predicaments that terrify nearly all of us, and of course we’re collectively going to dream about them and visualize them far more often than any one of us are likely to experience them.

  6. Your Friendly Neighborhood Turtle*

    Has anyone had experience with ananas corona plants? I got one last year. It already had a fruit and died eventually. We managed to replant it’s top and it’s huge by now. We also got 5 baby plants from it. They have all grown as big as the original was when I bought it but none of them have grown a pineapple. Can I expect fruit?

    1. university minion*

      Depending on your climate and how much sun you can give it, it’ll take about 18 months – 2 years from slips (like you’re doing) or 2 1/2-3 years from a top. Pineapple is one of the few plants that you really can’t give too much sun to.

      1. Your Friendly Neighborhood Turtle*

        Thanks for the timeline! We’re almost halfway through with the first slips! Very exciting!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We have been growing pineapple in Connecticut. Definitely slow, definitely smaller than grocery store fruit, and definitely fun and flavorful.

  7. Goose*

    Big thank you to whoever recommended Wilton Manors, FL to me a few weeks ago! Such a cute area, and now I’m tentatively starting the apartment hunt. Are there any other cute neighborhoods in that area (near Fort Lauderdale) I should also be exploring as a single young queer? The city center was much too “city” for me

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I was one of those who recommended Wilton Manors. You mean the city center of Ft. Lauderdale was too much for you? The Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce might help. There was also an article called: Welcome to South Florida’s gayborhoods. I’ll post the link in a response but you can google it.

      I think you just need to focus on what you can afford and the kinds of things you want to do – nightclubs v beach access v bookstores, etc.

      Welcome to sunny south florida!

    2. SunnySideUp*

      There’s a little diner that does nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches in WM… not sure if they’re open/curbside, but OMG delicious.

    3. acmx*

      I mentioned WM,too. I agree with Thankful for AAM: focus on what’s important to you and what you can afford.

  8. Jessie*

    A few weeks ago, I asked for recommendations for mystery/thriller books. This time, I would like recommendations for books (preferably fiction) that are heartwarming or happy? Books that put you in a good mood? Or books that are sweet and inspiring? Any ideas?

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Oooh, I’m excited to see what others say. Off the top of my head:

      Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel</ by Eli Brown (Cooking and feminist pirates!)

      Less by Andrew Sean Greer….not everyone would consider this heartwarming, but I thought it was really sweet.

      Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (again YMMV on if you find this comforting or not, but I liked it).

      A Study in Scarlet Woman by Sherry Thomas

      My reading seems to veer dark, so I could probably use some of the suggestions from other people!

      1. Slinky*

        Cinnamon and Gunpowder is one of my favorites! Also in the vein of cooking, I really liked Delicious! by Ruth Reichl. It’s her only novel. In part, it’s a fictionalized account of the last days of Gourmet, but also features a likable protagonist unburying a historical mystery in a card catalog while finding love and friendship in New York.

        I’m going to keep thinking about this. Like Mystery Bookworm, my reading tastes tend toward the dark and heavy, so I’m curious to see what others recommend.

        1. Blue Eagle*

          I really liked Being Mortal, but it’s not a fiction book. More like a book about your choice in what is best for you in end of life care. Very enlightening about what is important to you.

      2. SpellingBee*

        I tried Cinnamon & Gunpowder and didn’t care for it, honestly. Being Mortal is excellent and one I think everyone should read, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a “happy” book – more of a “makes you think” one. I read Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums (her memoir) and liked it, will have to check out Delicious.

        Let’s see, what have I read recently that I’d categorize as putting me in a good mood. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson; The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro; Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn; Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce; A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles. I also really like Alexander McCall Smith’s Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series – mysteries, but very “gentle” books and they always make me feel good.

        1. allathian*

          The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series is a lot of fun and always puts me in a good mood.

          L.M. Montgomery’s books, especially those about Anne Shirley (Blythe) are also mood-lifters for me, although every time I read them, I’m very happy I don’t live in that society, or for that matter, in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Oh, two I just thought of:
        The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford and the associated series

        Also, I once wandered into Borderlands Books after having been very unceremoniously dumped and asked the clerk for an absorbing read that was fun and cheerful but without a romance focus. He recommended Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez.

        1. Michaela*

          The Eyre Affair starts off pretty light hearted, but I found the later books a lot darker and different in tone.

        2. BethDH*

          Martinez’ The Automatic Detective is fun and sort of parody-noir.
          I don’t really find the other Fforde books dark, so I’m interested in that take. There are occasional dark themes, but most of the time bad things happen (like the Landon plot) they eventually resolve.

    2. JC Books*

      If You’re Missing Baby Jesus by Jean Gietzen is a little book that will give you the Christmas Spirit. You can read it out loud to your family every Christmas. A family in need is blessed by generosity of strangers.

    3. migrating coconuts*

      Library of lost and found (Phaedra Patrick), A Man called Ove (Backman), Small Town Girl and Morning Glory (older books by LaVyrle Spencer), Where the Heart Is (Billie Letts). I know you said fiction, but if you are a woman of a certain age and want a good (and inspiring) read, try A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson.

    4. MissGirl*

      What week did you post about mystery thriller so I can go look? If I read another book about a beautiful college-aged woman who gets murdered by a serial killer, I’m going to throw it at the wall. Going by the state of crime writing, no blonde haired woman should live past 22.

      With today’s request, have you read the Potato Peel Guernsy Literary Society. It has its sad moments but is funny and beautiful and poignant.

      1. Jessie*

        I can’t remember which week. But I wrote down most of the recommendations. Here’s the list:

        Turn of the key
        Brat Farrar
        The daughter of time by Josephine Tey
        Watch me disappear Janelle Brown
        Christe’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
        Most of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, especially the first two: In the Woods and The Likeness
        The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler (pretty much all of Chandler’s works are worth reading)
        The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
        The 9-volume Bernard Sampson series (plus the prequel titled Winter) by Len Deighton
        Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney
        Rebecca
        The Poet by Michael Connelly
        The Things we Lost in the Fire. It’s by an Argentine author named Mariana Enríquez
        “The Charm School,” Nelson DeMille. “Shutter Island,” Dennis Lehane.
        The Keeper by Jessica Moor
        Classic: Murder on the Orient Express
        Recent: Verity by Colleen Hoover
        China Mieville, The City & The City

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Rebecca is one of the best books ever.

          Jane Harper is also pretty good for those who like Tana French (set in Australia instead of Ireland, but similarly heavy on atmosphere and characterization).

        2. Tegan*

          If you’re into audiobooks, John Lee narrating The City & The City is particularly excellent. He’s one of my favorite narrators and he suits that book really well.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          I just found Daughter of Time in a compendium of four Tey novels. It’s very good. All four of them were on par with good Christie. They are straight murder mysteries, not mystery thrillers.

          I don’t think DoT is better than Christie’s _And Then There Were None_, but it is very good. _The City and The City_ was intriguing, but I wanted more scifi and less thriller.

          I’m currently running through a bunch of Ngaio Marsh, and she’s also on par with Christie. I slightly prefer Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Sayers’ humor, but they didn’t write enough to keep me going.

    5. Holly the spa pro*

      Im not going to be very helpful for your current request since I tend to like books that make me feel dead and wasted inside. However, if i could time travel back to when you asked about mysteries, I would absolutely recommend The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luiz Zafon. It describes itself as a baroque gothic mystery set in Spain and it is such a good time and made me want to visit Barcelona.

      1. StellaDoodle*

        I’ve been a reader for years, but this is my first time commenting. And I have to because Shadow of the Wind is SOOO good. I absolutely loved this book, and all the others that are connected with it.

        1. Holly the spa pro*

          Nice! High fives all around! When Labrynth of Spirits came out i read all of the books in order and it was such a fun journey. Im sad its over.

    6. GoryDetails*

      For feel-good science fiction I recommend James White’s “Sector General” novels, about a galactic hospital staffed by members of wildly-different alien species; the tales are a mix of medical mysteries involving very bizarre alien biologies, and highly entertaining looks at cross-species collaboration and friendship. Some of the books deal with large-scale disasters so they aren’t uniformly “cozy”, but the overall tone is hopeful.

      I recently enjoyed NO MAN’S LAND by A. J. Fitzwater, a YA novel about New Zealand youths during WWII – featuring LGBTQ characters *and* magical shape-shifting.

      And there are lots of classic “comfort reads” that I go back to – from 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD to Jane Austen’s novels to the Very British Ghost Stories of M. R. James and E. F. Benson. [If ghost stories don’t seem comforting to you, Benson’s “Mapp and Lucia” books are a hilarious romp of small-town one-upmanship.]

    7. AGD*

      If of interest, there are a few classic children’s books that are really heartwarming and perfect comfort-rereads, especially with the “starring a plucky little white girl” premise.

      Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (yep, that Julie Andrews, with her late husband’s surname appended), which is about an orphan who finds a tiny cottage to fix up, and it’s intensely sweet.

      No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, in which a haughty, elegant elderly lady is persuaded to take in a three-year-old girl, except it turns out that this is no ordinary three-year-old girl, and things are going to get more and more unpredictable as she ages. It just drips with charm.

      Elizabeth Enright, Edward Eager, and Jeanne Birdsall all have sets of children’s books in the vein of “pack of four lively siblings has many adventures.” Eager’s are either lightly or highly supernatural, but the others’ are realistic. Birdsall’s are recent, but feel like an homage to her predecessors’.

      1. Fellow Traveler*

        No Flying in the House was one of my absolute favorite books growing up. It is such a beautiful book. There is one really sad part, though.

    8. Helvetica*

      Heartwarming is a bit YMMV but I will recommend two books that have left me with fond memories recently.
      Shaun Blythell’s “The Diary of a Bookseller” is both funny and thoughtful, and it both fuels my desire to be a used book shop owner and quells it by introducing a lot of reality in the mix.
      Hiro Arikawa’s “The Travelling Cat Chronicles” is beautiful and soothing and amazingly gentle. It might also make you cry a lot, so fair warning but overall, I would describe it as a heartwarming book.

    9. OtterB*

      Most of what I read is fantasy and science fiction. If that’s of any interest, try The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune or The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

      Also, I really enjoyed the series by LA Hall that begins with The Comfortable Courtesan. It’s somewhat post-Regency-era but not at all a romance (although some occur in the course of the series). It’s written as a series of diary entries. It’s hard to put a finger on why I like it so much: I enjoy the main characters and their interactions, and it’s like eavesdropping on their lives and social whirl. I actually deliberately chose to reread it during election week because I knew I would find it engaging and non-stressful.

      1. OtterB*

        Also, Zenna Henderson’s books. Older fantasy about people who have left their failing planet and come to Earth and found, or not found, acceptance. The People: No Different Flesh was the original short story collection, but I think the stories are now available in e-book as Ingathering.

        1. Cimorene*

          +1000, i think this is the first time i have heard of anyone outside my family who has ever heard of Zenna Henderson! I love her stories so much, probably some of my favorite books and I am not a short story person. So excited someone else knows and appreciates her books. More YA but I will add to the list the Enchanted Forrest Chronicles or Cecelia and Kate series by Patricia Wrede (Cecilia and Kate co-written).

        2. GoryDetails*

          Glad to see Zenna Henderson mentioned – though some of her “People” stories get really, really sad, even if there’s usually an upbeat ending. [I admit to liking her horror stories too – not “comfort reads” but very, very good. The collections THE ANYTHING BOX and HOLDING WONDER are, I think, out of print, but relatively inexpensive copies pop up now and then.]

        3. SarahKay*

          Yes, definitely Zenna Henderson! Awesome stories, and I can still remember my delight when I discovered I could buy a collected edition of all her The People stories. And this, plus a collection of all her other short stories, are now both available as ebooks.

      2. Steffy*

        +1 to The House in the Cerulean Sea! My mind went immediately to that book – it’s like a comforting hug :)

    10. Jen Erik*

      The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – just because it’s a book about a truly good protagonist. Connie Willis’ ‘To Say Nothing of The Dog’ which is a time-travel based on Jerome K, Jerome’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’ which is also joyful.
      Authors that make me happy – PG Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart. The Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Oh yes – the Vorkosigan saga! Miles!

        It reminds me that I still have unread books in that series. I deliberately did not read them at the time so that I would have some left to read for the first time later. Maybe now is later?

    11. Hi there*

      I just finished “Becoming Duchess Goldblatt” by Anonymous, which was lovely. It is a nonfiction piece about how (and why) the author created an online persona, that of a very funny 81-year old author and star, and the way the online interactions ripple out into changed and better lives. The supportive community created around the Duchess reminds me of the best parts of this one.

      1. pancakes*

        She’s a funny and warm presence on Twitter. I haven’t read the book yet but my neighbor introduced me to the Twitter account. It’s funny you mention community because I mean, literally, my next door neighbor in my apartment building.

      2. ADHDAnon*

        In the same vein, Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Not fiction, but sweet and funny and lovely. She’s ‘The Bloggess’ online and Twitter and always makes me laugh.

        Amazing thread and just what I needed by the way. Thanks OP!

    12. oranges & lemons*

      I love Jaclyn Moriarty’s books for this. They’re not exactly a constant barrage of cheerfulness, and usually involve a serious theme, but her style is so funny and off-kilter that I find them very comforting to read. They have a similar whimsical and slightly magical quality to some of my favourite children’s books, but in a YA or adult context. I also enjoy that the books are set in Australia (the author is Australian). I’ve only read Feeling Sorry for Celia, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes and Gravity Is the Thing, but I’d bet any of her books would have a similar vibe.

      I also really loved Sourdough and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, which are both also pretty offbeat and include such delightful things as magical bread and secret literary societies. I think I have people in this commenting section to thank for that recommendation.

      1. SummerBreeze*

        Oh my gosh — I adore Jaclyn Moriarty and I feel like no one knows her here in the States! She’s the first author I thought of for the OP.

        Try The Corner of White trilogy, OP! An utter delight.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m quite loving Lara Maiklem’s book ‘Mudlarking’ , which is a combination of traveling the Thames river and talking about its history in terms of what can be found on the river banks. (I haven’t yet seen her other book ‘Mudlark’ which has color photos of items she has found.)

      1. pancakes*

        I’ve been meaning to add this one to my list since reading a little something about it at Caught by the River, which is also a good read itself – it’s a UK site that often features nature writing, caughtbytheriver dot net.

    14. Jessie*

      I actually remembered a lovely book I read a few years ago. It’s called The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno Garcia. It’s so sweet!

    15. NRG*

      Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, especially “ A Hat Full of Sky”
      Books by Diana Wynn Jones(The Ogre Downstairs, Dogsbody) Shannon Hale (The Princess Academy)
      “The Great and Terrible Quest” by Margaret Lovett
      The Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold

      I’m sure there are more, but I’ve been reading mysteries lately. Ooh! Second “A Gentleman in Moscow”

    16. Lily from Sydney*

      Anything by Kerry Greenwood! She is an Australian author…her novels always have uplifting elements and I find them comforting…like a literary hot chocolate. She has a fab 1920s detective and a modern baker who solves mysteries on the side.

    17. SpellingBee*

      Thought of another author while lying awake in bed last night – Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells, Sugar Queen, and others). It’s been awhile since I read any of hers so I’m going to see if my library has them as ebooks! Could use a lift today.

    18. Canuck girl*

      I loved Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. There is a bit of drama, romance, sisterly love, poignant moments and funny antics.

      Currently reading Beach Read by Emily Henry and also loving it. It does have parts that discuss past illness of a family member, but overall it is heartwarming and a great romance too.

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One old classic: The Secret Garden.
      One collection of 80s/90s sf: Mirabile, by Janet Kagan.

    20. Phoenix from the ashes*

      The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner
      Homeland – Barbara Hambley
      The Binding – Bridget Collins
      Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor
      This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar
      In Calabria – Peter Beagle

    21. SarahKay*

      The Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons books are one of my go-tos for comfort reading. I particularly like “Winter Holiday”, and for heartwarming you can’t beat the bit in “We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea” where (trying not to give spoilers here) they are nearly at the unplanned destination.

  9. Loopy*

    It’s going to be my first time freezing cookie dough this week. I’m baking for a fundraiser so I’m nervous, despite knowing TONS of people do it. I’m looking for your tried and true methods to ensure the cookies bake as normal as if they weren’t frozen. Anything I should avoid/watch out for? I’m doing a sugar cookie with sprinkles, chocolate chip, and a peanut butter.

    Also just hearing if you’ve done it successfully would help my nerves! People were very generous and it may sound silly but I want to give them the best cookie possible in return.

    1. legalchef*

      There are two main ways to do it – slice and bake style or scoop and freeze.

      For slice and bake, you roll into a log, wrap, freeze, and when you want to bake let it thaw slightly and slice.

      For scoop and freeze, scoop your dough onto a tray (you can fill the whole tray, no need to let them have space for expanding for this step), put in the freezer, and once frozen put the dough balls in a baggie. When ready to bake, arrange dough balls as you would if you were baking fresh. You’ll probably need to add a min or two to the baking time of baking from frozen.

      Also, if you haven’t already, you should conform that peanut butter cookies would be ok and that the baked goods aren’t supposed to be but free – I only mention it bc you said it’s your first time baking for a fundraiser.

        1. Loopy*

          Ah thanks! I mentioned below I’m actually doing separate orders by the dozen. So one person requested the PB and those will be prepped and boxed up for them completely separately! Thank you for mentioning it! I think I’m going with scoop and freeze! I have permission to take over the freezer, so space hopefully isn’t an issue!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I scoop and freeze, and concur with this process entirely. I write the baking instructions on my ziplock bags with a sharpie and add one minute to my normal baking times when baking from frozen. They won’t expand quite as much as usual when baking from frozen, in my experience, so that’s a thing to note. (If it’s a concern you might flatten them just a titch before you freeze them, but I’ve never worried about doing so myself.)

        I always have cookie dough balls of 3-4 types in my freezer, because that way I can bake one or two or a dozen or whatever with no notice. I’ve baked them after up to nine months in the freezer and still had them turn out just as good as fresh!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          (So I have been having a mental argument with an imaginary stranger for the last ten minutes who might have picked an argument about nine months and they were still fine – anyone else’s brain do that to them on the regular? – and feel like I should clarify, I think I got lucky and am not actually recommending that you leave them in the freezer that long. I’d aim for 3-4 months max for optimal outcome. NOW SHUT UP, BRAIN WEASELS.)

          1. Elenna*

            Oh, my brain does that all the time! Not always with arguments, sometimes I just end up talking with an imaginary stranger about my interests. Actually I noted this happening during dinner last night – there was a discussion about photography, and I said out loud that it’s pretty hard to make money off photography, and then I considered adding a comment about photojournalism. And then I accidentally spent several minutes telling the imaginary stranger in my brain about the fanfic I’ve read several times where the main character wants to be a photojournalist…

          2. Natalie*

            As long as your freezer is the correct temperature (0 degrees F), frozen food is perfectly safe indefinitely. The taste or texture might be affected by long freezing times, but nothing is in nine-months-frozen cookie dough that wasn’t there the day you made it.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Yeah, when I say “optimal outcome” I meant optimal taste and texture since Loopy is baking for a fundraiser/other folks, not actually unsafe :)

              My dad is one to keep things in the deep freeze forever under the theory of “We’ll get around to them eventually.” He got super cranky when my mom threw out a chunk of venison she found stashed at the bottom of the chest freezer, when the last time anyone had put venison INTO the chest freezer was literally 22 years before. Mom was like “Not only is it 22 years old, but I don’t even LIKE venison or know how to cook venison. We’re not eating it.” It had been wrapped in butcher paper and nothing more, so I’m sure it was probably all freezer-burnt to heck and back to boot :P

              1. Loopy*

                Thanks! Yes, I did mean texture and taste! They should only be in the freezer for about two weeks!

                Also oh my gosh, 22 years. I would have thrown it out too.

        2. legalchef*

          Yes, definitely write the baking instructions (plus any additional pre-baking prep – for instance, I sprinkle sea salt in my choco chip cookies before baking) on the bag.

          I don’t know how long they last because…um… *someone* always seems to eat most of them straight from the freezer without baking. I can’t imagine who that might be.

          1. SarahKay*

            You’re not alone, I promise! I have a fabulous (and absurdly easy) shortbread recipe that I once shared at work. Someone there asked me how long it would keep at which point I looked blank, then confessed I had absolutely no idea because in my experience it was eaten long before there was any risk of it being past its best.

      2. Just a PM*

        I do slice and bake. Simply because there’s no room in my freezer for a cookie tray or a sheet pan. I wrap mine twice — first in cling wrap, then in foil – before placing in a Ziploc. It helps prevent freezer burn.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        On behalf of peanut allergic people I ask that you finish and freeze your nut free cookie dough first. Then do the peanut though, and wrap it in different packaging so you can be 100% sure to keep them separate at the other end as well.

        1. Loopy*

          Hi, yes I should have mentioned- none of this will be mixed. The fundraiser is me taking separate orders by the dozen for individuals, rather than selling them all together like a bake sale. So all cookie doughs will be stored, boxed, and delivered to each person completely 100% separately. I had been debating the order though and I appreciate your input, I’m doing the prep on different days but I’ll do the PB last to be super-safe! Thank you for letting me know that’s the best way!

    2. Alex*

      I do this all the time. I usually make chocolate chip, but my mom does it with sugar cookies, although she really just freezes the dough and then rolls them out and cuts them with cookie cutters, but I think the slice/roll would work just as well. For chocolate chip, I do the freeze-balls-on-a-tray method, and then I put into a big tupperware.

      I can find no difference between cookies that were baked right when mixed and cookies that were frozen dough and then baked. It’s the same. If anything, freezing them helps them not spread too much because the butter is so cold.

    3. violet04*

      I scoop and freeze dough all the time and you can’t tell after they are baked. Make sure you keep them in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.

      When baking I take them right from the freezer. I add a minute to the original baking time and then check them. Sometimes I need to slightly flatten the dough a bit and put it back for another minute. I stick as close as possible to the original baking time so they do not get overcooked.

    4. BC Lower Mainlander*

      I place a large ball of cookie dough in a medium freezer bag and flatten it out to remove the air bubbles. So much easier to store! I find thawing it out completely before using it doesn’t change the texture of the dough. I use this method for oatmeal, soft gingersnap, shortbread and peanut butter cookies.

    5. More Coffee Please*

      I’ve done it successfully many times! I once had to be away for work for 4 months and left a big bag of frozen cookie dough for my family to bake whenever they felt like it. I generally make the cookies like normal, roll them into balls as if I’m about to bake them, and then freeze them on a cookie sheet for a few minutes before dropping them all into a plastic bag and storing the bag in the freezer. Then I just bake them in the oven for a few extra minutes, watching them for done-ness. There are probably better tips online. Just know it’s very possible and easy! Don’t think there’s much you need to watch out for.

    6. Girasol*

      We make half a dozen different recipes that all bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees and then scoop and freeze. After freezing they get mixed into assorted half dozens to make in the toaster oven so we have hot cookies on demand for months at a time. When they go into the oven still frozen, sometimes they don’t spread enough. Spherical cookies just don’t cut it, so I flatten the dough balls a bit before they go into the freezer so that they bake up normally. If you thawed yours before baking you probably wouldn’t have to do that.

  10. Laura H.*

    Little joys thread…

    What little things amused you or brought you joy this week?

    I did my small Thanksgiving run with only one impulse buy- was gonna get something sweet, but wasn’t planning on it being an ice cream above my usual price point, but 11/10 would buy again! So good.

    Spread some joy and I hope y’all have a great weekend!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We had some really nice weather this week, and my Junior Ambassador (who is definitely a warm weather dog) kept running out onto the back deck, finding a sunny spot, and excitedly flinging herself down to roll over on her back and roach around, paws flailing in the air, sunning her tummy with joyous abandon. It was adorable.

      (Elder Statesdog, who will be 13 in January, also had her semi-annual checkup and the vet called me yesterday to tell me that her bloodwork was 100% perfect, so that was a small joy too.)

    2. OperaArt*

      I had a virtual tour of Pompeii with an Italian archaeologist and 3 other guests by way of a Zoom call.

        1. OperaArt*

          Yes, it’s an Airbnb Online Experience. Sign up through Airbnb, connect up with Zoom when the time comes.

          I did another Online Experience today—Sing With a Broadway Star. Doing another tomorrow—tour of an Irish Village.

    3. Buni*

      I go to my parents’ for Christmas and always take a massive bag of edible goodies – mostly bottles, shelf-stable stuff, deli delights in jars & the like. I buy over the whole preceding month, getting one or two things each shopping trip to spread the load. This morning on one of those Saturday morning cooking shows they used / showed a couple of things that made me go ‘ooh, that’s going in the bag’. It just made me a tiny degree happier to think of all the lovely little things that oculd go in The Bag.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      We are doing some kind of goodie bags for all staff and can drop off things to put in them, little notes or whatever to say thanks to coworkers. I had the bright idea of getting handmade soap for my 6 coworkers and I am putting them in paper goodie bags I am making out of pages from books I was going to discard. We work in a public library. I mean, what better gift for 2020 than soap!

    5. GoryDetails*

      Seeing my witch hazel tree in bloom – always a delightful surprise after everything else has died back or dropped its leaves for the winter.

      Indulging in some goodies for myself: some smoked meats from New Braunfels, in memory of the gift boxes my late parents used to send us at this time of year, and a Spiceology assortment of spice blends packaged in delightful little glass jars labeled in the style of the periodic table of elements.

      Mixed emotions: discovering that my cat Gambit is a drool-monster when he’s having his chin scritched. It’s adorable to watch him blissing out as he leans into the brush, but when I go to remove the fur from the bristles and find them soaked it’s a bit… startling!

    6. ThatGirl*

      I had a rough week, got laid off Wednesday, but after spreading the word I was so touched by how many of my friends and former coworkers offered support, help, encouraging words, leads… it was really heart-warming.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Thank you :) not my first time through this but I do worry a bit that it’ll be harder this time. But honestly I feel very supported right now and that definitely brings me joy.

    7. another scientist*

      Had a lovely evening yesterday, doing a virtual wine tasting with some local friends. I don’t know too much about wine, but I find wine tastings enjoyable, so I decided to DIY one.
      Bought five wines going from light to full-bodied and got together all the empty jam jars from my kitchen shelf. I portioned out some wine for my friends and dropped them off, and we met on zoom to taste them in the same order. We compared what we could smell and taste, and I made them guess the price for each bottle. I told them a few facts on each grape from wikipedia but mostly it was just fun to hang out with them. I’m always nervous when I come up with something like that, but it worked out exactly as planned.

    8. Jaid*

      I stopped in a plaza to pick up Chinese food and while waiting, I went into the pet store next door. They had bunnies out on display, so I got to pet them. One was super fluffy and friendly and even licked my hand!

    9. violet04*

      It’s a gray, rainy day. I slept in this morning and did some reading in bed before getting up. All five cats snuggled on the bed with me. It’s been a stressful week and I find it calming to watch the kitties sleep.

      1. Kitties!*

        Yes! Me too! Watching kitties (or other animals) sleep is very calming. They aren’t worrying about Covid, or the rent, or whether an evicted tenant will actually leave (ahem), or whether they’ll still have a job come Monday. Just peacefully resting. It’s wonderful.

    10. Roy G. Biv*

      My partner and I recently had Covid – we have recovered nicely and are finally going to do some yard maintenance, and get out some holiday decorations. Bonus – the weather in our Northern US state is dry, sunny and just brisk enough for long sleeves. It’s a beautiful day!

    11. Potatoes gonna potate*

      A few months back I posted being annoyed about how my local Target moved all the maternity wear from the women’s clothing section directly into the baby section.

      It annoyed me because, pregnant or not, I’m an adult woman, not a baby. Well a few months ago I noticed that maternity wear was moved back to the women’s section. Albeit it’s st the very end of it and still close to the baby section but far enough away that it’s not IN the baby section.

      Anyways it’s not a hill to die on, I guess it brings a little joy because I’m sure I wasn’t the only one annoyed by the previous move.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Breast pumps aren’t used by babies, either. But it would be really odd to put them in the women’s section. Or with cookware.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For me the disconnect is that when I was pregnant I could also shop in plus-sized women’s clothes…and I didn’t want the extra walking.

      2. Nope.*

        I don’t understand how that implies you’re a baby. If you’re shopping maternity, you’re probably about to have one. Makes perfect sense to me to have it in that section.

        1. JustEm*

          Plus as someone who dealt with infertility (now pregnant through IVF after 3 years trying to get pregnant), it was nice not to run across maternity things amongst the non-maternity clothing as a little extra reminder of what I couldn’t have. If you go into the baby section you expect to see baby/pregnancy related things

    12. Wishing You Well*

      Literally a little joy: organizing my Rement miniatures back into their sets. These are collectibles for adults or kids over 12. They’re made in Japan and are exquisitely detailed. SO CUTE!

    13. HBJ*

      I was shopping with my (multiple) small children. A store I shop at has a “spend $X, get a free turkey or ham” promo this time of year. I was spending $X, so I went to get my turkey. A person there asked me “would you like a free turkey?” They said they were spending over $X, they didn’t have room in their freezer, and they had raised several children and knew what it’s like to feed a small army. So, she grabbed a turkey, checked out, gave it to me, and said “Happy Thanksgiving!” So now I have two free turkeys!

      1. allathian*

        Wonderful! I bet you’ll think warm thoughts about her when you’re having your Thanksgiving dinner.

    14. GoryDetails*

      A small but satisfying one: after the season’s first hard freeze last week, I closed all my storm windows (I have the two-panes-of-glass-and-one-screen version, where you slide one glass pane up and the screen down in summer, and reverse in winter) – and one of them got stuck, with the glass pane half in the wrong track and only 3/4 closed. I couldn’t shift it, and it was too cold to hang around near an open window, so I left it until today, where I finally managed to get it unstuck after lots of gentle taps with a hammer and prying with a screwdriver. All the while I dreaded breaking the glass, but managed to get it back in its track and properly closed. Hooray!

    15. ampersand*

      I saw the International Space Station fly overhead on Thursday evening. It moves crazy fast, as you can imagine—it was so cool to see it and know there are astronauts in it. It was a little thing that made me happy!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        we saw that last month. All three of us went outside with binoculars and laid in the front yard to watch. Wasn’t it cool?!

    16. All the cats 4 me*

      Our neighbors have had a sold sign on their front lawn for about three weeks. They also have two extremely adorable cats who visit us, and I *may* have fallen in love with the cats.

      Yesterday their daughter rang our doorbell looking for the cats, as it was their moving day and their deadline to leave was noon. I handed over the cat that had been ‘visiting’ us for the last two days, and was feeling so very sad that I would never get to cuddle the cats again.

      The doorbell rang again and it was the daughter to ask me if I wanted to keep the cats! I felt such a surge of joy, and hastily said yes.

      I spent the rest of the day telling the cats they legitimately live here now and they are MY cats.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We just re-read the rice bag saga by Shiv Ramdas, a neighborhood incident he live-tweeted in September. Funniest thing in a very long time.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      I bought a tiny sheet pan for my toaster oven, flat and non-stick, very unlike the bumpy one it came with. It crisps things up so nicely! I think I might try to see if I can make pancakes on it. I tried French toast on the other one, but it didn’t work very well; this one might.

      (I am adamantly refusing to buy a hotplate, in hopes that I will find work and have an actual stove soon.)

      1. pancakes*

        Look up the recipe for David Eyre’s Pancake. We have a stove but I often cook these in the toaster oven because it fits in the pan, so why not. Very good sweet or savory, with herbs and/or a little grated cheese if savory.

    19. Steffy*

      My houseplant grew a new baby leaf (in the dead of winter when it shouldn’t really be growing, as I understand it)! Haha. A little bit of a 2020 miracle.

  11. CJM*

    Has anyone had experience managing a family member’s trust and/or estate — both the personal and the business sides? Do you have any advice — especially of the “here’s what I wish I’d known/done/thought of, and here’s what worked well” variety?

    My mom died recently after a long, good life. My sister and I are sad and exhausted from helping her through her final illness and death, and now we need to clear out her apartment by December 1st, plan her service (not a major rush, thankfully), and distribute her estate and trust. It’s been a lot with no end in sight.

    Here are my current challenges:
    – balance: How do I manage my responsibilities to the estate with my own life, which I’ve neglected for two months? I’m putting in 12-hour days on my mom’s estate and not sleeping well. This can’t continue. Plus there’s been no time to grieve, and my brother is pressuring me and my sister to rush.
    – difficult sibling: How do you manage a difficult sibling? Our brother distanced himself decades ago and barely visited or contacted us. My mom designated me and my sister as co-executors. She never said why she didn’t pick him, even though he has more financial savvy than my sister and I do. I think it was because she didn’t trust him to a) show up and b) practice kindness and cooperation. He lacks people skills, pressures others, and takes unilateral action. (Some call him a bully.) Now he wants to be an executor (sole is his preference). My sister and I decided no, and he is not happy. We want this to be a good and cooperative experience (like Mom would want), so we’re trying to include him and be transparent. But he can be prickly and wants to rush everything. (He lives out of state, isn’t traveling due to covid-19, and therefore isn’t helping with the apartment and service.) Aargh. He is my biggest stress point.
    – unequal gifts: How do you manage unequal gifts? My mom put in writing that she wants one of my sister’s children, who was also her goddaughter, to have a special, valuable item. She didn’t designate any items for the other six grandkids. This has caused hurt feelings. (Note to self: Designate items equally among my kids!) I may give my two children some cash out of my share of the estate to soften that somewhat. My mom did leave a modest, equal sum of money for each grandchild, including her goddaughter.
    – distribute belongings: How do I deal with difficult feelings in people I love when I’m so exhausted? My sister and I sorted through all of our mom’s belongings and took what we wanted. (Our brother wanted only one item.) This weekend the grandkids will visit to draw names and take turns picking items they want. There has already been grousing about fairness, which is disheartening and feels greedy (even though part of me does understand). The main issue is whether the favored grandchild should pick last.
    – donating furniture: Has anyone used resources besides charities to find new homes for pretty nice furniture? The smaller household items we can handle ourselves, but the furniture is a challenge. Local charities that pick up (and we called several) are booked into December, and we need everything out by November 30th. We may pay to use 1-800-GOT-JUNK, but I’d rather not because some pieces will probably go to a landfill. We might be able to move heavy furniture ourselves (down a long hallway to an elevator and then down to the apartment building’s loading dock) but have to consider our middle-aged backs.

    Thanks in advance for any advice. I’ll be online sporadically this weekend because of all that’s going on.

    1. Washi*

      For the furniture and any other items, you could see if there is a local Buy Nothing group and post them there, with the stipulation that any takers need to move the furniture themselves. At least in my group, furniture in good shape tends to be popular. Covid does complicate this, but if the apartment is big enough, you could stay in another room when people come to get their items.

      The posting and then arranging appointments for people to come pick up their stuff will definitely be way more time intensive than a junk removal service (which is designed to make it easy for you) but might decrease the items that end up in a landfill!

    2. Doc in a Box*

      Re difficult sibling and unequal inheritances: please document all interactions you have with everyone. My mom went through something like this as executor of her aunt’s estate, and she created a new email address that is estate only. That has made tracking things much easier. Be prepared for your brother to get nasty; be willing to hire a lawyer to defend the estate if you need to. (This happened with my great-aunt’s estate.)

      Also, pace yourself and take care of yourself; this is a long process. My great-aunt’s estate has taken 5.5 years. There were business assets in addition to personal assets, so more complicated than most. You will likely have to submit a yearly accounting, taxes, etc.

      I’m sorry about your mom.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      So sorry that your prickly brother has chosen to hector, badger, complain and otherwise impose his preferences.
      It’s a blessing that he lives out of town! Distance is your friend; it protects you from unexpected visits and on-the-ground unilateral decisions. I encourage you to put up additional limits for additional self-care. Screen his calls instead of answering immediately. Reply with bland, non-reactive comments (e.g., “that is not possible”) when he makes unhelpful suggestions or demands. If he doesn’t get a reaction he may stop bullying.

      I also urge you to rest, even if it seems impossible. Take two consecutive evenings to grab a take-out meal (or frozen pizza), watch TV or read something soothing, and go to bed earlier. Then repeat this every three or four days. If you’re in the U.S., take advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekend. Easing some of your physical and emotional exhaustion will restore your strength for the remaining (seemingly endless) decisions, arrangements, and mind-numbing chores required to empty your mom’s apartment.

      Also see if there’s any way to renegotiate your Nov. 30 deadline with the landlord. Even just an additional two weeks would give you and your sister time to move everything out at something less than total breakneck speed.

      1. Girasol*

        Dad left us with an expensive assisted living apartment full of furniture in another state. We had a pickup truck and barely a week to clear it out to avoid another month’s rent and to get over the pass ahead of a blizzard. So first we picked out a pickup load of what we really wanted. We were kinda ruthless with throwing out old style clothes and the knickknacks that didn’t have important memories. We took a lot of useful small items to Salvation Army and such charities but they wouldn’t take any furniture at all, much less send out a truck. So we called the local second hand/antique places that would buy what they could sell. One of them came and picked out about half of the furniture. I was just happy that they’d send their own movers to take it but they also paid us a bit. A local odd jobs mover (maybe someone like your junk dealer?) took most of the rest for free but he really did plan to store it in a barn and sell most of it himself to pay for his effort. Not even he would consider taking a used mattress so I paid him extra to move it to the dump. That’s how we faced the logistical problems of moving a lot, fast.

        We had looked at putting it all in storage until spring. Just a month before we had joined my husband’s riding club in unloading and packing a member’s mom’s stuff into a storage place so they could have time to think about it. But storage facilities were mostly wait-listed or spendy so we didn’t. Still, if I’d had to deal with family arguments (which I escaped, thank heaven, being the last of my family) I might have looked harder for a storage place so I could park it all, get a breather, and settle everything.

    4. RosenGilMom*

      I would also suggest remembering – and reminding the ‘complainers’ – that you are not making these decisions, you are acting according to your mother’s written instructions.

      1. Hi there*

        I just had a chat with a lawyer on Friday to work on my estate planning and heartily second this comment. The documents are where your mom left her preferences and instructions, and she deliberately and carefully did not choose your brother. She recognized that he would not make it a cooperative experience, and his wishes here don’t matter. As for the unequal gifts I’d be inclined to have the goddaughter choose last. People get weird about the stuff as if it is a sign of how much they were treasured. I am sorry for your loss.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Balance: Just my experience but a small estate can take as long as 9 months to process and that is if a person works right along almost daily. Larger estates can take a year or longer. I know of one larger estate that took over 8 years, some of that lost time could have been prevented. Tell your sibs to call the court and tell them to hurry up. Seriously, it takes the time it takes.

      Difficult sib: Uh, you can’t just change executors. This is a whole big legal process involve a court and attorneys for each individual. Try ignoring him when he mentions this topic. It may fade away as you get into the nuts and bolts of doing the estate. If he is as you say here, he probably will not lawyer up and follow up on this. In all honesty, it’s not you and Sis’s decision to make about who is executor. That decision has been made already. You and Sis can decide to refuse to be executors but I would be very surprised if you could assign a new one. I THINK (could be wrong) the court assigns the executor.

      unequal gifts: Discreetly hide it. By that I mean figure out what you can give each kid of similar value. Tell each kid, grams wanted them to have it. No one will be the wiser if everyone receives something.

      Distribute belongings. Don’t pass on gram’s favoritism. Let each child have a turn selecting things. What this may look like is they rotate through picking one thing. So on Round 1, each child picks one thing. They all select that thing before moving to Round 2. You can start with the youngest or start with the oldest. Or you can go by alphabetical order…. whatever you think is best.

      Donating furniture: Here the Salvation Army came to a family member’s house to pick up specific items after a serious storm. They wanted beds, bedding, dressers and that sort of thing. They sent volunteers who handle the furniture themselves- they took it out of the house and loaded it into the truck.

    6. Mimosa Jones*

      I’m so sorry for your loss and struggles. The December 1 deadline is artificial. Yes, the apartment needs to be vacant by then, but you don’t have to be done by then and your mother wouldn’t want you to have to work this hard. Have the estate pay for a storage locker, like a pod so the moving is someone else’s job. This way you can do what you can and then put all the rest in the pod. Give yourself a week break and then have the pod delivered to one of your homes. The estate should also pay for a cleaning service once the apartment is vacant.

      Contact a couple nice antique/second hand shops to see if they take estate goods. You can offer them a package of items and they’ll know how to distribute them for their maximum potential profit. There are also companies that will clean out the entire estate, keeping you involved all the way and writing you a check for the end value after everything has been sold. Covid and your particular situation may affect how this works, but it is an option. They are experienced and can be very efficient. They’ll also know the ins and outs of fair distribution.

      You have two advantages with your brother: he wants to be involved (or does he just want the money soon? what’s his motivation?) and he’s not going to show up on your doorstep. I understand you want to be fair and considerate, but fair is for people who are considerate in return. You do have the power to set some boundaries for his behavior. And any fees for defending the will would come out of the estate, not your pocket, so you can remind him of that if he threatens to challenge the will.

    7. migrating coconuts*

      If your mom’s estate has enough liquidity, hire a firm to pack up the house and put it in storage. And then go through it at a pace that is comfortable for you and your sister. My mom’s estate was large enough that I worked with a lawyer and my mom’s financial planner to help me through everything. I had two sisters, but my mom made me sole executor since one sister lived a 2 hour flight away and the other sister wasn’t smart enough to handle the details and also had a very greedy husband. The lawyer was particularly helpful, not only with the legal end, but with me being able to invoke ‘but the lawyer says I have to do this first’ kind of thing. As for the brother, do your best to ignore him, I know that’s easier said than done, but you have the power to send emails to a folder you only look at infrequently, block social media, block his phone number, or tell him he can only go through the lawyer. For the grandkids, maybe value the one special item and gift the others with the same cash value, but I wouldn’t do this if it has to come out of your share. Otherwise do the number thing and let the special granddaughter choose last. And remind them all that when they die they have the choice to leave their things to anyone, and in any way, they want. Yes, it can feel greedy or vulture-ish, but I kept telling myself that my mom would be happy that her things went to family that would use/appreciate it, instead of a thrift store. For the furniture, look into local stores that may take them on consignment, or stores that take estate items or flip furniture. They exist. If you don’t want to go that route, use Craigslist, or better, a site called Freecycle. I have given away all kinds of things on Freecycle. And don’t forget, estates should let you take estate costs first, and then what’s left is used to fulfill bequests. My lawyer also told me (which I didn’t know) that you can pay yourself out of the estate for being the executor, because as you have found, it takes a lot of time and effort to settle everything. And lastly, my mom’s estate took over 2 years to settle and tie up all loose ends (mostly that was filing taxes and closing the bank account used for liquidation of some assets) Good luck and remember to take time for yourself. You have my sympathies on the loss of your mother.

      1. All the cats 4 me*

        Regarding executor fees from the estate, ianal, but *usually* we see that the will makes provision for the executor(s) to receive compensation, and *usually* it is at the discretion of the executor(s).

        Two things:
        1. If the estate pays executor fees, in Canada these are subject to personal income tax and government pension withholdings, therefore it is usually necessary for the estate to establish a payroll account with CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) to report the payments and submit personal tax and pension withholdings. As with all payroll related matters, there are deadlines for reporting and penalties for failing to do so. I suggest you consult experts for advice in your jurisdiction (legal and tax advice).

        2. Unfortunately, the discretionary nature of the executor fees may add to the friction with your brother. Sorry, I can’t offer any advice there.

        I wish you all the best with this sad task.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Agree, migrating coconuts, storage might be a good idea, because rushing this kind of thing under such great emotional and mental stress usually does not end well. I paid an extra month’s rent on my mother’s apartment in order to give my spouse and child extra time to sort through her belongings. While it all fell on me as an only child of a divorced woman, I also didn’t have anyone second-guessing my decisions or trying to push me in any particular direction. Unfortunately, because of that I don’t have much advice for the OP about most of the other issues, except to say remember that your mom chose you and your sister and specifically excluded your brother. To respect her wishes you’re going to have to ignore his, and that’s probably best for all of you in the end.

        Also, since she lived in a senior living apartment building with a common entertainment room and kitchen, I put out a lot of her things that I didn’t want or wouldn’t use in a common area, or spoke to her friends and neighbors directly about whether they might want anything. I did post a few things on online bulletin boards for free or for sale, depending on the item, and if I had to do it now I’d start with Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace (I hate Farcebook, but they do have the biggest audience).

        And for anyone thinking about granting specific items or special bequests, the fairest way to do that is to have the fair market appraised value come out of that person’s share of the inheritance. Obviously the monetary value doesn’t matter if it’s, say, her recipe box or favorite casserole dish, but it should apply to most things. Think of it as an estate sale where the proceeds get split among the heirs, but the heirs also get first crack at buying the items. It’s more transparent, and fairer to everyone that way.

        The people I’ve discussed estate planning with are split among whether to include grandkids or nieces and nephews. I’m of a mind that it’s easiest and fairest to split everything evenly among the children, and leave it to them to spend their money on their kids, or enable them to bequeath more to their kids, although if I had a seriously spendthrift or addicted child I would probably be funding their kids’ 529s and probably even leaving those grandkids some money directly.

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      When my siblings, cousins, and I needed to divide up our late grandmother’s personal belongings, we wrote numbers 1 – 8 on slips of paper (because there were 8 of us) and each drew a number. The person who picked one chose the first item, and so on until everyone had chosen the items they wanted. Anything “leftover” we donated to Grandma’s church for their rummage sale. I’m sorry your family is going through this – it’s a difficult process even when things go smoothly. My condolences to you and your family.

      1. Oldbiddy*

        If there are multiple rounds of picking items, reverse the order after each round, e.g. # 8 picks last in first rounds and first in the second round. We do this in fantasy baseball and it helps make things fairer.

        1. Clisby*

          That’s how I and my 5 siblings divided up our mother’s personal property. We did not base it on monetary value, because people can (and some of us did) prioritize our picks based on sentimental value. If I pick an SV item over an MV item, then obviously the SV item is worth more to me. (We didn’t have any interpersonal feuds going on, so it worked out fine.)

    9. SpellingBee*

      My condolences on your loss. I know what it’s like to try to deal with your own grief while trying to handle all the business of the estate. Ignore your brother as much as possible – it takes as long as it will take, and nothing you can do about it. Are there any tasks you can (and would be willing to) delegate to him? Since he isn’t there you can’t get him to do any of the physical work, but maybe you could make him responsible for calling around and finding someone to take the furniture or something like that.

      Re the grandchildren, are they adults? If so, perhaps a pointed conversation about the fact that you’re mourning the loss of your mother, and their grousing and pettiness isn’t helping things is in order. If not adults, same conversation but softened a bit. Did Grandma and godchild have an especially close relationship? I can understand why singling out one grandchild to have a special item and not the others would be hurtful, but the result would probably have been the same if the other specific bequests weren’t as intrinsically valuable. I think the favored grandchild should be included in the name draw the same as the others, but then sit the first round out.

      And echoing others, take care of yourself! This is an exhausting time and you need to press “pause” every once in a while and just recharge.

      1. WellRed*

        This was going to be my suggestion re: grandkids. Pointed conversation. If they are old enough to pick out items they are old enough to be thoughtful.

    10. merope*

      With regard to the furniture: have you considered calling an auctioneer, rather than donating it? They would take it away and you might get some additional money from the sale, which you could then donate to charity if that were your ultimate goal, or add to the estate as a whole. Also, since the auctioneer’s business depends on moving items, they might be more available than the charities.

      1. Fellow Traveler*

        + 1 to the estate sale being the simplest. It won’t be the cheapest and you won’t actually make a lot of money, but it is by far the easiest solution. I mean it’s hard to figure out what the perfect solution is especially in emotional times. But if it’s not something that you want to keep yourself, let go of the idea that it is your job to find the perfect home for every single thing and take the most efficient route. Dealing with an estate Ian hard enough as is.

      2. Sleepless*

        OMG I can’t recommend an estate sale company enough. I had been dreading dealing with my MIL’s house for years, because she was both a terrible housekeeper and a compulsive shopper. We ended up sorting through all of her paperwork, picking out a few things to keep, dividing up the photos, and then we got an estate company to deal with the rest. We hoped we would make a bit of money, but we ended up owing them about $700. I still thought that was a heck of a deal. It would have taken many weeks of hard work to get rid of all of that stuff.

    11. Oxford Comma*

      You can’t just change it so he’s a co-executor. I’m pretty sure that would involve lawyers and proceedings. I would try ignoring this.

      For the special items, are there other items that have value that could be given to the other six grandkids? Or are you beyond that point?

      For the furniture, have you looked at charities for refugees? They are often overlooked as a source for donations and they usually need things like these.

    12. Chaordic One*

      I’m sorry this is so long. Maybe some other commenters will have some opinions about this, but IME, the absolute worst part of settling an estate involved applying for, and obtaining, an “Employer’s Identification Number” (EIN) number for the estate from the IRS, which you need in order to settle it. Sometimes it is referred to as a “Federal Employer’s Identification Number” (FEIN) or just a “Tax Identification Number” (TIN). I’ve had to deal with this because I’ve had several relatives who passed away in the last couple of years and it seems like every time it happens, something went wrong that screwed up the process.

      Theoretically, you are supposed to be able to apply for one online through the IRS-dot-gov website and it will be assigned automatically at the end of the process. If everything goes alright and you are assigned an EIN number, be sure that you have your computer or cell phone hooked to a printer and be ready to print out the confirmation letter that has the EIN number on it that appears at the end of the process. The letter only stays there for about 5 minutes. Then it goes away. I tried to save the letter as a PDF, but it didn’t work. At the very least, write the number down. (I don’t remember reading about this at the beginning of the process, so I was, of course, unprepared.)

      There’s a very high chance that instead of being able to obtain an EIN number online, you’ll get an “ERROR 101” message. I was told that there are several reasons why you might get this error message, but the most common reason is because some of the information you provided is already in their system and their computer system thinks that the estate already has one. When that happens, the next step is to download the SS-4 application form from the IRS-dot-gov website, fill it out and then apply for the EIN either by fax or by mail.

      In the past, the IRS would typically assign an EIN number from a faxed-in application after about a week. Mailed-in applications might have taken 2 to 3 weeks. If you faxed in an application, after a week you could call them and, if you could answer their questions, they would tell you what the number was over the phone and fax a confirmation letter with the number on it to you. However, at this point in time, the IRS is horribly behind in processing EIN applications by fax and mail because of COVID. They were shut down for quite a while. I was told that now it is taking them up to 9 weeks to process faxed-in applications and up to 18 weeks to process mailed-in applications.

      When you call the customer service number, be ready to tell them your relationship to the estate. This means you need to tell them that you are the “executor,” or “beneficiary,” or the “whatever, something like that” of the estate. If you call them, you have to wait on hold for a long time before anyone actually takes your call. The people who answer the phone say that they have no way to reach the department that processes the applications and assigns them, they can only tell you information from after the number is assigned. They can’t even confirm if the application has been received or not. They’re polite enough, but often they aren’t very helpful.

      After the number is finally assigned, if you call they will tell you what it is over the phone and you’ll be mailed a confirmation letter with the number on it, but that takes another 2 to 3 weeks for you to receive the letter by mail. They won’t do anything by email (which I guess is understandable given there being so many hackers out there). They can fax a letter to you, but you have to be by a fax machine before they’ll do it. They won’t just fax the letter to the bank or to your lawyer unless you’re by the fax machine in the bank or the lawyer’s office. They won’t just fax it to Fedex for you to pick up, you have to be by the fax machine at the Fedex.

      One time when I called to ask about the EIN application, it had been assigned I needed the confirmation letter and the IRS person asked me if I was calling on a cell phone. I told her I was, and then she asked me if could get to a fax machine in the next five minutes. I said, “yes,” and the person told me to keep them on the line and take the cell phone and get to a fax machine, so I put on my coat, got in my car and calmly drove to my local supermarket about 4 blocks from my home where they have a fax machine. I got there, told the IRS person the fax number, and they faxed it to the supermarket. That was a good experience.

      Personally, I think it would be a good idea to print out the SS-4 application form and fill it out, even if you apply for the number online. That way, you’ll know what you need to provide when you fill out the online application and you’ll have the information you entered into the system available if you need it later, because it is a lot to remember. The questions asked on the online application and on the SS-4 application aren’t exactly alike, but they’re close. You’ll be a bit less likely to make mistakes on the online application if you have the info written down. If you make a mistake in the application, it really slows down the process even more in getting that mistake corrected. There’s probably a whole bunch of other stuff that I don’t know about the process. If you can, let your lawyer do it, but if your lawyer does it for you, make sure that they document the information they provided to the IRS on the application, so you can tell the IRS that stuff if you have to call them yourself.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I had no issues getting the EIN online, it was instant. All the hassle I ran into was stuff like insurance, utilities, and credit cards who for some reason acted like they never heard of an estate, an executor, or anyone dying. Just a wall of “Huh? Wat do?”

        Like, I had one insurance rep ask me to put the account holder on the phone, after I’d already identified myself as the executor of their estate and referred to them as deceased. I don’t know if it was a script they were required to follow, or if they just didn’t know what the words mean.

        The one that took longest to resolve was converting the checking account to an estate account at the bank. The deceased had listed my mom as a joint account holder with right of survivorship. My mom had been dead 10 years at that point, but the owner had never updated the info. So I had to call around and get a certified copy of my mom’s death certificate.

        Then the bank rep was convinced that we needed to re-open my mom’s estate and distribute the money according to her will, first. So I had to sit there and try to explain what the word “survivorship” means. To the person whose job it was.

        TL/dr: There’s a reason Mississippi is the way it is.

    13. Jen Erik*

      Might be too late to do this, but I had a discussion with my kids about anything they particularly wanted (we lived in the same house as my parents) and more-or-less took them as my share of the items, and my brother and sister did the same. Beyond that, we tried to give the younger generation anything they particularly wanted, and maybe we were lucky, but there was very little overlap. (One wanted a bible, one the dinner gong, one a cardboard box that my mum kept spare change in…) So if it’s possible, and they’re on relatively good terms, I’d let them talk first, because it’s hard to know what might matter to someone. Also, they took surprisingly little – two or three things each.
      The only tricky thing was the button box, which they all played with as kids, and were all reluctant to let go to someone else, so I squirrelled it away – maybe the first great-grandchild can have it, or something.
      As for the difficult feelings – I think you just have to talk it through privately – you’re all grieving, and it is natural to have all the feelings. (Given my way, I’d have burnt everything to the ground – it took me some time to work out that my urge to obliterate was grief.)
      I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

    14. RagingADHD*

      For the furniture & other personal property, I hired an estate sale company that included complete clean-out. We took what we wanted, let them do the rest, and they left it empty and broom-clean. Anything that didn’t sell they arranged donation or haul-away. It was a few hundred up front to cover the ads, and the proceeds covered their fee plus a couple thousand profit back to the estate. Totally easy and painless. Even if we’d only covered expenses it was worth it.

      For people who are not legalky appointed executors but think they should be, the answer is just, “Thanks for offering to help, but we’re the ones responsible to the court, so we’ll handle it.”

      I’m not sure what your local laws are, but in my case the executor did not have the power to make new executors. So it’s not even an option. But I did have to explain that to someone.

      For the goddaughter, since she already received one special item, I’d do the choosing in rounds where everyone picks one thing, and she gets one less round. And probably let the others each get one thing before she gets a second.

    15. Choggy*

      You can’t deal with everything at once so make a list then prioritize and delegate. It’s also not up to you to manage the hurt feelings based off decisions made by your mother. As for your brother try not to engage too much and focus on the tasks at hand.

    16. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      When my father died, I consulted an lawyer to help me. I ended up just speaking with him one time and he was able to give me enough information to do the rest myself. However, it did help me a lot to know that I had someone I could consult again if I ran into any difficulties.

      As far as your brother goes, there is no rushing when it comes to settling the estate. You have to wait for all medical bills – which could take more than 6 months. He will just have to wait.

      We used Catholic Charities (refugee assistance) to clear his apartment. They took everything including clothes, furniture, linens, etc. and were very happy to receive it.

      Also, take care of yourself! This is a long process and you don’t need to rush it.

      1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

        All of the above is good advice. One thing I will add, after dealing for months with my aunt’s small estate: you can/probably should pay yourself an executor’s fee if the will allows for that or it’s SOP in your state. I paid myself the grand sum of $10 an hour doing my aunt’s, and it was at least some help with the financial impact of taking time off work, dealing with the creditors, making the phone calls, etc.

        Also, do whatever you can to eliminate the time crunch. She’s gone and you do need to mourn and grieve. All the other stuff is just, well, stuff, and it can sit in her rented apartment or a storage unit as long as you wish.

        A homeless shelter operation might love to have some of the items as well.

        Best wishes,

        1. RagingADHD*

          Oh, absolutely you should get an executors fee! You are performing work! And any expenses you have, like traveling to the house to clear it out or arrange a sale, ordering certified copies of the death certificate, court filing for probate, etc. You should be reimbursed 100%.

          I charged the estate about 75% of the freelance income I passed up to do the estate work.

    17. Michaele*

      I just finished my step-dad’s estate. There were some interesting situations. There is a double-adopted step-half sister (it’s complicated) who was written out of the will for the way that she treated my mom and step-dad, but they refused to come right out and tell her. I told them that it was a rotten thing for them to do to me, but they were firm. It was my task to mail her a copy of the will, then call her and let her know.
      She stoutly maintained to our half-brother that the only reason we took care of my Dad for the last two years of his life was to get s larger part of the estate. My brother did not buy that, as I was scrupulous in dividing everything in half, and giving him some extra because he had greater need.
      He did grouse a little that they should have made him the executor because he runs his own business. (He is functionally illiterate and I have both a business degree and a husband who is an accountant.) He eventually realized that it was a job that would have been quite difficult for him.
      The biggest pain in settling the estate was the IRS. Dad died on 31 March 2018. He had already made a quarterly payment to the IRS. We filed promptly for his refund. Crickets. I called several times, and each person I spoke to demanded a different additional form, which were duly sent. Then, more crickets.
      Almost a year later, early 2019, I called again and they informed me that the file was flagged as probably fraudulent. No one bothered to mention it to me. They promised deflag it and send it on. A few months later the post office delivered ALL of the paperwork, that landed on my desk and lay there quivering. The IRS informed me that they were unable to process the request and I needed to refile.
      Then Covid hit, making it almost impossible to speak with anyone at the IRS, and certainly unable to go there in person. After several more letters, and actually holding onto the phone line long enough to speak with a live person, I was promised that, after waiting two and a half years, the refund would be issued. If I did not receive it before the end of November, I should call them back.
      It came November 15, to great rejoicing. My brother said that he was just about to raid his small pension fund for living money, so this came at a very good time. I made sure to give him some extra.
      Moral: Keep copies of Everything, and keep them in a designated folder (or two, or three). Have all documentation together and easy to access. Write down the names and ID numbers of each person you speak to, with the date and what they say.
      If your difficult brother wants to hold a grudge, that is up to him. You and your sister are honoring your parent’s wishes.
      I think it is eminently reasonable that the grandchild who has already received a special gift should pick last.
      Furniture: call some churches and see if they have people in need. Call homeless shelters or transitional housing or refugee assistance programs to see if some furniture could go to someone who will bless you and your mom.

    18. nonprofit director*

      I am very sorry for your loss. I managed the process for my mother-in-after she passed away. Her estate was very small, but it still took nearly a year to settle everything and we did not distribute money from the estate until about a year after she passed away.

      A couple of things I learned:
      1. The trust is the governing document and you need to follow what is written. Make sure you and your sister have read it very carefully and you understand it. If you are not sure, hire an estate planning attorney to provide some guidance. This is an expense the trust can pay for.
      2. You will need to have your mother’s mail delivered somewhere. After dealing with the mountains of mail my mother-in-law received, I would open a P.O. box and have the trust pay for it next time.
      3. Be careful with the disposition of personal property, as there might be particular language in the trust that governs that. My mother-in-law’s trust required that all assets, even personal property, be divided evenly. We had already given some stuff away, so had to get sign-off from each beneficiary that they were okay with that.

      In particular for your challenges:
      -Balance: Take your time. As I stated previously, ours took almost a year and was a very small estate and not complicated. Don’t let your brother rush you. This is going to take a while, so you and your sister will have to come to an agreement about how much time you can realistically devote to this, understanding that some weeks will have more activity and other weeks will have less. Early on is the busiest, truthfully, but then you will find yourself waiting on others.
      -Difficult sibling: If your mom designated you and your sister as co-executors, you likely cannot change that. And it sounds like you shouldn’t. Depending on the type of trust your mom had and the state you’re in, when your mom died it likely converted to a trust that cannot be amended. So your brother’s wish to be an executor is moot at this point. You and your sister need to be firm and keep him updated, but not involved.
      -Unequal gifts: There may be nothing you can do about that. You are obligated to follow the terms of the trust. And in fact, it may be difficult to hide this. Many states require that you send a copy of the trust to all beneficiaries and interested parties. These are often defined by statute; again, depending on your state. We had a situation with very unequal gifts (a sibling completely cut out) and we had to send a copy of the trust to that person, along with some long-lost extended family members who may have had potential claims to the estate. Do not distribute any money until you are done with everything. We distributed money from my mother-in-law’s trust more than a year after she passed away.
      -Distribute belongings: First, ask the landlord for extra time on the apartment and have the trust pay for the associated expenses. It will be worth it. And/Or as others have suggested, rent storage. Again, this is an allowable expense for the trust. Second, make sure there is no language in the trust that is suggestive of the belongings needing to be divided evenly among the beneficiaries. Language in the trust will control how and what you do. Generally, I think your plan sounds fine. I wouldn’t let them pick everything they want at once, make them rotate. There are going to be disagreements among the grandchildren and hopefully it will work out. Perhaps, if a particular item is strongly desired by many, you can decide that no one gets it and it’s donated instead.
      Donating furniture: I made a bunch of phone calls to charities and was fortunate to be put in touch with a family who had lost their belongings to a fire and were very happy to come by and take most of the furniture. And deciding what to do with the furniture might be a good reason to ask for more time on the apartment.

      1. nonprofit director*

        Oh, and keep track of any expenses that you will charge to the trust. Many states require that you provide an accounting to the beneficiaries and it will be easier to start this now. I keep a couple of excel spreadsheets, then cleaned them up at the end to distribute to everyone.

    19. RF*

      1. Let your brother know the average time to complete the arrangements for this type of Will so he can set his expectations. Your brother may need money quickly to pay debts.
      2. He cannot be an executor – that’s not legal. Restate you are doing exactly as the Will requests.
      3. Make sure you send a pdf of the Will to your brother and all the beneficiaries, they need time to study it (in the UK at least).
      4. Unequal gifts can be useful as there can be less quibbling re valuation.
      5. Create an inventory re the larger items and circulate it to the family, with a date you need a response by. You need to number and sticker items and go round the room in a logical sequence (i.e. door, round the edge of the room, back to other side of door). Dimensions are useful. The family can email you with the numbers they are interested in (you may need to include some photos). The executors have final say and choose a balanced and fair distribution. Then pile the things in groupings so when your relative arrives they are easy to collect. It took me 4 hours to create an inventory for a 1 bedroom flat.
      6. Create a dropbox account with all receipts pdfed onto it in date paid order so you can reconcile them against the bank statement. This will speed things up later.
      7. Stamp hard on any suggestion anyone should be disinherited as you don’t want that to fester. Just say no firmly as a united front and reinforce legality.
      8. Before you pay out to the beneficiaries check there aren’t any govt refunds, etc, due (e.g. in UK council tax).

      I’m sorry about your Mum. Dealing with this will make you and your sister very strong, and you can be confident that it is exactly as she would have wanted.

    20. Scc@rlettNZ*

      Just because your mother would want the distribution of her trust to be done without any rancor doesn’t mean it will happen that way – you have no control over your relatives reactions and you shouldn’t turn yourself inside out to try and manage them.

      I had a similiar situation with one of my sisters. She is always living on the bones of her arse and wanted the estate settled like yesterday. I told her it would take as long as it took and then disengaged from her. If she sent me a text I’d read the first line to see if it was a rant (spoiler alert it always was) and then I’d delete it and not reply.

      My poor mother would have been absolutely appalled by my sister’s behaviour both immediately after her death and during settlement of her estate (I could write a book).

      I’m sorry you are going through this. Make sure to look after yourself and don’t let your brother bully you.

      1. Observer*

        Just because your mother would want the distribution of her trust to be done without any rancor doesn’t mean it will happen that way – you have no control over your relatives reactions and you shouldn’t turn yourself inside out to try and manage them.

        I’m not going to weigh in on the rest, but this is an EXCELLENT piece of advice.

    21. Might Be Spam*

      Ask your kids what they want, they might not want the same items. I don’t have to worry about my kids, apparently they decided years ago, who was getting what items.

    22. CJM*

      Thank you very much to everyone for your condolences and advice. I feel so supported when I read your responses; it’s as if I’m getting big hugs. You’ve shared so many good ideas, and it’s a great gift of kindness that you spent time and thought to help me.

      Here’s more information about a few issues that came up:
      – My mom wrote the trust 20 years ago and named my brother as backup in case my sister or I had died in the interim OR one of us decides now to step aside and let him be a co-executor/trustee. So it’s a matter of completing a form or two to make that change. But we won’t.
      – We’re working with our mom’s estate attorney, CPA, and financial consultant — for now, at least, as we get a handle on everything. There are tax issues to consider for any income from the estate that might hit in 2020, so we need to understand our options ASAP.
      – We did get an EIN, but the SS-4 (Application for EIN) has incorrect data. My brother rushed to contact the estate attorney, who applied for the EIN online. But he listed my brother as an official co-trustee! I’m shocked that they both went so far when nothing official had indicated that my brother was a co-trustee. (There were a few extenuating circumstances that help that make sense, but still. And that’s mostly why my sister and I decided there’s no way we’re passing off control to our brother. We can’t trust(ee) him!) My husband contacted the IRS to correct the record or get a new EIN with correct data, but that was fruitless. Three people have assured us we’re okay to proceed with the “malformed” EIN: the estate attorney (who apologized, by the way, and is now working directly with me and my sister), the CPA, and a trusted former colleague who works in tax. We’re using this EIN (reluctantly) and will ask the IRS to make corrections.
      – I’m especially grateful for the suggestion to meet with an estate-sale company. I called one yesterday, and we have an appointment for Tuesday morning. It sounds like a good alternative to the junk hauler, and I hope we can arrange a win-win there.
      – After I posted yesterday, my husband suggested a good approach for the grandkids’ “draft.” We’ll use the snake/reversing order for all rounds after the first one. My niece, the goddaughter, hasn’t agreed to go last or skip a round, and my sister doesn’t see the importance of that like I do. I won’t fight about it, but I’m disappointed.
      – My kids are now graciously accepting their grandma’s wishes that their cousin, the goddaughter, is receiving a special gift. I’m proud of them, but I’m having a harder time with it because of a long history of my mom’s favoritism toward my sister and her kids. I’m working through those feelings privately and with my husband, who’s wise about perspective and letting go.
      – I’m still considering whether to pay myself an executor’s fee. I probably won’t unless my brother becomes more difficult, in which case it will be “combat pay.” Meanwhile I’m tracking my hours and mileage. My sister did ask me to take the lead (I’m the big sister and also more comfortable handling calls and weird situations), so I’m doing a ton. It’s definitely worth considering, and I appreciate the reminders.
      – Relaxing and unwinding are so hard right now with my mind spinning in a thousand directions. But this week includes a few pleasant events to look forward to (all socially distanced!). I’ll build downtime into each day and practice my husband’s advice: Slow down!

      Thank you again! I’m so glad I reached out. This community is awesome (thanks to you, Alison!).

      1. Fellow Traveller*

        Definitely pay yourself an executor’s fee. It is a lot of work and giving yourself a fee will help you feel less resentful. Anyone who begrudges you the fee does not understand how much mental and emotional work you are doing.

      2. CM*

        What an amazing thread — I hope I remember this for later.
        One suggestion I didn’t see here. You could consider having the lawyer deal with your brother. The lawyer would be able to say things your brother doesn’t want to hear, like “No, the executor can’t be changed,” and you’d be insulated from the drama.

    23. Juneybug*

      There is a great book called Inheriting Clutter by Julie Hall. It deals with difficult siblings, how to approach the clean up, etc. I would strongly recommend getting it ASAP. It will walk you through the steps of taking care of your mom’s estate.
      Good luck! I am sorry about the loss of your mom.

    24. Pocket Mouse*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and about the extra difficulties you’re facing. Echoing others, I’d suggest:
      1. Take the executor’s fee. What you’re doing is work. If it were anyone else doing the work you’re doing, you’d want them to be paid for it. Make sure you, the person doing the work, are paid for it.
      2. Regarding unequal gifts: try to make it so the others get something more or less equivalent in some way- if not of similar monetary value, something sentimental (e.g. painting, personal letters), or of significant functional value that would be expensive to purchase (e.g. sleeper sofa, tool set, car), or of interest to only one party (e.g. musical instrument, vinyl collection).
      3. Remember and remind others that you’re not the one deciding who gets what and when, you’re doing the best you can to follow your mom’s wishes and prudently fulfill your duties as executor.
      4. Pace yourself, take breaks, and allow yourself to make the easiest reasonable choice in any given situation. You’ll likely be dealing with the estate–and grief–for a while.

      Good luck!

    1. Big SUPN fan!*

      Spoiler alert if you haven’t watched yet!

      I was glad Sam got to have a normal life but sad he had to do it without Dean.

    2. charlatan*

      I didn’t care for it. The general idea was ok, because I’m not sure how they’d convincingly depict Dean living a normal life after everything – but the execution was flawed.

      I love Cas so was very disappointed that he got only a brief mention. I know there were pandemic-related changes to the planned ending, but I didn’t see anything to indicate that Misha Collins wasn’t available to film the last show, so it felt extra disappointing to not see him there. I would really have liked to see what the show had originally planned – I know it was supposed to include a lot of characters from the past 15 years.

      I thought Sam’s old-man makeup and wig was awful. I liked son-Dean but thought the ages didn’t work out right at the end (a 20-something sitting at seemingly 80-something’s Sam’s bedside?). Dumb things like Sam’s wife/partner not being present except as a blurry background visitor (was that supposed to be Eileen?) and the fact that the huge portrait in Sam’s house was of Sam, Dean and their parents, rather than Sam, son Dean and the mom. I get that Sam’s family of origin is super important to him, but I didn’t need to be hit over the head with it either.

      It just wasn’t what I wanted to see, but I know some people really liked it. I’ll be fine rewatching some other episodes.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I was thoroughly disappointed and thought it was extremely predictable and something I could’ve written in an hour. It had some of the worst aging makeup I’ve ever seen. And it felt odd they wanted me to be sad watching a character die when I’ve seen him do so several times before, and I know this one was “for real this time” but it was still hard to muster the energy. This show already had about half a dozen episodes that felt like series finales, and the actual finale was the least interesting of all of them.

      I did enjoy the S1-ish vibe of the first fifteen minutes though.

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

      Never followed SPN, and caught glimpses through Tumblr, but they really commited to follow the GoT route, huh? What a way to go. I feel bad for all the SuperWhoLock followers.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Coming in late… I liked it, quite a bit. Yes, it was upsetting at first that Dean died and Sam had to go on without him. But really, Sam wanted a normal life. Dean wanted him to have a normal life. This was the only way that was ever going to happen. And then they ended up in the new-and-improved heaven together. I know Cas lovers hated the ending, but the show was always about the brothers, and I’m glad he wasn’t shoehorned into the finale.

  12. Home buying and renovation*

    I am looking to buy a townhouse soon and I’m fine with some smaller renovations: floor change, kitchen countertops, etc.

    But some things are a matter of personal preference. Some places are very nicely remodeled already but I don’t like the materials they used or the general look.

    If something is not aesthetically your taste but perfectly nice, would you change it? It seems like a waste to rip out brand new carpet because I don’t like carpet. Or getting rid of perfectly fine granite countertops and a tile backsplash in the kitchen because i hate the colors.

    1. MissGirl*

      So I thought my townhome was move-in ready until I signed the papers. I repainted the entire thing even though they had recently and I have zero regrets. One thing I want to do but have hesitated because it does feel silly is rip out the granite counter tops. They installed them and I hate the pattern. If I knew I was going to be here another five years, I’d do it though. I want concrete counters.

      The carpet I replaced but it was old. I’m not sure what I would’ve done if it was new. If you’ve got the budget, time, and you plan on staying awhile, go for it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Since my wallet gets major say in these matters, I would leave the countertop etc in place until I needed to change it for reasons beyond, “I just don’t like it”.

      When you buy a place it’s yours to do as you wish. I think the question becomes how much are you will to sink into renovations to suit your tastes? (Ugh, that sounds snarky, but it’s true that we could sink a bizillion dollars into a place to make it our own.)
      I guess if I had some money to spend I would pick the things that annoyed me the most and change them.

      With my own house the renovations I chose to actually do were health and safety issues first and foremost. Then came ease of use considerations, such as aging in place, personal preferences etc. And aesthetics came in a distant last place.

      1. MissGirl*

        Ha ha, my problem is my countertop is granite so it will never age. The only reason I could replace is I don’t like it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          ha! Yeah, I hear ya. Some folks might want to reconfigure the kitchen or expand it out. But some times stuff is just plain annoying and it’s gotta go. Maybe the countertop could be sold for some extra cash.

    3. Enough*

      My new neighbors replaced the carpets and painted the wholes house and redid the back splash and painted the cabinets. There is no reason to live with something you don’t like if you can afford to change it. And those items you don’t like may be new but doesn’t mean they are good quality. Had a friend years ago you was having trouble selling his house so replaced the carpets with as cheap as he could. That did the trick.

    4. Dwight Schrute*

      I would do it over time but not right away. It’s one of my pet peeves when watching hgtv shows and people say OH WE NEED TO GUT THIS IMMEDIATELY because they just don’t like the way it looks. I’m like you can still live here and do the renovations slowly over time and not all at once

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Ha. Funny story—I showed my house to a few buyers this week. One guy complained that there’s too many walls, everything is open plan now. The house has a gigantic front room & living room, a staircase covered by 2 walls and an open kitchen & dining room on the other side of the wall. We moved here in 1992 and it was built in the 1920s so….. idk? I’m no engineer/architect but I think you’d have to basically break down the whole house to get rid of the staircase? My husband and I were perplexed that with of all the flaws and issues on this house, the design and layout is the least of the worries. Like it goes beyond just a few renovations IMO

        1. NRG*

          Ugg. And I hate the open plan trend. It’s noisy and everybody is all in everyone’s way all the time. And it you don’t have any walls where do you put pictures and art?

            1. allathian*

              Depends on the type of bookshelf you have. I know people who use them as room dividers in an open-plan house. It does mean that it’s necessary to fasten them to load-bearing structures in the ceiling and floor, though.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you can afford it, go to town. I replaced my kitchen appliances when I moved into my house because I didn’t like the style, even though they all worked fine, except for the microwave, which had a dodgy door, and that was my official “excuse” even though I’m an adult and it’s my house and I don’t need an excuse :) Totally validated!

    6. A313*

      I would live in it a while and then see what still/really bothers you. I hated the kitchen in my first house, but after living there for a short while, I decided I’d really spend the money on new windows. I wouldn’t have guessed that would have come first, and the new windows made me happier than I’d have thought!

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I second this wholeheartedly — don’t rush to change things. It can be really hard to hold out, but after a year or two it’s often easier to see triage projects based on what’s really valuable to you. It can be surprising sometimes to see how you end up using a space.

        Some stuff (like kitchen style) often seems like the go-to for remodeling, but other things can surface (lighting is a *big* one, especially throughout the different seasons). And you can be surprised about what grows on you!

    7. Ginger ale for all*

      I have not encountered this but I have thoughts. Jmo, I think certain renovations would go faster and be easier to do with an empty house before you move in, such as floors. So if you are making a list of pros and cons of which renovations to do and in which order, I think this should be a factor.

    8. SunnySideUp*

      It depends on:
      1. How long you realistically plan to live there.
      2. How much of a $ bank you have for non-essential fixes.
      3. How important — really important — the decor/design is to you. If you will feel joy every single day if you change X, then change it and feel that joy. If you’ve always dreamed of hardwood instead of carpet, and have the $ to do it (and a little extra for area rugs, because you’ll want them too), then spend it and enjoy. But remember to keep some bank for unexpected home expenses, no matter how new the home is. Remember that an association special assessment can pop up out of nowhere.

    9. OP for this thread*

      Thanks for the comments.

      A little context: I am selling the condo I’ve been in for 10+ years and lived with things that I haven’t aesthetically liked all this time but because they weren’t non-functioning felt weird about replacing. Ex the stove was from 1988. I replaced it so the kitchen would present better for selling and now I’m wishing I’d done it 10 years ago. So much easier to clean.

      I’m planning to be in the new place for 10 years or so unless work moves me someplace else.

      I read on this website a while back , someone had commented something like ‘I can afford $5. But a product may not be worth $5 to me at the time’. So I may be able to afford the cost of the renovations but will the enjoyment I get from it be > the enjoyment I get from spending that money on something else?

      And I don’t know how to make that calculation. Is there a formula you use?

      I suppose this is true of any purchase. But house stuff tends to be $$ so really want to make a thoughtful decision.

      1. Jay*

        There’s no formula, and it depends on your financial situation and your attitude about money and – well, everything! It’s very personal.

        We’ve been in this house almost 20 years and have done three major renovations plus replaced/refinished all the floors. We spaced it all out primarily for financial reasons. Now the house is exactly what we want and we love it. We plan to stay here for the rest of our lives unless we need a first-floor master someday. Some of the renos made the space work better for us – this was especially true for the kitchen, which was a small change that made a huge difference. Far more than I expected. Some were primarily esthetic (replacing/refinishing the floors, redoing the hall bath, painting everything). We decided on how much to spend by deciding what we could spare without feeling pinched or deprived of other things we enjoy. We also economized where we could and splurged where it mattered to us – so the kitchen cabinets are stock, not custom, and only the fronts are real wood. The rest is MDF. The floor is higher-end vinyl. We spent our money on the counter, backsplash, and range hood.

        I believe that once I have enough money in the bank to cover my expenses in emergencies and last for six months if I lose my job, the rest is best used to make us happy, and that’s what we do.

    10. TextHead*

      When we were looking at houses, there were some that, if we were to get it, we would have been doing some renovations to get it the way we wanted it to be. We actually factored this into our budget, so if a house needed work to be what we wanted, it needed to be below budget so we had that money free. In the end, we went with a house that didn’t need anything immediate – aside from lighting in the master (no lights in the ceiling – we couldn’t believe it).

      All that said, yes, I would change something because I didn’t like it even if it still worked. If it was something that I couldn’t give away (like I could with a functional appliance for example) , I may delay to see how much it bothers me as I hate the idea of wasting something functional. It’s your home, though – you deserve to feel happy in it. If you can afford it – go for it. Certain changes will raise your home value, too, so that’s a nice bonus ;)

    11. Choggy*

      When we bought our condo I wanted quartz countertops but my husband nixxed it due to cost. I still wish I overrode that decision as I was paying for our remodel too. I really think, if this is your home, it should be what you want. I still hate the countertops 13 years later. Our next home will be a new construction and you can bet I will get what I want this time! If you can afford it, why not do it? Heck, see if you could sell the granite if it’s in good shape.

    12. RagingADHD*

      If you have the time & money to do it before you move in, do it all in one fell swoop. Especially carpet, because otherwise you have to do something with the furniture.

      If you need to go ahead and move in, do it in small increments with lots of time in between. Trying to live in the middle of renovations is a huge pain, and always seems to make them drag on forever so that they never quite get completely finished. There’s always that one bit of trim, or the one funny corner that isn’t quite right but you’ve lost the will/time/money to deal with.

    13. Potatoes gonna potate*

      If it’s not broken I wouldn’t be in a rush to fix it. We bought a house that needs minor repairs and some aesthetic changes. IME it’s been hard enough moving in (at least for us) and its 2 hour drive away that we’d rather move in first and then do changes/fixed later on when we’ve saved up a bit more of a cushion and had time to enjoy the place. Though to be fair, due to shituations throughout the years, I try not to be super picky about home decor anymore.

    14. acmx*

      I got rid of the relatively new carpets (2 years old?) since the previous owner had a dog and I’m sure wore shoes indoors (I do not). I also replaced the countertops and backsplash in the kitchen because I disliked the color and white subway tiles. I did this prior to moving in.
      I hate cooking but since I have to do it, I want a kitchen that suits me. I did not replace the counters in the bathroom (which matched the kitchen) because that didn’t bother me as much.

    15. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you remove not-your-taste fixtures carefully, you can donate them to Habitat fir Humanity’s ReStore. Basically a thrift store for homes & home repair.

    16. MissDisplaced*

      Things that are just easier to do before a move in: carpet/hardwood flooring, paint, tile, and kitchen countertops or cabinets.

      Things that can probably wait: plumbing fixtures, lights, vanities, mirrors, decks, landscaping, built-ins, appliances, interior doors, closets and decorative projects.

      Think of it this way: what is the biggest hassle where you’d have to remove everything or have to clear out for a few days.

    17. allathian*

      When my husband and I moved to our current house, it was a new construction. We’ve been here for 8.5 years and some surfaces are showing wear. We have a sloping lot and had an architect design our house. We’ve been pretty happy here. We’ve had to replace the washer, dishwasher and fridge. The washers stopped working but we had a fridge/freezer combo and the fridge was always too full, so we replaced it with a larger fridge, because we also have a chest freezer. The fridge is in storage while we’re deciding what to do with it. It still works and is far too good to throw away, so we may sell it.

      We have laminate flooring in most of the house and tiles in wet areas like the bathrooms, the utility room and kitchen. We did have to replace the laminate flooring in my home office with a vinyl floor (which was actually more expensive per square foot than the laminate), because the floor was showing damage from office chair castors.

      I’m very happy that we moved into a new construction. Sure, some compromises were necessary, but at least they were our compromises and we got a house we can live in for the foreseeable future. No doubt at some point the upkeep of the house and lot will become too much and we’ll downsize, but unless one of us gets too sick to maintain it, this house should be good for us for at least another 20 or 25 years.

  13. Halloweener*

    I too have been bitten by the crochet bug thanks Alison to your amazing projects (and much needed anxiety relief). I am ready to start a blanket project but a little overwhelmed by yarn selection. Any tips on how to pick out the right kind of yarn online? I found a pattern I like and am going for soft, chunky and cozy. When I do the math for the quantities needed it seems quite expensive to me but since I’m new to this I may just need to adjust my expectations?

    1. Lifelong student*

      Yarn comes in various weights- substitutions are easy. There are lists on the web of yarn substitutions. You can often do things in weights other than the ones given in the pattern- although it may change the size of the finished product, use more or less yarn, and require a different hook than the one specified. You can usually adjust the pattern size. I mostly due lapghans for donations to nursing facilities- I adapt full size afghans by changing the initial chain to a more appropriate width.

      One of the reasons many crocheters have huge stashes is that we buy yarn on sale, not for specific projects and make the adaptations to use our favorite yarn or our stash.

      When planning a substitution, make sure you check out the size of different skeins. Often a pattern will not tell you yardage, so you have to look up the brand and find the yardage to compare with your substitute.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I am a newbie too and have jumped right into some big projects. But I bought some yarn for the first one and learned a lot about how the yarn works for me. There are lots of charts explaining the weight names and many projects talk about how to substitute. But I found that there is no substitute for just jumping into something and trying. I got the same colors in 2 weights and learned a lot about me and yarn which is really the question I think! I can crochet very tight or looser than I like. I have not hit the spot I like for tension and that makes a big difference. For now, I do better with thicker yarn.

      And yes, it can be very expensive! Have you explored Ravelry? I am learning a lot there.

    3. AGD*

      Yarn costs a lot in general, unfortunately. If you stick to the $3/ball range at a yarn store, you’re probably getting bare-bones cotton that people use for dishcloths, or low-end acrylic that’s hard to use. I recently allowed myself to buy a pile of cotton yarn at the $6.50 range and it feels a bit luxurious!

      I buy most of my yarn at yard sales or thrift shops. It’s sometimes also possible to buy old sweaters and recycle the yarn – worth Googling for tutorials if that sounds interesting. This is definitely a tricky endeavor. It’s finicky at the best of times and doesn’t always work well (either cheap mass-produced seams or animal protein that has felted, i.e. grown together in all directions, will be a big problem). Sometimes machine-knitted yarn turns out to be too high-maintenance to lend itself well to making things by hand, and whether the effort is even worth it in the first place might depend on the fiber content or some other physical characteristic (i.e. this approach is better for yarn that isn’t dime-a-dozen).

    4. Nana*

      Late to the party…but please, please, PLEASE make a dishcloth (or three) first, so you can see if this is something you enjoy. No point in making a heavy investment if you realize it’s not something you really want to do!

  14. Achoo*

    Fitbit and fitbit-type recommendations?

    I’d like something that will easily keep track of my steps. Should be fairly accurate but I’m not anal about it. I saw a fitbit that had the ability to download podcasts, which would be awesome; I don’t like carrying my phone all the time. But then I saw you had to have a subscription to Deezer and pffft, I’m not interested in that.

    I really don’t need a lot of the other monitor, like sleep, heart rate, etc.

    Look forward to hearing your suggestions.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      I have a Fitbit versa 2 and I like it! I’ve had it for a year now and been happy with it. It’s comfortable, I like the various watch faces I can use, and the battery is decent.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m an Apple Watch gal, but I did a Fitbit for a little while for a work thing (they paid for it) and discovered that if your goal is to count steps, they’re actually more accurate if you find one that you can comfortably wear on an ankle or on your shoe. (For example, if you’re pushing a cart at the grocery store, it won’t count your steps because your arm isn’t moving, but mine counted a lot of steps while I was knitting on my couch because of the arm movements.) I had the Flex 2, which came with a wristband that it popped into, but I got an ankle band for it that was basically an elastic ribbon with a pocket and Velcro. The doohickey itself was about the size of a mini tootsie roll, maybe?

      1. Coenobita*

        Yep, I have had a couple of Fitbit Flex models (the original and now the 2) and I typically take mine out of the band and tuck it into my sock! I apparently don’t move my arms enough when walking and I am often holding a dog leash or a bag or something anyway, so I was feeling a bit cheated with it on my wrist. I find the step counter helps me a LOT with my motivation – now that I am working from home, I also set it to buzz every hour to remind me to get up and move around for a few minutes.

    3. OtterB*

      I have a Fitbit Inspire 2 that I like quite a bit, but the heart rate monitor was one of the things I particularly wanted and you don’t care about it. I don’t know about the music. But second that the Fitbut doesn’t record steps in the grocery store very well – but I haven’t tried wearing it on an ankle.

    4. Mephyle*

      I like having the simplest Fitbit possible. I started with a Flex and had it for a few years until the wristband (was poorly designed) broke and I lost it. Right away I got the closest thing to it possible, which was a Flex 2. Now I’ve had it for a few years and the battery is showing its age. When it dies, I’ll get the next-simplest Fitbit (since the Flex has been retired).
      It counts steps and that’s all. I find it does so quite accurately. It estimates calories and distance, and monitors sleep, but you don’t have to look at that if you don’t want to.

    5. pcake*

      I started with a Fitbit One, which was awesome. When I lost it after 2 1/2 years, I got a Zip, which I lost and only just found again. I tried an Alta, which wasn’t accurate at all, replaced it with another one that also was way off, and finally bought an Inspire. It’s a bottom of the line model, as was the zip, but it’s got a lot more features, and mine is quite accurate. Btw, I wear mine at my waist, and on the Inspire, for accuracy you have to set it to “off wrist”.

      I love the Fitbit dashboard, which is why I keep going back to Fitbit. Also, if you’re on My Fitness Pal, you can sync them if you want to. That way, when you log your food on MFP, the calories and your water show up on your Fitbit dashboard.

    6. Amethystmoon*

      I used a Fitbit for several years due to health insurance. They work fine but always eventually, the battery dies and you cannot replace it, so you need to pony up and get a new Fitbit. I finally went Apple watch this year (refurbished 3, not a brand new one), and I love it! You can use a pedometer app to count steps and even show it on the watch face as a complication. And you can replace the battery when it eventually goes. Worth it!

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I use a Garmin vivofit HR which does have the heart rate and sleep etc (I was sceptical about it, but now that I have it I do find it useful and interesting!) I chose this model because it has its own GPS (many of the competitors at this price point rely on a bluetooth connection to your phone in order to use the phone’s GPS) so that I could track route and distance without having to take the phone with me.

  15. MissGirl*

    Thanks for everyone’s tips on my new puppy. I read them all and the week’s prior. Unfortunately a lot of them ended up not being useful quite yet because my dog came home with parvo, and we spent the week on high alert. She’s doing much better today and is definitely on the mend. We ended a lot of the drugs yesterday so it’ll be interesting to see her personality start to come through more.

    I’m hoping to now move to more training this week. I thought she was already mostly housebroken but she just didn’t feel comfortable peeing in the house; now she does. Silly me thought I could leave her alone for five minutes so I could go pee, but she took that as an opportunity to pee herself. Let the training begin!

    I’m still sleeping on the couch by the crate, but I’m hoping to start sleeping in my bed with her downstairs in the crate. I’ve bought so many toys and treats and her favorite toy is the plastic door stop I got to keep her from shutting herself in my office.

    1. MissGirl*

      Also, I can’t come up with a name; it keeps changing. Names I’m considering are: Zoom, Gunny, Morgan, Ruby.

      1. Pam*

        Go out somewhere and call the names you are considering a few times. (This also works with potential kid names) Try it with commands- Zoom, come! Ruby- go to bed! Morgan- dinner!

        However, my true experience is that dogs wind up with many names over their lifetime, all of which they will learn to answer to- Milo has morphed into Miley, Miley-moo, Moo-baby, Mojito (his brother Bandit is Burrito), and Mr. Snugglebutt, (particularly when he’s trying to get under the covers at night.) This doesn’t count the genric names, such as ‘Furhead,’ ‘Boys’ and ‘Pup-pup-pup.’

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I remember in Swiss Family Robinson, the children were instructed to name their pets something that would carry well when it was called out loudly. To this I would add make it something you don’t mind the neighbors hearing when you call it out loudly!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I had a dog who had “door problems”- ha. I went to a toy store and they sold these things made of foam and shaped like the letter C. You put them on the edge of your door and the door can’t close on itself. If you put it up high, pups/kids cannot reach it. I ended up getting child-proof drawer locks, because my pup would open drawers and take every thing out of the drawer. I saved this stuff so I still have it for the next pup.

      I am sorry to hear about the parvo, I am glad they caught it and the pup is on the mend.
      Is your pup going to be alone down stairs each night?

      1. MissGirl*

        Thanks for the door idea. My plan is she’ll be sleeping downstairs in the crate alone until she’s housebroken.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          Just wanted to mention that it may cause her some anxiety if you crate her in a different room than the one you’re sleeping in, especially since you’ve been sleeping near her already. Dogs are pack animals and most prefer to sleep with the rest of their pack.

          1. BetsCounts*

            We adopted a puppy last month and she did not care for being in the crate in the den **at all**, but when I moved the crate into our room she settled right down and is happy to sleep there.

  16. Green Mug*

    Hello Rowers! A couple of weeks ago there was some commentary on rowing machines. I should have asked my question on that thread, so I’m hoping the same group will see this. I am thinking about getting a rowing machine. I have a treadmill which I love. I need a machine for my core that I can zone out on with a repetitive motion. Here’s my question to the former rowers: if I never rowed a day in life, I’m I going to end up injuring myself on a rowing machine? There was some discussion about proper technique. How difficult is it to learn the proper technique? Thank you!

    1. Lady Heather*

      Obligitary IANAR (I am not a rower – have done it a few times, but not seriously or recently.)

      Plague and wallet willing, you may benefit from having one or a few appointments with a fitness trainer, physiotherapist, or similar to work on technique. They can make sure you get off on a good start.

      It doesn’t have to be a thriceweekly long-term personal training arrangement – it can just be one time to get proper form and pointers, and then once more a couple of weeks to check you got the habit established.

    2. Courageous cat*

      I didn’t find it difficult per se as it’s fairly simple, but it is definitely something that doesn’t come naturally at first and you have to be conscious of for a while. I would personally try to do just one session with a trainer first if possible.

    3. The Time Being*

      I picked up a rowing machine a while back and I’ve made it a central part of my workout.

      Proper technique is not hard, but it is not intuitive; I spent a good while watching YouTube videos between the time I ordered the machine and when it arrived, so that I would know what I was doing when I got started. My first couple sessions with it, I considered “get to know you” sessions — I didn’t give myself any expectations for an actual workout, but rather just focused on figuring out form and technique.

      One of the best pieces of advice I found on YT was to break down the row into its three separate components and work them individually at first. Just legs, just arms, just core. Then start to combine them — legs and arms, arms and core. Then the full motion — legs, arms, core, then unspool them for the return. That makes it easier to focus on each piece of the technique and really drill yourself on it.

      As long as you start yourself out on a low resistance and listen to your body, I don’t think there’s a high likelihood of injuring yourself. One of the nice things about rowing in contrast with treadmills is that it’s non-impact and non-bodyweight. I’ve had past knee and foot issues, and when I first started rowing my knees complained a bit. With the low intensity, I could feel the early warning twinges well before I did anything truly bad to my joints, and I could experiment with form til I figured out how to avoid that problem.

    4. Washi*

      Although I don’t row currently, I used to row both on the machine and on a crew team. As the others have said, it’s not rocket science, but it’s also not intuitive. I think you could probably hurt your back doing it incorrectly. Back when gyms were a thing, I would see people rowing in ways that made my back hurt just to look at them :)

      If you have any way to have someone spot check your form, do that. I will say that rowing is primarily a leg workout. It’ll work your core and back, but if you’re doing it right, your legs will probably feel tired way before any other part of you does (unless you already have quads of steel!)

    5. Zooey*

      The Concept2 rowing machine company have a rowing podcast which has some good beginner podcasts. What I found is that these have you rowing far fewer strokes per minute than you’re naturally inclined to, which really forces you to pay attention to form, breaking down each part of the movement. This is helpful because if you go too fast you easily lose form and start putting the effort in the wrong place.

      I keep toying with getting a home rowing machine, mainly because of not having been able to go to the gym since March. But for a compact one they’re quite pricey and I’m worried I’d end up splashing out and then not using it. I miss the discipline of going to a different place to exercise!

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      Do planks and plank-variations for your core. As for the rowing, I’d hold off until you can get a trainer to help you with a few sessions.

  17. Emmi*

    Can anyone recommend some good “dance class” channels on YouTube or elsewhere? I’d like ones aimed at a beginner. Ones where they show you a segment of choreography, then break it down and show you the individual parts, rather than the dance aerobics style where they keep doing the same simpler moves and you adjust and keep up. Hip hop, jazz, modern, I’d give any style that doesn’t require special shoes or equipment a shot, and I’d consider pay to stream stuff but would prefer free. I’m thinking about this as a fun indoor exercise for the winter. Thanks!

    1. Pippa K*

      I like Bhangralicious’s lessons on YouTube. She’s cheery and upbeat, breaks the steps down well, and then puts it together to great music.

    2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      Gurdeep Pandher is a Canadian treasure if you like Bhangra. (Google “Whitehorse Bhangra.)

  18. Anon for this*

    (Warning: personal) Since I don’t have people I can discuss this with in real life, I thought I’d ask here — how have you handled it when you and your partner have differences in sex drive? I am in a relationship that’s fantastic in most ways, but I find that I want that physical connection substantially more than my boyfriend does (say, 2-3 times a week, whereas for him it’s maaaaybe once every week or two). I actually think we’ve found our way to a workable solution—I’ve told him that if we are hooking up less, I need more physical affection in other ways (cuddling on the couch, handholding etc) and he’s good about it—but I’m curious how others have navigated it and if you’ve found it long term sustainable.

    1. Anonymouse for this*

      Well, first and foremost you have to be able to talk about it. Otherwise you’ll build resentment, which is a relationship killer. So make sure you can communicate without getting defensive or being snarky.

      My husband and I have been together 17 years, and his sex drive has waxed and waned with his various antidepressants and mental health issues. My sex drive is not as high as it used to be, but I still want it more often than him. But physical affection and connection is the most important part to me, so we cuddle regularly – at least every morning and evening in bed, for a few minutes.

      And, to be totally honest, I have a few toys I use regularly and we’ve discussed non-monogamy, but those are not discussions everyone wants to have.

    2. Generic Name*

      I have a higher sex drive than my husband, but fortunately it’s never really been an issue. Sometimes I do masturbate to “supplement” things. I guess it does help that we hug and cuddle a lot, and that he’s loving and attentive in other ways.

      I think what’s important is how does he respond when you say you’d like more physical affection if greater frequency of sex is off the table. Does he take your needs seriously and make an effort to meet them, or does he say or imply that your needs aren’t important? Does he do better for a brief period but then he forgets/doesn’t follow through?

      Unless both partners agree that sex is not an important component in a relationship, it’s difficult to have a fulfilling relationship when one partner is perpetually dissatisfied. To be sure, sex is not THE most important part of a relationship, but in my opinion it is a significant facet. Humans are physical beings and our physical needs (for affection and sex) aren’t any less important than emotional or intellectual needs. You’re smart to pay attention to that. After all, a relationship that is only emotional and intellectual (for most people) is called “friendship”.

    3. Rebecca Stewart*

      I’m polyamorous and have two partners I live with. So I have more touch opportunities in general. However, they’re both on serious mental health drugs and so frequently neither are interested. I take matters into my own hands frequently, and do as much touch and cuddle as we can and I can handle (I’m autistic and can overload) and they both know that should the planets align and their sex drive fire up, I’m totally willing to help them out with that.

    4. dianasquiver*

      My husband just isn’t interested in sex at all. It was a constant source of unhappiness and stress for me, for many years. If I had known that sex was supposed to be an important part of life, I probably wouldn’t have married him, but I was raised to believe that sex was bad and it was more important to build up treasures in heaven, and all that. Boy, was that terrible advice!

      Anyway, my situation was more extreme than yours, because your guy does want some sex. For me, I left the church and spent several years trying to work on this (he didn’t do any work because he was perfectly happy as things were…). None of that helped, nor did counseling. I was just about to leave, although that would have been awful because we are so great together in every other way.

      What ended up working for us was negotiating an open relationship where we can date other people. I’ve been dating, without having to lie or hide anything, and have found so many great people and fantastic experiences! I’m so much happier now that I know I have options and don’t have to live in a sexually frustrated marriage. My husband is a lot happier because he no longer feels pressured to do things he doesn’t want to do, and he knows I’m happy and being safe.

      Poly has been a huge improvement for me, but I know it’s not for everyone. In your case, because you’re still having sex, jumping right to adding new partners is probably not the right call!

    5. OyHiOh*

      There’s a gentleman friend in my life who has ED that’s not responsive to pharmaceutical intervention. We’re physically intimate/affectionate in other ways (cuddle on the couch and in bed, hugs and kisses, physical touch in general) and while it’s not perfect or ideal, it’s satisfying and sustainable. It helps that I have a weird and wonky sex drive myself (I’m probably somewhere in the demisex > asexual continuum) and days when I have an itch that needs scratching are recognizable but infrequent.

    6. The Unnamed*

      From the perspective of a guy with a lower drive and not much of a need for touch, communication is really important.When my drive dropped off,my wife felt as though I didnt want to be with her,but didnt let me in on how she was feeling.After some rows of epic proportion,we finally talked about it.Really talked…no round about ways to say things,just direct,no B.S. words, understanding dawned upon us,and things got better.
      Another thing, in initiating things, at least for me, morning is almost always a good time. When its bedtime, thats a negative. Unfortunetly,my wife is more of an afternoon/evening person, so our schedules are off a bit.Maybe time of day is a factor for yall too OP.

    7. Anon for this*

      I want to thank all of you for your comments and openness so far! It sounds like the key part for a lot of you has been nonjudgmental communication, which gives me hope—it took a couple of fights before we really opened up to each other, but I think being up front about our differences and needs (not just in this arena) has really helped. And The Unnamed, you might be onto something with your timing point, because we have pretty different sleep patterns—I’ll have to think on that! I could definitely wake up earlier for a good cause. :-)

    8. Penguin*

      Emily Nagoski’s book “Come As You Are” offers a few suggestions on this, and lots of related issues. And it’s a super read just in general. It might be worth checking out.

    9. Anon for this thread*

      Honestly, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster for my husband and I. I definitely sometimes feel like he doesn’t desire me like that, and we’ve had numerous talks about it. I think what has helped is that I’ve become more assertive about voicing my needs/wants. So like, if I initiate and he turns me down for the 3rd or 5th time in a row, I will straight up tell him that he needs to initiate next time because I can’t take being turned down again. The sex we have is amazing… I just would love for it to be, like you said 2-3x per week instead of 1-2x per month. I am sure it will continue to be something that we need to communicate about on a regular basis.

      Another thing that I’ve been working on (with varying levels of success) is trying to understand and truly believe that his lack of drive doesn’t equate to less love or commitment or anything like that. When I’m feeling more emotional and/or hormonal, I’ll feel really upset about it, but when I’m in a better place emotionally, I can process that in a much more reasonable way.

      Good luck!

  19. Stale Green Light*

    I need public opinions about a long-time family debate. My father was the one who taught me and my two siblings how to drive. One thing he stressed upon us is the concept of ‘stale green lights’. He described it as driving up to a light and seeing that it’s been green for a long time so beginning to slow down in preparation that it will turn yellow when you reach it. He first taught it to me by screaming at me to stop as I approached a light, coming to a sudden halt at a light that had only just turned yellow, with cars whizzing past us with plenty of time to cross the intersection before the light turned red.

    My siblings and I asked all of our friends who were learning to drive at the same if they’d heard of these ‘stale green lights’ and no one did, not even just the concept by a different name. My father still swears to this day that it really is a thing. So please, is this a real thing or is my dad making stuff up? Have you heard of this concept, by this last or a different name?

    1. The Morríghan*

      Yeah that’s a thing, although I’ve never heard of it being called ‘stale green light’ before.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        One of my ex-boyfriends who is an LEO did indeed call it a stale green light, or mostly just stale green.

    2. A313*

      It’s a thing! Not only have I heard it phrases as a “stale green light,” I do try to be aware when approaching an intersection just how long the light has been green and to anticipate the likelihood of it turning yellow. I try to pay attention to what other drivers are actually doing versus what they *should* do according to the street signs, laws, etc. I suppose I drive more defensively than some, but that’s what I learned.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Never heard of it.

      In fact, I think I’ve sort of been taught the opposite: not to start slowing down until it’s yellow, as other cars won’t be expecting you to slow or stop. (NOTE: this doesn’t mean speed up, but just to maintain speed.)

    4. Enough*

      Never heard about a stale green but the concept is good. I wouldn’t stop but would make sure I was only going the speed limit and could stop if it turned yellow. What too many people have forgotten is the yellow is to give those in the intersection time to clear it and to give those approaching the light the ability to slow down and stop safely. It does not say speed up so you don’t have to stop. When I learned to drive the I was taught to not enter the intersection unless I could clear it before the light turned red.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      Apparently it is a thing as you can google for it but I have never heard of it. I think this is also a thing you have to know the area you are in. I have learned that where I live, I have to make sure I will not be rear ended when I stop for a yellow and a few times I have gone through a light and felt like I really ran a red light only to look back and see 2 or 3 more cars drive through.

      My brother visited me and was terrified at my driving. He basically felt I was tailgating everyone. I know that I have learned some bad habits here (in my first 6 months I was horrified at the constant weaving on the highway but after 1 year, I was doing it too – so many people below the speed limit in the left lanes! but I digress).

      So I believed him that my habits were bad and started leaving more room when driving around town. I almost got in many accidents the first day because if I left the amount of room he wanted, cars would zip into the spot and that was not safe either. He agreed to let me drive the way I want but he vowed to never move here!

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        I also noticed a difference in how people treat yellow lights when I moved cities. In old city, very condensed and pedestrian heavy, cars would almost never run red lights (by trying to make a yellow light). In new city, spawling and with few pedestrians, it’s pretty normal for one or two cars to be in the intersection as the light turns red. I try never to do it.

        I have heard of the concept of stale green lights, but as others mentioned, it just means be prepared to stop/don’t accelerate, not actually stop while the light is green!

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Agreed about the regional factors, and another one is how long the light stays yellow. “Stale greens” were less of a problem where I grew up because there is a lengthy yellow light, but I pay much more attention now because the yellow lights are incredibly short where I live now (they basically mean “stop or you are going through a red light”!)

    6. Dr.KMnO4*

      Both of my parents were professional drivers (both worked for Big Shipping Company, my dad had a CDL) and they taught me about “stale” green lights. It goes along with defensive driving and being aware of the road. You don’t necessarily have to slow down for a stale green light, but you should be aware that it could change to yellow at any point and proceed accordingly.

    7. Unicornucopia*

      Yes, I’ve heard of the stale green light, but was taught to just take your foot to cover the break in case it turned yellow rather than to be stopped before it would turn red. This was just for long stretches of road and there were a few specific stoplights in my town I was taught to look out for and while I am familiar with the concept I don’t cover the break now haha.

    8. fposte*

      My Driver Ed used that term, but the guidance was neither to slow down or speed up; the yellow should give you time to safely stop. I think slowing down on the green would mess with the speed of traffic and the light timings.

      1. SunnySideUp*

        Mine too, I think it’s a generational thing — as in, we heard it more back in the Dark Ages (1960-70s).

    9. violet04*

      I’ve never heard of this particular term, but I do try to be aware that a green light might change to green as I’m approaching it.

      There are some intersections that have a timer counting down at to when the light will change. I find this very helpful. If I’m approaching and see the timer is near 3 then I know to start slowing down in preparation for the yellow light.

      1. TextHead*

        All the lights i saw in Shanghai did this (both count down to red and then again to green). It was awesome – I wish I had that here.

    10. Pink Dahlia*

      Slowing down on green with no visible reason is a great way to get rear-ended.

      Yellow is meant to give you time to slow and stop, that’s why it exists. If it flips to yellow and you can’t stop, you’re either far enough through the intersection to keep going, or you’re driving too fast.

      Your dad’s recommendation is dangerous and irresponsible.

      1. Washi*

        I don’t know that the recommendation is incredibly dangerous, but I agree that to me, a yellow light IS the stale green. I make sure I’m only going the speed limit when I get to intersections, but otherwise if it’s green as I’m getting close, it’s not going to suddenly turn red right when I’m right in the middle, there’s plenty of yellow time to get through.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. In my area, if you stop at an intersection when it’s green and you’re tailgated, you’re likely going to get the blame, although usually the blame is always put on the driver behind you who’s not keeping their distance. In my area, stale green means yellow.

    11. Pippa*

      If an intersection has a crosswalk, the pedestrian walk light will begin to blink and turn to the don’t walk signal before the vehicle light turns yellow. I use that as a guide.

    12. Solar*

      Counterintuitively, this is actually very dangerous. You should be aware of how long a light’s been green, because if it turns yellow before you’re close to the intersection, it’s good to have a sense of awareness so that you don’t scramble to make a decision. Good defensive driving.

      However, slamming to a stop when you’re just before the intersection, and the light has just turned yellow, is a dangerous overcorrection. It is not safe driving.

    13. The Time Being*

      I’ve heard about stale greens but only in the context of when you’re either driving something that needs extra time to slow (ie if you’re pulling a heavy trailer) or if you have someone following you, where you might make it through the green but they won’t.

      Don’t start slowing before the light goes yellow unless you’re in one of these conditions, though. That’s a recipe for getting rear-ended.

    14. Squeebird*

      Yeah, this is a real concept, but your dad was applying it WAY incorrectly. I learned about stale green lights when I learned to drive – it’s even in our province’s driving test prep manual. I went and looked it up out of interest, and this is what the current manual says:

      “A stale green light is one that has been green for a long time, and is about to turn yellow. If you didn’t see the light turn green, then it may be stale. Look for additional clues: Are there a lot of cars lined up on the cross street waiting for the light to change? In many areas, the crosswalk signal will change from a
      white figure to an orange hand just before the light turns yellow, or will show how many seconds are left before the traffic light will change. Point of no return — as you approach a stale green light — taking into consideration your speed, the road conditions and the traffic behind you — decide on a point where you will no longer be able to stop safely. This is sometimes called the point of no return. When you reach this point, keep on going even if the light changes to yellow. You need to judge accurately so you won’t be in the intersection when the light turns red.”

      1. 2QS*

        I came here to say that I too learned this term from a provincial driving manual. I suspect we’re from the same place (one with some pretty serious terrain as far as driving is concerned!).

    15. Not A Manager*

      I was taught that green means “drive if it’s safe to drive” and yellow means “stop if it’s safe to stop.” So if the light turns yellow when you’re too close to the intersection to stop safely, you are *supposed* to proceed.

      In my experience, slowing significantly while approaching a green light is a great way to get rear-ended. I prefer to take my foot off the accelerator if I’m approaching a long-standing green light. If it turns yellow in a timely fashion, I can safely stop. If it turns yellow too late to safely stop, then I can safely proceed. That’s what the yellow lights are for.

    16. Teapot Translator*

      When I learned to drive, my instructor told that when coming up to a green light 1) to check the mirror to see how far away the next car is and 2) check how much time is left on the pedestrian countdown. If the car behind you is too close, you don’t want to abruptly stop at the yellow light. Similarly, if the countdown is nearly done, be prepared to stop. I’m a “slow” driver (as in, I comply with speed limits) so this allows me to prepare.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent point, the lights are set to assume people are driving the speed limit for that road. So if a person is doing 50 in a 30 they may not be able to stop or slow down much when the light turns yellow. I always thought this is how the idea of stale green came about- people need to know when it will turn yellow because they need the extra time to stop their vehicle because they are going too fast.

        As others have said yellow does not mean stop, it means prepare to stop because the red light is coming up soon. I was taught that yellow lights allow people already in the intersection to clear out of the intersection. But strange, strange behaviors occur in heavily trafficked intersections.

    17. Dan*

      My driver’s ed instructor taught the concept. But it wasn’t about “doing” something in response to the light, it was mostly about awareness.

      Yellow lights are timed such that if you are going the speed limit, you can safely clear the intersection or safely stop. As someone else mentioned, slowing down at a green is a great way to get rear ended.

      Basically, if you’re speeding a little, the “stale green” means that you really want be going the speed limit as your approach the intersection, so if the light turns yellow, you can safely stop.

      One thing that I haven’t completely gotten used to where I live is that there are a few roads out in the suburbs that have 55 mph limits *and* stoplights. Where I grew up, 55 was for highways where you didn’t stop. So it took a long time for me to adjust to the lights with super long yellows, because I feel like I’m supposed to stop somewhat quickly, while in reality, I have time to clear the intersection.

      I sort of wish the state would publish guidelines stating how long the yellows last as a function of the speed limit, it would help a little because we have stoplights in speed zones ranging from 25 mph to 55 mph.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        So I just had to google short yellow lights. Apparently this is an actual issue.

        This is from shortyellowlights dot com/standards.
        This organization has a chart of what they believe is about normal, anything below this is too short a yellow light.

        25 MPH — 3.0 Seconds
        30 MPH — 3.5 Seconds
        35 MPH — 4.0 Seconds
        40 MPH — 4.5 Seconds
        45 MPH — 5.0 Seconds
        50 MPH — 5.5 Seconds
        55 MPH — 6.0 Seconds

        Six seconds at 55 mph? Really??!!

        1. Blackcat*

          Even if you slam on the breaks, it takes around 10 seconds to stop at that speed.
          So 6 seconds seems really like the minimum. If someone is going 55 but pretty far back, they need lots of warning to slow down to stop.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          There were a ton of short yellows in my old city. You’d be almost to the intersection and instead of Green……..yellow…….red, it would go Green………yellow RED! I knew where they all were and how to go around them, however. There were also a bunch of shorter greens where if you were the fourth car back, you basically had to resign yourself to sitting through another red light. *eyeroll*

          Here, there are longer trailing yellow lights on the left turn signal, which gives you time to turn if it starts to change when you’re already too close to stop. The other cars can’t advance in the opposite lane if you have an arrow, so it’s okay to go ahead.

    18. HBJ*

      Funny, my dad stressed the opposite. He said, “people slow down waiting for it to turn, until they finally get close and then go through. No, get through the light. Get through the light.”

      That said, I am aware of a light being green for awhile. Especially ones near my home/shopping/etc. that I’m familiar with. I also will always look at the numbers on the crosswalk sign. The countdown for people to cross the street intersecting the one I’m driving on faces me. So if I can see there’s still several seconds left as I approach, I know I’ll have enough time to get through.

    19. MsChanandlerBong*

      My parents didn’t have the patience to teach me to drive, so I went to a driving school, and this is what my instructor taught. Not to speed up to get through a green light, but to slow down a little in case it’s turning soon.

    20. Ina Lummick*

      In some cases (like lights in my local area) this is a thing where I know that as soon as someone is in a lane to turn off left/right the light for me will change to red quickly. It’s also the order of lights as well if it’s a bigger junction and you learn it as you go through it more often (you also get a sense of people are thinking “cr*ap I’m in the wrong lane!” and let them do their thing)

      But it’s that you don’t nessecarily stop – you just lift off, and prepare to change down/break. I have to supervise my bf as he hasn’t passed (but he would if he could take his test) and you don’t need to scream at your supervisee (especially if they are nervous/new to driving).

    21. Sunrise*

      I remember this from a movie (!) we had to watch in driver’s ed back in the early ‘80s, though the movie was much older than that.
      -Beware the stale green
      -Aim high in driving
      -Always leave yourself an out
      Yikes, can’t believe I still remember that!

    22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m in the UK and I can understand this concept, although I’ve never heard it discussed or discussed it with anyone, and it isn’t taught (that I know of) in driving lessons…

      I don’t really apply it, in that I don’t “begin to slow down in preparation that it will turn yellow”. I think I’d be taken aback if the person in front of me did that (although, of course, I’m on the lookout for ‘things to be taken aback by’ so I would be ready to respond!) – It is part of my general situational awareness though, in that it’s likely it could change so I should be ready for that… as are numerous other things.

      Given a green light that had been green for a while and no other factors I wouldn’t “begin to slow down” just because the light had been green for a while, (in excess of slowing down to go through the junction or whatever) but rather I would be ready to react if/when the light changes, which is the case at any other time anyway — this is why we have the yellow/amber light!

      (I also go through a yellow/amber light about 80% of the time, even though the official instructions are that you should stop unless it would cause an accident by not stopping. Coming to an abrupt stop at a light that had just turned yellow sounds dangerous more than anything.)

  20. Reality Check Needed*

    I live in Fairfield County, CT, right on the border of NY and CT. My family is an hour away in NJ.

    I shouldn’t get picked up by my mom for Thanksgiving, should I?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      No. Sorry, its hard, I know. I saw someone say I want everyone to be alive next Thanksgiving and that really hit home for me.

    2. Llellayena*

      What are the state rules for quarantine? I really should know the NJ ones but…if either state has a “anyone in a non-bordering state has to quarantine” then no, you should not be picked up for thanksgiving. If state rules would allow it, it’s more a personal risk with close family. Can you quarantine more closely after you’re back? Like work from home, avoid going out for 2 weeks? Are the other people you will see being cautious? What are the risks for you (and them) in attending the gathering? The travel itself is not really a problem because you’ll probably never interact with anyone other than your mom along the way.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      Everything I am seeing is that you should not have Thanksgiving with people outside of your household. It sucks. I am really depressed by it. But I think that’s the responsible course of action. I just heard a horror story about some people (friends of friends) who all had a birthday party and one person died and the other is in the ICU.

      I am saying this as someone who lives alone and will have to have a solo Thanksgiving.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Just wanted to add, that if you do opt to get together, maybe see if you can be outdoors. The risk is much much lower outside. Some friends are going to try that with those outdoor heaters.

    4. Reba*

      We were planning to be with my in laws for Thanksgiving (both households being extremely cautious). But we mutually cancelled. It’s so sad. But as my MIL said, we want to be able to know that we did everything we could, that we tried to keep each other safe.

    5. TextHead*

      Every piece of advice I’ve seen says not to celebrate with people outside your household. I had to tell my family that I won’t be there and we’re all sad about it, but they expected it. We don’t want to put each other at risk. If I got them sick, I’d never forgive myself. I’m the cook, so I got them a Thanksgiving meal from Omaha Steaks, so they can still do something together (4 person household) and I hope to make up the time lost when we’re in a place where things are safer again.

    6. LGC*

      Short answer: Probably not.

      Long answer: I’d be more inclined to go along with it if it’s just you and your parents. Technically, CT/NY/NJ are all part of the same “bubble” of states anyway.

      But the situations are different in different states – and NJ is probably the worst affected of those three right now. To be frank, my baseline would be to be more worried about catching COVID from your parents than you giving COVID to your parents (and I say this as a New Jerseyan).

      If you guys have larger celebrations (like even just siblings or other family): I’d be way more against it. Like, traditionally I’d go over to my grandmother’s and right now I’m strongly against that.

      But right now…like, it’s difficult! Given Canada’s experience with their Thanksgiving last month (where spread accelerated afterwards over their baseline), and given the current situation, I can’t really say this is a good idea. But also, I get it – especially if you haven’t seen your parents for the better part of a year. I’ll be honest – a lot of people say, “it’s okay, you can just Facetime/Zoom people” without talking about…like, some people haven’t seen their loved ones in person in nearly a year, and the human cost of that.

      (Not to say that we should all just get together like it’s the Before Times. But there’s a huge emotional cost to this self-imposed isolation that we don’t talk about enough.)

      I really can’t give a great answer to this, though. You’re well within safe driving distance of your parents. I don’t know what your circumstances are – your living circumstances, THEIR circumstances, and the Thanksgiving plans. But with no further information, my baseline is that it’s not safe. Hopefully things might be safer by summer again (although I’m not even sure if that’ll happen).

      IDK, maybe that’s too much nuance.

    7. Laura H.*

      Know your area and your comfort level with risk.

      I’m comfortable taking the precautions I can. But at the same time I cannot live in a bubble. I cede to others because I don’t know their comfort levels. But we are having two individuals over who each are their own household. IMO, the human cost outweighs the risk for them.

      My household of 4 is hosting and I think that also makes a difference. We have no plans to go out beyond our usual mass on Sunday and in the brother’s case, a run to the store for some stuff that’ll cook better fresh.

      We’re gonna get the place sparkling and pleasant. And take the precautions we can. I understand the advice comes from a place of concern, but I think folks should be trusted to weigh the risks and make their choices accordingly- both to isolate or to gather safely. Considering the factors and how your lifestyle and comfort level with the risk isn’t optional. Yes we want everyone at the table next year. But that shouldn’t have to come at the cost of this year if we can do so mindfully and safely.

      1. Anna B*

        I understand folks are going to do what they’re going to do but urging others to ignore the CDC– which clearly said do not do Thanksgiving with other households this year– is irresponsible. It’s not just what risk you’re comfortable with for yourself, it’s what risk you’re putting on other people like service workers who can’t avoid exposure to you. I hope you have a safe holiday but understand what you are doing is exactly what we’ve been asked not to do and please don’t urge others to follow suit.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yes. We are skipping Thanksgiving with my recently widowed grandfather because a) it would require interstate travel and b) he is around more people than I would like, people whose lives I cannot be certain about. They are being careful, but their careful includes kids in the household going to work, hanging out at some friends’ houses, and eating outside at restaurants– things my partner and I are not yet comfortable doing. So in order to minimize risk to my grandfather and to ourselves, we skip it.

          Note that it’s not about “good” vs. “bad” or “careful” vs. “reckless”, it’s one level of “careful” vs. another. They can weigh their risks in their everyday lives just as we do, but if we take different risks during non-holidays, we CANNOT come together on the holiday. It’s not a judgement call but a safety issue. Mixing households is the problem.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yep, and people’s bubbles aren’t as small as they think. Remember that wedding in the news recently? Several of the people who died who hadn’t even attended.

          Plus they were recommending people going anyway fully quarantine for two weeks prior, and it’s too late for that now. You’d have to start now and have it on another day.

          It’s not worth it. If we all hunker down this year, then maybe next year we can do it, but I seriously would not. I’ve had many holidays alone and it’s not that big a deal. It’s certainly not worth dying over.

      2. ThatGirl*

        “Beyond our usual mass” — sorry, what? Church is very high risk, we’re begging my inlaws not to go for Christmas to help us safely visit them!

        1. Too old for this*

          Unfortunately some Bishops have
          removed the special dispensation to miss mass. NOT attending Mass once a week is a sin. For some devout Catholics this is a serious problem.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Aren’t there zoom/YouTube masses? Those bishops are, frankly, very irresponsible. I guess I’m lucky I was raised Mennonite.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              There are indeed. I don’t know what bishops are removing the dispensation, but that is appalling. I can’t speak for other Catholics but I would rather stay home safely and deals with confession later than risk getting or transmitting Covid.

            2. RagingADHD*

              Mass includes taking communion. I know there are some Protestant churches that have blessed and distributed single-serve communion portions people can keep at home to participate, but I don’t know if Catholic doctrine allows that.

              1. ThatGirl*

                I understand the ins and outs of Catholicism, but I think it’s ridiculous. Safety should be the number one concern. Nobody *needs* to go to church. Worship can be done at home. I am a pastor’s kid.

                1. SunnySideUp*

                  YES, THIS.

                  If your faith says you HAVE to be in church during a pandemic, you should be questioning that particular stance…

        2. RagingADHD*

          Not Catholic, but our church includes a lot of doctors and research scientists, and designed very rigorous safety protocols.

          Besides sanitizing and no shaking hands:

          They limit atrendance & block off seating to every other pew, only 1 household per pew (about an 8′ separation). I think it’s 20 households at a time. Most of those at the safest service are singles or couples without kids.

          Reserved seating.

          Masks required.

          No singing. (At least at the service we attend).

          Communion is pre-portioned and wrapped in a tray at the end of each pew. They also alternate which end the tray is put, so the seating is staggered side to side as well (giving approx 16′ distance for most people).

          Since there’s no singing, service lasts about 40 minutes, and they have timed the additional services so the building clears out and gets sanitized between groups.

          I know not all churches are this careful, but in conditions like these it’s safer than many people’s jobs. Certainly much safer than school.

          As Jane Asten says, it’s “much more logical, but much less like a ball” (aka church). It’s still better than nothing.

          1. ThatGirl*

            SafER doesn’t mean safe. Children seem to have lower rates of transmission and there are good societal reasons to keep schools open. Church is always optional.

            1. RagingADHD*

              School and work are technically optional, too.

              Some folks who aren’t willing to give up church have chosen to put their kids in virtual even whem schools are open, or opted to homeschool, even when that meant giving up all or part of a parent’s work hours / income.

              Just because someone makes a different set of choices than you doesn’t mean they’re being reckless.

              1. ThatGirl*

                I understand that everyone is making their own best decisions but you can’t compare church with work or school. Work pays people. School is a legal requirement and some folks are unable to work from home or watch their kids doing virtual school. Church. Is. Optional.

      3. SunnySideUp*

        “the human cost outweighs the risk for them. ”

        Well, you won’t be able to visit the ICU if they get sick, and vice versa, so I wouldn’t use “human cost” as an excuse for inexcusable behavior.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          They likely won’t even get an ICU bed. We’re right back where we were in March. So it’ll soon be gasping for air on a gurney in the hall, or like I saw in one article, a field hospital of beds in a parking garage.

    8. RagingADHD*

      The biggest issue is how many people and their combination of exposure level. If you & your parents wfh and have been pretty well isolating for the last week & continue to do so, the risk is low.

      If you have potential exposures in daily life and/or there will be other people attending, the risk is much higher and you should probably cancel.

      1. MissGirl*

        This is where I’m at. I live alone and WFH. My parents are both retired. It will just be the three of us. I’m being extra careful this week and limiting my outings.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Yes, we spent time with my parents occasionally earlier in the year, even when our local cases were higher than they are now. We don’t go anywhere, they don’t go anywhere, why not not-go-anywhere together?

          But now the kids are in school, so that’s out. Which stinks.

    9. Foreign Octopus*

      Since Covid began back in March, I’ve lost three family members and two friends to it.

      My grandparents were in the at-risk category and relied on other people to quarantine and take appropriate measures to help keep them safe from their carers to the delivery drivers and more but they caught it and died alone in hospital within two months of each other. We haven’t been able to have a funeral for them yet.

      My uncle was a Covid denier and went about his business as usual despite having a compromised immune system and he died five weeks ago. No funeral as of yet.

      My two friends worked the frontlines in the NHS and caught it because they were surrounded by it and didn’t have the correct PPE despite repeated requests. They were 30 and 32 respectively, and my best friend has left behind her 18-month-old daughter and a grieving husband. Still no funerals.

      I know you’re looking for a reality check and I don’t mean to sound rude or impatient but Thanksgiving is just a holiday. This stupid, ridiculous, God-awful infection will one day disappear and we can get back to our lives but it requires sacrifices to ensure that happens. You may be infection free, your parents may not have it, but you can’t say the same about anyone else you come into contact with.

      Don’t risk your life. Don’t risk other people’s lives.

      Grieving for the people you love because of something that could’ve been prevented through small actions such as staying isolated and not taking unnecessary risks adds an extra level of hurt and anger to the entire process.

      Stay at home. There will be other Thanksgivings.

      1. Dan*

        Damn. That’s rough. I’m sorry for all of your losses.

        BTW, the tone of your post is more than fine, you aren’t rude or impatient at all.

        My parents are going through some tough times right now, and really could use a little human contact. Mom just got an Alzheimers diagnosis and is in total denial, and dad’s coping strategies can in no way be described as healthy. Except… my brother works in health care with high risk patients, and both my parents and my brother live in a region of the country that is getting hit hard by COVID right now. Never mind that I live by myself, so if *I* get sick, life is going to suck. So needless to say, no Thanksgiving, socially distanced or not.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am sorry to hear about your mom’s diagnosis, Dan. I remember you have had a long road with her. Sometimes life is so harsh and so unfair. BTDT. The doctors will step in now and try to start to contain all that is going on.

          1. Dan*

            Thanks. In some ways (many ways?) it’s actually a relief, because mom has literally spent years telling us that her memory issues are something the rest of us are making up, and that everything is just fine and of course memory deteriorates with age and all of that so STFU. When I asked dad what the diagnostic criteria are for the stage she’s in, my response was WTF? My brother and I have been seeing those signs for years. What took so long?

            I’m not sure what mom will let the doctors do, because dad says she won’t even take meds if they were prescribed. If mom has her way, she’ll just stick it out in denial-land until that’s no longer a feasible course of action.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, what took so long is right. I think part of the problem is that unless the doc is point blank told where there are issues there is not much they can do. And they (the patient) will do everything they can think of to hide it. My friend’s husband went as far as not allowing my friend in the exam room with the doc. That way he could be sure my friend (his wife) was not telling the doc things that the doc really needed to know.

              And right, both your mom and your dad will stay the course until an event happens that only means a change in course is necessary and no longer optional. So now it’s just a matter of waiting. On the plus side, she has gotten this far to get a diagnosis. And that is on her medical record. No doubt this is a relief to you guys.

            2. RagingADHD*

              I feel for you, Dan. My mom just so happened to have her last massive heart attack right in front of me. She didn’t feel any pain because of advanced neuropathy, but she felt “funny,” went to sit down, and started asking why I’d turned the lights off (I hadn’t), and otherwise talking out of her head.

              When the EMTs arrived, she put on such an Oscar-worthy performance of being “fine” that they didn’t even believe me at first. She flat-out refused to go to the ER without a lot of cajoling. Wound up with a quintuple bypass, which I didn’t even know existed.

              Denial is incredibly powerful, and incredibly infuriating. Sometimes people fear a loss of autonomy so badly that they will fight help and make everything worse.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I know you’re looking for a reality check and I don’t mean to sound rude or impatient but Thanksgiving is just a holiday. This stupid, ridiculous, God-awful infection will one day disappear and we can get back to our lives but it requires sacrifices to ensure that happens.

        Thank you as well. And I’m sorry for all of your losses. This year has been brutal to so many people.

      3. Aphrodite*

        “I know you’re looking for a reality check and I don’t mean to sound rude or impatient but Thanksgiving is just a holiday. ”

        I am so sorry. Your post should be shouted from the rooftops.

      4. Thankful for AAM*

        Foreign Octopus, I’m so very sorry and I thank you so much for sharing.

        I dont understand why ppl think they can determine risk for themselves when in reality, they are determining it for others.

        If we each did a full contact trace on ourselves, I think the chain of ppl we connect to would be huge. My spouse never leaves the house, except to grocery shop and go to the doctor 2 times and go to the uni 2 times to help students who could not be helped via zoom. Just the contacts with the doctor and students results in a large number of contacts.

      5. TextHead*

        I’m so sorry for your losses! This year truly sucks and I wish we were all doing what we needed to to lessen the spread. I agree with what you’ve said about it just being a holiday. The risks I’ve seen people take because they can’t stand going one year without doing X boggles the mind.

    10. Sad but Resolute*

      Thank you all for your words of reality and understanding. I live in Florida and we had been planning on visiting my son and his family (also in FL) for Thanksgiving. I’m calling him today to say we are cancelling. My heart is heavy but I know it’s the right decision, both for us and our communities. We will join with them virtually and it will be fun. This is hard but I remind myself there will be better Thanksgivings in the future! My condolences to each of you who have had losses due to Covid. Stay safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!

    11. ampersand*

      I’m chiming in with another no. It sounds like you’re leaning that way given how you worded your question. This is about to be a disappointing holiday season for so many people, myself included. We’ve cancelled all our plans (tentative to begin with, but I was still hoping we could see family).

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I have a slightly different reason but similar bottom line. So two family members came to see me on my birthday years ago. I never got to see them. They died in a crash on their way to my house. My birthday looks very different now and always will.
      Don’t lose all your future Thanksgivings so you can have TG this year.

    13. I'm A Little Teapot*

      No. It sucks, but we all need to do what we can to stay healthy and not pass this darn virus around more. Video calls, phone calls, etc. And whenever its actually safe to have a big party…. we need to have a giant worldwide party.

  21. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Winter wear question —

    what do ppl who drive to work/errands wear in the wintertime?

    For a million years Ive commuted via public transit so a proper coat and attire was needed for winter and I didn’t have to think about it. Now I only drive, no public transit and i learned that I absolutely loathe wearing any coat or jacket while driving. I’m wearing a hoodie for as long as I possibly can but I know it won’t fly for the next few months.

    complicating it is that Every coat & jacket seems to be suuuuuper tight around my arms. If I go up a size it ends up being bulky & boxy around my body which I hate too (seriously side eyeing designers/manufacturers…not all women have narrow shoulders and arms!)

    So…..question for ppl who’ve been doing this all their adult life…Are there certain types of coats/jackets to wear while driving? Should I look in to men’s winter wear for better fit?

    1. Mimosa Jones*

      My theory is that clothing companies are cutting sleeves narrower to save on fabric. Those centimeters add up. I think if you go for tech wear, like REI or Patagonia, that are designed for good movement, you’ll get more generous sleeves and more choices in bulk and warmth.

      1. Reba*

        Agree, I just got a lightweight winter jacket by Mountain Hardwear and it’s very generous in the arms and shoulders! I have broad shoulders for my size so I always appreciate this.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Tailoring makes such a huge difference. Sometimes it’s not so much the amount of fabric, as the labor costs of cutting & assembling complex shapes in a range of sizes. Making things boxy/simple shapes and in a limited range is much cheaper to mass produce, with the result that they fit many people well enough that they’ll put up with it, but they don’t fit anyone properly.

        1. Washi*

          Agreed, I kind of doubt that it’s about saving on fabric. Fabric is cheaper than ever before, but the labor to put things together is expensive (or should be expensive if you’re paying a living wage!)

          Usually when I have movement issues in the arms, it’s not that there’s not enough fabric, but the size/placement of the arm hole. If the sleeve is sitting too low on the shoulder or if the arm hole extends too low, your range of motion will be more restricted. The more tailored a coat is, the more important this becomes, but obviously every body is different in proportions, so even for companies that are constructing garments really carefully, the same pattern won’t work for everyone.

          1. Lora*

            THIS. When I started sewing I got really frustrated with tailored armscyes but since I got better at setting them and then French seaming or otherwise felling the armscye seams – OMG what a difference! Mass production of shirts and jackets with straight seamed armscyes, done with a server and not positioned or tailored properly vs the S-shaped armscyes with felled seams tailored to fit make a ton of difference in both comfort and quality. But, it’s not economical to do that. I’m mostly surprised that even couture clothes are still flat armscyes and not felled or french seams.

    2. GoryDetails*

      I’d certainly suggest trying men’s sizes – I tend to do that (in part because I can get the colors I want, instead of the often-in-women’s-styles pastels, though the color palettes seem better nowadays).

      Or: try a vest! Down vests are warm and very lightweight, and I have a nice knitted one that’s quite comfortable. I find that if my torso is warm the rest of me’s pretty comfortable. [Well, adding in gloves and, if it’s really cold, a hat or muffler.]

      1. Sam I Am*

        +1 to the vest. I have long drives with short get-out-run-errand-get-back-in interruptions, and throwing on a hat, scarf, mittens when I exit the car for a few minutes works well.
        I keep a proper coat & wool blanket in the car in case of breaking down.

    3. BRR*

      I have a decent fall/spring coat that I wear most of winter with a long sleeve t shirts. I find that keeps me warm enough for the short time I’m outside. I just know I need a good pair of gloves.

    4. SpellingBee*

      Vests! I also hate wearing a big coat in the car. I find that layering a vest (the outerwear kind that zips up the front) over a sweatshirt, hoodie or sweater to be very comfortable. It leaves my arms free but keeps me plenty warm. I have a number of them of varying weights, from a light-weight fleece vest all the way to a pretty hefty down-filled one. Add a scarf and gloves when it gets colder; those can easily be shed after the car warms up.

      1. Haha Lala*

        Definitely vests! I’m a plus size lady, and I always struggling finding coats that fit me right. I have a puffy vest that wear pretty much all winter, with either a cardigan or even a fleece jacket layered underneath and that keeps me warm enough on the drive into work every day. And I add in gloves or a chunky scarf when needed too.

        I have one winter pea coat that I also love. It’s wool, so warm without being to bulky, and it has a belt— so I bought it a size up to fit my shoulders, and I can tie the belt tight to give myself a waist when I need to look nice!

    5. Beep boop*

      I have to say, I’ve never worn my winter coat while driving! Just heat up the car beforehand and take off your coat when you get in.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s a waste of gas though! There is such a thing as car coats, which are a bit lighter weight. But I have one coat for “regular” winter, driving, etc and a heavy duty one for being outside on really cold days.

        1. Cabin Fever*

          I guess it depends on how cold it gets where you live. In my area, warming up the car beforehand is an absolute necessity in the winter. I do the same as Beep Boop.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I live near Chicago, though we do now have a garage. But on the really really cold days I wear the really warm coat in the car, and just get in and drive. It warms up eventually.

            1. Stephanie*

              Yeah I live in Detroit. The car is warm within the first 10 minutes. When the polar vortex hit, I remember my car didn’t get warm enough my entire commute to work (~30 minutes), but it’s usually not -15 F with windchill in the winter here.

          2. lapgiraffe*

            I live in Boston, no garage any longer and it’s been quite an adjustment getting used to a literal freezing car. If there’s no need to pre-warm to get rid of any ice/snow, I honestly just grin and bear it. I maybe will keep a hat on til I’m warm, but the only essential item is gloves. I tend to have a longer commute if I’m leaving in the morning so those five minutes of frozen are much better than 45 – hour of overheated hell. Also that jolt of cold is great to perk you up in case you’re slow to wake like me ;-)

      2. allathian*

        We have an electric car heater, they’re pretty standard here. The engine heater ensures cleaner combustion right from the start and the cabin heater ensures that the car is cozy when you start. It also eliminates the need to clean the windscreen and windows unless there’s a lot of snow.

    6. HannahS*

      When I started driving to work from an underground garage (so, didn’t have to spend time outside shoveling out the car) I just wore my fall wool coat through the winter.

    7. Washi*

      I just don’t wear my coat when I’m driving. As long as I have gloves, a hat, long sleeves, and maybe a scarf, I find I don’t need the coat itself in the interim while the car is warming up. And unlike the coat, those items are easy to safely take off while driving once I’ve warmed up all the way.

      1. Achoo*

        Same. I put my coat in the backseat and put it on after I get out of the car. I hate how the coat bunches up over my shoulders when I am seated.

    8. Courageous cat*

      I’m a little confused by this, can’t you just take it off while you’re driving? Or wear it until your car is heated up then take it off at a stoplight or something? It is hard to drive with certain coats because they will cut off the middle of your upper arms, but it’s never really bothered me or I just take it off.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Eh it’s kind of hard for me to maneuver around too much in the car, basically I’d have to unbuckle my belt, move the seat alllllllll the way back and move it back up. I have short legs and a big stomach so I end up sitting very close to the steering.

        1. Annie Moose*

          You could wear it out to the car, take it off before you sit down, then when you get to your destination, get out and then put your coat back on, perhaps?

    9. RagingADHD*

      I love my poncho/shawl wrap. It’s warm enough I can throw it over a tshirt & jeans and be toasty down to below freezing (with gloves if necessary), but it’s open enough to be comfy in the 50s-60s if I just need a little something on my shoulders.

      I also have a tailored weatherproof jacket that’s roomy enough to layer over sweaters.

      If I need the big heavy coat, I usually leave it on the seat and put it on as I get out of the car. Wearing a hat, gloves and scarf in the car is usually enough.

    10. The teapots are on fire*

      Look to sports jackets meant for outdoor activities. Cross-country skiers, for example, move their arms a lot. I used to buy my winter things from Campmor and Sierra Trading post because I was on a budget.

    11. RosenGilMom*

      While driving, I run the heat in the car (and also have heated seats) and my overcoat goes on the passenger seat, not on me.

    12. 00ff00Claire*

      I find my car heats up pretty quickly once I start driving, so for me it’s more comfortable not wearing the coat and being cold at first instead of being too hot once the car heater has done its job. If your coat is bulky (like those puffy ones), you shouldn’t wear it in the car anyway. I think this is pointed out a lot to parents of kids in car seats, to take their coats off so the car seat straps can be adjusted correctly. The same is true for adults in seat belts – the extra padding of the coat means the seat belt won’t be properly snug and wouldn’t be as effective in a crash. If I were you, I would stick with the hoodie with a warm hat and gloves while driving. You could carry your coat for when you are walking between the car and buildings.

    13. Anono-me*

      I keep my coat on in the car in the winter. * I get my winter gear at places that sell outdoor gear for people who work outside or do outside sports like hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling. I find it warmer, longer lasting, easier to move in, and more practical than winter gear at department store or for winter sports like skiing or ice skating.

      *Too many stories about people who wrecked or broke down without their winter coat and boots on and weren’t found until the next day.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Lap blanket–a sheepskin if you can get it. And a seat-heater that plugs into the car. Fill a heat-proof drinking bottle with warm water & put it inside your hoodie.
      And a really good hat!

    15. Oxford Comma*

      We call this a car coat here. Given the type of winters we get, for most people, this just needs to be warm. It does not need to be attractive. I don’t know know what your winter is like but maybe look at places like L.L. Bean? Look for coats meant for outdoor activity.

    16. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Thanks everyone for the replies. I don’t get to go on my laptop on weekends and it’s hard to reply too much on my phone. I’m glad I asked here, lots of options I never would have known about.

    17. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t like driving in coats either! I generally wear a fleece-type-thing while driving, and then take that off and replace it with a proper coat when I get to the destination and have to get out of the car and walk to wherever it is. Have you considered wearing a hat – I know you said you had a hoodie, but I didn’t get the sense the hood was actually up :-) (A lot of heat is lost through the head – it isn’t 50%, as that myth was debunked long ago, but it is still significant as I can tell you from just today wearing a hat vs taking it off out in cold weather!)

      Depending on your ‘build’ you might have luck with men’s coats etc. I can identify as about 50% of my “outer wear” is men’s as I’ve just found it fits better. I have a “men’s”: ski jacket (which I still can’t wear while driving but that is because the ski nature of it makes it bulky!), 2 hoodies, and a rain jacket.

  22. Budget Gifts*

    My Christmas gift budget is tight this year due to… well, everything. My parents don’t expect me to give them gifts but I still like to do so. My fall back is photo gifts but I’ve done this the last few years. They don’t enjoy food gifts so cooking/baking something for them wouldn’t work. They’re hard to buy for in the best of times as they’re very much the kind of people who buy what they want and don’t ‘need’ anything. Thoughts on gifts that won’t break the bank?

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Really fancy soap? It is consumable so its not another thing we have to keep and store, we all are washing more, its the ultimate 2020 gift I think!

      1. Coco*

        I read about travel soap sheets that sound like good gifts. Kind of like mini hand sanitizers in size but hold 100 or so small sheets of soap for when you are out and the restroom is out of soap.

    2. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Do they like games? If so, check out reviews on different games. We got Three Up Three Down one year and it was so fun!

      1. Worked in IT forever*

        I was going to suggest a magazine subscription, too. There’s such a wide variety of magazines that you can find one for any interest, and some are pretty reasonably priced. And they’re basically consumable. We’ve given subscriptions to older, hard-to-buy people who don’t want to accumulate more stuff (National Geographic, Time, Cook’s Illustrated, Architectural Digest, photography magazines, etc.).

    3. Anon5775*

      One year my family wrote letters to each other. We included things like memories, praise for what we appreciate in them (like they are fearless in trying new things), what we love most about them, etc.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      If you know their sizes, nice pajamas could be a gift. Or even funny “ugly” Christmas pajamas. My family and I exchange the latter every year, and it’s a nice, cheaper alternative than buying a bunch of stuff people either won’t like or have problems storing.

    5. NRG*

      Well, here’s what I’m sending my “don’t want any stuff” parents:
      Tea
      Hand lotion and that “Gloves in a Bottle” lotion
      Soap
      Extremely detailed instruction on how to check out e-books from their local library to their tablet.

    6. Aphrodite*

      I have three packages to give out and they are all the same. They are plain brown boxes that will be tied up with twine with small pine branches (cuttings from Home Depot’s tree lot), and a lovely card that says, “You light up my life.” Inside will be five types/sizes of rechargeable lights from a lantern down to a keyring light. Practical, low cost (except for perhaps the large lantern), works for everyone.

    7. Anono-me*

      I’m getting lots of people the contigo insulated tumbler that only is open when the button on the side is being pressed. (See the office gifts post by free meerkat.)

      They maintain temperature quite well. They come in pretty colors. They are cost between $18-$25. The push button to keep open means that they are very difficult to spill. (Great near electronics and for less coordinated people anywhere. )

    8. lady gamer or something*

      If you’re up for a silly project and you think your parents would be into it, you could try “sweding” one of their favorite films à la Be Kind, Please Rewind. I’ve done this as a low/no-budget gift more than a few times for various relatives and it’s been pretty fun! Since it’s not advisable to get together with friends and family (AKA other actors), you could try piecing together videos everyone films individually (think of how The Princess Bride was done on Quibi, RIP) or you could use toys or other items as stand-ins. Of course, if you live with a lot of people, you might not run into that problem. I live with 3 other people, only 2 of them were interested in participating, and only 1 of those 2 was willing to get on camera, so we ended up busting out the action figure collections and using those as our actors :)

    9. Workerbee*

      Are they outright telling you not to get them anything, or have you noticed that what you get them doesn’t get used?

      It took me forever to realize that my joy of giving my dad chocolate was just that—joy for me only. He used to love chocolate, now doesn’t eat it. He also says he doesn’t want or need anything.

      I had to retrain myself to understand that a gift should be about him and not because I somehow won’t feel complete unless I give something to him. It was hard, but he’s sincerely happy with a card in which I take the time to sketch funny pictures in, and he doesn’t have to pretend to be overjoyed at an object that’ll just get put in a drawer or gather dust.

    10. Cimorene*

      I bought some nice hand crafted ceramic snowflake ornaments from an etsy maker that were very affordable.

    11. Sparkly Librarian*

      I was just cruising AirBnB Experiences for my mom who loves to travel and talk to people, and there are a bunch that are in the $10-20 range. Basically a Zoom call hosted by someone with knowledge of a locale/subject — a virtual tour guide.

    12. Blue Eagle*

      Gift certificate for a job at their house that they don’t want to do – – washing the outside of their windows, raking leaves, shoveling snow, weeding the garden, painting interior walls, washing the floors, cleaning the bathroom, fixing something that needs fixing (maintenance) etc. These are the gifts that my Mom appreciated most.

    13. BLT*

      Inspired by @Not A Manager – I’m ordering my dad a multi tool. Less than $20 and it’s a version with a little hammer. Slate grey color. Might even buy one for myself!

      I’m also getting a 4 pack of the Non-Touch Door Opener key ring looking things for $11 (one for family member, yay).

      For mom I’m getting a portable phone charger and two 6’ cords.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The Bloggess has been talking about storyworth (dot com). It sounded interesting to me, but not to my husband so we didn’t send it to either of his parents. But it’s a “present for you, present for me” which could please some people.

  23. Marie*

    My nephews spent the night at my mom’s house. I came over in the morning to help out. My mom wasn’t feeling well, so I asked if my sister could pick them up earlier than planned. As soon as she came in the house, the first thing she asked was, “Are they eating junk food?” (My nephew had a bowl of dry cherrios cereal. Earlier I cut up grapes and apples for them. I told my sister this.)

    I was a little surprised that she didn’t ask how my mom was feeling or something. My mom has been watching them *every weekend* (for free!) for the past month or so. She also washes my nephews’ clothes when they get dirty, so they go home with clean clothes. She’ll even do my sister and BIL’s laundry sometimes. (Their dryer broke and hasn’t been repaired.)

    The thing I don’t understand is that my sister and BIL always have to critique something or make snarky comments. “Oh, they’re eating this” or “Why did you give them that” ? If the issue is food, then send them with their own food that they can eat. That’s what my parents did when we went by my Grandparents houses. (It wasn’t that their food was bad, but it was to save the trouble of them having to cook for us!)

    I don’t know if they feel guilty that my mom is watching them, but they always make remarks like this. I was fed up about it once and told them to get a baby-sitter! They said that they couldn’t afford it and didn’t want a stranger watching their kids. (No one could meet their high standards, so the sitter probably wouldn’t last long anyways!)

    I know that I can’t control what they say or do, but it makes me angry and I feel bad for my mom. Has anyone been in a similar situation and if so, what did you do?

    1. Sammy Storm*

      Yup, I’ve been in a similar situation where I thought a sibling and in-law were treating my parents poorly. I address it; all the time. Sometimes in front of everyone (because this behavior sets a terrible example for kids too). Other times, I pull them aside to address it more frankly. It doesn’t have to be a harsh rebuke, but bring it to their attention and tell them you think this entitled behavior is selfish and inappropriate. Use examples, too, especially if mom is gracious and this behavior is unprovoked.

      1. Sammy Storm*

        I meant to post this under the general comment. Not necessarily as a reply to Cheesesteak in Paradise…ooops :(

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think you can say something and then absolutely nothing happens.

      You may find it helpful to look at the situation through your mom’s eyes. Maybe she enjoys the kids. Maybe that fills her days and her time. Maybe she figures just like you can’t unring a bell, you also can’t UNeat a Cheerio and they need to get over it. Maybe she has trained her brain not to hear them. Maybe the kids ask her why mom and dad are so mean to her. Dunno. It’s hard to tell what else can be going on.

      Talk to your mom. My guess is that she says little to nothing about it. Ask her why.

    3. Elf*

      TL;DR: you should consider the history involved and be charitable in your interpretations of what you see. Your sister’s tone on any given occasion is connected to the many prior interactions she has had about this (and other things) with your mother.

      I think you should try to see it from the other perspective. I’m not saying this is what is happening here, but this sounds like it could be pretty close to what one would observe in some interactions involving my kids, me/my husband, and my MIL.
      Due to circumstances (outlined below *), interactions that involve having me in the same space as her are fraught, and she is always pressing for more grandkid time. Having her provide childcare is generally the most palatable option for all parties, but there are serious problems with it. (side note: spoiling kids is neither harmless nor a grandparental right). She does not follow any directions about what kids should or shouldn’t eat. When confronted about it she insists that she was. When told that she should not be showering kids with presents, she simply accumulates more and more at her house and lies about where they came from.
      I am sure that if my husband had a sibling who witnessed some of the interactions between my husband and his mother they might be inclined towards opinions like those expressed by Marie, and that would be even more likely if said person were talking to my MIL on a regular basis and getting her (extremely unrealistic) version of events.

      *My MIL hates me. She literally told my husband not to marry me. I spent years trying to have pleasant conversations with her, but she would derail them the moment I forgot myself enough to have an opinion (on one memorable occasion, she derailed a conversation because I expressed too much enthusiasm about the *weather*. I thought I was safe talking about the weather! I thought it was innocuous to say that a particular type of weather was “just the best!”). We went through many iterations of trying to improve relations, including one memorable conversation in which she insisted that she could not possible *tell* me if something I did bothered her because, unlike me, she wasn’t a “cruel person”. If I had the option to never see or have my kids see her again, I would take it in an instant.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Sounds a bit like my own mom.

        And I love this line. I’m in this boat. My asshat sibling gives me a hard time even though he’s just as jerky to her.

        TL;DR: you should consider the history involved and be charitable in your interpretations of what you see. Your sister’s tone on any given occasion is connected to the many prior interactions she has had about this (and other things) with your mother.

  24. Cool-ish Aunt*

    My 9-year-old niece just got her ears pierced and is excited to start building her jewelry collection. Do any of you have suggestions for cool/cute earrings that would be appropriate for someone her age? She loves rose gold, sparkles, shapes like hearts and stars, raw crystals and stones, and the color blue. I’m thinking of a price range around $20-40 a pair – I want to get her stuff that’s nice and will make her feel grown-up without spending too much since her taste will probably change a lot over the next few years.

    1. SunnySideUp*

      I’d scour Etsy for ideas. Honestly though, I might get one “nicer” pair and a few novelty styles, instead of spending $40 ea. on a 9YO. They tend to lose things…

      1. WellRed*

        Recipes or resources for making my own snack bars? I’m hoping to use few ingredients and trying to get away from all the additives etc in store bought granola and protein bars.

          1. Cool-ish Aunt*

            Ha! Now you have me craving fudge . . . and snack bars. :) I’ve never made my own but am addicted to KIND’s dark chocolate, nuts, and sea salt bars.

    2. Generic Name*

      World market has cute small studs for very cheap. It’s definitely more grown up than Claire’s at the mall (does that store still exist?) but they have kid-appropriate earrings like small elephants or sparkly fake gemstones.

    3. Grace*

      Do you have (/still have) a Claires near you? I would never recommend them for actually getting pierced, but their range of sterling silver and gold-plated earrings are very cute and surprisingly sturdy.

      Definitely go for their sterling silver or 18kt gold range, not just the ones that call themselves silver or gold, but Claires sterling silver is just the same as normal sterling silver. They average around £10-15 per pair if there’s not a sale, but there usually is. I’ve been looking myself for cute novelty Christmas earrings – their offerings are much better than I remember them being when I was a kid.

      1. Coenobita*

        Yeah, I’m in my mid-30s and still have earrings that I bought at Claire’s as a teenager! The novelty studs are super cute. I don’t switch up my earrings much anymore but my wife just got her ears pierced and is excited to get the “hand me downs” :)

    4. SuperScout*

      I guess “age appropriate” is in the eye of the beholder. I’d say that stud earrings or those tiny ear hugging cuffs are most appropriate for a 9 year old. I’d also say earrings that are upwards of $40 a pair are not the most appropriate since earrings are tiny and kids lose things (I don’t even buy myself earrings at that price), but that’s my own opinion and I’m just a stranger on the internet.

      Target is a good option. I agree with everyone else who is saying Claire’s. That was my fav as a kid. Baublebar markets more toward young women than girls but they are always on trend a good place to look.

      Since you have a healthy budget for this purchase, consider buying those packets of multiple earrings so the little girl gets a variety. As a kid, I enjoyed switching out my earrings to match my mood, color coordinate my outfit, or match a friend. I think multiple options are fun at that age.

      1. Sarah*

        As a kid, I enjoyed switching out my earrings to match my mood, color coordinate my outfit, or match a friend. I think multiple options are fun at that age.

        I got mine pierced as an adult and I loved (still kind of love) doing that! I think when you first get them done, having a variety of different fun types would be good so you can work out what you like – I got a couple of variety sets from Claire’s. I don’t wear a lot of them now but they were cheap and fun to play around with.

        1. SuperScout*

          I remember collecting colorful plastic stud earrings. They were crazy cheap and I had a container with little sections (like you’d use for collecting beads) and had a whole rainbow of cheap earrings. That was fun!

    5. tangerineRose*

      I’d recommend hypoallergenic or surgical steel post earrings. Some people have allergies to earrings that can cause problems, and it’s a good idea to start with earrings that aren’t likely to cause problems.

      Claire’s is good, and I like Target, too. I’d suggest getting something reasonably inexpensive so that it’s not a big deal if they get lost (some probably will).

      1. Elf*

        Be careful! I have a nickel allergy (which is pretty common) and I can’t wear any surgical steel or other “hypoallergenic” steel. I need sterling or reasonably high-carat gold. (Can’t wear cheap necklaces or any wristwatches either; even super fancy watches generally have a stainless steel back)

        1. allathian*

          I have a nickel allergy and that’s why I spent nearly a grand on a titanium watch that also had a titanium back.

    6. Stephanie*

      Would definitely recommend leverback earrings (so she’s less likely to lose them) and hypoallergenic posts.

    7. beth*

      Look on etsy. There’s some really cool Herkimer diamond earrings in that price range. Loads of other unique styles too.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A set of nickel-free earring wires (carried at most crafting stores), needle nosed pliers, and an assortment of wire & beads & dangles so she can make her own?

    9. Pippa K*

      If you don’t object to Amazon, there are sets of cute stud-type earrings for less than $10 for 20 or more pairs. They’re colourful little things like fruit, animal faces, hearts and stars, etc that seem very 9-year-old-appropriate (although I, a grown woman, admit to wearing a pair of tiny raccoon faces right now). These might be a nice addition to the higher-quality ones for her more grown-up moods.

  25. nep*

    Also a ‘keeping warm in winter’ question–for the life of me I can’t keep my hands warm when outside in the cold. And not even bitter/extreme cold. I could be out there and my entire body feels fine–hat, insulated pants, and coat doing their job–and my hands will start to hurt like hell and I have to come inside. I just bought some of those disposable hand-warmer packets, so I’ll see how they do; I don’t love that idea for the environmental impact though. Anyone tried the reusable ones from REI?

    1. fposte*

      I haven’t, but I’m considering it; I get cold toes and cold hands. One thing I’m trying is to keep hands warm rather than trying to warm them—actively warm them before I go outside and put gloves/mittens on then rather than after I’m outside. (And of course mittens are warmer than gloves but suck for doing anything.)

      1. nep*

        So true. I can’t do much with mittens (though I suppose they’d be perfectly fine on a walk). While wearing gloves, I get relief only when I take my fingers out and make a fist.

        1. Teapot Translator*

          There are glove/mitten combinations! But I’m not sure how much it will help since it sounds like your issue might be medical?

    2. Not Australian*

      Possibly worth getting yourself checked out for Raynaud’s Disease, which is always a possibility when hands are colder than the rest of you.

      1. lapgiraffe*

        My sister has this (my grandmother also had it) and her hands actually turn blue when she’s cold, it’s so sad. Definitely get checked for this, there’s not a ton in the way of treatments but sometimes a diagnosis goes a long way in understanding what you can and cannot control.

        It’s not exactly helpful for dexterity but maybe some ski mittens? I find they are extra warm, and I *think* there is some science that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves anyway. There’s also gloves that have a semi-removable mitten top, so you can have the best of both worlds.

      2. NeonFireworks*

        I was going to say this. I have Raynaud’s and my extremities are ice cold almost always. For outdoors in continental climates, I ordered some hardcore, negative forty degree mittens and boots from Quebec, which do the trick.

    3. Anon5775*

      I’m not sure if this is true but it was told to me by a doctor. Apparently your brain is quite dumb and if your feet are cold your hands feel cold too. So keeping your feet warm can help with your fingers. So maybe in addition to trying ways to keep your hands warm, make sure you have good boots/socks, etc to keep your feet warm.

      1. nep*

        Thanks.
        I’ve invested in a great pair of boots for this winter–I’m excited to try them out, and it will be interesting to see how they help overall. I’m making a point of preparing well and investing in things that will keep me warm (and save my extremities) this year.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          I did this last year and no longer dread going outside. My mittens are from Kombi (about $60 but the best things ever) and my boots are from Pajar (with built-in rings underneath that flip open to reveal spikes, which is the next best thing to having superhero gear).

          1. nep*

            Love it–Superhero.
            The boots I bought are Pajar also! They are fantastic. Look forward to trying them out in the cold.

    4. Reba*

      Do you layer? What I like is silk glove liners inside mittens (best) or thick knit gloves. I also have closer fitting leather gloves with a knit cashmere lining for short times spent outside. There are also merino and synthetic liner gloves, but I promptly lost the ones I bought last year so I can’t say much about the performance.

      I have Raynauds (though not as extreme as my mom!) so I can see the blood leaving my fingers :|

      1. nep*

        Interesting. I have tried a couple of pair of gloves at once, but I have yet to try a close-fitting liner under my regular gloves. I’ll try it. Thanks, Reba.

      2. Grace*

        Silk liners were the best purchase I ever made. Love those things – they’re an actual lifesaver for anyone with Raynaud’s.

        1. nep*

          I’m seeing Terramar Interlock Silk Glove Liner online…Grace or Reba, have you got any suggestions for type/brand?
          Thanks

          1. Grace*

            I bought mine for skiing originally, can’t remember the brand off the top of my head but a handful of ski/outdoorsy sites have reviews of both silk glove liners and sock liners. I think mine might be terramar?

          2. Reba*

            Those look nice. The ones I have are a bit old (Wintersilks, which I think went out of business!).
            I see that Lands End has some too, I haven’t tried but I do have some other silk unders I like from there.

    5. Aealias*

      I use little microwaveable rice packets. You can talk them in the palm of your gloves or the finger-pouch of your mittens. They’re reusable over and over, and good for keeping my fingers actively warm.

    6. RagingADHD*

      For milder cold, I get warm inside and put on lotion, then put on knit gloves. Helps a lot.

      For deep cold, I have a pair of leather gloves lined with something fuzzy, I think it’s sherpa. Same deal with warming and lotion.

      Seconding the recommendation about checking your circulation. I didn’t realize for a long time that one of my medications was a vasoconstrictor. I’ve always had a bit of cold hands but that made it a lot worse. It wound up having bad effects on my blood pressure.

    7. LGC*

      Honestly, get mittens if you don’t have them! They’re a game-changer. They’re even better when you get glove liners (basically, thin gloves) and put them under the mittens.

      One of my favorite pieces of clothing is my pair of glove-mittens (mittens that flip off to fingerless gloves, in my case). Super warm, and if I need to use my phone, they take two seconds to flip off and flip back on.

      I do have hand warmers – the single-use ones (I bought two packs of 10 about two years ago and I haven’t used them all yet), but I find that they’re best as add-ons. I know this from experience (I played clarinet in marching band in a cold climate and we passed out hand warmers like candy. They did NOTHING with my thin band gloves).

    8. Anono-me*

      Maybe check out snowmobiling or snow blowing gloves. They are gloves for the index or index and middle fingers and mittens for the rest of the fingers. Also I believe home depot has battery heated winter gear, they might also have gloves.

    9. Easy Bake Coven*

      OCOOPA Rechargeable Hand Warmer!

      They’re less than $30 on Amazon and they’re great! They are also a sponsor for the Raynaud’s Association so they’ve been tried and tested by a lot of people with the disease.

      They are also perfectly purse sized.

    10. The teapots are on fire*

      Snowmobiling mittens are great when you don’t need hand dexterity. There are also small rechargeable warmers you can “recharge” in boiling water. There is some limited data that biofeedback can help with the Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is what you’re describing.

    11. Free Meerkats*

      Really late with this, but if you check in, good.

      Don’t worry about the environmental impact of hand warmers. The stuff in them is iron dust/fine filings, some fillers, and sometimes some salt to catalyze the reaction. When you unwrap them, the iron combines with the atmospheric oxygen to make rust, which in an exothermic reaction. When exhausted, it’s a paper sack of impure iron oxide.

      And note that they take 10-20 minutes to start to really get warm, so plan ahead. And though they “last for up to 10 hours!”, you really get 1-3 hours good heat from them. When they start to cool a bit, you can knead the bag and shake it to expose more iron to the air.

  26. Chaordic One*

    Does anyone have any suggestion on what to buy for a Christmas present for a tween-age boy? My nephew is at that awkward age where he’s no longer interested in the kinds of toys I bought him in the past. He even seems to be outgrowing Legos and I’m not sure what to get him.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Nothing that really stands out in my memory. In the past he liked arts and crafts kinds of things. He was also into cars and liked Hot Wheels. Maybe a subscription to a car magazine like “Motor Trend”?

      2. TextHead*

        I always ask the parents of my niece and nephew what they’re currently into and work from there. Something I’ve done recently is one of those coding games/toys. Educational and fun!

    1. Torrance*

      If LEGO has been an reliable go-to, I’m wondering if perhaps an upgrade in complexity would be appreciated, like the more adult-geared set with 1k+ pieces. (If he’s into Star Wars & you have the budget, the ginormous Death Star set is almost considered a rite of passage in both LEGO & Star Wars fandom.)

    2. WellRed*

      Ask his parents. Be prepared for the answer to be cash. I’m also going to say no the motor trend magazine idea. Sorry not to have more helpful suggestions but I can’t think of a harder age group to buy for.

    3. Generic Name*

      My parents are getting my almost 14-year old son a metal detector. He spends most of his allowance on video games and dlc (downloadable content). If he has a steam account, he’d probably love a gift card. Grownups hate giving gift cards but kids this age love getting them.

      1. Seige*

        I second this! This is where I really started to do Art™ and not just scribble in the sides of my notebooks. Maybe a sturdy sketchbook and a set of art pencils? Or some oil pastels. I loved those because they were messy and brilliantly colored (they’re like big fat soft crayons).

    4. I edit everything*

      I do not understand this “outgrowing LEGO” concept you mentioned. There are some really challenging car LEGO sets (my 10-year-old is working on one right now) which he might like, if he’s into cars.

      1. Washi*

        Lol yes to this. I did outgrow an interest in sets, but I still love making things with lego as an adult! By the time we were tweens, my parents would often just get us extra building materials – roof pieces, new windows, etc – and we had a whole world set up in the basement.

      2. Workerbee*

        Ha, me either. Still buying sets for me. I love the town Creator ones. I have nostalgia for the way the generic sets used to be, however.

      3. allathian*

        My son was building the more challenging sets when he was 7. He’s really good at 3D visualization, but he pretty much lost interest in Lego when he was 9. No point in buying them for him now that he’s 11…

    5. Chaordic One*

      Thank you for all the excellent suggestions. I have a much better idea of how to proceed going forward.

    6. tangerineRose*

      He might really appreciate a gift card to a store he likes or a store that has a wide variety of stuff like Target.

    7. cleo*

      That’s about the age I started giving my nephews cash and a Christmas ornament. They were usually saving for something so they liked the money and I liked to give them a physical present that they’d be able to use every year. I have a collection of ornaments given to me by various relatives when I was a kid. I don’t remember having strong feelings about them then but I really like having them now and I hope my nephews will feel the same way when they’re grown.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      If he does not have a wallet, that usually gets a big wow. The implication is that you see him as growing up, so he needs things like adults have. We did this to one family member and the eyes went totally ROUND, he talked about it for the rest of the day.

      1. mreasy*

        Wallet with cash inside is the perfect gift for that age. I did that once for each of my nephews then…yeah, I just give them money now.

    9. SR*

      If he has a phone or ipod and likes music, some small speakers or bluetooth headphones/earbuds would be appreciated if he doesn’t already have them — you can get pretty good ones without spending a ton. If he’s into gaming and doesn’t have a gaming mouse, you can get a decent one for about $30-$40 (Logitech is one decent brand). A small but decent set of real binoculars can be a fun gift for that age. If the two of you are pretty close, he might like a framed photo of you and him together. Also, there’s an online store called Uncommon Goods that has a lot of interesting and original gifts for people of all ages. (During non-covid times, if you live near each other you could offer to treat him to an experience instead of a gift, but that isn’t an option right now of course. Anyway, I recommend asking his parent(s) for ideas. A magazine subscription can be great (and easy to renew each year) if his parents can offer ideas of what he might like, but probably not Motor Trend.

  27. Just a Guy in a Cube*

    Anyone have any experience with land acknowledgements, particularly at the individual/family level? Thursday’s gathering seems a good time to acknowledge the ancestral lands we live on, and that the tribe who lived on these lands when Europeans arrived is indeed still here. I would like to acknowledge that without making it trivial or token. Our local tribe has a website but so far as I can tell no obvious engagement point for non-Natives to contribute/participate, so it’s more work than “join a land back or other native-led program in your area” would be. (This is not a complaint, just noting that in the limited research I’ve done, these kind of suggestions seem the most straightforward to implement). If anyone has experience/advice on how to make acknowledgement that is meaningful (which I think means to me “leads to some action, rather than words 1/year”), I’d appreciate it

    1. fposte*

      I just Googled “how to make a land acknowledgment” and found what looks like a useful page from the Native Governance Center. I see them in academic presentations and they tend to be simply phrased statements about what peoples the land we’re on belongs to or was taken from.

      1. Generic Name*

        Oooh, this is a cool idea. I’ve submitted an abstract to a conference for an oral presentation and it would be appropriate to give a land acknowledgement when I introduce myself/my company and where we’re based out of.

    2. curly sue*

      In terms of verbal acknowledgements, I’m in academia and we begin most meetings with a land acknowledgement due to where we are. They tend to be fairly simple – “I would like to acknowledge that we are convening on / I am speaking from / University is on [name of territory], the traditional and unceded territory of the [nation name].”

      Note that ‘unceded’ is correct in my location, but will vary based on the history of where you are.

      It sounds like you’re thinking of something more tangible, however? Are there food or COVID relief programs in your area that support local indigenous communities?

      1. Just a Guy in a Cube*

        Thank you for the reminder that I should check the terminology in my area. It’s New England and as I understand it, one wrinkle is that where there were treaties they were with a pre-US government.
        Yeah, I was listening to the “All My Relations” podcast and their visions of well-meaning white people all over the country gathered around tables and solemnly invoking talismanic words then considering their actions “done”, and trying to avoid that. I don’t know of local support programs with a Native focus, but there is a nearby racist monument that there’s been a move to update, so maybe I’ll turn my energy in that direction.

      2. AGD*

        Also an academic, and this. I watched a graduation ceremony yesterday that was full of Latin, but not before a land acknowledgment. If even the most formal/pretentious stuff puts that front-and-center, the whole next generation will be so, so, so much more aware. Making this normal is a small but crucial step.

        Local colleges and universities, especially those that are progressive or that have lots of BIPOC students, will often have a land acknowledgment on their website, hopefully prominently, hopefully developed in tandem with actual indigenous groups. I’ve seen these on University of California campus sites, and a bunch in Canada.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I am not trying to be snarky, I have just never heard of this. Can you explain what the purpose would be?

      At a public or academic event like Curly Sue mentioned, it makes sense because there could well be people in attendance for whom it would be meaningful, and it’s better to be inclusive.

      But at a small family event where you know nobody there has a personal connection, what is it for? It seems to me that if you want to prompt discussion about how to give back/support the local tribal community, talking with your relatives and making a plan is going to be more productive than a ritualized announcement.

      But that’s why I’m asking. I’m just not familiar with the concept.

  28. Lifelong student*

    Crochet thread- what’s on your hook this weekend?

    I am almost done with the afghan I started two weeks ago- had some setbacks and had to frog. Hoping to win at yarn chicken. Just saw an error I can’t easily hide but I refuse to rip out any more! I think I can disguise it after all is done- if not, errors are what makes projects personal!

    Saw a few earlier crochet posts so thought we should have a thread.

    1. HamlindigoBlue*

      Not crochet (right now), but I’m still working on my Shadow Knit Checkerboard Baby Blanket. I’m kind of bored with it, and I just want it to be over with. It’s turning out super cute, but it’s pretty repetitive and it’s slow going with DK yarn. Plus, I want to get started on the (crochet) Weekend Snuggle Sweater. -But I need to find my crochet hooks. They’re all in one of those crochet hook zipper pouches, and I have no idea where I put it.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I am doing the cosmic cal blanket from Helen Shrimpton but am using the colors from someone else. You can google Cosmic Cal. I will post links in the reply.

    3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      Not crocheting, but I’m looming an afghan for my niece. I’ve only ever loomed hats and this is my first project on an infinity loom. I enjoy it, but I get bored, so if I listen to audio books or comedy I get a lot more done. Can NOT have the TV on – I just keep looking at it!

  29. Worried Friend*

    My long-time friend, Mary, who is also my roommate for the last five years, seems to be going through a difficult time with friend gatherings during this pandemic year. In a normal year, we have a pretty active friend group; we meet up and hang out usually every other week. Mary has a rotating schedule at work so she alternates Fridays and Saturdays. She’s missed occasional gatherings in the past that fell on a Saturday she worked but it wasn’t a big deal to her because she knew there would be more to come.

    Cut to 2020, where we spent the majority of the year doing virtual hang outs. We only had a handful of in-person outside meet ups. The first one we did, planned by another friend, ended up on a Saturday Mary worked. I went without her and we had a great time. When I came back, Mary confided that she was really upset to having missed this one because it was our first one in months. I tried to reassure her that there would be more.

    And we did have a few more while the weather was still nice. Mary missed half of them; a few for work but a few for her own choosing. One she was feeling unwell (monthly cramps), and one was a rescheduled event that she didn’t realize had been rescheduled. When I asked her about carpooling together, she had no idea what I was a talking about. It was still hours before we were to go so she had time to get ready but she opted not to go. She also had been kind of distant on the more frequent virtual hang outs we have. Mary will have the video on but mute herself and do stuff around the house, rather than sit and talk with the rest of us.

    This week was a real red flag to me. I’ve been thinking of what we can do for a holiday virtual gathering (we already have a Secret Santa in place where we mail gifts to each other). I thought up doing a gingerbread house decorating. I asked Mary if she thought it was a good idea, no dates attached just if she thought it would be fun for everyone. She responded with ‘Honestly, I wouldn’t have the energy to do that’. I was so thrown off by her response. She must have felt bad about it because she apologized a little later, saying she wasn’t trying to negate my idea.

    Basically I’m worried about her. Mary is the kind of person who thrives off hanging out with friends so I’m surprised she’s not jumping at any chance to spend time with our friends under any circumstances. She seems tired and withdrawn. As her friend and roommate, I want to help her so she can have some fun and be with our friends but maybe I should just stay out it and let her make her own choices. Thoughts?

    1. Reba*

      She’s your friend — do you feel that you can’t just say to her, “hey I’m worried about you, here’s what I’ve noticed” and ask what you can do?

    2. LGC*

      I think you’re right to be worried, and it’s totally understandable how Mary’s feeling right now.

      You sound like you’re close, so you definitely have the right to say, “hey, this is a little uncomfortable, but you’ve seen really withdrawn lately – how are you feeling?” and then to listen. It’s an awkward conversation, and I don’t think there’s a way to make it NOT awkward, but it’s certainly worth having.

      (I’m probably not phrasing this perfectly, but…you’re saying that you’re noticing someone is not doing well, which is just going to be awkward no matter how you phrase it. And she might get mad! I don’t think there’s anything you can do about that.)

      I also think…1) Mary is definitely expressing some signs of depression and 2) it is absolutely reasonable for her to be depressed! I mean, look, I just commented on another comment thread saying, “you probably shouldn’t see your folks because that’ll put everyone’s lives at risk,” and I was the most supportive of the idea of the commenter seeing their parents! This is horrifying! I hate that this is even a topic of discussion!

      I also…kind of get Mary because I would totally apologize for my depression raining on someone’s parade, like that’s the major issue. There’s two things going on here (which I can speak from experience to):

      First, I suspect that Mary tends to be a people-pleaser. The apology for her saying that she didn’t think she had the energy for gingerbread house building really tilts in that direction. It’s something I’ve seen with other people – where they say something’s wrong with them and then immediately apologize for making others uncomfortable. (And again, I’ve done the same thing.)

      Second, depression can sneak up on people without them noticing – like, to be honest, I didn’t realize I was in crisis until I looked at my trash-strewn apartment, my constant grouchiness with my employees and coworkers, and my general lack of motivation to do anything including basic life care skills. And I’d already had a diagnosis of depression, so I was aware of what to look for.

      I’ve talked a lot about myself – partly because I can’t talk about Mary that much (y’know, me being an Internet weirdo and the rules of the comments section and all). But…like, from what you wrote, Mary doesn’t sound like she’s all right, and she’s trying the best she can to muddle through it. I think what you can do for her is to – within your capacity – make it all right for her to not be all right.

      1. Esmeralda*

        You phrased that just right!

        Listening is key — don’t try to jump in with examples of how things are actually going well, or your ideas of how to solve problems. I think you can/should suggest that she talk with a therapist. And you can ask her if there are things you can do to help.

        You might also suggest little outings every couple of days or so, like, let’s go for a walk! or, I have to go to the hardware store, could you come and help me figure out which light bulbs are the right ones. Or, doing things together around the house — like, could you help me fold these sheets, I always bunch them up when I fold them by myself. That kind of thing.

        It’s really hard helping a loved one with depression. Therapy and possibly medication will help, but it’s so hard for people to recognize it in themselves, and depression is insidious because it makes it hard for people to want or to be able to do things to help themselves. You’re a good friend to notice this and to want to help.

    3. LadyGrey*

      Kneejerk reaction- is she the sort who would enjoy hanging around in the background of the call with no pressure to contribute or cook? If she’s out of energy to interact that might be a nice way for her to feel part of it. You pointed out how she’s on mute and doing tasks in some of your calls, she might be finding that listening to all of you chat gives her the feeling of social events without having to spend energy on interacting- I know I do that when I’ve had a particularly long week. TL:DR: sometimes listening to your friends talk is enough, ask her if she wants to sit in on the call, activity optional if she feels up to it.

    4. Solar*

      I thrive on the occasional (every other week) social gathering, but I find myself totally burnt out on Zoom gatherings. Definitely reach out to her, but be prepared to give her space – it could be that she just doesn’t have good options right now.

    5. ....*

      Sometimes virtual hangouts are more depressing because they remind you how you cannot actually see or touch these people. She’s probably feeling exhausted by another virtual “replacement” event that we all know deep down isn’t a great swap for real human contact. She’s probably just struggling.

  30. WellRed*

    Recipes or resources for making my own snack bars? Store bought protein and granola bars have more additives than I’d like.

    1. Anon5775*

      You can find recipes for making your own Kind nut bars. You usually need brown rice syrup (can usually get in health food stores) to make them stick together. Just be sure to follow the instructions on when you should cut them. If you wait too long it’ll be like trying to saw through peanut brittle and getting straight lines / not breaking your knife will be difficult. There’s also recipes for oatmeal based bars out there. I haven’t tried any, but there are also recipes out there for protein balls or fat bombs (looks like these are usually part of a keto diet).

    2. Fellow Traveler*

      I really like the Smitten Kitchen thick and chewy Granola bar recipe. You do have to take the advice of letting them cool completely in the fridge before slicing or they will fall apart.

    3. nep*

      I’ve yet to try a recipe, but I keep meaning to. I’ve used different combinations of oats, flax seeds, Brazil nuts, hemp powder, chia seeds…Bananas work pretty well for binding, but dates and figs are great for that too. I always put a dash of salt or a bit of lemon or lemon rind to counter the sweet; it gives a nice taste.
      nutriplanet sometimes has some interesting bar or ‘bites’ recipes.

    4. Coenobita*

      My thing lately is “granola balls.” The base recipe is actually from Tasty (search for “Banana Chocolate Chip Energy Bites”) but I just use that as a guide. The last batch I made, I used extra bananas instead of honey and they came out fine. I like to store them in the freezer, so they last for ages and you don’t have to worry so much about them staying together. Just freeze them on a sheet pan or a plate or something, then when they are frozen stick